World E-sport Professional Classic - Groupstage Preview
Invictus Gaming will attempt to retain their title in the World E-sport Professional Classic one year after their triumph over LGD-Gaming China.
With RMB1,400,000 (i.e. $228,713), the World E-sport Professional Classic is the largest Dota 2 event ever hosted apart from Valve's annual event, The International. This could have been a more exciting event for the Western scene had the Association of Chinese E-sports' chairman, Pei “King” Le, successfully convinced The International 3 trio: Alliance, Natus Vincere and Orange eSports - to take part in this year’s tournament. While the aforementioned teams undoubtedly rejected the invitation, this season still promises to be fascinating as LGD-Gaming International’s revamped roster - featuring the “BurNIng of the west” in Dominik “Black^” Reitmeier — will challenge the best for the million.
With an incredible 90 matches in the group stages alone, the World E-sport Professional Classic will have more matches than G-League 2012 Season 2, the G-1 Champions League Season 5 Main Event and the Dota 2 Super League all combined. Needless to say that the Chinese teams have finally gotten what they have wished for, but which teams will make it to the playoffs and which ones will go home empty-handed?
1. Invictus Gaming
Despite their mediocre performances since their victory at G-League 2012 Season 2 in March, Invictus Gaming are the favorites to top the group. Even though the community praised the arrival of Chen “Hao” Zhihao, they hastened to lament the dismissal of Wong “ChuaN” Hock Chuan and have taken little time to laud his replacement - Jiao “Banana” Wang.
During the Sina Cup Supernova Dota 2 Open, the two new members showed promising results without actually impressing. Did their recent triumph show that they are once again the finest team in China? Certainly not! But they sure sent a message to their rivals, especially LGD-Gaming and TongFu — teams that they have convincingly defeated. Unless Vici Gaming, LGD-Gaming and TongFu step up their game or RisingStars cause a stir, only Team DK seem to have a chance to take them down.
2. Team DK
After the announcement of their new line-up, the community was fast to praise the new signings to the point that the 2011 roster — labeled as the Galacticos back then — pales in comparison to Xu “BurNIng” Zhilei’s new team. Adding three new players to the team — including two Southeast Asian players — is what you can call a massive roster change, and I am afraid that the lack of practice together may cost them a few points in their first encounters.
Their first four matches in the competition will be very delicate to negotiate as they will face Vici Gaming — a team they lost to in the NEST — followed by LGD-Gaming China, Invictus Gaming and RisingStars. It is fair to say that they have the roughest start in the competition, and if they are not ready, it is not certain that a second place finish in the group is within their reach. Nevertheless, it can go either way when you know that BurNIng, Mushi and iceiceice are in the same team. While I see them finishing second in this group, with this difficult schedule, they can either finish first or struggle to finish in the top 3. We should have a better idea of where they will end up after their first four matches.
Seeing TongFu this high in my rankings may surprise more than a few people, but it should not really. The loss of Chen “Hao” Zhihao, Yang “KingJ” Zhou and Jiao “Banana” Wang was certainly a huge blow for the team, but their replacements can’t be underestimated. During the Sina Cup Supernova Dota 2 Open, TongFu have showed great things except in the grand-finals where they seemed rather lost. After their defeat, the community blamed Chen “Zhou” Yao for their bad performance, but it was more a collective failure than individual one. His performance was actually decent, but maybe his history with Invictus Gaming and ChuaN is the reason he is the scapegoat at the eye of the community?
Their victory over LGD-Gaming China in the loser’s bracket was rather unexpected, but when they will meet, you will probably not see LGD-Gaming China play heroes like Shadow Fiend or Batrider, a hero they fail to master time and time again. The confrontation between the two may decide who will finish higher in the ranking.
4. LGD-Gaming China
Among the Chinese teams, LGD-Gaming China is the one that have made the least changes in their roster as they only added Wang “xiaotuji” Zhang following the departure of Liu “Sylar” Jiajun to RisingStars. Despite suffering the departure of only one player, the consequences are still significant. Although, during the Sina Cup Supernova Dota 2 Open — in which they finished third — their new member showed promising results; and we also saw Zhang “xiao8” Ning’s effort to change the playstyle of the team by playing heroes such as Elder Titan, Shadow Fiend, Io, Chaos Knight and even Pugna. Although these picks often resulted in a loss, it is still satisfying to see that the team is now trying to play differently, but not yet effectively. That being said, we saw them experiment in the past notably in the Alienware Cup and RedBull ECL, but played their old and ineffective playstyle at The International. Will they once again rely on their old playstyle in this major event or will they finally take risks, risks that may pay off?
5. Vici Gaming
Vici Gaming are one of the biggest winners of this summer’s transfer window and yet, it will still be relatively hard for them to challenge the best. Even though it is undeniable the team has improved in all aspects of the game since Bai “rOtk” Fan is in charge, they still lack a little something that would help them challenge for the title. That being said, good changes take time to implement, and you can’t expect good results after just a few weeks playing with new members and a relatively different playstyle. While I do not see them challenge both Invictus Gaming and Team DK, I want to believe that they can challenge TongFu and LGD-Gaming for the third spot. This tournament may also be a revelation for their carry player, Fan “Tutu” Bai – former coach of Team DK. Will he be a hit or a miss?
Before The International 3, RisingStars was an interesting team with a few good elements. They did well on a few occasions but never enough to receive praise from the community. Things have changed overnight. After bidding farewell to four players, RisingStars are now a mix of young and talented players and experienced ones. I can’t help but think that with the names present in this line-up, they can finish in the top 3, but on the other hand, there is no guarantee that they will do well as a team. Sylar and Tianyu “CTY” Chen are two players who love to farm and go for the late game, but we saw in the past that playing a passive playstyle is usually not the key to victory unless you are Alliance and you can split-push perfectly. However, with Sylar as the drafter, we witnessed a few interesting line-ups, and it will be interesting to see how they will perform in a few weeks.
Their opening match will be against one of the two amateur teams present in the competition. It will give them an opportunity to have a little more practice, but they should not be caught by surprise. This amateur team has without any doubts a lot of information on their opponents, and will probably do their homework correctly - while RisingStars have no history on them. Even though this should be a formality for them, it can also be a tricky match and losing points that early in the competition can cost them quite a bit at the end of the groupstage.
7. LGD-Gaming International
A little less than one year ago, LGD-Gaming announced an international squad. Their first event was G-League 2012 Season 2 where they brilliantly reached the finals, taking one game off the then-unbeatable Invictus Gaming team which had earlier won the International 2. Unfortunately, they did not enjoy the same success in the next events, and after The International 3, it was rumored that all the players returned home. One week ago, LGD-Gaming unexpectedly announced the “revival” of their international squad with Braxton “Brax” Paulson being the mastermind behind it. While Theeban “1437” Siva and Sergey “God” Bragin are no longer part of this project, the team has found two exceptional replacements in Dominik “Black^” Reitmeier and Nicholas “xFreedom” Kelvin Ileto Lim, formerly of Mousesports and Team Zenith, respectively.
This team looks definitely strong on the paper, but a lack of practice and their late arrival in China may be their biggest problems. Can they challenge the favorites of the competition? This sounds like an impossible task, but they can probably have good results against the likes of Vici Gaming and RisingStars, and if they do, they may just secure a spot to the playoffs, which is probably what they will be aiming for.
Before the departure of both Kai “kabu” Zhao and Zhicheng “LaNm” Zhang, the team already had troubles performing well in major events. Things will probably get worse for them with the arrivals of two young and inexperienced players. JoHnNy has showed good things in recent matches, but to actually manage to help his team reach the top 6 sounds a little too ambitious. This tournament will still help them get the experience that they need, and depending on their results, they may or may not look more promising for the next edition.
9&10. Team Adidas & Cupid's Hearts
With barely any information on these two teams and their players, it is hard to believe how they can win games against teams and players who have been around for a while. However, they were chosen by the organizers for a reason. Who knows? Vici Gaming’s original squad was not promising to the eye of the community, but they have caught the attention during their first major event. Can we have something similar with them? Time will tell!
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