EG stands as Kings of NA, while Forward Gaming, J.Storm look to fend off hungry challengers in the DreamLeague Season 11 Major North America Qualifier
The 2018-2019 season’s third set of Pro Circuit Qualifiers is now officially underway, and while the teams in the first group of regions are still battling it out for a spot in Stockholm, the second group is getting ready to start their own qualifiers now too. The qualifiers for the Chinese, Southeast Asian, CIS, and South American regions are winding down, but now North America has its chance to be in the spotlight as the regions squads are preparing themselves for a chance to fight their way onto the Pro Circuit stage. 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. Running from the 4th through the 6th of February, this North America Qualifier could potentially shake up the established order in the region with a host of new challengers looking to take advantage of slumping regional leaders. 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 North American region on the international level.
The North America Qualifier features 8 total teams, with 4 of them (J.Storm, Forward Gaming, Evil Geniuses, and TEAM TEAM) being directly invited while the other 4 (Started From The PoTM, compLexity Gaming, Team Xolotl, and Flying Penguins) reached the Closed Qualifier stage through the region’s 2 open qualifiers. Of those 8 teams, 6 of them (J.Storm, Forward Gaming, Evil Geniuses, TEAM TEAM, compLexity Gaming, and Team Xolotl) have previously attended a Pro Circuit qualifier, with 5 of them (J.Storm, Forward Gaming, Evil Geniuses, TEAM TEAM, and compLexity Gaming) 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 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.
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.
Artour “Arteezy” Babaev
Syed Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan
Gustav “s4” Magnusson
Andreas Franck “Cr1t-” Nielsen
Tal “Fly” Aizik
Coming off of its second straight 3rd place Major finish, Evil Geniuses stands as the clear leader within the North American region. With its main regional rivals in Forward Gaming and J.Storm struggling to a certain degree on the international level, EG has been the only North American squad to find significant success on the Pro Circuit stage this season. While its rivals have not been doing particularly well on the international level. their play on the home front has been much stronger, and EG will still be in for a tough challenge in this regional qualifier. However, the team’s extensive level of skill and experience, as well as its 20-7 record in North America this season, makes EG a clear favorite to claim 1 of the region’s 3 slots in Stockholm for the DreamLeague Season 11 Major.
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.
David “Moo” Hull
Jonathan “Bryle” De Guia
Lee “Forev” Sang-don
Clinton “Fear” Loomis
Park “March” Tae-won
J.Storm comes into this regional qualifier off the back of a relatively disappointing performance on the Pro Circuit stage, as the squad finished in the 9th-12th place position at The Chongqing Major. The international level as a whole has not been particularly kind to J.Storm this season, but the squad now returns to a North American region where it has seen significantly more success in its 2018-2019 campaign. The squad has yet to finish outside of the Top 3 in any of its regional appearances, and hold a solid 33-20 record against its regional rivals heading into this Major qualifier. The strange dichotomy between the team’s success at home and its continued struggles on the international level is certainly becoming a concern as this season goes on, but the current state of the North American region definitely plays to the team’s advantage. With the region’s Tier 2 scene proving especially unstable and chaotic this season, there are few candidates that appear ready to rise up and challenge J.Storm for its position near the top of the regional hierarchy. With that in mind, J.Storm enters this qualifiers as one of the strongest teams in the field, and one of the leading contenders for 1 of the region’s 3 spots in Stockholm.
Yawar “YawaR” Hassan
Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok
Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora
Arif “MSS” Anwar
Avery “SVG” Silverman
Forward Gaming’s season so far has been a story of disappointments, as the North American squad has generally fallen short of expectations across the majority of its appearances in this 2018-2019 campaign. The team’s presence on the international level has been waning since the start of the season, with the squad failing to finish any higher than the 5th-6th place position across 6 international events, including 2 Pro Circuit Majors. The good news for the squad is that its potential appearance at the DreamLeague Season 11 Major will be dependent on its performance within its home region rather than its strength on the international level. At home, Forward Gaming has looked much better, with a 25-12 record this season against other North American teams and 3 straight Top 2 finishes across regional competitions. That continued success at home makes Forward Gaming one of the stronger teams in the field for this qualifier, as the team will look to earn its third straight Major appearance as it continues its pursuit of success on the international level.
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.
Samuel “Sammyboy” Anderson
Eric “Ryoya” Dong
Braxton “Brax” Paulson
Jason “Newsham” Newsham
Michael “ixmike88” Ghannam
If ever there was a team that appeared capable of claiming a place alongside EG, Forward Gaming, and J.Storm, it is this TEAM TEAM squad. The team has emerged from the chaos and instability of the North American region and looks to be on the cusp of establishing itself as a consistent contender within the region. In the time since its last Pro Circuit Qualifier appearance (The Bucharest Minor NA Qualifier), TEAM TEAM has put together a 17-6 record against its regional rivals in non-open qualifier events, and even represented the North American region on the Pro Circuit stage at The Bucharest Minor. Based upon the previous experiences of squads like compLexity Gaming and ROOONS this season, TEAM TEAM has just about reached the point where it would ostensibly either disband or undergo massive changes to its roster. Seeing as how the squad has avoided that fate so far, the hope is that it has broken through that barrier and is poised to claim a place near the top of the regional hierarchy. However, this qualifier run against its main regional rivals will serve as a crucial test as to whether TEAM TEAM can truly rise up to contend with the elite teams of the North American region and make its way back to the Pro Circuit stage in Stockholm.
Galvin “Meracle” Kang Jian Wen
Linus “Limmp” Blomdin
Yang “Deth” Wu Heng
Zakari “Zfreek” Freedman
Jaron “monkeys-forever” Clinton (Stand-in)
So far this season, compLexity Gaming has been at the center of a whole lot of controversy. The squad parted ways with Skemberlu following his ill-advised statements in an official match, played through a failed experiment with EternaLEnVy and Sneyking in its lineup, and have recently been accused of region-hopping with its new lineup featuring a trio of Southeast Asian players. On top of all of that, there is the fact that 1 of those SEA players won’t be with the team for this qualifier run, as Adam will not be joining the squad and has been temporarily replaced by monkeys-forever. The good news for compLexity Gaming is that its recent play within the North American region has been solid, with the team posting a 13-4 record and a trio of 1st place finishes in the time since its last Pro Circuit qualifier run. Of course, the majority of those matches have come in open qualifiers against a lower caliber of opposition than what it will likely see in this Major qualifier, but the team’s recent results are an encouraging sign at the very least. If the team can continue to play consistently, then the level of skill and experience on the roster makes it a potential threat in this qualifier, though it will still likely need an exceptional performance against its regional rivals to have a shot at earning a place in Stockholm.
Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao
Nico “Gunnar” Lopez
Rodrigo Lelis “Liposa” Santos
Jingjun “Sneyking” Wu
Francis “FrancisLee” Lee
The duo of EternalEnVy and Sneyking has done a bit of travelling so far this season, having begin the 2018-2019 campaign in North American with compLexity Gaming before shifting briefly to South American with Infamous in December. The 2019 section of the season has seen the duo put together a squad of its own now, with the team being joined by former paiN X members FrancisLee and Liposa as well as up and coming North American talent Gunnar to create Flying Penguins. Outside of a trio of open qualifier runs, this team doesn’t have much experience together as a unit, but those early performances have at least been encouraging ones. The team has put together 3 straight Top 4 finishes, and holds a record of 9-2 against other North American squads heading into this qualifier. Normally, a team with that little experience under its belt wouldn’t be considered much of a threat in a regional qualifier. However, the level of experience that the team’s members hold on an individual level still makes Flying Penguins a potential contender in this Major qualifier, though the squad will need to put on a fantastic run against its regional rivals to have a shot at bringing down the likes of EG, Forward Gaming, and J.Storm to claim a place on the Pro Circuit stage in Stockholm.
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.
Started From The PoTM
Griffin “ScourgeMcDuck” Pappert
Elliott “Adzantick” Hammond
JC “UrBoyJC” Leclerc
Started From the PoTM is one of those teams that has been around in the North American region for a while now, though the squad has had quite a few different iterations over the years in terms of its roster. This most recent version of the roster though has a chance to take the team to heights that it has never experienced before with this appearance in a Pro Circuit Qualifier. Admittedly, that task is a particularly daunting one, as the team’s roster is full of players that the wider Dota 2 world more than likely has never heard of before. However, the team and its players have seen their fair share of play within the North American region, though that play has largely been confined to what we would classify as the Tier 2 and 3 scenes. To be honest, the squad does not necessarily have the most formidable track record behind it coming into this regional qualifier, but that could very well play to the team’s advantage. With limited experience against the top squads in the region, Started From The PoTM could represent a wildcard that its opponents may not be fully prepared to plan against. Of course, the element of surprise can only take a team so far, and Started From The PoTM will still need to show that it can put together strong and consistent performances against some of the most accomplished teams in its home region. Until we see for a fact that this squad is capable of that, the expectations will be set as low as possible for the squad heading into this event.
Jesús Ángel “Ifrit” Valencia Bonales
Jose Esau “Esk” Perez Coronel
Alejandro Skinfill “Jano” Moreno
Omar Fernando “pika2” Velarde Leyva
Héctor Adrián “hector” Garza Cárdenas
Many people in the Dota 2 world seem to forget that Mexico is included in North America, as the regional scene has focused almost exclusively on Canada and the Untied States for most of its history. Team Xolotl is hoping to change that though, as the Mexican lineup makes its third Pro Circuit qualifier appearance of the 2018-2019 season. The squad’s previous 2 appearances did not result in much for the team, as Team Xolotl ended up with 1 finish in the 5th-6th place position and one in 4th place with a combined 3-11 record against its regional rivals. With the team’s other experience this season almost exclusively coming from open qualifiers, Team Xolotl does not come into this Major qualifier as much of a threat at first glance, and that assumption is not without its merits. However, all it takes is one strong performance to potentially spark a breakthrough for the Mexican squad, and Team Xolotl could always put together a Cinderella run to shock its regional rivals in this qualifier. Unfortunately though, it appears that such a run is the only real chance that Team Xolotl has to earn its place on the Pro Circuit stage, and with the odds seemingly stacked against it heading into this event, the expectations for the squad are about as low as they possibly could be.