Dota 2 has had a chaotic 2021 season with remnants of the previous year carrying over while many teams host completely different rosters that have changed throughout the Dota Pro Circuit. Throughout that period, we only had two real chances to see players compete at an international level when the top teams from each region clashed at the OneEsports Singapore Major and WePlay AniMajor.
Now, heading into The International 10, 18 of the best teams in the world will battle it out from Oct. 7 to 17 for their share of a $40 million prize pool and a chance to lift the Aegis of Champions.
Every year at TI, there are teams that stand above the rest, competing as a unit to dominate the competition. But there are others that are equally defined by individual players who shine brighter than ever on Dota’s biggest stage. These players can turn a messy situation into a winning push or make the impulsive move that ends a game way ahead of schedule.
There are plenty of players who fit that criteria at TI10, but here are our picks for the best, and arguably most pivotal, individual players competing at the event.
Team Secret: Zai
For a team as individually greedy as Team Secret, somebody usually has to give up something to make things work—and that somebody is, more often than not, Zai.
Zai is the one-size-fits-all glove that brings Secret together. Immensely versatile and dependable, the 24-year-old is often relied upon to shore up the team’s in-game deficiencies, whether it’s relegating his own role to a pseudo-roamer to create space or building a full kit of aura items.
If you tune in to a Secret game at a random point in time, you might think Zai is having a bad game based on his net worth and role. And yet the veteran can swiftly switch things up for the next match should the game call for it. It’s not that he played badly in either match—it’s probably what was best for his team.
Zai is his name and consistency is his game. It’s this stability and imperviousness to tilt that make him great and help to provide a pivotal foundation for the rest of Secret’s talents to build on.
Evil Geniuses: Abed
If you see a Puck going godlike inside the 15-minute mark, chances are it’s Evil Geniuses’ Abed.
The 21-year-old already plays like a veteran mid laner, but his skills remain that of a prodigy. Few at his position play losing matchups as well as Abed, largely thanks to his absurd mechanical skills and stellar mid-game decision-making.
With Arteezy being one of the most notoriously greedy hard carries in Dota 2 and iceiceice regarded as a selfless offlaner, Abed strikes the perfect balance between the two cores, almost always adjusting immaculately to fit the game plan.
Abed is equally capable of playing a space-making role on heroes like Storm Spirit and Puck or playing more carry-oriented heroes like Templar Assassin. He’s also renowned for his Meepo, which will certainly be on the minds of opposing teams, even if the hero is perceived as weak right now.
Perhaps the best compliment to XinQ is that on a team with two former TI champions, a 12,000 MMR mid laner, and a carry who SumaiL calls the best player in the world, position four XinQ can and will steal the limelight.
Whether it’s through gaudy farm numbers with greed that will put Secret’s YapzOr to shame or unconventional picks that befuddle minds and increase his team’s drafting flexibility, XinQ’s electrifying play will make you watch from start to finish.
Often the designated splitpusher for the team, XinQ’s signature heroes include Rubick, Hoodwink, and Mirana. But the 23-year-old breaks metas as quickly as a bull in a china shop. If there’s a core hero that can even remotely be shifted to support—examples include Ember Spirit, Storm Spirit, Tinker, and Faceless Void—XinQ will try it at least once in good faith. With PSG.LGD expected to at least make a deep push into TI10, XinQ will be at the core of the team’s success.
The return of the king?
That was OG’s plan when it initially signed SumaiL to its roster at the start of 2020, bringing in the TI5 winner in hopes of bolstering its new-look team with the absence of ana, JerAx, and Ceb from the TI8 and TI9 winning squad. But due to a mix of COVID pushing events online, travel restrictions, and a litany of other issues, that initial stint didn’t work out for the former EG mainstay.
With the departure of MidOne, the return of ana and Ceb, and then ana’s decision to retire once more, OG was able to bring SumaiL back into the fold and empower him in a way that reinvigorated a struggling roster.
OG had middling performances through the 2021 DPC, failing to make a single Major or qualify for TI through DPC Points. SumaiL, however, came in ahead of the team’s regional qualifier run and slipped right back into being a dominant force in every game. Whether it’s on traditional hard carries or bringing some mid lane flair with heroes like Leshrac and Templar Assassin, SumaiL just might be the new magic ingredient for OG’s potential three-peat.