The prelude to Boston: Breaking down The Summit 6

Saahil "UNiVeRsE" Arora of Evil Geniuses looks across the floor at Wings Gaming. Wings knocked EG down to the lower bracket of The International 6. Michael Hanson for ESPN

With the Boston Major less a month away, each Dota 2 LAN event will be a test for the teams making the trip to Massachusetts. Even though there are several opportunities for squads to get their jitters out, this weekend's Summit 6 might be the best chance for the eight teams to identify problem areas and feel out other teams' strategies.

The Summit 6 is the only LAN between now and December that will have solely Boston-bound teams in attendance. The top three of the last International, as well as some of the most promising invites and qualifiers, will compete for a $100,000 prize pool and a strong start headed into the first major of the 2017 season.

Direct invites:
Wings Gaming
Digital Chaos
Evil Geniuses

Wings, DC and EG are the three clear titans of The Summit, coming off their respective first, second and third performances at TI6. OG, despite having a less-than-desirable finish in Seattle, have come out swinging from the offseason, and they round out the direct invites as one of the stronger European squads.

The Chinese TI champions of Wings have been maintaining their streak, sticking together as five through the offseason and taking two LAN victories at the Nanyang Cruise Cup and last week's Northern Arena BEAT Invitational. There is no slouching for Wings either; they still hold an impressive 91 percent series win rate. Wings Gaming still looks like a strong favorite for The Summit after excelling at Dota 2.

Digital Chaos are the odd ducks, having only competed in the gimmick Elimination Mode 2.0 tournament since taking second in Seattle. Results from there have been mixed, as the team fell 2-0 to Team NP but proceeded to take Complexity and Kaipi out of the tournament. The Summit 6 will be DC's first full-fledged LAN and the first indication of whether or not this North American Cinderella story can stay at the front of the pack.

The other NA powerhouse, Evil Geniuses, has been on a LAN streak, taking first at the MarsTV Dota 2 League 2016 Autumn and taking series over OG, NP and Newbee. Newly christened captain Andreas "Cr1t-" Franck Nielsen has washed away any concerns about EG 2.0. There have been a few missteps, like a recent fourth-place finish at Northern Arena to Team NP, but considering the entire series, EG looks primed and ready for its first Summit win and maybe its first major.

For OG, performance at The Summit 6 could be critical. The start of the 2017 season has seen a changing of the guard in Europe; the long-standing franchises such as Team Liquid, Natus Vincere and Alliance have been slowly falling. OG represents this new power as a fledgling organization entering its second year after a rough finish to the first. All eyes will be on two key players: Anathan "ana" Pham, the talented but unproven mid laner, and seasoned veteran Gustav "s4" Magnusson in his new offlane position. Pham has been struggling to find footing, and Magnusson has looked steady but repetitive in drafts, often being put on comfort picks like Batrider. Explosive plays from these two could mean the difference between the middle of the pack or a top-three finish in Los Angeles.

The qualifiers
Team Faceless
Team NP

Despite their status as qualifiers, these four teams represent real threats at The Summit. While some teams have abstained from attending competitions and LANs, these four squads have been busy making themselves known in the scene. The talent pool and results show one fact about these qualified outfits: There will be no free wins at The Summit.

EHOME surprised many with a direct invite to Boston, but recent results in The Summit qualifiers and NA BEAT showed the team's prowess. The five players of EHOME advanced effortlessly through the upper bracket of the qualifiers, dropping only a single game in the entire tournament, and took a recent third in Montreal at the BEAT Invitational. EHOME did struggle in the most recent DotaPit qualifiers, though, and teams attending The Summit will likely be eyeing those series to find out where EHOME's regional contenders found holes in the armor.

Virtus.pro, meanwhile, has been making a great deal of noise in the European region. The core duo of Roman "RAMZES666" Kushnarev and Vladimir "No[o]ne" Minenko are formidable, and the VP squad has toppled almost every squad in Europe, including titans such as Team Secret and Team Liquid, to earn a spot for Boston. OG will be especially aware of VP as a threat, but other teams not familiar with the region could possibly overlook the team's success and fall prey.

The truly silent success has been Team Faceless. Coming from the Southeast Asian region, Faceless looks to continue the streak of SEA teams defying expectations and surpassing traditionally dominant regions in Dota 2. The team's captain, Daryl "iceiceice" Koh Pei Xiang, cannot be dissociated with Faceless' success, but core role Dominik "Black^" Reitmeier has been exceptional in his return to the safe lane and professional play. Look for Reitmeier to put up impressive numbers in Los Angeles.

If Faceless and VP are the under-the-radar teams, Team NP has been broadcasting on all channels. Formed after a falling out from former teams, Jacky "EternaLEnVy" Mao has been leading this motley crew of North American pros on a crusade of upsets and victories, reminiscent of the heyday of Cloud 9's Dota 2 days. The plays, for the most part, have been more stable and consistent, but there's still an element of surprise to everything NP does, varying between brilliance and confoundment. Still, this is one of the most entertaining teams to watch in Dota 2 right now, and given NP's recent ability to upset top squads such as EHOME and Evil Geniuses, NP looks less like a dark horse and more of a favorite for a top-three finish.