Winners and Losers of the Pre-TI8 Shuffle

It’s been more than a week since the end of the pre-TI8 shuffle, which has given us enough time to contemplate about all the things that happened in Dota 2 over the course of the past two months. No doubt, it was a fascinating shuffle. We saw some big names jumping ship from one region to another with mixed results. Meanwhile, the Chinese, as per the usual, started ramping things up ahead of the Chinese New Year.

Below are our picks for the winners and losers, as well as the key takeaways from what happened, and did not happen during the pre-TI8 shuffle.

Winners: Evil Geniuses

What do you do when you have one of the most talented, albeit underachieving, lineups in the world, headlined by some of the greediest cores ever to play the game? Well, you break it up and move arguably the best mid laner in all of Dota 2 to the offlane of course! Wait, what?

Even now, Evil Geniuses’ decision to kick Saahil ‘UNiVeRsE‘ Arora and move Syed Sumail ‘SumaiL‘ Hassan to the offlane is hard to wrap your head around. But, it seems to be working fine for them. Especially for the 19-year-old prodigy. Now free to exploit 1v1 matchups as he pleases, an opportunity now made hard to come by with the added emphasis to the middle lane, SumaiL has gone back to doing what he does best: owning matchups and making plays for the rest of Evil Geniuses.

Evil Geniuses also clearly needed another strong voice in the room, one that they’ve been missing since Peter ‘ppd‘ Dager took his talents to management post-TI6 and eventually to another team in OpTic Gaming post-TI7, hence why they brought over Rasmus ‘MISERY‘ Filipsen to captain the team during the pre-TI8 shuffle.

With the loud and animated MISERY to keep Evil Geniuses in line, Fear back to the sacrificial carry role that he arguably created and Sam ‘BuLba‘ Sosale back to coaching the team he coached to a TI in 2015, Evil Geniuses are rolling at just the right time.

Losers: compLexity Gaming

compLexity Gaming made no move whatsoever to address their roster that has clearly been underachieving. Or, if we were to put it bluntly, a roster that has long plateaued, with no signs of upside whatsoever. Though as harsh that may sound, compLexity Gaming are clearly not the Dota 2 team that many thought they were to start the season.

With Iceberg Esports and OpTic Gaming surging, as well as a slew of Dota 2 teams competing in the Regional Qualifiers such as isGG and Immortals, among others, compLexity Gaming needed to make a move. Yes, their chemistry is great, but friendship doesn’t always win championships. compLexity Gaming obviously needed a step up, especially from their cores. However, for whatever reason, they didn’t shake the roster up. This means that the North American organization still sees a future with their current squad. But, as an observer, you can’t help but feel like it’s only a matter of time before compLexity Gaming are left behind by the other obviously more talented Dota 2 squads in North America.

Winners: LGD Gaming

Pre-TI8 Shuffle

Image via Starladder

It takes guts to break up a squad that terrorized the Dota 2 scene prior to TI7 and had okayish results in the first few months after Dota 2’s biggest annual tournament. But, it was obvious that LGD Gaming needed a change. It may have taken a while for them to pull the trigger, but they did, and once they did so, they’ve performed well enough to give Newbee a run for their money as the best Dota 2 squad in all of China.

Since the formation of their latest roster, LGD Gaming have gone from fringe contenders to legitimate powerhouse. As proof, they’ve gone on to secure two Pro Circuit Major slots, placing 2nd at their first LAN together at the Starladder Minor, and placing no lower than 2nd place in the Regional Qualifiers they’ve attended so far. Admittedly, it’s a small sample size, as the team has only been together for a month. But hey, we’ve seen LGD Gaming come out of nowhere to surprise the rest of the world before, so it’s not far-fetched to say that they’ll do the same this time around.

With Xu ‘fy‘ Linsen back to the position 4 where he once made a name for himself and the rest of the roster synergizing well together, LGD Gaming have a chance to make a run at the Top 4 spot in the season leaderboards.

Losers: LGD.ForeverYoung

Pre-TI8 Shuffle

Image via Fnatic

LFY and LGD Gaming have both stumbled to start the season after looking like one of the heavy favourites to win TI7 for most of the months leading up to The International 7. But where LGD Gaming’s recent roster move gave them some much needed boost, LFY’s decision to let go of Leong ‘ddc‘ Fat-meng is iffy at best. Especially when they bought in Yao ‘Yao‘ Zhengzheng to replace him, a player that many Dota 2 fans, both in and out of China, have long criticized as being way out of his prime already.

Make no mistake, LFY are still one of the better Dota 2 teams in China. Khoo ‘Ohaiyo‘ Chong Xin seems to fit well with the rest of the team. However, better just won’t cut it. Not with VGJ.Thunder and LGD Gaming, as well as Keen Gaming and Eclipse, on the up and up.

Unless Valve decides to give 5 slots to China for TI8 — China usually receives 4, 2 via direct invite and another 2 via the Regional Qualifiers — LFY feels like a long shot to make it to Seattle given how badly they’re playing.

To Be Decided

The blockbuster trade of the pre-TI8 shuffle, it still feels too early to grade both Natus Vincere and Virtus Pro. The former have only played 4 games so far with their latest additions, while the latter will not be playing until their LAN debut at ESL One Katowice in late February.

The same goes for OpTic Gaming and Iceberg Esports. Though the caliber of talent on their respective lineups is undeniable, we can’t help but hold out on our opinion until they actually appear in a Pro Circuit tournament first. To that end, #thegreenwall will have a chance to prove themselves twice at ESL One Katowice 2018 and the Bucharest Major, before it’s Iceberg Esports’ turn at the GESC Indonesia Dota 2 Minor.

We’re also holding out our verdict for VGJ.Thunder just yet. While the ddc pickup was great, we’ve yet to see them appear in a Pro Circuit LAN with the Dota 2 veteran on the roster. We can predict already that they’re going to do good, but hey, we’ll never know. This is especially true since Regional Qualifiers aren’t exactly the same thing as the actual LAN finals themselves.

Final Thoughts on the Pre-TI8 Shuffle

It was tempting to put Fnatic in as losers here, but then again, it felt like just jumping on the hate train that Jacky ‘EternaLEnVy‘ Mao usually gets when his teams are suffering. They’ll have a chance to redeem themselves and their choice to let go of Ohaiyo in favour of UNiVeRsE at ESL One Katowice. If they fail to make a deep run again, then they’re facing a tough road ahead with Southeast Asia having only gotten stacked after the shuffle.

OG’s decision to stick together after a largely disappointing start to the season also warrants mention. If they were any other Dota 2 team, they would’ve definitely won the pre-TI8 shuffle just by not touching their roster. The collective talent and experience on that roster is just too good to not give a chance, even if it takes an entire season for them to mesh together. However, this is OG we are talking about, the once-untouchable European Dota 2 team that won 4 out of 5 of Valve’s Majors, which means the bar for their success is unfairly high.

If it’s any consolation, though, they’ve given themselves every bit of a chance to regain their previous form and standing among the elites by topping every Regional Qualifier they’ve played in.

Pre-TI8 Shuffle

Image via Valve

Ultimately, the clear winners here are us, the audience. With Dota 2 teams now rounding into midseason form and the competition in tournaments becoming even tighter, rest assured that the stretch run for TI8 will be one hell of a ride.

Which teams do you think won or lost the pre-TI8 shuffle? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.

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