By Radu Muresan
August 15, 2019
The very notion of weak team may sound a bit heretical when it comes to The International 2019 and its participants. After all, aren’t these supposed to be the best teams in the world?
In esports and any other competitive setting, the notion of strength is relative to the average strength of all the participants involved in a certain event. Relative to each other, even the best teams in the world are separated by massive skill gaps. And considering this understanding, I will look at the six weakest teams at The International 2019. These are the kind of teams that you can certainly cheer for but have little expectation of. Should any of them reach the top eight, I’m sure everyone will be surprised and happy for their exceptional result, including themselves.
Infamous is the South American representative to The International 2019. The team earned their spot at the event by winning the qualifiers in their region after a 3 – 0 victory over paiN Gaming in the Grand Final.
During the regular season, Infamous did not manage to earn enough points to be included in the top 20, let alone top 12. Their only notable result in the Dota Pro Circuit was a 9th – 12th place at DreamLeague Season 11. For a South American team, that’s still very impressive. But it’s not even close to what the stronger participants at The International 2019 have managed to achieve.
Going into TI9, I expect infamous to finish 13th – 16th. Based on what they’ve shown us in recent months, including at the regional qualifiers for The International 2019, the team has a reasonable chance of surviving the Group Stage. There are at least two or three other competitors that are on their level or slightly stronger, which gives them a real shot at qualifying for the Main Event.
Keep in mind that only one team from each group of nine will be eliminated at the end of the Group Stage. So, if Infamous gets placed in the same group with a team like Chaos Esports Club, I can see them avoiding the last place.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the Group Stage matches are Bo2. So, the teams don’t necessarily need to beat their opponent in a serious Bo3 match, nor do they have just one chance of winning such as in Bo1s. This format allows competitors such as Infamous to grab points where least expected and possibly do better than the statistics indicate. But in any case, anything more than a 13th – 16th place at this competitive level would be a miracle for them.
This is not the first time when the South American team is present at The International. They’ve been here before, although with a different roster, in 2017. At that edition, they finished 13th – 16th.
Na’Vi is back but how good are they? Last time we’ve seen them at The International, it was 2016 and they finished 13th – 16th. In 2017 and 2018 they missed the event entirely. This season, the team had some results, including the following: 2nd place at DreamLeague Season 10, 2nd place at MegaFon Winter Clash, 3rd place at WePlay! Dota 2 Valentine Madness, 3rd place at ESL One Mumbai 2019 and 13th – 16th place at DreamLeague Season 11.
Most of these results aren’t that relevant, as they were obtained in lower tier competitions. Na’Vi’s season on the Dota Pro Circuit scoreboard was arguably very poor. They did not get into the top 20 but were offered one last chance to qualify for The International 2019 by winning the CIS regional qualifiers. Which they did. Nobody knows how, given that they finished the Group Stage only in 4th place with four wins and three losses. But nevertheless, they qualified for the Playoffs Stage, where they lost the first match against Vega Squadron but then went on to win the next three. In the Grand Final, they easily defeated Winstrike Team, which was arguably the strongest team in the tournament, with players like Lil, Silent and Nofear in their roster.
At The International 2019, Na’Vi will probably struggle to survive the Group Stage, simply because they are much weaker than the vast majority of their opponents. And if they do make it out alive, it will likely be from a Lower Bracket position followed by a Bo1 elimination match. And it will take a miracle for them to advance and finish 9th – 12th or higher.
Mineski finished the regular season in 18th place with 236 points. They took part in two Majors, finishing 9th – 12th both times, and one Minor, where they took 5th – 6th place out of eight teams. Mineski’s roster does have some strong players, such as ninjaboogie (the former TNC Predator captain) and kpii (former TI finalist with Newbee, in 2017).
In the qualifiers for The International 2019, Mineski had serious problems against some totally unknown teams but ultimately qualified after a 3 – 2 victory over Team Jinesbrus, which was an improvised roster made up of three South Koreans, Gunnar and a certain 23savage. The Koreans are the most important part here: Forev, Febby and March. All of them are well-known players with high-level achievements. You may remember them from that famous MVP Phoenix that impressed the Dota 2 scene back in 2015-2016.
Mineski’s hard-earned victory over this regional rival was important, but it still showed a lot of weaknesses in their game. We’ll have to see what they’ve managed to fix over the last month or so during their TI9 training, but overall, I don’t expect them to do much at the tournament. I can see them getting out of the groups. But for them to finish anywhere higher than 13th – 16th they would have to encounter some very weak team in their first Lower Bracket match or simply play much better than they did all season.
This is a team with a lot of potential. Some will say that they shouldn’t even be on this list. However, I’ve watched them play in the Chinese Qualifiers for The International 2019 and I was not impressed with their performance. I do understand that this region is highly competitive but still, the number of unforced errors they made was just ridiculous. As a result, they almost lost the Grand Final against CDEC Gaming, a team that had done nothing during the entire season. They had to win the Open Qualifiers to even be allowed to play in the tournament. And RNG almost lost to them.
In terms of their overall performance during the regular season, RNG finished 20th with 204 points. However, they do have something going for them: they finished 9th – 12th at EPICENTER Major, which was the last Major of the season. So at least we know that they’re capable of playing at the highest level and even beating some of the teams they encounter.
Going into The International 2019, I expect RNG to fail rather early, but still survive the Group Stage.
This is a team with some heavy names in it, but I don’t see how they could possibly do well at an event of this stature. Their main weaknesses are the following: at least two of the players are considerably less experienced than the rest. And one of them, vtFaded, is the team’s carry. The other weakness has to do with their lack of experience as a unit. They’ve only been playing together for a few months and that’s not nearly enough to compete against the world’s best teams.
Chaos does have one strong feature though: the captain is MISERY and he’s played with this exact team (although a different roster) in a TI Grand Final, back in 2016. Furthermore, the midlaner is MATUMBAMAN, who is the former midlaner/carry of Team Liquid. These two players may save the rest of the team. But it will be very hard for them to succeed at this level. Personally, I think they stand a good chance to survive the Group Stage but I don’t see how they could possibly get into the top 9th – 12th at The International 2019.
And finally, we have Fnatic, a team that shouldn’t even be here. And yet, their last several months have been so bad for them, it’s hard not to include them among the weakest teams at TI9. Sure, they look at their overall result during the regular season and see that they finished 7th. You also look at their roster and see players like Abed, Jabz and iceiceice in it. But then you look at their results at the last two Majors and see them being eliminated right from the first Lower Bracket match each time. That’s certainly not good.
Of all these six teams, Fnatic is the one with the highest chances of getting a good result at The International 2019. But they may also fail miserably. So, until they start proving me wrong, I will definitely regard them as one of the weakest six teams at TI9.