TI10 preview: The teams to watch in the regional qualifiers
The regional qualifiers for The International 10 (TI10) kick off today (12 June) and will run until 10 July, with over 70 teams across the Dota Pro Circuit's (DPC) six regions battling for the six remaining spots in this year's iteration of Dota 2's annual world championship tournament.
Of those many teams fighting for one last chance to qualify for TI10, eight in particular stand out above the rest. You wouldn't expect these squads to be in the qualifiers, as they range from former TI champions, tournament stalwarts, to prestigious brands in the global esports scene. And yet there they are.
These are the eight teams you should definitely be watching in the TI10 qualifiers, read on to know all about them:
OG (Western Europe)
OG, the legendary back-to-back champions of TI8 and TI9 and the only team to ever win the Aegis of Champions twice, will have to start their campaign for a third TI championship in TI10 by going through the regional qualifiers.
The OG roster playing in the qualifiers is not the same line-up that won back-to-back TI championships. While Topias "Topson" Taavitsainen, Sébastien "Ceb" Debs, and Johan "N0tail" Sundstein are still with the team, both Jesse "JerAx" Vainikka and Anathan "ana" Pham have retired. OG will now be looking to win their third Aegis of Champions with Sumail "SumaiL" Hassan and Martin "Saksa" Sazdov.
Despite their subpar performance throughout the entire 2021 DPC, it would be unwise to underestimate OG when the stakes are this high. The team still has two-time TI champions in Topson, Ceb, and N0tail in its lineup alongside Saksa, who was a finalist in TI6, and SumaiL, who became the youngest-ever player to win a TI championship in TI5 when he was just 16-years old. Until they either lose in the qualifier or fall during TI itself, you should never count the two-time TI champions out.
Sumail "SumaiL" Hassan
Topias "Topson" Taavitsainen
Sébastien "Ceb" Debs
Martin "Saksa" Sazdov
Johan "N0tail" Sundstein
Team Nigma (Europe)
Four of the players on Team Nigma's roster — Amer "Miracle-" Al-Barkawi, Ivan "MinD_ControL" Ivanov, Maroun "GH" Merhej, and Kuro "Kuroky" Salehi Takhasomi — won the Aegis of Champions in TI7 and were in the finals of TI9 under the banner of Team Liquid. With the infusion of new blood in Igor "iLTW" Filatov, Nigma has become a truly formidable team and it would not be surprising to see them make a deep run at TI10, if not outright win it all, should they qualify.
With that said, only one team can qualify to TI10 from Europe, meaning Nigma is likely to face OG in a rematch of the TI9 grand finals for the mere right to play in TI10. It's truly unfortunate that only one of those two squads will get a chance to fight for another Aegis of Champions and that Kuroky's insane streak of having competed in every TI thus far could potentially be broken.
Sad as it may be, all that just raises the stakes even higher and makes that potential matchup that much more exciting to witness. Hopefully, OG and Nigma will meet in the finals of the European qualifier so that we can get to see an incredible, high-stakes rematch between two TI champions even before TI10 begins.
Igor "iLTW" Filatov
Amer "Miracle-" Al-Barkawi
Ivan "MinD_ControL" Ivanov
Maroun "GH" Merhej
Kuro "Kuroky" Salehi Takhasomi
The two teams that stand as the biggest favourites to win the Chinese qualifier for TI10 notably include the last Chinese players that have been to the TI grand finals. Lu "Somnus丶M" Yao and Xu "fy" Linsen were the heart and soul of the PSG.LGD roster that battled OG for the championship back in TI8, and now they are the core of the Elephant 'superteam'.
With that said, Elephant was only ever branded as a superteam for its star-studded roster and not its performance. Despite having Somnus and fy alongside former Vici Gaming (VG) stars Zhang "Eurus" Chengjun and Zhou "Yang" Haiyang, Elephant couldn't compete with other Chinese teams that had less star power and failed to qualify for either one of the two Majors in the 2021 DPC. If nothing else, the Elephant superteam has thus far proven to be a disappointment.
With that said, all of it will be forgotten if Elephant qualify for TI10 and somehow win China's first Aegis of Champions since 2016. With the recent addition of veteran Xie "Super" Junhao, who finished third in TI7, Elephant still have a shot to prove themselves worthy of being called a superteam.
Zhang "Eurus" Chengjun
Lu "Somnus丶M" Yao
Zhou "Yang" Haiyang
Xu "fy" Linsen
Xie "Super" Junhao
As the other favorite to qualify for TI10 from China, EHOME is also replete with players that are familiar with the grandest stage in all of Dota. Headlining the roster is the decorated veteran carry Liu "Sylar" Jiajun, who has reached the finals of TI4 and finished third in TI2 and TI5.
Flanking Sylar are former PSG.LGD players and TI8 finalists Yang "Chalice" Shengyi and Yap "xNova" Jian Wei as well as Pan "Fade" Yi, who finished in the Top 6 of TI9 with VG. Finally, midlaner Guo "Xm" Hongcheng, who will be looking to play in his first TI, rounds out the squad.
Much like Elephant, EHOME has struggled to keep up with the top Chinese teams throughout the 2021 DPC despite all the big names on its roster. The team will need to rise to its potential if they hope to survive the qualifier and return the Aegis of Champions to China.
Liu "Sylar" Jiajun
Guo "Xm" Hongcheng
Yang "Chalice" Shengyi
Pan "Fade" Yi
Yap "xNova" Jian Wei
Team Liquid (Europe)
Team Liquid is one of the most recognisable brands in all of esports. In Dota 2, the organisation has participated in six out of the nine iterations of TI thus far. Of those two appearances, Liquid's previous roster (which now plays under Team Nigma) was able to claim the championship at TI7 and reach the grand finals of TI9.
Liquid's current roster of primarily Scandinavian players is looking to bring their organisation back to Dota's world championship tournament and live up to the lofty legacy of their predecessors. However, it remains to be seen whether they are up to the challenge.
While Liquid has fared well during the online regional leagues of the 2021 DPC, they have struggled mightily during the Majors. Will their struggles continue again when the stakes are this high?
While most consider the European qualifier to be between OG and Nigma, Liquid stand as the dark horse (fitting when you look at their logo). If neither OG or Nigma were able to qualify for TI10, then it's a safe bet that it was Liquid that denied the finalists of TI9 a spot in TI10.
Michael "miCKe" Vu
Maximilian "qojqva" Bröcker
Samuel "Boxi" Svahn
Tommy "Taiga" Le
Aydin "iNSaNiA" Sarkohi
TNC Predator (Southeast Asia)
This year could be Southeast Asia's best chance at claiming its first Aegis of Champions. With the region's top team, T1, already earning a direct invite to the tournament, Filipino squad TNC Predator might very well be its next best bet.
After struggling in Season 1 of the 2021 DPC, TNC returned to an all-Filipino lineup for Season 2 by adding Jun "Bok" Kanehara and Marvin "Boomy" Rushton to complement its talented core of Kim "Gabbi" Villafuerte, Armel Paul "Armel" Tabios, and Timothy "Tims" Randrup — arguably the best core of players in all of Southeast Asia. Since then, TNC has been steadily improving and continually locking horns with T1 for the right to be called the best team of their region.
Following their Top 8 at the recently-concluded WePlay AniMajor, where they notably bested top-seeded Chinese squad Team Aster, TNC are heading into the TI10 qualifiers with a lot of momentum behind them. Whether that momentum can make them the second representative for Southeast Asia in the tournament remains to be seen.
Kim "Gabbi" Villafuerte
Armel Paul "Armel" Tabios
Jun "Bok" Kanehara
Timothy "Tims" Randrup
Marvin "Boomy" Rushton
Fnatic (Southeast Asia)
Prior to the start of the 2021 DPC, Fnatic looked like the best team in Southeast Asia even after star offlaner Daryl "iceiceice" Koh left the team for Evil Geniuses. While Fnatic dominated Season 1 of the Southeast Asian regional league as expected, they faltered in the subsequent ONE Esports Singapore Major and started crumbling altogether in Season 2.
Intent on righting the ship for the TI10 qualifiers, Fnatic benched long-time midlaner Kam "Moon" Boon Seng and later sent him to Team SMG. That move then shifted Ng "ChYuan" Kee ChYuan from the offlane to the midlane, with Yang "Deth" Wu Heng taking over as the new offlaner.
Fnatic's newest members in ChYuan and Deth will be pivotal to their team's performance in the qualifier. However, it falls largely upon the old core of Marc Polo "Raven" Fausto, Anucha "Jabz" Jirawong, and Djardel "DJ" Mampusti to step up and return the team to their past glory.
Marc Polo "Raven" Fausto
Ng "ChYuan" Kee ChYuan
Yang "Deth" Wu Heng
Anucha "Jabz" Jirawong
Djardel "DJ" Mampusti
Natus Vincere (Eastern Europe/CIS)
Natus Vincere (Na'Vi) has long been one of the most brands in all of Dota 2, largely thanks to its legendary lineup led by Danil "Dendi" Ishutin and Clement "Puppey" Ivanov that won the first-ever TI and reached back-to-back grand finals in TI2 and TI3. Na'Vi is now looking to make its grand return to TI with the most stacked roster it has fielded since its old glory days.
Headlining the new Na'Vi lineup is the trio of Vladimir "No[o]ne" Minenko, Roman "RAMZES666" Kushnarev, and Vladimir "RodjER" Nikogosyan — who all played together in the 2018-2019 Virtus.pro roster that dominated the CIS scene and won four Majors. Rounding out the team are rising star carry player Alik "V-Tune" Vorobey and Na'Vi stalwart Akbar "SoNNeikO" Butaev.
While there's no denying that Na'Vi's new lineup is brimming with talent, though questions about their chemistry understandably arise when considering how recently it formed. Na'Vi added Ramzes in April while both No[o]ne and SoNNeikO only joined in late May. If Na'Vi can gel in time for the qualifiers, then there's little doubt we'll be seeing them in TI10.
Alik "V-Tune" Vorobey
Vladimir "No[o]ne" Minenko
Roman "RAMZES666" Kushnarev
Vladimir "RodjER" Nikogosyan
Akbar "SoNNeikO" Butaev
TI10's regional qualifiers will be held in three separate stages with two regions playing in each stage. The qualifiers will begin with the CIS and South America from 23 to 26 June, followed by North America and Southeast Asia from 30 June to 3 July, and finally Europe and China from 7 to 10 July.
The six teams that survive the qualifiers will then join the 12 directly-invited teams to compete in TI10 from 10 to 15 August. The tournament will start with a Group Stage from 5 to 8 August followed by a two-day break before the Main Event kicks off from 10 to 15 August, with the last team standing claiming the coveted Aegis of Champions and the lion's share of a massive US$40 million prize pool.
Predictions: Which teams will make it to TI10 from the regional qualifiers?
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