Tomorrow, December and the holiday season will finally be upon us—and with it, the second Major of the Dota 2 Pro Circuit.
DreamLeague Season 8 will pit eight teams against each other for their share of a $1 million prize pool and a total of 1,500 qualification points for The International 8.
Unlike other tournaments in the Pro Circuit, however, DreamLeague will not feature any direct invites at all. Instead, every squad participating in the LAN on Dec. 1 will be qualifier teams.
That means, in theory, every team is on a level playing field—and could lead to some upsets. There are still several teams in the mix here that deserve the tag of favorites, however.
Team Liquid, Newbee, and Virtus Pro all stand out immediately among the rest in the list of participating teams. Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi and his teammates on Liquid need no introduction at this point—they are simply one of the most consistently strong teams in the world.
With several signature heroes—more than their opponents could ever ban in one go—and a seriously talented roster across the board, Liquid are a significant threat in any event they play in. Look towards Maroun “GH” Merhej and his jaw-dropping support play in particular, especially if he gets his hands on Rubick, Io, or Keeper of the Light.
The same goes for VP, the winners of the first Major of the current season. At ESL One Hamburg, they showed everyone just how much they’d been practicing since their disappointing sixth-place finish at TI7. Their aggressive, high-octane playstyle is reminiscent of the popular strategies of the CIS region in the early 2000s, and is quite a sight to behold.
That said, their calm and collected decision making is what sets them apart from teams that simply run at their opponents hoping for the best. This is where veteran captain Alexei “Solo” Berezin comes into play, keeping his squad working like a well-oiled machine with his stellar shotcalling.
Then there’s the Chinese team Newbee, who most recently took home the trophy from the Perfect World Masters. The TI7 silver medalists are back in championship-winning shape, with star player Song “Sccc” Chun leading the charge. Although their playstyle isn’t as flashy or entertaining as that of their rivals in Liquid or VP, their overall stability and chemistry as a team is what they can rely on.
Right below the likely top three we have perennial fan favorites Natus Vincere, the ever-present Evil Geniuses, and ESL One Hamburg runners-up Team Secret. These are the teams that could potentially disturb what would otherwise be a smooth ride to the grand finals for Liquid, VP, and Newbee.
While fans will always say “Na’Vi is back” whenever they win almost anything these days, this time it could be for real. Qualifying for a Pro Circuit Major is no easy feat, especially when the CIS-region qualifier is combined with the EU qualifier.
To get here, they had to get through a qualifier with Liquid, Secret, VP, OG, and Empire in it. Since they got second place in that very qualifier, it stands to reason that they may finally have found a roster that could bring them back to the top tiers of competitive Dota 2. Of course they still have some work to do in Jönköping, in order to prove that their qualifier run wasn’t a fluke.
Team Secret come into this event with some confidence, thanks to their overall good results as of late. They’ve yet to win a Pro Circuit event, but they got really close at ESL One Hamburg before being stopped in their tracks by VP. Make no mistake, though—they are more than capable of making a deep run at DreamLeague.
As for EG, their best recent accomplishment was a top 4 result at the PGL Open in Bucharest last month. For a team with talented players like Syed “Sumail” Hassan, they’ve certainly had some lukewarm results lately, but as always they have the capacity to turn their misfortunes around at the drop of a hat. If they show that they’ve found their footing on this patch, the other teams will have to watch out.
Those wishing on a star
Southeast Asian squad Fnatic and familiar South American team Infamous will be bringing up the rear in this tournament. For the latter, all odds will be against them. Put simply, they do not possess the sheer strength as a team required to break past the middle of the pack, let alone the three frontrunners.
As for Fnatic, though, there is the possibility for them to surprise both the stronger teams and the fans watching the event. After replacing midlaner Steve “Xcalibur” Ye with Abed “Abed” Yusop and coach Ahmad “ADTR” Syazwan with Adam Shah, they saw an instant improvement in their results.
They immediately returned to the upper echelons of the cutthroat Southeast Asian scene, qualifying for DreamLeague and The Summit 8 through their respective regional qualifier tournaments. It’s clear that the roster change did them nothing but good things, and if they can ride the morale boost brought about by their recent victories, we could see them doing well in Jönköping.
The first match of DreamLeague Season 8 begins tomorrow, at 4:30am ET. ESL One Hamburg champions Virtus Pro will go up against fellow CIS-region team Natus Vincere in a best-of-three series, followed by Team Liquid and Fnatic.
Catch the second Major of the season on DreamLeague’s official Twitch channel.