A look into the teams competing in Dota 2â€™s most prestigious tournament of the year
Leading up to The International 7 qualifiers, Team Secret was almost a shoe-in for the European Qualifier spot â€“ most analysts had them pegged as a â€˜fringe inviteâ€™ that wouldâ€™ve gotten in directly if Valve had decided on more invites. The current SEA + EU mix of Team Secret has shown some relative success, winning most of the European qualifiers to big LANs throughout the year. The acquisition of Yazied â€œYapzOrâ€ Jadarat for their support position seems to have reinvigorated the team in recent months, which took a confident undefeated run at The Kiev Major group stages â€“ only to fall in a huge upset to South American underdogs SG-Esports in the first round. The last place finish at the Major didnâ€™t seem to faze Secret too much, as they were back on the usual grind and looked comfortable as the third best team in Europe. Integral to their successful semi-final run at EPICENTER is Zheng â€œMidOneâ€ Yeik Nai, who is capable of pulling out solid, explosive plays from the mid-lane. Stable yet somewhat â€˜sacrificialâ€™ carry Pyo â€œMPâ€ No-a is complementary to MidOneâ€™s heavy-farming carry-mid playstyle, and offlaner Maurice â€œKheZuâ€ Gutmann is capable of executing game-winning initiations, especially impressing on a number of Nyx Assassin games. Â These four talented players hungry for a tier one title are under the leadership of one of Dotaâ€™s most decorated captains in Clement â€œPuppeyâ€ Ivanov, who for sure is looking for that second Aegis.
When the direct invites â€“ and consequently, qualifier slots â€“ for TI7 came out, a number of people in the community questioned the second slot for EU, arguing that either NA or CIS would be able to field a more competitive team to the biggest tournament of the year. Hence, the underdogs from Planet Dog certainly have their work cut out for them. They seem capable of taking games from good teams, and have made it here all the way from Europeâ€™s second round of Open Qualifiers, taking a convincing 3:1 over the favored mousesports Greek boys to claim their ticket to TI. Composed of four players from ProDota Gaming: midlaner Greg â€œKeyserâ€ Kallianiotis, offlaner Neta â€œ33â€ Shapira, roaming support Milan â€œMiLANâ€ Kozomara, and support/captain Alexei â€œj4â€ Lipai. They are joined by former Elements Pro Gaming carry Uros â€œSwiftendingâ€ Galic. Planet Dog are certainly underdogs going into TI, but as we know, at The International, anything can happen â€“ and if enough of that TI magic gets going, Planet Dog can be the Cinderella story of the year.
Team Empire is the product of a tumultuous but competitive (amongst each other, at least) CIS region, seeing players swap teams almost after every Major. Support Vladimir â€œRodjERâ€ Nikogosyan has played on numerous tier 2 teams for a few years now, roaming support + captain Yaroslav â€œMiposhkaâ€ Naidenov and offlaner Andrey â€œGhostikâ€ Kadyk as well. Midlaner Rostislav â€œfnâ€ Lozovoi is perhaps the brightest star on the roster, once the staple carry of last yearâ€™s Vega Squadron. He has since moved to the midlane, and has shined on heroes like Invoker. Their carry, relatively new to the scene, is Vladimir â€œChappieâ€ Kuzmenko, who is capable of explosive performances especially with his pocket pick Phantom Assassin â€“ Team Empire plays the signature hyper-aggressive CIS style of Dota, and while they may fall prey to more calculating teams and do sometimes tend to over-commit, there are signs of brilliance from this team. After all, they did take a top 6 finish at the Dota 2 Asian Championships (DAC), where they came into the playoffs from the upper bracket. Theyâ€™ve also taken good placings at various European/CIS tournaments, and convincingly shut out Team Spirit with a 3:0 at the finals of the CIS TI7 Qualifier â€“ so, the talent is certainly there, but they will have to bring their A-game if they want to stand toe-to-toe with the other teams at The International.
TNC Pro Team
Coming out on top of the South East Asian qualifier to TI7, our very own TNC Pro Team were able to book their tickets to TI relatively early and escape the bloodbath for the 2nd and 3rd slots. A few solid placements followed their win at WESG earlier this year, but with the disappointing last-place finish at The Kiev Major despite the strong group stage performance (where Marc Polo Luis â€œRavenâ€ Fausto broke the Valve tournament kill record with 33 kills in a single game using Spectre), the team called for a change â€“ bringing on known theory crafter and experienced coach Theeban â€œ1437â€ Siva as captain and drafter. On the very first tournament with the team, StarLadder i-League Invitational #2, TNC was able to make it to the Grand Final versus team Liquid â€“ and make them sweat for the championship, stretching it out to a full 5-game series, while also heralding the return of the Two-Headed Dragon, Jakiro, back into the meta. Relative success continued for the team, taking third at Galaxy Battles thanks to solid performances from roaming support Timothy â€œTimsâ€ Randrup and the ever-so-stable Samson â€œSam_Hâ€ Hidalgo. Additional external support also came in the form of Muriel â€œKipspulâ€ Huisman, respected for her efforts in helping Fnatic reach top 4 at last yearâ€™s TI, as coach. The SEA TI qualifier was a welcome challenge to the team, and with midlaner Carlo â€œKukuâ€ Palad pulling out big plays and very impressive KDAâ€™s throughout their run (perhaps due to being relieved of captaincy duties so he could focus more on his individual play now that the midlane is more crucial than ever), the team is looking fully capable of making a big splash at The International once again.
When the current lineup of Fnatic was first announced it was pegged as SEAâ€™s all-star squad â€“ big names such as former MVP.Phoenix players, Kim â€œQOâ€ Seon-yeop and Kim â€œFebbyâ€ Yong-min were back on a team together, joining Fnatic staple, Chong Xin â€œOhaiyoâ€ Khoo, experienced and stable on the offlane role. Add to that the supporting prowess of one of last yearâ€™s breakout players, Djardel Jicko â€œDJâ€ Mampusti, who has stepped comfortably into the role of a captain, and Lai Jay â€œAhjitâ€ Son, the former star of WG.Unity. Being a relatively new squad and with players who were versed in such different styles of play, it took Fnatic a few shaky starts to get their bearings, since aside from their ticket to TI7, their only notable performance of late was a semi-final finish at Zotac Cup. At that tournament and at the TI qualifiers, Fnatic looked like a spiritual successor to last yearâ€™s MVP.Phoenix â€“ playing fast-paced, in-your-face Dota that allowed hyper-aggressive players like QO to shine, especially when empowered by strong backup from his supports that allow him to just dive in but also make it out alive. Fnatic looks strong on paper, and would be a good dark horse pick to make it deep into The International this year, and weâ€™re sure of one thing at least â€“ their games are going to be jam-packed with action, and very exciting.
The final SEA slot to TI7 was claimed by fellow Philippine-based team, Execration, after a hard-fought 2:1 victory over Clutch Gamers in the final series of the qualifiers. Sporting an all-Filipino roster composed of familiar names such as carry Fernando â€œNandoâ€ Mendoza, who has returned to Execration after a stint at s1 Lykos, roaming support Ralph Richard â€œRRâ€ PeÃ±ano, also returning to Execration after playing for Mineski and HappyFeet for a time, and Ryan â€œBimboâ€ Jay Qui, who has found a new home (and a ticket to The International) after departing his former team of nearly four years, Mineski. Kimuel â€œKim0â€ Rodis still stands as the pillar of this team, having captained Execration through thick-and-thin since 2014, while midlaner James Palatolon â€œCartMaNâ€ John is the greenhorn of the squad. What a way to begin a career indeed, as Execration is CartManNâ€™s first official professional team, and The International 7 will be his first premier LAN tournament. Execrationâ€™s current lineup has no prior results to the TI7 qualifiers, as the team has struggled to form a stable roster after its former stars DJ (now playing for Fnatic) and Abed â€œAbedâ€ Yusop (now playing for Digital Chaos) left the squad â€“ but things are looking bright for Execration based on their performance at the SEA qualifiers, even able to take a game off year-long dominators Faceless (who surprisingly were denied their ticket to TI by the three teams here, and Clutch Gamers) in the round-robin stage. Can a Filipino team create a huge upset in Dota 2â€™s biggest tournament two years in a row?