The Bali Major is starting soon, and it means something slightly different to every attendee. Ben “Noxville” Steenhuisen takes a look at all participating teams!
It’s obviously the last Dota 2 Major of the season, which makes it the final chance to score valuable DPC Points which determine direct invites to The International. Twelve of the 18 teams attending are theoretically battling for the final seven invites, although realistically there’s just five spots, since it would take a miracle for enough teams to prevent Talon and 9Pandas from qualifying as it stands. Like Talon, TSM haven’t qualified for the event – instead, they’ll be hoping they’ve done enough already this year to hold on to a TI invite (they’re currently ninth in points coming into the event).
For the six teams who have no direct path to The International, it means the final cross-regional practice before Regional Qualifiers begin. Everyone will be looking to use it as an opportunity to build up morale, and iron out any kinks before the TI festivities begin. Let’s take a look at some team power rankings. I have indicated TI-locked (or basically locked) teams with a 🔒 symbol; and dark horses (teams that have a real chance of exceeding our expectations) with a 🐴 symbol.
I’m really sad to say it, but so far this has been one of the worst seasons in the history of SEA esports. Only Talon have scored any points at the Majors this year, and the other teams were eliminated after poor Group Stage results (for both the Lima Major and the Berlin Major). What is different this time around is that multiple teams have qualified ahead of Talon - indicating either that Talon are the benchmark that the other teams have surpassed, or perhaps rather that Talon have slowed down following their TI lock. Execration are back for a third Major, but both Bleed Esports (🐴) and Blacklist International are more appealing prospects to me. Bleed have fantastic talent on their squad, but given SEA’s past results, the safest placement seems to be near the bottom.
Rounding out the D-Tier, we have Nouns. It’s their first Major of the season, having been blocked by Shopify Rebellion and TSM previously - so the only real way we can evaluate them is based on their results in third party events and against NA teams. In this regard, they seem slightly below where we would normally place TSM. However, they did beat TSM in the qualifiers (one of the interesting things about the DPC system is that an entire tour can be effectively boiled down to one very meaningful series).
Just recently, Beastcoast made a roster change, changing Héctor "K1" Rodríguez out for David "Parker" Nicho Flores. They had played with “Parker” for part of Tour 3, but this makes the change permanent. In making this change, they’ve been penalised in terms of DPC points, and lost what was almost a guaranteed slot (98%+). Overall, this means they’re playing with a less experienced squad, and lose the advantage that “K1”’s slightly unusual hero pool brought to the table – however, they must feel confident in making a change like this (although it could take time for the synergy to build).
Invictus Gaming (IG) had an awful showing in Berlin, going 3-13 in games, and consequently they were eliminated after the Group Stage. Within China, they look on par with Team Aster, although Aster have had more success against international teams. Azure Ray had a similar DPC run to IG, but with players like Lu "Somnus" Yao, Yang "Chalice" Shenyi, and Xu "fy" Linsen on their roster, they have a much higher ceiling (despite having played only one tour together).
Quest Esports (🐴), formerly known as Ooredoo Thunder, are trending at the moment after qualifying for the Bali Major in such a competitive region, as well as winning the Riyadh Masters MENA qualifier over Team Secret ME and Nigma Galaxy. With only 232 DPC points, they would probably need a top two finish in Bali to even have a chance at getting a TI direct invite, but spectators are excited to see how they perform against a more diverse set of teams.
Two teams from the Eastern Europe region who are in this small B-Tier are Team Spirit (🔒) and 9Pandas (🔒). Both are effectively TI-locked, meaning that it is possible they don’t make it, but it would take a series of astronomically unexpected results. Spirit have had slightly better regional results (second/second/first vs. 9Panda’s third/first/third), but on the recent international stage, it is 9Pandas who are ahead overall (third in Berlin vs. Spirit’s ninth-12th, and seventh in DreamLeague S20 vs. Spirit’s fifth place finish). In terms of statistical rating models, Team Spirit is a bit ahead of 9Pandas. That said, it is relatively close, and perhaps the group draw and playoff draw will have a big enough impact to push one team far ahead of the other.
Team Aster made a big name roster swap for the Berlin Major, bringing in TI-winner Sumail "SumaiL" Hassan. With minimal preparation, they finished top eight at the event, and had a reasonable enough Tour 3 DPC result to secure qualification for Bali. Now, with more time, you would imagine the synergy and communication with “SumaiL” has improved - although other teams have had a bit of time to investigate Aster’s dynamics, and consider weaknesses to attack.
The A-Tier is the most boring part of the list really - these are the recognisable teams that could realistically win the event and hardly need a case to be made for their A-Tier status. In an ideal world, I’d move one of these down to B-Tier so it’s an even split – however, it’s easy to make a compelling argument for any one of these teams to do very well.
The Chinese powerhouse PSG.LGD are surprisingly not yet locked in for The International. They’ve had two mediocre showings in Majors, but in DreamLeague S20 they seemed to be firing on all pistons by going 20-9 combined in the Group Stage (including a first place finish in Group Stage 2). They placed third overall in a great field, and were eliminated by the eventual winners Gaimin Gladiators.
In third place for DPC points, Evil Geniuses (🔒) should feel comfortable heading to Bali. Berlin showed they could make a relatively deep playoff run (three wins in a row, only to lose to Team Liquid who finished second), whilst in DreamLeague S20 they had the magnificent Group Stage 1 record of seven draws, only to be eliminated in Group Stage 2 after going 3-4. Overall, I expect them to do well, but I'm also interested to see if a South American team will be able to make a Major final (it’s always been that barrier that SA teams have been unable to breach - third place by paiN Gaming at ESL Birmingham 2018 is currently the best result).
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Like PSG.LGD, BetBoom Team (🐴) finally became good in DreamLeague S20. After backing them for so many events it was great to see them finally put on a top shelf performance (before Gaimin Gladiators spoiled their chances of winning). BetBoom are currently 12th in DPC points, but likely need more points to guarantee their TI invite - and that means they need a top eight finish.
Starting in the Lima Group Stage, it seemed like Team Liquid (🔒) were the real ‘team to beat’, and their success has only been overshadowed by Gaimin Gladiators. Although DPC Tour 3 wasn’t great for them (4-3 in series, 9-7 in maps) and neither was DreamLeague S20 (5-9 in groups, which led to their elimination) - their results this year show their true pedigree and ability to perform on the big stage.
Perhaps the team that everyone has an opinion on, Shopify Rebellion (🔒) are one of the hardest teams to predict this season. Within NA they’ve always finished top two in the regional leagues, but on an international stage, it’s all over the place: fourth place in Lima, third in DreamLeague S19, ninth-12th in the Berlin Major, and 11th-12th in DreamLeague S20. I generally find when constructing power rankings, it’s better to consider high variance teams based on their ceiling rather than their floor - and Shopify’s ceiling is high.
One of the biggest shocks in DreamLeague S20 was Tundra Esports (🔒) going 7-7 and being eliminated after a tiebreaker in Group Stage 1. This came after a brilliant Tour 3 run, with a 7-0 score in the toughest region and a very impressive 14-4 map score. The Berlin Major was initially looking great for them with a 14-2 result in the Group Stage, only for them to suddenly lose in back-to-back matches against 9Pandas and Team Liquid (fifth-sixth final place).
After winning four Tier One events in a row, only Gaimin Gladiators (🔒) are really in the S-Tier. Whilst their DreamLeague S20 run wasn’t flawless, and it seems that BetBoom are their arch-rivals (BetBoom went 8-4 in games against GG in the event), their ability to adapt and develop during an event makes them difficult to put down. Additionally, should they win in Bali, they will match an incredible OG Dota record by winning three Majors in a row.
With the build up to The Internaional 12 underway, take a look at which players are forging a legacy in Dota 2 esports.