As the year winds down towards Christmas there’s only a only a few pro matches left to keep us going through the cold. All the qualifiers for the next Minor-Major cycle are completed, but a few teams have one last event left in them. The MegaFon Winter Clash is one of those events, starting tomorrow and lasting 3 days. It features just 6 teams, but is an incredibly stacked tournament, containing all three of the top rated teams (by datdota’s Glicko 2 rating system).
The format is a bit unusual: two groups with bo3 round robin into a Double Elimination bracket (each group winner starting in the winner’s bracket finals and the remaining teams starting in the lower bracket).
Natus Vincere, Virtus Pro and Team Secret. Three big organizations in Dota 2 history, two teams that are part of CIS aristocracy, and rounded out by the multi-national powerhouse of Team Secret. Secret are playing without their regular 4-role support, Yapzor, who is replaced by eeyou (from Lotac) for this event. This could tip the scales in Virtus Pro’s favour who will be looking to exact revenge for their 2-3 Kuala Lumpur Grand Final loss to Secret - however it will be interesting to see how Secret adapt to deal with the difference in playstyle. Expect to see a lot of Earthshaker, Shadow Demon and Ogre from him!
I think that Virtus Pro probably are favourites to take the group, and Natus Vincere (as the only team in attendance here who’s not going to the Chongqing Major) must be regarded as the underdog.
On paper LGD are the favourites to take Group B, but Team Liquid are the most dangerous when people underestimate them. They (Liquid) failed to qualify for the first Major (Kuala Lumpur), pulled out of the first Minor (Dreamhack) citing health reasons but have bounced back in recent qualifiers going 9-3 in games (dropped a pair to Secret, and a single game to Alliance) thereby booking themselves a spot to Chongqing. MinD_ControL was a monster at The Kuala Lumpur Major when subbing for Ninjas in Pyjamas - if he’s playing anywhere close to that level then everyone will be at risk.
Forward Gaming had an unfortunate Kuala Lumpur Major, losing their up/down decider match to Alliance and then getting eliminated in the 2nd round of the losers bracket (to Evil Geniuses who went on to place 3rd). Since then they’ve been on the mend - coming 2nd in the Major qualifiers (dropping just 2 games to J-Storm the entire qualifier). They’re the underdogs in Group B, but are more likely to upset than NaVi are in Group A.
My expectation is that LGD will be in the finals, probably alongside Virtus Pro or Liquid. Even though eeyou is an excellent player with a lot of similarities to Yapzor, it’s very difficult to get peak performance with a substitute player at such a high level of competition; and it’s for these reason I think Secret might not be finalists here.
A lot also depends on what teams aim to get out of this event. LGD for example have the most pro matches on the patch due to the bizarrely different Chongqing China Qualifiers featuring 10 teams, but won’t necessarily be complacent since this tournament will be their final Western exposure before the Major. Other teams might take this tournament less seriously (despite the $300k prize pool) since it’s right before the Christmas break - but I think no matter the situation we’ll have some highly enjoyable Dota 2 to watch!