ESL One Hamburg 2018: Teams, Tournament Details, Preview

ESL are holding nothing back as they help kick off the 2018-19 season with the biggest Dota 2 festival in Europe in the form of ESL One Hamburg 2018.

Just a few months removed from The International 2018, we’ve got yet another seismic event at our hands. And though the event is technically not part of the 2018-19 Dota Pro Circuit, it is, nevertheless, a must-watch.

Starting on October 23 until October 28, 12 teams will battle it out for supremacy and a shot at the $500,000 prize pool. The event will begin with the closed-doors group stages from October 23 to 25, followed by the main event, which will be held at the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, from October 26 to October 28.

ESL One Hamburg 2018 will see the LAN debut of a lot of new teams, and with plenty on the line, it’s a tournament well worth following.

So, who’s competing? What’s at stake? How does the prize pool break down?

Get to know all of that and more by reading below:

What Is ESL One Hamburg 2018? What’s at Stake?

ESL One Hamburg 2018

New and improved over last year’s tournament, ESL One Hamburg 2018 is set to be even bigger and better. (ESL One)

Starting in 2017, ESL has tabbed Hamburg as the home of the “biggest Dota 2 festival in Europe”, and thus far, we’ve had two big events held there: last year’s ESL One Hamburg 2017, which was the first Major of the inaugural Dota Pro Circuit, and this year’s, ESL One Hamburg 2018.

While this year’s iteration will not be a part of the Dota Pro Circuit — a Valve-backed slate of tournaments that all lead up to Dota 2’s biggest annual tournament, The International — knowing the history of ESL in esports and how they’ve consistently put on some of the best shows over the years, it should remain a spectacle and a must-watch.

An upgrade over last year’s tournament, in that it is lengthier and arguably with a better format, ESL One Hamburg 2018 will feature 12 elite teams from all over the world fighting over a $500,000 USD prize pool.

You can see the tournament live, for free, streaming in the Dota 2 client, or Facebook.

For more information, be sure to check out the official website of the tournament.

Which Teams are Competing?

ESL One Hamburg 2018

With 12 teams fighting for a $500,000 USD prize pool, ESL One Hamburg 2018 should be one great warm-up before the official Dota Pro Circuit starts. (ESL One)

ESL One Hamburg 2018 will see 12 of the best Dota 2 teams in the world converge in Hamburg for six days of back-to-back action.

The participating teams earned their berths through one of two ways. The first way was via direct invite, which was extended to eight teams, based on their prestige, popularity, and overall skill.

They are as follows:


Evil Geniuses

Team Secret


Ninjas in Pyjamas

Forward Gaming

paiN Gaming

ViCi Gaming

Being that the tournament is not part of the 2018-19 Dota Pro Circuit, ESL was free to hand out direct invites and to leave out as many slots for Qualifier teams as they pleased. Ultimately, they settled for four open and regional qualifier slots, one for each of Europe/CIS, North America/South America, Southeast Asia, and finally, China.

Of the dozens of teams that vied for a spot via the Regional Qualifiers, only four made it out alive, and they are:


compLexity Gaming

Team Aster

TNC Predator

Despite teams such as Team Liquid, PSG.LGD, and the defending champions, OG, making the decision to skip the tournament (or in OG’s case, the first few months of the season), ESL One Hamburg 2018 is bound to be a spectacle much like any other event of its stature that will see some incredibly entertaining matches between the game’s elite competitors.

What’s the Tournament Format? What’s the Prize Pool?

ESL One Hamburg 2018

For many of the teams playing in the tournament, ESL One Hamburg 2018 will serve as their first real big test of the season. (ESL One)

Learning from last year’s blunder, where the tournament followed a GSL-format Group Stage and a single-elimination Playoffs bracket, much to the dismay of many of the community, ESL One Hamburg 2018 will be split into a BO2 round-robin Group Stage and a double-elimination Playoffs bracket.

The round-robin Group Stage is a staple of many big Dota 2 tournaments, including The International. All 12 teams in the tournament are divided into two groups of six. They play best-of-two series against each other, with 1 win equalling 1 point. The more points a team has, the higher seeded that team will be. By the time the Group Stage will end, the bottom two teams from each group (or a total of four teams) will be eliminated.

Come the Playoffs or the Main Event, the 8 teams will face-off in a double-elimination tournament, with best-of-three matches. The top two teams from each group will the playoffs in the Upper Bracket, with the bottom two teams from each group playing in the Lower Bracket.

The 8 teams will battle each other until, eventually, only 2 teams will remain, who will face off in the Grand Finals in a best-of-five.

The prize pool, as mentioned earlier, is $500,000 USD. As for the format and breakdown of the prize pool, we have yet to receive any information as of this time of writing.

Odds are, however, both will be quite similar as last year’s, despite the prize pool being cut in half (from $1 million to $500,000).

Who Are the Teams to Watch Out For?

ESL One Hamburg 2018

The undisputed kings of CIS Dota, Virtus.Pro will look to start their season on the right note with a successful title defence at ESL One Hamburg 2018. (Virtus.Pro)


The CIS Bears posted arguably the most dominant season in Dota 2 history when they won four Major titles. Although they ultimately fell short when it counted the most and finished in 5th-6th place at The International 2018, no one can take away from how they dominated the entire season and set the meta that most teams followed, or even continue to follow up until today.

A successful title defence here — Virtus.Pro started off their historically dominant season by winning the inaugural ESL One Hamburg, with captain Alexei ‘Solo‘ Berezin taking home the tournament MVP — will likely set them up for yet another season to remember.

Evil Geniuses

There’s the honeymoon period and there’s whatever Evil Geniuses did at The International 2018.

A team that formed just months prior to Dota 2’s biggest event, Evil Geniuses added yet another third-place finish for their organization’s storied history this August after going through what would many consider as a lost season.

With Tal ‘Fly‘ Aizik and Gustav ‘s4‘ Magnusson having had more team to gel with the team, Evil Geniuses are likely looking forward to making yet another deep run at The International 2019 in Shanghai, and for the boys in blue, the road to doing so starts at ESL One Hamburg 2018.

Team Secret

Where all eyes are on Michal ‘Nisha‘ Jankowski finally finding himself playing on a solid Tier-1 team, the performance of Ludwig ‘zai’ Wåhlberg is just as crucial to the team’s success, and what do you do know? zai is still as good in the offlane as he once was back in 2015 when he dabbled on the said position for months with Team Secret.

Now that the team is filled with superstar players, and a 19-year-old who’s likely just waiting to breakout, Team Secret is one of the teams to watch out for at ESL One Hamburg 2018.

Forward Gaming

Ever since winning GESC Indonesia in May, the former VGJ.Storm squad have been on the upswing. And though a 7th-8th place finish was probably not what they had in mind, the team can’t really kick themselves too hard for it. Especially, when they were able to do so with Jingjun ‘Sneyking‘ Wu underperforming throughout the entire tournament.

Now that the team has replaced Sneyking with the TI5 winner, Saahil ‘Universe‘ Arora, we can expect the team to play much more consistently going forward.

While Forward Gaming may not have the body of work the other three teams in here are, they are a team that everyone should absolutely keep a close eye on.

What Are The Biggest Storylines to Follow?

ESL One Hamburg 2018

MiCKe and the rest of Alliance will look to prove that their success in Europe is no fluke at ESL One Hamburg 2018. (The Alliance)

Just How Strong is Europe as a Region?

Just as the season started to unfold, it became very evident that Europe was not as top-heavy as most people thought it was. Although most already expected the likes of Team Liquid, Team Secret, and OG, to reign over the region, other teams actually started taking advantages of being able to play against the top dogs in the Regional Qualifiers.

Numerous teams with intriguing lineups and possibly high ceilings caught the attention of many: Alliance, Ninjas in Pyjamas, and to some extent, even Team Lithium, as well as The Final Tribe.

The first two are noteworthy. The former, because they are a storied organization that won TI3, but have had a rough couple of years since. But, as it seems, their latest iteration, with Jonathan ‘Loda‘ Berg finally stepping down to transition full time as the team’s coach, is finding a lot of success, giving rise to the return of the phrase “Alliance is back”. Meanwhile, the latter is built around Peter ‘ppd‘ Dager, the TI5 champion who’ve proven himself capable of leading any team into a deep run at a TI.

Given the competitive depth at ESL One Hamburg 2018, their performance there will likely determine if they are Tier-2 teams who just peaked at the right time, or legitimate title contenders.

Chinese Dota Going Through a Rough Period

China have seemed like one of the strongest Dota 2 regions since post-TI6. But, TI8 happened, and from seeing four teams finish in the Top 6 at TI7, only one made it there at TI8, while the rest couldn’t even make it to the Top 8.

As a result, the Chinese scene has looked quite different. Only PSG.LGD and Team Serenity retained their squads from last season. ViCi Gaming gutted more than half of their roster, while Newbee kicked two of their longtime players. All of these shakeups have had mixed results, with Newbee getting the short end of the stick after failing to qualify for any notable international LAN so far.

With teams such as Royal Never Give Up and Team Aster to watch out for, it’s hard to guess exactly just how strong China is this year.

While there are only two Chinese at ESL One Hamburg 2018, a strong showing from both will likely help clarify their strength relative to the rest of the world.

Final Thoughts


Don’t let the tournament’s non-DPC status fool you, ESL One Hamburg 2018 will likely be the first to separate the pretenders from the real contenders.

With nearly a full-week of Dota 2 action scheduled, there’ll be no excuse for any team who doesn’t show up and bring their A game in Hamburg. Expect whoever wins the tournament to have a strong showing the next time they play, whether that be at DreamLeague Season 10 or the Kuala Lumpur Major.

Which teams are you looking forward to see play the most at ESL One Hamburg 2018? Do you think Virtus.Pro can successfully defend their title? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.

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