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Catch Nigma, RNG, and More at WePlay! Bukovel Minor

Michael Hassall  | 
There are big names at the Bukovel Minor, so we're in store for an incredible tournament (Image via WePlay!)

There are big names at the Bukovel Minor, so we're in store for an incredible tournament (Image via WePlay!)

We’re less than a week into the New Year, and while some lucky folks haven’t even set foot back in work, top-level Dota 2 never rests. WePlay! Bukovel Minor kicks off this Thursday and looking like a hell of a tournament.

Sometimes a Dota Pro Circuit Minor can suffer from a lack of top teams, as the 16 spots of a Major have eaten all the best talent up. Yet in Bukovel, Ukraine, we’re set to see some A-List Dota talent, including the likes of Royal Never Give Up, Nigma, Gambit Esports, and others besides. But the big names don’t end there though. As noted in our coverage of the talent announcement, there are some premier casters, hosts, and analysts in attendance as well.

Format-wise, eight teams will battle it out in the standard DPC Minor format. Two GSL Groups, in best-of-three matches, with the four teams with the weakest records eliminated. Then, the top four teams head to the playoffs, a double-elimination format with the winner advancing to DreamLeague Season 13: The Leipzig Major.

The schedule was released late Sunday evening local time, and we’re in for some exciting matches, especially given the caliber of teams participating.

Heavy hitters at the Bukovel Minor

Top of the list of any prediction for the winner of this Minor has to be Nigma. Despite sitting out both the first Minor and Major of the DPC season, as well as other top-level events, the former Team Liquid lineup is still the favorite to win it all. Perhaps it’s because on stage last season, this stack, led by captain Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi rarely faltered.

Except, that is, in the qualifiers for this round of the DPC. Dota 2 is packed to the breaking point with top-level teams. In a qualifying cycle that included Team Secret, OG Seed, Alliance, and former banner Team Liquid, Nigma fell to the Minor, not for lack of talent, but because someone had to miss out.

Despite this, The International 2019 runners up don’t look to have missed a beat, regardless of their early-season absence and Minor spot. In recent online tournaments, the team dominated, and look to do the same in Bukovel.

Similarly, Royal Never Give Up has been plagued by the problem of too much talent in the scene. In China especially, there are not enough spots for all the top teams to make it into every tournament. And when facing the likes of Invictus Gaming, PSG.LGD, Vici Gaming, and others, RNG has fallen slightly short.

However, they’re not to be counted out. RNG is an incredibly talented team and beat out EHOME and CDEC to be here. They’ve performed amazingly in the recent China Dota2 Professional League, and have won almost every match they’ve had in December. Heading into the first tournament of the new year, this is a scary team to face.

The last team to take note of as a favorite to win it all is Gambit Esports. The Bukovel Minor is very much a “home game” situation for the CIS squad. Gambit always looks strong in smaller tournaments and thrives in more relaxed environments. While this team is talented, they’re also very binary.

But there’s something about playing a tournament in the snowy reaches of a Ukranian ski resort that speaks to the kind of success Gambit usually has. And the team has also won almost every WePlay! event they’ve participated in. They’re a solid pick heading into the Minor.

Outside chances

The CIS region does well in CIS events. It’s a trend that fans of the European and North American regions would love to replicate. And it’s also the reason why Team Spirit could do well in this tournament. Playing under the mantle of the Positive Guys, before their signing to Spirit, the team were runners up in WePlay! Reshuffle Madness, only falling to the dominant Natus Vincere side. A small tournament like this is just the opportunity Spirit needs to grab a clutch victory.

Both of NA’s representatives are nothing to turn your nose up at. The Fighting PandaS have upset big-name teams in almost every event they’ve attended. And Ninjas in Pyjamas have a habit of winning Minors, more so when everyone’s counted them out. With Evil Geniuses popping off at the ONE Esports Dota 2 World Pro Invitational Singapore, these next two DPC events are a chance to show that 2020 is the year of NA Dota.

Southeast Asia’s spot is held down by Geek Fam. They had a relatively weak set of opponents to qualify against because the likes of Fnatic and TNC Predator had already qualified. As a result, this is an untested squad, who’ve done well in the small amounts we’ve seen them, but never enough to take home a victory.

Furia is the weakest team heading into this tournament. With paIN Gaming and beastcoast both headed to the Major, there wasn’t any significant competition in the qualifiers for this event. However, Furia does have the chance to shock the world if they can put up some wins against this level of competition.

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The WePlay! Bukovel Minor begins on Thursday, January 9. The preshow starts at 8 am CET, with Group A matches beginning an hour later. The Minor runs until January 12, with the main stage playoffs starting Saturday. Catch all the action on WePlay! ‘s official Twitch Channel, and keep your eyes peeled to Hotspawn for more coverage.

Michael Hassall
Michael Hassall
Michael is a Brit-based esports generalist and timezone traveler. He spends his free time polishing his collection of fighting game tournament participation trophies.