Epic Esports Events’ latest EPICENTER tournament takes center stage on the Pro Circuit as the field is set for the Major in Moscow.
In 2016, the first EPICENTER event came to the Dota 2 world and provided fans with a solid tournament that was largely overshadowed by the subsequent Manila Major the next month. In 2017, EPICENTER returned with a larger field of participants and a larger impact on the pre-TI7 power balance on the international level. Now in 2018, EPICENTER XL stands as one of the most influential and important events of the entire season as the tournament joins the list of Pro Circuit Majors. The regional qualifiers have come to an end now, and the field of 12 participants is now full set and locked in barring any last minute changes. Organized by Epic Esports Events as the third event its its previously mentioned EPICENTER series, the EPICENTER XL Major brings those 12 squads to the VTB Ice Palace in Moscow as the Pro Circuit makes its first trip to Russia this season. Scheduled to begin on April 27 and run through May 6, the Major promises to provide the excitement and drama of late season Dota 2 action as teams make their final push heading into the TI8 Qualifiers. Up for grabs in the Russian capital are prize pools of $1,000,000 USD and 1500 Qualifying Points, though at this time the exact distribution of those prize pools have not been released.
- Prize pool information is not available at this time. This section will be updated as soon as the event organizer releases the distribution details.
With the large amount of Qualifying Points available at the event and its position somewhat late in the Pro Circuit schedule, the EPICENTER XL Major could play a massive role in deciding the final standings on the Pro Circuit and potentially influence the fates of several teams heading into the TI8 Qualifiers. The field of participants that will play in Moscow features squads from all parts of the spectrum in terms of Pro Circuit success. There are established Pro Circuit powers looking to secure direct invites to TI8 as well as struggling squad still searching for their first Qualifying Points of the season in the hopes of earning spots in the TI8 Regional Qualifiers. Then there are the teams in between looking to bolster their season records are prepare for runs through the TI8 Open Qualifiers. That kind of variety in terms of goals and narratives makes for some potentially interesting and exciting story lines at the Major, and the Dota 2 world will get to see which ones play out live when the Major begins in late April. Before that though, we can take a brief look at the teams that have earned themselves a spot at the EPICENTER XL Major and will be competing for the title of Major Champion in Moscow.
- Disclaimer: This post will contain some brief and shallow details for each of the competing teams. A more thorough breakdown of the participating teams will come closer to the start of the event itself.
The Direct Invitees
Virtus.pro (CIS) – So, in case you are someone who hasn’t been paying full attention to the Pro Circuit so far this season, Virtus.pro’s situation can be summed up in one sentece: They don’t need to be here. The team has already secured itself enough Qualifying Points to be guaranteed a direct invite to TI8 barring any last second roster changes. With that in mind, many might be inclined to believe that the team won’t take this event as seriously as some of the other competitors. However, that’s not how VP operates, and any team or fan that makes that assumption will be in for a rude awakening at this event. VP plays with a level of intensity and focus that is nearly unmatched on the Pro Circuit, and it does so regardless of the situation. With this Major taking place on home soil in Moscow, the team will surely be looking to put together an impressive show for its local fans and further prepare itself for its run for the Aegis of Champions at TI8.
Team Liquid (Europe) – Defending TI7 Champion Team Liquid stands as one of the top ranked teams on the Pro Circuit this season, and that position is well deserved. The team has found success at every single event it has attended this season, with the team’s streak of Top 4 finishes currently sitting at nine events at the time of writing this. That is an unprecedented level of consistency for any team in professional Dota 2, and Team Liquid has more than earned its reputation as one of the Pro Circuit’s most formidable opponents. However, for all of the teams consistent success, the European squad still sits short of the mark to secure itself a direct invite to TI8. The team is still a bit under 1000 Qualifying Points away from that coveted guaranteed invite, though the team has a chance of hitting that mark before the action gets started at the EPICENTER XL Major. The European power house will enter the Major either as a squad looking to finally secure its TI8 invite, or as a guaranteed direct invitee that is looking to tune up its game in preparation for its run in Vancouver.
Team Secret (Europe) – Team Secret is another of the Pro Circuit’s leading squads, having put together one of the more impressive runs so far this season. After opening the season with a dominant display in the European region and a string of successes on the Pro Circuit stage, the team has established itself as a true contender on the international level. The doubts that were lingering about the team regarding its offseason roster changes have long since been put to rest, and Team Secret has its eyes set on making a run at the Aegis of Champions at TI8. Depending upon how things play out, the European squad could potentially have its ticket to TI8 already punched by the time play starts in Moscow. However, that scenario relies on the team finishing in either 1st or 2nd place at the DAC 2018 Major, a feat that is not necessarily guaranteed even for a team of Team Secret’s caliber. Should the team not secure that finish in Shanghai, then the EPICENTER XL Major becomes its next best shot at reaching the Qualifying Point total needed to secure its direct invite to TI8. Regardless of the team’s status coming into the event, Team Secret is not likely to wast an opportunity to test itself and show its strength on the international stage against top Pro Circuit opposition.
Newbee (China) – At the time of writing, Newbee currently stands as the top ranked Chinese team on the Pro Circuit. That status has been a point of pride for Newbee, and a position that it has held for most of the season to this point. However, its place at the top of the Chinese hierarchy is not secure, with Vici Gaming and VGJ.Thunder sitting right behind Newbee in the standings. In fact, by the time the EPICENTER XL Major begins in April, there’s a chance that Newbee may no longer be holding that position as the leading Chinese squad. Also of note for Newbee is its position in the Pro Circuit standings heading towards the end of the season. While the Chinese squad is not as close to securing a direct invite to TI8 as some of the other Pro Circuit leaders, it still sits near the top of the standings. However, with the Pro Circuit season set to end with a trio of Majors, the Chinese squad could do with an infusion of Qualifying Points to help solidify its current position. So no matter how the scenarios play out in the time between now and the beginning of the event, Newbee will have something significant to play for in Moscow at the EPICENTER XL Major.
Natus Vincere (CIS) – When the announcement came out back in February that Na’Vi was one of the final teams to receive a direct invite to this event, there were some questions and concerns. The team had just completed a rather drastic set of changes to its roster that had catapulted the team into the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings. Understandably, the team has had some issues adapting to its new roster and the added expectations that came with its new found position of strength on the Pro Circuit. The team showed a flash of encouraging play at the recent GESC: Indonesia Minor, but aside from that things have not been looking fantastic for the CIS squad. At the time of writing, the team is currently clinging to the 8th rank in the Pro Circuit standings, but by the time the action start in Moscow there is a chance that Na’Vi will have fallen out of the Top 8 entirely. With that in mind, the team’s performance at the EPICENTER XL Major will be of vital importance for it as the season winds down, as this opportunity could make the difference between a direct invite to TI8 or a dangerous run through the regional qualifiers.
The Qualifier Winners
OG (Europe) – European squad OG finds itself in one of the more interesting position on the Pro Circuit, as it doesn’t particularly care about how many Qualifying Points it earns at this Major. The reasons for this indifference are not quite the same for OG as they are for a team like Virtus.pro that has already locked in a direct invite to TI8. OG doesn’t care about its Qualifying Point total because the team is currently ineligible to receive an invite either directly to TI8 or to the TI8 Regional Qualifiers. Instead, the team will have to play through the Open Qualifiers in order to reach the regional stage due to making a change to its roster after the official roster lock date. Since that roster change, the team has been playing with its coach as a stand-in, but its not known if OG will have found a replacement player by the time the EPICENTER XL Major begins or if it will continue to play with its coach in the lineup. Either way, the team doesn’t have to worry about its exact placement in the standings in Moscow, it only has to be concerned about how well it plays against international opposition as the team prepares for the grueling test of skill and endurance that it TI Open Qualifiers.
Team Empire (CIS) – The story of Team Empire so far this season has been one of continued solid effort and results at home combined with a series of near misses on the Pro Circuit stage. The CIS squad comes into the EPICENTER XL Major still searching for its first Qualifying Points of the season in what will be the team’s fourth Pro Circuit appearance. Overall, the team’s record at home this season, combined with its experience on the Pro Circuit and its success at third party international events should be enough to get the team into the TI8 CIS Qualifier. However, earning any amount of Qualifying Points before the end of the season would go a long way towards securing that outcome, and Team Empire would likely rather not leave anything to chance with a potential spot at TI8 on the line. With that in mind, the squad should enter the EPICENTER XL Major with and increased drive and motivation to finally take that next step and break through onto the Pro Circuit standings with a solid performance in Moscow.
compLexity Gaming (North America) – Much like OG, North American squad compLexity Gaming also finds itself not having to worry about its Qualifying Point total at this event, or for the entire season for that matter. The team had long been one of the leading squads within North America, but a roster change saw the team drop its now former captain and make itself ineligible for direct invites to TI8 or the TI8 Regional Qualifiers in the process. With the team locked into a run through the Open Qualifiers, all that compLexity Gaming cares about now is making sure it’s prepared for that task, and an opportunity to test itself against top international competition is invaluable at this point in the season. One lingering question for the team though is who it will be using as its fifth player at the event. The North American team has been playing with a stand-in in regional qualifiers since the roster change, but it hasn’t been made fully clear if that addition is permanent. Hopefully, the team will have clarified its roster situation by the time the action starts in Moscow.
paiN Gaming (South America) – Brazilian squad paiN Gaming has been working its way into a position of strength in the South American region since the current roster’s inception back in November. However, the team’s strong performance within its home region have not yet translated into success on the international level, as the team is still searching for its first Qualifying Points of the season as of the time of writing this. By the time the EPICENTER XL Major gets started in April, there is a chance that paiN Gaming will have finally secured its first Top 4 finish of the season. However, any Qualifying Points that the team does mange to earn will not have much meaning for the squad, as paiN Gaming is another of the participants at this Major to have made itself ineligible for invites to TI8 and the TI8 Regional Qualifiers due to post-lock roster changes. The Brazilian squad may be locked into a run through the Open Qualifiers, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t benefit from another opportunity to compete against top Pro Circuit teams in Moscow.
LGD Gaming (China) – LGD Gaming’s fall from grace on the international stage at the end of the 2017 section of the season was a brutal period for the Chinese squad. However, a restructuring of the team’s roster has allowed it to make something of a comeback onto the Pro Circuit scene. The team has already earned one Top 4 finish in 2018 (StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4), and may not be out of the picture in terms of its chances to sneak into a Top 8 spot in the Pro Circuit standings. In order to do that, the team is going to need to put together quite an impressive series of performances on the Pro Circuit stage, and the EPICENTER XL Major gives the team an opportunity to do just that. The team is far from a favorite to win in Moscow, but LGD Gaming has been dominant in the Chinese region so far in 2018, and it has shown the capability to compete with top Pro Circuit teams. The question for LGD Gaming will be whether it can reach and maintain a high level of play coming into the Major.
Mineski (Southeast Asia) – Southeast Asian squad Mineski has spent the majority of the season both as the top ranked team from its region and as one of the Top 8 teams on the Pro Circuit. Heading into the EPICENTER XL Major, neither of those positions are safe for the team, as it has recently lost its Top 8 status and regional rival Fnatic is on the rise on the Pro Circuit. Mineski has hit a bit of a snag on the Pro Circuit of late, with the team failing to earn Top 4 finishes in three of its five appearances in 2018. Those two Top 4 finishes that it did earn were 3rd-4th place runs at Minors that didn’t do much to increase the team’s Qualifying Point total. Depending upon how the team does in its run at the DAC 2018 Major, Mineski could be back in the Top 8 and have a more secure hold over its status as the leading SEA squad. However, even if that is the case, the team will still be in need of a solid showing in Moscow in order to bolster its position heading into the final months of the season. Mineski sits in a somewhat precarious position on the Pro Circuit right now, and the EPICENTER XL Major could make or break the team’s final push before TI8.
FlyToMoon (CIS) – The winner of the EPICENTER XL Madness Qualifier, CIS squad FlyToMoon is most likely not a squad that you’ve heard of before now. The team came together at the roster lock deadline and was formed by a group of teamless veterans of the CIS scene. The team has been competing across various open and CIS qualifiers over the past few months with increasing success. The team is currently competing in the CIS Qualifier for both the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minor and the MDL Changsha Major, which means that Dota 2 fans could be seeing quite a bit more of this squad in the near future. With the team having formed so recently and having no matches together on the Pro Circuit stage, it’s hard to gauge how serious a threat the team could be at the EPICENTER XL Major. However, the team does have a roster full of talented and experienced players, and that alone could make the team a formidable opponent in Moscow.