Opinion: Why the Underdogs of Dota 2 Defy All Odds at The Internationals

We normally assume that only the teams going into TI with the best form will win, but that has rarely been the case so far. Is there a reason for this phenomenon?

Sarah Zulkiflee
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<div class="paragraphs"><p>Clinton "Fear" Loomis talked about the strength of underdogs.</p></div>

The International (TI) is the pinnacle of Dota 2 esports. Players may win hundreds of other tournaments but several pro players have admitted that nothing really compares to winning a TI. Being a tournament of such prestige, we can assume that only the teams going into the tournament with the best form will win, but that has rarely been the case so far. The story of underdogs and their Cinderella runs has been written over and over again at TIs. Despite many discounting their potential to do so, these teams continue to prove the naysayers wrong and surpass expectations.

In 2016, TI finalist Digital Chaos was a roster made of rejects. OG’s 2018 roster was ripped apart just before TI, and Team Spirit, the victor of The International 10, was a group of newcomers that had never been subjected to the competitively intense environment of TI. Each of these teams came into TI with little to no expectations, fought against all odds, and stumped many Dota 2 experts. The International winners are supposed to be the creme de la creme of the game, the ones with the highest chance of success. But almost every year, there is one underdog that defies all odds. Is there a reason for this phenomenon, or is it just an outcome of chaos induced by the immense pressure courtesy of a gargantuan prize pool?

Contrary to what it might seem, The International is not just about excelling and being the most skilled Dota 2 players. Nor is it just about having a strategic advantage through a superior understanding of the game. One can argue about individual players being better than each other, but at the end of the day, everyone at The International is a master of the game. Though each individual might have different experiences, all of them have played innumerable hours of Dota 2. They breathe and live the game. And when it comes to TI, the skill differences between teams and players are almost negligible.

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