With the conclusion of Galaxy Battles in China and The Summit 7 in Los Angeles, the pre-TI stretch of LANs is officially over. In fact, right after Virtus.pro claimed their trophy in LA, Valve announced the six direct invites to The International 2017, signaling that the qualifier season is about to begin.
And boy, are there some real killers out there in each region’s qualifier tournament. Considering that qualifier storylines in Dota 2 have become more and more compelling over the years (see CDEC at TI5 and Ad Finem at Boston), there’s plenty of reasons to pay attention to them.
The road ahead will be tough for the teams trying their hand at the biggest prize pool in the entire esports industry. Let’s have a look at what will likely unfold in each region’s qualifier round!
North America (2 slots)
Digital Chaos, Team NP, and Planet Odd are the three squads that spectators will recognize immediately here. DC will likely have the most difficult road to Seattle out of these teams, considering their results as of late haven’t exactly been impressive. First round exit at Kiev, top 6 at ZOTAC Cup Masters, and losing to NP in the Summit 7 qualifiers means that they won’t be placed too high in any power rankings.
Not to mention that the latter two will try their best to stop anyone from getting in their way. Planet Odd just came from a top 2 finish at Galaxy Battles, and NP was found within the top 3 of two premier LANs in the last several weeks. NP in particular showed that they can be very disciplined and that they can make the right decisions in the heat of battle. FATA- also reached a whole new level of skill at the Manila Masters.
All things considered, NP will probably take the first NA slot without too much trouble. Planet Odd, with their deep roster of talent and experience as a unit, will be the second winners — provided that DC don’t bring their A-game. As for the rest, such as compLexity and Team Freedom, I find it highly unlikely for them to make a deep run here.
Predicted Winners: NP, Planet Odd
Europe (2 slots)
Well, we all know which team will take the first slot here. Team Secret have really hit their stride lately, and with a bit more polish they should be a serious contender for the title this year. Taking VP to five games (despite losing the series) at Summit 7 was not an easy task, and all things considered they’re looking really good right now. Easy prediction for them here.
The bigger question is, which team out of the rest in the EU qualifier will take the second slot? The most obvious answer would be mousesports, who were recently seen taking fourth place at Galaxy Battles — but if you consider the rest of their performances this year it becomes apparent that the answer may not be as obvious as one might think. They failed to make a splash at Kiev, which was disappointing considering their top 2 finish at Boston before that. Losing practically every qualifier after Boston really hurt them and basically put the team back at square one.
Still, looking at the rest of the field in the EU qualifier, they’re still the ones with the best chance to be the runner-up. Perhaps next in line is Crescendo, which includes names such as EGM, Akke, and even synderen.
Predicted Winners: Team Secret, mousesports
CIS (1 slot)
With VP out of the picture, the CIS qualifiers just got a whole lot easier for everyone involved. Knowing the region, this is going to be a real brawl for the one slot they’ll be getting. Na’Vi, Empire, Vega Squadron, and even Team Spirit will likely find themselves in the top 4 of this qualifier tournament.
Honest opinion: the CIS qualifiers will be a bit of a toss-up. Na’Vi and Empire are the two natural choices when it comes to predicting who will win, given that they’re the teams that have actually been in tier 1 LANs lately. But we all know that their results in those tournaments were less than inspiring, so it is possible for them to just concede the qualifier to the “lesser” teams in the pool — especially if they don’t get into a rhythm right away.
Predicted Winner: Empire
Southeast Asia (3 slots)
One of two regions blessed with three qualifier slots this year, the SEA qualifiers will be a complete bloodbath, no question. Just look at the teams participating and you’ll see what I mean. Faceless. TNC. The new look Fnatic and Mineski. Clutch Gamers. Even HappyFeet and Geek Fam might surprise people.
There will even be big-name squads in the open qualifier such as WG.Unity, the two MVP teams, Execration, and some Chinese teams traveling to the region. No matter where you look, danger lurks around every corner in SEA. All the better for the fans, I’d say.
Faceless is the first team to be practically guaranteed a slot. Still the kings of Southeast Asian Dota, their strategy of moving Black^ to the midlane and Jabz to the 4 support slot worked well for them at the Manila Masters, helping them bag a respectable fourth place. They know the playstyles of the other contenders in the region like the backs of their hands, so they also have the strategic advantage over their rivals.
TNC’s addition of 1437 will also help propel them to Seattle. As soon as Theeban arrived on the team, he made an immediate impact with his veteran leadership and superb captaincy. TNC has forever needed a competent shotcaller that would take pressure off of Kuku (who was the captain prior to 1437’s arrival) and direct the team’s talent. With him onboard, expect TNC to overcome the opposition.
The third slot is where things will get a little crazy. Clutch Gamers are known to be really good at qualifiers, hence their triple LAN world tour this year. Fnatic’s new roster looks really great on paper, with talented individuals such as QO and DJ on the team. Mineski is now led by Mushi, and have new recruits Mag~ and .Ark along for the ride.
I think that Fnatic will take the third slot on the backs of QO and DJ primarily, but it will also be interesting to see how Ahjit performs. His former WG.Unity brother Ah fu has been an instant blessing to LGD.Forever Young, and I expect Ahjit to be the same for Fnatic here. But really, even though I say they’re the most likely to take the final ticket to Seattle, the rest of the field will make it incredibly difficult for them to simply cruise to a TI slot.
Predicted Winners: Faceless, TNC, Fnatic
China (3 slots)
Say what you will about China getting three slots all the time, but this year they definitely deserve it. Between Newbee and iG’s performances this year and the highly competitive tier 2 environment in the region, there are more than enough reasons to give them more opportunities.
That said, the Chinese qualifiers look brutal as usual. VG.J, LFY, iG Vitality, and even EHOME are all here. Fans of Chinese Dota will want for nothing once these qualifiers get underway, and it will be exciting to see who will join iG and Newbee in Seattle.
iG Vitality has been seen alongside the organization’s main team in several LANs this year. The talent in their roster is undeniable, with guys such as Sakata and dogf1ghts being their best players. After weighing their results and their lineup against the rest of the field, it’s clear that they’re the favorites for the first slot in the tournament.
The second slot will likely go to either VG.J or LFY — if they don’t end up taking both. VG.J haven’t put up any notable results after their second place finish at SL i-League S3 earlier this year, they’re still a mainstay of tier 1 LANs and should have the skill and talent necessary to succeed in the qualifiers. Oh, and let’s not forget Fenrir and fy. LFY showed some serious promise at Epicenter just two weeks ago, with new recruit Ah fu being the star of the show. If they’re been training hard since then, they’ve got a real shot at Seattle.
The third slot is something that the rest will really have to fight for, considering that whoever doesn’t get the second slot off the bat will be a powerful opponent to contend with. On one hand, you’ve got a nice mix of young talent veterans over in EHOME, who have old chicken, Cty, Faith_bian, Garder, and y` to play with. This squad in particular is one that people should watch out for, considering that they have two TI champions. LGD have kept Maybe around for a really long time now, and with good reason — he was one of the best mids in China back in 2015 and 2016. He and old eLeVeN will likely lead the charge for them.
Predicted Winners: iG Vitality, VG.J, LFY
South America (1 slot)
I have to admit that I don’t really pay much attention to the South American Dota scene. The only team I really know anything about is SG e-Sports, thanks to their spectacular victory over Secret at Kiev.
The singular slot therefore makes this a bit easier for me to predict. Looking at the results of the South American qualifier for the Kiev Major, it seems that SG truly was one of the best teams there. They scored 8-1 in the group stage, and managed to knock out Infamous 2-0 in the first round. They also bounced back from their upper bracket loss to Not Today by defeating them 2-1 in the finals.
Their performance at the Kiev main event also gave us a glimpse into the talent they’re working with. hFn, Tavo, and KINGRD all have some serious skill, and so I think the all-Brazilian squad will have little to worry about in the qualifiers.
Predicted Winner: SG e-Sports