By Radu Muresan
August 12, 2019
The International 2019 is right around the corner and its scale is absolutely epic: 18 teams, 10 days of competition and the highest prize pool in the history of esports ($32.5 million). In this article, let’s take a close look at what TI 9 provides, the history of this incredible tournament and what I’m expecting from Valve as a fan of the game in every sense of the word.
The International or TI as the community often calls it is practically the Dota 2 World Championship. Held once a year starting from 2011, the event has reached its 9th edition. The first edition took place in Cologne, Germany and had a prize pool of just $1.6 million. Since then, through the growth and involvement of the Dota 2 community, the prizes have gotten bigger every year, reaching the incredible heights we have today.
These are the former TI winners:
The truly remarkable thing about this competition and Dota 2 itself is that no team has ever won two editions of The International and only a couple of players have managed to attend all nine. This is a testament to how complex the game is and how much can change within a single year. And that pattern is likely to continue, simply because the top three favorites for the 2019 edition have not yet won the Aegis of Champions. These are Team Secret, Vici Gaming and Virtus.pro.
For the first time ever, The International will be hosted on Chinese soil. The exact location is Shanghai and the chosen venue is none other than the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
The Group Stage of TI9 is scheduled to start on August 15th and will last for four days. Usually, Dota Pro Circuit Majors have shorter group stages of just two days. But for The International 2019, more time is needed, partly because of the greater number of participants (18 instead of the usual 16).
The Main Event will start almost as soon as the Group Stage ends, with only one day of pause in between. So on August 20th, we’ll have the opening ceremony followed by two Upper Bracket matches and four Lower Bracket matches. The event will close on August 25th, with the Lower Bracket Finals and the Grand Final.
Keep in mind that since the location of The International 2019 is China, you’ll have to wake up very early as a European (around 3-4 AM) or stay up very late as a North American, because the matches will only start at around 8-9 PM in your case.
Next up in our International 2019 preview, it’s time to take a look at the format for the event. TI 9 utilizes the standard Dota 2 tournament format: two groups followed by Playoffs. Each group consists of nine teams. The top four advance to the Upper Bracket, the next four advance to the Lower Bracket and the last one is eliminated. The Playoffs Stage will start with 16 of the initial 18 participants and the competition will take place in the usual Major format (double-elimination).
The first round of Lower Bracket matches will be Bo1. The Grand Final will be a Bo5 series. Every other match is Bo3. For the Group Stage, each team plays one Bo2 match against every other opponent in their group.
The 18 participants that have qualified for The International 2019 are without a doubt the best teams in the world. The process of getting to the tournament has been more thorough than ever before. Every Dota Pro Circuit event had qualifiers and offered no direct invitations. At the end of the regular season, the best 12 teams got invited to TI9, based on their qualification points. So everything was 100% transparent. The other six spots were reserved for the teams that had one more chance and went through open and regional qualifiers. Every region got one ticket and the best teams have earned it by beating their regional rivals.
The 18 teams that will attend The International 2019 are from the six standard Dota 2 regions:
Every participant at The International 2019 is strong. Otherwise they wouldn’t be here. But relative to each other, there are massive differences between the likes of Team Secret and the likes of Infamous. Which is why I will separate the teams into four tiers (tier 1 being the best and tier 4 being the worst), just to give you an idea of what you’re dealing with.
Of course, this list is an approximation based on what we’ve seen in recent months. Some may argue that Fnatic belongs to a higher tier or that Alliance may not be a tier 2 team at this event. But the statistics definitely indicate that both of these teams belong to the groups I’ve placed them in. The main thing to keep in mind however is the fact that all of the 18 teams have been training hard for at least six weeks. That’s a very long time and the final results will be seen at The International 2019. Big favorites may prove to be poorly prepared or simply collapse under pressure, while underdogs may rise to the heights of glory, just like OG did last year.
The most important teams to keep an eye on at TI9 are the ones from the tier 1 group. Here’s a brief analysis of each of them.
Team Secret is the winner of the regular season with 14,400 points. Their performances have been very impressive, with just one exception: their 9th – 12th place result at the last Major of the Dota Pro Circuit, EPICENTER. Apart from that, Secret won The Chongqing Major and the MDL Disneyland Paris Major. They also finished 2nd at The Kuala Lumpur Major and 4th at DreamLeague Season 11. In addition to these successes, Puppey and his teammates won four other Minors outside of the Dota Pro Circuit.
Historically, Team Secret’s results at The International have been modest for a team of their stature. Their best result came last year, when they finished 5th – 6th. However, based on everything I’ve seen from them this season, I believe that now is the time for them to shine. And even though it’s hard to picture them winning the Aegis of Champions at TI9, they should definitely get a top four result.
Virtus.pro finished the regular season in 2nd place with 13,500 points, even though they’ve been even more consistent than Secret overall. VP had four top three results at four of the five Majors. They won at The Kuala Lumpur Major, played in the Grand Final of The Chongqing Major and DreamLeague Season 11 and finished 3rd at EPICENTER Major, on their home soil. At MDL they finished 7th – 8th and that was their worst result of the season.
Based on everything they’ve shown us, I expect Virtus.pro to be one of the main contenders for the Aegis of Champions at The International 2019. Just like Team Secret, solo and his squad has been historically underwhelming at TI. And yet, the enormous amount of skill and experience that they’ve gathered over the last several years turns them into an almost unbeatable Dota 2 machine. Everyone in the team is a superstar, the captain is a world-class IGL and the team’s newest coach has proved himself to be worthy of this role throughout the season.
Vici Gaming is the Chinese superstar of this event. And they will be playing in front of their home crowd, which I believe is likely to greatly boost their morale and performance throughout the tournament.
VG finished the regular season in 3rd place with 11,250 points. In their case, the performance graphic swings between mediocre and exceptional. They won two Majors and finished 7th – 8th at the other three. Overall, they’ve been a very strong team and their victories came at two of the last three Majors. So you can be pretty sure that they’re in good shape.
One thing that gives Vici Gaming an edge is their position 1/2 player, Paparazi, who is one of the best midlaners in the game. Many would argue that he is in fact the best, based on his past performances in 1v1 tournaments.
And finally, we have Team Liquid. KuroKy’s team finished the regular season in 5th place, with 5,820 points. Like Vici Gaming, Liquid missed the first half of the season and had very poor results initially. But at the last two Majors, they played in the Grand Final both times. And even though they didn’t win, their playstyle looked solid.
One thing that will be interesting to see in Team Liquid’s case is how they’ll approach the game with their new roster. As you probably know, the team parted ways with their carry, MATUMBAMAN, and brought in a decorated midlaner and former TI finalist, w33. His hero pool is rather unusual, so Liquid will have to go for some excentric drafts and strategies if they want to make good use of w33’s Dota 2 knowledge.
Liquid’s main loss in 2018-2019 wasn’t MATUMBAMAN, but Heen, the team’s former coach. The South Korean went to TNC Predator and he has already had a massive impact on their performance. At The International 2019, TNC will likely be one of the big teams as a result.
Going into TI9, I expect Liquid to do well and prove themselves capable of getting at least a top four result. Keep in mind that they won the tournament in 2017 and finished 4th in 2018. So this is not a team that does well during the regular season and then underperforms when it matters most. Also, their entire roster is made up of superstars: from the captain, KuroKy, who has been at every single TI so far, to Miracle- and GH, two of the best players in the world at their respective roles.
Thanks for joining us for our preview of The International 2019! Look forward to more Dota 2 news throughout the week as we’ll have plenty more to talk about as TI 9 progresses!