Members: ChuaN, Hao, Mu, kpii, Kaka
Origin: China, Malaysia, Australia
Heroes to look out for: Lion, Spectre, Io
International 2014 champions Newbee return with an interesting and effective new lineup. They've picked up legendary support player ChuaN as well as kpii from TI5 fan darlings MVP Phoenix. They're joined by carry Hao, returning to Newbee after a stint at Vici Gaming in 2015, former EHOME support kaka, and midlaner Mu: the only Newbee member to have stuck with the organisation since their decisive victory in 2014.
Newbee begin this year's International in a strong position with a good recent track record. They proved in Nanyang last month that they can win against the best Chinese teams and they placed respectably at the Manila Major and Nanyang. Earlier in the year they pulled off a record-breaking 29 game win streak in professional play, an unprecedented tear that was only curtailed by their encounter with OG. Their games are very much worth watching, particularly for ChuaN's mastery of the support role and Hao's incredible aggression.
Newbee encountered some rough patches in the group stage, and odds are that they're not entirely happy with an 8-6 record and third place: but it's enough to keep them in the upper bracket. The dream of a second Newbee TI victory is still alive.
Members: Agressif, Maybe, xiao, MMY!, Banana
Heroes to look out for: Gyrocopter, Invoker, Beastmaster
This year's LGD blends new and longstanding Dota talent. Stalwarts xiao8, MMY! and Maybe are joined by former CDEC carry Agressif, who achieved second place at last year's International as part of a phenomenal Cinderella run for the young Chinese team. As a squad, LGD have placed consistently highly and have become known for their tendency to encourage (and win) extremely long matches.
There's one major question mark over their prospects this year, however. Support player September was refused a visa to the United States after multiple attempts, so he's been replaced at TI6 by LGD's coach, Banana. Banana's a great player with a vast amount of experience, but a change like this is hardly ideal on the eve of the biggest event of the year. A rough 5-9 run through the group stage suggests that they are indeed struggling, despite a nail-biting series against OG that indicated that this is still a world-class team. Their best-of-one elimination match against Secret is likely to be equally tense.
Members: Arteezy, EternaLEnVy, BuLba, Puppey, pieliedie
Origin: Canada, USA, Estonia, Sweden
Heroes to look out for: Ember Spirit, Shadow Fiend, Chen
At one point considered the scariest western team in Dota 2, Secret were formed as a supergroup of sorts when multiple longstanding squads dissolved in 2014. Puppey, Arteezy and EternaLEnVy are some of the most recognisable personalities in the professional scene.
Secret have had a mixed year, however. Their standout success was a victory at the Shanghai Major, which followed a second place finish in Frankfurt—but other than that, they've logged too many mid-table finishes for comfort. Bombing out of the Manila Major early, last-minute roster drama meant that they had to fight their way into the International via the public qualifier. Their instability and inconsistency, combined with their fame, gives Secret dark horse potential: but that potential spluttered out in the group stage. A 5-9 run on par with Liquid is worse than anybody expected, betraying an inconsistency of performance that they need to overcome if they're going to survive the lower bracket.
Secret's fans are praying for a miracle right now, and they'll be looking to Puppey to provide one. If one of Dota's most famous strategists is holding anything back, he needs to deploy it soon.
Members: MP, QO, Forev, Febby, DuBu
Heroes to look out for: Templar Assassin, Dark Seer, Io
Dota 2 is unusually internationally competitive relative to other esports, which is demonstrated by the fact that Korea is the underdog that everybody roots for rather than the overdog that wins everything. MVP Phoenix have surfed that wave of public support since their impressive performance at the International 2015.
A number of factors including compulsory military service have forced a roster shuffle since then. New captain DuBu is joined by returning players QO and Febby as well as transfers from sister squad MVP Hot6, FoREV and MP. They've continued to do well over the last year, scoring consistent top 8 finishes including a number of wins: at Dota Pit over EG and PLG 2016 over CDEC. The arrival of high-level Korean Dota hasn't meant the end of the world for everybody else, but they are performing better and better. Their group stage performance, 6-8, was just good enough to clinch them a place in the upper bracket. They will need to work extremely hard to hold on to their lead, however, as they lost more games than any other team to make it this far.