The Dota Pro Circuit continued after the MDL Chengdu Major, where TNC Predator bagged USD 300,000. On top of that, they earned 4,850 circuit points towards another stint at The International 2020. This past weekend, eight teams flew to Bukovel, Ukraine to fight for USD 72,000 and 140 DPC points. While that’s smaller, the event a “Minor” after all, the winner also gets an outright berth at the DreamLeague Major tournament next week in Leipzig. Winning the Bukovel Minor lessens the chance of an upset in the qualifiers, which is why teams took every game of every event seriously.
Coming into Bukovel, a lot of fans were watching out for Kuro “KuroKy” Takhasomi’s new team, Nigma Esports. Retaining their Team Liquid squad, they broke off from the organization, as it was KuroKy’s lifelong dream to build his own team. In a similar vein, Carlo “Kuku” Palad joined Geek Fam, along with his former TNC teammate Marc “Raven” Fausto and Fnatic captain Kim “DuBu” Doo-young. Aside from the two teams, Royal Never Give Up is a fast-rising Dota team from China.
The eight teams were divided into two groups in a double-elimination format. In Group A, Royal Never Give Up acquired the top seed, winning two 2-0’s against Team Spirit and Geek Fam. Team Spirit eliminated Ninjas in Pyjamas in the losers’ match, but Geek Fam sent them home in the decider. In Group B, Nigma lost to Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao’s new team Fighting PandaS but managed to win the elimination match against Brazilian team FURIA. In the deciding match, Nigma sent the PandaS home, as the PandaS lost to Gambit in the winners’ match.
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Upper Bracket R1
Royal Never Give Up continued to dominate the tournament in the playoffs. They knocked Nigma down to the lower bracket after winning 2-1. Nigma’s struggles continued to plague them throughout the year despite the evident talent on their roster. On the other hand, Geek Fam sent Gambit down to the lower bracket after a 2-0 sweep of the CIS team.
Lower Bracket R1
Nigma faced a do-or-die scenario in the lower bracket, as they lost the first game of the series to Gambit. However, this team is no newcomer to comebacks. Just a few months ago, they almost completed the most compelling comebacks in esports history. They ran through the entire lower bracket all the way to TI Finals. On top of that, their TI7 title came off a similar lower bracket run. Possessing 4 out of 5 players from that TI-winning roster, this team will endure the toughest setbacks and still manage to claw their way to the top.
True to their reputation, Nigma won games two and three against Gambit to advance to the second round of the lower bracket.
Upper Bracket R2
In the second round of the upper bracket, Royal Never Give Up’s Du “Monet” Peng and Gao “Setsu” Zhenxiong demolished their Geek Fam counterparts en route to a 2-1 win. In Game 3 of the best of three series, Monet’s Gyrocopter garnered an 8/0/11 KDA. Setsu’s Shadow Fiend added a 13/1/2 stat line, boosting the Chinese squad over the Filipinos.
Lower Bracket R2
Following their loss against Royal Never Give Up, Geek Fam fell to the lower bracket, where they faced off against a familiar foe in Nigma. TNC’s Kuku and Raven have been matching up against Nigma’s Miracle and KuroKy over the years. In one of the most memorable upsets in Dota history, TNC defeated Miracle in the lower bracket(then with OG, multi-major winners and the y favorite to win TI 6). When Miracle joined Team Liquid, it was his turn to send Kuku home.
Given the history of both teams and their combined playing experience, it was apparent that the series would be an interesting one. However, most fans were disappointed with how it actually turned out. Nigma swept Geek Fam in a 2-0 victory, sending them home before the grand final. With that said, Geek Fam still secured third place and 110 circuit points.
In a rematch of the first round of the playoffs, Royal Never Give Up drew first blood. They won Game 1 off the back of Monet’s 10/1/15 Drow Ranger. However, it would be unfair to give him all the credit for the win. After all, the entire RNG squad enabled him to dish out the damage he did.
In Game 2, Nigma outlasted the Chinese squad in a grueling 80 minute game. In the final minutes of the game, both bases were in tatters. However, it was Nigma who were in control of the game. They managed to lock down RNG inside their own base. In the final fight, Miracle’s Phantom Lancer simply jumped on Monet’s Lifestealer to start the battle. With all buybacks available for every single player, RNG must have thought they could outlast the barrage. With an Aegis in his inventory, Miracle created enough space for his team to tie the series at 1-1.
Nigma made sure they won’t fall into the same war of attrition in Game 3. Miracle again decimated the Chinese team with his Phantom Lancer, garnering an 11/1/5 scoreline to end the game. Royal Never Give Up didn’t have much of an answer to Miracle, as the man is almost impossible to stop when he’s switched on.
Determined to stay alive, Royal Never Give Up went out guns blazing in Game 4. Facing elimination, they won almost everything in the early game. However, Nigma’s composure allowed them to weather the storm, prolonging the game to a full hour. Just before the 60th minute, RNG secured the final Roshan of the tournament, taking the Cheese as well as the Aegis for the final fight. Then, when RNG pushed towards Nigma’s base, an enormous vacuum by Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov’s Dark Seer ignited a massive team fight. In a long, drawn-out fight, Nigma chased RNG to their base and countered with their own siege. Using Miracle’s Drow Ranger up front, Nigma dared RNG to get close. Monet fell for the bait and he was killed without buyback, preventing RNG from mounting a proper defense.
Nigma ended the game within minutes and lifted their ever first trophy. GG!
*Featured image source: instagram.com/nigmagg