Hot off the heels of the ESL One event in Katowice, the Bucharest Major will see 16 teams vying for a share of a $1,000,000 prize pool along with the 1,500 Pro Circuit Points on offer. With some of the giants of the pro scene gathering in Romania, the fallout from Katowice has created a whole new level of excitement and uncertainty. Was it an aberration, or will Bucharest prove otherwise?
The tournament uses a slightly unusual but tried-and-tested arrangement, with 16 teams – ten invited and six arriving through regional qualifiers – using the Swiss format.
All teams will begin in the same group and face off against one other team, with these initial fixtures based on seedings. A team’s subsequent opponents will depend on their performances as in the Swiss format, a team only ever matches up against another team with an identical win-loss ratio. Through this system, the top eight teams will qualify for the Playoffs and the bottom eight teams will be eliminated. Due to the nature of the Swiss format system, for this event a team will qualify if they win three games. All encounters will be best-of-one.
The Playoffs are a more traditional single-elimination bracket, with best-of-three games, although the Grand Finals, as is usual, will be best-of-five.
The shock of Katowice was Team Liquid placing third and failing to make the Grand Finals after being eliminated in the semis by eventual runners-up Vici Gaming. This marked one of Liquid’s most disappointing performances of the year and although they remain formidable, it’s possible that the TI7 champions could be slipping. The team tried an aggressive strategy against Vici in their final match but got reckless, failing to secure an early advantage and thus being unable to sustain any momentum.
Like Liquid, Virtus.pro received an invite to the Bucharest Major, but are coming here off the back of a surprise success in Poland. The introduction of former Na’vi star RodjER worked incredibly well and carried them all the way to the Grand Finals, where their new player earning MVP with a few breath-taking predictions, particularly when on Earthshaker. Beating Vici Gaming 3-1 means they are now the top team in the DPC Rankings and are well on the road to qualifying for TI8.
Team Vici were also invited to Bucharest and showed their stuff with a staggering display of skill in Katowice. Placing second in the tournament, they managed to defeat Team Liquid 2-1 in the semi-finals, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat after a 58-minute match against the TI7 champions, winning due to their faultless defence and co-ordination. They surprised everyone with an Alchemist pick by Paparazi – the second time this year the character has been picked at this level. It paid off too as they stalled the game long enough to amass an overwhelming 20k net lead by the end, despite having a rather poor start. If they can repeat that performance here, they are likely to do well.
Newbee performed disappointingly in Katowice, having been soundly defeated before they could even reach the Playoffs. They were knocked into the Losers’ Bracket by Team Kinguin in their opening game, then eliminated by Evil Geniuses later on, who are another of the teams invited to Bucharest. The North American outfit came incredibly close to taking home some Pro Circuit Points in Poland, but were just edged out 2-1 by Virtus.pro at the start of the Playoffs.
Mineski and Na’vi both have impressive track records and histories, but underwhelming performances in Katowice have cast doubt on their current state, with 9-12th and 13-16th finishes respectively. Both these top-tier teams were eliminated in the early group stage and both will be hoping to bounce back strongly here.
Team compLexity secured an invite to Bucharest but after their first-round elimination in Katowice, going down to both Mineski and OpTic Gaming, the American team aren’t expected to impress. Meanwhile, after LGD’s poor performance at the ESL One event, their counterparts LGD.FY come to Bucharest with the aim of restoring some glory to the brand. This team is one of China’s titans and often considered superior to their parent side – and with many of the same teams in attendance as were in Katowice, it’ll be interesting to see how they fare compared to LGD.
Last but not least, Team Secret have been invited and they have a top six finish in Katowice under their belts. Much like Evil Geniuses, they fell just short of earning any competitive points, although they still picked up a respectable $50,000 for their performance. Despite this, it’s tough to see them getting much further in this Major without a sudden improvement, although with top contenders Liquid and Newbee knocked off their perches in Katowice, anything’s possible in Bucharest.
The six qualifying teams are OG from Europe, Vega Squadron from the CIS, VGJ.Thunder from China, TNC Pro Team from SEA, OpTic Gaming from North America and paiN Gaming from South America.
OG and OpTic both attended Katowice and were both completely steamrolled by Team Liquid. Like ever, it’s hard to see any of these qualifying teams competing with the giants, but in Katowice the SEA qualifiers Fnatic did place 4th so there is some hope. Even so, these six are going to have a lot of trouble making themselves heard in this Major. If one team is to do so, it’s likely to be OG, with past victories in similar tournaments against Team Liquid, Team Secret, Na’vi and Virtus.pro suggesting they do have talent.
It’s always good to see high-tier teams in action, but after the surprising conclusion of ESL One Katowice, the roster of top teams could very well be changing quickly. This tournament could prove that Team Liquid’s below-par performance was just a bad few days, or it could show that Virtus.pro are the new team to beat. The next few weeks will give us an inkling as to which is more accurate.