Evil Geniuses seems to be immune to the post-International curse that winning teams seem to have a tendency to suffer from (Na’vi is the only team that avoided this, though their recent results tell a different tale), taking the top spot with their usual ease. Virtus.Pro had a similarly easy time, dropping a set to EG but picking two up against TI4 champions Newbee. Fnatic found no success for themselves, which is not a particularly surprising thing given their poor showings at recent tournaments.
- Evil Geniuses
Arguably the strongest group in the bunch, Group B was the most competitive of any we saw the first two days. Vici Gaming, Vega Squadron, and OG all compromise some of the best teams in their respective regions (one could argue VG is the best team in China, though that might be a stretch). Team Unknown’s victory in the American qualifier was certainly a shocking one, though no one really gave them much of a shot. The results reflect this: Unknown rests solidly at the bottom, OG fought hard but could only manage third place, Vega could take two sets off OG, but not off of VG, putting them in second and Vici in first.
- Vici Gaming
- Vega Squadron
- Team Unknown
This group was just about the nicest softball Secret could have asked for. Coming off of two major successes at MLG and NanYang, the still-nascent team seemed poised to take the whole tournament, much less just their group. They couldn’t have asked for nicer opponents. LGD has struggled in recent premier tournaments, doing alright but never really succeeding. Cloud 9 has been unable to find consistent success in North America, which is a bad omen for their world stage performance. Newbee Young was not even meant to play at the tournament, rather, they’re replacing Invictus Gaming, who couldn’t come due to visa issues. The results reflected this:
- Team Secret
- LGD Gaming
- Cloud 9
- Newbee Young
While Group B was, in this viewer’s opinion, the most competitive, this group was easily the most exciting. When Mineski qualified for the major, no observer gave them much of a chance. Today, they silenced the naysayers, dropping a set to the TI5 runners-up CDEC Gaming before impressively, and shockingly, 2-0ing Alliance and group favorite EHOME. This has not been talked about nearly as much as it should have been, as essentially every analyst (including myself, not that I’m necessarily qualified to call myself that) gave the SEA group no chance. Now they’re through to the winner’s bracket, guaranteed a better finish than at least four other teams.
- CDEC Gaming
With that out of the way, we can examine the upcoming games in the first round of the Main Event, where I’ll offer some insight and attempt to predict the results. For you readers playing along at home, go grab out a pen and pencil and see how many times I’m wrong:
Cloud 9 vs Alliance
The games that landed Alliance in this major were some of the clowniest, most depressing games of DotA ever. Liquid, a team with huge promise and potential, punked out of a major tournament through cheese and cheese alone. Alliance has made a career out of doing some wild stuff that no other team can pull off. They essentially created the “RatDota” meta that won them TI3. The roster on stage this tournament has ⅘ of the original members, and while they couldn’t win a single game in the group stages, their mental fortitude is amongst the best in the game.
Cloud 9 is still too new a team. Not nearly as clowny as Alliance (much less their predecessor, the European “Clown 9”), they seem to lack the raw talent and cohesion needed to beat a team that’s totally willing to do any off-the-wall strategy they can in order to win. Alliance struggle when they’re forced to play the same game as their opponents. The only way Cloud 9 can win is if they force Alliance to actually play the game with them, rather than splitpush them down or do some other bizarre thing. Much rides on the draft, but Alliance seems to have the edge.
Prediction: Cloud 9 (0-1) Alliance
OG vs Fnatic
When it comes to team reshuffles, it seems Europe has really had the best luck. Secret, Liquid, and OG were all brand new teams at the start of the season, and each has proven fully capable of handling themselves. OG, for example, has not only found success throughout the many European qualifier tournaments they’ve participated in, they showed at MLG that they could play with the big boys; tying for 3rd-4th in a tournament that featured heavyweights like Evil Geniuses and CDEC Gaming.
Fnatic haven’t found that same success in a long time, and while they keep making it to premier tournaments, they’ve never truly shone bright like they did when they were first created. They were the great SEA hope, a mantle that has now been passed to Mineski, it seems. In terms of creativity and teamplay, OG wins; in terms of professional experience, Fnatic wins. The nod has to go to OG in this case, they are simply the more cohesive team.
Prediction: OG (1-0) Fnatic
Newbee vs Team Unknown
Two teams from opposite ends of the Earth, and on the opposite ends of professional success. Newbee are former International champions, while unknown was an obscure peruvian team no one had heard of, until they got second in the American qualifiers. Newbee has struggled mightily with the post-TI curse, spending the past year rotating through carries and offlaners like sports car tires, failing to find success in any premier tournaments.
However, they’re still a team with a great amount of professional experience between them, and with the recent re-signing of former carry Chen “Hao” Zhihao. Unknown is just that, and their chances do seem slim, given that even in America they’ve been unable to replicate their success in the major qualifiers (ie: The Summit 4 Qualifiers). Given that it’s a best-of-one series, anything could happen. Let’s be honest with ourselves though, neat as it is that Unknown qualified, they aren’t escaping the first round.
Prediction: Newbee (1-0) Team Unknown
EHOME vs Newbee Young
When it was announced that EHOME was returning as a DotA 2 franchise, every fan of professional DotA 1 had a collective jump for joy. While the EHOME we see this major is vastly different from the one that was originally announced last year, there’s still plenty to jump about. Captain Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng is an exceptional drafter and roaming support, constantly making plays around the map for his team, and position 1 player Chen “Cty” Tianyu is one of the best Queen of Pain players in the scene today.
Newbee Young is just that, the understudy team to the fallen TI champions of yore. They’re taking the spot that was meant to go to Invictus Gaming, who they lost to in the last round of the qualifier. Third place in the Chinese Qualifier is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but one can’t help but think they might be a little underprepared given that they didn’t think they were going to the tournament until about a week or so ago. Indeed, they’ve struggled quite a bit. EHOME, however, is the only invitee we see in the lower bracket, after getting 2-0’d in spectacular fashion by CDEC Gaming and the heavy underdogs, Mineski. Still, despite their poor performance in the group stages, their sheer skill should be enough to carry them through to the next round.
Prediction: EHOME (1-0) Newbee Young
Evil Geniuses vs Vega Squadron
Vega and EG have met before. It was the first round of ESL One New York, EG was fresh off their International victory, while Vega was on a hot streak in the European scene, proving they had evolved beyond their somewhat middling status the previous season. Still, their chances of winning seemed very slim, but they went right ahead and shocked the world, stylishly taking down EG 2-0. Both teams have learned a lot since then.
EG took second at the MLG World Finals, and have shown that they aren’t ready to be claimed by the curse quite yet, as they’ve taken first place in their group. Vega, while certainly a strong team (Andrey “Mag~” Chipenko has quite possibly the best offlane Broodmother in the world), they aren’t very versatile, most of their players have two or three comfort picks that they fall back on, and if they don’t get them, they can struggle. EG’s captain, Peter “PPD” Dager, has a sharp, analytical mind for drafting, and they’ve had plenty of time to review games and plan strategies, they won’t make the same mistakes again.
Prediction: Evil Geniuses (2-1) Vega Squadron
CDEC Gaming vs LGD Gaming
CDEC and LGD are amongst the best teams in their particularly competitive home region of China. At TI5, they were the second and third place squads, respectively. Both have been seen at nearly every premier event since then (LGD did not make it to ESL One). They’ve had rather mixed results, with neither really living up to the bar they set months ago; LGD has tied for 7th-8th in both tournaments they’ve attended, and CDEC has been landing around 3rd-4th.
In terms of raw competitive experience, LGD almost certainly has the edge. They have an all-star lineup, with names like Bai “rOtK” Fan that date all the way back to the old DotA 1 days. CDEC didn’t attain that same professional clout till they stunned everyone with their TI5 performance, however one could argue they play much better as an overall team; LGD seems to struggle with midgame shotcalling, which is when CDEC is strongest. Both teams made strong showings in the group stages, but as history has shown us it takes a good but more than that to succeed, and CDEC has the slight competitive edge over their chinese brethren.
Prediction: CDEC Gaming (2-0) LGD Gaming
Team Secret vs Mineski
Predicting the results of this tournament based solely on post-TI5 competitive performance, Secret has it completely in the bag. They’ve been on quite the impressive tear since their disappointing showing months ago. Mineski, nicely as they’ve been doing lately, and neat as it is to have them do so well in the group stages, are simply not in a position to play against Secret. Secret is one of the most versatile, wonky teams in the competitive scene today. They will play almost anything and adopt almost any strategy to beat their opponents. Usually this involves losing a game before whipping up some clever draft and outplaying their opponents around the map. The fire in their hearts and the composure they show is second to none.
Mineski is, almost inarguably at this point, the best team in the Southeast Asia region. However, this means they’re big fish in a very small pond, and the only teams they have to train against are in general beneath their stature. It seems unlikely they’ll be the ones to break Secret, but they may still find success in the lower bracket. Anything can happen, and we should all be chanting “BUS YAN” for them regardless.
Prediction: Team Secret (2-1) Mineski
Vici Gaming vs Virtus.pro
These are two teams that are rather familiar with each other and with playing on a stage. Both have, in some form or another, been playing together with minimal changes for a long time now. However, while both have competitive chops, Vici has shown they’re truly a force to be reckoned with still; they took Secret to five games in their first premier tournament since TI5. They were only warming up, and now they seem to be not only the best team in China, but the best team in the world. They’ve shown an aptitude for wonky drafts (much like secret), and it seems they’ve finally ironed out the carry position troubles they’ve had over the past year, picking up Xu “BurNIng” Zhilei, arguably the best and most versatile position 1 in China.
Virtus.pro are no slouches either (they were the ones to knock Secret out of TI5, after all), however, this is part of a pattern for them. They do well in the group stages, and then choke in the main event (this was readily seen at NanYang, where they were the top of their group and then immediately dropped two sets and fell out of the tournament. Vici has a definite edge in this series.
Prediction: Vici Gaming (2-0) Virtus.pro
Of course, the group stages of a tournament are rarely accurate predictors of main stage performances. Every team is capable of surprising us and taking a big win against a heavy favorite or, by the same token, suffering a heavy loss to an underdog. Regardless of whether or not the results pan out as expected, the games are sure to be explosive and fun.