Dota 2 Pro Circuit Major Recap: EPICENTER Major

A single Major is not enough for Vici Gaming, as the Chinese squad downs Team Liquid 3-2 at the EPICENTER Major to claim its second Major Championship title of the 2018-2019 season

The final Major of the campaign has officially come to a close, and with its end, we put a cap on the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season. The EPICENTER Major marked the final leg of the second ever Pro Circuit season, with 16 squads battling it out in Moscow for the chance to lay claim to the title of Major Champion. The title and trophy weren’t the only things up for grabs in the Russian capital though, as the final 4 direct invite slots for TI9 in Shanghai were also set to be determined by the outcome of this event. While many of the teams in this event made their way to Moscow with different expectations and aspirations, only 1 of them would be able to walk away from this final Major of the season with the honor of being the final Major Champion of the 2018-2019 campaign.

When the matches had come to close and the Major was officially at its end, it was Vici Gaming who once again stood victorious, as the Chinese squad was able to lay claim to its second Major Championship title of the season, and the organization’s second title in its history. With a 13-5 overall record (4-1 Group Stage, 9-4 Playoffs), Vici Gaming was able to defeat every single squad that it went up against, winning all 6 of its series in Moscow and bringing down the likes of Forward Gaming, Alliance, Gambit Esports, TNC Predator, and Team Liquid on its path to success at the Major.

While Vici Gaming was able to lay claim to the title of Major Champion, they were not the only squad to walk away from this Major having claimed the prize that they sought, as 4 teams were able to punch their tickets to Shanghai with direct invites to TI9. 3 of those 4 squads were participants at the EPICENTER Major, with TNC Predator and OG managing to put together strong enough performances to retain their Top 12 positions in the Pro Circuit Rankings while Alliance pushed its way into the Top 12 to lock down its direct invite status. Meanwhile, Keen Gaming was able to celebrate from home, as the squad did not attend the Major but was able to keep its Top 12 position in the Rankings to lock down its own spot at TI9 as well.

With the final event of the 2018-2019 season over, we can take a look at the finalized Pro Circuit Rankings. With its first place finish and second Major Championship title of the season, Vici Gaming added 4,950 Pro Circuit Points to its total. Said total rose to 11,250 on the season, which moved Vici Gaming up from 4th in the Rankings to 3rd. The Runner Up at the Major, Team Liquid, claimed 3,000 Pro Circuit Points for its 2nd place finish in Moscow, bringing the team’s total up to 5,820 and moving the squad from 7th to 5th in the Pro Circuit Rankings. Coming in with a 3rd place finish in Moscow was CIS squad Virtus.pro, as the team added 2,100 Pro Circuit Points to its total with its performance at the Major. Said points brought the team’s total up to 13,500 on the season, keeping the squad in its 2nd place position the Pro Circuit Rankings. Rounding out the Top 4 at the Major was Southeast Asian squad TNC Predator, as the team claimed 1,350 Pro Circuit Points for its efforts in Moscow. Those points brought the team’s total up to 2,046, moving the squad up from 11th to 9th in the Pro Circuit Rankings as the team locked down its direct invite status for TI9.

Just past the Top 4 range, we had the duo of PSG.LGD and Alliance, both of whom finished their runs at the Major in the 5th-6th place position and claimed 900 Pro Circuit Points. For PSG.LGD, the performance brought its total up to 5,040, although the squad found itself sliding down a spot in the Pro Circuit Rankings as it fell from 5th to 6th overall. As for Alliance, the team’s 900 Pro Circuit Points from this event brought its total up to 1,179 and allowed the squad to move up from 14th in the Rankings to 11th to secure itself a direct invite to TI9.

In the shared 7th-8th place position came the duo of OG and Gambit Esports, as both squads took home 450 Pro Circuit Points for their efforts in Moscow. For OG, those points brought its total up to 1,218 points and allowed the squad to keep a hold over its 10th place spot in the Rankings to lock down a direct invite to TI9. As for Gambit Esports, the CIS squad brought its total up to 678, but missed the mark to crack the Top 12 in the Rankings as it moved up from 17th to 13th overall.

Shifting into the bottom half of the Major standings, we have the four squads to finish in the 9th-12th place position, all of whom walked away from Moscow with 150 Pro Circuit Points: Forward Gaming, Team Secret, Royal Never Give Up, and Ninjas in Pyjamas. Forward Gaming’s total increased to 304.88 Pro Circuit Points in the aftermath of the Major, with the squad moving up from 18th to 16th in the Rankings. Meanwhile, RNG increased its total to 208.12 Pro Circuit Points while moving up from 29th to 20th in the Rankings. Meanwhile, NiP’s 150 Pro Circuit Point earnings replaced its 120 Points from the previous Minor, bringing the team’s total up to 2,620 but keeping it in the 8th place position in the Rankings. As for Team Secret, the squad’s total increased to 14,400, with the team retaining its 1st place position in the Pro Circuit Rankings.

At the bottom of the event standings, we have the quartet of Fnatic, Evil Geniuses, Infamous, and paiN Gaming, all of whom finished in the 13th-16th place position in Moscow and claimed 75 Pro Circuit Points for their efforts. For Infamous, the added points brings its total up to 135.9 and moves the team from 31st in the Pro Circuit Rankings to 23rd. However, the team’s disbanding in the days following the end of its Major run make this movement a bit of a moot point. paiN Gaming’s 75 Pro Circuit Point earnings increase its total to 225 on the season, with the Brazilian squad moving up from 20th to 19th in the Rankings. Fnatic’s total increases to 3,600, but with the team announcing a roster change before the end of the Major itself, that total fell to 2,880 and moved Fnatic down from 6th in the Rankings to 7th. And finally we have EG, whose point total increased to 6,825 as the North American squad fell from 3rd in the Rankings to 4th.

With the final event of the 2018-2019 season now officially at an end, Vici Gaming crowned as the final Major Champion of the campaign, and all 12 of the direct invites for TI9 determined, the time has come to look at how each of the squads in the field for this event fared on the Pro Circuit stage, and how each of them stacked up compared to their pre-event projections.

 

Team Secret Secret_logo

Place: 9th-12th

Winnings: $15,000 & 150 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 5-4 (4-0 Group Stage, 1-4 Playoffs)

Team Secret came into this Major as the highest ranked squad in the entirety of the Pro Circuit, and for good reason too. The team had already claimed two Major Championship titles this season, and had yet to finish any lower than 4th at a Pro Circuit event in this 2018-2019 campaign. With its position as the number 1 ranked team on the Pro Circuit, Team Secret had long since guaranteed its direct invite status for TI9, and as such didn’t need to care much about how it performed in this final event of the season. Even with that being the case though, the European squad made its way to Moscow with more than enough motivation to put forth its best effort, as another Major Championship title for Team Secret at this event would tie the organization with Virtus.pro for the most Major victories in Dota 2 history. With its eyes on that goal, Team Secret prepared for one final appearance on the Pro Circuit stage as it looked to close out its 2018-2019 campaign on a high note.

Team Secret’s Group Stage run began with a match up against paiN Gaming, and the defending Major Champion was quick to establish control in its first series of the event. Game 1 of the series saw the European squad put together a core trio of Morphling, Death Prophet, and Bristleback that proved far too strong for its opponent to break through. Behind that trio of heroes, Team Secret held a net worth lead for nearly the entirety of the match, and though its opponent was able to delay and draw out the match to a certain degree, it could not prevent Team Secret from eventually claiming a win to open the series. Game 2 saw Team Secret working on an accelerated timeline, as the European juggernaut opted for a much more aggressive strategy. Out killing its opponent 22-7, Team Secret blew past the defenses of its opponent this time around, forcing paiN Gaming to concede defeat in just under 27 minutes to claim a 2-0 sweep in the series.

With its initial victory over paiN Gaming, Team Secret stood 1 more series victory away from claiming the top spot in the Group A standings, as it faced off against RNG in the Winners’ match of the group. Game 1 of the series proved to be an entirely one sided affair, as Team Secret dominated the match up with quick victory led by standout performances from Nisha’s Juggernaut (12-1-8) and MidOne’s Ember Spirit (10-1-11). The series would get a bit more interesting in Game 2 though, as Team Secret had a much more difficult time exerting its will agaisnt its Chinese opponent the second time around. Team Secret was the squad in control throughout Game 2 though, with the European squad holding a net worth lead for nearly the entirety of the match behind a combined 46-19-98 stat line from its core trio of Arc Warden, Ember Spirit, and Batrider, as well as a combined 74 assists from the Support duo of Tusk and Bane. Despite those impressive numbers though, Team Secret couldn’t put its opponent down for quite some time, as RNG ‘s stubborn defense allowed its to significantly extend the match. It took just under 68 minutes of total game time, but Team Secret eventually managed to break through those impressive defensive efforts from RNG to finally claim a victory and complete a 2-0 sweep of the series to claim its place at the top of the Group A standings.

Team Secret’s undefeated streak saw at 4 matches as its entered Round 1 of the Upper Bracket, but that streak was immediately put to the test as the squad faced off against VP. Game 1 of the series began with Team Secret looking solid, as the squad was able to remain fairly even with its opponent through the first 45 minutes of play. While neither side was able to pull away over that stretch, Team Secret quickly found itself losing control beyond that 45 minute mark. The team could not out pace its opponents in the late-game stage, falling behind by more than 26k net worth at one point before finally having its defenses shattered to hand the squad a 0-1 deficit in the series. Game 2 played out in a similar manner, though this time around the roles were reversed between the two squads. Team Secret was the squad facing a modest net worth deficit through the first first 40 minutes of play, but the European squad manged to turn things around with a surge in the late-game stage. Behind a strong showing from MidOne’s Monkey King (19-7-13) and a 23 assist effort from Puppey on Spirit Breaker, Team Secret was able to claim critical team fight wins late in the match to break the momentum of its opponent and secure a 1-1 tie in the series. Unfortunately, Team Secret was not able to carry over any momentum from its Game 2 win, as the final match of the series proved to be alarmingly one sided. Team Secret recorded just a single kill across the entirety of Game 3, as the squad struggled to contend with the incredibly levels of tankiness and sustainability that its opponent possessed. With its own draft strategy clearly faltering, Team Secret managed to put up a fight for as long as it reasonably could have, but was eventually forced to concede defeat to suffer a 1-2 loss in the series.

After losing to VP, Team Secret found itself in the Lower Bracket of the Playoffs, where it was matched up against defending TI Champion OG. Though OG was continuing to play with a stand-in at the event, it was clear from the very start of the play that Team Secret was ill prepared to deal with its fellow European squad. Team Secret found itself out played from the very beginning of the series, as the squad fell behind early in both matches and never manged to recover. The squad was out killed 34-66 across the series as a whole, with only one member of its roster managing to reach double digit kills in the entire series combined (zai – 11 kills on Underlord and Axe). The lack of kills and the lack of farm meant that Team Secret had little hope of turning any team fights in its favor, as OG simply overwhelmed the squad in every engagement to shut down the Team Secret lineup and hand the team a shocking 0-2 defeat that brought the team’s run at the Major to an end with a 5-4 overall record and a finish in the 9th-12th place position.

Team Secret came into this final Major of the season as the top ranked squad on the Pro Circuit, and as such has some exceptionally high expectations for itself in this event. Prior to the start of play in Moscow, Team Secret was projected to finish in the Top 4 range, and was considered one of the favorites to compete for its third Major Championship title of the 2018-2019 season. As it turned out though, Team Secret would end up falling well short of of that prediction, as the squad suffered its first setback of the season at the EPICENTER Major with a 5-4 overall record and a finish in the 9th-12th place position. The team’s run at the Major began looking just like every other one that we’ve seen from the squad this season, as Team Secret barreled its way through the Group Stage with back to back 2-0 sweeps against paiN Gaming and RNG. The Playoffs was where things took a rather unexpected turn for the squad though, as Team Secret lost a series 1-2 against VP before getting swept 0-2 by OG in the Lower Bracket to take an early exit from the event. Across those last two series, Team Secret was out killed 88-148, as the squad appeared to suffer an uncharacteristic loss of focus just as its opponent were putting together some of their best efforts of the event. The results certainly come as a shock for Team Secret and its fans, but there doesn’t appear to much of a reason to panic just yet. The squad remains one of, if not the best squad in the Dota 2 world, and it seems highly unlikely that this singular poor performance will undo what has been an entire season of disciplined play and success on the international level.

 

Team Liquid 600px-Team_liquid_logo_2017

Place: 2nd

Winnings: $170,000 & 3,000 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 13-8 (4-2 Group Stage, 9-6 Playoffs)

Team Liquid came into this final Major of the season as a squad that had just recently undergone a change to its roster. The lineup that had remained intact for over 2 years had finally been shaken up with the addition of w33, and many were wondering just how the change to its roster would effect the European squad. With the team’s direct invite status for TI9 already secured, Team Liquid didn’t have a whole lot to lose as it made its way to Moscow for the final Pro Circuit event of the season. However, the chance to claim the organization’s second Major Championship title while also displaying the strength of its new lineup was an opportunity that the squad would not take lightly as it prepared itself for the finale of the regular season.

The new iteration of Team Liquid started things off in Moscow with a match up against CIS squad Gambit Esports, as the two teams faced off in the Opening Matches of Group B. Game 1 proved to be a fairly straghtforward match for the European squad, as Team Liquid jumped out to an early lead that it held throughout the rest of the match. Behind a combined 20-6-20 stat line from its core trio of Wraith King, Templar Assassin, and Dark Seer, as well as a combined 28 assists from the Support duo of Chen and Tusk, Team Liquid was able to exert near complete control over the match to shut down its opponent and claim a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 would not be nearly as smooth of a match for the squad though, as the team struggled in the second half of the game. Despite remaining even with its opponent through the first 20 minutes of play, the mid and late-game stages saw Gambit Esports surge ahead to take control of the match. Despite a considerable level of team fight power from Team Liquid’s lineup, that power could not be fully taken advantage of by the squad, as it lost a series of team fights and smaller engagements that allowed Gambit Esports to eventually push past Team Liquid’s defenses to even up the series at 1-1 with a dominant second half performance. Fortunately for Team Liquid, its Game 2 loss fueled the squad to an impressive performance in the final match of the series, as the squad came into Game 3 looking for revenge against its opponent. Behind a combined 24-8-38 performance from its core trio of Spectre, Windranger, and Axe, the squad did just that, out killing its opponent 27-11 in a decisively one sided match. The squad led in terms of net worth for all but a couple of minutes in what was a dominant showing from Team Liquid that earned the squad a solid 2-1 victory in its first series of the event.

Team Liquid’s next match up would prove to be just as challenging, as the squad faced off against North American leader Evil Geniuses in the Winners’ Match of Group B. The series did not begin in the most auspicious of circumstances for Team Liquid, as the European squad was hit hard and early by its opponent in Game 1. Out killed 16-21 in that opening match, Team Liquid fell behind early and never managed to catch up as its lineup struggled to find any sense of momentum for itself in what ended up being a one sided defeat to open the series. After the shock of that initial defeat wore off though, Team Liquid came back with a vengeance in Games 2 and 3 of the series, turning in a pair of absolutely dominant performances that caught EG completely off guard. Across Games 2 and 3, Team Liquid out killed its opponent 73-21, giving EG absolutely no shot at having any sense of control or momentum in those matches. The trio of Miracle-, w33, and MinD_ContRoL combined for an incredible 55-12-98 state line across those 2 matches, as Team Liquid marched its way to an impressive turnaround against one of the elite teams of the Dota 2 world with a 2-1 series win over EG.

That victory secured the squad a place in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs, where the TI7 Champion faced off against PSG.LGD in Round 1. The opening match of the series saw the two squads remain pretty much even throughout most of the game, as neither side led by moire than 4k net worth across the first 35 minutes of play. Behind a combined stat line of 22-9-38 stat line from its core trio of Gyrocopter, Windranger, and Axe, and 45 total assists from its support duo of Oracle and Io, Team Liquid was able to break the stalemate and take control in the final minutes of the match. With Team Liquid out killing its opponent 10-3 over the last 12 minutes of play, the European squad claimed a win to open the series with a 1-0 lead. After remaining dead even with its opponent for much of Game 1, Game 2 saw Team Liquid jump out to a lead early in the match. Thanks in large part to a pair of strong showings from Miracle- on Ember Spirit (14-5-18) and w33’s Meepo (7-3-10), Team Liquid was able to build up a sizable net worth advantage that it took into the late-game stage. While its opponent was able to mount a bit of a comeback effort in the later part of the match, Team Liquid held off that surge to lock down back to back wins and claim a 2-0 sweep of the series.

With its impressive victory over PSG.LGD, Team Liquid had secured itself at least a Top 6 finish in Moscow, but the European squad was looking to push for more as it faced off against VP in Round 2 of the Upper Bracket. Game 1 saw Team Liquid completely out play its opponent, as the European side out killed VP 19-7 in less than 24 minutes of total game time. Behind a pair of strong showings from Miracle- on Gyrocopter (6-0-8) and w33’s Windranger (6-0-6), Team Liquid secured itself a quick and easy victory to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 proved to be a much more competitive affair, as Team Liquid and VP battled it out in a back and forth match that saw 18 separate lead changes across a 42 minute match. With Miracle- turning in another impressive performance with an 11-4-6 stat line on Anti-Mage, Team Liquid appeared to be in control with a net worth lead of just under 5k in the final moments of the game. Unfortunately, the team could not close out the match, with Team Liquid losing a series of team fights that allowed VP to pull off the late comeback to hand the European squad a defeat that tied up the series. Though the team lost control late in Game 2, Team Liquid came into Game 3 with a renewed sense of focus and confidence that it quickly put to use against its opponent. The team was able to push out to an early net worth lead that it held throughout the rest of the game in an incredibly one sided performance. Led by the duo of Miracle-‘s Juggernaut (6-1-5) and w33’s Teamplar Assassin (10-2-5), Team Liquid secured itself a dominant win to take the series 2-1 and guarantee itself a Top 3 position at the Major.

After pushing its way past VP, Team Liquid faced off against Vici Gaming in the Upper Bracket Finals, with the two squads fighting for the first slot in the Grand Finals of the Major itself. The series did not get off to an ideal start for Team Liquid though, as the squad struggled in Game 1 as its opponent hit it fast and hard. Out killed 12-24 in the match, Team Liquid could not seem to keep pace with its opponent, falling further and further behind as the match progressed. Facing a net worth deficit of over 20k by the 42 minute mark, the defenses of Team Liquid finally crumbled, as the squad suffered a defeat to begin the series in a 0-1 hole against Vici Gaming. Game 2 saw Team Liquid take its turn at putting together a dominant performance, with the European squad jumping out to an early lead in the match that it refused to relinquish over the rest of the match. Behind an incredible showing from Miracle- on Ember Spirit (14-2-10), Team Liquid was able to keep Vici Gaming’s lineup on the defensive throughout the game, out killing its opponent 25-11 to lock down a 1-1 tie in the series. Unfortunately for Team Liquid, it would not be able to carry much momentum from its Game 2 win into the final match of the series, as Team Liquid once again appeared to struggle against Vici Gaming. After remaining even with its opponent through the first 15 minutes of play, things quickly fell apart for the European squad, as a cavalcade of team fight losses put the squad further and further behind. Despite the best efforts of w33’s Death Prophet (7-6-2), Team Liquid simply could not match the team fight power of its opponent, as the squad attempted to stall the end of the match in hopes of finding some sort of comeback opportunity. When that opportunity failed to materialize, the squad opted to concede defeat to lose the series 1-2 and fall out of the Upper Bracket.

The Lower Bracket Finals saw Team Liquid face off against VP, with the two squads competing for the chance to take on Vici Gaming in the Grand Finals of the Major. Game 1 of series saw Team Liquid in control for most of the match, as the team overcame a somewhat slow start to establish a sizable net worth lead for itself in the mid and late-game stages. While a costly team fight loss late in the match saw the team briefly lose that net worth advantage, a pair of impressive performances from w33’s Templar Assassin (12-1-4) and Miracle-‘s Arc Warden (9-4-12) helped the squad survive the surge from its opponent and reestablish control with an emphatic team fight win that shattered VP’s momentum and allowed Team Liquid to lock down a win to open the series. After the squad’s late-game heroics won its Game 1 of the series, Team Liquid proceeded to dominate Game 2, as the team jumped out to a lead early and never looked back. Behind an incredible showing from Miracle- on Weaver (16-1-14) and an impressive 29 assist effort from GH’s Tusk (3-5-29), Team Liquid was able to out kill VP 36-15 to secure itself a 2-0 series win and a chance to face off against Vici Gaming once again in the Grand Finals.

Said Grand Finals began about as well as they possible could have for Team Liquid, as the European squad put on a dominant show in the opening match of the series against Vici Gaming. The team out killed its opponent 43-23 in Game 1, with the team’s Carry/Mid duo of Miracle- on Anti-Mage (19-2-9) and w33 on Templar Assassin (7-2-21) putting together a pair of impressive performances to help Team Liquid establish complete control over the match to claim a solid win to open the Bo5 series. Unfortunately, the squad’s momentum from that initial win would quickly be lost, as Team Liquid was unable to replicate its prior success across Games 2 and 3. Over the course of those 2 matches, Team Liquid was out killed 36-58 and found itself playing from behind for the majority of both games. Although the European squad was able to hold its own through the early stages of both matches, the latter half of the games went decisively in its opponent’s favor, with Team Liquid recording just 7 kills beyond the 20 minute marks of the games. With nearly no presence in the mid and late-games stages, Team Liquid was left with little to work with as the squad took back to back losses to fall behind 1-2 in the series. For much of Game 4, is appeared as though Team Liquid was once again headed for a one sided loss, as the squad fell behind early in the match and struggled to find any path to a comeback. Despite trailing throughout the entirety of the game, Team Liquid’s defensive efforts did succeed in buying more and more time for the team to work itself into a stronger position. Eventually, the team’s patient defense proved too much for its opponent to handle, as Vici Gaming attempted to force the issue and ended up wiping itself out in a shocking team fight win for Team Liquid. With its opponent’s strength spent and no buybacks available, Team Liquid was able to march headlong into its opponent’s base to pull off a near impossible comeback that tied up the series at 2-2. Unfortunately, none of the team’s momentum from that shocking comeback win would carry over into Game 5, as Team Liquid was absolutely run over by its opponents in the final match of the series. Out killed 9-35 in that last match, no member of Team Liquid managed to record more than 3 kills, as the team fell behind early in the match and was not afforded any comeback opportunities this time around. Down by over 27k net worth by the 33 minute mark, Team Liquid somply could not hold back to advance of Vici Gaming, as the squad called “gg” to lose the series 2-3 and end its run at the Major with a 2nd place finish and a 13-8 overall record.

Team Liquid came into this final Major of the season with added incentive to display its strength on the Pro Circuit stage, as the team was looking to prove that the new version of its roster was capable of maintaining the squad’s position as one of the elite teams of the Dota 2 world. While Team Liquid had relied upon consistency for much of its strength over the past few years, the addition of w33 to the lineup was a move that the team hoped would push it over the edge as the squad prepared for TI9. Coming into the event itself, the new iteration of the roster was expected to represent itself well, with Team Liquid projected to finish in the 5th-6th place range. The new look Team Liquid roster managed to blow that prediction away though, putting together one of its strongest performances of the season to push all the way up the 2nd place position in the event standings with a 13-8 record. Right from the start of the event, it was clear that this new version of the squad was a force to be reckoned with, as the squad tore its way through the Group Stage with series wins over Gambit Esports and Evil Geniuses. The Playoffs only saw the team’s level of play improve, as the squad took back to back series wins over PSG.LGD and VP before being knocked into the Lower Bracket by Vici Gaming, only to take down VP a second time to earn a rematch against Vici Gaming in the Grand Finals. The squad more than proved its strength against some of the best teams in the Dota 2 world, with Team Liquid playing 18 of its 21 total matches against teams inside the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings and putting together a 11-7 record in those matches. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the team’s performance in Moscow though, was just how well adjusted it appeared to be with w33 in the lineup. The team’s new Carry/Mid duo of Miracle- and w33 combined to average 15.05 kills and 18.14 assists on 6.48 deaths per game, while the trio of MinD_ContRoL, GH, and KuroKy averaged 39.09 assists per game as well. The team certainly took a bit of a risk in making changes to a roster that had remained consistent for over 2 years, but the new version of Team Liquid appears to be as formidable and dangerous as ever, as it had built more a fair bit of momentum for itself to close out the season and prepare for a run at TI9 later this summer.

 

OG 425px-OG_RB_Logo

Place: 7th-8th

Winnings: $40,000 & 450 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 4-6 (1-4 Group Stage, 3-2 Playoffs)

OG came into this final Major of the season with a singular goal in mind: securing itself a direct invite to TI9. While the team entered the event inside of the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings, it had not secured itself enough Pro Circuit Points to be guaranteed that position by the end of the Major. Unfortunately, the squad was hit by some misfortune before it had even begun playing in Moscow, as team captain N0tail suffered an ailment that prevented him from playing in the event. Though team coach Sockshka stepped in to fill the team’s temporary roster vacancy, OG was faced with a inconvenient setback at the worst possible time as its direct invite status for TI9 was on the line at the EPICENTER Major.

OG’s first match up of the Major brought it up against Southeast Asian squad TNC Predator, but the European squad faced an obstacle before its matches even began in Moscow with the news that team captain N0tail would not be able to play in the first day of the competition. With the team’s coach serving as a stand-in, OG managed to put together an impressive performance in Game 1 of this series, remaining even through the first 20 minutes of play before turning in on in the mid and late-game stages. Behind an incredible performance from ana’s Ursa (22-2-12), OG was able to take control to claim a win in the opening match of the series. Unfortunately, the squad did not carry any momentum from that match into Game 2 of the series, as TNC Predator struck back hard in a way that OG was not even remotely prepared to handle. The team was out killed 9-38 in a complete stomp of a match that saw OG trail in terms of net worth from start to finish as it was handed a fairly straightforward defeat to tie up the series. Game 3 would not be nearly so one sided, as the two squad battled it out in a back and forth match that lasted a bit over 53 minutes of game time. The two teams traded the net worth lead 11 times over the course of the match, but it was OG that appeared to be in control late in the match thanks in large part to another noteworthy performance from ana on Morphling (16-8-10). Unfortunately for OG, it would not be able to close out the win, as the squad lost a key team fight in the final moments of the game that left it without buybacks and without any defenders as TNC Predator marched into its base to finish the match and hand OG a 1-2 defeat in the series.

That loss dropped OG into the Losers’ Match of Group D, where it faced off against PSG.LGD in a rematch of the TI8 Grand Finals. Unfortunately for OG, it’s performance came nowhere close to what it had managed to put together on the TI stage, as the team struggled from the very start of the series and never seemed to find its footing. Across the two game series, OG was out killed 27-73 by its opponent, and trailed in terms of net worth throughout the entirety of the series save for a few minutes at the beginning of Game 1. No member of OG’s lineup managed to reach double digit kills in the series, with the highest total across the series coming ana and Sockshka, who each had 7 kills across the two games. The pair of lopsided losses handed OG a harsh 0-2 defeat in the series, and locked the squad into the bottom position in the Group D standings.

The team’s somewhat poor run in the Group Stage had OG beginning the Playoffs of the Major in the Lower Bracket, where it faced off against Evil Geniuses in a Bo1 elimination match. With N0tail still out of commission, the team once again played with Sockshka as a stand-in. OG found itself playing from behind for the majority of the match, as the squad fell behind early and trailed by over 15k net worth in the late-game stage. Thanks to an incredible performance from ana’s Slark (14-3-8) though, OG was able to spark a comeback late in the match that wiped out its net worth deficit and allowed the team to claim a somewhat unexpected victory to keep itself alive in the Lower Bracket.

After dispatching EG in Round 1 of the Lower Bracket, OG found itself in for another tough challenge as it met up with Team Secret in Round 2. As it turned out though, the European juggernaut would prove to that much of a threat to the defending TI Champion, as OG put together a stunningly dominant showing against Team Secret. Across the two game series, OG managed to out kill its opponent 66-34, with OG leading in terms of net worth for nearly the entirety of both matches. With the Carry/Mid duo of ana and Topson combining for a stat line of 45-9-46 in the series, OG exerted complete control over every team fight and engagement to keep Team Secret on the back foot throughout the series. With those impressive performance leading the way, OG was able to secure itself a shocking 2-0 victory over the top ranked team on the Pro Circuit to advance to Round 3 of the Lower Bracket and secure itself a direct invite to TI9.

The team’s victory over Team Secret had guaranteed its a direct invite to TI9, but the European squad was hoping to push itself even further up the event standings as it faced off against PSG.LGD for the second time at the Major. Unfortunately for the European squad, the rematch would not go any better than its previous match up against PSG.LGD, as OG struggled right from the start of Game 1. Out killed 22-44 in the match, OG trailed in terms of net worth throughout the entirety of the game, as everyone other than ana faced significant issues finding farm and kills. Despite a solid effort from ana on Lifestealer (9-6-6), OG’s defenses were eventually broken to hand the team a 0-1 deficit in the series. Game 2 proved to be a much more competitive affair, as OG would remain even with its opponent throughout much of the match. Neither side led by more than 3k net worth over the first 25 minutes of the game, and with ana putting together another solid performance on Morphling (10-8-6) it appeared as though OG would at least have a chance to turn things in its favor in the late-game stage. As it turned out, the final minutes of the match would belong exclusively to PSG.LGD, as OG’s lineup suffered multiple team fight losses that wiped out any semblance of momentum for the European squad. With its lineup shattered by the significant casualty count, OG could not defend its base from the subsequent push from its opponent, opting to concede defeat to lose the series 0-2. That series loss at the hands of PSG.LGD ended the team’s run at the Major, with OG posting a 4-6 overall record while finishing in the 7th-8th place position.

OG came into this event looking to secure itself a direct invite to TI9, with pretty much any and every other possible goal being considered secondary to that objective. Coming into the event though, the team was expected to struggle, with OG holding a projection in the 9th-12th place range. With N0tail’s illness keeping him out of the lineup at the event, things looked even less optimistic for the European squad, but OG managed to prove the doubters wrong as it went 4-6 at the Major to lock down both a 7th-8th place finish and a direct invite to TI9. To be perfectly honest, the team’s run as a whole was not particularly impressive, but the important thing to note with OG’s performance at the Major was that it was able to secure wins when it needed them most. The squad stumbled its way through the Group Stage with a paltry 1-4 record against TNC Predator and PSG.LGD, but once the threat of elimination was added to the mix, the team turned things on the Playoffs. The team’s Bo1 victory over Evil Geniuses, combined with a 2-0 win over Team Secret were the absolute greatest highlights of OG’s run at this event, but outside of those two shining moments, the team struggled on the Pro Circuit stage. Of course, its hard not to struggle when one is facing off against the elite teams of the Dota 2 world while your captain is forced to sit on the sidelines, and in that light OG’s performance becomes incredibly impressive. Perhaps the best way to epitomize the story for OG at this final Major of the season is to look at the averages of two of its players at the event. On the one hand we have ana, who averaged 10.90 kills and 7.70 assists on 4.70 deaths to help lead this squad to a solid position in the standings. On the other hand we have Sockshka, who averaged 2 kills and 12.80 assists on 9.2 deaths per game, but was doing so on short notice in what were his first official matches in over 4 months. The squad dug deep and managed to stand strong while facing both in-game match ups and out of game issues that would likely have broken most other teams, and the reward for that tenacity and determination is a spot at the biggest event in the Dota 2 world at TI9 in Shanghai.

 

Gambit Esports Gambit Esports

Place: 7th-8th

Winnings: $40,000 & 450 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 7-6 (5-2 Group Stage, 2-4 Playoffs)

Gambit Esports came into this Major with aspirations of claiming 1 of the final 4 direct invite slots for TI9, but it was going to have to put together quite the performance at the event in order to do so. The team had shown itself to be capable of holding its own on the international level before, and the hope was that the team’s skill and experience, combined with the benefit of playing in front of a hometown crowd in Moscow, would be enough to push Gambit Esports into a spot in the field for TI9. Standing in its way though was a field full of some of the elite squads in the Dota 2 world, as well as a host of other teams also looking to lock down one of those final direct invite slots. With its eyes of success in this final Major of the season, the CIS squad looked to put together a strong enough showing to prove that it belonged on the stage at the biggest event in the Dota 2 world.

Gambit Esports began its Group Stage run with a match up against the new lineup of Team Liquid in the Opening Matches of Group B. Game 1 of the series did not go well for the CIS squad though, as Gambit Esports struggled to find any sense of momentum in what was a somewhat one sided affair to open the series. Despite a decent effort from Daxak’s Weaver (5-2-4), the team could not find its footing as it fell behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 would see the squad turn things around though, as the team held even with its opponent through the first half of the match before exploding with an impressive surge in the second half of play. Behind an impressive 23-8-36 stat line from its core trio of Daxak, Afoninje, and Afterlife, Gambit Esports dominated team fights in the mid and late-game stages and out killed its opponent 17-8 over the final 15 minutes of play to even up the series at 1-1. Despite that impressive victory in Game 2, Gambit Esports was unable to carry any momentum over into the third and final match in the series, as the squad struggled again in Game 3. No member of the squad earned more than 3 kills in the match, as Team Liquid was able to establish control early and never allowed the CIS squad an opportunity to mount an effective comeback effort as it handed Gambit Esports a 1-2 defeat in its opening series of the Major.

With its defeat at the hands of Team Liquid dropping it into the Losers’ match of Group B, Gambit Esports looked to bounce back with a match up against South American squad Infamous. Game 1 of the series saw the squad put together just the kind of performance that it was looking for, as the CIS squad dominated the match and led in terms of net worth throughout nearly the entirety of the game. With the Carry/Mid duo of Daxak’s Ursa (9-1-6) and Afoninje’s Shadow Fiend (8-3-7) putting in considerable levels of damage and the Support duo of Immersion’s Earth Spirit (2-9-16) and fng’s Bane (2-4-19) providing heavy lock down, Gambit Esports was able to keep its opponent on the defensive as it claimed a strong win to open the series. Game 2 would play out in a similar fashion for the squad, as it put together another strong showing to seize control early in the match. Behind a combined 19-6-33 stat line from its core trio of Troll Warlord, Templar Assassin, and Beastmaster, Gambit Esports was able to once again shut its opponent down in the second half of the match. The squad out killed its opponent 13-3 over the final 5 minutes of play to secure itself a win and a 2-0 sweep of the series.

After dispatching Infamous, Gambit Esports found itself facing off against Evil Geniuses in the Decider Match of Group B. As it turned out though, the CIS squad has absolutely no problems pushing past the North American juggernaut, as Gambit Esports put together a stunning and somewhat unexpected dismantling of its opponent. Across the two game series, Gambit Esports out killed its opponent 76-27, completely shutting down its opponent with back to back dominant performances. Leading the way for the squad was Afoninje, as the Midlaner managed to out kill the entirety of EG’s roster by himself with a combined stat line of 32-7-29 on Templar Assassin and Queen of Pain. With that incredible performance from one of its leading players spearheading the charge for Gambit Esports, the squad was able to secure itself a shockingly simple 2-0 sweep of Evil Geniuses to claim the second place position in the Group B standings and a place in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs.

Round 1 of said Upper Bracket saw Gambit Esports face off against Vici Gaming, but right from the start of the series it was clear that the CIS squad had bitten off more than it could chew with this match up. The squad fell behind immediately in the opening match of the series, and things only got worse from there. Across the two game series, Gambit Esports was out killed 10-45, and the squad trailed in terms of net worth throughout the entirety of both matches as its struggled to create any sense of momentum for itself. With every member of the team’s roster struggling in this series, Gambit Esports was unable to put up much of a fight, taking back to back blowout losses to suffer a 0-2 defeat in just over 59 minutes of total game time.

Though the team’s loss dropped it into the Lower Bracket, Gambit Esports still had a chance to continue advancing as it faced off against NiP in its second series of the Playoffs. As it turned out, the Minor Champion would not prove to be particularly difficult for the CIS squad to handle, as Gambit Esports put together an incredibly strong performance against its European opponent. The team out killed NiP 50-18 over the course of the two game series, dominating seemingly every major team fight and engagement to keep its opponent on the back foot. With Afoninje putting together a 18-3-21 stat line on Ember Spirit and Templar Assassin, and Daxak not recording a single death in two matches as Lone Druid (combined 11-0-29), Gambit Esports found itself in the driver’s seat for nearly the entirety of the series as it cruised its way to a 2-0 sweep of NiP.

With its victory over NiP, Gambit Esports advanced to the single most important series that it would play at the Major, as the CIS squad faced off against Alliance with the winner guaranteed to claim the twelfth and final direct invite to TI9. The series did not begin all that well for Gambit Esports though, as the team was absolutely run over in Game 1. The CIS squad found itself out killed 8-25 in the match, with 6 of those 8 kills coming from Afoninje’s Shadow Field (6-5-1). With the squad failing to secure itself many kills in the match, Gambit Esports trailed in terms of net worth throughout the entirety of the match before finally conceding defeat just short of the 32 minute mark to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw Gambit Esports put up a much tougher fight against its European opponent, as the two sides battled it out in a match that last more than 68 minutes of game time. Though the squad fell behind by as much as 13k in the late-game stage of the match, Gambit Esports was able to claw its way back to a relatively event footing in the second half of play, thanks in large part to a combined 22-19-42 stat line from its core trio of Troll Warlord, Templar Assassin, and Tidehunter. Unfortunately, those efforts weren’t quite enough to complete a full comeback, as Gambit Esports lost the pivotal final team fight and bowed out of the match to suffer a 0-2 defeat. That loss to alliance ended the team’s chances of earning a direct invite to TI9, with Gambit Esports closing out its Major run with a 7th-8th place finish and a 7-6 overall record.

Gambit Esports had been a team that we had seen solid results from in the CIS region, but the team had struggled to take that next step to become a consistent contender on the international level as well. With the season down to its final event though, the CIS squad was hoping to put together a strong enough effort on the Pro Circuit stage to snag 1 of the final 4 direct invite slots for TI9 in Shanghai. Prior to the start of the event, the team was expected to fall short of the mark to achieve that goal, with Gambit Esports projected to finish in the bottom half of the Major standings in the 9th-12th place position. The goods news for the squad is that it managed to beat out that prediction, as Gambit Esports posted a 7-6 overall record to finish in the 7th-8th place position. The bad news for the squad though, it that said 7th-8th place position was enough to push the team to 13th in the Pro Circuit Rankings, as the squad just barely missed out on earning itself a ticket to Shanghai. While the team’s final result wasn’t quite what it had been hoping for, it has to be said that Gambit Esports’ run at this event was incredibly impressive, as the team put together the kind of solid showing against elite opposition that we’ve been waiting to see from it for some time now. The squad went 5-2 in its Group Stage run, claiming series wins against Infamous and Evil Geniuses while taking an admirable 1-2 loss to Team Liquid. The team even managed to knock NiP out of the Major with a strong 2-0 victory in the Lower Bracket, before having its run finally brought to an end by Alliance in a do or die match for the final direct invite slot for TI9. Across the entirety of its run in Moscow, Gambit Esports played 11 of its 13 matches against teams that (as of the end of this event) are ranked inside the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings. In those 11 matches, Gambit Esports managed to put together a 5-6 record, and came just 1 series short of earning itself a direct invite to TI9. The team got solid production out of every section of its roster as well, with the Carry/Mid duo of Daxak and Afoninje combining to average 12.85 kills and 16.69 assists on 5.84 deaths per game, while the trio of Afterlife, Immersion, and fng averaged 37.92 assists per game. If the team can continue to get that kind of production moving forward, then it should easily be a favorite against its regional rivals as the squad must now prepare for a run through the TI9 Qualifiers.

 

Virtus.pro virtus pro new

Place: 3rd

Winnings: $100,000 & 2,100 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 11-7 (4-2 Group Stage, 7-5 Playoffs)

VP came into this final Major of the season as one of the top ranked teams on the Pro Circuit, as the CIS titan had proven time and time again that it was one of the strongest teams in the entirety of the Dota 2 world. With the team’s place in the field for TI9 already secured, VP did not necessarily have to concern itself with the specific outcomes of this Major, but that didn’t mean that the squad wasn’t looking to put together a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage. Not only did the EPICENTER Major offer the team a chance to test its strength one last time against the elite squads of the Pro Circuit, it gave VP the opportunity to potentially claim a Major Championship title for itself while playing in front of a home crowd in Moscow. With that in mind, the team made its way to this event with all the motivation it needed to put forth its best effort for one last run on the Pro Circuit stage in the 2018-2019 season.

VP’s Group Stage run began with a match up agaisnt the Minor runner up Alliance, and right from the start it was clear that the CIS squad was in for a challenge. Game 1 of the series went horribly wrong for VP, as the squad was completely overwhelmed and out played by its opponent. The team trailed in terms of net worth throughout the entirety of the match, and no member of the lineup earned more than 3 kills as VP was out killed 12-30 to suffer a defeat to begin the series. Game 2 saw VP pull out something interesting, as the squad opted for a last pick Meepo in the hopes of throwing its opponent off guard. With some strong performances from No[o]ne on said Meepo (9-6-9) and Ramzes666 on Juggernaut (10-5-13), VP was able to hold a net worth lead for almost all of the first 35 minutes of play. Unfortunately, the squad was unable to close out a win despite that long standing lead, as VP lost a crucial team fight late in the match that left it with no buyback and no defenses left. Alliance was able to march headlong down the middle lane to win the game and hand VP a shocking 0-2 defeat in its first series of the Major.

Though VP ended up being beaten down by Alliance in its first series of the Major, the squad still had an opportunity to bounce back as it faced Forward Gaming in the Losers’ Match of Group C. The CIS juggernaut wasted not time establishing itself in this series, as VP put together a dominant showing against its opponent in Game 1. The squad out killed Forward Gamign 25-13 in the match, with the duo of Ramzes666 and No[o]ne racking up a combined 14 kills and 24 assists without record a single death between them in what was a largely one sided victory to open the series. Game 2 would prove to be a little bit more competitive, though not by much. VP and Forward Gaming remained even with each other in terms of net worth for the first 25 minutes of the match, but beyond that point VP was able to take complete control of the game. With its core trio of Wraith King, Ancient Apparition, and Pangolier combining for a stat line of 27-8-50, and the Support duo of Oracle and Tusk racking up an impressive 41 assists, VP dominated fights in the late-game stages and completely out paced its opponent in the second half of the match to secure itself a 2-0 sweep of the series.

Following its dismantling of Forward Gaming, VP found itself in the Decider Match of Group C, where it would face Alliance for the second place spot in the group standings. The series began with a tough fight for both teams, as VP and Alliance battled it out in a match that lasted just under 66 minutes of game time. Though the game went on for some time, VP was the squad in control throughout the majority of the match, as the squad held a sizable net worth lead from around the 30 minute mark through the end of Game 1. With its core trio of Juggernaut, Queen of Pain, and Centaur Warrunner combining for a stat line of 31-15-66, and RodjER’s Enigma (10-4-21) contributing with an impressive performance as well, VP was able to keep its opponent long enough to eventually break through Alliance’s defenses to claim a hard fought win to open the series. After finally breaking through its opponent’s defenses in Game 1, VP was able to carry its momentum over into Game 2 of the series with a dominant showing against Alliance. Behind a pair of strong showings from Ramzes666 on Slark (10-0-11) and No[o]ne’s Ember Spirit (12-3-10), VP took control early and never looked back. The team out killed its opponent 31-9 in a massively one sided performance, claiming back to back victories to win the series 2-0.

VP’s first series of the Playoffs brought it up against a familiar opponent, as the CIS squad faced off against Team Secret for the sixth time at a Major this season. Game 1 of the series saw the two squads remain fairly even through the first 45 minutes of play, as neither team led by more than 7k net worth over that period. Eventually though, the stalemate between the two team was broken, as VP managed to pull away in the late-game stage behind a combined 25-11-53 stat line from its core trio of Sven, Dazzle, and Phoenix to open the series with a 1-0 lead. Game 2 proved to be another match in which the two squads would remain incredibly close for most of the game. Despite holding a net worth lead through the majority of the first 40 minutes of play, VP could never quite put its opponent fully on the defensive, as VP’s advantage never eclipsed the 6k mark over that time. Despite an incredibly impressive performance from Ramzes666 on Morphling (18-3-7), VP proved unable to maintain that advantage through the rest of the match, as Team Secret put together a late-game surge that wiped out VP’s momentum and handed the squad a loss to even up the series at 1-1. After a pair of closely contested, hard fought matches to begin the series, Game 3 ended up being a complete and total stomp, as VP simply ran over its opponent with a shockingly dominant performance. The team out killed its opponent 20-1 in just under 31 minutes of game time, demolishing Team Secret en route to a 2-1 victory in the series.

With its win over Team Secret, VP found itself moving on to another European challenger as it faced off against Team Liquid in Round 2 of the Upper Bracket. Unfortunately for the CIS squad, the series did not begin in the most auspicious fashion, as VP was completely blown out by its opponent in Game 1. Out killed 7-19 in less than 24 minutes of game time, VP could do little to slow its opponent down as the squad conceded defeat in lose the opening match of the series. While the squad stumbled in the first match of the series, VP would come back with a much stronger showing in Game 2, with the squad battling it out with Team Liquid in an incredibly tight match. Across the entirety of Game 2, the two squads traded the net worth lead 18 times, with neither side ever leading by more than 6k net worth. Even so, VP found itself on the defensive in the final moments of the match, as the team trailed its opponent in the late-game stage. Thanks to a combined 28-11-52 stat line from its core trio of Terrorblade, Ember Spirit, and Tidehunter though, along with a standout showing from Solo on Silencer (10-5-25), VP was able to turn the final team fights of the game in its favor to wipe out Team Liquid’s lead and claim a win to tie up the series at 1-1. Unfortunately for VP, its late-game heroics in Game 2 would not carry over into any significant momentum in the final game of the series, as VP fell behind early in Game 3 and never appeared to recover. The team was out killed 11-23 in the match, and trailed by as much as 16k net worth before conceding defeat just a bit over 22 minutes into the match to suffer a 1-2 defeat in the series.

Despite falling into the Lower Bracket of the Playoffs, VP still found itself just one series victory away from a guaranteed Top 4 finish at the Major, as the squad faced off against Alliance in Round 4 of the Lower Bracket. Game 1 of the series proved to be a fairly one sided affair, as VP got off to a strong start and led throughout the majority of the match. Behind an impressive performance from No[o]ne’s Death Prophet (13-1-7), VP out killed its opponent 29-10 to claim a relatively straightforward victory to open the series. For much of Game 2, it appeared that the two squads had swapped their roles from the previous match, as this time VP was the squad to fall behind in the first half of the match. Despite trailing by over 10k net worth in the mid-game stage though, the CIS squad was able to turn things around late in the match thanks to some strong showings from Ramzes666’s Sven (9-3-14) and No[o]ne’s Queen of Pain (14-5-13). Behind those performances, VP was able to turn multiple team fights in its favor, seizing the momentum of the match to lock down another win and a 2-0 sweep of the series.

VP’s victory over Alliance had pushed its into the Top 4 at the Major, but the CIS titan was looking to advance even further as it took on TNC Predator in Round 5 of the Lower Bracket. Game 1 of the series proved to be a fairly easy match for VP, as the squad took the lead early and never looked back. With Ramzes666 putting together an incredible performance on Weaver (14-0-14) and the Support duo of RodjER and Solo putting together a combined 42 assists on Shadow Demon and Spirit Breaker, VP was able to out kill its opponent 29-10 to lock down a victory in just over 25 minutes to claim a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 would not be nearly so easy for VP, as the squad remained even with its opponent through the first 30 minutes of the game before falling massively behind in the late-game stage. The surge from its opponent caught the CIS squad completely off guard, as VP fell behind by as much as 15k net worth after as series of disastrous team fights. Despite those struggles though, VP was able to keep its base relatively intact, and its ability to hold its defensive position allowed VP to significantly extend the match. The game itself lasted just under 66 minutes of total game time, and VP used most of the latter half of that period whittling away at its sizable net worth deficit. After slowly working its way back to an even footing, VP finally found itself opening, claiming a team fight victory in which it out killed TNC Predator 1-8 to claim a victory in the match and a 2-0 sweep of the series.

VP’s victory advanced it to the Lower Bracket Finals, where it faced off against Team Liquid to see which squad would be able to claim the last spot in the Grand Finals of the Major and a chance to take on Vici Gaming for the title of Major Champion. Game 1 of the series proved to be a bit of a struggle for the CIS juggernaut though, as VP trailed in terms of net worth for the vast majority of the match. After holding a modest lead in the laning phase of the match, the squad proceeded to fall behind in the mid and late-game stages. Behind an incredible showing from Ramzes666 on Terrorblade (14-3-9) though, the squad was able to put together a surge in the late-game stage, claiming a crucial team fight win that allowed the squad to take the lead in the final moments of the match. Unfortunately, the squad could not close out the game in spit of that lead, as the team lost the final team fights of the match to see its nascent net worth lead wiped out as VP was handed a defeat to fall behind 0-1 in the series. After having its momentum shattered late in Game 1, VP was unprepared for the onslaught that it would face in Game 2 of the series, as its opponent struck  fast and hard in the match. VP was out killed 15-36 in the match, with the squad falling behind in terms of net worth from the very beginning of the match and never finding any real opportunity to fight back against its opponent. Down by nearly 20k net worth by the 26 minute mark, and with every team fight attempt having failed miserably, VP opted to concede defeat to suffer a 0-2 loss that ended its run at the Major with an 11-7 record and a 3rd place finish overall.

VP came into this event as a squad that had already secured itself a place as one of the elite teams on the Pro Circuit, as the squad’s ticket to Shanghai for TI9 had been earned quite a long time ago. However, the squad was looking to test itself one final time on the Pro Circuit stage, as the team looked to claim its sixth Major Championship title on home soil in Moscow. Prior to the start of the event, the team was expected to be one of the main contenders for that title, with VP projected to to finish in the Top 4 range at the EPICENTER Major. While the squad didn’t end up reaching the Grand Finals of the Major, it certainly lived up to its pre-event expectations with an 11-7 record and a 3rd place position in the event standings. The team displayed the level of strength and confidence that we’ve long come to expect from it on the international level, with VP playing 14 of its 16 matches in Moscow against squads inside the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings and winning 9 of those 14 matches. The only sort of noticeable weakness for VP came in its performances agaisnt Team Liquid, as the CIS squad faced off against the TI7 Champion twice and put together a 1-4 record against the European squad. However, considering the fact that Team Liquid put together one of its strongest runs of the season at this event, it’s somewhat difficult to be very critical of VP for not being able to bring the squad down. As a whole, VP put together an impressive performance on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow, with the team drawing in significant contributions from every part of the roster. The Carry/Mid duo of Ramzes666 and No[o]ne combined to average 17 kills and 23.25 assists on just 6.18 deaths per game, while the trio of 9pasha, RodjER, and Solo put together an average of 46.77 assists per match. Though we’ve come to expect such performances from the CIS squad, it doesn’t make what VP was able to accomplish in Moscow any less impressive, as the team proved that it remains in top form heading into TI9.

 

PSG.LGD PSG LGD

Place: 5th-6th

Winnings: $60,000 & 900 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 9-7 (5-3 Group Stage, 4-4 Playoffs)

PSG.LGD entered this final Major of the Pro Circuit season as one of the strongest and most consistent teams in both the Chinese region and the international level. The team made its way to Moscow with its place in Shanghai for TI9 already secured, as the team’s direct invite status had been earned and locked in long before the start of this final Pro Circuit event of the 2018-2019 campaign. Even so, the Chinese powerhouse was likely looking to make a statement as it prepared for its curtain call on the Pro Circuit stage, as the team was presented with one last opportunity to display its strength against its fellow elite squads with the eyes of the Dota 2 world watching. This appearance at the final Major of the season allowed PSG.LGD a chance to test itself one more time before it officially began its preparations for TI9, as the team looked to claim the third Major Championship title in its history, and join regional rival Vici Gaming as a Major Champion in this 2018-2019 season.

PSG.LGD’s first opponent of the Major was Minor Champion NiP, and right from the start it was clear that the Chinese squad was in for a tough fight. Game 1 of the series was an absolute disaster for PSG.LGD, as the team was out killed 5-22 in a massively one sided match. No one on the team for PSG.LGD recorded more than 1 kills in the match, as PSG.LGD was forced to concede defeat in just under 26 minutes of play to suffer a rough defeat to begin the series. Game 2 would see the squad bounce back though, as PSG.LGD put together a dominant showing of its own as revenge for its Game 1 defeat. The team’s core trio of Ame, Maybe, and Chalice did not record a single death in the match, as PSG.LGD out killed its opponent 14-3 in just over 20 minutes to strike back at its opponent with an impressive victory to even up the series at 1-1. For the majority of Game 3, it appeared as though PSG.LGD had retained the control that it had established for itself in its Game 2 win, as the squad jumped out to a sizable lead in the final match of the series. In fact, PSG.LGD would lead in terms of net worth across the entirety of Game 3, with Maybe’s Alchemist (14-3-5) playing a large role in the squad’s ability to maintain its net worth advantage. While the held its lead throughout the match, said lead did not come without a cost, as PSG.LGD’s own defenses had suffered significant damage over to course of a 56 minute long game. Its opponent opted to take advantage of that damage, pushing down the middle lane in the final minutes of the match and forcing PSG.LGD into a defensive position. Despite its best efforts, PSG.LGD could not fully protect its Ancient, as its Tier 4 towers had already fallen in a previous assault from its opponent. Despite holding a 28k net worth lead at the time, PSG.LGD could not hold its opponents at bay, suffering a shocking defeat in the match and dropping the series 1-2 despite having held a net worth advantage for the entirety of the final match.

The team’s defeat at the hands of NiP put PSG.LGD in the Losers’ Match of Group D, where it faced off against OG in a rematch of the TI8 Grand Finals. This series proved to be far less competitive than those final though, as PSG.LGD dominated the match up and took advantage of the shorthanded OG lineup in a pair of lopsided victories. Across the two game series, PSG.LGD out killed its opponent 73-27 and led in terms of net worth for all but a handful of minutes in a near complete dismantling of OG. With the team’s core trio of Ame, Maybe, and Chalice combining for a stat line of 54-11-97 in the series, PSG.LGD had little difficluties sweeping away the meager defenses of its opponent en route to an impressive 2-0 victory in the series.

That victory set PSG.LGD up with a rematch against NiP in the Decider Match of Group D, with the squad fighting for the final position in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs. Game 1 saw the Chinese squad trailing over the first half of the match, as PSG.LGD faced a net worth deficit through the first 25 minutes of play. Despite the somewhat slow start, the squad turned things on in the latter half of the game, with the duo of Ame’s Slark (5-2-12) and Maybe’s Outworld Devourer (8-1-7) leading PSG.LGD to a series of team fight wins that shifted the momentum of the match and allowed the team to claim a win to open the series. Unfortunately for PSG.LGD, Game 2 proved to be an exact mirror of its predecessor, as the Chinese squad jumped out to a modest net worth lead in the first half, only to lose control in the second. Out killed 4-15 beyond the 30 minute mark, PSG.LGD had little chance of mounting any sort of comeback effort as the squad dropped Game 2 to tie up the series 1-1. Despite its stumble in Game 2 of the series, PSG.LGD came into the final match determined to get the better of its European opponent, and the squad did just that with a dominant showing against NiP. The team was quick to establish a lead in the match, and behind a combined 27-6-42 stat line from its core trio of Faceless Void, Leshrac, and Axe, it was able to hold that lead throughout the rest of the match to secure itself a straightforward win and claim the series 2-1.

That victory over NiP earned PSG.LGD a spot in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs, but the squad was in for quite a challenge as it faced off against Team Liquid in Round 1. Game 1 of the series proved to be a tightly contested affair, as neither PSG.LGD nor its opponent was able to build up a net worth lead of more than 4k through the first 35 minutes of play. Beyond that point though, things did not end up going well for PSG.LGD, as the team found itself out killed 3-10 in the final 12 minutes of play. Despite a solid effort from Maybe’s Ember Spirit (9-3-4), the Chinese squad could not put together any sort of comeback effort as its defenses were broken and PSG.LGD fell behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 of the series did not go particularly well for PSG.LGD either, as this time around the Chinese squad found itself falling behind fairly early in the match. The squad faced a net worth deficit of over 17k by the 26 minute mark, as its opponent was able to claim multiple team fight wins in the early and mid-game stages. Despite that rough start, PSG.LGD was able to pull things back in the second half of the match, with Maybe’s Outworld Devourer (12-6-8) leading a surge that saw PSG.LGD wipe out its deficit and even briefly take a net worth lead against its opponent. Unfortunately, the team could not fully sustain that surge, and one final team fight defeat in the final moments of the match shattered the squad’s momentum to hand PSG.LGD a 0-2 defeat in the series.

That loss to Team Liquid dropped PSG.LGD into the Lower Bracket of the Playoffs for a match up against North American squad Forward Gaming. From the very start of the series though, it was clear that PSG.LGD did not have all that much to fear from the North American squad, as PSG.LGD quickly established control over the pace of play. Across the two game series, the Chinese squad out killed its opponent 66-32 while leading in terms of net worth for all but a couple of minutes. With the team’s core trio of Ame, Maybe, and Chalice combining for a stat line of 55-16-74 in the series, PSG.LGD had little difficulty putting together back to back dominant performances to claim a 2-0 victory in the series and advance to Round 3 of the Lower Bracket.

Round 3 of the Lower Bracket would feature another rematch of the TI8 Grand Finals, as PSG.LGD faced off against OG for the second time in Moscow. Like the previous meeting between these two squads though, PSG.LGD was in control right from the start of the series. The squad jumped out to a big lead early in Game 1, with the squad’s Gyrocopter-Io strategy quickly out pacing its opponent. With the team’s core trio of Gyrocopter, Tiny, and Tidehunter combining for a stat line of 32-7-54, and the Support duo of Nyx Assassin and Io putting in a combined 49 assists, PSG.LGD found pick offs and team fight wins throughout the match to keep OG constantly on the defensive. After out killing its opponent 44-22 and going up by as much as 16k net worth, PSG.LGD finally broke through the defenses of OG to secure itself a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 proved to be a much more tightly contested affair compared to its predecessor, as PSG.LGD and OG remained fairly even in terms of net worth for most of the match. Throughout the first 25 minutes of play, neither team led by more than 3k net worth, as the sides remained stuck in a deadlock heading into the late-game stage. Fortunately for PSG.LGD, it would be the team to break that stalemate, as its core trio of Sven, Leshrac, and Legion Commander put together a combined stat line of 37-15-53 to break the game open. Over the final 6 minutes of play, PSG.LGD out killed its opponent 14-3 as the team locked down a 2-0 sweep of the series to continue its advance through the Lower Bracket.

Round 4 of the Lower Bracket brought PSG.LGD up against TNC Predator, and right from the start it was clear that the team was going to face a tough challenge from its Southeast Asian opponent. Game 1 saw PSG.LGD establish a small lead for itself over the first 20 minutes of play, but that lead quickly evaporated in the face of TNC Predator’s aggression. Despite getting an impressive effort out of Maybe’s Leshrac (11-6-12), PSG.LGD could not seem to counteract the rapidly growing momentum of its opponent, as the squad fell further and further behind over the course of the mid and late-game stages. Down by nearly 12k net worth and with all of its barracks destroyed, PSG.LGD opted to concede defeat as it dropped the first match of the series and fell behind 0-1. For most of Game 2, it appeared that the Chinese squad had gotten over the issues that had plagued it in the the previous match, as this time PSG.LGD was the team to dominate the mid and late-game stages. Behind another strong showing from Maybe on Ember Spirit (14-4-7), the squad led by as much as 14k net worth and appeared to have a commanding hold over the momentum of the match. Unfortunately, the squad could not contain the team fight power of TNC Predator’s lineup forever, as the Southeast Asian squad eventually found the team fight execution that had constantly eluded it in the earlier stages of the match. With no way to counteract that newfound team fight strength, PSG.LGD foundered, as its net worth lead and control over the pace of play were both wiped out by the comeback efforts of its opponents. A last ditch effort was made by the Chinese squad with the purchase of a Divine Rapier, but when that gambit failed, the squad threw in the towel to suffer a 0-2 defeat in the series that ended the team’s run at the Major with a 5th-6th place finish and a 9-7 overall record.

PSG.LGD came into this final Major of the season as a squad that had already proven itself to be one of the elite teams in the Dota 2 world. With the squad having earned itself a direct invite to TI9 earlier in the season, this last event of the 2018-2019 served as an opportunity for the squad to both pursue a Major Championship title, and test its mettle against the other elite teams on the Pro Circuit before its preparations for TI9 in Shanghai. Prior to the start of the event, PSG.LGD was looked at as one of the leading teams in the field for this event, with the Chinese powerhouse projected to finish in the Top 4 range. Unfortunately for the squad though, it fell a bit short of that prediction, as PSG.LGD posted a 9-7 overall record in Moscow to finish just below the Top 4 in the 5th-6th place position. The fact that PSG.LGD wasn’t quite able to reach the Top 4 at this event will likely come as a bit of a disappointment for the squad, but it isn’t a particularly unexpected result, as the same consistency that has been the team’s greatest strength also serves as something of a limiting factor for the squad on the international level. PSG.LGD had appeared at all 4 of the previous Majors this season, and across all of those events, the team had finished no lower than the 5th-6th position but had also failed to ever finish higher than 4th. Of course, consistently hitting the Top 6 at Pro Circuit events can hardly be seen as a weakness for a squad, but it could come as something of a concern for a squad that has aspirations of avenging its TI8 Grand Finals defeat and taking a second shot at claiming the Aegis of Champions in Shanghai. The team played 14 of its 16 total matches against teams inside the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings, posting an even 7-7 record against those squads. There’s honestly nothing wrong with that record, but if PSG.LGD wants to be able to contend for the title of TI9 Champion this summer, it would certainly have been more encouraging to see the squad break out of its ever consistent mold and put together an even stronger showing against the top squads in the field for this event. Then again, the squad found itself in a somewhat similar position last season heading into TI8, and managed to respond by putting together one of the most impressive performances of the entire event. With the squad’s lineup unchanged from that TI8 Runner Up roster, we should expect PSG.LGD to be one of the top contenders in the field for TI9 as the squad looks to make history on home soil in Shanghai.

 

Royal Never Give Up Royal Never Give Up

Place: 9th-12th

Winnings: $15,000 & 150 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 6-7 (4-3 Group Stage, 2-4 Playoffs)

Royal Never Give Up came into this Major as a squad that had fallen off of the radar on the Pro Circuit to a certain degree. After beginning the season looking like a potential contender in the Chinese region, the squad suffered a long series of setback and disappointments midway through the campaign before turning things around late in the season with the most recent iteration of its roster. The squad made its way to Moscow holding out hope for a push up the Pro Circuit Rankings, as the squad was looking to lay claim to 1 of the final 4 direct invite slots for TI9. In order to make that happen though, the squad was going to have to put together a truly impressive performance on the Pro Circuit stage, and would have to prove that it was capable of holding its own against some of the elite teams of the Dota 2 world in some incredibly high pressure scenarios at the Major.

RNG’s first opponent of the Major would be Southeast Asian squad Fnatic, and right from the start of the series it was clear that the Chinese squad was in for a challenge. Game 1 of the series proved to be disastrous for RNG, as the squad was completely blown away by its opponent. The team was out killed 7-27, with only 2 members of its roster recording kills in what was a massively one sided loss to open the series. For most of Game 2, it appeared that RNG was headed for a repeat performance, as the squad once again fell behind early and didn’t seem to be in a position to truly fight back against its opponent. This time around though, the Chinese squad was able to pull itself back from the brink of defeat, as the team’s core trio of Spectre, Templar Assassin, and Night Stalker combined for a 26-8-47 stat line to spark an impressive comeback late in the match. With a 10-2 kill run in the final 3 minutes of the match, RNG was able to miraculously turn the tide of the game to snatch an unlikely victory from the jaws of defeat and even up the series at 1-1. With momentum now on its side from its Game 2 victory, RNG came into Game 3 with a renewed sense of purpose and energy. After keeping even with its opponent through the first 30 minutes of play, RNG exploded in the late-game stage. Behind a strong showing from Setsu’s Outworld Devourer (14-3-8), RNG was able to claim back to back team fight wins late in the match that secured the squad a 2-1 victory in the series.

RNG’s impressive win over Fnatic advanced it to the Winners’ Match of Group A, where it faced an even greater challenge in the form of defending Major Champion Team Secret. The series did not begin in fantastic fashion for the Chinese squad, as RNG was blown out in the opening match of the series. Out killed 15-34 in Game 1, RNG had little in the way of momentum as it was completely shut down and on the defensive throughout the entirety of what ended up being a defeat for the squad. While Game 1 proved to be a quick and one sided affair, RNG would put up a much stronger fight in Game 2 of the series. Granted, the squad still ended up playing from behind throughout the entirety of that second match, but the team’s impressive defensive efforts helped to massively extend what appeared to be a fairly one sided match at first glance. Behind a pair of strong showings from Monet’s Lifestealer (17-7-14) and Setsu’s Death Prophet (12-11-21), RNG was able to push the match to a point just shy of the 68 minute mark, forcing a significant level of effort from its opponent before finally going down to take a 0-2 defeat in the series.

Despite falling to Team Secret, RNG still had an opportunity to claim a place in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs as it faced off against Fnatic for the second time in the Group Stage in the Decider Match of Group A. This time around though, RNG proved more than ready to handle its Southeast Asian opponent, as the squad put together a pair of impressive performances against Fnatic. Across the two game series, RNG out killed its opponent 68-33, with the duo of Monet and Setsu producing more kills in this series (47) than the entirety of the Fnatic roster. Behind those strong performances from the squad’s Carry/Mid duo, RNG ran roughshod over its opponent and held a net worth lead across the entirety of both matches in what ended up being a pair of one sided victories. That wins allowed RNG to claim a 2-0 sweep of the series, as well as a place in the top half of the Group A standings and a subsequent berth in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs.

Round 1 of the Upper Bracket matched RNG up against Southeast Asian squad TNC Predator, and right from the start of the series it was clear that the Chinese squad was in for a challenging match up. Game 1 of the series was disaster for RNG, as the squad was out killed 8-26 and trailed in terms of net worth for nearly the entirety of the match. No member of the team managed to earn more than 3 kills in the match, as RNG opted to concede defeat just shy of the 31 minute mark to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 proved to be a much more drawn out match than the previous one, as RNG and TNC Predator fought it out in a match that lasted over 76 minutes of game time. RNG found itself trailing for the vast majority of that time though, as the squad once again fell behind early and struggled to keep pace with its opponent. Despite trailing by over 24k net worth at one point, RNG continued to fight, with the team’s core trio of Leshrac, Outworld Devourer, and Night Stalker putting together a combined 24-20-46 stat line to spark an incredible hold inside of its own base and a subsequent comeback effort that wiped out its massive net worth deficit and allowed RNG to claim an improbable victory to even up the series. Those late game heroics forced and third and final match in the series, but RNG proved unable to carry any momentum over from its Game 2 win, as the team struggled in Game 3. The team once again fell behind early in the match, but this time around there would be no hope for a comeback as TNC Predator completely shut RNG down. Out killed 6-19 in just over 18 minutes of game time, RNG had little choice but to throw in the towel as the squad suffered a 1-2 defeat that dropped it out of the Upper Bracket.

After falling out of the Upper Bracket, RNG found itself facing off against Alliance in Round 2 of the Lower Bracket in a battle to determine which squad would be able to continue its quest for a direct invite to TI9. Game 1 saw the Chinese squad get off to an impressive start in the series, as RNG was able to take the lead early in the match and hold it throughout the rest of the game. While the efforts of its opponent served to significantly extend the match, a combined 35-17-55 stat line from the core trio of Chaos Knight, Broodmother, and Mars allowed RNG to keep its opponent at bay and withstand multiple late-game surges to secure itself a hard fought win in just over 64 minutes of total game time. From that point on though, things did not go quite so well for the Chinese squad, as RNG began encountering increased resistance from its opponent. Game 2 saw the two squads lock in a stalemate for the majority of the match, as neither side led by more than 3k net worth through the first 30 minutes of play. Unfortunately for RNG, that deadlock would be broken with a costly team fight loss, as Alliance was able to seize control in the final moments of the game to hand the Chinese squad a loss that even up the series. After losing control late in Game 2, RNG was unable to bounce back in time to put together a stronger effort in Game 3, as the squad fell behind its opponent early in the match and never recovered. Despite a solid effort from Monet’s Chaos Knight (8-6-5), RNG couldn’t put together a strong enough comeback effort to turn the tide of the match, as the squad went down 1-2 to bring its run in Moscow to an end with a 9th-12th place finish and a 6-7 overall record.

RNG came into the Major as a squad looking to make one final push before the end of the Pro Circuit season, as the squad was still in the race for 1 of the final 4 direct invite slots to TI9. Prior to the start of this event though, the odds weren’t looking all that good for the Chinese squad, with RNG projected to finish at the bottom of the event standings in the 13th-16th place position. The good news for RNG though is that the team managed to beat that meager prediction, posting a 6-7 record that had it finishing in the 9th-12th place position overall. The bad news for the squad is that said 9th-12th place finish wasn’t even close to enough to put the squad in contention for a Top 12 spot in the Pro Circuit Rankings and a direct invite to TI9. To be honest though, the chances of RNG actually earning itself a direct invite to TI9 were incredibly low, and the team itself probably knew that coming into this event. The more realistic goal for the squad was putting together a strong enough showing on the international level to have the squad and its fans feeling a bit more confident in the team’s abilities heading into the TI9 Qualifiers, in which the squad would face off against a field of its regional rivals. On that front, the team was certainly more successful, as RNG’s 6-7 record at this event put the strength of the team’s roster on display and showed us a bit more of what the Chinese squad is capable of on the international level. Considering the fact that 10 of the team’s 13 total matches at this event came against teams that entered the Major ranked inside the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings, RNG’s performance in Moscow should be seen as an encouraging sign for the squad moving forward. In terms of positives for RNG coming out of this event, the play of its Carry/Mid duo should also be seen as a source of encouragement, as Monet and Setsu averaged a combined 15.08 kills and 16.93 assists on 8.92 deaths per game across the team’s 13 total matches at the Major. With the trio of Flyby, Ah fu, and LaNm also averaging 38.55 assists per game at the event for RNG, the team appears to be trending in the right direction as it must now shift its focus to prepare for a run against its fellow Chinese squads in the TI9 Qualifiers.

 

Vici Gaming VICI_Gaming

Place: 1st

Winnings: $350,000 & 4,950 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 13-5 (4-1 Group Stage, 9-4 Playoffs)

Vici Gaming came into this final Major of the season as a squad that many considered to be the strongest team in the Chinese region, as the squad had been pushing in on the territory that was once solely possessed by regional rival PSG.LGD. Vici Gaming made its way to Moscow having already claimed one Major Championship title this season, but the chance to earn itself another title before heading back to China for TI9 was an opportunity that the squad was not looking to waste. The squad had already established itself as a force to be reckoned with on the international level, but one last successful performance on the Pro Circuit stage had the potential to truly put Vici Gaming over the top and cement the squad’s place as a favorite heading into TI9.

Vici Gaming’s first series of the Group Stage saw it face off against North American squad Forward Gaming in the Opening Matches of Group C. Vici Gaming wasted little time establishing a favorable pace for itself in Game 1 of the series, as the Chinese squad pushed out to an early lead and never looked back. Behind a pair of impressive performances from Paparazi灬 on Sven (8-2-13) and Ori’s Death Prophet (8-2-10), Vici Gaming was able to control fights throughout the mid and late-game stages to secure itself a fairly straightforward win to begin the series. Game 2 would see the roles reversed between the two squads, as this time around Vici Gaming would be the squad facing an early net worth deficit. After remaining fairly even through the first 20 minutes of play, its opponent exploded in the mid and late-game stages with a series of team fight wins that left Vici Gaming struggling to keep pace. Despite another solid performance from Paparazi灬 on Arc Warden (12-5-5), Vici Gaming could not mount an effective comeback, as the squad conceded defeat to even up the series 1-1. After the gut punch that was Game 2, Vici Gaming entered the final match of the series determined to exact its revenge., and it would do just that with a dominant showing against its North American opponent. Vici Gaming out killed Forward Gaming 26-7 in Game 3, with its core trio of Troll Warlord, Templar Assassin, and Centaur Warrunner combining for a stat line of 18-4-37 in what was a completely one sided victory that earned Vici Gaming a 2-1 win in the series.

With Forward Gaming dispatched, Vici Gaming turned its attention to a new challenger as it faced off agaisnt Alliance in the Winners’ Match of Group C. As it turned out, the European squad did not prove to be much of a threat to Vici Gaming once the matches actually began. Vici Gaming dominated the series against Alliance, out killing its opponent 61-26 across two total games. The Chinese squad held a net worth advantage for all but a handful of minutes across those two games, and its core trio of Paparazi灬, Ori, and Yang combined for a total stat line of 41-13-91 in the series. Behind those impressive performances from the squad, Vici Gaming had little difficulty keeping Alliance on the defensive, as the Chinese squad claimed itself an impressive 2-0 victory to lock down the top spot in the Group C standings and a place in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs.

Round 1 of the Upper Bracket matched Vici Gaming up against Gambit Esports, but the CIS squad did not prove to be much of a challenge for the Chinese side. From the very start of the series, Vici Gaming was clearly the team in control, as it established near complete control over the pace of play to out kill its opponent 45-10 in the two game series. Across those two games, Vici Gaming held the net worth lead for the entirety of the 59 minutes of total game time as it simply out played and overwhelmed Gambit Esports. With the duo of Paparazi灬 and Ori combining for a total stat line of 31-2-23 in the series, Vici Gaming secured itself back to back blowout wins to take an easy 2-0 sweep of the series as the team guaranteed itself at least a Top 6 finish in Moscow.

After brushing aside Gambit Esports in its first series of the Playoffs, Vici Gaming faced off against TNC Predator in what would be a significantly more challenging series for the Chinese squad. Game 1 saw Vici Gaming playing form behind throughout the entirety of the match, as its opponent was able to build up an early lead that it guarded closely throughout the rest of the game. While the efforts of Ori’s Death Prophet (5-1-8) helped the extend that match just past the 52 minute mark, it wasn’t enough to spark any sort of serious comeback effort, as Vici Gaming eventually fell to take a defeat in the opening match of the series. Game 2 began as a much different match compared to its predecessor, as this time around the two squads remained close through much of the game. Neither side led by more than 5k net worth in the first 40 minutes of play, as the two teams remained dead even heading into the late-game stage. Said late-game stage would prove to be the domain of Vici Gaming though, as the squad put together an impressive surge behind strong performances from Paparazi灬 on Sven (11-2-12) and Ori’s Sniper (12-4-17) that allowed the Chinese squad to seize control and even up the series at 1-1. Game 3 played out in pretty much the same manner, as the two teams once again remained even through the first half of play, only for Vici Gaming to take control in the second half. With Ori turning in another incredible performance on Death Prophet (11-0-9), Vici Gaming out killed its opponent 13-1 over the final 10 minutes to play to lock down a win and a 2-1 victory in the series to advance to the Upper Bracket Finals.

With its victory over TNC predator, Vici Gaming was just one more series victory away from claiming a place in another Major Grand Final, as the squad faced off agaisnt Team Liquid in the Upper Bracket Finals. Game 1 saw the Chinese squad put together a strong showing against the TI7 Champion, as the team held a modest net worth lead early in the match before blowing things open in the late-game stage. Behind another impressive showing from Paparazi灬’s Sven (13-1-9), Vici Gaming dominated the second half of the match to claim a victory to open the series. Game 2 saw the roles reversed between the two squads, as this time around Vici Gaming was the team to trail throughout the majority of the match. The Chinese squad found itself out killed 11-25, and trailed in terms of net worth from the 12 minute mark all the way through to the end of the match as it was consistently out played by its opponent in a fairly one sided defeat. That loss moved the series to Game 3, where Vici Gaming would bounce back from its prior defeat with a one sided performance of its own. Thanks in large part to a pair of strong showings from Paparazi灬 on Troll Warlord (15-1-12) and Ori on Medusa (8-2-14), Vici Gaming was able to out fight and out pace its opponent throughout the entirety of the match, out killing Team Liquid 29-14 to lock down a 2-1 victory and punch its ticket to the Grand Finals of the Major.

The Grand Finals series itself began in fairly poor fashion for Vici Gaming, as the Chinese squad struggled in the opening match against Team Liquid. Out killed 23-43 in the match, Vici Gaming fell behind early in the match and never managed to catch up despite a valiant effort from Paparazi灬 on Gyrocopter (9-2-10). With no prospects for a comeback, Vici Gaming was forced to concede defeat as it fell behind 0-1 in the series. Despite that initial defeat, Vici Gaming was able to bounce back with a pair of impressive performances over the next two matches, as the Chinese squad dominated Games 2 and 3. The team out killed its opponent 58-36 over those two games, completely dominating the mid and late-game stages of both matches with a combined stat line of 46-16-66 from its core trio to take a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 looked like it was going to be another dominant showing for Vici Gaming, as the squad jumped out to a massive net worth lead that it would hold throughout the entirety of the match. Unfortunately, the squad played things a little bit too slow with that sizable lead, allowing its opponent enough time to work itself into a more favorable position. By the time Vici Gaming finally attempted to break through its opponent’s defenses, it was too late, as the squad lost a crucial team fight while expended every single one of its buybacks. With no one left to defend its own base, Vici Gaming could do nothing to hold back the charge from Team Liquid as the series was evened up at 2-2. After blowing a massive lead in Game 4, Vici Gaming came into Game 5 determined to avoid the mistakes that had cost it the previous match, as the squad once again turned in an absolutely dominant performance to close out the series. The team out killed its opponent 35-9 in the match, with the duo of Paparazi灬 and Ori putting together a combined 26-0-22 stat line to lead Vici Gaming to a victory in the match that locked down a 3-2 series win for the Chinese squad and its second Major Championship title of the 2018-2019 season.

Vici Gaming came into this event as one of the strongest teams on the Pro Circuit, and within the Dota 2 world as a whole. However, the squad was looking to push its status and reputation even further, hoping that another strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage would be enough to cement itself a place among the favorites heading into TI9 later this summer. Prior to the start of the Major, the squad was expected to find that coveted success in Moscow, with Vici Gaming projected to finish in the 5th-6th place position at the event. As it turned out, Vici Gaming was able to push itself even further up the event standings, beating out its predicted result to finish in 1st place at the Major with a 13-5 overall record to claim its second Major Championship title of the season. The team was playing on another level throughout its run at the Major, as the Chinese juggernaut absolutely smashed its way past any obstacle that was put in its path. In fact, Vici Gaming actually managed to win every single one of its series on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow, with the team’s 13-5 overall record coming alongside a 6-0 series record. As always, the squad’s Carry/Mid duo managed to put together some start performances for the Chinese team, as Paparazi and Ori combined to average 16.84 kills and 19.67 assists on just 4.78 deaths per game. That duo weren’t the only ones playing at peak levels though, as the trio of Yang, Fade, and Dy turned in some incredible performances as well, averaging a combined 47.28 assists per match. Throughout the season to this point, Vici Gaming had proven itself to be one of the elite teams in the Dota 2 world, but this final victory on the Pro Circuit stage has served to push the squad to even greater heights. With the team now having claimed 2 Major Championship titles in a single season, it’s incredibly hard to view Vici Gaming as anything other than a significant favorite in the field heading into TI9. If the squad can play at a level even close to what we just saw from it in Moscow, then the team should be one of the most formidable squads in the field at the biggest event in the Dota 2 world as it prepares to contend for the Aegis of Champions on home soil in Shanghai.

 

TNC Predator Tncproteam

Place: 4th

Winnings: $80,000 & 1,350 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 9-6 (4-1 Group Stage, 5-5 Playoffs)

TNC Predator came into this event as a squad that we had seen a whole lot of on the Pro Circuit stage, as this appearance at the EPICENTER Major was its first Pro Circuit appearance since The Chongqing Major back in January. While the team had not been quite as active on the Pro Circuit in the second half of the season, it had continued to be a force within the Southeast Asian region and on the international level as well. With its recent successes piling up and veteran coach Heen added to the organization back in April, TNC Predator was looking to maintain its hold over its Top 12 place in the Pro Circuit Rankings and secure itself a direct invite to TI9. The task was certain to be a challenging one, but the squad was confident that its skill, experience, and veteran leadership would help it pull through in Moscow against some of the elite teams of the Dota 2 world.

TNC Predator began its run at the Major with a match up against a short handed OG, as the European squad was playing with a stand-in for the first day of the competition. TNC Predator found itself in for a challenge even with its opponent’s roster situation, as the Southeast Asian squad struggled in the first game of the series. Despite a solid effort from Gabbi’s Lifestealer (11-6-11) TNC Predator trailed throughout the mid and late-game stages of the match, trying and failing to put together a comeback effort before eventually being handed a defeat to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 saw the squad bounce back with an incredible performance though, as TNC Predator put together a dominant showing against OG. The team out killed its opponent 38-11, with the squad’s core trio of Sven, Outworld Devourer, and Batrider putting together a combined 37-5-39 stat line to fuel TNC Predator to an emphatic win to tie up the series. Game 3 would not be nearly as one sided as either of its predecessors, a TNC Predator and OG battled it out in a wildly back and forth game that featured 11 lead changes over 53 minutes of game time. TNC Predator began the match as the squad in the lead, but was forced into more defensive postures in the mid and late-game stages and trailed in terms of net worth later section of the game. However, a pair of strong showigns from Gabbi’s Sven (15-4-15) and Armel’s Templar Assassin (16-6-17) helped TNC Predator turn a series of fights in its favor late in the match, wiping out OG’s advantage and allowing the Southeast Asian squad to earn a hard fought 2-1 victory in the series.

After taking down OG, TNC Predator found itself facing another European squad in the form of NiP, as the two teams squared off in the Winners’ Match of Group D. Game 1 saw the Southeast Asian squad playing from behind for the majority of the match, as the team struggled to recover from a slew of early team fight losses. Despite trailing for the vast majority of the match, the team was able to keep itself within striking distance of its opponent, thanks in large part to a pair of impressive performances from Gabbi on Wraith King (10-3-16) and Armel on Dragon Knight (14-6-9). Behind that duo, TNC Predator was able to hand around long enough to mount a comeback effort in the final minutes of the match, pushing its way past NiP’s defenses to claim a gritty win in a match that lasted nearly 63 minutes of game time. Game 2 of the series would also be a fairly drawn out affair, but this time it was TNC Predator that was in control throughout the match. The squad jumped out to a sizable net worth lead early in the game, and managed to hold that advantage throughout the rest of the game behind strong showings from Gabbi’s Chaos Knight (11-5-20) and Kuku’s Mars (16-12-10), along with a 45.4k net worth performance from Armel’s Alchemist (7-4-28). Even with those strong individual performances lifting the team up, it took TNC Predator a bit of time to break through NiP’s defenses, as the European squad stubbornly held out in the hopes of mounting a comeback effort of its own late in the match. Eventually though, TNC Predator succeeded in breaking through, securing itself a 2-0 sweep of the series and the top spot in the Group D standings.

With its place at the top of its group standings, TNC Predator began the Playoffs of the Major in the Upper Bracket, where it faced off against Royal Never Give Up in Round 1. The Southeast Asian squad wasted no time establishing a favorable pace for itself in the series, as TNC Predator put together a dominant showing in Game 1. The team out killed its opponent 26-8, with its core trio of Sven, Ember Spirit, and Venomancer combining for a stat line of 22-7-38. Behind those performances, TNC Predator led in terms of net worth for nearly the entirety of the match as it claimed a one sided victory to open the series. Game 2 proved to be a significantly longer affair than its predecessor, as TNC Predator and RNG battled it out in a match that lasted just over 76 minutes of total game time. The Southeast Asian squad found itself leading in terms of net worth for the vast majority of that time, as the duo of Gabbi’s Chaos Knight (10-4-12) and Armel’s Lina (15-4-12) helped establish a sizable lead for the team. Unfortunately, the squad could not break through the defenses of its opponent, as RNG held its ground in incredible fashion and managed to spark a comeback effort that wiped out TNC Predator’s 24k net worth lead to hand the team a shocking defeat. While the late-game heroics of its opponent managed to extend the series, it could not fully hold back the momentum of TNC Predator, as the squad bounced back from its defeat to dominate the third and final match. Out killing its opponent 19-5 in that last game, TNC Predator was in control from start to finish as the team shut down its opponent to claim a 2-1 victory in the series and guarantee itself both a Top 6 finish in Moscow and a direct invite to TI9.

TNC Predator’s place in Shanghai for TI9 had been secured by its previous victory, but the Southeast Asian squad was looking to press on for even greater glory as it faced off against Vici Gaming in Round 2 of the Upper Bracket. The Southeast Asian squad was quick to strike as the series began, with TNC Predator jumping out to a sizable net worth lead in Game 1. Behind a combined 13-9-41 stat line from its core trio of Wraith King, Medusa, and Venomancer, TNC Predator was able to out farm and out pace its opponent throughout the match, building up a net worth lead o=f over 27k before finally breaking through its opponents defenses to claim a win in a little over 52 minutes of game time. After its dominant victory in Game 1, TNC Predator would experience difficulties pulling way from its opponent in Game 2, as neither side led by more than 5k net worth through the first 40 minutes of play. Despite a commendable effort from Armel’s Storm Spirit (13-6-5), the deadlock would eventually be broken by Vici Gaming, with TNC Predator largely unable to slow down the advance of its opponent as the squad suffered multiple team fight losses that shattered the team’s defenses and allowed Vici Gaming to tie up the series. Game 3 ended up being a near replica of its predecessor, as TNC Predator remained even with its opponent in the first half of play before losing control in the second. Out killed 11-24, only 2 members of TNC Predator (Armel and Gabbi) even managed to record kills in this match, as the squad simply could not match the strength of its opponent in the final 10 minutes of the match. Out killed 1-13 over those final 10 minutes, TNC predator was forced to concede defeat as the team suffered a 1-2 loss in the series that dropped it into the Lower Bracket.

TNC Predator’s first match up of the Lower Bracket saw the Southeast Asian squad face off against PSG.LGD, with the winner set to claim a guaranteed Top 4 spot at the Major. Game 1 of the series saw the squad trailing in the laning phase due to some early deaths and pick offs. Beyond that initial portion of the game though, the rest of the match was firmly in the team’s control, as TNC Predator dominated the mid and late-games stages. With Gabbi’s Bristleback (12-4-12) leading the way and the Support duo of Crystal Maiden and Spirit Breaker combining for 41 assists, the Southeast Asian squad was able to break through the defenses of PSG.LGD to open the series with a victory and a 1-0 lead. Game 2 proved to be a significantly tougher challenge for TNC Predator, as the squad fell behind by a rather sizable margin in the mid and late-game stages. The squad trailed by as much as 14k at one point in the game, as the squad struggled to bring the full strength of its team fight lineup to bear. However, the team eventually managed to find the right execution, with Gabbi putting in a solid showing on Juggernaut (12-2-14) while Tims near single-handedly pulled his squad back from the brink of defeat with multiple clutch Black Holes on Enigma (4-3-19). The team’s repeated late-game team fight wins allowed TNC Predator to turn the tides of the match in its favor, pulling off an incredible comeback win to secure itself a 2-0 sweep of the series.

That victory guaranteed TNC Predator a Top 4 finish in Moscow, but the Southeast Asian squad was looking to push for more as it faced off against VP in Round 5 of the Lower Bracket. That push would hit a brick wall in Game 1 of this series though, as TNC Predator was hit fast and hard by its opponent in the opening match. The team fell behind early in the game and struggled to keep up with its opponent, with TNC Predator earning just 9 kills in the match compared to the 29 from VP. Faced with a net worth deficit of over 14k just 25 minutes into the match, TNC Predator called an early “gg” to drop Game 1 of the series and fall behind 0-1. Game 2 began looking like a much more even affair, as the two squads remained separated by less than 2k net worth over the first 30 minutes of play. As the match shifted into the late-game stage, TNC Predator managed to blow the match wide open, putting together a series of team fight wins that helped it secure a sizable net wroth lead. Behind a strong showing from Armel’s Kunkka (7-3-10), TNC Predator appeared to be in a commanding position in the match, but the squad couldn’t manage to use its advantage to break through the defenses of VP. As the squad struggled to close out the match, the game continued to drag on, eclipsing the hour mark and coming out to just under 66 minutes of total game time. Unfortunately for TNC Predator, all of that added time allowed its opponent enough room to eventually mount a comeback, as the Southeast Asian squad suffered a crushing team fight loss in the final moments of the match that wiped out what remained of its net worth lead and handed the team a disappointing 0-2 defeat in the series. With that final loss, TNC Predator’s time in Moscow came to an end, with the squad having put together a 9-6 overall record to finish 4th in the event standings.

TNC Predator came into this event as a squad that had not made many appearances on the Pro Circuit stage in the second half of the season. However, the team had continued to maintain its status as a regional leader through strong performance in Southeast Asia, and had racked up some impressive performance on the international level as well in the latter half of the 2018-2019 campaign. Despite those strong performances, it wasn’t entirely clear whether TNC Predator would have the strength to go toe to toe with the lite teams of the Pro Circuit in this final Major of the season, with the team projected to finish in the 9th-12th place range in Moscow. That prediction proved to be incredibly off the mark, as TNC Predator put together a 9-6 record at the Major to claim its first Top 4 finish of the season on the Pro Circuit stage. Right from the start, it was clear that TNC Predator was stronger than many had been anticipating, especially the squads that the Southeast Asian team ended up facing off against. The team began its Major run with a pair of series victories over European squads OG and NiP to secure itself the top spot in its group standings. From there, TNC Predator ran a gauntlet of Chinese opposition, facing off against RNG, Vici Gaming, and PSG.LGD in its first three series of the Playoffs and coming away with two series victories and a 5-3 record against those teams. While the squad’s run was finally brought to an end by VP in its final series of the event, by that point TNC Predator had already pushed its way into the Top 4 of the event standings and had proven its strength against some of the elite teams in the Dota 2 world. In the process of doing so, the squad had also locked down its direct invite status for TI9, becoming the second confirmed Southeast Asian squad to earn a place in Shanghai for the event. Throughout the season to this point, TNC Predator had been a team that had relied heavily upon its Carry/Mid duo of lead it to success, and the team certainly got some star performances out of Gabbi and Armel at this event. The duo combined to average 18.20 kills and 22.67 assists on just 8 deaths per game across the team’s 15 total matches at the Major, representing a near unstoppable force for the squad on the Pro Circuit stage. What helped put TNC Predator over the top in this particular performance was the fact that the rest of its roster found ways to contribute as well, with the trio of Kuku, Tims, and eyyou combining to average an incredible 49.80 assists per game. Gabbi and Armel might have led the way for TNC Predator, but the squad as a whole managed to consistently find ways to contribute as much as possible to the team’s success. Star performances combined with consistent and balanced production across the lineup is has been the calling card of many successful squads in the Dota 2 world, and TNC Predator has to hope that it can continue to play at this level moving forward as the team now prepares itself for an appearance in Shanghai as the team will take its shot at becoming the first Southeast Asian team to ever claim the Aegis of Champions at TI9.

 

Fnatic Fnaticlogo

Place: 13th-16th

Winnings: $10,000 & 75 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 3-6 (3-5 Group Stage, 0-1 Playoffs)

Fnatic came into this Major as the top ranked Southeast Asian squad in the Pro Circuit Rankings, and the only squad from the region to have already secured itself a direct invite to TI9. With that being the case, the team didn’t particularity need to put together a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow, but the team had other reasons for desiring a positive outcome at the EPICENTER Major. Aside from the simple factor of pride from finding success against the other elite teams of the Dota 2 world, Fnatic was attempting to wipe away the memory of its previous Pro Circuit appearance, in which the squad put together an ignoble 13th-16th place performance at the MDL Disneyland Paris Major. The team came into this event hoping that it could put that recent stumble behind it, get back to its usual winning ways, and generate some valuable momentum for itself in the final Pro Circuit event of the season.

Fnatic began its run at the Major with a match up agaisnt Chinese squad RNG, and it did not take long for Fnatic to establish itself in its first series of the event. The team jumped all over its opponent in Game 1, putting together a dominant performance led by MP’s Leshrac (12-1-6) that completely overwhelmed RNG to give Fnatic a quick 1-0 lead in the series. For most of Game 2, it appeared that Fnatic was headed for a series sweep, as the squad once against pushed out to an early advantage that it held for the majority of the match. This time around though, the Southeast Asian squad proved unable to hold on to that lead, as RNG put together an impressive comeback effort late in the match that Fnatic was not prepared to counter. The team surrendered 16 kills in the final 9 minutes of play, as its net worth lead disappeared and RNG was able to turn the tides of the match to hand Fnatic a surprising defeat to tie up the series. With its momentum shattered in the wake of that Game 2 loss, Fnatic had a difficult time finding its rhythm again in Game 3 of the series. While the team managed to remain even with its opponent through the first 30 minutes of the match, Fnatic could not hold back another late-game surge from its opponent, as RNG was able to pull away with back to back team fight wins that broke Fnatic’s final defenses to give the squad a 1-2 loss in the series.

With that loss, Fnatic found itself in the Losers’ Match of Group A, where it faced off against South American squad paiN Gaming in its second series of the Major. Game 1 of the series proved to be a difficult challenge for the team, as Fnatic fell behind early in the match thanks to an aggressive style of play from its opponent. Despite trailing by a sizable margin in the mid-game stage, Fnatic was able to put together a surge in the late-game that briefly swung momentum back in its favor. However, that surge proved to be unsustainable, as Fnatic lost the final team fight of the match to lose its lead and the game and fall behind 0-1 in the series. After suffering that initial defeat, Fnatic was able to turn things around in the final two matches of the series, as the squad put together some impressive performances across Games 2 and 3. Out killing its opponent 53-29. the squad exerted a heavy level of control across the second half of Game 2 and the entirety of Game 3 to shut down its opponent. With MP leading the way for Fnatic with a combined 18-3-17 stat line one Morphling and Gyrocopter, Fnatic was able to secure back to back victories to claim a 2-1 win in the series.

That series win over paiN Gaming set Fnatic up with a rematch of its previous match up, as the Southeast Asian squad took on RNG for the second time at the Major. This time around though, the fight would be a bit more one sided than its predecessor, as Fnatic struggled against its Chinese opponent. The team found itself playing form behind across the entirety of the two game series, as RNG jumped out to big leads in both matches that Fnatic simply could not effectively fight back against. The team was out killed 33-68 in the series, and trailed in terms of net worth for all 71 minutes of the series in what was an incredibly surprising pair of blowout losses. Those losses handed Fnatic a rough 0-2 loss in the series, and locked the team into the 3rd place position in the Group A standings and a spot in the Lower Bracket of the Playoffs.

Round 1 of said Lower Bracket saw the Southeast Asian squad face off against Forward Gaming in a Bo1 elimination match, but right from the start it was clear that this was not going to be a particularly competitive match. Fnatic recorded just a single kill across the entirety of the game, and trailed in terms of net worth from start to finish in what was an alarmingly poor showing against its North American opponent. Out killed 1-36, Fnatic never came even remotely close to mounting anything resembling a comeback effort, as the squad was beaten around by its opponent by finally conceding defeat just shy of the 31 minute mark to suffer a defeat in the Bo1 series. That loss brought the team’s run in Moscow to an end, with Fnatic finishing in the 13th-16th place position with a 3-6 overall record.

Fnatic came into this event looking to close out its season on a high note, and also to put together a strong enough showing to make most people forget about its poor performance in the previous Major. Prior to the start of this event, it was believed that Fnatic would do just that, as the squad was projected to finish in the 7th-8th place range in Moscow. Unfortunately for Fnatic, it would not come even remotely close to that kind of performance, as the Southeast Asian leader turned in an alarmingly poor showing at this Major before finishing at the bottom of the event standings in the 13th-16th place position. The team simply did not appear to playing at the level that we had seen from its earlier this season, as Fnatic struggled significantly throughout its Major run. The team fell apart in the late-game stage multiple times in its 5 matches agaisnt RNG (going 1-4 across those matches), and needed a full 3 games to bring down a paiN Gaming squad that it was considered to be significantly favored against. Even with that somewhat underwhelming Group Stage performance, Fnatic had an opportunity to salvage things in the Playoffs, but its complete dismantling at the hands of Forward Gaming in its Bo1 elimination match put an end to any of those hopes. Across the team’s 9 total matches at the Major, Fnatic found itself out killed 178-238, but the biggest problem for the squad truly was its lack of execution in the late-game stage. In 4 of its 9 matches, Fnatic was faced with a situation in which itself and its opponent were separated by less than 5k net worth just 5 minutes before the end of the game, with Fnatic failing to claim a win in any of those scenarios. The squad simply could not be counted on to perform in high pressure situations, and even the members of the team that Fnatic could usually depend on for consistent production fell oddly silent in this event. The duo of MP and Abed, who to this point in the season were averaging a combined 15.27 kills and 20.55 assists on 6.10 deaths, averaged just 10.33 kills and 14.67 assists on 9.11 deaths in this Major. Considering the fact that Fnatic has already earned itself a direct invite to TI9, this poor performance is not quite as disastrous as it could have been. However, the Southeast Asian squad’s stumbles in back to back Pro Circuit appearances certainly open the door for a potential challenger to come through, as Fnatic will need to put in some serious work in the pre-TI period to fix the issues that have plagued it in back to back Major appearances.

 

Forward Gaming Forward Gaming

Place: 9th-12th

Winnings: $15,000 & 150 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 2-6 (1-4 Group Stage, 1-2 Playoffs)

Forward Gaming came into this Major as one of hte squads hoping to make one last push up the Pro Circuit Rankings, in the hopes of claiming 1 of the final 4 direct invite slots to TI9. While the team’s play on the international level had not always been the most consistent in this 2018-2019 season, the squad was hoping that this most recent iteration of its lineup would prove capable of finding more success than the organization’s previous roster. If the team wasn’t able to put together a strong enough showing to contend for a direct invite to TI9 though, Forward Gaming’s other goal was to simply display its strength on the international level and potentially build up a sense of confidence and momentum for itself heading into the upcoming TI9 qualifiers.

Forward Gaming began its run at the Major with a tough challenge, as the North American squad faced off against Vici Gaming in the Opening Matches of Group C. The series did not begin in the most auspicious of fashions for the Forward Gaming, as the squad found itself playing from behind for the vast majority of Game 1. No member of the squad managed to earn more than 4 kills in the match, as the North American side was out killed 13-24 in a relatively one sided match that handed the team a loss and a 0-1 deficit to begin the series. Despite the rough start, Forward Gaming bounced back with an impressive performance in Game 2 of the series, as this time the North American squad was the one in control. Behind a herculean effort from YawaR’s Sven (20-2-11), Forward Gaming dominated the second half of the match with a series of team fight wins that put the team ahead by as much as 24k net worth before its opponent eventually bowed out to even up the series at 1-1. Unfortunately for Forward Gaming, it would not be able to carry over much momentum from that Game 2 victory, as the squad was absolutely run over in the final match of the series. Game 3 went about as poorly as possible for the North American squad, with the team being out killed 7-26 in the match. Forward Gaming did not manage to record a single kill beyond the 15 minutes mark of this match, and ended up calling “gg” just shy of the 29 minute mark to take a 1-2 defeat in the series.

The team’s defeat at the hands of Vici Gaming dropped Forward Gaming into the Losers’ Match of Group C, where it would face another incredibly tough challenge in the form of CIS titan VP. The series did not get off to a great start for the North American squad, as Forward Gaming was significantly out played in Game 1. No member of the team recorded more than 4 kills in the match, and the team as a whole was out killed 13-25 as it trailed in terms of net worth for all but a few minutes in a fairly one sided defeat. Game 2 saw the North American squad put up a somewhat stronger fight, as the team actually managed to hold a net worht lead over most of the first 25 minutes of the match thanks in large part to the efforts for Sneyking’s Bristleback (8-5-10). Unfortunately, the team proved unable to sustain that momentum through the second half of the game, as Forward Gaming faltered in the face of VP’s strength and fell behind massively in terms of net worth. The North American squad could not manage to put together any sort of cohesive comeback effort as its defenses were broken down to hand Forward Gaming a 0-2 loss in the series and the bottom spot in the Group C standings.

With its finish in the bottom half of its group standings, Forward Gaming began its Playoff run in the Lower Bracket, where it faced off against Southeast Asian squad Fnatic in a Bo1 elimination match. As it turned out, the North American side came ready to play in this single match, as Forward Gaming absolutely clobbered Fnatic with a shockingly dominant performance. The team out killed its opponent by an absurd 36-1 margin, taking the lead at the very beginning of the match and never looking back in a complete stomp of a game. The squad’s core trio of Lifestealer, Ember Spirit, and Spirit Breaker combined for a stat line of 30-0-48, while the team as a whole racked up 85 total assists on 36 kills to claim an emphatic win that kept its run at the Major alive.

With its victory over Fnatic, Forward Gaming moved out of the dreaded Bo1 matches, but it wasn’t out of the woods just yet as the North American squad faced off against TI8 Runner Up PSG.LGD in Round 2 of the Lower Bracket. Right from the start of the series though, it was clear that Forward Gaming was in for a challenge, as the team struggling significantly against its opponent. Over the course of the two game series, Forward Gaming found itself out killed 32-66, as the squad simply could not find a way to control team fights in either match. The difference in kills naturally led to a net worth deficit for Forward Gaming, as the team trailed its opponent for all but a handful of minutes across a series that lasted a little under 77 minutes of game time. Despite the squad’s efforts, Forward Gaming never really much of an opportunity to get itself into a competitive position in either match, as the North American squad suffered a 0-2 defeat that brought its run at the Major to an end with a 9th-12th place finish and a 2-6 overall record.

Forward Gaming came into this final Major of the season as a squad that had struggled to find results on the international level. With both its current and previous rosters, Forward Gaming’s play away from the North American region had never been particularly strong or consistent in this 2018-2019 campaign. The EPICENTER Major offered the squad one last chance to change that though, with the North American squad holding on to hope that it could put together a strong enough performance in Moscow to push its way up the Pro Circuit Rankings to claim 1 of the final 4 direct invite slots for TI9. Prior to the start of the event, the expectations were incredibly low for Forward Gaming, as the squad was projected to finish at the bottom of the event standings in the 13th-16th place position. The good news for Forward Gaming was that it managed to beat that prediction, with the team posting a 2-6 overall record to finish a tier above that in the 9th-12th place range. The bad news for the team though, is that said 9th-12th place finish was not enough for the squad to earn itself a place in the Top 12 of the Pro Circuit Rankings. While coming up short of its goal will obviously be a disappointment for the North American squad, Forward Gaming’s performance in Moscow managed to exceed the, admittedly low, expectations that had been set for the team, especially when one considers just how strong the opposition that Forward Gaming faced was. The squad played a total of 8 matches at the Major, with all 8 of them coming against teams that entered the Major ranked at least 6th in the Pro Circuit Rankings (VP – 2nd, Vici Gaming – 4th, PSG.LGD – 5th, Fnatic – 6th). Very few teams in the Dota 2 world could be expected to find any measure of success against a lineup of opponent like that, and for Forward Gaming to earn even the 2 wins that it did at this event is certainly more than was expected of it. With that in mind, the squad will likely walk away from this even with some degree of disappointment, but also a measure of encouragement and confidence that it can continue to improve itself in the time between now and the start of the TI9 Qualifiers in just a little under 2 weeks.

 

Evil Geniuses Evil Geniuses

Place: 13th-16th

Winnings: $10,000 & 75 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 3-5 (3-4 Group Stage, 0-1 Playoffs)

EG came into this Major in an incredibly favorable position, as the North American squad had already secured itself a direct invite to TI9 this summer. However, the team still came into this event with aspirations of finding success on the Pro Circuit stage, as EG hoped to display its strength on the international level one last time before TI9 with the eyes of the Dota 2 world watching. On top of that was the opportunity for the squad to finally claim its first Major Championship title in the organization’s history, as the North American squad has turned in multiple Top 4 finishes over the past 2 season but had never been able to make it to a 1st place position. With that goal in mind, EG made its way to Moscow looking to put together one final strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage to close out the 2018-2019 campaign.

EG began its run in Moscow with a match up against South American squad Infamous, and the team would waste little time establishing itself as the one in control of the match up. EG put together a pair of one sided performances against its opponent in this series, out killing Infamous 56-25 while the team’s Carry/Mid duo of Arteezy and Suma1L combining for a stat line of 37-7-38 across the 2 matches. Behind those strong performances, EG was able to hold the net worth lead for all but a handful of minutes in the series, keeping Infamous on the defensive across the entirety of the series and giving its opponent no real opportunities to establish any sense of momentum in what was a relatively quick and easy 2-0 sweep to begin the Group Stage.

With that win over Infamous, EG found itself one series win away from the top spot in the Group B standings, but it would have to get past Team Liquid in the Winners’ Match in order to do so. At the beginning of the series, that task didn’t appear to be overly difficult for the North American squad, as EG rolled its way past Team Liquid with a Game 1 win in which the team out killed its opponent 32-16 and held a net worht lead from the 10 minute mark all the way through the end of the match. However, the momentum from that initial victory would soon disappear, as EG proved unprepared to handle the counter attack that its opponent would unleash. Across Games 2 and 3 of the series, EG was completely overwhelmed, as the squad found itself out killed 21-73 over the course of those final 2 matches. The team trailed in terms of net worth for the entirety of both games, with only one member of the roster reaching double digit kills across the two matches combined as EG suffered a 1-2 defeat in the series.

Though the squad lost to Team Liquid in the Winners’ Match of its group, EG still had a shot at claiming a place in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs as it faced off against Gambit Epsorts in the Decider Match. Unfortunately for the North American squad, that series would prove to be an unmitigated disaster, as EG struggled to a shocking degree against its opponent. The team trailed in terms of net worth for the vast majority of the two game series, as EG had significant difficulties generating any sense of momentum for itself against Gambit Esports. Out killed 27-76 over the course of the series, the team simply didn’t have the strength or execution to out fight its opponent in a pair of relatively one sided losses. Said losses handed Evil Geniuses a surprising 0-2 defeat in the series, as the squad finished its Group Stage run in the bottom half of the Group B standings.

Round 1 of the Lower Bracket would through quite a challenge EG’s way, as the North American squad faced off agaisnt defending TI Champion OG in a Bo1 elimination match. EG wasted no time jumping out to an early lead in the game, with the team building up a sizable net worth lead behind a pair of strong showings from Arteezy on Juggernaut (9-2-15) and Suma1L’s Alchemist (14-4-11). Despite holding a net worth lead of over 15k though, the squad proved unable to close out the match, as OG’s defenses held strong throughout the match. In fact, EG found itself as the squad suffering damage to its own base, as the team’s net worth lead was wiped away by an impressive comeback effort form its opponent. The team attempted one final team fight in the hopes of reclaiming momentum for itself, but when that fight resulted in failure, EG was forced to concede defeat to lose the match and end its run at the Major with a 13th-16th place finish and a 3-5 overall record.

EG came into this final Major of the season as a team that had already secured itself a place at TI9 this summer, but the squad was still looking to put together one more impressive performance on the Pro Circuit stage, and potentially even claim the organization’s first ever Major Championship title. Prior to the start of play in Moscow, the North American leader was seen as one of the stronger squads in the field, with EG projected to finish in the Top 4 range and compete for that coveted Major Championship title. Unfortunately for EG, the squad would fall almost inconceivably short of that prediction, and in this instance the word “plummet” seems more appropriate than “fall” considering just how poorly the squad performed. The team put together a 3-5 overall record in Moscow that had it finishing all the way at the bottom of the event standings in the 13th-16th place position. Prior to this event, the team had never finished any lower than the 7th-8th place position at any event throughout the entirety of the 2018-2019 season. The team’s run at the Major began looking fairly strong, as the squad was able to dispatch Infamous with relative ease. Beyond that though, all sense of confidence and momentum seemed to desert the squad, as EG lost 1-2 to Team Liquid and 0-2 to Gambit Esports before losing its final Bo1 match against an OG squad playing without its captain. Overall, the team dropped its final 5 matches of the Major, and was out killed 80-179 over the course of those 5 games as the squad struggled to find its footing. The silver lining for the squad was that it was still able to get relatively strong performances from its Carry/Mid duo, as Arteezy and Suma1L combined to average 13.01 kills and 16 assists on 8.38 deaths per game. The rest of the roster was not quite as fortunate, as the trio of s4, Cr1t-, and Fly managed to average 39.26 assists but did so while racking up 19.51 deaths per game as well. For a squad that traditionally relies upon that Carry/Mid duo for the majority of its production, the numbers from this performance would imply a singular stumble or setback as opposed to the start of a real decline for the North American squad. That being said, this incredible disappointing performance to close out the season will put EG in a position where it may have one or two questions to answer heading into TI9.

 

paiN Gaming paiN Gaming alt

Place: 13th-16th

Winnings: $10,000 & 75 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 1-5 (1-4 Group Stage, 0-1 Playoffs)

Technically speaking, paiN Gaming came into this final Major of the Pro Circuit season with a shot at earning itself a Top 12 spot in the Pro Circuit Rankings and claiming 1 of the final 4 direct invite slots to TI9 in Shanghai. In order to do that though, the team needed to put together an incredibly strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow, with paiN Gaming needing to finish in at least the 5th-6th place position to even have a shot at that scenario. While the team obviously came into this event with that kind of performance as its goal, expectations were not quite so high for the South American squad. Even if paiN Gaming couldn’t put together a strong enough run to threaten for a direct invite to TI9 though, the squad had an opportunity to put its strength on display and build up some much needed momentum heading into a potential run through the TI9 Qualifiers.

The South American squad found itself in for quite the challenge to begin its Major run, as paiN Gaming faced off against defending Major Champion Team Secret in the Opening Matches of Group A. The series did not go particularity well for paiN Gaming, as the squad found itself immediately playing from behind in Game 1 of the series. Despite trailing in terms of net worth for nearly the entirety of the match though, a pair of impressive performances from 4dr’s Ember Spirit (10-4-15) and Mandy’s Naga Siren (9-4-11) allowed paiN Gaming to at least extend the match and delay its defeat for a significant amount of time. Once the team’s final defenses had fallen though, it was the end of all resistance from paiN Gaming, as the squad’s defeat in Game 1 led to an absolute collapse in Game 2. No member of the squad earned more than 2 kills in that second match, with paiN Gaming being out killed 7-22 and conceding defeat in less than 27 minutes to suffer a 0-2 sweep of the series.

After dropping its initial series of the Major, paiN Gaming found itself matching up against Fnatic in the Losers’ Match of Group A. Unlike in its previous series, paiN Gaming was able to get off to a solid start against Fnatic, as the Brazilian squad turned in an impressive performance in Game 1. Behind a combined 30-13-50 stat line from its core trio of Juggernaut, Ember Spirit, and Mars, the squad established a sizable net worth lead early and managed to maintain it throughout the majority of the match. After enduring a late-game surge from its opponent that briefly saw it lose that net worth advantage, paiN Gaming was able to right the ship to secure itself its first win of the Major and a 1-0 lead in the series. Unfortunately, the rest of the series would not go so well for the South American squad, as Fnatic proved itself to be a hard squad to keep down. A lengthy stalemate in Game 2 of the series was eventually broken after 40 minutes of play, with paiN Gaming being the first squad to crumble despite an admirable performance from 4dr’s LIna (8-6-7) and a combined 35 assists from Thiolicor and 444 on Phoenix and Spirit Breaker, respectively. After losing out late in the match like that, paiN Gaming’s momentum was shattered as it entered Game 3, with the South American squad struggling in the final match of the series. Out killed 6-20 in a little over 25 minutes of play, paiN Gaming was completely overwhelmed by its opponent as no member of the squad earned more than 3 kills in the match. The back to back losses wiped away the initial momentum from the team’s Game 1 victory, as paiN Gaming suffered a rough 1-2 defeat to finish the Group Stage at the bottom of the Group A standings.

The team’s second defeat of the Group Stage meant that paiN Gaming would begin its Playoff run in the Lower Bracket, where it was in for yet another tough challenge in the form of a match up agaisnt NiP in a Bo1 elimination game. Through the first half of that elimination game though, paiN Gaming appeared to be holding its own, as the squad held a minuscule net worth lead early on as neither team led by more than 4k net worth in the first 30 minutes of play. Beyond that point though, things took a bit of a downward turn for paiN Gaming, as the squad found itself significantly out played in the second half of the match. Despite a solid effort from 4dr on Queen of Pain (8-6-6), paiN Gaming was out killed 9-19 from the 30 minute mark through the end of the match, as the squad could do little to fight off the advance of its opponent. With all of its barracks taken and a net worth deficit of over 28k staring it in the face, paiN Gaming conceded defeat to bring its run at the Major to an end with a 13th-16th place finish and a 1-5 overall record.

paiN Gaming came into this event as a bit of a long shot to contend for 1 of the 4 remaining direct invite slots for TI9, but the squad still had a shot at earning itself that coveted position based upon its performance in Moscow. Prior to the start of the event though, the team was not expected to come even close to the kind of finish that it would need to claim that direct invite, with the Brazilian squad projected to finish in the 13th-16th place range at the Major. As it turned out, that prediction proved spot on, as paiN Gaming put together  just a 1-5 overall record at the event to finish at the bottom of the standings on the Pro Circuit stage. While the team’s 1-5 record looks pretty bad for paiN Gaming, the somewhat poor showing from the squad should not be considered much of a shock considering the teams that paiN Gaming had to face off against. All 5 of the team’s matches at the Major pit the squad up against a team currently inside the Top 12 in the Pro Circuit Rankings and already guaranteed a direct invite to TI9 (Team Secret – 1st, Fnatic – 7th, and NiP – 8th). While paiN Gaming has shown us some encouraging signs of its strength on the home front, nothing that it had put together on the international level gave us any real indications that it would be able to find success against some of the Dota 2 world’s elite squads. In that regard, its poor showing on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow is hardly surprising development for paiN Gaming, but it still comes as a slightly disappointing one for the South American squad. The teams last chance in this 2018-2019 season to show the Dota 2 world its strength on the international level has now come and gone, but paiN Gaming has little time to dwell on its performance at this event. With the TI9 Qualifier right around the corner, the squad must now shift its focus to making sure that it is as prepared as possible to contend with its regional rivals as it will once again be put in a fight for a spot at TI9 in Shanghai.

 

Infamous LOGO-INFAMOUS-COMERCIAL

Place: 13th-16th

Winnings: $10,000 & 75 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 0-5 (0-4 Group Stage, 0-1 Playoffs)

Infamous came into the final Major of the season as a squad that had gone through a ridiculous number of roster changes in this 2018-2019 campaign, but the squad was hoping that this last iteration of its roster could find success on the Pro Circuit stage in Moscow. The team still technically had a shot at earning itself a direct invite to TI9, but considering the kind of performance that the squad needed to put together to reach that goal, it seemed to be a bit of a long shot for Infamous. That being said, the team still had an opportunity to show the strength of its new lineup on the international level, and potentially generate some momentum for itself to get some kind of edge over its regional rivals heading into a probable TI9 Qualifier run.

The Opening Matches of Group B saw Infamous take on North American titan Evil Geniuses, and very early on it was clear that Infamous was not up to the challenge. The team was able to hold its own across the first 20 minutes or so of Game 1, but beyond that point the series turned against the team rather significantly. Infamous was out killed 25-56 across the 2 game series, with the squad proving largely incapable of standing up against its opponent in team fights and major engagements. With no real way to take fights against its opponent, Infamous was handed a rough 0-2 sweep of the series to begin its run at the Major.

That initial loss dropped Infamous down into the Losers’ Match of Group B, where it faced off agaisnt Gambit Esports to determine which squad would end up in the bottom spot in the group standings. The series did not go particularly well for the South American squad, as Infamous struggled across nearly the entirety of the two game series. Out killed 36-51 in those two matches, Infamous was never really able to generate much momentum for itself, as the team was playing from behind for the vast majority of both games. While there were one or two standout performances from the team’s lineup, most notably a combined 17-8-19 stat line from the duo of Oliver’s Sven and Black^’s Queen of Pain in Game 1, those efforts were not nearly enough to buoy the struggling squad as it took another 0-2 series loss to end its Group Stage run.

That winless performance in the Group Stage put Infamous in the Lower Bracket to begin in the Playoffs, as the South American squad faced off agaisnt European side Alliance in a Bo1 elimination match in Round 1. Unfortunately, the added risk of elimination did little to light a fire under Infamous, as the squad fell behind at the very start of the match and never managed to put up much of a fight against its opponent. The team was out killed 11-30 in the match, with Black^’s Ember Spirit (6-6-2) accounting for more than half of that kill count in a game that saw Infamous struggle to a significant degree. Aside from that admirable effort from Black^, no other member of the squad managed to put together a particularly strong showing, as Infamous suffered its fifth straight loss to bring its run at the Major to an end with a rough 0-5 overall record and a 13th-16th place finish.

Infamous came into this final Major of the season with a small shot at claiming a Top 12 spot in the Pro Circuit Rankings and earning 1 of the final 4 direct invite slots for TI9. Considering the team’s lack of results on the international level though, the more realistic goal for the South American squad was to build up some form of momentum for itself to bolster the strength of its lineup before facing off against its regional rivals in the upcoming TI9 Qualifiers. Even that goal was seem as somewhat optimistic for Infamous though, as the squad entered this Major projected to finish at the bottom of the event standings in the 13th-16th place position, which is exactly where the team ended up when its run in Moscow had come to an end. The expectations had not been set particularly high for Infamous, but the performance that the squad put together on the Pro Circuit stage still somehow managed to come as a disappointment, as the team failed to record a single win in a 0-5 showing. The team lost back to back Group Stage series 0-2 against EG and Gambit Esports, before dropping its Bo1 elimination match against Alliance in Round 1 of the Lower Bracket to drop out of the event about as early as it possible could have. While Infamous was certainly an underdog in just about any match up that it would have faced in Moscow, it was at least hoped that the most recent iteration of the team’s roster could come together to get 1 win on the international level. Instead, the team go underwhelming performances across the board, as no member of the team managed to average more than 5 kills per match across the team’s run, while only one member of the team managed to average less than 5 deaths per game (Oliver – 4.80). The team’s core trio of oliver, Black^, and HesteJoe-Rotten weren’t exactly difference makers for the squad either, as all 3 of those players had an average KDA of less than 2 across the team’s 5 total matches. Overall, it was a disappointing showing for Infamous on the international level, even if the expectations had been set incredibly low for the team coming into this event. The task now for the South American squad will be to return to its home region and try to put this poor performance behind it with practice and scrimmages in preparation for what it likely to be a grueling run through the TI9 Qualifiers.

 

Ninjas in Pyjamas Ninjas In Pyjamas

Place: 9th-12th

Winnings: $15,000 & 150 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 4-7 (3-5 Group Stage, 1-2 Playoffs)

As the final Minor Champion of the 2018-2019 season, NiP came into the EPICENTER Major as a squad that had once again displayed its strength on the international level. Considering the fact that the team came into this event with its direct invite status for TI9 already secured, the European squad didn’t have a whole lot left to prove as it made its way to Moscow. However, NiP was still looking to put together a strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage, as an opportunity to test its mettle against the other elite teams of the Dota 2 world was one that the squad was not particularly willing to waste. Add on to that the fact that the organization was still in pursuit of its first ever Major Championship title, and NiP had more than enough motivation to attempt to follow in Vici Gaming’s footsteps and become the second team this season to win consecutive Minor and Major titles.

The Minor Champion began its Group Stage run with a match up against PSG.LGD, and NiP wasted no time hitting its opponent as hard as it possibly could. Game 1 proved to be a stomp for the European side, as NiP out killed its opponent 22-5 in just under 26 minutes of play. Behind a combined 16-2-27 performance from its core trio of Lifestealer, Lone Druid, and Legion Commander, NiP dominated the opening match of the series to claim a quick 1-0 lead over its opponent. Unfortunately for NiP, it would receive a taste of its own medicine in Game 2, as it was PSG.LGD’s turn to put together a dominant performance. The European squad was out killed 3-14 in just over 20 minutes of game time, as NiP was ill prepared to deal with an impressive level of aggression from its opponent. Faced with a net worth deficit of over 13k by the 20 minute mark, NiP opted to concede defeat to bring the series to a third and final match. Game 3 proved to be a much more competitive match, but also a much stranger game than its predecessors. NiP did not get off to a great start in the match, as the team fell behind early and trailed throughout the rest of the match. Despite trailing in terms of net worth through the entirety of the game, the squad managed to keep itself in game behind a combed 25-17-46 stat line from its core trio of Faceless Void, Viper, and Sand King. While the squad could not keep pace with its opponent in terms of net worth, NiP had been chipping away at its opponent’s defenses throughout the match.  When the squad sensed an opening, it rushed headlong into its opponent’s base, holding off PSG.LGD’s heroes long enough to destroy the Ancient and claim a win despite the fact that the team was still down by over 28k net worth at the time.

With that victory, NiP found itself just one more series win away from a spot in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs, as it faced off against TNC Predator in the Winners’ Match of Group D. Game 1 looked liked it was going to be a fairly straightforward victory for the European squad, as NiP pushed out to an early lead that it held throughout the majority of the mid and late-game stages. Behind a combined 25-14-47 stat line from its core trio of Lycan, Leshrac, and Night Stalker, NiP appeared poised for victory late in the match. However, a surprise surge from its opponent caught the team off guard, as TNC Predator was able to pull off an incredible comeback win to rob NiP of its victory and put the squad down 0-1 in the series. After faltering late in Game 1, NiP struggled to regain its momentum in Game 2, as the squad fell behind early and never seemed to recover. Despite an admirable showing from Fata’s Lina (11-8-12), NiP trailed in terms of net worth throughout the entirety of the match and could never mange to put together a comeback effort of its own. The squad did manage to play strong enough defense to extend the match to a significant degree, but those efforts only delayed its defeat as the squad was brought down for the second time in a row to suffer a 0-2 loss in the series.

That loss dropped NiP in to the Decider Match of Group D, where it faced off against PSG.LGD for the second time in the Group Stage. The rematch began with NiP looking fairly confident, as the squad jumped out to a modest net worth lead in the first half of Game 1. Unfortunately, the squad proved unable to maintain its hold over that advantage, as PSG.LGD mounted a comeback effort in the second half of the match that caught NiP off guard as the squad dropped the opening match of the series. Game 2 saw the roles reversed between the two squads, as this time NiP was the team to fall behind early in the match before putting together a surge in the second half of play. Behind an absolutely jaw-dropping performance from Fata on Ember Spirit (19-0-14), NiP was able to turn the tides agaisnt its opponent and seize control of the match in the late-game stage to secure itself a victory and a 1-1 tie in the series. The team’s Game 2 victory forced a decisive third match in the series, but NiP would prove unable to maintain the momentum from its previous win in Game 3. The squad found itself under fire from the very start of the match, as PSG.LGD came out with a level of aggression that NiP was not prepared to handle. The squad fell behind early and never managed to recover, trailing in terms of net worth from the 10 minute mark all the way through the end of the match as it suffered a lopsided defeat that gave it a 1-2 loss in the series as a whole.

That loss had NiP beginning its Playoff run in the Lower Bracket, where it was matched up against South American squad paiN Gaming in a Bo1 elimination match. The two teams began the match on relatively even footing, keeping things close through the first 30 minutes of play in which neither side led by more than 4k net worth. As the match shifted into the late-game stage though, NiP began to take control, claiming team fight wins that steadily increased the team’s net worth lead. Behind strong showings from Fata’s Razor (13-5-9) and 33’s Dark Seer (7-2-13), NiP dominated the second half of the match, out killing its opponent 19-9 over the final 19 minutes of the match to claim itself a win that kept its run in Moscow alive.

Round 2 of the Lower Bracket saw NiP match up against CIS squad Gambit Esports, and right from the very beginning of the series it was clear that the European side was going to have some issues in this series. After staying relatively even with its opponent through the first 25 minutes of Game 1, things rapidly spiraled out of control for NiP, as it was powerless to stop its opponent from running away with the match in the second half of play. Out killed 28-13 in the game, the European squad opted to concede defeat to fall behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 would prove to be even more one sided though, as NiP fell behind early and never managed to recover in what was a stomp on the part of its opponent. Out killed 5-22 in the match, NiP had not prospects for a comeback as the squad was handed a somewhat surprising 0-2 loss that ended the team’s run in Moscow with a 4-7 overall record and a 9th-12th place finish.

As the defending Minor Champion, NiP came into this event with some relatively high expectations for itself. Add on to that the fact that the squad was one of the top ranked teams on the Pro Circuit, and one was left with a scenario in which NiP appeared to be a contender within the field of teams for this final Major of the season. Prior to the start of the event, the squad was expected to finish in the top half of the Major standings, with a projection in the 7th-8th place range. Unfortunately, NiP ended up falling a bit short of that mark, posting a 4-7 overall record to finish in the bottom half of the standings in the 9th-12th place position. The team’s run in Moscow got off to a strong start, as the team managed to take a 2-1 win over PSG.LGD in its first Group Stage series. However, back to back losses to TNC Predator and that same PSG.LGD squad in a rematch of its initial series sunk NiP into the bottom half of its group standings. After a relatively straightforward win over paiN Gaming, NiP hit a brick wall in the form of Gambit Esports, as the CIS squad demolished the European squad to end its Major run. Considering the fact that NiP had already secured itself a direct invite to TI9, it is likely that many of the team’s issues from this Major run can be overlooked, marginalized, or otherwise written off as minor problems that it will almost assuredly work out by the time TI9 actually begins. However, the fact that the squad posted a 3-5 record against teams that entered this event inside the Top 12 of the Pro Circuit Rankings is somewhat concerning moving forward. Those other elite teams in the Pro Circuit Rankings represent the biggest obstacle to success for NiP at TI9, and the fact that the squad closed out its regular season run with a somewhat underwhelming performance against those squads represents a small reason for concern heading into the big event. Given the level of experience on the roster, and the team’s previous success on the international level this season, NiP should more than likely be able to bounce back and return to top form in time for TI9. However, the team’s performance at this event will still leave the squad dealing with one or two lingering questions or doubts heading into that event.

 

Alliance Alliance

Place: 5th-6th

Winnings: $60,000 & 900 Pro Circuit Points

Event Record: 7-7 (2-4 Group Stage, 5-3 Playoffs)

Alliance came into the EPICENTER Major as a squad looking to make one last push on the Pro Circuit, as the team aspired to lay claim to 1 of the 4 remaining direct invite slots for TI9. The team had been showing steady improvements over the course of the 2018-2019 campaign, and its advancement from the previous Minor to this final Major of the season had hopes high that the squad could put together a strong enough effort to punch its ticket to Shanghai and take its place among the elite teams in the Dota 2 world. The task for the European squad was certainly a daunting one though, and it was one that became even more challenging considering the fact that Alliance had traditionally struggled to find success on the international level over the majority of the season. Despite those prior struggles though, all Alliance needed was one solid showing on the Pro Circuit stage to guarantee itself a place at the biggest event in the Dota 2 world.

Alliance was in for what appeared to be a significant challenge to begin its Major run, as the European squad faced off against Virtus.Pro in the Opening Matches of Group C. However, Alliance didn’t appear to have much difficulty at all in the first game of the series, as the squad dominated the game and out killed its opponent 30-12 in just under 35 minutes of game time. The European squad led in terms of net worth from start to finish in this match, and qojqva’s Queen of Pain (13-1-7) managed to out kill the entirety of the VP lineup in what was an impressively one sided win to start the series. Game 2 ended up being much more tightly contested, with Alliance attempting to keep pace with a surprise Meepo pick from its opponent. Despite trailing in terms of net worth for the vast majority of the game, Alliance kept things close with its opponent and never trailed by more than 9k net worth. Behind a strong performance from miCKe on Troll Warlord (12-5-10) along with a 23 assist performance from iNSaNiA on Crystal Maiden, Alliance was able to win a crucial team fight in the final minutes of the match that wiped out VP’s lineup and allowed the squad to claim an incredible comeback win to lock down a 2-0 sweep of the series.

After its incredible victory over VP, Alliance set its sights on taking down another of the Pro Circuit’s elite squads as it faced off against Vici Gaming in the Winners’ Match of Group C. This time around though, the European squad would not be able to hold its ground, as Alliance struggled significantly in this match up. The team was out killed 26-61 across the two game series, as its lineup struggled to keep pace with its opponent and simply could not find any way to take team fights without taking significant casualties. The team trailed in terms of net worth for nearly the entirety of the series, and never came particularly close to mounting any sort of comeback effort in either match as the team was simply out played in back to back games. With that pair of one sided losses, Alliance was handed a 0-2 defeat in the series, as the squad suffered its first defeats of the Major.

Despite losing to Vici Gaming, Alliance still had an opportunity to claim a spot in the Upper Bracket of the Playoffs as it faced off against VP in the Decider Match of Group C. Unfortunately, the squad lost any sense of momentum that it had generated from its previous victory over the CIS squad, as Alliance struggled right from the start of the series. The team trailed in terms of net worth throughout nearly all of Game 1, with the squad’s considerable efforts in that match only serving to delay the inevitable. To be fair to Alliance, that delay was a significant one, as the match lasted just shy of 66 minutes of game time, but Alliance was never really close to mounting a comeback effort in that time as the squad fell behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 would not be nearly so competitive, as Alliance once again fell behind early and had no real opportunity to recover. Out killed 9-31 in the match, the team didn’t have the strength to draw the game out this time around either, as the team opted to concede defeat just past the 27 minute mark to suffer another 0-2 series defeat that had the squad finishing 3rd in the group standings.

The team’s performance in the Group Stage had Alliance beginning its Playoff run in the Lower Bracket, where it faced off against South American squad Infamous in a Bo1 elimination match. The European squad wasted not time establishing control over said match though, as Alliance pushed out to an early lead that it held throughout the rest of the match. With its core trio of Troll Warlord, Storm Spirit, and Mars combining for a stat line of 24-4-39, and the Support duo of Lion and Enigma putting in an additional 35 assists, Alliance dominated team fights throughout the entire match as it out killed its opponent 30-11 to secure itself a win to advance to Round 2 of the Lower Bracket.

Round 2 of the Lower Bracket pit Alliance up against RNG, as the two squads faced off to see which one would be allowed to continue its quest for a possible direct invite to TI9. Game 1 of the series proved to be a particularly rough match for the European squad though, as Alliance found itself falling behind early and struggled to keep pace with its opponent. The team trailed in terms of net worth throughout the entirety of the match, although the squad’s efforts at least managed to extend the game to a significant degree as the two squads battled it out for just over 64 minutes. Those efforts also allowed Alliance to put together some impressive surges in the late-game stage, as the squad came close to swinging the net worth lead in its favor multiple times in the second half of the match. Unfortunately, none of those surges actually proved to be fully effective, as Alliance’s defenses were eventually broken to put the squad behind 0-1 in the series. Game 2 proved to be a much closer affair compared to its predecessor though, as neither side led by more than 3k net worth through the first 30 minutes of play. Eventually though, Alliance was able to break that stalemate, as its core trio of Gyrocopter, Dragon Knight, and Centaur Warrunner put together a combined stat line of 19-3-43 and led the squad to a pivotal team fight win in the final moments of the match to take control of the game and secure itself a win to even up the series. With momentum on its side after its Game 2 win, Alliance proceeded to put together a stronger showing in the final match of the series, jumping out to an early lead that it would hold throughout the rest of the match. With its core trio of Juggernaut, Queen of Pain, and Mars putting together a 27-10-47 stat line in the match, Alliance held off every attempt from its opponent to turn the tide of the match to secure itself a 2-1 victory in the series and advance to Round 3 of the Lower Bracket.

Round 3 of the Lower Bracket might as well have been the Grand Finals of the Major for Alliance, as its match up against Gambit Esports would determine which of the two squads claimed the final direct invite slot at TI9. Game 1 saw the European squad fly out of the gate, as Alliance jumped out to an early lead and dominated its opponent throughout the rest of the match. Behind an impressive performance from boxi’s Timbersaw (13-2-8), Alliance out killed its opponent 25-8 in just under 32 minutes to secure itself a quick and easy victory to begin the series. Game 2 would be neither quick nor easy though, as Alliance and Gambit Esports put together an incredible match that saw the two squads battle it out for over 68 minutes of game time. The net worth lead was traded 9 times over the course of this match, and while Alliance found itself ahead for most of the second half of play, its lead was never fully safe. Thanks to some incredible performances from miCKe’s Morphling (16-5-18) and qojqva’s Storm Spirit (8-4-30) though, Alliance was able to withstand multiple late-game surges from its opponent to lock down a hard fought victory that earned the team a 2-0 win in the series and the final direct invite slot at TI9.

With its place at TI9 now officially secure, Alliance advanced to Round 4 of the Lower Bracket, where it faced off against VP for the third time at the Major. The opening match of the series did not go well for the European squad, as Alliance fell behind quickly and never managed to catch up to its opponent. The squad was out killed 10-29 in the match, with no member of the team earning more than 3 kills in what was a quick and one sided loss to put Alliance in a 0-1 deficit. Game 2 saw the squad bounce back with a strong showing though, as this time around Alliance was the team to jump out to an early lead. Behind a strong performance from miCKe on Storm Spirit (8-4-12), Alliance led by as much as 10k net worth in the mid-game stage, and appeared to hold a commanding position as the match headed into the late-game stage. Unfortunately, the squad was unable to maintain that lead through the end of the match, as Alliance found itself out killed 2-11 over the final 9 minutes of play thanks to repeated team fight losses. With its net worth lead gone and its momentum shattered, Alliance could not hold back the advance from its opponent, as the team opted to concede defeat to suffer a 0-2 loss in the series. That loss knocked Alliance out of the Major, with the European team having put together a 7-7 overall record to finish in the 5th-6th place position in the standings.

Alliance made its way to Moscow for the final Major of the 2018-2019 season with the goal of putting together a strong enough performance to earn itself a direct invite to TI9 in Shanghai. Despite having struggled to find success on the international level for the vast majority of the season, Alliance’s steady improvement had finally allowed the squad to find the results that it had been searching for throughout the campaign, with the European team entering this event having earned Top 4 finishes in 2 of its last 3 international appearances. Prior to the start of this Major though, it wasn’t quite clear if those recent successes were going to be enough to allow Alliance to contend with the elite teams of the Dota 2 world, as the squad entered the event with a projection in the 9th-12th place range. As it turned out, the team blew that meager prediction out of the water, putting together a 7-7 record to push its all the way up to a 5th-6th place finish at the event that earned Alliance its coveted direct invite to TI9. The team’s run in Moscow certainly began in harrowing fashion, as the squad’s Group Stage experience featured two series agaisnt VP and a third series against Vici Gaming, with Alliance coming away with an admirable 2-4 record against those Pro Circuit juggernauts. The Playoffs were where Alliance truly shined though, as the squad put together a combined 5-1 record against Infamous, Royal Never Give Up, and Gambit Esports to lock down its direct invite status. Most impressive of those performance was its series against Gambit Esports, as the two squads were quite literally playing for the final direct invite spot at TI9. In such a high pressure situation, Alliance was able to remain calm an in control while putting together a pair of incredibly impressive performances to overcome that final obstacle on its path to Shanghai. A large part of the team’s success at this event stemmed from the fact that it was able to get production out of every position in its lineup, with the Carry/Mid duo of miCKe and qojqva averaging a combined 13.15 kills and 21.07 assists on 7.57 deaths per game, while the trio of boxi, Taiga, and iNSaNiA contributed another 39.22 assists per game. The strongest teams in the Dota 2 world have most often been the ones that find contributions from across its lineup and don’t have to consistently be dependent on a single member to find success, and Alliance certainly appeared to fit that bill in this performance. With its successful run at the EPICENTER Major, the squad has punched its ticket to Shanghai, and has managed to avoid the rigors of a upcoming TI9 Qualifiers. Now, the task ahead of Alliance is to shift its focus for preparing for the big event itself, as Alliance will need to put up even stronger performances than the one we just saw in Moscow if it wants to replicate this success and truly compete on the biggest stage in the Dota 2 world.

 

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