The regional qualifiers are at an end and eight teams are ready to compete as the Pro Circuit makes its return to Kiev.
For the second time this season, Dota 2 fans across the world will have the chance to take in some of the most exciting games and match ups in Kiev, as the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minor returns the Pro Circuit to the Ukrainian capital. The regional qualifiers have all officially reached their conclusion, and the field of participants is now set to battle it out in April. Organized by StarLadder and ImbaTV, the event will be the third in the StarLadder i-League series to be played on the Pro Circuit this season. While the name of the Minor may have changed slightly, the intensity and competitive atmosphere of the event has not, as the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minor will assemble eight teams from around the world for a chance to claim one of the final Minor Championships of the season. Running from April 11 to the 15th, the Minor will put prize pools of $300,000 USD and 300 Qualifying Points up for grabs for the eight participating squads. The distribution of those prize pools among the competing teams is outlined below.
1st: $135,000 (Total) & 150 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
2nd: $60,000 (Total) & 90 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
3rd-4th: $30,000 (Per Team) & 30 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
5th-6th: $15,000 (Per Team)
7th-8th: $7,500 (Per Team)
With the Pro Circuit schedule running through its back half, and with five Majors left to be played before the end of the season, the relatively small prize pools of the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minor may not seen as significant to the Pro Circuit standings. While its true that those remaining Majors will likely have a more prominent or dramatic impact on the Pro Circuit, this Minor remains a pivotal opportunity for those squads that will be playing in Kiev. The two Top 8 ranked squads in the field (VGJ.Thunder, Na’Vi) could both use an infusion of Qualifying Points to help solidify their Pro Circuit standings. Three of the squads (OpTic Gaming, SG e-sports, FlyToMoon) are still looking for their first Qualifying Points of the season, while another three (LGD Gaming, Fnatic, Team Kinguin) are currently ranked but looking for a solid showing to help facilitate a push into the Top 8. Qualifying Points in any amount would be a significant boon for all of the eight participants at this point in the season, which makes things all the more interesting as those teams make their way to Kiev for the Minor. Before the matches themselves get started, we can take a brief look at the eight teams that will be vying for the title of Minor Champion at the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5.
- 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
VGJ.Thunder (China) – VGJ.Thunder made a dramatic entrance into the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings with its impressive 2nd place performance at the Bucharest Major. That strong run catapulted the team up the standings, but the Chinese squad now has to maintain what it has earned for itself over the rest of the season. The team’s hold over its 6th place ranking is not as secure as it may seem at first glance, especially with so many Majors remaining on the schedule offering their larger Qualifying Point pools. Relying on success at Majors to keep yourself stable in the standings is never the safest strategy, and VGJ.Thunder could help its cause immensely by picking up some Qualifying Points at this Minor where it comes in as one of the favored teams to claim a Top 4 finish.
Na’Vi (CIS) – Na’Vi made a rather sudden and drastic leap up the Pro Circuit standings around the roster lock deadline when the team restructured its roster. However, the team’s performance has not matched up to its new ranking, and Na’Vi has been free falling down the Pro Circuit standings ever since. The situation is not exactly ideal for the CIS squad, but hope hasn’t been lost just yet, as the team still has a few opportunities left to turn its recent struggles around. Na’Vi is still clinging to its 8th place ranking in the Pro Circuit standings, and a strong showing in Kiev could be the spark that gets the team back into a more competitive position on the Pro Circuit stage. The team is going to have to show that it has put its recent problems behind it though, a feat that has been particularly daunting over the past month or two.
The Qualifier Winners
Team Kinguin (Europe) – Polish squad Team Kinguin is set to make its third Pro Circuit appearance of 2018 with this spot at the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minor. The team has not had the best performances on the Pro Circuit stage this year, as both of its previous attempts have ended with the squad in the bottom half of the standings. While the team’s efforts in the 2018 section of the season have been unsuccessful, Team Kinguin does have Qualifying Points under its belt from the team’s Top 4 finish at the DOTA Summit 8 back in December. Those points have the team sitting near the bottom of the Pro Circuit standings, but all it would take is one solid showing on the international stage to potentially spark a climb up the rankings. Team Kinguin will come into Kiev hoping to put together a strong enough performance to find that spark.
FlyToMoon (CIS) – CIS squad FlyToMoon has been a relatively recent addition to the Pro Circuit scene, with the team having been formed at the roster lock deadline back at the beginning of February. Formed by a quintet of teamless CIS veterans, the squad has been working its way into the mix within its home region and has recently begun seeing some success in regional qualifiers. The team has shown a surprising level of consistency in its first two months of existence, and at this stage its hard to pin down whether that’s an indicator of the squad’s true strength going forward or a temporary surge. Either way, the team’s strong results so far have FlyToMoon slated as a potential threat for some of the other teams in the field. The CIS squad is far from a favorite to win the event considering its relatively short tenure, but all it would take is a single stand out performance in Kiev to put this team on the map on the Pro Circuit stage.
OpTic Gaming (North America) – At the time of writing this, OpTic Gaming is still searching for its first Qualifying Points of the season. The North American team is set to compete in the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major in just a few days, so by the time this Minor gets started in April, there is a chance that the team will be ranked in the Pro Circuit standings. Given the team’s relatively strong position within the North American region, the chances are high that the team receives an invite to the regional qualifiers for TI8 regardless of its Pro Circuit performance. However, there is still a lot of Dota to be played before the season ends, and OpTic Gaming don’t appear to have given up on making a run for a Top 8 spot. We’ve seen other squads on the Pro Circuit make that kind of dramatic jump up the standings before. In fact, one of the directly invited teams at this very Minor made that jump just recently, with Chinese squad VGJ.Thunder moving from 17th to 6th in the standings with its 2nd place finish at The Bucharest Major. OpTiC Gaming will look to emulate that success in its own Pro Circuit appearances, and this Minor provides the North American squad with a solid opportunity to build momentum and earn those coveted Qualifying Points.
SG e-sports (South America) – Brazilian squad SG e-sports is another team that enters this Minor looking for its first Qualifying Points of the season. The team has remained a powerful and consistent leading squad in the South American region, but it has yet to make that transition onto the international level and find success on the Pro Circuit stage. The fact of the matter is that the team’s Qualifying Point total may not be much of a concern for the team heading into TI8. With some of the other leading squads in the region making late roster changes and becoming ineligible for direct invites to TI8 or the TI8 Regional Qualifiers, SG e-sports can be fairly confident that it will receive an invite to the TI8 South America Qualifier. With that being said, any amount of success outside of its home region would be a significant sign of improvement for the team, and a massive confidence booster heading into the final months of the season.
LGD Gaming (China) – LGD Gaming had one of the roughest stretches of any of the teams in the Pro Circuit standings. The Chinese squad started out the season with a few successes, but imploded on itself towards the end of 2017. After the organization made some significant roster changes, it wasn’t certain whether the team would be able to recover and return to its previous form on the Pro Circuit stage. However, the new-look LGD Gaming is beginning to make a solid recovery effort and is getting itself back into a position of strength within the Chinese region. The question for the team now is whether it can replicate that regional success on the international level again. Despite its issues around the turn of the year, LGD Gaming is still within striking distance of a Top 8 spot if it can start a run on solid Pro Circuit performances. That run may very well start with a strong showing at the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minor.
Fnatic (Southeast Asia) – Fnatic has been on a tear of late, working its way up the Pro Circuit standings with a series of strong performances on the Pro Circuit stage. The team is still not perhaps as consistent as some would prefer, but its play appears to be growing more stable and more confident with every event the team attends. The Southeast Asian squad is currently sitting outside of the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings, but not by a very wide margin. Just a little under 400 Qualifying Points separates the team from current 8th ranked squad Na’Vi, meaning a 1st place finish in Kiev would be enough for the team to usurp that position in the Top 8. Even if the team cannot manage to win the Minor, any Top 4 finish at the event would help to close that gap between Fnatic and the Top 8 teams on the Pro Circuit. Considering how well the team has been playing recently, a momentum building performance in Kiev would serve to help fuel the team to an even more ambitious run to close out the season.