TI11 preview: Can TSM bring the Aegis back to North America?

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 regions, including North America.

While the NA region has traditionally been dominated by Evil Geniuses, the last year has seen the rise of TSM, arguably the strongest team in NA right now and the first from the region to secure their spot in Singapore.

Let's take a closer look at the team, that just one year ago, had been crowdfunding to bootcamp for TI10, and their journey throughout the season.

TSM started the year as Team Undying

TSM's roster played as Team Undying back in TI10. (Photo: Valve Software)
TSM's roster played as Team Undying back in TI10. (Photo: Valve Software)

After placing 13th-16th at TI10, Team Undying started the 2021-2022 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) season with a blast, coming in second place at the Winter Tour as well as winning the Regional Finals, establishing themselves as one of the strongest teams in North America.

Team Undying's biggest struggle wasn't in Dota 2 itself, but in securing a steady income source to sustain their players.

Before heading to TI10, the team didn't have enough funds for a bootcamp, and had to start a GoFundMe in order to cover the costs of attending TI10.

Being signed by TSM was a huge upgrade for the roster, as it allowed them to focus entirely on playing Dota 2 and not have to worry about finances.

The team's first appearance as TSM were at the Regional Finals, where they took down long-time rivals Evil Geniuses (EG) twice.

TSM continued to do well in the Spring Tour, placing second and qualifying for the Stockholm Major. In the first Major of the year, TSM impressed the world by placing second and claiming 610 DPC points, bringing their total to 1280, more than enough to secure a direct invite to TI11.

After securing their ticket to Singapore, TSM's performance for the rest of the season wasn't as impressive.

They placed 7th-8th at both the Riyadh Masters and ESL One Malaysia.

It wasn't just their international performance that dropped, though, as TSM ended the Summer Tour in 4th place, the first time the team didn't make it to the podium in the North American regional league.

Did this mean TSM had lost the hunger for success? Not likely.

The DPC seasons lasts for a whole year and culminates with TI, and it can be mentally taxing to play your best all year round.

It seems reasonable to believe that TSM were experimenting at tournaments and taking it easy recently, instead of the team getting weaker.

How will TSM fare at The International 11?

TSM's MoonMeander and SabeRLight celebrate making it to the grand finals of the Stockholm Major. (Photo: ESL)
TSM's MoonMeander and SabeRLight celebrate making it to the grand finals of the Stockholm Major. (Photo: ESL)

TSM's roster made no changes after TI10, even after bombing out in the playoffs.

The team have looked stronger throughout this DPC season, but how dangerous will TSM be at TI11?

At Stockholm, the North American squad took down the likes of Entity and Tundra Esports to make it to the grand finals. The team clearly have the skill to bring down the big dogs when they are motivated to do so.

The fact of the matter is that North America isn't the powerhouse it used to be at TI. After EG won TI5, the region has been slipping further and further at Majors and other big international events.

At TI8, EG placed third, then fell to 5th-6th place at TI9.

And despite having three North American teams at TI10, EG and Quincy Crew were tied in 9th-12th place while Undying only finished 13th-16th.

While TSM are the new kings of the North (America), TI11 will determine how much that means.

Personally, I imagine a 7th-8th place finish as the most likely outcome for the team.

TSM finishing in 5th-6th place wouldn't surprise me, but any higher than that seems unlikely.

With strong teams like OG, PSG.LGD, and Team Spirit all vying for the Aegis, it is doubtful TSM will be able to match them and make it to the podium.

Who are the stars on TSM?

TSM are made up of multiple veterans who have come from all over the world to play together in North America.

Kim "DuBu" Doo-young has been playing competitive Dota 2 the longest, starting all the way back in 2014.

A long-time streamer, DuBu's playstyle revolves around winning the lane with heroes such as Bane and Enchantress. This will be DuBu's fifth appearance at TI, and the second in a row with the roster.

Team captain David "MoonMeander" Tan started his Dota 2 career in 2015, just a couple of months after DuBu.

MoonMeander started playing Dota 2 after he left the Heroes of Newerth competitive scene. Years before creating Team Undying, MoonMeander had an impressive performance with OG, where he won four Majors with the squad.

The captain plays a less active roaming support role when compared to other roaming supports. He is more lane-focused and doesn't mind playing selfless supports such as Io in order to enable his team.

While MoonMeander focuses on supporting his allies, ignoring him is a fatal mistake, as he can make incredible plays as OG found out at Stockholm.

TSM's lineup is also made up of multiple record holders, and one of them is carry player Enzo "Timado" O'Connor, the first South American player to make it to the grand finals of a Valve event during TSM's run at the Stockholm Major.

Originally playing in the South American region, Timado is also one of the youngest players to ever play in TI. He was notably just 16-years old when he attended TI7 with Infamous.

Timado switched roles and regions when he joined TSM.

He excels in long drawn-out games where he can showcase the strength of his late game carry heroes, such as Terrorblade, Morphling, and Faceless Void, and you can be sure he will definitely be looking to break a few more records at TI11.

Speaking of record holders, the team's midlaner, Jonathan "Bryle" Guia, is currently the highest MMR player in North America.

Bryle loves to clash with the enemy team, having averaged the second-highest kills per game at the Stockholm Major.

Bryle loves his slippery mid heroes like Puck, Storm Spirit, and Pangolier, and knows how to use them to turn fights in his team's favour.

But perhaps the biggest X factor in TSM is their offlaner, Jonáš "SabeRLight-" Volek.

SabeRLight- is the newest player on the roster, having joined the competitive scene in 2018 and quickly rising through the ranks, reaching 10K MMR in 2020 and 12K MMR in 2022.

SabeRLight focuses on providing vision for his team with heroes such as Beastmaster and Nightstalker. He also excels at playmaking cores like Mars and Tidehunter.

His versatility was a big reason why Entity picked him as a stand-in for Ivan "Pure" Moskalenko at the PGL Arlington Major. Entity made it to the Top 6 in the tournament thanks in large part to SabeRLight-.

Besides his impressive gameplay, SabeRLight- is not shy to showcase his personality, something the Dota 2 scene needs more of.

During the match between TSM and Entity at ESL One Malaysia 2022, SabeRLight- reminded Entity of what he did for them in a hilarious way.

TSM have dominated their region throughout the year, and had flashes of brilliance against international competition.

But with everything on the line and their weak season finish, will TSM bring the Aegis back to North America for a second time, or will the region continue to underperform when it matters most?

TSM 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.

TSM FTX roster:

  1. Enzo "Timado" Gianoli O'Connor

  2. Jonathan "Bryle" De Guia

  3. Jonáš "SabeRLight-" Volek

  4. David "MoonMeander" Tan

  5. Kim "DuBu" Doo-young

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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