New challenger Nemiga Gaming looks to bring down a trio of returning squads from the Major qualifier as 4 CIS teams fight for 1 spot at The Bucharest Minor.
With the regional qualifiers for The Chongqing Major now officially concluded, the eyes of the Dota 2 world turn to the accompanying Minor, as the qualifiers for The Bucharest Minor are set to begin. The winner of the Minor will earn itself the 16th and final spot in the field for The Chongqing Major, but before we can crown a Minor Champion in the Romanian capital, we need to know which teams are going to be competing at the event in the first place. With that in mind, we’ll begin our preview of The Bucharest Minor Qualifiers with a look at the CIS region. Similarly to the preview posts for the Major, we will be dividing the participants in this qualifier into sections based on their expectations. However, since there are only 4 teams in the field for this qualifier (2 direct invites, 2 Open Qualifier slots), we’ll be narrowing the sections down from 4 to 2: Favored Teams and Unfavored Teams.
The team(s) in this section represent the more formidable or accomplished teams in the field for the qualifier that appear to have the best chance at claiming a spot at the Minor. Given how small the field is for these qualifiers (4 teams per region), the margin between the squads in this section compared to the other may not be particularly high, but these teams have at least some small advantage based upon their roster or results in the previous Pro Circuit qualifiers.
Nikita “Daxak” Kuzmin
Andrey “Afoninje” Afonin
Vasily “AfterLife” Shishkin
Rinat “KingR” Abdullin
Ivan “VANSKOR” Skorokhod
For the past year or two, the CIS region has been one in which the vast field of teams within it could be realistically divided into 2 groups: Virtus.pro, and every one else. However, a new wave of squads is on the rise in the region, with the likes of Gambit Esports, Na’Vi, and NoPangolier hoping to finally take down the juggernaut that is VP. In order to do that though, these squads need to establish themselves as strong and consistent teams within the CIS region, and Gambit Esports has been doing so to a fairly strong degree so far this season. The team has already attended 1 Major in its 2018-2019 campaign, and its coming off of a Major qualifier run that saw it post a 6-6 record to just miss out on a spot in Chongqing. While the squad could not secure itself a place at the Major, it still has a shot at making a return to the Pro Circuit stage, as it faces off against a trio of squads in this Minor qualifier that are either relatively inexperienced or struggling within the region. The fact that there is only 1 CIS slot available at the Minor means that Gambit Esports cannot afford to make many mistakes in this qualifier, but as of right now, the team appears to be the one in the most favorable position to claim that spot and represent the CIS region in Bucharest.
Team Empire Hope
Kiyalbek “dream'” Tayirov
Konstantin “Kodos” Kogai
Rodion “MYSmoon” Fomkin
Oleg “sayuw” Kalenbet
Vladislav “BLACKARXANGEL” Ivashenko
When Team Empire announced its 2 new rosters, the majority of the attention was laid onto the Team Empire Faith lineup, as it was the one that held the majority of the organization’s previous players. However, it is the “secondary” squad that appears to be in a strong position to claim immediate success, as Team Empire Hope earned itself a place in the recent Major Qualifier and performed well enough to receive a direct invite to this subsequent Minor qualifier. The team performed fairly well in its first Pro Circuit qualifier appearance, posting a 5-6 overall record that saw it bring down both fellow Minor qualifier participant Winstrike Team and Na’Vi. Those showings against squads that were considered to be on the rise within the region certainly flashed some of the potential strength of this Team Empire Hope roster, but its performance was not without its concerns as well. Against Gambit Esports, the squad was a much less impressive 1-4, and with just 1 slot available at the Minor in this qualifier, Team Empire Hope is almost certainly going to have to go through said Gambit Esports squad if it wants to earn a place in Bucharest. We will have to see if this Team Empire Hope squad can continue its solid play in this Minor qualifier and reverse its fortunes against Gambit Esports as it looks to earn its debut on the Pro Circuit stage.
I know that “favored” and “unfavored” may not be the most dramatic of terms to divide the field for these qualifiers, but with just 4 teams per regional qualifier, it seems the most appropriate. The teams in this section aren’t necessarily underdogs or long shots, they’re just the teams that come in a little bit below the other squads in the field. Whether its a roster change or a poor performance in the previous Pro Circuit qualifier, the teams in this section don’t appear to be quite as strong as the others, though there is still a solid chance that one of them manages to make their way to the Minor.
Airat “Silent” Gaziev
Bogdan “Iceberg” Vasilenko
Alexey “nongrata” Vasilyev
Daniyal “yamich” Lazebny (Stand-in)
Andrey “ALWAYSWANNAFLY” Bondarenko
It really is hard to wrap one’s head around the fact that this squad made an appearance at TI just a few short months ago, as Winstrike Team has looked almost nothing like its old self so far this season. The squad has struggled to an alarming degree, and if coming off of a performance at the Major qualifier in which it finished with an abysmal 0-4 record. Despite the fact that the team managed to fight through the open qualifiers to reach this Minor qualifier, there really is no reason to have much confidence or faith in its ability to compete with its regional rivals in this event. The inconsistencies with this squad are incredibly frustrating, but there is at least some hope still remaining for Winstrike Team. The team’s roster is still a very talented and experienced one, and all it would take is a single event for the squad to potentially turn things around and reignite that spark that served it so well near the end of the previous Pro Circuit season. Hope may still be there for this Winsrtike Team roster heading into this qualifier, but it would appear best to keep one’s expectations low for the time being until we see some more tangible proof that the squad has returned to its previous level of play.
Alexey “Zitraks” Ischenko
Kirill “Sunlight” Kachinsky
Alexey “TheChosenOne” Karanevich
Gennady “Astral” Motuz
Dmitry “Fishman” Polishchuk
Nemiga Gaming is an organization that has popped up now and then within the lower tiers of the CIS regional scene, but the squad has never attracted a particularly high level of attention towards itself until now. With this appearance in The Bucharest Minor CIS Qualifier, the squad has perhaps its greatest chance to emerge as a potential challenger within the CIS region and to make its debut on the Pro Circuit stage. Like many of the squads that we see come out of the open qualifiers though, Nemiga Gaming has an issue in terms of its level of experience playing against the top level teams within its region, that issue being that it doesn’t have a whole lot of said experience. Without that experience, the team’s outlook for this qualifier is essentially based solely upon the talent of the roster, which leads to Nemiga Gaming being placed in the lower half of the field in terms of expected success. That being said, the CIS region so far this season has been all about underdog squads finding success, with Gambit Esports, NoPangolier, and Na’Vi having earned spots at Pro Circuit events after coming through open qualifiers. Who’s to say that Nemiga Gaming can’t do the same and become the latest CIS squad to defy the odds?