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Team Secret are favourites to win TI11, but Puppey says he hasn't felt the 'magic' from past TI's

Team Secret captain Puppey (middle) doesn't feel that magical feeling in The International 11 that he has felt in all the past iterations of the tournament. (Photo: Valve Software)
Team Secret captain Puppey (middle) doesn't feel that magical feeling in The International 11 that he has felt in all the past iterations of the tournament. (Photo: Valve Software)

The International 11 (TI11), this year's iteration of Dota 2's annual world championship tournament, is set to conclude with its Finals Weekend from 28 to 29 October in the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

The four teams still standing in the tournament — Western European powerhouses Team Secret, Tundra Esports, Team Liquid, as well as the last standing Chinese representative Team Aster — will be battling to claim the coveted Aegis of Champions and the lion's share of its over US$17.7 million prize pool.

It's the most anticipated time of the year for Dota 2 fans, and while the previous stages of TI11 have had their issues, the Finals Weekend is looking to be a massive spectacle.

But for Team Secret captain Clement "Puppey" Ivanov, this year's tournament does not have the same "magical" feeling he felt in previous iterations.

Puppey is the singular authority when it comes to TI, as he is the only player in Dota 2's history to have ever attended every single one from 2011 up to now.

"Thinking of every TI [I've been to], literally walking into the arena and hearing the chants of the crowd was magical. I haven't felt that at all this TI whatsoever because of the small venue," Puppey in a virtual press conference ahead of the Finals Weekend.

TI11 introduced many changes to the TI formula, such as a revamped format with the addition of a Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) and a longer schedule.

The Main Event was also split into two stages with different venues. The Playoffs, which took place from 20 to 23 October, was held in the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Puppey calling Suntec a "small venue" is an accurate description when it is compared to past venues for TI's Main Event, as this year's Playoffs venue only had a total capacity of 6,850 seats.

Singapore Indoor Stadium, on the other hand, could host up to 12,000 people. But that's only for the Finals Weekend, which only features six teams and four matches compared to the 16 teams and 18 matches for the Playoffs.

Not only did the small venue for the Playoffs disappoint Puppey, the absence of things like the opening ceremony, where Valve President Gabe Newell would welcome fans to the tournament, gave it "a different vibe" for him.

"It's a different vibe. I still haven't seen Gaben come up to the stage and say, "Welcome to The International". Bring back those vibes man," said Puppey.

Puppey celebrates with teammate Crystallis after they earned their place in The International 11 Finals Weekend with a victory over Thunder Awaken. (Photo: Valve Software)
Puppey celebrates with teammate Crystallis after they earned their place in The International 11 Finals Weekend with a victory over Thunder Awaken. (Photo: Valve Software)

Puppey on the Last Chance Qualifiers

But while Secret's captain disliked certain changes to the TI format introduced this year, there was one that he thinks should stay: the LCQ, which he also revealed was being scrapped.

But while it's easy to say that Puppey only wants the LCQ to stay because his team got to TI11 through the LCQ (so did fellow Finals Weekend attendee Team Liquid), he said he thought that it gave the many teams deserving of a spot in the tournament more chances to get in.

"[The LCQ] is very important. Apparently, [Valve] are not going to do it again, but I would want to convince them otherwise. Because the issue with really stacked regions means you won’t get some of those teams to TI, and I think it’s really valuable for any of these teams," Puppey explained.

"Let’s say, we would win the regional qualifiers. And Entity does deserve to be at TI. And Liquid obviously too, as you can see. They actually need a fair fighting chance to qualify. Obviously, life is not fair, but we can kinda make something fair, like that."

There have alwas been two main ways for teams to get to TI, with the first being through a direct invite.

In the current Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) format, teams earned points from their performance in the DPC's regional leagues and Majors, with the Top 12 teams in the DPC point leaderboard at the end of the season getting direct invites.

The second way was through the regional qualifiers, where teams who couldn't earn a direct invite fought in qualifiers for the DPC's six regions for their ticket to TI.

TI11 introduced a third way through the LCQ, which featured the second and third-placed teams from the regional qualifiers. 12 teams were flown to Singapore with two making it through to the Group Stage, with Team Secret and Team Liquid emerging victorious.

In Puppey's mind, the LCQ was the best way to get teams to TI without resorting to some "crazy system", as the teams there had to fight to earn their place as Secret and Liquid did.

"LCQ is an opportunity for a lot of teams to show what they got. It’s a good way to thin down who is bad and who is good and to get some correct teams into TI without having any crazy system," said Puppey.

TI11's Finals Weekend will take place from 29 to 30 October in the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

The penultimate day of TI11 on 29 October will kick off with the upper bracket finals between Team Secret and Tundra Esports, followed by the lower bracket semifinals between Team Liquid and Team Aster.

A new Dota 2 world champion will then be crowned on 30 October, which will start with the lower bracket finals followed by the best-of-five grand finals.

For everything you need to know about TI11, check here.

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