Tensions set to rise in the Pro Circuit’s return to Kiev, as a field of hopeful competitors fight for the title of Minor Champion and a trip to the season’s final Major at the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2
After around 9 months of top level action in the Dota 2 world, the rate race that has been the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season is now officially coming to an end, as we have made our way to the final 2 events of the campaign. The final Minor of the 2018-2019 season will draw the eyes of the Dota 2 world back to the Kiev, as the city will play host to the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2. Organized jointly by StarLadder and ImbaTV, the event will be the second Pro Circuit Minor put on by the duo this season, after the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 1 that occurred back in March. Running from June 12 through the 16th, this iteration of the event will bring 8 teams from across the 6 Dota 2 regions together to battle it out in the Cybersport Arena for the chance to make one final push up the Pro Circuit Rankings. This time around though, the squad’s will be fighting for an extra opportunity on the Pro Circuit stage in Kiev, as this final Minor of the season features a bit of a change compared to its predecessors. In previous Minors, only the winner of the event was able to advance to the subsequent Major, but for this event, the 1st and 2nd place squads will earn that honor and advance to the EPICENTER Major. In addition to the title of Minor Champion and a potential spot at the Major though, the 8 participants in this event will also be playing for their share of prize pools of $300,000 USD and 500 Pro Circuit Points. The distribution of those prize pools will follow the same guidelines as the previous Minors, with the exact splits outlined below:
1st: $125,000 & 120 DPC Points (Advances to EPICENTER Major)
2nd: $70,000 & 100 DPC Points (Advances to EPICENTER Major)
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: $7,500 (Per Team) & 20 DPC Points (Per Team)
The event will follow the example of the previous Pro Circuit events this season, splitting its format into a Group Stage and a Playoff. Said Group Stage will see the 8 participating squads divided into 2 groups of 4 teams each for a GSL style bracket. 2 Opening Matches will be played in each group, with the winners of those initial match ups advancing to the Winners’ Match while the losers will move on to the Losers’ Match. The winner of the Winners’ Match will claim the top position their respective groups, while the loser of the Losers’ Match will finish at the bottom of the group standings. From there, the loser of the Winners’ Match and the winner of the Losers’ Match will face off in the Decider Match, with the winner of that series claiming the 2nd place position in the group and the loser finishing in 3rd. Much like the previous Minor put together by the duo of StarLadder and ImbaTV, this Group Stage will feature an elimination aspect, with the bottom 2 teams from each group being eliminated from the event while the remaining squads will advance to the Playoffs. Said Playoffs will feature a double elimination bracket, with Round 1 of the Upper and Lower Brackets as well as the Upper and Lower Bracket Finals featuring Bo3 series leading up to a Bo5 Grand Finals.
With the Pro Circuit season in its last days now, the outcome of this final Minor has the potential to significantly impact which teams are able to claim those final 4 spots in the Top 12 of the Pro Circuit Rankings and secure the final direct invites to TI9. It should be noted that no team in the field will be able to outright secure itself a place at TI9 in this event, regardless of its performance. 1 of the participating squads (NiP) has already earned itself a Top 12 spot and a direct invite to TI9, while another (EHOME) currently holds a Top 12 spot but cannot earn enough Pro Circuit Points at this event to guarantee that it will hold that position through the end of the season. As for the other 6 teams in the field, 3 of them (Alliance, Complexity Gaming, and Mineski) hold positions in the Pro Circuit Rankings but are outside of the Top 12, while the other 3 (Team Anvorgesa, Winstrike Team, and Team Sirius) do not have any Pro Circuit Points to their name coming into this event. For those 6 squads sitting outside of the Top 12, any hopes of earning a direct invite to TI9 will depend upon finishing either 1st or 2nd in this event and putting together a strong enough follow up performance in the subsequent Major. In short, this Minor will not direclty determine which squads will claim the final 4 direct invites to TI9, but it will determine which teams have the opportunity to fight for said invites at the EPICENTER Major. With that in mind, it is time for us to move on to our overview of how each of these 8 participants in the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2 stack up heading into the final 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 entire 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 Top 2
Pro Circuit Rank: 8th (2,470 Pro Circuit Points) (Qualified for TI9)
1. Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard
2. Adrian “Fata” Trinks
3. Neta “33” Shapira
4. Martin “Saksa” Sazdov
5. Peter “ppd” Dager (Captain)
Projected Finish: Top 4
Ninjas in Pyjamas enters this final Minor of the season in a rather unique position among the competing squads in Kiev, as the European team is the only one in the field that has already earned itself direct invite status for TI9. With that being the case, NiP stands a fair bit removed from the sense of urgency and desperation that will be gripping many of the squads on the Pro Circuit as they make one final attempt to improve their position within the Pro Circuit Rankings and make a push for a Top 12 spot. Just because the squad isn’t in need of further success on the Pro Circuit stage though doesn’t mean that NiP won’t be just as willing to fight for it as any of its competitors in Kiev. A victory at the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2 would make NiP the only 2 time Minor Champion of the 2018-2019 campaign (and just the fourth team to win multiple Minors in Pro Circuit history), and would also give the team the opportunity to advance to the upcoming Major to test its strength against the elite teams of the Dota 2 world one last time before the start of TI9.
NiP’s last appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came just 1 month ago, as the squad put together a 5th-6th place performance at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major that locked down its Top 12 position in the Pro Circuit Rankings and its direct invite status for TI9. In the time since that event, the squad’s efforts have been focused largely upon its home region, with NiP putting together a 5th place showing in the EPICENTER Major 2019 Europe Closed Qualifier before finishing 1st in the qualifier for this Minor. Those 2 performances sum up what has been a strong, but not exactly flawless, campaign for NiP this season within the European region. Across the season as a whole, the team has earned 10 Top 4 finishes in 15 total regional appearances, highlighted by 1st place performances in the GG.Bet Invitational Season 1, the DreamLeague Season 11 Europe Qualifier, WePlay! Dota 2 Tug of War: Radiant, the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 Europe Qualifier, and the aforementioned StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2 Europe Qualifier. Across the entirety of the 2018-2019 campaign, NiP has put together an impressive 69-45 record against its fellow European squads, with the team’s only significant issues at home coming against the elite teams of the region (NiP’s record against Top 12 ranked European teams currently standing at 14-21).
While the team’s play within its home region has remained fairly solid and consistent, its performances on the international level have fluctuated a bit this season. The team has made a total of 8 international appearances coming into this Minor, with NiP having earned Top 4 finishes across 3 of them. Of those 5 finishes outside of the Top 4, 2 of them have been respectable 5th-6th place performances, while the final 3 came in the form of 9th-10th place finishes at ESL One Hamburg 2018 and the recent ESL One Birmingham 2019, as well as a 9th-12th place showing at the DreamLeague Season 11 Major. From those results, one can see that NiP’s play away from home has gone through some highs and lows this season, and it is not entirely clear which version of the squad will show up in Kiev. However, the team’s previous success on the Pro Circuit stage still shows us that NiP is at least capable of putting together strong international performances when called upon, and those prior performances will have NiP sitting in an incredibly powerful position as it prepares for the final Minor of the 2018-2019 season.
NiP comes into the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2 as the only team in the field that has already secured itself a direct invite to TI9. Despite that position though, the European squad will likely view this event as a valuable opportunity to continue testing its strength on the international level as it looks to claim its second Minor Championship title of the 2018-2019 campaign. The squad has looked fairly strong within its home region, carving out a place for itself in a regional hierarchy that has appeared remarkably crowded over the course of the season. However, the team’s play on the international level has proven to be wildly inconsistent, with the squad bouncing between dominant showings that showcase its elite talent and disappointing performances that have often fallen drastically short of expectations. At this stage, it isn’t fully clear which version of NiP is going to show up for this final Minor of the season, especially considering the fact that the squad will enter this event off the back of an underwhelming performance at ESL One Birmingham 2019 just a few days ago. There are a few factors though that still appear to be working in NiP’s favor coming into this event, with those two factors being the team’s prior success on the Pro Circuit stage and the incredible levels of skill and experience from the members of its roster. NiP has been inconsistent at times, but we know what this squad is capable of when it is playing at or near its best, and that level of play should be enough for the squad to challenge any other squad in the field at this event. With that in mind, NiP will make its way to Kiev projected to finish in the Top 4 range, and should be considered one of the favorites to claim 1 of the 2 spots at the subsequent Major. It could be that the team’s recent setback on the international level results in a sort of hangover effect for NiP coming into this event, but the team’s experience playing in events of this magnitude makes it much easier to have faith that the European squad will be able to turn things around in time to make a strong run at the Minor.
Qualification Method: Europe Qualifier Top 2
Pro Circuit Rank: 15th (279 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Michael “miCKe” Vu
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 comes into the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2 staring down an incredibly valuable opportunity, as the European squad is on the outside looking in in terms of claiming a place in the Top 12 of the Pro Circuit Rankings and earning a direct invite to TI9. As of right now, the team cannot earn enough points from the Minor itself to crack that Top 12 mark, but should Alliance finish in the Top 2 at this event, then its subsequent participation in the EPICENTER Major would provide the squad with an chance to reach that coveted goal. Putting together back to back strong showings on the Pro Circuit stage is certainly a daunting task for any squad, but Alliance has what it hopes is an ace in the hole coming into this event. Said ace comes in the form of miCKe, who has recently returned to the team’s active lineup after a period of inactivity due to health issues. Of course, the return of a single player is no guarantee of success for a squad, but considering the incredible impact that miCKe has already been proven to have on the squad’s performance, the hope is that his presence will help propel Alliance to a successful showing on the Pro Circuit stage in Kiev.
Alliance’s most recent appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came at the end of April with its 3rd place performance at the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019. Since the conclusion of that event, the squad has continued to put together impressive showings within its home region, with the team posting a pair of Top 2 finishes in the last 2 Pro Circuit qualifier runs. Strength on the home front has been something of a calling card for Alliance in this 2018-2019 campaign, as the squad has put together an absolutely incredible 14 Top 4 finishes in 17 regional, non-open qualifier appearances this season. Included among those Top 4 finishes are 4 1st place runs in online qualifiers and tournaments, the most recent of which being a victorious showing at the GG.Bet Birmingham Invitational back in April. Considering that incredibly consistent success for Alliance in one of the stronger and more crowded regions in the Dota 2 world, the squad would appear to be in a favorable position coming into this event. However, the team’s performance this season does have one rather significant hole in the form of its incredibly inconsistent play away from its home region.
The international level has proven to be an alarmingly brutal environment for Alliance this season, as the squad has struggled to find much success outside of the European region. The team has participated in 7 international events in this 2018-2019 season, but has come away with just 1 Top 4 finish across those appearances. Over the course of those 7 international events, Alliance’s record against non-European squads came out to a decent, but not overly impressive mark of 26-36. For many squads in the Dota 2 world, that record would likely be seen as a positive, but it comes as a rather significant concern for a team that is still entertaining aspirations of competing for a Top 12 spot in the Pro Circuit Rankings and a place in Shanghai for TI9. The rather striking dichotomy of the team’s impressive regional records and its struggles on the international level have Alliance sitting in a somewhat awkward position in the lead up to this Minor. We’ve seen this team put together a successful performance on the Pro Circuit stage once before in this 2018-2019 campaign, but it is not entirely clear if the European team will be able to replicate that run this time around in Kiev.
Alliance comes into this final Minor of the season looking for one last chance to keep its hopes of earning a direct invite to TI9 alive, but it is going to have to put together an impressive performance in Kiev in order to do so. So far in this 2018-2019 campaign, Alliance has managed to distinguish itself within the European region with strong play against some of its most prominent regional rivals. Unfortunately, the squad’s impressive play at home has not been matched by the most impressive of displays on the international level, which puts the squad in a strange position coming into this event. If Alliance were simply a team that constantly failed or choked outside of its home region, then this discussion would be a fairly simple and straightforward one, as the expectations for the squad would be set incredibly low coming into this event. However, the story is a bit more complicated for the European squad, as we’ve seen that the team is at least capable of finding success on the international level after its 3rd place finish at the previous Minor. The team’s recent stumble at ESL One Birmingham 2019 may not instill a whole lot of confidence in the team’s abilities to perform at this final Minor, but it is important to acknowledge the difference in caliber of the opponents that it faced in that event compared to the field for this Minor. As ESL One Birmingham 2019, Alliance played all 10 of its matches agaisnt ranked opponents, and played 8 of its 10 matches against teams inside the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings. In Kiev, the squad will face just 4 ranked squads and only 2 teams ranked inside the Top 12. Against that slightly lower level of opposition, Alliance should have the skill and experience needed to find success, with the European squad projected to finish inside the Top 4 range at the Minor and compete for 1 of the 2 slots at the EPICENTER Major.
Region: North America
Qualification Method: North America Qualifier 1st Place
Pro Circuit Rank: 21st (133.11 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Galvin “Meracle” Kang Jian Wen
2. Linus “Limmp” Blomdin
3. Otávio “Tavo” Gabriel
4. Zakari “Zfreek” Freedman
5. Adam Erwann Shah “Adam” bin Akhtar Hussein (Captain)
C. Murielle “Kips” Huisman
Projected Finish: 7th-8th
The 2018-2019 season has been a rather interesting campaign for Complexity Gaming, as the North American squad has proven itself to be an eerily consistent team, for better or for worse. On the positive side, the squad has remained a relatively solid contender within its home region all season long, despite having to make a few adjustments to its lineup over the course of the campaign. The downside of the team’s consistency though, it that it has repeatedly failed to find success on the international level, despite having more than a handful of opportunities to do so. The squad’s lack of success way from home puts it in a rather tight spot coming into this event, as Complexity Gaming will need to finish in the Top 2 in this event and put together a strong showing in the subsequent Major to have even a chance at claiming a Top 12 spot in the Pro Circuit Rankings and a direct invite to TI9. As of right now though, that lofty goal sits on the back burner, as Complexity Gaming’s focus has to be on finally breaking through on the international level and putting together an impressive run in what might be the squad’s last chance to impress before the start of the TI9 qualifiers.
The most recent Pro Circuit appearance for Complexity Gaming came as recently as the beginning of May, with the North American squad putting together a 9th-12th place performance in the MDL Disneyland Paris Major. Since the conclusion of that event, the team’s only further appearances have come in a pair of regional qualifiers, with the team finishing 3rd in the EPICENTER Major 2019 North America Closed Qualifier before claiming a 1st place finish in the qualifier for this Minor. That pair of impressive regional performances were just the latest in a string of strong results within North America for Complexity Gaming, as the squad has proven itself to be a consistent squad within its home region. Since the team’s sizable roster change back in November, Complexity Gaming has participated in 11 regional events (not including open qualifiers) and has managed to earn Top 4 finishes in all but 1 of them. That lone finish outside of the Top 4 came in The Chongqing Major North America Qualifier, which was played just 4 days after the announcement of the squad’s new lineup. While Complexity Gaming has proven itself capable of consistently contending within its home region, the squad has yet to replicate that success outside of the North American region.
Complexity Gaming’s excursions onto the international level have not been met by an overwhelming amount of success, or really any amount of success for that matter. Since the squad’s roster reconstruction back in November, Complexity Gaming has attended 3 international events and has failed to impress in any of them. The team failed to finish in the top half of the standings across all of those appearances, with its best overall finish across the 3 events being a 7th-8th place showing at ESL One Mumbai 2019. Ironically enough, that 7th-8th place finish came in an event that featured an eight team field, which means that the team’s best overall finish on the international level came in an event in which the squad still finished at the bottom of the event standings. None of this helps to paint a particularly bright picture for Complexity Gaming coming into this event, and the fact of the matter is that the squad is going to have to step things up rather drastically in order to reverse its disappointing trend on the international level.
Complexity Gaming comes into this event as a squad that is searching for one final opportunity to make a push up the Pro Circuit Rankings with a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage. The StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2 is set to provide the North American squad with that opportunity, but the question looming large for the squad is whether it will actually be able to pull through with a strong showing in Kiev. The team’s play within its home region has remained steady in recent times, as the current iteration of the lineup has proven itself a relatively consistent threat against its fellow North American squads. The issue for Complexity Gaming has been a lack of comparable success away from home, as the squad has failed at every opportunity to distinguish itself on the international level this season. Even with the individual members of the team having some significant levels of experience playing on the international level, there is no guarantee that said experience will be enough to help the team find success on the Pro Circuit stage, especially considering the fact that the team has failed to perform across all of its recent appearances away from home. With that in mind, Complexity Gaming will come into this final Minor of the season with some fairly low expectations, with the North American squad projected to finish in the 7th-8th place range. Perhaps the recent addition of tavo might prove to be enough to shake things up for the squad on the Pro Circuit stage, but such a drastic change for the squad at this stage stemming from the addition of a single player seems to be an incredibly unlikely scenario.
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. Diego “Jericho” Rivera
5. Steven “StingeR” Vargas
Projected Finish: 5th-6th
The rise of the squad formerly known as FreeStyle, Majestic Esports, and Pacific eSports has certainly been one of the more interesting story lines to follow within the South American region in the wake of Chaos Esports Club’s departure from the region. The squad came seemingly out of nowhere to earn itself a place on the Pro Circuit stage at the previous Minor, but parted ways with its organization soon after before having nearly half of its roster leave in the middle of the most recent round of Pro Circuit qualifiers. After that flurry of roster and organizational shifts, Team Anvorgesa is what has come out on the other side, with a trio of former FreeStyle players carrying on with a duo of roster additions to finish out the 2018-2019 season. Under its previous organizations, this squad managed to put together some rather impressive performances both at home and on the international level, but the question for Team Anvorgesa at this point will be whether it can continue to play at that level considering its recent roster changes. A strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage would put Team Anvorgesa in a favorable position heading into the TI9 qualifiers, and the squad is likely eager to prove to the Dota 2 world that its current lineup has the strength to contend with its opponents both at home and on the international level as well.
While Team Anvorgesa itself has yet to make an appearance on the Pro Circuit stage, the majority of the squad’s lineup did attend the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 back in April as members of Majestic Esports. Since the end of that event, the FreeStyle/Team Anvorgesa lineup has focused entirely upon its play within the South American region. The team has participated in 4 events in its home region, with the first 3 coming in the form of a 6th-8th place finish at the EPICENTER Major 2019 South America Closed Qualifier (as FreeStyle), followed by a 1st-2nd place run in the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2 South America Open Qualifier and a 1st place performance in the subsequent Closed Qualifier. The team’s most recent event appearance came in the WePlay! Dota 2 Tug of War: Dire America, in which the squad ended up with a 5th-8th place finish among a 12 team field. Across those 4 events, the team has put together a 17-10 record against its regional rivals, with that record improving to 15-5 when removing the matches played as FreeStyle with its previous roster. The team’s relatively strong play within its home region has built up Team Anvorgesa’s profile as a potential contender within the South American hierarchy, and should give the squad some small measure of confidence and momentum heading into its Minor appearance.
The big concern for Team Anvorgesa coming into this event though will be the fact that the team’s experience away from its home region is extremely lacking, bordering on nonexistent. The squad in its current form has not played a single match outside of South America, which does come as a rather pressing issue for a team that is about to take the stage at a Pro Circuit event to face a field of international opposition. The good news for the team in this scenario is that the majority of the players on its roster do have experience playing on the international level on an individual basis, but that fact does not necessarily mean that the team as a whole will be able to find success away from home. The team will have to hope that the prior experience of its players will be enough to guide it to success on the Pro Circuit stage, as Team Anvorgesa prepares for its first test outside of its home region in Kiev.
Team Anvorgesa enters this final Minor of the season looking for one more opportunity to establish itself as a potential leader within the South American region, and take one final shot at sparking a late-season run for a Top 12 spot in the Pro Circuit Rankings. While the team’s aspirations of earning a direct invite to TI9 are a bit optimistic, finding success on the Pro Circuit stage in Kiev is a goal that the squad could reasonable reach. The team’s play within its home region has been solid in recent times, though it does not appear to have done enough to definitively place itself above some of its main regional rivals. The big concern for the squad though is its play on the international level, as Team Anvogesa has not played any matches outside of its home region with its current roster. However, 3 of the team’s 5 players are just a little under 2 months removed from putting together a Top 4 finish on just such a stage at the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019. With that nucleus remaining intact coming into this event, there is hope that Team Anvorgesa can find a way to retain the momentum from that previous performance and channel it into another strong performance in this event. With that in mind, Team Anvorgesa appears to be a squad straddling the line between hope and expectations, and its projected finish in the 5th-6th place position reflects this. The fact that the team is not entirely unproven on the Pro Circuit stage lifts it out of the bottom of the predicted standings, but the uncertainty from its recent roster additions leaves it just short of the mark where it would be expected to find success in this event. It should be noted at this point that South American teams have grown rather familiar with being considered underdogs by the wider Dota 2 world though, and Team Anvorgesa will likely have an extra chip on its shoulder as it looks to display its strength on the Pro Circuit stage in the final Minor of the 2018-2019 season.
Qualification Method: CIS Qualifier 1st Place
Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Airat “Silent” Gaziev
2. Zaur “Cooman” Shakhmurzaev
3. Alexey “nongrata” Vasilyev
4. Ilya “Lil” Ilyuk
5. Alexander “Nofear” Churochkin
Projected Finish: 5th-6th
Winstrike Team’s season to this point had been one of frustration and inconsistency, as the team had struggled to find much success within the CIS region. Amid inconsistent results and multiple changes to its roster, prospects weren’t looking fantastic for the squad heading into these final days of the 2018-2019 campaign. However, this most recent iteration of the lineup finally appears to have found its footing, and now has an opportunity to put its strength on display with the whole of the Dota 2 world watching on the Pro Circuit stage. The team doesn’t necessarily come into this Minor as a favorite, and the fact that it currently holds 0 Pro Circuit Points means that it isn’t exactly seen as a prime candidate for a Top 12 spot in the Pro Circuit Rankings and a direct invite to TI9. However, the skill and experience of the team’s new lineup is not easily dismissed, and all it would take is a single strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage in Kiev to potentially spark a last-minute run for this squad in the Pro Circuit rat race that it has largely been involved in to this point in the season.
With the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2 serving as the team’s first appearance on the Pro Circuit stage this season, Winstrike Team in its current form doesn’t have a whole lot to look at in terms of previous performances on this level. Considering the fact that the squad made a rather sizable change to its roster less than a month ago, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the team’s list of recent results with said lineup is somewhat limited. That being said, the squad’s performance within its home region in the wake of that roster change has been very impressive, with Winstrike Team managing to put together Top 4 finishes across all 4 of its regional appearances so far while posting a 24-13 record against its regional rivals. Included in that 24-13 record is an 11-11 mark against ranked opponents, as Winstrike Team has been able to at least hold its own against some of the more prominent squads within its home region.
While Winstrike Team’s performance within its home region has been incredibly impressive in recent times, its presence on the international level is effectively nonexistent heading into this final Minor of the season. Since the reveal of the squad’s updated lineup, Winstrike Team has yet to participate in an international level event, with matches against European squads in mixed Europe and CIS events constituting the team’s only official games outside of its home region. The squad will come into the Minor having only played a total of 4 matches against non-CIS opponents with its current lineup, putting together a 2-2 record across those games. Those numbers certainly won’t help to instill a particularly high degree of confidence in the squad coming into the event, but the good news for Winstrike Team is that the players on its roster are not unfamiliar with playing on the international level. Without a larger sample size of matches agaisnt international opposition from this lineup as a whole though, it is unclear whether that previous experience will be enough to fuel a successful run for Winstrike Team in what will be its Pro Circuit season debut in Kiev.
Winstrike Team comes into this final Minor of the season as a squad that has undergone quite a bit of change in recent times, with the team bringing in a trio of new players within the last month. While teams like Na’Vi and Gambit Esports appear to have elevated themselves to relatively favorable places within the CIS hierarchy, there still looks to be more than enough space for another squad to squeeze in under the massive, ever-looming shadow of regional powerhouse Virtus.pro, and Winstrike Team will hope to claim that position for itself with a strong showing in this event. The team’s play at home has been impressive in the wake of its roster overhaul, with Winstrike Team holding its own against some of its primary rival within the CIS region. Those performances certainly speak to the skill and experience of the team’s new roster, but the team’s lack of play outside of its home territory comes as a rather significant concern heading into this Minor. In its current form, Winstrike Team’s recent experience away from the CIS region is essentially nonexistent, which is a bit of a problem considering the fact that the team is about to participate in an event in which every single match up it will face will come against an international opponent. Under normal circumstances, a squad with limited international experience doesn’t come into a Pro Circuit event with the highest of expectations, but Winstrike Team does have one or two factors working in its favor. The first is the fact that the team’s current roster holds a 12-11 record against ranked opponents, with 5 of those 11 losses coming against one of the Pro Circuit’s elite teams in the form of VP. The second factor working in the team’s favor is the extensive experience of its members, with players like Silent, Lil, and Nofear bringing a veteran presence to the squad that should help guide it on the Pro Circuit stage. With that in mind, Winstrike Team will come into this event projected to finish in the 5th-6th place range, with room to improve upon that prediction in the event of a stumble from one of the perceived favorites in the field.
Region: Southeast Asia
Qualification Method: Southeast Asia Qualifier 1st Place
Pro Circuit Rank: 16th (246 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Lai “Ahjit” Jay Son
2. Kam “Moon” Boon Seng
3. Damien “kpii” Chok
4. Ryan “Bimbo” Jay Qui
5. Michael“ninjaboogie” Ross Jr. (Captain)
C. Tang “71” Wenyi
Projected Finish: Top 4
The 2019 section of this Pro Circuit season has seen an impressive resurgence on the part of Mineski, as the squad has pushed its way back into a position of prominence within the Southeast Asian region. While the team has been able to reestablish itself within its own regional hierarchy, the return to form on the international level has not progressed at nearly the same rate, with Mineski showing some strong signs but remaining relatively inconsistent away from home. Despite the inconsistencies though, Mineski remains in a position where it could reasonably contend for one of the final spots in the Top 12 of the Pro Circuit Rankings and a direct invite to TI9. In order to do that though, the squad will need to finish in the Top 2 in this Minor, then follow up that performance with a finish in the top half of the standings in the subsequent Major. It’s an incredibly daunting task for any team on the Pro Circuit, but it will be an even more difficult one for a squad like Mineski that has proven to be relatively inconsistent on the international level. Even if the squad can’t put together that kind of run though, this appearance in the final Minor of the season will give Mineski one last opportunity to show its strength and prove that it can consistently perform outside of its home region before it must face the trials and tribulations of the upcoming TI9 qualifiers.
It hasn’t been all that long since the last time we saw Mineski on the Pro Circuit stage, as the squad is just over a month removed from its appearance at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major near the beginning of May. The squad did not put together an overly impressive performance in that event though, coming away with a 9th-12th place finish behind a 3-6 record on the Pro Circuit stage in Paris. Since the conclusion of that event, the squad has focused exclusively on its home region, though those efforts have returned somewhat mixed results. Within that time frame, Mineski has participated in 4 regional events in total, with 3 of them being Pro Circuit qualifiers while the most recent appearance came in a third party tournament. The first of those qualifiers was the EPICENTER Major 2019 Southeast Asia Closed Qualifier, in which the squad struggled against its regional rivals to finish in the 6th-8th place position. The team managed to bounce back from that poor showing in its next 2 outings through, putting together a 1st-2nd place run in the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2 Southeast Asia Open Qualifier before following that performance up with a 1st place finish in the subsequent Closed Qualifier. The squad’s recent showing in WePlay! Dota 2 Tug of War: Dire Asia though proved short and relatively disappointing, as the squad lost its only series of the event 1-2 against EVOS Esports to finish in the 5th-8th place position overall. Despite the slight stumbles both in that event and in the Major qualifier, Mineski’s play within its home region has been remarkably solid in recent times. Since the addition of the Support duo of Bimbo and ninjaboogie back in March, the squad has managed to earn Top 4 finishes in 4 of its 6 total regional appearances. That solid play at home has served to somewhat reinforce its status as one of the leading squads in the Southeast Asian region heading into the final days of the Pro Circuit season.
While the play of Mineski has been relatively consistent and impressive within its home region, the team’s strength on the international level has fluctuated in recent times. Since the team’s most recent roster change, it has made 2 appearances on the international level, with one of those event appearances being the aforementioned modest showing at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major. The squad’s other international appearance was a much more encouraging performance at ESL One Mumbai 2019, in which the Southeast Asian squad managed to put together a 2nd place run after falling 0-3 in the Grand Finals to Keen Gaming. Across those 2 events, Mineski has managed to put together an 11-13 record against teams outside of its home region, with a 7-12 mark against ranked opponents. Those numbers certainly could be a bit stronger for Mineski heading into this final Minor of the season, but the team’s record does at least show that it is capable of holding its own against opposition from outside of territory that it is familiar or comfortable with. With this return to the Pro Circuit stage though, the strength of Mineski will be truly tested as the squad will look to turn in another strong showing on the international level in Kiev.
Mineski makes its way to Kiev for this final Minor of the season looking to make one last push up the Pro Circuit Rankings int he hope of taking a shot at earning a Top 12 spot and a direct invite to TI9. In order to do that though, the squad is going to have to put together a Top 2 showing at the Minor as well as a strong performance in the subsequent Major. Before the squad can make any plans around the EPICENTER Major though, it will have to perform the arduous and daunting task of defeating all of its rivals in the field for this event. As of right now, Mineski appears to be in a fairly favorable position in terms of its ability to complete that task, as the squad has looked solid within its home region and has shown flashes of strength on the international level as well. Of course, the team’s record on both fronts has not been entirely without flaws or setbacks, and against a field of higher caliber opposition (like the field for the upcoming Major, for instance), Mineski would likely be looked at as an underdog. However, the field of squads for this final Minor of the season stands a few steps below that top level, and that fact gives Mineski much stronger odds of finding success in Kiev. As previously mentioned, Mineski’s recent play has not been without its flaws, but the good has outweighed the bad for the most part heading into this Minor. If the team can avoid any significant setbacks on the Pro Circuit stage, then it should stand as a potential candidate to compete for the title of Minor Champion and a place at the EPICENTER Major with a projection in the Top 4 range.
Qualification Method: China Qualifier Top 2
Pro Circuit Rank: 12th (589.6 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Yang “NeverEnd” Pu
2. Luo “Ferrari_430” Feichi
3. Zhang “Faith_bian” Ruida
4. Zhao “XinQ” Zixing
5. Zhang “y`” Yiping (Captain)
C. Zhang “xiao8” Ning
Projected Finish: Top 4
EHOME comes into this final Minor of the season in one of the most bizarre positions among all the squads on the Pro Circuit. The team has undergone a rather significant overhaul of its roster in recent times, with the duo of Faith_bian and y` being the only members of the current lineup to have been with the team for more than 4 months now. Under similar circumstances, many other squads would simply break or buckle under that pressure, but EHOME has managed to emerge on the other side of those trials just as strong, or perhaps maybe even stronger, than it was before. The team is currently sitting in 12th place in the Pro Circuit Rankings, and will be in line for a direct invite to TI9 so long as it can hold on to that position through these final 2 Pro Circuit events. With a roster absolutely brimming with veteran experience though, EHOME won’t be content to simply sit back and hope for the best with regards to potentially earning a place at TI9. This opportunity to play on the Pro Circuit stage in Kiev affords EHOME the ability to hold its fate in its own hands, and the Chinese squad will be looking to make the most of that opportunity as it prepares for one final fight at the last Minor of the 2018-2019 season.
The most recent Pro Circuit appearance for EHOME came a little over a month ago at the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019, where the squad put together an impressive 2nd place performance. Since the conclusion of that Minor, the team has focused heavily upon its play within its home region, though things have not gone quite as smoothly on that front as the squad might have been hoping for. In its first regional appearance after the Minor, EHOME put together a disastrous showing in the EPICENTER Major 2019 China Closed Qualifier, posting a 1-6 record against its regional rivals to finish in the 6th-8th place position overall. Fortunately, the team was able to bounce back from that shockingly poor performance, with EHOME pushing its way through the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2 China Open Qualifier #1 before finishing 1st in the subsequent Closed Qualifier to earn its place at this event. Most recently though, the squad has run into a bit of trouble again, with the squad putting together a 5th-8th place finish in WePlay! Dota 2 Tug of War: Dire Asia after losing its sole series of the event 0-2 at the hands of Invictus Gaming. That brief event appearance along with its stumble in the Major qualifier actually came as rather unfortunate developments for EHOME, as the squad’s play against its regional rivals has been decent but also a bit shakey in recent times. Since the team’s last significant roster change near the end of March, EHOME has managed to earn Top 4 finishes across 4 of its 7 total regional appearances while posting a 26-22 record against its fellow Chinese squads. Those numbers are not quite as impressive as they could be, but EHOME has shown us some scattered flashes of just how strong it can be with the full power of its skilled and experienced roster, and the hope will be that said roster can put together a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage in Kiev.
While EHOME has taken some steps to focus on its play at home in recent times, it has not been able to do the same with regards to the international level, as the squad has not played any official matches outside of its home region since its previous Pro Circuit appearance. To the team’s credit, that previous international appearance was a fairly strong one, and with the squad’s roster looking essentially identical to the one that participated in that event, EHOME appears to be in a somewhat favorable position as it makes its way to Kiev. Between the team’s previous success on the Pro Circuit stage, and the rather significant levels of experience on its roster, EHOME does appear to have a small advantage over its competitors as the team prepares to defend its place in the Top 12 of the Pro Circuit Rankings.
EHOME comes into the season’s final Minor in one of the most favorable positions among the 8 teams in the field for this event. The squad currently sits in the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings, and while the team has yet to guarantee that it finishes in said position like fellow Minor participant Ninjas in Pyjamas, the team still appears to hold its fate in its own hands heading into this Minor. A strong showing in this Minor and a potential appearance at the subsequent Major would drastically improve the squad’s chances of holding on to that Top 12 position in the Rankings, but the squad will have to contend with a field of hungry international opposition in order to achieve that goal. Unfortunately for EHOME, international experience is something that has been somewhat lacking for the squad in recent times, as the squad hasn’t played a single match against a non-Chinese opponent since its previous Pro Circuit appearance. For many squads, that issue would essentially be a deal breaker, consigning a team to the bottom of the predicted standings with low expectations for success. However, the roster that EHOME has put together over the second half of this 2018-2019 campaign is comprised of veteran players in the Chinese region; players who have seen more than their fair share of success on the international level. Between the team’s respectable, if somewhat inconsistent, play at home and the considerable levels of experience and prior success from the members of its roster, EHOME will be one of the more formidable opponents in the field for this event. With that in mind, the Chinese squad will come into the Minor projected to finish in the Top 4, and should be considered a potential candidate to claim 1 of the 2 available slots at the upcoming Major. While the team does come into this event with some high expectations, it should be noted that prior success is never a guarantee of future results, and its considerable levels of veteran experience won’t be enough to push EHOME to success in Kiev unless the players themselves can come together to play at the level that we know they are capable of.
Qualification Method: China Qualifier Top 2
Pro Circuit Rank: None (0 Pro Circuit Points)
1. Liu“Sylar” Jiajun
2. Li “ASD” Zhiwen
3. Yang “InJuly” Xiaodong
4. Jiang “天命” An
5. Xu “Hym“ Zhi
C. Chen “longb” Long
Projected Finish: 7th-8th
Note: Team Sirius replaced Inflame with InJuly on June 5, and this preview does not take that roster change into account.
Team Sirius is a squad that many Dota 2 fans in the West may not be overly familiar with, which is somewhat understandable considering the fact that the squad itself has only existed for a little over a month now. For those more familiar with the Chinese scene though, the formation and rise of the team has been a source of significant hype and excitement. Created as an offshoot of the Team Aster organization, the squad made some waves within its home region with the announcement of a lineup that included veteran players like Sylar, Freeze, and Inflame alongside former EHOME standout ASD. Since the creation of that initial roster, Team Sirius has brought in another former EHOME player, with Support 天命 taking the place of Freeze in the team’s lineup. With the raw, young talent of ASD tempered by the veteran experience on the rest of the roster, Team Sirius enters this event as a formidable opponent in what will be the squad’s first test outside of its home region.
As the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2 is set to be the first Pro Circuit event appearance for Team Sirius, there isn’t a whole lot to examine in terms of previous experience for the Chinese squad. In fact, the team’s list of previous appearances in general is fairly short since the squad itself has only officially existed for around 2 months now. What little we have seen from Team Sirius has come from appearances within the team’s home region, as the squad has focused the entirety of its efforts upon raising its profile in the Chinese hierarchy. To a certain degree, the squad has succeeded in that goal, with Team Sirius putting together 3 Top 4 finishes across its 5 total appearances in China with an 26-21 record against its regional rivals. That record may not exactly be eye-popping for many fans, especially considering the powerhouse squads that have dominated the regional hierarchy this season. However, the positive record should come as an encouraging sign for a squad that is still less than 2 months removed from the creation of its current roster. Regardless of the team’s performance within the Chinese region though, Team Sirius will still enter the Minor with some rather big concerns and questions regarding its ability to contend on the international level.
Team Sirius may be a potential squad on the rise within the Chinese region, but the squad will come into this event without any official matches played outside of its home region. Considering the fact that the squad only formed about midway through April, this lack of international experience isn’t exactly unexpected, but it is still a concern for the squad. For Team Sirius, the emphasis coming into this Minor will have to be the experience of its players, as the individual members of the team are certainly no strangers to the rigors of playing on the international level. Whether or not that previous experience proves to be enough to fuel Team Sirius to success in Kiev remains to be seen though, as the squad prepares to make its debut on the Pro Circuit stage.
Team Sirius comes into this final minor of the season as a late squad to emerge within the Chinese region, as the squad looks to mount a run in the final days of the 2018-2019 campaign. Of course, the odds of the squad contending for a Top 12 spot in the Pro Circuit Rankings and earning a direct invite to TI9 are ridiculously small considering the fact that it currently holds 0 Pro Circuit Points. However, a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage in Kiev would at least keep hope alive for that outcome, and would serve to dramatically increase the team’s profile both within the Chinese region and on the international level. The team’s play within its home region has been fairly impressive in the month or so that it has existed as a squad, but the lack of experience together outside of China is a real point of concern for Team Sirius coming into this event. The team’s roster does not lack for star power though, as the team is led from the front by the veteran Carry Sylar as well as the incredibly impressive young Midlaner ASD. The rest of the team’s lineup are no slouches either, with the trio of Inflame, HYM, and 天命 bringing around a combined 14 yeas of professional experience to the roster in addition to 1 TI, 5 Major, and 6 Minor appearances. If there’s one thing that the Pro Circuit has taught us though, it’s that anything can happen and prior success is never a guarantee of strong performances in the present. Despite the significant levels of skill and experience for Team Sirius, the fact that the team has no experience together on the international level and that its team has only been playing together for a little less than 2 months now makes it incredibly hard to have high levels of confidence in it coming into this Minor. With that in mind, Team Sirius will enter the event projected to finish in the 7th-8th place range, though the potential for the squad far out paces that relatively pessimistic prediction. The question for the Chinese squad will be whether its skill and experience will be enough to actualize on that potential in what will be the team debut appearance on the Pro Circuit stage in Kiev.