By now the new DotA 2 Pro Circuit system probably feels familiar, as if it has always been there. Finally though, we have a system that transparently dictates which teams receive invites to The International. Invites in previous years have been met with a wide range of criticism from fans who follow the scene closely. “But what about X team?” they ask. “They’ve won two of the past three tournaments they’ve participated in! Surely they are worthy of an invite.” Conversely, fans have questioned the inclusion of teams they considered unworthy of skipping the highly competitive qualifiers. The question now becomes, is this new Pro Circuit system the final solution? Perhaps it is just a step in the right direction.
Transparency is good
Fans like to be kept in the loop. It is plain and simple. The lack of visibility into Valve’s previous selection criteria was problematic. It put some fans in a sour mood before the opening ceremonies even began. Though they undoubtedly enjoyed some high quality DotA in the end, Valve never wants their 20+ million dollar tournament to start off on the wrong foot. The new system definitely addresses these concerns. By the end of the final tournament before TI8, or maybe even before that for a few teams, the masses will know exactly who has earned those coveted invites to the biggest tournament of the year.
There are other benefits to this new system as well. Because the Qualifying Points are awarded to players and not to organizations, rosters are incentivized to stay together if they are performing well. Too many times in the past have we seen a team win a tournament only to immediately drop players for unknown reasons. Team Secret dropped Aliwi “w33” Omar and Rasmus “MiSeRy” Filipsen after winning the Shanghai Major in 2016. Perhaps the most memorable instance of this behavior is when Evil Geniuses dropped Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling shortly after taking the Aegis at TI5. When points are attached to these winning players, these kinds of changes are far less likely. Hopefully this change will make the competitive scene less volatile, and thus easier to follow.
But there are always problems
Of course there are two sides to every argument. One could easily argue that despite good performance, any player creating friction in a team game can be mentally exhausting for all involved. This will undoubtedly hurt a team in the long run. Peter “PPD” Dager eventually went on to explain that no amount of winning was worth the stress he was going through working with Aui. Now I know that after TI, the point values will reset, but let’s play pretend for a second. If Evil Geniuses had just won a Major with Aui instead, would they have let him go? A DotA 2 Major is worth a whopping 750 points per player on the winning team. A loss of that many points could take a series of wins to make up for. This brings me nicely into my next point.
A victory at a Major is worth a full five times the amount of Qualifying Points as a Minor. This disparity seems incredible, especially considering that points are never awarded below fourth place no matter the event. Any team would have to win five Minor tournaments to even catch up to a team that has won a single Major. This disparity seems a little extreme, especially considering that many of these competitions see the same competitors.
Say that Team Liquid, who has two first place Minor finishes and one third place Major finish, never win a Major this season. They need to win at least two more Minors to even tie Virtus.Pro, who won that first and only Major so far this season. Virtus.Pro is bound to continue participating in tournaments for the rest of the year, and their lead seems difficult to surmount. While a team of Liquid’s caliber might be up to the task, plenty of other great teams may fall short.
A great start
I am certainly not trying to say that this new Pro Circuit system is bad. Far from it! The Qualifying Points system makes seasons easy to follow, and informs viewers of tournament stakes outside of prize pools. However, the point disparity between Majors and Minors is alarming to me. Granted, the season is still young. We still have no idea how the greater part of the season is going to turn out. Everything could turn out fair and balanced, but I worry talented teams that succeed in Minors will find it hard to qualify without a Major win.
At the end of the day though, teams failing to earn Qualifying Points are not completely lost. Even if they do not manage to secure direct invites, they will still be able to work their way up through the Regional Qualifiers, or even the Open Qualifiers. Maybe that will be enough to balance the Pro Circuit. Only time will tell.
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