Image by PGL
Team Secret is a contender to win the tournament. Their single Major win at Dreamleague Season 8 came off an impressive 3-0 sweep against Team Liquid. But they were squeezed out of our tier as favorites, in part due to their recent stint at the China Supermajor. Though the team had a solid performance in the group stage, finishing 2-0 at the top over competition such as Mineski, the 5th place team on the standings, they quickly bottomed out during the playoffs.
Secret was kicked out of the upper bracket by Team Liquid in a 2-0 sweep, where they were then eliminated by Virtus.Pro, 2-1. The one win Secret had over VP was when VP last picked a Wraith King, a somewhat troll move by Ramzes, who had been pushing his team to pick it for him all tournament. As VP.Solo said later, “If you pick Wraith King, something went wrong.”
It wouldn’t be fair to say that Team Secret has lost momentum in the final months of the season, as they have in previous years. They did just compete in the Upper Bracket of the biggest Major of the year. But in contrast to the top teams entering TI8—VP, Liquid, PSG.LG—Team Secret still has to make a few strides before entering the conversation as one of the best teams in Dota.
Mineski was the first SEA team to win a Major, when they stunned the Dota world by besting PSG.LGD, after being down 1-2 in the best of 5 series. Mushi and iceiceice were also teammates on Team DK, the Chinese superteam in 2013 that also featured Burning, LaNm, and MMY. Up until TI7, iceiceice was part of a select group of players who have attended all TI’s.
Not only is Mineski’s foundation composed of veteran leaders, they are also coached by 71, who has coached DK and the legendary EHOME during Dota 1. While year after year, SEA is regarded as less competitive than other regions, the teams have been growing stronger in recent years. In TI 2016, 3 SEA teams made it to the top 8, with Fnatic finishing 4th (EE, Abed, Universe, DJ, pieliedie). For this year’s TI, Mineski looks like SEA’s best shot of bringing home the Aegis.
Without nabbing a Major win, teams have had to scrounge for points to make it to the top 8 of the DPC standings. Vici Gaming has been one of the most consistent teams from China, without a 1st place finish at a tournament. Their biggest win this season was a 2nd place finish at the ESL One Katowice Major, where they were eliminated by the 1st seeded team, Virtus.Pro.
The team is led by Fenrir, who is one of VG’s longest franchise players. He was part of the aggressive support duo with Fy in 2014, when the two considered the best supports in the world. The team has a high skill ceiling, in part to the individual talent but also the risks that they take. Eleven and Lanm are both aggressive players who are prone to both game winning or losing plays.
At VG’s peak, they look like one of the best teams in Dota. But for now, the team is on the cusp of becoming dominant. There’s plenty of time for them to smooth over some of their decision making and strategies in time for TI8.
Even though they finished at 7th in the DPC standings, Newbee is a top tier team. They’re far removed from the TI championship team in 2014, but this time around they’re captained by Faith, a Dota vet who won TI in 2012. In an era where rosters shuffle even among successful teams, this year’s Newbee lineup is unique in that it is the same team from last year, when they placed 2nd to Liquid at TI7.
With the same players, they’ve had another year under their belt to build chemistry and consistency. At least that’s what should have happened. The team has lost momentum since winning their Minor at ESL One Genting in January. They quickly flamed out at DAC—losing 0-2 to EG in the first round—failed to make it out of the group stage at ESL One Birmingham, and at the China Supermajor, VG eliminated Newbee in a 2-0 sweep.
Ultimately, momentum may not matter for this team. Last year, they finished dead last in two Majors, and they ended up placing 2nd at TI.
VGJ.Thunder controlled their own destiny for a TI8 invite entering the China Supermajor. They needed to best Optic Gaming, who was vying for that 8th spot. It didn’t look well for VGJ when Optic grabbed an upper bracket slot from the same group. Fortunately for VGJ, Optic finished 5th-6th, which netted them $90,000 but 0 DPC points.
The team is coached by rOTk, a historic Chinese offlaner and respected captain, who voiced concerns about his team after their performance at the Supermajor. He said that his team continues to make the same mistakes, and that he felt limited in his influence as a coach to correct their errors.
By making his frustrations public, rOTk risks unraveling the team apart, but at the same time he could be betting on the social pressure to have VGJ hone in on their mistakes, hopefully just in time for TI8.