Split, Croatia will be the battleground for eight teams competing in the Dota Pit Season 5 LAN Finals. The prize? A piece of a $135,000 USD pot.
Despite Wings Gaming and Newbee dipping out of the competition due to visa issues, the eight teams assembled to play represent strong competition in the era of 7.01. Some are hot off wins, riding the winds of success from the recent Boston Major. Others have a lot to prove, and only a few matches to do so. As the Kiev Major looms in the distance, Dota Pit will provide an opportunity for teams to cement their spot at the top, or earn a seat at the table.
At the top of the bracket, Virtus.Pro comes into Dota Pit on a mildly sour note. A team that came into the Boston Major as a favorite for the top spot, its fall to Evil Geniuses in the second round of the bracket sent the Russian team home much earlier than expected. A recent outing at ESL One Genting, which saw Digital Chaos 2-0 VP in the semifinals, put a damper on expectations as well. The new standard-bearer of the CIS region has a chance to regain some prestige at the LAN, with a few more weeks of 7.01 under its feet. Look to Vladimir "No[o]ne" Minenko in the mid lane to step up and carry more weight on picks like Ember Spirit, while Ilya "Lil" Ilyuk employs more of his signature supports like Weaver and Chen.
VP's opponent in the first round is Elements Pro Gaming, who took Wings Gaming's spot in the LAN finals. A relatively unknown team compared to the other seven in Split, Elements hails from the CIS region as well, and so could provide an interesting challenge for Virtus.Pro in the first round. When these two last met, in the BTS Europe minor last September, EPG took a game off VP in the grand finals. Though that's hardly basis for an upset alert, Elements provides for an interesting match-up for the stellar VP lineup: relatively unknown, with less tape to watch, and a potential stumbling block.
OG comes into Dota Pit in top form for the first LAN since its victory at the Boston Major. A team that has asserted its place at the top by beating almost every top team in Dota, OG has little to gain but prestige in Croatia. Still, a team at the top of its game has to maintain, and so OG will likely seek to work on some of the shortcomings it exhibited in its Boston Major run: more cohesive teamfights, a stronger presence in lanes and more consistent results. The team still has a rookie in Anathan "ana" Pham, and both losses in the Boston bracket came in games where Pham struggled in the mid lane. Dota Pit will be an opportunity for the team to shore up some of those weaknesses, ahead of larger LANs and majors.
Invictus Gaming faces OG in the first round, a team who stands to gain a great deal in performing well at Dota Pit. Failing to qualify for several LANs in the past few months, including ESL One Genting and the Boston Major, IG needs an international LAN win to make a case for a regional qualifier or direct invite to the Kiev Major. Recent victories in the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2017 qualifiers bode well for this team, where mid laner Ou "Op" Peng has stepped into his own role as carry for the team alongside veteran Xu "BurNIng" Zhilei. This team needs wins and has the players to get them, but will have to face one of the toughest tests in the tournament right out of the gate in the form of OG.
The North American Evil Geniuses squad can't feel too bad about the last couple months. A 3rd/4th finish at Boston Major was not ideal, but a top finish at China Top 2016 set momentum back in the team's favor. Dota Pit will be the team's first outing on patch 7.01, and the team will likely still be a force to reckon with, as the changes made to the map and heroes seem to have bolstered some of EG's best attributes. Sumail "Suma1L" Hassan is the star of the squad in the mid lane, but watch EG's matches for Saahil "UNiVeRsE" Arora's adaptations to the offlane changes. Arora is one of the most talented offlane players in Dota, and his picks and playstyle in that lane will be something any pub offlaner will want to take notes on.
Team Faceless faces EG in the first round, a difficult matchup for the SEA team. Though Faceless had a disappointing showing at the Boston Major, the team has stuck it out through the shuffle, and took a recent 2nd place at the ASUS ROG SEA Cup, in a series against Execration that went the full five games. Faceless' greatest issue will be to start clicking as a team, and finding drafts that utilize the carry potential of one-role player Dominik "Black^" Reitmeier. When this team is firing on all cylinders, it can steamroll even tier-one opponents. The key for Faceless will be to draft smart, avoid tilt and keep composure against tough opponents like EG.
Digital Chaos comes into Dota Pit with arguably the most momentum of any other team in attendance. After a win at ESL One Genting, and a 3rd/4th at both China Top 2016 and the Boston Major, DC certainly has reason to be confident. The team also has the most competitive experience on the new patch compared to the rest of the pack, and has been looking stellar in almost every performance. The meta certainly favors DC's style, where picks like Shadow Demon, Sand King and Queen of Pain have been successful for the team. Digital Chaos will look to cement its spot in not just North America but the international scene, and with a few wins taken off teams like EG or OG, could certainly secure itself a guaranteed invite to Kiev.
The final team and DC's opponent in the first round of the double-elimination bracket is Team Secret, a team with a significant chip on its shoulder coming into Dota Pit. A loss to VP in the Boston Major qualifiers kept Secret at home, and the team also had to find a new offlaner after the departure of Lee "Forev" Sang-don. Maurice "KheZu" Gutmann has stepped up, and Secret has since been biding its time for the right LAN. Team Secret has a lot to gain with every win at Dota Pit, as this former major winner now finds itself the underdog against teams like Digital Chaos. A strong showing could mean a boost of confidence, and better chances going into a regional qualifier or direct invite discussions; a bad performance could be signs of worse things to come when Kiev qualifiers roll around.