TI7 Champion Team Liquid to join returning squads Team Secret, Alliance on Pro Circuit stage as trio claims Europe’s 3 Major spots.
The final group of regional qualifiers for The Chongqing Major are coming to a close, and the field of teams for the second Major of the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season is nearly complete. Europe was the penultimate region to finish its qualifier run, and we now know the 3 squads that will represent the region in Chongqing. The Europe qualifier began with a stacked field of 8 teams, each hoping for an opportunity to find success against their regional rivals and secure a place on the Pro Circuit stage. However, only 3 of those teams were able to survive the rigors of the regional qualifiers, with Team Secret, Team Liquid, and Alliance claiming the region’s 3 slots at the Major in January. For those teams that didn’t make the cut this time around, a potential spot in the Minor qualifiers awaits, as the 5 unsuccessful squads from this qualifier still have another shot at reaching the Pro Circuit stage. For now though, the time has come to take a look at how each of the squads performed in this qualifier, with the participants divided based upon their final positions in the event standings.
Top 3 (Qualified for The Chongqing Major)
Record: 8-2 (4-1 Group Stage, 4-1 Playoffs)
Even before the team entered this Major qualifier, Team Secret has already firmly established itself as a leader within the European region. Between its domination of its regional rivals last season and its strong start to this 2018-2019 campaign, there were few adversaries that the squad was not favored against. Combined with its 2nd place performance at The Kuala Lumpur Major, Team Secret’s regional success had it sitting in a position where a spot at The Chongqing Major was fully expected for the team. The squad did not disappoint, putting together yet another strong showing against the rest of the European region and showing just why the expectations had been set to high. The team ended up with a 8-2 overall record, losing just a single match each to Hippomaniacs and Team Liquid on its path to securing a spot at the Major. Based upon its performance so far this season, the squad will likely be one of the favorites in the field for the Major, and the team will unquestionably continue to be one of the most feared teams within the European region.
Record: 9-3 (4-0 Group Stage, 5-3 Playoffs)
Team Liquid entered this Major qualifier in an interesting position among the 8 teams in the field. The TI7 Champion had qualified for the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor earlier this season, but had withdrawn from the event due to health reasons. Between that withdrawal and its struggles in the previous Major qualifier, the team had not seen a whole lot of action compared to its regional rivals. However, the talent and experience of the squad won out in the end, as Team Liquid posted a 9-3 record to secure itself a place at The Chongqing Major. The team swept past both Vega Squadron and The Final Tribe in the Group Stage with back to back 2-0 series, and got its run in the Playoffs started with another impressive 2-0 win over Alliance as well. After that, the team played 2 additional series against Team Secret and Alliance, going 3-3 to bring its overall qualifier record to 9-3. However, those final matches were played for seeding purposes only and featured some unorthodox drafts and strategies. As it stands though, Team Liquid is now finally set to make its Pro Circuit season debut at The Chongqing Major, where the team will look to put together another impressive performance with the eyes of the Dota 2 world fixed it.
Record: 7-7 (4-3 Group Stage, 3-4 Playoffs)
Though Alliance’s first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage this season was not particularly impressive, the squad’s ascension towards the top of the European hierarchy was certainly a welcome development for it to start the season. Coming into this Major qualifier, it was not clear whether the team would be able to replicate its previous success, but Alliance was able to pull through in the end as it secured its second straight Major appearance of the 2018-2019 campaign. The team had a rough path to success though, as it’s qualifier run saw it win 2 series against OG while losing to Team Secret for a 4-3 record that just barely got it into the Playoffs. Things didn’t get much easier for Alliance at that stage though, as it lost its initial Playoff series against Team Liquid 0-2 in a relatively one sided match up. However, the squad was able to bounce back when it mattered most, recovering from that loss just in time to take down The Final Tribe 2-0 to lock down the final European slot at the Major. The team did play one final Bo3 series against Team Liquid in which it lost 1-2, but that series was played for seeding purposes only and was not taken particularly seriously by either squad. Overall, Alliance walks away from this Major qualifier with a 7-7 record against its regional rivals, a place on the Pro Circuit stage in Chongqing, and an increasingly more legitimate claim to a position as one of the leading squads in the European region.
The Final Tribe
Record: 4-8 (4-4 Group Stage, 0-4 Playoffs)
Once again, The Final Tribe found itself in a position where it had the potential to take that next step forward and join the ranks of the elite teams within the European region. The Swedish squad has been working its way up the regional hierarchy stretching back to the second half of the previous Pro Circuit campaign, and this Major qualifier run represented a critical opportunity for the team. The Final Tribe put together a solid Group Stage performance, taking out both NiP and Vega Squadron in 2-1 series victories while losing 0-2 to Team Liquid for a 4-4 record that advanced it to the Playoffs. Once there though, things fell apart for the team, as The Final Tribe suffered back to back 0-2 losses against Team Secret and Alliance to finish 4th in the qualifier. At 4-8, the team’s overall qualifier record does not look quite as impressive on paper, but the squad held its own against many of its regional rivals up until its collapse in the Playoffs. At this stage, the team doesn’t quite look ready to take on the elite teams in the European region, but that doesn’t mean that the squad’s hopes of returning to the Pro Circuit stage are lost. The qualifiers for The Bucharest Minor are set to begin soon, and The Final Tribe’s 4th place finish in this event all but guarantees it an invite to that next Pro Circuit qualifier.
Record: 3-4 (3-4 Group Stage)
The defending TI8 Champion made its first appearance of the 2018-2019 season in this qualifier, and it did so with a slightly altered lineup from the one that we saw in Vancouver. The addition of Pajkatt to the roster gave the team a new look, but the team was still able to put together a solid performance against its regional rivals. After losing its initial series of the Group Stage to Alliance in a 0-2 series, the team was able to bounce back with a 2-0 stomp of Hippomaniacs before falling 1-2 in a hard fought rematch with Alliance. Unfortunately for the team, its 3-4 overall record ended up falling short of the mark to advance the squad out of the Group Stage, which is a development that will surely come as a disappointment for many. However, the reigning TI Champion coming into the new season with a little bit of rust to shake off isn’t necessarily unheard of, and OG will still have a chance to make its season debut on the Pro Circuit stage if it can earn a spot in the upcoming Bucharest Minor qualifiers.
Record: 3-5 (3-5 Group Stage)
Following its appearance at the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor earlier in the season, Vega Squadron entered this qualifier as a team hoping to continue its climb up the European hierarchy. While the squad’s previous appearance on the Pro Circuit stage had earned it a bit of momentum, the stacked field of this Major qualifier still presented a multitude of issues for the team. The squad’s Group Stage run began with a 0-2 loss at the hands of Team Liquid, though Vega Squadron was able to avoid finishing at the bottom of the Group A standings by defeating Ninjas in Pyjamas 2-1 in the Losers’ Match of the group. That victory put the squad in the Decider Match against The Final Tribe, but the squad could not fight its way past the Swedish squad as it suffered a hard fought 1-2 defeat to end its qualifier run. Despite failing the advance to the Playoffs, Vega Squadron still put together a solid performance, with MagE- being particularity impressive with averages of 7.38 kills and 9.63 Assists with 5 Deaths per game across the team’s 8 matches in the qualifier. It may not have been enough to get the team to the Major, but those kinds of performances would still make Vega Squadron a strong contender in The Bucharest Minor qualifiers if it can earn itself a place in that event.
Ninjas in Pyjamas
Record: 2-4 (2-4 Group Stage)
In a rather shocking turn of events in The Chongqing Major Europe Qualifier, Ninjas in Pyjamas was one of the first squads to be eliminated from contention, as the team finished at the bottom of the Group A standings. The team struggled against its regional rivals in this event, losing both of its Group Stage series 1-2 against The Final Tribe and Vega Squadron. For the most part, the team appeared to be playing with an “all or nothing” sort of approach, as 5 of its 6 matches did not experience a single net worth lead change past the 20 minute mark. Coming into the event, the big question for NiP was whether or not it would be able to out perform Team Liquid, but as it turned out, the squad ended up being eliminated from the qualifier without ever having played the TI7 Champion. The team’s struggles in this qualifier certainly will come as a shock to many in the Dota 2 world, but hope is not lost for NiP just yet. The squad will still have a chance to earn itself a place in the upcoming Bucharest Minor Europe Qualifier, and could still make its return to the Pro Circuit stage by reaching the Minor.
Record: 1-4 (1-4 Group Stage)
Things pretty much went about how they were expected to for Hiipomaniacs, as the Czech squad struggled against a field of the best squads in Europe and ended up finishing at the bottom of the Group B standings. The expectations were low for this squad heading into the qualifier, but Hippomaniacs actually managed to pull out something of a surprise by taking 1 match off of Team Secret in its opening series. Of course, said series ended up being a 1-2 loss in the end, and Hippomaniacs also ended up getting trounced 0-2 in its next series against OG, but that brief bit of success could perhaps be a sign of this team’s potential in the future. For now though, the team’s performance in this qualifier was not particularly noteworthy, save for the fact that the experience of playing against 2 of the region’s strongest teams could help the team’s development moving forward. Up next is The Bucharest Minor Europe Qualifier, though Hippomaniacs will more than likely have to progress through another round of open qualifiers in order to earn a place in that event.