The International 7 is almost upon us. Soon 18 teams will be vying for Dota domination, each one with its own history, identity, and play style. Knowing a bit about the players you're watching adds another layer to the TI experience, so we've put together a rundown on every team competing this year.
These are the teams that did so well this year they received a direct invitation to attend TI7.
(Note: CIS stands for "Commonwealth of Independent States" and refers to former-Soviet Eurasian countries.)
Thought the CIS region was down and out just because NaVi’s glory days are over? Well think again baby, cause Papa Bear’s comin home. After they didn’t even qualify for TI last year, Virtus.pro has a whole new squad with seasoned Russian and Ukrainian players plucked from Vega Squadron and Team Empire, as well as returning VP support Lil. At the head of VP you got veteran player Solo, aka Mr. 322, still trying to shake the scandal that got him temporarily banned from StarLadder when he bet against his own team for 322 dollars in a 2013 tournament, thus spawning a meme for when a player messes up so bad, it looks like they’re intentionally throwing the match.
But Solo’s done a lot of growing in the last few years, and is now proving himself as one of the most successful captains in Dota. While VP play with typical CIS aggression, rotating Lil from lane to lane and following up with pressure from carry player RAMZES666 and mid laner No[o]ne, their most frightening feature is their sheer flexibility. In The Summit 7 in June, they beat Team Secret for first place while playing a bamboozling 81 different heroes over 17 games. Why did they do that? Seemingly, just to prove they’re that badass.
Born from the true pure friendship between support player fly and carry N0tail, OG looked like they were gonna be a force at TI last year until the dream got cut short by dark horse team TNC Gaming, who knocked OG out to the lower-middle of the pack. But brohams are forever, and this year OG is back with three new teammates.
In the midlane, fresh-faced 17-year-old Australian ana; in the offlane former Team Secret member and previous TI winner with Alliance s4; and in the no lane cause he’s a roaming support, former Team Liquid member and the original Earth Spirit God JerAx. This lineup has a frighteningly good track record. Out of the six Major championships Valve has hosted, OG has won four of them, including both of the ones since TI6. However in the past couple months they have been faltering, losing tournaments to Newbee, LFY, and Faceless. Hopefully they can bring back the magic when the moment of truth arrives.
One of the oldest esports organizations at TI7, Invictus Gaming hasn’t been in top form since they won TI2 in 2012. They didn’t even make it to TI last year, getting knocked out of the Chinese qualifiers. But this year they’re back, and they have a direct invite thanks to their dominating play at the Dota Asia Championships. With talent like this, it’s not hard to see why. Their carry is none other than the B-God, BurNIng, who has been playing professionally since 2008. Though his classic playstyle of farming hard to hyper-carry the late game doesn’t work so well this patch, he’s been expanding to heroes who can fight earlier like Weaver, Phantom Assassin, and Clinkz.
The other veteran on the team is their captain and support player Q, who took 2nd place with team CDEC at TI5 and is the current source of IG’s strategic power. The rest of their players come from IG’s youth squad, IG Vitality: mid player Op, offlaner Xxs, and roamer, the Clown Prince BoBoKa, whose slippery Monkey King and Rikimaru plays make the enemy team look like a pack of absolute doofuses. Currently they’re in a little bit of a slump, but it’s possible just be saving their best strats for the big event.
After readjusting their lineup a little following a disappointing finish at last year’s TI, Team Liquid have spent most of this year on fire, getting first place at big tournaments like EPICENTER, DreamLeague 7, the StarLadder Starseries, and the StarLadder i-League Invitational. In late 2016 they brought in highly respected former OG player Miracle- to be their midlaner, but it was in January when they added relatively unknown Lebanese support player GH that really got Liquid to click. The two new players are backed by Team Liquid mainstays, carry MATUMBAMAN and offlaner MinD_ContRoL, and led by support player and veteran of every International tournament, KuroKy. Sporting incredible levels of teamwork and a strong base of players, four of whomst have been to TI before, 2017 could be the year that Liquid are doing it.
Region: North America
Another team with a long legacy like Invictus Gaming, Evil Geniuses made NA proud when they won TI5 in 2015, claiming the region’s first International victory. People who remember that year will see familiar faces Suma1l, the teenaged wunderkind who takes over the mid lane with mobile heroes like Queen of Pain and Puck, and UNiVeRsE, veteran of every International event and bringer of the $6 million Echo Slam. Joining them is longtime EG associate zai as a support, former OG player Cr1t also as a support, and… wait… can it be? The sultan of salt, the baron of BabyRage, the original SADBOY himself, ARTEEZY. Yes, after two years of playing Internationals with Team Secret, carry player Arteezy is back where he belongs, now older and wiser than before. None of these guys have less than four years of experience in professional Dota (well except for Suma1l, but I think he can be forgiven) meaning EG is one of the most battle-hardened teams on the lineup. Also one of the most successful, sporting a TI win and two third-place finishes over the past 3 years. Coached by the legendary retired EG carry and TI winner “Old Man” Fear, Evil Geniuses might just be the first team in history to take the Aegis twice.
In 2014 Newbee went from new team to TI winners in just 6 months, deathballing their way to victory. In 2015 and 2016 though, their performance was less than stellar, leading to speculation that maybe Newbee was just great at that particular patch. Going into TI7, they seem to have found a good combination under the leadership of seasoned IG support and winner of TI2, Faith, and this year they’ve had a consistent string of top-3 finishes at LANs. Remnants of that deathball mentality are still around, as early on Faith and fellow support Kaka rotate aggressively to help their carry player Moogy and midlaner Sccc. Offlaner Kpii tries to draw attention by himself in the offlane, but in the midgame he joins his team as they roam and commit to pickoffs so they can take objectives with an advantage. Faith is able to adapt this plan to a variety of situations, so while they may not be first place material, they have the tools to do quite well.
These teams earned their spot in The International 7 by winning one of the regional qualifier tournaments.
Region: North America
Last year EternaLEnVy, former Cloud9 captain and top 10 anime betrayals winner, put together a team called Team NP that largely consisted of his former teammates. After winning the North American qualifiers and making it to TI7, Team NP got officially picked up by Cloud9, making their squad this year look a lot like the team Cloud9 fielded for TI4. As a team they like lineups that can go aggressive early while still transitioning well into lategame, gaining level and gold advantage through superior lane control. In general, EnVy likes mobile carries who can go deep and fight early like his signature Ember Spirit, offlaner MSS gets surprisingly high farm priority and plays greedy heroes like Legion Commander and Enigma, FATA- focuses on keeping mid under control, Aui_2000, who won TI5 with EG, roams to cause chaos, and Pieliedie sacrifices everything to keep his teammates safe in their lanes. They’ve done respectably well in tournaments leading up to The International, so if you’ve still got a blue and white shirt in your closet, now’s a good time to put it on.
Region: North America
Digital Chaos definitely lived up to their name last year when, after a string of mediocre LAN results, they brought the ruckus and got second place at TI6. This year, after getting 2nd at the North American qualifiers, they step up to TI7 with a whole new squad. As their carries they have mason, playing in his first TI since 2014 when he played with EG, and Abed, a young Filipino who’s probably one of the most individually skilled players in the game right now and the most feared Meepo player in the world. In the offlane and position five support roles are Forev and DuBu, respectively, both Korean players from MVP Phoenix who did well at TI6 last year. But the player to watch is their captain and position four support, BuLba. A lot of the heroes popular in position four right now like Clockwerk and Sand King are heroes you’d typically find in the offlane, and BuLba used to play offlane for a number of top-tier teams. As such he has a unique understanding of these characters that most position four players lack, giving him an edge in an important, play-making role.
Region: South America
In previous International qualifier tournaments, the Americas all got lumped into one big region, meaning South American teams had to face North American teams to get a TI spot. This wasn’t really fair because South America just doesn’t have the same esports infrastructure that the US and Canada have, so they don’t get the same level of practice and financial support. This year, though, Valve gave South America its own qualifier, and its winner Infamous will be the first Peruvian team to play at an International event.
The squad consists of captain and carry Benjaz, the closest South America has to a veteran carry player, offlaner Kingteka, their shot-caller who plays a nasty Batrider, midlaner Timado, only 16 years old but a commanding player who’s a major source of the team’s strength, position five support Accel who has the most tournament experience, and position four support Matthew, the least-experienced player on the team who only played his first big eSports tournament a couple months ago. Now, I’m not gonna lie and tell you Infamous have a good shot at TI. They just don’t have much experience facing world-class teams. However, this is a great chance for the players to distinguish themselves, and even if Infamous places last they’ll still get a bigger payday than they’ve ever gotten before. No matter how they do, this is probably the start of something big for South American Dota.
Even though it was originally billed as a ‘super team’ and is currently one of the most well-known brands in Dota, competitively Secret has had a lot of ups and downs. They win a lot of LANs, but it seems like when the big moment comes Secret has a habit of choking, and so far the International dream just hasn’t materialized for them. Coupled with a scandal last year when former players EternaLEnVy and MiSeRy accused Secret of taking a percentage of player pay without telling them, Secret has been on rocky ground. This year they once again go into The International with a stable of great players. As always leading the team is Puppey, who won the first TI with NaVi and has attended every TI since then. He’s a master at drafting, picking heroes that can fill a variety of roles so the enemy team can’t anticipate Secret’s exact game plan. Puppey usually roams with fellow support Yapz0r, leaving self-reliant safelane carry MP to fend for himself. With the roaming supports, offlaner Khezu and midlaner MidOne are free to pick fighting or farming heroes, knowing they can reliably get help. There’s a lot of talent on Team Secret, but it remains to be seen if they can turn that talent into a trophy.
The last team to qualify for TI7 was definitely a weird one. They were called Planet Dog, they formed a week before the EU Open Qualifiers, and they were named after an American dog toy company and sported their logo. Was this their sponsor? No. No, they were completely unrelated. Everyone was extremely confused, until HellRaisers came in and signed the team so we don’t have to worry about it anymore. The newly bonafide HellRaisers squad hails from five different countries, and marks the first time a Greek player, a Serbian player, and a Bosnian player will compete at TI. As a team HellRaisers haven’t really been together long enough to have a particular style, but they do see to like goon squadding, with heavy rotations anchored by their roaming support MiLAN, who loves playing Night Stalker. How will they do? I don’t know, but y’know I kinda miss their old name already.
Empire is one of Russia’s biggest esports organizations, and they’re going to be representing the CIS region along with invited team Virtus.pro. Though they aren’t a top-tier team, Empire has done alright at a few LANs this season, getting second in the Russian eSports Cup behind Virtus.pro. They also got second at the Mr. Cat Invitational Europe, with first going to… also Virtus.pro. And in May they won the Lootbet Invitational, getting them a slot in The Summit 7, but unfortunately they were knocked out early and the tournament ultimately went to oh hey look it’s Virtus.pro again. Empire is captained by Miposhka, who tends to send himself, RodjER, and Ghostik offlane while fn holds down middle and Chappie fends for himself in the safelane on a hero with good jungle potential like Lifestealer. They’re a good team for the region and congrats to them for beating Vega Squadron to win the CIS qualifiers, but it’s gonna be a tough fight for them to place well. Hey, at least they have the best Twitter manager out of all the teams.
Vitality is Invictus Gaming’s youth squad. The junior varsity team, if you will. Don’t let that description fool you into thinking iG Vitality are just a bunch of kids playing in a grownup tournament, though, because these guys can run with the big dogs. They placed 4th in the Dota 2 Asia Championships, going 2-0 against EG and winning a game against IG, showing they can take games off world class teams. Vitality is, like most teams, a mix of old and new players. Captain and offlaner InJuly and defensive support Super both have over five years of pro Dota under their belts. Their game sense helps the newer players shine.
Their roaming support Dogf1ghts likes stealth heroes like Riki and plays a particularly scary Bounty Hunter. Paparazi is one of the best carry players in the world. Formerly of the team Immortal Magneto (which is the best team name, ever), he beat Suma1l and Miracle- in the DAC 1v1 Mid Challenge. And Sakata, their midlaner also from Immortal Magneto, plays heroes like Razor and Storm Spirit who become hard-to-pin-down nuisances through tankiness or mobility. Though IG.V may just be a secondary squad, there’s a decent chance they’ll show up at least one favorite at The International.
LGD is a fixture of The International. They’ve been there every year since 2012. Sure, they’ve had some off years, but not off enough to keep them from TI. This year, though, LGD is playing without Xiao8, aka The Director, their captain from the last two years and one of the most respected players in China.
Filling his boots is Yao, a player who has played with LGD for over five years collectively, and a five-time TI veteran. Yao is currently acting as LGD’s defensive support, but has played a variety of roles over his pro career so he can switch positions in a pinch. He’s the most experienced player on LGD by a few years, but midlaner Maybe and new pickup old eLeVeN, formerly of EHOME and Immortal Magneto, have both been playing for a few years. Ame and Victoria, both recruits from CDEC Youth, round out the team as the carry and roaming support. It’s going to be a hard fight without The Director’s ability to play from behind for a comeback victory, but LGD has done well without xiao8 before, and there’s no reason to think they can’t do well without him now.
LGD.Forever Young (LFY)
Yeah, LGD got two teams through the Chinese qualifiers. No invites? No problem. Like IG’s youth squad, LGD.Forever Young (or LFY for short) isn’t just a bunch of kids playin’ some Doters. They actually have a real old-timer in their ranks with support player ddc, who has been to every TI. Midlaner Super (spelled with a capital ‘S’, unlike IG.V’s “super” who spells his name all lowercase) is no spring chicken either, participating in four TIs over his career.
For the rest of the team, carry Monet, offlaner Inflame, and other support Ahfu, this is their first time at the rodeo. LFY’s general plan is pretty typical for Chinese Dota, revolving around rotations from supports and Inflame while Super plays a tough laning mid like Death Prophet or Pugna. Monet uses the space created to farm up with a hero who can fight early like Weaver or Lycan, and then he joins his team as they take objectives around the map. One problem, though, is that Monet isn’t that experienced and has problems with consistency that even an expert strategist like ddc can’t fix. Even still, LFY is a team to watch out for and very nearly as capable as their bros on LGD.
TNC Pro Team
Region: Southeast Asia
Last year, no one expected TNC to do well at TI6. They wound up finishing in the top 8, beating out teams like OG, Liquid, and Newbee. The team was made of four Filipino players captained by North American veteran DeMoN. This year TNC is using the same formula, swapping out DeMoN for sometime-player-sometime-coach 1437 who uses his five years of pro dota experience to make sure the team is always making strides towards victory. He plays supports like Oracle, Silencer, and Jakiro who can set up kills for carry player Raven, who usually ends up with a ton of kills by the end of the game. Apart from that, offlaner Sam_H uses heroes that can initiate and disrupt, Kuku just plays a very solid midlane, and Tims, the position 4 support and greenest player on the team, plays standard roaming heroes like Earth Spirit. TNC are the pride of Pinoy Dota, and definitely a team to watch to see if they can repeat their success from last year.
Region: Southeast Asia
AND THE WINNER OF THE ‘LOGO WITH THE MOST OBVIOUS COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT’ AWARD GOES TO…
Like TNC, Execration are a Filipino team. Unlike TNC, they’ve never done well in a TI before. After qualifying last year, they lost out in the Wild Card match to European team Escape Gaming and didn’t move onto the main event.
They’re a team that can attract players with a lot of raw talent, Abed from Digital Chaos and Tims from TNC both used to play for them, and this year they sport some of the Philippines’ best players. Bimbo is known for being an amazing mid player though he’s currently their offlane, Nando has a reputation as a fantastic carry, and RR regularly makes sick support plays in games. What Execration lacks is experience and organization. Kim0, the team’s captain, is the only player they have with TI experience, and their midlaner CartMaN hasn’t played on a pro team before. Even worse, three of the players on the team just joined in June, so they can’t have much experience playing as a team.
Region: Southeast Asia
If you’re looking for a team that can turn a pro game into a pubstomp, look no further. Fnatic takes SEA aggression to a whole new level, starting fights before the creeps spawn, diving towers, and racking up tons of kills, for both them and their opponents. After losing a few really good players after TI6, Fnatic picked up Korean players QO and Febby from MVP Phoenix and Ahjit from the Malaysian Dota scene to fill the gap. QO, their midlaner, goes man mode constantly, running the enemy team down with characters like PA and Bloodseeker while support Febby desperately tries to keep him safe.
Fellow support and team captain DJ handles the ward buyin’ and courier upgradin’, but still plays some pretty aggressive heroes like Witch Doctor and Warlock. Carry player Ahjit plays an incredibly wide array of different characters in position 1, and offlaner Ohaiyo just consistently locks down the lane. While it’s gonna be hard for Fnatic to beat their performance last year, when they finished 4th at TI6, at the very least you can bet they’re gonna go down swinging. And rending. And tearing. And bathing in the blood of their enemies.