10 invite predictions for The Kiev Major

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Valve

It's been relatively quiet in the Dota 2 scene since The Boston Major, but with The Kiev Major Qualifiers on the horizon, that's about to change.

With the first matches set to begin on march 6, Valve has yet to announce which teams will secure a coveted invite to the Major and avoid the ever-perilous qualifiers.

Compared to past Major qualifiers, two additional regions will be competing for a spot at Kiev. The South American and CIS Qualifiers have been split off from the North American and European ones, creating six qualifying regions.

Keeping that in mind, here are the 10 teams we think will be invited to the Kiev Major. For this prediction, we'll be working under the assumption that one team from each region will qualify for the Major, resulting in a total of 10 teams to receive invites

OG

OG ended 2016 by proving that even with a new roster, the team was just as strong as they were before. With their win at Boston, OG have won three of the four Majors Valve have hosted since the introduction of the system, and they show no signs of stopping their domination anytime soon. OG will be at Kiev, and every other team should be prepared to face this juggernaut.

Reasons why they might not make it

As the champions of The Boston Major, OG will receive an invite to Kiev. If they don't, heads will roll.

Evil Geniuses

As competitive as North American Dota is at the moment, Evil Geniuses are still the undisputed kings of the region. Placing 3rd/4th at The Boston Major, EG followed that strong performance up by winning the invite-only China Top 16 in December and Dota Pit League Season 5 in January. By winning both LANs they played in following Boston, EG are all but guaranteed to attend the next Major.

Reasons why they might not make it

Valve forgot to push the correct button and accidentally invited another team instead. Once again, this team is a near lock for getting an invite.

Digital Chaos

From Top 4 at The Boston Major to their first premier LAN win at ESL One Genting 2017, Digital Chaos have had a good couple of months. While there's been some losses along the way, DC have proven to be a tier 1 team that is fully capable of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the greats. And while we are far removed from The International 2016, DC's runner-up status may still hold some sway over whether they receive an invite to Kiev.

Reasons why they might not make it

Though DC won ESL One Genting, their results since have left a lot to be desired. The team fell to last place at Dota Pit League Season 5 and StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season 3, and failed to qualify for Dota 2 Asia Championships 2017. If DC were to receive an invite, it will be primarily based off of their Boston Major finish and win at Genting.

Team Liquid

Team Liquid have recovered from a terrible October that saw them fail to qualify for Boston and The Summit 6 and are now one of the stronger teams in Europe. They have just won their first LAN since DreamLeague Season 6 at SL i-League Season 3, and if that momentum continues to build, Liquid will rightfully secure a spot as one of the best teams in the world at Kiev.

Reasons why they might not make it

Beyond their win at SL i-League Season 3, Liquid's only other notable accomplishment was to qualify for DAC 2017. But as we've seen in the past, LAN wins are far more likely to get a team an invite to a Major than anything else.

Ad Finem

The Greek team's stellar performance at The Boston Major catapulted them into a solid second place, earning the underdog team plenty of fans along the way. As the runners-up to Boston, Ad Finem stand a strong chance of receiving an invite based solely off of their performance at the last Major, though time will tell if Boston was more than just a one-off performance.

Reasons why they might not make it

Ad Finem's performance at Boston is the biggest argument for the team to receive an invite. They've had disappointing placements in the qualifiers they've competed in since, struggling to carry their momentum at Boston into other tournaments.

Newbee

As competitive as China has been in recent months, Newbee has been one of the few to have strong results against both Chinese and international teams since Boston. At ESL One Genting, Newbee handily defeated Team NP, Virtus.pro and Wings Gaming before falling to Digital Chaos in a close 3-2 series, which speaks well to the strengths of both teams. More importantly, Newbee won the Chinese-only Dota2 Professional League Season 2 - Top League, placing them above the other Chinese teams who are also gunning for an invite.

Reasons why they might not make it

Newbee have not played a single professional match since Genting. Taking their performance at DPL into account, it seems unlikely for Newbee to miss an invite to Kiev, but it is not outside the realm of possibility.

Virtus.pro

Virtus.pro came out of the post-TI6 shuffle as one of the hottest teams in Europe, qualifying for tournament after tournament and winning The Summit 6 in short order. After they fell out of Boston in the Top 8, VP went on to take a comfortable 3rd/4th place at ESL One Genting in January. With the introduction of a CIS qualifier and the fact that the next Major is taking place in that very region, VP are a sound choice to represent CIS at the tournament.

Reasons why they might not make it

VP have not done much to inspire confidence in them since January. Besides Genting, they performed poorly at Dota Pit League Season 5 and very quickly fell out of the qualifiers for DAC 2017. VP's invite to Kiev is contingent on a CIS team receiving an invite, as they are the most logical choice.

Team VG.J

It took several months, but Team VG.J are finally showing just what their stacked roster is capable of when everyone is playing at their best. It started with a DPL Season 2 - Secondary League win in December, followed by successful qualifications to both DAC 2017 and SL i-League Season 3 in January. It was their second place finish at the latter event that solidified VG.J as being one of the most promising team deserving of an invite in China.

Reasons why they might not make it

SL i-League Season 3 was the only premier tournament VG.J competed in this season, and while their performance was strong, it was not a LAN win. Their performance against other Chinese teams may very well be what makes or breaks VG.J's chances at getting an invite.

TNC Pro Team

Put simply, TNC Pro Team's fall season was abysmal. The post-TI6 roster shuffle did not work out in their favor, as their dismal placements at qualifiers show it. But in the winter, TNC returned to prominence by winning World Electronic Sports Games 2016. Coupled with their wins over Team Secret and iG.Vitality at SL i-League Season 3, and TNC have the best shot at receiving a coveted invite out of all the other SEA teams.

Reasons why they might not make it

Due to the rules at WESG, TNC did not face a high level of competition on their path to victory. Furthermore, their placement at SL i-League Season 3, while strong, may not be high enough to warrant Valve's attention when it comes to invites.

Wings Gaming

As the current TI champions, the absence of Wings Gaming at Kiev would be surprising. Since Boston, Wings' greatest accomplishment has been Top 4 at ESL One Genting, and they haven't played a game in the time since. But with their past record to look at and no roster changes in the months since, an invite for Wings would be a safe bet for Valve, who have invited far worse teams to past Majors.

Reasons why they might not make it

Were Wings to receive an invite to Kiev, it would more than likely be based off of their status at TI6 champions rather than anything else. If Wings did not win TI6, it would be very difficult to justify why they should be invited over other Chinese teams.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports whose journalism idol is Dino Ghiranze. You can follow him on Twitter.

OG, Ad Finem, among eight teams invited to Kiev Major

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Valve

The eight invites to the Kiev Major have been revealed, with reigning Major champions OG and Boston Major runners-up Ad Finem joining Wings Gaming, Team Liquid, Evil Geniuses, Digital Chaos, Newbee and Team VG.J at the first CIS Major.

The invites were revealed one at a time in the Dota 2 client to owners of the Winter 2017 Battle Pass. Valve has not revealed what the criteria behind the invites are.

Of the invited Teams, Wings Gaming are the reigning TI6 champions, while OG, Ad Finem, Evil Geniuses and Digital Chaos were the Top 4 teams at the Boston Major. Team Liquid recently won StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season 3, which Team VG.J placed second in, while Newbee won the Dota2 Professional League Season 2 in December, alongside second place finishes at ESL One Genting 2017 and China Top 2016.

It's a very strong lineup, one that William "Blitz" Lee, Digital Chaos' coach, believes that this is one of the best invite lists for a Valve event.

"This sounds super PC, but I think all the teams that were invited are insanely good," Blitz told theScore esports. "The team that looked the weakest coming into this tournament knocked us out of the first major, and so nobody is to be overlooked. These are all fantastic, proven LAN teams, with experience under their belts. For me anyways this is the most stacked invite list I've seen in a while."

With eight invites, eight teams will advance through the regional qualifiers to the main event. While previous Majors featured two qualification spots for each region, the addition of the South America and CIS qualifiers has resulted in the China and SEA qualifiers having two qualification spots, with every other region only having one spot.

The full list of invited teams to the regional qualifiers is as follows:

China South East Asia Europe CIS North America South America
iG.Vitality Clutch_Gamers Elements Pro Gaming Comanche Team Freedom SG eSports
Cavalry Team Faceless Team Secret Vega Squadron Team NP Midas Club Elite
Vici Gaming Potential Execration Ninjas in Pyjamas Team Empire Team Onyx Open Qualifier #1 Team #1
Invictus Gaming Rex REgum Qeon B)ears Virtus.pro Team Red Open Qualifier #1 Team #2
LGD Gaming Geek Fam ALETNATE aTTaX F.R.I.E.N.D.S WanteD Open Qualifier #1 Team #3
CDEC Gaming TnC Pro Team Cloud9 Natus Vincere Spring Major Champions Cup Winner Open Qualifier #1 Team #4
LGD.Forever Young Mineski Alliance Team Spirit Open Qualifier Team #1 Open Qualifier #2 Team #1
Spring Major Champions Cup Winner Spring Major Champions Cup Winner Spring Major Champions Cup Winner Effect Open Qualifier Team #2 Open Qualifier #2 Team #2
First Open Qualifier Winner First Open Qualifier Winner First Open Qualifier Winner First Open Qualifier Winner Open Qualifier Team #3 Open Qualifier #2 Team #3
Second Open Qualifier Winner Second Open Qualifier Winner Second Open Qualifier Winner Second Open Qualifier Winner Open Qualifier Team #4 Open Qualifier Team #2 Team #4

The Kiev Major will run from April 27-30, and will feature a $3 million prize pool.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports whose journalism idol is Dino Ghiranze. You can follow him on Twitter.

3 storylines to watch at StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season 3

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Thumbnail image courtesy of StarLadder

StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season 3 is the first premier tournament since Dota Pit League Season 5 in January and the final LAN before The Kiev Major Qualifiers begin in March.

This will be the last chance for the eight teams competing to show what they're made of before they begin to focus on preparation for the first Major of the year.

With that in mind, here are a few key storylines to keep an eye on at SL i-League StarSeries Season 3.

It's all about the Major invite

Winning SL i-League is important for the teams competing, and not just because of its $300,000 prize pool.

There have only been five premier tournaments prior to SL i-League, leaving few opportunities for teams to get strong results before the Kiev qualifiers. It's likely that whichever team wins SL i-League will receive one of a handful of invites to the upcoming Major.

Valve's reasoning behind which teams get invites to Majors is still unknown. The company has not shared what criteria they use to decide which teams skip the qualifiers. The publisher behind Dota 2 generally invites eight teams to a Major or TI, leaving eight spots available for qualification.

In practice, Valve has used LAN wins as the biggest deciding factor for whether a team will receive an invite. With five premier LANs since Boston, which four teams have won, there's a minimum of four remaining invites to the Major.

While it's possible some of the teams competing at the tournament will receive an invite regardless, such as OG, who are the reigning Major champions, the winner is all but guaranteed one of the few invites to Kiev.

The Return of Liquid and Secret

In the aftermath of the post-TI6 roster shuffle, Team Liquid and Team Secret were poised to be two of the strongest teams in not only Europe, but in the world. Both had made high profile signings during the shuffle, with Liquid acquiring Miracle, arguably the best mid in the world, and Secret picking up talented SEA players like MP, MidOne and Forev. The rosters were talented, and expectations were high for heading into the fall season.

Yet as tournaments and qualifiers began and ended, neither team accomplished much of anything. Apart from missing the qualifiers for several tournaments, Liquid and Secret notably failed to qualify for The Boston Major, the premier event of the fall. Even though the two would win some tournaments in the fall, not qualifying for the Major was as big of a signal as any that the two needed to change to get back to the top.

And change they did. Following The Boston Major qualifiers, Liquid swapped out BuLba for GH in DreamLeague Season 6, which they would go on to win. Since GH's debut in January, Liquid have displayed much of the skills and strategies that many thought they would exhibit in the fall, with the team qualifying for both SL i-League and the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2017.

In Secret's case, the team replaced star Korean offlaner Forev with former Escape Gaming member KheZu in November, who would go on to help the team win ROG MASTERS one week later. Despite the victory, Secret have only managed to qualify for SL i-League in the new year, placing 5th-6th at Dota Pit League Season 5.

Fighting for more than just Major invites, Liquid and Secret are under pressure to cement their status as a top tier Dota team. Neither wants a repeat of what happened in the fall, and they need all the wins they can get if either hopes to head to Kiev in April.

The Chinese teams

If there's one running theme behind the Chinese Dota since TI6, it's chaos.

Compared to other regions, Chinese teams have had to fight to remain prominent over other regions. Outside tournaments in their home country, Chinese teams have not made much of an impact in LANs. At SL i-League, Wings Gaming, Team VG.J and iG Vitality hope to change that.

Wings has had an interesting set of months since their victory at TI. They won the infamous Nanyang Dota 2 Championships Cruise Cup #1 in October and Northern Arena BEAT Invitational in November, but fell out of the Boston Major in the first round of the playoffs. In Chinese tournaments, Wings have struggled to stand out, placing last in the Dota2 Professional League Season 2 - Top, behind the likes of Vici Gaming, DTD club C and EHOME. Champions or not, Wings have had to fight to remain relevant despite their championship status.

Things look brighter for VG.J, who have greatly improved with the addition of legendary supports fy and Freeze, qualifying for SL i-League and DAC 2017.

With Agressif, rOtK and Fenrir, VG.J has all the makings of a championship team on paper. They also have the advantage of playing without the heavy expectations that Wings face as TI champions.

Vitality is more of a mixed bag, as they have made multiple appearances at LANs, but have not had much to show for it. The exception is World Cyber Arena 2016, which they won, and a second place finish at DPL Season 2 - Top. But these were both primarily tournaments filled with Chinese teams, casting doubt as to their ability to stand up against international competition.

What unites all three teams is a lack of matches over the past month. None have played a professional match since January.

Wings did play at ESL One Genting at the start of the year, so they have some recent international experience, but nearly two months have passed since then.

While these three Chinese teams would undoubtedly love to win SL i-League, the team that advances furthest will likely be the candidate for a Chinese invite to Kiev. And with the current state of Chinese Dota in mind, any of these teams can take it.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports whose journalism idol is Dino Ghiranze. You can follow him on Twitter.

The Best of Miracle-: The MMR God of Dota 2

theScore esports Staff

Since exploding onto the scene as a founding member of OG, Amer "Miracle-" Al-Barqawi has been a force in the world of Dota 2, leaving opponents in the dust and fans speechless with his unbelievable talent.

With two Major titles under his belt and record-setting MMR, Miracle- is the undisputed best player in the world. From his breakout as a member of (monkey) Business to now on Team Liquid, check out the best of what Miracle- can do.

For more video interviews and highlights, be sure to subscribe to theScore esports on YouTube.

Four storylines to watch at DAC 2017

by 1d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Perfect World

The final LAN before the Kiev Major is set to begin on March 27. Twelve teams, nine of which will be competing at the upcoming Major, are in Shanghai for the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2017, fighting over a $500,000 USD prize pool. It'll be the last chance for teams to get a bead on half of their competition prior to the Major, as well as a chance for teams to get used to patch 7.04 and the changes that it has brought.

Keeping that in mind, here are four storylines to watch out for when DAC 2017 gets underway in a few days.

OG vs. Liquid

In one corner, you have the reigning Major champions, riding high on a wave of victories that has kept them at the top of Dota 2 for months. Their challenger in Liquid is a similar European team that have experienced their fair share of difficulties when their new roster made their debut, but have since come back with force, ready to make their mark. Now, let's hope that the bracket is kind to us and that both of these teams can meet each other in the Grand Finals we deserve.

OG and Team Liquid are two of the most exciting teams competing at DAC 2017, and most importantly, have not met in a tournament since they underwent roster changes in the aftermath of The International 2016. We came tantalizingly close at StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season 3, but OG fell to VG.J before they could. Their last series was at The Summit 5, where an OG headlined by Miracle- defeated Liquid 2-1 in the Losers' Finals. Miracle- is now playing for Liquid, while Liquid's former support JerAx is the backbone for OG's support duo.

Even if these two teams fail to meet on stage, whichever teams performs better will undoubtedly change the conversation surrounding them. Either OG retains their dominance atop European Dota, or Liquid make the case that they will finally be ready to reach the goal that they have so frequently missed in Major after Major. OG and Liquid are the two best European teams right now, and their competition for the top spot will be exciting to watch.

Invictus Gaming versus... Invictus Gaming

A key feature of Chinese organizations that is rarely emulated by Western organizations is their continual use of sister teams. These sister teams are places where up-and-coming talent can develop, or where pros can take a break from the flagship team to develop their skills. A good example of this is Vici Gaming, whose current flagship team is Team VG.J, supported by Vici Gaming Potential and Vici Gaming.

But even though an organization may have three or more sister teams, there is always one roster that is the organization's most prominent, receiving the most attention and often having the best record compared to its sister teams. But for Invictus Gaming, this has not been the case in recent months.

The Invictus Gaming organization has two teams currently signed to the organization: Invictus Gaming, and Invictus Gaming Vitality. Before the Boston Major, iG.Vitality was arguably the more prominent of the two, having qualified for Boston and winning World Cyber Arena 2016 shortly after the Major concluded. By contrast, iG never advanced past the group stage of The Boston Major China Qualifier, and had placed worse than iG.Vitality in other events.

Now, it's difficult to tell which of the two teams is Invictus Gaming's flagship. Both teams qualified for DAC 2017, followed up with two solid runs in the Kiev Major qualifiers to secure the two Chinese spots at the upcoming Major. While iG.Vitality did qualify for SL i-League Season 3, they ultimately tied for last at the LAN, while iG would go on to place fourth at Dota Pit League Season 5 after qualifying for it in 2016. And even though iG.Vitality secured the first Chinese seed in the Kiev Qualifier, it was iG who would go on to dominate The Manila Masters China Qualifier one week later to qualify for yet another LAN.

While it is undoubtedly good for the Invictus Gaming organization that they have two teams competing at such a high caliber, it's difficult to tell which team is meant to be the organization's premier team at DAC and beyond. Odds are the two Invictus Gaming teams will be placed in separate groups and will never play a single game against each other. But, the two teams don't need to go head-to-head in order to prove which one is superior. All they need to do is go further than the other, with the prize of being Invictus Gaming's flagship team on the line.

The Not Going to the Major crew

Most of the teams competing at DAC 2017 will be heading to the Kiev Major later in April. For them, DAC will be a stepping stone, as they work out the changes made in patch 7.04 and study their opponents in the final LAN preceding the next Major. With $3 million USD on the line, teams will be looking at their competition closely at DAC.

Team NP, LGD.Forever Young and Team Empire are not those teams

In a sense, their non-attendance at the Major is a blessing, as they've had more time specifically devoted to prepare for DAC than teams that are currently in the midst of preparing for both. While some teams will undoubtedly prepare and practice for this tournament, DAC pales in comparison to the prize pool and respect granted from winning a Valve event. The three teams not competing at the Major have the luxury of only having to prepare for one event, which could make a big difference in a team's mentality.

But NP, LGD and Empire are not just playing for DAC's prize pool at this event. While they will not be able to preparing for the Major, a strong performance at DAC will undoubtedly carry over to potential invites for future tournaments, such as EPICENTER and ZOTAC Cup Masters. Even an invite to the qualifiers for those tournaments would be a boon to a team like Empire, who have to frequently compete in the crowded European qualifiers if a CIS qualifier is not set up. A win at DAC could also count towards a TI invite, though that would also require sustained performance across multiple non-Valve events for that to hold true.

Without the Kiev Major ahead, these three teams competing at DAC have nothing to lose, so watch them closely as they attempt to secure a better position in the ever-crowded world of Dota 2.

A Long Way Down — Wings Gaming

Wings Gaming have not had the best few months, to put it mildly.

The reigning TI champions started their recent struggles with a 9th-16th place finish at The Boston Major. To be fair to Wings, they faced Evil Geniuses, a Top 4 team, in the first round of a single elimination bracket, so it's not like they were destroyed by just another Dota team. Yet after Boston, Wings' best finish has been a Top 4 finish at both China Top 2016 and ESL One Genting. Their other losses include 9th-12th place at Dota2 Ace Provisional, where they lost to Brave Heart 2-0, 5th-6th place at SL i-League Season 3, and most recently, failure to qualify for The Manila Masters.

When people start to openly debate about whether Valve should have invited you to a Major despite winning TI, your team has a problem. Of course, it is largely based off of that extraordinary performance that Wings has been continually invited to event after event. Valve should continue this trend, as there needs to be some continual reward for winning TI in the months after it ends. This should not be changed.

But Wings' recent record is not what one normally expects what a team that won TI, and it leaves open the possibility that Wings will continue to decline if similar results persist in the tournaments ahead, including DAC. While they are guaranteed an invite to Kiev, Wings need to show that they are capable of performing at a high level, as they won't be able to rely on their TI legacy forever.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

The Best Fails from the StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season 3 Finals

theScore esports Staff

We've already celebrated Team Liquid's moments of triumph, but now we turn our attention to something decidedly less serious.

Whether it's David "MoonMeander" Tan introducing his teammates or Jake "SirActionSlacks" Kanner struggling with the English language, Jesse "JerAx" Vainikka booping his teammates into the enemy fountain or facepalm-worthy production, relive some of the funniest moments and the best fails from the StarLadder i-League StarSeries Season 3 Finals.

For more video interviews and highlights, be sure to subscribe to theScore esports on YouTube.

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