The Dota 2 squad changes we never saw coming

Rosters are locked until after TI, and more than a few last minute transfers blindsided Dota fans.
Dota2 team wings celebrate winning the richest prize in eSports at The International 6
Wings win the biggest prize in eSports history © Valve
By Mike Stubbs

The prize pool is growing, the patch is here and more importantly the rosters are locked. The International 7 is looming and the giant Dota 2 tournament promises to be as amazing as ever. Last year's event was spectacular, but this year we're expecting bigger and better things still from Valve.

As we quickly head towards what will probably be the biggest eSports event ever, at least by prize pool, there's a lot for teams still to prepare, but one thing at least is now set in stone for every squad hoping to qualify – their line up. The roster lock deadline passed last week, meaning that teams wanting an invitation to the qualifiers, or the event itself, now cannot change their rosters.

As ever, we saw most of the big names stick together, with the teams closer to the cusp of qualifier invitations switching things up. Not every team stuck to convention however, and there were more than a few shocking roster moves we never saw coming. Former TI champions switched teams at the last minute, while organisations that have previously lifted the Aegis of Champions brought in unknown, untested talent. It was one of the craziest transfer periods we've seen in pro Dota’s short history so to get you up to speed with it all, here are the most unexpected transfers.

Wings (Team Random) disband despite near certain TI invite

If tradition has taught us anything, it's that every TI winner has been invited to the following year's event to defend their crown. The same is true of all Majors. Valve like to make sure that teams have a chance to defend their title, and so generally teams stick together or only make a couple of changes to their roster, confident of a guaranteed spot and share of that huge Compendium-fuelled prize pot.

This year it looked like Wings would get that guaranteed invitation after taking TI6, and even when the team members left the Wings organisation to become Team Random, they still looked on course to be invited. Even last place in Kiev probably wouldn't have changed that.

However internal issues saw the team disband and scatter across the Chinese scene. Chu 'shadow' Zeyu has ended up on Eclipse, which seemed like a last minute solution. It would be a surprise if they made it to TI. Zhou 'bLink' Yang and Li 'iceice' Peng are both without teams, and supposedly retired. Barring a shock open qualifier run, they will not be at TI. Finally Zhang 'Faith_bian' Ruida and Zhang 'y' Yiping both joined forces with EHOME, who will probably get invited to the China qualifier.

Alliance drop EGM, bring in Pablo

Alliance haven't been at the top of the scene for years, but their last line up seemed to be improving slowly, and could have made a run through the EU qualifier if things went their way. Depending on invitations, you would have expected them to make top three at least.

That seemingly wasn't good enough for Jonathan 'Loda' Berg and co, so they decided to say goodbye to Jerry 'EGM' Lundkvist, who won TI3 with the organisation. To replace him, they brought in the relatively unknown talent Axel 'Pablo' Källman. Pablo previously played on Horde, but other than that has never played close to the top tier before.

It remains to be seen if this new roster is an improvement over the last one, but this could be just what Alliance needed to make a good run at TI possible.

NA brings in some B)ears

NA Dota was in a weird place coming out of Kiev. Ignoring Evil Geniuses, who get direct invitations to everything, there were three main players: NP, compLexity and DC. DC had shocked the other two in the Kiev qualifier, but few would say they were a better team on paper. However DC and CoL clearly weren't happy with missing out on Kiev so they both made changes.

First off, DC kicked out Jimmy 'DeMoN' Ho, who pretty much put the entire roster together and led an incredible run at TI6 with his previous team, TNC. In his place they brought in Lee 'Forev' Sang-don, who was previously with B)ears. From here DeMoN then headed to CoL along with Feras 'Feero' Hroob, who was also on B)ears with Forev. This left Jaron 'monkeys-forever' Clinton and Eric '747' Dong looking for new teams, which they found in Team Red and Danish Bears (most of the former C9 roster).

While NP didn't go taking any talent from DC or CoL, they too picked up a B)ear. With Theeban '1437' Siva and Avery 'SVG' Silverman kicked prior to the Major, they decided to bring in Adrian 'FATA-' Trinks and long time Team Secret member Johan 'pieliedie' Åström.

The NA fallout

Yup, NA's roster moves were so complicated they they got two sections. With the NA teams set, some squads elsewhere were left without players and some top stars were without teams. Team Secret, who lost pieliedie to NP, brought in Yazied 'YapzOr' Jaradat, another former B)ears player to complete their roster. Meanwhile 1437, having been kicked from NP, decided to try and do a DeMoN and has joined forces with TNC Pro Team over in SEA just in time for another TI run.

Crescendo forms

With a lot of big names without teams, some of EU's best decided to band together at the last minute. Fresh from being kicked from Ninjas in Pyjamas, Troels 'syndereN' Nielsen formed Crescendo and will captain the team. Joining him are two former TI winners in the shape of EGM and Joakim 'Akke' Akterhall. Rounding out the roster is Steve 'Excalibur' Ye and Jon '13abyKnight' Andersen, who was the only member of the former Cloud9 roster not to move to Danish Bears. It would be a surprise if they made it to TI, but you can expect to see them in the EU qualifier.

The rest

NaVi's new look wasn't working out too well so they dropped Roman 'rmN-' Paley and brought back Akbar 'SoNNeikO' Butaev after failing to make Kiev. After missing the Kiev qualifiers entirel, Fnatic meanwhile finally found a full squad with Kim 'QO' Seon-yeop, Djardel Jicko B. 'DJ' Mampusti and Galvin 'Meracle' Kang Jian Wen coming in. That lasted all of a few weeks however before Meracle was benched in favour of Lai 'Ahjit' Jay Son. Finally to replace syndereN, NiP brought in former Heroes of Newerth pro Aydin 'iNsania' Sarkohi.

Phew. All clear? We'll soon find out which teams and players are left out in the cold in Valve's cruel and opaque million dollar game of musical chairs.

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