Secret v. Liquid
Christmas has come early this year for Dota 2 fans. Team Secret is unanimously considered the best the world right now, but Team Liquid is certainly in the top five conversation. On the same weekend that Secret was being crowned champions of ESL One Katowice 2019, Team Liquid was concurrently claiming the trophy at Mars Media Dota 2 League: Macau 2019. In terms of big tournament results, these teams are number one and two.
The prospect of their impending clash, then, is only made sweeter by the fact that both teams are in the Group of Death together. While it would have been difficult for these both of these two teams to ultimately find their way into the Grand Finals, an early bout between them would definitely set the tempo of the entire tournament. There is a very slim possibility that they will not play each other beacuse of the the double-elimination format of the bracket, but currently all signs point to them meeting one another in the Winner's Match of Group A. Considering the last time the teams met, a potential rematch will be one to watch closely, as it will surely prove memorable.
Here's the CORSAIR #DreamLeagueMajor Groups!— DreamHack Dota (@DreamHackDota) March 11, 2019
A @teamsecret @TeamLiquid @Team_JStorm @Keen_GamingCN
B @PSGeSports-@LGDgaming @FNATIC @NiPGaming @infamous_gg
C @virtuspro @EHOMECN @mineskiproteam @goforwardgg
D @EvilGeniuses @ViCi_Gaming @ChaosEC @NatusVincere pic.twitter.com/Ec8bX2phnz
The Bears Reunited
It has been an awkward few months for a team that was considered tantamount to Secret at the beginning of the year. In Macau, Virtus.pro had an objectively terrible Group Stage, finishing tied for last place with a 2-5 record. And even though they were able to scrape together a respectable Lower Bracket run, they were ultimately ousted by Evil Geniuses and finished third in a tournament they were expected to win.
Last week's WESG 2018 Ukraine Finals saw the team split in two, as their sole non-Russian player Vladimir 'No[o]ne' Minenko played for Team Ukraine while the remaining Bears played for Team Russia's White-Off. Both teams were considered frontrunners, but both were eliminated in the Semifinals, ultimately facing eachother in the Third Place match where Team Russia was victorious. However, the team is reunited now and will be competing in Stockholm. With the recent strong performances from other CIS teams Gambit Esports and Old But Gold, VP will be hungry to reclaim not only their former glory on top of the region, but their past consistency as a top Dota team as well.
The coach of White-Off, @ArsZeeqq, gave us a post-match interview in which he commented on the team's performance, the rivalry against Team Ukraine, and why the Russian squad's result at WESG is unsatisfying.#WESG #Dota2 pic.twitter.com/DI3SNcnunz— WESG (@WESGcom) March 10, 2019
Kings of Third
EG had a string of third place finishes leading up to Macau. They were relegated to bronze at The International 2018, The Kuala Lumpur Major, and The Chongqing Major. The only other tournament they competed at in that time was ESL One Hamburg 2018, where they finished tied for 5th place. In Macau they were finally able to take a step forward and beat VP to make it into the Grand Finals. They broke their 3rd place curse, but were quickly consumed in that series 3-1 by Team Liquid and a livewire Amer 'Miracle-' Al-Barkawi.
The last time they achieved the top spot at a tournament was back at DOTA Summit 9 in July of last year. While they remain in the top five conversation, they have consistently only been okay, and seem to lack the flash that defined them at the height of their strength. They, just like VP, will be anxious to show everyone that they are still relevant, and still have something to offer the top teams in terms of contention. For EG, the math will be simple: get first.
Yes, No, Maybe
Tournaments have not been kind to the TI8 runner-up PSG.LGD. After their harrowing defeat at the hands of OG, they have since struggled to look as dominant as they did in Vancouver. A disappointing string of results led to their star midlaner, Yao 'Maybe' Lu, taking a break from Dota back in January. CDEC Gaming's Guo 'Xm' Hongcheng has replaced him, and, at least in the qualifiers, things have begun looking positive: PSG.LGD was able to make it through the Group Stage with a 5-3 record, and proceeded to beat Team Aster 2-0 to qualify for DreamLeague Season 11.
But qualifiers are different than actual tournaments. This will be the first time PSG.LGD plays in a top tournament without Maybe, and considering how dominant the top tier teams have been, it will be very interesting to see if PSG.LGD can keep stride. Maybe will have no doubt added a great deal of experience and composure to the team's playstyle simply because of how skilled he was; Xm will have his work cut out for him to make sure the team maintains chemistry and walks out of Stockholm with good results.
The Quiet Storm
We could have easily talked about Vici Gaming here, and how their breakout performance at the SLI Minor is an indicator of how strong they really are; we also could talk about how Keen Gaming has played very well as of late, taking second place at WESG 2018, and thus should not be counted out of this tournament by any stretch. However, these things have been talked about. There are few who expect any true North American teams (that is, teams comprised of majority NA players; EG does not count) to make real noise in Stockholm. The entire region has become something of a punchline lately, as they have so consistently underperformed. In enters J.Storm.
The North American squad has been quietly ravaging every other NA team in their path, most notably beating Jacky 'EternaLEnVy' Mao's Flying Penguins twice to qualify for DreamLeague Season 11 as well as ESL One Mumbai 2019. They have looked so good against their peers, in fact, that ODPixel was compelled to say that they were in a different league than everyone else in the region. While it is true that there is a huge gap between the teams in an NA qualifier and the top tier teams at a premier tournament, it would be unwise to count J.Storm out. They have a great mix of experience and skill, and are even coached by Jimmy 'DeMoN' Ho. They play their opening match against Team Liquid, and while many will be quick to count them out, they might have a surprise in store for everyone yet.
Who will win when Team Secret and Team Liquid face off in the Group of Death?
Photo Credit - ESL - Bart Oerbekke