Out of all the teams to make a jump into the top-level of Dota 2 this late in the season, Vega Squadron has been the biggest surprise.
Though they haven’t claimed a spot at The International 2019 yet, Vega utterly dominated the group stage of the CIS closed regional qualifiers, including a massive upset of Gambit Esports.
Gambit was the heavy favorite heading into the closed qualifiers after placing well at the EPICENTER Major and nearly claiming the final direct invite for TI9. That run helped cement them as a top team in their region, but they didn’t play up to that level in the qualifiers.
They started out strong by besting both Natus Vincere and Team Spirit, but after that, it started to get messy.
Starting with a loss to Team Empire, Gambit dropped three straight games to teams they had previously beaten before in other CIS events. Both Empire and Winstrike Team blew them out completely, while the FlyToMoon stack edged them out after almost an hour of close competition.
Those three losses almost guaranteed that they would be fighting for their lives heading into the final matches of the group stage. They managed to turn things around and eliminate Nemiga Gaming from the tournament, but then they ran into Vega.
Vega was on a tear through the entirety of the region and showing signs of life for the first time this season. Swapping back and forth between CIS and Europe all season, the team failed to qualify for any Dota Pro Circuit events and their only first-place finish of note was at the Qi Invitational Europe.
This was their first shot at someone of Gambit’s caliber in several months and they took it to them. After stomping the rest of the competition and going undefeated, they continued that trend by doing the same to Gambit to complete a perfect run.
That run capped an end to Gambit’s season and a terrible second day that started with one of their best players, mid-laner Andrey “Afoninje” Afonin straight up quitting in the game against Winstrike. He still had positioning for potential buyback and the match wasn’t lost yet, but all that came of it was a simple good game typed in chat before he disconnected.
That ruined any momentum that could have been built up even with the loss, and Afoninje will now be disciplined by his team for his actions. It is unclear now what this means for Gambit in the long run, but for now, their season is over and they will be watching TI9 from home.
Meanwhile, Vega went a perfect 7-0 through groups and are currently still in the fight for the CIS qualifier spot at TI9. They will play the winner of Na’Vi and Empire at 6am CT on July 10.