The prize-pool for The International 6 has now broken the $18 million mark and the Dota world has become increasingly serious. Professionals have put their streaming to one side and begun to focus on practice and scrims in the lead up to what could be a life-changing event in early August. Valve sprung a surprise on the world when they only deemed six teams worthy of a direct invite and placed huge emphasis on the qualifiers, but the six that made the cut were clearly deemed worthy of a spot in Seattle.
Whilst there was some debate as to which teams would and should receive direct invites, there were three names that everyone had no doubt about. OG, Team Liquid and Newbee finished in the top three at Manila and had been consistently delivering top results across multiple huge tournaments. Undoubtedly were it not for the late drama involving both Team Secret and Evil Geniuses, the reigning champions from North America would have been handed a direct invite, and with Ludwig ‘Zai’ Wahlberg returning to the four role alongside Peter ‘PPD’ Dager they could yet be a force to be reckoned with. In the second part of our profile of teams at The International, we look at the four teams who head into The International with a huge chance of taking home the biggest prize in eSports.
When OG overturned Team Liquid in the final of the Manila Major they became the first team in the history of Dota 2 to win two Valve events. The addition of Seb ‘7ckngMad’ Debs as coach seemed to have worked wonders and helped them elevate themselves to a whole new level that their rivals simply could not match. Either side of their triumph in Manila, they won DreamLeague Season 5 and ESL One Frankfurt before a temporary blip earlier this month saw them finish second to Wings Gaming at The Summit 5.
OG fans will be hoping that it was merely a blip and the boys in green will continue their exceptional form and LAN performances at Valve events, in Seattle. With arguably the best support duo in the world: Andreas Franck ‘Cr1t-’ Nielsen and Tal ‘Fly’ Aizik, combined with 9,000 MMR record breaker Amer ‘Miracle-’ Barqawi it would take a brave man to bet against OG taking home the title at yet another Valve event. The experience of Johan ‘n0tail’ Sundstein and consistency of David ‘MoonMeander’ Tan rounds off a superb roster who are one of a very select few teams to still have the same roster since the Frankfurt Major. If the team are in the form we know they can produce, there will be very few able to stop them.
Kuro ‘KuroKy’ Salehi’s Team Liquid have forged a fierce rivalry with Team OG at the very highest level of Dota 2. Alliance and Na’Vi was dubbed ‘El Clasico’ around The International 3, but with OG and Liquid giving us some of the best series in recent Dota history this fixture may well be the new ‘El Clasico’. The recent trend of adding coaches to work on strategy and gain even the smallest of edges sees William ‘Blitz’ Lee and Lee ‘Heen’ Seung Gon take responsibility for perfecting Team Liquid’s drafts, strategy and execution.
Although Liquid managed to win Epicenter at the expense of both OG and Newbee, they fell to OG at both the Manila Major and ESL One Frankfurt. With their recent struggles against the boys in green, Heen, Blitz and KuroKy will have been working hard on ways to beat the seemingly unstoppable OG juggernaut. With OG’s run being put to an end by Wings Gaming at The Summit 5, they may have fresh ideas on how to overturn them. Their playstyle and drafts are often safe and predictable but their execution is superb and should they carry on their recent form they are sure to be right up there in August.
Historically, The International crown has been held by the East one year and the West another. Last year, Peter ‘PPD’ Dager’s North American EG took the crown meaning it’s back to the East to reclaim the title. Newbee won the biggest tournament in the calendar two years ago but the roster is now significantly different. They boast three previous winners of The International in ‘Hao’, ‘Mu’ and 'ChuaN' so the pedigree and experience is definitely there for all to see. At Nanyang a few weeks ago they beat the inform Wings Gaming squad to take home first place which may give the team the confidence boost required to elevate them to the normal level.
The way that recent tournaments have gone, it has often been the trio of OG, Team Liquid and Newbee competing for first place. We would expect the three juggernauts to be rigorously studied and other teams to elevate their performance to counter them and reach their level. Then again, if ChuaN and his squad can rekindle the kind of form that saw them break the record for most consecutive competitive wins the Aegis and lion share of the staggering prize-pool may well be on its way back to China this summer.
The reigning champions were forced to come all the way through the Open Qualifiers after switching roster just before the qualifiers were set to get underway. The roster is now an extremely familiar one, with Saahil ‘Universe’ Arora and Zai rejoining at the expense of Kurtis ‘Aui_2000’ Ling and Kanishka ‘Sam’ "Bulba" Sosale who made the switch to Team Secret. There’s now just one player different from their TI5 winning roster, and with many considering Zai an upgrade to Aui_2000 their roster could well ignite and storm through the tournament. Due to their lack of competitive game time together, teams will not have a huge amount of information on the current EG roster and their picks and playstyles. Should this give PPD a small edge in the draft phase he has the ability to exploit it to devastating effect.
If we add in the fact that the home crowd cheering on EG in the United States of America will be intimidating for opposition, the bleed blue boys could well be back in business.
If one thing’s for sure it’s that we should see some of the very best Dota that we have ever seen. Valve have balanced the meta perfectly, different teams have different approaches and we could even see a micro-meta develop during the tournament. The prize-pool will be the highest in history, so let’s hope that the top teams competing can match it with their gameplay.