ESI Gambling Report: Qualifiers set for The International 8

Regional Qualifiers gave way to ten teams that missed direct invites from a Pro Circuit point deficiency to join The International 8 lineup. How will these teams fair against the favourites?

Proceeding the conclusion of the China Supermajor, teams that missed the top eight slots of the Dota 2 Pro Circuit leaderboard were forced to skirmish through a treacherous regional qualifier; the pool pitted 384 teams against one another with the reward of a spot in the most prestigious Dota 2 tournament in the world, The International 8. The 18 participating in this year’s TI8 are now set in stone for the tournament to be held in August.

The International is the Dota 2 season finisher and the largest esports tournament in terms of prize money; drawing a share from Battle Pass sales the event is almost entirely crowdfunded and has a history of breaking the esports prize pool record year after year – last year’s $24.8m(£18.8m) brought a great deal of attention to esports in general and TI8 is on-route to hit $30m (heads up, you can bet on the prize pool amount too). The top finisher of TI8 receives a massive 44% of that figure and the title of Dota 2 World Champion. The International has a rich history of providing the most premiere gameplay that Dota has to offer and this year is shaping up to be more cutthroat than ever. With the coming finalization of TI8’s program, let’s leaf through the regional qualifiers and see how they might stack up against the favourites in this week’s ESI Gambling Report.

Europe

Nearly a week’s worth of fiery competition staged the ten competitors to be joining the Dota Pro Circuit leaders in a quest for the world champion inscription. Out of the European Qualifier, OG came barreling through the group stage in an unblemished performance only dropping two maps in playoffs in which proved to be the most dominating qualifier display. OG has chronicles of being a strong team and typically taste blood in the water if their opponents slip up at any time. In most cases this season, OG has struggled against more athletic squads, so although the reality of them hoisting the trophy at the end of TI8 seems ultimately unlikely, they should be an interesting team to watch and certainly capable of a couple upsets.

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South America

PaiN Gaming secured their place at TI8 by yet another hard-fought run making them the South American Qualifiers – the Brazilian bunch has continuously documented themselves as the best in their region and the SA Qualifiers were the etching on the stone. Speaking global Dota, PaiN Gaming is a worthy adversary here as well; just last month the squad outclassed the likes of Team Liquid, OG, Mineski, and Fnatic at ESL One Birmingham in a stormy run that had attendants and spectators with jaws on the floor. Whether this feat was an incredible stroke of luck or turn of leaf, the Brazilian squadron’s Grand Final appearance would still appear to be all but a pipedream. The team has shown quite a bit of resilience, however, we can see them possibly breaking out into the top-eight if they play their cards right.  

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North America

North America would see three qualifying teams through in this year’s TI8 – VGJ.Storm, Evil Geniuses and OpTic Gaming. Emerging from the blue, VGJ.Storm snatched the initial NA TI8 slot after a rocky start this year – this following a slew of roster changes which forced the organisation to rebuild from scratch, it seems they’ve found their configuration moving into The International. The acquisition of Roman ‘Resolut1on’ Fominok in April seemed to pencil a virtuous blueprint for VGJ.Storm as the addition shadowed a win at GESC: Thailand Dota2 Minor and a second placing at the MDL Changsha Major. The squad is actually favoured to win over their Chinese counterpart, VGJ.Thunder, who qualified via DPC points. Looking at potential clashes with other tournament favourites at TI8, it still seems almost supernatural for them to garner the Dota World Champion title, despite proving they can hang amidst the pro circuit giants.

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North American crowd favourites OpTic Gaming managed to clinch their ticket in qualifiers to Vancouver after a stinging result at the China Supermajor which addressed the direct invite to VGJ.Thunder instead. Under the praiseworthy direction of former EG captain, Peter ‘PPD’ Dager, OpTic has been able to string together some strong finishes this season – however,  they’ve encountered undeviating strife against Virtus.Pro, VGJ and Liquid. The North American troop is certainly a talented one though, currently, their odds to take TI8 are floating around a modest 20/1 – it’ll take some sharp vigour for them to overcome the acclaimed titans, but it’s not impossible.

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Evil Geniuses took a lofty leap of faith when they decided to release Rasmus ‘MiSeRy’ Filipsen and Clinton ‘Fear’ Loomis which in turn forfeited their DPC points and left them fighting for survival in the regional qualifiers. EG went on to enlist Tal “Fly” Aizik and Gustav “s4” Magnusson, a decision that left some loitering scepticism, especially with little-to-no time to find their shape within the new roster. The new cast debuted at the China Supermajor only a few days later with discouraging results – the last-minute changes to the former TI5 champion’s lineup made their TI8 prospect seem dreary. After the strife, the multicultural team that is EG was able to pick themselves up as they paraded through the qualifiers sweeping both CompLexity Gaming and Immortals sealing their TI8 spot. Evil Geniuses is an organisation with a rich history and considerable amount of blue blood in Dota – having stood on The International’s podium once before, their experience should prove to be beneficial in their TI8 conquest.

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CIS

Just one spot was up for grabs for teams playing in the CIS Regional Qualifiers – that priceless TI8 ticket was well-earned by Team Winstrike, formerly known as FlyToMoon. Winstrike is a team, that despite their brief lifespan, have already established themselves a threat in the Dota Pro Circuit. The Russian platoon showed sound prowess on their way to TI8 by defeating well-built teams such as ESPADA, Team Spirit and Team Empire. The squad made a weighty impression when they placed third at EPICENTER XL – an unexampled result in view of the talent pool at the Pro Circuit event. Before sinking to Liquid, former FlyToMoon bested the likes of PaiN Gaming, OG, CompLexity Gaming and most notably, Virtus.Pro. It’s hard to imagine a team this young could contest any of the favourites at this event for first; with so many big league upsets though, they’ve built a pretty strong case as to why you should believe they can. Currently, the spreads suggest Winstrike is a longshot to take first at TI8 and given they’ve never played on a stage of this caliber, it seems appropriate for bookmakers to set their odds at 60/1. In light of their recent results, we’d like to pin them as the dark horse at TI8 – although that may sound a bit far-fetched, in the least we’d consider them to be a heavy underdog.

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China

The Chinese are being well-represented at TI8 with six teams in the running for this year’s title of Dota World Champion. Four of those squads being direct invites and the other two breaking through the qualifiers – Team Serenity and Invictus Gaming. Serenity snagged the first qualifying spot and managed to trounce heavyweights LGD.Forever Young and Invictus not once, but twice on their way through the gauntlet. Maintaining this velocity, Serenity is poised to deal some heavy damage at the main event. As for Invictus, the team hit the ground running in group play before hitting a wall in the form of Serenity which forced a deciding match against favourites, LGD.Forever Young. While the match had a lot of excitement surrounding it, once things got underway Invictus made easy work of LFY and booked their trip to Vancouver. Besides victories against LFY, there wouldn’t appear to be any traces of a championship showing from either Serenity or Invictus – our guess is they’ll both hop on their return flights early.

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Southeast Asia

No surprises here, Fnatic and TNC Predator were the two squads emerging from the Southeast Asia Qualifiers. In the case of Fnatic, it was a long and hard-fought road in obtaining their TI8 invite – the squad wrestled with teams in the group stage and seemed to be far from their routine winning condition. As regional playoffs came around, Fnatic appeared to have reworked their program as they delivered retribution to the TNC organisation in two sweeps that punched their tickets to Vancouver. Fnatic is currently sitting in the middle of the table for most bookmakers, although shaky performances prior to the main event make us a bit weary in considering them capable of this feat.

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TNC Predator just barely clawed their way into TI8, in albeit, a pretty damn exciting fashion. Over the course of their qualifier journey, the group showed quite a bit of promise and brilliance that earned them street credit among the DPC. While we expected TNC to beat their sister team, TNC Tigers, the matches – which each spanned over a strenuous 40 minutes – showed an impressive amount of stamina from TNC requisite when competing in a tournament of TI8’s prestige. They already proved they could weather the top dogs in Dota with their performance at DAC – all things aside though, it seems TNC Predators are more likely to be prey at the world event rather than reach the Grand Final.

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The International 8 is yet again poised to be the most elite Dota competition; the depth of skill within the qualifying teams alone is enough to generate quite a bit of buzz. Teams will have just under two months to prepare for the main event and this crucial time may prove to be the decider in which of these teams come out of the pipeline, and which pack their bags early. We’ll also get to see Elon Musk’s OpenAI Five attempt to overthrow one of the squads at the event, as an added bonus. Being that The International is one of, if not the biggest, modern betting events in esports, we want to remind you to bet responsibly!