Best Foot Forward: Forward Gaming returns to the Pro Circuit stage as the winner of the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 North America Qualifier
The first regional qualifier for the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 has come to an end, despite some delays and rescheduled matches that pushed the event back from its original end date. 8 squads from the North American region battled it out for a single spot on the Pro Circuit stage in Split, Croatia, and in the end it was the recently altered Forward Gaming that was able to lay claim to that spot. With a perfect 6-0 record in the event, Forward Gaming crushed its regional rivals to secure its fourth appearance on the Pro Circuit stage this season, and its first Minor appearance in its 2018-2019 campaign. With the action from this regional qualifier officially at and end, the time has come to take a look at how of the teams in the field performed in this event and how they stacked up compared to their pre-qualifier projections.
1st (Qualified for OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019)
When Forward Gaming announced the significant changes to its roster in the wake of the previous Major, there were some understandable concerns regarding its future performance in the North American region. As it turned out, those concerns were somewhat overblown, as Forward Gaming was able to put together a perfect 6-0 record in this qualifier to claim a place on the Pro Circuit stage at the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019. With an average game time of just over 27 minutes, Forward Gaming and its new roster handily defeated all of its regional rivals in this qualifier, but the true challenge for this squad will be contending with its opponents on the international level. The team’s roster changes and subsequent loss of Pro Circuit Points dropped it down the Pro Circuit Rankings a bit, and the North American squad will need to put together a strong performance at the Minor in order to make up for those losses and potentially claim its first Minor Championship title in Croatia.
J.Storm entered this Minor qualifier as one of the favorites to claim the lone North American spot at the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019, but the squad ended up falling just short of that mark in the end. After dispatching Sub2Kong and Team Xolotl in its first 2 series, the squad fell 0-2 to Forward Gaming in the Finals to miss out on its shot at reaching the Pro Circuit stage for a fourth time this season. Despite coming up short in the Finals, J.Storm’s 4-3 overall record still represented a fairly impressive performance for the squad, with its Carry/Mid duo of Moo and Bryle in particular putting up some solid numbers. The pair averaged 14 kills and 15.14 assists on 4.71 deaths per game and proved to be the driving force behind the squad’s qualifier run. For the time being, J.Storm remains in the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings, but with the team set to earn no Pro Circuit Points from this upcoming Major/Minor pair, that position may be in jeopardy in the near future. The squad’s performance in this event was solid, but J.Storm may find itself needing to step things up for the final round of Pro Circuit qualifiers in May if it wants to maintain its favorable position in the rankings.
gg and gg
Coming into this event, gg and gg was looked at as a team that was far more capable than what we had seen from the squad so far. The team’s skill and experience didn’t seem to match up to its lackluster performance in the previous Major qualifier, but things ended up going a little bit better for the squad this time around. The team replaced Ritsu with Kikoni, and managed to put together a dominant performance against Vega Academy with the new roster claiming a lopsided 2-0 victory in the series in which it out killed its opponent 40-19. Unfortunately, the team ran into Forward Gaming in the next round, and while its updated roster had been able to handily defeat its previous opponent, Forward Gaming proved to be a more formidable threat. This time gg and gg found itself on the wrong side of a blowout, with the team being out killed 15-61 in a massively one sided 0-2 defeat that brought its run to an end. While the team’s overall finish in the 3rd-4th place position will look fairly decent for it, the incredibly inconsistent play from this team brings into question its long term stability over the final months of the season. This team came together for the purpose of competing in these Pro Circuit qualifiers, but without the desired results, it seems more likely that its members might go their separate ways and look for new opportunities before the start of the fifth and final round of Pro Circuit qualifiers in May.
Team Xolotl has not been a squad that has factored much into the North American hierarchy so far this season, but the squad has at least shown some skill and potential across its qualifier appearances to this point. Coming into this Minor qualifier, the team was projected to finish in the top half of the standings but was still considering to be a step below favorites like Forward Gaming and J.Storm. As it turned out, that projection proved to be accurate, as the squad was able to push past Fickle Minds in the Quarterfinals before falling 1-2 to J.Storm in the Semifinals. While the team wasn’t able claim a place on the Pro Circuit stage, its performance in this qualifier was one of the most impressive performances that we’ve seen from the Mexican squad so far this season. With a 3-3 overall record, the team was able to hold its own across its 2 series and appeared to be much more confident this time around. Of course, the squad still obviously has a long way to go if it wants to truly be a contender within the North American region, but Team Xolotl at least appears to be moving in the right direction for the time being.
Fickle Minds (formerly LaGueuleDeBois)
As one of the team to come into this event through the open qualifiers, the expectations had been set fairly low for FIckle Minds, but the team managed to put together a somewhat impressive performance in its lone series of the qualifier. The team opened the series with a blow out victory over its opponent, out killing Team Xolotl 28-6 behind a strong showing from Paradie on Juggernaut (14-1-9). Beyond that point though, the series proved to be a fairly one sided affair, as Fickle Minds was out killed 13-58 over the course of Games 2 and 3 to lose control of the series. To be fair to Fickle Minds, this results was hardly unexpected, and the fact that the team managed to so convincingly win the opening match of the series is truly an impressive feat for a squad that was pretty much completely unheralded coming into this event. At this stage, it appears unlikely that we will see Fickle Minds in a Pro Circuit qualifier again this season, but the team at least has that 1 match win to its name that it can be proud of.
As 1 of the 3 open qualifier teams in this Minor qualifier, sub2kong was not necessarily expected to find much success against some of the stronger teams in its region, and the team’s run in this event didn’t end up lasting all that long as it turned out. The squad was handily defeated by J.Storm in a crushing 0-2 series loss, with sub2kong being out killed 11-59 over the course of the series. The team was out matched from the very start, with the series lasting just over 36 minutes of total game time as sub2kong’s brief Pro Circuit Qualifier run was brought to a swift and brutal end. Here’s hoping that the team at least managed to get kong a few extra subs for his channel though, because it is unlikely that this squad makes another qualifier appearance this season.
After a relatively weak performance in the recent Major qualifier, Vega Academy didn’t come into this event with the highest of expectations. Unfortunately, the squad didn’t manage to play much better this time around, as the team was completely out played in a 0-2 loss to gg and gg to finish at the bottom of the event standings. Across the 2 game series, Vega Academy found itself out killed 19-50, with no member of the team reaching the double digit mark for kills in both matches combined. The team did at least manage to make things interesting with some unorthodox ideas in its drafts, but those new ideas were not quite stable enough to propel the squad to victory.
4Fats n 10ld
The run for 4Fats n 10ld went pretty much exactly how we had anticipated, as the squad was completely out matched in its series against Forward Gaming. In a 0-2 defeat, the team was out killed 21-76 and never held a net worth lead across a series that lasted just over 49 minutes in total. The good news for the squad is that its players got some experience playing against one of the strongest teams in the North American region, even if those players didn’t manage to put together the best of performances. The bad news is that it isn’t likely that the team will get another opportunity before the end of the season. The unique format for this qualifier probably won’t be used again for the season’s final Minor, and 4Fats n 10ld seems unlikely to reach another Closed qualifier without those extra open qualifier spots.