Members: Ditya Ra, Dendi, GeneraL, SoNNeikO, Artstyle
Origin: Russia, Ukraine
Heroes to look out for: Ember Spirit, Io, Sand King, Dendi
The original fan favourite Dota squad is on resurgent form after a few years of uncertainty in the aftermath of The International 2014. The new squad recently took the title at StarSeries Season 2, defeating Team Secret 3-1. They fell to OG at ESL One Frankfurt but nonetheless took second place. After their time in the wilderness, Na'Vi are (at least mostly) back.
Midlaner Dendi remains one of the most famous faces in the Dota scene, but more and more attention is being paid to his teammates. In particular, support and captain SoNNeikO is emerging as one of the most talented team players around. Meanwhile, offlaner GeneraL has turned niche support hero Sand King into a first-ban worth monster that demonstrates his commanding skill in the role.
This didn't quite translate into the group stage they wanted, however, as a run of poor engagements knocked them out of game after game. Na'Vi like to build up momentum early and end the game fast and seemed to struggle whenever that momentum was denied. They'll begin the tournament with a heartbreaker of an elimination match against Liquid.
Members: iceice, Innocence, Faith_bian, bLink, Shadow
Heroes to look out for: All of them?
A relatively new Chinese team, Wings have rapidly emerged as one of the year's surprise success stories: even taking The Summit 5 finals 3-1 from the year's other surprise success story, OG. These are talented players that you may not be familiar with unless you've followed Chinese Dota closely over the last couple of years, but it's likely that you'll be familiar with them after this year's International.
They're tremendously versatile and aggressive, so expect some creative drafts and surprise hero picks. This dynamism is what allows Wings to threaten the championship hopes of better established teams, but their weakness is consistency. They tend to deliver a high-variance performance, which makes them exciting to watch but casts some doubt over their ability to make it the entire distance. They struggled on the first day of the group stage, ceding an unexpected loss to TNC. From that point they rallied to secure third place in their group, but their losses are enough to cast a shadow over their main event prospects.
Members: Loda, AdmiralBulldog, Akke, EGM, s4
Heroes to look out for: Broodmother, Puck, Lone Druid
Another dark horse, Alliance were the kings of the game three years ago. Their victory at The International 2013 is legendary, but they've never quite found the same form since. After a few experimental roster shifts, however, they've put that original band back together and have performed a little better since. This is still a team that can take matches off the best, but not one that you'd expect to turn out another undefeated run through the group stage.
As indeed they didn't. Known for a 'rat' playstyle that emphasises objectives and map control, Alliance have a habit of creating exciting games to watch whether they win or lose. Luckily, they managed to win more games than they lost in the group stage, securing an 8-6 finish and a place in the upper bracket that many would have expected to go to Secret, Na'Vi or Liquid. Despite dropping sets to OG and Wings, Alliance managed 2-0 victories over both EG and Na'Vi: watch the end of their first game against EG for an example of Alliance's charmed lategame in action.
Members: Fear, SumaiL, UNiVeRsE, zai, ppd
Origin: USA, Pakistan, Sweden
Heroes to look out for: Huskar, Batrider, Dazzle
The defending champions, like their old rivals Secret, are arriving at TI6 following a period of roster drama and instability. In fact, the troubles of the two teams mirror each other closely because they keep firing and hiring each other's players. The new EG retains four out of five of the players who lifted the trophy last year, with the addition of briefly-retired support savant zai. UNiVeRsE also returns following a stint at Secret, meaning the power behind the $6m Echo Slam is back where it belongs.
EG's recent form has been hit and miss. They departed from the Manila Major extraordinarily early for a team of their caliber, and underperformed at Epicenter and StarSeries. Their last podium finish took place at The Shanghai Major. The TI6 group stage marked a return to form, however, with a performance second only to OG in their group. They took advantage of the Huskar metagame to crush a few early victories and showed themselves to be on good form overall, despite a few surprising losses along the way.
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Joining in 2011, Chris made his start with PC Gamer turning beautiful trees into magazines, first as a writer and later as deputy editor. Once PCG's reluctant MMO champion , his discovery of Dota 2 in 2012 led him to much darker, stranger places. In 2015, Chris became the editor of PC Gamer Pro, overseeing our online coverage of competitive gaming and esports. He left in 2017, and can be now found making games and recording the Crate & Crowbar podcast.