After a two month lull in competitive DotA 2, the first ranked tournament of the season is now only a week away. While qualifier games have been plentiful lately, victories there do not translate into TI8 Qualifying Points. The Star Ladder i-League Invitational will put the first of these points on the board for the competitive season, and set the tone moving forward. What teams are going to be lucky enough to participate in this tournament you ask? Well lets take a look.
Position 1 – Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen
Position 2 – Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barqawi
Position 3 – Ivan “MinD-ContRoL” Ivanov
Position 4 – Maroun “GH” Merhej
Position 5 – Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi
It comes as no surprise that the previous winners of The International received a direct invite. Even before they claimed the Aegis this year, Liquid was taking first place at tournaments like EPICENTER and DreamLeague. Their roster has also maintained impressive stability over the last year, with GH being the latest edition in January of this year. This stability means these players are well practiced when it comes to playing with each other.
Unfortunately, Liquid’s upcoming direct invites mean that the rest of us have not seen them play since August. What they have been doing since then is anyone’s guess. Hopefully they’ve been practicing, because the rest of the competition is bound to be fierce.
Position 1 – Xu “Moogy” Han
Position 2 – Song “Sccc” Chun
Position 3 – Damien “kpii” Chok
Position 4 – Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi
Position 5 – Zheng “Faith” Hongda
Newbee had a similar run to Liquid leading up to The International this year. In the span of just a couple of weeks they took first place at ZOTAC Cup Masters and Galaxy Battles. But there is only room for one at the top, and Liquid forced Newbee to take second place at TI7 after defeating them in a 3-0 sweep.
Since then Newbee has been just as quiet as Liquid themselves. We’ll have to wait until the opening games to see if this storied team has stayed fresh after a competitive hiatus.
Position 1 – Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard
Position 2 – Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng
Position 3 – Adrian “Fata” Trinks
Position 4 – Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat
Position 5 – Clement “Puppey” Ivanov
Team Secret is on a tear that hasn’t been seen since their glory days in 2015. So far they have taken first place at all three qualifiers they have participated in, guaranteeing themselves a chance at each tournament’s pool of Qualifying Points. If they can maintain this level of performance through the actual tournament brackets, the points they earn could kick start their competitive season in a big way.
It is possible the performance increase is due to recent roster changes within Secret. After TI7, Team Secret promptly parted ways with Pyo “MP” No-a and Maurice “KheZu” Gutmann. Replacing them were Ace and FaTa, and it seems they were the final pieces in a winning combination.
Position 1 – Vladislav “Crystallize” Krystanek
Position 2 – Danil “Dendi” Ishutin
Position 3 – Victor “GeneRaL” Nigrini
Position 4 – Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan
Position 5 – Akbar “SoNNeikO” Butaev
Na’Vi is in the middle of a resurgence of it’s own this season. The past few competitive seasons for the first ever TI champions have been rough. After being eliminated in the first round of both TI5 and TI6, Na’Vi failed to even qualify for the main event at TI7. A string of disappointing performances and a few roster shuffles later, we have the lineup you see before you. A lineup that has qualified not only for Star Ladder i-League, but also the PGL Open Bucharest Minor tournament as well.
The Na’Vi brand is legendary in professional DotA 2, and it’s high time their luck turned around for the better.
Position 1 – Rasmus “Chessie” Blomdin
Position 2 – Linus “Limmp” Blomdin
Position 3 – David “Moo” Hull
Position 4 – Zakari “Zfreek” Freedman
Position 5 – Kyle “melonzz” Freedman
2017 was a turbulent year for compLexity. Numerous roster changes plagued the organization throughout the year, including the departure of Chessie back in January. Now, for the first time since August of 2016, the brothers Blomdin are playing together again. The team states in an announcement on their website that these two players helped them achieve some of their best results in 2016. However, while compLexity placed well at the Frankfurt and Shanghai Majors that year, the rest of their tournaments that season were middling at best.
That being said, the team looked strong in the North American qualifier. The team looked so strong in fact they beat out teams like Evil Geniuses and OpTic Gaming. Doing well at this i-League Invitational could give compLexity some much needed momentum this season. On the other hand, a poor showing could very well do the opposite for the team’s morale.
Position 1 – Guilherme “FuckinEh” Costábile
Position 2 – Adriano “4dr” Machado
Position 3 – Rodrigo “Liposa” Santos
Position 4 – Thiago “Thiolicor” Cordeiro
Position 5 – Lucas “Bardo” Bardosa
SG e-sports hails from Brazil in South America, which is arguably one of the most underrepresented regions in DotA 2. Even so, this fledgling team’s recent results speak for themselves. In the past few weeks, SG e-sports has qualified for three Minors and ESL One Hamburg, the first Dota 2 Major of the year.
One could of course argue that the players are simply big fish in their small pond of a region. Can their apparent dominance over their fellow South American teams translate into winning tournament performances? Right now it is difficult to say with any certainty, as this roster is barely even a month old. Regardless, this new squad is hungry to prove themselves, and they could be the underdogs to root for at i-League.
Position 1 – Zhang “Paparazi灬” Chengjun
Position 2 – Zeng “Ori” Jiaoyang
Position 3 – Ren “eLeVeN” Yangwei
Position 4 – Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng
Position 5 – Lu “Fenrir” Chao
Vici Gaming’s roster is completely different from the team we grew accustomed to last year. However, that doesn’t mean you haven’t seen these players before. eLeVeN, LaNm, and Fenrir are seasoned vets that once played together on EHOME’s roster in 2016. At the time they went from the Wild Card team to placing 5-6th at TI6.
During the Chinese Qualifier they got off to a shaky start by losing to LGD Gaming 0-2. Despite being immediately pushed to the losers bracket, they fought on, eventually winning their runback against LGD 2-0. The talent on this team can’t be disputed, but will it be enough to overcome the rest of the competition?
Position 1 – Kam “NaNa” Boon Seng
Position 2 – Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung
Position 3 – Daryl “iceiceice” Koh Pei Xiang
Position 4 – Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong
Position 5 – Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross Jr.
Personally, I was excited back in March of this year when Mineski announced they would be building a brand new team with Mushi as the centerpiece. As a player Mushi has played in five of the seven Internationals, and has placed in the top four in three of them. Before making his move to Mineski, Mushi captained Fnatic for nearly two years, and had some success. The announcement that iceiceice would be joining the team in the offlane was just icing on the cake.
Mineski proved that they are a force to be reckoned with by going undefeated in their qualifier for SL i-League. We’ll see if they accidentally used up all their luck before the true battles begin.
Star Ladder i-League Invitational Season 3 will be held in Kiev, Ukraine from October 12th – October 15th.
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