NiP earns a return to the Pro Circuit stage, while OG is set for its season debut as the 2 squads claim the European slots at The Bucharest Minor.
The second round of Pro Circuit qualifiers in this 2018-2019 campaign are beginning to come to a close, and the field of teams for the second Minor of the season is now filling out with the representatives of the 6 Dota regions fighting their way past their regional rivals. The European region has now officially completed its Minor qualifier, and we now know which squad will be heading to the Romanian capital to compete in The Bucharest Minor. 6 squads made up the field for this qualifier, with 5 of them (Ninjas in Pyjamas, OG, The Final Tribe, Vega Squadron, and Hippomaniacs) returning from the Major qualifier while the final squad (Helsinki REDS) was making its first appearance at a Pro Circuit qualifier this season. 1 of the teams (Ninjas in Pyjamas) in the field had previously attended the last Pro Circuit Major, while 2 of them (Vega Squadron and The Final Tribe) had been participants in the previous Minor. As for the rest of the participants in this qualifier, the opportunity to make their debut on the Pro Circuit stage was at stake. In the end though, only 2 of them proved to be successful, as OG and Ninjas in Pyjamas were the squad to come out on top against their regional rivals and lock down the 2 European slots in Bucharest. Though only OG and Ninjas in Pyjamas will be moving on to The Bucharest Minor, we should take a look at how each of the teams fared in this qualifier and where they may fall in the overall regional hierarchy. As with the previous recap posts for the last Pro Circuit qualifiers, we will be dividing the participants up based upon their final standings in this event.
Top 2 (Qualified for The Bucharest Minor)
Record: 8-1 (4-1 Group Stage, 4-0 Playoffs)
While OG had failed to earn itself a spot at The Chongqing Major in its first Pro Circuit qualifier appearance of the season, the expectations were still high for the defending TI champion as it entered this Minor qualifier. Despite the fact that the team needed a stand-in for its first few matches of the Group Stage, OG was able to put together a strong and consistent performance against its regional rivals. A 4-1 Group Stage record saw the team defeat Helsinki Reds and win 2 out of 3 matches against The Final Tribe to claim the top spot in Group B. The team followed up that strong start with an even stronger finish, as OG swept past both Vega Squadron and Ninjas in Pyjamas with back-to-back 2-0 victories in the Playoffs to secure itself a place in Bucharest. The team appeared to make few mistakes in its qualifier run, with Pajkatt in particular putting together some impressive performances despite only playing in 5 of the team’s 9 total matches. The most recent addition to the OG roster averaged 7.2 kills and 10.8 assists with just 1.2 deaths per game as he helped fuel a dominant performance for OG that earned the TI8 Champion is first appearance on the Pro Circuit this season.
Ninjas in Pyjamas
Record: 8-2 (4-0 Group Stage, 4-2 Playoffs)
After a rather disappointing performance in The Chongqing Major Europe Qualifier, the pressure was on Ninjas in Pyjamas to turn things around as quickly as possible and get itself back on track in this Minor qualifier. If the team was feeling that pressure, it didn’t show, as NiP put together a dominant showing in this qualifier against its regional rivals. The squad won 4 straight matches against Vega Squadron and Hippomaniacs to claim the top spot in Group A, and started its Playoff run with a one sided 2-0 victory over The Final Tribe as well. It wasn’t until the team faced of against OG in the Winners’ Finals that its considerable momentum was finally stalled, as the defending TI8 Champion was able to hand the squad a 0-2 defeat to deny it the first spot in Bucharest. Fortunately for NiP, it had a second opportunity to earn a place at the Minor, and it took full advantage of that opportunity by trouncing Vega Squadron in a massively one sided 2-0 victory. Overall, the team posted a 8-2 record in this qualifier, with its only losses coming in the aforementioned series against OG. It would appear that whatever went wrong for the team in the Major qualifier has been addressed or solved, but we’ll wait and see how the squad performs at the Minor in January before making any decisive statements just yet.
Record: 4-8 (2-3 Group Stage, 2-5 Playoffs)
After having to fight for its direct invite status for this Minor qualifier, Vega Squadron found itself in an even more difficult struggle once the actual play began in The Bucharest Minor Europe Qualifier. The squad was able to make its way through the Group Stage with a 2-3 record thanks to 2 wins against Czech squad Hippomaniacs, but things only got more intense in the Playoffs. The squad fell 0-2 in its initial series against OG, but managed to take a 2-1 victory over The Final Tribe to keep its hopes of reaching the Minor alive. Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed in the next round, as NiP absolutely dominated the series to hand Vega Squadron a 0-2 defeat that left it just short of the mark to qualify for the Minor with a 3rd place finish overall. While the team’s 4-8 record in this qualifier does not look fantastic at first glance, the fact that Vega Squadron came just 1 series away from qualifying for another Pro Circuit event will at least keep it in a somewhat favorable position within the European region moving forward.
The Final Tribe
Record: 4-6 (3-2 Group Stage, 1-4 Playoffs)
Once again The Final Tribe found itself on the cusp of reaching a Pro Circuit event this season, and once again the Swedish squad has ended up falling short. The team’s 4-6 overall record in this Minor qualifier was enough for a 4th place finish this time around, as the team put together a solid 3-2 Group Stage record before falling apart with a 1-4 stretch in the Playoffs against NiP and Vega Squadron. While missing out on another opportunity to earn a place on the Pro Circuit stage will certainly be a disappointment for The Final Tribe, the silver lining here is that the squad continues to consistently put itself in a position where it is at least competing for those opportunities. Whether The Final Tribe ever manage to finally find that level of success and overcome its regional rivals is anyone’s guess, but the Swedish squad doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon in the European region.
Record: 1-4 (1-4 Group Stage)
Unfortunately for Hippomaniacs, its performance in this Minor qualifier was not much better than its one in the Major qualifier, as the Czech team ended up with a 1-4 overall record once again. The team was blown out in a 0-2 loss to Ninjas in Pyjamas to begin its Group Stage run, but managed to split its 2 game series against Vega Squadron after a pair of hard fought 50+ minute matches. That 1-1 split led to the playing of a third match for tie breaking purposes, which Hippomaniacs ended up losing in a wholly one-sided affair that ended its run in the Minor qualifier. Between the Major and Minor qualifiers, Hippomaniacs ends up with a 2-8 overall record across this round of Pro Circuit qualifiers. The record is certainly not the most impressive one we’ve seen, but it is probably better than what many were expecting from a squad that had been largely limited to smaller regional events up until this point. There is potential for this Hippomaniacs squad, but it may take some time before the team is truly ready to compete with some of the more prominent and established squads in the region.
Record: 0-4 (0-4 Group Stage)
The first Pro Circuit qualifier appearance has come and gone for Helsinki REDS, and unfortunately the squad failed to make its qualifier run particularly noteworthy. The team was absolutely blown out in its initial Group Stage series against TI8 Champion OG, and lost its subsequent series as well in a fairly one-sided match up with The Final Tribe. Across its 4 matches in this qualifier, Helsinki REDS had an average match time of just under 26 minutes and was only really competitive in 1 of those 4 games. As it stands, the squad comes away from The Bucharest Minor Europe Qualifier without a single win to its name after an interesting, but disappointing performance against its regional rivals. Perhaps the squad’s talent and potential can further grow and develop as this season goes on, but right now Helsinki REDS appears to be little more than an afterthought within the European region.