It’s that time of the year again. With the venue announced and all tickets sold out, it’s only a matter of time before Valve has to release the most important list of all: Direct Invites. There has always been a lot of controversy around which teams are deemed “worthy” of such priorities, as formal rulings and criteria for these invites are non-existent. However, based on recent performance as well as squad strength after the Fall Shuffle, we can arrive at an educated guess on those who will get to Boston without a fight.
The Front Seats
There is no questioning it: team Wings Gaming deserve a direct invite. Despite numerous poaching rumors coming from established Chinese teams, the squad decided to remain together under the same brand. Alongside Natus Vincere and Escape Gaming, they are the only team who made no change to their roster – and there really isn’t a reason to. Their dominating performance in TI6 – especially in the Main Event – put them a level above every other opponent, as their frightening versatility proved too much for even the tactical genius Peter ‘ppd’ Dager to handle. Wings doesn’t seem to have lost their touch since then either, as proven by their recent victory in Nanyang Cruise Cup. Will Boston become another opportunity for them to exert dominance?
Wings Gaming is an easy pick
Digital Chaos, runners up of TI6, will also most likely be granted a direct invite. After their miraculous run in the lower bracket, the team pulled an upset over Evil Geniuses, only to fall short to the mighty Wings Gaming in the grand final. Since then they have parted ways with offlaner David ‘Moo’ William Hull, and recruited the 2-time Major winner David ‘Moonmeander’ Tan. While a lot of people argued that this is an upgrade in terms of player skill for DC, the team have yet to play an official match since TI6, and it remains a mystery whether they will truly fare better than before.
Can MiseRy once again lead DC to glory?
Evil Geniuses, on the other hand, was able to showcase the power of their new squad in the most recent premier tournament. Artour ‘Arteezy’ Babaev and Andreas Franck ‘Cr1t-’ clearly had no problems blending in with the all-star lineup, as they emerged victorious in MarsTV Dota 2 League against other big contenders like OG or Newbee. Along with their top 3 finish in The International 6, there probably will not be a lot of backlash if Valve decides to invite the American powerhouse.
The grey area: Open game
Fnatic would have made the cut into tier 1 as well, had they not dropped more than half of their TI6 player base. According to the manager, they wanted to build up a team around their old guards Chai ‘Mushi’ Yee Fung and Chong Xin ‘Ohaiyo’ Khoo, while bringing home 3 other players from TNC Gaming – who placed 7th in Seattle. While strong on paper, these changes are still fairly drastic, and unlike EG they have yet to yield favorable results to back them up. In fact, the team has lost a majority of their games ever since the shuffle, which can potentially put their Direct Invite into jeopardy. MVP Phoenix also suffer the same symptoms, as they finished last at MarsTV and struggled to recover ever since the loss of key players to Team Secret. Will their high TI6 placings guarantee the SEA representatives a spot at Boston?
The Malaysian old-timers look to rebuild Fnatic (Credit: Gosugamers)
In mainland China, competition is also heating up. EHOME obtained veteran player Liu ‘Sylar’ Jiajun alongside TI5 runner-up Liu ‘Garder’ Xinzhou, and the numerous mini-tournaments allowed them to acquire valuable experience as well as understanding on the meta game. While not dominating by any means, they were able to take games off of every other opponents, and their high placing in TI6 should give Zhang ‘LaNm’ Zhicheng and co. a shot at an invite. On the other hand, Newbee also proved that the departure of old school players hasn’t affected their performance one bit. The ferocious TI4 winner placed second at MarsTV and Nanyang Cruise Cup, making the most out of their 9000 MMR player Song ‘sccc’ Chun – whose phenomenal performance on Invoker dispatched Evil Geniuses with ease. While Newbee placed lower than EHOME at TI6, they certainly have had a better resume ever since. It will be a tough call to pick out the second Chinese team to accompany Wings Gaming.
SCCC – Newbee’s newfound source of power
The same story goes for the European scene, as Team OG and Liquid appear to be the most obvious choices. These two teams had made some interesting player swap, as decorated midlaner Amer ‘Miracle-’ Al-Barkawi picks up the blue jersey, and Jesse ‘JerAx’ Vainikka joins OG to replace Cr1t-. Both of them had average placings in TI6 (7-8th for Liquid, 9-12th for OG), and they both appear to be formidable opponents on paper. Again, OG seems to be the better candidate based on recent performance (3rd place at MarsTV) despite their lower placement. Team Secret should also be put into consideration, given their participation in MDL (4th place) and high-placing new players from last TI even though the team themselves didn’t do too well (12-16).
It is also worth noting that there has been a lot of powerful teams on the rise ever since The International 6. In China, invictus Gaming and LGD.fy seem to stand out from the rest, with veterans Zhang ‘xiao8’ Ning and Xu ‘BurNIng’ Zulei getting back in form. The CIS region also seeks to revive their former glory after a disappointing year with names like Natus Vincere, Virtus Pro, Empire, Vega Squadron and FRIENDS. Team NP led by Jacky ‘EternalEnVy’ Mao also has a lot of potential, and Team Faceless from SEA recently claimed their ticket to The Summit 6 after a hard-fought qualifier. The list of names to look out for range even further to Alliance, compLexity, TNC Pro Gaming, Execration … While it is unlikely that any of these teams will get a direct invite, they make up for an interesting and diverse qualifier that is definitely worth looking out for.
Our predictions for direct invites:
- Wings Gaming
- Digital Chaos
- Evil Geniuses
- Team OG
- Team Liquid
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