Pro Circuit Qualifier Preview – The Kuala Lumpur Major Europe Qualifier

New challengers hope to unseat last season’s regional leaders as 8 teams fight for 3 Major slots in Europe

Following the conclusion of The Kuala Lumpur Major Qualifiers for China, CIS, and South America, our second group of regions are set to begin their own qualifiers as the field of teams for the season’s first Major is starting to take shape. That second group of qualifiers will include the European region, a region in which all but 2 teams in the qualifier field have either made changes to their lineup, or are completely new teams altogether. With that in mind, 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 in the previous group of regional qualifiers, the Europe Qualifier will feature 8 teams, with 4 squads having received direct invites while the other 4 came up through the 2 Open Qualifiers. On the line for these 8 teams are 3 spots at the Kuala Lumpur Major in November, and a chance to begin the season at the top of the regional hierarchy in Europe and potential establish themselves as a leader in a region that was dominated by a couple of squads last season. 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 available Major spots.

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.

600px-Team_liquid_logo_2017 Team Liquid
Roster:

Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen
Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi
Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov
Maroun “GH” Merhej
Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi

This one is about as easy a call to make as we’re going to see in this qualifier, as Team Liquid is clearly one of the favorites in this field of teams. The TI7 Champs may have failed in its attempt to earn back to back TI titles, but it was still one of the strongest teams on the Pro Circuit last season, and kept its roster intact through the offseason once again. The fact that the team skipped most the the regional qualifiers last season opens up a small possibility that the squad could struggle in this qualifier against regional rivals. However, the team’s incredibly strong and consistent play on the international level would suggest that such a scenario is extremely unlikely. Expect team liquid to pick up right where it left off last season and turn in a strong showing in this first pro circuit qualifier of the season.

Secret_logo Team Secret
Roster:
Michał “Nisha” Jankowski
Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng
Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg
Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat
Clement “Puppey” Ivanov

Team Secret comes into this qualifier with a slightly updated look to its roster, but the core of the team remains the same. With Puppey at the helm for the squad, all that matters is that the team can play well together and have enough talent to compete on the international level. We can’t say for sure how well this new lineup will work in terms of team chemistry, as Team Secret has yet to play an official match since its roster changes. However, we most certainly can speak to the talent side of this new lineup, as Nisha and zai proved themselves to incredibly valuable for Team Kinguin/Let’s Do It and OpTic Gaming, respectively in the previous Pro Circuit season. While there is always the potential for issues to arise for a player during a transition to a new squad, Team Secret’s newest additions are in a prime position to make one of the region’s strongest squads even more formidable this season. Expect the team’s new lineup to get off to a strong start in this qualifier and make a run for 1 of the 3 Major slots so long as it avoids any massive setbacks or issues.

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.

Ninjas In Pyjamas Ninjas in Pyjamas (formerly Shangri-La)
Roster:
Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard
Adrian “Fata” Trinks
Neta “33” Shapira
Martin “Saksa” Sazdov
Peter “ppd” Dager

NiP is back in the Dota 2 world, as the organization made its return by signing the team formerly known as Shangri-La. The squad presents a formidable opponent in the field of this qualifier, as legendary captain ppd has put together a roster brimming with talent and experience within the European region. Ninjas in Pyjamas has incredibly skilled players at every position, and has even managed to return regional veteran Fata to his traditional Midlaner role after the player had spent all of last season in the Offlane position with Team Secret. If the team has such a formidable roster, then why is it sitting here in the “Contenders” section rather than being included in the list of “favorites”?. The answer to that question is that we have yet to see the new Ninjas in Pyjamas roster actually play together in an official match. For team’s like Team Liquid or Team Secret that made no roster changes or only minor changes, there is still a baseline level of performance that can be reasonably expected. However, NiP’s completely new roster does not impart that same level of expected performance, despite appearing to have one of the strongest rosters in this qualifier. Barring any bizarre setbacks, NiP should find itself immediately in the mix for 1 of the 3 European spots in Kuala Lumpur.

The Final Tribe The Final Tribe
Roster:
Pontus “Frost” Frost
Rasmus “Chessie” Blomdin
Jonas “jonassomfan” Lindholm
Simon “Handsken” Haag
Adrian “Era” Kryeziu

The Final Tribe made some interesting moves this offseason, bringing in Chessie whilst moving Era from the role of Mid/Carry to that of Support and Captain of the team. The addition of Chessie is not likely to drastically change The Final Tribe’s play style or approach to its strategies, but the change in captain might. Era has been in the captains chair before, and for NiP as well as he served as the team’s captain back in 2015. However, he has never played the Support role in his time as a professional player, and his strategy as a captain and drafter could potential be altered based on the team’s new roster and his new  position on the squad. Combine that with the fact that The Final Tribe wasn’t the most prolific squad on the Pro Circuit last season, and there is some cause for concern for this team heading into the qualifier. On the other hand, The Final Tribe did make a duo of appearances at Pro Circuit Minors on the back end of the previous season, and even managed to make their way to the China Dota2 Supermajor despite finishing at the bottom of the standings at that event. So, we’ve seen what The Final Tribe is capable of in terms of its skill and potential, the question is whether is will be able to put those factors to work for it in this qualifier. Considering its performance to close out the previous season and its relative roster consistency, The Final Tribe appears to stand a solid chance of keeping itself in the mix in this qualifier with 3 spots at the Major available.

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.

Alliance Alliance
Roster:
Max “qojqva”Bröcker
Micke “miCKe” Nguyen
Samuel “Boxi” Svahn
Aydin “iNSaNiA” Sarkohi
Tommy “Taiga” Le

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Alliance included among the top teams in Europe, but the organization is hoping that this season will finally be the spark that puts it back at the to of the regional hierarchy. The squad has committed itself to a lineup in its rebuild process, locking down its roster in June and making no changes through the offseason period. The hopes are that the roster stability and consistency will help the squad develop together and improve, but it still leaves the team with some concerns heading into this qualifier. The team was essentially a non-factor in the European region last season, largely confined to qualifier runs and smaller regional tournaments while failing to make a single appearance at a Pro Circuit event. With the team’s roster being largely unchanged from last year’s team, it seems likely that the squad continues to have difficulties breaking through in this qualifier. However, there is a bit of good news for Alliance, as the addition of qojqva has already had a significant impact on the team’s play. Alliance has been busy this offseason, winning the X-Bet.co Rampage Series #1 and #2, the joinDOTA League Seaseon 13 Europe, the Rivalry.gg Rumble, and the Sunday ES.BET Invitational #2. Of course, the teams that it faced into those events aren’t quite on the same level as the squads in the field for this qualifier, but those victories should serve to give Alliance a sense of confidence and momentum as it prepares to take its shot at a spot in Kuala Lumpur this November. In order to do that though, the team is going to have to show that it can replicate its recent success in smaller tournaments against Pro Circuit caliber opposition.

No Team Logo Team Lithuim
Roster:
Omar “Madara” Dabachach
Anas “MagE-“ Hirzallah
Maurice “KheZu” Gutmann
Verros “Maybe Next Time” Apostolos
Petu “Peksu” Vaatainen

Every year in the Dota 2 world, we see the formation of “Open Qualifier squads” in the various regions: teams that are put together from groups of free agents for the purpose of competing in Open Qualifiers. Usually, these squads prove to be the most volatile, as their stability is much more dependent on their success in those qualifiers compared to teams signed with organizations. Team Lithium appears to be one of those squads, at least for the time being, as the team will look to attract a sponsor or organization with a solid showing in this qualifier. We just saw one such “Open Qualifier squad” find success in these regional qualifiers, as ferzee put together an incredible run in the CIS Qualifier to earn itself a place at The Kuala Lumpur Major, and Team Lithium will be hoping to do the same in Europe. The good news for the squad is that is has a fair bit of talent and experience on its side in that quest, as almost all of its players have significant experience playing at the professional level in Europe. Based on its successful Open Qualifier run, there doesn’t appear to be any sort of team chemistry issues for Team Lithium, but the question here will be whether it can replicate that success against some of the best teams in the region. If Team Lithium wants to emulate ferzee and find success in this qualifier, then it’s going to come down to the performance of its core trio of Madara, MagE-, and KheZu. One or more of those players are going to have to go off with relative consistency in this qualifier for the team to have a real shot at claiming a place in Kuala Lumpur.

No Team Logo MangoBay
Roster:
Filip “Fey” Musialski
Ylli “garter” Ramadani
Pittner “bOne7”  Armand
Jan “qupe” Tinnemeier
Angel  “Flash” Niamtu

MangoBay comes into this qualifier as another of the “Open Qualifier squads” that we’ve seen form in the run up to the start of this season, as the team was only officially announced around a week ago and just 1 day before the start of the Open Qualifiers. While it took the team 2 tries to reach this stage, MangoBay was able to earn itself a place in this Europe Qualifier and a shot at The Kuala Lumpur Major. However, the squad is going to need quite the performance to actually have a legitimate chance at earning 1 of the 3 slots available in this qualifier. The team’s play in its 2 Open Qualifier runs was decent, but not overly impressive, and  it’s hard to tell how well the squad will play when faced up against top level competition in its region. In particular, the support duo of qupe and Flash will be the significant factor for MangoBay, as neither player has much experience on the professional level. We can expect a relatively consistent performance from the team’s core trio, but it will be the play of those 2 Supports that will likely be the little detail the determines if MangoBay is in contention for a spot at the Major or if it gets knocked out of the qualifier early.

The Long Shots

In this final section, we find the squads that have very little in terms of expectations for this qualifier. These are the underdogs, the Cinderella stories, and the teams that would frankly send shock waves through the regional scene should they manage to claim a spot at the Major. These are the squads that many have probably already counted out of the fight for a place in Kuala Lumpur, but we’ve seen underdog stories and unbelievable runs before, and these teams will be hoping to add their names to the list of squads that have shocked the Dota 2 world.

No Team Logo madjor atendari
Roster:
“Power”
“lil pleb”
“Vihren”
“eN”
“nthh”

So, full transparency time on this one, as I really have next to no information regarding the team known as madjor atendari. None of its players have significant professional experience within the European region, but the team managed to put together an impressive run through the Open Qualifier, and actually took down another attendee of this qualifier in The Final Tribe. So we at least know that this team has a fair bit of potential and talent on its side, as nobody simply lucks their way through and entirety of the Open Qualifier. However, without any sort of established veteran or star player, it’s incredibly hard to see this squad doing much damage in this regional qualifier. The team doesn’t come into this qualifier without any hope of success though, as the relative anonymity of the team could actually serve as an advantage for madjor atendari if its opponents aren’t able to get a good feel for how it likes to play. That’s a bit of an unlikely scenario though, and even it it ends up happening, madjor atendari will need an absolutely magnificent series of performances to have a true chance at earning a place at the Major. That kind of miraculous run is certainly a possibility for the squad, but I wouldn’t reasonably expect it from the team in this qualifier.

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