By Radu Muresan
August 14, 2019
With the start of The International 2019 quickly approaching, let’s look at the former TI winners that are in the race and analyze their chances of winning the Aegis of Champions for the second time. As you probably know, not a single team has won The International twice so far, but six of the 18 participants to this year’s edition will have that chance, simply because they already managed to win the tournament once.
Na’Vi won the first edition of The International, so it’s only natural to start by analyzing them. They’re also the team that came closest to winning two TI’s, since they played in three TI Grand Finals. However, the team’s success and performance dropped rapidly after the departure of Puppey and in 2017 and 2018 the organization did not even manage to qualify for the event. Now, after two missed editions, Na’Vi is back. But is it back with a real chance to win or is it simply back on the menu? I would argue for the latter.
In 2018-2019, Na’Vi had a single participation at Dota Pro Circuit events. They somehow managed to qualify for DreamLeague Season 11, where they finished 13th – 16th. Apart from that, it was one failure after another for them, even though they’ve managed to retain one of their greatest players, SoNNeikO, who is a world-class captain and support and had been playing on and off for the team since 2015.
In principle, Na’Vi’s presence at The International 2019 is an absolute miracle. Given their odds for success during the qualifiers and the fact that they almost got eliminated even before the Playoffs began, it’s quite impressive that they managed to triumph over all of their regional rivals and come back to the big leagues just at the right time.
All things considered; I don’t see how Na’Vi could get anything more than a 13th – 16th place at The International 2019. In fact, I would consider it a great success for them if they make it alive out of the Group Stage.
Alliance is another former TI winner with a large following but unlike their famous rival Na’Vi from that historic 2013 Grand Final, they’re in much better shape right now. In fact, I would regard Alliance as one of the three potential dark horses that have a real chance of surprising everyone at The International 2019.
Alliance got to TI9 by finishing the Dota Pro Circuit among the top 12 teams. More specifically, they were 11th with 1179 points, after a superb performance at EPICENTER Major, where they finished 5th – 6th. Apart from this result, the Europeans had five other notable performances this season: 9th – 12th at The Kuala Lumpur Major, 13th – 16th at The Chongqing Major, 3rd at OGA Dota PIT Minor 2019, 2nd at StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 2 and 1st place at DOTA Summit 10.
Overall, we’ve seen the current Alliance roster grow a lot under the leadership of Loda and the roster has been playing together for more than a year. In fact, four of the players have been with the team for more than 20 months. That’s a very long time in this industry.
Overall, Alliance does stand a real chance at winning The International 2019. Of course, it will be incredibly hard for them to beat the giants of this esport, but not impossible. And if history proves anything, it is that this event is where all miracles can happen, and all dreams can turn into something real.
Newbee won The International in 2014 and played in another Grand Final against Liquid, in 2017. However, this year they had zero Dota Pro Circuit results and were not even on the list at any of the 10 events that took place throughout the season. However, the reason why they’re here is that Forward Gaming, the North American organization, had some financial problems and decided to release their Dota 2 roster just several weeks ago.
Newbee came to the rescue and took advantage of an excellent opportunity: having a team at The International 2019 and performing in front of their fans. The tournament takes place in Shanghai, China, so their presence at the competition is a good marketing move if nothing else.
Despite not achieving much and going through numerous roster changes in 2019, Forward Gaming (now Newbee) has a strong roster full of Dota 2 veterans. With it, they dominated the NA regional qualifiers for The International 2019 and easily won the Grand Final against J.Storm (3 – 1).
Newbee’s chances of reclaiming the Aegis of Champions with this team are very slim. They will likely finish somewhere around 9th – 12th place at TI9 and I don’t see them going any further.
Along with Team Liquid, Evil Geniuses is the most likely team (of these six) to repeat their TI winning performance at The International 2019. Last time they were here, they had a very good run and finished 3rd. In fact, at the 2016 and 2018 editions they did the same thing, even though their performance throughout the season had been terrible.
Now they have a superstar-filled roster led by one of the best captains in Dota 2: Fly. The rest of the squad is off the charts in terms of individual skill, experience, achievements and knowledge of the game. So, there’s no reason for EG to mess up. The only problem is, their competitors are just as good. There are at least 5 other teams at The International 2019 that have superb rosters and excel at every aspect of competitive Dota 2.
In the 2018-2019 season, Evil Geniuses finished 4th in the overall rankings with 6825 points. They were on the podium at three of the five Majors, taking 3rd place every time, and looked like a solid team overall. The most worrying thing about them is their performance in recent months. At the last Major of the Dota Pro Circuit, EG finished 13th – 16th. So, it’s not very clear whether this was a fluke, an intentional loss (to deter the opposition from focusing on them too much during the TI9 preparations) or a severe weakness on their side. The latest patches have changed the game quite a bit and Evil Geniuses has yet to show us what they can do.
Team Liquid is quite the opposite of EG, in the sense that they started the season with three failures but then went on to play in the Grand Final of the last two Majors. Their new roster includes w33 instead of MATUMBAMAN in the midlane and that provides KuroKy with both the opportunity and the challenge to play some really excentric strategies. And that’s because w33 is not your casual midlaner. He’s the type of guy that plays Windranger, Meepo and Invoker, on a patch where almost nobody goes for these heroes. And if they are afraid of them, they can always ban them.
Keep in mind that the teams can now ban six heroes instead of five, so a lot more weapons will be taken away from Liquid right from the start. In fact, with w33 being the most vulnerable of the five players, I expect Liquid’s opponents to target ban his hero pool quite a lot, in order to create a severe weakness in the team’s ability to choose their strategies and execute them properly. At this level of the game, knowing exactly what you want to do, around what timings and so on is crucial. But for you to do that, every member of the team must be on a hero they understand to perfection. Arguably, w33 has around four or five such heroes, but not more.
Liquid’s chance of claiming a second Aegis of Champions is high and probably the highest of these six teams. Based on what I’ve seen them do at the last few Majors, I would say that if anyone can win for the second time at The International 2019, it’s got to be Liquid.
And finally, we have OG. They are the 2018 champions and have the exact same roster that they had last year. But there’s something about them that doesn’t feel the same. N0tail has had some health issues over the last few months and missed the last Major of the season, 7ckngMad was involved in a scandal and ana looked a bit slow. Of course, compared to what we saw him do at The International 2018, where he was the best player in the tournament.
OG finished the regular season in 10th place with 1218 points. That’s not very good for an aspiring TI champion. Their best placement was at MDL Paris Major, where they finished 5th – 6th.
I’d say that OG’s chances of conquering another Aegis of Champions are slim. What they did last year was an absolute miracle and I don’t expect them to repeat that performance. Most likely, they will finish somewhere around 7th – 12th.