What We Learned from Kuala Lumpur Major 2018

As the curtain closes on the Kuala Lumpur Major 2018, we’re left with answers to a couple of questions that we’ve been dying to get an answer to since the season started.

Case in point, Virtus.Pro are back to their tournament-winning selves. After bombing out much earlier than expected at The International 2018, Virtus.Pro found their form in Malaysia. In particular, their superstar core duo, Vladimir ‘No[o]ne‘ Minenko and Roman ‘RAMZES666‘ Kushnarev, are playing more like their usual selves again. After going through a bit of a slump, they slowly ramped up their level of play throughout the tournament. At the end of it all, the two would end up posting the highest KDA of all players in the tournament.

Whenever those two are on point, Virtus.Pro are near unbeatable. But, of course, we can’t just talk about Virtus.Pro here. As much as them securing their The International 2019 berth this early on in the season means a lot — technically, there are still instances where Virtus.Pro could still miss out on a direct invite, but the odds of that happening are extremely slim — the Kuala Lumpur Major 2018 saw a number of teams play to, above, and below expectations.

Put simply, the Kuala Lumpur Major 2018 was a fitting start to the 2018-19 Dota Pro Circuit, and we’ve got everything important about it covered for you below.

ArsZeeqq Proves His Worth

Kuala Lumpur Major 2018

While he didn’t have the most successful career as a player, ArsZeeqq has quickly proven his worth as the coach of Virtus.Pro. (Virtus.Pro)

When you bring in over someone with relatively little success as a player as your coach, people are bound to have some questions. Especially if he’s coming in to replace a player as renowned as Ivan ‘Artstyle‘ Antonov. But, as it seems, Virtus.Pro have found themselves quite the catch in Arseniy ‘ArsZeeqq‘ Usov, just as OG did with Cristian ‘ppasarel‘ Banaseanu at The International 2018.

While we’re not saying that Virtus.Pro are going to win TI next year just because they added a new coach, they did just win their fifth Major despite coming into the tournament in poor form.

That’s got to mean something.

As THE most dominant team in Dota 2 over the past two years — Virtus.Pro tops the list with a 68.83% winrate across 478 games and five Major titles since August 15, 2016 — Virtus.Pro are nowhere near bad. But, they knew that they needed to change something, and after letting go of arguably the face of the franchise in Ilya ‘Lil‘ Ilyuk last season, Virtus.Pro believed that changing their coach to bring in a fresh perspective was the right move.

So far, so good.

Nisha Is a Beast

Kuala Lumpur Major 2018

Nisha has given Clement ‘Puppey’ Ivanov another weapon to use against other teams and so far, he has used Nisha to his fullest extent. (Team Secret)

Last year, Michal ‘Nisha‘ Jankowski was merely an up-and-coming player. He gained notoriety for reaching 9K MMR in 886 matches on one of his alternate accounts, and was constantly talked about as the only reason why Team Kinguin were able to qualify for LAN tournaments last year and make deep runs. But, even though most people thought he was good, a lot of people doubted whether it was just Nisha being the only good player on a bad team or if he was a legitimate talent that could change the fortunes of a Tier 1 squad.

Consider all of those doubts erased.

Nisha has consistently been Team Secret’s top performer this early season. He has come in and provided Yeik ‘MidOne‘ Nai Zheng some relief, allowing the second 10K MMR player ever to play more freely in the middle lane. More importantly, he has given Team Secret another explosive core that they can play around.

While it’s a huge shame that Team Secret were not able to close things out and go for their straight LAN title at the Kuala Lumpur Major 2018, a second-place finish that came as a result of a five-game series that could’ve gone either way isn’t half bad.

There are lessons to be had from there, and we expect Nisha to start learning from his mistakes to improve and become even better as the season goes on.

Europe Is Going To Be Stacked

Kuala Lumpur Major 2018

PPD has taken his talents to Europe and with it, he’s built yet another solid contender. (Ninjas in Pyjamas)

It was easy to see before the season even started just how competitive the European Qualifiers were going to be. Now, we’ve got confirmation.

Alliance may have fallen flat in their first big LAN together, but you can expect them to rally and become back stronger the next time around. Team Secret, of course, remain the alpha dog of the region. At least, until otherwise proven. Then there’s Ninjas in Pyjamas, the latest team of Peter ‘ppd‘ Dager, who has a lineup composed of some of the most stable and proven talents in the scene.

But, that’s not all.

There’s still OG and Team Liquid. The former took an extended break after winning The International 2018, while Team Liquid followed suit after going through a slump following their fourth-place finish at TI8.

With at least five teams that’s arguably Top 10 in the world (and at least three in the Top 5), the Regional Qualifiers in Europe this season is going to be a bloodbath.

Chinese Teams Have Some Work To Do

Kuala Lumpur Major 2018

From rookie to full-fledged superstar, Zhang ‘Paparazi’ Chengjun will now look to finally get over the hump and get himself, as well as his team, some trophies. (ViCi Gaming)

We may have valued Chinese teams a bit too much heading into the Kuala Lumpur Major 2018.

With most teams playing against each other in various online leagues in the first few months of the season, it was natural to assume that the Chinese teams would have a leg up over the competition. But, as it turns out, more games played doesn’t always mean more success. Case in point, Team Aster, Vici Gaming, and even PSG.LGD, all failed to make a deep run.

That’s a surprising turn of events considering just how much effort the region seems to be putting into making sure that every Chinese team is in tip top shape throughout the season.

While there’s still plenty of chances to recover, China will need to step up their play fast if they want to send over as many Chinese teams as possible to defend their home turf at The International 2019, which will be held in Shanghai.

The Southeast Asian Crowd Delivers Once Again

Kuala Lumpur Major 2018

Whether it’s in Malaysia or in Manila, Southeast Asian fans have proven themselves to be the best that Dota 2 has to offer. (PGL)

Regardless of where it is in Southeast Asia, you can expect the Southeast Asian crowd to deliver.

Whether they were cheering for their fellow Malays, Midone or Jian Wei ‘xNova‘ Yap, or simply just supporting the teams who are putting on a good show, the crowd at the Kuala Lumpur Major 2018 gave their hearts out and did not show any bias whatsoever.

The arena may not have been as packed as expected, and there certainly were far more problems than PGL had anticipated, but it was loud and filled with the best crowd that Dota 2 has to offer.

Having said that, here’s to hoping that Valve decides to give Southeast Asia a second chance to host another Major this season. Or, if not, at least consider holding a TI in Southeast Asia. Not only would that kind of a decision economically and financially make sense, but it would be the best thing that Valve could ever do for the hardcore supporters of Dota 2 all over Southeast Asia.

The Competition Is Tighter Than Ever

Kuala Lumpur Major 2018

In just its second year, the 2018-19 Dota Pro Circuit has helped raise the level of competition in Dota 2 and made it possible for every team from every region to improve and play against some of the best teams in the world. (Valve)

Player-turned-analyst Kyle ‘melonzz‘ Freedman said it best when he said in one of the games he was casting that the competition is so close right now that all it takes is for one mistake to change the tides of battle and cause a team to lose or win.

Looking at the results of the Kuala Lumpur Major 2018, you’d think that just because Virtus.Pro and Team Secret finished on top, the powerhouses still reign supreme. But, that’s not true. Virtus.Pro looked extremely vulnerable in some of their games, and while Team Secret played near-perfectly prior to the Grand Finals, none of their wins came for free.

Every team didn’t just fight to the best of their abilities, they had the necessary mix of talent, skill, and experience to give any team they faced a good run for their money.

From the winners, Virtus.Pro, down to the bottom finishers, Gambit, Tigers, Team Aster, and paiN Gaming, you would’ve never guessed how the Kuala Lumpur Major 2018 would turn out heading into the event, and that’s a good sign that the level of competition is going up.

As the season progresses, expect tournament places to be even more unexpected as teams close out the gaps and blur the lines between Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 teams.

Final Thoughts

At this point, there’s really no reason to doubt Virtus.Pro anymore. They can go on a slump all they want, but we know, when it counts the most, they’ll turn things up and play to their strengths.

We saw them flip that proverbial switch between Game 3 and Game 4 of the Grand Finals of the Kuala Lumpur Major 2018, as they went from an overly-aggressive team to a team whose controlled aggression has brought them so many wins in the past.

Now, it’s up to the rest of the field to try and find out what makes Virtus.Pro tick as they look to unseat them from the proverbial throne, and with only four more Majors to go, they better do it fast or they’ll risk giving the CIS bears all the momentum in the world as Virtus.Pro prepare to win the one thing that has constantly eluded them over the past two years — the Aegis of Champions.

What do you think were the key takeaways from the Kuala Lumpur Major 2018? Do you think the competitive field is as tight as ever? Or did the tournament just lack the presence of a true powerhouse? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.

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