The International 2018: The Underdogs
Photo courtesy of EPICENTER
Every year we share the honor of a thrilling experience. A team, against all odds, unexpectedly wins and begins leaping from their chairs to embrace one another in pure jubilation after accomplishing an achievement that maybe even they did not believe could be pulled off. They’ve just eliminated a contender. These emotions trigger something within themselves. Questions start running wild through their minds: “Can we actually do this?” Maybe, just maybe, they can do it once more. They do it, and again until finally, they find themselves in the Grand Finals.
Underdogs may not always advance quite this far, but this was the case for Digital Chaos at The International 2016. Anything is possible when the adrenaline is flowing and everything you’ve ever worked toward is on the line. Things suddenly become tangible and the emotions are glorious for players and fans alike. Team Serenity, OG, TNC Predator, Winstrike and paiN Gaming are our favorite underdogs for The International 2018. Let’s take a closer look at each.
This team may be the foremost qualifier shocker of any headed to The International 2018. Their resume does not paint a beautiful picture of the DPC season, but that also makes their sudden success and qualification to DOTA 2’s premiere tournament even more intriguing. The team can best be described as open qualifier warriors. They advanced to regional qualifiers for several tournaments, but never found a winning formula and ultimately a trip to any LAN until now. If a team could advance to a single LAN, one couldn’t pick any better than The International.
Team Serenity’s success in qualifiers came with heavy utilization of Phantom Lancer, Faceless Void and Morphling. In fact, they lost every single qualifier game without one of these heroes. The competition consisted of Invictus Gaming, LFY, and Keen Gaming, all of which had limited appearances during the DPC season. Most noteworthy Chinese teams from DPC earned direct invites during the season.
Team Serenity’s lack of an illustrious season can also provide a cloak of protection because there is very little known about the team. This gives them the benefit of surprise against more formidable teams who may overlook them. The best qualities of a good underdog are mystery, randomness, and motivation. All of these are possessed by Team Serenity.
Team Serenity roster:
Photo courtesy of OG
The big shock from OG is not that they advanced to The International 2018, but who they did it with on the roster. At the end of the season OG took it in the teeth after the departure of Tal "Fly" Aizik and Gustav "s4" Magnusson. They were forced to replace the duo in somewhat of a rush as TI8 qualifiers were approaching. In steps Anathan "ana" Pham and Topias "Topson" Taavitsainen to contest for Europe’s representation.
Although it may not fit their historical standards, OG looked phenomenal during qualifiers. Only one team was able to take games off them, and it was evident that Wind and Rain were a far cry from touching OG’s level of play.
Whether or not OG will be able to advance to the upper echelon of competitive DOTA teams remains undetermined. The dominance shown during qualifiers offers some assurances that this could be a possibility. Then again, competition in European qualifiers was not as significant this year as in years past. Do not be shocked if OG returns to prominence once more.
This team has had an infamous reputation for a while now. They’re characterized as a team that can take a series from anyone but lack the consistency to string those occurrences together to win an event. At the International 2016, they upset OG which provided one of the most dramatic experiences in The International history. At the International 2017, they shocked the group stages by emerging top four only to be beaten in two consecutive series in bracket play.
The DPC season was abysmal for TNC Predator considering they failed to even reach top 16. TNC Predator’s shortcomings are more a testament to the increased competition in the Southeast Asia region. Qualifiers were dominated by Fnatic and Mineski. Consequentially, this left TNC with limited LAN opportunities.
Many analysts, commentators and DOTA 2 personalities alike have been coveting the day that this team can scrape together the consistency to display their dominance. TNC Predator has a reputation for creating waves at The International and we suspect that this year will be no different. We’ll have to wait in anticipation to see the exciting drafts Carlo “Kuku” Palad will have in store for us.
TNC Predator Roster:
Photo courtesy of EPICENTER
Formerly known as Fly To Moon, Winstrike presented themselves later in the DPC season as a possible alternative to Na’Vi and Virtus.pro for the CIS region. Their first appearance was at Starladder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5, but their peak performance was at EPICENTER XL where they nearly eliminated Team Liquid and finished in third place. By the way, they also eliminated Virtus.pro, OG and paiN Gaming, all of whom will be at The International 2018.
Team Winstrike advanced through qualifiers relatively easily. The only roadblock encountered came from ESPADA, but by the end of the Grand Finals they too fell by the wayside. Winstrike Team won their games with a high emphasis on Lycan and Phantom Lancer but required neither for any win in the Grand Finals. If Epicenter XL is indicative of the future performance from Winstrike Team, do not sleep on them at The International 2018.
Winstrike Team roster:
Since the arrival of Omar "w33haa" Aliwi, paiN Gaming has been breaking necks with the number of heads their turning. At ESL One Birmingham 2018, they beat Team Liquid in a best of one and a best of three to secure their spot in the playoffs. Here they swept Mineski, also at The International 2018, before being eliminated by Virtus.pro and ending their run in third place.
South America qualifiers had its fair share of controversy, but hands down had the most electrifying Grand Finals of any region. After acquiring the edge in game one paiN Gaming and SG esports went back and forth until the pain gang took their final advantage in game five. Often these experiences of being tried and tested bode well for improving a team’s synergy and morale. They’ve already had their taste of what The International entails and this will aid them in their quest.
paiN Gaming roster:
The International 2018
The International 2018 is set to begin on August 15 and scheduled to run through August 25. For the first time ever, The International will be held in Vancouver, Canada with a total of 18 teams competing. Currently, the prize pool sits just shy of $20 million after a significant increase from the weekend bundle sale.
What do you think about our underdogs? Do you agree, and if not, who do you think is the biggest underdog? Feel free to comment as you see fit.