The field of competitors for The International 2021 is mostly set, with the WePlay AniMajor confirming the 12 direct invitees to the event. Regional qualifiers are still set to take place, which will decide the final six competitors at the event.
With six months of Dota 2 now in the books, it’s worth taking a look over who the 12 invitees are, and how they got there.
— Wykrhm Reddy (@wykrhm) July 10, 2021
Evil Geniuses sits atop the DPC standings and deservedly so. The standard-bearer of North America has been the most consistently strong team across the entire year, posting first and second-place finishes in league play and reaching the top three of both majors.
The overall body of work, all-star lineup of players, and consistency make Evil Geniuses one of the clear favorites to win The International 2021. There is a bit of a curse when it comes to Artour “Arteezy” Babaev who has become known for his inability to win majors, but superstition shouldn’t prevent anyone from giving Evil Geniuses its due.
PSG.LGD has cemented itself as the decisive best team in China through the 2021 Dota Pro Circuit season and looks to be the best team in the world after winning the WePlay AniMajor. Alongside Evil Geniuses, PSG.LGD is the only team to find success across both league play and majors albeit with a tougher go in league play due to China’s stiffer competition.
PSG.LGD took fourth and second in the two league seasons, alongside a third-place finish in the ONE Esports Singapore Major and a grand finals run in the WePlay AniMajor. Its strong success throughout the season and excellent performances in majors would have been enough to see the team enter as a contender. Instead, PSG.LGD’s AniMajor dominance will see the team enter as the decided favorite to enter The International 2021 and take home the Aegis of Champions.
Virtus.pro underwhelmed in majors but looked untouchably good in league play. Across the two league seasons, VP went a combined 14-0 in series and dropped just three maps along the way. That was by far the strongest showing in league play of any team in the world.
🔥 We’re flying to Sweden for The International 2021 🔥
It was a wonderful journey full of adventures! Congrats to our boys, who managed to get enough DPC points to guarantee themselves a place in the biggest Dota 2 tournament 👏🏻#TI10 #GOGOVP pic.twitter.com/MX1lBCa7ZO
— Virtus.pro (@virtuspro) May 17, 2021
That said, Virtus.pro’s major performances spark some doubt when it comes to the team’s prospects at TI10. The team placed seventh in the ONE Esports Singapore Major but failed to win a series in the WePlay AniMajor. The latter flop could be due to a lack of motivation stemming from the fact that the team entered the AniMajor with a TI10 direct invite in its pocket, but it’s hard to feel bullish on the team moving forward.
Though it largely went unnoticed at the time, Quincy Crew was actually one of the most dominant teams in the world of Dota 2 in 2020. After adding Rodrigo “Lelis” Santos as the team’s starting offlaner, Quincy Crew went on an utter tear and won seven events in a row, then one more at the end of 2020 just for good measure.
While it got overlooked at the time, it served as a precursor to a strong season from Quincy Crew in 2021. The team placed second and first in the two North American DPC league seasons. Its performances in majors weren’t as impressive, with the team finishing ninth in the Singapore Major in part due to a late substitution for Arif “MSS” Anwar, but Quincy Crew managed to put together a solid run in the WePlay AniMajor, finishing fifth.
— WePlay Esports @ AniMajor (@WePlay_Esports) June 12, 2021
The biggest trouble with Quincy Crew was a lack of consistency against elite competition. Though Evil Geniuses finished the DPC at the top of the leaderboard, Quincy Crew has historically gotten the better of that rivalry and actually won both of their showdowns in league play. Quincy Crew has the potential to make a very deep run in The International 2021, it’s just a matter of whether everything will come together at the right time.
Invictus Gaming underwhelmed in the AniMajor but the team has looked strong both at home and abroad. The team had a TI10 invite in its pocket after winning the ONE Esports Singapore Major but still took fourth in the Chinese DPC league and put on a respectable showing in the AniMajor.
Chinese Dota 2 is looking stronger than ever right now and that makes all the teams that qualified for TI10 a serious contender to win. There are some concerns when it comes to Invictus Gaming that the team might have peaked too early in the season, but this is still a team that opponents would likely rather avoid.
The famed organization known for its legendary League of Legends team finally has a Dota 2 squad that is living up to its reputation. After an ugly year of trying to build around Lee “Forev” Sang-don, T1 dropped him for the 2021 DPC and found success shortly thereafter.
The team pulled off a major upset by qualifying for the ONE Esports Singapore Major ahead of other regional favorites. Though there were some clear growing pains surrounding the addition of new carry player Nuengnara “23savage” Teeramahanon, T1 went on a tear in the second half of the season by taking first in the SEA DPC league and making a deep run into the WePlay AniMajor.
Stockholm is REAL! 🔥
We have mathematically qualified to The International 10 after winning the series against Team Aster. Congrats boys!
Thank you for all the support #igniT1on fam and see you soon at #TI10!#T1WIn #T1FIGHTING pic.twitter.com/SEJpARr2X8
— T1 (@T1) June 9, 2021
T1 has a very strong upside and could put on a show at The international. Nailing down the team’s prospects is tough with a relatively small sample size but it will be exciting to see what the team is capable of.
Vici Gaming has a lot of history in Dota 2 but the team has kind of flown under the radar in 2021. That comes from playing consistently well, but not necessarily well enough to stand above all its peers.
Vici Gaming took third in both Chinese DPC leagues and went deep into both majors despite having wild card starts. That gives Vici Gaming an incredibly large, and very strong body of work throughout the season that hints at a deep run in The International 2021.
All the Chinese teams have the look of being a serious contender and while PSG.LGD has gotten the most attention of any team in the region, Vici Gaming is a serious threat in its own right. Vici Gaming isn’t quite as fearsome as PSG.LGD, but the team can beat anyone in the world on the right day.
Team Secret is a team that steps up when it matters and steps back when it doesn’t. That was on full display during the 2021 Dota Pro Circuit as the team crushed it in the first half of the season with a perfect run in European DPC league and placed fourth at the ONE Esports Singapore Major. In the second half, the team squeaked into fourth place for a spot in the AniMajor and then washed out in the group stage.
— Team Secret (@teamsecret) June 3, 2021
Team Secret certainly has the potential to win The International but that’s been the case for the team every year since its formation. Despite that, Secret has under-performed at the event each and every time.
Is this the year that changes? Maybe! But it’s hard to blame any doubters out there for saying “nope.”
Team Aster has drawn a great deal of ire at home due to its success in Chinese DPC leagues and inability to convert that to success in majors. The first DPC cycle saw Aster take second in the Chinese DPC league, go 5-9 in the group stage of the ONE Esports Singapore Major, then get eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Aster then took first in league play, but couldn’t win a series in the AniMajor and was swiftly eliminated as a result.
Despite those struggles in majors, Aster can be reasonably looked at as a serious contender at TI10. The team has been consistently strong in Chinese events since its formation to the point where it’s hard to question their status as a world-class contender.
Aster might wash out early from TI10, but could also finally get a strong placement at an international event.
Qualifying for The International 2021 is great news for Alliance and ultimately makes the season a win regardless of how things go from here. But boy, things haven’t gone especially well for Alliance over the last six months.
The team has the dubious distinction of not winning a single series in a major in the 2021 DPC season and qualifying exclusively through points acquired from league play. Coupled with cheating allegations and Alliance part-owner Jonathan “Loda” Berg publicly beefing with a variety of personalities in and around the scene, Alliance’s brand is worse for wear despite having what will go down as a successful season.
All that said, an upswing at TI10 doesn’t feel particularly likely for the team. Alliance has the potential to make a run, but it’s basically impossible to ignore the team’s struggles in the majors.
beastcoast was one of the biggest disappointments of the AniMajor. Though the team quietly has a pedigree of stepping up at large events, beastcoast was incredibly underwhelming in Kiev and washed out of the group stage with a paltry three wins to 11 losses. That puts a serious damper on any discussion of the team being a dark horse for winning TI10, or even making an especially deep run.
The flop at the AniMajor could be an aberration, whether it came from the travel or awkward preparation ahead of the event. Still, beastcoast will be in a position where it needs to prove itself once again after finishing top-eight at TI9 and both of the following majors.
YOOO WE’RE GOING TO TI
— beastcoast (@beastcoast) June 11, 2021
Thunder Predator looked like a breakout star when the team put on a shockingly good performance at the ONE Esports Singapore Major, but a third-place showing in the South American DPC league kept the team from following up on it in the AniMajor. That left the squad sitting at home for the event with their fingers crossed, hoping other teams weren’t able to place high enough to hit 800 points.
That ultimately happened but the team’s lack of qualification for the event leaves a big question mark regarding Thunder Predator’s potential for TI10. Thunder Predator’s performance at the Singapore Major was even stronger than the 5th-place finish would suggest, as the team absolutely dominated the group stage with a 12-2 record. It’s very possible that Thunder Predator is a team that is best on LAN, which could help the team to a strong placement in TI10.
Ultimately, there are a load of questions about what Thunder Predator is capable of. It will be very interesting to see when the time comes.
TEAM SPIRIT QUALIFIES FOR THE INTERNATIONAL 10!
— Team Spirit (@Team__Spirit) June 26, 2021
Team Spirit was at or near the top of the CIS region throughout the DPC season despite getting consistently outshone by Virtus.pro throughout the year. With Natus Vincere’s poaching of ASM Monaco Gambit’s roster backfiring for both teams, Team Secret wound up having a relatively easy trip through the qualifiers outside a tough challenge in the finals from Team Empire.
It’s tough to pin down Team Spirit’s prospects at TI10. The team hasn’t looked especially strong at any point in the year but has the talent and adaptability to make a run. Fans can’t brush off anyone at The International however, as it only takes a good read on the meta and a hot streak to make a grand finals run as CDEC Gaming did in 2015 and Digital Chaos did in 2016.
South America had a lot of solid teams in contention for a spot in TI10 and nobody had been consistent enough to be regarded as a serious favorite. SG e-sports was looked at as a solid contender, but there was plenty of competition to be had with Infamous and NoPing e-sports. This is a bit of an upset, with SG seemingly getting hot at the right time.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the momentum will carry over into TI10. Odds are that SG e-sports will face the longest odds when it comes to winning of any team, and it’s hard to argue given SG’s middling success in one of the game’s shakier regions. Anything is possible, but there’s a very rocky road ahead for this team.
— Wykrhm Reddy (@wykrhm) July 3, 2021
Southeast Asia only had one team earn a direct invitation to The International 2021, being T1. That made the SEA qualifiers for TI10 a complete bloodbath, with formidable teams picking one another off. Though up to six teams had a reasonable chance of winning the spot, it was perennial favorite T1 that ultimately walked away as the winners.
Fnatic has had an up-and-down year, with the team looking like the slam-dunk best in the region from January to March and looking mediocre from April to June. A late roster swap seemed to be exactly what the team needed in order to rebound. Despite that, Fnatic’s chances of making a deep run at The International 2021 are questionable. It wouldn’t be the first time SEA Fnatic over-achieved at The International, but a finish in the bottom half of the standings is more likely than not.
Undying has been stuck in an awkward position throughout 2021. The team has looked the part of a serious contender on Dota 2’s grandest stages, but have also been the third-best team in a two-major-slot region. The good thing is that Undying looked to be in peak form for the TI10 qualifiers and that could mean big things for the team in its first-ever LAN tournament.
We made it!! So proud of my team @TeamUndying @bryledota @Timadota @jonas_volek @MoonMeanderated @hiimpanders
We also have sick ‘Loading Screen’ OMG so gooooood. If you guys want to support us, opportunity is right here.
I’m not hinting anything, just so you know 😀 pic.twitter.com/PP33GrCAGO
— DuBu (@DubuDota) July 4, 2021
How the team performs in its first LAN tournament will be one of the big questions. David “MoonMeander” Tan is a two-time major winner and Kim “DuBu” Doo-young has been to The International three times now, but the other three members of the team have limited or no experience in live events. The team could step up on the stage or wilt under the spotlight, and there’s likely not going to be much middle ground.
When 4AM.Elephant first came together, expectations were very high. The team was meant to bring together many of Chinese Dota 2’s greatest players and put them under the command of the region’s top coach, Bai “rOtK” Fan. But in a sign of things to come, those plans didn’t materialize as the team was unable to come to terms with Vici Gaming over the transfer fees for Zhang “Eurus” Chengjun and rOtK. This sparked a number of dramatic stories in quick succession.
While the roster eventually came together and things settled down after 4AM withdrew from Dota 2 and gave over control of the team to Elephant, the issues from the team’s first few days seemed to linger as the team struggled to perform. Though Elephant hasn’t looked bad per se, the team hasn’t been stuck in the middle of the Chinese pack, definitively behind PSG.LGD, Invictus Gaming, and Vici Gaming. But despite all that drama and all those issues, the first season for Elephant will go down as a success simply because the organization successfully qualified for The International.
The team’s chances of success at the event ultimately come down to whether Elephant will be able to finally gel and synergize ahead of TI10. If it can’t find its footing after all this time, the team’s chances are slim. But if the squad can finally hit its stride, that’s a scary prospect for everyone else.
Rounding out the TI10 qualifiers was OG. The back-to-back champions were flimsy throughout the season but lived up to their reputation for stepping up for the biggest events. Though it was by a razor-thin margin, with the finals going the full five games, people won’t remember how they got there but what happened once they arrived.
OG was a serious underdog in both of its The International victories, which makes it somewhat difficult to pick against them. The lineup also has some extra time to practice with returning carry player Syed “SumaiL” Hassan. Technically, it would be an enormous upset if OG managed to make a deep run at The International. But would it really be all that surprising if they did so again?