As The International 7 rolls around, all eyes will be focused on the current giants. Ask anyone who the frontrunners are for TI7 and the common answers will be Evil Geniuses, OG, Team Liquid, and Virtus Pro. But The International is anything if not surprising, and experience has shown us time and time again that the overlooked and the undervalued often rise to the surface, and sometimes snatch the Aegis of Champions away from the more established Dota dynasties. Here’s some teams that might make a splash at TI7.
The SEA scene exploded after TI6. Fnatic dissolved into a 2 man squadron, losing all their players except for Cheng Xin “Ohaiyo” Khoo and Djardel Jicko “DJ” Mamputsi, with their star players Yee Fung “Mushi” Chai and Yeik Nai “Midone” Zheng leaving to find better shores. Fnatic looked to Korea and Malaysia for new faces, and assembled what seemed to be a superstar team with Ohiayo, DJ, Yongmin “Febby” Kim, Seon-yeop “QO” Kim, and Jay Son “Ahjit” Lai. It was the best and brightest of the players that stayed in SEA but the team’s results haven’t backed up their potential. The team has struggled in navigating their way out of the qualifier stages and hasn’t placed any significant results. A second place showing at the SEA qualifiers however, might be a sign of things to come. The players are no strangers to the International and have managed to shatter expectations, just not with this particular lineup.
Febby and QO are remnants of the professional Korean scene, which quietly died out after The International 6. DJ has traveled all across Southeast Asia, starting out his career in Korea and moving back to his homeland of the Philippines. Ohaiyo has been an SEA legend for as long as Mushi and Ahjit recently made waves when Warriors Gaming Unity seemed like it would be the next big thing. In a sense, Fnatic has inherited the old spirit of MVP alongside two of it’s players. They’re aggressive. They’re focused on the snowball. QO is, as always, a relentless killing machine. But they’re also more inventive with their drafts, with Bloodseeker being a favorite; and outside of QO, the rest of the team is more stable, more willing to pull back when necessary and rein in the bloodthirst.
LGD is one of the stranger clubs in China. It’s historically been a more conservative club, wanting to hold onto established talents rather than roll the dice with newer players. The entire team is built around the talents of would be star mid Yu “Maybe” Lao, who 2-3 years ago was considered the future of Chinese Dota. Maybe became famous as a mechanically gifted mid player, the original wunderkind that upcoming players like Artour “Arteezy” Babaev and Syed Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan were compared to. The following years haven’t treated Maybe as well as they have Arteezy or SumaiL, but with LGD’s win at the Mars Dota 2 League Maybe seems to have finally found his footing just in time to fulfill his destiny.
Throughout most of the season LGD has actually looked like it was struggling. But as the Chinese meme says “LGD is the designated champion of TI7!” so the team doubled down, refocused their efforts and looked for a better lineup. The team shuffled through players until it settled on a finished roster of Chunyu “Ame” Wang, Maybe, Yangwei “old eleven” Ren, Zhengzheng “Yao” Yao, Guanhong “Victoria” Chen. Ame and Victoria are relatively new players, at least for China, with only 2 years of professional experience each, but they’ve quickly built a foundation for the team as the position 1 and 5 respectively. Ame has a deep hero pool, ranging from traditional picks like Sven and Juggernaut, to, strangely enough, Timbersaw. Yao is an old veteran and companion for The Director himself, Ning “Xiao8” Zhang. He’s cast off his old role as an offlaner to make space for old eleven, and taken on the position 4 and captain’s seat for the team. Moving forward, expect the experience and talent on this team to create one of the more versatile teams in the International in terms of drafting and playstyle.
HellRaisers, formerly Planet Dog, is one here for the pure balls of making it as an Open Qualifier team, losing in the first round of the Main Qualifier playoffs, and roaring out of the Lower bracket to make it to the International. That’s an impressive statement that demands our attention. Hellraisers is a new team, formed in June specifically to compete for the International. However, don’t let that or the relatively obscure nature of the players, fool you. The team is all veterans to the scene and have been bubbling around underneath the Tier 1 scene for years. Greg “Keyser” Kallianiotis is a well known pubstar and has been on a number of Tier 2 European teams. Alexei “j4” Lipai was captain of Power Rangers, a team that churned out talents like Turtui “Arise” Inout, Artyom “fng” Barshack, Akbar “SoNNeikO” Butaev, and Dmitry “Ditya Ra” Minenkov. Even the newest players, Uroš “Swiftending” Galić and Neta “33” Shapira, have been around for 2 years. Hellraisers might crash and burn at the International, but if teams are unprepared, there might be a repeat of the European qualifiers on the main stage.