The United Kingdom is gearing up for their first ever taste of a Dota 2 major as ESL One Birmingham commences this weekend, the first Dota major to be held on English soil. As the group stage skirmishes wrapped up and playoffs get underway at the Arena Birmingham, things are poised to heat up in the UK over the weekend. Let’s jump into the warfare and see which squad is fit to take the gold in this week’s ESI Gambling Report.
Coming off a gritty group stage and heading into playoffs today, Dota enthusiasts witnessed a spectacle of high-level encounters setting the tone for the rest of the weekend as the six squads remaining move through the contest. The calibre of skill dispersed evenly among the three groups made predicting who would advance a close call; naturally, someone had to go home early, and we saw some good upsets leading up to today.
Evil Geniuses desperately needed to place this tournament, however, they would fall short, placing last in the first group – dimming their International 8 prospect this season. One of the Group A squads contributing towards EG’s flight home was Fnatic; the Southeast Asian contender was able to surface out of the fierce group, securing a spot in the playoffs. Although Fnatic was able to power through the group stage, their initial playoff match against a formidable-looking OG squad should be a true test of their dexterity. Virtus.Pro saw great success in the playoff preliminary fixtures – heavily favoured to take home the gold at Birmingham prior to the event, Virtus.Pro has maintained their elite status thus far.
Consistency hasn’t been one of Team Liquid’s strong points this season; as last year’s International 7 champions, the bar seems to have been set at an unrealistic height for the North American squad to preserve. Falling twice to paiN Gaming in this double-elimination event, Liquid would see yet another early exit – although, their current Pro Circuit ranking is already enough to seal an International 8 invite. OG would come out on top of Group B, outclassing both paiN Gaming and Vici Gaming in their two group stage bouts. Finishing second was paiN Gaming, one of the underdogs to emerge from Group B; as we mentioned, the Brazilian troop trumped TI7 champs not once, but twice. While OG finished on top, paiN Gaming’s show of prowess against one of the best Dota teams in the world gives them a champion accent moving forward through Birmingham fixtures.
Crowd favourites Newbee failed to deliver this event as they fell to LGD.Forever Young and OpTic Gaming in the third group, ending their run in Birmingham well before playoffs. Mineski managed to finish in the top two clawing their way out of a treacherous third group – two wins against LGD was enough to punch their ticket into the playoffs this weekend. OpTic managed to clinch first in Group C, following that, the American unit ousted OG in a decider round granting them a bye in the first playoff round. OpTic’s recent StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 title win established the crew as a deadly threat this season; this prestige only bolstered by a string of strong performances foregoing playoffs in Birmingham.
The Russian legion is poised to take ESL One Birmingham by a stretch; bookmakers across the boards have Virtus.Pro as heavy favourites to take home first and with good logic. As Artur Kowal, Head of Esports Trading at Betway, simply put it for us: “After taking ESL One Katowice 2018, and The Bucharest Major 2018 back to back they were clear favourites across the market to take the trophy”. Validating the squad’s cachet, Virtus.Pro bulldozed through their competition at Birmingham prior to the weekend – most notably taking down both OG and OpTic in prelims. To see a squad topple Virtus.Pro at Birmingham while in this form would be a major bombshell – all things according, the Russian gang is positioned for a Hollywood finish in England this weekend.
While betting against Virtus.Pro this tournament would seem like an uphill battle, if any team is going to topple the giants, it’s OpTic Gaming. Despite dropping a best of one series against Virtus.Pro in the decider round, victories against the likes of Newbee, Mineski and OG is a statement in itself. A StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 first place finish showcased the NA qualifiers have quite a bit of blue blood in them – pulling off a grand final triumph isn’t going to be an easy feat, but it’s certainly a possibility.
A list of predictions for ESL One Birmingham would feel incomplete given paiN Gaming’s production in the group stage; granted Liquid has seen better configurations in previous seasons, paiN Gaming trouncing the TI7 champions in two clashes was a noteworthy result for the South American qualifiers. While the likelihood of paiN Gaming walking away with the trophy at ESL One Birmingham would be a long stretch, they may be worth a couple more upsets in the playoffs. Having issued Liquid’s return flight, paiN Gaming is surely aiming to keep their Birmingham conquest rolling.