Stuchiu’s TI9 Power Ranks: Top 5 teams

Which teams are most likely to claim the biggest prize pool ever?

Dota 2's Icon Stephen Chiu · 9 Aug 2019

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Photo via Adela Sznajder for ESL

Chiu on This’ is a short and regular opinion blast


It is that time of year again, where esports fans across the world take a break from their regular main games to watch the extravaganza that is The International. This is the ninth TI, with the largest prize pool yet. Expect a more extensive guide for CS:GO esports fans in the near future, but here are my picks for the five best teams in the meantime.


5 - Evil Geniuses


Lineup:

Artour “Arteezy” Babaev

Sumail “Suma1L” Hassan

Gustav “s4” Magnusson

Andreas “Cr1t-” Nielsen

Tal “Fly” Aizik


EG have been consistent third place finishers through the 2018-2019 DPC. They got third at the Kuala Lumpur Major, the Chongqing Major, and the MDL Paris Major. In their most recent outing at EPICENTER, OG eliminated them in 13-16th . Outside of the DPC, they’ve had top placings with a second at ESL One Birmingham and MDL Macau. 


Overall, EG are a team that can compete with the best in the world. They have fairly solid drafting and all-star talent in every role, but they haven’t been able to clinch an actual trophy throughout the last year. It’s clear they lack an extra "something" to push them from consistent contenders into becoming actual champions. 


Additionally, The International is a pressure cooker that demands a level of composure or clutch these players have't delivered. The two most important factors going into TI for EG are Arteezy and Fly. Arteezy has been EG’s best player this year and they need him to continue delivering superstar performances. Fly needs to keep the team together both strategically and outside the game.


4 - Liquid


Lineup:

Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi

Aliwi “w33” Omar

Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov

Maroun “GH” Merhej

Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi


It’s an odd choice ranking Liquid above EG in these power rankings, as by every objective measure, EG have been the better team in the 2018-2019 DPC. However, there are a few reasons as to why they're this high. First, Liquid just changed their roster, kicking Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen for w33. Liquid’s potential for growth is naturally higher than EG, and after a week of play together, they made it to the finals of the EPICENTER Major, whereas OG eliminated EG in 13-16th place.


What ultimately clinched this spot was the eye test and their experience. When I watched Liquid play at EPICENTER, their inherent team play, which had made them the best in the world was still intact, even without MATUMBAMAN. They’ve also added a new style and flavor to their drafts and play style, which gives them a wildcard element going into TI9.


Also , I consider KuroKy to be one of the four greatest captains to ever play the game. Captains are often the most critical piece in a Dota2 team. Finally, four of the five players here have played and won a TI together so they shouldn’t be rattled by the pressure.


3 - ViCi Gaming


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Lineup:

Zhang “Paparazi” Chengjun

Zeng “Ori” Kiaoyang

Zhou “Yang” Haiyang

Pan “Fade” Yi

Ding “Dy” Cong


ViCi Gaming have won two of the Majors this year: DreamLeague 11 and EPICENTER. In addition to that, I think they have some of the best talent among the top teams. Paparazi, Ori, and Fade are all top 5 players in their respective roles. The addition of Bai “rOtk” Fan as coach has stabilized their drafting and made them the best Chinese team this year.


However, I have specific concerns about this team that stopped me from rating them higher. The first is the team is fairly young. While rOtk is experienced, he won’t be in the booth playing with them and keeping them focused mid-game. Paparazi and Ori have spent the last few years grinding through pressure issues at each step of their careers. Both were great online, but couldn’t deliver on LAN. They started to play well on LAN, but failed in the semifinals. They started to win LANs, but couldn’t deliver at the Majors. The International is the final step, and this year will be the first time where ViCi should believe they have a reasonable shot to win it, so the pressure is at an all-time high. As that’s the case, it’s hard for me to rank them higher than third.


2 - Virtus.Pro


Lineup:

Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev

Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko

Pavel “9pasha” Khvastunov

Valdimir “RodjER” Nikogosyan

Alexei “Solo” Berezin


The current Virtus.Pro lineup may arguably be the best lineup we’ve seen in the game's history. Man-for-man, they are probably the most skilled lineup in the world in terms of actualized firepower. Their aggressive, win-lane style has continued to impress me, and this is a squad that can go deep or even win tournaments when they aren’t trying.


The biggest problem with Virtus.Pro is they can play below their standard at The International. At TI7, they choked in the semifinals against LFY, but played a great elimination game against Liquid. At TI8, they were well below their dominant forms. Virtus.Pro is a brilliant team in the draft, skill, and team play, but they lack the X-factor they need to make them perform just as well at TIs.


1 - Secret


Lineup:

Michal “Nisha” Jankowski

Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng

Ludwig “zai” Wahlberg

Tazied “YapzOr” Jaradat

Clement “Puppey” Ivanov


Secret are the best team in the world and the most dominant team of the 2018-2019 DPC. They have every tool a team could possibly hope for. They have great players in every role. Zai and YapzOr are versatile enough to sometimes switch roles based on the draft. Their large hero pool can be exploited by Puppey’s brilliant drafting. The only concern is how well the team can deal under the pressure. In that sense, the three players to watch out for are the younger stars: Nisha, MidOne, and YapzOr. 


Nisha and YapzOr haven’t been on a TI contention team before. Neither has MidOne, but he had a brilliant run with Fnatic back at TI6. As for zai, he’s been the best offlaner in the world, and while he’s never won a TI, he’s consistently played equally or better every time TI came around. As for Puppey, he’s one of the greatest captains in Dota2 history like KuroKy.

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