Showdown in Split: The Croatian city plays host to the fourth Minor of the 2018-2019 campaign as 8 squads look to spark late-season runs with strong showings at the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019
The second half of the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season is rolling on, but there is still quite a lot to be determined as we approach the end of the campaign and the start of the annual pre-TI hype period. 4 of the 12 direct invite slots for TI9 have already been claimed, leaving 8 spots still up for grabs with 2 Minor and 2 Majors left to be played this season. One of those Minors is set to begin very shortly, as the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 is just days away. Organized by One Game Agency, the event will be the latest in the Dota Pit League series of tournaments, marking the seventh event in the series dating back to 2014, and the second Pro Circuit Minor in the series. The season’s fourth Minor will bring the Pro Circuit back to Croatia, specifically the Spaladium Arena in the coastal city of Split. Beginning on April 22 and running through the 28th, the event will bring 8 teams together from across the 6 regions of the Dota 2 world, each of whom will be looking to make their mark on the Pro Circuit stage by claiming a Minor Championship title and the all important 16th spot at the subsequent MDL Disneyland Paris Major. In addition to the title and the slot at the Major, the 8 participating squads will also be fighting for their share of the prize pools, with 500 Pro Circuit Points and $300,000 USD, set to be distributed among the teams as follows.
1st: $125,000 & 120 DPC Points (Advances to MDL Disneyland Paris Major)
2nd: $65,000 & 100 DPC Points
3rd: $35,000 & 90 DPC Points
4th: $25,000 & 70 DPC Points
5th-6th: $15,000 (Per Team) & 40 DPC Points (Per Team)
7th-8th: $10,000 (Per Team) & 20 DPC Points (Per Team)
Just like the previous Minor, the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 will feature a slightly modified format compared to the first two Minors of the season. The event will begin with a Group Stage, with the 8 teams being divided into 2 groups of 4 teams each. Within those groups, the teams will play in a Bo3 Round-Robin to determine seeding in the Playoffs. The Group Stage will not feature any elimination matches, with all participating teams advancing to the Playoffs, which will feature a double elimination bracket. The teams to finish in the top 2 slots of their group will advance to the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs, while the 2 squads to finish at the bottom of their group standings will proceed to the Lower Bracket. All series in the Playoffs will feature Bo3 series save for the Grand Finals, which will be played in a Bo5 format.
With the Pro Circuit season now on the back end of its schedule, the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 serves as a crucial opportunity for many of the squads in the field to potentially spark a late-season rally to improve their position in the Pro Circuit Rankings. While every squad in the field will be receiving some amount of Pro Circuit Points, a push into the upper half of the event standings and a potential spot at the Major could prove to be enough to move one or more of these teams into contention for a Top 12 spot in the Pro Circuit Rankings and a direct invite to TI9. Of the 8 teams in the field for this Minor, 7 of them (Ninjas in Pyjamas, Alliance, Forward Gaming, Gambit Esports, BOOM ID, Royal Never Give Up, and EHOME) already hold positions in the Pro Circuit Rankings while the last of them (Majestic Esports) is making its debut on the Pro Circuit stage at this event. Depending upon their play at this event, any of these squads could find themselves improving their position in the Pro Circuit Rankings, though the risk also exists of teams falling behind in the Rankings with a poor showing on the Pro Circuit stage. With that in mind, it is time for us to jump into our overview of how each of these 8 participants in the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 stack up heading into the fourth Minor of the 2018-2019 season.
Please note that the “projected finishes” for each team are my own predictions and do not constitute any official or necessarily objective ranking based upon specific statistics or data. Also note that the “projected finishes” are based upon the perceived strength of a given team in relation to its opponents in the field, and does not take into account any match up specific scenarios (i.e. whether a team gets put into Group A rather than Group B for the Group Stage).
Ninjas in Pyjamas
Qualification Method: Europe Qualifier 1st Place
Pro Circuit Rank: 7th (1570 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard
2. Adrian “Fata” Trinks
3. Neta “33” Shapira
4. Martin “Saksa” Sazdov
5. Peter “ppd” Dager (Captain)
C. Aaron “Clairvoyance” Kim
Projected Finish: Top 4
Ninjas in Pyjamas comes into the season’s fourth Minor as a squad with a strange dichotomy in terms of its current position on the Pro Circuit and in the Dota 2 world as a whole. On the one hand, the European squad stands as one of the top ranked teams in the world, currently sitting in 7th in the Pro Circuit Rankings. On the other hand, NiP stands as a squad that can still trace nearly 86 per cent of its Pro Circuit Point earnings back to just a single event in the form of its 4th place finish at The Kuala Lumpur Major back in November in which it played with a substitute player. Between that Major in November and now, the team has shown itself to a be a formidable force in the Dota 2 world with some fairly consistent results both at home and on the international level. However, those performances have not allowed the squad to come anywhere close to replicating that initial success on the Pro Circuit stage, and at this point in the season NiP is essentially coasting off of that showing at the Major. Of course, the structure of the Pro Circuit system allows for a squad to do exactly that, but NiP likely won’t be content to just ride things out and hope that its prior success will be enough to sustain it through the end of the season. The squad will almost certainly be looking to improve its position in the Pro Circuit Rankings and move closer to a direct invite to TI9, and the first step towards accomplishing that will be to put together a strong performance in this Minor.
The last time that we saw NiP on the Pro Circuit stage was just around a month ago at the DreamLeague Season 11 Major in Stockholm, Sweden. The event did not go particularly well for the European squad though, as NiP struggled a bit in the Group Stage and was eliminated by Evil Geniuses in Round 2 of the Lower Bracket to finish in the 9th-12th place position overall. Since that event, the team’s only other appearances have come in the form of a pair of runs in the latest round of Pro Circuit qualifiers. The first of said qualifier runs was an underwhelming 5th-6th place performance in the MDL Disneyland Paris Major Europe Qualifier, while the latter was the 1st place performance in the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 Europe Qualifier that earned the team its place in this event. Those 2 performances represent a rather significant disparity in terms of the team’s level of play, but the good news for NiP is that its results have been much more consistent across 2019 as a whole. Since the beginning of the year, NiP has appeared in 7 events with either exclusively European or mixed CIS and European fields, with the squad earning 5 Top 4 finishes across those appearances. Included among those Top 4 finishes are a trio of 1st place performances in the DreamLeague Season 11 Europe Qualifier, WePlay! Dota 2 Tug of War: Radiant, and the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 Europe Qualifier. The home front has been an area of relative strength for NiP, but the main scrutiny for the squad comes in its play on the international level. On that front, the team’s performance has been solid, but had not been quite as consistent as the squad may like. The team has attended 3 international events since the start of 2019, beginning in January with its 4th place performance at The Bucharest Minor. One month later, the squad put together a commendable 5th-6th place run at ESL One Katowice 2019, but stumbled on the Pro Circuit stage in March with its aforementioned 9th-12th place showing at the DreamLeague Season 11 Major. Despite some of those struggles, the team still holds a solid 28-26 record against teams outside of its home region in 2019, and the team will have a chance to improve upon that record before it makes the trip to Croatia for the Minor. NiP is set to participate in ESL One Mumbai 2019 starting April 16, where it will not only have a chance to bolster its international record, but will also go toe to toe with a pair of fellow Minor participants in the form of Alliance and Gambit Esports. With a strong showing in that event, NiP has a shot at entering the Minor with an added level of confidence and momentum behind it as it looks to put together another Top 4 finish on the Pro Circuit stage.
Ninjas In Pyjamas comes into the OGA Dota PIT Minor as the top ranked squad in the 8 team field, which right off the bat sets the expectations fairly high for the European squad. While the team hasn’t quite been able to replicate its 4th place finish at the season’ first Major, NiP still sits firmly inside the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings and is the second highest ranked team from the European region. At this stage in the season, the team is eyeing a potential direct invite to TI9, but it needs a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage in Split in order to move closer to that goal. It is true that NiP hasn’t always been the most consistent squad on the international level this season, with its 28-26 international record in 2018 being solid but not overly impressive. However, that issue is one that is hardly confined to just this squad among the teams in the field for this event, and NiP does appear to have one significant advantage over those opposing squads. That advantage comes in the form of the team’s experience, as NiP’s somewhat inconsistent performances on the international level have still produced a handful of impressive results for the squad coming into this Minor. The squad certainly has not been a dominant force on the Pro Circuit stage, but the experience and skill of its players combined with its solid track record away from its home region set NiP up in what appears to be a favorable position coming into this event. With that in mind, the squad is projected to finish in the Top 4 at the Minor, and should be one of the leading contenders for the title of Minor Champion in Split so long as it avoids any dramatic setbacks on the Pro Circuit stage.
Qualification Method: Europe Qualifier 2nd Place
Pro Circuit Rank: 14th (225 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Omar “Madara” Dabachach (Stand-in)
2. Max “qojqva” Bröcker
3. Samuel “Boxi” Svahn
4. Tommy “Taiga” Le
5. Aydin “iNSaNiA” Sarkohi (Captain)
C. Jonathan “Loda” Berg
Projected Finish: Top 4
Alliance will come into this Minor in a rather interesting position with regards to its roster. Near the end of March, the organization announced that miCKe would be taking a hiatus of around 1 month in order to recover from his arm injury, recruiting Madara to serve as a long-term stand-in for the squad. By the time the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 begins later this month, it will have been just a round 1 month since miCKe’s departure, raising the question of whether Alliance will opt to bring back their regular Carry, or play it safe and wait until after the event to return him to the active lineup. Regardless of whether the team has Madara or miCKe in the lineup, Alliance will enter the Minor as a team desperately looking for success on the Pro Circuit stage. The squad remains just outside the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings, and a strong performance in Split and even a potential trip to the subsequent Major could very well tip the scales in the team’s favor and get it inside that coveted direct invite territory with the season fast approaching its end. Of course, if the team opts to play at the Minor with Madara as a stand-in, then it would ostensibly receive a penalty to its Pro Circuit Point earnings. As much as the team is in need of more points to make a push for the Top 12 though, the focus for Alliance will almost certainly be on simply putting together its strongest possible performance on the Pro Circuit stage, with any worries about points or penalties coming later.
Alliance’s last appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came near the beginning of 2019, as the squad participated in The Chongqing Major back in January. Said appearance was not particularly impressive for the squad, as Alliance posted a 3-5 overall record to finish at the bottom of the event standings in the 13th-16th place position. Since then, the team’s efforts at home have been marked by some encouraging performances, though the specter of inconsistency still lingers to an extent. The team has participated in 8 European or mixed European and CIS events in the time since its last Pro Circuit appearance, and has managed to finish inside the Top 4 in 6 of those appearances. The most recent of those performances came just days ago in the GG.Bet Birmingham Invitational, in which the squad claimed a 1st place finish to earn itself a spot at ESL One Birmingham in May. That event will give the squad an opportunity to improve its performance on the international level, although it will not come before Alliance’s appearance on the Pro Circuit stage in Split. In the time since its lackluster 13th-16th place showing at The Chongqing Major, Alliance has made just 1 appearance on the international level at ESL One Katowice 2019 in February. That appearance saw the squad put together a disappointing 2-8 record to finish in the 9th-12th place position among a 12 team field, and only further contributed to a narrative of Alliance being unable to find success outside of its home region. The good news for Alliance is that it will have one more opportunity to reverse that narrative before it makes the trip to Split. The squad is set to participate at ESL One Mumbai 2019 just days before the start of the Minor, giving Alliance an incredible opportunity to potentially build up momentum on the international level heading into its Pro Circuit stage appearance. The event will also give Alliance an opportunity to test itself against some of its future Pro Circuit opponents, as fellow Minor attendees NiP and Gambit Esports will also be participating. If the squad can manage to put together a solid showing in that event, then its momentum from that run combined with its relatively strong results at home should have Alliance sitting in a favorable position heading into the Minor.
Alliance will come into this Minor as a squad trying to finally find success on the international level after a season of somewhat underwhelming and disappointing results away from the European region. Despite the fact that the team has had to play without one of its strongest players over the last month due to the injury to miCKe, Alliance has built up a fair bit of momentum for itself with Madara serving as a stand-in. With 3 Top 4 finishes across its 4 event appearances with Madara in the lineup, Alliance appears to be fairly comfortable with its temporary roster situation. However, the true test for Alliance will be whether its altered lineup will prove to be any more capable of finding success on the international level. Under normal circumstances, the fact that the team in its current form has somewhat limited results outside of its home region in recent times would come as a more significant concern. However, a lack of official matches on the international level is an issue that affecting nearly all of the other teams in the field for this event, and as such does not constitute as large of a disadvantage for Alliance as it may have at another event. With many of the squads in a similar positions in terms of their standing on the international level, the deciding factors coming into this event in terms of making predictions are the teams’ previous experience and the skill of its players. On that front, Alliance appears to have an advantage, as its roster has been able to put together relatively consistent performances within its home region this season. And while the squad’s play on the international level has been extremely lackluster in this 2018-2019 campaign, the fact that the squad has seen action in so many international events gives it some small advantage over some of its less experienced opponents. With that in mind, Alliance is projected to finally break through in Split and finish inside of the Top 4 range at this Minor, though it is going to have to put together a strong effort to reach that predicted outcome. The squad will need to maintain the level of play that we’ve seen from it at home, and Madara in particular will need to make consistent and significant contributions for the squad if it wants to finally claim a Top 4 finish outside of its home region. The task certainly won’t be an easy one, but as of right now, Alliance seems to be one of the squads in a better position to pull it off among this 8 team field.
Region: North America
Qualification Method: North America Qualifier 1st Place
Pro Circuit Rank: 17th (153.6 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Yawar “YawaR” Hassan
2. Quinn “CCnC” Callahan
3. Jingjun “Sneyking” Wu
4. Arif “MSS” Anwar
5. Kartik “Kitrak” Rathi
C. Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling
Projected Finish: Top 4
Just a few weeks ago, the biggest story line around this Forward Gaming team was the massive changes that it had made to its roster, as the team released 2 of its players and moved another to an inactive role for an extended period of time. At that point, the question was whether the team would be able to survive those significant changes, but now the narrative has shifted to whether or not the team’s new lineup could potentially find success on the Pro Circuit stage with this Minor appearance. That is a rather massive change in trajectory for a team to handle, but the new Forward Gaming is looking to take things in stride as it launches what it hopes is a revitalizing campaign late in the season. The team’s roster changes and subsequent decrease in Pro Circuit Points dropped it a few place in the Pro Circuit Rankings, but a strong showing in this event and the potential to earn itself a place at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major could get Forward Gaming right back into the mix to compete for one of those coveted Top 12 spots and a direct invite to TI9.
It hasn’t been all that long since the last time we saw Forward Gaming on the Pro Circuit stage, as the North American squad participated in the DreamLeague Season 11 Major in Stockholm just one month ago. Unfortunately, the Major did not go all that well for the squad, as Forward Gaming finished in the 13th-16th place position with a 1-5 overall record. Since then, the squad and its new lineup have focused their efforts exclusively on the home front, with all of Forward Gaming’s appearances in that time coming within the North American region. The team has participated in a pair of Pro Circuit qualifiers, claiming a 4th place finish in the MDL Disneyland Paris Major North America Qualifier and a 1st place position in the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 North America Qualifier that earned the squad its place in this event. Most recently, the team won both the Qi Invitational Americas and the ESL One Birmingham 2019 North America Qualifier, beating out a field of some of its most prominent regional rivals on both occasions. Across those 4 regional runs, Forward Gaming has put together a solid 27-11 record, keeping it in line with the exemplary play that the previous iteration of its lineup showed within the North American region. While the team’s play at home has been fairly impressive, Forward Gaming will enter this Minor without any experience on the international level since making its roster changes. Given the fact that its new additions all have international experience on an individual level, that issue may not be quite as damaging as it may be otherwise. However, it will still be cause for some concern for Forward Gaming as it prepares to make its first Pro Circuit appearance with its current roster.
The OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 is set to be an incredibly important event for Forward Gaming for quite a few reasons. First, the event gives the squad a chance to work its way towards a potential Top 12 spot in the Pro Circuit Rankings after dropping several spots due to its roster changes. Speaking of said changes, this event will also mark Forward Gaming’s first international appearance with its current lineup, and will serve as the first true test of how well this iteration of the team will be able to hold up on the Pro Circuit stage. The fact that the team has been able to consistently find success in its home region since its roster change is certainly an encouraging sign, as Forward Gaming has put together 4 straight Top 4 finishes and 3 straight 1st place runs since the beginning of April. However, finding success on the home front was not much of a challenge for the previous version of this squad either, and the real question for Forward Gaming is whether it can translate regional success into results on the international level. Unfortunately, the team’s lack of official matches outside of the North American region doesn’t give us a whole lot to go on heading into this event. The good news though, is that a lack of recent experience on the international level is something of a running theme among the participants in this Minor, so Forward Gaming is not at nearly as much of a disadvantage coming into the event. Considering the fact that all of its players have significant levels of experience on the international level with other squads makes it much easier to give Forward Gaming the benefit of the doubts against the other teams in this field. Because of that, the North American squad is projected to finish inside the Top 4 range in Split, though that prediction is a somewhat tenuous one at this time. Success on the Pro Circuit stage is never guaranteed, and while Forward Gaming’s individual players are all skilled and have experience on the international level, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will step up to the challenge that will face them at this Minor. However, if the team can maintain the level of play that we’ve seen from it over the past week or two, then Forward Gaming should be in line for an impressive showing on the Pro Circuit stage in Split.
Majestic Esports (Formerly Pacific eSports)
Region: South America
Qualification Method: South America Qualifier 1st Place
Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Hector Antonio “K1” Rodriguez
2. Jean Pierre “Chris Brown” Gonzales
3. Adrian “Wisper” Cespedes Dobles
4. Kaue “Dunha1” Camuci (Captain)
5. Junior Reyes “Yadomi” Rimari
Projected Finish: 7th-8th
Majestic Esports comes into the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 as a newcomer to the Pro Circuit stage, as the team is the only one among the field of participants that has not previously attended a Pro Circuit event this season. Combine that situation with the fact that the South American region has traditionally found only middling results on the Pro Circuit (The region has earned just 3 Top 4 finishes in 31 total Pro Circuit appearances), and things don’t look fantastic for Majestic Esports heading into this event. However, the emergence of a potential new contender within the South American scene is assuredly a sign of growth from a region that is still just around 2 years removed from having first been recognized as a separate region in the Dota 2 world. Many will view this newcomer to the Pro Circuit stage as an underdog coming into this event, but Majestic Esports will make its way to Split with a determination to prove any doubters wrong as it hopes to make a strong first impression in its Pro Circuit debut.
As previously mentioned, Majestic Esports will be making its first Pro Circuit appearance at the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019, which means that the team has nothing to look at in terms of prior experience at that level. Considering the fact that the organization only appears to have been active since February, the team doesn’t have a particularly long list of results in general, but what we’ve seen so far from the squad at least looks encouraging. The team has made 6 appearances within its home region since its creation, with Majestic Esports claiming 3 Top 4 finishes across those events. The most recent of those regional appearances do not paint an impressive picture for the squad though, as Majestic Esports finished in the 9th-12th place position in the Mekansm League and withdrew from Liga Pro Gaming Season 6 early to finish in the 9th-10th place position in that event as well. The team’s failure to improve its standing on the home front will certainly be seen as a missed opportunity for Majestic Esports, but no amount of regional appearances will help the squad with its lack of experience outside of its home territory, as Majestic Esports will come into the Minor without a single official match played outside of South America. While the team’s players may have a bit of international experience on an individual level, the fact that the roster as a unit has never faced international opposition will introduce some significant concerns heading into its first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage.
Majestic Esports put together an incredibly impressive performance to reach the Pro Circuit stage in Split, but the question for the team heading into this event is how much of that performance it will be able to replicate on the international level. The fact that the squad was able to push past its regional rivals in the Minor qualifiers certainly testifies to the potential and skill of this roster, but there are some serious doubts regarding the squad’s consistency as it prepares for its debut showing on the Pro Circuit stage. The team’s record within its home region stands as 16-8, but against other Pro Circuit squads in South America (teams to have attended at least 1 Pro Circuit event this season) the squad’s record is just 2-3. That record isn’t necessarily damning in an of itself, but it doesn’t come as a highly encouraging sign for a squad that has yet to play any official matches on the international level. If the team can’t put together stronger results against the top opposition in what is, admittedly, one of the weaker regions in the Dota 2 world, then its prospects for taking down high level opponents on the international level look overly promising. With that in mind, Majestic Esports comes into the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 projected to fall to the bottom of the event standings with a 7th-8th place finish. Of course, with the expectations set so low for the squad, the possibility obviously exists for the South American squad to out perform those meager predictions and push itself to a higher position in the standings. With some of the other squads in the field for this event struggling with roster changes or poor results on the international level, it wouldn’t take much for Majestic Esports to potentially take advantage of those issues with a solid showing on the Pro Circuit stage.
Region: Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)
Qualification Method: CIS Qualifier 1st Place
Pro Circuit Rank: 15th (208 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Nikita “Daxak” Kuzmin
2. Andrey “Afoninje” Afonin
3. Vasily “AfterLife” Shishkin
4. Alexander “Immersion” Hmelevskoy
5. Artsiom “fng” Barshack (Captain)
C. Anatoly “boolk” Ivanov
Projected Finish: Top 4
For most of the season so far, Gambit Esports has enjoyed a rather comfortable position near the top of its regional hierarchy, as the squad is the second highest ranked CIS squad in the Pro Circuit Rankings behind Virtus.pro. Coming into this event though, that position is not quite as comfortable as the squad would like. Na’Vi sits right behind Gambit Esports in the Rankings, and teams like Old but Gold, The Pango, and Team Empire are just one strong Pro Circuit showing away from potentially usurping the team’s favorable position. With that in mind, the team comes into this event with a small bit of added pressure to perform on the Pro Circuit stage as it looks to maintain separation between itself and those chasing regional rivals. Combine that situation with the fact that the squad has finished 2nd at each of the previous two Minors, and Gambit Esports comes into this event with something to prove as it look to finally break through that final hurdle and claim its first Minor Championship title in Split.
The last Pro Circuit appearance for Gambit Esports came near the beginning of March with the team’s participation in the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor in Kiev. Playing within its home region, the squad managed to put together a 7-5 record to finish 2nd in the event. Since the end of that Minor, Gambit Esports has focused just about all of its efforts on shoring up its position at home to counteract the rising influence of some of its regional rivals. In the time following the last Minor, Gambit Esports has put together back to back Top 4 finishes within its home region, claiming a 4th place finish in the MDL Disneyland Paris Major CIS Qualifier while finishing 1st in the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 CIS Qualifier, thus earning its place in the field for this event. Most recently, the squad participated in the GG.Bet Birmingham Invitational against a mixed field of CIS and European squads. The inclusion of European opposition did little to slow down Gambit Esports, as the squad put together its third straight Top 4 finish in the event. By the time the squad makes the trip to Split though, Gambit ESports will have accrued even more experience against teams outside of its home region. Just days before the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 is set to begin, Gambit Esports will take part in ESL One Mumbai 2019, which will serve as the team’s first international event appearance since the previous Minor. Based upon the team’s incredibly consistent performances on both the regional and international level in the 2019 section of the season, Gambit Esports will enter this Minor as one of the more formidable squads in the field. If the team can add yet another solid showing in its upcoming appearance as well, then it will only serve to add to the squad’s sense of momentum and confidence as it makes its way back to the Pro Circuit stage.
Gambit Esports will come into the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 as a squad with something to prove on the Pro Circuit stage. The team’s previous 2 Minor appearances both resulted in 2nd place finishes for the squad, and this time around the CIS team is looking to get over that final hurdle and lay claim to the organization’s first Pro Circuit title. Considering the fact that many of its regional rivals are beginning to ramp up their own level of play over the final months of the 2018-2019 season, Gambit Esports can ill afford to take its foot off the gas pedal now. Coming into this Minor, the squad certainly looks like a squad with momentum on its side, as Gambit Esports has continued to find consistent success against both its regional rivals and international oppositions. Since the start of 2019, the team has finished outside of the Top 4 just once across 12 total event appearances, including 3 straight 2nd place finishes on the international level. The consistency that this Gambit Esports roster has been playing with is something that should honestly terrify any opponent that it is set to go up against, as the CIS squad is not likely to give up much in the way of potential weaknesses or mistakes. With that in mind, Gambit Esports comes into this Minor as a clear favorite to finish inside the Top 4 range and once again contend for a Minor Championship title. Barring some sort of incredibly unexpected collapse on its part, Gambit Esports falling out of the Top 4 at the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 seems like a nearly impossible scenario. Of course, anything could potentially happen in the Dota 2 world, but don’t expect Gambit Esports to let up now as it continues to cash after its first title on the Pro Circuit stage in Split.
Region: Southeast Asia
Qualification Method: Southeast Asia Qualifier 1st Place
Pro Circuit Rank: 30th (40 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Randy Muhammad “Dreamocel” Sapoetra
2. Rafli Fathur “Mikoto” Rahman
3. Saieful “Fbz” Ilham
4. Tri “Jhocam” Kuncoro
5. Alfi “Khezcute” Nelphyana (Captain)
Projected Finish: 7th-8th
BOOM ID has emerged as a formidable new contender within Southeast Asia this season, having risen up from a local threat in Indonesia into a prominent squad across the wider regional scene. The team’s strength and consistency against its regional rivals has been impressive so far, but its play outside of its home region has not been nearly so encouraging. The Pro Circuit stage has hit BOOM ID hard so far this season, with the team struggling in its appearances at the last two Minors. While the team has yet to find success on the Pro Circuit, these repeated opportunities to test itself on the international level are surely having a positive impact on the team’s development as a whole. Coming into this event though, the hope for the Indonesian squad has to be that it has done enough developing to finally contend on the Pro Circuit stage and hopefully put together a stronger performance than what we’ve seen in the past as BOOM ID prepares for its third straight Minor appearance.
BOOM ID’s last stint on the Pro Circuit stage came back in March at the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor, though the event went very poorly for the squad. After posting a 1-4 record, BOOM ID found itself finishing in the 7th-8th place position, marking the second straight Minor in which the squad ended up at the bottom of the event standings. Since then, the team has looked to bounce back with strong performances within its home region, earning 2 Top 4 finishes across its last 3 regional appearances. At the end of March, the team claimed a 1st place finish in the ESL Indonesia Championship Season 1, and around a week later managed to put together another 1st place run in the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 Southeast Asia Qualifier to earn its place at this event. Those solid showings within its home region are certainly encouraging for BOOM ID, but they do nothing to address what has been perhaps the largest concern for the squad this season: its performance on the international level. BOOM ID will come into the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 having not played a single official match outside of its home region since its previous Pro Circuit appearance. Considering the fact that BOOM ID currently holds a 4-11 international record this season, the lack of recent experience away from home will surely present a significant issue for the team as it enters its third Minor of the season in Split.
BOOM ID’s appearance at the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 will mark the squad’s third appearance on the Pro Circuit stage this season, and the Indonesian team is hoping that the third time will be the charm for it in terms of finally finding success on that level. The squad’s previous two attempts on the Pro Circuit stage resulted in wholly unimpressive showings, and unfortunately those past struggles have had a significant influence on the team’s prospects heading into this event. While it is true that BOOM ID has continuously put up strong showings within its home region, it has simply proven unable to transfer that regional success over on to the international level. From those regional performances, we have seen the skill and the potential that this roster has, but with just a 4-11 record away from its home region, it’s incredibly hard to have faith that the Southeast Asian squad will be able to make its breakthrough on the Pro Circuit stage in Split. Because of those apprehensions, BOOM ID is projected to finish in the 7th-8th place position at the Minor, matching its results from its previous 2 Minor appearances. As harsh as that prediction may appear, there is still a realistic possibility for BOOM ID to break through those low expectations and predictions and finally put together the successful run on the Pro Circuit stage that it has been searching for all season long. If that scenario is going to be a reality for BOOM ID though, it will almost assuredly be dependent upon the play of Mikoto and Dreamocel. Since the Carry/Mid duo first began playing together back in November, BOOM ID has gone as they have gone, and the onus will be on them to lead their squad to success at the Minor with what will have to be incredible performances on the Pro Circuit stage. Should Mikoto and Dreamocel prove themselves capable of stepping up in that fashion, then BOOM ID could find itself moving up in the event standings. Otherwise, be prepared for another lackluster showing from the Indonesian squad in its third Minor appearance of the season.
Royal Never Give Up
Qualification Method: China Qualifier 1st Place
Pro Circuit Rank: 26th (54.56 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Du “Monet” Peng
2. Gao “Setsu” Zhenxiong
3. Su “Flyby” Lei
4. Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng
5. Tue “ah fu” Soon Chuan
C. Tong “Mikasa” Junjie
Projected Finish: 5th-6th
Note: On April 14, Royal Never Give Up replaced Srf with Flyby. That change is not reflected in the following preview.
It’s been a rather interesting season for Royal Never Give Up so far, as the squad has seen both highs and lows at home and on the international level. The team’s 2018-2019 season has been marked by inconsistency with regards to both the squad’s level of play, and the roster with which it has played with. Officially, the organization has made just a couple of roster moves this season in terms of the players that it has registered in its lineup. In actuality, the repeated shuffling of players between the organization’s two squads (Royal and Royal Never Give Up) and the use of substitute players has given Royal Never Give Up more than a handful of different looks this season in terms of its active roster. For all of those changes in the past though, this current iteration of the RNG lineup has designs towards revitalizing the team’s position both within the Chinese region and on the international level. A strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage in Split would go a long way towards accomplishing that goal, as Royal Never Give Up looks to become the third Chinese squad to claim a Minor Championship title in this 2018-2019 campaign.
The last appearance on the Pro Circuit stage for Royal Never Give Up came back in March at the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor, in which the Chinese squad posted a less than impressive 1-4 record to finish in the 7th-8th place position at the event. In the wake of that poor performance on the Pro Circuit stage, Royal Never Give Up has been attempting to regroup and refocus within its home region, to somewhat mixed results. Near the end of March, the squad put together a 1st-2nd place finish in the open qualifiers for the MDL Disneyland Pairs Major, but failed to have much of an impact in the subsequent closed qualifier as it finished in the 7th-8th place position overall. The team also participated in the ESL One Birmingham 2019 China Open Qualifier, but finished in the 5th-8th place position in said event to miss out on advancing to the closed qualifier altogether. The team’s most recent regional appearance has seen a slight reversal in fortunes for it though, as Royal Never Give Up finished 1st in the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 China Qualifier to earn itself a place at this event. Unfortunately, the team’s recent appearances have not included any official matches on the international level, as the squad’s last match outside of its home region came at the previous Minor. That’s not exactly the most encouraging bit of news for a team that holds just an 11-16 record on the international level so far this season, but Royal Never Give Up will just have to hope that its play at home has adequately prepared it for another bout on the Pro Circuit stage as the team makes its way to Split, Croatia for its third Minor appearance of the season.
Royal Never Give Up comes into this Minor as a squad with something to prove as it enters the back end of its 2018-2019 campaign. After beginning the season with a Top 4 finish on the Pro Circuit stage, the team’s subsequent results on the international level have never quite lived up to that initial success. Through various iterations of its roster and the shuffling of players between its lineup and that of sister squad Royal, Royal Never Give Up has at least managed to maintain a relatively strong and stable presence within its home region, displaying the strength and experience of its players. The question for the squad as it makes its way to Split will be whether it can translate its strength within the Chinese region into comparable results on the Pro Circuit stage. With an 11-16 record away from home and finishes in the lower half of the event standings in its past 2 appearances on the international level, the confidence levels in this team are not quite as high as they could be. As such, Royal Never Give Up comes into this Minor projected to finish in the 5th-6th place position overall, though there is potential for the squad to rise even higher than that at the event. Many of the squads projected to finish above Royal Never Give Up, particularly teams like Alliance and Forward Gaming, have had more than their fair share of issues on the international level as well. Should one or more of those squads find themselves unable to adjust to playing on the international level, then Royal Never Give Up would be in a position where a strong and stable performance would likely allow it to push past said struggling squad in the standings. Of course, that scenario is still dependent upon Royal Never Give Up putting together a consistently strong showing on the international level, which has been far from a guarantee for this team so far this season. The possibility for success is there for Royal Never Give Up, but the onus will be on the squad to make it happen as the Chinese team prepares for its third Minor appearance of the season.
Qualification Method: China Qualifier 2nd Place
Pro Circuit Rank: 12th (489.6 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Yang “END” Pu
2. Luo “Ferrari_430” Feichi
3. Zhang “xiao8” Ning (Stand-in)
4. Zhao “XinQ” Zixing
5. Zhang “y`” Yiping (Captain)
C. Zhang “Faith_bian” Ruida (Temporary coach due to injury)
Projected Finish: 5th-6th
It’s been a rather rough go for EHOME over the last few months, as the Chinese squad has gone through a number of roster changes in recent times. From the roster that claimed victory at The Bucharest Minor and finished in the 5th-6th place position at The Chongqing Major back in January, just a single player remains in the team’s active roster heading into this Minor appearance. Between the departure of eGo, the benching of ASD and 天命, and the ongoing injury to Faith_bian, this EHOME roster has had to endure a multitude of changes in a rather short span of time. While the flurry of activity in the lineup is likely not ideal for the organization, the hope for EHOME is that this new iteration of its roster will be able to pick up where the previous one left off. Despite all of the drama regarding the team’s roster, EHOME still sits inside the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings, and a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage in Split would go a long way towards helping the squad retain that coveted position and potentially earn itself a direct invite to TI9 this summer.
The last time we saw EHOME on the Pro Circuit stage was around a month ago at the DreamLeague Season 11 Major, where the team did not put together the greatest of performances. The team’s overall record was a commendable but still underwhelming 4-5, which put the Chinese squad at the bottom of the event standings in the 13th-16th place position. In the time since that appearance at the Major, the organization’s efforts have been largely dedicated to managing its myriad of roster moves, but the squad has also been able to make a few runs in regional qualifiers in that span as well. At the beginning of April, the squad put together a 5th-6th place performance against its regional rivals in the MDL Disneyland Paris Major China Qualifier, and followed up that showing a few days later with a much stronger 2nd place run in the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 China Qualifier that earned the squad its place in the field for this event. Aside from those 2 regional qualifiers, EHOME has not made any other appearances in the time following the recent Major. Considering the fact that the team’s roster has changed so significantly in recent times, the relatively small amount of official matches for its current roster is somewhat concerning. Those concerns are only further exacerbated by the fact that the team in its current state has not played any official matches on the international level, which is a rather pressing issue for a squad about to make an appearance on the Pro Circuit stage. Under normal circumstances, the squad’s prior success away from home would help to alleviate some of those concerns. However, with much of the roster that produced those successes not active for EHOME coming into this event, the squad will have more than a few questions and doubts hanging over it as it prepares to take the Pro Circuit stage for the fourth time this season.
EHOME comes into this Minor as a team sitting inside the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings. However, the team that will make its way to Split for this event looks quite a bit different from the one that initially pushed its way to that favorable position in the Rankings. With the squad having brought in 3 new players and a stand-in all within the last 2 months, it is somewhat unclear just where this lineup stands in terms of its ability compared to the one that claimed a Minor Championship title for the organisation back in January. The team’s many roster moves combined with its somewhat small sample size of recent matches on the home front makes it even harder to judge the strength of this current EHOME roster. The fact that the squad in its current form has also not played any official matches on the international level throws another level of uncertainty into the mix for EHOME as well as it makes its way to Split. With this much uncertainty hanging around the squad, EHOME appears to be down to just a single factor working in its favor coming into this event, with that factor being the experience of the players on its roster. While the team’s roster moves are all still fairly recent, the fact remains that the players that were added to the lineup are ones with more than their fair share of experience at big events on the international level. The team as it currently stands fields 3 TI winners and a significant level of veteran experience that will still make EHOME a tough opponent to bring down at this event. With that in mind, the team is projected to finish in the 5th-6th place position on the Pro Circuit stage. The experience and prior achievements of the players on its roster have to be respected, but there is no guarantee that simply putting together skilled or experienced players on a single roster will be enough for a team to overcome its opposition. A 5th-6th place prediction appears to be a solid middle-ground for the time being, acknowledging the skill of the players on the team’s roster while not overplaying expectations due to the lack of recent matches from the squad both at home and on the international level.