The International is a spectacular way to end off the Dota 2 year, but there must be a road to every TI. Valve paved it this year with the Pro Circuit, its sponsored series of third-party events meant to bolster the Dota 2 competitive ecosystem.
Aside from cash prizes, it introduces Qualifying Points to be earned by teams that place in the top four of these events. These Qualifying Points are meant to be a transparent way of determining who will receive Direct Invites for the next International event, and teams are certainly keeping their eyes on the prize.
So far, Dota 2 teams have already fought through the first four of eight Pro Circuit events taking place the rest of this year. Only 10 teams out of a potential 15 have earned Qualifying Points from the Circuit.
Who’s already taken charge this season? These are the five highest-ranking teams of the Pro Circuit at the moment.
If you need to get caught up on how the Pro Circuit works, check out our quick primer.
5. Newbee (China) — 585 QP
This Chinese squad went into the current season with all eyes on them already after placing second at The International 7. With the banner of the TI4-winning squad, Newbee went through the 2016-17 season in September 2016 with their current roster, putting out mixed—but not certainly not weak—results. After the massive annual event, while most teams often choose to shuffle, Newbee was one of the few tier-one rosters that chose to stay put into this new season.
Whether or not it will pay off is yet to be seen, as they’ve placed no higher than third at every event they’ve been to. On the big stage, they’ve played relatively safe drafts, a difficult bet in an aggressive meta. Still, their multi-event LAN grind has rewarded them well, as their ESL One Hamburg victory gave them a Major-sized lump of Qualifying points.
4. Mineski (Southeast Asia) — 720 QP
After TI7, Filipino org Mineski pivoted their Dota 2 squad into a regional Southeast Asian team, forging a mix of newcomers and veterans. While the players individually have had their ups and downs in their careers as of late, it seems this squad is showing good chemistry in their recent events. Their mix of skill, communication and knowledge of the meta has made them the latest force to be reckoned with out of an emerging region.
So far, they’ve played two LAN finals: the StarLadder i-League Invitational and the PGL Open Bucharest, both minors. They managed to take a game off Liquid in the SL i-League finals, though Liquid’s ability to come through in best-of-fives overcame Mineski’s glimmer of hope. The following week, at PGL Open, nothing could come between them and victory. Now they need to continue their work—and perhaps guarantee the first Southeast Asian direct invite to The International since Fnatic in 2015.
3. Team Liquid (Europe) — 1350 QP
When teams come out of The International, they’re often affected by “The TI Curse:” something, anything causes them to suffer. It may be a team shuffle, a curse, or just a severe lack of energy. Team Liquid has, seemingly, scared the curse away—at least, for the start of the 2017-18 season.
Frankly, it’s just difficult to play against good Dota, and Liquid is consistently good Dota. With plenty of heroes and strategies in their arsenal, there are very few situations that have proven too much for the squad. Their achilles heel, though, seems to be in Western bravery: Team Secret and Virtus.Pro successfully defeated the champions during ESL One Hamburg, taking away the team’s chances at a Major win.
The ESL loss doesn’t mean they’ve lost steam. After rolling into TI7 and winning the Aegis of Champions, they’ve already won two out of their three Pro Circuit events, both of which were Minors, and won third at that Major.
2. Team Secret (Europe) — 1440 QP
The legacy of Team Secret has waxed and waned, but it seems they’re coming ever closer to finding the secret (I’m so sorry) to success. So far in the season, they’ve put on consistently strong and intimidating performances, despite their recent swaps. While Secret has always been a team of all-stars, their recent composition leans more towards rising stars this time around.
Secret’s captain, Clement "Puppey" Ivanov has brought on board few bright-eyed, young players over the last few seasons with a wealth of talent to uncover. It’s not far off, as the ex-Natus Vincere captain recruited Yazied "YapzOr" Jaradat, who has since become a renown support, and Marcus "Ace" Hoelgaard, a carry whose respect from the community has only grown during his time with the team.
They haven’t won a LAN yet, but they’re known as the second-best European team at the moment, with frequent presences in the recent Pro Circuit events.
1. Virtus.Pro (Commonwealth of Indpnt. States) — 2295 QP
It’s no surprise that the team that won the first and only Major so far, ESL One Hamburg, has the most points in the Pro Circuit. And it’s no surprise to pro Dota 2 fans that, if that winner is not Liquid, then it’s VP.
This team has been together since August of last year and remained consistent as one of the top tier-one teams since then, nearly rivaling regional opponents OG Dota and TI7 champions Liquid. While they lacked the victories for it, much like other teams, their persistence clearly paid off in Hamburg.
VP is, above all else, Virtus Plow—while the meme originates in the Counter-Strike sister team, the Dota 2 squad has plenty of reason to adapt it. They’ve put on an aggressive performance, favoring the meta’s top stunners, chasers and finishers to ensure an early game—or make up for it in the late game.
The approach has put them neck-to-neck with the world’s best; aside from winning ESL, they’ve been present at PGL Open and DotaPit. They also have a nearly uncompromisable lead in DreamLeague Season 8’s league stage, which will culminate in a Major later this year.
The full standings are available on the Dota 2 Pro Circuit site.