2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit: Biggest Surprises and Disappointments

The 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit, the first of its kind, has gone as well as anyone hoped for. And by that, we mean, it’s been rocky, but manageable, and was still enjoyable. At least for the most part.

The Dota 2 teams that we expected to be at the top of the competitive scene, Virtus.Pro and Team Liquid, are right where they should be. Meanwhile, a number of teams have shaken up the status quo as others have faltered and fallen off of the face of the earth.

There’ve been tons of disappointments too, though, mainly born out of overzealous expectations from a hungry fanbase. But, that’s expected. It happens all of the time, especially to teams that fans aren’t used to barely qualifying for TI, like, per say, Evil Geniuses and OG. Although, we’re not exactly limiting our list to teams and organizations, as players, and even tournament organizers, are no exceptations.

With The International 2018 just right around the corner, we decided to make a list of the biggest disappointments and surprises of the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit.

Surprise: The Dominance of Team Liquid

2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit

Given how well the reigning champions played during the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit, the threat of them making history and being the first Dota 2 team to go back-to-back in August is very real. (Team Liquid)

Hands up if you expected Team Liquid to continue their dominance well onto the next season? I know for sure I didn’t.

While Team Liquid’s lower-bracket run at The International 2017 will forever be remembered in TI history, it was hard to expect the team to come to the next season with the same vigor that they did prior to winning their first TI, but that’s exactly what happened.

Save for a couple of aberrations — a 7th-9th place finish at ESL One Birmingham 2018 and a 5th-6th place finish at DAC 2018 — Team Liquid remained solid throughout the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit, finishing in the Top 4 every other time, with three second-place finishes, while winning three (3) Minors and ending the season with a bang with a huge win at the China Dota2 Supermajor.

All in all, Team Liquid (65.87%) posted the second-highest winning percentage in LAN games all season, just right below the four-time Major champions Virtus.Pro (66.89%).

Disappointment: EHOME

2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit

A relatively talented Dota 2 team backed by a premier organization, EHOME’s performance during the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit left a lot to be desired. (EHOME)

EHOME haven’t been relevant as a team since 2016, but even so, they are prestigious enough of an organization in Dota 2 to warrant some hype. Especially, when they have a roster composed of two members of the TI6 champions Wings Gaming in  Zhang ‘y`‘ Yiping and Zhang ‘Faith_bian‘ Ruida, complemented by a couple of borderline superstar teammates.

Unfortunately, nothing ever come off of EHOME’s lineup. They didn’t even qualify for a single LAN that was part of the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit, and don’t you dare count the free invite they received for MDL Macau, where they didn’t even have a good showing. They even brought TI4 champion Zhang ‘xiao8‘ Ning as their coach for the TI8 qualifiers but to no avail.

For some reason, EHOME’s roster just doesn’t work, and it’d be a huge surprise if they remained together for next season.

Surprise: Team Serenity and Winstrike Qualifying to TI8

2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit

A ragtag team of misfits that parlayed one tournament success to a TI berth, Winstrike, formerly known as FlyToMoon, are arguably the biggest what if of the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit. (EPICENTER)

Winstrike qualifying for The International 2018 was probably a given after their performance at EPICENTER XL. But, Team Serenity? Who even heard of this Chinese team prior to them making it to TI8? Their players are relatively unheard of, similar to last year’s Planet Dog. Perhaps what’s more surprising is that they made it out of the Chinese qualifiers, which are easily more stacked than Europe’s last year, or even this year.

Expected or not, kudos to both of these teams for making it to the grandest stage in all of Dota 2.

Here’s to hoping that they continue to defy expectations come TI8.

Disappointment: Natus Vincere

2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit

How the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit ended for Natus Vincere could also spell the end for Dendi’s tenure with Natus Vincere. (Natus Vincere)

You could insert LGD.ForeverYoung here if you want. The way that the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit ended for them was disappointing. For a team that finished in third-place at TI7 and remained relatively the same — there were a couple of roster shuffles, but nothing really major — LGD.ForeverYoung not making it to this year’s festivities is a huge disappointment.

Natus Vincere missing out on TI8, though, is easily the bigger disappointment.

Earlier this season, the black-and-yellow had people hoping that they’d make up for making Danil ‘Dendi‘ Ishutin miss his first TI last year. For them to fail to make it out of the open qualifiers is even a worse fate.

It’s no wonder that the roster is currently inactive, with most signs showing that they’re as good as gone.

Surprise: GESC’s Minor Tournaments in Asia

2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit

With how well they handled two of the Minors awarded to them for the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit, GESC are prime for even more events next season. Perhaps, even a Major. (GESC)

When the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit started, expectations were that more organizations would be willing to sponsor Tier 2 and Tier 3 teams. After all, even B-listers would no longer have problems gaining exposure anymore, what with so many qualifiers going around. And, while that ultimately happened — Winstrike and OpTic Gaming are just some of the organizations who invested in Dota 2 for the first time this season — what most probably didn’t realize is that the number of tournaments was good for tournament organizers as well.

Case in point, the Global Electronic Sports Championship, otherwise known as GESC.

Relatively unheard of in Dota 2, GESC got two Minors this season — originally four, but that’s another story — and proved that they were worth it. Jakarta and Bangkok were both treated to their country’s first ever Valve-sanctioned tournament, and it was an absolute blast.

Given what GESC just did during the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit, it wouldn’t come off as a surprise if Valve trusted them with a Major next season.

Disappointment: ESL

2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit

After what happened with their tournaments during the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit, don’t be surprised if Valve doesn’t entertain any of ESL’s bids for a Pro Circuit LAN next season. (ESL)

Three-day Majors with single-elimination playoffs? The infamous Facebook deal? What about how their PR team handled all the criticism? Granted, they did add a third-place decider matchup during the last of the events, but that’s like pouring a bucket of water over a forest fire. That’s simply not enough to overcome their shortcomings.

There’s no question that ESL remains a premier organization. The production quality, although not quite up to par as expected, was still great. ESL One Birmingham 2018, in particular, was a resounding success, despite the streaming issues. However, you kind of expect more from ESL given their experience with these kinds of things.

Where GESC took their shot and absolutely nailed it, ESL used a screwdriver when they needed a hammer.

Surprise: Vladimir ‘RodjER‘ Nikogosyan

2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit

Ever since joining Virtus.Pro midway through the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit, RodjER has had more success in half a year than most players have had throughout their careers. (Virtus.Pro)

RodjER is no newbie. He’s had years of experience playing Dota 2. But, mostly, he’s only spent time with Tier 3 teams, so you probably haven’t heard of him much. However, after helping Team Empire to an eighth-place finish at The International 2017 and moving to Virtus.Pro in the middle of the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit, where he finally got a chance to showcase his skills on a Tier 1 team, everybody sure knows his name now.

Virtus.Pro weren’t doing badly prior to RodjER joining the team. They were great, actually. They had won the first major of the season, ESL One Hamburg 2017. They’d even defended their title at the Summit 8, with their coach, Ivan ‘Artstyle‘ Antonov playing as a stand-in.

Fast forward to February 1, 2018 — the date that they acquired RodjER from Natus Vincere for Lil — they went from posting a 59-31 (65.56%) record with one (1) Major to posting a 67-28 record (70.53%) winning three (3) Majors and a streak of 6 LANs with nothing lower than a Top 4 finish.

That’s a substantial boost for a midseason acquisition.

Disappointment: Ilya ‘Lil‘ Ilyuk

2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit

Adding Lil was supposed to make Natus Vincere better, but instead, the black-and-yellow have failed to qualify for a TI for the second year in a row. (Natus Vincere)

Lil and Virtus.Pro. That was the iconic duo most people thought of when it came to CIS teams. Not exactly on the same level as Dendi and Natus Vincere, but pretty close to it.

So, when Virtus.Pro decided to send off Lil to Natus Vincere for RodjER, it came off as quite of a shock. A few even expected Natus Vincere to come out as the winners of the swap. After all, Lil was the more proven veteran.

Unfortunately, while Virtus.Pro only got better since the acquisition, Natus Vincere got a whole lot worse. Of course, it’s unfair to pin everything on Lil. He remains a phenomenal player, and Akbar ‘SoNNeikO‘ Butaev leaving probably had a lot more to do in regards to how Natus Vincere’s performance dropped off significantly during the second half of the season.

Nevertheless, the results of Lil going to Natus Vincere has been nothing short of disappointing.

Surprise: Fly and S4 Leaving OG

2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit

The 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit was rather eventful for Evil Geniuses, with two of their longest-tenured players leaving the team and two unexpected veterans in Fly and s4 joining them just weeks before the TI qualifiers. (Evil Geniuses)

Tal ‘Fly‘ Aizik leaving OG is akin to Clement ‘Puppey‘ Ivanov leaving Team Secret. It’s just something that you don’t think about. The team is them. Basically.

So, when news broke out that Fly had indeed left OG, along with Gustav ‘S4‘ Magnusson, to join Evil Geniuses, you couldn’t help but feel surprised. Shocked, even. Especially when, a few days earlier, one of the last few remaining members of the TI5 winning roster of Evil Geniuses, Clinton ‘Fear‘ Loomis, had left the organization.

It was just this combination of unexpected things that just left you speechless for what has to be the biggest surprise of the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit.

Disappointment: Resolut1on’s Time on OG

2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit

Partly as a result of the failed experiment with Resolut1on, OG ended the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit on a low note and are heading into TI8 as heavy underdogs for the first time in years. (OG)

What do you get when you add a phenomenal carry like Roman ‘Resolut1on‘ Fominok to a team that just won two Valve-Majors the season prior? A lot of success. Or at least, that’s what OG thought. Instead, however, they spent nearly most of the season trying to fit a square peg on a round hole.

Resolut1on just didn’t seem to fit. For all of his individual brilliance, the team just couldn’t get over the proverbial hump. Many thought that the win at MDL Macau was a sign of things to come, but it was more of an outlier than anything else. Surprising, considering that many believed Resolut1on to fit just right in with OG.

Luckily, everything worked out pretty well for Resolut1on and the rest of OG after they went their separate ways. But, you’d be lying if you said most of their season was pretty much a disappointment.

What do you think were the biggest surprises and disappointments of the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.

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