Dota 2 Major Preview: EPICENTER XL

Moscow Mania: Pro Circuit hits Russian capital as 12 teams vie for title of Major Champion.

The Pro Circuit season is fast approaching its conclusion and the onset of the chaotic period of TI invites and qualifiers will soon be taking the Dota 2 world by storm. Before that happens though, Dota 2 fans the world over will turn their eyes one last time to the CIS region as the Pro Circuit comes to the region one last time for the EPICENTER XL Major. Organized by Epic Esports Events, the EPICENTER XL Major will be the third Dota 2 event that the group has put together, but the first one to ever be a part of the Pro Circuit system. The event itself will bring 12 Pro Circuit teams to the VTB Ice Palace in the Russian capital of Moscow for the chance to claim the title of Major Champion and make a late-season surge up the Pro Circuit standings. Set to begin on the 27th of April and run through May 6, the EPICENTER XL Major will feature prize pools of $1,000,000 USD as well as 1500 Qualifying Points, the distribution of which is outlined below.

1st: $500,000 (Total) & 750 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

2nd: $200,000 (Total) & 450 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

3rd: $110,000 (Total) & 225 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

4th: $70,000 (Total) & 75 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

5th-6th: $30,000 (Per Team)

7th-8th: $15,000 (Per Team)

9th-10th: $10,000 (Per Team)

11th-12th: $5,000 (Per Team)

With the event and prize pool information outlined, the focus can be shifted towards the format that will be used at the Major in Moscow. The EPICENTER XL Major will begin with a Group Stage that will see the field of 12 teams split into two groups of six teams each. Within those groups, the teams will play round robin with a Bo3 format for each match up. At the conclusion of the Group Stage, the top two teams of each group will advance to the Upper Bracket of the Playoff Stage, with the 3rd and 4th place teams advancing to the Lower Bracket while the bottom two teams of each group will be eliminated.

The Playoff Stage will feature a double elimination bracket, with the opening two rounds of the Lower Bracket featuring Bo1 matches and all other series up to the Grand Finals being played in a Bo3 format. The Grand Finals themselves will be played in a Bo5 format, with the winning team claiming the title of Major Champion along with the lion’s share of the prize pools.

With the Pro Circuit schedule nearing its end, these final few events take on an even more significant level of importance than some of their counterparts from earlier in the season. A strong showing and a Top 4 finish at the EPICENTER XL Major has the potential to dramatically alter the course of a team’s season no matter where that team currently stands in the Pro Circuit standings. The field of teams that will be fighting in Moscow does not lack for diversity, as the participants represent a wide range of situations and narratives coming into the event itself. One of the participants (Virtus.pro) has already secured a direct invite to TI8 and will simply be looking to test and prepare itself against top Pro Circuit opponents. Two teams in the field (Team Liquid, Team Secret) can secure direct invites of their own depending upon their performance in Moscow, and if one of those squads is successful, then another (Mineski) could lock in a direct invite with a 1st place finish at the Major. Two more teams (Newbee, PSG.LGD) are currently ranked in the Top 8 but cannot yet secure a direct invite, while three squads (Na’Vi, OG, compLexity Gaming) are ranked but sit outside of the Top 8. And finally, three of the participants (Team Empire, paiN Gaming, FlyToMoon) have yet to earn any Qualifying Points this season. While some of the teams come to Moscow looking to secure Qualifying Points, others can no longer make use of them, as four of the squads in the field (OG, Team Empire, compLexity Gaming, paiN Gaming) have forfeited their eligibility for invites to TI8 or the TI8 Regional Qualifiers due to roster changes. No matter what situation each of the team’s finds itself in, they all come to the EPICENTER XL Major looking for a chance to prove themselves in the eyes of the Dota 2 world. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the 12 squads that will be fighting for the chance to be crowned Major Champion in Moscow.

  • Please note that the “projected finishes” for each team are my own predictions and do not constitute any official or necessarily objective ranking based upon specific statistics or data.

Virtus.pro 600px-Virtus

Region: CIS

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 1st (7872 Qualifying Points) (Guaranteed TI8 Invite)

Roster:
1.
Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev
2. Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko
3. Pavel “9pasha” Khvastunov 
4.
VladimirRodjERNikogosyan
5.
Alexei “Solo” Berezin (Captain)

Projected Finish: Top 4

Virtus.pro enters the EPICENTER XL Major as the king of the Dota 2 world, as the CIS squad continue to hold the position of top ranked team in the Pro Circuit standings. VP has been guaranteed a direct invite to TI8 for over a month now, and nothing other than an unexpected late-season roster change will keep the team from claiming its spot in Vancouver this summer. With that in mind, many might expect Virtus.pro to take things easy over the final months of the season and skip some Pro Circuit events, but the CIS leader is not content to sit idle. Though the team’s place at TI8 is secure, the EPICENTER XL Major provides Virtus.pro the opportunity both to continue testing itself against some of the Pro Circuit’s best squads and play in front of its home crowd in the CIS region. The team’s myriad accomplishments this season make it one of the most formidable teams in the field in Moscow, and the CIS squad will be looking to remind everyone why it’s the top ranked team on the Pro Circuit with a strong showing at the Major.

Virtus.Pro hasn’t been away from the Pro Circuit stage for all that long, as the CIS squad’s last appearance came at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major back at the beginning of the month. The team put together a perfect 7-0 record in the Group Stage of the event, followed by a 5-5 run through the Playoff Stage to earn a 3rd place finish at the Major overall. That Top 4 finish in Shanghai doesn’t come as much of a surprise for VP, as the Pro Circuit leader has been dominant on the international level for pretty much the entirety of the season to this point. The CIS squad has played in nine Pro Circuit events so far this season, and has managed to earn Top 4 finishes in all but two of those events. Those seven Top 4 finishes on the Pro Circuit stage includes an incredible three Major Championships, which was a significant factor in the team securing its direct invite to TI8 so much earlier than any other Pro Circuit squad. With the team playing so well on the international level and having secured a direct invite to TI8, VP has had no need to play in any of the Pro Circuit qualifiers in its home region. The team has not played in any qualifier so far in 2018, and the only matches that VP has had within its home region came from a non-Pro Circuit show match at the end of February. Considering the team’s continued and frequent success on the Pro Circuit stage, VP has essentially transcended the hierarchy within the CIS region. The squad will look to put together yet another impressive showing at this event, and has to be one of the favorites to claim another Major Championship in Moscow.

Virtus.pro comes into the EPICENTER XL Major as the highest ranked squad on the Pro Circuit, and the only team to have secured itself a direct invite to TI8. The CIS squad will be looking to earn itself another Top 4 finish on home soil in Moscow and potentially win its fourth Major Championship of the season. Prior to the start of the matches in Moscow, VP is expected to at least achieve the former goal, with a projected finish in the Top 4 range for the Pro Circuit leader. The team has displayed a strength and consistency on the Pro Circuit stage that is nearly unrivaled this season, and even with the squad already assured its spot in Vancouver, VP is likely to play at its absolute best at the Major. As the highest ranked squad on the Pro Circuit, and one of three teams in Group B ranked in the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings, VP is not expected to have any issues advancing out of the Group Stage of the event. Unless the team makes some significant mistakes in its Group Stage series, or one of the other teams in the group puts together an unexpected run, Virtus.pro should be able to secure itself a position as one of the top two squads in Group B and advance directly in to the Upper Bracket of the Playoff Stage. From that stage, the path to success for VP will get somewhat more difficult, as the CIS squad will face one of the two top teams from Group A in that first Upper Bracket series. That series will most likely see VP going up against Team Liquid, Mineski, or PSG.LGD in a particularly difficult match up for the CIS squad. Should VP win that series, then it will be guaranteed to finish within the Top 4 in Moscow, other wise the team will fall into the Lower Bracket. Even that scenario will leave the team with a rather simple path to success, as the CIS squad would need to win one Bo1 match to reach the Top 4. With that being said, simple rarely ever equates to easy, and a mistake from Virtus.pro at any stage along its path at the Major could see the squad stumble and fail to reach a Top 4 spot. While even a team as accomplished as this VP squad is not untouchable, Virtus.pro’s stellar performance to this point in the season makes it fairly easy to have confidence in its ability to stay focused and perform on the Pro Circuit stage. A drop off in play is always a possibility, but expect the Pro Circuit leader to be right in the mix for another Top 4 finish as it takes the stage on home soil in Moscow.

 

Team Liquid600px-Team_liquid_logo_2017

Region: Europe

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 2nd (4734 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1.
Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen
2.
Amer “Miracle-“ Al-Barqawi
3.
Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov
4.
Maroun “GH” Merhej
5.
Kuro Salehi “KuroKy” Takhasomi (Captain)

Projected Finish: Top 4

Team Liquid comes into the EPICENTER XL as one of the most accomplished teams on the Pro Circuit, and the most consistent squad that the Dota 2 world has seen this season. The European squad has never dropped any further and 3rd overall in the Pro Circuit standings this season, and held a streak of nine straight Top 4 finishes at Pro Circuit events prior to its most recent 5th-6th place run at the DAC 2018 Major. That level of consistent success on the Pro Circuit would be cause for confidence and excitement for any team, but for Team Liquid it holds a particularly interesting significance as the European squad looks to become the first team to ever claim a second Aegis of Champions at TI and the first squad to win back to back iterations of the Dota 2 world’s most prestigious event. The EPICENTER XL Major offers the team the chance to take that next step towards a second TI victory, as a finish between 1st and 3rd in Moscow will give the team a high enough Qualifying Point total to lock in a guaranteed direct invite to TI8.

Team Liquid’s last appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came at the beginning of the month at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major. The team finished the Group Stage with a 5-6 record once all of the tiebreakers were resolved, and posted a 5-3 record in the Playoff Stage of the event that earned the team a finish in the 5th-6th place position at the Major. That 5th-6th place finish marked the first time all season that Team Liquid had failed to earn a Top 4 spot in a Pro Circuit appearance, as the team had earned Qualifying Points in each of its nine previous events. That finish outside of the Top 4 in Shanghai is pretty much the closest that the team has come to a setback so far this season, as Team Liquid has displayed a level of consistent strength that has it sitting near the top of the Pro Circuit standings. That continued success on the international level has put Team Liquid in a position where it has not needed to participate in regional qualifiers for nearly the entirety of the season. The team has not played in a single qualifier so far in 2018, and the only Pro Circuit Qualifier that the European squad has participated in at all this season came all the way back in November for the DreamLeague Season 8 Major. Team Liquid’s near perfect record on the Pro Circuit stage this season and its bypassing of European qualifiers makes the squad one of the more formidable teams in the field in Moscow and a a favorite to earn another Top 4 finish at the Major.

Team Liquid will come into the EPICENTER XL Major as one of the most accomplished and consistent teams on the entire Pro Circuit, having earned Top 4 finishes in nine of its ten Pro Circuit appearances so far this season. The team will also enter the event as the 2nd ranked team in the Pro Circuit standings, with a finish in the Top 4 in Moscow having the potential to secure the European squad a direct invite to TI8. With that coveted goal on the line, Team Liquid is expected put together another quality performance on the Pro Circuit stage with a projected finish in the Top 4 range. We have very rarely seen the squad fail to live up to expectations, and even in an incredibly talented group of teams in Group A, Team Liquid is not expected to face much difficulty advancing out of the Group Stage. The question for the European squad will be where in the standings it falls though, as the team will likely face competition for the top two spots in Group A from Mineski and PSG.LGD. If Team Liquid can finish above one or both of those surging squads, then it would advance directly into the Upper Bracket of the Playoff Stage to play one of the top two teams from Group B. With that team most likely being one of Virtus.pro, Team Secret, or Newbee, Team Liquid would be in for a significant challenge in that series. However, winning that initial Upper Bracket series would secure Team Liquid Top 4 finish in Moscow. If the European squad lost that series, then it would need to win a Bo1 match up in the Lower Bracket in order to reach the Top 4 mark. Of course, all of this would be dependent on the team advancing into the Upper Bracket in the first place, which is not set in stone by any means in Group B. If the team ends up in the 3rd or 4th position at the end of the Group Stage, then it would face two Bo1 series in a row in the Lower Bracket if it wanted to lock in a Top 4 finish. Should the team to the best of its abilities in Moscow, it’s hard to envision the team falling short of its goal at the Major and missing out on a Top 4 finish. However, with the added pressure of Pro Circuit positioning in the face of the oncoming end of the season, Team Liquid could find itself facing tougher resistance and challenges than in previous events. Even a single mistake could be costly at the EPICENTER XL Major, but expect Team Liquid to stay cool under pressure and compete for its 10th Top 4 finish of the season as it looks to finally lock in a direct invite to TI8.

 

Team Secret Secret_logo

Region: Europe

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 3rd (4710 Qualifying Points)

Roster: 
1. Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard
2.
Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng
3.
Adrian “Fata” Trinks
4.
Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat
5.
Clement “Puppey” Ivanov (Captain)

Projected Finish: 5th-6th

It’s been a season of success so far for European squad Team Secret, as the team enters the event ranked 3rd in the Pro Circuit standings. The team has been sitting comfortably near the top of the standings all season long, with Team Secret having never dropped lower than 4th as of this event. That being said, Team Secret has not been without some concerns this season, as its recent performance on the Pro Circuit stage have introduced a bit of inconsistency heading into the final months of the schedule. Even with that small issue to deal with, Team Secret makes it way to Moscow with a chance to secure itself a guaranteed position in the Top 8 of the Pro Circuit standings. A finish within the Top 3 at this Major will give Team Secret a high enough Qualifying Point total to lock in a direct invite to TI8 and secure the opportunity to compete for the Aegis of Champions in Vancouver this summer. With that goal on the line in Moscow, Team Secret will hopefully be locked in and focused on success at the Major as the team looks to complete a season-long journey and join Virtus.pro as direct invitees for TI8.

Team Secret has only been away from the Pro Circuit stage for a few weeks now, as the European squad’s last appearance came at the beginning of the month at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major. The team actually struggled a bit in Shanghai, as it posted a 4-3 Group Stage record but fell 0-2 to Chinese squad Vici Gaming in the Breakout Round to finish in the bottom half of the standings in the collective 9th-12th position. The somewhat poor finish for the team at the Major was a bit of a surprise for Team Secret, as the squad had found itself finishing in or close to the Top 4 in all of its Pro Circuit appearances in 2018. Since the start of the new year, Team Secret has claimed two Minor Championships, as well as a Top 4 finish in a third Minor. Even the team’s previous unsuccessful runs in 2018 at the ESL One Katowice Major and The Bucharet Major saw it just one series away from the Top 4. The team’s 9th-12th place run at the DAC 2018 Major marks its worst finish at a Pro Circuit event this season, but the team’s impressive performance on the Pro Circuit stage to this point makes it easier to have confidence in its ability to bounce back. Under normal circumstances, a team coming off of a tough performance on the Pro Circuit stage can use regional competition as a way of reestablishing momentum. Team Secret, like many of the Pro Circuit leaders, has had no need of regional qualifiers for quite some time, with the European squad having avoided playing a single one so far in 2018. Even with the recent stumble in Shanghai at the Major, Team Secret should come into the EPICENTER XL Major with the confidence of a team sitting near the top of the Pro Circuit hierarchy as the squad looks to secure itself a direct invite to TI8.

Team Secret enters the EPICENTER XL Major as one of the leading squads on the Pro Circuit, as the European squad looks to secure itself a direct invite to TI8 with a Top 4 finish in Moscow. The team comes into the Major expected to compete for that Top 4 position, but is projected to end up shy of that mark with a finish in the 5th-6th place range. The team’s most recent performance on the Pro Circuit stage at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major did not go particularly well as Team Secret finished in the bottom half of the standings in Shanghai. Even with that rough showing in the international level, Team Secret has displayed a level of strength and a history of success on the Pro Circuit stage to make it one of the more formidable teams in the field and in its group. As one of three squads ranked in the Top 8 in Group B, Team Secret is one of the favored teams in the group and one of the favorites to claim a position in the top two of that group by the end of the Group Stage. Considering the team’s impressive record on the Pro Circuit this season, the squad should not have any difficulties advancing out of the Group Stage. However, the question for the team will be whether it is able to claim one of the top two spots in the group and advance to the Upper Bracket of the Playoff Stage. In order to do that, the European squad is going to have to finish above either VP or Newbee in the group standings, which essentially means that the team will have to win its Bo3 series against one or both of those teams. Should the team win at least one of those series and hold its own against the other members of the group, then Team Secret will enter the Playoff Stage to face one of the leaders from Group A. That opponent will most likely be one of Team Liquid, Mineski, or PSG.LGD, and if Team Secret can win the series it will be guaranteed a Top 4 finish in Moscow. Otherwise, the European squad will drop to the Lower Bracket, where it will still be a Bo1 win away from locking in a Top 4 position anyway. The problem for Team Secret is that regardless of whether it is in the Upper or Lower Bracket, it will be facing an opponent that it will likely not be favored against. Team Secret has put together some impressive performances on the Pro Circuit stage before, but it has also shown itself to be somewhat inconsistent on the international level as well. For now, the European squad is expected to fall just short of the mark for a Top 4 spot, but don’t be surprised if Team Secret manages to overcome those recent issues and finally claim its spot in Vancouver this summer.

 

NewbeeNewbee_logo

Region: China

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 5th (2220 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1. 
Xu “Moogy” Han
2. 
Song “Sccc” Chun
3.
Damien “kpii” Chok
4.
Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi
5.
Zeng “Faith” Hongda (Captain)

Projected Finish: 5th-6th

Newbee has spent the entirety of the season to this point as a leading squad both within the Chinese region and the international scene as a whole as it prepares to make its 12th appearance on the Pro Circuit stage. The team has been a consistent presence on the Pro Circuit in the midst of a surge of successes from its fellow Chinese teams, and currently stands as the 5th ranked team in the standings and highest ranked Chinese team. However, with four Majors remaining on the schedule over the final months of the season, neither of those positions are fully secure for the Chinese squad. There are three other Chinese teams in the Top 8, all of which are in a position to usurp Newbee’s title of top ranked Chinese squad with strong performances at the remaining Pro Circuit events. Given the teams 2220 Qualifying Points on the season, there are also still scenarios where Newbee misses out on a Top 8 spot and a TI8 invite entirely if it doesn’t secure further success on the Pro Circuit stage. With that in mind, the EPICENTER XL Major presents an important opportunity for Newbee to secure its place both in the Pro Circuit standings and within its regional hierarchy. The Chinese squad will look to achieve both of those goals with an impressive showing in Moscow.

It’s been a few weeks since Newbee was last seen on the Pro Circuit stage, as the Chinese squad was another of the participants in Moscow to have played at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major earlier this month. The team began the Group Stage of the event with a 4-3 record, but an abysmal performance in the tiebreaker matches of its group dropped that record to 4-7. Those struggles continued on into the Breakout Round of the event, as the Chinese squad lost to Evil Geniuses 0-2 to finish in the bottom half of the standings in the collective 9th-12th position. That poor showing in Shanghai comes as a bit of an aberration for the Chinese squad, as Newbee has been fairly consistent in terms of its international performance to this point in the season. In 2018, the team has earned Top 4 finishes in four of its six Pro Circuit appearances, and across the season as a whole the team has earned seven Top 4 finishes at nine Pro Circuit events. Those successes have the team sitting as the top ranked Chinese squad on the Pro Circuit, but Newbee has faced challenges from its regional rivals both on the international level and at home in China. The team has played in two regional qualifiers so far in 2018 and earned Top 4 finishes in both of them. The team also participated in the Top Division of the Dota 2 Professional League Season 5 in China, which served a a qualifying event for the MDL Changsha Major despite not being a Pro Circuit Qualifier. While Newbee had already been invited to that Major, the Chinese squad still put together an impressive showing that earned it a 2nd place finish overall in an event that featured most of the major powers in the region. Between the team’s consistent performance on the Pro Circuit stage and its strong presence within the Chinese region, Newbee enters the EPICENTER XL Major as one of the more formidable and accomplished teams in the field.

Newbee enters the EPICENTER XL Major as one of the top ranked teams in the Pro Circuit standings, but the Chinese squad is in need of a solid showing in the international level if it wants to hold that position over the final months of the season. Considering the team’s performance on the Pro Circuit stage over the last few months, it appears that the Chinese leader will have the chance to compete for another Top 4 finish in Moscow. Coming into the event, Newbee is projected to finish in the 5th-6th place range, finishing outside of the Top 4 but being just one series away from reaching that coveted goal. The team has been relatively consistent on the international level of late, but its most recent performance at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major raised a few concerns for the squad heading into this event in Moscow. Newbee should have few issues advancing out of the Group Stage, the only question will be whether the squad ends up in the Upper or Lower Bracket in the Playoff Stage. In order to move into the Upper Bracket, Newbee is going to have to finish above either Virtus.pro, Team Secret, or both in the Group B standings. If Newbee can manage that, then the Chinese squad will end up in the Upper Bracket where it will be one Bo3 win away from securing a Top 4 finish at the event. If the team can’t claim a spot in the top two of Group B, then the path gets a bit more difficult for the Chinese squad. The team will end up in the Lower Bracket, where it will face higher pressure situations with the matches being played in a Bo1 format. The Chinese squad should be significantly favored in its first Bo1 in the Lower Bracket, but if the team wins that match then it will have to play another Bo1 against a team from the Upper Bracket. On the surface, winning one Bo3 or two Bo1 series to earn a Top 4 spot at the Major seems well within the capabilities of this Newbee squad, and that’s because it is. However, we’ve seen the squad have some issues on the Pro Circuit stage before, and the margin for error in Moscow will be extremely small for Newbee. While the Chinese squad is predicted to fall short of success in Moscow, don’t be surprised if Newbee has it in them to make that last push and claim a Top 4 finish at the EPICENTER XL Major.

 

Natus Vincere (Na’Vi) 668px-Natus_Vincere

Region: CIS

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 10th (1199 Qualifying Points)

Roster: 
1. Vladislav “Crystallize” Krystanek
2.
Danil “Dendi” Ishutin (Captain)
3.
Victor “GeneRaL” Nigrini
4.
IlyaLil Ilyuk 
5.
Nikola “LeBronDota” Popović

Projected Finish: 9th-10th

There’s really no way to sugar coat things for CIS squad Na’Vi, as the team has been simply weak in terms of its performance on the Pro Circuit stage over the last few months. The team’s roster changes back in February appear to still be taking their toll on Na’Vi, as the team has earned just one Top 4 finish since the changes and has plummeted in the Pro Circuit standings to the point where it now stands outside of the Top 8 with a 10th place ranking overall. The team’s significant struggles and its decline in the standings paint a grim picture for the CIS squad over the final months of the season, but there is a silver lining for Na’Vi. For all of its issues and struggles and losses both at home and on the international stage, Na’Vi could turn everything around if it can mange to put together a strong performance in Moscow. A finish between 1st and 3rd at the Major would put Na’Vi right back into the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings, the only problem for the team is that it hasn’t shown the capability to achieve that level of success just yet. As the team prepares to play in front of a hometown CIS crowd, the Dota 2 world waits to see if Na’Vi can finally manage to salvage its season and return to prominence on the Pro Circuit.

Na’Vi last played on the Pro Circuit earlier this month, as the CIS squad was a participants at the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minor in Kiev. The team ran into trouble in the Group Stage of the event, as the team defeated SG e-sports 2-0 but lost two series against Fnatic that saw it miss the Playoff Stage with a 5th-6th place finish at the event. That performance in Kiev was the latest in a series of disappointing showing for Na’Vi on the Pro Circuit stage, as the CIS squad has found success on the international level to be elusive. Since changing its roster at the roster lock deadline in February, Na’Vi has participated in four Pro Circuit events, but has only managed to earn a Top 4 finish in one of them. While the team’s performance on the international level has been less than ideal over the last few months, Na’Vi has fared somewhat better within the CIS region. The team has played in four Pro Circuit qualifiers since its roster changes, and has finished inside the Top 4 in three of them, including a 1st place finish that qualified the team for the upcoming ESL One Birmingham Major. Those performance are certainly encouraging for Na’Vi coming into this event, but the CIS squad still has to show that it is capable of playing at a high level on the Pro Circuit stage. The team will have that chance in Moscow, but Na’Vi is in for quite the challenge in a field full of formidable opponents.

Na’Vi comes into the EPICENTER XL Major looking for a strong performance on the Pro Circuit stage in order to make one last push to climb up the Pro Circuit standings. However, the team’s recent struggles on the international level make that kind of performance unlikely for the CIS squad. Entering the Major, Na’Vi is projected to finish near the bottom of the Group B standings with a finish in the 9th-10 place range. Na’Vi have not looked particularly strong on the Pro Circuit stage over the past few months, and the competition that the CIS squad is set to face in its group doesn’t do a whole lot to raise confidence levels either. Na’Vi will have to face three teams ranked inside of the Top 8 in the form of VP, Team Secret, and Newbee in Group B, while its other opponents in the group are OG and a paiN Gaming squad coming off of a major change to its roster. Against that trio of top ranked squads, Na’Vi isn’t likely to score any significant victories in a Bo3 setting unless the team puts together a truly inspired performance or one of those teams makes a significant series of mistakes. That leaves OG and paiN Gaming as the two teams that Na’Vi may have to depend on beating to advance. PaiN Gaming represents something of an unknown quantity considering its recent roster change, and Na’Vi should likely come into that series slightly favored to win. The barometer for the team will be OG, as the European squad has been going through some similar issues to Na’Vi in terms of its performance on the international level. Should Na’Vi manage to best OG in its Group Stage series, then the CIS squad stands a good chance to surviving the Group Stage and advancing into the Playoff Bracket. From that point on, anything is possible, especially considering the format of the Playoff Stage. The first two rounds of the Lower Bracket will be played in a Bo1 format, which means Na’Vi would only need to win two matches in order to secure a Top 4 finish at the event. That goal doesn’t sound quite so complicated on paper, but the problem is that all of this will hinge on Na’Vi making it out of the Group Stage in the first place. The path to success is there for Na’Vi, but the team’s significant struggles on the Pro Circuit since its roster change make it hard to expect the team to make that kind of run at the Major. Should the squad manage to overcome its recent issues and put together a strong push in Moscow, then the team could potentially find the Pro Circuit success that it desperately needs. However, don’t be surprised if Na’Vi finds itself unable to find the solution for its recent issues and stumbles  once again on the Pro Circuit stage.

 

OG 425px-OG_RB_Logo

Region: Europe

Qualification: Europe Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: 12th (630 Qualifying Points) (Ineligible for TI8 Invites)

Roster:
1.
 Johan “N0tail” Sundstein
2.
Sébastien “7ckngMad” Debs (Stand-in)
3.
 Gustav “s4” Magnusson
4.
 Jesse “jerAx” Vainikka
5. 
Tal “Fly” Aizik (Captain)

Projected Finish: 7th-8th

The last few months have been a tumultuous time for OG, to say the least of the European squad’s current situation. In March the team parted ways with Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok following some struggles on the Pro Circuit stage. The team has been playing with its coach, Sébastien “7ckngMad” Debs, as a long term stand-in since that change, but no official replacement has been announced by the organization. The roster change hasn’t resulted in success for OG on the Pro Circuit just yet, and the European squad has also surrendered its eligibility for TI8 invites by breaking the roster lock. While the team can’t make use of any potential Qualifying Points it could earn in Moscow, OG is still in considerable need of a solid performance at the Major. The European squad’s recent performances have not instilled a significantly high level of confidence, but a strong showing at this event will give OG a degree of confidence and momentum heading into the team’s run through the TI8 Europe Open Qualifier this summer.

OG’s most recent Pro Circuit appearance came earlier this month in Shanghai when the team participated in the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major. The team faced some serious difficulties at the event, posting a 3-5 overall record that saw it fail to advance beyond the Group Stage with a finish in the combined 13th-14th place position. That poor showing at the Major marks a continuation of a rough patch for OG, as the departure of Resolut1on has not helped the team find success on the international level just yet. Since the team’s roster change, OG has participated in two Pro Circuit events, earning a 5th-6th place finish at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor in March and the aforementioned 12th-14th place run at the DAC 2018 Major. Even before the team’s roster changes it was struggling on the Pro Circuit stage, with OG earning just one Top 4 finish in three Pro Circuit appearances between the start of 2018 and the change in March. The silver lining for OG has been the team’s impressive performance within its home region, which is an aspect of the team’s game that appears to have remained intact through the recent roster change. In 2018, OG has participated in seven Pro Circuit qualifiers and managed to not only earn Top 4 finishes in all of them, but has actually placed 1st at every single one of them. Considering the fact that the team will have to play through the TI8 Europe Open Qualifiers to reach the main regional stage, that level of consistent success in its home region is a strong asset for OG. However, the team comes into the EPICENTER XL Major looking for a chance to prove that it is still capable of extending that regional success onto the international level.

Like a few other participants at the EPICENTER XL Major, OG comes into this event in a situation in which the team doesn’t necessarily have to care about where it falls in teh standings. The team’s performance in Moscow will have no effect on its destination at the end of the season, as OG is destined for a run through the TI8 Europe Open Qualifiers this summer. However, the squad is still searching for a chance to show that it has overcome the issues arising from its roster change and that it can put together a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage again. That outcome still seems a bit unlikely heading into the Major though, with OG projected to finish in the bottom half of the standings in the 7th-8th place range when all is said and done in Moscow. The team has continued to dominate in regional qualifiers and has shown flashes of strength on the international level, but the consistency on the Pro Circuit stage hasn’t been on display just yet for the team. The other teams within OG’s group at the EPICENTER XL Major don’t do much to instill confidence in the European squad either. OG will be going up against three Top 8 ranked teams in Group B in the form of Virtus.pro, Team Secret, and Newbee. The presence of those three squads in its group make it highly unlikely that OG comes anywhere close to one of the top two spots in Group B, meaning the squad has to hope for a spot in the 3rd or 4th position in the group to advance to the Lower Bracket of the Playoff Stage. With that goal in mind, things begin looking a bit better for OG, as the other two squads in Group B are teams that have faced some significant issues of their own in Na’Vi and paiN Gaming. OG will likely enter those series either as a slight favorite or evenly matched, and defeating those two squads will be the key to success for OG. If the European squad wins against those two teams and snags a win or two against the three Top 8 ranked squads in Group B, then OG should be able to survive the Group Stage and secure a place in the Playoff Bracket. From there, the team will face a tough challenge, as it will have to get through two Bo1 match ups in order to reach a Top 4 position at the Major. The road will be tough for OG, and its lingering issues on the international stage are still a significant concern for the team as it makes its way to Moscow. However, should OG manage to live up to expectations and survive the Group Stage, don’t be surprised if the European squad makes a push for more at the EPICENTER XL Major.

 

Team Empire 600px-Team_empire

Region: CIS

Qualification: CIS Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: Not Ranked (0 Qualifying Points) (Ineligible for TI8 Invites)

Roster:
1.
Aybek “Naive-“ Tokaev
2.
Rostislav “fn” Lozovoi
3.
Andrey “Ghostik” Kadyk
4.
Maxim “yoky-“ Kim
5.
YaroslavMiposhkaNaidenov (Captain)

Projected Finish: 7th-8th

Team Empire enters the EPICENTER XL Major as one of three participants still searching for their first Qualifying Points of the season. However, the CIS squad comes into this event with a bit of a new look, as the team underwent a roster change just under two weeks prior to the start of the Major.  The team acquired a new carry player, trading out Alexander “Nix” Levin for young talent Aybek “Naive-“ Tokaev, in the hopes of securing its first success on the Pro Circuit stage. The move has come as something of a gamble though, as Team Empire has foregone its TI8 invite eligibility with this change and will have to play through the Open Qualifiers this summer. With its new lineup and the chance to perform in front of a hometown crowd in Moscow, Team Empire is hoping to finally make its breakthrough on the Pro Circuit stage with a strong performance at the Major.

It’s been a little while since the last time Dota 2 fans got the chance to see Team Empire on the Pro Circuit stage, as the team’s last event came at the end of March at the DreamLeague Season 9 Minor where the CIS squad finished in the combined 5th-6th place position. Since that showing in Stockholm, Team Empire has not had the opportunity to play on the international level again, but the team’s performance on the Pro Circuit stage across 2018 as a whole has been less than ideal. The team has seen action in three Pro Circuit Minors since the start of the year, and has finished outside of the Top 4 in each of them. Team Empire has found success on the international level to be somewhat hard to find, but within the CIS region the squad has been putting together more encouraging performances. The team had earned six Top 4 finishes in Pro Circuit qualifiers in nine appearance in 2018. Since adding Naive- to the lineup just a little over a week ago, the team has secured back to back 2nd place finishes in Pro Circuit qualifiers. The good news for Team Empire is that its looks to be gaining momentum within its home region heading into the TI8 qualifiers. However, this Major in Moscow will be the team’s final Pro Circuit appearance before it has to brave the dangers of the TI8 Open Qualifiers.

Team Empire enters the EPICENTER XL Major still searching for its first successful outing on the Pro Circuit stage. It’s certainly a noble goal, but not necessarily one that the CIS squad is expected to achieve, with Team Empire projected survive the Group Stage but still finish in the bottom half of the standings in the 7th-8th place position. The team’s previous Pro Circuit appearances have been solid but not overly impressive, and its recent roster change presents a significant unknown variable for the team heading into the Major. The team’s placement in Group A at the event presents some added obstacles for Team Empire as well, as the CIS squad will have to contend with three Top 8 ranked teams in Team Liquid, Mineski, and PSG.LGD in the Group Stage. While Team Empire’s recently modified roster may be capable of taking a series against those squads, it can’t reasonably be expected to. With that in mind, the team’s series against North American squad compLexity Gaming and fellow CIS team FlyToMoon take on an added significance for Team Empire. In general, Team Empire sits on a similar level to those two squads with regards to their performance on the international level, which means that the CIS squad shoul have a decent chance of winning Bo3 series against those opponents. If it can overcome those two squads and even potentially steal a game or two off of the more established power in the group, then Team Empire should be able to finish above compLexity Gaming and FlyToMoon in the group standings and advance to the Playoff Stage. From that point forward, Team Empire’s path to success becomes a bit simpler, but no less difficult, as the CIS squad will need to win back to back Bo1 matches to secure a Top 4 finish in Moscow. Team Empire definitely has the potential to win those matches, and the Bo1 format could work to its advantage against some of the higher ranked teams in the field. However, that format also leaves Team Empire with little to no room for error, and will require a level of consistency on the Pro Circuit stage that we haven’t seen from the CIS squad to this point in the season. Should Team Empire manage to survive the Group Stage and make it into the Playoff Bracket, then the potential for success is there for Team Empire. However, considering the team’s issues on the international level this season, it’s probably for the best to keep expectations modest for the CIS squad and hold onto hope that the team outperforms at the EPICENTER XL Major.

 

compLexity Gaming 727px-Col_big_logo

Region: North America

Qualification: North America Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: 17th (135 Qualifying Points) (Ineligible for TI8 Invites)

Roster:
1.
 Rasmus “Chessie” Blomdin
2.
 Linus “Limmp” Blomdin
3.
 David “Moo” Hull
4.
 Zakari “Zfreek” Freedman
5.
MartinSaksaSazdov (Stand-in)

Projected Finish: 11th-12th

North American squad compLexity Gaming has been a rather intriguing team on the Pro Circuit over the last few months, though not necessarily for the right reasons. In the middle of March and following some struggles on the international level, the team made a surprising announcement as it dropped support player and team captain Kyle “melonzz” Freedman from its roster. In the time since that change, the team has been playing with both Kartik “kitrak” Rathi and Martin “Saksa” Sazdov as stand-ins, but no official replacement has been announced by the organization. The move put the team in an unfortunate position, as copmLexity Gaming is no longer eligible for invites to TI8 and will need to play through the North America Open Qualifier this summer. With that in mind, the team has not use for the Qualifying Points available at this event, but the North American squad could still benefit from a strong showing in Moscow. A solid performance on the Pro Circuit stage will go a long way towards helping compLexity Gaming build up some much needed momentum and confidence over the final months of the season heading into its Open Qualifier run.

CompLexity Gaming has been missing from the Pro Circuit stage for a lot longer than the team is probably comfortable with, as the North American squad hasn’t made an appearance at an event since The Bucharest Major back near the beginning of March. The team ended up finishing in the collective 9th-11th place position at the Major, and ended up making its roster change just days later. Since then, the team had not had the chance to play any other international matches, with its experience over the last two months being restricted to its own home region. Across 2018 as a whole, compLexity Gaming had been having significant difficulties finding success on the Pro Circuit stage. The North American squad has attended five Pro Circuit events since the start of the year and has failed to produce a Top 4 finish in any of them. The international scene has not been particularly kind to compLexity Gaming, but the team has at least been able to remain competitive within the North American region in the time since its roster change. The team has participated in three regional qualifiers since changing its lineup, and compLexity Gaming has been able to secure Top 4 finishes in all of them. Unfortunately, none of those three Top 4 finishes have resulted in qualification for the team, making this appearance in Moscow the final Pro Circuit event for the North American squad this season. The team’s roster changes may have consigned it to a run through the Open Qualifiers, but one or two last chances to build up momentum at Pro Circuit events could be valuable assets for compLexity Gaming over the final months of the season.

CompLexity Gaming comes into the EPICENTER XL Major in a bit of a rough situation in terms of its position on the Pro Circuit. The North American squad is not eligible for invites to TI8 or the TI8 Regional Qualifiers, so the team is destined for a run through the Open Qualifiers regardless of its performance in Moscow. While the team has not announced an official new addition to its roster, the squad will be looking to put together a strong showing on the international level no matter what lineup it plays with. The expectations for compLexity Gaming are not very high though, with the North American squad projected to finish at the bottom of Group A in the 11th-12th place range. The team has been placed in Group A for the Group Stage of the Major, and will have to go up against Pro Circuit leaders in Team Liquid, Mineski, and PSG.LGD as well as non-ranked but surging squads like Team Empire and FlyToMoon. Against the more established teams in its group, compLexity Gaming is unlikely to come out on top in a Bo3 series, especially with a stand-in for this event. Teams like FlyToMoon and Team Empire though represent a potential opportunity for the North American squad, as those two teams have seen some issues of their own over the last few months. CompLexity Gaming won’t exactly enter those series as a heavy favorite, but if the team can claim wins in those series then it stands a solid chance of advancing out of the Group Stage. Should the team survive the Group Stage then the North American squad has the potential to significantly outperform its projected finish. With the first two rounds of the Lower Bracket featuring Bo1 series, the team could find itself pushing for a Top 4 finish under the right circumstances. Considering the fact that the team has not been performing well on the international level and the team’s use of a stand-in for the Major, that kind of run is pretty much the best possible outcome for compLexity Gaming. Long story short, there is technically a path to success for the North American squad at the Major, but it would take a truly impressive performance for the team to reach that mark. For compLexity Gaming, the potential for success is there, but the expectations for the team have to be set considerably lower until we see that strength on the Pro Circuit stage again.

 

paiN Gaming PaiN_Gaming_2017

Region: South America

Qualification: South America Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: Not Ranked (0 Qualifying Points) (Ineligible for TI8 Invites)

Roster:
1.
 William “hFn” Medeiros
2.
Aliwi “w33” Omar
3.
 Otavio “tavo” Gabriel
4.
Danylo “KINGRD” Nascimento (Captain) 
5. 
Heitor “Duster” Pereira 

Projected Finish: 11th-12th

PaiN Gaming hasn’t been able to secure success on the Pro Circuit stage at this point in the season, but the South American squad made some waves recently as the team announced a new addition to its lineup. Aliwi “w33” Omar officially joined the team after having served as a stand-in for the team at previous events this season. Since the team’s earlier roster moves had already forfeited the team’s eligibility for TI8 invites, bringing in w33 offered a significant benefit for the team with incredibly limited risk. With the Romanian mid laner now a part of the roster, paiN Gaming makes its way to Moscow looking for a chance to put together a more impressive showing than what we’ve seen so far this season from the South American squad. The team will enter the TI8 South America Open Qualifiers as a heavy favorite regardless of the outcome of this Major, but a strong performance from paiN Gaming in Moscow will add a level of confidence and success on the international level that will be nearly unparalleled among its regional rivals.

PaiN Gaming hasn’t been away from the Pro Circuit stage for very long, although the team looked a bit different in terms of its roster when it participated in the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major earlier this month. The team looked absolutely awful in Shanghai, as paiN Gaming struggled to an alarming degree at the Major and failed to secure a single win before being eliminated in the Group Stage. The team’s performance on the Pro Circuit stage has been poor in 2018, to say the least. The South American squad has played in four Pro Circuit events since the beginning of the year, and has finished in the bottom half of the standings at each of them. The team’s only success on the international level has come away from the Pro Circuit entirely, as paiN Gaming managed to place 2nd in the World Electronic Sports Games 2017 last March. While paiN Gaming has not been able to accrue much success on the international level, the South American team has been on an impressive hot streak in its home region in 2018. Across 2018 as a whole, paiN Gaming has played in seven Pro Circuit qualifiers and has finished within the Top 4 in all of them, including four 1st place runs. Since adding w33 to the roster earlier this month, the team has managed to secure two Top 4 finishes in its two qualifier appearances with its new roster, including a 1st place finish that qualified the team for the ESL One Birmingham Major at the end of May. With the team destined for a run through the TI8 South America Open Qualifier, it’s highly encouraging to see paiN Gaming putting on such dominant showing within its home region. However, that strong record at home could be complemented nicely by a solid result on the Pro Circuit stage if the team’s new roster can make something happen in Moscow.

PaiN Gaming enter the EPICENTER XL Major in a position where the team’s performance at the event will have no bearing on its destination come season’s end. No matter how the team plays in Moscow, the squad will be heading into the TI8 South America Open Qualifier this summer. The South American squad will be looking to make a strong impression with its new lineup in Moscow, but the expectations for team are not particularly high, with paiN Gaming projected to finish in the 11th-12th place range. The team has been sorted into a tough group in Group B, with all five of its opponents currently ranked in the Pro Circuit standings. PaiN Gaming will come into pretty much every match up in the Group Stage as an underdog, and the Bo3 format of those Group Stage series doesn’t usually lend itself to upset wins. While taking Bo3 series against top squads like VP, Team Secret, and Newbee aren’t exactly reasonable expectations for paiN Gaming, there is still hope for the South American squad. Teams like OG and Na’Vi have been facing struggles of their own on the Pro Circuit stage, and with paiN Gaming’s new lineup there is a decent chance that the South American squad can win those series. If that does happen, then paiN Gaming has a chance at advancing out of the Group Stage and reaching the Playoff Bracket. With the first two rounds of the Lower Bracket featuring Bo1 matches, there is a chance that paiN Gaming could put together a run and potentially challenge for a Top 4 finish. Even with the recent addition of w33 to the lineup, that series of events represents a best case scenario for paiN Gaming at the Major. The South American squad certainly has the potential to reach that goal and score a few wins as an underdog team, but it would take an absolutely incredible performance from the team to move up into the top half of the standings in Moscow. For paiN Gaming, the hopes and potential are higher than they have been in recent months, but its best to keep expectations for the squad low until the new roster shows us something on the Pro Circuit stage.

 

PSG.LGD PSG LGD

Region: China

Qualification: China Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: 8th (1821 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1. 
Wang “Ame” Chunyu
2. 
Lu “Somnus丶M” a.k.a “Maybe” Yao
3. 
Yang “Chalice” Shenyi
4. 
Xu “Fy” Linsen (Captain)
5. 
Yap “xNova” Jian Wei

Projected Finish: Top 4

The resurgence of PSG.LGD (formerly LGD Gaming) on the Pro Circuit has been quite the success story over the 2018 section of the season, as the Chinese squad survived a stretch of significant trouble and a roster restructure to emerge as one of the leading teams in the Pro Circuit standings. The team’s success has it ranked 8th in the standings heading into the EPICENTER XL Major, but that position is far from secure with five Pro Circuit events remaining on the season schedule (1 Minor, 4 Majors). Teams like Evil Geniuses, Na’Vi, and Fnatic are just one impressive performance away from knocking PSG.LGD out of the Top 8, and even a candidate further down the standings like TNC Pro Team or OpTic Gaming has the potential to make a run to usurp the team’s position over these last few events. If PSG.LGD wants to finish the season still holding a Top 8 rank, then it’s going to have to fight off those would be usurpers, beginning in Moscow at the Major. If the Chinese squad can replicate its most recent success on the Pro Circuit stage, then PSG.LGD can significantly bolster and improve its position in the Pro Circuit standings and increase its chances of receiving that coveted direct invite to Vancouver at season’s end.

Like most of the other squads that will be competing in Moscow, PSG.LGD’s last Pro Circuit appearance came near the beginning of the month at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major. The Chinese squad put together an impressive Group Stage run with a 7-4 record, and ran through the Playoff Stage bracket all the way up to the Grand Final to secure a 2nd place finish at the Major. That impressive performance in Shanghai has been the defining success of 2018 for PSG.LGD, as the team’s other Pro Circuit appearances this year resulted in a 2nd place finish at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 and a 9th-12th place run at the ESL One Katowice Major. In addition to the team’s success on the international level. PSG.LGD has also managed to maintain a position near the top of the hierarchy within the Chinese region. In 2018, the Chinese squad has participated in nine Pro Circuit qualifiers or qualifying events and has earned Top 4 finishes in all but one of them. Those nine Top 4 finishes include five 1st place results, and even the team’s lone finish outside of the Top 4 in the Top Division of the Dota 2 Professional League Season 5 resulted in the team qualifying for an event anyway (MDL Changsha Major). Between this event in Moscow, its qualification for the MDL Changsha Major, and its most recent success in the qualifier for the China Dota 2 Supermajor, PSG.LGD are currently set to compete in three of the final four Majors of the season. For now though, the focus of the squad has to be on Moscow as PSG.LGD look to spark a late-season run to maintain its Top 8 position with a solid showing at the EPICENTER XL Major.

PSG.LGD comes into the EPICENTER XL Major as one of the Top 8 ranked teams on the Pro Circuit, although that position is about a precarious as it possibly could be at this stage in the season. The Chinese squad has put together a solid run over the last few months, but the team needs at least one more success on the Pro Circuit stage to help it cross the finish line and hold its Top 8 position over the final events of the season. Team team comes into this Major with a solid chance at finding that success, with PSG.LGD projected to finish within the Top 4 in Moscow. The team has been solid on the Pro Circuit stage over its last few events, and its 2nd place run at the DAC 2018 Major has hopes high that the team has hit its stride and can maintain a high level of play over the final month or so of the season. As one of three teams in Group A ranked in the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings, the Chinese squad is note expected to face much difficulty advancing out of the Group Stage. Considering the ongoing roster changes and issues for fellow Group A members compLexity Gaming and Team Empire, it would take a pretty shocking drop off in play from PSG.LGD for it to fall to the bottom of the standings in the group. With the team relatively secure in its ability to advance into the Playoff Stage, the main question for the Chinese squad will be which part of the bracket it ends up in. In order for PDG.LGD to enter the Playoff Stage in the Upper Bracket, it is most likely going to have to finish above either Team Liquid or Mineski in the Group A standings. If PSG.LGD manages to accomplish that and claim a spot in the top two of Group A, then it would still face a tough challenge in that Upper Bracket series. The team’s opponent in that Bo3 series would most likely be one of Virtus.pro, Team Secret, or Newbee, all of whom are more than capable of handing the Chinese squad a loss in a full series. If PSG.LGD could defeat that opponent, then it would be guaranteed a Top 4 finish at the event. If it were to lose the match up, then the team would need to win a Bo1 match in the Lower Bracket in order to secure itself a Top 4 spot. Those scenarios are based upon PSG.LGD claiming a top two spot in the Group Stage though, which is an occurrence that may not happen if it cannot outperform Team Liquid or Mineski. If the Chinese squad ends up in the 3rd or 4th place position in Group A, then its path to a Top 4 finish becomes a bit more stressful. The team would have to win back to back Bo1 matches in the Lower Bracket, one of which would still be against one of the top two teams from one of the two groups. Overall, the path to a Top 4 finish in Moscow is straightforward for PSG.LGD, but it will also be a tough challenge for the team to claim its much needed success on the Pro Circuit stage. While the task won’t be easy, we’ve seen what this team is capable of on the international level when it’s playing at its best. Even a single mistake could lead to the Chinese squad falling short of its goal in Moscow, but should PSG.LGD maintain its current level of play throughout the event, it will be hard to stop the team from claiming another Top 4 finish and bolstering its position in the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings.

 

Mineski 600px-Mineski-dota_logo

Region: Southeast Asia

Qualification: Southeast Asia Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: 4th (3150 Qualifying Points)

Roster: 
1. Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung (Captain)
2.
Kam “NaNa” a.k.a “Moon” Boon Seng
3.
Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang
4.
Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong
5.
Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross Jr.

Projected Finish: Top 4

2018 had been something of a quiet time for Mineski, as the Southeast Asian team hadn’t put together the flashiest of performances in the new year. Through March, the SEA squad had earned just two Top 4 finishes at Pro Circuit events in 2018, both of them being 3rd-4th place runs at Minors. Those results had dropped the team out of the Top 8, but everything changed in April when the squad surged back into the Pro Circuit limelight by claiming the first ever Major Championship for Southeast Asia as the DAC 2018 Major. The win catapulted Mineski from 9th to 4th in the standings, and transformed the team from a somewhat struggling squad on the periphery of the Top 8 back into an international power house with a chance of securing a direct invite to TI8. If the team can claim a second Major Championship in Moscow, Mineski will have enough Qualifying Point to guarantee a direct invite. Even if the squad can’t win the event outright, a Top 4 finish will bring it closer to that goal and help solidify the team’s position heading into the final events of the season. With that in mind, Mineski comes into the EPICENTER XL Major with a singular focus, and all of the momentum and confidence befitting a Major Champion.

The last Pro Circuit appearance for Mineski came at the beginning of April, when the team put together its breakthrough performance in Shanghai to claim its first Major Championship at the Dota 2 Asia Championships Major. Since that triumphant showing, Mineski has not played any other official matches on the international stage or its home region. The team’s 1st place finish at the Major was a huge success for the Southeast Asian squad, but Mineski’s track record on the Pro Circuit stage prior to that victory had been somewhat inconsistent. The team had finished in the bottom half of the standings at its two previous Majors, and had only been able to earn two 3rd-4th place finishes at Minors in 2018. The team’s run in Shanghai improved its Pro Circuit record to include three Top 4 finishes in six total Pro Circuit appearances in 2018, and transformed the team into one of the leading squads in the Pro Circuit standings. While the team’s performance on the international level has seen some drastic swings recently, Mineski’s play within the Southeast Asian region has remained fairly consistent. The team continues to be one of the strongest teams in the region, putting together solid runs in regional qualifiers while fending off surging rivals like Fnatic and TNC Pro Team. In 2018, Mineski has participated in five Pro Circuit qualifiers and has finished in the Top 4 in all of them. Those five Top 4 performances includes three 1st place finishes that have the team sitting near the top of the hierarchy both in the Southeast Asian region and in the Pro Circuit standings. With its consistent strength at home and its newly found success on the international level, Mineski sits in an incredibly favorable position heading into both the EPICENTER XL Major and the remainder of the season as a whole as the SEA squad looks to close in on a direct invite to TI8.

Mineski enters the EPICENTER XL Major as one of the leading squads in the Pro Circuit standings, and the top ranked Southeast Asian team on the Pro Circuit in general. Unless the team manages to claim a 1st place finish in Moscow, Mineski won’t be securing itself a direct invite to TI8 at this event. However, a Top 4 finish at the Major will bring the SEA squad significantly closer to the required Qualifying Point total and set the team up to potentially secure that goal at a subsequent Pro Circuit event. Mineski comes into the Major as one of the favorites to claim success in Moscow, with the Southeast Asian leader projected to finish in the Top 4 at the event. The team’s recent victory at the DAC 2018 Major has drawn a significant amount of attention to the squad heading into this event, and there are still some questions surrounding the team with regards to consistency. Should the team manage to play at or close to the level that we saw at its previous Pro Circuit appearances, then Mineski should face few issues, if any, advancing out of the Group Stage of this Major. The question for the SEA squad will be where the team ends up in the Playoff Stage, as the team is one of three Top 8 ranked teams in Group A that will be looking to claim the top two spots in the group and advance to the Upper Bracket. In order to Mineski to claim a spot in the Upper Bracket of the Playoff Stage, it is going to have to outperform Team Liquid or PSG.LGD in the Group Stage, a task that has proven difficult for many teams throughout the season to this point. Should the team manage to achieve that goal and reach the Upper Bracket, then its path to a Top 4 finish in Moscow is relatively short. The team would need to win a single Bo3 series against one of the top squads from Group B, which will more than likely be one of Virtus.pro, Team Secret, or Newbee. Any of those match ups will be a significant test for Mineski, but if it can play at the level that it displayed in Shanghai at the DAC 2018 Major, then the Southeast Asian squad has the capability to win that series and secure itself a Top 4 finish. Should the team fall short and lose that series, then it still has a chance at a Top 4 spot in the Lower Bracket. The Southeast Asian team would need to win a Bo1 match against the loser of the other Upper Bracket series in order to reach that mark though, which present an incredibly high pressure situation that the team would most likely prefer to avoid. However, should Mineski fail to finish in the top two of Group A then it won’t be able to avoid those dreaded Bo1 matches. A finish in the 3rd or 4th place position in the Group Stage would mean that Mineski would have to win two Bo1 series in the Lower Bracket in order to secure itself a Top 4 finish. No matter which path Mineski finds itself on at the Major, there will be little room for error from the Southeast Asian squad. The team has had its issues with inconsistent play in the past, and a drop off in play on the Pro Circuit stage is always a possibility for the team in Moscow. However, should the team maintain its considerable momentum and avoid any significant mistakes or relapses, then expect Mineski to stick around deep into the Playoff Stage and earn itself a second straight finish in the Top 4 at the EPICENTER XL Major.

 

FlyToMoon FlyToMoon

Region: CIS

Qualification: Madness Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: Not Ranked (0 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1. Airat “Silent” Gaziev
2. 
Bogdan “Iceberg” Vasilenko
3.
Alexey “nongrata” Vasilev
4. 
Alexander “NoFear” Churochkin (Captain)
5. 
Andrey “ALWAYSWANNAFLY” Bondarenko

Projected Finish: 9th-10th

FlyToMoon has had one of the more interesting stories so far this season, as the CIS squad only came into existence around two months ago near the roster lock deadline. Formed by a quintet of teamless CIS players, the team went through quite the rough path in order to secure itself a spot at this event. After losing to Team Empire in the CIS Qualifier, the team entered the Madness Qualifier for this event as part of a 289 team field. After winning eight straight Bo1 matches, the team earned its place in the field in Moscow and a chance to earn its first Qualifying Points of the season. The squad sits in an advantageous position right now, as the number of CIS teams eligible for TI8 invites is relatively small. A solid showing at the EPICENTER XL Major has the potential to solidify FlyToMoon as a leader within the CIS region as well as give it a head start over its regional rivals in the quest for a spot in Vancouver for TI8.

FlyToMoon isn’t far removed from its most recent and first appearance on the Pro Circuit, as the CIS squad debuted at the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minor just a little over a week ago. The team managed to overcome Polish squad Team Kinguin in one of its series, but lost its two other match ups against VGJ.Thunder to miss the Playoff Stage of the Minor with a 5th-6th place finish overall. Since then, the team has not had the chance to play on the international level again, which leaves its performances at the Minor and the Madness Qualifier for this event as the only results to look at for FlyToMoon outside of its home region. That Madness Qualifier did display some strengths of the CIS squad, as the team won eight straight Bo1 matches against teams from a variety of different regions to claim its spot at the EPICENTER XL Major. While the team’s experience on the Pro Circuit may be limited so far, FlyToMoon has been significantly more active within the CIS region in the few months of its existence. Since the team’s founding in February, FlyToMoon has seen action in six Pro Circuit qualifiers and has finished in the Top 4 in five of them. Two of those Top 4 performance earned the team its spot both at its Pro Circuit debut at the aforementioned StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minor, and at this Major. Unfortunately for FlyToMoon, this Major in Moscow will be the team’s final opportunity to play on the Pro Circuit stage before the end of the year. However, the team is currently one of only a few teams in the CIS region still eligible for an invite to the TI8 CIS Qualifier, and a solid showing from FlyToMoon on home soil at the EPICENTER XL Major will likely only increase the squad’s odds of receiving that invite.

FlyToMoon enters the EPICENTER XL Major in search for an opportunity to break through on the international level and secure its first measure of success on the Pro Circuit stage. Coming into the event itself, the CIS squad is projected to fall in the Group Stage to finish in the 9th-10th place range. Since the team’s formation at the roster lock deadline in February, the team has shown an impressive level of consistency and strength within the CIS region. However, the team’s international performance so far has not quite lived up to that same standard of success. The team’s Pro Circuit debut in Kiev at the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minor was an encouraging performance for the team, but FlyToMoon didn’t quite show enough strength to consider them a strong contender at this Major in Moscow. With teams like Team Liquid, Mineski, and PSG.LGD in the team’s group, FlyToMoon stand almost no chance of finishing in the top two of Group A barring a frankly miraculous series of wins from the CIS squad. However, all hope is not lost for the squad, as the other members of Group A in compLexity Gaming and Team Empire have also seen some struggles recently. Both squads have been dealing with changes to their roster, and while FlyToMoon won’t necessarily enter either of those match ups as a significant favorite, the CIS squad is certainly capable of taking wins in a Bo3 series against either team. If the team can manage to take down those opponents, then it will be in a relatively favorable position to advance out of the Group Stage and into the Playoff Bracket. If it can reach the Playoff Bracket, then FlyToMoon’s prospects take a significant turn for the better. With the first two rounds of the Lower Bracket featuring Bo1 matches, all FlyToMoon would have to do in order to secure its first Top 4 finish of the season is win two more matches. That may sound like an easier task at first glance, but in order to even be in an opportunity to reach that mark, FlyToMoon is going to have to advance out of the Group Stage. That outcome is far from guaranteed from the CIS squad coming into the event, and even the teams in Group A that have been struggling the most this season are likely to put up a tough fight for the team. FlyToMoon has the talent and experience to make a run at the EPICENTER XL Major, but until we see the team put all of that together and show that it can win series on the Pro Circuit stage, the expectations have to be significantly lower than the potential for the CIS squad in Moscow.

 

 

 

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