Recent success meets with past legacies as Team Secret, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Alliance secure Europe’s 3 spots in Kuala Lumpur.
The Kuala Lumpur Major Europe Qualifier has now officially drawn to a close, and the 3 squads from the region that will be fighting for the first Major Championship of the Pro Circuit season have been decided. 8 teams began this qualifier looking for a chance to make their mark early in the European region and earn a place at the Major, but just 3 of them have managed to fight their way through the qualifier to claim those coveted regional slots. Team Secret, Ninjas in Pyjamas, and Alliance will be the teams that will be taking the stage as representatives of the European region 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 3 (Qualified for The Kuala Lumpur Major)
Record: 10-1 (4-0 Group Stage, 6-1 Playoffs)
Alongside Team Liquid, Team Secret entered this qualifier as 1 of just 2 squads in the field to have earned Top 8 ranks on the Pro Circuit last season. That made the squad an immediate favorite to earn a place at the Major, and Team Secret certainly lived up to that high billing with its performance in this qualifier. The squad tore through the Group Stage of the qualifier with 2-0 wins against both madjor atendari and Alliance, with every single member of the roster putting together at least 1 match with either double digit kills or 0 deaths. The team’s dominance didn’t stop in the Group Stage though, as Team Secret handily defeated Team Liquid 2-0 in its first series of the Playoffs thanks in large part to some incredible performances from new addition Nisha (26-8-31 across 2 matches). With that win, Team Secret’s place in Kuala Lumpur was secured, but the team wasn’t done with its qualifier run just yet. The squad once again defeated Alliance in the Upper Bracket Finals, although it did suffer its first loss of the qualifier in its 2-1 series win. A 2-0 win over Ninjas in Pyjamas brought the qualifier to a close for Team Secret with a 1st place finish overall. Team Secret played about as well as it possibly could have in this qualifier, and got incredible contributions from every part of its lineup. The Support duo of Puppey and YapzOr exerted the same tempo control that was so valuable for the squad last season, MidOne continued to be same dominant force that we’ve come to expect from the Malaysian star, and the new additions of Nisha and zai put in some absolutely incredible performances to keep Team Secret miles ahead of its opponents in this qualifier. With Team Liquid stumbling in this very same qualifier, it would appear that the title of regional leader falls upon the head of Team Secret at this early point in the Pro Circuit season, and we should all be excited to see just how long the squad manages to keep a hold on that crown.
Ninjas in Pyjamas (formerly Shangri-La)
Record: 10-4 (4-0 Group Stage, 6-4 Playoffs)
Though the team had not played an official match heading into this qualifier, Ninjas in Pyjamas, or Shangri-La as it had been previously known, enjoyed a projected position as one of the stronger squads among this field of teams. Once play actually began, the team was quick to show that its projected strength matched its actual strength as a roster. The team began its run with a demolishing of Team Lithium, claiming a 2-0 victory while out killing its opponent 56-25. The true show of strength for NiP though came in the Winners’ Match of Group B, where the squad took a shocking 2-0 win over TI7 Champion Team Liquid to claim the top spot in the Group B standings. Fata and Ace put together absolutely incredible performances in this series, combining for 40 Kills and 38 Assists with just 11 total Deaths. The team looked nearly unstoppable entering its Upper Bracket series against Alliance, though the emphasis in that sentence sits on the word “nearly” as Alliance turned the tables on NiP. Ninjas in Pyjamas simply couldn’t get anything going to itself in this series, totaling just 18 kills across a stunning 0-2 loss that dropped it into the Lower Bracket. From there though, the team was able to get back into its previous form, sweeping past MangoBay and Team Lithium with back to back 2-0 wins that secured NiP a spot at the Major. With its place in Kuala Lumpur secured, the team faced off against Alliance for the second time in this qualifier and earned its revenge with a 2-0 victory before losing 0-2 against Team Secret in the Grand Finals. Overall, this NiP lineup put together an incredibly strong showing to begin its Pro Circuit season. With Fata back in his old role as Midlaner, he and Ace form a 1-2 punch that few teams in this qualifier could contend with. Add onto that the strength of ppd and Saksa’s consistent contributions at the Support position and 33’s signature versatility and insanely wide hero pool in the Offlane, and Ninjas in Pyjamas is looking like the real deal in the European region.
Recod: 7-7 (4-3 Group Stage, 3-4 Playoffs)
Alliance didn’t necessarily enter this qualifier with the highest of expectations, but with half of the squads in the field being recently formed rosters and 3 spots at the Major available, the team was hoping for the chance to prove itself and take advantage of an incredible opportunity to begin its Pro Circuit season. The team began its qualifier run with a dominant 2-0 win over The Final Tribe, out killing its opponent by a score of 53-19 thanks to solid showings from its core trio of qojqva, miCKe, and boxi (combined 42-9-43). After a brutal 0-2 loss at the hands of Team Secret, Alliance managed to win the rematch against The Final Tribe 2-1 in the Decider Match to lock in a spot in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs. In that initial Upper Bracket series, Alliance absolutely annihilated Ninjas in Pyjamas, out killing its opponent 68-18 in a ridiculously dominant 2-0 win that guaranteed the team a spot in Kuala Lumpur. Another 0-2 loss to Team Secret in the Upper Bracket Finals dropped the squad in the Lower Bracket for a rematch against NiP that the squad ended up losing 0-2 for a 3rd place finish in the qualifier. Overall, Alliance put together a remarkably impressive performance in this first Pro Circuit qualifier of the season, and showed us just how far the team has come after keeping its roster intact through the last offseason period. The squad didn’t need to rely too heavily on any 1 of its core players, and the Support duo of INSaNiA and Taiga proved themselves more than capable of making significant contributions to the team’s play in this qualifier. That kind of balanced attack from a team’s entire roster makes Alliance a dangerous squad in the European region, as the squad can enjoy a place near to top of the regional hierarchy to begin its Pro Circuit campaign.
Record; 7-8 (3-5 Group Stage, 4-3 Playoffs)
Team Lithium managed to make a solid first impression in this qualifier, despite going up against some of the more prominent squads within the European region. The team got off to a rough start in the Group Stage with a massively one sided 0-2 loss to Ninjas in Pyjamas, but was able to turn things around with a 2-1 victory over MangoBay thanks to huge performances from MagE- and KehZu in Game 1 (combined 34-11-39) and Madara in Game 3 (15-1-12). The squad even managed to take a game off of Team Liquid in its final Group Stage series, although it couldn’t quite pull out the series win as it fell 1-2 to the TI7 Champion. The Lower Bracket is where we saw the best performances from this Team Lithium roster, beginning with a 2-0 win over madjor atendari that featured a comeback win in Game 1 followed by a blowout victory in Game 2. The next round saw Team Lithium earn its revenge against Team Liquid, as it claimed a 2-1 victory in that series thanks in large part to impressive showings from Madara and MageE- in Games 2 and 3 (combined 63-16-65). That win brought the team just 1 more series away from a place at the major, but the run for Team Lithium would come up just short as it suffered another 0-2 loss to NiP in Round 3 of the Lower Bracket. Team Lithium had none of the fire and drive that it showed in its previous series in this one, as the team was out killed across 2 games by a score of 18-59 and trailed in terms of net worth throughout the entirety of its matches. That loss keeps Team Lithium out of the Major for now, but this squad has to be happy with its performance in this qualifier as we saw incredible showings from the team’s cores and consistent production from the support duo as well. One qualifier is obviously not the end-all determining factor for a team across an entire season, but for the time being, Team Lithium’s talent and experience has it sitting in a solid spot in the European region to start the Pro Circuit season.
Record: 5-7 (4-3 Group Stage, 1-4 Playoffs)
It comes as a bit of a shock to see the strongest European squad of the previous Pro Circuit season and the TI7 Champion in the bottom half of the standings in a regional qualifier, but here we are. Team Liquid came into this qualifier looking like a surefire candidate for 1 of the 3 qualifying spots, and the team started off the Group Stage with the kind of dominant performance that we’ve come to expect as it demolished MangoBay for a 2-0 win. However, its subsequent series against NiP exposed some cracks in the armor for the European powerhouse. The team failed to complete a comeback effort to lose Game 1 of the series, and was then completely rolled over by NiP in Game 2 and threw in the towel in less than 15 minutes of game time for a shocking 0-2 loss. The good news for Team Liquid though was that Miracle- was able to carry the team through its final Group Stage series against Team Lithium, putting together a combined stat line of 47 kills, 12 deaths, and 21 assists in a 2-1 series victory that secured the team a place in the Upper Bracket. The Playoffs are where things began to go wrong for Team Liquid, beginning with its series against the new-look Team Secret. Despite Miracle- once again putting together an impressive stat line in the series (23-9-5 in 2 games), Team Liquid simply could not exert any control over the late-game stage and fell 0-2 in the series. That lack of late-game presence reared its head again in the team’s final Group Stage series against Team Lithium, as its opponent pulled away late in both Game 2 and 3 to knock out the regional powerhouse. Team Liquid’s performance was not particularly bad in this qualifier, but perhaps last year’s regional leader was not anticipating quite as much resistance as they saw in this qualifier, as Team Liquid hadn’t really participated in qualifiers on the Pro Circuit last season due to being directly invited to almost every event it attended. This performance will be seen as a disappointing outcome for sure, but a team doesn’t win TI without being able to bounce back from adversity. Expect to see this Team Liquid squad come back with even more drive and determination as it begins the season outside of the group of leading squads in the European region.
Record: 3-7 (1-4 Group Stage, 2-3 Playoffs)
Under normal circumstances, a 5th-6th place finish out of a field of 8 teams is not particularly impressive, but considering that MangoBay entered this qualifier with relatively low expectations, the team’s performance wasn’t all that disappointing. The team struggled in the Group Stage of the qualifier, suffering an opening 0-2 loss to Team Liquid in just under 53 minutes of total game time. The Losers’ Match against Team Lithium saw the squad play a much more competitive series, as MangoBay couldn’t quite pull off a comeback to lose a hard fought Game 1 but managed to dominate Game 2 to earn its first and only Group Stage win. Game 3 saw the squad’s momentum abandon it though, as Team Lithium controlled every aspect of the match to hand MangoBay a 1-2 loss and a spot in the Lower Bracket of the Playoffs. There, the squad finally seemed to hit its stride, taking a 2-1 victory over The Final Tribe in which its core trio of Fey, garter, and Bone7 combined for an average stat line of 26-15-38. Unfortunatley, the team couldn’t replicate that performance in the next round, losing 0-2 to NiP in a series that saw MangoBay out killed by a score of 36-91 in just 2 games and ended its time in the qualifier. The team’s style and strategy in this qualifier seemed predicated on ensuring that all 3 of its core heroes were able to find success, and from the matches that we saw, there didn’t seem to be much of a fallback plan for when that didn’t occur. None of the team’s 3 cores showed that they were able to really carry this team to a win when needed, which will almost assuredly be an issue for this squad moving forward in the Pro Circuit season. We will have to watch and see if this MangoBay squad stays together this season and can make another pass at a regional qualifier in the future.
The Final Tribe
Record: 4-7 (3-5 Group Stage, 1-2 Playoffs)
Things didn’t end up going particularly well for The Final Tribe in this first qualifier of the Pro Circuit season, as the Swedish squad’s new-look roster struggled significantly against its fellow European squads. The team was absolutely demolished by Alliance to begin the Group Stage, and it needed a duo of impressive performances from recent addition Chessie to pull out a narrow 2-1 win over madjor atendari in the Losers’ Match of Group A. The team’s rematch with Alliance in the Decider Match saw it win a game against the squad, but The Final Tribe still lost the series 1-2 to end up in the Lower Bracket of the Playoffs where it faced MangoBay. Despite a win to open the series, The Final Tribe found itself massively outplayed over the final 2 games, trailing in terms of net worth throughout the entirety of both matches to fall 1-2 in the series and bring its qualifier run to an early end. The Final Tribe’s performance in this qualifier will almost assuredly be seen as a disappointment, though there are some positives to consider for the team. The team’s core trio was able to put in some solid performances on an individual basis, although it was never able to get more than 2 of its 3 core players online across its qualifier matches. Also of note was the fact that Era seemed to be playing fairly comfortably in his new position as the team’s Support. This finish at the bottom of the standings certainly isn’t an auspicious start for The Final Tribe’s season, but hopefully the squad can bounce back and keep itself relevant within the European region moving forward.
Record: 1-6 (1-4 Group Stage, 0-2 Playoffs)
Expectations were already low for madjor atendari heading into this qualifier, and unfortunately the squad was unable to prove the doubters wrong with an incredibly underwhelming performance against its regional rivals. The team simply did not look good in this qualifier, losing its opening series against Team Secret 0-2 before falling to The Final Tribe 1-2 in the Losers’ Match to finish the Group Stage at the bottom of the Group A standings. The team’s only win across those 5 matches came in Game 2 against The Final Tribe, and required some unbelievably strong showings from Vihren and Power (35 combined kills). Things did not get much better for the team once it reached the Playoffs though, as it suffered a 0-2 defeat at the hands of Team Lithium that ended its qualifier run. Game 1 of the series saw the squad lose a net worth lead of over 10k in the late-game stage, while Game 2 ended up being a blowout loss in which the squad could secure itself just 12 kills in total. With that, the team’s shot at carving out a position for itself in the European hierarchy appears to have been wasted, although we are likely to see the team show up against this season in later Open Qualifiers. However, based upon its rather underwhelming showing in this first qualifier of the season, I wouldn’t expect madjor atendari to have much of a continued presence within the European region.