Familiar faces and new challengers alike hope to knock off Pro Circuit leader Virtus.pro in the MDL Disneyland Paris Major CIS Closed Qualifier
With the DreamLeague Season 11 Major officially concluded, the time has come for the Dota 2 world to prepares for another round of Pro Circuit qualifiers. The first group of regional qualifiers for the MDL Disneyland Paris Major are set to begin, and the CIS region finds itself included in that initial group. Running from March 28 through the 30th, the qualifier will feature an 8 team field with 4 squads (Virtus.pro, Na’Vi, Gambit Esports, and Old but Gold) receiving direct invites while the other 4 (FlyToMoon, Team Empire, CoM19SpadaNJI, and Uvajenie) earned places in the field through the 2 open qualifiers. Of the 8 participants in this qualifier, 4 of them (Virtus.pro, Na’Vi, Gambit Esports, and Old but Gold) have made appearances on the Pro Circuit stage, while another (Team Empire) has previously attended a Pro Circuit qualifier but failed to qualify for an event. The final 3 teams in the field (FlyToMoon, CoM19SpadaNJI, and Uvajenie) are newcomers to this stage and will be making their first appearances in a Pro Circuit qualifier this season.
The 8 teams in the field will be divided into 2 GSL style Groups of 4 teams each, with the top 2 teams from each group advancing to the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs while the third place teams from each group will begin the Playoffs in the Lower Bracket. The teams that finish at the bottom of each group will be eliminated from the qualifier and will not advance to the Playoffs. Said Playoffs will feature a double elimination bracket, with all series across both the Group Stage and Playoffs being played in a Bo3 format. The CIS qualifier will see 2 team’s qualify for the Major, with the victors of both the Upper Bracket Finals and the Lower Bracket Finals claiming places in Paris. With some basic information about the event and its format covered, we can take a look at each of the 8 teams in the field for this regional qualifier, with the teams being divided into our usual 4 categories: Favorites, Contenders, Maybe Ifs, and Long Shots
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.
Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev
Pavel “9pasha” Khvastunov
Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan
Alexei “Solo” Berezin
At this point, this one really doesn’t need much of an explanation, as VP stands as the clear leader in the CIS region and sits at the top of the Pro Circuit Rankings while having won 5 Major Championships in the last 2 years. The team’s consistent success both at home and on the international level has been nothing short of awe-inspiring, and there’s little reason to believe that the team will suddenly suffer some kind of dramatic setback against its regional rivals. Barring an abrupt vacation for one or more of the team’s players, expect VP to find its way back to the Pro Circuit stage with another strong performance in this qualifier.
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.
Vladislav “Crystallize” Krystanek
Idan “MagicaL” Vardanyan
Evgeniy “Blizzy” Ree
Evgeniy “Chuvash” Makarov
Akbar “SoNNeikO” Butaev
Na’Vi comes into this qualifier off the back of an appearance on the Pro Circuit stage at the DreamLeague Season 11 Major just a few days ago. Unfortunately, said appearance did not go particularly well for the squad as it finished in the 13th-16th place position in Stockholm. However, a return to competition within the CIS region should be significantly more favorable for the squad, as its play within its home region has resulted in much more consistent success. Since the start of 2019, the team has made 3 appearances in either CIS exclusive or mixed CIS and European events (not including open qualifiers) and has managed to earn Top 4 finishes in 2 of them. Dating back to the beginning of the 2018-2019 season, the team has 9 regional appearances with 5 Top 4 finishes overall. Those numbers don’t indicate a dominant level of play against its regional rivals, but Na’vi has at least managed to remain competitive within its region on a fairly consistent basis, which gives the team a solid shot at putting together a strong showing in this qualifier and earning its second straight Major appearance.
Nikita “Daxak” Kuzmin
Andrey “Afoninje” Afonin
Vasily “AfterLife” Shishkin
Alexander “Immersion” Hmelevskoy
Artsiom “fng” Barshack
If there was any team in the CIS region that appeared to be on the right track to claiming that 2nd place position in the hierarchy behind VP, it would probably be Gambit Esports. The squad has made something of a breakthrough on the international level since the start of 2019, having finished in 2nd place at The Bucharest Minor, ESL One Katowice 2019, and the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor. However, the focus for the team coming into this qualifier will be its play on the home front, and luckily for Gambit Esports it has managed to put together some impressive results against its regional rivals as well. Since the start of the 2018-2019 season, Gambit Esports has appeared in 12 CIS exclusive or mixed CIS and European events (including open qualifiers) and has finished inside the Top 4 in 10 of them, including 6 1st place performances. The team’s consistency within the CIS region has been incredibly impressive so far this season, but those strong previous results don’t necessarily guarantee success for the squad heading into this qualifier. With VP almost assuredly claiming 1 of the region’s spots at the Major, Gambit Esports is left with previous little room for error against its regional rivals as it looked to make a return to the Pro Circuit stage for its 2nd Major appearance of the season.
Old but Gold
Ilya “Illidan” Pivcaev
Sergey Alexandrovich “G” Bragin
Stanislav “633” Glushan
Fedor “velheor“ Rusikhin
Ivan “VANSKOR” Skorokhod
Old but Gold may be a relatively recent addition to the CIS scene, but the team has already gotten to work making a name for itself in the regional hierarchy. In addition to its Top 4 finish at the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor, the team has also been putting together some solid performances within its home region as well. In 5 total appearances in CIS or mixed CIS and European competitions (including open qualifiers), Old but Gold has earned 4 Top 4 finishes. Across those event appearances, the team holds a 21-15 record against its fellow CIS squads, putting the team in a relatively strong position heading into this qualifier. Between the squad’s fairly consistent performances against its regional rivals and the talent and experience of the players on its roster, Old but Gold should be a potential contender for one of the CIS region’s spots on the Pro Circuit stage in Paris.
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.
Kiyalbek “dream`” Tayirov
Konstantin “kodos-” Kogai
Igor Andreevich “Maden” Modenov
Oleg “sayuw” Kalenbet
Rinat “KingR” Abdullin
In the aftermath of the Team Empire organization folding its 2 squads back into a single team, the newly remade Team Empire has managed to put together some solid results within the CIS region in recent times. Since the reforming of the team’s main roster, Team Empire has put together 5 Top 4 finishes across 6 total appearances in the CIS and European regions. Included among those recent results is a 1st place run in the BTS Spring Cup: Europe, as well as a pair of 1st place performances in the open qualifiers for both this event and the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor CIS Qualifier. Within that same time frame, Team Empire has put together an impressive 12-4 record against the other squads in the field for this qualifier, which sets the team up as a potential contender heading into this qualifier. Considering the strength of some of the more prominent teams in this qualifier, Team Empire will still need to put together an incredible performance to earn itself a place in Paris. However, don’t expect the squad to go down without a fight as it looks to earn its first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage this season.
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.
Egor “.Ark” Zhabotinskii
Bogdan “Iceberg” Vasilenko
Maxim “yoky-“ Kim
Alexander “Nofear” Churochkin
Andrey “ALWAYSWANNAFLY” Bondarenko
The name FlyToMoon may be familiar to many in the Dota 2 scene, but the roster that now plays under the team’s banner looks a bit different from the one that we saw last season, or even the one that participated in the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor CIS Qualifier around 2 months ago. The team’s current roster has played just a single event together so far, with said event being the open qualifier that earned it a place in this very competition. Considering the experience of the players on its roster, FlyToMoon at least appears to have the potential to be a legitimate challenger in this qualifier. However, without any other results as a squad, it is hard to have a high level of confidence in the team’s abilities as it prepares to face off against some of its strongest regional rivals. The potential for success is there for this version of FlyToMoon, but until the team shows us for sure that it is ready to compete at the highest level in its region, the expectations will be set fairly low for the squad coming into this event.
Nikita “Palantimos“ Grinkevich
Yaroslav “Pikachu” Vasilenko
Yevgeny “chshrct“ Kostroma
Danil “Bignum” Shehovtsov
Vladislav “BLACKARXANGEL“ Ivaschenko
Formed from 4 of the 5 members of the recently disbanded Pavaga Gaming, Uvajenie comes into this event as a team with a fair degree of familiarity with its current roster. Unfortunately, the team’s track record under the Pavaga Gaming banner was one of relative inconsistency, as the squad countered a few shining moments with a string of less than impressive performances over the last few months. That being said, the team did manage to fight its way through the open qualifiers to reach this stage, which at least speaks to the potential of this roster to find success against its regional rivals. However, with the team set to take on some of the most formidable squads in the entire CIS region in this qualifier, Uvajenie will need to put together perhaps its strongest performance of the season so far if it wants to have a real chance at competing for a place in Paris. If the team can’t manage that, then its odds are extremely low heading into this Pro Circuit qualifier.
Igor “iLTW” Filatov
Alexander “Nix” Levin
Mihail “Misha“ Agatov
From the ashes of the inactive Espada roster comes a new challenger in the CIS region, as CoM19SpadaNJI comes into this qualifier with a trio of former Espada players on the roster. With the squad having only recently formed, its only experience as a roster came in its successful run through the open qualifier, which leaves us with very little to look at in terms of evaluating the team’s potential. The trio of iLTW, Nix, and Misha have all shown themselves to be capable and talented players in the CIS and European region, but raw skill alone won’t be enough to overcome all of its opponents in this field. If this team wants to have a shot at claiming a place on the Pro Circuit stage in Paris, then it is going to have to absolutely blow us all away with its play right off the bat. The odds of that happening seem pretty low for the time being, and until this team shows us otherwise, the expectations for CoM19SpadaNJI will have to remain on the lower end of the spectrum coming into the qualifier itself.