After covering the South-East Asian and the Americas regions, it is time to take a look at Europe, CIS and China. This year is the first year that CIS (and South-America) receive a direct qualification spot, which is why the European qualifier was a bit underwhelming on paper. A lot of the teams weren't as established as a lot of names and orgs were now forced into the CIS qualifier. Both regions still delivered exciting games and match-ups, most notably the 140 minutes long game between Empire and Vega Squadron. Europe was also the region with the qualifier's biggest upset as Planet Dog (now HellRaisers) managed to qualify.
In the east, China had three spots for teams to fight over. All eyes were on the likes of EHOME or Vici Gaming to perform as veterans such as Hao or ChuaN stepped back onto the plate or as former Wings Gaming members looked to defend their title. Unfortunately though, no Ti6 champion will be able to defend their title, but China may have a title contestant among their qualifier winners with strong performances from the likes of LGD.
LGD.Forever Young was first founded as a team led by veteran xiao8 and within months the team qualified for the Boston Major and defeated it’s sister team LGD. Since xiao8’s retirement and Yao’s move to LGD though, LFY has not looked like a team capable of competing at such levels anymore--until they acquired ddc and ah fu.
Prior to playing for LFY, both ddc and ah fu have both struggled to stay at the top as well. Ah fu and WG.Unity have been virtually invisible and irrelevant since the Boston Major, and ddc’s and Vici Gaming’s most notable performance was a last place finish at TI6.
Together with LFY’s band of misfits, inflame who’s never had any success, Super who hasn’t had success since 2015 and youngster Monet, ddc and ah fu rose back to the top. The duo brings a lot of experience and expertise with them, ddc has qualified for 5 TIs in a row now and ah fu was a vital part in WG.Unity’s success in the fall of last year.
LFY shines as a team with its strategies and drafts. Night Stalker has by far been the most banned hero (31x) against LFY as ah fu’s map control and roaming has proven to be so devastating that it set a region wide trend. Their drafts tend to be on point with strategic picks such as Zeus or Elder Titan in their arsenal.
Following the conclusion of TI6, LGD underwent massive changes as Maybe built an entirely new squad around him. With former CDEC.Youth players, Maybe looked to build a new and competitive team and all signs pointed towards success as LGD headed into the Boston Major as one of the strongest contenders. At the event however, LGD lost to its sister team LFY and it took them until just a few weeks ago to properly recover. Under Yao’s guidance and with the assistance of former EHOME offlaner eleven, LGD has been much more consistent.
LGD benefits greatly from its sister team LFY with similar drafts and strategies. Unlike LFY and many other teams though, LGD has an individual prowess in the form of Maybe that can secure them a win on any given day. Eleven adds a much needed consistency to their line-up, as he rarely loses his lane and doesn't need much support, allowing LGD to focus on Maybe's lane and more often than not he pays his team back in the late game.
Yes, LGD is very reliant on Maybe to succeed, but they have all the tools necessary to do so at the moment and they are a scary opponent for any team to face.
IG.V has been infamously known to be LAN “chokers”, i.e. they perform well enough online to qualify for events, but once it comes to the LAN portion, the team falls apart. It didn’t help that their Boston Major qualification was overshadowed by visa issues, forcing them to play with 2 stand-ins.
Since then, iG.V has been to 4 LAN events and while they did win WCA 2016, they’ve played significantly worse at the other three. As much as iG.V can be described as LAN chokers, they are also qualifier kings Despite being relatively unknown and new, iG.V has a lot of experience within their ranks with super and inJuly, both of wbhich have been in the scene for years and have played in various different teams. The star player of the team, paparazi, won the 1v1 tournament at DAC and while it may not properly reflect an actual 1v1 scenario in-game, it goes to show that he is a very capable and skilled player, despite largely playing carry for iG.V.
The team relies on dogfights to be the playmaker from the 4 position, with injuly often prioritizing teamfighting utility cores. Depending on the hero and match-up, Paparazi will take on the midlane, leaving Sakata as the carry. This often leads to very dynamic lanes and roles and especially works into their favor in the drafting stage.
Going into the Ti7 qualifiers, Team Secret was a contender for a direct invite and had they won The Summit 7 against Virtus.pro, the European and South-East Asian mix might’ve gotten one as well. It surprised no one that the team around veteran Puppey dominated the European qualifiers, but them losing to Virtus.pro at The Summit 7 and a rather poor performance at the recent DreamLeague Season 7 finals leaves the question: how good is Team Secret really?
The team has consistently proven to be the #3 team in Europe, but when it mattered, Secret has consistently been underwhelming. Both in Kiev and at Epicenter, Secret has played a fantastic group stage but once the playoffs arrived the team crumbled, at Manila Masters they didn’t even win a single series.
Going into TI, Secret looks to be a top 8 contender with lots of potential for more, but how much more is difficult to predict. They have one of the best midlaners in the world among them, MIdOne who was the 2nd player worldwide to reach 10k MMR. With Puppey, they have one of the best captains in the world and YapzOr has proven consistently that he too belongs into the top tier of 4 position supports.
Secret can play a variety of strategies and often employ some push intensive ones. More often than not, Seret will focus on one core as a carry and the other two tend to provide utility, initiation and/or push.
After two attempts with star studded line-ups, Secret and Puppey look to approach things differently on their third try. With new-ish players such as Khezu, YapzOr and even MidOne who’s technically not been around for much longer than 2 years either, Secret is far from being an all-star team, but that might just work in their favor.
Planet Dog was the biggest upset story of the TI7 qualifiers, as the open qualifier team took down the established brass in Europe. Europe's 2nd spot was regarded to be designated to Mousesports and if anything, most people expected the likes of Danish Bears to contest them, but Planet Dog, who had made a roster change just two weeks prior, took the 2nd spot quite convincingly.
The most surprising thing about this team is that they aren't new players in the scene at all. Apart from Swiftending, everyone has played in the tier2 scene for years and even Swiftending himself has been around for two years at this point. Neither of these players has ever stood out significantly. Swiftending made a bit of a splash with 4C&L, but was never able to live up to expectations afterwards. J4 looked promising with Power Rangers for a while, but the team never broke into the top tier. Together however, all of these players have shown that they are capable of keeping up with some of Europe's best, though the question is whether this will be sufficient for international competition.
A severe lack of experience makes HellRaisers the biggest underdog at the event and all odds will likely be stacked against them. There's no track record for this team and especially when the tournament heads towards the main stage where teams will play in front of a crowd, the pressure may get the better of the team.
HellRaisers tend to put Keyser on an explosive mid and have Swiftending play self-sustainable cores that don't need a lot of attention from the supports. Thus, their supports can focus on controlling the other two lanes, especially the midlane. More often than not, they'll ensure a smooth laning stage for Keyser to transition into a strong midgame that often further buys space for Swiftending to split push.
Ever since Resolut1on chose to leave the organization, Team Empire has struggled to field a competitive roster or even find a reliable player to build a team around. Following their disappointing TI5 result, Team Empire has had 16 different players represent them. The current roster stuck and it proved to be valuable acquisition as they qualified for DAC, The Summit 7 and now The International.
Team Empire has consistently stood out as a team that likes to play its own style, even in the face of adversity. At DAC, when they were the arguably lowest rated team going into the event, they stuck to their guns and picks like Troll Warlord or Magnus, two heroes they helped establish as top picks. Since then, the meta has changed, but Empire's approach isn't all too different. They continue to emphasize their mid and carry players with often teamfight heavy line-ups that often rely on the cores for the lockdown, especially when they draft an Ancient Apparition.
None of Empire's players have any notable experience or results to show for, a very different situation than the Empire of TI5 was in, which had decorated players among their ranks. No, this iteration of the CIS org is not a star-studded line-up, but, personalities and pub conduct aside, they have the skills to be one. Fn and Chappie are two of CIS' most skilled individuals and Miposhka is an excellent 4 position support. This tournament could elevate them to the next level, but they need better performances than what they showed at either DAC or Summit to do so. LAN experience is invaluable and having played against Chinese teams before should work into Empire's favor going forward, as CIS teams traditionally do well against Chinese teams. But can the team hold up against the pressure of the main stage? Time will tell.