Now that you know the ins and outs of the Dota 2 (or at least the bare minimum to keep you from being arrested by the Dota Cops), it’s time to talk teams! This is where The International truly becomes an international competition. For this year’s tournament, eleven teams have been invited, four teams have fought their way to the top of the North and South American, Chinese, Southeast Asian, and European ladders, and four teams have made it into a preliminary tournament where they’ll face off for the coveted 16th slot on the final bracket. So how do you choose your team for this digital battle royale? Well that’s where this handy guide comes in!
Alliance: The Kings in the North
Hungry for a second win and another massive cash prize, last year’s champions Alliance have been shaking up the preliminaries once again. While the Swedish team initially looked like they were hitting a rough patch, they have been making some incredible comebacks in the last month, something they are famous for doing. Alliance is a very coordinated team that made a dramatic comeback in their final match with Na’Vi last year, which ended in an upset when their offlaner (a person that pushes down towers when a team is distracted) Admiral Bulldog managed to cause a lot of damage while the rest of his team made some very impressive plays and sealed their victory. This team is led by store brand Ryan Gosling Loda, one of the top ranked players of the 2008-2009 season.
Na’Vi: Dota’s Darlings
Few teams can claim the achievements of Natus Vincere (aka Na’Vi), the Ukrainian champions of the first International in 2011. Since then, they have consistently made it into the final round each subsequent year. Na’Vi has an odd style that revolves around early conflict and letting their midlane player make risky attempts to gain early ground. This player is Dendi, the Michael Jordan of Dota. Dendi is a spritely, good-natured player that has drawn the admiration of millions due to his goofy attitude and incredible skill, honed though his years of classical piano training. Surprisingly, Na’Vi has not been doing so well this season. Their strategy doesn’t seem to have evolved over the years and their opponents are starting to adapt. Could this be the first year that Na’Vi doesn’t make it to the finals?
Invictus Gaming: Old Champs, Back in Fighting Form
Invictus Gaming is a Chinese team and the winners of The International 2 in 2012. After winning TI2, Invictus performed rather poorly in The International 3. Multiple members, including ChuaN, one of the world’s top support players, left the team. While they have been overshadowed by competing Chinese team DK for most of this season, the return of ChuaN has caused them to explode recently. Just a few weeks ago they defeated another very strong team, Evil Geniuses, in a complete blowout. Unlike many of the Chinese teams, IG is very aggressive, and focuses on constant disruption and sneak attacks. With 4 out of 5 members from their championship lineup, could this be their comeback in the making?
DK: China’s Dream Team
Perhaps this season’s most consistent team, DK is comprised of some of the best players in the world. Each member of this team has been playing since the days when Dota was just a Warcraft 3 mod, and comes from another top tier Chinese team. Though none of these players have ever been on an International-winning team, and they are stopping at nothing to make sure that this is their year. They are very coordinated, technically impressive, and have a larger pool of comfortable heroes than any other team. In the Chinese grand finals, a best-out-of-seven match, they were 0-3 and ended up making a comeback and winning 4-3. DK is a shoe-in for the top three, and might just have what it takes to sweep up this year.
Evil Geniuses: America’s Old Pros
A team making a name for themselves this year is the Dota branch of Evil Geniuses, a pro gaming team known for their participation in a number of scenes. Initially captained by one of the most well known players in the world, Fear, this team has undergone a few roster changes since their captain’s wrist injury. Though Fear has dropped out of the team, he is still going to be with them at The International 4 to provide moral support and coaching assistance. Despite a crushing defeat to Invictus Gaming a few weeks ago, this team has been doing very well with unconventional strategies that involve greedily collecting EXP and gold for late-game-centric heroes, while playing defensively until they become a collective unstoppable force by about half an hour in. They also possess a Canadian player named Arteezy who is not only one of the top ranked in the world right now, but also one of the youngest at only 18 years old. While not necessarily underdogs, Evil Geniuses are certainly a dark horse contender.
While there are fifteen confirmed teams and a sixteenth to come, many of the remaining teams are much less favored and face far worse odds.
Fnatic, for instance is a team that has had the most consistent roster since 2012. This year they face a potential challenge, as their midlane player has been suffering from severe bouts of social anxiety, making some wonder if they’ll be able to compete for the entire tournament.
Newbee and Vici Gaming are two Chinese teams that have been doing well decently, but are overshadowed by DK and IG by a pretty wide margin.
Titan is a Southeast Asian team with the same roster from their appearance last year when they placed third, but a name change and the loss of Mushi, who now plays for DK.
Empire is a very good Russian team and possibly one of the best in Europe. They’re another dark horse contender, but lack as many defined traits as Evil Geniuses. They are rely heavily on “ganking” (sneak attacking a lone player), as is the style of many Russian Dota teams.
Cloud 9 is seen as the best and worst Dota team in the world. They either play incredibly well or terribly, making them a wild card. They can dominate a game for a large period of time and then end up running around like headless chickens as soon as they lose their advantage, as seen in the match that Alliance turned around on them a few weeks ago. Their strategies are unconventional, which is their strongest asset and greatest weakness.
Have You Decided?
I doubt that this was enough to convince you of a favorite team, but hopefully it was a good place to start! In the mean time, you still have plenty of time to watch some old matches or interviews, learn about the players, and decide who clicks with you!
The International 4 playoffs are underway, with the Main Event to begin on Friday, July 18th. You can get more details and watch matches at Dota 2‘s official website.