This year we'll see our first Latin American team, Unknown, at a Valve sponsored event. Evil Geniuses, TI5 champions, have been in hibernation for nearly a month, after a second place finish at MLG World's. The SEA region did not receive any invites, but two teams in Fnatic and Mineski have shown flashes that they're able to contend with the rest. And Cloud 9, familiar organization with new faces, will be fortunate if they can continue their second place curse at The Frankfurt Majors.
Mineski as an organization has had a hand in Dota since the first International. They’re the Na`Vi of the Philippines. At TI5, there was a glimpse of a potential uprising of Korean talent to take over SEA, but Mineski and Fnatic have since put an end to that. Mineski took down MVP.Phoenix, the 7-8th Korean finisher at TI5, twice in qualifiers: first in the Nanyang Championship qualifiers, then eliminating them in a tiebreaker match in the Frankfurt Major qualifiers.
Mineski’s three top heroes for patch 6.85 are Ember Spirit, Dazzle, and Winter Wyvern, with an impressive 76+% win rate across 16 or more matches. One recent trend is that they’ve been picking Windranger (80% win rate across 10 matches) and it’s no surprise: Kuku is a beast with the hero. He had a showcase performance in game 2 against Fnatic in The Summit Qualifiers, with one instance shackling two wolves to save a teammate.
If there is a glaring weakness for Mineski, it will be the same kind of criticism lobbed at teams within less competitive regions such as SEA and South America. The SEA Dota region suffers from ping issues connecting to different countries as well as the lack of quality teams to practice with. It’s a long way from the level of competition that occurs in Europe/CIS tournaments, where high skill scrimmages and LAN matches push every team to their limits. Mineski can snowball an early lead to a win, but in a contested start, they often seems aimless through the mid stages of the game, not knowing which objectives to prioritize. During the Nanyang championship, the team waffled on defending a split pushing Alchemist. They lost two lanes of raxes before finally committing to a fight.
To their credit, this current roster did gain recent international LAN experience at the Nanyang championships, where they went 1-7, but did manage to grab that single win off CDEC, the 2nd place TI5 finishers. The Frankfurt Major will be another valuable experience for Mineski, and it will be up to them on how quickly they learn.
Here’s a summary of Mushi’s finishes for TI: 7-8th at TI2 with EHOME, 3rd at TI3 with Orange, and 4th at TI4 with DK. After the Chinese roster shuffle, Mushi started his own Malaysian team, later adopted by Fnatic, and finished 13-16th place at TI5. It’s been a long recited mantra that any team with Mushi is a top SEA team, but that will temporarily have to take a back seat with Fnatic’s recent loss to Mineski in a best of 5 in The Summit 4 qualifiers.
Since TI5 Fnatic has replaced three of its members with Black, DJ, and former Team Malaysia and Orange member, Net. Black brings with him a world of experience from playing in China with Vici Gaming. Mushi also had a stint in China, with DK at TI4. There’s also nearly half a decade of TI experience with Ohaiyo and Net. Despite being a SEA team, this Fnatic roster is filled with vets and players who have competed at the highest level of international LANs. It’s the kind of pedigree that may give Fnatic an edge when it comes to the challenges that a team from a less competitive region might experience: adapting to the tournament meta and snap decision making.
Going into Frankfurt, much of the pressure of Fnatic’s success or failures will fall on Mushi and Black. Mushi has been the leader and captain of the team, and it’ll be his responsibility to dictate in-game decisions and draft strategies. Black is coming in the tournament with something to prove. He’s had his own share of mistakes, including a preventable late game Anti-Mage death against Mineski. He will also be facing his old team, Vici Gaming.
Mushi and Black are two of the most beloved members of the community. Their signature heroes—Mushi with Shadow Fiend, Black with Anti-Mage—have inspired countless imitations. With Mushi out of the mid lane and Fnatic picking Anti-Mage once in 6.85, we may not see a throwback to those times. However, lately Fnatic has played with Invoker in their drafts (6 picks in 6.85, at a 83% win rate). Black played Invoker extensively with VG, and it would be a must see match if he uses the hero against his former team.
Cloud 9’s captain 1437 is among the oldest veterans of Dota 2. He has attended all five TI5s, the first four as a player and the most recent as the coach for Team Secret. Now, he’s at the helm of a new team, under the Cloud 9 banner, consisting of familiar NA figures and fresh faces. Brax was 1437's former teammate during their TI4 run with Na`VI.US. MSS joined North American Rejects after Na.VI dropped the team. And SVG and Ritsu were new to the professional scene, but they've made their mark. Cloud 9 kicked off to a honeymoon start, winning their first nine tournament games through the Nanyang Championship and ESL One qualifiers. Since then, Cloud 9 has been in a slump. They eventually were eliminated from ESL One NY qualifiers. They fell out of the group stage at MLG World Finals. Then recently, they were eliminated from Starladder 13 and The Summit qualifiers by Complexity. Now, Cloud 9 will be entering Frankfurt under an alleged scandal for revealing Digital Chaos’ drafts to other NA teams.
For Cloud 9, Ritsu has stood out as one of their top performers. Even though he is relatively new to the professional scene, he has a penchant for making correct late game decisions. In a Phantom Lancer game against Digital Chaos, he made a late game call to sell his Butterfly and Basher for MKB and Satanic. It’s rare to see new players make snap decisions in elimination games.
Cloud 9, even in their losses, often have an advantage in the early game, partly due to the focus of 1437's drafts and lane timings. In 6.85, Cloud 9 has drafted Ember Spirit, 73% win rate across 15 games, and Gyrocopter for Ritsu, where he has been able to net early kills on the opposing offlaner. It's everything that happens afterwards that's been the issue. Cloud 9's drafts have been greedy, tilting towards the late game, and compLexity has effectively dismantled them in varying fashion.
For Frankfurt, Cloud 9 will need to summon the magic their team had when they first started. In C9 tradition, the potential is certainly there, but it may never be fulfilled.
Unknown is an apt name for a team who came out of nowhere. They first appeared by winning the Americas Open Qualifiers for TI5, fighting through a pool of 1024 teams and beating Summer's Rifts in the Finals. They later failed to win the main qualifiers. Now, going through the gauntlet of the open qualifiers once again, Team Unknown will be at the Frankfurt Majors, becoming the first Latin American team to attend a Valve sponsored tournament.
Unknown will be a longshot and an underdog against every other team they face. Though individually skilled, they have the least professional experience and zero recorded attendances at a LAN event (in an interview with GosuGamers, ztok mentioned they’ve been scrimmaging with EG). In recent performances, they beat Digital Chaos 2-0 to win their Frankfurt slot, but also were eliminated in The Summit 4 American Qualifiers, losing two consecutive best of 3 series to paiN Gaming and familiar foe Digital Chaos.
In the last three months, Unknown has had remarkable success on Shadow Fiend, Tusk, Ogre Magi and Dazzle—all among their top ten heroes picked and all above a 70% win rate. They’ve shown flashes of excellence in their teamplay in the above graphic, as well as individual play, where Atun outlaned DC’s Yawar in their two wins for the Frankfurt Major slot. Unknown tends to stumble in the later phases of the game if they can’t snowball through the strength of their early offlane and midlane. Look towards the early action there to see if Unknown is primed to start an upset.
Throughout the tournament, Unknown will have to lean on their teamwork than individual play to find success at Frankfurt. Every team will be heavily researched—an area that Unknown may have had an advantage in less prestigious events—and it will be a test whether they will be able to perform out of their comfort zone. Unknown is positioned to make headlines if they manage to climb to the top of their groups, but they will be facing opponents more formidable than the ones they trampled in the open qualifiers.
Evil Geniuses: TI5 champions. It'll take more than an early exit at ESL NY and a second place finish at MLG World's to diminish what EG accomplished back in Seattle. Previous TI champions have flopped in the face of new patches, but Evil Geniuses recent performances show that they're still contenders in Dota. Don't forget that Vega Squadron, responsible for EG's exit at ESL NY, was nudged out of the TI main event by CDEC, a team that would end up dominating everyone up to the Grand Finals.
The story of their mid player, SumaiL, is a made for TV movie about the American dream. A 16 year old Pakistani immigrant, who once sold his bike in Pakistan to play more Dota at an internet cafe, is now traveling the world as a professional esports gamer. His tournament earnings so far from 2015: about $1.6 million dollars. He’s been profiled in Bloomberg Business, highlighted in Sports Illustrated’s piece on the growth of esports, and broken the Guiness World Record for the youngest gamer to surpass $1million in earnings. All eyes again will be on Sumail, EG’s dynamic player.
EG will be entering Frankfurt with two new adjustments to their TI5 roster: Fear on support and Arteezy on carry. If there was any question whether EG could gel after this rotation, they answered those doubts with their previous performances at MLG World's, finishing in second place. Despite some hurdles, Arteezy looked as comfortable in the carry position as he did during Team Secret's dominance (lesser known fact was that he was already EG's carry during the later days of his first run with the team), and "Old Man" Fear has the experience to play any hero at any position. Where other teams have shuffled their rosters, EG has added one player, Arteezy, a former teammate. Universe continues to be their solid, dependable offlane player, and Fear's versatility in the support role opens up new lineups for ppd's drafts. There's much to be said about stability, consistency, and improving on what you have. EG has done that. They’ve yet to play an official match since MLG, but entering Frankfurt, the TI champions will be ready.