For Dota pros, the stakes were either The International or nothing. This was the case, at least, for the past five years, where every tournament, every lan event, was in preparation for The International, whose prize pool and prestige eclipsed all other yearly achievements. Teams shuffled their rosters to prepare for TI, and post-TI, they shuffled again to prepare for next year’s event. Now, with Valve implementing a Major series—an additional three tournaments per year—teams will now have to maintain a more stable and consistent roster. This may be the last great shuffle the Dota scene will see.
Some of these teams have yet to play a game and most haven't played enough to establish whether or not they will be a contender this year. It won't be until the next LAN that we will develop a better idea of where the rankings lie.
Defending TI champions have routinely posted poor performances in their following years, with the exception of Na`Vi during the first two tournaments. Previous champions have rested on their laurels, such as Newbee, or failed to adapt to next patch’s meta. Evil Geniuses, however, may buck that trend. For the past three years they’ve consistently been at the top of the Dota scene—culminating into their TI championship this year. With the return of the prodigal son, Arteezy, EG will be the favorites for the near future. Though their prior internal issues led to Arteezy’s departure, his return indicates that those issues are long past. The only question remains is how well Fear will function as EG’s position 4 support.
Team Fire may be the only NA team that has proven themselves so far, by qualifying for ESL One NY. On that road, they took down Complexity Gaming, Digital Chaos, and Root-Gaming, all in convincing fashion. Captained by veteran Fluffnstuff, they’ve been unafraid to go with unconventional picks, such as Slardar in the offlane. Through BTS Americas and ESL One, Team Fire is currently on a seven game winning streak. They may not have been the team fans have expected to come out at the top, but they’re certainly in the spotlight now.
Cloud 9 has adopted a completely new roster, captained by former Secret coach, 1437. They kicked off to a honeymoon start, winning their first nine tournament games through the Nanyang Championship and ESL One qualifiers. In the process they defeated Digital Chaos, a formidable new Western team, five times in a row in the Nanyang Championships, before getting eliminated by DC in ESL One NY’s qualifiers. In their recent performances, Ritsu has stood out as their star performer, especially on his Phantom Lancer. In a recent game against Cloud 9, he made a late game call to sell his Butterfly and Basher for MKB and Satanic. Both were correct decisions, but it’s rare to see carries make snap decisions in elimination games. They're still a young team, witch much room to grow before the next Major.
Yawar and Biryu may be newcomers to the scene, but they’re counter balanced with their fellow veterans TC, Bulba, and TI winner Aui_2000. Yawar in the mid role has shown the same kind of flashes of brilliance that we’re now accustomed to with his brother, Sumail from EG. Yawar is also aggressive, mechanically gifted, but he still has room to refine his decision making through the mid game. Bulba is back in the offlane, a role that he seems far more comfortable in than his previous stint as support on Team Tinker. Digital Chaos, however, have had a tough start amidst their grand expectations. They've lost in the ESL One NY qualifiers and the Nanyang Championship. Still, their roster has potential, and we'll have to wait until the next LAN before we can say they've been underperforming.
Arteezy, from Evil Geniuses, has said that any team with Puppey in it is a top two team. Though Team Secret finished placed 7th-8th at this year’s TI, they were considered the favorites to win TI for the large part of the year. Puppey is now the only remaining member of that team, but his leadership and drafting has offered stability and consistency in his past teams. It doesn’t seem far from the truth to say that any team with Puppey is a top tier contender. However, the rest of Team Secret is rounded out with top players. EternalEnvy, Misery, and PieLieDie were all at one time former teammates from Cloud 9. With the addition of w33haa, a skilled mid player who rose to popularity from Europe’s leaderboards, Team Secret has the potential to again be among the top Dota teams.
(monkey) Business reunites former Fnatic, former Team Secret, members BigDaddy and Fly. Longtime fans of Bigdaddy will be happy to see that he has returned to the mid role of his Heroes of Newerth days. By this time he will have rotated through all the positions in Dota 2, save for carry. With the addition of Miracle, an 8k MMR pubstar with high potential, and Moonmeander, Complexity's standout offlane player, (monkey) Business has a strong cache of core players. Cr1t and Miracle may be new to the professional scene, but they're rounded out by players with The International experience.
Virtus.Pro did not change their roster, but they deserve credit for doing so. They went on a dream run at TI5 when they placed 5-6th place, winning 1.2 million dollars and becoming the most successful Russian Dota team since Na`Vi three years ago. G finally got to talk to Kaci in a post game interview and Virtus.Pro won crucial games against Secret and Complexity off the back of their signature carry hero, Silencer. It’s a sign of their team chemistry that they can recover from their loss and decide to stick together. Everyone made mistakes, but they’ve decided they can work on it. Virtus.Pro can only get better from here.
The road to the top is open for any of these teams, especially with a new patch looming on the horizon. There are teams that have had honeymoon starts and others that have underperformed, but it will be their ability to adapt and learn that determines where they'll stand in the future.
Correction: Team Fire played Slardar in the offlane.