No Southeast Asian team have ever won The International (TI), Dota 2's annual world championship tournament, and claimed the Aegis of Champions.
Western Europe boasts the most TI championships with four, China comes second with three, Eastern Europe and North America have one apiece, while only SEA and South America have yet to touch the Aegis. Will that change in TI10? Will this finally be the year for SEA?
Let's look back at the history of SEA Dota at TI to see how good the region's chances of claiming that elusive championship are in TI10:
While SEA Dota teams have yet to claim the Aegis of Champions, that doesn't mean they haven't come close. In the early days of the game, the region's representatives have actually made it to the final day of the tournament and finished in third place.
The first was in TI1, the first-ever iteration of the tournament and Dota 2's public debut all the way back in 2011. Benedict "Hyhy" Lim led Singaporean squad Scythe Gaming to a huge upset over EHOME, the Chinese powerhouse of the time, in the semi-finals to reach the Top 3.
However, they fell to eventual champions Natus Vincere (Na'Vi) in the upper bracket finals, before succumbing to a vengeful EHOME in the lower bracket finals and bowing out in third place. Hyhy's journey with Scythe Gaming was notably one of the featured stories in Valve's Free to Play documentary.
Two years later, SEA Dota legend Chai "Mushi" Yee Fung led Malaysia's Orange Esports on a lower bracket run to the final day of TI3. After losing to Na'Vi in the first round of the upper bracket, Mushi led Orange on a rampage in the lower bracket to earn a rematch with Na'Vi in the lower bracket finals.
Orange had Na'Vi on the ropes in game three, but an uncontested Roshan attempt that could have sealed the game ended in disaster when they mistakenly denied the Aegis of the Immortal. With their opponents not having the safety net provided by the Aegis, Na'Vi managed to pull off an improbable comeback to advance to the grand finals. In a cruel twist of irony, the denial of that in-game Aegis cost Orange their chance of winning the real-life Aegis.
Despite his demoralising loss in TI3, Mushi later led SEA Dota's next most successful bids at a TI championship in TI4 and TI6.
In 2014, Mushi and Singapore's Daryl "iceiceice" Koh Pei Xiang — who was notably a sub for Scythe Gaming back in TI1 — joined forces with some of the best players in China under the banner of Team DK. Despite dominating throughout the entire year and being pegged as the favourites to win TI4, DK faltered and were knocked out in fourth place by eventual runners-up Vici Gaming.
Mushi returned to SEA after DK disbanded and in 2016 led a promising Fnatic squad, which notably featured then-prodigies Yeik "MidOne" Nai Zheng and Djardel "DJ" Mampusti, to qualifying for TI6. Despite starting the main event from the lower bracket, Mushi led Fnatic on another incredible lower bracket run before getting eliminated in fourth place by the eventual runners-up — North America's Digital Chaos this time — once again.
However, Fnatic weren't he only SEA team that made a lot of noise during TI6. Despite only finishing in eighth place, Filipino organisation TNC made their first big splash in Dota during the tournament when they eliminated then two-time Major champions OG in a massive 2-0 upset.
After SEA Dota's promising showing in TI6, the region's performances in the next three iterations of the tournament continued to slump. From TI7 through TI9, no SEA teams even came close to competing for the Aegis as they finished all unfortunately finished outside of the Top 8 for three-straight years.
In the four aforementioned instances that SEA Dota came closest to the Aegis, the region's representatives have shown the resilience needed to be among the final few competing for the championship. However, the overwhelming pressure of the competition and less then stellar luck meant they couldn't go all the way.
Does SEA Dota's past history at TI bode another disappointing ending for the region at TI10?
I don't think so. While the likes of Hyhy and Mushi have long since gone over the hill, carrying the torch for SEA Dota this year is a promising mix of 15 decorated veterans and talented newcomers spread across five teams that have as good a chance as any at claiming that elusive Aegis for the region.
Three of those five teams with SEA players in their roster — T1, Evil Geniuses (EG), and PSG.LGD — are considered among the strongest contenders for the championship in TI10.
T1 is led by Filipino veteran Carlo "Kuku" Palad, who was a part of the TNC line-up that pulled off that massive upset over OG in TI6. With prodigy carry player Nuengnara "23savage" Teeramahanon anchoring the squad, T1 finished third in the WePlay AniMajor, won the championship at ESL One Summer 2021, and are now among the favourites to win TI10.
Meanwhile, two of the other championship favourites at TI10, EG and PSG.LGD, while not being SEA teams themselves, rely on talent from the region for success.
EG, whose multinational roster includes star Filipino midlaner Abed "Abed" Yusop and Singapore's own iceiceice, dominated the circuit's North American regional league and finished second in both Majors. The organisation will now be looking to claim its second Aegis of Champions in TI10, and some of SEA Dota's finest will be helping them get there.
Finally, Malaysian midlaner Cheng "NothingToSay" Jin Xiang has shined as a member of Chinese powerhouse PSG.LGD. After a dominant run through the WePlay AniMajor, which culminated with a 3-0 sweep over EG in the grand finals, NothingToSay and PSG.LGD are considered the overwhelming favourites to claim the championship at TI10.
SEA Dota's history in TI has been less than stellar and the region's representatives only ever came close to the Aegis of Champions twice.
However, this year is looking to be different. With arguably its strongest batch of representatives yet, SEA Dota may finally overcome all those years of heartbreak and finally claim that elusive Aegis of Champions in TI10.