The stage is set for the main event at The International

The stage is set for the main event at the biggest esports tournament in history

Photo via Jakob Wells/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The stage is set for the main event at the biggest esports tournament in history. And while many of the game’s top teams performed as expected, there were plenty of surprises.

The Group Stage at The International 2015 (TI5), the $17.8 million Dota 2 championship funded through crowd contributions, concluded yesterday, finalizing the bracket for the Main Event beginning on Monday, Aug. 3.

Sixteen teams competed in the group stage, an opening round designed to seed bracket play. The top four teams from each of two groups advanced to the upper bracket of the Main Event with the bottom half of teams heading to the lower bracket and placing them in a precarious position. The opening round of the lower bracket is only a best-of-one, meaning that every team who placed in the bottom of their group is now a single map away from elimination.

LGD Gaming, Team Secret, and Evil Geniuses performed pretty much up to expectations—all placed in the top two slots in their groups. But other teams stumbled.

In Group A, Complexity ranked third behind the 5-2 LGD Gaming and 4-3-0 Team Secret with a 4-1-2 record, blistering fan-favorite Cloud9 yesterday to secure that third seed. European sides Fnatic and Natus Vincere disappointed, failing to secure a series victory between the two teams, something that Korea’s MVP Phoenix and China’s Invictus Gaming only barely managed to do.

The current Complexity lineup formed early in May in anticipation of The International’s Americas qualifier. The team, featuring a core of three top Heroes of Newerth pros in David “MoonMeander” Tan and brothers Kyle “Swindlemelonzz” Freedman, and Zakari “Zfreek” Freedman, switched to Dota 2 midway through last year and met with middling success. But the newest version of the lineup performed at the Americas regional qualifier, taking the title and securing a berth at The International.

While Complexity has shone during the group stage, with 2-0 victories over Cloud9, Fnatic, MVP Phoenix, and Natus Vincere, not everyone is convinced of their talent.

Evil Geniuses, the winner of Group B, had a choice between the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds of Group A for their opening round bracket stage match—and they picked Complexity instead of the team they beat to get there, Cloud9.

That may be, in part, due to their history. Like the core of Complexity, Evil Geniuses’ fiery captain Peter “ppd” Dager was also a Heroes of Newerth pro. In 2012 and 2013, he teamed with MoonMeander on Complexity. Their biggest rival? Stay Green, a team featuring the Freedman brothers. In Dager’s last two Heroes of the Newerth majors, The HoN Tour Season 1 finals and DreamHack Summer 2013, he placed third and second respectively. Stay Green took first at both tournaments. If there’s anyone who might be out for revenge, it’s Dager, a player labelled the “Salt King” for his fiery attitude and outspoken nature.

PPD vs swindle hype!

— MoonMeander (@MoonMeanderated) July 31, 2015

Playing Evil Geniuses may be a disappointing prize for winning the third seed for Complexity, but then the next round of the tournament was never going to be easy.

In fact, Evil Geniuses tied with up-and-coming Chinese squad CDEC Gaming for the top spot in their group. Evil Geniuses went undefeated during group play with a 3-4-0 record, but CDEC actually won more series with a 4-1-2 mark despite losses to Evil Geniuses and Virtus Pro. The CDEC team failed to qualify for TI5 at their regional event, placing behind EHOME, but pulled through in the wild card round earlier this week. That’s no surprise based on recent form; only LGD Gaming boasts a stronger record domestically over the two months leading into the event.

Also advancing in Group B are EHOME, who, like Evil Geniuses, didn’t lose a series, posting a 2-5-0 record.

The Eastern European side Team Empire needed a tiebreaker against local rivals Virtus Pro to advance. The two kicked off bracket play a little early with a best-of-three tie breaker to decide who would enter the main event in the upper bracket and avoid a best-of-one elimination game. It was a repeat of this month’s Esportal Dota 2 League final, but this time Empire came out on top.

Defending TI4 champions Newbee certainly isn’t the same team they were last year with Zhang “xiao8” Ning and Chen “Hao” Zhihao now playing for LGD Gaming and Vici Gaming respectively. They didn’t win a game in the group stage, but only lost one, finishing with a 0-6-1 record. Vici Gaming, last year’s finalist, didn’t fare much better, posting a 1-4-2 score that ranked them just ahead of Newbee.

Of course, anything can happen in the bracket stage. Last year Newbee performed poorly in the early rounds of the tournament before turning things around.

Monday will be the most harrowing day of the tournament. After the first two upper bracket games, LGD Gaming vs. Team Empire and CDEC vs. Cloud9, the opening round of the lower bracket, featuring best-of-one battles, will see four teams eliminated.

We’re still over a week away from crowning a champion and watching an esports team win over $1 million for each of their five members, but The International is well on its way to another record payday.