ARTICLE WRITTEN BY GUEST AUTHOR Benjamin "bkop" kopilow
It’s the best time of the year once again, it’s time for The International 2019! Eighteen teams will face off in the most exciting two weeks of Dota at the luxurious Mercedes-Benz Arena. Before we set sail in to the biggest event of the year, let us take a look at what teams are potential champions, what teams are in the middle ground, what teams take up the bottom of the barrel, and finally what teams have the potential to be a dark horse champion.
These are the teams that based on their seasons performance have the best chances of being the next TI champion.Team SecretDespite having an early exit at Epicenter after losing to a resurging OG, Team Secret has been performing on a consistent top level all year. Winning both the Chongqing Major and MDL Disneyland, Team Secret have shown they are the best team throughout the season finishing first in the DPC with 14400 points.It’s hard to find anything wrong with Team Secret and how they have been performing this year because they haven’t done much wrong and their only slip up was at Epicenter where they lost back to back series to Virtus.pro and OG. Nisha has shown to be one of, if not the best, carry players in all of Dota with an amazing team ready to fight with him. This could finally be the year that Team Secret lift the aegis and solidify one of the best years of Dota a team has ever achieved.Vici GamingTalk about a comeback story for the ages! Vici Gaming looked poised to make a roster shuffle while trying to qualify for the StarLadder Minor. They started the qualifier by swapping Fade for Agressif on day one but would still go on to fall into the lower bracket after a quick 2-0 defeat. Day two the team brought back Fade and the miracle run began! They would go on to 2-0 both Room310 and Team Aster to qualify for the Minor where they only lost one game throughout the tournament.With their victory at the Minor they would move on to the DreamLeague Major and continue their top tier performance in to a Major championship. They are currently the only Minor/Major champion and since then have gone on to win another major and make a very solid case on why they could lift the aegis this year.Virtus.proVirtus.pro seem to always be at the top of the DPC however haven’t been able to surpass a 5/6th place finish at The International the last few years. This season has looked a lot more promising for Virtus.pro with 4 top three finishes in the five majors this season and a lot more consistent performances overall.VP look to be coming in to The International in their usual form and that is something every team should hope to be ready for because as we’ve seen in the past when Virtus.pro is in top form its almost impossible to beat them. The only question that remains is will we see the early season unbeatable Virtus.pro that won the first major and place second at the following two or will we see the Virtus.pro that got eliminated early like we did at MDL DisneyLand?
middle ground teams
These are the teams that I expect to have a chance to make the top 8 if not better. Most of these teams have consistently placed in the top six and should finish in a similar spot at The International. While some of these teams have shown promise in my eyes, enough so that I think they have a shot at top 8.Evil GeniusesEvil Geniuses have found themselves in the middle of the pack despite having three third place finishes at majors this season. The reason I’m not as confident in them now as I have been throughout the season is because of their low finish at Epicenter.That being said, EG always seem to show up in time for TI. After last year's third place finish at The International they have seemed to keep themselves quite consistent throughout the year which seems to be the theme for teams that sit at the top in these rankings. As long as they are out of the funk that plagued them at Epicenter, I fully expect EG to place high at TI.Team LiquidTeam Liquid have had quite a resurgence towards the second half of the season and are coming off a second place finish at Epicenter with their new pickup of W33. Epicenter was the best we’ve seen this team perform all season and it came as a bit of a shock with the change from Matumbaman to W33 right before the tournament began. Immediately with the change at mid, this team seemed to click on all levels coming out of their group in first and making an upper bracket run where they would fall to Vici Gaming. If Liquid can keep up this kind of performance they seem set to finish in at least the top six or potentially finish even higher than that. PSG.LGDSticking with the theme of consistency, we take a look at the very consistent PSG.LGD. PSG.LGD have finished at least in 5th/6th at every major this season. Despite not winning any event this season PSG.LGD have looked like a stellar squad coming into the end of the year.Even with Somnus not being with the team at the DreamLeague Major and XM replacing him PSG.LGD was still able to secure a top 6 finish, showing how good each player on the team really is. PSG.LGD look to make it back to the finals this year and secure the aegis with a duo of strong supports in xNova and fy as well as being behind one of the best carry players in China, Ame.Ninjas in PyjamasNinjas in Pyjamas have sat in the middle ground throughout the season but have found themselves at the bottom of a few majors. Their most recent result at Epicenter had them finish in 9/12th and it wasn’t exactly a result many were expecting.With a top 6 finish at MDL DisneyLand many thought NiP would hold on to that form and take another top 6 at Epicenter. With the genius of ppd leading NiP we could definitely see a big turn around for them at The International and see more of the success that was present at the Kuala Lumpur Major even though that was with Mind_Control as a stand in.This team hasn’t made a roster change and that is always a factor when it comes to The International. Ace, ppd, and the rest of NiP look to bring what makes them an exciting team to watch and I would expect a top 8 finish in Shanghai.TNC PredatorTNC finished the year in solid form winning WESG, placing top 4 at ESL One Mumbai, and managing a top 4 finish at Epicenter. Epicenter was by far the best they had looked all season and this is another case of if they can hold their form, then we could see a top 6 finish at TI for TNC. During Epicenter, TNC’s Gabbi and Tims were playing the best I had ever seen them play and quite honestly gave me hope for their success at TI.This team now with the help of Heen and gaining the passive known as “The Heen Effect” look to come in to Shanghai and silence the haters. At this point I would also go as far as to say TNC are currently the best SEA team at The International considering their finish at Epicenter and Fnatic's consecutive bottom finishes at the last two Majors.OGOG limped into the top twelve of the DPC just qualifying for The International when they finished in the top 8 during Epicenter behind the heroics of Sockshka who was standing in for N0tail who was under the weather during the event. During the season OG finished top 6 at MDL DisneyLand and top 8 at Epicenter after ana rejoined the team in March.Before then it was a lot of experimenting for OG but during that time it became very evident that the team needed to be whole again with ana on the squad. OG are the returning champions and although they seem to be underdogs, they were even bigger underdogs coming into last year’s International.FnaticAt the beginning of the year Fnatic seemed to set in place that they were the best team from SEA but with a bottom 4 finish at both MDL DisneyLand and Epicenter, TNC have taken over that top slot in my opinion. What Fnatic have done better than TNC, is consistently qualifying for all five Majors but again with that being said, they did flunk out of the final two. If Fnatic can put all the pieces together and get back to their earlier season form we could see them finish in the Top 8 but that is a big question that we will only see get answered in time. Fnatic’s best performance came at DreamLeague earlier in the year with MP on the squad but with MP now no longer with the team Jabz moving to the carry role and DuBu going from coach to the 5 so many things are up in the air for this once dominant SEA squad.Keen GamingKeen Gaming have been hot and cold this year multiple times throughout the season. Losing in the Bucharest Minor early in the year but qualifying for DreamLeague and finishing in the top 6 as well as getting to the DisneyLand Major but failing to qualify for Epicenter. This team on its best days can take down the likes of Vici or LGD but then they could turn around and lose to FTD or Team Root.If Keen can give us their best days for TI then we could see them secure a top 8 finish easily but if we see them on their cold days it could end up being an early exit from the Shanghai stage.AllianceAlliance is one of the most interesting squads coming into TI this year just because of how long this team has stuck together to reach their goal of getting to TI. They made it in the 11th slot of the DPC standings finishing the year with a top 6 finish at Epicenter to solidify their spot at the biggest event of the year. It has been a long road to this mark for Alliance and now they want to cap it off with a top finish. Their results have been up and down all year qualifying for three majors but falling out early in two of them and having a top 6 at Epicenter. On top of this, they ran through a weaker pool of teams at the most recent Summit. For Alliance hopefuls, they want to see more of what they saw at the Summit but for everyone else we would be surprised to see them in the top 8 this year at The International. Chaos Esports ClubChaos Esports Club didn’t exactly make it through an already thinned out European qualifier which raises some questions about how good this team actually is. However, it's a squad that was still looking to find its chemistry which they seemed to have done when they entered the qualifier playoffs. With so many questions left unanswered about who this team really is and what they really bring to the table, I find it hard to properly rank them. With that in mind, Chaos Esports has a TI champion on their squad and four strong players at his side, so I do believe this team has a shot to be in the top 8.
bottom of the barrel
These teams have made their way to The International but have not given me enough in their results to make me think they will finish towards the top.NewbeeThe artists formerly known as Forward Gaming are now under the Chinese banner of Newbee and while they may have a new org and jersey the question remains whether or not this team can change the look of their performance. It’s been a rough year for this squad finishing towards the bottom of every event in the DPC they have participated in this season.Though their results haven’t quite shown it they have a stack of some qualified veteran players looking to prove themselves. This squad behind their captain Pieliedie are looking to finish towards the top this year and potentially lift the aegis but they will be seen as a long shot for sure.InfamousThe lone South American hope is here to represent its region and prove themselves at TI. Formerly known as Team Anvorgesa this squad is looking to shock the Dota world and show what they have to offer. It’s quite hard to really rank this team as we don’t know much about them other than a couple of early exits from past tournaments. It will be interesting to see this team in action on the biggest stage and we shall see what talent they really possess.Natus VincereNa’vi have always been a perennial fan favorite no matter what results they seem to post. This year has definitely been a struggle for Na’vi only making it to one major and flunking out of it finishing in the bottom four. This roster has been looking for answers all season and looking for a way to make it back to its former glory. Lead by Crystallize, Na’vi won the CIS qualifier on their first step to lift the aegis. I don’t have many expectations for this team to finish towards the top but the fans are hoping that this team can turn what seems to be a long drought finally around.MineskiMineski have really struggled coming into The International this year fighting through a full five game final against Team Jinesbrus in the SEA qualifier. With only two major appearances this season and a couple top 12 finishes Mineski don’t seem to hold the same prestige the once did.Their best finish this season came at ESL One Mumbai where they finished second losing to Keen Gaming 3-0. Unfortunately I don’t really see Mineski stepping up passed a top 12 finish at this year’s International but maybe with the addition of Nikobaby things can change for the better for this SEA squad.
Royal Never Give UpRoyal Never Give Up is my dark horse for the tournament. This stacked lineup has shown at times that they could be one of the top teams in China and have a roster that has shown a lot of promise. Despite not doing as well as some would have hoped during the DPC season, RNG has a lot of experience on the roster with players like Monet and LaNm who could guide this team to the aegis. RNG is a roster with players who have made great runs in previous Internationals and I wouldn't be surprised for them to be able to bring the magic back again and run towards a top 3 finish or even an all out victory. This is my team to watch and everyone should be ready for the RNG train, because it's coming. If you would like to know more about my work, you can follow me at KarYYou can head over to our Dota 2 hubfor more content.Headline image courtesy: Dota 2Images courtesy: ESL, Alliance,Virtus Pro, LGD, Red Bull, Newbee