TI11: Unpredictable Group Stage Sets Up Exciting Playoffs
After four days of intense games, an absolute rollercoaster of a group stage at The International 2022 (TI11) sees the playoffs start with a handful of unexpected matchups. A few teams predicted to dominate the preliminaries now find themselves in danger of elimination. Meanwhile, those that had a rough time in the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) this season have cause to be proud of themselves, as they now sit in the upper bracket.
If you missed the group stage entirely, we’ve got your back with all the major stories coming out of the TI11 preliminaries.
Group A: Evil Rises Once More
It’s hard to believe anyone who says that they expected Evil Geniuses to finish first in their group in Singapore — not after such a forgettable run in this DPC season. But here they are, with 14 map wins to their name, and only four losses otherwise at TI11.
This team looks like a completely different beast from the timid, tentative animal that just scraped by on DPC points from the North American regional league. Their drafting is solid where it would otherwise be their greatest weakness, especially when it comes to choosing heroes for midlaner Azel “Abed” Yusop. His Primal Beast currently has an 80 percent win rate over five games, and has had incredible impact in all of its appearances thus far.
Artour “Arteezy” Babaev, meanwhile, is relishing the fact that many of his comfort picks are metagame staples right now. Ursa, Shadow Fiend (in the safe lane), Sven, and especially Naga Siren are all above 50 percent in wins, giving him plenty of options to play with during the drafting phase. It also helps that he’s performing as if his life depended on it.
But the true star of the show over at EG is Egor “Nightfall” Grigorenko, whose impact from the offlane just cannot be understated at this point. Whether it was as Beastmaster, Broodmother, or Enigma, EG’s newest member served as the anchor holding the team together. If he can keep this level of play up in the playoffs, Nightfall may just be the x-factor that brings this organization another title after seven long years.
Following in their heels is Team Liquid, one of two last chance qualifier teams that did way better than most spectators thought they would. In fact, they’re only one map behind EG in terms of their win-loss record, which is mighty impressive for a squad that wasn’t even officially in the tournament until last week.
Something has clicked in the heads of these guys, because their list of wins includes victories against EG, BOOM Esports, and even ESL One Stockholm champions OG. They look very hungry at this event — hungry to prove all the doubters wrong, and to put the rest of the field on notice. So it is for former International champion Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen, who is arguably one of the top five carries at the event right now.
Speaking of OG, their fourth place result here is a bit disappointing by the standards they’ve set for themselves throughout the season. They got their upper bracket spot, but given what they accomplished in the DPC, we expected they’d do a bit better here. But even more disappointing is the fact that PSG.LGD will have to settle for third in this group.
We all thought that they would crush everyone in the early goings, as they typically do at The International. Instead, they looked almost completely lost on the first day, which meant they had to catch up in the days that followed. If they don’t figure out what’s holding them back soon, they may not even get a chance to try for the Aegis of Champions again.
The middle of the group is more or less filled with the teams one would expect to be there, with one glaring exception: South American squad Hokori is fifth in Group A. Not dead last and gone from the tournament, but instead best of the rest in their group. Sure, they will have to start from the sudden death rounds in the lower bracket, but this is already a much, much better result than they had any business posting over the course of the group stage.
The bottom two spots are occupied by Soniqs and BetBoom Team, respectively. This is a seriously crushing defeat for Soniqs in particular, whose members have all been working hard over the past few years to get sponsored. Unfortunately, they did not come out on the right side of the Group A tiebreakers, thanks to BOOM Esports’ two wins on that front.
To close this group out, here’s a fun fact: according to statistician Ben “Noxville” Steenhuisen BOOM had just a 1.42 percent chance to make it in after the tiebreakers. Talk about cutting it close.
Group B: Tundra, Cold as Ice
Here we have another team that performed beyond expectations in Tundra Esports. While we know that this roster is led by seasoned veterans who know their way around The International, their results this year weren’t exactly indicative of a squad that could finish at the top of their TI11 group. But their stellar performances thus far in the tournament earned them the exact same record as EG, with 14 map wins and four losses.
Captain Wu “Sneyking” Jingjun should be proud of his boys for doing as well as they did in the group stage, especially against defending champions Team Spirit. Their 2-0 victory over the current holders of the Aegis was nothing short of spectacular, as it helped catapult Tundra to the top of the group while sending Team Spirit down to the middle.
They still have a lot of work ahead of them in the playoffs, but at least they can rest somewhat easy knowing that they’ll be facing OG in the first round. As OG are their neighbors in Western Europe, they’ll have the familiarity advantage on top of the momentum they possess right now. No one should miss this match in particular, especially not WEU fans.
Team Secret have also awakened their International form at TI11, with a record that’s identical to that of Team Liquid, the team they beat in the last chance qualifier in order to secure their place in Singapore. And just in time, too; they now sit in the upper bracket with a match against LGD coming up for them.
Clement “Puppey” Ivanov definitely isn’t done bettering his legacy in Dota 2. If he and the rest of the lineup can stay the course, we may just see him in the International Grand Finals once more. But Remco “Crystallis” Arets deserves special mention here as well. Leaving Entity earlier this year seems to have paid off at the last minute, as he is now part of a team that really welcomes his playstyle and brings out the best in him.
And speaking of awakening, Thunder Awaken have achieved what many thought would never happen: put themselves, a South American team, in the upper bracket of The International. This marks the first time that an SA team will start not from the elimination rounds, and everyone has absolutely taken notice. Beastcoast manager Vitória “Guashineen” Otero puts it simply: “I guess it’s about time people start to respect our region.”
Whether or not they will actually go the distance at TI11 has yet to be seen, though, and South American teams are notorious for their inconsistency relative to teams from other, more established regions. But this is at least a fantastic starting point for Thunder Awaken, and they will be testing their mettle against EG in the first round.
Team Spirit, meanwhile, are now teetering on the edge of failing their title defense this year. Starting in the lower bracket was definitely not the plan for the reigning champions, but they’ve been here before. Their title run last year came from the lower bracket. It’s still entirely within the cards to see them go all the way despite this early setback, especially given their seemingly ironclad mental fortitude.
They’re not meant to go home this early, for sure. Look towards veteran leader Yaroslav “Miposhka” Naidenov to settle his boys down and remind them why they hold the Aegis in the first place.
The playoffs of TI11 begin with Evil Geniuses vs. Thunder Awaken on October 20th, 10pm ET. Catch the rest of our coverage of the world championship event as the tournament unfolds!