Dota 2 Pro Circuit Major Preview: EPICENTER Major

Do or Die time in Moscow, as the last Major Championship title and the remaining 4 direct invites to TI9 are up for grabs at the final Pro Circuit event of the 2018-2019 season

After a season of exciting matches, highlight plays, dramatic roster changes, and heroic performances, we have finally come to the final event of the 2018-2019 season. In the final days of the Pro Circuit campaign, the eyes of the Dota 2 world turn to Moscow, as the city plays host to the EPICENTER Major. Organized by Epic Esports Events, this Major is the fourth in the EPICENTER series of tournaments that began back in 2016, and will be the second Pro Circuit Major in the series after last season’s EPICENTER XL Major. This year’s version of the event is set to bring 16 of the Dota 2 world’s best teams to the CSKA Arena (Formerly known at the VTB Ice Palace) in Moscow for one last chance to make a strong impression on the Pro Circuit stage before the end of this 2018-2019 campaign. The title of Major Champion is obviously on the line at the event, but that title is not the only thing up for grabs in Moscow, as the final 4 spots in the Top 12 of the Pro Circuit Rankings and the corresponding final 4 direct invites to TI9 will be decided based upon the results of this last Major. Running from June 22 through the 30th, the EPICENTER Major will mark the transition from the relative order of the regular season to the exciting and often chaotic pre-TI period in which squads will look to shore up their lineups and prepare themselves for the TI9 qualifiers. Before we can get to that period though, there is one last event to be played on the Pro Circuit stage, and one last round of prizes to be distributed among the 16 participating squads. The EPICENTER Major features the standard prize pools for a Pro Circuit Major, with $1,000,000 USD and 15,000 Pro Circuit points up for grabs in Moscow. Said prize pools are set to distributed among the participating teams according to the following outline.

1st: $350,000 & 4,950 DPC Points

2nd: $170,000 & 3,000 DPC Points

3rd: $100,000 & 2,100 DPC Points

4th: $80,000 & 1,350 DPC Points

5th-6th: $60,000 (Per Team) & 900 DPC Points (Per Team)

7th-8th: $40,000 (Per Team) & 450 DPC Points (Per Team)

9th-12th: $15,000 (Per Team) & 150 DPC Points (Per Team)

13th-16th: $10,000 (Per Team) & 75 DPC Points (Per Team)

The format for this final major of the season will certainly be a familiar one for anyone who has been watching the previous Pro Circuit Major, as the EPICENTER Major will not deviate from the pattern establish be its predecessors. The event will begin with the 16 teams being divided into 4 groups of 4 teams each for the Group Stage of the Major. The Group Stage will feature GSL style groups, with all series within said Group Stage being played in a Bo3 format. The GSL format means that the 4 teams in a group will be randomly assigned an opponent in the 2 Opening Matches. The winning teams from those Opening Matches will then play each other in the Winners’ Match to determine the top seed in the group, while the losing teams will play in the Losers’ Match to determine the bottom seed. From there, the loser of the Winners’ Match and the winner of the Losers’ Match will play each other in the Decider Match to determine the 2nd and 3rd seeds of the group. Unlike the most recent Minor, the Group Stage for the EPICENTER Major will not feature any elimination, with the top 2 teams from each group advancing to the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs, while the bottom 2 teams from each group will advance to the Lower Bracket. Those Playoffs will feature a double elimination bracket, with all series aside from Round 1 of the Lower Bracket and the Grand Finals being played in a Bo3 format. Round 1 of the Lower Bracket will feature Bo1 matches, while the Grand Finals of the Major will be played as a Bo5 series.

With the EPICENTER Major being the final event of the 2018-2019 season, many squads both in the field and outside of it are staring down their final opportunity to make a move into the Top 12 of the Pro Circuit Rankings to claim a direct invite to TI9. 8 of the direct invite slots for TI have already been claimed, with all 8 of those squads (Team Secret, Virtus.pro, Evil Geniuses, Vici Gaming, PSG.LGD, Fnatic, Team Liquid, and Ninjas in Pyjamas) set to participate in this final Major. 2 of the other squads in the field (OG and TNC Predator) currently hold positions inside the Top 12, but have not secured enough Pro Circuit Points to have mathematically guaranteed that they retain those positions through the end of the season. As for the final 6 teams in the field (Gambit Esports, Royal Never Give Up, Forward Gaming, paiN Gaming, Infamous, and Alliance), they all currently sit outside of the Top 12, and are in desperate need of strong showing in this final Major of the season to have a chance of moving up the Rankings to potentially snag one of those 4 remaining direct invite slots.

With this event being the final one the season, the scenarios for the 16 squads in the field are effectively set, as there will be no further Pro Circuit Points to be earned this season. With that in mind, we’ll take a look at what scenarios allow the remaining eligible teams to claim a direct invite slot at TI9.

  • Already earned direct invite status: Team Secret, Virtus.pro, Evil Geniuses, Vici Gaming, PSG.LGD, Fnatic, Team Liquid, and Ninjas in Pyjamas
    • These teams have already earned a direct invite to TI9 and do not need any specific outcome from this event to retain those positions
  • Inside the Top 12, but not attending the EPICENTER Major: Keen Gaming and EHOME
    • Keen Gaming must hope that 4 of the following scenarios do not occur in order to retain its position in the Top 12:
      • OG or TNC finishes at least 7th-8th
      • Alliance finishes at least 5th-6th
      • Any of Gambit Esports, paiN Gaming, RNG, or Infamous finish at least 4th.
    • EHOME needs all of the following scenarios to not occur in order to retain its position in the Top 12:
      • Alliance or Gambit finishes at least 7th-8th
      • Any of Forward Gaming, paiN Gaming, RNG, or Infamous finishes at least 5th-6th.
  • Inside the Top 12 and attending the EPICENTER Major: OG and TNC Predator
    • OG can guarantee itself a direct invite to TI9 outright in the following scenario:
      • OG finishes at least 4th
    • If the team earns the minimum amount of points available (75 Pro Circuit Points via a 13th-16th place finish) then it must have 3 of the following scenarios not occur in order to keep its Top 12 ranking:
      • TNC Predator finishes at least 7th-8th
      • Any of Alliance, Forward Gaming, paiN Gaming, or Gambit Esports finishes at least 5th-6th
      • RNG or Infamous finishes at least 4th
    • TNC Predator can guarantee itself a direct invite to TI9 outright in the following scenario:
      • TNC Predator finishes at least 4th
    • If the team earns the minimum amount of points available (75 Pro Circuit Points via a 13th-16th place finish) then it must have 2 of the following scenarios not occur in order to keep its Top 12 ranking:
      • Alliance finishes at least 7th-8th
      • Any of Gambit Esports, Forward Gaming, paiN Gaming, RNG, or Infamous finishes at least 5th-6th
  • Outside of the Top 12 and attending the EPICENTER Major: Alliance, Gambit Esports, Forward Gaming, paiN Gaming, Royal Never Give Up, and Infamous
    • Alliance can guarantee itself a direct invite to TI9 outright in the following scenario:
      • Alliance finishes at least 3rd
    • Alliance can earn itself a non-guaranteed spot (i.e. still subject to the rest of the Major results) in the Top 12 in the following scenarios:
      • Alliance finishes at least 7th-8th (would be in 12th place)
      • Alliance finishes at least 5th-6th (would be in 9th place)
    • Gambit Esports can guarantee itself a direct invite to TI9 outright in the following scenario:
      • Gambit Esports finishes at least 3rd
    • Gambit Esports can earn itself a non-guaranteed spot (i.e. still subject to the rest of the Major results) in the Top 12 in the following scenarios:
      • Gambit Esports finishes at least 7th-8th (would be in 12th place)
      • Gambit Esports finishes at least 4th (would be in 9th place)
    • Forward Gaming, paiN Gaming, Royal Never Give Up, and Infamous all have low enough Pro Circuit Point totals (<155 points) where they all share the same potential scenarios to qualify for TI9. Any of the 4 teams can guarantee itself a direct invite to TI9 outright in the following scenario:
      • Forward Gaming, paiN Gaming, Royal Never Give Up, or Infamous finish at least 3rd
    • Forward Gaming, paiN Gaming, Royal Never Give Up, or Infamous can earn themselves a non-guaranteed spot (i.e. still subject to the rest of the Major results) in the Top 12 in the following scenarios:
      • Forward Gaming, paiN Gaming, Royal Never Give Up, or Infamous finish at least 5th-6th (would be in 12th place)
      • Forward Gaming, paiN Gaming, Royal Never Give Up, or Infamous finish at least 4th (would be in 9th place)

With that, we have covered every qualifying scenario for the 16 teams in the field for this final Major of the season. Now that that information is laid out and out of the way, we can shift our attention to how each of the teams that will be taking the stage in Moscow stack up against each other heading into the fifth and final Major of the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit 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).

 

Team Secret Secret_logo

Region: Europe

Qualification Method: Europe Qualifier 1st Place

Pro Circuit Rank: 1st (14,250 Pro Circuit Points) (Qualified for TI9)

Roster:
1. Michał “Nisha” Jankowski
2. Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng
3. Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg
4. Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat
5. Clement “Puppey” Ivanov (Captain)
C.
Lee “SunBhie” Jeong-jae

Projected Finish: Top 4

Team Secret will make its way to the final Pro Circuit event of the 2018-2019 season as the closest thing we have to a king of the Dota 2 world. The squad stands at the top of the Pro Circuit Rankings with an incredible 14,250 Pro Circuit Points, has locked down its direct invite status for TI9 in Shanghai, and is the only team to claim multiple Major Championship titles this season with victorious campaigns at both The Chongqing Major in January and the MDL Disneyland Paris Major back in May. With that in mind, Team Secret does not come into the EPICENTER Major with a whole lot left to prove in the eyes of the Dota 2 world, but that doesn’t mean that the European juggernaut won’t be looking to put together yet another impressive outing on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow. Not only would a win at this event make Team Secret just the fourth team in Dota 2 history to earn back to back Major Championship titles, it would also tie Team Secret with Virtus.pro for the all time record for Majors won with five. The opportunity to push for that particular record, along with the prospect of continuing to test itself against the elite squads of the Pro Circuit, should be more than enough motivation for Team Secret to bring its “A” game to Moscow for this final event of the season.

Team Secret’s last appearance on the Pro Circuit stage was both a recent and a successful one, as the European titan claimed a 1st place finish at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major just over a month ago in May. Since the conclusion of that event, the squad has made just 2 further appearances in the build up to this final Major of the season. The first of those appearances came just a few days after the end of the Major, as Team Secret made a triumphant return to its home region with a run in the EPICENTER Major 2018 Europe Closed Qualifier. The team went 6-1 in the Group Stage of the qualifier, earning a 1st place finish against its regional rivals to lock down its place at t his event. That successful performance was just the latest in a run of absolute dominance for Team Secret within the European region, as the squad has simply out played all of its fellow European squads at every opportunity this season. The team has made a grand total of 6 regional appearances in this 2018-2019 campaign, with only 1 of those appearances failing to result in a 1st place or 1st-2nd place finish for Team Secret. Across the entirety of the season, Team Secret’s overall record against other European squads stands at a nearly unfathomable 57-8, which translates to an 87.69% win rate for the team. Team Secret’s incredible dominance within the European region was already impressive enough, but what makes this squads truly terrifying has been its ability to find comparable results in its appearances on the international level as well.

The 2018-2019 season has seen Team Secret elevate itself to a nigh unstoppable force on the international level, as the team has struck fear into the hearts of every squad that it has come up against regardless of the circumstances. The latter of the team’s aforementioned 2 appearances in the wake of its previous Pro Circuit appearance proved to be a perfect example of this, as Team Secret put together an awe-inspiring showing at ESL One Birmingham 2019 just around 2 weeks ago. After starting the event with a 6-4 Group Stage run, the squad proceeded to rattle off 4 straight series wins in the Lower Bracket of the Playoffs before knocking off Evil Geniuses 3-2 in the Grand Finals to claim a 1st place finish in the event and its third ESL One event title of the season. At this point in the 2018-2019 campaign, Team Secret has made 9 appearances in international events, and the squad has never finished any lower than 4th across any of those events. The team’s total record this season against international opponents stands at an incredible 95-41, with the squad also holding a 35-9 series record in series of 3 or more games. This kind of continuous success on the international level puts Team Secret in a category all its own in the Dota 2 world, and paints the European juggernaut as a force of nature as it prepares to make one final Pro Circuit appearance to end what has been an otherworldly campaign in the 2018-2019 season.

Team Secret comes into the EPICENTER Major as one of, if not the, best teams in the entire Dota 2 world, with the squad having more than proven its strength with what has been an incredibly impressive run in this 2018-2019 season. Considering its ridiculous levels of success both within the European region and on the international level, Team Secret will enter this final event of the season with some high expectations. The team has yet to finish any lower than 4th across any of its international appearances in its 2018-2019 campaign, and will be seeking back to back Major Championship titles in Moscow as well as the fifth such title in the organization’s history. With that in mind, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Team Secret is projected to find itself finishing in the Top 4 range once again on the Pro Circuit stage with a strong showing at this upcoming Major. We have yet to see anything even remotely resembling a falloff or setback for this squad so far this season, and there doesn’t appear to be any significant reason to expect one heading into this final Major. The squad looks to be firing on all cylinders at the moment, getting consistent production from every part of its roster with Nisha and MidOne averaging a combined 15.77 kills on 6.16 deaths across the season as a whole, while the trio of zai, YapzOr, and Puppey have averaged 41.7 assists per match. Team Secret simply doesn’t have any sort of obvious weakest link or vulnerability for a potential opponent to exploit, leaving those squads in a situation where they have to consistently and repeatedly out play one of the strongest all around teams in the world. It’s a task that very few teams have managed to pull off this season, and one that will likely be incredibly rare, if not nonexistent, as Team Secret looks to close out the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season with one last successful run to claim yet another Major Championship title in Moscow.

 

Team Liquid 600px-Team_liquid_logo_2017

Region: Europe

Qualification Method: Europe Qualifier 2nd Place

Pro Circuit Rank: 7th (2,820 Pro Circuit Points) (Qualified for TI9)

Roster:
1. Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi 
2.
Aliwi “w33” Omar 
3.
Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov
4.
Maroun “GH” Merhej
5.
Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi (Captain)
C. Roman “rmN-” Paley

Projected Finish: 5th-6th

The 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season has certainly been an interesting one so far for Team Liquid, as the squad has had to deal with some big issues both in and out of the game. Health concerns and various personal matters among its players pushed back the squad’s season debut on the Pro Circuit stage to January, and the squad did not make a Pro Circuit appearance with its full roster until the DreamLeague Season 11 Major in March. Even in the face of those obstacles though, the TI7 Champion has managed to find some success on the Pro Circuit stage, with the squad having already earned itself direct invite status for TI9 prior to the start of this final Major of the season. While the team’s place in Shanghai this summer has been secured, the squad still comes into this Major having to deal with a big concern, as the team parted ways with Carry MATUMBAMAN just over a week ago. While w33 has been added to the roster in his place, it is unclear just how the departure of MATUMBAMAN will affect Team Liquid coming into this event. While the team’s overall play has been fairly consistent over the course of this 2018-2019 campaign, it’s results on the international level have not, and the addition of a new player throws in an added level of uncertainty for the squad. There is some good news for the squad though, as this final Major provides Team Liquid with an incredibly valuable opportunity to display its strength and ensure that the team and its new roster is trending in the right direction heading into the pre-TI9 period.

The last Pro Circuit appearance for Team Liquid came not so long ago, as the squad is just over a month removed from its impressive 2nd place performance at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major in May. In the time following the conclusion of said Major, Team Liquid has appeared in a pair of events, with one coming within its home region while the other was on the international level. The squad’s lone appearance in Europe since the end of the last Major was the qualifier for this upcoming one, as Team Liquid put together a 2nd place finish in the EPICENTER Major 2019 Europe Closed Qualifier to earn its place in Moscow for this event. The home front has been a place of relative strength for Team Liquid across the 2018-2019 campaign, with the squad putting together Top 4 finishes in 5 of its 6 regional appearances this season. With a 44-35 record against its fellow European squads since the beginning of the season, Team Liquid appears to be one of the stronger and more consistent teams within the region. However, the squad still comes into this final Major of the season with some points of concern regarding its play within the European region. Against other European squads inside the Top 12 of the Pro Circuit Rankings, Team Liquid’s overall record for the season stands at 13-21 as the squad has often had issues with finding success against its most prominent regional rivals. Considering the fact that 13 of those 21 losses came at the hands of Team Secret, a squad that is nearly unanimously considered to be the best team in the world at the moment, that record is not quite as alarming as it may appear at first glance. Even with that said though, Team Liquid will come into this event looking to take advantage of any opportunity to get crucial wins over the other European squads in the field.

Coming into this final Major of the season though, the bigger focus for Team Liquid will likely be its play against international opposition. Despite the team having stumbled a couple of times away from its home region, Team Liquid has proven itself to be a strong and relatively consistent force on the international level. The team has appeared in 6 international events this season, and has managed to come away with 3 Top 4 finishes across those events. Those 3 Top 4 finishes all came at LAN events, with the team winning both the MegaFon Winter Clash and MDL Macau 2019 while finishing in 2nd place at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major. The other 3 international appearances did not go quite as well for Team Liquid though, with the team earning a 7th-8th place finish at The Chongqing Major, a 13th-16th place finish at the DreamLeague Season 11 Major, and another 7th-8th place showing in its most recent appearance at ESL One Birmingham 2019. Even with those small setbacks on the international level, Team Liquid has managed to put together an incredibly impressive 46-22 record against non-European teams, including a 25-15 mark against Top 12 ranked opponents. Considering the squad’s strong record against international opposition this season, and its history of success on that level in years past, Team Liquid will come into the EPICENTER Major as a formidable force among the field of participants in Moscow.

Team Liquid may have gotten off to a somewhat slow start on the Pro Circuit this season, but the team has more than made up for that with an impressive push over the second half of the 2018-2019 campaign. Though the team’s place at TI9 already appears to be secure, the TI7 Champion will almost assuredly be looking for one more opportunity to put its strength on display against top level opposition with the eyes of the Dota 2 world watching. The squad has put together some impressive performances both within its home region and on the international level, and even with the addition of a new roster member, the squad’s extensive experience and success on the international level should still put the team in a favorable position coming into this final Major of the season. Throw in the fact that the team is still just over a month removed from a 2nd place finish at the previous Major, and Team Liquid looks to be poised for success in Moscow. With that in mind, the squad comes into this Major projected to finish in the 5th-6th place position, though it has the potential to push even further up the standings based upon how well its new addition can integrate with the rest of the roster. The squad has proven itself capable of finding success against some of the strongest squads on the Pro Circuit, with a 22-22 mark against the 6 squads above it in the Pro Circuit Rankings. What separates some of those squads from Team Liquid though is simply the fact that they have been able to find that international success over a longer and more consistent time frame this season than Team Liquid has. Among the aforementioned teams ranked above Team Liquid on the Pro Circuit, the European squad has the highest percentage of its Pro Circuit Point total stemming from any single event appearance (85.11% of its previous total of 3,525 points came from its 2nd place finish at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major). Add in the uncertainty stemming from the squad’s recent roster change, and there appears to be at least a small gap between Team Liqiuid and the other elite teams in the field for this event. Even with a new player in its lineup though, we know that the team is certainly capable of putting together a Top 4 finish on the Pro Circuit stage. Even without a projection in the Top 4 range, expect Team Liquid to be one of the more formidable opponents in the field in Moscow, and expect the squad to be poised to take advantage of even the slightest moment of weakness from the other elite teams in the field.

 

OG 425px-OG_RB_Logo

Region: Europe

Qualification Method: Europe Qualifier 3rd Place

Pro Circuit Rank: 10th (948 Pro Circuit Points)

Roster:
1. Anathan “ana” Pham
2. Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen
3. Sébastien “7ckngMad” Debs
4. Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka
5. Johan “N0tail” Sundstein (Captain)
C. 
Titouan “Sockshka” Merloz

Projected Finish: 9th-12th

The defending TI Champion comes into this final Major of the 2018-2019 season in a rather interesting position, as the squad still technically has not guaranteed that it will even have the chance to defend its title in Shanghai this summer. OG currently sits inside the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings, but it does not currently hold a high enough Pro Circuit Point total to guarantee that it will remain in that position at the end of the season. The good news for the squad though is that it holds its fate in its own hands, as a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow will almost assuredly punch the squad’s ticket to TI9 and allow the squad to avoid the trials and tribulations of the upcoming TI9 qualifiers. The task certainly won’t be an easy one, especially considering the fact that OG will not be the only squad in the field for this event looking to secure a direct invite to TI9. Even so, OG will make its way to this event hoping that its extensive experience and prior successes on the international level will give it an edge against those other squads in what will be the final event of the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season.

OG’s most recent appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came just over a month ago, as the European squad was able to put together fairly impressive 5th-6th place finish at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major back in May. Since the conclusion of that previous Major, OG has participated in 2 total events, one within its home region and another on the international level. The team’s lone appearance on the home front came in the form of the qualifier for this very event, as OG finished 3rd in the EPICENTER Major 2019 Europe Closed Qualifier after putting together a 10-5 record against its regional rivals. The team’s play within its home region has been fairly solid across this 2018-2019 campaign, with OG managing to put together Top 4 finishes in 5 of its 8 regional appearances while posting a 52-36 overall record against other European squads. Included in that record is also a 38-33 mark against ranked squads within its region, which plays an even more significant role for OG now with the Pro Circuit season coming to a close and some of the best teams in the Dota 2 world standing between it and a direct invite to TI9. Considering the fact that the team is in need of a solid performance on the Pro Circuit stage to earn that invite though, the focus for OG coming into this event will almost certainly be its play on the international level as opposed to its strength on the home front.

Away from its home region, the results for OG have been somewhat harder to predict compared to its efforts within the European region, as OG’s play on the international level has been solid, but at times inconsistent. The most recent of the team’s 2 appearances in the wake of the previous Major exemplifies this, as OG put together a 7th-8th place performance at ESL One Birmingham 2019 despite finishing 5-7 in the event. Across the team’s 6 appearances at international events this season, OG has earned Top 4 finishes in just 2 of them. Despite not quite finding the final results that it would prefer though, it is important to note that OG’s overall play against international opposition has remained fairly strong to this point in the season. Against non-European squads, the team comes into this Major with a 31-25 overall record, including a 26-21 mark against ranked opponents. Those numbers are far from disappointing for OG, but compared to some of the elite squads on the Pro Circuit, it would still appear that the team stands one or two steps behind as it makes its way to Moscow.

OG comes into this final Major of the season in need of a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage in order to lock down a Top 12 spot in the Pro Circuit Rankings and lay claim to a direct invite to TI9. In order to do that though, the TI8 Champion is going to have to out play some of strongest teams in the Dota 2 world, a task that the squad has proven itself capable of, though not with as much consistency as it would likely prefer. OG has managed to hold its own both at home and on the international level over this second half of the season, particularly since the return of ana to its active roster back in March. However, the squad’s play has not been entirely without its flaws, and despite putting together solid records in Europe and on the international level, OG has still encountered issues getting itself over the hump to earn Top 4 finishes at events. In fact, the squad comes into this final Major of the season having never earned a Top 4 finish on the Pro Circuit stage this season, finishing in the 5th-6th place position at both of its Minor appearances and at the recent MDL Disneyland Paris Major. Despite retaining a positive record against international opposition, there comes a time when it becomes too difficult to ignore a developing trend, as OG seems to have issues putting things together on the Pro Circuit stage. With that in mind, OG will come into the EPICENTER Major projected to finish in the bottom half of the event standings in the 9th-12th place position, though it would not be overly difficult for the squad to out play that somewhat meager prediction under the right circumstances. The team has more than enough experience and talent to find success on the international level, especially considering the fact that this very same lineup won it all last year at TI8. However, the squad is going to have to prove that it can avoid the pitfalls and setbacks that have led to some inconsistent results on the international level in previous appearances this season if it wants to have a shot at putting together a strong enough performance to secure itself a direct invite to TI9.

 

Gambit Esports Gambit Esports

Region: Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

Qualification Method: CIS Qualifier 1st Place

Pro Circuit Rank: 17th (228 Pro Circuit Points)

Roster:
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: 9th-12th

Throughout the entirety of the 2018-2019 season to this point, the CIS region has been the sole domain of Virtus.pro, as the squad has dominated every other squad to call the region home. However, a slew of squads have risen up to claim favorable positions for themselves under the massive shadow of that juggernaut squad, and Gambit Esports finds itself with an opportunity to finally distance itself from those other rivals with a strong showing in this final Major of the season. The squad stands as the only remaining CIS team with a shot at claiming a Top 12 position in the Pro Circuit Rankings and a direct invite to TI9 this summer (with VP having secured its spot back in January with the conclusion of The Chongqing Major), but it is going to have to put together a strong showing in Moscow in order to do so. The team’s performance on the Pro Circuit stage has been somewhat inconsistent so far this season, but Gambit Esports will come into this event with a sense of hope and confidence that it can put its best efforts on display with this opportunity to play both on home soil in Moscow and before the entire Dota 2 world in the final event of the Pro Circuit season.

The most recent appearance on the Pro Circuit stage for Gambit Esports came near the end of April, as the squad attended its fourth Pro Circuit event of the season at the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019. Unfortunately, the event did not go particularly well for the squad, with Gambit Esports posting a lackluster 3-9 record to finish at the bottom of the event standings in the 7th-8th place position. In the wake of that disappointing performance on the Pro Circuit stage, Gambit Esports set its focus upon bouncing back and getting itself into top form both within its home region and on the international level. The squad’s performance within the CIS region certainly picked up in the aftermath of that disastrous run at the Minor, with Gambit Esports putting together an impressive showing in the qualifier for this very event. The squad put together an 8-1 record against its regional rivals that included a 5-1 mark against ranked opponents, to lay claim to a 1st place finish in the EPICENTER Major 2019 CIS Closed Qualifier and earn its spot in the final Major of the 2018-2019 season. The performance from Gambit Esports in that qualifier was certainly impressive, but it was far from unexpected from a team that has emerged as one of the stronger squads within the CIS region. Since adding the duo of Immersion and fng to the lineup in December, Gambit Esports has earned Top 4 finishes across 8 of its 9 regional appearances (excluding open qualifiers), all while putting together a 44-25 record against its regional rivals. Against ranked opponents within the CIS region, Gambit Esports has managed to post a 29-18 record in that time frame, proving itself more than capable of standing up against some of the other top squads in its region. Heading into what will be perhaps the most crucial appearance of the season on the Pro Circuit stage though, the more significant side of Gambit Esports’ performance in this 2018-2019 campaign will most likely be its play on the international level.

Gambit Esports has certainly put on an impressive campaign within its home region this season, but its regional play has been somewhat overshadowed by some incredible leaps forward in terms of the squad’s strength on the international level. As previously mentioned, Gambit Esports has made 2 appearances in the aftermath of its run at the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019, and the most recent of those events tested the squad’s mettle away from home as it put together an impressive 4th place finish at ESL One Birmingham 2019. That strong showing in the UK was just the latest in a string of impressive performances on the international level for Gambit Esports, as the squad has managed to claim Top 4 finishes across 4 of its 6 total appearances outside of the CIS region this season. Narrowing the time frame down to just the period following the addition of Immersion and fng though, the team’s record shifts to 4 Top 4 finishes in 5 international appearances, with the lone outlier being the squad’s aforementioned stumble in its previous Minor run. In that period, Gambit Esports has managed to put together a 52-43 overall record against non-CIS teams, a record which at first glance may seem decent but perhaps not overly impressive. However, it should be noted that of those 95 international matches, 92 of them came against ranked opponents (49-43 record), and 62 of those matches came against teams currently inside the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings (29-33 record). When Gambit Esports has stepped out of the CIS region, it has consistently found itself facing off against the best that the wider Dota 2 world has to offer in terms of competitions, and with that in mind, the squad’s record becomes much more significant and more impressive than the numbers themselves would imply. The question facing the team now is whether or not it will be able to put together another such performance in Moscow, this time with the squad’s hopes of a direct invite to TI9 on the line.

Gambit Esports makes its way to Moscow for the EPICENTER Major as a squad in need of one last, strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage, as the squad is still in the hunt for 1 of the final 4 direct invite slots for TI9 in Shanghai. The team certainly has a daunting task laid out before it though, as Gambit Esports will need to finish in at least the 7th-8th place position at the Major to even have a chance at claiming one of those direct invites. The good news for Gambit Esports coming into this event though is the fact that the squad has been putting together some incredibly impressive performances, raising its profile both within the CIS hierarchy and on the international level. The squad began the season looking like a potential contender within its home region, but the addition of the Support duo of Immersion and fng near the end of December helped elevate it to a nearly equal threat within the Dota 2 world as a whole, with the team now sitting in a position where it could potentially earn itself a direct invite to TI9. The squad’s most recent appearance on the Pro Circuit stage though did not exactly go to plan, with the team turning in its worst result of 2019 with a 7th-8th place finish overall. However, some bounce back performances both in Pro Circuit qualifiers and on the international level as ESL One Birmingham certainly make it easier to believe that the squad has put that stumble behind it and is back in top form heading into this final Major of the 2018-2019 season. Gambit Esports will come into the EPICENTER Major projected to finish in the lower half of the event standings in the 9th-12th place position, However, given the team’s relatively impressive record against ranked and Top 12 opponents in 2019, there is more than a fair bit of potential for Gambit Esports to push further up the into the top half of the event standings based upon a mix of its own momentum and its luck with match ups (i.e. not running to Team Secret in Round 1 or 2 of the Playoffs). It seems relatively safe to assume that Gambit Esports will be able to find some degree of success in Moscow, the only question will be whether that success is enough to push the squad into the Top 12 and a guaranteed slot in Shanghai this summer.

 

Virtus.pro virtus pro new

Region: Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

Qualification Method: CIS Qualifier 2nd Place

Pro Circuit Rank: 2nd (11,400 Pro Circuit Points) (Qualified for TI9)

Roster:
1. Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev
2.
Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko
3.
Pavel “9pasha” Khvastunov
4.
Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan
5.
Alexei “Solo” Berezin (Captain)
C.
Arsenij “ArsZeeqq” Usov

Projected Finish: Top 4

Virtus.pro comes into this final Major of the Pro Circuit season as a indisputable leader within the Dota 2 world, as the squad currently sits near the top of the Pro Circuit Rankings and holds the all-time record for most Major Championship titles with 5. The squad has been dominant so far this season, both within the CIS region and on the international level, with very few opponents having the strength to stand up against VP’s onslaught, let alone actually defeat it. The team has seen consistent success across every level of play that it has encountered this season, and at this point in the 2018-2019 campaign the squad doesn’t even really need to be all that concerned about how it performs in this event. The squad’s status as a Top 12 team in the Pro Circuit Rankings and as a direct invitee for TI9 have already been guaranteed by the team’s previous successes on the Pro Circuit stage. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the squad doesn’t have an interest in putting together a strong showing at the EPICENTER Major to close out its season. Not only will this final Major be played on home soil for VP in Moscow, the event will give the squad one last opportunity to test itself against the toughest possible opposition before it begins preparations to journey to Shanghai for TI9. With those factors serving as motivation for the CIS juggernaut, VP will make its way to this final Major with the intention of putting on one last show for the Dota 2 world before the curtain closes on this 2018-2019 season.

VP is just over a month removed from its most recent appearance on the Pro Circuit stage, as the CIS squad attended the MDL Disneyland Paris Major in May. The event actually saw the squad put together its weakest performance of the season so far in terms of its final results, as the squad “only” finished in the 7th-8th place position at the event after posting a 6-5 overall record. In the time since that event, VP’s efforts have been focused solely upon its home region, as both of the squad’s event appearances since the conclusion of the previous Major have come within the CIS region. The team managed to put together a 2nd place performance in the EPICENTER Major 2019 CIS Closed Qualifier just one week after the MDL Disneyland Paris Major, and followed up that showing with a 1st place run in the Adrenaline Cyber League 2019 at the end of May. Across those 2 events, the team put together a 19-9 record against other CIS squads, bringing its record for the season up to 59-18 against its regional rivals. Across its 7 total regional appearances in this 2018-2019 campaign, VP has earned Top 4 finishes in each and every one of them. In fact, the squad has yet to finish any lower than 2nd in a CIS or mixed Europe and CIS competition this season, and considering the fact that the squad doesn’t appear to have any further appearances lined up between the end of this Major and the start of TI9, that streak doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon.

While VP’s play within the CIS region has been nothing short of dominant in this 2018-2019 season, the squad’s performance on the international level has been just as impressive so far. The team has not participated in an international event since the conclusion of the previous Major, but its results away from home across the entirety of the season are simply incredible, with VP claiming Top 4 finishes in 5 of its 7 appearances on the international level. So far this season, the squad holds a 70-49 record against non-CIS teams, with 111 of those 119 total matches having come against ranked opponents. The squad has not been entirely unstoppable, with the team having suffered a stumble or two on the international level, as well as some infrequent challenges from top tier challengers like Team Secret, Evil Geniuses, PSG.LGD, and Vici Gaming. For the most part through, VP has proven itself to be a consistent power on the international level in general, and on the Pro Circuit stage in particular, with the CIS juggernaut representing a nightmare match up for every other squad in the field heading into this final Major of the season in Moscow.

VP comes into the EPICENTER Major as one of the top teams in the entire Dota 2 world, and with its place in Shanghai for TI9 already secured, the CIS titan doesn’t have to care much about how things shake out in this final Major of the season. That being said, the team has never been one to simply take things easy or be content with giving it less than its best effort, and is seems highly unlikely that the team changes that attitude coming into this event. VP has been an unstoppable force within the CIS region this season, claiming complete and utter control over the regional hierarchy to the point where it is crystal clear that every other squad in the region is playing for second place. The team’s play on the international level has not reached quite the same level of strength, but VP has done more than enough to prove that it is one of the elite teams in the game, with only a handful of other squads on the Pro Circuit proving to be capable of challenging the squad. With that in mind, it should as little surprise the see that VP is once again projected to finish in the Top 4 at a Pro Circuit event, as the squad stands as one of the favorites to compete for the final Major Championship title of the 2018-2019 season in Moscow. With that being said though, the squad’s most recent appearance on the Pro Circuit stage saw it fall a bit short of the nearly unreasonably high standard that it has been held to so far this season, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that VP suffers a similar setback in Moscow. Such a scenario seems exceptionally unlikely to occur though, and at this stage in the season it appears safe to expect the CIS powerhouse to find success in this final Pro Circuit event of the season.

 

PSG.LGD PSG LGD

Region: China

Qualification Method: China Qualifier 1st Place

Pro Circuit Rank: 5th (4,140 Pro Circuit Points) (Qualified for TI9)

Roster:
1. Wang “Ame” Chunyu
2.
Lu “Somnus丶M” a.k.a. “Maybe” Yao
3.
Yang “Chalice” Shenyi
4.
Xu “fy” Linsen (Captain)
5.
Jian Wei “xNova” Yap
C.
Yao “QQQ” Yi

Projected Finish: Top 4

PSG.LGD comes into this final Major of the season as one of the leading squads within the Chinese region, as well as one of the top tier teams on the international level and the Pro Circuit. Thanks to the team’s efforts in prior Pro Circuit appearances, PSG.LGD has already secured itself a place in the Top 12 of the Pro Circuit Rankings along with a direct invite to TI9 this summer. Those previous efforts have put the squad in the comfortable position of not having to particularly care about the results of this event, but that doesn’t mean that the Chinese squad won’t be looking to put together another strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow. The opportunity to claim the organization’s third Major Championship title, and its first of the 2018-2019 season, will certainly be a strong motivating factor for the squad heading into this event, as will the chance to put itself to the test against the world’s best teams one final time before the start of TI9 itself.

The last time PSG.LGD was seen on the Pro Circuit stage was just over a month ago as the MDL Disneyland Paris Major, where the squad put together a 12-6 record to finish in 4th place. Since the conclusion of that event, the team has made just 2 appearances in total, with one coming within its home region while the other was an appearance on the international level. On the home front, the team’s lone event came in the form of the qualifier for this final Major of the season, as PSG.LGD finished 1st in the EPICENTER Major 2019 China Closed Qualifier after going 7-1 against its regional rivals. The performance was certainly an impressive one from PSG.LGD, but it didn’t come as much of a surprise for a squad that has been the pinnacle of consistency within the Chinese region. Across 7 total appearances at home in this 2018-2019 campaign, PSG.LGD has earned Top 4 finishes in 6 events, with that lone finish outside of the Top 4 coming from a 7th-8th place performance in H-Cup Season 10 all the back in November. Against its fellow Chinese squads, PSG.LGD has accrued a 63-26 record over the course of the season, including a 46-21 mark against ranked opponents. PSG.LGD’s incredibly consistent success against its regional rivals has served to solidify its position as one of the premier teams within the Chinese region, and has set the squad up with multiple opportunities to find a similar degree of success on the international level.

PSG.LGD has proven itself to be one of the most consistent Chinese squads in terms of its play away from its home region, as the team has managed to put together an impressive string of solid performances on the international level. The most recent in that streak of strong showings came earlier this month, as PSG.LGD put together a 3rd place finish at ESL One Birmingham. That performance marked the team’s fifth Top 4 finish of the season, with PSG.LGD having attended 7 international events in total. Even those events in which the squad did not claim a Top 4 finish were fairly impressive too, as PSG.LGD’s worst performances on the international level in this 2018-2019 campaign came in the form of a pair of 5th-6th place runs at The Kuala Lumpur Major and the DreamLeague Season 11 Major. The team currently holds a 45-31 record against non-Chinese teams this season, as well as a 17-12 series record on the international level in Bo3 series. Of those 12 series losses on the season, it should be noted that 9 of them came at the hands of a team above PSG.LGD in the Pro Circuit Rankings, with those teams (Team Secret, VP, and Evil Geniuses) being ranked 1st through 3rd. When only 25% of a team’s series losses on the international level come against squads not ranked in the Top 3 in the entire Dota 2 world, it is clear that said team stands among the elite teams in the game. PSG.LGD has proven itself to be one of the most formidable teams in the Dota 2 world, and the Chinese squad will certainly hoping to cement that reputation with one more display of strength on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow.

PSG.LGD comes into the EPICENTER Major as a team that is not particularly in need of a standout showing to prove itself to the Dota 2 world, as the squad’s impressive play both at home and on the international level have been sufficient to show us that the Chinese squad is an elite power on the Pro Circuit. That being said, the allure of claiming a Major Championship title is usually more than enough to push a squad to compete at its absolute best regardless of its situation, and PSG.LGD is not likely to be an exception to this. The squad will make its way to Moscow with the intent of proving once again that it is capable of standing among the elite teams of the Dota 2 world, and at this stage the team certainly looks the part of a formidable power among the teams in the field for this event. The level of consistency that we’ve seen from PSG.LGD this season has been uncanny, as the squad has been able to keep any sort of setbacks or deviations from the norm to an absolute minimum in its 2018-2019 campaign. Of its 14 total appearances this season, both within the Chinese region and on the international level, PSG.LGD has finished inside the Top 4 in the event standings in all but 3 of those appearances. After a season in which fluctuations in the squad’s level of play have been nearly nonexistent, it’s hard to believe that something will suddenly change for PSG.LGD in this final Pro Circuit event of the season. With that in mind, the Chinese squad will make its way to Moscow projected to finish in the Top 4 range and stand as one of the leading candidates to lay claim to the title of Major Champion. The team simply has not deviated from its game plan across nearly the entirety of this season, and said game plan has led the squad to an incredible amount of success so far. So long as the team maintains its consistency and doesn’t attempt to step too far outside of what has been working for it so far, there is little reason to suspect that the squad will suffer any sort of surprise setbacks on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow.

 

Royal Never Give Up Royal Never Give Up

Region: China

Qualification Method: China Qualifier 2nd Place

Pro Circuit Rank: 29th (58.12 Pro Circuit Points)

Roster:
1.
Du “Monet” Peng
2.
Gao “Setsu” Zhenxiong
3.
Su “Flyby” Lei
4.
Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng
5.
Tue “ah fu” Soon Chuan
C.
Xie “Super” Junhao

Projected Finish: 13th-16th

One of the most beautiful things about the professional Dota 2 scene is that there is always that sense of hope that an overlooked, underdog squad might rise up to put together some sort of Cinderella run that will shock fans the world over. Coming into the EPICENTER Major, Royal Never Give Up will be hoping to play that role, as the squad is an absolute long shot to earn 1 of the 4 remaining direct invite slots for TI9. In order to even have a mathematical chance of claiming a place in the Top 12 of the Pro Circuit Rankings, the Chinese squad is going to have to claim at least a 5th-6th place finish on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow. Considering the fact that this event will be the team’s first Major appearance of the season (after attending 3 Minors over the course of the 2018-2019 campaign), RNG appears to have quite the mountain to climb if it wants to secure itself a place in Shanghai this summer. As previously alluded to though, hope springs eternal in the Dota 2 world, and we’ve seen squads in the past that have seemingly defied all odds to put together miraculous runs on some of the game’s biggest stages. RNG will just have to hope that its lineup has the right mix of talent, experience, teamwork, and luck to join the ranks of those that have shocked the Dota 2 world in days past.

The most recent appearance for RNG on the Pro Circuit stage came back in April at the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019; an event that did not end up going particularly well for the Chinese squad. RNG started things off in impressive fashion with a 6-2 Group Stage run, but quickly lost control in the Playoffs with 3 straight losses that had it finishing in the ignominious 7th-8th place position overall. In the time since that disappointing showing, RNG has focused the vast majority of its efforts on improving its standing within its home region, with both of the team’s post-Minor appearances coming in Chinese or mixed Chinese and Southeast Asian events. The first of those appearances came in the qualifier for this Major, as RNG managed to put together a 2nd place performance in the EPICENTER Major 2019 China Closed Qualifier. More recently, the squad participated in WePlay! Dota 2 Tug of War: Dire Asia, where it managed to claim a 1st place finish among a field of 12 teams from the Chinese and Southeast Asian regions. Across those 2 events, RNG put together a 14-4 record against its fellow Chinese squads, all while winning all 4 of its Bo3 series in that time frame. The recent influx of success within its home region comes as a welcome development for RNG, as the squad’s results on the home front prior to this stretch had been fairly inconsistent. Prior to the announcement of its finalized roster in April, RNG had earned Top 4 finishes in just 9 of its 16 regional appearances (not including open qualifiers). Those prior performances had shown us flashes of the potential strength that the team’s various iterations had possessed, but none of those previous squads had been able to wield that strength against their regional rivals with any real sense of consistency. With these last couple of showings though, there is hope that RNG is trending in the right direction heading into its first Major appearance of the season. While the team’s play within its home region has been impressive in recent times though, RNG will still come into this Major with some big concerns about its play on the international level.

RNG’s play away from the Chinese region has not exactly been the most confidence-inducing stuff, as the team has struggled to find its footing against international opposition. The team’s numbers aren’t particularly bad, with RNG posting a 20-21 record against international opposition this season with a 17-21 mark against ranked opponents. However, those records become somewhat less impressive when they are combined with the corresponding placements that RNG has earned across the international events in which it has competed. The team has made 4 international appearances in this 2018-2019 campaign, and has managed to earn a Top 4 finish in just 1 of those events (3rd at the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor). The team’s other 3 runs at international events resulted in a pair of 7th-8th place finishes and a 5th-6th place result, all of which came in events with a field of just 8 teams. The fact of the matter is that RNG’s play on the international level has been decent, but far from enough to instill much confidence that this squad will be able to stand its ground against some of the elite opposition that it is set to face on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow.

RNG comes into this final Major of the 2018-2019 season as a team in need of a nearly miraculous run in order to keep its hopes of earning a direct invite to TI9 alive. The team’s recent improvements within the Chinese region have certainly been seen as encouraging signs for a squad that has proven somewhat inconsistent on the home front this season, but the team’s play on the international level has not seen similar advancements. The squad has done little to distinguish itself outside of its home region, and what little success that it has earned has not always come against the caliber of opponent that it is set to face at this event. Of the team’s 41 matches on the international level, just 10 of them have come against teams currently in the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings, with RNG sitting on a 4-6 record across those matches. Like most of the team’s other stats on the international level, that record isn’t particularly bad, but it is still far from enough to instill any sense of confidence that the squad will be able to put together the kind of performance that it will need to make a play for a Top 12 spot in the Rankings and a direct invite to TI9. Coming into this event, RNG’s lackluster performance on the international level has it projected to finish at the bottom of the event standings in teh 13th-16th place position overall. Perhaps the team’s recent surge on the home front is a sign of a dramatic increase in its level of play, and the squad is poised to mount an incredible run on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow. However, that kind of surprise performance from a squad that had failed to impress on the international level in past opportunities this season seems like an extremely unlikely scenario to unfold at the Major. For fans of the squad, there is not harm in holding out hope for a Cinderella run from Royal Never Give Up, but don’t expect too much from the Chinese squad heading into its final Pro Circuit appearance of the season in Moscow.

 

Vici Gaming VICI_Gaming

Region: China

Qualification Method: China Qualifier 3rd Place

Pro Circuit Rank: 4th (6,300 Pro Circuit Points) (Qualified for TI9)

Roster:
1. Zhang Paparazi灬Chengjun
2.
Zeng  “Ori”Jiaoyang
3.
Zhou “Yang”Haiyang
4. Pan “Fade” Yi (Captain)
5.
DingDyCong
C. Bai “rOtK” Fan

Projected Finish: 5th-6th

Vici Gaming makes its way to Moscow for the EPICENTER Major as a squad that has long since established itself as a leading team, both within the Chinese region and on the international level. The 2018-2019 season has seen the team claim its first ever Pro Circuit titles with wins at both the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 1 and the DreamLeague Season 11 Major, but the squad will be looking to claim one more title at this final event of the Pro Circuit campaign. With Vici Gaming’s previous efforts on the Pro Circuit having earned the squad enough Pro Circuit points to guarantee itself a direct invite to TI9, the Chinese powerhouse comes into this event without the same sense of urgency and desperation that surrounds those squads still fighting for a place in the Top 12 of the Pro Circuit Rankings. Just because Vici Gaming doesn’t find itself in need of a successful performance in this event though, doesn’t mean that the Chinese squad won’t be looking to put forth its best effort in Moscow. The chance to claim its second Major Championship title of the season, along with the opportunity to test itself against the best teams in the Dota 2 world one final time before the start of TI9 should be all the motivation that Vici Gaming needs to put together another impressive performance on the Pro Circuit stage.

Vici Gaming’s last appearance at a Pro Circuit event came last month, as the Chinese squad put together a 7th-8th place finish at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major. In the time following that Major, Vici Gaming has made 1 appearance within its home region, along with another appearance on the international level. The team’s showing at home came in the qualifier for this final Major of the season, with Vici Gaming finishing 3rd in the EPICENTER Major 2019 China Closed Qualifier to claim the region’s final slot in Moscow. That performance was just the latest in a string of strong runs against its regional rivals, as Vici Gaming has proven itself to be one of the more consistent squads in the Chinese hierarchy. Across 11 regional appearances in this 2018-2019 campaign, Vici Gaming has managed to finish inside the Top 4 in 9 of them, with its last non-Top 4 finish coming all the way back in February in the DreamLeague Season 11 China Qualifier. So far this season, Vici Gaming has managed to rack up an absurd 93-46 record against its fellow Chinese squad, displaying a level of dominance and consistency against its regional rivals that few other teams in China have been able to replicate. The Chinese region has almost always been one of the most crowded and competitive scenes in the Dota 2 world, and for Vici Gaming to establish itself so convincingly as a leader within that regional hierarchy speaks volumes about the squad’s strength as a team.

Vici Gaming’s incredible run within its home region has certainly been a sight to behold, but the team’s efforts on the international level have proven to be fairly impressive as well. The squad has shown itself to be more than capable of finding success outside of its home region, and even when the team ends up falling short of victory, it manages to put together respectable showings on the international level. The team’s most recent appearance outside of China illustrates this trend, as the squad did not quite make the cut to earn a Top 4 finish at ESL One Birmingham at the end of May, but did manage to put together an 8-6 record to finish in the 5th-6th place position at the event. As a whole, Vici Gaming has earned Top 4 finishes in 3 of its 8 appearances on the international level, with 2 of those 3 Top 4 finishes coming in the form of 1st place performances at the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 1 and the DreamLeague Season 11 Major. Out of its 5 non-Top 4 finishes on the international level though, it should be noted that Vici Gaming never placed any lower than the 7th-8th place position, and only finished with a negative overall record in 1 of those events (6-7 record at MDL Macau 2019). Even in its worst performances on the international level, Vici Gaming has proven to be more consistent than the vast majority of squads on the Pro Circuit. When the team is at its best though, it has been an elite competitor capable of taking on and defeating even the strongest of teams in the Dota 2 world. With that kind of reputation and an impressive record on the international level, Vici Gaming is sure to come into this final Major of the season as an incredibly dangerous squad among the field of participants.

Vici Gaming has used this 2018-2019 Pro Circuit campaign to reach new heights as a team, with the squad reclaiming its place among the elite teams in the Dota 2 world as a significant threat both on the home front and on the international level. The squad has already done enough to earn itself a guaranteed place at the biggest event in the Dota 2 world, but the Chinese powerhouse will likely be looking for one last chance to put its strength on display before it begins preparations for TI9 this summer. The EPICENTER Major gives the squad just that kind of opportunity, as the eyes of the Dota 2 world will be fixated on Moscow for the final event of the Pro Circuit season. Vici Gaming has proven itself to be a terrifyingly consistent squad over the course of this season, finding success both at home and on the Pro Circuit stage while never straying too far from the company of the game’s elite squads. The team’s Carry/Mid duo of Paparazi灬 and Ori remains one of the most dynamic and fearsome tandems in the game, having averaged a combined 15.56 kills and 19.64 assists on 6.24 deaths across the entirety of the season so far. Considering the numbers that the duo has been able to produce, and the consistency with which Vici Gaming has played all season long, it seems fairly safe to assume that Vici Gaming will be in line for a similarly impressive performance on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow. Coming into the EPICENTER Major, the Chinese juggernaut will be projected to finish in the 5th-6th place position overall, with the potential to push into the Top 4 range with a particularly strong showing at the event. At this stage in the season, it would take a truly shocking setback or straight up meltdown on the part of Vici Gaming for the squad to drop out of the top half of the event standings, and such an occurrence appears unbelievably unlikely for a team that has prided itself on stable and consistent play throughout this 2018-2019 campaign.

 

TNC Predator Tncproteam

Region: Southeast Asia

Qualification: Southeast Asia Qualifier 1st Place

Pro Circuit Rank: 11th (696 Pro Circuit Points)

Roster:
1. Kim “Gabbi” Villafuerte
2. Armel Paul “Armel” Tabios
3. Carlo “Kuku” Palad
4. Timothy “Tims” Randrup
5. Nico “eyyou” Barcelon (Captain)
C. Lee “Heen” Seung Gon

Projected Finish: 9th-12th

The 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season has been an interesting, and perhaps somewhat frustrating, period for Southeast Asian squad TNC Predator. The team began the season looking like it would retain its position as a leading squad in its home region, but things quickly took an unwelcome turn for the team with the onset of out of game issues. The fallout from that debacle seemed to have an effect on the squad throughout the rest of the season, as the team failed to make a return to the Pro Circuit stage following its appearance at The Chongqing Major in January. Despite being largely absent from the Pro Circuit scene for nearly 5 months, TNC Predator still comes into this final Major of the season in a somewhat advantageous position, as the Filipino squad currently sits in the Top 12 of the Pro Circuit Rankings. As of right now though, that position has yet to be fully secured, but a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage in the final event of the 2018-2019 season could see TNC Predator locking down that position and claiming itself a direct invite to TI9 this summer.

As previously mentioned, it has been quite some time since we last saw TNC Predator on the Pro Circuit stage, with the squad’s last Pro Circuit event appearance coming in the form of a 9th-12th place finish at The Chongqing Major back in January. In the months following that appearance, TNC Predator’s efforts have largely been focused upon its home region, as the squad has worked to maintain its position as a regional leader in the face of pushes from teams like Fnatic, Mineski, and BOOM ID. Since the conclusion of The Chongqing Major, TNC Predator has participated in 7 regional events (not including open qualifiers) and has managed to represent itself well with Top 4 finishes in 5 of those appearances. Included among those Top 4 finishes are a trio of 1st place runs in the Asia Pacific Predator League 2019, the ESL One Mumbai 2019 Southeast Asia Qualifier, and the ESL One Birmingham 2019 Southeast Asia Qualifier. Across the 2019 section of the season, TNC Predator has put together an impressive 42-19 record against its fellow Southeast Asian squads, including a 15-6 mark against ranked opponents. Those performances have allowed TNC Predator to remain a prominent force within the Southeast Asian region, but if the squad wants to have a shot at claiming a direct invite to TI9 in Shanghai, it will need to rely more upon its ability to compete on the international level.

TNC Predator has not been seen on the Pro Circuit stage for nearly 5 months now, but that doesn’t mean that the squad has not been finding ways to keep itself involved outside of its home region through the 2019 section of the season. Since the conclusion of The Chongqing Major in January, TNC Predator has participated in a trio of events on the international level, and has managed to put together some fairly impressive performances in those appearances. The squad notably finished 1st in the World Electronic Esports Games 2018 back in March, and more recently the squad has put together a 4th place finish at ESL One Mumbai 2019 in April alongside a 5th-6th place finish at ESL One Birmingham 2019 just a few weeks ago. Through those 3 events, TNC Predator was able to put together a record of 27-17 against international opposition while posting a 16-16 mark against ranked teams. Those records against non-Southeast Asian teams are certainly encouraging for TNC Predator, but as of right now it is not clear if they are enough to instill confidence that this team can find success on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow. While the team’s performances on the international level have been respectable in recent times, the squad will likely need to take things to another level is if wants to contend with and beat some of the strongest squads in the Dota 2 world at the EPICENTER Major.

TNC Predator comes into this final Major of the season as a squad that we haven’t heard from on the Pro Circuit stage in quite some time, but the squad still stands in a position to claim a Top 12 position in the Pro Circuit Rankings and punch its ticket to Shanghai if it can put together a strong showing at this event. On paper, the Filipino squad looks to be in a relatively decent position coming into this Major, with the team putting together some impressive performances both within its home region and on the international level. The team has dealt with the extended absence of Offlaner Kuku earlier in the campaign, and managed to bounce back from the departure of Team Captain and veteran Support ninjaboogie as well. The young Carry/Mid duo of Gabbi and Armel have another season of experience under their belts, and continue to lead TNC Predator with strong and consistent production at their positions with combined averages of 16.03 kills and 19.45 assists on just 6.19 deaths per game this season. All of those factors appear to bode well for TNC Predator coming into this event, but the squad is not without some concerns as it prepares for its final Pro Circuit appearance of the season in Moscow. The biggest issue for the squad is just how far the team needs to go to secure itself a spot at TI9 without having to rely upon outside factors. Prior to the start of this event, TNC Predator is in a position where it will have to finish at least 4th at the Major to secure enough Pro Circuit Points to lock down a Top 12 spot in the Pro Circuit Rankings outright. Anything less than that, and the Southeast Asian squad will have to hope that the rest of the standings shake out in a way that prevents 4 other squads from jumping past it in the Rankings. Let’s make one thing clear right now: TNC Predator’s recent play has been strong and impressive, but it certainly has not been at the “Top 4 at a Major” level. Since the conclusion of The Chongqing Major back in January, the team’s record against Top 12 ranked opponents stands at just 11-11, with its mark against the same group across the entirety of the season being 27-42. That somewhat weak track record against the Pro Circuit’s top squads, along with the team’s extended absence from the Pro Circuit stage, sets the expectations on the lower side for TNC Predator, with the squad projected to finish in the 9th-12th place position overall. The squad certainly has the potential to outperform that prediction, but in order to do so, it is going to need absolute star performances from Gabbi and Armel in what will assuredly be a rather tense situation for the team in its last Pro Circuit appearance of the 2018-2019 season.

 

Fnatic Fnaticlogo

Region: Southeast Asia

Qualification Method: Southeast Asia Qualifier 2nd Place

Pro Circuit Rank: 6th (3,525 Pro Circuit Points) (Qualified for TI9)

Roster:
1. Pyo “MP” No-a
2.
Abed “Abed” Azel L. Yusop
3.
Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang
4.
Djardel Jicko B. “DJ” Mampusti
5.
Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong (Captain)
C.
Kim “DuBu” Doo-young

Projected Finish: 7th-8th

This 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season has certainly been an interesting one for Fnatic, as the squad underwent a rather drastic transformation over the course of its campaign. After blowing up its roster in the preseason and bringing in a trio of new roster additions, it was unclear just how quickly Fnatic would be able to find its footing both at home and on the international level. The team and its new roster wasted very little time establishing itself though, with Fnatic quickly reclaiming a position as a leader within the Southeast Asian region and a powerhouse on the Pro Circuit. Coming into this final Major of the season, the team has already earned enough Pro Circuit Points to guarantee itself a direct invite to TI9 this summer, but that doesn’t mean that the squad isn’t interested in putting together a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow. The team’s most recent appearance on the Pro Circuit stage saw Fnatic stumble to a rather alarming degree in the fact of its top international rivals, and this final Major of the season provides the squad with a perfect opportunity to display its strength with the eyes of the Dota 2 world watching while earning a bit of redemption to close out what has been an incredible 2018-2019 campaign.

Fnatic’s most recent appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came just over a month ago at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major, but the event went about as poorly as it possibly could have for the Southeast Asian squad. The team struggled in Paris to a concerning degree, posting a 1-5 overall record at the event to finish in the 13th-16th place position, finishing in the bottom half of the event standings for the first time in the entirety of the 2018-2019 season. Since then, the team has made just a single event appearance in the form of the qualifier for this final Major. That event saw the squad appear to bounce back into its previous form, as Fnatic was able to put together a 12-4 record against its fellow Southeast Asian squads to claim its place in Moscow. Throughout the season to this point, Fnatic’s strength within the Southeast Asian region has been a facet of its game that has never really wavered, as the squad has maintained a dominant level of play against its regional rivals. The team currently holds an insane 60-13 record against other Southeast Asian teams, and has lost just a single series of 2 games or more within the Southeast Asian region this season. The team’s ascension to the top of the Southeast Asian hierarchy has basically been an unstoppable occurrence this season, but the focus for Fnatic coming into this final Major of the season will lean much more heavily on its play on the international level compared to its results on the home front.

Fnatic comes into the EPICENTER Major having not played any matches on the international level since the conclusion of the previous Major last month, which comes as something of a concern for the squad heading into this event. The squads most recent foray onto the international level came at the aforementioned previous Major, and it was not exactly the most impressive of performances for Fnatic. The good news for the team is that its record on the international level in recent times gives it a bit of leeway, as the squad had been seeing consistent improvements away from home prior to its most recent Pro Circuit appearances. Across its first 5 international appearances of the 2018-2019 season, Fnatic had put together 3 Top 4 finishes, and had never finished in the lower half of the event standings in any of its first 3 Pro Circuit appearances. While the team’s results on the international level have been improving over the course of the season, Fnatic’s record against international opposition has not quite risen to an elite level yet, as the team stands with a 37-32 mark against non-Southeast Asian squads. One thing that should be noted though regarding that record against international opposition, is that all of those matches have come against ranked squads, and 47 of its 69 international matches have been played against teams currently inside the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings. The record may not be as strong as the team would like, but the fact that it is at least holding its own against higher levels of competition from other regions has Fnatic sitting in a favorable position heading into this final Major of the season.

Fnatic comes into the EPICENTER Major as a team that doesn’t appear to have anything left to prove on the Pro Circuit stage. The squad has established itself as the top team in the Southeast Asian region, and has also been able to lay claim to a position as one of the elite teams on the international level as well with its direct invite to TI9. However, the Southeast Asian leader comes into this event with two rather significant motivating factors that could potentially push it to success in Moscow. The first is obviously the opportunity to lay claim to the organization’s first Major Championship title and become just the second Southeast Asian squad to ever do so. Aside from that bit of history though, the other potential motivation for Fnatic coming into this event will be a desire to completely put the disaster that was the MDL Disneyland Paris Major behind it. The team certainly did not look good in that event with its 1-5 overall record and last place finish, and the squad is likely eager to prove to the Dota 2 world and to itself that its stumble in that event was a one-time aberration. While that very well may be the case, the team’s struggles in that most recent Pro Circuit appearance are hard to fully ignore when looking at Fnatic’s prospects for this final Major of the season. On the one hand, it’s hard to imagine a team that has looked as strong as Fnatic has putting together back to back poor performances on the Pro Circuit stage, as the squad has the skill, experience, and prior results to find success at this event. On the other hand, one cannot simply ignore the fact that the team completely failed to show up at a big-time event on the international level; a concern that is not at all mitigated by the fact that the squad has not played any international matches in the time following that poor performance. Fnatic’s extensive skill and experience, along with its prior success on the international level, still make the team a formidable opponent in the field for this event. However, its recent stumble on the Pro Circuit stage also causes the confidence levels in the squad to take a bit of a hit. The result is a projection in the 7th-8th place range for Fnatic at the EPICENTER Major, as the squad should still be expected to earn itself a place in the top half of the event standings, but may not necessarily be expected to push into those final 2 or 3 days of the event. As we’ve all seen previously this season, Fnatic certainly has the capability to push to that point and contend for a Major Championship title, but we will have to see proof that the squad’s recent struggles are truly a thing of the past before be begin fueling up that particular hype train.

 

Forward Gaming Forward Gaming

Region: North America

Qualification Method: North America Qualifier 1st Place

Pro Circuit Rank: 18th (154.88 Pro Circuit Points)

Roster:
1. Yawar “YawaR” Hassan
2.
Quinn “CCnC” Callahan
3.
Jingjun “Sneyking” Wu
4.
Arif “MSS” Anwar
5.
Johan “pieliedie” Åström (Captain)
C.
Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling

Projected Finish: 13th-16th

It’s somewhat interesting looking at where Forward Gaming stands heading into the final days of the the 2018-2019 campaign, and how much has changed for the North American squad since the beginning of this season. After the formation of its new organization in the preseason, the former VGJ.Storm lineup looked to enter this new season as one of the leading squads within the North American region, and a potential contender on the international level. Heading into this final Major of the Pro Circuit season, the squad has certainly maintained its place as a formidable squad in its home region, but the success on the international level has proven to be much more elusive. In spite of that, Forward Gaming still enters this event with the possibility to earning itself a place in the Top 12 of the Pro Circuit Rankings and claiming a direct invite to TI9 in Shanghai. In order to reach that goal though, the North American squad is going to have to put together an impressive performance in Moscow and prove that the current version of its roster has what it takes to find success on the international level.

Forward Gaming’s most recent appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came near the end of April at the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019. The event did not go quite as well as the squad probably would have preferred, as Forward Gaming finished in the 5th-6th place position overall. Since then, the team has made one appearance within its home region, as well as one appearance on the international level. Only one of those appearances proved to be successful though, and considering the fact that the team is set to attend this final Major of the season, one could probably guess which one that was. To make things perfectly clear though, that successful regional performance came in the form of a 1st place run in the EPICENTER Major 2019 North America Closed Qualifier, which saw Forward Gaming post a perfect 7-0 Group Stage record to lock down its spot at this event. Success within the North American region has been the backbone of Forward Gaming’s season to this point, as the squad has at least managed to remain consistent on the home front. Since the announcement of its new roster near the end of March, the team has attended 5 regional qualifiers or tournaments and has managed to earn Top 4 finishes across all of them. In fact, Forward Gaming has actually managed to earn 1st place finishes across its previous 4 regional appearances, winning the aforementioned EPICENTER Major 2019 North America Closed Qualifier in addition to the ESL One Birmingham 2019 North America Qualifier, the Qi Invitational America, and the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019 North America Qualifier. Within that time frame, Forward Gaming has put together an impressive 32-11 record against its fellow North American teams, including a 21-10 mark against ranked squads. That strong and consistent success within its home region has hopes relatively high for this new iteration of the Forward Gaming lineup, but the team’s success on the home front will not play nearly as large a role in its pre-event projections as its play on the international level. On that front, Forward Gaming’s recent performances have not been quite as impressive.

As previously mentioned, Forward Gaming has made one appearance on the international level in the time following its most recent appearance on the Pro Circuit stage. That event appearance came at ESL One Birmingham, but the team’s performance at that event left quite a lot to be desired heading into this final Major of the season. The team finished with a 2-8 record in the Group Stage of the event, which was not nearly enough to allow the squad to advance to the Playoffs as it finished in the combined last place position of 11th-12th. Unfortunately, poor results on the international level are not exactly new for the Forward Gaming organization in this 2018-2019 season, as the team has struggled to find much success outside of its home region. In the time since its rather sizable roster change in March, Forward Gaming has finished outside of the Top 4 in both of its international appearances, and holds a record of just 9-17, with 25 of those 26 matches coming against ranked opponents. Against Top 12 teams, the squad’s record in that time frame drops to an even more dismal 2-11, which does not instill a particularly high level of confidence heading into a Major that will feature nothing but ranked opposition and quite a few Top 12 ranked teams among it. Perhaps the team’s new roster will be able to figure something out in time to turn around its recent struggles on the international level, but the odds don’t appear to be in the team’s favor heading into this event.

Forward Gaming comes into this final Major of the season as a squad that has been relatively successful within its home region, but has simply proven unable to convert those regional results into comparable performances on the international level. The squad still has a shot at earning itself a Top 12 spot in the Pro Circuit Rankings and a direct invite to TI9, but it is going to have to suddenly turn around what has been a rather consistent trend of stumbles and setbacks on the international level in order to do that. The team does have a fair bit of skill and experience on its roster, but we have yet to see that roster make use of those factors outside of its home region, as the team’s two international appearances since the formation of its current roster have not gone all that well. The possibility always exists for some sort of miraculous turnaround in Moscow, but such an occurrence would be just that: miraculous. There is very little to suggest that this Forward Gaming roster is in the right place to truly contend with the opposition that it is set to face at this event, and the expectations for the North American squad should reflect that lack of confidence. With that in mind, Forward Gaming will enter the EPICENTER Major projected to finish at the bottom of the event standings with a final position in the 13th-16th place range. The fact of the matter is that this squad has not shown us any real flashes of strength away from the North American region, and the team’s experience isn’t likely to play much of a factor considered just about every team in the field for this final Major possesses comparable levels of veteran experience and leadership themselves. Perhaps there is some small degree of hope that Forward Gaming turns it on at the last possible moment to pull out some sort of incredible run on the Pro Circuit stage. However, hope is the only thing that the squad will really have going for it heading into this event, as the expectations for the North American team are set about as low as possible until we see some signs of life from Forward Gaming on the international level.

 

Evil Geniuses Evil Geniuses

Region: North America

Qualification Method: North America Qualifier 2nd Place

Pro Circuit Rank: 3rd (6,750 Pro Circuit Points) (Qualified for TI9)

Roster:
1. Artour “Arteezy” Babaev
2.
Syed Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan
3.
Gustav “s4” Magnusson
4.
Andreas Franck “Cr1t-“ Nielsen
5.
Tal “Fly” Aizik (Captain)
C.
Kanishka “BuLba” Sosale

Projected Finish: Top 4

Evil Geniuses comes into this final Major of the season as a squad that has achieved just about everything that it had been expected to in its 2018-2019 campaign. The squad retained its place at the top of the North American hierarchy, and continued to serve as a relatively consistent power on the international level as well. The squad enters this event having already earned itself enough Pro Circuit Points to guarantee a direct invite to TI9, and has finished in the top half of the event standings in all 4 of its Major appearances this season. The squad has certainly had a successful campaign on the Pro Circuit, but EG still comes into this event with one last achievement missing from its trophy case: a Major Championship title. Not only has EG never managed to claim a Major Championship, but no squad from the North American region as a whole has ever been able to achieve this feat. While the team’s play in Shanghai for TI9 is already secured, the North American team will almost certainly be eyeing that long-elusive prize as the team looks to close out its 2018-2019 campaign with one final bit of success on the Pro Circuit stage.

EG’s last appearance on the Pro Circuit stage came just over a month ago at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major, in which the North American squad managed to put together a 3rd place performance. Since that event, the team’s efforts have been mostly focused on the international level, but that doesn’t mean that the squad has completely abandoned the home front. In the time following the previous Major, EG has participated in one regional event in the form of the qualifier for this final Major of the season. In that EPICENTER Major 2019 North America Closed Qualifier, the team put its strength on display against its regional rivals, posting a 13-2 record to claim a 2nd place finish in the event and earn its spot here in Moscow. Finding success at home has hardly been an issue for EG over the course of this season though, as the squad has maintained a position at the top of the North American hierarchy both within this season and across the past several years. The squad has participated in 5 regional events in this 2018-2019 campaign, and has never finished any lower than 3rd in any of them while displaying a level of strength and consistency that no other team in the region has been able to truly match. EG’s dominance within the North American region is not exactly breaking news though, and heading into this final Major of the season, the focus for the squad will almost certainly be on its performances away from its home region.

Thankfully for EG, its play on the international level has been just as impressive as its record at home, as the North American squad has carved out a place for itself as one of the leading teams in the Dota 2 world. In recent times, the team has been called upon to defend that position, as EG has participated in a duo of international events since the end of the previous Major. The first of those events came near the end of May, as EG put together a 3rd-4th place finish against a field of CIS opposition in the Adrenaline Cyber League 2019. The more recent, and most likely more impressive showing from the squad on the international level came in the form of a 2nd place finish at ESL One Birmingham earlier this month, in which the North American squad came just 1 game away from knocking off Team Secret to claim the event. Like its performance within the North American region, the pattern for EG in this 2018-2019 season has been one of relative consistency on the international level, as the team has put together Top 4 performances in 6 of its 8 appearances away from its home region. So far this season, EG holds a 68-50 record against international opposition, and has put together a record of 47-41 against other teams in the Top 12 of the Pro Circuit Rankings. That kind of consistency on the international level and against some of the Dota 2 world’s strongest teams certainly puts the squad in a favorable position heading into this final event of the Pro Circuit season.

EG comes into this Major as a squad that has already secured itself a place in the field for TI9, but the squad is still chasing one final feat of strength as the 2018-2019 season comes to an end in Moscow. The squad is still searching for the organization’s first Major Championship title, and considering the impressive play that we’ve seen from the team both at home and on the international level, EG appears to be in a strong position to contend for that coveted title. Coming into the EPICENTER Major, EG is projected to finish inside the Top 4 range, and should be one of the squads that still sits in the mix for the title of Major Champion near the back end of the event in Moscow. The squad has been impressively consistent in its previous appearances on the international level, with the squad claiming Top 4 finishes in all but 2 of its international appearances this season. Those performances include 3rd place finishes at 3 of the previous 4 Majors, and when one combines those prior showings with the squad’s most recent results on the international level, EG presents itself as one of the more formidable squads in the field for this Major. Reaching the Top 4 at a Major for the fourth time this season is certainly something that can be reasonably expected from EG, but the question for the North American powerhouse will be whether it can truly take that next step forward and actually lay claim to a Major title. In previous appearances, the answer to that question had been “no”, as EG had notoriously found itself repeatedly falling short of reaching the Grand Finals of an event with a slew of 3rd place finishes. However, the team’s recent 2nd place run at ESL One Birmingham, along with its hard fought 2-3 series against Team Secret in the Grand Finals of that event, instills a bit of hope that the squad has finally pushed itself over that final obstacle and may be able to claim the ultimate success on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow. We will have to wait and see if that hope is vindicated at the Major, but even if the squad can’t claim a title in Moscow, don’t expect EG to fall too far away from the top of the standings at this event.

 

paiN Gaming paiN Gaming alt

Region: South America

Qualification Method: South America Qualifier 1st Place

Pro Circuit Rank: 20th (150 Pro Circuit Points)

Roster:
1. Leonardo “Mandy” Viana
2.
Adriano de Paula “4dr” Machado
3.
Rodrigo Lelis “Liposa” Santos (Captain)
4.
Thiago de Oliveira “Thiolicor” Cordeiro
5.
Anderson “444” Santos

Projected Finish: 13th-16th

The rather sudden departure of Chaos Esports Club from the South American region had an incredibly significant impact on the rest of the region’s teams, as a power vacuum was created that every major South American team has scrambled to fill in the final days of the 2018-2019 season. Among those squads that have risen to lay at least a partial claim to that regional power is paiN Gaming, as the organization made its return to the Dota 2 world at the end of March with its signing of the Butterfly Effec roster. The team comes into this final Major of the season with aspirations of earning itself a position in the Top 12 of the Pro Circuit Rankings and claiming a direct invite to TI9. In order to reach that goal, the squad is going to have to put together an incredibly impressive performance on the Pro Circuit stage, with paiN Gaming needing to finish in at least the 5th-6th place position in Moscow to pass EHOME, the squad currently sitting in 12th place in the Rankings. The squad will certainly be looking to put together a strong enough performance to hit that mark, but even if it can’t quite reach its goal, the opportunity to test its strength against some of the Pro Circuit’s elite squads will be an experience that will likely give paiN Gaming an edge over its regional rivals if it does end up having to make a run through the TI9 qualifiers.

The most recent appearance for this current iteration of paiN Gaming was also its first, as the team’s new roster made its Pro Circuit season debut at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major in May. The team’s performance in that event was not particularly impressive, with paiN Gaming posting a 1-6 overall record to finish in the 9th-12th place position in the event standings. In the time following the conclusion of that Major run, paiN Gaming’s efforts have been focused exclusively on its home region, as all of the team’s matches in that time frame have come against fellow South American squads. The team put together a 1st place performance in the EPICENTER Major 2019 South America Closed Qualifier just days after the end of the previous Major, beating out its regional rivals to secure itself a place in Moscow for this event. More recently, the squad closed out the month of May with a 3rd-4th place appearance in WePlay! Dota 2 Tug of War: Dire America. While that event featured a mixed field of North and South American teams, paiN Gaming itself only played against South American opponents during its brief run in the event. Across the entirety of its two regional appearances, paiN Gaming has put together a 6-3 record against its regional rivals, which isn’t exactly the most impressive of sample sizes. However, taking into account the team’s appearance at the previous Major, as well as its prior qualifier run as Butterfly Effec, the squad’s regional record improves to a much stronger 15-5 in non-open qualifier matches. While the recent results for paiN Gaming certainly aren’t extensive, it can’t really be helped considering the fact that the team was only recently formed and picked up by its current organization. However, the biggest point of concern for paiN Gaming coming into this event will not be its play on the home front, but will rather focus upon its ability to contend on the international level.

paiN Gaming comes into this final Major of the season having not played any official matches outside of its home region since its previous Pro Circuit appearance. In fact, the team’s run at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major back in may is the only international experience that the current roster has together, which does not bode well for the squad considering the fact that it went 0-6 against non-South American squads at that event. The good news for paiN Gaming is that its players at least has some international experience on an individual level, but it unclear whether that individual experience will translate into tangible results for the squad in Moscow. The fact that the team comes into this Major without a single win against a team outside of its home region is a massive, glaring weakness for paiN Gaming, and it is one that puts the team in an incredible uncomfortable spot heading into a Pro Circuit event that will feature many of the top squads in the Dota 2 world.

paiN Gaming comes into this event as a squad looking to take steps to establish itself as a leading team within the South American region. The relatively recent formation of this squad has limited the amount of experience that the squad has been able to earn as a unit though, as the team comes into the event with a relatively low number of matches in South America and no matches on the international level. The team’s roster has a number of players that many will likely recognize from other squads, but as of right now there is little reason to believe that the individual experience of those members will be enough to outweigh the glaring lack of international experience as a team. With that in mind, paiN Gaming makes its way to Moscow with a projection at the bottom of the event standings in the 13th-16th place position. Considering the fact that this event will likely feature the same Bo1 format for Round 1 of the Lower Bracket that every other Major this season has utilized, it would not be particularly surprising to see paiN Gaming push itself up a tier in the standings. However, the unpredictable nature of Bo1’s that could serve as an advantage for paiN Gaming are simultaneously a threat to the squad as well, as paiN Gaming has few match ups in which it would be considered a favorite regardless of the format or length of the series. To be fair to the squad though, paiN Gaming has a number of players on its roster who are not exactly strangers to playing on the international level, with the duo of 4dr and Liposa in particular having seen significant action outside of their home region. However, in the absence of any actual evidence of the squad’s strength on the international level, the expectations have to be set about as low as possible for it heading into this final Major of the season.

 

Infamous LOGO-INFAMOUS-COMERCIAL

Region: South America

Qualification Method: South America Qualifier 2nd Place

Pro Circuit Rank: 31st (60.9 Pro Circuit Points)

Roster:
1. Oliver “oliver” Lepko
2.
Dominik “Black^” Reitmeier
3.
Mikki Mørch “HesteJoe-Rotten” Junget
4.
Malthe “Biver” Winther
5.
Mariano “Papita” Caneda (Captain)

Projected Finish: 13th-16th

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus is a figure often connected to a quote claiming something to the effect of “there is nothing permanent except change”. In the story of Infamous’ 2018-2019 campaign, we see a rather convincing level of evidence that Heraclitus was correct in his philosophical statement, as the South American squad has undergone an almost inconceivable number of changes this season. Over the course of this season (a period of around 9 months), Infamous has seen 11 different players leave its roster, and coming into this Major, Papita is the only member of the squad remaining from the team’s original registered roster at the beginning of the season. The inconsistency with regards to the team’s roster has resulted in a similar level of inconsistency in the squad’s level of play, but this final Major of the season has given the South American squad one last chance at earning redemption and salvaging what has been a frustrating campaign to this point. The squad stands as a bit of a long shot to earn itself a Top 12 position in the Pro Circuit Rankings and a direct invite to TI9, as Infamous would have to finish in at least the 5th-6th place position to achieve that particular goal. Even if the squad ends up falling short of that mark though, the chance to test itself and the newest iteration of its roster against some of the elite teams of the Dota 2 world could potentially help Infamous generate some much needed momentum for itself heading into the summer and the TI9 qualifiers.

The last appearance for Infamous on the Pro Circuit stage came back in March at the DreamLeague Season 11 Major, where the squad turned in a 9th-12th place performance. Of course, the team looked very different back then compared to the roster it fields coming into this Major, and those myriad changes to its lineup have pushed the team into a position where it has heavily focused upon its home region over the international level. Of the teams 6 total event appearances since that previous Pro Circuit appearance, 5 of them have come in either South American exclusive events or in events with mixed North and South American fields. Across those 5 regional appearances, Infamous has been able to secure 3 Top 4 finishes, but it should be noted that some of those appearances came with a drastically different lineup than the team’s current one. Since the finalization of its current roster, Infamous has made just 2 appearances within the South American region. However, both of those appearances results in Top 4 finishes for the squad, with the team claiming a 2nd place finish in the EPICENTER Major 2019 South America Closed Qualifier and a 1st place finish in WePlay! Dota 2 Tug of War: Dire America. Between those two events, Infamous has managed to put together a 14-4 record against its regional rivals, although its mark against ranked opponents comes in at a somewhat less impressive 3-3 in that span. While the team has undergone an incredible number of changes to its roster in this 2018-2019 campaign, the squad’s recent results would at least suggest that it is starting to find its footing on the home front in the final days of the season.

The concern for Infamous heading into this last Major of the season will not be its play within the South American region, but its ability to perform away from home. Infamous comes into this event still entertaining hopes of making a push for a Top 12 position in the Pro Circuit Rankings and claiming a direct invite to TI9, but in order to do that the squad will need to put together a truly inspired performance on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow. Unfortunately, the squad does not cut the most imposing of figures in terms of its play outside of the South American region, mostly due to the fact that the current roster experience on the international level is extremely limited. On an individual level, the members of Infamous have seen their fair share of matches on the international level, but as a unit the roster is woefully lacking. Since the finalization of its current roster in May, Infamous has played just 4 matches against a non-South American opponent, with all 4 of those games coming against North American squad J.Storm in the Finals of WePlay! Dota 2 Tug of War: Dire America. The good news for the team is that it managed to win that series 3-1, but a sample size that small does little to suggest that Infamous could find similar results against a field of some of the Pro Circuit’s elite teams at the Major. With its extremely limited list of matches on the international level, Infamous will come into this Major having to rely almost solely upon the previous experience of its individual players to find success, which is never a particularly favorable scenario for any team to have to be in.

Infamous comes into this final Major of the season as a squad that has endured a simply ridiculous number of changes to its roster in this 2018-2019 campaign. However, the team’s lineup appears to have finally stabilized with the season nearing its end, and the hope is that this new iteration of the squad can put together some sort of run in the final days of the campaign to lift the squad up to a higher position both at home and on the international level. The squad is still technically in contention for a Top 12 spot in the Pro Circuit Rankings and a direct invite to TI9, but Infamous will have to finish in at least the 5th-6th place position in Moscow in order to make that happen. Coming into the event, that scenario is not even remotely close to being a reasonable outcome for the squad, as Infamous in its current form has shown us almost nothing in terms of its strength on the international level. With that in mind, the squad will make its way to Moscow projected to finish at the bottom of the event standings in the 13th-16th place position overall. As previously mentioned, the squad is going to have to rely upon the experience of its individual players to find success at this event. In just about every other scenario in which this has been the case, the squad has proceeded to put together a fairly disappointing performance on the Pro Circuit stage. Considering the fact that Infamous only put its current roster together around 1 month ago though, there is some small degree of hope that this lineup has more to offer than what we’ve seen so far. The fact that the team has not been able to play matches outside of its home region does not necessarily mean that it cannot perform well against international opposition given the opportunity. On the other hand, the opposition that Infamous is set to face in Moscow stands as some of the strongest teams in the entirety of the Dota 2 world, and until we see for a fact that the South American squad can hold its own against those juggernauts of the Pro Circuit, the expectations for the team will remain as low as possible.

 

Ninjas in Pyjamas Ninjas In Pyjamas

Region: Europe

Qualification Method: StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2 1st Place

Pro Circuit Rank: 8th (2,590 Pro Circuit Points) (Qualified for TI9)

Roster:
1.
Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard
2.
Adrian “Fata” Trinks
3.
Neta “33” Shapira
4.
Martin “Saksa” Sazdov
5.
Peter “ppd” Dager (Captain)
C. Per Anders Olsson “Pajkatt” Lille

Projected Finish: 7th-8th

Ninjas in Pyjamas comes into this final Major of the 2018-2019 season fresh off of winning its second straight Minor Championship title at the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2. The squad also comes into this event as 1 of the 8 participating squads to have already secured itself a Top 12 position in the Pro Circuit Rankings and a direct invite to TI9. With the team’s play in Shanghai already confirmed, NiP doesn’t necessarily have to put too much stock into the final results of this Major, but don’t expect the European squad to take things easy now that it’s fought its way into the field for this event. The squad may have claimed 2 Minor titles in this 2018-2019 season, but the honor of crowning itself a Major Champion has still eluded the team. The chance to finally earn itself that prestigious title and end its Pro Circuit season with a victorious effort against some of the Dota 2 world’s elite teams is an opportunity that NiP will not be willing to pass up on, as the squad will likely give everything it has in this final Pro Circuit event of the 2018-2019 season.

As previously mentioned, NiP’s participation in this Major stems from its victorious performance in the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minors Season 2, in which the squad put together a 12-5 record to finish 1st at the event. The result from NiP was certainly an impressive one, but it was far from unexpected, as the squad has been putting together strong performances all season long, both within its home region and on the international level. On the home front, the squad has held its own in what has been one of the most crowded and tightly contested regions in the Dota 2 world. Across 15 appearances in either European exclusive or mixed European and CIS events, NiP has been able to earn 10 Top 4 finishes for itself, including 1st place performances in the GG.Bet Invitational Season 1 and WePlay! Dota 2 Tug of War: Radiant, as well as the Europe Qualifier for the DreamLeague Season 11 Major, the OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019, and the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2. Across the entirety of the 2018-2019 season, NiP holds a 73-49 record against other European teams, though its record against the elite teams of its region (European teams inside the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings) stands at a somewhat less impressive 14-21 coming into this event. Even so, NiP has proven itself to be on of the leading teams in one of the strongest regions in the Dota 2 world, which sets the squad up with a fairly favorable position heading into this final Major of the season.

While NiP’s play on the home front has been impressive in this 2018-2019 campaign, the squad has proven itself to be just as strong on the international level, as evidenced by the fact that it comes into this event with back to back Minor Championship titles under its belt. Across 9 total appearances on the international level this season, NiP has earned Top 5 finishes in 4 of them, with all 4 of those Top 4 finishes having come in Pro Circuit events. Of course, the squad has not necessarily been infallible on outside of its home region, as the squad’s 5 finishes outside of the Top 4 in international events have produced some less than ideal performances from the squad. 2 of those finishes came in the form of perfectly respectable 5th-6th place showings at ESL One Katowice 2019 and the MDL Disneyland Paris Major. However, the other 3 appearances resulted in a pair of 9th-10th place runs as ESL One Birmingham 2019 and ESL One Hamburg 2018, as well as a 9th-12th place showing at the DreamLeague Season 11 Major. In short, NiP has not always been a consistent team on the international level, but it can certainly be said that the good has significantly outweighed the bad this season, and none can say that the squad does not currently stand as one of the elite teams in the Dota 2 world. That status as a leading squad on the Pro Circuit, combined with its relatively strong performances on the international level, have NiP looking like a formidable opponent heading into this final Major of the season in Moscow.

NiP comes into this Major trying to lay claim to the first Major Championship title in the organization’s history. Coming off of back to back Minor Championship victories, the squad has more than a little bit of momentum on its side, and its strong play both at home and on the international level has set the squad up as one of the elite teams in the Dota 2 world. Coming into this event though, NiP falls a bit short of the mark to be considered one of the favorites among the field of teams in Moscow, with the squad projected to finish in the 7th-8th place position at the Major. For many, that predicted outcome might seem a bit low, especially for a squad that has one back to back Minors and stands at 8th in the Pro Circuit Rankings. However, the fact that NiP has had to go through the Minors in order to reach its last two Major appearances in the first place is part of the reason why NiP’s projection falls short of some of the other elite squads in the field for this event. Of course, the fact that the European region is so insanely strong this season plays a large role in why the team has had to go through the Minors, and that disproportionate regional strength is hardly something that NiP can be faulted for. However, its does show us something about NiP that has become a point of concern for the European squad in that it has been fairly inconsistent against the other elite teams on the Pro Circuit. The team enters this event with a 32-55 record against Top 12 Ranked opponents, which becomes a bit of an issues considering that 9 of the other squads in the field for this event fall under that classification. Considering the fact that we’ve seen NiP put together some impressive performances against top tier teams in the past, there is no reason to believe that the team is not capable of finding success and pushing for a higher result on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow. Taking its record against other elite squads and its brief periods of inconsistency on the international level into account though, it does not appear as though that scenario is one that can be expected to occur for NiP at this event.

 

Alliance Alliance

Region: Europe

Qualification Method: StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2 2nd Place

Pro Circuit Rank: 14th (379 Pro Circuit Points)

Roster:
1.
Michael “miCKe” Vu
2.
Max “qojqva” Bröcker
3.
Samuel “Boxi” Svahn
4.
Aydin “iNSaNiA” Sarkohi (Captain)
5.
Tommy “Taiga” Le
C.
Jonathan “Loda” Berg

Projected Finish: 9th-12th

Alliance comes into this event as a squad that had been struggling to perform on the international level all season long, as the team’s play away from home had often proven to be inconsistent. However, the team comes into this final Major of the season off the back of an impressive 2nd place performance at the previous Minor, and has managed to earn Top 4 finishes in 2 of its last 3 international appearances. The return of its full roster to action in recent times has certainly been an appreciated boon for the European squad, and with the team now back to full strength and starting to gain its footing on the international level, there is hope for the squad to make one final push up the Pro Circuit Rankings with the 2018-2019 season coming to a close. Alliance still has a shot at earning itself a position in the Top 12 of the Pro Circuit Rankings and laying claim to a direct invite to TI9, but the team needs to finish in at least the 7th-8th place position in Moscow in order to make that scenario a reality and punch its ticket to the biggest event in the Dota 2 world. With the momentum from its run at the Minor though, Alliance is hoping that it can finish its season strong and put together an impressive performance against some of the Pro Circuit’s elite squads at the EPICENTER Major.

As previously mentioned, Alliance comes into this Major off the back of a 2nd place performance at the recent StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2, where it came just 1 game away from claiming a Minor Championship title with a 2-3 loss to NiP in the Grand Finals of the event. It seems somewhat appropriate that the team would face off against another European squad in the Grand Finals of a Minor, as the European region has been where the majority of Alliance’s success has come from in this 2018-2019 season. Across the entirety of this season, Alliance has appeared in an impressive 17 regional events (not including open qualifiers), though the more impressive fact for Alliance is that the squad has managed to earn Top 4 finishes in 14 of those appearances. Those 14 Top 4 finishes are headlined by 4 1st place performances, with the squad wining the ESL One Hamburg 2018 Europe Qualifier, Reshuffle Madness, and the MegaFon Champions League Season 2 in the 2018 section of the season, and winning the GG.Bet Birmingham Invitational just 2 months ago in April. The team has proven itself to be a beacon of consistency within its home region, an achievement that takes on an even greater level of significance when one considers the that the European region has been one of the most crowded and competitive regions in the Dota 2 world this season. While the team’s impressive play on the home front has been a big part of its 2018-2019 campaign, the team’s recent improvements on the international level will likely be the bigger talking point for the squad heading into this Major.

For the vast majority of the season, Alliance had been a squad that simply could not be counted on to find success on the international level, as the team repeatedly struggled to match up against non-European opposition. The squad’s first 5 international appearances of the season proved to be fairly disappointing, as the team started things off with a somewhat respectable 5th-6th place finish before racking up finishes in the 9th-10th, 9th-12th, 13th-16th, and 11th-12th place positions. However, recent times have seen the squad begin to turn things around, as evidenced by its 2nd place run at the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2 that earned the team its position at this event. Across the team’s last 3 appearances on the international level, Alliance has managed to earn 2 Top 2 finishes, with both of those performances having come in Pro Circuit events. Of course, the squad has not been able to completely shed the concerns from its prior struggles on the international level, as the team has a fairly disappointing 11th-12th place finish at ESL One Birmingham 2019 sandwiched between its 2 Top 4 finishes in the previous 2 Minors. While it is clear that the team is not fully past its previous struggles away from home, the fact that Alliance has been improving its play agaisnt non-European squads in recent times is surely a welcome development for fans of the squad, as well as the team itself. The question for the squad coming into this event though, will be whether those recent improvements will be enough for Alliance to stand its ground against some of the elite teams of the Dota 2 world.

Alliance comes into this event off the back of it strongest performance of the season on the international level, and that strong showing has the squad hoping that it can find a similar level of success in this final Major of the 2018-2019 season. Alliance finds itself in need of another strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage, as the squad has to finish in at least the 7th-8th place position in Moscow in order to earn enough Pro Circuit Points to claim a Top 12 position in the Rankings and earn a direct invite to TI9. Coming into the event though, the squad is expected to fall just short of that mark, with Alliance projected to finish in the 9th-12th place position at the EPICENTER Major. Despite the fact that the team just claimed a 2nd place finish at the previous Minor, Alliance has a long history of struggles and setbacks on the international level this season, and it is not fully clear if the squad’s recent successes on the Pro Circuit stage will be sustainable on the larger stage of a Pro Circuit Major. The squads that Alliance has had to contend with in those last 2 Minor runs have not been nearly as strong as what it will face on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow, as the field for this event contains 10 of the Top 12 teams in the Pro Circuit Rankings. Against those teams inside the Top 12 of the Pro Circuit Rankings, Alliance has struggled to an alarming degree, with the European squad holding a 29-72 record against those opponents on the season. The fact of the matter is that Alliance has yet to prove itself capable of taking on the elite teams of the Dota 2 world with any sense of consistency. Perhaps its recent success and steps forward in terms of its level of play on the international level will allow the squad to put up a stronger fight against that top tier of opposition. However, until we actually see Alliance find that increased level of success against those elite teams, the scenario for Alliance heading into this Major will have to be one of high hopes but low expectations as the squad looks to take advantage of this opportunity to close out its season with one last breakthrough on the international level.

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