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TI9 is just days away, and while we could just be twiddling our thumbs in excitement for the games, let’s instead engage in some exciting speculation and predictions!
Shanghai will welcome 18 teams to the battleground, fighting for glory and their share of the biggest prize pool in esports history. It’s over $32 million right now, but it could yet rise over the next few weeks.
OG broke the East-West curse last year, as they became the first Western team to win TI in an even year. However, several others still remain. Entering the ninth edition of the International, no player or organization has won the International twice. Will this be another year where a curse is broken? Depends on who you ask.
The following power ranking is not a rankings prediction. Rather, it is a measure of how likely or favored the team is in the ultimate goal of lifting the Aegis.
With all that being said, here’s our comprehensive TI9 power rankings.
Infamous Gaming is a Peruvian organization known for being the first South American team to attend The International in 2017.
While the organization has qualified for two DPC events this year, their rosters have changed numerous times throughout the season. Including the TI squad, Infamous will have played with 14 different players in these three competitions.
The current roster was a pickup of Team Anvorgesa, who achieved fourth place in the StarLadder Ukraine Minor. After an incredible run through the South American qualifiers, dropping only three games and sweeping paiN Gaming in the finals 3-0, they will now be the only South American representative in China.
Infamous is simply an unknown quality. While dominant through the South American qualifiers, the squad is young and inexperienced, and plays in a historically weak region. Infamous has barely any chance at a championship run, and just might be the first team out of TI.
Mineski once left the city of Shanghai as champions. This time, the odds skew more towards dead last.
The team made history at last year’s Dota Asia Championships, becoming the first and only Southeast Asian organization to win a Major. The roster was butchered after a disappointing TI8 run and has been in various states of disarray ever since.
With no less than 16 player transfers throughout the season, Mineski’s only placement in the top four was the non-DPC ESL One Mumbai, where they placed second with a stand-in.
A nail-biting SEA qualifier victory over Team Jinesbrus, formed less than one month ago, doesn’t bode well for Mineski’s chances in China. They will count themselves lucky if they even make it to the main stage.
16) Keen Gaming
Keen Gaming qualified for two Majors and one Minor this year. Off the back of an incredible 5th/6th run at DreamLeague S11 where they beat Liquid and Evil Geniuses, they qualified for TI as DPC’s 11th place team. The squad also won ESL One Mumbai off cohesive, incredible gameplay, but those showings seem to be few and far between.
Like so many Chinese teams of years past, Keen seemingly has the potential to either go all the way or flame out early on in the tournament. While Keen is a relatively new organization, the roster is stacked with players of TI pedigree which could prove the difference. Could they make a solid run? Probably. Could they lift the Aegis at the end? It doesn’t look possible.
15) Natus Vincere
Natus Vincere is one of the most storied organizations in Dota 2, and for good reason. Winner of the first International and grand finalists for the second and third, Natus Vincere’s results since have been lackluster to say the least.
Making their first TI appearance after a two-year absence, Na’Vi played the entire season with a fairly stable roster. Despite them playing the entire DPC season, they only qualified for one Major and Minor each, placing second at the DreamLeague S10 Minor and dead last at the DreamLeague S11 Major.
Seeing fit for a change, their four position support, Evgeniy “Chuvash” Makarov was replaced with Kyrgyzstani rising star Bakyt “Zayac” Emilzhanov in April. While they failed to qualify for any more DPC events, they qualified for the biggest one of them all.
While experience and stability do count for something, Na’Vi has had lackluster results throughout the entire season. Na’Vi has shown themselves capable of greatness, like in their clean 3-0 win over Winstrike in the CIS qualifiers, but they seem equally capable of horrendous mistakes. Which Na’Vi will show up at The International?
No, this isn’t the Newbee with Song “Sccc” Chun, but rather the ex-Forward Gaming roster. While a Chinese organization having a Western team isn’t unheard of, this proves to be one of the shrewdest pickups Newbee could have made.
The team has established themselves as a solid if unremarkable team. While they qualified for several events throughout the year, firmly establishing themselves as qualifiers top dogs, they’ve failed to place significantly at any event. Their highest Major finish was 9th-12th, while their highest Minor finish was 5th-6th.
What Newbee have going for them is their history. Three of their members played as VGJ.Storm in TI8, and looked like one of the best teams on their heyday. With barely any expectations, they managed to secure a top-eight finish.
This time, big game player Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok won’t be at TI with them. History seems set to repeat itself: dominate the qualifiers and then scrape through the rest of the competition.
13) Royal Never Give Up
RNG made its way into the Dota 2 only last year. They started their player acquisitions with a bang, signing one of the most talented Chinese carries in Du “Monet” Peng. While the team was initially inconsistent, the addition of veteran Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng brought some much-needed leadership to the team of young players.
There’s no doubting the talent in RNG, but the team just simply don’t have much experience. Despite LaNm’s status as the oldest player at TI, RNG remains one of the youngest squads at the event. Two of their players will be making their TI debuts, and Monet and Tue “ah fu” Soon Chuan’s second.
RNG is a team that’s capable of taking a game off anyone. Whether they can take the whole series remains to be seen.
12) Chaos Esports Club
Chaos Esports Club, previously known as Digital Chaos, always felt like the place for rejects. Their TI6 roster consisted of players kicked from illustrious teams like Team Secret and Empire, but eventually ended up in second place against a Wings Gaming team at the height of its prowess.
The current roster feels a lot similar. Most notable is their acquisition of Lasse Aukusti “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen, TI7 champion and formerly of Team Liquid. Much like many of the other qualifier teams, the roster was finalized moments before they actually played in the qualifiers, and it was rough for the first few days.
The team was a serious threat of losing in the group stages but managed to win the tiebreakers to enter the playoffs. After losing their first series, Chaos rattled off seven straight wins with a high tempo playstyle revolving around early pushing heroes, fully using MATUMBAMAN’s cancerous hero pool.
They eventually found their stride, and a lot of the reason can be attributed to the experience present in the team. All these players have played in teams all over the globe, from all-star teams like Secret to experimental stacks like LGD.INT. Count out Chaos at your own peril, for their gameplan seems to be much more orderly than anybody gave them credit for.
The TI3 champions are back in the main event after two years of failing to qualify. The Swedish organization, with a German and Norwegian in tow, will head to TI fresh off a tournament win.
At The Summit 10, Alliance looked unstoppable. Sure, they were the only TI-qualified team there, but being the best team at an event means nothing. Just ask OG. What stood out was Alliance’s clinical style throughout the tournament. Solid drafting combined with skilled players made for methodical gameplay. They always looked comfortable playing off each other, and the team had a good grasp on the cheese heroes and strategies they could pull out.
Alliance’s lack of success over the past few years appears to have only strengthened the team. While roster shuffles happen frequently, Alliance has stuck to their guns and honed their playstyle together. Not one to leave allies behind, the players’ understanding of each other could prove to be the difference-maker in a deciding game.
Fnatic started off the DPC season gathering basically every all-star in Southeast Asia and was not adverse to poaching players from rival SEA organizations. It seemed to work, as Fnatic’s star rapidly rose in the beginning of the DPC season. With every Major they headed to, their placement just got higher and higher, culminating in a third-place finish at DreamLeague S11.
And then, it fell apart just as quick. Though Fnatic had practically secured a TI invite, their last two Majors were an unmitigated disaster. Placing dead last in both events, Fnatic looked bereft, unmotivated and out of gas.
With that, they decided the optimal change was to let carry player Pyo “MP” No-a go right before TI. His replacement came from within the team, as coach Kim “DuBu” Doo-young stepped up to the plate à la OG.
There is no doubt that Fnatic contains the best players Southeast Asia has to offer. However, their volatility issues are well-noted, and their late-game play can be suspect. They have demonstrated that they can take games off top teams, they are just as capable of throwing it away to a minnow.
Flip a coin, and see which Fnatic shows up to play. Dead last or top three both seem like possible scenarios. For the team’s fanatics, let’s hope the latter turns up.
9) Ninjas in Pyjamas
Ninjas in Pyjamas is led by the legendary Peter “ppd” Dager. TI8 saw ppd’s return to TI after a one-year absence, and despite his rag-tag OpTic squad, they managed to secure a top-eight finish.
NiP represents ppd’s first foray into the European competitive scene, and they’ve performed well throughout the season. A constant presence throughout the DPC, NiP comfortably got the eighth place in the rankings.
Thought NiP quickly proved that they were here to stay with multiple deep runs in tournaments. Doubters, however, will point to their highest placement being achieved with a stand-in, Liquid’s star offlaner Ivan Borislavov “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov.
The squad is reliable, and they consistently beat out teams that are worse or equal to them on paper. But when it comes to juggernauts like Virtus.pro and Team Secret, NiP usually struggles to gain a foothold in the game. It seems like they play consistently to their level, but rarely below or above that.
There’s no shame in being consistent, though whether it’s enough for ppd to lift a second Aegis remains to be seen. NiP could be counted on making a deep run, and ppd will try to prove that life is truly better in pajamas.
The defending champions will hope to relive their past glory, managing to qualify for The International with the same roster.
Anathan “ana” Pham took a break right after TI8, and it was clear how much the OG team revolved around ana’s astounding capability in the late game. While the four other players are not bad by any means, Topias “Topson” Taavitsen seemed to struggle tremendously, being forced to play outside his preferred style of early to mid game domination.
The moment ana returned to the squad, OG’s results immediately swang up. They placed 5th/6th at the Paris Major, only losing to champions Secret and runners-up Liquid, while they still managed top eight at EPICENTER Major with their captain literally bedridden in the hospital. It only serves to reinforce how important each player is to the team, and how much the stars aligned in 2018 for OG to obtain players with such a synergistic playstyle.
Two majors and two top eight placements booked their tickets to TI once again, this time without the hassle of going through open qualifiers. OG found their stride quickly last year. and was probably the only TI-winning team to be regarded as an underdog in every series. While they head into TI as defending champs, they are still not the favorites by any means.
Pretty much everybody counted OG out once, and they defied all expectations. If OG manages to pull off Cinderella 2 at TI9, fans will probably die of drowning from the overwhelming juiciness of the story. If it happens, let’s hope that it’s against Evil Geniuses.
7) TNC Predator
TNC Predator has transformed from meek prey into a full-fledged apex predator, courtesy of the newest addition to the team. It’s not a player, but rather coach Lee “Heen” Seung Gon who was instrumental to Liquid’s era of dominance.
TNC started promisingly, finishing their first major in 5th/6th despite losing two veterans in Marc Polo Luis “Raven” Fausto and Samson Solomon Enojosa “Sam_H” Hidalgo, who played instrumental roles in establishing TNC’s hyper-aggressive playstyle. Their performance later dropped precipitously, however, and they played second fiddle to fellow SEA team Fnatic for the rest of the season, qualifying for zero events between the second and last Major, a period of almost five months.
Heen joined, and the team learned to temper its zeal, greatly improving their ability to close out games in the final stretch. TNC’s raw skill is unquestioned—Heen simply sharpened it into a razor edge.
The squad closed out the season in style, trouncing teams left and right to finish fourth in the EPICENTER Major. TNC will be lurking in the shadows, waiting for the right moment to begin the hunt.
From here on, every team is in serious contention of winning it all. Each of these teams had outstanding performances throughout the DPC, and has consistently shown that they are a cut above the rest.
6) Evil Geniuses
While undoubtedly the strongest team in North America, EG was the perennial third-place team in an international LAN event. EG placed third in three Majors, and actually failed to win a competition the entire year.
Try as they might, EG seemed incapable of winning a series in the lower bracket finals. Every time they come close, EG’s ultra-efficient playstyle and swagger crumbled against teams desperate for a championship.
The team’s new additions last year were a masterstroke, no matter how villainous it may seem. They elevated the team’s skill levels, brought consistency and stability to a volatile, cocky squad, and provided EG with two veterans who remain some of the most mechanically skilled players on the planet.
Yes, EG just might be stronger than most teams in this power ranking, even the ones above them. The players are top-class, bonafide champions, rich in experience and decorated with trophies and medals Ranked one by one, each player has a strong case to be the top five in their position.
Yet, for all their ingenuity and swagger, the team regresses to a sum less than its parts. Somehow, the x-factor that could help them win a championship is still undiscovered. The roster only won one tournament together, the Summit 9, which had a greatly depleted team list due to its proximity to TI8l. EG will have to put on their thinking caps to mastermind a solution for the Aegis at TI9.
Throughout the history of competitive Dota, one Chinese team has been there leading the charge. No matter who was at the top, LGD was always there to contest them. Bastions of consistency and always competing, LGD’s stock rose rapidly last year with the sponsorship of PSG esports, winning two Majors last season and firmly establishing themselves as a Chinese powerhouse once again.
After TI8’s heartbreaking loss, the team chose to stick together, not making any roster changes. They performed consistently well, placing top six at every single DPC Major. Alas, it seemed that they lost a little pep in their step, a little of the fierce mid-game heat, culminating in zero championships—disappointing by their standards, no doubt.
In the blink of an eye, the invincible LGD is now playing second fiddle in China. Yet PSG.LGD has proved to be a team that could turn it up to 11. The team is still functioning well and remains one of the favorites to win the whole thing.
Sure, they were less dominant in the DPC than last year, but the roster has proved themselves to have the guts and strength to push for a trophy. If they don’t want their legacy as the evil stepmother to persist, they will have to prove that championship mentality once again at TI9.
4) Virtus Pro
Though VP’s iconic polar bear will be replaced with a giant panda for TI, they will be anything but meek.
Dating all the way back to the days of yore, where competitive matches was still played in Warcraft 3, the CIS region has always been known for their vigorous early aggression and unmatched player skill. Heck, the TI1 champions were Ukrainian organization Na’Vi, famous for their early-push strats and mercurial player skill.
Virtus Pro started no different. With some ups and a lot of downs throughout their history, VP seemed lost until they handed Alexei “Solo” Berezin the reins to build a squad. He got to work scouting talent, and ended up with a team capable of fierily dominating every single lane through pure, unadulterated skill, yet still able to keep their cool in high-pressure situations.
They won one Major in 2017. They swapped a player, somehow got better, and won three more Majors. They went to TI and still ended up 5th-6th to a surging Evil Geniuses despite their dominance of the circuit. VP has been at the top so many times, but the team just seem ill-fated with TI where, somehow, they’ve never managed a top-four finish.
This year, they’ve not matched their own supremacy. Yet they’ve still had tremendous success with four top-three finishes, winning the first Major of the season. VP might have lost a tiny step, but expect them to come roaring back in full force come TI. Whether Solo can figure out a way to circumvent their curse is one thing, but VP will be ready to claw their way up.
3) Team Liquid
Liquid started the season by skipping the first Major, citing cumulative fatigue from their multiple championship runs. When they came back, they performed far below their high standards. Eighth-place at the Chongqing Major, and dead last at the Dreamleague Stockholm Major. People started to wonder if this was the end to Liquid’s already legendary roster, if the magic was flowing away like an open tap.
Then, they came out all guns blazing in Paris. Just like TI7, they dropped to the lower bracket in their first match, fighting tooth and nail for a showdown in the finals with Team Secret. Alas, it was not to be, and they ended up bridesmaids. Yet, it seemed like a return to form for Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomis and his boys.
Then, it happened. Nobody saw it coming.
Nobody would have thought that one of the most successful and long-lasting Dota 2 rosters of all time, one of the most personable and eclectic collection of players from all over Europe, would actually have to kick a player. But on June 12, 2018, MATUMBAMAN was gone from the team. Eight days later, Aliwi “w33” Omar took his place. Kuroky finally decided a change was needed.
It seemed to work. They entered the last Major of the season, demolishing teams like Evil Geniuses, PSG.LGD, and Virtus.pro (twice). After a hard-fought, five-game series, they fell once again to second place against Vici Gaming.
While not a new roster by any means, Liquid will enter TI with a little bit of an unknown quality and it could work to their favor. And with MATUMBAMAN or not, this team is still chock-full of superstars.
From EPICENTER, the key takeaway is that W33’s laning prowess fits Liquid like a glove, kicking their early-game-centric playstyle up another notch. Will Team Liquid be able to replicate their TI7 success? It’s very, very possible.
2) Team Secret
Anybody that’s ever put on a Team Secret jersey can probably stake their claim as an all-star of the Dota world.
This year is no exception. After last year’s lackluster TI performance, Clement “Puppey” Ivanov’s watchful eyes scoured and found two of the youngest and most talented players on the market. While Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg had already been in the tier one scene for years, and even played for Secret in 2015, Michał “Nisha” Jankowski was more of an unknown quantity. That was, at any rate, until his phenomenal carry plays on heroes like Morphling and Terrorblade. He tore through enemy after enemy, firmly establishing himself as one of the best carries in Dota 2.
With their new acquisitions, Team Secret wrought havoc on the DPC. For the first four majors, they achieved second, first, third and first. Their record was marred at the last Major, where they finished in last place.
Secret’s path every competition appeared simple: give Nisha the hardest carry in the game and let him farm until he can hit buildings. But Secret’s old guard were no pushovers, especially SEA superstar Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng.
To accommodate Nisha, MdOne and zai always seemed to be forced in terrible lane matchups and situations, but always found a way to rise above and contribute with phenomenal impact in the early to mid game. Nisha is a phenomenal carry, but his job becomes so much easier with Secret’s insane space creators.
More than ever before, Team Secret seems to have truly unlocked their playstyle. Meta or not, they are capable of pulling out any secret strategy, any pocket hero to win the game. A cheesy fast push strat with Chen and Prophet seems just as winnable as a turtling Medusa and Treant Protector strategy.
Will Team Secret finally get their long-coveted crown? Will Puppey be the first and only player to lift the Aegis twice? All will be revealed at TI9.
1) Vici Gaming
Vici Gaming’s sudden and meteoric rise might have come as a surprise to many Dota 2 fans. After all, Vici was barely scraping into the top eight in their first two Majors. All of a sudden, they exploded into the limelight by winning the DreamLeague Stockholm Major.
Fans thought it would be a one-off thing, and they appeared to be right when Vici went back to their top eight ways in the following Major, which Secret won again. Everybody was prepared to write in Team Secret as the favorites going into TI, before Vici showed up again at EPICENTER and slaughtered the competition.
Vici’s playstyle unabashedly revolves around their duo-core setup, with Zhang “Paparazi灬” Chengjun and Zeng “Ori” Jiaoyang taking point. As the rest of their squad cause chaos and destruction all over the map, Vici’s dual blades will grind themselves until they’re ready to slice up their enemies.
Straightforward, direct, but tremendously effective, Vici Gaming is a young and hungry squad. While several of their players are relatively inexperienced, they are led by outspoken veteran Bai “rOtK” Fan, himself part of the Vici Gaming squad that achieved second at TI4.
Vici Gaming has been perennial bridesmaids, but off the back of an incredible EPICENTER Major run, Vici Gaming will enter TI9 as favorites along with Team Secret. With the event in China’s backyard this time round, Vici will want to make history at homecourt.