The final Major of the Dota Pro Circuit 2018-19 is currently underway in Moscow. The EPICENTER Major 2019 features the best Dota 2 teams in action. With several strong teams no longer a part of the tournament, EPICENTER offers a glimpse into the shifting tides and strengths of teams before The International 2019. TI9 will have a total of 18 teams in participation with the remaining joining via the qualifiers.

However, the Dota 2 Major is important from another perspective as well. In addition to determining the best team, this tournament will also decide the final placements for Direct invites to TI9. A total of 12 teams will receive a direct invitation to The International 2019.

An invitation to The International would allow a team to bypass the tough and extremely competitive TI9 Qualifiers. It also allows these teams the time and space to prepare for The International via boot camps. They can focus their energy on developing new strategies and preparing for their opponents.  Let’s take a look at the twelve teams who have received a direct invitation to TI9. 

Team Secret

Arguably the best team in Dota 2 right now, Team Secret secured their TI9 spot quite some time ago. The team’s performance has enabled Secret to maintain its position at the top of the scene. It started with the Kuala Lumpur Major where they secured second place after losing to Virtus Pro (2-3) in the Grand Finals. 

The journey continued for the next few months as Team Secret won two more Dota 2 Majors. Their performance at the Chongqing Major and the MDL Disneyland Paris Major was efficient and the team looked in control during the events. This success is mostly due to the excellent leadership by Clement “Puppey” Ivanov. He is not afraid to draft some off-meta and sometimes weird strategies. Team Secret ca surprise their opponents with these drafts and it puts them at an advantage. If it was any other team, it would inadvertently make them seem foolish. However, Secret is able to pull off these drafts and come out ahead. They have a clear focus and understanding of their strategy, helped immensely by Clement “Puppey” Ivanov. He is an assertive leader who believes in the entire team helping him with the strategies. 

 Clement “Puppey” Ivanov


Puppey is a veteran in Dota 2 and was the first player to win The International in 2011. Puppey has only moved from strength to strength in Dota 2. His efforts in the formation of Team Secret and guiding them from strength to strength emphasises his importance to the team. Team Secret’s unique drafts and playstyle will fall flat if the entire roster is not on the same page when it comes to their picks. 

The strong leadership skills mean that the coach often takes a subdued approach in the team. Puppey works in close collaboration with the Coach to ensure that Team Secret always stays afresh with their plans. The Coach acts as a supplement to improve Clement’s Leadership position. Lee “SunBhie” Jeong-Jae is the perfect person for this role on the team. 

Unfortunately for Team Secret, they are already eliminated from the EPICENTER Major. They lost 0-2 to OG in the Lower Bracket. It won’t affect their attendance at The International 2019. However, poor performance at the last Major of the year could have a profound effect on their preparation for TI9. 

Virtus Pro

The CIS team dominated the entire Dota 2 scene in the 2017-18 DPC season. They were undoubtedly the best team in the world, however, they were not able to continue and assert their dominance at TI8. It is not rare to see teams lose steam as The International comes near. However, it is also equally important for teams to stay near the top of the scene and in excellent form at The International 2018. A single patch update can make significant changes to the strength of the team. 

The teams which are able to find out the best strategy in the current patch are often the ones with a huge advantage. A significant portion of the game is decided in the drafting stage and decides which team has an advantage. If a team can find out a certain playstyle which puts forth the best win-chance they are the ones controlling the pace of the game. 

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Virtus Pro qualified for TI9 a few months ago; it was not a big surprise. However, Virtus Pro remains a strong team and might even take the top spot in DPC rankings if they have a good showing at EPICENTER 2019. As of now, they are sitting at 12300 DPC points and are still alive at the EPICENTER Major. It will not be a surprise to see them emerge as the top team in terms of their DPC points. While securing the top spot does provide any advantage for the team, it will be a psychological barrier for the team. 

Vici Gaming

The Chinese team is currently the best team from their region. Vici Gaming represents the best chance for a Chinese team to put forth a strong performance at their home International. Their match against Team Liquid showcased why Paparazzi and co. have amazing chemistry and the best chance for China at TI9. 

Vici Gaming has not been too strong in this DPC season. However, they secured the victory at Dreamleague Season 11, which ensured a sweet 4950 points added to their tally. However, they have remained consistent in their placements for the DPC events. They have secured a 7-8th placement at three Dota 2 Majors. 

Vici Gaming has already secured at least a Top three placement at EPICENTER Major 2019. The team has an amazing mixture of strong players. The biggest advantage for the team remains the stability on their roster. The team has remained stable since September 2018, while a few players have been with VIci Gaming since 2017. 

They are a very strong team right now, but they seem unable to close out tournaments. Consistently placing 7-8th rank in Dota 2 Majors, Vici Gaming will need to improve their performance if they are to make a deeper run at TI9. 

Evil Geniuses

Evil Geniuses has always had a huge fanbase since the past few years. In the current DPC Season, Evil Geniuses has secured the third place in three key Majors. They were able to secure the third position at The Kuala Lumpur Major, the Chongqing Major as well as the MDL Disneyland Major. 

Evil Geniuses has already been eliminated at the EPICENTER Major, a tournament stacked with excellent teams. They lost to OG in the Lower Bracket, a very tough opponent in the eyes of many. 

Evil Geniuses rely heavily on Arteezy’s performance to help them put forth some strong results. The team’s performance has seen a singular approach when it comes to enabling Arteezy. With subsequent patch changes, it has been considerably easier for the supports to make plays. In the early days of the current DPC season, it was all about allowing Arteezy space and farm necessary to make an impact on the big stage. His Terrorblade and farm with multiple carry heroes propelled EG to make the comeback in multiple games. 

Evil Genius is a team that can cause a huge problem to Chinese teams. In fact, this season, they are called the Chinese slayers, cause none of the Chinese teams was able to move past EG. As a team, EG can reach very deep at TI9. With a bit of luck and the right bracket matchups, Evil Geniuses can have a deep run in Shanghai. 

Team Liquid


Team Liquid recently made a roster change, where they removed Lasse Aukusti “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen from their active roster. This roster change essentially put an end to the longest standing roster in Dota 2. Replacing Matumbaman is Aliwi “w33” Omar, a player who has so far lived up to Team Liquid’s expectations. 

Right now, Team Liquid’s performance is comprised of great individual talent and excellent synergy. Liquid is always a strong opponent no matter their current form and patch. This is because they have multiple playmakers on the roster, each capable of pulling off game-changing plays.  GH remains one of the best position 4 players in the game and he can single-handedly change the outcome of a game. However, he supplements players such as Miracle and Mind_Control enough to leave a lasting impact on the game. 

His EarthShaker, Magnus, Clock are all excellent zoning heroes and have a high impact in the game. He can ensure proper positioning to separate the opponent heroes and create a positional advantage for the team. It can lead to Team Liquid being able to impart selective damage to the opponent who is caught out of position. In other instances, his Reverse Polarities and Echo Slams can change the outcome of a match and enable the comeback for Team Liquid. This is why we never count out Team Liquid from a match, regardless of how weak they seem.

Their recent roster change means that they might face a problem when it comes to their performance within the game. Against some of the top teams, the lack of excellent synergy can prove to be the limiting factor for Team Liquid. They have time to prepare themselves for TI9, an advantage of receiving a direct invite to TI9. 


PSG.LGD walking on the stage.
PSG.LGD is one of the best teams in Chinese Dota 2.

The Grand finalist of The International 2018 has been very inconsistent in their performances for the current DPC season. They have secured the third place at two Dota 2 Majors. Their performance at the Chongqing Major and MDL Disneyland Paris Major saw them earn 1350 DPC points each. This helped them secure an early invitation to TI9, a feat that will allow them to focus their energy on the boot camp after EPICENTER 2019. 

However, in other instances, PSG.LGD has been unable to impress upon us their strengths. PSG.LGD puts forth some decent gameplay, but the lack of consistency against top teams hurts their image. The Chinese teams will undergo a Bootcamp very soon and that can be the biggest advantage for the teams to develop a new strategy. 

It can ensure that they develop a strong tactical aspect to their game and develop new strategies. PSG.LGD can be the focus of the Chinese teams’ improvement and hopefully gain significant inroads into TI9. 


Fnatic's Dota 2 team climbing up the stairs
Fnatic’s Dota 2 playstyle is always exciting and very aggressive.

Fnatic’s performance at the Chongqing Major saw them secure a very strong result and a place for a direct TI9 invite. Apart from their Chongqing Major performance, however, Fnatic has been pretty much absent from the DPC circuit. They have had a few showcase placements here and there, but the team is not a top tier contender. However, one cannot discount Fnatic as an also-ran, since the team. They have all the necessary elements required on the team. Players like Abed, DJ and IceIceIce have all been in top teams at some points in their career. IceIceIce is the playmaker on multiple fronts for this team. However, he can also seem very aggressive at times, which might put his team on the back foot. The team’s performance has seen significant problems in their communication. When one player seems to be falling back, there are others who will dive into the team fight. 

These are issues which the team needs to work on with urgency. They need to ensure smooth communication so that they can focus on efficiently fulfilling their strategy. Without effective communication, Fnatic will remain a very inconsistent team. 

Ninjas in Pyjamas

Peter Dager and co. on LAN
Peter Dager’s NIP has had a surprisingly underwhelming performance at this year’s DPC Season

The Ninjas in Pyjamas roster has a lot of talent, led by Peter Dager. Their best performance came at the Kuala Lumpur Major, where they secured the third place in the tournament. Since then, they have not won as high in a Dota 2 Major, but they have consistently secured points in the Dota Pro Circuit events. 

The Ninjas in Pyjamas team has a strategic advantage due to PPD. However, the team’s performance has not replicated the same amount from their tactics. They seem to lose a lot in the laning stage. Sometimes, even if they have a decent laning phase, their mid-game falters significantly. 

NIP can play spoilsport when it comes to the Group stage. The team, however, does not have the right mentality to move past the Playoffs against much better teams. Their DPC Season 2018-19, has seen the NIP roster place consistently towards the latter half of the tournament. 

TNC Predator


TNC Predator is the only team from the Philippines,  a region well-known for its Dota 2 fanbase. The South East Asian team was strong early in the DPC Season with the majority of their points coming in from the Kuala Lumpur Major. However, post the first Major of the season, Abed and co. have been unable to impress us with their performance. 

Abed Azel L. Yusop recently became the first player to reach 10000 MMR in solo ranked, a feat that is impressive. However, it also highlights the team problems on TNC Predator. Despite having a player of his calibre, the team has been unable to have a strong finish in premier events. Their inability to produce consistent results in Dota 2 Majors is not a good sign for SEA fans.  

They do not deviate much from their standard picks and bans which makes them slightly predictable. TNC Predator has a very stable roster and their communication is one of the best in the scene. It is the team chemistry and an understanding of the game where they lack the necessary aggression. 


N0tail from Team OG
NoTail is has been unable from OG’s roster for OG.Image Credit: MDL

The winners of The International 2018 OG fell into an abyss with the progression of the Dota Pro Circuit 2018-19. The team was unable to put forth a strong result in the aftermath of their roster change. The biggest problem for the team remained the lack of firepower on their roster. 

The resurgence of OG came to the forefront when they added Ana to the team in March 2019. The team seemed to be strong in with the addition of Ana to the team. Their performance definitely saw a huge uptick, especially at the MDL Disneyland Major. They secured 900 points from their placement at the MDL Disneyland Major which was key to their securing a spot for TI9. 

OG has had a very late resurgence in the Dota Pro Circuit Season. Their earlier failures might point to problems in the team, however, OG is a strong team now. The team’s performance is very reminiscent of its 2017-18 performance. OG can be the dark horse for the contender of TI9 winner. 

Keen Gaming


Keen Gaming’s 5-6th place at DreamLeague Season 11 saw them secure 900 Dota Pro Circuit points to their tally. This is the third Chinese team to receive a direct invite to TI9, Shanghai. 

The team has several veteran players on their roster such as Old Chicken, eLeven and Kaka. These players have a lot of talent between them and their experience is definitely amongst the very best in the Chinese region. 

Keen Gaming has not been consistent in their performance throughout the season. Most of their Dota Pro Circuit Points come from the DreamLeague Season 11 Major which helped them secure 900 points to their tally. 

Alliance Gaming

Alliance Team Photo
Alliance secured a direct invite to TI9 with their win over Gambit Gaming.

A systemic approach to forming a strong roster, Alliance has proven that stability and hard work pays off. The organisation and the players have already shown us why they are a strong team. 

The Alliance team supported by the legendary Loda in the back has excellent synergy and coordination. They are a team that does their basics right and plays to the strength of their draft. Their itemisation as the game goes and their positioning relays their understanding of the game. 

Alliance barely made it into TI9, with a victory over Gambit Gaming. There was an equal chance for both teams to make it into the next stage. A direct invitation to TI9 definitely helps the team and grants confidence to the players. It is every players’ dream to secure a direct invitation to The International. 

The International 2019

The International 2019 takes place in Shanghai from August 15 till the 25th of the month. It is the first time that The International will take place in Asia. China represents a huge fanbase for the game and it is fitting for the event to take place in the country. 

The prize pool for TI9 is increasing at a rapid pace and it looks certain to cross $30 million for this year. Which team are you supporting for The International 2019? Let us know in comments below. 


The author

Esports journalist. An esports fan, former wannabe pro and occasional angry young man. You can find him trying to climb the Dota 2 MMR or just chilling in Rocket League. Or maybe building an entire city in Cities: Skylines. The current mood is always a surprise.

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