Back to back Champs: Virtus.pro sweep VGJ.Thunder to claim 2nd straight Major Championship, 3rd Major Title of season. Team Liquid, Newbee, claim Top 4 finishes.
The second Major of 2018 and the second of a series of back to back Majors has now official come to an end, as the action in Bucharest is over. The Bucharest Major brought 16 of the Pro Circuit’s best squads to the Romanian capital for the chance to earn a share of a $1,000,000 prize pool and the coveted title of Major Champion. After a week of action in Bcuahrest though, the team walking away with the trophy is a very familiar face, as CIS squad Virtus.pro claimed its second straight Major Championship and its third of the season overall. The squad dropped just two games total in its run through the Major, decimating its opponents with a terrifying combination of confidence and efficiency. The title, trophy, and money weren’t the only prizes that VP earned for itself in Bucharest, as the team’s win brought its Qualifying Point total high enough for the team to claim the first guaranteed direct invite to The International 2018. VP may have been the biggest winner in Bucharest, but it wasn’t the only team to walk way from the Major happy with its result. VGJ.Thunder emerged on the Pro Circuit scene in the biggest of ways, with its 2nd place finish at the Major catapulting it up the standings from 17th to 6th. The team becomes the third Chinese team in the Top 8 of the Pro Circuit standings, joining its sister squad Vici Gaming as well as regional leader Newbee. Speaking of Newbee, the Chinese squad’s Top 4 finish at the event allowed it to jump over Vici Gaming to reclaim its position as the top ranked Chinese squad on the Pro Circuit as it moves from 5th to 4th. The final team to finish in the Top 4 in Bucharest was Team Liquid, as the European squad drove its steak of consecutive Top 4 finishes to eight events. The team’s Qualifying Points from the Bucharest major moved the team up from 3rd to 2nd in the standings, leap frogging it over fellow European squad Team Secret. With the dust now settling in Bucharest and the Pro Circuit standings adjusted, we can take a look at how each team performed at the Major and see where each of the sixteen participants stand going into the rest of the season.
Winnings: $90,000 (Total) & 150 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
Team Liquid came into the Bucharest Major as one the strongest teams on the Pro Circuit, and by far its most efficient. The defending TI7 Champion had earned Top 4 finishes at seven straight Pro Circuit events, and there was little reason to believe that this impressive streak would be brought to an end in Bucharest. The team’s position within the Top 3 teams in the Pro Circuit standings was fairly secure coming into the event, but with the European team closing in on a high enough Qualifying Point total to guarantee an invite to TI8, Team Liquid had its eyes set on that goal at the Major.
The European squad began its run at the Bucharest Major with a match against Chinese squad LGD.Forever Young in the opening round of the Group Stage. Team Liquid established a sizable lead early in the game, with Miracle-‘s Shadow Fiend (13-4-8) leading the way for the squad. While LGD.Forever Young made a last ditch effort to spark a comeback, Team Liquid was able to retake control and secure a win. That win moved Team Liquid into the High Division in Round 2 of the Group Stage, where the team faced Evil Geniuses. The European squad led for almost the entirety of the match, with the team’s core trio of Phantom Lancer, Batrider, and Razor combining for a stat line of 40-20-45 with over 85k net worth. Those impressive numbers weren’t enough for the team to secure its victory though, as EG put together an incredible base defense that crippled Team Liquid and allowed the North American squad to come away with the upset win. That loss set Team Liquid up for a match against another North American squad in Round 3 of the Group Stage in the form of compLexity Gaming. Team Liquid appeared to be in control of the match through the first 25 minutes of play, but compLexity Gaming eventually managed to turn things around and seize the momentum. Despite a solid showing from Miracle- on Terrorblade (13-6-3, 32.6k net worth), Team Liquid was unable to hold back the North American squad as it lost its second match of the Group Stage. With its chances at a spot in the Playoff Stage on the line, Team Liquid entered Round 4 of the Group Stage and faced off against Vici Gaming. The European squad made quick work of its Chinese opponent, as MATUMBAMAN’s Gyrocopter (14-0-6) led the team in a 28-6 stomp that secured the team a win in just under 22 minutes of play. That win gave Team Liquid one last chance to secure its Playoff Stage position, as the team faced fellow European squad OG in the fifth and final round of the Group Stage. The match went back and forth throughout the mid and late-game stages of the match, with Team Liquid largely controlling the pace of the game but unable to fully knock OG out. With Miracle-‘s Juggernaut (7-3-12, 31.5k net worth) and MinD_ContRoL’s Enchantress (10-4-14, 16.1k net worth) leading the charge, the squad was able to take back to back team fights that crippled OG’s defenses and finally forced it to concede defeat. With that final Group Stage victory, Team Liquid secured itself a spot within the Playoff Stage, where it faced Evil Geniuses in a Bo3 rematch of its Group Stage loss. Team Liquid came out strong in Game 1, as the European team dominated its North American opponent. The team gave up just eight kills to EG as it controlled the mid and late-games stages to secure a win in the opening match of the series. Game 2 saw EG fight back with one of the most awe-inspiring performances of the Major. The North American squad kept Team Liquid without a single kill for the entirety of the match, out killing the European squad 27-0 and tying up the series at 1-1 in impressive fashion. Team Liquid managed to recover from that loss though, coming back in Game 3 with a core trio of Lifestealer, Omniknight, and Venomancer. Miracle- once again helped lead his team to victory, as he put together a 10-0-6 stat line to close out the series 2-1 and advance to the Semifinal to face Virtus.pro. The European squad opted for a core trio of Invoker, Dragon Knight, and Lycan in Game 1 of the series, but that trio proved largely ineffective against the VP lineup. Despite a solid showing from Miracle- on Invoker (8-4-5), Team Liquid was unable to withstand VP’s team fight power and was forced to concede the opening match. With its tournament life of the line, Team Liquid went with a team fight lineup in Game 2, picking up cores of Phantom Lancer, Venomancer, and Tidehunter with Ancient Apparition and Earth Spirit supports. Early on it appeared that the European squad was in for a rough match, as VP was able to get the better of it in early skirmishes and team fights. However, once Team Liquid survived that initial phase of aggression from VP, it was able to turn the tide in its favor with its stronger team fight lineup. Team Liquid out killed VP 13-5 over the final 10 minutes of the game to even up the series at 1-1. Game 3 saw Team Liquid pull out an unorthodox draft, as the team picked up a Huskar for Miracle- to go along with another team fight lineup. Though the Huskar pick was able to secure a decent level of farm, the lineup as a whole suffered against the strength and sustainability of VP’s draft. The VP heroes were able to outlast Team Liquid’s lineup and control the outcome of almost every team fight. With all attempts to hold off the advance of VP proving fruitless, Team Liquid conceded defeat to lose the series 1-2 and end its run at the major with a 3rd-4th place finish.
Team Liquid came into the Bucharest Major looking for, and at this stage in the season almost expecting, a finish within the Top 4. Coming into the event, the team was projected to keep its streak of Top 4 performances alive, and the TI7 Champion held true to that prediction with another fantastic showing on the Pro Circuit stage. The team played well enough to advance out of the Group Stage, but its losses against the North American squads of Evil Geniuses and compLexity Gaming were disappointing slip ups for the squad. Those losses could be attributed to the Bo1 format of the Group Stage, which is a theory supported by the fact that Team Liquid later won its Bo3 Quarterfinal series against EG. The 1-2 loss to Virtus.pro in the Semifinal shouldn’t be cause for much concern at this stage, as any of the teams within the Top 4 ranks in the Pro Circuit standings are close enough where none of them stand as clear cut favorites against the others. Overall, there isn’t much more to say about Team Liquid’s performance at the Bucharest Major aside from the fact that it was as solid and consistent as we’ve come to expect from the European squad. The team has yet to show any signs of instability and its level of play has rarely wavered at all this season. Team Liquid came into this event needing a 1st place finish to secure an invite to TI8, and while it wasn’t able to secure that position, the Qualifying Points that it did earn moves it significantly closer to that ultimate goal. At this point in the season, its realistically just a matter of time before the squad punches its ticket to this year’s International. The team’s streak of Top 4 finishes remains unbroken since the very beginning of the season, and only a series of massive mistakes would be enough to bring that streak to an end in the future. Speaking of the future, Team Liquid is set to have quite a few opportunities to secure that coveted TI8 invite coming up soon. The team is set to participate in the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor and the DAC 2018 Major later this month, along with the EPICENTER XL Major in April. If all goes according the plan, Team Liquid’s consecutive streak of Top 4 finishes will grow even longer after those events and the team’s status as a TI8 invitee will be secure.
Winnings: $90,000 (Total) & 150 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
Newbee came into the Bucharest Major with something to prove, as the team had recently lost its position as the top ranked team in the Chinese region. The ESL One Katowice Major had seen rival Chinese squad swoop in and usurp the position that Newbee had been enjoying for the majority of the season to this point. While Newbee’s position within the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings was secure, the Bucharest Major presented a matter of pride for the Chinese squad. With a singular focus and sense of determination, Newbee entered the Major hell-bent on reclaiming its place as the leading team in China.
Newbee’s quest began with a match up against CIS squad Vega Squadron in the initial round of the Group Stage. The Chinese powerhouse would face minimal resistance from its opponent, with Sccc’s Dragon Knight putting together a stat line of 11-3-5 and Faith posting 0 deaths on Ancient Apparition (3-0-16) as the team easily took a victory in its opening match. That win moved Newbee into the High Division for a match up with OG in Round 2, though the European squad wouldn’t prove to be much more of a threat to Newbee than Vega Squadron had. Sccc led the way once again, turning in a massive performance on Gyrocopter (17-1-5) as Newbee claimed a wire-to-wire victory and kept OG’s lineup contained throughout the match. The team’s 2-0 start to the Group Stage kept it in the High Division for Round 3, where the team faced Evil Geniuses for a spot in the Playoff Stage. Newbee drafted a core trio of Dragon Knight, Tiny, and Omniknight in the match, but that trio faced significant struggles against the North American squad. EG’s lineup was able to fight and push with impressive efficiency, quickly establishing map control and limiting the farming opportunities for Newbee’s cores. With its lineup out scaled and its base crumbling around it, Newbee conceded defeat and took its first loss of the Group Stage. That loss forced the team into another Group Stage match, as the team entered Round 4 for a match against another North American opponent in compLexity Gaming. Newbee looked for team fight power and sustainability in its draft, picking up cores of Death Prophet, Gyrocopter, and Tidehunter. The lineup got off to a rough start, as compLexity Gaming’s lineup applied a level of pressure that Newbee was not prepared to handle. The Chinese squad was being out killed by a score of 4-16 around the 20 minute mark, and it appeared that compLexity Gaming might be able to keep Newbee locked down long enough to secure a win. Newbee would not be denied though, as the team’s cores finally came online and the squad unleashed its full team fight power on its North American opponent. CompLexity Gaming found itself quickly outmatched, and Newbee closed out the last 10 minutes of the game by out killing it by a score of 15-1 as it secured its place in the Playoff Stage. Newbee faced off against Team Secret in the Quarterfinal for a Bo3 series with a Top 4 position on the line. Newbee took a core trio of Luna, Viper, and Underlord into Game 1 against the European squad, and that trio was able to dictate the pace of the game throughout most of the match. Team Secret made a couple of surges off the back of some perfectly executed team fights, but Newbee held off those advances to secure a win in the opening match of the series. Game 2 proved to be similarly one sided, as Newbee controlled the match once again thanks in large part to Sccc putting together a monster performance on Death Prophet (16-0-7). That strong showing allowed Newbee to sweep the series 2-0 and advance to the Semifinals to face fellow Chinese squad VGJ.Thunder for a shot a the Grand Final of the Major. Newbee attempted to come out aggressively in Game 1, picking up a core trio of Razor, Templar Assassin, and Omniknight along with a Chen and Rubick support combo. The strategy was success early, as Newbee established a sizable lead heading into the mid-game stage. However, the aggression from Newbee had not severely impacted the core duo of VGJ.Thunder, and the team’s Luna and Shadow Fiend combined to lead the squad in a comeback effort that wiped out Newbee’s lead and put control of the match out of its reach. Newbee attempted to retake control with a series of team fights, but those efforts failed and the team was forced to concede Game 1 of the series to VGJ.Thunder. Game 2 saw Newbee get out to a solid start once again, as the team’s lineup featured a fair amount of team fight power and farming potential. The team held a lead throughout almost all of the mid and late-game stages, but once again it couldn’t manage to close out a win with its net worth advantage. VGJ.Thunder wiped out Newbee’s heroes twice over the final three minutes of the match, giving the team the opportunity it needed to march down the middle lane and secure a win in both the match and the series. The 0-2 loss brought Newbee’s run at the Major to an end with a finish in the shared 3rd-4th place position.
Newbee came into the Bucharest Major looking both for a chance to reclaim its position as the top ranked Chinese squad and to solidify its Pro Circuit ranking. Coming into the Major, the team was projected to miss out on a Top 4 spot with a finish in the 5th-8th place range, but the Chinese squad was able to push past that prediction. The squad put together a strong performance in the Group Stage, although the opponents that it defeated weren’t necessarily the most formidable in the field of participants. Of the three teams that Newbee beat in its Group Stage run, none of them were ranked within the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings. The only Top 8 team that Newbee did face was the one that gave it its sole Group Stage loss in Evil Geniuses. Newbee may not have faced the toughest of schedules in the Group Stage, but the Chinese squad made the most of its opportunities to play somewhat weaker teams. Once Newbee reached the Playoff Stage, we got to see the squad play at its full strength against another top Pro Circuit team in Team Secret. The Chinese team’s 2-0 sweep of Team Secret had to be its most impressive performance of the event, once again showcasing the squad’s abilities to compete with and defeat the strongest teams in the world. The team’s 0-2 loss the VGJ.Thunder in the Semifinal may have come as a bit of a surprise, but considering the absolute tear that the team went on at this event, Newbee’s loss in that series is a bit more understandable. With all of this taken into consideration, Newbee’s showing at the Bucharest Major is a significant boon for the team. The team reclaimed its position as the top ranked team in the Chinese region, and the Qualifying Points that it earned moved it back into the Top 4 in the Pro Circuit standings. However, with Vici Gaming still right behind it in the standings and VGJ.Thunder now laying claim to a Top 8 spot as well, Newbee’s status at the top of the Chinese hierarchy is not as secure as it once was. The squad may not be closing in on a TI8 invite like Team Liquid and Team Secret are, but it is still well on its way to reaching that mark. Things aren’t set in stone for the Chinese squad just yet, but if Newbee can maintain this level of play and avoid any major slumps or pitfalls it shouldn’t be long before the team finds itself closing in on the TI8 invite. The team will have its chances to hopefully show off its consistency and stability soon, as Newbee will be attending the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor and the DAC 2018 Major later this month in addition to participating in the EPICENTER XL Major in April. The Chinese leader has reclaimed its coveted spot at the top of its regional hierarchy, but the next few months will show us whether Newbee can maintain its hold over the crown or if it will find itself overthrown by a regional rival.
Coming into the Bucharest Major, Evil Geniuses found itself standing on very familiar ground, as the team continued to hold the position of the highest ranked North American team on the Pro Circuit. The team’s position at home may have been secure heading into the event, but its standing on the Pro Circuit was far from safe as it sat at the end of the list of Top 8 teams in the rankings. With a host of hungry international rivals nipping at its heels, EG was in need of a solid performance at the Bucharest Major to separate itself from those teams looking to usurp its position.
Evil Geniuses opened its run at the Major with a game against South American squad paiN Gaming in Round 1 of the Group Stage. The team had little trouble pushing past its opponent, with Fear putting together a 0 death performance on Razor (10-0-9) and MISERY’s Bounty Hunter (3-5-20) harassing paiN Gaming’s lineup and helped EG build up a sizable net worth lead. EG dictated the pace of the game for the rest of the match, controlled the map and the team fights to secure a win. That win placed EG in the High Division for Round 2 of the Group Stage, where the team would face a formidable challenge in the form of defending TI7 Champion Team Liquid. The match was almost absurdly one sided for most of the game, as EG was trailing its European opponent in terms of net worth for nearly the entirety of the game. Despite that disadvantage, EG managed to draw out the match, buying more and more time for its cores to scale. With the team down to its final lane of barracks, EG pulled off an incredible team fight win that knocked out Team Liquid’s cores with no buy back available. That window provided EG the opportunity it needed, as the North American squad pushed through Team Liquid’s base and secured an unbelievable comeback win. With its victory over the TI7 Champion, Evil Geniuses moved into Round 3 of the Group Stage riding a high of confidence as it faced another Top 8 ranked squad in Newbee. The North American squad managed to make quick work of its Chinese opponent with a lineup that was able to push and fight early. With its control of both the team fights and the map dwindling early, Newbee tapped out in just a little over 23 minutes as Evil Geniuses completed a clean sweep of its Group Stage matches and secured a place in the Playoff Stage. The Quarterfinal saw the team presented with a rematch as EG faced off against Team Liquid once again with a Top 4 spot on the line this time. EG opted for a core trio of Juggernaut, Abaddon, and Pugna in Game 1 of the series, but that lineup would fall flat in the face of Team Liquid’s aggressive style. The North American squad was held to just eight kills in the match, with its strong laning stage being nullified by the pressure and aggression of Team Liquid’s heroes as Game 1 went to the European squad. EG would strike back with one of the most impressive performances of the entire event. EG took a chance with an offlane Ember Spirit pick for Suma1L, and he went absolutely insane on the hero. Suma1L posted a stat line of 11-0-12 in the match, and as he went, so too did his teammates. EG completely demolished Team Liquid, defeating the European powerhouse without giving up a single kill. With an unreal final score of 27-0, Evil Geniuses tied up the series and forced a decisive Game 3. EG had pulled off a truly impressive accomplishment in its Game 2 win, but Team Liquid was able to show just why it is the TI7 Champion as the team shook off its poor performance. Despite a solid effort from Fear’s Broodmother (7-3-2), Team Liquid had control of the match from the beginning, and this time the European squad didn’t give EG a chance to come back into the game. With its loss in Game 3, EG ended its run at the Major with a finish in the 5th-8th place range.
Evil Geniuses came into the Bucharest Major needing a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage to help solidify its position in the rankings, and the team’s performance at the event helped that to a certain degree. Before the start of the action at the Major, Evil Geniuses was projected to finish within the 5th-8th place range, and the North American can was able to match that prediction with an impressive display in Bucharest. The team tore through the Group Stage, with its wins over Newbee and Team Liquid serving as solid signs of the team’s ability to contend with the Pro Circuit’s top squads. The 1-2 loss to Team Liquid in the Quarterfinal was a bit disappointing, but not unexpected. What was unexpected though was the team’s 27-0 performance against the TI7 Champion in Game 2 of that series Between that dismantling of the European powerhouse and its 3-0 sweep through the Group Stage, EG’s performance in Bucharest has gone a long way to show that the team is still capable of competing with the elite squads in the Pro Circuit standings. Speaking of those standings, the time has come to address the negatives from EG’s performance at the Bucharest Major. First and foremost, the team missed out on a Top 4 finish with its 1-2 loss to Team Liquid in the Quarterfinals. Under normal circumstances, this would be unfortunate but far from a point of concern for the team. In this instance though, the team was in considerable need of more Qualifying Points, as it had now officially lost its hold on the 8th place position in the standings and have fallen out of the Top 8 entierly. The team’s run at the Major was a fantastic display of strength for the team, but the pressure is now going to start ramping up for the squad to secure a Top 4 finish and a higher Qualifying Point total to reclaim its position in the standings. Fortunately for the North American leader, it already has a few opportunities to earn those coveted Qualifying Points on its schedule. Evil Geniuses is set to compete in the GESC: Indonesia Minor beginning in just a few days, and will also be attending the DAC 2018 Major later this month. With those events fast approaching, we’ll get the chance to see if Evil Geniuses can maintain the level of play it showed in Bucharest and retake its position among the elite teams in the Pro Circuit standings.
With Na’Vi beginning to settle in to its new position in the wake of its roster moves, the hope was that the CIS squad would be able to produce results more in line with its new found position in the Pro Circuit standings. The acquisition of Ilya “Lil” Ilyuk had moved the team into the 6th position in the Pro Circuit standings, but the new Na’Vi lineup had struggled significantly at its first Pro Circuit appearance at the ESL One Katowice Major in February. With the first LAN appearance out of the way, there was hope that Na’Vi’s lineup had developed the level of chemistry and team work needed to face the field in Bucharest at full strength and potentially compete for a Top 4 finish at the Major.
The CIS squad began its run at the Bucharest Major with a match against European squad OG in the opening round of the Group Stage. Na’Vi found itself trailing behind significantly from the very beginning of the match, as OG’s lineup controlled the early fights and established control of the map. Na’Vi managed a brief surge in the late-game that temporarily gave it the net worth lead, but the team couldn’t hold on to that advantage despite a solid effort from Crystallize on Razor (10-4-4). The loss put Na’Vi in the Low Division in Round 2 of the Group Stage, where it faced an all-CIS match up against Vega Squadron. Na’Vi drafted a core trio of Lifestealer, Death Prophet, and Tidehunder, but threw in a Doom pick as well in an attempt to control the heroes of its opponent. The strategy paid off for the team, as Na’Vi claimed a sizable lead in the mid and late-game stages that Vega Squadron couldn’t recover from. With Dendi’s Death Prophet and Crystallize’s Lifestealer combining for a stat line of 15-2-23 with a combined net worth of over 65k, Na’Vi was able to take the win and even out its record at 1-1. The trend of all-CIS matches would continue into Round 3, as Na’Vi faced off against Virtus.pro next. Na’Vi held its own for a while against the CIS leader, but VP began to pull away early on in the match and never seemed to look back. Despite a solid showing from Crystallize on Lifestealer (11-2-2), the rest of the squad struggled significantly as VP handed it its second Group Stage loss. With the team one game away from elimination, Na’Vi had its back up against the wall as it faced paiN Gaming in Round 4 of the Group Stage. It looked as though the CIS squad would be going home early in this match, as its South American opponent established control of the game in the mid and late-game stages. However, Crystallize refused to allow his team to go down without a fight, as his Terrorblade helped the team pull off an incredible fight in the Roshan pit near the 40 minute mark that drastically altered the course of the game. The team fight win shattered the momentum of paiN Gaming, and allowed Na’Vi to push into its opponent’s base with a brutal level of speed and efficiency. PaiN Gaming attempted one final defense of its base, but it was too late by that point and Na’Vi would not be stopped. With that, Na’Vi snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and earned itself one last match against TNC Pro Team for a spot in the Playoff Stage. That match would be a bit of a back-and-forth affair through the first half of the game, as the two teams exchanged the net worth lead six times in the first 30 minutes of play. Eventually though, the cores of TNC Pro Team were able to out scale those of Na’Vi, as the Southeast Asian squad took control of the match and secured its win with a series of strong team fights in the game’s final minutes. The loss dropped Na’Vi’s record in the Group Stage to 2-3, and ended the CIS squad’s run at the Major with a 9th-11th place finish.
Na’Vi came into the Major with an abundance of hope, but also a sobering level of scrutiny and skepticism as well. The team’s roster changes are over a month in the past now, but any team adjusting to new players and a new captain needs time to become fully comfortable in its new situation. Na’Vi’s initial Pro Circuit performance with its new roster had been an awful affair, which had led to rather meager expectations for the team in Bucharest. Coming into the Major, Na’Vi was projected to fall within the 9th-11th place range, which is exactly where the team ended up when its run ended. In a certain regard, this finish can be considered a positive for Na’Vi considering its previous appearance on the Pro Circuit stage was not nearly as strong as this one. The team showed a level of determination and focus that allowed it to fight all the way through to the last round of the Group Stage, but its performance in those matches does raise a few questions. The team’s only Group Stage wins came against Vega Squadron and paiN Gaming, two teams that were expected to finish at the bottom of the standings in Bucharest. Against more established powers, Na’Vi struggled as it lost its matches to OG, VP, and TNC Pro Team. Virtus.pro is not a squad that many teams should be expected to defeat, but OG and TNC Pro Team are teams that Na’Vi should be able to overcome if the CIS squad wants to live up to its new found Pro Circuit ranking. The Bo1 format of the Group Stage may have had a negative impact on Na’Vi, but the fact of the matter is that the team still doesn’t look like its fully comfortable with its new roster or its new position in the standings. The team’s jump up the rankings came from a trade rather than from a Top 4 finish, so in that regard it may not be fully reasonable to expect the squad to play at that level right away. However, the season continues on at the same pace, and the Pro Circuit is moving closer and closer to TI8 while Na’Vi’s opportunities to perform are beginning to dwindle. That being said, the team isn’t out of chances just yet. Na’Vi is scheduled to play at the GESC: Indonesia Minor in a few days, and will also be participating in the EPICENTER XL Major at the end of April. We’ll see if the team is ready to able to come together and play at the level needed to defend its Pro CIrcuit ranking by that time.
Mineski entered the Bucharest Major in a favorable position on the Pro Circuit, standings as a Top 8 ranked squad and the highest ranked team from the Southeast Asian region. However, that position was far from secure, as rising regional rivals such as Fnatic and TNC Pro Team loomed in the background waiting for a chance to knock the kings of SEA off of their throne. With those prospective rivals waiting in the wings, Mineski came in the Bucharest Major looking for a solid showing on the Pro Circuit stage to help cement both its position as the leader of its home region and its standing as one of the Pro Circuit’s top squads.
The team would begin in run through the Group Stage of the Major with a match up with one of those aforementioned regional rivals, as Mineski played TNC Pro Team in the opening round of action in Bucharest. Mineski opted for a team fight oriented lineup in this match, drafting Death Prophet, Magnus, Sand King, and Disruptor with a Lifestealer thrown in the mix for added damage and farming potential. The strategy fell flat for Mineski, and TNC Pro Team drafted a team fighting lineup of its own that was able to apply pressure harder and earlier to put Mineski on the back foot from the very start of the match. With the team unable to contain Raven’s Gyrocopter (15-0-12), Mineski quickly found itself incapable of keeping pace with its opponent as the team lost this SEA match up to start its Group Stage run with an 0-1 record. Round 2 of the Group Stage saw Mineski face compLexity Gaming in the Low Division matches, and the North American squad would prove to be a significant challenge for the team. Mineski went with a greedy draft in this match, picking up cores of Medusa and Mirana, but also throwing Doom and Naga Siren into the mix as well. In response to this, compLexity Gaming opted for a roaming and fighting lineup that heavily punished the greed of Mineski’s picks. While the Southeast Asian squad managed to secure decent farm on most of its heroes, the pressure and aggression of compLexity Gaming’s lineup gave it an advantage that Mineski was never able to overcome. Despite its best efforts, Mineski lost this match to fall to 0-2 and come just one loss away from elimination. The team would face down that threat of elimination in its match against Vega Squadron in Round 3 of the Group Stage. Mineski went with a core trio of Gyrocopter, Nature’s Prophet, and Puck, hoping that its combination of team fight power and pushing strength would see it through. The strategy paid off through the mid and late-game stages, as Mineski enjoyed a modest lead and significant control of the map. Vega Squadron did manage a late-game surge that allowed it to take back the net worth advantage, but by that point it was too late for the CIS squad, as Mineski finished off the match with a final game clinching push to stave off elimination. That win earned Mineski one last chance to survive the Group Stage, as the team faced European squad OG in Round 4. Mineski decided to place its trust in the Nature’s Prophet pick for the second match in a row, combing it with cores of Outworld Devourer and Mirana in an attempt to secure a trio that could both fight and farm effectively. The strategy was working well for the team through to the late-game stage, as the Southeast Asian squad a small lead up until around the 40 minute mark. At that point, the team fighting lineup of OG finally clicked and the European team put together an impressively executed fight that shattered Mineski’s lineup and its momentum. That fight left Mineski scrambling to collect itself and fight back, but its opponent refused to let off the gas and Mineski lost both its lead and the game to fall out of the tournament. That final loss to OG left Mineski with a 1-3 record and a finish in the 12th-14th place range at the Bucharest Major.
Mineski came into this most recent Major looking for a big performance to solidify its position within its home region and on the Pro Circuit standings. Instead, it got a shockingly underwhelming performance and a drastically lower finish than what had been expected. Coming into the event, Mineski had been projected to finish within the 5th-8th place range, coming close to a Top 4 spot but falling just short. The team fell much, much shorter of the mark than that, as its 1-3 Group Stage performance left us with a myriad of questions for the Southeast Asian squad. The team’s initial losses to both TNC Pro Team and compLexity Gaming were not necessarily massive shocks, but they did come as surprises considering the situations that those teams were in compared to Mineski. Both of the squads have shown solid performances in the past, but for a Top 8 ranked team like Mineski, those matches are ones that need to be won on the big stage. Even its win against Vega Squadron came with some concerns, as the team allowed its opponent to make a significant final push before it closed out the win. Follow that performance up with the blown opportunity that was the team’s lost lead against OG and the picture doesn’t look pretty for Mineski. All of this sounds a bit “doom and gloom” for Mineski, and there are rightfully some concerns regarding the team after this performance. However, there are some points to be made to potentially make this situation better for the team. First, the Bo1 format of the Group Stage may not have presented the team in as strong a light as it could have. Many teams shine in Bo3 scenarios where they can overcome slow starts in a way that Bo1 matches don’t allow for. The other potential positive for Mineski is that we’ve seen the team struggle with wildly inconsistent performance before, such as its 9th-12th finish at the ESL One Genting Minor in January. In that case, the team was able to bounce back and put together a solid Top 4 finish at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor a little over a week later. The problem with this scenario is that one can never be sure that a team is going to be able to bounce back like that, and this poor performance at the Bucharest Major now marks back to back Pro Circuit appearances with finishes in the bottom half of the standings. The team may not be in immediate danger of losing its favorable position, but a mid-season slump like this one is not ideal for a team that is still not guaranteed to make it to TI8. Mineski will have its chances to show that it can put these poor performance behind it though, as the Southeast Asian squad will be playing at both the DAC 2018 Major in March and the EPICENTER XL Major in April. Time will tell if the team can bounce back yet again, or if this downward slide is too steep for Mineski to recover from.
CompLexity Gaming came into the Bucharest Major as one of the leading teams in the North American region, although the squad was still a ways behind rival Evil Geniuses for the position of the top ranked squad from the region. The team had been putting together solid performances within its home region, but the results on the international level were harder to come by. The team had failed to make the Top 4 in five straight Pro Circuit appearances, and without another source of Qualifying Points, rivals within the North American region were eyeing compLexity Gaming searching for a weakness to exploit. With the situation at home becoming less and less stable, compLexity Gaming needed a strong showing in Bucharest to help solidify its position in North American and improve its ranking in the Pro Circuit standings.
The North American squad did not get off to a strong start in the Group Stage, as compLexity Gaming had to face off against Team Secret in the opening round in Bucharest. CompLexity Gaming put up a tough fight though, keeping things close in the early and mid-game stages and holding a small lead for a period of about 10 minutes. However, Team Secret’s team fight power eventually came online, and compLexity Gaming had no response to the European team’s coordinated and potent lineup. Despite a solid performace from Chessie on Nature’s Prophet (14-7-7), compLexity Gaming lost its opening match and fell into the Low Division in Round 2 to face Southeast Asian leader Mineski. The North American squad opted for a fighting and ganking lineup against Mineski, picking up cores of Viper, Visage, and Tiny alongside a support duo of Ancient Apparition and Chen. The lineup succeeded in applying pressure early and often to Mineski’s heroes, forcing skirmishes and ganks that the SEA squad wasn’t prepared to handle at that time. With its opponent scrambling to secure the farm it needed to compete, compLexity Gaming built its lead up further and further and continued to push through Mineski’s defenses to establish full control of the match. With Mineski’s cores largely contained and cut off, compLexity Gaming was able to secure its first win of the Group Stage, evening its record at 1-1. Round 3 saw the team face off against defending TI7 Champion Team Liquid, but compLexity Gaming refused to be intimidated by the European powerhouse. The team came out with an aggressive lineup in the match, and at first it appeared that the North American squad had been outsmarted by Team Liquid. The early aggression of compLexity Gaming largely backfired in the early and mid-game stages, as Team Liquid held a sizable advantage throughout those periods. However, the cores of compLexity Gaming eventually came online, providing the damage needed to make the team’s aggressive plays successful as it wiped away its net worth deficit and took control of the match. Behind massive performance from Moo’s Timbersaw (17-4-17) and Limmp’s Tiny (12-2-17), compLexity Gaming held off Team Liquid’s attempts to retake control of the match and closed out a surprising victory. That win had compLexity Gaming moving into Round 4 of the Group Stage riding a high of confidence, as the team looked to slay another giant in the form of Newbee. It looked as though the North American squad would pull it off too, as the team held a significant net worth lead through the first 30 minutes of play. However, the cores of Newbee eventually hit their stride, and the team fight power of its lineup proved too much for compLexity Gaming to handle. Beyond that 30 minute mark, Newbee out killed compLexity Gaming by a score of 15-1 as the North American squad lost hold of its net worth lead and lost control of the match. Newbee’s lineup marched down the middle lane to finish compLexity Gaming off and complete the comeback win. The loss put compLexity Gaming just one game away from either a Playoff berth or elimination as the team faced a familiar foe in the form of fellow North American squad OpTic Gaming. This final match did not go well for compLexity Gaming, as its lineup was controlled and contained from the very start by OpTic Gaming’s heroes. OpTic gaming surrendered just nine kills to compLexity Gaming in this match as it held the net worth lead throughout almost the entirety of the game. Without any way to establish momentum for itself and no way to slow down OpTic Gaming’s push, compLexity Gaming lost its final Group Stage match. The loss in the North American show down ended compLexity Gaming’s run at the Bucharest Major with a 2-3 record and a finish in the 9th-11th place range.
CompLexity Gaming came into the Major looking for a solid performance to buoy itself at home and on the international stage, and to a certain degree it earned just that. The team’s struggles on the Pro Circuit stage had expectations set fairly low for the team, as compLexity Gaming entered the Major projected to finish in the 12th-14th place range. The team was able to put together a strong run though, finished just above that prediction with a respectable 2-3 record. The team’s victories over Mineski and Team Liquid are massive steps forward for the squad, as they showed a level of competitiveness that compLexity Gaming wants to have on a consistent basis. The losses to Team Secret and Newbee are disappointing, but fully expected, as compLexity Gaming can’t be expected to defeat every team in the Top 4 on the Pro Circuit standings despite its impressive wins at this event. The only loss for compLexity Gaming that is truly harmful would be its final match against fellow North American team OpTic Gaming. OpTic Gaming is a formidable squad with a roster of talented and experienced players, but if compLexity wants to truly hold its position as a leading team in North America, it needs to be able to overcome its regional rivals on a stage as big as the Major. Aside from that, this performance at the Bucharest Major looks like a significant step forward for the team. The international level has been where the team has had its largest struggles so far in 2018, and while it didn’t make the Playoff Stage at this event, the team showed the ability to overcome top Pro Circuit squads that had been missing from its last few appearances. The biggest question now for compLexity Gaming will be whether the team can maintain that level of play on the international level moving forward. The team has a bit of a break before its next Pro Circuit appearance, as compLexity Gaming won’t be seen at a Pro Circuit event until April at the EPICENTER XL Major. By then, the landscape of both the North American region and the Pro Circuit scene as a whole may be different, and it will be interesting to see if compLexity Gaming has what it takes to adjust and adapt to those new circumstances.
Vici Gaming came in to the Bucharest Major off the back of a series of successful appearances on the Pro Circuit stage. Those successes had seen the squad catapulted up the Pro Circuit standings, and had even allowed it to take the position as the top ranked Chinese team away from Newbee. Standing as one of the Top 4 teams on the Pro Circuit, Vici Gaming’s play both at home in China and on the international level had earned it a place among the elite teams on the Pro Circuit. With that momentum on its side, Vici Gaming looked to hold and solidify its new found position of power in the Dota 2 world with a strong showing in Bucharest.
Vici Gaming didn’t get off to the best of starts at the Major, as the team faced significant struggles against its sister squad VGJ.Thunder in the opening round of the Group Stage. The team looked for team fight power in its draft, selecting a core trio of Outworld Devourer, Gyrocopter, and Tidehunter. Unfortunately, those cores didn’t have the early game power to punch through the lineup of their opponents, as VGJ.Thunder opted for a tanky and team fight oriented lineup as well. VGJ.Thunder’s heroes forced engagements early that Vici Gaming wasn’t prepared for, leading to an advantage that VGJ.Thunder refused to relinquish for the rest of the match. With that initial loss, Vici Gaming was sent into the Low Division in Round 2 to face off against South American squad paiN Gaming. The Chinese squad would try a similar strategy in its second match, selecting cores of Wraith King, Storm Spirit, and Omniknight. However, the South American squad would take a page out of VGJ.Thunder’s book, drafting a lineup designed to fight early and often. The early fights left Vici Gaming with little time to secure the levels of farm it wanted for the mid and late-game stages, as the squad again struggled to keep up with the pace of the match. The team attempted one final team fight at the 25 minute mark to turn the game around, but were utterly wiped out by paiN Gaming and conceded defeat to fall to 0-2 in the Group Stage. With its tournament life on the line, Vici Gaming faced another struggling Chinese squad in Round 3 of the Group Stage, as the team played LGD.Forever Young for the right to remain active at the Major. Vici Gaming looked to control the pace of the game with its draft, picking up cores of Faceless Void, Arc Warden, and Nature’s Prophet. The strategy proved successful as Vici Gaming was able to largely control the team fights and built up its lead as the game progressed. With its core trio combining for a stat line of 31-14-42 and over 74k net worth, Vici Gaming was able to keep its opponent contained as it earned its first win of the Group Stage and stayed alive in Bucharest. Round 4 of the Group Stage was where the run would end for Vici Gaming though, as the team faced Team Liquid in an elimination match. Vici Gaming looked for a team fight oriented draft against the defending TI7 Champion, but Team Liquid came out with an aggressive strategy early in the game. The combination of early ganks and team fights from the European squad left Vici Gaming’s lineup unable to secure any momentum as Team Liquid claimed an quick victory in just under 22 minutes while surrendering just six kills to its Chinese opponent. With that loss, Vici Gaming fell to 1-3 in the Group Stage and were eliminated from the Major with a 12th-14th place finish.
Vici Gaming came into the Bucharest Major after a series of Top 4 finishes and impressive performances on the Pro Circuit stage. The team was producing consistently strong results within its home region, and that regional success was reflected in its strong showing on the international stage. The squad had risen into the Top 4 in the standings and stood as the highest ranked squad from the Chinese region. All of these signs had the team projected to place within the Top 4 again in Bucharest, but that prediction rings agonizingly hollow in the face of what we saw from the team in the Group Stage. Vici Gaming struggled to an almost absurd degree at this event, as its opponents seemed to know exactly what pace the team wanted to play at, and how best to disrupt that. Early team fighting and pressure seemed to throw the squad off of its plans throughout this event, as the team’s opening losses to VGJ.Thunder and paiN Gaming showed. Those two losses are shocking for a team that had pushed its way into the Top 4 in the Pro Circuit standings, as its opponents simply dismantled and countered Vici Gaming’s plans without giving it any feasible way to transition into a more viable strategy. The team’s win over LGD.Forever Young appeared to show that the team was capable of utilizing a more fast paced and tempo controlling lineup, but in the face of Team Liquid the squad seemed to revert back to what they were more comfortable with. The poor performance in Bucharest presents some serious concerns for Vici Gaming, as the team may have to adjust its drafts and strategy moving forward. While the team continues to hold a strong position in the Pro Circuit standings, a stumble as significant as this one makes it increasingly difficult to have the same level of confidence in the team’s ability to compete on the Pro Circuit stage. The team will have a chance for redemption in the near future though, as it is scheduled to compete in the China Qualifier for the EPICENTER XL Major in about two weeks, and will also be a participant at the DAC 2018 Major the week after that. With those two opportunities in front of it, it will be interesting to see how well the team responds to its weak showing in Bucharest and whether the Chinese leader can but that poor performance behind it.
LGD.Forever Young has gone through a period of change of late, as the Chinese squad underwent some significant changes to its roster over the last few months. After a trial with a temporary player, moving another member to an inactive position, and adding multiple new players to the lineup, LGD.Forever Young came into the Bucharest Major with a new look and a new hope of finding success on the Pro Circuit again. The team’s performance on the international level had taken a hit in recent times, but the Chinese team entered the Major with ambitions of turning around that slump and reestablishing itself as a contender on the Pro Circuit stage.
Unfortunately for LGD.Forever Young, those ambitions would hit a formidable obstacle right off the bat in Bucharest, as the team faced off against defending TI7 Champion Team Liquid in Round 1 of the Group Stage. The team came out with a core trio of Omniknight, Bristleback, and Razor that did not get off to a fantastic start early. Team Liquid’s early ganking and roaming power heavily pressured and punished the lineup from LGD.Forever Young, as the European squad built up a significant lead in the mid-game stage. Some solid team fighting and heavy farming from its core trio allowed LGD.Forever Young to briefly take the net worth lead, but that lead and the momentum was quickly retaken by Team Liquid as it handed the Chinese squad its first loss of the Major. The team didn’t get much respite in its next match, as LGD.Forever Young faced Virtus.pro in Round 2. The Chinese squad came out strong behind a core duo of Lina and Chaos Knight that led the team to a lead of over 10k net worth in the late game stage. It looked as though LGD.Forever Young was on the cusp of claiming a victory, but VP’s core duo of Death Prophet and Terroblade managed to push and fight their way back into the game as VP made an impressive comeback effort to snatch victory away from LGD.Forever Young. Despite Super’s Lina and Monet’s Chaos Knight combining for a stat line of 23-19-16 with a net worth of over 54k, the Chinese squad dropped to 0-2 in the Group Stage. With the team a single loss away from elimination, LGD.Forever Young may have been hoping for an easier opponent in Round 3, but that wouldn’t be the case. The team found itself locked in an all-Chinese match up as it faced Vici Gaming for the right to continue on in the tournament. LGD.Forever Young came out with a solid team fighting lineup, combined cores of Death Prophet and Terrorblade with fighting supports of Kunkka and Ancient Apparition. The combination didn’t work out for the team, as its draft was heavily punished from the very beginning of the match. Up against the hard pushing and team fight heavy lineup of Vici Gaming, LGD.Forever Young had no answers as it fell behind early and never came close to a comeback. With its third loss of the Group Stage, LGD.Forever Young was eliminated from the Bucharest Major with a finish in the shared last place position of 15th-16th.
LGD.Forever Young wasn’t exactly expected to compete for the Major Championship in Bucharest, but the team’s early exit from the event does come as a bit of a surprise. The team had been going through some roster changes and experiments in recent times, but its performance within the Chinese region and the experience of its players had hopes high that the team could claim one or two wins in the Group Stage. Coming into the Bucharest Major, LGD.Forever Young was projected to fall within the 12th-14th place range, a mark that the Chinese team was not able to live up to. On paper, the poor results looks bad for LGD.Forever Young, but when one looks at the team’s matches and the opponents it had to play against the picture looks much better for the squad. The team’s three opponents of Team Liquid, Virtus.pro, and Vici Gaming are all ranked within the Top 4 in the Pro Circuit standings, setting up a series of obstacles that few teams on the Pro Circuit would be able to overcome. Add onto that the fact that the team was somewhat competitive against Team Liquid and nearly defeated VP, and LGD.Forever Young’s 0-3 record looks less disastrous than it may have at first glance. So there are positives to be taken from LGD.Forever Young’s last place finish in Bucharest, but when will the team get the chance to show that it can improve from that poor result? The answer isn’t particularly clear for the Chinese squad just yet, as it has no Pro Circuit events on its schedule at the moment. The team could find itself in the regional qualifier for the EPICENTER XL Major, but the it will have to make a run through one of the four Open Qualifiers in order to reach the main China Qualifier. Aside from that, the future schedule is low on opportunities for LGD.Forever Young. The Chinese squad has to hope that the next round of Pro Circuit events and a new round of regional qualifiers provides it with more chances to show that it is still capable of competing on the Pro Circuit level.
Winnings: $500,000 (Total) & 750 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
Virtus.pro entered the Bucharest Major as a team on the verge of one the most significant achievements of the season. The CIS leader held the position as the top ranked team in the Pro Circuit standings, and was in a position to secure the first direct invite to TI8 if it could finish within the Top 2 at the event. With that milestone within its grasp, VP came to Bucharest with even more motivation and determination to put together another outstanding performance on the Pro Circuit stage to potentially punch its ticket to the International 2018.
Virtus.pro opened up its Group Stage matches with a game against North American squad OpTic Gaming in Round 1. It appeared that the CIS squad was going to have few issues pushing past its opponent, but OpTic Gaming proved resilient. Despite a strong performance from Ramzes666 on Juggernaut (12-5-4), VP lost control of the match with a series of team fight losses as OpTic Gaming snatched a victory away from the CIS squad with an upset victory. That surprising loss dropped VP into the Low Division for its match in Round 2, and it looked as though the team was headed for disaster in its match against LGD.Forever Young. The Chinese squad dominated the match into the late-game stage, with VP trailing by as much as 10k net worth at one point. However, it was the CIS squad’s turn to show resilience this time, as Virtus.pro’s core duo of Ramzes666’s Terrorblade and No[o]ne’s Death Prophet combined for a stat line of 17-4-19 and led their team to an incredible comeback win of its own to even its Group Stage record at 1-1. Round 3 saw VP engaged in an all-CIS match up, as the team went head to head with fellow CIS squad Na’Vi. Ramzes666 would lead the way for his team once again, putting together an 11-1-8 stat line on Juggernaut as VP dominated the game early and never looked back despite a valiant effort from Na’Vi’s Crystallize on Lifestealer (11-2-2). The win over its regional rivals put Virtus.pro just one win away from a spot in the Playoff Stage, and the team needed to get past TNC Pro Team in Round 4 to reach that mark. The Southeast Asian squad didn’t prove to be much of a threat to VP, as Ramzes666 and No[o]ne turned in another fantastic performance and combined for 20 kills, 5 deaths, and 39 assists. Overall, VP racked up 96 assists on 39 kills as the team simply out played and out fought the TNC Pro Team lineup on its way to a spot in the Playoff Stage. The team got its shot at revenge in the Quarterfinal, as VP faced OpTic Gaming again in a Bo3 rematch of its only Group Stage loss. VP dominated the series right from the start, as the team out killed OpTic Gaming 65-26 in two games and held the net worth lead for all but around 15 minutes out of 67 minutes of total game time in the series. With North American squad dispatched quickly and relatively easily, VP moved on to the Semifinals to face Team Liquid. VP struck first in this series, with No[o]ne taking control of the match and helping his team dictate the pace of the match on Tiny (11-0-6) alongside 9pasha’s Doom (6-1-12). VP appeared to be carrying that momentum over into Game 2, as the CIS squad took a small lead early on in the second match of the series. However, Team Liquid’s lineup finally came online in the mid and late-game stages, presenting a level of team fight power that VP wasn’t able to contain. Despite Ramzes666 and No[o]ne combined for a stat line of 14-5-6 on Luna and Queen of Pain, their team wasn’t able to turn the tide back in its favor as Team Liquid evened the series at 1-1. VP quickly reestablished control of the series in Game 3, as the team relied on a core duo of Terrorblade and Death Prophet to combat Team Liquid’s draft. That core duo proved wildly successful once again, as Virtus.pro heavily punished the lineup of Team Liquid and built up a lead that it held throughout the match. Team Liquid’s team fight power proved unable to break through the sustainability of VP’s lineup as the CIS squad closed out the series 2-1 and advanced to the Grand Final to play against VGJ.Thunder. The series got off to a fantastic start for VP, as the team out killed its opponent 56-21 and held the net worth advantage throughout the entirety of the first two matches of the series. Game 3 saw VP draft a lineup with a heavy emphasis on both mobility and burst damage as the team looked to be aggressive early and often against VGJ.Thunder. The plan worked perfectly, with VGJ.Thunder’s lineup unable to generate any significant momentum and Ramzes666’s Broodmother (15-2-6) snowballing far behind the Chinese squad’s ability to contain it. With that final victory, VP completed a 3-0 sweep of VGJ.Thunder to claim the Major Championship in Bucharest.
Virtus.pro came into the Bucharest Major looking to secure itself a place at the mother of all Dota 2 tournaments: The International. With this 1st place finish, the team has punched its ticket to TI8 in absolutely dominant fashion. Prior to the start of the Major, VP was projected to finish within the Top 4, and the CIS squad met that mark and then skyrocketed beyond it with this incredible performance. The team has now earned its third Major Championship of the season, and has become the first team on the Pro Circuit to secure a direct invite to TI8. There was little to fault VP for in its run through the Major, as the team made its way through the event with a level of brutal efficiency and strength that we’ve come to expect from the CIS powerhouse. The only thing that may be cause for the slightest bit of concern was its loss in the Group Stage to OpTic Gaming. The team’s loss of what was a near insurmountable lead is somewhat alarming, but the team largely made up for that with its 2-0 victory over OpTic Gaming in the Quarterfinals of the Playoff Stage. VP appears to be playing at the top of its game right now, but the question for the CIS leader is where it will go from here. With the team’s TI8 incite now locked in, the team had the luxury of no longer needing to participate in Pro Circuit events for the rest of the season. However, VP doesn’t appear to be the kind of squad to sit back and keep itself out of the action. The team may not need to concern itself with the Pro Circuit standings any longer, but the team is sure to want to continue testing itself and competing against the world’s best between now and the start of TI8 this summer. The team will have a few chances on the horizon to test its strength against the best teams on the Pro Circuit, as VP is scheduled to compete both at the DAC 2018 Major in March and the EPICENTER XL Major in April. With the team’s TI8 invite set in stone, the team could potentially let off the gas peddle a bit in the coming months. However, knowing VP, it seems more likely that removing the pressure of securing a TI invite will only motivate the team to perform at an even higher level moving forward.
Team Secret entered the Bucharest Major as one of the strongest and most accomplished team on the Pro Circuit, holding the 2nd place position on the standings. The team had been playing at one of the highest levels that we’ve seen on the Pro Circuit, and the team’s strong play this season had it on the verge of a significant milestone. The European powerhouse was just under 1800 Qualifying Points away from securing the first direct invite to TI8, meaning a 1st place finish would push the team over that mark and solidify its position for the rest of the season. With that goal tantalizingly close to being achieved, Team Secret came into the Major with a sense of purpose and determination. That coveted milestone wouldn’t be easily earned though, as Team Secret needed to overcome a field of formidable opponents in Bucharest.
The team began its run at the Major with a match against North American squad compLexity Gaming in the opening round of the Group Stage. The first 30 minutes of action saw both teams keep close as neither side could gain a definitive advantage over the other. However, Team Secret’s core duo of Ace’s Chaos Knight (14-5-12) and MidOne’s Death Prophet (18-6-13) helped lead a surge that gave the European squad the lead and control of the match as it claimed a win in the opening round. That initial victory moved Team Secret into the High Division in Round 2 of the Group Stage, where the team faced VGJ.Thunder. The Chinese squad punished Team Secret’s draft with early aggression and pressure that severely limited the effectiveness of its lineup. Team Secret found itself out killed 5-35 as the European squad conceded defeat to bring its record to 1-1. Round 3 of the Group Stage saw Team Secret face off against paiN Gaming, and the team fared significantly better against the South American squad than it did in its previous match. Behind big showings from Ace on Phantom Lancer (11-2-8) and Fata’s Bristleback (7-0-17), Team Secret took the lead early in the match and never looked back. The paiN Gaming lineup never seemed able to secure a advantageous fight, as Team Secret won the match and come just one more win away from a spot in the Playoff Stage. With the team back in the High Division in Round 4 of the Group Stage, Team Secret played OpTic Gaming with a Playoff spot on the line. Team Secret appeared to have the upper hand in this match, keeping relatively even in terms of kills but built up a sizable net worth lead that carried it into the late-game stage. From that point though, OpTic Gaming began to fight back, as it took a series of team fights that shifted the net worth advantage and the momentum into the North American squad’s favor. With the tables turned, OpTic Gaming looked to break Team Secret’s defenses and close out the game, but the European squad put together multiple incredible fights and managed to hold on to its base. With OpTic Gaming wiped out, Team Secret was able to secure the win and secure itself a place in the Playoff Stage. The team’s opponent in the Quarterfinal of the Playoff Stage was Chinese squad Newbee. Game 1 saw Team Secret draft a lineup with heavy team fight potential, as it picked up cores of Gyrocopter, Tiny, and Phoenix to go alongside Disruptor and Earthshaker. The lineup had potential on paper, but the execution proved too difficult for Team Secret to pull on consistently, as Newbee took steps to prevent the full power of Team Secret’s heroes from being utilized at once. Aside from an impressive fight around the 15 minute mark, Team Secret never found the full combo that it was looking for as it lost the opening match of the series. Game 2 did not go much better for the European squad, as its cores heroes were heavily pressured and harassed. That pressure limited the effectiveness of Team Secret’s cores, rendering its lineup incapable of dealing with the mass amounts of team fight power that Newbee was able to throw at it. Without any real way to contain or match the team fight strength of Newbee, Team Secret was forced to concede defeat, ending the series and ending Team Secret’s run at the Major with a 5th-8th place finish.
Team Secret’s final position outside of the Top 4 at the Bucharest Major may not be a massive shock, but its is definitely surprising considering how well the team had been playing to this point in the season. Coming into the event, Team Secret was projected to earn itself another Top 4 finish, but the European powerhouse fell just short of matching that prediction when all was said and done in Bucharest. The team put together a solid performance in the Group Stage, taking three wins in matches in which it stood as a heavy favorite. The team’s lopsided loss to VGJ.Thunder presents a small concern, as a team of Team Secret’s caliber should almost never be dismantled in the way that it did against the Chinese squad. Chinese opponents appeared to be Team Secret’s kryptonite at this event, as the team also lost its Quarterfinal series against Newbee 0-2. The loss may have been disappointing for Team Secret, but Newbee has proven itself as one of the Pro Circuit’s best squads, and losing that series is not an occurrence that should harm Team Secret’s standing moving forward. The team’s 5th-8th place finish marks the second straight event in which Team Secret has missed out on a Top 4 finish, but there doesn’t appear to be nay reason to panic just yet. The team is still playing at a ridiculously high level, and at this stage it would take a downward spiral of truly epic proportion to knock Team Secret out of its position among the elite squads on the Pro Circuit. With the team so close to securing a TI8 invite, it may be more frustrating to see Team Secret miss out on earning Qualifying Points at these last two events. However, the team will have plenty of opportunities to get itself over that final hurdle and punch its ticket to TI8 in the near future. The team will be participating in both the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor and the DAC 2018 Major later this month, and will also be competing at the EPICENTER XL Major in April. With so many chances to secure those last Qualifying Points on the horizon, it may just be a matter of time before Team Secret is locked in to a spot at The International 2018.
OG has been looking good so far in 2018, as the team headed into the Bucharest Major with a string of solid Pro Circuit performances and a solid track record in the European region behind it. The team’s streak of Top 4 finishes had come to an end at the recent ESL One Katowice Major, but its previous performances had the European squad on the cusp of reclaiming a position in the Top 8 of the Pro Circuit standings. With that goal of rejoining the Pro Circuit’s elite squads in mind, OG came into the Bucharest Major looking for a solid performance to push it over the hump and back into that coveted territory in the standings.
OG began its run at the Major with a match up against CIS squad Na’Vi in the opening round of the Group Stage. OG opted for a hard fighting and hard pushing lineup, drafting cores of Morhpling, Death Prophet, and Brewmaster to face down Na’Vi. The plan worked incredibly well, as OG quickly established control over the match and pushed ahead to a significant lead in the mid and late-games stages. Na’Vi would rally late in the match to make a small comeback, but OG’s lineup was quickly able to snuff out that surge and close out the win to begin its Group Stage run at 1-0. That win moved OG into the High Division for its Round 2 match, where the European squad faced Newbee. OG struggled significantly against the Chinese squad, as its heroes were pressured heavily in the early stages and its attempts at aggressive play were largely controlled and turned against it. With its core heroes largely ineffective and suffering in the face of Newbee’s pressure, OG was unable to hold off its opponent for long. Sccc led the way for the Chinese squad, as his Gyrocopter went 17-1-5 to help hand OG its first loss of the Major. OG’s struggles continued on into Round 3 of the Group Stage, where the team faced North American squad OpTiC Gaming. The European squad took a chance in its draft with a Visage selection for N0tail, but the pick proved to be ineffective. The Visage was heavily punished and pressured by OpTic Gaming’s lineup as the North American team built up a sizable lead from the very beginning of the match. Despite a solid effort from Resolut1on on Morphling (6-1-3), OG could secure only 10 kills as it took a wire-to-wire loss against OpTic Gaming. The loss put OG in the Low Division for the first time at the Major, where the team faced off against Southeast Asian squad Mineski in Round 4 of the Group Stage. The European squad again struggled to begin this match, falling behind throughout the first 40 minutes of play. However, the team fight power of OG finally came toghether when the team needed it most, and the squad turned the game around with a series of fantastic team fights that shattered the strength of Mineski. Behind a stunning performance from Resolut1on’s Dragon Knight (16-4-12, 27.5k net worth), OG closed out the game out killing its opponent 11-2 to complete a comeback win and move within one match of a Playoff berth. That final match for OG would be an all-European affair as the team faced off against defending TI7 Champion Team Liquid with a Playoff spot on the line. Once again, the team would rely on Resolut1on to carry them through, as his Death Prophet posted a stat line of 15-3-10 that allowed the team to come back from multiple deficits to seize the net worth advantage at around the 40 minute mark. Unfortunately for OG, it couldn’t maintain that momentum through the rest of the match. Team Liquid came back with two team fight wins that ended OG’s chances to win the game as the TI Champions closed out the victory. The loss ended OG’s run at the Major with a 2-3 Group Stage record, and earned the team a 9th-11th place finish.
OG came into the Bucharest Major looking for a solid showing to finish its march back into the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings. The team had been looking fantastic within its home region, posting consistent and impressive results against rival European teams. That regional success had been carrying over to the international stage as well for OG in recent times, as the team had been on a streak of Top 4 finishes prior to its appearance at the ELS One Katowice Major. Heading into the Buchares Major, the team was projected to finish within the 5th-8th range, with the potential to crack the Top 4 if the team could recapture its previous momentum and level of play. Instead, OG missed the mark of that prediction by a single game and failed to make it out of the Group Stage. The team looked solid in its wins agaisnt Na’Vi and Mineski, showing a level of composure and focus that was reminiscent of the team that rattled off those consecutive Top 4 finishes. The team’s losses to Newbee and Team Liquid were certainly disappointing, but not unexpected as OG still hasn’t hit the mark where it should be expected to take down the Pro Circuit’s elite squads. However, the loss to OpTic Gaming is particularly harmful for the squad. No disrespect to the North American squad, which stands with a plethora of talented and experienced players and could be poised to make a jump of its own in the near future, but if OG wants to claim that spot within the Top 8 rankings and be one of the elite teams on the Pro Circuit it has to be able to win that match up on the Major stage. The team’s performance at the Bucharest Major has some positives for OG, but overall it seems like a step back for the team in terms of its quest to reclaim that Top 8 position. Combine this performance with the team’s 7th-8th place finish at the ESL One Katowice Major, and OG could be heading towards a small decline as we sit near the mid-point of the season. OG will have plenty of opportunities to right the ship and show its strength on the Pro Circuit stage in the near future, as the team has three events on its schedule within the next few months. OG will be a participant at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor and the DAC 2018 Major later this month, and are also set to participate in the EPICENTER XL Major in April. With those opportunities on the horizon, OG has a solid chance to put these recent performances behind it and potentially begin a new streak of Top 4 finishes as it continues its quest to secure a position among the best team in the Dota 2 world.
It has been quite some time since Vega Squadron had last been on the Pro Circuit stage, and since that last showing the team has undergone some significant roster changes. With only two of its members having played on the roster that appeared at the Perfect World Masters Minor in 2017, the new look Vega Squadron had a lot to prove as it entered the Bucharest Major. With the team having fought and clawed its way through the CIS region to reach the Major, there was hope that its lineup would be able to make a strong impression playing alongside some of the Dota 2 world’s best squads.
Unfortunately for Vega Squadron that wasn’t meant to be, as the CIS squad faced a tough trio of opponents in the Swiss Style Group Stage. It opened Group Stage play with a match against on of the top teams on the Pro Circuit in Newbee. Vega Squadron drafted a solid lineup of initiators as well as farming and fighting cores, but it wasn’t enough to punch through the lineup of Newbee. Despite a solid performance from Palantimos on Gyrocopter (10-2-5), Vega Squadron was never able to build up much momentum as it lost its opening match. The team would see an all-CIS match up in the next round as it faced off against fellow 0-1 squad Na’Vi in the Lower Division. Vega Squadron opted for an Io strategy, picking up the support hero to compliment cores of Gyrocopter, Abaddon, and Tiny. While the strategy was able to find some small success early against Na’Vi’s support heroes, Vega Squadron was unable to significantly pressure the cores of its opponent. Dendi’s Death Prophet and Crystallize’s Lifestealer combined for a stat line of 15-2-23 with a combined net worth of 65k as Na’Vi handed Vega Squadron its second loss of the Group Stage. Wits its tournament life on the line, Vega Squadron would face yet another formidable opponent, as the CIS squad played Southeast Asian powerhouse Mineski in an elimination game in Round 3 of the Group Stage. Vega Squadron looked for a roaming, aggressive play style in its draft as it picked up support of Rubick and Bounty Hunter to go alongside a core trio of Queen of Pain, Broodmother, and Lifestealer. The aggressive plan didn’t play out well for the team initially, as its lineup was pressured heavily by Mineski. The Southeast Asian squad took a lead of over 7k net worth into the late game, but Vega Squadron refused to give up. The team put together a solid run late to seize the lead and rekindle hope of a comeback win. However, the power of Mineski’s lineup was too strong by that point, and the SEA squad closed out the win with a series of fights that sapped all of Vega Squadron’s strength away. With its third loss in the Group Stage, Vega Squadron was elimination from the Bucharest Major with a finish in the 15th-16th place position.
Vega Squadron’s poor finish at the Major is certainly a disappointing development, but it was one that was relatively expected. Coming into the event, the team was projected to finish in the 15th-16th place range, a prediction that the CIS squad couldn’t manage to overcome. While the team had been playing with its current roster for some time as stand-ins and substitutes, this was the first LAN action that the lineup in its current form had faced, and it was understandable for there to be weaknesses and growing pains. The CIS team didn’t get any favors from the Group Stage draws either, as Vega Squadron played all three of its matches against teams currently ranked within the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings. Within a Swiss System, the expectation is that a team’s opponents will get weaker the farther down a team falls, but for Vega Squadron this way not the case. Having to play against Newbee, Na’Vi, and Mineski is an ordeal that few teams would be able to overcome, and to expect it from a growing team like Vega Squadron would not have been reasonable. With that in mind, the CIS squad should likely feel encouraged by the performance that it managed against three of the Dota 2 world’s best squads, as the team was hardly a walkover in its Group Stage matches. The question for Vega Squadron now is where does the team go from here? The Bucharest Major was a harsh, but valuable test for the CIS team, but it may be some time before we get the chance to see the team compete again. There are currently no Pro Circuit qualifiers scheduled for the CIS region coming up, and Vega Squadron has not earned any additional spots at any upcoming Pro Circuit events. With the schedule a bit bare for Vega Squadron, it may be a long wait before the team gets the chance to put the lessons of the Bucharest Major to use in its home region.
Winnings: $200,000 (Total) & 450 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
VGJ.Thunder entered the Bucharest Major as a team that believed itself both ready and capable of contending with the top squads in the Dota 2 world. The team’s recent addition of Leong “ddc” Fat-meng gave it a veteran presence and a player with valuable experience on the international stage. The team’s acquisition of ddc had gotten the team on the board in the Pro Circuit standings, but the squad was looking to earn itself even more Qualifying Points the old fashioned way with a strong showing in Bucharest.
VGJ.Thunder began its campaign at the Bucharest Major with a match against its sister team Vici Gaming in the opening round of the Group Stage. VGJ.Thunder presented a wall of tanky heroes in its draft, picking up cores of Medusa, Death Prophet, and Underlord. Those cores helped the squad take and control tam fights and skirmishes early in the match that established a net worth advantage that Vici Gaming was never able to recover from. VGJ.Thunder allowed its opponent just six kills as it claimed a relatively quick and easy victory. That win allowed the team to move into the High Division in Round 2, where the Chinese squad would face European powerhouse Team Secret. VGJ.Thunder absolutely decimated its opponent, with Freeze’s Gyrocopter and Sylar’s Lycan combining for a stat line of 23-1-33 as their team out killed Team Secret 35-5. Having toppled two Top 8 ranked squads, VGJ.Thunder moved on to Round 3 of the Group Stage with a sense of confidence and a fair bit of momentum as the team faced Southeast Asian squad TNC Pro Team for a spot in the Playoff Stage. VGJ.Thunder went back to what it had found success with previously, relying on cores of Gyrocopter, Death Prophet, and Underlord. That trio fell flat against the lineup of TNC Pro Team though, as the Southeast Asian squad’s team fight power put VGJ.Thunder on the back foot. VGJ.Thunder trailed throughout the match, and at one point was down by over 30k net worth. However, the Chinese squad refused to surrender and Freeze made a last ditch effort to turn the tide with the purchase of a Divine Rapier. The extra damage on Gyrocopter helped the team take a favorable fight, and with few alternatives available to it, VGJ.Thunder went all on with the Gyrocopter. Freeze purchased two more Divine Rapiers, and the team marched down the middle lane and managed to wipe out TNC Pro Team in its own base to pull off an incredible comeback win that secured it a spot in the Playoff Stage. Coincidentally enough, VGJ.Thunder’s first opponent in the Playoff Stage happened to be its last opponent in the Group Stage, as the team faced TNC Pro Team again in a Bo3 rematch of its previous game. TNC Pro Team had its revenge in Game 1 of the series, as its core duo quickly snowballed out of control and VGJ.Thunder’s aggressive lineup was unable to do anything to slow them down. The Chinese squad manged to draw out the game a bit, but its comeback moment never materialized and the team conceded defeat in the opening match of the series. Game 2 saw VGJ.Thunder take a different approach to its draft, with the team relying on a core duo of Shadow Fiend and Weaver alongside aggressive supports in Rubick and Tusk. The lineup proved successful early, as the roaming supports made enough space to facilitate a strong start for the core heroes. With Freeze’s Shadow Fiend and Sylar’s Weaver combining for a stat line of 25-5-21, and the support duo of Fade and ddc racking up a total of 46 assists, VGJ.Thunder was able to even the series at 1-1 and force a decisive Game 3. That final match ended up being a walk-over for VGJ.Thunder, as Sylar’s Luna (16-0-3) didn’t die a single time and the team out killed TNC Pro Team 26-6 to finish the series and advance to the Semifinals. That Semifinal series saw VGJ.Thunder face another Chinese squad in the form of Newbee with the chance to play for the Major Championship one the line. Newbee came out aggressively in Game 1, pressuring VGJ.Thunder’s lineup early. However, VGJ.Thunder’s cores remained largely untouched by that aggression, and the core duo of Freeze on Shadow Fiend (11-5-10) and Sylar’s Luna (10-1-11) helped lead the team with a surge in the mid-game stage that gave it control of the match. With its momentum lost and its cores now out scaled by VGJ.Thunder’s lineup, Newbee called “gg” and surrendered Game 1 to its opponent. A similar story played out in Game 2 of the series, as Newbee again came out strong and built up an early lead. VGJ.Thunder was trailing for almost the entirety of the match, but a clutch team fight win around 35 minutes into the action turned the tide in its favor as Newbee presented a rare moment of weakness. VGJ.Thunder pushed down the middle lane looking to end the match one way or the other, and Newbee found itself unable to hold off that final advance to give VGJ.Thunder a 2-0 series sweep and a spot in the Grand Final. The team’s opponent in that final series was none other than two-time Major Champion Virtus.pro, as the Chinese squad faced a Bo5 series against the CIS powerhouse for a shot at the title of Major Champion. The series did not begin well for VGJ.Thunder, as the team was out killed 21-56 and failed to hold a net worth advantage in the first two matches of the series. With its chance for a Major Championship dwindling and its back against he wall, VGJ.Thunder looked to play a faster style in Game 3. The team drafted cores of Luna, Death Prophet, and Batrider alongside a support duo of Tusk and Disruptor. The lineup proved insufficient to turn around the course of the series, as VP’s mobile lineup utilized both its speed and burst damage to shut down VGJ.Thunder’s heroes and hand the Chinese squad an 0-3 loss. That sweep at the hands of VP ended VGJ.Thunder’s run at the Bucharest Major with a 2nd place finish.
VGJ.Thunder came into the Bucharest Major looking to make its mark on the Pro Circuit stage, and to say that the team was successful in that regard would be a massive understatement. Prior to the start of play at the event, VGJ.Thunder was projected to finish in the bottom half of the standings in the 9th-11th place range. That prediction proved to be wildly inaccurrate, as the team’s addition of ddc to the lineup sparked a massive increase both in the team’s confidence and in its level of play. The team’s clean sweep through the Group Stage was an incredibly impressive accomplishment, as the team not only defeated a regional rival in Vici Gaming, but took down a solid international opponent in TNC Pro Team and one of the titans of the Pro Circuit in Team Secret. Even more impressive was how well the team transitioned from the Bo1 matches in the Group Stage to the Bo3 series of the Playoff Stage. The team’s victories over TNC Pro Team and Newbee proved that its Group Stage performance was no fluke. The only real “drop off” that VGJ.Thunder went through was its Grand Final series against VP. The Chinese squad was simply out played by the CIS squad, but at this stage of the season no team can really be disparaged for losing a series to Virtus.pro. Overall, VGJ.Thunder’s performance at this event has to be considered an absolute triumph for the team, as it tore its way through the competition in Bucharest and into the Pro Circuit standings as a newly minted Top 8 squad. The addition of ddc to the roster appears to have sparked something in the rest of VGJ.Thunder’s roster, and the team’s high profile emergence onto the Pro Circuit stage sets the team up with a solid opportunity to solidify its position among the world’s best squads if it can maintain its new found momentum moving forward. The team will have a few chances to keep that ball rolling in the next month or so. VGJ.Thunder is a little over a week away from the China Qualifier for the EPICENTER XL Major, and will be participants at both the GESC: Indonesia Minor and the DAC 2018 Major later this month. We’ll see if VGJ.Thunder’s impressive performance in Bucharest was the start of long-term run for the Chinese squad, or if its 2nd place finish was just a flash in the pan.
TNC Pro Team
TNC Pro Team came into the Bucharest Major as a team that still had a few questions lingering around it. The team’s roster and positional changes earlier in 2018 had seen the team improve its performance within the Southeast Asian region, but it had yet to be determined how well the team could perform on the international level. With the team sitting in 12th place in the Pro Circuit standings prior to the start of the action in Bucharest, TNC Pro Team and its new-look lineup came into the Major in search of a quality performance to prove itself on the Pro Circuit stage and potentially climb up the rankings as well.
The team began its run at the Bucharest Major with a match up with a familiar face, as TNC Pro Team played against fellow SEA squad Mineski in the opening round of the Group Stage. TNC Pro Team opted for a lineup with a hefty level of team fight power, picking up cores of Gyrocopter, Puck, and Tidehunter to counter the fighting draft of Mineski. The plan worked to perfection, with Raven leading the way with his Gyrocopter (15-0-12) as TNC Pro Team dictated the pace of the match and controlled the fights with impressive execution. With Mineski’s principle plan stymied, the team was unable to slow down its opponent, as TNC Pro Team secured a win to begin its run at the Major. The Southeast Asian squad moved into the High Division in Round 2 of the Group Stage, where the team played against North American squad OpTic Gaming. The two teams remained neck and neck into the late-game stage, with neither squad holding a net worth lead of more than 3k prior to the 35 minute mark. At that point, TNC Pro Team began to take control of the fights and build up a more sizable net worth advantage. The team held off a late surge from OpTic Gaming to secure its victory behind a massive performance from Armel’s Shadow Fiend (22-2-13). That win kept the team in the High Division heading into Round 3, where the team faced Chinese squad VGJ.Thunder with a spot in the Playoff Stage on the line. The team received solid showings from Raven’s Juggernaut (9-3-5, 32.4k net worth) and Armel’s Puck (5-4-11, 32k net worth), as well as a valiant effort from Tims transitioning a support Naga Siren into a 34.2k net worth core. However, these performances weren’t enough to overcome VGJ.Thunder as the Chinese squad held the advantage from the start of the match to the very end. The loss dropped TNC Pro Team’s record to 2-1, and set the SEA Squad up for a match up with Virtus.pro in Round 4 of the Group Stage. Raven put together a solid game on Timbersaw (13-5-3) and Armel’s Gyrocopter kept pace in terms of net worth, put the rest of the squad struggled significantly against the CIS leader. With the team surrendering kills early and often, TNC Pro Team trailed throughout the match as VP claimed a win and dropped the Southeast Asian squad to a record of 2-2. The consecutive losses put TNC Pro Team’s back against the wall as the team was down to its final chance to advance in Round 5 of the Group Stage against Na’Vi. The match was close through the early and mid-game stages, as the two teams kept pace with each other and exchanged the net worth lead multiple times. In the end though, TNC Pro Team was able to rely on its core duo, as Armel’s Outworld Devourer and Raven’s Terrorblade combined for a stat line of 14-3-22 with a total net worth of just under 50k as the team took control in the late-game stage and closed out a clutch win to secure a spot in the Playoff Stage. The Quarterfinal of the Playoff Stage would see TNC Pro Team get a chance to earn some revenge, as the team played VGJ.Thunder in a Bo3 rematch of its first Group Stage loss. The Southeast Asian squad came out firing in Game 1, absolutely dominating the game as the team out killed VGJ.Thuner 40-9 behind incredible showings from Armel on Outworld Devourer (17-1-11) and Raven on Gyrocopter (13-0-18). TNC Pro Team may have drawn first blood with its Game 1 win, but VGJ.Thunder wouldn’t allow the SEA squad to carry any momentum over into Game 2. The Chinese team came out aggressively in this match, applying a level of early pressure that TNC Pro Team wasn’t ready for as it fell behind early and trailed throughout the match as VGJ.Thunder tied up the series 1-1. With the team facing the third and final match of the series, TNC Pro Team went for a draft meant to control team fights and scale into the late game. The SEA squad picked up a core duo of Gyrocopter and Shadow Fiend, adding in Earthshaker and Omniknight picks to facilitate more team fight power. The plan fell flat though, as VGJ.Thunder played a more fast paced and aggressive lineup led by Sylar’s Luna (16-0-3) that forced TNC Pro Team to play from behind from the very beginning of the match. With the Southeast Asian team able to secure just six kills in the game, TNC Pro Team fell to VGJ.Thunder 1-2 to end its run at the Major with a 5th-8th place finish.
TNC Pro Team came into the Bucharest Major looking for a solid performance to help its standings both within the Southeast Asian region and on the Pro Circuit. While the team didn’t manage to earn any Qualifying Points at the event, its run into the top half of the standings in Bucharest is surely an encouraging sign that the team is trending upwards. Coming into the Major, the team was projected to just barely miss the Playoff Stage entirely in the 9th-11th place range. The SEA squad was able to outperform that prediction in impressive fashion, putting together a respectable run despite falling just short of the mark for a Top 4 finish. The team got the chance to show its strength in the Group Stage, taking down formidable foes in OpTic Gaming and Na’Vi. However, the team’s win against Mineski has to have a special status for the team, as the squad showed its ability to overcome its biggest rival within the SEA region. The team’s losses to VP and VGJ.Thunder (0-1 Group Stage, 1-2 Playoff Stage) are not particularly harmful to the squad either. VP came into the Major as the top ranked team on the Pro Circuit, and VGJ.Thunder’s run through the the event made it a nightmare for any team to face up against. The strong performance from TNC Pro Team is a huge development for the squad moving forward, as the team now had proven that its new lineup can compete on the international stage. The key for the team will be to maintain this momentum and level of play both within its home region and in future Pro Circuit appearances. With Mineski looking somewhat shaky of late, the way could be open for a rival squad from the region to step up and make a run for that coveted position of regional leader in the coming months. TNC Pro Team’s next chance to spark that run will come later this month, as the team is set to participate at the DAC 2018 Major beginning March 29. We shall see if the Southeast Asian squad is able to capitalize on its solid performance in Bucharest and begin working towards climbing the ranks on the Pro Circuit.
North American squad OpTic Gaming came into the Bucharest Major with not a lot going its way in terms of its Pro Circuit standing. The team had emerged as one of the stronger teams within its home region, but success on the Pro Circuit level was proving more difficult to come by. With 0 Qualifying Points to its name coming into the event, OpTic Gaming was looking for an opportunity to prove itself on the international level and finally get on the board in the Pro Circuit standings with a strong performance in Bucharest.
The team began its run at the Major with a match up against Virtus.pro in the opening round of the Group Stage. The CIS powerhouse dominated the game nearly all the way through, but OpTic Gaming wasn’t willing to give up. Led by Pajkatt’s Gyrocopter (11-1-10, the North American team pulled off a absolutely incredible series of team fight victories that crippled the unprepared VP lineup and allowed OpTic Gaming to secure a massive comeback win in its first game of the Major. That initial win moved OpTic Gaming into the High Division for its Round 2 match up, where the team faced Southeast Asian squad TNC Pro Team. OpTic Gaming drafted a core trio of Templar Assassin, Gyrocopter, and Tiny in this match, and that trio kept the team relatively even with its opponent through the first 30 minutes of the match. From that point though, the North American squad started to lose control, as Armel’s Shadow Fiend (22-2-13) led TNC Pro Team to a sizable advantage in the late-game stage. Despite a late surge from OpTic Gaming’s lineup, the team was unable to hold back the advance of its SEA opponent, dropping the match and falling to 1-1 in the Group Stage. Round 3 gave the team a chance to bounce back with a match against European squad OG, and OpTic Gaming would make the most of that opportunity. The team came out aggressively in this match, challenging the OG lineup early and often and continuously building up its net worth lead over the course of the game. OG’s cores were largely contained and limited, as the European squad was never able to mount a significant comeback effort to give OpTic Gaming its second Group Stage win. With the team one more victory away from a spot in the Playoff Stage, the squad faced another formidable foe in the form of Team Secret in Round 4 of the Group Stage. Early on it appeared that the European powerhouse would be able to secure a relatively easy win, as OpTic Gaming found itself trailing in the net worth department by a significant margin. However, the North American squad managed to turn the tide around the 49 minute mark, taking a strong team fight win that turned the tide of the match. With both the net worth and significant momentum on its side, OpTic Gaming looked to close out an incredible comeback victory. Unfortunately, Team Secret wouldn’t go down without a fight, and OpTic Gaming found itself the victim of the European squad’s fury as it was wiped out multiple times to stop its advance dead in its tracks and secure a victory for Team Secret. With that loss, OpTic Gaming was down to its last chance in the Group Stage, as it faced fellow North American team compLexity Gaming in Round 5 for one of the last Playoff Stage spots. OpTic Gaming dominated this final match, with Pajkatt leading the way once again on Morphling (10-0-5) as the team held compLexity Gaming to just nine kills in a completely one sided victory. With that win, OpTic Gaming advanced to the Playoff Stage, but it would face a Virtus.pro squad in the Quarterfinal that was eager to earn its revenge for the loss OpTic Gaming handed it in the Group Stage. Game 1 of the series began well for the North American team, as its core Death Prophet and Troll Warlord found early farm. Unfortunately, the team’s strategy fell apart in the mid-game stage as 33’s Legion Commander proved largely ineffective and the team’s maneuvers with Io were mostly unsuccessful. Without the strength to combat the power of VP’s lineup, OpTic Gaming couldn’t hold its base as the CIS squad claimed victory in the opening match of the series. Game 2 proved to be more of the same for OpTic Gaming, as its lineup was pressured and kept off balance by VP’s early aggression and team fight strength. OpTic Gaming held a net worth lead for only around a minute in this match, as VP dominated the game to complete an 0-2 sweep of the North American squad and end its run at the Major with a 5th-8th place finish.
OpTic Gaming came into the Bucharest Major looking for a chance to prove that it could compete with the Pro Circuit’s best teams, and the squad did just that at this event. Prior to the start of the action at the Major, OpTic Gaming was projected to miss the Playoff Stage entirely with a 12th-14th place finish, but the North American team was able to outperform that meager prediction and then some. Though the team needed all five matches to get through the Group Stage, the team proved that it could compete with and even defeat some of the world’s most formidable squads. The team’s victories over Virtus.pro and OG were just the kind of wins over international opponents that the team had been lacking to this point. Combine that with the victory over regional rival compLexity Gaming in the Group Stage to secure a Playoff Stage spot, and things went about as well as the team could have hoped for. The fact that OpTic Gaming couldn’t get past VP a second time in the Quarterfinal when the series shifted to a Bo3 format is no real surprise, as few teams on the Pro Circuit have a significant chance of overcoming the CIS leader and now first direct invitee to TI8. The team’s Group Stage losses to Team Secret and TNC Pro Team shouldn’t weight the team down much either, as both of those squads joined OpTic Gaming in the top half of the standings at the Major. The only real downside for OpTic Gaming at this Major is that the team’s solid performance still left it short of the mark for a Top 4 finish and the team’s first Qualifying Points of the season. Because of that, the team remains unranked in the Pro Circuit standings, but if the squad can continue to play at the level that it just showed in Bucharest, then that problem should be solved in the near future. The squad is still one of the strongest teams within the North American region, and this performance on the Pro Circuit stage has shown that the team is capable of replicating that regional success on the international level as well. Now, its just a matter of opportunity and consistency for OpTic Gaming as it looks to finally break through and claim a place in the standings. The question of opportunity has already been handled for the team, as OpTic Gaming is set to participate in the DAC 2018 Major later this month. As for the consistency, we’ll have to wait and see how the North American squad handles that challenge as the season continues.
South American squad paiN Gaming presented something of an enigma heading in to the Bucharest Major. The team had seen its fair share of roster issues and instability, but overall it had been performing well within the South American region. However, the squad was struggling to find success on the international level just like every South American team has seemed to struggle so far this season. Heading into this event though, the team had some small hope that it could put together a stronger run due to the addition of Aliwi “w33” Omar of Going In as a stand-in. With the European star on the roster for the duration of the Major, paiN Gaming was looking to take a step forward and compete with the world’s best teams in Bucharest.
PaiN Gaming started out its run at the Bucharest Major with a rather difficult test, as the South American squad faced off against North American powerhouse Evil Geniuses in the opening round of the Group Stage. The team drafted a core trio of Venomancer, Phantom Lancer, and Tiny, but it was quickly apparent that EG had no intention of letting its opponent ease into the match in the early going. Despite a few early kills going its way, paiN Gaming was largely pressured and harassed by the more aggressive and sustainable lineup of EG. Without the benefit of a safe environment to farm, paiN Gaming’s lineup was out scaled and largely ineffective as the team took its first loss of the Group Stage. It appeared that the team was in for another uphill battle in Round 2, as paiN Gaming faced Chinese leader Vici Gaming in a Low Division match. The South American squad came out firing with a strong team fight lineup headlined by Death Prophet, Enigma, and Gyrocopter. The team came out with an aggressive strategy that Vici Gaming wasn’t prepared to face, as the Chinese squad struggled to hold its on in the early fights that paiN Gaming was forcing with its lineup. The aggression gave paiN Gaming a sizable lead, and with Vici Gaming’s timings thrown off due to the early fights, the Chinese squad was never able to recover as paiN Gaming pulled off an impressive win to even its record at 1-1. The win put paiN Gaming on a collision course with European squad Team Secret in Round 3 of the Group Stage. The South American squad opted for a somewhat different draft in this match, picking up cores of Weaver, Visage, and Slardar to combat an Io draft from Team Secret. The strategy fell flat in the match, as paiN Gaming was able to secure a good number of kills against Team Secret’s draft, but was never able to out farm or out scale its European opponents. Eventually, the lineup of Team Secret became too much for paiN Gaming’s heroes to overcome as it lacked the damage to punch through the tough front line of the European team. The loss dropped paiN Gaming back down into the Low Division, where the team would face Na’Vi in an elimination match on the final day of the Group Stage. The South American squad looked to replicate the draft and strategy that had helped it defeat Vici Gaming, picking up the same heroes save for a Monkey King pick to replace the banned Gyrocopter. The strategy appeared to be working for paiN Gaming once again, as the team held a modest lead in the late-game stage. However, Na’Vi was able to rely on Crystallize’s Terrorblade pick to carry them through, as the CIS squad turned around a huge fight around the Roshan pit to seize momentum and eventually secure a comeback win that knocked paiN Gaming out of the tournament. With its 1-3 finish in the Group Stage, paiN Gaming ended its run at the Bucharest Major with a finish in the 12th-14th place range.
PaiN Gaming was not expected to do well at the Bucharest Major, but the team’s performance in the Group Stage was an impressive display for the South American squad. Sure, the team still finished near the lower end of the standings overall, but the team’s matches in Bucharest showed a level of competitiveness that was somewhat lacking in some of its previous attempts. Coming into the Bucharest Major, paiN Gaming was projected to finish in the 15th-16th place position, a rather grim prediction that the team was able to outperform, if only just. The fact that the team was able to pull out a surprise victory over Vici Gaming is a monumental accomplishment for the squad, and its near victory over Na’Vi in its last match has to have been a massively encouraging sign for the team moving forward. However, with all of these positives comes a significant caveat for paiN Gaming, as the South American squad played with w33 on the roster at this event. While Gabriel “Rayuur” Pinheiro, the team’s rostered mid-laner, could certainly bring a significant amount of talent to the team’s roster, he can’t match the international experience that w33 brought to the table. The temporary addition of a star European player no doubt lifted paiN Gaming to a level that the team with its usual roster may not be able to emulate on a regular basis. With that in mind, fans and analysts need to be ready for an almost inevitable drop off in play from the team compared to what we just saw at the Major. The big question for paiN Gaming is how well the squad will respond and move forward as a team without w33 in the picture, and Dota 2 fans will have quite a few chances to see that in the coming weeks. PaiN Gaming is scheduled to compete in the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor in under two weeks, and will be a participant at the DAC 2018 Major the week after that. With those significant opportunities to perform on the Pro Circuit stage in its future, we’ll see just how much paiN Gaming can learn and take away from its performance in Bucharest.