Following the Major in Chongqing China, StarLadder and ImbaTV also hosted the next Minor in the 2018-2019 Dota Pro Circuit schedule. This one was held in the Cybersport Arena from Kiev, Ukraine and witnessed a few interesting stories that later on in the season had a great impact on who would be the final 18 teams to attend TI9.
When the regional qualifiers for the Minor started, VG were going through a rough patch. Up to that point in the season, they only got top eight placement at the previous Majors and failed to qualify for the DreamLeague Major in Sweden. Following the disastrous qualifiers run for the Major, the Chinese team decided to bench their captain, Pan “Fade” Yi and rotate Zhou “Yang” Haiyang from offlane to the support 4 position. The Chinese New Year was just over when they entered the SL ImbaTV Minor qualifiers with Sun “Agressif” Zheng standing in. They lost the first series and were one loss away from being eliminated when Fade returned to the team. VG made a lower bracket comeback to claim a ticket to Kiev. The Fade swap, even for a few days, was perhaps the most crucial moment for this team’s progress through the DPC tournaments.
At that time, VG could have gone two directions: either fall apart completely or come out from the impasse stronger and with more motivation. Fortunately, the latter was the case for them and although Fade didn’t participate with the team at MDL Macau, a non-DPC tournament that took place ahead of the Minor in Kiev, the VG captain returned to his full capacity for the Minor and what followed is a story of commitment and overcoming difficulties.
Vici Gaming took the spoils in Kiev with a really strong performance, where they dropped only one game in the best-of-three series against Gambit Esports during the group stages. Interestingly enough, Gambit were their adversaries in the Minor grand finals as well, and VG executed them 3-0.
This was the third grand final in a row where Gambit lost a championship title. Earlier in the season, they also lost the Bucharest Minor grand finals to EHOME and the ESL One Katowice title to Team Secret. Given their series of second-place finishes and the fact that the team that defeated them in the grand finals would always proceed to an even bigger achievement in the next tournament (i.e winning a Major), the Chinese fans dubbed Gambit Esports as Tome of Knowledge, making a reference to the Tome of Knowledge item that gives an experience boost to the hero that consumes it in Dota 2.
Unfortunately, the SL ImbaTV Minor Season 1 Minor was also the last tournament where Gambit would make it to the grand finals. From there on, the CIS team that for many represented a strong contender for a TI9 spot via DPC points, failed in all next tournaments up to the point where they lost the battle for a ticket to the biggest tournament of the year on the back of a rage quit coming from their mid-laner during the TI9 regional qualifiers.
The tournament in Kiev also marked Igor “iLTW” Filatov ‘s end of the road with OG, while Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao had to end yet another project of his by disbanding the Flying Penguins.