Both the Americas and Europe have had a change of pace in this year's TI qualifier, as two fan favorites entered the open qualifier due to roster changes. It was especially interesting to follow these teams, as previous performances led to last place finishes for both at the Manila Major. How have these teams fared since? And what about the TI3 champions?
5th-6th SL i-League StarSeries Season 2
13th-16th Manila Major
For the first time of any Valve event, the title defender, Evil Geniuses,was not directly invited, instead they had to qualify due to a roster rule violation. Following disappointing results in Manila, EG and Secret exchanged players yet again, and both were forced to start in the open qualifiers. Winning the qualifier seemed almost too easy for Evil Geniuses and the squad showed a lot of promise--it is, after all, the TI5 championship roster with zai replacing Aui_2000. Losing to Na'Vi at StarLadder wasn't great, though given Na'Vi's performance level at the time no shame. Losing to F.R.I.E.N.D.S. on the other hand was devastating and quite depressing for EG fans, as it showed that the team was far from their championship winning form.
SumaiL remains the star player of the team. He is a player that is able to make the difference by winning not only his lane but also dictating the pace of the game. It's to no surprise that the team still picks him Storm Spirit, despite the hero's declining popularity and effectiveness in the competitive scene. SumaiL still excels playing the hero, but has also proven to be full of surprises with recent Oracle and Ancient Apparition mid performances. One of the team's greatest assets is Fear. The carry player is able to adapt to any situation, draft and strategy, allowing the team to play any style they wish to approach.
Evil Geniuses draft and play quite reactionary. Often times they will wait for opponents to make their move and mistakes before engaging. They focus on enabling SumaiL and letting Universe farm, while often sacrificing their carry in regards to farming priority. EG still lacks the cohesion and composure that allowed them to become title winning champions in the first place, but they can never be counted out on the big stage.
5th-6th SL i-League StarSeries Season 2
5th-6th Nanyang Season 2
9th-12th Manila Major
Digital Chaos has gone through several rosters before settling on the current one. It was a last-minute decision to unite these players, most of whom had been left out of the shuffle, mere days before the roster lock deadline hit. This randomly acquired bunch, however, packs quite the punch. They've established themselves at the top of the NA scene and have shown repeatedly that they are capable of competing internationally by taking games off of the likes of Fnatic or Secret.
As for individual skill, the team is certainly no pushover, with talented, renowned and veteran players in their ranks. Midplayer w33ha certainly draws most of their attention, as he's considered to be the x-factor in the team. In his comfort zone, he's very much capable of taking on any other mid player in the world and has proven time and time again to be able to carry his team with picks like Meepo or Invoker. Resolut1on takes on a similar role of Fear's in EG. A carry player that sacrifices a lot of his own to allow his team to execute whatever strategy they have up their sleeve. Combined with MiSeRy-'s stellar support play and greed, the team has the tools they need to accomplish victory.
The team's biggest strength is their biggest weakness as well. As strong as their cores may be, they are not as flexible as others. W33ha has proven to struggle with heroes outside of his comfort zone. That said, the team often times has good drafts and teamwork and are, as previously mentioned, individually highly skilled on every position, allowing every player to deliver punches.
2nd SL i-League StarSeries Season 2
13th-16th Manila Major
Like EG, Secret had to play through open qualifiers to qualify for TI. The team persevered and while they did so as the first placed team, they showed that they still needed to grow. Their recent StarLadder performance was no new revelation in that regard either, as they showed a lot of promise and strong performances, but their defeat against Na'Vi in the finals leaves a lot to be desired.
Team Secret is a star studded team, but even teams like them have performers worth noting. Support player pieliedie is an irreplaceable pillar, the foundation of the team. His movements around the map are unmatched at times, and he is usually the one to take a hit for the team. Arteezy and Eternalenvy rotate positions quite a bit, but Arteezy especially has shown to be versatile as to what role to occupy. Farming orientated heroes may be his forte, but he can also play gankers and pace dictating heroes like Storm Spirit.
Secret likes to play as a team, farming up on their two cores, with a third creating space for them to do so. It's a very straight forward idea of grouping up to take objectives, but the team excels at timings and punishing mistakes. The team still lacks the composure in the lategame though, as shown in their recent loss against Na'Vi.
5-6th ESL One Frankfurt 2016
9-12th Manila Major
(Obligatory "Alliance is back") The TI3 champions have reunited at the end of last year and have since been able to attend every Valve event, twice as invite and now as qualifier for TI6. The team has started out strong with two LAN titles. Ever since the Shanghai Major though, Alliance has been unable to acquire top finishes and their performances, while stellar and convincing, are not on the same level as the invited teams. Recent online losses vs. the likes of Vega or their elimination
As always, the Swedes shine and impress as unit and team, more so than succeeding through individual prowess--not that they aren't individually skilled. That said, midplayer and drafter s4 is worth highlighting as he not only is capable of pulling out unexpected picks and strategies, but he also performs at a high level on his comfort picks, such as Magnus or Batrider. AdmiralBulldog is of course another player worth paying attention to, with his signature heroes Nature's Prophet and Lone Druid earning him infamy. He's definitely outgrown the stigma of only being capable to play those two heroes, but the respect and fear is still there, that he can play these two to a degree that nobody else seems to be able to.
Alliance is renowned for their split push, but the team is also a fierce teamfighting monster that has vast experiences in timing their engagements, especially around the Roshan pit. Their early to midgame isn't as strong as that of others, but especially in the lategame it becomes apparent how experienced these players are, not just individually, but as a team.
Evil Geniuses, Team Secret, Alliance. All teams that have been at the top of the scene once, all teams that have fallen from grace since. All these teams will look to get their hands on the Aegis, claiming the throne and title as best Dota 2 team yet again. It will be a tough road, as current favorites like OG and Liquid look strong, but it is this underdog position that could help them achieve success. In Shanghai, Secret certainly went into the event as underdog and other favorites in previous TIs (Team Dk, Secret) have shown that the pressure does get to them.
That said, if we do look towards underdogs and their potential success, Digital Chaos will be a team to leave their mark. A true underdog with nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
Digital Chaos by SUNSfan