1Attention all. This is not a drill: The Dota 2 International 2017 is here. Sure, it's just the group stage, but you can tune in live right now at Twitch.tv/Dota2Ti. During the main event, there will be a Newcomer Stream where the cast will be specifically geared toward new players or even people who have never played, but, for now, you'll just have the main stream.
Whether or not you know what's going on, you should at least know where to focus your efforts. At any one time during the group stage, there are going to be eight teams playing across four games and four streams. Here are the top 5 teams to watch so you know which one to click on.
If you want an underdog, Cinderella story to follow and route for, it's Infamous - but do so at your own disappointment, and potentially heartbreak. Infamous made it to The International in part because of Valve's eyebrow-raising investment in South American Dota 2. That region, previously merged with North America, is perennially one of the more bygone regions in the world, as far as Dota 2 goes, not producing any teams of note or winning much of anything.
Because a spot in the International 2017 was guaranteed for a South American team for the first time, Infamous qualified and are now in prime position to be the first South American team to make it to the main event of the International 2017.
So both history and the odds are against Infamous, but if they win, or even do decently well, it will be a huge boon to South American Dota 2 and for underdog-lovers everywhere.
4. TNC Pro Team
TNC Pro Team is on right now, actually. You can watch them face off against EG (who we'll get to later) in the first round of the group stage. But why watch them? Well, TNC has always been a major player in Southeast Asia (SEA) Dota 2, but they weren't consistent enough throughout the year to garner a direct invite, so they walked right through the qualifiers of their region.
But TNC is no pushover. They've made a reputation for themselves as playing spoilers to other teams. Their most high-profile upset came in last year's International where they faced the No. 1 seeded OG, who everyone expected to roll over TNC, but TNC upset and eliminated OG 2-0. They're exciting to watch because anything can happen when TNC plays.
They're especially exciting because they play Dota 2 with one of the most kill-heavy gameplans in the game today. You'll see lots of action, at very least, when watching a TNC game.
3. Team Liquid
A lot like TNC, Team Liquid is also routinely second-fiddle to Evil Geniuses. Though technically from different regions, Liquid and EG often play each other, and EG often wins. That's part of the reason why they're also the ones with the most to prove. Team Liquid has never really been taken seriously at the International, even when they've been directly invited, as was the case here.
In fact, Team Liquid was dangerously close to missing an invite, most people agree, until their surprise repeat as champions at the Dota 2 EPICENTER Tournament. That win likely guaranteed the invite that eventually came for the International 2016.
So, can that success carry over? They beat both EG and OG en route to a win at Epicenter, and some other stiff competition as well. If they can replicate that performance, it will be an exciting time for Team Liquid and The International.
2. Evil Geniuses
If it seems like I'm talking about a lot of the same teams in relation to one another, that's a pattern. Evil Geniuses is two years removed from being the first NA team to win The International, back at TI5 in 2015, and while they haven't quite been able to replicate that success since, they have been on something of a hot streak heading into The International, taking first at the Manilla Masters and second at the EPICENTER tournament.
But, at the Valve-official LAN events since the International 2015, they've failed to place higher than third, and sometimes much lower than that. They've had a few changes on their roster since the International win, with Peter "PPD" Dager retiring to become the CEO of the team, but they still have a lot of talent that should be able to put on first-place level performances.
But will we see that Talent this time around?
If you want something close to the New England Patriots of Dota 2, OG is it. Out of five Dota 2 Major Championship tournaments, OG was won four of them, for a combined $4.2 million in the last two years at those tournaments alone.
This is when they really came onto the scene, and their first opportunity to prove themselves on the biggest stage came last year at the International 2016, where, as we already went over, they fell on their face.
Much like EG, the question for OG is "Can they do it on the big stage?" This is particularly huge for them. Another stumble, and they may find themselves deflated. Remember that, in Dota 2, it doesn't take much for a team to fall apart. A little push leads to a roster shakeup, which begets less success, which begets another roster shakeup. It can snowball very quickly, so OG has a lot more riding on this than you might think.