The opening days of The International 2018 have produced some amazing results, with a level of play that you’d frankly expect from this competition, the biggest in esports. Early favourites have suffered heavy losses, some teams have come from nowhere to surprise many, and by the time we were a few hours into day two there wasn’t a single team without a map win on the board.
The early signs were fairly tricky to interpret, with some of the pre-tournament favourites not looking as sharp as expected, and others looking too good to be true. The weekend is coming, and we’re sure to get a better idea of who can survive the grind, but so far these are our impressions of who has the magic and who might need a kick in the pants.
The pre-event favourites
Of the teams that were attending, Virtus.Pro and Team Liquid were the picks among many of the more informed groups, but both have shown significant weaknesses to this point. There is obviously an argument that teams might not show their full hand given the fact eight of the nine teams from each group make it into the main event, but there have been rumblings among the fans that neither team is quite as impressive as expected, yet.
This has been especially true of Team Liquid at points, with the holders losing one game 39-1 to Fnatic, last year’s last-placed team. The defending champions do sit second in Group A with a 5-3 record, and again all they really need to do at this point is finish in the top four, but there are causes for concern to come out of any loss so emphatic, even to a team that has the same record as Liquid in the group.
Winners of day one and two
Evil Geniuses, who have looked as good as anyone in the tournament, and sit top of Group A, are the standouts so far. It is hard to say anyone has looked as impressive as EG, especially when you consider they have both Team Liquid and PSG in their half of the draw. Over in Group B, TNC and VP are hovering, but the real shock is just how good VGJ Storm have been to this point.
Many thought the American team was good, but they didn’t drop a map on day one, and only EG themselves have a better record than Storm at this point. Just one map loss in two days, to OpTic, and the sort of drafts that other teams cannot read or counter-strat have made VGJ-S a real contender, and there is no reason to think they’ll slow down when it gets to the main stage.
With this due to be another Chinese win, according to the tea leaves and so on, it is surprising to see PSG and Newbee the highest-rated Chinese sides, both sitting fourth in their groups, but they have the quality to improve as the event progresses. Likewise, both OG and OpTic Gaming have probably fallen short of their expectations to this point, as have Team Serenity, the Weibo-owned Chinese org that sits bottom of Group B.
There is a lot of Dota still to be played, but for Serenity and Winstrike, who sit bottom of Group A, the aim is simply not to go home before everyone else does. With a generous qualification system no player wants to be part of a team so bad they couldn’t finish in the top eight of a nine team group, in the way Fnatic’s awful 2-14 performance from last year is remembered.
We should have a better idea of who is going to be strong after the weekend, of course, and there is an argument to say you don’t want to play your best Dota in groups. One thing is very clear - the standard of play at this year’s event is as high as it has ever been, and there is no team so good or bad that a result is utterly predictable before the game starts, except maybe EG. This is what competition is all about.
Image credit: Dota2