For the last few years, there have been a variety of “Cinderella stories” when it comes to The International.
Although CDEC ultimately fell short at TI5, it was the first time many people acknowledged that a not-directly-invited team (in CDEC’s case, a Wildcard team even!) could possibly win an Aegis of Champions. Fast forward three years and OG—ravaged from a last-second roster reshuffle where they lost seemingly crucial players—were able to win the European Open Qualifier. They carried that momentum into the European Regional Qualifiers, and then into the big kahuna—The International 8, which they won.
Pre-TI8, the aggregate fan and bookmaker consensus put OG around the 11-14th slot in power rankings. Team Spirit was in a similar situation during their run-up to TI10—I personally had them in 9th place, with a 3.47 percent chance to win. This was actually better odds than the general sentiment surrounding the team, though it was almost mesmerizing to watch their playoff bracket journey continue on and on. The world collectively held their breath—“surely they can’t keep on doing this?”
TI11 is about to kick off in just a few weeks, but any real Cinderella story this year has got to start from the Last Chance Qualifiers. Twelve teams are fighting for just two spots at TI—so already it seems tight.
It’s hard to try to pitch Team Secret as a dark horse. Their captain, Clement “Puppey” Ivanov, is one of the most experienced players of all time with 2270 games, 4th most of all players. On LAN, he is even scarier as the most experienced player with over 1,000 games and a 62 percent winrate.
The 3rd DPC tour was not kind to Team Secret, however, ending in fifth place and missing out on the last Arlington Major slot with a tiebreaker loss to Entity. Mid-season, Secret brought in Baqyt “Zayac” Emiljanov to replace Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat, and then right after the season ended they dropped Daryl “iceiceice” Koh for Roman “Resolut1on” Fomynok. Something in their team clicked immediately, and they placed on the podium at both the Riyadh Masters and ESL One Malaysia. Entity came back to haunt them during the Western Europe Qualifiers, but Team Secret looked scary enough.
Over the history of competitive Dota 2, the depth of skill within Chinese Dota has varied by a great deal—but it’s very consistently undervalued by the wider fanbase. A few big teams, like LGD, Vici Gaming, Invictus Gaming, and EHOME, have dominated the limelight. When a smaller team is able to break out it’s generally older veterans who’ve rallied together (think Big God) or a younger upstart team (think CDEC, or Wings Gaming).
Xtreme is somewhere in the middle – it mixes in huge experience from ELeVeN (1715 games, 7th most of all Chinese players) and Eurus (1683, 9th most in China), with a relatively newer player, lou (just 94 professional games), playing as the carry.
Xtreme gave up their Arlington slot because of visa issues, but will feel confident going into the Last Chance Qualifiers for two reasons: they’re 5-5 in their most recent games against LGD (one of the favourites for TI11, and generally regarded as one of the strongest teams in the world), and they’re 8-2 against Vici Gaming, who is one of the other Last Chance competitors.
So, will there be a Cinderella story this TI? Will Puppey somehow sneak in to maintain his 100 percent attendance record for The International, remaining the only player to do so? Or perhaps, the glass slipper is waiting for yet another undervalued Chinese team looking to step in and claim the biggest trophy in Dota 2.