The race to the International 10 Dota 2 Championships is heating up as regional qualifiers start on Wednesday (23 June).
We already know the 12 teams that have claimed direct invites to TI10, although we're not sure if they'll actually be competing in Sweden. That said, there are still a few slots up for grabs, and many big names who could miss out.
TI10's regional qualifiers will be held in three separate stages with two regions playing in each stage. The qualifiers will begin with East Europe/CIS and South America from 23 to 26 June, followed by North America and Southeast Asia from 30 June to 3 July, and finally West Europe and China from 7 to 10 July.
The Yahoo Esports team — Esports Content Producer Kurt Lozano, Video Producer Jay Chan, Social Media Manager Zoey Ng from SelectStart, and Lead Producer Bryan Huang — look at each of the region and make their picks for who they think will go through to TI10 for a chance at a share of the US$40 million prize pool.
Kurt: While I know many would pick Natus Vincere (Na’Vi) as the favourites to represent Eastern Europe/the CIS in TI10, I’ll give the edge to Team Spirit.
Na’Vi’s current roster was only formed recently and will have to go through their growing pains during the qualifier. However, I think Spirit has them beat because they have roster continuity and are just the ‘hungrier’ team. Spirit showed that same hunger when they booted Team Liquid and Alliance from the WePlay AniMajor. I think they’re in for another upset over an established team on their way to TI10.
Bryan: Team Spirit put up a good performance at the WePlay AniMajor, and I expect their form to continue through to the qualifiers. Despite their eventual loss to Vici Gaming, they did knock out the West EU top seed in Alliance, and they looked to be having fun all the way. Plus, who doesn't love a good underdog story?
Jay: This Navi team is stacked, and if it looks familiar, it's because RAMZES666, No[o]one and RodjeR are back together (old VP, anyone?). Perhaps this was the change that old roster of VP needed to finally win TI: a different captain and a different carry.
I expect them to go head-to-head with AS Monaco Gambit and live out the drama which started before the Weplay Animajor, but Na'Vi will win this one unfortunately.
Zoey: Na'Vi. With the addition of No[o]ne- and SoNNeikO, two impactful former AS Monaco Gambit players, the roster looks stronger than ever! Three-fifths of the players were the former Virtus.pro squad (dominating the scene in every other major back in 2018 - 2019... before Covid-19 pandemic happened) so I believe they have great synergy and chemistry among each other, being old teammates.
Kurt: Beastcoast, Thunder Predator, and NoPing Esports ruled South America as a virtual triumvirate that is a level above the rest of the competition.
With Beastcoast and Thunder Predator already guaranteed direct invites to TI10, NoPing Esports is the easy pick to win the qualifier. And I do mean easy. NoPing dominated Season 2 of their regional league and only lost a series to Beastcoast. Frankly, I don’t see any other teams that can beat NoPing in the qualifier.
Jay: Won the Upper Division S2, and was a little unfortunate to see them crash out that early in the WePlay AniMajor playoffs. Despite an anxious moment of gg in S2, I expect them to overcome their anxieties and get themselves to TI easily.
Zoey: Even though it was a short-run for them at the WePlay AniMajor, they weren’t beaten flat 2-0 at the Playoffs. They were able to take a game off against each of the NA powerhouses (Quincy Crew & Evil Geniuses).
It was their team’s debut at the WePlay AniMajor, so probably their first time playing against big names. I have faith that they learnt a lot from the WePlay AniMajor and are able to gel together as a team even more for the qualifiers.
Bryan: It's hard to see another South American team going into TI through the qualifiers. NoPing may have had some nerves at the WePlay AniMajor, but in a more online setting with teams they're familiar with, I expect them to dominate, especially without the already qualified Beastcoast and Thunder Predator.
Jay: Would be the miracle or ideal anime story if MidOne carries this team full of powerhouse players into TI but [his former team] OG don't make it. I expect the experience of kpii, MidOne, Moon and ah fu (all TI veterans) to shine through the regional qualifiers.
OB x Neon Esports
Zoey: Super-versatile team. Given their track record, they have surprised teams in the Dota Pro Circuit Season 1 SEA division with their flexible hero picks. I believe if they play on their best form, they have a chance to pull off an upset.
Kurt: With T1 cementing themselves as the top team in Southeast Asia and securing a direct invite to TI10, I pegged TNC Predator as the second-best team in the region and my pick to win the qualifier.
All bias towards my countrymen aside, I think TNC’s biggest advantage over their biggest competition in the qualifier is roster continuity.
The likes of Fnatic, OB Esports x Neon, and Team SMG have shuffled their rosters for the qualifier. While other squads like Execration, BOOM Esports, and Motivate.Trust Gaming also have roster continuity, I still think TNC is the better team regardless. In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say they are a level above the competition.
Bryan: TNC Predator have always been a powerhouse in the SEA region, and with Fnatic's recent unimpressive form, I think TNC will be the ones to claim the TI10 slot. Though, for a good story, I'd love to see either Team SMG or Galaxy Racers make it through the qualifiers and into TI. [Team SMG co-founder] JJ Lin has been such a supporter of esports, and I've got high hopes for both these teams in the coming DPC season. Besides, as a Singaporean, Team SMG's chatlines brought some of the more amusing moments of the recently-concluded WePlay AniMajor.
Kurt: Undying have cemented themselves as the third-best team in North America. In Season 1, they notably got this close to claiming a Major spot over Evil Geniuses and Quincy Crew.
Those two teams have proven themselves a level above the competition in North America and thus were able to secure direct invites to TI10. I think Undying are also a tier above relative to the other teams in their region and should have an easy path to qualifying for TI10.
Zoey: For two seasons straight, they were able to accumulate a decent amount of DPC points. Unfortunately, there were only two slots given to the NA region for both majors. If a Wild Card slot was given, I am pretty sure they would have made it to the Majors too.
Bryan: Similar to South America, the North American region looks to be dominated by a trio of top teams. Two of those - Evil Geniuses and Quincy Crew - have already received direct invites, so it does seem like these qualifiers are Undying's to lose.
Jay: This is SirActionSlacks' meme team, and wouldn't it be the real dream to finally put a face to those anonymous players (and stop all the rumours)?
Kurt: The four best teams in China have already guaranteed themselves a direct invite to TI10. Therefore, Elephant, the fifth-best team in the region, are an easy pick to win the Chinese qualifier.
Even if Elephant have thus far failed to live up the ‘superteam’ moniker many branded the team shortly after their creation, it’s hard to go against a squad comprised of Zhang "Eurus" Chengjun, Lu "Somnus丶M" Yao, Zhou "Yang" Haiyang, and Xu "fy" Linsen. Star players shine the brightest when a lot is on the line. Lucky for Elephant, they have four of the biggest star players in China.
Zoey: Over the past few DPC seasons, their results were quite close and competitive with the Wild Card team, just a pity that they always missed the Major by that last bit. Needless to say, look at the players in the roster — it’s totally a superstar team; all the top-tier China players gathered together.
With their years of Dota 2 experience, I believe they are able to breakthrough this qualifier.
Bryan: The super-competitive China region has already proven itself in 2021, with IG and PSG.LGD claiming the Majors and four of their teams already qualified for TI10. The fact that there are still some really strong teams and big names going into the qualifiers just tells you that this will be a region to watch at TI10. Elephant are my pick because of their star power, they just have some superbly talented players.
Jay: I haven't been paying too much attention the CN's Dota 2 scene so I am just gonna pick on my gut feeling. I think either Elephant or EHOME will take the spot, seeing how strong each squad is (why does China have so many talents) but I will pick EHOME because I want xNova to play in TI.
Kurt: OG have looked like a shadow of their former TI-winning selves all throughout the year, even after Anathan “ana” Pham returned to the team for Season 2 of the DPC. With ana now retired and Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan taking his place, it would be perfectly understandable to pick other teams that have performed better to represent Europe like Team Liquid or Team Nigma.
With that said, I find it hard to root against OG that has been doubted all year long when the stakes are this high.
Why? The team still has three two-time TI champions in Topias "Topson" Taavitsainen, Sébastien "Ceb" Debs, and Johan "N0tail" Sundstein. Martin “Saksa” Sazdov has been to the grand finals of TI6. SumaiL became the youngest-ever player to win a TI championship in TI5 when he was just 16-years old. You can expect that championship-calibre players like them will pull through in a high-stakes, high-pressure environment like the qualifiers.
If nothing else, I just want to see a rematch of the TI9 grand finals between OG and Nigma in the finals of the qualifier. The two finalists of TI9 fighting just for the right to play in TI10. Now that match will be hype.
Jay: OG with the new king SumaiL look pretty good in the recently concluded ESL One Summer 2021. Granted it was a no stake tournament, it seems like they might finally have the momentum they need. At the moment, Team Liquid looks too delicate and Nigma just can't shrug off OG (post TI9 trauma, maybe?).
Zoey: Darkhorse for two TIs straight. Historical evidence of the team being able to climb from the bottom to the top. Been there, done that.
Based on the bracket seeding, it might be more towards OG’s favour even if they were to lose to Nigma in the upper brackets, there’s a higher chance for them to climb back up to the Grand Finals.
It depends whether Nigma meet Tundra Esports, as I personally feel Nigma are unable to dominate Tundra (Nigma’s weakness is Tundra lol) but OG are able to defeat Tundra.
Despite the departure of ana, the addition of SumaiL to the roster seems equally promising. Well, it’s what they say — the King is back!
Bryan: OG making it through the qualifiers and defending their back-to-back Aegis wins would be the most amazing of all competitive Dota 2 stories. Unfortunately, I think that might be a stretch too far for the defending champions. Yes, they've done it before, but it just feels like Nigma have produced more consistent results over the first half of 2021. Don't get me wrong, I want OG to make it for emotional reasons, but as an Arsenal supporter I have learnt to be more realistic when it comes to sports, and I'll have to back Nigma for this one.