Showdown in Shanghai: Pro Circuit titans and potential challengers alike clash in China as the Dota 2 Asia Championships makes its debut on the Pro Circuit.
As the Pro Circuit enters the last few months of its season, the schedule is set to heat up with five more Majors between now and the start of the TI8 Qualifiers. Less than a week after the end of the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor, the attention of the Dota 2 world turns to China once again as the Pro Circuit returns to Shanghai for the first of those five Majors: The Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018. Organized by PGL and Perfect World, the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 is the third in the Dota 2 Asia Championships series, with the organizers having hosted an iteration of the tournament for each of the past two years. This 2018 version of the event will be the first of the Pro Circuit era though, having received Major status as a part of the official Pro Circuit schedule of events. Beginning on the 29th of March and running through April 4, the Major will bring 16 of the Pro Circuit’s best teams to the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai, China for a test of strength and skill on the international stage. Up for grabs for those 16 participating teams will be the title of Major Champion alongside prize pools of $1,000,000 USD and 1,500 Qualifying Points. The distribution of those prize pools can be seen below.
1st: $370,000 (Total) & 750 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
2nd: $135,000 (Total) & 450 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
3rd: $105,000 (Total) & 225 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
4th: $85,000 (Total) & 75 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
5th-6th: $67,500 (Per Team)
7th-8th: $35,000 (Per Team)
9th-12th: $15,000 (Per Team)
12th-16th: $10,000 (Per Team)
With that covered, we can shift our attention over to the format for the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major. The event will begin with a Group Stage that will feature the 16 team field being sorted into two groups of eight teams each. Within those groups, the teams will play in a Bo1 round robin format. The top two teams from each group will advance directly to Round 1 of the Upper Bracket in the Playoff Stage while the bottom two teams from each group will be eliminated. The remaining teams from each group will move on to the Breakout Round. The Breakout Round will have the 3rd-6th place teams from each of the groups playing a one-round Bo3 single elimination bracket, with the losers being eliminated from the Major while the winners advance to the Playoff Stage. The Playoff Stage will feature an eight team, double elimination bracket with the four winners from the Group Stage and the four winners of the Breakout Round. The first two rounds of the Lower Bracket will be played in a Bo1 format, while all other series will be played Bo3 until the Bo5 Grand Finals.
With the Pro Circuit season entering its final few months, events such as the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 take on even further weight as squads try to make a final push to improve their standing before the TI8 invites and Qualifiers are announced. The field of teams that will compete in Shanghai features a wide variety of squads in terms of prestige, success, and Pro Circuit standing. Seven of the current Top 8 ranked teams on the Pro Circuit will be in attendance at this event, while five of the participants will be looking to earn their first Qualifying Points of the season. Four teams in the field are currently ranked, but sit outside of the Top 8 and will be looking for a chance to climb up the standings with a solid showing in Shanghai. All of theses teams may be in different standings and circumstances, but they all come to the Major with the goal of securing a Top 4 finish and proving themselves on the Pro Circuit stage. With that being said, we can take a look at each of those 16 participating teams to see where the stand heading into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major.
- 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: Not Ranked (0 Qualifying Points)
1. Sun “Agressif” Zheng
2. Lin “Xxs” Jing
3. Sun “Srf” Runfa
4. Ye “BoBoKa” Zhibiao
5. Fu “Q” Bin (Captain)
Projected Finish: 13th-16th
As the defending Champion of the previous Dota 2 Asia Championships back in 2017, Invictus Gaming was the recipient of a direct invite to this year’s iteration of the event. That invite is a much needed boon for Invictus Gaming, as the season to this point has not gone particularly well for the Chinese squad. This opportunity to play in Shanghai will actually be the team’s first appearance at a Pro Circuit event so far this season. Despite the team’s struggles to reach the Pro Circuit stage, the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 provides Invictus Gaming with a vital opportunity to show its strength on the international level. However, the squad is also dealing with some relatively recent changes to its roster in the form of new additions Sun “Agressif” Zheng and Sun “Srf” Runfa. Roster instability is never something a team wants to deal with, particularly in the crowded Chinese region and a month away from one of the largest events of the season. With that being said, Invictus Gaming could put its recent struggles behind it with a strong performance in Shanghai and bolster its somewhat unimpressive record heading into TI8.
Since Invictus Gaming will be making its first ever Pro Circuit appearance at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major, there is no previous history to look at when evaluating the team. In fact, the Chinese squad has only participated in a single international event across the entirety of the season, that event being the third party China Top 2017 tournament back in November of 2017. The squad posted a 2-4 record overall at the event, defeating Digital Chaos but losing to both TNC Pro Team and VGJ.Thunder to finish 3rd out of four participating teams. Even that performance on the international level comes with something of a caveat though, as the team’s roster at that event included two players who are not in the current active lineup. So Invictus Gaming doesn’t have a very impressive record on the international level this season, and for quite a while the team’s performance within the Chinese region wasn’t all that strong either. However, with the addition of Agressif and Srf to the lineup, things have started to improve for the team. Invictus Gaming recently participated in the China Qualifier for the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitaitonal Season 5, and managed to make it to the Finals of the qualifiers before losing 0-2 to LGD Gaming for a 2nd place finish. The team is also currently active in the Dota 2 Professional League Season 5 in China, where it won the top spot in its group with a 8-2 Group Stage record. That performance has the team sitting in the Semifinals of the Playoff Stage and just one Bo3 win away from securing a spot at the MDL Changsha Major in May. Invictus Gaming won’t be coming into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as a favorite to win, but a solid showing in Shanghai will be a significant step in the right direction as the squad attempts to turn its season around over the last few months of the Pro Circuit schedule.
Invictus Gaming could potentially turn its sub-par season around with a quality performance in Shanghai, but at the moment there doesn’t appear to be a lot working in the team’s favor to suggest that it will be able to pull that off. Coming into the Major, the Chinese squad is projected to finish in the bottom two in Group B and exit the event with a finish in the combined last place position of 13th-16th. As the defending Champion of this event, Invictus Gaming coming back to Shanghai and revitalizing its season with a solid showing would be an ideal story line for the Pro Circuit. Unfortunately, the reality of Invictus Gaming’s situation makes that narrative seem a bit unlikely to happen. The team’s lack of Pro Circuit experience, or even international experience in general, is significantly concerning for a team heading into its first Pro Circuit event of the season. The fact that the team is still only around two months removed from its last roster changes is another red flag that makes it harder to have high levels of confidence in the squad. The make up of the group that the team finds itself in doesn’t do it any favors either, as Group B contains five teams that are currently ranked in the Pro Circuit standings. The projection is not fantastic for Invictus Gaming, but the team still has a path to success in Shanghai. Despite the fact that it underwent some recent changes, Invictus Gaming’s lineup is still fill of incredibly talented and experienced players. With that much talent and a series of Bo1 matches, its fully possible that the Chinese squad puts together enough solid performance in the Group Stage to avoid those bottom two slots and advance into the Breakout Round. From that point, its almost impossible to guess what team Invictus Gaming would have to face, but that scenario would have the team beating its meager projected finish regardless of how it fairs in the next round. So there is a scenario that give Invictus Gaming a shot a success at the Major. However, that shot is dependent upon the team being able to overcome the issues that have been plaguing it so far this season, which puts the expectations for the team significantly lower than the potential in Shanghai.
Qualification: Direct Invite
Pro Circuit Rank: 4th (2220 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: 5th-6th
Newbee enters the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as the kings of Chinese Dota, with the squad holding the position of highest ranked Chinese team on the Pro Circuit. It’s a position that the team has held for nearly the entirety of the season, but its one that is in jeopardy as the team makes its 11th appearance on the Pro Circuit stage. The team enters the Major just 60 Qualifying Points ahead of regional rival Vici Gaming in the standings, and just a little under 600 points ahead of VGJ.Thunder as well. A strong showing from either of those squads in Shanghai has the potential to snatch Newbee’s position as top ranked Chinese squad away. So regional pride is on the line here for Newbee, but the team can also bolster its chances at earning a spot at TI8 with a solid showing at the Major. Newbee’s position in the Top 8 of the Pro Circuit standings is relatively secure at the moment, but with five Majors left on the schedule the potential is still there for unexpected runs from teams currently on the outside looking in. With that in mind, the Chinese leader could use a strong showing at a Pro Circuit event both to hold off regional rivals and to help solidify its position heading into the last few months of the season schedule. The Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major provides the team the perfect opportunity to earn that strong result, but Newbee will have to contend with a field filled with some of the Pro Circuit’s top squads.
Newbee hasn’t been away from the Pro Circuit stage for all that long, as the team’s last appearance came just days ago at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor in Stockholm, Sweden. The team put together solid showing at the Minor, recovering from an early loss to Team Secret to earn a 4th place finish overall. That Top 4 finish in Sweden was the most recent success for Newbee in what has been an impressive stretch in 2018, as the Chinese squad has earned four Top 4 finishes in five events since the srart of the year. The squad began 2018 by winning its second Minor Championship of the season at the ESL One Genting Minor in January and followed that up with a 3rd-4th place finish at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 Minor in February. This month saw the team take its aforementioned 4th place win in Stockholm along with a 3rd-4th place finish a few weeks ago at The Bucharest Major. The only performance in which the team didn’t achieve a Top 4 finish in 2018 was a 7th-8th place run at the ESL One Katowice Major. The team’s international performance has been incredibly impressive in 2018, and its strong results on the Pro Circuit stage have significantly lessened the team’s need to participate in regional qualifiers. The Chinese team has seen action in just two Chinese qualifiers so far this year, and has earned Top 4 finishes in both of them. With the team’s need to play within regional qualifiers dwindling and its results on the Pro Circuit continuing to be strong and relatively consistent, Newbee is set up nicely to finish out the season strong. The strong finish will start in Shanghai, as the team looks to make another Top 4 run at the Major.
Newbee enters the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major in search of a strong showing both to solidify its favorable position in the Pro Circuit standings and to secure its place as the top ranked Chinese team on the Pro Circuit. Considering the team’s performance on the international level over the last few months, it certainly seems like the team will have the chance to compete for another impressive finish in Shanghai. Coming into the event, the Chinese leader is project to finish in the 5th-6th range, outside of an expected Top 4 spot but still close enough to reach that point with one or two favorable occurrences. The team has shown consistent production whether it is facing its regional rivals or challengers on the international stage, which will be an invaluable asset for the team throughout the initial stages of the Major. The team should face little to no difficulties advancing out of the Group Stage, as it stands as one of the strongest squads in Group B, second perhaps only to Team Liquid. The Chinese squad should be able to secure a position as one of the top two teams at the end of the Group Stage, unless it makes a series of mistakes in its Bo1 matches. Should the team be able to secure that position, then it will have the benefit of skipping the Breakout Round entirely and advancing directly into the double elimination bracket. The double elimination format of the Playoff Stage bracket gives Newbee a small bit of leeway to work with in Shanghai. While there is a chance that the team receives an unfavorable match up in its Upper Bracket series and faces a loss, it seems unlikely that Newbee gets put up against superior opponents in both the upper and lower brackets. The odds of Newbee losing two series in a row there seem low, which makes the team a confident choice to advance to the next round. Whether it’s in the upper or lower bracket at that stage, Newbee will most likely face some trouble in the next round. By this point in the event, Newbee will be facing some of the stronger and higher ranked squads on the Pro Circuit like VGJ.Thunder, VP, Team Liquid, or Team Secret. Those match ups are where we’ve seen the Chinese team hit the wall a bit in its prior Pro Circuit performances. If Newbee manages to win a series at that point on either side of the bracket, then it would be guaranteed a Top 4 finish at the Major. However, we’ve seen the team struggle to get past some of those other leading teams multiple times in the past, though Newbee has the skill and the experience needed to find success in those match ups. The safer expectations and predictions may put Newbee just outside of the Top 4, but that line for the Chinese leader is incredibly thin, and the team is more than capable of hitting that mark in front of a hometown crowd in Shanghai.
Qualification: Direct Invite
Pro Circuit Rank: 2nd (4734 Qualifying Points)
1. Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen
2. Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barqawi
3. Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov
4. Maroun “GH” Merhej
5. Kuro Salehi “KuroKy” Takhasomi (Captain)
Projected Finish: Top 4
Team Liquid comes into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as one of the Pro Circuit’s top ranked teams, and certainly its most consistent. The European powerhouse will be participating in its 10th Pro Circuit event of the season, and all nine of its runs at those previous events have resulted in a Top 4 finish. To put that in a bit of a wider perspective, there is no other team on the Pro Circuit that has a 100% Top 4 rate, regardless of the number of events attended (2nd highest is VP with 75%). That level of consistent production makes Team Liquid one of the most dangerous and formidable opponents in the field at the Major, as the European squad rarely exposes any mistakes or weaknesses. The team will have more than just its impressive streak of Top 4 finishes to play for in Shanghai though, as the squad is also closing in on enough Qualifying Points to secure a direct invite to TI8 this summer. Currently, the team needs a 1st or 2nd place finish to go over the required total for a direct invite, which gives Team Liquid added incentive to show its considerable strength on the Pro Circuit stage at the Major.
Team Liquid’s last Pro Circuit appearance came just a few days ago in Stockholm, as the European squad participated in the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor. While the team played with its coach as a stand-in due to Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barqawi’s absence, Team Liquid still put together an impressive performance at the event and finished 3rd overall. That Top 4 finish in Sweden was just the latest in a long list of Pro Circuit successes for the defending TI Champion, as the team’s aforementioned streak of Top 4 finishes this season stands at nine. 2018 has seen the European squad claim five of those nine Top 4 finishes, including its third Minor Championship of the season at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4. To put a long story short, Team Liquid has been absurdly consistent on the Pro Circuit this season, and there’s little reason to believe that it’s going to suffer any drop off in play at this point in the season. With so much attention paid to the team’s performance on the international level, some may wonder how the team has played within its home region this season. The answer is that it largely hasn’t, as Team Liquid has not needed to play in any regional qualifiers in 2018. In fact, the only qualifier that the team has participated in all season long was for the DreamLeague Season 8 Major, and that was only necessary because the event didn’t feature any direct invites at all. The team’s incredible performance this season and its prestigious reputation has essentially eliminated the team’s need to participate in regional qualifiers. Combine that with its unprecedented streak of success on the Pro Circuit stage, and Team Liquid enters the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major with all the confidence in the world.
Team Liquid enters the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major within a stone’s throw of reaching that coveted direct invite status for TI8. Considering the fact that the team’s streak of Top 4 finishes still has not been broken all season long, it doesn’t appear that there’s much that can stand in the way of the team finding success in Shanghai. With that in mind, Team Liquid comes into the Major projected to finish within the Top 4 for the 10th straight time on the Pro Circuit. The European squad should have little to no difficulties advancing out of the Group Stage considering its impressive record and the number of teams within Group A facing their own struggles on the international level of late. The only thing that the team really needs to be concerned about in the Group Stage is falling outside of the top two positions. While the Bo1 format of the Group Stage matches present a level of risk, the team’s near unbelievable level of consistency makes even the possibility of finishing outside of the top two in Group A seem tiny and remote. Should the team perform to expectations and finish in one of those top 2 positions, then it would advance directly to Round 1 of the Upper Bracket to await one of the winning squads from the Breakout Round. Unless one of the Top 4 ranked teams in the Pro Circuit standings finds itself in that Breakout Round, then Team Liquid should be a heavy favorite over whatever squad it faces in its initial series of the Main Event. If the team wins that series, then it would be just one final Bo3 win away from securing a Top 4 finish. On the other hand, if Team Liquid losses that series, then it would need back to back victories in the lower bracket to reach that Top 4 position. Either way, the European squad is likely to have to face off against another team ranked near or at the top of the Pro Circuit standings. While none of those teams in the Top 4 or 6 in the Pro Circuit standings are necessarily significant favorites over the others, Team Liquid has consistently been able to find a way to overcome those rivals to reach the Top 4 mark. Barring a significant mistake from the European squad or a particularly strong performance from another leading Pro Circuit squad, Team Liquid can fairly confidently be expected to add to its streak of Top 4 finishes in Shanghai.
Qualification: Direct Invite
Pro Circuit Rank: 5th (2160 Qualifying Points)
1. Zhang “Paparazi灬” Chengjun
2. Zeng “Ori” Jiaoyang
3. Ren “eLeVeN” Yangwei
4. Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng
5. Lu “Fenrir” Chao (Captain)
Projected Finish: 5th-6th
Chinese squad Vici Gaming enters the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as one of the leading squads on the Pro Circuit with a position as the 5th ranked team in the standings. As the team prepares to make its eighth appearance on the Pro Circuit stage, the Chinese squad also has an opportunity to overtake Newbee for the position of highest ranked team in China. Vici Gaming currently trails Newbee by just 60 Qualifying Points in the Pro Circuit standings, meaning a solid showing in Shanghai could be enough for the team to usurp that coveted title. Combine that opportunity with the chance to further solidify its position in the Pro Circuit standings, and Vici Gaming has all the motivation in the world to put together a strong showing on home soil in Shanghai.
Vici Gaming’s last Pro Circuit appearance came earlier this month when the Chinese squad was a participant at The Bucharest Major. The team did not have a particularly pleasant time at the Major, as it posted a 1-3 record in the Group Stage that saw it eliminated from Playoff contention with a disappointing 12th-14th place finish. The team’s poor performance in Bucharest was something of an outlier for it, as Vici Gaming had been putting in a rather solid series of performances on the Pro Circuit in 2018 prior to that stumble. The team had begun the 2018 section of the season with a 2nd place finish at the Captains Draft 4.0 Minor in January, and had also finished in 2nd place at the ESL One Katowice Major just a month ago at the end of February. In fact, prior to The Bucharest Major, the closest thing Vici Gaming had to a bad performance in 2018 was its 5th-6th place finish at the ESL One Genting Minor. This recent stumble on the international level does raise some concerns for the team, but its stellar record over the last few months makes it easier to believe that the team will be able to put that poor performance behind it. Vici Gaming may have hit a small snag on the Pro Circuit recently, but its performance within the Chinese region has remained about as consistent as possible in 2018. The team has participated in four Pro Circuit qualifiers so far and finished in the Top 4 in each of them. The team is also still active in the Dota 2 Professional League Season 5 in China, where the squad has secured itself a place in the Playoff Stage and is fighting to claim one of the league’s three reserved spots at the MDL Changsha Major in May. With solid and stable results at home and proven success on the Pro Circuit stage in 2018, Vici Gaming comes into the Major with a strong shot at a Top 4 finish.
Vici Gaming has an interesting opportunity in front of its as it prepares for the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major. The squad is looking for a solid showing to help solidify and improve its ranking in the Pro Circuit standings, and this Major certainly provides an ideal chance to make that happen. However, there is also a bit of regional pride on the line as well s the team could take the position of top ranked Chinese squad away from Newbee with a Top 4 finish in Shanghai. Coming into the event, Vici Gaming is projected to fall just short of that mark though, with a finish in the 5th-6th place position. The team has been putting together a string of strong performances within the Chinese region, and despite a small stumble in Bucharest it has been able to secure a good degree of success on the Pro Circuit stage as well in 2018. Those results make the team one of the stronger opponents within its group, and a near lock to advance past the Group Stage. The team may not be able to bring down Team Liquid or Newbee to claim one of the top two spots in Group A, but it would take a either a string of big mistakes from Vici Gaming or multiple other teams in the group putting together some near miraculous runs for the Chinese squad to take an early exit from the Major. The team’s expected position near the top of the Group A standings should set it up for a favorable Bo3 series in the Breakout Round as well. Like in the Group Stage, Vici Gaming will be significantly favored to advance out of the Breakout Round unless it makes mistakes or somehow has to face someone like Team Secret, Virtus.pro, or VGJ.Thunder. Once the team reaches the next round and is in the double elimination bracket, Vici Gaming could run into some trouble. The Chinese team will have to face one of the four group winners in this round, and barring any surprises from the Group Stage, those teams will more than likely be the teams currently ranked in the Top 4 in the Pro Circuit standings. That presents a bit of a problem for Vici Gaming, as the Chinese squad has only been able to find success against those leading squads on one or two occasions so far this season. The good news for the Chinese squad though is that should it lose that series and drop down to the lower bracket, it is unlikely that it would face another of those previously mentioned Top 4 ranked squads in that series. That would put the team in a much stronger position to advance to the next round, although then it would be faced with the same issue of having to take down one of the Pro Circuit leaders. Whether it ends up in the Upper or Lower Bracket in Round 2 of the Playoff Stage, the team is looking at having to win two of three series against the top ranked opponents that it has had significant difficulties getting past before. With that in mind, the team is still a solid contender and a potential candidate for a run at the Top 4, but the expectations for the squad will be slightly below that mark until the team shows that it can defeat those leading teams in elimination scenarios.
Qualification: Direct Invite
Pro Circuit Rank: 1st (7197 Qualifying Points)
1. Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev
2. Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko
3. Pavel “9pasha” Khvastunov
4. Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan
5. Alexei “Solo” Berezin (Captain)
Projected Finish: Top 4
Virtus.pro enters the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as the top ranked team on the entire Pro Circuit, with the CIS squad holding a significant lead over the next highest team in terms of Qualifying Points. The team also comes into the Major in a unique position on the Pro Circuit, as VP is the first and only squad to have guaranteed its direct invite status for TI8. The team will be making its ninth Pro Circuit appearance of the season, but VP no longer has any need to earn Qualifying Points at the Major. Unless the team makes a surprise roster change, it is locked in to a spot in Vancouver this summer. With that in mind, VP comes into this event with little regard for Qualifying Points, though the chance to earn its share of prize money and test itself once again against top Pro Circuit competition will likely be motivation enough for the team to put together another impressive showing on the Pro Circuit stage. No matter what the team’s motivations or goals may be in Shanghai, VP stands as one of the most formidable squads in the field at the Major.
Its been a little over two weeks since the last time Dota 2 fans got to see Virtus.pro on the Pro Circuit stage, as the team last played at The Bucharest Major. The team advanced through the Group Stage of the event with a 3-1 record, defeating LGD.Forever Young, Na’Vi, and TNC Pro Team but losing a match to OpTic Gaming as well. Once the team got to the Playoff Stage though, its traditional composure and dominance came to the forefront. The squad took series against OpTic Gaming, Team Liquid, and VGJ.Thunder to win its third Major Championship of the season and lock in its TI8 direct invite. Since then, the team has not played any official matches, having taken a short break in the wake of reaching that coveted TI8 invite status. However, looking at the team’s international performance in 2018, one can see just how the team managed to reach that mark so much faster than anyone else. The team began its 2018 run with a performance at the ESL One Genting Minor that left it just short of a Top 4 spot with a 5th-6th place finish. That narrow miss had been the closest thing to a “disappointing” performance for VP this year, as it earned back to back Major Championships at the ESL One Katowice Major and the aforementioned Bucharest Major. The team is absolutely dominant on the international level at this point in the season, but how well has the team played within the CIS region in 2018? The answer is that it hasn’t played in the CIS region at all, as the squad has not participated in a single CIS qualifier since the start of the year. In fact, the last Pro Circuit qualifier that the team played in was the DreamLeage Season 8 Europe & CIS Qualifier all the way back in November of 2017. The team’s incredible performance on the Pro Circuit stage has made the need to play in regional qualifiers irrelevant for Virtus.pro, and now its performance had even made the need to continue playing on the Pro Circuit irrelevant as well. However, VP doesn’t appear to be too keen on resting on its laurels for the next few months until TI8 rolls around, so the CIS leader will be competing in Shanghai all the same.
Virtus.pro doesn’t necessarily need to put forth its best effort at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major considering it’s already secured a direct invite to Vancouver for TI8. However, it seems like the team wouldn’t bother to be in Shanghai at all if it wasn’t determined to perform at its best at a Pro Circuit event. With that in mind, the Pro Circuit leader comes into the Major projected to finish within the Top 4 yet again. The team’s record on the international stage, and particularly at Pro Circuit Majors, has approached the point where it is nearly superhuman. The CIS squad has already claimed three Major Championships this season and proven itself more than capable of taking on any opponent in any scenario. That kind of consistent and dominant performance means that the team should essentially breeze through the Group Stage of this event. Group B does contain some other quality squads like Team Secret, VGJ.Thunder, and even Evil Geniuses, but it seems highly unlikely that two of those teams manage to finish with a better record than VP. The Bo1 format may present issues for some of the other teams in the group, but VP has shown a level of adaptability and versatility that few teams on the Pro Circuit have been able to match, and that makes the format of the Group Stage significantly less intimidating for the team. Barring a truly surprising drop off from VP, the CIS squad should be able to claim one of the top two position in its group and advance directly to Round 1 of the Upper Bracket. There, the team will face one of the winning teams from the Breakout Round, though VP will most likely be a significant favorite over any of the teams coming out of that round. From that point, the team will have a relatively straight forward path to a Top 4 finish. If it wins that initial Bo3 series, then it will only need to win one more series against what will probably be another of the Pro Circuit leaders to secure a Top 4 spot. If it losses its Round 1 match up, then VP will have to win two series in the lower bracket to reach that mark. The good news is that the first match up in that lower bracket will likely be against a significantly weaker team than VP, but it will still have to face a top ranked squad in Round 2 of the lower bracket to advance. So no matter the scenario, Virtus.pro will more than likely have to take down a squad ranked somewhere high in the Pro Circuit standings. Fortunately for VP, it has amassed quite a bit of experience in terms of defeating other leading Pro Circuit squads. Unless the team suffers a massive lapse in focus or actually decides not to take this event seriously in light of its TI8 invite, then VP is one of the safest bets to crack the Top 4 one more time in Shanghai.
Qualification: Direct Invite
Pro Circuit Rank: 3rd (4710 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
Fresh off of its 1st place finish at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor, European squad Team Secret enters the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major looking to maintain its considerable momentum with another strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage. Team Secret will be making its 11th appearance at a Pro Circuit event this season, which is tied with Newbee for the most attended events by any team so far. The team is currently ranked 3rd overall in the Pro Circuit standings, and it sits just a little under 1000 Qualifying Points away from securing a direct invite to TI8. With that goal within its reach, this Major takes on a bit of added weight for Team Secret. A finish in either 1st or 2nd place in Shanghai would be enough to punch the team’s ticket to Vancouver for a guaranteed shot at claiming the Aegis of Champions. Before the European squad can begin entertaining notions of victory at TI8, it will need to fight its way through a tough field of opponents at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major.
The last Pro Circuit appearance for Team Secret came just a few days ago at the previously mentioned DreamLeague Season 9 Minor in Stockholm, Sweden. The European squad dominated the competition at the event, winning 9 straight matches and defeating Team Empire, Newbee, Team Liquid, and Fnatic in subsequent series to claim its second Minor Championship and its third event win overall on the season. That kind of dominant performance from the team is what fans had been used to in 2018 before the team hit a small setback in the last month or so. Team Secret opened 2018 with a 1st place finish at the Captains Draft 4.0 Minor followed by another Top 4 finish at the ESL One Genting Minor later that month. Recently though, the team had narrowly missed the mark on the Pro Circuit stage, with finishes in the 5th-6th position at the ESL One Katowice Major and the 5th-8th place range at The Bucharest Major. Those two misses at back to back Majors delayed the team’s securing of its TI8 direct invite status, but its recent success in Stockholm has hopefully gotten Team Secret back into form as it looks to close that gap. In terms of recent results within its home region, Team Secret is in the interesting position of not having any recent matches within the European region. Team Secret had not had a need to participate in a Pro Circuit qualifier since November of 2017 when it claimed 1st place in the DreamLeague Season 9 Europe & CIS Qualifier. Every event that the team has attended since that qualifier has seen Team Secret receive a direct invitation, and it doesn’t appear that things are going to change between now and the end of the season. If Team Secret can maintain its most recent level of play heading into Shanghai, then that trend may very well continue on past the end of the season as well, with the European squad securing a direct invite to TI8.
Team Secret enters the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major in a position of significant strength on the Pro Circuit. The team had gone through a relatively small drop off in its play over the course of its last two Major appearances, but the team’s dominant showing at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor appears to have gotten it back into its usual form. With that said, the European squad comes into this Major projected to finish within the Top 4 and potentially secure its direct invite to TI8. The Group Stage should not present any significant issues for the European squad, as it stands with Virtus.pro as the two most accomplished and formidable squads in Group B. The Bo1 format of the Group Stage matches could result in one or two unexpected losses for Team Secret, but it doesn’t seem likely that the team makes enough mistakes to cause it to fall out of the top two positions in the group. Should the team manage to avoid any shocking collapses and claim one of those top two positions, then it will skip the Breakout Round and advance directly into the double elimination Playoff Bracket. The European squad should have few issues winning its first series at the Main Event, as Team Secret will be considered a heavy favorite against any of the squad that are expected to go to the Breakout Round. Fi the team can hold to expectations and win that initial Bo3 series, then all it will need to do to secure a Top 4 finish is win at least one of a possible two series. The concern at that point is that those series will most likely be against another team ranked at the top of the Pro Circuit standings that will present Team Secret with a significant challenge. It is always possible that Team Secret actually loses both of those series and falls out of the Top 4 entirely in Shanghai, as no team is strong enough at the moment to come anywhere close to being guaranteed a win against the Pro Circuit’s top ranked teams. However, Team Secret’s chances of winning one out of two series in that scenario are higher than just about anyone else’s. With that in mind, the team can rather comfortably be put into the position of expecting a Top 4 finish, but nothing is ever set in stone on the Pro Circuit stage, and Team Secret will still have a tough fight ahead of it in Shanghai if it wants to reach that mark.
Region: Southeast Asia
Qualification: Southeast Asia Qualifier Winner
Pro Circuit Rank: 9th (900 Qualifying Points)
1. Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung (Captain)
2. Kam “NaNa” a.k.a “Moon” Boon Seng
3. Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang
4. Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong
5. Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross Jr.
Projected Finish: 9th-12th
Mineski has stood as the highest ranked squad from the Southeast Asian region for the entirety of the season to this point, but that position is beginning to come under fire as the Pro Circuit season passes the half way mark. Coming into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major, the team sits just 16 Qualifying Points ahead of fellow SEA squad Fnatic in the Pro Circuit standings. The concerns for Mineski are not just confined to its status within its home region either, as the team has also fallen out of the Top 8 in the standings. With its potential TI8 direct invite in jeopardy along with its status as the leading Southeast Asian squad, Mineski is in somewhat desperate need of a solid showing on the Pro Circuit to get itself back on track. The Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major could be the perfect opportunity for the team to turn around its recent struggles, but the SEA squad will have a tough task ahead of it in Shanghai.
The last Pro Circuit appearance for Mineski wasn’t all that long ago, as the Southeast Asian leader was a participant at The Bucharest Major at the beginning of March. The team struggled significantly in the Group Stage of the event, earning just one win against CIS team Vega Squadron en route to a 1-3 overall record. That record wasn’t enough to advance the team out of the Group Stage, as Mineski finished in a rather disappointing 12th-14th place at the Major. The team’s performance on the international level has been somewhat erratic so far in 2018, with the team earning two Top 4 finishes at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 and the Captains Draft 4.0 Minors but also finishing 9th-12th at both the ESL One Genting Minor and the ESL One Katowice Major. Overall, those performances have presented a picture of Mineski as a team that has the skill and talent of a top ranked squad, but currently lacks the consistency needed to remain in that position. While the team’s performance on the Pro Circuit was been a bit unstable, Mineski’s results within the Southeast Asian region have stayed strong in 2018. The team has participated in five Pro Circuit qualifiers this year and has managed to earn Top 4 results in all of them, including three 1st place finishes. Those strong results within its home region has kept Mineski in a position to earn spots at Pro Circuit events, but the team is going to have to convert more of those opportunities if it wants to reclaim a position in the Top 8, beginning with this appearance in Shanghai.
Mineski enters the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major on a quest to reclaim its position within the Top 8 squads in the Pro Circuit standings and solidify its hold over the position of top ranked Southeast Asian squad on the Pro Circuit. The team has faced some significant struggles on the international level of late, and it doesn’t appear that the team’s path to success will be any easier in Shanghai than it has across 2018 to this point. Coming into the Major, Mineski is projected to finish in the 9th-12th place range overall; advancing out of the Group Stage but falling in the Breakout Round. While the team has remained strong and still stands as one of the most formidable squads in the Southeast Asian region, its performance on the Pro Circuit stage has been significantly less consistent in 2018. The team has managed to earn two Top 4 finishes at Minors, but it three of its last four Pro Circuit appearances have ended with the SEA squad in the bottom half of the standings thanks to some less than inspired performances. We know how talented the team’s roster is, and we’ve seen how strong it looks when it’s playing at its full potential. The problem is that it’s almost impossible to tell whether the squad will come into this event with the focus and clarity that it needs to perform at that highest level. The team should be able to advance through the Group Stage with limited issues regardless of its initial level of focus or determination. The team’s talent alone should be enough to ensure that it finishes over at least two of the weaker squads in Group B barring a truly disastrous drop off in play from the SEA squad. The Breakout Round is where fans will really get to see which version of the team made the trip to Shanghai. If the team shows that it has turned its recent issues around and returns to the form we saw earlier in the season, then Mineski should be able to win its Bo3 series and potentially compete for a finish near the top of the standings. However, if the team puts together the same inconsistent and disjointed effort that we’ve seen at its last few Pro Circuit appearances, then the Breakout Round will likely be as far as the team goes at the Major.
TNC Pro Team
Region: Southeast Asia
Qualification: Southeast Asia Qualifier Runner-Up
Pro Circuit Rank: 13th (270 Qualifying Points)
1. Marc “Raven” Fausto
2. Armel Paul “Armel” Tabios
3. Sam “Sam_H” Hidalgo
4. Timothy “Tims” Randrup
5. Carlo “Kuku” Palad (Captain)
Projected Finish: 9th-12th
It’s been a relatively quiet season on the Pro Circuit so far for Southeast Asian squad TNC Pro Team. The SEA squad suffered a bit of a drop off in play to begin the 2018 section of the season, and those struggles lead to the addition of Armel Paul “Armel” Tabios to the roster at the end of January. Since that roster move, the team has shown some encouraging signs of recovery, but it still has a bit of a ways to go before its back into serious contention on the Pro Circuit. The team comes into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as a ranked squad in the Pro Circuit standings, but is relatively far removed from the leading teams. While the gap between the team and a Top 8 spot is significant, it is not insurmountable so long as TNC Pro Team begins finding success on the Pro Circuit at a more frequent pace. The team is hoping that it can begin a real push up the Pro Circuit standings with a strong showing in Shanghai at the Major.
The last Pro Circuit appearance for TNC Pro Team came earlier this month when the squad was a participant at The Bucharest Major. The team was one of the final teams to advance out of the Group Stage, as the SEA squad posted a 3-2 record that included Bo1 victories over Mineski, OpTic Gaming, and Na’Vi. Unfortunately though, the team fell just short of the mark for a Top 4 finish after a 1-2 loss to VGJ.Thunder that ended its run in the shared 5th-8th place position at the Major. Since then, the team has not had the chance to play any other official matches on the international level. The team did have one other Pro Circuit appearance in 2018 (9th-12th, ESL One Genting), although that event was played prior to the team’s most recent roster change. TNC Pro Team may not have had the most successful few months on the international level, but its performance within the Southeast Asian region has been somewhat more impressive in 2018. The Southeast Asian squad has participated in four Pro Circuit qualifiers since adding Armel to the lineup, and had earned Top 4 finishes in all of them. Unfortunately, none of those Top 4 performances were 1st place finishes, which has left the team somewhat short on opportunities to play on the Pro Circuit stage. The qualifier for this Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major featured spots for two teams at the LAN final, allowing TNC Pro Team to qualify with its 2nd place finish. It’s still not the most impressive or dominant series of regional performances that we’ve seen recently, but at this stage in the season consistency and stability take on an even larger level of importance for TNC Pro Team as it looks to establish itself as a threat on the Pro Circuit.
TNC Pro Team enters the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major looking for the opportunity to finally take that last step and become a serious contender on the Pro Circuit stage. Coming into the event, the team is projected to advance through the Group Stage but fall in the Breakout Round to finish in the 9th-12th place range. Since the addition of Armel at the end of January, the team has continued to show the level of consistency and strength within the Southeast Asian region that it enjoyed back towards the end of 2017. However, the team’s international performance in 2018 both with and without Armel had been encouraging but perhaps not quite as strong as it could be. The team struggled significantly a the ESL One Genting Minor, but put together a much stronger performance at The Bucharest Major that left it just one series away from a Top 4 spot. That latter performance came after the addition of Armel to the lineup, so the hopes for TNC Pro Team are that its results from Bucharest are more in line with the team’s overall level than its prior Pro Circuit efforts. With that said, the team should be able to get through the Group Stage of this Major with limited difficulties. Its group does have quite a few heavy hitters in it, but it also contains teams like OG, Keen Gaming, and OpTic Gaming that are going through some issues of their own at the moment. TNC Pro Team doesn’t need to knock out one of the giants of the Pro Circuit in the Group Stage, it just needs to make sure that it finishes above at least two of those weaker squads. From that point on, things potentially get complicated for the Southeast Asian team in as it would enter the Breakout Round. Unless there is a serious shake up in the way the Group Stage plays out, the list of likely candidates to reach the Breakout Round contains just one or two squads that TNC Pro Team would be considered a favorite against. Should the team manage to either draw a favorable match up or take a series as an underdog team, then the SEA squad could potentially have enough momentum to push all the way up to be in a position to threaten for a Top 4 spot. Of course, that’s essentially the best case scenario for the team, and it is entirely dependent on the team’s performance in that Breakout Round series. The expectations for TNC Pro Team may be somewhat reserved, but don’t be surprised if the Southeast Asian team pulls out a solid showing and takes aim at a more impressive finish in Shanghai.
Qualification: China Qualifier Co-Winner
Pro Circuit Rank: Not Ranked (0 Qualifying Points) (Ineligible for TI Invite)
1. Yang “MS” Yongjie
2. Wang “old chicken” Zhiyong
3. Song “dark” Runxi (Captain)
4. Liu “yoona” Xiangkun
5. Jiang “天命” a.k.a “Tiān mìng” An
Projected Finish: 13th-16th
Keen Gaming made quite the entrance onto the Pro Circuit stage near the beginning of the season, as the team emerged from the China Open Qualifier to earn a place at the ESL One Hamburg Major. Since then though, the team has found significant difficulties getting itself back onto the Pro Circuit stage. This appearance at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major will be just the team’s second Pro Circuit event of the season, and it will be playing with a very different lineup than what it had in Hamburg. Only two members of that team that played at the ESL One Hamburg Major remain on the roster, as Yang “MS” Yongjie, Wang “old chicken” Zhiyong, and Liu “yoona” Xiangkun were all added to the roster in 2018. Unfortunately, the addition of old chicken to the roster came a bit later than the others, and late enough that it broke the roster lock and made Keen Gaming ineligible for direct invites to TI8 or the TI8 Regional Qualifiers. With a tough run through the Open Qualifiers in its future, Keen Gaming needs to utilize this opportunity in Shanghai to test itself against top Pro Circuit competition and prepare for that daunting task.
As previously mentioned, Keen Gaming has not seen action on the Pro Circuit stage since its appearance at the ESL One Hamburg Major back in October of 2017. The team did relatively well in its Pro Circuit debut, posting a 2-4 Group Stage record but failing to advance to the Playoff Stage for a 5th-6th place finish at the event. Since then, the team has undergone some significant roster changes, but that hasn’t necessarily stopped Keen Gaming from gaining further experience on the international level. Earlier this month, the team’s new roster participated in the World Electronic Sports Games 2017 as a representative of the APAC (Asia-Pacific) region. Keen Gaming managed to advance to the Playoff Stage, but lost 1-2 to paiN Gaming in the Quarterfinals to finish in the combined 5th-8th place position out of a field of 30 participating teams. The team’s experience on the international level may not be extensive at this point in the season, but Keen Gaming’s record within the Chinese region is a bit more encouraging. Since finalizing its new roster at the end of February, Keen Gaming has won one Open Qualifier and earned Top 4 finishes in two of its three regional qualifier runs. Going back to the end of January when MS and yoona were added to the roster, the team’s numbers shift to two Open Qualifier wins and three Top 4 finishes in four regional qualifiers. Keen Gaming’s record within its home region may not be quite as intimidating as those of other Pro Circuit squads, but the team has still strung together a solid series of results in China. Considering the team will have to fight through the Open Qualifiers to reach the TI8 China Qualifier in the first place, it’s highly encouraging to see the squad trending in the right direction on the home front.
Keen Gaming’s recent performance within its home region has been an encouraging sign for the Chinese team, but it doesn’t appear that it will be enough to led the team to success in Shanghai. Coming into the Major, the team is projected to finish in the combined last place position of 13th-16th and fail to advance out of the Group Stage. The team’s incredibly limited experience on the international level is a significant concern for the team at this event, especially considering the strength of the field that it will be competing in. There just aren’t enough teams in Keen Gaming’s group that it can be considered to be evenly matched with, meaning the team would be reliant upon winning multiple matches as a significant underdog. Group A contains three Top 8 ranked teams, and six ranked teams overall. While all of that does present a rather bleak picture for Keen Gaming at this event, there is still hope that the Chinese squad can pull something off in Shanghai. The Bo1 format of the Group Stage could work in the team’s favor, as it may be able to surprise some of its opponents with pocket strategies or unorthodox play styles. On top of that, Group A contains three other Chinese squads that Keen Gaming may potentially be more familiar with and could feel more comfortable playing against. All it would take is a couple of wins for Keen Gaming to have a shot at surviving the Group Stage and advancing to the Breakout Round. From that point, anything could happen for the Chinese squad, but it’s going to have to get past that initial Group Stage hurdle first. There is always hope for a run from Keen Gaming, but until we see that Cinderella story actually begin to unfold in Shanghai, it’s best to keep expectations as low as possible for the Chinese team.
Qualification: China Qualifier Co-Winner
Pro Circuit Rank: 12th (471 Qualifying Points)
1. Wang “Ame” Chunyu
2. Lu “Somnus丶M” a.k.a “Maybe” Yao
3. Yang “Chalice” Shenyi
4. Xu “Fy” Linsen (Captain)
5. Yap “xNova” Jian Wei
Projected Finish: 7th-8th
It’s been a season of chaos and uncertainty for Chinese squad LGD Gaming so far on the Pro Circuit, as the team has seen both ends of the spectrum in terms of performance on the international level. The team has endured multiple rounds of roster changes and iterations on its lineup, but the squad has managed to make it through all of those changes and emerge on the other side intact. LGD Gaming’s meltdown on the Pro Circuit was highly covered and talked about earlier in the season, but the team’s new roster has worked its way back up the hierarchy in China and is once again seeing opportunities to perform on the Pro Circuit stage. Despite all of the team’s struggles and changes this season, LGD Gaming is still in a position where it could compete for a Top 8 spot in the Pro Circuit standings. However, the team is going to have to secure a series of strong performance at Pro Circuit events to hit that mark, a task that the Chinese squad can get started on in Shanghai at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major.
LGD Gaming’s most recent appearance on the Pro Circuit came about a month ago at the ESL One Katowice Major, where the squad attended its second Pro Circuit event of 2018. The Chinese squad posted a 2-4 overall record in the Group Stage of the event, which left it short of the mark for a spot in the Playoff Stage with a finish in the 9th-12th place position. That rough performance was a far cry from what we had seen from the team in its previous Pro Circuit performance at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4. At that event in Shanghai, LGD Gaming put together a 4-3 Group Stage record, defeated Newbee in the Semifinals, and even challenged Team Liquid in the Finals of the Minor before finishing in 2nd place. Overall, the team’s performance on the international level in 2018 has been somewhat inconsistent, which was the team’s major concern in the 2017 section of the season as well. It becomes hard to tell which version of the team is likely to show up to a particular event, which drains away some confidence from a team that has a high level of talent and experience on its side. When evaluating a team that shows inconsistency on the international level, it is often prudent to look at how well the team performs within its home region as well. In the case of LGD Gaming, the record within the Chinese region in 2018 has been exceptionally strong. The team has participated in seven regional qualifiers, and has finished no worse than 2nd in any of them. Additionally, the team has secured itself a place in the Playoff Stage of the Chinese Dota 2 Professional League Season 5, which serves as a qualifying event for the MDL Changsha Major scheduled to begin in May. With that kind of stable and impressive recent record at home, confidence levels for LGD Gaming should be fairly high coming into this event. However, the Chinese squad is still going to have to prove that it can take advantage of this crucial opportunity and compete with some of the Pro Circuit’s leading teams in Shanghai.
LGD Gaming enters the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major looking for a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage to work itself back into contention for a Top 8 rank. Coming into the event, the Chinese squad is projected to finish in the 7th-8th place range overall. The team may still be dealing with some inconsistencies on the international level, but for the most part LGD Gaming’s record has been strong outside of the Chinese region. Between that and its string of 1st and 2nd place finishes across regional qualifiers, LGD Gaming should be able put together a solid record in the Group Stage of the event. At the very least it should be able to avoid being one of the bottom two squads in Group A, which would be enough to advance to the Breakout Round. At that point things are set to get interesting for the team as it faces a Bo3 elimination series. While there are a few potential match ups that would put the team in an underdog position, for the most part LGD Gaming should be on relatively even footing with its opponent in the Breakout Round. Considering its improved play over the last few months, LGD Gaming is likely to win that series, but its run will probably not go much further beyond that. Should LGD Gaming win its Breakout Round series, then it will move into territory where it will have to start facing some of the higher ranked squads on the Pro Circuit. Even with the benefit of double elimination at this point in the event, LGD Gaming is a bit of a long shot to to advance any further. However, that doesn’t mean that the team won’t be able to put up a solid fight in its series, and depending upon the match up LGD Gaming has the potential to push further ahead. If that happens, then the Chinese squad could even threaten to move into a position to claim a Top 4 finish at the Major. All of that relies on the team either defeating one of the Pro Cirucit’s top squads or managing to find back to back series against weaker opponents. Those two scenarios don’t seem particularly likely to occur, which keeps the teams expectations in Shanghai within the top half of the standings, but not much higher than that.
Qualification: China Qualifier 3rd Place
Pro Circuit Rank: 6th (1665 Qualifying Points)
1. Liu “Sylar” Jiajun
2. Liu “Freeze” Chang
3. Zhou “Yang” Haiyang
4. Pan “Fade” Yi (Captain)
5. Leong “ddc” Fat-meng
Projected Finish: Top 4
For most of the season so far, Chinese squad VGJ.Thunder has been and up and coming team on the international stage. However, the team made a significant move around the roster lock deadline when it added Chinese veteran Leong “ddc” Fat-meng to its lineup. That move had a drastic effect on the team’s performance on the Pro Circuit stage, as VGJ.Thunder catapulted itself from the bottom of the Pro Circuit standings into a position as a Top 8 ranked team. That kind of success changes the outlook for the team at this point in the season, as VGJ.Thunder now stands in a position to potentially avoid the China Qualifier for TI8 entirely with a direct invite to Vancouver this summer. With that goal in mind, VGJ.Thunder enters this event looking to continue its impressive performance on the Pro Circuit stage and secure its hold over its Top 8 ranking.
VGJ.Thunder hasn’t been away from the Pro Circuit for very long, as the team saw action just a little over a week ago at the GESC: Indonesia Minor in Jakarta. The Chinese squad put together an impressive showing at the Minor, earning the top spot in its group and advancing to the Finals of the event where it lost to Evil Geniuses to earn a 2nd place finish. That 2nd place run was the team’s second Top 4 finish of 2018, as the addition of ddc to the lineup has helped to elevate the team’s profile and results on the international stage. The team’s recent success on the Pro Circuit has been backed up by some solid and consistent play within the team’s home region as well, as VGJ.Thunder has emerged as one of stronger teams in China. The team has participated in six Pro Circuit qualifiers so far in 2018, and has earned Top 4 finishes in all of them. In addition to those previous qualifier runs, the team is also still active in the Chinese exclusive Dota 2 Professional League Season 5, which has spots at the upcoming MDL Changsha Major reserved for the top 3 squads from the league. With the team playing consistently well at home and now emerging as a leader on the Pro Circuit stage, VGJ.Thunder will have a massive opportunity to further its own cause playing on home soil at this Major.
VGJ.Thunder has a significant opportunity to establish itself as one of the Pro Circuit’s most formidable squads at this upcoming Major. The team’s recent success in Bucharest and Jakarta already has it sitting in the Top 8 in the standings, but the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major gives the team a chance to add itself to the ranks of the Pro Circuit’s truly elite teams. Coming into the event, the Chinese squad appears to have a solid shot to make that move happen, as the team is projected to finish within the Top 4 in Shanghai. The team has been showing an impressive level of stability within its home region, and its last few appearances on the Pro Circuit have shown an improvement that few teams have matched so far this season. Considering those factors, VGJ.Thunder is almost guaranteed to advance out of the Group Stage, especially considering some of the other teams in Group B. Squads like Effect, paiN Gaming, Invictus Gaming, and even Mineski have been struggling either with inconsistent play, lack of Pro Circuit experience, or both to this point in the season. With those squads presenting somewhat unreliable levels of play entering the event, VGJ.Thunder should have little difficulty finishing over them in the Group B standings. However, with VP and Team Secret also in the group, VGJ.Thunder would most likely have to take a win against one or both of those Pro Circuit leaders in order to secure one of the top two positions in Group B. Should the team not be able to claim a top two spot, then it will still advance into a favorable position in the Breakout Round. Of all the teams expected to finish within that 3rd-6th range in the Group Stage, none of them can really be considered a stronger or more favored squad than VGJ.Thunder. Regardless of the match up, the Chinese team should have a solid shot at winning that series and advancing into the double elimination bracket. From that point, the team essentially has two different paths to a Top 4 finish. Either the team wins back to back series in the upper bracket against what will most likely be teams ranked between the Top 4 or 6 in the Pro Circuit standings, or it losses one of its upper bracket series and more than likely still has to defeat one of those top ranked squad to advance through the lower bracket. In both scenarios, VGJ.Thunder’s success will rely on defeating one or more of the Pro Circuit’s leading squads, unless something truly shocking occurs in the Group Stage or the Breakout Round. That is a difficult feat to accomplish for any Pro Circuit squad, but it’s one that VGJ.Thunder has proven itself able to do. Should the team avoid any drop off in play and maintain the momentum and confidence that it has shown over the last few months, then VGJ.Thunder can expect to find itself in the mix for a Top 4 finish in Shanghai.
Qualification: Europe Qualifier Winner
Pro Circuit Rank: 11th (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: 13th-16th
European squad OG made big news when it announced that Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok (who will attend the event as a stand-in for Effect) was no longer a part of the team’s roster. That move made the squad ineligible for direct invites to TI8 and the TI8 Regional Qualifiers, drastically altering the team’s trajectory for the rest of the season. The team went from a squad competing for a Top 8 spot in the Pro Circuit standings to one that would need to make an Open Qualifier run just to reach the main regional qualifiers. In addition to the Open Qualifier issue, the team has also had to deal with filling its roster vacancy. The team did not announce a permanent replacement when Resolut1on left the team, but the European squad has been playing with its coach, Sébastien “7ckngMad” Debs, as a stand-in in the meantime. With just a few days between Pro Circuit appearances for the team, it appears that OG will continue to play with 7ckingMad in Shanghai as it prepares itself for the Open Qualifiers.
The last Pro Circuit appearance came just a few days ago for OG, as the team participated in the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor in Stockholm, Sweden. The team posted a 2-4 record overall and narrowly missed the mark for a Top 4 spot with a finish in the shared 5th-6th place position at the event. The team’s performance on the Pro Circuit stage has suffered so far in 2018 despite an encouraging start to the year. OG opened 2018 with a 3rd-4th place finish at the Captains Draft 4.0 Minor, but recently finished in the 7th-8th place position at the ESL One Katowice Major and in the 9th-11th place position at The Bucharest Major. So, OG’s play on the international level has not been quite as strong as it was earlier in the season, but there is good news for the squad. OG’s results within the European region have continued to be a significant strength for the team in 2018. Since the start of the year, OG has participated in six Pro Circuit qualifiers and won every single of one of them. That level of consistent success is nearly unrivaled among Pro Circuit teams, and for OG it’s an asset that takes on further weight considering its current situation in terms of TI eligibility. OG is currently looking at a run through the Open Qualifier for Europe in order to reach the main regional stage, and in that context the team’s dominance within its home region becomes invaluable. Of course, that perspective may lead some to question the importance of OG’s performance at this Major, but the chance to test itself against the Pro Circuit squads that the team hopes to compete with at TI8 is an opportunity that OG would do well to take advantage of.
OG comes into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major in one of the strangest positions any team has encountered so far this season. The squad removed a player from its roster that is playing for another team in the field, and the team’s Qualifying Point earnings are no longer relevant due to its ineligibility for TI8 invites. Coming into the event, OG is projected to finish in the 13th-16th place position and fail to advance out of the Group Stage. For many, this prediction may come as a bit of a shock, as a team that was standing on the cusp of the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings is being predicted to finish in the combined last place range. The thing is that OG is really not the team that most people remember anymore, as bad as that feels to say. The team’s Pro Circuit performance had been a bit weaker than expected over the last month or so, and the loss of Resolut1on was had a significant impact on the team and its play style. While 7ckingMad had done an admirable job of standing in for the team during this period of uncertainty, the team’s sole international performance with him in the lineup was not exactly a rousing success. Group A is already one that contains quite a few formidable squads, and OG’s recent issues don’t instill a large level of confidence that it will be able to turn things around and compete with those leading squads. Even against some of the weaker and less successful squads in the group, OG is not necessarily guaranteed to find success. While OG’s lineup may still be more talented or more experienced than some of its opponents, the inconsistency both in its lineup and its level of play could open opportunities for those less favored squads to put up stronger performances against the European squad. At this point though, its important to point out a caveat or a silver lining for OG at this event in the midst of all of the doom and gloom of its projected finish. These low expectations for the squad are based upon the assumption that the team has not been able to address its issues or find a way to adjust to 7ckingMad’s addition to the lineup. If the team has found a way to adjust to its recent circumstances and adapt its play style to fit its new roster, then the potential is there for the European squad to push well past its meager projection. However, until we see evidence that OG is ready to turn things around, the expectations will remain on the pessimistic side for the team in Shanghai.
Qualification: CIS Qualifier Winner
Pro Circuit Rank: Not Ranked (0 Qualifying Points)
1. Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok (Stand-in)
2. Andrey “Afoninje” Afonin
3. Vasily “AfterLife” Shishkin
4. Rinat “KingR” Abdullin
5. Igor “Maden” Modenov
Projected Finish: 9th-12th
CIS squad Effect comes into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as a team still looking to make a name for itself on the Pro Circuit stage. Just a few months ago, the team appeared to be surging as it its results within the CIS region were on the rise and Effect was set to make its first Pro Circuit appearance of the season. That Pro Circuit debut may not have been a significant success for the steam, but Effect has continued working its way up in the CIS region and has earned a second chance on the Pro Circuit stage. However, the squad will be making its run at this Major without one of its usual members, with Zaur “Cooman” Shakhmurzaev being temporarily placed in an inactive position on the roster. The team had temporarily added Igor “iLTW” Filatov as a replacement, but the team will play with Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok in his place at the Major as the squad looks to claim a place in the Pro Circuit standings with a strong run in Shanghai.
The last Pro Circuit appearance for Effect was also the CIS squad’s first event of the season, as the team had earned a place among the field of participants at the ESL One Katowice Major back at in February. The team did not do particularly well in its Pro Circuit debut, as it posted an 0-3 record in the Group Stage of the event that included losses to both Team Liquid and OG. That rough performance placed the team in the combined last place position of 13th-16th in Katowice and marked an inauspicious start to Effect’s time on the Pro Circuit. The team has not had the opportunity to play any other official matches on the international stage, so unfortunately that result from the ESL One Katowice Major is the only recent example we have when looking at the team. However, the team’s has a bit more extensive record when it comes to its performance within its home region. In the time since the team’s last Pro Circuit appearance, Effect has participated in three qualifiers and has earned Top 4 finishes in two of them. Across 2018 as a whole, the numbers get better for Effect, as its record within the CIS region expands to five Top 4 finishes in six Pro Circuit qualifiers that includes two 1st place runs (ESL One Katowice, DAC 2018). The team’s relative strength and consistency at home is already an invaluable asset for the team, but things within the CIS region could be getting even better for the squad moving forward. With Virtus.pro already having secured its TI8 invite, and Na’Vi facing some significant struggles with its new lineup, Effect is one of many CIS teams that could potentially find more abundant opportunities within the region. The issue for Effect in terms of capitalizing on those opportunities will be the team’s ability to compete on the international level in what will be just the second Pro Circuit appearance for the squad.
Effect enters of Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major with a somewhat limited amount of experience on the international level. The team will be making just its second Pro Circuit appearance of the season, and while the team had looked strong at home, that level of inexperience on the Pro Circuit presents a degree of danger and uncertainty. Coming into the event, Effect is projected to advance out of the Group Stage but lose in the Breakout Round for a finish in the 9th-12th place position. Many might question why a team that was just mentioned as having very little international experience is expected to survive in a group in which six of its seven opponents are from outside of its home region. The answer to that question is actually a rather simple one in that the team is not actually the weakest team in its group. While Effect isn’t exactly expected to contend for a Top 4 spot in Shanghai, it is still in a more favorable position than teams in its group like Invictus Gaming and paiN Gaming. Invictus Gaming has been inconsistent within the Chinese region where Effect has been somewhat stable in the CIS region. And while paiN Gaming has been putting together consistent results in South America, it has also failed to convert many more opportunities on the international level than Effect has seen at all. In this scenario, a lack of results due to limited opportunities for Effect seems preferable to the repeated futility of paiN Gaming’s efforts. Should that assessment hold up, and Effect advances out of the Group Stage, then things will get extremely difficult for the CIS squad. Unless another team makes a surprise run through the Group Stage, Effect is almost guaranteed to be the weakest squad in the Breakout Round. To win a Bo3 series against any of the remaining squads would be a significant, though not impossible, feat for Effect. Unfortunately for Effect, even winning that Breakout Round series would most likely only extend its tournament life by a single series. However, even that small improvement over its predicted outcome would be a highly encouraging development for the squad moving into the last events of the season. The expectations may not be sky high for Effect at the Major, but if the squad can play up to its potential then it stands to present a significant challenge in just its second Pro Circuit event of the season.
Region: North America
Qualification: North America Qualifier Winner
Pro Circuit Rank: 7th (1335 Qualifying Points)
1. Artour “Arteezy” Babaev
2. Clinton “Fear” Loomis
3. Sumail “Suma1L” Hassan
4. Andreas “Cr1t-” Nielsen
5. Rasmus “MISERY” Filipsen (Captain)
Projected Finish: 7th-8th
Evil Geniuses enters the Dota 2 Asia Championships as the kings of North America, having held the position as the region’s highest ranked squad for nearly the entirety of the season to this point. EG’s status as North America’s leading team has been largely unchallenged this season, but the team’s position on the Pro Circuit has not been nearly so immutable. The team currently holds a Top 8 position in the Pro Circuit standings, but it is definitively near the bottom of that group and any successful run from a team outside of the current elite threatens to drop EG out of its favorable position. With that in mind, Evil Geniuses comes to Shanghai looking to shore up its position on the Pro Circuit and create further distance between itself and would be challengers with a solid showing at the Major.
The last time Dota 2 fans saw Evil Geniuses on the Pro Circuit stage, its players were holding a trophy in their hands as the team claimed 1st place at the GESC: Indonesia Minor less than two weeks ago. The North American squad posted a perfect 7-0 record at the event, absolutely dominating its opposition en route to the team’s first Minor Championship of the season. The victory in Jakarta was a much needed return to form for EG, as the team’s performance on the Pro Circuit stage had been relatively strong but still short of the mark for consistent success. EG had previously earned one Top 4 finish in 2018 at the ESL One Genting Minor, but its three other Pro Circuit appearances this year (Captains Draft 4.0, ESL One Katowice, Bucharest Major) had all left the team just one series short of further Qualifying Points. The team’s status as one of the leading teams on the Pro Circuit has earned EG quite a few direct invites to events, but the team has had a couple of opportunities to compete within its home region in regional qualifiers. The team has seen action in three qualifiers so far in 2018, with the North American leader earning Top 4 finishes in all three of those runs including the 1st place finish that qualified it for this Major. EG has consistently been one of the strongest squads in the North American region, and has repeatedly shown itself capable of winning on the Pro Circuit stage. However, with the season entering its second half of the schedule, the North American leader needs to convert a few more of its international opportunities to feel fully comfortable in the Pro Circuit standings.
Evil Geniuses comes to the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major looking to solidify and even potentially improve its rank in the Pro Circuit standings. The team has been a consistent force within its home region and has in the mix for Top 4 finishes across most of its Pro Circuit appearances in 2018. Coming into the Major though, the North American squad is projected to miss the mark for a Top 4 finish with a final position in the 7th-8th place range. The team should have little difficulty advancing past the Group Stage so long as it can avoid any significant mistakes or lapses in focus. EG may not necessarily be a favorite to win one of the top two spots in Group B, but it shouldn’t really come close a situation where it is in danger of being eliminated early. With squads like Invictus Gaming, paiN Gaming, and Effect in the group, EG should have a couple of expected wins to fall back on should it struggle against some of the stronger teams in Group B such as Team Secret and Virtus.pro. Beyond the Group Stage outcome, EG should find itself in a favorable match up in the Breakout Round. Unless the North American squad struggles to a more severe degree in the Group Stage and has to face one of the higher seeded teams, it should be at least somewhat favored against its opponent in a Bo3 series. From that point on though, things will get considerably harder for EG, as it will likely face a team ranked in Top 6 in the Pro Circuit standings. These are the teams that the North American squad has usually struggled against, and while a strong performance could net it a win against one of those leading squads, for now it seems more likely that EG drops into the lower bracket instead. From there, things won’t get much easier for the team, as its opponent in that lower bracket elimination game will probably be another squad ranked in the Top 8. Of course, it is always possible that EG manages to find one or more wins against those opponents, in which case the North American squad could have the momentum to contend for a Top 4 finish in Shanghai. However, this position just inside the top half of the standings is where we have seen the team have the most issues in recent months, and it seems unlikely that the team suddenly breaks through that barrier at the Major. With that in mind, the team’s expectations keep it within the top half of the standings in Shanghai, with the potential to push further with the right match up or a well timed surge in play from the North American leader.
Region: North America
Qualification: North America Qualifier Runner-Up
Pro Circuit Rank: Not Ranked (0 Qualifying Points)
1. Per Olsson “Pajkatt” Lille
2. Quinn “CC&C” Callahan
3. Ludwig “zai” Wahlberg
4. Neta “33” Shapira
5. Peter “ppd” Dager (Captain)
Projected Finish: 9th-12th
The season to this point has seen OpTic Gaming emerge as one of the leading squads within the North American region, and that position has improved somewhat given recent events. With fellow North American squad compLexity Gaming making a roster change that will force it to play through Open Qualifiers, OpTic Gaming has the opportunity to step into its role as the region’s second best squad behind Evil Geniuses. With that development, OpTic Gaming saw its standing in North America change without having to play a single match, but the squad is likely looking to further improve its position the old fashion way: by winning on the international stage. The Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major provides the North American squad with a perfect opportunity to elevate its profile on the Pro Circuit in the same way that it has risen within its home region.
OpTic Gaming’s last appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came just a few weeks ago, as the North American squad was among the field of 16 participants at the Bucharest Major. The team performed relatively well in Bucharest, posting a 3-2 record in the Swiss format Group Stage that saw it earn Bo1 series wins over Virtus.pro, OG, and compLexity Gaming. However, the squad fell just short of the mark for its first Top 4 finish of the season, losing 0-2 to Virtus.pro in the Quarterfinals of the event to finish in the 5th-8th place position. That finish in Bucharest was a vast improvement for OpTic Gaming compared to its previous Pro Circuit appearance of 2018 at the ESL One Katowice Major. At that Major, the team put together a Group Stage record of just 2-4 and failed to advance to the Playoff Stage. With its only wins of the event coming from a series against fellow North American squad compLexity Gaming, OpTic Gaming did not make a particularly compelling argument for its international strength and finished in the combined 9th-12th place position in Katowice. While OpTic Gaming’s results on the Pro Circuit stage are still improving, the team’s recent performance within the North American region has been strong and stable in 2018. The team has entered 10 Pro Circuit qualifiers since the beginning of the year and has managed to earn Top 4 finishes in all but one of them (DQ’ed, ESL One Katowice NA Qualifier). Those nine Top 4 qualifier runs in 2018 include three 1st place finishes and four spots at Pro Circuit events. OpTic Gaming has shown that it can play well and consistently within its home region, the question is whether or not the team is ready to take that next step in its international play and compete for a Top 4 finish in Shanghai.
OpTic Gaming comes into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as one of the leading squads within the North American region, and the team will be looking to finally break through on the international level with a solid showing in Shanghai. Coming into the event though, the team is projected to survive the Group Stage but fall in the Breakout Round for a finish in the 9th-12th place range. The North American squad has not had a strongest of performance on the Pro Circuit stage, but we have seen flashes of what the team is capable of on the international level. The team has been relatively consistent this season, but the issue for the team will be elevating its level of play to match those impressive flashes on a more frequent basis. Compared to other squads in Group A like Keen gaming and OG who have significant question marks in terms of its roster and play style, OpTic Gaming represents a bit more of a known quantity. Unless one or both of those previously mentioned squads have suddenly had everything click in terms of adjusting to its new players, OpTic Gaming should be able to produce a superior Group Stage record and advance to the Breakout Round. Once the North American squad reaches that point though, the optimism abates somewhat. Barring some seriously surprising results in the Group Stage, there are only one or two squads expected to make it to the Breakout Round that OpTic Gaming would be favored against in a Bo3 series. If OpTic Gaming faces off against one of those teams, then there is potential for the team to outperform its projection and push on into the later rounds. However, the more likely scenario appears to be that the team falls short of the mark in the Breakout Round. OpTic Gaming has the potential to outperform its relatively low projection, but unless the North American squad puts together a truly inspired run, the expectations will keep the team firmly rooted in the bottom half on the standings in Shanghai.
Region: South America
Qualification: South America Qualifier Winner
Pro Circuit Rank: Not Ranked (0 Qualifying Points) (Ineligible for TI Invite)
1. William “hFn” Medeiros
2. Danilo “Arms” Silva
3. Otávio “Tavo” Gabriel
4. Danylo “Kingrd” Nascimento (Captain)
5. Heitor “Duster” Pereira
Projected Finish: 13th-16th
South American squad paiN Gaming has faced quite a few trials and tribulations so far this season, despite having only joined the organization a few months ago. The team has undergone multiple roster changes and has needed to frequently utilize stand-ins both in regional competition and on the international stage as well. With the recent addition of Danilo “Arms” Silva, paiN Gaming is faced with yet another change to its roster, and one that makes the team ineligible for an invitation directly to TI8 or the TI8 Regional Qualifiers. With that in mind, it would appear at first glance that paiN Gaming has little to play for in Shanghai. However, this perspective does not take into account the fact that paiN Gaming still has a viable road to TI8 available to it in the form of a successful run through the South America Open Qualifiers. In order to prepare for that grueling run through the Open Qualifiers, paiN Gaming will want to make the most of every opportunity it has to play against Pro Circuit opposition, beginning with this Major.
The most recent Pro Circuit appearance for paiN Gaming came just a few short days ago, as the South American squad was one of the eight participants at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor in Stockholm, Sweden. The team did not have a particularly successful run at the Minor, posting an 0-4 record and finishing in the combined last place position of 7th-8th. That kind of forgettable performance has been the norm for paiN Gaming on the international stage, as the South American squad has struggled time and time again to expand beyond its home region. The team has participated in three Pro Circuit events, and has finished firmly in the bottom half of the standings at each of them. Outside of the Pro Circuit thought, the team has managed to find some small reason for optimism on the international level, as the team placed 2nd at the World Electronic Sports Games 2017 and only lost to a Team Russia lineup that contained four of the five members of Pro Circuit leader Vitrus.pro. That performance in and of itself may not be enough to instill confidence in paiN Gaming, but its record within South America helps improve the picture a bit for the team. Over the course of 2018 so far, the team has participated in five Pro Circuit qualifiers and claimed Top 4 finishes in all of them, including four 1st place finishes. The team’s strong string of recent results at home combined with its success in third party international events presents paiN Gaming as a squad that is trending in the right direction, but the South American squad remains a long shot to find success in Shanghai.
PaiN Gaming may come into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major with aspirations for Pro Circuit success, but the reality is not so optimistic for the South American squad. Coming into the event, the team is projected to finish in the bottom two positions in its group at the end of the Group Stage, which would earn the team an early exit and a finish in the combined 13th-16th position. While the team’s recent international success outside of the Pro Circuit acts as an encouraging sign of improvement for the squad, paiN Gaming will still be a considerable underdog against nearly all of the teams in its group. Group B contains four teams ranked in the Top 8, and five ranked teams in total. While it its possible that paiN Gaming takes one or more matches against those leading squads, it appears that the squad may have to rely on picking on the other underdog teams in the group. Invictus Gaming and Effect are both facing some struggles of their own on the international level, and all paiN Gaming would need to do to is finish over those two teams to advance to the Breakout Round. The problem with that scenario is that both Invictus Gaming and Effect have been struggling to make to the Pro Circuit stage, which actually gives us less information to use when evaluating their potential performance on the international level. In that regard, paiN Gaming may not necessarily be in a position to be favored over those squads, especially considering the talent and experience that both the team’s possess. Unless paiN Gaming can pull out some incredible performances in the Bo1 matches in its group, it seems the squad will have to hope that it can contain and limit some of its recent issues long enough to advance out of the Group Stage. That kind of expectation isn’t all that encouraging for paiN Gaming as it continues its quest for its first Qualifying Points of the season in Shanghai.