With The International 2016 just a few days away, theScore esports decided to put together a panel to come up with our definitive Power Rankings for the event. As past years have shown, anything can happen at TI, but we're foolhardy enough to try and determine how things stand ahead of the event just the same.
We asked our panel of eight to rank each team from 1 to 18 (with 17 and 18 being the two teams eliminated in Wild Card), and averaged out the results to come up with a ranking that reflects our collective opinion. Well, sort of — you can see for yourself where we agreed, and where we didn't.
Execration are heading to Seattle for their first International, but our panel unanimously agrees that they won't stay long. Having struggled to qualify for tournaments in the past, Execration have not yet proven that they can hold their own against the best teams in the world.
Oh EHOME, how far you've fallen. Though they've made strides since the partial collapse of the Chinese scene at The Shanghai Major, EHOME are still working out the kinks. Half of our panel thought they'd make it out of the Wild Card, but no one thought they'd get much further.
16. TNC Gaming
TNC Pro Team fought their way through the SEA Open Qualifiers and overcame Fnatic to secure the first SEA Qualifier seed at TI6, but we're not super confident in their chances at the event itself.
15. compLexity Gaming
Although both CDEC and MVP Phoenix went through the Wild Card round at TI5 last year and both finished in the Top 8 at the main event, no Wild Card team this year has been ranked higher than 14th overall. Are we overlooking the potential for surprises, or are we just weighing the more "obvious" choices higher, in a desperate search for order in a crazy Dota world?
14. Escape Gaming
Escape Gaming have seen rapid improvement since their formation as No Diggity! and that has translated into some relatively high expectations on our panel. They are the Wild Card team we think will go the furthest at the main event. Still, this is their first LAN under their new sponsor, and a Top 8 finish would be too much to ask for.
Alliance started 2016 full of promise and gusto, but unlike their rivals Na`Vi, who have seen ongoing success, the Swedes seem to have hit a bit of a roadblock. Their recent performances have not inspired much confidence in our panel, with most in agreement that Alliance will fall around 12th-13th place.
12. Digital Chaos
Digital Chaos have qualified for numerous tournaments and regularly defeat fellow American teams. Despite this, they have yet to prove they can go far at international events. Most of our panel agree they'll place somewhere near the top of the Bottom 8 at TI6.
11. Vici Gaming Reborn
Some of our panelists have high hopes for this young roster, but more than half of us see them finishing well outside the Top 8. Though VG.R looked pretty dominant ahead of the The Manila Major, they haven't had a lot of international success since then. Plus, visa issues for Yang and the fact that NoNo wasn't able to play in the TI6 qualifiers mean that VG.R won't be bringing its full-strength roster to the event.
Fnatic was likely the most divisive team on our rankings (except maybe Na`Vi). Half of our panel believe they will finish comfortably in the Top 8, but at least three panelists ranked them 10th or lower. Fnatic haven't placed outside of Top 8 at a tournament since January, and at their most recent LAN, StarLadder i-League Season 2, they came third, so they have a good shot of placing highly — if they can handle the competition.
9. Team Secret
Their second-place finish at StarLadder i-League Season 2 seems to have boosted confidence in Team Secret, at least for some on the panel. Although they finished 13th-16th at The Manila Major, they've had another big roster swap since then, and not a lot of offline play to show us how well they've been preparing. It's hard to say what to expect from Secret.
8. Evil Geniuses
Secret are neck and neck with their rivals Evil Geniuses in our rankings. (In fact, the two teams' aggregate ratings were exactly the same. The tie was broken in favor of EG because they had the highest individual rank.) That may be because the two teams suffer many of the same problems. While the return of Universe and zai has inspired some confidence, their limited time playing together casts doubt about whether they will be able to successfully defend their title. At least one of us thinks they will.
7. LGD Gaming
Most of us agreed that LGD are one of the stronger teams at the tournament, but only Cart ventured far enough to put them in the Top 4. The team finished fourth at Manila and third at Nanyang, but they haven't yet proven that they can unseat teams like OG and Newbee. LGD and Na`Vi also tied in our rankings, but Bernard's first-place rank for Na`Vi was the tiebreaker.
6. Natus Vincere
It finally happened. Na`Vi won a LAN for the first time since 2014. Their 3-1 victory over Team Secret at StarLadder i-League Season 2 certainly had the crowds riled up. Even so, our panelists are divided over whether or not they can translate that success into a strong performance at TI. This is their chance to prove once and for all that Na`Vi are back.
5. MVP Phoenix
MVP are a team that seem to have a certain amount of magic at Majors. They didn't make it to Frankfurt, but they placed 7th-8th at TI5, fourth in Shanghai and 5th-6th in Manila. Still, several of us placed them at eighth or lower, which may speak to the sheer number of strong teams and the high level of play we expect at the event.
4. Wings Gaming
Wings Gaming look great at the moment. They won The Summit 5 and placed second at Nanyang Season 2. But while most of our panelists are confident in their Top 4 chances, a few remember Wings' last-place finish at The Manila Major. Here's hoping TI6 is not a repeat of that performance.
3. Team Liquid
Despite being a favorite headed into The Manila Major and absolutely dominating everywhere they've played this year, none of us put Liquid down to go all the way. (It may have something to do with how they disappointed us at Manila, falling to OG 3-1 in the Grand Finals.) That said, all but one of us expect Liquid to finish in the Top 4 — so no one is willing to count them out just yet.
Newbee are undoubtedly the best Chinese team heading into TI6, and most of our panelists predict they'll make a Grand Finals appearance. We'll find out soon if Newbee live up to the precedent set by their TI4 roster, or if they will burn out early like last year's incarnation.
Unsurprisingly, OG are our pick to take the Aegis at The International 6. Maybe we learned nothing about voting for the obvious favorite when Team Secret made an early exit from TI5, but maybe lightning won't strike twice, and this European wundersquad can make thousands of Dota fans' wildest dreams come true.