The International 2017: Your guide to the biggest tournament in professional Dota 2!

The International, Dota 2

The International, Dota 2’s biggest competitive event (as well as esports’ most moneyed), returns to Seattle this week. This is the culmination of Dota’s year-long season schedule – all of it, all the Majors, third-party tournaments and rosters shuffles, have led to this 18-way showdown where over $23 million is up for grabs. Here’s our James to explain what you’re watching and give you crucial backstory for all of the teams!

The excitement of this year’s TI is tinged with a hint of bittersweet. It’s the first time that the current world champions – in this case, Wings Gaming – won’t be there to defend the title, having disbanded in the Spring with none of the individual players managing to qualify with their new teams. Wings aren’t the only notable no-shows, either; TI6 runners-up Digital Chaos, now rebranded as Thunderbirds, didn’t qualify either, making this the first TI without captain Rasmus “MiSeRy” Filipsen in attendance. The same goes for Na’Vi’s Danil “Dendi” Ishutin, Faceless’ Daryl “iceiceice” Pei Xiang, Vici Gaming’s Chen “Hao” Zhihao and Newbee Boss’s Zhang “xiao8” Ning.

Absent friends aside, who is actually playing this year? Well, we have 18 squads (six direct invites and 12 regional qualifier victors) from all over the world set to start group stage matches on August 2nd before moving to the main event at Seattle’s Key Arena on the 7th.

The Teams

The International 2017, Dota 2

OG (I’m still refusing to call them OG Red Bull, sorry) have an exceptional record in Valve’s Major tournaments, winning all but one of them since inception, but their previous roster’s shock early exit from TI6 is impossible to forget. The current lineup has the combination of individual skill and team-wide synergy needed to win it all, but they’ll need to overcome both the pressure of expectation and the likelihood of other teams prioritising them as a threat. Watch out for Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka, one of Dota’s highest-impact support players, along the way., the only direct invite from the CIS region, proved their worth with a second-place finish at the Kiev Major and have been performing well ever since. Their most recent LAN win – at The Summit 7 in June – might have been a bit short on other top-tier teams as competition, but with Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko’s reliable midlaning and Ilya “lil” Ilyuk’s unconventional support picks, they could go just as far in Seattle.

Evil Geniuses are a very different team to the lineup that won TI5, but North America’s best team have been performing just as consistently under Andreas “Cr1t-” Nielsen’s captainship, and will be looking to break a streak of third places at Valve events. Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora and Sumail “SumaiL” Hassan are also one of a surprisingly small number of players in attendance with a chance to become two-time International champions.

Team Liquid, a multinational squad led by veteran Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi, are going into TI7 with one of the better 2017 records, scoring three LAN wins in the past three months. Most eyes will be on superstar mid Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi, but relative newcomer Maroun “GH” Merhej has shown himself to be just as integral on support.

Invictus Gaming are a funny one – they’ve done well enough this season to earn a direct invite, but their most recent tournament appearances have been middling. Just a few months ago they were dominating both in China and internationally, and will need to find that form again to win big at TI7.

Newbee were quick to fill iG’s power vacuum in the Chinese scene, and go into TI7 with Seattle with the momentum of multiple podium placements on LAN. This roster (which has no players in common with the TI4-winning team) flopped at the two most recent Majors, but there’s still a good chance that third time will be the charm.

The International 2017, Dota 2

Team Secret has perhaps the most tumultuous history of any in this tournament, but following the addition of Yazied “Yapz0r” Jaradat as the playmaking support, their actual calibre of play has improved dramatically. They won the European qualifier quite handily, and despite a lack of LAN success, could feasibly make a decent run.

Hellraisers, AKA the recently picked-up indie team Planet Dog, were the surprise second winners of the European qualifier. They’re arguably best known for falling out with their previous organisation, Prodota Gaming, but have a respectable record in minor tournaments that could ensure they’re not the easy win that more established teams might expect.

Team Empire haven’t appeared at a Valve event since last year’s Manila Major, and yet here they (or at least, a different roster under the same banner) are. Victors of the CIS regional qualifier, this latest iteration of Empire will be taking up their first big chance to show what they can do against truly elite competition.

TNC Pro Team, seemingly refreshed by the arrival of Theeban “1437” Siva on support, took advantage of a faltering Team Faceless to claim one of three Southeast Asia qualifier spots, along with Fnatic and Execration. Last year, a similar roster delivered the biggest upset of TI6 by knocking out OG in the lower bracket – we’ll have to see if they can defy expectations once again.

Fnatic are another potential dark horse. They’ve yet to find the international success of previous rosters, but should at least be entertaining to watch, not least because of Kim “QO” Seon-yeop and Kim “Febby” Yong-min, previously seen in a thrillingly explosive MVP: Phoenix squad.

Execration probably has the toughest task ahead of them at TI7. Comprised of relative unknowns (outside their native Philippines), Execration just scraped their way in after a qualifier tiebreaker with the higher-achieving Team Faceless – though, credit where it’s due, they did win, both against Faceless and in the open qualifiers which they needed to enter the regionals in the first place.

The International 2017, Dota 2

iG Vitality doesn’t have the stature or record of their sister squad, Invictus Gaming. What they do have is Zhang “Paparazi灬” Chengjun, one of China’s most exciting carries, and Yang “InJuly” Xiaodong, a young captain-offlaner who led his team to a convincing first place in the TI7 regional qualifiers.

LGD.Forever Young took the China qualifier’s second spot. Despite the name which suggests less experience than the sister team of LGD Gaming, LFY has one of Dota 2’s oldest veterans in Leong “DDC” Fat-meng, who will have made it to all seven Internationals – though carry player Du “Monet” Peng more often ends up being the one to watch.

LGD Gaming, the third and final team to go through China’s regional qualifier, bounced back from failing to reach the Kiev Major to taking gold at the Mars Dota 2 League 2017 LAN in early July. Having proven that they can beat top teams like OG and Newbee in the process, LGD might not be hot favourites but could be a surprise top 3.

Cloud9 (formerly Team NP) is one of the more popular TI7 teams, even without any LAN wins on record. Known for crazy plays and agonising mistakes, Cloud9’s matches are almost always worth watching, whether or not they can actually triumph over less volatile lineups.

Digital Chaos is not the Digital Chaos that earned a shock second place at TI6; this is an entirely different roster, a mix of North American and Southeast Asian veterans as well as Abed “Abed” Azel L Yusop, their teenaged, Meepo-picking trump card from the Philippines. By any measure, an appearance in the grand finals is unlikely… but then then that’s what everyone said about the old DC, too.

Infamous, a rare all-Peruvian squad, round out the TI7 lineup. As winners of the South America qualifier, they’re a young team from an oft-discounted region, but midlaner Enzo “Timado” Gianoli” has already shown his potential as a SumaiL-esque prodigy with multiple high-kills, low-deaths performances as recently as the qualifiers themselves.

How to watch

The group stages get underway tomorrow, August 2nd. As per usual, you’ll be able to watch both this and the main event (which starts on August 7th) either in-game or on Twitch. The main event will also be served by the returning Newcomer Stream, which will include “contextual overlays” to help unfamiliar viewers understand what the blazes is going on. Alternatively, they COULD always go to Rock Paper Shotgun dot com and read this guide to watching pro Dota 2, but hey.

Either way, it should be a good one – the pro scene is competitive enough that one-sided stomps will, at most, likely be confined to the group stage and maybe a few lower bracket games. Dota 2’s metagame is also pleasantly diverse at the moment, with multiple viable strategies and scope for heroes to be utilised in unconventional ways. That’s not to say there aren’t flavour-of-the-month heroes – Sand King, Night Stalker and Earthshaker are prime pick/ban material, for instance – but don’t be surprised to see offbeat picks either, especially in the support role.

TI7 will also herald a big change in how Valve runs the esports side of Dota, what with the planned move from the current Majors system to the more CS:GO-like series of Majors and Minors taking effect next season. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean this will be the last International, but here’s hoping it’s still one for the history books.


  1. MikoSquiz says:

    It’s not a question of the Wings lads failing to qualify. They had a contractual disagreement with the firm that owns and operates Dota 2 in China, and are now banned from joining or playing against any professional Dota 2 team in China.

    If they want to continue playing Dota 2 professionally, they’ll have to move to a different country.

    • lflambeau says:

      They had a contractual disagreement with the firm that owns their team. They quit it.
      Then the association of chinese esport banned them from participating to evenments that are under its control or for other member teams to take those players or to train with any teams that take them.
      But they still can participate to valve events.
      Then some teams took some of those players anyway but failed to qualify. So the article is right.

      • MikoSquiz says:

        I’m using “firm” as in The Firm, here. The Chinese Esports Association is the overarching entity they had a disagreement with, and said association is king god; if they don’t want you to take part of the esports scene in the country, you can’t, and that’s that. It’s very ugly all around.

  2. TotallyUseless says:

    BORING to watch with all these Chinese Teams.

    • asdsadsa asdsadsad says:

      Everyone is allowed to participate, It would be meaningless and boring with no Asians or everyone else in the world.

    • bob22 says:

      Why are Chinese teams boring to watch?

      • Horg says:

        A bit of DotA history; several years ago, around the time of TI1 / 2, the game was in quite a different shape to what we see today. Some of the more relevant differences were smaller hero pool, significantly different hero balance, smaller item pool, less gold available (especially for supports), different rules for Roshan and the Aegis respawn, different rules for hero buy back and game balance that gave more gold for building kills.

        The meta was largely split two ways, with western teams playing a faster game that revolved around early / mid game aggression, and eastern teams favoring a longer game with a hard farming carry. The western game was generally more exciting to watch as teams were forced to fight early, while the Chinese teams had a meta game figured out that favored long periods of farming and split pushing. The Chinese game was a very safe bet to win on that patch, but wasn’t particularly spectator friendly. From that period only Na’Vi from the west was competitive against the eastern slow game style.

        Now the meta has changed a lot since TI2, largely to improve the spectator experience and prevent some of the ridiculous 2 hour stand offs we got from that period. The Chinese teams have changed their play style accordingly and although they aren’t as dominant as they were at TI2, they still have a couple of teams slated as favorite to win.

        So to answer your question, the idea that Chinese teams are boring to watch is a tiered old meme from 5 years ago (when it was fairly valid, honestly). People regurgitating it today are either largely ignorant of how the game has changed over the last 5 years, are trolling or are a bit racist.

  3. BooleanBob says:

    Let’s go Cloud 9! Weeaboo power!

    Arguably the biggest Dota news of the day isn’t even related to the upcoming International at all. There’s been a leak suggesting that Valve’s new fund-matching Major/Minor initiative has caught on with tournament organisers in a big way.

    22 tournaments with a total prize-pool exceeding $14 million for the year is a real coup for Valve, even if they have to cough up half of the dough,

  4. Siimon says:

    Something weird is happening, all the text (even the main body of the article, and the comments) are in BOLD on RPS (and only RPS). I’m on the latest Chrome build and latest Win10.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      I think it is some weird Chrome bug. I have the same since the last update, but a) On Linux. b) on Coursera, and a few more sites. Not RPS though.

  5. Raoul Duke says:

    It remains an utter mystery to me why anyone would want to watch other people playing a computer game.

    • J says:

      I don’t know, it’s enjoyable to me, because i see a level of play far above mine, strategies and tactics that I would never think etc. For me it’s completely baffling why people want to watch other people chase a ball around a field.

    • Gurrah says:

      It remains an utter mystery to me why anyone would want to watch other people …

      … drive a car around a track 50 times in a row.
      … punch another person in the face until either can’t stand anymore.
      … play an instrument.

      The list goes on. I guess what it comes down to is people want to watch other people doing stuff because said people are really, really good at it. And if you can relate to what they’re doing because you enjoy doing it yourself all the better.

      • bob22 says:

        Because these things have a level of clarity that can be easily enjoyed in spectator format, and some cases are human spectacles that have taken place for generations.

        Watching someone else play video games is what you impatiently do while you’re waiting for your turn.

        • Dirksolomon says:

          If you think of Dota2 clearly with simple mind it is not that complicated either. Each of the team has a goal to destroy the enemy base, more clearly the ancient in middle of it. Done. As it is with sports, teams have to get the ball to a goal or whatever. Sure there is nuance in the mechanics and plays that are done, but you can clearly as a spectator see a person kill 2 people alone in video game or one of the teams winning a fight, all that is easy to correlate with “That was good for this team”.

          And if you go into specifics with anything even with sports I can be baffled by lets say icehockey, why did that one player send the puck all the way to the other end when there is no one there.

    • bob22 says:

      The odd YouTube let’s play sure, and honestly some games spectate well, like rocket league, but I have to agree – there’s absolutely nothing about DOTA that works as a spectator event. I think you just have to love playing it do much that you can’t get enough of it whatever format it’s in.

      • RIDEBIRD says:

        I think the game is primarily stressful to play, but a joy to watch.

        It’s more about liking the game at some sort of conceptual level and have played at least enough to know what makes a play good, I think. Dota works very well as a spectator game (look at the numbers for an event, obviously popular) as it’s top down and easy to see what is going on. What is hard is to interpret what is going on and the impact of everything. This takes a lot of getting used to.

        Try the newcomer stream.

    • quasiotter says:

      link to

      tl;dr You can become better at something by observing someone really good at that thing. Also, your emotions tend to reflect others’, hence, the popularity of streaming/reactions.

      I do believe pornography depends on this, if I’m making the correct connection.

      I’d much rather play a game than watch it, but it is fun to see speedrunners break the game / learn from them.

    • Hidoshi says:

      Some of it has been said already, but for me it’s also the difference with kids playing football (no idea what they’re doing) and professionals playing football.
      When I play online myself it’s fun, but I’ll never get ANY of the awesome team combinations/teamwork that the pro’s have.

  6. asmodemus says:

    Yeah I get ya.

    I feel the same way about sport.

    That said in video games it is a combination of skill and brains. In sports it’s vastly a case of genetics. Grow me someone who is 9 foot tall and equally strong and agile and I’ll show you the best basketball/boxing/wrestling/high jump/long jump/gridiron etc player in history.

    • bob22 says:

      The qualities that make a professional gamer aren’t all that different than a professional sportsman. You still need talent, it’s just of a different type. Things like reaction time and hand eye coordination are also genetic. Also, to think that simply being tall allows you to excel without other innate skill is incorrect. You can be tall and coordinated like a new born horse – you diminish the accomplishments.

      But the main thing is you need to be unhealthily obsessed with your hobby. It needs to consume you. Whether that’s video games or water polo.

  7. corniel says:

    i know this might sound stupid but,
    i hope somehow rockstar games will sponsor OG and change the team name to Grove street OG, lol.