Team Profiles: Cloud 9, Fnatic, IG
Being a Cloud 9 fan can be a torturous task. In one game they can seem like the best team in the world, and in the next game they get stomped by Alliance in an 18-0 defeat. One day they pioneer pocket strategies such as Visage+Drow and Phantom Assassin mid, and the next day they draft a support Tinker. Believe it not, there was a time where PieLieDie was praised as an excellent and innovative drafter and Bone7 was lauded for his eccentric and effective builds such as Mask of Madness on Batrider and Hand of Midas on Dark Seer. We all want to beliEEve. Can they repeat their magical run from Day 2 MLG Columbus?
Our stats are incomplete for Cloud 9's matches, since part of their games were played under a different team name.
Cloud 9's players have more signature heroes than any other team. That is not to say their hero pool is limited, but that their players excel with these heroes that work in tandem with their draft strategy. A few examples are: SingSing and Mirana, Envy and Morphling, Bone7 and Batrider, Aui_2000 and Visage, and Pieliedie and Wisp. These picks are well within their comfort zone.
However, Cloud 9 is known for their eccentric drafts, which at times seem far from their comfort zone. EternalEnvy has said that he has one of the largest hero pools as a carry, which is a statement that may have some merit. He has played traditional farming carries such as Faceless Void, Morphling, Luna, Shadowfiend, Wraith King, Doom, but we have also seen him in more dynamic roles as Tinker and Clinkz. At this point, what is their team's identity?
Cloud 9 may be one of the most flexible and adaptable teams in the tournament. This may turn out to be a strength in the crucible of TI4's group stage, and we only have a few more days to find out.
How do you lose rares? Bet on Cloud 9 in the finals of a tournament. The expectations and fandom for Cloud 9 may be so high that we may have all missed the success they have had. I even mistakenly tweeted that they lost 12 out of their last 15 games. Our page is missing games that were recorded under a different Cloud 9 team.
However, Cloud 9's recent performance is far from disappointing: 2nd place at DreamLeague, 2nd place at Dreamhack Bucharest, 2nd place at D2CL. Not many teams can claim consistent finishes in the top 2. And what if they get 2nd place at The International? 1.4 million dollars is nothing to scoff at.
Though Fnatic has undergone some turmoil lately about the stability of its roster, it's nice to see them return to their original lineup with Era. It will be uncertain what will come out of the old Fnatic, because they've been playing with their standin, Xcalibur, for the past few months. They've adapted their strategies around his Meepo and Tinker, and we're excited to see how they will adapt with Era.
With Xcalibur, Fnatic threatened teams with his Meepo and Tinker. Some teams played around it, and others just banned them in the first phase, which pushed Fnatic back to their old comfort zone: Tiny and Wisp. During ESL One, VG opted to ban Meepo/Tinker and let Wisp through in the series. After the match, NoTail in an interview was fairly confident that they wouldn't ever get Wisp again. We're excited to see whether Fnatic will turn back time with Era, or adapt what they've learned with Xcalibur.
Even though Fnatic posted a 43% win rate in 6.81b, they've put up impressive performances, namely Fly going 18-4 on a Skywrath Mage and Xcalibur's Meepo farming 1170 XPM. In the past month alone, they've bested Chinese teams such as VG and DK at The Summit, placed 2nd at D2CL, and a humble 3-4th place at ESL One, netting one of their largest prize wins this year at ~20k. Regardless of where they place at TI4, they will most definitely put on a show.
By far IG is the favorite to win TI4, after their dominating performance at ESL One. IG has always been a dynamic team, against the grain of what people may think the Chinese meta is. For those who don't follow IG, at ESL One we all got to see a support Kunkka, a mid QoP (sometimes referred to as the worst hero in the meta), and the return of Ember Spirit. Next to Na`Vi, they hold one of the most stable rosters in Dota. After some shuffling, they maintain 4 out of the 5 members of the team that won TI2.
EG.ppd, the drafter and captain of Evil Geniuses, once said that Mirana in the support role is a bad pick, in cruder words. Eventually, he picked it for himself. IG.Faith, however, picked support Mirana before it was cool. It is IG's most popular hero not only in 6.81b, but in the past 6 months. And lately, they've put up a 91.67% win rate with the hero, who is usually played by Chuan in the support role.
IG also values Invoker and Ember Spirit, usually played by Luo and Ferrari, respectively. They rode their Searing Chains + Sunstrike combo throughout ESL One until teams started respect banning. Even with what we thought were significant nerfs to Ember Spirit, his long range initiation is a perfect fit for IG's team synergy. And in the hands of Ferrari, Ember Spirit is still a force.
It's interesting that until their 1st place finishes at WPC and ESL One, IG had gone under the radar as a threat. Even with a lackluster performance at Starladder, they are nonetheless former champions, and they will be entering TI4 with nearly the same roster the past two years. Luo has picked up his play since Starladder, and we expect his safe lane Quas/Exort Invoker will still be a force. Ferrari_430 is also still one of the most intimidating mid players, and we're looking forward to see more of his Ember Spirit, if teams dare to let it through the draft.
Correction: Originally we stated Xcalibur had 1170 GPM. This number was instead for his XPM.