Pubstars, for the longest time, was an expression that had a negative connotation to it. It pointed to players who could only succeed in pubs, but would look pale in a competitive environment. The word pubstar is still used to some extent today.
And there was some truth to it, as players who made a name for themselves in pubs have had difficulties establishing themselves in the pro scene. Not every one of them wanted to go pro, but the pubstars who did, didn’t have an easy time. That was the case anyway.
It has usually been the public community who singled out a player and assigned them the quality of a pubstar. Famous examples include Alliance’s Alliance.AdmiralBulldog, who first received public attention as a player who would almost exclusively play Lone Druid.
He was the first Dota 2 pubstar who would be called a hero spammer. While many, even the pro scene, recognized his talent and skill with Lone Druid, there was always and still is the misconception that he was only capable of playing a single hero–or two, now that he has also established Nature’s Prophet as one of his signature heroes.
It has gotten even worse nowadays, where the race towards MMR milestones, such as 7k, 8k or 9k, has become quite the ordeal in the community. Players are now judged for reaching their current MMR simply based on what heroes they achieved it with. bad is a prime example, as a player who has made a name for himself by using Spectre to climb the ladder.
Unlike many other pubstars however, Badman has not taken the route of streaming to gain even more attention, which makes his fame and popularity all the more surprising and interesting.
Many other pubstars choose to increase their popularity and appeal by becoming more of a personality and increasing their presence outside of the game. Bulldog, w33ha and many others have streamed a lot to increase their value as player or a brand.
Different mentalities and approaches
Being a hero spammer is however not always the disqualifying factor. In fact, many pros have shown that being proficient at certain heroes that are not popular in the current meta provides you with a drafting advantage. AdmiralBulldog’s Nature’s Prophet and Lone Druid have been banned in matches and games where neither hero were “meta”.
Often times however, pubstars are said to have mentalities that aren’t suited for professional teams. Even if the individual skill is undeniably there, the lack of experience in a team, bad communication and an overall negative mentality will weigh a pubstar down. EHOME’s Cty is a prime example here, as a player that, while his skill was undeniable, had issues transitioning into the professional scene. “6-Minute-King” was his nickname, as he was able to dominate his opponents during the laning stage with pure skill but failed to perform outside of that.
Maybe even worse than that, pub players, not just the stars, generally have different approaches to the game. Item builds and movements around the map that work in pub environments, where it tends to be much more chaotic and less organized, may or may not work in the professional scene, or are at the very least very unconventional. It took a while for pros to adapt to Badman’s Spectre build and some still don’t utilize it at all. Similarly, Bulldog’s Null Talisman build on Nature’s Prophet or Guts’s Blink build on Kunkka also were considered unusual before other players started to adapt them.
These differences in ideas and game philosophies — when to group up and fight, when to farm, when to push — often create tense situations, where a lot of disrespect between pros and pubstars exists. In fact, Badman allegedly has a bad standing amongst the CIS pro scene, for not respecting them and in fact being dismissive of their skill.
Dota has always been a rather closed off community, which accounts both for the general community as well as for the pro circuit. For the longest time, roster shuffles would disregard any new talent and the veterans would shuffle amongst themselves.
The new trend
“[…]Pros that think MMR n hero spammers don’t matter are delusional”
In the past few years, but the last year especially, that has changed a lot. You don’t need to know someone who knows someone in order to get a tryout, or an invite to an inhouse. While the inhouse culture has fostered great talents, especially in North-America, there is another, maybe even more straightforward way to receive recognition. The likes of OG’s Miracle or Secret’s w33ha have shown that grinding MMR and climbing the ladder does indeed draw the attention of the pro scene, regardless of what hero they used to get there. In fact, EternalEnvy stated in an ask.fm response, that they were explicitly looking to acquire a player of high individual skill. Scouting players through leaderboards or rankings, such as our own at Dotabuff, is a real thing and might become a more standard approach in the future.
w33, bulldog, and Jerax. Pros that think MMR n hero spammers don’t matter are delusional
— EternaLEnVy (@EternaLEnVy1991) March 13, 2016
Just because these two, and a few others, have succeeded, doesn’t mean the issues don’t go away or aren’t there, but it shows that it’s very well worth working on these issues. As the Post-Shanghai Shuffle takes form, the Chinese scene is currently facing a bit of a reformation, where some of the younger and newer talent will be able to shine alongside the veterans. Will this trend continue in the future? Success stories from Miracle- and w33ha give hope that it will.