THE TEAMS, PART 1
Here's a quick overview of all the teams in contention, plus video links should you want to watch a mini-documentary where a star player's dad/brother/grandmother cries. Valve are good at those.
Members: xiao8, Sylar, Yao, MMY!, Maybe
Heroes to look out for: Io, Anti-Mage, Dazzle, Lina
Emotional soft-focus player bio: xiao8
LGD were gigantic in the group stage, demonstrating the commanding skill that comes with lots of experience. Including former members of DK, Vici Gaming, and last year's champions Newbee, this is the most successful Chinese team in contention—expect to see them continue that success. Midlaner Maybe had one of the most impressive runs of any individual player in the group stages, with a dominating kill/death ratio.
LGD are completely at home in a metagame that favours aggression, making good use of map-controlling teleporting magic ball Io and demonstrating superlative skill with the rest of the current top-tier heroes. Don't necessarily expect too many out-there drafts from LGD, but do expect them to use what they've got incredibly well.
Members: Silent, Resolution, yoky, ALWAYSWANNAFLY, ALOHADANCE
Heroes to look out for: Bloodseeker, Magnus, Nightstalker, assorted pubstompers, Axe
Emotional soft-focus player bio: ALOHADANCE
Despite being the best-performing Eastern European team in the group stages, Empire's performance won't have been quite what they were hoping for. They're very aggressive, drafting heroes like Bloodseeker, Nightstalker, and Spirit Breaker and doing what they can to keep their opponents off-balance throughout the match. There's a degree of calculation to all of this, however—it's not just blind fury. Carry Silent has one of the most impressive gold-per-minute records of any player in the tournament.
There's a lot of experience on this team—despite the youth of captain Resolution—but no International titles. Empire is a team that is used to doing well on home turf and is now, at the onset of the main event, within reaching distance of their best-ever result.
Aside: offlaner yoky is known to play Axe, a big red man with an axe who remains inarguably the best hero in Dota 2 and there's nothing you can say to convince me otherwise.
Members: Garder, Q, Agressif, Xz, Shiki
Heroes to look out for: Bounty Hunter, Broodmother, Visage, Earthshaker
Emotional soft-focus player bio: None.
Formerly LGD's youth squad (a term of questionable value in a sport this young), CDEC have had a great run so far. Carry Agressif is, well, one of the most successfully aggressive carries in the tournament. Having come second in the Chinese qualifier, they conquered the wildcard to enter the main event. Then, in the group stages, they finished joint first in their group with EG. Normally, wildcard teams languish in the middle of the pack. Not so CDEC.
They've been called the future of Chinese Dota and that may well turn out to be true. They're very good at controlling the pace of the game with heroes like Bounty Hunter, and transition well into the later stages of a match. The biggest roadblock they've encountered so far was EG's Techies, a hero known to be good against the Chinese metagame in general. If they don't fall afoul of the western meta again, they should do very well.
Members: EternaLEnVy, N0tail, bOne7, FATA-, MiSeRy
Origin: North America/Europe
Heroes to look out for: Anti-Mage, Io, Batrider, Earthshaker, Meepo, Beastmaster
Emotional soft-focus player bio: n0tail
No team inspires more image macros than Cloud9. This is an energetic, characterful team that always does well but never seems to win anything. As a result, they're very easy to root for. Carry EternaLEnVy is one of the Dota scene's most notable personalities, known for his ability to match moments of superlative strategic decision-making and skill with, er, throwing just a little bit sometimes. EE-sama plays like every Divine Rapier could be his last (it never is) and is best summed up by this quote:
"When game is going this bad I just want to create chaos. Create so much chaos that no one understands Dota anymore."
He's matched with a group of European veterans with a huge collective hero pool. MiSeRy, FATA-, bOne7 and N0tail have all put in great individual and group performances in this tournament so far. Expect creative drafts and incredibly long games that get real weird past the seventy-minute mark.
Members: Fear, PPD, Universe, Aui_2000, Suma1L
Origin: North America
Heroes to look out for: Clockwerk, Dazzle, Storm Spirit, Techies, whatever Fear is playing today
Emotional soft-focus player bio: Suma1L
These North American favourites had a very strong showing at ESL Frankfurt last month and won the Dota Asia Championship earlier in the year. In Fear they have one of the most experienced Dota 2 players still in the game, in PPD one of the most experienced captains, and in Suma1L one of the youngest rising stars. As the most popular North American team they are followed everywhere they go by chants of "USA! USA!" (how ironic this is depends on whether or not they're winning.)
They're highly creative and versatile, with a good balance of virtuoso skill—particularly from SumaiL—and really solid support. Universe is among the very best 'utility' offlaners in the world, and Aui_2000 pushes the concept of support as far as it can go—as demonstrated by his aggressive Techies in the group stages, or his Naga Siren 'carry support' at ESL One. EG are, with Secret and C9, likely to draw the loudest and warmest reaction from the crowd in KeyArena.
Members: Zyzz, swindlemelonzz, MoonMeander, Zfreek, Fly
Heroes to look out for: Dark Seer, Nature's Prophet, Sven, Techies
Emotional soft-focus player bio: swindlemelonzz and Zfreek
The legacy of Heroes of Newerth stretches far into the Dota 2 scene, particularly in North America, and compLexity are the most recent example. Captain swindlemelonzz and his brother Zfreek were both HoN champions and have made the transition remarkably well—and remarkably quickly. Nobody expected compLexity to achieve much in the group stages, being so new and only really having the NA qualifier to their name. Then they came third in their group—behind only Secret and LGD—and a lot of people ate their hats (or their rares.)
They're not afraid to experiment in crucial games and have made good use of lesser-seen heroes like Wraith King, Sven, and Juggernaut. The biggest challenge they face in the days ahead is the fact that, hopefully, everybody else in the scene will have stopped underestimating them—and they've never competed at a live event of this magnitude. But that doesn't stop them from being within reach of the final, and that's extraordinarily exciting for a new team.
Members: Puppey, Kuroky, Zai, S4, Arteezy
Origin: North America/Europe
Heroes to look out for: Anti-Mage, Techies, Broodmother, Rubick, Chen
Emotional soft-focus player bio: S4
Considered by many to be the best team in the world going into this event, Secret is comprised of veterans from the European and North American Dota scenes. They've been winning LAN tournaments left and right all year, they're rightly loved or feared or both by everybody, and their coordination and creativity is second to none. They have an uncanny ability to turn bad situations around through sheer skill.
Every individual player is extremely experienced and capable in their role. They have a legacy of legendary performances going way back: Kuroky's Rubick. S4's Puck. Zai's Broodmother. Puppey's Chen. And even if they have a rough start, Arteezy's supreme farming ability has a tendency to pull them back into position—an awful lot of Team Secret stories end '...but then, Arteezy happened.'
Members: Zyf, Cty, rOtk, LaNm, DDC
Heroes to look out for: Razor, Winter Wyvern, Earthshaker, Clockwerk
Emotional soft-focus player bio: rOtk
A revival of one of the oldest names in Chinese Dota, the new EHOME mixes new blood with experience. Captain rOtk is a cornerstone of the game and lead Vici Gaming to their second-place finish at the International last year. LaNm is one of the most exciting support players to watch, too, particularly his Earthshaker.
EHOME had a very good performance in the group stage but not quite good enough to secure a top-place finish—they lost a game to CDEC, the team they beat in the Chinese qualifier, weakening their position. Nonetheless, they seem to be coming together as a team—particularly their newer players.
Next: the teams, part two.