Considered as one of the best teams in Southeast Asia, not many were really surprised that TnC managed to grab a spot in the DotA 2 Kiev Major. What people didn't expect though was how hard it was for the Philippine team to get to the main event.
After a solid outing in the round robin stage of the qualifiers (7-2), TnC got matched up with Southeast Asian powerhouse Team Fearless. It was an epic showdown between arguably the two best teams in the region as they battled it out for the entire three rounds. Fearless managed to win the match, resulting in TnC's fall to the loser's bracket - one loss away from elimination.
From there, TnC had to duke it out with surprise Philippine team Clutch Gamers, who lost to Mineski in their first round of the playoffs. It was another full three-round match-up, with TnC's experience winning them the deciding round.
Fearless then took out Mineski, locking their place as one of two Southeast Asian representatives in Kiev. This delivered the final blow to the Philippines' dream of having two Philippine based teams in a DotA major.
Looking on the bright side, the Philippine teams already did their jobs during the round robin phase to make sure that at least one of them will represent the country in Kiev. With the final match of the Southeast Asian Qualifiers being between TnC and Mineski, it was only a matter of finding out who gets that honor.
TnC ran off to a fast start by winning the first round. In a hotly contested match which featured a lot of mistakes from both teams, TnC pulled through with solid performances from Tims' Slardar and SamH's Nyx Assassin.
Mineski showed their resilience in the second match though, as it was a hectic back-and-forth battle that hinged on the abilities of both teams to break the high ground. While every player had their moments, Ninjaboogie's Earth Spirit and RR's Nyx Assassin stood out in this insane 60-minute match. In the end, Mineski dealt the finishing blow as they broke TnC on the back of one excellent final base defense.
It was all TnC in the last match though, as an unconventional Omniknight pick gave the team a relatively easy win. Mineski collapsed as TNC forced them to make mistake after mistake. TnC dictated the pace of the match - a huge difference from the previous two matches, as they eliminated Mineski from the tournament and earned their spot in the Kiev Major along with Team Faceless.
The win cements TnC's return to DotA's biggest stage since their crazy TI6 run.
Despite a soul-crushing loss in the tournament (they were one win away from clinching a spot twice), Mineski was still able to show that they are still a very strong team. This experience in the qualifiers will hopefully help them address their flaws as a team. Their in-game decisiveness and execution are still lacking, but they have exponentially improved over the past few months.
Meanwhile, Clutch Gamers came out of nowhere and burst into the Southeast Asian stage in a big way. They were the highest seeded team coming into the playoff rounds after securing a 7-2 score in the round robin phase of the tournament. Their lack of experience did show in the playoffs though, as they lost to both TnC and Mineski. Still, this performance should provide the perfect foundation for a new Philippine team looking to make its mark in the international DotA scene.
Overall, it was an impressive showing by the four Philippine teams in the Southeast Asia Qualifiers for the Kiev Major. It wasn't the perfect outcome we were hoping for, but the dream to win the Philippines' first major is still alive.
TnC Pro Gaming Team still has a long journey ahead, but we'll be rooting for them every step of the way in the upcoming main event this April 27-30.