Breaking down The International 2019's field of teams

Marta J. August 15, 2019

With The International 2019 now getting underway, 18 teams are in Shanghai competing for over $33 million in prizes. While 12 teams have been directly invited to TI9 for achieving the highest number of Dota Pro Circuit points on DPC 2018-19 rankings, six have qualified by winning the qualifiers in their regions.

Team Secret

 

Carry: Michał “Nisha” Jankowski (18, Poland)

Mid: Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng (23, Malaysia)

Offlane: Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg (21, Sweden)

Support: Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat (24, Jordan)

Support: Clement “Puppey” Ivanov (Captain, 29, Estonia)

Team Secret was formed following The International 2014 after Puppey’s split from Natus Vincere. The star-studded lineup was an instant fan favorite and found solid success in its first tournaments.

Although Secret’s roster has changed many times over the years, the team has been a serious contender in the Dota 2 scene throughout its existence and has earned almost $8,500,000 in winnings since its formation. Secret has been crowned champion at many premier tournaments, including the Shanghai Major in 2016.

While the team has many trophies, it has yet to win at The International, or even look particularly good at the annual event. Their best TI result so far came last year when they shared fifth place with Virtus.pro and took home over $1 million. However, 2019 might well be the year Secret is crowned the world champion.

Secret’s 2019 Dota 2 roster has proven it’s to be feared. With first-place finishes at the Chongqing Major and at MDL Disneyland Paris Major, Secret is heading to TI9 as one of the favorites to win. Fans’ expectations are high, but Secret has a reputation of having remarkable seasons and then underperforming at TI. Eyes will be set on this team’s performance.

Virtus.pro

 

Carry: Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev (Captain, 20, Russia)

Mid: Vladimir “No[o]ne” Mineko (21, Ukraine)

Offlane: Pavel “9pasha” Khavstunov (27, Russia)

Support: Vladimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan (25, Russia/Armenia)

Support: Alexei “Solo” Berezin (28, Russia)

A Russian Dota 2 team, Virtus.pro has stood at the top of the CIS region in recent years.

Virtus.pro fielded a solid Dota team for several years but jumped into Dota 2 in 2012. The team enjoyed small successes in the years that followed but generally struggled to stand out in the competitive European and CIS regions, and often wound up being overshadowed by sister team ASUS Polar.

The organization hit the reset button after failing to qualify for The International in 2016, with that move marking the beginning of a huge upturn for the brand. For the last three seasons, Virtus.pro has been an elite Dota 2 team with a list of achievements that includes five major titles.

Though Dota 2 is possibly the most turbulent title in esports when it comes to teams and rosters, VP has largely kept the same roster for the last three years. The 2018-2019 season has arguably been their best yet, as they made the grand finals of three majors and most recently took third at the Epicenter Major. Few have been able to deal with Virtus.pro’s aggressive playstyle and they have a good shot at winning TI9.

Vici Gaming

 

Carry: Zhang “Paparazi” Chegjun (27, China)

Mid: Zeng “Ori” Jiaoyang (24, China)

Offlane: Zhou “Yang” Haiyang (22, China)

Support: Pan “Fade” Xi (Captain, 28, China)

Support: Ding “Dy” Cong (22, China)

Vici Gaming long had the unfortunate distinction of being Dota 2’s foremost bridesmaid. 

The team was formed in 2012 but only became recognized internationally when it finished in second place at The International 2014. That second-place performance seemingly set the team up for bigger and better things, but for years on end, it was just more of the same.

The team took first at a few smaller tournaments like The Summit 2 and StarSeries Season 12, but under the brighter spotlight it just couldn’t make it to the top of the podium. 

That changed this season when Vici Gaming won three Dota Pro Circuit tournaments including the DreamLeague Major and Epicenter Major. The team enters TI9 as one of the favorites to win and it would be quite the moment if they could pull it off.

Evil Geniuses

 

Carry: Artour “Arteezy” Babaev (23, Canada/Uzbekistan)

Mid: Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan (20, Pakistan/US)

Offlane: Gustav “s4” Magnusson (27, Sweden)

Support: Andreas “Cr1t-” Nielsen (23, Denmark)

Support: Tal “Fly” Aizik (Captain, 26, Israel/Canada)

One of the oldest and most storied North American esports organizations, Evil Geniuses formed its competitive Dota 2 team following the first International in 2011. Though the team was instantly popular among fans, there wasn’t really much to cheer for in EG’s early years in Dota 2.

2014 proved to be a breakout year for the organization as they won a number of prominent tournaments and took third place at The International. In 2015, the team was crowned the world champion with a win at TI5. Outside of a few stumbles, the organization has remained near the top of the Dota 2 competitive scene, which has seen them earn over $18 million in prizes.

EG’s TI runs have traditionally been strong, and TI9 will likely to be no different. Although the team finds itself as a bit of a dark horse behind the heavily favored Team Secret and Vici Gaming, they enter with a strong roster that has proven itself on many occasions. While they’re hoping to break their third-place streak at TI9, they’ll also be looking to break the curse that has prevented any single player from winning two TI titles.

Team Liquid

 

Carry: Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi (22, Jordan/Poland)

Mid: Aliwi "w33" Omar (24, Romania/Syria)

Offlane: Ivan "MinD_ContRoL" Ivanov (24, Bulgaria)

Support: Maroun "GH" Merhej (24, Lebanon)

Support: Kuro "KuroKy" Takhasomi  (Captain, 26, Germany)

Team Liquid’s Dota 2 history can be split into two distinct eras. 

From 2012 to 2014, the organization was a serviceable North American team. It performed reasonably well at various regional tournaments but is largely remembered for its historic upset of LGD Gaming at The International 2013. The team disbanded after a lackluster performance at The International 2014, which saw the organization withdraw from Dota 2 for the following season.

It returned in 2015 by signing the up-and-coming 5Jungz squad, and the rest is history. Anchored by KuroKy, Matumbaman, and MinD_ContRoL, the team has been one of the best in Dota 2 ever since and has taken first-place at a slew of tournaments, most notably The International 2017.

The organization had a rough start to the 2018-2019 season, which resulted in the departures of Matumbaman and longtime coach Lee "Heen" Seung Gon. The addition of W33 as the new mid laner paid off with a second-place finish at the Epicenter Major, and the team certainly has the talent to do one better at TI9.

PSG.LGD

 

Carry: Wang "Ame" Chunyu (22, China)

Mid: Lu "Somnus丶M / “Maybe” Yao (23, China)

Offlane: Yang "Chalice"' Shenyi (20, China)

Support: Xu "fy" Linsen (Captain, 24, China)

Support: Jian "xNova" Yap (21, Malaysia)

LGD Gaming has arguably been China’s most successful Dota 2 organization despite never winning The International. The brand first appeared in 2009 in Dota and had a breakout performance when it took third place at TI2. The organization had some ups and downs from there, but largely remained near the top of the competitive scene throughout.

The organization had a banner year in 2017 when LGD Gaming and LGD.Forever Young had strong seasons that included third and fourth place finishes at TI7, respectively. In 2018, LGD partnered with French football club Paris Saint-Germain to become PSG.LGD.

Since the rebranding, PSG.LGD has been exceptional. The team took second place at TI8 and placed in the top six at all five majors in the 2018-2019 DPC season. The current roster will look to be the first in LGD’s history to take the Aegis of Champions.

Fnatic

 

Carry: Anucha "Jabz" Jirawong (20, Thailand)

Mid: Azel “Abed” Yusop (19, Philippines)

Offlane: Daryl "iceiceice" Pei Xiang (29, Singapore)

Support: Djardel “DJ” Mampusti (24, Philippines)

Support: Kim "DuBu" Doo-young (Captain, 26, South Korea)

Fnatic entered the Dota 2 esports scene in 2011 by acquiring the Serbian GamersLeague team, only to drop it just a year later. Its Heroes of the Newerth team then switched to Dota 2 to form a European squad until Fnatic acquired Team Malaysia in 2015. Since then, Fnatic’s Dota 2 team has been focused on the Southeast Asian region.

Despite sticking around for years and standing as one of esports’ most recognizable brands, Fnatic hasn’t really achieved much in Dota 2. Since its formation, the team has made $3.3 million but is yet to win a prominent event. 

The organization’s greatest moment came at TI6 when it made a strong fourth-place run. In the years since, Fnatic has managed to stay at or near the top of Southeast Asia but has struggled to make much of an impression at larger tournaments. The team has pulled off a few surprises this season though, and they might have one more up their sleeve here.

Ninjas in Pyjamas

 

Carry: Marcus "Ace" Hoelgaard (25, Denmark)

Mid: Adrian "Fata" Trinks (26, Germany)

Offlane: Neta "33" Shapira (22, Israel)

Support: Martin "Saksa" Sazdov (24, Macedonia)

Support: Peter "ppd" Dager (Captain, 27, US)

Ninjas in Pyjamas has a storied history in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, but its Dota 2 endeavors have not gone especially well. The organization bounced in and out of the game and enjoyed mixed results along the way. It jumped back into the game this season when it signed a new team led by former Evil Geniuses captain Peter "ppd" Dager.

Though the team hasn’t performed exceptionally well, they have been able to hang around near the top all year. They’ve won two minors and posted solid performances at both the MDL Disneyland Paris Major and Kuala Lumpur Major.

Still, their consistent struggles against elite teams like Evil Geniuses and PSG.LGD makes them an underdog at TI9.

TNC Predator

 

Carry: Kim "Gabbi" Villafuerte (21, Philippines)

Mid: Armel "Armel" Tabios (19, Philippines)

Offlane: Carlo "Kuku" Palad (22, Philippines)

Support: Timothy "Tims" Randrup (22, Philippines)

Support: Nico "eyyou" Barcelon (Captain, Philippines)

TNC Predator is one of the few Dota 2 organizations that has steadily improved over the years.

Starting as a mediocre team that barely made any money at second-tier tournaments in its first season, TNC surprised the Dota 2 community with its strong performance at TI6. Without any notable achievements prior, TNC was the first seed to qualify from the Southeast Asian qualifiers, heading to its seventh-place finish and a $500,000 reward at TI6.

Though it hasn’t placed that high at TI since, the team has performed quite well in live tournaments over the years. While it flew under the radar a bit this season, TNC has actually taken first place at two prominent events. They’re still under the radar heading into TI9, but a strong run at the event is a real possibility.

OG

 

Carry/Mid: Anathan "ana” Pham (19, Australia)

Mid/Carry: Topias "Topson" Taavitsainen (21, Finland)

Offlane: Sébastien "7ckngMad" Debs (27, France)

Support: Jesse "JerAx" Vainikka  (27, Finland)

Support: Johan "N0tail" Sundstein (Captain, 25, Denmark)

Since coming together in 2015, OG has arguably established itself as the most successful Dota 2 organization in history while utterly dominating the Valve Major era of the game. The team made an immediate impression under the Monkey Business banner but exploded after rebranding as OG. The team won four of the five majors directly sponsored by Valve, and still made the grand finals of the one they didn’t.

Despite that success, OG struggled at The International, posting underwhelming performances at both TI6 and TI7. That unimpressive performance at TI7 was followed by a sharp decline which saw the team struggle with roster issues.

When TI8 rolled around, few gave OG any sort of credit as the team limped into the event with a patchwork roster which came together just weeks before qualifiers after Evil Geniuses poached away their offlaner and captain. Against all odds, OG managed to qualify for TI9 and storm their way to the championship.

The team has looked shaky throughout the year and has dealt with a bit of roster instability, but they head into TI9 with the same roster they won TI8 with, which makes them a scary opponent.

Alliance

 

Carry: Michael "miCKe" Vu (20, Sweden)

Mid: Max "qojqva" Bröcker (27, Germany)

Offlane: Samuel "Boxi" Svahn (21, Sweden)

Support: Tommy "Taiga" Le (20, Norway)

Support: Aydin "iNSaNiA" Sarkohi (Captain, 25, Sweden)

Alliance quickly established itself as Europe’s best Dota 2 team in 2013 and finished its first season by winning The International 2013. And it’s mostly been downhill since.

The team hung around near the top for a while, but had a bad run at TI4 and hasn’t fully recovered since. Alliance wasn’t able to qualify for TI5, TI7, or TI8. Though the organization has been mired by roster issues stemming from the departures of its original lineup, it decided to stick by its 2018 roster despite several rough months.

That move has paid off with the team steadily improving throughout the season. Although it had a weak start, the team kept getting better and better, qualifying for TI9 thanks to a top-six performance at the Epicenter Major and recently winning Dota Summit 10.

However, TI9 is on another level and Alliance needs to do more if they wish to contest the top teams at the event.

Keen Gaming

 

Carry: Wang "old chicken" Zhiyong (26, China)

Mid:Zhai "一" Jingkai (23, China)

Offlane: Ren "eLeVeN" Yangwei (23, China)

Support: Hu "Kaka" Liangzhi (26, China)

Support: Song "dark"' Runxi (Captain, China)

Keen Gaming sneaked their way into TI9 with a 12th-place finish in the Dota Pro Circuit, narrowly avoiding the qualifiers after failing to earn a spot at the Epicenter Major. But make no mistake, Keen is a dangerous underdog team heading into TI9.

Despite being lost in a crowded Chinese scene, Keen has found opportunities to show flashes of greatness this year, taking first in smaller tournaments and notching some big victories at the DreamLeague Major.

The team has played sparingly in recent months which makes it uncertain what form Keen will show up in. Still, there is a lot to like about the Chinese squad.

Newbee

 

Carry: Yawar "YawaR" Hassan (22, Pakistan/US)

Mid: Quinn "CCnC" Callahan (US)

Offlane: Jingjun "Sneyking" Wu (24, US/China)

Support: Arif "MSS" Anwar (23, US) 

Support: Johan "pieliedie" Åström (Captain, 28, Sweden)

The Chinese Newbee squad had a terrible season, failing to qualify for a single Dota Pro Circuit tournament at either the major or minor levels. But with TI9 taking place in Shanghai, the organization couldn’t just go without representation at the biggest Dota 2 tournament in China’s history. That saw Newbee enter the tournament through the back door by signing the former Forward Gaming roster. 

Forward hasn’t had a great season either, but the team had the advantage of competing in a thinner North American region. They could be one of the weaker teams heading into the event, but Newbee will likely just be satisfied in having their logo appear in the Mercedes-Benz Arena.

Infamous

 

Carry: Hector "K1" Rodriguez (18, Perú)

Mid: Jean "Chris Luck" Gonzales (Peru)

Offlane: Adrian "Wisper" Cespedes Dobles (Bolivia)

Support: Elvis "Scofield" De la Cruz Peña (21, Peru)

Support: Steven "StingeR" Vargas (Captain, 22, Peru)

The Infamous organization has had a crazy 2019. The team had over a dozen roster changes during the season and saw its squad disband just days before the start of the TI9 qualifiers. Seeking a chance to compete at the event, Infamous scrambled and signed Peru’s Team Anvorgesa.

The roster had a decent showing at the second StarLadder Minor, but they likely face the worst odds of any team heading into TI9.

Chaos Esports Club

 

Carry: Cheng "vtFαded" Jia Hao (21, Malaysia)

Mid: Lasse "MATUMBAMAN" Urpalainen (24, Finland)

Offlane: Maurice "KheZu" Gutmann (24, Germany)

Support: Milan "MiLAN" Kozomara (24, Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Support: Rasmus "MISERY" Filipsen (Captain, 28, Denmark)

After acquiring PaiN Gaming’s former roster in January, changing it a few times, and then starting over from scratch, nobody knows what Chaos’ roster synergy will be like heading into TI9.

The team includes a number of talented individuals including Misery and Matumbaman, and could gel into a real contender. Then again, it’s also possible they are unable to find their footing and fall out of the group stage.

Natus Vincere

 

Carry: Vladislav "Crystallize" Krystanek (20, Ukraine)

Mid: Idan "MagicaL" Vardanian (20, Ukraine/Israel)

Offlane: Evgeniy "Blizzy" Ree (24, Kyrgyzstan)

Support: Bakyt "Zayac" Emilzhanov (20, Kyrgyzstan)

Support: Akbar "SoNNeikO" Butaev (Captain, 22, Russia/Uzbekistan)

From the CIS region comes Natus Vincere, better known as Na’Vi. The organization came out on top of the first International in 2011 and reached the grand finals at the next two Internationals to become the first dynasty in Dota 2.

However, the team has been on a slide since and failed to qualify for TI7 and TI8. The organization decided it needed a fresh start and kicked the popular Danil “Dendi” Ishutin. That move paid off with a TI9 berth, but it’s yet to be seen if Na’Vi is really back.

Royal Never Give Up

 

Carry: Du "Monet" Peng (19, China)

Mid: Gao "Setsu" Zhenxiong (20, China)

Offlane: Su "Flyby" Lei (22, China)

Support: Zhang "LaNm" Zhicheng (Captain, 29, China)

Support: Tue "ah fu" Soon Chuan (25, Malaysia)

Royal Never Give Up secured the TI9 spot by battling their way through a brutal Chinese qualifier field.

Despite not having much success during the season, this team has serious potential to fight off some of the best teams attending TI9. Built around veterans LaNm and ah fu, they has the tools to make a surprise run. 

Mineski

 

Carry: Nikolay "Nikobaby" Nikolov (Bulgaria)

Mid: Kam "Moon" Boon Seng (24, Malaysia)

Offlane: Damien "kpii" Chok (21, Australia)

Support: Ryan "Bimbo" Jay Qui (23, Philippines)

Support: Michael "ninjaboogie" Ross Jr. (Captain, 27, Philippines/US)

The Mineski organization has an extensive history in Dota 2 and almost always stood among Southeast Asia’s best. The organization has looked decent throughout the year despite constant roster tinkering and could make some noise at TI9.

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