The One and the Only: EHOME bring down Gambit Esports 3-1 to claim its first Minor Championship in a dramatic return to prominence in the Dota 2 world.
The 2019 section of the Pro Circuit season got started with a some exciting action in the Dota 2 world, as The Bucharest Minor officially kicked off the new year as the second Minor and third total Pro Circuit event of the 2018-2019 season. 8 teams made their way to the PGL Studios in the Romanian capital, with each one of them looking to start their year off with a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage and lay claim to the first Minor Championship title of 2019. In addition to the money and Pro Circuit Points that were on the line in Bucharest, the 8 participating squads were also fighting for the chance to win their way into The Chongqing Major, with the Minor Champion claiming that coveted 16th and final spot in the field for the subsequent Major. Every team in the field was reaching for that spot at the Major and the prestige of claiming a victory on the Pro Circuit stage, but in the end only 1 squad walked away from the event with the title of Bucharest Minor Champion.
At the end of the festivities in Bucharest, the final team standing ended up being 1 of the 2 Chinese challengers, as EHOME laid claim to the first Minor Championship title of 2019. The Chinese squad brought down CIS opponent Gambit Esports 3-1 in the Bo5 Grand Finals series to win the organization’s first ever Pro Circuit title. The squad put together an near unbelievable run in the event, posting a 11-1 overall record (4-0 Group Stage, 7-1 Playoffs) that included a stretch of 9 straight victories. Across that 11-1 record, the team claimed series victories over Playmakers Esports, OG, Keen Gaming, and Gambit Esports (twice) as it marched unimpeded to its Minor Championship title.
With our first Pro Circuit event of 2019 now officially over, we can take a look at how the Pro Circuit Rankings have been affected by the events in Bucharest. With its 1st place performance at the Minor, EHOME officially adds its name to the board in the Rankings and moves into a tie for the 12th place position with 120 points. Of course, that point total has the potential to increase in the coming days depending on how well the team performs at the upcoming Chongqing Major. The Bucharest Minor runner up, Gambit Esports, adds 100 points to its total and moves up into the 11th place position in the Rankings. Finishing in 3rd place at the Minor was Keen Gaming, as the Chinese squad also adds its name to the Pro Circuit Rankings and sits in 17th place overall with 90 Pro Circuit Points. Meanwhile, Ninjas in Pyjamas remains in the 4th place position in the Rankings, with its 4th place finish in Bucharest bringing its Pro Circuit Point total up to 1420 after adding 70 points from the Minor. The 2 squads that finished in the 5th-6th place positions, TEAM TEAM and OG, are also new additions to the Pro Circuit Rankings. However, only 1 of those squads received the full 40 points for their efforts in Bucharest, as OG played with a substitute and instead earned just 24 points from the Minor. With that in mind, TEAM TEAM lays claim to the 22nd place position in the Rankings, while OG slides into a tie for 23rd overall. As for the final 2 participants in the field, BOOM ID and Playmakers Esports both take 20 Pro Circuit Points from their 7th-8th place runs in Bucharest, and officially add their names to the Pro Circuit Rankings as well as both teams sit in a tie for the 26th place position overall. As a whole, the Pro Circuit Rankings did not change all that much, as the majority of the team’s involved where making their season debuts on the Pro Circuit stage. However, the movement of Gambit Esports and EHOME into the Top 12 comes as a significant development at this point in the season, as the 2 squads have a shot at potentially laying claim to 1 of the 12 direct invites to TI9 this summer.
With all of the action and excitement at and end in Bucharest, the Pro Circuit Rankings now fully up to date, and EHOME on is way back home for an appearance before a home town crowd at The Chongqing Major as Minor Champion, the time has come to take a look at how each of the squads performed at The Bucharest Minor. We will be looking at how the team’s played across their various series and matches at the event, and whether those squads managed to live up to their pre-event projections and expectations.
Winnings: $15,000 & 40 Pro Circuit Points
Event Record: 5-6 (4-2 Group Stage, 1-4 Playoffs)
OG came into The Bucharest Minor as a team that had quite a few questions in need of answering. Though the squad was still just 5 months removed from its TI8 victory, OG entered the event with a different look and a very different situation within the European region. Squads like Team Secret, Team Liquid, Ninjas in Pyjamas, and even Alliance had been stealing headlines in the region, and the squad’s relative inactivity over the opening months of the season made it harder to gauge where it fell within the new regional hierarchy. With this appearance on the Pro Circuit stage in Bucharest, OG had an opportunity to show the Dota 2 world that it was still a leader within the European region, as well as a legitimate contender on the international level as well.
OG’s return to the Pro Circuit stage began with a match up against Indonesian squad BOOM ID in the Opening Matches of Group B. Game 1 did not start off particularly well for the defending TI Champion though, as OG’s core trio of Faceless Void, Razor, and Sven started slow against the early aggression from its opponent. The team trailed in terms of net worth through the first 20 minutes of the match, but eventually began to pull things back into its favor in the mid and late-game stages. The squad out killed BOOM ID 23-6 over the final 15 minutes of play in order to secure itself a win in its first match of the Minor. After its comeback performance in Game 1, OG came into Game 2 with all of the momentum on its side, and that quickly became apparent as the squad dominated the match. Behind a pair of strong performances from Topson’s Timbersaw (9-0-9) and JerAx’s Grimstroke (6-4-13), OG was able to overrun BOOM ID, racking up a net worth lead of nearly 16k at the 20 minute mark to force a “gg” call from its opponent for a 2-0 sweep of the series.
That win put OG in the Winners’ Match of Group B, where it faced off against EHOME to see which team would claim the top spot in the group standings. Game 1 saw the team get off to a slow start once again, but a strong performance from iLTW’s Vengeful Spirit (14-10-15) helped the team make a surge in the mid and late-game stages that brought things back towards an even footing between the 2 squads. Unfortunately, that momentum could not be maintained for OG, as the squad lost a costly team fight that handed control of the match back to EHOME and allowed the Chinese squad to close out a win in the first match of the series. After coming up short in the first game of the series, OG did not look much better in Game 2. The squad was able to keep pace with its opponent through the first 15 minutes of play, but the mid-game stage was completely controlled by its opponent. Over the final 8 minutes of the match, OG earned itself just 2 kills compared to the 15 that it surrendered to EHOME. With its net worth deficit nearing the 12k mark just 28 minutes into the match, OG conceded defeat to fall 0-2 in the series.
Losing to EHOME dropped OG into the Decider Match of Group B, where it faced a rematch with BOOM ID for the final Upper Bracket slot in the Playoffs of the Minor. Game 1 did not look good for OG throughout most of the 39 minute match, as the squad found itself trailing in terms of net worth for the majority of the game. However, the squad was able to rely heavily on Topson’s Troll Warlord (18-3-7) in this match, biding its time until the hero was ready to spearhead an impressive comeback effort for OG. Behind that incredible performance, OG was able to turn the tables on its opponent, coming back from its net worth deficit to claim a win and a 1-0 lead in the series. Riding the momentum from its comeback victory, OG came out aggressively in Game 2 of the series. Thanks to strong showings from iLTW’s Phantom Lancer (8-1-5) and JerAx on his signature Earth Spirit (7-2-7), OG was able to heavily pressure BOOM ID’s lineup from the very outset of the match. That pressure allowed OG to build up a massive advantage, as the squad led by over 23k net worth at the 22 minute mark of the match. With such a significant deficit in front of it, BOOM ID conceded defeat to give OG another 2-0 victory over the Indonesian squad and a spot in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs.
OG’s first series of the Playoffs would see it take on a familiar foe, as the squad faced off against the same Gambit Esports squad that it had faced just a few days earlier in the Grand Finals of WePlay! Dota 2 Winter Madness. That series had been a 0-3 defeat for OG, and history very quickly ended up repeating itself this time around as OG was absolutely crushed by its opponent. The European squad managed to earn just 6 total kills across the 2 game series, a number that paled in comparison to the 62 kills racked up by Gambit Esports. iLTW was the only player on the OG roster to earn more than 1 kill in a match, and OG trailed in terms of net worth for the vast majority of the series as it simply could not keep pace with its opponent. In just over 48 minutes of game time, OG had suffered one of the most one-sided defeats in Pro Circuit history, as the squad took an ignoble 0-2 loss that dropped it out of the Upper Bracket.
After dropping into the Lower Bracket, OG found itself facing off against a regional rival in the form of Ninjas in Pyjamas, with 1 of the 2 squads set to take an early exit from the Minor. Game 1 of the series saw OG in control throughout most of the match, as the squad overcame a somewhat slow start to dominate the mid-game stage behind strong showings from iLTW’s Phantom Assassin (14-2-11) and JerAx’s Earth Spirit (8-2-13). With those 2 leading the way, OG was able to secure itself a one-sided victory to claim a 1-0 lead in the series. Unfortunately for the TI Winners, everything went wrong from there, as OG put together a pair of disastrous performances in Games 2 and 3 of the series. The team combined for just 22 kills across those final 2 matches, while surrendering 58 kills to its opponent and trailing in terms of net worth for nearly the entirety of the 2 games. The squad simply could not generate any momentum for itself, and ended up losing the series 1-2 to end its run at the Minor with a finish in the 5th-6th place position with a 5-6 overall record.
OG entered The Bucharest Minor with aspirations of continuing the success that it had achieved at TI8 and reestablishing itself as a leading power on the Pro Circuit stage. Though the team had recently gone through a change to its roster, the majority of that TI8 winner squad remained intact, and it was though that the team would have relatively few difficulties returning to top form. Prior to the start of the event, OG was projected to finish in the Top 4 range, but the European squad ended up falling short of that mark with its 5th-6th place finish in Bucharest. Even with the team playing with a stand-in at this event, OG’s performance and 5-6 record at the Minor comes as a slight disappointment compared to the expectations for the team. Of the team’s 5 total wins in Bucharest, 4 of them came in 2 series against a BOOM ID team that, while not exactly a push over, is far from on par with the level of a defending TI Champion. Its remaining matches against EHOME, Gambit Esports, and Ninjas in Pyjamas, all teams that finished in the top half of the standings at the Minor, resulted in just a 1-6 record. Simply put, the team did not look to be ready to take on the top teams in the field at this Minor, and by extension do not appear to be in a position to challenge the leading squads in the Pro Circuit Rankings in general. Of course, that situation could very easily change in the near future, depending on what the team does with regards to its roster vacancy. Whatever decision comes from the organization on that front will almost certainly be revealed sometime before the start of the next set of Pro Circuit Qualifiers at the beginning of February.
Ninjas in Pyjamas
Winnings: $25,000 & 70 Pro Circuit Points
Event Record: 7-7 (3-4 Group Stage, 4-3 Playoffs)
Ninjas in Pyjamas came into The Bucharest Minor as a squad that many had questions about. The squad had finished 4th at the previous Major playing with a stand-in, but had recently suffered a setback of sorts in terms of its play within the European region. With this appearance at the Minor, the squad hoped to get itself back on track with a strong performance on the international level to prove that it could maintain the level of play that had earned it its Top 4 finish in Kuala Lumpur. With its full roster participating in this event and a wealth of talent and experience on its side, NiP appeared to be primed for a bounce back showing on the Pro Circuit stage and a shot at earning the 16th and final slot at The Chongqing Major.
Ninjas in Pyjamas began its run in Bucharest with a match up against 1 of the 2 Chinese teams in the field, as the squad played Keen Gaming in the Opening Matches of Group A. The series did not begin in the best of fashions for the squad though, as NiP was absolutely trounced in a 33-4 rout in Game 1 of the series. Despite that rough start, NiP was able to rally and bounce back with a one-sided win in Game 2 led by a 10-4-15 performance from Fata on Pugna. Unfortunately for the European squad, its new found momentum did not last long, as Game 3 saw Keen Gaming put together another dominant showing. Out killed by a score of 14-47, NiP ended up traliing in terms of net worth throughout the entirety of the match as it fell 1-2 in its first series in Bucharest.
With its loss against Keen Gaming, Ninjas in Pyjamas found itself facing off against North American squad TEAM TEAM in the Losers’ Match of Group A. On paper, this series appeared to be somewhat close, as NiP only ended up finishing with 1 more kill than its opponent (42-41). However, the kill count belied a huge difference between the levels of farm for the 2 squads, with NiP consistently holding the advantage in terms of net worth. Across over 85 minutes of total game time in this series, NiP held a net worth lead for 70 of those minutes, due in large part to a duo of strong showings from Ace’s Gyrocopter (combined 23-6-15 in 2 games). Behind those impressive performances, NiP was able to largely control both matches in the series as it claimed a 2-0 sweep of the series to keep its hopes of reaching the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs alive.
NiP’s victory over TEAM TEAM earned it a shot at both a place in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs and a shot at revenge against Keen Gaming, as the 2 squads faced off for the second time in the Group Stage. Unfortunately for NiP, the rematch did not end up going much better for it than its first bout with Keen Gaming. While the squad was able to hold steady with its opponent through the first 20 minutes of Game 1, its core trio of Juggernaut, Razor, and Nature’s Prophet quickly fell behind in the late-game stage. Out killed 13-3 over the final 7 minutes of play, NiP was unable to hold back Keen Gaming as it fell 0-1 to start the series. Game 2 appeared to see the European squad flipping the script from its previous match, as NiP was the team to take control of the match in the mid and late-game stages. Behind an impressive performance from Fata on Timbersaw (13-6-11), the team was holding on to a net worth advantage of just under 7k near the 45 minute mark. Unfortunately, late-game fights proved to be the Achilles Heel for the squad for the second match in a row, as Keen Gaming mounted a furious comeback effort and out killed NiP 13-6 to snap any semblance of momentum in the match. Despite a last second surge from the squad, NiP was unable to reclaim control as it fell 0-2 in the series to finish 3rd in the Group A standings.
With its somewhat disappointing Group Stage run, Ninjas in Pyjamas found itself in the Lower Bracket of the Playoffs in Bucharest, where it faced off against Playmakers Esports in an elimination series. As it turned out, the series ended up lacking any real sense of tension, as NiP was able to dominate the match up against its South American opponent with very little resistance. The team out killed its opponent by a score of 62-22 across 2 matches, and held a net worth advantage for 52 of the 58 total minutes of game time in the series. Behind a pair of strong performances from Fata on Tiny (10-2-13) in Game 1 and Outworld Devourer (9-0-8) in Game 2, NiP was able to take an easy 2-0 victory to knock Playmakers Esports out of the Minor and advance to Round 2 of the Lower Bracket.
Round 2 of the Lower Bracket saw Ninjas in Pyjamas squad off in an all-European elimination match against defending TI8 Champion OG. The opening match of the series did not go well for NiP, as the squad’s lineup found itself playing from behind for all but the first 10 minutes of the match. Repeated aggression in the mid-game stage allowed OG to dominate team fights and skirmishes, breaking any sense of momentum for NiP as it fell further and further behind in terms of net worth. Facing a deficit of nearly 16k net worth at the 24 minute mark, NiP opted to throw in the towel to go behind 0-1 in the series. From that point on though, NiP managed to turn the entire feel of the series around, as the team put together some masterful performances in Games 2 and 3 of the series. The squad out killed its opponent 58-22 across those final 2 matches, thanks in large part to Fata who put together a combined 19-7-19 stat line on Outworld Devourer and Puck. With those back to back stomps, NiP was able to seize control of the series and claim a 2-1 victory that guaranteed the team a Top 4 finish at the Minor.
After dispatching OG, Ninjas in Pyjamas found itself facing off against a familiar foe, as the squad went up against Keen Gaming for the third time at The Bucharest Minor. Unfortunately for NiP, this third series played out similarly to the previous 2, as the European squad struggled against its Chinese opponent. Game 1 proved to be a blow out loss for the squad that saw NiP trail in terms of net worth for the entirety of the match despite a valiant effort from Fata on Visage (7-7-5). Following that blowout loss, NiP managed to put up a more respectable fight in Game 2 of the series behind a core trio of Troll Warlord, Puck, and Dragon Knight. Behind another solid showing from Fata on Puck (9-7-9), NiP was able to build up a small net worth lead in the early and mid-game stages, but it would not last for long. As the match shifted into the late-game stage, Keen Gaming took charge, out killing NiP 20-5 over the final 13 minutes of play to claim back to back wins and hand NiP a 0-2 defeat. Said series loss ended NiP’s run at the Minor, with the team finishing in the 4th place position with an overall record of 7-7.
NiP came into The Bucharest Minor as one of the favorites to win the event, being 1 of the just 2 squads to have previous experience on the Pro Circuit stage this season. However, the team’s recent issues within its home region and in mixed Europe and CIS competitions had raised a few concerns heading into its second Pro Circuit appearance of the 2018-2019 campaign. Even so, the talent, experience, and prior success of the squad appeared to outweigh those concerns, as NiP came into the Minor with a projected finish in the Top 4 range. As it turns out, the team ended up being able to live up to those expectations, finishing 4th overall in Bucharest despite some ups and downs in its Minor run. When looking at NiP’s performance in this event, there is 1 aspect in particular that will likely garner the most attention, that aspect being the team’s 1-6 record against Keen Gaming. The Chinese squad absolutely man handled NiP, exposing some weaknesses that had not been fully apparent even in the team’s recent struggles within its home region. At this stage in the season, it appears that Chinese opponents are something of an Achilles Heel for NiP, as the squad’s total record to this point in the 2018-2019 campaign is just 1-8 against teams from China. Outside of those matches against Keen Gaming, NiP’s record sits at 6-1 against the trio of TEAM TEAM, Playmakers Esports, and OG. The team’s victories over those first 2 teams in that short list were hardly surprising, as TEAM TEAM and Playmakers were not expected to be serious contenders for the Minor Championship title coming into this event. The 2-1 win over OG stands as the team’s biggest accomplishment in Bucharest, but even that achievement seems somewhat lessened by the fact that OG was playing with a stand-in and also finished in the bottom half of the event standings. It seems somewhat strange to say in this context, but the situation for NiP appears to be one in which the team put together a disappointing performance at the Minor despite finishing exactly where they were predicted to. Of course, the team entered the event as one of the favorites to win, and so that Top 4 projection really translated into an expected 1st or 2nd place position in retrospect. With the team falling short of that mark, it walks away from the Minor with even more questions than it entered with. We will have to wait and see whether NiP can use this Minor performance to get itself back into top form as the next set of Pro Circuit Qualifiers is set to begin at the beginning of February.
Winnings: $15,000 & 40 Pro Circuit Points
Event Record: 4-7 (1-4 Group Stage, 3-3 Playoffs)
TEAM TEAM came into The Bucharest Minor looking for an opportunity to establish itself as a legitimate and consistent threat within the North American region. The region’s Tier 2 scene has been one of chaos and near constant change so far this season, but with this chance to play on the Pro Circuit stage, TEAM TEAM was hoping to separate itself from those that had come before it like ROOONS and compLexity Gaming. The team had a significant amount of experience on the roster with a group of regional veterans in the lineup, but the squad in its current form had previous little experience playing on the international level. Despite that concern, the hope was that the veteran presences on the roster would help the team keep its composure and put together a strong performance in its Pro Circuit debut.
The North American squad got its Pro Circuit debut started with a match up against Gambit Esports in the Opening Matches of Group A. Game 1 did not look good for the squad throughout much of the match, as TEAM TEAM trailed in terms of net worth for the majority of the first 30 minutes of play. However, a pivotal fight around the Roshan Pit and a pair of impressive performances from Ryoya’s Outworld Devourer (11-6-4) and sammyboy’s Phantom Assassin (9-3-13) helped spark a comeback victory in the opening match of the series. Unfortunately, the team’s momentum ran dry after that initial win, as Gambit Esports dominated the next 2 matches of the series. TEAM TEAM found itself out killed 17-49 across those last 2 games as it fell 1-2 in its first series of the Minor.
That loss to Gambit Esports put TEAM TEAM in the Losers’ Match of Group A, where it faced off against Ninjas in Pyjamas to determine which team would end up at the bottom of the group standings. The series was a rather interesting one for TEAM TEAM, as the squad ended up being out killed by its opponent by a score of just 41-42 across 2 games. The difference between the teams came in the significant disparity in terms of farm, as TEAM TEAM held a net worth lead for just 15 minutes across over 85 minutes of total game time in the series. With that consistent net worth deficit working against it, TEAM TEAM simply could not match the strength of its opponent in crucial team fights, and the squad ended up falling 0-2 in the series to finish at the bottom of the Group A standings.
TEAM TEAM’s Group Stage run had not been particularly successful, but the North American squad still had a shot at redemption as it faced off against Indonesian squad BOOM ID in Round 1 of the Lower Bracket. Game 1 of the series did not look good for the team for much of the match, as TEAM TEAM found itself trailing in terms of net worth throughout most of the mid and late-game stages. However, a pair of impressive performances from Sammyboy’s Ursa (11-9-10) and Ryoya’s Medusa (10-3-9) helped spearhead a comeback effort late that caught BOOM ID off guard and allowed TEAM TEAM to pull off a surprise victory to open the series. Game 2 saw TEAM TEAM built up a modest net worth lead early on, but its core trio of Troll Warlord, Death Prophet, and Dark Seer ended up falling flat in the mid and late-game stages as BOOM ID dominated team fights to secure itself a win and tie up the series 1-1. That loss for TEAM TEAM led it into Game 3 of the series, where the North American squad ended up reversing the roles from its previous match. TEAM TEAM was the squad playing from behind in the early stages of the match, but another pair of strong showings from Sammyboy on Terorblade (19-1-12) and Ryoya’s Pugna (13-3-18) allowed the squad to take control in the late-game and close out a hard fought 2-1 series win.
The team’s victory over BOOM ID allowed TEAM TEAM to advance to Round 2 of the Lower Bracket, where it faced off against Chinese squad Keen Gaming in its second straight elimination series. The series did not begin in fantastic fashion for the North American squad, as TEAM TEAM squandered an early net worth lead in Game 1 and found itself trailing massively in the mid and late-game stages. Out killed by a score of 3-18 over the final 15 minutes play, TEAM TEAM was forced to concede defeat to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw the squad bounce back from its rough initial defeat though, as TEAM TEAM put together a dominant performance. Behind impressive showings from Ryoya’s Sniper (11-3-11) and Brax on Tiny (13-5-18), the team held a net worth lead throughout the entirety of the match to bring the series to a 1-1 tie. Unfortunately for the team, none of its momentum from that Game 2 win carried over into the final match of the series. The squad earned just 5 kills in the match and simply did not have any answers to the early aggression of its opponent in what was an absolutely abysmal performance. The team threw in the towel in under 24 minutes of game time, losing the series 1-2 and bringing its Minor run to an end with a finish in the 5th-6th place position and an overall record of 4-7.
TEAM TEAM came into the Minor as a team looking to buck the trend of inconsistent and unstable squads in the North American region. Predecessors on the Pro Circuit stage like compLexity Gaming and ROONS had all suffered either significant roster changes in the wake of their Pro Circuit appearances or had simply disbanded entirely, but TEAM TEAM hoped to avoid that fate with a solid performance in Bucharest. Coming into the event, the team was not expected to be overly successful, though it was predicted to avoid falling to the very bottom of the event standings with a projected finish in the 5th-6th place range. As it turned out, the team ended up in that exact position when its run was over in Bucharest, as the squad’s 4-7 overall record was enough to place it in that very same 5th-6th place. Despite the fact that the team ended up in the lower half of the event standings, the performance from TEAM TEAM in Bucharest was not particularly disappointing. 4 of the team’s 7 total losses came against Gambit Esports and Ninjas in Pyjamas, the only 2 squads with prior Pro Circuit experience this season and 2 teams that were considered to be significant favorites prior to the start of the event. TEAM TEAM was hardly in a position where it was considered to be on an even footing with those squads, making its series losses against them unfortunate, but not unexpected. With those losses set aside, the team was left with a 3-3 record against BOOM ID and Keen Gaming, 2 teams that appeared to be around the same skill level as TEAM TEAM heading into this event. Perhaps the most interesting part of TEAM TEAM’s run at the minor was the play of Sammyboy, the player on the team with the least experience both on the international level and in professional Dota 2 in general. In his first significant LAN appearance, the hybrid Carry/Midlaner made some big mistakes and had a few poor performances, it would be expected of a player with limited international experience. However, those mistakes were counterbalanced by some impressive play for TEAM TEAM, as he averaged just over 7.09 kills and 6 assists with just 4.36 deaths per game, and led his team with a 3.4 KDA across the team’s 11 matches. Overall, TEAM TEAM displayed a fair bit of potential despite finishing in the lower half of the standings, but now the squad must prove that it can keep its roster intact unlike the regional rivals that came before it. The next round of Pro Circuit Qualifiers will come at the beginning of February, but TEAM TEAM will have an opportunity to get back into the action prior to that point with its appearance in the Playoffs of the North American Dota Challengers League Season 2 beginning January 19.
Winnings: $7,500 & 20 Pro Circuit Points
Event Record: 0-6 (0-4 Group Stage, 0-2 Playoffs)
Playmakers Esports came into The Bucharest Minor as a team looking to take advantage of a power vacuum within the South American region. With test123 (formerly paiN X) officially moving to the North American region, there was an open position near the top of the regional hierarchy that needed to be filled. With this debut performance on the Pro Circuit stage, Playmakers Esports was hoping to display its strength on the international level and potentially lay claim to that coveted position as a leader within the South American region. In order to do that though, the squad needed to put together a solid showing on the Pro Circuit stage, and prove that it had the talent and experience to impose its will on the international level.
Playmakers Esports began its run at the Minor with a match up against Chinese squad EHOME in the Opening Matches of Group B. Unfortunately, the Peruvian team quickly found itself out played in this initial series, as EHOME put together a dominant showing that Playmakers Esports simply seemed to have no answers for. Out killed by a score of 22-62 across the 2 game series, Playmakers Esports ended up taking a rough 0-2 loss in a series that lasted just over 55 minutes of total game time.
That initial loss dropped Playmakers Esports into the Losers’ Match of its group, but things didn’t improve much for the squad as it faced off against Southeast Asian challenger BOOM ID to determine which team would finish at the bottom of the group standings. Once again, Playmakers Esports found itself out played by a rather wide margin, as the team was out killed 21-70 across 2 matches. The team trailed in terms of net worth for 57 of the 58 total minutes in this series, suffering another embarrassing and lopsided 0-2 series loss to finish its Group Stage run without a single win to its name.
That 0-4 Group Stage run put Playmakers Esports in the Lower Bracket of the Playoffs, but things didn’t get much better for the Peruvian squad as it faced off against Ninjas in Pyjamas in an elimination series. Said series proved to be an absolute disaster for Playmakers Esports, as the team was out played at just about every turn by its European opponent. The squad racked up just 22 kills compared to the 62 of NiP, and trailed in terms of net worth for all but a 6 minute stretch at the beginning of Game 2 of the series. The team simply could not generate any sense of momentum for itself, with the strongest performance from its roster being a middling 6-4-4 showing from Kotarō Hayama in Game 2. Playmakers Esports ended up falling 0-2 in the series after just under 58 minutes of total game time, finishing its run at the Minor in the 7th-8th place position with a 0-6 overall record.
Playmakers Esports came into the Minor looking for an opportunity to claim a position as a leading team within the South American region. The squad had gone through some recent issues with regards to its roster, but those problems appeared to be in the past coming into the event. Though the roster situation had been resolved prior to the start of the Minor, the squad was not expected to do well in Bucharest, with Playmakers Esports holding a projected 7th-8th place finish that it failed to out perform in the end. While the team ended up in the exact position that it had been predicted to fall into, what we saw from the squad at the Minor was even more disappointing than its projected finish would have suggested. The squad posted an abysmal 0-6 record at The Bucharest Minor, earning itself the ignoble distinction of being the only team in the field to fail to record a single win at the event. Perhaps the more disappointing aspect of the team’s performance in Bucharest was not the number of losses, but the manner in which the team ended up losing those matches. Playmakers Esports was blown out in every single one of its matches in Bucharest, having never put together even a single performance in which it appeared that the team had a solid chance of winning. The team averaged just 10.83 Kills per game across the whole event, while surrendering an astonishing 32.33 Kills per game to its opponents. Across all 6 of its matches in Bucharest, Playmakers Esports held a net worth lead for only around 10 minutes in total, as the squad found itself playing from behind from the very outset of those games. The fact of the matter is that there is very little to take away from this performance in terms of positives for Playmakers Esports. The team put together one of the worst showings we’ve ever seen on the Pro Circuit stage, and at a time when it can ill afford to look weak with regional rivals waiting in the wings to take advantage of any lapse in focus. Squads like Infamous, Thunder Predator, and WP Gaming are all gunning to fill the void left by test123’s region swap, and with this incredibly underwhelming appearance on the Pro Circuit stage, Playmakers Esports looks to be in danger of falling behind those rivals in the near future.
Winnings: $70,000 & 100 Pro Circuit Points
Event Record: 9-6 (4-1 Group Stage, 5-5 Playoffs)
Gambit Esports came into The Bucharest Minor as a team sporting a new look to its roster. The addition of Immersion and fng represented something of a risk for the organization on the eve of its second Pro Circuit appearance of the season, but the hopes were that the team’s 2 new players would revitalize the squad at this crucial juncture in the season. With squads like NoPangolier, Na’Vi, and even the 2 Team Empire squads representing potential threats within the regional hierarchy, Gambit Esports stood to benefit massively from a strong showing in Bucharest in the team’s second Pro Circuit appearance of the season.
Gambit Esports kicked off the Group Stage of the Minor with a match up against North American squad TEAM TEAM in the Opening Matches of Group A. The CIS team appeared to be in control in the first match of the series, as Gambit Esports managed to build up a modest net worth lead behind a strong showing from Daxak on Gyrocopter (11-4-7). Unfortunately for the team, that lead was lost in an unexpected team fight loss around the Roshan Pit as TEAM TEAM put together an impressive comeback effort to snatch victory away from Gambit Esports. While that initial loss came as something of a shock, the squad was able to quickly recover, putting together a 22-2 stomp of its opponent in Game 2 of the series before dominating the late-game stage of Game 3 with a combined 21-7-36 showing form its core trio to close out a 2-1 series victory.
That win over TEAM TEAM put Gambit Esports in the Winners’ Match of Group A, where it faced off against Chinese squad Keen Gaming for a place in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs. Game 1 proved to be an entirely one-sided affair, as Gambit Esports made effective use of a last pick Meepo to catch its opponent off guard. Behind on 10-1-6 performance from Daxak on said Meepo, Gambit Esports was able to shut down Keen Gaming, holding the net worth lead for nearly the entirety of the match to claim a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 ended up essentially being a repeat performance for Gambit, as the squad once again managed to dominate its opponent. With its core trio of Anti-Mage, Dragon Knight, and Dark Seer combining for a statline of 22-5-32 in the match, Gambit Esports established complete control over Keen Gaming en route to a victory in the game and a 2-0 sweep of the series.
Gambit Esports’ position at the top of the Group A standings had it started its Playoff run in the Upper Bracket, where it faced off against defending TI8 Champion OG in Round 1. The series ended up being one of the most unbelievably one sided stomps in recent memory, as Gambit Esports simply dominated every facet of both matches. The team out killed its opponent by a score of 62-6 across 2 games, and did not have a single player suffer more than 2 deaths across either match. Afoninje in particularly put together some strong performances in the series, combining for an overall stat line of 22-0-20 playing Shadow Fiend in Game 1 and Queen of Pain in Game 2. With performances like that leading the way, Gambit Esports was able to close out an incredible 2-0 series sweep over OG in just over 48 minutes of total game time.
With that victory over OG, Gambit Esports found itself just 1 more series win away from a spot in the Grand Finals of the Minor, but it had to face off against an undefeated EHOME squad in order to reach that position. Game 1 of the series ended up being an endurance match for the 2 teams, as the squads battled it out for over 72 minutes of total game time in a heated contest that saw Gambit Esports holding a net worth lead throughout most of the game. Despite impressive showings from both Ajoninje on Outworld Devourer (8-5-7, 41.6k net worth) and Daxak’s Medusa (5-2-12, 48.1k net worth), Gambit Esports simply could not close out the match. Eventually, EHOME’s patient and persistent defense wore down is attackers, and Gambit Esports lost a a massive late-game team fight that allowed EHOME to pull off an incredible comeback victory to hand the CIS squad a 0-1 deficit to begin the series. Game 2 saw the roles reversed for the 2 squads, as Gambit Esports was now the team playing from behind as it trailed in terms of net worth throughout the mid and late-game stages. Behind a huge performance from Daxak on Gyrocopter (13-4-11), Gambit Esports was able to mount a late-game surge, but unlike its opponent, the team could not complete the comeback as EHOME was able to reassert control and close out the match and the series. With its 0-2 loss, Gambit Esports found itself dropping down into the Lower Bracket Finals where it would have another shot at earning a place in the Grand Finals of the Minor.
Gambit Esports found itself facing off against a Chinese squad for the second series in a row in the Lower Bracket Finals, as the team played Keen Gaming for the second time in Bucharest with the final spot in the Grand Finals on the line. Game 1 proved to be a blowout win for Gambit Esports, as the squad almost immediately jumped on its opponent with heavy and frequent aggression. The team out killed its opponent 24-4, with just 2 of the team’s players suffering deaths in what was a massively one-sided match that gave Gambit Esports a 1-0 series lead in just over 28 minutes of game time. Game 2 ended up being a far closer match, as Gambit Esports found itself playing from behind for the majority of the game. Despite trailing in terms of net worth for most of the mid and late-game stages, the CIS squad refused to give in, pushing the match past the hour mark and biding its time in the hopes of finding an opening to strike back at Keen Gaming. Eventually, that opportunity came, and behind an incredible showing from Daxak’s Anti-Mage (18-6-9, 54.5k net worth), Gambit Esports was able to pull of a dramatic comeback victory to seal a 2-0 series sweep and advance to the Grand Finals.
The Grand Finals of the Minor would see Gambit Esports have its shot at revenge against EHOME, as the 2 squads faced off for the second time and final time at The Bucharest Minor. Unfortunately for Gambit Esports, Game 1 of the series did not go particularly well, as the CIS squad was dominated from the very outset of the match. Out killed 11-32, the team was trailing in terms of net worth for the entirety of the match and seemingly had no answers for the aggressive lineup of its opponent as it fell behind 0-1 to start the series. In Game 2, Gambit Esports managed to reverse those roles, as the CIS squad was the team to put together an aggressive strategy that caught EHOME off guard. With its core trio of Anti-Mage, Razor, and Nature’s Prophet combining for a stat line of 24-10-55, the team was able to dominate the match and claim a relatively easy victory to even up the series at 1-1. From that point on though, things went almost entirely in EHOME’s favor, as Gambit Esports could not carry the momentum from its Game 2 victory over into the rest of the series. The team was out killed by a score of 25-56 over the final 2 matches of the series, and trailed in terms of net worth for all but a handful of minutes across those games as EHOME put on a pair of dominant performances to close out the series and hand Gambit Esports a 1-3 defeat. That final loss ended the team’s run at the Minor with a 2nd place finish, as the CIS squad’s record of 9-6 saw it fall a bit short of the mark to reach its second Major of the season.
Gambit Esports came into The Bucharest Minor as 1 of just 2 squads in the field to have previous experience on the Pro Circuit stage this season. As such, the team was considered to be one of the favorites in the field to claim the title of Minor Champion and earn that coveted 16th spot at The Chongqing Major. Prior to the start of the event, the CIS squad was projected to finish in the Top 4 range, and the team more than lived up to that prediction with a 2nd place finish overall that nearly had the team advancing to the Minor. At 9-6, the squad’s performance in Bucharest was about as strong as one could have reasonably expected, especially considering the duo of Immersion and fng had only been added to the roster a few days before the start of the event. The team’s new support duo performed incredibly well at the Minor, with Immersion and fng combining to average over 30 assists per game across the team’s 15 total matches in Bucharest. Of the team’s 6 total losses at the event, 5 of them came against EHOME, with Gambit Esports managing to hold its own and bring down every other team that it faced off against aside from the Minor Champion. Of course, a 2nd place finish doesn’t get Gambit Esports into The Chongqing Major, but this 2nd place performance goes a long way towards instilling a sense of confidence that the team can find success with its recently changed roster and continue to be a force within the CIS region. In fact, the team’s 2nd place finish at this Minor actually earned it more Pro Circuit Points than its previous run at The Kuala Lumpur Major, so for now it appears that things are working out well for the CIS squad. For now though, it appears that Gambit Esports may be in for a brief period of rest before it goes back into action, as the CIS squad does not have any further appearances scheduled prior to the start of the next set of Pro Circuit Qualifiers at the beginning of February.
Winnings: $7,500 & 20 Pro Circuit Points
Event Record: 3-6 (2-4 Group Stage, 1-2 Playoffs)
BOOM ID came into The Bucharest Minor as a team looking to make a name for itself both on the international level and among its regional rivals. Aside from teams like Fnatic, TNC Predator, and Tigers, no other squads within the Southeast Asian region had been able to establish a consistent degree of success. Within that vacuum in the regional hierarchy, BOOM ID saw its opportunity to emerge as a potential leader in Southeast Asia, and a solid performance on the Pro Circuit stage at The Bucharest Minor had the potential to be a springboard to further success both at home and on the international level.
BOOM ID began its run at the Minor with quite the challenge, as the team had to face off against the defending TI Champion in OG. Early on in Game 1 though, it appeared that BOOM ID had gotten the edge over the TI8 Winner, as the squad built up a modest net worth lead behind solid performances from Dreamocel’s Juggernaut (12-5-11) and Mikoto’s Lina (10-5-7). Unfortunately, the team’s momentum did not last very long, as OG came back with an impressive surge in the mid and late-game stages that shattered BOOM ID’s control. Out killed 3-15 over the final 10 minutes of play, BOOM ID could not hold back its opponent as it lost the opening match of the series. After losing its momentum in the previous match, BOOM ID could do nothing to recover in Game 2 of the series. The squad was simply run over by OG, and trialed in terms of net worth throughout the entirety of the match as it conceded defeat after just 20 minutes to suffer a 0-2 series loss.
That rough loss put BOOM ID in the Losers’ Match of Group B, where it had an opportunity to bounce back against a Playmakers Esports squad that had suffered a similarly disappointing 0-2 loss against EHOME. BOOM ID quickly proved that it could take advantage of that opportunity, as the team dominated the match up from the very outset of the series. The team out killed its opponent by a score of 70-21 across the 2 game series, out playing Playmakers Esports at every turn in a pair of absolute stomps. The team’s core players of Dreamocel, Mikoto, and Fbz put together a combined stat line of 50-9-81 in the series, as BOOM ID claimed an impressive 2-0 series victory in less than an hour of total game time.
That lopsided victory over Playmakers Esports earned the team a chance for revenge as it faced off against OG for the second time at the Minor in the Decider Match of Group B. Game 1 of this series ended up being a near exact replica of the opening match of the previous series between the 2 squads, as BOOM ID built up a sizable net worth lead in the early and mid-game stages behind a strong performance from Mikoto’s Timbersaw (12-4-3). Unfortunately, the match proved to be too close of a replica of its predecessor, as OG once again mounted a surge in the late-game stage to snatch control away from BOOM ID and complete another comeback victory to put the Indonesian squad down 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw history repeat itself once again, as BOOM ID’s lineup was put under heavy pressure by its opponent and found itself trailing early. Despite a valiant effort from Dreamocel’s Kunkka (5-1-3), BOOM ID simply could not handle the early aggression from OG, falling behind by more than 23k net worth by the 22 minute mark of the match. Faced with that large of a deficit and with all of its core lagging behind their counterparts, BOOM ID opted to concede defeat to suffer another 0-2 loss at the hands of the TI8 Champion.
With that loss to OG, BOOM ID found itself beginning the Playoffs of the Minor in the Lower Bracket, where it was matched up against North American squad TEAM TEAM in the first elimination series of the event. Game 1 saw the Indonesian squad in control for most of the match, as the team’s core trio of Slark, Pugna, and Tiny combined for a stat line of 30-16-44 and led in terms of net worth for most of the mid and late-game stage. However, the team was unable to close out the match, as TEAM TEAM mounted a late comeback effort that snatched victory away from BOOM ID and put it down 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw the squad pull off some late-game heroics of its own, as the team recovered from a small net worth deficit in the early stage to dominate the mid and late-game stages behind a strong showing from Dreamocel’s Juggernaut (11-1-10) to tie up the series. Unfortunately, those roles ended up being reversed in the final match of the series, as BOOM ID built up a modest net worth lead early only to see it evaporate in the mid and late-game stages. Out killed 9-19 over the final 12 minutes of play and facing a 18k net worth deficit, BOOM ID conceded defeat to lose the series 1-2 and end its run at the Minor with a 7th-8th place finish overall.
Coming into The Bucharest Minor, BOOM ID was seen as an up and coming squad within the Southeast Asian region. However, the team’s experience this season had been almost exclusive to its home region, and it was unclear how well the team would be able to perform on the international level. Prior to the start of the event though, the team’s solid and relatively consistent play within its home region had BOOM ID projected to finish in the 5th-6th place position in Bucharest. Unfortunately, the team ended up falling short of that predicted outcome, as BOOM ID finished at the bottom of the event standings in the 7th-8th place position after posting a 3-6 overall record. At first glance, that record looks pretty bad, but the performance from BOOM ID was far more encouraging than its record would suggest. Of the team’s 6 total losses in Bucharest, 4 of them came in the Group Stage against OG. While OG may not be on quite the same level as it was a few months ago, losing to a defending TI Champion is hardly something that BOOM ID should be particularly ashamed of or unhappy about. Without those 4 losses against OG, BOOM ID’s record shifts to 3-2 against North American squad TEAM TEAM and South American team Playmakers Esports. Playmakers Esports ended up finishing its run at the Minor without a single win to its name, so the team’s victory over that opponent is not particularly impressive. The 1-2 loss to TEAM TEAM though comes as a somewhat disappointing outcome despite the team putting together a solid performance in the series. That sentiment seems to be the overall theme for BOOM ID at The Bucharest Minor, as the squad’s performance was solid but not quite as strong as many may have been hoping for coming into the event. The Indonesian squad did not end up with the breakout showing on the Pro Circuit stage, but the team is at least on the board in the Pro Circuit Rankings with the 20 Pro Circuit Points that it earned in Bucharest. While the team won’t have another chance to reach the Pro Circuit stage until the next Major Qualifiers in February, that doesn’t mean that the team will be inactive. BOOM ID is set to participate in both the Indonesia Esports Games 2018 and the Asia Pacific Predator League 2019 Indonesia Qualifier before the end of the month as it will look to build upon this first showing on the Pro Circuit stage.
Winnings: $35,000 & 90 Pro Circuit Points
Event Record: 8-8 (4-3 Group Stage, 4-5 Playoffs)
Keen Gaming entered The Bucharest Minor as a team in a rather intriguing position within the Chinese region. The squad’s roster had a formidable combination of veteran experience and young talent, but inconsistent play had marred the team’s record to this point in the season. Despite the up and down performances so far, Keen Gaming’s potential was clear as it prepared for its season debut on the Pro Circuit stage. A strong showing on the international level would be a landmark achievement for the squad in its 2018-2019 campaign, but the question remained whether or not the squad would be able to put its inconsistencies behind it and find success on the Pro Circuit stage.
Keen Gaming’s run at The Bucharest Minor began with a match up against one of the more formidable squads in the field in the form of Ninjas In Pyjamas. Keen Gaming was not intimidated by its opponent though, as the squad absolutely destroyed NiP in a 33-4 route that saw its core trio combine for a stat line of 29-0-51 to win the opening match of the series. Game 2 saw the squad on the other side of a lopsided match, as Keen Gaming’s core trio of Phantom Assassin, Kunkka, and Doom fell flat against NiP’s lineup and ended up trailing in terms of net worth throughout the entirety of the game. That loss led to a decisive third game in the series, and Keen Gaming was able to reestablish its dominance with another incredible performances. Behind a combined 41-5-53 from its core trio of Faceless Void, Dazzle, and Death Prophet, Keen Gaming out killed NiP 47-14 to claim an impressive victory that sealed a 2-1 series win for the team.
That win over NiP brought Keen Gaming just 1 series away from a spot in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs, but the Chinese squad had top get past a match up with Gambit Esports in order to lock down that coveted position. Game 1 did not go well for the team, as its Io-Gyrocopter combo did not have the effect that it had been hoping for against a last pick Meepo from Gambit Esports. Despite a solid effort from yi’s Queen of Pain (7-0-5), the squad could not match the pace of the Meepo, and ended up conceding defeat in the opening match of the series. Game 2 didn’t go any better for Keen Gaming, as the squad made a risky Shadow Fiend pick that ended up being heavily punished by the aggressive play of Gambit Esports. That aggression forced Keen Gaming in to a net worth deficit that it was never able to recover from, falling behind by as much as 18k net worth before calling “gg” to take a 0-2 loss in the series.
Though the squad ended up losing that series, it still had another shot at earning a place in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs as it faced off against Ninjas in Pyjamas once again, this time in the Decider Match of Group A. Game 1 saw the Chinese squad opt for a core trio of Troll Warlord, Weaver, and Centaur Warrunner that quickly helped the team establish control over the mid and late-game stages of the match. Said core trio combined for a stat line of 22-7-28 in the match, and spearheaded a dominant showing from Keen Gaming as the team claimed a 1-0 lead to open the series. Game 2 proved to be a more contentious affair, as Keen Gaming found itself playing from behind for most of the match. Though the squad faced a net worth deficit for a period of around 25 straight minutes in the mid and late-game stages, the squad was able to keep itself within striking distance of its opponent. Behind a combined 27-13-47 stat line from its core trio of Troll Warlord, Death Prophet, and Centaur Warrunner, the team was finally able to seize its opportunity late in the match with a series of team fight wins that shattered the momentum of its opponent and allowed Keen Gaming to pull off a comeback win to secure a 2-0 sweep of the series.
Keen Gaming found itself facing a tough challenge in its initial series of the Playoffs, as the squad was matched up against fellow Chinese squad EHOME, which had yet to lose a match to that point in the Minor. Game 1 saw Keen Gaming struggle almost immediately, as the team’s cores quickly fell behind their counterparts despite out killing its opponent 7-1 in the first 10 minutes of play. Beyond the laning stage, Keen Gaming could not find any success in team fights, as EHOME dominated every major engagement and pushed Keen Gaming further and further behind. Trailing by nearly 18k net worth at the 26 minute mark, the squad opted to conceded defeat to go down 0-1 in the series. Unfortunately for Keen Gaming, Game 2 of the series ended up being strikingly similar to its predecessor. Once again, the team was able to find early kills against its opponent in the laning stage, but it simply could not carry that momentum over into the mid and late-game stages. Keen Gaming managed to earn just 4 kills over the final 11 minutes of play compared to 11 kills for EHOME, and the team had little options left but to bow out of the match to suffer a 0-2 series loss at the hands of its regional rival.
With its time in the Upper Bracket at and end, Keen Gaming was forced to shift its focus as it moved into an elimination series against TEAM TEAM in Round 2 of the Lower Bracket. Game 1 saw the squad get off to a slow start, as its core trio of Phantom Assassin, Sniper, and Beastmaster needed a little bit of time before it could match the pace of its opponent. Once the mid and late-game stage hit though, Keen Gaming was in complete control. The squad’s core trio combined for a stat line of 24-10-50 and out killed its opponent 18-3 over the final 15 minutes of play to secure a 1-0 lead in the series. Unfortunately for Keen Gaming, its considerable momentum from the opening match of the series did not carry over into Game 2. The team found itself trailing from the very start of the game, and an inconsistent level of execution made winning a team fight nearly impossible as the squad fell massively behind in the late-game stage. Trailing by as much as 18k net worth and with no way to reliably win fights, Keen Gaming conceded defeat as the series was tied up at 1-1. In the final match of the series, Keen Gaming managed to bounce back in a major way, flipping the script of the previous game with an absolutely dominant performance. The team out killed its opponent 29-5 behind an impressive level of early aggression and harassment that TEAM TEAM simply did not have an answer for. The team’s aggression allowed it to build up a massive net worth lead, with Keen Gaming pulling ahead by over 26k net worth by the 23 minute mark to force a “gg” call from its opponents and claim a 2-1 series victory.
With that victory, Keen Gaming guaranteed a Top 4 finish in Bucharest, but the Chinese squad was determined to push for more as it faced down Ninjas in Pyjamas in Round 3 of the Lower Bracket. The team picked up a core trio of Clinkz, Outworld Devourer, and Centaur Warrunner in Game 1 of the series, and that trio quickly proved to be too much for NiP to handle. Keen Gaming got aggressive as early as possible in the match, catching NiP off guard and built up a net worth lead that it would hold throughout the entirety of the match. The squad’s core trio combined for a stat line of 21-6-32 as Keen Gaming strolled its way to a relatively easy victory to open the series. Game 2 was not quite as one-sided of an affair, as Keen Gaming found itself trailing in terms of net worth for most of the early and mid-game stages. However, a pair of strong showings from old chicken’s Weaver (11-2-18) and yi’s Razor (11-3-22) spearheaded a massive late-game surge that allowed Keen Gaming to take complete control of the match. The squad out killed its opponent 20-5 over the final 13 minutes of play as its secure a 2-0 sweep of the series and moved itself just 1 more series victory away from a spot in the Grand Finals of the Minor.
In order to reach the Grand Finals of the Minor, Keen Gaming would need to bring down Gambit Esports, as the 2 squads faced off in a rematch of their series in the Group Stage. Game 1 of the series proved disastrous for Keen Gaming, as the Chinese squad immediately fell behind its opponent. The team was out killed by a score of 4-24, and never appeared to be in a position to strike back at its opponent as it quickly fell behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 ended up being a much closer match, as Keen Gaming’s core trio of Faceless Void, Timbersaw, and Tiny helped establish a strong net worth advantage for the squad in the mid and late-game stages. With said core trio combining for a stat line of 27-19-61, the squad appeared to be in control late in the match before Gambit Esports was able to pull off a series of unexpected team fight wins. Keen Gaming was out killed by a score of 5-13 over the final 10 minutes of play to suffer a shocking defeat that handed the team a 0-2 loss and ended its run at the Minor with a 3rd place finish and a 8-8 record.
Keen Gaming came into The Bucharest Minor with a lot of potential, but its somewhat inconsistent performance to this point in the season had tempered expectations for the Chinese squad. Coming into the event, the squad was projected to finish at the bottom of the standings in the 7th-8th place position. Instead, the squad blew that prediction out of the water, making an impressive run all the way up the 3rd place. In particular, the team appeared to have an affinity for taking down Ninjas in Pyjamas, as the Chinese squad posted a 6-1 total record against the European squad across 3 series in Bucharest. Of course, NiP’s performance at the Minor was not quite as strong as many may have been hoping for, but the fact that Keen Gaming was able to so consistently handle and defeat a squad that many had considered one of the favorites in the field speaks volumes of the team’s abilities. Aside from the squad’s victories over NiP though, Keen Gaming put together a combined 2-7 showing against TEAM TEAM, Gambit Esports, and EHOME. 2 of those wins came against TEAM TEAM, a squad that Keen Gaming was considered to be around the same skill level as, but out played in their lone series against each other. As for the other 2 squads, a 0-6 record against the 1st and 2nd place squads at the Minor is hardly something that Keen Gaming should be ashamed of, especially considering the fact that few people expected the squad to be in a position to compete with those leading teams prior to the start of the event. Perhaps the most impressive part of Keen Gaming’s run in Bucharest was the play of its Carry and Midlaner, as the combination of old chicken and yi averaged a total of 14 kills and 21.06 assists with just 6.75 deaths per game across 16 matches for the team. The problem for Keen Gaming so far this season has never appeared to be a lack of talent, it was been a lack of consistency, and hopefully this strong performance on the Pro Circuit stage serves as a reminder of just how strong the team can be when it can consistently play at its best.
Winnings: $125,000 & 120 Pro Circuit Points (Advances to The Chongqing Major)
Event Record: 11-1 (4-0 Group Stage, 7-1 Playoffs)
EHOME May not have come into the Minor as a leading squad within the Chinese region, but it certainly had been putting together an impressive season in its home region to this point in the season. The squad had been racking up Top 4 finishes in regional events and qualifiers, and was finding consistent success with a strong combination of young talent and veteran experience. While the squad was putting together an impressive stretch at home so far this season, it had yet to truly break through against the top teams in its region and put itself ina position as a leading team in China. A strong performance in Bucharest had the potential to change that, transforming EHOME from a regional contender into a legitimate challenger on the Pro Circuit stage. The only question for the squad was whether it would be able to take its considerable momentum and success on the home front and translate it into tangible results on the international level.
EHOME started off its Group Stage run with a match up against South American squad Playmakers Esports, and the Chinese squad wasted no time establishing dominance in its first series of the Minor. The team simply ran its opponent over in this series, out playing Playmakers Esports at every turn and out killing the Peruvian squad 62-22 in a pair of lopsided victories. Across the 2 matches in the series, EHOME had 4 different players earn double digit kills, and no player on the team had more than 4 Deaths in either match as EHOME racked up an easy 2-0 victory in the series.
With that initial win, EHOME advanced to the Winners’ Match of Group B, where it faced off against the reigning TI Champion in OG. Game 1 of the series proved to be a tightly contested match, as EHOME appeared to be in control early in the match before the 2 squads traded the lead back and forth several times in the mid and late-game stages. Behind a pair of huge performances from eGo’s Timbersaw (16-3-18) and ASD on Tiny (18-2-22) though, the team finally managed to make its breakthrough, claiming a series of massive team fight wins that irrevocably shifted momentum in its favor and allowed the squad to claim the opening match of the series. After a tense and contentious opening game, Game 2 of the series ended up being significantly more one-sided. Thanks to another pair of impressive showings from eGo on Huskar (10-4-12) and ASD on Rubick (13-4-13), EHOME was able to quickly establish a pace that OG struggled to match. The team out killed its opponent 38-18 in the match, including a 15-2 stretch over the final 8 minutes of the game that sealed the win for EHOME as it claimed a 2-0 win over the TI8 Champion.
EHOME’s first series of the Playoffs ended up being an all-Chinese affair, as the team tested its undefeated streak at the Minor with a match up against regional rival Keen Gaming. Game 1 saw the squad pick up a core trio of Medusa, Queen of Pain, and Beastmaster, and that combination of heroes quickly managed to out play and out maneuver its opponent while racking up a combined stat line of 22-8-44. Behind those solid performances, EHOME was able to dominate team fights and build up a sizable net worth lead that it held throughout the rest of the match en route to a win and a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 ended up playing out in a similar manner, as EHOME found itself trailing slightly in the laning stage before exploding with a strong surge in the mid and late-game stages. Behind impressive showings from eGo’s Clinkz (11-2-10) and ASD’s Drow Ranger (7-3-11), EHOME was able to out kill its opponent 12-4 to complete a 2-0 sweep of the series and secure itself at least a 3rd place finish in Bucharest.
With its undefeated streak still intact, EHOME found itself facing off against CIS challenger Gambit Esports to see which squad would claim the first spot in the Grand Finals of the Minor. Game 1 of the series proved to be quite the challenge for both squads, as the match lasted over 72 minutes of total game time. For the vast majority of those 72 minutes, EHOME was playing from behind, as the Chinese squad faced a consistent net worth deficit throughout the match However, behind a massive performance from ASD’s Sniper (13-7-8, 44.2k net worth) that even included a Divine Rapier pickup, EHOME was able to hold its ground and mount an impressive comeback effort that broke Gambit Esports’ momentum and allowed the Chinese squad to pull off a surprising victory to open the series. After its comeback win in Game 1 of the series, EHOME came into Game 2 looking to slam the door on its opponent and take advantage of its shattered momentum. Behind an impressive showing from eGo’s Anti-Mage (14-1-10), the squad went on the offensive early against Gambit Esports and built up a sizable net worth lead in the mid and late-game stages. While its opponent did managed to put together a pair of late-game surges that threatened the team’s net worth lead, EHOME was able to reassert control on both occasions to close out the match and keep its undefeated streak alive with a 2-0 sweep of the series.
That victory had EHOME sitting in the Grand Finals of the Minor, where it faced off against Gambit Esports once again in a rematch to determine which squad would take home the title of Minor Champion. Game 1 of the series ended up being a blowout victory for EHOME, as a pair of strong performances from ASD’s Kunkka (10-3-14) and Faith_bian’s Pugna (11-3-16) helped the squad completely run over its opponent to claim a wire-to-wire victory to open the series. Unforutnately for the Chinese team, those roles were reversed in Game 2 of the series, as Gambit Esports was the team to come out aggressively early and establish control of the match. Despite a valiant effort from ASD on Legion Commander (8-5-12), EHOME simply could not generate enough momentum to string together multiple team fight wins to turn the tides of the match as the series was tied at 1-1. From that point on though, everything went EHOME’s way, as the Chinese squad regrouped to put on a dominant showing in Games 3 and 4 of the series. The squad out killed its opponent 56-25 over those final 2 matches and held the net worth lead for all but 6 minutes as it absolutely shattered any sense of momentum for Gambit Esports. With the Carry/Mid duo of eGo and ASD combining for a stat line of 36-11-34 across those 2 games, EHOME was able to close out the series in dominant fashion to claim a 3-1 victory over Gambit Esports and the title of Minor Champion.
EHOME came into The Bucharest Minor as a team that appeared to be on the rise within the Chinese region. The squad had a strong combination of young talent and veteran experience and leadership, but still looked to be chasing a breakout victory to fully push itself out of the Tier 2 scene and into a position among the leading squads in its region. Prior to the start of the event, EHOME was projected to finish in the Top 4 range, but the Chinese squad managed to surpass even those high expectations with its 1st place finish in Bucharest. The team looked absolutely dominant in this event, posting a 11-1 overall record that saw it handily defeat any squad that had the misfortune to be placed in its path to success. Perhaps the most impressive part of EHOME’s incredible run at the Minor was the play of its Carry/Mid duo of eGo and ASD who both came over on loan from CDEC at the start of the season and represented relatively big risks on the part of the EHOME organization. Neither member of the duo had been playing professional Dota 2 for more than 2 years, and yet they combined to average over 19 kills and 23 assists with just over 6 deaths per game across the team’s 12 total matches in Bucharest. Their play was simply incredible, and now we will all get the chance to see just how far this talented duo can take EHOME on the international level. With EHOME’s victory in this Minor, it now advances to The Chongqing Major, where it will have the chance to test itself against the very best squad on the Pro Circuit. Based upon its performance in Bucharest, EHOME will likely be a formidable opponent in the field for the Major, but time will tell if the Chinese squad can replicate this success against some of the elite teams in the Dota 2 world.