THE TEAMS, PART 2
Members: kpii, QO, March, Febby, NutZ
Origin: South Korea
Heroes to look out for: Naga Siren, Queen of Pain, Ember Spirit, Spirit Breaker
Emotional soft-focus player bio: None!
The Korean Dota dream is more alive than it's ever been. Having scraped through the wildcard in second place, MVP Phoenix barely missed out on inclusion in the top half of group A. They've proven that they can take a game off anybody—including Team Secret—with creative drafting and aggressive play that has earned them a lot of fans.
Carry kpii has demonstrated great judgement over the course of the group stages and midlaner QO is reliably punching above his weight. MVP Phoenix are most fun to watch when they're rocking unusual heroes, but this doesn't always deliver the results they want—respecting the meta helps from time to time. Their first game against Secret in the group stages demonstrated just how good they can be when it all comes together.
Members: Rabbit, Mu, June, Banana, SanSheng
Heroes to look out for: Dragon Knight, Disruptor, Ember Spirit, Lina
Emotional soft-focus player bio: Mu
Last year's champions dropped off the radar after their surprise victory at TI4, but their performance in the group stages established them as a going concern—if not the dominance force they were in the past. Having adapted well to the new metagame, 2015 Newbee is aggressive, coordinated, and at their best in a five-on-five teamfight.
They're one of the few Chinese teams to experiment with Techies, and have enjoyed good results with Dragon Knight and Lina. Midlaner Mu's aggression makes him really entertaining to watch, and Newbee's supports—Banana and SanSheng—have been having a strong tournament too. Newbee came from nowhere to snatch the Aegis of Champions this year—or so it seemed—and while their run of draws in the group stages suggests that this won't happen again, it'd be a mistake to count them out entirely.
Members: Hao, Super, iceiceice, Fenrir, fy
Heroes to look out for: Sand King, Bounty Hunter, Rubick, Tusk
Emotional soft-focus player bio: fy
Vici will be surprised (and unhappy) to find themselves in the lower bracket. They came second at last year's International and have had a great run in the year so far, including a second-place finish at the Dota Asia Championships.
They boast one of the best—if not the best—support pairings in the world with fy and Fenrir, and one of the world's best offlaners in iceiceice. While they've been playing the meta with their picks for Super and Hao, it's in these lower-priority roles that they demonstrate the most creativity—even if the results haven't quite matched up to it yet. They were tipped to do very well this year, and have struggled, and will need to enter the main event with a more consistent approach.
Members: XBOCT, Dendi, Funn1k, SoNNeiKO, ArtStyle
Heroes to look out for: Earthshaker, Gyrocopter, Tusk, Dazzle, Storm Spirit, Pudge why not
Emotional soft-focus player bio: XBOCT
Na'Vi underperformed at last year's International (as did many western teams) and the subsequent shake-up—that led to Puppey and Kuroky forming Team Secret—has resulted in a very different team. They performed commandingly in the European qualifier but really struggled in the group stages, finishing up at the bottom of their group.
In a game that is increasingly punishing to risk-takers—just ask Cloud9—Na'Vi struggle to clinch games, particularly when playing from behind. That said, you can't count them out. New addition SoNNeikO is an enormously talented support player, demonstrating some of the best Earthshaker and Winter Wyvern play in the scene. Dendi, XBOCT and Funn1k remain the fan-favourites they always were, and regardless of the results this is a team that still comes with a devoted following.
Members: Illidan, God, DkPhobos, Lil, fng
Heroes to look out for: fng's lovely hair, Earthshaker, Silencer, Shadow Shaman, Lycan
Emotional soft-focus player bio: fng
Virtus.Pro have had a very good year, including a respectable showing at ESL One Frankfurt—but their lower bracket starting position is evidence of their inconsistent performance in the group stages. They're most comfortable playing aggressively, but have demonstrated an ability to smartly outdraft their opponents—running Silencer against Empire's teamfight lineup, for example.
Losing the tiebreaker game at the end of the group stages puts VP a game from elimination, so expect them to come out swinging with a punchy, end-the-game-in-20-minutes draft.
This is a team with decades of collective experience, they know what's at stake, and they've proved that they can beat the top-tier. Now they just need to do it.
Members: kYxY, Mushi, Ohaiyo, Kecik Imba, JoHnNy
Heroes to look out for: Queen of Pain, Bane, Centaur Warrunner, Templar Assassin
Emotional soft-focus player bio: Kecik Imba
Formerly Team Malaysia, the new Fnatic comprises stars of the Malaysian Dota scene—a part of the world that has always excelled at The International but is yet to take home a title. Midlaner Mushi is one of the most versatile and experienced players in his role, and his dominating performance over Secret in the group stages demonstrates what can happen when he's let off the chain. His protege, Kecik Imba, is emerging as one of the best new support players around.
Despite this, Fnatic have had a tough time so far. They're simply inconsistent: when they win, they win hard, against seemingly anybody, and when they lose it looks like a washout.
It'd be a real shame to see this team go out in the first round, given each player's history with the event, but it's a real possibility at the moment.
Members: BurNing, Ferrari_430, Luo, ChuaN, Faith
Heroes to look out for: Enchantress, Anti-Mage, Storm Spirit, Rubick
Emotional soft-focus player bio: Ferrari_430
The TI2 champions seemed to be in good form right up until the group stages, and are now languishing in the lower bracket. This is despite having, in BurNing, one of the most talented and experienced carry players to ever play the game; in ChuaN and Faith, two of the very best supports; in Ferrari_430, a legendary mid; a brilliant leader in Luo. They're all great, but they're a game from elimination.
They don't seem entirely comfortable in the current meta, although they're adapting—and perhaps that'll be enough to get them through their best-of-one elimination game.
Look to them for the coordination that comes with a lot of experience of working together, and drafts that mix on-meta picks with longstanding personal picks.
Members: Forev, MP, SunBhie, JerAx, Heen
Origin: South Korea/Finland
Heroes to look out for: Lina, Clockwerk, Bloodseeker, Zeus, Omniknight
Emotional soft-focus player bio: Heen
MVP's primary Dota squad won the South East Asia qualifier, although their performance in the group stages was substantially worse than their wildcard-bound brother team, Phoenix. As with Phoenix they draft somewhat unusually, pulling out Tinkers and Omniknights and Invokers during their group stage run (although admittedly these were nested in otherwise on-meta lineups.)
It'd be great to see Hot6 double down on their own style going into their elimination game. This is a team that is known for its daring play, particularly when things are going well, although that dependence on flair can be a crutch when matches go south.
Next: what exactly happened in the group stages?