Dota 2 Pro Circuit Minor Recap: DreamLeague Season 10

Eye of the Tigers: Tigers takes down Na’Vi 3-2 to claim first Minor Championship of 2018-2019 season, spot at The Kuala Lumpur Major.

Following the chaos and excitement of one of the shorter offseasons in recent memory, the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season officially got underway in Stockholm, Sweden with the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor. As the first event of the season and the first event under the newly revised Pro Circuit system, the eyes of the Dota 2 world were fixated on the Monster Energy DreamHack Studios as 8 teams battled it out for the chance to be the first 2018-2019 Pro Circuit Minor Champion. Each team in the field came to Stockholm looking for an opportunity to solidify their positions as leaders within their home regions, and to make a strong first impression on the international stage. Also at stake for the squads was a fair bit of money and Pro Circuit points, along with the chance to win the Minor and lay claim to the final spot in the field for the upcoming Kuala Lumpur Major. While every team harbored aspirations of success at the Minor, only 1 team would walk away from Stockholm with the title of Minor Champion.

When all was said and done in Stockholm and the dust had settled, it was Tigers that stood victorious as the first Minor Champion of the Pro Circuit season. The Southeast Asian team defeated CIS challenger Na’Vi 3-2 in an incredible Bo5 Grand Finals series to claim the first Minor Championship of the season and the first ever Minor Championship for the team and organization. The team put together an absolutely incredible performance in Stockholm, posting a 11-5 overall record (4-1 Group Stage, 7-4 Playoffs) and claiming series victories over ROOONS, Royal Never Give Up (twice), and Na’Vi (twice) en route to claiming its Minor Championship title.

With the first Pro Circuit event now officially in the books, we can take our first look at the standings as the season has begun in earnest. With its first place finish at the event, Tigers stands in 1st place in the Pro Circuit standings with 120 points, and could potentially increase its Pro Circuit Points total with its upcoming appearance at The Kuala Lumpur Major. The DreamLeague Season 10 Minor runner up, Na’Vi, sits in 2nd place with 100 points. Interestingly enough, the team that finished in 3rd place at the Minor, Royal Never Give Up, is not 3rd in the Pro Circuit standings. Royal Never Give Up played with a stand-in in Stockholm, and as such suffered a 40% reduction in its Pro Circuit Point earnings. Because of that, the Chinese squad is actually ranked 4th overall with 54 points, while Infamous is ranked 3rd with 70 points following its 4th place finish at the Minor. Behind the South American squad is compLexity Gaming, claiming the 5th place position with 40 points for its 5th-6th place finish. The other 5th-6th place team at the Minor, Vega Squadron, sits a position below compLexity Gaming in the Pro Circuit standings with just 24 points, as the European squad also suffered a 40% reduction to its total due to using a stand-in at the event. Behind Vega Squadron in a tie for 7th are the 2 teams that finished in the shared last place in Stockholm, as ROOONS and The Final Tribe each earned 20 points for their efforts in Stockholm. Of course, all of these positions will be changing regardless of the specific outcomes of the upcoming Kuala Lumpur Major, as even the last place finishers at the Major will have more Pro Circuit Points than every Minor participants aside from Tigers and Na’Vi. Even with that in mind, these 8 squads that fought a the season’s first Minor can at least enjoy a brief period near the top of the standings before they are pushed back down by the Major attendees.

With all of the matches and action concluded in Stockholm, the Pro Circuit standings fully adjusted, and Tigers on its way to The Kuala Lumpur Major as the Minor Champion, we can look at how each of the teams performed at the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor and whether they managed to live up to their pre-event expectations.

compLexity Gaming 727px-Col_big_logo

Place: 5th-6th

Winnings: $15,000 & 40 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 6-4 (4-0 Group Stage, 2-4 Playoffs)

For compLexity Gaming, the majority of the season to this point has come with an asterisk attached to it, as the squad has not been playing with its full roster until recently. Carry Rolen Andrei Gabriel “Skemberlu” Ong had not been with the squad until its most recent appearance at ESL One Hamburg 2018. With the team finally playing with its full registered roster, compLexity Gaming made its way to Stockholm hoping to build momentum for itself and potentially lay claim to a position both as a leading squad in a somewhat top heavy North American region and as a contender on the Pro Circuit.

The North American squad began its run at the Minor in strong fashion, as compLexity Gaming took on South American squad Infamous in its first Group Stage series of the event. Utilizing a combination of Io and Gyrocopter across both matches in the series, compLexity Gaming was able to overpower its opponents with few issues en route to a 2-0 victory. The duo of Skemberlu and Limmp put together dominant performances in the series (combined 59-11-53 in 2 games), while EternaLEnVy had 45 Assists in the series on Io. The team’s next series ended up being slightly more contentious, as compLexity Gaming faced off against Na’Vi in the Winners’ Match of Group A. Early on in Game 1, the North American squad was playing from behind, as Na’VI built up a net worth lead of nearly 12k and appeared to be in control of the match. However, compLexity Gaming refused to give in, and a series of mistakes from its opponents lead to an opportunity for the team to bounce back in the late-game behind stunning performances from Skemberlu’s Gyrocopter (17-10-15, 29.8k net worth) and Limmp on Lina (10-6-20, 27.4k net worth). Once the team had shifted the momentum of the series into its favor with its comeback win in Game 1, it didn’t let it go. The North American squad dominated Game 2 of the series, shutting down the Na’Vi cores while having all 3 of its own cores rack up double digit kills en route to an impressive 2-0 victory and a spot in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs.

The North American squad found itself facing off against Royal Never Give Up in its first series of the Playoffs, with a guaranteed Top 3 finish on the line. Game 1 of the series saw compLexity Gaming put together an impressive showing as the team seized the momentum early and never looked back. Behind strong performances from Skemberlu’s Bloodseeker (17-2-10) and Sneyking’s Necrophos (12-2-17), the team held the net worth advantage through the entirety of the match en route to a one sided victory to open the series. From that point on though, things took a turn for the worse for compLexity Gaming, as its opponent was able to bounce back from that initial defeat with back to back stomps in Games 2 and 3. Across the final 2 games of the series, compLexity Gaming found itself out killed by a score line of 27-74, as Royal Never Give Up dominated the rest of the series to knock the North American squad down into the Lower Bracket.

With compLexity Gaming now sitting in the Lower Bracket, the margin for error became even slimmer as the team faced off against South American squad Infamous in an elimination series. The team looked fantastic in the opening match of the series, utilizing a team fight line up lead by a core trio of Monkey King, Magnus, and Necrophos alongside supports of Phoenix and Disruptor. The team was able to take control early in the match and stay ahead throughout the rest of the game, while its core trio each racked up double digit kills en route to a one sided victory. Game 2 looked like it would be a repeat performance for compLexity Gaming, as the team once against built up a significant net worth lead behind a stunning performance from Skemberlu on Phantom Assassin (33-6-15). Unfortunately for the team, it was unable to close out the game despite leading by over 26k net worth, as Infamous pulled off a near miraculous team fight win to spark an amazing comeback victory that tied up the series 1-1. Unfortunately for compLexity Gaming, a similar scenario would play out in Game 3 of the series, though on a somewhat reduced scale. Once again, Skemberlu put together a strong performance for the team, this time on Bloodseeker (19-6-9) as compLexity Gaming was the squad in control over the first half of the match. However, the team was unable to hold that lead as Infamous exerted near full control over late-game team fights to hand compLexity Gaming a 1-2 series loss. That loss brought the team’s run in Stockholm to an end, as the team finished in the 5th-6th place position at the Minor.

Coming into this Pro Circuit Minor, compLexity Gaming had a couple of questions surrounding it that needed to be answered. Skemberlu had only recently joined the team, and many weren’t quite sure where the team stood both within the North American region and on the international level. Prior to the start of the Minor, compLexity Gaming was projected to finish in the 5th-6th place position, and that is exactly where the North American squad ended up when all was said and done in Stockholm. However, the path that the team took to reach that position, and the level of play that it showed in the process, was somewhat surprising. The team’s perfect 4-0 run through the Group Stage of the Minor was a development that was certainly unexpected by many, as was the team’s consistent success with the Io-Gyro combo. Even the team’s performance in the Playoffs was stronger than anticipated, even though it ended up losing both of its series against Royal Never Give Up and Infamous. Both of those series saw compLexity Gaming claim 1 win and force a full 3 games, which constitutes at least a small silver lining for the team in that it was able to remain relatively competitive. The real take away for compLexity Gaming in terms of positive results though had to be the play of Skemberlu. Prior to the start of the Minor, his only experience with the team had come at ESL One Hamburg, but the Carry certainly looked comfortable on the Pro Circuit stage. He posted averages of 13.8 Kills and 10.4 Assists with just 4.6 Deaths per game across the teams 10 matches at the Minor, and played with a relatively consistent style that the team was able to plan and play around fairly well. Overall, compLexity Gaming has to feel pretty good about its performance in Stockholm, despite finishing in the lower half of the standings. The team’s positive overall record at the event and the impressive play of its Carry have compLexity Gaming sitting in a position where it can hopefully feel good about its potential moving forward through the rest of the season.

 

ROOONS ROOONS

Place: 7th-8th

Winnings: $7,500 and 20 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 0-6 (0-4 Group Stage, 0-2 Playoffs)

ROOONS came into the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor as a team that some people still weren’t fully sure how to evaluate in terms of its strength and abilities. The squad had impressed in its qualifier run to reach this point, but had faced a field of relatively weak regional rivals and benefited from the Minor having 2 slots for the North American region. Despite some of those concerns, ROOONS made its way to Stockholm hoping to put together the kind of performance that would instill confidence in its lineup and potentially set the squad up for success on the international level.

ROOONS did not begin its run at the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor in particularly strong fashion, as the squad lost its opening Group Stage series against Tigers 0-2. Game 1 saw the North American squad remain relatively close to its opponents throughout the early and mid-game stages, but fall behind late thanks to being out killed by its opponent 1-12 over the final 10 minutes of play. Game 2 proved to be a much less contentious affair, as ROONS fell behind early and stayed behind for the entirety of the match despite a decent effort from BananaSlamJamma’s Terrorblade (6-2-4). Unfortunately for ROOONS, its performance did not improve in its second Group Stage series, as the team was simply blown out by The Final Tribe in another 0-2 loss. The squad put together just 21 kills across the 2 game series, compared to 55 kills from its opponent, and only iAnnihilate ended either match with an even Kill/Death ratio (4-4-0 in Game 1). The team’s 0-4 Group Stage record placed it at the bottom of the Group B standings, and put the North American squad in the Lower Bracket of the Playoffs.

Following what was a harrowing and somewhat disappointing performance in the Group Stage of the event, ROOONS entered the Lower Bracket of the Playoffs hoping for a reversal of its poor fortunes as it faced off against Infamous in an elimination series. Unfortunately for the North American squad, their struggles continued against its South American opponent. The team was shut down almost immediately in Game 1 of the series, as its core trio of Terrorblade, Ember Spirit, and Brewmaster was heavily pressured and harassed by Infamous. ROOONS found itself falling behind early in the match, and the team’s deficit only grew as the game carried on. Trailing by over 27k net worth at the 30 minute mark, the North American squad threw in the towel to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw ROOONS flip the script from the previous match, as this time it was the team to come out strong early and establish control of the match. Behind a huge performance from iAnnihilate on Necrophos (16-3-5) and an impressive showing from monkeys-forever’s Nature’s Prophet (6-8-13), it appeared that the squad was in a solid position to keep itself alive in the series and claim its first win of the Minor. Unfortunately, the team faltered in the late-game, losing their grasp on the match as Infamous’ core trio of Morphling, Invoker, and Pugna shifted the momentum of the match away from the North American squad. Despite its best efforts, ROOONS simply could not regain its lost momentum, and ended up losing the match to fall in the series 0-2. That loss brought the team’s run in Stockholm to an end, as ROOONS finished with a 0-6 overall record and a place in the 7th-8th position in the standings.

ROONS may have come to the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor looking for an opportunity to prove itself as a leading team in North America, but what we saw from the squad in Stockholm was not quite as impressive as what it may have been hoping for. All things considered, the expectations were not particularly high for the team coming into this event, as ROOONS was projected to finish in the 7th-8th place position at the Minor. However, even with those admittedly pessimistic projections, the team’s play in Stockholm still left quite a lot to be desired. ROOONS ended its run without a single win to its name, having lost all 4 of its Group Stage matches before losing 0-2 in its sole Playoff series against Infamous. Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the team’s losses at the Minor was just how one sided they ended up being. Aside from the squad’s final match of the event in Game 2 against Infamous, ROOONS was essentially blown out in every single one of its other matches. The team was constantly playing from behind and just never seemed to be fully on the same page in terms of its execution and strategies. When a team ends up failing to win any games at an event, the questions are going to come out about the strength of the region that said team comes from, as harsh as that sentiment may be. At this early point in the season, it appears that the North American region is not quite as strong as the others in the Dota 2 world. Aside from teams at the top like EG, Forward Gaming, J.Storm, and perhaps compLexity Gaming, the Tier 2 of North American Dota has not impressed this season. The fact that the region received 2 slots at the Minor gave ROOONS a chance to prove itself, but the team most certainly did not manage to take advantage of that opportunity. The  good news for ROOONS is that the apparent weakness of its home region will give it more chances to stand out and put together a strong regional record moving forward. However, for ROOONS to show that it can truly handle itself on the international stage, it will need to find a way to bounce back from what has been a disastrous debut on the Pro Circuit stage.

 

Infamous LOGO-INFAMOUS-COMERCIAL

Place: 4th

Winnings: $25,000 & 70 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 6-7 (2-4 Group Stage, 4-3 Playoffs)

Infamous entered the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor as one of the more exciting stories in the South American region this season. With the return of Timado and a duo of up and coming talents in Wisper and MoOz, the team’s roster was brimming with talent and potential to start this 2018-2019 season. Unfortunately, the team had to deal with a roster change relatively close to the start of the event, but former player Elvis “Scofield” De la Cruz Peña was able to lend a hand as a stand-in for the South American squad. With its star Carry/Mid duo, its young talents, and a familiar face serving as a stand-in with the squad, Infamous made its way to Stockholm looking to impress the Dota 2 world and establish itself as both a leader in the South American region and a contender on the Pro Circuit stage.

Unfortunately for Infamous, its time at the Minor did not begin with an overly impressive performance, as the team struggled in its opening series against compLexity Gaming. Game 1 saw the South American squad trail for the entirety of the match in terms of net worth, as Infamous was unable to generate much momentum or create many opportunitites for its core duo of Morphling and Invoker. Infamous ended up with just 15 kills in the match compared to the 32 of its opponent, as the team fell behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 ended up being just as one sided as the previous match had been, as Infamous was once again dominated in team fights and could not match the pace of compLexity Gaming’s cores. Despite solid efforts from Timado on Weaver (8-7-8) and Wisper’s Tiny (8-8-7), Infamous fell behind early and never had a chance to catch up as the team fell 0-2. In the Losers’ Match of Group A, Infamous managed to turn things around, as it faced off against European squad Vega Squadron. Game 1 of the series saw Infamous trade the net worth lead back and forth a couple of times throughout the early and mid-game stages, with both sides managing to fight and farm effectively. In the late-game though, it appeared that Infamous had its back against the wall, as it fell behind by nearly 8k net worth. However, the core duo of Timado on Terrorblade (29-6-11, 35.4k net worth) and Papita on Broodmother (12-7-13, 21.2k net worth) helped the team mount an incredible comeback effort that shattered the momentum of Vega Squadron and led to an improbable win for Infamous to open the series. After seizing the momentum in Game 1, Infamous rolled over its opponent in Game 2, putting together a dominant performance that simply overwhelmed Vega Squadron. With its core trio combining for a stat line of 43-6-63, Infamous held the net worth advantage from start to finish in what was a near flawless victory to claim a 2-0 win in the series. That win put the team in the Decider Match of Group A, where it faced off against Na’Vi for the final spot in the Upper Bracket. Game 1 saw Infamous keep pace with its opponent throughout the mid-game stage, with the net worth lead fluctuating repeatedly between the 2 squads. However, Na’Vi’s team fight strength finally proved superior in the late-game stage, and despite an incredible showing from Wipser’s Tiny (17-6-12), Infamous could not hold back its opponent and fell behind 0-1 in the series. Following the closely contested Game 1, Game 2 proved to be something of a blowout, as Infamous was simply run over by its opponent. Na’Vi employed an aggressive strategy that the South American squad was not prepared to face, and its cores were unable to secure the levels of farm that they needed to be fully effective. Without the team’s primary damage dealers, Infamous stood nearly no chance in team fights, and Na’Vi was able to establish near full control over the match to hand Infamous a 0-2 defeat and a spot in the Lower Bracket of the Playoffs.

Infamous began its Playoff run with a match up against the winless North American squad ROOONS in the first elimination series of the Minor. Infamous came out aggressively in Game 1 of the series, picking up a core trio of Juggernaut, Storm Spirit, and Batrider with the intention of applying significant pressure to its opponent early. That early pressure paid off, as Infamous took control of the match from the beginning of the laning stage and never looked backed. The team held the net worth lead throughout the game, and the team’s Carry/Mid duo of Timado and Papita combined for a stat line of 18-2-10 as Infamous took a one sided victory to go up 1-0 in the series. In Game 2, the roles were reversed for much of the match, as Infamous was the squad playing from behind throughout the mid and most of the late-game stage. Despite those struggles though, the team was able to mount an impressive late-game comeback, led by Timdao’s Morphling (16-2-10) and Wisper on Pugna (10-3-16). With that duo leading the way, Infamous was able to turn the tide in a crucial late-game fight that shattered the momentum of ROOONS and allowed Infamous to advance to the next round with a 2-0 series victory.

After dispatching ROOONS, Infamous found itself facing off against another North American team as it played compLexity Gaming in the next round of the Lower Bracket. Game 1 proved to be a disastrous outing for the South American squad, as the team fell behind early and trailed throughout the match in a significantly one sided loss. Despite Wisper putting together an impressive showing on Tinker (13-6-2), the team simply could not build any momentum for itself and fell behind 0-1. In Game 2, it looked as though Infamous was set for its final match at the Minor, as the team once again trailed significantly against compLexity Gaming. The squad had no answers for Skemberlu’s Phantom Assassin, as the Filipino Carry nearly out killed the entire Infamous lineup by himself (33 kills for Skemberlu compared to 34 for Infamous). However, the South American squad refused to give up despite that seemingly insurmountable deficit. Trailing by over 26k net worth, Timado’s Terroblade (16-8-7, 45k net worth) sparked an unbelievable and miraculous team fight win that caught compLexity Gaming off guard and without its buybacks. With a window now open, Infamous marched down the middle lane and managed to pull off one of the most incredible comeback wins of the Minor to tie up the series 1-1. With the team enjoying the momentum from its comeback victory, Infamous went into Game 3 with confidence as it drafted a team fight heavy lineup headlined by cores of Arc Warden, Tiny, and Brewmaster. While the team experienced some struggles over the first half of the match, the late-game stage was all Infamous in the end. Behind solid showings from Timado on Arc Warden (10-5-9) and Papita’s Tiny (13-8-11), Infamous was able to dominate late-game fights and swing control of the match into its favor to shut down compLexity Gaming and claim a 2-1 series win.

That win afforded Infamous the opportunity for a rematch against CIS squad Na’Vi in the next round of the Playoffs, but unfortunately for the team the second match up wouldn’t deviate much from the first. Na’Vi exerted absolute control over Game 1 of the series, as Infamous had all of its heroes shut down from the very beginning of the match and trailed in terms of net worth through the entirety of the match. The team was out killed by a score of 10-36 as Infamous fell behind 0-1 in the series, and things didn’t get much better for it beyond that point. Game 2 saw Infamous put up a slightly more competitive effort in the early stages of the game, but the South American squad was quickly put on the back foot once again by Na’Vi’s aggressive play. Despite Timado putting together a respectable showing on Morphling (10-6-1), the rest of Infamous couldn’t seem to find its footing. Aside from a single team fight win near the 35 minute mark, Infamous could not get any advantage over its opponent, as Na’Vi built up its net worth lead and continuously kept the cores of Infamous contained. Though Infamous was able to extend the match past the 48 minute mark, its defenses eventually crumbled as Na’Vi handed it a 0-2 defeat to bring its run at the Minor to a close with a 4th place finish overall.

Infamous came into the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor as a team with some questiosn surrounding it, but also as a squad with a fair bit of hope and potential on its side. The relative inexperience of players like Wisper and MoOz, along with the recent addition of Scofield to the lineup, made it hard to predict just how this team would respond to its first taste of intentional play as a squad. Coming into the Minor, that uncertainty had the team projected to finish at the bottom of the event standings with a 7th-8th place finish. However, the squad proved itself more than capable of blowing that meager prediction out of the water with a run all the way up to the 4th place position in the standings. The team’s 2-4 record in the Group Stage of the event may not look particularly strong at first glance, but the squad held its own quite well in a group where it was considered by many to be the weakest team. Once the squad reached the Playoffs though, we saw Infamous flash some of that talent and potential that has gotten so many excited about the team’s prospects this season. The squad took back to back series wins against North American opponents in ROOONS and compLexity Gaming, before finally being brought down by Na’Vi. That kind of run was certainly impressive, especially considering the fact that the team’s Offlaner Wisper played such a large role in said run in what was his first event on the international level. He averaged 8.08 Kills and 11 Assists with 5.85 Deaths per game across the team’s 13 matches in Stockholm, and proved himself a worthy and capable third option in a lineup that was anticipated to be heavily reliant on Timdao and Papita. Of course, no performance comes without its concerns, and Infamous was certainly not perfect in its run at the Minor. Perhaps the biggest issue in terms of the team’s performance at this Minor is that it didn’t really get as much experience playing against what we could classify as “truly international” opposition. Much like the European and CIS region, North and South America are often lumped together when forming fields for third party events. In fact, Infamous had already played in a mixed North and South American event this season in the form of the King’s Cup 2: North America, and therein lies the heart of the issue. Against North American teams, Infamous put together a record of 4-3 at the Minor, while its record against teams from other regions was 2-4 in Stockholm. Admittedly this is not a massive disparity, but it becomes important when one takes into account the fact that Infamous had already played both ROOONS and compLexity Gaming in a previous event this season. As it stands, we’re probably going to need to see a wider pool of results against teams outside of North and South American to get a more accurate feel for how Infamous stacks up on the international level. For now though, the team’s strong finish in Stockholm had it sitting in a favorable position in the Pro Circuit standings and the regional hierarchy in South America.

 

The Final Tribe The Final Tribe

Place: 7th-8th

Winnings: $7,500 and 20 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 5-6 (4-4 Group Stage, 1-2 Playoffs)

The second half of the 2017-2018 Pro Circuit season saw The Final Tribe begin to emerge as a potential threat within the European region. In a region dominated by heavy hitters like Team Liquid and Team Secret, the Swedish squad had managed to make a few appearances on the Pro Circuit stage as it worked its way up the hierarchy in Europe. With the majority of its roster remaining constant through the offseason period, The Final Tribe came into this new Pro Circuit season looking to build upon its previously established momentum. Though the powerhouses of the region still remained in their positions, The Final Tribe made its way to Stockholm hoping for a chance to join the ranks of those elite squads with a successful run at the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor.

The Final Tribe began its run in the Group Stage of the Minor with a series against Chinese squad Royal Never Give Up. Throughout most of Game 1, it appeared that the team was in control, as The Final Tribe held the net worth lead throughout the mid-game stage. However, a late-game surge from Royal Never Give Up caught The Final Tribe off guard as the Chinese squad pulled off a comeback victory to open the series. In Game 2, The Final Tribe was determined not to repeat its mistakes, building up a significant net worth lead behind a big performance from Frost’s Tiny (12-4-4). This time, the squad managed to maintain its advantage, closing out the match with a strong late-game performance that tied up the series. Unfortunately though, the squad was unable to carry that momentum over into Game 3, as Royal Never Give Up was able to control the mid and late-game stages to hand The Final Tribe a 1-2 defeat in its first series of the Minor. That loss put The Final Tribe in the Losers’ Match of Group B for a match up against ROOONS, but this series proved to be far less competitive than the previous one for the European squad. After an absolute stomp of a match earned the team a one sided victory to open the series, The Final Tribe rolled over its opponent again in Game 2 to complete a quick 2-0 sweep. Across the 2 game series, The Final Tribe out killed its opponent by a score of 55-21 in what was an impressive display that gave the squad one last chance for an Upper Bracket slot as it advanced to the Decider Match of Group B for a rematch against Royal Never Give Up. Game 1 ended up being a completely one sided affair, as The Final Tribe came out on fire and held complete control of the match behind a combined stat line of 30-2-50 from its core trio. Any momentum that the team had been enjoying up to that point that shattered in Game 2, as Royal Never Give Up took its turn at controlling the match and put together a dominant showing to even up the series 1-1. The third and final match of the series appeared to be all in The Final Tribe’s favor, as the European squad held the net worth lead for nearly the entirety of the match. However, Royal Never Give Up was once against able to put together an incredible comeback effort, swinging the match in its favor near the 70 minute mark to pull off a stunning victory. Despite The Final Tribe’s core trio combining for a stat line of 50-24-80, the team fell in the series 1-2 and would begin the Playoffs in the lower half of the bracket.

Heading into the Playoffs of the Minor, The Final Tribe appeared to have a favorable match up on its hands, as the Swedish squad faced off against regional rival and winless squad Vega Squadron in an elimination series. Early in the series, it looked as though The Final Tribe would be in for an easy victory, as the team demolished its opponent in Game 1. The Final Tribe out killed its opponent 29-4, and its core trio of Lina, Wraith King, and Mirana combined for a stat line of 25-1-30 in a complete route of Vega Squadron. Game 2 was looking like a repeat of its predecessor throughout the majority of play, as The Final Tribe once again built up a significant net worth lead in the mid and late-game stages. However, Vega Squadron was able to buy time and make space for its Terrorblade pick, avoiding major engagements while biding their time until The Final Tribe made a mistake. After over 50 minutes of play, that mistake eventually came, and Vega Squadron wiped out The Final Tribe in an incredible team fight win to pull off an impressive comeback victory that tied the series at 1-1. After losing its momentum in Game 2 of the series, The Final Tribe was unable to fully recover as it entered the third and final match against Vega Squadron. Despite solid performances from Frost on Bloodseeker (11-6-14) and Chessie on Monkey King (9-8-11), The Final Tribe found itself playing from behind for nearly the entirety of the match. The squad could not match the team fight power and sustainability of Vega Squadron’s lineup, losing team fights and failing to find the pick offs it needed to keep pace with its opponent. Down by over 17k net worth, The Final Tribe mounted one last attempt to defend its base, but those efforts proved futile as Vega Squadron closed out the match and handed The Final Tribe a 1-2 defeat that ended its run at the Minor with a 7th-8th place finish.

Coming into the Minor, The Final Tribe appeared to be a team that had more than a few things going its way. The squad had kept its roster relatively consistent through the offseason, and had been performing fairly well within its home region across the first 2 months of the season. Prior to the start of play in Stockholm, I had The Final Tribe as my favorite to win the Minor and claim that last spot at The Kuala Lumpur Major, but that projection proved to be a bit off base in the end. The Final Tribe finished in the shared last place position alongside ROOONS, but the play from those 2 squads reveals a disparity that many might not see when simply looking at the final standings of the event. While ROOONS ended its run at the Minor with a 0-6 record, The Final Tribe’s overall record in Stockholm was a much more impressive 5-6. Every single series that the team ended up losing at the Minor (3 in total) was a 1-2 loss, which adds an interesting angle to the team’s ignoble finish at the bottom of the standings. In the end though, the team was unable to win those series when it mattered, and as such it should be in that last place position. However, the fact that the squad was in a position to win those series multiple times over the course of its run at the Minor will certainly be a cause for some optimism moving forward. Though the silver lining may be visible for The Final Tribe, there is still a glaring flaw for this team aside from the fact that it lost 3 of its 4 series at the Minor. The Swedish squad consistently struggled to close out games in this event, failing to shut down its opponent in the late-game and inadvertently creating multiple opportunities for its opponent to reclaim momentum. In fact, The Final Tribe had 4 separate matches in Stockholm in which it held a net worth lead within the final 10-12 minutes of play but ended up losing the match. Simply put, that cannot happen if this squad wants to have any chance of being a significant player on the Pro Circuit or within the European region, and that inability to close out games will be something that the squad hopefully focuses on in the build up to the next set of Pro Circuit qualifiers. For now though, the team’s disappointing finish at the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor will likely be the defining performance for it in this early stage of the season. Time will tell if the Swedish squad can regroup and put this unfortunate showing behind it and continue working its way up the hierarchy in the European region.

 

Vega Squadron 579px-Vega_Squadron_2016

Place: 5th-6th

Winnings: $15,000 & 24 Pro Circuit Points (Reduced from 40 due to using a stand-in)

Event Record: 2-7 (0-4 Group Stage, 2-3 Playoffs)

Vega Squadron, or Team Lithium as it had been known prior to the start of the Minor, made its way to Stockholm looking for an opportunity to prove itself as both a leading squad in Europe and a potential force on the international level. Unfortunately, the squad came to the Minor with a different roster than the one that it was used to, as Midlaner Anas “MagE-“  Hirzallah was unable to secure a visa for the event and was replaced by stand-in Danil “Dendi” Ishutin. Even with the temporary change to its roster, Vega Squadron had high hopes that it could put together a solid showing in its Pro Circuit debut and potentially earn itself a place in The Kuala Lumpur Major as Minor Champions.

While the team had high hopes coming into the event, Vega Squadron’s play in the Group Stage of the Minor was not nearly as impressive as it had been hoping for. The squad was swept in its opening series against Na’Vi, suffering a 0-2 defeat that saw the team out killed by its opponents 36-68. The team trailed for nearly the entirety of the series in terms of net worth, and despite Madara putting up a decent stat line (combined 15-14-15), the team simply could not generate any momentum for itself. The squad’s subsequent series in the Losers’ Match against Infamous went only slightly better, as the team once again suffered a 0-2 defeat. Rather than being shut down in back to back blowout losses, Vega Squadron was actually in a position to win one of its matches this time around, as the team squandered a late-game lead in Game 1 of the series. Behind a solid showing from Madara on Slark (20-4-16), Vega Squadron held a net worth lead of over 7k, but could not hold off the strength of Infamous’ cores in the end. Once the team had lost its momentum in Game 1 though, it could not recover it, as Infamous simply rolled over Vega Squadron in a Game 2 route to knock Vega Squadron into the bottom of the Group A standings and a place in the Lower Bracket of the Playoffs.

Following its winless run through the Group Stage of the Minor, Vega Squadron began in the Lower Bracket of the Playoffs where it faced off against fellow European squad The Final Tribe. Game 1 did not go well for Vega Squadron, to put it politely, as the team was completely demolished by its opponents in the opening match of the series. Vega Squadron put together just 4 kills in the match and trailed in terms of net worth for the entirety of the game to fall behind 0-1 in the series. In Game 2, it looked like a similar scenario was set to play out, as Vega Squadron once again found itself playing from behind in the mid and late-game stages. This time however, Vega Squadron was better prepared for that situation, and managed to pull off an incredible late-game comeback thanks to a huge performance from Madara on Terrorblade (13-0-6, 43.6k net worth) to even up the series. After seizing the momentum with its comeback win in Game 2, Vega Squadron ended up rolling in Game 3 of the series behind a core trio of Juggernaut, Tiny, and Dark Seer. Vega Squadron was able to apply pressure early in the match, and that pressure led to a significant net worth lead that the team was able to hold for nearly the entirety of the match despite some solid surges from The Final Tribe. Three of the Vega Squadron’s players ended up tallying double digit kills in the match, and KheZu’s Dark Seer (4-7-29) put together a kill participation of 76.7% as well as Vega Squadron dominated the match up and claimed a 2-1 series victory to advance to the next round of the Lower Bracket.

That next round saw Vega Squadron face off against Na’Vi for the second time at the Minor, this time with elimination on the line. In Game 1, Vega Squadron attempted to pull out the infamous Io-Gyrocopter combo in an attempt to overwhelm its opponent with mobility and damage output. While Madara’s Gyrocopter (12-5-5) was able to put together a solid showing for his team, it wasn’t enough to carry Vega Squadron to a victory by itself. Na’Vi was able to establish itself in the mid and late-game stages with consistent team fight wins and pick offs that Vega Squadron appeared to have no answers for. Trailing by over 26k net worth at the 41 minute mark, Vega Squadron conceded defeat to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw Vega Squadron try for pretty much the same strategy, once again deploying the Io-Gyrocopter combo alongside high control and damage heroes to round out its lineup. Unfortunately for the team, the same scenario played out in this game, as Na’Vi took control in the mid-game stage and exerted a heavy level of control over team fights in the late-game stage. While Vega Squadron was able to draw out the match to a small degree, it could never get itself into a position where it posed a realistic threat to overcome Na’Vi’s net worth advantage. Despite making one final effort to defend its base, Vega Squadron was overwhelmed by Na’Vi’s lineup in the end, falling in the game and the series to bring its run at the Minor to an end with a 5th-6th place finish overall.

Vega Squadron came into this Minor as one of the teams that had been attracting a fair bit of attention within the European region. Squads like Team Secret, Team Liquid, and Ninjas in Pyjamas held a firm grip on the “elite” positions within the region, but right behind those top squads there was a power vacuum that had yet to be filled at this early stage in the season. Vega Squadron had not been dominating its regional opponents, but its solid results so far this season had it looking like a prime candidate to claim a place near the top of the regional hierarchy. Prior to the start of the action in Stockholm, Vega Squadron was projected to finish 4th overall, but the squad ended up falling just short of that mark at the Minor. When looking at the performance of Vega Squadron at this event, the first point that needs to be taken into consideration is the fact that he squad was playing with a stand-in, as MagE- was replaced by Dendi for the course of the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor. Of course, there were other squads in the field who were also playing with stand-ins at the event, but there is no standard for how any particular team will respond to or be affected by a change to its roster, especially on the international stage. As it turns out, the effects of Vega Squadron using a stand-in appeared to be much more significant than had been anticipated, as the squad struggled significantly to begin its run at the Minor. The team’s 0-4 Group Stage performance was a huge cause for concern, but there was hope that the squad would be able to settle down in the Playoffs and adjust to having Dendi in the lineup in time to put together a more respectable showing in the second half of the event. To a certain extent, we did end up seeing that improved performance, as the team took down The Final Tribe 2-1 in the Lower Bracket before falling 0-2 to Na’Vi in the next round. However, even in those wins it didn’t look or feel like Vega Squadron was fully on the same page. The fact of the matter here is that we did not see Vega Squadron at its best in Stockholm, and the team’s performance will likely improve once it has its usual Midlaner back in the lineup. The team’s 2-7 overall record at the Minor isn’t likely to be a point of pride for Vega Squadron moving forward, but with the team still sitting in a favorable position within the European region, there will almost certainly be further opportunities for this squad to prove its worth this season, hopefully with its full roster active.

 

Natus Vincere (Na’Vi) Na'Vi

Place: 2nd

Winnings: $70,000 & 100 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 13-7 (4-2 Group Stage, 9-5 Playoffs)

Na’Vi made its way to the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor as a team with a new look and high hopes for this 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season. After a near complete overhaul of its roster in the offseason, the CIS squad was looking for an opportunity to prove itself early in the season and take its first steps towards reclaiming its legacy as the dominant power in the CIS region. The path to reclaiming that former position as the leading squad in its home region was due to be a long one though, and Na’Vi knew that in order to truly advance and make a name for itself in the Dota 2 world, it would need to impress and find success in Stockholm. With that in mind, the squad prepared to make its season debut on the Pro Circuit with the goal of laying claim to the title of Minor Champion and joining regional rivals Virtus.pro and Gambit Esports at The Kuala Lumpur Major in November.

Na’Vi’s run at the Minor began with its facing off against Vega Squadron, or the team formerly known as Team Lithium, in its first series of Group A. To put things simply, Na’Vi absolutely dominated the match up, as the CIS squad out played Vega Squadron as just about every turn. The team relied upon a core duo of Faceless Void and Magnus in both matches in the series, and that duo provided the squad with enough team fight power to control the pace of the game and shut down its opponents consistently. Crystallize and Blizzy combined for a stat line of 36-9-56 across the 2 matches on Faceless Void and Magnus, respectively, and Na’Vi rolled its way to a relatively easy 2-0 victory. The Winners’ Match of Group A would see Na’Vi struggle though, as the CIS squad faced off against compLexity Gaming. Na’Vi looked to be maintaining its considerable momentum from its previous sires in Game 1, as the squad built up a sizable net worth lead heading into the late-game stage thanks to big performances from Crystallize’s Clinkz (14-3-14) and MagicaL’s Templar Assassin (13-8-15). However, Na’Vi’s considerable damage output fell short in the late-game against the control and team fight power of compLexity Gaming’s lineup, and that net worth lead quickly evaporated as the North American squad took control to claim the opening match of the series. After that setback, Na’Vi proved unable to bounce back in Game 2 of the series, as compLexity Gaming established control early and never looked back. Despite a solid effort from MagicaL on Lina (11-6-4), Na’Vi could not mount a comeback effort and lost the series 0-2. That loss put Na’Vi in the Decider Match of Group A, where it faced South American squad Infamous for the last spot in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs. Game 1 of the series proved to be a back and forth affair for the 2 teams, as Na’Vi and Infamous traded the net worth advantage multiple times through the early and mid-game stages. However, Na’Vi was finally able to break through in the late-game behind strong performances from MagicaL’s Templar Assassin (11-3-17) and Blizzy’s Axe (10-6-14), breaking the game open and establishing a sizable net worth lead that allowed the team to finally shatter the defenses of its opponent to take a 1-0 series lead. After a tightly contested Game 1, Na’Vi managed to put together a much stronger showing in Game 2 as it dominated its opponent with an aggressive strategy. Behind a core trio of Ursa, Templar Asssassin, and Axe, Na’Vi was able to apply a level of pressure that Infamous was not prepared to handle, and that early pressure led to a net worth advantage that Na’Vi held throughout the entirety of the match for a 2-0 series victory and a place in the Upper Bracket.

Na’Vi’s first series in the Playoffs brought the CIS squad face to face with Southeast Asian challenger Tigers in a series that determined which squad would guarantee itself at least a Top 3 finish in Stockholm. Na’Vi did not look like it came out ready to play in Game 1 though, as Tigers pounced on the team early and established a net worth lead that it would hold for nearly the entirety of the match. None of the Na’Vi cores were able to build up any significant levels of momentum, and the squad’s team fight power proved insufficient to counteract the lead that its opponent had built up as the CIS squad fell behind 0-1. Game 2 would see Na’Vi reverse the roles from the previous match, as this time the CIS squad was the one to establish an early lead. Thanks in large part to stand out performances from Crystallize’s Weaver (11-4-22) and Blizzy’s Axe (14-3-15), Na’Vi was able to control team fights in the mid and late-game stage and consistently shut down the cores of Tigers. With a net worth lead of over 34k at the 44 minute mark, Na’Vi was finally able to force a “gg” call from its opponent as it tied up the series 1-1 in dominant fashion. Unfortunately for Na’Vi, its momentum from that Game 2 victory did not last very long, as Tigers quickly reestablished control of the series in Game 3. Na’Vi had looked for a high damage output draft with cores of Drow Ranger, Sniper, and Enigma, but that strategy quickly fell flat against the control and damage of its opponent. The Na’Vi cores simply couldn’t secure enough space to find the farm that they needed, and the near constant pressure and harassment from Tigers didn’t give the team an opportunity to bring its power to bear in a team fight. Na’Vi ended up losing both the match and the series, and subsequently dropped down into the Lower Bracket for an elimination match up against Vega Squadron.

As it turned out, the Playoff series between Na’Vi and Vega Squadron ended up playing out in a similar manner to their Group Stage match up, in that Na’Vi was the dominant squad throughout the series. Despite giving up some early kills in the laning stage of Game 1, Na’Vi was quickly able to take control in the mid and late-game stages and shut down the Io-Gyrocopter combo of Vega Squadron. Behind a strong showing from Crystallize on Clinkz (11-2-11) and MagicaL on Templar Assassin (8-3-16), Na’Vi was able to consistently control team fights and out farm its opponent en route to a fairly one sided victory to open the series. Game 2 ended up being a fairly similar scenario, with Vega Squadron even drafting the same Io-Gyrocopter combo that it had attempted to utilize in Game 1. Thanks to strong performances from Crystallize’s Terroblade (10-3-10) and MagicaL’s Storm Spirit (12-3-14), Na’Vi was once again able to take control in the mid and late-game stages, out farming and out fighting its opponent for the second game in a row. Despite Vega Squadron’s best efforts, Na’Vi’s advantage only continued to grow as the game progressed. Up by nearly 15k net worth at the 40 minute mark, Na’Vi was able to make the final push to break through Vega Squadron’s defenses and secure itself a 2-0 series victory.

That win advanced the team into Round 3 of the Lower Bracket where it faced off against South American squad Infamous for the second time at the Minor. Much like the team’s previous series against Vega Squadron, Na’Vi was able to exert a heavy level of control on this series. The team picked up a core trio of Faceless Void, Alchemist, and Centaur Warrunner in Game 1 that simply ran over and overwhelmed the lineup of Infamous, taking the lead early and never looking back. The team’s core trio combined for a stat line of 25-4-48 in the match, and Infamous was held to just 10 kills in total as Na’Vi marched its way to a 1-0 series lead with a relatively easy opening match. Game 2 ended up looking fairly similar to its predecessor, as Na’Vi was once again able to establish control of the match in the mid and late-game stages. With Crystallize’s Faceless Void (12-2-14) and MagicaL’s Clinkz (17-2-9) leading the way, Na’Vi was able to control team fights and find pick offs on a near constant basis throughout the course of the match, building up its net worth advantage all the while. While Infamous was able to draw out the match with some persistent defensive efforts, Na’Vi eventually broke through to claim the win in both the match and the series to advance to the Lower Bracket Finals of the Minor.

Na’Vi found itself facing off against Chinese squad Royal Never Give Up in the Lower Bracket Finals, though the CIS team would has relatively few difficulties moving past its opponent in this series. In Game 1, Na’Vi was playing from behind for a large portion of the match, as Royal Never Give Up’s control and high damage output allowed it to build up a sizable net worth advantage in the mid and late-game stages. However, Na’Vi’s lineup was simply biding its time throughout this period, and eventually the team’s damage and team fight power was unleashed upon its unsuspecting opponent. With Crystallize’s Morphling (14-4-14) and MagicaL’s Storm Spirit (12-4-15) leading the charge, Na’Vi mounted an impressive comeback effort in the late game that won the team multiple team fights and snapped the momentum of Royal Never Give Up. Na’Vi was able to seize control of the match, breaking through its opponent’s base and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Following its comeback win in Game 1, Na’Vi was able to carry its momentum over in to the second match of the series as it dominated Royal Never Give Up in Game 2. While the 2 teams remained even through the laning stage, Na’Vi was able to exert near complete control over the match from that point forward. Past the 15 minute mark in the match, Na’Vi was able to out kill its opponent 24-7, thanks in large part to an inspired performance from MagicaL on Invoker (16-0-14). After building up its net worth lead past the 16k mark just 31 minutes into the match, Na’Vi was able to force a “gg” call from its opponent to close out a 2-0 series victory and secure itself a rematch with Tigers in the Grand Finals of the Minor.

Game 1 proved to be an absolute disaster for Na’Vi as it began the Bo5 Grand Finals. The team was taken by surprise by a Meepo pick from Tigers, and its lineup was woefully unprepared to handle that scenario as the CIS squad fell behind early and was never able to find its footing in the match. Na’Vi found itself out killed by a score of 11-44 in the match, and trialed in terms of net worth from beginning to end as the team fell in just over 27 minute of game time to go behind 0-1 in the series. After that rather one sided loss to open the series, Na’Vi came out looking for revenge in Game 2 of the Grand Finals, and the team was very quickly able to find it with a core trio of Gyrocopter, Storm Spirit, and Axe. That core trio combined for a stat line of 35-9-53, as Na’Vi overcame a rough first half to dominate the late-game stage and shut down the Huskar draft of Tigers. With its team fight power and damage output, Na’Vi was able to outplay its opponent at every turn in the second half of the match, out killing Tigers 17-3 over the final 10 minutes of play to even up the series 1-1. After dominated Game 2 of the series, Na’Vi was quick to carry its momentum over into the third match of the Bo5. The team once again picked up Gyrocopter and Axe in their draft, but this time threw in a Templar Assassin pick that wound up being incredible successful. Na’Vi was in control from the very start of the match, limiting Tigers to just 6 kills in the entire game while racking up 29 kills of its own. The team’s core trio combined for a stat line of 20-3-32, while the support duo of SoNNeikO and Chuvash poured in 23 assists to help Na’Vi claim a lopsided victory in just under 25 minutes of game time. After winning back to back matches, Na’Vi entered Game 4 with a certain degree of confidence, though that confidence was quickly countered by strong play from its opponent. The CIS squad picked up a core trio of Huskar, Storm Spirit, and Enigma, but early on it was clear that that trio was at a significant disadvantage. Tigers came out aggressively at the start of the game, finding frequent pick offs and team fight wins that heavily hindered Na’Vi’s progression and limited its damage and team fight strength. As the game continued, Na’Vi only fell further and further behind, trailing by as much as 30k net worth in what was a massively one sided affair. The team put together a handful of efforts in the late-game to try and turn the tide, but when those all fell short the CIS squad conceded defeat as the series was tied up at 2-2. With the series down to its final match, Na’Vi opted for a greedy draft led by a core trio of Faceless Void, Alchemist, and Enigma. The team was punished early and often by its opponent though, as Tigers took every opportunity to limit Na’Vi’s ability to farm and put the CIS squad at a massive disadvantage in the early stages of the game. While Na’Vi was able to put together a few strong fights, the deficit was just too much for the team to fully overcome in the end as the team ultimately fell 2-3 in the series for a 2nd place finish at the Minor.

Na’Vi made its way to the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor with a couple of relatively ambitious goals for itself in the first event of the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season. The first, was to reclaim the ever elusive legacy of the Na’Vi organization, and organization that was once the most accomplished and dominant squad in the Dota world. The second goal, was to prove to that same Dota 2 world that this new iteration of the Na’Vi lineup had what it needed to compete on the highest level both within the CIS region and on the international level. As previously mentioned, those goals were both fairly ambitious, but the CIS squad looked like a strong team with a lot of potential coming into the Minor, and as such was projected to finish in 3rd place in Stockholm. As it turns out, the team was able to out perform even that rather positive prediction, claiming a 2nd place finish at the Minor. The CIS squad looked relatively strong to begin the Minor, posting a 4-2 Group Stage record that included strong wins over both Vega Squadron and Infamous. The team’s opening 1-2 loss in the Playoffs against Tigers did introduce a small concern or two, but the squad’s response to that defeat showed the true strength of this team. Na’Vi rattled off win after win, taking down Vega Squadron, Infamous, and Royal Never Give Up with 3 straight 2-0 wins before falling 2-3 in an incredible Grand Finals rematch against Tigers. While Na’Vi will not be making its way to Kuala Lumpur for the Major, the team has put together exactly the kind of performance that it was looking for heading into the Minor. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Na’Vi’s play in Stockholm was just how many different ways the squad was able to beat its opponents. The team certainly had games where Crystallize or MagicaL absolutely went off, but the matches where Na’Vi was the most dangerous and the most impressive came when it had a more balanced attack from its core trio. When Crystallize, MagicaL, and Blizzy were all playing well and on the same page mentally, this Na’Vi roster was nearly invincible at the Minor. With the CIS region still lacking a clear 2nd behind regional leader Virtus.pro, Na’Vi’s stunning performance in Stockholm has it sitting as a solid contender to claim that position and return to a place of power and prestige within its home region.

 

Royal Never Give Up Royal Never Give Up

Place: 3rd

Winnings: $35,000 & 54 Pro Circuit Points (Reduced from 90 due to using a substitute)

Event Record: 8-9 (5-4 Group Stage, 3-5 Playoffs)

Royal Never Give Up entered the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season as a squad with a significant number of opportunities in front of it. Born out of the chaos and excitement of the offseason roster shuffle, the Chinese squad found itself fielding a talented and experienced lineup in a region that was undergoing significant changes. Aside from TI8 runner up PSG.LGD, just about every major squad in China has made changes to its roster in the offseason. With many of those teams still looking to solidify their identity and position within the regional hierarchy, Royal Never Give Up found itself looking at a perfect opportunity to establish itself as a potential leader among its regional rivals. In order to truly carve out a place among the elite of the Chinese region though, Royal Never Give Up was going to need a combination of strong performances at home and success on the international level. As the team made its way to Stockholm, it was hoping that the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor would provide it with just the kind of high profile international stage that it needed to accomplish that goal.

Royal Never Give Up started its run in the Group Stage of the Minor with a match up against European squad The Final Tribe in the Opening Matches of Group B. The Chinese squad found itself playing from behind for most of Game 1 of the series as its opponent exerted control over the early and mid-game stages. However, the squad was able to mount a comeback effort in the late-game behind a huge performance from Monet on Lifestealer (14-2-4) to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 ended up being a very similar scenario for Royal Never Give Up, although this time the Chinese squad was unable to repeat its comeback performance. The Final Tribe dominated the mid and late-game stages and shut down Royal Never Give Up’s lineup to pull itself back into the series with a 1-1 tie. Game 3 proved to be a highly contested affair, as Royal Never Give Up pitted a core trio of Terrorblade, Leshrac, and Magnus against a Tinker pick from The Final Tribe. While the 2 squads remained close through most of the match, Royal Never Give Up’s core trio eventually gave it the team fight power needed to take control in the late-game. With Monet, xy, and Srf combining for a stat line of 25-5-33, Royal Never Give Up was able to close out the match and the series with a 2-1 victory. That win moved Royal Never Give Up into the Winners’ Match of Group B, where it faced off against Southeast Asian squad Tigers for the top spot in the group. Game 1 was something of a disaster for the Chinese squad, as the team was out played and trailed in terms of net worth for the entirety of the match despite a solid effort from Monet on Spectre (7-3-5). Game 2 initially looked like it would be a repeat of its predecessor, as Royal Never Give Up was playing from behind throughout the first 50 minutes of the match. However, the Chinese squad refused to give up, and with the help of unbelievable performances from Monet’s Terrorblade (18-14-20, 47.4k net worth) and xy’s Tinker (30-8-18, 43.4k net worth), the team pulled off an incredible comeback in a match that lasted over 87 minutes. Unfortunately for the team, Royal Never Give Up was unable to carry any momentum from its comeback victory into Game 3, as the squad was routed by its opponent and trailed in terms of net worth from the very start of the match. That loss dropped the team into the Decider Match of Group B for a rematch of its initial series against The Final Tribe. Game 1 proved to be a complete disaster for the Chinese squad, as Royal Never Give Up put up just 6 kills in the match compared to 39 from its opponent in a massively one sided loss to open the series. In Game 2, the tables were turned, as Royal Never Give Up was the squad to establish itself early in the match and take control of the pace of the game. The team’s core trio of Spectre, Dragon Knight, and Necrophos helped the team control team fights in the mid and late-game stage, putting together a combined stat line of 29-7-50 as it tied up the series 1-1. The third and final match of the series looked like it was going to be a rather one sided affair early in the match, as Royal Never Give Up struggled to keep pace with its opponent’s core duo of Spectre and Tinker. Royal Never Give Up fell behind by as much as 24k net worth at one point in the match, but the Chinese squad refused to give in despite having its back against the wall. Behind stand out showings from Monet on Monkey King (15-13-20, 39.3k net worth) and xy’s Storm Spirit (10-11-23, 35.9k net worth), Royal Never Give Up pulled off a miraculous comeback and took back to back fights against The Final Tribe to wipe out the squad’s buybacks and win both the game and the series. With its 2-1 victory over The Final Tribe, Royal Never Give Up secured itself a place in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs.

That Upper Bracket match up saw the Chinese squad face North American team compLexity Gaming for a spot in the Upper Bracket Finals and a guaranteed Top 3 finish at the Minor. Game 1 of the series did not go well for Royal Never Give Up, as the Chinese squad was out killed by a score of 13-37 in a completely one sided loss in which the team trailed in terms of net worth for the entire match. From that point on though, Royal Never Give Up was in complete control, coming back with 2 dominant performances in Games 2 and 3. The team out killed its opponent 74-27, and held a net worth lead for all but a handful of minutes across nearly 65 minutes of game time. The core duo of Monet and Srf combined for a stat line of 57-5-51 across those final 2 games, fueling Royal Never Give Up to a 2-1 series victory and a spot in the Upper Bracket Finals.

The team’s opponent in said Upper Bracket Finals series was one that it had seen before in Stockholm, as Royal Never Give Up faced Tigers for the second time in Stockholm with a spot in the Grand Finals of the Minor at stake. Royal Never Give Up was the team in control throughout much of the opening match in the series, with xy’s Broodmother (10-3-10) and Srf’s Necrophos (9-3-11) leading the way for the Chinese squad. However, Tigers was able to put together an impressive surge in the late-game stage that swung momentum in its favor and snatched a victory away from Royal Never Give Up. In Game 2, those roles ended up being reversed, as Royal Never Give Up was the squad playing from behind for nearly the entirety of the match. Despite trailing in terms of net worth for most of the game, the team was able to extend the match beyond the 60 minute mark and buy itself more and more time. That extra time ended up paying off for the team, as Royal Never Give Up managed to pull off an incredible team fight win to wipe out Tigers’ lead and complete an improbable comeback win to tie up the series 1-1. Unfortunately for the team, Royal Never Give Up could not maintain its momentum from that comeback win in the third and final match of the series. Royal Never Give Up managed to find just 9 kills in Game 3, which paled in comparison to the 29 kills for Tigers as it dominated the match from the very beginning of play. Down by over 21k net worth at the 35 minute mark, Royal Never Give Up conceded defeat to fall into the Lower Bracket for the first time at the Minor.

After suffering its first series loss in the Playoffs, Royal Never Give Up found itself facign off against Na’Vi to see which squad wold advance to the Grand Finals for a rematch against Tigers and a chance at the title of Minor Champion. Game 1 of the series saw the Chinese squad pick up a core trio of Terrorblade, Ember Spirit, and Magnus, and that trio managed to have a massive impact on the match in the mid and late-game stages. Behind an impressive performance from Monet on Terrorblade (19-7-8), Royal Never Give Up was able to exert a modest level of control over the match and built up a net worth lead that came just short of the 10k mark at its highest point. However, Na’Vi’s considerable team fight power eventually became too much for Royal Never Give Up to handle, as the CIS squad chipped away at that net worth lead with a series of team fight wins. Despite its best efforts, Royal Never Give Up could not reclaim its momentum as Na’Vi took control of the game and closed out a win to take a 1-0 lead in the series. After letting its advantage slip away in Game 1, Royal Never Give Up attempted to employ the Io-Gyrocopter strategy in Game 2 in a bid to even up the series. Unfortunately for the team, that strategy fell flat, as did the rest of the team’s lineup as Royal Never Give Up was playing from behind for most of the match. Na’Vi was once again able to control team fights and find frequent pick offs wit hits lineup, and Royal Never Give Up simply could not keep pace as it fell further and further behind in the late-game stage. Facing Mega Creeps and a net worth deficit of over 16k at the 31 minute mark, Royal Never Give Up threw in the towel to lose the match and fall 0-2 in the series, ending the team’s run at the Minor with a 3rd place finish overall.

Royal Never Give Up entered the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor as a team that was as of yet unsure of its position both within the Chinese region and on the international level. The Chinese squad had put together an impressive level of talent and experience in forming its roster, but had also had some ups and downs in terms of its results in its home region. Coming into the Minor, Royal Never Give Up was projected to fall in the 5th-6th place position, but the Chinese squad managed to significantly out perform that prediction with a strong 3rd place run in Stockholm. The team didn’t exactly breeze through the Group Stage of the Minor, playing 3 series that all ended up going the full 3 games. However, Royal Never Give Up was able to put together a 5-4 record across those series, winning 2 of the 3 in order to claim a spot in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs. The only concern for the team in its Group Stage performance was the fact that both of its series victories came against The Final Tribe, a team that ended up finishing at the bottom of the standings at the Minor. As the team entered the Playoffs, there were still some questions as to how well the team would fare against some of the stronger teams in the field. Unfortunately, those concerns ended up being somewhat relevant in the end, as Royal Never Give Up defeated compLexity Gaming in Round 1 of the Upper Bracket before losing to both Tigers and Na’Vi to finish 3rd overall. Of course, losing to the teams that finished 1st and 2nd at the Minor is nothing to necessarily be ashamed of in this context, and Royal Never Give Up’s performance was certainly an impressive one despite the fact that the team leaves Stockholm with a negative overall record (8-9). A Top 3 finish and a solid performance on the Pro Circuit stage has Royal Never Give Up sitting in a fairly favorable position moving forward this season. Unfortunately, the team did not receive the full amount of Pro Circuit Points that it was meant to have due to using a stand-in, but the team’s 54 points will still make it one of just 4 Chinese squads to be ranked on the Pro Circuit after the end of The Kuala Lumpur Major. For the time being, Royal Never Give Up’s strong showing at the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor has it in a position as both a ranked squad on the international level and a leading team within the Chinese region, which is a rather impressive feat for a squad that only formed 2 months ago.

 

Tigers Tigers

Place: 1st

Winnings: $125,000 & 120 Pro Circuit Points (Qualified for The Kuala Lumpur Major)

Event Record: 11-5 (4-1 Group Stage, 7-4 Playoffs)

Tigers made its way to Stockholm and the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor as a team looking to take advantage of a significant opportunity for success. The team’s standing in the Southeast Asian region has still not fully solidified, and a chance to play on the Pro Circuit stage had the potential to lift the team’s profile in a huge way within its home region and on the international level as well. With many of the region’s teams still working through their offseason roster moves, Tigers sensed an opportunity to move itself into the realm of the elite of Southeast Asia and claim a place alongside squads like Fnatic and TNC Predator. To do this, Tigers needed to put together an impressive performance in its Pro Circuit debut in Stockholm, as it fought for the title of Minor Champion and a place in The Kuala Lumpur Major.

Tigers began its run at the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor with a match up against North American squad ROOONS, and the Southeast Asian team wasted no time establishing itself as the stronger team in that series. Game 1 saw the 2 squads remain relatively even through the mid-game stage, but the core trio of Terrorblade, Lina, and Axe gave Tigers enough power to break through in the late-game stage and take control of the match. Tigers was able to secure the final 12 kills of the match as it dominated fights and shattered the defenses of its opponent to take a 1-0 series lead. After seizing the momentum in Game 1, Tigers continued to roll in Game 2 of the series, putting together an even more impressive performance in what ended up being a wire-to-wire victory for the Southeast Asian squad. Behind big games from AhJit on Necrophos (10-1-11) and Xepher’s Earth Spirit (8-4-18), Tigers were able to establish control early and never look back en route to a 2-0 sweep of the series. The team’s next series in the Winners’ Match of Group B began with yet another dominant performance, as the squad came out aggressively against Royal Never Give Up in Game 1 of its next series. The team’s Carry/Mid duo of AhJit and inYourdreaM combined for a stat line of 13-0-17 in the match, and Tigers held the net worth lead for the entirety of the match in a massively one sided opening game. In Game 2 it appeared that we would be in for a repeat performance, as Tigers built up a big lead early and looked like the team with momentum on its side for most of the match. However, Royal Never Give Up lived up to its name, putting together a unbelievable comeback effort lead by a core duo of Tinker and Terrorblade. Despite 4 of the Tigers players racking up double digit kills in this match, the Southeast Asian squad didn’t have enough in it to counter that formidable core duo, and eventually fell in a match that lasted over 87 minutes of game time. With that, the series went to a third game, but Tigers wasn’t interested in making this one another long and drawn out affair. The Southeast Asian squad was aggressive from the start, building up a significant net worth lead and giving Royal Never Give Up no opportunities for another comeback. Behind inYourdreaM’s Phantom Lancer (15-1-6) and Xepher’s Phoenix (10-5-25), Tigers closed out the series with a 2-1 victory to claim the top spot in Group B and a place in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs.

Tigers began its Playoff run with a series against CIS squad Na’Vi, and the Southeast Asian team was able to get itself off to a strong start in the opening match of the series. Behind an impressive showing from Moonmeander on Pangolier (10-0-16), Tigers was quickly established a net worth lead that it would hold for all but a few minutes in the match. Na’Vi proved unable to bring its team fight power to bear, and after going up by over 17k net worth in the late-game stage, Tigers was able to claim a win to open up the series. Game 2 saw Tigers attempt to utilize the ever popular Io-Gyrocopter combo, but the strategy quickly ended up falling short in the face of Na’Vi’s lineup. Despite a small advantage in the early stages of the match, Tigers could not maintain its momentum against the farming potential and team fight power of its opponent. While AhJit was still able to put together a solid showing on Ember Spirit (9-4-8), it wasn’t enough to keep the team from falling behind as Na’Vi evened the series at 1-1. After its rough Game 2 loss, Tigers came out on fire in the third and final game of the series. The squad took the lead early against a slower Na’Vi lineup, and held the net worth advantage throughout the match behind huge performances from InYourdreaM’s Lina (11-0-5) and AhJit on Terrorblade (8-0-10). Tigers out killed its opponent by a score of 26-12 in the match, and kept Na’Vi’s entire lineup contained en route to a dominant victory in the game and a 2-1 series victory.

That win put the team just 1 more series win away from the Grand Finals of the Minor, but the Southeast Asian squad would have to get past Royal Never Give Up for the second time in Stockholm in order to reach that mark. Things were not looking fantastic for Tigers in Game 1 of the series, as Royal Never Give Up built up a significant net worth lead in the mid and late-game stages behind a core trio of Spectre, Broodmother, and Necrophos. However, Tigers was able to mount an impressive comeback effort late, led by its Carry/Mid duo of Ahjit on Terrorblade (9-4-8) and inYourdreaM’s Lina (7-3-12). The Southeast Asian squad was able to win back to back team fights in order to swing the momentum and the net worth lead in its favor and claim a 1-0 lead in the series. Unfortunately for Tigers, it found itself on the wrong side of a comeback effort in Game 2 of the series. The Southeast Asian squad built up a sizable net worth lead behind a combined stat line of 19-8-33 from its core trio, but Royal Never Give Up live up to its name and refused to admit defeat. A disastrous team fight near the 60 minute mark wiped out a net worth lead of over 16 for Tigers, and allowed Royal Never Give Up to claim a much needed win to tie the series at 1-1. After letting its advantage slip away in Game 2, Tigers entered Game 3 with a much more determined level of effort as it dominated its opponent. Tigers out killed Royal Never Give Up 29-9, with its core trio combining for a stat line of 24-1-29 in a massively one sided stomp that secured the team a 2-1 series victory and a place in the Grand Finals.

Game 1 ended up being an absolute stomp for Tigers, as the Southeast Asian squad simply overpowered its opponent from the very start of the match. The team out killed Na’Vi by a score of 44-11 thanks in large part to a surprise Meepo pick for AhJit (17-3-4) that the CIS squad was simply not prepared to deal with. Tigers held the net worth lead throughout the entirety of the match, and was up by over 21k net worth at the 27 minute mark before its opponent finally conceded defeat to give Tigers a 1-0 lead in the Bo5 series. Unfortunately for Tigers, their momentum from that opening victory was completely shattered in Game 2, as the Southeast Asian squad squandered a modest lead over the first half of the match and fell behind significantly in the mid and late-game stages. The team’s Huskar-centric draft found itself dropping off rapidly just as Na’Vi’s damage and team fight power was coming online, and the results were disastrous for Tigers. Despite a commendable effort from inYourdreaM on Weaver (8-5-3), the team was out killed by a score of 18-43 in the match, as Na’Vi put together a dominant performance to even up the series 1-1. Things did not improve for Tigers in Game 3 of the series, and in fact the situation actually managed to get worse for the Southeast Asian squad. The team’s core trio of Weaver, Ember Spirit, and Ogre Magi was shut down from the very beginning of the match, and Tigers as a team tallied just 6 kills in the entire match. Na’Vi was aggressive and persistent in its play, consistently forcing team fights and skirmishes where Tigers did not want to engage. Facing a net worth deficit of nearly 27k at the 24 minute mark, Tigers opted to concede defeat to lose its second game in a row in the series and fall behind 1-2 in the Grand Finals. With its back against the wall in Game 4 of the Grand Finals, Tigers opted for a mix of damage and control as it combined a core trio of Mirana, Invoker, and Pangolier with supports of Tiny and Crystal Maiden. From the very beginning of the match, it was clear that Tigers had the advantage, as the Southeast Asian squad was able to find kills early and often against Na’Vi. Behind impressive showings from AhJit on Mirana (14-3-17) and inYourdreaM’s Invoker (12-3-16), Tigers built up a sizable net worth lead early and never lost hold of it throughout the rest of the game. Despite Na’Vi making a couple of commendable attempts to turn the tide in the mid and late-game stages, the momentum of Tigers simply could not be overturned as the squad claimed an impressive victory to even up the series at 2-2. Game 5 proved to be significantly less competitive than anticipated, as Tigers took advantage of a greedy draft from its opponent and quickly establish near complete control over the match. Behind incredible performances from inYourdreaM’s Lina (16-4-15) and AhJit’s Mirana (14-0-20), Tigers was able to shut down Na’Vi’s lineup and claim a net worth advantage that it held for the entirety of the match. Though Na’Vi made a few valiant attempts to delay and turn the tide of the match, Tigers would not be denied as it closed out the win to claim a 3-2 series victory and its first ever Minor Championship title.

Tigers came to the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor as a team that knew it was in a prime position for success. The team had a strong blend of experience and talent, and with many of its regional rivals in Southeast Asia still struggling to find their footing this early in the season, the team was in a position to rise into an elite status if it could put on a strong showing in Stockholm. Coming into the event, Tigers was projected to finish 2nd overall, but the squad proved that it could outperform that prediction as it claimed its first ever Minor Championship and secured itself a place at The Kuala Lumpur Major with its 1st place finish at the event. Tigers looked absolutely incredible throughout its run at the Minor, beginning with its impressive Group Stage run that saw it win back to back series while losing just a single match to Royal Never Give Up. At that point, it wasn’t necessarily clear just how difficult the team’s path to the top of the Group B standings had really been, as ROOONS had disappointed with its performance and the jury was still out on Royal Never Give Up. Tigers opted to take matters into its own hands though, as it made that previous discussion moot by claiming back to back 2-1 victories over Na’Vi and Royal Never Give Up to advance to the Grand Finals. The Grand Finals rematch against Na’Vi was a hard fought series for both squads, but Tigers was able to show off its strength and persistence as it came back from a 1-2 deficit to win the series and the Minor. At this stage, many of the questions that had been lingering around Tigers seem to have been answered with this impressive showing in Stockholm. AhJit and inYourdreaM showed their ability to straight up carry this squad to wins while still working within the team’s overall system and strategy. Moonmeander once again seemed to find that level of creativity and unpredictability that had made him so dangerous in the past, and the support duo of Xepher and 1437 showed themselves more than capable of creating opportunities for their team to succeed seemingly at will. With this significant success on the international stage, there is just one question remaining for Tigers: can they do it again? The field of teams at The Kuala Lumpur contains some of the strongest squads in the Dota 2 world, and Tigers will certainly have its hands full as it attempts to prove that it belongs within that elite company following this breakthrough performance in Stockholm.

 

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