The International 2019 Group B Preview

Group B The International 9
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With the International 9 set to begin, Group B is matching up as being incredibly competitive. Here we take a closer look at the nine teams battling it out for the four Upper Bracket and four Lower Bracket places.

The favourites

Similar to Group A, there are three teams that come into the tournament in a seemingly more solid position thanks to their performances throughout the season.

This is yet another year when Virtus.pro (3.350 to win Group B) enter TI as one of the favourites, but it is important to note that they have underwhelmed in the last two editions of the tournament, finishing 5-6th in TI8 and 5-6th in TI7. VP have had a solid season in the DPC rankings as they were one of only three teams to win a Major. Their successful run continued with two 2nd place finishes at the subsequent two Majors as they finished 2nd overall in the rankings. Virtus.pro feature top players in every position and they play with blistering pace, with strong vision and control of the game being provided by captain Solo. VP are also quite disciplined, which is contrary to a region most known for volatile plays. The team likes to gain the advantage from the laning stage and snowball throughout the game. They struggle when they are behind and it is exactly this pressure that seems to affect them and make them underperform.

EG (4.360) – This season, the North American team’s performance can be defined as “almost” top tier. EG are very close to the very best teams, but there was always something that eluded them. They managed three 3rd place finishes at the Majors this season and as impressive and consistent as this is, it was still a few steps from victory as they eventually finished 4th in the DPC. What is more, the team did not win any tournaments this year, coming closest at ESL One Birmingham 2019, where they finished 2nd. The squad boasts some of the best players around including SumaiL, who is considered the best mid in the world by many, and Arteezy – a hard carry of equally high skill level. The rest of the team do not fall below the standards of these two stars. The team’s plusses are that they have been together for over a year, they have aggressive players who favour a quick tempo (particularly SumaiL and Cr1t-) as well as farming orientated Arteezy and defensive-minded Fly providing variety in terms of strategy.

Vici Gaming (2.710) are arguably the most impressive of the four Chinese teams taking part in the tournament – and are the only ones apart from Team Secret who won two Majors this season. Vici enjoyed a Cinderella run when they won DreamLeague 11 after winning the preceding Minor. The season began with fresh blood arriving to complement Ori and Paparazi and the new roster gelled quickly, particularly under the guidance of flamboyant coach rOtk. The former Dota 2 legend has been around for a long time both as a player and as a coach and has the ability to give that nudge to the team and pull them out of sticky situations. Vici Gaming are highly disciplined, stay focused and are not afraid to try new strategies or adapt to their opponents’ style of play. The Chinese side excel in team fight executions but are also a team that are able to come back from being behind. While their peak performance was in the middle of the season, Vici Gaming are expected to repeat their impressive feats on the stage of TI9.

Other Contenders

The remaining teams pose a serious threat to the favourites and one of the below will definitely qualify for the Upper Bracket. They certainly should not be underestimated.

Royal Never Give Up (25.630) purchased LGD.FY due to the one team per organization rule employed at TI9 and the DPC this season. RNGU have a highly talented line-up with two players from the LGD.FY squad that finished 3rd at TI7 – Monet and ah fu. The former has an aggressive playstyle which aligns greatly with the fast-paced game the team likes to play. However, the side could benefit from having more balance in their strategy as well as more discipline. All in all, RNGU are a team with plenty of raw talent that could do well if they find more consistency.

OG (7.390) were the team that caused all the thrills last season and their decision to start the 2018-19 season with a bit of a break seemed justified. The team, however, soon suffered from another competitive break for ana and the replacements didn’t quite work out. Unlike the previous TI run, OG managed to qualify directly, but their record in the Majors hasn’t been particularly impressive. They are known as a late game team as losing all lanes is not the end of the world and OG tend to catch up in the late game. This is where ana shines as seen on the stage of TI – he is arguably the greatest ultra late game carry player in the world right now. OG showed us the true magic of the International last season and fans are undoubtedly hoping that there will be some more thrills and drama from OG this time around.

Ninjas in Pyjamas (14.790) are a team centered around ppd – their manager, captain and in-game shots caller. Known for being a great drafter and strategist, he kept only 33 from his previous team Optic Gaming last year and created a brand-new outfit. Highlights include 8th spot in the DPC rankings with a top four finish in the Kuala Lumpur Major and 5-6th in the Paris Major. The whole crew has TI experience and while none of them are considered the very best in their positions, the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. The team has a solid roster of players and is close to being a tier one team.

Infamous (99.570) are arriving from arguably the weakest region in Dota 2. Apart from paiN Gaming, no one has been able to follow their footsteps and make an impact on the International stage recently. Not helping is the fact that Infamous have made nine roster changes since the beginning of the season. The current line-up consists of the former Team Anvorgesa and is entirely composed of South American players who are not known to the wider Dota 2 public. K1 openly admitted in an interview that they did not have a pro bootcamp, they haven’t discussed a wide pool of strategies and are more on a semi-pro level. While surprise and lack of expectation will certainly be on their side, can Infamous compete with rosters that have been playing together for years and have reaped success at top level Dota? It seems unlikely.

Fnatic (25.630) are the highest rated SEA team and the one with arguably the flashiest players such as Abed, DJ and iceiceice. The team finished 7th in the DPC rankings and their high point was the 3rd place finish at Dream League Season 11 when they made top tier opposition look inadequate. Historically, the team’s performances have been quite polar on the TI stage – they finished 17-18th and 13-16th in the last two but secured 4th spot at TI6. Only DJ is present out of that 4th place winning squad, but every player has enough experience on the big stage to do well here. Their recent change to remove MP and take on coach DuBu as a player, effectively moving Jabz to carry position, is a bit controversial and does raise question marks. However, the team vastly underperformed in the last two Majors and change was needed. Fnatic have plenty of individual talent, but will they be able to channel it into success? 

Na’Vi (79.860) are one of the signature teams and return to the ranks of the Dota 2 elite at this year’s TI. This time it will be without Dendi as he recently announced that he is leaving the team by mutual agreement. Na’Vi played the entirety of the 2018-19 DPC without him and did not manage to earn their spot directly, but through some turbulent qualifiers in the CIS region, Na’Vi are deservedly here. The team is built around SoNNeikO, who is the captain and manages his responsibilities with a firm hand. The other crucial figure is Crystallize, who has been around since 2017 and is the team’s hard carry. Na’Vi made a recent roster change by bringing in Zayac in the position 4 role just a month before the qualifiers, which proved to be a winning move. The current Na’Vi may not be the glamorous team from the past, but they have a lot of potential and importantly make a return to TI, which is a step in the right direction for them.