As The International 2016 approaches, it is time to look closer at the teams attending. After introducing the Wildcard Teams, we take a closer look at the invited teams. Six teams were invited this time around, the least amount of invites to any Valve event so far. As a result, it seemed quite difficult to narrow it down to the truly most deserving teams and discussions sparked, as they always do, when the list of invites was released. People argued whether Fnatic should've been invited over Na'Vi, though ultimately both deserved to be at the event.
So, who are the invited teams? What makes them so special, which players stand out and what playstyles can be expected from them?
2nd The Summit 5
1st ESL One Frankfurt 2016
1st Manila Major
As title holder of the latest Major, OG DOta 2 is the undoubted favorite going into TI. The team is one of few that have not changed their roster since their formation post TI5 and have proven to found the recipe to success with two Major titles under their belt. The strong friendship and trust the team has built since the very first day is what has allowed the team to persevere up until now and why they are likely a title contender for TI.
OG’s biggest threat remains to be Miracle. The star player has a variety of heroes he can dominate with and the team doesn’t shy away from swapping between him and n0tail in the carry/mid position to maintain as much flexibility as possible. There is a case to be made though, that this is also one of their weaknesses, because it forces a player into sometimes unfavorable hero roles. While the community and coverage focus is largely on Miracle, it could and should be argued that it was Cr1t who performed the best during their Major title runs. The Dane is a reliable force, especially in the early game with rotations and lane support on heroes such as Earth Spirit or Io.
What makes OG scary is not their individual prowess though, as scary as that may be. They work as a team and never falter. They have been able to turn around seemingly lost games and know when to pressure, when to stay calm and how to fight as a unit. There may have been a time when they relied mostly on a classic 4-protect-1 strategy, but that OG is long gone. In a meta where teamfighting is as prevalent as ever, this team is here to acquire yet another title.
3rd The Summit 5
3rd/4th ESL One Frankfurt 2016
2nd Manila Major
Team Liquid has a story quite similar to that of OG, albeit less successful. Starting out as “5Jungz” (German for 5 Boys, a reference to this musical masterpiece), the team had to earn their respect early on. Losing the Frankfurt Major qualifier to Alliance meant that they had only 3rd party tournaments to establish themselves in the scene. Despite some stellar performances, it wasn’t enough for a direct invite to the Shanghai Major, but the team dominated the qualifier and Team Liquid ultimately placed 2nd. With another 2nd place in Manila, the team is now looking to finally clench a Valve event title.
Similarly to OG, Liquid’s 2 main cores (Fata and Matumbaman) feel comfortable switching positions depending on the heroes. Often times it is Fata that will end up with the majority of the team’s far, while Matumbaman will be creating space with aggressive heroes such as Ember Spirit or Ursa. As for the supports, Kuroky has a wide hero pool and doesn’t shy away from innovating, while JerAx has several heroes that teams are afraid of, especially his Earth Spirit or Tusk.
The team is strong in teamfights and has good timings for pushes and objectives, but they lack stability, not only on an individual level, but also as a team. Some players tend to underperform at crucial times, while the team in general tends to give away too much in the laning stage. They make up for that--most of the time anyway--by having superior decision making in-game over their opponents. They know when to pressure and take smart teamfights. Team Liquid is another strong contender for a top position at TI, but in order to crown themselves as champions, they’ll have to face their worst opponent and possibly best friend: OG.
1st Nanyang Championship Season 2
3rd Manila Major
2nd Epicenter Season 1
Like a phoenix rising from its ashes, Newbee has once again risen to fight at the top of the Dota 2 scene. Following their TI4 success, the team and its players could not find the right mentality to truly get back to the top anymore. Even after TI5, the squad looked quite miserable and was unable to really live up to the potential and abilities they were able to display in Seattle 2 years ago. Then the Manila Mingle took place and Newbee landed the coup of the season. Transferring EHOME’s kaka in elevated the team onto a level much higher than their old team was at. Kaka was deemed as the best support player in China at the time and he proved why after pushing Newbee to new heights.
While kaka may be a stellar support worth highlighting--with heroes such as support Kunkka under his belt--the team has many more shining stars that are worth their attention. Midplayer Mu has regained strengths that seemed forgotten, becoming possibly their most stable and fearsome player, while kpii has proven to be a reliable offlaner that can play a multitude of heroes, even Naga Siren.
Newbee excels at countering rotations from their opponents, while succeeding in their own if they have to. The team likes to employ 2-3 cores in their drafts and can generally be considered greedy.
1st DPL Season 1 Groupstage
3rd Nanyang Championship Season 2
4th Manila Major
LGD’s story is that of xiao8’s. Every piece of success the organization has been able to celebrate in Dota 2 was in part thanks to xiao8. Which is why the organization immediately welcomed him back after a few months of hiatus, similar to last year. THis year was a bit different however. LGD picked up a newcomer in Sep and alongside the likes of Aggressif and Maybe, the majority of the team lacked experience. Early performances were quite atrocious and the direct invite to Manila was incredibly out of range for a team of their caliber at the time. Much like every team surrounding xiao8 however, they simply got better. This time though, they visibly put in the work, grinding qualifiers and online tournaments and step by step elevated themselves to a level worthy of a direct invite.
Their newcomer Sep was able to shape the meta by himself, bringing Phoenix back into the meta and establishing the hero for quite a while. The star of the team is still Maybe, who doesn’t quite play as many “meta” heroes as other midlaners. While he can take on the occasional carry in the midlane, he still has his own style and approach that LGD is capable of enabling, such as picking him a Storm Spirit or Templar Assassin.
Unlike many other teams, LGD rarely picks an offlaner that isn’t teamfight orientated. The team focuses very heavily on enabling their mid and carry. Their early game is rarely as aggressive as others, as LGD likes to wait for ultimates and item pickups before becoming active. In somewhat “traditional” fashion, the Chinese are still relying on their midplayer to dictate the pace of the game. Their teamfight presence and coordination is not to be taken lightly either though, since especially MMY and xiao8 thrive here.
5-6th Manila Major
1st WePlay Season 3
7-8th StarLadder i-League Invitational
MVP.Phoenix has a true underdog story to their name. Numerous international appearances resulted in nothing but devastating losses and quite frankly subpar performances in comparison to top teams. Even the qualifiers for TI5 wasn't smooth and the team placed behind their sister team MVP.Hot6ix. The rest is, as they say, history. A marvelous run from the Wildcards to a Top 8 finish in Seattle brought some much needed attention to these talented and hard working players. A small setback in Frankfurt didn't stop them from working even harder and at some point, three of their players were amongst the top 10 players on the Chinese leaderboard.
This alone shows how the team is individually talented, as players such as QO are well recognized for their mechanical skill. QO especially however is infamous for overextending, going beyond what's reasonable. It's no surprise that heroes like Templar Assassin or Ember Spirit are among his favorites, as they allow him to pull his team forward through risky plays. Another player worth highlighting is Dubu, a true teamplayer and leader that takes on any hero that needs to be played, but can also dictate the pace of the game on heroes like Earth Spirit.
MVP's most well known combination of Bristleback and Io well represents the playstyle that MVP likes to employ. Sheer aggression is the name of the game for them, as they like to take the fight to the enemy and take away space by the minute. That aggression can be their biggest weakness though and there have also been cases where the team exhibited how uncomfortable they are when they are forced into a different playstyle and situation. That said, their teamfighting, coordination and timing is something that, if the team is at the top of their game, seemed unmatched at times.
4th The Summit 5
2nd ESL One Frankfurt 2016
7-8th Manila Major
Na'Vi is the Dota 2 team that everybody knows. The players may be different from their years of glory, but the brand and most importantly Dendi remain. It seemed as if only few fans stuck with the team as it went from rough patch to rough patch, but as now a top team again, it seems as if the brand never lost its fans. "Na'Vi is back" has never been as true as it is today, especially as the team has once again been invited to a Valve event, the second in a row in fact.
Na'Vi's most popular player Dendi is not necessarily the force he once was in the midlane, but that is largely due to the nature of how Na'Vi plays and drafts. He plays a variety of heroes and roles now, even something such as a Sand King. The focus from early rotations definitely seems to be on GeneraL and allowing him to snowball into a fierce midgame dominator, on heroes such as Batrider or Slardar. The supports in Na'Vi definitely dictate the pace of the game early on, with fast and big rotations between off and midlane. As a result, you'll often find ArtStyle play a variety of heroes, ranging from traditional junglers and gankers like Enchantress to combination orientated heroes like [heroes=ancient-apparition] or Skywrath Mage.
The Ukrainians are exhibiting a style of Dota that's very reminiscent of what made the brand successful in the first place. The team plays very aggressively, pushes early and forces the opponent to fight early. Often times carry play Ditya Ra will be left to his own devices in order to enable the other two cores and push from there.
OG by Epicenter