The midpoint of the 2018-19 Dota Pro Circuit is about to get well underway as the 16 best Dota 2 teams from around the world will clash at the Annexet in Stockholm, Sweden, for the DreamLeague Major 2019 from March 14 to March 24.
With the competitive Dota 2 season approximately seven months deep already, the teams playing at the DreamLeague Major 2019 have had months to build chemistry and a treasure trove of strategies to position themselves better for a deep run at the third Dota 2 Major of the year.
As per the usual, we have Team Secret and Virtus,Pro the winners of the Chongqing Major and the Kuala Lumpur Major, respectively, playing in the tournament. However, their run will not go uncontested. Chief among their concerns will be a resurgent Team Liquid, who will be looking to reclaim their throne as they play in a DPC tournament with their complete lineup for the first time this year.
Of course, this isn’t to say that only those three Dota 2 teams will be the ones to watch at the DreamLeague Major 2019.
With sixteen Dota 2 teams playing and $1 million, as well as 15,000 DPC points, up for grabs, we’re going to see favourites, veterans, and up-and-comers facing off in what’s likely going to be an absolute brawl.
So, before the lines are drawn and teams enter the battle of the ancients, we’re going to take a look at five of the top stories that are worth following closely at the DreamLeague Major 2019.
Click here for our full preview of the DreamLeague Major 2019.
Team Liquid Makes their DPC Debut
Ever since the formation of their current iteration, Team Liquid have established themselves as the closest thing to a dynasty that Dota 2 has seen since the early days of Natus Vincere.
Boasting a 217-94 win-loss record in LAN tournaments, which is good for a 69.8% win rate, and 12 LAN titles to show, which includes the Aegis of Champions from their championship run at The International 2017 nearly two years ago, Team Liquid are well on their way to becoming the best Dota 2 team of all time. The only thing missing that’s missing now is for them to refute all naysayers by becoming the first to win two TIs.
That’s a long journey that no Dota 2 team has ever accomplished in 8 tries. In fact, only a handful of players have ever been to multiple TI grand finals. But, if there’s a team who’s going to do it, it’s them. Team Liquid already have one of the most successful captains in all of Dota 2 in Kuro ‘KuroKy‘ Salehi Takhasomi and their roster is filled with players who’ve known nothing but success for majority of their Dota 2 careers.
Team Liquid’s journey to a second TI win starts with a good showing at a Major, and a win at the DreamLeague Major 2019 will all but make sure that they’ll get a chance to do so in Shanghai later this year.
Just How Good are Evil Geniuses?
Back in May of 2018, Evil Geniuses surprised everyone by signing Tal ‘Fly‘ Aizik and Gustav ‘s4‘ Magnusson ahead of the China Dota2 SuperMajor. Although the mid-season acquisition meant that Evil Geniuses would have to play through the open qualifiers to qualify for The International 2018, the boys in blue paid no mind to the repercussions because the move gave them arguably the most experienced Dota 2 roster that the North American organization has ever fielded.
As high of a praise as this many be, it is not without proof.
Fly is the co-founder of OG and a 4-time Major winner. Meanwhile, s4 is a two-time Major winner himself and a TI champion. Adding those two Dota 2 players to a core of TI5 champion Sumail Syed ‘SumaiL‘ Hassan in mid; Artour ‘Arteezy‘ Babaev as a hard carry; and two-time Major winner, Andreas ‘Cr1t-‘ Nielsen at his natural position as a roaming support, gave Evil Geniuses a lineup that have had a lot of experience playing in the highest levels of Dota 2.
For the first few months, Evil Geniuses delivered. They handily won the glorified bootcamp of a tournament that was DOTA Summit 9 and claimed third place at The International 2018.
After such a run, many expected Evil Geniuses to set the 2018-19 Dota Pro Circuit ablaze, but that hasn’t happened. Even though they’ve placed third (yet again) at both the Kuala Lumpur Major and the Chongqing Major, the eye test shows that the boys in blue just don’t have what it takes to keep up with the likes of Team Secret and Virtus.pro.
Facing high expectations, Evil Geniuses can only hope that a rejuvenated SumaiL is enough help them get over the proverbial hump.
China Needs a New Champion
PSG.LGD were supposed to be China’s best hope against international competition. However, the TI8 runner-ups are going to be without star midlaner Lu ‘Maybe‘ Yao for quite some time. Meanwhile, EHOME recently went through a drastic roster change. Luo ‘eGO‘ Bin is now out of the lineup, and replacing him is Yang ‘END‘ Pu, who hasn’t had a good tournament showing in years. Meanwhile, TI6 champion, Zhang ‘Faith_bian‘ Ruida, who was arguably EHOME’s most consistent performer, is out due to an arm injury and will be temporarily replaced by Zhao ‘XinQ‘ Zixing from Team Serenity at the DreamLeague Major 2019.
With the top Chinese Dota 2 teams in disarray, the region now has to look elsewhere for a champion, which could very well come in the form of Vici Gaming.
Vici Gaming is a solid Tier 2 team that has the potential to become truly elite. Unfortunately, the young squad has had to go through some growing pains this seaso. But, after going through a rough period over the past few months, they seem to have regained their footing after nearly sweeping through their competition at the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor.
You could argue that Vici Gaming had no business playing at the Minors when they have proven so many times before that they have what it takes to compete with elite teams, but it is what it is. Now that they have momentum on their side, and arguably, a better understanding of the current meta, Vici Gaming could use the DreamLeague Major 2019 to stage their long-overdue coming out party.
A Make or Break Tournament
Solid is good if you want to qualify for tournaments and win occasionally, but it’s not enough if you want to win consistently. That’s a problem a number of teams playing at the DreamLeague Major 2019 will have to face.
Multiple Dota 2 teams playing at the Major have spent the entire season touting “potential” only to fall short more often than not. A couple of names that come into mind are Ninjas in Pyjamas and Fnatic, who both field some of the best lineups that Dota 2 has to offer. The former is captained by Peter ‘ppd‘ Dager, with big names such as Adrian ‘Fata‘ Trinks and last year’s standout player, Neta ‘33‘ Shapira, on the roster. On the other hand, Fnatic are composed of Southeast Asia’s finest talents; all five players on Fnatic have spent some time as the “star” of their squad in the past.
With said, seven months is a long time together. It’s arguably enough for a roster to assess if they can still improve, or if they have hit their ceilings.
For the aforementioned Dota 2 teams, as well as a couple of others, DreamLeague Major 2019 will serve as a make or break tournament and will likely decide their fate going forward.
Will We See Another Team Secret vs Virtus.Pro Grand Finals Matchup?
In Dota 2, very seldom do you see two Dota 2 teams consistently vie for titles while others stand pat. It’s usually multiple Dota 2 teams contending for champions, with a handful of others looking to upstage the favourites. But, for the 2018-19 Dota Pro Circuit, two teams have stood tall — Team Secret and Virtus.pro.
If you need proof, you only need to take a look at the five LAN titles between these two Dota 2 teams, two of which are Majors. Not to mention, they have each won a Major at the expense of the other, with nigh a single Dota 2 team coming close to the level of play that these two have shown when it counts the most. The closest thing Team Secret and Virtus.Pro have to threats at the DreamLeague Major 2019 are Team Liquid and even then, you’d have to give both juggernauts an edge over the TI7 champions, just based on how well they’ve performed this season.
While we should see plenty of exciting matches at the Major, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Virtus.pro and Team Secret squaring up in the grand finals for the third Major in a row.
Feature image credits: DreamHack / Jennika Ojala
What are you most excited about at the DreamLeague Major 2019? Do you think we’ll see other Dota 2 teams step it up and give the current DPC leaders a good run for their money? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.