Secret to Success: Team Secret defeat Fnatic 3-0 to claim Minor Championship. Newbee, Team Liquid round out Top 4 in Stockholm.
Though the second DreamLeague event of the Pro Circuit season may not have been a Major like the prior one was, that didn’t prevent it from providing Dota 2 fans across the world with some absolutely incredible matches in Stockholm. After five days of action from the Monster Energy DreamHack Studios in the Swedish capital, seven of the eight participants have been defeating to leave one final team as Minor Champion. Of the eight teams that came into the event looking for that title, three of them where Top 8 ranked squads pursuing TI8 invites, while another was ineligible for invites entirely. Two of them were attempting to earn their first Qualifying Points of the season in Stockholm, while one was hoping to bring a end a five month drought on the Pro Circuit and another was looking for a chance to break into the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings. There were a variety of narratives and story lines in play at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor, but in the end not all of them could work out positively for the teams involved. One team that certainly walked way from Stockholm happy with its result was Team Secret, as the European squad earned its second Minor Championship of the season. The team’s win at the Minor didn’t move it out of the 3rd place rank in the Pro Circuit standings, but it did bring the squad 450 Qualifying Points closer to securing a direct invite to TI8. Though it wasn’t able to claim the title in Stockholm, 2nd place squad Fnatic didn’t come away from the Minor empty handed either. The team earned itself 270 Qualifying Points towards its team total, bringing it up to 884 Qualifying Points and leaving it not only within striking distance of a Top 8 spot, but just 16 points behind current Southeast Asian leader Mineski. European squad and defending TI7 Champion Team Liquid earned its ninth straight Top 4 finish on the Pro Circuit with a 3rd place performance in Stockholm. The team adds just 99 points to its total for the season rather than 135 due to a penalty for playing with its coach as a stand-in at the event. However those points did allow the team to retain its hold over the 2nd place ranking with Team Liquid now sitting just 24 points ahead of Team Secret. The final Top 4 spot at the Minor went to Newbee, as the Chinese squad secured 45 points towards its team total. That addition didn’t affect the team’s position in the Pro Circuit standings, as it still holds the 4th place rank. However, those points did provide the team with a bit of a buffer between itself and fellow Chinese squad Vici Gaming, helping Newbee maintain its status as the top ranked Chinese team. With the matches over in Stockholm and the Qualifying Points and prize money distributed, the time has come to look at how each of the participants performed at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor and examine where those teams stand on the Pro Circuit with just a few months remaining in the season.
Winnings: $125,000 (Total) & 150 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
Team Secret came into the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor as one of the Pro Circuit’s leading teams, but at this point in the season the European squad had its sights set on securing a direct invite to Vancouver for TI8. While the team wouldn’t be able to reach that mark outright regardless of its final position in Stockholm, another Top 4 finish would help the team close that gap and continue its march towards that coveted status. With that in mind, the team entered play at the Minor with a level of laser like focus and determination that made it one of the most frightening and formidable opponents in the field in Stockholm.
Team Secret began its play at the Minor with a series against CIS squad Team Empire in the Quarterfinals of the upper bracket. The European power house dominated Game 1 of the series, with MidOne’s mid Kunkka (6-0-6) posing a problem that Team Empire didn’t appear to be equipped to handle. Team Secret held its opponent to just two kills in the match and claimed a win in a little over 17 minutes of game time as the squad came out on fire to start the Minor. Game 2 would prove to be slightly more competitive, but Team Secret would still have little difficulties establishing its control over the match. This time it was Ace’s turn to lead the way for Team Secret, as his Chaos Knight (11-2-8) ran ranpant over Team Empire’s lineup en route to another relatively easy victory that secured the team a 2-0 sweep of the series.
With Team Empire defeated without much difficulty, Team Secret advanced to the next round to face Chinese leader Newbee. Once again, Team Secret would dominate the first match of the series, as the team’s core trio combined for a stat line of 25-2-37 and held Newbee’s lineup to just four total kills in the game in a stomp that lasted less than 22 minutes. The European squad didn’t let up off of the gas in Game 2, as the team applied heavy pressure to a team fight oriented Newbee lineup. Team Secret held the net worth advantage for nearly the entirety of the match, and every single member of its roster managed to earn a kill participation percentage of at least 68%. The team’s aggressive play style sapped Newbee of the very team fight power that its lineup was reliant on, and allowed Team Secret to secure another 2-0 series win.
That victory over Newbee put Team Secret just one series away from a spot in the Grand Finals, but its would have to get past fellow European squad Team Liquid in order to get there. That task proved significantly easier than anyone might have been anticipating, as Team Secret swept past Team Liquid in two incredibly one sided games. Team Secret out killed its opponent by a score of 68-14 and held the net worth advantage for the entirety of the series that spanned just under 55 minutes of game time.
With that surprisingly one sided series complete, Team Secret earned its spot in the Grand Finals for a Bo5 series against Southeast Asian squad Fnatic with the title of Minor Champion at stake. Team Secret maintained its momentum from the series against Team Liquid in the first two matches of the Grand Finals. The European squad out killed its opponent by a score of 55-22 across the first two games of the series and were able to heavily pressure and contain Fnatic’s lineups and strategies. Game 3 saw Team Secret employ a core trio of Tiny, Razor, and Kunkka to try and close out a series sweep over Fnatic. That trio combined for a stat line of 23-10-32 as Team Secret controlled the pace of the game one final time. With the team holding the net worth lead from start to finish, Team Secret closed out another win and won the Grand Finals 3-0 to claim the title of Minor Champion in Stockholm.
Team Secret entered the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor looking for another strong international performance to draw closer to its goal of earning a guaranteed direct invite to TI8. The European squad was projected to finish within the Top 4 at the event, and the team managed to blow that prediction out of the water with a downright dominant showing in Stockholm. The team refused to let anyone slow it down at this event, as Team Secret didn’t drop a single match en route to a perfect 9-0 record. The team was simply playing on a different level at the Minor, and that level was too far above anything its opponents were able to compete with as the squad handled each series with an almost scary level of confidence and composure. Honestly, there’s nothing that can be said for the team in terms of weaknesses or mistakes at this event as Team Secret didn’t appear to make any. As previously mentioned, the team’s 1st place finish at this event wasn’t enough to secure it a guaranteed invite to TI8, but it does get the squad closer to that mark and gives it even more confidence heading into upcoming events. There will be quite a few of those for Team Secret, as the team’s schedule will be relatively full over the next few months. The European squad will be participating in the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major in just a few days and the EPICENTER XL Major in late April followed by the MDL Changsha Major in May. With that many opportunities on the Pro Circuit in its future, it seems like just a matter of time now before Team Secret manages to punch its ticket to Vancouver and secure a direct invite to TI8.
Winnings: $30,000 (Total) & 45 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
Team Liquid came into the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor as one of the strongest and most accomplished squads on the Pro Circuit. The team was still riding its incredible streak of Top 4 finishes, having attended eight straight Pro Circuit events without ever coming away without Qualifying Points. However, the team faced an additional obstacle on its path to a ninth Top 4 finish, as Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi did not attend the event with the team and was replaced by Coach Lee “Heen” Seung Gon in Stockholm. Even with the stand-in and the accompanying penalty to its potential Qualifying Point earnings, Team Liquid was determined to continue its march towards a TI8 invite with the same level of consistency and efficiency that it had displayed all season long.
The defending TI7 Champion began its run at the Minor with a series against South American squad paiN Gaming in the Quarterfinals of the upper bracket. The European squad made an interesting decision in its Game 1 draft with an Alchemist pickup for KuroKy, who was playing the carry role with Miracle- out of the lineup. The pick paid off, as the Alchemist racked up a net worth of 28.7k and gave two Synthesized Aghanim’s Scpeters to teammates. Alongisde MinD_ContRoL’s Pugna (16-6-20), Team Liquid was able to maintain and expand its lead across the mid and late-game stages and break through the defense of paiN Gaming to claim a win in the opening match of the series. Game 2 saw the European squad look to fight early, with cores of Chaos Knight, Viper, and Magnus being supplemented by Rubick and Ancient Apparition supports. The result was a lineup that heavily pressured that of paiN Gaming in the early game and allowed Team Liquid to build up a sizable net worth advantage. Despite a commendable effort from paiN Gaming to draw out the match, Team Liquid’s team fight power allowed it to both push and force engagements that the South American squad couldn’t turn in its favor. That performance earned Team Liquid a 2-0 victory over paiN Gaming, and advanced the team to the Semifinals of the upper bracket.
The European squad’s opponent in its next series would be Southeast Asian squad Fnatic, with the winner guaranteeing itself at least a 3rd place finish at the event. Game 1 was a surprising kick in the teeth for Team Liquid, as its Southeast Asian opponent came out strong and set an aggressive pace that its own lineup had trouble adjusting to. Team Liquid found itself out killed by a score of 9-24 as it was simply out played and out maneuvered by Fnatic and received its first loss of the Minor. Game 2 saw Team Liquid come out looking for revenge, as it drafted a lineup headlined by cores of Gyrocopter, Timbersaw, and Tidehunter. That trio provided a large portion of the team’s power, but it was GH’s Sand King (2-3-10) that proved instrumental in the team’s plans. GH was directly involved (via kills and assists) in 12 of the team’s 15 kills as Team Liquid set a blistering pace that knocked out the Fnatic lineup in a little over 17 minutes of game time and tied up the series 1-1. With the series headed to a decisive Game 3, Team Liquid opted for a draft emphasizing high levels of damage with cores of Lifestealer, Visage, and Enchantress. Through the early and mid-game stages it appeared that Team Liquid’s strategy was working to its advantage, as the team was in possession of the net worth lead for almost all of the first 35 minutes of play. However, Fnatic’s team fight power and execution finally came together, as the Southeast Asian squad turned the tide of the match with a team fight win that wiped out Team Liquid’s net worth lead. The European squad found itself on the defensive for a short period of time, but eventually the team’s damage output allowed it to overcome Fnatic’s team fight threat and claim a three straight team fight wins to retake the lead and close out the match and the series with a win. The team’s hard fought 2-1 victory over Fnatic earned it a guaranteed finish of 3rd or better, and allowed it to advance to the Winner’s Finals of the upper bracket.
Team Liquid would face another tough challenge in the form of fellow European squad and Pro Circuit power house Team Secret. The match up of two the Pro Circuit’s leading squads appeared to be the makings of a fantastic and bitterly fought series. However, things didn’t quite turn out that way. Team Liquid’s Io strategy in Game 1 of the series was a disaster for the team, as Team Secret repeatedly attacked the whole lineup with an aggressive draft of its own. Team Liquid was out killed by a score of 7-30 and conceded defeat in a little over 27 of game time as Team Secret dominated the first match of the series. Team Liquid refused to give up on its Io strategy though, picking up the hero again in Game 2 alongside cores of Lifestealer, Gyrocopter, and Tidehunter. Unfortuantely for the team, the results were the same as in the first match of the series. Team Secret was aggressive and mobile from the very start of play, and Team Liquid’s lineup was given as little room to breath as possible. Team Liquid was once again held to just seven kills, while Team Secret racked up 39 kills of its own in an absolute rout that handed Team Liquid an 0-2 loss an a trip to the lower bracket.
The team’s loss landed it in the Loser’s Finals of the lower bracket, where the European squad faced a rematch of its earlier series against Fnatic with a spot in the Grand Finals on the line. Unfortunately, Team Liquid didn’t get off to the strongest of start in Game 1 of its series against the Southeast Asian squad. The European team trailed in terms of net worth throughout the mid-game stage, with both MATUMBAMAN’s Venomancer (3-10-10) and the team’s support duo facing significant pressure and racking up deaths early. In the late-game, the team’s cores managed to keep up a pace of farming that allowed the team to reclaim the net worth lead for a period of nearly 20 minutes. However, that time wasn’t long enough for Team Liquid’s lineup to fully out scale Fnatic’s heroes, as the Southeast Asian team came back with a series of decisive team fight wins that knocked Team Liquid out and dropped it into an 0-1 hole in the series. In Game 2, it appeared that Team Liquid had shaken off its previous loss, as the team got out to a sizable lead early in the match behind some active and aggressive play. Team Liquid’s early mobility and aggression may have kept Fnatic’s cores down for a while, but the team couldn’t maintain that level of pressure indefinitely. Fnatic came storming back into the match around the 26 minute mark with a massive fight in the middle lane that Team Liquid was unable to control. The resulting team wipe destroyed Team Liquid’s net worth advantage, and gave Fnatic a lead that it would refuse to relinquish for the rest of the match as Team Liquid was unable to mount an effective comeback effort. Facing a net worth deficit of over 22k, Team Liquid finally conceded defeat, losing the series 0-2 and ending its run at the Minor with a 3rd place finish.
Team Liquid came into the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor looking to keep its streak of Top 4 finishes intact and to continue moving closer towards a direct invite to TI8. Having the team’s coach serve as a stand-in for one of its usual roster members was an development that may not have been particularly convenient for it, but the team managed to adjust well. Prior to the start of the event, Team Liquid was projected to finish in the Top 4 range, and the European squad proved that it was more than capable of living up to that prediction even without Miracle- in the lineup. The team represented itself well at this event, with its initial two series wins over paiN Gaming and Fnatic showing the team’s usual level of consistency and strength. The series against Team Secret was an incredibly unexpected results; not necessarily because Team Liquid lost but because the team was so thoroughly countered and picked apart by Team Secret. Combine that rough loss with its 0-2 loss to Fnatic in its next series, and things don’t look good on paper for Team Liquid. However, with the full context of the event available, those losses become significantly less concerning for the team overall. Playing with Heen in the lineup forced KuroKy into the core position and may have shifted some of the team’s usual strategies and play styles. With Team Secret and Fnatic playing some of the most impressive Dota we’ve seen all season long, it stands to reason that even subtle shifts in play style could have exposed weaknesses in Team Liquid that may not have been existent under normal circumstances. Overall, wait for Miracle- to return to the lineup before making any judgments about the team’s play on the Pro Circuit level. With that being said, Team Liquid still sits short of the mark to earn its coveted TI8 invite, though the European squad is about to have quite the list of opportunities to finally reach that milestone. The team is set to participate in both the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major in a few days and the EPICENTER XL Major next month, with the Qualifying Points available at those events potentially being enough to punch Team Liquid’s ticket to Vancouver.
OG came into the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor in one of the more unusual positions on the Pro Circuit. The team’s recent roster changes had made it ineligible for invites to either TI8 or the TI8 Regional Qualifiers, meaning the European squad was destined for an Open Qualifier run even as it made its way to Stockholm for the Minor. However, becoming ineligible for TI invites is not necessarily a death sentence for a team on the Pro Circuit, especially for a squad like OG that sits relatively high up the standings. With the stress and trials of the Open Qualifiers appearing to be in the squad’s future, OG’s mission at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor was to prove itself against top Pro Circuit opposition and prepare for that grueling run.
OG opened play at the Minor with a series against Southeast Asian squad Fnatic in the Quarterfinals of the tournament bracket. The European squad looked to combine scaling cores with team fight power, drafting cores of Lifestealer, Death Prophet, and Puck alongside supports of Warlock and Tusk. Unfortunately, the team wasn’t given a lot of time or space to implement its plan. Fnatic played aggressively early in the match, putting OG’s lineup on the defensive throughout the course of the game. With its opponent dictating the pace of the game, OG was never able to find that crucial team fight execution that it needed to turn the tide, and conceded defeat to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw OG make some interesting decision in terms of its lanes and picks, as the team sent N0tail to the safelane on a carry Omniknight while placing s4’s Leshrac mid and 7mad’s Dragon Knight to the offlane. Those decisions didn’t have much of a positive impact for the team, as Fnatic once again established control of the matche’s pace early. OG as a team earned just five kills in the match as Fnatic claimed victory in just under 24 minutes to hand the European squad a rough 0-2 loss in its first series of the event.
The 0-2 loss to Fnatic dropped OG to the lower bracket, where it would have a chance to bounce back with an elimination series against South American squad paiN Gaming. Game 1 saw the European squad draft cores of Terrorblade, Pugna, and Brewmaster with the intention of establishing early control of both fights and the map. N0tail’s Terrorblade (12-3-13) and 7mad’s Pugna (12-2-17) may have stolen the spotlight with their kill totals, but Fly’s Disruptor (4-1-22) was crucial as well in helping the squad play with such an aggressive style as he collected 22 assists on the team’s 38 kills. With the team’s dominant Game 1 performance earning it the lead in the series, OG looked to close out a series sweep in Game 2. After his impressive performance in the previous match, 7mad put together one hell of an encore with an incredible showing on Razor (22-0-7). PaiN Gaming simply had no answer for Razor and the rest of OG’s early aggression, and were forced to concede the match in just under 23 minutes of play. OG’s dominant performance against paiN Gaming kept the European squad alive at the Minor, but the team would face a much more formidable challenge in the next round.
OG’s victory brought the team within one series of earning a Top 4 finish in Stockholm, but the team had to go through Chinese leader Newbee in order to hit that mark. The team tried to pull off an interesting strategy in Game 1 of the series, picking a combination of Huskar and Oracle in an attempt to overwhelm Newbee’s lineup. Unfortunately for OG, that plan fell flat, with both Fly’s Oracle (1-4-5) and N0tail’s Huskar (4-8-1) proving largely ineffective against Newbee. The rest of the lineup found little success either, as Newbee’s lineup controlled fights and out scaled OG’s heroes to claim a fairly one sided win to open the series. Game 2 saw OG pick a lineup more suited towards team fights, as the European squad picked up cores of Faceless Void, Death Prophet, and Tiny along with supports of Warlock and Earth Spirit. The heavily team fight oriented strategy of OG appeared to be working through the first half of the match, as the team was able to hold its own in fights and hold a small net worth advantage through the first 30 minutes of play. Eventually though, Newbee’s lineup was able to turn the tide, with Sccc’s Lina (16-6-10) leading the charge for the Chinese squad as it heavily out scaled OG in the late-game stage. As the team fell further and further behind, OG was forced into one final fight to stave off defeat. Despite inflicting significant losses on Newbee’s lineup, OG was wiped out repeatedly inside of its own base and proved unable to fend off Newbee’s final assault. The loss brought the series to an end with an 0-2 loss for OG that also marked the end of its run at the Minor with a finish in the 5th-6th place position.
OG may have come into the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor ineligible for TI8 invites, but that didn’t mean that the European squad didn’t have something to prove in Stockholm. The European squad was determined to show that it was still capable of competing on the Pro Circuit level and could maintain a position among the world’s best teams. Prior to the start of the matches at the Minor, OG was projected to finish within the 5th-6th place range, and the team was able to match that prediction with its performance in Stockholm. For the most part, the team’s performance was exactly what was expected from the European squad. OG easily handled paiN Gaming in the 1st Round of the lower bracket, but fell in quick fashion in the face of an elite Pro Circuit squad like Newbee. All of that was playing perfectly into the expectations for OG that had been formed prior to the start of the Minor. However, the team’s first series of the event is the only one in which the team seemed to disappoint or deviate from those expectations. The team’s 0-2 loss to Fnatic felt like a bit of a missed opportunity for the European squad, as the two teams seemed to be relatively even at this point in the season. Of course, Fnatic had been trending upwards in 2018, and OG was playing with its coach as a stand-in for the duration of this event. However, Fnatic had stumbled at the GESC: Indonesia Minor and 7ckngMad didn’t appear to have any issues fitting into OG’s style in the team’s other series in Stockholm. The fact is that OG didn’t look nearly as strong against its Pro Circuit rivals as it may have hoped, despite putting up solid efforts against Newbee and Fnatic. The good news for OG is that it will have quite a few more chances to test itself on the Pro Circuit stage in advance of its Open Qualifier run. The European squad is scheduled to participate in the DAC 2018 Major just a few days from now, in addition to attending the EPICENTER XL Major in April and the MDL Changsha Major in May. We’ll see if OG can string together some strong showings on the Pro Circuit stage over the course of these final events.
Team Empire came into the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor searching for its first Qualifying Points of the season. The team had fallen just short of the Top 4 mark in its previous two Pro Circuit appearances, but the CIS was hoping to finally break through with a strong showing in Stockholm. With CIS leader Virtus.pro already having secured its ticket to Vancouver for TI8 and Na’Vi facing some significant struggles at this point in the season, Team Empire was looking to exploit a narrow window of opportunity and finally lay claim to some success on the Pro Circuit stage.
Team Empire drew a tough opponent for its opening series at the Minor, as the CIS squad faced European power house Team Secret in the Quarterfinals of the event. Game 1 of the series went about as poorly as possible for Team Empire, as its lineup stumbled out of the gate against Team Secret. The CIS squad secured just two kills and conceded defeat in less than 18 minutes of play after losing two lanes of barracks and falling behind by over 17 net worth. With the embarrassment of Game 1 behind it, Team Empire managed to put together a more respectable performance in the second match of the series. The team picked up cores of Wraith King, Queen of Pain, and Beastmaster in Game 2, but still faced significant struggles in the face of Team Secret’s lineup. Nix’s Wraith King (3-5-6) and Ghostik’s Beastmaster (4-5-7) were somewhat limited in this match, and despite a solid effort from fn on Queen of Pain (8-1-4), Team Empire fell behind beginning around the 10 minute mark. From that point forward, Team Secret continued to build up its net worth lead, refusing to allow Team Empire an opportunity to turn the game around. With no viable path back into the match, Team Empire threw in the towel to lose the series 0-2 and drop in the lower bracket.
Team Empire would get a chance to bounce back from that rough loss in its opening series, as the team faced off against North American squad Immortals that was fresh off of a frustrating loss of its own to Newbee. Game 1 saw Team Empire pick up cores of Outworld Devourer, Phantom Lancer, and Brewmaster, and it appeared that its lineup was finding success early in the match. The CIS squad was holding a sizable net worth advantage over the first 20 minutes of play, but a costly team fight loss saw the momentum shift into Immortals’ favor. That team fight loss proved to be the start of trend rather than an aberration, as Immortals controlled the engagements for the rest of the match and kept Team Empire at bay to secure a win in the series opener. Coming into Game 2, Team Empire was determined to regain control of the series behind a strong fighting lineup. Nix’s Tiny (12-3-13) and fn’s Razor (12-2-9) led the way for the squad, and yoky’s Sand King (4-3-20) contributed kills or assists on 24 of the team’s 36 kills as Team Empire held the advantage from start to finish in this match. With the series tied and heading into a decisive Game 3, Team Empire relied on a core trio of Gyrocopter, Phantom Lancer, and Nature’s Prophet. That trio proved incredibly effective for the team, with the three heroes combining for a stat line of 33-3-39 as Team Empire completely dominated the game and out killed Immortals by a score of 39-5. That win closed out a 2-1 series win for Team Empire that kept it alive in the tournament and secured it a match up with Southeast Asian squad Fnatic in the next round.
Team Empire’s series against Fnatic carried added weight with it, as the winner of this series would secure a Top 4 finish at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor. Game 1 of the series did not go particularly well for Team Empire, as its cores struggled early against Fnatic’s aggressive play. The CIS squad’s lineup was unable to create much space for the team to recover from its rough start, and Fnatic continued to push the pace and build up its lead. With its heroes significantly out scaled and unable to put together a strong enough team fight presence to counter Fnatic’s lineup, Team Empire was forced to concede defeat in Game 1 of the series. The team opted for a different look in its Game 2 draft, picking up cores of Tinker, Tiny, and Dark Willow to face Fnatic’s lineup. Unfortunately, the change in heroes didn’t help the team get off to a much better start, with Fnatic applied frequent and heavy pressure to Team Empire’s cores. While the CIS squad was able to draw out the match, it could do nothing to chip away at the ever increasing net worth lead that Fnatic was building up. Despite a solid showing from fn’s Tiny (8-3-10), Team Empire was ultimately unable to defend its base from Fnatic’s continued assaults as the CIS squad took an 0-2 loss in the series. That loss eliminated the team from the Minor, leaving Team Empire just short of a Top 4 finish once again with a position in the 5th-6th place range.
Team Empire came into the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor hoping to finally break through onto the Pro Circuit standings with its first Top 4 finish of the season. Coming into the event, the CIS squad was projected to finish in the 5th-6th place range, and the team was unable to advance past that prediction despite a solid effort in Stockholm. The team’s performance within its home region and against weaker international teams has been strong so far this season, but Team Empire still seems to be a step or two away from being able to compete with the top Pro Circuit teams on a consistent basis. The team’s performance at this Minor seems to support that assessment, as the CIS squad seemed to struggle to a significant degree against Team Secret and Fnatic. However, even against Immortals the team needed the wake up call of its Game 1 loss to truly light a fire under it. At this point in the season, a squad looking to advance to the next level on the Pro Circuit like Team Empire needs to show a stronger presence on the international stage, and needs to take at least one match win against a team other than the struggling Immortals. Team Empire is running out of time to find its coveted Pro Circuit success before the season comes to an end and the TI8 invites begin coming out. The CIS squad will have at least one more chance to perform on the Pro Circuit stage though, as Team Empire will be one of the participants at the EPICENTER XL Major next month. Should the team come out of that event empty handed, the chances are high that it will still receive an invite to the TI8 Regional Qualifier for the CIS region. However, Team Empire would surely like to have the comfort of Qualifying Points both to improve its resume and to prove that the CIS squad is capable of contending with the world’s premier teams.
Winnings: $30,000 (Total) & 15 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
Newbee came into the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor as the leading squad within the Chinese region, though not by much. At this point in the season, the team’s lead over its regional rivals in the Pro Circuit standings had all but dissipated. Newbee’s success and consistency had both been impressive so far this season, but with those competing Chinese squads continuing to climb up the standings, the pressure continued to mount for Newbee to maintain that success through the rest of the season schedule. With that in mind, the Chinese squad entered the Minor looking to claim another Top 4 finish to help put further distance between itself and the likes of Vici Gaming and VGJ.Thunder.
The Chinese leader opening up play at in Stockholm with a Bo3 series against North American squad Immortals in the Quarterfinals of the upper bracket. Newbee came out strong in Game 1 with its usual brand of confident and methodical team fight power. Moogy’s Juggernaut (14-0-9) and Sccc’s Death Prophet (11-0-9) were both without a single death as they led the Chinese squad in a wire-to-wire rout of Immortals to open the series. Game 2 played out in a similar manner, as Newbee again dictated the pace of the game and threw the Immortals lineup off balance. Sccc put in another solid performance with his Medusa (12-3-17) but it was the support duo that really helped push Newbee to this win. Faith and kaka combined for 51 assists on Tusk and Rubick to clear the path for the team’s cores to out scale and out perform their counterparts as Newbee claimed an easy 2-0 victory.
Newbee was in for a more formidable opponent in its next series, as the Chinese squad faced fellow Pro Circuit power house Team Secret in the Semifinals of the upper bracket. Game 1 saw the Chinese squad pick up cores of Medusa, Pugna, and Batrider, but that trio would face significant difficulties in the match. Team Secret immediately set out to control the pace of the game, going at Newbee’s lineup aggressively and successfully. The team’s heroes were picked off at an alarming rate, with most of its lineup being powerless to put together an adequate counter. With the team out killed by a score of 4-30, Newbee decided it was best to cut its losses and concede defeat in Game 1 of the series and move on to the next match. The team attempted to go back to its tried and true team fight oriented lineup in Game 2, picking up cores of Terrorblade, Death Prophet, and Tidehunder alongside supports of Sand King and Dazzle. Team Secret once again looked to play aggressively in order to contain Newbee’s lineup, and this time it appeared that the Chinese squad was holding its own and keeping even with its opponent. However, the flood gates opened in the mid-game stage, as Team Secret’s lineup hit a power spike that allowed it to establish a more firm grip over the fights and the map. Despite Newbee’s best efforts, it wasn’t able to put together the right fight to retake momentum and cut into Team Secret’s sizable net worth lead, leading the Chinese squad to eventually bow out of Game 2 and suffer an 0-2 series sweep against Team Secret.
The loss set Newbee back a bit as it fell to the lower bracket, but the Chinese squad was by no means out of the tournament just yet. The squad faced European team OG in Round 2 of the lower bracket, with a Top 4 finish at the Minor on the line. Newbee wasted no time getting itself comfortable in Game 1 of the series, picking up a high damage core trio of Lycan, Gyrocopter, and Enchantress to fight against OG’s Huskar and Oracle combination. The high damage output of that core trio payed off, as the Huskar pick was heavily punished and OG’s lineup suffered significantly as a result. The European squad was forced to increasingly rely on its other cores to pick up the slack, but Newbee did a solid job of keeping them largely contained and limited in terms of their effectiveness. The Newbee lineup had little difficulty closing out the match at that point, claiming a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 saw Newbee face some struggles against OG, as its support duo and offlane Abaddon pick were heavily and frequently attacked by the European squad. Newbee found itself trailing in terms of net worth for most of the first 30 minutes of play. However, the Chinese squad eventually managed to turn the tide of the match, with Sccc’s Lina (16-6-10, 27.1k net worth) leading a dramatic shift of momentum in Newbee’s favor. The team’s pressure and team fight power put OG on the defensive, but Newbee was able to win the final, decisive fight inside OG’s base to seal its victory both in the match and in the series. That 2-0 win locked Newbee in to a Top 4 spot, but the Chinese squad was intent on pushing for more in Stockholm as it advanced to Round 3 of the lower bracket.
Newbee faced Southeast Asian squad Fnatic next, with the two teams fighting for a chance to elevate its position at the Minor to at least 3rd and play against Team Liquid in the next round of the bracket. Game 1 saw the Chinese squad pick up a core trio of Medusa, Viper, and Puck to face off against the SEA squad. Unfortunately, that trio of heroes did not work out well for the team, as Fnatic’s fighting lineup proved too strong for it to contend with head on. Newbee did manage to draw out the match though, defending its base long enough for Sccc’s Medusa (2-5-6, 26.9k net worth) to pick up a Divine Rapier in an attempt to turn back Fnatic’s push. The gambit failed though, and Fnatic claimed the first victory in the series and a 1-0 lead. In Game 2, Newbee once again got off to a slow start to the match, as the Chinese squad trailed in terms of net wroth for almost the entirety of the first 25 minutes of play. However, a massive fight in and around Fnatic’s base near the 28 minute mark resulted in a significant swing in momentum as Newbee seized control of the match. Despite a late surge from the Southeast Asian squad, Newbee managed to maintain its hold over the match and close out a win to tie up the series 1-1. With elimination threatening the team in Game 3, Newbee looked like it was in control of the match for most of the game. However, the Chinese squad couldn’t fully maintain its lead for long, as Fnatic repeatedly made pushes that Newbee were just barely able to keep contained. Eventually though, Fnatic made one final surge that Newbee wasn’t able to hold in check, as the Southeast Asian squad seized control of the match and managed to close out the win despite a last ditch effort from Newbee to salvage the match. With that 1-2 loss, Newbee run at the Minor was brought to an end with a 4th place finish for the Chinese squad.
Newbee came into the DreamLeauge Season 9 Minor hoping for a strong showing to create some separation from its regional rivals in the Pro Circuit standings. Coming into the event, the Chinese leader was projected to finish within the Top 4 range, a prediction that the team was able to live up to with another solid performance on the Pro Circuit stage. The team handled istelf well in its series against Immortals and OG, finding relatively easy victories in those series as the Chinese leader stood as a significant favorite. However, the team’s other two series leave a lot of room for improvement for the team, as it lost to both Team Secret and Fnatic. The 0-2 loss to Team Secret was a significant stumble for the team, though more so because of the nature of the losses rather than the losses in an of themselves. Team Secret is one of the top teams on the Pro Circuit, but so is Newbee, and a team of that caliber should never face a scenario where it is simply outplayed to the level that Newbee was in those two matches against Team Secret. Surprisingly enough, the team’s loss to Fnatic is actually a bit less disappointing than its poor showing against Team Secret. Fnatic may not be a Top 8 ranked squad right now, but you would have a hard time figuring that out based upon the team’s play of late. Yes, the squad blew a huge opportunity at the GESC: Indonesia Minorm but aside from that the SEA squad has been playing at an alarmingly high level over the past month or so. Newbee pushed Fnatic to the limit and was pushed itself in that series, and the 1-2 loss in that series shouldn’t be cause for panic among Newbee fans. The good news for the team and its fans is that Newbee secured yet another Top 4 finish with a successful run at the Minor. However, even that success doesn’t come without some concern attached to it. The team may have gotten its Top 4 spot in Stockholm, but the Qualifying Points that the team earned from this Minor didn’t do much to separate it from its fellow Chinese teams in the Top 8. The team’s 4th place finish finish increased its team point total by just 45 points, leaving it just a meager 60 points ahead of Vici Gaming in the standings. The fact remains that Newbee is going to have to keep winning on the Pro Circuit stage to stay ahead of its regional competition. Luckily for Newbee, it will have more than a few opportunities to keep up its impressive pace on the Pro Circuit, as the Chinese leader is set to participate in the DAC 2018 Major in a few days, as well as the EPICENTER XL Major in April and the MDL Changsha Major in May. If Newbee can retain the consistency and strength that it has displayed all season long, then its position as the highest ranked team in China should be safe through the rest of the season.
Winnings: $70,000 (Total) & 90 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
Fnatic came into the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor looking to spark a run that could carry the Southeast Asian squad into the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings. The team’s recent performance within its home region was fantastic, but the team still needed to prove that it was capable of producing a stable effort on the Pro Circuit stage and compete with top international teams on a relatively consistent basis. The DreamLeague Season 9 Minor provided the squad with a crucial opportunity to display strength and stability while also gaining ground on its potential rivals on the Pro Circuit.
Fnatic began its run in Stockholm with a series against European squad OG in the Quarterfinals of the upper bracket. Game 1 saw EternaLEnVy and Abed put in solid performances as Fnatic took control of the match early and never looked back. With the team’s two carries combining for a stat line of 21-2-16, the Southeast Asian squad claimed a relatively easy win to open the series. Game 2 saw Fnatic’s support duo be the ones to help set the pace, as DJ’s Tusk (2-0-13) and PieLieDie’s Disruptor (2-2-12) setting up multiple opportunities for the team to establish the sort of tempo that it wanted. Fnatic held OG to just four kills in the match as the Southeast Asian squad earned another victory and sealed its 2-0 series win in under 24 minutes of game time.
The team’s win over OG allowed Fnatic to advance to the next round for a match up with defending TI7 Champion Team Liquid. Fnatic was the team to strike first in the series, as the SEA squad came out strong in Game 1. Behind an impressive performance from Abed on Phantom Lancer (11-1-3), Fnatic out killed Team Liquid by a score of 24-9 and ran away with the net worth lead in the mid-game stage to claim a 1-0 advantage in the series. Game 2 saw Fnatic opt for an unorthodox strategy, as the team picked up a core Shadow Shaman to go along with Phantom Lancer and Centaur Warrunner. The strategy didn’t work out, as EternaLEnVy’s Shadow Shaman (2-4-1) was pressured significantly by Team Liquid’s heroes. Team Liquid’s early team fight power allowed it to bully Fnatic into submission early, as the Southeast Asian squad conceded defeat in just over 17 minutes to even up the series 1-1. Game 3 saw Fnatic playing from behind for a large portion of the match, as the team trailed in terms of net worth for nearly the entirety of the first 35 minutes of play. However, EternaLEnVy’s Ursa (11-7-13) and Abed’s Gyrocopter (11-5-18) helped spearhead a late-game surge that gave Fnatic a significant lead. Unfortunately, Fnatic was unable to maintain its hold over that lead, as Team Liquid came back with a series of convincing team fight wins that wiped out Fnatic’s lead and ultimately led to a victory for the European squad.
With that 1-2 loss to Team Liquid, Fnatic fell into the lower bracket where it match up against CIS squad Team Empire with a Top 4 spot on the line. Fnatic was dominant in Game 1 of the series, with its core trio of Lone Druid, Razor, and Sand King combining for a stat line of 25-6-43 in stomp over Team Empire. Game 2 saw Fnatic again come out aggressively and establish a significant net worth advantage of its opponent. Between Abed’s Visage (11-0-9) and UNiVeRsE’s Nature’s Prophet (11-4-7), Fnatic had near complete control of the pace of the match. Team Empire was able to draw out the game to a small degree with its Tinker pick, but the CIS squad could never make a strong enough push to overcome its net worth deficit. Team Empire fought for as long as it could, but Fnatic eventually pushed through its defenses and claimed the win to close out a relatively quick and easy 2-0 series sweep.
That win secured Fnatic a spot in the Top 4 at the Minor, but Fnatic was looking for more as it matched up with Newbee for a shot at a minimum of a 3rd place finish. Fnatic came out with a core trio of Phantom Lancer, Death Prophet, and Beastmasater in Game 1 against the Chinese leader, and that trio would prove incredibly successful. Fnatic set an aggressive pace in the match, and managed to consistently apply pressure to Newbee’s lineup through the mid and late-game stages as it built its net worth lead up more and more. Newbee made a final attempt to turn the match around with a Divine Rapier pick up on Sccc’s Medusa (2-5-6, 26.9k net worth), but it wasn’t enough to hold off Fnatic’s final push as the Southeast Asian squad claimed the win in the opening game of the series. In Game 2, it appeared that Fnatic had a chance at a clean sweep as it got out to another early lead over Newbee. However, the Chinese squad’s lineup had better and stronger team fight execution in this match, as Newbee turned the tide of the game with a massive team fight win right outside of Fnatic’s base. That lost fight marked the beginning of the end for the Southeast Asian squad, as the team was unable to regroup and retake control and lost the game to tie up the series at 1-1. With elimination on the line, Fnatic came out in Game 3 with a team fight oriented lineup that combined cores of Lifestealer, Invoker, and Centaur Warruner with supports of Sand King and Warlock. That lineup struggled throughout most of the match, as Newbee was able to out scale Fnatic’s heroes throughout the majority of the first 40 minutes of play. However, Fnatic’s team fight power finally came through for it at the perfect time as it won a massive team fight around the Top Lane. The team fight win gave Fnatic control of the match, and allowed the team to push through and destroy Newbee’s base to complete the comeback win and claim a 2-1 victory in the series.
With its win over Newbee, Fnatic was just one series away from a spot in the Grand Finals of the Minor. The SEA squad faced Team Liquid once again in a rematch of its previous upper bracket series. Game 1 saw the Southeast Asian squad survive a late-game surge from its opponent, as Fnatic fell behind late but managed to reclaim control of the match with a series of solid team fights. Abed’s Gyrocopter (15-4-24) led the way for the team, and DJ’s Elder Titan (1-2-27) earned kills or assists on 37 of the team’s 43 kills to help Fnatic secure a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 saw Fnatic playing from behind for the first half of the match, as Team Liquid’s early fighting and pushing lineup put the SEA squad on the defensive. However, the team eventually got back on track, with EternaLEnVy’s Lycan (17-1-15) leading the charge as Fnatic reclaimed control of the game and dominated the rest of the late-game fights to shut down Team Liquid and complete an impressive 2-0 win over the defending TI Champion.
With Team Liquid out of the way, Fnatic faced off against Team Secret in a Bo5 Grand Final for the title of Minor Champion. The first two matches of the series went about as poorly as possible for the Southeast Asian squad, as its European opponent was able to render its strategies in both matches largely ineffective. Fnatic was out killed by a score of 22-55 across those first two matches, as the team fell into a dangerous 0-2 hole in the series. Game 3 saw the team pick up cores of Gyrocopter, Death Prophet, and Nature’s Prophet in an attempt to balance team fight power, farming capability, and pushing power. The strategy didn’t pan out for Fnatic, as Team Secret came out aggressively and quickly took control of the match. Fnatic’s team fight power proved largely ineffective against Team Secret as the SEA squad steadily fell further and further behind. Confined to its own base and trailing by nearly 30k net worth, Fnatic finally threw in the towel to fall 0-3 to Team Secret and finish in 2nd place at the Minor.
Fnatic entered the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor hoping to get itself back on track and make progress towards earning a Top 8 spot in the Pro Circuit standings. Coming into the event, the team was projected to finish in the Top 4, and the Southeast Asian squad was able to live up to that prediction with one of its most impressive performances of the season. The team was able to handle both OG and Team Empire with relative ease in match ups where it was significantly favored to win. The team’s victories over Team Liquid and Newbee are where it really shined though, as the SEA squad proved its capacity to contend with some of the Pro Circuit’s leading teams. Even the team’s losses at the event are not particularly damaging either. The team avenged its initial loss to Team Liquid later in the tournament, and its 0-3 loss to Team Secret was hardly surprising considering no one managed to win a match against the European squad in Stockholm. Overall, this impressive showing at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor is exactly what Fnatic needed at this point in the season. We had seen the team’s potential in its Top 4 finish at the ESL One Katowice Major, but Fnatic needed to prove that it was capable of replicating that prior success on the Pro Circuit stage. The team did just that in Stockholm, and now sits within striking distance of a Top 8 spot in the Pro Circuit standings. All the Southeast Asian team needs now is a chance to finally close that gap, and Fnatic is set to have a few opportunities to hit that mark in the near future. The team will be participating in the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 in April, and can earn another Pro Circuit appearance if it wins the upcoming SEA Qualifier for the MDL Changsha Major. Fnatic stands on the precipice of joining the elite squads of the Pro Circuit and potentially earning a direct invite to TI8, it just needs to be able to maintain this recent level of play across the final months of the season.
Immortals came into the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor as a squad that didn’t quite seem to be sure of its place. Within North America the squad has been solid, but still stands somewhat far removed from a position as a leading squad within the region. As for the Pro Circuit stage, Immortals’ appearance at this Minor brought a drought of over four months to an end for the team. Combine those issues with the team’s relatively recent roster changes, and Immortals was facing a level of uncertainty that cast quite a shadow over it heading into the event. With all of that weighing on the North American squad, Immortals entered the Minor looking for a solid showing to help stabilize the team and get it back on track over the last half of the season.
Immortals began its run at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor with a significant challenge, as the North American squad faced Chinese leader Newbee in its first series of the event. Game 1 did not go well for Immortals, as Ryoya’s Outworld Devourer (3-7-1) was harassed early and its support duo proved largely ineffective in their efforts to relieve that early pressure. Newbee’s lineup fought early and often, holding the net worth advantage throughout the entirety of the match as the Chinese squad claimed a relatively one sided victory to open the series. Unfortunately for Immortals, Game 2 saw almost the exact same scenario play out. MP’s Lifestealer (4-5-6) and Ryoaya’s Dragon Knight (6-8-6) were severely limited in terms of their farming opportunities, and the trio of Elder Titan, Disruptor, and Underlord could do little to establish any form of rhythm or momentum for the squad. Newbee once again controlled the match from start to finish, as Immortals could do little to prevent itself from losing the game and the series.
That rough start for Immortals dropped the North American team into the Lower Bracket, where it faced Team Empire in a Bo3 elimination series. The team opted for a draft balancing team fight power with mobility and ganking strength as it picked up cores of Faceless Void, Queen of Pain, and Omniknight alongside a support duo of Tusk and Ancient Apparition. At first, it appeared that the team would be in for another rough match, as Tea Empire’s lineup jumped out to a sizable lead in the early and mid-game stages. However, the cores of Immortals came online and the team put together a string of solidly executed team fights to turn the tide of the match in its favor. From that point forward, Team Empire couldn’t reclaim its lost momentum as Immortals claimed victory in the opening match of the series. Unfortuatnely for Immortals, it was unable to carry any of its momentum from the first match into Game 2, as the team went away from the draft strategy that it had employed in Game 1. The team’s more farm reliant cores were thrown off by the aggressiveness of Team Empire’s lineup, as the CIS squad constantly attacked their opponents. With its cores struggling to keep pace and the team able to secure just 11 kills compared to the 36 of Team Empire, Immortals conceded defeat as the series shifted into a 1-1 tie. The squad attempted to fall back on an old strategy in Game 3, picking up a Phantom Assassin along with an Io in an attempt to fight early against Team Empire. The plan fell spectacularly flat, as Team Empire turned the squad’s aggression against it and dominated early fights. Immortals found just five kills in just under 32 minutes of game time as the North American squad could do nothing to break through Team Empire’s lineup. The team lost the match, losing the series 1-2 in the process and bringing its run at the Minor to an end with a finish in the 7th-8th place position.
Immortals came into the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor looking for stability and clarity regarding its position both on the Pro Circuit and within its regional hierarchy. Unfortunately for the North American team, what it found in Stockholm may not particularly be to the squad’s liking. Before the start of the action at the Minor, Immortals was projected to finish in the 7th-8th place range. Despite the team’s efforts, it proved unable to outperform that prediction as the North American squad finished in the shared lat place position. The team’s opening 0-2 loss against Newbee was a somewhat brutal affair, but not unexpected considering the 4th ranked Newbee was facing a team in Immortals that was tied for 16th in the Pro Circuit standings. There appeared to be little Immortals could have done to win that series, but the team’s truly disappointing series was against Team Empire in the lower bracket. Despite some early struggles, the team managed to win Game 1 and it looked as though Immortals would has a chance to win the series. However, Games 2 and 3 saw the team revert back to a style that it felt more comfortable with, but was entirely ineffective. Team Empire’s dismantling of Immortals over those last two matches not only knocked the North American squad out of the event, but also called into question the team’s flexibility in these situations. Those kinds of questions are not what a squad wants to walk away from a Pro Circuit event with, but Immortals will have to deal with it anyway as it returns to the North American region. Immortals does not currently have any more Pro Circuit events on its schedule, but that could potentially change within the next few days. The team is currently one of the two squads set to play in the Finals of the North America Qualifier for the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minor (formerly StarLadder i-League). That qualifier could very well be Immortals’ last chance to earn another opportunity to perform on the Pro Circuit stage, and we’ll see if the North American squad is able to put this poor performance behind it and put together a solid showing against its regional rivals.
In the wake of the successful run by fellow South American squad Infamous at the GESC: Indonesia Minor, paiN Gaming was looking to find some success of its own on the Pro Circuit stage in Stockholm. The Brazilian squad had been on the rise within the South American region, winning a string of qualifiers that had earned the team a multitude of chances to show its strength on the international level. However, the squad had not been able to take advantage of any of those opportunities to this point in the season, and the recent addition of Danilo “Arms” Silva to the lineup left the team with some questions to answer as it made its way to Stockholm for the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor.
PaiN Gaming began its run at the Minor with one of the more difficult match ups of the event, as the South American squad faced Team Liquid in its first series. The squad put together a solid effort in Game 1 of the series, with hFn’s Sniper (15-8-6) helping to draw out the match and keep paiN Gaming alive. However, it wasn’t enough to turn the tides in the team’s favor, as Team Liquid held the lead past the laning stage and never relinquished it as paiN Gaming went down 0-1 in the series. Game 2 proved to play out in similar fashion, though in a somewhat shorter time frame. Kingrd’s Nature’s Prophet (9-5-5) attempted to lengthen the match with his mobility and split pushing capabilities, but the team fight power of Team Liquid was too strong for the squad to hold off, leading to an 0-2 sweep that dropped paiN Gaming to the lower bracket.
PaiN Gaming faced another European squad in the lower bracket in the form of OG, with elimination on the line. Game 1 saw the Brazilian squad pick up cores of Medusa, Viper, and Beastmaster, but that trio hit some significant issues early in the match. OG played an aggressive style, heavily rotating and looking to force engagements as early and often as possible. Despite holding its own over the course of the first few attempts, paiN Gaming eventually found itself unable to fend off the repeated aggression from its European opponent. The early fighting heavily punished its cores and severely limited farming opportunities for paiN Gaming, causing the South American squad to fall behind in the mid-game stage. With its cores significantly behind those of OG, paiN Gaming was forced to concede defeat in the opening match of the series. Unfortunately for the South American squad, Game 2 didn’t go much better. OG drafted a lineup once again designed to run right at paiN Gaming early and knock them out as quickly as possible. The Brazilian squad was out killed by a score of 10-37 in a match where OG was in full control from the very start. PaiN Gaming made one final attempt to turn a team fight in its favor, but when that effort failed, the team bowed out to take the 0-2 series loss along with elimination from the Minor. That loss to OG left the team 0-4 at the Minor overall, putting paiN Gaming in the shared last place position of 7th-8th.
PaiN Gaming came into the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor looking to replicate the success of fellow South American squad Infamous. However, the team’s chances of making a successful run in Stockholm were not considered to have been very high, with the Brazilian squad projected to fall within the 7th-8th place range. The team was unable to push past that meager prediction, though expecting it to do so wasn’t necessarily reasonable. The team had been showing some improvement both at home and on the international level, but it still seemed a long ways away from being able to truly compete with some of the top squads on the Pro Circuit. On top of that, the team was dealing with the recent addition of a new player to its roster, a move that can through even the strongest of teams off balance. The team’s opening 0-2 loss to Team Liquid was hardly a surprise to anyone, as the defending TI7 Champion was a massive favorite against the South American squad. Where the team could have found some success though was in its lower bracket series against OG. OG had a significantly higher profile on the Pro Circuit stage compared to paiN Gaming, but the European squad was going through a roster transition of its own, and it wasn’t certain how well the team’s coach was going to perform on the Pro Circuit stage. Unfortunately, paiN Gaming put together some rather unimpressive performances in this series, with Sébastien “7ckngMad” Debs showing the Dota 2 world that he is still more than capable of taking over a series for OG. That series was the team’s best chance to show its strength, and instead it was swept away with back to back lopsided losses that did little to highlight the team’s improvements on the international level. However, hope is not lost for paiN Gaming just yet in terms of the team’s chances to earn Qualifying Points this season. PaiN Gaming still have two more Pro Circuit appearances on its schedule, with the South American squad representing its home region at both the DAC 2018 Major and the EPICENTER XL Major over the course of the next two months. Of course, the team’s recent roster change makes any Qualifying Points that it does earn irrelevant, as paiN Gaming is now ineligible for an invite to TI8 or the TI8 Qualifiers. However, proving that the team is capable of finding success against Pro Circuit opposition would be a significant point of pride for the team as it prepares for a run through the Open Qualifiers.