Epicenter XL is the sixth DPC Major and the third iteration of Epicenter events. The tournament features five invited teams, six qualified teams, and one team from a madness qualifier that included NA, EU, and CIS teams. Teams will compete for a share of the $1,000,000 USD prize pool and an important cut of the 1500 qualifying points. Due to roster changes on Col, Team Empire, OG, and Pain Gaming, none of these teams are eligible to use any of the DPC points they could potentially earn at this major.
Epicenter XL is divided into two stages, beginning on April 27th with the grand finals on May 6th. In the group stage, teams are divided into two groups of six. They will play in a best-of-three round robin with the bottom two teams getting eliminated. The top two from each group head into the playoffs in the winners bracket with the remaining teams seeded into the lower bracket.
Qualified: FlyToMoon, Team Empire, Col, Mineski, LGD
Group A is predominantly teams that made it in through the qualifiers, with Team Liquid as the only invited team in the group. This doesn’t make the competition for top two any less fierce. Liquid, Mineski, and LGD are the expected front runners of the group based on their performance and experience so far this year. LGD and Mineski recently faced each other in the grand finals of DAC, with Mineski winning the series 3-2. Liquid struggled at DAC, losing all three series they played against LGD and eventually placing fifth/sixth. They haven’t faced Mineski since Starladder (three months ago), but they’ve never lost a series to them in the history of either organization. The best of three format (as opposed to bo1s at DAC) should give Team Liquid a better chance of defeating LGD this time around, making Liquid the easy choice to win Group A.
Complexity, FlyToMoon, and Team Empire will be looking to upset the expected order. Complexity are looking strong in the NA Super Major qualifiers, but they have fallen short of qualifying to every recent tournament. The new roster is untested on LAN, something especially perilous when they have replaced their previous captain/drafter. Col has the potential to cause an upset or two in the expected rankings, but it is unlikely that they place top two in their group.
The battle for early elimination will probably be a CIS rematch from the original Epicenter XL qualifiers. Team Empire have recently replaced Nix with a new player, Naive. Their previous roster won the CIS qualifier 3-1 against FlyToMoon. FTM then went on to win the Madness qualifier and are looking for a rematch against Empire. The FlyToMoon squad only has one LAN together, a fifth/sixth place finish at at Starladder in April. Although this is only their second LAN as FTM, the team is made up of CIS veterans (most of them played on Team Empire at one point). Despite their veteran experience, FTM continue to struggle against Team Empire, going 1-1 in the recent China Dota 2 Super Major qualifiers. If they want to find their way into the playoffs, they will have to find a way to upset the stronger teams or finally beat their CIS rivals.
Invited: Virtus.Pro, Team Secret, Newbee, Na’Vi
Qualified: Pain Gaming, OG
Ever since Virtus.Pro knocked tournament favorites Team Secret out of TI5, they’ve both been competing for the top spot in the Dota scene, and their DPC domination has kept this rivalry fresh. Virtus.Pro won back to back majors at ESL One Katowice and PGL’s Bucharest Major. Team Secret has struggled at the recent majors, but their wins at the Dreamleague minor, Captain’s Draft, and the Dreamleague Major have guaranteed that they hold a top spot on the DPC leaderboard. Newbee occasionally takes a game or two off of Team Secret, but they have struggled over the past several months to find any real tournament success. Their win over Liquid at the ESL One Genting Major in January keeps them in the top eight of the DPC standings, for now. They will need a strong group showing to clinch a seed into the upper bracket of the playoffs and have a stronger chance at the points that top four has to offer.
VP and Secret are the clear favorites to win the group with Pain Gaming as the safest choice to lose it. They have the least experience and no titles or points to their name, but they recently added w33 to their roster. This makes them an unknown element that could either cause spectacular upsets or they could fall flat on their face. Communication between the players might be a challenge, but the pure skill of w33 combined with unpredictable (and sometimes brilliant) strategies coming out of South America might be a problem for OG and Na’Vi to deal with. OG have struggled to capture their success of previous years. Mad has left the coaching position to play on the team following Resolut1on’s departure. This has pushed OG into playing new roles and styles without the same kind of assistance from their coach. Out of these three teams, OG is probably still the favorite to not face elimination. Na’Vi is the most likely to be the “surprise” team. While they are often accused of being over-hyped and invited for name recognition alone, they have shown spots of brilliance. Na’Vi also have a tendency to shine in front of a CIS crowd. They will be looking to prove that they earned their invite.
Epicenter has always put on an impressive show, and this tournament promises to continue that tradition. With qualifiers pretty much done until TI8, teams are looking earn as many DPC points as possible to secure a TI8 invite. Favorites like Liquid, Secret, and VP sit comfortably on top of the scoreboard, but the bi-weekly Thursday patch and some potential CIS madness could threaten to unthrone any of these giants.
Who do you think will be the surprise teams of the Epicenter XL group stage?