Dota 2 Major Recap: ESL One Birmingham

History in Birmingham: VP sweep OpTic Gaming 3-0 to tie record for most Major Championships with 4. PaiN Gaming, Fnatic, claim Top 4 finishes.

We were down to the final 2 events of the Pro Circuit season just a few days ago, but now the number of Majors left in the season has fallen to just 1 as another Pro Circuit event has come to an end. The eyes of the Dota 2 world had been fixated for the first time on the United Kingdom, as the ESL One Birmingham Major brought a plethora of high quality Dota to fans both in the Arena Birmingham and all across the world. After 5 days of action in the Group Stage, First Place Decider Round, and Playoff Stage of the Major, the matches in Birmingham have been concluded and a Major Champion has been crowned from among the participants. 12 teams made their way to Birmingham looking for a chance to earn Qualifying Points or build up momentum for themselves heading into the last days of the season. While the teams may have have different expectations and situations on the Pro Circuit, each of the participants was hoping that they would get a chance at claiming a Major Championship. However, at the end of day most of the teams fell short of that goal, although a few squads managed to earn some measure of success for themselves on the Pro Circuit stage.

When all was said and done in Birmingham and the Major was done and dusted, it was a familiar face hoisting the trophy at the event as Virtus.pro claimed yet another Major Championship. The win gave VP its fourth Major Championship of the season, a number that tied the CIS squad with OG for the most Major Championships in the history of Dota 2. The team put together a perfect 10-0 run at the Major as it absolutely dominated its opponents in Birmingham. The team didn’t end up running into any Top 8 ranked squads at the Major, but the team did defeat Team Spirit, Fnatic, OG, paiN Gaming, and OpTic Gaming (twice) on its path to the Major Championship.

With just one event remaining in the Pro Circuit season, the ESL One Birmingham had a significant impact on the Pro Circuit standings. Coming into the Major itself, half of the direct invites to TI8 had been secured, but that still left quite a few spots up for grabs. VP’s 1st place finish in Birmingham didn’t do much to change things in the standings, as the CIS squad continues to hold the top spot in the standings as the highest ranked team on the Pro Circuit. The team that VP defeat in the Grand Finals, OpTic Gaming, earned itself enough Qualifying Points to move all the way up from 16th to 9th in the standings. Unfortunately, the team won’t be going any further up the standings than that, as the North American squad no longer has any appearances remaining on the Pro Circuit and will most likely be headed for the TI8 North America Qualifier this summer. In 3rd place paiN Gaming became just the second South American squad to earn Qualifying Points this season, and went from being unranked in the Pro Circuit standings to 16th overall. The ESL One Birmingham Major was the Brazilian squad’s last appearance on the Pro Circuit stage though, and with the team having lost its invite eligibility due to roster changes, paiN Gaming is set for a run through the TI8 South America Open Qualifier this summer. As for the the final team in the Top 4, their situation is similar to that of the previous 2 squads, as Southeast Asian squad Fnatic has also seen its last appearance on the Pro Circuit stage. The teams 4th place finish in Birmingham didn’t end up moving it in the standings, as the team remained in 12th place overall. However, the squad does still have its invite eligibility, which means it will more than likely end up in the TI8 Southeast Asia Qualifier with a shot of earning its a place in Vancouver anyway.

With the matches all concluded in Birmingham , VP crowned as 4-time Major Champions, and the Pro Circuit standings fully adjusted, we can look at how each of the team performed at the ESL One Birmingham Major. In addition to examining how the participants performed at the event, we can also look to the future to see if the team has one final Pro Circuit appearance at the China Dota 2 Supermajor or the the squads will simply be waiting for the TI8 Qualifier announcements in the coming days.

 

Virtus.pro 600px-Virtus

Place: 1st

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

VIrtus.pro entered the ESL One Birmingham Major as a team that was essentially immune to the uncertainty and jockeying for position in the Pro Circuit standings at the end of the season. The CIS squad and Pro Circuit leader had long since secured itself a direct invite to TI8, and at this point in the season was simply playing to prepare and test itself for its run in Vancouver this summer. Coming in to the event, VP didn’t have much left to gain in terms of its position in the Pro Circuit standings, but that didn’t mean that the team wasn’t looking to put together a successful performance in Birmingham. A victory a the ESL One Birmingham Major would bring the team’s number of Major Championships on the season up to 4, and would tie the team with OG for the most Majors won in the history of Dota 2. A chance at making history on the Pro Circuit stage was an alluring prospect for VP as it prepared to make another run at a Major Championship in Birmingham.

VP got its run at the Major started with a Bo1 game against fellow CIS squad Team Spirit in the Opening Matches of Group A. The team opted for a durable, high damage core trio of Svne, Dragon Knight, and Beastmaster, and that lineup immediately put the squad at an advantage over its opponent. Aside from a small surge in the mid-game stage, Team Spirit was not able to contest VP to any significant extent as the CIS squad controlled the pace of the match. Behind impressive showings from Ramzes666’s Sven (10-2-8) and 9pasha’s Beastmaster (9-2-10), VP claimed a quick victory in just under 30 minutes of play.

That win against Team Spirit earned VP a place in the Winners’ Match of Group A against Fnatic for the top spot in the group standings. VP made quick work of Fnatic in Game 1, as the CIS squad attacked early and often to quickly shut down the Southeast Asian squad. Fnatic was held to just 8 kills in the match as VP took the lead early and held it throughout the match behind a huge game from Ramzes666 on Queen of Pain (15-0-5). Without any significant levels of farm or kills, Fnatic was forced to concede defeat just past the 26 minute mark give VP a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 played out in pretty much the exact same manner, as VP once again played aggressively against Fnatic and established an early lead in the match. Ramzes666’s Leshrac (10-4-12) and No[o]ne’s Gyrocopter (12-6-8) led the way from the CIS squad as it build up a huge net worth lead early and dominated team fights throughout the match to build upon that lead. Up by over 22k net wroth at he 38 minute mark, VP had little difficulty sweeping past Fnatic’s final defenses in order to secure itself a 2-0 win in the series and the top spot in the Group A standings.

VP’s position as the winner of Group A moved it into the First Place Decider Round, where it faced a duo of Bo1 matches against the other group winners. The team’s first match came against European squad OG, but the game didn’t proved to be particularity competitive. VP’s core trio of Morphling, Death Prophet, and Pangolier absolutely dominated the match, as OG was pressured early and did not respond well to VP’s aggression. That core trio combined for a stat line of 23-2-29 and held OG to just 3 kills in the match en route to complete stomp for VP. With a lead over nearly 23k net worth at the 25 minute mark, VP was able to force a “gg” call from its opponent to claim a win in its first match of the Decider Round. VP was able to repeat its success in its second Bo1 match of the Decider Round against North American squad OpTic Gaming, as the CIS squad once again came out with an aggressive strategy. The team’s core trio of Slark, Death Prophet, and Pangolier was dominant against OpTic Gaming’s lineup as it combined for a stat line of 27-2-38 in the match. The team’s early kills allowed it to establish a pace that OpTic Gaming simply couldn’t keep up with, as the North American squad trailed the very beginning of the match and was never in a significant position to mount a comeback effort. Ahead by nearly 28k net worth at the 28 minute mark, VP was able to secure itself another quick victory to secure a place in the Semifinals of the Playoff Stage.

That Semifinal series saw VP take on a red hot paiN Gaming squad to see which team would advance to the Grand Finals for a chance at a Major Championship. Game 1 saw VP come out with a high damage core trio of Leshrac, Dragon Knight, and Omniknight as it attempted to simply overwhelm its opponent in fights. The strategy worked perfectly for VP, as paiN Gaming’s lineup gave up numerous early kills and found itself trailing in terms of net worth throughout the entire match. Behind a monstrous performance from Ramzes666 on Leshrac (19-3-8), VP was able to completely annihilate the last of paiN Gaming’s defenses to claim a 1-0 lead in the series in just under 29 minutes of game time. Game 2 was more of the same for VP, as the teams core trio of Venomancer, Outworld Devourer, and Beastmaster was able to once again establish a fast pace against pain Gaming. The South American squad gave up an alarming number of kills in the early stages of the match, and its only hope boiled down to protecting its Medusa pick and hoping for a late-game comeback. Unfortunately for the team, that wasn’t going to happen, as VP’s core trio combined for a stat line of 34-6-48 to shut down pain Gaming and secure a 2-0 sweep of the series and lock in a place in the Grand Finals.

The Grand Finals of the Major saw the team face off against North American squad OpTic Gaming once again in a Bo5 series with a Major Championship on the line. Game 1 proved to be something of a stomp for the CIS squad, as it made quick work of OpTic Gaming’s lineup. The team surrendered just 7 kills in the match, as its core trio combined for a stat line of 19-0-43 while RodjER’s Skywrath Mage (10-5-11) put together an impressive contribution as well in a remarkably one sided match. OpTic Gaming never had much of a chance for a comeback effort, as VP built up a net worth lead of over 24k by the 29 minute mark to secure a win and a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 saw VP struggle for the first time at the Major, as OpTic Gaming was able to get out to a strong start that had the CIS squad playing from behind. The team suffered significant losses in the early and mid-game stages of the match, as OpTic Gaming forced engagements and team fights that it was better prepared to handle. However, VP wasn’t willing to give up without a fight, and the team put together a series of team fight wins in the late-game that wiped out OpTic Gaming’s net worth advantage. Behind strong performance from No[o]ne’s Kunkka (13-8-21, 30.3k net worth) and 9pasha’s Beastmaster (10-7-20), VP was able to turn the tide of the match late in the game and steal a win away from OpTic Gaming to claim a 2-0 lead. After that comeback win in Game 2, Game 3 proved to be a bit more simple for VP, as the CIS squad once again put together a dominant performance against its opponent. The team’s core trio of Slark, Gyrocopter, and Doom simply ran over OpTic Gaming, putting the North American squad at a disadvantage that it was incapable of overcoming. Behind Ramzes666’s Slark (11-0-3) and No[o]ne’s Gyrocopter (9-1-5), VP held OpTic Gaming to just 6 kills in the match as it led by over 13k net worth at the 19 minute mark to force a quick “gg’ call from its opponents and secure a 3-0 sweep of the Grand Finals for its 4th Major Championship of the season.

VP entered the ESL One Birmingham Major as a team that already knew it was secured a place in Vancouver this summer as a direct invitee. However, the team was still looking to put together a strong performance on the Pro Circuit stage as it continued to test and prepare itself for its TI8 run. Coming into the event, VP was a favorite to win its 4th Major Championship of the season, as the team was comfortable projected to finish within the Top 4 range in Birmingham. The team had little difficulties living up to that prediction, as the team put together an impressive run to claim a 1st place finish and tie OG for the most Major Championships in the history of Dota 2 with 4. There really wasn’t much of anything to critique in VP’s play at the Major, as the squad put together a perfect record of 10-0 on its path to a Major Championship. There was only a single game in which the team was not essentially in complete control of the match, and even that match ended up resulting in an impressive comeback performance from the CIS squad. At this stage, VP is looking about as strong and consistent as it possibly could be, which is exactly the kind of thing that you want to hear as a team in VP’s position in the Pro Circuit standings. The amazing part of VP’s run on the Pro Circuit this season is that it still isn’t over yet, as the team had one last appearance to make at the China Dota 2 Supermajor a few days from now. That final Pro Circuit event in Shanghai will give the team the chance to stand alone in the annals of Dota 2 history, as it could take sole possession of the record for most Major Championships. When a team’s only remaining goals for the season involve making history in the professional scene, you know that team is ready for TI.

 

NewbeeNewbee_logo

Place: 10th-12th

Winnings: $8,000

Neebee came into the ESL One Birmingham Major as a team that was beginning to feel some significant pressure near the end of the season. The last few months had seen the Chinese squad take a bit of a slide down the Pro Circuit standings, with Newbee sitting in 7th place at the start of the Major. With both this Major and the China Dota 2 Supermajor still on the Pro Circuit schedule, Newbee was facing a position where it could potentially fall out of the Top 8 at the end of the season and miss its chance at a direct invite to TI8 this summer. With that situation putting added pressure on its shoulders, Newbee made its way to Birmingham in need of a Top 4 finish to solidify its position in the Pro Circuit standings and potentially even lock in that coveted direct invite status. While the Chinese squad still had the fall back plan of its appearance at the China Dota 2 Supermajor if things went wrong in Birmingham, Newbee entered the Major looking to avoid or lessen any anxiety or uncertainty in that event with a solid showing at the ESL One Birmingham Major.

Newbee began its run in the Group Stage of the event with a Bo1 match up against North American squad OpTic Gaming in the Opening Matches of Group C. The Chinese squad opted for a combination of damage output and control, picking up cores of Death Prophet, Ember Spirit, and Naga Siren alongside supports of Nyx Assassin and Jakiro. With that lineup, the team was able to keep things close through the early stages of the match, but beyond the first 15 minutes of play things began to shift significantly in OpTic Gaming’s favor. The North American squad’s significant damage output in the mid-game was more than Newbee’s lineup was able to stand up against. Newbee’s considerable control opened opportunities in fights, but the team lacked the damage it needed to punch through its opponent’s lineup and take advantage of those opportunities. With team fights firmly in its control, OpTic Gaming quickly pushed Newbee back into its base and established control of the map. Down by a deficit of over 18k net worth at the 32 minute mark, Newbee had little left to fight with as OpTic Gaming pushed through its final defense and claimed a win to send Newbee into the Elimination Match.

With the team just one series loss away from being eliminated from the Major, Newbee entered the Bo3 Elimination Match series against LGD.Forever Young in desperate need of a win to keep its run in Birmingham alive. Game 1 saw the team take up an aggressive style of play, led by a core trio of Weaver, Dragon Knight, and Sand King. Against LGD.Forever Young’s slower scaling lineup, Newbee’s aggression proved incredibly effective as the Chinese squad quickly established control over the pace of the game and built up a sizable net worth lead. Between solid performances from Moogy’s Weaver (9-0-3) and Kaka’s Leshrac (9-1-12), Newbee led in terms of net worth for the entirety of the match as the team took a convincing win to go up 1-0 in the series. Game 2 of the series proved to be far more difficult for both squads in the end. Newbee came into the match looking to dominate team fights with a core trio of Luna, Death Prophet, and Abaddon along with supports of Disruptor and Sand King. That strategy was not working for the team over the first half of the match, as LGD.Forever Young was able to come out on top in early fights and build up a sizable net worth lead heading into the late-game. Behind impressive showings from Moogy on Luna (17-9-17, 32.4k net worth) and Sccc on Death Prophet (13-5-15, 26.9k net worth), Newbee was able to turn things around in the late-game with a series of strong team fights that shifted the balance of power into its favor. Newbee was able to secure Mega Creeps and looked to be in a position to close out the match, but LGD.Forever Young still had some fight left in it. The team battled back against Newbee, holding its ancient and defeating its opponent in multiple consecutive fights to wipe out Newbee’s lead. With its opponent’s strength spent, LGD.Forever Young was able to push down the middle lane to complete the comeback and even up the series. After that stunning defeat, Newbee’s momentum was shattered coming into Game 3, and the Chinese squad struggled significantly in the final match of the series. The team did manage to extend the game thanks to a strong performance from Sccc’s Death Prophet (9-6-14, 30,5k net worth), but it trailed in terms of net worth throughout the entire match. The team simply couldn’t put together a strong enough team fight to punch through LGD.Forever Young’s lineup, as Newbee’s defenses were eventually wiped out to hand the team a 1-2 loss in the series and an early exit from the Major with a 10th-12th place finish.

Newbee entered the ESL One Birmingham Major in a somewhat precarious situation in the Pro Circuit standings. The team’s place in the Top 8 was not yet secure, and it was in danger of potentially missing out on a direct invite to TI8 if it continued to fall in the standings. A Top 4 finish in Birmingham would have gone a long way towards helping the team secure a place in Vancouver this summer, and coming into the event the team was expected to at least be in the mix for success at the Major with a projection in the 5th-6th place range. Unfortunately for the team, it fell considerably short of those expectations with just a single match victory and a finish at the bottom of the event standings in the 10th-12th place position. The team did not look particularly strong in its Group Stage matches, and displayed a level of inconsistency that Newbee has often struggled with on Pro Circuit stage. The team’s lone match victory against LGD.Forever Young saw it put together a dominant performance, but in all of its other matches that confidence did not reappear. Two of the squad’s losses saw it simply run over and blown out by its opponent, and it even lost a match against LGD.Forever Young in which the team held a lead of over 16k net worth. This poor showing in Birmingham comes as a shocking drop off in play for the Chinese squad, and its one that makes the team’s already stressful situation even more concerning moving forward. The team now has only one opportunity left on the Pro Circuit stage at the China Dota 2 Supermajor next week. While the Chinese squad remains in the Top 8 in the standings for the time being, the events of that final Major of the season will decide whether Newbee earns itself a direct invite to TI8 or is forced to face the challenges of the TI8 China Qualifier. The silver lining for Newbee is that there are only a few scenarios at the Supermajor that will see it drop out of the Top 8. However, the fact that those scenarios exist and could still come to pass means that the team will enter that event under an incredible level of pressure. We will have to see if Newbee is capable of putting this rough performance behind it and recovering in time to save its shot at a direct invite with one final chance on the Pro Circuit stage.

 

Evil Geniuses Evil Geniuses

Place: 10th-12th

Winnings: $8,000

Evil Geniuses came into the ESL One Birmingham Major with previous few opportunities remaining on the Pro Circuit. The team sat in 10th place in the standings prior to the start of play in Birmingham, and was in danger of missing out on a direct invite to TI8 if it couldn’t make a late-season run push itself back into the Top 8. With teams like OpTic Gaming and VGJ.Storm on the rise within North America, a trip to the TI8 Regional Qualifiers was not quite as alluring of a prospect at this point in the season. With that in mind, the North American squad was under some significant pressure as it made its way to Birmingham. A strong showing at the event had the potential to put EG back into the Top 8 and give it a much stronger chance of earning a direct invite to TI8. However, a stumble on the international level in Birmingham would put the team in a position where it would be entirely dependent on a successful run at the China Dota 2 Supermajor in June to have any shot at a guaranteed spot in Vancouver this summer.

EG began its run at the Major with a Bo1 match up against Southeast Asian squad Fnatic in the Opening Matches of Group A. The North American squad looked to overwhelm its opponent with team fight damage with a core trio of Gyrocopter, Medusa, and Ember Spirit. That strategy earned EG a small advantage in the laning stage, but things quickly spiraled out of control for the team beyond that point. Fnatic’s high damage output and durability allowed it to outlast EG in team fights and establish control over the pace of the game. Despite trailing in terms of net worth throughout the mid and late-game stages, EG managed to make a push into Fnatic’s base and was in a position to win the game. However, rather than focus on defeating EG’s push, Fnatic instead opted for a base race that saw it bring down EG’s ancient to claim a last second victory. That close loss dropped EG down into the Elimination Match of Group A, where it was just one series loss away from elimination.

That elimination series saw the North American squad face off against Team Spirit to see which team would carry on at the Major. EG opted for a core trio of Spectre, Viper, and Night Stalker in Game 1 of the series, but that lineup quickly fell behind its CIS opponent. Team Spirit’s heroes were able to exert a significant level of pressure with its aggressive draft, and EG was not in a position to avoid or otherwise ignore that aggression. WIth its cores limited in terms of their farming opportunities, EG was unable to take fights, and found itself steadily falling further and further behind as the game progressed. Down by over 28k net worth at the 33 minute mark and with its base already significantly damaged, the North American squad conceded defeat to fall behind 0-1 in the series. In Game 2 of the series, EG attempted to be more prepared for early fights, combining cores of Gyrocopter, Medusa, and Doom with a support duo of Witch Doctor and Tusk. Despite taking numerous casualties in the early stages, EG was able to establish a small net worth lead heading into the late-game stage. Unfortunately, the North American squad wasn’t able to maintain that lead for long, as Team Spirit took control of team fights in the late-game and shifted the momentum of the match in its favor. Despite a valiant effort from Fear’s Medusa (7-6-11, 26k net worth), EG couldn’t reclaim its lost advantage, as the team’s final defense attempts failed and the North American squad lost the series 0-2 to finish its run at the Major in the 10th-12th place position.

EG came into the ESL One Birmingham Major in desperate need for Qualifying Points to keep its hopes for a direct invite to TI8 alive. The North American squad hadn’t been playing particularly well on the international level of late, but a Top 4 finish in Birmingham would have put it in a much more favorable position to earn a Top 8 spot in the Pro Circuit standings. Coming into the event, the team wasn’t expected to be a significant contender for a win at the Major, with EG projected to finish in the 7th-9th range. As it turns out, the team ended up falling short of even that relatively modest prediction, as the team finished last in its group and ended up in the 10th-12th place position overall. The team did not look good at all in its Group Stage matches, as EG simply seemed to lack a level of confidence and cohesion in the mid and late-game stages of its 3 losses. In all 3 of the team’s games, the North American squad began with a solid start and a small net worth lead through the early stages of play. However, EG struggled to an alarming degree in terms of transitioning those early leads into reliable momentum and advantages over the second half of its matches. The team had been limping its way along through the last few months of the season, but this performance in Birmingham transforms the team’s concerns into rather glaring issues that EG may not have enough time to address fully before the season ends. With no Qualifying Points from its run at the ESL One Birmingham Major, the North American squad is now in a position where it must find success at the China Dota 2 Supermajor in order to have a chance at a Top 8 spot and a direct invite to TI8. Considering the team’s significant issues at this event, that scenario is not looking all that likely unless the team has some sort of miraculous breakthrough within the next week. The good news for EG is that it still holds its invite eligibility, and would end up in the TI8 North America Qualifier if it cannot pull off a last second push into the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings. The problem for EG is that the regional qualifier is far from an easy path to Vancouver, as squads like OpTic Gaming, VGJ.Storm, compLexity Gaming, and Immortals all stand a chance at denying the team a place at TI8. With the team’s poor performance in Birmingham, EG now stands in a position where it must either succeed in its final Pro Circuit appearance of the season, or face the uncertainty of a run through the TI8 North America Qualifier against a much improved field of teams within its home region.

 

Team Liquid600px-Team_liquid_logo_2017

Place: 7th-9th

Winnings: $16,000

Team Liquid entered the ESL One Birmingham Major as a team that had relatively few concerns on the Pro Circuit at this stage in the season. The European squad had already secured itself enough Qualifying Points to be guaranteed a direct invite to TI8, and had the benefit of using what remained of the season to prepare for its defense of its TI7 title. The team made its way to Birmingham as the most consistent squad on the Pro Circuit, with Team Liquid having earned Top 4 finishes in 10 of its 11 appearances on the Pro Circuit stage. That consistent success made the team one of the most formidable opponents in the world, and was a large part of the squad securing its direct invite status. Coming into the Major, the team was no longer in any need of Top 4 finishes on the Pro Circuit, but the European power house was not expected to take things easy as it looked to put together yet another impressive showing on the international level.

Team Liquid’s first match of the Group Stage saw it go up against South American squad paiN Gaming in a Bo1 in the Opening Matches of Group B. The team went with a heavily control oriented lineup, with cores of Morphling, Dragon Knight, and Beastmaster alongside Shadow Shaman and Sand King supports. Unfortunately, that control based lineup was at a disadvantage early, as paiN Gaming opted for a risky and aggressive strategy that put Team Liquid on the defensive from the start of the match. Despite a solid showing from Miracle- on Morphling (8-6-11), Team Liquid didn’t have the strength to overcome its poor start, as paiN Gaming continued to out scale the European squad. Down by over 35k net worth at the 32 minute mark, Team Liquid’s final base defense failed as the team was forced to concede defeat to drop down in the Elimination Match.

That surprising loss to paiN Gaming put Team Liquid into dangerous territory as it faced off against Chinese squad Vici Gaming to see which team would be the first eliminated team of Group B. Game 1 saw Team Liquid in complete control, as the European squad established an aggressive style early and quickly seized the momentum. Vici Gaming’s lineup was not prepared to handle that early pressure, and Team Liquid was able to build up a sizable net worth advantage that it held throughout the rest of the match. Team Liquid’s core trio combined for a stat line of 30-9-40, and KuroKy’s Undying (11-5-16) put together an impressive number of kills as well as the team simply ran over its opponent to claim a quick 1-0 series lead. Game 2 saw the team look for a high damage output with a core trio of Phantom Lancer, Doom and Razor. It became apparent fairly early on that the team’s strategy would find success, as Team Liquid once again applied a significant amount of pressure to Vici Gaming’s cores. Behind impressive showing from Miracle-‘s Doom (12-6-9) and MATUMBAMAN’s Phantom Lancer (6-2-7), Team Liquid kept Vici Gaming’s lineup contained for the entire match as the European squad claimed a quick 2-0 win in the series to advance to the Decider Match of Group B.

That Decider Match earned the team a rematch against paiN Gaming, as the team took on the South American squad in a Bo3 series to determine which squad would advance to the Playoff Stage. Game 1 of the series saw Team Liquid pull out Miracle-‘s signature Invoker, combining the hero with fellow cores of Phantom Lancer and Nature’s Prophet. That lineup proved immediately effective against paiN Gaming’s draft, as the European squad took the lead early and never looked back. Behind strong performances from MATUMBAMAN on Phantom Lancer (11-1-11) and Miracle-‘s Invoker (11-1-9), Team Liquid kept continuous pressure on paiN Gaming’s lineup and built its net worth lead up higher and higher over the course of the match. With a 12-1 run in terms of kills over the final 4 minutes of the match, Team Liquid was able to secure itself a blowout in in just under 24 minutes of play to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 saw Team Liquid pick up a core trio of Slark, Beastmaster, and Nature’s Prophet, and that lineup was once again able to establish an aggressive pace early in the match. Despite taking a considerable number of casualties in the early stage of the game, Team Liquid did manage to build up a modest net worth lead heading into the late-game. However, paiN Gaming’s lineup was able to turn things around from that point forward, as Team Liquid found itself massively out matched in team fights. The team secured just 3 kills over the final 15 minutes of the match, as paiN Gaming dominated late-game fights to claim a victory and even up the series 1-1. With the series on the line, Team Liquid opted for a core trio of Phantom Lancer, Outworld Devourer, and Slardar alongside supports of Windranger and Nature’s Prophet. That lineup was able to secure a small advantage in the laning stage, but beyond that point things did not go well for Team Liquid. PaiN Gaming’s heroes were able to push the pace and force fights that Team Liquid wasn’t fully prepared to take as the South American squad established control over the second half of the match. Out killed by a score of 2-11 over the last 7 minutes of the match, Team Liquid conceded defeat just past the 29 minute mark to lose the series 1-2 and end up in the 7th-9th place position overall at the event.

Team Liquid came into the ESL One Birmingham Major knowing that it was already guaranteed a place in Vancouver this summer. With that in mind, the team didn’t necessarily need to put together a strong performance in the same way that many of the other teams in the field did. Even so, a solid showing on the Pro Circuit stage would help the team in its preparations for TI8. Coming into the event, the team was one of the favorites to win with a projected finish in the Top 4 range. However, the team stumbled a bit in Birmingham, and ended up with its worst finish of the season on the Pro Circuit stage with a 7th-9th place finish. The team’s 3-3 Group Stage record showed the first significant issues in what has been an incredibly consistent level of play over the course of the season so far. That being said, all 3 of the team’s losses came against paiN Gaming, which may simply be a sign of a particularly troublesome match up for Team Liquid as opposed to an actual decline in its performance. The team’s series against Vici Gaming in the Elimination Match seems to support that conclusion, as the European squad put together back to back dominant performances against the Chinese squad. The team’s finish in the lower half of the standings does came as a bit of a shock, but there really isn’t much to panic about just yet for the defending TI Champion. The team has already locked in a direct invite to TI8, and its impressive record on the international level to this point in the season makes it hard to believe that any issues it may have faced in Birmingham will linger for long. However, we will get another chance to see Team Liquid on the Pro Circuit stage, as the  team is set to participate in the China Dota 2 Supermajor in the final event of the season. Should the team struggle to a significant degree at that event, then there might be some cause for concern with the team heading into TI8.  Regardless of its performance in that final Major though, Team Liquid will be in the field in Vancouver this summer, as the European squad looks to become the first team in Dota 2 history to win multiple iterations of The International.

 

Vici Gaming VICI_Gaming

Place: 10th-12th

Winnings: $8,000

Vici Gaming entered the ESL One Birmingham in a relatively strong position as one of the Top 8 ranked squads on the Pro Circuit. With just 2 events left in the season, the Chinese squad was still fighting to hold on to that position, as its direct invite to TI8 was not yet secure. While Vici Gaming was set to participate in both of the final Majors of the season, a strong showing and a Top 4 finish in Birmingham had the potential to guarantee the team a place in Vancouver this summer. With the prospect of doing away with the anxiety and uncertainty of the late-season Pro Circuit race, Vici Gaming made its way to Birmingham looking for a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage.

The Chinese squad found itself placed into Group B for the Group Stage of the Major, and began play in Birmingham with a match up against OG in the Bo1 Opening Matches. Vici Gaming looked for high damage output in its draft for this match, picking up a core trio of Queen of Pain, Dragon Knight, and Doom. That core trio was able to help Vici Gaming build up a modest lead over the first half of the match, with its advantage in damage allowed in it control early team fights and skirmishes. However, the team’s ability to control those fights waned over the second half of the match, as OG began to turn the tides shift momentum in its favor. Despite a solid showing from Paparazi’s Queen of Pain (12-4-7), Vici Gaming couldn’t regain its momentum and lost a series of team fights that left it trailing in terms of net worth and unable to hold of subsequent pushes from OG. Though the team attempted one final defense of its base, OG was able to sweep past those last efforts to win the match and send Vici Gaming into the Elimination Match of Group B.

Vici Gaming faced a daunting task in the Elimination Match, as it needed to defeat defending TI Champion Team Liquid in a Bo3 series in order to avoid dropping out of the Major entirely. Game 1 of the series proved to be a disaster for the Chinese squad, as its lineup was immediately put under heavy pressure from Team Liquid’s draft. With the team surrendering kills early and often, Vici Gaming’s cores had limited opportunities to farm and progress, which allowed Team Liquid to continue building its lead and out pace its opponent. Despite its best efforts, Vici Gaming was never able to mount any sort of effective comeback effort, and after falling behind by nearly 25k net worth at the 29 minute mark, the Chinese squad threw in the towel to take a defeat in the opening match of the series. Game 2 saw Vici Gaming change its tactics a bit, as the team looked for a more durable and team fight oriented lineup with cores of Spectre, Dragon Knight, and Omniknight alongside supports of Tusk and Ancient Apparition. The change in its draft unfortunately didn’t do much to alleviate the team’s Game 1 issues, as Vici Gaming was once again playing from behind early in the match. Team Liquid’s lineup was able to out pace Vici Gaming and establish a sizable net worth lead in the mid and late-game stages. Despite strong performances from Ori’s Dragon Knight (6-5-9) and LaNm’s Tusk (10-7-17), Vici Gaming was unable to turn the tides of the match as it lost the series 0-2 to bring its run at the Major to an end with a 10th-12th place position.

Vici Gaming came into the ESL One Birmingham Major looking for a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage and a Top 4 finish to help solidify its place in the Pro Circuit standings and potentially even secure itself a direct invite to TI8. Coming into the event, the Chinese squad was expected to be a contender to find success in Birmingham, with Vici Gaming having been projected to finish in the Top 4 range. However, the team put together one of its weakest performances of the season and fell shockingly short of those expectations with a finish in the 10th-12th place position. The team’s play in its 3 Group Stage matches was staggeringly concerning, as Vici Gaming seemed to significantly struggle and essentially fall apart in the mid and late-game stages. The fact that 2 of the team’s 3 losses at the Major came against the defending TI Champion in Team Liquid makes the team’s performance not quite as bad as it looks at first glance. However, with the limited time left in the season and Vici Gaming’s opportunities on the Pro Circuit stage now reduced to just 1 event, those silver linings won’t do the squad much good and don’t help its current situation in the Pro Circuit standings. The Chinese squad remains in the Top 8 for the time being, but it now finds itself in a scenario in which the outcome of the China Dota 2 Supermajor next week will determine whether Vici Gaming earns a direct invite to TI8 or has to face its regional rivals in the TI8 China Qualifier. Thankfully for the team, the number of scenarios in which it falls out of the Top 8 are incredibly small, and at this stage it appears that the most likely outcome will be the team earning itself a place in Vancouver this summer. However, the season to this point has shown us that the things that are considered “most likely” to occur can very easily end up failing to materialize. With that in mind, the game plan for Vici Gaming moving forward has to be to try and keep its destiny in its own hands and put together a Top 4 finish at the final event of the season to avoid having to depend on the performance of other squads on the international stage.

 

Mineski 600px-Mineski-dota_logo

Place: 5th-6th

Winnings: $34,000

Mineski came into the ESL One Birmingham Major on the verge of the ultimate success on the Pro Circuit. The team came into the event ranked 5th overall in the Pro Circuit standings, and needed just one more Top 4 finish on the Pro Circuit stage to potentially lock in a Top 8 spot and a direct invite to TI8. While the team was set to participate in both of the final Majors of the season and would therefore have 2 opportunities to earn that Top 4 finish, Mineski was looking to overcome that final obstacle as quickly as possible. The number of scenarios in which the Southeast Asian squad could fall out of the Top 8 were extremely limited, but the chance to do away with the stress and uncertainty on the Pro Circuit stage was a powerful incentive as the team made its way to Birmingham.

The team began play in Group C with a Bo1 match against Chinese squad LGD.Forever Young in the Opening Matches of the Group Stage. The Southeast Asian squad opted for a core trio of Anti-Mage, Dragon Knight, and Pangolier in its draft, and early in the match that lineup managed to remain even with its opponent. As the match progressed into the mid and late-game stages, Mineski found itself taking significant casualties in team fights. However, thanks to an impressive performance from Mushi on Anti-Mage (16-0-8, 39.6k net worth), Mineski was able to continue out scaling its opponent and building up its net worth lead. Eventually, Mineski was able to utilize its significant net worth advantage to push through LGD.Forever Young’s final defenses to claim a win in its first match of the Major.

That initial victory allowed Mineski to move into the Winners’ Match of Group C, where the team faced off against North American squad OpTic Gaming to see which squad would claim the top spot in the Group C standings. Game 1 of the series proved to be an entirely one sided affair, as Mineski’s core trio of Luna, Timbersaw, and Brewmaster led the team to a wire-to-wire net worth advantage in the match. Behind impressive performances from Mushi’s Luna (34.2k net worth) and Nana’s Timbersaw (18-4-9, 26.2k net worth), Mineski dominated the game and kept OpTic Gaming in a defensive posture throughout the match. Despite the North American squad’s best efforts, Mineski was able to push past its final defenses to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 saw Mineski look for a high damage lineup headlined by a core trio of Lycan, Death Prophet, and Queen of Pain, but that lineup proved ineffective in the match. OpTic Gaming’s heroes were able to apply significant pressure to the Mineski lineup, creating enough space for its cores to out scale their counterparts. Despite solid efforts from Mushi’s Queen of Pain (12-8-7) and Nana’s Death Prophet (9-4-13), Mineski found itself overwhelmed by OpTic Gaming and failed to hold its base to even up the series 1-1. With the series one the line, Mineski took a chance with a Tinker pick, combining the hero with fellow cores of Lifestealer and Omniknight. That lineup got off to a strong start, as Mineski was able to find multiple pick offs and wins in early fights to build up a modest net worth lead. However, that lead did not last long, as OpTic Gaming managed to swing momentum in its favor in the mid and late-game stages. Despite Mushi’s Lifestealer (9-7-9) and Nana’s Tinker (9-6-5) putting together strong performances, Mineski wasn’t able to establish control over team fights and found itself falling further and further behind in terms of net worth. Down by nearly 34k net worth at the 50 minute mark, Mineski couldn’t hold back OpTic Gaming’s final assault and lost the match to fall 1-2 in the series and drop into the Decider Match of Group C.

The Decider Match put Mineski into a rematch of its first match up of the Major, as the Southeast Asian squad faced off against LGD.Forever Young again in a Bo3 series for a spot in the Playoff Stage. The team got off to a slow start in Game 1 of the series, as its core trio of Gyrocopter, Dragon Knight, and Pangolier, found itself playing from behind in the early stage of the match. However, the team managed to turn things around in the mid and late-game stages and begin establishing a stronger presence in team fights. Behind strong showings from Nana’s Dragon Knight (12-2-10) and iceiceice’s Pangolier (8-4-18), Mineski was able to win almost every fights in the second half of the match and finished the game on a 13-5 run in terms of kills over the final 10 minutes to open the series with a win and take a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 of the series proved to be a far less contentious match, as Mineski combined a core trio of Luna, Dragon Knight, and Brewmaster with supports of Nature’s Prophet and Rubick. That lineup allowed Mineski to play an aggressive style that put LGD.Forever Young on the defensive from the very beginning of the match and build up a sizable net worth lead for the Southeast Asian squad. Mineski’s core trio combined for a stat line of 21-11-41, and Jabz’s Nature’s Prophet (11-6-13) put together an impressive performance as well to help Mineski dominate the pace of the match and keep LGD.Forever Young behind. With a net worth lead of nearly 18k net worth at the 30 minute mark, Mineski was able to force a “gg” call from LGD.Forever Young to claim a 2-0 sweep in the series and advance to the Playoff Stage.

Mineski’s Group Stage performance earned it a place in the Quarterfinals, where it was a Bo3 series victory away from securing a Top 4 finish and earning itself a direct invite to TI8. However, the team needed to get past a paiN Gaming squad that has been absolutely incredible at the Major in order to reach that mark. Game 1 of the series saw Mineski look for a strong team fight lineup, as it picked up cores of Dragon Knight, Outworld Devourer, and Tidehunter alongside supports of Clockwerk and Disruptor. Unfortunately for Mineski, that lineup proved ineffective against paiN Gaming’s more aggressive strategy. The Brazilian squad’s early pressure established a pace that Mineski was not prepared to match, as the Southeast Asian team fell behind in terms of net worth quickly and never managed to recover. Facing a 16k net worth deficit at the 35 minute mark, Mineski conceded defeat to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 proved to just as much of a struggle for Mineski, as the Southeast Asian squad once again fell prey to early aggression from paiN Gaming. The team’s core trio of Lycan, Dragon Knight, and Brewmaster were heavily pressured and limited in the match, as Mineski surrendered multiple kills in the early stages of the match. Those early kills put Mineski behind in terms of net worth, and paiN Gaming continued to push the pace of the match to build on that initial advantage. Mineski did manage to take a few team fights in the late-game, but those few wins weren’t enough to turn the tide of the match as paiN Gaming whittled down the Southeast Asian squad’s defenses. Despite the team’s best efforts, Mineski was unable to hold back paiN Gaming as the team suffered a 0-2 defeat to end its run at the event with a 5th-6th place finish.

Mineski entered the ESL One Birmingham Major in need of a Top 4 finish in order to put itself over the threshold needed to secure a direct invite to TI8 this summer. Coming into the event, the Southeast Asian squad was expected to be a competitor for a Major title with a projection within the Top 4 range. Unfortunately, the team ended up falling just short of that mark as it finished in the 5th-6th place position at the end of its run in Birmingham. Mineski’s 4-4 overall record at the Major doesn’t look particularly impressive at first glance, but that record is fairly solid when looked at within the context of the event itself. The team managed to win all 3 of its matches against LGD.Forever Young, and even take a win off of OpTic Gaming in its Bo3 series against the North American squad. The team’s 4 losses in Birmingham ended up coming against OpTic Gaming and paiN Gaming, 2 squads that ended up finishing in the Top 4 at the event. Of course, considering the fact that Mineski was 1 Top 4 finish away from a potential direct invite to TI8, any performance that misses that mark is going to feel like a disappointment or a failure. From that perspective, Mineski’s run at the ESL One Birmingham Major can be considerably underwhelming, especially when taking into account the team’s position in the Pro Circuit standings. Both OpTic Gaming and paiN Gaming put together incredible performance in Birmingham, but the hopes were that a team ranked 5th in the standings coming into the event would have been able to withstand a run from a team it is generally favored against. Unfortunately for Mineski, that scenario didn’t play out, and the Southeast Asian squad finds itself in a somewhat stressful predicament heading into the final event of the season. Mineski is still set to participate in the China Dota 2 Supermajor next week, but it now faces a situation in which it must either succeed at that Major or hope for a few specific scenarios do not play out in order for the team to secure a place at TI8. The Southeast Asian squad still has a strong chance of earning itself a place in Vancouver this summer, but it is going to have to suffer through the anxiety and uncertainty in Shanghai before it knows for sure whether it will be included among that elite group of direct invitees.

 

OG 425px-OG_RB_Logo

Place: 5th-6th

Winnings: $34,000

OG entered the ESL One Birmingham as one of the leading teams within the European region. However, neither that standing or the team’s performance in Birmingham was going to have an effect on the team’s path to TI8 this summer. The team had forfeited its invite eligibility earlier this year, and as such was consigned to a run through the TI8 Europe Open Qualifier regardless of its final position in the Pro Circuit standings. With that in mind, the European squad made its way to Birmingham with little regard for the stress and anxiety that some of its fellow participants were feeling as they struggling to accrue last second Qualifying Points or shore up their records for a potential invite to the regional qualifiers. The focus for OG coming into the event was preparing itself for that Open Qualifier run, and there was no better way to do that than to test itself against some of the Pro Circuit’s best teams in Birmingham.

OG’s first match of the Major came in the Opening Matches of Group B, as the European squad took on Vici Gaming in a Bo1 to begin the Group Stage. OG looked for team fight power and and heavy levels of control in its draft, as it combined cores of Gyrocopter, Leshrac, and Faceless Void with a support duo of Witch Doctor and Night Stalker. Early in the match that lineup had some issues, as Vici Gaming’s more durable and mobile heroes got the better of OG. However, the late-game stage saw the European squad finally get itself into the  right position to turn the tides of the match, as OG pulled off a series of team fight victories to swing momentum in its favor. Behind impressive showing from s4’s Leshrac (14-7-11) and 7ckingMad’s Gyrocopter (10-2-17), OG was able to consistently defeat Vici Gaming’s lineup to earn itself a win and a spot in the Winners’ Match of Group B.

OG’s position in the Winners’ Match had it just one Bo3 series win away from claiming the top spot in the group, but the European squad had to get past South American team paiN Gaming in order to earn that spot. Game 1 saw OG pick up a core trio of Luna, Brewmaster, and Leshrac, and that lineup quickly proved itself effective against paiN Gaming’s draft. Though the 2 teams remained even through the laning stage, everything beyond that point went in OG’s favor, as the European squad established an impressive level of control over the match. OG surrendered just 12 kills to its opponent, and its core trio combined for a stat line of 29-7-56 as it build up a massive net worth lead in the mid and late-game stages. With a lead of nearly 30k net worth at the 31 minute mark, OG was able to sweep past paiN Gaming’s defenses and force a “gg” call from the Brazilian squad to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 of the series ended up being more of the same for OG, as the European squad dominated the match from start to finish. OG established an aggressive pace early that paiN Gaming’s lineup was not prepared to handle, and that early pressure allowed OG to quickly take control of the game. Behind strong showings from N0tail’s Kunkka (7-5-11) and s4’s Puck (8-2-10), OG kept paiN Gaming on the defensive for the entirety of the match as the team claimed another victory to take the series 2-0 and secure the top spot in Group B.

The team’s position at the top of the Group B standings allowed it to advance to the Firs Place Decider Round for a chance to compete with the other group winners for a spot in the Semifinals of the Playoff Stage and a guaranteed Top 4 finish. OG’s first challenge in this round was a Bo1 match up against Virtus.pro, but the CIS squad quickly showed that it was not going to give the European team much of a chance to compete. OG was absolutely obliterated in the match, as VP took control early and never looked back on its path to a blowout win. OG was held to just 3 kills in the match, and trailed by nearly 23k net worth at the 25 minute mark before conceding defeat. After that rough loss to the Pro Circuit leader, OG was looking for an opportunity to bounce back in its next Bo1 match against OpTic Gaming. Unfortunately, the team had only marginally better luck against the North American squad, as OpTic Gaming also ran roughshod over OG in its match. Despite a solid effort from 7ckingMad’s Gyrocopter (6-4-4), OG was never able to build up much momentum for itself, and was trailing in terms of net worth from the end of the laning stage through the rest of the match. The team was unable to secure a single kill over the final 10 minutes of the game, as OpTic Gaming pushed OG back into its base before sweeping past its final defenses to hand OG its second loss in the round. That loss put OG in the last place position in the First Place Decider Round standings, meaning the European squad advanced to the Quarterfinals of the Playoff Stage rather than the Semifinals.

That Semifinal match up saw OG go up against Southeast Asian squad Fnatic to see which team would be able to advance and secure itself a Top 4 finish at the event. Game 1 proved to be a one sided match for OG, as the European team got off to a hot start behind a core trio of Lone Druid, Dragon Knight, and Queen of Pain. OG’s lineup was able to exert significant pressure on Fnatic’s heroes, forcing the Southeast Asian squad into a defensive posture that it was never able to come out of. Fnatic’s lineup did manage to extend the match significantly, but without the team fight presence to overpower OG’s lineup, the SEA squad couldn’t mount an effective comeback effort. OG’s core trio ended up combining for a stat line of 22-11-43, and Fly’s Phoenix (7-1-16) put together an impressive performance as well to help OG dominate the match from start to finish and take a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 did not begin well for OG, as its core trio of Medusa, Death Prophet, and Lycan were constantly pressured by an aggressive Fnatic draft. The Southeast Asian squad refused to allow OG any opportunities for its cores to farm safely, and its early pressure allowed it to build up a small net worth lead heading into the mid-game stage. OG’s lineup appeared to hit its stride at that point, as the European squad was able to find multiple pick offs and secure some farm for its cores to take back the net worth lead. However, the team’s small net worth lead wasn’t enough to fully counteract Fnatic’s team fight power, as the Southeast Asian squad came charging back in the late-game with a series of team fight victories that wiped out OG’s lead. With the momentum of the match shifted irrevocably out of its favor and its base crumbling, OG conceded defeat as the series was tied at 1-1. With the series on the line, OG came into Game 3 looking to emphasize both damage and durability with its draft. The team picked up cores of Spectre, Dragon Knight, and Omniknight alongside supports of Leshrac and Chen. The team looked to play aggressively early in the match, utilizing its support duo to find some early kills against Fnatic’s lineup. However, as the laning stage gave way to the mid-game stage, the strength of OG’s lineup began to wane as Fnatic slowly built up momentum. The Southeast Asian squad’s team fight power allowed it to out last OG’s considerable durability, and the European squad didn’t appear to have the damage to find many kills in return. OG failed to earn a single kill over the final 10 minutes of the game, while surrendering 13 kills itself to give Fnatic a near insurmountable advantage. Down two lanes of barracks and over 29k net worth at the 37 minute mark, OG threw in the towel and admitted defeat to lost the series 1-2 and end its run in Birmingham with a finish in the 5th-6th place position.

OG came into the ESL One Birmingham Major knowing exactly where it was going to stand when the Pro Circuit season came to an end. Without its invite eligibility, OG was destined for a run through the TI8 Europe Open Qualifiers. That being said, the team was still looking to put together a strong performance on the Pro Circuit stage to prepare itself for that Open Qualifier run just a few weeks away. Coming into the event, the team wasn’t expected to be a significant contender for a Top 4 position, as OG held a projection in the lower half of the standings in the 7th-9th place range. However, the European squad was able to impress in Birmingham with a run all the way up to the 5th-6th place position at the Major. OG looked confident and consistent in its Group Stage matches, as the team swept through its opponents in Group B for a perfect 3-0 record. The team took down a Top 8 ranked squad in Vici Gaming in its Bo1 series, and claimed a 2-0 victory over a paiN Gaming squad that managed to make a run all the way into the Top 4 at the Major. Once the team got out of the Group Stage though, things started to get a little less impressive. The team lost both of its Bo1 matches against Vitrus.pro and OpTic Gaming in the First Place Decider Round, and ended up losing its series in the Quarterfinals of the Playoff Stage 1-2 against Fnatic. The team’s performance may have fallen off a bit over the second half of the event, but the fact remains that OG did manage to put together a solid showing on the Pro Circuit stage. Since the team isn’t eligible for TI8 invites anyway, the fact that it fell just short of a Top 4 finish isn’t really all that important for the European squad. What was important was that the team showed a bit more confidence and consistency in its play than we’ve seen in some of its weaker recent appearances of the Pro Circuit stage. The good news for OG is that it still has one more opportunity to build on its performance in Birmingham, as the team is just a few days away from a trip to Shanghai to compete in the final Pro Circuit event of the season: the China Dota 2 Supermajor. The team will look to take advantage of that last opportunity to continue testing and preparing itself for the TI8 Open Qualifier as OG readies itself for what will be a long and grueling path to Vancouver this summer.

 

LGD.Forever Young LGD.Forever_Young

Place: 7th-9th

Winnings: $16,000

LGD.Forever Young entered the ESL One Birmingham Major as a team that had been on a significant decline on the Pro Circuit stage over the course of the season. The team’s first Pro Circuit appearance had seen it earn a position in the Top 8 of the Pro Circuit standings, but the Chinese squad has been sliding down the rankings ever since. With the team’s roster changes in March, the team forfeited its invite eligibility as well, consigning a team that had been struggling to compete on the international level to a date with the TI8 China Open Qualifier this summer. That’s quite the reversal of fortunes for a team that began the season with such high hopes, but LGD.Forever Young was determined to put together something positive on the Pro Circuit stage and show the Dota 2 world that it still had the capability to compete with the Pro Circuit’s best in Birmingham. The team couldn’t benefit from any of the Qualifying Points available at the Major, but for the sake of its own sense of pride and confidence, the Chinese squad looked to build up momentum for itself in its final appearance on the Pro Circuit stage.

The Chinese squad found itself placed into Group C for the Group Stage of the Major, where it began play with a Bo1 match up against Southeast Asian squad Mineski. The team looked to dominate team fights with its draft, picking up cores of Death Prophet, Faceless Void, and Brewmaster alongside supports of Warlock and Tusk. It quickly became apparent that the Chinese squad’s considerable team fight power wasn’t going to be enough to secure it an advantage. Mineski’s Anti-Mage managed to avoid LGD.Forever Young’s team fight initiations, only fighting in situations in which Mineski stood to benefit. Despite taking the better of most of the fights, LGD.Forever Young found itself trailing significantly in terms of net worth through the mid and late-game stages. Despite a solid performance from Monet’s Faceless Void (9-2-6), the Chinese squad wasn’t able to seize control of the match, and Mineski eventually wore down its defenses and forced out a “gg” call to put LGD.Forever Young in the Elimination Match of Group C.

The team found itself in an all-Chinese match up in that Elimination Match, as LGD.Forever Young faced off against Newbee to determine which squad would stay alive in the group. Game 1 of the series proved to be a disaster for LGD.Forever Young, as the squad’s lineup was pressured early by Newbee’s aggressive style. The team struggled throughout the match, and trailed in terms of net worth from the very beginning of play. Down by over 26k net worth at the 30 minute mark, LGD.Forever Young realized its odds of pulling off a comeback were essentially nonexistent, and the team conceded defeat to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 of the series saw LGD.Forever Young flip the script as it attempted to be the more aggressive squad behind a core trio of Medusa, Gyrocopter, and Clockwerk. That aggressive strategy worked well for the team early, as the Chinese squad was able to pressure and harass Newbee’s lineup enough to build up a sizable net worth lead. However, as the match progressed into the late-game stage, that advantage withered away for LGD.Forever Young. Newbee’s team fight power allowed it to take control of the match and eventually claim Mega Creeps. However, LGD.Forever Young wasn’t willing to give in, and behind impressive showings from Super’s Medusa (13-4-16, 40.8k net worth) and Monet’s Gyrocopter (14-6-23, 28.6k net worth), the team managed to pull off an incredible series of team fight wins to claim an improbable comeback victory and tie up the series. With its comeback effort having proven successful, LGD.Forever Young entered Game 3 of the series with a high level of confidence that immediately transferred into its play. The team’s core trio of Lina, Leshrac, and Bristleback quickly established a pace and level of control that Newbee could not contend with. LGD.Forever Young was able to build up a sizable net worth lead early, and never lost it throughout the entirety of the match. With the team’s cores combining for a stat line of 41-19-51 and its support duo pouring in an additional 59 assists, LGD.Forever Young simply ran over Newbee en route to a 2-1 win in the series and a place in the Decider Match of the group.

The team’s victory over its regional rival had earned it one last chance to advance out of the Group Stage, but the Chinese team would need to claim a win in its Bo3 rematch against Mineski in order to do so. Game 1 saw LGD.Forever Young pick up a core trio of Leshrac, Bloodseeker, and Bristleback, and that lineup was able to carve out a small advantage for itself early. Unfortunately, the team’s early momentum would not last, as Mineski’s more durable lineup was able to out last LGD.Forever Young and largely control team fights in the mid and late-game stages. Despite strong showing from Super on Leshrac (8-7-11) and Monet’s Bloodseeker (10-6-9), the Chinese squad was unable to reclaim its momentum as it lost the opening match of the series. With its back against the wall, LGD.Forever Young opted for high damage output and control, combining cores of Sniper, Gyrocopter, and Beastmaster with supports of Jakiro and Earth Spirit. That strategy fell flat from the very start of the match, as Mineski’s durable team fight lineup established a fast pace and a high level of early pressure that caught LGD.Forever Young off guard. The team trailed for the entirety of the match, and it was never able to put together a strong enough team fight effort to swing any momentum its way. With the team trailing by nearly 18k net worth at the 30 minute mark and its base crumbling around it, the Chinese squad had few options left to it as Mineski handed it a 0-2 loss to bring its run at the Major to an end with a 7th-9th place finish overall.

LGD.Forever Young came into the ESL One Birmingham Major already knowing where it was headed this summer, as the team was already locked into a run through the TI8 China Open Qualifier. With that in mind, the team’s focus at the Major was centered more around putting together a solid run for the sake of its own confidence and momentum heading into that Open Qualifier run. Coming into the event, the Chinese squad was not expected to perform particularly well, with LGD.Forever Young being projected to finish at the bottom of the standings with a 10th-12th place position. Although the squad still ended up finishing in the bottom half of the standings, it did manage to out perform that prediction, as the squad ended its run in the 7th-9th place position at the event. The team’s 2-4 record doesn’t look all that impressive at first glance, but LGD.Forever Young’s performance in Birmingham is not quite as weak as its final position might imply. First and foremost, it’s worth noting that all 6 of the team’s matches at the event came against teams ranked in the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings, which already presented a formidable challenge for the squad. The team also managed to win its series against Newbee, claiming one blow out victory as well as another that saw it mount an impressive comeback from a deficit of over 16k net worth to help it knock its opponent out of the Major. In the end though, the team did end up losing 4 of its matches, and all 4 of them were ugly affairs for the Chinese squad. Across all of those matches, LGD.Forever Young was either blown out from the very start of the game, or ended up collapsing in the late-game losing any chance of working itself back into the game. That inability to close out matches or even present a significant challenge in the late-game is a fairly pressing concern for a squad heading into the Open Qualifiers. The Bo1 format for the majority of the Open Qualifier bracket will not be forgiving for a squad with LGD.Forever Young’s late-game struggles. However, the Chinese squad did show some flashes of its old strength in Birmingham, and if the team can put together a more consistent level of play, then it stands a strong chance of making a successful run through the Open Qualifier. LGD.Forever Young’s time on the Pro Circuit stage may have come to an end this season, but the Chinese squad’s hopes for a place in Vancouver haven’y died just yet. Time will tell if LGD.Forever Young has what it takes to overcome its regional rivals and fight for a place at TI8 this summer.

 

Fnatic Fnaticlogo

Place: 4th

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

Fnatic entered the ESL One Birmingham Major staring down its final chance to find success on the Pro Circuit stage, as this event in Birmingham marked the teams final Pro Circuit appearance of the season. With just one opportunity remaining on the international level, Fnatic found itself facing a significant amount of pressure to succeed. The team sat outside of the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings, and the Southeast Asian squad needed to reach the Grand Finals of the Major in order to have any chance at moving into a Top 8 position and potentially earning itself a direct invite to TI8. That task would not be easy though, as the field of teams in Birmingham was full of squads hoping for a strong performance on the Pro Circuit stage to build up momentum for themselves heading into the end of the season.

Fnatic began its run at the Major with a Bo1 match up against another squad in need of success on the Pro Circuit stage in the form of EG in the Opening Matches of Group A. The Southeast Asian squad put together an Io strategy in the match, combining the support pick with cores of Morphling, Dragon Knight, and Doom. During the laning stage, that lineup struggled to keep pace with EG’s heroes, but the mid and late-game saw the team begin to establish control. Behind solid showings from EternaLEnVy’s Morphling (6-3-5) and UNiVeRsE’s Doom (6-2-12), Fnatic was in a position to close out the match, but EG refused to go down without a fight. The North American squad launched an all out assault on Fnatic’s base, but the Southeast Asian squad used DJ’s Io (5-2-9) to bypass that assault and won a base race to claim its first victory of the Major and advance to the Winners’ Match of the group.

That Winners’ Match saw Fnatic face off against Pro Circuit leader Virtus.pro in a Bo3 series to determine which squad would claim the top spot in the Group A standings.  Game 1 proved to be a disaster for Fnatic, as the Southeast Asian squad fell behind quickly and never found an opportunity to recover. The team managed to put together just 8 kills in the match, as VP led from start to finish and dominated team fights to claim a win in just over 26 minutes and take a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 didn’t end up going much better for Fnatic, as the squad once again faced significant struggles throughout the match. VP’s lineup was able to establish an aggressive and fast paced style that kept heavy pressure on Fnatic’s core heroes and kept the Southeast Asia squad from being effective in mid and late-game team fights. Despite a solid effort from Abed’s Viper (7-7-4), Fnatic could only draw out the match rather than begin working towards a comeback effort. Eventually, VP’s lineup proved too strong for Fnatic to hold back, and SEA squad lost its final defense to suffer a 0-2 defeat in the series and drop down in to the Decider Match of Group A.

Fnatic’s opponent in the Decider Match was another CIS squad, as the team faced Team Spirit to decide which squad would remain alive at the Major and advance to the Playoff Stage. Game 1 saw Fnatic pick up a core trio of Spectre, Storm Spirit, and Dark Seer, and that lineup was quickly able to establish a faster pace than VP Team Spirit was ready for. Fnatic’s early aggression and team fight power kept Team Spirit on the defensive for most of the match and allowed the Southeast Asian squad to build up a sizable net worth lead for itself. Behind strong performances from EternaLEnVy on Spectre (9-6-23) and Abed’s Storm Spirit (16-4-9), Fnatic was able to absolutely dominate fights in the late-game to keep Team Spirit from making any sort of significant comeback effort and claim a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 saw the roles reversed for the 2 teams, as Team Spirit was the one to come out aggressively at the start of the match. Fnatic’s lineup was not prepared to deal with that early pressure, and the team quickly found itself trailing in terms of net worth. Fnatic could never seem to put its damage together in fights, as the Southeast Asian squad secured just 5 kills in the match and couldn’t chip away at Team Spirit’s net worth lead. Down by over 15k net worth at the 21 minute mark, Fnatic opted to concede defeat as the series was tied up at 1-1. Fnatic managed to get things back in its favor in Game 3 though, as the Southeast Asian squad looked to overwhelm its opponent with team fight power and damage. The team’s strong lineup allowed it to find multiple pick offs early in the match, and those early kills helped it out scale its opponent. Behind impressive showing from Abed’s Queen of Pain (13-1-14) and DJ’s Sand King (8-2-18), Fnatic was able to dictate the pace of the game in the mid and late-game stages and dominate team fights to simply overwhelm Team Spirit’s heroes. Up by nearly 25k net worth and 2 lanes of barracks at the 31 minute mark, Fnatic was able to force a “gg” call from its opponent to claim the series 2-1 and secure itself a place in the Playoff Stage.

Fnatic found itself starting in the Quarterfinals of the Playoff Stage, where it was just 1 Bo3 victory against OG away from securing a Top 4 finish in Birmingham. Game 1 of the series did not go well for Fnatic, as its core trio of Morphling, Ember Spirit, and Underlord fell flat in the early stages of the match. OG’s early damage and mobility allowed it to exert significant pressure on Fnatic’s lineup and establish a modest net worth lead. Despite a valiant effort from EternaLEnVy’s Morphling (6-4-5), the Southeast Asian squad couldn’t find a way to turn team fights in its favor as it fell further and further behind over the course of the match. Facing a deficit of nearly 24k net worth, Fnatic attempted one final defense of its base, but OG’s lineup was able to sweep those defenses aside to hand the Southeast Asian squad a loss to begin the series. After its slow start in the previous match, Fnatic looked to push the tempo of Game 2 with a core trio of Chaos Knight, Dragon Knight, and Dark Seer alongside team fight oriented supports of Sand King and Undying. That lineup worked fantastically for the squad, as Fnatic was able to find a high number of early pick offs and team fight wins to build up a small net worth lead heading into the mid-game stage. OG’s lineup was able to make a small surge to briefly take the net worth lead away from Fnatic though as the late-game set in. However, behind a combined stat line of 25-6-41 from its core trio, the Southeast Asian squad was able to reestablish its pace and take a series of team fight wins in the late-game to wipe away OG’s momentum and secure a win to tie up the series 1-1. With the series on the line, Fnatic opted to hang its hat on a core trio of Morphling, Death Prophet, and Night Stalker in Game 3 of the series. Early in the match, that lineup was at a small disadvantage, as OG’s lineup was a bit more aggressive and found some kills in the laning stage to build up a small lead. However, one the laning stage ended and the mid-game came around, Fnatic hit its stride and began to dominate team fights. The team surrendered just 5 kills over the last 20 minutes of the match and found 19 kills of its own to shut down OG and establish a massive net worth lead. Down by over 29k net worth and 2 lanes of barracks, OG threw in the towel to give Fnatic a 2-1 series win and a guaranteed Top 4 finish as it advanced to the Semifinals of the Major.

The team’s place in the Semifinals brought Fnatic just one step away from securing itslef a spot in the Grand Finals and a shot at a Top 8 position in the Pro Circuit standings. However, the Southeast Asian squad needed to get past North American squad OpTic Gaming in order to reach that mark. Fnatic opted for a core trio of Phantom Lancer, Death Prophet, and Axe in Game 1 of the series, but that lineup quickly proved ineffective against OpTic Gaming’s strategy. The North American squad was able to find a few early pick offs, and its cores significantly out scaled their counterparts due in large part to that pressure. Fnatic found itself trailing in terms of net worth early, and the team’s situation did not improve at all as the match progressed. The team could never put together more than a kill or two at a time, and had no significant way to control team fights in the mid-game. Out killed by a score of 4-15 over the final 8 minutes of the game, Fnatic conceded defeat to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw Fnatic come back with a vengeance, as the Southeast Asian squad put together and unbelievable performance and completely decimated OpTic Gaming. The team came out aggressively early, and that aggression caught OpTic Gaming off guard in a massive way as Fnatic established a pace that the North American squad just wasn’t ready to match. Fnatic gave up just 1 kill to its opponent in the match, as its lineup simply ran over OpTic Gaming en route to a win in just 28 minutes of play. With its shot at the Grand Finals and a Top 8 spot in the standings on the line, Fnatic opted for a combination of damage and control as it picked up cores of Spectre, Kunkka, and Batrider alongside Rubick and Ogre Magi supports. The Southeast Asian squad quickly found itself playing from behind though, as OpTic Gaming looked to deny its opponent the opportunity to build up farm and items on its cores. OpTic Gaming’s consistent pressure put Fnatic on the defensive, as the Southeast Asian squad scrambled to create time and space for its fores to come online. Despite a solid effort from EternaLEnVy’s Spectre (9-4-9), Fnatic wasn’t able to mount any sort of significant comeback effort, as the team fell 1-2 in the series to end its chances at reaching the Grand Finals.

While Fnatic didn’t have the chance to play for a Major Championship, its time in Birmingham was not over as the Southeast Asian squad played in the 3rd Place Match against paiN Gaming. Game 1 saw the team start out a bit slow, as its core trio of Lycan, Storm Spirit, and Dark Seer had a hard time keeping up with paiN Gaming in the laning stage. However, the mid-game saw the Southeast Asian squad make a bit of a run, as the team managed to turn the tides and build up momentum for itself with a few pick offs and a team fight win. Unfortunately, that momentum did not last long, as Fnatic’s power dropped off significantly in the late-game in the face of paiN Gaming’s lineup. Despite Abed’s putting together a solid performance on Storm Spirit (5-2-3), Fnatic could not overcome paiN Gaming’s considerable team fight power as the team lost the opening match of the series. Game 2 saw the Southeast Asian team put together a dominant performance as it looked to even up the series. The team picked up a core trio of Leshrac, Dragon Knight, and Dark Seer, and that lineup was able to exert a heavy amount of early pressure on paiN Gaming’s heroes. Those quick kills made enough space for the team’s cores to out scale their counterparts, as Fnatic built up its net worth lead and established control of the map in the process. Behind impressive performance from both EternaLEnVy on Leshrac (8-1-11) and Abed’s Dragon Knight (9-1-9), Fnatic was able to shut down paiN Gaming’s lineup and dominate late-game fights to establish complete control over the match. With a net worth lead of over 17k at the 29 minute mark, Fnatic was able to sweep aside paiN Gaming’s final defenses in order to secure a win and tie the series at 1-1. Game 3 of the series saw Fnatic get off to a fantastic start, as it combined a core trio of Morphling, Dragon Knight, and Sand King with supports of Slardar and Bane. The team was able to establish a fast pace early, finding multiple pick offs against paiN Gaming’s lineup and building up a sizable net worth lead in the first half of the match. With the team’s core trio combining for a stat line of 28-16-40, the Southeast Asian squad appeared to be in a commanding position as the match headed into the late-game stage. However, Fnatic’s control over the match was quickly broken after that point, as paiN Gaming clawed its way back into the match through a series a incredible team fight wins. Despite the team’s impressive start, Fnatic was unable to retake control after paiN Gaming’s late-game surge as the Southeast Asian squad was defeated to lose the series 1-2 and end its run at the Major with a 4th place finish.

Fnatic entered the ESL One Birmingham Major knowing that it only had one chance left on the Pro Circuit stage to make a run at a Top 8 position and a potential direct invite to TI8. In order to reach that position though, the team had to finish in either 1st or 2nd place at the Major, a daunting task for the Southeast Asian squad. Coming into the event, the team was not expected to reach that mark, as Fnatic was projected to finish just outside of the Top 4 with a 5th-6th place position overall. The team proved itself able to outperform those expectations as it made a run all the way to 4th place, but that run still left it short of its ultimate goal. The Southeast Asian squad put together a commendable run at the event, defeating both Evil Geniuses and Team Spirit in order to secure itself a spot in the Playoff Stage. Within that Playoff Stage, the team managed to bring down OG and took a game off of OpTic Gaming before falling into the 3rd Place Match where it unfortunately fell 1-2 against paiN Gaming. Based on the team’s position in the event standings, its run in Birmingham should be seen as a strong performance and a solid finish overall. However, the team’s play at the Major epitomized what has been an issue for the team throughout the season, as Fnatic struggled with wildly inconsistent levels of play. When the team won, it looked confident and cohesive in terms of its drafting, strategy, and teamwork. When Fantic lost though, it lost badly, as the team was often blown out by its opponents and had little to no serious chances of mounting comeback efforts in those matches. To a certain extent, that feast or famine play style has always been a part of Fnatic’s identity, but it seemed even more pronounced than usual in Birmingham. The good news for the team is that its performance, as inconsistent as it may have been, earned it a Top 4 finish at the event. The problem for Fnatic is that its 4th place finish wasn’t good enough, as the Southeast Asian squad needed to finish in either 1st or 2nd to have a shot at a Top 8 position and a direct invite to TI8. With its time on the Pro Circuit now at an end, Fnatic must prepare itself for a run through the TI8 Southeast Asia Qualifier in order to secure a spot in Vancouver this summer. Given the number of strong teams within the SEA region, that will not be an easy task for Fnatic to accomplish, especially considering the team’s penchant for high risk, high reward scenarios. However, if the team can put together a run like the one it showed in Birmingham, than the hope is that Fnatic can mitigate the risks of its strategies and overcome its regional rivals to earn a place in the field at TI8.

 

OpTic Gaming OpTic_Gaming

Place: 2nd

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

OpTic Gaming entered the ESL One Birmingham Major as a team with a dream as it made its final appearance on the Pro Circuit stage. The team still held its invite eligibility coming into the event, and as such was still in line for an invite to the TI8 North America Qualifier. However, the team had aspirations of reaching a higher goal than the regional qualifier, as it still had a chance at earning itself a spot in the Top 8 of the Pro Circuit standings and potentially earn a direct invite to TI8. In order to make that happen though, the North American squad had to claim a 1st place finish at the Major, a daunting task for any squad with the number of formidable and experienced teams in the field in Birmingham.  That being said, OpTic Gaming still wanted to take its shot at success on the Pro Circuit stage and put together a strong enough performance to claim its first Major Championship of the season and keep its hopes of a direct invite to TI8 alive.

The North American squad got things started in Birmingham with a Bo1 match against Newbee in the Opening Matches of Group C. OpTic Gaming picked up a core trio of Luna, Dragon Knight, and Clockwerk in the match, and early on that lineup kept even with its opponent. However, the mid and late-game stages provided OpTic Gaming with an opportunity to take control, as its considerable team fight power allowed it to defeat Newbee repeatedly and push the Chinese squad back inside of its base. Behind impressive showing from CCnC’s Dragon Knight (11-2-5) and Pajkatt’s Luna (6-0-9), the North American squad was able to push past Newbee’s final base defense to claim a win to open its run at the Major.

The team’s victory over Newbee put it in the Winners’ Match of Group C, where it faced off against Mineski in a Bo3 series to see which squad would claim the top spot in the group standings. Game 1 proved to be a struggle for the North American squad, as OpTic Gaming found itself trailing in terms of net worth from the very start of the match. While Pajkatt managed to put together a strong performance on Morphling (11-3-4), it wasn’t enough to spark a full comeback effort from OpTic Gaming as the team fell behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw OpTic Gaming turn things around, as the team picked up a high damage core trio of Gyrocopter, Ember Spirit, and Dark Seer. The team got off to a strong start in the match, as its line up was able to take the better of early fights and skirmishes. Mineski managed to make a surge in the mid-game stage to briefly swing the net worth lead in its favor, but OpTic Gaming was able to quickly shut down the Southeast Asian squad’s momentum. Behind Pajkatt’s incredible Gyrocopter play (19-3-12), the North American squad reestablished its hold over the pace of the match and proceeded to overwhelm Mineski’s final defense attempts to even the series at 1-1. Game 3 saw the North American squad struggle in the early stages of the match, as its lineup was pressured and out farmed by its opponents through the first 20 minutes of the game. However, the team managed to get itself back on track in the mid-game, as its cores began out pacing those of Mineski and its team fight power started to become more apparent.  With the team’s core trio of Queen of Pain, Lycan, and Gyrocopter combining for a stat line of 33-11-52, OpTic Gaming dominated late-game fights and held complete control over the final half of the game to secure itself a 2-1 win and the top spot in Group C.

As the Group C winner, OpTic Gaming advanced to the First Place Decider Round in order to determine which 2 of the 3 group winners would advance directly to the Semifinals of the Playoff Stage. The team first faced CIS squad Virtus.pro in its first Bo1 of the Decider Round, although that match did not go particularly well for the team. VP dominated the match from the very start, as OpTic Gaming found itself facing an incredible level of aggression and pressure that it simply wasn’t able to deal with effectively. The North American squad put together just 7 kills in the match as it never had a chance of working itself back into the match. Down by nearly 28k net worth at the 28 minute mark, OpTic Gaming conceded defeat to fall to 0-1 in the Decider Round standings. The team’s second match of the Decider Round saw it face off against OG to see which of the 2 squads would claim the 2nd place position in the standings and a spot in the Semifinals. OpTic Gaming opted to be the aggressor in this match, as the team picked up a core trio of Night Stalker, Death Prophet, and Visage against its European opponent. That strategy paid off fairly quickly for the team, as it was able to establish a fast pace that kept OG’s lineup in a defensive posture for most of the game. With limited opportunities for its core heroes to farm safely, OG fell behind in the mid and late-game stages. With its core trio combining for a stat line of 28-7-35, OpTic Gaming ended up securing the final 15 kills of the match as its defeated OG and claimed a place in the Semifinals of the Playoff Stage.

The Semifinals saw the North American squad take on Fnatic for a shot at a place in the Grand Finals and a Major Championship. Game 1 of the series ended up being a bit of a stomp for OpTic Gaming, as the team came out with a strong core trio of Leshrac, Gyrocopter, and Visage that quickly established an advantage over Fnatic’s lineup. The Southeast Asian squad had a lineup of durable heroes with considerable damage output, but the team couldn’t secure the resources that it needed to reach its full power. Behind a strong performance from Pajkatt’s Gyrocopter (8-1-9), OpTic Gaming kept the Fnatic lineup limited and contained as it led in terms of net worth throughout the match. With a net worth lead of over 18k at the 28 minute mark, OpTic Gaming was able to force out a “gg’ call from its opponent to claim a 1-0 lead in the series. After its victory to open the series, Game 2 proved to be a complete and utter disaster for OpTic Gaming. The team’s lineup was heavily and near constantly harassed and pressured by Fnatic’s aggressive lineup, as the Southeast Asian team build up a sizable net worth lead early and held it throughout the match. The North American squad was out killed by an absurd score of 1-25 as OpTic Gaming was absolutely dominated in the match. With just the 1 kill to its name and facing a deficit of over 19k net worth at the 28 minute mark, OpTic Gaming conceded defeat as the series was tied up at 1-1. Following its somewhat embarrassing loss in Game 2, OpTic Gaming came into the final match of the series looking to make up for its poor performance. The team picked up a core trio of Razor, Axe, and Lycan in its attempt to close out the series, and those heroes proved incredibly effective against Fnatic’s lineup. The Southeast Asian squad was not equipped to handle the aggressive moves of OpTic Gaming, as the North American team built up a significant net worth lead early and used it to continuously apply pressure to Fnatic’s core heroes. Thanks in large part to a dominant performance from 33’s Lycan (11-2-9), OpTic Gaming established control of the match early and never relinquished it as the North American squad claimed a 2-1 win in a chance at a Major Championship.

At this point, OpTic Gaming was just one Bo5 series from claiming its first Major Championship of the season and keeping its hopes alive for a direct invite to TI8. However, the team was in for its greatest challenge of the event as it faced of against Virtus.pro in that Grand Finals series. Game 1 of the series ended up being a disaster for the team, as VP came out aggressively and absolutely shut down the North American squad’s strategy. OpTic Gaming was held to just 7 kills in the match, and trailed by as much as 24k net worth before throwing in the towel in just over 29 minute of play to fall behind 0-1 in the series. The team managed to turn things around in Game 2 behind a core trio of Leshrac, Razor, and Doom. The team’s lineup was able to force engagements from the start of the match, and the North American squad’s ability to take the better of those engagements allowed it to build up a sizable net worth lead that it held for the majority of the match. With its core trio combining for a stat line of 35-19-51, OpTic Gaming looked to be in a commanding position in the late-game stage, but VP still had enough strength to turn the tides of the match. The CIS squad pulled off an incredible series of team fight victories that wiped out OpTic Gaming’s lead and left the team with limited buybacks as VP pushed into its base and swept past its defenses to snatch a win away from the North American squad and hand it a 0-2 deficit in the series. After that demoralizing loss, OpTic Gaming didn’t have much fight left in it, and it showed from the very start of Game 3. VP once again came out with an aggressive lineup and strategy, but the North American squad had little it could do to counteract that aggression. Held to just 6 kills in the match and facing a net worth deficit of over 13k at the 19 minute mark, OpTic Gaming threw in the towel to lose the series 0-3 and end its run at the Major with a 2nd place finish overall.

OpTic Gaming came into the ESL One Birmingham Major looking for a very specific scenario to play out on the Pro Circuit stage. The North American squad needed a 1st place finish in Birmingham in order to have any chance at earning a direct invite to TI8. Coming into the event, the team was not expected to find that success, as OpTic Gamng held a projected finish in the 7th-9th place range. However, the team proved itself more than capable of blowing past those meager expectations, as OpTic Gaming put together an incredible run at the Major and ended up with a 2nd place finish when all was said and done in Birmingham. The team looked fantastic in the Group Stage of the Major, ast he North American squad took wins against 2 Top 8 ranked squads in Newbee and Mineski in order to claim the top spot in the Group C standings. While the team did end up losing a Bo1 to VP in the First Place Decider Round, it managed to bounce back from that loss with a convincing win against OG to secure itself a Top 4 finish and a spot in the Playoff Stage. The team’s performance in that Playoff Stage was solid as well, as the team took down Fnatic 2-1 before unfortunately falling flat against VP for a 0-3 loss in the Grand Finals. Aside from that stumble at the end of the event, OpTic Gaming looked strong and consistent in Birmingham as it earned its second Top 4 finish of the season. Unfortunately, that 2nd place finish at the Major was not enough to push the team into the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings. Without any further Pro Circuit appearances, OpTic Gaming now has no way to secure a Top 8 position or a direct invite to TI8. That might come as a bit of a bummer for a squad that just secured a 2nd place finish at a Major, but it’s not all bad for the North American squad. The team’s performance in Birmingham has made them essentially a lock for an invite to the TI8 North America Qualifier, and the team will enter that qualifier as one of the strongest teams in the region. Unless EG ends up earning more Qualifying Points at the China Dota 2 Supermajor, then OpTic Gaming is also likely to enter that qualifier as the top ranked team in North America. With the team ending its season with back to back Top 4 finishes on the Pro Circuit stage, OpTic Gaming will enter that regional qualifier with a high level of confidence as it looks to earn itself a place in Vancouver this summer.

 

paiN Gaming PaiN_Gaming_2017

Place: 3rd

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

South American squad paiN Gaming came into the ESL One Birmingham with a lot to prove on the Pro Circuit stage. The Brazilian squad had already forfeited its invite eligibility, and therefore was not able to take advantage of the Qualifying Points that were available in Birmingham. However, the team’s recent addition of Aliwi “w33” Omar to the lineup gave it a new look and a new style that it was eager to put on display on the intentional level. While the team was destined for a run through the TI8 South America Open Qualifiers, the chance to test its new lineup on the Pro Circuit stage and against top squads in the international scene was an opportunity that the squad was unwilling to waste. The ESL One Birmingham Major also served as the squad’s final appearance on the Pro Circuit stage, and was likely to be the last time Dota 2 fans got the chance to see the team in official matches before the start of the TI8 Qualifiers. With that in mind, paiN Gaming made its way to Birmingham looking to put together a solid showing in its final Pro Circuit appearance to build up momentum for itself and make a strong impression on the Dota 2 world.

PaiN Gaming opened play at the Major with a Bo1 match up against defending TI Champion Team Liquid in the Opening Matches of Group B. Despite the daunting task of having to play the TI7 Champion in its first match, paiN Gaming was largely unaffected heading into the game. The team looked to play an aggressive style, combining cores of Gyrocopter, Templar Assassin, and Nature’s Prophet with supports of Bounty Hunter and Disruptor. That aggressive lineup paid of early for paiN Gaming, as the South American squad was able to find a near continuous stream of pick offs and team fight wins to establish a fast pace that Team Liquid was ill-equipped to handle. The team’s early aggression created space for its cores to come online, and those cores were in turn able to maintain the team’s aggressive pace and keep pressure on Team Liquid’s lineup. Behind strong performances from both hFn’s Gyrocopter (13-3-19) and W33’s Templar Assassin (12-5-15), paiN Gaming built up a net worth lead of nearly 36k before forced Team Liquid to concede defeat in a stunning upset victory.

That initial victory put paiN Gaming in the Winners’ Match of Group B, where the team faced off against OG in a Bo3 series to determine which squad would claim the top spot in the group standings. The South American squad opted for a core trio of Troll Warlord, Ember Spirit, and Beastmaster in Game 1, but that lineup ran into significant issues once the laning stage came to an end. OG’s lineup had significantly more better team fight execution in the mid and late-game stages that allowed the European squad to establish a sizable net worth lead and near absolute control over the map. PaiN Gaming simply couldn’t put together a strong enough fight to turn the tides of the match, and the Brazilian squad eventually conceded defeat to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 played out in pretty much the same manner for paiN Gaming, as it once again found itself trailing early. OG’s early aggression put the South American squad on the defensive from the very start of the match, and the pressure that the European team exerted allowed its cores to significantly out scale paiN Gaming’s lineup. Aside from a single team fight win around the 23 minute mark, Fnatic was unable to make any significant surges to counter OG’s considerable momentum as the European squad handed paiN Gaming a 0-2 loss in the series.

That loss to OG ended paiN Gaming’s shot at the top spot in Group B, but the team still had a chance at a place in the Playoff Stage as it faced off against Team Liquid once again in the Bo3 Decider Match. Game 1 of the series was a significant struggle for paiN Gaming, as the team’s core trio of Dragon Knight, Lycan, and Leshrac was out played from the very start of the match. Team Liquid’s aggressive style and lineup was able to secure multiple kills against paiN Gaming as the South American squad’s progression was heavily limited over the first half of the match. Things didn’t get much better for the team though, as it continued to lose team fights and surrendered multiple pick offs to Team Liquid’s lineup. With just 9 kills to its name across the entirety of the match, paiN Gaming was in no position to contest Team Liquid as the European squad established control of the match and pushed into its opponent’s base to win Game 1. Game 2 looked like a repeat of its predecessor over the first half of the match, as paiN Gaming once again found itself playing from behind. This time though, the South American squad was prepared to fight back, as its core trio of Morphling, Lina, and Pangolier provided enough power to to overcome Team Liquid’s lineup in the mid and late-game. With that core trio combined for a stat line of 37-16-48, paiN Gaming seized control of the match late and dominated Team Liquid in team fights to claim a win to even up the series 1-1. Game 2 may have looked similar to Game 1 of the series, but Game 3 proved to be a near carbon copy of its predecessor. PaiN Gaming picked up a core trio of Templar Assassin, Ember Spirit, and Underlord in the match, but that lineup found itself trailing in terms of net worth over the first half of the match. Once again though, the South American squad managed to hit its stride in the mid and late-game as it was able to out scale and out fight its opponent. Behind impressive showings from hFn’s Templar Assassin (8-2-14) and Kingrd’s Clockwerk (8-5-19), paiN Gaming completed a series of team fight victories to wipe out Team Liquid’s final defense attempts and force a “gg” call from the team to claim a 2-1 series win and a spot in the Playoff Stage.

Once the South American squad reached the Playoff Stage, it found itself facing off against Southeast Asian squad Mineski with a place in the Semifinals and a Top 4 finish on the line. Pain Gaming came out with a strong and aggressive lineup in Game 1, combining cores of Slark, Death Prophet, and Beastmaster with supports of Jakiro and Naga Siren. The lineup was effective from the start of the match, as paiN Gaming was able to establish the fast pace that it wanted and keep Mineski on the defensive. The Southeast Asian squad was unable to make full use of its considerable team fight power, as paiN Gaming’s near constant pressure and aggression put Mineski at a significant disadvantage. Behind in incredible showing from hFn on Slark (16-0-4), paiN Gaming dominated the late-game stage to shut down Mineski’s final attempts to turn the game around and claim a win to open the series. Game 2 played out in a very similar manner for paiN Gaming, as the team picked up a high damage core trio of Troll Warlord, Death Prophet, and Doom in an attempt to overwhelm its opponent. Mineski’s lineup found itself facing heavy pressure early in the match, as its cores were picked off multiple times to put it at a significant disadvantage. The South American squad was able to take that early advantage and roll with it, out scaling its opponent through the mid and late-game stages and largely controlling team fights throughout the second half of the match. Behind another strong showing from hFn on Troll Warlord (12-2-14) and w33’s Death Prophet (8-3-19), paiN Gaming was able to close out a one sided match to claim a 2-0 sweep of the series and a spot in the Semifinals.

PaiN Gaming found itself just 1 Bo3 series away from the Grand Finals of the Major, but the South American squad needed to defeat Virtus.pro in order to get there. Game 1 saw the team look for a strong team fight lineup as it combined a core trio of Gyrocopter, Templar Assassin, and Brewmaster with a support duo of Sand King and Disruptor. Unfortunately, that lineup failed early in the match, as VP was able to exert and insane level of pressure to shut down paiN Gaming’s cores. The team found itself trailing significantly from the very start of the match, and its lineup didn’t have the items or levels its needed to contend with VP’s heroes. With its cores lagging behind those of VP, paiN Gaming could never put together a strong enough team fight performance to turn the tides of the match, and the South American squad concede defeat to take a loss in just under 29 minutes of play. Game 2 saw paiN Gaming pick up a core trio of Medusa, Gyrocopter, and Night Stalker, but that lineup proved ineffective as well against VP. The CIS squad once again played aggressively early, and paiN Gaming’s heroes were not able to survive against the repeated ganks and attacks from VP’s lineup. The team found itself facing a considerable net worth deficit throughout the match, and things got to a point where it appeared that its only chance of winning the match was to buy as much time as possible for hFn’s Medusa (3-6-5). Unfortunately, the South American squad couldn’t keep the Medusa alive in fights, as VP claimed multiple team fight wins to wipe out paiN Gaming’s lineup and buybacks to hand the team a 0-2 sweep in the series and drop it down in to the 3rd Place Match.

PaiN Gaming may have lost its shot at a Major Championship, but its run in Birmingham wasn’t over as the South American squad faced off against Fnatic to see which team would claim 3rd place at the event. The team came out with a strong team fight lineup in Game 1 as it combined cores of Dragon Knight, Luna, and Pangolier with supports of Rubick and Ancient Apparition. That lineup allowed the team to take a small net worth lead in the laning stage, but that advantage did not last long. Fnatic’s team fight power and farming capabilities allowed it to make a surge in the mid-game stage to seize the net worth lead and threaten to take control of the match. Behind strong performances from hFn’s Luna (9-0-10) and w33’s Dragon Knight (4-2-8) though, paiN Gaming was able to rally in the late-game stage to retake control with a series of pick offs and team fight wins. Those team fights allowed paiN Gaming to push into Fnatic’s base and bring down 2 lanes of barracks before the Southeast Asian squad eventually conceded defeat to give paiN Gaming a 1-0 lead in the series. Unfortunately for paiN Gaming, the team could not maintain its momentum from the opening match of the series as it entered Game 2. The team’s core trio of Morphling, Lina, and Pangolier was met with early aggression from Fnatic that allowed the Southeast Asian team to establish control over the pace of the game. While the cores themselves managed to avoid most of the fighting in the early stage of the match, Fnatic’s aggressive plays gave its own lineup the space it needed to out farm and out scale paiN Gaming’s heroes. Despite a valiant effort from w33’s Lina (4-2-3), the South American squad simply couldn’t stand up against Fnatic’s considerable power as the team took a series of team fight wins and forced a “gg” call to even up the series 1-1. The team did not its final game of the series in a positive fashion, as the team’s core trio of Troll Warlord, Visage, and Doom struggled significantly over the first half of the match. Fnatic’s early aggression put the team on the defensive from the very start of the match, as paiN Gaming lost multiple fights and surrendered numerous kills in the mid-game stage. Things weren’t looking fantastic for the team, but paiN Gaming persevered and eventually found its opportunity in the late-game. Behind incredible performances from hFn’s Troll Warlord (6-4-15, 25.8k net worth) and w33’s Visage (14-11-11, 19,7k net worth), the South American squad was able to put together a stunning series of team fight wins to turn the tides of the match and pull off a comeback victory to claim a 2-1 series win and a 3rd place finish at the Major.

PaiN Gaming entered the ESL One Birmingham Major knowing that it was already destined for a run through the TI8 South American Open Qualifier if it wanted to earn a spot in Vancouver this summer. However, the team’s recent roster changes gave it a newfound hope and sense of optimism on the international level, and the Brazilian squad was looking to test the capabilities of its new roster on the Pro Circuit stage. Coming into the Major, the uncertainty of the team’s new lineup left its expectations low, as paiN Gaming was projected to finish at the bottom of the standings with a 10th-12th place finish. The team blew those meager predictions out of the water, as the South American squad put together one of the more impressive runs we’ve seen on the Pro Circuit stage and made it all the way to a 3rd  place position in Birmingham. The Brazilian squad looked impressive in the Group Stage of the event, as the team did lose 0-2 against OG but ended up winning 3 of its 4 matches against the defending TI7 Champions in Team Liquid. The team’s performance got even more impressive once it reached the Playoff Stage, as paiN Gaming took a convincing 2-0 win against another Top 8 ranked team in Mineski. In the end, it took a match up against the Pro Circuit leader in Virtus.pro to bring paiN Gaming’s momentum to an end, as the CIS squad defeated the team 2-0 in the Semifinals of the Major. By that point though, the team had already secured itself a Top 4 finish, and its 2-1 victory against Fnatic in the 3rd Place Match brought the team’s impressive run to an end with a 3rd place finish overall. The team’s successful run in Birmingham may not change paiN Gaming’s standing on the Pro Circuit, but it comes as a significant development for the team heading into the end of the season. First and foremost, the team proved that its new lineup was capable of competing with and even defeating some of the best teams on the Pro Circuit, which was the driving hope behind the team’s acquisition of w33. Additionally, the team becomes just the second South American squad to earn Qualifying Points on the Pro Circuit, and now stands as one, if not the, strongest teams with in the region. The team accomplished everything that it could have hoped for in its final appearance of the season on the Pro Circuit stage, as the team proved itself on the international level and built up a significant amount of momentum heading into the TI8 South America Open Qualifier. We shall see if the team’s impressive run in Birmingham was a fluke, or it it can fuel a strong performance in that Open Qualifier as paiN Gaming looks to make its way to Vancouver to represent South American at TI8.

 

Team Spirit 536px-Team_Spirit_2016

Place: 7th-9th

Winnings: $16,000

Team Spirit came into the ESL One Birmingham Major as a replacement team after Na’Vi withdrew from the event, and the CIS squad was hoping to make the most of its extra opportunity to play on the Pro Circuit stage. Roster changes had forfeited the team’s invite eligibility and consigned the squad to a run through the TI8 CIS Open Qualifier, but that didn’t mean that the team had nothing to gain in Birmingham. With no previous Pro Circuit experience, Team Spirit came into the Major looking to build up some vital experience for its roster on the international level. In addition to Pro Circuit experience, the CIS squad was also hoping to put together a solid performance in the hopes of establishing a sense of confidence and momentum for itself that it could carry into its Open Qualifier run this summer.

The team began its run at the Major with a tough challenge, as Team Spirit faced fellow CIS squad and Pro Circuit leader Virtus.pro in the Opening Matches of Group A. The team came into the Bo1 match with a core trio of Lycan, Death Prophet, and Underlord, but that lineup got off to a rough start in the match. Despite a valiant effort from Illidan’s Lycan (6-5-2), Team Spirit wasn’t able to fully establish itself in the match, as VP was able to dominate the mid-game and put Team Spirit on the defensive. Out killed by a score of 2-16 over the final 8 minutes of the game, Team Spirit conceded defeat to lose its first match of the Major and drop down into the Elimination Match of Group A.

That Elimination Match saw Team Spirit go up against North American squad Evil Geniuses in a Bo3 series to determine which team would finish last in the Group A standings. Team Spirit looked to play aggressively in Game 1, combining a core trio of Slark, Axe, and Visage with supports of Skywrath Mage and Shadow Demon. The aggressive play from the CIS squad didn’t pay off immediately, but as the laning stage gave way to the early and mid-game stage, Team Spirit’s aggression became more prominent. The team was able to exert significant pressure on EG, keeping its opponent limited whilst buying a large amount of time for its own cores to scale and progress. Behind impressive performances from Illidan’s Slark (14-0-7) and G’s Visage (8-3-17), Team Spirit established a massive net worth lead that EG simply didn’t have the strength to overcome as the CIS squad claimed a win to open the series. Game 2 saw the team take a different approach with its draft, picking up cores of Luna, Windranger, and Slardar along with supports of Shadow Demon and Leshrac. That lineup got off to a slow start in the match, as EG’s early rotations made enough space for its cores to build up a small net worth lead. However, Team Spirit was quickly able to recover from that rough early game and claim control of the match in the mid and late-game stages. Behind impressive showings from Illidan on Luna (12-4-15) and G’s Windranger (17-5-11), Team Spirit dominated late-game fights to wipe out EG’s lead and force the North American squad back into its base. With the CIS squad’s considerable strength and net worth advantage, Team Spirit was able to wipe out EG’s final defense and take a 2-0 sweep of the series.

That victory over EG brought Team Spirit just 1 Bo3 series win away from securing itself a place in the Playoff Stage in its Pro Circuit debut, but the CIS squad had to get past Fnatic in order to reach that mark. The team looked for an aggressive lineup in Game 1 of the series, picking up cores of Slark, Lina, and Axe along with supports of Shadow Demon and Chen. Unfortunately for Team Spirit, its early aggression backfired, as the team surrender multiple kills to Fnatic and quickly found itself trailing in terms of net worth. With its strategy largely unsuccessful, Team Spirit was not in a fantastic position moving forward, as Fnatic established a lead and continued to dominate team fights through the mid and late-game stages.Team Spirit’s cores were never able to get the upper hand on their counterparts, as Team Spirit fell behind by as much as 12k net worth before throwing in the towel to lose the first match of the series. Despite its loss to open the series, Team Spirit still felt confident in its aggressive strategy and opted to try it again in Game 2 of the series. The CIS squad picked up cores of Slark, Pugna, and Axe alongside supports of Skywrath mage, and Chen. This time, the aggressive strategy worked for Team Spirit, as the team quickly established control over the pace of the game and put Fnatic in a defensive posture. The CIS squad surrender just 5 kills in the match as it led from start to finish in terms of net worth.  Behind an impressive performance from DkPhobos on Axe (12-0-3), Team Spirit was able to continuously pressure Fnatic’s cores and win team fight after team fight in order to claim a win in just under 22 minutes to even up the series. Game 3 saw Team Spirit try to pull one more win out of its aggressive strategy, but this time Fnatic was able to reverse the roles from the previous match. The Southeast Asian squad turned Team Spirit’s aggression against it, keeping its opponent’s lineup contained and limited whilst creating opportunities for its own heroes to build up a sizable advantage. That advantage lasted throughout the match, as Team Spirit was never able to put together a team fight win or chip away at Fnatic’s net worth lead. Down by nearly 25k net worth as the 31 minute mark, the CIS squad conceded defeat to lose the series 1-2 and end its run at the Major with a finish in the combined 7th-9th place position.

Team Spirit had been a surprise addition to the field of participants for the ESL One Birmingham Major, but the CIS squad was hoping to put together a strong showing all the same in its Pro Circuit debut. Despite not being eligible for an invite to TI8 or the TI8 Regional Qualifiers, Team Spirit was still hoping to make a strong first impression on the Pro Circuit stage and potentially build up some momentum for itself heading into the Open Qualifiers. Prior to the start of play in Birmingham, the CIS squad was not expected to find much success, with Team Spirit projected to finish at the bottom of the standings in the 10th-12th place position. However, the team proved itself capable of surpassing those expectations, as it managed to put together a finish in the 7th-9th place position at the Major. At 3-3, the team’s Group Stage record may not blow anyone away at first glance, but it somewhat impressive considering the fact that the team was making its first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage. The team managed to earn a 2-0 win over Evil Geniuses and even took a game off of Fnatic, with all 3 of those wins coming in relatively convincing fashion. Aside from its 1-2 loss to Fnatic, Team Spirit’s only other loss of the event came against Virtus.pro, the top ranked team on the entire Pro Circuit. Within that context, the team’s performance in Birmingham is actually fairly impressive, and we’ve been given a brief glimpse at what this squad is capable of. We’ll get a chance to see Team Spirit in action again before the end of the season as well, as the Team is also set to participate in the upcoming China Dota 2 Supermajor. If Team Spirit can combine this solid start in Birmingham with a decent showing in Shanghai, then the squad has the chance to end its season on a high note and take a bit of momentum into its run through the TI8 CIS Open Qualifier in June.

 

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