The International 11 (TI11), this year's iteration of Dota 2's annual world championship tournament, will feature some of the best teams in the world from each of the game's six competitive regions, including South America.
While Beastcoast continues to carry the banner for South America, another team has risen to become the region's next great hope: Thunder Awaken.
This young Peruvian squad has been dominating the 2021-2022 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) South American regional league, but do they have what it takes to shine at TI11?
The Thunder Awakens
After their previous Thunder Predator roster bombed out of the TI10 Group Stage without even winning a single game, the organisation was expected to undergo a massive shakeup.
For the 2021-2022 DPC season, Thunder Awaken fielded a roster comprised of players that previously competed under NoPing Esports and Infamous — Christian "Pakazs" Savina, Gonzalo "Darkmago" Herrera, Rafael "Sacred" Yonatan, Farith "Matthew" Puente, and Jose "Pandaboo" Padilla.
The new Thunder Awaken squad quickly rose to the top of the South American scene, as they won the regional leagues in all three Tours and placed third in the Winter Tour Regional Finals.
It was largely thanks to their dominant performance in their region that the Peruvian squad secured enough DPC points for a direct invite to TI11.
But while Thunder Awaken have been the dominant force in South America, they've only managed mixed results in international competition.
They turned heads with a 5th-6th place finish at the ESL One Stockholm Major, but bombed out of the PGL Arlington Major in 15th-16th place.
Their last tournament appearance before TI11 at ESL One Malaysia 2022 resulted in another 5th-6th finish.
Thunder Awaken's relative inexperience shows in their results this season. They clearly have the edge in talent over at South America, where they have been almost unchallenged.
However, talent can only get you so far when you're facing teams that can match, if not exceed, your talent while also being more experienced than you.
Against international competition, often featuring veteran players that have seen pretty much everything, Thunder Awaken struggles to close things out. TI11 will pit them against the very best the world has to offer, will Thunder Awaken rise up to the challenge?
South America's rising stars
Throughout all of Thunder Awaken's showings this season, no other player on the roster has turned more heads than 21-year old carry player Pakazs.
Since starting his professional career in 2019, Pakazs quickly rose through the ranks in South America and even gained recognition from his North American peers as arguably the best carry player in his region.
In all of Thunder Awaken's international outings this season, their carry player was praised by casters, analysts, and even players from other regions — some have even started saying Pakazs was solo-carrying his team.
Of course, Dota 2 is a team game. No matter how good you are, you can't win by yourself.
Pakazs is indeed the star player for Thunder Awaken, but his teammates aren't bums by any means.
Midlaner Darkmago is another rising star in South America. When he's not the team's primary playmaker and space creator for Pakazs, Darkmago acts as another capable carry from the midlane.
With all the attention commanded by his carry and midlaner, offlaner Sacred is often glossed over. However, he doesn't need the spotlight to fill whatever role the team requires, whether it's to act as a tank, teamfighter, or even another space creator for Pakazs.
Thunder Awaken field a relatively aggressive support duo in Matthew and Pandaboo. With Pakazs commonly being the lynchpin of the team's strategy, the two supports often switch between being the one to protect their carry or accompanny the rest of the team in making space.
While Pakazs isn't solo-carrying Thunder Awaken, there's no denying that the star carry is the team's primary win condition.
If they can give Pakazs a good carry hero and make sure he gets his farm, they stand as good a chance as any to win a game regardless of their opponent.
With that said, a team can only go so far when they're largely reliant on one player. Their opponents will have many chances to shut him down, both in the draft and the game itself.
If they want to make it far at TI11, Thunder Awaken must ensure to give Pakazs what he needs to shine, while also giving its other players a chance to be the difference maker.
This is a relatively young squad with not a lot of expectations but no shortage of potential. Whether they can rise to that in Dota 2's biggest stage remains to be seen.
Thunder Awaken 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.
Thunder Awaken roster:
Christian "Pakazs" Savina
Gonzalo "Darkmago" Herrera
Rafael "Sacred" Yonatan
Farith "Matthew" Puente
Jose "Pandaboo" Padilla
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