Lingering paiN? paiN Gaming and test 123 (formerly paiN X) look to return to the Pro Circuit stage in the face of fierce regional opposition.
The 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season is now in full swing, and with 1 Major and 1 Minor already in the book and a host of third party events on record as well, we are starting to see the regional hierarchies across the Dota 2 world solidify. However, a new set of Pro Circuit qualifiers has already begun, and those squads that established favorable positions within their home regions and on the international level must now defend those positions against a slew of hungry and ambitious challengers and rivals. The Open Qualifiers for all 6 regions have come to an end, and the time has now come for the Main Regional Qualifiers for The Chongqing Major to begin. Just as it was with the last group of regional qualifiers, the qualifiers for The Chongqing Major will see the 6 regions split into 2 groups, with South America being included in the first group of qualifiers beginning on November 25. A good number of the squads in the field for this qualifier are teams that we’ve seen before, either on the Pro Circuit stage directly or in the previous round of Pro Circuit qualifiers, while a couple of teams are making their first appearance in these Pro Circuit qualifiers. With returning squads and new challengers alike in the field this time around, the time has come to get a brief rundown of the teams involved and how they stack up in terms of their strength heading into this Major Qualifier.
8 teams will be fighting in this South America Qualifier, with 4 squads (Playmakers Esports, Infamous, paiN Gaming, and test 123) having received direct invites while the other 4 (16 anos melhor idade, Thunder Predator, Infamous Young, and Gorillaz-Pride) came up through the 2 Open Qualifiers. Of those 8 squads, 6 of them (test 123 [as paiN X] paiN Gaming, Infamous, Playmakers Esports [as Braxstone], Thunder Predator, and Gorillaz-Pride) have participated in previous Pro Circuit qualifiers this season, while 3 of them (test 123 [as paiN X], paiN Gaming, and Infamous) have already made appearances on the Pro Circuit stage. On the line for these 8 teams are 2 spots at The Chongqing Major in January, and a chance to either increase their Pro Circuit Point total or get themselves on the board with their first points of the season. Of course, every team that plays in this qualifier has a chance of making it to the Major, no matter how small that chance may be. This post is not going to be about counting any particular team out before play has even begun. However, I will instead be dividing the 8 teams into groups, depending on their projected strength and expectations, as well as their potential ability to claim 1 of the region’s 2 Major spots.
These squads are the elite of the group, comprised mostly of squads that attended one of the prior Pro Circuit events this season or have emerged as dominant forces within their home region and contenders on the international level. These are the teams that will likely be considered as favorites in this qualifier regardless of the match up that they face, and if a team in this section does not earn itself a place at the Major, then it will come as a bit more of a shock and a disappointment compared to the other squads in the field.
Aliwi “w33” Omar
Otávio “Tavo” Gabriel
Danylo “Kingrd” Nascimento
Rasmus “MISERY” Filipsen
As 1 of just 2 squads in its region to have attended a Pro Circuit event so far this season, paiN Gaming enters this Chongqing Major South America Qualifier as a clear favorite to earn itself a place at a second Pro Circuit Major in its 2018-2019 campaign. While the team’s 13th-16th place finish and 2-6 record at The Kuala Lumpur Major wasn’t quite as impressive as many might have been hoping for, the team’s performance within its home region will take center stage in this qualifier rather than its results on the international level. On the home front, paiN Gaming has been perfect so far with a 10-0 record against its regional rivals. While it is possible that paiN Gaming’s undefeated streak in the South American region comes to an end in this qualifier, for the team to miss out on earning itself another Pro Circuit appearance, it would have to suffer a meltdown of unreasonably high proportions against its regional rivals.
test 123 (Formerly Ex-paiN X, formerly paiN X)
Ravindu “Ritsu” Kodippili
Quinn “CC&C” Callahan
Rodrigo Lelis “Liposa” Santos
Francis “FrancisLee” Lee
Kartik “Kitrak” Rathi
The squad formerly known as paiN X recently announced that it is leaving the paiN Gaming organization, taking up the name Ex-paiN X, and more recently the name test 123, until it can find a new sponsor or organization. The move also brought a new member to the team’s roster, as Kitrak now joins the squad as its new Support player. The squad’s roster change will cost it some of its Pro Circuit Point earnings, as the team losses 20% of its total points, but the team itself still stands as one of the leading teams in the South American region. The addition of Kitrak could lead to some changes in the team’s style or drafting strategy, but with 4 of its 5 players remaining with the team through the organizational shift, there’s little reason to believe that the team won’t continue its strong run within the region. A setback for test 123 is always a possibility, but the likelihood of it happening in this qualifier are somewhat low as the team looks to secure its second Pro Circuit appearance of the season.
The squads in this section are the ones that fall just a small step below the favorites in terms of their skill, level of success, or perceived strength of their lineup. Teams in this section are ones that may have attended one of the previous Minors but not a Major, or struggled on the Pro Circuit stage in general. These are the teams that could fairly easily claim 1 of the spots up for grabs in this tournament, but aren’t necessarily expected to win out over the entire field. These teams will likely be right at the cusp of success in this qualifier, and are the ones that seem most probable to end up as direct invitees to the upcoming Minor Qualifiers if it cannot secure a place at the Major.
Enzo “Timado” Gianoli
Mariano “Papita” Caneda
Adrian“Wisper” Cespedes Dobles
Elvis “Scofield” De la Cruz Peña
Joel “MoOz” Mori Ozambela
Between the team’s 4th place finish at the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor and its status as 1 of just 3 teams to hold a position in the Pro Circuit Rankings, Infamous stands as one of the more formidable squads within the whole of the South American region. The team’s 2018-2019 Pro Circuit debut put the strength of its roster on display, with the Carry/Mid duo of Timado and Papita putting together some impressive showings while the less experienced duo of Wisper and MoOz more then held their own in their first international competition. With many of the other teams in the field for this qualifier having experienced roster changes in recent days, the consistency of the Infamous roster serves as a significant advantage for it heading into this event. If the squad is able to maintain the level of play that we’ve seen from it over the past 2 months, then Infamous should have little issues dealing with the majority of the teams in the field. The concern for the squad though will be whether it can get past the top level teams like paiN Gaming and test 123. With the South American region only having 2 slots available for The Chongqing Major, Infamous will have to defeat at least 1 of those squads in order to earn itself a place at the event. The team’s progress so far this season would imply that such a performance is very much a possibility for this Infamous roster, but until we see the squad find that success, the team still has to be placed just that 1 step below the elite teams of the region.
The “Maybe, ifs..”
This section is where we start to get into some particularly interesting scenarios, as we take a look at some of the squads with somewhat lower expectations for this qualifier. These squads are more than capable of putting on a good show and potentially taking a spot at the Major, but they more than likely will need a little bit of help to get there. The squads in this section are most likely ones that attended prior Pro Circuit qualifiers, but did not earn places at an event, and represent the upper echelon of the Tier 2 scene in their region. Whether its a favorable group, a particularly beneficial match up, or the opportunity to avoid playing one of the stronger teams, these squads are the ones that might just need a little outside help to claim a place on the Pro Circuit stage.
Juan “Atun” Ochoa
Jeremy “Jeimari” Aguinaga
Sergio “Prada” Toribio
Farith “Matthew” Puente (Stand-in)
Frank “Frank” Arias (Stand-in)
This will not be the first time that we will be seeing Thunder Predator in a Pro Circuit qualifier, as the Peruvian squad has previously attended the regional qualifier for both The Kuala Lumpur Major and the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor. In both instances, the team ended up with a 3rd place finish overall, but the team comes into its third Pro Circuit qualifier of the season determined to finally take that next step forward and triumph over its regional rivals. Unfortunately for the team, it will have to achieve this with a somewhat different roster than the one we saw in its previous qualifier appearances, as the squad has still yet to announce its official replacements for the Support duo of Scofield and Sword who departed the roster at the beginning of the month. The silver lining for the team though is that it will continue to play with Mathew and Frank in the lineup, who have been served as long-term stand-ins for the team for several weeks now. In the time since its most recent roster change, Thunder Predator has put together a total record of 20-12 against other South American teams (including open qualifiers). However, a 6-10 record against the other teams in the field for this qualifier introduces a level of concern for the squad that keeps it from being one of the favored squads for this event. The team has the talent and experience that it needs to find success in this qualifier, but Thunder Predator will have to show that it can consistently compete with and defeat the leading teams in the region if it wants to claim its place on the Pro Circuit stage.
Alonso “Minoz” a.k.a. “Kotarō Hayama” León
Abraham “Kingteka” Canez
Steven “StingeR” Vargas
Christian “Accel” Cruz
Just around 3 weeks after the conversion of the Braxstone roster to the Playmakers Esports organization, the team prepares for perhaps its greatest test so far in The Chongqing Major South America Qualifier. Heading into this qualifier, the team will be playing with a different roster from the one that it announced back at the beginning of the month. Midlaner LeoStyle had been seen playing with other squads since the team’s announcement, and it appears to be confirmed that he is no longer a member of Playmakers Esports, as he will be playing with Gorillaz-Pride in this very qualifier. In his place, the team has added Faker to the lineup, with the new Midlaner having participated in the squad’s runs through both of the WESG 2018 Peru Open Qualifiers as well as the Liga Pro Gaming Season 4. Since the new team’s announcement and the addition of Faker, Playmakers Esports has put together a 11-5 record against its regional rivals, which gives the squad a decent sense of momentum heading into this qualifier. Outside of the top teams like paiN Gaming, test 123, and Infamous, there haven’t been many squads to step up and establish themselves as leaders within the South American region so far this season. With a roster as talented as the one that Playmakers Esports brings to this qualifier, all it would take is a solid string of results to put the team in a position where it could pose a legitimate threat to claim a place on the Pro Circuit stage.
The Long Shots
In this final section, we find the squads that have very little in terms of expectations for this qualifier. These are the underdogs, the Cinderella stories, and the teams that would frankly send shock waves through the regional scene should they manage to claim a spot at this event. These are the squads that many have probably already counted out of the fight for a place on the Pro Circuit stage, but we’ve seen underdog stories and unbelievable runs before, and these teams will be hoping to add their names to the list of squads that have shocked the Dota 2 world.
16 anos melhor idade
Thiago de Oliveira “Thiolicor” Cordeiro
Heitor “Duster” Pereira
For the second time in a row, a squad led by former paiN Gaming Support Duster will take the stage in a Pro Circuit Qualifier, as 16 anos melhor idade will look to secure itself a place at The Chongqing Major. With 3 members of Duster’s previous squad (Astini777) being carried over into this current team, and former SG e-sports Support Thiolicor added to the mix as well, there is a small glimmer of hope that this team could do some damage against its regional rivals. However, the majority of the lineup is still relatively inexperienced on the professional stage, and the 0-6 performance that Astini777 put together in its previous Pro Circuit Qualifier run does not instill a heavy level of confidence in this iteration of Duster’s squad. Of course, anything could happen in this qualifier, and it could be that 16 anos melhor idade has put together a mix of young talent and hidden gems from the South American region that will break out in a huge way to earn a place on the Pro Circuit stage. However, that kind of result is essentially the best possible scenario for the squad, and I wouldn’t count on something like that happening in this instance.
Carlos “Nada” Tejada
Sebastian “Robo-Z” Cerralta
Thomas “Valquiria” Jaulis Romero
Junior “Yadomi” Reyes Rimari
Cristian “Pamplona” Fernandez
Infamous Young is probably a squad that most people in the Dota 2 world will be unfamiliar with, as the youth squad of the Infamous organization has not done anything particularly noteworthy in the South American region as of yet. Even for those who may have known of the squad earlier this season, the team’s roster may look a bit different, as the organization made changes to the lineup right before the start of the Open Qualifiers. Those changes helped the squad put together a successful open qualifier run and reach this main regional qualifier, but it gives us a woefully inadequate sample size of matches to look at when determining the potential strength of this squad. The team’s players are fairly inexperienced within their home region, and have essentially no international experience to speak of either entering this qualifier. It could be that the team has managed to found 5 of the best undiscovered players within the South American region for all we know. However, until we see the squad in action against the top level squads in South America, the expectations have to be keep about as low as possible for Infamous Young. The squad may show us some flashes of potential in this qualifier, but don’t expect the team to be a serious contender for a spot at The Chongqing Major.
Leonardo “LeoStyle-” Sifuentes
Alexis “Sl4d1n” Cepeda
Álex “Masoku” Dávila
Gorillaz-Pride finds itself back in the field for a Pro Circuit qualifier, as the Peruvian organization had previously taken a shot at breaking out in the South American region at The Kuala Lumpur Major South America Qualifier. The last time around though, the team did not impress, as it finished in the 7th-8th place position in that qualifier and failed to win a single match against its regional rivals. The team comes into this qualifier with a slightly altered roster, most notably adding Midlaner LeoStyle- to its roster, though it is currently unknown if his addition is permanent or if he is serving as a stand-in for the squad. Either way, the team’s new roster helped it once again reach this critical stage in its path to prominence within its home region, but that path becomes significantly harder now. The team’s previous performance was hardly an impressive one, and even with its roster changes, there is little reason to believe that Gorillaz-Pride has made enough progress in 2 months to suddenly challenge the heavy hitters of the region. With a solid performance, Gorillaz-Pride could hand another squad in the field a loss or 2, or could even knock off one of the other lower ranked teams, but don’t expect it to pose much of a legitimate threat in terms of actually qualifying for the Major.