TI 2018 – A Cinderella Story

Some would say this year’s ‘The International’ winner, OG, was a long time coming. And by some I mean the lucky fools who somehow predicted this outcome despite all odds, not to mention the overwhelming strong presence of Chinese teams at this year’s TI. I mean what did people do, consult a ouija board?!


I have always been a huge fan of DOTA. Starting back during the original version of the game, which was a Warcraft 3 mod, and then scoring a beta key for DOTA 2 back in 2012, I haven’t once lost interest in the game.


So it was only a matter of time before I finally decided to attend The International. The International is the final professional DOTA 2 event of the year and this time it was hosted in Vancouver, unlike its previous iterations which took place at Key Arena in Seattle, Washington.



The International (TI) brings the top teams from every region to compete against one another for the chance to be called the best in the world and win a portion of the tournament prize pool of $25,532,177. This year’s IT had the largest prize pool in esports history with the first place team receiving $11,234,158.


That being said, it’s quite easy to see why this tournament is regarded as the most intense tournament of the year. It is also considered by many pro players to be a measure of success. A team could lose every tournament or major of 2018, but win the TI and call it a successful year.


However, this year’s TI was much different from previous ones. In fact, it felt like more than just a tournament. There was more substance than just the matches being played or the rivalries between players, it showcased the DOTA community.


VANCOUVER, BC – AUGUST 20: Hundreds of gaming fans stand in line outside Rogers Arena as they wait to enter on the first day of The International 2018 DOTA 2 Championships on August 20, 2018 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)


While everyone is there to watch their favorite team win, what people sometimes forget is that there is a community; the non-pro players that make the game what it is. For example one of the casters, Jake Kanner, who goes by the name SirActionSlacks, had the opportunity to visit Japan and explore the DOTA community. There he learned of a unique tournament called the Mara Cup, also called the Oyster Major. The Mara Cup tournament rewards its winners not with money but with food, more specifically oysters and other fresh seafood.


While the scene is still small in comparison to the overall DOTA community, it definitely made a fan out of me and the next time I’m in Japan, I am definitely checking it out. It’s these stories brought out to the public that makes the tournament as a whole a memorable experience.


Perhaps the biggest story of them all was the story of this year’s winner, Team OG, who has been dubbed as the Cinderella team. This all started back in May of this year when players Gustav “S4” Magnusson and Tal “Fly” Aizik would leave the team for team Evil Geniuses.  Fly helped co-found OG with his best friend Johan “N0tail” Sundstein.



Not only was this shocking news to the whole community but it also meant that the team would not only need to replace two key players but would need to do so in a couple of weeks before the open qualifiers for the European region. Normally they would have been invited to the regional qualifiers, but because of the roster shift, they had to play through the open qualifying rounds, which meant they would have to face more teams.


The most interesting aspect of this surprising run of events was the players recruited to join team OG. Normally with the deadline being a matter of weeks away, a team would be hard pressed to find anyone decent enough to fill their roster, let alone win with the players that that are new to the team.



But on June 3rd as the DOTA world waited in anticipation, they announced their lineup. It would be the two remaining OG members, N0tail and Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka, their coach Sebastian “7ckngMad” Debs, alongside retired member Anathan “Ana” Pham, and newcomer Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen.


Topson, an untested player who had never competed in a big tournament like TI was about to step onto the biggest stage of his life and compete for millions of dollars.


What OG achieved was nothing short of pure brilliance. Not only did they prove they could perform at the highest of levels, but they could do so convincingly. They got through the open qualifiers and were placed in the upper bracket during the group stage. What’s even more surprising is that they had to face off against team VGJ Thunder, one of the top performing teams during the group stage.


There was also the rivalry between OG and Evil Geniuses in the semi-finals.


By combining a display of bold tactics and unique strategies they would eventually arrive at the grand finals against PSD LGD, a Chinese team that was highly favored to win. They would end up taking the match in a 3-2 series to become the best team in the world and win the 11-million dollars.



While it wasn’t the final matchup I was hoping for, nor was it the one people were expecting to see, it was without a doubt the best possible outcome anyone could have hoped for at such an event.


I for one cannot wait to see what the next TI will bring when it’s held in Shanghai, China.

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