Regional Qualifiers concluded, field set for The International 2018

18 teams will be making their way to Vancouver for a chance to claim the Aegis of Champions.

The TI8 Qualifiers have officially come to an end, and the field of teams has been set for the biggest event of the year in the Dota 2 world. After a series of exciting qualifiers across the 6 regions of the Dota 2 world, 10 teams have survived to join the 8 directly invited squads in Vancouver for TI8. For the first time in its history, The International will be held on Canadian soil, as the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Canada will serve as the venue for the 8th iteration of the event. Beginning with the Group Stage on August 15th, the event will run through to the 25th and will end with 1 team among the 18 participants being crowned as TI Champion and king of the Dota 2 world. With that in mind, we can take a brief look at the 18 teams that will be fighting for their shot at claiming the Aegis of Champions in August.

 

The Direct Invitees

The 8 directly invited squads here represent the 8 teams that finished at the top of the standings in the Pro Circuit season. These teams displayed a higher level of play or a more consistent series of performances during the season in order to earn enough points to claim a Top 8 spot in the standings in addition to retaining their invite eligibility by avoiding changes to their lineups past the roster lock deadline. These squads should represent the best teams in the Dota 2 world and will likely be considered favorites in the majority of their match ups in Vancouver.

600px-Virtus Virtus.pro (CIS) – Virtus.pro will enter TI8 as the veritable king of the Dota 2 world, as the CIS squad has simply dominated all competition so far this season. The team has held the number 1 ranking in the Pro Circuit standings since the ESL One Katowice Major in February, which the team won. That victory was not the only Major title for VP, as the team tied a professional Dota 2 record by claiming 4 Major Championships this season. With a dangerous combination of veteran experienced, stable leadership, and incredible talent, Virtus.pro makes its way to Vancouver as one of the clear-cut favorites to lay claim to the Aegis of Champions this year.

600px-Team_liquid_logo_2017 Team Liquid (Europe) – The defending TI Champion had few difficulties securing itself a spot at TI8, as European squad Team Liquid put on an absolutely awe inspiring display of consistent success this season. The team claimed Top 4 finishes across its first 9 Pro Circuit events of the season, and ended the season with 11 Top 4 finishes in 13 Pro Circuit appearances. Those 11 Top 4 finishes also included the team’s first ever Major Championship, as the team claimed 1st place at the final event of the regular season at the China Dota 2 Supermajor. The team has been a picture of consistency and strength this season, and the squad will rely heavily upon those factors as it makes its way to Vancouver looking to become the first ever team or organization to claim multiple TI victories.

PSG LGD PSG.LGD (China) – PSG.LGD was something of a surprise on the Pro Circuit this season, as the Chinese squad encountered its fair share of difficulties throughout its campaign. The team began the season as a potential leader within its home region, but the months of November and December brought on a slump of nearly unbelievable proportions that left the team scrambling for solutions. After a series of roster and positional changes to begin 2018, the team came alive and quickly catapulted itself into the realm of the elite squads in the Dota 2 world. In April, the team partnered with legendary French football club Paris Saint-Germain, and the squad quickly displayed its strength to its newest partner with back to back Major Championships. Those victories marked the first ever Major Championships for the Chinese region, and set PSG.LGD up as one of the most formidable opponents in the field at TI8. There are a handful of teams that will be representing China in Vancouver in August, but none of them cut as imposing a figure as PSG.LGD as the squad looks to bring the Aegis of Champions back to its home region for the fourth time in the history of Dota 2.

Secret_logo Team Secret (Europe) – There were more than a few questions surrounding European squad Team Secret as it entered the first season of the Dota 2 Pro Circuit. The team hand undergone some significant roster changes following its TI7 run, and many were unsure of exactly where the ceiling was for the team’s new roster. The team very quickly showed that it was capable of competing with the very best in the Dota 2 world, as the team dominated European qualifiers and earned spots at seemingly every Pro Circuit event to begin the season. Some stumbles over the second half of the season did bring up questions regarding inconsistency for the squad, but the team still managed to put together enough successful runs to retain its position near the top of the Pro Circuit standings. With around 2 months separating the team from the start of the Group Stage in Vancouver, there is confidence that Team Secret will iron out its inconsistency issues and present itself as one of the more intimidating squads in the field at TI8.

600px-Mineski-dota_logo Mineski (Southeast Asia) – The lone Southeast Asian squad among the directly invited teams, Mineski stands as the strongest of the region’s representatives and perhaps the most realistic threat to claim the first ever TI victory for the region. The team began the season as a dominant force within Southeast Asia, but the teams myriad of opportunities on the Pro Circuit stage weren’t quite enough to put the team in the top section of the standings over the first half of the season. However, the start of 2018 saw Mineski put together a couple of solid performance on the international level. Even at that stage though, it took a breakthrough performance at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major to put the team into the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings. Unfortunately, the team was unable to build on that success, as Mineski did not claim a single Top 4 finish after that Major Championship, falling short of a Top 4 position in its final 4 Pro Circuit appearances. That somewhat weak finish to its campaign is concerning for Mineski, but the hopes are the the 2 months between now and the start of TI8 will help the Southeast Asian squad return to top form in time to compete for the Aegis of Champions in Vancouver.

VICI_Gaming Vici Gaming (China) – Vici Gaming entered the 2017-2018 season as a team that not many were looking at as a top squad within the Chinese region. The offseason had seen the team go through some significant changes to its roster, and as such the team was something of a wild card within the regional hierarchy. The team began the season in strong form, competing consistently in regional qualifiers and claiming some Qualifying Points with 2 2nd place finishes at Pro Circuit Minors. The opening months of 2018 saw the team make their move though, spearheaded by 2nd place finish at the ESL One Katowice Major that put the team into the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings. The latter months of the season saw the team suffer a bit of a drop off in play, but the Chinese squad still managed to hold on to its Top 8 ranking to net a direct invite to TI8. The team has shown itself to be a wildly inconsistent squad this season, but Vici Gaming has shown us just what it is capable of when playing in top form, and that potential will have all of its opponents on alert as the team makes its way to Vancouver.

Newbee_logo Newbee (China) – Newbee enters TI8 as a team that just barely managed to hold its position within the Top 8 of the Pro Circuit standings. Coming into the season, the team was looked at as one of the leading teams within the Chinese region and its performance reflected that. However, a significant drop off in play over the second half of the season combined with the rise of regional rivals like PSG.LGD and Vici Gaming saw Newbee take a less prominent role both in China and on the international level. There were concerns that the squad wasn’t going to be able to hold on to its Top 8 ranking through the end of the season, but Newbee managed to stumble its way across the finish line to receive a direct invite to TI8. The team ended its season with considerable questions and concerns regarding its recent play, but this team has been together now for nearly 2 years and we’ve all seen just what it is capable of on the international level. If any team has the experience and talent to bounce back from a weak end to the Pro Circuit season, it’s Newbee.

VGJ Thunder VGJ.Thunder (China) – As the final directly invited team to TI8, VGJ.Thunder is pretty much the biggest surprise on this list of teams. The squad that had previously played under the name VGJ entered the season with a considerably different roster that had many unsure of what to expect from the Chinese squad. The first half of the season saw the team put together a few quality performances, but nothing to suggest that the team was fully ready for a leap into the Top 8 of the standings. However, a roster change in February marked an uptick in the level of play for the Chinese squad. A 2nd place finish at The Bucharest Major pushed the team into the Top 8, and 2 more 2nd place finishes at Pro Circuit Minors gave the team just enough points to cling to the 8th place ranking in the Pro Circuit standings. The team limped across the finish line on the Pro Circuit, but the team now has nearly 2 months to continue trying to work itself back into shape and present itself as a formidable opponent in Vancouver in August.

 

The Regional Qualifier Winners

The 10 Qualifier Winners represent the second wave of talent within the Dota 2 world, as these teams fought their way through regional rivals in order to earn their place in the field at TI8. For many of these squads, their runs included runs through the Open Qualifiers as well, displaying a level of resiliency and determination that will serve as a valuable asset in Vancouver. These squads may not be favored to make a run at the Aegis of Champions this year, but the majority of them will pose a significant challenge for even the strongest opponents in the field and are always candidates to make a run if they get hot at the right time.

425px-OG_RB_Logo OG (Europe) – OG enters TI8 as a team that has gone through quite the ordeal over the course of the season. Coming into the new season, the team was looked at as one of the more reliable and established powers in the Dota 2 world, and was expected to fight for a leading spot in the new Pro Circuit system. However, the European squad struggled significantly throughout the first half of the season, salvaged only by a pair of Top 4 finish at Pro Circuit Minors in December. 2018 saw the team continue to play well within its home region, but the team couldn’t replicate that success on the international level. That lack of success led to a series of roster changes over the final months of the season that left the team with just 2 of its original players from the beginning of its Pro Circuit campaign. Despite the drastic changes, OG has shown a resiliency that has now paid off for the squad as it has once again earned itself a place in the field at TI. Given the team’s roster changes and somewhat inconsistent performance this season, the team will not be viewed as a favorite to compete for the Aegis of Champions. However, the team has both exceptional talent and significant experience on the international level, and those factors leave OG standing as a formidable opponent in Vancouver.

Winstrike Team Winstrike Team (formerly FlyToMoon) (CIS) – Winstrike team enters TI8 as just 1 of 2 representatives from a CIS region that has not looked particularly strong this season outside of Virtus.pro. The team formerly known as FlyToMoon displayed this lack of consistent competitors, as the squad was able to form in February and still sat near the top of the regional hierarchy despite not making its Pro Circuit debut until April. The team brings a strong mix of veteran experience and leadership and young talent with its roster, and should be one of the more interesting squads to watch in Vancouver. Winstrike Team may not stand as a favorite to make a run for the Aegis of Champions, but the CIS squad has shown itself capable of competing with some of the best squads on the Pro Circuit, and the team would only really need 1 major win to spark a dangerous run at TI8.

Team Serenity Team Serenity (China) – Team Serenity will enter TI8 as the team that fans are most likely to never have heard of, as the squad was a relative unknown even within its own home region. The team played the first half of the season with a squad of lower level players, and never managed to perform well in regional qualifiers. However, 2018 saw the team overhaul its roster by bringing in some more experienced players to complement the team’s younger talent. Those changes didn’t earn the team an appearance at any Pro Circuit events, but the team managed to consistently find success in Open Qualifiers, including the TI8 China Open Qualifier. The team’s run through the TI8 China Qualifier saw it finish 2nd in the Group Stage before defeating LGD.Forever Young and Invictus Gaming to secure itself a place in Vancouver. Even with those victories over regional rivals, there is little evidence to suggest that Team Serenity will be a significant threat at TI8. However, we’ve seen underdog teams make runs before at TI, and Team Serenity are in the comfortable position of having nothing to lose and everything to gain as it makes its way to Vancouver.

600px-Ig_logo Invictus Gaming (China) – The story of how Invictus Gaming managed to earn itself a place in Vancouver for TI8 is a rather interesting one. The team spent the first half of the season far removed from the top of the hierarchy in China as the squad struggled through multiple roster moves and a series of poor performances. However, the team managed to finalize its roster in time to meet the deadline in February, and the team’s new lineup put together a somewhat stronger showing within regional qualifiers and even earned itself 2 appearances on the Pro Circuit stage. The team’s performance in those Pro Circuit events was anything but inspiring, but Invictus Gaming showed us that sometimes stability is success in and of itself. The team ended up being the only direct invite to the TI8 China Qualifier, as every other team in the region had forfeited their invite eligibility and had to play through the Open Qualifiers. The team put together a 4-3 in the Group Stage but advanced with a 1-1 record in the 3rd-5th Tiebreaker matches, followed by series wins over For The Dream and LGD.Forever Young to secure a place in Vancouver. Invictus Gaming did not look strong throughout nearly all of the Pro Circuit season, but the Chinese squad put together a strong run when it needed it most, and the squad now has the chance to keep that run going 2 months from now at TI8.

Fnaticlogo Fnatic (Southeast Asia) – Fnatic’s story this season has been one of a team that has gone from rags to riches on the international level. The infusion of European talent at the start of the season had hopes set fairly high for the SEA team, but the squad’s performance to start the season was anything but strong. The team continued to revamp and rework its lineup throughout the season, and eventually found a permutation that it was able to find success with. The team fell short of claiming a direct invite to TI8, but its strong run through the TI8 Southeast Asia Qualifier secured it a spot in Vancouver in the end. Despite its handful of successful performance on the Pro Circuit stage, Fnatic is still a squad with serious issues relating to consistency in terms of its play, and those issues will need to be addressed in the 2 months leading up to the start of TI8. If the team can mitigate some of its riskier behaviors, then it stands as a potential threat in Vancouver. However, Fnatic’s play style to this point in the season has frequently trended towards the “high risk, high reward” mentality, and it seems hard to expect the Southeast Asian squad to abandon that style now.

Tncproteam TNC Predator (formerly TNC Pro Team) (Southeast Asia) – TNC Predator enters TI8 pretty much in the exact position that many predicted it would be. The team is a solid competitor within the Southeast Asian region, but is still a step or two away from being considered the best team in the region. The team did not particularly impress across the first half of the season, looking strong within its home region but finding only minor success on the international level. The start of 2018 saw some changes for the team, as both a roster change and a positional change gave the squad a new look over the second half of the season. The team continued to perform well within the Southeast Asian region, but still could not break through on the Pro Circuit stage save for a 4th place finish at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 Major in April. However, the team’s consistent success against its regional rivals proved an invaluable asset for it, as TNC Predator dominated the TI8 Southeast Asia Qualifier to claim a spot in Vancouver. The team’s inability to find much consistent success outside of its home region has expectations set somewhat low for the team at TI8, but we’ve seen this organization put together stunning performances as underdogs in years past, and 1 impressive performance could be all it takes to spark a run from the SEA squad.

VGJ Storm VGJ.Storm (North America) – The North American region has been an absolute mess this season, and from the chaos and uncertainty of the region, VGJ.Storm has emerged as a strong contender and a potential threat on the international level. The team in its current form came together in April with its final roster change, and ever since then the squad has been on a tear in terms of its performance. The team has dominated regional qualifiers, and claimed a Minor Championship in Thailand before following that up with a 2nd place run at the MDL Changsha Major. With momentum on its side, the team barreled its way through the Open Qualifiers and proceeded to dominate the TI8 North America Qualifier as well.  The team posted a 8-1 record in the Group Stage and Tiebreaker Matches to claim its place in the field in Vancouver. The team has shown itself capable of competing at the highest level against both regional rivals and international opponents, and the North American squad will be a formidable foe in Vancouver. While VGJ.Storm may not sit as one of the favorites to claim the Aegis of Champions, the team will stand as a significantly challenge for just about any of the other teams in the field.

Evil Geniuses Evil Geniuses (North America) – After all of the memes, the tweets, and the criticism, Evil Geniuses finds itself included in the field of 18 teams to participate at TI8, but it was far from an easy road for the North American squad to reach this point. The team began the season as a potential contender on the international level and a clear-cut leader within its home region. However, the second half of the season brought with it a considerable number of issues for the team as its performance declined sharply. The team took drastic measures at the end of the season to try and salvage its season, as the team brought in 2 new players and changed the position of another just before the final event of the Pro Circuit schedule. The team didn’t look all that impressive in that final event, but its strength began to show in its runs through the Open Qualifier and TI8 North America Qualifier. The squad posted a 4-3 Group Stage record before winning back to back 2-0 series against compLexity Gaming and Immortals to claim a spot in Vancouver. The team’s new roster raised hopes for the team moving forward, and now the North American squad has about 2 months to fully acclimate to its new players and hopefully enter TI8 in top form as it looks to put itself back near the top of the hierarchy in the Dota 2 world.

OpTic_Gaming OpTic Gaming (North America) – OpTic Gaming will enter TI8 as one of the leading squads within the North American region, though that is a title that the team is sharing with a few more teams than it may have anticipated. The team was a solid force within its home region throughout the season, but was met with little success on the Pro Circuit stage until the final months of the season when it put together 2 Top 4 finishes at Pro Circuit events. When regional leader Evil Geniuses began experiencing some significant difficulties towards the end of the season, OpTic Gaming looked to be in a prime position to fill that power vacuum in North America. However, the team fell short of the mark to snag a Top 8 spot and a direct invite to TI8, and with VGJ.Storm heating up towards the end of the season and EG managed to scrape together a new lineup to remain in the mix at the top of the regional hierarchy, the road to Vancouver did not look easy for OpTic Gaming. Even squads like Immortals and compLexity Gaming resurfaced in the TI8 North America Qualifier in an attempt to deny OpTic Gaming an opportunity to play at TI8. In the end though, the North American squad pulled through and now has a period of just under 2 months to prepare as the Green Wall looks to put its strength on display on the biggest stage in the Dota 2 world.

PaiN_Gaming_2017 PaiN Gaming (South America) – It’s been a long and hard road for PaiN Gaming this season, but the Brazilian squad has managed to break through and come out on top over all of its regional rivals. It wasn’t clear whether the team would be able to make this sort of push earlier in the season, and it also wasn’t clear exactly what the team’s roster would even look like at this point in its run. PaiN Gaming went through a seemingly endless process of rotating players in and out of its roster, but finally put together its current lineup in April. With the team’s roster finalized, the Brazilian squad began putting together a stronger series of performances, dominating regional qualifiers and even claiming a 3rd place finish at the ESL One Birmingham Major in May. Those performance gave the team a considerable amount of confidence and momentum that it used to tear through the Open Qualifier and claim a spot in the Playoff Stage of the TI8 South America Qualifier. A default win due to Thunder Predator being disqualified but the team through the Semifinals, and close victories in a Bo3 and a Bo5 against SG e-sports secured the team its place in Vancouver. PaiN Gaming won’t exactly be considered much of a threat to claim the Aegis of Champions in Vancouver, but the Brazilian squad has been showing near continuous improvement over the last few months. With around months separating the team from the start of the Group Stage in Vancouver, PaiN Gaming’s potential could have it sitting as a viable, if unlikely, threat to any of the squads in the field at TI8.

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