Upper Division Play In Preview
With the conclusion of the first DPC Major of 2021 in Singapore, there is only one more season for Upper Division teams to gain the DPC points necessary to win themselves a guaranteed slot at The International 10. 8 teams from each region will compete in regional leagues to win points and a spot to the second DPC Major.
Let’s take a look at each of the competing teams’ histories and what we expect this season.
MATUMBAMAN · Nisha · zai · YapzOr · Puppey
The Goliath of EU Dota, they have stood as “the team to beat” for over 2 years now and they continued to improve with a change of roster at the end of 2019. (Swapping out MidOne for MATUMBAMAN and transitioning Nisha to a mid lane role to allow MATUMBAMAN to be the carry.) They showcased their dominance amongst the region this summer by breaking the record for the best Win/Loss over 100 games set by Alliance over 7 years earlier, improving it from 83-17 to 87-13. They cruised to a victory in the EU upper division 7-0 and only dropped 3 games along the way.
However, it’s not all glory for Team Secret as the ultimate prize of being crowned The International Champions has thus far eluded them. At both TI8 and TI9, Team Secret’s form has faltered and allowed them to be knocked out of the competition without reaching the finals.
Team Secret went into the Singapore major as most people’s favourite to win the event, but it was not to be. After taking down Thunder Predator who had been on a hot streak not losing a series in the group stage, Team Secret faced PSG.LGD and fell to the lower bracket. They managed to defeat OB Esports x Neon in a close series that could have gone either way, before falling on the same day to IG to end in 4th place. Though fans were disappointed with this finish, Team Secret did finish above all other EU teams and have all but guaranteed themselves a place at TI. If they can work out their apparent issues with the style of dota the SEA and CN teams threw at them, they’ll be in a strong position moving into TI.
Nikobaby · Limmp · s4 · Handsken · fng
The Swedish based Alliance are a legendary team in Dota history with their original iteration sweeping the field at TI3. Since then they have had mixed success, picking up a strong team for TI9 who underperformed and then left at the end of the season to join Team Liquid. Alliance were thought to be down and out, but some great roster acquisitions through 2019 and 2020 came together to make a formidable threat in the EU region.
Their team combines storied legends of the game and new blood with players like S4 and Nikobaby on their roster. They even brought in CIS stand-out fng to EU for the first time to shake up the region. Failing to earn a direct invite to the Upper Division from Valve in the competitive EU region, Alliance had to fight their way through the qualifier and continued that strong fighting form in the Upper Division itself to earn themselves a well won 2nd place finish and ticket to the Singapore Major. Now that they have cracked the coveted “Top 4 EU” standings they will have to prove that it wasn’t just a one off and defend their new place amongst the top teams on the Dota2 world stage.
Alliance had a very disappointing performance at the Singapore Major, failing to win a single series in the group stage - the only team not to do so. They exited the tournament prematurely, only finishing ahead of the wild card teams. Hopefully they will bounce back and be motivated going into the next season.
Miracle · iLTW · MinD_ContRoL · GH · KuroKy
Team Nigma were formed by the old Team Liquid roster after finishing in 2nd place at TI9 where they lost in the finals to OG. They haven’t made any roster changes since then and continued to show good form being directly invited to the first regional qualifiers upper division directly by Valve, performing well in the various online leagues held during 2020.
Team Nigma are captained by KuroKy, one of the longest serving dota pros and one of just two to have participated in every International tournament to date. In last year's True Sight documentary we gained an insight into the strength of KuroKy’s desire to take home a second Aegis, after coming so close last year he’s sure to push his team to the limit to ensure he can raise the Aegis with them this year instead.
Nigma performed comparatively to Alliance at the major, also failing to win a single series and being eliminated immediately. The questions that arose over their roster may have contributed to the benching of W33, who will be replaced for the next season. Nigma will be hoping that this fresh change in the midlane, along with the return of MinD_ContRoL (who was absent from the major due to covid concerns) will result in a reinvigorated team who can once again challenge for the top spots of their division and perform better at the next major.
Micke · qojqva · boxi · taiga · Insania
After TI9’s departure of their entire roster Team Liquid looked to pick up a new team that could live up to the heights of their TI9 success. They acquired their current roster of ex-Alliance players, who despite struggling in early 2020 seem to have now found their form again and are performing arguably better than they ever have. These players have been together for nearly 3 and a half years now and it shows in their teamplay and discipline.
Team Liquid just squeaked through to the first Major after a brutal EU Upper Division group stage which resulted in two full rounds of tiebreakers being played before the deadlock was broken with Liquid victorious. They are certainly a team to watch out for, having won more matches against titans Team Secret in the last year than any other team. Their crowning achievement so far has been their win at the ESL One Germany online event in late 2020 but they will be hungry to prove that they can replicate that performance on LAN where the pressure is even higher.
Team Liquid continued their EU Upper Division form by again just barely creeping through a stage winning a spot in the main event at Singapore by beating AS Monaco Gambit in the wildcard tiebreaker. However they were quickly defeated at the main event by falling 2-0 to Vici Gaming. This roster has been one of the most stable for the past few years and they haven’t seen reason to change anything now, retaining the same 5 man lineup they’ve had for the past 3 years going into the next season.
Ana · Topson · Ceb · Saksa · N0tail
OG are a team that need no introduction. Captained by founder n0tail the team became the first and only two time TI winners with a thrilling run at TI8 and TI9 that few saw coming. However, since TI9 the team has had a few roster changes with both ana and JerAx departing.To fill their shoes MidOne and Saksa joined the squad and while the results and performances aren’t quite up to their TI8/TI9 level just yet, the squad’s raw potential and ability to take games off any team on the right day should put any other team on guard.
OG were unfortunate to just miss out on a place at the first Major, falling just 1 game short when they lost to Team Liquid in a tiebreaker for the final spot. They will be out for revenge and won’t want to leave their fate up to tiebreakers again in their second and last chance to secure a definite TI10 invite. If they are going to contend for a third TI championship they will have to return to that TI winning form soon.
Skiter · Nine · 33 · Biver · Fata
Tundra Esports picked up the Mudgolems roster after the team qualified for the first upper division regional league. Mudgolems were formed by Fata and 33, two ex-Alliance players who were looking to put a team together on short notice to have a chance to play in the upcoming DPC. The teams’ results were mixed and just 1 month prior to the qualifier for the Upper Division, they changed 2 players, replacing MiLAN and BoraNija with Nine and Biver to form the current squad.
The newly formed roster immediately showed themselves to be a serious threat as they entered the tournament by taking games off Team Secret and OG before dispatching Team Liquid 2-0. Unfortunately for the team they couldn’t quite secure an all important win against Alliance in the later weeks and they failed to qualify to the Major after Team Liquid secured the last slot in a tie breaker. Who knows what Tundra can pull off this season with more time to prepare and opportunity to build cohesion as a team?
Ace · Stormstormer · rasmas · gilgir · tofu
Hellbear Smashers are the first of two new arrivals into the EU Upper Division, earning themselves a promotion from the Lower Division after finishing in first place. The team is captained by veteran MiSeRy, now playing under the name rASmus and has a mixture of established and new talent filling out the roster. In last season’s Lower Division Hellbear Smashers swept through the competition, only losing a single series to Brame, the eventual division runners-up.
In the second EU Upper Division, Hellbear Smashers will be stepping in to fill the shoes of Vikin.gg and High Coast Esports. They did show that they can take games off teams such as Alliance during the decider tournament, so this isn’t a team that should be written off instinctively for the next season.
Focus · W1sh- · Skylark · CTOMAHEH1 · SSaspartan
Brame formed their current roster in September 2020, the roster includes 2 players Skylark and SsaSpartan who were part of the 2016 Boston Major Ad Finem team, who defied all expectations to take 2nd place at the event. The team had a similarly successful Lower Division run as compared to Hellbear Smashers, even beating them initially 2-0 - the only series loss the Hellbear Smashers suffered all tournament. However, the points were tied and they were unable to repeat the performance when rematched in the tiebreakers, forcing them to settle for second place when the dust settled. This was still good enough to achieve their goal of qualifying to the Upper Division and now they must look ahead to bigger challenges lying in wait in the next season.
All the players on Brame have been grinding it out in mid tier Dota tournaments for years now and this will be the first big break for many of them to be able to compete against some of the best in the world. While this may seem daunting, if the Boston Major 2016 tournament showed us anything, it’s that a team like this shouldn’t be discounted. They have a real chance to upset some of the more established teams in this tough division - SsaSpartan and Skylark may find a way to relive their past as the dark horse of EU Dota.