Even after a dramatic Dota 2 offseason filled with roster swaps and retirements, the dust still hasn't settled since the conclusion of The International 6. There's been precious few international LANs to gauge the performance of the new lineups, and there are still a good number of unknowns going into the 2017 season. The Boston Major set at the Wang Theatre will be the venue to quell doubts and establish the tone of the 2017 season. After so many of the traditional favorites fell to new faces in the Boston qualifiers, a new balance of power has arisen in Dota 2. If you haven't watched any Dota since August, a lot has changed.
Still, there's been just enough interregional play and major LANs to start drawing lines. Who's a favorite for the title in Boston? Who will need to make some miracles happen?
1. Wings Gaming
The reigning champs of The International, Wings Gaming were one of the few teams to stick together in the offseason, and for good reason. No other squad looks as consistent or solid as Wings. Watching recent matches, you would think a day hasn't passed since August, as key players like Chu "shadow" Zeyu and Zhang "Faith_bian" Ruida continue to put up impressive performances. Wings have been humbled a couple times in the months since TI6, falling to EG at The Summit 6 to finish third, but it's still hard to bet against them. Even in losses, teams have to work uphill to earn the victory against this team, and you can never really count these five out of any match.
2. Evil Geniuses
Questions about Evil Geniuses' capability without Peter "ppd" Dager may have been exaggerated, as Andreas "Cr1t-" Nielsen has stepped up to the captain's role with aplomb. Evil Geniuses have been one of the most consistent teams coming out of the offseason, winning the MarsTV Dota 2 League 2016 Autumn and finishing third at The Summit 6. Even in a single-elim, best-of-three format, EG have a history of excelling. This squad is 9-1 in Game 3 situations, and have only been swept 2-0 three times in the last couple months. A solid bet for a top-three finish in almost any tournament, and certainly for the major.
Even a few weeks ago, I would have questioned placing Virtus.Pro so high. After The Summit 6 though, there's little doubt in anyone's mind that VP are going to be a team to beat in Boston. Virtus.Pro are aggressive, in the way most CIS-region squads are known for, but their offensive-oriented mindset masks crisp, clean execution. This team clicks together like few others do, with well-timed rotations and pristine team fights. The fact that VP was under-the-radar for so long makes it a challenge for most teams to adjust as well; analysts and coaches will likely be picking apart VP's Summit matches in a hurry to dissect the team before Boston. VP may be a qualifier team, but it's one of the most daunting matchups for any team bar-none headed into the main event.
Though the green dream looked shaky, they've since got their feet underneath themselves and started to sync up, most notably at The Summit 6. Rookie mid-laner Anathan "ana" Pham was a big question mark, as he was filling some big shoes on the roster while veteran mid Gustav "s4" Magnusson was working up confidence in the offlane. Both have since proven their mettle in their respective roles, and as the team begins to shake some of its nerves, OG may prove to be a force to be reckoned with again. For now, they're still in the upper-tier, but just outside the top three.
After a low placement at The International, Newbee have since bounced back and looked competitive in their precious few interregional tournament appearances. Though Newbee have not competed in any significant international LAN in the last few weeks, you can't discount the talent and prowess already shown, even within the Chinese region. Undefeated runs in brackets are not uncommon for this team when playing other Chinese squads, and under captain Hu "Kaka" Liangzhi, there's no question that Newbee will be a strong contender in Massachusetts.
6. Team NP
The trend of pro players forming their own organization has been fairly successful in the past year or so, and Team NP is the newest poster child for it. Made up of many talented North American pros, this team harkens back to the glory days of Cloud9 Dota 2, and not just because of lineup similarities. The balance of baffling brilliance and unpredictability of this team is something to watch, and keeps every NP game exciting from start to finish. Where other teams might need consistency headed into Boston, Team NP may need just the opposite; surprise picks, aggressive play and executing specific lineups has worked well for NP in the past, and could mean the difference between finishing in or out of the top three.
A more recent success story to hail from China, EHOME have had mixed results in recent LAN showings. A few losses to some upper-tier teams have snubbed EHOME's runs early, but in-game, this team shows promise. The talent of players like Wang "old chicken" Zhiyong can lead to some explosive matches for the team, but the sticking point will be consistency. EHOME need reliable showings, and to avoid major lane implosions, which have allowed teams to steal away the game early from EHOME in the past.
8. Digital Chaos
The runner-up at TI6 has had a few stumbles in the months since August. Precious few LAN matches have doubled those concerns, as its sole pre-Boston appearance at The Summit 6 resulted in a less-than-desirable fifth-sixth finish. There may be too little data to determine whether DC has truly deteriorated from its top-two finish, but as it stands, Digital Chaos are not a clear favorite for the top spot at Boston, and given results from the Summit, barely cuts into the top eight.
9. Team Faceless
Made up of veterans and fresh faces, Team Faceless have some of the most potential of any qualifier team headed into Boston. Led by Daryl "iceiceice" Koh Pei Xiang, eyes should be on Dominik "Black^" Reitmeier in the hard carry role. Not only one of the best Anti-Mage players outside of "BurNIng," Reitmeier has been a playmaker for this team in the carry role. Having already pulled off some significant upsets in the SEA region, the team looked a little less promising at The Summit 6, landing in the bottom two at the tournament. Still, potential exists here for Faceless to make a run in the tournament, as one of the most promising dark horses among the qualifier teams.
10. Ad Finem
Hailing from Greece, Ad Finem have tried and failed twice to make the cut for a major: Manila, and again for TI6. Third time seems to be the charm for Ad Finem though, finally making it into Boston, and this team looks like a promising candidate for some upsets in the main event bracket. These are five talented players who have stuck it out since the team's inception in 2015, and most recently took games off NP and FDL. Ad Finem might be easy to overlook, but that's more than likely an advantage here, as this EU squad took a qualifier spot over lineups like Team Liquid and Secret while flying under the radar.
11. LGD Forever Young
Despite securing a first-place finish over top Chinese teams to get into Boston, more recent results have cast some shadows on LGD Forever Young's chances for the top. A strong showing in the group stages of the Dota 2 ACE Provisional tournament was followed by a quick two-and-out exit from the bracket, courtesy of Vici Gaming J. Never count out captain Zhang "xiao8" Ning, who earned his title of "Director 8" for a reason. LGD.FY's Boston hopes will rest on the captain's shoulders, and though it may not look promising, Zhang has captained TI-winning squads before, so anything is possible for this uneasy lineup in Boston.
12. MVP Phoenix
A top team at most international LANs, MVP Phoenix have had some trying times as of late. After losing key players to Team Secret in the offseason, MVP didn't look quite like the team that took fifth-sixth at TI6. The recent substitution of Lee "Forev" Sang-don back onto the team is the X-factor, as the team's Boston hopes will rest squarely on his shoulders in the one-role core position. MVP Phoenix could once again pull off an incredible LAN run, like it often does at major Valve events, and make a real contest for a top spot. Given recent performances in the SEA region, though, it's hard to do anything more than speculate what-ifs.
13. Warriors Gaming Unity
A surprise to anyone not well-versed in the region, WG Unity came out of the SEA qualifiers looking solid, edging out Fnatic and Mineski to take the second spot. In the past, this team had some impressive wins on its resume, including several over Execration. It remains to be seen if this team has the talent needed to edge out other competitors, but going off its SEA performances, WG Unity could be looking at some quality wins coming into Boston.
A team that looked promising coming into Boston, especially in a highly competitive North American region, recent incidents have introduced a lot of variables into coL's Boston prospects. The sudden departure of Justin "jk" Rosselle shook up the Complexity lineup, and now there is some ambiguity as to whether new sub Jaron "monkeys-forever" Clinton or offlaner David "Moo" Hull will fill Rosselle's spot. The team has exhibited the ability to compete at a high level, and to take teams like EG and NP to full sets, but with so many question marks and unknowns, it's hard to know what version of Complexity will show up in Massachusetts.
What was one of the more surprising direct invites to the Boston Major, Execration certainly looked strong out of the gate coming into the 2017 season. After a third-place finish in the TI6 wild cards, the team seemed promising after beating a few of its uppermost interregional opponents, a status boosted further by a direct invite to Boston. But while Execration can take games off other SEA teams, this lineup struggles against international competitors. A recent second-place finish at ROG Masters masks the fact that Execration didn't face a team that had been to a major or International until the grand finals, where it got swept 3-0 by Team Secret. Even within the region, Execration has often fallen to teams like WG Unity and Fnatic. Despite their status as direct invite, Execration doesn't have much on their resume to assure they'll make a dent in the Boston bracket.
16. Invictus Gaming Vitality
The second-place qualifier for the Boston Major from the Chinese region, Invictus Gaming's Vitality lineup has had precious few triumphs this season besides the qualifier win. Besides emerging victorious to make it to Boston, Vitality has otherwise fallen to many other Chinese competitors, including a last-place finish at the Nanyang Cruise Cup and only one win overall at the MarsTV Dota 2 League 2016 Autumn. This team has often floated around the middle of the pack in regional LANs, but Vitality will need to seriously up its game and focus to make it past the first round of eliminations in Boston.