The International 2017 is just around the corner and now is the time to have a better look at participating teams. This International feels different to the previous ones, with so many teams capable of claiming the Aegis. There seem to be no clear favorites and no clear outsiders at the tournament.
The six-region division for the qualifiers also allowed for greater diversity during the tournament and for the first time we have a competitor from South America at TI. While many might disregard Infamous、, they are indeed in the dark horse position and we all remember what happened at Frankfurt Major, where a South American team was underestimated.
The dominant force of the South American region is relatively unknown internationally. They can’t boast great LAN performance at premier events, with a last place at Galaxy Battles and mid-pack placements at smaller events: TI qualification can be considered their biggest achievement. They lack experience, that is certain, but they don’t lack talent.
Previously, it was really hard for SA teams to qualify for an international event. They were always a part of the Americas region and as such had to play on NA servers, suffering from higher pings and unstable connection. Not only does it result in an objective disadvantage, where all your actions happen at a delay, but it also affects the players psychologically: having a solid plan fail because of external factors and not personal mistakes gets irritating really fast. Moreover, knowing about these issues restricts the available roster of heroes — playing Ember Spirit effectively with a 100+ ping is close to impossible.
Despite that, a team led by Accel once qualified for a Valve event. Not only that, but they managed to eliminate Newbee and place higher than both Cloud9 and Fnatic. No longer being the captain doesn’t stop him from sharing experience with his teammates and it certainly shows, given the growth of the team in the recent past.
SUPERBENJAZ is another Dota veteran, though his experience has been restricted to the SA scene only. He’s been an active professional Dota player for at least 3 years and it shows in his calm and calculated approach to the game. He is not the star of the team, but rather its backbone.
Speaking of stars, Timado definitely fills this position for Team Infamous. A young, talented player made a lot of progress playing professionally and can be safely considered a top tier mid. Much like Sumail in his early days, Timado focuses on winning the lane from the opponent, rather than playing it safe, and sometimes it costs him dearly. Fully coming back into the game after a bad start is still hard for this young player, but he will always have an impact, regardless of conditions.
Infamous won SG e-sports 3:0 to qualify for the International. The latter confidently eliminated Team Secret in a full bo3 at the recent Kiev Major. The rules of transitivity are rarely straightforward in Dota, but one thing is certain: underestimating this team will be a big mistake.
At first glance Digital Chaos looks like a mix of strong players, rather than a team. Further investigation only supports this theory: Digital Chaos has great raw talent, but they lack cohesion. Consisting of two former MVP players, NA veteran Bulba, young prodigy Abed and Mason this team was definitely struggling in terms of communication and it showed during their qualifier run, with moments of brilliance followed up by complete blunders.
Teams centered around single star player rarely lived up to expectations and it could be the case with Digital Chaos as well. Abed might be the strongest player MMR-wise, but it doesn’t guarantee that he will consistently win the lane or that he will always have an impact. It took Miracle- some time to adjust to the professional scene and Abed is currently going through a similar process. He is amazing as an individual player, but often not on the same page as the rest of the team.
Long history between DuBu and Forev make them the most solid part of the team. They serve as a team’s foundation, as most of the successful teamfights start from the initiation from the latter. And when the stars align and the follow up is there the team can do amazing things:
Unfortunately, not every team will allow Digital Chaos to have a good initiation angle and in the more chaotic fights, where the tactics is not so clear-cut and team decisions have to be made on the fly, they might struggle.
Cloud 9 is the dark horse of the tournament. It is by all means a team and they definitely showed it during the qualifier run. However, there is always the EE-factor.
EternaLEnVy is an interesting player. At his best there are very few people who can match his skill. At his worst, he makes spectacular miscalculations and fails so hard it is actually amazing. Luckily for the team, at least during the qualifier run, the ratio of EE-1 to EE-2 definitely shifted in favor of the former.
On top of it a support duo of Aui_2000 and PieLieDie works like a clock, enhancing the stability brought by Fata. This stability seems like a key to unlocking the full potential of EternalEnvy. Not only do they allow him to almost always have a good, uninterrupted early game, but they also cover up for his mistakes when needed.
And then there is MSS. At this point he is pretty much the second star player of the team, almost always capable of finding farm on his offlane and having a massive impact on the game regardless of circumstances. While PieLieDie, Aui_2000 and Fata lay the foundation, MSS brings the extra oomph, when Envy doesn’t feel particularly oomphy.
Cloud 9 is going to be one of the more interesting teams to watch. An extremely volatile team who is capable of both winning TI and being eliminated in the first round of playoffs. The ultimate dark horse filled with experienced and driven players will surely amaze us in one way or another.
Of all teams, Execration has the least big LAN experience. They are also quite inexperienced as a team — their roster was fully formed 4 days before the qualifiers for TI7, forcing them to go through open qualifiers.
The last bit of info can be seen as both a good thing and a bad thing, however. On one hand, you have a roster of players who didn’t have much chance to play together as a team and develop team strategy and perhaps more importantly, team rapport. On the other — they managed to place third in a highly competitive qualifier despite their issues, overcoming both Team Faceless and Mushi’s Mineski.
Led by team veteran Leumik (former Kim0), who has been on the roster for over over 3 years, the SEA squad will have a lot to prove. Fortunately, they have means to do so: XctN.Nando is a young, but promising player who is extremely flexible and can easily switch roles with James when needed, to potentially catch the opponent off-guard.
Both RR and Leumik are experienced players who know Dota very well and can play very selflessly. RR is often worthy of highlights in his support position for his bold initiations. Sometimes it puts the team in a bad position, however more frequently it allows them to pull off amazing stunts:
To be perfectly honest, Execration looks like one of the weaker teams at the tournament. Despite being strong on paper, they are still a relatively new squad during TI individual talent means a lot less than the ability to play as a team. Potential stress and nervousness from performing on a big stage will only exacerbate the issues the team has. Though it might be the case that the crowd and high levels of stress is exactly what the team needs to perform better.
Second place of the SEA qualifier is a team filled with both talent and experience. Four of them competed in TI6, with DJ and Ohaiyo placing 4th last year, eliminating their future teammates: QO and Febby. The latter don’t seem to hold a grudge, however, as the team’s been working like a clock recently.
Current Fnatic looks like a team which just started gaining momentum. They’ve oiled their gears, sorted out internal issues and now move forward with focus and dedication. After fully committing to QO playstyle, they finally started performing they way they should perform on paper.
With this level of experience, the question of stress gets blown out of the window: the team might lose, but not because they choked. This immediately puts them in a favorable position, compared to many other teams. Moreover, by acquiring QO they’ve pretty much made a statement: we are going to play aggressively no matter what. As such, the question of strategy got blown out of the window as well.
It might seem like a purely bad thing for the team — flexible teams often perform better and get better results. However, this dedication to a playstyle, driven by an insatiable Korean beast, can be a good thing — no one will be able to dictate how Fnatic plays, they will not yield to counter-picks and won’t ever second guess themselves. And because of that, they might come out on top even in situations where they really shouldn’t:
Star level supports DJ and Febby, coupled with explosive QO and extremely stable Ohaiyo and Ahjit — the team is very similar to recently discussed Cloud9, with Mid and Carry players switched around. We will soon know which approach works better.
Three out of five player on TNC are the same players who placed 7-8th at the previous TI. The team still has Raven — an extremely efficient farm-oriented carry, backed up by an aggressive star-player KUKU^ and SamH. All three cores of the team are still there and it is only the support roster that got changed.
Their time with DeMoN certainly helped the team, since they were the dominant force in the region for the whole year, constantly battling it out against Team Faceless. During this period they’ve grown into a well known and highly respected organisation, which, given the chance to qualify for a LAN, would almost always perform very well, even winning WECG and placing third in Galaxy Battles.
Once again picking up a NA legionnaire as their captain, they have managed to tame the natural explosiveness of their roster and allow for some strategy and tactics to come into play. 1437 is regarded as one of the strongest leaders for a reason — while DeMoN fully committed to the chaotic playstyle of his team last year, Theeban looks to grow it into a more flexible and calculated unit. And to a large extent he is already succeeding at it.
With their kryptonite, Team Faceless, eliminated from the tournament, TNC now has great chance to prove themselves as not only the strongest SEA team, but also a real contender for the Aegis.