OG, Team Liquid, Evil Geniuses and Virtus Pro may be the big names battling for pride, fame and glory at TI this year, but they’ll also be joined by a number of underdog Dota 2 teams who each have a puncher’s chance of pulling off an upset and making an incredible run.
Much like last year when Wings Gaming won TI6, with Digital Chaos finishing in 2nd place, there could be quite a few surprises in store for us.
With that said, let’s take a look at the four teams that could pull off a couple of upsets and make a deep run at The International 7.
Underdog Dota 2 Teams – Digital Chaos
Talented teams take a while to mesh together, which may help explain why the current iteration of Digital Chaos hasn’t taken off yet.
The team’s talent is obvious on paper, but, the team’s performance has been middling so far and their most note worthy achievements have been a 9th-16th place finish at The Kiev Majors and a 5th-6th place finish at both the ZOTAC Cup Masters and The Summit 7.
Not the worst, but the team could certainly do better; their tendency to pull off jaw-dropping sequences only to follow it up with a head scratching play likely has a lot to do with their lacklustre performance.
Sure, the team can get away with such mistakes every now and then. That’s just how talented they are. Plus, it certainly helps that teams enter every match up against them essentially with a handicap as they’re forced to ban Meepo outright because of Abed ‘Abed’ Azel Yusop, the world’s first 10K MMR player, and his unbelievable prowess on the hero.
Then again, talent can only take you so far, especially when you’re up against the best teams in the world.
Hopefully, Digital Chaos have been working hard at boot camp to iron out such issues because all bets are off if the team can find any semblance of consistency.
Underdog Dota 2 Teams – LGD.Forever Young
For a roster that’s only been together for three months, they certainly don’t look like it, as LGD Gaming’s other squad have made the most out of every opportunity.
At EPICENTER 2017, LFY raced out to take the lead in the group stages before stumbling at the hands of the back-to-back champions, Team Liquid, in the semi finals to finish in 3rd-4th place.
Then, nearly three weeks later, they took down the likes of Vici Gaming and EHOME.Keen at the TI7 CN qualifier playoffs to secure their slot at TI.
Lastly, they performed exceptionally well at the Mars Dota 2 League 2017 earlier this month, dropping the TI-invitees, Newbee, and their organisation’s main squad, LGD Gaming, to the lower brackets, before going on to lose their rematch against LGD Gaming in a hard-fought BO5 series in the Grand Finals that went the distance.
— LGD-Gaming (@LGDgaming) July 4, 2017
So, if LGD Gaming took home MDL 2017, why give the spot to LFY?
While there’s certainly a case to be made for LGD Gaming, LFY simply features a more well-rounded roster with the right mix of experience and fresh talent.
There’s 17-year-old Du ‘Monet’ Peng who just attended his first international LAN at EPICENTER 2017 over a month ago and then there’s Leong ‘ddc’ Fat-meng, a veteran of the scene who has competed at every TI so far.
Xie ‘Super’ Junhao is no slouch either, finishing below 4th place at TI just once while playing for Team DK and Vici Gaming from TI2 to TI5.
With both seasoned veterans and fresh talent on their roster, teams will be wise not to underestimate LGD Gaming’s sister squad.
Underdog Dota 2 Teams – Fnatic
After a disastrous few months post-TI6, Fnatic have used the past few months to quietly build what has to be one of the most stacked rosters the SEA region has ever seen.
Chong ‘Ohaiyo’ Xin Khoo and former MVP.Phoenix player, Kim ‘QO’ Seon-yeop, whose name literally means “don’t back”, make for one of the more aggressive and relentless core tandems around, with a newcomer, Lai ‘Ahjit’ Jay Son, stabilising their aggression.
Tasked with keeping their core players alive are Kim ‘Febby’ Yong-min, another former MVP.Phoenix player, and Djardel ‘DJ’ Jicko B. Mampusti, who returns to the team as its new captain after playing for Execration for much of post-TI6.
Fnatic placed 3rd-4th in their first LAN at the ZOTAC Cup Masters, which was rather impressive given their lack of playing time together.
Then, once the TI7 SEA qualifiers started, Fnatic was in much better shape and weren’t afraid to get cheeky with plays like this one:
With four players who are no strangers to making deep runs at The International, this is a team built to be a dark horse – they might even make it further than their more heralded neighbours, TNC Pro Team.
Underdog Dota 2 Teams – Cloud9
Speaking of teams built to be a dark horse, Cloud9, formerly known as Team NP until around a week ago, has the words “dark horse contenders” written all over it.
Lest we forget, this is essentially the same squad that became fan favourites for their innovative play style back in 2014 and were notorious for finishing tournaments in 2nd-place.
Of course, while the current squad remains relatively the same – Arif ‘MSS’ Anwar is the lone exception, although he did play for Cloud9 after the TI4 squad all went their separate ways – each of the four original members are different in that they’ve gone on to play for other organisations since.
Kurtis ‘Aui_2000’ Ling went on to win a TI with Evil Geniuses in 2015; Johan ‘pieliedie’ Åströmp spent nearly two years with Team Secret; Adrian ‘FATA-‘ Trinks brought the 2nd-place curse with him to Team Liquid; Jacky ‘EternaLEnVy’ Mao became a controversial figure after a stint with Team Secret before eventually leaving to create Team NP.
With that said, it’s safe to say that each player has grown a lot and now, Cloud9 heads into The International 7, having shown great chemistry and potential, earning high place finishes at the ZOTAC Cup Masters (2nd), The Manila Masters (3rd) and The Summit 7 (4th) in their short time together.
Cloud9 generally looked good at the TI7 NA qualifiers and while their communication is not yet on the same level of Evil Geniuses and OG, it’s not exactly far-fetched to expect them to have improved to nearly the same level after spending the past few weeks boot camping for TI7.
Here’s to hoping that the 2nd-place curse is real, because what will likely be a $4 million cheque for the TI7 runner-ups isn’t exactly half-bad.
Who Will Make It The Farthest At TI7?
The safest bet will be Cloud9 reaching the finals among the four. Cloud9 has a TI winner in Aui_2000 who could help rally the team in times of pressure and they’ve also been somewhat consistent. However, their draft is rather predictable and their play style doesn’t exactly fit well with the current meta.
Meanwhile, LFY’s and Digital Chaos’ play styles are a good fit, albeit in different ways. The former favours a death ball-esque play style with a heavy focus on 5-man Dota, whereas the latter makes use of DuBu’s and BuLba’s penchant for aggressive initiations, as well as Mason’s aggressive playstyle, to pick off enemy heroes and allow Abed to basically take over the map.
Then we have Fnatic, whose hyper aggressive play style make other team’s aggression look tame. Their fluidity as a team is a nightmare for opposing teams to draft against, which is only made worse by the fact that there’s little recent information available on them.
It will be interesting to see how the top Dota 2 teams at Seattle will handle Fnatic, if whether they’ll find a way to stand their ground or if Fnatic’s frenetic play style will throw them off their game.
Betting: Fnatic in the Grand Finals with a chance to win it all if QO goes ham. LFY top 4. Cloud 9 and Digital Chaos top 8.
Who do you think will make it the furthest at The International 7 among our underdog picks? Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below!