Two months after the conclusion of the Kiev Majors (and mere minutes after the conclusion of the Dota Summit 7), Valve have chosen the top Dota 2 teams in the world to attend The International. Teams have fought over the year to be noticed by Valve, and it’s paid off for the six teams who have already been invited directly to the main event.
But who’s the top of the top—who’s already looking in the best shape at this point? After all, the tournament is less than two months away, and it’s never too early to start looking.
Here’s my take on who’s looking strongest already.
The CIS squad has been showing up hard since Kiev. While they haven’t come out on top at every event they’ve been to, they’ve come pretty damn close many times, especially taking second at Kiev.
Most recently and most notably, VP took an extremely persuasive victory at Dota Summit 7, picking entirely unique heroes until the final match. That’s 16 games straight.
And they’re the #1 contender here because VP’s strategies are parallel to how Wings Gaming and Digital Chaos fought their way to the top: staying flexible with strong drafts and a mix of individual and team skill. In this brand new world since the 7.00 patch, anything goes, and a team that adapts that mentality will emerge strong.
Let’s be honest here: Whether you love them or hate them, OG is just consistently damn scary. The European team took both of Valve’s Majors this year, Boston in December and Kiev in April. That’s not counting the other two in the 2015-2016 circuit, Frankfurt and Manila.
Between Valve events, though, their luck tends to run dry. If they play at TI like they did their last few tournaments, especially with their group stage elimination at Epicenter, then they’re doomed. Even playing their hardest at DAC early April, they fell to co-invite IG. And at TI6, they dropped to the lower bracket, only to be eliminated by Filipino underdog favorites TNC Pro.
The real question here is, then, will they drop as tragically as they did at last year’s event? Or will they take the Aegis? At least there’s no doubt that they’ll at least have a good run at TI, as they’ve beaten every other team on this list recently.
3. Evil Geniuses
Region: North America
If there’s any team that knows how to show up hard at The International, it’s Evil Geniuses. The team has remained one of the best teams in the circuit, even if they’ve been fairly absent; they’ve showed up well in events like Epicenter and the Kiev Majors, and they won at the Manila Masters.
They’ve disappeared for the most part, likely to boot camp and only coming out for the biggest events. Hopefully for NA fans, this means they’ll emerge stronger than ever for TI7.
For one, it’s not China’s year. If we’re going by the TI flip-flop tradition—China winning even years and others winning odd years—then a Western team is going to take the victory. Sorry, that’s just how it’s been.
But if any team in China would be a snatch away from victory, it’s Newbee. The team has shown consistency by placing well at their tournaments, including their back-to-back LAN wins at ZOTAC and Galaxy Battles. On the other hand, they’ve struggled at the highest level, falling at Manila and failing to qualify at all for Epicenter. At the very least, they’ll place Top 8 — but any further? Only time will tell.
5. Team Liquid
So Liquid’s definitely won one event, but they sadly haven’t placed well in much besides Epicenter. That doesn’t mean their Direct Invite is worth nothing: Epicenter was, in fact, a pretty big deal. But overall, their results have been like an old town road, smooth and bumpy at any given point. The European squad has stepped it up at least once this circuit, though, and they can certainly do so at TI7.
6. Invictus Gaming
Two months ago, this team would have been considered one of the top after defeating OG at DAC and placing strong in their other events. Now, while they’re certainly among the best, IG just hasn’t been able to step it up like they used to. Still, no team in China has performed as well as IG, and so they definitely earned their place. It’s just a matter of whether they can train up again to overcome the best teams.