Pro Circuit Qualifier Preview – EPICENTER Major 2019 China Closed Qualifier

David vs Goliath clashes are brewing in China, as a group of hopeful challengers look to knock off regional powerhouses in the EPICENTER Major 2019 China Closed Qualifier

The 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season is beginning to approach its end now, as we have come down to the final set of qualifiers for the last Major/Minor pair of the campaign. The EPICENTER Major will serve as the final event of the season, and its regional qualifiers may very well represent the last opportunity for many teams to make a push to reach the Pro Circuit stage. Set to begin on the 15th of May, the EPICENTER Major 2019 China Closed Qualifier will feature a field of 8 teams, with 6 of them (Vici Gaming, PSG.LGD, Keen Gaming, EHOME, Royal Never Give Up, and Newbee) receiving direct invites to the event while the other 2 (Team Sirius and Team Aster) have earned their places through the 2 preceding open qualifiers. Of the 8 total teams that will be participating in this event, 6 of them (Vici Gaming, PSG.LGD, Keen Gaming, EHOME, Royal Never Give Up, and Team Aster) hold positions in the Pro Circuit Rankings, while 1 other team (Newbee) has attended a prior Pro Circuit qualifier but failed to earn a place at a LAN event. The final members of the field (Team Sirius) will be participating in their first Pro Circuit qualifiers in this event.

The EPICENTER Major 2019 China Closed Qualifier will see the 8 participating teams compete for 3 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 GSL style bracket. All matches in the Playoffs will be played in Bo3, with the top 2 teams earning the final 2 slots 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.

Vici Gaming small Vici Gaming
Zhang Paparazi灬Chengjun
Zeng  “Ori”Jiaoyang
Zhou “Yang”Haiyang
Pan “Fade”Yi

Vici Gaming comes into this qualifier as a clear leader within the Chinese region and on the international level, as the squad’s recent achievements include 1st place finishes at both the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor and the DreamLeague Season 11 Major, and a 7th-8th place performance at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major. Those performance have displayed Vici Gaming’s ability to contend with the elite teams of the Dota 2 world, and have also earned the team direct invite status for TI9. With its place in Shanghai ostensibly secured, Vici Gaming doesn’t technically need to find success in this regional qualifier, but the opportunity to return to the Pro Circuit stage while cementing its status as a leader among its regional rivals is one that the squad is unlikely to pass up on. Considering the squad’s recent successes against both regional and international competition, expect Vici Gaming to come into this event as one of the most formidable squads in the field as it looks to earn a place in Moscow and achieve the impressive accomplish of attending all 5 Majors in this 2018-2019 campaign.


Wang “Ame” Chunyu
Lu “Somnus丶M” a.k.a “Maybe” Yao
Yang “Chalice”‘ Shenyi
Xu “fy” Linsen
Jian Wei “xNova” Yap

The return of Maybe to the team’s active lineup yielded immediate success for PSG.LGD, as the squad played its way on to the Pro Circuit stage and proceeded to claim an impressive 4th place finish at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major. That strong showing earned the team enough Pro Circuit Points to secure itself direct invite status for TI9 in Shanghai, but don’t expect that development to soften or otherwise lessen the team’s determination to perform well against its regional rivals in this qualifier. The squad will still be looking to prove its strength against some of its major regional rivals, and based upon its performances this season, the squad is a clear favorite coming into this qualifier. The squad has earned 5 Top 4 finishes in 6 total appearances in China this season, and since the start of 2019 the squad has put together a 16-9 record against its fellow Chinese squads. Between its consistent performances at home and its recent success on the international level, expect PSG.LGD to be a leading candidate for a spot on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow as it enters this qualifier as a heavy favorite.

Keen Gaming Keen Gaming
Wang “old chicken” Zhiyong
Zhai “一” Jingkai
Ren “eLeVeN” Yangwei
Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi
Song “dark”‘ Runxi

Keen Gaming’s rise to power both within the Chinese region and on the international level has been an impressive spectacle in this 2018-2019 season, as the team has carved out a place for itself on the Pro Circuit with some spectacular play. Those efforts have the team on the cusp of an even greater accomplishment now, as Keen Gaming is closing on on a high enough Pro Circuit Point total to earn itself direct invite status for TI9 and a chance to play in front of its hometown fans on the biggest stage in the Dota 2 world. Another appearance on the Pro Circuit stage would likely push the team past that final mark to earn a direct invite, but in order to make that appearance the squad will have to once again find success against its regional rivals in this qualifier. Strength on the home front has not been an issue for Keen Gaming in recent times, as the squad has earned Top 4 finishes in 5 of its last 6 regional appearances. Combine those results with the team’s 2 Top 4 finishes in its last 4 international appearances, and Keen Gaming comes into this event as a formidable force against its regional rivals. The team’s rise over the course of this season has been quite a show so far, and it’s very likely that said rise continues as the squad looks to earn its third straight major appearance of the 2018-2019 campaign.


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.

Yang “NeverEnd” Pu
Luo “Ferrari_430” Feichi
Zhang “Faith_bian” Ruida
Zhao “XinQ” Zixing
Zhang “y`” Yiping

After going through a period of rather rapid roster changes over the past few months, it appears that the return of Faith_bian from his injury has finally managed to stabilize the EHOME lineup heading into this final round of Pro Circuit qualifiers. The period of instability certainly did not do EHOME any favors, as the squad struggled through the months of February and March. However, more recent times have seen the squad begin to right the ship as it were, with the team earning back to back Top 4 finishes in its last two regional appearances and even claiming a 2nd place position at the recent OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019. Even with those impressive performances under its belt though, EHOME will come into this event looking a step or two behind the elite teams within the Chinese region. Across those last 3 appearances in which the squad earned 3 Top 4 finishes, EHOME played just 1 series against a team inside the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings (NiP), and also played just 1 series against any Chinese team to hold a position in the Rankings at all (RNG). Until we see the squad and its new lineup stack up against the top teams of the Chinese region, the expectations for EHOME will remain just that little bit lower than those elite squads.


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.

Royal Never Give Up Royal Never Give Up
Du “Monet” Peng
Gao “Setsu” Zhenxiong
Su “Flyby” Lei
Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng
Tue “ah fu” Soon Chuan

RNG’s results over the last few months have proven to be incredibly inconsistent, as the squad has bounced back and forth between looking calm and confident and appearing lost and without focus. A large part of that has been due to a couple of roster changes since the start of 2019, but the hope is that with its lineup final stable, the squad might be able to rally for one last push onto the Pro Circuit stage in this Major qualifier. Unfortunately, the team’s inconsistent level of play in recent times makes it incredibly hard to judge just how strong this team may be heading into this event. There is one part of RNG’s recent performance that could give the squad some increased hope of making it the Pro Circuit stage though. Since the start of 2019, RNG’s record against Chinese squads with positions in the Pro Circuit Rankings is 10-14. While that record isn’t overly impressive, it does at least show that the squad is at least capable of taking matches off of some of the leading squads in the Chinese region. If the team is put in a scenario where it has an opportunity to knock out one of those elite squads, then at is at least comforting to know that RNG has managed to pull off said feat in the past. That fact certainly won’t be enough to have RNG as a favorite coming into this event, but it does add a small degree of hope to what would otherwise have been a rather pessimistic set of expectations for the squad coming into this event.

Newbee_logo Newbee 
Tan “JiaJia” Lijia
SongSccc Chun
Wen “awen” Lipeng
YanWaixi Chao
Lu “Fenrir” Chao

If one wants to get a glimpse of how Newbee’s season has gone so far with regards to its performance on the Pro Circuit, then here’s the quintessential stats to encompass the frustration that has been the Chinese squad’s campaign. The team has not attended a single Pro Circuit event this season, and of the 5 Pro Circuit Closed Qualifiers that it has attended in this 2018-2019 season, it has played with a different iterations of its roster in 4 of them. Since the start of 2019 and not including open qualifiers, Newbee has had more players join its active roster (6) than it has earned Top 4 finishes (4). The team has not exactly exuded a sense of stability in recent times is the point trying to be made here, but Newbee has hopes that this version of its roster will finally be the one to strike gold and earn the organization its first Pro Circuit appearance of the 2018-2019 season. Perhaps the addition of veteran Support Fenrir will be the push that Newbee needs to find success against its regional rivals, but the squad will need more than experience alone to come out on top in this event. If Newbee is going to stand any chance of earning a place on the Pro Circuit stage in this qualifier, then Sccc and recent addition JiaJia are going to have to put together a pair of world class performances in this event. The odds of that happening don’t appear to be very high, but at least Newbee has some sort of hope for success as it prepares to take another shot at earning its season debut on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow.


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.

Team Sirius Team Sirius
Liu “Freeze” Chang
Li “ASD” Zhiwen
HeInflame Yongzheng
XuHym Zhi
Liu “Sylar” Jiajun

Just 1 month after the announcement of its formation, Chinese squad Team Sirius has an opportunity to earn itself a place on the Pro Circuit stage at the EPICENTER Major. Though the team is still relatively new to the Chinese scene, its roster is made up of some familiar faces, with former EHOME member ASD being the player that is most likely to be recognized by those who have been watching the Pro Circuit season to this point. Around ASD, Team Sirius has put together a group of relatively experienced players, but we have yet to see this squad in action enough times to be sure whether or not that combination will yield success for the squad. The team’s open qualifier run did see it notch series victories over teams like IamPoint Club and Royal, two squads that we’ve seen at previous Pro Circuit qualifiers. However, the team’s victories over those squads don’t necessarily mean that Team Sirius will be able to produce similar results against some of the elite teams of its region. With that in mind, the expectations for Team Sirius will be set fairly low coming into this qualifier, with a small degree of hope existing that the team’s skill and veteran experience will be enough to spark a surprise run against its regional rivals.

Team Aster Team Aster
WangJ Wenjun
Kee ChyuanChYuan Ng
LinXxs Jing
YeBoBoKa Zhibiao
FuQ Bin

Team Aster is back for another shot at earning itself a place on the Pro Circuit stage, but the squad may look a fair bit different from what many may remember from previous appearances. The past few months have seen the squad go through quite a few changes to its roster, but the hope is that this most recent iteration of the team’s lineup will be able to find success against its regional rivals in this qualifier. The team’s results over the past few months don’t necessarily instill a high level of confidence in that scenario though, with the squad earning 5 Top 4 finishes in 11 total appearances since the start of 2019. With 3 of those 5 Top 4 finishes coming in open qualifiers though, it is clear that the team’s play has been fairly inconsistent coming into this event. Considering the skill and experience that the team has on its roster, there is always the potential for this squad to take its regional rivals by surprise with a strong showing in this qualifier. Until we see that kind of Cinderella run from the team though, the expectations will be set about as low as possible for Team Aster as it looks to make a return to the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow.

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