Dota 2 Major Recap: Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018

SEA Kings of Shanghai: Mineski defeat LGD Gaming 3-2 to claim first Major Championship for SEA region. Virtus.pro, TNC Pro Team complete Top 4.

As another Pro Circuit event comes to a close, Dota 2 fans around the world can reflect on what has been an incredible display of Dota in Shanghai at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major. After over a week of action across the Group Stage, the Breakout Round, and the Playoff Stage, the dust has finally settled in Shanghai and a Major Champion has been crowned. Sixteen teams looked to make their mark at the Major, each with their own narratives and ambitions for sparking a run of Pro Circuit success with just months left in the season schedule. Unfortunately, the nature of Pro Circuit events meant that not every team was going to walk away from Shanghai entirely happy with its results, but for a select few teams the Major had quite a significant impact.

When all was said and done in Shanghai, Southeast Asian squad Mineski ended up being the last team standing. The team claimed the first ever Major Championship for the Southeast Asian region after posting a 15-4 overall record at the event. In addition to the prize money that the team earned, Mineski’s performance also catapulted it up the Pro Circuit standings, moving the Southeast Asian squad from 9th overall to 4th. The team that Mineski defeated to earn its Major Championship, LGD Gaming, also came away from Shanghai with a significant alteration to its Pro Circuit ranking. The Chinese squad jumped from 12th in the standings into the Top 8 with a 7th place position overall. The third place team at the Major as a squad that didn’t have much need for the Qualifying Points that it earned, as Virtus.pro was already guaranteed a direct invite to TI8. The team’s position as the number 1 ranked squad on the Pro Circuit remains unchanged following the team’s Top 4 finish in Shanghai, although the Qualifying Points that it earned does lower the threshold needed for other teams to secure direct invite statuses of their own. The final Top 4 squad at the Major was a team that was in a bit greater need of Qualifying Points than VP, as TNC Pro Team claimed its first Top 4 finish of 2018. The Qualifying Points that the Southeast Asian squad earned didn’t move it anywhere, as the team still sits in 12th in the Pro Circuit standings. However, the added points do help to close the gap between the team and some of the other squads chasing a Top 8 ranking and puts the team in a better position to potentially threaten for one of those Top 8 spots itself.

With the matches now over in Shanghai, a new Major Champion officially crowned, and the Pro Circuit standings up to date, the time has come to look back on how each of the sixteen participants performed at the Major. In addition to the team’s results in Shanghai, we can look at what could be coming next for each of the teams heading into the final months of the Pro Circuit season.

 

Invictus Gaming 600px-Ig_logo

Place: 9th-12th

Winnings: $15,000

Entering the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major, Invictus Gaming had fallen to the position of a mere afterthought in the Chinese region. The team had experimented with a few different roster combinations over the season, but nothing had resulted in any significant success. Down on its luck at home and almost completely absent on the international stage, Invictus Gaming’s direct invite to this Major came as a godsend for the struggling squad. The chance to show its strength and potentially get its season back on the right path with a solid performance in Shanghai was an opportunity that the Chinese squad and defending DAC Champion desperately needed to take advantage of.

Invictus Gaming was sorted into Group B for its Group Stage run, and began play on Day 1 of the event with a match against Southeast Asian squad Mineski. The Chinese squad found itself quickly out scaled and out maneuvered in this match, as Mineski’s team fight power and scaling was too much for Invictus Gaming to handle. Despite a strong showing from Agressif’s Luna (8-4-4, 25.4k net worth), Invicus Gaming suffered its first loss of the event. The team’s second match of the day presented another significant challenge as Invictus Gaming faced Team Secret in the last match of Day 1. Invictus Gaming kept things close, using big performacnes from Agressif on Phantom Lancer (10-3-9) and Xxs’ Gyrocopter (9-4-9) to draw out the match and delay Team Secret’s progress. Eventually though, the European squad broke through IG’s defenses to secure a win and hand the Chinese squad an 0-2 record on Day 1.

Day 2 began with another daunting task for Invictus Gaming, as the Chinese squad had to play Pro Circuit leader Virtus.pro in its opening match of the day. The CIS squad made quick work of IG, shutting down the team’s Tinker pick and holding the net worth lead for the entirety of the game to hand the Chinese squad another Group Stage loss. The second match of the day for Invictus Gaming came against another CIS squad in the form of Effect, and this time the Chinese team managed to get things going in its favor. Agressif put together an impressive performance on Razor (10-1-15) and every member of the IG’s roster notched double digit assists as the Chinese team secured its first win of the Group Stage to end Day 2 at a 1-3 record overall.

Invictus Gaming faced off against a struggling paiN Gaming squad to open up its matches on Day 3 of the Group Stage. IG dominated the South American squad from the very start of this match, with the support duo of Q’s Witch Doctor and Boboka’s Earth Spirit combining for a stat line of 19-8-51 in an impressive display from the Chinese squad to secure its second win overall. In the team’s second match of the day against North American squad Evil Geniuses, it appeared that IG would be able to secure a third win in the Group Stage. Behind solid play from Agressif on Razor (10-2-7) and Xxs on Outworld Devourer (8-2-7), Invictus Gaming pulled ahead by over 10k net worth. However, the Chinese squad couldn’t close out the win, as EG came back with an incredible team fight win to pull the rug out from under Invictus Gaming to steal away the victory. That loss had the team sitting at a 2-4 record heading into the final day of the Group Stage.

Day 4 had a bit less intrigue to it than previous days of the event for Invictus Gaming, as the team was already secured a spot in the Breakout Round. The only thing yet to be determined for the Chinese squad was its seeding for that Breakout Round. The team played fellow Chinese squad VGJ.Thunder to determine which team would be the 5 seed in the next round. IG controlled the all-Chinese match up handily behind strong showings from Agressif’s Tiny (12-1-13) and Xxs on Outworld Devourer (8-3-9) to claim the higher seed and round its its Group Stage run with a 3-4 record.

The Chinese squad’s Group Stage run advanced it into the Breakout Round, where it faced North American squad OpTic Gaming in a Bo3 elimination series. Game 1 went in favor of OpTic Gaming, as the squad’s team fight power and early aggressive play left Invictus Gaming trailing for nearly the entirety of the match. Despite Xxs staying alive throughout the whole game on Storm Spirit (3-0-3), the Chinese squad couldn’t ever put together a sustained push to get itself back into the game as it dropped the opening match of the series. Game 2 was a more closely contested affair, with Invictus Gaming remaining relatively close throughout the early and mid-game stages. Behind another impressive performance from Agressif’s Razor (9-5-14), the Chinese squad pulled ahead in the late-game stage as it took a crucial team fight win. However, the team couldn’t hold on to that momentum or its net worth lead, as OpTic Gaming came back with a series of well executed fights and pushes that crippled IG’s ability to defend its base. With its momentum wiped away and its base crumbling, Invictus Gaming conceded defeat to fall 0-2 to OpTic Gaming and end its run at the Major with a finish in the 9th-12th place position.

Though Invictus Gaming entered the Major as the defending Champion of the Dota 2 Asia Championships, the Chinese squad has been struggling through a sub par season on the Pro Circuit. With the team making its first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage, Invictus Gaming wasn’t expected to get particularly far in Shanghai. Coming into the event, the team was projected to finish in the collective last place position of 13th-16th overall. However, the Chinese squad managed to put together a solid showing at the Major to finish above that predicted result with a finish in the 9th-12th place range. The team’s 3-6 overall record at the Major won’t necessarily blow anyone away, but it’s a bit more impressive considering the team was making its first appearance on the Pro Circuit this season. After the addition of Agressif and Srf around the roster lock deadline, it wasn’t clear what to expect from the team outside of the Chinese region. However, the team’s new roster showed itself capable of performing at a higher level than what we’ve seen from the squad so far this season. Though Invictus Gaming didn’t emerge as a leading squad at the Major, its performance in Shanghai is an important first step for the team moving forward through the rest of the Pro Circuit schedule. The team is still far from the top of the hierarchy in the Chinese region, but Invictus Gaming still has at least one shot to return to the Pro Circuit stage this season. The team placed first overall in its group in the Dota 2 Professional League Season 5, advancing the squad directly to the Semifinals of the Playoff Stage and putting it just one Bo3 series win away from securing a spot at the upcoming MDL Changsha Major in May. Overall, Invictus Gaming’s performance at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major won’t be enough to immediately turn its rough season around. However, the team’s showing in Shanghai was a step in the right direction for the squad as it looks to finish the season strong and keep its chances of reaching the TI8 China Qualifier alive.

 

Newbee Newbee_logo

Place: 9th-12th

Winnings: $15,000

Newbee came into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as the top ranked Chinese team on the Pro Circuit. However, the team’s lead over its fellow Chinese squads had been whittled away over the course of the last few Pro Circuit events. Entering the Major, Newbee’s hold over that coveted position as regional leader was in danger of being lost, and the team’s position in the Pro Circuit standings was under threat as well. Within that context, Newbee was in need of a solid showing on home soil in Shanghai to help shore up its Pro Circuit ranking and stave off the ambitions of its regional rivals. The Major offered the Chinese squad that desired opportunity, but the Chinese leader faced a tough task in Shanghai against some of the Pro Circuit’s best squads.

Newbee began its run through the Group Stage with two matches in Group A against Vici Gaming and OpTic Gaming. Newbee kept even with Vici Gaming across the first 30 minutes of play, but had few answers for the increased team fight power of its opponent as the match entered the late-game stage. Despite a solid effort from Moogy’s Lifestealer (12-5-7), Newbee was unable to turn the tide as it lost its opening match of the Group Stage. The Chinese squad went through almost the exact same scenario in its second match of the day against OpTic Gaming. The teams remained close through the early and mid-game stages, but Newbee found itself falling behind again in the late game as OpTic Gaming handed the Chinese squad its second loss for an 0-2 record at the end of Day 1.

Day 2 for Newbee began with a match up with fellow Chinese squad LGD Gaming, though the struggles for Newbee appeared to have been carried over from the first day of competition. Newbee managed just six kills in total as LGD Gaming absolutely dominated the game and led in terms of net worth for almost the entirety of the match to hand Newbee its third loss overall. The team’s final match of the day came against Southeast Asian squad TNC Pro Team with Newbee in desperate need of a win. Early in the match it didn’t appear that the Chinese squad was going to find that win, as TNC Pro Team held a sizable net worth lead for the first 50 minutes of the game. However, behind a combined stat line from Moogy and Sccc of 27-17-44 on Gyrocopter and Pugna, Newbee was able to turn fights late in the game to seize the momentum and claim its first win of the Group Stage.

At 1-3 overall, Newbee was in need of a strong showing on Day 3 in order to keep itself in the running for a spot in the Playoff Stage. The Chinese squad got off to a good start in its first match against European squad OG. Sccc’s Ember Spirit (16-1-10) managed to earn more kills than the entire OG lineup combined as Newbee claimed an entirely one sided win to begin the day. The team faced off against fellow Chinese squad Keen Gaming in its final match of the day, and the team managed to carry over some of its momentum from its previous match against OG. Following a slow start to the game, Sccc’s Viper (10-4-10) and Moogy’s Luna (8-5-10) came alive to help lead Newbee to a decisive victory. With that win, the team moved to a 3-3 record overall heading into the final day of the Group Stage.

The fourth and final day of the Group Stage saw Newbee playing in the last regularly scheduled match of Group A against Team Liquid. The European squad largely dominated most of the game, with Newbee making a small surge to take the net worth lead for just around three minutes. However, the Chinese squad refused to surrender, and Sccc’s Shadow Fiend (12-6-17) helped lead an incredible comeback effort as Newbee raced down the middle lane into Team Liquid’s base and snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat. That win put Newbee’s record at 4-3, meaning the Chinese squad was included in a five way tie for the top two spots in Group A and would participate in an additional round-robin series against the other tied squads.

Newbee opened up the tiebreakers with a match against TNC Pro Team, though the Chinese squad did not perform well in that game. Despite a solid showing from Sccc on Sniper (8-5-4), the team trailed for the entirety of the game as it lost its first tiebreaker match. Newbee appeared to be off to a better start in its next game against OpTic Gaming, pulling out to a lead in the earliest section of the match. Despite a valiant effort from Moogy’s Gyrocopter (11-7-14), the team was unable to maintain that lead for long as OpTic Gaming seized control of the match after the laning stage and never looked back to drop Newbee to 0-2 in the tiebreakers. Its third match against LGD Gaming looked like the perfect scenario for Newbee to get back on track, as the team built up a significant lead over its fellow Chinese squad early in the match. However, LGD Gaming came back with a series of strong team fights that wiped out Newbee’s lead and forced it to concede defeat for a third straight loss. By this point, the team’s shot at the top two positions were long gone, and its final match against Team Liquid was solely to determine seeding in teh Breakout Round. Newbee posted just seven kills in this match, as its European opponent demolished the Chinese squad to drop it to 0-4 in the tiebreaker matches and lock the team into a spot in the Breakout Round.

The team’s Group Stage performance meant that Newbee would face off against North American squad Evil Geniuses in the Breakout Round in a Bo3 elimination series. The Chinese squad did not come ready to play in Game 1, as its cores were pressured and contained while EG built up a sizable net worth lead early. By the end of the game, Newbee trailed by over 23k net worth and had few options remaining other than to concede defeat and move on to the next match in the series. Unfortunately for Newbee, Game 2 ended up being even worse for the team than Game 1 had been. The Chinese squad put together just five kills in the match as EG ran away with things early and never looked back. In just a little over 24 minutes of game-time, Newbee was pushed all the way back into its own base and threw in the towel to receive an 0-2 loss in the series. The loss brought Newbee’s run at the Major to an end with a somewhat surprising finish in the 9th-12th place position overall.

Newbee came into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major looking for a strong showing to bolster its position in the Pro Circuit standings and to solidify its hold over the position as the top ranked team from the Chinese region. The task of claiming a Top 4 spot in Shanghai was never going to be an easy one, but Newbee had shown itself capable of competing with and defeating the world’s best teams this season. Coming into the event itself, Newbee was projected to finish in the 5th-6th place range, having a solid shot at reaching the Top 4 but not necessarily being expected to reach that mark outright. Unfortunately, the Chinese squad was unable to live up to that prediction, as Newbee faced some struggles late in the Group stage that carried over into its series in the Breakout Round. Of the team’s three losses in its original Group Stage run, two of them came against major regional rivals in LGD Gaming and Vici Gaming. Considering the fact that Newbee’s hold over its position as Chinese leader was already slipping coming into the event, those losses to fellow Chinese squads have a particularly painful sting for the team. Even more disappointing than those losses was the team’s complete meltdown in the tiebreakers matches for Group A. The Chinese squad was simply out played in each of its matches and looked out of sorts across the tiebreaker. While some of that could be attributed to fatigue after a significantly extended schedule of matches on Day 4, the fact remains that the team was expected to perform much better in those extra games. The fact that the team was decisively swept in its Breakout Round series against Evil Geniuses doesn’t do much to stave off the concerns for Newbee either. The team just seemed to disappear over the last two days of its run at the Major, which is a significant red flag for any team, let alone one sitting in the top half of the standings on the Pro Circuit. The team’s rather poor performance in Shanghai actually leaves Newbee in a weaker position than it was heading into the event, with a plethora of new questions and concerns set to follow the team across the final months of the season. Unless Newbee can put together an absolutely incredible performance in the near future, those questions and concerns aren’t likely to go away immediately. The good news for Newbee is that the team will have at least a few more chances to put that poor performance behind it with a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage. Newbee is still scheduled to compete in the EPICENTER XL Major later this month, as well as the MDL Changsha Major and the ESL One Birmingham Major in May. With those significant opportunities on the horizon for Newbee, the Chinese squad still has a strong chance of finishing the Pro Circuit season with its position as top ranked Chinese squad still intact.

 

Team Liquid 600px-Team_liquid_logo_2017

Place: 5th-6th

Winnings: $67,5000

Defending TI Champion Team Liquid entered the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as the most consistent team on the Pro Circuit this season. The team came into the Major riding a streak of Top 4 finishes that stretched back over nine previous Pro Circuit events. Despite that continued success on the international level, the European squad was still searching for enough Qualifying Points to secure a direct invite to Vancouver for TI8. This Major in Shanghai offered the team a valuable opportunity to both extend its streak of Pro Circuit success and also close in on that coveted direct invite as the team worked towards making itself the first ever two time TI Winner. While the team’s performance to this point in the season and its streak of Top 4 finishes had Team Liquid in a favorable position heading into the event, the European squad would find an abundance of challengers in the field in Shanghai.

Team Liquid found itself sorted into Group A for the Group Stage of the Major, and began its run on Day 1 with a match up against Chinese squad Keen Gaming. The European squad trailed through the early stages of the match, but Miracle-‘s Lifestealer (13-2-15) and MinD_ContRoL’s Enchantress (11-2-14) lead the team as it swung the momentum of the match in its favor over the second half of the game to secure its first win of the Major. Team Liquid’s second match of the day came against LGD Gaming, but the team would struggle a bit against the Chinese squad. While Miracle- was able to put together a respectable effort on Morphling (8-7-3), the team couldn’t chip away at its significant net worth deficit. Down by 12k net worth at the 27 minute mark, Team Liquid conceded defeat to lose the match and end Day 1 with a 1-1 record.

Day 2 saw Team Liquid start things off with an all-Europe match up as it faced OG in its first match of the day. Team Liquid claimed a fairly straight forward win in that match, with the team’s core trio of Terrorblade, Centaur Warrunner, and Enchantress combining for a stat line of 19-6-31 as the team shut down OG in just a little over 28 minutes of play. Team Liquid closed out its Day 2 schedule with a match against Chinese squad Vici Gaming, but the European squad would not be able to carry over its momentum from its win over OG. The team’s lineup was held in check and proved largely ineffective in the face of Vici Gaming’s aggressive strategy as Team Liquid trailed for the entirety of the match to finish another day with a 1-1 record.

At 2-2, Team Liquid entered Day 3 of the Group Stage in need of some solid wins to help bolster its overall record. The team began its run of matches for the day against TNC Pro Team, and the European squad really hit its stride in that game. Miracle-‘s Phantom Lancer (10-2-9) and MinD_ContRoL’s Tiny (9-4-8) helped the team establish a faster pace that heavily punished TNC Pro Team’s lineup and put Team Liquid firmly in the driver’s seat in the game. With a lead of nearly 20k net worth at the 27 minute mark, Team Liquid finally forced TNC Pro Team to concede defeat to claim a win in its first match of the day. That win led the team into a match against North American squad OpTic Gaming, but Team Liquid would face little resistance in this game. Miracle- went the entirety of the match without a death on his Queen of Pain (10-0-2) and GH’s Sand King (4-1-14) helped to set an aggressive tempo for Team Liquid that Optic Gaming was simply unprepared for. With the team leading for the entirety of the match and holding OpTic Gaming to just nine kills total, Team Liquid secured a quick and easy win in just around 20 minutes of game time.

The team’s 2-0 sweep of its previous day’s matches left Team Liquid in a solid position entering Day 4 of the Group Stage. If the team won its final match against Chinese squad Newbee, then it would secure a position in one of the top two spots in Group A. It appeared that the team was going to be able to secure that much needed victory, as Team Liquid held a sizable lead throughout the match against Newbee. MinD_ContRoL’s Tiny (11-9-8) and MATUMBAMAN’s Lone Druid (3-1-14) had Team Liquid sitting in a position to close out the match with a win, but Newbee refused to go away. The Chinese squad turned around a series of team fights over the final minutes of the match and marched straight down the middle lane to snatch a victory away from Team Liquid. That loss dropped Team Liquid to a 4-3 record and put the European squad in a five way tie for the top two positions in Group A.

The tiebreaker matches proved to be a significant struggle for Team Liquid, as the team did not look good in its extra matches. After losing its first three matches against LGD Gaming, TNC Pro Team, and OpTic Gaming, the team had no shot of claiming one of those top two positions. The European squad was able to salvage one win from the tiebreaker matches though as it defeated Newbee. However, that 1-3 record in the tiebreaker matches dropped Team Liquid from a team one win away from a top two position into the 4 seed of Group A heading into the Breakout Round.

The team’s opponent within the Breakout Round was VGJ.Thunder, a team that had some significant issues in its own Group Stage run. Those struggles continued in this series, as Team Liquid’s core trio of Lone Druid, Gyrocopter, and Underlord forced VGJ.Thunder into fights early and often. Team Liquid held its opponent to just nine kills in Game 1, as the European squad claimed a win in just over 24 minutes of game time to take a 1-0 lead in the series. In Game 2, it appeared that Team Liquid was going to earn another walkover win as the team jumped out to a significant net worth lead in the early and mid-game stages. VGJ.Thunder’s lineup managed to make a surge in the late-game to seize the net worth lead and briefly threaten Team Liquid. However, MATUMBAMAN’s Sniper (11-6-19) and Miracle-‘s Nature’s Prophet (11-3-18) helped Team Liquid reestablish control of the match and close out the win to finish the series 2-0.

That win over VGJ.Thunder moved Team Liquid into the Upper Bracket of the Playoff Stage, where the European squad faced a challenge in the form of Pro Circuit leader Virtus.pro. Game 1 saw Team Liquid fall behind early to VP’s aggressive lineup, but the team was able to recover from those initial setbacks. Behind an absolutely incredible performance from Miracle- on Nature’s Prophet (16-5-13, 35.7k net worth), Team Liquid exploded in the mid and late-game stages to completely decimate VP’s lineup and seize a sizable net worth lead for itself. While VP was able to extend the game with a series of solid defenses, Team Liquid eventually broke through that defense to claim a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 played out in almost exactly the same manner as Game 1, with VP’s aggression getting it out to a small lead early on. Another strong showing from Miracle-‘s Timbersaw (11-5-7) and an impressive performance from team captain KuroKy on Ancient Apparition (6-3-16) lead the team to a mid-game surge once again as Team Liquid took control of the match and never looked back. With the net worth lead inflating to over 16k net worth by the 31 minute mark, VP threw in the towel to give Team Liquid a 2-0 series victory.

With that win over VP, Team Liquid was just one Bo3 series away from locking in its 10 straight Top 4 finish on the Pro Circuit. In order to do that though, the European squad needed to get through LGD Gaming first. The team managed to keep its momentum going from its previous series, with its core duo of Lifestealer and Viper combining for a stat line of 14-2-16) as Team Liquid claimed a quick win in Game 1 of the series. Game 2 presented more of a struggle for Team Liquid, as the European team had issues contending with LGD Gaming’s lineup. Despite a solid effort from MATUMBAMAN’s Lone Druid, Team Liquid’s lineup wasn’t able to contend with the damage and team fight setup of its opponent. LGD Gaming turned multiple fights in its favor in the late-game stage to put Team Liquid on the defensive and eventually even up the series at 1-1. Things went from bad to worse for Team Liquid in Game 3 of the series, as LGD Gaming put together in impressive performance against the TI7 Winner. LGD Gaming played quickly and aggressively, putting heavy pressure on Team Liquid’s lineup that kept its cores under farmed and ineffective in team fights. Trailing by nearly 29k net worth at the 27 minute mark and having few options left to win team fights, Team Liquid conceded defeat to lose the series 1-2 and drop into the Lower Bracket.

While the team had lost its series against LGD Gaming, it was still a single Bo1 win away from reaching the Top 4 and keeping both its streak of Pro Circuit success and its chances at a Major Championship alive. The European squad faced TNC Pro Team in the decisive match, with both squads fighting to avoid elimination. Team Liquid drafted a core trio of Faceless Void, Visage, and Underlord, but that trio proved vulnerable to TNC Pro Team’s aggressive fighting lineup. The Southeast Asian squad forced Team Liquid into skirmishes and unfavorable fights early and often, putting the European squad on the back foot for most of the early and mid-game stages. While Team Liquid was able to extend the match to a certain extent, the consistent pressure from TNC Pro Team kept the European squad’s cores from keeping pace with their counterparts. That disparity in terms of progression allowed TNC Pro Team to dominate the late-game stage, as the SEA squad won fight after fight and out killed Team Liquid by a score of 18-2 over the final 12 minutes of play to knock the European squad out of the Major with a finish in the 5th-6th place position.

Team Liquid came into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major with the goal of finally reaching the Qualifying Point total it needed to secure a direct invite to Vancouver for TI8. Considering the fact that the team had earned a Top 4 finish at each of its nine previous Pro Circuit appearances this season, there was little reason to believe that the team wouldn’t be a heavy favorite to reach that mark for a 10th straight time. Coming into the event itself, Team Liquid was projected to keep its streak of Pro Circuit success going with a finish in the Top 4 range. However, the team stumbled a bit at the event and ended up finishing just short of that expected outcome in the 5th-6th place position. The European squad began its run at the Major with a solid start in the Group Stage, winning four of its matches but struggling a bit with three losses against Chinese opponents. The concerns for the team began though with the tiebreaker matches, as Team Liquid all but disappeared with a 1-3 run in the five way tiebreaker. Some of the team’s struggles could be attributed to fatigue, or perhaps to the Bo1 format of the Group Stage in general. The fact remained though that while the team’s six losses across its original Group Stage record and the extra tiebreaker matches were somewhat disappointing, the team was still in a relatively favorable position heading into the Breakout Round. Once the team reached the Playoff Stage and Bo3 series, we saw the team’s usual confidence and strength come out with back to back 2-0 wins over fellow Top 8 ranked squads VGJ.Thunder and Virtus.pro. The team’s momentum from those wins very nearly allowed it to move past LGD Gaming as well, but the team finally hit the wall against the Chinese squad. The team’s two losses to LGD Gaming and its subsequent loss to TNC Pro Team exposed a bit of a weakness in Team Liquid’s draft as its lineup was particularly vulnerable to early aggression and pressure across those final three matches. The team’s opponents were able to turn early pressure and harassment into stronger late-game presences that left Team Liquid unable to seize full control of the matches as it fell just short of a Top 4 finish in Shanghai. That finish in the 5th-6th place position must be somewhat frustrating for Team Liquid, as the team leaves the Major still searching for enough Qualifying Points to secure its direct invite to TI8. The good news for Team Liquid is that it will still have opportunities to reach that needed point total before the end of the season. Team Liquid is set to participate in both the EPICENTER XL Major later this month and the ESL One Birmingham Major in May. Though the team’s streak of Top 4 finishes on the Pro Circuit may have come to an end in Shanghai, it would take a truly horrific implosion from Team Liquid to prevent the European squad from punching its ticket to Vancouver before the end of the Pro Circuit schedule.

 

Vici Gaming VICI_Gaming

Place: 5th-6th

Winnings: $67,5000

Vici Gaming came into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as one of the Top 8 ranked squads on the Pro Circuit. In addition to that solid position on the international level, Vici Gaming also entered the Major with a chance to improve its standings within its home region. If the team managed to place in the Top 4 at the event and place ahead of fellow Chinese squad Newbee, then Vici Gaming could lay claim to the title of top ranked Chinese team on the Pro Circuit. With both regional pride and a chance to bolster its position in the Pro Circuit standings on the line, Vici Gaming was presented with a perfect opportunity to display its strength in Shanghai.

Vici Gaming was sorted into Group A for the Group Stage of the Major, and the Chinese squad opened up its Day 1 schedule with a match against European squad OG. The Chinese squad’s core duo of Razor and Shadow Fiend managed to help the team build up a small lead early on, but the strength of OG’s lineup eventually got the better of Vici Gaming. Despite Ori’s Shadow Fiend (9-4-11) leading a surge for the team in the late game, Vici Gaming wasn’t able to turn the game around as it dropped its first match of the Group Stage. The team’s second match of the day saw it go up against a regional rival in the form of fellow Chinese team Newbee. The teams remained close over the first half of the game, with neither side building up a net worth lead of more than 3k over the course of the first 30 minutes of play. However, Ori’s Tiny (15-1-18) and Paparazi’s Razor (15-4-19) spearheaded a push that allowed Vici Gaming to begin controlling the fights in the late game as the team out killed its opponent by a score of 17-4 to secure a win and finish the day at a 1-1 record.

Day 2 of the Group Stage saw Vici Gaming open its schedule with a match against North American squad OpTic Gaming. The Chinese squad picked up a lineup with considerable team fight power headlined by cores of Razor, Death Prophet, and Beastmaster. While that lineup earned the team a small advantage over the early and mid-game stages, OpTic Gaming was able to dominate the late game and wipe out Vici Gaming’s advantage. The Chinese squad managed to earn just one kill over the final 10 minutes of the game as its lineup was simply shut down by OpTic Gaming. Vici Gaming faced Team Liquid next in its last match of Day 2, and the Chinese squad was able to bounce back from its loss to OpTic Gaming with an impressive performance against the TI7 Champion. Paparazi’s Outworld Devourer (15-1-11) and Ori’s Puck (10-3-18) led an aggressive lineup for Vici Gaming, and Fenrir put together a strong showing on Witch Doctor (10-5-18) as the Chinese squad dominated Team Liquid to keep its overall record even at 2-2.

At 2-2, Vici Gaming didn’t enter Day 3 of the Group Stage as one of the leading squads in Group A, but the team still had opportunities to improve its standings in the group. The team started its Day 3 matches with a game against fellow Chinese squad Keen Gaming, and Vici Gaming would have little mercy for its regional rival. Behind huge performances from Paparazi on Outworld Devourer (10-0-14) and Ori’s Storm Spirit (17-2-10), the Chinese squad claimed the lead early and never looked back as it claimed an entirely one sided victory over Keen Gaming. The team would end its day with another match against a Chinese squad, as Vici Gaming played LGD Gaming to close out its Day 3 schedule. Vici Gaming picked up a greedier core trio of Terrorblade, Puck, and Lone Druid, but that lineup faced significant struggles against LGD Gaming. Despite getting out to a sizable lead in the early stages, Vici Gaming’s lineup was quickly out scaled as the Chinese squad ended yet another day with a 1-1 split.

Vici Gaming entered the final day of the Group Stage with a 3-3 record, but that performance didn’t have the team sitting in a safe place in the standings just yet. The team needed to win its final Group Stage match to advance to the Breakout Round and avoid a tiebreaker scenario. Unfortunately for Vici Gaming, its final opponent wasn’t going to roll over so easily, as the Chinese squad took on TNC Pro Team. Despite a solid effort from LaNm on Visage (8-4-4), Vici Gaming was never able to find its rhythm in team fights as its SEA opponent built its lead up further and further. Behind by over 10k net worth at the 30 minute mark, Vici Gaming conceded defeat to fall to 3-4 and fall into a tie with OG for the final spot of Group A in the Breakout Round. That tie necessitated a final tiebreaker match for Vici Gaming, and the Chinese squad came out aggressively in this do-or-die match. Behind an impressive showing from Paparazi on Lifestealer (15-1-14), Vici Gaming controlled the pace of the game and lead from start to finish as the team shut down its European opponent to survive the Group Stage and advance to the Breakout Round.

Vici Gaming faced down a tough challenge in the Breakout Round, as the team played Team Secret in a Bo3 series with elimination from the Major on the line. Game 1 saw the two teams remain evenly matched across most of the match, as neither squad held a lead of more than 5k net worth over the first 40 minutes of play. However, Vici Gaming’s lineup eventually managed to find a way to get the upper hand, as Paparazi’s Outworld Devourer (8-3-11, 25.7k net worth) and Ori’s Tiny (6-2-15, 24.4k net worth) helped the team control the final series of team fights to claim a win in the opening match of the series. Game 2 began in a somewhat similar manner, as the two teams remained relatively close throughout the early and mid-game stages. Once again though, Vici Gaming managed to pull away late as its core trio combined for a stat line of 29-10-47 to build up a net worth lead of over 30k to close out the game and the series against Team Secret.

That victory in the Breakout Round allowed Vici Gaming to advance into the Upper Bracket, where it faced TNC Pro Team once again. Game 1 of the series proved to be disastrous for Vici Gaming, as the Chinese squad managed to earn just nine kills as it was decimated by TNC Pro Team’s more aggressive strategy. Vici Gaming turned the tables in Game 2 though, with Paparazi’s Slark (16-0-15) and Ori’s Outworld Devourer (14-2-12) leading the team to a dominant showing as the team held a net worth lead throughout the entirety of the match to tie up the series 1-1. With elimination on the line, Vici Gaming went into Game 3 with a core trio of Dragon Knight, Death Prophet, and Underlord. Early on in the match, it appeared that the Chinese squad’s lineup was doomed to failure, as Vici Gaming fell behind by nearly 30k net worth. However, Vici Gaming was able to turn things around late thanks to multiple Divine Rapier purchases and an incredible performance from Ori’s Death Prophet (10-1-21). Vici Gaming managed to control the final fights of the match and push into TNC Pro Team’s base to pull off an amazing comeback performance to win the game and the series.

Vici Gaming’s win over TNC Pro Team brought it just one Bo3 series away from a guaranteed finish in the Top 4 at the Major, but the Chinese squad would have to get past another Southeast Asian team in the form of Mineski in order to reach that mark. Vici Gaming opened Game 1 of the series with a core trio of Lifestealer, Death Prophet, and Lone Druid, and that lineup was able to establish a sizable net worth lead early in the match. Despite a strong performance from Paparazi on Lifestealer (10-6-13), Vici Gaming couldn’t maintain that lead for long, as Mineski tankier lineup began to control team fights and push Vici Gaming into a more defensive position. The Chinese squad couldn’t find enough farm for its cores at a fast enough rate to keep up with Mineski as the Southeast Asian team pushed into Vici Gaming’s base to secure a win to open the series. In Game 2, the roles were reversed for the two squads, as Mineski was the team to pull way in the mid and late-games stages. However, Paparazi’s Faceless Void (16-3-19, 44.2k net worth) and LaNm’s Dark Willow (13-9-23, 23.3k net worth) managed to turn the match around with the help of a Divine Rapier pick up to retake control of the game beginning around the 48 minute mark and eventually push straight down the middle lane to tie up the series in dramatic fashion. That win turned the Bo3 into a Bo1, but Vici Gaming wouldn’t be able to keep its momentum going after its victory in Game 2. Despite a solid showing from Paparazi on Shadow Fiend (12-6-4), Vici Gaming trailed significantly in the mid and late-game stages and could never mount a strong enough defense to overcome Mineski’s considerable team fight power.

Losing that series dropped Vici Gaming down in the Lower Bracket, where it faced CIS power house Virtus.pro in a Bo1 elimination match. VP picked up a core Broodmother that significantly threw off Vici Gaming’s original plan of attack. With eLeVeN’s Batrider (3-6-9) shifted into the middle lane, there was little Vici Gaming could do to slow the Broodmother pick down. Despite yet another strong game from Paparazi on Weaver (10-1-7), the Chinese squad fell behind early and never managed to put together a successful comeback effort as VP knocked the team out of the Major with a 5th-6th place finish overall.

Vici Gaming came into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major with an incredible opportunity to improve its standing both within its home region and in the Pro Circuit standings. A Top 4 finish had the potential both to raise the team’s overall Pro Circuit rank and to allow the team to usurp the title of top ranked Chinese squad from Newbee. Coming into the event, Vici Gaming was expected to come close to that coveted Top 4 finish, with the team projected to finish within the 5th-6th place range. While the team was able to put together an impressive run in Shanghai to match that predicted finish, the Chinese squad wasn’t quite able to get over the hump to secure that desired Top 4 finish. What we did see from Vici Gaming though was a strong and encouraging run at the Major that saw the squad present a tough challenge for some of the Pro Circuit’s leading squads. The team did not begin its run at the Major in fantastic fashion though, as the Chinese squad faced some issues in the Group Stage of the event. The teams 3-4 Group Stage record simultaneously displayed both the team’s skill and its inconsistencies, with the Chinese squad having to rely on a tiebreaker win over OG to survive and advance to the Playoff Stage. Once the team moved from Bo1 matches to Bo3 series, we saw a bit more strength from Vici Gaming as it moved through both Team Secret and TNC Pro Team with a level of confidence and composure that was somewhat lacking in the Group Stage. It took fantastic performance from both Mineski and Virtus.pro to finally knock Vici Gaming out of the Major, but despite those losses leaving the team short of a Top 4 finish, its run reminded the Dota 2 world of Vici Gaming’s abilities and strength on the international level. The main concern for the Chinese squad following this showing at the Major is similar to that of many teams at this point in the season: consistency. We’ve seen Vici Gaming heat up before, but we’ve also seen the team follow up fantastic Pro Circuit performances with sub par runs at events as well. The question of whether the team will be able to perform consistently over the final months of the season is somewhat compounded by the fact that Vici Gaming may not have as many opportunities remaining on the Pro Circuit as it may like. As of right now, the team is scheduled to attend just one event over the rest of the season, with the Chinese squad set to participate in the MDL Changsha Major in May. While the team stills sits in a relatively comfortable position with its position in the Top 8 of the Pro Circuit standings, the Chinese squad will still likely be hoping to carry on its momentum from this showing in Shanghai and finish the season strong as it prepares for TI8.

 

Virtus.pro 600px-Virtus

Place: 3rd

Winnings: $105,000 (Total) & 225 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

Virtus.pro entered the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as the top ranked squad in the Pro Circuit standings. The team’s incredible performance to this point in the season had already secured the CIS squad a guaranteed direct invite to Vancouver for TI8. With that in mind, the team was not necessarily under the same level of pressure as some of the other participating squads in Shanghai, as VP no longer had to worry about Qualifying Points or seasonal results heading into the end of the Pro Circuit schedule. While the team’s position was secure, VP still came into the event with a high level of focus and confidence as it tried to win its third straight Major Championship. Even with the team guaranteed to participate in TI8, VP was not going to waste an opportunity to continue testing itself against some of the Pro Circuit’s other leading teams.

VP came into the Group Stage of the Major as one of the favorites to claim a top spot in Group B. The CIS squad opened its run on Day 1 with a match against North American squad Evil Geniuses, and the Pro Circuit leader started its Group Stage run with a strong showing. No[o]ne’s Sniper (17-2-6) dominated the match up from the very start, and 9pasha’s Tiny (9-1-5) provided the team another source of damage as VP claimed a significantly one sided victory. The team’s second match of the day saw it shift from a North American opponent to a South American one, as VP played paiN Gaming next. Early on, the Brazilian squad was putting up a solid fight against VP, as paiN Gaming’s lineup actually held the net worth lead for the majority of the first 25 minutes. However, No[o]ne’s Pugna (10-2-13) and Ramzes666’s Dragon Knight (7-2-16) spearheaded a charge that saw VP retake control of the match with a series of strong team fights that shut down paiN Gaming and helped the CIS squad earn a 2-0 record to end Day 1.

Day 2 of the Group Stage saw VP pick up right where it left off with a match against Chinese squad Invictus Gaming. VP’s core duo of Terrorblade and Death Prophet helped the CIS squad establish a lead early and apply heavy pressure to IG’s Tinker pick. That duo of Terrorblade and Death Prophet combined for a stat line of 24-5-27 as Virtus.pro dominated Invictus Gaming for its third win of the event. The team’s second match up of the day came against Mineski, and the CIS squad was feeling too confident to be stopped at that point. Mineski was held to just four kills in the match as VP simply ran the Southeast Asian squad over on its way to a win in just over 21 minutes of play.

AT 4-0, VP entered Day 3 of the Group Stage in a solid position in the Group B standings, but another solid outing would help the team lock down one of the top two spots in the group. The team faced VGJ.Thunder in its first match of the day, and early on it looked as though the Chinese squad might have figured out how to beat VP. VGJ.Thunder built up a modest net worth lead over the first 20 minutes of the game, but VP was eventually able to come online and start turning the match in its favor. The combination of No[o]ne’s Gyrocopter (18-2-16) and 9pasha’s Tiny (10-2-17) helped VP dominate team fights across the rest of the match as the CIS team seized control of the game and didn’t give VGJ.Thunder a viable opening to come back as VP pushed its record to 5-0. After its win over VGJ.Thunder, VP got the chance to play in an all-CIS match up as it faced Effect in its final game of the day. VP led this match from the very start, with its core trio of Lifestealer, Lina, and Doom posting a stat line of 42-16-57 as Effect never really stood much of a chance. Despite Effect’s lineup managing to extend the match and delay its loss, those efforts while ultimately futile as VP claimed its sixth straight win of the Group Stage.

VP entered the final day of the Group Stage already secured a spot in the top two of Group B, but it still had one final match to play against European squad Team Secret. VP drafted a core trio of Omniknight, Death Prophet, and Enchantress for this final match, and early on it was apparent that the CIS team was going to be in control of the game. VP led in terms of net worth for all but a few minutes of this match, but Team Secret was still able to put up a solid level of resistance as the European squad extended the game with strong fights and base defenses. VP’s core trio combined for a stat line of 33-12-53 as the CIS squad finally managed to break through Team Secret’s defense after over 70 minutes of game time to close out its Group Stage run at a perfect 7-0.

VP’s Group Stage record allowed it to skip the Breakout Round and advance directly into the Upper Bracket, where the CIS squad faced defending TI Champion Team Liquid in a Bo3 series. VP picked up a core trio of Lifestealer, Dragon Knight, and Sand King against the European squad, and that lineup got off to a hot start as the team built up a small net worth lead early in the match. However, Team Liquid’s lineup quickly managed to turn the tide of the match, controlling team fights and establishing control of the map with continuous pushes on VP’s towers. Despite a solid effort from Ramzes666 on Lifestealer (13-4-6, 26.2k net worth), VP wasn’t able to mount an effective comeback effort as the team lost its first match of the Major. Game 2 played out in almost the exact same fashion as Game 1, as VP’s lineup established and aggressive pace that had it leading by a small margin in the early game. Once again though, Team Liquid had the better team fight power and the better scaling lineup in the mid and late-game stages as the European squad pulled ahead in terms of net worth. Behind by over 16k net worth at the 31 minute mark, VP conceded defeat to lose the series 0-2 and drop into the Lower Bracket.

The team’s loss to Team Liquid dropped it down into the Lower Bracket, where VP faced North American squad Evil Geniuses in a Bo1 elimination match. The CIS squad didn’t have much difficulty moving past EG, as Ramzes666’s Lifestealer (8-1-17) and No[o]ne’s Gyrocopter (16-2-13) led the team to a dominant performance over the North American team to advance to the next round. The team’s next opponent in the Lower Bracket was Chinese squad Vici Gaming, as the two teams faced off in another Bo1 elimination match. VP opted for a core trio of Broodmother, Death Prophet, and Pugna in an attempt to pressure Vici Gaming early and establish control of the map. The strategy paid off, with Ramzes666’s Broodmother (10-2-6) and No[o]ne’s Death Prophet leading the way as the CIS squad took control early and never looked back to secure itself a position in the Top 4 at the Major.

VP’s Top 4 status may have been secured with its win over Vici Gaming, but the CIS squad had the chance to push for an even better finish if it could defeat Southeast Asian squad TNC Pro Team. Game 1 of the series saw VP stumble a bit, as its lineup was not fully prepared to handle the faster pace set up by TNC’s draft. While the two squads stayed close through the first half of the match, the Southeast Asian team was able to pull away late with a solid team fight performance and a heavy amount of pushing power that forced VP to concede defeat in the series opener. The CIS squad was able to bounce back from that defeat in Game 2 as its core duo of Troll Warlord and Gyrocopter combined for a 24-4-37 stat line. RodjER’s Tusk (10-6-17) played a vital role in setting up a VP favored pace as well, as the CIS squad led throughout the entirety of the match to tie the series 1-1. Game 3 saw the two teams remain close through the early stage once again, with neither squad leading by more than 4k net worth over the first 25 minutes. Despite that early parity, VP’s lineup eventually began to pull away in the later stages of the game, with Ramzes666’s Lifestealer (9-2-15) and No[o]ne’s Dragon Knight (8-4-14) provided the tanky front line presence needed for the team to control team fights and take a 2-1 series win over TNC Pro Team.

That win brought VP within just one series away from a spot in the Grand Finals of the Major, but the team needed to overcome Chinese squad LGD Gaming in order to reach that point. Game 1 saw the CIS squad draft a core trio of Lifestealer, Tiny, and Doom, but that lineup got off to a slow start against LGD Gaming’s draft. An early aggressive pace from LGD Gaming had the Chinese squad holding a sizable lead for the first half of the match, but VP’s cores were eventually able to go on the offensive. Behind impressive performances from Ramzes666 on Lifestealer (10-1-10, 31.5k net worth) and No[o]ne’s Tiny (6-1-11, 23.1k net worth), VP turned the match around to win the opening match of the series. Game 2 saw LGD Gaming come out aggressively, as the Chinese squad put VP on the defensive and built up a sizable net worth lead. VP managed to turn things around late with a strong team fight win, but the CIS squad couldn’t quite break through the base of LGD Gaming. The Chinese squad took advantage of VP’s stalled out push to win a series of team fights that wiped VP’s lineup and forced the team to concede defeat to even the series. Game 3 saw VP struggle significantly against LGD Gaming, as its lineup wasn’t able to ever fully establish control of the match. Despite an incredible performance from Ramzes666 on Terrorblade (8-3-10, 35.3k net worth), VP could only extend and delay the match but never had enough power to overcome LGD Gaming’s lineup as the Chinese squad slowly broke VP down to finish the series. The 1-2 loss for VP ended the team’s run at the Major with a 3rd place finish overall in Shanghai.

Virtus.pro entered the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as a team that really didn’t need to worry much about its performance at this event. The team remained the leading squad in the Pro Circuit standings and had already earned enough Qualifying Points to secure a direct invite to TI8. Considering the team’s stellar performance to this point in the season, the team was considered one of the favorites to win the event with a projected finish within the Top 4 range. The CIS squad was able to live up to those expectations with little difficulties, finishing in the Top 4 but missing out on the opportunity to play for its third straight Major Championship. The team put together the kind of confident and dominant performance that we’ve come to expect from VP this season, beginning with its undefeated run through the Group Stage. The team’s 7-0 run through the Bo1 matches in Group B left few mistakes to be critical of, as the team handled itself well in every situation that was thrown at in. The team’s loss to Team Liquid in the Upper Bracket exposed the first weakness that the team had shown in the event, as the defending TI Champion got the better of VP twice with hard fighting and pushing lineups. That loss to Team Liquid may have been somewhat disappointing, but even a team like VP isn’t truly untouchable, and it can be expected for either of those top ranked squads to be able to take a series of of the other. Aside from that, there wasn’t much to be unhappy with in VP’s performance. Even its eventual loss to LGD Gaming wasn’t all that damaging considering how well the Chinese squad played at the Major and the fact that VP was in a solid position to win the series as well. Overall, the team showed that it is still playing in solid form heading into the final months of the Pro Circuit season, and the CIS squad will have a few more chances to test itself on the Pro Circuit stage. The team is still scheduled to compete in the EPICENTER XL Major later this month, as well as the MDL Changsha and ESL Birmingham Majors in May. Looking at the strong performance that the team just put together in Shanghai, it seems apparent that the team’s direct invite status for TI8 won’t leave the CIS squad any less determined to continue competing at its best on the Pro Circuit stage.

 

Team Secret Secret_logo

Place: 9th-12th

Winnings: $15,000

Team Secret came into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major riding a high of confidence following the European squad’s victory at the recent DreamLeague Season 9 Minor. That win kept the team in a comfortable position as one of the Pro Circuit’s top ranked squads, but Team Secret was still looking to push for an even more valuable position. The team made its way to Shanghai still on its quest to secure enough Qualifying Points to earn a direct invite to TI8, though it would need an impressive finish at the Major to reach that goal. With a guaranteed spot in Vancouver within its sights, Team Secret entered the Major looking to maintain its momentum from its recent Minor Championship and outperform some of the Pro Circuit’s best teams in Shanghai.

Team Secret entered the Group Stage as one of the favorites to claim one of the top two positions in Group B, and the European squad began Day 1 of the event with a match up against Effect. Team Secret dominated the match up, with four of its players having 0 deaths in the match as the European squad out killed Effect by a score of 34-2 in an absolute walkover of a match to get Team Secret off to a 1-0 start. Team Secret’s next opponent offered a bit more resistance though, as the European team faced off against Invictus Gaming. The came went on a bit longer than Team Secret’s opening match, but behind a solid showing from Ace on Juggernaut (12-2-5), the team was able to secure another win to end Day 1 at a 2-0 record.

Day 2 began with Team Secret taking on another Chinese squad in the form of VGJ.Thunder. The match went back and forth, with both teams securing advantages in a tightly contested game. Late into the match, VGJ.Thunder managed to build up a modest lead that had it in a position to potentially close out a victory. However, Team Secret was able to pull off one final team fight win to halt VGJ.Thunder’s advance and open a small window that the European squad used to march down the middle lane and complete a comeback win to improve to 3-0 overall. Unfortunately for Team Secret, the momentum from that come from behind win would evaporate in its final match of Day 2 against Evil Geniuses. The North American squad played quickly and aggressively, putting Team Secret’s lineup at a significant disadvantage that it was never able to recover from. With its cores lagging behind in terms of progression and the team trailing by nearly 20k net worth, Team Secret threw in the towel to receive its first loss of the Group Stage.

At 3-1, Team Secret was in a strong position entering Day 3 of the Group Stage, but the team wasn’t locking into a Playoff Stage spot just yet. The team opened its Day 3 schedule with a match against Southeast Asian squad Mineski, and the European team struggled against its SEA opponent. The team’s core duo of Bloodseeker and Kunkka fell flat in the game, as Mineski’s lineup punished Team Secret’s draft early. By the 30 minute mark, Team Secret trailed by nearly 20k net worth and had just 11 kills as the European squad conceded defeat to Mineski. The team had a chance to bounce back after that loss with a match up against the 0-5 paiN Gaming. Despite getting off to a a somewhat slow start in the laning stage, Team Secret quickly established control of the match with some aggressive play against paiN Gaming. MidOne’s Tiny (12-3-17) provided the team with high levels of burst damage, and YapzOr’s Earth Spirit (10-3-29) was able to set a pace for Team Secret that kept it in the lead throughout the rest of the match as Team Secret secured another win for itself.

Team Secret’s 4-2 record entering Day 4 of the Group Stage had the European team already set for a spot in the Breakout Round. By the time the team’s final match against Virtus.pro came around, the standings were already locked in and Team Secret was set to be the 4 seed in Group B. However, that didn’t stop the team from competing in its match against the Pro Circuit leader, as Team Secret and VP went at each other in a match that lasted over 70 minutes. Team Secret picked up a core trio of Lone Druid, Lina, and Abaddon, but right from the start the team’s lineup was at a disadvantage. VP led this match in terms of net worth for all but a handful of minutes, but Team Secret managed to hold off wave after wave of high ground pushes to extend the match repeatedly. With Ace’s Lone Druid (8-6-11, 29.4k net worth) play helping to extend the game, Team Secret nearly pulled off an incredible comeback win. However, VP’s damage and team fight power proved too much for Team Secret to overcome as the CIS squad won the final fight of the game to secure a win and drop Team Secret’s final Group Stage record to 4-3.

With the Group Stage over, Team Secret advanced to the Breakout Round for a Bo3 elimination series against Chinese squad Vici Gaming. Game 1 saw the European squad pick up a core trio of Enchantress, Death Prophet, and Dragon Knight, but that lineup wasn’t able to secure the team a stable lead for most of the match. The two teams traded the net worth lead back and forth over the first 35 minutes, but Team Secret was eventually able to establish a small advantage in the late game. Unfortunately, the European squad couldn’t maintain that lead, as Vici Gaming out killed Team Secret by a score of 14-1 over the final 9 minutes of the game to claim the opening match of the series. Game 2 saw Team Secret pull out its signature mid Kunkka strategy, with the team also adding in cores of Chaos Knight and Batrider to the lineup. Game 2 looked a bit like Game 1 for the first half of play, with the two teams remaining close in terms of net worth throughout the first 25 minutes of the game. However, the late-game stage belonged to Vici Gaming once again, as the Chinese squad won fight after fight and left Team Secret on the defensive over the second half of the match. The European squad didn’t have the team fight power it needed to match up to Vici Gaming’s lineup, and it fell behind by a significant margin as the Chinese squad pushed into its base repeatedly. Despite its best defensive efforts, Team Secret lost the match and the series, with its 0-2 loss in the Breakout Round ending its run at the Major with a finish in the 9th-12th place position.

Team Secret came into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major with aspirations of claiming another Top 4 finish and potentially securing itself enough Qualifying Points to earn a direct invite to TI8. Coming into the event itself, the team was expected to compete for that coveted Top 4 finish with a projected finish within the Top 4 range. However, the team’s play in Shanghai was not quite as strong as its recent results had lead people to expect, as the team fell into the bottom half of the standings by the end of its time at the Major. The somewhat poor performance comes as a bit of a surprise for Team Secret, as the team had just put together a dominant showing at the recent DreamLeague Season 9 Minor. Before that, the team had gone through a small rough patch, and it appears that some of those issues may not have been done away with entirely based upon the team’s finish in Shanghai. The team’s Group Stage performance was not quite up to what many were expecting of the team, despite Team Secret managing to advance to the Playoff Stage. The European squad was one of the teams favored for a spot at the top of the Group B standings, but instead it finished in the 4 seed. The team’s wins in the Group Stage all came against team’s that finished below it in the Group B standings, with its most notable victories coming against Chinese squads VGJ.Thunder and Invictus Gaming. Considering both of those squads faced significant struggles of their own in the Group Stage and were also knocked out alongside Team Secret in the Breakout Round, the team’s performance at this Major is not particularly impressive. The good news for Team Secret was that it remained at least respectably competitive even in its losses, which means that the squad may not have much reason to panic just yet. As poor as the team’s showing in Shanghai may have been, Team Secret still holds a favorable position in the Pro Circuit standings, and at this stage in the season it would take a truly catastrophic meltdown for the European squad to miss out on a TI8 invite. That being said, Team Secret would surely feel better over the last few months of the season if it can guarantee that invite before the end of the Pro Circuit schedule, and the European squad will have quite a few chances to work towards that goal in the coming months. The team will compete later this month at the EPICENTER XL Major in Moscow, and will be a participant at both the GESC: Thailand Minor and the MDL Changsha Major in May. With those opportunities coming up in the near future for Team Secret, the team will have plenty of chances to show the Dota 2 world that this poor showing in Shanghai was an aberration as the team continues to chase that direct invite to Vancouver this summer for TI8.

 

Mineski 600px-Mineski-dota_logo

Place: 1st

Winnings: $370,000 (Total) & 750 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

Mineski entered the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as the highest ranked Southeast Asian team on the Pro Circuit. However, that status had been losing some of prestige of late, with the SEA squad having dropped out of the Top 8 entirely at this point in the season. The team had seen some recent struggles on the Pro Circuit stage, but this Major offered Mineski an opportunity to work itself back into the realm of the elite on the international level if it could recapture its previous strength. With the season schedule slowly winding down, Mineski was certainly in some need of a solid showing in Shanghai in order to help the Southeast Asian squad fight its way back into the Top 8 in the standings.

Mineski found itself sorted into Group B for the Major, as the Southeast Asian squad opened its run at the Major with a match against South American squad paiN Gaming. While the two teams remained close in terms of net worth over the first 35 minutes of play, Mineski was eventually able to pull away and establish control late behind an incredible performance from Mushi on Outworld Devourer (20-3-11). That win got Mineski off to a solid start as the SEA squad moved on to face Invictus Gaming in its second match of Day 1. That match proved to be mostly one sided, as Mushi’s Anti-Mage (9-0-8) and Moon’s Death Prophet (9-2-11) led the way to secure Mineski a 2-0 start to the Group Stage.

Day 2 saw Mineski pick up right where it had left off on Day 1 with a match up against CIS squad Effect. Mineski picked up a core trio of Vengeful Spirit, Invoker, and Chen to face Effect, and that lineup proved remarkably successful. That trio combined for a stat line of 24-12-47 as Mineski’s net worth lead was increased at a steady pace all throughout the match in another victory for the SEA squad. The team faced another CIS squad in the form of Virtus.pro in its final match of the day. This time, Mineski would be the team on the defensive early, as VP’s aggressive play left the Southeast Asian squad’s lineup struggling to keep pace. Those efforts proved unsuccessful though, and by the 21 minute mark the team trailed by over 13k net worth and was forced to throw in the towel to suffer its first defeat on the Major.

The team may have taken its first loss of the Group Stage in Day 2, but the team wasn’t going to let that setback slow it down as it entered Day 3 of the Major. The Southeast Asian team began its schedule for the day with a match against Team Secret. The European squad put up a solid fight through the first 20 minutes of play, but from that point forward the game belonged to Mineski. With Mushi’s Gyrocopter (9-2-14) leading the way, Mineski established full control of the match and out killed Team Secret by a score of 16-2 over the final 15 minutes of play to secure another Group Stage win. After that win, Mineski took a considerable amount of momentum into its next match against VGJ.Thunder, and the squad would put that momentum to use against the Chinese squad. Mineski held VGJ.Thunder to just five kills in the match as Jabz’s Nature’s Prophet (8-2-10) helped the team run over its opponent to bring its Group Stage record to 5-1.

Mineski’s 5-1 record had it sitting near the top of the standings in Group B, but the Southeast Asian squad still needed to secure one final win over Evil Geniuses in order to lock in one of the top two positions in the group. The team opted for a core trio of Outworld Devourer, Invoker, and Underlord to combat the North American squad, and that lineup proved largely successful against EG. Mineski’s lineup kept EG significantly pressured throughout the match, and an impressive showing from Mushi’s Outworld Devourer (10-1-4) helped the squad secure its final Group Stage win and advance directly to the Upper Bracket as one of Group B’s top two teams.

Mineski faced another North American team in its Upper Bracket match up, as the team faced OpTic Gaming in a Bo3 series. Game 1 proved to be a walkover for the Southeast Asian squad, as Mineski held OpTic Gaming to just nine kills in the match and held the net worth lead from start to finish to take a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 proved to be an even bigger stomp than its predecessor, as OpTic Gaming earned just two kills and Mineski’s core trio of Gyrocopter, Dragon Knight, and Abaddon combined for a stat line of 15-1-40 to quickly put down the North American squad for a 2-0 series sweep.

That win over OpTic Gaming advanced Mineski to the next round of the Upper Bracket and a series against Chinese squad Vici Gaming. Game 1 saw Mineski trail early in the match, as Vici Gaming’s lineup was able to force some favorable early fights and skirmishes. Eventually though, Mineki’s lineup was able to regroup and assert its own team fight power to seize control of the match. Behind big showings from Mushi on Gyrocopter (13-3-17) and Moon’s Dragon Knight (10-5-21), the Southeast Asian squad was able to dominate the late-games stages to roll back Vici Gaming and secure a win to open the series. Game 2 saw the team’s roles from the previous match reversed, as Mineski was the squad to get off to a strong start and an early net worth lead. Despite a solid effort from Moon’s Templar Assassin (10-8-9), Mineski was unable to maintain that lead in the late-game stage with Vici Gaming showing off a scary level of team fight damage and control, including a Divine Rapier purchase, to turn the tides of the match and even up the series at 1-1. After a tough loss in Game 2, Mineski went back to a tried and  true team fight lineup in Game 3 headlined by a trio of Outworld Devourer, Death Prophet, and Tidehunter. That combination proved incredibly effective, as Mineski was able to control just about every team fight in the match to built up a comfortable net worth lead and keep Vici Gaming on the defensive. Despite Vici Gaming’s Shadow Fiend and Terrorblade cores extending the game as much as possible, the Chinese squad was unable to hold back Mineski’s lineup as the Southeast Asian team secured a victory to win the series 2-1.

After its win over Vici Gaming, Mineski found itself in the Upper Bracket Final where it faced another Chinese opponent in LGD Gaming. Game 1 saw Mineski pull out the Huskar and Oracle combination in its draft, and that strategy paid off significantly against LGD Gaming. The Chinese squad was unprepared for Mineski’s aggression, as Mineski out killed its opponent by a score of 17-7 to secure a win in just over 27 minutes of game time. Game 2 of the series would not nearly as short an affair for the two teams, as LGD Gaming got off to a strong start in its effort to tie up the series. Mineski’s core trio of Outworld Devourer, Tiny, and Underlord struggled early as LGD Gaming built up a lead over 12k net worth over the first 45 minutes of the game. However, Mineski managed to draw out the match even further, pushing the game timer over the 60 minute mark and buying the team much needed time to catch up to its opponent. Behind impressive performances from Mushi’s Outworld Devourer (15-7-17, 32.8k net worth) and Moon’s Tiny (17-6-11, 28.3k net worth), Mineski was able to mount a comeback effort to snatch the win away from LGD Gaming and claim a 2-0 victory in the series to punch its ticket to the Grand Final of the Major.

That Grand Final proved to be a rematch for Mineski, as the Southeast Asian squad faced LGD Gaming again in a Bo5 series for the title of Major Champion. The Southeast Asian team struggled a bit in Game 1 of the series, as its cores were largely kept in check by the aggressive lineup of LGD Gaming. Down by over 17k net worth at the 27 minute mark and with few options remaining to catch up to its opponent, Mineski conceded defeat to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw Mineski come out with a vengeance against LGD Gaming, as the team drafted a core trio of Gyrocopter, Tiny, and Magnus alongside supports of Naga Siren and Ancient Apparition to dominate team fights. The lineup did exactly what Mineski had intended it to, as LGD Gaming had no answer to the team’s significant team fight power. Held to just six kills in the match, LGD Gaming threw in the towel around the 32 minute mark to give Mineski its first win of the series and tie the score up at 1-1. Mineski decided to try something a bit different in its Game 3 draft, picking up cores of Gyrocopter and Dragon Knight but also throwing in a Broodmother core as well. Early on, that lineup looked to be in control as Mineski built up a modest net worth lead in the early stages of the match and put together solid pushes to establish some control over the map. However, LGD Gaming was able to bide its time and eventually turn things around late and seize control of the match. Despite a strong showing from Mushi on Gyrocopter (11-3-12), Mineski was ultimately unable to hold LGD Gaming back as it lost the match and went down 1-2 in the series. Game 4 saw Mineski pick up a core trio of Luna, Dragon Knight, and Pangolier with supports of Naga Siren and Disruptor as it attempted to keep the series alive. That lineup was quickly able to assert its control over the match, as LGD Gaming’s cores were heavily pressured and harassed to give Mineski a significant net worth advantage early. The team’s damage and tankiness allowed it to maintain that advantage over the course of the game, with the team’s core trio combining for a stat line of 24-6-34 as Mineski secured itself a win and forced the series into a decisive Game 5. That final game would be almost completely controlled by Mineski, as the team drafted a fighting lineup with cores of Lifestealer, Death Prophet, and Magnus combined with a support duo of Naga Siren and Disruptor. Mineski’s team fight power allowed it to force and win engagements early and often, setting a pace that LGD Gaming was less comfortable playing at with its lineup. With Mushi’s Lifestealer (10-1-10) leading the way, the Southeast Asian squad broke past LGD Gaming’s last valiant efforts to hold its base to secure a win and lock down the team’s first Major Championship of the season.

Mienski came into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as a team in a bit of a rough predicament. While the team still held the title of top ranked Southeast Asian team on the Pro Circuit, it was falling further and further behind the Top 8 ranked squads. The team needed a strong performance at the Major to prove to the Dota 2 world that it was still a contender on the international stage. Considering the team’s somewhat inconsistent performance on the Pro Circuit in the months leading up to the Major, the expectations for Mineski were not as high as they had been in previous events. The team was projected to fall in the Breakout Round to finish in the 9th-12th place range, but the Southeast Asian squad refused to go down so easily. The team put together one of the more impressive runs of the Pro Circuit season to leave that predicted outcome far behind it as the team claimed the first Major Championship for the Southeast Asian region. It was apparent early into the proceedings in Shanghai that Mineski was locked in to a higher level of play, as the team dominated Group B. The SEA squad defeated every team it faced other than Virtus.pro en route to an unexpected finish in the top two of the group. The team was playing with a confidence and a level of consistency that had simply not been present in its last few Pro Circuit appearances, and the team was able to put its confidence and considerable momentum to good use in the Playoff Stage. The team simply dismantled OpTic Gaming in its first series of the Upper Bracket, and its win over Vici Gaming in the next round showed off its strength and resiliency as well. But perhaps where the team shined brightest was in its two series against LGD Gaming in the Upper Bracket Finals and Grand Finals of the Major. The team wnet 5-2 across those final series, and displayed its focus as well as its versatility as it adapted to LGD Gaming’s strategies without compromising its desired play style. The results for the team was a Major Championship and a run at the event that really left few weaknesses to be critical of. The team’s victory in Shanghai has earned it a place among the Pro Circuit elite, and at this point in the season the team’s position should hopefully be secure enough that Mineski doesn’t have to worry about falling out of the Top 8. However, that doesn’t mean that the Southeast Asian squad can rest easy just yet. The team can still secure its direct invite status for TI8 if it can keep racking up Qualifying Points, and Mineski will have a few opportunities to do just that before the end of the season. The team will be one of the participants at the EPICENTER XL Major later this month, and can also secure further Pro Circuit appearances if it can win the upcoming Southeast Asia Qualifiers for the GESC: Thailand Minor and the MDL Changsha Major. With those opportunities on the horizon, Mineski has the chance to build off of its Major Championship win and finish the season strong as it looks to lock in its spot in Vancouver for TI8.

 

TNC Pro Team Tncproteam

Place: 4th

Winnings: $85,000 (Total) & 75 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

TNC Pro Team entered the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major in a rather interesting position both on the Pro Circuit and within its home region. The team had been regularly competing within the Southeast Asian region, but its limited success on the international level had many looking at the team as a mid-level squad in the Pro Circuit hierarchy. However, with so many Qualifying Point up for grabs in Shanghai and over the final events of the Pro Circuit schedule, TNC Pro Team had plenty of opportunities to make a final push up the standings. That push needed to get off to a strong start in Shanghai, as the Southeast Asian team looked to get itself into a position to truly contend on the Pro Circuit stage with a solid showing at the Major.

TNC Pro Team began its run at the Major in Group A on Day 1 of the Group Stage, with the Southeast Asian squad facing off against OpTic Gaming in its first match of the day. TNC Pro Team’s core trio of Morphling, Death Prophet, and Tidehunter proved largely ineffective in this match, as OpTic Gaming pressured it early and often. The North American squad built up a net worth lead of over 25k by the 26 minute mark as TNC Pro Team was unable to defend its base and lost its opening match of the event. The team moved on to its second match of the day against LGD Gaming, and the SEA squad managed to bounce back from its earlier defeat. The team’s core trio of Phantom Assassin, Puck, and Batrider combined for a state line of 37-4-57 as TNC Pro Team dominated the match up to salvage a 1-1 record at the end of Day 1 in Shanghai.

Day 2 saw TNC Pro Team open its duo of matches with a game against Chinese squad Keen Gaming. The Southeast Asian squad channeled some of its momentum from its previous win over LGD Gaming, as Armel’s Timberaw (21-1-11) and Raven’s Terrorblade (12-3-14) spearheaded a strong push from the team as it lead in terms of net worth for all but a minute or two in a game that lasted a little over 36 minutes of game time. The team’s second match of the day came against another Chinese squad in Newbee, and early on it looked as though TNC Pro Team would be able to sweep its Day 2 matches with another win. Behind impressive showings from Armel on Puck (15-4-13, 30.2k net worth) and Raven’s Terrorblade (17-4-15, 29.4k net worth), the Southeast Asian squad held a sizable net worth lead heading into the late-game stage. However, Newbee’s lineup managed to take back to back huge team fights to leave TNC Pro Team’s base undefended as the Chinese squad snatched a victory away from the SEA team to put it at a 2-2 record at the end of the second day of the event.

TNC Pro Team opened its matches on Day 3 of the Group Stage with a game against defending TI Champion Team Liquid. The SEA squad struggled to deal with and early aggressive strategy from Team Liquid, as the team fell behind quickly and never managed to pull itself back into a position to seize control as it lost its first match of Day 3. The team’s second match of the day came against European squad OG, and TNC Pro Team managed to put its previous loss behind it in this match. Behind a strong showing from Raven’s Gyrocopter (16-1-10), the team was able to dominate team fights and shut down OG’s lineup en route to an entirely one sided win to pull its overall record to 3-3.

The team’s 3-3 record left TNC Pro Team in a precarious position heading into the final day of the Group Stage. The team wasn’t secured a spot in the Playoff Stage, and its final match against Chinese squad Vici Gaming would go a long way towards determining the team’s fate. Armel stepped up once again for the Southeast Asian squad, putting together an incredible performance on Sniper (20-2-9) that helped TNC Pro Team out pace and shut down Vici Gaming’s lineup to secure its fourth win of the Group Stage. That win turned out to be pivotal for the team, as it kept the SEA squad in the running for a top two position as TNC Pro Team ended up in a five way tie in Group A. That tie lead to a series of tiebreaker matches for the team, and TNC Pro Team absolutely hit its stride in those extra matches. The team swept past all of its opponents to go 4-0 in the tiebreaker matches and skip the Breakout Round entirely with a guaranteed spot in the Upper Bracket.

That Upper Bracket series would be a Bo3 rematch of the team’s Group Stage victory over Vici Gaming, as the Chinese squad was back for revenge over the SEA squad. Game 1 saw TNC Pro Team firmly in control as the team rolled over Vici Gaming early. Armel’s Leshrac (9-3-8) and Raven’s Troll Warlord (6-0-11) led the way for the team, and every other member of the roster notched double digit assists as TNC Pro Team put together a dominant performance to claim a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 saw the roles reversed, as TNC Pro Team’s lineup was shut down early by Vici Gaming’s high damage and control. While TNC Pro Team’s core duo of Templar Assassin and Terroblade managed to extend the match significantly, the team could never build up enough momentum to ever really threaten Vici Gaming as the series was tied up at 1-1. TNC Pro Team looked like it was in control for much of Game 3, with the Southeast Asian squad pulling head by a significant margin in the mid and late-game stages. Despite the team’s considerable team fight power and large net worth lead, TNC Pro Team couldn’t close out the match, opening a window of opportunity for Vici Gaming to win a fight of its own and turn the tides to claim an unexpected win over TNC Pro Team and knock it down in to the Lower Bracket.

The Lower Bracket saw the format of the matches switch from Bo3 back to Bo1, with TNC Pro Team facing North American squad OpTic Gaming to see which squad would stay alive at the Major. TNC Pro Team put together a dominant performance against its North American opponent, as its core trio of Timbersaw, Gyrocopter, and Sandking combined for a stat line of 25-5-47 in a wire to wire win for the Southeast Asian squad. That victory over OpTic Gaming set the team up for another Bo1 match against Team Liquid, this time with a position in the Top 4 on the line. TNC Pro Team took the lead early on in the match, and strong performances from Armel’s Tiny (15-2-11) and Raven’s Outworld Devourer (11-1-9) helped the Southeast Asian squad outlast a surge from Team Liquid in the mid-game to reestablish control and close out the win to secure a Top 4 finish.

The team’s victory over Team Liquid had secured it a Top 4 finish, but TNC Pro Team had the chance to push for more as it faced off against Virtus.pro in the Lower Bracket in a Bo3 series. The SEA squad’s core trio of Luna, Tiny, and Night Stalker got off to a somewhat slow start to the match, but TNC Pro Team managed to pick things up as the game went on to put together a dominant late-game scenario. The core trio combined for a stat line of 16-3-25 to help the Southeast Asian team claim a 1-0 series lead over VP. Game 2 saw TNC Pro Team’s momentum abandon it, as its CIS opponent straight up dominated the match despite a strong showing from Armel’s Queen of Pain (10-7-7). That loss sent the series into Game 3, and TNC Pro Team picked up a core duo of Luna and Gyrocopter to attempt to close out the series. The early and mid-game stages were largely controlled by VP, as the CIS squad built up sizable net worth leads behind its tanky, high damage lineup. However, TNC Pro Team made a strong push in the late-game behind Raven’s Luna (10-5-4) and Armel’s Gyrocopter (6-3-8) to seize the net worth advantage and threaten VP’s control of the map. Eventually though, the power and tankiness of VP’s lineup won out, as the CIS squad finally put TNC Pro Team down to end the team’s run at the Major with a 4th place finish overall.

TNC Pro Team came into the Dota 2 Asia Championships looking for a chance to put its relatively quiet start to the season behind it. With the Pro Circuit schedule featuring so many opportunities for Qualifying Points over the final few months of the season, the Southeast Asian squad was hoping for a solid performance to spark a run on the international level that could potentially put the team in a position to threaten for a Top 8 spot. Prior to the start of the event itself, TNC Pro Team wasn’t really considered much of a realistic threat to claim one of the Top 4 positions, as the SEA squad had not quite shown enough over its recent performances to warrant much enthusiasm. The team was projected to lose in the Breakout Round to fall within the 9th-12th place range, but the Southeast Asian squad blew that prediction out of the water with a truly remarkable run in Shanghai that put it all the way up to 4th at the Major. The squad looked absolutely fantastic in its Group Stage run, as the team showed a competitiveness against leading Pro Circuit squads that had simply been missing in previous international performances. The team stepped things up a level with its dominant 4-0 run through the Group A tiebreakers, showing the Dota 2 world and the other teams in the field that its initial success in the Group Stage was no fluke or aberration. The team put up a solid effort and a good fight against Vici Gaming in its Upper Bracket match, presenting the Chinese squad with a challenge despite losing the series 1-2. However, it’s in the Lower Bracket where we saw the team truly shine in the face of adversity. In back to back Bo1 elimination matches, TNC Pro Team kept itself confident and composed against OpTic Gaming and Team Liquid in order to secure a Top 4 finish. That achievement is not only significant in that it earned the team much needed Qualifying Points, but it also marked the end of Team Liquid’s streak of Top 4 finishes that had been unbroken since the beginning of the season. While the team’s progress ended in the next round against Virtus.pro, the Southeast Asian squad pushed the Pro Circuit leader to the brink across a full three game series. Overall, the team showcased a level of confident and strong play in Shanghai that was on par with some of the Pro Circuit’s top ranked teams. The question now for TNC Pro Team will be whether the team can play at that incredible level over the final months of the season and potentially into TI8 itself. The team still has quite a lot of distance to cover if it wants to make a run at a Top 8 spot, but TNC Pro Team could have a few more opportunities to perform on the Pro Circuit Stage. While the squad is not set to attend another Pro Circuit event right now, the team will be participating in the regional qualifier for both the GESC: Thailand Minor and the MDL Changsha Major. Should the team continue to play at the level that we just witnessed in Shanghai, then TNC Pro Team could have a solid shot at returning to the Pro Circuit stage and making a run at a Top 8 spot by the end of the season.

 

Keen Gaming Keen_Gaming_logo

Place: 13th-16th

Winnings: $10,000

After an absence of around five months from the Pro Circuit, Chinese squad Keen Gaming entered the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major looking for a second chance to make its mark on the international stage. However, with the team sporting a significantly changed roster from its prior Pro Circuit appearances, there were a multitude of questions regarding how well the team would be able to perform in Shanghai. That being said, the Major offered the Chinese squad an opportunity to put together a landmark performance and potentially build some momentum heading into the final months of the season. Considering the team’s ineligibility for direct invites to TI8 and the TI8 Regional Qualifiers, the chance to test itself against top international opposition was one that Keen Gaming could absolutely take advantage of.

Keen Gaming began its run at the Major in Group A with two Bo1 matches in the first day of the Group Stage. The Chinese squad’s first opponent was European squad OG, and Keen Gaming put together a solid performance in its first match of the event. MS’s Phantom Lancer (11-0-15) led the way as Keen Gaming started its Group Stage run with a rather dominant performance and a win. The team’s second match of the day proved to be a more significant challenge as Keen Gaming faced Team Liquid next. The Chinese squad got off to a strong start through some early fighting and rotations, but Team Liquid eventually managed to swing the lead and the momentum of the match in its favor. Despite a solid showing from Old Chicken on Gyrocopter (12-8-6), Keen Gaming fell too far behind and was forced to concede defeat to end Day 1 at a 1-1 record.

Day 2 of the Group Stage did not go well for Keen Gaming, as it began its matches for the day against Southeast Asian squad TNC Pro Team. Keen Gaming’s lineup was pressured early and often by its opponents, leaving it as a significant net worth disadvantage that the Chinese squad was never able to fully recover from. The team fight lineup that Keen Gaming drafted was largely ineffective as the squad dropped its first match of the day. Keen Gaming faced a regional rival in its second match of Day 2 in the form of LGD Gaming. Keen Gaming looked to play a somewhat fast paced style with an aggressive lineup that kept it even into the mid-game stage. From that point forward though, LGD Gaming was able to seize control of the match and control team fights across the rest of the game. With its lineup being rapidly out scaled and out maneuvered in fights, Keen Gaming was unable to hold its base as it lost the game to fall to 1-3 after Day 2.

Day 3 would continue the trend of all-Chinese action that Keen Gaming ended Day 2 with, as the squad faced two more regional foes in Vici Gaming and Newbee. Unfortunately for Keen Gaming, those matches also continued to trend of the squad’s struggles against its regional competitors. The team’s first match against Vici Gaming was an entirely one sided affair, as Keen Gaming’s lineup was constantly being forced into bad fights and unfavorable engagements. Down by over 30k net worth at the 30 minute mark, Keen Gaming ran out of options and conceded defeat to Vici Gaming. That loss moved the team into its last match of the day against Newbee, and Keen Gaming pinned its hopes on a core trio of Gyrocopter, Pugna, and Omniknight. The team got off to a strong start early, taking a few good fights and holding a small net worth advantage into the mid-game stage. Unfortunately, the team wasn’t able to maintain that lead for long, as Newbee’s team fight power came online. Keen Gaming was out killed by a score of 2-13 over the final 20 minutes of the game as the Chinese squad was handed another 0-2 result for the day to give it a 1-5 record overall.

The final day of the Group Stage had Keen Gaming eliminated from contention for a spot in the Playoff Stage before the matches had even begun. However, that didn’t mean that the team didn’t have an impact on how the Group A standings ended up lookin, as the team’s lone match of the day came against North American squad OpTic Gaming. Keen Gaming had the chance to spoil OpTic Gaming’s shot at an outright spot in the top two of Group A if it could pull off a win. The Chinese squad picked up a core trio of Phantom Lancer, Outworld Devourer, and Clockwerk in a match that was action packed from the very start. The two teams kept relatively even throughout the early and mid-game stages, with neither side holding a net worth lead of more than 6k. At the 30 minute mark, Keen Gaming began to pull things significantly into its favor with a series of strong fights and pick offs. The Chinese squad stormed back into the match, out killing OpTic Gaming by a score of 14-3 over the final 16 minutes of the match. With MS’s Phantom Lancer (11-5-13) and old chicken’s Outworld Devourer (16-4-14) leading the way, Keen Gaming pulled off the win to close out its Group Stage run with a 2-5 record. That final win over OpTic Gaming was notable in that it helped to force a five-way tie for the top 2 positions in Group A, though Keen Gaming would not be a part of that tiebreaker scenario. Since the team had already been eliminated from Playoff contention at the end of Day 3, this final win had no effect on the team itself as it finished in the combined 13th-16th place position.

Keen Gaming came into the Major hoping for a chance to test its new roster against top international opposition and potentially build up momentum for one final push over the season’s last few months. Coming into the event, the team’s chances of finding success were not particularly high, as Keen Gaming was projected to finish in the 13th-16th place position. Despite some standout moments and solid showings from the team, Keen Gaming was ultimately unable to beat that prediction as it ended its run at the Major in that collective last place position. While the team’s record in the Group Stage was not quite as impressive as it could have been, the team performed relatively well in Group A considering the roster was making its first Pro Circuit appearance together. The team’s losses to Team Liquid, Newbee, LGD Gaming, Vici Gaming, and TNC Pro Team were unfortunate but not necessarily unexpected, as the Chinese squad looked largely out matched across those games. Even when Keen Gaming managed to build up a lead against those squads early, it had significant difficulties holding on to that advantage through the rest of the match. In contrast to those struggles and general sense of confusion, Keen Gaming looked confident and collected in its two wins against OG and OpTic Gaming. Those solid performances showed us a small example of what the team is capable of, though the question remains of whether the Keen Gaming will get a third chance to play on the Pro Circuit stage. The Chinese squad is currently still in the hunt for a Top 3 position in the Dota 2 Professional League Season 5 in China, which would qualify it for the MDL Changsha Major in May. Aside from that competition though, the team does not have any other events or qualifiers set on its schedule. Either way, the team’s road to Vancouver this summer for TI8 will run through the Open Qualifiers, as the team broke the roster lock late in February and are therefore ineligible to receive direct invites to TI8 or the TI8 China Qualifier. While the team may not be able to make use of any Qualifying Points from Pro Circuit events over the last few months of the season, the chance to take on top international teams again in preparation for its Open Qualifier run could make a world of difference for Keen Gaming in the end. We’ll see if the team can use this somewhat rough learning experience in Shanghai to build momentum in its home region leading up to the Open Qualifiers.

 

LGD Gaming 800px-LGD

Place: 2nd

Winnings: $135,000 (Total) & 450 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

LGD Gaming came into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as a team that had gone through the chaos and metaphorical fire of a roster restructure. The LGD Gaming roster that emerged from the other side of those struggles had been slowly but surely reasserting its strength on the Pro Circuit. While the team’s recent results had been somewhat inconsistent, the Chinese squad had shown that it was at least capable of contending with its peers on the Pro Circuit stage. The question for LGD Gaming was whether the team could play to its full potential on the big stage of a Pro Circuit Major. With the team playing on home soil and in front of a friendlier Chinese crowd, the team had a significant opportunity to work itself back into the mix of the Pro Circuit elite with a strong performance in Shanghai.

LGD Gaming was placed into Group A for its run through the Group Stage, and began its matches on Day 1 of the event with a game against TNC Pro Team. The match did not go well for LGD Gaming, as the Chinese squad saw all of its cores heavily pressured and killed early on in the match. That rough start left the team in a poor position across the rest of the match, and the team conceded defeat just past the 39 minute mark to suffer a loss in its opening game of the Group Stage. The Chinese squad bounced back from that tough loss in its next match against defending TI Champion Team Liquid. Lead by impressive performances from Ame’s Phantom Lancer (15-1-7) and xNova’s Disrutopor (9-2-18), LGD Gaming dominated the final team fights of the match and pushed past the European squad in just over 27 minutes to finish Day 1 with a 1-1 record.

Day 2 opened for LGD Gaming with the squad facing one of its regional rivals in the form of fellow Chinese squad Newbee. The match up was entirely one sided in favor of LGD Gaming, as the team gave up just six kills in the match and absolutely ran over Newbee to secure a quick win in just over 24 minutes. That win over one Chinese squad set LGD Gaming up for a match against another, as the team faced Keen Gaming to close out its Day 2 schedule. The team looked for significant scaling power as it picked up main cores of Terrorblade and Shadow Fiend, and those heroes certainly delivered for LGD Gaming. Maybe’s Shadow Fiend (10-3-12) and Ame’s Terrorblade (5-3-9) led the way for the Chinese squad as the team out scaled and out fought Keen Gaming’s lineup to pull away in the late-game stage and build up a net worth lead over over 16k. Keen Gaming fought until the end, but its lineup could do little to slow LGD Gaming down as it secured another win in the Group Stage.

The team began its Day 3 matches with a game against OpTic Gaming, and LGD Gaming would run into some struggles against the North American squad. While Ame and Maybe were able to secure a high level of farm on their heroes, the team as a whole couldn’t keep pace with the lineup of OpTic Gaming. The North American squad had a level of team fight power and control that LGD Gaming wasn’t able to compensate for as the Chinese squad fell behind early and never managed to come back to suffer its second loss of the event. LGD Gaming would move on from that loss with its second match of the day against fellow Chinese team Vici Gaming. LGD Gaming looked to play an aggressive style, combining cores of Monkey King, Outworld Devouerer, and Omniknight with a support duo of Shadow Shaman and Kunkka. At first that aggressive lineup fell a bit flat, as Vici Gaming built up a small net worth lead heading into the mid-game stage. From that point on, Mineski’s lineup controlled the game, with the Southeast Asian squad out killing its opponent by a score of 14-4 over the final 18 minutes of the match to secure another Group Stage win.

LGD Gaming entered Day 4 of the Group Stage with a 4-2 record, and all it needed to do to secure at least a tie for a position at the top of the Group A standings was win its final match against OG. The Chinese squad got off to a strong start in the match, but OG was able to regroup and turn the tides in its favor in the late-game stage. Despite a strong performance from Maybe’s Sniper (15-8-8), LGD Gaming wasn’t able to ever chip away at OG’s net worth lead as the Chinese squad lost the match to drop to a 4-3 record. That record pulled the team into a five way tie for the top two positions in Group A, necessitating a series of tiebreaker matches. LGD Gaming put its strength on display in those tiebreaker matches, claiming three straight wins over Team Liquid, Newbee, and OpTic Gaming. While the team wasn’t able to win its final tiebreaker match against TNC Pro Team, its performance was still enough to lock down one of the top two positions and advance the team directly to the Upper Bracket of the Playoff Stage.

LGD Gaming’s first opponent in the Upper Bracket was North American squad Evil Geniuses as the two teams met for a Bo3 series. LGD Gaming trailed early in Game 1, as EG built up a significant net worth lead and had the Chinese squad on the defensive over the first half of the match. However, the LGD Gaming cores eventually managed to work themselves into a stronger position, and a fantastic performance from Chalice on Clockwerk (11-6-17) helped the team push back and take control of the match away from EG to secure a win to open the series. Game 2 saw the situation reversed for both teams, as LGD Gaming was the one to built up a strong early lead. EG managed to retake the momentum in the late-game, but LGD Gaming wasn’t ready to fold over just yet. Led by Ame’s Gyrocopter (11-2-8) and Maybe’s Outworld Devourer (6-4-8), LGD Gaming turned three straight fights in its favor to wipe out EG and claim another win to sweep the series 2-0.

That win over Evil Geniuses advanced LGD Gaming into the next round in the Upper Bracket, where the Chinese squad faced a tough challenge in the form of TI7 Winner Team Liquid. The European squad lived up to its reputation in Game 1, as LGD Gaming’s lineup was constantly pressured and kept in check to give Team Liquid an early advantage in the series. Game 2 began in the same way as its predecessor, as Team Liquid again got out to a bit of a lead early on in the match. This time though, LGD Gaming was ready for that early pressure, and the Chinese squad was prepared to fight back. Behind big games from Ame on Faceless Void (8-1-13) and Maybe on Leshrac (9-4-12), LGD Gaming was able to take the better of the team fights in the mid and late-game stages to sap away Team Liquid’s momentum and secure a win to tie up the series 1-1. After its win in Game 2, LGD Gaming came into Game 3 with a high level of confidence that it immediately put to use. The team picked up cores of Terrorblade, Tiny, and Omniknight alongside a support duo of Disrutpor and Bounty Hunter in the hopes of establishing a fast pace that would throw Team Liquid off balance. The strategy worked to perfection, with LGD Gaming out killing Team Liquid by a score of 33-8 in a dominant performance to claim a 2-1 series win over the defending TI Champion.

That win brought LGD Gaming just one series away from a spot in the Grand Finals, but the Chinese squad needed to get past Southeast Asian squad Mineski in order to reach that mark. The SEA squad was not so willing to comply though, as Mineski dominated Game 1 of the Bo3 series. LGD Gaming’s cores fell flat in the face of Mineski’s Huskar and Oracle combination, with the Chinese squad putting up just seven kills en route to a 27 minute loss. LGD Gaming came back strong in Game 2 of the series, building up  a big net worth lead with its early control of team fights. However, the team’s momentum wouldn’t last as Mineski began closing the gap and working its way back into a position of strength. Despite huge performances from Ame on Monkey King (20-7-13, 33.2k net worth) and Maybe on Gyrocopter (11-8-15, 24.3k net worth), LGD Gaming couldn’t hold back Mineski’s surge as the Southeast Asian team completed the sweep to send LGD Gaming into the Lower Bracket.

The team’s loss still had it one series away from the Grand Finals, but this time LGD Gaming had to defeat Pro Circuit leader Virtus.pro in order to earn its rematch with Mineski. LGD Gaming went for a tanky front line in Game 1 with a core trio of Terrorblade, Dragon Knight, and Underlord. Early on, that strategy appeared to be working well for the team as it held a sizable net worth advantage through the first 30 minutes of play. However, the Chinese squad wasn’t able to hold on to that lead once VP’s cores came online, as the CIS squad established its control of both team fights and the map in the late-game. Trailing by over 27k net worth at the 44 minute mark, LGD Gaming conceded defeat in Game 1 to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 looked eerily similar to Game 1 for most of the match, as LGD Gaming again pulled away early in the match behind a strong team fight lineup. However, VP once again put together a surge in the late-game to wipe out LGD Gaming’s lead and take control of the game itself. This time though, LGD Gaming was ready, as the Chinese squad claimed a series of team fight wins to halt VP’s advance in its tracks. Behind solid showings from Ame’s Troll Warlord (15-5-16), Maybe’s Tiny (11-6-14) and fy’s Rubick (10-8-29), LGD Gaming seized its opportunity and forced VP to tap out to secure a win and force a decisive Game 3. That third and final match of the series saw LGD Gaming in the driver’s seat for almost the entirety of the match. Maybe’s Leshrac (14-5-17) led the way for LGD Gaming as the Chinese squad survived a couple of late-games surges from VP to secure its win and defeat the CIS power house 2-1 to punch its ticket to the Grand Final.

The team’s win over VP set it up for another series against Mineski, this time in a Bo5 format with the Major Championship crown on the line. Game 1 went in favor of the Chinese squad, as Ame’s Phantom Assassin (8-1-9) and Maybe’s Tiny (8-1-11) provided the team with the early burst damage it needed to shut down Mineski’s lineup and claim a win to open the series. Game 2 did not go in the Chinese squad’s favor, as LGD Gaming put together just six kills in the match en route to a rough one sided loss at the hands of Mineski that tied up the series at 1-1. Game 3 saw LGD Gaming shake things up a bit with a core trio of Terrorblade, Kunkka, and Venomancer. Early on, that lineup struggled in the face of Mineski’s aggressive play. However, the mid and late-game stages showed the strength of those unorthodox cores as LGD Gaming established control of team fights and pushed down Mineski’s lanes to also take control of the map. With the SEA squad pinned down in its base and trailing by nearly 16k net worth, Mineski called “gg” to give LGD Gaming the lead in the series once again at 2-1. Just as in the previous scenario though, LGD Gaming’s lead in the series would not last long as the team struggled in Game 4. The team fight lineup that the Chinese team attempted to work with didn’t pan out for it, as Mineski’s more aggressive team fight strength won out and helped to tie up the series one last time to force a fifth game. LGD Gaming came out with an interesting draft in Game 5, picking up cores of Anti-Mage, Leshrac, and Underlord alongside a support duo of Lion and Tusk. Unfortunately, that lineup didn’t manage to accomplish much, as Mineski’s lineup dominated team fights and kept the LGD Gaming heroes on the defensive. Despite a valiant final defense of its base, LGD Gaming couldn’t hold back Mineski’s push as the Southeast Asian squad claimed the win to lock down the Major Championship. The 2-3 loss brought LGD Gaming’s run in Shanghai to an end, though the Chinese squad manged to finish in 2nd place overall at the Major.

LGD Gaming entered the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as a team on the rise both within its home region and on the Pro Circuit. The team had been making significant strides towards reestablishing itself as an international power, but it was still not fully clear how far the team was going to be able to go in Shanghai heading into the event itself. The Chinese squad was projected to finish within the top half of the standings at least, with a projected result in the 7th-8th place range. However, the Chinese squad stepped up in a significant way before its home town crowd in Shanghai to push all the way to a 2nd place position when all was said and done at the Major. The team looked solid throughout its run at the Major, beginning with its performance in the Group Stage. The team did not enter Group A as a favorite to place in the top two, but the Chinese squad did not let that deter them from putting together a solid performance. The squad managed to defeat all of its fellow Chinese teams in its group, and even claimed a big win over Team Liquid as it worked itself into the tiebreaker scenario in Group A. The team’s performance within those extra matches was superb as well, as the team claimed wins over Top 8 ranked teams Team Liquid and Newbee, and also claimed a victory over a surging OpTic Gaming squad to land itself in the top two in the group. At that point, the argument could have been made that the team was benefiting from the Bo1 format in the Group Stage, but the team’s performance within the Playoff Stage quickly put those accusations to rest. LGD Gaming managed to sweep Evil Geniuses in its first Bo3 series, and claimed one of its most impressive wins of the event by knocking defending TI Champion Team Liquid into the Lower Bracket.Perhaps even more impressive than that win over Team Liquid was the team’s 2-1 victory over Virtus.pro in the Lower Bracket, as the Chinese squad managed to defeat the number 1 ranked team on the Pro Circuit. While the team will surely be somewhat disappointed by its two series losses to Mineski and its missed opportunity to claim a Major Championship, LGD Gaming’s display in Shanghai has changed the landscape of the Pro Circuit and drastically altered the team’s course for the remainder of the season. The squads’ 2nd place finish has transformed it from a fringe team to one of the Pro Circuit elite with a position in the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings. The question for LGD Gaming now is what will the team do to defend and potentially improve that position. The team is currently scheduled to compete at both the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minor in a few days and the EPICENTER XL Major later this month. In addition to those scheduled Pro Circuit appearances, the team has the opportunity to add to its schedule with runs in the Dota 2 Professional League Season 5 (qualifying event for MDL Changsha Major) and the China Regional Qualifier for the GESC: Thailand Minor. Given the team’s strong showing in Shanghai and the plethora of opportunities still available to it over the final months of the season, LGD Gaming sits in a favorable position if it can maintain its current level of play.

 

VGJ.Thunder 600px-VGJ_201710_logo_notext

Place: 9th-12th

Winnings: $15,000

VGJ.Thunder entered the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major in the midst of an impressive push up the Pro Circuit standings. The past month or so saw the team rise from a regional contender into one of the leading squads on the Pro Circuit. Coming into the Major itself, the team was in a position to usurp the title of top ranked team in China from Newbee if it could manage another Top 4 finish in Shanghai. The Chinese squad had more than a few obstacles in its path with a field full of talented and experienced teams, but VGJ.Thunder’s recent performances on the international level had it feeling confident heading into this event.

VGJ.Thunder was sorted into Group B for the Group Stage of the Major, and began its play on Day 1 with a match up against CIS squad Effect. The Chinese squad had a small stumble in the early stages of the match, but quickly recovered thanks to a strong performance from Freeze’s Storm Spirit (12-3-15). VGJ.Thunder was able to control the map and control team fights over the second half of the match to shut down Effect and claim its first victory of the Group Stage. The team’s second match of the day came against North American squad Evil Geniuses. VGJ.Thunder held a small lead through the early stage of the game, but EG quickly seized control in the mid-game as its lineup took fights and began scaling on its cores at an accelerated pace. Big performances from Freeze on Razor (12-6-10) and Sylar (10-6-13) helped VGJ.Thunder reclaim the net worth lead and control of the map, but the Chinese squad pushed itself a bit too far against EG. A failed attempt to push into EG’s base left the team wiped out and its own base defenseless as EG pulled off a comeback win to hand VGJ.Thunder its first loss of the event.

After posting a 1-1 record at the end of the first day of play in Shanghai, VGJ.Thunder opened Day 2 of the Group Stage with a match against South American squad paiN Gaming. The Chinese squad came out aggressively in the early stage of the match, but found itself trailing in the mid-game thanks to the team fight power of paiN Gaming’s lineup. However, Sylar’s Juggernaut (21-3-5) picked up the slack for VGJ.Thunder, leading the Chinese squad on the warpath to retake a net worth lead of over 10k and shut down paiN Gaming to earn its second win of the Group Stage. After handling the South Americans, VGJ.Thunder next had to contend with European squad Team Secret to close out Day 2. The two squads remained neck and neck over the first 35 minutes of play, with neither team being able to secure a net worth lead of more than a few thousand. In the late-game stage though, Freeze’s Death Prophet (13-4-16) and Yang’s Batrider (12-7-19) helped open up a significant lead for the Chinese squad that had the team looking for a knockout punch against Team Secret. Unfortunately, that final push attempt went disastrously for VGJ.Thunder, as its lineup was wiped out and Team Secret turned the tables with a push down the middle lane that secured it a comeback win and dropped VGJ.Thunder’s record to 2-2.

Day 3 brought new challenges for VGJ.Thunder, as the Chinese squad began its day with a match up against Pro Circuit leader Virtus.pro. VGJ.Thunder managed to build up a net worth lead heading into the mid and late-games stages, but despite a solid showing from Sylar’s Lycan (9-5-6), the Chinese squad wasn’t able to maintain that advantage. VP’s team fight power and execution proved too much for VGJ.Thunder to handle as the CIS squad controlled the second half of the match and handed the Chinese team another Group Stage loss. VGJ.Thunder closed out Day 3 with a match against Southeast Asian squad Mineski, although that game would also go poorly for the Chinese team. VGJ.Thunder managed to earn just five kills in the match as Mineski simply ran through the Chinese squad to claim a one sided win in just over 24 minutes of play. The loss dropped VGJ.Thunder to 2-4 heading into the final day of matches.

With both Effect and paiN Gaming struggling significantly in the Group Stage, VGJ.Thunder entered Day 4 already guaranteed a spot in the Breakout Round. The only question was what seed the team would be in that next round of play, which was dependent upon its final match of the Group Stage against fellow Chinese squad Invictus Gaming. VGJ.Thunder opted for a core duo of Terrorblade and Death Prophet, but that combination proved somewhat ineffective against Invictus Gaming. Despite Sylar’s Terrorblade (6-4-9) helping to extend the match, VGJ.Thunder was never able to fully turn the momentum of the game in its favor as it trailed for the vast majority of play. The team made one final push to try and reduce its net worth deficit, but Invictus Gaming shut it down to close out a win and drop VGJ.Thunder to a 2-5 overall record to end the Group Stage.

The team’s 2-5 Group Stage record meant that VGJ.Thunder faced off against Team Liquid in the Breakout Round for a Bo3 elimination series against the defending TI Champion. Game 1 did not go well for VGJ.Thunde, as the Chinese squad managed to earn just 9 kills as it was routed by Team Liquid in just over 24 minutes to fall 0-1 in the series. The Chinese team came out a bit stronger in Game 2 of the series, picking up a core trio of Razor, Juggernaut, and Sand King. Early in the match it appeared that the team was headed for another quick loss, as Team Liquid built up a lead of nearly 10k net worth and held the advantage over the first 30 minutes of the game. However, Sylar’s Juggernaut (13-4-6) helped lead VGJ.Thunder on a surge that allowed the Chinese squad to reclaim the lead in the late-game. However, the team’s fragile advantage was shattered a few minutes later as Team Liquid reestablished control with a team fight win that put the match firmly back in the European squad’s control as it closed out the series with another win. That 0-2 loss ended VGJ.Thunder’s run at the Major with the Chinese squad finishing in the 9th-12th place position.

VGJ.Thunder came into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major looking for a chance to continue what had been one of the more impressive stretches of play we’ve seen on the Pro Circuit this season. The team had risen from the crowded Chinese region to claim a place as one of the top ranked teams on the Pro Circuit, and this Major offered the team the opportunity to continue climbing even further up the Pro Circuit standings. Coming into the event itself, the team was expected to compete for a Top 4 spot with a projected finish within that coveted range. However, the reality for the Chinese squad was significantly less impressive, as the team fell into the bottom half of the standings with its 9th-12th place finish in Shanghai. The team that fans saw struggle at the Major did not look like the same squad that secured back to back 2nd place finishes at the Bucharest Major and the GESC: Indonesia Minor. It’s Group Stage performance looked weak, as the team appeared to lose all of the confidence and strength that it had enjoyed over the course of the past month or two. The team’s only two Group Stage wins came against Effect and paiN Gaming, two squads whose struggles at this event were almost painful to watch. The fact that VGJ.Thunder wasn’t able to claim any other wins against the other Pro Circuit squads in its group is somewhat concerning for the team. The Bo1 format may have exacerbated the team’s issues at the Major, but even when the matches shifted from Bo1 to Bo3 in the Breakout Round, the team couldn’t catch a break. The team’s performance against Team Liquid wasn’t the most impressive display, but at this point in the season no team should be surprised or disappointed by a loss to the defending TI Champion. That being said, the team’s poor performance at the Major raises some questions and concerns for the team moving forward. There were already those who professed little faith in the team’s recent successes, claiming that the team’s Pro Circuit results were closer to a flash in the pan than the beginning of a sustainable run on the international stage. While this setback in Shanghai doesn’t simply halt the team’s momentum entirely, it certainly will get some people thinking about whether or not the team can maintain a high level of play across the final months of the season. For now, the Chinese squad is sitting in a comfortable position within the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings, but nothing is set in stone just yet for VGJ.Thunder. The team could use another strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage to help secure its position in the standings, and the Chinese squad has a chance to earn that success in the near future. The team is scheduled to play in the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minor in just a few days, and it set to participate in both the China Qualifier for the GESC: Thailand Minor and the Playoff Stage of the Dota 2 Professional League Season 5, which serves as a qualifying event for the MDL Changsha Major. With those opportunities still on the schedule for VGJ.Thunder, the Chinese squad will have its chances to show the Dota 2 world that this setback at the Major is only a temporary one on its path to TI8.

 

OG 425px-OG_RB_Logo

Place: 13th-16th

Winnings: $10,000

OG has been on a path of struggles and uncertainty in the days since the team’s parting with Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok. Despite coach Sébastien “7ckngMad” Debs doing an admirable job as a stand-in for the team, its performance has declined somewhat in recent appearances. While it’s currently unclear what the team plans to do with its roster over the final months of the season, the fact remained that the European squad still had to play at the Major. With the team’s roster move making it ineligible for direct invites to TI8 or the TI8 Regional Qualifiers, OG’s priority in Shanghai was to shore up its lineup and look to build some sort of momentum for itself in preparation for its Open Qualifier run. Even if the team couldn’t make any use of potential Qualifying Point earnings, the opportunity to continue competing against other Pro Circuit teams was an invaluable asset for the squad that it couldn’t afford to waste.

OG was placed into Group A at the Major, and began its run through the Group Stage with a match up against Chinese squad Keen Gaming. OG attempted a strategy based around a core trio of Terrorblade, Magnus, and Abaddon, but that plan quickly proved ineffective. Keen Gaming applied pressure early and severely limited OG’s ability to find farm on its cores. Despite a valiant effort from N0tail’s Terrorblade (6-5-4), the European squad were never able to sustain a comeback effort as it lost its first Group Stage match. The team played another Chinese squad in its second match of the day in the form of Vici Gaming, and early on it appeared that the European squad was in for a repeat of its earlier loss. Vici Gaming got out to a small lead in the early stages of the match, but OG’s lineup was able to turn things around in the mid and late-game. With its core trio of Viper, Visage, and Puck combining for a stat line of 26-14-55, OG was able to seize control of the match and hold off a late surge from Vici Gaming to secure a win and end Day 1 with a 1-1 record.

Day 2 for OG began with a tough match up, as the team played against an OpTic Gaming squad that had gone 2-0 in the previous day’s matches. OG trailed for much of the first 30 minutes of the game, as OpTic Gaming’s mobile and aggressive lineup proved somewhat difficult for the team to face up against. However, the heroes for OG eventually came online, and back to back well executed team fights at the 30 and 32 minute marks helped the European squad grab the initiative and control of the game. From that point forward, OpTic Gaming couldn’t find a way back into the match, as OG finished off one final fight to force the North American squad to concede defeat. That win built up a fair bit of momentum for OG, but it ran right into Team Liquid in its final match of Day 2. The team’s core trio of Arc Warden. Lycan, and Leshrac couldn’t scale fast enough or hard enough for OG to take an advantage, as Team Liquid continuously built up its lead over the course of the game. Despite a few final attempts to turn a team fight in its favor, OG couldn’t find a weakness in Team Liquid’s lineup and threw in the towel to tend Day 2 at a 2-2 record overall.

Day 3 was a pivotal opportunity for OG, as the European squad still had a chance to secure itself a favorable position in the Group A standings. The team began its run for the day against Chinese squad Newbee, but the match did not go particularly well for OG. Newbee’s cores got the better of OG time and time again in this match, and despite a solid showing from N0tail again on Terrorblade (7-5-5), the European squad fell behind significantly in the mid and late-game stages. With the net worth deficit growing steadily and its cores immensely out scaled by Newbee, OG conceded defeat and dropped to 2-3 heading into its final match of the day. That match came against TNC Pro Team (a.ka. TNC Predator), and the SEA squad was not in a very merciful mood. OG was dominated once again in this match up, with all of its cores suffering significantly in the face off early and heavy pressure from TNC Pro Team’s lineup. OG’s team fight potential never came together at the right time, and the constant aggressive play from TNC Pro Team left the European squad with little to not opportunities to catch up in terms of net worth. Down by nearly 20k net worth by the end of the match, OG called it quits to drop to 2-4 in Group A heading into the final day of the Group Stage.

Day 4 saw OG get a bit of luck in the standings, as TNC Pro Team defeated Vici Gaming in the first match of the day. That result gave OG a chance to force a tiebreaker scenario with Vici Gaming for the final spot in Group A if the team could win its final match against LGD Gaming. The game itself was an absolute bloodbath, with both teams fighting early and often in a team fight oriented match. Throughout the first 25 minutes of play, the two teams remained neck and neck in terms of net worth, but beyond that point OG began to pull away. Behind huge performances from N0tail on Phantom Lancer (10-6-10, 29.9k net worth) and s4’s Leshrac (14-8-21, 26.1k net worth), OG was able to seize control of the match and hold it against LGD Gaming’s final comeback attempts to win and improve its record to 3-4. That record tied it with Vici Gaming, necessitating one final tiebreaker match to determine the final team to survive Group A. Unfortunately, OG was unable to carry any of its momentum from its previous game over against the Chinese squad, as the team struggled immensely in the tiebreaker match. Its core trio of Troll Warlord, Tiny, and Viper were constantly picked off and pressured by Vici Gaming’s lineup, and that poor start left the team unable to contend with its opponents in team fights and skirmishes. OG was out killed by a score of 11-38 as Vici Gaming controlled the match from start to finish to knock OG out of the Major with 13th-16th place finish overall.

OG came into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major knowing that it couldn’t make any use of the Qualifying Points that would have come with a Top 4 finish. However, the European squad was still looking for opportunities to test itself against Pro Circuit opposition and get the team back on track after its recent struggles in the wake of losing Resolut1on. The team wasn’t expected to go very far at the Major, with OG projected to finish in the collective last place position of 13th-16th. Despite a few solid showings from the team and a couple of Group Stage wins, the team was ultimately unable to outperform that predicted outcome. The team didn’t look fantastic in Shanghai, as it failed to contend with Pro Circuit leaders like Team Liquid and Newbee. However, the team also took some tough losses against foes like Keen Gaming and TNC Pro Team that may have come as a bit more of a surprise at the time that they happened. In the wake of TNC Pro Team’s group-topping performance, that loss now looks significantly less damaging overall, but the loss to Keen Gaming still packs a bit of a sting for OG. Things weren’t all bad for the squad though, as its wins over LGD Gaming, Vici Gaming, and OpTic Gaming showed that the team can still put its considerable skills and experience together to manage a strong showing on the international stage. The question for OG over the remaining months of the season is going to be consistency more than anything else save for its roster situation. We know that the team’s talent hasn’t simply disappeared a la Space Jam, but that won’t matter in the Open Qualifiers if the team can’t consistently put that talent to use. There is also the matter of 7ckingMad’s time with the team to consider as well. Every event or qualifiers that the team competes in with him in the lineup will make it that much harder to adjust to a potential new player in the dwindling weeks of the Pro Circuit season. If the team continues to play with him as a stand-in, then it might just be better served adding him for the rest of the season than attempting to integrate a new player over the final month or two before the TI8 Qualifiers. Whatever, the team’s roster ends up looking like, OG will have a couple more opportunities to perform on the Pro Circuit stage before the end of the season. OG is set to compete at both the EPICENTER XL Major later this month, and the MDL Changsha Major in May. Those two events may be the last chance Dota 2 fans get to see OG before its run through the TI8 Open Qualifier, and it will be intriguing to see how the team performs as well as what its roster will look like in those last Pro Circuit appearances.

 

Effect Effect

Place: 13th-16th

Winnings: $10,000

Effect entered the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as a squad still somewhat unsure of its place within the international scene. The CIS squad has carved out a small degree of success for itself within its home region, but has still yet to replicate that success on the Pro Circuit stage. The team had to deal with the added issue of playing without one of its regular roster members at this event, as the team’s usual carry player was inactive. While former OG member Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok was able to stand-in for the team, the fact remained that it was playing with a new member that the roster was largely unfamiliar with. Despite that obstacle, the team was hoping that Resolut1on’s raw talent and experience would allow him to mesh well with the team’s play style as Effect searched for its first Top 4 finish at a Pro Circuit event in Shanghai.

The CIS squad was sorted into Group B at the Major, and began its run through the Group Stage with a match against VGJ.Thunder on Day 1.  Resolut1on’s Terrorblade (6-3-5) and Afoninje’s Tiny (8-4-6) helped to keep the team close through the mid-game stage, but didn’t have enough to prevent VGJ.Thunder from running away with the match in the late-game. Down by nearly 30k net worth and facing Mega Creeps, Effect conceded defeat to drop its first match of the event. The team faced a tough challenge in its second match of the day, as Effect played Team Secret next. The game did not go well for the CIS squad, as Team Secret absolutely dominated the match up. Effect was out killed by a score of 2-34 in a game in which the CIS squad has essentially no chance of winning. That loss dropped the team’s Group Stage record to 0-2 as it headed in the second day of competition.

Day 2 of the Group Stage began with Effect matching up with Southeast Asian squad Mineski in its first game of the day. Effect opted for a Kunkka in the middle lane on Afoninje, and at first it appeared that the gambit was working out for the team. However, it soon became apparent that Mineski’s mobility and damage would be too much for Effect to handle, as the SEA squad began to turn the tide of the match in its favorwith a series of fights, pick offs, and farming. With the team’s chances for victory slipping away, Resolut1on’s Gyrocopter (9-5-7) picked up a Divine Rapier in the hopes of turning one last fight in Effect’s favor. Unfortunately, the pick up wasn’t enough to stop Mineski’s final push, and the Southeast Asian team handed Effect its third straight loss of the Group Stage. The team’s second opponent on Day 2 was Invicuts Gaming, a team that was having some issues of its own to start the Group Stage. Unfortunately for Effect, those issues didn’t appear to plague the Chinese squad once the match began, as Invictus Gaming came out aggressively and established a fast pace that Effect was not prepared to deal with. The CIS squad found its team out maneuvered and out scaled early, as Invictus Gaming held a net worth lead throughout the entirety of the match to drop Effect to an 0-4 Group Stage record.

Day 3 offered the team another chance to turn its poor Group Stage performance around, though the CIS team would have to face Evil Geniuses in its first match of the day. Effect drafted a core trio of Gyrocopter, Pugna, and Underlord to face the North American squad, but it quickly became apparent that the team’s lineup would not be able to find much success. EG established a quick tempo for the match with early team fights and skirmishes that it was largely able to take the better of against Effect. Those early successes allowed EG’s cores to get off to an early lead that the North American squad quickly exploited and built upon while Effect’s lineup was still ramping up its own power. By the time Effect was ready to fight, it was too late, as EG’s lineup had firm control of the map and the team fights. Effect dropped to 0-5 at that point, and had just one last chance to stave off an elimination scenario. That final match of Day 3 came against fellow CIS squad Virtus.pro, and Effect would face a familiar struggle in this match. VP played quickly and aggressively against Effect, applying heavy pressure and forcing Effect’s heroes into early fights that it wasn’t prepared to fight. Those fights put Effect significantly behind, and robbed its cores of much needed space to farm in the  early stages of the match. Despite that, the team held on and drew out the match for as long as possible. Though its defenses did manage to slow VP’s progress, Effect was never in a real position to turn the tide of the match rather than simply delaying its own loss. Eventually, VP was able to push through Effect’s final defense, closing out the win and dropping Effect to an 0-6 Group Stage record that had it eliminated from Playoff contention.

With the team’s chances of advancing out of the Group Stage gone, all the team could do now was try to salvage something out of its final match of the Group Stage in Day 4. That final match saw the CIS squad play another 0-6 team in the form of South American squad paiN Gaming, to see which team would be able to come away from Shanghai with a win to its name. The two teams remained close through the early and mid-game stages, with the highest net worth lead over the first 15 minutes of play being just over 2k. Beyond that 15 minute mark though, the game went decisively in Effect’s favor. Resolut1on’s Terrorblade (9-0-4), Afoninje’s Gyropcopter (6-3-8), and Afterlife’s Dragon Knight (4-0-6) led the way for the CIS squad as it out killed paiN Gaming 17-0 over the final 9 minutes of the match to secure its first and only victory of the event. With a final record of 1-6, Effect finished its run at the Major in the collective last place position of 13th-16th.

Effect came into the Dota 2 Asia Championships with a lot of factors working against it. The team already had somewhat limited experience on the Pro Circuit stage, and it was also having to deal with having a stand-in in its lineup for the event. Even with those significant obstacles in its path, the team entered the Major hoping to put together a solid performance to lift its status a bit heading into the last months of the season. Effect wasn’t expected to accomplish much in Shanghai, with the team projected to finish in the 13th-16th place range. While the team did manage to salvage one win in its Group Stage run, it was quite a long way from outperforming that solemn prediction. There wasn’t a whole lot to take away from the team’s performance in terms of positives, as Effect struggled in almost every aspect during its 1-6 run at the Major. The team had difficulties adjusting to faster and more aggressive play styles, and all but disappeared in mid and late-game situations. Part of that could be attributed to the team playing with a stand-in, and the Bo1 format of the Group Stage meant that we never got a chance to see how well the team could adjust its own strategies over the course of a series. Whether those factors played a significant role or not, the fact remains that Effect’s performance in Shanghai was not quite as impressive as the team may have been hoping for. The problem for Effect is that it still has an issue to address in terms of its roster heading into the final months of the season. The team’s registered fifth member, Zaur “Cooman” Shakhmurzaev, is still inactive and there is no solid timetable for his return to the team. The squad’s former stand-in Igor “iLTW” Filatov is no longer with the team, and it is not known whether Resolut1on will continue to play with the squad beyond this Major appearance. There is another issue for Effect as well in that the team does not have any other Pro Circuit events or qualifiers set on its schedule at this time. The ESL One Birmingham Major and the  China Dota 2 Supermajor have yet to announce their regional qualifier participants, so there is still hope that Effect gets the chance to compete for spots at those events. However, those two events will be the team’s final chances to secure additional Pro Circuit experience, as every other event has already concluded its CIS Qualifier. By this point in the season, Effect may have done enough in the CIS region and its few Pro Circuit appearances to warrant a direct invite to the TI8 CIS Qualifier. However, that invite is not set in stone, and even if Effect does receive one it must still deal with either putting Cooman back into the active lineup or finding a suitable stand-in. With all of that in mind, the next few months will likely be a time of uncertainty and anxiety for Effect, and it will be interesting to see how the CIS squad responds that that adversity.

 

Evil Geniuses 600px-EG

Place: 7th-8th

Winnings: $35,000

Evil Geniuses may have entered the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as the highest ranked team from the North American region, but that status is becoming less and less significant as the season has gone on. EG may still outrank its regional rivals, but its position in the Pro Circuit standings has been declining of late with only a handful of events remaining on the season schedule. The North American squad entered the event near the bottom of the Top 8 in the standings, and at this point in the season even a single strong showing from an up and coming squad could threaten to knock EG out of the Pro Circuit elite. With that being said, Evil Geniuses came into the Major looking for a solid performance of its own in order to bolster its rather shaky position and help strengthen its hold over a Top 8 ranking heading into the final months of the season.

EG found itself placed into Group B for the Group Stage of the event, and began Day 1 of the Major with a match against Chinese squad VGJ.Thunder. EG held a sizable lead in the mid-game stage, but VGJ.Thunder was able to mount a comeback effort to seize the lead and threaten to end the match in the late-game. However, behind huge performance from Suma1L’s Faceless Void (11-2-17) and Arteezy’s Luna (5-6-18, 30.8k net worth), EG made one final push down the middle lane that wiped out VGJ.Thunder’s lineup and secured the North American squad its first win of the event. The team’s second match of the day came against Pro Circuit leader Virtus.pro, and the CIS squad proved to be a much more difficult challenge for EG to handle. EG’s core trio of Phantom Lancer, Dragon Knight, and Death Prophet fell flat in the face of VP’s lineup, as the North American team managed to earn just 12 kills as it lost an entirely one sided match to the CIS leader to end Day 1 at a 1-1 record.

Day 2 of the Group Stage saw EG face off against South American squad paiN Gaming in its first match up of the day. Evil Geniuses dominated the match from the start, with Arteezyt’s Luna (17-2-10) helping the squad roll over its opponent in a relatively easy win to begin the day. The team’s next opponent was European squad Team Secret, but EG’s momentum from its earlier victory carried over into this match as the North American squad put together another strong showing. The team’s core trio of Lifestealer, Dragon Knight, and Leshrac combined for a stat line of 23-6-25 as EG held the net worth lead for the entirety of the match to complete a 2-0 sweep of its Day 2 schedule and improve its overall record to 3-1.

By Day 3 of the Group Stage, EG was sitting in a favorable position in the Group B standings, but the North American squad still had a chance to push itself into a stronger position. The team opened up its matches for the day with a game against CIS squad Effect, which at this point in the Group Stage was still without a win. EG had no qualms about adding to its opponent’s losing streak, as the team dominated the match up from the start of play. The team’s core trio of Luna, Dragon Knight, and Leshrac posted a stat line of 21-10-27, and Misery’s Nature’s Prophet (2-4-13) helped to establish a fast pace of play that Effect was unable to counter. EG’s second match of the day came against Invictus Gaming, and it looked as though the North American squad’s momentum had finally abandoned it against the Chinese team. EG trailed significantly in terms of net worth for all but a few minutes in the match, with its lineup struggling to gain any traction in team fights. However, Arteezy’s Morphling (9-3-4, 23.1k net worth) helped to keep the team in the game and eventually EG managed to turn an incredible team fight at the 37 minute mark. That team fight win allowed the team to march down the middle lane, over power IG’s final defense attempt, and pull of an amazing comeback win to finish the day at 5-1.

EG’s performance had it sitting pretty heading into Day 4, but the North American squad wasn’t locked into the top two of Group B just yet. The team needed one final victory over Southeast Asian squad Mineski to secure that position, otherwise the team would end up a the 3 seed in the Breakout Round. EG picked up a core trio of Morphling, Viper, and Faceless Void against the SEA squad, and in the early stages of the match the teams were holding even with each other. However, Mineski’s full strength came online in the late-game stage, as the Southeast Asian squad pulled away from EG and out killed the North American team by a score of 15-4 over the final 18 minutes of play to hand EG just its second loss of the Group Stage. With that loss, EG ended its run in Group B with a 5-2 record and headed to the Breakout Round for a Bo3 elimination series.

Evil Geniuses’ opponent in that elimination series was Chinese squad Newbee, a team that came into the Breakout Round after a series of struggles in the Tiebreaker matches of Group A. EG would only add the the Chinese squad’s woes in Game 1 of the series, as the North American team dominated the match up from the very beginning. Suma1L’s Puck (12-1-7) helped lead the team as Evil Geniuses put together an impressive performance to claim a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 saw EG continue its dominant performance, as the North American squad held Newbee to just five kills in the match to claim another one sided victory in just a little over 24 minutes of game time.

The team’s 2-0 sweep over Newbee advanced it into the Upper Bracket to face another Chinese team in the form of LGD Gaming. Game 1 saw EG looking solid over the first 30 minutes of the match as the squad held a sizable net worth advantage. Despite a strong performance from Arteezy’s Troll Warlord (11-5-14), EG wasn’t able to hold that advantage through the rest of the game as LGD Gaming mounted a comeback effort to win the opening match of the series. Game 2 played out in a similar fashion, with EG taking a modest net worth lead in the late-games behind another strong showing from Arteezy on Luna (11-3-5). Once again though, EG wasn’t able to maintain its hold on that lead, as the team lost three straight team fights to lose both the match and the series. EG’s loss gave it one chance to stay alive at the Major if it could beat Virtus.pro in a Bo1 match. Unfortunately, EG struggled in its match against the CIS squad, trailing for all but a few minutes of game time as the North American squad lost the Bo1 to end its run at the Major with a finish in the 7th-8th place position.

Evil Geniuses entered the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as a team slowly sliding down the ranks of the Pro Circuit standings. While the team still held a Top 8 position as well as the status of highest ranked team in North America, its performance on the international stage was being largely overshadowed by other contenders in the second half of the season schedule. The team came into the Major looking for a strong showing to help bolster its declining position on the Pro Circuit, but the North American squad was projected to fall a bit short of that mark with a finish in the 7th-8th place range. Despite a strong performance at the event, Evil Geniuses was unable to outperform that prediction, as the team ended its run within that 7th-8th place range. The team was fantastic in the Group Stage of the event, defeating every team it went up against save for VP and Mineski, the two teams that ended up topping the Group B standings. The team played with a sense of confidence in its strategies that made it a tough match up for its opponents both in the Group Stage and in its Breakout Round series against Newbee. While the team’s final efforts against LGD Gaming and Virtus.pro were ultimately unsuccessful, EG still performed admirably in those matches, even being in positions where the team held a late-game advantage in both games against LGD Gaming. The fact that Evil Geniuses didn’t manage to come away from Shanghai with more Qualifying Points will surely be a disappointment for the team, but that doesn’t mean that the North American squad has been banished from the Top 8 for the rest of the season. The team will have at least one more chance to show its strength on the Pro Circuit stage and potentially earn enough Qualifying Points to finish the season in the Top 8 as the North American squad will participate in the ESL One Birmingham Major at the end of May. Aside from that event though, the opportunities for EG are beginning to wane, and the North American leader will have to get itself back into gear in time to finish the season strong as it looks to keep its chances of a direct invite to Vancouver alive.

 

OpTic Gaming OpTic_Gaming

Place: 7th-8th

Winnings: $35,000

OpTic Gaming had been in the midst of a bit of a surge within the North American region heading into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major. With Evil Geniuses trending downwards in the Pro Circuit standings, and fellow North American leader compLexity Gaming struggling with its recent roster change, the way was open for OpTic Gaming to firmly establish itself as one of the region’s top squads. While factors outside of the team’s performance had given it an unexpected opportunity, the team came to Shanghai looking to help its own cause with a a strong showing at the Major. While the North American squad had yet to find success on the Pro Circuit stage so far this season, the team was ready to challenge some of the Dota 2 world’s best squads and take a significant step towards becoming a contender on the international level.

OpTic Gaming opened its run in Group B with a match up against Southeast Asian squad TNC Pro Team (a.k.a. TNC Predator) in its first match of the Group Stage. The North American squad dominated the match up from the start, with huge performances from Pajkatt’s Luna (10-2-8) and 33’s Visage (8-1-15) helping the team take a wire to wire victory in its opening match of the event. The team faced Chinese leader Newbee in its second match of the day, and OpTic Gaming would keep its considerable momentum going into this showdown. Despite trailing through the early and mid-game stages, OpTic Gaming was able to put together a surge of strong team fights and solid execution to take control of the match and secure itself a 2-0 start to the Group Stage.

Day 2 began with OpTic Gaming facing a match up against European squad OG, and the North American squad would face its first stumble of the event. Despite Pajkatt and 33 combining for a stat line of 18-7-9 on Terrorblade and Batrider, OpTic Gaming couldn’t close out a win against OG. The European squad controlled the final 12 minutes of play and out killed OpTic Gaming by a score of 17-5 to hand the team its first loss of the Group Stage. The team had an immediate chance to bounce back from that loss with a match against Vici Gaming to close out the day, and OpTic Gaming was able to take advantage of that opportunity. The team trailed throughout the first 20 minutes of the match, but Pajkatt’s Luna (7-5-8) and 33’s Broodmother (7-2-8) spearheaded a surge that annihilated Vici Gaming’s lineup with OpTic Gaming suffering just a single death over the final 10 minutes of the game to claim another Group Stage win.

OpTic Gaming entered Day 3 of the Group Stage as one of the leading teams in Group A, but it still had some ways to go before the standings were locked in. The team’s first game of the day came against LGD Gaming, and OpTic Gaming put together another strong showing against the Chinese squad. Behind a core duo of Pajkatt on Terrorblade (9-2-10) and CcnC’s Dragon Knight (8-2-8), OpTic Gaming presented a tough front that LGD Gaming’s lineup wasn’t able to punch  through as the North American squad took the lead early in the match and never looked back. That win had OpTic Gaming feeling confident, but its momentum was about to run it into the stone wall that was Team Liquid in its final match of Day 3. The North American squad picked up a core trio of Gyrocopter, Dragon Knight, and Tidehunter, but its lineup fell flat in the face of the TI7 Champions. Team Liquid pushed the tempo of the match, establishing a pace that OpTic Gaming’s lineup was ill prepared to handle as the North American squad was run over in a match that lasted just over 20 minutes. That loss had the team sitting at 4-2 heading into the final day of the Group Stage.

By the time OpTic Gaming’s final match came around on Day 4, the North American team needed just one more win against Keen Gaming to secure one of the top two spots in Group A. Unfortunately for OpTic Gaming, its Chinese squad was not exactly willing to comply with that plan. Despite a solid performance from Pajkatt’s Gyrocopter (11-5-9) and 33’s Lone Druid (9-8-13), the North American squad was unable to close out a win against its Chinese opponent. Keen Gamign put together a masterful performance over the last 15 minutes of the game, out killing OpTic Gaming by a score of 14-3 to drop the team into a 4-3 record and force a five-way tie for the top two spots in the group.

The tiebreaker matches opened with OpTic Gaming taking a loss against TNC Pro Team, with the Southeast Asian squad dominating the match up and keeping the North American squad’s core trio of Luna, Shadow Fiend, and Tiny largely contained. OpTic Gaming managed to bounce back from that initial defeat though, taking a match against Newbee thanks to huge performances from CCnC’s Phantom Lancer (13-1-7) and Pajkatt’s Dragon Knight (11-4-17). Pajkatt lead the way for the team once again in its third match of the tiebreaker against Team Liquid, with zai’s Pangolier (8-7-23) playing a significant role as well as the North American squad pulled away in the late game to overcome the defending TI Champions. With those wins, OpTic Gaming needed just one more victory in its last match against LGD Gaming to secure a place in the top two in Group A. Once again though, a Chinese squad would stymie OpTic Gaming’s push for a spot at the head of the group. OpTic Gaming’s core trio of Terrorblade, Puck, and Sand King never really got off the ground, and LGD Gaming’s significant team fight power prevented the North American squad from ever mounting an effective push for a comeback. The loss kept OpTic Gaming from a spot in the top two of Group A, but it did set the team up as the group’s 3 seed heading into the Breakout Round.

That Breakout Round saw the North American squad face off against Invictus Gaming in a Bo3 elimination series. OpTic Gaming came out strong in Game 1 of the series, drafting a core trio of Terrorblade, Death Prophet, and Venomancer that helped the team establish its desired pace and put IG on the defensive from the very beginning of the match. Pajkatt’s Terrorblade (4-2-17) and CCnC’s Death Prophet (9-0-7) presented a high level of tankiness and damage that Invictus Gaming’s lineup wasn’t able to break through as the Chinese squad conceded defeat to give OpTic Gaming a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 proved to be a slightly more contentious affair, as Invictus Gaming kept things close in the early stages of the match and even built up a modest net worth lead in the mid-game. However, OpTic Gaming would not be denied, and Pajkatt once again helped lead his team to a win with an impressive showing on Phantom Assassin (15-2-8) that secured the team the win and the 2-0 series sweep over Invictus Gaming.

That 2-0 series win advanced OpTic Gaming into the Upper Bracket of the Playoff Stage, where the North American team faced Southeast Asian squad Mineski. Unfortunately for OpTic Gaming, its momentum from the Breakout Round did not follow it into the next round as the team was decimated by Mineski in Game 1. Out killed by a score of 9-25 and trailing for the entirety of the in terms of net worth, the North American squad threw in the tower to fall into an 0-1 hole in the series. Game 2 saw the situation go from bad to worse for OpTic Gaming, as the team managed to somehow put in an even weaker performance than it did in its preceding loss. Mineski held the North American squad to just two kills in the match as the Southeast Asian squad won a match in which OpTic Gaming never really had a chance of coming out of with a win. The 0-2 loss sent OpTic Gaming into the Lower Bracket for a Bo1 elimination match against TNC Pro Team. Though the team was facing a different Southeast Asian squad, the results for OpTic Gaming came out pretty much the same. The team’s cores suffered significantly in the match, as TNC Pro Team led from start to finish to end the North American squad’s run at the Major with a finish in the 7th-8th place range.

OpTic Gaming came into the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major looking for an opportunity to finally break through on the Pro Circuit stage. Developments within North America had helped the elevate the team’s profile within its home region, but the team was still searching for the chance to supplement that regional standing with a strong performance on the international level. Prior to the start of the matches in Shanghai, OpTic Gaming wasn’t really expected to get that close to a Top 4 finish at the Major, with team projected to fall in the Breakout Round and finish in the 9th-12th place range. However, the team’s solid efforts and strong play allowed it to beat that predicted outcome with a finish in the combined 7th-8th place position alongside fellow North American squad Evil Geniuses. The team’s lineup had always contained a level of talent and international experience that had fans expecting something from the team, but this event was the first time that the team showed that strength on a consistent basis on the Pro Circuit. The team put together an impressive Group Stage performance, contending for the title of “China killer” with wins against Newbee, LGD Gaming, and Vici Gaming. Unfortunately, the team wasn’t able to complete an undefeated run against China in the Group Stage, as the team lost a match against Keen Gaming. That loss and the team’s loss to OG, were somewhat disappointing for the team considering its strong showing against strong and more stables squads in the Group Stage. Regardless of those setbacks though, the team’s strong performance both within its originally scheduled matches and the Group A tiebreakers had the team looking like a solid contender heading into the Playoff Stage. The team’s 2-0 win over Invictus Gaming didn’t come as much of a surprise, although the Chinese squad did manage to put up a commendable level of resistance. From that point forward though, OpTic Gaming’s magic appeared to run out as it lost three straight matches against Southeast Asian squads to end its run at the Major. The team’s complete dismantling at the hands of Mineski was particularly harsh for the team, but considering how well the team played at this event it may not be so much a poor showing from OpTic Gaming as it was a dominant run by the SEA squad. OpTic Gaming’s subsequent loss to TNC Pro Team was a bit disappointing as well in that it eliminated the team from the event, but the two teams had split its matches in the Group Stage and neither one was a significant favorite over the either in that deciding match. Overall, OpTic Gaming showed the level of strength and composure on the Pro Circuit that many had been been waiting to see from the North American squad. While the team’s performance in Shanghai left it short of the mark for a Top 4 finish, the fact remains that the team showed itself capable of competing with and defeating some of the Pro Circuit’s leading teams. The question now for OpTic Gaming is whether it can maintain that level of play across the final months of the Pro Circuit season. The team has an immediate chance to show the Dota 2 world that it can play at a consistent level in the wake of the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major, as the team is just days away from participating in the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minor in Kiev. While the Minor may not have the same level of prestige and glamour as this most recent Major, it will be a significant test to see if OpTic Gaming can finally get itself on the board in the Pro Circuit standings and build off of its strong showing in Shanghai.

 

paiN GamingPaiN_Gaming_2017

Place: 13th-16th

Winnings: $10,000

PaiN Gaming entered the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major as a squad that had seen more than its fair share of struggles on the Pro Circuit, both in and out of game. The team had undergone a handful of roster changes and substitutions over the last few months, and came to Shanghai still searching for its first Qualifying Points of the season. Of course, the team’s most recent roster changes made any potential Qualifying Points useless, as the squad is no longer eligible for direct invites to TI8 or the TI8 Regional Qualifiers. With that in mind, the goal for the Brazilian squad changed somewhat heading into the event. The team was endeavoring to put together solid performances against its international competitors regardless of paiN Gaming’s final position in the standings of the event. The hope for the team was that strong showings against top Pro Circuit competition would be able to help the team prepare for the grueling trial of a run through the Open Qualifiers for TI8 this summer.

PaiN Gaming began its time at the Major with a match up with Southeast Asian squad Mineski its first Group B match of the Group Stage in Shanghai. The team remained close with its opponent for most of the match, with neither team holding a lead of more than 5k net worth through the first 40 minutes of play. hFn’s Juggernaut (8-5-6) and Arms’ Gyrocopter (3-7-11) combined for a net worth of over 50k, but those efforts weren’t enough to counter Mineski’s team fight execution in the late game. PaiN Gaming was out killed by a score of 4-17 over the final 8 minutes of the game as the South American squad lost its opening match of the Group Stage. The team’s second match of Day 1 was against CIS leader Virtus.pro, and paiN Gaming opted for a greedier lineup in that match. The team picked up a core trio of Troll Warlord, Puck, and Enigma along with a support Enchantress for an added source of damage. The draft appeared to be paying off for the team throughout the early and mid-game stages, as the South American squad kept things close and even held a net worth advantage for much of the first 25 minutes of the game. Eventually though, VP’s lineup proved tanky enough and strong enough to punch through paiN Gaming’s heroes in team fights and turned the tide of the match significantly in its own favor. Those lost fights shattered paiN Gaming’s momentum and left the team unable to defend its base from VP’s assault as the South American team suffered its second loss of the day to end Day 1 at 0-2.

Day 2 began with paiN Gaming taking on Chinese squad VGJ.Thunder in its third match of the Group Stage overall. The South American squad picked up a team fight oriented lineup for this match, but that draft was punished early by its opponent. Despite falling behind in the early stages of the game, paiN Gaming was able to weather the storm of aggression from VGJ.Thunder and retake control of the match in the mid-game stage. Behind hFn on Outworld Devourer (8-3-12) and Arms’ Gyrocopter (8-7-14), paiN Gaming entered the late-game stage with a net worth lead and a fair bit of momentum in its favor. However, VGJ.Thunder quickly eliminated both of those benefits as it out fought and out farmed paiN Gaming to absolutely dominate the final 10 minutes of play. Despite a final attempt from paiN Gaming to take a beneficial team fight, the South American squad couldn’t break through VGJ.Thunder’s heroes and dropped another game in the Group Stage. The team’s next opponent on Day 2 was Evil Geniuses, and the North American squad was determined to keep paiN Gaming win-less in the Group Stage. EG picked up an aggressive lineup that paiN Gaming was not fully prepared to fight against. EG’s aggressive play and hard farming heroes put the South American squad at an immediate disadvantage as its net worth deficit climbed at a steady rate throughout the match. PaiN Gaming’s lineup was never able to control team fights in the way that it needed to, and its cores simply couldn’t keep pace with those of EG. With the team trailing in net worth throughout the entirety of the match, paiN Gaming couldn’t put up much of a fight and conceded defeat to fall to an 0-4 record at the end of Day 2.

The South American team had precious few chances left to turn its situation around as it entered Day 3 of the Group Stage. The team began its matches for the day against Chinese squad Invictus Gaming, another team that had seen some struggles at the event. Unfortunately for paiN Gaming, Invictus Gaming didn’t appear to be suffering form any of its previous issues in this particular match. The Chinese squad forced fights early and often, and paiN Gaming simply wasn’t able to stand up to that early pressure, surrendering an alarming number of kills in the early stage of the match. The team was behind 3-12 in terms of kills at the 10 minutes mark, and things only got worse for the Brazilian squad from there. Invictus Gaming built its net worth lead up higher and higher, never allowing paiN Gaming an opportunity to come back into the game. With the Chinese squad out killing paiN Gaming by a score of 47-15, the South American squad proved incapable of defending its base as Invictus Gaming marched down the mid lane and secured a win. That loss set the team up for one final match on Day 3 against Team Secret, with the South American squad’s hopes of advancing out of the Group Stage dwindling. The team opted for a core trio of Phantom Assassin, Death Prophet, and Pangolier, but that strategy proved largely ineffective for the team. Despite a solid showing from hFn on Phantom Assassin (12-6-17), paiN Gaming trailed for almost the entirety of the match and Team Secret dominated fights throughout the game. PaiN Gaming’s lineup simply couldn’t put together a strong enough surge to truly manage a comeback effort, and the South American squad suffered another loss to drop to 0-6 at the event.

Day 4 was a bit of a formality for paiN Gaming, as the team was already eliminated from Playoff contention before the matches had begun. The team had one final chance to secure a win though, as the South American squad faced another 0-6 team in the form of Effect in its last match of the Group Stage. The two squads remained close throughout the early stage and heading into the mid-game, but paiN Gaming was slowly but surely falling behind on two of its core heroes. Arms’ Lifestealer (1-4-0) and Tavo’s Puck (0-4-1) dropped off significantly as the game went on, opening up a window of opportunity that Effect was able to take advantage of to claim the lead. PaiN Gaming wen without a kill over the final 10 minutes of play as Effect secured its sole Group Stage victory and condemned paiN Gaming to an 0-7 record overall in Group B that placed the South American squad in the combined last place position of 13th-16th.

PaiN Gaming came into the Major looking to test itself against top international opposition in preparation for its run through the TI8 South America Open Qualifiers. The team had aspirations of building up momentum for itself by with solid showings against some of the Pro Circuit’s leading squads. Coming into the event, the team wasn’t projected to accomplish much against those other Pro Circuit squads, as the team was  predicted to finish in the 13th-16th place position. Despite the team’s efforts in Shanghai, it was unable to outperform that projected finish as the team failed to secure even a single win in the Group Stage. The team looked out of sorts in its matches in Shanghai, which may have been partially due to the team making its first Pro Circuit appearance with its new roster. The team had previously played in a LAN environment with its current roster as the WESG 2017 event, but the level of competition at this Major may have been something the team wasn’t fully prepared to face. Based on the team’s abysmal record at the event, it would appear that this was the case, as the team was often thrown off its its own strategies by early aggressive play from its opponents. When a team goes without a single win in the Group Stage of an event, it’s hard to find too many positives to take away from its performance. However, for paiN Gaming the bright spot for the squad was probably the play of carry William “hFn” Medeiros, who put together the solid and relatively consistent performances despite the team’s myriad struggles. The team did not accomplish too much in Shanghai, but paiN Gaming isn’t out of opportunities to play on the Pro Circuit just yet. The South American team has one more Pro Circuit appearance on its schedule, as paiN Gaming will participate in the EPICENTER XL Major that is set to begin April 27. Again, the team won’t be eligible for TI8 or TI8 Regional Qualifier invites no matter how it performs for the rest of the season, but every chance to play a match on the Pro Circuit stage gives paiN Gaming time to make improvements, adjust its strategies, and get its roster more comfortable with its play style as the Brazilian squad prepares to face the marathon that is the Open Qualifiers.

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