Seeing as we've covered the underdogs and dark horses in our last Dota 2 competitor rundown the favourites and heavy hitters deserve some attention too. All of these teams represent the cream of the crop in the competitive Dota 2 scene.
Ever since The International's inception, Chinese and Western teams have alternated year on year as the tournament champions in an odd never-ending cycle. Call it a jinx, or better yet, call it a curse but after seven years it became more or less a Dota 2 tradition. With Team Liquid claiming the Aegis last year, this year's smart money is on one of the Chinese teams.
Coming off one of the best seasons in Dota 2 history, Virtus Pro are considered the absolute favourites. The team has made only one roster change this season, swapping out support player Ilya "Lil" Ilyuk for Vladimir "RodjER" Nikogosyan which only increased their momentum.
The CIS team managed to bag four Major victories this season, absolutely dominating the DPC rankings. A win at Dota Summit 8 and a second place at the China Dota 2 Supermajor helped cement their place in the history books of Dota. A victory at The International would come as the cherry on top.
Apart from their successes as a team, three players of the squad have won Mercedes-Benz cars as individual MVP awards at ESL One Hamburg, Katowice, and Birmingham.
The defending champions have a gruelling task ahead of them. The team had an excellent 2017/18 season but were stuck playing second fiddle to Virtus Pro for most of the year.
They started the season with a strong statement - winning the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 3. They had a number of top-three finishes, but were unable to get over the last step most of the time following that first victory. They have traded blows quite evenly with Team Secret and PSG.LGD, but Virtus Pro proved to be their kryptonite.
Despite performing with a distinct lack of consistency against other top teams, Liquid are a serious contender, considerable threat and are almost shoe-ins for a podium finish.
The Chinese organisation LGD pulled off a significant move in bridging mainstream sports with esports after partnering with football giants Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year.
Although the team performed well in their first tournament of the year, finishing as the runners-up at PGL Open Bucharest, fortunes quickly shifted. After a number of bottom place finishes, change was in the air.
The team's first move was swapping out Ren "eLeVeN" Yangwei for Xu "fy" Linsen, but it sadly didn't prove to be enough. With the new roster not clicking with each other both Yang "Chalice" Shenyi and Luo "Sea mew" Bin were brought in, with the latter sticking around for only ten days. Another blow came when long-time captain Yao "Yao" Zhengzheng became inactive and was replaced by Malaysian Jian "xNova" Wei.
After so many roster changes, the team finally found common ground and began showing their true potential. A second place finish at DAC 2018 was only the beginning. Towards the end of the season the team won both Epicenter XL and the MDL Changsha Major.
PSG.LGD are first-row favourites alongside Virtus Pro and might just be the next team to raise the Aegis if tradition holds.
Since their start as one of Dota 2's first ever super-teams, Secret have failed unspectacularly with every shot at the Aegis.
Secret made two swift changes after bombing out of TI 7, swapping out carry player Pyo "MP" No-a and offlaner Maurice "KheZu" Gutmann for Marcus "Ace" Hoelgaard and Adrian "Fata" Trinks. The team's current season has been plagued by inconsistencies.
Their season highlights were wins at DreamLeague Seasons 8 and 9 and Captain's Draft 4, along with a second place at ESL One Hamburg 2017. As high as they flew, disappointing finishes at DAC 2018 and Epicenter XL were enough to shake faith in them. Despite their streaky form, a fourth place finish at the China Dota 2 Supermajor towards the end of the season showed some signs of life from the team.
Heading into The International, Secret are a huge wildcard. They can compete against the best, but are no strangers to dropping games against severe underdogs. Secret are by no means the biggest title contender, but can definitely surprise.
There is only one word that can describe Mineski - crazy. The team failed to qualify for last year's TI, but their new roster managed to turn some heads. With almost all of SEA's best players now under their banner, the star-studded line-up was viewed as one of the biggest threats to ever come out of the SEA Dota 2 scene.
They started the season with a bang, finishing as the runners-up at the StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 3, and winning PGL Open Bucharest only a week later. Their fortunes quickly shifted, as for every top four finish they had, there was an equal number of horrendous showings. There is no genius without a touch of madness, and Mineski confirmed this at DAC 2018. After finishing second in the group stage, the team ploughed through the Upper Bracket before finishing off LGD Gaming in the Grand Finals 3-2.
Mineski have every predisposition to do very well in Vancouver, the only thing in their way to attaining a top four finish is themselves.
The International 2017 runners-up and The International 2014 champions had another unpredictable season. Newbee are a team that thrives on TI's big stage, there's no way around it. The team's current roster has stuck together for the last 2 years, their experience is invaluable and talent undeniable, but will it be enough this year?
Sure, the team managed to win Perfect World Masters and ESL One Genting, but have also had more bottom of the barrel placings than anyone can count this season. For the whole duration of the season, Newbee were clearly outclassed by their compatriots LGD Gaming and VGJ.Thunder. Throw a few western teams into the mix and the team's chances become somewhat bleak.
Although Newbee is not in the best position they've ever been, they are still threat enough to be ignored at one's own peril.
North America's pride haven't looked like themselves this past season. It's been a horrible year for the boys in blue. Plagued by roster changes, bottom place finishes and the retirement of NA legend Clinton "Fear" Loomis, it's a minor miracle they even made it to Vancouver.
The post TI-7 shuffle saw them lose Ludwig "zai" Wåhlberg with Fear stepping out of retirement to lead the team back to their former glory. Soon after they lost longtime member and cornerstone Saahil "UNiVeRsE" Arora, who was replaced by Rasmus "MISERY" Filipsen. Sadly, the move turned out to be a disaster, as Misery wasn't able to mesh with his new NA teammates. The team did manage to snag one victory however, at the GESC: Indonesia Dota 2 Minor, but it was barely enough.
Evil Geniuses managed to salvage what was left of their season by signing former OG captain and founder Tal "Fly" Aizik along with offlaner Gustav "s4" Magnusson to replace Misery and Fear, with the latter going back to retirement. This meant the team had to go through North America's Open Qualifiers before managing to qualify as NA's #2 seed.
Evil Geniuses is on our favourites list due to a strong showing at The Summit 9, where they toyed with both Fnatic and VGJ.Storm before winning the tournament. If they can repeat their success from The Summit, they just might surprise everybody in Vancouver.
After missing out on last year's International, Vici Gaming returned this season with an All-Star Chinese roster. Despite signing some of the most celebrated names of the Chinese Dota 2 scene, the team have had a rollercoaster of a season.
Their highlights were a second place finish at ESL One Katowice 2018 and third place at the MDL Changsha Major. Apart from those two tournaments, the team's form has been all over the place. They managed to have a few decent middle-of-the-pack finishes but also failed to qualify for many events. For most of the qualifiers, they were outclassed by either Newbee, VGJ.Thunder or LGD.
The team look fairly weak in comparison to other Chinese teams, and might even see an early exit if they do not pick up the pace.
Team VGJ.Thunder are one of the more pleasant surprises of the year. From the beginning, the team looked like a perfect blend of veteran experience and Chinese scene youngbloods. The Chinese roster had a slow start to the seasons, scraping up leftovers from other more established teams.
Their big break came at Galaxy Battles II: Emerging Worlds where they outclassed Evil Geniuses in two consecutive series. The team improved even more after the addition of Leong "ddc" Fat-meng. The seasoned veteran was a perfect fit from the get-go, and VGJ.Thunder took second place at the Bucharest Major only a month later. Their good form continued as they snagged two more second places, this time at the GESC: Indonesia Dota 2 Minor and the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5.
VGJ.Thunder are a dangerous opponent, and they can definitely duke it out with the best. Depending on their Group Stage performance, The International 2018 could go very well for them.
Interested in TI8 underdogs and dark horses? Here's AltChar's rundown.