Pro Circuit Qualifier Preview – StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Europe Qualifier

Redemption on the line in Europe as 5 returning squads from the Major qualifier and 1 new challenger look to claim the region’s lone spot in Kiev

The qualifiers for the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor have officially begun, with the first group of regional qualifiers winding down and 4 of the 8 teams in the field for the event already set. Now, we turn our attention to the second group of regional qualifiers, as the time has come to determine the other 4 squads that will be competing for the title of Minor Champion and the 16th slot at the DreamLeague Season 11 Major. The European region finds itself included in this second group of regional qualifiers, though the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Europe Qualifier will feature a slightly altered format compared the other regions. Like the CIS qualifier, the Europe qualifier will also feature an expanded field of 6 teams, although those teams will not play in the same style of qualifier as its CIS neighbors. Instead of a 2 phase qualifier, the 6 European squads will all participate in a preliminary Group Stage, with the teams split into 2 groups of 3. After a Bo2 round robin Group Stage, the top 2 teams from each group will advance to the Playoffs for a single elimination bracket to determine which squad will make the trip to Kiev. Even with the extra teams in the field and the altered format, the Minor qualifier will still involve fewer squads than its Major counterpart, and as such we will be dividing the team’s into the 2 sections that have been used for the previous 2 Minor qualifiers: Favored and Unfavored Teams.

Favored Teams

The team(s) in this section represent the more formidable or accomplished teams in the field for the qualifier that appear to have the best chance at claiming a spot at the Minor. Given how small the field is for these qualifiers (4 teams per region), the margin between the squads in this section compared to the other may not be particularly high, but these teams have at least some small advantage based upon their roster or results in the previous Pro Circuit qualifiers.

425px-OG_RB_Logo OG

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

With iLTW serving as a stand-in for the squad, OG was able to put together a 4-6 overall record in the recent Major qualifier, earning itself a 5th-6th place position and a direct invite to this subsequent Minor qualifier. With iLTW continued his stint with the team for this event, the hope is that OG can improve upon that Major qualifier run and potentially earn itself a return trip to the Pro Circuit stage. With iLTW in the lineup, OG has put together a 16-16 overall record, and a 10-9 record against teams within the European region. While neither of those records are on par with some of the leading squads in the region, they do display enough of the strength of this OG roster to make it a formidable threat in the field for this Minor qualifier. Considering the fact that all of the heavy hitters of the region have already claimed places at the Major, OG’s talent and experience combine to make it at least a small favorite across the majority of the match ups that it will encounter in this event. With just a single spot in Kiev available in this qualifier though, OG will still need to put together an impressive showing against its regional rivals to earn its place on the Pro Circuit stage.

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

When Vega Squadron announced that it would be replacing MagE- with DM, it came as something of a surprise in the Dota 2 world. However, the organization had felt that it needed a change in order to take the next step forward, and that choice certainly appeared to work out for the team as it came just 1 series short of the mark to reach the Pro Circuit stage in the recent Major qualifier. With that 4th place finish, Vega Squadron earned a direct invite to this Minor qualifier, where it stands as one of the leading teams in the field. However, the fact that there are 6 teams in this qualifier and only a single slot available at the Minor means that Vega Squadron will have to be at the absolute top of its game if it wants to become the European representative at the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor. Since the start of 2019, Vega Squadron holds a 7-9 record within the European region in non-open qualifier appearances, with the record shifting to 5-5 against the other teams in the field for this event. Those numbers certainly aren’t the most impressive for Vega Squadron, but it shows that the team has at least been able to remain competitive against its regional rivals with a certain degree of consistency so far this year. Whether that proves enough to put Vega Squadron in contention for the lone European spot in Kiev remains to be seen, but it at least makes the squad a formidable opponent in this expanded 6 team field.

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

Kaban comes into this qualifier as one of the more interesting teams in the field, as many did not know exactly what the expect from it when it first appeared among the teams in the field for the recent Major qualifier. At first glance, the team’s 4-7 record in that event comes across as a solid but unimpressive performance against its regional rivals. However, the team’s overall play was stronger than its record would imply, as 6 of the team’s 7 total losses came against a pair of regional powerhouses in Team Secret and Team Liquid. Without those matches, Kaban put together a combined 4-1 record against Vega Squadron and Alliance, both of whom are in the field for this Minor qualifier as well. While there is no guarantee that Kaban will be able to replicate those results should it come up against either foe for a second time, those previous results at least instill a certain degree of confidence in the team heading into this qualifier. Since that previous Major qualifier was the team’s first official appearance with its current roster, it’s really all that we have to go on when evaluating this squad’s strength. Of course, the fact that there is only 1 slot at the Minor available in this qualifier means that there is ridiculously little room for error for Kaban. However, if the squad comes in playing its best Dota and avoids any setbacks or mistakes, then it is fully possible that Kaban can overcome its regional rivals and earn its Pro Circuit debut at the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor in Kiev.

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

Alliance has been the rising star within the European region for most of the season so far, as the squad got itself off to a strong start with a slew of successes in regional events and qualifiers. Unfortunately, the international level has not been very kind to Alliance, and with its recent 7th-8th place finish in the DreamLeague Season 11 Major Europe Qualifier, there are some concerns about a potential drop off in the team’s level of play at home as well. With its successful run through the open qualifiers though, Alliance has earned itself a second chance at making its third appearance of the season on the Pro Circuit stage. If the team can put together a strong showing against its regional rivals in this event, it would go a long way towards heading off any potential concerns about a decline within the European region. Since the start of 2019 though, the squad has struggled, with a 12-16 overall record and a 2-6 record against other European squads. With those somewhat unimpressive numbers, one would think that Alliance would not be considered among the favored teams for this event, but doing so would be disregarding the team’s previous successes in the European region. To a certain degree, Alliance is getting the benefit of the doubt here, with its body of work across the season as a whole mitigating the concerns from its less than stellar play within the last month or so. We will have to see if the team ends up being deserving of that trust, or if its struggles continue in this Minor qualifier.


Unfavored Teams

I know that “favored” and “unfavored” may not be the most dramatic of terms to divide the field for these qualifiers, but with just 4 teams per regional qualifier, it seems the most appropriate. The teams in this section aren’t necessarily underdogs or long shots, they’re just the teams that come in a little bit below the other squads in the field. Whether its a roster change or a poor performance in the previous Pro Circuit qualifier, the teams in this section don’t appear to be quite as strong as the others, though there is still a solid chance that one of them manages to make their way to the Minor.

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

The ReaL DeaL comes into this Minor qualifier as a team that doesn’t have the highest of expectations, especially in an expanded field of 6 teams with only 1 slot at the Minor available. However, the team was able to put together a somewhat encouraging performance in its last qualifier appearance, as the team finished with a 4-6 record in the DreamLeague Season 11 Major Europe Qualifier just a few days ago. That 4-6 overall record included a 3-4 record against the other squads in the field for this Minor qualifier, which at least instills a small degree of hope that The ReaL DeaL might be able to contend for that lone spot in Kiev. At the end of the day though, a sub .500 record against its regional rivals and a 7th-8th place finish in its lone non-open qualifier appearance is not an ideal resume for a squad that has only recently formed within its region. The possibility for success is still there for The ReaL DeaL, but it is going to need to put together an absolutely awe-inspiring performance in this qualifier to have a realistic chance at making its way to the Pro Circuit stage.

No Team Logo Dota2Players

Rodion “MYSmoon” Fomkin

Dota2Players is probably a squad that most people have never heard of before, partially due to the fact that the team only came together in recent times to participate in the open qualifiers. Aside from MYSmoon, the team’s roster only has experience playing for lower tier squads in open qualifiers and smaller events across the European and CIS regions. Coming into this event, the team doesn’t have much going for it in the way of recent successes or star power, and doesn’t appear to have much of a shot at being a significant power in this field. With only 1 slot at the Minor up for grabs as well, there odds don’t appear to be very favorable for this recently formed squad either, but Dota2Players does still have one factor that could work in its favor. The team’s relatively low profile means that opponents could potentially be unprepared to face it, with the possibility for pocket strategies or unorthodox drafting methods coming into play against unsuspecting squads. Even if that ends up being the case, Dota2Players will still need to put together an incredibly strong performance to overcome all of the other teams in the field, and as of right now it does not seem like this team is in a position where we can reasonably expect that to happen.

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