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Road to The International: Chinese Qualifiers

The International 7's group stage is underway. To get you prepared, I'll be previewing each of the teams at the event. Next up are the 3 teams that qualified through the Chinese Qualifier. This year the qualifiers were split among 4 regions (Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia, and China) with both the Americas and Europe regions split into two sub-regions. Still with me? Good.

Chinese Qualifier #1: Invictus Gaming Vitality

Just because a team is a youth team for an organization does not mean that they can't compete at the highest level of Dota. IG.V proved that by winning the always-tough Chinese TI qualifier. IG.V comes into TI as the most stable roster at the tournament, having played together since March 2016. During their time together, IG.V has proven to be a strong competitor within the Chinese scene. However, they've struggled when playing against International competition. They won both qualifiers for the Boston and Kiev majors but then failed to accomplish much at the actual events. They will need to prove that they can compete with teams outside of China if they want to get far at TI.

PlayerRoleCountrySignature HeroesBest TI Finish
Zhang "Paparazi" ChengjunCarryChinaLifestealer, Juggernaut, WeaverFirst TI
Xu "Sakata" ZichenMidChinaEmber Spirit, Storm Spirit, Queen of PainFirst TI
Yang "InJuly" Xiaodong (C)OfflaneChinaBatrider, Dark Seer, Centaur WarrunnerFirst TI
Su "super" PengSupportChinaIo, Visage, ChenFirst TI
Gao "dogf1ghts" TianpengSupportChinaEarth Spirit, Bounty Hunter, Night StalkerFirst TI

Chinese Qualifier #2: LGD Forever Young

Youth teams in the Chinese scene aren't always just young players trying to break into the scene. Sometimes these teams have a veteran or two to help groom the younger players. That's the case for LFY as they have two of the more successful veterans still playing competitive Dota in China. Leong "ddc" Fat-meng is one of 3 players (and the only Chinese player) to play at all 7 Internationals. Xie "Super" Junhao has played at 4 Internationals and has finished in the Top 6 at all 4 including an appearance in the Grand Final at TI4. Their leadership makes LFY a dangerous team coming into TI7.

PlayerRoleCountrySignature HeroesBest TI Finish
Du "Monet" PengCarryChinaUrsa, Gyrocopter, LifestealerFirst TI
Xie "Super" JunhaoMidChinaDragon Knight, Invoker, Shadow Fiend2nd (TI4 - VG)
He "Inflame" YongzhengOfflaneChinaBatrider, Puck, ZeusFirst TI
Tue Soon "Ahfu" ChuanSupportMalaysiaEarth Spirit, Elder Titan, EarthshakerFirst TI
Leong "ddc" Fat-mengSupportMacauRubick, Visage, Ancient Apparition3rd (TI2 - LGD)

Chinese Qualifier #3: LGD

LGD is one of the most successful organizations in China and always seem to be a strong competitor at TI. Despite multiple Top 4 finishes in their history, a TI championship has eluded them. This LGD squad hopes to change that. Led by longtime members of LGD, captain Yao "Yao" Zhengzheng and mid Lu "Maybe" Yao, the team comes into TI with high hopes and on a bit of a hot streak. LGD won the Mars Dota 2 League 2017 in early July and finished 3rd at The Summit 7 in late June.

PlayerRoleCountrySignature HeroesBest TI Finish
Wang "Ame" ChunyuCarryChinaSven, Juggernaut, TerrorbladeFirst TI
Lu "Maybe" YaoMidChinaShadow Fiend, Storm Spirit, Queen of Pain3rd (TI5 - LGD)
Ren "old eLeVeN" YangweiOfflaneChinaBatrider, Nyx Assassin, Tidehunter5th-6th (TI6 - EHOME)
Yao "Yao" Zhengzheng (C)SupportChinaSand King, Slardar, Ancient Apparition3rd (TI5 - LGD)
Chen "Victoria" GuanhongSupportChinaRubick, Earth Spirit, TuskFirst TI
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Road to The International: European Qualifiers

The International 7's group stage is underway. To get you prepared, I'll be previewing each of the teams at the event. Next up are the 3 teams that qualified through the European Qualifiers. This year the qualifiers were split among 4 regions (Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia, and China) with both the Americas and Europe regions split into two sub-regions. Still with me? Good.

Western Europe Qualifier #1: Team Secret

Team Secret is at TI for the 3rd straight year and any discussion of the team has to start with their captain, Clement "Puppey" Ivanov. Puppey is one of the most successful players in Dota history. He captained Na'vi to 3 straight TI finals including a championship at the first TI. After a disappointing TI4, he left Na'vi to form Team Secret. The original roster was a "superteam" that was expected to be among the best teams in Dota. However, disappointing performances, roster changes, and rumors of players not getting paid have plagued Team Secret. Puppey's reputation in the scene has suffered as well with allegations of laziness and raging at teammates.

Secret seemed like they were on the verge of falling out of the top tier of competitive Dota after an awful performance at TI6. The post-TI roster shuffle did not bring any success either as they failed to qualify for the Boston major. They were able to find a brief moment of success in time for the Kiev Major, however. Secret rolled through the European qualifier to make it to Kiev where they dominated their group. That success was immediately wasted in the first round of the knockout stage when they were upset by SG E-Sports, a huge underdog. That early exit forced them into the European qualifier for TI where they were once again able to finish first in the round robin and clinch their spot at TI. The player to watch at TI for Secret is their newest player, Yazied "YapzOr" Jaradat. In an era of greedy 4-positions, none are greedier than YapzOr who is often at a higher net worth than Secret's cores.

PlayerRoleCountrySignature HeroesBest TI Finish
Pyo "MP" No-aCarrySouth KoreaWeaver, Lifestealer, Juggernaut5th-6th (TI6 - MVP Phoenix)
Yeik "MidOne" Nai ZhengMidMalaysiaInvoker, Ember Spirit, TA4th (TI6 - Fnatic)
Maurice "KheZu" GutmannOfflaneGermanyDark Seer, Faceless Void, Enigma13th-16th (TI6 - Escape)
Yazied "YapzOr" JaradatSupportJordanRubick, Earthshaker, Clockwerk13th-16th (TI6 - Escape)
Clement "Puppey" Ivanov (C)SupportEstoniaChen, Enchantress, Crystal Maiden1st (TI1 - Navi)

Western Europe Qualifier #2: HellRaisers

Originally known as Planet Dog, the team was acquired by the HellRaisers organization after qualifying for TI. They come into this TI as the most surprising team to make the trip to Seattle. Keyser, 33, MiLAN, and j4 were all members of ProDota, a low-tier European team, until just before the qualifier. They were essentially let go by ProDota as the organization was convinced they would never accomplish anything. The 4 of them formed Planet Dog along with Swiftending to play in the Open Qualifier, a grueling 2-day marathon just to qualify for the main qualifier. They actually ended up losing in the finals of the first open qualifier and had to play through that marathon for a second time. After playing dozens of games over a 4-day period, they had to turn around and play in the main qualifier just a couple of days later.

It's fair to say that they were considered longshots to qualify. They were able to muster a 6-3 record in the round robin, good for 3rd place and a spot in the knockout round. They dropped their first round matchup against Mousesports, meaning that they would need to win 3 series in a row (all in one day) to qualify. They lost the first game in the BO3 against Singularity and were facing elimination when they went on an incredible 7-1 run to qualify, avenging their loss to Mousesports in the final. They may be longshots to succeed at TI but maybe that's where they're most comfortable.

PlayerRoleCountrySignature HeroesBest TI Finish
Uros "Swiftending" GalicCarrySerbiaSlark, Sven, RazorFirst TI
Greg "Keyser" KallianiotisMidGreeceQueen of Pain, Invoker, Shadow FiendFirst TI
Neta "33" ShapiraOfflaneIsraelBatrider, Dark Seer, ClockwerkFirst TI
Milan "MiLAN" KozomaraSupportBosnia and HerzegovinaDisruptor, Rubick, Night StalkerFirst TI
Alexei "j4" Lipai (C)SupportBelarusBane, Disruptor, Vengeful SpiritFirst TI

CIS Qualifier: Team Empire

This is the first year where the CIS region (made up of the former Soviet Union countries) had their own qualifier for TI. The round robin stage was tightly contested with Empire, Vega Squadron, M19, and Team Spirit all finishing with a 7-2 record. The knockout round was less competitive. Empire went 7-0 and earned the organization's 3rd trip to TI.

Empire has been in a seemingly-constant state of upheaval since TI5. Roster changes seemed to happen every other week. The captain Yaroslav "Miposhka" Naidenov has been with the team since early 2016 but the rest of the roster was full of revolving doors. Over the course of the last year, the roster finally started to stabilize with the final change coming this past May. Perhaps this makes Empire the team best-suited to deal with the dreaded TI VISA problems. Every year, there always seems to be a few players who struggle to obtain VISA's to enter the United States to play in Seattle. This year it was Empire's carry, Vladimir "Chappie" Kuzmenko who ran into trouble. His VISA was actually approved but politics got in the way. Putin sent home a number of American diplomats which sent the American embassy in Russia into chaos and Chappie's passport was not returned in time for him to make the trip.

Empire was able to find a capable replacement for Chappie in Roman "Resolution" Fominok. Resolution had been playing for Planet Odd (formerly part of the Digital Chaos organization) and had helped take that team to the Grand Finals at TI6. Planet Odd struggled this past season and surprisingly failed to qualify for TI7. Empire is very fortunate that a player of Resolution's caliber was available to play for them on such short notice.

PlayerRoleCountrySignature HeroesBest TI Finish
Roman "Resolution" FominokCarryUkraineLuna, Lycan, Anti-Mage2nd (TI6 - DC)
Rostislav "fn" LozovoiMidUkraineStorm Spirit, Shadow Fiend, MorphlingFirst TI
Andrey "Ghostik" KadykOfflaneUkraineFaceless Void, Clockwerk, AxeFirst TI
Vladimir "RodjER" NikogosyanSupportRussiaChen, Earth Spirit, EnchantressFirst TI
Yaroslav "Miposhka" Naidenov (C)SupportRussiaEarth Spirit, Tusk, Ogre MagiFirst TI
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Road to The International: American Qualifiers

The International 7's group stage is underway. To get you prepared, I'll be previewing each of the teams at the event. Next up are the 3 teams that qualified through the American Qualifiers. This year the qualifiers were split among 4 regions (Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia, and China) with both the Americas and Europe regions split into two sub-regions. Still with me? Good.

North America Qualifer #1: Cloud 9

The Cloud 9 brand is back in the Dota scene after they acquired the North American qualifier team, NP. Funnily enough, every one of NP's players has played for Cloud 9 at some point in the past. NP is led by their captain, TI5 champion Jacky "EternalEnvy" Mao. He was a member of the original C9 team and is joined by other original members, TI5 Champion (with EG) Kurtis "Aui_2000" Ling and Johan "pieliedie" Astrom. Adrian "FATA-" Trinks played with C9 at TI5 and Arif "MSS" Anwar played for the short-lived C9 team that formed after TI5 when the original squad disbanded.

Cloud 9 went 8-1 in the Round Robin stage of the North American qualifier which tied them for first place with Team Freedom. First place came with an automatic qualifying spot into TI so it came down to a 1-game playoff which C9 won. C9's preferred style of play is to focus on farming all 3 of their cores and even their 4-position support, usually played by Aui_2000. Pieliedie is often left with very little farm or items but still finds a way to have an impact in the game (oftentimes the impact is dying to save a teammate).

Cloud 9's biggest competition at TI7 may just be themselves. The team, especially EternalEnvy, has the propensity to throw away leads. C9 is able to get away with doing that in the relatively weak NA Dota scene but TI is a different level of competition. EternalEnvy's throwing, his love of anime, and his awkward personality has made him into one of the more enigmatic players in the Dota 2 professional scene.

PlayerRoleCountrySignature HeroesBest TI Finish
Jacky "EternalEnvy" Mao (C)CarryCanadaDrow Ranger, Terrorblade, Luna5th-6th (TI4 - C9)
Adrian "FATA-" TrinksMidGermanyPuck, Queen of Pain, Razor7th-8th (TI6 - Liquid)
Arif "MSS" AnwarOfflaneUSABeastmaster, Clockwerk, Puck11th-12th (TI4 - Mousesports)
Kurtis "Aui_2000" LingSupportCanadaVisage, Chen, Naga Siren1st (TI5 - EG)
Johan "pieliedie" AstromSupportSwedenIo, Rubick, Bounty Hunter5th-6th (TI4 - C9)

North American Qualifier #2: Digital Chaos

Digital Chaos were the runners-up last year at TI6, however, that roster departed the organization just before the Kiev Major and DC acquired the newly-formed Team Onyx to replace them. Onyx seemed like it would just be another short-lived team for their carry, Mason "mason" Venne. Mason had been an injury replacement for EG at TI4 but had not played with a team for more than a couple months since then. He teamed up with other American Dota veterans, Jimmy "Demon" Ho and Kanishka "BuLba" Sosale to form Onyx for the Kiev Qualifier. The difference with Onyx compared to Mason's other teams was that they brought in young phenom, Abed "Abed" Yusop, who rose to fame with his incredible Meepo play last year, and South Korean support player, Kim "DuBu" Doo-young. They helped Onyx qualify for the Kiev Major where they were then acquired by DC.

For the TI qualifier, Jimmy "Demon" Ho was replaced by veteran offlaner Lee "Forev" Sang-don. Forev had played with DuBu with MVP Phoenix at TI6. The Round Robin stage was a little shaky for DC and they were forced to play in two rounds of a 3-way tiebreaker just to make it to the knockout round. In the knockout round, they were down 1-0 to Complexity and on the brink of elimination when they went on an incredible run of 5-straight wins to eliminate Complexity and shock Team Freedom in the final to claim their spot at TI7.

PlayerRoleCountrySignature HeroesBest TI Finish
Mason "mason" VenneCarryUSAWeaver, Lifestealer, Sven3rd (TI4 - EG)
Abed "Abed" YusopMidPhilippinesMeepo, Invoker, Shadow FiendWild Card (TI6 - Execration)
Lee "Forev" Sang-donOfflaneSouth KoreaBristleback, Tidehunter, Dark Seer5th-6th (TI6 - MVP Phoenix)
Kaniskhka "BuLba" Sosale (C)SupportUSAClockwerk, Elder Titan, Batrider7th-8th (TI3 - Liquid)
Kim "DuBu" Doo-youngSupportSouth KoreaEarth Spirit, Disruptor, Witch Doctor5th-6th (TI6 - MVP Phoenix)

South American Qualifier: Infamous

This was the first TI where South America had their own qualifier (in years past, South American teams had to compete on North American servers with bad ping). This makes Infamous the first South American team to make it to an International. Since the South American region is fairly young, Infamous has very little experience against international competition. Their inexperience at this level of competition means that they come into TI with very little expectations and just getting out of the group stage would be a major accomplishment. That does not mean they should be taken lightly. SG E-Sports represented Brazil and South America at the Kiev Major in the Spring where they upset Team Secret.

PlayerRoleCountrySignature HeroesBest TI Finish
Benjamin "Benjaz" LanaosCarryPeruJuggernaut, Lifestealer, UrsaFirst TI
Enzo "Timado" GianoliMidPeruQueen of Pain, Ember Spirit, PuckFirst TI
Renato "Kingteka" Garcia (C)OfflanePeruBatrider, Faceless Void, SlardarFirst TI
Farith "Matthew" PuenteSupportPeruEarth Spirit, Rubick, ClockwerkFirst TI
Christian "Accel" CruzSupportPeruDisruptor, Rubick, Crystal MaidenFirst TI
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Road to The International: Newbee

The International 7's group stage is underway. To get you prepared, I'll be previewing each of the teams at the event. Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to get all of the previews up before the group stage began but I will still be putting up new previews for the rest of the teams throughout the week. Next up are the TI4 champions and the final invited team, Newbee. Check back the rest of the week for more previews.

Newbee was originally formed in early 2014 as a "superteam" filled with successful Chinese players. That team would live up to the moniker as they took home the top prize at TI4. Since TI4, Newbee has grown into a full-fledged Chinese organization that is consistently present at the top tournaments across the world (although they're not always successful at those tournaments). The team that Newbee brings to TI7 does not include any of the players that won the tournament 3 years ago but they do have a former TI champion as their captain. Zeng "Faith" Hongda won TI2 with Invictus Gaming and joined Newbee after last year's TI. Faith had been to the first 5 TI's but failed to qualify for TI6. He came over to Newbee from TongFu with teammate Xu "Moogy" Han. They joined up with the 2 remaining players from the TI6 Newbee, Damien "kpii" Chok and Hu "Kaka" Liangzhi. Rounding out the roster is Song "Sccc" Chun, who was called up from Newbee's youth team, Newbee Young.

During this past season, Newbee dominated their Chinese competition but struggled at International LAN's. Their play in Chinese events earned them invites to both of this season's majors in Boston and Kiev, but they failed to make it out of the first round at both tournaments. Leading up to the TI invite announcement, many wondered if they were deserving of one after those failures. But, with wins at the ZOTAC Cup Masters and Galaxy Battles in Junes as well as a 2nd place finish at The Manilla Masters in May, Valve felt they had done enough to get one of the six invites. For Newbee, this is an opportunity to reclaim the Aegis and shake off their disappointing results at Valve-sponsored events since TI4.

PlayerRoleCountrySignature HeroesBest TI Finish
Xu "Moogy" HanCarryChinaJuggernaut, Drow Ranger, SvenFirst TI
Song "Sccc" ChunMidChinaInvoker, Queen of Pain, Shadow FiendFirst TI
Damien "kpii" ChokOfflaneAustraliaSlardar, Axe, Legion Commander7th-8th (TI5 - MVP Phoenix)
Hu "Kaka" LiangzhiSupportChinaSand King, Earth Spirit, Nyx Assassin9th-12th (TI6 - Newbee)
Zeng "Faith" Hongda (C)SupportChinaRubick, Shadow Shaman, Ancient Apparition1st (TI2 - IG)


- Newbee holds the record for the most consecutive wins in professional Dota 2 at 29 during April-May 2016.

- A win is a win, however Newbee's Grand Final victory over Vici Gaming at TI4 is widely considered to be the least exciting Grand Final in TI history. All 4 of the games in that final were less than 30 minutes and the deciding game in the series was just 15:08.

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Road to The International: Team Liquid

The International 7's group stage starts today. To get you prepared, I'll be previewing each of the teams at the event. Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to get all of the previews up before the group stage began but I will still be putting up new previews for the rest of the teams throughout the week. Next up is one of the most prevalent organizations in esports, Team Liquid. Check back the rest of the week for more previews.

This incarnation of Team Liquid's Dota team (wholly different from the American TI3-era team) is back at The International for the second straight year. Last year, Liquid struggled through the group stage and were forced to start in the Lower Bracket in the main event. The team came together to salvage a 7th-8th finish at Key Arena but it was still a disappointing showing for a group that had aspirations of winning the aegis. As with most teams that fail to meet expectations at TI, roster changes broke up last year's Team Liquid squad. Liquid and OG swapped their young superstars as Amer "Miracle-" Al-Barkawi came over from OG to replace the departing Jerax. Miracle- would take over the Mid role for the Liquid, meaning that last year's mid (Fata) stepped away from the team. Replacing Jerax's role as the 4-position support was a member of Team Liquid's TI3 team, Bulba. The two newcomers joined returning players, Lasse "Matumbaman" Urpalanien, Ivan "MinD_Control" Borislavov, and the captain, Kuro "KuroKy" Salehi Takhasomi.

Liquid would struggle early on this season with the new roster. So much so that the team failed to qualify for the season's first major in Boston last Fall. The fallout from failing to qualify cost Bulba his spot on the team and he was replaced by Maroun "GH" Mehej, a pubstar with relatively little professional experience. The change almost immediately turned Liquid's fortunes around. They earned an invite to the Kiev Major by winning DreamLeague Season 6 and StarLadder i-League Season 3. At Kiev, they lost 2-1 to Invictus Gaming in the Quarterfinal leaving an invite to TI up in the air. However, they would earn that invite after winning both the StarLadder i-League Invitational and EPICENTER 2017. Liquid also looked strong in their TI tune-up at the DreamLeague Season 7 finals in July. They successfully defended their title, although they did not play any other TI teams at that event.

Liquid's play style revolves around their superstar Mid, Miracle-. Their priority in most games is to secure Miracle-'s farm early on to allow him to take over the game. GH has also been a bit of a surprise with his strong play at the 4-position. He may not be as flashy as some of the other top 4-position players but his consistent play on heroes like Earthshaker and Keeper of the Light has given Liquid a much-needed boost. KuroKy has also proven to be a capable captain. He stands as one of just 3 players to have played at all 7 TI's but was not a team captain until last year with Team Liquid.

PlayerRoleCountrySignature HeroesBest TI Finish
Lasse "Matumbaman" UrpalainenCarryFinlandLycan, Lone Druid, Juggernaut7th-8th (TI6 - Team Liquid)
Amer "Miracle-" Al-BarkawiMidJordanInvoker, Shadow Fiend, TA9th-12th (TI6 - OG)
Ivan "MinD_Control" BorislavovOfflaneBulgariaDark Seer, Beastmaster, Batrider7th-8th (TI6 - Team Liquid)
Maroun "GH" MerhejSupportLebanonEarthshaker, KotL, IoFirst TI
Kuro "KuroKy" Salehi Takhasomi (C)SupportGermanyRubick, Visage, Nyx Assassin2nd (TI3 - Na'vi)
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Road to The International: Invictus Gaming

On August 2nd, 18 teams will descend upon Seattle for the start of the The International 7's group stage. To get you prepared, I'll be previewing each of those teams. Next up is the first Chinese team in this feature, Invictus Gaming. Check back each day leading up to the tournament for more previews.

Invictus Gaming joins EG as another organization with an International championship attending TI7. However, the team making the trip to Seattle this year looks very different from the TI2-winning squad. All 5 of the players from the championship team have since moved on and the new team is hoping to recapture the glory of the early days for IG.

This new roster is headlined by the legendary Xu "BurNIng" Zhilei, who was once regarded as one of the best farming carries in the world. The other veteran on the squad is their captain, Fu "Q" Bin. Q is best known for leading CDEC Gaming through TI5's Open Qualifiers all the way to the Grand Final where they would fall just short of claiming the aegis. Their veteran leadership will be important as the rest of the squad are making their first appearances at The International. Ou "Op" Peng, Lin "Xxs" Jing, and Ye "BoBoKa" Zhibiao were all "promoted" from IG's youth squad, IG.Vitality.

After a disappointing 2016, IG made major strides early this year. They won the not-quite-a-major Dota 2 Asia Championships in April and entered the Kiev Major as one of the favorites. Led by strong play on Earth Spirit and Monkey King by BoBoKa, IG made their way to the semifinal in Kiev. That top 4 finish was enough to get IG a direct invite to TI. Like I discussed in OG's preview, IG has also been hit hard by the meta shifts since Kiev. Since patch 7.06, IG are just 6-17 in individual matches and winless in BO3 series against other TI teams. They were very fortunate to not have to play through the always-tough Chinese qualifier.


PlayerPositionCountrySignature HeroesBest TI Finish
Xu "BurNIng" ZhileiCarryChinaAnti-Mage, Juggernaut, Lifestealer4th (TI2, TI4 - Team DK)
Ou "Op" PengMidChinaEmber Spirit, Lina, InvokerFirst TI
Lin "Xxs" JingOfflaneChinaLegion Commander, Centaur Warrunner, BatriderFirst TI
Ye "BoBoKa" ZhibiaoSupportChinaEarth Spirit, Monkey King, RikiFirst TI
Fu "Q" Bin (C)SupportChinaRubick, Visage, Crystal Maiden2nd (TI5 - CDEC Gaming)
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Road to The International: Evil Geniuses

On August 2nd, 18 teams will descend upon Seattle for the start of the The International 7's group stage. To get you prepared, I'll be previewing each of those teams. Next up are the Boys in Blue, Evil Geniuses. Check back each day leading up to the tournament for more previews.

The TI5 champions are back at The International for a 4th-consecutive year. This time, however, they'll be competing without two of the best players in North American Dota history. Peter "ppd" Dager, their former captain that led the team to three straight Top 3 finishes at TI, and Clinton "Fear" Loomis, who had been with the team since its formation in 2011, both stepped away from competitive Dota after last year's International. Stepping into their roles to attempt to bring a second TI championship to EG are Artour "rtz" Babaev and Andreas "Cr1t" Nielsen.

Artour is no stranger to EG fans. This will be his 3rd different stint with the team as he has bounced back and forth from Team Secret. After bouncing around between a number of Tier 2 and 3 teams, Cr1t broke into the top tier of professional Dota last season with OG. His general lack of experience at the highest level of competition made him a surprising choice to take over the Captaincy but he has proven to be up to the task, leading EG to the semifinals of both the Boston and Kiev majors.

Rounding out the team are the 3 returning players: midlaner Sumail "Suma1L" Hassan, offlaner Saahil "Universe" Arora, and support Ludwig "zai" Wahlberg. This trio are widely considered to be among the best at their respective positions. Suma1L's laning and consistency is unmatched. Even when faced with an unfavorable matchup, he still seems to be able to have a major impact on the game. Universe is one of just four players to attend every International (although he was only a substitute at TI1). He has a penchant for making big plays with big-ultimate heroes like Enigma and Dark Seer. As for zai, he popularized the greedy 4-position support years ago and his incredible versatility makes drafting against EG a nightmare.

Evil Geniuses earned an invite this year with Top 4 finishes in Boston and Kiev, 1st place in the Manila Masters, and 2nd at Epicenter 2017 in June. EG is notorious for struggling early on in tournaments, usually in the group stages, before making a run through a seemingly unfavorable bracket. This "strategy" backfired in their most recent LAN at the Mars Dota 2 League in early July. They dropped group stage matches against 3 Chinese teams (Newbee, LGD, and LGD.FY; all of whom will be at TI) and were forced to start in the loser's bracket. After beating Clutch Gamers 2-0 in the first round, they were eliminated from the tournament by OG. Without the leadership of veterans like ppd and Fear, starting off TI7 with a strong group stage may be imperative for a 4th-straight Top 3 finish.


PlayerRoleCountrySignature HeroesBest TI Finish
Artour "rtz" BabaevCarryCanadaDrow Ranger, Razor, Lifestealer3rd (TI4 - EG)
Sumail "Suma1L" HassanMidPakistanStorm Spirit, Lina, Ember Spirit1st (TI5 - EG)
Saahil "Universe" AroraOfflaneUSAFaceless Void, Dark Seer, Enigma1st (TI5 - EG)
Ludwig "zai" WahlbergSupportSwedenIO, Sand King, Elder Titan3rd (TI6 - EG)
Andreas "Cr1t" Nielsen (C)SupportDenmarkEarth Spirit, IO, Crystal Maiden9th-12th (TI6 - OG)


- rtz, Universe, and zai have all played on Team Secret at one point or another.

- During his first two stints with EG, rtz had played the mid role with Fear on carry.

- Suma1L became the youngest person ever to surpass $1 million in prize winnings in esports history after winning TI5. He was just 16 years old at the time.

- Universe holds an incredible 44-9 record all-time on his signature hero, Faceless Void. It's the best winrate of any professional player on one hero (min. 10 games).


Road to The International: Virtus.Pro

On August 2nd, 18 teams will descend upon Seattle for the start of the The International 7's group stage. To get you prepared, I'll be previewing each of those teams. Today's team are the Russian Bears, Virtus.Pro. Check back each day leading up to the tournament for more previews.

Virtus.Pro is back in The International after missing out on last year's tournament. And not only are they just back in Seattle, they come into this TI as one of the favorites to win the aegis. After a bad performance in the TI6 European qualifier, VP dumped their entire roster and formed a new squad. To build this new team, VP turned to a veteran of the CIS Dota scene, Alexei "Solo" Berezin.

Solo's career has been a tumultuous one. In 2013, while playing for Rox.Kis, it was revealed that Solo had placed a bet against his own team and was given a lifetime ban from a number of events. Fortunately for him, that ban was shortened to a year and he has since slowly rebuilt his reputation. This opportunity to build a team from scratch gave him the chance to fully distance himself from the "322" meme (in reference to the amount of money he would have won from his bet). The first two members of his new team were a couple of fellow CIS veterans, Ilya "Lil" Ilyuk as the 4-position support and Pavel "9pasha" Khvastunov to play offlane. Lil had played with VP at TI5 and spent parts of the TI6 season with Polarity and 9pasha had played with Solo on Vega Squadron. For the two core positions, Solo turned to a couple of younger players, Roman "RAMZES666" Kushnarev, formerly on Team Empire, and Vladimir "No[o]ne" Minenko, another ex-Vega Squadron.

The new squad started off last Fall playing very well. They won The Summit 6 in November and successfully qualified for the Boston Major. VP rolled through their group stage and First Round matches in Boston before running into a blue brick wall named Evil Geniuses in the Quarterfinal. The months after Boston were disappointing for VP. Lackluster performances and even technical problems that forced them to drop out the 2017 Asian Championship plagued the team leading up to the Kiev Major. However, VP were able to shake off those problems at Kiev as they made a run to the Grand Final against OG. Despite losing that final 3-2, that performance, coupled with defending their title at the Summit 7, was enough to earn Virtus.Pro a direct invitation to TI7.

The reasons for VP's success can be attributed to No[o]ne's emergence as one of the best mids in the wold, Solo's leadership and sacrificial style of play, and the versatility and wide hero pool of the team. That versatility was on full display at the Summit 7. VP played 81 different heroes and had picked entirely new heroes every game until the Finals. Last year at TI6, Wings won the aegis with a similar style of picking unconventional heroes to keep their opponents off-balance. Virtus.Pro will hope to achieve the same result this year.


PlayerRoleCountrySignature HeroesBest TI Finish
Roman "RAMZES666" KushnarevCarryRussiaLifestealer, Ursa, Drow RangerFirst TI
Vladimir "No[o]ne" MinenkoMidUkraineDragon Knight, Outworld Devourer, Templar AssassinWild Card (TI5 - Vega Squadron)
Pavel "9pasha" KhvastunovOfflaneRussiaDark Seer, Batrider, Sand KingWild Card (TI5 - Vega Squadron)
Ilya "Lil" IlyukSupportUkraineIo, Visage, Chen5th-6th (TI5 - Virtus.Pro)
Alexei "Solo" BerezinSupportRussiaDisruptor, Shadow Demon, RubickWild Card (TI5 - Vega Squadron)


- No[o]ne is known for his flashy play in game but he tends to be more reserved out of the game leading to sometimes awkward post-game interviews.

- Solo is fortunate to be able to play after the betting scandal in 2013. Valve has been much harder on players involved in other, more recent betting scandals. Most notably with the Peruvian team Not Today, where players that were proven to be involved in betting were banned from Valve-sponsored events for life.

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Road to The International: OG

On August 2nd, 18 teams will descend upon Seattle for the start of the The International 7's group stage. To get you prepared, I'll be previewing each of those teams starting with the winner of both of this season's Majors, OG. Check back each day leading up to the tournament for more previews.

OG comes into TI7 as one of the most successful teams of the past season, earning a direct invite with wins at the Boston and Kiev Majors. This has them pegged as one of the favorites to take home the Aegis this year. But if any team is aware that success leading into TI does not equal success at TI, it's OG.

Last season, OG also entered TI with two major titles and high expectations. First place in their group set them up with a favorable bracket for the main event. It did not go as planned. A 2-1 upset at the hands of MVP Phoenix followed by a 2-0 stunner against TNC knocked OG out on just the second day. The poor performance at Dota's biggest event left the team in shambles in the ensuing transfer period. Midlane wunderkid Amer "Miracle-" Barqawi left for Team Liquid, Andreas Franck "Crit" Nielsen took over the Captain role for Evil Geniuses, and offlaner David "MoonMeander" Tan joined Digital Chaos (now known as Planet Odd).

Replacing that kind of talent was a tall order for the two remaining members, Johan "N0tail" Sundstein and Tal "Fly" Azik. The two of them had played together since the beginning of their Dota careers with the old Fnatic squad, and after a brief stint on separate teams in 2015, reunited to form the original OG squad. That experience and history of success was enough to convince Gustav "s4" Magnusson (TI3 Champion) and Jesse "JerAx" Vanaikka (one of the world's best 4-position supports) to join. Rounding out the new squad was a relatively unknown Midlaner from Australia, Anathan "Ana" Pham.

Despite some initially shaky play from Ana, the new team quickly came together as they strung a series of Top 4 finishes at LAN's together including the championships in Boston and Kiev. The team had found success with JerAx playing space-creating heroes like Monkey King and his signature Earth Spirit while N0tail carried through the late game with illusion-based heroes like Terrorblade and Naga Siren. Dota, however, is a game of constant adjustments. Balance patches can cause major shifts to the meta and heroes and strategies that were once dominant can become almost unplayable. The balance patch that came after the Kiev major was not kind to OG. Illusions were heavily nerfed as were many of the 4-position heroes that JerAx had dazzled with. The most successful teams are those that can adapt to the changes. OG's results in their two TI tune-up events (5-6th at the 8-team Manilla Masters and 7-8th at the 10-team Epicenter, with a combined record of 3-9 against other TI teams) has many wondering if they will be able to adapt in time.


PlayerRoleCountrySignature HeroesBest TI Finish
Johan "N0tail" SundsteinCarryDenmarkTerrorblade, Naga Siren, Drow Ranger7th-8th (TI3 - Fnatic)
Anathan "Ana" PhamMidAustraliaInvoker, Alchemist, Storm SpiritFirst TI
Gustav "s4" MagnussonOfflaneSwedenBatrider, Puck, Clockwerk1st (TI3 - Alliance)
Jesse "JerAx" VanaikkaSupportFinlandEarth Spirit, Monkey King, Elder Titan7th-8th (TI6 - Team Liquid)
Tal "Fly" Azik (C)SupportIsraelPhoenix, Dazzle, Warlock7th-8th (TI3 - Fnatic)


- A TI7 championship would make s4 the first, and only, repeat TI champion.

- The other 4 players would become the first to win a TI from their respective countries.

- Their 4 Major championships are easily the most all-time. Team Secret is the only other team to even win a Major.

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Rock Band Rivals: First Impressions

Rock Band 4 Recap - Last year's release of Rock Band 4 was shaky. Jeff's review was pretty spot on with all of the issues (lack of features, problems with downloading old DLC). Even with all of the problems, I still loved the game. Just being able to play Rock Band on new consoles was enough at the time. But as the year wore on, the lack of features kept me from playing very much at all and the MadCatz guitar started to fall apart (buttons would get stuck or become unresponsive and it just felt like it was going to come apart at any minute).

With my MadCatz guitar slowly dying, the new PDP guitar was a major selling point of the expansion and it is a huge improvement. It feels sturdier than the older one and I really like the look of the blue. The buttons even feel a little better while playing and it sure is nice not having to worry about any of them sticking.

The first in-game change you'll notice is the new UI. The original UI was clunky and hard to navigate. Harmonix made some minor changes throughout the year, but this is a much more substantial change. It's sleeker, faster, and actually feels like part of a final, released product. My favorite change is that you can now scroll through Artists by their first letter rather than crawling through each and every one.

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