The International 2018: Biggest Question Marks
Photo courtesy of Newbee
Shaky performances, restructured rosters, and shifting metas yielded a mixed bag of results for these five teams. At any moment these TI8 hopefuls could crash and burn or skyrocket to the top in a brilliant and dazzling spectacle. How will it all ultimately turn out for these five teams, that seem to be teetering on the precipice of the pinnacle of all Dota 2 events of the year?
In February, VGJ.Thunder announced the addition of long-time and highly decorated Chinese star Leong "ddc" Fat-meng to their lineup. ddc took the place of Fan 'ayo' Tianyou, who had been with the team since September, following the TI7 shuffle. The team had already been looking formidable and the addition of ddc to the lineup definitely brought the team to the next level. The support player brought along his 45 DPC points bringing the team to rank 17 at that time.
They then continued to climb the ranks from there, with a strong second half of the season. A spate of second place finishes at the Bucharest Major, GESC Indonesia, and StarLadder IMBA TV eventually brought them to eighth place and enough qualifying points to receive a highly coveted direct invitation to The International 8. However, the end of the season also saw them struggle in their last three big events and they just edged in for their spot.
VGJ.Thunder's hit-or-miss second half of the season leave their future and fate up in the air. Will they be able to hone in on their strategy and talent to show up with the knockout performances from March and April? Or will the losses and struggles seen at the end of spring and early summer haunt them?
The Pro Circuit 2017-2019 season didn't start out well for VGJ.Storm. The first half of the season was quite disappointing and littered with roster changes and shuffles in hopes to find a recipe for success. The start to the second half of the season in 2018 wasn't looking much better for the North American organization. Only two days before the roster lock in February, only one month after their latest changes, the entire roster was disbanded.
A string of solid performances leading up to and through the TI8 Open and Regional Qualifiers, including a win at the GESC: Thailand Dota2 Minor and a second place finish at the MDL Changsha Major gave them a much-needed boost in credibility and confidence.
A third-place finish just days ago at The Summit 9 prove they have remained steadfast in their results, but their performances were somewhat questionable as many fans watched them get absolutely shellacked by Evil Geniuses when it counted the most.
VGJ.Storm have shown their resolve and potential, but will that be enough in the crucial moments on the big stage? Was the initial surge of success with the new roster a honeymoon period that will start to fade out or will they be able to harness the energy that seemed to invigorate a struggling organization?
Current VGJ.Storm Roster:
Photo courtesy of Newbee
Newbee had a spectacular performance at The International 7, but it ended with them coming in 2nd place after a heartbreaking 3:0 defeat at the hands of Team Liquid. Lesser teams find themselves torn apart after narrowly missing a dream, but Newbee continued to the next season with the roster they believed in —that had come so close to the Aegis.
Automatically, they were invited to the first slew of DPC events and were spared the pain and challenges of competing in back to back qualifiers. Their first match of the new season was in October when they clinched China's LAN spot for DreamLeague Season 8. They had a mixed start of the season —taking points at ESL One Hamburg, DotaPit League, StarLadder iLeague Invitational 4, DreamLeague Sesaon 9, Bucharest Major, MDL Major and the titles at ESL One Genting and Perfect World Masters, but falling short with disappointing results at Starladder iLeague Invitational 3, ESL One Katowice, DAC 2018, EPICENTER XL, ESL One Birmingham and the China Super Major. If the start of the season was a bit stronger, the end of the season was definitely weaker.
Their run through the season was filled with peaks and valleys, a roller coaster of emotions and results on the road to TI8. While they were able to easily clinch enough points for a direct invite to The International 8, they had slid into seventh (out of eight) position for the qualifying points —a clear sign of a decline in performance compared to their peers.
The roster is the same as the one that amazed fans last August in Seattle. It's the same roster that could dominate in some DPC events but also the same one that couldn't find their way out of the group stage at times. That leaves many in the community wondering, what happens and which roster will show up to TI8?
Although Invictus Gaming was able to finish in the top six of The International 2017, the new DPC season didn't see the same success or positive results. With disappointing results in the first half of the season Yang 'END' Pu and Ou 'Op' Peng left the team, making room for Sun 'Agressif' Zheng and Sun ' Srf ' Runfa.
Since the addition of the two players, Invictus Gaming showed improvements in their DPC qualifier placements, appeared at DAC and China Super Major (albeit with lower results than they had hoped for) and took first place at WCA 2017. iG was the only team invited to the TI8 Chinese closed qualifiers, having successfully retained their roster which was locked in February.
Despite their relative stability, iG was barely able to squeak through the group stage, being thrust into a three-way tie with LFY and Keen Gaming for the final two spots in the playoffs and just one game ahead of Young Dumb.
In the playoffs, Invictus Gaming looked to be in much better form. They dominated over FTD 2:0 and took one match off the new sensations of China —Team Serenity. Having been dropped in the lower brackets, they then faced off against LFY for the final remaining spot for the region at TI8.
Under the guidance and tutelage of the legendary core player, Xu 'BurNIng' Zhilei, the team has talent, experience and insight needed to make an outstanding run at The International 8. The question is, will they put all of their tools to use and tap into the potential they have or continue along a hit and miss trajectory through the brackets?
Invictus Gaming’s roster:
Photo courtesy of BTS
After sub-par results in the season, Evil Geniuses made a shocking decision to cut loose Rasmus ‘MiSeRy’ Filipsen and Clinton ‘Fear’ Loomis two months ago, forfeiting their DPC points and being relegated to the TI8 open qualifiers. A chain reaction of events rippled through the pro circuit as less than a day later OG announced the departure of Tal "Fly" Aizik and Gustav "s4" Magnusson and EG announced their recruitment.
It was a transfer that left many fans scratching their heads and leaving a lot of lingering questions. Despite Evil Geniuses' star-studded lineup, the changes to the squad left little time for the new roster to find their form. Just days later, the new lineup debuted at China Super Major with disappointing results.
The team had mere weeks to pull themselves together if they wanted to claim a spot at TI8 and it looks like the NA giants were able to do just that. Their performance was spectacular, but many were still skeptical of what would translate to the big stage.
If Evil Geniuses' run at BTS Summit 9 is any indication, fans can rest assured that the team has proven themselves at a LAN. If history can be trusted teams that win a LAN before TI go on to claim the Aegis. Wings Gaming won Summit 5 before stunning everyone with their win at The International 6 and Team Liquid clinched EPICENTER 2017 before The International 2017. Evil Geniuses did it once before, winning Dota Pit League Season 3 less than a month before taking the title at The International 5. Can they do it again? Or will this be a case where lots of talent doesn't necessarily equate success?
Evil Geniuses 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 is over a staggering $22 million with just a few weeks left until the big event.