EPICENTER XL is the third of Epic Esports Events’ annual Dota 2 tournament and is easily the biggest so far, with as much as $1 million USD and 1,500 Qualifying Points up for grabs.
Having said that, trying to predict who will win EPICENTER XL is foolish at best. Virtus.Pro may be the presumptive favourites and the hometown heroes, but they are not invincible. Not with the defending champions Team Liquid, the recently-crowned DAC 2018 champions Mineski, and the European powerhouse Team Secret in the tournament to give them a good run for their money. Plus, there’s PSG.LGD to worry about as well; the Chinese powerhouse’s decision to withdraw from the Starladder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 was obviously because they wanted to better prepare themselves for EPICENTER XL.
With as many as five top-tier Dota 2 teams poised to go all the way at EPICENTER XL and seven others who will try to find a way to squeak into at least a Top 4 spot, this tournament is no doubt going to be an intense event.
What’s at Stake at EPICENTER XL?
Long considered as one of the best Dota 2 tournaments outside of The International, the third EPICENTER tournament ups the stakes from its predecessors by offering a prize pool of $1 million USD to go along with 1,500 Qualifying Points.
This late in the season, the prize pool is only but a welcome bonus. It’s the Qualifying Points that matter. Especially for teams like Natus Vincere and LGD Gaming, who are in eighth and tenth place respectively on the season leaderboards.
Anyone interested in watching the tournament can watch it live at the VTB Ice Place in Moscow, Russia, or for free via VODs or live streaming on Twitch and the Dota 2 client.
The Competing Teams
Twelve of the best Dota 2 teams from around the globe will clash at EPICENTER XL. Of the twelve, five received direct invites to the event. This includes Team Liquid, who will return to try and successfully defend their title for the second time in a row. The rest had to make their way via their respective Regional Qualifiers.
Here are all the teams will be playing at EPICENTER XL:
Direct Invites: Virtus Pro (China); Team Secret (Europe); Team Liquid (Europe); Natus Vincere (CIS); Newbee (China).
Qualifiers: Mineski (Southeast Asia); Team Empire (CIS); compLexity Gaming (North America); paiN Gaming (South America); PSG.LGD (China); FlyToMoon (CIS).
Format and Prize Pool
Prize Pool: 1 million USD and 1,500 Qualifying Points
1st Place — 750 Qualifying Points
2nd Place — 450 Qualifying Point
3rd Place — 225 Qualifying Point
4th Place — 75 Qualifying Points
Distribution of the prize pool is still unknown as of the moment.
Group Stages: The twelve participating teams were split into two groups of six and will play each team from their group in a best-of-three round robin. The top two of each group will be seeded directly to the Upper Bracket of the main event, while the third and fourth placed teams will be seeded to the Lower Bracket. The two lowest scoring teams will be eliminated from EPICENTER XL.
Playoffs: The eight remaining teams will play each other in a double-elimination playoff. Most games will be a best-of-three, except for the first two rounds of the Lower Bracket (best-of-one) and the Grand Finals (best-of-five).
The Heavy Favourites
Who else were you expecting? The three-time Major champions may not have completed their Major hat-trick at DAC 2018, but a third-place finish is nothing to scoff at. Especially when it took a ballsy play for LGD Gaming to eliminate Virtus.Pro out of contention.
If there’s one thing we’re sure of with the CIS bears right now, it’s that complacency is a non-issue. They’re all locked in and hungry to win, even though they’re already assured of a direct invite to The International 2018.
While they’re probably better off playing for TI8 in August, don’t put it above Virtus.Pro to put on a show in front of their home crowd just because they can.
You know you’ve set a high standard for yourselves as a team when finishing outside of the Top 4 for the first time in nearly a year is considered a disappointment. And though Team Liquid have not exactly played like their usual selves lately, Kuro ‘KuroKy‘ Salehi Takhasomi and his team deserve the benefit of the doubt; their title as The International 2017 champions, among many other titles, warrants them that much.
With the current Dota 2 meta less punishing and more encouraging of experimental picks, EPICENTER XL might just be where Team Liquid finally wins a Major after chasing it for so long.
While most Mineski fans are still riding the highs of their favourite team’s win at DAC 2018, Tang ’71’ Wenyi is probably busy drilling Mineski right now to make sure that they are prepared to win yet another Major at EPICENTER XL.
Half-jokes aside, Mineski really can’t rest easy just yet. After all, even if they did just win a Major, the fact remains that they have yet to win a single series against Virtus.Pro and Team Liquid. Are you willing to bet that they won’t meet either one of those two teams again in the playoffs for the second tournament in a row? (Yes, we’re saying right now that Mineski are a shoo-in to make it to the playoffs).
If Mineski are to become legitimate contenders come TI, they’ll have to find a way to take the Virtus.Pro and Team Liquid sized monkey off of their backs.
Team Secret have been wildly inconsistent this season, but that’s just how things go when Clement Puppey‘ Ivanov goes off meta with his picks more often than not. Admittedly, it’s been fun to watch, regardless of whether they win or lose. It also doesn’t hurt that when all of the wonky pieces come together, Team Secret’s brand of Dota 2 is one of a kind.
At their worst, Team Secret are better than half of the teams in this tournament. At their best? Who knows! But a team that swept Team Liquid in the Grand Finals of ROG DreamLeague Season 8 is certainly a good start.
Here’s to hoping we see more of that Team Secret at EPICENTER XL.
The Storylines to Watch Out For
Can Mineski Beat Team Liquid and Virtus.Pro?
Many were quick to jump on the Mineski for TI8 bandwagon as soon as the Southeast Asian powerhouse won DAC 2018. To be fair, it’s not unwarranted; Mineski were THAT good and they can only get better. The only question is, just how much better? Is it “better than Team Liquid or Virtus Pro” better? Or is it “just good for a Top 8 finish at TI” better?
With both Daryl Koh ‘iceiceice‘ Pei Xiang and Chai ‘Mushi‘ Yee Fung getting up there in terms of age — rumor has it that Mushi will retire after this season — TI8 might be both player’s chance to finally win a TI and the only way that can happen is if Mineski shows they have what it takes to beat Virtus Pro and Team Liquid.
Is It Break-Up Time for Natus Vincere?
Losing Vladimir RodjER‘ Nikogosyan only looks worse than it is because of how Virtus.Pro have won with him on their roster. Natus Vincere’s real problem was losing Akbar ‘SoNNeikO‘ Butaev, who was easily one of the best captains in the CIS region. Now that he’s out of the door, Natus Vincere are a mess, and they’re only going to get worse.
Ilya ‘Lil‘ Ilyuk is not a bad player; he’s great even. It’s just that he’s not a natural leader. So is Danil ‘Dendi‘ Ishutin. Neither Victor ‘GeneRaL‘ Nigrini, Vladislav ‘Crystallize‘ Krystanek nor Nikola ‘LeBronDota‘ Popović have proven to have the necessary leadership chops. That leaves Alexander ‘XBOCT‘ Dashkevich, but a coach can only do so much.
What Natus Vincere needs is a real leader, preferably someone with a strong voice that can keep everyone in line when push comes to shove. If they don’t find one soon, Natus Vincere will have a hard time making it to The International 8 via the Regional Qualifiers.
W33’s Impact on South America
Hands up if you thought Aliwi ‘w33‘ Omar was going to permanently join paiN Gaming and make the brave move to South America? No one expected this to happen, especially when rumours popped up that he was going to OG instead to replace the spot vacated by his former teammate with Digital Chaos, Roman ‘Resolut1on‘ Fominok. But it did happen, and we’re not left to wonder just how much of an impact w33 will have on the team and the South American Dota 2 scene in general.
w33 is perhaps the most popular Dota 2 player to jump to South America, which makes it interesting to follow just how well he will do in paiN Gaming and how well the team does with him playing for them permanently.
If paiN Gaming finds success in the coming months, culminating in a strong showing at The International 2018, expect other Dota 2 veterans to try and follow w33’s decision to move to South America.
Which team do you think will win EPICENTER XL? What kind of surprise performances do you think we’ll see at the tournament? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.