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OG have finished the sequel to last year’s Cinderella story by taking another International crown and becoming the first team in Dota 2 history to win the tournament twice.
OG’s storyline undoubtedly dominated the TI headlines once again. Gathering the same roster of players to contest the Aegis, the defending champions weren’t the favorites heading into TI9 for several reasons, including Anathan “ana” Pham’s six-month holiday and their mediocre results throughout the season. But the moment they played their first game in Shanghai, all doubts were dispelled.
Teams have dominated TI before, but not like how OG did it this year. TI3 champions Alliance executed their strategy and drafting to clinical perfection, going 18-0 before losing their first game to Xu “BurNing” Zhilei’s legendary Anti-Mage and only losing two more to Natus Vincere’s similarly renowned captain, Clement “Puppey” Ivanov, and his drafting abilities. TI6 champions Wings Gaming dominated the competitive season, showing off their immensely deep hero pools and unpredictable strategies.
OG added another layer to it all: an X-factor of complete and utter trust in each other’s playstyle, no matter how unorthodox or weird. When they were defeated, they adjusted instantly and appropriately. Even if they fed and made mistakes, it merely seemed like a contribution to the greater cause. If the opponents cried “Eureka” and attempted to pull out a counter, OG simply laughed and gave them another problem to solve. All too often, the European powerhouse bullied their opponents into submission like a prizefighter on holiday in Shanghai.
Instead of slaving to the meta as so many teams have done, they played with childlike love and enthusiasm for the game, executed with fearsome precision and top-of-the-line mechanical skill from every player. No matter the hero, no matter the position, if an OG player thought it might work, they tried it. And way more often than not, it did.
Last year’s OG were on the verge of defeat so many times that the community called their win a fluke. This year’s OG were so dominant that you felt bad for the teams that had to be on the receiving end of an inevitable beatdown.
Even so, OG’s grand finals opponent, Team Liquid, deserve immense respect and recognition for their TI9 run. Poor performances in the group stage meant Liquid started the main event with a best-of-one in the lower bracket against Fnatic. Going from strength to strength, they knocked out six teams on their way to contest the Aegis. The fact that OG were able to take down this team so easily is more a testament to OG’s aptitude rather than Liquid’s weakness.
Infamous turned heads at TI9. The South American squad entered TI as virtual unknowns but played every game like they were the best team in the world. They were unafraid to pick for comfort rather than meta. Only three teams dared to pick the Monkey King, for example, and only two won with it: OG and Infamous.
The Peruvians also brought out a mid Riki in an elimination series against Team Secret. Despite losing with it, it’s clear that Infamous knew their chance to win the game was to play their own brand of fiesta Dota, not pandering to the meta. Infamous still managed to achieve a top-eight placing at TI9, winning the hearts of many.
Although there were several overachievers at TI9, there were also many teams with disappointing performances. Secret might have achieved their highest placing (fourth), but the all-star squad will feel like they fell short of expectations after being the odds-on favorites to lift the Aegis of Champions.
PSG.LGD and Vici Gaming will feel similarly. Both are young teams that have the pedigree of champions, but the Aegis still eludes them. Being eliminated never feels good and it had to feel worse in front of their home crowd. It’s unclear if these squads will stick together long enough to contest TI10.
Virtus Pro were perhaps the most glaring omission from the top half of the field. Eliminated by Royal Never Give Up, the Russian Major winners lost both series they played on the main stage, culminating in the worst TI showing for this roster.
Despite looking promising in the group stage, Natus Vincere lost their best-of-one in the roster’s TI debut. The beanstalk might just have to be shaken up in the CIS region this offseason.
Fnatic, an all-star squad assembled from all over Southeast Asia, finished last for the second TI in a row. Individually, the players belong on top teams, but together, they’re a sum less than their parts. Expect the roster to be blown up in the upcoming shuffle.
Fellow SEA teams TNC Predator and Mineski also had disappointing top-12 finishes. While Mineski and Secret possibly played the most heart-stopping series at TI9, the roster is already being blown apart. TNC Predator started in the upper bracket but bowed out to a resurgent Liquid. Once a region of constant dark horses, Southeast Asia Dota appears to only have dark times ahead.
Perhaps the one lesson we can learn from all of this is to take Dota 2 a little less seriously. From time to time, we need a reminder that all of us, even the ones who play it for a living, do it because it’s fun. Teams like OG, Liquid, and Infamous always looked like they were enjoying themselves and they exceeded expectations in the face of doubters.
The International will return for the 10th time in Stockholm, Sweden next year. Whatever happens between now and then, whether it’s roster changes, major upsets, or ana taking another holiday, we know that we’ll be able to see Dota 2 played at the highest level for the 10th year running. In the TI offseason, all we can do is sit back, relax, and play some Dota.