Only five weeks remain before the FIFA World Cup 2006 football stadium in Frankfurt is to be turned into the Mecca of Dota 2. One of the largest stages western eSports has even seen will be built, a massive amount of fans will cheer for their favorites and the prestigious ESL One crown will be bestowed. Seven teams from Europe, North America and China are already planning their travel arrangements, but the last spot is still up for grabs. Will China send two teams or will Southeast Asian powerhouses like Titan or Arrow Gaming showcase their skills in front of thousands of fans?
Veni, vidi, Vici?
Chinese Dota will already be at Frankfurt thanks to the TI2-winning Invictus Gaming, but the chances are high for a second Chinese team to make it to Germany with Vici Gaming and LGD Gaming, two of China’s strongest teams, competing. Both squads have a lot of similarities as far as their ESL One campaign is concerned: the shared fate of getting eliminated in the Chinese qualifier by Invictus Gaming (iG) showcased the strength of iG and a slip up for Vici Gaming. Going into the match odds were relatively even, although iG was seen as a slight favorite. What happened on the battlefield, though, was nothing short of a dominant display of Invictus Gaming demonstrating their pure force, sweeping Vici out of the tournament and leaving them only the ’second chance’.
LGD is also coming into the tournament on the heels of an iG trashing in the Chinese qualifier for ESL One, but the team based around ddc and Yao is also riding the momentum wave of their TI4 qualification. Only days before the journey to Frankfurt is decided, the strong and popular team overcame CIS and German carry Black to secure a spot in the main event of The International 4. No doubt they will look for a world tour this summer with stops in Seattle and also Frankfurt – only three wins are separating them from this goal.
Immortals, reborns and deadly weapons
Outside China, the Southeast Asian and Korean teams are looking to make an impact in this qualifier as well. Ever since the dominance of China was disrupted, the intimidation factor was gone. Now is the time for these teams to step it up and seize their opportunity, preventing the Chinese from sneaking back in again.
Leading that list of SEA teams with huge potential and the status as favorite to win this entire qualifier is Titan. The Malaysian team is determined to return to glory in the summer, similar to the previous one. Back then, the former Orange eSports squad was one destroyed Aegis of the Immortal away from going to the TI3 Grand Finals, a costly misclick. However, they refocused, rebuilt their team and got back on track, becoming one of the most dominant forces in the entire SEA region.
Their direct rivals in Malaysia are Arrow Gaming, who are riding a similar wave of momentum as LGD. The TI4 SEA qualifier winner proved last week that it can stand up to anyone in the SEA region, although primus Titan was not in the tournament. Regardless, Arrow Gaming showcased tremendous power and the ability to knock everyone out. In 15 games against fellow SEA teams, they only had to concede three times, steamrolling the competition from start to finish. 7-2 after the group stage, a sweep against MVP Phoenix in the upper bracket finals and a 3-1 rout against the MVP in the grand finals gave them a spot at Seattle and a lot of respect throughout the entire region.
Still reeling from those blowouts is MVP Phoenix from Korea. A cliché way to see them rise from the ashes after the horrific beating they receive at the TI qualifier is obvious, but the team has a difficult way ahead. The qualifier showed their inability to handle Arrow Gaming sufficiently, their first match for the ESL One ticket will be against a team that gives Arrow Gaming a lot of trouble. Starting out against Titan will not only open the door for some mythological puns of two immortals slugging it out, but it might also be the end of the South Korean dream straight away. So far MVP Phoenix and Titan have never seen each other in a competitive match, but with the huge exposure of both squads recently, the surprise factor shouldn’t play that big of a role.
Dark horse and underdogs
Scythe Gaming and the two SEA Battle Royale winners are in the last ESL One Asian qualifier teams mix, either threatening to shake up this entire qualifier or just being a couple underdogs. Scythe fits the first description, the team of star player Meracle and TI veteran xFreedom looking to rebound after a poor TI4 qualifier. Back then, the proud Singaporean team missed the playoffs by a substantial margin, falling down to First Departure, Mineski, MVP, Zephyr and MiTH.Trust. The only bright aspect of that qualifier for them was their win over the later winner Arrow Gaming, a win that might boost their confidence for the ESL One qualifier as well.
On paper, it‘s Arrow Gaming’s game to lose, but Scythe Gaming knows what they’re doing and, if push comes to shove, more competitive and tight first round matches might be the result. Ultimately this game is a toss-up, however, with a slight advantage for Arrow Gaming purely based on their recent results. If Scythe can get their act together and suck up the disappointing TI performance, the dark horse might be able to gallop straight into the semis.
The other two teams – Invasion eSports and Pokerface – went through all the stages of the Asian qualifier, showcasing their resolve and skill. However, in the mix with top international teams, their bids become more difficult. Following their great journey through the open qualifier, the group stage and the play-in bracket only to end up in the last stage, they have a lot to prove. Whatever happens, they can use this opportunity in order to gain experience as Invasion will meet Vici Gaming right away, with Pokerface getting LGD Gaming. An upset would kick out a strong Chinese team, a loss would be just as expected. Playing with house money is their only chance to pull through, taking risks, seizing chances and creating opportunities is all they can bank on.
- Vici Gaming vs. Invasion eSports – Monday, May 26th at 11:00 CEST
- Scythe Gaming vs. Arrow Gaming – Monday, May 26th at 15:00 CEST
- LGD Gaming vs. Pokerface – Tuesday, May 27th at 11:00 CEST
- Titan vs. MVP Phoenix – Tuesday, May 27th at 15:00 CEST
All matches will be streamed by the joinDota crew at twitch.tv/joindotared.
For more information about ESL One, the Asian qualifier and the main attraction at Frankfurt, make sure to visit the official website: http://www.esl-one.com/dota2/frankfurt-2014/.