Who's Going to Kiev?
Though we still have some time before the start of the main event on April 27th, the qualifier stage for the Kiev Major is swiftly approaching and, to herald its arrival, the recipients of the direct invitations to the main event will soon be announced.
While we know that the Kiev Major will be a 16-team single elimination bracket and that Valve has, in their own words, "broken" two of the qualifier regions into "more distinct" regions, we do not yet know how many teams will receive invites. The number of direct invites to the main event will be predicated on the number of qualifier slots given to each region. With the exception of Manila, there have always been eight direct invites to a Valve Major. However with the aforementioned region breaking, it seems that Kiev will be the second major without eight direct invites.
At the Boston Major, each of the four regions were given two qualifier slots each. For the Kiev Major, two regions are being "broken" and two new regions will emerge. This brings into question whether the regions being broken will be ceding a qualifier slot to the new region. We will be operating under the assumption that, in order to avoid an uproar, each new region will be given one qualifier slot and the "original" four regions will retain their two qualifier slots, dropping the number of direct invites to six.
It's no secret that Valve has had a long standing tradition of inviting the winner of the last Major to the next Major. The Boston Major champions, OG, will undoubtedly be receiving the first invite to the Kiev Major. OG would likely have found their way into the direct invites even if they had lost the Boston Major finals. Their second place finish at Dota Pit and their 3rd-4th place finish at StarLadder prove that Team Green are consistently strong.
Valve has a habit of spreading out the invites to the four major regions as best they can, but also a habit of inviting the top three finishers from their previous Major. As 3rd-4th place finishers, Evil Geniuses should earn the second invitation. Adding to the resume of the North American juggernaut are two first place finishes, one from China Top 2016 and the other from Dota Pit Season Five.
Despite Digital Chaos' poor performance at Dota Pit and StarLadder, their 3rd-4th place performance at the Boston Major should theoretically be enough to earn them a direct invite to Kiev. Not to be outdone by their North American counterpart, Digital Chaos also pads their resume with a 3rd-4th place finish at China Top 2016 and a 1st place finish at ESL Genting.
Despite not even making the Boston Major after being ousted in the qualifiers, Team Liquid have earned themselves an invitation to the Kiev Major. The squad hopes their first place finish at DreamLeague Season 6 prior to the Boston Major and, more recently, taking first at StarLadder will be enough to earn a direct invite. With not much work to base decisions off of, such an impressive tournament win this close to invite time is bound to earn Liquid a ticket to Kiev.
While most people would assume this slot belongs to Wings, I'm going to assert that it rightfully belongs to Newbee. It's no secret that their is not a large body of work for Valve to assess the potential invitees, let alone many international LANs with multiple Chinese competitors. Since the Boston Major, Newbee took second place at both China Top 2016 and ESL One Genting. They also took first place in the Dota2 Professional League Season 2, put on by Perfect World, which featured a majority of China's top teams.
Though the Greeks have had a string of lackluster performances since their exciting run at the Boston Major, their second place finish at the aforementioned tournament should theoretically net them a direct invitation to Kiev. With only a handful of major events between that Boston Major and now, I think it's likely Valve will invite a team that not only excelled in the debut of the single elimination bracket, but proved to be a crowd-pleasing fan favorite as well.
With so few tournaments in the new year and so many varying performances by top teams since the Boston Major, not to mention the effects of the qualifier changes, it is very much a toss up as to who will be invited to the Kiev Major. The final slot of the predicted six available could feasibly have gone to a number of teams. So here are some runner-up teams who we may see take the final slot over Ad Finem or Newbee.
TNC has a major LAN win, despite it being a country vs. country format and a third place finish at StarLadder. It also stands to reason that Valve wouldn't likely snub the SEA region. Though their is some dispute that Team Faceless is the dominant team in the SEA region, TNC did technically beat them in the regional qualifier to make it to StarLadder.
Most recognized for being the team that is associated with NBA player Jeremy Lin, VGJ can now be known as the second place finishers at the most recent StarLadder LAN. While it isn't much to hang their hat on, VGJ also won the secondary league of DPL (Dota2 Professional League) earning a spot in the top division for the next season. It's evident that VGJ is the team that's hot right now and will likely find their way to Kiev one way or another.
Last but certainly not least, Wings Gaming could also find themselves with a direct invite to the Kiev Major. The current keepers of the Aegis have found themselves in a bit of a post-championship hangover since July. Although they have had some minor successes, all of their finishes at major events have been 3rd place or lower. With their recent disappointment at StarLadder, Wings inclusion in this category is more of another disappointment than a hopeful outlook.