The winter Open Registration period for the Dota Pro Circuit has come and gone, just about halfway through the competitive season. Dota 2’s developers especially made it very clear that this registration will represent the final, locked in teams that will be qualified for invites to The International 8 this summer. In other words, the lineups fans see now will be what we’ll discuss in a matter of four or five months.
Some teams opted to change things up to better their chances, and some banked on their current lineups improving throughout the season. A few played the math game, such as the swap between CIS banners Natus Vincere and Virtus.Pro—because at the end of the season, the points will be what count. Literally.
Regardless of how they got there, many of the teams emerged ahead of the game, point- and skill-wise. Here’s a quick look at these top TI contenders that we’ll likely be hearing from the rest of the season.
Qualifying Points: 4260
Team Secret, the European banner led by The International 1 winner Clement “Puppey” Ivanov, used to cycle in top players to lead them to victory, winning them multiple Majors in the prior system. However, between drama about various facets of its management, inconsistent performance and the loss of Twitch star power, Team Secret’s fame was starting to fade throughout last year’s tournament circuit. Worse, the banner performed questionably at The International 7 this past year, falling in the lower bracket to Team Liquid—fans can call this bad bracket luck or a premonition of things to come.
Secret sought to fix their troubles by picking up Adrian “Fata” Trinks and Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard in the initial Open Registration period. The bold carry style of Ace meshed well with position-four support Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat and midlaner Yeik Nai Zheng or “MidOne,” creating a new force of power in Europe.
With well-coordinated team plays from the full team led by hauntingly smart calls from team captain Ivanov, Team Secret broke free from their instability and now top the DPC leaderboard. They’ve mastered the confident European play style to win Qualifying Points at four out of their six events this season, including two wins: a Major and a Minor. Their potential is no secret, and they’re going to be a tough act to beat.
Qualifying Points: 3510
If there truly is a curse of The International champions, you wouldn’t think Team Liquid took home the Aegis. Liquid’s strategy at The International centered on a few dominant and confident heroes, specifically those for offlaner Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov and roaming support Maroun “Gh-” Merhej, which brought out their strengths and empowered the team. However, that’s not to discount the strong shot-calling of the rest of the talented team, especially captain Kuro Salehi “KuroKy” Takhasomi.
To this day, the team knows what they can do together, and they do it well. Even drastic Icefrog nerfs — namely, a third stage-one ban — couldn’t slow them down, proving that the team’s skill and staying power. Team Liquid strode into the DPC season looking stronger than ever and won the first event, the StarLadder i-League Season 3 Minor, in persuasive fashion.
Qualifying Points: 2697
Over the last season and a half, this CIS team has become the dictionary image of “aggressive.” With insane plays coming across the farming spectrum, this team dominated last season and came in as a strong contender for TI7. This season has been no different, as they’ve come close to victory at many of the events they’ve attended—and even helped take down Liquid’s post-TI winning streak.
After a year and a half of chasing the dream together, the team finally made a trade with fellow CIS team Natus Vincere, acquiring support player Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan. Given the two have honed in on similar heroes, VP’s future performance may be a matter of the team’s chemistry. Still, with the rest of the terrifying lineup and their QP intact, VP is still going to be a difficult act to beat.
Qualifying Points: 1725
The second-place champion of The International isn’t too far beind its European competitors, much to the delight of both their Chinese and global fans. Having been together as a squad now for nearly a year and a half, they’ve overcome adversity and the test of time to remain one of the top teams in the world.
In the spotlight for the team’s fame is mid laner Song “Sccc” Chun, whose mix of charisma and talent shot him to stardom during last year’s competitive season. But without mistake, it’s the team’s chemistry, skill and persistence that have kept them on top of the game throughout its many recent changes and metas. Featuring leaderboard-topping playmaker support Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi and Australian TI5 offlane veteran Damien Sau-jing Chok or “kpii,” among other local talent, the team has their eyes on an Eastern Aegis of Champions.
Qualifying Points: 1109
Na’Vi is back. The original International winners’ banner has returned, with celebrity midlaner Danil “Dendi” Ishutin still leading the helm of CIS talent. Before the roster shuffle, the team consistently showed up for DPC events by battling their way through the qualifiers of what many consider a relatively stacked region, surprising even the most dedicated fans.
Now, Na’Vi is taking a slightly different direction with a few swaps, keeping their cores intact while changing out their supports. Coming in from top performer Virtus.Pro is Ilya “Lil” Ilyuk, who provides the team with not only an extra boost of QP, but also top-tier skill. Na’Vi also recruited Nikola “LeBron” Popovic straight from the regional FaceIt Pro Ciruit, where he consistently performed on top. Teams facing this refreshed squad have plenty to worry about.
Qualifying Points: 900
Southeast Asia has plenty to offer professionally, and Mineski has skimmed some of the cream of the crop to form an intimidating, TI-worthy squad. Not only has Mineski become the top team of their region points-wise, but they’re among the top in the world. While the meta has made it hard to draft, their players’ boldness matches the aggressiveness of Western players, allowing them to be a formidable foe for the West’s play style.
The squad is confident enough in their performance that they’ve opted not to change any of their members. And it’s likely for the better—this multinational roster is led by several veterans, specifically DotA players Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang and Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung, offlaner and carry respectively. If they keep this pace and their spot in the DPC through other teams’ changes, they will likely secure a spot at The International.
Qualifying Points: 885
Once again, Evil Geniuses stands out as the great American hope. While they’re not the only team to show up at events — and have been present at fewer than rivals compLexity Gaming — they’re the only team that has been able to even remotely topple some of the greats. Their new roster took down top team Virtus.Pro at ESL One Genting several weeks ago, though they fell to second placers Team Liquid in the next round.
EG shuffled their lineup some to make room for respected European player Ramsus “MISERY” Filipsen, who comes in fresh from the team’s ex-captain’s rival squad OpTic Gaming to take up the support role. They’ve qualified for quite a few more events recently, including the prestigious Dota 2 Asian Championships Major, and are still barreling down the road to prove to Americans that EG can, in fact, do it.
Qualifying Points: 810
Vici Gaming getting their QPs has been, much like their performance, by the skin of their teeth. Even if generally inconsistent in drafting and gameplay, VG this season has remained strong enough to make a worthy stand against the top squads in their region and the world, including Newbee, LFY and Team Secret. Plus, the fact that they’re on the board at all means they’re performing well enough to make the top four at events reliably.
In other words, despite mixed match results on paper, VG is certainly not an underdog, and it’s no surprise they’re doing this well given their skilled lineup. In the top farm position is Zhang “Paparazi” Chengjun, known as one of the strongest carries in the region and world, and they also have on board Dota 2 veteran Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng, one of the most respected “older” professionals in China. They’ve put their money on their current lineup for the rest of the season, and if they make it to TI, it won’t be a shock to any dedicated fans of the team nor region.