They came, they saw, they ran into Gambit and Nigma and were promptly conquered. That’s all FURIA got out of the WePlay! Bukovel Minor, experience they’ll no doubt use to propel themselves to new heights in the future, and yet it all leaves a bitter taste in the mouth if you’re concerned with the state of tier 2 Dota. One of their players had an interesting suggestion to avoid situations like these – but how would it look like in practice?
There are two ways to look at an open bracket. In some sense, it’s the fairest system in the world, simply because anything can happen. However, that is rarely what the viewers or the participants want. Early clashes between titans rob everyone: the teams in question lose a chance for a deep run they would have had had they been guaranteed a path of progressively stronger opponents, while the audience at home will get a discount version of the big match, with much less on the line and a fraction of the excitement. It also causes issues on the other end of the spectrum: if you’re a small fish, the luck of the draw could pair you with back-to-back sharks, giving you no chance to show your skill against opposition of a similar strength.
Of course, this has just as much to do with the GSL format and the fact you can flunk out of the Minor after just two series: however, that only goes to show how many issues there are with the current system. Homogenizing the Major formats also didn’t help. Unlike the 2018/19 DPC season, which featured different group stage setups across the Majors (round robin and GSL both came into play), everything is set in stone this time around. The main problem with the GSL format is that you absolutely cannot place first after your opening match, and not only do you not get a chance to prove yourself against every other team in your group, it features the smallest possible number of matches (ergo limited sample size) to determine placements in the bracket.
There’s a lot to like about the democracy of the DPC system, where you always need to earn your spot at a Major or a Minor, and one deep run is often enough to punch your golden ticket to TI. Again, this is usually looked at from the perspective of the top teams, who directly have to prove themselves again and again in the circuit for a chance at the big time. However, once you look at the experience from the underdog’s side, you’ll find another unique set of problems. Like FURIA at Bukovel, sometimes you aren’t given a chance to compete on fair terms. If you buy the argument that the TI9 finalists deserved a Major slot on merit and recent accomplishments, maybe you’ll also accept the corollary that they therefore shut the door on less prestigious but promising teams to whom squeaking through the Minor was a much more realistic pathway in the first place.
Which brings us to Duster’s suggestion.
In an interesting interview given after their elimination, FURIA’s Duster has raised the possibility of hybridizing the current DPC system with CS:GO’s Majors, where teams which previously made it to the playoffs receive an automatic invite to the group stage. Though its implementation for Counter-Strike is far from perfect, taking the best of both worlds could definitely form the foundations of a healthier format than what we’re seeing right now.
“I actually like the qualifiers format, what I’d like to see changed is the Minors and Majors themselves. I think Valve has a much better system for CS:GO, where you promote and gain a status as a team through the Majors. I think it will benefit the whole scene more if we would have more slots in the Minors, more teams in the Minors and less in the Major. For example, in South America, you have 2 slots for the Major and 1 in the Minor, where I think it will benefit more the lower tier teams to have more slots in the Minor. You learn a ton more and improve much more by getting to actually play on a LAN or outside your region, even if you get stomped at your first LAN.
Realistically speaking, right now beastcoast is the only true tier 1 team from South America, and it’s fine to have them secured a spot at the Major, they will win any qualifier, anyways. But for the rest, it would be better if they could have a chance to play Minors.”
In CS, the fact that there are only two Majors per year (and in terms of importance, they serve as the TIs of the calendar instead of “just” the role of a DPC Major), direct re-invites serve as a more problematic prospect. Team rosters and performances can radically change over the course of 4-6 months, and a surprise underdog run at the flagship event is given outsized importance even when the team then fails to produce any other relevant showings in the circuit (eg. QBF and Cloud9 from the Boston Major, or compLexity and Hellraisers at London). The relationship between the CS:GO majors (the only events Valve has direct input in) and the rest of the open circuit is also very different than what we’re seeing in Dota, where you have the DPC as the main objective and everything else as a side-show. Remember how ESL One Mumbai was derailed by all those last-minute rescinded invitations? It was like the birthday party of the least popular kid in elementary school.
The beauty of a mixed solution is that it keeps the top-heavy system Valve has clearly envisioned and nurtured for Dota 2 without many complaints from any other stakeholder. Granting re-invites to the following Major to those who made top four at the previous one (and as Duster suggested, reducing the number of participants) would increase the relevance of the Minors and reduce the scheduling issues for the best-performing teams, while also serving as an additional reward. Meanwhile, it would allow for more ways for smaller teams to gain LAN experience and DPC points. Most importantly, the relative regularity of DPC Majors compared to CS:GO’s top events also solves the issue where a washed-up group of ex-greats or the beneficiaries of a single Cinderella run stick around for multiple Majors off the back of their guaranteed invite. Even if you are hellbent on keeping TI the arena where millionaires battle other millionaires for added millions, re-jigging the DPC system would ease the pressure on the tier 2 scene even without putting your hopes in the sort of trickle-down Dotanomics which never came to fruition off the back of record-breaking TIs.
Photo credit: WePlay!