Pro Circuit Qualifier Preview – The Chongqing Major Europe Qualifier

5 Pro Circuit ranked squads, 3 previous Major Champions, and 3 TI winning organizations headline a stacked and terrifying field for The Chongqing Major Europe 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 Europe being included in the second group of qualifiers beginning on November 28. 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 Europe Qualifier, with 5 squads (Team Secret, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Alliance, OG, and Team Liquid) having received direct invites while the other 3 (The Final Tribe, Vega Squadron, and Hippomaniacs) came up through the 2 Open Qualifiers. Of those 8 squads, 6 of them (Team Secret, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Alliance, Team Liquid, Vega Squadron [as Team Lithium], and The Final Tribe) have participated in previous Pro Circuit qualifiers this season, while 4 of them (Team Secret, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Alliance, and The Final Tribe) have already made appearances on the Pro Circuit stage. On the line for these 8 teams are 3 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 3 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.

Secret_logo Team Secret
Roster:

Michał “Nisha” Jankowski
Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng
Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg
Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat
Clement “Puppey” Ivanov

This one is essentially an automatic decision coming into this qualifier, as Team Secret has shown itself to be the most dominant squad in the European region to this point in the Pro Circuit season. The squad came just 1 game away from winning a Major Championship title in Kuala Lumpur, and already has 2 LAN event victories on its resume for the 2018-2019 campaign. Against other European squads, Team Secret has been nearly unbeatable, putting together a 14-1 record against its regional rivals so far this season. Those kinds of results are hard to argue with, and at this stage there doesn’t appear to be any match up in this qualifier in which Team Secret will not be significantly favored. Even with the European region, and this qualifier field in particular, being stacked with strong squads, expect Team Secret to secure itself another appearance on the Pro Circuit stage.

Ninjas In Pyjamas Ninjas in Pyjamas
Roster:
Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard
Adrian “Fata” Trinks
Neta “33” Shapira
Martin “Saksa” Sazdov
Peter “ppd” Dager

Call it a bit of recency bias if you will, but Ninjas in Pyjamas appears to be the favorite to claim the top spot in Group A of this qualifier, even though that group also includes TI7 winner Team Liquid. NiP has been significant more active this season, posting a 13-8 record against other European squads so far this season, and even having an event victory under its belt with its 1st place finish at the GG.Bet Invitational last month. The team’s extensive talent and experience has already been on display in a significant way so far this season, and there’s little reason to believe that the squad will suddenly suffer a setback with another Pro Circuit appearance on the line in this qualifier. Even if the team can’t get past Team Liquid in the Group Stage, NiP will still be able to secure a spot in the Playoffs so long as it can overcome Vega Squadron and The Final Tribe, against whom the squad currently holds a 5-2 record this season. It’s not quite a sure-fire path to success for NiP, but as of right now the team looks like one of the favorites to claim 1 of the 3 European slots in Chongqing.

 

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 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.

600px-Team_liquid_logo_2017 Team Liquid
Roster:

Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen
Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi
Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov
Maroun “GH” Merhej
Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi

Team Liquid is not a squad that we’ve seen all that much of so far this season, as the TI7 Champion has only participated in 2 events, both of which were Pro Circuit qualifiers. The team had been set to compete in the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor, but the squad’s withdrawal due to health related reasons robbed us of our chance to see the squad in action on the Pro Circuit stage this season. With the team’s roster unchanged from the one that claimed victory at TI7, Team Liquid still has to be considered one of the stronger teams in the field for this qualifier. However, the play of some its more prominent regional rivals, its own 9-10 record in the European region this season, and the lack of activity from the team has raised some small concerns for the squad heading into this qualifier. The team may not be the absolute favorite in The Chongqing Major Europe Qualifier, but its talent and prior record of success still makes Team Liquid one of the stronger teams in this field and a significant threat to take 1 of the region’s 3 slots at the Major.

425px-OG_RB_Logo OG
Roster:

Per Anders Olsson “Pajkatt” Lille
Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen
Sébastien “7ckngMad” Debs
Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka
Johan “N0tail” Sundstein

The reigning TI8 Champion if finally set to play its first official matches of the 2018-2019 season, as the European squad had taken some time off in the wake of their victory on the Dota 2 world’s biggest stage. While the team prepares for its return to the Pro Circuit, it does so without a key piece of its roster, as ana has stepped down from the active roster and will not be participating in this qualifier. In his place, the team has added veteran player Pajkatt to the roster, a move that adds a small degree of uncertainty for the team heading into this first appearance of the season. That uncertainty, combined with the impressive play so far this season from some of the team’s biggest regional rivals, has pushed OG out of a position as a clear-cut favorite to claim a spot at The Chongqing Major. While the squad may not be a favorite, that does not mean that it is not a legitimate threat to claim 1 of the 3 European slots at the Major. Aside from the departure of ana, this OG roster is still unchanged from the one that lifted the Aegis of Champions just 3 months ago, and its success on the international level cannot be dismissed or overlooked as the team prepares for its first Pro Circuit qualifier of the 2018-2019 campaign.

 

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.

Alliance Alliance
Roster:
Max “qojqva”Bröcker
Micke “miCKe” Nguyen
Samuel “Boxi” Svahn
Aydin “iNSaNiA” Sarkohi
Tommy “Taiga” Le

Alliance has been a team whose development we’ve been able to watch over the last year now, as the squad took a roster of relatively inexperienced players and built it up into a potential contender within the European region. The team got its 2018-2019 season off to a solid start with appearances at both ESL One Hamburg 2018 and The Kuala Lumpur Major, and now it is looking to attend its second Pro Circuit event of the season by placing in the Top 3 in this qualifier. This Major Qualifier appears to feature an even more stacked field than its predecessor though, and that might be a bit of an issue for the team. Against the other teams in the field for this qualifier, Alliance holds a 9-12 record, and its placement in a group with Team Secret and OG puts some formidable obstacles in its path to success. Beating out both of those squads and the relatively less known challenger Hippomaniacs is certainly a possibility for Alliance, but the squad is going to have to channel the spirit of the legendary Alliance roster that came before it and play at its absolute best in this qualifier if it wants to claim a spot at its second Major of the season.

579px-Vega_Squadron_2016 Vega Squadron
Roster:
Omar “Madara” Dabachach
Anas “MagE-“ Hirzallah
Maurice “KheZu” Gutmann
Verros “Maybe Next Time” Apostolos
Petu “Peksu” Vaatainen

Vega Squadron enters The Chongqing Major Europe Qualifier as a squad that is attending its third Pro Circuit qualifier of the season, and has already made 1 appearance on the Pro Circuit stage at the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor. Unfortunately, the squad will find standing out among this particular field difficult even with those achievements under its belt. The Major Qualifiers are incredibly stacked this time around, with 5 of the squads having attended a Pro Circuit event so far this season, while another 2 stand as recent TI Champions. With so many formidable squads in the field, Vega Squadron is going to need quite an impressive performance in order to find success in this qualifier, but its record against those opponents suggests that it may have some difficulties achieving that goal. Against the European region in general, Vega Squadron holds a 14-16 record, while its record against just the others teams in this qualifier is 9-13. With that in mind, the team is going to need to put its very best level of play on display in this qualifier if it wants to have a shot at claiming 1 of the 3 European slots at the Major.

The Final Tribe The Final Tribe
Roster:
Pontus “Frost” Frost
Rasmus “Chessie” Blomdin
Jonas “jonassomfan” Lindholm
Simon “Handsken” Haag
Adrian “Era” Kryeziu

The Final Tribe comes into this qualifier as 1 of 5 teams in the field to have made an appearance on the Pro Circuit stage this season, as the team was a participant at the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor last month. Unfortunately though, that Pro Circuit appearance did not go particularly well for it, as The Final Tribe posted a 5-6 overall record at the event and finished in the 7th-8th place position in Stockholm. The team’s performance at the Minor, and its performance within the European region as a whole so far this season, has been solid but not particularly impressive. Unfortunately, “solid” won’t cut it in this qualifier considering the caliber of the opponents that the squad is going to have to face off against. The team has been placed in a group with Team Liquid, Ninjas in Pyjamas, and Vega Squadron, and the Swedish squad will have to out perform at least 2 of those squads to advance out of the Group Stage. That scenario is entirely possible for The Final Tribe to pull off, but the squad will have to step up its level of play a bit in order to secure 1 of the 3 European slots at The Chongqing Major.

 

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.

Hippomaniacs Hippomaniacs
Roster:
“Curry”
“Supream
^”
“SabeRLighT-”
“muf”
“sehny”

Hippomaniacs comes into The Chongqing Major Europe Qualifier as a representative of a country that we rarely see in the Dota 2 scene, as the squad is made up of 5 players from the Czech Republic. The team will be making its first appearance in a Pro Circuit qualifier (not including open qualifiers), but the odds of Hippomaniacs finding success against this stacked field in the European region are fairly low. While the team showed a fair bit of potentially with its successful run in the open qualifier, we simply haven’y seen the squad in action against the higher level squads within the European region. Without any sort of firm sense of where this squad stands in relation to its regional rivals, it’s incredibly hard to expect much success from it, especially in a high pressure qualifier with spots on the Pro Circuit stage on the line. A Cinderella run is always possible for Hippomaniacs, especially in the Czech squad is underestimated by its opponents. However, expecting this squad to find success against a group of teams that all have proven themselves on the regional and international stages doesn’t seem all that reasonable at this time.

 

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