Dota 2 Major Team Preview: The Bucharest Major

Battle for Bucharest, Part 2: Sixteen teams fight for the title of Major Champion as the Pro Circuit returns to the Romanian capital.

Fresh off the end of the first Major of the 2018 section of the season, Dota 2 fans around the world can rejoice as they prepare for the second in a series of back to back Major Championships. Just a week after the end of the ESL One Katowice Major, the Pro Circuit returns in spectacular fashion with the much anticipated Bucharest Major. Organized by PGL and ImbaTV, the Bucharest Major will return the Pro Circuit to the city of Bucharest, Romanai, where PGL previously hosted the PGL Open Bucharest Minor back in October. This latest Major will run from the fourth of March through the 11th and bring sixteen of the Pro Circuit’s top squads to the Polyvalent Hall for a test of skill on the international stage. On the line for those sixteen participants is a chance to claim the title of Major Champion, as well as a crucial opportunity to bring home sizable bounties of prize money and Qualifying Points, the distribution of which can be seen below.

1st: $500,000 (Total) & 750 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

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

3rd-4th: $90,000 (Per Team) & 150 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

5th-8th: $30,000 (Per Team)

9th-11th: $0

12th-14th: $0

15th-16th: $0

With such large amounts of money and Qualifying Points on the line in Bucharest, this Major has the potential to drastically alter the course of a team’s season. Top Pro Circuit squads like Virtus.pro and Team Secret could secure TI8 invites with 1st place finishes, while a host of other ranked squads could leap up the standings with a Top 4 finish. Add on to this the fact that the bottom eight teams will be going home without any prize money and the stakes have been raised to considerable heights for every team in the field. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what those sixteen teams will be facing at the Major in terms of the event’s format. The Bucharest Major will begin with a Group Stage, with all sixteen teams put into a Swiss Format tournament featuring Bo1 series. Each team will be assigned an opponent in Round 1, with each subsequent round having the  team face another randomly selected team with the same overall record. Each team will play up to five rounds, with three victories advancing it to the Playoff Stage while three losses will result in elimination. Once the eight advancing teams have been set, the Major shifts into a single elimination bracket, with all series being played Bo3 until the Finals which will feature a Bo5 series. The format has the effect of adding a sense of uncertainty and mystery to the Group Stage, as the team’s will not be sure which opponent they will be facing until the end of each previous round of play. With the format out of the way, we can shift focus from the event itself and instead take a look at each of the sixteen teams that will be vying for a Top 4 spot and the title of Champion of the Bucharest Major.

  • 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.

Team Liquid600px-Team_liquid_logo_2017

Region: Europe

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 3rd (4185 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 has been on an absolute tear all season long, as the team marches on towards TI8 at a near unstoppable pace. The team has been perhaps the most efficient and consistent squad on the Pro Circuit this season, as the team has still yet to attend a Pro Circuit event without earning a Top 4 finish and Qualifying Points for their efforts. That level of near infallibility has set the team up as one of the leading teams on the Pro Circuit as it prepares for its 8th Pro Circuit event of the season. With the team’s position within the Top 8 in the standings all but secure, Team Liquid comes into the Bucharest Major looking to finish the job and earn enough Qualifying Poitns to guarantee an invitation to TI8.

Team Liquid hasn’t been away from the Pro Circuit for very long, as the team recently participated in the ESL One Katowice Major at the end of February. The team posted an 11-6 overall record at the event to claim a 3rd place finish and keep its streak of Top 4 performances alive. The team continues to consistently place as one of the top teams on the Pro Circuit, as Team Liquid has claimed three Top 4 finishes in 2018 alone, including a Minor Championship in Shanghai at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4. The team’s ability to perform on the international stage is just about unquestionable at this point. The only downside for fans of Team Liquid so far this season is that the team’s continued success at the Pro Circuit level has meant that the team hasn’t had much need to play in regional qualifiers. The European squad has played in just a single regional qualifier this season (DreamLeague Season 8 Major), having received direct invitations to the event in each of its other Pro Circuit appearances. The Dota 2 world may not get to see Team Liquid outside of Pro Circuit LANs, but the squad’s fantastic and stable stretch of success has been more than enough to make up for that so far this season. With the team coming into another Pro Circuit event, Team Liquid has a crucial chance to move closer to a TI8 berth, or claim it outright with a win in Bucharest.

Team Liquid would need a 1st place finish at the Bucharest Major to claim a guaranteed spot at TI8 based on its Qualifying Points total. While that 1st place finish may not be locked in for the European squad, it enters the event as one of the favorites to earn its 8th straight Top 4 finish of the season. Team Liquid is projected to reach the Top 4 mark in Bucharest, and at this stage it would take either a significant mistake from the defending TI7 Champion or a truly inspired effort from an up and coming squad to prevent that outcome from occurring. Team Liquid has been the quintessential picture of consistency and stability, as the team has never wavered in its level of play to this point in the season. We’ll see if some ambitious squad has what it takes to finally lay low Team Liquid or if the TI7 Champion will be able to continue its push towards TI8 and a defense of the Aegis of Champions.

 

NewbeeNewbee_logo

Region: China

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 5th (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: 5th-8th

Newbee has spent pretty much the entirety of the season as the top ranked Chinese squad on the Pro Circuit, as the team has consistently defeated its regional rivals and challenged the elites of the international scene. However, the team has recently been knocked off of its throne, as fellow Chinese squad Vici Gaming has usurped its position as the top ranked Chinese team. While the team remains firmly entrenched within the Top 8 teams on the Pro Circuit, the Chinese powerhouse will be looking for a chance to reclaim its former position and outperform its regional rival. The Bucharest Major provides Newbee with the perfect opportunity to do just that, as the Chinese squad comes into the event searching for a strong showing to gain ground on the Top 4 ranked teams.

Newbee’s last Pro Circuit appearance came just a few days ago, as the Chinese squad competed at the ESL One Katowice Major. The team took a surprising Bo1 loss to Polish squad Team Kinguin, but recovered with an admirable run through the lower bracket past Na’Vi and LGD Gaming before being felled by Evil Geniuses just one series short of the Playoff Stage. That performance left the team in the 7th-8th place position, a bit of a setback for one of the top ranked teams on the Pro Circuit. Given the recent nature of the event, Newbee hasn’t been able to play any other international matches since the Major, which raises a relatively small but still existent concern for the team as it prepares for the second Major of 2018. The team’s international performance has been solid so far in 2018, with the team having won the ESL One Genting Minor earlier this year and placing within the Top 4 at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor. Contrasting those last few Pro Circuit appearances, it looks as though the team’s missing of a Top 4 spot in Katowice is simply a minor stumble rather than the beginning of a slump. The team’s play within its home region would appear to support this, as the team recently placed 1st in the China Qualifier for the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor and defeating Vici Gaming 2-0 in the process. Through 2018, Newbee has remained consistent in its play within the Chinese region, and its recent showings on the Pro Circuit stage make it easy to think that the team can bounce back from its 7th-8th place finish in Katowice.

Newbee will be looking for a Top 4 finish in Bucharest in order to retake its position within the Top 4 ranked squads and reclaim the title of highest ranked team in China from Vici Gaming. The team’s performance both at home and on the international stage so far this season have been strong and relatively consistent. However, coming into this event the team is projected to finish within the 5th-8th place range, just short of the mark for a Top 4 finish. The team’s performance in Katowice exposed a rather significant weakness, as both Team Kinguin and Evil Geniuses played a fast-paced tempo that threw Newbee off of its normal strategies and timings. Normally, a few losses on the Pro Circuit stage wouldn’t be a huge deal for a team ranked as highly as Newbee is, but these losses are different because of how they occurred. Newbee wasn’t simply outplayed or outperformed in a few matches, its opponents actively dissected and countered one of the team’s preferred play styles. That is an issue that has to be addressed if the team wants a shot at another Top 4 spot. Newbee’s lineup may have the pure talent and skill to outplay many of the teams in the field, but it can’t afford to be taken apart like that against the top teams on the Pro Circuit. If Newbee has found a way to avoid or adapt to that fast-paced and aggressive style that it struggled against in Katowice, then the team is a strong bet to return to a Top 4 spot in Bucharest. However, a failure to adapt to that early aggressive style could be the undoing of the Chinese squad as it looks to reclaim its former position and continue its march towards a TI8 invite.

 

Evil Geniuses 600px-EG

Region: North America

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 8th (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: 5th-8th

2018 has been an incredibly interesting time so far for North American squad Evil Geniuses. The team remains the leading squad within its home region, and it appears to have fully adjusted and adapted to its roster changes made back at the end of 2017. However, the team does have a small concern to address in its Pro Circuit ranking, as the team is currently standings in the 8th place position. This position is far from secure, as squads like OG and Fnatic are creeping up on the North American squad and are looking to secure another bounty of Qualifying Points to knock EG out of the Top 8. With its position on the Pro Circuit threatened by surging international squads, Evil Geniuses comes into the Bucharest Major in need of a solid showing to bolster its spot in the standings and stave off those would-be challengers.

EG’s last appearance on the Pro Circuit came quite recently, as the North American squad was one of the participants at the ESL One Katowice Major just around a week ago. The team lost its initial Bo1 against LGD Gaming, but went on a 6-0 run in the lower bracket to secure a spot in the Playoff Stage where it lost to Virtus.pro and finished in the 5th-6th place position at the event. Since the Major occurred so recently, EG hasn’t played any other official international matches, but the team’s performance on the Pro Circuit so far in 2018 has been encouraging. The team has come within one series of a Top 4 finish twice now this year (ESL One Katowice & Captains Draft 4.0), and managed to hit that mark with a 3rd-4th place finish at the ESL One Genting Minor. These performances have shown that EG is capable of competing with top Pro Circuit teams, but it is still a step or two away from reaching that Top 4 level consistently. EG’s solid play on the international level has been matched by its performance within North America, as the team continues to stand as one of the strongest teams in the region. EG has competed in two regional qualifiers so far in 2018, winning one (Dota 2 Asia Championships) and placing 2nd in the other (EPICENTER XL). With the team looking solid both at home and on the international stage, Evil Geniuses come into the Bucharest Major with a sense of confidence and a fair bit of momentum.

Evil Geniuses come into the Bucharest Major looking for a strong showing to solidify and potentially improve its position in the Pro Circuit standings. However, the team is going to face quite the challenge considering the level of competition that it will face at the Major. Coming into the event, Evil Geniuses is projected to finish within the 5th-8th place range based upon its recent performances on the Pro Circuit. The North American team has shown itself capable of performing well on the international stage, but it may still need a bit of good fortune to befall it in order to reach the Top 4 mark. Top teams like Virtus.pro, Team Secret, and Team Liquid are obstacles that EG have yet to overcome with any sense of consistency. EG is one of the favored teams to advance through the Group Stage, but it seems unlikely that the North American squad can manage to avoid some of those problem teams in the first round of the Playoff Stage. If Evil Geniuses wants to hit that Top 4 mark in Bucharest, its going to need a bit of luck, or the squad is going to have to show that it can take on and overcome one or more of the Pro Circuit’s highest ranked teams. We’ll see if the team is ready to take that final step as it prepares for the second Major of 2018.

 

Natus Vincere (Na’Vi) 668px-Natus_Vincere

Region: CIS

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 6th (1109 Qualifying Points)

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

Projected Finish: 9th-11th

Na’Vi made some major news in the Pro Circuit scene around the end of the open roster period, when the CIS squad announced some significant changes to its roster. The team traded away Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan in exchange for Virtus.pro’s IlyaLil Ilyuk, and replaced former captain Akbar “SoNNeikO” Butaev with Nikola “LeBronDota” Popović. The move catapulted Na’Vi into the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings thanks to Lil’s Qualifying Points, but that new position came with a slew of new and expanded expectations for the squad. Now that the team holds a position of power within the CIS region and the Pro Circuit, it must prepare to face increased resistance as rivals old and new look to knock the squad from its favorable position. The Bucharest Major presents the new-look Na’Vi with an opportunity to show off its newfound strength on the Pro Circuit stage.

Na’Vi hasn’t been away from the Pro Circuit for long, as the team was another of the sixteen participants at the ESL One Katowice Major just around a week ago. Unfortunately for the CIS squad, its new roster didn’t get off to the strongest of starts on the Pro Circuit stage, as the team struggled significantly at the Major. The team lost to both Fnatic and Newbee to end its run in Katowice in the 13th-16th place position without having earned a single win at the event. Seeing as how that event occurred just a few days ago, Na’Vi haven’t had the chance to play any other official matches against international competition. This is unfortunate for the CIS squad, as its dismal performance in Katowice is the only sample of the new roster’s international play that we have to analyze heading into the Bucharest Major, and its not a pretty picture for Na’Vi to say the least. Within its home region, the team has put together a more impressive performance, though it has only participated in a single qualifier with its new lineup. That qualifier was for the Dota 2 Asia Championships Major, and while the squad managed a 3rd place finish, it lost out on its chance to earn a spot at the event with back to back losses to Team Spirit and Effect. Those squads are no pushovers, but with its new roster and experience it was highly expected that Na’Vi would be able to claim that spot. The teams poor showing in Katowice combined with its decent, but not spectacular performance in that regional qualifier present Na’Vi as a rather risky option heading into the Bucharest Major.

Na’Vi comes into the Bucharest Major looking for its first significant success following the recent changes to its lineup. Though the new roster has talent and experience in spades, it’s difficult to have a large degree of confidence in the CIS squad based on its previous showings. The team come into the Bucharest Major projected to fall within the 9th-11th place range, though that prediction could be rather easily surpassed by the CIS squad. We’ve seen the team struggle significantly since the transition to the new lineup, but the level of talent and international experience that its players have would suggest that Na’Vi isn’t going to remain in this slump for much longer. The team should be due for an increase in its level of play and results in the near future, it’s just that it doesn’t appear that this trend will start at this particular event. That being said, the Bo1 Swiss Format of the Group Stage at the Bucharest Major could work in Na’Vi’s favor should the CIS squad draw favorable match ups. The team has to win three of a potential five matches to advance to the Playoff Stage, a feat that should be very much possible for the caliber of players that Na’Vi’s roster contains. Cautious optimism seems the prudent path to take with Na’Vi at this event, but considering its stumbles of late both on the international scene and at home, it’s best to keep expectations low as the CIS squad looks to turn things around in Bucharest.

 

Mineski 600px-Mineski-dota_logo

Region: Southeast Asia

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 7th (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-8th

The 2018 section of the season has been a time of pros and cons for Southeast Asian squad Mineski, as the team stands as the highest ranked squad from its region in 7th place overall. The team continues to perform well at home, but some inconsistent performance on the Pro Circuit stage have opened the door for regional rivals to begin pushing and threatening the team’s favorable position. With the team teetering near the edge of the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings and rival SEA squad like Fnatic beginning to make serious pushes on the international stage, Mineski is in need of a solid showing in Bucharest if it wants to continue holding its position.

The last Pro Circuit appearance for Mineski came very recently, as the Southeast Asian squad was one of the teams to participate in the ESL One Katowice Major at the end of February. Unfortunately for Mineski, the squad did not manage to perform particularly well as the event. The team won its opening Bo1 against compLexity Gaming, but lost its next two series against Virtus.pro and OG to finish in the 9th-12th place position at the Major. That kind of finish is not ideal for a team attempting to hold on to a Top 8 ranking, and the team’s struggles in Katowice epitomizes what has been stretch of wildly inconsistent play on the Pro Circuit stage. The team has participated in four Pro Circuit events so far in 2018, and has finished in the 9th-12th place position in two of them (ESL One Katowice & ESL One Genting). Under normal circumstances, these poor performances would be indicative of a sharp decline in play for a Pro Circuit team, but Mineski has counterbalanced those disappointing showings with two Top 4 finishes at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor and the Captains Draft 4.0 Minor. Those performances present a puzzling picture for Mineski in terms of its international play, as the team clearly has the skill and capacity to bring in Top 4 finishes, but is also seemingly capable of severe drops in its level of play. That level on inconsistency is never a fantastic sign for a team, but within its home region at least, Mineski has managed to retain a stable and consistent output. The team has seen action in four regional qualifiers so far in 2018, and has earned Top 4 finishes in each of them, including three 1st place runs (StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4, Dota 2 Asia Championships, & EPICENTER XL). That string of high level and stable play within the Southeast Asian region is an encouraging sign for Mineski, but its off-and-on nature on the Pro Circuit stage has to be fixed if the team wants to put together a strong showing in Bucharest.

Mineski come into the Bucharest Major in need of a solid performance to help bolster its somewhat eroding position both within the Southeast Asian hierarchy and in the Pro Circuit standings. While the team has shown itself capable of achieving success on the Pro Circuit stage previously this season, the team isn’t quite at the level where one should expect that kind of performance at this event. Coming into the Major, Mineski is projected to finish in the 5th-8th place range based upon its recent instability on the international stage. The team has proven itself more than able to challenge the Pro Circuit’s top teams and hit that all important Top 4 mark, but we’ve also seen the team struggle significantly against opponents in match ups that it appeared to hold the advantage in. The fact of the matter is that one can’t be fully sure which version of Mineski is going to show up at this Major. If the team recaptures that level of play that we saw in Shanghai and Washington, D.C. then the team can challenge for a Top 4 finish in Bucharest. Otherwise, its prospects seem somewhat lower as the team cannot be fully trusted to defeat many of the squads that it would be expected to. With so much fluctuation between the team’s potential outcomes, the 5th-8th place range acts as an appropriate middle ground for the team at this event. We’ll see if the Southeast Asian squad has put its disappointing finishes behind it, or if the regional leader is in for another struggle as it makes its way to Bucharest.

 

compLexity Gaming 727px-Col_big_logo

Region: North America

Qualification: Direct Invite

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

Projected Finish: 12th-14th

CompLexity Gaming began the season with a sense of optimism and confidence, as the new Pro Circuit system gave the team a chance to show its strength and cement its position as one of the leading teams in the North American region. In that regard, the team has been successful, as it continues to perform well against its regional rivals and holds a favorable position within the regional hierarchy in North America. However, the last few months have not been particularly kind to compLexity Gaming on the international level, as the squad has seen its performance on the Pro Circuit take a somewhat sharp decline. The team has missed the mark for a Top 4 finish at its last five Pro Circuit events, and threats from its regional rivals are beginning to grow more serious as the season goes on. With its position not quite as stable as it was earlier in the season, compLexity Gaming comes to Bucharest looking for a solid performance to help right the ship and reestablish that separation between itself and its regional peers.

It hasn’t been long since Dota 2 fans last saw compLexity Gaming on the Pro Circuit stage, as the North American squad was one of the sixteen teams to compete in the ESL One Katowice Major just about a week ago. Unfortunately, the team didn’t put up a very impressive showing at the Major, as the team lost to both Mineski and OpTic Gaming to finish in the collective last place position of 13th-16th with a 1-4 overall record. That kind of performance does not instill much confidence in the team, and its just the latest in a series of seemingly worsening showings on the Pro Circuit stage. As previously mentioned, the team has missed the mark for a Top 4 finish in its last five Pro Circuit appearances to continue what is becoming an alarming decline on the international level. Within the team’s home region, compLexity Gaming has retained the consistent success that it has enjoyed all season long. The team has participated in five Pro Circuit qualifiers in 2018 and has earned Top 4 finishes in all of them, including three 1st place results. Those performance may help the team continue to earn spots at Pro Circuit events, but the significant drop off in play from the team on the international level has drastically reduced the team’s chances to actually convert those opportunities into positive results.

Coming into the Bucharest Major, compLexity Gaming doesn’t look like a team that is playing at the top of its game. The North American squad’s slump on the international stage hangs over it like a storm cloud, and there doesn’t appear to be an immediate solution to the team’s recent struggles on the Pro Circuit. The team comes into this event projected to finish in the 12th-14th place range, as the team’s poor performance of late makes it all but impossible to confidently predict that it will rise any higher up the standings. Not even the team’s impressive runs in the North American region do much to alleviate these massive concerns, as the team has been consistently finding success in its home region all season long. The team may have some hope of lifting itself to a higher position in the standings thanks to the format of the event, as the Bo1 Swiss Format Group Stage could give compLexity Gaming a more forgiving series of opponents than it has faced in its last few attempts on the Pro Circuit. While it can’t be known just what the match ups beyond Round 1 will be, that uncertainty could give the North American squad hope for a favorable path at the Major. Right now, hope is just what compLexity Gaming may have to rely on as it looks to finally put an end to this slump.

 

Vici Gaming VICI_Gaming

Region: China

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 4th (2160 Qualifying Points)

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

Projected Finish: Top 4

It has been a long and painful process for Vici Gaming so far, but after a season of scratching, clawing, and climbing, the Chinese squad has finally knocked off regional rival Newbee to claim the position of top ranked team in China. That climb has also earned the team a place among the elite squad of the Pro Circuit, as the team sits in 4th place overall heading into its seventh Pro Circuit appearance of the year and its fourth of 2018. Vici Gaming’s recent run of success has afforded it a coveted position in the Dota 2 world, but now the Chinese squad is going to have to work even harder if it wants to hold on to that position through the rest of the season, beginning with the Bucharest Major.

Vici Gaming’s last Pro Circuit appearance came at the ESL One Katowice Major just a few days ago. The Chinese squad won its group with a 5-1 record that saw it defeat both Team Liquid and Virtus.pro. In the Playoff Stage, the team again topped Team Liquid before falling in the Finals in a rematch with VP to finish 2nd at the Major. That Top 4 finish in Katowice adds another achievement to what has been an impressive push from the team so far in 2018 as Vici Gaming has established itself as a force to be reckoned with on the international level. The team has participated in three Pro Circuit events so far this year and claimed Top 4 finishes in two of them. The event in which the team missed the mark for a Top 4 spot (ESL One Genting) still saw the squad perform well as it placed 5th-6th and reached the Playoff Stage. Vici Gaming’s impressive performances on the Pro Circuit stage have been matched by its recent showings within its home region as well. The squad has seen action in three Pro Circuit qualifiers so far in 2018, and the team has earned Top 4 finishes in all of them. That level of consistency at home is invaluable for a team looking to maintain its hold on a Top 8 ranking, and with Vici Gaming putting up solid results both in China and on the Pro Circuit stage, the team comes into the Bucharest Major as a serious threat to claim the title of Major Champion.

Vici Gaming has ridden a string of Top 4 finishes on its path to being the top ranked Chinese squad in the Pro Circuit, and it appears that the team could be a safe bet to earn another one in Bucharest. The team comes into the Major projected to finish within the Top 4 again based on the strong and relatively consistent performances we’ve seen from the squad in the last few months. The squad may not be favored in its match ups with other top Pro Circuit squads just yet, but Vici Gaming has shown the ability to threaten and even defeat those leading teams on the Pro Circuit stage. With a sense of confidence and some serious momentum on its side, Vici Gaming will look to keep its run going with another solid showing on the Pro Circuit in Bucharest.

 

LGD.Forever Young LGD.Forever_Young

Region: China

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 13th (199 Qualifying Points)

Roster: 
1. Du ” Monet” Peng
2.
Xie “Super” Junhao
3.
KhooOhaiyoChong Xin
4.
Tue “Ahfu” Soon Chuan
5.
Yao “Yao” Zhengzheng (Captain)

Projected Finish: 12th-14th

2018 has been quite the interesting year for LGD.Forever Young, as the Chinese team has gone through its fair share of changes and challenges. The team experimented with fellow Chinese squad Invictus Gaming, temporarily trading Xie “Super” Junhao away before reacquiring him last month. The team also lost veteran player and team captain Leong “ddc” Fat-meng along with while adding Khoo “Ohaiyo” Chong Xin and Yao “Yao” Zhengzheng. Add the moving of He “Inflame” Yongzheng to an inactive position due to health concerns to that mix and LGD.FY come into this event with a significantly altered look to its lineup. It may have been a while since the squad has found success on the Pro Circuit, but LGD.Forever Young’s new roster may be the key to a solid run in Bucharest.

LGD.Forever Young will be making its first Pro Circuit appearance with its current version of the lineup, but won’t be the first event for the team overall. The last Pro Circuit event for LGD.FY came at the end of January when the team attended the ESL One Genting Minor, though the Chinese squad wasn’t able to put together a very effective run. The squad faced two tough opponents in its Group Stage matches in Newbee and Mineski, losing to both teams and falling into the collective last place position in 13th-16th without claiming a single win in Genting. Unfortunately for the team, it hasn’t had the chance to compete on the international stage since that poor performance at the Minor, so fans and analysts may not have a complete picture of the team’s strength outside of its home region coming into the Major. Howver, LGD.Forever Young has been relatively active in China through regional qualifiers. Since the finalization of the team’s new roster at the beginning of February, the team has participated in two Pro Circuit qualifiers and earned a Top 4 finish in both of them. Those two solid performances against its regional rivals have the team hopeful as it prepares for this Major, but the uncertainty that is the team’s international performance has to be a significant concern for the squad as it looks to make a strong impression on the Pro Circuit with its altered roster.

LGD.Forever Young hasn’t earned any Qualifying Points since the end of November of 2017, and it doesn’t look like that drought is due to end in Bucharest, as the team’s chances of finding success at the Major are somewhat limited. Coming into the event, LGD.Forever Young are projected to finish near the bottom of the standings in the 12th-14th position due in large part to the recent roster changes and the team’s lack of recent results on the international level. The team had some bad luck in terms of its schedule at the ESL One Genting, but even that excuse only brings the team up to a level of uncertainty on the Pro Circuit instead of outright disappointment. The team as it currently stands has also only been together for around a month which casts some doubts as to how comfortably and how well the roster can play together at this point in time. The results from its regional qualifier runs are encouraging, but the squad wasn’t exactly dominant in those qualifiers and the level of competition at the Major is going to be a massive step up from where the team has been playing so far this month. With all of that in mind, it’s hard to have confidence in LGD.FY’s ability to advance very far at the Major. However, the team’s potential is something that we’ve seen in abundance both before and after the roster changes. If the team has been able to fully adjust to its new players and style and are comfortable in their own strategies, then the Chinese squad could be set to surprise both its opponents and the fans in Bucharest with a strong showing at the Major.

 

Virtus.pro 600px-Virtus

Region: CIS

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 1st (4947 Qualifying Points)

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

Projected Finish: Top 4

The 2017-2018 season has been a success story for CIS squad Virtus.pro so far, as the team stands in 1st place in the Pro Circuit standings. No matter what situation the team has been put in or even what roster composition it has gone with, the team has proven itself capable of taking on any team on the Pro Circuit with confidence. As the team prepares for its eighth appearance on the Pro Circuit stage, Virtus.pro could secure a guaranteed invite to TI8 with a 1st or 2nd place finish in Bucharest. With that goal in mind, Virtus.pro enters the Bucharest Major as a team with a singular sense of determination as it looks to lock in its place at The International 2018.

Virtus.pro’s last Pro Circuit appearance came just a little over a week ago as the CIS squad competed in the ESL One Katowice Major at the end of February. The team swept past its first two opponents in the Group Stage, but fell 0-2 to Vici Gaming to miss out on winning its group. However, the CIS squad recovered in the Playoff Stage, taking down Evil Geniuses and Fnatic before winning its rematch with Vici Gaming to claim its second Major Championship of the season. With that Major being so recent, there hasn’t been much time for VP to play any other official matches, but the team’s performance to this point in the season is more than enough to have the squad feeling confident coming into Bucharest. Of its seven Pro Circuit appearances so far this season, VP has claimed a Top 4 finish in five of them and is one for two so far in 2018. The international performance for Virtus.pro has been exemplary so far this year, but the CIS squad hasn’t had any chances to show its strength within its home region, though the reasons for that are all positive for the team. VP has been receiving direct invitations to all of its Pro Circuit appearances for the last few months, meaning the team has had no need to participate in any CIS regional qualifiers. When a team simply doesn’t need to compete in qualifiers to reach Pro Circuit events, it’s a pretty clear sign that the squad is one of the best in the Dota 2 world, and VP will be keen to remind fans and rivals of that with a solid performance at the Major.

Virtus.pro has been one of the strongest and most formidable squad on the Pro Circuit all season long, and that trend isn’t likely to end in Bucharest. Coming into the Major, Virtus.pro is projected to finish within the Top 4 based upon the massive list of accomplishments that the CIS squad has racked up on the Pro Circuit so far. At this point in the season, it would come as a serious shock if VP didn’t end up in the Top 4 by the end of the Bucharest Major. The team has shown a consistency and a level of play that few squads on the Pro Circuit can match. With those factors in its favor, VP would need to either make a series of huge mistakes or run into multiple other top ranked squads to miss the mark on a Top 4 finish. While those scenarios are possible, it seems far more likely that VP turns in another solid showing as it looks to close out its quest for a TI8 invite at the Bucharest Major.

 

Team Secret Secret_logo

Region: Europe

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 2nd (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

After a string of successes and impressive performance across the Pro Circuit, European squad Team Secret stands on the precipice of another massive accomplishment as it heads into its ninth Pro Circuit event of the season. Though the team recently lost its status as the top ranked team in the Pro Circuit standings, the squad continues to close in on what could be the first guaranteed invite to TI8. A 1st place finish at the Bucharest Major would officially punch Team Secret’s ticket to the biggest event in the Dota 2 world: The International. With that goal within its grasp, Team Secret comes into the Major with a sense of determination and focus that few teams in the field will want to have to face.

Team Secret has spent only days away from the Pro Circuit stage, as the European team participated in the ESL One Katowice Major just a few days ago. The team put together a 5-4 record at the event that advanced it to the Playoff Stage but wasn’t enough to secure a Top 4 finish as the team placed in the 5th-6th range in Katowice. That performance at the Major marked the first real stumble for Team Secret in 2018, as small as it may have been. The team’s record in the international level this year has been spectacular, with the European squad having earned Top 4 finishes at both of its Pro Circuit appearances prior to the recent Major. Across the entirety of the season, Team Secret has managed to earn Top 4 finishes in five of its eight Pro Circuit LANs and has established itself as one of the strongest and most formidable opponents in the international scene. Like many of the other top squads in the Pro Circuit standings, Team Secret’s favorable position has allowed it to largely avoid the need to participate in regional qualifiers, as the squad has received direct invitations to most of the Minors and Majors that it has attended so far. Team Secret’s reputation precedes it, and that reputation has been more than earned by the squad as it closes in on a chance to play for the Aegis of Champions at this year’s International.

Team Secret need a 1st place finish at the Bucharest Major in order to secure its invitation to TI8, but the team will face a tough path to reach that goal. Standing in its way are fifteen other squads all hungry for a chance to claim Qualifying Points and the title of Major Champion. However, Team Secret has to be considered one of the favorites at this event, coming into the Major projected to finish within the Top 4 in yet another Pro Circuit event. The team’s resume to this point in the season really speaks for itself, as Team Secret has shown itself to be one of the strongest teams in the Dota 2 world. The team has the confidence, the talent, the experience, and the leadership to take on any squad on the Pro Circuit and come out ahead, and the team will have to do just that claim a victory in Bucharest. With that being said, the team would need to suffer a meltdown of absolutely epic proportions to miss the mark on a Top 4 spot at this event, as the team is a formidable foe even at its lowest level of play. Perhaps the field of teams at the Bucharest Major does have a David to match Team Secret’s Goliath, but that sort of upset seems incredibly unlikely as Team Secret looks to continue marching towards a spot at TI8.

 

OG 425px-OG_RB_Logo

Region: Europe

Qualification: Europe Qualifier 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: 5th-8th

The 2018 section of the season has been a highly encouraging period for European squad OG as the team continues to work towards climbing the ranks in the Pro Circuit standings. The team’s recent string of Top 4 finishes on the Pro Circuit was brought to an end, but the team has spent the new year building up a sizable amount of momentum both within Europe and on the international level with some impressive play. With the the enjoying its surge of strong play and sitting just outside the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings, the Bucharest major presents OG with a perfect opportunity to reclaim a leading position on the Pro Circuit.

OG’s last Pro Circuit appearance came just a short while ago, as the team participated in the ESL One Katowice Major at the end of February. The team lost its initial Bo1 match against Vici Gaming, but managed to get past Effect and Mineski in the lower bracket before suffering a final defeat at the hands of fellow European squad Team Liquid to finish in the 7th-8th place at the event. That loss ended OG’s streak of consecutive Top 4 finishes at three events, but the team has shown the Dota 2 world what it is capable of in the new year. The question for OG is whether or not the team will be able to consistently compete with and challenge those teams in the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings, which it will need to do if it wants to continue its rise through the ranks. OG may be working towards better and more consistent performances on the international stage, but within its home region the team has been absolutely dominant in 2018. The squad has participated in five regional qualifier so far this year and has won every single one of them to set itself up with a multitude of opportunities to play on the Pro Circuit stage. With the team looking stronger both at home and on the international level and having secured so many LAN spots, OG could be poised to make another strong push on the Pro Circuit.

OG comes into the Bucharest Major looking for an opportunity to push into the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings, but reaching that goal is going to be a particularly difficult challenge for the European squad. Coming into the Major, OG is projected to finish within the 5th-8th place range overall, surviving the Group Stage but falling just short of the mark for a Top 4 spot. The team has been able to crack the Top 4 in a few events earlier on in the season, but it’s important to note that those events were Minors that featured eight or nine teams rather than the sixteen team field that the Majors have. That smaller field has allowed OG to avoid having to play against some of the Pro Circuit’s top squads as they largely passed over those smaller scale events. With most if not all of the Top 8 ranked squads in attendance at the Major, OG will more than likely have to get past more than one of the Pro Circuit’s leading teams to reach a Top 4 finish in Bucharest. The team’s recent performances have been encouraging, but that next step to compete with the Pro Circuit’s strongest teams is one that OG can’t necessarily be expected to make at this event. While it may not be expected, it certainly isn’t impossible for OG to crack that Top 4 at the Major. The team has held tight control over the European region over the last two months, and we’ve seen what it is capable of with its recent play on the international stage. If the team gets the right opening match up in the Playoff Stage or takes another step forward in its level of play internationally, then OG could very well find itself a legitimate contender in Bucharest. The expectations for OG may be a bit modest, but don’t be surprised if the European squad takes that next step with an impressive showing at the Bucharest Major.

 

Vega Squadron 579px-Vega_Squadron_2016

Region: Commonwealth of Independent States(CIS)

Qualification: CIS Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: Not Ranked (0 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1.
Nikita “Palantimos” Grinkevich
2. Dmitry “UnderShock” Bolshakov
3. Džoni “Blizzy” Ri
4. Bakyt “Zayac” Emilzhanov
5. Semion “CemaTheSlayeR” Krivulya(Captain)

Projected Finish: 15th-16th

Its been a little while since Dota 2 fans last saw Vega Squadron on the Pro Circuit stage, and those fans may have some trouble recognizing the CIS squad this time around in Bucharest. The team has undergone some significant roster chagnes, with only Bakyt “Zayac” Emilzhanov and Semion “CemaTheSlayeR” Krivulya remaining from the roster that appeared at the Perfect World Masters Minor back in November. With its new roster locked in, Vega Squadron have fought and clawed their way back to the Pro Circuit stage, and the team is hoping that this chance to perform at the Bucharest Major could be the opportunity it needs to change the course of its season for the better.

The last time Vega Squadron was on the Pro Circuit stage was at the aforementioned Perfect World Masters Minor in November of 2017, where the team had an unsuccessful but respectable debut performance. The team survived the Group Stage of the event, but lost back to back series against Team Kinguin and LGD.Forever Young to finish in the 7th-8th place position in Shanghai. Since then, the team has not had the chance to perform outside of its home region, so unfortunately we don’t have a clear picture of how the current roster may fair against international opposition. However, the team has continued to play within the CIS region, and its results within those regional qualifiers are cause for some hope. The team’s current players have competed in four Pro Circuit qualifiers so far in 2018, and has managed to earn Top 4 finishes in all of them. Those four Top 4 finishes includes the 1st place finish that earned the team its spot at this upcoming Major. Those strong and relatively consistent performances at home are encouraging signs for Vega Squadron, but the question mark that is its international performance still looms large over the CIS squad as it makes its way to Bucharest.

Vega Squadron have had to play through and deal with some significant changes over the past few months, and has shown a remarkable level of determination and focus. Those qualities have earned the team the chance to perform on the Pro Circuit stage once again, but the team’s chances of making a deep run at the Bucharest Major don’t seem particularly high. Coming into the Major, Vega Squadron is projected to finish in the 15th-16th place position. Despite the solid showing in CIS qualifiers, the team is still coming off of roster changes and have little to no international experience with its current lineup. Those factors make it almost impossible to have a high level of confidence in the team’s ability to compete against some of the most formidable and well established teams on the Pro Circuit. We’ve seen what the team is capable of from its qualifier runs so far in 2018, but it will be a whole other level of difficulty for the CIS squad to make that final transition to put up strong results on the international level. Vega Squadron could always have some surprises in store for its opponents at the Major, but keep expectations low for the Sharks as the new lineup gets its first taste of Pro Circuit action.

 

VGJ.Thunder 600px-VGJ_201710_logo_notext.png

Region: China

Qualification: China Qualifier Winner

Qualifying Points Rank: 17th (45 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1. Lui “Sylar” Jiajun
2. Lui “Kamma” Chang
3. Zhou “Yang” Haiyang
4. Pan “Fade” Yi (Captain)
5. Leong “ddc” Fat-meng

Projected Finish: 9th-11th

VGJ.Thunder has been something of a pleasant surprise so far on the Pro Circuit, as the Chinese squad has shown flashes of strength and potential to this point in the season. The team will be making its third Pro Circuit appearance of the season, but the team’s previous two attempts showed the Dota 2 world a team making significant progress towards contention both at home and on the international level. The team has been hard at work on those goals of late, competing consistently in the Chinese region and adding Leong “ddc” Fat-meng to add both a veteran presence on the roster and a bounty of 45 Qualifying Points to the team’s previously nonexistent total. The team is eager to earn more points through its play rather than through roster moves though, and the Bucharest Major presents the perfect chance for the Chinese squad to test just how far its progressed so far.

VGJ.Thunder’s last Pro Circuit appearance came earlier this year at the ESL One Genting Minor, where the team put together an impressive run against top international competition. The team won a Bo1 series against sister squad Vici Gaming and beat out compLexity Gaming as well, only losing series against Virtus.pro and later Vici Gaming in a Bo3 rematch of its initial game to finish in the 7th-8th place position. Outside of the Pro Circuit, the team has found success as well in the new year, with the Chinese squad claiming a 1st place finish at the Galaxy Battles II event in January. The team posted a 7-3 overall record and defeated Evil Geniuses in a clean 3-0 sweep to win the event outright. Those two performances helped put VGJ.Thunder on the map as one of the teams to watch out for in 2018. Since then, the team has undergone the aforementioned roster change, and the new-look VGJ.Thunder hasn’t gotten a chance to play on the international stage just yet. However, the addition of ddc at the support position shouldn’t have any significant changes on the team’s overall strategy, and VGJ.Thunder will likely play with a similar style to what we’ve seen so far this season. The new roster may not have been able to play any teams outside of its region, but within China it has already put together a rather impressive resume in the month of February. VGJ.Thunder has participated in two Pro Circuit qualifiers since acquiring ddc, and has earned Top 4 finishes and LAN spots in both the GESC: Indonesia Minor and the Dota 2 Asia Championships Major later in March. Even prior to the roster change, VGJ.Thunder has been on a tear in the its home region, as the team’s overall qualifier record in 2018 has it a perfect five for five in terms of Top 4 performances with three 1st place finishes. With some solid performances on the international level and a consistent string of success at home, VGJ.Thunder are hoping to finally make a breakthrough on the Pro Circuit with a strong showing in Bucharest.

VGJ.Thunder may be coming into the Bucharest Major looking for Qualifying Points, but the Chinese squad doesn’t appear to have a fantastic chance of hitting that mark at this event. The team has been performing well on the international level, but it still has yet to get over that last obstacle to join the heavy hitters of the Pro Circuit. That final step is significantly difficult to take for any team, and while VGJ.Thunder’s progression so far this season has been incredibly impressive, the level of competition that it will face in Bucharest seems a bit too much for the team to overcome. With that in mind, VGJ.Thunder come into the Bucharest Major projected to fall within the 9th-11th place range, but that prediction is around the lower end of where the team has the potential to reach. The squad has been consitently beating out some of its stronger rivals in the Chinese scene and has proven itself at least capable of taking on some of the lower level teams on the international stage. With the Group Stage of the Major utilizing a Bo1 Swiss Format, its possible that VGJ.Thunder could get a series of favorable match ups and climb further up the standings than what is projected for it. With three other Chinese teams in the field, and a handful of struggling or less accomplished Pro Circuit teams in attendance at the event, VGJ.Thunder could find itself facing a softer schedule if its lucky. Even if that sort of favorable scenario doesn’t play out, VGJ.Thunder is still capable of surprising some of the more established teams in the field if they underestimate the Chinese squad’s abilities. All of this paints a hopeful picture for VGJ.Thunder, but temper that hope with a bit of realism and pragmatism as well. While it’s possible for VGJ.Thunder to make another impressive run on the Pro Circuit stage in Bucharest, the expectations for the squad come in significantly lower than the potential outcomes.

 

TNC Pro Team Tncproteam

Region: Southeast Asia

Qualification: Southeast Asia Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: 12th (270 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1.
 Marc “Raven” Fausto
2.
 Armel Paul “Armel” Tabios
3.
 Sam “Sam_H” Hidalgo
4.
 Timothey “Tims” Randrup
5.
Carlo “Kuku” Palad (Captain)

Projected Finish: 9th-11th

When TNC Pro Team burst onto the Pro Circuit stage with its performance at the MDL Macau Minor back in December, it appeared to some that the Southeast Asian team was finally ready to reestablish itself as a leading team in the region after a somewhat slow start to the season. While the team has been performing consistently within its home region, it has yet to replicate that success that it enjoyed in Macau. The team that comes into the Bucharest Major isn’t the same as that squad fans saw in Macau either, as Armel Paul “Armel” Tabios has been added to the roster and Carlo “Kuku” Palad was moved from the Mid-lane role to the team’s support player and captain. With its new look lineup, TNC Prot Team come into the Major in search of a quality performance to help it push towards the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings.

The most recent Pro Circuit appearance for TNC Pro Team came on home soil, as the team was one of the sixteen participants at the ESL One Genting Minor in January. The SEA squad posted a 1-4 overall record at the event, defeating Mineski in a Bo1 but losing 0-2 to both Newbee and Evil Geniuses to finish in the 9th-12th place position at the Minor. Considering the fact that TNC Pro Team faced three straight Top 8 ranked squads at the event, its poor performance doesn’t look quite as bad as it may at first glance. Unfortunately, the team has yet to get another chance to play on the international stage with its updated roster, giving us only its ESL One Genting run to analyze in terms of matches outside of the Southeast Asian region. The team’s recent international performance may not have been overly impressive, but TNC Pro Team’s play within the SEA region has been solid so far. Since finalizing its new roster at the end of January, the team has played in three regional qualifiers and placed no less than 3rd in any of them. While those performances weren’t exactly dominant for the team, it shows a level of consistency and competitiveness within the Southeast Asian region that the squad had been enjoying prior to the roster changes. With the team’s new roster showing that it is capable of maintaining that level of play at home, the time has come to test how well it can perform in the face of some of the Pro Circuit’s best teams in Bucharest.

TNC Pro Team is on the outside looking in right now in the Pro Circuit standings, as the team sits at 12th place. The SEA squad has aspirations of climbing the ranks and making a run for a Top 8 position, but it seems unlikely that it starts that run at the Bucharest Major. Coming into the event, TNC Pro Team is projected to finish in the 9th-11th place range, though it has shown itself capable of moving beyond that somewhat modest prediction. The team in its current form has not played any matches on the international stage, which is a point of significant concern for a squad heading into a sixteen team Pro Circuit Major. Even taking into account that four out of five of its players are the same, the team’s previous Pro Circuit appearance didn’t go particularly well either. In the face of those obstacles it’s hard to have a high level of confidence in the team’s ability to defeat some of the more established Pro Circuit teams. However, there is some hope left for TNC Pro Team to possibly advance past its projected range. The Bo1 Swiss Format Group Stage gives the team an opportunity to succeed if it finds the right match ups at the Major. Additionally, the team’s recent performances within its home region have displayed what the team is capable of when it’s playing at its best. With that in mind, it is very possible that TNC Pro Team gets the right combination of opponents and situations to allow it to make a deeper run and potentially advance beyond the Group Stage. On paper, the expectations for TNC Pro Team are not particularly strong, but hope remains that the Southeast Asian squad and its new roster can make a strong impression with a quality run at the Bucharest Major.

 

OpTic Gaming OpTic_Gaming

Region: North America

Qualification: North America Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: Not Ranked (0 Qualifying Points)

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

Projected Finish: 12th-14th

It’s been a tale of two teams so far this season for OpTic Gaming, as the team prepares to make its third appearance on the Pro Circuit stage. On the one hand, the team has emerged as one of the leading squads in North America, putting together solid results in regional qualifiers and challenging other leaders like Evil Geniuses and compLexity Gamign on a relatively frequent basis. However, the team has yet to turn that regional momentum into any significant results on the Pro Circuit, as the team is still searching for its first Qualifying Points of the season. With this chance to perform at the Bucharest Major, OpTic Gaming will again be presented with an opportunity to show its strength on the international level, and the squad is hoping that this time it can fully take advantage of it.

OpTic Gaming’s last Pro Circuit appearance came just around a week ago at the ESL One Katowice Major, where the North American squad put together a commendable, if somewhat unsuccessful, run. The team had the misfortune of having to face both Virtus.pro and Team Liquid in the Group Stage, but did manage to take a series off of rival North American squad compLexity Gaming to finish in the 9th-12th place position at the event. That performance in Katowice has epitomized the team’s experience on the Pro Circuit so far this season as a team that is solid, but not quite strong enough to get past the larger competitors. On the home front though, OpTic Gaming has found a bit more success, as the team continues to perform well against its regional rivals. In 2018, the team has participated in seven Pro Circuit qualifiers and managed to earn Top 4 finishes in all but one of them (DQ’ed from ESL One Katowice NA Qualifier). Those Top 4 finishes include two 1st place finishes that have earned the North American squad the chance to play at both the ESL One Katowice Major and this upcoming Bucharest Major. With its production at home remaining consistent and solid, OpTic Gaming can feel relatively secure as it seeks more opportunities to earn spots at Pro Circuit events. However, the big question for the squad is whether the team will finally be able to make its mark and get itself on the board in the Pro Circuit standings.

OpTic Gaming comes into the Bucharest Major in search of its first Qualifying Points of the season, but it doesn’t seem likely that the North American squad achieves that goal at this event. The team’s track record on the Pro Circuit stage so far this season has not been very strong, and doesn’t instill much confidence in the squad’s ability to compete with some of the best teams in the world. The strong results at home are encouraging signs for the team, but OpTic Gaming has been one of the strongest teams in North American since its inception and that regional success hasn’t helped it on the international level before. The North American squad comes into the second Major of 2018 projected to finish in the 12th-14th place range, but the team may still have some hope in Bucharest. The Group Stage of the Major will feature Bo1 series in a Swiss Format, meaning OpTic Gaming could move up in the standings with some favorable match ups and solid play. A leap all the way up to a Top 4 level is a bit out of reach for the team, but the right circumstances could bump OpTic Gaming up a few spots should the North America squad play its cards right.

 

paiN Gaming PaiN_Gaming_2017

Region: South America

Qualification: South America Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: Not Ranked (0 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1.
 William “hFn” Medeiros
2.
 Aliwi “w33” Omar (Stand-in)
3.
 Otavio “tavo” Gabriel
4.
Danylo “KINGRD” Nascimento (Captain) 
5. 
Heitor “Duster” Pereira 

Projected Finish: 15th-16th

The season has not been easy so far for South American squad paiN Gaming, as the team prepares itself for just its second appearance on the Pro Circuit stage in Bucharest. The squad has struggled with instability in its lineup since the organization announced its new roster back in 2017. Despite cycling through a few players within the last few months, paiN Gaming has managed to make a name for itself within the South American scene and has emerged as one of the leading teams in the region. However, paiN Gaming has run into the problem that all of its fellow South American squads are struggling with: finding strong results on the international stage. The South American region still does not have a representative in the Pro Circuit standings, but paiN Gaming is hoping to change that. The Brazilian squad will have some help with that goal, as the team is playing with Aliwi “w33” Omar as a stand-in at the Major. With his experience and talent, paiN Gaming are hoping to finally break the long streak of futility for South American with a solid showing at the Bucharest Major.

The last Pro Circuit appearance for paiN Gaming was also the team’s first ever appearance on the Pro Circuit stage, as the team competed in the Captains Draft 4.0 Minor in Washington, D.C. back in January. The South American squad struggled at the event, losing both of its Group Stage matches and its only series of the Playoff Stage to finish in the 5th-8th place position without a single win at the Minor. The team’s poor performance at the Minor was reflective of a lack of confidence on the international level, which we saw replicated in the non-Pro Circuit Galaxy Battles II event earlier this year. The team finished in the 5th-6th place position at that event, losing to OG and Team Spirit and only taking down the amateur Southeast Asian squad PG.Barracx in a Bo1 series. The team’s international results may not inspire confidence, but the squad has had a remarkably strong series of results within the South American region. In 2018, the team has participated in five Pro Circuit qualifiers and one non-Pro Circuit qualifier. From those appearances, the team has earned six Top 4 finishes, including five 1st place finishes against its regional rivals. These solid and consistent results at home give us a small glimpse into the potential that paiN Gaming has, but it will be exceptionally difficult for the squad to take those regional successes and turn them into momentum on the Pro Circuit stage in Bucharest.

Coming into the Bucharest Major, the odds seem to be stacked against paiN Gaming, as the team looks to become the first South American team to earn Qualifying Points this season. The team has looked incredibly strong within the South American region, but we’ve seen far too many examples of a strong regional team flopping on the international stage to draw much confidence from those performances. The team’s poor showings on the international stage contribute heavily to this sense of pessimism, as paiN Gaming has not had a fantastic amount of positive results against squads from other regions. Even the addition of w33 to the roster as a stand-in for this event isn’t quite enough to raise the team’s hopes much. Coming into the Major, paiN Gaming is projected to finish in the 15th-16th place position. If w33 has a effect the team is hoping he can provide and the team can harness the momentum and high level of play that it has recently shown at home, then there is always a chance that the team makes an underdog run at the event. However, in the case of paiN Gaming, it’s best to keep hopes high but expectations very low for the South American team.

 

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