TI8 Starts Tomorrow; Here’s All You Need to Know About It
The International 8 is upon us. Starting tomorrow, 18 of the best DOTA2 teams in the world will slug it out for the highest accolade in the game; holding the aegis of champions. The first four days will consist of group-stage games followed by the main event which will be held at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. At this moment, the total prize pool stands at USD 24.2 million, a few hundred thousand lesser than that of last year's $24.7 million.
This is the first TI where the prize pool doesn't exceed the previous years'. Although this year's Battle Pass was exciting, it stirred up dissent among several players who felt that they got cheated. It'll take me another dedicated post to summarize why that happened. Long story short, this year's Battle Pass didn't offer as much value for money as previous years' did. Now, let's take a look at some of the teams squaring off against each other this year.
Last year's TI winners, Team Liquid is on their way to becoming the first ever team to win two TIs. Captained by seasoned veteran Kuroky, the team has an aggressive play style and a wide hero pool that is virtually impossible to draft against. The star player of the team, however, is Miracle~ whose legendary Invoker is considered the best in the world. He is easily one of the most mechanically skilled players and an absolute treat to watch. Although the team didn't win too many tournaments until the end of this DPC season, they managed to snag first place the China DOTA2 Supermajor and second place at Epicenter. Here's their full roster.
- KuroKy (Captain)
- Heen (Coach)
Team Liquid is easily poised for a top-eight finish, if not top four.
Virtus.pro finished their run with a whopping 12,372 DPC points by winning several tournaments such as the Birmingham Major and a few Minors. This was despite a mid-season substitution in which they traded their 4-position support Lil for Na'Vi' RodjEr. The team has a very aggressive playstyle, a vast hero pool on all their players and many different strategies, including the dreaded Ramzes666 Broodmother. Although they were bested by Chinese squad LFY last year, they come in as favourites this time solely by their solid and consistent performance. It's hard to pinpoint a single player whose playstyle stands out, as all of them seem to operate on the same level.
- Solo (Captain)
- Artstyle (Coach)
The Achilles heels of VP is performing on the main stage at a TI. The team has had a history of choking when it matters the most. Let's hope it's different this year.
LGD has been around long before the inception of DOTA2, and the Chinese squad has been home to several legendary players such as YYF, ZSMJ and Yamateh. However, they've seen very little success in previous TIs and are yet to play in a grand final. Earlier this year, they were acquired by French organization PSG, and their results have skyrocketed ever since, easily besting the likes of Team Liquid and Virtus Pro. The team went on to win MDL Changsha and Epicenter earlier this year and are third in the DPC rankings. The player to look out for in particular is their 4-position support Fy, who is widely regarded as the best Rubik player in the world. A seasoned veteran, Fy has been instrumental in taking PSG.LGD to where they are today.
- fy (Captain)
- QQQ (Coach)
As is tradition, every odd-numbered TI (Na'Vi, Alliance, EG and Liquid won TI1, TI3, TI5 and TI7 respectively) is won by a western team and every even-numbered TI (IG, Newbee and Wings won TI2, TI4 and TI6 respectively) by a Chinese organization. If the east-west tradition stays alive, PSG.LGD is one of the strongest contenders in the pool.
Formed by former Na'Vi captain Puppey, Team Secret was always an all-star team that sought the best talent in the world. The squad has undergone several roster changes over the years and has had its share of controversies (and broken monitors). Team Secret, much like VP, has a unique playstyle and can be difficult to draft against. Their results this year haven't been the greatest as they only managed to win Dreamleague 9 and placed fourth in the China supermajor. Their carry Ace is famous for his Meepo, and we can expect to see it in action this TI.
- Puppey (Captain)
- SunBhie (Coach)
Frankly, Team Secret's chances of winning TI this year seem low. They'll get a top-eight ranking, at best, before being bested by one of the many Chinese powerhouses.
The south-east-Asian team shocked the world when they beat several Chinese squads to win DAC this year. The squad was on the verge of disbandment before DAC, and the win helped boost their confidence. Led by veterans Mushi and Iceiceice (2014 DK never forget), Mineski placed fifth in the DPC rankings, securing them a spot in TI8.
- Moon (AKA Nana)
- ninjaboogie (Captain)
- 71 (Coach)
Mineski has the odds stacked against them, and their chances of making it even the top 8 seem grim, unless Mushi and Iceiceice can pull off some god-tier plays throughout the tournament.
TI4 finalists Vici gaming are one of the most inconsistent squads in the Chinese DOTA circuit. They're fairly talented and skilled but seem to lack what it takes to secure a victory, despite being led by two of the world's best support players; LaNm and Fenrir. Their carry Paparazzi is a two-time world 1v1 champion and has taken down the likes of Miracle~ with apparent ease.
- LaNm (AKA BigDickLaNm)
- Fenrir (Captain)
- Mikasa (Coach)
Normally, I wouldn't peg Vici gaming to win TI this year, but since this is China's year to win, it's hard to say. We can expect Vici to cause major upsets and knock out the likes of VP and Liquid, if not win the actual event.
(I'll add the low-down video once Valve uploads it)
TI4 winners Newbee have fallen far from grace since their TI win under the director Xiao8. Newbee managed to make it to the finals last year, only to get whitewashed 3-0 by Liquid. However, they got their revenge on Liquid at ESL One Genting in January, but their performances in other tournaments were hit and miss. Their mid player SCCC is one of the most mechanically skilled in the game and is known to make game-winning plays.
- Moogy (AKA uuu9)
- Faith (Captain)
- SanSheng (Coach)
If Newbee somehow manages to get their game together, they'll be the only organization to win 2 TIs. Like Vici gaming, the squad might not win, but will definitely cause some upsets in brackets.
Vici Gaming Jeremy Thunder (AKA VGJT)
Born out of Vici Gaming's scout squad, VGJT was formed when Jeremy Lin expressed interest in DOTA and partnered up with the squad to make two teams. The China-based VGJT is home to the duo of Sylar and DDC who have been around the Chinese scene for a long time. The team barely made it to TI8 and placed eight in the DPC rankings. Sylar is, and has been, one of the best carries in the game and is worth watching.
- Fade (Captain)
- rOtK (Coach)
It'll be a miracle if VGJT make is past the group stages, and even if they do, they'll get knocked out by the likes of LGD, Liquid and VP.
Originally formed as an all-star team, OG has seen little in the way of success in the past few years. After the departure of Miracle~, the team struggled to find a mid player who could operate on the same level as Mr. 9000 Matchmaking points. OG clawed their way through the European qualifiers after founder and former carry player n0tail went back to playing support. They even let go of former TI winner S4 and n0tail's partner in crime Fly to make room for Ana and Topson who would play position 2 and 1 respectively.
- 7ckingMad (AKA Ceb)
- N0tail (Captain)
- ppasarel (Coach)
A top-eight finish looks difficult for OG, who like VP has also had a history of choking at TIs. Like many others, the bane of their existence will be Chinese squads such as Newbee and Vici gaming.
Winstrike Team (FKA FlyToMoon)
Formerly known as Flytomoon, the Winstrike squad is a mix of CIS legends and newcomers who make for a very entertaining style of gameplay. One of the only teams to successfully run a mid-Pudge, Winstrike is a team to look out for as they enter this tournament with nothing to lose.
- Nofear (Captain)
- Sh4dowehhh (Coach)
The chances of Winstrike making it to the main stage is virtually zero, but the squad could very well channel their inner CIS spirit and cause an upset or two.
Team Serenity bears all the markings that CDEC and Newbee did in 2016 and 2014. A relatively unknown Chinese team consisting of mostly new players created for the sole intent of participating in TI. The squad was virtually unknown until they took down the likes of LFY in the Chinese qualifiers, securing them a spot at TI.
- Pyw (Captain)
Looking at the history of TI winning Chinese teams, Team Serenity fits right into the role of a team that could win it all. Or they could get knocked out in the group stages and not even make it to top eight. But, my gut still says that Team Serenity has the highest likelihood of winning TI8.
Invictus Gaming (IG)
The first ever Chinese organization to win TI, IG is nowhere close to recovering their former glory. They failed to secure wins at any major tournament this year and had to go through the Chinese qualifiers to secure their spot. The only thing IG has going for them is that they're coached by the legendary BurNIng.
- Q (Captain)
- Lpc (Coach)
- BurNIng (Coach)
Will BurNIng be able to steer IG to win a TI? Probably not. But, we can expect to see IG pull off some major upsets, if not anything else.
South America was largely ignored by Valve and didn't get a dedicated TI slot until recently. Pain Gaming, with the help of Romanian pub star (and TI6 finalist) W33ha managed to get a third place at ESL One Birmingham and a TI slot via the SA qualifiers. W33ha shot to fame with his Meepo gameplay and we can expect to see some this TI.
- Kingrd (Captain)
- MISERY (Coach)
SA DOTA is still in its nascent stage, and it'll be a while before teams from the region can catch up with the rest of the world. This is about as far as Pain Gaming will get and will very likely be eliminated in the group stages.
The North American DotA squad was a result of former EG captain and CEO PPD branching out to make another team. In its relatively short lifespan, OpTic has seen several roster changes. OpTic proved to be a force with Zai and PPD supporting throughout and even managed to snag Pajkatt his first LAN. They came incredibly close to qualifying for TI through the top 8 but were denied by VP and had to make it through the NA qualifiers.
- ppd (Captain)
The chances of OpTic making it to the top eight looks grim, but the grudge match between OpTic and EG is something you should look out for.
One of the oldest North American DOTA2 squads around, EG is easily one of the most well-known teams in the world. They shot to fame by winning TI5 with the legendary six-million-dollar echo slam. EG's mid Sumail was instrumental in snagging the team the aegis and is still one of the best mid players today. His Storm Spirit and QoP are still the best in the world.
- Arteezy (AKA RTZ)
- Fly (Captain)
- BuLba (Coach)
EG might have looked weak coming into TI, but the NA squad will at least make it to the top eight if not further.
Vici Gaming Jeremy Storm (AKA VJGS)
The second Vici Gaming team under the patronage of Jeremy Lin, VGJS didn't see much success until they acquired CIS superstar Resolution. They managed to place 2nd in groups at their first Major and make it all the way to the grand finals only to be clean-sweep by the Chinese titans, PSG.LGD. However, they snagged their first victory at GESC Thailand, but didn't rake up enough DPC points to qualify and had to slug it out in the North American qualifiers.
- YawaR (AKA YS)
- SVG (Captain)
- Clairvoyance (Coach)
VGJS is arguably one of the best North American teams in the region, besting EG and OpTic on several occasions. However, their true test lies at TI. It's hard to say how far the squad will go, and a top-eight finish seems like the best case scenario.
TNC Predator is the textbook definition of high-adrenaline DOTA. The south-east Asian squad is known for its hyper-aggressive playstyle and love to take team-fights all the time, sometimes to their own undoing. Always an entertaining team to watch especially at TI where they've historically given the viewers many upsets knocking favourites out of the tournament.
- Kuku (Captain)
TNC Predator might not even make it to top eight, but you can be sure that most of their games will be a bloodbath. Be sure to include at least one TNC player in your daily fantasy predictions for easy battle points.
I've saved the best for the last. Fnatic, under the watchful eye of the scientist-baffler EternalEnvy, will be the best team to watch this TI. Their run this season has been more or less consistent, thanks to Mr 10k MMR Abed and DJ making up for EE Sama's FiftEE-FiftEE moments. Much to everyone's surprise, Fnatic made it through the south-east Asian qualifiers with ease.
- pieliedie (Captain)
- Aui_2000 (Coach)
It doesn't matter where Fnatic places this TI, as long we get our fill of fiftEE-fiftEE moments.
TI8 All-Star Match
Lastly, this year's all-star match is a 5v5 format (without people from the audience). We can expect a mix of serious play and clown-ish moves as the winners net in a cool $1,00,000 of the prize pool. A healthy mix of Chinese and Western players goes a long way in bridging the divide between the two regions.