photo: ESL One
“Players will get screwed over,” “there will be a lot of drama towards the end of the season,” “the system in place is not protecting the players,” these are things we heard over and over again since the 2018-2019 Dota Pro Circuit was announced. The ”no shuffle lockdown” rule along with the fact that the points earned in DPC events go to the team instead of the players brought a lot of chaos and opened the doors for even more instability in the professional scene.
Valve not foreseeing the impact of the new set of rules is worrisome for the entire competitive scene. This approach somehow managed to defeat Valve’s own declared purpose; “to help nurture competitive growth in different regions.” North American scene is on a fast declining path. It’s true that this isn’t necessarily only the influence of the 2018-2019 DPC season rulebook, but it’s nearly impossible not observe how these new rules had an impact.
From the Dota Pro Circuit FAQ:
Do teams earn points, or do players?
Points are now earned by teams.
If a player changes teams, do those players’ points go with them?
Can a team play with subs?
Yes. During qualifiers, a team must play with at least 4 of its 5 registered players (this will cause no penalty). Any team that plays the LAN portion of a tournament with a sub will incur a 40% penalty on points earned from that tournament.
When can roster changes be made?
Changes can be made at any point during the season up to when The International 2019 invites happen and TI Qualifiers start. Substitutes can be declared after TI Qualifiers to account for emergencies, subject to approval by Valve.
Valve’s penalty for removing someone from a roster this year is a 20% cut from all DPC points earned by the team. Obviously, this isn’t going to help any lower tier team. The less points a team earns, the lower the penalty is and this is where it all gets tricky. This season saw countless of stacks forming, some even getting signed by an organization if they registered a decent result (see the Ferzee signed by Gambit case), but most of them just disbanded with every qualifier or shuffled so much that even the most devoted fans couldn’t keep track of all the changes anymore. (good examples would be Aster, Tigers, Winstrike, Flying Penguins, Team Team).
When the pro scene gets so volatile, it hinders the chances of amateur talents turning professional. Competitiveness, yes, there is still a lot of it the DPC season, and that’s the nature of the game at its core, but the tier two and below teams can’t really be regarded professional anymore, or at least most of them can’t.
TEAM TEAM and the 2 players kicked 2 weeks before a Major
ESL One Mumbai should have been the first and the only opportunity for TEAM TEAM to get some LAN practice before the MDL Disneyland® Paris Major. They offered themselves to come to the event, and ESL were glad to fly them over. It’s worth mentioning that TEAM TEAM made a roster swap just before the Major qualifiers, when they brought in Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao. Back then it was Samuel “Sammyboy” Anderson who got replaced. It looked like the decision paid off, the squad deliver the upset in the NA qualifiers for the Major and claimed one of the three tickets available. NA fans finally had a new competitor to cheer for and for good reasons. EE is back on a Major stage, so are the scene veterans Michael “ixmike88” Ghannam and Braxton “Brax” Paulson. More importantly, Nico “Gunnar” Lopez’s and Jason “Newsham” Newsham’s hard work was finally rewarded and they are the perfect examples that raw talent, dedication and a lot of practice can get you to a Valve sponsored event.
TEAM TEAM went 4-0 in the group stages, finished first in Group A and were the sensation of the event in Mumbai only to go 0-4 in the playoffs by losing to two SEA teams consecutively and exit the tournament top six. Instead of taking the two week-time before the Major to fix whatever problems they found in their drafts and in their hero pool, TEAM TEAM decided to kick Gunnar and Newsham, the two players who impressed the most in the event, apart perhaps from Brax. And I can boldly assume that If TEAM TEAM would have reached the grand finals, Gunnar would have had a real shot to win that MVP vote. For a first time at a LAN event, his plays were exquisite on heroes like Invoker, Ember Spirit, Lina or Queen of Pain. Yet, he returns to his hotel room from Mumbai to be told that he got kicked from the team.
“Life goes on” told to us Newsham last night at a very late hour in Mumbai. From all they know, the decision was made by EnVy and Brax. Newsham’s and Gunnar’s parents and family members will have to readjust their plans for the Major in Paris, because they’ve already made all the bookings to see their boys playing in a Major. The interesting fact is that this is the second time EE kicks Gunnar from a team in a three months span. Back in February, Gunnar was kicked from EE’s Flying Penguins on the day the NA qualifiers for the StarLadder Imba TV Minor started. FP went to the Minor, failed to take the title in Kiev, disbanded, and EE joined Team Team. It’s impossible to imagine that Envy didn’t have the same idea about Gunnar, that his hero pool is narrow, three weeks ago when he joined the mid lane player at Team Team. It’s also impossible to imagine that Gunnar and Newsham became so bad at the game during the four series played in Mumbai that they actually needed to be kicked from the team and that there was nothing that couldn’t be fixed through practice.
If, indeed, Envy and Brax were the ones deciding Gunnar’s kick from TT, then EE-sama might very well become Gunnar’s nightmare. Some genuinely believe that situations like this can be avoided by contractual terms. It’s very unlikely that TEAM TEAM or any other stack made for a qualifier would even have any sort of contract. In this particular case, there is also no sponsor involved, so the players have all the insecurities attached, but also all the freedom.
Without a rule to forbid the teams to shuffle so close in time to a Valve sponsored event they qualified for, there are so many things at risk. Going beyond what’s common sense, fairness, loyalty, respect for those who fought with you in the qualifiers and those who helped you qualify for a DPC event, the competition itself gets damaged. What’s the point in even having qualifiers instead of direct invites if the roster that qualifies for a Major is not the same with the one actually playing in the event?
Valve making a rule addition when there is just one set of Minor and Major qualifiers in place looks like a stretch, but one can hope that they will step in and take a decision regarding TEAM TEAM’s attendance at the MDL Disneyland® Paris Major