Can OG win TI10? They’re not the favorites, but it may not matter

Kenneth Williams • September 3, 05:04

The reigning champions of The International barely scraped into TI though qualifiers this year after barely avoiding relegation throughout the year. For OG, that means everything is going according to plan. 

OG rocked the Dota 2 world after winning $11 million in a surprise victory at The International 2018. Winning $15.6 million and becoming the first repeat TI champion the very next year triggered aftershocks. But the highest-earning banner in all of esports is in terrible form heading into this year’s Dota 2 world championship. Can lightning strike a third time at The International 10?

It’s important to consider OG’s roster changes and long-term form going into The International 10. The pan-European squad’s side lanes look very different since winning a pair of Aegises. Both carry Anathan “ana” Pham and soft support Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka have retired.  They’ve been substituted with TI5 champion mid-laner Syed Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan and rising playmaker Martin “Saksa” Sazdov. Both players performed admirably at the Western Europe TI10 qualifier, earning 717 GPM and 14 assists averages respectively. 

While the roster was still talented, OG’s regular Dota Pro Circuit season went poorly. The squad dropped unexpected matches to Vikin.gg and Alliance, ultimately earning fifth place with a 9-11 games record. Season 2 ended in sixth place for OG, just one loss away from being demoted to the lower division. Johan “N0tail” Sundstein’s crew failed to qualify for either DPC major. The highest-earning esports team of all time’s highlight of 2021 is fourth place at ESL One Summer. OG has won a grand total of $74,000 in prize money this year.

OG’s reputation also took some hits across the last season. Star off-laner Sébastien “Ceb” Debs showed hostility to content creator MidOrMeepo over seemingly petty reasons. Even beloved captain N0tail caught flak after dogpiling on Alliance’s coaching controversy, which turned out to be a non-issue that was entirely within the rules. The most recent minor scandal involved multiple organizations including OG selling NFTs of iconic plays. Despite the negative attention, OG has clearly been working hard behind the scenes. 

OG’s previous victories emerged from similar slumps

For almost any other team, multiple roster changes and an abysmal regular season might spell doom at The International 10. But despite OG’s recent decline in form, the squad is still a team to watch at the $40 million tournament. OG was far from the favorite at either of their record-breaking International wins. If anything, the rough season could be eerily foreshadowing a three-peat.

OG didn’t land a single podium finish the entire year before winning The International 8. The squad earned its ticket through open qualifiers and piloted carry Io to an eight-figure check. 2019’s peak was fifth place at the Paris Major. The lineup might look a little different, but OG’s beating heart of N0tail and clutch off-laner Ceb can still summon the tactical magic of past The International victories.

OG’s TI repeat shattered dozens of traditions in Dota 2 esports. The Aegis of Champions had been passed back and forth between the western and eastern hemispheres at every previous International. The “TI Curse” that drags down the favorites and rallies the underdogs is the only thing that’s remained consistent. It might be the secret to a TI three-peat for an OG side that will be favored by few.

Even if OG shows promise at The International 10, there’s plenty of competition that still stands in its way. Reigning WePlay AniMajor champion PSG.LGD represents the strongest claim to 2021’s Aegis. China looks especially strong as a region this year with Elephant, Invictus Gaming, and Team Aster all staking a claim. Some European dynasties including Team Secret and Virtus.pro are expected to appear in the playoffs. Former TI winners Evil Geniuses are in fine form. The competition is stiff, but history says to never underestimate OG at The International.

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