Dota 2 Major Team Preview: ESL One Katowice

Countdown to Katowice: ESL brings Pro Circuit to Poland as country hosts its first Dota 2 Major.

With the removal of the Pro Circuit status from the Galaxy Battles II event in January, the Dota 2 world was denied its first opportunity to witness a Major in 2018. Thankfully, that drought of Major-less action is about to come to an end, as fans and teams alike can rejoice in back to back displays of the world’s best Dota 2 teams with two straight Majors in a three week span. The first of those events on the schedule is the ESL One Katowice 2018 Major, which is set to bring the Pro Circuit to Poland for the country’s first ever Dota 2 Major. Organized by ESL as part of its ESL One series of events, the ESL One Katowice Major will mark the second Major that the group has put together so far this season, and the third Pro Circuit event overall (ESL One Hamburg – October, ESL One Genting – January). As its name might suggest, the ESL One Katowice Major will bring sixteen of the world’s best Dota 2 teams to the Spodek Arena in Kawotice, Poland for the chance to claim the first Major Championship of 2018. Set to begin on February 20 and ending on the 25th, the year’s first Major will be offering prize pools of $1,000,000 USD and 1500 Qualifying Points, with the distribution of those prize pools outlined below.

1st: $400,000 (Total) & 750 Qualifying Points (Per player)

2nd: $200,000 (Total) & 450 Qualifying Points (Per player)

3rd: $120,000 (Total) & 225 Qualifying Points (Per player)

4th: $80,000 (Total) & 75 Qualifying Points (Per player)

5th-6th: $50,000 (Per team)

7th-8th: $20,000 (Per team)

9th-12th: $10,000 (Per team)

13th-16th: $5,000 (Per team)

With so much at stake at the Major, a solid performance in Katowice has the opportunity to wildly change the fortunes of any of the sixteen squads in the field. With that in mind, we can take a look at the format for the event itself. If you caught any of the action from the previous ESL One event in Genting, then the format should look familiar to you, as the organizer will be utilizing the same setup for the Major. For those of you unfamiliar with that format, it goes something like this: The sixteen teams will be divided into two groups of eight teams each. Within each group, the teams will play in a double-elimination, with all Group Stage series being played Bo3. Three teams from each group will advance to the Playoff Stage, with the first place team from each group advancing directly into the Semifinals and being guaranteed a Top 4 position. The second and third place teams in each group will move on to the Quarterfinals to make up the final six squads in the Playoff Bracket. From that point on its fairly straight forward, with the six teams playing in a single elimination bracket with Bo3 series in the Quarter and Semifinals, culminating in a Bo5 Finals to determine the Major Champion. With the format outlined, we can now look at the field of participants, as we break down the sixteen teams that will be hoping to come away from Katowice with the title of Major Champion.

  • Please note that the “projected finishes” for each team are my own predictions and do not constitute any official or necessarily objective ranking based upon specific statistics or data.

Virtus.pro

600px-Virtus

Region: CIS

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 3rd (2700 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1.
Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev
2. 
Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko
3.
Pavel “9pasha” Khvastunov 
4.
Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan
5.
Alexei “Solo” Berezin (Captain)

Projected Finish: Top 4

When the drama that is the roster lock period comes calling, no team is ever truly safe no matter its position or ranking. CIS squad Virtus.pro proved that to Dota 2 fans around the world just a few days ago, as the organization pulled off a big trade with regional rival Na’Vi that saw IlyaLilIlyuk exchanged for Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan. While the exchanged players don’t have the exact same hero pools, they both play a similar role and utilize like-minded play styles. With that in mind, VP’s strategies and style shouldn’t see much change following the trade, and its potential to contend for the title of Major Champion is still just as high as it was before. The lineup for Vitrus.pro may look different, but the team’s expectations for itself and confidence in its abilities will be sky high as the team enters its eighth Pro Circuit event of the season.

VP’s last Pro Circuit appearance came at the ESL One Genting Minor, where the team played its last official matches prior to its trade with Na’Vi. The team put together a solid performance at the event, breezing past its first two opponents but losing back to back series against Team Secret and Evil Geniuses to finish just shy of the Top 4 mark with a 5th-6th place position. Since then, the CIS squad hasn’t played any other official matches, and we have yet to see the new lineup play together either. That fact does present a minor concern for the team coming into this Major, but with VP retaining 80% of previous roster, its past performances should still give a relatively accurate picture of where the team stands right now. VP may not have earned a Top 4 spot at the ESL One Genting Minor, but such an occurrence has been an abnormality for the squad so far this season. Of the team’s six Pro Circuit appearances so far, VP has come away with a Top 4 finish in four of them, including wins at both the DOTA Summit 8 Minor and the ESL One Hamburg Major. As the team approaches the ESL One Katowice Major, it still stands as one of the most dangerous and accomplished opponents in the field.

VP’s roster change in the midst of a successful Pro Circuit run may have been a bit of a surprise, but the move shouldn’t end up being enough to detract from the team’s considerable momentum heading into the Major. Virtus.pro has been one of the more consistent team on the Pro Circuit so far this season, and still holds the 3rd place position in thee standings. The addition of RodjER to the lineup could alter the team’s level of play somewhat, but by this point VP have established a sort of minimum base in terms of its expectations for Pro Circuit events. Vitrus.pro come into the ESL One Katowice Major projected to finish within the Top 4 in the new lineup’s Pro Circuit debut. That being said, if any of the favorites coming into this Major were to be susceptible to a potential setback, VP’s recent roster change would appear to make it the prime candidate. While it is possible that the team suffers a drop off in play at this event, Virtus.pro should still come into the Major with the confidence and skill needed to fuel a strong run in Katowice.

 

Team Secret Secret_logo

Region: Europe

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 1st (4260 Qualifying Points)

Roster: 
1. Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard
2.
Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng
3.
Adrian “Fata” Trinks
4.
Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat
5.
Clement “Puppey” Ivanov (Captain)

Projected Finish: Top 4

Team Secret comes into this event as the leader in the Pro Circuit standings, holding the 1st place ranking and alongside over 4,000 Qualifying Points. That total puts the team two thirds of the way towards a guaranteed invite to TI8, and the team likely has plans to reach that milestone sooner rather than later. The team has been a dominant and relatively consistent force on the Pro Circuit so far, having taken home five Top 4 finishes that includes one Minor and one Major victory (Captains Draft 4.0 & DreamLeague Season 8). With a guaranteed spot at this years International within its grasp, Team Secret will be coming into this Major hell bent on securing more Qualifying Points and marching ever closer to that goal of playing on the Dota 2 world’s biggest stage.

Team Secret’s last appearance at a Pro Circuit event was at the ESL One Genting Minor a few weeks ago, where the team played in its second event of 2018. The team put together a perfect 5-0 run through the Group Stage of the event, but fell short to eventual champion Newbee 0-2 in its semifinal match up to earn a 3rd-4th place finish. The European squad haven’t played any official matches since that performance at the Minor, but the recent results for Team Secret only serve to instill confidence that it will continue to perform at the highest level. In 2018, Team Secret has participated in two Pro Circuit events, the Captains Draft 4.0 Minor and the previously mentioned ESL One Genting Minor. Both of those performances resulted in Top 4 finishes and Qualifying Points for the team, and there’s little reason to believe that this trend will come to an abrupt end. Given the team’s consistent success both within its home region of Europe and on the Pro Circuit against international opposition, Team Secret should enter the ESL One Katowice Major with all of the confidence expected of the 1st ranked squad.

Team Secret has been sitting near the top of the Pro Circuit standings all season long, and it doesn’t seem overly likely that the squad is due for a drop off anytime soon. The team’s roster has remained intact through the roster lock period, and its consistent production so far this season makes it one of the favorites to win this event. With the team’s consistency and continued success in mind, Team Secret comes into the ESL One Katowice Major projected to earn itself another Top 4 finish. In order for the team to miss out on advancing to the Playoff Bracket and having a chance at a Top 4 spot, it would need to lose two Bo3 series within its group. While Group B does contain another Top 4 ranked Pro Circuit team in Newbee, there doesn’t appear to be a third squad in the group that should be expected to defeat Team Secret in a full series. That’s not to say that it isn’t possible, but the European squad can be fairly confident that it will be favored in a match up against any other team in its group. Should Team Secret live up to those expectations with a solid performance in Katowice, it will find itself one step closer to securing its place at The International 2018.

 

Team Liquid 600px-Team_liquid_logo_2017

Region: Europe

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 2nd (3510 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1.
Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen
2.
Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barqawi
3.
Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov
4.
Maroun “GH” Merhej
5.
Kuro Salehi “KuroKy” Takhasomi (Captain)

Projected Finish: Top 4

European squad Team Liquid comes into this latest Major off the back of a successful campaign at the previous Pro Circuit event, having won the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor at the beginning of the month. The impressive performance for Team Liquid in Shanghai was just the latest achievement in what has been a dominant run for the team so far this season as it works towards a return trip to The International to defend its TI7 crown. Team Liquid has earned Top 4 finishes in all six of its appearances on the Pro Circuit so far, and the squad comes into this Major with a favorable outlook to push that streak up to seven events.

Team Liquid’s last Pro Circuit appearance came around two weeks ago at the aforementioned StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor in Shanghai. The European squad turned in another incredible performance at this most recent Minor, posting a 9-1 record that earned the team a 1st place finish at the event following a victory in the Finals over Chinese squad LGD Gaming. Given how recent that last Minor was, Team Liquid haven’t played any other official matches prior to the ESL One Katowice Major, but its performance so far this season speaks volumes about the team’s consistency. As previously mentioned, the team has yet to fall short of a Top 4 finish in a Pro Circuit event this season, and in 2018 alone the team had added two more Top 4 runs to its resume while posting an overall record of 18-5. The team has been all but untouchable so far this season, displaying a level of consistency and brutal efficiency that is unmatched on the Pro Circuit. Heading into the ESL One Katowice Major, there doesn’t appear to be many opponents that Team Liquid will be intimidated by, as the team enters the event with a sense of extreme confidence.

Team Liquid’s confidence coming into the ESL One Katowice Major is more than justified based on the team’s performance on the Pro Circuit stage so far this season. While the squad doesn’t hold the highest rank in the Pro Circuit standings, the fact that it has been able to achieve this level of success so consistently and so efficiently cannot be ignored. Coming into the Major, Team Liquid is projected to earn itself another Top 4 finish based on it impressive record to this point in the season as well as the group that it finds itself in. In order to reach the Winners’ Finals of Group A and secure a spot in the Playoff Bracket, Team Liquid needs to beat, at a minimum, Effect and the winner of the OG-Vici Gaming series. All three of those opponents are teams that Team Liquid should be expected to come out on top against. The path for Team Liquid at this event is fairly straight forward, and at this stage it feels like there would need to be an upset or a mistake on a truly monumental level to derail Team Liquid’s push towards another success run at a Pro Circuit event.

 

Newbee Newbee_logo

Region: China

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 4th (1725 Qualifying Points)

Roster: 
1. Xu “Moogy” Han
2.
Song “Sccc” Chun
3.
Damien “kpii” Chok
4.
Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi
5.
Zeng “Faith” Hongda (Captain)

Projected Finish: Top 4

The 2018 section of the Pro Circuit season has been good to Newbee so far, as the Chinese squad has taken home back to back Top 4 finishes that have helped solidify its hold on its 4th place ranking. Newbee has consistently out played its regional rivals, maintaining its position as the highest ranked Chinese squad for nearly the entirety of the season so far. That regional success has carried over onto the international stage as well, with Newbee proving itself as one of the Pro Circuit’s best squads. The Chinese squad may be lagging behind the other Top 4 ranked squad a bit in terms of Qualifying Points, but a solid performance at the ESL One Katowice Major provides Newbee the perfect opportunity to close that gap and further secure the team’s place among the elite squads of the Dota 2 world.

It hasn’t been too long since fans last saw Newbee on the Pro Circuit stage, as the Chinese squad was a participant at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor at the beginning of February. The team managed to earn the top spot in its group after winning series against both Team Empire and Mineski, but lost in the Semifinals to LGD Gaming to finish in the 3rd-4th place position at the event. The team hasn’t played any other matches since that appearance at the Minor, but its performance so far in 2018 gives us a good perspective of where it stands coming into the Major. The team has been impressive on the international stage in its two Pro Circuit appearances this year, losing just one series and posting a 12-6 record against non-Chinese teams. Against its regional rivals, Newbee has had a slightly harder time, though it still holds a positive win-loss record in 2018 at 3-2. The team’s recent 0-2 loss to LGD Gaming raises some small concerns for the team should their regional rival continue to improve its standing on the Pro Circuit. However, Newbee’s consistent success this season has the team looking strong and confident as it approaches the Major.

Coming into the ESL One Katowice Major, Newbee has every reason to feel confident that it can perform well at the event. The team has approached the 2018 section of the season with a sense of purpose and determination, and it has payed off for the Chinese squad with back to back Top 4 finishes. The team assuredly has aspirations to extend that streak to three events at the Major, and it has to be considered one of the favorites to do so based upon its level of play so far in its recent matches. Coming into the ESL One Katowice Major, Newbee is projected to finish within the Top 4 once again. The team’s path to the Playoff Stage at the Major may be a difficult one though, as the team will have to face Team Kinguin and either Na’Vi or Fnatic in the first two rounds of the Group Stage. Those opponents are all capable of pulling off an upset in the right circumstances, but if Newbee continues to play at the level we’ve seen over the past two Pro Circuit events, then the Chinese squad should be able to push past those challengers and set itself up for another strong result in Katowice.

 

Evil Geniuses 600px-EG

Region: North America

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 7th (885 Qualifying Points)

Roster: 
1. Artour “Arteezy” Babaev
2.
Clinton “Fear” Loomis
3.
Sumail “Suma1L” Hassan
4.
Andreas “Cr1t-” Nielsen
5.
Rasmus “MISERY” Filipsen (Captain)

Projected Finish: 7th-8th

After beginning the 2018 section of the season with some concerns following its roster changes, Evil Geniuses has shown that its new lineup is just as capable as the old one. The team holds a Top 8 ranking in the Pro Circuit standings, and continues to lead all North American teams as the highest ranked squad in the region. The team has gotten off to a strong start in the new year, pulling in quality performances both on the Pro Circuit stage and in regional qualifiers. With the new roster appearing to be full adjusted and playing at a high level, the North American squad comes into the ESL One Katowice Major with aspirations of improving its position within the Pro Circuit standings.

EG’s last Pro Circuit appearance came at the end of of January at the ESL One Genting Minor, where the team made its second appearance at a Minor in 2018. The North American pushed through the lower bracket by taking wins over PENTA Sports, TNC Pro Team, and Na’Vi to reach the Playoff Stage where it secured a surprising 2-0 win over Virtus.pro. The Semifinals match up with Team Liquid spelled the end of EG’s impressive run, but the squad came away from the Minor with a 3rd-4th place finish and its first Qualifying Points of 2018. Since then, the squad has returned to its home region to participant in another round of qualifiers for the upcoming Pro Circuit events. The team made an undefeated run through the North America Qualifier for the DAC 2018 Major, posting a 6-0 record and defeating Team IDC, is GG, and complexity Gaming in the process. At the time of writing this, Evil Geniuses is also still active in the North American Qualifier for the EPICENTER XL Major. With the team seemingly maintaining its control over its home region and producing solid results on the international stage, Evil Geniuses come into the ESL One Katowice Major looking for another Top 4 finish.

Evil Geniuses has been looking impressive to start the 2018 section of the season, putting up strong results in both regional competition and on the international level. The ESL One Katowice Major will be quite the test for the North American squad though, as its position in Group B will put it up against some formidable opponents. The team will have to go up against a resurgent LGD Gaming squad in its opening match up, and will also likely have to get past fellow Top 8 squads Team Secret, Na’Vi, and Newbee if it wants to reach the Playoff Stage of the event. While it is entirely possible that Evil Geniuses manages to get through that list of opponents, expecting such from the North American squad seems a little too much at this stage. With that in mind, Evil Geniuses come into this latest Major projected to finish within the 7th-8th place range. However, should the team play at the level that it has been showing in its recent matches, then EG could be in line for another impressive performance on the Pro Circuit stage in Katowice.

 

Mineski 600px-Mineski-dota_logo

Region: Southeast Asia

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 6th (900 Qualifying Points)

Roster: 
1. Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung (Captain)
2.
Kam “NaNa” a.k.a “Moon” Boon Seng
3.
Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang
4.
Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong
5.
Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross Jr.

Projected Finish: 5th-6th

The 2018 section of the season has been an interesting period for Mineski so far, as the team has been holding on to its Top 8 rank in the Pro Circuit standings as well as its position as the highest ranked team from Southeast Asia. The first two months of the year have seen the squad earn itself two Top 4 finishes at Pro Circuit events behind some solid, if somewhat inconsistent, play. With a few regional rivals beginning to raise their profiles on the Pro Circuit, Mineski comes into the first Major of 2018 looking to solidify its position with a strong performance in Katowice.

The last Pro Circuit appearance for Mineski came earlier this month as the team was one of the participants at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor. The SEA squad looked solid in the Group Stage of the event, winning series against Team Kinguin and Team Empire and taking a game off of Newbee in a 1-2 loss. That performance earned Mineski a spot in the Playoff Stage, where the team lost 0-2 to Team Liquid to end its run at the Minor with a 3rd-4th place finish. That performance in Shanghai marked the team’s second Top 4 finish of 2018, but things haven’t quite been all positive for Mineski so far this year. The team had a less than ideal showing at the ESL One Genting Minor in January, where it put together a 3-3 overall record and finished in the collective 9th-12th place position. While the team may be displaying a small bit of inconsistency on the international level, its performance at home has remained strong even in the face of increased opposition from rival Southeast Asian teams. Mineski has participated in four Pro Circuit qualifiers in 2018 and earned Top 4 finishes in all of them, including three 1st place finishes. Overall, these performances paint a picture of a team looking confident and playing at a high level as the team prepares for the Major.

Mineski has been playing a phenomenal level so far in 2018, and the team comes into the ESL One Katowice Major looking for another impressive performance to continue its strong run over the past few months. The finish within the lower half of the standings at the ESL One Genting Minor is a small cause for concern for the team, but its continued success in the SEA region combined with its other Pro Circuit performances in 2018 lend credence to the belief that this poor showing was a deviation from the norm. Mineski comes into the Major with a projection within the 5th-6th place range based on both its recent performances and its group. In order to secure a Top 4 spot in the Group Stage, Mineski would most likely have to get past both Virtus.pro and Team Liquid, which seems like a task that is slightly outside of the realm of expectation for the squad. However, the team has a solid chance to advance to the Playoff Stage as the 3rd place squad from Group A barring any unexpected setbacks. If the team avoids any drop offs in its level of play and maintains the form that it has shown for the majority of the new year, then Mineski will be in a favorable position to put together another strong showing on the Pro Circuit.

 

Vici Gaming VICI_Gaming

Region: China

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 8th (810 Qualifying Points)

Roster: 
1. Zhang Paparazi灬” Chengjun
2.
Zeng “Ori” Jiaoyang
3.
Ren “eLeVeN” Yangwei
4.
Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng
5.
Lu “Fenrir” Chao

Projected Finish: 7th-8th

Vici Gaming stormed onto the Pro Circuit scene in late 2017 and early 2018, putting together an impressive string of performances that catapulted the Chinese squad into the Pro Circuit standings. While its last Pro Circuit appearance brought its string of consecutive Top 4 finishes to an end, the team remains a formidable opponent as it enters the first Major of 2018. With the team looking to continue its push up the Pro Circuit standings, the ESL One Katowice Major provides a crucial opportunity for Vici Gaming to once again put its strength and talent on display on the international stage.

Vici Gaming’s last Pro Circuit appearance came in January at the ESL One Genting Minor, where the team’s streak of Top 4 finishes came to an end. The Chinese squad made a determined run through the lower bracket of Group A, overcoming SG e-sports, Fnatic, and VGJ.Thunder to earn a spot in the Playoff Bracket. However, its Seminfinal match up with fellow Chinese team Newbee spelled the end of the team’s time at the Minor as it finished with a shared 5th-6th place position. Since then, the team has returned to the Chinese region to participate in the next round of regional qualifiers for upcoming Pro Circuit events. The team participated in the China Qualifier for the GESC: Indonesia Minor just a few days ago, although the results were not quite ideal for Vici Gaming. The team lost its opening series against LGD Gaming, then lost its subsequent lower bracket series against Newbee to finish 4th in the qualifier. Despite that performance, the squad has been incredibly consistent within the Chinese region, claiming Top 4 finishes in nine of its ten Pro Circuit qualifier appearances. Consistent production like that is invaluable regardless of what region it occurs in, but for a squad like Vici Gaming competing in a crowded Chinese region, that achievement carries a little extra weight. Heading into the Major, Vici Gaming is hoping that its consistency in both its home region and on the international level can help it put together another Top 4 finish on the Pro Circuit stage.

The consistent performances from Vici Gaming have been impressive so far this season, but the team will have a tough task ahead of it in order to earn a Top 4 spot at the Major. The team has shown itself capable of taking on both fellow Chinese squad and international opposition, but the group that it finds itself in for the ESL One Katowice Major will be particularly trying for the team. In order to secure a Top 4 spot in the Group Stage, Vici Gaming would most likely have to go through a combination of Team Liquid, Mineski, and Virtus.pro. To defeat one of those squads would be difficult enough, but winning two series against them is a task that at the moment appears too daunting for Vici Gaming to handle. That being said, the team would still likely have to get past one or more of those squads to even reach the Playoff Stage at all. In the face of that much tough opposition, Vici Gaming isn’t necessarily expected to emerge triumphant. The team enters the Major with a projected finish in the 7th-8th place range. With the level of talent that its group-mates have, any small mistake or deviation could be the difference between a run to the Playoff Stage or a finish in the lower half of the standings. Vici Gaming has the talent to make a run in Katowice, but it can’t afford to bring another other than its best to this event if it wants to make make that run happen.

 

Natus Vincere (Na’Vi) 668px-Natus_Vincere

Region: CIS

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 5th (1110 Qualifying Points)

Roster: 
1. Vladislav “Crystallize” Krystanek
2.
Danil “Dendi” Ishutin
3.
Victor “GeneRaL” Nigrini
4.
IlyaLilIlyuk (Captain)
5.
Nikola “LeBronDota” Popović

Projected Finish: 9th-12th

Na’Vi made headlines in the Dota 2 world during the roster lock period, as the CIS squad announced some significant alterations to its roster. First, the team pulled off a trade with regional rival Virtus.pro that brought IlyaLilIlyuk to the lineup as the team’s new support player and captain. With the addition of a new captain, the old one needed to be replaced, as the team removed Akbar “SoNNeikO ” Butaev from the roster in order to add Nikola “LeBronDota” Popović as the team’s other new support player. The new look for Na’Vi drastically improved its ranking in the Pro Circuit standings, but it also raised quite a few questions as the team prepares for the Major.

Na’Vi’s last Pro Circuit appearance was at the ESL One Genting Minor, which the team participated in with its old lineup. The CIS squad posted a 3-5 overall record at the event that earned the team a 7th-8th place finish. Those were the final official matches that the previous roster played, but the new lineup has already participated in one qualifier that gives us a sense of how well Na’Vi has adjusted to its recent changes. The qualifier in question was the CIS Qualifier for the DAC 2018 Major, and Na’Vi began its run through that qualifier in strong fashion with wins over Team Invincible and Gambit Esports. However, a run in with Team Spirit in the Winners’ Finals resulted in a 1-2 loss for Na’Vi that was followed up by a surprising 0-2 loss to Effect to eliminate the CIS squad from contention. The team’s 3rd place finish may be somewhat disappointing considering how close it came to qualifying for the Major, but it is an encouraging sign for a roster than was only finalized a few days prior. With a bit more time standing between Na’Vi and the start of the ESL One Katowice Major, it’s certainly possible that the team irons out its issues and comes into the event at full strength as it looks to maintain its newly found position of strength on the Pro Circuit.

It may be possible that Na’Vi’s new lineup puts together a strong run at the Major, but it doesn’t necessarily seem fair to expect that much from the team considering how recent its changes have come. Adding two new support players in addition to changing its captain introduce a level of uncertainty that raises serious concerns for the team heading into this event. Its recent performance within the CIS region have shown the strength and talent of the team’s new lineup, but it has also exposed the team’s vulnerability to a mistake or drop off in play. The group that Na’Vi finds itself in doesn’t do it many favors either, as the team will have to contend with three other Top 8 ranked squads in Team Secret, Evil Geniuses, and Newbee. With the combination of the tough opposition the team will face and the relative uncertainty brought on by its recent roster changes, Na’Vi comes into the ESL One Katowice Major projected to finish within the 9th-12th place range. Should the team show that it has fully acclimated to its new players and style, the potential is there for a strong run and a better result. However, until Na’Vi has given us that proof, it seems more prudent to keep expectations modest for the CIS squad.

 

Team Kinguin 627px-Team_Kinguin

Region: Europe

Qualification: Europe Qualifier Co-Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: T-15th (90 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1. 
Natan “Exotic_Deer” Michalewicz
2. 
Michał “Nisha” Jankowski
3.
Paweł “Patos” Naruszewicz
4. 
Rafał “eL lisasH” Wójcik (Captain)
5. 
Jakub “kacor” Kocjan

Projected Finish: 13th-16th

Team Kinguin’s emergence onto the Pro Circuit stage was a surprising and somewhat unexpected occurrence, as the Polish squad broke through the European region and earned its first Qualifying Points of the season last December. Since that initial surge though, the team has come back down to Earth a bit, encountering increased resistance both at home and on the international stage. The team has struggled to a certain degree so far in 2018, but this opportunity to play on the Pro Circuit stage and on home soil on Poland could be just what Team Kinguin needs to get itself back into its previous form.

The last Pro Circuit appearance for Team Kinguin came at the beginning of the month at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor, where the team was looking to put together back to back Top 4 finishes. Unfortunately for the Polish squad, it fell short of that goal, losing both of its Group Stage series against Mineski and Team Empire to finish in the 7th-8th place position in a field of eight teams. The team hasn’t played any international matches since then, but it has participated in a regional qualifier for the DAC 2018 Major. Team Kinguin finished in the 5th-6th place position in that qualifier, a performance that has epitomized the squad’s struggles in the European region so far this year. In 2018 Team Kinguin has participated in four Pro Circuit qualifiers and has fallen outside of the Top 4 in two of them. At the time of writing this, the team is still active within the Europe Qualifier for the EPICENTER XL Major, so by the time the ESL One Katowice Major rolls around the picture may look somewhat better for Team Kinguin within its home region. For now though, it appears that the team is having some issues reestablishing its momentum in the European region and on the international stage as well. IF the team wants to put together a solid performance at the Major, it’s going to need to get itself back on track in relatively short order.

Team Kinguin has run into some trouble so far in 2018, and those issues the team is facing are not particularly ideal for a team heading into the first Major of the year. We’ve seen what Team Kinguin is capable of when its playing at its best, but this recent drop off in play from the Polish squad raises some significant concerns for it at this event. On top of those potential problems that the squad may be facing with its own play, it is also going to have to deal with some tough opposition in its group. Team Kinguin opens its run at the Major with a series against Newbee, and will face either Na’Vi or Fnatic in the series after that. Getting past those squads will be a daunting task, and one that Team Kinguin doesn’t seem prepared to pull off based on its recent issues. Coming into the ESL One Katowice Major, Team Kinguin is projected to fall into the collective last place position of 13th-16th. It is possible that the team has recovered from its recent setbacks and can put together a strong run at the Major, but such a performance would come as more of a surprise as opposed to be being the expected results for the Polish squad.

 

OG 425px-OG_RB_Logo

Region: Europe

Qualification: Europe Qualifier Co-Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: 9th (630 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1. 
Johan “N0tail” Sundstein
2. 
Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok
3.
Gustav “s4” Magnusson
4. 
Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka
5. 
Tal “Fly” Aizik (Captain)

Projected Finish: 9th-12th

OG closed out the 2017 section of the season with surge of positive results, including its first Top 4 finish at a Pro Circuit event. The European squad has carried that significant momentum over into the new year, as the team is looking strong both on the international level and within the European region. This string of impressive play is coming at a crucial time for OG, as the team is on the outside looking in on the Pro Circuit standings with a 9th place ranking. The recent series of roster shuffles across the Pro Circuit saw the team booted out of its Top 8 position, but the team’s strong play of late sets OG up in a favorable position to reclaim that spot. That reclamation effort could receive a significant boost should OG put together a solid showing at the ESL One Katowice Major.

OG’s last Pro Circuit event was the Captains Draft 4.0 Minor at the beginning of the year, where the European squad earned its third straight Top 4 finish on the Pro Circuit.  The team earned the top spot in its group and won its opening Playoff series against Team Empire, but fell short with an 0-2 loss to Vici Gaming in the Semifinals that ended the team’s run at the Minor with a 3rd-4th place finish. Since that performance, OG has been able to accrue more experience on the international stage with a run at the non-Pro Circuit Galaxy Battles II event in January. Despite posting a 3-4 overall record at the event, OG still managed to earn itself a Top 4 performance at the event. Within the European region, OG has continued to put together solid showing against its regional rivals. The team has competed in three Pro Circuit qualifiers in 2018, and has manged to win all three of them to help fill up its schedule for the next few months with Pro Circuit events. The European squad may even be adding to that string of qualifier wins in the future, as the team is currently active in the Playoff Stage of the EPICENTER XL Europe Qualifier. With the team looking solid booth at home and on the international level, OG comes into the ESL One Katowice Major with a decent amount of momentum behind it.

OG’s momentum and recent string of strong play may both be encouraging signs for OG heading into this event, but they may not be enough to fuel a deep run in the face of such significant opposition. The team has been placed into a group that contains four Top 8 ranked squads that OG will have to overcome in order to reach the Playoff Stage of the event. OG’s recent results would suggest that the team could more than likely take down one of those opponents, but beating multiple highly ranked squads sits more within the realm of possibility as opposed to expectation. Coming into the Major, OG has a projection as a 9th-12th place team based upon the strength of the group that it finds itself in. However, the team’s strong play of late leaves the door open for the European squad to advance beyond those modest expectations in Katowice.

 

Effect Effect

Region: CIS

Qualification: CIS Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: Not Ranked (0 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1. 
Zaur “Cooman” Shakhmurzaev 
2. 
Andrey “Afoninje” Afonin
3. 
Vasily “AfterLife” Shishkin
4.
Rinat “KingR” Abdullin
5. 
Igor “Maden” Modenov

Projected Finish: 13th-16th

CIS squad Effect has spent much of the season so far trying to work its way through its home region, with mixed results from its various qualifier runs. However, 2018 has seen the team take a significant step forward in its efforts to advance through the regional hierarchy, including the team’s qualification for its first Pro Circuit event of the season. On top of that, the recent roster lock period gave the team the opportunity to solidify its roster, as it made long term stand-ins Zaur “Cooman” Shakhmurzaev and Vasily “AfterLife” Shishkin official members of the lineup. With its new roster looking stronger within the CIS region, Effect comes into its Pro Circuit debut looking to make a good first impression against some of the world’s best teams.

With Effect making its first Pro Circuit appearance at the ESL One Katowice Major, there isn’t any prior Pro Circuit LAN performances to analyze when looking at the team. However, we can take a look at the team’s performance in regional qualifiers across the first few months of 2018. The team’s current roster has competed in three Pro Circuit qualifiers so for in 2018, claiming Top 4 finishes in all three of them. Those three Top 4 finishes includes two 1st place finishes in the CIS Qualifier for both this ESL One Katowice Major and the upcoming Dota 2 Asia Championships Major. Those impressive performances go a long way to show the team’s improvement within the CIS region, as the team has an opportunity to set itself up as a more consistent threat in the regional hierarchy. Unfortunately, the team’s current roster hasn’t been able to play any official matches outside of its home region. That lack of international experience is a cause for some concern as the team heads into its first Pro Circuit event.

Effect may be looking to put together an impressive performance in its Pro Circuit debut, but the CIS squad will face an extremely tough task at the Major. The team may be looking strong within the CIS region since the start of 2018, but the lack of international experience is a issue that cannot be ignored. That issue makes it harder to have a high level of confidence in Effect at this event, especially considering the group that the CIS squad has been placed in. The team will have to face Team Liquid in its opening series of the Major, and will face either OG or Vici Gaming in the series after that. That’s a tough list of opponents for any team to face, and for a squad making its first ever appearance on the Pro Circuit stage, expecting Effect to overcome those obstacles is simply not reasonable. The CIS squad comes into the ESL One Katowice Major projected to fall within the 13th-16th place range based on its relative inexperience and the strength of its group. Of course, the possibility still exists for Effect to get past those initial hurdles  should one of its opponents underestimate the team’s abilities. However, such an outcome would come as a pretty significant surprise for Effect, and it seems far more likely that the team uses this first appearance as a learning experience rather than competing for a top spot.

 

compLexity Gaming 727px-Col_big_logo

Region: North America

Qualification: North America Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: 14th (135 Qualifying Points)

Roster: 
1. Rasmus “Chessie” Blomdin 
2.
Linus “Limmp” Blomdin
3.
David “Moo” Hull
4.
Zakari “Zfreek” Freedman
5.
Kyle “melonzz” Freedman (Captain)

Projected Finish: 9th-12th

The last few months have been a time of pros and cons for North American squad compLexity Gaming. One the one hand, the team has continued to prove itself as one of the leading teams in North America with a string of solid performances across regional qualifiers. On the other hand, the team has seen its performance on the international stage suffer from a drop off that has kept it near the lower end of the Pro Circuit standings. CompLexity Gaming finds itself in significant need of a strong performance on the international level to turn around its recent struggles, and the ESL One Katowice Major may be just the opportunity for the North American squad to get itself back on track on the Pro Circuit.

The most recent Pro Circuit appearance for compLexity Gaming came earlier this month at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor as the squad attended its third Pro Circuit LAN of 2018. The team managed to win a series against South American squad Infamous, but lost to LGD Gaming twice for a 3-4 overall record that failed to get the team out of the Group Stage with a 5th-6th place finish. That performance was the latest in a string of less than ideal showings on the Pro Circuit stage for compLexity Gaming, as the squad has now missed the mark for a Top 4 finish in its past four Pro Circuit events. The good news for compLexity Gaming though is that the team continues to play well within the North American region in spite of its drop off on the international level. The team has participated in four regional qualifiers so far in 2018, earning Top 4 finishes in all of them and winning the qualifiers for this ESL One Katowice Major and the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor. The squad is also currently active in the North American Qualifier for the upcoming EPICENTER XL Major as well. From the team’s regional performances it looks as though the team is still capable of performing at a high level, but compLexity Gaming needs to find some way to carry that regional success back over on the Pro Circuit stage.

CompLexity Gaming comes into the ESL One Katowice Major in need of a solid performance to bring its recent struggles on the international level to an end. However, it doesn’t seem overly likely that the North American squad puts that performance together at this event. The team’s issues against teams outside of the North American region is still a big concern that it doesn’t appear to have fully addressed. The team will have a tough time in its group as well, as compLexity Gaming will have to push through Mineski in its opening series and either Virtus.pro or OpTic Gaming in the next. Considering the significant difference in the compLexity Gaming’s play against other North American squads, a match up with OpTic Gaming may be the preferred outcome for the team. With that in mind, the projection for compLexity Gaming at this event falls within the 9th-12th place range. Should the team find the solution to its recent problems and get some favorable match ups in the bracket, then a push into a higher position is definitely possible for the team. However, given the uncertainty that the squad has displayed on the Pro Circuit so far this year, the expectations have to be kept somewhat lower for compLexity Gaming at the Major.

 

Infamous LOGO-INFAMOUS-COMERCIAL

Region: South America

Qualification: South America Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: Not Ranked (0 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1. 
Alonso “Kotarō Hayama” León
2. 
Mariano “Papita” Caneda (Captain)
3. 
Steven “StingeR” Vargas
4. 
Elvis “Scofield” De la Cruz Peña
5. 
Christian “Accel” Cruz

Projected Finish: 13th-16th

It has been a season of struggles across the board for the South American region so far, as there has yet to be a single team from the region to earn Qualifying Points on the Pro Circuit. Among the South American squads, Infamous has managed to at least distinguish itself as one of the leading teams within the region. However, that position hasn’t managed to help the squad on the international stage just yet, as Infamous continues to search for its first Top 4 performance of the season. With the field of participants at the ESL One Katowice Major filled with so many quality teams, Infamous has its work cut out for it at this event.

Infamous was last seen on the Pro Circuit stage at the recent StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4, where the squad served as the South American representative. The team’s performance was not particularly encouraging, as the squad lost its series against Team Liquid and compLexity Gaming to finish its Group Stage run with an 0-4 record overall. That win-less performance earned Infamous a position in the shared 7th-8th last place range at the Minor. The poor result at that last Minor is just the latest in a trend of weaker showing on the international stage for Infamous, as the squad just hasn’t seemed ready to fully compete on the Pro Circuit. Within its home region, the picture looks better for Infamous, as it still stands as one of the region’s strongest squads. The team has participated in six Pro Circuit qualifiers so far in 2018 and managed to earn Top 4 finishes in five of them, including two 1st place finishes. Infamous is still sitting in a solid position in South America, but that favorable standing may be threatened in the near future based on what we’ve been seeing in the region so far this year. Squads like SG e-sports and paiN Gaming are still competing on a regular basis for Pro Circuit spots, and up and coming squads like Mad Kings and Midas Club are beginning to show significant improvement as well. In the face of increased opposition at home and continued struggles on the international level, Infamous is in desperate need of a strong showing to help bolster its position.

Infamous may find itself in need of a solid performance right now, but the ESL One Katowice Major doesn’t seem like the place where the South American squad is going to be able to put together such a performance. The team’s results within its home region continue to be a point of positivism and encouragement, but its inability to match up with international competition is still a glaring weakness that has not been resolved. The team’s placement within Group B won’t do it any favors either, as the South American squad will face a tough test right from the start in Katowice. Infamous opens its run at the Major against Pro Circuit leader Team Secret, followed by another series against either Evil Geniuses or LGD Gaming. Given the team’s international issues and the strength of those initial opponents, its incredibly hard to expect much from Infamous at this event. With that in mind, the team comes into the ESL One Katowice Major with a projected finish in the 13th-16th place range. The time may come when Infamous and its players have fully adjusted to international play and can put up solid performance on the Pro Circuit stage, but that day hasn’t come yet and likely won’t come any time during this Major.

 

LGD Gaming 800px-LGD

Region: China

Qualification: China Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: 10th (472.5 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1. 
Wang “Ame” Chunyu
2. 
Lu “Somnus丶M” a.k.a “Maybe” Yao
3. 
Yang “Chalice” Shenyi
4. 
Xu “Fy” Linsen (Captain)
5. 
Yap “xNova” Jian Wei

Projected Finish: 5th-6th

Chinese squad LGD Gaming took a big risk earlier in the season when in underwent some drastic roster changes, but the moves appear to be paying of for the team. The new lineup has been dominant within the Chinese region in 2018, and has catapulted itself back in to the mix on the Pro Circuit stage as well. Wits its new found position of strength, LGD Gaming come into the ESL One Katowice Major with a sense of confidence that was severely lacking just a few months ago. The new roster has already shown that it is capable of putting up solid results on the international level, but the Major will be another huge test of the team’s strength.

LGD Gaming’s last Pro Circuit appearance came at the beginning of February at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor, where the team made its first LAN appearance with its new lineup. The team posted a 4-3 record in the Group Stage, losing its series against Team Liquid but defeating North American squad compLexity Gaming twice to earn itself a spot in the Playoff Stage. LGD Gaming won 2-0 against Chinese leader Newbee, and even took a game against Team Liquid before finishing in 2nd place at the Minor. The Top 4 finish in Shanghai was a triumphant return fro LGD Gaming after what had been a long period of frustration and futility on the international stage. The team’s improvements have resulted in better performances within its home region as well, as LGD Gaming has taken steps towards reestablishing itself as a leading team in China. The team has participated in four regional qualifiers with its new roster and has won three of them (DAC 2018, StarLadder i-League, ESL One Katowice) while placing 2nd in the last one. It may still be too soon to tell if the team’s recent success will last, but the Chinese squad comes into the ESL One Katowice Major with a significant amount of confidence and momentum on its side.

LGD Gaming has approached the 2018 section of the season with a new purpose and a new sense of determination following its roster changes, and the results have been impressive so far. The team’s dominant stretch within the Chinese region over the past two months has set the team up with multiple opportunities on the Pro Circuit stage. So far, the team has managed to make the most of those opportunities with solid play on the international level, but the ESL One Katowice Major will be a significant test for the new lineup. Coming into the Major, LGD Gaming are projected to finish in the 5th-6th place range, but the Chinese squad will have a tough path to get to that position. Group B contains four teams within the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings, and LGD Gaming will have to beat out at least two of them to reach the Playoff Stage. That being said, so long as the team comes into the event playing at the same level that it has been showing so far this year, then the odds for LGD Gaming reaching that mark seem to be in its favor.

 

Fnatic Fnaticlogo

Region: Southeast Asia

Qualification: Southeast Asia Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: 11th (390 Qualifying Points)

Roster: 
1. Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao (Captain)
2.
Abed “Abed” Yusop
3.
Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora
4.
Djardel “DJ” Mampusti 
5.
Johan “pieliedie” Åström

Projected Finish: 9th-12th

When Southeast Asian squad Fnatic announced the acquisition of offlaner Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora in January, it appeared that the team was poised to elevate itself into a position of strength on the Pro Circuit. Unfortunately for the team, it hasn’t gone down like that just yet, as the team still appears to be working itself into a more comfortable position. Within the SEA region, the team’s performance has seen an impressive increase both in results and in consistency. However, on the international stage, Fnatic has yet to replicate that regional success in 2018. With so many of the world’s best teams converging in Katowice, Fnatic will have a tough test ahead of it along with an opportunity to show its strength on the international level.

Fnatic’s last Pro Circuit appearance came within its home region, as the team participated in the ESL One Genting Minor in January. The team began its run at the Minor relatively well with a Bo1 win over compLexity Gaming, but lost its next two series against Team Secret and Vici Gaming to finish in the 9th-12th place range at the event. The team hasn’t gotten another chance to perform on the international level since that performance at the Minor, so we don’t have much else to go on when evaluating the squad for the ESL One Katowice Major. However, the team’s performance within the SEA region since its roster changes have the squad looking much more solid. The team has participated in five Pro Circuit qualifiers since the formation of its current roster, and has managed to earn Top 4 finishes in all of them. Those five Top 4 finishes includes two 1st place positions in the qualifiers for the GESC: Indonesia and DreamLeague Season 9 Minors. Those performances show that the squad has the talent and experience that it needs to find success on the international level, the question for Fnatic will be how well it can work together in the face of some of the Dota 2 world’s toughest opponents.

Fnatic’s recent success within the Southeast Asian region have been impressive since the finalization of its roster in January. The team’s performance appears to be taking on a more consistent feel and its results against the other top squad in the region are certainly encouraging. The big question mark for Fnatic is the international level, as the new roster’s debut at the ESL One Genting Minor didn’t instill a high level of confidence. Fnatic’s prospects in its group at the Major don’t look particularly high either, as the team will have to get past multiple Top 8 ranked squads in order to advance to the Playoff Stage. Based on the team’s previous Pro Circuit performance, it doesn’t seem prudent to expect Fnatic to go very far at this event, with the team holding a projection in the 9th-12th place range. Should the team show that it can replicate its regional success on an international level and put its previous Pro Circuit performance behind it, then the possibility is there for the team to challenge the leaders of its group. However, a deeper run in Katowice would come more as a pleasant surprise for Fnatic as opposed to an expected results at the Major.

 

OpTic Gaming OpTic_Gaming

Region: North American

Qualification: North America Last Chance Qualifier

Pro Circuit Rank: Not Ranked (0 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1. 
Per Olsson “Pajkatt” Lille
2. 
Quinn “CC&C” Callahan
3.
Ludwig “zai” Wahlberg
4.
Neta “33” Shapira
5. 
Peter “ppd” Dager (Captain)

Projected Finish: 13th-16th

OpTic Gaming has spent almost the entirety of the season so far as one of the leading teams within the North American region. However, the team’s relatively consistent production within its home region hasn’t quite translated into opportunities on the Pro Circuit stage just yet. The ESL One Katowice Major will be just the second Pro Circuit appearance for the team so far this season, but it presents the squad with a big chance to show its strength against some of the top teams in the world. OpTic Gaming comes into the Major looking to finally establish itself on the international stage and potentially earn its first Qualifying Points of the season.

OpTic Gaming’s last Pro Circuit appearance came back at the end of 2017 at the DOTA Summit 8 Minor in Los Angeles, where the team made its debut on the Pro Circuit. The team put together a solid performance in the Group Stage of the event with a 4-2 record against Fnatic and LGD Gaming that advanced it to the Wild Card Stage. Unfortunately, the team couldn’t overcome North American rival compLexity Gaming, ending its run at the Minor with a finish in the 6th-7th place position. Since then, the team has returned to the North American region and has continued to string together one solid performance after another against its regional rivals. In 2018 OpTic Gaming has participated in six regional qualifiers, earning Top 4 finishes in five of them. Those five Top 4 finishes includes two 1st place runs, and the only qualifier that it didn’t crack the Top 4 in was due to a disqualification for being excessively late for one of its matches. Such a consistent level of high quality performances across a region is invaluable to any squad, and OpTic Gaming is hoping that its strong regional play opens up more opportunities to perform on the Pro Circuit. The ESL One Katowice Major will be the team’s first chance in 2018 to show that it is capable of performing outside of its home region, but the team will be in for a tough task in Katowice.

OpTic Gaming comes into the Major looking for its first Qualifying Points of the season, but it doesn’t seem particularly likely that the North American squad finds those points in Katowice. The team’s play within the North American region has it looking incredibly strong, but the team was in a similar position heading into its last Pro Circuit appearance as well when it came short of the mark at the DOTA Summit 8 Minor. The team’s placement within Group B at the Major is another significant hurdle for the squad to overcome. OpTic Gaming opens its run at the Major with a series against Virtus.pro, and will then have to play either Mineski or compLexity Gaming in the next round. Overall, the team would have to place higher than at least two squads ranked within the Top 8 on the Pro Circuit standings in order to make it into the Playoff Stage. While the team is capable of making that run, expecting it from the North American team seems somewhat unreasonable. Coming into the Major OpTic Gaming is projected to finish within the lowest section of the standings in the 13th-16th range. However, should the team be able to maintain the level of play it has shown within its home region and replicate it on the Pro Circuit stage, then the potential is there for a much deeper run for OpTic Gaming.

 

 

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