In the wake of the Boston Major and patch 7.01, teams have been returning to their respective corners, putting in time on the new gameplay changes and drafting new strategies to use in the 7.01 meta. The last few weeks have been comparatively quiet, with only a few roster adjustments shaking the branches.
The break will soon be over though, and the climb will start anew for teams looking to establish themselves as contenders for a direct invite to both the Kiev Major and The International. ESL One Genting 2017 (taking place at Resort World Genting in Malaysia) is the first premier of the new year, and outside of a few skirmishes at China Top 16, the first glimpse we'll see of competitive Dota in the 7.01 era.
Some teams stand to benefit greatly from a win in the Arena of Stars this weekend, and others look to defend tenuous positions. Playing for a prize pool of $250,000 and the first premier LAN title of 2017, everyone will be vying for the top spot.
The first among the directly invited teams might have the most to prove this weekend. After dropping in the Boston Qualifiers to WG Unity, Fnatic went back to the drawing board, keeping only legendary captain Yee Fung "Mushi" Chai and offlaner Chong Xin "Ohaiyo" Khoo. The new lineup looks to employ some fresh talent in Muhammad Rizky "Inyourdream" Anugrah, but Fnatic has been plagued by issues regardless of talent in the past. ESL One Genting will be the ground for this team to prove it's ready to reclaim its spot among the upper-crust of Dota teams, and be in serious contention for the next major.
Through designated qualifiers, the remaining teams in group A can and will attempt to dethrone the only directly invited team. Team NP, the North American qualifier for ESL One Genting, had a fair showing at Boston, dropping in the quarterfinals to regional rival Digital Chaos. The more telling result from Boston is NP's results against other Genting attendees: 0-2 losses to both Virtus.Pro and Newbee don't set a confident tone for NP's chances in Genting, as NP will face at least one of the teams in the group stage.
Newbee's results have often seemed to contrast the level of skill this lineup exhibits. Despite having one of the arguably best mids in Dota 2 in Song "Sccc" Chun, Newbee has struggled to find success outside of China, including two subsequent subpar performances at The International 6 and the Boston Major. When matched up record-for-record against the other teams in Group A, however, the historical record is much kinder to Newbee, with only one team seeming to be an obvious stumbling block on this team's road to the top.
The stumbling block for both Newbee and the entire group will be Virtus.Pro, the CIS team that shook up all major predictions with its dominant run at The Summit 6. Boston saw VP's streak ended by Evil Geniuses, but the team still looks every bit the powerhouse it was prior to that series. VP boasts an impressive record over Newbee and NP in recent matches, and will likely look to continue its streak and gain back some of what was lost in Boston.
Warriors Gaming Unity
Digital Chaos come out of the Boston Major with a satisfactory result, finishing in third/fourth spot alongside North American competition Evil Geniuses. Sitting at the top of the NA region, DC is the most favored team to perform well at ESL One given past performances, but it will have to shake off the ghosts of its 0-2 loss to Ad Finem in the Boston semifinals and 0-2 loss to Newbee at China Top 16. A complacent team can get easily picked off by a dark horse, and so Digital Chaos will be looking to cement its position in the coming LAN.
Though DC had a solid performance at the Boston Major, its TI6 grand finals opponent Wings Gaming fell in the bottom four of the tournament. Though likely due to the single-elimination format, a low placement is still hanging over Wings' head, compounded by another 2-0 loss to the same EG squad just a week later at China Top 16. The reigning International champ will be looking to overcome those finishes in Genting, to secure a more defensible position when Kiev invites roll around. If anyone can make magic with the massive balance changes brought about in patches 7.00 and 7.01, it's the five members of Wings Gaming, whose colossal hero pools could bring a lot of unexpected drafts to the premier.
Warriors Gaming Unity had some success at the recent major, taking a series from Wings Gaming, beating Complexity 2-0 in the main bracket and even taking a game off the future major champ OG. The Southeast Asian squad brings a lot to the table, but some of the upset factor that earned it a dark horse spot in the Boston Major may now be its undoing. Facing two of the teams it lost to in the Boston Major group stage (Wings, on the second go-around, and Digital Chaos), WGU may have lost the element of surprise, and will now have to show up and prove that the wins in Massachusetts weren't a fluke.
While the former three teams attended the Boston Major, Execration missed it due to visa issues, and now the team also faces down the first premier of the major without its star Meepo player Abed Azel L. Yusop, who recently left the roster. Though it earned a direct invite from Valve to the Boston Major, even at the time, Execration was an unknown quantity with few substantive wins under its belt. In the time since that direct invite was issued, the team has struggled to put up wins over international, tier-one teams, and in the recent SEA Kappa Invitational, lost to WG Unity in two series, 2-0 and 3-0 respectively. Odds are that Execration has the least likely shot at the title in Genting, and it will take not only newcomer mid Fernando "Nando" Mendoza stepping up, but the entire team pulling double the weight to make an impact.