The International 6 will be unlike any other in Dota 2 history. Not only because it is the sixth iteration of one of esports’ largest events. Not only because it will break its own record of having the highest prize pool of any esports event in history — again. It will also go down in history as the most open field that had ever attended a TI.
Here is a brief glance at the history of The International. I list the favorites before the event, the finals and the eventual winner.
The International (2011)
Finals: Na`Vi vs EHOME
The International 2 (2012)
Favorites: iG, LGD.
Finals: Na`Vi vs iG
The International 3 (2013)
Favorites: Alliance, Na`Vi, Tongfu, DK, LGD
Finals: Na`Vi vs Alliance
The International 4 (2014)
Favorites: EG, DK, Newbee
Finals: Newbee vs VG
The International 5 (2015)
Favorites: Secret, EG, VG, LGD
Finals: EG vs. CDEC
When we look back at the entire history of TI, a clear pattern emerges. There are only a handful of teams that are favored to win TI each year, usually three. Even in the years where there were more, like in TI3 and TI5, there was one clear favorite that stood above the rest in Alliance and Secret, respectively.
That is what makes this TI so interesting. Not only has the history of the teams and players built up over a six year span, but this is the most open TI we’ve ever seen. There are four favorites to win this year’s TI, three more teams right below them that have proven they can beat the upper echelon of teams, and five dark horse teams that have the talent to upset any of the ones above them if they can perform on the given day. There has never been a competition this close going into TI.
The four favorites are OG, Liquid, Wings and Newbee. OG was a team formed by Johan “N0tail“ Sundstein and Tal “Fly“ Aizik. They eschewed the Secret/DK philosophy of a dream team and instead have decided to only have two superstar players in Andreas Franck “Cr1t-“ Nielsen and Amer “Miracle-“ Al-Barkawi. Cr1t- is widely hailed as one of the best Western supports in the world and Miracle- is considered one of, if not the best player right now. Together they’ve won two of the three Majors and look to be the best Western team.
After Secret’s split after the disaster of TI5, Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi went his own way to form a new squad with Liquid and try his hand at captaining. After initial struggles, the team turned it around and quickly became the second best team in the Western world with their star players being Lasse “MATUMBAMAN“ Urpalainen and Jesse “JerAx“ Vainikka.
The third is Newbee, with superstar Chen “Hao“ Zhihao at its helm. Hao is the most successful Chinese Dota 2 player in history and has been part of nearly every great Chinese squad once he hit the spotlight ever since his days on TongFu. This time, he’s teamed up with a new leader in Hu “Kaka“ Liangzhi, who was a new pubstar in China and upon entering the scene has had been integral in the success of both Newbee and EHOME, when he was on that roster earlier in 2015.
The fourth is Wings. Arguably the longest-tenured lineup of anyone at TI (depending on how you count Alliance), they have risen high in the last month of play by winning international events. They are the team to watch for their unorthodox play style, drafts and surprising plays. None of them has ever been to a TI before, and this will be the most important event they’ve played in in their lives.
The next tier includes Natus Vincere, MVP and LGD. Na’Vi has just come off a victory at The Summit and has slowly grown into a very strong team. After the dissolution of its previous roster, Na’Vi built around two key pieces: Danil “Dendi“ Ishutin and Akbar “SoNNeikO“ Butaev. Dendi is still a good mid laner with the odd exceptional performance. SoNNeikO, though, has been the revelation. At TI5, the few games Na’Vi won were on the back of SoNNeikO, and he has taken on leadership and drafting for the team as well.
The next team is MVP: The Korean underdogs who started with nothing. No servers, no LANs, no tournaments and only one org that will support them. Their circumstances haven’t changed a bit, but they’ve proven they can play at the top level and have won two LANs with strong teams in attendance and a top four at the Major. Their main star is mid player Kim “QO“ Seon-yeop. The entire team matches his tempo to fight constantly, unrelenting and never with an ounce of fear. MVP is easily one of the most explosive teams to watch.
The third team is LGD. Led by legendary captain Zhang “xiao8“ Ning, arguably the greatest to be seen in Dota 2. He has been in the top five of every TI except for the once at TI3 where his team was upset by Liquid in a best-of-one. He has teamed up with Sun “Agressif“ Zheng and Lu “Maybe“ Yao, two of the hottest talents in China with Aggressif being the best carry of TI5 and Maybe being China’s best mid laner.
Below them are Secret, Evil Geniuses, Vici Gaming.Reborn, Alliance and Fnatic. Although none of them look of the caliber to win the event, all can be dangerous, especially if they get rolling with their best players. Secret is led by Clement “Puppey“Ivanov, one of the world’s best captains. They also have the twin stars in Artour “Arteezy“ Babaev and Jacky “EternaLEnVy“ Mao. Both have at one point been considered perhaps the best player in the world (Arteezy’s time on Secret, EternaLEnVy after the formation of new Secret post TI5), and while the team is still rough around the edges, in terms of pure raw talent, it has what it takes to beat anyone. In the same vein, so does EG, which is led by Peter “ppd“ Dager, another of the world’s best captains. His drafts are legendary and are only possible with the help of Clinton “Fear“ Loomis, both because of the input he gives and because of the huge amount of versatility he brings to the table. Mid player is Syed Sumail “SumaiL“ Hassan rose as a superstar back when Arteezy left the team, but has since averaged back to just a good (and sometimes very good) player.
VG.R is Xu “fy“ Linsen’s team. He is a superstar support player and one of the strong captains of China. He has teamed up with Yang “Zyf“ Pu, an exciting carry player prospect who has yet to make a huge splash in the international scene. Afterward is Alliance, the TI3 champions who still have great chemistry and, though outdated, can still have it in them to upset many of the better teams. The last of this class if Fnatic, the Malaysian team that has struggled in the draft, but has consistently played close to a lot of the better teams on the list and has real upset potential.
Going into TI6, no one can predict anything. It is a clash on every level from ideological makeup of the teams, drafting styles, play styles, histories and personalities. This is the big one, the one everyone wants to win. But only one team will walk away with the coveted aegis and Dota 2’s greatest title.
Cover photo courtesy of Valve.