Final Kiev invites

As with most Valve events — everyone is waiting in anticipation to see who the direct invites are going to be, and nobody has any idea exactly how many there are gonna be. To The Shanghai Major there were 8 invites, to The Manila Major there were 12, to The International 2016 there were only 6, and most recently there were 8 to The Boston Major.

For the upcoming Major, we are almost certain that all 6 of the regions will receive at least one invite. There are also some “in the bag” invites already:

  • OG: 1st at The Boston Major, 2nd in DotaPit S5, 3rd-4th at Starladder/iSeries S3.
  • Digital Chaos: 1st at ESL One Genting, 3rd-4th at Boston Major
  • Evil Geniuses: 1st at DotaPit S5, 3rd-4th at Boston Major, 1st at China Top 2016 (semi-lmao really).
  • Team Liquid: 1st Starladder/iLeague S3, 1st DreamLeague S6.

So — at least 6 qualifier spots and at least 4 direct invites. How are the remaining 6 spots allocated? There’s a few theories, let’s explore the 3 most popular ones (as per my Twitter feed):

  1. Each of the 4 “major” regions (NA [despite this not being a historic ‘major region’ since it was originally ‘The Americas Qualifiers’], EU, SEA, China) get an additional qualifier spot, and 2 more direct invites.
  2. All 6 of the regions get an addition qualifier spot (taking them all to 2).
  3. Some sort of “wildcards” akin to The International where all regions get 2 qualifier spots, and there are 6 direct invites (with 2 teams getting eliminated in the wildcards).

I don’t think the 3rd option is that likely at all. Wildcards mean an extra day of pre-groups— and inviting another 2 teams is costly (which is at odds with the signals Valve are propagating regarding majors).

The 2nd option would be reasonably fair enough. Many comments seem to support the notion that South American teams are trash and undeserving of a second qualifier spot. This is obviously despite the very mixed results South American teams have received at international events over the year — Not Today had a variety of runs with mostly poor results and Elite Wolves had limited success (which was mostly eclipsed by the match-fixing scandal they were in); but Unknown.Xiu defeated Newbee in a bo1 at the Frankfurt Major to avoid last place (which two Chinese teams, a North American team and a SEA team shared). Fostering growth within a region which is regarded as weaker than the others might also be essential for any underdeveloped region to break through into the international scene.

However, what I find most likely is the first option. It signifies no change for the existing regions (they still get 2 spots each — so no outcry from fans of teams like NP and Complexity who would be fighting for just a single spot in North America), which is pretty crucial since Valve hasn’t announced any changes (imagine you spend several months working towards a goal only for Valve to change the rules at the last second). This means we need to choose 2 more teams.

The most likely team to get invited (after the 4 above) is Newbee. They won DPL — which might not be an international LAN, it’s a very well funded top Chinese league, featuring (at the time) all of the top Chinese teams — and a better indicator than trying to compare individual international tournament runs by Chinese teams. Their 2nd place at ESL Genting helps their case.

In my eyes, this leaves TNC, Wings, VG.J and Ad Finem fighting for the final spot:

  • Ad Finem came 2nd at The Boston Major, but have had no success since, coming last in the DAC EU Qualifiers even. People might point at Digital Chaos who, after TI6, played almost no games yet got a direct invite to Boston. That was however The International, the biggest LAN event in Dota 2 — and for all top teams means an off-season of a month, which DC extended whilst making a roster change. People also try compare The Boston Major format to that of previous majors suggesting that 2nd at Boston is equivalent to at least top 3 at another major (which historically has lead to an invite). This is fallacious though since at previous Majors the group stage has split teams into Winners’ Bracket and Losers’ Bracket directly — a single upset (such as Ad Finem as 3rd seed beating Newbee as 2nd seed, or LGD.FY as a 4th seed beating LGD as a 1st seed) never put you so far ahead. If a team at a previous non-TI Major could win 3 games in a row after starting in the Losers’ Bracket, they would only be guaranteed 7th/8th.
  • Wings Gaming won TI6 and have done relatively poorly in pretty much every event since. Their Boston run featured an opening loss to WGU, allowing DC to take the group easily, and then Wings were eliminated by EG in the opening round. 3rd-4th at ESL Genting isn’t to be totally scoffed at though given Newbee and DC beat them.
  • Since Boston, VG.J have looked pretty great, but with only a single international event: Starladder/iLeague Season 3. In that, they lost twice to Liquid (1–2, 1–3) but defeated DC (2–0), Wings (2–0) and OG (2–1).
  • TNC’s success at WESG should count for almost nothing given how country-vs-country is not a format that many of the top teams care about attending (and in the case of some teams who did want to attend, they couldn’t due to various visa and logistics issues). Despite being an international LAN event, I don’t consider enough of the teams present to warrant this being regarded as a “tier 1” LAN event (Alliance, Cloud9 Horde and Infamous are the most well known of the teams). TNC did however surprise critics by defeating Secret and IGV at Starladder / iLeague to end up 3rd, but I don’t think this warrants an invite.

If I were to make the decision alone right now, I would value the teams as follows:

VG.J > Wings > TNC > AF.

But, this isn’t a question of how I personally perceive the teams skills and results, but rather how I believe Valve will perceive their skills and results, and that is as follows:

AF > VG.J > Wings > TNC