Five storylines to keep an eye on at the Kiev Major
As the last major before The International 7 and as the first major to be held in the Ukraine, the Kiev Major has all the makings of an epic masterpiece. From the underdogs to the giants, it will be well worth keeping an eye out as these storylines unfold.
One hit wonders or more tricks up their sleeves?
Exploding onto the scene with superlative performances in prime events, some teams rack up momentous achievements in the blink of an eye. The one hit wonders achieve mainstream popularity or astounding success for a very short period of time, or sometimes even for only one event. It becomes their claim to fame. Anyone remember the Macarena?
Going into the Kiev Major, two teams are dangerously close to writing their name in recent history as flashes in the metaphorical pan. For both Invictus Gaming and Mousesports (ex- Ad Finem) their reputation and status for the year will hinge on a win - or at the very least the runner up position. Judging by their recent LAN performances, the teams will no doubt be worth keeping a watchful eye on over the course of the week.
Invictus Gaming’s recent success - dubbed as the ‘resurgence of BurNing’ is nothing to shake a stick at. Their overwhelming presence and success at DAC 2017 started with a surge forward to take first place in their group and culminated with a 3:0 sweep over the event favorites OG in the Grand Finals.
While much of their success has been pinned on BurNing, the team has more going for them than just one player. Menacing, compelling and relentless, the entire team demonstrate outstanding decision making and discipline. They move in accord like a well oiled machine and with the beauty and grace of synchronized swimmers that seem to mesmerize the audience. Going off their recent LAN performances, they will no doubt be worth watching.
Mousesports picked up the all-Greek squad as they stand at a crossroad. The team won the hearts of fans around world when they seized the second place position at the Boston Major last season, but that came at a price, with many fans claiming circumstances were behind their success, rather than ability.
In particular, many critics credit the single elimination format for the organization’s success - citing their seeding into the ‘easier side’ of the brackets and the luck of a single elimination format. Their evidence? The team’s sub-par results and placement in the group stage - third place with a 1 - 2 record. However, the team knocked out Newbee and upset Thunderbirds (then known as Digital Chaos) in a 2:0 sweep - both impressive feats, not to mention their ascension to the grand finals against OG which gave us one of the best matches of the event.
A quiet and sub-par following season gives some courage to the critics and the Greeks will need to silence them with their adrenaline-fueled aggression and antics.
A Redemption Story
No one can resist a redemption story. A real life legacy created by picking up the pieces of a broken dream and putting them back together with determination and pure grit. These are the stories that remind us that no matter how failed or flawed our journey is, there is always a chance and way to reach the top. Battered and bruised, the battle scars can become marks of triumph.
Team Faceless has failed on the international circuit one too many times recently. While they struggle to find a foothold on a global level, the team continues to be a prominent team in the SEA region.
They did not pick up a single win during the DAC 2017 group stage and placed last in their group. However, the real headlines were made in the lower bracket. With 60 minutes on the clock, Team Faceless dealt a final and devastating blow to their opponents Team Liquid, cleaning up the enemy base, bringing in mega creeps and sending one of the favoured teams home early. They subsequently lost in the next round to EG with a 2:0 sweep, putting an end to their hopes of redemption, but the impact had alredy been made.
It wasn't too much later that Team Faceless would once again be facing a disastrous run in the Summit 7 SEA qualifiers. For the second time in a month’s span, the team placed dead last in the group stage without a single victory under their belt. This time their results would knock them out of contention before they had a chance to bounce back in the brackets.
Most recently Team Faceless did seize the spot at Manila Masters after crushing Mineski 2:1 in the grand finals. - once again, proving they are still top of the food chain in SEA and begging the question - can they redeem themselves on an international level?
Inspiration often comes to us through scenarios that turn from a dream into reality - the underdog story. Starting from the bottom, these teams achieve the impossible. Despite the roadblocks, and against all the odds, their confidence and drive never waivers and they defy all logic.
Typically the South American teams struggle to take down their North American neighbors in the qualifiers - being lumped together for only one allocated spot. High ping in their own region, poor internet conditions and typically lower economic standards leading to less financial backing or security can create a disadvantage for South Americans. With the introduction of their own SA regional qualifiers for The Kiev Major, Valve leveled the playing field in the competition and will now send a team forward to prove their talent and worth.
SG e-sports has made history as the only Brazilian team that has ever qualified for a Valve event. The Brazilian squad got a taste of success and a feel for the international stage when they traveled to China in January for WESG 2016. The team took a commendable 5-8th place finish - making it into the playoffs after taking second in their group. In a recent interview, members acknowledged that the organization has the utmost confidence in them, providing support and recognition as well as bootcamp and resources.
Even giants will fall
There can only be one winner. The competition and stakes are high and pressure is ramping up for reigning and previous championship teams. We’ve seen it before - in fact just recently at DAC 2017.
Both Evil Geniuses (TI5 champions) and Wings Gaming (TI6 champions) tumbled from the summit. Evil Geniuses ended their run with a sub-par 6th-place finish while Wings Gaming had a devastating early demise as the second team eliminated - ending with a 9-12th place blemish on their history page.
Wings have been showing up to events with subpar performances since TI6. Northern Arena BEAT Invitational was their only title since then, back in November. They had far from desirable finishes in their appearances at The Summit 6, The Boston Major and StarLadder iLeague. Even within China, the team has started to spiral downward at an alarming rate, taking 3-4th at China Top 2016 (of four teams), 10th in Dota2 Professional League Season 2 and 9-12th at Dota2 ACE – Provisional. The only glimmer of hope was their 3-4th place finish at ESL One Genting.
Evil Geniuses have been teetering on the brink of success, but for now their nemesis takes the name OG. In the last few premier tournaments, it has been OG that has brought down the once International championship team. The North Americans tend to kick off the brackets strong and full of moxy, only to come to a screeching halt in the face of the Europeans. This has been the case in the Summit 6 and the Boston Major. Although they did beat OG down not once, but twice in Dota Pit Season 5, EG have since shown signs of a slight deterioration in their once polished and tidy gameplay.
OG on the other hand are showing no signs of slowing or stopping their steamroll. Their season got off to a strong start - taking 4th place at MarsTV Dota 2 League, second place at The Summit 6 and then their third championship title for a Valve Major - at Boston Major. The followed up their hat-trick with several more podium finishes at StarLadder iLeague, DAC 2017, Elimination Mode 3.0 and Dota Pit Season 5. Standing at the precipice of success, the fall for them will be far and a hard one if it comes.
The Hometown Heroes
Playing on their own home turf, the hometown heroes are a source of pride for locals. With friends and family looking on from the crowd, the roaring crowd in their ears and the abundance of signs and banners depicting the team logo the sheer electricityand energy when the heroes take the stage is nothing short of astounding. The pressure can be tremendous, all too often teams crack and fizzle under it, but when they come through there are few things more rewarding than standing in front of your loved ones, as well as your closest and most loyal fans, holding the trophy high overhead.
Virtus.Pro is the only CIS team competing in the event. With two players - Vladimir "No[o]ne" Minenko and Ilya "Lil" Ilyuk, hailing from the Ukraine and the other three members from neighboring Russia, there is no doubt which team will have the loudest cheering section.
The new roster led by Alexey “Solo” Berezin was revealed early August, prior to the post-TI6 reshuffle. VP took their first title for the new season in BTS EU series #4, and has risen to be considered one of the most feared opponents lately. Following that first title, they continued by taking qualifier spots for The Summit 6, Dota Pit League Season 5, The Boston Major, and ESL One Genting 2017. They then took second place at DreamLeague Season 6 and another championship title – at The Summit 6. They had a strong showing and took 5-8th place at The Boston Major to round out their successful year. Heading into 2017, they took 3-4th at ESL One Genting, 5-6th in Dota Pit Season 5.
Virtus.Pro emerged from the CIS Kiev Major qualifiers unscathed as they destroyed their opponents with ease. The CIS team breezed through the group stage with flawless and compelling performances. Their journey through the playoffs were just as impressive, always coming out ahead and as the better team in the upper brackets.