From 20-25 February, fans of competitive Dota 2 will be paying close attention to events in the Polish city of Katowice, where the first Dota 2 Valve-approved Major tournament of the year will be taking place. Boasting a whopping prize pool of $1,000,000 as well as 1500 Pro Circuit Points, this competition is the first big step towards qualification for TI8.
Sixteen teams will compete, with eight having been invited and eight arriving through regional qualifiers. Two teams each have qualified from Europe and North America, whilst the other four regions will only have one representative from this route.
These teams have been split into two groups of eight and will face each other in a double-elimination format. The winning teams from each group will advance directly to the semi-finals of the single-elimination Playoffs, while the second and third place teams from each group will proceed to the quarter-finals. The remainder will be eliminated.
Team Liquid, Effect, OG, Vici Gaming, Mineski, compLexity, OpTic Gaming and Virtus.pro have been slotted into Group A of the Group Stage, whilst Team Secret, Infamous, Team Kinguin, Newbee, Na’Vi, Fnatic, LGD Gaming and Evil Geniuses are in Group B. Each initial match is between an invited team and a qualified team so the invited teams should have the advantage.
The Invited Teams
Team Liquid, Newbee, Team Secret, Virtus.pro, Evil Geniuses, Na’Vi, Mineski and Vici Gaming have all been invited to the event.
TI7 champions Team Liquid stumbled in January, suffering a defeat against Newbee in the Finals of the ESL One tournament in Genting. However, after triumphing at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 earlier this month, it seems they’re back on track, with a faultless performance by Miracle- on Sven providing the catalyst to their success. KuroKy recently became the first pro player to reach 1000 competitive wins – another feather in Liquid’s cap – and the team are favourites to secure another trophy here.
Newbee are one of the few teams that have been able to challenge the TI7 winners in recent times, as was demonstrated in Genting. If these two both face one another here, past evidence suggests it could be Liquid going home as although they were able to beat Newbee 2-1 in the Group Stage at Genting, Newbee made a comeback from the Losers’ Bracket to win the tournament by defeating Liquid 3-2 in the Finals.
Team Secret performed strongly at the Captain’s Draft recently, coming 1st thanks to impeccable play from Fata and MidOne. Their last tournament ended in defeat against Newbee though as they finished 3rd-4th at ESL One Genting. Question marks therefore remain as to whether Secret can beat the two favourites here, although they did beat Liquid as recently as last December in the Finals of DreamLeague Season 8. Secret are therefore good dark horses.
Virtus.pro will have to do some serious work here after finishing in 5-6th place at Genting as they suffered a surprise 0-2 defeat in the Playoffs to Evil Geniuses. Many fans think they lost their composure during that game, leading to the unexpected defeat. How they recover here will be key as they have not played since.
Evil Geniuses are in a better position, largely thanks to their defeat of Virtus.pro, although they didn’t get much further at ESL One Genting as they succumbed to Team Liquid in the next round. A show of force by Suma1L on Puck reminded the world what EG are capable of, earning a 20k gold advantage against the Russian team. However, they have clearly yet to step up to Liquid’s level (they lost to them at DreamLeague Season 8 in December too). Consequently, they may struggle to win this event, but they could place highly – or even cause another upset.
In contrast, Mineski and Vici Gaming have had a rather rough start to the year. The SEA team were knocked out in the semi-finals of StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 by Team Liquid, whilst their Chinese counterparts suffered an early 0-2 reversal at ESL One Genting against Newbee. With little to boast about in 2018 so far, it’s hard to see either going the distance here.
Na’Vi have had a rather underwhelming year too, with only $8,000 in prize pool winnings after finishing 7-8th at Genting. After a crushing defeat to EG in that tournament, which was a repeat of a similar loss to the same team at DreamLeague Season 8, the former International champions are likely to struggle to make an impression here.
The Qualified Teams
The qualified teams are OG and Team Kinguin from Europe, compLexity Gaming and OpTic Gaming from North America, Fnatic from SEA, Infamous from South America, Effect from the CIS and LGD from China. These teams are all capable in their own right, particularly in their own regions, but most stand little chance of toppling the titans in Katowice.
However, some may be able to surprise. OG matched Mineski at the recent Captain’s Draft by securing a bronze medal, although they performed less impressively at Galaxy Battles II, placing 4th after being eliminated by Team Spirit. They may be able to go toe-to-toe with some of the invited teams here though.
LGD, too, could well be in with an opportunity. One of the powerhouses of the Chinese scene, LGD placed 4th at TI7 and came 2nd at StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 a few weeks ago. They were defeated by Team Liquid in the end, but not without a fight as they managed to take a game off the TI7 winners, a feat limited to only a handful of teams this season.
This tournament is important for any teams hoping to attend TI8 later this year. The 1500 Pro Circuit Points awarded are vital as it would take four or five minor tournaments to earn as many. These top-tier teams are all fighting for a place and the chance to be 2018’s world champions, so whoever wins here will take a huge step towards realising this dream.