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The last five teams of the International 2018 are all great in their own way. They are not the tournament's favorites and haven't accomplished enough throughout the year to get top8 in DPC, but the fact that they managed to qualify for the biggest tournament of the year means that they should be taken seriously.
News of North America getting three qualifier slots for the International steered a lot of controversy in the community. One one hand, it is the region that didn't manage to get its team to the DPC top8. On the other—three teams that qualified for TI8 firmly took position nine through eleven in the rankings.
Optic Gaming was the most successful team of the bunch, but they only started showing results by the end of the season. Much like FlyToMoon/Winstrike was constantly blocked during the regional qualifiers for Major and Minor tournaments by Vega Squadron, Empire or Na'Vi, Optic sometimes struggled to go through Complexity and VGJ.Storm.
Once in LAN environment, however, team truly started to shine. Perhaps it was PPD leadership, perhaps the squad finally glued together by the end of the season, but since April Optic Gaming managed to win StarLadder and ImbaTV Season 5 minor, place second in the Birmingham Major and take respectable fifth place in China Supermajor. That wasn't enough to get to top8 in DPC, but the difference between them and VGJ.Thunder was less than 150 points. In fact, many believe that Optic is a stronger team, at least at this point in time.
Their qualifier run didn't showcase their prowess and was quite shaky at the start. They didn't manage to secure the first place during the round robin and even lost the first round of playoffs to Immortals. After that, however, they more or less breezed through both Complexity and Immortals on their way to TI.
VGJ.Storm came out of nowhere and quickly started gaining momentum in April, when Resolut1on joined the squad. A tier 2 team at best before the transfer, it suddenly emerged in the professional scene as one of the strongest teams in the NA region, winning GESC: Thailand minor and placing second in MDL Changsha.
There is a reason why the CIS superstar is considered to be one of the best carries in the world, but personal skill is definitely not enough for the team to be successful, as was proved by OG throughout the year. In VGJ.Storm Resolut1on found a new home among the underappreciated players and time will tell whether he will be able to repeat the miracle runs of the last two years this TI as well.
Evil Geniuses looks like the strongest team of the region, at least in theory. In fact, given their roster filled with TI and Major winners, it looks like one of the strongest teams of the tournament. However the Dota history is filled with teams that look incredibly well on paper, but don't manage to live up to the hype in practice.
The only victory the new squad of Evil Geniuses managed to get in China Supermajor was against Team Spirit and even that didn't go smoothly. They were quickly eliminated by Optic Gaming in the next round, placing almost dead last in the tournament. Their qualifiers run wasn't particularly impressive either, with a shaky group stage and two bo3 victories against Complexity and Immortals on their way to TI—hardly the toughest of opponents.
This squad has slightly over a month to get into a working condition, otherwise they will be crushed by most teams in the tournament. Good news is that they can absolutely do it—Evil Geniuses is filled with incredibly talented players on all core positions and the only problem to solve is how to make these three absolutely incredible players work as an actual team.
IG was incredibly quiet this season. For a roster that was finalized in February of 2018 to have absolutely no DPC points is concerning, as is their run in the qualifiers. Naturally, no one can deny the fact that the Chinese professional scene is probably the most competitive of all the regions: there is a reason there are four Chinese teams in the top8 of DPC rankings. But keep in mind that it was also the region with higher than average amount of direct invites and qualifier slots for Major and Minor tournaments.
No one knows for sure how IG are going to do in the International this year. Q and Agressif are no strangers to surprising the crowd and perhaps they will be able to achieve the same results as they did in TI5, especially now that they have a very promising young mid player Xxs on their team and one of the most entertaining and effective position four supports in the game—Boboka. Or perhaps this team will crumble under pressure and will show the same results as they did throughout the year.
For two years this squad was captained by a NA legionnaire. Experience and discipline brought by the introduction of an outsider definitely worked in favor of TNC themselves and the region as a whole and this time around they are prepared to go to TI with an all-Filipino squad.
Throughout the season TNC predator was consistently blocked by either Mineski or Fnatic in their regional qualifiers and it was not until after Mineski started getting direct invites that TNC managed to show off how good they can actually be. They are no favorites, but they are solidly in the Tier 1 category of teams, with top8 placements in PGL Bucharest, DAC 2018, MDL Changsha and China Supermajor.
SEA region results in the International have been improving year after year and who knows, maybe in the East vs. West alternation of TI Champions, the East will not be represented by China this year.