The underdogs to watch at the Kiev Major

With all sixteen teams locked in we look at some of the new faces who you shouldn’t count out.
TNC lift the trophy at the WESG tournament
TNC head in an underdog but don't count them out © WESG
By Mike Stubbsy

After the best part of a week of solid Dota 2 action we finally know the sixteen teams that will be competing for a share of the $3 million prize pool at the Kiev Major next month. The action across all the regions was intense, and with South America and CIS getting their own qualifiers for the first time we got to see even more teams shine in the regional events, which threw up quite a few surprises.

With many of the big names either being invited to the competition directly – or crashing out early in the regional qualifiers – there are more than a few new teams heading to Kiev, and many of them can be considered underdogs. That's not to say that the teams that made it out of the qualifiers don't stand a chance all together, but it certainly won't be easy when many of the invited teams have been doing so well recently.

Either way, going in unprepared is a bad idea for any team, or spectator for that matter, and with so many new faces set to play on the Kiev stage we have taken a look at some of the teams you could consider underdogs for the tournament. If Ad Finem can take second in Boston, there is no reason why one of these teams couldn't go all the way and take home $1 million.

Team Onyx

With both Evil Geniuses and Digital Chaos grabbing direct invitations to the major many assumed that the North American qualifier was a two horse race between Team NP and compLexity. However Team Onyx, headed by NA Dota legend Jimmy ‘DeMoN’ Ho spoiled the party and took home the final slot for NA, beating compLexity in the final thanks to a clutch Meepo pick.

Onyx is DeMoN’s new project after his epic SEA adventure last year, and he has managed to combine experience and people from both regions to build what is one of the most exciting teams to watch in the world. NA stalwarts Kanishka ‘BuLba’ Sosale and Mason ‘mason’ Venne provide experienced minds while Kim ‘DuBu’ Doo-young brings a unique perspective from his years playing in the hyper aggressive MVP Phoenix team.

The real star of the show, however, is Abed Azel ‘Abed’ Yusop. The 16-year-old player rose to fame as part of the Execration squad last year, but when Jimmy jumped back to the States he brought Abed with him, and it seems to have paid off. Abed is best known for his Meepo play, and is considered by many to be the best in the world. This had led to many teams being forced to waste a precious first phase ban on the hero, or as compLexity found out, to lose quickly to it.

TNC Pro Team

© Beyond the Summit

TNC has been the success story of SEA over the past few months. It all started when DeMoN joined them just before the TI open qualifiers, and managed to guide them all the way to the top eight at the biggest event of the year. The team split after TI, but three of the members rejoined at the end of last year, adding Timothy ‘Tims’ Randrup and Ryo ‘ryOyr’ Hasegawa to the team. Since then they have won the WESG competition and proven to be a threat in many international events.

The addition of Tims has been something of a revelation for the team. While Tims has long been a leading member of the SEA scene he has never really been the star of a team before. However in TNC he has established himself as one of the best Earth Spirit players in the world, and much like Abed, teams are forced to ban the hero against TNC, giving them a significant drafting advantage.

Factor in the other rising players, such as the always entertaining, both in game and out, Marc Polo ‘Raven’ Luis Fausto and the hugely underrated captain Carlo ‘Kuku’ Palad and you can see why they have done so well.

They certainly aren't an unknown quantity like some teams heading to Kiev, but poor performances in the SEA region may leave some teams expecting an easy win, and that is just never the case when TNC play against international competition. SEA teams may have them figured out, but the rest of the world certainly hasn’t.

SG e-sports

© Dota 2 Tournaments TV

Speaking of unknown quantities, that is exactly what SG e-sports are. The Brazilian team made it through the new South American qualifier, despite only forming back in November 2016. Many of the players have been around for a while, with many of them playing at one point or another in PaiN Gaming, one of the more recognisable South American organisations, but none of them have made it to many major LAN events, outside of the WESG finals earlier in the year where they took 5th-8th place.

While at a glance they don’t seem to be quite on the same level as the other teams in the competition their skill should not be underestimated. They only dropped four maps in the entire SA qualifier, one to Infamous and three to Not Today across three best of threes, two names that should be familiar to those who follow the American Dota scene. Their performance in the qualifier was certainly impressive and while may have already locked them in for last place they certainly have some upside potential.

Invictus Gaming

It feels weird to say that a team with Xu ‘BurNIng’ Zhilei on it is an underdog, but thanks to IG’s recent struggles that certainly feels like the case these days. The core IG squad hasn't played in a major event since The International 5 back in 2015, and has struggled to compete in the China region for ages. In fact the organisation’s youth team IG.Vitality has been the dominant squad for quite some time.

However the current roster, which features BurNIng and a ton of young talent, have proven themselves to be quite the contenders for the Kiev title. They have finally started to make it to LAN events, and have consistently been beating many of the top teams. At their only recent international LAN, Dota Pit, they took a game off OG, and beat Team Secret, eventually taking fourth. Since then they have only improved.

The team is certainly known to be a potential threat, but it would certainly be a surprise to see them go all the way. They are yet to prove that they can beat the best western teams, even if they have consistently beaten the best China has to offer.

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