Pro Circuit Qualifier Preview – EPICENTER Major 2019 Southeast Asia Closed Qualifier

Familiar powers and rising challengers convene to take their shot at reaching the final Major of the season in the EPICENTER Major 2019 Southeast Asia Closed Qualifier

The final round of Pro Circuit qualifiers in this 2018-2019 season have finally arrived, and squads across the Dota 2 world are staring down their last opportunities to earn a spot on the Pro Circuit stage. The qualifiers for the EPICENTER Major 2019 will be the final Major qualifiers of the season, and the Southeast Asian region is brimming with squads looking for one last chance to make their mark on the big stage. Set to begin on May 15, the regional qualifier will feature a field of 8 total teams, with 6 squads (Fnatic, Mineski, BOOM ID, TNC Predator, WarriorsGaming.Unity, and EVOS Esports) receiving direct invites to the event while the final 2 teams (Power of MYSG and Geek Fam) have come up through the 2 open qualifiers. Of the 8 teams in the field, 5 of them (Fnatic, Mineski, BOOM ID, and TNC Predator) have previously attended a Pro Circuit event and currently hold positions within the Pro Circuit Rankings. Another 2 squads (WarriorsGaming.Unity and EVOS Eports) have attended a prior Pro Circuit Qualifier but failed to qualify for an event, while the final 2 (Power of MYSG and Geek Fam) will be making their first Pro Circuit Qualifier appearance (Geek Fam previously attended a prior qualifier, but has since signed an entirely new roster).

The EPICENTER Major 2019 Southeast Asia Closed Qualifier will see the 8 participating teams compete for 2 spots at the event in Moscow. The qualifier will begin with a Group Stage that will feature all 8 teams playing in a Bo1 Round-Robin format. The 1st place team from the Group Stage will earn the first spot at the Major, while the bottom 3 teams will be eliminated from the qualifier. The squads that finish in the 2nd-5th place positions in the Group Stage will advance to the Playoffs, which will feature a double-elimination bracket. All matches in the Playoffs will be played in Bo3 except for the Grand Finals, which will feature a Bo5 format. The winner of the Grand Finals will claim the second slot at the Major. We will be using the same categories that we have used all season long to divide the participating squads in terms of their expectations in this event: 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.

Fnaticlogo Fnatic
Roster:

Pyo “MP” No-a
Abed “Abed” Azel L. Yusop
Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang
Djardel Jicko B. “DJ” Mampusti
Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong

Following a shockingly poor performance at the previous Major in which the squad finished in the 13th-16th place position, there are more than a few questions for Fnatic as it prepares for this qualifier. While the team’s disappointing showing on the Pro Circuit stage should certainly come as a concern for the squad coming into this event, the team should still stand as a favorite among its regional rivals. Fnatic’s play within the Southeast Asian region in this 2018-2019 campaign has been completely flawless so far, as the squad has finished in 1st place in all 5 of its regional appearances. Even with its stumble on the international level, it seems unlikely that those struggles carry over onto the regional level where the squad has been ridiculously consistent and dominant against its regional rivals. With the opportunity to once again assert its dominance against its fellow Southeast Asian teams, look for Fnatic to bounce back with a strong showing in this 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 they cannot secure a place at the Major.

600px-Mineski-dota_logo Mineski
Roster:

Lai “Ahjit” Jay Son
Kam “Moon” Boon Seng
Damien “kpii” Chok
Ryan “Bimbo” Jay Qui
Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross Jr.

So far, it would appear the the addition of Bimbo and ninjaboogie to the roster of Mineski has been a fairly successful move, as the squad has put together some strong performances both within its home region and on the international level. Of course, the team’s recent 9th-12th place finish at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major may not have been enough to blow away some fans and analysts, but that performance from the team aligned rather perfectly with the expectations for the squad coming into that event. In addition to that appearance on the Pro Circuit stage, Mineski have also managed to earn a trio of 2nd place results in the time since its last roster change, and the return of coach 71 to the organization appears to be yet another boon for this squad heading into the final round of Pro Circuit qualifiers. The squad is nowhere near the level of regional dominance that we’ve seen from Fnatic this season, but its string of success in recent times instills more than a bit of hope that this new Mineski roster is on the rise within the Southeast Asian region. So long as it avoids any major setbacks, expect to see Mineski in the in the later stages of this qualifier as the team looks to earn its third straight Major appearance.

Tncproteam TNC Predator
Roster:

Kim “Gabbi” Villafuerte
Armel Paul “Armel” Tabios
Carlo “Kuku” Palad
Timothy “Tims” Randrup
Nico “eyyou” Barcelon

It’s been a little while since we’ve last seen TNC Predator on the Pro Circuit stage, as the squad’s last appearance on that level came at the beginning of 2019 at The Chongqing Major. That event marked the beginning of a mini-slump for the squad on the home front, but recent months have seen the team pull itself back together to post some impressive results within the Southeast Asian region. The team has earned 5 straight Top 4 finishes across its last 5 regional appearances, and even notched a pair of Top 4 results on the international level at WESG 2018 and ESL One Mumbai 2019. With a lineup full of both young talent and veteran experience and a strong series of performances over the past few months, TNC Predator seems poised for a strong showing in this qualifier as it takes on its regional rivals once again. The team may not quite be at the same level of dominance that we’ve seen from Fnatic this season, but the Filipino squad will certainly be a serious contender as it looks to punch its ticket to the final Major of the 2018-2019 campaign.

 

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.

Boom ID BOOM ID
Roster:

Randy “Dreamocel” Sapoetra
Rafli “Mikoto” Fathur
Saieful “Fbz” Ilham
Tri “Jhocam” Kuncoro
Alfi “Khezcute” Nelphyana

BOOM ID’s track record on the Pro Circuit stage has not been overly impressive this season, as the Indonesian squad has never finished any higher than the 5th-6th place position across its 3 Minor appearances so far. While the international level has not been particularly kind to the squad, its record within the Southeast Asian region has been significantly more encouraging in recent times. Across the team’s 8 total appearances within its home region since the start of 2019, BOOM ID has earned Top 4 finishes in 7 of them. However, there is one major caveat for the squad coming into this event in the form of its record against the elite teams within its home region. Since the start of 2019, BOOM ID’s record against Southeast Asian squads with position in the Pro Circuit Rankings (Fnatic, Mineski, and TNC Predator, and Tigers) is a somewhat underwhelming 2-8. Considering the fact that 3 of those squads will be participating in this event, it is incredibly unlikely that BOOM ID avoids having to face off against at least one of those teams if it wants to earn a place at the Major. The team’s improved play within its home region does instill some degree of hope that the team can find success in this event, but we will have to see if the Indonesian squad can finally get over that hump and defeat the more prominent squads of the Southeast Asian region.

EVOS Esports EVOS Esports
Roster:

Muhammad “inYourdreaM” Rizky
Usep “Facehugger” Satiawan
Adit “Aville” Rosenda
Indra “Vlaicu” Utama
Matthew “Whitemon” Filemon

EVOS Esports has not been a significant power within the Southeast Asian hierarchy for most of this 2018-2019 season, but recent times have seen the Indonesian team take some impressive steps forward in terms of its play within its home region. Since the beginning of 2019, the team has earned 4 Top 4 finishes across 6 total appearances within the Southeast Asian region. The addition of inYourdreaM to the roster at the end of March provided another boost for the squad within its home region, as EVOS Esports proceeded to put together back to back Top 4 performances in a pair of Pro Circuit qualifiers with its new Carry in the lineup. With its regional results having seen some significant improvement in recent times, EVOS Esports comes into this qualifier looking to keep that momentum going and continue to raise its profile within the Southeast Asian hierarchy. However, the team’s improvement at home have not quite translated into success against the region’s top teams, as EVOS Esports holds just a 2-11 record against regional rivals that currently hold positions in the Pro Circuit Rankings (Fnatic, Mineski, TNC Predator, BOOM ID, and Tigers). The squad’s improvements have certainly been impressive, but we’ve yet to see enough at this stage to believe that the squad can be expected to out perform those elite teams within its home region. Perhaps this qualifier will serve as the team’s breakthrough moment and it will be able to find that much sought after success, but it would take an incredible and unexpected performance from the Indonesian squad for that to be the case.

 

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.

WarriorsGaming Unity WarriorsGaming.Unity
Roster:
NikolayNikobaby Nikolov
Benhur “Benhur” Lawis
Samson Solomon Enojosa “Sam_H” Hidalgo
David “MoonMeander” Tan
Chong “FelixCiaoBa” Wei Lun

The season so far for WarriorsGaming.Unity has been one marred by inconsistency, both in terms of its level of play and its roster. However, the team’s most recent performance on the home front has created a minuscule level of hope that perhaps the team is turning the corner in this final section of the Pro Circuit season. The team’s 2nd place finish in that most recent appearance should absolutely be looked at as a step forward for WarriorsGaming.Unity, but the question is whether that lone performance is something that the team is capable of replicating in this Pro Circuit qualifier. The answer to that question is “probably not”, as we haven’t quite seen enough from this squad in recent times to suggest that it is ready to take on the elite teams in its region like Fnatic, Mineski, and TNC Predator. Adding even more uncertainty to the mix for the team is the fact that it has undergone some rather drastic changes to its roster in recent times. With all of those factors taken into consideration, it isn’t necessarily impossible for the squad to find success in this event, but it would take a herculean effort from WarriorsGaming.Unity to earn a place on the Pro Circuit stage in this qualifier.

No Team Logo Power of MYSG
Roster:
Cheng “NothingToSay” Jin Xiang
Cheng “vtFαded” Jia Hao
Kim “Velo” Tae-sung
Wilson “Poloson” Koh Chin Wei
Chan“WinteR” Litt Binn

Power of MYSG may be a relatively new squad within the Southeast Asian region, but its roster comes into this event with that blend of new talent and veteran experience that is often so interesting to watch on the professional level. The trio of Velo, Poloson, and WinteR have seen quite a bit of action in their careers, and the hope is that they can serve as a guiding presence for the less experienced Carry/Mid duo of NothingToSay and vtFαded. As is often the case with these relatively new squads though, we have basically nothing to look at for Power of MYSG in terms of recent results aside from the open qualifier run that earned it a place in this closed qualifier. While the team’s victory and 6-0 record in that event is certainly a positive for it coming into this qualifier, it does very little to show us whether or not this squad is capable of taking on the heavy hitters of the Southeast Asian region. With that being the case, it would seem best to keep the expectations low for this squad coming into the qualifier, though there will likely still be some small degree of hope that the team’s veteran players can guide Power of MYSG to a spot on the Pro Circuit stage.

Geek Fam Geek Fam
Roster:
Marc Polo LuisRaven Fausto
ChaiMushi Yee Fung
Rolen Andrei GabrielSkemberlu Ong
KennyXepher Deo
Prieme EjayPlayHard Banquil

Geek Fam made a bit of a splash within the Southeast Asian region in recent times, as the organization dropped its entire roster at the start of May and brought in an entirely new lineup to compete in this final round of Pro Circuit qualifiers. That new roster has gotten itself off to a solid start so far with its successful run through the open qualifiers, but now the hard part begins for the new Geek Fam. The team is going to have to prove that its new lineup has what it takes to contend with and defeat the strongest teams within the Southeast Asian region. With the veteran duo of Raven and Mushi leading the way from the Carry and Mid positions, it certainly is a possibility for Geek Fam, though the odds are not particularly favorable for the team. Aside from its two open qualifier runs, we have not seen any official matches from the squad since the final reveal of its roster just a few days ago. A mix of veteran experience and younger talent will certainly be a valuable asset for Geek Fam, but it doesn’t appear to be enough to take down the elite teams in the Southeast Asian region. Barring some absolutely breathtaking performances from this new roster, don’t expect Geek Fam to be a leading candidate for 1 of the region’s 2 spots on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow.

 

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