6 challengers make their return to the Pro Circuit stage, while a pair of newcomers look to shake things up at the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor
The third round of Pro Circuit qualifiers in this 2018-2019 campaign have officially come to a close, and the field of teams for the upcoming StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor has been set. While the Minor itself is not set to begin until March, we already know which 8 teams will be participating in the event and looking to claim the title of Minor Champion in Kiev. 1 team each from North America, South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia will be making their way to the Ukrainian capital, while 2 teams each from China and CIS will be joining them to round out the field. Aside from the money and Pro Circuit points that will be on the line at the Minor, the 8 participating teams will also be fighting for the opportunity to claim the title of Minor Champion and advance to the subsequent DreamLeague Season 11 Major. With that in mind, let’s take a brief look at the 8 teams that successfully fought their way through the regional qualifiers to earn their places at The StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor. Note that this will only be a brief bit of basic information about each squad, and a slightly more in-depth preview post will be forthcoming closer to the start of the Minor.
Region: Europe (Winner – Europe Qualifier)
Igor “iLTW” Filatov (Stand-in)
Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen
Sébastien “7ckngMad” Debs
Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka
Johan “N0tail” Sundstein
Titouan “Sockshka” Merloz (Coach)
With 6 teams all competing for just 1 spot at the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor, the Europe qualifier was quite the daunting test for OG as it looked to secure its second Pro Circuit event appearance of the season. In the end though, the TI8 Champion did not have quite as difficult a time as many may have predicted, as the squad tore through its regional rivals with a 9-1 overall record that included a string of 9 straight victories. With a fair bit of momentum on its side from that impressive regional performance, OG will come into the Minor as one of the stronger teams in the field, and a clear contender for the title of Minor Champion in Kiev. If the team’s recent long-term stand-in iLTW is confirmed to be making the trip to Kiev with the team as well, then OG will truly be a force to be reckoned with as it takes the Pro Circuit stage once again.
Region: CIS (1st – CIS Qualifier)
Nikita “Daxak” Kuzmin
Andrey “Afoninje” Afonin
Vasily “AfterLife” Shishkin
Alexander “Immersion” Hmelevskoy
Artsiom “fng” Barshack
Anatoly “boolk” Ivanov (Coach)
Gambit Esports’ rise within the CIS region continues, as the team has locked down its third appearance on the Pro Circuit stage with another successful qualifier run. Since the addition of Immersion and fng to the lineup near the end of December, Gambit Esports has been on a tear both at home and on the international level with 5 straight Top 4 finishes. Between the team’s strong showings within its home region and its previous experience on the Pro Circuit stage, Gambit Esports should come into the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor as one of the more accomplished and formidable squads in the field. Given the strength of some of the other teams at the Minor, the path to success will not be an easy one for Gambit Esports, but the CIS squad figures to be one of the leading contenders to lay claim to the title of Minor Champion in Kiev and secure that 16th slot at the subsequent Major.
Old But Gold
Region: CIS (2nd – CIS Qualifier)
Ilya “Illidan” Pivcaev
Sergey Alexandrovich “G” Bragin
Stanislav “633” Glushan
Ivan “VANSKOR” Skorokhod
Fedor “velheor“ Rusikhin
While Old But Gold hasn’t been together as a team for a particularly long amount of time, the squad came into this third round of Pro Circuit qualifiers as a team that many had on their radars as a potential contender within the CIS region. Made up of a group of regional veterans, the squad was able to put its strength on display against its regional rivals as it locked down 1 of the 2 CIS slots at the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor. While the team itself will be making its first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage this season, its players are no strangers to the playing on the international level. The team may not come into Kiev as an overwhelming favorite to claim the title of Minor Champion, but its strong play at home and the experience of its roster will make Old But Gold a force to be reckoned with as it takes the Pro Circuit stage for the first time.
Region: North America (Winner – North America Qualifier)
Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao
Eric “Ryoya” Dong
Jingjun “Sneyking” Wu
Francis “FrancisLee” Lee
Rodrigo Lelis “Liposa” Santos
Flying Penguins took a bit of a risk heading into this Minor qualifier, as the team opted to drop its young Midlaner Gunnar in order to bring in the more experienced Ryoya from TEAM TEAM. Whatever the potential risks may have been, the move worked out for the squad, as Flying Penguins put together a 6-3 record against its regional rivals to lay claim to the lone North American spot in Kiev for the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor. The Pro Circuit stage has not been overly kind to the individual members of the team’s roster, as EternaLEnVy and Sneyking’s lone appearance at the DreamLeage Season 10 Minor with compLexity Gaming resulted in a 5th-6th place finish, Ryoya’s appearance at The Bucharest Minor with TEAM TEAM also ended with a 5th-6th place result, and FrancisLee and Liposa’s run with paiN X at The Kuala Lumpur Major resulted in a 13th-16th place finish. While the players themselves may not have had the most successful of runs on the Pro Circuit stage, the hope going into the Minor will have to be that this team will be able put forth a more impressive effort than those previous squads.
Region: South America (Winner- South America Qualifier)
Alonso “Minoz” a.k.a. “Kotarō Hayama” León
Jeremy “Jeimari” Ruiz Aguinaga
Jose Andree “Sword” Nicosia
Elvis “Scofield” De la Cruz Peña
Christian “Accel” Cruz
Team Odd has arrived in the South American region in dramatic fashion, with the organization signing the former roster of Playmakers Esports only for that squad to win itself a place at the Minor days later. The newly christened Team Odd put together an absolutely incredible showing against its regional rivals, putting together a perfect 6-0 record to leave the other teams in the field in the dust. Of course, we’ve seen this squad perform on the Pro Circuit stage previously this season, with the team having a rather disappointing outing at The Bucharest Minor where it finished in the 7th-8th place position. However, the team’s new lineup and new organization have hopefully been the kind of changes that Team Odd needs in order to turn around that poor performance on the international level and put its strength on display in Kiev with the whole of the Dota 2 world watching.
Royal Never Give Up
Region: China (1st- China Qualifier)
Du “Monet” Peng
Gao “Setsu” Zhenxiong
Su “Flyby” Lei
Tue “ah fu” Soon Chuan
Xue “September” Zhichuan
Tong “Mikasa” Junjie (Coach)
After coming on strong to begin its Pro Circuit campaign, Royal Never Give Up had been going through a bit of a rough patch over the last few months of the season. While the squad had not fallen completely out of the Chinese regional hierarchy, its results at home had been somewhat inconsistent. However, this most recent round of Pro Circuit qualifiers gave the team another shot at showing its strength against its regional rivals, and this time Royal Never Give Up was able to take advantage of that opportunity. The team claimed back to back series victories to post a 4-0 record that secured it its second Minor appearance of the season, but the team is not entirely clear of concerns just yet even with its place in Kiev secured. The team has been playing with 2 unregistered players on its roster for the past 2 months, and while the squad has recently added Flyby to its registered lineup, the same cannot be sad for Support player Mad. If the team does not either remove Mad from its lineup, or officially register him as a member of its roster, then the squad will come into the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor with a rather hefty penalty to its potential Pro Circuit Point earnings.
Region: China (2nd – China Qualifier)
Zhang “Paparazi灬” Chengjun
Pan “Fade” Yi
Ding “Dy” Cong
Bai “rOtK” Fan
Vici Gaming’s performance in this Minor qualifier was a little bit strange, despite the fact that the Chinese squad managed to fight its way back to the Pro Circuit stage with a spot at the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor. The team played its first series of the event with a stand-in, as Agressif took the place of Fade, who had been reportedly benched by the organization. After losing that series though, Fade made his return to the lineup, and Vici Gaming proceeded to turn things around with 4 straight victories to earn itself a place at the Minor. Given some of the rumors that have been going around about the organization potential considered changes to its roster, Vici Gaming finds itself in a rather strange place at the moment. However, a strong showing from this team on the Pro Circuit stage would go a long way towards eliminating those rumors, and the squad will be looking to get itself back into top form as it makes its way to Kiev for its third Pro Circuit event of the season.
Region: Southeast Asia (Winner – Southeast Asia Qualifier)
Randy “Dreamocel” Sapoetra
Rafli “Mikoto” Fathur
Saieful “Fbz” Ilham
Tri “Jhocam” Kuncoro
Alfi “Khezcute” Nelphyana
BOOM ID continues to impress within the Southeast Asian region, as the Indonesian squad has made its way back to the Pro Circuit stage for its second Minor appearance in a row. The last time we saw BOOM ID at a Pro Circuit event, things did no go all that well for its as the squad posted a 3-6 overall record en route to a finish in the 7th-8th place position in an 8 team field. That result was not nearly as impressive as the team may have been hoping for, but after fighting its way past its regional rivals once again, BOOM ID will have its shot at redemption in Kiev. Hopefully, the opportunity to put its strength on display again against its fellow Southeast Asian squads will help BOOM ID generate some momentum for itself, as the squad looks to avenge its poor performance at The Bucahrest Minor with a strong showing at the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor in March.