The International 2018 Preview: Format, Prize Pool, Schedule

Alas, The International 2018 is finally coming together.

The culmination of the Dota Pro Circuit, which debuted this season, Dota 2’s biggest annual event will bring together some of the best players from all over the world in one venue for nearly two weeks of action as teams fight for eternal glory and a huge chunk of what’s likely going to be yet another record-breaking prize pool.

Now in its eighth iteration, Dota 2’s marquee event will change venues for the first time in years. Instead of its usual home in KeyArena in Seattle, The International 2018 will now take place at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Canada. But, despite the change in venue, the stakes remain just as high as ever.

With so much going on in the months leading up to The International 2018 and at the event itself, it’s easy to get confused and lost.

Worry not, however, because we’re here to help you.

We’ve got your guide to everything about there is to know about The International 2018, from who’s playing, to what they’re playing for, and which teams are the heavy favourites to walk away with the Aegis of Champions.

The International 2018: What Is It? What’s At Stake?

The International 2018

At $24,787,916 USD, The International 2017 set the record for the biggest prize pool in all of esports, a record previously held by The International 2016. (Valve)

There is no event bigger in all of Dota 2 than The International. Since the game’s unveiling at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, Dota 2’s publisher, Valve software, has made it a point to one-up every previous iteration. In 2013, Valve sought help from the community to increase the prize pool by introducing the Interactive Compendium for The International 2013 where a portion ($2.50) of the proceeds from each bundle went towards increasing the prize pool, which eventually released $2,874,381 USD by the time the crowdfunding ended.

Since then, Valve have only improved on the Interactive Compendium. Now known as the Battle Pass, there are far more prizes and stretch goals than ever before. This has incentivized more and more of the fanbase to contribute more to the prize pool, which, last year, reached a record-breaking $24,787,916 USD.

More than maintaining the exceptional standards of previous tournaments, Valve have their eyes set on The International 2018 prize pool eclipsing last year’s record-setting mark, and it’s already well on its way to doing just that.

The International 2018 can be seen live, for free, streaming on YouTube, Twitch, and in the Dota 2 client.

For more information on The International 2018, don’t forget to check out the official Dota 2 blog. You can also follow this link for more information on Dota 2 and the events leading up to The International 2018. 

The International 2018: Format and Priz Pool

The International 2018

As has been the case every year, expect Valve to tweak the format for The International 2018. (Valve)

Valve have always tweaked the format if only ever so slightly every year, especially the Group Stage. Two years ago at The International 2016, four wildcard Dota 2 teams played for the two final spots prior to the main event. Meanwhile, a year ago at The International 2017, the number of teams were expanded to eighteen teams with no Wild Cards. Instead, each of the 18 teams had a chance to play in the round-robin Group Stage, with the bottom-ranked team from each group being eliminated from the tournament.

The International 2018 will follow the same format as last year. All 18 teams will be split into two groups of 9 teams each and will get a chance to play during the group stages. Two will be eliminated at the end of it, leaving 16 teams to duke it out in the main event in front of the live crowd at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver.

As always, Valve set the initial prize pool at $1.6 million USD before crowdfunding. As of the moment, the prize pool is nearly $24 million USD and is well on its way to eclipsing last year’s record-setting mark.

The International 2018: The Competing Teams

The International 2018

The reigning TI champions, Team Liquid, will get a chance to defend their title as one of the direct invites for The International 2018. (Valve)

The International 2018 will feature some of the world’s best Dota 2 teams clashing in Vancouver for nearly two weeks.

Every team can earn their entry via one of two ways.

First, the top eight teams from the leaderboards will receive a direct invite based on the number of points they racked up throughout the season. This started with the Starladder i-League Invitational Season 3 back in October 2017 and ended at the China Dota2 Supermajor in June 2018.

Here are the teams to received a direct invite to TI8:

  1. Virtus.Pro (CIS) — 12,372 Qualifying Points
  2. PSG.LGD (China) — 9,459 Qualifying Points
  3. Team Liquid (Europe) — 7,332 Qualifying Points
  4. Team Secret (Europe) — 5,137 Qualifying Points
  5. Mineski (Southeast Asia) — 3,150 Qualifying Points
  6. ViCi Gaming (China) — 2,835 Qualifying Points
  7. Newbee (China) — 2,445 Qualifying Points
  8. VGJ.Thunder (China) — 1,935 Qualifying Points

Click here for how each of the eight direct invites stack up against each other.

Teams who missed out on their chance of qualifying for TI8 via the official DPC season got another shot via the Regional Qualifiers.

Below are all the teams that qualifiyng for The International 2018 via the Regional Qualifiers.

  1. VGJ.Storm (North America)
  2. Evil Geniuses (North America)
  3. OpTic Gaming (North America)
  4. Invictus Gaming (China)
  5. Team Serenity (China)
  6. Fnatic (Southeast Asia)
  7. TNC Pro Team (Southeast Asia)
  8. OG (Europe)
  9. Winstrike (CIS)
  10. paiN Gaming (South America)

Click here for a complete power rankings of all of the teams competing at The International 2018.

The International 2018: The Heavy Favourites

Virtus.Pro

The International 2018

Consistently beating Virtus.Pro is a problem that even the best Dota 2 teams in the world have been unable to solve this season. (Virtus.Pro)

Much has been said about Virtus.Pro’s dominance this season. So much, that we probably don’t know what else to say about it. They’re good. Scratch that. They’re scary good. They’ve been better than the historically dominant reigning champions, Team Liquid, and that’s not exactly the most comforting thought for any of the 17 teams who will probably eventually have to face off against the four-time Major champions.

Virtus.Pro turned the 2017-18 Dota Pro Circuit into their stomping grounds, mowing down their opposition by dominating the lanes and starving them of valuable resources until they eventually quit themselves or made to quit.

Come TI8, Virtus.Pro will arguably be the most studied team in the tournament, and they probably don’t care — they’ll decimate their opponents regardless of whether they’ve prepared for them or not.

Team Liquid

The International 2018

Having evolved into more of a team player, most people have forgotten how easily Amer ‘Miracle-‘ Al-Barkawi can take over and win games for Team Liquid on his own. (Team Liquid)

After winning TI7, Team Liquid had every reason to check out and coast. Everybody already knew that they were the best Dota 2 team in the world. They had the accolades to prove it, and their chemistry seemed as solid as ever.

For a while, it certainly seemed like the case. Or at least, that’s how the public perceived their failure to win a Major. However, looking back, Team Liquid may have set the bar too high for themselves. They probably eventually realized that it wasn’t worth it anymore.

Even so, in what was considered by many as a down season for the reigning champions, Team Liquid appeared in as many as 13 LAN tournaments. They ended up winning four of them, finishing in second place three times while failing to make it to a podium finish only twice.

That’s the sort of season most Dota 2 teams would dream of having, and we all know that they can still do better.

With all of Team Liquid obviously in peak form after giving us a taste of what’s to come with a win at the China Dota2 Supermajor — every member except for their captain Kuro ‘KuroKy‘ Salehi Takhasomi recently made it to the Top 5 of the EU MMR leaderboards — it’s clear that the reigning champions are hard at work trying to achieve their latest goal: to become the first Dota 2 team in history win a TI twice in a row.

PSG.LGD

The International 2018

For the second year in a row, LGD Gaming will be expected to go deep at a TI if not win the whole thing. (PSG eSports)

Whereas Team Liquid and Virtus.Pro spent the entire season as the favourites in every tournament, it wasn’t only until the second half that PSG.LGD started making some noise. But, once they did, they never looked back.

PSG.LGD bagged two majors in a row at EPICENTER XL and the MDL Changsha 2018 before taking third place at the China Dota2 Supermajor.

It’s clear that they’ve found their comfort zone letting Xu ‘fy‘ Linsen play a more farm-hungry support role while letting Lu ‘Maybe‘ Yao and Wang ‘Ame’ Chunyu take turns about who’s going to carry the game and get the spotlight.

Of course, not to be discounted is the impact of their new arrivals. Yang ‘Chalice‘ Shenyi has excelled in his role in the offlane. He has a knack for making the most out of what little farm he has, and has even won PSG.LGD games on his own at times. Jian Wei ‘xNova‘ Yap is as stable as position five support players can come, and his warding game is often on point.

With 2018 supposedly being a Chinese year, PSG.LGD will be looked at as the team who will bring the Aegis of Champions back to the east.

Teams to Watch Out For

The Three NA Teams

The International 2018

While not a single one of the NA teams are considered heavy favourites, all three are the perfect dark horse candidates to make a run at one of the top spots at TI this year. (Team VGJ)

OpTic Gaming, Evil Geniuses, and VGJ.Storm may all play different styles; Evil Geniuses rely on lane dominance and using that advantage to snowball to a win, similar to Virtus.Pro; VGJ.Storm often play around Roman ‘Resolut1on‘ Fominok; OpTic Gaming have mastered mid-game rotations and execution, with the occassional cheese pick by Neta ‘33‘ Shapira a huge.

Regardless of their stylistic differences, however, all three teams share the same “category”, or so to speak, where they’re all teams that everybody should watch out for in Vancouver.

Individually talented and and filled with veteran presences, these three Dota 2 teams from North America each have a fair shot at disrupting the status quo and going on a deep run at TI8.

Winstrike

The International 2018

The former FlyToMoon squad might have many of the teams at TI8 fits because of their unusually aggressive and fight-heavy playstyle. (EPICENTER)

At this point, it may seem like we’re putting too much credence on their performance at EPICENTER XL, and may be were. But, as arguably the most aggressive team in TI8 — they lead all TI8 teams in total kills and assists — Winstrike’s aggressiveness could throw off many teams off of their game, especially the Chinese, who have historically had a hard time playing against this particular playstyle.

While nobody’s betting on them to win the whole thing, it wouldn’t come off as a surprise if Winstrike ended up taking a much higher placement than most people expected from them.

OG

The International 2018

The only remaining member of the original Monkey Gaming squad, the burden of making sure that his team is in the best position to succeed now falls on n0tail. (OG)

The small sample size we saw of OG at the Regional Qualifiers was encouraging, to say the least. Anathan ‘ana‘ Pham hasn’t seem to have lost his touch, despite not having played competitively much this season. Meanwhile, Topias ‘Topson‘ Taavitsainen, is a high-skilled maverick whose unorthodox but surprisingly effective playstyle isn’t exactly something that most teams at TI8 have had time to prepare themselves to face.

To expect a deep run from OG is to set yourself up for disappointment. They couldn’t even make it past the top eight during their Major-winning days. But, then again, who knows? Sébastien ‘7ckngMad‘ Debs has always had a pretty interesting take on the game and he’s not doing half-bad in the offlane. Jesse ‘JeraX‘ Vainikka remains one of the most prolific players in his position and the core-turned-support player and captain Johan ‘N0tail‘ Sundstein is no stranger in his role.

I’m not saying that OG will go on and shock the world at TI8, but bigger surprises have happened in the past.

Team Serenity

Easily the biggest unknown heading into The International 2018, Team Serenity have nothing to lose but everything to gain from an excellent showing this August.

If they win big, that’s great. They’re a small organization who could certainly use the added publicity, and the success could help set them up for a better year in the 2018-19 Dota Pro Circuit. If they lose, that’s okay. Nobody expected much from them anyway.

In addition to this, Team Serenity are known to play the game a little bit differently from other teams, much more so from teams in their region.

Either way, regardless of what happens, be on the lookout for Team Serenity at TI8.

The International 2018: Schedule

Group Stage (August 15 to August 18, 2018)

Main Event (August 20 to August 25, 2018)

**We will update this section as soon as the information is made available to us. 

What kind of surprises do you think will be in store for us this August? Which Dota 2 team do you think will win The International 2018?  Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.

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