Valve has announced the dates for The International 3 (TI3), the biggest DotA 2 tournament on Earth, offering a one million dollar grand prize. From August 7th to the 11th, DotA will return to Benaroya Hall in beautiful downtown Seattle. Thirteen teams will be invited; the first invitation has already gone out to Invictus Gaming (IG), champions of The International 2 (TI2). The rest will be announced over the coming days.
There are two spots to be claimed via qualifier events. The West Qualifier will handled by the excellent GD Studio and will run from May 13th to the 19th. The East Qualifier has been given to Beyond The Summit (BTS) and will be held from May 20th to the 26th. The qualifiers will be double-elimination brackets, consisting entirely of best of threes until the finals, which will be best of five. The final slot will be claimed at the Wild Card event, a permanent tournament feature now, where the runners-up from the East and West Qualifiers will face off on August 6th in Seattle.
The International 3 represents the crescendo of a year where competitive DotA has really bloomed, with top shelf teams from both Europe and Asia popping up. From January on, there's speculation about who's going, who's casting, and what excellent japes Statman Bruno will pull off this year. Invictus Gaming is already confirmed and was honestly in little doubt. Their focus on regimented team fights and slow, patient victories overwhelmed all comers, making them the easy favorite for this year.
Na`Vi will almost certainly be receiving an invite as the champions of the very first International and runners-up from the second. However, gone is the stable Na`Vi lineup that carried them to victory for two championships. ARS-ART and LightOfHeaven, their support and incredibly well-known offlaner, have been replaced with KuroKy and Funn1k. Their new lineup has yet to be tested against the Asian powerhouses, raising questions about how far they can get.
LGD.ch, third place finishers from TI2, are another almost guaranteed invite. They're famous for going to the Winner's Finals without dropping a single match until Na`Vi and then IG exploited their relatively limited pool of heroes, banning and/or picking all their typical pickups. This year, however, they suffer from no such weakness. Since TI2, they have drastically increased their versatility in DotA 2. Can they pull off the dream of a perfect run this year?
Some newer teams to watch out for are Team Dignitas, formerly PotM Botton. They exploded onto the scene just after TI2 invites went out and they were largely considered the best western team not attending, beating Na`Vi while they were at their prime. They've been consistently taking games off many top shelf teams like Empire, Team Liquid, and Virtus.pro lately, and placing well in many tournaments. They'll likely do well if they go.
Virtus.pro is another team doing incredibly well lately, picking up ex-Na`Vi player ARS-ART, officially as a temporary player, but it's hard to imagine them failing to sign one of the best support players. His signature Sand King play suits their aggressive mid-game team fight style and is a great compliment to their lineup. But the new western team everyone has the highest hopes for by far is Alliance, known for their offlaner AdmiralBulldog, farming addict Loda, and pulling out pocket strategies at every opportunity. Their performance lately has almost certainly earned them an invite.
The field is incredibly strong this year. With almost 90% of DotA heroes ported, you can expect to see some truly mind-bending plays. You owe it to yourself to watch the qualifiers as well as the main event, which will have just about everybody who is somebody fighting for those precious three slots. If you plan on attending in person, start making preparations now. The tickets sell out quickly and Seattle is packed during the summer months, although things should be less hectic since it isn't the same week as PAX West this year. If you can't attend, The International will be free to watch in a client that anyone with a Steam account can download for free.