The closed qualifiers for Dota 2’s ESL One Kuala Lumpur concluded yesterday, and with limited slots up for grabs, the qualifier was more stacked than ever—meaning some big names missed out on the fun. However, two Dota stalwarts have made it to the event on the back of surprising performances.
Team Secret and 9Pandas failed to sign exciting prospects during the trade window, limiting expectations after a disappointing TI 2023 run. Both teams were considered the losers of the Dota 2 post-TI 2023 roster shuffle. The new 9Pandas roster looked like a downgrade, and Team Secret welcomed back two familiar faces but it didn’t seem enough to convince fans either team would make it to the Malaysian tournament. However, they’ve both done just that in stunning fashion.
Team Secret began the Western European qualifier terribly, going 0-2 against OG then dropping the opening map to Alliance in the lower bracket, putting them against the ropes.
Down to their last life, Secret pounced back and fought their way through the lower bracket with wins over Alliance, Team Tickles, and a revenge victory over OG before taking down Entity to lock in the spot. Throughout the way, Secret showcased an impressive level of coordination and chemistry that continued to develop throughout the qualifiers.
In the Eastern European qualifier, a similar story was written by 9Pandas. Like Secret, they were also instantly knocked out of the upper bracket by little-known squad Klim Sani4. Going on an equally dominant lower bracket run allowed 9Pandas to punch their tickets to Kuala Lumpur.
Many expected NAVI or Virtus Pro to claim the second slot at the EEU qualifiers, but both of those teams were eliminated from the competition by 9Pandas, who are sure to be in the mix come December.
All the qualified and invited teams will meet in Kuala Lumpur on Dec. 11 and compete for a $1 million prize pool. This event will also be the first tournament in Dota 2’s “2024” competitive calendar—the first in a new, more open scene after the dissolution of the Dota Pro Circuit.