The International 2018: The Challengers
Mineski, Vici Gaming, Optic Gaming and Fnatic are headed to The International as challengers of the Aegis. For these teams, they all meant business and only have one goal in mind – to win The International and no other.
Photo Courtesy of Perfect World
To be able to play and participate in The International is a privilege and not a vested right. These teams will not be content with merely participating in the event, having a share in the prize pool, or being in the top 4. They all have their eyes on the prize and attending The International is only their initial step to take home the trophy.
Most of the players had disappointing performances with their previous teams in the last season let alone qualifying or making a significant stride in The International 2017. Lessons were learned. Sacrifices had been made. Finding the winning formula and the competitive desire to win has driven these teams to revamp rosters, adjust playstyles, and for players giving up their already comfortable space in their home countries. Their performances over the last season have proven that they are more than capable and ready to give the top contenders and favorites of The International 8 a run for their money. They are in fact, perhaps the biggest challengers that will step foot on the stage and potentially bring home the Aegis of Champions.
Photo Courtesy of Perfect World
It was a long road for Mineski since they experienced a 6-year drought to qualify in The International 2018. The last stint they had was the first TI in 2011. With this in mind, the team focused on building a team to compete for TI. Thus, the team had revamped their roster under the leadership of Chai ‘Mushi’ Yeefung in March 2017. The team had a disappointing qualifier run and failed to qualify in The International 2017 which paved way for another roster shuffle.
At the start of the 2017-2018 DPC Season, the team wasted no time to overhaul their lineup. The team brought in former team Faceless members Daryl Koh ‘iceiceice’ Pei Xiang and Anucha ‘Jabz’ Jirawong who also had a fair share of frustrating performance in the regional qualifiers to qualify for TI7. To complete their line-up, they also had Kam ‘NaNa’ Boon to join the team.
When all the pieces were in place, the team prioritized gathering enough DPC points to qualify for TI8 to end the long drought. They concentrated in qualifying for the Major Tournaments even dropping out in Minor Tournaments such as Dota Pit and Dream League. They even withdrew from the Galaxy Battles when it lost its Major Status.
The start of the season was promising as they managed a 2nd place finish in the StarLadder Invitational Minor against the TI7 Champions. They bounced back from this finals loss as they took home the trophy in the PGL Open Bucharest Minor. After which, they had dismal performances with their other LAN events. Instead of forming a new line up altogether before the roster lock, the team stuck with the players and brought in renowned Coach Wen Yi “71” Tang. The team modified their strategy by retaining the SEA aggression but coupled with objective-based line-ups. Later on, they made history for being the first SEA team to win a Major Tournament during the DAC Championships.
The 2017-2018 season has been the year for Mineski. Patience paid off for the squad as the team qualified for the International by finishing 5th place in the Dota 2 Pro Circuit standings. Will they make another history as the first SEA team to win the International? Or will Mushi be denied another Aegis again?
Photo Courtesy of Perfect World
Vici Gaming is one of the most consistent teams during the DPC season. The team prides itself to be a winning organization as they placed 2nd in The International 2014 and 4th in The International 2015. However, for the last iteration of TI, a disastrous season failed them to qualify for The International 2017. This led the organization to reorganize the roster by acquiring former IG Vitality’s carry Zhang ‘Paparazi’ CHengjun, former EHOME players Ren ‘eLeVeN’ Yangwei, Zhang ‘LaNm’ Zhicheng and former Vici Gaming J. player Lu ‘Fenrir’ Chao. Only Zeng ‘Ori’ Jiaoyang was retained in the team to complete the squad.
Since the reshuffle, the team did not change their roster all the way to qualifying for TI8. Their formula for success would entail confidence in each other’s abilities and trusting each other even at the thick of things. At the start of the season, they had a bigger picture in mind by claiming the Aegis. They continued to learn from their mistakes and capitalized on it to become better as a team. The team finished 6th in the DPC rankings.
Just short of a championship title, the team was able to have significant placements in the Dota Pit Minor, Perfect World Masters, Captain’s Draft and ESL One Katowice, for finishing 2nd in all these tournaments. They also placed 3rd in the MDL Changsha Major. Vici Gaming is not content anymore with a second place finish. This time they might be able to win it all in the biggest stage.
Vici Gaming Roster:
Photo Courtesy of StarLadder
One of the notable headlines after The International 2017 was Peter 'PPD' Dager's comeback in the Dota 2 scene as a player. Before that, his participation in TI7 was being part of the broadcast for the TI coverage and CEO for Evil Geniuses. Alongside ppd who joined the coverage as analysts where Quinn ‘CC&C’ Callahan and Per Anders Olsson ‘Pajkatt’ Lille. Maybe, it was then they realized their innate call of being a professional player. Right after TI 2017, Ppd formed Team Dire having him and Misery at the helm. OpTic Gaming then acquired Team Dire which was the start of the roller-coaster ride for the team to qualify for the International.
For CC&C, the motivation was high to compete as he was delegated watching in the stands wherein he was a series away competing for the biggest event when he was with Team Freedom. Equally motivated is Pajkatt when he was dropped out of Team Navi when the team failed to qualify for TI 2017. Ludwig ‘Zai’ Wahlberg had a rather convincing run with Evil Geniuses but not to mention TI 2017. This prompted the young player to leave the team and later on joined OpTic.
The team struggled with finding the appropriate synergy to carve out the best results. One of the team’s troubles would be finding the perfect fit for both the support positions. The team even had a stand-in with Kartik ‘Kitrak’ Rathi in the Midas Mode Tournament. To improve the potential of the team, OpTic officially acquired Saksa in place of Misery. It should be noted that both players are renowned in their positions as support duos for being TI runner-ups. However, the setbacks still persist for the team as they did not acquire significant wins even after the roster change. Thus, the team opted to replace Saksa and pinned their hopes to Neta '33' Shapira to round out their roster.
OpTic Gaming seemed to have found the line-up to compete in TI8. But their problems continued for having subpar results in the qualifiers or tournaments. The team found the right formula by swapping the roles of Zai and 33 (from offlane to position 4 support and vice versa). 33 had been playing the offlane position even before joining Optic, while Zai played the support role for EG. It was only a matter of time the team found the correct synergy which translated into wins, grand finals for a Major and even a championship title under their belts. Even after falling short of the DPC points, they survived the season and qualified for TI8 in the NA qualifiers.
Throughout the season, the team opted to trust the process. A renewed confidence for all the players under the tutelage of their Captain could eventually be their blueprint to success. Even after all the struggles, the team overcame all adversity and eventually found ways of winning. With the momentum on their side, the team might be ripe enough to win the crown. Will ppd lead the young squad to win the International?
OpTic Gaming roster:
Photo Courtesy of ESL
During the DPC season, Fnatic was at the center of controversies and drama from the community. Despite all the distractions, the team forged their way to The International by earning the first spot in the SEA qualifiers.
After a dismal performance during The International 2017, Fnatic overhauled their roster during the 2017-2018 season for the team to have a competitive edge in TI8. For them, winning games did not matter as long they could get a shot at the coveted Aegis of Champions. The TI7 squad showcased SEA players. This time, the team crossed borders with a mix of Philippines, Europe and NA players. Fnatic would then rely on the teamwork of Jacky ‘Eternal Envy’ Mao and Johan ‘pieliedie’ Åström who are longtime teammates. To complete the roster Steve 'Xcalibur' Ye also joined the team but for a brief stint. Despite a talented heavy lineup, Fnatic would bank on Abed 'Abed' Yusop’s skill replacing Xcalibur, in carrying the load for the team.
The team struggled to find their niche and cohesion during the season. Fnatic replaced long-time offlaner Chong Xin ‘Ohaiyo’ Khoo with Saahil ‘UNiVeRse’ Arora just in time for the roster lock. From the said change, the team was able to find their stride by finishing 2nd at DreamLeague Season 9 and 4th at ESL One Katowice 2018. Nevertheless, the team still had issues regarding cohesion and shot calling. Thus, the team’s former Coach Adam ‘Adam/343’ Shah temporarily replaced pieliedie in the lineup as a substitute for StarLadder Invitational 5. Instead of changing the lineup after the roster lock, the team retained pieliedie in the hopes of receiving a direct invite to TI with the DPC points.
After ESL One Genting where their placement result was from 9-12th place, Fnatic continued to show signs of improvement. Even though they were not able to seal their invite with the DPC points, the team flawlessly took over the SEA qualifiers and succeeded to participate in The International.
Even after constant roster reshuffling, Djardel 'DJ' Mampusti would be the only player to remain in the organization after the post-TI7 shuffle. After a top 4 finish in The International 2016, he knows that the Aegis could be well within their grasp. The late addition of Kurtis ‘Aui_2000’ Ling as coach would be a great help having 2 TI champions in the line-up together with Universe. Who knows Fnatic might have something up in their sleeves and rely on another Universe's TI-winning initiation (Blackhole? Chronosphere? Another Echo Slam?).
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 is now close to a staggering $22 million with just a few weeks left until the big event.
Will one of these teams win The International?
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