Pro Circuit Qualifier Preview – DreamLeague Season 11 Major Europe Qualifier

5 Pro Circuit Ranked squads and 2 recently formed challengers look to take down defending Major Champion Team Secret in the DreamLeague Season 11 Major Europe Qualifier

With The Chongqing Major concluded and the 2018-2019 season’s second Major Champion crowned, the time has come to begin a new set of Pro Circuit Qualifiers to see which teams will get to battle it out for the chance to follow in the footsteps of Virtus.pro and Team Secret at the DreamLeague Season 11 Major in March. Across the 6 Dota 2 regions, squads are preparing themselves for a chance to fight their way onto the Pro Circuit stage and earn their place on one of the biggest stages in the game. Nearly half-way through the season, we seem to have a fairly strong impression of what the hierarchies of each respective region looks like, but a strong run in these qualifiers or a significant setback from a regional leader always has the potential to change a team’s standing among its regional rivals. Like the previous Pro Circuit qualifiers, the Closed Qualifiers for the DreamLeague Season 11 Major will be split into 2 groups, with 1 group running from the 1st through the 3rd of February, while the other runs from the 4th through the 6th. The European region is set to be included in that first group of qualifiers, with the participating teams set to battle if out for a place in Stockholm at the very beginning of the month. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the teams that will be looking to earn their place on the Pro Circuit stage and represent the European region on the international level.

The Europe Qualifier features 8 total teams, with 5 of the them (Team Secret, Team Liquid, Aliance, Ninjas in Pyjamas, and OG) being directly invited while the other 3 (Vega Squadron, Kaban, and The ReaL DeaL) reached the Closed Qualifier stage through the region’s 2 open qualifiers. Of those 8 teams, 6 of them (Team Secret, Team Liquid, Alliance, Ninjas in Pyjamsas, OG, and Vega Squadron) have previously attended a Pro Circuit qualifier, with those same 6 squads all having also qualified for a Pro Circuit event. Up for grabs in this regional qualifier are 3 spots at the DreamLeague Season 11 Major in March, and the chance to improve their standing within the European region and make a run up the Pro Circuit Rankings as well. While every team in the field for this qualifier has a shot at earning 1 of the those slots in Stockholm, some squads enter this event with stronger resumes than their regional rivals. With that in mind, we will take a look at how each of the 8 Major hopefuls stacks up heading into this qualifier, with the four categories of Favorites, Contenders, Maybe Ifs, and Long Shots returning from the previous qualifier previews.

The Favorites

These squads are the elite of the group, comprised mostly of squads that attended one of the prior Pro Circuit events this season or have emerged as dominant forces within their home region and contenders on the international level. These are the teams that will likely be considered as favorites in this qualifier regardless of the match up that they face, and if a team in this section does not earn itself a place at the Major, then it will come as a bit more of a shock and a disappointment compared to the other squads in the field.

Secret_logo Team Secret
Roster:

Michał “Nisha” Jankowski
Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng
Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg
Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat
Clement “Puppey” Ivanov

Fresh off of its victorious run at The Chongqing Major, Team Secret will undoubtedly come into this regional qualifier as one of the strongest teams in the field and in the Dota 2 world as a whole. The squad has already earned itself a place at the top of the Pro Circuit Rankings, and has enough Pro Circuit Points to be guaranteed a direct invite to TI9. However, that direct invite status is unlikely to lead the squad to let up or take things easy against its regional rivals, as the team will almost certainly be looking to continue testing itself in preparation for its run in Shanghai at TI9. Considering the fact that this team just completed a successful run against some of the strongest opposition that the Dota 2 world has to offer, it would come as a near unbelievable shock if Team Secret missed out on attending its third Major of the season in Stockholm.

600px-Team_liquid_logo_2017 Team Liquid
Roster:

Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen
Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi
Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov
Maroun “GH” Merhej
Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi

Team Liquid’s season has gotten off to a somewhat rocky start so far, though the causes for that strange start have had very little to do with a drop off in the squad’s level of play. Health issues have played a bigger role in the team’s lack of activity this season, with the issue even affecting the team’s recent 7th-8th place run at The Chongqing Major, where it played with a stand-in. The good news for Team Liquid is that it is set to have its full lineup available for this regional qualifier, as it looks to make its second straight appearance at a Pro Circuit Major. Given all of the excitement and action on the Pro Circuit this season, particularly in the European region, it sometimes becomes easy for forget that this Team Liquid lineup is the exact same one that claim the Aegis of Champions less than 2 years ago. The team’s skill, experience, and record of success all come together to make Team Liquid on the strongest teams in the field for this qualifier, and the team will be keen on reminding its regional rivals just how it was able to lay claim to the title of TI7 Champion.

The Contenders

The squads in this section are the ones that fall just a small step below the favorites in terms of their skill, level of success, or perceived strength of their lineup. Teams in this section are ones that may have attended one of the previous Minors but not a Major, or struggled on the Pro Circuit stage in general. These are the teams that could fairly easily claim 1 of the 2 spots up for grabs in this tournament, but aren’t necessarily expected to win out over the entire field. These teams will likely be right at the cusp of success in this qualifier, and are the ones that seem most probable to end up as direct invitees to the upcoming Minor Qualifiers if it cannot secure a place at the Major.

Alliance Alliance
Roster:
Max “qojqva”Bröcker
Micke “miCKe” Nguyen
Samuel “Boxi” Svahn
Aydin “iNSaNiA” Sarkohi
Tommy “Taiga” Le

Alliance’s march up the hierarchy in the European region has been a steady and methodical one over the past year or so, as the squad has built itself up into a relatively big name in the European region once again. With squads like OG and Team Liquid getting off to somewhat slower starts than anticipated, an opening has emerged that Alliance has been more than willing to take advantage of so far this season. While the team’s performance in the European and CIS region has been impressive to this point, its play on the wider international level has not been quite as strong, with Alliance coming into this qualifier off the back of a 13th-16th place performance at The Chongqing Major. The rather stark contrast between the squad’s results at home and its struggles on the international level are a cause for concern for Alliance as it moves through the rest of this season, but for now the focus has to be on taking down its regional rivals in this qualifier. Should the squad earn itself a place on the Pro Circuit stage once again, then it can begin to worry about its play on the international level, but in order to reach that point, the team is going to have to turn in another strong performance on the home front as it faces down one of the most formidable fields we’ve ever seen in a Pro Circuit qualifier.

Ninjas In Pyjamas Ninjas in Pyjamas
Roster:
Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard
Adrian “Fata” Trinks
Neta “33” Shapira
Martin “Saksa” Sazdov
Peter “ppd” Dager

Ninjas in Pyjamas appeared to have everything going its way at the start of the season, as the squad made its debut on the Pro Circuit stage with an impressive 4th place finish at The Kuala Lumpur Major. Recent times have thrown a few curveballs its way, but the team has done an admirable job of adjusting to some of those issues. The squad missed out on its chance to attend a second straight Major, but made up for it to a certain degree with a solid 4th place run at The Bucharest Minor that served to restore a bit of confidence in the squad’s ability to find success on the international level. Given its somewhat up and down results over the last few months, it seems apparent that NiP is not quite ready to take its place among the elite teams of the Pro Circuit, but for the time being it really doesn’t need to be. All NiP needs to do right now is focus on its performance against its fellow European squads, as its results in this regional qualifier will likely set the tone for the team over the next month or two. The problem for NiP is that its recent performance against its regional rivals has not been particularly impressive, as the team holds a 2-3 record against European opposition in 2019 (compared to a 11-13 overall record in that time frame). Based on the squad’s past success and experience, NiP will always be a threat to make its way to the Pro Circuit stage, but its recent struggles will also keep the team short of the mark to be considered a true favorite in this stacked field.

425px-OG_RB_Logo OG
Roster:

Igor “iLTW” Filatov (Stand-in)
Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen
Sébastien “7ckngMad” Debs
Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka
Johan “N0tail” Sundstein

OG comes into this regional qualifier as a somewhat hard team to gauge in terms of its ability to take on the other top squads in its region. Most of that has to do with the fact that the team has yet to officially announce who the 5th member of its roster will be, though the organization has announced that iLTW will continue serving as a stand-in for it in this regional qualifier. Regardless of who his eventual replacement is though, the rest of the OG roster constitutes enough of a threat to keep OG in the running as a potential contender in this regional qualifier. The squad has more than its fair share of experience both on the international level and within the European region, and will be a formidable opponent that no other team in the field will be able to overlook or underestimate. While the team will certainly be a threat in this qualifier, its recent performances leave OG a bit short of the mark to be considered a favorite to claim a place in Stockholm. In the time since its last Pro Circuit qualifier run, OG has posted a 12-13 overall record that includes a 3-2 mark within the European region. That kind of recent record is somewhat worrying for the team, but the hope is that the defending TI Champion comes into this qualifier with those issues potentially addressed as it looks to earn its first Major appearance of the season.

The “Maybe, ifs..”

This section is where we start to get into some particularly interesting scenarios, as we take a look at some of the squads with somewhat lower expectations for this qualifier. These squads are more than capable of putting on a good show and potentially taking a spot at the Major, but they more than likely will need a little bit of help to get there. The squads in this section are most likely ones that attended prior Pro Circuit qualifiers, but did not earn places at an event, and represent the upper echelon of the Tier 2 scene in their region. Whether its a favorable group, a particularly beneficial match up, or the opportunity to avoid playing one of the stronger teams, these squads are the ones that might just need a little outside help to claim a place on the Pro Circuit stage.

579px-Vega_Squadron_2016 Vega Squadron
Roster:
Omar “Madara” Dabachach
Dmitry “DM” Dorokhin
Maurice “KheZu” Gutmann
Verros “Maybe Next Time” Apostolos
Petu “Peksu” Vaatainen

Vega Squadron came on strong to begin the Pro Circuit season, as the team managed to string together a solid stretch of 5 straight Top 4 finishes in Europe under the name Team Lithium before being picked up by the Vega Squadron organization. Those early successes earned the squad a place on the Pro Circuit at the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor, but since that appearance, the squad has met with hard times and less frequent success. The team’s struggles eventually led to a roster change, as MagE- was released from the lineup and DM was recruited to play for the team as a stand-in. The team is hoping that the change will help get it back on track, but with a limited number of official matches with its updated roster, it is hard to have the same level of confidence in the squad as we did earlier in the season. Should the squad come out and show that it is back to its old ways with its new roster addition, then expect Vega Squadron to be a solid contender for a spot at Major. However, the team will need to prove that its recent struggles are behind it before that scenario becomes a real possibility.

The Long Shots

In this final section, we find the squads that have very little in terms of expectations for this qualifier. These are the underdogs, the Cinderella stories, and the teams that would frankly send shock waves through the regional scene should they manage to claim a spot at this event. These are the squads that many have probably already counted out of the fight for a place on the Pro Circuit stage, but we’ve seen underdog stories and unbelievable runs before, and these teams will be hoping to add their names to the list of squads that have shocked the Dota 2 world.

No Team Logo Kaban
Roster:
Oliver “oliver” Lepko
LeonNine Kirilin
Alexander “DkPhobos” Kucheria
Malthe “Biver” Winther
Troels LyngholtsyndereN Nielsen

One of the interesting effects of the new Pro Circuit system regarding roster management has been the movement of free agents and the creation of new teams, with Kaban being a prime example. Formed by 3 former members of Team Spirit, former HAPPY GUYS player and founder syndereN, and CIS veteran DKPhobos, this squad serves as a representation of the high value players available in the region’s free agent pool. However, talent and experience alone aren’t a guarantee of success, especially in a regional qualifier that has such an incredibly stacked field of teams. With the team’s open qualifier run being its only official matches as a team, its hard to gauge just where Kaban falls in terms of its level of strength compared to the other teams in the field. Until we see the squad in action against its regional rivals though, the most prudent option will be to keep the expectations on the lower end of the spectrum for Kaban as it looks to make a run to claim a spot in Stockholm.

No Team Logo The ReaL DeaL
Roster:
Steve “Xcalibur” Ye
Jure Pingvincek Plešej
Maxim “Shachlo” Abramovskikh
Jerry “EGM” Lundkvist
YaroslavMiposhka Naidenov

Another recently formed squad joins the ranks of the participants in the DreamLeague Season 11 Major Europe Qualifier, as The ReaL DeaL comes into this event with no previous experience as a team. Formed from a trio of Buraspor Esports players and a duo of free agents, the squad does at least boast a fair bit of experience among its members. The team’s open qualifier run was a fairly impressive feat that displayed a bit of this team’s talent and potential, as the squad took down teams like Hippomaniacs, The Final Tribe, and Kaipi to reach this closed qualifier stage. Those victories are certainly encouraging results for the squad heading into this event, but they do little to indicate just how well the team will be able to play against a higher caliber of opponent. That uncertainty means that the expectations for The ReaL DeaL will be set relatively low for this qualifier, but the level of skill and experience that the team has on its roster means that the squad at least had the potential to rise up and challenge some of its regional rivals. The team finding its way to Stockholm and a place at the Major seems somewhat unlikely as of this moment, but we’ve seen squads in similar positions make that run before, and The ReaL DeaL will be looking to emulate those teams as it hopes to earn its Pro Circuit debut in Stockholm.

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