A Recurring Dream(League): Pro Circuit returns to Sweden for 2nd DreamLeague event of season.
As we approach the end of another month, the Pro Circuit season is heating up as we move ever closer to this year’s iteration of The International. Just days removed from the end of the GESC: Indonesia Minor, the Dota 2 world turns its eyes to Scandinavia once more for another Pro Circuit event in the form of the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor. Organized by DreamHack as part of its DreamLeague series of tournaments, this Minor will be the second DreamLeague event of the season following the DreamLeague Season 8 Major back in December. Running from the 21st through the 25th, the Minor is set to bring eight Pro Circuit teams to the Monster Energy DreamHack Studios in Stockholm, Sweden for a chance to show their strength on the international stage. At stake for those eight participating teams is an opportunity to be crowned Minor Champion and lay claim to a share of prize pools of $300,000 USD and 300 Qualifying Points. The distribution of those prize pools among the participants can be seen below.
1st: $125,000 (Total) & 150 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
2nd: $70,000 (Total) & 90 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
3rd: $30,000 (Total) & 45 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
4th: $30,000 (Total) & 15 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
5th-6th: $15,000 (Per Team)
7th-8th: $7,500 (Per Team)
With the prize pool information sorted out, we can take a look at the format for the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor. After seeing some new tournament formats over the last few months, the setup for this Minor is refreshingly simple and straightforward in comparison. The event will not feature a Group Stage, moving all eight of the teams directly into one double elimination bracket. All series within the bracket will be played in a Bo3 format except for the Grand Finals which will feature a Bo5 series.
At this point in the season, Pro Circuit Minors may not have the same sort of dramatic weight and potential to shake up the standings as Majors, but that doesn’t make them any less important for the participating teams. The field of squads that will be playing in Stockholm features an interesting mix of teams in terms of Pro Circuit experience and success. The field of eight teams includes three squads (Team Secret, Team Liquid, Newbee) that are currently ranked ranked within the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings. Two squads (Team Empire, paiN Gaming) are still searching for their first Qualifying Points of the season, while three others (OG, Fnatic, Immortals) have ranks in the standings but sit outside of the Top 8. Of those three teams, one of them (OG) has made itself ineligible for a direct invite to TI8 or the TI8 Europe Qualifier by making a roster change after the official roster lock. With that much variety in the participants, every team has something to play for as these squads look to show their strength at the Minor. With that being said, the time has come to take a look at where each of these eight squads stacks up as they prepare for the start of the action in Stockholm.
- Please note that the “projected finishes” for each team are my own predictions and do not constitute any official or necessarily objective ranking based upon specific statistics or data.
Qualification: Direct Invite
Pro Circuit Rank: 3rd (4260 Qualifying Points)
1. Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard
2. Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng
3. Adrian “Fata” Trinks
4. Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat
5. Clement “Puppey” Ivanov (Captain)
Projected Finish: Top 4
Team Secret comes into the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor in one of the strongest positions on all of the Pro Circuit. The team stands in 3rd overall in the Pro Circuit standings, and its domination of the European region is all but unquestionable at this point in the season. The team has seen its fair share of success on the Pro Circuit so far this season, but the European squad is still hunting that goal of securing a direct invite to TI8. CIS squad Virtus.pro has already reached that mark this season, but Team Secret still have a small ways to go to join it, with the team needing around 1600 more Qualifying Points. The prize pool of this Minor won’t provide the team with enough Qualifying Points to reach that milestone outright, but a strong performance in Stockholm will help bring the team ever closer to its goal of making it to Vancouver for TI8.
It hasn’t been too long since Dota 2 fans last saw Team Secret on the Pro Circuit stage, as the European squad participated in The Bucharest Major just a little over a week ago. The team posted a 3-1 record in the Group Stage that earned it a place in the Playoff Bracket, but unfortunately fell 0-2 to Chinese squad Newbee to miss out on a Top 4 spot with a 5th-8th place finish. That performance for Team Secret marked the second straight event in which the team came one series away from a Top 4 finish, as the team lost a Playoff Stage series to Team Liquid to finish in the 5th-6th place position at the ESL One Katowice Major at the end of February. Back to back close misses on the Pro Circuit stage may be concerning for some, but Team Secret has a solid foundation of quality performances on the international stage to fall back on, particularly in 2018. The team’s two Pro Circuit appearances prior to this recent duo of Majors resulted in finishes in the shared 3rd-4th place position at ESL One Genting and 1st at the Captains Draft 4.0 Minor. So, while the team has not been able to lock down a Top 4 spot at its previous two Pro Circuit appearances, it’s performance on the international level in 2018 has it constantly in a position to challenge for one of those positions. Earlier in this profile, Team Secret’s dominant performance in the European region was mentioned as one of the myriad assets that the team has accumulated this season. In 2018 though, Team Secret has not been a factor in European qualifiers, though for a wholly positive reason. The team has not been performing well in European qualifiers this year because it has not needed to compete in them at all. The team has been directly invited to all four of its Pro Circuit events so far in 2018, and has already received an additional three direct invites to future events on the Pro Circuit schedule. With the team so close to guaranteeing its invite to TI8, the likelihood that the team will need to see action in another regional qualifier this season are growing smaller and smaller. With that kind of influence and strength on the Pro Circuit, Team Secret had to come into this Minor with an incredible sense of confidence in its abilities.
Team Secret enters the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor looking for another stepping stone on its path to securing an invite to The International 2018. Coming into the event itself, Team Secret is considered to be one of the favorites to win, with the European squad projected to finish somewhere within the Top 4 range in Stockholm. The team has been consistent and strong on the Pro Circuit stage, despite falling just short of Top 4 finishes in its previous two appearances. That consistent production on the international level has made the need to perform in its home region irrelevant for Team Secret, but even without those matches the squad is one of the most formidable squads in Europe and on the Pro Circuit as a whole. The path to a Top 4 finish for Team Secret is pretty simple in Stockholm, though simplicity doesn’t necessarily imply that the path won’t be difficult. The team opens up its run at the Minor with a series against Team Empire, a squad that Team Secret should be heavily favored against on paper. Should the team be able to handle business against the CIS squad, then its next opponent will most likely be Newbee in a Bo3 series with a Top 4 spot on the line. Team Secret is probably slightly favored in that match up, but it would still be anyone’s series to take. If it wins, Team Secret is locked into a Top 4 finish, but otherwise it would fall to the lower bracket for a series against what most likely will be one of a trio including paiN Gaming, OG, and Fnatic, all of whom Team Secret should be expected to defeat in a Bo3 series. Regardless of the match up, Team Secret will more than likely be considered the favorite across its first two or potentially three series of the Minor. That being said, no team is invincible on the Pro Circuit stage, and a drop off in play or an underestimation of its opponent could throw Team Secret’s favorable path off into a more difficult scenario. However, based upon the team’s performance to this point in the season, that outcome lies more in the “worst case scenario” department as opposed to the realm of reasonable expectations. If all goes according to plan for Team Secret, then expect to see the European squad in the Top 4 and potentially fighting for another Minor Championship at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor.
Qualification: Direct Invite
Pro Circuit Rank: 2nd (4635 Qualifying Points)
1. Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen
2. Lee “Heen” Seung Gon (Stand-in)
3. Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov
4. Maroun “GH” Merhej
5. Kuro Salehi “KuroKy” Takhasomi (Captain)
Projected Finish: Top 4
- After the original posting of this preview Team Liquid announced that Heen, the team’s coach, will be standing in for Miracle- at the event.
At a certain point, it becomes almost difficult to find something new to saw about Team Liquid, as the Dota 2 world is running out of superlatives to layer upon the defending TI7 Champion. Team Liquid has been superhuman so far this season, with the European squad decimating its competition with a level of brutal efficiency and consistency that borders on the unreal. The team comes into the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor in 2nd place overall in the Pro Circuit standings, and is just around 1200 Qualifying Points away from securing its invite to TI8 and a chance to repeat as world champions. The team’s streak of Top 4 finishes remains intact as the team heads to Stockholm, with the European squad having seen action in eight straight Pro Circuit events without ever finishing outside of the Top 4. With that kind of flawless consistency, it’s hard to believe that the team won’t be able to keep that streak alive at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor.
Team Liquid’s last appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came a little over a week ago, when the defending TI7 Champion was one of the sixteen participants at The Bucharest Major. The team faced a few difficulties in the Group Stage of the event, needing all five rounds of the Swiss Format system to secure its Playoff Stage spot with a 3-2 record. However, once it reached the Playoff Stage, the European squad showed its strength by defeating Evil Geniuses to secure itself a Top 4 spot. The Semifinals saw it lose 1-2 to eventual Major Champion Virtus.pro, but the team’s performance still earned it its eighth straight Top 4 finish on the Pro Circuit. The team hasn’t seen any action on the international level since the conclusion of that Major, but one just has to look back over the last few months to see how dominant the squad has been on the Pro Circuit. Just a week prior to the Bucharest Major, the European squad finished 3rd at the ESL One Katowice Major, and earned 1st and 2nd place finishes at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor and the ESL One Genting Minor before that. As previously mentioned, the team has earned Top 4 finishes at every single Pro Circuit event that it has attended so far this season. That kind of efficiency and consistency has not been matched by any other team this season, as even TI8 invitee Virtus.pro has had finishes outside of the Top 4 at points this season. With the team playing so well on the international stage, one would think that its performance within its home region would be just as strong. However, that isn’t the case for Team Liquid, but not for the reason one might assume. The team’s performance within the European region in 2018 has been nonexistent because the squad had not had any need to play in regional qualifiers. Team Liquid has been directly invited to every Pro Circuit event it has attended in 2018, and has actually only needed to play in a single regional qualifier all season long (DreamLeauge Season 8 Europe & CIS Qualifier). When a team no longer has a need to participate in regional competition, it is a sure sign that it is one of the most formidable and powerful teams in the world.
Team Liquid makes its way to Stockholm with the goal of drawing ever closer to the Qualifying Point total needed to secure its invite to TI8. The team will also be attempting to keep alive one of the most impressive streaks in the Dota 2 world with what would be its ninth straight Top 4 finish on the Pro Circuit. Coming into the Minor, the team is heavily favored to do just that with a projection safely within the Top 4 range. Dota 2 fans have yet to see any significant drop off in play from Team Liquid, and the likelihood of one occurring at this event is incredibly small. The team’s path to success at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor is one of the more straightforward and simple among the field of participants in Stockholm. The team will open up play at the Minor with what is probably the most one-sided match up of the entire event, at least on paper. The team will start its run with a Bo3 series against South American squad paiN Gaming in a match up that Team Liquid should win with relative ease. Barring a miraculous performance from paiN Gaming, Team Liquid should advance to the next round to play the winner of the OG/Fnatic series. While those two teams may be in higher standing than pain Gaming, Team Liquid will be still a heavy favorite against either squad, and a win in that series would lock the European leader into a Top 4 spot at the Minor. Of course, the possibility of a standout performance from one of its opponents could throw that previously described scenario into chaos. However, unless Team Liquid are upset early and another top squad like Newbee or Team Secret also suffer a setback, the likelihood that the team encounters a match up in which it is not significantly favored are almost indescribably low. Barring an absolute meltdown from the most consistent team on the Pro Circuit or one of the most well executed and inspired performances of the season from an underdog squad, Team Liquid should have few issues keeping its streak of Top 4 finishes alive in Stockholm and closing ever closer with that coveted TI8 invite.
Qualification: Europe Qualifier Winner
Pro Circuit Rank: 10th (630 Qualifying Points) (Ineligible for TI invite)
1. Johan “N0tail” Sundstein
2. Sébastien “7ckngMad” Debs (Stand-in)
3. Gustav “s4” Magnusson
4. Jesse “jerAx” Vainikka
5. Tal “Fly” Aizik (Captain)
Projected Finish: 5th-6th
European squad OG made headline news in the Dota 2 world recently, though not necessarily for the reason one might have expected. Following back to back lackluster performances at the ESL One Katowice Major and the Bucharest Major, the team felt the need for a change. That change came in the form of the team parting ways with its midlaner, Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok. The team has elected to use its coach, Sébastien “7ckngMad” Debs, as a stand-in until a new player is added to the lineup, but this issue extends beyond the problem of finding a new player to fit the roster. The removal of Resolut1on from the lineup constitutes a roster change past the official roster lock period, which makes OG ineligible to receive an invite to TI8 or to the TI8 Regional Qualifiers. With the team resigned to a run through the Open Qualifiers, many fans may be down on the team as it enters this Minor. While OG won’t benefit from any Qualifying Points it may earn in Stockholm, the fact remains that the European squad has a valuable opportunity to test itself against some of the Pro Circuit’s leading squads in preparation for that potential Open Qualifier run this summer.
OG’s last appearance on the Pro Circuit came just a few weeks ago at The Bucharest Major. The team posted a 2-3 Group Stage record, defeating Na’Vi and Mineski but falling to Newbee, Team Liquid, and OpTic Gaming. Unfortunately for OG, that record was not enough to advance the squad into the Playoff Stage, ending its run at the event with a finish in the 9-11th range. With the team’s last Pro Circuit appearance being so recent, OG has not had the opportunity to participate in any further events, but we can see how the team has performed on the international level of late. In 2018, the team has participated in three Pro Circuit events, earning a Top 4 finish in one of them (Captains Draft 4.0 Minor). OG has been able to find a measure of success on the international level outside of the Pro Circuit as well, with the team placing 4th at the Galaxy Battles II event at the end of January. The team may be having some issues with consistency on the international level, but the team’s performance within the European region is as stable and consistent as possible. In 2018, OG has participated in six Pro Circuit qualifiers and has one every single one of them. That level of domination in a region is the kind of asset that any team would covet. and OG has been able to take advantage of its multitude of opportunities to earn itself spot at quite a few Pro Circuit events. The problem is that the team’s roster change makes it unable to make use of any Qualifying Points that it may earn at those events. Even with that obstacle, OG has been putting together impressive performances at home, and has the potential to get back to its winning ways on the international level if it can manage a solid run in Stockholm.
Coming into this Minor, many Dota 2 fans may be somewhat confused as to where OG stands in terms of its position on the Pro Circuit. The team’s roster change makes it ineligible for direct invites to TI8 and the TI8 Regional Qualifiers, but it remains one of the stronger teams in the European region. Entering the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor, OG is projected to finish in the 5th-6th place position, with the potential to move up with a strong performance in Stockholm. The team’s use of a stand-in for this event is a small concern for it at the Minor, but if anyone would be familiar with the team’s play style and strategy, it would be its coach. Hopefully, 7ckngMad’s addition to the lineup allows the team to maintain a high level of play at this event as it looks to crack the Top 4. The team will face a critical match up right off the bat in the bracket, as OG will play Fnatic in its opening series. The two squads are for the most part evenly matched in that series, and a win for OG against the Southeast Asian team would set it up for a potentially more favorable path to a Top 4 finish. Of course, the fact that OG’s Qualifying Point total no longer matters changes how the squad and its fans should look at the team’s performance at this event. More important than the team’s final placement in Stockholm will be how it holds up against the other squads in the field and whether it can maintain a level of strong and confidence play on the international level. The difference between a 4th or a 5th place finish won’t be a concern for OG as much as its record and the quality of its games. OG may no longer be a contender for a Top 8 rank, but every Pro Circuit event that it participates in will help the European squad test itself and prepare for its Open Qualifier run.
Qualification: CIS Qualifier Winner
Pro Circuit Rank: Not Ranked (0 Qualifying Points)
1. Alexander “Nix” Levin
2. Rostislav “fn” Lozovoi
3. Andrey “Ghostik” Kadyk
4. Maxim “yoky-“ Kim
5. Yaroslav “Miposhka” Naidenov (Captain)
Projected Finish: 5th-6th
It has been a somewhat quiet season to this point for Team Empire, as the CIS squad has yet to find success on the Pro Circuit stage. After the team’s run at TI7, many were expecting the team to emerge as one of the leaders in the CIS region this season, but Team Empire has dragged its feet a bit on that front. The DreamLeague Season 9 Minor will be the team’s third Pro Circuit appearance of the season, as Team Empire continues to search for its first Qualifying Points of the season. The team has come close to the mark for a Top 4 finish in the past, but this time the CIS squad is determined to finally break through even in the face of a formidable field of opponents in Stockholm.
The last time Dota 2 fans saw Team Empire on the Pro Circuit stage was back at the beginning of February at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor in Shanghai. that event was the first Pro Circuit LAN the team played with Alexander “Nix” Levin, who would later join the roster as a full-time member of the team. The team put together a respectable 4-5 record in the Group Stage, coming up just short of a Top 4 finish after a 1-2 series loss to Mineski to finish in the shared 5th-6th place position. That Minor was the only international event that Team Empire participated in with its current lineup, but the squad did make other appearances outside of the CIS region prior to adding Nix to the roster. The team had a forgettable appearance at the Captains Draft 4.0 Minor in January in which it failed to win a single game and finished in the 5th-8th place position. Outside of the Pro Circuit, Team Empire has found some measure of success on the international level with a 3rd place finish at the combined Europe and CIS MID.TV Challenge Cup. The picture for Team Empire on the international level is not quite as encouraging as it could be, but its results within the CIS region are somewhat better. Across the whole of the 2018 section of the season so far, Team Empire has participated in five Pro Circuit qualifiers and earned Top 4 finishes in three of them. If one narrows that time frame down to the team’s performance after the addition of Nix to the lineup, then those numbers become two Top 4 finishes in just three attempts. Those two Top 4 marks where 1st place finishes, one of which earned the team its spot at this Minor while the other qualified it for the upcoming EPICENTER XL Major in April. Those results at home have Team Empire trending in the right direction, but the CIS squad will have to show that it is capable of getting things done on the Pro Circuit stage.
Team Empire enters the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor looking to bring its Pro Circuit drought to an end and earn its first Qualifying Points of the season. Coming into the event, Team Empire is projected to finish within the 5th-6th place range, falling just short of a Top 4 spot for the second event in a row. There are multiple reasons for that prediction, not all of which are necessarily directly tied to Team Empire itself. First and foremost, the team has not been the most consistent or confident squad on the international level. The team certainly has the talent and experience to compete on the Pro Circuit, but its performances across its two Minor appearances so far have varied wildly. Should the team remain confidence and composed then it is more than capable of competing at this event, but its hard to be certain whether or not the team will have that poise and focus in Stockholm. Team Empire won’t just have to worry about its own play at this event, as the field of eight teams contains three squads in Team Liquid, Team Secret, and Newbee that are ranked number 2, 3, and 4 in the Pro Circuit standings respectively. While it’s possible that Team Empire manages to defeat one of those squads to take their expected Top 4 spot, it seems far more likely that the CIS squad aims for the final Top 4 spot and hopes to avoid any of those power house teams. Unfortunately for Team Empire, it will have to play at least one series against one of the favorites of the tournament, as the CIS squad plays Team Secret in its opening series. Should Team Empire manage to pull off the upset and win that series, it would likely face another daunting opponent in the Semifinals in the form of Newbee. If the CIS squad were to lose either of those series, it would end up in the lower bracket where it would be more likely to avoid those three Pro Circuit leaders but would have no further room for error to avoid elimination from the event. The path to success will be difficult for Team Empire, but there are multiple scenarios that put the team in favorable circumstance and give it the opportunity to prove itself against Pro Circuit competition. The question for Team Empire is whether it is ready to take that next step and get itself on the board in the Pro Circuit standings with a strong showing in Stockholm.
Qualification: China Qualifier Winner
Pro Circuit Rank: 4th (2175 Qualifying Points)
1. Xu “Moogy” Han
2. Song “Sccc” Chun
3. Damien “kpii” Chok
4. Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi
5. Zeng “Faith” Hongda (Captain)
Projected Finish: Top 4
Newbee comes into the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor having recently reclaimed its traditional position as the top ranked team in the Chinese region. However, that status as China’s leading team is far from secure, as Newbee leads fellow Chinese squad Vici Gaming by just 15 Qualifying Points. If the team wants to avoid losing that position a second time, then it will need to take advantage of opportunities to earn Qualifying Points, especially at an event like this one in which it stands as a significantly favored squad in the field of participants. The Qualifying Point pool of a Minor doesn’t always have the impact to drastically effect the Pro Circuit standings, but Newbee doesn’t necessarily need a significant change so much as it is looking for breathing room and a buffer between itself and its regional rivals. In that regard, this Minor provides the team a crucial opportunity to reaffirm its strength on the Pro Circuit while also establishing that distance between itself and the other Chinese squads in the standings.
Newbee’s last Pro Circuit appearance came a little over a week ago, as the Chinese squad participated in The Bucharest Major. The team posted a solid 3-2 record in the Swiss Format Group Stage that advanced it to the Playoff Stage with limited issues. In the Playoff Stage, the team won a 2-0 victory over Team Secret before losing out 0-2 to fellow Chinese squad VGJ.Thunder to finish in the shared 3rd-4th place position in Bucharest. Since then, the team has not played any other international matches, but Newbee’s performance at The Bucharest Major was indicative of the Chinese squad’s performance as a whole on the Pro Circuit level in 2018. Since the beginning of the year, Newbee has participated in four Pro Circuit events and has claimed a Top 4 finish in three of them. The only stumble among those performances was a 7th-8th place finish at the ESL One Katowice Major in February where the team lost 0-2 to Evil Geniuses to miss out on a spot in the Playoff Stage. Three Top 4 finishes in four attempts though is a level of consistency on the international that few teams on the Pro Circuit can match, which is one of the main reasons why Newbee sits near the top of the Pro Circuit standings coming into this Minor. The team’s success on the Pro Circuit stage has limited Newbee’s need to participate in regional qualifiers, as it has been receiving a significant number of direct invites to events in 2018. However, the team has seen some regional action this year in the form of two Pro Circuit qualifiers. In both cases, Newbee managed to finish in the Top 4, including a 1st place finish in the China Qualifier for this DreamLeague Season 9 Minor. The team is also involved in the Top Division of the ongoing Dota 2 Professional League in China, in which Newbee currently has a 1-1-1 series record (3-3 overall). That league has some significant Pro Circuit implications attached to it as well, as the 1st-3rd place teams will receive spots at the upcoming MDL Changsha Major. With the Pro Circuit hitting the back half of its schedule, Newbee’s consistent production at home and on the international level will be an invaluable asset for it as it looks to secure both its position in its regional hierarchy and an invite to TI8.
Newbee enters the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor with a position as one of the Pro Circuit’s leading teams, and the action in Stockholm isn’t going to change that. However, that doesn’t mean that the Chinese squad won’t be looking to benefit itself with a strong showing at this event. Coming into the Minor, Newbee is projected to finish within the Top 4 and claim another bounty of Qualifying Points to add to its total. The team has looked consistently strong on the Pro Circuit stage, and aside from fellow Top 8 ranked squads Team Secret and Team Liquid, there are no other teams in the field in which Newbee wouldn’t be considered a favorite against. With that being said, we can take a look at the team’s path, or at least its most likely path, to success at the Minor. The team will open play at the event with a Bo3 series against North American squad Immortals. That match up will feature Newbee as a heavy favorite, and unless the team makes some rather egregious mistakes it should have little difficulty claiming a win in that series. From that point, the team’s next opponent will likely be Team Secret, presenting the Chinese squad with a significant challenge. If the team wins that series, then its Top 4 status is locked in, but a loss would drop it down to the lower bracket. Unless Team Liquid manages to lose its opening series against paiN Gaming, then Newbee is still going to be favored over whatever team it would face in that lower bracket series, which still gives the team a strong chance to reach the Top 4 at this Minor. Long story short, for Newbee to miss out on the Top 4 at this event, it would either need to make a series of costly mistakes or have another of the favorites in the field suffer a significant upset. While both of those scenarios are possible, it seems far more likely that the team remains strong and consistent in its play and lives up to its projected Top 4 billing in Stockholm.
Region: Southeast Asia
Qualification: Southeast Asia Qualifier Winner
Pro Circuit Rank: 11th (614 Qualifying Points)
1. Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao (Captain)
2. Abed “Abed” Yusop
3. Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora
4. Djardel “DJ” Mampusti
5. Johan “pieliedie” Åström
Projected Finish: Top 4
The 2018 section of the season has proved to be a time of ups and downs for Fnatic as it enters its fourth Pro Circuit event of the year. On the one hand, the Southeast Asian squad has earned enough Qualifying Points over its last few Pro Circuit appearances to keep itself in the hunt for a Top 8 spot. On the other hand, the team has also put together some rather inconsistent performances on the international level that have prevented it from making a truly effective push up the Pro Circuit standings. With this appearance at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor, Fnatic are hoping to put together a solid performance to potentially spark another climb up the Pro Circuit standings.
The last Pro Circuit appearance for Fnatic came just a few days ago in Jakarta, as the team was one of the participants at the GESC: Indonesia Minor. The team got off to a relatively strong start at the Minor with a 3-2 Group Stage record, but fell 1-2 to Na’Vi in the Quarterfinals to finish just short of a Top 4 spot in the 5th-6th place position. That finish outside of the Top 4 serves as an example of how much the team’s performance on the Pro Circuit level has fluctuated so far in 2018. The team placed in the bottom half of the standings at the ESL One Genting Minor in January, before finishing in 4th at the ESL One Katowice Major at the end of February. That Top 4 finish at a Major appeared to have earned Fnatic a fair bit of momentum moving forward on the international level, but the previously mentioned 5th-6th place finish at its most recent Pro Circuit event raises some small concerns for the team. While Fnatic has had some difficulties with consistency on the international level, within its home region the team has been significantly more stable and reliable. So far in 2018, the team has participated in eight Pro Circuit qualifiers and has yet to finish outside of the Top 4 at any of them. Of those eight straight Top 4 performances, four of them have been 1st place finishes that have given the team its multitude of opportunities to play on the Pro Circuit stage. The team has been one of the most formidable and consistent squads in the Southeast Asian region in 2018, the trick for Fnatic is carrying that stability and reliability over against top Pro Circuit squads.
Fnatic may not come into the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor in desperate need of a Top 4 finish, but the Southeast Asian contender certainly could use a solid showing in Stockholm to help bolster its fluctuating performance on the Pro Circuit stage. Coming into the Minor, Fnatic is projected to finish within the Top 4, though that prediction is probably the least concrete among the participating squads. We’ve seen how well Fnatic can play against its regional rivals, and we’ve even seen how formidable the team can be on the Pro Circuit stage when its playing at its full potential. The problem is that one still cannot be fully certain whether Fnatic will be able to maintain that high level of play throughout the event. Dota 2 fans will get the chance to see which side of Fnatic will be on display first rather early into the action in Stockholm. The Southeast Asian squad faces European team OG in its opening series of the Minor, with the two squads being relatively even with each other in terms of their current Pro Circuit positions and their expectations for this event. Should Fnatic manage to win that opening series, then it is put in a strong position to claim a Top 4 spot. It’s next round opponent would more than likely be Team Liquid, but even losing that series would still put the SEA squad one Bo3 away from the Top 4 with a lower bracket match up that would likely be against either Team Empire or Immortals. At this stage in the season, Fnatic can be considered the favored team against either of those squads, and it would take a pretty big mishap from that point for the team to miss the mark at the Minor. So the path to success is fairly straightforward for Fnatic, but there’s a reason why the matches are played in game rather than on paper. The Southeast Asian squad is still going to have to show that it can reach and hold on to that form that we saw at the ESL One Katowice Major. If Fnatic can do that, than the expectations are high for the squad as it continues to fight for its time in the spotlight on the Pro Circuit stage.
Region: North America
Qualification: North America Qualifier Winner
Pro Circuit Rank: T-16th (90 Qualifying Points)
1. Pyo “MP” No-a
2. Eric “Ryoya” Dong
3. Kim “Velo” Tae-sung
4. Kim “Febby” Yong-min
5. Kim “DuBu” Doo-young (Captain)
Projected Finish: 7th-8th
North American squad Immortals began its season with a solid start that saw the team make back to back Pro Circuit appearances, and even claim a Top 4 finish at the second event of the season (PGL Open Bucharest). After that initial success though, nothing has gone according to plan for Immortals. The team has seen multiple roster changes this season, with the most recent of which coming at the end of January when the team added Eric “Ryoya” Dong and Kim “Velo” Tae-sung to the lineup. With those changes, just three of the members of Immortals roster remain from that Top 4 finish back in October. The team has fallen from grace over the last few months, with its presence both on the international level and within the North American region taking a hit. With this opportunity to perform on the Pro Circuit stage again in Stockholm, Immortals is hoping to bring its recent slide to an end and reclaim that momentum and confidence that it began the season with.
It’s been quite some time since the last time Dota 2 fans saw Immortals on the Pro Circuit stage, with the team’s last appearance coming back at the beginning of November at the AMD SAPPHIRE Dota PIT League Minor. The team posted a dismal 0-3 record and finished in the shared last place position of 7th-8th in a rather disappointing follow up to its Top 4 finish in its Pro Circuit debut. Since that Minor, the team has not had the chance to perform on the international stage, either through the Pro Circuit or a third party event. While the team hasn’t had much of a presence internationally, Immortals has at least continued to participate in qualifiers within the North American region. However, even that aspect of the season for Immortals has a caveat attached to it due to the recent roster changes that it has squad has gone through. Since the team only added Ryoya and Velo to the roster at the end of January, it makes it hard to consider the team’s record prior to that change with the same weight as its more recent results. In the time following the team’s latest roster change, Immortals has participated in three Pro Circuit qualifiers. Of those three qualifier runs, the team has earned two Top 4 finishes that includes the 1st place position that earned it the North American spot at this DreamLeague Season 9 Minor. Those results within the North American region are an encouraging sign for the team, especially considering the relative instability that Immortals has faced in terms of its roster. However, the team’s lack of appearances on the international stage raise significant concerns for Immortals heading into this Minor.
Immortals enters the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor looking to revitalize what has been a rough stretch of its Pro Circuit season. While the team will be returning to the Pro Circuit stage for the first time in over four months, Immortals will face a formidable challenge in Stockholm. Coming into the event, Immortals is projected to finish in the combined last place position of 7th-8th. While the North American squad’s performance within its home region has been stronger in the wake of the completion of its lineup, the level of competition at this Minor will be significantly higher than what Immortals has seen in its regional qualifier runs. Top 8 ranked squads Team Secret, Team Liquid, and Newbee come into this event as clear favorites to claim Top 4 spots, meaning Immortals will either have to defeat one of those squads or aim for the final spot in the Top 4 in Stockholm. Regardless of the team’s preferred path in the Minor, Immortals will have to begin its run with a series against one the Dota 2 world’s most formidable teams in the form of Chinese leader Newbee. Unless Immortals manages to put together a truly surprising performance against the Chinese squad, it should end up falling into the lower bracket, further limiting the room for error for the team. In order to reach a Top 4 position from that point, the team would need to win back to back Bo3 series. That feat is not out of the question for Immortals, and the right circumstances could give the North American squad a more favorable path to success. With that being said, the team’s lack of recent play on the international level makes it incredibly hard to have confidence that Immortals will be able to defeat the stronger teams in the field at this event. The possibility for success is always alive for Immortals, but the expectations for the North American squad have to placed about as low as possible in the team’s first Pro Circuit appearance of 2018.
Region: South America
Qualification: South America Qualifier Winner
Pro Circuit Rank: Not Ranked (0 Qualifying Points)
1. William “hFn” Medeiros
2. Danilo “Arms” Silva
3. Otavio “tavo” Gabriel
4. Danylo “Kingrd” Nascimento (Captain)
5. Heitor “Duster” Pereira
Projected Finish: 7th-8th
Life on the Pro Circuit has not been going swimmingly so far this season for South American squad paiN Gaming. The team has endured more than its fair share of roster changes over the past few months, and has still yet to find success on the Pro Circuit stage. However, the winds of the Dota 2 world may be starting to change, as fellow South American squad Infamous finally broke through and earned the first Qualifying Points for any team from the region. Of course, that success may not directly effect paiN Gaming, but the Brazilian squad likely considers itself to be an equal of that Infamous squad. Seeing another regional leader find those highly sought after results on the international level has to light a fire under paiN Gaming, and the team comes into the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor looking to find some success of its own with a solid performance in Stockholm.
The last Pro Circuit appearance for paiN Gaming came at the beginning of the month at The Bucharest Major. where the South American squad played in just its second Pro Circuit event of the season. The event did not go particularly well for the team, as it finished in the 12th-14th place range after a 1-3 Group Stage run. Though the team did manage an impressive victory over Vici Gaming, that kind of finish near the bottom of the standings has been par for the course for paiN Gaming on the Pro Circuit. Outside of the Pro Circuit, the team has managed to fare a bit better on the international stage. The squad finished in the 5th-6th place position at the Galaxy Battles II tournament in the Philippines, although the team was playing with Aliwi “w33” Omar as a stand-in. However, paiN Gaming’s most impressive achievement on the international level is a much more recent one, as the team placed 2nd at the World Electronic Sports Games 2017 in Kaikou, China. The team defeated squads from both North America and Southeast Asia in the Group Stage, and moved past two Chinese squads in the Playoff Stage before losing a 1-2 series against Team Russia in the Finals. That Russian squad featured four of the five members of Pro Circuit leader and TI8 invitee Virtus.pro, making paiN Gaming’s run at the event even more impressive. The Brazilian squad is slowly gaining momentum and becoming more confident on the international stage, and part of that growth stems from the team’s consistent and solid performance at home. In 2018 paiN Gaming has participated in five Pro Circuit qualifiers, placing within the Top 4 in all of them including four 1st place finishes. If you extend that period to include all of the team’s qualifier runs this season, then the numbers improve to seven Top 4 finishes in nine Pro Circuit qualifier appearances. That kind of consistent success within its home region is exactly what paiN Gaming needs as it works towards its breakthrough on the Pro Circuit stage, and the hope is that the team’s recent strong showing on the international level is the start of a trend for the Brazilian squad.
PaiN Gaming comes into the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor looking to replicate the success that its fellow South American squad saw at the last Pro Circuit event. However, the path set forward for paiN Gaming to reach that mark may be a bit more difficult that what Infamous encountered in Jakarta. Coming into the event itself, paiN Gaming is projected to fall within the 7th-8th place range at the bottom of the standings in Stockholm. While the team’s recent performance both at home and on the international stage are highly encouraging signs for the team, the fact of the matter is that we’ve yet to see the team perform well on the Pro Circuit stage. PaiN Gaming has been moving in the right direction over the last few months, but the competition that it will face in Stockholm presents a daunting path to success for any Pro Circuit team. Team Secret, Team Liquid, and Newbee have to be considered favorites to claim Top 4 positions, which leaves only 1 spot left for paiN Gaming to aim for barring a rather shocking drop off from one of those three previously mentioned squads. The Brazilian squad starts the event with a tough match up as well, as paiN Gaming will begin its run through the bracket at the Minor with a Bo3 series against defending TI7 Champion and number two ranked squad Team Liquid. Unless paiN Gaming have a truly impressive surprise in store for the European squad, it’s most likely that the team falls into the lower bracket, and that’s where things will get difficult. The South American squad will have to win back-to-back Bo3 series to crack the Top 4 in that scenario, one of which will be against Newbee or Team Secret unless paiN Gaming are the recipient of an absurd level of luck. That being said, nothing is impossible for paiN Gaming, and the possibility of upsets and surprise performances could always alter the team’s path into a one a bit more conducive to its success. All memes and jokes aside, paiN Gaming’s lineup is talented and growing more experienced with every event it participates in. The ceiling and potential for this team is sky high, but until paiN Gaming finally breaks through with that elusive Pro Circuit run, the expectations keep the South American squad firmly grounded for now.