TI12 Main Event: The Final Eight
With 12 of the initial 20 squads now eliminated from the competition, we have our final eight teams at The International 12 (TI12) and its main event. Taking place at the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Washington, the main event will decide which team gets to hoist the Aegis of Champions this year.
We’ve got quite a lot to talk about regarding the remaining clubs, so let’s jump right into our TI12 Top 8 preview.
Team Spirit: Chasing a Second Title
It’s no secret to anyone that watched last year’s tournament that it wasn’t quite Team Spirit’s best performance at The International. Placing sixth overall in their group put them in the sudden death lower bracket from the get-go, where they then shockingly lost to BOOM Esports. As it was a best-of-one match, a single map loss was all it took for them to bomb out of the competition without even cracking the Top 12.
Such a poor result for the TI10 champions prompted Alexander “TORONTOTOKYO” Khertek to take his talents elsewhere. He joined BetBoom Team just two months after TI11, with the rest of Team Spirit deciding to stick together in order to run it back the next year. The real surprise, however, was that TORONTOTOKYO joined BetBoom as a support, rather than the solo mid role that had made him famous in the first place.
And while BetBoom barely scraped by in terms of Dota Pro Circuit points this season, the fact that TORONTOTOKYO is still in the tournament is proof that he made the right decision for himself.
That said, his former teammates are absolutely flying right now. After taking on the young gun Denis “Larl” Sigitov to replace TORONTOTOKYO at the mid slot, they managed to finish 10th in the DPC standings, and bag themselves $5 million at the Riyadh Masters in July. To top it off, they also won DreamLeague Season 21 for good measure.
I haven’t even mentioned that fact that Team Spirit have dropped just one map throughout the tournament. Yes, they have a nearly flawless record heading into the main event. By pretty much every metric, they are the favorites to win — something that they are no strangers to.
Team Liquid: Consistency at its Finest
The sheer stability and consistency of Team Liquid over the last two years cannot be understated — at least for this post-Kuro Salehi “KuroKy” Takhasomi era. Two appearances over the last three Internationals is no small feat, especially considering that they even placed third at last year’s tournament. And they did so looking very much in control and like they had racked up a ton of experience playing together since joining up with Liquid in 2019.
How far they’ve come under the rock solid leadership of Aydin “Insania” Sarkohi. Even through the retirement of decorated veteran Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen after TI11, they’ve managed to maintain their status as one of the best and most steady squads in the world. The top spot in the DPC standings this season certainly attests to this, as do their three silver medals from each Major this year.
At TI12, they’ve turned up as expected: firing on all cylinders and looking to add another Aegis of Champions to the organization’s trophy case. Like Team Spirit, they’ve dropped only one map so far, and that was against the currently red hot Azure Ray (whom we’ll talk about in a bit) — so it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
For Ludwig “zai” Wåhlberg in particular, winning his first International title would be the culmination of a very, very long and storied esports career. From his halcyon days winning big tournaments in Heroes of Newerth, to his time as a mainstay of Evil Geniuses, zai has been at this for longer than most. By all accounts, he is one of Dota 2’s greatest players of all time — but he is still missing that elusive International title.
With the help of the immensely talented Michał “Nisha” Jankowski at the mid slot, this is without a doubt his best shot at finally winning it all since placing third at TI4. And with his team’s momentum being where it is right now, it’s easy to see them making yet another deep run here.
LGD Gaming: Back with a Vengeance
Did anyone seriously think LGD Gaming would fail to make the Top 8 at an International? Surely we’ve been through this before now. Yes, it is true that the entire roster apart from Cheng “NothingToSay” Jin Xiang and Zhang “y`” Yiping is different from the one placed second at TI10. But still, this is LGD we’re talking about — an organization that always manages to bring the best out of their players year in and year out.
So it’s really no surprise that we see them here again so late into the tournament. What is surprising is how quickly their new recruits have settled into their roles. No one would blame you for not even knowing who these guys are, seeing as they’ve pretty much been stuck in tier 2 Chinese Dota up until this DPC season.
The result? The top spot in their group, which is just incredible given the fact that triple Major champions Gaimin Gladiators were in the same group as LGD. People barely even knew their names before the tournament, but they certainly do now.
But the real question is: can they stick the landing? LGD’s curse at The International is well documented, as the organization has yet to capture the Aegis of Champions in eight separate, consecutive appearances. They always seem to completely disintegrate mentally when it matters most. Whether or not they’ve finally solved their problems in this regard is anyone’s guess — but at least they get another shot at finally getting over the hump.
Azure Ray: Same Legacy, Different Name
Speaking of LGD, a few of the organization’s most recognizable names now play for Azure Ray. Namely, these are Chinese Dota legends Lu “Somnus” Yao, Yang “Chalice” Shenyi, and Xu “fy” Linsen. They bring with them a long-standing legacy of excellence under the LGD name, though it has been some time since they played under the banner.
All three players have one thing in common: being ringless, despite possessing unfathomably high mechanical skill and game sense. Somnus in particular has always been hailed as one of the greatest Chinese midlaners of all time. Fy was once known as the best Rubick player in the world, and as one of the most gifted position 4 players ever. Chalice helped glue LGD’s TI8 and TI9 squads together from the offlane position.
But at the peak of their powers, they found themselves burdened with the exact same curse as mentioned above. Though they consistently dominated the Chinese scene as well as international LANs in 2018 and 2019, things just never clicked for them when they needed to. We all remember how they ruled the Dota 2 world with an iron fist in 2018, only to crumble in the face of sky high expectations.
One can never say die with these three, though. They’re back at it again alongside new faces Lou “Lou” Zhen and Jiang “天命” An, hoping to redeem themselves for their past failures despite once being the kings of the Dota 2 scene. Backed by fellow Chinese legend Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng as coach, their run so far as Azure Ray hasn’t been perfect — but starting from the upper bracket gives them plenty of time to adapt to the competition.
nouns: North American Redemption
Once known as 4 Zoomers, the organization known as nouns is now home to veterans of the Americas like Héctor “K1” Rodríguez and TI6 silver medalist David “Moo” Hull. While the team’s name may be unfamiliar to those that don’t follow the North American regional league closely, all of the players in this roster have been around for years as fan favorites.
Aside from that, most of them have one thing in common: they’re the “rejects” of their respective scenes. K1 used to play for beastcoast, until he went inactive for the organization in June. His former team is now out of the tournament. Rodrigo “Lelis” Santos was once a part of Quincy Crew, the North American squad that mainly revolved around Gaimin Gladiators’ Quinn “Quinn” Callahan.
The same sort of goes for Moo, who has been bouncing around the NA scene for the last five or so years. His last notable placement at a premier tournament was all the way back in 2019, as part of former NBA player Jeremy Lin’s J.Storm squad. He’s had to find his place in the scene for a long time now — and it seems that his place is indeed with nouns.
But then there’s the other two: Nicolas “Gunnar” Lopez and Luke “Yamsun” Wang. Gunnar has been toiling in the NA scene for half a decade at this point, always falling short of qualifying for The International through his home region. He finally snapped this undesirable streak this year, by way of the regional qualifiers. Yamsun, on the other hand, is the least experienced of the bunch — having only been around Tier 2 NA Dota since 2021.
So there’s a mix of stories and backgrounds here, which makes this team an interesting dark horse to follow from here on. They’ve proven that they’re capable of taking games off of stronger teams, but losing two games to none against Azure Ray in the upper bracket kind of dampens the hype a little.
But at least they’ve got plenty of veteran experience coupled with the fresh perspective of players that have never been to The International before. This gives them room to experiment and bounce ideas off of each other in game, which has so far translated into a guaranteed Top 8 finish at worst. They do have Gaimin Gladiators as their next opponents, though — which will make their road to the Grand Finals that much harder.
Gaimin Gladiators: Wounded Warriors
Speaking of Gaimin, they are in a pretty bad spot right now after considering how much they’ve kicked everyone’s teeth in throughout the DPC season. There is no way a team that won three Majors in a row should be down in the lower bracket from the start of the playoffs, but here they are trying to stave off elimination with every step.
On one hand, this could just be the old TI curse rearing its ugly head again. You can ask Clement “Puppey” Ivanov how well Team Secret has done over the past several years, only to lose at The International itself when all the chips are down. The same goes for LGD as mentioned before. But we haven’t seen this kind of sheer dominance for a very, very long time now — so it’s just shocking that they’ve had to contend with the lower bracket so soon.
That said, Anton “dyrachyo” Shkredov and the rest of the Gladiators have managed to survive two straight elimination matches thus far. One of them even involved beating a squad that started in the upper bracket, so hope is not quite lost just yet. There is no way these guys will go down without a fight and a half, because statistically speaking they should be the overwhelming favorites to win the Aegis this year.
They just have to keep their composure and play their brand of Dota from here on. No pressure, right?
BetBoom Team & Virtus.pro: In Between Their Neighbors
Now we get to BetBoom Team, a squad that barely got into The International in the first place like we mentioned in the Team Spirit section — and Virtus.pro — which we’ve actually seen being called “fng and four randoms” by the Dota community.
Fortunately for BetBoom, it’s looking like they do indeed belong in this crowd, having started the tournament off second in their group. However, they went ahead and relinquished their potential upper bracket slot by losing to 9Pandas in the second phase of the group stage.
Things have been looking up since then, though. They took care of business very easily against Keyd Stars in the first elimination round, then disposed of Nuengnara “23savage” Teeramahanon and the rest of Talon Esports in three games in the next. Vitalie “Save-” Melnic and the rest of BetBoom now only have to deal with their CIS compatriots in VP in order to advance.
That will certainly be a close match that likely comes down to all three games. Although BetBoom have the star power and name recognition, VP have hit a stride that few even expected them to at this tournament. It’s true that Artsiom “fng” Barshak is the only real veteran of Tier 1 CIS Dota on the squad, which made his team look like a bunch of nobodies coming into TI12.
So far, they’ve proven their doubters wrong. It’s clear that they don’t care about whether or not fans know their names; they just let their gameplay do all the talking for them. And boy has it been loud to this point. They could be another serious dark horse contender this year — though they will have to fend off their friends in BetBoom before they can really make a run for the Aegis.