Dota 2 Pro Circuit Major Preview: The Kuala Lumpur Major

Major Madness in Malaysia: 16 of the Dota 2 world’s best squads set to fight for first Major Championship of 2018-2019 season in Kuala Lumpur.

The stage is set, the lights are on, and the time has finally come as the first Major of the 2018-2019 season is set to begin. The eyes of the Dota 2 world are now fixed on Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as the city plays host to the eponymous Kuala Lumpur Major. Organized by Romanian based studio PGL in cooperation with Southeast Asian studio eGG Network and Chinese event organizer ImbaTV, The Kuala Lumpur Major brings 16 of the world’s best squads to the Axiata Arena in the Malaysian capital for an opportunity to claim the first Major Championship title of the season. With the new changes to the Pro Circuit system, every team at the Major will be receiving Pro Circuit Points in Kuala Lumpur. However, the prestige of being a Major Champion and the top ranked squad on the Pro Circuit will be more than enough incentive for every squad to bring its “A” game to the event. Set to run from the 9th of November through the 18th, the Major promises over a week’s worth of action between some of the strongest and most entertaining teams in the Dota 2 world. At stake for the 16 Major attendees are prize pools of $1,000,000 USD and 15,000 Pro Circuit Points, which will be distributed along the outline laid out below.

1st: $350,000 & 4,950 DPC Points

2nd: $170,000 & 3,000 DPC Points

3rd: $100,000 & 2,100 DPC Points

4th: $80,000 & 1,350 DPC Points

5th-6th: $60,000 (Per Team) & 900 DPC Points (Per Team)

7th-8th: $40,000 (Per Team) & 450 DPC Points (Per Team)

9th-12th: $15,000 (Per Team) & 150 DPC Points (Per Team)

13th-16th: $10,000 (Per Team) & 75 DPC Points (Per Team)

The Kuala Lumpur Major will begin with a Group Stage, set to run over the course of the first 2 days of the event. The 16 teams in the field have been divided into 4 groups of 4 teams each, with each group being assigned a letter designation (i.e. A, B, C, D). The Group Stage will feature GSL style groups, with all series being played in a Bo3 format.  The GSL format means that 2 of the 4 teams in a group will be randomly selected to play each other in the 2 Opening Matches. The winning teams from those Opening Matches will then play each other in the Winners’ Match to determine the top seed in the group, while the losing teams will play in the Losers’ Match to determine the bottom seed. From there, the loser of the Winners’ Match and the winner of the Losers’ Match will play each other in the Decider Match to determine the 2nd and 3rd seeds of the group. The Group Stage will be played for seeding purposes only and will not eliminate any teams from contention. Instead, the Top 2 teams from each groups will be seeded into the upper half of the bracket, while the bottom 2 teams will end up in the lower bracket for the Main Event. Said Main Event will feature a double elimination bracket, with all matches in Round 1 of the Lower Bracket being played in a Bo1 format. Beyond that first round though, the Main Event series will all be played in a Bo3 format up until the Grand Finals, which will feature a Bo5 series.

With the event marking the first Major of the Pro Circuit season, The Kuala Lumpur Major represents an crucial opportunity for these teams to build up some momentum for themselves and start the season at the top of the DPC standings. The good news for all of the squads involved is that the new Pro Circuit rules will award Pro Circuit Points to every participant at the event as opposed to just the Top 4 like last season. That means that all 16 squads in Kuala Lumpur will end this event with Pro Circuit Points and a spot in the standings, and a fairly favorable one at that. Even the teams that finish in last place at the Major will earn more Pro Circuit Points than the majority of the participants at the preceding Minor, with only Tigers (1st) and Na’Vi (2nd) guaranteed to have a higher point total than the 4 teams that will finish in the shared last place position of 13th-16th. With just 5 Minors and 5 Majors in the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season, every event will have an increased impact on the Pro Circuit Rankings, and the difference of even a single spot at this event in terms of a team’s final position could have significant implications down the road as teams fight for those 12 direct invite slots for TI9. With that being said, the time has now come to take a look at how each of the 16 challengers in the field for this Major stack up heading into the first Pro Circuit Major of the 2018-2019 season.

Please note that the “projected finishes” for each team are my own predictions and do not constitute any official or necessarily objective ranking based upon specific statistics or data. Also note that projected finishes were decided upon and written prior to the release of the specific group information for the Major.

 

Team Secret  Secret_logo

Region: Europe

Qualification Method: Europe Qualifier 1st Place

Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 DPC Points)

Roster:
1. Michał “Nisha”Jankowski
2. Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng
3. Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg
4. Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat
5. Clement “Puppey” Ivanov (Captain)
C. 
Lee “SunBhie” Jeong-jae (Coach)

Projected Finish: Top 4

Last season, Team Secret was widely held as one of the strongest teams in the European region, and across the international Dota 2 scene as a whole. The squad finished near the top of the regular season standings, claimed its second Major Championship title as an organization, and followed up that strong run with an equally impressive 5th-6th place finish in Vancouver at TI8. Despite that success, the organization opted to make changes to its lineup in the offseason, acquiring both Carry Nisha and Offlaner zai to complete its new roster. Even with a new look to its lineup, Team Secret entered the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season as a squad with ample experience at the highest level of professional Dota and an early candidate to retain its status as one of the leading teams in the Dota 2 world. Playing in the first Major of the Pro Circuit season give Team Secret the perfect opportunity to pick up where it left off after TI8 and emerge as an leader in this new Pro Circuit season as it pursues the organization’s third Major Championship in Kuala Lumpur.

Just 2 months into the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season, and Team Secret is already setting a blistering pace in terms of its success in the Dota 2 world. After beginning its campaign with its 1st place finish in The Kuala Lumpur Major Europe Qualifier, the squad quickly set to work testing the mettle of its new lineup on the international level. 2 weeks after its successful qualifier run, the team put together an impressive showing at the PVP Esports Championships in Singapore. The team posted a 6-3 record in Stages 2 and 3 of the event, and claimed series victories over both PSG.LGD and Fnatic in the Playoffs in order to secure itself a 1st place finish in its first international event of the season. A few days later, the team was a direct invitee at the Maincast Autumn Brawl, although the squad ended losing its lone series of the event 1-2 against a surging Na’Vi for a 5th-8th place finish overall. For a brief period, it appeared that the team’s setback at that event threatened its momentum at this early junction of the season, but Team Secret was able to bounce back in an absolutely massive way just a few days ago as ESL One Hamburg 2018. The squad looked dominant at the event, posting a 8-2 record in the Group Stage to advance to the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs. Despite losing 1-2 in its opening Playoff series against Virtus.pro, the team proceeded to claim 2-0 series wins against Evil Geniuses, paiN Gaming, and Virtus.pro to set up a triumphant 3-2 victory over Vici Gaming to claim the title of ESL One Hamburg 2018 Champion. Though it is still relatively early in the Pro Circuit season, Team Secret has already shown that it is a force to be reckoned with on the international level, with 2 LAN victories under its belt where most other teams have yet to accrue even 2 LAN appearances on the season.

Team Secret entered the 2018-2019 season with a lot to prove following its offseason roster changes, but the European squad has shown itself more than capable of keeping itself at the highest level of play heading into this first Major of the season. The team makes its way to Kuala Lumpur as one of the strongest teams in the Dota 2 world, with the results to back up that claim. As such, Team Secret is projected to finish in the Top 4 at The Kuala Lumpur Major, and look like the squad most likely to claim the title of Major Champion. Nisha and zai have integrated into the roster with few, if any, issues with regards to strategy or team chemistry, and the squad has already managed to claim 2 LAN victories for itself just 2 months into the season. In addition to those 2 event wins, the team sports an impressive 35-12 record on the season, and has won multi-game (i.e. Bo2 or more) series against 8 of the participating squads in Kuala Lumpur (Alliance, NiP, PSG.LGD, Fnatic, paiN Gaming, EG, VP, Vici Gaming). The squad has only lost 2 multi-game series so far this season, one against Na’Vi at the Maincast Autumn Brawl last month, and one against Virtus.pro at ESL One Hamburg 2018. With that kind of impressive track record just 2 months into the season, it’s incredibly hard to see any potential match up at the Major where Team Secret would not be either favored outright or considered to be even with its opponent. With that in mind, expect Team Secret to make a strong run for the title of Major Champion in Kuala Lumpur as it looks to begin the 2018-2019 at the top of the Pro Circuit Rankings.

 

Ninjas in Pyjamas Ninjas In Pyjamas

Region: Europe

Qualification: Europe Qualifier 2nd Place

Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 DPC Points)

Roster:
1. Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard
2.
Adrian “Fata” Trinks
3.
Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov (Stand-in) 
4.
Martin “Saksa” Sazdov
5.
Peter“ppd” Dager (Captain)

Projected Finish: 7th-8th

When ppd announced the disbanding of his OpTic Gaming roster back at the beginning of September, there was a massive level of interest and speculation as to where the renowned captain and TI5 Winner would take his talents. As it turns out, that destination was the European region at the head of a revived Ninjas in Pyjamas roster. The organization has made a couple of previous attempts at fielding a Dota 2 roster, and the hopes are that the leadership of an experienced and successful captain will help push the NiP name into prominence within the Dota 2 world. The new NiP lineup has drawn together a group of talented players with significant experience playing on the international level, and the squad has managed to emerge as an early leader within its home region. The question for this team entering the first Major of the 2018-2019 season is whether that talent and experience will be enough to make Ninjas in Pyjamas a true contender on the international level as it prepares for the organization’s first ever appearance at a Pro Circuit event.

While the return of the Ninjas in Pyjamas organization to the Dota 2 scene has been a relatively recent development, the squad has already taken steps to elevate its position and notoriety within the European region. In addition to the team’s successful qualifier run for this upcoming Major, NiP has also seen action in a few third party events, facing off against both regional and international competition within the last month. Near the beginning of October, the team participated in the mixed Europe and CIS GG.Bet Invitational Season 1, in which the team finished in 1st place while winning Playoff series against fellow Major attendees Alliance and Gambit Esports. 1 week later, Ninjas in Pyjamas competed in yet another Europe and CIS event in the form of the Maincast Autumn Brawl. The squad was invited directly to the Playoffs of the event, and posted a 3-2 record against CIS opponents Winstrike Team and Virtus.pro to finish in the 3rd-4th place position overall. More recently, NiP made its first appearance on the international level with its run at ESL One Hamburg 2018 just a few days ago. Unfortunately for the team, its performance in Hamburg was not quite as strong as what we had seen from it in its appearances within its home region. The team struggling rather significantly in the Group Stage of the event, only claiming wins against EVOS Esports  and Forward Gaming while putting together a 3-7 overall record. That record proved insufficient to advance NiP to the Playoffs of the event, and the team ended up finishing in a rather disappointing 9th-10th place in a field of 12 teams. The roster’s first true test on the international level was far from the triumphant showing that the squad may have been hoping for. While NiP’s most recent performance in Hamburg ended up being disappointing, the team still has enough talent and experience to potentially turn things around in Kuala Lumpur and put together a solid debut on the Pro Circuit stage.

Ninjas in Pyjamas comes into this first Major of the season with an impressive level of experience and talent behind it. However, the team will not be playing with its usual roster in Kuala Lumpur, as Oflaner 33 will not be with the squad for this event. Under normal circumstances, the use of a stand-in would be a significant detriment to a team’s potential performance, but NiP’s stand-in is TI7 winner and Team Liquid member MinD_ContRoL. Of course, no player can fully replace everything that a team’s usual roster brings to the table, but having another TI Champion on your side is far from the worst possible scenario for NiP coming into this Major. Between its talent, experience, and prior record as a team, Ninjas in Pyjamas are projected to finish in the 7th-8th place position at The Kuala Lumpur Major. The team has been able to put together an impressive series of performances within its home region this season, and is 1 of just 7 squads in the field for this Major with a non-qualifier event win so far this season. The team has a group of talented and successful cores in Ace, Fata, and MinD_ContRoL (though MinD_ContRoL will only be playing at this event), and one of the most accomplished and well known captains in the game in the form of ppd. Coming into this Major, there are really only 2 concerns for this NiP squad, although those concerns are fairly significant. The first issue is just how well MinD_ContRoL will be able to integrate himself into the team’s lineup and into their draft strategies. The Offlaner has built up a solid reputation for his flexibility and hero pool, but one of NiP’s greatest strength is just how many different heroes and styles that 33 allows the team to utilize. With MinD_ContRoL at the Offlane position instead, some of those strategies may not be quite as viable or as appealing as their would have been with 33 in the lineup. Beyond that initial concern though is the fact that NiP did not put together a very impressive performance in its most recent appearance on the international level. The team’s 3-7 record and 9th-10th place finish in Hamburg does detract ever so slightly from the confidence levels as this team prepares for its season debut on the Pro Circuit. Even with those issues being taken into account, NiP should be able to finish in the top half of the standings in Kuala Lumpur based upon the skill and experience of its roster. If MinD_ContRoL is able to quickly adapt to the team’s style, and if the squad can put its poor performance at ESL One Hamburg behind it, then the possibility is there for NiP to potentially push itself into an even stronger position when all is said and done at the Major.

 

Alliance Alliance

Region: Europe

Qualification: Europe Qualifier 3rd Place

Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 DPC Points)

Roster:
1. Max “qojqva”Bröcker
2.
Micke “miCKe”Nguyen
3.
Samuel “Boxi”Svahn
4.
Aydin “iNSaNiA”Sarkohi (Captain)
5.
Tommy “Taiga”Le
C.
Jonathan “Loda”Berg (Coach)

Projected Finish: 13th-16th

Alliance makes its way to Kuala Lumpur as a squad enjoying something of a revival within the Dota 2 world, as the European squad was not a significant player on the Pro Circuit last season. Despite having to languish within the tier 2 and even tier 3 scenes in the European region for some time now, the organization’s commitment to and patience with its most recent roster appears to be paying off now. Of the team’s 5 players, only qojqva has more than 2 years of experience at the professional level, but the less experienced members of the squad have had the benefit of coming up and developing together as a unit. The progression of this lineup has not necessarily come at a rapid pace, but Alliance has the chance to put its strength on display at this first Major of the Pro Circuit season and show the Dota 2 world that it is ready to play a more prominent role on the international level.

Though The Kuala Lumpur Major will represent Alliance’s debut on the Pro Circuit stage, the team has already been keeping itself relatively busy so far in its 2018-2019 campaign. After starting the season with its successful run in the qualifier for this Major, Alliance also won the ESL One Hamburg 2018 Europe Qualifier, beating out a trio of European and CIS squads with a near perfect 7-1 run. Just a few days later, the team kicked off October by completing an impressive and victorious run in the Reshuffle Madness tournament, claiming 1st place with a 3-0 win over fellow Major attendee ferzee (now Gambit Esports). Those 2 performances alone would be cause for excitement for Alliance, but the European squad wasn’t done just yet. A few days after winning Reshuffle Madness, the team put together a 3rd-4th place finish in the mixed Europe and CIS GG.Bet Invitational Season 1, losing 0-2 in the Semifinals of the Playoffs to eventual even winner Ninjas in Pyjamas. Those performance have Alliance looking like a considerable threat within the European region, but the squad’s initial endeavors on the international stage have met with significantly less success so far this season. Around the middle of October, the squad put together a rather rough performance at the World Showdown of Esports #1, posting a 1-2 overall record and failing to advance out of the Group Stage to finish in the 5th-6th place position in a field of 8 teams. More recently, the squad participated in ESL One Hamburg 2018, but still couldn’t seem to find its footing as it put up back to back poor performances on the international level. The team went 3-7 in the Group Stage in Hamburg and ended up failing to advance to the Playoffs entirely for a 9th-10th place finish overall. While the team’s recent event results may be on a slight decline, Alliance has still held its own in impressive fashion against international opposition. So far this season, the squad has a 22-11 record against non-European squads, and the team will hope to further improve upon that record as it prepares to make its Pro Circuit debut in Kuala Lumpur.

Alliance makes its way to Kuala Lumpur looking to finally return to the place of prestige and power that it once held in the Dota 2 world. The TI3 Champion organization has spent years attempting to build itself back into a powerhouse both within the European region and on the international level, and this appearance at the first Major of the 2018-2019 could just be the catalyst that puts Alliance back at the forefront of the Dota 2 scene. Success in Kuala Lumpur would be a massive achievement for Alliance, but coming into the Major it seems unlikely that the European squad finds that coveted success as the team is projected to finish in the 13th-16th place range overall. At first glance, this iteration of the Alliance roster seems to have quite a few factors going its way as it prepares for its Pro Circuit debut. The squad has put together a solid string of strong performances across both the European and CIS regions so far this season, and it has maintained a certain degree of roster stability with 4 of its 5 players having been with the squad for nearly a year now. However, the team’s struggles on the international level are a rather glaring concern for this squad as it prepares to play on the biggest stage in this young season. Across the team’s 2 international appearances so far this season, Alliance has a record of 4-9, which is hardly enough to instill any sense of confidence that this squad will be able to perform against some of the Dota 2 world’s strongest teams in Kuala Lumpur. The fact of the matter is that we’ve seen this story play out before with this Alliance roster, as the team has had relatively few issues finding success in smaller regional tournaments and open qualifiers. It’s when the team reaches that next level of international competition or Pro Circuit qualifiers that its momentum has traditionally abandoned it. It’s fully possible that this time things will work out differently for Alliance on the big stage, and that the team will pull through with the kind of clutch performance on the international level that it has been waiting years to see again. However, until we actually see proof that this squad can consistently perform on the Pro Circuit stage, the expectations will continue to be kept low for the squad as it prepares for its first ever appearance at a Pro Circuit event.

 

Virtus.pro Virtus Pro

Region: CIS

Qualification: CIS Qualifier 1st Place

Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 DPC Points)

Roster:
1. Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev
2.
Vladimir “No[o]ne”Minenko
3.
Pavel “9pasha” Khvastunov
4.
Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan
5.
Alexei “Solo” Berezin (Captain)
C.
Arsenij “ArsZeeqq”Usov (Coach)

Projected Finish: Top 4

Last season, Virtus.pro was a force of nature on the Pro Circuit, as the CIS squad put together an absolutely dominant run en route to claiming the number 1 rank in the Pro Circuit standings. The team won an incredible 4 Major Championships during the season, tying the organization with OG for the most Major titles in Dota 2 history. The team entered TI8 as one of the strongest squads in the field, and while its 5th-6th place finish in Vancouver was impressive, it was still a slight letdown for a team that entered the event as a favorite to claim the Aegis of Champions. The squad kept its roster intact through the offseason, with its only organizational change coming at the coaching position as ArZeeqq was brought in to work with the team behind the scenes. Based on its success with this roster last season, VP will almost certainly be considered one of the Pro Circuit’s strongest teams heading into this first Major of the 2018-2019 season. The test for Virtus.pro in Kuala Lumpur will be whether the squad can pick up where it left off last season or if this field has some surprises in store for the CIS juggernaut.

Last season, VP was one of the most dominant forces on the Pro Circuit, and the CIS squad essentially stopped playing in regional qualifiers and were directly invited to events starting around November. With the new Pro Circuit system, the squad won’t be able to employ that same plan in terms of Major and Minor appearances. In fact, the squad began its 2018-2019 campaign with a qualifier run, as Virtus.pro finished in 1st place in the qualifier for this Major in Kuala Lumpur. While the squad will have to play through regional qualifiers to make return trips to the Pro Circuit stage, that doesn’t mean that VP won’t be receiving direct invites to more than a handful of third party events. Around 1 month after its successful run in the Major Qualifier, Virtus.pro was directly invited to the Playoffs of the Maincast Autumn Brawl, a mixed Europe and CIS tournament featuring a field of 20 teams in total. The team posted a near perfect record at the event, defeating Team Spirit, Ninjas in Pyjamas, and NoPangolier while dropping just a single game to claim a 1st place finish. Just 2 weeks later, the team was again a direct invitee for a third party event, as the team attended ESL One Hamburg 2018 as the event’s defending champion. The team put together a solid run in Hamburg, posting a 8-2 Group Stage record and winning its opening Playoff series against Team Secret 2-1 before losing back to back series against Vici Gaming and Team Secret to finish in 3rd place overall. Though the sample size of matches for VP this season may not be as large as some of the other participants in Kuala Lumpur, the CIS squad appears to be picking up where it left off last season in terms of its performance. With its roster unchanged from the 2017-2018 season, there’s little reason to believe that Virtus.pro won’t be one of the more prominent threats to claim victory in Kuala Lumpur and claim a record 5th Major Championship title to begin its 2018-2019 Pro Circuit campaign.

So here’s the thing with Virtus.pro heading into the first Major of the 2018-2019 season: the squad is one of the most terrifying teams to play the game in recent memory. The team won 4 Majors in a single season last year, placed in the Top 4 in 10 Minors and Majors, and attended 12 Pro Circuit events in total in the process of claiming the number 1 ranking on the Pro Circuit last season. With the team’s roster remaining intact through the offseason, there’s little reason to believe that the CIS squad won’t pick up right where it left off before and continue its pattern of excellence and dominance on the Pro Circuit. With that in mind, the squad comes into The Kuala Lumpur Major with an almost automatic projection to finish in the Top 4 and is one of the favorites to potentially claim its fifth Major Championship as an organization. Even ignoring the team’s impressive record last season and at TI8, Virtus.pro has been putting together a strong series to performances across the first 2 months of this new Pro Circuit season. The team showed that it was still the dominant squad within the CIS region with its victory at the Maincast Autumn Brawl, and its 3rd place finish and 11-7 record at ESL One Hamburg 2018 has it looking strong on the international level as well. At this stage, the only difference for the team so far has been the replacement of its coach, as ArsZeeqq stepped into the position in place of Artsyle back in September. That change behind the scenes hasn’t appeared to have any sort of negative impact on the team though, as VP still looks every bit like the juggernaut that we saw last season. The Kuala Lumpur Major will be the true test of whether the squad is still at full strength, but at this stage it would come as a rather massive shock if the CIS powerhouse stumbled on the Pro Circuit stage to begin the 2018-2019 season.

 

Gambit Esports (Formerly ferzee) Gambit Esports

Region: CIS

Qualification: CIS Qualifier 2nd Place

Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 DPC Points)

Roster:
1. Nikita “Daxak” Kuzmin
2.
Andrey “Afoninje”Afonin
3.
Vasily “AfterLife”Shishkin
4.
Rinat “KingR” Abdullin
5.
Ivan “VANSKOR”Skorokhod
C. 
Anatoly “boolk” Ivanov

Projected Finish: 7th-8th

Gambit Esports made its return to the Pro Circuit in somewhat interesting fashion, as the CIS organization ended up signing the roster of ferzee after the team’s successful run through The Kuala Lumpur Major CIS Qualifier. The newest iteration of the Gambit Esports lineup effectively came out of nowhere to start the season, as the team was formed from a group of free agents within the CIS region to make a run through the first set of Pro Circuit Open Qualifiers. Just over a month later, the team is set to play on the Major stage and will begin the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season as a leading squad within its home region and potentially on the international level as well. While we haven’t had the chance to see the new Gambit Esports in action outside of the CIS region just yet heading into the first Major of the season, the team’s lineup has more than a fair share of experience that the organization has to hope will enough to fuel a successful performance in Kuala Lumpur.

Just as it was last year on the Pro Circuit, the CIS region this season began as a situation in which there were effectively 2 different groups of teams: Virtus.pro, and everyone else. Gambit Esports, or ferzee as it was known at the start of the season, were quick to take advantage of that lack of a cemented hierarchy within the region. The team successfully fought its way through both the Open Qualifier and CIS Qualifier for The Kuala Lumpur Major, and began making its mark upon the CIS region soon after. At the beginning of October, the team was invited to the mixed Europe and CIS event Reshuffle Madness, where the squad made it all the way to the Grand Finals before losing 0-3 to Alliance for a 2nd place finish in the tournament. Just a few days later, Gambit Esports concluded its run in the GG.Bet Invitational Season 1, another event featuring a mixed field of European and CIS squads. The team finished in the top half of its group in the Group Stage, and defeated Team Lithium (now Vega Squadron) in the Semifinals before losing to Ninjas in Pyjamas 0-2 for another 2nd place finish. Most recently, Gambit Esports was a direct invite to the Maincast Autumn Brawl, an event with a mixed Europe and CIS field of 20 teams. The squad was directly invited to the Playoffs of the event, but unfortunately played just a single series which it lost 0-2 to NoPangolier, resulting in a 5th-8th place finish for the team overall. While that last performance may not have been quite as impressive for the team, Gambit Esports has shown itself to be one of the stronger and more consistent squads within the CIS region so far this season, and the team will hope to maintain that success and consistency as it prepares for its Pro Circuit debut in Kuala Lumpur.

Gambit Esports makes its way to The Kuala Lumpur Major as a team on the rise within the CIS region. In a region that has been dominated by Virtus.pro over the last year or so with very little consistent competition, Gambit Esports has an opportunity to establish itself as a leader among its regional rivals. While the squad has been able to put together a solid record so far in the CIS and European regions, it has yet to determined just how well this squad will perform on the international level. That uncertainty is a significant concern for the team heading into this event, but Gambit Esports is still projected to finish in the top half of the standings in the 7th-8th place position overall. The team’s lack of international experience as a team certainly looks bad as first glance, but Gambit Esports is hardly the only team in this field to be lacking experience outside of its home region. However, Gambit Esports has shown a level of consistency in the Europe and CIS region that only a handful of its fellow Major attendees can match up with. The team has participated in 5 events or Pro Circuit qualifiers so far this season, and its worst finish in any of those competition was a 5th-8th place finish at the Maincast Autumn Brawl in a field of 20 European and CIS squads. Included across those performances were series victory against Minor attendees Na’Vi, The Final Tribe, and Vega Squadron, as well as a win against fellow Major participant Alliance. That kind of consistency is a valuable asset for any team, and the hopes are that Gambit Esports will be able to carry its recent momentum with it to Kuala Lumpur and put together another impressive performance in its Pro Circuit debut at the Major.

 

PSG.LGD PSG LGD

Region: China

Qualification: China Qualifier 1st Place

Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 DPC Points)

Roster:
1. Wang “Ame” Chunyu
2.
Lu “Somnus丶M” Yao
3.
Yang “Chalice”‘ Shenyi
4.
Xu “fy” Linsen (Captain)
5.
Jian Wei “xNova” Yap
C.
Yao “QQQ” Yi (Coach)

Projected Finish: Top 4

PSG.LGD came just 1 game away from laying claim to the Aegis of Champions at TI8, and a team that achieves that level of success if often hesitant to make any significant changes to its lineup or organization. In this case, PSG.LGD opted for no changes at all, holding firm with the roster that finished the season as the top ranked Chinese squad on the Pro Circuit and came tantalizingly close to winning it all in Vancouver. Considering the team’s roster consistency through the offseason and its numerous achievements last season, the Chinese powerhouse is a clear leader both within the Chinese region and on the international level as well. The team will make its way to Kuala Lumpur with expectations of success, and barring any unexpected meltdowns or setbacks, it will be hard for any team in the field at this Major to get the better of the TI8 runner up as PSG.LGD looks to claim its third Major Championship.

As the TI8 runner up and one of the strongest teams in the Chinese region, PSG.LGD came into this Pro Circuit season in a remarkably strong position, and because of that the team has not needed to be as active early on as some of the other squads in the field for this Major. The Chinese juggernaut began its 2018-2019 campaign with its successful run through The Kuala Lumpur Major China Qualifier, posing a 12-7 record against its regional rivals in the process to claim a 1st place finish overall. A few weeks later, the team was a direct invite to the PVP Esports Championship, where it advanced directly to Stage 2 of the event. The Chinese squad posted a 2-0 record in the Playoff Group Stage before losing 0-2 to eventual Champion Team Secret in the Semifinals for a 3rd-4th place finish at the event. Aside from those 2 appearances, PSG.LGD has been relatively quite in the Dota 2 scene so far this season, having played no other official matches heading into The Kuala Lumpur Major. While the squad has not been as active as some of its opponents at the Major, the team’s roster consistency through the offseason and incredible record of success last season both at TI8 and on the Pro Circuit will assuredly have PSG.LGD favored in the majority of its potential match ups in Kuala Lumpur.

PSG.LGD will come into The Kuala Lumpur Major as a team that has been fairly quiet so far this season, having participated in just 2 events, one of which was the qualifier for this Major. It’s true that PSG.LGD has been somewhat inactive to begin this new Pro Circuit season, but to be perfectly honest the team hasn’t really needed to be active yet. The offseason roster changes within its home region have led to a chaotic scramble for position that has yet to fully resolve, which has left PSG.LGD’s status as the region’s strongest squad relatively untouched over the last few months. Add onto that the team’s status as the TI8 runner up and its roster consistency heading into this season, and it’s hard to not give the squad the benefit of the doubt in terms of its perceived strength. With that in mind, PSG.LGD comes into The Kuala Lumpur Major projected to finish in the Top 4, and will be one of the leading candidates to claim the first Major Championship title of the new season. For the Chinese juggernaut, this is pretty much going to a case where the team will be considered at the peak of its strength until it shows us otherwise. Based on just how dominant the squad looked last season and at TI8, there are really only 1 or 2 teams in the field at this Major who would likely be expected to be on even footing with PSG.LGD. Seeing as those teams are also projected to fall in the Top 4 in Kuala Lumpur, PSG.LGD looks like a near surefire bet to reach that same position and start its season off in style at the Major.

 

Vici Gaming VICI_Gaming

Region: China

Qualification: China Qualifier 2nd Place

Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 DPC Points)

Roster:
1. Zhang Paparazi灬Chengjun
2.
Zeng  “Ori” Jiaoyang
3. Zhou “Yang”Haiyang
4. Pan “Fade”Yi
5. DingDyCong
C. Bai “rOtK” Fan (Coach)

Projected Finish: Top 4

Vici Gaming comes into the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season as a squad adjusting to some pretty drastic changes to its roster. After finishing the previous regular season as the 6th ranked squad on the Pro Circuit, the Chinese squad was hoping to make a significant impact in Vancouver at TI8 as it looked to claim the Aegis of Champions for the first time in the organization’s history. Unfortunately for Vici Gaming, things didn’t quite go according to plan on the TI stage, as the squad just barely made if out of the Group Stage and finished in the 9th-12th place position overall. That somewhat disappointing showing combined with some struggles late in the regular season prompted changes to the team’s lineup during the offseason period, as the brought in a trio of new players in an attempt to rebuild around the core duo of Paparazi灬 and Ori. While the team’s new trio of Yang, Fade, and Dy do not necessarily have extensive experience at the professional level, the organization’s hope is that their talent will be enough set this new roster up for success as it looks to claim its first Major Championship in Kuala Lumpur.

The rebuild of the Vici Gaming roster was certainly something of a risk for the organization, but the team has been taking every possible step to get its new lineup as comfortable as possible both within its home regional and on the international level. The new-look Vici Gaming began its 2018-2019 with its 2nd place run in the qualifier for this Major, putting up an impressive 10-6 record that included series wins over Royal Never Give Up, Team Serenity, Newbee, and PSG.LGD. A few weeks later, the team put together another strong performance in its home region, this time in the World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) 2018 China Finals. The squad dominated the Group Stage with a perfect 3-0 record before losing in the Semifinals 1-2 against eventual champion EHOME. After claiming a 2-0 victory in the 3rd Place Match against DeathBringer Gaming, the squad was able to lock up a 3rd place finish at the event. 2 weeks later, Vici Gaming was directly invited to the 2018 Sanya DOTA2 New-Stars Play Closed Qualifier, the online qualifier for an upcoming all-Chinese LAN event. The team was dominant in the Group Stage of the qualifier, putting together a 7-1 record that included an impressive 2-0 win over regional rival and fellow Major attendee Team Aster. That record earned Vici Gaming the top spot in its group and a guaranteed place in the LAN Finals with a 1st-2nd place finish. The team had shown itself to be a potential leader within the Chinese region to begin the 2018-2019 season, but Vici Gaming was looking to prove itself as a force on the international level as well with its most recent appearance at ESL One Hamburg 2018. The Chinese squad looked strong from the very beginning of the event, putting together a 8-2 Group Stage performance that put it in the top section of its group standings and advanced the team to the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs. From there, the squad put on an even more impressive showing, claiming 2-1 series wins against both Team Aster and Virtus.pro before narrowly falling 2-3 to Team Secret in the Grand Finals to finish 2nd overall at the event. Between that incredible showing on the international level and its continued success at home, Vici Gaming enters The Kuala Lumpur Major as a truly formidable force on the Pro Circuit.

Vici Gaming had a lot of questions to answer coming into the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season, but the squad has done quite a bit to alleviate any concerns around it as it prepares for this first Major in Kuala Lumpur. Anyone who had watched this team over the last year knew that Paparazi灬 and Ori were star players, but the trio of new additions that had been placed around that duo were slightly less proven. Instead of the experienced trio of players that Vici Gaming had at TI8, the squad now had to put its trust in a significantly less experienced group to back up its star Carry/Mid duo. However, the new look Vici Gaming has been quite impressive so far this season, and the Chinese squad comes into The Kuala Lumpur Major projected to finish inside of the coveted Top 4 group in its 2018-2019 Pro Circuit debut. Everything appears to be clicking for Vici Gaming at the moment; Paparazi灬 and Ori are being their usual dominant selves, Yang has proven himself to be capable of steady and relatively reliable contributions at the Offlane position, and the support duo of Fade and Dy has consistently created opportunities for their teammates to succeed with an average of over 31 assists per game. The team has proven itself to be a strong opponent against both its regional rivals and international competition, with the team finishing in at least 3rd place across all 4 of its event appearances so far this season. Rarely does a Chinese squad manage to consistently find this level of success both at home and on the international level, and the ones that do are often considered to be among the elite teams in the Dota 2 world. As Vici Gaming prepares for its first Pro Circuit appearance of the season, it will be starting down a perfect opportunity to prove to the Dota 2 world that it belongs in that conversation of elite teams.

 

Team Aster Team Aster

Region: China

Qualification: China Qualifier 3rd Place

Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 DPC Points)

Roster:
1. Liu “Sylar” Jiajun
2. Gao “loveyouloveme” Yuan
3. Lin “Xxs” Jing
4. Ye “BoBoKa” Zhibiao
5. Lu “Fenrir” Chao
C. Fu QBin (Coach)
C. Xu “BurNIng” Zhilei (Coach)

Projected Finish: 13th-16th

The formation of Team Aster certainly came with a fair bit of hype and excitement in the Dota 2 scene, as the prospect of a squad of Chinese veterans and young talents under the tutelage of legendary player Xu “BurNIng” Zhilei attracted quite a bit of attention from fans the world over. The phrase “super team” has been thrown around a few too many times to mean all that much anymore, but Team Aster represented a potential new challenger and new leader within a Chinese regional hierarchy that appeared to be undergoing some changes under the Pro Circuit system last season. Older organizations like PSG.LGD (or LGD Gaming as it was previously known), Vici Gaming, Invictus Gaming, and Newbee have long dominated the Chinese region, but Team Aster has thrown its name in with a handful of squads looking to shake up that traditional dominance and establish a new order in the realm of Chinese Dota. With this appearance at the first Major of the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season, Team Aster has the perfect opportunity before it to take the first steps towards doing just that. A strong performance  on the international level from a new Chinese squad would send shock waves throughout the Chinese region, and set Team Aster up as a powerful new contender on the Pro Circuit to begin the season.

While the hype that surrounded the formation of Team Aster was significant, the team still entered the 2018-2019 season as a new squad without any record behind it as a unit. With that in mind, the squad proceeded to participate in as many events and qualifier as possible in the early months of the season in order to help establish itself as a power within its home region. The team began its 2018-2019 campaign with its successful runs through the Open Qualifier and China Qualifier of The Kuala Lumpur Major, taking wins over regional rivals like Vici Gaming, Team Serenity, and Royal Never Give Up in the process. Just a few days later, the team fought its way through another Open Qualifier, this time earning itself a place in the China Qualifier for the third party ESL One Hamburg 2018. The team put on an impress show in said qualifier, sweeping past Keen Gaming and Newbee with back to back 2-0 wins before winning the Grand Finals 3-2 in a rematch against Newbee to claim its place in Hamburg. At the same time, the team was also participating in the World Electronic Esports Games (WESG) 2018 China Finals for a chance to represent the Chinese region at the main WESG 2018 tournament later this year. After posting a 2-1 record in the Group Stage of the event, Team Aster defeated both Team Waooo and DeathBringer Gaming in the Playoffs before falling 0-2 to EHOME in the Finals for a 2nd place finish overall. While the squad has performed incredibly well within its home region to start the 2018-2019 season, Team Aster has not been completely free of stumbles so far. The team’s most recent competition within the Chinese region saw it suffer a small setback for the first time in its campaign, as the squad struggled in the 2018 Sanya DOTA2 New-Stars Play Closed Qualifier. The team put together a 4-4 record in the Group Stage, but lost out on tiebreakers to iG Vitality to miss out on advancing to the Playoffs with a 7th-8th place finish. While that most recent regional performance was a step back from what we had seen from Team Aster to this point in the season, the Chinese squad was able to bounce back with a solid showing on the international level at ESL One Hamburg 2018. The team looked strong in its first international appearance, posting an incredible 9-1 Group Stage record that had Team Aster advancing to the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs with relative ease. Unfortunately for Team Aster, its time in the Playoff Stage of the event would be relatively short, as the squad fell in back to back 1-2 series losses to Vici Gaming and paiN Gaming and where eliminated from the event. However, the squad’s impressive performance to that point earned it a finish in the 5th-6th place position among a field of 12 teams, and showed that the recently formed team was capable of holding its own on the international level in addition to its strong performance on the home front.

Team Aster comes into The Kuala Lumpur Major as a rising squad within the Chinese region, but the squad wants to take the next step in its development and become a contender on the international level as well. Unfortunately, the Chinese challenger doesn’t appear to be a likely candidate for success in Kuala Lumpur, with Team Aster projected to finish at the bottom of the standings in the 13th-16th place range. Given everything that’s been previously mentioned about Team Aster, this might seem like a rather sudden reversal in tone, but the pessimistic prediction for the team stems from some incredibly recent changes to the team’s lineup. Just 1 week before the start of the Major, the team announced that is was benching Midlaner Dstones and bringing loveyouloveme in on loan from For The Dream. That kind of significant roster move so close to the start of a Major would be enough to warrant concerns for any team, but Team Aster’s situation is particularly risky. The team has traded out one player with limited experience for another, as loveyouloveme has only ever played in a single international event in his professional career (WCA 2017). The good news for Team Aster is that the squad performed fairly well in its previous appearance on the international level, finishing in the 5th-6th place position at ESL One Hamburg 2018 while posting an overall record of 11-5. The bad news for the team is that Dstones played a large part in the team’s success in Hamburg, averaging 7.06 Kills and 10.75 Assists with 5.44 Deaths per game across the team’s 16 matches at the event. Those stats did not lead the Team Aster lineup, but it speaks to a relatively consistent contribution that loveyouloveme is not necessarily guaranteed to be able to match. Of course, there is a possibility that Team Aster’s performance remains constant or even improves with these changes to its roster, and that the team puts together an impressive run in Kuala Lumpur. As I’ve mentioned numerous times before though, these predictions are based on expectation more than anything else, and uncertainty almost always has a negative impact on a team’s expected performance. Team Aster may be coming into the Major with a fair bit of hope and potential, but until we see that its new roster can compete on the international level, the expectations will remain low for the Chinese squad.

 

Fnatic Fnaticlogo

Region: Southeast Asia

Qualification: Southeast Asia Qualifier 1st Place

Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 DPC Points)

Roster:
1. Pyo “MP” No-a
2. Abed “Abed” Azel L. Yusop
3. Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang
4. Djardel Jicko B. “DJ” Mampusti
5. Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong (Captain)
C. Kim “DuBu” Doo-young (Coach)

Projected Finish: 5th-6th

As Fnatic prepares itself for the first Major of the Pro Circuit season in Kuala Lumpur, it will do so as a drastically different squad than the one that took the stage in Vancouver at TI8. After putting together a disappointing 13th-16th place run on the Dota 2 world’s biggest stage, the organization opted to make numerous changes to its roster in the recent offseason period. The team dropped all of its non-Southeast Asian players, and subsequently brought in players MP, iceiceice, and Jabz along with coach DuBu to form an all-SEA lineup for the new Pro Circuit season. The team’s roster additions all come to the Fnatic organization with a fair bit of experience and success under their belt, and join a duo of Abed and DJ that displayed some incredible skills during Fnatic’s previous Pro Circuit campaign. With this new look to its lineup, Fnatic appears to be an early front runner to once again hold a position as a leading team in the Southeast Asian region. However, the squad likely has even higher aspirations than reaching the top of its regional hierarchy, as a strong showing on home soil in Kuala Lumpur would set Fnatic up as one of the Pro Circuit’s strongest teams at this early juncture in the season.

With just about every team in the Southeast Asian region having experienced some changes to their rosters in the offseason, Fnatic needed to get itself off to a strong start to tis 2018-2019 campaign in order to retain its position near the top of the regional hierarchy. The squad certainly looked the part of a regional leader in its successful run in The Kuala Lumpur Major Southeast Asia Qualifier, posting a 10-1 record against some of its most prominent regional rivals. Around 2 weeks later, the squad put itself to the test on the international level for the first time this season at the PVP Esports Championship in Singapore. The squad was directly invited to Stage 2 of the event, and posted a 2-0 record in the Playoff Group Stage to secure itself a spot in the final Playoff bracket, where it won 2-0 against Team Admiral before falling 2-3 to Team Secret in the Finals for a 2nd place finish overall. The team’s most recent appearance came at the end of October, as the squad once again faced off against its regional rivals in the King’s Cup 2: Southeast Asia. Fnatic was directly invited to Phase 2 of the event, and managed to win its opening series against DeToNator 2-0 before falling into the Lower Bracket following a 0-2 loss to Lotac. Despite that loss, Fnatic was able to bounce back in a spectacular way, defeating Clutch Gamers 2-0 and claiming its revenge against Lotac with a 3-1 victory in the Grand Finals of the event. With that performance, Fnatic claimed a 1st place finish in the event, and guaranteed itself a place at another international tournament in the form of DOTA Summit 10, which is set to begin in December. Though Fnatic has not participated in as many events as some of the other teams in the field, the Southeast Asian squad has find nothing but success so far this season as the team prepares to play on home soil in Kuala Lumpur.

Fnatic makes its way to The Kuala Lumpur Major as one of the leading squads within the Southeast Asian region. The offseason brought significant changes to every team in the region, but Fnatic’s new roster has proven itself more than capable of contending with its rivals both at home and on the international level. Coming into The Kuala Lumpur Major, Fnatic is projected to finish in the 5th-6th place position in the standings, sitting just short of the elite squads in the field. Though the team has not been overly active within the Southeast Asian region, what we have seen from Fnatic so far has been incredibly encouraging. Fnatic has finished in 1st place in both of its appearances in regional competitions, and has a 3-0 series record (6-1 overall) against the other SEA representatives at the Major (TNC Predator, Tigers). Against any squad from its home region, the team’s record so far this season is 20-4, making Fnatic the king of Southeast Asia at this stage in the season. Unlike many of the other squads in the field for this Major, Fnatic also comes to Kuala Lumpur with a bit of international experience this season, having finished 2nd at the PVP Esports Championship after narrowly losing to Team Secret 2-3 in the Grand Finals. With that combination of dominance at home and a solid showing on the international level, it’s hard to argue against Fnatic being one of the stronger teams in the field for this first Major of the season. The team has an impressive record behind it so far this season, a roster brimming with talent and experience, and the added benefit of playing in front of the hometown crowd in Kuala Lumpur. If everything falls into place at the Major, Fnatic could even have an opportunity to move up into that coveted and prestigious Top 4 group. Even if that scenario doesn’t play out in its favor though, it is hard to imagine that a team with the momentum and prior record of Fnatic will fall into the bottom half of the standings in Kuala Lumpur.

 

TNC Predator Tncproteam

Region: Southeast Asia

Qualification: Southeast Asia Qualifier 1st Place

Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 DPC Points)

Roster:
1. Kim “Gabbi” Villafuerte
2. Armel Paul “Armel” Tabios
3. Carlo “Kuku” Palad
4. Timothy “Tims” Randrup
5. Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross Jr. (Captain)

Projected Finish: 9th-12th

TI8 did not go particularly well for Southeast Asia, as 1 of the region’s teams finished in the 9th-12th place position while the other 2 ended up finishing in 13th-16th place. TNC Predator found itself in the latter group, as the team struggled significantly in Vancouver despite having put together a somewhat solid run through the regular season on the Pro Circuit. In the wake of its poor performance at TI8, TNC Predator decided to make changes to its roster during the offseason, adding Gabbi and ninjaboogie to the lineup and shifting Kuku away from the Support position into the Offlaner role for this new Pro Circuit season. While the majority of the lineup stayed the same heading into this season, the Southeast Asian region as a whole experienced quite a shake up with new rosters, new teams,  and new organizations joining the fray. While TNC Predator will begin its season near the top of the regional hierarchy thanks to its performance last season, a quality showing on home soil in The Kuala Lumpur Major would go a long way towards cementing the team’s position both among its regional rivals and in the Pro Circuit standings as the squad looks to make a successful start to its 2018-2019 campaign.

While teams like Fnatic and Mineski had undergone rather drastic changes to their lineups in the offseason, the changes for TNC Predator had been relatively minor in comparison, and the Filipino squad was hoping to leverage its roster stability to make a strong start to its 2018-2019 campaign. The team began the season with its successful run in The Kuala Lumpur Southeast Asia Qualifier, posting a 9-6 overall record to finish 2nd place in the qualifier and secure its place at the Major. Just a few days later, the squad took part in another regional qualifier, this time for ESL One Hamburg 2018. TNC Predator was absolutely dominant in that qualifier, sweeping past Tigers and claiming back to back series victories over EVOS Esports to claim a perfect 7-0 record and the Southeast Asian slot at the main event, although the squad would later withdraw from said event due to a scheduling conflict. In October, TNC Predator got its first taste of action outside of the Southeast Asian region when it participated in the Asia Pro League, an event featuring a mixed Southeast Asian and Chinese field. The squad blew through the Group Stage of the event with relative ease, losing just a single game for a 11-1 record that advanced it to the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs. From there, the team notched back to back 2-0 series wins over DeathBringer Gaming and Invictus Gaming, but fell short against EHOME 0-3 in the Grand Finals to finish 2nd overall at the event. Most recently, the squad journeyed back into its home region for the World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) 2018 Philippine Finals in which it faced off against Neon Esports in a Bo3 series to determine which squad would advance to the WESG 2018 Southeast Asia Finals. TNC Predator was able to win the series 2-0 and secure itself a place in the regional finals to be played in December. So far this season, TNC Predator has never finished lower than 2nd in any qualifier or event that it has participated in, and the Southeast Asian squad is hoping to maintain that streak as it prepares to take the stage in Kuala Lumpur.

TNC Predator enters The Kuala Lumpur Major looking for a solid showing on the international level to go alongside with what has been a strong start to its season within its home region. The squad has held its position as a leader in Southeast Asia with relatively few difficulties, and now the team is hoping that it can carry that regional momentum over on to the international level. Coming into the Major, the team is not quite expected to find that success, with a projected finish in the 9th-12th place range for TNC Predator. The squad has looked incredibly consistent within its home region over the first 2 months of the season, but we have yet to see this current iteration of the roster compete in a truly international event. Looking back on the team’s performance over the last year, the pattern that emerges for TNC Predator on the international stage is one in which the squad consistently finishes at or around the half way marker in the standings. In 2018, the team attended 7 international LAN events, finishing in the bottom half of the standings in 4 of them and finishing 1 spot above the bottom half in 2 of them. Finishing in the middle of the pack with relative consistency is hardly anything to be ashamed of, but this time around TNC Predator is likely looking to put itself more definitively on the other side of the divide in the event standings. While the team did add a veteran presence to the roster in the form of ninjaboogie, it also added a player in Gabbi that has relatively little experience playing at the international level. The question for TNC Predator heading into the Major is who will be the player to step forward and get this roster over that middle of the road hump that it has consistently struggled to move past. If someone on the roster can be that driving force and push the team forward, then the potential is there for TNC Predator to move itself significantly up the standings at the Major. However, without that catalyst on the Pro Circuit stage, we should probably expect TNC Predator to finish around that half way mark that has become something of a comfort zone for the Southeast Asian squad.

 

Evil Geniuses Evil Geniuses

Region: North America

Qualification: North America Qualifier 1st Place

Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 DPC Points)

Roster:
1. Artour “Arteezy” Babaev
2. Syed Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan
3. Gustav “s4” Magnusson
4. Andreas Franck “Cr1t-” Nielsen
5. Tal “Fly” Aizik (Captain)
C. Kanishka “BuLba” Sosale (Coach)

Projected Finish: 9th-12th

Just a handful of months ago in the dying days of the previous Pro Circuit season, Evil Geniuses looked like a squad struggling to stay afloat on the international level. Following a string of poor performances at Pro Circuit events, the squad made a big change to its roster that brought both s4 and Fly to the organization. The moves proved to be just what the team needed to succeed, as EG fought its way to TI8 and made a dramatic run all the way to the Lower Bracket Finals and a 3rd place finish in Vancouver. With the team keeping that most recent iteration of the roster intact through the offseason, EG enters this new Pro Circuit season as one of the leading teams in North America, and a solid threat on the international level heading into this first Major of the year. While EG enters the 2018-2019 season near the top of the regional hierarchy in North America, that position is far from secure. Even with the disbanding of regional rival OpTic Gaming, squads like Forward Gaming, J.Storm, and compLexity Gaming are waiting in the wings hoping to strike at the first sign of weakness from the squad. A strong showing in Kuala Lumpur will be a vital accomplishment for EG if it wants to ward off those regional challengers early on in the season.

Coming into The Kuala Lumpur Major, we actually haven’t had the opportunity to see much of Evil Geniuses, as the squad has not exactly been prolific in terms of its appearances so far this season. The team began its season as every other squad did: with a run in the regional qualifiers for this first Major of the 2018-2019 campaign. The team lost just 2 matches across the entirety of the qualifier and won 5 straight series to secure a 1st place finish and earn its place in Kuala Lumpur for the Major. Aside from that 1 appearance, Evil Geniuses has not participated in any other official events or qualifiers within the North American region, though it has seen action on the international level. The team is just a few weeks removed from its run at ESL One Hamburg 2018, where it put together a 5-5 record in the Group Stage of the event and defeated regional rival compLexity Gaming in the Lower Bracket before falling to Team Secret for a 5th-6th place finish. Those 2 events are the only ones that the North American squad has participated in so far this season, but what we’ve seen from that small sample size is at least encouraging heading into the teams 2018-2019 Pro Circuit debut in Kuala Lumpur.

Evil Geniuses comes into The Kuala Lumpur Major as a team in an interesting position within its home region. On the one hand, squads like VGJ.Storm and OpTic Gaming placed higher than EG in the Pro Circuit Rankings last season, but the squad did put together the strongest run among the North American teams at TI8 with its 3rd place finish. Coming into this new season, the team was in a position to reestablish its position at the top of the regional hierarchy, and a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage at the season’s first Major would be a significant step towards that goal. Prior to the start of play in Kuala Lumpur though, EG is not one of the favorites among the 16 team field, as the North American squad is projected to finish in the 9th-12th place range at the Major. The team’s solid play within its home region is certainly commendable, but at the end of the day, that record is based upon just a single qualifier nearly 2 months ago. Adding on to some of those concerns is the fact that the North American region has looked particularly weak aside from the top 3 or 4 squads, which may slightly devalue the team’s dominance in its qualifier run. The team’s 5th-6th place finish on the international level at ESL One Hamburg looks like a strong performance at first glance, but things get a bit less clear upon further inspection. The team’s Group Stage record was 5-5 at the event, which is not particularly bad but is far from the kind of strength that would have the team projected higher at this Major. After that middling Group Stage performance, the team’s only victory in the Playoffs came against compLexity Gaming, a regional rival that the team already has a high level of familiarity with. In short, Evil Geniuses has not played much this season, and the majority of those matches that it has played has come against familiar opponents in a relatively weak regional scene. The level of talent and experience for EG’s roster is still exceptionally high, but this is a Pro Circuit Major and pretty much every team in the field has more than enough talent and experience to find success. Until Evil Geniuses shows us that dominant form that fueled its Top 3 TI8 run, the expectations will be set on the lower end of the spectrum for the North American leader in Kuala Lumpur.

 

Forward Gaming Forward Gaming

Region: North America

Qualification: North America Qualifier 2nd Place

Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 DPC Points)

Roster:
1. Yawar “YawaR” Hassan
2. Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok
3. Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora
4. Arif “MSS” Anwar
5. Avery “SVG” Silverman
C. Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling (Coach)

Projected Finish: 9th-12th

When the roster of North American squad VGJ.Storm left its organization this past offseason, there was quite a fair bit of excitement and speculation as to where the team would end up. The squad had expressed its intent to remain together, with the sole change to its roster being the addition of UNiVeRsE, and it appeared likely that the squad was going to remain in the North American region. What wasn’t known was the organization that the roster would sign with, and as it turns out, it wasn’t one that anyone had heard of before. Forward Gaming’s founding as an organization and first foray into esports arrived simultaneously, with the organization signing the former VGJ.Storm roster and keeping it in North America for the new Pro Circuit season. This roster turned quite a few heads with its late season run on the Pro Circuit, as well as its subsequent 7th-8th place run in Vancouver at TI8. Now, with a full season to work with under its new organization, Forward Gaming appears to be one of the strongest teams in the North American region, and the most obvious candidate to potentially bring the long standing regional dominance of Evil Geniuses to an end. If Forward Gaming wants to wrest that top spot in the regional hierarchy away from its rival, then it will need to be at its absolute best heading into this first Major of the 2018-2019 season in Kuala Lumpur.

Forward Gaming comes into The Kuala Lumpur Major as a team that has not been quite as active as some of its fellow participants in the field, as the squad has seen action in just 3 events since the start of the season. However, the old adage of quality over quantity may come into play in this scenario, as Forward Gaming has made the most of its few appearances, at least within its home region. The team’s season began with its successful run through the regional qualifier for this Major, where the squad put together a strong 9-5 overall record to secure its place in Kuala Lumpur. In fact, the only series that Forward Gaming ended up losing in that qualifier came against Evil Geniuses, once in the Upper Bracket Finals and again in the Grand Finals of the qualifier. Just under a month later, Forward Gaming put together another impressive performance in North America at the King’s Cup 2: North America, where it was a direct invitee for the Playoff Stage of the event. The team claimed series victories over both compLexity Gaming and fellow Major attendee J.Storm, posting a 5-1 record that secured the squad a 1st place finish and a slot at the upcoming DOTA Summit 10 in December. Most recently, the North American squad took its first steps onto the international stage this season, having participated in ESL One Hamburg 2018 at the end of October. Despite putting together a relatively solid 5-5 record in the Group Stage, the team fell in its first Playoff series against paiN Gaming to finish in the 7th-8th place position at the event. The caveat here is that the team was playing with a stand-in instead of its full roster, but the fact remains that Forward Gaming’s first international appearance of the 2018-2019 season was far from the triumph that the squad had been hoping for.

Forward Gaming comes into The Kuala Lumpur Major as one of the clear leaders within the North American region. The squad put on an impressive string of performances last season and at TI8, and the squad makes its way to this event looking to prove that the change in organization has not changed its ability to find success on the international level. Prior to the start of the Major though, the North American squad is expected to finish in the bottom half of the standings, with a projected position in the 9th-12th place range. While the team has been able to put together a relatively strong showing in its home region this season, that record is not quite as encouraging as it may appear at first glance. The team has a 15-7 overall record against North American teams, but 12 of those wins have come against just 2 squads (compLexity Gaming and J.Storm), and only the latter of those squads will be in attendance at the Major. That record does speak to a certain degree of consistency for Forward Gaming, but that relative stability at home was contrasted by the squad’s struggles on the international level at ESL One Hamburg. Of course, the team was playing with a stand-in at the event, but the squad as a whole looked to be off a bit as the team ended up with a 5-7 record at the event. The good news for Forward Gaming heading into the Major is that it has a lot of experience and momentum on its side. It’s roster proved that it is capable of finding success on the international level with its run last season and its performance at TI8. However, the team’s struggles in Hamburg have introduced a level of uncertainty that is not fully alleviated by the team’s consistency within a relatively weak North American region. We know that Forward Gaming is capable of success on the Pro Circuit stage, but until the squad can show that its recent poor performance on the international level was just a fluke or temporary issue, it seems more prudent to keep expectations on the lower end for the team heading into this Major.

 

J.Storm (formerly marchoutofarmy) J Storm Small

Region: North America

Qualification: North America Qualifier 3rd Place

Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 DPC Points)

Roster:
1. David “Moo” Hull
2. Jonathan “Bryle” De Guia
3. Lee “Forev” Sang-don
4. Milan “MiLAN” Kozomara
5. Park “March” Tae-won
C. Jimmy “DeMoN” Ho

Projected Finish: 13th-16th

J.Storm was a team that kind of came out of nowhere during the offseason, as the squad originally came together as the second iteration of the team Marchoutofarmy. Prior to the team’s formation, most of its players had actually been in Europe, with 4 of its 5 players having previously been affiliated with TI8 Europe Qualifier runner up Wind and Rain. Regardless of where the team’s players may have come from, J.Storm represents a potential leading squad within the North American region and a prospective challenger for teams like Evil Geniuses and Forward Gaming. Though the season is still relatively young, as strong performance on the Pro Circuit stage at The Kuala Lumpur Major would cement the team’s position within the North American hierarchy, and establish J.Storm as a legitimate threat on the international level as well.

J.Storm comes into The Kuala Lumpur Major as a team that has largely kept to its home region so far this season, with all but 1 of  the team’s appearances coming in North America. The team began its 2018-2019 campaign with its successful run through the regional qualifier for this Major in which it put together a 9-6 overall record and finished 3rd among the 8 team field. Just over a week later, the team was once again back in action against its regional rivals in the ESL One Hamburg 2018 North America Qualifier. The team managed to put up another 3rd place finish in this qualifier, although this time it came in a field of just 4 teams behind a 2-4 overall record. Most recently, the squad participated in the King’s Cup 2: North America, a third party event that included teams from both the North and South American regions with a spot at the upcoming DOTA Summit 10 up for grabs. While J.Storm was unable to secure that spot, the team did manage to put up an incredible 14-5 record en route to a 2nd place finish at the event. The King’s Cup 2: North America was not he only recent 2nd place finish for the squad though, as J.Storm was also able to reach that mark in its lone international appearance of the season at the World Showdown of Esports #1 last month. The team put together a 2-1 Grou PStage record and took down European squad HAPPY GUYS 2-1 in the Playoff Semifinals before losing in the Grand Finals to Team Serenity. As a whole, J.Storm appears to have a solid track record so far this season as it prepares to make its Pro Circuit debut in Kuala Lumpur.

J.Storm comes into The Kuala Lumpur Major as a squad that has been looking fairly strong and steady within its home region, as the team looks to carry over some of that regional success onto the Pro Circuit stage. The team has appeared relatively consistent so far both at home and on the international level, but playing at the season’s first Major will be a true test of the capabilities of the team. Unfortunately for J.Storm, it doesn’t look like the team is in line for much success in Kuala Lumpur, as the North American squad is projected to finish in the 13th-16th place range at the Major. The team has looked good so far at home this season with its string of Top 3 finishes, but when examining the team’s record in depth, some concerns begin to appear for the team. First and foremost for J.Storm is its record against the other leading teams within the North American region, specifically fellow Major attendees Evil Geniuses and Forward Gaming. So far this season, J.Storm’s record against those teams is an unimpressive 1-9, as the team has struggled to keep up with those squads despite looking significantly stronger against the region’s other teams. That brings us to the next issue with J.Storm, that being the team’s over reliance upon its record against North American squads. The team’s 2nd place finish at the World Showdown of Esports #1 was previously cited as the squad’s lone international appearance, and technically speaking that is still true. However, most of the team’s success at that international event came against North American opposition, as 2 of the team’s 4 total wins came against ROOONS and compLexity Gaming in the Group Stage of the event. The team’s 18-14 record against North American squads speaks to a certain level of consistency within its home region, but there has been very little so far this season to show that this J.Storm lineup can find that same level of success on the international level. The good news for the team is that it has a roster full of talented and experienced players and a solid track record of regional success behind it, but those factors don’t feel like they are enough to justify a higher projected finish without seeing the squad consistently perform on the international level. With that in mind, the expectations for J.Storm will remain on the lower end, while hopes for the North American squad will be high as it prepares for its first Pro Circuit event appearance as a team.

 

paiN Gaming paiN Gaming alt

Region: South America

Qualification: South America Qualifier 1st Place

Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 DPC Points)

Roster:
1. William “hFn”Medeiros
2. Aliwi “w33”Omar
3. Otávio “Tavo”Gabriel
4. Danylo “Kingrd”Nascimento
5. Rasmus“MISERY” Filipsen

Projected Finish: 5th-6th

South American squad paiN Gaming entered the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season as a team coming off of a somewhat mixed performance in the last year. On the one hand, the squad emerged as a leading team within the South American region and earned the region’s spot in Vancouver at TI8. On the other hand, the squad ended up finishing in the shared last place position at TI8, and generally speaking seemed to struggle on the international level. With more experience under its belt and MISERY moved from the coaching position to an active role on the roster, paiN Gaming came into this new season in a solid position to both retain its status as a regional leader and take a significant step forward in terms of its play on the international level. This appearance at the first Major of the 2018-2019 season gave the South American squad the perfect opportunity to continue working towards that second goal, as the squad was looking to put together back to back strong showings against international opposition.

Coming into The Kuala Lumpur Major, paiN Gaming is in a rather rare scenario in which the team has played more matches on the international level than it has within its home region. The team’s only event within the South American region so far this season was the regional qualifier for this Major, in which the team put on an absolutely dominant performance that included a perfect 10-0 record. Aside from that qualifier run though, paiN Gaming has been effectively inactive within its home region, though it has made an appearance on the international level with its run at ESL One Hamburg 2018 just a couple of weeks ago. The squad did not particularly impress over the first half of the event, posting a 4-6 record in the Group Stage to just barely make it into the Playoffs. From there though, the squad put on quite the show, claiming back to back series wins over Forward Gaming and Team Aster before falling against Team Secret to finish 4th overall at the event. While the list of appearances for paiN Gaming this season isn’t particularly long, what we’ve seen from the South American squad so far has been impressive, and the squad appears to be in a strong position heading into this first Major of the season.

The South American region is often one that isn’t given quite as much attention in the Dota 2 world, but paiN Gaming comes into this first Major of the 2018-2019 season in a prime position to change that. The squad has a roster that accrued a fair bit of experience on the international level last season, and has shown itself to have more than enough talent to match some of the other teams in the field in Kuala Lumpur. Coming off of a breakthrough performance in Hamburg, paiN Gaming is projected to finish in the 5th-6th place position at the Major, though that prediction seems to be the most volatile prior to the start of the event itself. The team has put together a dominant showing within its home region so far this season, and its recent Top 4 performance at ESL One Hamburg displayed a fair bit of confidence and composure on the international level as well. If all goes as it has been going so far for paiN Gaming, then it would be in line for a strong performance in Kuala Lumpur on par with its projected final position. However, the concern around paiN Gaming is that we’ve seen this kind of scenario play out before, specifically towards the end of the previous Pro Circuit season. In that situation, paiN Gaming placed 3rd at ESL One Birmingham 2018 and finished 1st in the TI8 South America Qualifier, showing the same levels of success at home and on the international level that we are seeing right now from the squad. However, paiN Gaming followed up those previous successes with last place finishes at both DOTA Summit 9 and TI8. So we’ve seen scenarios in which paiN Gaming has looked ready to turn the corner before and become a consistent threat on the international level, only to see the squad take a step back in terms of its level of play. Should that happen again in Kuala Lumpur, then the squad would likely fall somewhere in the bottom half of the standings at the Major. However, if this is truly the moment where paiN Gaming takes that crucial last step and shows that it can consistently find success against the top teams in the Dota 2 world, then expect the South American squad to give even the elite squads in the field a run for their money at The Kuala Lumpur Major.

 

paiN X paiN X

Region: South America

Qualification: South America Qualifier 2nd Place

Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 DPC Points)

Roster:
1. Ravindu RitsuKodippili
2. Quinn CC&CCallahan
3. Adriano de Paula “4dr”Machado
4. FrancisFrancisLeeLee
5. Rodrigo Lelis“Liposa”Santos

Projected Finish: 13th-16th

The formation of South American squad paiN X came as something of a surprise announcement during this last offseason, as one of the region’s biggest organizations in SG e-sports had its roster disband just a week before the registration deadline for the 2018-2019 season. From the ashes of that SG e-sports roster though came the foundation of paiN X, with 3 of the team’s former members moving to the organization alongside the added core duo of Ritsu and CC&C. The mixed North and South American roster represents the continuation of a trend that SG e-sports had been attempting to innovate before its disbanding, and now the paiN Gaming organization is hoping to find success with its lineup of U.S. and Brazilian talents. With the squad still relatively new to the South American scene, paiN X does not necessarily carry the same level of prestige or expectation of its sister squad, paiN Gaming. With that being said, a solid showing in Kuala Lumpur and a successful run at the first Major of the Pro Circuit season would go a long way towards introducing paiN X as a contender on the international level and a leading force within the South American region.

Though paiN X is a relatively new squad within the South American scene, the team has already managed to make a number of appearances both within its home region, the combined North and South American scene, and the international level. On the home front, the squad began its season with The Kuala Lumpur Major South America Qualifier, where it posted a 8-6 record to secure its position at the Major. The team’s only series losses came against sister squad paiN Gaming in the Upper Bracket Finals and Grand Finals of the qualifier. Just 2 weeks later, the team participated in the ESL One Hamburg 2018 North America Qualifier, claiming a 2nd place finish overall after narrowly losing the Grand Finals 2-3 to compLexity Gaming. Most recently, the team competed in another mixed North and South American event in the King’s Cup 2: North America, which featured a field of 9 teams from across the 2 regions. The team put together an impressive showing at the event, posting a 11-3 record in the Group Stage before losing to J.Storm in the Semifinals of the Playoffs to finish in the 3rd-4th place position overall. While the squad’s performance within North and South America has been solid so far this season, its efforts on the international level have been significantly less successful. The South American squad has competed in just 1 international event coming into the Major, that event being the World Showdown of Esports #1 in Las Vegas last month. Unfortunately, paiN X found little success at the event, going winless in the Group Stage with a 0-3 record and failing to advance to the Playoffs for a rather disappointing 7th-8th place finish. That first foray on the international level may not have gone as well as the team had been hoping for, but paiN X’s consistent performance at home has hopes high for the squad entering this first Major of the season.

paiN X makes its way to The Kuala Lumpur Major hoping to establish itself as a leader in South America with a solid performance on its Pro Circuit debut. The team’s relatively consistent success at home already has it sitting in a favorable spot within the regional hierarchy, but success in Kuala Lumpur would lock the squad in as one of the elite teams in South America and would also serve to greatly improve the team’s standing on the international level as well. Coming into the Major though, the squad is not expected to find much success, as paiN X is projected to finish at the bottom of the standings in the 13th-16th place position. While the squad has been able to show some consistency within North and South America, the team’s record against the other South American team in the field in Kuala Lumpur, paiN Gaming, is not nearly as encouraging. Against its sister squad, paiN X has a total record of 0-4, which is particularly disappointing when combined with the squad’s struggles in its only appearance on the international level. While the team’s players have a fair bit of experience outside of their home regions, this paiN X roster as a whole has yet to prove that it can compete on the international level with any sense of consistent success. Of course, there is a chance that the experience and talent of the team’s players fuels it to a stronger performance in Kuala Lumpur than we might expect. However, such a scenario would only realistically allow the squad to move up into the next highest range in the standings. For this unproven paiN X squad to move all the way up into the top half of the standings at the Major would require a near miraculous performance that would almost certainly come as a shock to all but the most die-hard fans of the South American squad.

 

Tigers Tigers

Region: Southeast Asia

Qualification: DreamLeague Season 10 Minor 1st Place

Pro Circuit Rank: 1st (120 Pro Circuit Points)

Roster:
1. Lai “Ahjit” Jay Son
2. Muhammad “inYourdreaM” Rizky
3. David “MoonMeander” Tan 
4. Kenny “Xepher” Deo
5. Sivatheeban “1437” Sivanathapillai

Projected Finish: 9th-12th

Tigers makes its way to The Kuala Lumpur Major as the first team to have claimed a title in the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season, as the Southeast Asian squad took the coveted 1st place position at the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor just a few days ago. There was quite a bit of excitement and hype surrounding this squad in the offseason, as the team left the TNC organization and brought in the duo of AhJit and Moonmeander to form, at least on paper, one of the more formidable rosters within the Southeast Asian region. The team has shown that the hype surrounding it is well warranted, as the squad put together an impressive performance in its Pro Circuit debut in Stockholm and fought its way through a field of 7 other squads to find success on the international level. While the team’s successful run at the Minor already has it sitting at the top of the Pro Circuit standings, Tigers makes its way to Kuala Lumpur hoping to improve upon its already impressive start to the season with an even stronger showing on home soil at the Major.

Tigers comes into the Major as a squad that has certainly been busy so far this season, as the team has been participating in more than a handful of events and qualifiers in an attempt to build up as much momentum for itself as possible. The team began its season with the regional qualifier for this Major, though the squad struggled against its regional rivals in that appearance and finished in the 7th-8th place position overall. The team was quick to bounce back from that initial disappointment though, regrouping to finish 1st in the subsequent DreamLeague Season 10 Southeast Asia Qualifier, and following up that performance a few days later with a solid 3rd place run in the ESL One Hamburg 2018 Southeast Asia Qualifier. In October, the squad participated in the King’s Cup 2: Southeast Asia, putting together a 7-7 record in the Group Stage that left it just 1 spot short of advancing to the Playoffs as it finished in the 5th-8th place position. Just a few days later though, the squad was able to get itself back on track with a 1st place finish in the Southeast Asia Cyber Arena 2018 Finals in which it won back to back series against Alpha Red and PG.Barracx to win the event. Those strong performances at home have been impressive, but perhaps the crown jewel of the team’s resume so far this season has to be its victory at the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor. It wasn’t quite a perfect run for the squad in Stockholm, as Tigers posted an overall record of 11-5, but it was more than enough to beat out a field of tough international opposition and solidify its place both as a leading squad in its home region and as a potential threat on the Pro Circuit.

Tigers comes into The Kuala Lumpur Major as a team riding a high of confidence and momentum stemming from its victory at the recent DreamLeague Season 10 Minor. The team will be looking to improve upon its already impressive showing in Stockholm with a strong performance in front of a home town crowd in Kuala Lumpur. Coming into the Major, Tigers is expected to increased its Pro Circuit Point total, though not by much, as the team is projected to finish in the 9th-12th place range. Yes, the team ended up winning the Minor, but the field of opponents that it will face in Kuala Lumpur represents a significant step up in terms of strength and prestige, and it isn’t quite clear just yet whether Tigers is ready and capable of taking that step. The team’s successful run at the Minor saw it play 4 of its 5 series against Na’Vi and Royal Never Give Up, the teams that finished 2nd and 3rd at the Minor, respectively. The fact that Tigers won all 4 of those series is certainly encouraging, but the team’s overall record across those series was just 9-5, with every series going to the highest possible number of matches. Tigers winning those series is an impressive feat, but the lengths that the team needed to go to in order to get those wins introduces a bit of concern in anticipation of the team having to play against an ostensibly higher caliber of opponent at the Major. Added on to that is the fact that the squad does not have a fantastic track record against the other Southeast Asian teams that will be playing in Kuala Lumpur. While the team’s overall record in its home region is solid, against Fnatic and TNC Predator the squad is currently 0-4. Admittedly, that isn’t the largest of sample sizes, but it is enough to cause a small degree of concern for this team heading into the Major. At this stage, it may appear that the concerns for Tigers are somewhat nit-picky, and to a certain extent they absolutely are. However, the predictions in these posts almost always come down to expectations rather than potential, and Tigers finds itself in uncertain waters with regards to the former despite possessing the latter in abundance. If Tigers can carry over its momentum from its Minor Championship title run, then the Southeast Asian squad could easily move into the top half of the standings and become a legitimate threat to the more established leaders in the field. Until we see that happen though, it seems best to keep hopes high and expectations modest for Tigers as it prepares for its second Pro Circuit event of the season.

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