The pinnacle of the 2018-19 Dota 2 season is now only days away.
For the first time in TI history, the traditionally US-based tournament will be hosted at the Mercedes Arena in Shanghai, where 18 teams will battle it out to claim the biggest share of the $32 million prize pool.
Before the start
Leading up to the tournament, this year the Dota 2 Pro Circuit format was stripped of many tournaments for fear the schedule was too cluttered. A total of five Majors and five Minors took place throughout the year, with the top 12 teams from these earning spots at The International. The six remaining teams punched their tickets through regional qualifiers from the six main regions.
The TI9 format will be the same as last year. The 18 teams will be divided into two groups of nine and matches will take place in a round robin format with the teams facing each other twice. The bottom teams in each group will be eliminated from the tournament. The top four from each group will advance to the Upper Bracket of the Main Event while the teams finishing 5th through 8th will qualify for the Lower Bracket. The tournament will then assume a direct elimination format, with the losing teams from the Upper Bracket dropping into the Lower Bracket and the losing teams there going out of the competition.
There are a number of strong contenders to win the trophy – here are the key protagonists:
Team Secret (3.540 outright) have arguably been the most impressive team this season, bagging two Majors and finishing on top of the DPC Circuit. The European team demonstrated innovative strategies, excellent execution and dominated their opponents throughout most of the campaign. Puppey made some crucial roster changes pre-season as bringing in Nisha and zai proved crucial in taking Secret to the next level.
We have become accustomed to having Virtus.Pro (5.770) being considered one of the favourites for TI and rightly so as the team had another solid season and finished 2nd in the DPC. The Russian outfit underperformed by their standards in the last two editions of the TI (5-6th in both) and will have to demonstrate greater mental strength if they are to fulfill their dreams and claim the trophy.
Team Liquid (4.040) had an average start to the season but improved in the later stages. The TI7 champions initially struggled to perform to their usual high standards but during the last two Majors, the fans saw a different Liquid and KuroKy’s team made it to the grand final on both occasions. The addition of w33 helped the team adjust to the current meta and offered fresh blood.
While last season it was PSG.LGD, it is now Vici Gaming (4.930)whobecame the flagship Chinese Dota team. The team hit both ends of the spectrum in terms of performance – they looked poor against the best teams in some of the Majors, but when they were at their best, no team could compete against them. The Chinese side won two Majors this season, the same as Team Secret, and their performance here will depend on which team turns up. They are on home soil and this could be a huge advantage.
Apart from the massive prize pool, what makes the International an unmissable spectacle is the dramatic upsets, whether it was the Cinderella run of last year’s champions OG or the TI5 unknowns CDEC’s road to the final. An upset was very much how TNC (20.800) arrived on the SEA Dota 2 scene – in 2016 the relatively unknown team knocked out super favourites OG and made history. The team has grown a lot since then and established themselves as one of the more solid proposals. TNC secured 4th place at the EPICENTER Major this year and while it would not be a surprise for them to make 7-8th, TNC do have the potential to go even further than that.
The Alliance (34.650) brand finally returns to the TI stage, this time with a very different team to the one that became champions of TI3. The current line-up has great chemistry and trust between the players leading to well-executed plays. While not star-laden, the team have had strong results, with 5-6th place at the EPICENTER Major and a dominant performance on their way to winning The Summit 10.
Royal Never Give Up (28.190) are one of the teams with plenty of potential in terms of raw talent with 19-year-old Monet and ah fu, who also happened to secure 3rd place at TI7. This unbridled talent is combined with the vast experience of top tier level captain LaNm. A team known for their aggressive style of play, Royal Never Give Up could very well hit momentum and make the headlines.
- TI9 will host the largest prize pool in Dota 2 history and the largest ever prize pool in eSports overall
- Two players have now attended every single event – legends Puppey (Team Secret) and KuroKy (Team Liquid)
- Na’Vi return after two years’ absence but will be without Dendi
- This will be the first time the tournament will be played in China
- There are no roster lock changes and teams can make last-minute alterations to their rosters
- Only three teams have won Majors this year – Team Secret, Vici.Gaming and Virtus.Pro
- Nearly 15 million people tuned in to watch TI8 and that number is likely to be surpassed this year.