This StarLadder is more than just a tournament for many of the teams attending. While three of the teams likely have an invite to Seattle already locked up, the fate of the rest of the attendees remains unclear. As the invites for this year's version of The International remain unannounced, a lot is still unclear. One or two teams may very well seal their own fate this weekend in Bucharest, but it may not be in the way that they hope?
Outside of the TI5 storyline this can also be seen as a proper warmup for the ever so busy summer season. Most if not all of the participating teams have qualified for several offline tournaments this summer. And, after the amount of roster shuffling lately, this could prove to be valuable LAN experience for many of the teams.
Games start in
"Check your mailbox"-tierThis year's invites for The International seem to be figuratively lost in the mail, as people wonder who the lucky teams will be. No teams have been invited yet, but the giants in this category are almost guaranteed an invite from IceFrog. Three incredibly strong teams, one from the east and two from the west, who are of course the top contenders for the SL12 title!
Vici GamingThe relentless aggressors of DAC 2015 have not let the roster change from Black^ to Hao slow them down one bit. So far in the month of April they boast a impressive 75% win rate in official matches. With their continuing strong performance since the last TI there is no doubt that they are not only on the list of the invites, but one of the favorites to win TI5. That being said, they still have to show up in big fashion if they want to leave Bucharest with close to $60,000.
The key players for VG will definitely be the support duo of Fenrir and fy. Not only are they individually very skilled, they have also played together under the VG banner since 2012. In a dota scene that seems to see 3-4 shuffles per year this is something almost unseen in other teams and has allowed Fenrir and fy to build a special dynamic that definitely works in favour of the Chinese squad.
Team SecretAnother preliminary favorite is Team Secret. Puppey and his squad have had a great year since forming post TI4. After some initial roster shuffling the team now seems to have found their place with Arteezy and Zai. But not everything is sunshine and flowers in their world. Do they have what it takes to win a tournament versus tier 1 teams? So far the tournaments they have won has been versus mostly tier 2 teams. And while they completely demolished their opposition in the group stage of DAC 2015 a third place finish must have been a disappointment after that start. So going into StarLadder we have to ask ourselves; is Puppey really is the strategic mastermind he is seen as? And is Arteezy's position 1 really strong enough for the highest level?
But even if they do not triumph in Bucharest this weekend, there is no doubt in our minds that they both deserve, and will get, an invite to The International 2015.
Cloud 9Whenever discussing Cloud 9 one cannot ignore the elephant in the room: Cloud 9 isn't a LAN team. Since signing with the organization a year ago EternalEnvy and his posse has not won a LAN. What is more impressive is that during that time the team has gone to a total of 6 offline finals, which explains why Cloud 9 should have an invite to Seattle locked up. But from now and until TI5 every tournament Cloud 9 plays will be a redemption tournament. To get that first taste of sweet, sweet victory. Because once Cloud 9 get over their LAN finals jitters, there's no telling how far they can go.
"Icefrog is watching"-tier
Oh the giants in this category. If this was only a year ago you would laugh in my face for saying these three teams werent guaranteed invites to TI5. But with time comes change. Especially if you play for Alliance.
AllianceShould Alliance even be in this category? Surely they can't get an invite? That's questions a lot of people have asked themselves, myself included. Never before have we seen such a fall from grace, like the one Alliance had after TI3. After 6 months of constant standins, which reached it peak when Loda was away at The Summit and Akke played with 4 standins. Like many others, Alliance has finally settled on a roster and since bringing in Niqua, Pajkatt and 7ckinmad the team has performed admirably. But is it too little too late? The thing that speaks for Alliance is the fact that the scene has been in a mode of endless shuffles since TI4. The thing that speaks against them is the fact that they've been one of the worst teams at keeping a stable roster. If Alliance wants a shot at an invite, they have to show their worth in Bucharest.
Invictus GamingThe decline of iG over the last year has been a much slower one than their counterparts in Alliance. And in all honesty, iG has never stopped qualifying for tournaments over the year. But their record is far from what they need in order to have an invite locked in for when they get home. As with most teams, DAC was iG's last big tournament that they qualified for but they ended up getting knocked out by Rave in the second round of the losers bracket. Nothing short of a disappointment for Chuans squad. And looking back on their record since the TI4 shows a pattern: the only top 4 finish came back in September of 2014 in WCA. But not everything is negative for iG. In the qualifiers they crushed through their group not dropping a single game versus LGD, EHOME.cn and TongFu and continued rolling through the bracket again beating out LGD to qualify for the main event. A win here could very much show IceFrog that iG is worthy of their ticket to TI5!
Team MalaysiaA lot of people in the SEA scene got really excited in the beginning of March when it was announced that that EHOME would return in big fashion with an all Malaysian team featuring kYxY, Ohaiyo and Mushi. Turns out that the honeymoon was shorter than anyone could have expected and the organisation and players soon parted ways and so Team Malaysia was formed. Although the team is filled with stars one must question the quality of the South East Asian scene right now. Since forming, Team Malaysia has won two regional tournaments but beating teams like Can't Say Wips and 5eva in finals won't get you IceFrog's attention. The situation did not become better when Daryl Koh "iceiceice" Pei Xiang in an interview said that he doesn't think any SEA teams deserves an invite to TI this year. So Team Malaysia isn't just defending their national colors in this tournament. They're fighting to give their entire region even one invite to Seattle.
"Good luck in the qualifiers!"
Team TinkerTeam Tinker has been one of the biggest disappointments so far this year. The team formed right after TI4 and had a promising lineup featuring qojqva, Bulba, EGM, Pajkatt and Excalibur; players who had performed well in their respective teams prior to forming TT. But from the very start the team has failed to make an impact on the scene, and moreso than even Alliance they have had a revolving door for players coming in and out all year. Their biggest achievement in an offline environment has been a meager 5th place at DreamLeague Season 2. For those of you who don't remember that season: it was the one without any high profile teams at all.
But all is not lost for the mainly european squad who count themselves as North Americans. In the beginning of March is was announced that Black^ and pieliedie would join the team. Ever since that they have been showing some life, and with qojqva getting closer to the end of his school year, he now has more time to focus on Dota. Will we see the team fight their way to glory in this StarLadder? With this lineup it is certainly a possibility. But no matter how well the team performs the chances of them getting a direct invite to TI5 are slim to nil. They will have to fight their way through qualifiers. But as the team now resides in Canada, they still have a strong chance to be competing in Seattle this summer.
London ConspiracyThe team that can be seen as the first Greek hope on a battlefield since Leonidas has risen fast since being picked up by London Conspiracy back in November of last year. They have really taken the long way into this tournament, qualifying for the Star Series group stage by winning season 11 of the Star Ladder Pro Series. A huge advantage for the rookies of the tournament will be that they, like Riki, strike from behind. While the other teams in the tournament have played each other on numerous occasions they have little to no experience against the Greek squad. Could unorthodox drafting maybe be the answer for LC? If so, may we suggest a Medusa, Naga, Zeus, Centaur and Bane lineup?
The timing of them qualifying for the large tournament seems strange though. We are not pointing fingers, but since Yanis Varoufakis took over as finance minister the amount of Greek Dota 2 teams qualifying for international tournamnets has increased at an staggering rate. And what will this bring to Dota? What will happen when Greece enters the equations A prolific writer for LD, who wishes to remain anonymous, said "I believe it's time for us to create a Economic Adjustment Programme for Dota 2. Hopefully we won't need a second one. Or, Zeus help us, a third."
Graphics: StarLadder Official
Graphics: StarLadder Official