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Dota 2 predictions from Luckbox contributor Riley:
Both teams recently underwent changes, so it's a tricky call. NIP have replaced their carry, Skiter, with Vikin.gg midlaner TANNER, which can be seen as an upgrade because the aspiring position 2 had solid showings in the qualifiers, the highlight of course being his role in Vikin's upper bracket finals win against Nigma.
However, there's a huge downside as now NIP's hotshot midlaner Gunnar will be playing as position 1, moving away from his strengths into unfamiliar territory. On the other hand, Geek Fam are in a more comfortable position, since they changed their midlaner Ryoya into another midlaner, Karl, meaning their stars Raven and Kuku are on roles where they are most impactful.
With ppd on helm, NIP have stronger leadership. However, it might not be enough against the fact that Geek Fam's players look a lot more comfortable. With the change being recent, it could be a hit or miss.
Riley's Rapid Picks - Geek Fam to win vs NiP at 2.16x - Confidence 2/5 - make your selection
Team Spirit have definitely got their share of star talent - iLTW, Immersion, and the recently acquired nongrata (who just found some success on Dendi's squad), and while RNG's roster looked a bit paler compared to that, I am more confident on RNG's form.
Looking at the Chinese leagues, who are levels ahead of CIS, RNG have shown consistency, with recent wins against Keen, EHOME, and PSG.LGD, something that Team Spirit lacks.
Riley's Rapid Picks - RNG to win vs Team Spirit at 1.25x - Confidence: 3/5 - make your selection
Former TI champions stacks the odds against EE's squad, although one must take note that Nigma are at their most vulnerable position of the season (as seen on their recent performance) following the new org, new patch and other stuff, and they're not facing amateurs, either.
PandaS are a solid, skilled stack of veterans, and have what it takes to pull an upset, especially.
It's just when it comes to a team of Nigma's calibre, they bounce back off lows very quickly when it matters, and getting to the Major matters, so we can expect this event's clear favorites to bring on the A game.
Riley's Rapid Picks - Nigma to win vs Fighting PandaS at 1.16x - Confidence rating: 4/5 - make your selection
Starting out the season blazing, Gambit weren't able to reach the consistency they wanted but are definitely still one of the hottest teams in the event.
After a rebound from their lag in performance by securing third at ONE Invitational Singapore (and showing why gpk's one of the top breakouts of the season), fng's boys ought to show the Tornado Energy as one of the favorites to win the event, so expect this to be a hard hitter for FURIA. No love taken away from the Brazilians, but Duster's squad just aren't as well-armed.
Riley's Rapid Pick - Gambit Esports to win vs FURIA Esports at 1.13x - Confidence rating: 5/5 - make your prediction
Picture: Copyright ESL / Bart Oerbekke