They Belong

Mousesports snuck into The International last year.

It wasn’t a planned playoff like this year, but MUFC’s travel problem became an opportunity for Mouz.

While they won that playoff, they had no expectation of playing in the tournament so they hadn’t trained to play the other teams. It showed.

But this year is different, Black is the only remaining player and they didn’t back into The International but won the Western Qualifier.

It wasn’t easy. They first stumbled, entered the loser brackets, and then at their darkest hour they can all recall a speech, it was motivation, it fired them up, and it worked.

They came charging back and took the tournament and earned their place at The International.

Now they belong and this is as much their International to win as anyone else’s.
Getting 100%

When talking with MUFC’s WinteR, it comes as no surprise that he was once a national chess player.

As he discusses the draft stage, it is detailed and insightful. This is an area where he placed all the responsibility on himself.

Where other teams might make choices to work against the opponents, WinteR feels the need to know every small detail about his own team, the roles they excel at, the strategies they can execute because in his eyes – a strategy born out of a counter will not be as successful as a strategy born out of getting 100% performance from his team.

The question then becomes, has he had enough time to learn the nuances of his team? They only reformed in March. Their move to the training house was delayed as they waited for an Internet connection so their boot camp was only 5 weeks long.

Was that enough time?

WinteR was relaxed with this question, yes of course it was enough time. Where we saw losses, he saw new things about his team. He was learning.

He will take all of that into the The International and execute his moves to let MUFC play at 100%.
Playing Their Game

Orange has a rookie on their team - Ohaiyo.

He is a good example of a rookie's experience at The International. He relies on teammates who have been here before to help him navigate the event. They tell him things like don't lose your passport and most importantly relax.

But nerves and excitement can be used to your favor. For instance, he is way too excited to be suffering jet lag.

And if he is still worried about his own nerves during a game, his teammate Mushi can calm him. As one of the top mid players in the world he has learned not just from his past International experiences but more recent matches as well.

He vows Orange learned from the Alienware Cup. There they stopped playing their game and stopped being aggressive.

For The International, Orange isn't going to worry about the other teams and simply play their game. They will force the other teams to change and accommodate them as they make their bid for victory.
The International House of Dedication

While some teams have a language barrier by having two nationalities on their team, LGD International lives up to the International part of their name by being based in China and having a team comprised of players from Canada, America, Denmark, Sweden, and Russia.

With all team members moving to a foreign country where they none of them speak the language, they were forced to turn to each other. Their in-game communication might not always be pretty, but as Brax points out – they do understand each other.

They have more than their ability to communicate on the line at this year’s International.

Living together 24/7 for 10 months, playing Dota 2 all day, 6 days a week, in an unfamiliar country is a big sacrifice. It adds pressure to their play. Their friends and family back home are all wondering if it has been worth it.

1437 makes it clear – yes, it was worth it.

They could have been good players in the West but the teamwork and dedication they have learned has gotten them prepared for The International and their bid to win it all.
Creating Confidence

One month is your average time for a boot camp before The International. A few teams even talked about the tensions that can rise by having a longer camp. Fnatic broke all the rules by running theirs for two months.

For them it was important to not just practice but bond as a team. They needed to believe in each other. The Dota 2 community was hard on them as they switched over. Then their early successes led into a slump. It hasn’t always been easy to believe.

Besides learning about each other during their extended boot camp - Era can’t cook, Trixi is a master chef - they had to learn about gaining their confidence back. Could they shake that all off coming out straight from their long boot camp to The International?

And to be clear, this isn’t about other people’s doubts. They can handle that, this is about their own doubts. They want to start strong in group stage and then play their own game but if they fail there is it over? They look to NAVI last year, having a bad group stage only to come back strong - it can be done – nothing will shake them.

Their confidence is relaxed enough now that when N0Tail is asked if there could be anything as sweet as winning The International a smile crosses his face, maybe there is one… a victory at The International with Meepo.
And Then There Were 16
We say it is 16 teams descending on Seattle for The International but there are 17 in Bellevue today. Two of those teams, Quantic and RattleSnake, will play a best of 5 playoff to secure that final 16th position.

So today at 1pm PST it isn't about 16 teams descending on Seattle, but 2 teams taking an elevator ride down to a conference room in Bellevue to decide their fate.

Both these teams have prepared not just for each other, but the entire International field. They know this is just the first step of their journey, they need to win it, but they also need to be prepared for winning it.

So join us today and see who spends the next week watching from the sidelines and who joins the fray and becomes one of the 16.
Out Of The Shadows

When we asked teams to pick their top 4 for The International, DK is almost always on the list. When Ohaiyo from Orange picked who he was most excited to meet at his first International - he named BurNIng from DK.

So with all the accolades, why is it that BurNIng feels they are being over shadowed by the other Chinese teams?

He cites a simple lack of focus in earlier tournaments.

But that’s gone. DK is nothing but focus now.

When asked, other teams will also tell us of 10 hour days playing Dota 2. They also mention ending their day by studying game footage of their opponents. They will all talk of dedication - they use the same words…

But it is how BurNIng says them. While other players can be serious, his seriousness, his focus comes without a nervous foot twitch, or hesitation to answer. It is direct, focused, and ready.

It looks like DK is ready to move out from the shadows into the spotlight of the center stage this International.
There Is Only One

Travel to The International impacts almost all of the teams. The change in time zones, the distance, unfamiliar surroundings all cause each team to try and compensate. Some teams shift their training schedules to get ready - Zenith also shifted their schedule but for another reason.

As an independent team, they are forced to make due and adjust to their daily lives. With xy- still finishing his national service, they can’t play during the day. They have to play at night after he is done working. While an inconvenience then, it pays off now as their schedule is perfectly matched to Seattle.

For them, it is all about Seattle and The International. As they competed this past year, they have become known for their unconventional draft choices and not blocking other team’s choices. While it may seem bizarre to outsiders at other tournaments, it makes perfect sense to them - there is only one tournament they are training for - The International.

All other tournaments are just training, time to experiment, try new things, play against a different mix of heroes.

How confident are they that this strategy will pay off? When discussing the Compendium’s contribution to the prize pool they wished it all went to the first place team for one simple reason - so they would win more money.

But the money isn’t why they play - the prestige of winning The International, holding up the Aegis over their heads will be the reward for their singular focus.
Focus, Focus, Focus

Posting a picture of TongFu always generates a huge amount of excitement and this fan favorite team is looking to focus that excitement on The International.

There are just a few problems, what happened at the Alienware Cup? What happened last year at the International? When we asked Hao about this, his response was quick, honest, and to the point.

Last year, it was his fault - he lost his concentration on the game. There were too many distractions happening in his personal life.

At the Alienware Cup, it was outside forces playing havoc with the team’s schedule that distracted them from their play.

They think their win at the Dota 2 Super League shows what the team is capable of and why they are picking themselves as favorites.

But to be clear, the difference this year is more than just a calm social life. With the addition of KingJ to the team, they have someone slowing them down, calming them in game. He is more than just a great player but also the one to get them to wait to strike at the perfect moment.

In a few days, we will see if this is enough to make The International TongFu’s moment.
A Cut Above the Rest

For some teams, you can see the determination and seriousness in their faces. For LGD, they wear their dedication in their style with new haircuts - the Dota 2 Logo cut into the side of their heads.

That dedication and determination comes from losing their invite this year and having to qualify and reprove themselves to The International, the Dota 2 community, and themselves.

On the road back to The International, they experimented with different strategies and roles. Yao claims it is the most serious practice they have ever done.

While they look forward to each game and team - some to beat for the first time, others to revenge last year's losses. NAVI is the team they fear the most. That comes from NAVI's ability to learn and adjust during the tournament making them more dangerous in the later rounds.

Which brings up an important point, the physical toll of a long tournament. Yao insists that winning teams need both the mental and physical endurance to win it all. They will get to prove if they have what it takes very soon.