Pro Circuit Qualifier Preview – The Kuala Lumpur Major Southeast Asia Qualifier

A drastically changed Southeast Asian region prepares for its first Pro Circuit action of the season as a series of new rosters and organizations fight for 2 spots in Kuala Lumpur.

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 start in the Southeast Asian region, where every major organization has made some sort of alteration to its lineup heading into this new Pro Circuit season. With every team in the field either sporting new lineups or being a new team or organization altogether, 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 Southeast Asia 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 2 spots at the Kuala Lumpur Major in November, and a chance to begin the season at the top of the regional hierarchy in a Southeast Asian region that looks remarkably different from what we saw 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 2 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-Mineski-dota_logo Mineski
Roster:

Thiay “JT-” Jun Wen
Kam “Moon” Boon Seng
Damien “kpii” Chok
Kim “Febby” Yong-min
Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung

Mineski was the best Southeast Asian squad on the Pro Circuit last season, and despite some changes to its roster in the offseason, it looks as though the squad stands the best chance at retaining a position as a regional leader this season. The addition of veteran players like kpii and Febby makes this new Mineski roster look incredibly tough on paper, though it isn’t without some concerns heading into this qualifier. Newly added Carry player JT- is relatively unproven at the top level of play in the SEA region, having spent nearly all of his career to this point with Geek Fam, a lower tier organization within the regional scene. We just saw a couple of less experienced players put together impressive displays in our first group of qualifiers, with Team Aster’s Dstones and V-Tune of Odium both showing off their talent in their respective regional qualifiers. We will have to see what kind of contribution JT- can make to this Mineski lineup, but he isn’t the only player on Mineski that we will be looking at with some level of anticipation in this qualifier. This qualifier will also see Mushi playing in his new role as the team’s support, which will be incredibly interesting to see after the veteran has spent most of his career at the Carry and Mid positions. Even with those minor concerns, Mineski appears to have all the talent and experience that it needs to expect success in this qualifier and a place at the Major.

Fnaticlogo Fnatic
Roster:

Pyo “MP” No-a
Abed “Abed” Azel L. Yusop
Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang
Djardel Jicko B. “DJ” Mampusti
Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong

The mixed European and Southeast Asian experiment is officially over for the Fnatic orgnaizaiton, as the squad has gone back to an all-SEA lineup for this new Pro Circuit season. And what a roster it is, as Fnatic put together one of the most formidable lineups in the entire region this offseason, picking up MP, iceiceice, and Jabz. This new Fnatic lineup is about as close to a Southeast Asian all star team as you could reasonably get, and the expectations for the team’s new roster certainly reflect that strength. With this level of star power and experience on its side, there are few teams that would be definitively expected to bring down Fnatic in this qualifier, though the team is far from invincible as it begins its first Pro Circuit action of the season. The team has yet to play any official matches with its new roster, so the issue of team chemistry and cohesion could still potentially play a role in the team’s qualifier run. Aside from that small concern, there really isn’t a whole lot to be nit-picky about with this Fnatic roster, and the squad is set up for success in this qualifier so long as it can avoid any significant missteps or mistakes.

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.

Tncproteam TNC Predator
Roster:

Kim “Gabbi” Villafuerte
Armel Paul “Armel” Tabios
Carlo “Kuku” Palad
Timothy “Tims” Randrup
Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross Jr.

TNC Predator managed to turn things up towards the end of the last Pro Circuit season, but its performance at TI8 left a lot to be desired as the squad ended up with a somewhat disappointing 13th-16th place finish in Vancouver. With a new roster for this new season, the squad looks like a solid contender and a potential leader in the Southeast Asian region. In fact, the team would probably be included in the “favorites” section if the Southeast Asian qualifier had 3 qualifying spots rather than 2. However, that is not the case, and a couple of relatively minor issues would appear to separate the squad from the likes of Fnatic and Mineski for the time being. Of course, there is the concern regarding the team’s lack of official matches as a unit, as the squad did not have to play through the Open Qualifiers to reach this point. Every team in the field has made changes to their rosters, so this issue will be one that all of them will also be facing, but not every squad will respond in the same fashion, and it will be very important to see how well the new TNC Predator roster plays together in this qualifier. Also of note and minor concern for the squad is Kuku’s shift from the Support role into the Offlane, as he has never played the position at the professional level before. Last season, Kuku was able to handle the transition from the Midlaner role to the Support position, so the hope is that this second positional change won’t present too many problems for him. Role changes aside, this TNC Predator squad looks incredibly strong on paper, and the expectations for it have been set fairly high in a region that looks to be much more tightly contested than what we saw last season.

Tigers Tigers
Roster:
Lai “Ahjit” Jay Son
Muhammad “inYourdreaM” Rizky
David “MoonMeander” Tan
Kenny “Xepher” Deo
Sivatheeban “1437” Sivanathapillai

The former TNC Tigers roster has been hard at work already this season, as it left the TNC organization and announced a new roster as well. That new roster is brimming with talent and experience, and we’ve already seen the squad put both of those advantages to work with its successful Open Qualifier run. However, winning an Open Qualifier doesn’t quite give the squad a clear or easy path to The Kuala Lumpur Major. This Closed Qualifier will feature a higher caliber of teams than the ones that Tigers tore their way through in the Open Qualifier, but aside from that there aren’t too many other areas of concern for Tigers heading into this event. With that being said, there’s no telling just how significantly the shift in skill of its opponents will affect Tigers, and there’s no guarantee that the team can replicate its Open Qualifier success against this field of regional rivals. However, the team’s performance early in the season as least has the team feeling optimistic and confident as it enters the qualifier.

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.

No Team Logo Lotac
Roster:
Marc Polo Luis “Raven” Fausto
Kee Chyuan “ChYuan” Ng
Khoo “Ohaiyo” Chong Xin
Nico “eyyou” Barcelon
Ng “YamateH” Wei Poong

Team Lotac made headlines this offseason when it announced the formation of its roster, and the time has now come to see just how much damage that roster can do against the best teams in the Southeast Asian region. The squad looked solid in its Open Qualifier run, and the lineup was able to put together some fairly impressive displays of its talent and veteran experience. Despite that successful Open Qualifier performance, there are still some concerns for the squad heading into this qualifier. The question of team chemistry and cohesion doesn’t appear to be an issue at this stage, as the team appeared to be playing on the same page with consistency in the Open Qualifier. However, the squad has yet to be tested against one of the elite squads in the regional hierarchy, and there is also the question of how well Midlaner ChYuan will be able to play against those squads. His previous experience with teams like Geek Fam and WarriorsGaming.Unity was largely limited to qualifiers and smaller regional tournaments. In the vast majority of those qualifier runs, ChYuan’s teams ended up being knocked out by squads like Fnatic, Mineski, and TNC Tigers. The hope for Lotac in this qualifier is that the experienced players around ChYuan will be able to help produce a different outcome for the squad as it looks to establish itself as a leader in the Southesat Asian region to start this new Pro Circuit season.

Xctnlogo Execration
Roster:

Fernando “Nando” Mendoza
Karl “Karl” Jayme
Earlwin “Ewe” Libre
Marvin “yaha” Canlas
Kimuel “Kim0” Rodis

When Execration was announced as one of the teams receiving a direct invitation to The Kulala Lumpur Major Southeast Asia Qualifier, there was a bit of confusion from many in the Dota 2 world. The team had not accomplished a whole lot last season, but with every other squad in the region making significant changes to their lineups, Execration’s relative roster consistency left it in the perfect position to benefit from the moves of its regional rivals. That being said, this Execration roster is still unproven as a unit, with Ewe and yaha having not played a single official match with the team prior to the start of the qualifier. Adding on to those concerns is the fact that the other 3 members of the team’s roster weren’t able to find much success under the Execration banner in the second half of the previous Pro Circuit season. The team was relegated to unsuccessful qualifier runs and regional tournaments in 2018, and neither the addition of Ewe nor yaha appears to bring enough immediate improvement to the squad for Execration to be a leading team in the region to start this season. Even so, there is still hope for Execration to come out on top at the end of this qualifier, though those hopes are relatively small right now. In order for Execration to have a shot at success and a spot in Kuala Lumpur, it is going to need superstar showings from its Carry/Mid duo of Nando and Karl, and team captain Kim0 is going to need to very quickly get a feel for how best to position Ewe and yaha so that they can provide immediate and consistent contributions to the squad’s play style. It’s a tall order, but Kim0 is a veteran of the Southeast Asian scene, and it’s not impossible for him to help guide this squad to a breakthrough performance to start the Pro Circuit season.

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.

Sterling Global Dragons Sterling Global Dragons
Roster:
Justine Ryan “Tino-“Grimaldo
Jonas “Nasjo” Samonte
Sandro “Luciano” Aguinaldo
Mark Jubert “Shanks”  Redira
Jaunuel “Jaunuel” Arcilla

The last time we saw Sterling Global Dragons on a significant stage in the Southeast Asian region, it was bombing out of the TI8 Southeast Asia Qualifier with an abysmal 1-6 record in the Group Stage. Since then, the team has made some changes to its roster, but it still doesn’t sit in a position of strength heading into this qualifier. Tino- and Shanks have remained with the organization following that rough TI8 Qualifier performance, but the rest of the roster is made up of more recent additions, none of whom are particularly well known within the region. Adding relatively unknown and unproven players to a roster that has already been shown to struggle within the regional scene isn’t exactly a recipe for success, and Sterling Global Dragons do not present much of a threat in this qualifier. Of course, there is always the potential for opponents to underestimate a squad that it thinks is below it in terms of skill and experience, and we did just see an underdog squad qualify for the Major in the CIS region in ferzee. So, the potential for success is there for this new Sterling Global Dragons squad, but the situations were still a bit different when comparing this team to the lineup of ferzee. Those players all had at least moderate experience playing professionally in their region, while this squad appears to have little to no experience playing at the top level in Southeast Asia. It would take what essentially amounts to a purely miraculous series of near flawless performances for Sterling Global Dragons to earn itself a place at The Kuala Lumpur Major.

Team Admiral Team Admiral
Roster:

Prince Vince “MightySavior” Enriquez
Avelino “Ab1ng” Parungao
Jun “Bokerino” Kanehara
Marvin “Boombacs” Rushton
Keith “keithmendoza” Mendoza

Team Admiral is most likely a team that you’ve hear more about in recent months for its very public disagreements with a former player as opposed to anything that it has accomplished in-game. The organization’s formerly impressive roster fell apart in the build up to TI8, and has managed to put together another roster to compete in the Southeast Asian region this season. The good news for Team Admiral is that its new roster does have a few players with some modest levels of experience under their belt, though 2 of its players are pretty much untested in terms of top level play in the region. The problem for the squad is that those players that do have previous experience don’t have the proven record of success needed to reliably carry this squad all the way through the qualifier. There is always the possibility that teams end up underestimating Team Admiral, but even if that ends up being the case, the team will need to put together one of the most impressive underdog performances we’ve ever seen to have a chance at earning itself a place at the Major.

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