Ever since the second International event in 2012, teams have been reaching the prestigious tournament through qualifiers and what better time to look back at this to remember some of the best that never received a direct invite but managed to dominate.
Around this time every year, give or take a few weeks, we would be witnessing qualifiers for The International – a time when those teams who either did not receive a direct invite in the past, or those were just did not reach the point threshold in the Dota 2 Pro Circuit, would be fighting for a spot at the event. Since TI10 has been postponed, we have decided to look back through the years at all the teams who made it through to The International via qualifiers and the stories of those that came out way ahead of the pack.
The International 2012
First, let’s go back all the way to 2012, the second ever Dota 2 TI event which featured the first ever qualifiers, Western and Eastern – but out of the 16 total teams, only two would reach the event through these qualifiers. Oddly enough, both of these teams did feature winners of the Aegis of Champions, but that was a story yet to be written.
Mortal Teamwork made their way through the Western event, while Tong Fu were the victors in the Eastern qualifier, adding them into the running for what was a $1,600,000 prize pool before we saw the likes of the Compendium and Battle Pass. While mTw were eliminated in the bottom four, Tong Fu managed to eliminate both Evil Geniuses and Moscow Five before their run ended in the top eight. More importantly, this showed what the qualifier teams were capable of and ever since, we have had qualifiers for every TI.
The International 2013
TI3 would take away another direct invite, leaving the two qualifier regions and adding in a “Wildcard”, which would see the second-place team in the two qualifiers fighting for one last spot at the event. Originally getting a direct invite, LGD Gaming would later have their invite rescinded due to roster changes but they were able to dominate the Eastern bracket and still reach the event, while mousesports took the Western and RattleSnake secured the Wildcard spot.
Once again, none of these teams really stood out at the event and in what is possibly still one of the most memorable TI finals ever, they were forgotten in the bottom half of the standings. However, what the addition of the Wildcard did show was that Valve were prepared to change things up when it came to The International – and in 2014, we saw a massive change in qualifiers.
The International 2014
Prior to TI4 we found that only 11 teams would be directly invited into the event but that there would still be 16 teams – meaning that the rest would have to come from somewhere. And the place they would come from would be all around the world – in four sets of qualifiers for different regions: Europe, Americas, China and Southeast Asia. The final team would be decided between the runner’s up from each regional qualifier and that would be the 16th and final team at TI4.
Team Liquid would be one of the teams to push through into the event and even secure a top 10 finish too, while the rest of the teams never really got off the mark – except LGD Gaming, who secured fifth/sixth place for themselves after coming in from the CN qualifier.
The International 2015
In 2015, Valve opened the doors of qualifiers to countless teams as the Open Regional qualifiers became something to be seen, with a maximum amount of 1024 teams per region allowed and a plethora of Dota 2 in each region too. This open qualifier gave one team from each of the four regions a spot in the Main Qualifier – which then extended into a spot at TI5 and this year, all 16 teams would feature at the main event after the group stage ended.
After missing out on direct qualification to the event from the China regional qualifier, CDEC Gaming were one of four teams left to fight in the Wildcard bracket – which now included TWO teams to go through to the main event. CDEC took their spot and quickly made their presence felt in the group stages. Moving into the playoffs, CDEC did not stop their domination – flying past Cloud9, LGD and EG too, not dropping a single game throughout the series and reaching the grand finals, all the way from the Wildcard group.
Unfortunately for CDEC, as we all know, TI5 belonged to EG but that is not to take anything away from the amazing run they had. Unfortunately, none of the members of that squad are really still active in the professional scene with 2019 the last time some have been seen. But I digress and we move on to 2016.
The International 2016
TI6 once again saw the amount of direct invites to the event drop, this time to a total of six, while the other ten teams would make it through regional qualifiers and the Wildcard qualifiers (two from each region and two from the Wildcard). Open qualifiers still occurred, with thousands of players wanting to try do what CDEC could not – and this year, someone did. In fact, many of the qualifier teams were well-known names and did really well in TI6 too.
Team Secret, EG, TNC Pro Team, Fnatic, Alliance, Digital Chaos and Wings Gaming were all among the regional qualifier teams – while EHOME and Escape Gaming managed to secure a spot through the Wild Card bracket. The entire top five of the event would end up consisting of only qualifier teams, as it became increasingly apparent of all the talent beyond direct invites. Even with a shaky run through the group stage, Wings came out blazing in the playoffs and destroyed any challenger in front of them – lifting the Aegis of Champions after moving through the qualifiers.
The Wings Gaming lineup from that win are still around in the Dota 2 scene, split between EHOME and You Know Who, but have never really made an impact on the scene again since that magnificent TI6 performance.
The International 2017
As we move closer to our current year, we see Valve changing things up even more as TI7 added two additional teams to the mix, taking the tally up to a total of eighteen teams fighting for a gigantic prize pool. Although the Wild Card was removed, the regional qualifiers were not split into two extra regions, adding both CIS and South America to have their own, with one team from each of those being added to the main event.
Although it was two directly invited teams that finished in the top two spots, both LGD and LGD Forever Young were able to claim the third and fourth places, with Team Empire – the CIS regional qualifier, even making a fantastic showing in seventh/eighth place.
The International 2018
Now we reach a year that we all know a lot about, the year one team did something even more amazing than any before as they went through Open Qualifiers, Closed Qualifiers and claimed the Aegis of Champions at TI8. The changes made this year were less significant within TI, but rather in the way in which teams would reach the event as the Dota 2 Pro Circuit was first revealed – with regional qualifiers remaining much the same.
Having had significant problems throughout their DPC, OG entered open qualifiers for EU as extreme hopefuls, with nobody really expecting much from them – but everyone would be proven wrong. After breezing through the open qualifiers, OG proceeded to go almost completely unbeaten in the closed bracket and secure their spot at TI8. The team then managed to make it through the group stage in the upper bracket and the rest is, as they say, history.
OG, making one of the most miraculous runs ever seen by a team, would proceed through the open qualifier all the way through to claiming the TI8 championship, something never done before by any team.
The International 2019 to present day
Although TI9 did not see any surprises from teams coming through the qualifiers, there are honourable mentions for the likes of Royal Never Give Up and Infamous, who both made fantastic seventh/eighth place finishes after going through their regional brackets.
We should, by now, at least know when qualifiers will be – or be deep into the Dota 2 action, but due to the unfortunate COVID-19 outbreak, this is not happening. However, whenever we do find our way to TI10 qualifiers, we can be hopeful that maybe we will see another team doing what OG have done – but it is going to take a lot of work and some mind-blowing Dota 2… and a hope we’ll be getting The International 10 soon.
But for now, here’s that wonderful reminder of where we should have soon been heading…