Patrick Bonifacio, January 18, 2017

Return to the Pit: The Teams to Watch at Dota Pit's Season 5 Finals

Hot on the heels of ESL One Genting and the WESG LAN Finals comes the West’s turn at hosting a premier tournament on patch 7.01: the fifth season of the Dota Pit League. Eight teams from the usual regions will battle it out in a double-elimination bracket spanning three days of competition, for a prize pool of over $130,000. And it all kicks off with Virtus.pro (1.1) against Elements (6.5) this Friday.

Fan favorites such as Evil Geniuses, Digital Chaos, and OG will be present at the event, as well as the newest iteration of the ever-shifting Team Secret. CIS powerhouses Virtus.pro will look to redeem themselves after Genting, along with fellow CIS squad Elements Pro Gaming. Asian teams Faceless and Invictus Gaming will represent the SEA and Chinese regions respectively.

Season 4 grand champions MVP Phoenix will not be defending their title, sadly, as the team disbanded just a few weeks ago. Considering that both Secret and EG (winners of seasons 2 and 3 respectively) will be playing this weekend, there is still the chance for a repeat champion to be crowned.

The Four (abbreviated) Horsemen: EG, VP, DC, and OG

The teams that will most likely make the top four in this tournament are obvious from the outset. Digital Chaos and Virtus.pro finished in second place and top 4 respectively at ESL One Genting, while EG defeated Newbee at the China Top grand finals a few weeks before 2016 ended. Expect heated contests between these squads should they meet up in the second round of the winners’ bracket.

DC have really hit their stride since the Fall roster lock, displaying both great individual skill and teamwork that would normally be expected out of a squad that’s been playing together for years. David “MoonMeander” Tan is one of the best offlaners to come out of the Americas, while their other two cores Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok and Aliwi “w33” Omar have been on the ball even since TI6.

Rasmus “MiSeRy” Filipsen’s capacity to lead has been sufficiently proven, and so is Martin “Saksa” Sazdov’s skill in the support role. DC’s (1.62) strengths clearly lie in their synergy as a unit, a strength they will be hoping to take advantage of in their opening match against the less cohesive Team Secret (2.25).

For once, EG will actually stick with the exact same lineup they ran with in the previous Major, which should help their chemistry stay intact going into this event. As the “kings of the lower bracket”, this format should favor them in the long term—that is, assuming that captain Andreas Franck “Cr1t-” Nielsen has learned to research his opponents as much as his predecessor did. He was not given this opportunity in Boston given that the format was single elimination, so it will be interesting to see if he can display such foresight.

Anyone who thinks they can sleep on VP should be forewarned, for they are still capable of making grand final runs when they’re firing on all cylinders. Naturally, all eyes are on position 1 prodigy Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev, who at the tender age of 17 has 9K MMR and plenty of premier event experience. Memes from the past aside, team captain Alexei “Solo” Berezin has really come into his own as a veteran leader. The other three members of the team are no slouches either, with Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko being the standout player for his deadly mid plays.

OG, of course, stand out as the current Major champions, who looked nigh unstoppable at Boston after a spirited run through the single elimination bracket and only two dropped games by the final curtain. Their form is looking great, and midlaner Anathan “ana” Pham has shown the ability to adjust under pressure situations—such as when he quickly recovered from a shaky start as Outworld Devourer in game 1 of the Boston Major grand finals.

The true star of the team, though, is Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka, known as perhaps the best support player in the West as of right now. The man’s many plays form a highlight reel on their own, and he is living proof that playing the position 4 or 5 need not be tedious or boring in the slightest. OG (1.28) face their first challenge against China’s Invictus Gaming (3.5) with a sizeable advantage.

The Dark Horses of Dota Pit: Elements, Faceless, Team Secret, Invictus Gaming

The underdogs of the event consist of the teams that haven’t put up any premier tournament results in the last two months or later. Although Team Secret did take first place at ROG Masters, it wasn’t a premier-level tournament, in spite of the larger prize pool. The playing field at ROG Masters wasn’t exactly that tough either, but it’s good to keep in mind that they managed to sweep an in-form Execration (with both Abed and DJ in the roster) in the grand finals.

All things considered, Secret will have the highest potential to surprise people this weekend. They have the talent and leadership required to survive the format, after all, even if they have only been playing together a short time. As for the rest, it will be a tossup among all three. Faceless have a good roster on paper, but so far they’ve failed to convert it into anything significant in premier events. The team that eliminated them from the previous major (DC) are also in this tournament, which could prove to be their undoing once again should they even get past their first round match against a heavily favored EG (1.08).

IG basically have BurNIng + 4, and we all know that the legendary Chinese carry hasn’t been in shape in a long time now. But it’s Elements Pro Gaming who will be the least favored out of all eight teams, given their complete lack of premier tournament experience and results. In all, this doesn’t seem like a strong tournament for upsets, but the odds aren’t out of the question. Place your bets for Dota Pit now!

Patrick Bonifacio

Patrick is a Dota 2 fanatic, specialising in the SEA scene. He's also a massive K-pop fan but we don't offer markets on Girls Generation (yet) so he writes about esports instead. You can follow him at twitter.com/EthanKairos_