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    Dota 2 – Valve to bring Majors & Minors to Third Party Tournaments

    Last night, Valve announced changes to the competitive landscape of Dota 2. In the 2017-2018 season, Valve plans to replace the current Major system and will instead “be selecting many third-party tournaments to directly sponsor”. Tournaments will receive additional prize money and depending on the initial prize pool, they’ll be labelled as either Major ($500k) or Minor ($150k). Every Major or Minor must have LAN finals and a qualifier for each of the six regions (NA, SA, EU, CN, SEA, CIS). “Players competing in these tournaments will earn Qualifying Points which will be the sole factor in determining invites to The International 2018.”

    The distinction between players and teams is quite important here, as Valve plans on adding a public leaderboard which will showcase each player’s individual Qualifying Points. Invite eligibility will be determined by the 3 highest scoring players on the team, which will be crucial when it comes to shuffles.

    The idea of this change to the Major system is to empower 3rd party events again, by incentivizing teams to participate in such. Top earners and performers such as OG or EG have frequently skipped tournaments, which they could still do if they deem their accumulated points sufficient. The points earned will be weighted by whether or not they’re a Major event and how close they are to The International, meaning that “recent” performances matter more than initial breakouts.

    In the Major system so far, there was a lot of uncertainty in regards to invites, especially last year when people expected Fnatic to be invited to TI6, only for the SEA giant to be replaced by Na’Vi, likely based off of one significant performance. Up until now, teams never knew how much the tournament they played in meant in the grand scheme of things and how much a single performance mattered. Would a bad placement at this event completely take away their chances and would winning the next event secure an invite?

    The new system is supposed to answer all these questions before people ask them. But while the revamped system sounds great on paper, there are some valid concerns to address.

    Potential for Abuse – by everyone

    For a while now, third party events in Dota 2 have been overshadowed by Majors and TI. The big prize pools of these events led teams to solely focus on them and successful top earners and teams would consistently skip many third party events, let alone online leagues. The new system plans to empower such third party events and entice teams to participate in them, but these third party events may just have too much power in the new system.

    Some of the recently biggest tournaments (DAC, Epicenter and Manila Masters) have had qualifying formats that were quite questionable. While their prize pools would’ve been sufficient to label them as either Minor or Major, the question going forward is: How closely will Valve regulate or restrict these tournaments in their choice of qualifiers and formats? If all three events had complied with the new rules (at least one qualifier slot for every region), but had still held on to their existing qualifiers, then it would’ve create unfair advantages for certain regions and teams.

  • DAC invited 4 teams, 2 of which were Chinese. In addition, they held qualifiers through which 4 more Chinese teams could qualify.

  • Epicenter filled its last slot with a “Redemption Vote”, which pitted Na’Vi, a team that belongs to the same company Epicenter belongs to, against 3 other teams, none of which could’ve come close to Na’Vi’s social media presence.

  • Manila Masters held a separate Filipino qualifier in addition to their SEA qualifier.

  • Both DAC’s and Manila Masters’ approach to their tournament is understandable, part of their events’ purposes is to help their local scene grow. Third party event organizers will always have their own agendas after all.

    There is also no imposed restriction on invites (yet). If a tournament, such as DAC, were to host a Major and had the freedom to invite whoever they wanted from whatever region they wanted, that would once again pose an unfair advantage towards teams from regions with fewer tournaments, who couldn’t balance out the regional bias with a bias of their own.

    Players and teams can abuse the new point system as well, with last-minute roster shuffles prior to the roster lock, potentially shaking up rankings. Roster locks were introduced to promote stability, but they’ve already shown to be rather ineffective in some cases, so that Valve needed to make adjustments. The problem with the new system is that, while it aims to promote stable performances over the entire year, there is no guarantee for three cores of a team to not make changes as they please. If teams can make changes to the roster a day prior to the roster lock and still get invited to TI without playing a single official match with the new roster, that is a massive loophole that needs to be addressed.

    Could this hurt the tier 2 scene further?

    A few weeks ago, long-time Dota caster TobiWan made a comment on reddit, outlining some of his thoughts about the scene’s issues. His sentiments were mirrored by other community members and it is refreshing to see Valve respond with a solution that addresses many of these sentiments.

    Some of the issues remain unaddressed however, especially the demand for third party crowd-funding and a sustainable system for workshop artists. Another big issue that is not necessarily addressed is the poor tier 2 scene in Dota 2 at the moment.

    The new system doesn’t necessarily assist, improve or promote league play, a vital component of the tier 2 scene. The likes of Canada Cup or Blood in the Streets could, if anything, even be overshadowed further by more online qualifiers for Minors and Majors. While there is potential for these online leagues to function as qualifiers for such Minors, this is a big “if” as it would force multiple organizations to cooperate with one another.

    The tier 2 scene is a fundamental part of the scene, with many recent success stories from teams such as Wings, CDEC or Planet Dog to emerge out of seemingly nowhere to compete with the best. The likes of Wings and CDEC were fortunate enough to consistently compete with the best teams of their region in league play and while top teams will now be forced to play in more events, that may just take spots away from weaker, less successful teams who wish to compete.

    Yes, overall more qualifiers will give more teams a chance to compete, but the question remains how and if Valve will also regulate those qualifiers. Will pre-seeding be allowed, if so how, and will all qualifiers be required to be open to anyone or will there even be invites to the qualifiers?

    Why not just “copy” CS:GO?

    Majors and Minors exist in CS:GO as well and they are rather similar to what the new system will look like. Tournaments need certain requirements to become Majors, which is why Major hosts and locations have varied a lot so far. Top 8 teams from a Major are declared “Legendary” and will automatically be invited to the next, whereas the bottom 8 teams are secured a slot in the Major qualifiers. Minors however are handled rather differently. In CS:GO, Minors are qualifier tournaments for the Major qualifiers and with the assistance of Valve, these tournaments would consistently give tier 2 teams a chance to prove themselves, on LAN even.

    Perhaps Valve is worried that teams with the legendary status in Dota would consistently skip third party events, since they’re already secured an invite to the next Major. There is still a lot to be said about the Minors though, which consistently provide tier 2 teams across all regions with the opportunity to prove themselves in professional environments.

    A step into the right direction

    For all its potential faults, the change to the Major system brings a lot of potential upsides. The scene has been yearning for a change of scenery as tournaments and leagues die out, tournament organizers either pull out or just make a huge detour around Dota 2 from the get go. While some issues remain unaddressed, the demand for third party crowd-funding and a sustainable system for workshop artists, this is a necessary first step into the right direction and it’s rather exciting to look ahead into the next season. Dota is far from dead, but for many sponsors and esports organization it was just never a lucrative investment. Now this may change as the entire landscape is set to undergo massive changes.

    As seen on Dotabuff

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