The days are numbered before the Dota 2 world converges in Ukraine for the Kiev Major. With a purse of $3 million USD and a first-place prize of $1 million, every one of the sixteen teams competing has a reason to give it their all. Of course, with so much at stake and plenty of time between Valve events, there’s a lot to keep up with.
The first essential bit of knowledge going into the Major is that the format has switched from its usual single-elimination seeding to a Swiss format with single-elimination. This means that during the group stage, teams will face other teams with the same or similar scores, and the groups will be sorted through the course of four rounds by who has performed well or not. The system has been controversially introduced into fellow Valve game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and the Dota 2 community has similarly had questions. Still, with longer, more intense matches and a decidedly single-elimination main stage format, the system should make for an interesting event.
Many of the teams that will be featured in the Kiev Major have already shown their chops at the Dota Asia Championships, and since the invites the potential of the teams has been shaken up by this tournament and their battles in between. Of course, between DAC and Kiev, scrims and internal theorycrafting can radically change the meta and thus how teams stack up. There are still some fairly safe impressions that can help us know which teams to watch, and what to expect.
No doubt, Invictus Gaming was the most impressive team throughout DAC, taking the whole event persuasively and bringing down some top teams. Since then, they’ve been doing well through their in-house tournament circuit and qualified for the next season of StarLadder i-League. The Chinese team has even catching Westerners’ eyes as these fans try to catch up with the team’s style. It’s no question, then, who everyone will have their eyes on going into Kiev.
They’ve forged a bit of a rivalry with OG, who were swept away 3-0 during the DAC finals. It could have been the home turf advantage, but the European squad did spectacularly leading up to these finals, which made the sweep all the more devastating. What this means is that another team has figured out how to deconstruct OG, and others will be hot on their tails to take down the three-time Major champions. That doesn’t count them out from a solid Major run, of course: second place at the biggest third-party Dota 2 tournament isn’t a small feat, especially one halfway around the world, and they have the ability to go forth and claim their fourth Valve event victory.
Newbee has become a considerable force in the Chinese scene as well. They took third at DAC, where they were crowd and online favorites, and hold the best performance in the current Dota Professional League in China, well over IG and other tier-one teams. Just as notably, they’ve been consistently good, and if they can learn from IG and OG’s games, they have a strong case for a solid run.
One final step down the DAC’s placement ladder is IG Vitality, which have been fair competition in the top Chinese circuits. While they lack the strength of their primary sister team or rivals Newbee, the team has been doing fairly okay overall, with mixed but not notably incredible nor terrible results. Once again, it could be the home field advantage, but with enough training, they can certainly make a showing in Ukraine.
The final chinese team, VG.J, has surprisingly underperformed since their second-place win at February’s StarLadder i-League StarSeries. They fell into the seventh/eighth slot at DAC, and they failed to qualify for the Manila Masters. It’s a rut in the team’s recent hot streak, for sure.
Across the globe, we’ve seen quite a few swaps in organization names leading up to the Major. Possibly the biggest one is the departure of the scene’s beloved Greek lineup from Ad Finem in favor of Mousesports. While fans have been cautiously optimistic about them due to the core squad’s performance since Boston, the new sponsorship has been a bad omen. This will be Mousesports’s third Dota 2 pickup immediately before a Valve event, with each team disbanding after their losses at The International. Some hope that the third time’s the charm, and that at least the team’s well-known brotherhood will give them a decent run in Kiev.
Onyx and Digital Chaos, both appearing in Kiev, have gone through a similar mix-up in the United States, with Onyx joining the Digital Chaos brand and the former DC squad becoming Thunderbirds. It’s presently not known if this is a temporary name or not, but they have a logo that has been appropriately placed on Valve’s official website. Assumedly, both will keep their following as potential teams to shake up the NA and international scenes.
Down in South America, SG E-sports has had very little competition to match their own star power as the first team to take this new qualifying category. There’s been the back-and-forth between their squad and regional rivals Infamous, but the latter’s time to qualify is past, and it’s SG that will be carrying the flag across the pond. Their presence on an international stage is new, though, so only time will tell how they’ll do.
EG and Liquid, while keeping a strong presence internationally, couldn’t hold their own. Even though EG has remained the top team from the Americas, their infamous “lower bracket power” didn’t hold up, and they into the fifth/sixth place slot to Newbee. Liquid did a bit better in the group stages, but they met a worse fate after being eliminated day one of the main event.
Meanwhile, Wings has also struggled to perform at the very top of the tier-one teams. They were eliminated quickly in the single-elimination rounds by none other than EG. It’s not clear what this means for any of the three aforementioned teams, but fans are hoping that they have power in reserve for the Major.
While the Southeast Asian team Faceless went through their regional qualifiers with international attention, their performance has been mixed since then. They fell in seventh/eighth place at DAC, and they failed to qualify for The Summit 7 after losing to Geek Squad. Meanwhile, TNC has had little to show, especially after also missing the mark for The Summit. The region will need to step it up before showing up in Ukraine.
Last, but absolutely not least, are the European qualifier teams, Team Secret and Virtus Pro from Western Europe and CIS respectively. The former is hoping to reclaim glory and reputation after controversy with their captain, and with a veteran lineup, there’s some hope for them yet. Virtus Pro is also hoping to regain similar fame, plus pick up momentum lost at Boston. Each team will have a lot to prove, though, as the local tier-one competition is already hot—and the international rivalry especially so at Kiev.