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The International 2016: Europe Primer

by theScore Staff Jul 31 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of N/A

Europe will be represented by six teams at The International 2016, making up a third of the teams taking part in this year's Seattle-based tournament. While they all hail from the same region, each squad has their own strengths, weaknesses and storylines as the largest Dota tournament in the world inches closer.

OG are two-time Major champions looking to win the biggest prize of the year, while Team Liquid are trying to escape from their shadow after having appeared in consecutive Major Grand Finals without any hardware to show for it. Meanwhile, Natus Vincere have their sights set on becoming the first European team to win two TIs while Team Secret will try and recover from their dismal performance at The Manila Major and rebound at TI with a new roster. A blast from the past, Alliance have reformed their TI3 championship roster and head to Seattle with their famous brand of Dota in hand. Last but not least, Escape Gaming will try to survive the Wild Card Stage at their first TI and try to pull off a number of unlikely upsets in their quest for the Aegis.

Without further ado, here's a quick overview of the European teams that will compete at TI6.

OG

Player Position
Johan "N0tail" Sundstein 1/2
Amer "Miracle-" Barqawi 1/2
David "MoonMeander" Tan 3
Andreas Franck "Cr1t-" Nielsen 4
Tal "Fly" Aizik 5

OG are heading to The International 2016 having won two of the last three Majors, and feature a roster that hasn't changed since it's inception. It's worked out well for them - including their Major wins, OG has won five LAN's over the past year with strong finishes in a number of others.

The team's star player is Miracle-, whose talent across a variety of different heroes makes him difficult to ban against and hard to counter. But focusing on Miracle- is a disservice to the rest of the team. Fly's turn as captain provides a solid foundation, with MoonMeander setting the tone and rhythm of the game through his offlane play. N0tail is an aggressive and competent carry, and Cr1t- routinely shines in setting up and executing teamfights. OG are a team that favor early game aggression that has proven difficult to stop once it gets going, and judging from their track record, it's payed off well for the team.

OG are one of the favorites to win TI6, though that doesn't guarantee that they will go far (think back to TI5 when Team Secret fell outside of the Top 6 after two dismal performances). With that said, OG are the kings of the lower bracket, and routinely thrive under pressure, so don't expect them to go out quickly.

Team Liquid

Player Position
Lasse "MATUMBAMAN" Urpalainen 1
Adrian "FATA-" Trinks 2
Ivan "MinD_ContRoL" Borislavov 3
Jesse "JerAx" Vainikka 4
Kuro "KuroKy" Salehi Takhasomi 5

Team Liquid would have been hard pressed to choose a better team to reenter Dota 2 with. Formerly known as 5Jungz, Liquid placed second at both The Shanghai and Manila Majors, winning several LANs throughout the past year in the process. They've taken on and taken down the best teams in the world, and are one of the favorites to take home the Aegis.

In-game, Liquid are a stone wall, exploiting their enemies' mistakes while maintaining a united defensive front. FATA- and MATUMBAMAN are both capable of taking control of their lane regardless of the matchup, yet Liquid's true laning strength lies in KuroKy and JerAx's roaming abilities. Their rotations and the occasional trilane strategy set up a number of kills and objective pushes, extending Liquid's lead well into the mid game. They may not win games as quickly as other teams, but Liquid strike with such precision and power that their opponents are unable to mount a strong defense.

Liquid hold a rivalry with OG, having won their first LAN by defeating them at The Defense 5, and their back and forth matches throughout the year have been exciting. Liquid's victory over Newbee at EPICENTER is also a high point for the squad, as the boys in blue reminded the Dota world that Newbee were still mortals that could be defeated. As the days count down to TI6, Liquid have a good shot at ending their drought at Valve tournaments.

Natus Vincere

Player Position
Dmitry "Ditya Ra" Minenkov 1
Danil "Dendi" Ishutin 2
Victor "GeneRal" Nigrini 3
Akbar "SoNNeikO" Butaev 4
Ivan "Artstyle" Antonov 5

Natus Vincere won StarLadder i-League Season 2 on July 24, which marked their first LAN win since November 2014. StarLadder was the last LAN before TI6, and is a positive sign for a team that briefly disbanded last October.

All things considered, Na`Vi have done a very good job. For a team that fell through the qualifiers for The Frankfurt and Shanghai Majors, they secured an invite to TI6 after a string of Top 4 finishes in the spring. While Na`Vi did not win an event prior to their invite, their ability to take on and endure top European and international teams indicated that they were on the road to becoming one of the best teams in Europe.

Na`Vi sit in the middle of the pack for teams at TI6, as they frequently lose to top tier teams like Liquid and OG. Still, Na`Vi have showcased a surprising amount of versatility in-game. Dendi and Ditya Ra regularly switch the core focus between the two of them, allowing one to continue to develop if the other struggles in the early game. SoNNeikO is an active support, rotating to help his teammates across all lanes without showing any signs of slowing down while Artstyle favors playing a traditional support role, often helping GeneraL take control of the offlane.

TI6 will be the team's biggest test with their current roster, as GeneraL and Ditya Ra have not previously played in a TI. If luck is on their side, Na`Vi may have a favorable group stage draw and enter the Winner's Bracket.

Team Secret

Player Position
Artour "Arteezy" Babaev 1/2
Jacky "EternaLEnVy" Mao 1/2
Kanishka "BulBa" Sosale 3
Clement "Puppey" Ivanov 4/5
Johan "pieliedie" Astrom 4/5

To say that Team Secret have had a rough couple of months would be an understatement. The Shanghai Major champions have changed their roster twice, finished last at The Manila Major, and were forced to play through the European Open Qualifiers. Seattle will serve as Secret's shot at redemption, and while the team has looked much better over the past month, a cloud of doubt still remain.

The addition of Universe in March did not elevate Secret to the new heights it was expected to, and his replacement, BulBa, does not inspire the same sort of confidence. Fortunately for Secret, BulBa has proven to be a dependable offlaner, though not one who steals the spotlight.

In the Open Qualifiers and at StarLadder i-League Season 2, where Secret placed second, the team revolved around Arteezy and EternaLEnVy, who both have a large variety of heroes at the ready. Yet when the duo gets overly aggressive, Secret falls apart quickly. In tempering that aggression, Secret performs well, but the team has yet to reach the heights of its previous incarnations.

Perhaps that will change in Seattle. Maybe Puppey will unleash strategies which he has concocted that surprise and eliminate other teams quickly. Maybe pieliedie and BulBa will expand their hero pools and help Secret become an unpredictable team in the draft. Maybe a lot of things will happen, but as it stands, Secret have a lot to prove at TI6, but if there's any tournament where upsets happen, it's The International.

Alliance

Player Position
Jonathan "Loda" Berg 1
Gustav "s4" Magnusson 2
Henrik "AdmiralBulldog" Ahnberg 3
Joakim "Akke" Akterhall 4/5
Jerry "EGM" Lundkvist 4/5

Alliance fans rejoiced when s4 and EGM returned to the team in 2015, and the reunited TI3 winning roster has taken fans on a wild and exciting ride throughout 2016.

Their win at StarLadder i-League Season raised hopes that they could go far, or even win The Shanghai Major, yet Alliance ultimately disappointed by finishing in the Top 8. Ever since, Alliance have struggled to place in the Top 6 at LAN's they've participated in, with their lowest point in 2016 coming from their lack of TI6 invite. Still, after a disappointing EU Main Qualifier Group Stage where the team was nearly sent home, Alliance rebounded and secured the second European seed to the biggest tournament of the year.

Alliance are the prime example of a team devoting themselves to push strategies. No matter what heroes they play or what their opponent may be doing, Alliance will be pushing down lanes and knocking down towers as quickly as they can. This explains why the team is confident to let AdmiralBulldog be the focus in game, letting him develop a Beastmaster or Nature's Prophet to the point that the enemy team simply cannot stop them.

At TI6, Alliance returns reunited, reinvigorated, and more than willing to prove that their style of Dota is capable of winning. Regardless of their end result, Alliance will surely be one of the most entertaining teams to watch in Seattle.

Escape Gaming

Player Position
Adrian "Era" Kryeziu 1
Max "qojqva" Broecker 2
Maurice "KheZu" Gutmann 3
Yazied "YapzOr" Jaradat 4
Troels "syndereN" Nielsen 5

Europe's Wild Card team has a lot to prove at Seattle. Not only do they have to compete against some of the best teams in the world for the first time, they have to survive a Wild Card stage where they could be eliminated before the Main Event even begins.

But Escape have always found a way to climb to the top. Originally called No Diggity, the team was formed in late February by noted caster and player syndereN. Over the past few months, Escape has progressed from just another minor European team to one that has a real shot at taking games off of some of the best teams in the world. An extremely solid performance at the EU Main Qualifier secured them a Wild Card seed to TI6, where their real test begins.

Escape are still relatively unproven at international events. They placed fourth at DreamLeague Season 5, and fell out of EPICENTER in the Wild Card Stage following a loss to compLexity Gaming. While a few members have played at past TIs, the roster has not had many opportunities to play other high caliber teams. This may help them out in the end, as few teams will have knowledge of or would have prepared for Escape in the lead up to the Main Event. If Escape can make it out of the Wild Card stage, they'll have a real opportunity to put their skills to the test.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

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