TI11 preview: Can Gaimin Gladiators become more than just dark horses for the Aegis?

They have creativity on their side, but will the Gladiators win the crowd and the Aegis at TI11? (Photo: Gaimin Gladiators)
They have creativity on their side, but will the Gladiators win the crowd and the Aegis at TI11? (Photo: Gaimin Gladiators)

The International 11 (TI11), this year's iteration of Dota 2's annual world championship tournament, is the concluding event of the 2021-2022 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) season with 20 teams competing for their slice of the biggest esports prize pool of the year.

Gaimin Gladiators have emerged as a rising power in Western Europe.

But while they started strong in the DPC season, they crashed after securing their invite to TI11. How will they perform at Dota 2's biggest stage?

Gaimin Gladiators dominated the first half of the DPC season

Gaimin Gladiators started the DPC 2021-2022 DPC season as Team Tickles.

They were promoted at the end of the previous DPC season and were one of the underdog teams in Western Europe.

However, Team Tickles quickly established themselves as a powerhouse, taking down OG and Tundra Esports to place second in the Winter Tour regional league.

Team Tickles then became Gaimin Gladiators, and had a successful debut when they won Western Europe's Winter Regional Finals.

The team managed to replicate their success in the Spring Tour and placed second again, which also saw them qualify for the ESL One Stockholm Major.

At the Stockholm Major Group Stage, Gaimin Gladiators had the strongest performance in Group B with eight wins and four losses. The team then went on to place fourth in their first Major appearance at Stockholm, which also secured a direct invite to TI11.

While a fourth place finish is impressive, it was considered a bit of a surprise for a team that had looked unstoppable in the first two Tours of the season.

After qualifying for TI11, Gaimin Gladiators' grasp on the meta seemingly started to slip.

The team narrowly escaped relegation in the Summer Tour, placing sixth. Their last tournament appearance was at the Champions League Season 13, where they placed sixth, a far cry from their second-place finish in the Champions League Season 12.

Gaimin Gladiators are one of the dark horses at TI11

How well will the Gladiators perform at TI11?

That's always impossible to tell due to how well underdogs have performed at the event and how superstar teams have fumbled in the past (never forget Team Secret at TI5).

But at the moment, Gaimin Gladiators looks like a weaker version of Tundra Esports.

And while I believe Tundra have a good chance of making it far at TI11, Gaimin Gladiators look like a team that will make it past to the Group Stage but go no further than Top 12 at TI11.

One of the team's weaknesses is that they tend to be stubborn in their drafts, regularly running the same strategy in a series and being unwilling to change if it is defeated.

In their last match against Tundra, the Gladiators ran the exact same type of draft twice in a row and were defeated in both games within 20 seconds of each other.

The team carry, Anton "dyrachyo" Shkredov, will have to adjust to a new patch and let go of some of his favourite heroes.

Despite being strong on Juggernaut, Chaos Knight, and Wraith King, none of these carries are currently being contested. Time will tell if dyrachyo sticks to his best heroes or adapts to the latest Dota 2 patch.

Midlaner Miroslav "BOOM" Bičan is another member of the team who has a unique approach to his role, occasionally picking heroes such as Sand King and Timbersaw along with more standard heroes like the Spirit Brothers.

BOOM shines on Storm Spirit but his performance noticeably declines when forced to play Puck, with whom he has a 42% win rate.

While the team's mid and carry make their own meta and take risks, Marcus "Ace" Christensen brings some much-needed stability to the offlane.

Ace is almost impossible to control on his Beastmaster, Tidehunter, and Mars, allowing his lane partner Erik "tOfu" Engel to roam around the map with Marci and Clockwork or farm up and scale into the late game with Weaver and Dawnbreaker.

Melchior "Seleri" Hillenkamp is the team captain and he specialises on supports who can save allies, such as Io, Chen, and Marci.

Seleri's ability to protect his allies prevents enemies from securing an early-game advantage, allowing Gaimin Gladiators to control the pace of the game.

A fascinating team with their own approach to the meta, Gaimin Gladiators enter TI11 as a tournament dark horse.

I'm excited to see if they will replicate the success they had in the first half of the DPC season or if the team lost their magic based on the last few tournament appearances.

Gaimin Gladiators are one of the 12 teams to receive a direct invite to TI11 out of a total of 30 participants. They will be one of the 20 teams to start in the Group Stage alongside the other directly-invited teams, the six winners of the regional qualifiers, and the two winners of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ).

TI11 will be hosted in Singapore from 8 to 30 October and features a revamped format with the new LCQ and a longer schedule. For everything you need to know about TI11, check here.

Gaimin Gladiators' roster:

  1. Anton "dyrachyo" Shkredov

  2. Miroslav "BOOM" Bičan

  3. Marcus "Ace" Hoelgaard

  4. Erik "tOfu" Engel

  5. Melchior "Seleri" Hillenkamp

Otomo is a long-time gaming enthusiast and caster. He has been playing games since he was 10 and is the biggest Dota 2 fan.

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