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    Dota 2 – TI7 Qualifiers Recap & Meta Review

    The qualifiers for this year’s International have concluded and the 18 teams to compete in Seattle are set. A new wind seems to be blowing, with veterans such as Hao, iceiceice, Dendi, Mushi and MiSeRy- failing to qualify, most of them missing their first ever TI, whereas nearly half the players attending (44) will play their first TI ever.

    As always, the qualifiers had a lot new things to offer, both in regards to the meta as well as teams competing. With 60 teams competing across 6 regions, there are several stories and teams worth talking about, but we handpicked a few we deemed noteworthy.

    The Disappointments


    Ever since forming post-TI6, Faceless has dominated the SEA region. Qualifying for both Majors and for most international LAN events, Faceless proved to be the undeniable champions of their region. Unfortunately for them however, they failed to deliver on LAN and to date only have 4 Bo3 LAN wins. The ultimate proof of their dominance over SEA teams occurred in Kiev, when they took down TnC, who had a stellar group stage performance (3-1) in comparison to Faceless’ 1-3 record. Faceless realized that things, as they were, would not allow the team to succeed at future events and the team underwent changes, switching Black^ to the mid position, Jabz to support and xy- to carry. A 4th place at Manila Masters looked quite promising, but when it mattered, Faceless fell apart. During the Boston Major qualifiers, Faceless was undefeated. During the Kiev Major qualifiers, they went 7-2. Now, during the TI7 qualifiers, Faceless went 5-4, missing out on the play-offs.

    The team looked rather weak and inconsistent and only won a single game against any of the top 5 teams. From champions to early exits, Faceless suffered the biggest downfall of any team during this qualifier and iceiceice is set to miss his first TI.


    There’s an argument to be made that VGJ has been weak for a while. Ever since the team re-united fy and fenrir and placed second at StarLadder i-Series Season 3, VGJ was widely praised as one of the best Chinese teams, when outside of this signular achievement, the team has been rather lackluster. Perhaps that is why it is even more disappointing to see them struggle even domestically, with losses even against the likes of Team Max and EHOME and placing last, tied with FTD.A. VGJ looked as bad as they’ve ever done, perhaps even worse. This line-up may be decorated with names and fame, but it is far from living up to them.

    The Pleasant Surprises

    Planet Dog

    About a week before the qualifiers were set to begin, ProDota announced the departure of their roster. In a less than amicable split, 4 players decided to part ways with the organization and replaced garter with former EPG player Swiftending. Forced to play in the open qualifiers, Planet Dog almost didn’t make the cut, falling short in open qualifier #1. Succeeding in #2, Planet Dog made the main qualifiers and their underdog story took off. Despite dropping to the lower bracket of the play-offs early, Planet Dog struck back and eventually claimed their TI7 ticket with a 3-1 victory over Mousesports. All 5 players of Planet Dog have never attended a Valve event, let alone a major LAN event as a team. Despite that though, all five of these players have years of experience competing in Europe’s tier 1-2 scene and their hard work finally paid off.

    While the most difficult part of their journey lies ahead still, they have accomplished what many can only dream of, and not out of luck, but by sheer hard work and skill.

    Team Freedom

    Despite not qualifying for The International in the end, Team Freedom, similar to Planet Dog, showed that perseverance does pay off. The players, several of which have played together for a while, caused quite the upset with their convincing and somewhat dominant run through the group stage and the following, rather one-sided playoff run to the grand finals. Freedom played great Dota and looked like an experienced, well oiled machine going into the finals, with great individual skill and overall solid team movement and decision making. In the end, it may have been pressure that got to them, the alluring goal of making the trip to the perhaps biggest Dota 2 event yet can get to anyone, certainly when they had to watch their competitors all day long. Regardless of the outcome though, Freedom have proven that they can compete with the best in their region, and on a different day, we may be looking at a different result.


    China and Shadow Shaman

    In 7.06, Shadow Shaman received incredible buffs. A Strength gain from 1.8 to 2.1, a 6 base attack damage increase, an increase in attack range for his Serpant Wards and a talent which grants him additional Serpant Wards. For a support who’s been largely ignored over the past year, these buffs looked incredible on paper, though they didn’t help the hero transition into the meta, not immediately anyway.

    Now however, the Chinese scene has started to pick up the hero, with great success. He is the region’s most picked hero (24) with one of the highest win rates (58%) as well. Outside of China, he is barely picked (26 across all other regions), in fact, Europe has only picked him once. A more detailed read on Shadow Shaman’s capabilities in the meta can be found here.

    In general though, China seems to stray from the norm quite a bit. Night Stalker was by far the most banned hero, and replacement includes old Chinese favorites in Kunkka and Earth Spirit.

    CIS & SEA Bloodseeker

    Bloodseeker has basically never been part of any meta. There was a short period of time where pros could absolutely not ignore him, and he was nerfed quite swiftly. Aside from that short period of “OP-ness”, Bloodseeker has been a niche pick, though that sugarcoats the few picks over the past years. As a result, the hero has continuously buffed for years, as Icefrog tries to find a bigger niche for him. We may have arrived at that point.

    Across 252 games, Bloodseeker has been picked 39 times and was banned on 45 occasions. This is huge considering the absence in previous events, where he was either not picked at all or a niche pick with <10 games played.

    The South-East Asian region loved the hero especially, with 13 picks (62% win rate) total. Bloodseeker may have gotten several buffs over several patches, but no singular buff necessarily edged him over. The sum of them all certainly played a role, but a key factor here is likely time. Over time, players have started to value the hero’s strengths and decided they were worth his weaknesses. His ability to farm reliably, and often to trade reliably in lane as well, in addition to his big, teamfight controlling spells, make Bloodseeker quite the core to pick up. Later on, he can provide burst, is sustainable in long fights and can build into tanky items, making him difficult to shut down. We’ll explore the hero more in-depth in a separate blogpost.

    Dynamic 3/4 positions dominant

    Looking at the top 10 most picked heroes for this qualifier, a trend becomes quite apparent. For a while now, the 4 position has become one of the key positions and it is further cemented with heroes such as Sand King, Clockwerk, Nyx Assassin, Earth Shaker and Night Stalker dominating the list. These heroes have all proven to be valuable picks that can be picked up early, without revealing any key strategies or even positions, since all of these can be played as a 3 position offlaner or a 4 position support.

    These heroes are all important roamers that can create space around the map, have some form of map control or lots of burst and control potential. These heroes always pose a threat the moment they disappear out of vision, as they can often set up kills with just one or two additional heroes, some even have the potential to kill enemies by themselves.

    Tempo controlling mids are back

    For a while now, we’ve seen heroes slowly return out of the nether realm. Huge nerfs to nukers post-TI5 caused a lot of heroes to phase out of the meta, most notably the likes of Lina, Storm Spirit and Queen of Pain. With the introduction of Shrines, talents and other smaller buffs, these heroes have all made a comeback and Queen of Pain and Puck stand at the top of the most picked table.

    Shrines allow these mid game aggressors to keep their farm rate high and the killing threat even higher. And as illustrated above, 4 position supports these days can quite easily set up kills by themselves and just require some additional burst for a quick pick off. The level 25 talent of both Puck and QoP allow these heroes to scale better into the late game, where they’d else pale in comparison to the likes of Shadow Fiend, Templar Assassin etc. QoP’s spell lifesteal makes her seemingly unkillable and unless she’s perfectly locked and bursted down, she’ll likely recover from most initiations.

    Puck’s 420 GPM talent allows the hero to become a farming machine and 6-9 slots should easily be filled in the late game. Puck also has the added bonus of being a flex pick, as both an offlaner and a mid hero.

    Lina has been back for a while, especially when her level 10 talent reduced her death timer significantly. She’s still quite potent and can easily transition from a nuker to a right-clicking carry.

    The Road To The International 2017

    About a month remains until the 18 invited and qualified teams will clash in Seattle for the biggest of the year and perhaps the biggest in Dota 2 history. Three more LAN events will take place until then: DreamLeague, MDL and The Final Match. MDL will likely be the biggest and most interesting of them all, as 6/8 teams are set to compete at TI7.

    The team strengths and the meta will likely still change going into TI7, perhaps even a small balance patch could be introduced in the coming days. One thing is for sure though: The fun has just begun.

    As seen on Dotabuff

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