Analyzing The International 7 invites

The last weekend before The International 7 invites and qualifiers included two major LANs on opposite sides of the globe. The Summit 7 took place in Los Angeles, and Galaxy Battles was in Shenzhen, China. Both tournaments had teams that needed deep runs to possibly secure TI7 seeds including Secret, NP, VG.J, TnC and Planet Odd.

At Galaxy Battles, Planet Odd and TnC improved their chances a bit with second and third place finishes, respectively. At Summit 7, Virtus.Pro had a historic run in which it refused to pick a hero twice and managed to stick to the rule all the way until Game 5 of the grand final (and won). Secret took second at the Summit and NP was fourth.

If we look at the way The International allocated invites in the past, criteria consisted of a mix of regionalism, results, legacy, stability and potential. Last year, there were six invites and 10 qualifier slots, the latter split into two from China, North America, Europe and Southeast Asia, and the two winners of the wildcard bracket.

This year, more teams appeared to deserve invites based off results throughout the past year. Additionally, the regional qualifiers were expanded to include slots from the CIS and Southern American regions. Prior to Summit 7 and Galaxy Battles, six teams had all but ensured their invites based off of their year-long performances.

As it turned out, none of that speculation was needed as Valve already had the invites ready to go. The six teams that were seeded into the main event were: OG, Evil Geniuses, Invictus Gaming, Virtus.Pro, Newbee and Team Liquid.

OG

First: Boston Major, Kiev Major

Second: Dota 2 Asia Championship, Dota Pit, The Summit 6

Third: Mars Dota 2 League Autumn

Top 4: Starladder i-League Season 3 Finals

This one is a no-brainer. OG might flunk in the smaller events but dominates the Majors, which automatically raises the prestige of its resume above 90 percent of the competition.

Evil Geniuses

First: Mars Dota 2 League Autumn, China Top, Dota Pit, Manila Masters

Second: EPICENTER Season 2

Third: The Summit 6

Top 4: NA BEAT Invitational, Kiev Major.

EG had numerous victories throughout the year and ended it with a victory at Manila Masters and a second at EPICENTER. Obvious invite.

Newbee

First: ZOTAC Cup Masters, Galaxy Battles

Second: Mars Dota 2 League Autumn, China Top, ESL Genting, Manila Masters, Cruise Cup #1

Third: Dota 2 Asia Championships

Top 4: Starladder i-League Invitational #2

Newbee, along with iG, benefits heavily from destabilization within the Chinese scene. There has been no clear hierarchy since TI6, with various teams peaking for a couple of months before slipping back into mediocrity. Newbee’s results have been strong all year, and the team finished with victories at ZOTAC Cup Masters and Galaxy Battles.

Virtus.Pro

First: The Summit 6, Summit 7

Second: Kiev Major

Top 4: ESL Genting

Top 6: EPICENTER

Top 8: Boston Major

Virtus.Pro has been in the odd position of perpetually “underachieving” given their individual skill and ability to tiptoe around the more debilitating excesses of CIS teams. VP is clearly the best CIS team but ESL Genting, EPICENTER, and the Boston Major were all disappointments given their dominance prior to the playoffs. The team lacks consistent victories and top placings relative to OG, EG and Newbee, but getting second in Kiev ended up being enough to ensure a TI invite. VP then added a cherry on top by dominating The Summit 7. Even more impressively, they made it impossible to scout by picking more than 90 heroes throughout the tournament. It was reminiscent of Wings’ run prior to TI6.

Invictus Gaming

First: Dota 2 Asian Championships

Third: Cruise Cup #1, Dota 2 Ace Provisional

Top 4: Dota 2 Professional League: Top, Dota Pit, Dota 2 Professional League Season 3, Kiev Major, Starladder i-League Invitational #2

Although iG’s recent form has been lackluster, its victory at DAC and other Top 4 finishes (especially the Kiev Major) created a pretty strong resume.

Team Liquid

First: DreamLeague Season 6, Starladder i-League Season 3, Starladder i-League Invitational #2, EPICENTER Season 2

All Liquid’s victories before EPICENTER were clear indicators of rising form, yet insufficient as a whole to guarantee consideration for TI. At best, Team Liquid established itself as a top 3 team in Europe. EPICENTER was by far the biggest tournament TL won, and it had some of the best competition in attendance.

EDIT: I wrote the first draft of article as a sort of prediction for what would happen with the invites, not expecting Valve to release them so soon after the completion of the weekend’s LANs. So this will be one of those rare times where a reader gets to see me critique my own critique. Below is what I thought prior to Valve’s announcement.

What I thought before Valve’s announcement

After the first wave of six, we have 10 slots left assuming that Valve sticks to 16 teams as per usual. I assume one or two of those slots will go to the wildcard playoffs, which leaves eight slots for the regional qualifiers.

There are a few possible scenarios in this nebulous setup. Either Valve can invite multiple teams that are on the verge of deserving or they can put it into the regional qualifier spot. Generally speaking, invites and qualification spots are usually given on perceived strength heading into the tournament. But in this case, Valve has consistently pushed for more regionalization and less direct entry. Insofar as Valve usually seeks accord between qualification spots and region size, I will assume two of the 10 regional slots will go to a SA and CIS qualifier. This hypothetical choice leaves eight slots among the usual suspects of NA, EU, CN and SEA.

Based on strength/popularity/overall results, who are the possible teams Valve wants to see from each region? Here is a list of the most likely candidates:

China: LGD, LFT, iG.V

EU: Secret, mouz

NA: NP, Planet Odd

SEA: Faceless, TnC

Among those nine teams, I think five have an outside shot of getting a possible invite: Secret, NP, Planet Odd, Faceless and TnC. Furthermore, I think Valve prefers to split qualifier slots so it can try to get as many teams in as possible; they tend to split it across regions. Also consider two pairs of the borderline invites are in the same region, so that could change the way slots or a possible seventh invite would be allocated.

Each of the borderline teams has a partially reasonable case in their favor. Let’s divide the criteria into five discernible aspects: regionalism, results, legacy, stability and potential.

Regionalism describes a team’s standing within their particular region and how good said region is within the grand scheme of things. Results is a self-explanatory category. A team’s legacy refers to the history players have within Dota 2, specifically TI, but it also encompasses their general reputation. Stability means how steadfast a team’s roster has been (in order to confidently evaluate their successes and failures as The International approaches). Potential is much harder to pin down, but in broad terms I’m referring to the combination of skill ceiling and likelihood of achieving it if said team got into TI.

Secret

Results:

Second: Summit 7

Top 4: MDL Autumn 2016, EPICENTER

Top 6: Dota Pit

Top 8: Manilla Masters

Although the majority of the year has been disappointing for Secret, the last few events have seen a sharp rise in results as it’s earned top placings at the most recent LANs.

Regionalism: Secret is at a counterintuitive disadvantage here. It is the best remaining team in EU after OG and Team Liquid. The problem is that the rest of the region doesn’t have any comparable teams. If Valve will assume Secret will win the EU qualifier anyway based on comparative skill, it won’t bother to extend an invite.

Legacy: Clement “Puppey” Ivanov is one of the most storied leaders in Dota 2 history. Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng was the mid player in Fnatic’s great run last year. Pyo “MP” No-a was the carry player for MVP’s great TI run last year. They should be fine on this front.

Stability: They only made two roster changes throughout the year, so this is par for the course.

Potential: They rank among the highest of the teams yet to secure an invite.

TnC

Results:

Second: Starladder i-League Invitational #2

Third: Galaxy Battles

Top 4: Starladder i-league Season 3

They have been the second-best SEA team in 2017 and compared to Faceless, boast the better showings against international comparison..

Regionalism: They are the second best team within SEA. This will likely count against them if SEA were to get an invite this year.

Legacy: Beyond eliminating OG last year from TI6, they haven’t made much of a name for themselves as a team or players as they are all relatively new to the international stage.

Stability: They’ve changed rosters multiple times, but the three core players from the TI6 run are still here. I don’t think this will count against them come TI time.

Potential: A dark horse team that could possibly upset a favorite.

Faceless

Results:

Third: Dota Pit

Top 4: Manilla Masters

Top 8: Dota 2 Asian Championships, Kiev Major

Generally speaking, Faceless is infamous for crapping the bed at bigger LANs. Its best result came at Manila Masters, but it was somewhat soured by an early elimination at EPICENTER.

Regionalism: They are the best team from SEA when only judging them within that region. SEA itself has somewhat rehabilitated its reputation, but they still haven’t produced more than two world class teams at any point in time.

Legacy: Daryl “iceiceice” Koh Pei Xiang is the biggest name on the team and one of the most renowned offlaners in Dota 2 history. Beyond that there is also Dominik “Black^” Reitmeier, a long-time veteran who has played in teams all across the world.

Stability: Faceless hasn’t changed since TI6, making this one of the most stable teams in the scene.

Potential: As a team I favor them against any SEA team, but they have shown little ability to contend internationally.

NP

Results:

Second: NA BeatIt, Zotac Cup

Third: Manilla Masters

Top 4: Summit 7

Top 6: Summit 6, ESL Genting

Top 8: Boston Major

After bringing in Adrian “FATA-” Trinks and Johan “pieliedie” Astrom into the roster and shifting the roles, the team looks like a reborn Cloud9. These moves have corresponded with a swell of results in the last few months, and NP currently ranks among the best in the scene.

Regionalism: They are the best team in NA after EG. This benefits them as Planet Odd is another strong team in the region that Valve likely wants in TI7.

Legacy: NP is probably the most historic among the borderline teams. This reformation reunites four players from the old Cloud9 roster, which was one of the most beloved (and mocked) in Dota 2 history.

Stability: Fairly stable as they only made two roster moves in 2017.

Potential: Although I don’t consider them a favorite to win as they have shown the same propensity to fail under pressure during the playoffs, NP have proven to be Top 4 material in any tournament.

Planet Odd

Results:

First: ESL Genting

Second: Galaxy Battles

Top 4: Boston Major, China Top 2016

Top 6: Summit 6

Top 8: EPICENTER

Among the five teams here, the former Digital Chaos roster has the best results across the entire year as well as a recent resurgence at Galaxy Battles.

Regionalism: Planet Odd is the third best team in NA after EG and NP. Although four of the five players are not from NA, I don’t think Valve cares, so you can disregard that inconvenient fact.

Legacy: This is the almost exactly the same team that made a miracle run to TI6 finals last year.

Stability: This team is just as stable as Faceless with no roster changes since Ti6.

Potential: Although I don’t rate them as highly as either Secret or NP, this team can go deep into TI7. It would require a favorable turn of the brackets and recovering some of their past synergy, but it’s hardly improbable.

What actually happened

The six invites were always going to be a no brainer. I did float a theory that it was possible that with the increase in competitive field of legitimate contenders that Valve could extend the number of spots in TI. Valve did that, as it increased the slots by two and got rid of the wildcard qualifiers so it shakes up like this.

EU: 2

CIS: 1

CN: 3

SEA: 3

NA: 2

SA: 1

Here were my predictions of what teams I suspected Valve wanted:

CIS: 1 slot

SA: 1 slot

China: LGD, LFT, iG.V

EU: Secret, mouz

NA: NP, Planet Odd

SEA: Faceless, TnC

Everything seems accurate except for the increase by one SEA spot, but that makes sense if you decided to include online qualifiers in the mix. If you did that, then the best SEA team after the Kiev Major has been Clutch Gamers. They have beaten every other SEA team in qualifying for the events, but have been unable to perform on LAN, likely due to inexperience.

In the end, all of this is supposition. Maybe Valve and I thought similarly on this issue, or maybe I’m just the right person with the right typewriter. In either case, the fact that none of the borderline teams got in makes complete sense if you assume the reason that Valve increased the slots was because of the increased competitive field in Dota 2.

If that is the case, then Valve like me believes the Tier 2 and Tier 3 teams are closer than ever in Dota 2 and none of the teams below the top six was able to distinguish themselves to the same caliber. So now those seven teams will have to go to their regional qualifiers and face the shark pit that is the TI quals. And while they are clearly the favorites and the teams I’d bet on to win, there are two fundamental rules about all competitions to keep in mind.

The best team should win and anyone can get upset. That is why the Valve Dota 2 tournaments among all esports have the best tournament formats because for whatever reason they are one of the few tournament organizers who understand the point of the tournament is to find the best team. To do that, you must have the fairest format. Additionally, Valve understands underdogs don’t need extra help. In fact, an underdog winning under a fair format makes the upset all the sweeter. Combine that with the fact that The International is the most pressure laden event in the Dota 2 circuit and the TI7 quals are looking to be a bloodbath.

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