Pro Circuit Qualifier Preview – The Kuala Lumpur Major China Qualifier

The post-TI roster shuffle may have hit China hard this year, but new challengers will find familiar names standing in their path to Kuala Lumpur

The offseason is officially coming to an end in the Dota 2 world, and fans the world over once more prepare for the high stakes action of the Dota 2 Pro Circuit. After the conclusion of the Open Qualifiers for all 6 regions, the main regional qualifiers for the Kuala Lumpur Major are set to begin tomorrow. 3 of the 6 regions will get things started on the 15th and 16th, with the Chinese region being in that first group alongside CIS and South America. The Chinese teams will actually have the pleasure of opening up the first closed qualifier of the new Pro Circuit season, as they are scheduled to begin their qualifier before any of the other regions. With many teams sporting new lineups and a couple of completely new organizations altogether in the field, the time has come to provide a brief breakdown of the teams and where they stand in terms of their relative strength in this first qualifier of the 2018-2019 season.

Just as with all of the other regions, the China Qualifier has built up its field of 8 teams from a mixture of 4 directly invited squads and 4 Open Qualifier teams. The 8 teams in the China Qualifier will be competing for 3 spots at the Major in November, and will also be fighting for the chance to establish themselves early in the season as a leader within what is a crowded Chinese region once again. Of course, every team that plays in this qualifier has a chance of making it to the Major, no matter how small that chance may be. This post is not going to be about counting any particular team out before play has even begun. However, I will instead be dividing the 8 teams into groups, depending on their projected strength and expectations, as well as their potential ability to claim 1 of the 3 Major spots up for grabs in this qualifier.

The Favorites

These squads are the elite of the group, comprised mostly of squads that were contenders or leaders in the region last season or at TI8 and kept their rosters entirely or largely intact through the offseason shuffle. These are the teams that will likely be considered as favorite regardless of the match up that they face, and if a team in this section does not earn itself a place at the Major, then it will come as a bit more of a shock and a disappointment compared to the other squads in the field.

PSG LGD PSG.LGD
Roster:

Wang “Ame” Chunyu
Lu “Somnus丶M” Yao
Yang “Chalice”‘ Shenyi
Xu “fy” Linsen
Jian Wei “xNova” Yap

This one is about as easy as it gets in terms of rankings, as PSG.LGD stands as the TI8 Runner-Up and the clear leader in the Chinese region heading into the new Pro Circuit season. The team opted to keep its lineup intact through the offseason, and retains its position at the top of the regional hierarchy in China. Until we see someone definitively knock off the team, PSG.LGD is the King of the region, and with 3 spots available for China in this qualifier, it is almost inconceivable that the squad misses out on earning a spot at the first Major of the 2018-2019 season. That being said, we’ve seen Chinese teams fall apart after finding success at TI in the past (post-TI4 Newbee, post-TI5 CDEC Gaming, and post-TI6 Wings Gaming all come to mind as relevant examples), and PSG.LGD is not invincible despite its impressive play both on the Pro Circuit last season and in Vancouver just 1 month ago. However, at the moment it would likely take a meltdown of legendary proportions for this PSG.LGD squad to falter right out of the gates, and you can almost certainly count on this team to perform up to its incredible high standards.

The Contenders

The squads in this section are the ones that fall just a small step below the favorites in terms of their skill, level of success, or perceived strength of their lineup. These are the teams that could fairly easily claim 1 of the 2 spots up for grabs in this tournament, but aren’t necessarily expected to win out over the entire field. These teams will likely be right at the cusp of success in this qualifier, and are the ones that seem most probable to be the squad that ends up 1 match or 1 series short of a spot in Kuala Lumpur.

Newbee_logo Newbee
Roster:

Xu “Moogy” Han
Song “Sccc” Chun
He “Inflame” Yongzheng
Tang “CatYou” Xiaolei
Zeng “Faith” Hongda

Newbee begins the Pro Circuit season in rather desperate need of a rest and a strong start after a truly disappointing performance at TI8. After a 2nd place finish at TI7, the squad was looking for its chance to prove the doubters wrong, but a shocking 13th-16th place finish in Vancouver last month raised more than a few questions for the Chinese squad heading into the new season. The team returns to the Pro Circuit with a new look, having picked up a new Offlaner and Support player in the offseason, but there are still some concerns for the team in this qualifier. Kpii and Kaka, the players that Newbee lost, are world-class talents, but their replacements on the Newbee lineup are not quite up to that same caliber. Inflame and CatYou may not be able to provide the same level of aggressive play making that their predecessors brought to the table, and Newbee may have to change its style of play to account for that. That being said though, the Newbee of recent years has often been one that has been led from the front, with the Carry/Mid duo of Moogy and Sccc being the focal point of the team’s overall strategy. With those 2 still in the mix for Newbee, it remains a contender and a formidable opponent within the Chinese region, though it is not quite the powerhouse squad that is was around this time last year.

Team Serenity Team Serenity
Roster:

Jin “zhizhizhi”‘ Zhiyi
Zhang “Zyd”‘ Daquan
Zhao “XinQ” Zixing
Xiong “Pyw”‘ Jiahan
Xiao “XCJ”‘ Chaojian

Team Serenity present one of the stranger cases in this field for The Kuala Lumpur Major China Qualifier, despite the squad having been directly invited to the closed qualifier. The squad came from essentially nowhere last season, winning the TI8 China Qualifier despite having never finished any higher than 6th in a Pro Circuit Qualifier that season. Its presence within the Chinese region was contained almost exclusively to Open Qualifiers and minor regional tournaments, but the team showed that it had the talent and skill it needed to earn a place in Vancouver. The team finished in the 9th-12th place position, which is honestly a bit higher than most people had probably ranked them, and posted a 7-9 Group Stage record and a win against Fnatic in Round 1 of the Lower Bracket before losing to OpTic Gaming in Round 2. For a team to take the leap from competing in Open Qualifier within its home region to playing on the TI stage is absolutely incredible, and the good news for Team Serenity is that it kept that TI8 lineup intact through the offseason period. Roster stability and consistency often plays a more significant role in a team’s success than people realize, and in a region where nearly every notable team has made roster changes, Team Serenity’s more established team chemistry could make the difference for it in this qualifier. If the team has kept itself in top form and avoided the dreaded “post-TI slump”, then expect Team Serenity to be in the mix to claim 1 of the 3 available spots at the Major.

Team Aster Team Aster
Roster:

Liu “Sylar” Jiajun
Deng “Dstones”  Lei
Lin “Xxs” Jing
Ye “BoBoKa” Zhibiao
Lu “Fenrir” Chao

The formation of Team Aster in China received quite a bit of attention in the Dota 2 world, and for fairly good reason. A team consisting of 4 veteran Chinese players and a young, up-and-coming talent, all under the guidance of a legendary player in Xu “BurNIng” Zhilei has the potential to rock the established order within the region. That’s all well and good in terms of sensationalist headlines, but it’s far from a clear path to success for Team Aster, especially in this regional qualifier. Amidst the veteran experience and legendary founders, the Team Aster lineup is partially focused around Midlaner Dstones, one of the younger and more recent talents to emerge in China. His Dota 2 career began just over a year ago, and his experience to this point has been limited to relatively minor teams in the regional hierarchy. His development will be one of the more prominent story lines for this Team Aster squad, both in this qualifier and across the season as a whole. Should Dstones struggle in his first test playing at the highest level in China, then Team Aster may encounter some issues in their first Pro Circuit campaign. Given the strength of its lineup, the team may still be able to pick up the slack and put together a strong enough performance to earn a place in Kuala Lumpur. However, if Dstones is able to shine in his Pro Circuit debut, then this Team Aster lineup will be one of the most fearsome and formidable squads in the field.

The “Maybe, ifs..”

This section is where we start to get into some particularly interesting scenarios, as we take a look at some of the squads like somewhat lower expectations for this qualifier. These squads are more than capable of putting on a good show and taking 1 of the 2 spots for the CIS region at the Major, but they more than likely will need a little bit of help to get there. Whether its a favorable group, a particularly beneficial match up, or the opportunity to avoid playing one of the stronger teams, these squads are the ones that might just need a little outside help to claim a place in Kuala Lumpur.

Vici Gaming small Vici Gaming
Roster:
Zhang Paparazi灬Chengjun
Zeng  “Ori”Jiaoyang
Zhou “Yang”Haiyang
Pan “Fade”Yi
DingDyCong

At first glance, it appears somewhat strange to place a team that was directly invited to the closed qualifier in this category. One would think that a team that is directly invited to an event would be considered strong enough to be in the contenders or favorites category, but Vici Gaming presents us with a somewhat interesting scenario. The organization changed out over half of its lineup this offseason, building a new lineup around its core duo of Paparazi灬 and Ori. We know what that strong duo is capable of, but the team’s performance in this qualifier will also be significantly affected by the play of its new roster additions. Yang and Fade represented themselves fairly well during the season as members of VGJ.Thunder, but the team’s performance took a rather sharp decline towards the end of the year and it struggled to an alarming degree in Vancouver with a 13th-16th place finish at TI8. Meanwhile, Dy comes to the team with his only professional experience coming from youth squads and minor organizations, and he is as of yet unproven at the top level of play in China. For Vici Gaming to find success in this qualifier, it is going to need strong showings from Paparazi灬 and Ori, bounce back showings from Fade and Yang, and an impressive debut from Dy. 1 or 2 of those scenarios materializing for the team isn’t necessarily unreasonable, but having all 3 factors go right for the team is something that it doesn’t feel like you can fully rely on or expect for Vici Gaming.

Royal Never Give Up Royal Never Give Up
Roster:
DuMonetPeng
Gao “Setsu”Zhenxiong
Sun SrfRunfa
Tueah fuSoon Chuan
Adam “343” a.k.a. “Adam” Shah

The roster of Royal Never Give Up has quite a few names that you are likely to recognize if you know much about the Chinese and Southeast Asian scenes, which would imply that the team has a shot at earning itself a place in Kuala Lumpur. While the team does have a chance at claiming 1 of those 3 spots, that chance is not quite as high as some of the other teams in the field. Coming into this qualifier, the team’s lineup will be just a few days old, having only been officially announced on September 13th. Now, the team could still have been boot-camping and scrimmaging prior to the official announcement, but that still leaves the roster with limited experience playing together in official matches. Also of note for the team was the fact that it only recently resolved its transfer dispute with LGD Gaming regarding additions to its roster. Combine a lack of general preparation time with an out-of-game organisational issue, and Royal Never Give Up is already a squad that appears to have significant obstacles to overcome in this qualifier. The good news for the team is that its lineup has a number of highly skilled and experienced players, and that talent could be enough to keep the squad in contention for a spot at the Major. If Royal Never Give Up is going to successfully earn itself a place in Kuala Lumpur, then it’s roster is going to need to come together quickly and efficiently to overcome its lack of experience as a unit.

No Team Logo DeathBringer Gaming
Roster:
Yang “Ms” Yongjie 
Liu “Freeze” Chang
Hu “Guvara” Sen
XuHymZhi 
Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng

With all of the chaos and news of the offseason roster shuffle in the Chinese region, the formation of DeathBringer Gaming was somewhat overshadowed by the changes announced by the established organizations. However, the newly formed team will be hoping to steal the spotlight with a strong showing in this regional qualifier as it looks to secure itself a place at the first Major of the Pro Circuit season. At first glance, the roster of DeathBringer Gaming is not overly impressive, as the 3 members of the team coming over on loan from EHOME did not impress with their performances last season. However, the core of the DeathBringer Gaming roster is the duo of Freeze and LaNm, 2 players that the team hopes will be able to lead the squad to success in China. LaNm stands as one of the most experienced and successful players in the Chinese scene, and Freeze established himself as a skilled and fairly reliable Midlaner in his time with VGJ.Thunder last season. With the 2 of them serving as anchors and potentially focal points for the team, the other members of DeathBringer Gaming will hopefully have more leeway and more opportunities to contribute to the team in this qualifier and across the Pro Circuit season as a whole. The “if” for DeathBringer Gaming in terms of finding success will likely be the play of MS, Guvara, and Hym, but the secret to their success appears to be strong performances and guidance from Freeze and LaNm.

800px-EHOME EHOME
Roster:
Luo “Sea mew” Bin
Li “ASD” Zhiwen
Zhang “Faith_bian” Ruida
Jiang “天命” a.k.a “Tiān mìng” An
Zhang “y`” Yiping

The EHOME organization has found itself facing hard times over the past few years, as it has somewhat fallen from grace and now languishes in the lower tiers of the Chinese scene where it was once the unquestioned leaders. The team’s previous Pro Circuit campaign was not impressive by any means, and heading into the new season, the organization opted to make significant changes with 3 new players joining its roster. The plan for the team this season appears to be to combine young talent at the Carry and Midlane positions with a trio of more experienced players. Sea mew and ASD do not have extensive experience at the professional level, but they have shown enough flashes of skill and potential so far for EHOME to take a chance on the duo. Meanwhile, 天命, Faith_bian, and y` have been playing at a professional level for several year now, with the latter 2 players standings as TI6 Champions with Wings Gaming. We’ve seen the combination of veteran experience and young talent pay off in the past, but it’s never a sure thing in the Dota 2 world as EHOME attempt to secure itself a place at the Major. No matter how well the team’s more experienced trio plays, EHOME’s success will come down to the performances of Sea mew and ASD. If the rest of the squad can provide opportunities for their core duo, then EHOME stands a solid chance of competing in this qualifier, but if those 2 central players cannot perform up to expectations, then the path to Kuala Lumpur will be particularly difficult for the squad.

 

The Long Shots (or lack thereof)

This final section would usually contain the squads that have the lowest chance of finding success in the qualifier. The teams here would be considered true underdogs, unfavored in all but 1 or 2 potential match ups and expected to finish at the bottom of the standings. However, this particularly situation with the China Qualifier gives us a scenario in which there aren’t any squads that can definitively be placed in that category. All but 2 teams in the field have partially changed or completely new rosters heading into this qualifier, and with 3 spots available for the region, it is hard to identify a team whose success would truly come as a shock. With that in mind, this section will be empty for the China Qualifier.

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