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Tim Masters
Tim Masters

Watches esports a lot, when he's not writing about esports. Also enjoys video games.

Jan 17, 2020

Esports is one of the most vibrant and dynamic industries right now, but some of the biggest games have had the biggest names at the top for some time now, and that can make things appear stale. Not so for Dota 2 though, where an off-season like no other has shaken up the way the DPC looks, and the world champions are changing the season because the devs refuse to act.

Past and present

There are certainly a few new names in the picture at this early point in the season, although some of them are just old faces with new monikers which is pretty appropriate seeing as 2020 seems to be the year of the rebrand. A Nigmatic choice aside, let’s take a look at how things have worked out so far, and how that compares to last year to see if we can glean any insights into what might be coming.

Well, we’re two Minors and a Major into the season, and while there are certainly some parallels with the way things began in 2018/19, there is also a different feel to the action so far. For those who don’t remember, it was Kuala Lumpur that hosted the first Major of the previous DPC cycle, where Team Secret foreshadowed their amazing regular season by making the first final – even though the title and lion’s share of the $1m prize pool went to VP, it would turn out to be their only Major victory of a very consistent regular season for the CIS side.

Consistency was the name of the game for Secret too, of course, but both sides faded when it came to TI, and that seems to have informed the way a fair few orgs have started the new year off. Perhaps following in the footsteps of back-to-back TI champions OG, the likes of Secret and PSG.LGD have both decided to start slowly and skipped the Chengdu Major, leaving the door open for other teams to pick up some early points, alongside the ‘big’ teams trying to bed in new signings.

Anyone can do it

It was TNC that rushed through in Chengdu to grab the biggest prize and maximum points haul among the wreckage of the field organisers MDL must have hoped they would have, but history suggests they will struggle to maintain their early charge, and that is nothing to do with their region or structure. After years of the grind, there has been a change in attitude among some of Dota’s top players, and that has meant more early-season opportunities for teams that otherwise might not be in with a shot at TI.

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In terms of what we’ve learned about potential winners of the tenth TI, we know nothing really, because OG have totally altered the meta in a way that Valve were unwilling to do for years, and are clearly still resistant to. The message from the stars of Dota – be they Australian, Chinese, French or flower – is that there is too much Dota to play in the ‘regular’ season, and the way OG stormed TI after leaving the first half of the year to the plebs only backs up that top teams are being forced to take matters into their own hands with Valve unwilling to properly revise the calendar.

With that in mind it’s almost as if we have two seasons now, with the ‘early’ part of the year not related to the latter in the way that Valve and Major TOs would like. As such, the lessons we can learn from the DPC ladder (at least when it comes to identifying the next TI winner) today are limited, save for one. Just as Puppey’s Secret and VP faded last year, the teams that are going their hardest now are likely going to struggle to maintain that level until The International, forcing potential contenders to ignore the early Majors, and further reinforcing the fact that nothing else matters like the biggest show in esports. Valve pls fix.

Photo credit: WePlay!

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