Patrick Bonifacio, February 21, 2017

The teams on form for Dota 2's celestial clash in StarSeries Season 3's LAN Finals

Although technically not the first tournament to be played on patch 7.02, the third season of StarSeries – presented by StarLadder and ImbaTV – will be the first premier tournament to hold this distinction.

Eight teams from all over the globe will fight for the right to call themselves the champions of the third season, and for the right to the $135,000 first place prize. There's plenty of great talent to get your Dota 2 bets in on.

The fact that this competition will be played out in the new patch will present an additional factor to consider when picking the teams that might do well in Shanghai this weekend, as each squad tries to find their comfort zone amidst all the changes. That said, there is still little doubt that teams known for being solid and consistent will still be favored, and one look at the list of participants is all you need to see this. That said, there may be some surprises in store from the dark horses. Read on to find out what we’re talking about.

Top of the Ladder: Wings, OG, Liquid, and Digital Chaos

To absolutely no one’s surprise, Wings and OG were both invited directly into the tournament. As the TI6 and defending Major champions, respectively, none can say that these two teams aren’t capable of winning top tier tournaments at any given time. OG, in particular, most recently took rivals EG to all five games at the Dota Pit Season 5 finals (despite losing in the end), showing everyone that they can go the distance against the world’s top teams – of which they are a part.

Wings can be an on and off team at times, but their practically bottomless hero pool will come in handy in a tournament played just a few days after a major update. With the confusion and surprise factors on their side, teams that face them will find themselves hard-pressed to keep up in the drafting phase. Expect them to leverage this into a top 4 appearance, at the very least.

Liquid were pretty quiet throughout the Fall Major season, forced to stay under the radar after failing to qualify for Boston. After breaking the DAC European qualifiers wide open, though, it’s clear that they’re back in form and are ready to take on the world once again. Miracle-’s presence in the team aside, the other four members should not be underestimated. New support GH in particular is a sight to behold on the battlefield.

As for DC, they were bounced out of Dota Pit quite unceremoniously, failing to survive in a tournament where the losers’ bracket consisted entirely of best-of-one matches. This makes it somewhat difficult to gauge their strength coming into StarSeries, especially considering they nearly beat Team Secret in the first round of the Dota Pit playoffs – but since every team has their off days their Bo1 loss to Faceless probably shouldn’t count for much. They’re still likely going to be a top 4 caliber squad in this tournament, so don’t sleep on them just yet.

Aiming for the Stars: Team Secret, TNC Pro Team, VG.J, iG Vitality

Make no mistake: all four teams listed on the header above this section are both capable of making surprisingly long runs in tournaments. Team Secret still have both the talent and leadership required to beat tier 1 teams, but their failure to qualify for DAC doesn’t have us totally convinced they can win a premier yet. They have, however, shown signs of positive chemistry and teamwork, so we will see them rise through the ranks soon enough if they keep it up.

TNC are currently the undisputed best team in the Philippines, and will probably hold onto that title for a while longer. Their tendency to really get going as a cohesive unit is their biggest strength, which they will have to turn to in order to get through the projected top 4 in this competition. It’s also interesting to note that TNC defeated Cloud 9 at the WESG finals, which was the same team that eliminated Secret from the DAC qualifiers.

VG.J and iG Vitality both made it into DAC thanks to the two slots offered by the Chinese regional qualifiers, which tells us that they are, at the very least, worthy of being in a premier tournament. VG.J in particular have an ace up their sleeve: the legendary support duo fy and Fenrir. These two need little introduction and will always have an impact on whatever team they become a part of.

iG Vitality, on the other hand, have the core duo Paparazi and Sakata. Paparazi has 8.5k MMR on the Chinese ladder and has the skills to back it up, while Sakata proved himself a capable mid at Dota Pit. All in all, though, these two teams are still the least likely to win the whole thing, so you’d have to be pretty bold to place your money on them.

There’s a significantly higher chance for upsets to happen in this particular tournament compared to Dota Pit, mainly due to the developing talent from the projected bottom 4 and the uncharted territory brought about by the patch. Whatever happens here, it’s going to affect how teams are ranked coming into DAC next month.

Patrick Bonifacio

Patrick is a Dota 2 fanatic, specialising in the SEA scene. He's also a massive K-pop fan but we don't offer markets on Girls Generation (yet) so he writes about esports instead. You can follow him at twitter.com/EthanKairos_