Over the fumes of rage by compendium purchasers, I have to say I am not even surprised by the list. There are controversial choices but I daresay all of them are justifiable.
First off, EG, VG and Secret are in without question. Their performance at DAC earlier is convincing enough to not be questioned and are the hottest champion contenders at the moment. Team Secret did had some obvious inconsistencies stopping them from being a true champion team, but I am betting on their rosters which consist of 2 brilliant drafters and tacticians with 3 highly mechanically gifted players to be the first to adapt to the recent patch and learn it better than anyone else.
IG had put up a strong show recently, and arguably the strongest team in terms of competitive experience, and had a long history despite slumps not too long ago. The addition of Burning to the roster is all they need to look like a champion contender, and they definitely look like one right now.
LGD and C9 are those teams that have always been there to make the winners look good: consistently outperforming average teams but always a shade less skilled in terms of execution compared to the ones above. LGD had always been a giant among the other Chinese teams, and could destroy IG and VG on their good days. Meanwhile, C9 is easily the most consistent team in terms of being relevant to the tier 1 scene because of players with great mechanical skills, allowing them to consistently control the early mid phases of the game. Not the strongest teams in general, but it would be controversial to not directly invite them.
Empire and Virtus Pro is not too different, but I mention them separately as Russian/CIS region teams have never really made it far and had always been out shadowed by Na’Vi. This time I think they found the right recipe to get to the top as their recent performances have been really outstanding with a couple of championships under their belt. So far, Empire would have a stronger roster in general, but Virtus Pro has an extraordinary captain in the form of fng, whom I expect to be one of those that could lead a team to dominate the new metagame. These 2 have upset quite a lot of predictions apparently, which displays a certain degree of ignorance from the community towards the CIS region scene aside from Na’Vi.
Newbee is extremely questionable considering they didn’t really achieve anything after TI4 and effectively isn’t a Tier 1 team at the moment. However, being last year’s champions has its own perks apparently, as there has to be a defending champion no matter how questionable a team’s performance is. Right now, one can only hope they would be able to give spectators some good games (as the players are relatively experienced and have been relevant for a long time) instead of a team that is going to look like a punching bag by the rest of the monsters. Judging from right now, if it weren’t for the fact that there has to be a defending champion, quite a lot of European teams (Ninjas in Pajamas, Na’Vi, Alliance, Hellraisers, Rave) would have been more deserving of it.
Between Team Malaysia and Rave, I would have confidently voted for Team Malaysia because of superior results recently (backed with a bit of favoritism for my homeland team, naturally), although admittedly Rave with MVP Pheonix has been the most relevant SEA team when Mushi was still in Ehome. Rave even had some astonishingly good performance against teams from other regions while Team Malaysia only managed to prove their case recently. This along with the fact that they have 3 very experienced members, including the legendary player that is Mushi, that have been duking out in the top scene in TI3, If one really has to choose, the scale will tip towards TM slightly more.
Since only 10 teams are directly invited, this leaves us with a fairly interesting list of teams that are left in the qualifer pool.
First of all, I bring your attention to the Europe Qualifier brackets, which is nearly as competitive and hyped as most regular tourneys. We have Na’Vi, the first ever Champion, managed to make it to 3 Grand Finals, attended all previous TIs, went through a slump for the past few months and got their former champion captain Artstyle back on the team. Alliance, the champions of TI3 who had a near undefeated streak throughout the tournament but are now way past their prime, made an emergence to the Tier 1 scene with new consistent mid in the form of Pajkatt and a good tactician and analyst 7ckingmad. NiP, who had been destroying teams beginning of the year, and still giving top teams a hell lot of challenge recently. Hellraisers, who got invited to DAC and had an outstanding performance with a relatively unknown roster made of talented players who deserve a shot at TI. I am not too familiar with the remaining teams, but judging by the VODS I have seen, London Conspiracy, PR and 4ASC are no pushovers. Last but definitely not least, Burden United, which consisted of washed up players from top teams, have shown extremely good plays recently as well, beating big names here and there.
And there is also Basically Unknown, which consists of another group of washups and regular standins, didn’t even make it to the qualifiers. I expect them to take part in the Open Qualifiers and fight their way through.
This is to highlight the extreme competitiveness of the Europe Qualifiers. At least 4 of the teams mentioned above would have looked good on the direct invite list and be less controversial then the Team Malaysia & Newbee invite. I can not honestly predict who is going to make it, but by current performance it would be Alliance topping them if AdmiralBulldog catches up quick enough or Na’Vi mastering the new patch, with Hellraisers standing a strong chance to pull off upsets. Not optimistic about NiP, but I won’t count them out.
The America Qualifier is most likely dominated by Team Tinker, which is close to being a Tier 1, seconded with Summer’s Rift or Not Today.
China’s Qualifier looks like a guaranteed ticket for HGT who are capable of giving VG and IG headaches, seconded with maybe CDEC who outperformed even LGD not too long ago. Special mention to Old Boys, retirees who are unlikely to make it far but capable of outwitting the weaker teams with sheer experience.
As for SEA, I don’t think there is any question that Rave is going to take it, although Korean stars MVP Pheonix who can pull off good upsets, and G-Guard, which consisted of big names such as YamateH, along with the other top Malaysian wash-ups and more then able to contest the spot.
Every year this is repeated, but TI5 is anyone’s game. This time to add in the difficulty, Valve gives any team in the world to take part in Open Qualifiers, with regional winners getting a place in the real Qualifiers to stand a chance for that invite. Teams that made their way could very well be better conditioned to play compared to the invited bunch.
To close things up, I will just leave my unfounded but educated prediction for the 6 Qualifier and Wild Card spots. Rave, HGT, Team Tinker, Alliance, Na’Vi, CDEC.