We’re officially one week out from TI! For those who aren’t familiar, TI (The International) is the “Worlds” of Dota. Starting October 7th, the top 18 teams from all over the world compete to see who earns the right to hoist the Aegis of the Immortal. Oh yeah and the largest share of the over $40 million prize pool. TI is known for it’s massive prize pools. It was the first esports tournament ever to have a $1 million prize pool, and owns the entire top 5 of the biggest esports tournaments of all time.
Now, you may be wondering: “but Chris isn’t it actually bad that so much of the money in the pro Dota scene is tied up in TI? Won’t this make it hard to get orgs to get/stay in the scene because if they don’t make TI in a given year it’s virtually impossible to not make a ton of money? Won’t this make it impossible for the T2 scene to be sustainable whatsoever?” Yes, absolutely, it’s a huge problem but that is for a different day, today we are excited that after a year with no TI because of Covid, TI is back!*
*hopefully, 2 teams have had players test positive for Covid this week and Bucharest is getting close to it’s Covid positive rate threshold where all events would be shut down, although my understanding is that this should just affect the fans attending portion, not the tournament itself.
Also, if you’re new to Dota, check out my article explaining the game and comparing it to LoL!
18 teams qualify for TI. Throughout the year, teams play in leagues within their region to earn DPC points and qualify for Majors, where they compete against the top teams from other regions to earn more DPC points. The top 12 teams with the most DPC points automatically qualify to TI, regardless of region, and then there is a qualifier in each of the 6 regions (NA, SA, EU, CIS, SEA, China) to fill the last 6 slots.
TI starts with the 18 teams being broken into 2 groups of 9. Each group then plays a full round robin of Bo2 series, so every team is guaranteed at least 8 Bo2 series at TI. Each individual game won is worth 1 point. At the end of the round robin, the teams are seeded into a double elimination bracket. The top 4 teams from each group go to the upper bracket, teams 5-8 go straight to the lower bracket (meaning 1 loss and they are out), and the 9th place team in each group is eliminated.
The format of the group stage can make a difference for both DFS (hopefully DK offers slates before the 12th, which is the date their $5k to 1st contest is for, aka the start of the playoffs) and betting because of only 1 team being eliminated. Some of the favorites will either A) hide strats/drafts for the playoffs, or B) test strats/drafts during the group stage, especially as you get near the end and teams are pretty much locked in for Top 4 or 5-8th. Obviously every team is going to try their best to win within each game, but the draft stage is so important in Dota that a bad draft can cripple a team even if they’re more talented than their opponents. Keep this in mind for DFS and/or betting, again especially as we reach the tail end of the group stage.
Here are the 18 teams that have qualified for TI, their region, and their odds to win the tournament:
SG e-sports | SA (qualifier) | +31238
Undying | NA (qualifier) | +7414
Thunder Predator | SA | +6265
Beastcoast | SA | +6265
Fnatic | SEA (qualifier) | +3797
Alliance | EU | +3147
Quincy Crew | NA | +3147
Aster | China | +2945
Team Spirit | CIS (qualifier) | +2799
T1 | SEA | +1569
Invictus Gaming | China | +1439
Vici Gaming | China | +1027
Virtus Pro | CIS | +955
Elephant | China (qualifier) | +836
Secret | EU | +659
Evil Geniuses | NA | +579
OG | EU (qualifier) | +577
PSG.LGD | China | +233
Let’s take a look at the teams
The Loooongshots (SG e-sports, Undying, Thunder Predator, Beastcoast)
I’m not going to go super in depth here, as frankly these are the teams that are likely to be fighting to stave off elimination in the group stage. You probably noticed that all 3 SA teams are in this group. While has done a solid job of making sure SA improves through guaranteed international inclusion, they’re still far and away the weakest region. SG e-sports might not win a single map, and while TP and Beastcoast are more talented, they simply don’t stack up to the world’s top teams. However, they will definitely be going all out in the group stage, so they could be interesting targets to bet in individual matchups or play in DFS.
NA is a 2 team region. Unfortunately for Undying, they are the 3rd team in NA. I will say their roster is OK, so they may be a bit surprising (again, maybe useful for individual series bets or DFS), but I’d be shocked if they are better than 7th in their group.
The Slightly Less Long-shots (Fnatic, Alliance, Quincy Crew, Aster, Spirit)
This group is all teams that *can* beat anyone on any given day, it’s just not super likely that they string those days together enough times in a row to get close to the grand finals. Alliance were a hot team in the EU DPC, until it came out that they were using their coach in the server as a 6th man. While not technically illegal (ESL let teams do that in CSGO and sent 1 email saying Dota teams could do it, but Alliance were the only ones to start doing it and when it came out Valve immediately said that rule must be changed back to no coaches in the server), this definitely gave Alliance a massive advantage, and their results expectedly faltered after being back on even footing. Aster is one of two teams (IG being the other) who have had players test positive for Covid, and I believe it has impacted their odds a bit. China is the world’s strongest region and frankly no teams that qualify from it deserve to have odds this long. I’d hold off until it becomes clear that their Covid positive players will be able to play (whether from isolation or they are cleared by the time the tournament starts), but if they are and the odds don’t move I like (very) small bet on their futures.
Fnatic, Quincy Crew, and Spirit are all in a similar boat to me. They’re just a tier below the top teams, at least in terms of consistency. Again, these are teams that could be interesting to bet in individual series and/or for DFS, but I have no interest in betting them to win the overall tournament.
The Almost(?) Contenders (T1, IG, VG, VP, Elephant)
This is a really interesting group. T1 have been the best team from SEA all year, but I think they’re a tier below the rest of these teams. Sure they finished “3rd” in the major, but if you look at their path: automatically seeded into upper bracket, beat the 5th best Chinese team and then the 2nd best NA team to guarantee themselves 3rd, it becomes a lot less impressive. They’ve also recently finished 4th in an SEA regional tournament and 2 different international (mostly EU and PSG.LGD teams in them) tournaments. Maybe they’re really saving strats, but I think it’s more likely that this just isn’t their patch.
I think all 3 of IG, VG, and Elephant are ranked too low. The west always underestimates the strength of Chinese teams (with 1 notable exception this year) and I do think it’s reflected in the odds. Now, Covid concerns, IG had a player test positive, could be impacting these odds as well, but IG at +1439 and VG at +1027 are bets I really like. Both teams are just as good as the group that’s at +500/600 in my opinion. Elephant are no slouches themselves, don’t be fooled by the fact that they had to go thru the China qualifier, this team is full of star players. Again, they should be in the +500/600 range. All 3 of these Chinese teams are genuine contenders.
VP have dominated the CIS scene, but it hasn’t translated well to international play, as they’ve gone out super early in both Majors. They play a slow, choking the map out style that Chinese teams are frankly just better at. While I expect them to play better at TI, especially given that they actually get to play in the group stage, in both majors they were seeded immediately to the upper bracket, to get out any jitters and get comfortable, but I don’t find myself wanting to bet on them to win the tournament.
The Contenders (Secret, EG, OG)
I love OG, they’re probably my favorite team. They’re also the 2 time defending TI champions and the only team to win TI twice. They do a fantastic job of not letting the pressure of TI get to them, they’re better at it than any other team. With that said, I want no part in betting on them as the 2nd favorite team to win TI. This is not the OG team of the past. Ana is gone from the carry role, replaced by Sumail. Sumail is a great player and has won TI himself (granted as a mid and not a carry), so I’m not worried about this change. The change that makes the difference to me, is Jerax’s retirement. I like Saksa, he’s a very good player, but he’s not Jerax. Jerax in my opinion is the best position 4 of all time, and was crucial in OG’s TI runs. I don’t see them winning with this current lineup, a lineup that struggled throughout the year (granted they made several roster changes), and barely beat Tundra (who are good, they’d probably be a top 10 team in this tournament) to even qualify for a chance to defend their titles.
EG are the class of NA (and sadly the only real org still with a Dota team in NA). There’s also a lot of talk about this being a good patch for EG. The heroes that are strong are the heroes that their players, particularly their carry, Arteezy, like to play. While I may place a small bet on EG to have an extra rooting interest in NA, I do think their price is about right.
Secret’s also priced fairly accurately. Over the 2 years since TI9, and even the year leading up to TI9, Secret have gone long stretches of looking like the best team in the world. Their captain, Puppey, is probably the most unique drafter in this tournament. However, this can also backfire on them, as when Puppey’s ideas turn out to be wrong, they’re left playing from behind with questionable drafts. This actually happened a good amount this DPC season, as they didn’t dominate Europe like they did for much of 2020. Still though, I do think they’re the best of the EU/CIS region, and are deserving of being among the contenders.
The Favorites (PSG.LGD)
One teams towers above the rest this year. That team of course is PSG.LGD. They dominated the most recent major, cruising to a 3-0 victory in the finals over EG. Recently, they’ve finished 2nd in one and won the other tournament they played in Europe…with their coach standing in for their mid. Now, their coach is a TI winning player but he’s been retired for a while. And oh yeah, their mid, NothingtoSay, has the highest MMR of any player in the entire world. Getting him back makes this team the clear favorites to win TI. However, they’re also priced like it, so I don’t think you’re getting enough value to make this worth betting. I prefer the other Chinese teams, who honestly have the best shot to beat LGD given their familiarity, for my futures bets.
That does it for the preview. I’ll have slate specific content out for DFS and/or betting once the groups and matchups are announced, keep an eye out for that!