Now we’re over one week into August, the reality of The International 8’s arrival is starting to sink in; from the players to the fans, everyone is starting to feel the change in cabin pressure as the Dota 2 tournament closes in on August 15th.
After finalising a long-winded regional qualifier pitting nearly 400 teams against one another, those 18 teams teams participating in this year’s TI8 are gearing up for perhaps their toughest challenge yet. To add some unneeded fuel to the fire, the TI8’s prize pool is currently sitting at $23.81m (at the time of writing) and poised to outshine last year’s record breaking cash purse of $24.78m over the next 15 days once crowdfunding closes. Every year, The International seems to outdo the previous, not just in prize winnings, but in competition as well – this year’s player pool is frighteningly talented.
We’re taking a detailed look at the favourites in this week’s ESI Gambling Report powered by Thunderpick.
On the books, Virtus.Pro is the team pegged to win The International 8 and it’s hard to make an argument against that; after dominating the Pro Circuit and picking up a handful of title finishes this season, the Russians are the team to beat at this event. Following an aesthetically questionable team color alteration, the organisation is so confident in this current roster that they just extended each player’s contracts through next calendar year.
“Virtus.Pro’s versatility comes in the form of their depth and leadership powered by Alexei “Solo” Berezin”
Virtus.Pro’s versatility comes in the form of their depth and leadership powered by Alexei “Solo” Berezin. For a long time, the CIS region had failed to take a TI title since Na’Vi’s win in 2011 – Solo attributed the CIS International drought to a lack of leadership in an interview with Cybersport, which he has since seemed to fill that role. Coupling Solo’s guidance within the team, Ivan “Artstyle” Antonov had stepped in halfway through 2017 to coach Virtus.Pro; the former TI1 champion is said to have assumed a role within the squad resembling a “sixth player”. The team’s backstory tells us a lot about their prospect at The International 8 – looming in Na’Vi’s shadows as the CIS’s new powerhouse and opportune moment to cement a new era in Dota 2, all eyes are on them to win. Factoring in Artstyle’s position as a coach with his experience and the same blueblood that carried Na’Vi to a TI1 championship, a winning outcome would make Virtus.Pro’s TI8 conquest a true cinderella story.
“The only two things standing in the way of the Russian vanguard on their quest to the winner’s podium would be Team Liquid and PSG.LGD”
The only two things standing in the way of the Russian vanguard on their quest to the winner’s podium would be Team Liquid and PSG.LGD. As of the last six months, Liquid and PSG.LGD were primarily the only two able to show that Virtus.Pro could bleed in competitive play – being eliminated at both the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2018 and the China Supermajor. This is of course discounting then FlyToMoon’s unthinkable upset at EPICENTER XL where Virtus.Pro’s CIS counterpart vanquished them in commanding fashion. The team has all the tools necessary to take TI8 and bookmakers are indicating them rightfully as such; with Virtus.Pro’s depth, experience and consistency they should go deep in this tournament if not win it all.
As The International’s defending champions, Team Liquid has a chance at making history in being the first team to secure back-to-back title finishes in the prestigious tournament. Despite not racking up first place finishes in 2018 quite like they did impressively last year, Liquid still remains one of the most feared teams in competitive Dota.
Collectively, the high skill level inclusive of Liquid’s lineup is dispersed evenly among their roster with each player demonstrating a deep understanding of the game. One of the team’s best traits is their ability to harness power spikes in the match and use it to open up some space in the match; Liquid has a tendency to suddenly shift a game in their favor with these tactics leading to some thrilling matches and probably a bit of underarm perspiration from their fans.
The period between Liquid’s International win and now has been rickety – having carried their momentum after TI7 with a slew of title finishes they lost quite a bit of steam towards the end of the season. A stunning 7-9th result at ESL One Birmingham 2018 showed Liquid a premature exit handed out to them by PaiN Gaming leaving many perplexed regarding the team’s TI8 prospect.
Liquid answered roughly two weeks later by coming out on top of a stacked lineup at the China Supermajor where they conquered Virtus.Pro in the finals closing out the regular Pro Circuit season on a high note. Liquid had demonstrated they can both win and lose to top teams – they’re far from immortal at the moment, but they certainly have the dexterity to go all the way at this event if they play their cards right. The team isn’t as armored to deal with faultless gameplay from opposition as Virtus.Pro and PSG.LGD are as we’ve watched the titans fall a number of times to units we all anticipated them to mop the floor with.
If Liquid has approached this training intermission between the Dota Supermajor and The International with a dyed-in-the-wool stance of them needing to be better variations of themselves to win TI8, they might be able to achieve it and make history.
PSG.LGD is outwardly China’s best hope at bringing back The International title to the country since TI6. The team has always been in the upper percentile of the Pro Circuit but it wasn’t until this season where PSG.LGD began establishing themselves as a final boss in this arena.
Failing to qualify for the first two Majors of the season shattered whatever promise the squad had – It wasn’t until January when the team started to show signs of life. Following acquisition of Yang ‘Chalice’ Shenyi and Yap Jian ‘xNova’ Wei things started to look up for the Chinese outfit. After settling into this new composition, PSG.LGD showed a steady ascent in tournament placings; first contesting Liquid in the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 4 for runner-up and then clinching a win at EPICENTER XL.
The regular season finished for PSG.LGD with a 3rd place finish at the Dota Supermajor were they were eliminated by rivals Liquid and Virtus.Pro – not the result they were hoping for, but a valiant effort nonetheless as they furthered credited their belonging by challenging the best of the best on a large stage. All in all, PSG.LGD has a real shot at the TI8 title – they’ve quickly established themselves as a threat here and able to topple other top-tier teams when in good form. The team is comprised of players that are hungry to win and have been evolving with each passing day; we all watched them steadily rise through the rankings and fashion winning results into a customary outcome.
“With their track record of upstaging other giants such as Liquid, Virtus.Pro, Mineski, Newbee and Team Secret, they certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly on the grand stage”
Minus the lack in experience, PSG.LGD is a team to look out for at TI8; success is like blood in the water for them and if they can get the ball rolling early at this event we’re betting they can parlay that enthusiasm into a top-placement. Ultimately, the team is so eager to perform well and win major events that we’d pin them as the most bloodthirsty team in the TI8 lineup as of this moment – with their track record of upstaging other giants such as Liquid, Virtus.Pro, Mineski, Newbee and Team Secret, they certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly on the grand stage.
Our tensions are building up just writing about these teams and looking at what they’ve accomplished this year; seeing one these three raising the trophy at the conclusion of TI8 is a likely scenario – but you can never be too sure. Everything aside, The International 8 has arguably the most skillful cast of teams in the tournament’s long and rich history – so regardless of who you’re putting your money on, you’ll be in for a wild ride as this event plays out. If you do decide to bet on any of the matches at The International 8, Esports Insider reminds you to bet responsibly!