In August, sixteen teams will compete for what is likely to be the biggest prize pool in the history of competitive gaming. While the majority of these teams will fight for their spot through a series of regional qualifiers, six of the best have now received their direct invite—and, for the first time, the returning champions aren't among them.
OG, Team Liquid, Newbee, LGD Gaming, MVP Phoenix and Natus Vincere are the official invitees, with 2015 winners Evil Geniuses conspicuous by their absence. They've been relegated to the open qualifier, along with Team Secret, due to an eleventh-hour roster switch that fell outside of Valve's fixed transfer window. Breaking the rules means that they've got the longest possible road ahead of them in order to defend their title.
The spread of invitees demonstrates how dynamic and competitive the international Dota 2 scene is, particularly compared to other esports. OG is an independent squad that is less than a year old, handily earning their spot with two separate Major victories and another first-place finish at ESL One over the weekend. The new Team Liquid follow hot on their heels with a run of high-profile second place finishes and a win at Epicenter. Theirs is a similar story to OG—a new team with veteran experience at its heart.
Newbee are one of two prior International champions to be invited, but this is a very different squad to the one that rolled over the competition at TI4. The new Newbee showcases some of the best talent in the Chinese scene, and they enjoyed an extraordinary undefeated run earlier in the year that was only curtailed when they encountered OG—a team that has proved to be their foil more than once.
The new Na'Vi are the other former champions to get an invite to TI6, although only two members of that winning 2011 lineup remain—Dendi and Artstyle (and Artstyle was absent for the bulk of the team's most famous performances.) Na'Vi have emerged from a few long years of scene-wide roster instability as the surprise hope of CIS Dota, placing consistently well at LAN—more so than some of their better-regarded rivals.
Korea's MVP Phoenix and China's LGD are more questionable inclusions, but this reddit thread offers some sensible explanations. LGD's invite follows a recent trend of Valve inviting the top four from any official LAN to the next official LAN. MVP Phoenix, like Na'Vi, have a consistently strong record on LAN, which seems to factor heavily into Valve's selection process.
Teams without a direct invite will have to compete through four sets of regional qualifiers, with the majority of each region's best teams being invited to these instead: see the official site for the full list. Each regional qualifier has two open spots which will be filled through a run of open qualifiers taking place later this week. You can find more details about these here. It's well worth taking part—particularly if you're in Europe or the Americas, where you've got a greater-than-zero chance of facing Team Secret or EG. And getting stomped by them.