PGL Arlington Major: Group Stage Preview
The second and final Major of the Dota Pro Circuit is upon us, with the PGL Arlington Major starting its group stage games today, August 4th. The event is taking place from the 4th to the 14th at the Esports Stadium in the city of Arlington, Texas – the city that serves as home for the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL.
17 teams, all from the DPC Regional Leagues, will descend upon Arlington to battle it out for a $500,000 prize pool and 4,570 total Pro Circuit Points. Incidentally, this event will be the last tournament in the season to offer qualification points for The International 11. Teams will have only two chances to qualify thereafter, with the TI11 Regional Qualifiers and Last Chance Qualifiers likely taking place sometime in September.
Knowing this, expect squads in Arlington to fight tooth and nail for all the points they can get. Qualifying for The International is no easy feat, and every point counts going forward.
Group Stage Format
The group stage will take place from the 4th to the 8th, with an average of eight best-of-two matches per day. The 17 participating squads will be split into two round robin groups, with playoff seeding determined by head-to-head scores.
The top four teams from each group will advance to the upper bracket of the playoffs, while those in fifth place and sixth place go to the lower bracket. The five remaining teams are eliminated. The participating teams, separated by their assigned groups, are as follows:
- Fnatic (Southeast Asia)
- OG (Western Europe)
- Outsiders (Eastern Europe)
- PSG.LGD (China)
- Royal Never Give Up (China)
- Soniqs (North America, formerly known as Quincy Gaming)
- Talon Esports (Southeast Asia)
- Team Liquid (Western Europe)
- Thunder Awaken (South America)
- beastcoast (South America)
- BOOM Esports (Southeast Asia)
- Entity (Western Europe)
- Evil Geniuses (North America)
- Natus Vincere (Eastern Europe)
- Team Aster (China)
- Team Spirit (Eastern Europe)
- Tundra Esports (Western Europe)
Interestingly, Group B is one team short of parity with Group A. This is due to Xtreme Gaming’s (China) withdrawal from the tournament on July 27th, citing visa issues with one of their players. They have since decided to focus on the TI qualifiers. This means that only two teams will be eliminated from Group B instead of three as it is in Group A.
Teams to Watch at the PGL Arlington Major Group Stage
Even with a brand new roster in tow, OG showed just why they’re an organization with two International titles in their trophy case this season. In fact, none of the members of the back-to-back TI champion squad, except for Sébastien “Ceb” Debs, even played in the DPC this year. Incidentally, Ceb is lined up to stand in once again for OG.
But despite taking on fresh faces in Artem “Yuragi” Golubiev, Bozhidar “bzm” Bogdanov, Ammar “ATF” Al-Assaf, Tommy “Taiga” Le, and former coach Mikhail “Misha” Agatov, OG came roaring right out of the gates. For a team that had yet to form much chemistry with each other at the time, edging out Team Secret for fourth place in the first tour of WEU Division I was quite commendable — and they only followed it up with a third place finish in the regional final thereafter.
It became clear that, at least in Western Europe, that this new OG squad had serious potential. True enough, they made good on the hype surrounding them in the second tour, winning the whole thing after dropping just two maps the entire time. This allowed them to qualify for the ESL One Stockholm Major, where they proceeded to stun the Dota 2 community by taking first place through the lower bracket.
Not only had they proven their sheer skill and understanding of the game this way, but they had also shown the world that their cohesion as a team was second to none. Going down 0-2 to TSM early in the tournament did not faze them at all; in fact, it only seemed to light a fire under them as they went on a rampage in the lower bracket.
There just seems to be something about the way that this organization handles its Dota 2 squads that lets them stay positive and keep their morale high, even in the face of elimination. Time and time again, OG have proven themselves to be nearly immovable in this regard. And despite not having Misha and coach Evgenii “Chuvash” Makarov with them again for this Major, we still think they’re in position to advance to the upper bracket here.
As for PSG.LGD, what else hasn’t been said about this legendary squad at this point? They’ve been to every International grand final in the last three years. They have some of the most insanely talented players in their roster. Their coach and their team captain are both former TI champions.
On paper, absolutely no one can stand up to them, especially after winning almost everything in the China DPC Regional League this season. Seriously, just look at these results from this year alone:
- Intel World Open Beijing: 3rd Place
- CN Tour 1 Division I: 1st Place
- CN Tour 1 Regional Final: 1st Place
- CN Tour 2 Division I: 1st Place
- CN Tour 2 Regional Final: 1st Place
- CN Tour 3 Division I: 4th Place
- Riyadh Masters: 1st Place
There’s no denying that these guys can win whenever they want to, wherever they want to. However, they’ve had issues with keeping their nerves together in the past, as evidenced by their three straight failures to capture the Aegis of Champions at TI. They seem to always let the pressure of being the best team in the world get to them when it matters most. Despite having so much star power and some of the greatest minds to ever play Dota on their roster, LGD tend to crumble in the clutch.
Now of course, this being a Major likely takes a lot of the pressure off their shoulders. With their invite to TI11 already secured by virtue of their place in the DPC standings as well, they can afford to play a little loose in Arlington. Naturally this isn’t to say that they’ll pull any punches, though, because we know these guys want to win. And we think they have a good chance of making it out of this group at the top.
Composed of a mishmash of veterans dating back to the mid 2010s and players that have only recently found their stride in the competitive space, there’s plenty to love about Tundra Esports as underdogs. Their commitment to such a long term contract is practically unheard of in esports, but ensures that their fanbase will have plenty of time to build rapport with them until 2024.
They find themselves with some good momentum going into Arlington, having placed first in the third WEU Division I tour and third at the Stockholm Major just a month and a half prior. With the big stage experience of Wu “Sneyking” Jingjun, Neta “33” Shapira, and Martin “Saksa” Sazdov in tow, both Leon “Nine” Kirilin and Oliver “skiter” Lepko will have them to lean on as they take on yet another career challenge.
They’ll also have their results to give them the motivation and swagger required to make it up the road in Texas. They almost looked like they would go all the way at Stockholm, so they know in their minds and in their hearts that they have what it takes to be champions. Nine in particular is the x-factor for them, given his insanely deep hero pool and habit of busting out the most unexpected mid lane strategies. If Tundra can enable him well at this tournament, the sky’s the limit for this fan-favorite squad.
Group B contains defending International champions Team Spirit, whose five members and coach Airat “Silent” Gaziev captured the hearts of the esports world last October by upsetting PSG.LGD in the TI10 grand finals. They’ve since picked up right where they left off, for the most part, dominating the first EEU tour and finishing second and third in the following two tours.
Most recently, they fell just short of the $1,500,000 first place prize at Riyadh Masters, settling for second place and $750,000 instead. Their newfound rivals stomped them 2-0 in the grand final match, with neither map even going up to the 40 minute mark. Nevertheless, Team Spirit are still strong favorites to clinch first place in this group, given the championship pedigree they have (literally the highest honor in Dota 2) and the steadiness they’ve shown thus far.
You can never truly count a team like this out. After all, no one thought that they could go all the way like they did at TI10 — much less against the juggernauts of PSG.LGD. But make no mistake: Team Spirit is an outstanding squad with the youthful fire that represents the future of Dota 2. It wouldn’t be shocking in the least to see them come out of this group with the best record.
Evil Geniuses have hit a rather rough, up-and-down patch compared to their results in the previous DPC season. Prior to the start of this year’s Regional Leagues, they had to deal with the departures of both Daryl “iceiceice” Koh Pei Xiang and Tal “Fly” Aizik. To fill the gaps, they brought in Egor “Nightfall” Grigorenko (formerly of Virtus.pro), and two-time International champion Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka.
With the kind of genius that JerAx in particular brought to the table, many thought that EG would just crush everyone in the NA Regional League yet again. But it wasn’t so cut and dry for the Boys in Blue. They struggled quite a bit in the first three weeks of the first tour, with their lowest point being a 0-2 loss to Samuel “Sammyboy” Anderson and the rest of WildCard Gaming.
They did come back eventually in the weeks that followed, earning the right to play versus Undying (now TSM) for a second place tiebreaker. Unfortunately for them, Undying woke up on a mission to grab more DPC points that day, beating EG 2-0 to send them home in third. EG faced TSM once more in the Regional Final, falling just short of the title in a five-game slugfest.
Things started to really click for them in the second tour, as they went on to finally place first in the Regional League as many expected them to. It was at the Stockholm Major when things didn’t go to plan, however. Outside of their home region, they were put to the absolute test — one which they failed miserably. They exited the tournament in 13th place, prompting JerAx to leave the team just nine days later.
Now that Fly is back, though, they’ve gone back to their winning ways — at least in North America. They are definitely in the running for a TI11 invite, but sitting in the middle of the standings is not something they’ll be satisfied with. Though they’ve looked shaky at times this season, there’s no denying that they can carry themselves to a good spot in Arlington just on sheer talent alone.
They’re certainly not the favorites for the trophy here, but look towards them to prove that they can still hang with the best in the world.
We pick beastcoast as our dark horses coming out of Group B. For one, they finished in a very respectable fifth place at the Stockholm Major, falling only to eventual fourth placers Gaimin Gladiators — who aren’t even in this tournament.
It’s no secret to longtime fans of professional Dota 2 that South American teams have a penchant for turning up the heat at international LAN events, and with the consistency that this beastcoast roster has enjoyed this year, we think it’ll be the same at Arlington. In addition, they have the advantage of not having to deal with jet lag at all, given that both Texas and the entire nation of Peru sit in the exact same time zone.
Though they hail from the region south of where the Major is taking place, the fans will still likely be on their side as well. The community at large has been rooting for South American teams since they were added to the main Dota 2 regions a few years ago, and we don’t think it’ll be any different in Arlington.
The PGL Arlington Dota 2 Major group stage starts today, August 4th, at 11am ET. You can check out the games on PGL’s official Twitch channel.