The Dota2 never stops. Now that the MDL Major has concluded, the next big LAN event will be ESL One Birmingham 2019. While not a part of the DPC circuit, it is still an important event that in the year as teams can either use the event to improve their squad or to lengthen their legacy. Here's our look at the key storylines coming into the event.

The Unstoppable Secret

In the 2018-2019 DPC, Secret have usurped Virtus.Pro as the number one team in the world. They have been in the finals of three of the four Majors in 2019. Among those three finals, Secret won two of them. Outside of that, they have a top four at DreamLeague Season 11 and other tournament victories like ESL One Katowice and ESL One Hamburg.

They have fantastic players across all of their roles. Clement “Puppey” Ivanov continues to prove himself as one of the best drafters in Dota2 history. For Secret, this tournament is more about extending their legacy. This could be another trophy furthering the case for this Secret as one of the best lineups and furthering Puppey’s case for the greatest Dota2 captain. The big question coming into this event is not if Secret will win, but if anyone can stop them.

team secret to win esl one birmingham

NiP Ramping Up

NiP is one of the more eclectic lineups in modern Dota2. Their two primary stars: Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard and Neta “33” Shapira are idiosyncratic. Ace specializes in end game scenarios and heroes like Arc Warden. While 33 was one of the best offlaners of 2017-2018, his style of play was different from the typical top-tier offlaner. In addition to that, the squad had two players changing roles as Adrian “Fata” Trinks went from the offlane to mid and Martin “Saksa” Sazdov shifted to the four role.

As a result, it was going to take time and a leader to make it all come together. Peter “ppd” Dager has started to realize that potential as NiP reached a respectable top 6 at the MDL Major. This was particularly impressive as the top eight teams were all in good form. Like ppd’s OpTic last year, NiP look to be peaking at the right time as the squad  If NiP continue on this trajectory, they will be the most dangerous dark horse in the world, capable of upsetting the best teams in the world.

Breaking the Third Place Curse

EG are a top three team in the world. Exactly top three as they placed 3rd at TI8, 3rd at the Kuala Lumpur Major, 3rd at the Chongqing Major, and 3rd at the MDL Major. If this was nearly any other team, this would be considered a fantastic success. However the lineup of EG should have higher standards. They have an all-star squad including: Arteezy, Sumail “SumaiL” hassan, Gustav “s4” Magnusson, Andreas “Cr1t-” Neilsen, and Tal “Fly” Aizik. This isn’t a team made to get third place finishes, this is a team made to win titles. While ESL One Birmingham isn’t a DPC event, there are still strong teams in attendance. For EG, they should look to break past the third place finish at this event.

KuroKy Challenges History

Esports history has shown us that every five man lineup has a set expiration date. At some point in the team’s career, they get figured out. Rivals figure out how they play and the team is unable to find new paradigms or ideas to gave a new look. The only team to defy this rule and come back as a championship contender was Virtus.Pro in CS:GO. That squad was able to renew itself by swapping roles, creating tactics, and learning new maps.

Kuro “KuroKy” Yakhasomi now plans to do the same with this Liquid roster. This lineup has been together for nearly one and a half years. They have been unable to make a splash at any of the Major events in the 2018-2019 DPC until the MDL Major where they made an inspired run to the finals. If Liquid can continue being this consistently great, they will be the first lineup in Dota2 history that will have returned from their slump to become championship contenders.

The Return of OG

Many were hyped when OG announced the return of Anathan “ana” Pham. With his return, the championship line of TI8 had returned to competition. With their return, the big question was whether or not the lineup could repeat the miracle performance they had at The International. OG fell short as they were eliminated in 5-6th at the MDL Major.

While the current OG isn’t as explosive as they were in that TI8 run, they still have the same core characteristics. The squad has great chemistry, a strong idea of how they want to play, and stylistic players across the board. OG still have a lot of room to grow and this event will be important for OG to find out how they want to move forward as a team.

PSG.LGD looking for their first title

PSG.LGD has yet to win any of the big events since the new DPC has started. While they still have some of the best players in the world, there has been a level of separation between them and championship teams like Virtus.Pro or Secret. This is both Virtus.Pro and Secret raising their game post TI8 and PSG.LGD falling off.

PSG.LGD have been unable to replicate the form they had in the final months leading into TI8. In the current DPC, the team has started to rely on individual godlike plays from either Lu “Maybe” Yao and Xu “fy” Linsen to get results. With the DPC coming to a close and TI9 coming up, the squad will need to start grinding again if they want a chance to get back to a TI finals.

The TI8 Finals Rematch

Two of the best matches played in Dota2 history were between PSG.LGD and OG. At The International 8, the two squads faced off in the winner’s final and the grand finals. The winner’s final was a higher quality of game while the grand final was far more emotional due to the stakes involved. Since their epic clash at TI8, the two teams have yet to play the rematch. Ana took a break after TI8. Now that he has returned and OG has become a force in international Dota2 again, this is the potential matchup I’m looking forward to the most.