Wild Card Team
Aaron: VGJ Thunder is the team of which I’m most unsure. I wouldn’t be surprised if they finish Top 4 or Bottom 4. Sylar, ddc, and rOtK have all been around the block and are players you expect to make deep runs on the biggest stage. Let’s not forget that ddc is going to his eighth TI, one of only four players to do so. My problem with VGJ Thunder is that they’ve done basically nothing all year. They directly qualified due to a second-place finish at the Bucharest Major and VP gobbling up most of the DPC points. But their performance at the Bucharest Major was pretty lackluster in my opinion. Other than beating Secret in a Best of 1, they had a pretty easy path to the grand finals and then got swept by VP. Leave it to rOtK to whip his team into shape before TI but I don’t think anyone has a great idea of where this team will finish.
M: My wild card vote has to go to Fnatic. They finished second at Summit 9, but historically their tournament winnings have been feast or famine. They have one of the best young mids around in Abed, and one of the ficklest carries in Eternal Envy. Fnatic can take down any team they want on a good day but lose to themselves on a bad one. Although I expect Universe to keep them afloat in tough games, I don’t see him carrying them deep into the tournament.
M: My gut tells me it’ll be EG. With a talented roster like theirs, the expectations are always high. Despite their recent win at Summit 9, Evil Geniuses have shown a mental frailty that isn’t easily overlooked. Case in point was Game 1 against Fnatic in the Grand Finals of Summit 9. EG had a commanding 15k gold lead at 30 minutes, only to let Fnatic back into the game. It wasn’t until the 53rd minute when EG finally closed out the game. Throws like that are not forgiven at The International. EG might find itself regretting some plays when they’re on the outside looking in.
A: I definitely agree EG has a high chance of bombing out. I mean their team has only been together for about a month now. However, I picked Secret as my biggest disappointment. Early in the year Secret cemented themselves as one of the top teams, but they haven’t performed that well in the lead-up to TI. I was shocked to see that Secret hasn’t finished Top 3 at a Major since March. The game has changed quite a bit since the beginning of the year, and it seems like Puppey just hasn’t completely grasped this lane heavy meta. The Top 4 finish at the China Supermajor will definitely give Secret fans hope of a deep run at TI but I think we’ve seen this story before. If Secret gets Liquid, VP, or PSG.LGD in the upper bracket and then faces an upstart team in the lower bracket, they could take an early exit from TI.
This Year’s Dark Horse
A: Call me an EG fanboy but I think this team’s Summit 9 performance showed they could be this year’s TI dark horse. Let’s not forget that EG still has King Sumail in mid and the not so young RTZ as their hard carry. Adding TI 3 champion S4, who has been a revelation at offlane, could put EG over the top to make a deep run at TI. Any patch with Storm and Mirana getting mid play is a good patch for Sumail and RTZ has returned to form playing flash farming cores. The most important addition may be Fly, EG’s veteran and calm natured captain. He will help rein in Sumail and RTZ when needed but allow them to make calls and do what they do best. I just can’t count out this EG team when they arguably have a top 3 player at every position.
M: Shout out to Sumail’s Storm, I look forward to seeing him roast people mid. That said, my dark horse for this TI is IG. This team has all the pieces for a deep run in this tournament, including two TI finalists. They have an experienced captain in Q, and a technically skilled core in Agressif. Add to that the incredibly consistent BoBoKa and you have a very solid squad. The fact that Burning is now the coach doesn’t hurt either.
Player of the Tournament
M: fy. PSG.LGD is poised to be the standard bearers for China at this TI, with a captain that will draft his team through game after game. Their series against Newbee in the loser’s bracket final of the Changsha Major was a master class in draft composition. Look for fy to continue playing to his teammates strengths all throughout TI.
A: No argument here on fy. As the captain of the premier Chinese team, I think we are in for an incredible tournament out of fy. There’s a reason he’s known as fy-god. He’s an incredibly strong drafter, he keeps his team disciplined throughout the game and counts himself as one of the best position 4s in DotA. He’s up there with Rodjer, gh, Yapzor, and DJ. I sincerely hope we get our fill of signature fy Rubick games. Four years after taking second place as a 19-year-old, expect to see China’s Rubick prodigy lift the Aegis at last.
Who will take home the Aegis?
M: There are a few teams that have set themselves a cut above the rest at TI 8. Virtus Pro, with their aggressive and fast pace style of play; Liquid, with consistent and steady performances; PSG.LGD, with skills that let them win back to back games with no change in strategy. In the end, I think it comes down to the team that can stay composed and execute during team fights. That team is LGD. The shot calling from fy and the discipline of all their cores will see them through the Grand Finals this year.
A: I’m with you on PSG.LGD going all the way this year. Let’s not forget it’s a China year and I am not one to bet against 7 years of precedent. More importantly, PSG.LGD has looked dominant in the majors leading up to TI8. Since April, they have placed second at DAC, won Epicenter, the MDL Changsha Major and placed third at the China Supermajor. PSG.LGD wins their lanes and make decisive, early rotations to snowball their early game leads. Maybe and Ame have been consistent performers in China for years and teams captained by fy have always been top performers. PSG.LGD’s players have made deep runs at TI before and are hungry to finally raise the Aegis for themselves.