New contenders emerge through the Epicenter Major qualifiers
The field for the final Dota 2 major of the season is largely set.
The qualifiers for the Epicenter Major have wrapped up with 14 teams punching their tickets to Moscow. For the most part, the usual suspects are accounted for, but there are a few interesting newcomers also set to compete.
Europe was the one region where things went strictly according to plan as Team Secret, Team Liquid, and OG all made the cut. Team Secret looked as good as ever in the group stage but past that, things were intensely competitive with a three-way tiebreaker deciding the playoff bracket. Despite squeaking its way into the playoffs with a 3-4 record, Liquid looked excellent and sealed up the second Europe spot. OG faced a tough road, but managed to make the cut by besting Ninjas in Pyjamas and Alliance.
The North America, Southeast Asia, and CIS qualifiers all started off with a bit of a surprise as top teams Evil Geniuses, Fnatic, and Virtus.pro all failed to top their groups, with Forward Gaming, TNC Predator, and Gambit Esports punching their tickets first. All three giants managed to make the cut in the end, but it’s tough to parse whether they were a bit complacent heading into the qualifiers or whether their competitors are starting to hit their stride.
The one region with outright surprises was China. Though PSG.LGD skated through the group stage to take the first invitation to Epicenter, Keen Gaming and EHOME were among the first eliminations despite strong performances at ESL One Mumbai and the Dota PIT Minor, respectively.
Advancing to the Chinese qualifier playoffs at their expense were Newbee and Royal Never Give Up. Newbee has struggled with roster changes throughout the year which have undermined their ability to compete at majors, while RNG looked solid early but fizzled out down the stretch. RNG managed to lock up the second slot in the Epicenter Major, while Vici Gaming eliminated Newbee to take the third.
The one region where surprises were an impossibility was South America. The continent has been an utter mess throughout the year and lost its one stable qualifying team in Chaos Esports Club earlier this month. Every other team involved had a shot, with the new Pain Gaming and Dominik "Black^" Reitmeier’s Infamous taking the remaining spots.
There are still two more spots up for grabs in the event, which will be handed to the grand finalists of the upcoming StarLadder Minor.
The Epicenter Major will be the final tournament through which teams can earn a direct invite to The International 2019. Eight teams already have spots locked up in the event, with seven of them successfully qualifying for the Epicenter Major. Teams like OG and TNC are positioned to qualify, but have the chance to knot things up with a solid showing. That said, any team is capable of qualifying for the event with a strong performance.
The competitors for the StarLadder Minor will be determined next week, with the qualifiers kicking off May 21. The Epicenter Major begins on June 22.
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