The third installation of the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor is set to kick off on Thursday, March 5 at Kiev Cybersport Arena in Kyiv, Ukraine. A total of eight Dota 2 teams will be in attendance, competing for the largest slice of US$300,000 and a ticket leading to the Los Angeles Major.
Attending the Minor will be Gambit Esports, forZe, business associates, Fighting PandaS, Alliance, Team Aster, BOOM Esports and NoPing e-sports. The teams have been seeded into two GSL groups of four according to their ranking on Dota Pro Circuit standings.
Inside their respective groups, the teams will compete in a best-of-three (Bo3) format, with only the top two teams advancing into the playoffs, while the bottom two will be eliminated. The playoffs will feature a Bo3 double-elimination format, with the exception of the grand finals, which will be played as Bo5.
BOOM Esports, Business associates, forZe, Team Aster
Bookmakers have Team Aster priced as the favourites to pocket the top seed in Group A ($2.20 at Bet365), might seem fair, however, it would not be wise to count out the remaining three teams just yet.
Team Aster are entering the Kyiv Minor following an unsuccessful run at ESL One Los Angeles Chinese Qualifiers, where they looked solid up until the playoffs when they lost to Invictus Gaming (0-2) and EHOME (0-2). Although they bounced back with strong performance through the StarLadder Minor qualifiers, Aster failed to show any consistency, which raises the question of whether they should be priced as the top dogs in Group A. What's more, Aster will enter the Minor without their coach Yao "QQQ" Yi, who will be replaced by Zhang "LaNm" Zhicheng.
The team that stands out here is Business associates (formerly J.Storm), who are priced at $3.25 at Bet365 to pocket the first seed in Group A. Although David "Moo" Hull and company no longer play under the J.Storm banner, that does not take away from the fact that this squad put up some very solid performances in last couple of months, including fifth-sixth place finish at MDL Chengdu Major and a third-place finish at ESL One Los Angeles 2020 North America Closed Qualifier. Ex-J.Storm squad also had a dominant run through the NA Minor qualifiers, where they convincingly swept both Zoomies and Fighting PandaS.
As for forZe and BOOM Esports, both teams are solid in their own regard, however, it's hard to expect they will cause any serious problems to Aster and business associates. ForZe (formerly Gentlemen) might impress and upset Aster, considering they looked fairly solid in their recent events, however, we see no reason to place any wagers on either of them.
Alliance, Fighting PandaS, Gambit Esports, NoPing e-sports
Looking at the teams in Group B, it's very clear which two should pocket the top two seeds and which two will most likely pack their bags and head home early.
Alliance are entering the Kyiv Minor as the main favourites to go the distance and claim the spoils and there are no arguments to be made against that. Although the Swedish squad are no longer considered as one of the top Dota 2 teams in the scene, they're still an A-Tier team that should not have any issues facing against the likes of Fighting PandaS and NoPing e-sports.
When it comes to Gambit Esports, however, Alliance might have to pull out the big guns, as Gambit are by no means a pushover team. The CIS juggernauts have rebuilt their team back in September, when they signed Kiyalbek "dream" Tayirov, Maxim "Shachlo" Abramovskikh and Danial "XSvamp1Re" Alibaev who teamed up with a young Russian prodigy Danil "gpk" Skutin and captain Artsiom "fng" Barshak.
Since Gambit assembled their new squad, they went on to finish second at ESL One Hamburg 2019, third at ONE Esports Dota 2 World Pro Invitational Singapore and finished fourth at WePlay! Bukovel Minor 2020 and WePlay! Dota 2 Tug of War: Mad Moon. Although a fourth-place finish is nothing to brag about, it's worth noting that on both occasions Gambit got eliminated by Nigma, who ended up winning both events.
Bet365 has Gambit priced at $5.50 to finish the group stage as the first seed, which severely underestimates them. While defeating Alliance will be a tough task for fng and his squad, it's entirely possible that the Russians can cause an upset and at the provided odds, backing them to finish at the top of their group provides us with a great betting opportunity.
Australian eSports betting provider Picklebet have Alliance ($2.29), Team Aster ($4.93) and Gambit Esports ($7.41) as the top three favourites to go the distance and pocket the LA Major ticket. Although they are without a doubt three of the strongest teams, it seems like Aster are slightly overrated and Gambit underrated at their respective prices. Based on what they have shown so far, we don’t see Aster as a team that is ready to make a strong run into the Minor. They are officially the fourth-strongest Chinese team, however, that doesn’t tell a lot, considering there is a clear gap between the top three (EHOME, Invictus and RNG) and Aster.
Gambit on the other side are much stronger than what their recent results would suggest. Not only were they denied a better placement at WePlay! events due to the unlucky draw that paired them with Nigma, Gambit also played without gpk through February due to some internal issues which saw the young mid laner benched. Now that he is back, Gambit are back at full force and should look even stronger.
Out of all teams present at the Minor, Alliance are still the best outright bet here, however, due to the inflated odds, placing a wager on Gambit to reach the finals should not be ignored either.
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