Dota 2 Pro Circuit Major Recap: The Kuala Lumpur Major

The Dynasty Continues: Virtus.pro takes down Team Secret 3-2 to claim a record 5th Major Championship for the organization in Kuala Lumpur

The 2018-2019 Pro Circuit campaign is in full swing now, as the first of 5 Majors this season has officially come to a close in Malaysia with the conclusion of The Kuala Lumpur Major. For a little over a week now, fans across the Dota 2 world have been paying rapt attention to the action in the Malaysian capital as 16 challengers fought for the opportunity to claim the first Major Championship title of the season and claim their place at the top of the Pro Circuit Rankings. While all 16 teams came to Kuala Lumpur with aspirations of finding success and making a statement on the Pro Circuit stage, only 1 squad was left standing in the Axiata Arena as Major Champions.

When the final matches had been played and the action in the Axiata Arena was officially at an end, it was Virtus.pro that claimed the title of Major Champion in Kuala Lumpur and the position as the first Major winner of the 2018-2019 season. The CIS squad defeated Team Secret 3-2 in a tightly contested Grand Finals series to claim the first Major Championship title of the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season. The team was dominant in Kuala Lumpur, posting a 14-6 overall record (4-2 Group Stage, 10-4 Main Event) that saw it defeat Alliance, Forward Gaming, Fnatic, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Evil Geniuses, and Team Secret as it claimed the organization’s 5th Major Championship.

With the season’s first Minor/Major pair now done and dusted and the season officially past the 1/5th mark, it’s time to see how the Pro Circuit Rankings are shaking out. With its victorious performance in Kuala Lumpur, Virtus.pro lays claim to the 1st place position in the Rankings with 4,950 Pro Circuit Points. The runner-up at the Major, Team Secret, moves into 2nd place with 3,000 Pro Circuit Points, while 3rd place squad Evil Geniuses slides into 3rd in the Pro Circuit Rankings with 2,100 points and the 4th place finish in Kuala Lumpur from Ninjas in Pyjamas places it in 4th place in the Rankings as well with 1,350 points. The duo of Chinese squad PSG.LGD and Southeast Asian team TNC Predator, who finished in the combined 5th-6th place position at the Major, now find themselves tied for 5th place in the Pro Circuit Rankings with 900 points each. Another pair of Chinese and Southeast Asian squads in Fnatic and Vici Gaming finished in the 7th-8th place position in Kuala Lumpur, earning 450 points each and now sitting in a tie for the 7th place position in the Rankings. The 4 squads that finished in the 9th-12th place position at the Major (Alliance, Forward Gaming, J.Storm, and paiN X) each claimed 150 Pro Circuit Points and now sit in a 4-way tie for the 9th place position in the Rankings, while 3 of the 4 teams that finished at the bottom of the event standings (Gambit Esports, paiN Gaming, and Team Aster) find themselves in a tie for 15th place in the Rankings with 75 points each. The final squad in that group of 13th-16th place finishers, Tigers, stays a bit ahead of the other last place teams from the Major and retains its 120 Pro Circuit Point total from its victory at the Minor, putting the Southeast Asian squad in 13th place overall. As a reminder, the Top 12 squad in the Pro Circuit Rankings are set to receive direct invites to TI9 in 2019, which means that even the smallest Pro Circuit Point total has the potential to keep a squad in contention for a spot in Shanghai on the Dota 2 world’s biggest stage next summer.

With all of the matches and action concluded in Kuala Lumpur, the Pro Circuit standings fully adjusted, and Virtus.pro officially crowned as the first Major Champion of the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season, we can look at how each of the teams performed at The Kuala Lumpur Major and whether they managed to live up to their pre-event expectations.

Team Secret Team Secret

Place: 2nd

Winnings: $170,000 & 3,000 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 12-4 (4-0 Group Stage, 8-4 Main Event)

Team Secret came into The Kuala Lumpur Major as a juggernaut within the Dota 2 world. The team’s offseason roster changes represented a significant risk for it, but the new additions to the lineup had proven themselves more than capable of integrating into the team quickly and effectively. The squad had already claimed a duo of LAN victories on the international level, and made its way to Kuala Lumpur as a clear favorite to win at the first Major of the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season. The squad had talent, leadership, and experience in spades as it prepared for its first appearance of the new Pro Circuit season, and the team was going to need all of those traits to be on display as it looked to claim the organization’s 3rd Major Championship title.

The European juggernaut began its Group Stage run in Kuala Lumpur with a Bo3 series against North American squad J.Storm in the Opening Matches of Group A. Game 1 of the the series proved to be a textbook example of winning Dota for Team Secret, as the squad countered the Io-Gyrocopter combo of its opponent with a core duo of Morphling and Monkey King. The match was in Team Secret’s favor from the very outset of play, as the team dominated the match up with its aforementioned core duo combining for a stat line of 26-4-19 in a massively one sided victory to open the series. Game 2 of the series ended up being a slightly more competitive affair, but Team Secret once again found itself in charge as the European squad broke the match open in the late-game stage. Behind another impressive showing from Nisha on Terrorblade (15-2-7), Team Secret took control with a series of team fight victories and never looked back as it closed out the match for a 2-0 series victory.

The team’s victory against J.Storm put Team Secret in the Winners’ Match of Group A where it faced fellow European squad Ninjas in Pyjamas for the top spot in the group standings. Game 1 of the series proved to be a complete stomp in favor of Team Secret, as the squad simply rolled over NiP with an overwhelming amount of team fight power and control. Led by impressive performances from Nisha’s Morphling (13-4-18) and YapzOr’s Enigma (11-3-19), Team Secret was able to shut down the lineup of NiP with an alarming level of consistency as it out killed its opponent by a score of 41-17 to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 ended up being more of the same for Team Secret ,as the squad was able to move past a relatively even laning stage to dominate the mid and late-game stages of the match. Team Secret once again out killed its opponent, this time by a score of 34-12 as Nisha’s Terrorblade (11-2-10) and MidOne’s Monkey King (12-3-16) helped lead the team to another one sided victory, a 2-0 series win, and a perfect 4-0 Group Stage record that had the team sitting at the top of the Group A standings.

After the team’s perfect run through the Group Stage of the Major, Team Secret found itself facing off against Vici Gaming in a rematch of the ESL One Hamburg 2018 Grand Finals. This time around though, the European squad did not have nearly as many issues against its Chinese opponent, as Team Secret began the series with a dominant performance in Game 1. The team’s core trio of Terrorblade, Zeus, and Nature’s Prophet quickly managed to out farm its opponents, applying a heavy level of pressure against the Vici Gaming lineup while posting a combined 23-7-45 stat line in a completely one sided victory. Things proved to be drastically different for the 2 squads in Game 2 of the series, as Vici Gaming was the team to establish a lead in the mid and late-game stages while Team Secret found itself playing from behind. Though the team trailed in terms of net worth for a fair bit of the match, Team Secret was still able to create enough space for its cores to farm and progress as the match went on. Behind strong performances from Nisha’s Venomancer (12-5-14) and MidOne’s Phantom Lancer (12-4-6), Team Secret was able to turn things around with a series of pick offs and team fight wins late in the match that sapped away the momentum of Vici Gaming. With its opponent reeling from those lost fights, Team Secret was able to take control of the match and break through Vici Gaming’s defenses to pull off a comeback victory to close out the series with a 2-0 win.

With its victory over Vici Gaming, Team Secret found itself facing another Chinese opponent, as the European powerhouse put its undefeated record on the line against PSG.LGD in a series that would guarantee one of the teams a Top 3 finish in Kuala Lumpur. In both matches of the series, Team Secret employed a strategy built around Nisha’s Arc Warden, with those strategies yielding incredible results as the Polish Carry put together a combined 18-5-23 stat line in the series. Nisha was not the only one to put up impressive numbers in the series though, as MidOne earned 22 Kills and 25 Assists with just 6 Deaths in the series. Behind those performances, Team Secret out killed PSG.LGD 65-35 and held near complete control over late-game fights in both matches as it locked in a 2-0 series victory to advance to the Upper Bracket Finals of the Major.

With its victory over PSG.LGD, Team Secret was just 1 more series away from securing itself a place in the Grand Finals of the Major, but the European squad had 1 more challenge ahead of it in the form of CIS powerhouse Virtus.pro. Game 1 began with the 2 squads remaining fairly close through the early stage of the match, as neither team was able to build up a net worth lead of more than 3k. However, Team Secret was able to pull away in the mid-game stage behind a combined 15-5-31 stat line from its core trio of Morphling, Monkey King, and Centaur Warrunner. The team out killed its opponent 15-1 over the final 10 minutes of play to secure itself a win and a 1-0 lead in the series. Unfortunately for Team Secret, its performance in Game 2 was nowhere near as strong as it was in the preceding match. The squad’s core trio of Arc Warden, Outworld Devourer, and Pangolier fell flat almost immediately, and VP was able to establish a lead early that it never relinquished as Team Secret conceded defeat after just over 24 minutes of game time. Game 3 saw Team Secret stick with its Arc Warden pick, this time combining the hero with fellow cores of Ember Spirit and Centaur Warrunner. After remaining even with its opponent through the first 20 minutes of the match, that core trio was able to slowly and steadily pull away from VP and shift the momentum of the match in Team Secret’s favor. Behind a combined 28-7-41 performance from the aforementioned core trio, Team Secret was able to dominate the second half of the match. The team out killed its opponent 16-3 over the final 20 minutes of the match, and did not give up a single death past the 37 minute mark in a game that lasted just under 51 minutes in total and secured Team Secret both a 2-1 series victory and a place in the Grand Finals.

Team Secret’s opponent in the Bo5 Grand Finals would be a familiar one, as the team once against faced off against CIS squad Virtus.pro to see which team would walk away from Kuala Lumpur with the title of Major Champion. Game 1 saw the European squad take something of a risk with a core Shadow Shaman pick, hoping to establish control of the map early and create as much space as possible for its Terrorblade pick. Unfortunately for the team, that strategy became ineffective fairly early in the map thanks to some aggressive play from VP. The CIS squad absolutely dominated team fights throughout the match, establishing near full control of the match past the 20 minute mark and leaving Team Secret scrambling for answers. Team Secret earned just 2 kills over the final 15 minutes of the match, and fell behind by as much as 27k net worth before conceding defeat to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Though the squad suffered a tough loss to open the series, Team Secret was able to bounce back almost immediately in Games 2 and 3. In both matches, the European squad was able to out pace the cores of VP in the late-game stage, holding the net worth lead for all but 4 minutes beyond the 26 minute mark of either game. The team’s Carry/Mid duo of Nisha and MidOne put together a combined stat line of 22-11-63 in Games 2 and 3, but its was YapzOr who truly played the role of hero for the team as he racked up 26 Kills and 26 Assists with just 7 Deaths across the 2 matches to help propel Team Secret to a 2-1 series lead. Unfortunately, the squad could not quite manage to make it 3 straight wins, as VP was able to put a halt to Team Secret’s momentum in Game 4. The European squad trailed in terms of net worth throughout the mid and late-game stages, and couldn’t find any sort of definitive team fight win to turn the tides despite getting a solid effort from MidOne’s Monkey King (11-7-13). With that loss, the series was tied up at 2-2, with the Grand Finals now coming down to just a single match to determine the Major Champion. Game 5 saw Team Secret pick up a core trio of Phantom Lancer, Timbersaw, and Necrophos, along with a team fight oriented support duo of Silencer and Earthshaker. While that lineup was able to hold its own through the early and mid-game stages, it dropped off significantly in the late-game against VP’s intense damage output and farming capacity. Team Secret could not secure itself any semblance of a team fight victory, and earned just 5 Kills over the final 20 minutes of the match to lose the series 2-3 and end its run at the Major with a 2nd place finish overall.

Team Secret entered The Kuala Lumpur Major as one of the strongest teams in the Dota 2 world. The European squad’s offseason roster changes had down little to slow it down in the new Pro Circuit season, and its pair of LAN titles across the first 2 months of the season had it sitting in a position as one of the elite teams on the international level. The team’s impressive play so far this season had it projected to finish in the Top 4 range in Kuala Lumpur, and Team Secret was more than able to live up to those expectations as it finished in 2nd place at the Major. Overall, there was almost nothing that could be described as a weakness for Team Secret in terms of its play at the Major, as the squad was dominant throughout the vast majority of the event. The team blew past J.Storm and Ninjas in Pyjamas in its Group Stage series, and followed up those wins with series victories over Vici Gaming, PSG.LGD, and Virtus.pro to reach the Grand Finals of the Major. At one point, the squad had won 9 matches in a row in Kuala Lumpur, with that streak only ended in the Upper Bracket Finals with its Game 2 loss to VP. In fact, the only matches that Team Secret lost came against VP, as the squad posted a 4-4 record against the Major Champion while going 8-0 against all other squads in the field. At this stage, the expectations for Team Secret are so high that one almost takes for granted just how well the team played at this event. The team’s support duo of Puppey and YapzOr created a near continuous stream of team fight and pick off opportunities for their cores, zai was a steady and reliable presence in the Offlane role, and the duo of Nisha and MidOne put together superstar performances on one of the biggest stages in the Dota 2 world. While the team ended up coming 1 game short of laying claim to the title of Major Champion, this Team Secret lineup remains one of the most formidable in the Dota 2 world, and the European powerhouse is essentially guaranteed another chance at claiming a title this season barring some sort of unexpected disbanding of its roster.

 

Ninjas in Pyjamas Ninjas In Pyjamas 

Place: 4th

Winnings: $80,000 & 1,350 Pro Circuit Points

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

Ninjas in Pyjamas cam to The Kuala Lumpur Major as one of the most exciting stories in the European region at this early stage in the season. The arrival of legendary captain ppd in the region and the formation of a talented and experience roster already had the squad looking like a leading team in Europe, but the squad now had the opportunity to show that it was just as dangerous on the international level as well. While the team was not playing with the entirety of its usual roster, the use of MinD_ContRoL as a stand-in still had hopes relatively high for the squad as it prepared for its Pro Circuit debut.

The European’s squad’s first match with MinD_ContRoL in the lineup came against paiN Gaming, as NiP faced off against the South American squad in the Opening Matches of Group A. NiP was in control from the very beginning of Game 1, as the team’s core trio of Huskar, Drow Ranger, and Centaur Warrunner simply ran over its opponent. NiP held the net worth lead from start to finish, and its core trio combined for a stat line of 25-8-32 en route to a dominant victory to open the series. Game 2 proved to be a near repeat of its predecessor, as NiP once again established its control early in the match and never relinquished it. The team’s core trio of Drow Ranger, Timbersaw, and Centaur Warrunner combined for a stat line of 36-9-71, while Saksa’s Windranger (15-4-24) gave the squad the extra control and damage that it needed to consistently overcome paiN Gaming’s lineup. In spite of all of that, NiP very nearly lost the match, as paiN Gaming pulled off a near wipe of the European squad and very nearly killed off the Ancient in an all-or-nothing final charge through the NiP base. However, NiP was able to recover in time to hold off that final push, securing itself a win in the match and a 2-0 series victory.

The team’s initial series victory had it going up against European juggernaut Team Secret in the Winners’ Match of Group A, with the winning squad claiming the top spot in the group standings. Unfortunately for NiP, the series was not nearly as close as it would have liked, as Team Secret continued its run of dominance at the European squad’s expense. The team was out killed by a score of 29-75 in a massively one sided 0-2 series loss in which the squad was simply out played by its opponent at nearly every turn. The late-game stage was a particularly brutal stretch for NiP in both matches, as the squad never held a net worth lead at any point beyond the 20 minute mark in the series. The team’s 0-2 loss to Team Secret dashed its hopes of claiming the top spot in Group A, but a place in the Upper Bracket was still attainable for NiP as it moved into the Decider Match of the group.

That Decider Match brought NiP face to face with paiN Gaming once again, as the 2 squads met for the second time in the Group Stage of the Major. Fortunately for the European squad, it didn’t have significant difficulties dealing with its South American opponent the second time around, as NiP seized control of the series as quickly as possible. The team out killed paiN Gaming by a score of 67-34 across the 2 game series, and dominated the late-game stage of both matches to shut down any possibility of a comeback. Ace put together together a combined stat line of 30-2-24 in the series, playing a large role in NiP’s ability to control the pace of play and march its way to a 2-0 series victory and a place in the Upper Bracket of the Main Event.

Round 1 of the Upper Bracket put the European squad up against North American team Evil Geniuses in the team’s first series of the Main Event. Game 1 did not go well for NiP, as the squad’s heavy farming duo of Terrorblade and Alchemist was punished by EG’s more aggressive style. NiP found itself playing from behind early, and could never quite manage to pull off a strong enough play to turn the tides of the match as it lost the opening match of the series. From that point on though, the series was completely in NiP’s control, as the European squad bounced back from its initial loss with back to back dominant showings. The team out killed its opponent by an incredible 72-21 margin and held the net worth lead for all but a couple of minutes across the 2 matches en route to a massively one sided end to the series. The team’s dramatic reversal and series victory kept it alive in the Upper Bracket as it advanced to the second round of the Main Event.

Round 2 of the Upper Bracket brought NiP up against one of the most formidable teams in the Dota 2 world, as the European squad faced off against CIS powerhouse Virtus.pro with a guaranteed Top 3 finish at the Major on the line. Unfortunately for NiP, the series did not go particularly well for it, as the squad’s vaunted Drow Ranger strategy fell flat in back to back matches against its opponent. Game 1 saw the squad trail its opponent in terms of net worth for all but a couple of minutes, as the squad kept things close in the early and mid-game stages before falling behind significantly in the late-game. Even at that stage, the European squad still had hopes of making a comeback, but a costly fight at the Roshan Pit tanked those hopes. Game 2 ended up being an even more one sided affair for NiP, as the squad fell behind early and never managed to recover despite a solid effort from Fata’s Timbersaw (7-5-2). Overall, the squad was out killed 37-50 in the series, and struggled to generate any momentum for itself in the mid and late-game stages as it fell 0-2 against VP and dropped into the Lower Bracket to face TNC Predator.

Though Ninjas in Pyjamas found itself falling into the Lower Bracket in Kuala Lumpur, its next match up saw the squad bounce right back, as it put together a dominant performance against Southeast Asian squad TNC Predator. The European squad dominated both matches in the series from the very beginning of play, out killing TNC Predator 64-15 in a pair of massively one sided games. The trio of Ace, Fata, and MinD_ContRoL combined for 55 Kills and 73 Assists with just 9 Deaths across the 2 game series as NiP established absolute control over its opponent to secure an emphatic 2-0 victory in the series and advance to Round 5 of the Lower Bracket.

NiP would find a familiar face waiting for it in the next round of the Main Event, as the team found itself matched up against North American squad Evil Geniuses for the second time at the Major. Game 1 of the series appeared to be a rather one sided affair for most of the match, as NiP was able to establish control early and build up a sizable net worth advantage. Behind a near Herculean effort from Ace’s Morphling (20-4-12, 35.1k net worth), the team was looking like it was headed for a relatively easy victory. However, EG was able to significantly extend the match, and eventually swung the momentum of the match into its favor behind a Terrorblade and Tiny duo. Though the late-game surge from its opponent was an alarming development, NiP was able to reestablish control with a crucial team fight win that sapped the last of EG’s strength to give NiP a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 saw a nearly the exact same scenario play out between the 2 squads, as NiP once again built up a large net worth lead in the mid and late-game stages. This time however, the European squad could not contain the eventual comeback efforts from EG, as the North American squad succeeded in claiming multiple team fight wins and pick offs to even up the series at 1-1. After losing its momentum late in Game 2, NiP appeared to run out of gas in the third and final match of the series. The team managed to keep pace with its opponent through the first half of the match, but things beyond that point took a turn for the worse for the squad. NiP found itself out killed by a score of 3-16 over the final 15 minutes of play, as Evil Geniuses took full control over the game to hand NiP a 1-2 series loss and end its run at the Major with a 4th place finish overall.

Ninjas in Pyjamas came into The Kuala Lumpur Major as one of the stronger teams within the European region, but the squad had yet to prove itself on the international level. The team’s previous international appearance had resulted in a less than stellar performance, and the use of a stand-in at the Major raised a couple of concerns for it as the European squad made its Pro Circuit debut. Those aforementioned concerns had NiP projected to finish in the 7th-8th place position in Kuala Lumpur, but the squad proved that those concerns to be unfounded as it fought its way to a 4th place finish at the Major. NiP’s run at the Major began with a strong showing in the Group Stage of the event, where the team claimed 2 series victories over paiN Gaming while losing 0-2 to Team Secret to finish 2nd in the group standings. Of course, the fact that all of the team’s Group Stage wins came against a single team left a few questions to be answered as the squad moved on to the Main Event. Once there though, NiP showed to the whole of the Dota 2 world that its strong Group Stage performance was no fluke. The team took down Evil Geniuses in Round 1 of the Main Event, before losing to Virtus.pro in the subsequent round to drop down into the Lower Bracket. There, the squad took a massively one sided 2-0 victory over TNC Predator before falling 1-2 to Evil Geniuses in an incredibly tightly contested rematch of its first Main Event series. Any concerns about how well MinD_ContRoL would integrate himself into the lineup were quickly cast aside, as the TI winner averaged 6.56 Kills and 12.56 Assists with just 5.06 Deaths per match across the team’s 16 games in Kuala Lumpur. With this performance on the Pro Circuit stage, NiP has made a strong case for it to be considered within the realm of the elite teams in the Dota 2 world, as the team’s 7 total losses at the Major all came against teams that finished in the Top 3 in the event standings. At this stage, any definitive statements about NiP’s place in the Pro Circuit hierarchy will likely have to wait until we’ve seen the squad on the international level with its usual lineup rather than with MinD_ContRoL as a stand-in, but the European squad has made quite the strong impression in its first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage.

Alliance Alliance

Place: 9th-12th

Winnings: $15,000 & 150 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 5-8 (5-4 Group Stage, 0-4 Main Event)

It had been quite a long time since Alliance had been at the forefront of the Dota 2 world, but the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season provided a new iteration of the legendary team an opportunity to find success on one of the game’s biggest stages. While the squad had been playing well within its home region at this early point in the season, Alliance did not have a fantastic track record on the international level. The Kuala Lumpur Major represented the team’s most difficult challenge on the international stage, but a successful run at the event had the potential to lay some of the doubts around this squad to rest and set the team up as a true contender on the Pro Circuit.

Alliance got things started in Kuala Lumpur with a rather formidable challenge, as the European squad faced off against CIS juggernaut Virtus.pro in its first series of the Group Stage. Game 1 did not go well for the team, as it was out killed by a score of 16-36 in a fairly one sided loss that put the team in a 0-1 hole to begin the series. Game 2 is where the European squad was able to bounce back though, as Alliance put on a spectacular performance in response to its previous loss. The team’s core trio of Broodmother, Monkey King, and Earthshaker combined for a stat line of 32-9-20 and spearheaded a utterly dominant performance over VP. The squad held the net worth lead for all but the first few minutes of the match as it pulled off a massively one sided victory to even up the series and force a third game. Unfortunately for Alliance, that third match ended up being another one sided match, and this time it did not go in its favor. Despite a valiant effort from qojqva on Broodmother (6-3-4), Alliance could not build up enough momentum for itself to overcome VP’s net worth lead, as the CIS squad held control over the match from beginning to end to hand Alliance a 1-2 series loss.

Alliances opening loss to VP put it in the Losers’ Match of Group D, where it faced off against South American squad paiN X to see which squad would finish at the bottom of the group standings. Game 1 saw the squad remain relatively even with its opponent through the first 30 minutes of play, but that stalemate quickly fell apart in the late-game stage. Despite an impressive performance from miCKe on Morphling (17-4-3), Alliance fell too far behind in the late-game and couldn’t mount an effective comeback effort as it lost the opening match of the series. From that point on though, the series was almost entirely controlled by Alliance, as the squad put together back to back dominant performances in response to its opening loss. The team out killed its opponent 38-19 over the final 2 games of the series, and led in terms of net worth across the entirety of both games en route to a strong 2-1 victory in the series and a spot in the Decider Match of Group D.

That Decider Match saw the European squad face off against Forward Gaming, with the final spot in the Upper Bracket of the Main Event on the line. Game 1 ended up being a largely one sided affair, as Alliance put together a core trio of Morphling, Pugna, and Weaver that was able to apply heavy pressure to Forward Gaming’s lineup throughout the match. That core trio combined for a stat line of 26-3-35, as Alliance out killed its opponent 33-13 in a relatively smooth and methodical victory to open the series. Unfortunately for the team, Game 2 saw it one the wrong side of a stomp, as Forward Gaming dominated the match from the very beginning of play. Despite a solid effort from miCKe on Luna (7-5-4), Alliance found itself trailing throughout the game an never managed to spark a truly threatening comeback effort to lose the match and its lead in the series. After its rough loss in Game 2, Alliance entered the final match of the series determined to completely shut down its opponent. The team’s core trio of Broodmother, Weaver, and Earthshaker proved capable of doing just that, putting together a combined stat line of 27-4-30 while holding Forward Gaming to just 7 kills in total. Alliance dominated every aspect of the match, jumping ahead early and preventing its opponent from ever stringing together enough quality plays to threaten its sizable net worth lead. After 36 minutes of dominant play, Alliance managed to break through Forward Gaming’s final defenses to secure itself a 2-1 series victory and a place in the Upper Bracket of the Main Event.

Alliance’s opponent in that first Upper Bracket series was none other than the TI8 runner up in PSG.LGD. Unfortunately for Alliance, it did not come into this series looking fully prepared to face the Chinese juggernaut, which was made all too clear once play began. Game 1 was a blowout loss for Alliance, as the European squad immediately found itself facing a heavy amount of pressure and early fighting that put it behind early. The squad was out killed by a score of 15-38 in the match, and simply couldn’t do anything to slow down its opponent as PSG.LGD claimed the opening match of the series. Game 2 did not end up going much better for Alliance as the team once again fell behind early and could not spark any sort of effective comeback effort. Down by nearly 20k net worth at the 30 minute mark, the team conceded defeat to suffer a rough 0-2 loss that dropped it down in to the Lower Bracket of the Main Event.

The team’s first Lower Bracket match up of the Major saw it go up against Southeast Asian squad TNC Predator to see which team would have its run in Kuala Lumpur brought to an end. The European squad went into Game 1 of the series with a core trio of Morphling, Pugna, and Earthshaker, but that trio quickly fell flat in the face of TNC Predator’s heavy damage and control. Alliance found itself playing from behind from the very start of the match, and could do little to turn the tides in its favor despite taking a couple of team fight wins and some pick offs throughout the mid and late-game stages. With those efforts never materializing into a full comeback though, the squad had little choice but to concede defeat to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 ended up being a somewhat more tightly contested match, although Alliance was once again the team playing from behind for the vast majority of the game. This time though, the team was able to keep things a bit closer thanks in large part to solid showings from qojqva on Mirana (10-5-7) and Taiga’s Axe (10-9-10). A team fight win around the 33 minute mark introduced a small glimmer of hope that Alliance could turn the match around int he late-game, but the European squad proved unable to fully capitalize on that victory. TNC Predator quickly recouped its losses from that engagement, and closed out the match with one final team fight victory to hand Alliance a 0-2 loss that ended its run at the Major with a 9th-12th place finish overall.

Alliance came into The Kuala Lumpur Major at a crucial point in the team’s development and progression. The organization had put together a new roster of relatively untested players just over a year ago, and that squad had worked its way into a position to attend the first Major of the Pro Circuit season. It was certainly a powerful narrative for the European squad, but Alliance’s issues on the international level so far this season served to significantly restrict the expectations for the team at the Major. Coming into the event, the team was projected to finish at the bottom of the standings in the 13th-16th place position, but the squad was able to outperform that meager prediction with a 9th-12th place run in Kuala Lumpur. The squad’s performance in the Group Stage was far from perfect, but Alliance was still able to make a fairly strong impression as it took 2-1 victories over both paiN X and Forward Gaming while claiming 1 win in a 1-2 loss against Virtus.pro. 2 series victories and a match win against one of the Dota 2 world’s most dominant squads already gave Alliance a better record than a number of other squads at the Major, and that 5-4 record had the team starting the Main Event in the Upper Bracket. Unfortunately, that Main Event was where we saw some of the team’s inexperience and inconsistency rear its head, as the European squad was absolutely hammered by its opponents. The team lost both of its series in the Main Event 0-2, falling to both PSG.LGD and TNC Predator as its previously successful strategies fell flat against those opponents. The loss against PSG.LGD is hardly an unexpected result, as the number of teams that can be considered as legitimate threats to bring down the Chinese juggernaut can be counted on one hand. However, the 0-2 loss against TNC Predator is the result that is somewhat disappointing for Alliance, as the team appeared to be relatively evenly matched against the Southeast Asian opponent. TNC Predator is no pushover by any means, but if Alliance wants to truly be a threat on the Pro Circuit and on the international stage, then those are the match ups that the team will have to win, or at least put up a stronger fight in. The European region is certainly a crowded one this season, with heavy hitters like Team Liquid and OG still standing near the top of the regional hierarchy while up and coming squads like The Final Tribe and Vega Squadron are always waiting in the wings for an opportunity for advancement. Alliance has performed fairly well within its home region so far this season, but it will need to take this performance in Kuala Lumpur and build upon it significantly if the squad wants to make a return trip to the Pro Circuit stage in the future.

 

Virtus.pro  Virtus Pro

Place: 1st

Winnings: $350,000 & 4,950 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 14-6 (4-2 Group Stage, 10-4 Main Event)

Virtus.pro made its way to Kuala Lumpur as one of the most feared and formidable squads in the Dota 2 world. The CIS squad had been dominant on the Pro Circuit last season, winning 4 Major Championships and finishing at the top of the regular season standings as well. Though the team had picked up a new coach in the offseason, the rest of the roster remained intact, and the CIS juggernaut had already gotten its 2018-2019 campaign off to a strong start with a trio of Top 3 finishes both within its home region and on the international level. Between the team’s previous success on the Pro Circuit and its more recent accomplishments in the Dota 2 world, VP made its way to Kuala Lumpur as one of the biggest threats to claim the first Major Championship of the new season, and the organization’s 5th Major Championship title.

Virtus.pro faced off against European squad Alliance in its first series of the Major, and the CIS juggernaut wasted no time exerting its control in the opening match of the series. After trailing slightly in terms of net worth through the laning stage, the team was able to take control in the mid and late-game thanks in large part to an impressive performance from RAMZES666 on Gyrocopter (9-2-18) and No[o]ne’s Tiny (15-1-9). Aside from a minor surge around the 30 minute mark, VP was able to keep Alliance under control as it took a 1-0 lead in the series. Unfortunately for VP, Game 2 saw its swap roles with its opponent, as Alliance was the team in control from the early stages of the match. VP’s damage and team fight power never fully came online, and the squad fell behind by as much as 20k in terms of net worth before eventually having its defenses broken to tie up the series at 1-1. Although the squad has suffered a tough loss in the previous game of the series, VP was able to bounce back almost immediately in Game 3. The CIS squad played aggressively throughout the match, finding numerous pick offs and team fight wins as it gradually gained more control and build up its net worth lead. Behind  huge performances from RAMZES666’s Morphling (12-3-8) and No[o]ne’s Monkey King (15-1-14), VP was able to shut down its opponent and claim a wire-to-wire victory to take the series 2-1.

The team’s initial victory had Virtus.pro advancing to the Winners’ Match of Group D, where it faced North American squad Forward Gaming for the top spot in the group standings. In Game 1, the 2 squads managed to remain fairly even throughout the first half of the match, as neither squad was able to definitively pull away from the other and establish a significant net worth lead. However, the late-game stage saw VP fall behind its opponent, as Forward Gaming’s control and damage began to out scale that of the CIS squad. With VP being out killed by a score of 5-15 over the final 10 minutes of the play, the team could do little to hold back its opponent as the squad fell behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw VP once again fall behind by a  sizable margin, as the CIS squad had difficulties claiming team fight wins over the course of the first half of the match. However, the team was able to pull off a spectacular late-game reversal behind a clutch performance from RAMZES666’s Terrorblade (6-1-11, 32.3k net worth), swinging the net worth lead into its own favor with a trio of team fight wins that helped the squad complete the comeback and tie up the series 1-1. After earning a comeback win in Game 2 of the series, VP carried its momentum over into a dominant showing in the final match against Forward Gaming. With its core trio of Terrorblade, Visage, and Phoenix combining for a stat line of 22-7-45 in the match, VP established control early and never looked back as it pushed Forward Gaming into a more and more defensive position before breaking through to claim a 2-1 series victory and a spot in the Upper Bracket of the Main Event.

The CIS squad’s first opponent in the Main Event would be Fnatic, as the 2 squads faced off in Round 1 of the Upper Bracket. The Southeast Asian squad didn’t prove to be much of an obstacle for VP though, as the team quickly established an iron grip on the series. VP out killed its opponent 52-23 and led in terms of net worth for all but 10 minutes in a 71 minute long series. The team’s core trio managed to out kill the entire Fnatic lineup in both games of the series, and RAMZES666 put together back to back perfect games to post a combined 16-0-17 stat line as VP rolled its way to an easy 2-0 victory and a spot in the second round of the Upper Bracket.

Round 2 of the Upper Bracket brought Virtus.pro face to face with Ninjas In Pyjamas, as the two squads fought for the chance to secure a guaranteed Top 3 finish at the Major and a match up against Team Secret in the Upper Bracket Finals. Very quickly though, it became apparent that VP was the squad in control in this series, as the CIS squad was able to exert control over both matches in the series with relative ease. The team’s high levels of control and team fight power stymied NiP’s roster in Game 1, while an aggressive style led by a core Axe saw VP dominate Game 2. Across the 2 game series, Virtus.pro managed to out killed its opponent 50-37, but the team’s greatest strength was its ability to control the mid and late-game stages of both matches. In 2 matches that lasted 37 and 28 minutes each, NiP never held a net worth lead past the 23 minute mark. Those efforts from VP shut down any possibility of a comeback from its opponent, as the CIS squad closed out a 2-0 series victory in less than 1 hour of total game time.

With its victory over Ninjas in Pyjamas, Virtus.pro was just 1 more series away from a place in the Grand Finals of the Major, but the CIS squad would need to take down another European challenger in the form of Team Secret in order to get there. Game 1 saw the team employ a core trio of Phantom Lancer, Lina, and Tiny, and for the first 20 minutes of the match that core trio was able to keep the squad relatively even with its opponent. However, the rest of the game beyond that point went entirely in Team Secret’s favor, as VP secured just 1 kill in the final 10 minutes of play to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw VP bounce back in a massive way though, as the CIS squad put together a dominant performance in response to its rough loss in the opening match of the series. Behind a combined 23-4-28 performance from RAMZES666, No[o]ne, and 9pasha, the team simply ran over the lineup of Team Secret en route to a crucial victory to tie up the series in a match that lasted just over 24 minutes of game time. Unfortunately for VP, its momentum from that Game 2 victory did not carry over in to the final match of the series. While the squad was able to remain even with its opponent in terms of net worth through the 20 minutes of the match, Team Secret slowly began to pull away in the late-game stage. Despite solid efforts from both RAMZES666 on Terrorblade (7-2-6) and No[o]ne on Invoker (9-3-6), VP could not claim a team fight victory to turn the tides of the match, and did not record a kill over the final 10 minutes of the match as it lost the series 1-2 and dropped into the Lower Bracket Finals.

The Lower Bracket Finals put VP up against another formidable opponent in the form of North American squad Evil Geniuses, as both sides sought to earn a spot in the Grand Finals against Team Secret. As it turned out, VP came into this series ready to absolutely crush its opponent, as the CIS squad put on a dominant showing before the crowd in the Axiata Arena. The team out killed EG 90-37 across the 2 game series, and its core trio of RAMZES666, No[o]ne, and 9pasha combined for an unbelievable stat line of 81-13-117. Simply put, VP managed to out play its opponent at every turn in this series, holding a net worth advantage for all but a handful of minutes in the match as the team steamrolled its way to the Grand Finals of the Major.

With its decisive victory over Evil Geniuses, VP had earned itself a rematch against Team Secret, though this time the title of Major Champion was one the line as the squad faced off in a Bo5 Grand Finals series in Kuala Lumpur. Game 1 of the series saw both squads put together some unorthodox lineups, but the somewhat strange picks ended up working out in VP’s favor as the squad absolutely dominated the second half of the match. The team’s core trio of Brewmaster, Storm Spirit, and Phoenix combined for 23 Kills and 63 Assists with just 8 Deaths in the match, while Solo’s Centaur Warrunner (10-3-19) helped set up one of the most one sided stretches of play across the entire Major. VP out killed Team Secret 27-2 over the final 14 minutes of play to lock down a dominant victory to open the series. Unfortunately for VP, the momentum from its Game 1 victory would not carry over into Games 2 and 3, as the CIS squad found itself the victim of an overwhelming response from Team Secret. The squad was out killed 36-68 over those 2 matches, and trailed in terms of net worth for nearly the entirety of the second half of both games. Without a strong enough answer to Team Secret’s late-game power, VP could do little to work itself back into either match as it suffered back to back losses to fall behind 1-2 in the series. Despite falling in 2 straight matches, the CIS squad did not lose hope or lose focus, as it managed to regroup in Game 4 of the series. Behind big performances from RAMZES666’s Terrorblade (10-4-12) and No[o]ne’s Outworld Devourer (10-3-11), VP was able to establish a favorable pace of play that kept it comfortably in control throughout the mid and late-game stages. While Team Secret was able to extend the match to a certain degree, VP eventually wore through the defenses of its opponent, claiming a series of team fight victories that finally broke Team Secret’s defense and allowed the CIS squad to even up the series 2-2. With the Grand Finals down its last match, VP opted for a hard fighting, hard farming core trio of Terrorblade, Dragon Knight, and Magnus, with a control oriented support duo of Crystal Maiden and Tiny. The strategy worked to perfection, as the team’s cores quickly out paced their counterparts and were able to establish near full control over team fights in the late-game stage. The CIS squad out killed its opponent 18-5 over the final 20 minutes of the match, with its core trio combining for a stat line of 29-5-38 en route to a 3-2 victory in the series and the Major Championship title.

Virtus.pro came into The Kuala Lumpur Major as the clear leader within the CIS region, and one of the favorites to claim the title of Major Champion at this event. The squad entered the event tied for the most Major Championships in Dota 2 history, and its impressive play last season and over the first 2 months of this new Pro Circuit campaign had it projected to finish in the Top 4 range in Kuala Lumpur. Just Top 4 wasn’t enough for VP though, as the squad put together yet another impressive showing on the Pro Circuit stage to finish 1st and claim a record 5th Major Championship title for the organization. The team’s play was as strong as we’ve come to expect from the CIS juggernaut, as the squad pushed its way past both Alliance and Forward Gaming with back to back 2-1 series victories in the Group Stage. The team’s 2 losses in those series may have raised a few questions for the team, but those questions were quickly withdrawn once the team reached the Main Event stage. VP rattled off 2-0 series victories against both Fnatic and NiP in the first 2 rounds of the Main Event, and handed Team Secret its first match loss of the Major in a 1-2 series loss that dropped it into the Lower Bracket. Even the Lower Bracket could do little to slow down VP though, as the squad quickly handled EG with another 2-0 series victory before claiming its revenge against Team Secret with a 3-2 victory in the Grand Finals. At this stage in the team’s history, it’s hard to find anything to criticize or nit pick with VP’s game, as the squad simply plays one of the strongest styles of Dota that we’ve ever seen. With this victory in Kuala Lumpur, VP is now the sole holder of the record for most Major Championships in the Dota 2 history with 5 titles. At this stage, the only accomplishment that continues to elude the squad is a TI victory, but this successful performance in the season’s first Major has the CIS squad sitting as one of the early favorites to claim a spot in Shanghai for TI9.

 

Gambit Esports Gambit Esports

Place: 13th-16th

Winnings: $10,000 & 75 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 1-5 (1-4 Group Stage, 0-1 Main Event)

Gambit Esports came into The Kuala Lumpur Major as one of the biggest stories from the CIS region so far this this season. In a region that had been dominated by Virtus.pro for all of the previous Pro Circuit season, Gambit Esports represented the first squad to emerge as another potential leader among the CIS teams in this 2018-2019 campaign. The squad had put together a number of solid performances both within its home region and in Europe, but in order to truly stand as that 2nd squad in the CIS hierarchy behind VP, Gambit Esports needed to show that it could find success on the international level as well as it prepared to make its debut on the Pro Circuit stage.

Gambit Esports began its run at the Major with a match up against Southeast Asian squad Fnatic in its first Group Stage series. Unfortunately for the CIS squad, it found itself playing from behind for almost the entirety of the series. The team was out killed by a score of 41-81 across the 2 matches, and held a net worth lead for just 7 minutes in total as it struggled to match the strength of its opponent. The silver lining for the team was that it managed to push both matches in the series close to the hour mark, with the 2 game series lasting just over 115 minutes in total. Unfortunately, the length of the matches didn’t keep Gambit Esports from losing, as the squad’s 0-2 series loss dropped it into the Losers’ Match of its group.

That Losers’ Match brought Gambit Esports up against Southeast Asian squad Tigers as both teams sought to avoid finishing at the bottom of the Group C standings. Game 1 did not go all that well for the CIS squad, as the team remained even through the early and mid-game stages but fell behind significantly in the late-game. Despite a commendable effort from Daxak’s Morphling (6-4-5), Gambit Esports could not find the execution it needed to hold off Tigers as the squad lost the opening match of the series. Game 2 saw the team reverse the roles between itself and Tigers, as this time the CIS squad was the team to overcome an early deficit and take control in the late-game stage. Behind impressive performances from Daxak on Spectre (8-0-14) and Afoninje’s Necrophos (12-2-8), Gambit Esports was able to dominate the final half of the match and out kill its opponent 23-1 as it claimed a convincing win to even up the series. After its Game 2 victory, it appeared that Gambit Esports was ready to close out the series with another dominant performance, as the squad jumped out to massive net worth lead in Game 3. The CIS squad led by as much as 34k net worth at one point in the game, with its core trio of Troll Warlord, Invoker, and Batrider combining for a stat line of 41-17-64. Unfortunately for the team, it couldn’t quite secure its victory, as Tigers came back with a series of improbable team fight victories that caught Gambit Esports with no buybacks and no one left to defend its base. Gambit Esports had held such a massive lead in the match that the team was still leading in terms of net worth even after its Ancient had fallen. Despite that advantage, the squad still ended up falling victim to the comeback, as Gambit Esports lost the series 1-2 to finish at the bottom of the Group C standings.

The team’s 1-4 Group Stage record had Gambit Esports sitting in the lower half of the Main Event Bracket, where it faced off against North American squad Forward Gaming in a Bo1 elimination match to keep its Major run alive. The CIS squad opted for a core trio of Troll Warlord, Dazzle, and Weaver in the match, and early on that lineup appeared to be somewhat successful. Gambit Esports was able to build up a small net worth lead over the first 25 minutes of the match, but things quickly fell apart beyond that point. Past the 25 minute mark, Gambit Esports earned itself just 1 kill, as Forward Gaming exerted an alarming level of control over team fights and pick off scenarios. The team’s net worth lead evaporated quickly, and the CIS squad was unable to get anything to go its way as it fell further and further behind. Down by nearly 27k net worth at the 47 minute mark and with its base crumbling around it, Gambit Esports threw in the towel to lose the match and bring its run at the Major to an end with a 13th-16th place finish.

Gambit Esports came into The Kuala Lumpur Major as a squad with an incredible opportunity before it. The CIS region had essentially been a one team show during the previous Pro Circuit season, with VP dominating every single one of its regional rivals with relative ease. With a new Pro Circuit season underway and an appearance on one of the biggest stages of the year at this first Major, Gambit Esports was looking at a perfect chance to solidify itself as a regional leader and as a potential threat on the international level. The team’s solid play at home and within mixed Europe and CIS tournaments so far this season had put hopes and expectations fairly high for Gambit Esports, as the team was projected to finish in the 7th-8th place range. As it turned out, those projections were place a little too high, as the team put together a rather underwhelming performance and finished at the bottom of the event standings in the 13th-16th place position. The team’s performance in Kuala Lumpur was pretty bad, and it appears that the team’s experiences within the European and CIS regions did little to prepares it for Southeast Asian opponents. The squad lost both of its Group Stage series against Fnatic and Tigers, managing to earn itself just a single victory against the latter. The squad followed up that poor Group Stage showing with an equally one sided loss against Forward Gaming in its Bo1 series in the Lower Bracket, resulting in a 1-5 overall record that left little for the squad to hold on to in terms of silver linings. Perhaps the most frustrating part of the team’s matches was just how decisively and unshakably one sided they were. Across the team’s 6 matches in Kuala Lumpur, the net worth lead did not change hands at any point beyond the 26 minute mark, with Gambit Esports usually being on the losing side. That kind of “all or nothing” style is incredibly dangerous and volatile on the international level, and we saw it backfire spectacularly on Gambit Esports at this event. The good news for the team is that there is still no clear cut second squad in the CIS region behind Virtus.pro. While squad’s like Na’Vi are on the rise, Gambit Esports will still have ample opportunities to play its way back onto the Pro Circuit stage so long as it can right the ship in the wake of this disappointing performance in Kuala Lumpur.

 

PSG.LGD PSG LGD 

Place: 5th-6th

Winnings: $60,000 & 900 Pro Circuit Points

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

PSG.LGD made its way to Kuala Lumpur as one of the leading teams in the Dota 2 world. The Chinese juggernaut was just a few months removed from its 2nd place run at TI8, and its lack of roster changes in the offseason period had it sitting as a clear favorite to begin its Pro Circuit campaign with a successful showing at the first Major of the season. A solid performance in Kuala Lumpur would go a long way towards showing the Dota 2 world that the squad was ready to pick up right where it had left off in Vancouver a few months ago.

The TI8 runner up began its run at the Major with a match up against Minor Champion Tigers in the Opening Matches of Group C. The Chinese squad had little difficulties taking down its Southeast Asian opponent though, as PSG.LGD exerted near complete control of both matches in the 2 game series. The team out killed Tigers by a score of 72-32 in the series, and held a net worth lead for all but 8 minutes in a series that lasted just under 74 minutes of total game time. The team’s core trio of Ame, Somnus丶M, and Chalice combined for a stat line of 51-15-81 as PSG.LGD cruised its way to a 2-0 victory to begin its campaign at the Major.

The team’s victory  over Tigers advanced PSG.LGD to the Winners’ Match of Group C, where it faced off against another Southeast Asian squad in Fnatic. The Chinese juggernaut was quickly able to pick up where it had left off in its previous series, as PSG.LGD once again put together a dominant performance. Behind an impressive showing from Ame’s Morphling (11-2-4), the squad was able to claim a relatively easy victory to open the series, holding Fnatic to just 9 kills and winning the just in just under 31 minutes of game time. Game 2 ended up being similarly one sided, as PSG.LGD out killed its opponent 29-18 and held the net worth lead for the entirety of the match. This time around, the Chinese squad had a slightly more balanced attack, as the core trio of Terrorblade, Dragon Knight, and Axe combined for a stat line of 20-7-31 in the match to secure PSG.LGD a 2-0 victory in a series that lasted just over 64 minutes of game time.

That victory put the Chinese powerhouse in the Upper Bracket of the Main Event, where it faced off against Alliance in Round 1. As it turned out, PSG.LGD would not face too many difficulties keeping its winning streak alive against the European squad, as the series went decisively in its own favor. Game 1 was an absolute blow out for PSG.LGD, as the team led from start to finish behind big games from Somnus丶M on Mirana (12-1-7)  and fy’s Centaur Warrunner (11-1-16). Game 2 proved to be just as one sided, as PSG.LGD once again seized control of the match early and never gave Alliance an opportunity to come back. The team’s core trio of Terrorblade, Death Prophet, and Chaos Knight combined for 23 Kills and 31 Assists with just 5 Deaths as PSG.LGD dominated the match and secured itself a 2-0 series victory. The team out killed its opponent 69-28 across the 2 game series that lasted less than an hour of total game time, as PSG.LGD advanced to Round 2 of the Upper Bracket with relative ease.

PSG.LGD found itself moving on from one European opponent to another following its victory over Alliance, as the Chinese squad faced off against Team Secret in a match up of 2 squads with perfect 6-0 records at the Major. Unfortunately for PSG.LGD, its undefeated streak would come to an end in this series, as the squad struggled to contain back to back Arc Warden picks from its opponent in Games 1 and 2. In both matches, the team managed to keep things relatively even in the first half of play, but quickly fell behind in the late-game stage as its cores failed to match the pace of Nisha’s Arc Warden. Despite the team’s best efforts, PSG.LGD was out killed by a score of 35-65 in the series, and did not hold a net worth lead past the 36 minute mark in either match as it fell 0-2 to Team Secret and dropped into the Lower Bracket with its first losses of the Major.

PSG.LGD’s first series loss of the Major dropped it down into the Lower Bracket, where the TI8 runner up faced off against Evil Geniuses in a rematch of the TI8 Lower Bracket Finals. Unfortunately for the Chinese squad, said rematch began in disastrous fashion for it as PSG.LGD was simply run over in Game 1 of the series. The team’s core trio of Phantom Lancer, Dragon Knight, and Centaur Warrunner was held in check throughout the match, and PSG.LGD as a whole earned just 8 kills in the match as it suffered a massively one sided defeat to open the series. Game 2 saw the roles reversed for the 2 squads, as PSG.LGD came out aggressively with a core trio of Luna, Tiny, and Magnus that helped the team establish a small but consistent lead early in the match. Behind strong performances from Ame’s Luna (12-6-5) and Somnus丶M’s Tiny (18-5-7), PSG.LGD held that lead into the late-game stage, but the squad found itself struggling to close out the match. A pair of unfortunate team fight losses late in the match tanked PSG.LGD’s net worth lead, handing the momentum of the match to EG as the North American squad pulled off a comeback victory. With that 0-2 loss in the series, PSG.LGD’s run in Kuala Lumpur came to an end, with the Chinese powerhouse finishing in the 5th-6th place position overall.

PSG.LGD came to The Kuala Lumpur Major as one of the clear favorites in the field, having been one of just 5 teams to win a Major last season and having come just a single game away from winning TI8. Even though the team had only participated in a couple of events prior to the Major, the expectations were still sky high as the Chinese squad made its way to Kuala Lumpur. Prior to the start of the event, PSG.LGD was projected to finish in the Top 4 range, although the Chinese powerhouse would fall just a bit short of that predicted position with a 5th-6th place finish overall. Despite failing to reach that coveted Top 4 position, PSG.LGD put together one of the more impressive performances of the Major. The team began its run in Kuala Lumpur with 6 strategist victories, sweeping past a duo of Southeast Asian squads in Fnatic and Tigers in the Group Stage before taking out Alliance in the Main Event. Beyond that point, things took an unfortunate turn for the squad, as it lost back to back 0-2 series against Team Secret and Evil Geniuses. Under normal circumstances, losing 4 straight matches would be a cause for concern for a team, but considering PSG.LGD’s previous track record and the caliber of the teams that it lost to, things are not quite as bad as they may seem at first glance. Team Secret was known to be one of the strongest teams on the international level heading into the event, and EG’s play in Kuala Lumpur proved that the North American squad was still in that fantastic form that had earned its a 3rd place finish at TI8. PSG.LGD’s losses to those teams are certainly disappointing, but they are hardly a point of shame or concern at this stage int he season, especially for a team like PSG.LGD that has proven that it can find success at the highest level in the Dota 2 world. Moving forward, little should change for the Chinese juggernaut as it prepares for the final section of the 2018 portion of the Pro Circuit season. PSG.LGD is still the leading team within the Chinese region, and it still stands as one of the most formidable squads on the interantional level as the squad continues its quest to return to the TI stage.

 

Vici Gaming VICI_Gaming

Place: 7th-8th

Winnings: $40,000 & 450 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 7-7 (4-3 Group Stage, 3-4 Main Event)

Vici Gaming came into The Kuala Lumpur Major as a squad riding the high from a gamble that had, up to that point, worked out significantly in favor of the Chinese team. The squad’s rebuild around its core duo of Paparazi and Ori had been met with impressive results both within its home region and on the international level, and the team had an opportunity to further display its strength with this appearance at the first Major of the Pro Circuit season. The team’s strong start to the season had it sitting in a solid position, but an impressive showing on the Pro Circuit stage in Kuala Lumpur had the potential to be that final achievement to solidify its place as a leading team in the Dota 2 world.

Vici Gaming began its run in Kuala Lumpur with a series against one of the home town teams in the form of Southeast Asian squad TNC Predator. Despite the strength of both squads, Game 1 of the series looked like a fairly straightforward stomp for the first half of the match as TNC Predator was able to dominate the mid and late-game stages. However, Vici Gaming refused to give up, and bought an impressive amount of time and space for its core heroes to attempt to spark a comeback efforts. Behind an absolutely unreal performance from Paparazi’s Terrorblade (24-5-14, 45.9k net worth), that comeback became a reality for Vici Gaming, as the Chinese squad shattered its opponent’s momentum and pulled out the improbable win to open the series with a 1-0 advantage. Game 2 appeared to be playing out in a similar manner to its predecessor, as Vici Gaming once again fell behind early but managed to battle its way back to take the lead in the late-game stage. Behind another huge performance from Paparazi on Terrorblade (17-4-15), Vici Gaming managed to survive a late surge from its opponent to close out the match and claim a 2-0 series win.

The team’s initial victory against TNC Predator put it in the Winners’ Match of Group B, where it faced North American squad Evil Geniuses for the top spot in the group standings. Unfortunately for Vici Gaming, its momentum from its previous victories did not carry over into this series, as the Chinese squad seemed to struggle significantly against EG. The team was out killed by a score of 33-59 in the series, and held a net worth lead for just around 11 minutes of a series that lasted just under 66 minutes of total game time. The team’s core trio simply couldn’t generate any momentum for the team across the 2 game series as Vici Gaming was handed a convincing 0-2 defeat by its North American opponent to drop it into the Decider Match of Group B.

Vici Gaming’s final series of the Group Stage would see it take on a regional rival, as the team faced off against fellow Chinese squad Team Aster to see which team would advance to the Upper Bracket of the Main Event. Game 1 of the series wound up being a blowout loss for Vici Gaming, as the Chinese squad was caught off guard by an aggressive draft from Team Aster led by a score duo of Bloodseeker and Huskar. Despite a solid effort from Paparazi on Morphling (8-3-4), Vici Gaming trailed for the entirety of the match as it fell behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw those roles reversed, as Vici Gaming was the team to come out aggressively in the early game and establish a favorable pace. The team’s core trio of Drow Ranger, Lina, and Necrophos combined for a stat line of 22-8-27 en route to a wire-to-wire victory to even up the series 1-1. After its one sided victory in Game 2, Vici Gaming was able to carry over its momentum into the third and final match of the series. The Chinese squad committed to fights early and often, eventually building up a net worth lead in the mid and late-game that Team Aster was unable to overcome. The team’s core trio once again led the way for Vici Gaming, combining for a stat line of 37-16-48 as the team broke through Team Aster’s final defenses to win the series 2-1 and claim that coveted Upper Bracket slot.

Vici Gaming had quite the challenge laid out before it in Round 1 of the Upper Bracket, as the Chinese squad faced off against a Team Secret lineup that had yet to lose a match at the Major. That winning streak would not be broken in Game 1 of the series between the 2 teams, as Vici Gaming was simply run over in the opening match. The Chinese squad was out killed by a score of 15-34, and its core trio of Drow Ranger, Templar Assassin, and Weaver could not find any opportunities to fight or farm effectively. Trailing by nearly 20k net worth at the 27 minute mark, Vici Gaming conceded defeat to fall behind 0-1 in the series. In Game 2, it appeared that Vici Gaming had managed to bounce back from its rough loss in the previous match, as the Chinese squad kept things relatively even through the laning stage before building up a modest net worth lead for itself in the mid and late-game stages. Behind a duo of strong performances from Paparazi’s Terrorblade (14-4-8) and Ori’s Tiny (16-4-13), the team looked to be in a solid position to potentially close out the match and even up the series. Unfortunately, Team Secret had other plans, and Vici Gaming found its momentum slipping away as the team gave up a series of pick offs and team fight losses that wiped out its net worth lead. Despite the best efforts of the team, Vici Gaming could not reclaim its lost momentum, and could not hold back the push from its opponent as Team Secret handed the Chinese squad a 0-2 defeat in the series that dropped the squad into the Lower Bracket.

Following the team’s loss to Team Secret, Vici Gaming found itself facing off against paiN X in Round 2 of the Lower Bracket. The Chinese squad came out with a strong lineup in Game 1 of the series, putting together a core trio of Troll Warlord, Dragon Knight, and Magnus that gave the squad significant amounts of damage and farming potential. That potential very quickly turned into a tangible advantage for the squad, as Vici Gaming pulled away in the mid and late-game stages with a series of pick offs and team fight victories. Behind Ori’s stellar play on Dragon Knight (11-1-8), Vici Gaming was able to close out the match with one final team fight victory that forced a “gg” call from paiN X to give the Chinese squad a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 ended up being an ever bigger stomp for Vici Gaming, as the squad dominated every aspect of the match and severely limited paiN X’s ability to find farm for its cores. The team got an absolutely monstrous performance out of Paparazi’s Morphling (20-2-7), paving the way for another victory for the squad that gave it the 2-0 series in and advanced the team into Round 3 of the Lower Bracket.

The team’s victory over paiN X set it up for a rematch of one of its Group Stage series, as Vici Gaming faced off against Southeast Asian squad TNC Predator for the second time at the Major. Game 1 saw the Chinese squad playing from behind over the first half of the match, as the team needed to buy time and make space for its core duo of Arc Warden and Ember Spirit to come online. Eventually, those efforts proved fruitful, as Ori’s Ember Spirit (16-1-20) and Paparazi’s Arc Warden (8-5-24) led Vici Gaming to a series of team fight victories that halted TNC Predator in its tracks and shifted the momentum of the match into the Chinese squad’s hands as it secured a win and a 1-0 lead in the series. In Game 2, it looked as though Vici Gaming was one track for a repeat of its previous 2-0 series victory over TNC Predator, as the Chinese squad built up a modest net worth lead behind its core trio of Lifestealer, Necrophos, and Axe. Unfortunately, the squad proved unable to hold that lead, as TNC Predator managed to out kill Vici Gaming 1-9 over the final 5 minutes of play to snatch a victory away from the Chinese squad and tie up the series 1-1. After losing its lead in Game 2 of the series, all momentum for Vici Gaming simply evaporated, as it trailed its opponent for the entirety of Game 3. Despite a handful of impressive base defenses and a solid effort from Paparazi on Morphling (10-4-10), Vici Gaming could not hold back the assaults of TNC Predator as it conceded defeat to fall 1-2 in the series and end its run in Kuala Lumpur with a 7th-8th place finish overall.

Vici Gaming came into this Major as a team with a lot of momentum behind it. The squad’s roster rebuild in the offseason certainly came across as something of a risk, but the results have been hard to argue with heading into its 2018-2019 Pro Circuit debut. Between the squad’s impressive records both at home and on the international level, Vici Gaming made its way to Kuala Lumpur as one of the more favored squads in the field, with a projected finish in the Top 4 range. Unfortunately for the Chinese squad, that prediction proved a bit too ambitious, as the team ended up finishing below that mark in the 7th-8th place position overall. Despite falling short of its expected result, Vici Gaming still put together a solid showing at the Major and held its own against a series of opponents from all across the Dota 2 world. The squad posted a strong 4-3 record in the Group Stage that saw it bring down both TNC Predator and regional rival Team Aster, although the squad’s others series was a shockingly one sided 0-2 loss against Evil Geniuses. Aside from that loss against the North American squad though, Vici Gaming looked strong and cool under pressure, managing to claim some convincing wins outright while also notching a few victories through clutch late-game performances. The team’s solid play continued in the Main Event of the Major, as the squad put together a respectable 3-4 record, defeating paiN X while losing to Team Secret and TNC Predator. The team’s 0-2 loss to Team Secret is hardly surprising given how well the European powerhouse has played, but the loss to TNC Predator was probably the most disappointing result in the Main Event due to just how close Vici Gaming came to winning that series. With a 1-0 series lead, Vici Gaming was leading in terms of net worth for the vast majority of Game 2, but ended up losing a series of late-game team fights that allowed TNC Predator to claim victory and subsequently win Game 3 to knock Vici Gaming out of the event. Depsite exiting earlier than the team might have liked, Vici Gaming’s play in Kuala Lumpur was about as strong as the team could have hoped for. The Carry/Mid duo of Paparazi and Ori combined to avereage 18.57 Kills and 21.43 Assists with 9.36 Deaths per match, while the trio of Yang, Dy, and Fade averaged a combined 42.64 Assists per game and were able to consistently create opportunities for the team to succeed. The good news for Vici Gaming is that it returns to China as one of the region’s strongest and most accomplished squads this season, particularly with Team Aster’s recent roster change still having an effect on the team’s play. So long as the team avoids any major setbacks or roster drama, then Vici Gaming remains in a position as both a regional leader and a likely candidate to return to the Pro Circuit stage in the near future.

 

Team Aster Team Aster

Place: 13th-16th

Winnings: $10,000 & 75 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 4-6 (4-5 Group Stage, 0-1 Main Event)

Team Aster came into The Kuala Lumpur Major as a team attempting to adjust to a relatively recent change to its roster. The squad had replaced Dstones with loveyouloveme just a week before the start of the event, and there were many who harbored some concerns as to the effect that that roster move would have on the team’s performance. Prior to the start of the Major, the team had put together a respectable series of results within its home region, and had represented itself well in its lone appearance on the international stage. However, the team knew that if it truly wanted to dispel the lingering doubts and concerns regarding its new roster, then it would have to perform well in its Pro Circuit debut at the Major.

Team Aster found itself facing off against North American squad Evil Geniuses in its first series of the Group Stage, and the 2 squads wasted no time putting on an entertaining show in Kuala Lumpur. Game 1 appeared to be something of a stomp at first, as EG’s core trio of Terrorblade, Lina, and Ursa built up a net worth lead of nearly 10k gold in the early and mid-game stages. However, Team Aster was able to keep itself alive in the late game and buy time for its own cores as loveyouloveme’s Tinker (8-4-13) and Sylar’s Faceless Void (8-4-18) led the team to an incredible comeback victory to snatch a victory away from its opponent and take a 1-0 lead in the series. Unfortunately, the team was unable to carry much momentum into Game 2 of the series, as Team Aster was quickly caught off guard and put on the back foot by its opponent’s aggression and heavy lane pushing. Despite loveyouloveme putting on a solid show with Lina (6-1-2), the team could do little to slow down its opponent as the Chinese squad conceded defeat just shy of the 30 minute mark to even up the series at 1-1. Unfortunately for Team Aster, Game 3 also saw the squad playing from behind throughout the match, as the Chinese squad was faced with a significant net worth deficit from the very beginning of play. While the team was able to extend the match to over 76 minutes of game time thanks to strong efforts from Sylar’s Spectre (11-6-18, 36.1k net worth) and loveyouloveme’s Storm Spirit (11-12-15, 36.5k net worth), Team Aster could never truly build up enough momentum to spark a full comeback as it fell 1-2 in the series.

That opening loss dropped Team Aster down into the Losers’ Match of Group B, where it played Southeast Asian squad TNC Predator to see which squad would end up at the bottom of the group standings. Game 1 of the series saw Team Aster playing from behind over the first half of the match, as TNC Predator’s heavy control and team fight power afforded it a significant advantage. However, Team Aster was able to weather that early stretch and comeback in the late-game stage to swing the momentum of the match in its favor. With Sylar’s Faceless Void (14-4-21, 35.8k net worth) leading the way, Team Aster turned the tides of the match with a series of team fight victories that wiped out TNC Predator’s lead and allowed the Chinese squad to claim a win to open the series. Game 2 saw those roles reversed for the 2 teams though, as Team Aster was the one to build up a small, but early net worth advantage while TNC Predator came back to control the late-game stage. Despite another solid effort from Sylar on Lycan (10-3-13), Team Aster couldn’t reclaim control of the match as TNC Predator evened up the series 1-1. Game 3 of the series looked like it would be an entirely one sided affair at first, as Team Aster’s lineup came out flat and slow in the face of TNC Predator’s damage and team fight power. The Chinese squad was playing from behind for the entirety of the match, and at one point trailed by over 26k net worth. However, a near miraculous series of team fight wins suddenly saw the tides turn, and Team Aster was able to pull off a comeback effort so improbable that the team was still technically behind in terms of net worth when it won the match. With that incredible victory, Team Aster won the series 2-1 and advanced to the Decider Match of Group B for one last chance at advancing to the Upper Bracket of the Main Event.

That Decider Match brought Team Aster face to face with one of its main regional rivals, as the squad faced off against fellow Chinese team Vici Gaming. Game 1 saw the squad carry over its momentum from its previous series victory, as Team Aster dominated the opening match. Led by Sylar’s Bloodseeker (10-6-13), Team Aster quickly established a significant net worth lead that it would hold for the entirety of the match, and kept Vici Gaming’s cores from finding the farm that they needed to fight back effectively to secure a 1-0 lead in the series. From that point on though, things went poorly for Team Aster, beginning with a disastrous performance in Game 2 of the series. The team’s high damage core trio of Luna, Templar Assassin, and Axe were pressured early and often by Vici Gaming, falling behind early in terms of net worth and having no answers to the high damage and massive amounts of control from the Vici Gaming lineup. Despite making a commendable attempt to turn things around in the late-game stage, Team Aster could not fully counteract the momentum and power of its opponent as the series was evened up at 1-1. Game 3 of the series began as a much more competitive affair than its predecessor, as Team Aster was able to hold its own in the early game behind a core trio of Bloodseeker, Medusa, and Tiny. Unfortunately for the team, that stalemate would not last long, as Vici Gaming dominated the mid and late-game stages and shut down the team’s core heroes. Despite a solid effort from Xxs on Tiny (13-9-6), Team Aster was simply over matched in the second half of the game as it fell 1-2 in the series to advance to the Lower Bracket of the Main Event.

Despite the team putting together a commendable effort in the Group Stage, Team Aster found itself beginning the Main Event of the Major in the Lower Bracket in a Bo1 elimination match against North American squad J.Storm. Things appeared to be going Team Aster’s  way through the first half of the match, as the Chinese squad built up a modest net worth lead for itself behind a combined 27-19-53 stat line from its core trio of Spectre, Tiny, and Necrophos. Unfortunately for Team Aster, that lead did not it through the end of the match, as J.Storm put together an impressive late-game run that stole the lead away from the Chinese squad. Despite its best efforts, Team Aster could not reclaim control after that point, eventually conceding defeat to lose the match and end its run at the Major with a 13th-16th place finish overall.

Team Aster came into The Kuala Lumpur Major as a squad stuck between 2 conflicting narratives. On the one hand, the squad had been fairly successful within its home region, and had put together an impressive debut on the international level at ESL One Hamburg 2018. One the other hand, the squad was just a week removed from a rather significant change to its roster, and there were some serious concerns about whether the team would be able to maintain its previous level of play in the aftermath of that change. Those concerns limited the expectations for the squad coming into the event, as Team Aster had been projected to finish in the 13th-16th place position prior to the start of play in Kuala Lumpur. That projection proved to be on the mark, as the Chinese squad ended up at the bottom of the Major standings with a 13th-16th place finish overall. While the team’s final position at the Major will almost certainly be seen as a disappointment, the team’s performance as a whole was not nearly as bad as its place in the standings would suggest.  The team actually earned itself just as many wins as the top 2 teams in its group, putting together a 4-5 Group Stage record that saw it take wins against both Evil Geniuses and Vici Gaming while winning its series against TNC Predator. The fact that the team was able to force full 3 games series against all of its opponents is a somewhat encouraging sign considering the team was playing its first official matches on the international level with loveyouloveme in the lineup. Even the team’s final loss against J.Storm saw it put together a commendable effort and a solid fight, and the squad was in a position where it could still have won the match before that final team fight loss near the end of the game. Despite the team’s poor finish at the Major, there is still something of a silver lining for Team Aster in the form of loveyouloveme’s performance in Kuala Lumpur. The team’s new midlaner averaged 7.3 Kills and 9.8 Assists with 5.4 Deaths per game across the team’s 10 matches at the Major, and had the highest average Gold Per Minute for the team. While those numbers won’t necessarily blow anyone away, the important thing to note is that loveyouloveme was able to at least hold his own and carry his own weight on a team that he had been with for only a week before having to play on one of the biggest stages in the Dota 2 world. With more time and experience with loveyouloveme in the lineup, Team Aster should only get stronger as the season goes on. The team will certainly have a fight in front of it as it returns to a crowded Chinese region, but the future should be bright for Team Aster moving forward so long as it can fully adjust to its new roster and continue growing as a team.

 

Fnatic Fnaticlogo

Place: 7th-8th

Winnings: $40,000 & 450 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 6-7 (4-2 Group Stage, 2-5 Main Event)

Fnatic made its way to The Kuala Lumpur Major as one of the clear leaders within the Southeast Asian region. Squads like TNC Predator and Tigers were certainly waiting in the wings for their chance to take control, but neither squad had knocked Fnatic out of its position of power just yet. The team’s new lineup had put together dominant performances within its home region, but its play on the international level had also served to put the team that one step ahead of its regional rivals. If the team could put together a strong showing on home soil in its Pro Circuit season debut, then it would stand nearly unquestionably as one of the strongest teams in the Dota 2 world.

Fnatic’s run at the Major began with a series against CIS squad Gambit Esports in the Opening Matches of Group C. Game 1 of the series proved to be an almost entirely one sided affair, as Fnatic jumped out to a significant lead early and never looked back. Behind fantastic showings from Abed’s Tiny (14-1-12), MP’s Phantom Lancer (10-1-7), and DJ’s Dark Willow (11-3-12), Fnatic dominated the match and out killed its opponent 41-13 to claim a strong win to open the series. Game 2 ended up playing out in a similar manner for Fnatic, as the team once again built up a sizable net worth lead early and held it throughout the rest of the match. Behind impressive performances from Abed on Arc Warden (15-5-10, 47k net worth) and Mp on Necrophos (12-6-16, 23.8k net worth), the Southeast Asian squad was able to eventually overcome Gambit Esports’ defenses to close out a 2-0 series victory.

After its initial victory over Gambist Esports, Fnatic found itself facing off against Chinese powerhouse PSG.LGD for the top spot in the Group C standings. Unfortunately for the Southeast Asian squad, it was unable to carry over much momentum from its previous victory. The squad put together just 27 kills in the series, a number that paled in comparison to the 55 kills that its opponent accrued across the 2 matches. Fnatic found itself trialing in terms of net worth for almost the entirety of the series, with its only lead coming in the laning a stage of Game 2 and lasting for just a handful of minutes. The Southeast Asian squad was simply out played across every significant metric in this series, being out fought and out farmed at every turn and creating little to no momentum for itself as it fell 0-2 in the series and dropped into the Decider Match of Group C.

That Decider Match set Fnatic up for an all-Southeast Asian match up, as the team faced off against regional rival Tigers for a spot in the Upper Bracket of the Main Event. Fnatic absolutely dominated Game 1 of the series, out killing its opponent 29-5 behind an impressive performance from MP’s Necrophos (12-0-7). Fnatic kept its opponent without a kill over the final 20 minutes of the match en route to an easy victory to open the series. Game 2 ended up being a repeat performance for Fnatic, as the Southeast Asian squad once again dominated its opponent in a wire-to-wire victory. Thanks to a strong performance from Abed’s Meepo (4-2-7) and DJ on Dark Willow (7-1-9), Fnatic was able to take control of the match early and knock out Tigers in just over 23 minutes of game time to secure itself a 2-0 series victory.

That victory advanced the Southeast Asian squad to the Upper Bracket of the Main Event, where it faced a significant challenge in the form of CIS juggernaut Virtus.pro. Unfortunately for Fnatic, it did not end up putting up much of a fight against VP, as the series proved to be one sided from the very start. Fnatic managed to put together just 23 kills across the 2 game series, while VP racked up 52 kills of its own in a pair of dominant performances that left Fnatic scrambling for answers. The Southeast Asian squad was playing from behind through the entirety of both matches, and couldn’t seem to find any sense of momentum as it struggled in team fights and skirmishes en route to a disappointing 0-2 loss that dropped the squad down into the Lower Bracket.

Following its loss to VP, Fnatic found itself dropping down to the Lower Bracket, where it faced off against North American squad J.Storm in an elimination series. The team pulled out a Meepo pick in Game 1, combining the hero with cores of Necrophos and Enigma. The strategy appeared to be paying off for Fnatic for most of the match, as Fnatic was able to out fight and out farm J.Storm over the first 45 minutes of the match. With the team’s core trio combining for a stat line of 21-14-32, Fnatic looked to be in a strong position to close out the match. However, a late-game surge from J.Storm brought Fnatic’s march to a screeching halt, as the Southeast Asian squad lost a series of team fights that ended up costing the team the match as its opponent pulled off an impressive late-game comeback. After losing its advantage in Game 1 of the series, Game 2 looked to be a blowout for Fnatic, as the Southeast Asian squad was playing from behind for the entirety of the match. That constant deficit didn’t stop Fnatic from turning the tides of the match though, as Abed’s Arc Warden (11-2-11, 37.1k net worth) and MP’s Tiny (14-4-15) helped lead an unbelievable comeback effort for the squad. The team’s net worth deficit had been so significant, that Fnatic was still technically trailing its opponent at the end of the match, though the Southeast Asian squad had successfully evened up the series at 1-1. After a hard fought victory in Game 2, the final game of the series ended up being a bit more one sided, as Fnatic was able to take the lead early and hold it throughout the match. J.Storm made several attempts to swing momentum back into its favor, but an absolutely monstrous performance from DJ’s Axe (20-5-10) helped keep Fnatic in control as it closed out the match and the series to narrowly survive and advance to Round 3 of the Lower Bracket.

After taking down one North American opponent in Forward Gaming, Fnatic found itself facing off against another as it played Evil Geniuses in Round 3 of the Lower Bracket. The team looked to combine damage output with high levels of control in Game 1, picking up a core trio of Alchemist, Tiny, and Enigma alongside supports of Bane and Earth Spirit. That lineup kept Fnatic in a solid position throughout the match, as the 2 teams remained so close that neither side built up a net worth lead of more the 5k at any point in the game. Despite an incredible performance from MP’s Tiny (17-5-1) though, Fnatic found itself unable to keep the momentum of the match on its side. Back to back team fight losses in the late-game left Fnatic unable to carry on, as EG just barely came away with the win to put the Southeast Asian squad behind 0-1 in the series. Unfortunately for Fnatic, its luck did not improve in Game 2 of the series. Despite keeping pace with its opponent through the mid-game stage, Fnatic quickly found itself falling behind in the late-game. The team earned just 3 kills over the final 20 minutes of the match, and fell behind by as much as 35k net worth as EG dominated the second half of play to hand Fnatic a 0-2 loss in the series. That loss brought the team’s run in Kuala Lumpur to an end, with Fnatic finishing in the 7th-8th place position overall.

Fnatic came into The Kuala Lumpur Major as a team that many considered to be the strongest team within the Southeast Asian region, but the squad was hoping to take that a step further by cementing its place as a leader on the international level as well. Prior to the start of play at the event, the team was expected to fulfill that goal, as Fnatic was projected to finish in the 5th-6th place position overall. Despite putting together a strong showing at the Major, the squad ended up falling just short of that mark, putting together a 7th-8th place results when all was said and done in Kuala Lumpur. While the squad may not have advanced as far as it might have been hoping for, Fnatic’s play in Kuala Lumpur was certainly impressive. The squad put together a strong showing in the Group Stage, with its only losses coming against one of the strongest teams in the world in PSG.LGD. Aside from that 0-2 loss, the team was dominant against Gambit Esports and Tigers, taking relatively easy 2-0 wins against both squads. It was in the Main Event that the team began having issues, beginning with a 0-2 loss against another formidable opponent on the international level in Virtus.pro. After that, the squad had to fight its way past J.Storm, before losing decisively to Evil Geniuses in a rough 0-2 loss. Of course, the team was at least competitive across those final 2 series, but those are the kind of match ups that Fnatic is going to have to win in the future if it wants to truly be considered among the elite teams on the Pro Circuit. For now though, the squad has quite a lot to be happy about with this performance, despite having a negative overall record at the Major at 6-7. Of those 7 losses, 6 of them came against teams that finished in the Top 6 at TI8 and had carried over those TI rosters into the new Pro Circuit season, and there’s little to be ashamed of in losing to some of the Dota 2 world’s most accomplished squads and organizations. Adding on to the team’s impressive showing at the Major is the fact that Fnatic will almost certainly remain one of the Southeast Asian region’s leading squads for the foreseeable future. While TNC Predator may make a run for the title of the regions’ top team, and Tigers appear to be on the rise, there doesn’t seem to be any other team in a position to threaten that triumvirate of squads in the regional hierarchy. Lotac, Execration, and even Mineski still appear to be hashing out some of their own issues, which puts Fnatic in a position where it is very likely to be making a return trip to the Pro Circuit stage very soon.

 

TNC Predator Tncproteam 

Place: 5th-6th

Winnings: $60,000 & 900 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 6-7 (1-4 Group Stage, 5-3 Main Event)

TNC Predator made its way to the first Major of the Pro Circuit season as a squad looking to prove its strength on the international level. The organization’s roster changes in the offseason had fueled a strong start for the squad within the Southeast Asian region, but the team had not yet shown that it could carry over that regional success onto the Pro Circuit stage. This appearance at a Pro Circuit event provided the team with a perfect opportunity to display its strength for the whole Dota 2 world to see, but a field of some of the Pro Circuit’s best teams stood in its path in Kuala Lumpur.

TNC Predator would begin its Major run with a tough match up against one of the leading squads in China in the form of Vici Gaming. Over the first half of Game 1 though, TNC Predator didn’t appear to be all that intimidated by its opponent, as the team put on a dominant performance behind a strong showing from Armel’s Invoker (17-7-13). Unfortunately though, the team was unable to hold that lead and close out the match, as Vici Gaming mounted a furious comeback effort led by a massively farmed Terrorblade that TNC Predator simply didn’t have an answer for. The Southeast Asian squad’s sizable net worth advantage dried up rapidly and the squad could do nothing to reclaim its previously held momentum as the team fell victim to the comeback to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw TNC Predator pull away early once again thanks to another strong performance from Armel’s Morphling (14-4-7), but the team quickly lost its momentum in the mid and late-game stages as Vici Gaming took control of the match. A late-game surge around the 50 minute mark kept a glimmer of hope alive that the squad could pull off a comeback win, but Vici Gaming was able to ultimately retain control to close out the match and hand the Southeast Asian squad a 0-2 defeat in the series.

With that loss, TNC Predator found itself in the Losers’ Match of Group B, where it faced off against Team Aster with one last chance to avoid finishing at the bottom of the group standings. Game 1 appeared to be looking good for the Southeast Asian squad, as TNC Predator built up a decent net worth lead over the first 40 minutes of play behind a strong showing from Gabbi on Terrorblade (13-6-12, 44.3k net worth). Unfortunately for the squad, that lead did not last long beyond that 40 minute mark, as Team Aster was able to turn the tides behind a series of impressive team fight wins. TNC Predator was out killed by a score of 7-19 over the final 20 minutes of the match as it lost the opening game of the series to fall behind 0-1. After losing its lead in Game 1 of the series, Game 2 saw TNC Predator take its turn at coming back with a late-game surge of its own. The team trailed by a somewhat slim margin over the early and mid-game stages of the match, but absolutely dominated late thanks to a god like performance from Gabbi on Morphling (12-0-9, 35.5k net worth). Behind Gabbi’s perfect game, TNC Predator took control of the match and forced its way past Team Aster’s defenses to claim a victory and tie the series at 1-1. The team followed up its strong Game 2 win with what appeared to be a textbook stomp in the third and final match of the series. The Southeast Asian squad broke the match open early, building up a massive net worth lead behind an insane combination of damage, control, and team fight power. Behind another impressive performance from Gabbi on Troll Warlord (10-5-6), TNC Predator lead by over 26k net worth in what was looking like a clear victory for the squad. However, Team Aster refused to give in, mounting a furious comeback effort that included multiple shocking team fight victories and put TNC Predator on the back foot. The final team fight of the match wiped out the Southeast Asian squad with no buybacks available, and the team had nothing left to defend its base with as Team Aster pulled off an unbelievable comeback to win the game and hand TNC Predator a 1-2 series loss.

After its 1-4 run through the Group Stage, TNC Predator found itself in the Lower Bracket of the Main Event, where it faced off against South American squad paiN Gaming in a Bo1 elimination match. Fortunately for the Southeast Asian squad, the pressure and tension of the situation was almost immediately removed, as TNC Predator came out in dominant fashion and quickly made this match a one sided contest. The team allowed its opponent to earn just 4 kills in the match, while its core trio of Huskar, Weaver, and Magnus put together a combined 16-0-17 stat line in an absolute stomp of paiN Gaming. After just over 23 minutes of game time, TNC Predator was able to force a “gg” call from its opponents, winning the match and advancing into Round 2 of the Lower Bracket.

Round 2 of the Lower Bracket brought TNC Predator face to face with European squad Alliance, as the Southeast Asian squad put the Bo1’s of the first round behind it with its first Bo3 series of the Main Event. Game 1 saw TNC Predator get the best of its European opponent, as the squad came out with a control heavy draft that was highly effective against Alliance’s lineup. The Southeast Asian squad took the lead early, and behind a combined 22-10-39 performance from its core trio of Weaver, Lina, and Centaur Warrunner, it managed to hold that lead throughout the entirety of the match to claim a win in the opening match of the series. Game 2 ended up playing out in a similar manner for TNC Predator, as the squad came out with an aggressive style early in the match that appeared to catch Alliance off guard. The Southeast Asian squad’s combination of mobility, control, and damage proved far too strong for Alliance to handle, and allowed TNC Predator to exert control of the match fairly early on. Behind strong showings from Gabbi’s Timbersaw (13-3-13) and Armel’s Templar Assassin (15-5-13), TNC Predator was able to break through the defenses of Alliance to secure itself a win in the match and a one sided 2-0 victory in the series.

After dispatching Alliance, TNC Predator found itself face to face with a familiar foe, as the Southeast Asian squad took on Chinese challenger Vici Gaming for the second time in Kuala Lumpur. Game 1 appeared to be going TNC Predator’s way for most of the match, as the Southeast Asian squad built up a small lead off the backs of solid performances from Gabbi’s Lycan (12-3-11) and Kuku’s Necrophos (11-9-11). Unfortunately for the team, it was unable to fully capitalize on its advantage and close out the match, as Vici Gaming mounted a successful comeback effort in the late-game that cost TNC Predator a win as it fell behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw the tables turn though, as TNC Predator was the squad that found itself playing from behind through the first half of the match. However, just as Vici Gaming had down to it in the previous match, TNC Predator managed to pull of a late-game comeback led by a stunning performance by Gabbi on Spectre (15-1-12). Behind that impressive showing, the Southeast Asian squad out killed Vici Gaming 0-1 over the last 5 minutes of the match to secure itself a win that tied up the series at 1-1. With momentum on its side from its comeback win in Game 2, TNC Predator proceeded to dominate the final match of the series. The squad’s core trio of Faceless Void, Templar Assassin, and Shadow Shaman helped it find numerous pick offs and team fight wins in the mid and late-game stages that earned the squad a massive net worth lead over its opponent. With that net worth lead climbing as high as 31k, TNC Predator was able to wear down the defenses of its opponent, slowly pushing its way through Vici Gaming’s defenses to eventually claim a 2-1 series victory that guaranteed the Southeast Asian squad at least a Top 6 finish at the Major.

After claiming a somewhat unexpected victory over Vici Gaming, TNC Predator was looking to keep its momentum going as the last Southeast Asian squad standings in Kuala Lumpur took on European challenger Ninjas in Pyjamas with a Top 4 spot at the Major on the line. Unfortunately for TNC Predator, the series almost immediately went poorly for it, as NiP put together one of the most dominant showings of the Major. TNC Predator earned just 15 Kills across the series, while NiP racked up 64 Kills in a completely one sided series that saw the Southeast Asian squad trail in terms of net worth for almost the entirety of both matches en route to a rough 0-2 loss. That loss ended TNC Predator’s run at the Major, with the squad putting together a 5th-6th place finish overall.

TNC Predator came into The Kuala Lumpur Major looking for a chance to prove that it was capable of going toe to toe with the best teams in the Dota 2 world. The squad’s solid start to the season within its home region had hopes high for the it coming into the event, but with the Major serving as the team’s first true international appearance, it had a shot at taking a place among the leading squads on the Pro Circuit. Prior to the start of the action in Kuala Lumpur, expectations were somewhat tempered for TNC Predator, with the squad holding a projected finish in the 9th-12th place range. The Southeast Asian squad managed to blow right past that meager prediction though, catapulting its way up the standings to finish in the 5th-6th place position when all was said and done in Kuala Lumpur. The Major certainly did not begin all that well for the squad, as TNC Predator posted a 1-4 record in the Group Stage against a duo of Chinese squads in Vici Gaming and Team Aster. Once the team reached the Main Event though, the metaphorical switch was flipped as TNC Predator came alive to claim series victories over paiN Gaming, Alliance, and Vici Gaming before finally being brought down by NiP in Round 4 of the Lower Bracket. While the team’s run in Kuala Lumpur was certainly impressive, it does leave us with a few questions. Of the team’s 6 wins at the Major, 4 of them came against paiN Gaming, Alliance, and Team Aster. While those teams are far from being bad by any means, they don’t quite represent what we might consider the elite of the Dota 2 world and the Pro Circuit. The team’s performance at the Major showed that it is more than capable of competing on the international level, but the question of whether this team can consistently threaten that group of top tier, elite opponents has yet to be answered. For now though, TNC Predator can hold its head high with an incredibly impressive performance in its season debut on the Pro Circuit. The team may not be in the conversation of squads like Team Secret and Virtus.pro, but it has shown itself to be a legitimate threat on the international level and a clear leader within the Southeast Asian region moving forward in this 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season.

 

Evil Geniuses Evil Geniuses

Place: 3rd

Winnings: $100,000 & 2,100 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 13-7 (4-1 Group Stage, 9-6 Main Event)

Evil Geniuses came into The Kuala Lumpur Major as the long-time kings of the North American region. The organization had stood at the pinnacle of the North American hierarchy for years now, and its surge on the back end of the previous Pro Circuit season and subsequent 3rd place finish at TI8 had revitalized the hopes of the team’s myriad fans. Coming into the new season though, there were concerns as to whether the team’s incredible performance on the TI stage was something that it could sustain across the offseason and into the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit campaign. The team’s first venture on the international level this season had not gone well, but with its full roster back in action, the squad had high hopes that it could put together a strong showing in Kuala Lumpur and take its shot at becoming the first North American squad to win a Major Championship.

Evil Geniuses faced off against Team Aster in its first series of the Group Stage, and the Chinese squad proved to be quite a challenge for the team. The first half of Game 1 looked like a complete stomp for the North American squad, as its core trio of Terrorblade, Lina, and Ursa tore through Team Aster’s lineup early. However, EG found itself unable to close out the match and capitalize on its sizable net worth lead, leaving the door open for Team Aster to pull off an incredible comeback in the late-game stage. Despite the team’s high damage output and significant net worth advantage, the squad could not hold back the charge from its opponent as EG fell behind 0-1 in the series. The North American squad was quick to bounce back in Game 2 of the series, putting together an aggressive strategy in the match that caught Team Aster off guard. While the 2 teams remained relatively even in terms of kills, EG’s aggressive presence in the lanes allowed it to establish a significant advantage both in terms of map control and in terms of net worth. Led by Arteezy on Terrorblade (8-1-2) and Suma1L on Mirana (7-1-7), EG was able to rapidly push Team Aster further and further on the defensive, eventually breaking through the Chinese squad’s base to secure a one sided victory in just under 30 minutes of game time. Game 3 saw Evil Geniuses once again in control of the match from the outset, building up a massive net worth lead that it held throughout the game. Despite Arteezy and Suma1L both putting together incredible numbers on Morphling and Mirana, respectively (combined 48-12-41), Team Aster refused to give in. The Chinese squad fought tooth and nail to draw out the match as long as possible, pushing the game timers past the 76 minute mark before EG was finally able to close things out to secure a 2-1 series win.

Following its victory over Team Aster, Evil Geniuses found itself facing another Chinese squad as it played Vici Gaming in the Winners’ Match of Group B. This time around though, EG ended up having significantly fewer issues against Chinese opponents, as the North American squad dominated both matches in the series for a relatively one sided sweep of the series. The team out killed its opponent by a score of 59-33 and held the net worth lead for all but a handful of minutes as it simply out played Vici Gaming across the 2 game series. Arteezy and Suma1L once again put on stellar performances for the team as well, with the duo combining for a stat line of 38-11-48 in the series as Evil Geniuses locked in the top spot in Group B and a guaranteed place in the Upper Bracket of the Main Event.

That Upper Bracket series saw Evil Geniuses face off against European squad Ninja in Pyjamas in its first series of the Main Event. The team came out incredibly well in the opening match of the series, as its core duo of Ember Spirit and Arc Warden was able to heavily punish a greedy farming duo on NiP. Behind an incredible performance from Suma1L’s Ember Spirit (19-1-9), EG was able to establish control early in the match and never looked back as it claimed a relatively one sided victory to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Unfortunately for the team, everything fell apart after that initial victory, as the team was completely out played in the final 2 games of the series. Evil Geniuses earned just 21 kills across Games 2 and 3, paling in comparison to the 72 kills that NiP managed to rack up. The North American squad trailed in terms of net worth for all but a handful of minutes across those matches, losing the series 1-2 to drop down into the Lower Bracket.

After losing to NiP and dropping out of the Upper Bracket, EG found itself facing off against a regional rival in the Lower Bracket as it played Forward Gaming in an elimination series. The team came out aggressively in Game 1 of the series, combining team fight power with pushing power to put early and consistent pressure on its opponent. The team’s core trio of Arc Warden, Ember Spirit, and Pugna was able to combine for 24 Kills and 34 Assists on just 6 Deaths as EG continuously built up its net worth lead through the mid and late-game stages to claim a win in the opening match of the series. Unfortunately for the team, its momentum from that Game 1 win did not carry over into Game 2, as EG swapped roles with its opponent and ended up falling behind significantly early in the match. The high levels of damage and control from Forward Gaming’s lineup severely limited EG’s ability to find farm for its cores, and that lack of farm also served to limit the squad’s team fight potential in the latter half of the match. Despite a solid effort from Arteezy’s Luna (7-3-1), EG ended up losing the match as the series was tied up 1-1. After a pair of one sided matches, Game 3 of the series proved to be a much more tightly contested game, as the 2 teams traded the net worth lead back and forth between them throughout the match. Behind impressive showings from Arteezy’s Arc Warden (10-4-17) and s4’s Axe (15-7-10), EG was able to swing the momentum in its favor late in the match and finally break through Forward Gaming’s defenses to claim a hard fought win that gave it a 2-1 series victory over its regional rival.

After taking down Forward Gaming, Evil Geniuses found itself just one series away from a guaranteed Top 6 finish and the chance to play before a live audience on the Major Stage, but it needed to get past Southeast Asian squad Fnatic first. Game 1 of the series saw the 2 squads remain incredibly close to each other in terms of net worth, as neither squad ended up leading by more than 5k net worth at any point in the match. The mid and late-game stages were the most tightly contested of the match, as the net worth lead changed hands 5 times in the final 20 minutes of play. Behind a strong performance from Suma1L’s Necrophos (10-4-9), EG was finally able to find a decisive team fight victory that sealed a win for the North American squad to begin the series. After a contentious Game 1 victory, EG found itself facing a significantly less difficult path to success in Game 2, as the North American squad dominated the second half of the match. Behind huge performances from Arteezy’s Terrorblade (16-2-12) and Suma1L’s Mirana (8-4-16), EG out killed its opponent 15-1 over the final 15 minutes of the match to secure itself a 2-0 series victory and a place in Round 4 of the Lower Bracket.

Evil Geniuses was in for what appeared to be a challenging match up as it entered the next round of the Main Event, with the North American squad facing off against TI8 runner up PSG.LGD. Game 1 saw EG show up ready to play, as the North American squad employed an aggressive strategy centered around an Axe pick to apply early pressure on its opponent. That pressure shut down the lineup of PSG.LGD, as the Chinese squad had few answers for EG’s aggression and could do little to stop the team from building up a big lead early. The team’s Carry/Mid duo of Arteezy and Suma1L combined for 15 Kills and 24 Assists with just 1 death in the match, while Cr1t-‘s Axe (11-4-6) dominated the game and allowed EG to establish a favorable pace as it took a wire-to-wire victory to open the series. Game 2 saw the exact opposite scenario play out for EG, as this time it was its opponent that came out aggressively and established a favorable pace early. The North American squad trailed in terms of net worth for the first 40 minutes of the match, struggling to counteract the heavy team fight power of PSG.LGD. However, the team’s opportunity eventually came, as EG was able to pull off an incredible comeback effort spearheaded by a pair of team fight victories that wiped out PSG.LGD’s lead and allowed the North American squad to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat and close out the series with a 2-0 win.

After striking down a juggernaut of the Dota 2 world with its victory over PSG.LGD, Evil Geniuses had the chance to earn itself a bit of revenge as it faced off against Ninjas in Pyjamas for the second time at the Major. For most of Game 1, it appeared that the North American squad would have some difficulties in that quest to avenge its previous series loss to NiP, as the team struggled to keep pace with its European opponent. EG trailed by as much as 18k net worth at one point in the match, and appeared to have no answer for NiP’s Morphling pick as it desperately attempted to buy time for its own cores to come online. Eventually though, the team’s efforts paid off, as Suma1L’s Tiny (12-5-10) and Arteezy’s Terrorblade (14-8-9) led an incredible surge for EG that shifted the momentum of the match into its favor. Unfortunately for the team though, that surge was not fully sustainable, as NiP managed to pull off a decisive team fight victory to stymie the squad’s comeback attempt and put it in a 0-1 hole in the series. Game 2 ended up being almost the exact same scenario for EG, as the squad once again fell behind in the mid and late-game stages and needed a strong comeback effort late to turn the tides of the match. This time though, the squad was able to complete that comeback with Suma1L’s Mirana (11-3-23) and Arteezy’s Terrorblade (16-5-10) once again spearheading the team’s charge as it tied up the series 1-1. After 2 of the most tightly contested matches of the Major, Game 3 of the series seemed somewhat more tame and one sided in comparison. While the 2 squads remained relatively even through the early and mid-game stages, Evil Geniuses was able to establish near complete control over the late-game. Behind yet another impressive performance from Arteezy on Terrorblade (19-1-5), EG out killed its opponent 16-3 over the final 15 minutes of play to lock down a 2-1 win in the series and a place in the Lower Bracket Finals.

After earning its revenge against Ninjas in Pyjamas, Evil Geniuses found itself 1 series away from a place in the Grand Finals of The Kuala Lumpur Major, but the North American squad needed to defeat CIS titan Virtus.pro in order to get there. Unfortunately for EG, it was not fully prepared to take on its latest opponent, as the team’s strategies were largely countered or out played by VP. EG found itself out killed by a score of 37-90 across the 2 game series, as the squad simply could not generate any sense of momentum for itself in the face of VP’s incredibly strong and consistent play. EG trailed in terms of net worth for all but a handful of minutes in this series, and none of the team’s players came anywhere close to putting together a performance on par with those of the VP lineup. The North American squad could do little to hold VP back, as the team suffered a one sided 0-2 loss in the series to bring its run at the Major to an end with a 3rd place finish.

Evil Geniuses came into The Kuala Lumpur Major as one of the clear leaders within the North American region, a position that the organization had held for years at this stage. However, the team’s strength on the international level was the concern as Evil Geniuses entered its 2018-2019 Pro Circuit debut. The squad’s incredible run at TI8 had certainly shown the potential of the squad on the international level, but its somewhat lackluster performance at ESL One Hamburg 2018 just a few weeks prior had introduced a bit of doubt as to whether the squad could pick up where it had left off on the TI stage in Vancouver. Those concerns had EG projected to finish in the 9th-12th place range in Kuala Lumpur, but the North American quickly showed that prediction to be a wildly inaccurate underestimation of the team’s strength. EG put its strength on display from the very start of the Major, taking down a pair of Chinese squads in Team Aster and Vici Gaming while dropping just a single match in the Group Stage. That performance was impressive in its own right, but it was the Main Event that brought out the best in EG. The squad was dropped into the Lower Bracket after a hard fought 1-2 loss to NiP, but the squad then rattled off a simply incredible series of performances to spark a dramatic run up the standings. The squad defeated regional rival Forward Gaming 2-1, Southeast Asian leader Fnatic 2-0, Chinese juggernaut and TI8 runner-up PSG.LGD 2-0, and earned revenge against NiP with a 2-1 win before finally having its rampage brought to an end with a 0-2 loss to VP in the Lower Bracket Finals. All throughout the team’s run, it put together the kind of impressive performances that many had hoped to see from the team’s star-studded lineup. The Carry/Mid duo of Arteezy and Suma1L combined to average 18.1 Kills and 20.95 Assists with just 7.6 Deaths per game across 20 total matches at the Major, spearheading EG’s charge that earned its a 3rd place finish in the season’s first Major. Of the team’s 7 losses in Kuala Lumpur, 5 of them came against teams that finished in the Top 4 at the Major. With this performance, EG has shown that it is more than capable of matching the level of play that we saw from it at TI8, and the North American squad has made a strong case to once again be considered one of the top teams in the Dota 2 world.

 

Forward Gaming Forward Gaming

Place: 9th-12th

Winnings: $15,000 & 150 Pro Circuit Points

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

Forward Gaming made its way to The Kuala Lumpur Major as one of the clear leaders in the North American region. Between its performance last season as VGJ.Storm and its solid start this season within its home region, the squad’s position in the North American hierarchy was almost unquestionable. The big question for this team heading into the first Major of the 2018-2019 season was where it stacked up on the international level. With a squad of talented and experienced players, Forward Gaming appeared to have the potential to compete on the Pro Circuit, but a strong showing in Kuala Lumpur would serve to solidify the team’s position as a contender on the international stage.

Forward Gaming’s first series of the Major saw the North American squad face off against paiN X in the Opening Matches of Group D. The squad didn’t encounter much difficulty in dispatching its opponent in this series, as Forward Gaming put together back to back dominant performances against paiN X. The team out killed its opponent 55-29 and was absolutely dominant in the mid and late-game stages of both matches. Led by Resolut1on, who posted a combined stat line of 18-3-15 in the series, Forward Gaming simply rolled over paiN X as it claimed a relatively easy 2-0 victory to kick off its campaign in Kuala Lumpur.

That initial win put Forward Gaming into the Winners’ Match of Group D, where it faced a tough challenge in the form of CIS powerhouse Virtus.pro. The North American squad didn’t appear intimidated by its opponent in Game 1 though, as Forward Gaming was able to hold its own in through the first half of the match before taking complete control in the late-game stage. Behind massive performacnes from Resolut1on’s Monkey King (13-4-10) and YawaR’s Mirana (12-2-15), Forward Gaming was able to overpower its opponent to claim a one sided victory to open the series. In Game 2, it appeared that Forward Gaming was going to keep its momentum going from its previous win, as the North American squad established an early lead that it held heading into the late-game stage. Despite the team’s core trio of Phantom Lancer, Mirana, and Brewmaster combining for a stat line of 27-12-29, Forward Gaming found itself unable to hold its lead in the face of a furious comeback effort from VP. The CIS squad claimed a series of team fight victories in the late-game that left Forward Gaming with no buybacks and no defenders remaining as the series was tied up at 1-1. After losing that advantage in Game 2, Forward Gaming’s momentum was shattered, and the squad struggled in Game 3 of the series. The team managed to earn just 15 kills in the match, and trialed in terms of net worth for all but a couple of minutes as VP capitalized on its previous victory to shut down Forward Gaming and hand the team a one sided loss in the match and a 1-2 loss in the series.

Following its loss against VP, Forward Gaming had one last chance to earn itself a spot in the Upper Bracket of the Main Event as it faced off against Alliance in the Decider Match of Group D. Game 1 of the series did not favor the North American squad squad, as Forward Gaming found itself playing from behind almost immediately. The team’s core trio of Monkey King, Storm Spirit, and Ogre Magi simply couldn’t out farm or out fight Alliance’s lineup. Down by over 33k net worth at the 39 minute mark, Forward Gaming could not hold back the push from Alliance as it fell behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw the North American squad bounce back from that rough loss, putting together a strong response led by Resolut1on on Troll Warlord (7-2-11) and YawaR’s Mirana (12-1-11). Behind that core duo, Forward Gaming was able to build up a sizable net worth lead early and hold it throughout the rest of the match to tie up the series and force a decisive third match. Unfortunately for the team, its play in Game 3 was far removed from the strength that it had shown in the previous match. Forward Gaming earned just 7 kills in the match, giving up numerous pick offs and failing to secure any team fight wins as it trailed for the entire match en route to a 1-2 series loss.

Despite its even record in the Group Stage, Forward Gaming found itself in the lower half of the bracket to begin the Main Event, where it faced off against CIS squad Gambit Esports to see which team would stay alive in Kuala Lumpur. The match did not begin all that well for Forward Gaming, as the team fell behind early and were facing a modest net worth deficit heading into the mid and late-game stages. However, the team put together a surge in the late-game spearheaded by Resolut1on’s Faceless Void (11-2-18) and YawaR’s Templar Assassin (10-6-14) that definitively put the momentum of the match in its hands. Forward Gaming out killed its opponent by a score of 19-0 over the final 20 minutes of the match as it closed out an impressive victory to keep itself alive at the Major and advance to the next round in the Lower Bracket.

After taking down Gambit Esports, Forward Gaming found itself in an all-North American match up as it played Evil Geniuses in Round 2 of the Lower Bracket. Game 1 of the series was not a pleasant experience for Forward Gaming, as the team fell behind early in the match and failed to find the right execution with its team fight oriented lineup in the late-game. While the squad attempted to extend the match and buy time for a potential comeback, a series of team fight losses ended up exhausting the squad’s strength as it fell behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw Forward Gaming swap roles with its opponent though, as the North American team dominated the match up with an aggressive style that caught EG off guard. Forward Gaming out killed its opponent 33-13 in the match, with its core trio of Spectre, Lina, and Pugna combining for a stat line of 24-4-44 en route to a one sided victory to even up the series. Game 3 proved to be a highly contested affair, as the 2 squads constantly swapped control of the match back and forth as neither team could gain a definitive advantage. Behind a strong showing from YawaR on Mirana (9-4-9), Forward Gaming was able to take a modest lead late in the match, but could not hold that lead as EG mounted one final push to shatter the team’s momentum and hand Forward Gaming a 1-2 loss in the series. That loss brought the team’s run in Kuala Lumpur to an end, as Forward Gaming finished in the 9th-12th place position at the Major.

Coming into this first Major of the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season, Forward Gaming was easily one of the strongest teams within the North American region. However, the squad’s standing on the international level was not quite as strong, as its only appearance outside of its home region so far this season had resulted in a solid, but not particularly impressive, 7th-8th place finish at ESL One Hamburg 2018. Of course, the team had played with a stand-in at that event, which left the question of its position on the international level unanswered. Prior to the start of play in Kuala Lumpur, that uncertainty had the team projected to finish in the 9th-12th place range, and that ended up being exactly where the North American squad found itself when its run at the Major came to a close. The squad put together a solid showing in the Group Stage of the Major, winning its opening series against paiN X and even taking a match off of Virtus.pro in a 1-2 loss before falling to Alliance in another 1-2 series for an even 4-4 record. Unfortunately for the team, that even record was only enough for a 3rd place position in its group, which put the squad in the Lower Bracket of the Main Event, where it defeat CIS squad Gambit Esports before falling 1-2 in a hard fought series against regional rival Evil Geniuses. Forward Gaming’s play in Kuala Lumpur exhibited a certain degree of consistency, as the squad never seemed to have those matches where its players failed to fill their roles. Of course, that didn’t mean that the efforts of the squad were always successful, as evidenced by its 6-6 record, but Forward Gaming  knew what it could expect from its players and very rarely attempted to deviate from what it though worked for its lineup. The team’s Carry/Mid duo of YawaR and Resolut1on averaged a combined 14.5 Kills and 17.83 Assists with 7.5 Deaths per match across the team’s 12 matches at the Major, while UNiVeRsE, MSS, and SVG all averaged over 11 Assists per game as well. Those numbers aren’t quite as eye popping as those of some of the more successful teams in the field at this Major, but it is certainly a strong starting point for the squad in terms of its ability to compete consistently against international opponents. Considering the fact that North American really only has 3 or 4 strong teams at this stage, including Forward Gaming, the team is highly likely have have more than a few opportunities to make its way back to the Pro Circuit stage and improve upon this performance at The Kuala Lumpur Major.

 

J.Storm J Storm Small

Place: 9th-12th

Winnings: $15,000 & 150 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 3-6 (1-4 Group Stage, 2-2 Main Event)

J.Storm made its way to Kuala Lumpur for the season’s first Major as the new kid on the block within the North American region. The squad, comprised mostly of former Wind and Rain members, had put together a relatively solid showing within its new home region, and appeared to be a clear leader in North America alongside teams like Evil Geniuses, Forward Gaming, and compLexity Gaming. The Kuala Lumpur Major presented an opportunity for the team to confirm that status as a regional leader, as a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage would not only solidify its position at home but would set the squad up as a legitimate competitor on the international level as well.

J.Storm began its run at the Major with a rather significant challenge on its hands, as the North American squad faced off against European powerhouse Team Secret in its first series. Game 1 of the series did not go well for the side, as J.Storm’s Io-Gyrocopter combo was almost immediately broken up and shut down by Team Secret’s draft. The team fell behind by as much as 27k net worth in the match, and never found a way to establish much momentum for itself as the North American squad conceded defeat in just under 28 minutes of game time. Following its rather one sided loss in the opening match of the series, J.Storm managed to put up a slightly stronger fight in Game 2. Behind a strong showing from Bryle on Arc Warden (13-2-5), the team was able to remain nearly even in terms of net worth through the first 30 minutes of the match. However, the late-game stage was entirely controlled by the team’s opponent, as J.Storm gave up a number of team fights and pick offs that put the squad down by nearly 21k net worth before the North American squad conceded defeat to lose the series 0-2.

That initial defeat put the team in the Losers’ Match for a match up against South American squad paiN Gaming to see which team would finish the Group Stage at the bottom of the Group A standings. Game 1 of the series did not begin well for J.Storm, as the North American squad fell behind quickly and trailed by as much at 12k in the late-game stage. However, a fantastic performance from Bryle on Terrorblade (15-2-11) helped fuel a late-game surge from J.Storm, as the team managed to claim back to back team fight wins that flipped the momentum of the match and allowed the squad to pull of an unlikely comeback victory to open the series. From that point on though, the series began to run away from the North American squad, beginning with a near stomp by paiN Gaming in Game 2. J.Storm put together just 9 kills in the match, and earned just 2 kills in the final 10 minutes of the match as paiN Gaming put on a dominant performance to tie up the series at 1-1. Despite its tough loss in Game 2, J.Storm did manage to put up a strong front over the first half of the final match of the series, keeping itself relatively even with paiN Gaming in terms of net worth and kills. However, J.Storm could not maintain that pace in the mid and late-game stages, falling behind its opponent despite a solid effort from Bryle on Kunkka (11-5-9). Trailing by over 18k net worth and facing Mega Creeps, J.Storm threw in the towel to lose the series 1-2 and finish at the bottom of the Group A standings.

J.Storm’s finish at the bottom of the Group A standings put it in the Lower Bracket to begin its Main Event run with a Bo1 elimination match against Chinese squad Team Aster. The team opted for a core trio of Timbersaw, Phantom Lancer, and Mirana in its draft, but early on the team’s lineup was struggling to keep pace with its opponent. Team Aster managed to pull away with a modest net worth lead in the late-game stage, but J.Storm was able to turn the tides of the match behind a spectacular performance from Moo’s Timbersaw (22-6-17, 32.6k net worth). With Moo leading the way, J.Storm turned a series of team fights in its favor, taking control of the match and knocking out Team Aster toe secure itself a victory and advance to Round 2 of the Lower Bracket.

After knocking Team Aster out of the Major, J.Storm found itself advancing out of the Bo1’s of the opening round, as it next faced off against Fnatic in a full Bo3 series. Game 1 got off to a bad start for the North American team, as J.Storm fell behind by a moderate margin in the mid and late-game stages. However, the team was able to turn the tides in the late-game stage, thanks in large part to strong performances from Moo’s Terrorblade (12-3-13, 39.4k net worth) and Bryle’s Earthshaker (11-8-19). With that duo leading the way, J.Storm was able to claim a series of team fight wins that swung the momentum of the match into its favor and allowed the squad to claim a come from behind victory to open the series. Unfortunately for J.Storm, the roles ended up being reversed in Game 2 of the series, as the North American squad took its turn at blowing a significant net worth lead.The squad’s core trio of Mirana, Medusa, and Axe combined for a stat line of 34-17-63, but ended up losing the match thanks to the split pushing power of Fnatic’s lineup and a costly team fight loss late in the match. That loss forced a third and final match in the series, but that match would not go well for J.Storm either. The squad fell behind early, giving up numerous pickoffs and losing fight after fight as its net worth deficit continued to grow. With its cores significantly behind in terms of farm and facing a net worth deficit of over 25k, J.Storm conceded defeat to suffer a 1-2 loss in the series as the team’s time at the Major ended with a 9th-12th place finish overall.

J.Storm came into this first Major of the 2018-2019 season with aspirations of cementing its position within the North American hierarchy and also claiming a place as a leading team on the Pro Circuit stage. Those goals were certainly ambitious in nature, and prior to the start of play in Kuala Lumpur, it did not appear that the squad was in a strong position to reach both of those milestones. The squad was projected to finish at the bottom of the event standings in the 13th-16th place position, but J.Storm was at least able to push past that relatively pessimistic prediction to finish one spot higher with a 9th-12th place finish at the Major. Despite its position in the bottom half of the standings in Kuala Lumpur, J.Storm’s performance at the Major is not quite as poor as its record would suggest. The team did end up posting a disappointing 1-4 record in the Group Stage, but 2 of those losses came against a dominant Team Secret squad while the others came in a hard fought 1-2 series against paiN Gaming. The Main Event is where J.Storm displayed some of its strength and potential though, as the squad’s play seemed to take a step forward compared to its less impressive Group Stage performance. The team was able to knock off Team Aster with a solid win in its Bo1 match against the Chinese squad, but where it truly impressed was in its subsequent series against Fnatic. Against a team widely considered to be the strongest in Southeast Asia, J.Storm was able to keep things relatively competitive in a 1-2 series loss. Despite needing a comeback effort in Game 1 and trialing for the majority of Games 2 and 3, J.Storm showed a solid level of resilience that helped it extend those matches and make its opponent work significantly for its wins. Of course, that point isn’t much of a consolation prize for the team considering the fact that it still finished in the bottom half of the standings at the Major. However, the team’s ability to put up a more respectable fight against elite squads compared to some of the other teams near the bottom of the standings is something that the squad can potentially build on moving forward this season. Considering the relative weakness of the North American region outside of the region’s top squads, J.Storm appears to be a team that is highly likely to be seen on the Pro Circuit stage again before the end of this 2018-2019 season.

 

paiN Gaming paiN Gaming alt

Place: 13th-16th

Winnings: $10,000 & 75 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 2-6 (2-5 Group Stage, 0-1 Main Event)

South American squad paiN Gaming entered The Kuala Lumpur Major as a team that appeared to be on the rise. Within its home region, the team had put together a strong first impression with its successful run in the Major Qualifier, and the team had followed up that strong regional performance with an impressive season debut on the international level as well. Though the sample size of matches had not been particularly large, paiN Gaming’s strong start to the 2018-2019 season had hopes high that this squad could finally break through on the international level and become the first consistent threat from the South American region. In order to do that though, the squad needed to put together a solid showing in this first Major of the season in Kuala Lumpur.

The South American squad found itself facing European team Ninja In Pyjamas in its first series of the Group Stage, and said series did not get off to a great start for the team. The core trio of Chaos Knight, Tiny, and Enigma fell flat from the very beginning of Game 1, as NiP was able to find early and frequent pick offs to establish a sizable net worth lead that paiN Gaming was never able to chip away at. The team was out killed by a score of 14-34 in the match, and trailed in terms of net worth for entirety of the game as it fell behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 ended up being pretty much a repeat of the previous match, as paiN Gaming once again fell behind early and were largely unable to mount any effective comeback efforts throughout the match. A glimmer of hope was still there for the team late in the match though, as the squad managed to pull off an improbable team fight win and marched its way down the middle lane in a desperate attempt to rush NiP’s Ancient and pull out the win. Despite the team’s best efforts through, it fell just short of killing the Ancient, and NiP’s lineup was able to just barely hold the line to shut down the desperation assault and close out the match to hand paiN Gaming a 0-2 loss in the series.

The loss against NiP put paiN Gaming in the Losers’ Match of Group A, where it would face off against North American squad J.Storm. Game 1 of the series saw paiN Gaming playing from a position of strength for most of the match, as the South American squad held a sizable net worth lead thanks in large part to an impressive showing from hFn on Troll Warlord (19-3-7). Despite that strong performance though, paiN Gaming was not able to hold on to its advantage for long enough to close out the match, as J.Storm pulled off back to back team fight wins late to swing the momentum of the match in its favor and hand paiN Gaming a defeat to open the series. The South American squad would bounce back quickly in Game 2 of the series though, putting together a dominant performance led by a core trio of Tinker, Visage, and Weaver that combined for a stat line of 15-6-23. Behind that trio, paiN Gaming out killed its opponent 13-2 over the final 10 minutes of play to even up the series at 1-1. The third and final game of the series began with both sides keeping fairly close in terms of net worth and kills, but paiN Gaming was able to break the match open with a surge in the mid and late-game stages. Behind a strong performance from hFn’s Luna (13-2-10), the South American squad took control just past the 20 minute mark and never looked back, dominated the rest of the match en route to a 2-1 series victory.

That victory earned the South American squad a chance to avenge its opening loss of the Group Stage, as paiN Gaming once again faced Ninjas in Pyjamas, this time with a spot in the Upper Bracket at stake in the Decider Match of Group A. Unfortunately for paiN Gaming, this series would not go any better than the previous match up with NiP, as the European squad proved too much for the team to handle. Despite the team’s best efforts, paiN Gaming found itself playing from behind throughout the vast majority of the 2 game series, as the team struggled to win team fights and could not secure any consistent sense of momentum for itself. The team was out killed by a score of 34-67 in the series, and never held a net worth advantage at any point beyond the 23 minute mark in either of the matches as it fell 0-2 to NiP to advance to the Lower Bracket of the Main Event.

That Lower Bracket match up saw paiN Gaming take on Southeast Asian squad TNC Predator in a Bo1 elimination match. Unfortunately for paiN Gaming, it was not ready for the match that was about to take place. The team was simply run over in this match, as TNC Predator came out with an aggressive style that the South American squad was not prepared to counter. The team earned just 4 kills across the entire match, and trailed in terms of net worth from throughout all 24 minutes of play before conceding defeat to suffer an ignoble blowout loss to bring its run at the Major to an end. With that final loss, the team’s time in Kuala Lumpur came to a close, with the South American squad finishing in the 13th-16th place position overall.

Coming into this Major, hopes were incredibly high for paiN Gaming, and not necessarily without reason. The team had begun its season with a dominant showing against its regional rivals, and had shocked many across the Dota 2 world with its 4th place finish at ESL One Hamburg 2018. With MISERY’s talent and experienced added to an already skilled roster of players, the hype surrounding the team at this early stage of the season was significant. That hype and excitement carried over even into my projections for the team at this Major, as paiN Gaming had been predicted to finish in the 5th-6th place position in the pre-event preview post. Unfortunately for myself and for paiN Gaming, that prediction proved to be wildly overoptimistic, as the South American squad struggled significantly in Kuala Lumpur. The team’s Group Stage performance was a far cry from what we had seen just a few weeks ago in Hamburg, as the team earned itself just 2 wins against North American squad J.Storm while losing its other 5 matches. What is perhaps even more disappointing for paiN Gaming is that it posted that rather weak Group Stage record all without actually having to face the heavy hitter of its group in Team Secret. Topping off the team’s disappointing Group Stage run was an absolute stomp at the hands of TNC Predator that I think everyone involved would rather not talk about, as the squad was knocked out in less than 24 minutes and basically looked lost in the match. For paiN Gaming, the biggest issue in Kuala Lumpur appeared to be its team fight execution, as the squad could not seem to get on the same page consistently and became overly reliant on individual performances. When the team’s start players could not dominate the scoreboard, paiN Gaming fell behind quickly and found itself with little to no room to make any sort of effective comeback. Between the team’s 4th place finish at ESL One Hamburg 2018 and this 13th-16th place performance at The Kuala Lumpur Major, it appears that consistency will be the most prevalent problem for paiN Gaming moving forward. The good news for the squad is that it doesn’t seem likely that it will lose its status as a regional leader any time soon. However, if the squad wants to be a true competitor on the international level and on the Pro Circuit, then we can’t see many more disappointing performances from the squad like the one we just witnesses in Kuala Lumpur.

 

paiN X paiN X

Place: 9th-12th

Winnings: $15,000 & 150 Pro Circuit Points

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

South American squad paiN X found itself in an interesting position as it entered The Kuala Lumpur Major. The team had performed well within its home region and in mixed North And South American competitions, but had yet to put together the same kind of strong showing on the international level. The individual players on the team’s roster certainly had a fair bit of experience under their belts, but the squad itself had yet to truly prove itself outside of its home region. This appearance at the first Major of the 2018-2019 season offered the team the perfect opportunity to make a strong impression on the international level and establish itself as a contender on the Pro Circuit.

The South American squad started its run at the Major with a series against North American squad Forward Gaming in the Opening Matches of Group D. Unfortunately for the team, that initial series went horribly wrong for paiN X, as the team struggled to find any success across the 2 matches of the series. The squad was out killed by a score of 29-55 across 2 games, and did not hold a net worth advantage at any point beyond the laning stage as Forward Gaming simply dominated the match up. The team had very little to go on in terms of silver linings in this series, as paiN X was out played at just about every junction as it endured a harsh 0-2 loss in its opening series of the event.

Following its rather one sided loss to Forward Gaming in its first series of the Major, paiN X found itself facing off against Alliance in the Losers’ Match of Group D. Game 1 of the series appeared to be a fairly even contest through the first half of the match, as neither squad led by more than 3k net worth over the first 30 minutes of play. Once the match hit the late-game stage though, paiN X was able to take control, with its core trio of Phantom Lancer, Templar Assassin, and Tiny putting together a 26-11-41 stat line while Flee’s Zeus (10-10-21) contributed enough team fight damage to give the South American squad the edge it needed to win the match and claim a 1-0 series lead. Unfortunately for paiN X, that series lead would not last very long, as Alliance came storming back with dominant performances in Games 2 and 3. The South American squad was out killed 19-38 across those 2 matches and did not hold a net worth lead in just over 66 straight minutes of game time. The back to back losses gave paiN X a 1-2 defeat in the series, and left the South American squad at the bottom of the Group D standings as it advanced to the Lower Bracket of the Main Event.

After the team’s somewhat disappointing run through the Group Stage, paiN X still had a shot at redemption as it faced off against Tigers in a Bo1 elimination match in Round 1 of the Lower Bracket. The South American squad managed to take perfect advantage of that opportunity though, as it put together an impressive showing against the Minor Champion. Behind CC&C’s Venomancer (9-2-11) and ritsu’s Terrorblade (8-1-9), paiN X was able to claim the lead early and hold it throughout the rest of the match. Tigers was held in check for the most part, earning just 9 kills as the team struggled to take advantage of its team fight oriented lineup. With its opponent’s team fight power failing it, paiN X was able to establish full control over the match and eventually force a “gg” call from its opponent to advance to Round 2 and keep its hopes alive at the Major.

The team’s impressive victory over Tigers allowed paiN X to advance out of the first round of the Lower Bracket and out of the dreaded Bo1’s, as the South American squad next faced off against Vici Gaming in a Bo3 series. Unfortunately for the team, very little of its momentum from its previous victory appeared to carry over into this match up, as the team was very quickly playing form behind in Game 1. Despite a solid effort from ritsu’s Mirana (7-4-7-), paiN X simply could not keep up with the pace of Vici Gaming’s cores, and the significant levels of damage and control from the Chinese squad were too much for the South American squad to handle. Trailing by nearly 24k net worth at the 37 minute mark, paiN X opted to concede defeat to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Things did not end up improving much in Game 2 of the series, as paiN X once again found itself facing a deficit early in the match. The team’s core trio of Terrorblade, Storm Spirit, and Underlord were heavily pressured by Vici Gaming’s lineup, and the opportunities for those cores to safely find farm were severely limited. While the squad was able to extend the match to a certain degree with its defensive efforts, those efforts were nowhere near enough to spark any sort of effective comeback. The team’s final defenses were eventually broken, and Vici Gaming claimed the win to hand paiN X a 0-2 defeat in the series that ended its run at the Major with a 9th-12th place finish.

paiN X came into The Kuala Lumpur Major as a team that was still on the outside looking in in terms of elite squads in the Dota 2 world. This appearance at the first Major of the season was seen as a strong opportunity for the team to prove itself on the international stage and solidify its position as a leading team within the South American region. Prior to the start of play in Kuala Lumpur, the expectations were not particularly high for the team, as paiN X was projected to finish in the 13th-16th place range. The South American squad managed to beat that prediction though, finishing in the 9th-12th place position overall despite putting together a relatively weak performance at the Major. The team managed to win just 1 match in the Group Stage of the Major, with all 4 of its other matches resulting in significantly one sided blowout losses. The team’s victory over Tigers in the Lower Bracket showed us the kind of strong performance that many were hoping to see from the squad, but its subsequent 0-2 loss to Vici Gaming sapped away much of that optimism. Throughout its run in Kuala Lumpur, paiN X appeared to show a lack of confidence with the sort of early aggression that we saw from other squads. The South American team seemed content to play for mid and late-game timings more often than not, which ended up putting the squad into positions in which it was playing from behind across the second half of its matches. One of the most noticeable aspects of this reliance upon late-game power was the team’s heavy use of Terrorblade in its drafts. As one of the most popular heroes of the event, just about every team was making use of Terrorblade, but paiN X was not able to create the early game space that many of the other teams in the field utilized to set up that Terrorblade pick. The team picked up the hero in 5 of its 8 matches, but won just 1 of those matches as part of its underwhelming 2-6 overall record. As a whole, paiN X did not impress in its run at the Major, and things become more complicated moving forward as the squad returns to the South American region. Its sister squad paiN Gaming is still sitting at the top of the regional hierarchy, but squads like Infamous, Playmakers Esports, and Thunder Predator represent significant obstacles in paiN X’s path. The team will have a tough challenge in front of it moving forward this season, but hopefully paiN X can use its appearance at the Major as a stepping stone to maintain its place in the South American region and potentially make a return to the Pro Circuit stage this season.

 

Tigers Tigers

Place: 13th-16th

Winnings: $10,000 & 75 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 2-6 (2-5 Group Stage, 0-1 Main Event)

After winning the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor to earn its spot at this event, Southeast Asian squad Tigers entered this Major with a fair bit of confidence and momentum on its side. The caliber of teams at the Major was almost certain to be higher than those of its opponents at the Minor, but the team was eager for the opportunity to prove that it was ready to move itself into a position as a regional leader and a legitimate threat on the international level. It was a difficult and ambitious goal to achieve, but a solid showing on home soil in Kuala Lumpur would go quite a long way towards helping the squad reach that coveted status.

The Minor Champion got its Major campaign started with a match up against the TI8 runner up PSG.LGD in its first series of the Group Stage. Unfortunately for the Southeast Asian squad, the series did not go particularly well, as PSG.LGD quickly and efficiently exerted control over both matches in the series. The Chinese squad seemingly out played Tigers at every turn, dominating team fights and applying a level of pressure that the team was not prepared to counteract. Tigers was out killed 32-72 in a pair of lopsided losses in which the Southeast Asian squad held a net worth lead for just 8 minutes in total en route to a rough 0-2 series loss that dropped the team into the Losers’ Match of Group C.

The team’s loss in its opening series saw Tigers drop down into the Losers’ Match of Group C, where the team faced off against CIS squad Gambit Esports. Game 1 appeared to be fairly even through the early and mid-game stages, but Tigers was able to take control late behind strong showings from inYourdreaM’s Monkey King (10-1-18) and AhJit on Lycan (9-1-19). Tigers allowed its opponent to earn just 2 kills over the final 20 minutes of the match as it locked down a solid win to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Unfortunately for the Southeast Asian squad, the exact opposite scenario played in Game 2, as Tigers was the squad to fall behind in the late-game stage. The team was out killed by a score of 1-17 over the final 10 minutes of play, and could not put together a strong enough team fight efforts to turn things around as Gambit Esports cruised its way to a 1-1 tie in the series. Game 3 saw Tigers once again playing from behind late, as the Southeast Asian squad faced a massive net worth deficit that at one point was as high as 34k. Despite the odds being against it, Tigers continued to buy time for its cores and managed to pull off a series of incredible team fight wins behind AhJit’s Terrorblade (14-6-17, 44.4k net worth) and Xepher’s Rubick (11-6-24). Those team fight wins sapped the momentum from Gambit Esports, allowing Tigers to march its way into its opponent’s base to complete an unbelievable comeback to take the series 2-1.

That improbable victory kept the team’s hopes of advancing to the Upper Bracket of the Main Event, but it would have to get past regional rival Fnatic in order to claim that position. Unfortunately for Tigers, none of its momentum from its previous series victory appeared to carry over into this match up, as the squad was out played at every turn by its opponent. Tigers put together just 16 kills across the 2 game series, with Fnatic racking up 51 kills in back to back stomps while holding the net worth lead for all but a handful of minutes. Tigers simply could not generate any sense of momentum for itself, and was both out fought and out farmed throughout a series that lasted just under 56 minutes of total game time. With that one sided series loss, Tigers was locked into a spot in the Lower Bracket of the Main Event, having finished 3rd overall in the Group C standings.

The team’s 2-5 Group Stage record had the Minor Champion beginning its Main Event run in the Lower Bracket, where it faced paiN X in a Bo1 elimination match. The Southeast Asian team drafted a lineup heavily centered around team fights, led by a core trio of Troll Warlord, Magnus, and Enigma. Unfortunately for the squad, that team fight potential never really materialized, as the team found itself trailing early and struggled to find the right execution with its lineup. Tigers was out killed by a score of 9-25 in the match, and trailed in terms of net worth throughout the entirety of the game before eventually conceding defeat just past the 35 minute mark to lose the match and bring its run at the Major to an end. With that loss, the Minor Champion earned itself a 13th-16th place finish in Kuala Lumpur.

As the season’s first Minor Champion, Tigers made its way to Kuala Lumpur feeling like it was on the verge of taking a significant step forward as a team. The squad had begun the season with a string of solid results within the Southeast Asian region, and its lone appearance on the international level had netted the squad its coveted title of Minor Champion. The jump from winning a Minor to being a true competitor at the Major was still an incredibly difficult one, and Tigers was by no means expected to blow away its competition in Kuala Lumpur. Coming into the Major, the Southeast Asian squad was projected to finish in the 9th-12th place range, though the team ended up falling short of that mark with its 13th-16th place finish. Beginning its Group Stage run by facing PSG.LGD is hardly a fair challenge though, and the team’s 0-2 loss to the Chinese juggernaut can’t be treated all that harshly. Its next 2 Group Stage series are where the problems arise for Tigers, as it narrowly defeated Gambit Esports thanks to a near miraculous comeback win in Game 3 of that series and were out right stomped in its 0-2 loss to regional rival Fnatic. Tigers may not have been favored in any of those Group Stage match ups, but it certainly was a point of concern that the team could but together a more competitive effort across its series against Fnatic and PSG.LGD. The squad’s Bo1 match against paiN X did little to alleviate those concerns, as the squad ended up losing another one sided match against a team that it appeared to be relatively even with in terms of their strength coming into this event. When Tigers made its victorious run through the Minor, a large part of its success stemmed from the fact that it had a balanced attack. Any 1 of the 3 cores had shown themselves to be capable of carrying a match, but the squad’s true strength came from its ability to facilitate all 3. We very rarely saw that in Kuala Lumpur, as the team became over reliant upon having AhJit or inYourdreaM put together a spectacular performance that more often than not did not materialize. We saw a more balanced attack from Tigers in its 2 victories against Gambit Esports in the Group Stage, but the Southeast Asian squad simply could not replicate those performances against other opponents. The poor showing from Tigers on the Major stage is certainly a disappointing result for the Southeast Asian squad, but it is not without its silver linings in the end. The squad’s successful run at the Minor has it sitting as one of just 3 teams in Southeast Asia to be ranked on the Pro Circuit, and Tigers is now set up in a favorable position as a leading squad within its home region. The team’s success on the international level may not have come this time around, but if Tigers can retain its hold on that position as a regional leader, then it seems fairly likely that we’ll see the squad on the Pro Circuit stage again in the near future.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s