A look into the teams competing in Dota 2’s most prestigious tournament of the year

OG

The core duo of Tal “Fly” Aizik and Johan “n0tail” Sundstein are looking at their 2nd TI under the OG banner. A strong post-TI season came to them quickly despite the roster changes, gaining decorated veteran Gustav “s4” Magnusson for their offlane, former Team Liquid star support Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka, along with perhaps their breakout star, Anathan “ana” Pham – who has proven countless times this year that he is more than just a replacement for last year’s OG golden boy Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi. OG certainly has one of the strongest resumes coming into The International 7, what with winning both The Boston Major and The Kiev Major. As an addition, they also have Sebastien “7kingmad” Debs as their coach, who they have claimed to be instrumental to all their success. Though maybe they aren’t undisputed favorites this time around, due to the illusion-hero nerfs and their relatively lower placings at the more recent Manila Masters and EPICENTER tournaments – counting out OG would certainly not be a wise decision. Will they finally take home the only Valve tournament title that has eluded them thus far? Will s4 be the first two-time TI winner?

 

Virtus.Pro

Not since Natus Vincere’s early years of dominance has such a strong contender come out of the CIS scene in the highest echelons of Dota, sealing their invite to TI thanks to a strong 2nd place performance at The Kiev Major. Composed of some of the region’s most promising young talent in carry Roman “Ramzes666” Kushnarev and midlaner Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko, while under the steady leadership of Alexei “Solo” Berezin, Virtus.Pro plays the high-octane aggression, teamfight-centric playstyle the CIS region is known-for – and executes it to near-perfection. Many a highlight video has featured phenomenal team play stemming from one of offlaner Pavel “9Pasha” Khvastunov’s initiations (to the point that his Dark Seer and Magnus are banned nearly every game), and many a game have they won thanks to strong early game rotations from Ilya “Lil” Ilyuk, who has one of the widest hero pools on the roaming support position. As if to pool even more of the CIS region’s talents into a single team, they also have veteran captain, Ivan “ArtStyle” Antonov as their coach, who brings additional insight to the table. VP has all the right pieces a strong contender needs to win TI – and they certainly have the confidence and swagger to pull it off, even doing a self-imposed “All-Hero Challenge” at the recently-concluded Summit 7, where they didn’t pick any hero twice except in the last game of the Grand Final, which they ultimately won. This might have been a challenge “for fun” at a tournament they didn’t take so seriously, but it also sends a message – no, they’re not a one-trick pony, and yes, they are a team in it for the win.

 

Evil Geniuses

The boys in blue have had a very strong season since the post-TI6 shuffle, where they gained Artour “Arteezy” Babaev to replace Clinton “Fear” Loomis who has moved to a coaching role, and Andreas “Crit-” Neilsen to replace Peter “ppd” Dager as 5th position support and captain. EG stands as one of Dota 2’s most impressive international all-star teams, boasting players who are contenders for “best” in each of their respective positions. They are coming into TI7 with four LAN wins, and haven’t placed lower than sixth in any of the tournaments they attended this season. Sumail “Suma1L” Hassan is the cornerstone of EG’s success, who seems to pull off seemingly impossible outplays at such a high rate of frequency, with Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora performing at such a consistent level, and with Ludwig “zai” Wahlberg capable of game-winning plays from the 4th position support, EG is certainly one of the strongest contenders at this year’s International. If we factor in momentum, EG has gone to the Grand Finals at two of the most recent top-tier tournaments – taking home the Manila Masters and coming in second at EPICENTER. They’ve also added Avery “SVG” Silverman as their second coach. With so much talent in one team, EG objectively stands as the best contender for a team to take their second International title.

 

Invictus Gaming

Chinese powerhouse Invictus Gaming features a mix of the old and the new – veteran Xu “BurNIng” Zhilei is the oldest player going to TI this year at 29 years old, bringing tons of experience to his team of relatively younger players. Fu “Q” Bin is the team’s 5 position support and captain-drafter, who, let’s not forget, was on the CDEC team that took 2nd place at TI5. Ye “BoBoKa” Zhibiao has risen to prominence as one of the most effective roaming support players, especially on his signature Rikimaru and, when the hero was in-meta, Monkey King. While offlaner Li “Xxs” Ling and midlaner Ou “Op” Peng are relatively newer to the scene (promoted into iG’s main roster after a stint on sister-team iG.Vitality), both players have shown themselves capable of competing at the top levels of Dota 2. Though the team has been in somewhat of a slump compared to their dominating performance at the Dota 2 Asian Championships (DAC) earlier this year, a semi-final finish at The Kiev Major and strong finishes at numerous third-party events cemented iG as one of the teams deserving a direct invite at this year’s International. Is it finally BurNIng’s year, and will iG be the first organization to hold two TI’s under their belt?

 

Newbee

If you look at Newbee’s track record after the TI6 shuffle (which saw veterans Chen “Hao” Zhihao, Zhang “Mu” Pan and Wong Hock “ChuaN” Chuan leave the team), you will see strong indications of regional dominance – Newbee constantly takes top places in Chinese tournaments, but always seemed to fall short at international events. Inconsistent performances range from numerous 2nd places at third-party tournaments, to bombing out in the first round of the Kiev and Boston Majors. After Kiev there were naysayers aplenty – perhaps the mostly young-blooded roster had a trouble with nerves, perhaps it was time for a change in the roster. But their performances after the Major saw a huge turnaround for the Chinese squad. They have moved captaincy duties to TI2 winner Zeng “Faith” Hongda, who has given Hu “kaka” Liangzhi more freedom as the roaming support – a change marked by a visible increase in performance (his Sandking and Nightstalker are nearly always first-phase banned). One of this year’s breakout players was Song “Sccc” Shun, who once again shined on the mid-lane, showing dominating performances and ballsy plays, while popularizing the Aghanim’s build on Storm Spirit along the way. Xu “Moogy” Han (formerly uuu9) who usually played as a consistent ‘sacrificial’ carry, also began to up his play and started to take over games himself. Offlaner Damien “kpii” Chok boasts a diverse hero pool with pocket picks like offlane Naga Siren and Underlord – which may catch unprepared enemy teams off guard. Newbee’s resurgence came right on time for TI invites to come into contention, and their two first-place titles at Galaxy Battles and Zotac Cup, plus their 2nd place at The Manila Masters cemented their ticket to TI, and are definitely a dark horse to take the title.

 

Team Liquid

It’s been a long time coming for the Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi iteration of Team Liquid to come into fruition – they began the season with dismal results, failing to qualify for tournaments, ultimately not making it to the Boston Major. Things started turning around for them with the acquisition of up-and-coming Maroun “GH” Merhej on the support role. The team now had three 9k MMR players, a wealth of mechanical talent, and the seasoned captaincy of Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi. Success had finally started to come trickling in for Team Liquid, with wins at notable, relatively lower-tier tournaments such as DreamLeague and StarLadder. At the top tier they still struggled to perform, placing low at DAC and only 5th-8th at The Kiev Major, but hard work and the long grind seems to finally be paying off, as they successfully defend their EPICENTER title against the top tier competitors present at that tournament. Offlaner Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Borislavov is once again playing like he was on his prime last season, and while Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen has struggled to produce consistent performances in the past, he is currently on a hotstreak as of late. Liquid is a team with a diverse hero pool, with certain heroes such as GH’s Io, Kuroky’s Tusk, MATUMBAMAN’s Lone Druid and Miracle-‘s Invoker (sometimes even first-phase picked) all dangerous opponents that some teams might find extremely difficult to draft against. When Team Liquid gels and all the cogs are in place, they look like the best team in the world, the question is whether we’re going to see that Liquid show up at The International.

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