Consummate analysts TeaGuvnor and Capitalist sat down with us to give their thoughts on Western European teams heading into The International.
With just two weeks separating today and the start of the event, Robson "TeaGuvnor" Merritt was kind enough to give us his thoughts on the qualified Western European teams ahead of The International 10 (TI 10). For those that may not be aware, TeaGuvnor is a regular member of analyst panels in WEU Dota 2 tournaments. He has also been invited to fill the same role at TI10. Moreover, TeaGuvnor has had stints as coach of a few squads, namely Chaos Esports Club in 2019 and Hellbear Smashers in early 2021.
Also included in this interview is Austin "Capitalist" Walsh, one of America's most famous casters and analysts. Cap, as he is affectionately referred to, is a seasoned veteran when it comes to commentating and breaking down games; a true expert of the scene whose knowledge is vast and always valuable.
Disclaimer: This interview was conducted before the news broke that Ceb may not compete at TI10 due to recovering from eye surgery.
Caps: "SEA would probably be just as deep as CN and EU if so much of their talent wasn’t being exported"
This year, there are only two European teams that qualified for TI through the DPC standings, as opposed to five at TI9. Given the region’s reputation for being at the top of the Dota competitive scene for so long, what do you think was the biggest factor for this seeming decline in its overall “power”, so to speak? Do you think this means the qualified teams have something to prove here?
TeaGuvnor: "I’d argue one of the biggest factors of the “decline” wasn’t the quality of the EU teams dropping, but instead the awareness of the viewerbase growing. Throughout most of my time in competitive Dota, I have seen the western audience criminally undersell the quality of other regions, often assuming the best will be WEU, Evil Geniuses, or whoever is on top of Eastern Europe.
With the introduction of [the new] Dota Pro Circuit, it pushed all tiers of teams from every region to the audience and enlightened them of what each of them had to offer. Before this DPC format, we’d have qualifiers where fans would often just watch their respective regions. And then they'd rely on the representation of qualified teams to speak for an entire region.
So with the DPC giving multiple weeks [of exposure] to every top team from their regions and it lasting long enough for fans to be able to digest all this Dota, I feel the appreciation for international play has naturally increased. Thus, there exists a perceived decline when it comes to WEU's play.
But focusing on the actual Dota, WEU has looked underwhelming this season and it’s hard to say exactly what went wrong. Potentially, it could just be that WEU playing their neighbors and EEU wasn’t the best for developing new ideas. Additionally, as a region we lacked the necessary consistency [this season] to convert strong regional performances into LAN results.
EU, therefore, has a lot to prove at TI10. The reigning champions OG qualified in the last chance regional qualifiers, Team Secret didn't do well at the last major and not really been playing much competitive Dota, and Alliance have struggled at LANs. So when it comes to the standards fans normally expect from WEU, this could potentially be the hardest TI for the region yet."
Capitalist: "Well, to be fair, Europe only got the reputation for being the strongest region because of the results of the last two TI’s. Before that, the field was still dominated by mostly Chinese teams, even if it was Liquid who won TI7. I don’t necessarily believe that the power dynamic changed a huge amount. China and Europe are still the deepest regions, and therefore the strongest.
In fact, SEA would probably be just as deep as CN and EU if so much of their talent wasn’t being exported to NA, EU and CN. That said, these three regions have always had a large depth of strong tier 1 and tier 2 teams that are able to compete against each other and hone each other’s strengths. Iron sharpens iron. What really allows an individual region to stand ahead of the others at a tournament is whether or not their ideas about Dota and the meta are correct.
I don’t believe the EU qualifying teams have any extra pressure on them. The pressure of The International is probably enough by itself."
Preview: The TI10 CIS teams are hungry, but are they ready? ft. insights from TI analyst Cap
Virtus.Pro and Team Spirit are the two teams representing the CIS region at TI10. While extremely talented, both teams lack experience, something that might hold them back at the $40 million event.
Knowing that, what is it that you think the teams in the region need to adjust in their playstyle in order to do well at TI?
TeaGuvnor: "With a new patch dropping shortly after TI10 qualifiers, we have since only had 10 out of 18 qualified teams play competitive games. Out of those 10, we find only one WEU team out of the three qualified squads.
So, as a region it's hard to speak about what needs to be adjusted. What they did during the DPC season now has far less value with meta changes [brought about by the patch]. I think the easiest way to answer this is to hope EU teams are using this off time from competitive Dota to develop multiple strategies and the necessary systems, so that when things don't go exactly to plan they will be able to understand and overcome.
A big issue for EU teams at Majors was their inability to innovate on the fly within the meta that develops at those LANs, when their initial strategies were not strong enough to win entire tournaments; only games."
"A big issue for EU teams at Majors was their inability to innovate on the fly within the meta that develops at those LANs, when their initial strategies were not strong enough to win entire tournaments; only games."
Capitalist: "I won’t say anything specific about playstyle, but I do find it super interesting that many of these teams that are top in their regional DPC leagues have severely underperformed at LANs. Or maybe they overperformed at the regional leagues.
Either way, it seems clear that they need to be able to adjust to both the pressure and time constraints of playing multiple matches a day/week. I think it’s pretty obvious by now that winning one or two Bo3s against teams in your own region is a different skillset than playing multiple matches a day against international teams.
I won’t presume to know the details of how to develop a skillset like that, but I presume you just try and imitate the environment and schedule of an actual LAN during practice as much as possible."
TeaGuvnor: "The new patch demands creativity and inventiveness I think the patch suits WEU teams."
When it comes to the current patch, what do you see EU teams prioritizing in drafts right now?
TeaGuvnor: "Easy answer: Dawnbreaker. The hero is very strong and really forces you to draft to answer this one hero. But right now I feel teams are still finding their flair.
OG pick whatever they feel like playing at any given day, but Monkey King (one of Topias "Topson" Taavitsainen's signature heroes) is looking very strong right now in multiple lanes. OG, of course, are the kings of WEU, for bringing new things to what was supposedly a "discovered" or "solved" metagame. I think they'll be concocting some solid strategies [at TI10]. I hope to see them play Tinker (in any position) or even position 4 Pudge at the tournament.
Alliance often builds around Gustav "s4" Magnusson to some degree, picking Sand King, Mars, Pangolier, and Dark Seer. Alliance was consistently setting the EU meta during the DPC leagues, but the team was unable to translate that into LAN results.
I expect with the wealth of experience they have obtained throughout this season that they'll be a dark horse at TI10. Most will expect them to replicate their previous Major results. But with the camaraderie this team has, they should be able to overcome their previous errors and public perception will just fuel them to perform better.
As for Team Secret, there's Yazied "YapzOr" Jaradat, so they will prioritize picking Earthshaker, Rubick, and Earth Spirit for him. With Secret, the combination of Puppey and Heen will force their opponents to play mind games in the draft. They also have had a lot of time to prepare, and unlike in the DPC leagues where they said they were a bit more relaxed, this is a different story and everyone will be invested and bring ideas. So I think Secret will come back stronger then they did at the Major.
The new patch demands creativity and inventiveness, and with the teams we have representing WEU, I think the patch does suit them."
Cap and TeaGuvnor on OG's chances of the triple
Disclaimer: This interview was conducted before the news broke that Ceb may not compete at TI10 due to recovering from eye surgery.
OG are back to defend their title for the third straight year, but it’s no secret that they had a rough time getting here. What do you think of their chances this time around?
TeaGuvnor: "It’s TI10; an event that puts different emotions into any player. You can never count out a team that has experience lifting the Aegis once or even twice. They have the system you need to be able to win, deal with losses, and observe and adapt.
This is what makes a TI winning team and OG have demonstrated flawlessly how they are able to do this twice in a row. So, even if a team has all the top names in their roster, if they can't deal with the psychological beast that is TI, they will eventually crumble. Hence, OG will always be a contender for a strong TI showing."
"I think it’s a mistake to underestimate OG (as I did at TI9) as they have something special on that team when it comes to the most important esports tournament in the world."
Capitalist: "Very high. Many people out there are cheering against OG because of the recent controversy. Others doubt OG because of their change in roster. I think it’s a mistake to underestimate OG (as I did at TI9) as they have something special on that team when it comes to the most important esports tournament in the world.
Something about the leadership of Notail and Ceb allows them to keep the immense pressure of TI at bay, while at the same time their playstyle forces mistakes out of opposing teams. Remember, OG struggled to make it to TI8 and they won the whole damn thing. A third Aegis is not far-fetched for this team.
Now I should say that they aren’t my favorites, but in a paradoxical way, I think OG are just as likely to place 9th-12th as they are to win the whole thing."
Syed "SumaiL" Hassan's first stint with OG didn’t really yield the results they were probably hoping for. With his return to the team, do you see anything that might have changed in this regard that helped them edge out Tundra Esports in the qualifiers?
TeaGuvnor: "If I remember correctly, the first time SumaiL played for OG was in the infancy of his role shift into carry. So I would argue it's one of these things that time was their best friend. In the times I've been able to interview SumaiL, he has come across extremely mature and disciplined with how he approaches Dota now. These are the characteristics you need when you join a team like OG.
You need to be able to respect and appreciate their values and then subscribe to how they want to approach the game while also bringing your own flair.
This is something that is very hard to do and what teams always try and replicate. And other the time of playing with OG the first time sitting back watching and then rejoining I feel SumaiL has been able to understand, elevate and became what OG needs from their ana replacement. It also helps that SumaiL is incredibly good on his own."
Capitalist: "I think that had more to due with COVID, distance and online Dota than any inherent problem with SumaiL or OG. Both SumaiL and OG have shown that they have the character to perform when it matters most, so it’s not surprising to see them qualify."
This Alliance squad has been grinding it out for a while now, always staying within reach of tournament wins in smaller competitions but looking somewhat lost in some like at the WePlay Major. Do you see them as the dark horse from the region given their potential vis-a-vis with their results this season?
TeaGuvnor: I didn't read this question but I did actually already call them a dark horse. I feel the LAN results they had this year does not truly reflect the abilities of the team. They have incredibly talented players on the roster, but have just been unable to pivot from what they did well to what the tournament meta dictates they must do.
They have had plenty of time to practice for this TI, and I'd hope for alliance they are able to prove the audience wrong. What better place to do it than in a tournament for 40 million dollars, right?
Capitalist: I view them the same as Aster and VP; teams who performed well with the current DPC format but have failed to perform up to their potential yet. There’s not many reasons to expect great results out of them but two LANs is hardly a reason to count them out. If I had to guess, I’d say one of these teams will bomb out immediately and one of them will have a long run but there’s no way to determine which is which.
Out of the three qualified teams, which players do you think will be the X-factor for each one?
TeaGuvnor: "For OG, Topson is the player that brings the flair from the mid lane, but also Martin "Saksa" Sazdov is starting to do that a bit more from the position 4 role. Honestly, OG is the type of team that can make any of their players shine, depending on the draft.
Michał "Nisha" Jankowski hasn't had the best of performances throughout the season, so I look forward to seeing him return to his previous form and lift Secret into potential TI contention.
Nikolay "Nikobaby" Nikolov rose to popularity with his performance for Mineski at TI9. I'd look to home once again for Alliance, and just play like the shark that he is."
Capitalist: "Secret: Lasse "MATUMBAMAN" Urpalainen. Alliance: Linus "Limmp" Blomdin. OG: Saksa. Maybe X-factor is the wrong way to describe this, but I believe that the success or failure of these teams rides heavily on these players."
The International 10 starts on October 7th, and features the largest prize pool in esports history at $$40,018,195. The teams representing Western Europe include Team Secret, Alliance, and back to back International champions OG.