EG and Team Spirit could technically place much higher than eighth in the DPC (if they did well at the upcoming Super Major), but to keep things simple, let’s just look at the minimum teams would need to perform at ESL One to earn a TI8 invite. VGJ.Thunder currently sit in eighth place with 1935 total points - with the potential for them to earn more at the China Super Major. ESL One will award 2250 team points to first, 1350 to second, 675 to third, and 225 to fourth place. This means that EG would need to at least place third, Fnatic needs second place, and Optic and Spirit would both need to win the tournament. All of this assumes that VGJ.Thunder does not finish in the top four at the China Super Major.
This sounds great for those teams, but can they actually do it? Honestly, probably not.
Team Spirit have been fighting through the CIS qualifiers all year. Fortunately, Na’Vi’s withdrawal from ESL opened up a spot for them to have another shot at the DPC. They made it to Galaxy Battles II, which didn’t even end up being a DPC event. Their third place finish at a $500,000 USD event might look impressive on paper, but that tournament was filled with subs and lower tier teams. The entire lower bracket was also a bo1 format. Recently, Team Spirit have improved, at least in their own region. They qualified for the Super Major, giving them two DPC LANs at the end of the season. This doesn’t mean they have what they need to suceed at these LANs. Outside of FlyToMoon’s impressive performance at Epicenter XL and VP in general, CIS hasn’t performed well internationally. Team Spirit will have VP, EG, and Fnatic to contend with in their group. ESL One Birmingham isn’t like most tournaments either. Usually the group stage is used for seeding and maybe last place is eliminated. Unfortunately for Team Spirit, they have to come in at least second place in their group to even stay in the tournament. Dota might be all about the team fights, a CIS specialty, but Team Spirit will need more than spirit to face the experience on VP, EG, and Fnatic.
Evil Geniuses had so much potential. They have an incredible combination of mechanical talent and experience that should enable them to do well in the constantly shifting meta of biweekly patches. “Should” is the key word there. They decided to embrace the unstable Dota meta with their own unstable team structure. Their greedy tri-core constantly shifts between roles. This makes their teamwork and cohesion questionable, and they struggle to take crucial mid game fights as a result. SumaiL may be a brilliant technical player and Fear one of the more experienced professionals out there - but if they constantly rotate between mid, offlane, and carry, no one is functioning at their best. It isn’t about each players’ comfort on their role either, it also has a lot to do with the team understanding when their offlane will need a gank, or when mid will be free to rotate. EG’s inability to settle into defined roles is hurting their ability to function as a team. If EG manage to survive their group stage, they have the lowest requirements to make it into the top eight of the DPC. All they need is to make it to third place. VIrtus.Pro, Liquid, Vici, and Mineski might get a little bit in the way of that third place finish.
Stability is an odd term to use for an NA team, but of the TI8 invite eligible NA teams, Optic Gaming is probably the most stable. PPD and Zai have been a support duo since their HoN days, and their synergy has only grown with time. The roster hasn’t changed since December, and the full squad has a few LANs under them. They won the Starladder Minor and played at the Bucharest and Katowice Majors with the current roster. CC&C and 33 have much less competitive experience than their EG counterparts, but they have the benefit of playing the same roles every game. PPD’s drafting style, much like Puppey’s, is stubborn but occasionally brilliant. Optic Gaming will probably get eliminated in their group, but they have the potential to take advantage of unseen strategies for a surprise run towards the top. They would need to win ESL One Birmingham to displace VGJ.Thunder from eighth place.
Fnatic needs a second place finish at ESL, and without a spot at the China Super Major, this is their last chance to earn a direct TI8 invite. They have a 50/50 chance to make it out of their group. EG could pose a threat while Team Spirit remains a bit of a question mark at this stage. Fnatic have been consistently finishing in the top four, earning DPC points at GESC Thailand and Indonesia, Starladder, Dreamleague, and ESL One Katowice. This consistency across patches probably gives them the best shot of these four teams to make it to the grand finals. The team itself is by no means consistent - they throw equally as often as they manage incredible comebacks. Although being an EternaLEnvy fan is stressful, it is certainly never boring.
Four teams have the chance to upset the DPC standings, but they will all have to overcome serious flaws to do so. Team Spirit will need to overcome their inexperience and use the element of surprise to hit ESL One Birmingham with CIS aggression and teamwork. EG needs to pick a team composition and stick to it while Optic Gaming will hopefully have a few tricks of their sleeves. Fnatic have this one last shot to earn their spot at TI8.
The fight for last place is on. The real question is: will that be last place in the DPC top eight, or last place at ESL One Birmingham?