As one of the first non-DPC events of the season, it’s hardly surprising that some top teams are still on a break. This provides an opportunity for more tier 2+ teams to get LAN experience, but also to nip at the heels of the smaller pool of top dogs. Of the 12 teams in Hamburg, 7 of them qualified for the MDL Chengdu Major (TNC, Vici, Liquid, Beastcoast, Gambit, Fighting Pandas, Alliance), 3 for the Dota Summit 11 Minor (NiP, Quincy Crew, VP - although VP declined the spot in the end), and 2 for neither DPC cycle event (Vikin.gg, WindRAndRain).
These create reasonable yet rough initial tiers for teams attending. Let’s look at other bits of information which could provide some extra granularity in the teams expected performances.
Since we’re so early into the season, statistical ratings are not great right now to predict inter-regional skill, and are also still affected heavily by previous rosters (especially the previous Liquid roster leaving the organization and being replaced by the former Alliance roster). What is interesting is how high the Glicko 2 rating is for Gambit, up at 1826.34 (7th place). This is a mostly because of their great 16-2 run, but obviously counts slightly less since it’s only against regional (CIS) teams.
Image courtesy of DreamHack. 📷 Alex Maxwell
NiP and Alliance looked great in groups at Dreamleague S12, but NiP faltered against Alliance and then Demon Slayers. Demon Slayers were poor in the group stage but bounced back strong to defeat J.Storm (Major attendees), Team Liquid (also Major attendees), NiP (Minor attendees), and then almost Alliance (also Major attendees). Liquid didn’t look that hot at all, but certainly have the skill and motivation to improve rapidly. My feeling is that this certainly ups the stock on Alliance a bit and hurts Liquid’s value slightly.
In what was definitely the biggest surprise of the MDL qualifiers, VP didn’t qualify. They didn’t even really win a series of Dota 2 (they got a walk-over, two draws and a loss). A few days later they got some revenge in the Dota Summit 11 CIS qualifiers, winning both series to guarantee a spot - only to later forfeit that spot citing various reasons. Their squad has a fantastic amount of experience in Solo, No[o]ne, and Resolution, but two new faces in the form of epileptick1d and Save- which need to be integrated properly into the team. The Virtus Pro we see at ESL One Hamburg might be bad, might be excellent, or could be anywhere in-between - they’ve made it clear they want to give time for their newer players to develop.
The final pieces of the puzzle are really about the North American Dota teams and how they fit into the bigger scheme of things. In the MDL Chengdu groups, both Fighting Pandas and Quincy Crew finished equally (3 wins and a draw between them). Quincy Crew lost to EG, and then J.Storm but eventually qualified for the Dota Summit 11 Minor. They did all of this with SumaiL on their team. Now, due to what is alleged to be contractual obligations related to his buyout from EG, he can’t play for them on LAN and has since left the team. Enter “Sabrelight”, a Czech player formerly from Singularity, to take his place. With no official matches played as this 5-stack, there’s way more uncertainty into how they will perform. Fighting Pandas however defeated J.Storm and simply qualified directly for the Major. This slightly tips the scales in favour of Fighting Pandas.
So my final tiering of the teams looks like this: