To start with, let me just be clear that this event has 16 teams and all of them are top tier teams with most of them having a realistic chance of winning the whole event. The title of this article isn’t ‘the only four teams worth watching’ or ‘the only four good teams’ or anything like that and that’s deliberate. I just think there’s good reason to zoom in on these four in particular and I’ll motivate for each one of them below. (They happen to all be in different groups too which is coincidental but kinda cool)
OG won two of the three Majors that took place in the TI6 season, placing top 8 in the other one. They stumbled at TI6 itself but we don’t have much reason to expect that to be a sign of things to come.
Why? Two reasons. First, they’ve had more recent results that show their form is in a good place right now. Second, since they’ve excelled so much at Majors before, there’s no reason to see their TI6 result as a sign of struggling under pressure or any other thing that might rear its head again this time round.
If anything, what we might infer from OG’s weaker results at the Shanghai Major and TI6 is that they might have a bit of a weakness or blind spot when it comes to SEA teams. After all, it was Fnatic who knocked them out in Shanghai, and MVP & TNC who knocked them out of TI6. The good news for OG here is that they have no SEA teams in their group and that one of the SEA teams that was meant to attend this event failed to make it due to visa problems.
One of the more impressive things that OG have done at the beginning of the TI7 season is to manage their roster changes exceptionally well. Miracle is obviously a difficult player to replace, but so far Ana has made a pretty strong case for himself in the team, with N0tail also picking up some more superstar space than he was previously allowed. Most importantly, their system was not too fundamentally altered and the way the team approaches Dota maintained a kind of continuity that wasn’t disrupted by their roster changes.
In truth this goes down more to the other change they made. Cr1t was actually the most important player in OG last year, despite Miracle being the best player in the world at the time. Cr1t fundamentally enabled their playstyle, and OG managed to pick up JerAx to replace him, literally the only other player in the world who could effortlessly fit into a similar role. So they did some really good business, and so far they look to be pretty well off for it. (compare Liquid, who were in a similar position having to replace JerAx himself, and showed clear signs of failing to do so early in the season. No hate on Bulba, but he’s an entirely different player to JerAx and that team has felt the loss of not having a JerAx.)
With that said, there are only three teams who have been Major finalists so far and of those three OG are the only one attending the Boston Major. Yes, I know, having made the finals before is by no means an indication that they will make it again. But the point is that if there’s any team entering Boston with the belief that ‘Major Champion’ is a title that belongs to them it’s OG. And such belief can be very, very powerful.
Not much needs to be said about Wings. They won TI6. They haven’t dropped off since then in the way teams so often do after winning a TI. They revolutionised the way we think about Dota altogether. And as of yet they’re still strictly speaking pretty much ‘unsolved’. Which is to say that nobody else even feels confident that they understand how the team works or how to take them apart. Mostly, I think this is because Wings fundamentally reject some of the more common heuristics teams have historically used in approaching the game. They test the limits of possibility and this gives them immense power.
Curious, critical, creative, and wielding the most powerful weapon in Dota 2 right now — faith_bian — we have good reason to expect Wings to pack a punch in Boston.
The modern EG era (post PPD, RTZ, Zai) has shown the most consistent dominance in Dota 2 of any team around. 3rd at TI4, 1st at TI5, 3rd at TI6. People went nuts about Na’Vi being TI finalists three years in a row. EG have done something very close to that, and at a time that the game has been several orders of magnitude more competitive. 2014 was the year that saw international LAN events become substantially more common, with previous years having 2/3 maximum per year. So the game has developed a lot since then and it stands to reason that EG’s three TI results are in fact more impressive than Na’Vis results at the other three.
Add to that the fact that EG also top 3'd two of the first three Majors, slipping up only once, with a poor Manila Major result which can hardly be held against them, having been forced to make some last minute roster adjustments after losing two of their star players shortly before the roster lock.
Do we have any reason to doubt EG? Well, their recent form has been fantastic and they look quite ready to go on the warpath, with one of the most bonkers looking rosters of all time.
One lingering doubt might be with respect to the format. Single elim bracket means no second chances. You don’t get to lose in the upper bracket, then figure the opponents out and beat them next time round. And that’s been something EG have excelled at historically. But I think they’re very likely to top their group (and are the main reason I’m not hyping Faceless in this post, because I think EG had their number at the Summit and might well have it again in Boston) and thus start the bracket more comfortably.
MVP are probably the most controversial choice on this list though I think it’s pretty ridiculous that that’s the case. Yeah, they’ve sucked online recently but they always always always suck online. In fact historically they’ve even sucked at some LANs too. But what they’ve also done is improved with each LAN they attend. And most crucially what they’ve always done is been the #1 most consistent team for Valve events since their first one at TI5. Yes, that’s right, even more consistent than EG.
Every single time there’s people doubting MVP and every single time they pull through. Top 8 TI5, top 4 Shanghai, top 6 Manila, top 6 TI6. This team has excelled at every single Major/TI they’ve attended.
And yet people repeatedly get spooked by poor online results. Despite the fact that we know very well this team plays at a ping disadvantage in all of their online matches. And no, it’s not just the ping disadvantage itself but the effect it has on the mentality of players who know they are better and can do better under better circumstances. MVP don’t like to play at a ping disadvantage, a fact further evidenced by their preference to scrim Chinese teams at ungodly hours of the day just to get better practice in (which doubles up usually since Chinese teams are also really great scrim opponents).
What is the specific reason to doubt MVP this time round? Well, they had some roster changes. They added two new players, then reverted one of them. In fact, we’re not even sure what roles they’ll be using in Boston. For me, personally, I don’t think it matters. I think they’ll be ready for the event, I think they’ll have sorted out their shit, and for the umpteenth time I think people are crazy to doubt them just because of a poor run of results online. They’re more than likely going to disprove the haters yet again.
Personally, my only doubt about this team is that their playstyle and hero pool have stagnated somewhat and with the patch unchanged for so long teams have had a really long time to study them. I hope that MVP have a few new tricks up their sleeve — no need to adjust their entire approach to the game, but just a few different picks or plans to keep their opponents on their feet — or else their extreme consistency in the past might actually end up being their downfall this time round.
Special shoutouts go to Virtus Pro and Ad Finem. VP have been fucking fantastic recently. I’m cautiously optimistic that they might maintain the same level of play going into Boston. There is a part of me, however, that has grown to expect the top CIS teams to underperform when it comes to Valve’s events. It’s just happened so many times now.
Ad Finem are just criminally underrated by most people and have been developing at a brilliant rate for nearly a year now, using their failures to grow rather than falling victim to them. They’re pretty clear dark horses for me this event.
Anyway, like I said at the start, there’s loads of great teams in Boston and any number of them can make excellent runs. I’ve just discussed the four teams that to me have the most obvious cases for paying special attention to them.