TI10 Unofficial Power Ranking and Team Guide
After more than two years of waiting, the tenth iteration of The International is now only a week away! Prior to TI9 I wrote a power ranking of the 12 teams which had finished top of the 2018/19 DPC season, it was fairly well received and so I decided to write up another one for this year - this time covering all 18 teams who've qualified for TI10.
Before you take a read, a few disclaimers:
1) This power ranking is representative solely of my own personal opinion - I have no affiliation with the Liquiddota team. They'll most likely release their own official rankings soon.
2) I'm just a 5k mmr pleb who happens to follow a fair amount of pro Dota 2. I'm not in any way a professional analyst, so don't expect top-tier analysis or insights.
3) Teams have played fewer games, and especially fewer cross-regional games, this year than any in recent memory. As such it is even harder than usual to accurately compare teams to one another, and so definitely don't be surprised if several of these predictions end up being wildly different from the actual results which we see at TI10.
With all these caveats now out of the way, let's dive in!
18th - Thunder Predator (South America)
Choosing a team to list in last place in any power ranking is always a complete lose-lose for the writer, as a correct prediction wins no plaudits meanwhile a wrong guess can earn some quite considerable embarrassment. Plus, being able to accurately identify the weakest teams has also grown steadily harder from each TI to the next, as the parity of skill level across the field becomes increasingly even. But, with all this said, one team does have to be ranked last and currently it’s Thunder Predator which seems to be the least promising contender.
Just a few short months ago they would certainly have found themselves much higher in most pundits’ estimation. By finishing 2nd place in the first South American DPC league the Peruvians qualified for the Singapore Major, and then went on to shock the Dota 2 world by topping the tournament’s group stage with a dominant 12-2 win/loss record against some of the best teams in the world.
Singapore was the first international LAN in just over a year and the prolonged separation of different regions had created several distinct metagames, then once these differing strategies clashed the aggression-focused style of Thunder Predator emerged ascendent. Unfortunately they then hit a brick wall in the upper bracket, as Team Secret methodically picked apart their playstyle. They went on to smash both Team Aster and Virtus.pro in an impressive lower bracket run, which was finally ended by eventual champions Invictus Gaming – knocking them out in 5-6th place.
Despite their great performance at the first Major, Thunder Predator narrowly missed out on qualification to the second, having to watch the AniMajor from home nervously hoping that their DPC rivals would fail to earn enough points to leapfrog them. Ultimately they managed to (barely) retain their place within the top twelve spots on the leaderboard, securing their all-important direct invite to TI.
Their recent performances have been a far cry from their dominance in Singapore however, bombing out dead last at two consecutive international tournaments and scoring only a single win out of 14 games played. Was their performance in Singapore a fluke? We’ll have to wait to find out. Most of the members of this squad have been active in the South American scene for several years, and TI10 represents the big break they’ve all been waiting for. Their recent form has certainly be concerning, but if Thunder Predator can recapture the magic they found earlier this year then the potential for another big upset story is definitely there.
17th - SG Esports (South America)
It definitely doesn’t feel good to have two teams from the same region ranked as the bottom two seeds, and especially not when that region is one which is so criminally underrated by most fans. The South American Dota scene has made incredible strides in the last few years, which is reflected by the fact that a record three SA teams have successfully reached TI10. Unfortunately, two teams will not survive the group stage (assuming that the tournament format is unchanged from previous years), and in a power ranking based on recent performances and player pedigree – SG look like the next most likely candidate to join Thunder Predator in missing out on playing up on the main stage.
After nearly a year of inactivity the Brazilian organisation revived their Dota team at the end of 2020 in preparation for the new DPC league system. SG finished their first regional league in 3rd place, finishing just behind the Thunder Predator squad who then went on to turn up big at the Singapore Major. The second regional league however was much more disappointing for them, finishing in a lowly 6th place, but luckily they managed to return to form just in time for the South American TI qualifiers – eventually succeeding in securing their ticket to Bucharest.
We’ve only seen them play in two events against international competition this year, the same TI-prep tournaments which Thunder Predator attended this summer. SG were able to outperform them at both of these, contributing towards their higher ranking on this list, however they still didn’t exceed that low bar by much. They finished ESL One Fall dead last in their group, and only avoided another last-place finish at the DotaPIT Invitational after beating Thunder Predator in the lower bracket. Across both tournaments SG failed to win a single series aside from this one BO3 against their regional rivals, which bodes poorly for their chances at TI.
SG was of course the original South American dark horse, having previously been the first team from the region to ever reach top-8 at a Major (Kiev, 2017). Indeed both their midlaner 4dr and offlaner Tavo are veteran members of that former, history-making roster. The Brazilians once again come in to this tournament with little to no expectations from most, but that is a fact which previous TI’s suggest may well empower them to excel where other, more pressurised, teams falter. SG’s record suggests that they are most definitely an underdog, but eventually every dog has it’s day.
16th - Team Undying (North America)
It’s ironic that for a man who became famous by telling people to get on his level, MoonMeander hasn’t found himself at the top level of Dota for over four years. Until now of course, as the notorious North American trashtalker finally returns to The International for the first time since TI6. In the years since Moon has been slowly grinding his way through the NA scene in an extended quest to assemble a top level team of his own, and at long last he appears to have finally done it.
Since forming in January, Undying has come the closest of any team in North America to threatening the now well-established Evil Geniuses/Quincy Crew hegemony over their region. They are in fact the only NA squad which has been able to take a series win off of either of that duo in 2021, and finished 3rd place in both their regional leagues this year. Undying have now firmly solidified their place as North America’s third best team by following these impressive league results with a recent pair of online tournament wins, as well as cruising smoothly to victory in their TI qualifier without dropping a single game.
The team’s roster features an eclectic mix of players, picked up from all over the world and including a healthy mix of experience and young talent. Bryle and SabeRLight- both make their TI debuts after years of climbing their way up through middling teams, whilst Timado also makes a long-awaited return to The International – his first since attending TI7 as a teenager. Meanwhile Moon’s co-captain DuBu has as many TI appearances as the rest of his teammates combined, bringing valuable veterancy for the squad to rally around.
After having been gatekept from international competition so successfully by their powerhouse regional rivals, it will be very interesting to finally get to see Undying properly in action against non-NA teams. Their one such outing this summer ended in a discouraging last place finish – however it’s worth noting that their two losses in that double-elimination bracket were both narrow 2-1 defeats to PSG.LGD and Team Spirit, the two eventual grand finalist teams. So that was perhaps not such a bad indictment of their form as the underwhelming placement would suggest. We haven’t yet seen Team Undying score the kind of results which would justify rating them more highly, but if they truly are nipping at the heels of titans like EG then they could well be quite the challenger.
15th - Fnatic (South-East Asia)
For the first half of 2020 Fnatic looked like the best team in South-East Asia, winning the last LAN event before the pandemic – The Summit 12 – and then claiming four consecutive online tournament wins in the following months. However, after losing key players 23savage and iceiceice later on in the year their future began to look uncertain. Fnatic started this year strong, finishing top of their first regional DPC league, but at the Singapore Major they became the first team eliminated from the playoffs as they immediately lost two series in a row on the main stage.
This humbling result prompted a roster change, which arguably backfired as the team then failed to qualify for the AniMajor, finishing their second DPC league in 4th place. Another desperate personnel adjustment was then made in a last ditch attempt to qualify for The International, a last-minute gamble which eventually paid off in dramatic fashion when Fnatic reverse-swept TNC Predator in the BO5 qualifier final to punch their ticket to the biggest event of the year.
Both ChYuan and Deth have only been with the team since April and June, respectively, but in their case the delay of TI10 to October may have been a blessing in that it gives these newer players more time to gel with their teammates. At various points in his long career DJ has looked like one of the single greatest playmakers in the game, though he now assumes the role of hard support to focus on captaining and to give greater farm priority to Jabz – another uncommonly gifted support player. Add in Raven, still the recordholder for most kills in a single game at a Valve event, at the carry position and you have a list of names which appears pretty respectable on paper.
At their sole tournament against international competition this summer they looked reasonably solid, though they did end in a disappointing 5-6th place with their only series win coming in against Thunder Predator. Fnatic have attended every single International since 2013, a feat which only PSG.LGD can also boast, however this storied organisation has nonetheless usually performed pretty poorly at TI. The team and their fans will certainly be hoping that this year is one of the exceptions, but at the moment they seem to be on course for another reasonably early exit. Should they prove this prediction wrong however, then they will certainly be a fun team to watch.
14th - Alliance (Western Europe)
Alliance are probably one of the most high-variance teams out there right now, being able to look top tier one day but then disappointingly mediocre the next. As such they’re a hard team to rank, since they could likely just as easily bomb out last in the groups as end up with a top-8 finish. The Swedish outfit had their entire former roster poached by Team Liquid following TI9 but have managed to rebuild a new squad capable of reaching The International – though whether they will be able to survive longer in the tournament than their predecessors did in Shanghai remains to be seen.
Handsken and Limmp are both highly skilled players, with the latter especially being well-respected for his early laning-phase prowess. But despite their years of presence on the Dota 2 scene this is surprisingly the TI debut for both of them – having had their previous closest attempt end in the TI6 wild card play-in stage. Fng is another such journeyman player, having tried unsuccessfully to captain various Eastern European squads to The International over the years, but now after joining the Swedes he’s finally been able to return to the tournament for the first time since TI5.
Alliance’s star player is unquestionably Nikobaby, who plays his carry role like a shark – always sniffing for signs of weakness and delivering devastating killing blows when the time is right. This killer instinct is guided by the team’s other big name, TI3 champion s4. The “Son of Magnus” is the last active member of Alliance’s 2013 Aegis-winning squad and he made his warmly-welcomed return to the organisation after extended stints on both OG and Evil Geniuses. Leading the squad from the offlane position, s4 embodies almost a decade of experience at the highest level of Dota 2 and his intelligent in-game shotcalling shows in the team’s impressive late game manoeuvres.
In both DPC leagues this year they’ve been excellent, finishing 2nd and then 1st in an ultra-competitive Western European region, however at the Majors they flopped – crashing out immediately from both. A depressing statistic for Alliance is that they’ve actually not yet won a single series against a non-European team in 2021 so far, an unfortunate streak which they will need to break quickly to have any hopes of a deep run at TI10. Depending on which version of the team shows up in Bucharest we will likely either way see some kind of dramatic result – so with this squad, it’s best to expect the unexpected.
13th - beastcoast (South America)
This group of players are the same five which competed under the banner of Infamous at TI9, achieving the shock result of being the first South American team to ever reach top-8 at an International. None before them had even reached top-12. After then being picked up by beastcoast, they went on to follow that historic first with a pair of consecutive 7th-8th place finishes at the Chengdu and Leipzig Majors – announcing loud and clear that they, and South America as a whole, were here to stay.
beastcoast had a fairly unremarkable pandemic season, but with the return of the DPC they stepped back up as expected and finished top of their first regional league. Unfortunately, the entire team was forced to pull out of the Singapore Major due to a Covid exposure and so were unable to make an appearance. Nor, crucially, to win any of the vital DPC points up for grabs.
In their second regional league they finished 2nd, so were seeded into the group stage for the AniMajor, but their much-anticipated return to LAN was a huge disappointment – ending in a dismal 3-11 win/loss record and a premature elimination before even reaching the playoffs. Similarly to Alliance though, beastcoast was narrowly able to secure a direct invite to TI solely off of DPC points earned from their strong league results, so fortunately avoided having to face the treacherous route of attending via the regional qualifiers.
Over their years spent playing together beastcoast has developed and perfected their preferred strategies – usually involving playing aggressively behind Chris Luck’s explosive midlane performances and backed up by Scofield’s potent support rotations, all whilst K1 deploys his famous farming efficiency on high impact carries. However the squad’s longevity may well be their downfall, as their predictability now means that their opponents have clearly gotten comfortable with how to play against them.
Indeed their most recent tournament appearance at ESL One Fall is a good example of this, initially performing well in groups but then getting immediately knocked-out from the playoffs after back-to-back 0-2 losses to teams who’d by then been able to study their replays. No other tournament sees teams doing as much homework on their opponents as TI, so their lack of creativity is a potentially critical weakness if not addressed soon. That said, these beastcoast players have already proven themselves well capable of smashing expectations on the very biggest of stages, and so we can only wait and see whether this year’s International will be another such historic occasion.
12th - Team Spirit (Eastern Europe)
Team Spirit has long been one of those many middling Eastern European organisations which you never really hear much about, aside of course from constant roster shuffle updates. Up until now their main claim to fame has been being the team on which Russian carry prodigy RAMZES666 made his first appearance on a Major stage, but this season Spirit’s talent scouts seem to have again struck gold.
Whilst everyone’s attention has been mostly focused on Virtus.pro and their new squad, Spirit has also quietly risen to the top of the Eastern European scene off of the back of recently discovered youth talent. Aside from their captain Miposhka, the others are all more or less completely new to competitive Dota – but already each of their young players has shown the potential to become one of their region’s next generation of stars.
Spirit finished 4th in their first regional DPC league, narrowly missing out on attending the Singapore Major after they lost a tie-breaker to ASM.Gambit. They got their revenge a few months later in the second league however, where this time they finished 2nd after a convincing performance which saw them only losing to an unstoppable VP. This result qualified them to the AniMajor, where Spirit struggled in the group stage but managed to survive elimination after winning a tie-breaker against Team Liquid. Spirit then overcame Alliance in the lower bracket but were promptly flattened by Vici Gaming in the next round, going out in 7th-8th place.
This meant that Spirit found themselves ranked 14th on the DPC leaderboard, missing out on receiving a direct invite to The International. Fortunately for them, their main rivals of Natus Vincere and ASM.Gambit both seemingly imploded in the regional qualifier, and so Spirit was ultimately still able to secure their spot at TI10. At their small handful of appearances since then they appear to have retained their solid form, even finishing 2nd behind only PSG.LGD at the recent DotaPIT Invitational.
This impressive result may come to haunt Spirit however, as their appearance in the last grand final before TI10 will certainly have attracted unwanted attention from opponents who may previously have simply overlooked this young squad. With all bar one of the team’s members making their International debuts in Bucharest, expectations are certainly tempered for Team Spirit at TI10 – though only a fool would write them off completely. Miposhka was there for Team Empire’s memorable upset of Evil Geniuses’ at TI7, and his new squad certainly threatens to similarly surprise anyone who underestimates them.
11th - Team Aster (China)
Team Aster has never had particular success at any significant events, failing to qualify for TI9 and having never cracked into the top-8 at any of the Majors they’ve attended. The team’s inability to live up to the high expectations of their demanding fans has meant that Aster has been plagued by roster changes ever since its inception. They appear to have found a successful formula now however, following the acquisition of LaNm back in November last year.
Their new captain is one of the most veteran players out there, having been one of the top names in the Chinese scene for the entirety of Dota 2’s lifetime. LaNm finished 2nd at the very first International back in 2011, and now he and Puppey are the only two players from that inaugural tournament to have qualified for TI10. His long and distinguished career has included appearances at nine Internationals (all bar TI7), an incredible feat matched only by KuroKy, iceiceice and of course Puppey.
At his most recent outing at The International LaNm captained Royal Never Give Up to a surprise 7th-8th place finish at TI9, thanks in large part to Monet’s impressive performances for the team. Despite finishing 3rd place at TI7 in his International debut, Monet has somehow been one of the more underrated Chinese carries in recent years, though no-one can deny that he appears to be at his best when playing in tandem with LaNm.
Aster also features the iconic duo of Xxs and Borax, long-time teammates who now have the second most games played together of any pair in Dota 2, and whose easy familiarity with one another’s style of play is clear to see from their well-synchronised laning in the offlane together. Midlaner White Album is still a relative newcomer to top-level competition, and as such is often identified as a weak link for the team, however Aster’s robust sidelanes usually offset any disadvantage in the midlane.
In both DPC leagues this year Aster has looked exceptional, finishing 2nd and then 1st in China – almost indisputably the toughest region. At the Majors however they’ve only managed to scrape a single series win this year, getting unceremoniously trounced out from both Singapore and the AniMajor in 9th-12th place. They’ve continued to dominate China this summer, with two online tournament wins, but their sustained lack of results against international competition makes it hard to feel confident rating them any higher for the time being. Never underestimate Chinese teams at TI though, especially those which feature LaNm.
10th - T1 (South-East Asia)
Despite the dominance of T1 and other Korean organisations in League of Legends, the Korean overlords have been largely absent from Dota 2 aside from a brief spell of success by MVP Phoenix back in 2015/16. T1 launched a Dota team in late 2019 but with limited initial success, and so have been continuously swapping out players and refining their roster ever since. All five of their current players are relatively new to the organisation, none having yet spent even 12 months with the team, but T1 does finally seem to have found a winning recipe.
In the first South-East Asian regional DPC league T1 finished 3rd, qualifying to the Singapore Major wild cards. Unfortunately Kuku was unable to attend the tournament, and without their captain the team bowed out unsuccessfully. Following their disappointment in Singapore, T1 finalised their current roster by dropping their former carry JaCkky for 23savage, who’d recently been released from his Vici Gaming contract. The Thai teenager has shown himself to be one of the most gifted emerging talents in the world right now, and signing the young star was a critical juncture for T1.
With their new carry the team finished 1st in their second regional league, and then showed a tour de force performance at the AniMajor – earning a convincing 3rd place finish and with that placement securing their TI10 direct invite. T1 followed this strong result with a notable win at ESL One Summer against a stacked international field of competition, but admittedly looked somewhat less impressive at two more recent tournaments, in which they finished only 4th place at both.
One has to wonder whether this will become another case of an upstart SEA team which peaked too early in the year– like TNC prior to TI9, or Mineski the year before. In fact, South-East Asia has not actually had a single team reach top-8 at an International since TI6, which is not the most auspicious portent for T1’s chances.
But in a region famed for its dearth of experienced leadership, Kuku stands out as arguably the most capable SEA captain. Indeed DJ is the only other player from the region who can still also claim to have attended every International since 2016. T1’s current squad doesn’t actually include a single Korean – aside from their coach, March – but perhaps Kuku’s leadership will be enough for them to avenge South-East Asia’s previous early exits and for these honorary Koreans to start their own overlordship. We’ll have to wait and see.
9th - Quincy Crew (North America)
North American Dota has historically been a case of Evil Geniuses, and then everyone else. Sure, the occasional Digital Chaos or OpTic Gaming may have popped up here or there as a secondary challenger – but no other NA team has ever been able to contest EG’s regional supremacy for any significant length of time. That is, until Quincy Crew came along.
During 2020’s online season Quincy Crew made the most of EG being mostly absent and utterly annihilated the rest of their regional competition. They ended that calendar year with an unbelievable 155-45 win/loss record, winning eight consecutive tournaments and never finishing below 2nd place at any of the online events they competed in. With the return of the DPC this year they maintained their impressive form, finishing 2nd place in the first regional league only after a tie-breaker loss to their arch-rivals EG.
But although they’d qualified for the Singapore Major, their key playmaker MSS tested positive for Covid-19 shortly before his flight and so the team had to play with a local stand-in. In spite of a solid group stage performance they were eliminated at the hands of Virtus.pro in the first round of the lower bracket, ending in 9th-12th place. Quincy Crew surged in the second half of the DPC however, besting EG to place 1st in their regional league and then finishing in a strong 5th-6th place at the AniMajor – all of which pushed the squad into a commendable 4th place on the DPC leaderboard.
It’s hard to not want these guys to succeed, each having their own compelling personal storylines. YawaR, who’s always had to live in his TI-winning brother’s shadow. MSS, who’s been attending Internationals since TI4 without ever getting a top placement. SVG, the former EG coach who might finally end their reign as NA’s best. Lelis, the missing ingredient who catapulted Quincy to success with his arrival last year. And then Quinn, who – despite his infamous egotism – is nonetheless clearly the most talented midlaner to come out of the region since SumaiL.
This current squad probably looks better than any other team any of these players have previously entered The International as part of, however with the field of competition getting commensurately tougher each year, they’ll still face a tough challenge. But even if they don’t quite have the star power to claim the Aegis themselves, Quincy Crew is nevertheless a consistent performer which will likely spoil things for more than a few of those aiming for the ultimate prize.
8th - Elephant (China)
For almost two years PSG.LGD and Vici Gaming ruled supreme as the strongest teams in China, and by extension as two of the best in the world. Then, last summer, rumours started circulating that two of the star players from each team would be joining forces to form a new super-squad. The anticipation surrounding this new all-star team was immense, understandably so given the outstanding service records of the fan-favourite players involved. However, like so many similar projects to combine the best individual talents, as a unit Elephant has thus far failed to live up to expectations.
They hit the ground running initially, finishing 2nd in their first tournament appearance, and then winning two consecutive online events to close out 2020. But despite their strong start they fell short in the Chinese DPC leagues this year, finishing 5th place at both and thereby narrowly missing out on attending either of the Majors. These disappointing results prompted a roster change, as Elephant dropped RedPanda – the one relative unknown on the team – and picked up Super as their new hard support. This move immediately paid-off, as the upgraded roster then emerged victorious in the subsequent Chinese TI qualifier, securing their place at TI10.
All of Elephant’s players have attended The International previously, and have achieved some exceptional results between them. Super, Somnus and fy are three of only five players ever to have finished top-4 on four separate occasions (alongside Puppey and KuroKy), and all three have previously reached the grand final at least once. And whilst Eurus and Yang have not yet carved out such an impressive TI legacy as their more veteran teammates, both are already two-time Major champions – a feat which would easily be the highlight on most other teams.
Elephant’s absence from the Majors this year can be to some extent forgiven when one recognises that the other Chinese teams who gatekept them ended up dominating both tournaments. Even if they are only the 5th best team in China, then they’re likely still better than most of the global competition which they now finally get the opportunity to pit themselves against. Given the incredible previous achievements of these players, especially at The International, it’s hard not to still have high expectations for them at TI10. Somnus and fy are both amongst the greatest players in the entire history of the game, and on such an insanely talented squad it would certainly be a pleasure to get to watch them finally win the biggest title of them all.
7th - Virtus.pro (Eastern Europe)
Between TI6 and TI9 “Virtus.Plough” steamrolled pretty much everyone. They managed to achieve one of the longest periods of sustained presence at the very top of the competitive scene of any team in Dota 2’s history, claiming Major trophy after Major trophy. The Aegis however always seemed to elude them, with the team failing year after year to convert a dominant season into a TI win. Following their biggest disappointment, at TI9, their roster of almost three years finally disbanded, and now the Bears have become the Cubs – with the Russian organisation opting to promote their youth squad and start completely afresh.
This is one of the very youngest teams out there at present, with an average age of only 19, but thus far these youngsters have looked to be worthy successors to the big names they had to live up to. Every single member of the new roster has displayed outstanding individual mechanical skill, with midlaner gpk in particular looking like one of the absolute best emerging talents at the moment. Meanwhile Save- has been described by some insiders as supposedly having the potential to become the next Puppey-tier captain, and already his shrewd leadership has fashioned his teammates into an impressively well-coordinated unit.
VP have been unquestionably the best Eastern European team this year, finishing top of both their regional DPC leagues with a commanding 28-3 win/loss record between the two. Despite their exceptional success within their region however, at both Majors they fell flat – finishing 7-8th in Singapore and then only 9th-12th at the AniMajor. Fortunately the DPC points won from their league victories were still easily more than enough to get them over the line for a TI direct invite nonetheless, as they in fact finished 3rd in the overall rankings behind only Evil Geniuses and PSG.LGD.
In their two appearances since the AniMajor VP finished in a more impressive 2nd and then 3rd place, both times against strong international competition. However these successes were again in online tournaments, so concerns over their failure to perform on LAN still linger even despite these solid results. No-one could deny that a VP which shows up on top form is a threat to even the very best of teams, but so far we have yet to see them turn up at their best at an in-person event. If they pick TI10 as their first time to do so however, expect big things from these boys.
6th - Vici Gaming (China)
This time last year VG suffered significant personnel losses, with star players Eurus and Yang, as well as the team’s vociferous coach rOtK, leaving to join Elephant. One can’t help but wonder what could have been for their rebuilt squad, as VG initially signed 23savage as their replacement carry, however the Thai wunderkind was unable to ever actually join the team due to Covid travel restrictions. As such, temporary stand-in poyoyo became a permanent fixture, alongside a returning old eLeVeN.
Surprisingly, VG haven’t actually won a single tournament of any kind since 2019, and so unlike the five teams ranked above them in this list it seems reasonably unlikely that they’ll be lifting the Aegis at TI10. That said, it also seems similarly improbable that they make an early exit, as they’ve been a consistently top-performing team which rarely seems to suffer upsets. This year they placed 3rd in both Chinese regional leagues, finished 7-8th at the Singapore Major and then achieved a strong 4th place finish at the AniMajor. This summer they’ve also been the runner-up in two Chinese domestic tournaments, indicating that they’re not showing any signs of dropping their current impressive form.
Their stable results have been a product of the stability of their play. Midlaner Ori and hard support Dy are both essentially one club men, having each played almost their entire careers with VG and resultingly both always seeming to know exactly what their team needs from them in any given game. old eLeVeN is now one of the most seasoned offlaners in China, boasting years of LAN experience accumulated as part of multiple different high-performing teams, and post-TI9 addition Pyw has looked like arguably the mvp of the team for most of the last two years.
Although often identified as VG’s weak link, poyoyo has steadily grown into a dependable lategame force during his prolonged tenure with the team. His development is likely at least partly attributable to VG’s excellent new coaches – Fenrir and QQQ. Both had outstanding playing records themselves at The International, each having earnt three top-6 finishes including a grand finals appearance apiece. And whilst Fenrir is here making his coaching debut, QQQ was the man behind LGD’s dominant showings from TI7-9, and was also previously VG’s coach back when they finished 2nd at TI4. With such brilliant minds directing such a well-oiled machine, Vici Gaming should be pretty comfortably on track for another respectable placement at this year’s International.
5th - Invictus Gaming (China)
The current iteration of iG was completed in late 2019, with the addition of TI7 silver medallist Kaka. With his arrival the team quickly scored several noteworthy results, including finishing 3rd and then 5-6th at the Chengdu and Leipzig Majors, respectively. They had a fairly quiet pandemic season, but with the return of DPC tournaments this year they’ve reached new heights – finishing 1st place in the Chinese regional league and eventually winning the Singapore Major in a dramatic 3-2 reverse sweep against Evil Geniuses.
Admittedly they’ve been a lot less successful in the second half of the DPC, though it seems more likely due to iG relaxing after having already guaranteed their TI qualification, rather than the team genuinely falling off. And to their credit, their surprise early exit at the AniMajor only came from a BO1 tie-breaker loss in the wild card stage where the surviving Vici Gaming and Team Nigma both went on to place top-6. Also not to mention the fact that they were having to play with their coach as a stand-in after their hard support Oli contracted Covid-19.
When we have seen iG playing seriously and with their full squad, they’ve looked outstanding. Many of their players had not been particularly highly regarded as individuals previously, but in combination with one another in this particular roster the team seems to be much greater than the sum of its parts. Perhaps the one exception is Emo, the youngest member of the team and a phenomenal talent who looks to be growing into possibly the very best midlaner in China right now. With such a well-synchronized team surrounding their talismanic young star, iG have shown themselves capable of beating the very best teams in the world.
Counting against them however, iG actually have a losing record against all the other Chinese teams attending TI10 – bar Elephant (still only 11-9 in their favour). And with so many of their regional rivals also looking likely to make deep runs in the tournament, iG may well find themselves losing crucial series to their fellow countrymen. Note also that Kaka and flyfly are the only members of the team to have competed at an International previously, and even iG's experience from playing at Majors may not be enough to prepare them for the entirely different beast that is the TI mainstage. But if they can overcome their compatriots and cope with the pressure though, Invictus Gaming will likely go far indeed in Bucharest.
4th - Team Secret (Western Europe)
Puppey and the boys are possibly the most difficult team to gauge going into The International this year. Secret previously dominated the 2018/19 season, emerging top of the DPC rankings and as the leading favourite to win TI9. After finishing in a tantalising 4th place they later parted ways with their long-serving midlaner MidOne, shuffling Nisha to the midlane to pick up TI7 champion MATUMBAMAN as their new carry. They also replaced coach SunBhie with Heen, the much-respected strategist who had previously coached MATU and Team Liquid to their TI7 win.
Secret started off 2020 with a statement win at the Leipzig Major and during the subsequent pandemic they appeared utterly untouchable, winning eight straight online tournaments in dominant 3-0 grand final whitewashes. In 2021 they’ve appeared less invincible – however by finishing top of the first Western European regional league and scoring 4th place at the Singapore Major they very early on secured enough DPC points to effectively guarantee their direct invite to TI10.
They slipped down to 4th in the second regional league, forcing them to play in a wild card stage for the AniMajor which they ultimately failed to survive. These disappointing performances could be considered concerning, or alternatively perhaps evidence of Secret deliberately relaxing in the latter half of the season to conserve energy and avoid drawing too much attention from other teams by becoming a favourite again. Despite their best efforts though, they likely still have quite the target on their backs.
Puppey is arguably the most accomplished player in the history of the game, and his singular leadership captains a squad where it’s difficult to identify a standout best player. YapzOr embodies a gift to highlight compilation makers everywhere with his consistent game-winning support plays, zai brings a level of hero and playstyle versatility almost unparalleled by any other offlaner, and Nisha’s clinical dismantling of his midlane opponents earnt him the formidable accolade of 2020’s PC Player of the Year award.
MATUMBAMAN appears reborn on Secret, after years spent having to play second fiddle to Miracle- on Liquid. He was kicked from the team before TI9, where they went off to finish second without him, but with KuroKy and his other former teammates failing to qualify this year, TI10 could well be MATU’s redemption story. Adding to the narrative, Puppey is now the only remaining player to have attended every single International, and a second TI win after a decade-long wait could just be enough to cement his status as the greatest of all time.
3rd - OG (Western Europe)
For two Internationals in a row OG were underestimated by pundits beforehand - this author included. But after achieving unprecedented back-to-back TI victories, perhaps we need to just start operating under the understanding that this team always seems to show up on top form whenever the Aegis is on the line. Despite an unsuccessful DPC season this year with slightly different rosters, their recently rejuvenated line-up emerged as the sole, victorious survivor from the bloodbath of the Western European TI qualifier – arguably THE toughest gauntlet out of the six regionals. And so, regardless of the team’s underwhelming performances throughout the year, now that they’re back at TI these five players threaten to again pull off something historic.
N0tail has now firmly solidified his place as a contender for most successful captain in Dota 2 history, surpassing notable rivals such as Puppey and KuroKy in the race to become the first to lift the Aegis twice. His trusted deputy, Ceb, has surely made the most successful return to play of any coach in esports, and their maverick midlaner Topson is the only player ever to boast a 100% tournament winrate across more than one International. Alongside these illustrious three, OG’s roster is now bolstered further still by their acquisition of TI5 champion SumaiL and TI6 silver medallist Saksa.
SumaiL has been largely absent from competition after his post-TI9 benching by Evil Geniuses, since prohibitively high ping prevented the US-based player from being able to continue playing in European tournaments with OG during 2020’s online season. However his commanding performances as a stand-in for Team Liquid earlier this year, and with OG since rejoining them at the carry position, suggest that the self-styled “King” of Dota 2 has not lost his lethal edge. Meanwhile Saksa, on paper arguably the least accomplished member of this all-star squad, has in fact consistently posted mvp performances for OG over the last year with his uniquely disruptive support play.
OG’s individual talent is more than matched by their exceptional team synergy and next-level strategic understanding of the game, making them an opponent that most would rather avoid having to face on the main stage. Even despite their lacklustre results this season, this time we can expect that the other teams are not going to let themselves be caught off guard by OG yet again. All eyes will be on the defending champions and every team will be preparing strategies against them – though if any team could still win out regardless of this focused attention, it’s OG.
2nd - Evil Geniuses (North America)
Previously, three things were held to be inescapable in life; death, taxes, and EG finishing third. However following TI9 the North American powerhouse made the controversial decision to drop SumaiL and s4, replacing them with Abed and former Virtus.pro carry RAMZES666. This experimental new line-up quickly bore fruit, with a 4th place finish at the Chengdu Major and then 2nd place at the Leipzig Major, the latter marking a historic first Major grand final appearance for EG.
With their roster hailing from so many different home regions, the boys in blue were unable to play with their complete squad throughout the Covid-induced online season and the team’s results reflected that handicap. EG ended 2020 by releasing RAMZES666 and picking up SEA Dota stalwart iceiceice, another risky cross-regional move but one which nonetheless inspired considerable hype.
The current EG squad has thus far more than lived up to the high expectations. Surprising no-one, they successfully placed top-2 in both North American regional leagues this year to qualify for the Singapore and Anime Majors, where they then managed to finish 2nd place at both. They haven’t played a single official match since their AniMajor final loss to PSG.LGD so it’s hard to know whether they are still playing at the same level – but one certainly doesn’t become the number one ranked DPC team of the year by being inconsistent.
Abed is only 21 years old but has already had a long professional career, and after years spent on less star-studded teams he’s now finally getting the opportunity to produce the results worthy of his prodigious midlane talent. Meanwhile iceiceice, some ten years his senior, is still easily keeping up with the up-and-comers and showcasing why he’s been counted as one of the very best offlaners in the world for over a decade. Arteezy and Cr1t are both still performing at the same elite level which they’ve each consistently shown throughout their long tenures with the organisation, and Fly appears to be reminding us all that all five of Team Secret’s founding members may well end up captaining a team to an Aegis win.
The perennial bronze medallists have well and truly broken their third-place curse, having now reached three consecutive Major finals. But their failure to emerge victorious at any of these will nonetheless raise question marks about their potential to secure the win when it really counts. Assuming that they haven’t lost their stride during their long hiatus though, Evil Geniuses will be a definite favourite at TI10.
1st - PSG.LGD (China)
Whilst ranking PSG.LGD as first seed is certainly not the most novel or original prediction, it’s become pretty damn hard to argue that anyone else is currently more deserving of the top spot. After many months of disappointing results after TI9, and then key players Somnus and fy leaving the squad to go and form Elephant last summer, many had low expectations for the new PSG.LGD. Their performances since however have been nothing short of utterly convincing, placing within the top-4 at literally every tournament they’ve attended. Most notably, they finished 3rd at the Singapore Major and then won the AniMajor after crushing EG 3-0 in the grand final, ending the season ranked 2nd on the DPC leaderboard.
Ame was actually benched for several months by PSG.LGD back in early 2020 as one of several swaps during their period of lacklustre results. And so the fact that he is now the one coming to TI10 on a standout favourite team, whilst some of the old teammates who left him behind haven’t even qualified, is quite the storyline. Ame has looked like one of the top three carries in the world, more or less continuously, for the last few years - and this season it looks he might just be THE best right now.
Ame’s new teammates include XinQ, a long-time rising support star who has now reached his prime, as well as TI6 champions y` and Faith_bian, the banished princes of Chinese Dota who have finally returned to prominence after a long exile in relative obscurity. The former Wings Gaming duo were able to win TI6 as mere teenagers thanks in large part to Faith_bian’s offlane brilliance, and the famously unpredictable drafting of captain y`. Now on PSG.LGD, that already considerable strategic genius is strengthened further still by the coaching of Xiao8 – TI4 champion and arguably the greatest Dota tactician ever produced by China.
The final member of the new squad is NothingToSay, world recordholder for the highest MMR ever achieved. PSG.LGD looked absolutely world-class even without NTS whilst Xiao8 temporarily stood-in for him recently, and so with their midlane maestro now reunited with the rest of the squad they certainly have exceedingly high expectations placed upon them. Many teams in years gone by have crumbled in the face of the TI-favourite curse, but this powerhouse roster nonetheless inspires confidence that this year PSG.LGD may finally be able to bag their long-awaited Aegis.