With the European and CIS regions being split into their own qualifiers we have the opportunity to see even more teams from the two regions compete to get to TI. In previous years, we saw many T2 teams fall short in open qualifiers due to the amount of capable teams that were forced into them. In the Chinese qualifiers there are teams that have performed well at LAN events throughout the year. Three teams from China, two from Europe, and one from the CIS region will make it through to show us what they’ve got in store for Seattle.
Europe has received two invites from its main qualifiers to go to TI7. With Team Secret in the qualifier as the strong favourites to win, this leaves the rest of the teams attempting to overthrow them or claim the second seat for themselves. The Boston Major runner-ups Mouz (Ad Finem at the time) are also in attendance as their - rather poor - recent performances left them without a direct invite to TI. For their run through the qualifiers, Danish Bears have been reformed by the ex-C9 players with the addition of former CompLexity midlaner 747 to replace Babyknight. The last team of note is Synderen’s stack Crescendo, teaming up him playing offlane with Excalibur playing mid, Babyknight safelane carry as well as EGM and Akke, both playing the support roles. Joining these teams are Penta Sports, 4 Protect 5, and Singularity as the last of the invited teams. Notably missing from the invited teams is Alliance, who qualified for the main qualifier through the Battle Cup Championship after a late roster change where Loda was replaced by Era. Loda himself made his way through the first open qualifier with his team Cool Beans.
The European main qualifier might be one of the most top-heavy of all the regions, with both Team Secret and Mouz clearly having the edge on the other teams result-wise. While Mouz has had difficulties after Boston, they recently managed to take down Vici Gaming and Happy Feet to secure a 4th place finish in Galaxy Battles in China. Team Secret on the other hand is coming off a very respectable 3rd/4th place finish at EPICENTER, where they finished 2nd in their group and then beat iG in the quarter-finals, and a second place at The Summit 7, only losing to Virtus.Pro in the finals after most notably beating LGD. Taking down either of these teams to secure a spot will be a tough order for any team in the region. Still they may be somewhat relieved as this year it’s two teams who get directly invited to TI7 instead of just one invite and one wildcard spot for the region.
While there are some obvious favourites in the European qualifier, it would be a mistake to write off Crescendo: Synderen has proven in the past with Escape Gaming that he can lead a team to TI even when most people write it off. Also, the European region historically has been home to upsets and we expect it could happen this year as well if Team Secret aren’t careful.
In the past, the teams from the CIS have always held so much promise heading into The International but so rarely have they delivered on expectations. Na’Vi set the gold standard for the first three years of how powerful the region could be: First place at TI1, Na’Vi vs China at TI2, and finally what we would call “El Clasico” at TI3. A thought-to-be contender for winning TI has been Empire but it all came crashing down around them when they lost to LGD during TI5. This year, Virtus Pro will head into TI7 off of their incredible performance at the Summit 7 as well as being the runner-ups of the Kiev Major, and only a single team from the region will be able to join them.
Na’Vi, Empire, Comanche, Cyber Anji, Gambit Esports, Effect, Team Spirit, and Vega Squadron were invited directly to the main qualifier. M19, Funn1k’s relatively new team made it through the first open qualifier by beating his old team Double Dimensions 2-1 in the finals. Na’Vi recently was sent to EPICENTER by fan vote where they failed to win a single game. If their performance is anything close to what it was at EPICENTER, they will be in serious danger of not making it to TI. It’s not all bad news for Na’Vi fans though as the team won the European qualifier for The Summit 7 by 3-0ing Empire and then at the Summit were able to beat VG.J before being eliminated. Aside from Na’Vi there are two strong contenders to make it out of the CIS qualifier: Vega Squadron and Team Empire. The former goes into the qualifier as one of the favourites, having just barely missed out on making it to Galaxy Battles. The team consisting of Alohadance, G, Afterlife, Silent, and CemaTheSlayer narrowly missed out on The Summit 7 as they came second in the LootBet Invitational, losing 3-2 to Team Empire in the finals. Team Empire on the other hand went to The Summit 7 but failed to win a single series, only taking a game off of NP before being eliminated.
The ever changing teams in the CIS region have the advantage of being largely unnoticed by their opponents as they are all heading into TI7. We saw SG esports take advantage of that during the Kiev Major as they upset the top seed in the first round or Ad Finem during the Boston Major when they rode their momentum to a second place finish. The International would be the best place for another group of players to slip in unnoticed and wreak havoc if they have the opportunity to do so.
China’s qualifiers will be a scene of devastation. The open qualifiers alone are filled with teams who have placed well in tournament qualifiers throughout the year. EHOME Keen was forced into the open qualifiers even with recent high placements inside of China. VG.Potential fell to Cavalry, and Xiao8’s team DanGo was rebuffed in the finals by EHOME Keen. With the open qualifier being so competitive, you can bet the main qualifiers themselves are even harder to predict.
The invited teams start with LGD Forever Young and LGD who have showed potential both inside and outside of China with performances at The Summit 7 and EPICENTER. Contrary, VG.J has struggled on the new patch, and other teams have taken advantage of that weakness to further position themselves for stripping away their opportunity to make it to Seattle. Vici Gaming has brought in veterans Hao and Chuan along with LaNm as a coach and their prospects have begun to look much better over the last two months. EHOME acquired Faith_Bian and Y` and while we have not seen them play with the rest of the team comprising CTY, Old Chicken and Garder, the squad sounds terrifying at least on paper. Despite not being seen outside of China for a long time, CDEC has achieved multiple 4th place or better placements over the last couple of months culminating in their first place finish at the chinese qualifier for The Summit 7. Unfortunately for CDEC, they had visa issues and had to relinquish their spot to LGD. The last of the invited teams is IG Vitality who - until recently - had been taking 1st or 2nd place in nearly every qualifier inside China. Given what we have seen since the Kiev Major, any of these teams could end up grabbing one of the three spots for The International to represent their region this year.
The most impressive thing is that - with Newbee and IG already being invited to the main event - one usually wouldn’t have much hope for the 5th best team of a region to do very well at TI. However right now, we have a unique situation in which both LGD and LFY have done well on LAN but were not considered to be that much stronger than the rest of the field. We could see a repeat of TI5 where - while EG won - four chinese teams placed in the top five.