With the luster of the region itself taking a hit this season, Western Europe will have to dig pretty deep at TI10 in order to find success.
We are just days away from the start of The International 10, and it's time for our next TI10 preview. It's probably not a stretch to say that many eyes will be on the Western European (WEU) region this year, given the region's lackluster performances in LAN tournaments in this Dota Pro Circuit season.
This is of course relative to their reputation as one of the strongest regions in Dota 2 history. Defending International champions OG, for example, won two iterations of the world championship tournament back to back. Team Secret has been playing at the highest level for more than five years running now, and always find a way into TI. Team Nigma also hoisted the Aegis of Champions at the end of TI7, back when they were still under the Team Liquid banner.
WEU has always been considered a juggernaut region. However, this year is one where teams hailing from the area have looked a bit vulnerable. Although they are definitely still competitive, TI10 is not a tournament where WEU teams are considered heavy favorites. Can they perhaps turn things around in Bucharest and silence the doubters again? Or will they crumble under the weight of their reputation? It's time for us to meet the teams representing WEU in Romania!
Potential in Spades: Alliance
Without question, Alliance come into TI10 as the biggest question mark for Western Europe. They have plenty of talent in the roster, with Nikolay "Nikobaby" Nikolov standing out as one of the most confident carries in the region. They also have veteran experience to help carry them through rough patches, thanks to the presence of former International champion Gustav "s4" Magnusson.
This has all translated into success for them in the WEU DPC regionals. Alliance very nearly bagged first place in Season 1, losing out only to a red hot Team Secret in the standings. They bounced back massively in Season 2, though, edging out Team Liquid in terms of matches. These results were enough to earn them 10th place in the DPC standings, and an automatic invite to TI10. For Nikobaby, Simon "Handsken" Haag, and Linus "Limmp" Blomdin in particular, this is a culmination of several years of hard work collectively.
Alliance as a whole has steady and stable in the DPC — but LANs have been a big area of concern for them.
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.
As TeaGuvnor himself puts it, Alliance have not been able to adapt well to the individual metagames that form in offline competitions. They've been able to play their own brand of Dota online, but things really start to fall apart once they go up against opponents they've not gotten much practice against. The fact that they placed in the bottom half at the WePlay! AniMajor attests to this. They almost completely failed to take a single map in Kiev. Alliance looked quite lost at that event, which is quite worrying knowing that they're about to go into the biggest LAN there is.
Still, they at least have their depth to rely on in Bucharest. They just need to figure out how to be more flexible and adaptable in high pressure situations. Should they find a way to adjust accordingly to what the TI10 metagame requires out of all the teams in the field, they could just put in a result they can be proud of.
European Royalty: Team Secret
Dota 2 fans all know the drill by now: Team Secret enters the competitive season with high hopes, fulfilling those expectations by smashing the competition in events not named The International. This current Secret roster did it in the "lost" 2020 Dota Pro Circuit season, winning a staggering 192 games out of 247 close to the end of the year. They also took first place at the DPC regionals as mentioned before, which helped them cement their pure dominance over Western Europe early this year.
Things have not quite been as peachy for them lately, however. While they made it to fourth place at the Singapore Major and in the second season WEU regionals, their 16th place finish at the AniMajor was shocking, to say the least. Heck, they technically didn't even qualify for the tournament, as they bombed out of the Wild Card stage after an extremely poor showing in Kiev.
To put it into perspective, they won just as many games as Execration — a team which doesn't even have a permanent carry player right now. It was an ugly sight to see, especially for a team so decorated as this one.
Michal "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.
And so, they come into TI10 with quite the hill to climb. For the most part, Western Europe's hopes of getting back on par with Chinese teams this season lie on Team Secret's shoulders. There is a crazy amount of talent on this roster, combined with the experience of who is perhaps the greatest Dota captain of all time in Clement "Puppey" Ivanov. Every player on this team has displayed an otherwordly level of game sense and understanding over their illustrious careers.
There's a reason they won so many high profile tournaments during the first few months of the pandemic last year, when it seemed like absolutely nobody could touch them. If The International was to be won with sheer skill and mastery of the game, Secret would be up there alongside PSG-LGD Gaming as the favorites. But as both of the last two TIs have shown us, the tournament is just as much a mental game as it is mechanical.
We've seen Secret fail to capture the Aegis of Champions time and time again, with the psychological pressure mounting against them year in and year out. Having talent simply isn't enough anymore. Puppey and his crew will have to find a way to not let this recent rough patch get to them in Romania, or they may find themselves mired in mediocrity once more.
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.
Going for the Triple: OG
It's no secret that defending champions OG have been controversial over the last few months, even to those that pay more attention to other scenes in the esports industry. Their so-called meltdown on social media was on the esports spotlight for quite some time, starting with Johan "n0tail" Sundstein firing accusations at Alliance for having ppd coach them during a DPC game. n0tail saw this as blatant cheating on Alliance's part, and took to Twitter to immediately give them a piece of his mind.
As it turned out, Alliance didn't violate a single rule. For some reason, WEU league organizer DreamHack removed the specific rule against actively coaching teams during official matches after the first season. Furthermore, community figureheads such as Ben "Noxville" Steenhuisen confirmed that DreamHack sent out the same rulebook to all participating teams — OG included. The Dota 2 community criticized OG for this supposed oversight, noting that it was their responsibility to know the rules accordingly.
And then there was Sébastien "Ceb" Debs' tirade against Team Secret's social media manager. Having missed out on the AniMajor as a result of their terrible run in the WEU regionals, Ceb did not take very kindly to the memes that followed thereafter. It seemed that the confidence or arrogance (depending on who you asked) of OG had finally caught up to them, compounded by their struggles this season. Unfortunately for OG, Ceb will not be playing TI10 due to a health issue.
It's easy to see, therefore, why many in the audience are rooting for OG to lose at TI10. By most accounts this season, they're probably not going to win anyway. They didn't make either of the two Majors in 2021, almost got relegated to the lower division in the DPC, and had to qualify for TI10 via the last chance regional qualifier tournament. Even then, they had to fight tooth and nail for a ticket to the world championship; Tundra Esports took them to all five games in the WEU qualifier grand finals.
But we've been here before. This is not OG's first rodeo when it comes to playing at The International from absolute rock bottom. Remember where they came from after winning TI8? That's right: the open qualifiers. To go from dead last in the Liquid Dota power rankings that year to winning it all is still the greatest Cinderella story in esports history.
OG are the masters of the mental game, bar none, especially when all the chips are down. The leadership of both Ceb and n0tail is truly something else, especially in situations where tens of millions of dollars are on the line. Sure, OG no longer has the services of both Anathan "ana" Pham and Jesse "JerAx" Vainikka, but it would nonetheless be a serious mistake to underestimate them going into TI10. After all, both Syed "SumaiL" Hassan and Martin "Saksa" Sazdov are proven talents by themselves. They will not want for skill and aptitude at TI10.
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.
It almost doesn't matter what teams throw at them in Bucharest. While they did flounder in the regional leagues, they always seem to unlock some ungodly level of power when TI rolls around. Fans of the squad can rest assured that they will pull out all the stops at TI10. That means unorthodox strategies (like carry Io at TI9), chat wheel spamming, sprays galore, and general monkey business as they are wont to conduct.
Will we see a three-peat for the first time in Dota history? You never really know with OG, but count them out at your own peril.