Pro Circuit Qualifier Preview – MDL Disneyland Paris Major North America Closed Qualifier

TI9 bound Evil Geniuses headlines a field of familiar squads and new challengers in the MDL Disneyland Paris Major North America Qualifier

The first round of regional qualifiers for the MDL Disneyland Paris Major are coming to a close, which means that the time is fast approaching for our second group of regions to begin their own qualifiers and determine which squads will be heading to the Pro Circuit stage for the season’s fourth Major. The Southeast Asian region is set to begin its qualifier run on March 30, with the event itself running  through the 1st of April. The field of teams for the qualifier itself is made up of 8 teams, with 4 teams (Evil Geniuses, J.Storm, Forward Gaming, and TEAM TEAM) receiving direct invites to the Closed Qualifier, while the other 4 (compLexity Gaming, Vega Academy, Team Xolotl, and gg and gg) earned their places through the 2 open qualifiers. Of the 8 participating squads in this qualifier, 5 of them (Evil Geniuses, J.Storm, Forward Gaming, TEAM TEAM, and compLexity Gaming) have previously made appearances on the Pro Circuit stage, while another (Team Xolotl) has previously participated in a Pro Circuit qualifier but failed to qualify for an event. As for the final 2 squads in the field (Vega Academy and gg and gg), this will be the first Pro Circuit qualifier appearance for either team.

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 North America qualifier will see 3 team’s qualify for the Major, with the victors of both of the Upper Bracket matches and the winner of 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

 

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.

Evil Geniuses Evil Geniuses
Roster:
Artour “Arteezy” Babaev
Syed Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan
Gustav “s4” Magnusson
Andreas Franck “Cr1t-” Nielsen
Tal “Fly” Aizik

As the first and so far only North American squad to have earned a direct invite to TI9, Evil Geniuses is the clear favorite coming into this event and the clear leader in the regional hierarchy. The team has had some slight stumbles against its regional rivals, but has managed to pull through in every scenario to reach the Pro Circuit stage where it has been incredibly impressive. At this stage in the season, the team really doesn’t need to be concerned about whether or not it reaches another Pro Circuit event. However, the team’s competitive drive and the prospect of continuing to test itself against the best teams on the Pro Circuit in Paris will likely be all the motivation that EG needs to come out firing against its regional rivals in this qualifier.

J Storm Small J.Storm
Roster:

David “Moo” Hull
Jonathan “Bryle” De Guia
Lee “Forev” Sang-don
Clinton “Fear” Loomis
Park “March” Tae-won

After a season of struggles on the international level, J.Storm finally found its breakthrough moment on the Pro Circuit stage with a 7th-8th place finish at the recent DreamLeague Season 11 Major. Now, the squad will look to keep its momentum going as it return to its home region, where it has never finished lower than 3rd place across 6 appearances so far this season. Taking into account the team’s recent improvement on the international level, its continued strength at home, and the fact that many of its regional rivals have recently undergone change to their roster, it appears that J.Storm has given put in a fantastic position for success as it heads into this Major qualifier.

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.

Forward Gaming Forward Gaming
Roster:
Yawar “YawaR” Hassan
Quinn “CC&C” Callahan
Jingjun “Sneyking” Wu
Arif “MSS” Anwar
Kartik “Kitrak” Rathi

Forward Gaming is most likely going to be one of the most interesting storylines of this regional qualifier, as the team is making its first official appearance since its significant roster changes in the aftermath of the DreamLeague Season 11 Major. With 3 new players on the roster, this team certainly looks quite different from the team that we just recently saw on the Pro Circuit stage in Stockholm, and the question will be whether this new lineup can maintain the regional success that its predecessor had held over the first half of the season. Considering the skill and experience of the team’s new additions, Forward Gaming still appears to be in a relatively favorable position, but the uncertainty of its roster changes keeps the squad from taking that final step to being a favorite in this field.

TEAM TEAM TEAM TEAM
Roster:

Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao
Nico “Gunnar” Lopez
Braxton “Brax” Paulson
Jason “Newsham” Newsham
Michael “ixmike88”  Ghannam

A pair of roster changes brought some new players to the roster of TEAM TEAM, as up and coming talent Gunnar and veteran player EternaLEnVy have joined the squad’s lineup for this qualifier. So far this season, TEAM TEAM has been the closest thing we’ve seen to a fourth major power within the North American region, but the squad has never quite been able to push itself onto that same level as EG, J.Storm, and Forward Gaming as of yet. Considering the fact that one of those teams (EG) has already secured its place in the field for TI9 and another (Forward Gaming) is dealing with significant changes to its roster, perhaps now is the time for TEAM TEAM to finally make its move. If the squad’s new Carry/Mid duo can step up and turn in some strong performances against its regional rivals, then TEAM TEAM has a solid shot at challenging one of those 3 leading squads for a spot 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.

727px-Col_big_logo compLexity Gaming
Roster:
Galvin “Meracle” Kang Jian Wen
Linus “Limmp” Blomdin
Yang “Deth” Wu Heng
Zakari “Zfreek” Freedman
Adam Erwann Shah “343” a.k.a “Adam” bin Akhtar Hussein

The experiment for compLexity Gaming with its trio of Southeast Asian players continues in this Major qualifier, as the squad takes another shot at earning itself a place on the Pro Circuit stage. The team’s recent performance has actually been fairly encouraging for compLexity Gaming, as the team has earned Top 4 finishes across all 6 of its regional appearances since the beginning of 2019. Of course, the fact that 4 of those performances came in open qualifiers epitomizes an issue for the squad coming into this event, as the team has not quite been able to find success against the top squads in its region with its current lineup. Of course, this qualifier could always prove to be the breakthrough moment for compLexity Gaming, but it is going to need stand out performances from every member of the roster is it wants to have a shot at claiming a place in Paris.

No Team Logo gg and gg
Roster:
Ravindu “Ritsu” Kodippili
Eric “Ryoya” Dong
Noah “Boris” Minhas
Francis “FrancisLee” Lee
Andrew “Jubei” Evelynn 

This one is a pretty straightforward scenario for the recently formed gg and gg, as this group of regional veterans comes together to take a shot at earning a place on the Pro Circuit stage. The team hasn’t been together for very long, which always raises a red flag when evaluating a squad’s potential in regional qualifiers. However, the significant levels of experience on the roster for gg and gg will give it the potential to be a contender against its regional rivals in this event. Of course, there is a rather significant difference between potential and reality, and this recently formed squad is still going to need to produce some incredibly impressive performances to have a shot at knocking off one of the region’s leading squads. However, with many of its opponents in this field either having recently come together themselves or undergone changes to its roster, there is hope for gg and gg to make a strong statement if it can put together an impressive performance in this qualifier.

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.

579px-Vega_Squadron_2016 Vega Academy
Roster:
Pavel “A$AP ROFLEX” Semechkin
Ilyas “Steel- -Borco” Kaukenov
Maxat “MindGate” Karaev 
Timofei “TheBearFaran” Kuznetsov
Nikita “Shoe” Zagrebin

The team formerly known as NAR (CIS Community) was recently signed by the Vega Squadron organization, becoming Vega Academy in the eve of its appearance in this Major qualifier. However, the change in name won’t likely affect the team’s overall odds of finding success against its regional rivals, as the team is facing a daunting challenge in this qualifier. The team’s experience against the top squads in its region is extremely limited, and the majority of its roster come into this event relatively unheralded within the North American region. To be fair, we’ve seen underdogs make some strong runs before in the Dota 2 world, and it’s fully possible that Vega Academy could be the latest team to pull off a shocking qualifier run to earn its place on the Pro Circuit stage. In order for that to happen though, this team would have to put together a mind-blowing series of performances against its regional rivals, and the odds of that don’t appear to be all that favorable for the team heading into this event.

Team Xolotl Team Xolotl
Roster:
Jesús Ángel “Ifrit” Valencia Bonales
Jose Esau “Esk” Perez Coronel
Alejandro Skinfill “Jano” Moreno
Omar Fernando “pika2” Velarde Leyva
Héctor Adrián “hector” Garza Cárdenas

The Mexican squad Team Xolotl returns for another shot at earning itself a place on the Pro Circuit stage. The fact that the team is attending another Pro Circuit qualifier is certainly a positive sign for it in terms of its growth and development as a squad, but as of right now the team does not appear to be any closer to taking down its most prominent regional rivals. To be fair, the jump up to the territory of Tier 1 teams is no easy feat for any squad, and no one should be expecting for Team Xolotl to make that kind of drastic change overnight. With that being said, the team is starting to run out of opportunities to make it happen this season, and its odds for success don’t appear to be particularly high coming into this qualifier. If the team can put together some sort of Cinderella run against its regional rivals, then maybe Team Xolotl has a shot at being the first Mexican squad to reach the Pro Circuit stage.

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