The Boston Major will have a record-low total of 3 European teams attending a Valve-sponsored event. Naturally, the trifecta of OG, Ad Finem, and Virtus.pro will be looking to set the record straight and reclaim Europe’s place in the pecking order of regions. However, each team also has another matter close to their hearts. Ad Finem will undoubtedly be looking to prove themselves, as they are very much the “new kids on the block”, despite the fact that their roster has been playing together for nearly a year. For OG, Boston is a return to the familiar hunting grounds of the Major circuit; but it will be a struggle to live up to last year’s expectations. Meanwhile, Virtus.pro carries the weight of not only the opportunity for redemption of a team that has underwent a complete restructuring, but also the CIS region’s hopes and their status as top contender for the trophy.
In a sense, these 3 teams present a perfect cross-section of the ailing European region. We have the team sitting smugly on the top, trying to hold onto their status, a dark horse fan favorite showing off the occasional spark of genius, and the hard-working team on the cusp of a breakthrough. As different as their storylines, playstyles, and personalities are, they are all united in the task to revive European Dota. Achieving a high finish here will serve as a reminder to the rest of the world that the scene’s current weakness is all but just temporary.
After receiving their invitation to Boston, OG have not seen too much play, as they were able to skip qualifiers. But Fly & co. have not been resting on their laurels, as they proved during their run at The Summit 6. Emerging from the shadows to take out DC and EG (twice) to make it to a well-deserved silver medal, OG seem to be getting in form right on time for the Wang Theatre.
Just as OG’s wins showed us their strengths, their losses exemplified the issues they still need to iron out to make it all the way in Boston. First and foremost, OG need to find a solution to Virtus.pro’s dominance over them. OG did humiliate VP in a 11 minute victory, but over the course of The Summit, that would be their only consolation, as they lost all subsequent matches against the CIS squad, sinking to a 1-5 record against the polar bear. OG must be prepared to prevent a similarly embarrassing show during the Major.
The other main issue for OG will be the eastern teams. It is hard to judge just how well OG will hold up in a match against the ever present Chinese challengers, as their last meeting was all the way back during MDL, and the metagame has shifted since then. OG’s great form might just be an illusion, owed to a familiarity with the western scene; their Summit and MDL runs were devoid of any competitive eastern teams. Nevertheless, OG look to be in decent shape to keep their legacy of Major successes going, and surely have the capabilities in them to take a third one home.
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With their time in the limelight finally here, Ad Finem have much to prove on the big stage. Unfortunately, their results since their qualification have not been too pretty. Missing out on the DreamLeague finals through two 0-2 losses to VP and Liquid was unfortunate enough already, but their quick elimination at the Northern Arena BEAT Invitational also marked them as one of the weaker teams in the field. With only a 1-0 win over FDL and a map taken off NP as noteworthy international results going into the major, the Greeks’ Dota prospects seem to look as bleak as their economic ones. Considering the tumultuous and cutthroat nature of the European scene, Ad Finem might have just this one shot to make a lasting impression. But if there is one thing that Ad Finem can boast about, it is their constant improvement, in spite of all the obstacles in their way. To this end, their missed qualification to DreamLeague might have been a blessing in disguise, giving them time to reassemble themselves, work out the problems, and formulate new strategies before the main event begins.
All in all, Boston is the stage for Ad Finem to prove themselves to the world. They can prove that their run through the qualifiers was more than just a one-time affair, and that all their efforts throughout the past year will hold up under the pressure of a multimillion-dollar tournament with the world’s best in attendance. A chance like this is hard to come by; we can be certain that the Greeks will do their absolute best to finally make the cut.
After taking first place in numerous qualifiers in and finishing off the pre-Boston circuit with a dominating championship at the “mini-major” Summit 6, Virtus.pro are among the favorites to take home the championship and finally bring back the CIS scene to the good old days, when they won tournament after tournament. VP have shot right to the top of the Dota 2 scene by soundly beating OG, EHOME, and Wings during their run in Los Angeles. In Boston, there will be a different challenge in front of the polar bear. VP’s success has painted a giant target on their backs; they must now to get used to the fact that their opponents will be prepared for their trademark “davai-Dota”. However, VP are far from a one-trick pony. Based on their cheeky Sniper or Bloodseeker picks and support Weaver plays during their run at The Summit 6, we can be certain that VP will have the odd trick in the book prepared to keep up with potential challengers. Keeping in mind that VP pulled out of the DreamLeague finals in order to prepare for Boston, there can be no doubt that they will have all kinds of strategies ready at their disposal.
It has been an almost fairytale-like redemption so far for a team and an organisation that have reworked themselves entirely in order to facilitate the change an entire region has been yearning for. If VP can keep their cool and continue in the dominating fashion they have so far, there is little that can stop them from reclaiming the lost glory of the CIS region with a gold medal at Boston.
At long last, it would seem that North America finally has finally grown into and normalized a proper internationally competitive pool of teams. Riding high off of supplying two of the top three teams at TI6, NA Dota proportionally makes up four out of sixteen teams competing this year in Boston, supplying the results of rich storylines and well earned prestige.
North America saw a qualifier invaded by European teams looking to stroll down a leisurely path to the Major, defended fiercely by the locals in a historic qualifier event that spurred Valve to further segregate regions for future Majors. This defense produced two teams that had built themselves up during the course of the Boston Major season: the freshly reformed, yet internally troubled, compLexity Gaming; and the fan favorite Team NP, whose rise through the ranks was by no means unprecedented.
They join Evil Geniuses and Digital Chaos, whose high placings last August in Seattle translated into direct invitations to the Boston Major. The TI5 champions have been more or less doing their thing all season: winning big in China and placing in the upper crust in the other LANs they have attended. Digital Chaos is a bit more mysterious, as they only very recently broke their total absence from “proper” Dota.
This odd foursome represents the finest North America has to offer, and it’s their job in Boston to show to the world that NA is no joke.
Since these victories, however, EG has fallen short. At Northern Arena, they fell to regional compatriots Team NP in a best-of-one lower bracket semifinal to go home with a below-standard fourth place finish. At The Summit 6, a tournament where every team in attendance was also attending the Boston Major, they fared better, but not by very much. Their third place finish came with lower bracket redemption over NP; EG’s loss to OG in the lower bracket finals would come back in the Elimination Mode 2 finals, where an 86 minute game five would fall OG’s way as well.
Despite their recent defeats, EG is still firmly in the front of the pack in their home region. Sure, in the recent months they have finished behind other NA teams like Team NP at Northern Arena and Digital Chaos at TI6, but neither of these adversaries have shown the same level of consistency that EG has, with their constant high placements. This success, while not unexpected, comes at the fulfillment of the smart roster moves. Replacing the legendary Fear is no small feat, but bringing back Arteezy for a third stint with the team has proved quite effective, as his history with the current roster has made the transition effortless. As ppd made a move into a non-playing role within the EG organization, Cr1t- took on the monstrous task of following up someone who is widely considered to be one of, if not the, best drafter in the world. The carry overs of UNiVeRsE, zai, and Suma1L need no introduction nor explanation, as their achievements under the EG banner are too plentiful to give a proper summary.
With a roster firing on all cylinders, playing the roles that they are best at, adequate time to get into their own groove, and success both at home and abroad, Evil Geniuses is poised to once again score high and win big in Boston. If they can recapture the magic that brought them to victory earlier on in the year, then there is no doubt that EG can take home their first official Valve Major title.
Like a shadowy assassin, North America’s own Digital Chaos has remained mostly a mystery to the public in the months following their miracle run through TI6. Their high ranking finish, mixed with their formidable roster containing Major champions w33, MoonMeander, and MiSeRy, rising star Saksa, and long time veteran Resolut1on, allowed them to jump the line and bypass regional qualifiers for the Summit 6 and Northern Arena. Their only other appearance since August has been Moonduck’s Elimination Mode 2 tournament, where their broad hero pool was put on display as a result of the untraditional format.
Unlike their deep run in Seattle, their results this season have been more akin to their performances in the weeks following their European facelift in the wake of the Shanghai Major. After declining their spot at Northern Arena, DC’s outing at The Summit resulted in a lackluster 5th-6th place finish after dropping matches to the tournament’s runner up, OG, and a TI6 finals rematch against Wings Gaming. Both losses were harsh 0-2 sweeps. Elimination Mode was not much kinder: despite wins against regional contender compLexity Gaming and a reconstructing Kaipi team, DC was sent to the lower bracket and subsequently eliminated by Team NP over the course of two matches.
Of all the teams attending this TI7 Major season’s first event, none raise more questions than Digital Chaos. Free of the burden of the pressure that comes with constantly trying to qualify for events is good—concerns over qualifier fatigue is what made organizers shy away from the round robin format for online qualifiers in the first place. However, being away from the tempering flames of matches with stakes (i.e., not scrims) may be the reason for DC’s underwhelming autumn. Rest is good, but rust is bad. Digital Chaos’ success in Boston is contingent upon them recreating the magic that pulled them through TI6. Whether they can find their groove, in the face of stiff competition from inside and outside their region, however, remains to be seen.
When NP’s roster was first announced, it was clear that going on pedigree and regional knowledge alone, this team was going to be smash hit. Early on in their debut qualifier for Northern Arena, they decimated the competition and rode the upper bracket all the way to the grand finals. In a brutal best-of-five, they fell to the newly reformed Friendship, Dedication, and Love in a heartbreaking 2-3 loss. This setback was a serious disappointment, conjuring memories of the forever-second-place Cloud9 team that Envy and Aui were infamous for. In the face of adversity, however, Team NP came back to the qualifier scene prepared and scooped up LAN spots at The Summit 6, ESL One Genting, and the biggest jewel in NP’s crown to date, one of the coveted Americas qualifier spots for The Boston Major.
To get these three qualifier victories, Team NP faced off against the regional mainstay and TI6 wildcard qualifier compLexity Gaming in the grand finals for each event over the span of half a month. On November 6th, in fact, the two teams squared off in two back-to-back series against each other for two separate events: first in a semifinals match for Dota Pit, then in the finals for ESL Genting. After sweeping the Dota Pit match 2-0 and eliminating compLexity from contention in that tournament, NP were up 2-0 in the best-of-five in the ESL Genting qualifiers and had demoralized compLexity so badly that they underwent a roster change between sets. Such is the grip Team NP has had on the NA scene since their loss in the Northern Arena finals.
On LAN, NP has cemented their image as a major force with a grand finals appearance at Northern Arena against the mighty Wings Gaming. Although they were swept there and again at The Summit by Wings, the message NP sent was clear: To beat us, you had better bring a TI caliber performance.
With Boston looming in the distance, the team can be emboldened by their performance at the LANs they have qualified for. With impressive victories against Major attendees that include EHOME, EG, Digital Chaos, and Ad Finem, Team NP is not a team to sleep on. They enter the Major strong, and if their anime spirit can carry them, it would not be a surprise to see them arrive at a high placing finish.
compLexity Gaming, under the command of the Freedman brothers melonzz and Zfreek since the team’s revival in late 2014, had fallen onto hard times following their loss at the TI6 wildcard playins. Gone were the three Swedish players from the former Ninjas in Pyjamas squad that had given the team the boost they needed following their dismal showing at the Frankfurt Major qualifiers. Filling their shoes were the controversial canceL^^ and local boys, Justin and Moo. The latter, in a surprising move, was kicked from his former team Digital Chaos following their grand finals loss to Wings at TI6. With a mix of low-key and highly praised talent, compLexity set out to take the NA region by storm.
Due to their direct invitation to Northern Arena, the public did not get a glimpse of coL’s new roster until mid-October, where they came out to a 2-0 loss to Team NP in the qualifiers for The Summit 6. This would be the first of coL’s several defeats at the hands of NP, as the two would frequently clash in regional qualifier playoffs throughout the course of the fall season. While the team was a cut above other NA hopefuls like FDL, Team Freedom, and Doo Wop, they could not muster a single series win against Team NP, with a dismal 2-13 combined game record against them. In addition, their losses to Alliance, EHOME, EG, and DC cast doubt over their ability to perform against the upper echelons of the international scene.
At their lowest point, the call was made to do something drastic. Facing their 5th straight loss in a row on November 6th to Team NP in back to back elimination serieses, coL made the call to sub out their carry player, Justin, with monkeys-forever. Using a new rule Valve had implemented for this Major season, Justin was demoted to a substitute position for the Boston Major, and has not played a match with the team since.
The saying goes that it is always darkest before dawn. Past LAN performances have shown that compLexity Gaming can do the unexpected, such as their huge upset against the reigning TI5 champions Evil Geniuses at EPICENTER, or their top 4 placement at the Dota Pit season 4 finals. If there were ever a venue to make the statement that coL is a team that can defy the odds and overcome both external and internal hardships, it would be this Boston Major.