The Pro Circuit comes to China once again as 12 squads are set to compete for a Major Championship in Changsha.
With the Pro Circuit schedule enters its final stages, the eyes of the Dota 2 world will be fixated on a trio of events over the final month of the season. The season is set to end with three straight Major Championships, with enough Qualifying Points on the line to shake up the Pro Circuit standings heading into the TI8 Regional and Open Qualifiers. The first of those Majors has now locked in its participating squads, as the regional qualifiers for the MDL Changsha Major have now concluded. Organized by Mars Media as a part of its Mars Dota 2 League (MDL) series of tournaments, the MDL Changsha Major return the Pro Circuit to China to kick off a wild final series of Majors. The Major will bring 12 Pro Circuit squads to the Hunan International Convention and Exhibition Center in Changsha, China for the chance to claim one of the final Major Championships of the season. Set to begin on the 14th of May and run through the 20th, the MDL Changsha Major will offer the teams much more than the prestige of a Major title, as prize pools of $1,000,000 USD and 1500 Qualifying Points will also be on the line at the event. As of the conclusion of the regional qualifiers, the exact distribution of the prize money has not been released by the organizer, but we can at least see how the Qualifying Points will be split among the teams at the Major.
1st: 750 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
2nd: 450 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
3rd: 225 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
4th: 75 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
With the Pro Circuit season reaching its end and the number of available Qualifying Points dwindling, the MDL Changsha Major takes on an incredible level of significance for many of the participants. Pro Circuit leaders and unranked challengers alike will be looking to take advantage of one of the last opportunities left to put together strong performances on the Pro Circuit stage and bolster their records before TI8 invites are announced. The field in Changsha is looking to be a pretty varied one, as squads from positions all along the spectrum of success will be in attendance at the Major. Of the 12 participating teams, five of them (Mineski, Newbee, Team Secret, Vici Gaming, PSG.LGD) are currently ranked within the Top 8, and two of those teams (Mineski, Team Secret) may enter the event with direct invites to TI8 already secured. Five of the squads in Changsha (TNC Pro Team, Vega Squadron, OG, Infamous, VGJ.Storm) have earned Qualifying Points and ranks in the Pro Circuit standings, but currently sit outside of the Top 8, while the final two teams (Invictus Gaming, iG Vitality) currently have no Qualifying Points to their names at this stage in the season. While all of these teams can benefit from a strong performance in Changsha, not all of them will be able to make use of the Qualifying Points available at the event, as four of the participants (iG Vitality, VGJ.Storm, Infamous, OG) are not eligible for invites to TI8 or the TI8 Regional Qualifiers. Even with that constraint added to the mix, the field of 12 teams at the Major will all be doing everything in their power to secure an impressive showing on the Pro Circuit stage before the end of the season. With that in mind, we can take a brief look at the teams that will be fighting for the title of Major Champion at the MDL Changsha Major.
- Disclaimer: This post will contain some brief and shallow details for each of the competing teams. A more thorough breakdown of the participating teams will come closer to the start of the event itself.
The Direct Invitees
Mineski (Southeast Asia) – Southeast Asian squad Mineski catapulted itself up the Pro Circuit standings recently, with the team claiming the first ever Major Championship for the SEA region with its 1st place finish at the DAC 2018 Major earlier this month. A day later, the withdrawal of Virtus.pro from this event offered the victorious Mineski the opportunity to attend another Major as the Southeast Asian sqaud replaced VP as a direct invitee. Mineski has had some concerns regarding consistency this season, but the team’s fantastic showing in Shanghai at the previous Major has hopes high that the squad has finally hit its stride and can close out the season with a strong enough finish to retain its Top 8 rank. By the time play begins at the event, Mineski’s may have already achieved its goal of securing a direct invite to TI8 depending on its performance at the EPICENTER XL Major. Regardless of the team’s standing coming into the event, if Mineski can manage to put together any performance resembling its victorious run in Shanghai, then the SEA squad stands a good chance of claiming another Major Championship in Changsha.
Newbee (China) – As of the conclusion of the Regional Qualifiers for the MDL Changsha Major, Newbee stands as the kings of China and the 5th ranked squad in the Pro Circuit standings. By the time play begins in Changsha, both of those positions could potentially have changed for the Chinese squad as the team’s position is not yet secure heading into the final events of the season. With both the EPICENTER XL Major and the GESC: Thailand Minor set to be played between now and the MDL Changsha Major, Newbee could potentially find itself a few ranks lower in the Pro Circuit standings by the time it gets to return to the Pro Circuit stage. No matter what the landscape of the Pro Circuit looks like at that time, Newbee will stand to benefit immensely from a strong showing and a Top 4 finish at the Major. As one of the Pro Circuit’s leading squads, the Chinese team will have a solid chance to earn that result in Changsha.
Team Secret (Europe) – By the time the MDL Changsha Major rolls around in May, there is a chance that Team Secret will have already punched its ticket to Vancouver with a direct invite to TI8. The European squad is set to compete in both the EPICENTER XL Major and the GESC: Thailand Minor prior to its appearance in Changsha. Should the team hit that goal at either of those two events, then it will face a significantly lower level of pressure to succeed at this Major. Even if the team enters the Major as a guaranteed direct invitee for TI8, don’t expect Team Secret to take things easy against the other participating squads. Regardless of whether the team will need Qualifying Points or not, Team Secret will be focused on continuing to play the best Dota possible on the Pro Circuit stage, and will be one of the favored teams to claim a Top 4 finish in Changsha.
Vici Gaming (China) – Vici Gaming has spent the majority of the season within the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings, but the Chinese squad’s 2nd place finish at the ESL One Katowice Major allowed the team to make the jump from the bottom half of the Top 8 to the top half. Since then though, the squad has encountered difficulties securing itself further success on the Pro Circuit stage. The team currently stands as the 6th ranked team in the Pro Circuit standings, but by the time the MDL Changsha Major begins next month, the Chinese squad could potentially have fallen out of the Top 8. With so many Qualifying Points up for grabs across a relatively short span of time to close the season, Vici Gaming’s favorable position is not nearly as secure as the team might like. A strong performance at this Major would go a long way towards helping Vici Gaming shore up its position on the Pro Circuit over the final events of the season. While the team has had some issues lately finding success on the Pro Circuit stage, we’ve seen what the squad is capable of when its playing at its best, and that kind of showing is what the team needs heading into the Major.
The Qualifier Winners
VGJ.Storm (North America) – VGJ.Storm made an interesting return to the Pro Circuit in February, as the squad signed the roster of Team IDC to continue competing in the North American region. Just over a week ago, the team made big news again with the announcement that former OG player Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok would be joining VGJ.Storm for the remainder of the season. The addition of such a high profile player has hopes high for the North American squad, and VGJ.Storm is in a position to build up a fair bit of momentum over the final events of the season. Unfortunately for VGJ.Storm, momentum and experience are the only things the team will be able to take from its appearances on the Pro Circuit stage, as the team is ineligible for invites to TI8 or the TI8 Regional Qualifiers. However, we’ve seen squads make impressive runs from the Open Qualifiers before, and VGJ.Storm could do some damage in the North America qualifiers if it can prove itself capable on the Pro Circuit stage.
Infamous (South America) – At the time of the conclusion of the MDL Changsha Major’s regional qualifiers, Infamous holds a special distinction within the South American region. The squad is currently the only South American team to hold Qualifying Points on the Pro Circuit, as the team earned its lone Top 4 finish at the GESC: Indonesia Minor back in March. Unfortunately for the team, that success was immediately followed up by a roster change, as the team added Farith “Matthew” Puente to its lineup. That change made the team’s Qualifying Points essentially meaningless, as the team is no longer eligible for direct invites to TI8 or the TI8 Regional Qualifiers and will have to play through the Open Qualifiers. That path is going to be somewhat difficult for Infamous, especially considering the fact that all but one team in South American is ineligible for invites and will be participating in the Open Qualifiers. With that daunting task before it, Infamous will hope to use this opportunity at the Minor to build up some much needed momentum heading into that Open Qualifier run.
OG (Europe) – It’s been a time of struggle for OG in terms of its international play, as the European squad has had difficulties finding success on the Pro Circuit stage. After a strong finish to 2017, the team’s performance outside of its home region has taken a significant decline. Those issues and poor results contributed to a roster change last month as the team dropped Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok from its roster. In his place, the team has played on with its coach as a long term stand-in, but no official 5th player has been announced. Unfortunately for OG, the roster change hasn’t turned around the team’s recent slide just yet, and the European squad now stands ineligible for invites to TI8 or the TI8 Regional Qualifier. If OG want to earn itself a place in the TI8 Europe Qualifier, then it will have to brave the trials and tribulations of the Open Qualifiers. With that test in its future, OG comes into these final Pro Circuit appearances looking to stabilize its international performance and recapture the form that had it pushing up the standings at the beginning of 2018. We’ll see if the team can put together a solid showing in Changsha and get the ball rolling over the final months of the season.
Vega Squadron (CIS) – Vega Squadron will enter the MDL Changsha Major looking to make something of a push over the final months of the Pro Circuit season. The CIS squad secured its first Top 4 finish earlier this month at the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minor, and will look to push itself further up the standings with these final appearances on the Pro Circuit stage. The good news for Vega Squadron is that it isn’t likely to need further Pro Circuit success to secure a place in the TI8 Regional Qualifier. The number of eligible teams in the CIS region is somewhat low, and Vega Squadron currently stands as one of the few teams that has maintained its registered roster since the February roster lock deadline. That being said, another Top 4 finish at a Pro Circuit event would surely help to lock in that position for Vega Squadron with only a handful of events remaining in the schedule.
TNC Pro Team (Southeast Asia) – TNC Pro Team may not be considered one of the heavy hitters in the Southeast Asian region in light of recent performances from rivals Mineski and Fnatic, but the SEA squad currently sits in a position to potentially make a push of its own over the final months of the season. Right now, the team stands in the 13th place position in the Pro Circuit standings, but all it would take is one breakthrough performance on the Pro Circuit stage to catapult the squad into contention for a Top 8 spot. It may seem like a long shot at the moment, but this TNC Pro Team lineup has a dangerous mix of veteran experience and young talent that makes it a potential team to watch out for as the season draws to a close. We’ve seen what the team is capable of on the Pro Circuit stage when it’s playing at its best, and if the team can put together another performance like that in Changsha, then the door is still open for a late-season surge from the SEA squad.
The DPL Top Season 5 Qualified Teams
Invictus Gaming (China) – The season has not gone particularly well for Invictus Gaming, as the Chinese squad has faced significant difficulties establishing itself within its home region. The team’s only other Pro Circuit appearance this season came at the DAC 2018 Major, and only because the team was directly invited as the defending Champion. The good news for IG is that the team has retained its eligibility for invites to the TI8 Regional Qualifiers, although its record so far this season is somewhat weak. If the team can put together a decent performance at the Major, then Invictus Gaming will stand a much better chance of receiving an invite to the TI8 China Qualifier this summer.
iG Vitality (China) – iG Vitality has been basically non-existent on the Pro Circuit so far this season, as the Chinese squad has struggled heavily within its home region. The team has never finished higher than the 3rd-4th place position in a Pro Circuit qualifier so far, and has found limited success against its regional rivals. In March, the team made a roster change as it announced the addition of Galvin “Meracle” Kang Jian Wen as its new carry player. That move made the team ineligible for TI8 invites, but considering the squad’s relatively poor performance this season, iG Vitality was not likely to receive an invite anyway. With an Open Qualifier run in its future, iG Vitality needs to take advantage of this opportunity to play on the Pro Circuit stage and put together something positive to build momentum over the final months of the season.
PSG.LGD (China) – The team’s name may have changed recently, but PSG.LDG (formerly LGD Gaming) continues to stand as the 8th ranked team in the Pro Circuit standings. However, with the team set to participate in the EPICENTER XL Major prior to its appearance in Changsha, that position may change significantly. With the position within the Top 8 somewhat precarious, PSG.LGD is in need of a solid showing on the Pro Circuit stage in order to solidify its place among the Pro Circuit elite over the final events of the season. If the team can maintain its recent level of performance in Changsha, then it has a strong chance to secure a direct invite to TI8. However, if the team loses focus over the final months of the season, then its place in the Top 8 of the Pro Circuit standings could easily slip out of its grasp.