The third Major of 2019/20 Dota Pro Circuit season is set to begin on Sunday, March 15, in Los Angeles, California, with 16 Dota2 teams in attendance and US$1,000,000 on the line.
Although TNC Predator and ViCi Gaming announced they will not attend ESL One Los Angeles Major and instead regain some strength ahead of The International, the lineup at the Los Angeles Major looks extremely strong with some of the biggest names in Dota 2 scene confirmed and ready to compete in the City of Angels.
ESL One Los Angeles Major will see 16 teams divided into four GSL groups of four, where all fixtures will be played as best-of-three (Bo3). Top two teams from each group will advance into the playoffs upper bracket while the bottom two are placed into the lower bracket.
The playoffs will use a double-elimination format, with all first-round fixtures in the lower bracket played as Bo1, while all remaining games will be played as Bo3. The Grand Finals, slated to take place on Sunday, March 22 at Shrine Auditorium will be played as Bo5.
The full lineup at Los Angeles Major looks as follows:
Europe: Team Secret, OG, Ninjas in Pyjamas
China: Invictus Gaming, Royal Never Give Up, EHOME
Southeast Asia: Fnatic, Geek Fam, Team Adroit
CIS: Natus Vincere, Virtus.pro
North America: Evil Genuises, Chaos Esports Club
South America: Thunder Predator, beastcoast
StarLadder Imba TV Minor: Team Aster (China)
Based on the betting odds, Europe is entering the tournament with the strongest line-up, however, that does not mean other regions are to be ignored. Chinese and SEA teams have proven before they are not to be underestimated, while the experienced NA and CIS squads always seem like they have an ace up their sleeve. South America, while commonly regarded as the weakest region, fosters some of the most aggressive teams in the scene, which can outpace even the top dogs. Suffice to say, we are in for an exciting Dota2 tournament, which is bound to keep every Dota2 fan on the edge of their seats as they cheer for their team to hoist the title and secure a spot at The International 2020.
The host region will have a lot to prove in front of their home crowd, who will demand nothing less than a title from either of their teams, namely Evil Geniuses ($6.88 at Picklebet), who are priced as the third favourites to pocket the gold medal.
Although North America failed to produce any noteworthy results on the international stage for quite some time, there is still one glimmer of hope for the region to rise up and establish themselves as serious contenders.
Evil Geniuses’ fans have a lot of reasons to be optimistic about their team’s chances to succeed on the home soil , seeing how their favourite team is riding high after their second-place finish at DreamLeague Season 13, which is only one of many solid results Tal "Fly" Aizik and co put up recently. While EG are not as dominant as they were in their golden days in 2015, they have still shown the potential to go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the scene.
The departure of Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan was by many seen as the downfall of EG, however, that was not the case. Although the departure of SumaiL forced EG to make a few changes to their playstyle, the team seems to be performing just fine and even look to be more consistent as they used to be.
Chaos ESC ($34.84 at Picklebet) will enter the Major in the shadow of their compatriots, yet that does not necessarily mean they should be completely ignored. Chaos field some of the best individuals in their respective positions, namely Yawar “YawaR” Hassan and Quinn “CCnC” Callahan. Although the line-up in Los Angeles looks incredibly tough, Chaos could surprise and make a deep run. Once they get it rolling, they can look nearly unstoppable, meaning that a strong start will play a pivotal role in their success.
Home field advantage is something worth taking into consideration and while it may not be as beneficial as in more "traditional sports", playing in front of the home crowd is bound to get the blood pumping for both Chaos and EG.
CIS is a region that once produced some of the biggest Dota2 talent in the world and any team hailing from this region struck fear into all of their opponents. Although the quality has dwindled throughout the last couple of years, CIS region still fields formidable teams in Natus Vincere ($21.63 at Picklebet) and Virtus.pro ($21.31 at Picklebet).
Although both respectable names in the esports scene, the name Natus Vincere is one that won't easily be forgotten amongst Dota2 fans. The champions of the inaugural TI and finalists in the next two may be only a shadow of their former selves from a decade ago, but they remain a dangerous team that can defeat any team if given a chance to do so.
Natus Vincere lost their star player Bakyt “Zayac” Emilzhanov ahead of ESL One Major, who left for Virtus.pro. On a more positive note, NaVi managed to keep ahold of their consistent and reliable core in Vladislav “Crystallize” Krystanek and Idan “MagicaL” Vardanian, who played a pivotal role in NaVi's run throughout the qualifiers with their phenomenal performances.
What makes NaVi a dangerous team is not necessarily their individual quality or experience of their players, but rather their incredibly deep hero pool, which allows them to play any hero at almost any position. That makes playing against NaVi extremely difficult and should allow the CIS juggernauts to pocket an upset win or two. Going the distance, however, might be a bit out of their reach, as they seemingly lack the needed consistency to do so.
Virtus.pro are in a similar position when it comes to hoisting the title. Although a team that was expected to cruise through the early DPC tournaments, as they did last season, Virtus.pro failed to make an impact so far. After skipping the first Major and finishing the Leipzig Major extremely poorly, all the hype surrounding this team has long died out.
Virtus.pro are a team that on paper should be one of the best teams in the scene, yet they are far from that. On a more positive note, the acquisition of Zayac was seemingly a good move, as Virtus.pro pocketed bronze at WePlay! Tug of War: Mad Moon. What's more they played well against Team Secret and Nigma, which might suggest they will be able to hold their own at the Major. This will be the tournament where Virtus.pro has to prove themselves and with some of the strongest teams from Europe and China not attending the event, this is a perfect time for them to show their worth and make a statement.
Invictus Gaming ($10.82 at Picklebet) will be the main Chinese representatives at ESL One Los Angeles Major and one of the underdogs that can cause some serious damage. With their strong results this season, Invictus Gaming have established themselves as one of the most consistent teams in China and a force to be reckoned with on the international stage. Their ability to adapt to new patches and change up their playstyle is nearly unmatched, and if we add the individual quality of their players to the mix, we have a perfect recipe for success.
When IG plays, it seems like they can predict the future - they always find themselves at the right place at the right time, which gives them a massive advantage over their opponents. The team seemingly has it all, except for one thing – solid draft. Despite all the qualities IG possess, draft is their kryptonite, as we have seen numerous times before IG getting out-drafted, which is something they need to address ahead of their trip to LA. However, if they can overcome their draft problems, IG could easily contest a top-four finish, as they are much stronger than what the odds suggest.
Royal Never Give Up ($15.43 at Picklebet) is another team that deserves to be mentioned due to their solid performances in recent months. At WePlay! Bukovel Minor in January, they finished second after losing to Nigma in the finals, and although they failed to go the distance, RNG were by far the most dominant team throughout the tournament.
The biggest strength of RNG is their methodical playstyle. It's clear the team is well-coached, which allows them to drag out the games and use drafts that complement their playstyle. The problem arises, however, when they face off against an aggressive team, which does not allow them to play at their own pace. Unfortunately, there will be plenty of teams like that in Los Angeles. If RNG can adapt and tweak their playstyle a bit, we could see them reach the semi-finals with ease, but as we have come to realise Majors can be very unpredictable and so is RNG's final placement.
That leaves us with the two top favourites and arguably the only two teams who deserve to be called the favourites to win the Major in Team Secret ($3.42 at Picklebet) and OG ($3.42 at Picklebet), who will have immense pressure on their shoulders to deliver as anything less than hoisting the trophy won't be acceptable.
All the spotlight will be on the new-look OG, who have completely rebuilt their roster, following the departure of Anathan "ana" Pham, Sébastien "Ceb" Debs and Jesse "JerAx" Vainikka, who got replaced by Sumail "SumaiL" Hassan, Yeik "MidOne" Nai Zheng and Martin "Saksa" Sazdov. Losing their star players might suggest OG won’t look as dominant as they did in last two seasons, however, there is no denying they did an exceptional job in finding solid replacements and it's hard to ignore how great OG looked like in the Major qualifiers.
Although OG look very scary with their lineup, it's worth noting that the team played together for only a month. Based on their performance at the qualifiers, that should not be a problem, but then again, those were only qualifiers. The biggest question here is, whether OG can stack up with Team Secret, who are arguably the best Dota2 team in the world.
Comparing OG and Team Secret, it's difficult to separate them simply because Team Secret are already an established powerhouse, while OG are fielding a new roster, which still needs to prove itself on the big stage as a solid unit. For that reason, Team Secret seem like a much safer pick to win the title and although they lost to Nigma at WePlay! Dota 2 Tug of War: Mad Moon, that loss was more of an upset defeat rather than a true indication of Team Secret's strength.
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