Dota 2 Major Preview: ESL One Birmingham

Rule, Britannia!: Pro Circuit makes first stop in UK as 12 teams compete for penultimate Major Championship of season at ESL One Birmingham.

With TI8 looming ever closer on the horizon, time is beginning to run out on the Pro Circuit season. With just two events left on the schedule before the onset of the TI8 Qualifiers, the eyes of the Dota 2 world turn for the first time to the UK, as the Pro Circuit makes its first ever trip to the United Kingdom for the ESL One Birmingham Major. Organized by ESL as part of its ESL One series of events, the Major represents the fourth and final Pro Circuit event of the season from the organizer. The Major is set to bring 12 Pro Circuit teams to the Arena Birmingham in Birmingham, United Kingdom for a shot at a late-season run up the Pro Circuit standings and the chance to claim the penultimate Major Championship of the season. Beginning on May 23 and running through to the 27th, the Major will feature prize pools of $1,000,000 and 1500 Qualifying Points, with half of those prize pools going to the team that claims the title of Major Champion in Birmingham. The lion’s share of the prize pools may be going to the victor, but there will still be quite a bit up for grabs for the rest of the field at the Major as well, as the distribution of the prize pools can be seen outlined below.

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

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

3rd: $100,000 (Total) & 225 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

4th: $60,000 (Total) & 75 Qualifying Points (Per Player)

5th-6th: $34,000 (Per Team)

7th-9th: $16,000 (Per Team)

10th-12th: $8,000 (Per Team)

With the information regarding the venue and prize pools covered, our attention can now be shifted towards looking at the format of the Major. The ESL One Birmingham Major will begin with a Group Stage that will split the 12 teams into 3 GSL style groups of 4 teams each. Each group will begin with the 4 teams being paired off for 2 Bo1 games in the Opening Matches. Those initial games will determine the match ups for the next rounds of the Group Stage, which will feature full Bo3 series. The 2 winners will advance to the Winners’ Match while the losers drop down to the Elimination Match. The loser of the Winners’ Match and the winner of the Elimination Match will then play one last Bo3 series in the Decider Match to determine the 2nd and 3rd place squads in each Group. From those final group standings, the bottom 2 teams in each group will be eliminated, while the 2nd place teams will advance directly to the Quarterfinals of the Playoff Stage. In order to determine the fourth team to play in the Quarterfinals, there will be a First Place Decider Round which will  feature the 3 group winners. Those group winners will play a series of Bo1 matches against each other, with the last place team among them joining the 2nd place teams from each group in the Quarterfinals. The remaining 2 teams that finish at the top of the standings in the First Place Decider Round will advance directly to the Semifinals of the Playoff Stage. That Playoff Stage will feature a single elimination bracket featuring the 6 surviving teams from the group stage, seeded along the guidelines outlined previously. The Playoff Stage will feature Bo3 matches in the Quarterfinals and Semifinals before shifting into a Bo5 format in the Grand Finals of the Major. In order to discern the 3rd and 4th place teams, a 3rd Place Match will be played before the Grand Finals in a Bo3 format to split the two squads that lose in the Semifinals.

With the Pro Circuit down to its last 2 events, many of the squads on the Pro Circuit now have a solid understanding of where it is they will end up when the TI8 Qualifiers come around. Some of those teams are present in Birmingham for the Major, but there are still some teams in the field at the event whose destinies are not yet set in stone and could be altered depending upon how things shake out at the Major. Of the 12 participants at the Major, 2 of them (Virtus.pro, Team Liquid) have already secured themselves direct invites to TI8. A further 3 teams (Newbee, Vici Gaming, Mineski) are currently ranked inside of the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings and could potentially lock in a direct invite depending on their performance at the Major. Another 3 of the participants (Evil Geniuses, Fnatic, OpTic Gaming) are currently ranked outside of the Top 8 but still hold their invite eligibility and could jump into the Top 8 with successful runs in Birmingham. And finally, there are 4 teams in the field (OG, LGD.Forever Young, paiN Gaming, Team Spirit) who are not eligible for invites to TI8 or the TI8 Regional Qualifiers put will still be looking to build up confidence and momentum for themselves heading into the Open Qualifiers this summer. The field of teams for the first Pro Circuit Major in the UK features teams from all ends of the spectrum of Pro Circuit success, but every one of the participants will be hoping for a chance to display their strength on the international stage and put together a strong showing with the season almost over. With that being said, we can take a look at how each of the 12 squads had performed over the past few months and how they stack up heading into the penultimate Major of the Pro Circuit season.

  • 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 (8097 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 ESL One Birmingham Major as a team with little regard for the events unfolding on the Pro Circuit standings over the final events of the season. The CIS squad was the first team on the Pro Circuit to secure itself a direct invite to TI8, and doesn’t care much about the pressure and chaos that is pressing down on many of the other teams on the Pro Circuit as the season approaches its end. With the team secure in its position in the Pro Circuit standings, VP comes into this Major looking for an opportunity to test itself and show that it remains at the top of its game by competing against some of the Pro Circuit’s best squads. VP doesn’t need a Top 4 finish in Birmingham, as the CIS squad has far surpassed the Qualifying Point threshold for TI8 invites by this point in the season. However, the team will almost certainly want to put together a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage to remind the Dota 2 world of just why it is the top ranked team on the Pro Circuit. Even with the squad’s considerable strength and list of achievements this season, the field of teams in Birmingham is full of teams that would love nothing more than to bolster their own positions and build up momentum at the expense of the Pro Circuit leader.

Virtus.pro’s last appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came earlier this month, as the CIS squad got the chance to play on home soil at the EPICENTER XL Major in Moscow. The team put together a 4-1 series record (9-4 overall) in the Group Stage of the event that earned it a place in the Upper Bracket of the Playoff Stage. The squad began its Playoff Stage run with a loss to PSG.LGD, but recovered with a win against Mineski before falling to fellow CIS squad FlyToMoon to earn a 4th place finish at the event. That Top 4 finish in Moscow was the latest in a string of success for the CIS squad on the Pro Circuit stage, as the team earned its fourth Top 4 finish in a row. In fact, the only event that the team has attended in 2018 in which it didn’t earn a Top 4 finish was the ESL One Genting 2018 Minor back in January in which it didn’t play with its current lineup.  Regardless of how the team’s roster has looked, the CIS squad has shown very few weaknesses on the international stage this season. The team has more Major Championships this season than any other squad on the Pro Circuit, and also has more 1st place finishes across Pro Circuit events in general. The team stands as just 1 of 2 teams to have earned multiple Major Championships this season, with the other being Chinese squad PSG.LGD. That long list of achievements is more than the majority of the teams on the Pro Circuit would hope to have for themselves, and VP has the opportunity to add to those accomplishments before the end of the season. With the team secured a place at TI8 and thus skipping over the regional qualifier, VP’s record within the CIS region becomes a far less significant bit of information. However, if one were to look at VP’s record within the CIS region in 2018, there wouldn’t be much to look at. The team has not participated in a single regional qualifier so far in 2018, and its only regional appearances since the beginning of the year came in a show match in February that it won 2-0 against MEGA-LADA E-sports. One would have to go all the way back to November to find the last qualifiers that VP participated in, with the team earning Top 4 finishes in all 5 of its qualifier runs in the early stages of the season. With consistent success and dominant performances both at home and on the Pro Circuit stage, VP has more than earned its place at the top of the standings and will enter this Major as a favorite to win its fourth Major Championship of the season.

Virtus.pro enters the ESL One Birmingham Major as a team that has already secured itself a ridiculous level of success on the Pro Circuit stage this season. The team will be searching for one more title to add to its long list of achievements as the team as it looks to win Major number 4 on the season in Birmingham. Coming into the event, the CIS squad is one of the favorites to claim that Major Championship title, as VP is projected to finish within the Top 4 range. The team will begin its Group Stage run with a Bo1 match against fellow CIS squad Team Spirit in a match that will feature VP as a heavily favored team. Barring any unexpected upsets, VP should win that match and advance to the Winners’ Match to face either EG or Fnatic in a Bo3 series for the top spot in Group A. That series will likely provide the CIS squad with a tougher challenge, but VP should still be favored by a wide margin to win. If the team ends up falling short in that series though, it would need to play a second Bo3 in the Decider Match in order to earn itself a spot in the top half of the group standings. While the potential for an upset loss against any of the 3 other teams in its group are possible, VP would have to lose to 2 of those squads in order to fail to advance out of the Group Stage. That scenario isn’t one that can be reasonably expected though, and barring any massive mistakes or significant runs from its opponents, VP should end up in in the Playoff Stage of the Major. The question at that stage would be where the team starts its run in terms of position. If the team ends up finishing 1st in Group A as expected, then it will participate in the First Place Decider Round with the other group leaders for a chance at advancing directly to the Semifinals and a guaranteed Top 4 finish at the Major. If the team finishes in 2nd place in tis group or ends up at the bottom of the standings in the Decider Round, then VP will advance to the Quarterfinals of the Playoff Stage and would need to win 1 more Bo3 series to earn a Top 4 finish in Birmingham. No matter which team VP finds itself playing against, it should do so as a favorite to win, a status that makes the CIS squad one of the most dangerous teams in the field and a front runner for to claim the Major Championship. With that in mind, the team’s lofty expectations at the ESL One Birmingham Major are right where they should be as the Pro Circuit leader looks to earn its fourth Major Championship of the season.

 

NewbeeNewbee_logo

Region: China

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 7th (2445 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 enters the ESL One Birmingham Major as a team that is starting to feel the pressure mounting on the Pro Circuit. The team had been the top ranked Chinese team in the Pro Circuit standings for a large portion of the season, but now it has lost that title and potentially stands to lose its Top 8 position entirely. The team has fallen all the way down to 7th in the standings, and with multiple teams still within striking distance of a Top 8 spot, Newbee is far from secure in its position. The Chinese squad finds itself in need of a Top 4 finish in Birmingham to secure its position and fend off any would-be usurpers of its Top 8 status. That task will be challenging though, as the field of teams in at the ESL One Birmingham Major is filled with squads hoping for one last run on the Pro Circuit stage that would gladly take down Newbee in order to secure that desired success.

Newbee’s last appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came just days ago, as the team competed on home soil at the MDL Changsha Major. The squad managed to survive the Group Stage of the event with a 1-3-1 series record (5-5 overall) and defeated Invictus Gaming,  OG, and Mineski before falling to fellow Chinese squad PSG.LGD to earn itself a 4th place finish at the event. That Top 4 finish was the latest in a somewhat fluctuating series of performances on the Pro Circuit stage in 2018, as the squad’s level of play has proven a bit inconsistent this year. The silver lining for the Chinese squad is that its highs through the inconsistency have resulted in success on the Pro Circuit stage, as Newbee has earned 5 Top 4 finishes across its 8 Pro Circuit events since the beginning of the year. The problem for Newbee is that those Top 4 finishes have either been at Minors or have been 4th or 3rd-4th place runs at Majors, resulting in the team’s relatively low Qualifying Point total compared to other Top 8 squads and its current slide down the Pro Circuit standings. The team needs to earn itself another Top 4 finish in Birmingham, otherwise it risks losing out on a direct invite to TI8 and having to play in the TI8 China Qualifier this summer. If that does end up happening, Newbee should enter that qualifier as a heavy favorite, as its record within its home region has established it as a leader among its regional rivals. The team has participated in just 3 Pro Circuit qualifiers or qualifying events, but has earned Top 4 finishes in all of them. The most recent of those qualifying events was the Top Division of the Dota 2 Professional League Season 5 , which saw Newbee finish 2nd in its group before defeating PSG.LGD and Invictus Gaming for a 2nd place finish at the event. Newbee has been able to defeat most of its regional rivals on a frequent basis, and the good news for the squad is that those teams that it has struggled with will most likely end up with direct invites to TI8 and skip the regional qualifier altogether. That scenario would certainly help the team’s chances in the TI8 China Qualifier, but the Chinese squad hasn’t given up hope of holding its Top 8 position and earning a direct invite of its own just yet.

Newbee comes into the ESL One Birmingham Major in serious need of a Top 4 finish on the Pro Circuit stage to solidify its position in the Pro Circuit standings. There are still only a few scenarios possible that would see the Chinese team knocked out of the Top 8, but Newbee is looking to take its destiny into its own hands and wipe out any possibility of dropping out with a strong showing at the Major. Heading into the event, the Chinese squad is expected to compete for a Top 4 position, but ultimately fall just short of that mark with a finish in the 5th-6th place range. The team will begin its Group C run with a Bo1 match against OpTic Gaming in which it will likely be slightly favored over the North American squad. If the team wins that match, then it would be just 1 Bo3 win away from a spot in the Playoff Stage, but it would most likely have to go through Mineski in the Winners’ Match in order to get there. If the team ends up losing to OpTic Gaming, then its path becomes a bit more complicated. The team would need to win a Bo3 series in the Elimination Match against Mineski or LGD.Forever Young, and would then need to win another Bo3 in the Decider Match against OpTic Gaming, Mineski, or LGD.Forever Young in order to advance out of the Group Stage. No matter which path the team takes, Newbee will have to bring down 2 of its 3 group mates if it wants to reach the Playoff Stage. Newbee has shown itself more than capable of finding victories over the top team of the Pro Circuit, and unless it suffers a drop off in play in Birmingham it should be able to finish in the top half of the Group C standings. If Newbee can live up to that expectation, then it will advance to the Playoff Stage in 1 of 2 scenarios. Either the team advances to the Quarterfinals by finishing 2nd in its group or by finishing 1st but ending up a the bottom of the standings in the First Place Decider Round, or it advanced to the Semifinals by finished 1st in its group and placing in the top 2 in the Decider Round. A start in the Quarterfinals will necessitate an additional Bo3 victory in order for the team to guarantee itself a Top 4 finish, while a spot in the Semifinals will have the team already locked in to a Top 4 position. So the path to a Top 4 finish is laid out for Newbee, put the question facing the Chinese squad is whether or not the team will be able to put together a strong enough run to follow that path and find the success that it needs on the Pro Circuit stage. The team has repeatedly shown that it is still capable of competing with the Pro Circuit’s best squads and coming out on top, but we’ve also seen some significant stumbles and bouts of inconsistency that the Chinese squad hasn’t quite put behind it just yet. Those concerns keep the team’s expectations at the Major just short of its desired position, but don’t be surprised if Newbee manages to lock in its focus and make a run at a Top 4 spot with its direct invite status under threat in Birmingham.

 

Evil Geniuses Evil Geniuses

Region: North America

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 10th (1335 Qualifying Points)

Roster: 
1. Artour “Arteezy” Babaev
2.
Clinton “Fear” Loomis
3.
Sumail “Suma1L” Hassan
4.
Andreas “Cr1t-” Nielsen
5.
Rasmus “MISERY” Filipsen (Captain)

Projected Finish: 7th-9th

Evil Geniuses enters the ESL One Birmingham Major as a team that is running out of time on the Pro Circuit. With two appearances left on the Pro Circuit stage, the North American squad still stands outside of the Top 8 and is in danger of missing out on a direct invite to TI8. If the team ends up finishing outside of the Top 8 at the ends of the season, then EG will have to play in the TI8 North America Qualifier in order to secure a spot in Vancouver this summer. With that in mind, the pressure is mounting on EG to put together a solid performance on the Pro Circuit stage and make one last run at a Top 8 position. In order for the team to move into the Top 8 outright, it will need to finish at least 3rd in the standings at the ESL One Birmingham Major, which is a feat that many of the teams in the field would be more than happy to deny the North American squad.

EG’s last appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came a bit over a week ago at the GESC: Thailand Minor. The final Minor of the season represented a big opportunity for the team to secure some much needed Qualifying Points, but the North American squad stumbled at the event and ended up finishing in the 5th-6th place position overall. That run at the Minor epitomizes what has been a wildly inconsistent stretch on the Pro Circuit for the squad. The team has participated in 7 Pro Circuit events so far in 2018, and has only managed to earn Top 4 finishes in 2 of them. Unfortunately for EG, those 2 Top 4 finishes came in Pro Circuit Minors, which is a large part of the reason why the team currently sits outside of the Top 8 in the standings. When it comes to Majors, the North American squad has repeatedly come within striking distance of a Top 4 finish, but always seems to come up short in the end. That is a trend that the team must bring to an end in Birmingham if it wants to earn itself a direct invite to TI8. Otherwise, the squad will end up playing in the TI8 North America Qualifier, which makes its record within its home region more significant point of interest at this stage of the season. One the home front, EG’s performance has been a bit more stable compared to its international play. The squad has played in 3 Pro Circuit qualifiers in 2018 and has managed to earn Top 4 finishes in all of them. The fact that EG has been directly invited to many of its Pro Circuit events means that its list of qualifier appearances is relatively limited, but those few times that we have seen it against its regional rivals, EG has shown the strength it would need to fight its way through the TI8 North America Qualifier if need be. However, the team is still hoping that it can bypass that extra step with a solid showing in Birmingham.

Coming into the Major, Evil Geniuses is in need of a Top 4 finish to keep its hopes of a direct invite to TI8 alive. The team sits on the precipice of a Top 8 position, but it needs one last push to get over the edge and claim that coveted spot. Heading into the event itself, the North American team is not expected to claim that much needed Top 4 finish, with EG projected to finish in the bottom half of the standings in the 7th-9th place range. The team’s inconsistent play on the Pro Circuit stage has to be a significant concern when looking at this team, as the squad has had so many opportunities that it has not been able to take advantage of. The team will begin play in Group A with a match against Southeast Asian squad Fnatic in a Bo1 that will see the 2 teams evenly matched for the most part. Should EG manage to win that match, then it would most likely have to face Virtus.pro in the Winners’ Match for a shot at the top spot in Group A. Win, and EG is secured a place in the Playoff Stage, otherwise it would face either Team Spirit or Fnatic in the Decider Match. If EG losses its match to Fnatic, then the margin for error shrinks considerably, as the team would most likely have to defeat Team Spirit in the Elimination Match in order to reach the Decider Match for a series against either Fnatic or VP. Those paths all present significant challenges for a team whose Pro Circuit performance has been less than ideal of late, but if EG manage to survive the Group Stage then its has multiple paths to success. If the team finishes 2nd in its group or finishes 1st but losses in the First Place Decider Round, then it will advance to the Quarterfinals of the Playoff Stage. From that starting point, the team would need to one just one more Bo3 series to earn a Top 4 finish, but would need one more win in either the Semifinals or the 3rd Place Match in order to secure enough Qualifying Points to reach a Top 8  spot in the standings. A finish in 1st place in its group and a top 2 finish in the First Place Decider would allow EG to skip and step and advance directly to the Semifinals of the Major, where it would still need one more Bo3 win to secure a finish of 3rd of better. Overall, the path to success is laid out for EG, and the North American squad certainly has the talent and experience it needs to walk that path. However, the team has been in similar positions previously this season, and in those situations the team has found a way to fall short of its goal. Until the squad shows that it is locked in and ready to make the run that it needs on the Pro Circuit stage, the team’s expectations will remain on the conservative side for the time being.

 

Team Liquid600px-Team_liquid_logo_2017

Region: Europe

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 3rd (6084 Qualifying Points) (Guaranteed TI8 Invite)

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 enters the ESL One Birmingham Major as a team that really doesn’t need to care much about how things shake out with regards to the Pro Circuit standings. The European squad and defending TI Champion has already secured itself a place in Vancouver this summer, and is essentially immune to the chaos and anxiety that is affecting many of the squads on the Pro Circuit as the season comes to an end. With the team’s status secure, Team Liquid comes into the Major looking to test itself against the Pro Circuit’s best squads and make any final preparations for its TI8 run. While the European squad doesn’t need a Top 4 finish in Birmingham due to its direct invite status, Team Liquid will surely want to put together a show of strength on the international level to make sure it is playing at the highest possible level heading towards the end of the season. The team will be in for a challenge in Birmingham though, as the field of teams at the Major is full of squads that would like to boost their own position and morale at the expense of the TI7 Champion.

Team Liquid’s most recent appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came earlier this month as the team participated in the EPICENTER XL Major in Moscow. The team put together a 5-0 series record (10-2 overall) to finish at the top of its group and earn a place in the Upper Bracket of the Playoff Stage. From there, the team defeated OG and FlyToMoon, but lost bot its Upper Bracket Finals and Grand Finals series against PSG.LGD to finish 2nd at the Major. That Top 4 finish got the team back on track after its 5th-6th place finish at the DAC 2018 Major in April that broke the teams streak of Top 4 finishes. The European squad had placed within the Top 4 in its first 9 Pro Circuit appearances of the season, and though its streak came to an end, the team’s 2nd place finish in Moscow bumped up its total to 10 Top 4 finishes on the season. Those 10 Top 4 finishes are more than any other team on the Pro Circuit, and the team’s consistent success on the international level was a large part of its ability to secure a TI8 invite so early in the season. Since the team has already locked in a place in Vancouver this summer, Team Liquid’s performance within its home region doesn’t really carry as much impact as it does for some of the other teams on the Pro Circuit. Even if one were to take a look at the squad’s performance within the European region, there wouldn’t be much to look at. Being the defending TI Champion and the most consistent squad on the Pro Circuit has its perks, as Team Liquid has been directly invited to all but one of its Pro Circuit appearances this season. That lone qualifier that the team needed to play in came all the way back in November for the DreamLeague Season 8 Major, and of course the squad manged to earn itself a spot at the Major. When a team has essentially eliminated the need to participate in regional competitions, has earned Top 4 finishes in 10 of its 11 appearances on the Pro Circuit stage, and is also the defending TI Champion, there isn’t a whole lot else that needs to be said. Team Liquid will come into the ESL One Birmingham Major as one of the favorites to win the event, and rightfully so based upon its continued excellence this season.

Team Liquid comes into the Major with few needs on the Pro Circuit, but that doesn’t mean that the team doesn’t have a goal for itself in Birmingham. The squad looks to earn its 11th Top 4 finish of the season and ensure that it is playing at the top of its game with the season coming to an end and TI8 looming on the horizon. Coming into the event itself, Team Liquid is a heavy favorite to win its first Major Championship of the season with a projection in the Top 4 range. The team will begin play in Group B with a Bo1 match against paiN Gaming in what has to be the most one sided match up of the Major. Unless a significant upset occurs in that match, Team Liquid should end up winning and advancing to the Winners’ Match to face either Vici Gaming or OG. That Bo3 series should provide the team with a more significant challenge, but Team Liquid will assuredly still be the favored team in that match up. If the team wins, then it would claim the top spot in the group standings, but a loss would necessitate the team to play another Bo3 series in the Decider Match of Group B. Upsets are always a possibility in Dota 2, and any of the other 3 teams in the group could potentially knock Team Liquid out of the event, but those scenarios all fall outside of the realm of reasonable expectations at the Major and aren’t situations that anyone should be counting on. Barring any significant mistakes or surprise runs from its opponents, Team Liquid should end up advancing past the Group Stage, though where it will go will end up depending on its group stage standing. If the team ends up finishing 1st in Group B as expected, then it will play in the First Place Decider Round for a shot at advancing directly to the Semifinals of the Major and a guaranteed Top 4 finish at the event. If the team finishes in 2nd place in Group B or ends up last in the Decider Round, then it would begin its Playoff Stage run in the Quarterfinals and would need to win 1 more Bo3 series to secure a Top 4 spot. Unless the team ends up running into Virtus.pro at some point in the Playoff Stage or First Place Decider Round, Team Liquid will enter any match up at the Major as the favored team. That kind of strength and respect on the international level makes Team Liquid one of the most formidable foes in the field in Birmingham, as well as a heavy favorite to find success at the Major. With that in mind, the team’s high expectations at the event seem incredibly appropriate as the team looks to take advantage of this opportunity to continue testing and preparing itself for its chance to earn back to back TI titles this summer.

 

Vici Gaming VICI_Gaming

Region: China

Qualification: Direct Invite

Pro Circuit Rank: 6th (2835 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 ESL One Birmingham Major as one of the Top 8 ranked squads in the Pro Circuit standings. However, the team’s place in Vancouver for TI8 isn’t secure just yet, as the Chinese squad still needs more Qualifying Points to put itself over the threshold for a guaranteed invite. While Vici Gaming has two chances left to find success on the Pro Circuit stage this season, the Chinese squad would most likely prefer to do away with any potential uncertainty by locking in its direct invite outright in Birmingham. In order to do that, the team will need to finish in either 1st or 2nd place at the ESL One Birmingham Major, although a 3rd place position may still get the team over the threshold depending upon how the rest of the Top 4 at the event shakes out. Regardless of the scenario, Vici Gaming will come into the Major looking to put together a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage in Birmingham.

VIci Gaming haven’t been gone from the Pro Circuit stage for long, as the team last played just a few days ago at the MDL Changsha Major. The team finished at the top of its group standings with a 3-2-0 record (8-2 overall) and defeated Mineski in its first series of the Playoff Stage. The team followed up that victory with back to back series losses against VGJ.Storm and PSG.LGD to finish in 3rd place at the Major. The team’s success in Changsha brought to an end what had been a small slide for the Chinese squad on the international level, as its last 2 Pro Circuit appearances had been less than ideal. Across 2018 as a whole though, the team has put together an impressive record with 3 Top 4 finishes in 6 Pro Circuit events. Those Top 4 finishes has the team sitting in its current favorable position, but the Chinese squad still needs at least 1 more Top 4 finish to close the deal and secure its place at TI8. While it is fairly unlikely that the team misses out on that Top 8 position, it’s worth doing due diligence and looking at the team’s record within its home region in the event that it ends up having to play in the TI8 China Qualifier this summer. The good news for Vici Gaming is that its record within China in 2018 has been solid and consistent, with the team establishing itself as one of the strongest teams in region. Since the beginning of the year, Vici Gaming has participated in 5 Pro Circuit qualifiers or qualifying events and has earned Top 4 finishes across all of them. The most recent of those runs came at the Dota 2 Professional League Season 5 – Top, in which the team defeated VGJ.Thunder, Keen Gaming, iG Vitality, and Newbee in the Playoff Stage to win the event. The team has shown a consistent strength within its home region, and should Vici Gaming end up having to play through the TI8 China Qualifier, it will do so as a significant favorite to win and earn a place at TI8. However, the Chinese squad will still come into the Major looking to skip that step and secure itself a direct invite in Birmingham.

Vici Gaming comes into the ESL One Birmingham Major looking to put together a strong enough performance on the Pro Circuit stage to secure itself a direct invite to TI8 this summer. Coming into the event, the Chinese squad is projected to finish in the Top 4 range and bolster its position in the Pro Circuit standings. The team will begin its run at the Major with a Bo1 match against OG where it will likely be considered a small favorite to win. Should the team win that match up, then it would be just 1 Bo3 series win against either Team Liquid or paiN Gaming from taking the top spot in its group. Should OG get the better of Vici Gaming though, then its path would involve winning 2 Bo3 series, one in the Elimination Match and another in the Decider Match of Group B. If Vici Gaming avoids any costly mistakes, then it should be able to come out in the top half of the Group B standings and advance to the Playoff Stage. With Team Liquid in the group with it, the Chinese squad isn’t expected to take the top spot in the group standings, which means that the team’s would end up in 2nd place in Group B and would advance to the Quarterfinals of the Playoff Stage. From that starting point, the team would have to win 1 Bo3 series in order to secure a Top 4 finish, with an additional Bo3 win in the Semifinals securing the team a 1st or 2nd place finish and a direct invite to TI8. However, if the team somehow managed to finish above Team Liquid and OG in the group standings and claims the 1st place position in Group B, then it would instead advance to the First Place Decider Round for a series of Bo1 matches against the other group leaders. If the team finished at the bottom of the standings in the Decider Round, then its path would mirror the one that was just described. However, if the team places in the top 2 in that Decider Round, then it would advance directly to the Semifinals where it would have a guaranteed Top 4 finish and be just 1 Bo3 series away from earning enough Qualifying Points to secure its TI8 invite. All of that is dependent on the team advancing out of Group B though, and the Chinese squad will have quite the challenge ahead of it in that regard. Team Liquid continues to be on the of best teams in the world, OG has shown itself more than capable of bringing down high ranked opponents, and even paiN Gaming could surprise the Dota 2 world with its recently changed roster and style. Even in the face of those obstacles, Vici Gaming’s impressive performances on the Pro Circuit stage have confidence high that the Chinese team can find success in Birmingham so long as it continues to play consistently. With that in mind, the team’s high expectations for the Major seem appropriate, but keep in mind that even a single mistake could cost the team its shot at a Top 4 finish in Birmingham.

 

Mineski 600px-Mineski-dota_logo

Region: Southeast Asia

Qualification: Direct 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

Mineski enters the ESL One Birmingham Major on the cusp of the ultimate goal of the Pro Circuit season. The Southeast Asian squad sits in 5th overall in the Pro Circuit standings, and is just around 1000 Qualifying Points shy of the total it needs to secure itself a direct invite to TI8. If the team manages to finish in 3rd place or higher at the Major, then its Qualifying Point earnings combined with the limited remaining scenarios for the China Dota 2 Supermajor will most likely put Mineski over the threshold and guarantee its place in Vancouver this summer. The good news for Mineski is that the ESL One Birmingham Major won’t be the team’s only chance to lock in its direct invite status, as the team is also set to participate in the China Dota 2 Supermajor in June. However, the Southeast Asian team will most likely be looking to remove that sense of uncertainty and take care of business now with a strong performance in Birmingham and avoid any potential mishaps in that last Major of the season.

Mineski has only been away from the Pro Circuit stage for short time, as the team participated in the MDL Changsha Major just a few days ago. The team posted a 3-1-1 series record (7-3 overall) to finish 2nd in its group, and defeated TNC Pro Team in the first round of the Upper Bracket of the Playoff Stage. Unfortunately, the team’s momentum ended there, as the team lost back to back series against Vici Gaming and Newbee to fall just short of a Top 4 finish with a 5th-6th place position at the event. That performance in Changsha marked the second straight event in which the team came tantalizingly close to a Top 4 finish, as the team also ended up in the 5th-6th place position in its run at the EPICENTER XL Major earlier this month. In fact, it’s only the team’s breakthrough victory at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major that is keeping the squad in its favorable position, as Mineski has missed the mark for a Top 4 finish in 4 of its last 5 Pro Circuit appearances. That recent record is cause for some concern for the team heading into this event, but Mineski has proven itself capable of taking on the world’s best squads and any team that can win a Major Championship has a solid chance of finding success again on the Pro Circuit stage. There are very few scenarios left in which the Southeast Asian squad misses out on a Top 8 spot and a direct invite, but in the unlikely event that Mineski somehow ends up falling out, then its record within its home region bears looking into. The good news for Mineski is that its performance within the Southeast Asian region has been considerably more consistent than its record on the international level. The team has participated in 5 Pro Circuit qualifiers in 2018 and claimed Top 4 finishes in all of them, including 3 1st place runs. Only top regional teams like TNC Pro Team and Fnatic have been able to challenge the team in qualifiers, and even in those situations Mineski has been the favored team. If the team ends up having to play through the regional qualifier, it would do so as a considerable favorite. However, the team would much rather avoid that altogether and guarantee itself a place in Vancouver this summer with a strong showing at the Major.

Mineski makes its way to Birmingham looking for one final bit of success on the Pro Circuit stage in order to punch its ticket to TI8. The team is the highest ranked squad in the standings to not have a direct invite secured, but the Southeast Asian squad is looking to change that at the ESL One Birmingham Major. Coming into the event, the team is expected to find the success it needs to lock in that direct invite, with Mineski projected to finish in the Top 4 range. The team enters the event as the top ranked squad in Group C, and will begin its run at the Major with a Bo1 match against LGD.Forever Young. The Southeast Asian squad will likely be significantly favored in that match, and if it wins the Bo1, it would need to win just 1 more Bo3 against either Newbee or OpTic Gaming to secure the top spot in the group. IF Mineski end up losing that initial match, then it would have to win back to back Bo3 series in the Elimination Match and the Decider Match in order to finish in the top half of the Group C standings and advance to the Playoff Stage. From that point, the team has 2 paths to a Top 4 finish in Birmingham. The team would advance to the Semifinals of the event if it finishes 1st in its group and ends up in the Top 2 in the First Place Decider Round. If it losses in that Decider Round or ends up 2nd in its group standings, then the team would begin the Playoff Stage in the Quarterfinals. In the former scenario, Mineski would already be guaranteed a Top 4 finish, while the latter would require the team to win 1 more Bo3 series to move into the Top 4 at the Major. The fact that the team has fallen just short of Top 4 finishes multiple times over the last few months is a cause for some concern heading into the event. However, with a potential direct invite to TI8 on the line, Mineski should be locked in and focused on playing at its best at the event. If the squad avoids any significant mistakes or drops in play, then the Southeast Asian squad should be able to compete with any of the teams in the field in Birmingham and lock in its place in Vancouver this summer with a Top 4 finish.

 

OG 425px-OG_RB_Logo

Region: Europe

Qualification: Europe Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: 13th (930 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-9th

OG comes into the ESL One Birmingham Major as one of the leading teams within the European region, as it stands as the 3rd highest ranked European team in the Pro Circuit standings at 13th overall. The good news for OG is that the two teams from its region that are ranked above it have already secured direct invites to TI8 and as such won’t be participating in the TI8 Europe Qualifier this summer. The problem for OG is that its not guaranteed to be participating in that qualifier either, as the team’s roster changes forfeited its invite eligibility and will force it into a run through the Open Qualifiers in order to reach that main regional stage. With that in mind, OG’s interest at this Major will focus less on a specific finish or Qualifying Point earnings and more on consistency and preparation as the team looks to build momentum over the final events of the season.

It’s been only a matter of days since the last time OG appeared on the Pro Circuit stage, as the team participated in the MDL Changsha Major just 3 days before the start of this event. The European squad managed to put together a 3-0-2 series record (6-4 overall) to finish in the top half of its group standings, but lost back to back series against VGJ.Storm and Newbee to finish in the 7th-8th place position at the Major. That performance was the latest in a string of unsuccessful runs at Pro Circuit events since the team’s roster change back in March. Since that change, the team has participated in 3 Pro Circuit events, with the team’s strongest finish being a 5th-6th place run at the EPICENTER XL Major in Moscow earlier this month. OG’s performance on the international level had not been particularly impressive of late, and with only 2 appearances left on the Pro Circuit this season, OG is running out of time to change that. However, given the fact that OG will be playing in the TI8 Europe Open Qualifier regardless of its Pro Circuit performance, the team’s play within its home region will play a more important role. OG has had a much more positive and consistent experience within the European region than it has on the international level, although its current roster has had a somewhat limited amount of experience on that front. Since the teams roster change in March, it has participated in just 2 Pro Circuit qualifiers and finished in 1st place in both of them. The squad had been putting up impressive performance in regional qualifiers before its roster change as well, so the fact that OG continues to perform well against its regional rivals bodes well for its chances in the TI8 qualifiers this summer. However, those strong qualifier runs haven’t translated into success at a Pro Circuit event just yet, and OG will look to end its struggles on the international level with a solid showing in Birmingham.

OG comes into the Major already knowing that its path to TI8 will run through the Open Qualifiers this summer. That being said, the European squad is still looking to put together a strong performance at the Major and potentially find once last bit of success on the international level before the end of the season. OG is expected to miss out on that success though, with the team projected to finish in the bottom half of the standings in the 7th-9th place position overall. The team will begin its run in Group B with a Bo1 against Chinese squad Vici Gaming in what will most likely be one of the most even match ups of the opening matches across the Group Stage. Should the European squad claim a win in that opening match, then it would need to win a Bo3 series in either the Winners’ Match against what will more than likely be Team Liquid, or the Decider Match against either paiN Gaming or Vici Gaming in order to advance out of the Group Stage. If OG loses that first match to Vici Gaming, then its path would most likely take it through paiN Gaming in the Elimination Match and then either Team Liquid or Vici Gaming in the Decider Match. All of those paths present significant challenges for OG, but if the European squad manages to pull it off and advance out of the Group Stage, then it will have the chance to take one of two paths to success at the Major. If the team finishes in 2nd place in Group B or ends up in 1st but finishes last in the First Place Decider Round, then it will begin the Playoff Stage in the Quarterfinals and would have to win 1 more Bo3 series to earn a Top 4 finish. However, if the team finishes 1st in Group B and places in the top 2 in the First Place Decider, then it would end up directly in the Semifinals of the Playoff Stage and would be guaranteed a Top 4 spot. OG’s paths to success though all hinge on the team’s ability to win 2 of its 3 series against a combination of Team Liquid, Vici Gaming, and paiN Gaming, which will be a somewhat daunting task for the European squad. The team should be favored in a match up with paiN Gaming, and will absolutely be considered an underdog going up against Team Liquid. That leaves the team’s match up with Vici Gaming as the only grey area in Group B for OG, with the two squads having split its previous 2 matches with their current lineups. Going by the recent performance of the 2 teams on the Pro Circuit stage, Vici Gaming appears to have a slight edge, which puts OG’s expectations for the event just barely on the wrong side of the standings. However, OG is very much capable of overcoming its Chinese rivals, and all it would take is one series victory to open the door for the European team to make a deeper run and surpass its predicted finish in Birmingham.

 

LGD.Forever Young LGD.Forever_Young

Region: China

Qualification: China Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: 17th (199 Qualifying Points) (Ineligible for TI8 Invites)

Roster: 
1. DuMonetPeng
2.
XieSuperJunhao
3.
HeInflameYongzheng
4.
Yao YaoZhengzheng (Captain)
5.
Tue “ah fu” Soon Chuan

Projected Finish: 10th-12th

LGD.Forever Young entered the season with relatively high hopes for its time on the Pro Circuit, but a series of setbacks and struggles have plagued the team. After the addition and subsequent removal of Khoo “Ohaiyo” Chong Xin from its lineup, the Chinese squad lost its invite eligibility and saw its presence on the Pro Circuit stage greatly diminish over the last months of the season. With the team set destined for a run through the TI8 Open Qualifiers, LGD.Forever Young enters its final Pro Circuit appearance of the season with a different perspective from most of the participants in Birmingham. The rat race in the Pro Circuit standings and the late-season scrambling for invites to Regional Qualifiers are things that the Chinese squad does not need to concern itself with. However, a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage late in the season could serve as a significant confidence booster for LGD.Forever Young as it prepares to make its run through the TI8 Open Qualifiers this summer.

It’s been a while since LGD.Forever Young was last seen on the Pro Circuit stage, as the Chinese squad’s last event appearance came over two months ago at The Bucharest Major in March. The team’s run at the Major was not exactly a successful one, as the team lost all 3 of its Group Stage matches to Team Liquid, Virtus.pro, and Vici Gaming to finish in the 15th-16th place position at the event. That poor performance in Bucharest epitomizes what has been a difficult time for the team on the international level in 2018. Since the beginning of the year, LGD.Forever Young has only had 2 appearances on the Pro Circuit stage, with both of those appearances resulting in finishes at the bottom of the standings. The team’s performance on the international level has been limited and not particularly strong, but at this stage in the season LGD.Forever Young knows that its immediate concern will be its record within its home region. With the team headed for an Open Qualifier appearance, its performance against its fellow Chinese teams takes on an even more important role in the team’s chances of reaching TI8. Unfortunately for LGD.Forever Young, its play within the Chinese region had been somewhat inconsistent of late. Since the team’s most recent roster change, LGD.Forever Young has participated in 6 Pro Circuit Qualifiers or qualifying events. Across those 6 events, the team managed to earn 2 Top 4 finishes, as well as one finish in the 4th-5th place position due to the altered format of the China Dota 2 Supermajor China Qualifier. Those results aren’t necessarily bad for the team, as it has shown itself to be more than capable of finding success against its regional rivals. However, the inconsistency across its performances in regional qualifiers is cause for concern for the team both at this Major and in the TI8 Open Qualifier. If the team performs up to its potential, then LGD.Forever Young could prove to be a formidable force in Birmingham and the Open Qualifiers, but as of right now it’s hard to predict which version of the team will show up.

LGD.Forever Young enters the ESL One Birmingham Major in a position where it doesn’t have much to gain on the Pro Circuit. Aside from gaining further experience on the international level and its own sense of confidence, a strong showing at the Major won’t have a significant effect for the Chinese squad. That being said, LGD.Forever Young will still be looking to show that it can compete with the top squads of the Pro Circuit in its final event appearance of the season. Coming into the Major itself, the expectations are not very high for the team, with LGD.Forever Young projected to finish at the bottom of the standings in the combined 10th-12th position. The team will have a difficult path to success at the Major, as the Chinese squad has been placed in Group C with OpTic Gaming, Mineski, and Newbee. The team will open its run at the Major with a Bo1 match against Mineski in which it will enter as a significant underdog. Unless the team pulls off a surprising upset in that match, it will end up in the Elimination Match of the group for a Bo3 against either Newbee or OpTic Gaming. Regardless of which team it ends up facing in that series, LGD.Forever Young is not likely to be favored. Despite the team having the talent and experience to win the match up, its inconsistent play compared to those potential opponents makes it hard to expect a victory from the Chinese squad. However, should LGD.Forever Young manage to win either its opening match against Mineski or that Elimination Match series against Newbee or OpTic Gaming, then it would be just one more Bo3 victory away from claiming a spot in the top half of Group C and surviving the Group Stage. If LGD.Forever Young manages to make a surprise run and advance out of the Group Stage, then it still has multiple potential paths at the Major. If the squad end up in as the 2nd place team in Group C, then it will go straight to the Quarterfinals of the Playoff Stage where it would need to win another Bo3 series to secure a Top 4 finish. If the team ends up somehow finishing at the top of the Group C standings, then it would need to play another series of Bo1 matches in the First Place Decider Round. If the team ends up in either 1st or 2nd in the Decider Round, then it will advance to the Semifinals and be guaranteed a Top 4 finish, while a last place finish would put the team in the Quarterfinals. So the good news for LGD.Forever Young is that there is a path to success for it at the Major, although whether the team can realistically expect to follow that path is the question. The squad’s recent track record on the international level doesn’t inspire a high level of confidence in the team, but there’s always hope that the squad put together a strong run in Birmingham. Until the team shows us that strength though, hope is all the team is going to have as the expectations sit about as low as possible for LGD.Forever Young in its last Pro Circuit appearance of the season.

 

Fnatic Fnaticlogo

Region: Southeast Asia

Qualification: Southeast Asia Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: 12th (1040 Qualifying Points)

Roster: 
1. Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao (Captain)
2.
Abed “Abed” Yusop
3.
Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora
4.
Djardel “DJ” Mampusti 
5.
Johan “pieliedie” Åström

Projected Finish: 5th-6th

Fnatic enters the ESL One Birmingham news in the wake of an announced change in its organization. While the team’s roster is remaining untouched, the team will come into its final Pro Circuit event of the season with a new coach, as Adam “Adam” a.k.a “343”     Shah will be stepping down and Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling will be taking his place. The change in coach is not likely to drastically alter the team’s play style, but it could change the way the team approaches its drafts at the event and introduce a small level of unpredictability for the team. With the ESL One Birmingham Major being the Southeast Asian squad’s final Pro Circuit appearance of the season, the team will be looking for any advantage that it can get. Fnatic is still in the running for a Top 8 spot and a potential direct invite to TI8, but it will need to finish in either 1st or 2nd at the Major in order to put itself in that position. Fnatic has found success on the Pro Circuit stage before, but it will have to pull out its strongest performance in Birmingham and finish higher than it ever has at a Major this season in order to keep its hopes of a direct invite alive.

It hasn’t been too long since the last time Fnatic performed on the Pro Circuit stage, as the team is coming off of a run at the GESC: Thailand Minor just over a week ago. That final Minor of the season saw Fnatic put together a perfect 7-0 run in the Group Stage before losing to VGJ.Storm in the Semifinals for a 3rd-4th place finish at the event.  That Top 4 finish in Thailand was the latest in a relatively steady string of success on the Pro Circuit stage for Fnatic, as the team had earned Top 4 finishes in its last 3 event appearances. Since adding Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora to the lineup in January, the team has seen action in 6 Pro Circuit events and has earned Top 4 finishes in 4 of them. The bad news for the team was that 3 of those 4 Top 4 finishes came at Minors, and its lone Top 4 spot at a Major was a 4th place run at the ESL One Katowice Major. Those finishes didn’t earn the team as many Qualifying Points as its record may imply, leaving Fnatic in its current position where it needs to reach the Grand Finals of the ESL One Birmingham Major in order to have enough Qualifying Points to earn a Top 8 position in the standings. That task will be daunting for the Southeast Asian squad, and if Fnatic doesn’t manage to do it, then its performance within its home region becomes and interesting point of reference as it prepares for the TI8 Southeast Asia Qualifier this summer. The good news for Fnatic is that its record within Southeast Asia has been impressive in 2018, with the team firmly established as one of the leading squads in the region. Since its last roster change in January, the team has participated in 10 Pro Circuit qualifiers and has earned a Top 4 finish in every single one of them. While teams like Mineski and TNC Pro Team have given Fnatic some trouble across those qualifier runs, the team has been able to remain consistent within its home region in 2018. If the team does end up in the regional qualifier, it will at least have the good fortune of not having to face one of its major rivals in the region, as Mineski will most likely have earned a direct invite to TI8 and therefore wouldn’t participate in the qualifier. Depending on the format of the qualifier, Fnatic may not have to directly beat one or more of its regional rivals, but the team will remain a favorite to claim a spot regardless of who it faces in the qualifier this summer. That situation may be reassuring for Fnatic, but the Southeast Asian squad isn’t willing to give up on its shot at a direct invite without a fight as it makes its way to Birmingham.

Fnatic comes into the ESL One Birmingham Major in need of its best performance yet on the Pro Circuit stage in order to keep its hopes at a direct invite to TI8 alive. The Southeast Asian squad has seen moderate success on the Pro Circuit stage so far this season, but it will need to finish in 1st or 2nd in Birmingham in order to earn enough Qualifying Points to have a chance at holding a Top 8 position in the Pro Circuit standings. Coming into the event, the Southeast Asian squad is not expected to contend for a spot in the Grand Finals, with a projected finish in the 5th-6th place range. The SEA squad will begin its time at the Major with a Bo1 match against Evil Geniuses, another squad in rather desperate need of a successful run at the Major. If Fnatic wins that game, then it will end up most likely facing Pro Circuit leader Virtus.pro in the Winners’ Match for a shot at the top spot in Group A and a place in the Playoff Stage. If the team loses that series, then it would drop down to the Decider Match for a Bo3 series against either Team Spirit or EG. However, if Fnatic losses that initial match against EG, then it has significantly less room for error if it wants to survive the group stage. The team would have to win 2 Bo3s in a row in the Elimination Match and the Decider Match against some combination of VP, EG, and Team Spirit. The challenge will be significant for Fnatic, but if it manages to survive the group stage, then it has a shot at a Top 4 finish at the Major. If the team ends up finishing 1st in its group and ends up avoiding finishing last in the First Place Decider Round, then it will advance directly to the Semifinals and be just 1 Bo3 victory away from the 1st or 2nd place finish that it so desperately needs. However, if the team ends up finishing last in the First Place Decider Round or simply finishes in 2nd in the Group A standings, then it would being in the Quarterfinals of the Playoff Stage and would need to win 2 Bo3 series in a row to reach the Finals. Barring an absolutely miraculous series of events, Fnatic’s path to the Finals of the Major will bring it into conflict with at least one Top 8 ranked squad. While Fnatic has been able to find success on the Pro Circuit stage before, it has fallen short more often than not against the elite teams of the Pro Circuit. While it is possible that the team finds the strength to overcome those obstacles in Birmingham, it doesn’t fell reasonable to expect Fnatic to defeat one or more of the best teams in the world at the Major. With that in mind, the team’s expectations in Birmingham have it sitting just short of a Top 4 finish, but all it would take is one or two victories for Fnatic to spark a run and potentially push for that Finals appearance that it needs as it looks to pull out a little last second magic in the team’s final Pro Circuit event of the season.

 

OpTic Gaming OpTic_Gaming

Region: North America

Qualification: North America Qualifier Winner

Pro Circuit Rank: 16th (450 Qualifying Points)

Roster:
1. 
Per Olsson “Pajkatt” Lille
2. 
Quinn “CC&C” Callahan
3.
Ludwig “zai” Wahlberg
4.
Neta “33” Shapira
5. 
Peter “ppd” Dager (Captain)

Projected Finish: 7th-9th

North American squad OpTic Gaming enters the ESL One Birmingham Major as a team staring down its last chance on the Pro Circuit stage. The team has held its invite eligibility throughout the season to this point, and considering its strong performance within its home region and modest success on the Pro Circuit it should be in line for a spot at the TI8 North America Qualifier. However, the team still has higher aspirations, as the team can technically jump into the Top 8 in Birmingham and put itself in a position to potentially earn a direct invite to TI8. That scenario will require the team to earn its first Major Championship of the season though, as only a 1st place finish will give OpTic Gaming enough Qualifying Points to enter the Top 8 in the standings. The team may not necessarily be able to reasonably expect a 1st place finish in Birmingham, but a solid showing on the Pro Circuit stage would certainly be a confidence booster for the North American squad heading into the TI8 Qualifiers.

OpTic Gaming’s last appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came over a month ago at the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minor in Kiev. The team finished on top of the standings in its group, and won series against both Fnatic and VGJ.Thunder in the Playoff Stage to secure its first Minor Championship of the season and its first Qualifying Points on the Pro Circuit. That successful run at the Minor was a change of pace for the North American squad, as OpTic Gaming had come close to Top 4 finishes before but always ended up falling short of that mark. In the teams 3 other appearances on the Pro Circuit stage in 2018 it ended up finishing outside of the Top 4, but its recent success has the team hoping that it has finally turned the corner and is ready to prove that it can compete with the world’s best teams. While the squad’s performance on the international level has only recently seen improvement, OpTic Gaming has been consistently finding success within its home region. In 2018 the team has participated in 12 Pro Circuit qualifiers and has earned Top 4 finishes in 11 of them. The only qualifier that the team participated in in which it didn’t earn a Top 4 finish was the ESL One Katowice North America Qualifier due to a disqualification stemming from schedule conflicts for the team. That kind of consistent success within its home region is an advantage that few squads on the Pro Circuit enjoy, and it sets OpTic Gaming up as one of the leading teams in the TI8 North American Qualifier if that’s where the team ends up this summer. The immediate concern for the team though will be finding success in Birmingham in its final Pro Circuit appearance of the seaosn.

OpTic Gaming comes in the ESL One Birmingham Major with one last chance to keep its hopes of a direct invite to TI8 alive. The squad is coming off of its first success on the Pro Circuit stage, and its going to have to replicate that success in Birmingham to have a shot at a Top 8 ranking. Coming into the event, the North American squad isn’t expected to find the 1st place finish that it needs to avoid finishing outside of the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings. OpTic Gaming is projected to finished in the bottom half of the standings at the Major with a final position in the 7th-9th place range. The team will open its run in Group C with a Bo1 match up against Newbee, in which the Chinese squad will likely be slightly favored to defeat OpTic Gaming. Should the team manage to win that game against Newbee, then it would be just one Bo3 series victory away from securing a spot at the top of the Group standings. Should the team lose that opening match to Newbee, then it would face either LGD.Forever Young or Mineski and would be 2 Bo3 series away from advancing out of the Group Stage. From that point, OpTic Gaming’s potential paths are boiled down to just 2. If the team finishes in 1st place in Group C, then it will play in the First Place Decider Round, where it will end up advancing either directly to the Semifinals and a guaranteed Top 4 finish, or the Quarterfinals where it would need to win an additional Bo3 series to reach the Top 4. If the team ends up finishing 2nd in its group, then it would miss the Decider Round and end up going straight to the Quarterfinals. Those scenarios all depend upon the team surviving and advancing out of the Group Stage, but that outcome is far from guaranteed for the North American squad. The team will still be considered an underdog against Newbee in that Bo1 match, and will more than likely be the less favored team should it run into Mineski as well. There’s no path out of Group C that won’t involve OpTic Gaming having to defeat Newbee or Mineski, and while the team is certainly capable of accomplishing that, it doesn’t seem as though we’re at the point just yet where it can be expected of OpTic Gaming to come out on top in that scenario. Because of that obstacle, the expectations for OpTic Gaming are somewhat more modest in Birmingham. However, don’t be surprised if the North American squad manages to push past those squads in its group and make a run into the Playoff Bracket in its final appearance on the Pro Circuit stage this season.

 

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: 10th-12th

PaiN Gaming made big news in the South American region when the squad announced that Aliwi “w33” Omar was officially joining the team as it new midlaner. Since the South American squad had already forfeited its invite eligibility, it didn’t have much to lose with the roster change, and the addition of an experienced player on the international level was an advantage that paiN Gaming hoped would give it a leg up on its regional rivals. With the ESL One Birmingham Major serving as the team’s last Pro Circuit appearance of the season, the team is facing what will most likely be its last chance to display its newfound strength before the start of the TI8 Open Qualifiers. With just about every notable South American team participating in those Open Qualifiers, one last positive showing on the Pro Circuit stage would be a welcome boost in confidence for the team to end the season.

PaiN Gaming hasn’t been away from the Pro Circuit stage for too long, as the team’s last appearance came at the beginning of the month at the EPICENTER XL Major in Moscow. The team managed to survive the Group Stage with a 2-3 series record, but lost its Lower Bracket match against CIS squad FlyToMoon to finish in the 7th-8th place position at the event. That finish in Moscow was actually one of the best that paiN Gaming has put together in 2018, as the Pro Circuit stage had not been particularly kind to the South American squad. Since the beginning of the year, the team has participated in 5 Pro Circuit events and has not managed to finish any better than the 5th-8th place position. While the team’s play on the international level has seen some improvements, it remains to be seen if the squad had what it takes to find success in Birmingham. Regardless of how the team performs in its final Pro Circuit appearance, it will be playing in the TI8 Open Qualifiers this summer. With that in mind, the team’s play within the South American region takes a more prominent level of importance in the short run as it looks to overcome its regional rivals to have a shot at TI. The team’s results on the home front have been much more encouraging for the team than its international play, as paiN Gaming has established itself as one of the leading squads in South American. In 2018, the team has participated in 7 Pro Circuit qualifiers and has placed within the Top 4 in all of them, including 5 1st place performances. Even when one narrows the timeline down to the period since w33’s joining the team, paiN Gaming’s regional performance has still been solid, with Top 4 finishes in both of its qualifier runs including the 1st place finish that qualified the team for this Major. The team’s consistent success within its home region has it sitting in an incredibly favorable position for the TI8 South America Open Qualifier. However, before paiN Gaming takes on its regional rivals in that qualifier, it will face one last test against some of the top Pro Circuit squads at the Major.

PaiN Gaming may enter the ESL One Birmingham Major as one of the top squads in South American, but success on the Pro Circuit stage has been an elusive achievement for the team this season. This event presents the squad with one last chance to prove itself on the international level before the start of the TI8 Qualifiers, but the team will have a significant challenge before it in Birmingham. Coming into the event, paiN Gaming is not expected to find much success, with a projected finish in the 10th-12th place range. The team has been sorted into Group B at the event, which means it will contend with Team Liquid, Vici Gaming, and OG as it looks to survive the Group Stage. The team will begin its run with a Bo1 match against Team Liquid in which it will be a massive underdog. If the South American squad losses that match as expected, then it will face a Bo3 against either OG or Vici Gaming in the Elimination Match. If the team wins either of those match ups, then it would sit just 1 more Bo3 win away from surviving the Group Stage and earning a place in the top half of the Group B standings. If the team puts together a miraculous run and somehow ends up at the top of the group standings, then it would advance to the First Place Decider Round where it would play the other group leaders in a series of Bo1s. A 1st or 2nd place finish in that round would secure the team a guaranteed Top 4 finish, while a 3rd place finish would put it in the Seminfinals where it would need to win one more Bo3 series for a Top 4 spot. Should the team end up finishing 2nd in its group rather than 1st, then it would end up in a similar position in the Semifinals of the Playoff Stage. The problem with these scenarios for paiN Gaming is that most of them are unrealistic for the team considering its recent performance on the Pro Circuit stage. There is always hope that the team had improved further and grown more accustomed to its new roster and puts together a strong run at the Major. However, relying on that kind of change in the team’s level of play seems unreasonable at this stage, especially since the team has not played any official matches since its run at the EPICENTER XL Major. For now, the best course of action is to keep hopes high and expectations low as paiN Gaming enters its final Pro Circuit event of the season.

 

Team Spirit 536px-Team_Spirit_2016

Region:CIS

Qualification: CIS Qualifier 3rd-4th Place

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

Roster:
1.
Ilya “Illidan” Pivcaev
2.
Sergey Alexandrovich “G” Bragin
3.
Alexander “DkPhobos” Kucheria
4.
Malthe “Biver” Winther  
5.
ArtsiomfngBarshack (Captain)

Projected Finish: 10th-12th

Team Spirit enters the ESL One Birmingham Major as something of a surprise among the field of participants, as the CIS squad wasn’t originally meant to be one of the contending teams at the event. After Na’Vi pulled out of the event, Team Spirit was invited to replace the team, thus earning itself an extra appearance on the Pro Circuit stage. Unfortunately, this extra event on Team Spirit’s schedule won’t help the CIS squad make any late season runs up the Pro Circuit standings, as the team had already lost its invite eligibility due to roster changes earlier this year. Team Spirit isn’t the only team in the field that won’t be able to improve its place in the Pro Circuit standings, and the CIS squad will be just as keen to put together a strong performance on the Pro Circuit stage as any of the other teams in Birmingham. With time running out on the season, any chance to test itself against some of the Dota 2 world’s premier squads is an opportunity that Team Spirit will be looking to take advantage of before its run through the TI8 Open Qualifier.

Team Spirit doesn’t have a whole lot to look at in terms of experience on the international level this season. The ESL One Birmingham Major will be the team’s debut performance on the Pro Circuit stage, with its only other appearance outside of the CIS region in 2018 coming at the Galaxy Battles II tournament back in January. The team managed to earn itself a 3rd place finish at the event, claiming wins against TNC Pro Team, paiN Gaming, and OG in the process. Of course, it’s been quite some time since that event, and none of the previously mentioned teams look the same now as they did then, including Team Spirit itself. With that limited and somewhat dated sample size, it’s hard to get much of a read on exactly where the team stands on the international level coming into this even. However, given the fact that the team will be playing in the CIS Open Qualifier regardless of its performance at the Major, the team’s record within its home region will likely be more telling of how the squad will stack beyond this event. Since is most recent roster change, Team Spirit has participated in 5 Pro Circuit qualifiers and has earned Top 4 finish across all of them. Expanding those numbers to include all of 2018, the team has managed to earn 9 Top 4 finishes in 11 qualifier appearances. That kind of consistency against its regional rivals makes Team Spirit a dangerous squad heading into the TI8 CIS Open Qualifier, but it remains to be seen if that strong record in its home region will do the squad any favors on the Pro Circuit stage in Birmingham.

Team Spirit enters the ESL One Birmingham Major knowing that its performance at the event will not change its destination this summer. In spite of that, the team makes its way to the UK looking to put together a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage in the hopes of building up momentum heading into the TI8 Open Qualifiers. Coming into the event though, the expectations are low for the CIS squad as Team Spirit are projected to finish at the bottom of the standings in the 10th-12th place position. The team’s placement within Group A will see it face off against Virtus.pro in a Bo1 match to begin its Group Stage run. Team Spirit will be considered a massive underdog in that match, and will more than likely end up in the Elimination Match of Group A for a Bo3 series against either Fnatic or Evil Geniuses. That match up won’t favor the CIS squad either, but if Team Spirit manages to win that series or its opening match against VP then it would be just one addition Bo3 victory away from a spot in the Playoff Stage. Should the team avoid elimination in the Group Stage, then it has two potential destinations for the second half of the event. If the team somehow ends up at the top of its group standings and also manages to finish in the top 2 of the 3 team First Place Decider Round, then it would advance directly to the Semifinals of the Playoff Stage and guarantee itself a Top 4 finish. If the team ends up at the bottom of the First Place Decider Round standings or finishes 2nd in the Group A standings, then it would advance to the Quarterfinals of the Playoff Stage and would need to win a Bo3 series to reach a Top 4 position. All of those scenarios are dependent upon the team winning at least 3 matches against some combination of VP, EG, and Fnatic, which would be a challenge for any team on the Pro Circuit, let alone one with no experience at a Pro Circuit event. It’s hard to see Team Spirit making that kind of run, though the CIS squad is at least capable of finding success in Birmingham. It’s possible that Team Spirit has some surprises in store for its opponents in its Pro Circuit debut, but until we see the team put up a serious fight on the big stage, the expectations will be set low for the CIS squad.

 

 

 

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