Monster Energy Invitational preview: Who will emerge victorious?
Monster Energy Invitational will be one of the very few LAN tournaments to be held in the North American continent. It will be held from March 07 to March 09, 2014, right before teams start preparing for the major tournaments such as ESL, Dream League and StarLadder StarSeries - to name a few. Which of the four teams is most likely to win? This article offers a brief look on each of the teams - Evil Geniuses, Cloud 9, Team Liquid and eHug.
The time has arrived for Monster Energy Invitational to take off on the grand stage of SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. It will run all throughout this weekend, starting on Friday, 7 March. The event will feature the top American teams in Evil Geniuses, Cloud 9, Team Liquid and eHug, who will be seen contesting for the major chunk of the $15,000 prize money. Every team can be considered as a potential winner, given that anything can happen on a LAN tournament.
1st - $10,000
2nd - $3,000
3rd - $2,000
The new, revamped roster of Evil Geniuses will be looking forward to make a statement at this event. Acquiring the services of Artour 'Arteezy' Babaev, Peter 'Peterpandam' Dager and Ludwig 'Zai' Wahlberg alongside veterans in Clinton 'Fear' Loomis and Saahil 'Universe' Arora, this team surely looks scary on paper. Touted as the perfect rosters for old man fear, this team managed to win ESP Shock Therapy Cup and went on an undefeated streak.
Their drafting has been more versatile, and players have been showing dominant performances combined with timely synergy and the thirst to win. Also, this will be the new roster's debut at a LAN event. The combination of young talent and experienced veterans seems to be favouring EG at this point of time. Dating back to Sadboys, the team has lost only two out of the previous eighteen official matches.
However, statistics don't mean everything unless and until they prove themselves at LAN. The last good-tournament-run that EG had was at DreamHack 2013, after which the team has consistently displayed subpar performances including Major League Gaming - Columbus, where the team crashed early on out of the tournament. Can the addition of an excellent mid and two support players bring any change in EG's luck? Can Arteezy win his second LAN event? Can EG prove themselves to be a top contender for all major titles?
ESP Shock Therapy Cup - 1st place ($7,000)
This is certainly the most beloved team participating at Monster Energy Invitational. Comprising of famous players such as EE-Saama aka Jacky 'EternalEnvy' Mao, WehSing 'SingSing' Yeun and talented players Kurtis 'Aui_2000' Ling, Johan 'pieliedie' Astrom and Armand 'bOne7' Pittner; this team has been through all ups and downs in their competitive careers, yet have risen above the shortcomings.
Starting with EternalEnvy's ousting from No-Tidehunter and SingSing making the decision to leave QPAD to their acquisition by RattleSnake and now by Cloud 9, the team has managed to shine through all of the aforementioned controversies. They even won MLG Columbus when Marco's RattleSnake/Speed Gaming fiasco erupted mere two hours before their grand finals against the Chinese Juggernaut, Team DK.
Arguably the favourites going into the tournament, C9 will have to step out and bring their A-game to the table. However, they'll be acquiring the services of ex-EG player Jimmy 'DemoN' Ho in place on bOne7. This might lead to adjustment within the team roles, and we might see SingSing playing as an offlaner with DemoN taking the mid role. Teams might want to focus on shutting down SingSing alongwith the talented supports in pieliedie and Aui_2000, that constitutes the playmaking core.
Will Cloud 9 emerge victorious and win their first title under the new banner? Or will they falter at the last hurdle?
MLG Columbus - 1st place ($68,000)
Team Liquid, one of America's top contenders and also the only American team that made it into the Top 8 at The International, is the third team participating Monster Energy Invitational. The previous iteration of the team revolved around three core members of the former compLexity team, namely, Brian 'fluffnstuff' Lee, Tyler 'TC' Cook and Michael 'ixmike88' Ghannam.
The team underwent a roster shuffle where ixmike88 went inactive and Steven 'Korok' Ashworth left the team. Replacing them were none other than Max 'qojqva' Broecker and Peter 'Waytoosexy' Nguyen, and completing the team was the longstanding player in Sam 'BuLba' Sosale. This team has since then displayed stellar performances and have done well in tournaments they have participated.
The weak point of this team, however, is the tendency to get outdrafted and that they are often plagued with inconsistency. Mix inconsistency with lacklustre performance, and it becomes the burden on any team. Judging by their disappointing performance in the last 10 games, where the team lost 70% of their matches, TL, despite being one of the veteran American Dota 2 teams, is coming into this tournament with a lot to prove.
Then again, we cannot judge a team purely on statistics. This is the right time for Team Liquid to bounce back from their poor performances and reestablish themselves as top tier. Also, Arif 'MSS' Anwar will be seen replacing qojqva due to the latter not being able to make his trip to United States.
ESP Shock Therapy Cup - 3rd place ($1,000)
eHug is a relatively new organisation in the competitive arena, therefore, not much is known about them. However, they set up a nice gaming house for it's team along with a good monthly salary, so the players could train in a relaxed yet serious atmosphere. Moving on, they acquired Pretty Boy Swag (PBS), a rookie team gracing the North American competitive scene.
The team comprises of Jared 'Pandaego' Fletcher, Alan 'Ryuuboruz' Andersen, Clay 'Cak3z' Winkler, Donal 'ima_sheep(sux)' Cheung and Marcus 'JiggleBilly' Dastrup. Although information on the players' competitive background is unknown/little, Ryuuboruz and ima_sheep(sux) have been a namestake in IXDL/NEL scene. Currently holding a 7-10 win/loss ratio (41%), the team seems unlikely to make a big impact.
Yet make no mistake in underestimating the eHug boys. Being the underdogs has it's own advantages; important one being less pressure. In a way, it will help them to calm their nerves and focus on the games at hand. Undoubtedly, eHug's debut will be of much importance since it may decide the team's future.
Recent achievements: (None)
My predictions going into this event would be in favour of Cloud 9 and Evil Geniuses. I think that the former has more chances of winning the championship than the latter, considering the facts that they are more organised and better synergised as a unit. EG, on the other hand, looks solid on paper and have shown considerable success in online events. However, whether or not they perform exceptionally well at LAN's is still unpredictable, judging by their prior performances.
Team Liquid, the highest-finishing American team on last year's The International, is lurking within the shadows of their former glory days and have been performing poorly despie the roster change. Yes, they have managed to take a game off from teams like Na'Vi and Cloud 9 on occasions but have been inconsistent in maintaining their form. Hence, Team Liquid is more likely to juggle between third/fourth place considering their current trend of subpar performance.
eHug, the newcomer in the present lot has a lot to prove and learn from this event. Taking a third place will also be great for them and will motivate them even further to perform better in the upcoming tournaments. Even if they place last, eHug should not be disheartened as Monster Energy Invitational will just be a stepping stone for them. But hey, let's not rule out the dark horse, shall we?
Write your predictions in the comment section below.
GosuGamers reached out to Aaron 'Ayesee' Chambers on his thoughts about the event and the participating teams. He had the following to say:
The Monster Invitational is going to be a proving ground for almost every team in the field in one way or another.
EG, of course, is arguably the favorite from an on-paper standpoint, but outside of some strong early showing they still have a lot to prove in terms of performing up their level of talent, experience, and potential.
Cloud 9, on the other hand, is a squad that's already shown the ability to shock and awe on the big LAN stage... the question is, though, was Columbus an anomaly, or just the start of what could be a huge rise, especially under their new sponsor?
Then there's Team Liquid, with Bulba, TC, and Fluff returning as a core of three that have been together for a while now. They have experience, and more importantly, they have loads of LAN experience together... the issue is, they've classically underperformed on the big stages. This tournament is a great chance for them to get that monkey off their back, and prove that they've managed to shake the yips that plagued them going back to before TI3.
And of course, there's EHUG. An up and coming squad that, despite having loads of developing talent and looking stellar at times, still has much to prove if they're to have any chance to break into the top tier of teams. What better place for a coming out part than LAN event in North America, where they can go toe to toe with the best talent the continent has to offer?
Again, while it's hard to argue that EG will be heavily favored with eHug considered pretty big underdogs, there isn't a single possible match-up combination that I would ever write off as a sure thing for any particular team. It'll all be determined by which team shows up ready to play and ready to perform under the bright lights. And what more could you ask for in an event than that?
Photo sources: ThisIsGame.com (Team Liquid, Facebook (eHug), halfpastnow.com (venue image), realestaste.aol.com (headline/rotator images)
Source: Monster Energy Invitational