6 squads to make their Pro Circuit debuts in January as field for The Bucharest Minor features a host of new faces.
The final Pro Circuit qualifiers of the 2018 section of the season have now officially drawn to a close, with the field set for the upcoming Bucharest Minor. Of course, the event itself will not actually be played until the start of 2019, but we already know the 8 teams that will be looking to begin the new year as Minor Champions in Bucharest. 1 team each from North America, South America, CIS, and Southeast Asia will be traveling to the Romanian capital, while 2 teams from Europe and China will also make the trip to round out the 8 team field for the second Minor of the 2018-2019 season. Aside from the money and Pro Circuit points that will be available at this event, the 8 squads will also be looking to lay claim to the title of Minor Champion and secure themselves the 16th and final slot at The Chongqing Major. With that in mind, let’s take a brief look at the 8 teams that successfully fought their way through the regional qualifiers to earn their places at The Bucharest Minor. Note that this will only be a brief bit of basic information about each squad, and a slightly more in-depth preview post will be forthcoming closer to the start of the Major.
Region: Europe (1st – Europe Qualifier)
Per Anders Olsson “Pajkatt” Lille
Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen
Sébastien “7ckngMad” Debs
Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka
Johan “N0tail” Sundstein
Cristian “ppasarel” Bănăseanu (Coach)
The TI8 Champion may not have been able to secure itself a place at The Chongqing Major in the conventional way, but with this appearance at The Bucharest Minor, the squad still has a shot at making its way to the Major the long way around. The Minor will represent the team’s first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage this season, and its first official matches on the international level since its successful run at TI. The addition of Pajkatt to the roster appears to be going well for the team too, and having one of the more experienced players in the scene on its side will certainly be a benefit for OG at the Minor. While there may still be some lingering concerns about how well the team will perform against the elite squads of the Dota 2 world, its recent success has OG sitting as one of the leading teams in the field for The Bucharest Minor.
Ninjas in Pyjamas
Region: Europe (2nd – Europe Qualifier)
Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard
Adrian “Fata” Trinks
Neta “33” Shapira
Martin “Saksa” Sazdov
Peter “ppd” Dager
The struggles that NiP went through in The Chongqing Major Europe Qualifier certainly came as something of a shock in the Dota 2 world, especially considering the fact that the team had been coming off of a 4th place finish at The Kuala Lumpur Major. The team’s poor performance had introduced some doubts and concerns, but it appears that the squad has managed to lay those doubts to rest and get itself back on track. The team’s 8-2 record in the Minor qualifier has gone a long way towards reaffirming the confidence in the squad, and at this stage it looks as though the team’s earlier issues were a fluke rather than the start of a downward trend for it. So long as the team can avoid another setback and continue to play at the level we’ve seen so far this season, Ninjas in Pyjamas will come into The Bucharest Minor as one of the biggest threats to claim the title of Minor Champion and earn a place at its second Major of the season.
Region: North America (North America Qualifier Winner)
Samuel “Sammyboy” Anderson
Eric “Ryoya” Dong
Braxton “Brax” Paulson
Jason “Newsham” Newsham
Michael “ixmike88” Ghannam
With the rest of the Tier 2 scene in the North American region presenting itself as an unstable and chaotic landscape, TEAM TEAM has emerged as a stronger and more consistent presence as the squad has earned its first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage this season. While TEAM TEAM as a unit does not have much experience outside of the North American region, its players certainly do, as the majority of its lineup are both veterans of the North American scene and former members of squads that saw action on the international level. That experience will be a valuable tool for TEAM TEAM in Bucharest, but past experience alone won’t be enough to make this squad a favorite in the field with squads like OG and NiP participating in the event. That being said, if TEAM TEAM can keep its composure on the big stage and play at the level that we just saw from it in this Minor qualifier, then there is no reason to believe that the North American squad can’t put together a strong run in Bucharest and possibly be a threat to claim the title of Minor Champion.
Region: South America (South America Qualifier Winner)
Alonso “Minoz” a.k.a. “Kotarō Hayama” León
Eliseo “Faker” Arancibia
Jose “Sword” Andree Nicosia
Steven “StingeR” Vargas
Christian “Accel” Cruz
The last time many will have heard about Playmakers Esports was its recent disqualification from The Chongqing Major South American Qualifier. In the wake of that drama and the team’s own roster issues, a new iteration of the lineup emerged, and that version of the team has put together an impressive performance against its regional rivals. The team’s 6-1 record in the Minor qualifier earned it the lone South American spot at The Bucharest Minor, and Playmakers Esports will now look to salvage its somewhat tarnished reputation with a strong showing in its Pro Circuit debut. Luckily for the team, its roster contains many players that have seen action on the international level before, so the pressure of playing against squads from outside of its home region will hopefully be lessened for Playmakers Esports. Of course, experience is not always enough to earn a team success, and Playmakers Esports will certainly have a tough challenge ahead of it against this field of opponents in Bucharest.
Region: CIS (CIS Qualifier Winner)
Nikita “Daxak” Kuzmin
Andrey “Afoninje” Afonin
Vasily “AfterLife” Shishkin
Rinat “KingR” Abdullin
Ivan “VANSKOR” Skorokhod
The somewhat surprising run from regional rival NoPangolier ended up robbing Gambit Esports of its chance at earning back to back Major appearances via the conventional route, but the CIS squad did not give up after its initial failure. With this dominant performance over its regional rivals in the Minor qualifier, the squad has earned its second appearance on the Pro Circuit stage, and could still make its way to the Major should it manage to claim the title of Minor Champion in Bucharest. Of course, doing so will require the team to fight its way through a rather intimidating field of teams at the Minor, and the squad’s last appearance on the international level was not quite as strong as it may have preferred as it finished in the 13th-16th place position at The Kuala Lumpur Major. While the field of teams for this Minor is certainly a strong one, it is not quite on the same level as what the team had to face off against in Kuala Lumpur, and the hope is that the team’s experience playing at that level combined with its strong performances at home will be enough to fuel a successful run in Bucharest.
Region: Southeast Asia (Southeast Asia Qualifier Winner)
Randy “Dreamocel” Sapoetra
Rafli “Mikoto” Fathur
Saieful “Fbz” Ilham
Tri “Jhocam” Kuncoro
Alfi “Khezcute” Nelphyana
The path to prominence has been a long and sometimes painful one for BOOM ID, but the team has finally earned itself a high profile appearance on the international level with its participation in The Bucharest Minor. The team has been an up-and-coming squad within the Southeast Asian region for a while now, appearing in regional qualifiers and smaller events but never quite reaching that highest level in Southeast Asia until now. Though the team’s performance against its regional rivals in this Minor qualifier was impressive, the limited experience of the team on the international level presents a small point of concern for BOOM ID heading into its Pro Circuit debut. Because of that lack of international experience, BOOM ID is not likely to be considered one of the favorites in the field for the Minor, but the squad has shown itself to be a talented group, and we’ve seen talent, teamwork, and determination win out over experience more than once in the Dota 2 world.
Region: China (1st – China Qualifier)
Wang “old chicken” Zhiyong
Zhai “一” Jingkai
Ren “eLeVeN” Yangwei
Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi
Song “dark”‘ Runxi
After a season of ups and downs and near misses in regional qualifiers, Keen Gaming has finally broken through and put together a victorious run to earn itself its season debut on the Pro Circuit stage. The team’s play within its home region has been solid, if somewhat inconsistent, so far in this 2018-2019 campaign, but the squad was able to show a degree of determination, resiliency, and stability as it fought its way through the open qualifier and overcame its regional rivals in the main Minor qualifier to earn its place in Bucharest. Of course, the squad’s prior issues in terms of consistent play will almost certainly be a concern heading into the Minor itself, but now that the task of qualifying for an event has been accomplished, the hope is that the experience of its players will help keep Keen Gaming composed on the Pro Circuit stage. Keen Gaming is not likely to be considered a favorite in the field for The Bucharest Minor, but if the team can avoid any relapses or setbacks in terms of its play, then the Chinese squad has the potential to make a significant impact at the event.
Region: China (2nd – China Qualifier)
Luo “eGo” Bin
Li “ASD” Zhiwen
Zhang “Faith_bian” Ruida
Jiang “天命” An
Zhang “y`” Yiping
EHOME entered the Minor qualifier as a squad that had attended every prior Pro Circuit qualifier this season, though all of its previous efforts had failed to earn the squad a place on the Pro Circuit stage. This time around though, the team finally managed to out perform its regional rivals and claim an opportunity to play on the international level. Considering just how well the team had been performing within its home region outside of Pro Circuit qualifiers, it looked like it was only a matter of time before the squad locked down an appearance on the Pro Circuit stage. In EHOME, one can find a powerful mix of veteran experience and young talent. Its Carry/Mid duo of eGo and ASD have only been playing professional for less than 2 years now, while the duo of Faith_bian and y` bring multiple years of experience and a TI victory to the table. With all of those assets combined on the roster, EHOME represents a formidable opponent heading into this Minor, and a potential dark horse candidate for the title of Minor Champion.