Opinion

Taking a closer look at the groups of ESL One Birmingham 2018

Vasilis Kalfountzos
Contributing Editor
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A total of 12 teams, six of which were directly qualified while the remaining six got their ticket to Birmingham arena through the regional qualifiers, will be divided into three groups where only the top two teams from each group will make it to the playoffs and get a chance to compete for the lion’s share of the staggering $1,000,000 USD.

The Kingdom’s first Major will also be the penultimate major event for this season, effectively making it one of the most stressful events for the teams competing - at least for some of them that is. Out of the twelve participating teams, four are ineligible for an invite to The International 8 due to roster changes, two have safely secured a spot - Virtus.pro & Liquid, while the remaining six will have to battle it out as for some of them this will be their last chance for this year’s International; looking at you Fnatic and OpTic!

Group A

  • Virtus.pro
  • Fnatic
  • Evil Geniuses
  • Team Spirit

Sitting on top of the DPC ranking throne, Virtus.pro not only have already secured their invitation to TI8 but are also the strong favourites of this group as well. They’ve had an exceptional performance throughout this season, winning two back to back ESL One Majors - in Hamburg and Katowice. Team Spirit, who got their spot as Na’Vi’s replacement, would have to really surpass themselves in order to stand a chance against VP. The second duo of the group though, Fnatic vs EG, is the one with the most interest, as Fnatic have not only signed Universe, EG’s former for four years offlaner, but also Aui_2000 as their coach.

If I were to rank them on who has the most chances of getting to the playoffs, the Virtus.pro would certainly be number one, but when it comes down to slot number two, things get a bit tricky. There are insufficient data to compare the results of the two teams, as since Fnatic’s newest additions the two teams have only met once in GESC where Fnatic took the game for themselves. Nonetheless, I would give EG a small advantage as their experience slightly surpasses that of Fnatic, as at the… dire moment experience might kick in and give them the win.

Opening Matches:

  • Fnatic vs EG
  • Virtus.pro vs Team Spirit

Group B

  • Team Liquid
  • Vici Gaming
  • OG
  • paiN Gaming

Group B is a little bit less interesting than both Groups A & C, not skill-wise of course, but from the side of mathematics. Much alike Virtus.pro, Liquid have already secured their invite to TI8 while Vici’s position at the 6th spot of the DPC ranking can’t be really threatened. On the other hand both Dota’s talent incubator, OG and paiN Gaming, will not be able to directly join TI8, and they’ll have to go through the qualifiers. That being said, the hefty amount of $500,000 is not a prize pool that can be ignored, it is just that not that much of heavy action is expected from this Group.

Given all of the above, it is not entirely impossible to see OG and paiN try to overcome their respective obstacles and make it to the playoffs, but the most realistic scenario is that Team Liquid and Vici will be the ones joining the other competitors for that sweet half a million.

Opening Matches:

  • OG vs Vici
  • Team Liquid vs paiN Gaming

Group C

  • Mineski
  • Optic
  • Newbee
  • LFY

Now, one might argue that this group features the highest levels of interest amongst the three of them. As previously discussed, Group B can be considered, to an extent, as more relaxed, due to its drawings, and Group A has at least one slot pretty much secured. On the other side of things though, Group C is probably the most controversial, mainly due to the shaky performance of the participating teams. Kicking it off with TI7 silver medalists, Newbee, the Chinese have shown some true potential throughout the season having won ESL One Genting 2018 last January, but they barely got a 9-12th spot at EPICENTER XL and DAC 2018. Despite all though, they are comfortable at the 7th spot over at the DPC ranking with more than 500 points separating them from VGJ.Thunder.

On the other hand there’s Mineski who have been struggling throughout the season, and then out of nowhere won DAC 2018 by beating LGD in a thrilling Bo5. Then there’s Optic whose performance has been steadily improving over these first 5 months of 2018, but their 3rd place finish at the NA Qualifiers for China’s Supermajor made ESL One Birmingham their last chance to secure a spot to TI8 through a DPC event. That being said, they would have to win it which by itself makes it a longshot, but Pajkatt, Zai and ppd do have the necessary experience required to at least make it to the playoffs.

It is genuinely really hard to try and make predictions about Group C. As previously mentioned, all of the teams have had pretty shaky performances throughout the season, but they way the matches were drawn - Newbee vs Optic & Mineski vs LFY - makes it a tiny bit easier to say that Newbee will be the first Group C competitor, and in case Mineski are able to keep on the momentum they earned during DAC, they will be the second team to see Birmingham’s arena.

Opening Matches:

  • Optic vs Newbee
  • Mineski vs LFY

Get ready!

ESL One Birmingham 2018 powered by Intel kicks off today, May 23 at 10:30 GMT+1 with its groups matches! Be sure to tune in here to watch all of the action and follow ESL Dota 2 on Twitter and Facebook for live coverage, highlights, and more.