The AmericasValve’s decision to split up the North and South American qualifiers will give us our first look in quite a long time at how a South American team fares against the world’s best teams. Aside from EG, both regions have struggled to put together teams who could consistently achieve results. The South American region lost most of its star power due to match fixing scandals, which greatly diminished its ability to duel the stronger teams up North for LAN spots. With Valve’s move to give South America their own qualifier, it has opened the way for SG e-sports, a Brazilian team with very little exposure outside of South America, to make their debut at one of the most prestigious tournaments in the Dota world.
On the other hand, the teams representing North America have a wealth of experience at Valve events. Evil Geniuses, Thunderbirds (née Digital Chaos), and Digital Chaos’s new roster—mason, Abed, BuLba, DuBu, and DeMoN—have all left their mark at TI over the years. While inconsistency has held back NA teams in the past, Thunderbirds could easily make another deep run similar to their second place finish at TI; similarly, DC could steal the show with their mixture of veteran and rookie talent.
Evil GeniusesFor years, Evil Geniuses was the only team in North America who was viewed as competitive on the international stage, often strong favourites to win most events they attended. Through roster changes and player injury they maintained their position and continued to either win, or place top 3, in the vast majority of events they have attended. The current EG roster will undoubtedly be one of the favourites to win the whole event, and rightfully so, as each individual player is arguably the best in his position on any given day. A grand finals appearance at the Majors has evaded EG to this point, but it is only a matter of time for a team of their caliber to find themselves playing for the championship.
When Cr1t- took the role of captain on EG after TI6, he had big shoes to fill. Since taking over for ppd, he has been the driving force behind EG’s first place finishes in the Mars Dota 2 League, Dota Pit Season 5, and China Top 2016. EG has also claimed third place at The Summit 6 and at the Boston Major. While their fifth/sixth place finish at DAC was pedestrian by EG’s standards, it does not come close to undermining the accomplishments this team has racked up in such a short amount of time. SumaiL and Arteezy’s farm allocation seems to always allow each of them to get the items and levels they need to win a teamfight, secure an objective, or catch an opponent off guard and get key pick offs.
The North American giants have remained on top of the region for years through both their own efforts and with the help of some of the best tactical minds in Dota 2. While it is difficult for us as spectators to assess how influential coaches are, there is no doubt that Fear’s knowledge, experience, and leadership helps the team tremendously in all aspects of their play. The sky's the limit for Evil Geniuses; if teams aren’t properly prepared, EG will leave them in the dust as they fight for their first Major Championship.
ThunderbirdsWhile under a different team name, Thunderbirds’ players have not changed. The team that finished top 4 at the Boston Major and placed second at TI still remains. While playing under the Digital Chaos tag they also won ESL One Genting, overcoming Virtus.pro in the semifinals and Newbee in the grand finals. While Thunderbirds were in the shadow of Evil Geniuses during much their time in North America, they quickly rose to prominence after TI6. Their 3rd/4th place finish during the last Major further proves how deadly it is to face Thunderbirds in a single elimination format as well.
It was only a couple of years ago that people were talking about Resolut1on, a rising star from the CIS region whom other pros praised for his potential. On DC, he far surpassed those expectations, and he remains one of the best carries in the game heading into the Kiev Major. His ability to farm, even under duress, allows w33 and MoonMeander to get as much out of their lanes as possible, which opens up the mid game to whatever strategy MiSeRy has devised during the draft. That being said, Thunderbirds can sometimes be unstable, like when they dropped to Team Faceless during Dota Pit, or when they were the first team eliminated from their group at StarLadder.
Working with some of the most expansive hero pools in Dota, MiSeRy has a lot of room during the draft to bring out the best in his teammates during the games. The team has a history of using unconventional picks to great effect; if they play their own game, they can outplay almost anybody. Thunderbirds will be going into the Major to build on their impressive placements at the last two Valve events and try to shrug off the previous losses. With a favorable bracket, Thunderbirds could easily reach top 4 once again.
Digital ChaosDigital Chaos (formerly Team Onyx) is a team full of great players and great story lines. mason has finally made his way back to a top-tier team after his third place finish at TI4 when he stood in for EG due to Fear’s wrist injury. Abed took a big step and a huge risk, as he moved to North America at the age of 16 to play on Onyx and try to qualify for the Kiev Major. BuLba has moved from team to team as he’s struggled to find success as a player, from Team Tinker all the way up to Onyx. He finally caught a break and dominated Team NP and compLexity with his Abaddon in the Kiev Major qualifiers. DeMoN, known as the mercenary, helped TnC not only qualify for TI6, but delivered one of the most impressive upsets there as his team took down OG in the lower bracket and secured a top 8 finish. Last but certainly not least, there is DuBu, the former MVP Phoenix player known for his highly aggressive Spirit Breaker and being part of the best Korean team in the world. The five of them had to run the gauntlet to qualify for Kiev as they beat Team Freedom, NP, and compLexity in order to claim their ticket.
While all of them have played well and stood out in one aspect or another during their matches, Abed is definitely making a case to be the “next” SumaiL due to his age and extraordinary talent as a mid laner. His Meepo is rightfully respect banned in nearly every match they play, and his Invoker, Ember Spirit, and Shadow Fiend are amongst the best in the world. With Abed in the midlane and BuLba running interference in the offlane, it makes mason’s job in the safelane much less stressful, as he knows they will almost always help him secure the late game. While it’s not clear how DC will do against other teams in Kiev, they are absolutely capable of upsetting teams with their individual performances.
SG e-sportshFn, 4dr, Tavo, KINGRD, and c4t make up the SG e-sports roster. For people who closely follow North and South American Dota, many of these names will be familiar from previous iterations of paiN Gaming, Keyd Stars, and T Show. In early March, SG e-sports did the unthinkable and took down the Peruvian favorites Not Today and secured a spot in the Kiev Major. SG will be the first South American team to play at a premier international competition since 2015, when Unknown.xiu played at The Frankfurt Major. The impact this could have on the region is huge; the potential for a South American team to be seen at every Valve tournament could prompt the teams there to step up their game and become real international threats. For now, SG seems to be going to Kiev more for the learning opportunity and experience than any real chance at winning. That being said, anything can and will happen at a Dota LAN, and SG could easily slip under people’s radar.
The implications of having this spot for SA Dota, and the Brazilian players in this particular case, is huge. The South American scene has needed new faces for people to recognize and cheer for at events after SmAsH and the rest of the match fixers were banned for life. This breathes new air into the scene and gives them hope to accomplish something greater and play on the biggest stage of all in the hopes of being immortalized as TI champions. Sure, this dream might be much further down the road, but they have to start somewhere, and SG e-sports has taken the first step to make that dream into a reality.
Southeast AsiaWe’re not sure how you can overperform and underperform at the same time, but SEA teams seem to have it down to a science. By no means do we mean the top SEA teams are bad, but correctly predicting how they will do on LAN is like trying to predict lottery numbers. While Team Faceless has yet to win a single LAN best-of-three outside of SEA, they undoubtedly have been the best team inside the region. Yet, if you look at their record in best-of-one elimination matches, they’ve taken down Invictus Gaming, Team Liquid, and the old Digital Chaos—two tournament winners and the TI runners-up. Similarly, teams like TnC or WG.Unity who were expected to flop during StarLadder and the Boston Major, respectively, had decent showings and scored upsets that few would have expected. The SEA region itself is becoming extremely competitive, with new teams forming and pre-existing teams improving to the point where there has been a real battle to qualify for events. With no direct invites given to SEA for the Kiev Major Faceless and TnC will truly represent the best the region has to offer.
Team FacelessLargely unrivaled in SEA and unafraid to be trend setters in the region, Faceless should be among the top teams in the world. Instead, they sit near the bottom of the pack in almost every international competition they’ve been in (aside from their best-of-one lower bracket run at Dota Pit); the only title they’ve claimed is the nickname “Bo1 Kings.” Their LAN jitters are hardly a new phenomenon, but if the team wants to make a case for a TI invite, they need to leave their mark on Kiev. The biggest problem that seems to plague Faceless is their lack of in-game leadership. While they can have beautiful combo plays between iceiceice and Black, or Jabz and NutZ, at the drop of a hat, the game can fall away from their clutches. They can afford these mistakes against some of the lesser teams in SEA, but the best teams in the world know how to punish their indecision. All is not gloom and doom, however, as Faceless are undoubtedly a strong team; if they can get their act together, they are capable of taking down anyone.
iceiceice has recently started to play like he did on Vici Gaming, outmaneuvering supports in the offlane, securing kills other players wouldn’t dream of going for, and generally being a serious thorn in the side of carries trying to find their early farm. While Faceless does often resort to dual lanes to empower iceiceice to have this kind of impact, we have seen teams so afraid of his heroes that they use all five bans on iceiceice heroes. Ignoring Jabz and Black can also be a game losing mistake, however, as Jabz’s Invoker and Tinker can take over a game all by themselves, and Black has single handedly kept his team in some games with excellent positioning on heroes like Slark through the early and mid game.
At the end of the day, Faceless’ biggest enemy if themselves. If they can coordinate their efforts, set a game plan to follow, and execute it well, they will be a force to be reckoned with. They’ve lead the way in SEA since their formation and have admirably held on to the top spot against multiple challengers; it’s about time we see them turn their dominance in SEA into some LAN wins.
TnC Pro TeamRaven, Kuku, and Sam_H are the remnants of the TI6 squad for TnC, who took down OG and secured a top 8 finish. They now have Tims and ryOyr to replace DeMoN and eyyou as their support duo. With the new team, so far in 2017 they managed to win WESG over Cloud9 and secure a respectable top 4 finish at StarLadder, including victories over iG Vitality and Team Secret. Inside of SEA, TnC has been hot on the heels of Faceless, but have fallen just short of beating them most times they’ve met. Qualifying for the Kiev Major was the same: while TnC beat Faceless in a best-of-one in the group stage, they lost to Faceless 2-1 in the first round of the playoffs, forcing them to beat Clutch Gamers and Mineski to secure their spot in Kiev.
TnC in general is a very stable team. They play well around each other, and Raven has been steadily making a name for himself as one of the best carry players in SEA, always ready to dig his team out of a deficit. While they don’t have quite as much experience as most of the other teams at the Kiev Major, they’re slowly but surely gaining it and coming out of every event stronger than when they went in. With TI around the corner, Kiev will be a very important opportunity to not only see how far they’ve come, but also to identify where they still need to improve in the future. Given how well they did at StarLadder, we’ll have to keep an eye on them during the group stage to see if they can upset some of the favored teams.