After a month full of big events, the Dota Pro Circuit is rolling into the upcoming StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor.
Eight teams will battle it out for their share of $300,000, 15,000 Dota Pro Circuit Points, and the final spot in the DreamLeague Season 11 Stockholm Major that starts on March 14.
Taking an early look at the competition, Gambit Esports and OG both stand out as early favorites. In a field of teams with minimal success in recent months, their experience might give them an edge.
OG have stepped up after taking some time off following their win at The International 2018. After coming back in 2019 with their rested players, the champs looked pretty rusty.
It really wasn’t until their last event, ESL One Katowice, that they showed all the signs of being the team that they were at TI8. They finished third at that event, losing to Gambit in the lower bracket finals.
Gambit placed second at ESL One Katowice after running into the seemingly-unbeatable Team Secret in the grand finals. Even though they didn’t take home the gold, it did help them continue an impressive 2019 outing thus far.
After severely underperforming at The Kuala Lumpur Major in November 2018, Gambit seemed to reinvent themselves heading into the new year. So far in 2019, they’ve won both WePlay! Dota 2 Winter and Valentine Madness, and placed second in The Bucharest Minor.
It looks like things might be a little harder for this team on the rise, though, since they announced earlier this week that they’ll be without Andrey “Afoninje” Afonin for the duration of the tournament.
Afoninje qualified for the World Electronic Sports Games 2018 competition in October 2018 when the current Gambit roster was still Ferzee. He qualified alongside a Russian team that featured himself and four players from Virtus Pro.
That event overlaps with the Minor, but Gambit is allowing Afoninje honor his previous commitment.
“Back when we were ‘Ferzee’ Afoninje notified us that Virtus Pro players asked him to join them at WESG Russia Qualifier and WESG Russia Grand Final,” said former Ferzee and current Gambit Dota 2 manager Ivan Karpov. “It’s a great opportunity for one of our members to play with such a strong team, learn about its communication and other in-game aspects.”
Apparently, this was discussed when the roster was signed by Gambit in October 2018. After a brief meeting, both sides agreed that Afoninje will go to WESG while they bring in a stand-in for the Minor.
Rostislav “fn” Lozovoi, formerly of Team Empire and a stand-in for VP earlier in the season, will fill the roster spot for Gambit.
Vici Gaming likely would have been counted among the favored teams in this event, but recent roster issues and personal problems have hurt their chances. It’s unclear if they’ll have any last second changes, but as of now, they’re running with their normal roster.
Expectations for the other four teams at this event, though, seem to be a toss-up right now. Old But Gold and Flying Penguins hold some very famous names on their rosters, like Ilya “Illidan” Pivcaev and Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao—but they were still formed just for this event. Their results so far have been impressive and we’ll see if that holds up going forward.
BOOM ID have shown some potential after placing seventh in The Bucharest Minor, but they need to get more results on a big stage before they can truly enter the conversation. The same goes for the former Playmakers Esports roster that now plays for Team Odd.
Royal Never Give Up have been in the public eye a lot recently and just finished fifth at MDL Macau 2019. That’s a good start, but they need to go beyond being just a tough out for good teams and actually take some matches.
The StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor will take place from March 7 to 10 in preparation for the Stockholm Major that begins on March 14.