Pro Circuit Qualifier Preview – The Chongqing Major North America Qualifier

Familiar faces have found new homes as a group of challengers new and old look to knock off regional leaders in the Chongqing Major North American 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 North America 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 North America Qualifier, with 4 squads (compLexity Gaming, Evil Geniuses, J.Storm, and Forward Gaming) having received direct invites while the other 4 (Team Borster, TEAM TEAM, Plus Ultra, and Zugzwang) came up through the 2 Open Qualifiers. Of those 8 squads, 5 of them (compLexity Gaming, Evil Geniuses, Forward Gaming, J.Storm, and TEAM TEAM) have participated in previous Pro Circuit qualifiers this season, while 4 of them (compLexity Gaming, Evil Geniuses, J.Storm, and Forward Gaming) 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.

Evil Geniuses Evil Geniuses
Artour “Arteezy” Babaev
Syed Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan
Gustav “s4” Magnusson
Andreas Franck “Cr1t-” Nielsen
Tal “Fly” Aizik

Following a strong 3rd place performance at The Kuala Lumpur Major, Evil Geniuses will enter this next set of Pro Circuit qualifiers as the clear favorite within the North American region. There were some initial concerns at the beginning of the season as to whether the team would be able to maintain the impressive form that it had shown in Vancouver at TI8, but the team’s strong showings so far in this 2018-2019 campaign has laid those doubts to rest. The team comes into this qualifier with a 14-3 record against its regional rivals, with those 3 losses coming against fellow qualifier participants Forward Gaming and compLexity Gaming. The team has shown itself to be a competitive force on the international level and the Pro Circuit stage, and has put together a dominant run within its home region. The squad’s impressive performance against its fellow North American squads doesn’t appear likely to suffer much deviation in this qualifier, and EG failing to secure itself a place at The Chongqing Major would come as a dramatic shock in a region that it has held near complete control over so far this season.

Forward Gaming Forward Gaming
Yawar “YawaR” Hassan
Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok
Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora
Arif “MSS” Anwar
Avery “SVG” Silverman

When compared to the 3rd place finish of its regional rival Evil Genisues, Forward Gaming’s 9th-12th place performance at The Kuala Lumpur Major does not appear quite so impressive. However, the team’s play in the Malaysian capital was somewhat stronger than its final positioning implied, as the squad posted a 6-6 overall record at the event that included match victories against both Evil Geniuses and The team’s play on the international level has been somewhat inconsistent, but it’s Forward Gaming’s performance on the home front that will play the largest role for it heading into this regional qualifier. The team’s 16-9 record against its regional rivals has Forward Gaming sitting in a solid position near the top of the North American hierarchy. Of the team’s 9 losses within the North American region, 6 of them have come against Evil Geniuses. Even if the squad continues to struggle against that particular opponent, the team’s impressive record against the other squads in the region and the fact that multiple slots at the Major are available in this qualifier means that Forward Gaming should still stand as a heavy favorite to earn itself a return trip to the Pro Circuit stage.


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 they cannot secure a place at the Major.

J Storm Small J.Storm

David “Moo” Hull
Jonathan “Bryle” De Guia
Lee “Forev” Sang-don
Milan “MiLAN” Kozomara
Park “March” Tae-won

J.Storm occupies an interesting position as the odd team out heading into this Chongqing Major Pro Circuit Qualifier. The team’s run at The Kuala Lumpur Major earned it the same position as its regional rival Forward Gaming (9th-12th place), but its weaker overall performance has raised a few questions for the squad. The team went 3-6 in Kuala Lumpur and did not particularly impress on the Pro Circuit stage. The good news for the squad though, is that its prospects in this qualifier are likely to be more related to its regional performance as opposed to its record on the international level. At home, J.Storm has been much for reliable, holding a 9-6 record against other North American squads. Against teams in this qualifier, the squad’s record is a slightly less impressive 3-5, but the team has been given something of an advantage in terms of the draws for the groups in this event. While the squad will have to potentially deal with Forward Gaming, it doesn’t necessarily have to defeat that squad to advance to the Playoffs. If J.Storm can finish above TEAM TEAM and Zugzwang in the Group Stage, then it will be in the Playoffs where it will have a solid shot at claiming 1 of the 3 slots available to the North American region.

No Team Logo Plus Ultra

Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao
Jio “Jeyo” Madayag
Jaron “monkeys-forever” Clinton
Jingjun “Sneyking” Wu
Clinton “Fear” Loomis

When EternaLEnVy and Sneyking requested a release from the compLexity Gaming roster, many suspected that there was something else in the works for the duo. With the formation of Plus Ultra, it appears that we have our answer as to what the 2 players were planning. While it is unclear whether this new squad will be sticking around long-term, for the duration of this qualifier it represents a formidable combination of regional talent and veteran experience that cannot be overlooked. Plus Ultra has been set up in a rather favorable position in terms of the groups for this qualifier. While the squad will have to potentially deal with regional leader Evil Geniuses in Group A, its other opponents in the group are a compLexity Gaming roster adjusting to some drastic changes and a Team Borster squad that only recently formed its current roster. While Plus Ultra has not existed for very long in its own right, the extensive experience of its roster members would appear to give it an advantage in this qualifier, and with 3 slots available for the North American region, there is a solid chance that Plus Ultra could potentially find its way to the Pro Circuit with a strong showing against its regional rivals.


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.

727px-Col_big_logo compLexity Gaming
Galvin “Meracle” Kang Jian Wen
Linus “Limmp” Blomdin
Yang “Deth” Wu Heng
Zakari “Zfreek” Freedman
Adam “343” a.k.a. “Adam” Shah

Just a few days ago, compLexity Gaming revealed the roster with which it will be playing in this Chongqing Major North American Qualifier. After losing Skemberlu, Sneyking, and EternaLEnVy earlier this season, a trio of Southeast Asian players have been brought in on a trial basis in an effort to revitalize the team. The players that were added to the squad, Meracle, Deth, and 343, have all shown themselves to be talented players within the Southeast Asian scene, with 343 in particular having accrued quite a bit of experience for himself on the professional level. The concern here for compLexity Gaming will be whether that latent talent will be enough to overcome some of the initial difficulties of adding 3 new players to a roster, with 2 of the those new players having never been in the North American region professionally. With only 2 teams advancing out of  each group in this qualifier, the margin for error will be extremely slim, especially since compLexity Gaming finds itself in a group with one of the favorites of  this qualifier in Evil Geniuses. The possibility for success in there for this new-look compLexity Gaming squad, but it is going to have to show almost immediately that it is ready to continue playing top level Dota in the North American region.


Samuel “Sammyboy” Anderson
Eric “Ryoya” Dong
Braxton “Brax” Paulson
Jason “Newsham” Newsham
Michael “ixmike88”  Ghannam

TEAM TEAM takes its second shot at earning itself a place at a Major, and its third at reaching a Pro Circuit event in general this season as it prepares for The Chongqing Major North America Qualifier. This time around though, the team comes into said qualifier with a somewhat altered lineup, as Sammyboy is holding down the Carry position for the squad in the place of Brazilian player Costabile. While the Tier 2 scene has been somewhat chaotic and unpredictable so far this season, TEAM TEAM stands as one of the few squads to have put together a more consistent performance, both in terms of its roster and its results. Aside from the team’s 5th-6th place finish in The Kuala Lumpur Major North America Qualifier, TEAM TEAM has strung together 4 straight Top 4 finishes in regional evens and qualifiers, including 1st place finishes in the WESG USA Finals and the Open Qualifier that earned it a spot in this Major Qualifier. Is this team ready to take on the heavy hitters of the region like Evil Geniuses and Forward Gaming? Most likely not, but with 3 slots available for the North American region, there is some potential for TEAM TEAM to find success here if it can out perform a team like J.Storm and advance to the Playoffs of the qualifier.


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.

No Team Logo Team Borster

Khanh “KvH” Huynh
Noah “Boris”Minhas
Andrew “Jubei” Evelynn

As the next set of Pro Circuit qualifiers draws near, it is apparent now that North American squad ROOONS no longer exists, at least not in any recognizable form. 2 former members of the squad, Boris and Jubei, appear to have moved one fairly effectively though, as their new squad Team Borster has earned a place in The Chongqing Major North America Qualifier. Unfortunately for the team, its odds of finding success against its regional rivals appear to be fairly low heading into this qualifier. While the team’s individual players have accrued a fair bit of experience playing within the North American region, the roster as a whole has seen significantly less action as a unit. Outside of the top 3 or 4 squads in the region, the North American scene has proven to be rather inconsistent this season, both in terms of the performance of its teams and in the rosters of said teams. Within that sense of relative chaos and frequent change, opportunities abound for squads like Team Borster, but that very same degree of inconsistency also makes it hard to believe that the team will be able to put together a better performance than those that came before it. With a duo of more experienced regional talents in Boris and Jubei at the helm of Team Borster, there is always a possibility for a surprise run against its regional rivals. Until we see proof of the team’s ability to stand toe to toe with the region’s elite squads though, the expectations will remain low for Team Borster heading into this regional qualifier.

zugzwang Zugzwang
Danny “iAnnihilate” Cote

Daniel “Bloody Nine” Foster

Once again, a team lead by the duo of iAnnihilate and Bloody Nine will make an appearance in a Pro Circuit Major qualifier, as the 2 players put together a 7th-8th place performance in The Kuala Lumpur Major North America Qualifier around 2 months ago as members of Black Sheep. This time around though, the duo has a new set of teammates and a new name, as Zugzwang comes into this regional qualifier with a lineup of somewhat lesser known and less experienced players from the North American region. The good news for the team is that its successful open qualifier run has given it a small degree of momentum to work with as it prepares for this main regional qualifier. However, that open qualifier run saw the squad play a level of opponent that was significantly below most of the teams that it will see in The Chongqing Major North America Qualifier. Though the players may have experience facing off against teams like EG, Forward Gaming, and J.Storm on an individual basis, the Zugzwang roster as a whole has yet to face those top level squads, which introduces a degree of uncertainty that is almost never good for a team’s prospects in an event. While hope for a breakout performance in this qualifier is entirely possible, it’s best to keep expectations low for Zugzwang as it prepares for its first Pro Circuit qualifier appearance.

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