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EPICENTER: One of the last stops on the road to TI7

EPICENTER comes at an opportune time for the Dota 2 season.
EPICENTER comes at an opportune time for the Dota 2 season.

EPICENTER comes at an opportune point in the Dota 2 season. It was already a highly prestigious tournament, one that could have easily been considered a Major by production value and level of competition. It also lands near the end of the road to The International 7, which means if anyone hasn’t earned an invite yet, winning here will almost certainly guarantee a berth. Finally, five of the 10 attending teams have won a tournament in the Dota 2 circuit, making EPICENTER the true tournament of champions.

OG

Roster: N0tail, ana, s4, JerAx, Fly

OG is undoubtedly the best team in the world. It has won three Major titles in the past year, alongside multiple second place finishes and a top 4 at the previous EPICENTER. Coming off victory at the Kiev Major, OG assuredly enters this tournament as the favorite. What makes them so dangerous is that even on their off days, they are able to reassert composure mid-game/mid-series to make a comeback.

Although it isn’t crunch time for this team right now, it is time for OG to fix its mistakes heading toward TI7. OG’s main failure, if it can be called one, has been ensuring they arrive at TI in top shape. Last year they had a spurt of disappointing results around August and ended up outside of the top 8 at TI6. Recently, this trend seems to be back en vogue as they were eliminated early by Faceless at the Manila Masters. Both iterations of OG have been the best in the world during their existence, but TI remains an elusive achievement. Taking EPICENTER would go a long way towards paving a clean road into TI.

Virtus.Pro

Roster: RAMZES666, No[o]ne, 9pasha, Lil, Solo

This iteration of VP was formed after their CEO raged at the lack of professionalism in the CIS scene. The region had always been praised for its bounty of talented individuals, but the lack of discipline and teamwork made their highly aggressive play styles self-destructive. Teams like the old Virtus.Pro and Empire became infamous for throwing leads and falling apart when their reliance on “davai dota” backfired.

This current roster was his answer to that problem. After the fall of Natus Vincere years ago, this CIS squad has finally returned the region to respectable status. While VP has had multiple hiccups this year — namely with qualifying and internet issues — they remain a top three team. They proved themselves a serious threat with their crushing run at Summit 6 and a second place at the Kiev Major. We have yet to see this team on LAN in 7.06, but the renewed emphasis on dominating the laning stage seems to suit their play style well. If they assimilate the patch changes into their repertoire, it could give them the edge to overtake OG.

Evil Geniuses

Roster: Arteezy, Suma1L, UNiVeRsE, zai, Cr1t

While four of the five players from previous iterations of EG remain, the team’s identity has changed since ppd left. Instead of relying on his system and strict team identity to bring in consistent results, the lineup has shifted to a more talent-based foundation. I don’t think cr1t matches ppd in terms of strategy and drafting prowess, but his mellow personality doesn’t trigger the behind-the-scenes clashes that ppd’s brusque attitude did.

This correlates in their results. When the players are on fire, they are unstoppable and can win big events; at their Manila Masters victory, Sumail reclaimed his status as one of the most dominant mids. When they aren’t, they lack the ability to adapt mid-tournament. EG no longer drops to the lower bracket on Day 1 only to win the tournament. Instead, they either smash through the competition or exit with a whimper.

Invictus Gaming

Roster: Burning, Op, Xxs, BoBoKa, Q

iG is the only Chinese team to have won a premier international tournament in the last few months. By default this makes them the best within the region, but they have shown severe limitations in strategy since DAC. Similar to the old CDEC, this was a team that played one style of Dota: gain early advantages and parlay them into objectives. Since reaching the top of the scene, they have been studied more and teams are learning how to cut them off at the knees. iG is currently “on the road” as they’ve been to three LANS in the last four weeks. Success at EPICENTER will depend on whether they can find a variation to their style that’s still effective.

Team Liquid

Roster: MATUBAMAN, Miracle~, MinD_ContRoL, GH, KuroKy

While I call this the tournament of champions, Liquid could be called the runt of the litter. They have only won smaller LANs where the competition wasn’t truly elite: DreamLeague Season 6, Starladder i-League Season 3 and Starladder i-League Invitational 2. Despite the paucity in prestige, they should be close to securing their spot for TI7. Liquid seems to have figured something out at their last Starladder outing, and this is the perfect testing ground to see whether it will viable for TI.

The five other teams at this event aren’t slated as tournament winners, but can easily upset one of the favorites in a series. Clutch Gamers have won every SEA qualifier online; LFY.Forever Young is a surprise from the Chinese region and will view this event as the opportunity to build a reputation. Secret is no longer considered a Tier 1 team, but have looked the best among the tier 2 teams in Europe. Planet Odd (ex-Digital Chaos) are a dangerous opponent when on form. Finally, Na`Vi will unveil its latest roster with the return of star player Sonnieko.

As LAN season gets underway, EPICENTER appears to be one of the most competitive of the season. It will serve as a barometer for many of these teams as they look forward to TI.

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