Opposite ends of the CIS hierarchy will be represented in Kualua Lumpur, as CIS juggernaut VP and upstart new squad ferzee earn spots at the Major
The CIS Qualifier for The Kuala Lumpur Major has come to a close, and the 2 squads that will be representing the region in the first Major of the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season have been decided. 8 teams began this qualifier looking for a chance to represent their home region at the first Major of the season, but just 2 of them have managed to survive the rigors of the qualifier and earn their place in Kuala Lumpur. Virtus.pro and ferzee will be the 2 CIS squads that will be taking the stage at the Major this November, but we should take a closer look at how those teams reached this position, and how well the other squads in this regional final performed too. Similarly to the preview post for this qualifier, we will be breaking the teams up into groups, although this time around the groups will be based upon the final standings of the qualifier.
Top 2 (Qualified for The Kuala Lumpur Major)
Record: 10-3 (4-1 Group Stage, 6-2 Playoffs)
Virtus.pro came into this qualifier as the reigning champion of the CIS region, as the team massively outperformed every other squad in the region last season and kept its roster intact through the offseason period. Even the temporary substitution of fn for 9pasha in this qualifier wasn’t enough to knock VP down from an expected victory and a spot in the first Major of the Pro Circuit season. Early on, the team appeared to be getting off to a hot start, as its claimed a 2-1 victory over Team Spirit and a 2-0 win over Na’Vi to secure the top spot in the Group B standings. None of those games were necessarily blowouts, but the fact that VP managed to come away with a 4-1 Group Stage record while playing with a stand-in is an impressive feat. Things continued to go VP’s way in the Playoffs, as the squad pushed past Odium for another 2-0 win before defeating Team Spirit once again in the Upper Bracket Finals top secure itself a place in Kuala Lumpur. At that point, the results of the Grand Finals didn’t count for anything besides seeding and personal pride, though the circumstance that VP found itself in made for a rather intersting scenario. The Lower Bracket Finals series between ferzee and Team Spirit lasted over 3 hours, and by the time it was over, both VP and ferzee were not in any mood to play another Bo3 series. Instead, the teams agreed to a more casual Grand Finals series, which VP managed to win 2-1 to secure the higher seed among the 2 CIS teams. Had this been any other squad putting together this kind of performance, then that team would be turning heads and drawing a whole lot of attention right now. However, this kind of consistent success is something that we’ve essentially come to expect from VP, and at this stage it’s hard to be surprised that the team continues to dominate even without its full roster on hand. With this performance, the CIS juggernaut secures itself yet another Major appearance, and has a shot at claiming sole possession of the record for most Major Championships in Dota 2 history with what would be its 5th title at The Kuala Lumpur Major.
Record: 9-9 (0-4 Group Stage, 9-5 Playoffs)
So, it would appear that I significantly underestimated ferzee heading into this qualifier, but the somewhat reassuring news is that everyone else appeared to do the same. The squad’s formation had been met with little fanfare, and it was the only team in the field for this qualifier without an organization. Expectations were low for the squad coming into the qualifier, and an abysmal 0-4 record in the Group Stage appeared to justify those low expectations as the squad dropped series against both Winstrike Team and Odium. However, the team flipped the switch once it reached the Playoffs, taking 2-1 wins against Na’Vi, Winstrike Team, and Espada to reach the Lower Bracket Finals. Throughout its improbable run through the Lower Bracket, the team leaned heavily on Afoninje, as the Midlaner consistently led the squad with strong performances. The team’s impressive run culminated in a unbelievably hard fought 2-0 victory against Team Spirit that lasted over 3 hours of total in-game time and featured a match that lasted 119 minutes. After that absolutely brutal test of endurance, ferzee had secured itself a place in Kuala Lumpur, and made an agreement with VP to not take their Grand Finals series very seriously in light of the heavy levels of fatigue on both sides. The series ended with a 1-2 loss for ferzee, and placed the team in the position of being the lower seed among the 2 squads heading into the Major. This qualifier run from ferzee was one of the most dramatic reversals we’ve seen in recent memory, as the rag-tag, Open Qualifier squad came back from a 0-4 Group Stage performance to earn itself a place at a Pro Circuit Major. If there were questions about whether this team would stay together moving forward, they have now almost certainly been answered, and it is almost guaranteed that ferzee will find itself picked up by an organization in the near future, potentially before it takes in the stage in Kuala Lumpur for the Major.
Record: 8-7 (5-3 Group Stage, 3-4 Playoffs)
Team Spirit came into this qualifier as something of a wild card in the field, as the squad’s largely European roster was making its first appearance within the CIS region. The team got off to a relatively strong start to its qualifier run, losing 1-2 to Virtus.pro before bringing down Espada 2-0 and beating Na’Vi 2-1 to finish in the top half of the Group B standings. The team certainly didn’t have an easy path to that position though, as its average game time across its 8 Group Stage matches was just over 53 minutes, including 2 matches that went over the 80 minute mark. In the end though, the team’s resiliency and focus came through for it, and Team Spirit followed up its marathon of a Group Stage with a surprising 2-0 sweep of Winstrike Team in the Upper Bracket. The squad simply out played its opponent in this series, out killing Winstrike Team by a score of 59-22 and pulling off a comeback victory in Game 2 to knock out one of the favorites in the field for this qualifier. A 1-2 loss in the Upper Bracket Finals against VP dropped the squad in the Lower Bracket, but the team once against showed a penchant for resilient play in the late-game as its lone victory of the series saw it play for over 74 minutes of in-game time. The squad once again ended up playing a drawn out series in the Lower Bracket Finals against ferzee, with the final CIS spot at the Major on the line. Despite Team Spirit pushing the 2 game series to over 3 hours of in-game time, including a Game 2 that lasted just under 2 hours, Team Spirit could not pull out any victories in this series as it fell 0-2. To have so many long and drawn out matches only to come up short of qualifying for the Major will surely be disappointing for Team Spirit, but the squad showed off a level of focus and determination that few other squads have shown with any degree of consistency. It’s not much of a consolation prize for the team this time around, but it is certainly an encouraging sign for Team Spirit moving forward.
Record: 5-7 (0-4 Group Stage, 5-3 Playoffs)
So, this one’s a little bit unorthodox when you look at it, as Espada essentially put together 2 completely different performances across the 2 stages of this qualifier. Coming into the qualifier, I had the squad listed in the “Contenders” section based upon its performance last season and roster consistency through the offseason, but early on it appeared that projection may have been wildly inaccurate. The team did not win a single match in the Group Stage, although it did put up an impressive fight in a 86 minute loss to Team Spirit in Game 1 of that series. While the effort may have been there for Espada, the results were not as it headed into the Lower Bracket of the Playoffs, but the squad was able to flip the switch once elimination was on the line. The team was able to sweep past Elements Pro Gaming with a 2-0 victory, and followed that up with a 2-1 win over Odium before finally being brought down by ferzee in a 1-2 series in Round 3 of the Lower Bracket. The team’s Carry/Mid duo of Nix and ILTW led from the front for the squad in its impressive Playoff run, averaging a combined stat line of over 17 kills and 18 assists with just under 8 deaths per game across its 8 Playoff matches. Unfortunately, the squad ended up falling short in its bid to reach The Kuala Lumpur Major, but this Espada lineup had shown that it capable of playing at an impressive level when it needs to. The trick for the squad will be consistently putting together showings like its 5-3 Playoff record as opposed to its dismal 0-4 Group Stage performance.
Record: 6-6 (5-1 Group Stage, 1-4 Playoffs)
Expectations were somewhat high for Odium coming into this qualifier, as the team had been one of the teams to be directly invited and had put together an impressive lineup of regional veterans and young talent. The team’s initial Group Stage loss to Elements Pro Gaming in a 1-2 series introduced some minor concerns to begin the qualifier, but the squad was quickly able to get itself back on track in the matches that followed. The team was able to take 2-0 wins over both ferzee and Elements Pro Gaming, and the team’s less experienced roster addition, V-Tune, was able to put up 43 kills with just 4 deaths across those 4 matches. With those dominant showings, the squad looked to be in great shape heading into the Playoffs, but things did not go quite so well for Odium from that point on. The squad ran into VP in Round 1 of the Upper Bracket, suffering a 0-2 loss to the regional powerhouse that dropped it into the Lower Bracket. While the team was able to take 1 match off of Espada in its next series, Odium had difficulties controlling the pace of the game in the mid and late-game stages of Games 1 and 3, and ended up losing the series 1-2. The loss dropped Odium out of the qualifier a bit earlier than has probably expected by many, as the squad finished in the bottom half of the standings overall. A 1-4 record in the Playoffs will be the focal point for Odium in the aftermath of this qualifier, but the record is not quite as bad as it first seems when you look at it closely. 2 of those losses came against VP, and you can hardly give a team much grief for failing to bring down the team that entered the season as the consensus number 1 team in the region. The 1-2 loss to Espada is a bit more disappointing, but the squad at least manged to take 1 game in that series, and were competitive through the first half of Game 1 of the series. It may not have been the kind of finish that Odium had been hoping for in its first Pro Circuit qualifier, but there is certainly a lot to be positive about for this squad as the Pro Circuit season continues.
Record: 5-5 (4-1 Group Stage, 1-4 Playoffs)
So here is the part of the recap where I end up with a bit of egg on my face, as I had placed Winstrike Team among my list of “favorites” to claim 1 of the 2 spots at the Major in this qualifier. I stated that a team in the “favorites” section failing to qualify would come as a significant shock, and Winstrike Team’s performance in this qualifier certainly was shocking. The squad began looking like a dominant force among its regional rivals, as it smashed its way to a 2-0 win over ferzee and a 2-1 win over Elements Pro Gaming in the Group Stage to top the Group A standings. Aside from its lone loss to Elements Pro Gaming, the squad held the net worth lead throughout nearly the entirely of its 5 Group Stage matches, and looked like an absolute juggernaut as it headed into the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs. That’s were things took a rather sudden downward turn for Winstrike Team, as the squad was simply out played by Team Spirit for a 0-2 loss in its first Playoff series. Winstrike Team was out killed by a score of 22-59 and just did not look like itself across the 2 game series. The struggles continued in the Lower Bracket against ferzee, a the team was soundly beaten in Game 1 and needed a massive shift in momentum in the late-game stage of Game 2 to force a third match. Unfortuantely, that third game did not go Winstrike Team’s way, as ferzee was able to overcome a modest net worth deficit throughout the first half of the match to claim a win in a match that went on for over an hour of in-game time. That 1-2 loss knocked Winstrike Team out of the qualifier and put it in the lower half of the standings, an outcome that seemed incredibly unlikely just a few days ago. The team’s absolute collapse in the Playoffs was simply mind-boggling, especially considering the fact that the team looked to be so confident and dominant in its Group Stage matches. Whether this is a case of the CIS region being significant stronger this year or Winstrike Team losing its focus and cohesion cannot be fully decided upon just yet, as we will have to see how this region shakes out over the next few qualifiers and Pro Circuit events. However, Winstrike Team’s early exit opens the door for another squad in the region to stake a claim on a role as a leading squad in the CIS scene early in this Pro Circuit season.
Elements Pro Gaming
Record: 3-7 (3-5 Group Stage, 0-2 Playoffs)
Expectations were somewhat low for Elements Pro Gaming in this qualifier, as the European transplant faced its first official closed qualifier in the CIS region. Despite that, the squad managed to get off to a solid start in the Group Stage of the qualifier, bringing down Odium 2-1 i nits initial series and claiming a match off of Winstrike Team in a 1-2 loss in the Winners Match. An 0-2 loss in the team’s rematch against Odium dropped it into the Lower Bracket, but the squad’s solid play in its first 2 series had hopes high that Elements Pro Gaming could put up a strong fight in the Playoffs. That didn’t end up happening, as the squad was trounced by Espada in an entirely one sided 0-2 series that ended the team’s qualifier run. Elements Pro Gaming ended its time in the qualifier with the dubious distinction of being the only squad in the field to fail to earn a win in the Playoffs. Despite the rather sharp decline in performance across the latter half of its matches, Elements Pro Gaming did show a few bright spots in their play that could be cause of optimism moving forward. In particular, the Carry/Mid duo of Swiftending and BoraNija appeared to be the biggest asset for the squad, and it appears likely that the 2 will end up being the driving factor for the squad across the rest of its Pro Circuit campaign. The team’s Pro Circuit debut in the CIS region was not overly impressive to be sure, but Elements Pro Gaming has quite a bit of time to bounce back from this somewhat rough start to its season.
Record: 4-6 (3-4 Group Stage, 1-2 Playoffs)
The Pro Circuit debut of the new Na’Vi lineup did not go entirely to plan, as the CIS squad faced some significant struggles in this qualifier. After starting the Group Stage with a solid 2-0 victory over Espada, hopes were high that the team’s new lineup was clicking and could potentially do some damage moving through the rest of the qualifier. Things turn a downward turn for the squad following that initial victory though, as Na’Vi took a rough 0-2 loss to VP before losing out 1-2 in its final series against Team Spirit in which the average match time was just over 56 minutes. The team’s woes continued in the Playoffs, as the squad squandered a dominant Game 1 victory over ferzee with back to back losses in Games 2 and 3 to lose the series 1-2. The good news for Na’Vi was that its core trio of Crystallize, MagicaL, and Blizzy were able to show off some serious talent and early levels of synergy across the team’s 4 wins in this qualifier. The counterpoint there though is that the trio wasn’t able to put together those performances with the level of consistency that Na’Vi needed to actually win its series. So Na’Vi will not be qualifying for the Major in this qualifier, but there at least appears to be some positives to take away from the squad’s performance that should still help drum up some optimism and hope for the team’s Pro Circuit campaign moving forward.