The EPICENTER Major’s European Qualifier will have eight teams competing for three slots at the Russian Finals.
Six of the teams in the Qualifier, which takes place from Wednesday to Sunday (May 15-19), have been invited – Team Secret, Team Liquid, OG, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Alliance and The Final Tribe – with the other two, Aachen City Esports and Team Singularity, having earned their spots through open qualifiers.
The event promises to be highly competitive with plenty of quality on show.
Team Secret easily stand out from the crowd – they are the current leaders in the DPC rankings and have been one of the most consistent teams of the season. Captain Puppey had a strong team in the last campaign but signing star player zai and discovering hot shot Nisha at the beginning of the season has raised the level of the team even further. Team Secret won the Chongqing Major, finished 2nd in Kuala Lumpur, 4th in DreamLeague Season 11 and triumphed in the just-concluded MDL Disneyland Paris event. With two of the season’s four Majors already pocketed, they have to be considered favourites here.
Team Liquid are another big name in this Qualifier. The International 2017 champions did not have the best of seasons until MDL Paris, failing to qualify for the Kuala Lumpur Major, followed by disappointing 7-8th spot in Chongqing and 13-16th in DreamLeague Season 11. With such results, question marks have started to appear about potential replacements. The captain KuroKy, however, has decided to keep one of the longest standing line-ups (more than two years together, while KuroKy, MinD_ContRoL and MATUMBAMAN have been involved since formation in 2015). Liquid recovered in MDL Paris and reached the final before losing to Team Secret. With this achievement, Liquid have moved into 7th spot in the DPC rankings with 3,525 points and are already assured of a place at TI9.
Just a spot below are Ninjas in Pyjamas. This team, led by TI5 champion ppd, had a great start to the season with a 4th place in the Kuala Lumpur Major which remains their best ranking to date. NiP went on to miss Chongqing and finished 9-12th in DreamLeague, followed by a respectable 5-6th spot in MDL Paris. The team were created at the beginning of the season by ppd and 33, who played together last year at OpTic Gaming. NiP are a solid team and whenever they are in form, they have proven they can beat any opponents.
OG are the reigning champions of The International. They haven’t, however, been able to reproduce the stellar play demonstrated in Vancouver last year and are currently doing just enough to qualify for a return to the event. They sit in 10th spot in the DPC rankings – the top 12 after the EPICENTER Major will make it through. OG were still on break at the time of the season’s first Major in Kuala Lumpur and ana soon left on a temporary break. The new carry Pajkatt could not quite fill his shoes and with him OG did not manage to qualify for the next two Majors. ana’s return in March markedly improved OG and the team finished 5-6th in MDL Paris last week.
Alliance, The Final Tribe, Aachen City Esports and Team Singularity seem to be in a tough position with only three to go through to the final stages.
Out of these teams, Alliance look to have the best chance. They have managed to qualify for two Majors – Kuala Lumpur and Chongqing – and are not too far off the 12th spot in the rankings race with 279 DPC points. The team have been together since 2017 and recently added Madara to their ranks but despite that they failed to qualify for the last two Majors.
The Final Tribe have so far only managed to secure 20 DPC points from their participation in the DreamLeague Season 10 Minor where they ended in the bottom two spots. That is still more than the two open qualifiers, who have not registered a single point and look out of their depth here.
Team Secret are almost certain to take one of the three qualification spots but after that things look more open.
Liquid are back in form and will need to be on the last big stage that will be the final test before TI9.
NiP look as the team with potential to change the status quo and snatch one of the qualifying spots, but in order to do so, they will have to produce their very best Dota.
Although OG are getting on track, they are not quite yet the unbeatable underdogs from TI8, but with the return of ana, the line-up is there.
The rest of the teams may well find it too challenging to grab a spot with the competition being so tough.