The International 2019, Dota 2’s annual world championship, is just a day away. With 18 of the best teams in the globe competing for a $32 Million prize pool in Shanghai, China, competitive Dota doesn’t get any better than this.
Here are some of the top storylines heading into the event:
It has been an uncanny convention for a Chinese team to win the Aegis on every other iteration of The International. It started with Invictus Gaming beating previous champions Natus Vincere in TI2, an all Chinese final which saw Newbee triumph in TI4, and Wings Gaming winning over $9 million in TI6. Last year’s final seemed to be on the course of another timely Chinese victory when PSG.LGD faced off against OG as the favorites. What followed, however, was finals series for the ages that saw OG victorious that ended the tradition of biannual Chinese dominance in Dota 2’s biggest stage.
This year, Chinese teams are out for blood — backed by passionate home support and the fiery desire to bring the Aegis back to the east. The PSG.LGD lineup that remained unchanged from their second-place finish in TI8 played at a high level consistently throughout the season, only losing out to top teams such as Secret and Liquid in the later stages of most tournaments.
The standout Chinese team this season, however, was Vici Gaming. VG have continuously proved that they are capable of fighting toe to toe with the world’s best teams this season. Wins in DreamLeague Season 11 and the Epicenter Major earned them the third spot in the DPC ladder with 11250 points. Barely scraping by an invite through a 12th place finish in the Dota Pro Circuit are Keen Gaming, who will be making their TI debut on home turf. Rounding off Chinese representation are Royal Never Give Up who finished an abysmal 20th in the DPC, but fought tooth-and-nail against CDEC Gaming in the regional qualifiers to earn a spot at TI. With The International making its way in China for the first time, each of these teams is more than eager to win the Aegis on home soil.
It’s interesting to think that amidst all the talent the SEA has to offer, no team from the region has ever won The International. Three teams will be representing SEA this year, and they’re all looking forward to making history.
Fnatic presented themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the first half of the season but squad issues started to surface after their impressive third place finish in DreamLeague Season 11. TNC Predator, on the other hand, were struck with controversy early into the season and even lost key players. But they picked themselves up and came back stronger, winning WESG 2018 and finishing 4th in the Epicenter Major to secure them a slot to Shanghai. Often overshadowed by the likes of Fnatic and TNC, Mineski had a DPC season to forget. The old dogs of SEA Dota failed to qualify for multiple majors and peaked with 9th-12th place finishes in the Stockholm and Paris majors.
Clearly, the SEA teams featuring in this year’s iteration of The International didn’t have the easiest of seasons, having suffered from external issues and internal conflict alike. But remember when a rag-tag team everybody counted out went against all odds and snatched the Aegis last year?
We’re just a year short of The International being a decade old. With the kind of history TI has, one would expect exceptional players to have won it multiple times. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. To put matters into perspective, Clement “Puppey” Ivanov of Team Secret is 29 years old and participated in all 9 iterations of The International, but has only ever won the Aegis once in Cologne. Syed “Sumail” Hassan of Evil Geniuses, on the other hand, became the youngest TI winner in 2015 at the age of 16. Both players, along with 12 others, will be competing in Shanghai for a shot at making history by winning TI for a second time.
Speaking of winning TI for a second time, guess which team qualified for The International with the same squad they won with just a year ago? Johan “Notail” Sundstein, Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka, Sébastien “Ceb” Debs, Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen, and Anathan “ana” Pham are back at The International this time as defending champions instead of counted-out nobodies. Not only do they have a chance of winning TI for a record second time, but they have a chance to win it back to back. What could be better than another Cinderella story?
The International kicks off tomorrow with four simultaneous Group A matches featuring Team Secret vs Alliance, Team Liquid vs Newbee, PSG.LGD vs Chaos Esports Club, and TNC Predator vs Keen Gaming. Catch all the action on Twitch and Youtube and stay tuned to Esports by Inquirer.net for more coverage on The International 2019!