Pro Circuit Qualifier Preview – The Chongqing Major Southeast Asia Qualifier

Familiar faces dominate the field as 6 returning squads and 2 new challengers take the stage in The Chongqing Major Southeast Asia Qualifier

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 Southeast Asia 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 Southeast Asia Qualifier, with 4 squads (Fnatic, TNC Predator, Tigers, and Lotac) having received direct invites while the other 4 (496 Gaming, BOOM ID, WarriorsGaming.Unity, and Mineksi) came up through the 2 Open Qualifiers. Of those 8 squads, 6 of them (Fnatic, Lotac, Tigers, TNC Predator, BOOM ID, and Mineski) have participated in previous Pro Circuit qualifiers this season, while 3 of them (Fnatic, Tigers, and TNC Predator) 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 2 Major spots.

 

The Favorites

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.

Fnaticlogo Fnatic
Roster:

Pyo “MP” No-a
Abed “Abed” Azel L. Yusop
Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang
Djardel Jicko B. “DJ” Mampusti
Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong

A near complete rebuild of its roster had many looking on at Fnatic with a sense of cautious optimism as the organization entered the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season. However, the team’s new lineup has quickly put its strength on display, putting together solid performances against regional rivals while putting up impressive results on the international level as well. A 7th-8th place finish at The Kuala Lumpur Major has the squad sitting as 1 of just 3 Southeast Asian squads to hold a position in the Pro Circuit Rankings, but it’s the team’s record on the home front that bears the most relevance heading into this qualifier. Against other Southeast Asian teams, Fnatic has posted an incredible 22-4 overall record, having only lost matches against TNC Predator and Lotac at this point in the Pro Circuit season. Between the team’s dominance at home and its strong results on the international stage, Fnatic clearly stands as one of the Southeast Asian region’s most formidable squads, and it would come as an incredible shock if the squad missed out on securing itself a spot at its second Major of the season.

Tncproteam TNC Predator
Roster:

Kim “Gabbi” Villafuerte
Armel Paul “Armel” Tabios
Carlo “Kuku” Palad
Timothy “Tims” Randrup
Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross Jr.

Coming into the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season, TNC Predator had taken something of a risk by making changes to its roster. With the squad now standing as the highest ranked Southeast Asian team on the Pro Circuit, it would appear that those risks have more than paid off for the squad. The team’s performance on the Pro Circuit stage in Kuala Lumpur certainly put TNC Predator’s strength on display for the Dota 2 world to see, but it is within its home region that the squad has shown its true dominance. At the 1/5th mark in the Pro Circuit season, TNC Predator holds an impressive 22-6 record against Southeast Asian opponents (not including open qualifiers), with 4 of those losses coming against fellow Pro Circuit ranked squad and Chongqing Major Southeast Asia Qualifier participant Fnatic. The squad has been nearly unbeatable against all but the most elite of its regional rivals, and there’s little reason to believe that this recent trend will end over the course of this qualifier. Even if the squad struggles against Fnatic as it has previously this season, the fact that the Southeast Asian region has multiple slots available for The Chongqing Major means that TNC Predator is a heavy favorite to reach its second straight Major.

 

The Contenders

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 2 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.

Tigers Tigers
Roster:
Lai “Ahjit” Jay Son
Muhammad “inYourdreaM” Rizky
David “MoonMeander” Tan
Kenny “Xepher” Deo
Sivatheeban “1437” Sivanathapillai

Tigers enters this new round of Pro Circuit Qualifiers as the reigning Minor Champion, having represented the Southeast Asian region well with its victory in the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor. As 1 of just 3 squads in the region to hold a position in the Pro Circuit Rankings, Tigers stands as one of the more formidable forces in the field for this regional qualifier. Of course, the team’s 13th-16th place finish at the recent Kuala Lumpur Major has introduced some questions regarding the team’s play on the international level, but for now the focus will be on Tiger’s position on the home front. Against other Southeast Asian teams, Tigers holds a 26-24 record (not including Pro Circuit Open Qualifiers), which represents a solid but not necessarily mind blowing performance so far this season. The big concern for Tigers though is its performance against this field of teams in particular, as the squad’s record drops to a less impressive 9-10 when narrowed down to the other teams in the field for this Chongqing Major Southeast Asia Qualifier. The team will certainly have its work cut out for it, but we saw Tigers overcome a similar series of obstacles just a few months ago to reach the Pro Circuit stage, and there’s little reason to believe that the team can’t do so again this time around.

Lotac Lotac
Roster:
Marc Polo Luis “Raven” Fausto
Kee Chyuan “ChYuan” Ng
Khoo “Ohaiyo” Chong Xin
Wai Pern “Net” Lim (Stand-in)
Ng “YamateH” Wei Poong

Team Lotac comes into what will be its 3rd Pro Circuit qualifier of the 2018-2019 season as a squad that has consistently come up just short of finding success in the Southeast Asian region. The squad came just 1 win away from securing a place at The Kuala Lumpur Major back in September, and fell 1 series short of a place in the Grand Finals of the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor Southeast Asia Qualifier just a week later. While the squad has not quite been able to reach its desired results, the team’s performance within its home region has been consistent and solid so far this season. The team has accrued its aforementioned back to back 3rd place finishes in Pro Circuit Qualifiers, has finished 4th in the regional qualifier for ESL One Hamburg 2018, finished 2nd in the King’s Cup 2: Southeast Asia, and won the Asia Pacific Predator League 20198 Malaysia Qualifier. That kind of resume would normally have a squad sitting in a position as one of the favored teams in the field, and Lotac is most certainly one of the stronger squads in this qualifier. However, the issue for the team is its performance against the elite of the Southeast Asian region, as Lotac has posted a combined 8-14 record against the 3 Southeast Asian teams in the Pro Circuit Rankings (Fnatic, TNC Predator, and Tigers). If the squad wants to earn its place at The Chongqing Major, then it is going to have to get past at least 1 of those opponents. While the squad’s struggles against the triumvirate of teams at the top of the regional hierarchy have kept Lotac down so far this season, this opportunity to earn its Pro Circuit debut could be the spark the squad needs to finally get itself over that final obstacle and claim its place among the leading squads in Southeast Asia.

 

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.

Boom ID BOOM ID
Roster:
Randy “Dreamocel” Sapoetra
Rafli “Mikoto” Fathur
Saieful “Fbz” Ilham
Tri “Jhocam” Kuncoro
Alfi “Khezcute” Nelphyana

Indonesian squad BOOM ID finds itself making its second appearance in a Pro Circuit qualifier, as the team had previously finished in 4th place in the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor Southeast Asia Qualifier. This time around though, the team has a slightly different look, as BOOM ID underwent some roster changes just over a week ago. Offlaner SaintDeLucaz departed the team’s roster, with Fbz moving from the Carry role into the Offlane position to take his place, while Mikoto was added to the lineup as a hybrid Carry/Midlaner. So far, the squad and its new roster has performed well, with the team claiming 1st place finishes in both the ESL Indonesia Championship Qualifier #1 and the first Open Qualifier for this Major. Those solid showings against regional opposition serves as an encouraging start for the team’s new lineup, but we’ve yet to see the new-look BOOM ID in action against the top teams in the Southeast Asian region. BOOM ID has yet to take on squads like TNC Predator, Fnatic, Tigers, or Lotac since its most recent roster change, and unfortunately for the team, its recent qualifier performances are not enough to have any real confidence that it will be able to bring down those previously mentioned leaders. That isn’t to say that BOOM ID is without hope though, as its success across its last 2 qualifier appearances has at least helped to establish a sense of consistency for the squad and its new roster. Should the team manage to carry that momentum and consistency into this qualifier, then the potential is there for BOOM ID to threaten some of the region’s top squads and possibly even take a spot at the Major away from one of those squads.

600px-Mineski-dota_logo Mineski
Roster:

Thiay “JT-” Jun Wen
Kam “Moon” Boon Seng
Damien “kpii” Chok
Kim “Febby” Yong-min
Johan “pieliedie” Åström

Mineski came into the new Pro Circuit season with a roster that looked rather menacing at first glance, and the squad appeared to be in line to maintain its position near the top of the regional hierarchy. However, a somewhat slow start to the season and a string of less than ideal performances within its home region and on the international level has lessened the hype around the squad to a certain degree. The recent departure of veteran player Mushi has introduced another issue that the squad has been forced to deal with, with former Fnatic Support pieliedie being added to the squad’s roster in his place. The team’s somewhat disappointing performance so far this season, combined with its recent roster change, has knocked Mineski down from its position as a leading squad within the Southeast Asian region. The good news for Mineski though, is that its roster is still brimming with talent and experience, and pieliedie’s addition to the team only adds to both of those traits. Mineski may now longer be one of the favorites within the Southeast Asian region, but the squad is still in the picture as a potential threat to claim a place at The Chongqing Major. If the team’s lineup can turn around its poor start and establish some sense of momentum and consistency in its play, then the possibility is there for Mineski to challenge the heavy hitters like TNC Predator and Fnatic for 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.

496 Gaming 496 Gaming
Roster:
Trịnh “458” Văn Thọ
Nguyen “Red” Tien Phat
“Secret”
Vuong “SeeL” Thien Tai
“Yasy”

Vietnamese squad 496 Gaming comes into The Chongqing Major Southeast Asia Qualifier as a relative unknown within the Dota 2 world, though the team has a slightly higher profile within the Southeast Asian region. Led by former TNC Tigers Carry 458, the organization and its various roster iterations have been working towards a breakthrough in its home region for around 2 years now. The team made a 3rd-4th place run in the Open Qualifiers for The Kuala Lumpur Major, though 458 is the only member of the team to have been a part of that previous performance. With that in mind, this appearance in The Chongqing Major Southeast Asia Qualifier represents perhaps the biggest opportunity yet for the organization. Despite having beaten out squads like Sterling Global Dragons, Clutch Gamers, and Team Admiral to reach this stage, the odds don’t appear to be on 496 Gaming’s side coming into this qualifier. The team’s lack of proven success within the Southeast Asian region so far, combined with the fact that 4 of its 5 players have changed within the past 2 months makes it hard to have much confidence in 496 Gaming. However, hopes will by high for the Vietnamese squad as it makes its first appearance in a Pro Circuit qualifier this season.

WarriorsGaming Unity WarriorsGaming.Unity
Roster:
Cheng “NothingToSay” Jin Xiang
Yeong “Mercury” Shi Jie
Chua “KaNG” Soon Khong
Cheng “czy” Zhi Ying
Chong “FelixCiaoBa” Wei Lun

There was a time when WarriorsGaming.Unity was considered to be one of the more powerful organizations and squads within the Southeast Asian region, having been a prominent player in the TI6 Southeast Asia Qualifier and even making an impressive appearance at The Boston Major in 2016 where it put together a 5th-8th place run. The team’s more recent endeavors have not been quite as successful, but the organization announced a new roster just last month, though that new roster experienced even further changes as recently as 2 weeks ago. Though those changes have come remarkably recently, the new lineup still has hopes high for WarriorsGaming.Unity to potentially return to the forefront of the Southeast Asian scene. Unfortunately for the team’s new lineup, that return to prominence doesn’t look likely to happen in this particular qualifier. The team’s roster changes combined with a relative level of inactivity in the region so far this season makes it hard to have much confidence that it will be able to go toe to toe with some of the best squads in the region. A Cinderella run is always a possibility for the squad, but WarriorsGaming.Unity securing itself a place at The Chongqing Major would certainly come as one of the biggest surprises in the region so far this season.

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