Rise of an Empire? CIS Qualifier winners looking to make statement in Seattle
With this year’s iteration of The International fast approaching, it seems appropriate to offer fans both new and old a breakdown of who it is they’re going to be watching in Seattle. This series of posts will each be dedicated to one of the 18 teams that will be participating in The International 2017, with the aim of giving readers a brief overview of the teams, their position coming into TI, and what their expectations might be. Please note that these posts will not contain a comprehensive history of the teams, nor will they go into minute detail for each of the players. There are more thorough breakdowns for teams and players available out there, a la SirActionSlacks’ “TI Down Low” series. These posts aim to provide something more akin to an “in a nutshell” level of information. In this post we will look at one of the 2 CIS teams at TI7, and the winner of the CIS regional Qualifier – Team Empire.
Team Empire is yet another of the TI7 participants to have made some recent roster changes, having added Russian support player rodjER to the lineup in late May. Since this roster changes, Empire has largely been playing against other CIS teams, with limited experience outside of its home region. While Team Empire is a strong and talented team, we haven’t seen much of them in terms of international play. The team has long been a leading presence within the CIS region, which is a tradition that this most recent iteration of the lineup has been able to maintain. This large number of matches within the CIS region has served Team Empire well, as the team managed to earn its spot at TI by defeating those same teams in the CIS regional qualifier. The problem is that this didn’t provide us with much in the way of new information. Team Empire managed to beat the same teams that they have been beating for months now. However, it remains to be seen if this team has what it takes to take that next step outside of its home region to compete with top level teams from around the world
Heading into TI7, Team Empire is not likely expecting to make a deep or threatening run for the Aegis of Champions. The team’s record against fellow CIS teams is admirable, but there is very little to go on when evaluating the team’s play against international opponents. Because of this, the expectations for the team as a whole can’t be placed particularly high. However, the recent performance from Team Empire show that the team has the talent and potential to possibly knock out a more favored team in an elimination series.
Team Empire’s new lineup has been strong against CIS teams, but have had limited results elsewhere. The team placed 2nd at the Russian e-Sports Cup 2017, only losing out in the final series against Virtus Pro. The team also won the Lootbet Invitaional by scoring wins against fellow CIS squads Gambit and Vega Squadron, beating the latter squad twice. This victory was significant in that it earned Team Empire a spot in its first international tournament in Dota Summit 7. The event would prove to be somewhat harsh for Team Empire, as the squad lost to Virtus Pro and Team NP(now Cloud 9) to finish in the 7th/8th last place spot. Following this came the TI7 CIS Qualifier, in which Team Empire posted a 7-2 group stage record before making an undefeated run through the playoffs to win its spot at TI.
Team Empire comes into TI7 with several traits that do not instill a high level of confidence in its chances to win the Aegis of Champions. The team has made a rather recent change to its roster and it has played an alarmingly low number of matches outside of its home region. While these factors do set the expectations low for the CIS squad, they also simultaneously set Empire up as underdogs in Seattle. The skill and the potential are there for Team Empire, all they need now is a statement win, or series of wins, to emerge in the theatre of professional Dota 2. As The International grows ever closer, we will see if Team Empire will rise to the occasion, or fade into obscurity.