The dust has settled, the battles have been fought, now let’s set the stage for the $3,000,000 Manila Major.
The Invites -
In a major departure from the previous eight invites, eight qualifiers for Valve-sponsored tournaments a whopping TWELVE teams received invites to Manila.
Team Secret: Despite winning the Shanghai Major, Secret swapped up their mid and off lane positions, dropping w33ha and Misery for Arteezy and Universe. On paper this change may have made them stronger but in practice the new Secret has failed to impress.
Team Liquid: Runners up at Shanghai, they stood pat with their lineup and it has paid off with Liquid appearing to be the strongest Western team coming in to the major.
Evil Geniuses: The other losers of the Secret re-shuffle, they haven’t looked nearly as strong with AUI_2000 and Bulba filling in on the carry and offlane roles. Still a good team but the TI5 winners and NA hopes will have an uphill battle.
MVP Phoenix: Despite a lull after the Shanghai Major, MVP Phoenix has looked very good recently and is more than deserving of their invite status.
Wings Gaming: The up and coming Chinese squad received their invite on the back of winning ESL One Manila over Liquid and Fnatic. Will they be able to replicate the success that other new blood Chinese squads have had in Major tournaments?
Vici Gaming Reborn: Many were surprised when Chinese legend Fy- left Vici’s main squad to form his own with some up and coming Chinese pub stars. His move paid off when VG.R won the Starladder i-league Invitational over Na’vi, MVP Phoenix, and OG, earning themselves a Manila Major invite.
Fnatic: Fnatic has dominated the South-East Asia scene recently, including multiple victories over rival MVP Phoenix. Their consistent performance stemming from Shanghai earned them an invite to Manila though recent events have caused their play to falter a bit.
OG: The Hontrash team that surprised everyone at the Frankfurst Major has also failed to live up to their expectations. They underwhelmed at Shanghai and have underwhelmed at every tournament since, with their Frankfurt performance being the sole reason for the invite to Manila.
Complexity: Another team whose good performance at Shanghai and consistency in the period after earned them an invite. While still struggling to consistently beat the top tier teams, they have looked strong enough and deserving of their invite.
Alliance: The reformed TI3 champions came into Shanghai playing very well, winning both WCA and I-League. They underperformed at Shanghai though, and were bounced from the I-league invitational early winning only one match. Their invite came as a bit of a surprise.
Natus Vincere: Na’vi received an invite to Manila almost purely based off their run in theStarladder i-league Invitational, played on their home soil of Kiev, Ukraine. They ended up losing 3-1 to VG.R in the grand finals, and their lack of consistency in other events was apparently not a factor in the invite process. LGD: LGD is by far the most controversial invite to the Manila Major. They have not performed particularly well in any recent events and many felt Chinese teams like EHOME and Newbee were more deserving of the invite. The prevailing opinion is that Valve unduly favored legendary Chinese captain Xiao8 with this invite, and that LGD will be one of the weaker teams we see.
The Qualifiers -
With only four qualifier spots and some questionable invites, three out of the four qualifiers were intensely contested. Each qualifier started with two groups of 5, the top two from each group moving on to a four team playoff and only one team advancing on to the Major. Stakes are immensely high with team long term success hinging on making the Major for a chance at that sweet sweet $3 million prize pool.
The Americas qualifier, considered by many to be perhaps the weakest region, was absolutely dominated by former TI and Major players. Digital Chaos, led by the same Misery and w33ha that were kicked from Team Secret after winning Shanghai, dominated Group A and didn’t drop a single map. Team Shazam with NA fixtures Brax, TC, and MSS won Group B.
Shazam handed DC their first losses of the tournament in the Winner’s finals utilizing a very strong Elder Titan pocket strat, but DC came back and won 3-0 in the Grand finals when they banned the ET in every game. DC was clearly the favorites as they had two players who had literally just won the last Major.
The European qualifier was perhaps the most even overall, with many strong but no dominant teams. Euro mashup No Diggity and Russian Team Empire advanced out of Group A, with Russian team Vega and surprising Greek squad Ad Finem advancing out of Group B. Ad Finem continued to astonish, taking out Empire and No Diggity on their way to the Grand Finals. Empire, however, adapted extremely well and battled back all the way from the lower bracket, eliminating Vega, No Diggity, and finally getting their revenge on Ad Finem in an incredible 3-2 Grand Finals to qualify for Manila.
Prevailing thoughts on the Chinese scene held that Newbee should have received an invite to Manila over LGD as they had been absolutely dominant in the Chinese scene after the Shanghai reshuffle, including an insane 18 match (currently 29 match) win streak at the time of the invites. Newbee clearly felt the same way, as they did not drop a SINGLE GAME, let alone match, on their way to sweeping the Chinese qualifiers against EHOME. Coupled with their current performance in the international EPICENTER LAN they look to be the team to beat going into Manila. No other team was worth mentioning compared to Newbee’s dominance.
Mineski and TNC were the favorites going in to what was probably the second weakest overall region behind the Americas, and the favorites prevailed winning both their groups with a 7-1 score. They met twice in the Winner’s finals and the Grand Finals, with TNC taking the first matchup 2-1 but Mineski claiming the ultimate and final prize 3-0 to advance to the Manila Major.
The stage is now set. 16 teams, plenty of controversy, and the strongest team by far looks to be coming from the Qualifiers. Will Newbee continue their insane dominance? Will Secret figure out their new lineup? Will Digital Chaos get their revenge? Will Alliance, Na’vi, and LGD provethemselves worthy of their invites? Unfortunately we have to wait until June to find out.