posted by EskayDota,
Every TI attendee stands a chance at a title, but does the historical data show us who might win this time around?

In-form teams

There has only been one occasion where a TI winning team has won the penultimate Premier tournament in the run up to their International. Evil Geniuses, in 2015, took the title of Dota Pit League Season 3 before claiming the TI5 title. They had been in decent form throughout the season, also securing themselves over a million dollars at the Dota 2 Asia Championships.

Generally, Dota 2 teams struggle to keep form for a sustained period of time. Team dynamics, patches and meta all fluidly affect every team throughout any given season. The only real other case of a team keeping a WINNING form for such a long time was between TI1 and TI2, with TI1 winners Natus Vincere.

Image courtesy of Valve

Looking at times where teams have won competitions in the run up to winning TI, Natus Vincere won the first International. Afterwards, they made the final of all but 2 of 10 premier competitions between TI1 and TI2, winning 7. They, of course, lost to Invictus Gaming, but the fans had expectations for team to reach the final, and they lived up to those expectations. Additionallly, in the season between TI2 and TI3, Alliance had started making noise by winning competitions.

Over the duration of February – June 2013, Alliance won every premier competition available. A month before The International 2013, two competitions ran simultaneously; The Defense Season 4 and The Premier League Season 5. Na’Vi competed in one, and Alliance, the other. Within 3 days of both tournaments concluding, both Na’vi and Alliance had won their respective tournaments.

So, that discludes TI2 and 3, but what about the remaining 6 Internationals? None of them were won by a clear favourite. This phenomena could be caused by realistically, any number of things. Whether it’s the intense bootcamping or scrimming in the weeks prior to TI, or whether its down to the individual players thriving or crumbling under the pressure, nobody can say for sure. One way we can try to predict who might do well at TI9 would be to look for patterns in the previous finalists seasons.

The dark horses and hard work

TI is no stranger to being won by dark horses – and we don’t mean OG. Before TI4, Newbee had consistently placed 2nd or 3rd in small competitions with other Chinese teams. In the single month prior to TI, they dropped three competitions to DK*, one to IG, one third place finish to PSG.LGD and another third place finish to Alliance.

Looking at Evil Geniuses performances before their TI5 title, we begin to see a similar story. Between the time they won DAC with the introduction of new midlaner Sumail 'SumaiL' Syed Hassan and their TI5 victory, they placed 2nd or 1st in most competitions they competed in. However, equally, they finished 5-6th in the joinDOTA MLG Pro League, losing to London Conspiracy* and finished 6th at DreamLeague season 1, losing to Mousesports* '14-15.

Photo credit: Valve

Wings had only won two premier competitions before their TI victory. One came just 3 weeks before TI started, and many considered them a dark horse of the competition. Their performances in the month prior to TI, again, looks quite similar. They didn’t win any competitions until the penultimate one they competed in, but placed, 4th, 2nd, 5-8th prior. Not the strongest performances, but not terrible.

So realistically, it seems that there might be some pattern emerging. Team Liquid were one of the first teams that were winning multiple major competitions prior to their TI success, and OG were one of the first to have hardly competed in a major competition prior to theirs. Excluding the anomaly of OG, it genuinely appears that the team that wins TI sits happily within the top handful of teams, but never quite reaches their glory beforehand.

Which team fits that description?

The favourites for The International are Vici Gaming, Team Secret and PSG.LGD and Liquid are maybe considered strong contenders, whilst many would be surprised if Evil Geniuses took the title.

However, judging from the (however unscientific) patterns we’ve seen in previous years, Vici Gaming have had their fair share of success in the recent months. Winning Epicenter, DreamLeague and StarLadder, this season has been showering the Chinese number 1 with gold. Team Secret have also won two majors, and completely faltered at Epicenter, their prior competition to TI.

Liquid have surprisingly placed second at the final two Majors of the season, but also fell short at ESL One Birmingham, just before removing Lasse 'Matumbaman' Urpalainen from the roster. Having an immediate impact, the addition of Omar 'w33haa' Aliwi seemed to revitalise the roster, as they took second place at Epicenter. If the previous years are genuinely anything to go by (which they reasonably may not be), Liquid stand a happy chance at a second TI title.

Additionally, Virtus.Pro have had a tricky season, only taking a single Major despite reaching the final of 3. Their performances over the season deteriorated steadily, as they went from winning, to placing second, to placing 7-8th. Their performances haven’t been bad, but the statistics wouldn’t suggest that they are an “in form” team.

So what can we learn from all of this information?

Well, from a cursory glance at the information, it seems rare that the team that is winning multiple tournaments in the run up to TI is able to consistently transfer that power to the big competition. It is often the teams that are achieving steady results but never quite that first place title that tend to take it.

Secondarily, the penultimate tournament before TI is somewhat telling of how the big teams will perform at The International. It is by no means an indicator, but it seems that nearly every TI winner performed very strongly in the competition prior to their TI win.

Ultimately, there is no way of telling who will win. Even if there had been a dominant team for the duration of the season, they could falter and crumble on the big day, making way for the team that nobody expects. The statistics cannot give us significant conclusions, only glimmers of suggestions.

Teaser photo: Valve

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