TI11 preview: Can OG's new roster claim the org's third Aegis of Champions?
The International 11 (TI11), this year's iteration of Dota 2's annual world championship tournament, is already shaping up, with only two more teams to join the Group stages from the Last Chance Qualifiers in Singapore.
We've already taken a look at two of TI11's biggest contenders: Team Spirit and PSG.LGD. Now, let's turn our attention towards new challengers playing under a familiar name: OG Esports.
Youngest team in the DPC is also one of the strongest
Once the dust settled after TI10, where the two-time TI champions fell short of a three-peat, the remaining members of the TI8-TI9 OG roster decided they wanted to take a break from competitive Dota 2.
Johan "N0tail" Sundstein and Topias "Topson" Taavitsainen stepped away from the competitive scene while Sébastien "Ceb" Debs announced his retirement.
OG had to rebuild their team from the ground up, putting their faith in the vision of Mikhail "Misha" Agatov and giving him captainship of its new roster.
Instead of pursuing established superstar players, OG's new captain went for an entirely different route.
Misha partnered with Tommy "Taiga" Le and recruited three young pub stars in Artem "Yuragi" Golubiev, Bozhidar “bzm” Bogdanov, and Ammar “ATF” Al-Assaf.
At the start of the 2021-2022 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) season, OG had the youngest team in the competitive scene.
Bzm and ATF were both 16-year-olds when the new squad was announced, and the average age of the team was 19 years old.
The closest team in age in Western Europe was Gaimin Gladiators, with an average player age of 23 years old. In other words, OG gambled big on their new roster.
At first, OG's new approach to rebuilding the team produced mixed results.
The team did just enough in the DPC's Winter Tour to make it to the Top 4 and qualify for the Regional Finals. OG's third place finish had fans wondering if the organisation's best days were behind them.
But if there is one thing OG are good at, it's making a comeback. And that's exactly what the team did in the Spring Tour.
The young squad placed first in the Spring regional league, and then followed that up by winning the ESL One Stockholm Major and securing their spot at TI11.
While the team had a rocky start at the beginning of the season, the new OG squad had proven they were a force to be reckoned with with their victory at the Stockholm Major.
Anyone who expected the young bloods to rest on their laurels because they qualified to TI11 was soon proven wrong, as OG continued to look dominant in international tournaments.
The team placed third at Riyadh Masters 2022, fourth at the PGL Arlington Major, and swept Team Aster 3-0 to win ESL Malaysia 2022.
Do the new OG have what it takes to win TI11?
TI has a certain magic to it that makes it impossible to predict who will win the tournament.
Nobody expected OG to come out of nowhere and win TI8 with a last-minute roster made up of the team's coach and a random pub star who hadn't played a single LAN tournament before.
Nobody expected that same team to absolutely dominate TI9 and become the first-ever back-to-back TI champions, either.
Team Spirit stunned the world by winning TI10 after an abysmal start to the Group stage and being knocked to the lower bracket early in the playoffs. Team Spirit were the ultimate underdogs when they faced PSG.LGD, and yet they prevailed and took home the Aegis.
It's hard to say with any certainty if this new OG squad will win TI11, but there are a few factors that will definitely help their chances.
The biggest unknown for the team is how they will play with Misha around.
The captain of the team has missed out on every LAN appearance the team made this year except the Riyadh Masters due to visa issues.
OG will also have to play on a relatively young patch that hasn't been fully figured out yet.
And while the team entered the Stockholm Major relatively inexperienced, the same can't be said for them at TI11, where all eyes (and strategies) will be focused on them.
Personally, I believe a Top 4 finish is a relatively safe bet for the team. They are aggressive, play an unorthodox style that emphasises their offlaner ATF, and have incredible backing from Dota legends in Ceb and N0tail.
A lot of OG's strength comes from their flexibility and their carry player Yuragi exemplifies that better than anyone.
During the Stockholm Major, Yuragi played 16 different heroes, telling the world that his hero pool is impossible to ban.
A large part of Yuragi's success is thanks to Misha's strong laning presence.
When it comes to playing heroes with saves or sustain, Misha is one of the best, which allows his carry to pick any hero and always have a good laning stage.
If OG's carry is the height of flexibility, their offlane is the exact opposite. ATF has a relatively shallow hero pool, but he makes up for it by being the best player in the world on his signature heroes such as Mars and Timbersaw.
It's a common sight for ATF to crush his lane and bulldoze his way to victory before Yuragi is even ready to fight.
Taiga is the perfect partner for ATF as his hero pool focuses on damage-dealing supports such as Windranger, Marci, and Dark Willow. The offlane duo for OG is often highly mobile and dangerous, making it a nightmare for their opponent's carry to farm.
Last, and certainly not least, is the youngest player: midlaner bzm.
Able to switch effortlessly between space-making heroes such as Queen of Pain and Ember Spirit to carry heroes like Morphling and Templar Assassin, bzm is a quiet person in real life who lets his gameplay do the talking for him.
OG also have arguably the best two people supporting the squad in N0tail and Ceb.
Who better to lead the new squad to lifting the Aegis than two people who have done it twice before?
OG 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.
OG Esports roster:
Artem "Yuragi" Golubiev
Bozhidar "bzm" Bogdanov
Ammar "ATF" Al-Assaf
Tommy "Taiga" Le
Mikhail "Misha" Agatov
Evgenii "Chu" Makarov (coach)
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.