Since its inception in 2010, The International has been on a regular cycle. The cycle is a Chinese team winning the tournament every other year. Invictus Gaming won The International 2 over Na’Vi and every year since, China and other regions have traded the aegis.
The upcoming International 8 could be the first year that the cycle breaks. China only has one team ranked in the top 5 of the Dota Pro Circuit rankings and looks weak. However, there are stand out teams and players that have the potential to impress at this tournament.
Vici Gaming is not only a team that qualified for the tournament but also a large Chinese esports club as well. The club owns its flagship team, Vici Gaming, and other squads like VGJ.Storm and VGJ.Thunder. All three of these teams will be featured at The International which is a remarkable accomplishment. While this is the last year such a feat is allowed by the rules of the tournament, the club will go down in history.
Chinese esport clubs are extremely structured. Players are signed to the clubs and play for the team under contract. They can also be traded and sidelined at the club’s discretion. As a result of such tight structuring, many teams feature veteran players mixed with young talent. This creates an interesting dynamic for many of the teams since young players often provide the aggressiveness that wins games, while veterans provide a strong base for their counterparts to fall back on.
Vici Gaming is one of the prime examples of a mix of young and veteran players. Lu “Fenrir” Chao and Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng are the veterans of the team. They are a solid support duo and played together at The International 6. They are also the rock on which Zhang “Paparazi灬“ Chengjun stands on. Arguably their star player and best hope at the tournament, he is a mid player with very high win rates on complex heroes.
Despite the raw talent on the team, they have not found much success in competitive play. They are currently under the second place curse. Despite not winning, they were still able to accumulate plenty of DPC points. The team is ranked sixth on the DPC leaderboards which earned them a direct invite to the tournament.
The other Chinese team under the umbrella of Vici Gaming is VGJ.Thunder. Much like Vici Gaming, this team features a mix of young talent and veteran status players. Their carry, Lia “Sylar” Jiajun, is arguably the best at his position from the region and provides incredible insight to the team. However, no one compares to Leong “ddc” Fat-meng, a recent addition to the team. This will be his eighth International performance, making him one of only four other players to attend every International.
The team was underperforming before the addition of ddc, and as a result was lacking DPC points. But following his joining the team, they saw a significant increase in win rate. They barely scraped by in the end, making eighth place on the DPC rankings and beating out OpTiC Gaming by just 135 points.
PSG.LGD is another team that qualified directly for the tournament and is actually the only Chinese team in the top five. Oddly sponsored by Paris Saint-Germain, a large soccer club, this team is also one of the biggest names in China. In fact, LGD is the largest organizations in all of China, but that is not too obvious from their roster.
Xu “fy” Linsen is one of the only recognizable names on the roster. A powerhouse support player who is one of the best Rubick players to ever use the hero. But another player on the roster, Lu “Somnus丶M” Yao (better recognized by the tag “Maybe”) also deserves attention. A powerhouse mid player, Maybe rounds out the veteran side of the team.
Although the two together are very experienced in the game, they surprisingly left some very strong heroes undrafted during the 2017-2018 season. Among these heroes are Riki, Pudge, and Wraith King, who are poised to be very strong picks at the tournament. This lack of experience could be problematic for the group moving forward.
Newbee is yet another team that was given a direct invite to the tournament by earning enough DPC points. Following their unexpected win at The International 4, they have been absolutely dominant. Looking at their tournament history on Liquipedia, one is greeted by a list comprised nearly entirely of first place finishes. These wins can largely be attributed to the amount of raw talent that the team previously featured.
The current roster has not changed since 2016, so one can expect a high amount of team chemistry going into the tournament. Their star mid player, Song “Sccc” Chung, is not only a fan favorite but also one of the first players to reach 9000 MMR. His absolutely cerebral play will likely be the base on which the team finds success at the tournament.
One of the two Chinese teams to qualify through the regional qualifiers is Team Serenity. Earning a spot in the regional qualifiers through the open qualifiers, they are truly a dark horse at the tournament. That being said, there is not much that can be said about the team besides they are absolute underdogs. The team is comprised entirely of pubstar players with each one being featured on the top 100 leaderboard in China. The only other team which can claim that accolade is Newbee.
The other team to qualify for the tournament through the regional qualifiers is Invictus Gaming. Once a powerhouse Chinese organization, the club has had an unprecedented fall from grace. Much like Team Serenity, many of the players are not very notable with the exception of Sun “Aggressif” Zheng. This former carry for CDEC Gaming can be considered the veteran talent of the team. CDEC is most notable for finishing second to Evil Geniuses at The International 5.
Aggressif himself is given almost all the credit for their magnificent, and undefeated, run to the finals at the tournament. It will be interesting to see how he brings his previous International experience to his new team at the tournament. The International 8 should prove to be an exciting event, as we’ll see whether IG can restore their former glory or will continue their tumble towards rock bottom.
Featured image courtesy of TNC Esports
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