After two years of waiting, The International 10 is finally here, which means 18 of Dota 2’s best teams will be competing on esports’ biggest stage for their share of the $40 million prize pool.
For just the third time this year, top players from around the world will gather together in one location to play a tournament. The final premier event of the season will run from Oct. 7 to 17 to test their mettle and see who has what it takes to lift the Aegis of Champions.
Some teams have already proven themselves, placing highly not only in their regional competitions during the 2021 Dota Pro Circuit, but also by gathering experience against other top competitors at the OneEsports Singapore Major, WePlay AniMajor, and other bigger events. TI is where legacies are formed and moments that will live on as Dota legends are created, however, even if the lack of crowd might throw things off a bit.
Based on performances earlier this year, during the online era of the pandemic, and even dating back to previous TI appearances, here are our top picks for who will raise the Aegis this season.
Not every team can win TI and lift the Aegis of Champions, a reality that PSG.LGD is intimately familiar with, having placed second at TI8 and third at TI9. Though many would still count that as a success, failing to qualify for two Majors in a row the year after a third-place run was not.
A tumultuous 2020 saw that PSG.LGD roster try but ultimately fail to switch things up. A poor series of player swaps, trades, and recruitment ended with stalwart LGD players Somnus and fy leaving for Elephant in a big shakeup that affected the entire Chinese Dota 2 scene.
Despite the roster change and early problems, extraordinary play from some breakout stars XinQ and NothingToSay, Aegis-winning experience in y’ and Faith_bian, as well as veteran coach Xiao8, has helped change their fortunes. The team showed glimpses of their true potential at the ONE Esports Singapore Major, fighting all the way from the Wild Card stage to place third.
Elephant truly entered their stride at the WePlay AniMajor, crushing and styling their way to the title, beating Evil Geniuses 3-0. And even when missing NothingToSay, PSG.LGD achieved second at ESL One Fall 2021 and won the OGA Dota Pit Invitational in the leadup to TI.
PSG.LGD are the outright favorites heading into TI10, and they carry the heavy expectations of a region starved of a TI win since Wings Gaming won it at TI6. And in its own way, two Wings Gaming veterans helping LGD hoist its first Aegis would be a poetic end to such a chaotic year in Dota.
If PSG.LGD are the favorites, Evil Geniuses are the team that is coming into TI with the biggest chip on their collective shoulders following a season of success, marred only by a lack of actual title wins.
Further integrating Abed into the existing veteran core of Arteezy, Cr1t-, and Fly after a tough stretch was a key to unlocking the team’s potential. And iceiceice coming in and showing why he is one of the most revered names in Dota history only pushed the team even further beyond a ceiling that many thought was simply as a competitive team at the international level.
EG would end up being one of the top competitors at both the OneEsports Singapore Major and WePlay AniMajor this DPC season, dominating both events after making it into the main bracket. The team wound up finishing second each time, though, falling to Invictus Gaming and LGD in the grand finals.
EG has yet to even reach the finals of a TI since winning it all back at TI5 and finishing in the top three on three separate occasions. No players on the current roster have lifted an Aegis either, which means that the entire team is focused and ready to finally bring North America back to the top of the international stage.
Team Secret has a legacy of being a team blessed with regular-season success, only to have that blessing replaced with a curse as soon as Puppey and his roster take the main stage at TI.
Secret is known for breaking records, like Alliance’s 100-game record, dominating Majors, and then crumbling when things seem to matter most. This TI misfortune is usually preceded by a dominating series of events for Puppey and his team, but it seems like they might be able to flip the script this year.
While still a dominant force in Western Europe, Secret only managed to place fourth at the OneEsports Singapore Major before falling all the way to 16th at the WePlay AniMajor after being eliminated in the group stage. This placement shocked Dota fans everywhere, especially when they followed it up by placing ninth at ESL One Summer 2021.
TI10 will be the first time this iteration of Secret, which added another TI winner, MATUMBAMAN, to the roster post-TI9. Additionally, TI9 was the team’s highest placing TI ever, finishing fourth and showing that maybe, just maybe, things were starting to change.
Puppey hoisted his first Aegis at the original TI in 2011 with Na’Vi, and he has been hunting for his second ever since. And while his team is never one to be overlooked, Secret might have the most to prove of any team that isn’t named OG.
And speaking of OG… how do you ever count a team like this out? They’ve won TI twice—once as severe underdogs, and another through sheer dominance on par with the greatest teams in the competition’s history. With two changes from their back-to-back roster (ana for SumaiL and JerAx for Saksa,) the team still has several questions to answer, but they’ve earned the right for some of those doubts to be put on the backburner for the moment.
The team had mediocre results through the season, although some of it could be attributed to geographical conditions that saw some of their star additions in the offseason playing through high ping. A fifth-place finish in the first season of the Western Europe DPC was followed up by the return of the beloved ana. The team then finished in sixth-place in season two, only avoiding relegation through a tiebreaker.
Ana then left again, and SumaiL joined—again. Through it all, OG did not lose its core principles, managing to prevail through a gauntlet of West European teams, winning four games against Nigma and Tundra Esports with elimination on the line to qualify for TI10.
Ceb’s recent health scare will certainly be on many fans’ minds as they watch through the competition anxiously. Which OG will show up? Well, that’s why we are all going to be watching TI10, with OG scheduled to begin their campaign against Alliance on Oct. 8 at 4am CT.