posted by SmittyW., have been one of the most dominant teams this season and are one of the hot contenders for the title at The International 2019. However, after their kickstart into the season, the Russians seemed to drop a gear in 2019. Will they conclude the season by attacking with their full force again? If there was one stack that stood out in the first half of this DPC season, it was surely They were the first to win a major in Kuala Lumpur which basically qualifed them directly for TI9. The Russians have had great performances at most other tournaments they attended, but couldn't quite find the success they've found in 2018.

At the The Chongqing Major it became evident that Team Secret was the new dominant force in the Dota cosmos. Ironically, Secret lost to VP in the Upper Bracket finals to return the favour in the Grand Final. Back then in Kuala Lumpur, the situation was vice versa, with VP going through the Lower Bracket Final to end Secret. In Chonqing, however, Secret outclassed easily 3-1 with two very short games and snatched away the crown from them.

Ready to lift the Aegis

In 2019, Team Secret seemed to be the alpha and omega in Dota, winning most tournaments and finishing first in the DPC ranking. All hope is not lost, though. finished this DPC season second for a reason. They have worldclass players on each position. Roman 'RAMZEs' Kushnarev is a formidable carry. In this carry-focussed meta, a player like Ramzes is worth his weight in gold - twice. He is a young Dota prodigy who might not even have peaked yet and can take on any other position 1 player in the world.

He makes for an extremely dangerous player, especially in unison with one of the best supports in the Dota scene, Vladimir 'RodjER' Nikogosyan. The position 4 player is an accomplished pro with much experience and a stable backbone of VP. However, a team also only as good as their drafts and also in this regard, the Russians belong to the absolute masterclass. Aleksey 'Solo' Berezin is well-known for making decisive picks with their coach Arsenii 'ArsZeeqq' Usov that play into VP's cards. Their position 2 and 3 players Pavel '9pasha' Khvastunov and Vladimir 'No[o]ne' Minenko should also be mentioned here, who belong to the world's Dota elite as well.

But the drafts and overall strategy is also what's sometimes problematic for Solo and co. Being too predictable and figured out by the other teams propbably hindered them from claiming another title this year. As Solo said at the beginning of the season, dominating during the season isn't good for one's TI performance. Ironically, they stopped doing so early 2019, when Team Secret assumed their role as the world's no. 1.

Now is the time

According to this logic, might be one of the most likely candidates to lift the Aegis in Shanghai. They can support their favourite role with the excellent quality of their roster. While the results at the last two TIs were somewhat disappointing, VP has been one of the most consistent line-ups in tier 1 Dota for years now and steadily improving. For them, really sky is the limit and they have shown that they can beat anybody, although this might depent on external factors such as their current shape, drafts, and a certain amount of luck.

Despite missing the finals at the EPICENTER Major due to Team Liquid, they showed that they are nigh unstoppable. If I were to bet money on a team to take the tournament, would be surely among my top 3 considerations.

Will win TI9?

Photo credit: Adela Sznajder, ESL