As with other stages of The International, theScore eSports staff throw their pride on the line to predict the outcome of the group stages. Each staffer will predict their top two finishing teams from each group, and a dark horse team that might do better than you expect.
Group A - Top Two
Annabelle Fischer - Team Secret and LGD-Gaming
I’d be a fool not to pick these guys, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Team Secret will roll through the group stage with no major problems and after seeing their competition I can’t help but agree. Considering their fellow Group A teams it seems Team Secret are all but guaranteed a Top 4 finish.
While both iG and Vici Gaming seem to be falling away from the their “best in China” status, LGD Gaming have been doing their damndest to take over. They have been winning (or at least placing highly) in several tournaments since DAC, defeating rivals at home and around the world. If they keep up the kind of performance they’ve had so far this year they should easily take a spot in the Top 4 of their group.
Dennis Gonzales - Team Secret and LGD-Gaming
If there was ever a safe bet to place on a team to come out of the group stage, Team Secret is it. They're the most dominant team going into the tournament. They're the favorite to take not just their group, but the whole tournament. They’ve won every single LAN they’ve entered since patch 6.84. They’ve taken clean wins against the world's best and their strategies define the meta. It’s cut and dry.
In the shaky state of the Chinese region, Vici Gaming have had a spat of bad performances. LGD-Gaming have now taken up the mantle as the top team of China. Regardless of the meta, LGD are rock solid. They won i-League 3, the largest Chinese tournament, G-League 2015 and the WCA qualifiers. Going into TI5, LGD are the most accomplished Chinese team and a shoe-in for Group A.
Connor Dunn - Team Secret and LGD-Gaming
Team Secret certainly had luck (RNG?) on their side with the way the teams were distributed between the two groups. With most of the heavy hitters residing in Group B, TI5 favorites, Team Secret, should have a relatively easy time coasting through Group A and secure a favorable seed going into the main event. The team might even go undefeated throughout the group stage just as they did at the Dota 2 Asia Championships where they put up a map score of 15-0.
Speculation aside, one thing's for sure: If Team Secret don't secure an upper bracket seed, it will be considered a major upset.
The second strongest team in Group A is LGD Gaming. After two back-to-back LAN victories in China, the team is in peak condition. They should have no problem with the majority of the teams in their group, especially with their team captain, xiao8, at the helm. Being a former TI4 Champion, xiao8 can lend his experience to the rest of the team whether it’s in-game or out.
Group A - Dark Horse
Annabelle Fischer - Natus Vincere
Let’s face it — Na’Vi don’t have high hopes of making it to the Top 4 in Group A with iG, LGD, Fnatic, Cloud9 and especially Team Secret to get past. Still, if they continue their relative hot streak they could certainly take games off less confident teams and surprise us by making it to the Upper bracket at the main event.
Dennis Gonzales - Fnatic
Fnatic looked shaky after their devastating loss at ESL One Frankfurt 2015. But they've come back from worse, never count out the Malaysians. On two separate teams, Mushi had podium finishes at The International. He did it twice already and he can do it again.
Only three members of the TI3-era Orange eSports squad return on Fnatic. But Mushi and company have achieved similar results leading up to TI as Orange. They dominated the SEA and had strong showings in international tournaments. They go into the tournament as one of most consistent teams. But Frankfurt will hang over them.
Connor Dunn - Natus Vincere
Despite their shaky start to 2015, Na`Vi are currently riding an upward swing of momentum thanks to their latest support roster change. Although their previous inconsistencies have let down many fans around the world, The International 2015 is Na’Vi’s chance to redeem themselves and return to their former glory.
Group B - Top Two
Annabelle Fischer - Evil Geniuses and Team Empire
Just like Team Secret, it is widely believed that EG are on the path to the TI5 Grand Finals and unless there are several major upsets in this group they seem guaranteed a Top 4 finish. They have been shown to be capable of slip ups in the past (loss to London Conspiracy at joinDOTA MLG Pro League Season 2) but their results since their 1st place victory at DAC have otherwise been top 2. Easy Top 4 for ppd.
As far as I see it there is a pretty clear set of teams that should make it to the top of Group B — Evil Geniuses, Empire and/or Virtus Pro and Vici and/or Newbee. One of those teams will be bumped to fifth but I don’t think EHOME, MVP or the Wild card team will make any big upsets. Team Empire have already proven that they are a top tier team and the only thing that has held them back from more impressive results may have been their numerous visa problems. With all of their players present and accounted for at TI, they are ready to show the world their true power level.
Dennis Gonzales - Evil Geniuses and Virtus.Pro
The Yin to Team Secret’s Yang, Evil Geniuses are another safe bet for the group stage, and a top contender for the tournament as a whole. They finished first at Dota Pit 3 and second at ESL One Frankfurt 2015 and The Summit 3. They have a strength and consistency that's abnormal, considering their region.
The next team to top the group looks like a bit of a toss up. But a closer examination reveals an outlier in Virtus.pro. Team Empire and Vici Gaming have accomplished a lot during the pre-TI5 season. But only VP have been able to take a tournament title. Two in fact, at DreamLeague 3 and Esportal. And they've maintained their performance.
VG couldn't get past the semifinals of ESL One Frankfurt or the WCA qualifiers. While Empire lost their first playoff match at Dota Pit 3; VP finished third. Consistency is key and VP have it.
Connor Dunn - Evil Geniuses and Virtus.Pro
Group B is much harder to predict however I think it’s safe to assume that Evil Geniuses will be at the top of the standings. Their recent second place finish at ESL One Frankfurt 2015 is a clear indicator of how strong the team really is — they swept Vici Gaming and Virtus.pro (both of which are in Group B) on their way to the Grand Finals where they would eventually lose to Team Secret.
The team looks even more deadly after taking into account their recent Dota Pit League Season 3 Championship where they went undefeated throughout the winner’s bracket against Team Secret, Virtus.pro and easily dispatched of Cloud9 in the Grand Finals.
The second place team I predict to make it out of Group B is Virtus.pro. Normally I would have chosen Vici Gaming however the Chinese powerhouse seems to have lost their way in Patch 6.84c.
Virtus.pro is looking stronger than ever after defeating Team Empire twice in the past two months. Additionally, since their DreamLeague Season 3 Championship, Virtus.pro have only lost to Cloud9 and Evil Geniuses, both of which are in Group A.
Group B - Dark Horse
Annabelle Fischer - MVP.Hot6ix
Of all the teams coming into Group B, MVP.Hot6 are the biggest mystery. Their last official match on the record books is their victory against their brother team MVP Phoenix. Their performance at the SEA Qualifiers was nothing short of dominant but they are relatively untested against the rest of the world so it remains to be seen how they perform in a foreign country with the pressure of TI5 hanging over their heads.
Dennis Gonzales - MVP Hot6ix
MVP.Hot6ix put on a show during the TI5 qualifiers. They played with the skill that far surpassed the other mid-tier SEA teams. And they were beyond their “A-team” cousins in MVP Phoenix. It was a tremendous performance just one month past the latest roster’s completion.
Hyperbolic time chamber jokes aside, the Koreans learned quick. It’s been almost two months since their last match, but their boot camp should go well. MVP is a long-standing eSports organization and the Korean training regiment is renown. Their tournament dry spell was unfortunate. But the lack of exposure may be a benefit considering their unorthodox play style.
Connor Dunn - MVP.Hot6ix
Most people were expecting their MVP’s main team, MVP Phoenix, to win the SEA Qualifier as they are the team with more international experience. With MVP.Hot6ix winning the spot, who knows how they will perform in Seattle. Although their captain Heen has some experience back on MVP Phoenix, the rest of his team might have trouble with the pressure of playing in such a major event.