The International 2017 is closing in. The group stages begin August 2nd, with the main event taking place from the 7th, and the dust has settled from late June’s qualifiers.
Previously we , from China’s top achievers in Newbee to the Philippines’ best hopes in Execration and TNC Pro. Now, we move to the other hemisphere to talk about the best of the west and what they may bring to the biggest event in Dota 2.
First and foremost is Europe’s OG, the reigning champions of the Dota 2 scene at the moment having taken both of Valve’s Majors this season, plus two the season before. The team hasn’t shown its top shape prior to The International’s invite season, but that could change: after all, TI is a Valve event. A flexible hero pool, a well-versed captain, team chemistry and impeccable skill are the formula to a worthy Dota 2 team, and OG can check each box off without a second thought.
Returning from the Major is fellow direct invite Virtus.Pro, which earned second at the Kiev Major. They fell to OG in a 2-3 loss at the event, a rarity given that most LANs end in a four-game final, demonstrating that the team can put up a fight. Most famously this season they earned their invite immediately after their showing at The Summit, at which they played a unique hero for every match except the fifth and last finals game against Team Secret. With this momentum, they’ll be OG’s top match to look out for, but any match with VP versus a worthy team will be exciting to watch.
The third European direct invite is Team Liquid, which won Epicenter, one of the biggest events of the season. While not as consistent as China’s Newbee over the past year, the team has been able to show off their skill among the top teams in the world. They also proved that they’re far above any other stragglers in the pro scene, with persuasive first-place wins at StarLadder and this past weekend’s DreamLeague Atlantia. They can at least be a strong contender in Seattle if they keep their DreamLeague energy and bring it to the west coast.
Speaking of contenders, Team Secret is a potential dark horse for the event. They shocked the scene when they won every single game in the Kiev Major’s pre-bracket stages, including the qualifiers. Unfortunately, teams eventually figured out their shallow strategy, but since then, they’ve had time to improve. In fact, they’ve been improving over the past year, as they rose from not qualifying for Valve’s Boston Major to winning their stacked, challenging region for The International. Fans that have been through the team’s thick and thin will likely see the team at its top shape in years.
Last but not least from Europe is Hellraisers, formerly known as Planet Dog, which won after climbing through open qualifiers. Four out of five members were released recently from tier-two organization ProDota after internal conflict, and so this squad was assembled merely weeks before the qualifiers. Since their victory in the qualifiers, they were picked up by Hellraisers, which hasn’t seen a Dota 2 squad in years. The members aren’t new by any means, but instead, they’re a mix of players that have been grinding for years for this moment.
Next door, the CIS qualifiers took place for the first ever International event, including an absolutely-full open qualifier from which rose Team Empire. While the banner is familiar to long-time Dota 2 fans, the roster is full of relatively-fresh faces from the tier-two scene. That doesn’t mean they’re any less worthy, as this iteration has been showing up for online tournaments and training hard—before and after winning their TI qualifier, of course. The team does have a lot to prove to both its Russian and international fans, but they absolutely have the chance to do so in Seattle.
Returning to Seattle from America is Evil Geniuses, the champions of The International 5. Only two of the members from that winning squad are still active players, but that hasn’t stopped the team from remaining not only North America’s top team, but also a global powerhouse. They’ve shown up less frequently to events than other tier-one teams, but they took a first-place finish at the Manila Majors, and their second place at Epicenter is nothing to shake a finger at. Plus, they’ve had a strong showing at most Valve events, and they even came close at last year’s TI6, but they were no match for the outrageous hero pool of Digital Chaos. They can certainly hope that they become the first team to take a two-time TI win.
Much to the excitement of their biggest fans, Cloud9, formerly Team NP, will be at The International as the top qualifying team from North America. While esports veterans will recognize the C9 brand, Dota 2 fans know the squad for their leader, Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao, and the team’s anime-styled shenanigans. Fan familiarity aside, they’re a staple of high-tier events: they took a solid third at the Manila Masters and four that second at The Summit, and the roster is an all-star showing of veterans. Their performance breaks away from NA’s dire reputation, and they can potentially be a dark horse if they prepare well.
Also hailing from North America is Digital Chaos, formerly Team Onyx. They took second for the qualifiers, but sadly, their team has few results to show for their hard work up to that point. Still, the team has a lot of potential, as they’ve recruited names from across the world, including two former MVP players and 10k player Abed. It’s merely a matter of whether the players can come together and use their breadth of experience and skill in an effective manner.
Last but absolutely not least is newcomer team Infamous, the South American qualifier winner from Peru, formed by Valve Major alum Accel after his Frankfurt Major team Unknown.xiu disbanded. The SA region was thrust into the spotlight after SG Esports’s Kiev Major run, in which they took out Team Secret in their Achilles’s heel, showing that they could absolutely take on the world’s toughest team—if you keep them on an even playing field. Now, Infamous has a lot of pressure to follow up on that success, and it could certainly happen: after all, at the biggest event in esports, anything goes.