Dota 2 Major Preview: MDL Changsha

Pro Circuit back on Chinese soil as 12 teams look to spark late season surges in Changsha.

We’re into the home stretch of the season now in the Dota 2 world, as the Pro Circuit is set to bring fans one last set of exciting events with three straight Majors to close out the schedule. The first of those Majors is about to begin, as the eyes of the Dota 2 world once more turn to China for the MDL Changsha Major. Organized by Mars Media as a part of its Mars Dota 2 League series of events, the MDL Changsha Major is the second Pro Circuit event that the organizer has put together this season. The Major brings 12 Pro Circuit teams to the Hunan International Convention and Exhibition Center in Changsha, China for a chance to make a late-season push up the Pro Circuit standings and claim one of the final Major Championships of the season. Beginning on May 14 and running through the 20th, the MDL Changsha Major will put prize pools of $1,000,000 and 1500 Qualifying Points up for grabs for the 12 participating teams. The distribution of those prize pools can be seen outlined below.

1st: $400,000 & 750 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

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

3rd: $130,000 & 225 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

4th: $85,000 & 75 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

5th-6th: $40,000

7th-8th: $25,000

9th-10th: $17,500

11th-12th: $10,000

With event information covered, we can now turn our attention to the format of the Major itself. The MDL Changsha Major will begin with a Group Stage that will see its 12 participants split into two groups of 6 teams each. Within those groups, the teams will play a Bo2 round robin to determine the standings for the Playoff Stage. The winners of each group will advance directly to Round 2 of the Upper Bracket in the Playoff Stage, with the 2nd and 3rd place teams from each group advancing to Round 1 of the Upper Bracket. The 4th and 5th place teams from each group will advance into the Lower Bracket of the Playoff Stage, while the bottom team from each group will be eliminated from the Major. The Playoff Stage itself will feature a Bo1 series in Round 1 of the Lower Bracket, with all other series up until the Grand Finals being played in a Bo3 format. The Grand Finals themselves will be played Bo5 to determine the Major Champion in Changsha.

With the schedule now reduced to just three Majors, many of the teams on the Pro Circuit and many of the participants at this event will be feeling the pressure to get in one last strong performance to build up momentum, secure a TI8 invite, or bolster its position in preparation for the qualifiers. The 12 participating teams at the Major all have different situations with regards to their outlook for TI8, but every one of them would still stand to benefit from a storng showing and a Top 4 finish in Changsha. OF the 12 teams that are attending the Major, one of them (Team Secret) has alreasy secured itself a direct invite to TI8. Four of the teams (Mineski, Newbee, Vici Gaming, PSG.LGD) are currently ranked in the Top 8 in the standings and would more than likely lock in a direct invite of their own with a win at the Major. Five of the participants (TNC Pro Team, VGJ.Storm, Infamous, OG, Vega Squadron) currently hold Qualifying Points and ranks in the Pro Circuit standings, but are outside of the Top 8. And finally, 2 of the teams (iG Vitality, Invictus Gaming) come into the event with no Qualifying Points to their name at all. OF course, not every team in the field will be able to make use of any potential Qualifying Point earnings, as four of the teams (iG Vitality, VGJ.Storm, Infamous, OG) no longer hold their invite eligibility and will be playing in the TI8 Open Qualifiers this summer regardless of their performance in Changsha. With that in mind, we can take a look at each of the 12 participants to see how they have performed this season and how they stack up against their rivals at the Major.

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

 

Mineski 600px-Mineski-dota_logo

Region: Southeast Asia

Qualification: Direct Invite (Replacement Invite)

Pro Circuit Rank: 5th (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

Southeast Asian squad Mineski finds itself the beneficiary of some good fortune as it prepares to make its return to China for the MDL Changsha Major. The team was not originally included among the 12 team field for this Major, but the withdrawal of Virtus.pro from the event opened an opportunity for the team to be invited in place of the CIS squad. The last time the SEA squad was in China, Mineski claimed the first Major Championship for the Southeast Asian region with its victory at the DAC 2018 Major. With the team sitting in 4th place on the Pro Circuit standings, Mineski’s goal in China this time around is even more ambitious as the squad looks to secure itself enough Qualifying Points to lock in a direct invite to TI8. Given its recent success on the Pro Circuit stage, Mineski comes into the MDL Changsha Major as one of the favorites to claim its second Major Championship of the season. However, the field of teams at the event is full of squads looking for an opportunity to make one final push on the Pro Circuit stage, and doing so at the expense of one of the leading teams in Mineski would be an ideal achievement with so few events remaining in the schedule.

Mineski’s most recent appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came just a little over a week ago at the EPICENTER XL Major in Moscow, Russia, where the team attempted to become only the second squad this season to win back to back Majors. The team stumbled a bit in the Group Stage, but managed to put together a 2-3 record to advance to the Playoff Stage of the event, where it brought down Team Secret in a Bo1 elimination match before losing its second Bo1 to Virtus.pro to finish just short of a Top 4 position in the 5th-6th place spot. Given the recent nature of that last Pro Circuit appearances, Mineski hasn’t gotten an opportuntiy to play any other official matches prior to its run in Changsha. However, the team’s recent performance on the Pro Circuit stage can be looked at to get a feel for where the team stands heading into this event. The team’s 5th-6th place finish at the EPICENTER XL Major and its 1st place run at the DAC 2018 Major represent a significant improvement for Mineski on the international level, as its performance on the Pro Circuit stage prior to these events had been less than ideal. Prior to its victory at the DAC 2018 Major, the squad’s only Pro Circuit success in 2018 had come from 3rd-4th place finishes at two Minors in January and February. While those achievements weren’t insignificant, they weren’t enough to put the Southeast Asian squad in the Top 8 by themselves. The strong performances at these last two Majors brought to an end a string of disappointing and weak Pro Circuit performances that stretched back for nearly three months. While the team sits near the top of the Pro Circuit standings, it is not guaranteed its spot in Vancouver just yet, and could still end up missing out on a direct invite. In that instance, it becomes important to look at the team’s performance within its home region over the past few months as well, in case the team ends up needing to make a run in the TI8 Regional Qualifiers. Mineski has participated in five Pro Circuit qualifiers in 2018, and the Southeast Asian squad has earned Top 4 positions in all of them, including three 1st place finishes. While it seems more likely at this stage in the season that Mineski will earn its direct invite and avoid the TI8 Regional Qualifiers, the fact that the team has been able to consistently find success against its regional rivals has it looking that much stronger heading into the final events of the season.

Mineski enters the MDL Changsha Major looking for a Top 4 finish at the event to bring the team closer to earning itself a direct invite to TI8. The team will need to finish in the 1st or 2nd place to secure that direct invite outright in Changsha, and the Southeast Asian leader is expected to be in the running for those positions at the Major with a projected finish in the Top 4 range. The team stands as one of the strongest squads in Group B, being second only perhaps to Team Secret. Considering the team’s recent success on the Pro Circuit stage, the Southeast Asian squad should have not real issues making it to the Playoff Stage, the only question will be the position that it is in. It Mineski manages to claim the top spot in Group A, then it will advance to Round 2 of hte Upper Bracket and be just a single Bo3 victory away from a guaranteed finish of at least 3rd at the Major. If it finishes as the 2nd or 3rd seed in its group, then the team will end up starting in Round 1 of the Upper Bracket and would sit two Bo3 series away from a Top 4 finish. Should the team lose one of its Upper Bracket series, then it would drop down to the Lower Bracket where it would still be one or two Bo3 away from a Top 4 position. So the path to success could be relatively straightforward and short for Mineski, but it will not be easy as the Southeast Asian squad will have to contend with some of the Pro Circuit’s leading squads. The good news for Mineski is that there will only be a couple of match ups at the Major in which it will not either be evenly matched with its opponent or considered a significant favorite to win. So long as Mineski avoids any significant mistakes in Changsha, then expect the Southeast Asian squad to be in the mix for a successful run at the MDL Changhsha Major.

 

NewbeeNewbee_logo

Region: China

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 6th (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

Chinese squad Newbee enters the MDL Changsha Major as one of the Top 8 teams on the Pro Circuit. However, the team’s position in the standings has been sliding of late, as the Chinese squad has had some relatively inconsistent performances on the Pro Circuit stage over the past few months. The team’s position as the highest ranked team within the Chinese region has been usurped by PSG.LGD thanks to its victory at the EPICENTER XL Major, and Newbee now stands in 6th place in the Pro Circuit standings. With three Majors remaining in the Pro Circuit schedule, Newbee is in a position where its Top 8 status and direct invite to TI8 are both far from guaranteed. A Top 4 finish on home soil at the MDL Changsha Major would come as a much needed boon for Newbee as it enters the final stretch of the season.

Newbee’s last appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came just a little over a week ago in Moscow as the Chinese squad was one of the participants at the EPICENTER XL Major. The team struggled at the event, posting a 2-3 series record (6-8 overall) and finishing in the bottom half of a four way tie in the Group B standings to miss the Playoff Stage with a 9th-10th place position. That rough performance in Moscow had been the latest in a series of inconsistent showings on the Pro Circuit stage, as Newbee has been fluctuating between success and disappointment over the past few months. The team has participated in seven Pro Circuit events so far in 2018, and has managed to finish in the Top 4 in four of them. However, three of those Top 4 finishes have come in Pro Circuit Minors, leaving the Chinese squad with a lower Qualifying Point total than it would like at this stage in the season. Even with the team’s somewhat fluctuating international performance, it is still likely to earn itself a place in the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings unless it suffers a significant drop off in play across these final events of the season. Even so, it becomes important to look at the team’s recent performance within its home region in the event that Newbee misses out on a direct invite and has to play through the TI8 Regional Qualifiers. While the team’s results on the Pro Circuit stage have been somewhat inconsistent, its performance at home has remained steady through 2018. Since the beginning of the year, Newbee has participated in three qualifiers or qualifying events and has not finished any worse than 3rd in those events. The fact that Newbee has been able to maintain a steady presence within the Chinese region keeps hope alive that the squad can find success at the MDL Changsha Major and help secure its position in the Pro Circuit standings.

Newbee enters the MDL Changsha Major looking for solidify its position in the Pro Circuit standings and potentially even secure itself a direct invite to TI8. The team has had some difficulties in its past two Pro Circuit appearances, but the team remains one of the strongest teams both within its home region and on the Pro Circuit stage. With that in mind, the team comes into the event expected to compete for a Top 4 spot, but ultimately fall short of that mark with a projected finish in the 5th-6th place range. The team has been placed in Group B for the Group Stage of the event, but at this point it’s not necessarily clear if that is an advantageous position for the Chinese squad. As one of three Top 8 ranked squads in the group, Newbee appears to be favored to finish in the top half of the standings, at least on paper. However, the team’s relatively inconsistent performance over its last few Pro Circuit events opens the door for some uncertainty in the Group Stage. If the team can’t manage to put together a solid showing in the Group Stage, then it runs the risk of falling into the bottom half of the standings and maybe even facing elimination from the event entirely. That represents a worst case scenario for the team though, and unless the team suffers an incredible meltdown at the event, it should be able to advance to the Playoff Stage. The question will be which side of the bracket it ends up on. If the team ends up in the top half of the Group B standings, then it will advance to the Upper Bracket of the Playoff Stage and be just one or two Bo3 series wins away from a guaranteed Top 4 finish at the Major. Should the team struggle in the Group Stage and finish as a 4th or 5th place seed, then it would need to fight through a Bo1 match and two Bo3 series in the Lower Bracket in order to reach a Top 4 finish. The fact that Newbee could easily be seen finishing anywhere from 1st to 6th in the Group Stage pretty much sums up the teams inconsistencies right now. However, the squad has one of the most talented and experienced rosters on the Pro Circuit, and under the pressure of the Pro Circuit stage and the ending of the season, Newbee should be able to step up and put together a solid performance at the Major. However, the team does not look as strong now as it did earlier in the season, and it still doesn’t feel quite right to expect a Top 4 finish from the Chinese squad. That being said, Newbee always has the capability to compete with and defeat even the strongest teams on the Pro Circuit, so don’t be surprised if the sleeping giant of China wakes up in Changsha and pushes past its predicted outcome to claim a Top 4 finish at the Major.

 

Team Secret Secret_logo

Region: Europe

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 3rd (4800 Qualifying Points) (Guaranteed TI8 Invite)

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: Top 4

Team Secret enters the MDL Changsha Major as a team that had already joined the elite of the Pro Circuit, as the European squad recently earned enough Qualifying Points at the GESC: Thailand Minor to secure itself a direct invite to TI8 this summer. With that goal already achieved, the team will more than likely feel considerably less pressure to find success over the final events of the season, beginning with the MDL Changsha Major. However, the fact that Team Secret no longer needs Qualifying Points is not likely to lessen the team’s desire to put together another strong performance on the Pro Circuit stage. With the team locked in to a spot in Vancouver, the focus now for Team Secret will now probably shift towards preparation for TI8, and the MDL Changsha Major provides the team an opportunity to continue testing itself against some of the Pro Circuit’s leading teams.

Team Secret’s most recent Pro Circuit appearance came just days ago as the European squad earned itself a Top 4 finish at the GESC: Thailand Minor in Bangkok. That win secured the team its TI8 invite, but it also continued an interesting trend for the European squad on the Pro Circuit stage. In 2018, Team Secret had managed to earn Top 4 finishes in four Pro Circuit Minors, including two Championship titles at the Captains Draft 4.0 and DreamLeague Season 9 Minors. Those victories have helped the squad secure enough Qualifying Points to secure a TI8 invite, but it doesn’t tell the entire story of the team’s performance on the Pro Circuit stage in 2018. Team Secret has found success in all of its appearances at Minors, but the team’s results at Majors has not been quite as strong, with the team attending four Majors in 2018 and failing to finish inside of the Top 4 at any of the them. With the team now holding a guaranteed invite to TI8, the immediate problem becomes much less significant for Team Secret as it no longer needs to make use of the increased Qualifying Point pools available at the final three Majors of the season. However, there is something to be said about the team’s performance falling off a bit in Majors with larger fields and usually more top level participants. The European squad appears to still have some issues facing other top ranked squads, but Team Secret will look to put together a strong showing in Changsha to help alleviate some of those concerns heading towards the end of the season.

Team Secret enters the MDL Changsha Major with its direct invite status already confirmed, but the European squad will be looking to put together another strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage in preparation for its run in Vancouver this summer. The team is expected to find success at the event, with the team coming into the Major with a projection in the Top 4 range. The team will be playing in Group A in the Group Stage of the event, and stands as a heavy favorite to finish at the top of the group standings. While teams like Mineski and OG have a chance at potentially stealing away the top spot in the group, Team Secret should have no significant difficulties finishing in the top half of the group standings. With teams likes Infamous, iG Vitality, and Invictus Gaming in its group, Team Secret will be significantly favored in every match up it faces in the Group Stage. The team is nearly guaranteed to finish in somewhere between 1st and 3rd in its group, but exactly where the team falls will have an impact on its path in the Playoff Stage. If the team finishes 1st in the Group A standings, then it will advance directly to Round 2 of the Upper Bracket and will need to win just 1 Bo3 series to guarantee itself a Top 4 finish at the Major. Should the team finish the Group Stage as either the 2nd or 3rd seed, then it will begin the Playoff Stage in Round 1 of the Upper Bracket and would need to win two Bo3 series to secure a Top 4 position. If Team Secret ends up losing any of its series in the Upper Bracket, then it will be put into what is essentially the same situation in the Lower Bracket of the Playoff Stage. The European squad will need to win the same number of series to reach the Top 4, but the margin for error will be significantly lower with elimination on the line. Unless Team Secret ends up running into a team like PSG.LGD or Mineski in one of those Lower Bracket series, then it would take an impressive upset loss to prevent Team Secret from reaching the Top 4 in Changsha. The team’s direct invite may already be secure, but Team Secret will be looking to remind the Dota 2 world of its strength over the final stretch of the season, and it would take either a shocking series of mistakes or an incredible performance from an underdog to deny the squad a successful run at the MDL Changsha Major.

 

Vici Gaming VICI_Gaming

Region: China

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 7th (2160 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1. Zhang “Paparazi灬” Chengjun
2. Zeng “Ori” Jiaoyang
3. Ren “eLeVeN” Yangwei
4. Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng
5. Lu “Fenrir” Chao (Captain)

Projected Finish: Top 4

Vici Gaming enters the MDL Changsha Major as a team that may be beginning to feel some degree of pressure as the Pro Circuit season approaches its end. The team sits near the bottom of the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings with a 7th place ranking, but that position is in considerable danger with three Majors remaining on the schedule. Teams like Fnatic, Evil Geniuses, and Na’Vi are all still in the hunt for a Top 8 spot, and all it would take is a single successful run from any of those teams to threaten Vici Gaming and potentially knock it out of the Top 8. The other side of that scenario though is that Vici Gaming may only need one more strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage to put itself in a safe position in the standings to close out the season. Obviously the latter scenario is what the Chinese squad would prefer, but Vici Gaming is going to have to earn that security with an impressive performance on the Pro Circuit stage. The MDL Changsha Major could very well provide the squad with just the opportunity it needs to orchestrate that performance as the team looks for one more Top 4 finish on home soil.

Vici Gaming’s most recent appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came over a month ago, as the team participated in another Chinese hosted event in the Dota 2 Asia Championship 2018 Major in Shanghai. The team got off to a rough start with a 3-4 Group Stage record, and just barely managed to make it to the Breakout Round thanks to a victory over OG in an extra tiebreaker match. From that point forward, Vici Gaming’s level of play picked up a bit, with the team winning series against both Team Secret and TNC Pro Team before losing to Mineski and Virtus.pro to end up just short of a Top 4 position with a 5th-6th place finish. That performance was the team’s second missed opportunity on the Pro Circuit stage in the past few months, as the Chinese squad has found itself slowly sliding down the Pro Circuit standings. The team had been looking incredibly strong earlier in the year, with Vici Gaming claiming 2nd place finishes at both the Captains Draft 4.0 Minor and the ESL One Katowice Major. As a whole, the Chinese squad has seen action in five Pro circuit events in 2018, earning Top 4 finishes in two of them. The team will more than likely have to bump that number up to at least three by season’s end if it wants to secure a Top 8 spot, otherwise the squad will need to fight through the TI8 Regional Qualifier to earn a spot in Vancouver. In that event, it is important to see how the team has been able to stack up in its home region in recent months. Since the beginning of 2018, Vici Gaming has participated in five Pro Circuit qualifiers or qualifying events and has finished in the Top 4 in each of them. Included among those Top 4 finishes is a 1st place run in the Top Division of the Dota 2 Professional League Season 5, one of the most highly regarded and prestigious leagues in China. The team outplayed many of its prominent regional rivals in the course of league play, and even pushed past fellow Top 8 ranked squads VGJ.Thunder and Newbee in order to claim 1st place in the tournament. With that kind of strong and consistent production within its home region, Vici Gaming should be one of the favored teams to claim a TI8 bid should it have to fight through the Regional Qualifiers. However, the Chinese squad would surely prefer to avoid the qualifiers altogether; a goal that would be much closer to being a reality if the team can manage to claim a Top 4 spot at the MDL Changsha Major.

Vici Gaming enters the MDL Changsha Major in need of a strong performance and a Top 4 finish to help it maintain its position among the Top 8 teams in the Pro Circuit standings. The team has faced some struggles in its past two Pro Circuit appearances, but the squad comes into the event confident that it can earn a much needed Top 4 finish on home soil in Changsha. Prior to the start of the event, it would appear that the team’s confidence is warranted, as the team is projected to finish within the Top 4 range. However, the path for Vici Gaming will not be easy, as it will first have to make its way through Group B in the Group Stage of the Major. On paper, Vici Gaming stands as one of the stronger teams in the group as one of three Top 8 ranked squads. However, even teams like Vegas Squadron, VGJ.Storm, and TNC Pro Team that are considered slightly weaker in the group have the potential to take advantage of Vici Gaming’s somewhat inconsistent play. Even with its recent issues, it would take a completely unexpected and severe setback to keep the team from advancing to the Playoff Stage. The question for Vici Gaming will be where it ends up in the group standings and where that places them in the Playoff Stage. If the team manages to live up to its ranking and play well enough in the Group Stage to secure a place in the top half of the standings, then Vici Gaming will end up in the Upper Bracket where it will be either 1 or 2 Bo3 series away from a Top 4 finish. Otherwise, the team will end up in the Lower Bracket and have to play an additional Bo1 match before facing the task of winning 2 Bo3 series for a Top 4 finish. Regardless of which bracket the team ends up in, it will be considered evenly matched with or favored against all but a couple of teams in the field. The Bo3 format of the Playoff Stage will serve the team well too, as Vici Gaming’s performance in full series has been considerably stronger at Pro Circuit events. The team’s last two Pro Circuit appearances saw the team miss out on Top 4 finishes based at least in some part on the fact that the team was playing Bo1 matches. Of course, the potential always exists for the team to run into issues separate from the format at this event, and if any of the teams projected to finish in the Top 4 were to miss the mark, Vici Gaming would be the most likely to fall. However, with the chance to adapt its strategies in full Bo3 series, expect Vici Gaming to return to form and display its strength on the Pro Circuit stage with a strong run at the MDL Changsha Major.

 

Invictus Gaming Vitality600px-Igvitality_logo

Region: China

Qualification: DPL Top Season 5 Top 3

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

Roster:
1. Galvin “Meracle” Kang Jian Wen
2. “HAlf” (Stand-in) (Real name unknown)
3. Yang “InJuly” Xiaodong
4. Gao “dogf1ghts” Tianpeng
5. Su “super” Peng

Projected Finish: 11th-12th

Invictus Gaming Vitality enters the MDL Changsha Major as a relative unknown in the Pro Circuit scene. After the team’s participation, unsuccessful as it was, at TI8 last summer, the Chinese squad looked to be on the rise in the Chinese region heading into the new Pro Circuit season. That did not come to pass, as iG.V struggled to maintain much of a presence within its home region. Back in March, the team underwent a roster change by adding Singaporean veteran Galvin “Meracle” Kang Jian Wen to its lineup to fill the void left by Su “Flyby” Lei’s departure from the team a month earlier. That move forfeited the team’s eligibility for invites to TI8 and the TI8 Regional Qualifiers, but given its limited exposure to the Pro Circuit stage and lack of significant success within its region, the team was likely unconcerned with its invite status. Even with the team unable to take advantage of the Qualifying Points available at the MDL Changsha Major, the event still offers the team a chance to show the strength of its new lineup on the international level. As the season comes to a close and the TI8 Open Qualifiers draw ever closer, Invictus Gaming Vitality is looking for a chance to build up some much needed momentum in its first and final appearance on the Pro Circuit stage.

With the team set to make its Pro Circuit debut at the MDL Changsha Major, there isn’t anything to look at for the Chinese squad in terms of previous experience at Pro Circuit events. However, the squad does have some experience playing teams outside of its home region, although iG.V has only played in a single international event since its most recent roster changes. That event was the World Cyber Arena 2017, but the Chinese squad wasn’t able to make much of an impression with its run in the tournament. The team lost its initial series to Middle Eastern squad FATE sSports 0-2 to bring its run to an end rather quickly with a 5th-8th place finish overall. The team’s limited experience and lack of success on the international level does not instill much confidence in the squad as it prepares for this appearance on the Pro Circuit stage. Unfortunately for iG.V, its record within its home region is not particularly impressive either. The team had participated in four Pro Circuit qualifiers or qualifying events in the time since it added Meracle to its roster, but three of those four were Open Qualifiers that the team was unable to find success in. The fourth and most recent qualifying event that the team participated in was the Top Division of the Dota 2 Professional League Season 5, which served as a replacement for a China Qualifier for the MDL Changsha Major. The team performed well in the Group Stage of the event, putting together a 2-3-0 series record (7-3 overall) that earned it the top spot in its group and a place in the Semifinals of the Playoff Stage. Unfortunately, the team lost its series to Vici Gaming 0-2, but did manage to defeat its sister squad Invictus Gaming 2-1 in the 3rd place match to secure a place at the MDL Changsha Major. That recent performance against its regional rivals is cause for some optimism as the team prepares for the TI8 Open Qualifiers, but a strong showing at this Major would be an even bigger boost to the team’s confidence over the final weeks of the season.

Invictus Gaming Vitality enters the MDL Changsha Major hoping for a strong run to build up momentum for itself heading into the Open Qualifiers and to prove the strength of its new lineup. Unfortunately though, the team’s performance both at home and on the international level does not instill an incredibly high level of confidence in the its ability. Coming into the event, iG.V is projected to finish at the bottom of the standings in the 11th-12th place position. With the team sorted into Group A for the Group Stage of the event, the Chinese squad essentially has no chance of finishing in the top half of the standings. Considering the fact that the team is also the only member of Group A to have not prior Pro Circuit experience, things don’t necessarily look good for iG.V. The fact that the series will be played in a Bo2 format gives the team some hope, as all the squad would have to do its steal one or two matches from some of the weaker teams in the field to give it a chance at avoiding elimination. However, there are no match ups in Group A for iG.V in which it will not enter as an underdog, and even claiming ties in some of its Group Stage series may be difficult for the team in Changsha. If the team did manage to survive the Group Stage, it would most likely be as a 4th or 5th seed, meaning that iG.V would be placed in the Lower Bracket of the Playoff Stage. Considering the fact that it seems unlikely for the squad to win Bo2 series in the Group Stage, the confidence level of it managing to win Bo3 series in the Playoff Stage is incredibly low. It’s a pretty bleak outlook for Invictus Gaming Vitality, but there is still some hope that the Chinese squad manages to put together an impressive run on home soil to surprise the Dota 2 world. However, right now that hope doesn’t necessarily carry over into realistic expectations, and without that Cinderella run the team shouldn’t be able to go very far at the Major.

 

Invictus Gaming 600px-Ig_logo

Region: China

Qualification: DPL Top Season 5 4th Place

Pro Circuit Rank: Not Ranked (0 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1. Sun “Agressif” Zheng
2. Lin “Xxs” Jing
3. Sun “Srf” Runfa
4. Ye “BoBoKa” Zhibiao
5. Fu “Q” Bin (Captain)

Projected Finish: 9th-10th

Invictus Gaming enters the MDL Changsha Major as a team that has fallen quite a ways in terms of its standing within the Chinese region and the international level as a whole. The team has made just one appearance on the Pro Circuit stage so far this season, and is currently not ranked in the Pro Circuit standings with 0 Qualifying Points to its name. Invictus Gaming has not been able to establish much of a presence in the Pro Circuit scene, but there is good news for the Chinese squad heading into the home stretch of the season. The team still holds its eligibility for invites to TI8 and the TI8 Regional Qualifiers, which means that Invictus Gaming has a chance to avoid the dangers of the Open Qualifiers. However, the team’s performance this season has not been ideal, and the Chinese squad may find itself in need of a solid showing in Changsha in order to help it solidify a place in the Regional Qualifier.

The most recent appearance on the Pro Circuit stage for Invictus Gaming was also the team’s sole event of the season, as the Chinese squad was a participant and defending Champion at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018. The team put together a 3-4 run in the Group Stage of the event and managed to earn a place in the Breakout Round before losing 0-2 to OpTic Gaming to finish in the 9th-12th place position at the Major. The team hasn’t attended any other Pro Circuit events since the DAC 2018 Major, but Invictus Gaming has been able to play on the international level  via a third party event. The team attended the World Cyber Arena 2017 in Zhuhai, China, where the team swept Execration, Planet Dog, and For The Dream to claim a 1st place finish at the event. The level of competition at that tournament may not have been overly impressive compared to that of Pro Circuit events, but it’s all that the squad has to work with heading into the MDL Changsha Major. The team is a long shot to crack the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings and earn a direct invite to TI8, which leaves Invictus Gaming in a position where it will have to go through qualifiers in order to have a chance at earning a spot in Vancouver. The good news for Invictus Gaming is that its performance within its home region has been stronger than its international results. The team has participated in seven Pro Circuit qualifiers or qualifying events in 2018, and has managed to earn five Top 4 finishes in those qualifier runs. Unfortunately, those qualifier performances resulted in just one Pro Circuit appearance for Invictus Gaming, but the team at least has a solid regional record to fall back on. That series of solid results in its home region could be enough to secure Invictus Gaming a spot in the TI8 China Qualifier, but a strong performance at the MDL Changsha Major would put the team over the top and most likely secure its place in that regional qualifier.

Invictus Gaming comes into the MDL Changsha Major looking to put together a solid showing on the Pro Circuit stage in order to help it lock in a spot at the TI8 Regional Qualifiers. While the team does still technically have a chance at a Top 8 position, it would need an absolutely miraculous run at this event in order to pull that off. Coming into the event, the expectations for the Chinese squad are not nearly so optimistic, with Invictus Gaming projected to finish in the 9th-10th place position. The team has been sorted into Group A for the Group Stage of the event, which could actually be quite a benefit for the Chinese squad. With Team Secret, Mineski, and OG in the group, IG’s odds at finishing in the top half of its group standings is pretty low. However, the presence of iG Vitality and Infamous in the group provides the team with match ups in which it will more than likely be favored. Should Invictus Gaming manage to win its Bo2 series against those teams and potentially take one or two games from some of the stronger teams in the group, then it should have a relatively straightforward path to advancing out of the Group Stage. If IG manages to get itself into the Playoff Stage, then things become a bit more complicated for the Chinese squad. The team will most likely end up as a 4th or 5th seed, meaning it would be placed in the Lower Bracket and have to play a Bo1 series in Round 1. The Bo1 format of that round leaves little room for error for IG, but if the team wins that match than it shifts into Bo3 series the rest of the way through. The problem for the Chinese squad is that it will begin to face some of the formidable squads in the field in those series. In order to IG to earn itself a Top 4 finish at the Major, it would need to win back to back Bo3 series in the Lower Bracket, a feat that doesn’t seem particularly likely to occur. Invictus Gaming has a talented and experienced lineup, but its lack of success on the international level this season has expectations set low as the team makes its final appearance on the Pro Circuit stage.

 

PSG.LGD PSG LGD

Region: China

Qualification: DPL Top Season 5 5th Place

Pro Circuit Rank: 4th (4071 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

PSG.LGD enters the MDL Changsha Major as a team that has undergone an incredible transformation on the Pro Circuit over the course of the season. The Chinese squad went from a struggling team in December and January to one of the most formidable and accomplished teams on the Pro Circuit. The team’s success on the Pro Circuit stage made it the highest ranked Chinese squad in the standings, and has put PSG.LGD into a position to claim enough Qualifying Points to secure a direct invite to TI8 if it can earn a Top 4 finish at the MDL Changsha Major. With that significant goal so close at hand, PSG.LGD entered the event looking for one last strong showing on home soil to lock in its place in Vancouver this summer.

PSG.LGD’s most recent appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came just over a week ago at the EPICENTER XL Major in Moscow. The team put together an impressive performance in the Russian capital, posting a 4-1 series record (9-4 overall) in the Group Stage of the event before claiming wins over Virtus.pro and two series victories over Team Liquid in the Playoff Stage to earn the 1st ever Major Championship for China. That successful run in Moscow was certainly the highest profile performance for the Chinese squad, but it was not thae first that PSG.LGD had been able to produce in 2018. Since the beginning of the year, the team has been able to earn Top 4 finishes in three of its four appearances on the Pro Circuit stage. Those strong performances on the international level have played a large part in the team’s recent climb up the Pro Circuit standings and now have the squad in a position to lock in a spot at TI8. While the likelihood of PSG.LGD falling out of the Top 8 is nearly impossible at this stage, the team could technically find itself missing out on a direct invite and would then have to play in the TI8 Regional Qualifiers. Even in that worst case scenario, PSG.LGD would likely be favored to win the Regional Qualifier based upon its performance within the Chincese region over the past few months. The team has participated in 10 Pro Circuit Qualifiers or qualifying events, and has managed to earn Top 4 finishes in all but one of them. The team’s nine Top 4 performances include six 1st place finishes, and even its lone finish outside of the Top 4 still resulted in qualification for the team due to two of the team’s above it in the standings having already been invited to the event. PSG.LGD’s performance within China in 2018 has perhaps been even more impressive than its run on the Pro Circuit. However, it seems unlikely at this stage in the season that the Chinese squad will need to play through the TI8 Qualifiers as it sits so close to locking in its direct invite status.

PSG.LGD enters the MDL Changsha Major as one of the hottest teams on the Pro Circuit in the wake of its victory at the EPICENTER XL Major. After claiming the first Major Championship for the Chinese region this season, the team is looking to claim another season first for its home region by becoming the first Chinese team to secure a direct invite to TI8. Coming into the event, PSG.LGD is heavily favored to hit that coveted goal, with the team projected to claim a Top 4 spot at the Major. The team was placed in Group B for the Group Stage of the event, and despite facing two other Top 8 ranked squads in that group, PSG.LGD is still the favorite to claim the top spot in the standings. The team should have very few problems finishing in the top half of the standings in the Group Stage unless it suffers a significant meltdown. Barring that, the team should end up finishing somewhere between 1st and 3rd and end up in the Upper Bracket of the Playoff Stage. If the team finishes 1st in the Group B standings, then it would advance to Round 2 of the Upper Bracket and be just one series away from securing itself a Top 4 finish at the event. A place as a 2nd or 3rd seed would require the team to win one additional Bo3 series as the Chinese squad would begin its run in the Playoff Stage in Round 1 of the Playoff Stage. A loss in any of its Upper Bracket series would drop the team down in the Lower Bracket where it would remain the same number of series wins away from a Top 4 finish, but without any room for further losses. The good news for PSG.LGD is that the only teams that it will most likely not be favored to win against are Team Secret and Mineski, and even those match ups will probably have the teams considered evenly matched overall. The Chinese squad looks as strong now as it ever has this season, and it would take either a catastrophic series of mistakes and setbacks or an incredible upset from an underdog team to keep PSG.LGD out of the Top 4 at this event. With the team knocking out first time achievements for the Chinese region of late, look for PSG.LGD to keep its momentum going and secure’s China’s first TI8 direct invite with a strong showing at the MDL Changsha Major.

 

TNC Pro Team Tncproteam

Region: Southeast Asia

Qualification: Southeast Asia Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: 14th (495 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1. Marc Polo Luis “Raven” Fausto
2. Armel Paul “Armel” Tabios
3. Samson Solomon Enojosa “Sam_H” Hidalgo
4. Timothy John “Tims” Randrup
5. Carlo “Kuku” Palad (Captain)

Projected Finish: 7th-8th

TNC Pro Team has not been a squad that has been talked about much this season, but the Southeast Asian team is looking to change that with the season beginning to come to a close. With regional rivals like Mineski and Fnatic making moves to better position themselves over the final stretch of the season, TNC Pro Team has been largely overlooked. The team sits quite a ways away from the Top 8 ranked squads in the Pro Circuit standings, but the limited success that it has been able to find on the Pro Circuit stage has put the team in a position to still potentially compete for a Top 8 spot and a direct invite to TI8. With just 495 Qualifying Points as a team, the Southeast Asian squad will need to put together quite an impressive run to have a chance at snagging a Top 8 ranking. With the team already holding Qualifying Points and its invite eligibility still intact, TNC Pro Team should have a clear path to the TI8 Regional Qualifiers this summer. However, the Southeast Asian squad still holds out hope for a more valuable prize, and the MDL Changsha Major presents the team with an opportunity to keep its hopes of a direct invite alive.

TNC Pro Team was last seen on the Pro Circuit Stage over a month ago at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major in Shanghai. The team performance incredibly well within the Group Stage of the event, posting an initial 4-3 record that was followed up by a perfect 4-0 run in the tiebreaker matches for its group. That performance earned the team a spot in the Playoff Stage of the event, where it won won Bo1 matches against both OpTic Gaming and Team Liquid, but fell 1-2 to Vici Gaming and Virtus.pro to finish in 4th at the Major. That Top 4 finish in Shanghai was the team’s first successful run on the international level in 2018, as the squad’s previous attempts were not quite so fruitful. The team earned a 5th-8th place finish at The Bucharest Major in March along with a 9th-12th place position at the ESL One Genting Minor in January.  The team unfortunately missed the mark outside of the Pro Circuit as well, with TNC Pro Team finishing in the 5th-6th place position at the non-Pro Circuit Galaxy Battles II event back in January. If the team can replicate its success in its most recent Pro Circuit appearances, then hope may remain for the team to earn a direct invite to TI8. Otherwise, the team will be going through the TI8 Regional Qualifiers if it wants to earn a place in Vancouver. If that is the case, then TNC Pro Team will have an impressive record to fall back on with regards to its play within the Southeast Asian region. The team has participated in 11 Pro Circuit qualifiers since the beginning of 2018, and TNC Pro Team has not finished any worse than 3rd in any of them. In all but one of those qualifiers, it has taken either Fnatic or Mineski to end TNC Pro Team’s run. With one or both of those squads likely to receive a direct invite to TI8, TNC Pro Team will be left as one of the favorites to win the TI8 Southeast Asia Qualifier if that is where the team ends up at the end of the season.

TNC Pro Team enters the MDL Changsha Major still entertaining hopes of making a run at a Top 8 spot in the Pro Circuit standings. The team has been building up a fair amount of momentum for itself both at home and on the international level, but it needs a strong performance at this event to keep that momentum going and to close the gap between itself and the Top 8 squads. Coming into the event, the team is expected to perform well, but ultimately miss out on a Top 4 finish with a finish in the 7th-8th place range. The Southeast Asian team has been placed in Group B for the Group Stage of the event, which means that the team will have to compete against 3 Top 8 ranked squads in the form of PSG.LGD, Newbee, and Vici Gaming. With those teams in the group, TNC Pro Team’s odds of finishing in the top half of the standings are relatively low. However, the squad can still advance to the Playoff Stage so long as it can find ties or victories over Vega Squadron and VGJ.Storm, the other two teams in its group. Those teams are probably considered to be relatively close to TNC Pro Team in terms of their current level of play, but the Southeast Asian squad’s more extensive experience on the Pro Circuit stage could give it the edge it needs to come out on top. If the team manages to win or tie in those match ups and maybe even steal a game or two from some of the Top 8 ranked squads, then TNC Pro Team should have few difficulties advancing out of the Group Stage. The Playoff Stage is where things will get more stressful for the team though, as it will more than likely be a 4th or 5th seed and be placed in the Lower Bracket. The Southeast Asian squad will need to win a Bo1 match in Round 1 of the Lower Bracket in order to keep itself alive, which the team should be able to do so long as it avoids any significant mistakes. From that point though, things will get more difficult for the Southeast Asian squad, as it will have to win back to back Bo3 series in order to reach a Top 4 position. Those series will come against squads that have fallen from the Upper Bracket, meaning TNC Pro Team will more than likely be considered an underdog in those series. However, we’ve seen TNC Pro Team hold its own against more formidable opponents in the past, and the team has the experience and talent it needs to overcome those potential challengers if it can play at its best. TNC Pro Team has the capability to succeed at the MDL Changsha Major, but the fact that it will be considered the less favored team in most of its potential match ups somewhat limits the expectations for the Southeast Asian squad. However, the team has shown itself capable of playing at a high enough level to take on some of the best squads on the Pro Circuit, so don’t be surprised if TNC Pro Team manages to outperform its predicted result and compete for a Top 4 finish in Changsha.

 

VGJ.Storm VGJ Storm

Region: North America

Qualification: North America Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: 16th (336 Qualifying Points) (Ineligible for TI8 Invites)

Roster:
1. Yawar “YawaR” Hassan
2. Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok
3. Jingjun “Sneyking” Wu
4. Arif “MSS” Anwar
5. Avery “SVG” Silverman (Captain)

Projected Finish: 7th-8th

North American squad VGJ.Storm made big news a month ago when it announced that it would be replacing Enzo “Timado” Gianoli with Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok. The move made the team one of the most formidable squads within the North American region, but not without a cost. The roster change broke the Pro Circuit roster lock, resulting in VGJ.Storm forfeiting its eligibility for invites to TI8 and the TI8 Regional Qualifiers. With that in mind and a trip to the TI8 Open Qualifiers in the team’s future, VGJ.Storm will have a different approach to the MDL Changsha Major compared to many of the other participating teams. VGJ.Storm has not use for the Qualifying Points that are up for grabs at the event, but the team will be looking for a chance to further prove itself on the international level in the final events of the season. Solid showings and displays of strength on the Pro Circuit stage could go a long way towards building up confidence and momentum for VGj.Storm as it prepares for the harsh grind of the Open Qualifiers this summer.

VGJ.Storm is just days removed from its last appearance on the Pro Circuit stage at the GESC: Thailand Minor in Bangkok. The North American squad performed well in the final Minor of the season, putting together a 4-3 Group Stage record before defeating The Final Tribe, Fnatic, and Keen Gaming in the Playoff Stage to earn its first Minor Championship of the season. With such little time between the end of that event and the beginning of the MDL Changsha Major, the North American squad has had no time to play any other official matches on the international stage. Even going back as far as the team’s most recent roster change doesn’t bring up any other official matches for the team outside of its home region. That limited international experience is always a concern for a team heading into a Pro Circuit event, but the considerable professional experience that its roster contains will hopefully help the squad overcome that issue. With the team’s invite eligibility gone, the focus for VGJ.Storm will most likely focus more around its performance within the North American region as opposed to outside of it. On that front, the squad has reason to feel optimistic, as it has been playing incredibly well in its home region since finalizing roster. In the time since the team added Resolut1on to its roster, VGJ.Storm had participated in two Pro Circuit qualifiers and had managed to earn Top 4 finishes in both of them. Though the sample size of regional matches with the team’s new lineup may not be ideal, it is encouraging to see a team put together back to back strong performances against regional rivals that should be playing at or near their best in preparation for the TI8 Regional Qualifiers. VGJ.Storm has looked strong and consistent both at home and on the international level in the wake of its roster change, and a display of strength at the MDL Changsha Major would be a significant boost to the team’s momentum and confidence over the final stretch of the season.

VGJ.Storm enters the MDL Changsha Major ineligible for invites to TI8 and the TI8 Regional Qualifiers, but the team is still looking to put together a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage as it hopes to finish the season strong and go into the Open Qualifiers with momentum behind it. The team is coming off of its first Minor Championship of the season, but the North American squad’s odds of replicating that success at the Major are relatively low. That being said, the team is still expected to be competitive in Changsha, with a projected finish in the 7th-8th place range overall. The team’s placement in Group B of the Group Stage will present a significant challenge for the squad though. The group contains three Top 8 ranked squads that will more than likely control the top half of the group standings, and the other teams are not exactly pushovers either. If VGJ.Storm wants to advance out of the Group Stage, then it is going to need wins or ties in its Bo2 series against both TNC Pro Team and Vega Squadron, two teams that are looking to make late-season pushes up the Pro Circuit standings. If the team can combine wins or ties in those series with an extra game or two from some of the Top 8 ranked squads in its group, then VGJ.Storm will be in solid position in the Group B standings. If the team advances to the Playoff Stage, it is unlikely that it will do so as anything higher than a 4th or 5th seed, which would put the North American squad in the Lower Bracket of the event. The team would have to win a Bo1 match in Round 1 of the Lower Bracket to avoid being immediately eliminated, and would then need to win back to back Bo3 series in order to claim a Top 4 finish. Those Bo3 series would come against teams that have dropped down from the Upper Bracket, which means that VGJ.Storm would more than likely be considered the underdog in those match ups. However, the team’s recent victory at the GESC: Thailand Minor has shown the Dota 2 world what it is capable of, and an opponent that underestimates the North American squad could easily find itself knocked out by VGJ.Storm. That being said, it would still be an impressive feat for the team to advance that far into the Playoff Stage, and the fact that VGJ.Storm would be considered the less favored team in those series does put a put of a limit on the team’s expectations at the Major. However, the high of claiming its first Minor Championship and finding success on the Pro Circuit stage should have the North American squad playing with a sense of focus and confidence in Changsha, so don’t be surprised if VGJ.Storm is able to channel that confidence and momentum and push past its predicted finish at the MDL Changsha Major.

 

Infamous LOGO-INFAMOUS-COMERCIAL

Region: South America

Qualification: South America Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: 24th (21 Qualifying Points) (Ineligible for TI8 Invites)

Roster:
1. Alonso “Kotarō Hayama” León
2. Mariano “Papita” Caneda (Captain)
3. Steven “StingeR” Vargas
4. Farith “Matthew” Puente
5. Christian “Accel” Cruz

Projected Finish: 9th-10th

Infamous has served as one of the leading squads within the South American region all season long, and heading into the final stretch of the season that position has not changed much. The team was the first South American squad to claim a Top 4 finish at a Pro Circuit event, but the team had found itself largely unable to distance itself from its regional rivals. Like just about every team of any significance within the South American region, Infamous has lost its direct invite eligibility due to roster changes. That situation puts Infamous in the incredibly uncomfortable position of having to go through the TI8 Open Qualifiers knowing that the field contains all of its main regional rivals. With that scenario on the horizon for Infamous, the team enters the MDL Changsha Major with a slightly altered focus, as it has not need for any Qualifying Points that are up for grabs at the event. Instead, Infamous will be hoping to put together a strong performance on the international level for the sake of building up its own momentum and intimidating the regional rivals that it will be facing in the Open Qualifier.

Its been nearly two months since the last time Infamous appeared on the Pro Circuit stage, with its most recent event being the GESC: Indonesia Minor back in March. The team managed to put together a 2-1 series record in the Group Stage and defeated The Final Tribe in the Playoff Stage before losing to VGJ.Thunder to claim a 3rd-4th place finish in Jakarta. That Top 4 finish at the Minor was the first degree of success on the Pro Circuit stage that the South American squad had been able to earn, as its previous two Pro Circuit events in 2018 had resulted in finishes at the bottom of the standings. The team’s performance on the international level has not been particularly impressive, but with the team destined for an Open Qualifier run, more attention will likely be paid to the team’s performance within its home region. On that front, Infamous has had a bit more success, as the team has participated in 11 Pro Circuit qualifiers in 2018. Of those 11 qualifiers, the team had earned 8 Top 4 finishes. However, it is somewhat important to note that only the two most recent of those qualifier runs have come with the team’s new lineup. That limited experience raises a few questions for Infamous heading into this event, but the MDL Changsha Major could be a prime opportunity for the South American squad to display the strength of its updated roster.

Infamous enters the MDL Changsha Major looking to put together a solid run on the international level to build up its confidence and momentum in preparation for its Open Qualifier run this summer. The team has managed to find success on the Pro circuit stage before, although admittedly that came at a Minor rather than a Major and with a slightly different roster than the one it currently has. The team doesn’t seem all that likely to find much success at the Major, with the South American squad projected to finish in the 9th-10th place position in Changsha. The team has been sorted into Group A for the Group Stage of the event, which may have actually been something of a blessing for the South American squad. With teams like Team Secret, Mineski, and OG in the group, Infamous’s chances of finishing in the top half of the group standings are nearly nonexistent. The other two team in the group, iG Vitality and Invictus Gaming, are teams that have seen significant struggles on the international level. Should Infamous manage to win or tie its series against those two squads and maybe even steal a game from one of the stronger squads in the group, then it stands a solid chance at advancing out of the Group Stage. From that point forward though, things would get tough for Infamous in the Playoff Stage. Barring some sort of miracle, Infamous would enter the Playoff Stage in the Lower Bracket as a 4th or 5th seed, meaning it would need to win a Bo1 match in Round 1 to avoid elimination right off the bat. Winning a Bo1 is certainly manageable for Infamous, but beyond that point things begin to look a bit less friendly for the South American squad. In order to reach a Top 4 position, Infamous would have to win back to back Bo3 series against teams that will have dropped down from the Upper Bracket. That feat seems a bit outside of the realm of realistic expectations for Infamous, thus limiting how far the team is predicted to advance. The path to success is straightforward for Infamous at the Major, but it is far from easy. Fans may hold out hope for a strong run and a surprise performance from the South American squad at the Major, but this is a classic example of keeping the expectations well below the potential as Infamous tries to make its mark on the Pro Circuit stage.

 

OG 425px-OG_RB_Logo

Region: Europe

Qualification: Europe Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: 12th (705 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: 5th-6th

OG enters the MDL Changsha Major in an interesting situation, as the team appears like it won’t be adding a new player to its roster before the end of the season. The team has been playing with coach Sébastien “7ckngMad” Debs as a long term stand-in, and it seems as though the team will continue to play with him in the lineup through the final events of the season as well as the TI8 Qualifiers. OG’s path to Vancouver will be taking an extra step though, as the team lost its invite eligibility and will have to play through the Open Qualifier in order to reach the TI8 Regional Qualifiers. With that in mind, the team comes into the Major with little regard for the Qualifying Points that are up for grabs in Changsha. Instead, OG will be looking to put together a display on strength on the Pro Circuit stage and mitigate and weaknesses or inconsistencies in preparation for its Open Qualifier run.

OG’s last appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came just about a week ago at the EPICENTER XL Major in Moscow. The European squad made an impressive run through the Group Stage of the event with a 3-2 series record (7-5 overall), but lost to both Team Liquid and FlyToMoon in the Playoff Stage to finish in the 5th-6th place position at the event. That performance in Moscow has epitomized a period of difficulties for OG on the international stage, as the team had not been able to find success over the past few months. Since making its roster change back in March, OG has participated in three Pro Circuit events, but has not been able to secure a Top 4 finish in any of them. Of course, OG wouldn’t have much use for the Qualifying Points that it would have earned anyway, but the issue here is more about the team’s lack of success against international opposition as opposed to its Qualifying Point total. While the team’s Pro Circuit performance had not been ideal, OG continues to maintain a strong and consistent presence within its home region. In 2018, the team has participated in 7 Pro Circuit qualifiers and has managed to win every single one of them. Two of those qualifiers came with the team utilizing its current roster, which instills a decent level of hope and confidence that the team will be able to survive its run through the Open Qualifiers this summer. While a strong performance at the MDL Changsha Major won’t directly help the team in terms of its Pro Circuit standing, being able to finally break through on the international level could be the extra boost to the team’s confidence that will help it in its quest to reach the TI8 Regional Qualifier and potentially earn a place in Vancouver.

OG comes into the MDL Changsha Major with no regard for the Qualifying Points associated with a Top 4 finish, as the team lost its invite eligibility months ago. However, the European squad is interested in a Top 4 finish as a means of turning around what has been a string of disappointments and close misses on the Pro Circuit stage over the past few months. The team has come close to success a couple of times in previous Pro Circuit appearances, but has yet to get past that final obstacle and earn a Top 4 finish since its roster change in March. Coming into the Major, the team is expected to compete for a Top 4 spot but fall a bit short of that mark with a projected finish in the 5th-6th place range. The team has a chance to get off to a strong start at the event, as the team has been placed into Group A for the Group Stage. With Team Secret and Mineski in the group, OG more than likely won’t be able to claim the top spot in the group standings, but it will stand as one of the strongest teams among the six group members. With struggling squads Infamous, Invictus Gaming, and iG Vitality in the group, OG should have few problems claiming a place in the top half of the standings so long as it avoids any significant drops in its level of play. If the team manages to perform to expectations in the Group Stage, then it should find itself in Round 1 of the Upper Bracket in the Playoff Stage. From that point, the team would need to win two Bo3 series in order to claim a guaranteed Top 4 finish. However, those two series will come against some of the strongest teams in the field, and OG would need to put together an impressive performance to claim those wins. If the team falls in either of those Upper Bracket series, then it would fall to the Lower Bracket, where it would still need to earn at least one more Bo3 series victory to reach a Top 4 spot. While the Lower Bracket would run the risk of the team being eliminated with a loss, it would also have the potential to give OG a more favorable match up to work with. The fact that OG has been unable to crack the Top 4 in its last few Pro Circuit appearances makes it hard to feel confident that the team is going to be able to take that final step in Changsha. The potential for Pro Circuit success is obviously there for the European squad, but the expectations for the team have it coming up just a bit short at the Major.

 

Vega Squadron 579px-Vega_Squadron_2016

Region: CIS

Qualification: CIS Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: T-19th (90 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1.
Nikita “Palantimos” Grinkevich
2.
Dmitry “UnderShock” Bolshakov
3.
Evgeniy “Blizzy” Ree
4.
Bakyt “Zayac” Emilzhanov
5.
SemionCemaTheSlayer Krivulya (Captain)

Projected Finish: 11th-12th

Vega Squadron enters the MDL Changsha Major as a relatively quiet team in both the Pro Circuit scene and within the hierarchy of the CIS region. With teams like Virtus.pro and Na’Vi having represented the region for most of the season, and FlyToMoon making its recent surge on the Pro Circuit stage, not much attention has been paid to this team. However, Vega Squadron is hoping that a strong showing at the Major will change that situation and potentially allow the team to climb up the Pro Circuit standings. At this stage, the team is a long shot to reach a Top 8 spot, needing to essentially win one of the final Majors of the season to push itself that far up the standings. The good news for Vega Squadron is that it still holds its invite eligibility, which becomes even more important considering how few eligible teams there are in the CIS region. Vega Squadron is essentially guaranteed a place in the TI8 Regional Qualifier, but the team still technically has hope for a direct invite as it makes its way to Changsha. Whether the team manages to make a miracle run for a Top 8 spot or not, a solid showing at the MDL Changsha Major would still go a long way towards building up momentum for the team and drawing some attention to Vega Squadron as the season comes to a close.

Vega Squadron’s last Pro Circuit appearance came about a month ago, as the team participated in the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minor in Kiev. The team found its first Pro Circuit success at that event, finishing at the top of its group in the Group Stage before falling 0-2 to VGJ.Thunder for a 3rd-4th place finish at the Minor. That Top 4 finish represented the team’s success on the Pro Circuit stage, with the current roster’s only other appearance being a abysmal 15th-16th place performance at The Bucharest Major back in March. As previously mentioned though, Vega Squadron is a long shot to even come close to a Top 8 ranking and a direct invite to TI8. It is much more likely that the team ends up with an invite to the TI8 Regional Qualifiers instead, which makes the team’s record within its home region an important point to look at. In 2018, Vega Squadron has participated in 11 Pro Circuit qualifiers and has earned Top 4 finishes in 8 of them. Those 8 Top 4 performances include 3 1st place finishes, although the team was unable to attend one of the events that it qualified for (GESC: Thailand) due to visa issues. The team has put together an impressive and relatively consistent string of qualifier runs, and stands as a strong competitor within its home region. The question is whether or not Vega Squadron will be able to overcome all of its regional rivals in the TI8 Qualifiers. While the results of the MDL Changsha Major won’t be able to directly answer that question, a strong showing from Vega Squadron could have it more highly regarded and feeling more confident in that qualifier.

Vega Squadron enters the MDL Changsha Major looking for a successful performance to spark a run over the final events of the season. Though the team doesn’t exactly have an extensive list of appearances on the Pro Circuit stage, the CIS squad is still hoping that it has the talent to put together a run in Changsha. Coming into the event, the likelihood of that kind of run seems relatively low, with Vega Squadron projected to finish in the 11th-12 place position at the Major. The team had been put into a tough position in Group B, where it will face three teams ranked within the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings. The team is not likely to win those match ups, and will probably have to hope for 1-1 splits in those Bo2 series. The team’s best bet to survive the Group Stage is to get at least one split series against some of the stronger teams while winning one or both of its series against the “weaker” teams of VGJ.Storm and TNC Pro Team. However, that task will not be easy, as both of those squads are coming off of Top 4 finishes at Pro Circuit events and will be formidable opponents in their own right. That isn’t to say that things are hopeless for Vega Squadron though, as the team could still find a way to avoid elimination and advance to the Playoff Stage. However, if it does manage to do that it will more than likely be as a 4th or 5th seed, which would place the team in the Lower Bracket of the Playoff Stage. In order to reach a Top 4 position from that starting point, Vega Squadron would need to win a Bo1 match as well as two additional Bo3 series. Given the level of competition at the Major, it seems unlikely that the CIS squad makes that run. Overall, the path to success exists for Vega Squadron at the MDL Changsha Major, but it seems a bit unreasonable to expect the kind of performance from the team that it would need to reach that mark. The potential is there for Vega Squadron, but without any proof that the team can bring down leading Pro Circuit squads on the Major stage, it’s best to keep hopes high and expectations low for the CIS squad at this event.

 

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