August 2 marked the start of round-robin play for the BTS: Pro Series 7 in Southeast Asia. The tournament features an interesting group of teams with TI-attendees T1 and Fnatic getting direct invites alongside Motivate.Trust Gaming and Team SMG. Joining the four invited squads are the four qualifiers: Galaxy Racer, Army Geniuses, Execration, and OB Exports x Neon.
The eight teams are competing for a share of $50,000 and one of the last chances for prize money before The International drowns out all other professional Dota in October. Fnatic and T1 enter the tournament after an extended break from official matches while the other six teams have recently battled in regional tournaments. In those more minor events, it was Neon that took home first place in fairly dominant fashion.
Southeast Asia has always been a region where any given tournament could be a changing of the guard. Despite only sending two representatives to TI 10 the SEA region had some of the most closely contested leagues during the regular DPC season. The mixture of upper and lower division teams creates an interesting dynamic to watch as the event progresses.
It’s important to note that all eight teams will move on to the playoff portion of the tournament. However, the first few rounds of group stage play have already brought plenty of surprises. ESL-winning, TI-qualifying T1 dropped their first two series 0-2 and has yet to outright win a series. They sit tied for last place with Team SMG, a team stacked with high-powered Malaysian talent like MidOne, Moon (formerly of Fnatic), and ah fu. Even more surprising is that Team SMG looked to be on the rise with three top-three finishes in the regional cups.
Galaxy Racer has been the standout team at the Pro Series so far, 2-0ing T1, SMG, and OB.Neon. The team of long-time SEA veterans made a strong run through the lower bracket of the TI 10 qualifiers but fell short. They have since shown decent results in the smaller regional cups but their current form has leveled up. The Indonesian squad is poised for a run in the upper bracket and could continue to surprise if their form holds.
Speaking of form, this is an interesting topic of discussion. On one hand, we have T1 and Fnatic who likely have been on some form of break after their grueling TI qualification process. For T1, the break seems to have dulled their shine a bit while Fnatic have not played enough games to really get a sense of their current state. Playing tournaments before TI is always a tricky balance as teams do not want to reveal too much of what they are working on. At the same time, losing a bunch of matches before such a pivotal event can’t be good for morale.
Assuming Valve holds off on releasing a patch, there is a chance that both T1 and Fnatic hold back a bit at this event. Meanwhile, teams like Galaxy Racer, Army Geniuses, and Execration are playing for a sizable payday and some serious pride. It is also entirely possible that there could be some meta evolutions that happen considering how deep we are into the patch.
Either way, SEA Dota continues to deliver some of the most high-octane action in the scene and is certainly worth checking out.
The group stage wraps up on August 9th before heading right into the playoff portion of the tournament on the 10th.