Thoughts on TI7 Regional Qualifiers

In just over 100 hours from now teams in South East Asia (furthest East Dota region) will kick off The International 2017 Regional Qualifiers. Unlike the 6 teams sitting snugly in the main event, these teams will be giving it their all to get into what likely will become the biggest esport event ever.

The Qualifiers happen around the clock — as one region finishes for the day another wakes up to carry on the action. Due to the different number of spots each region is allocated based on regional strength, historic performance and the number of directly invited teams; the qualifiers are not all the same:

  • Every qualifier begins with a Round Robin bo1 between all the teams
  • In the regions with 2+ spots, the top ranked team after the Round Robin is invited to The International.
  • The top 4 remaining teams go into a Double Elimination bracket, where the winner of the bracket advances if there’s 2 spots, else both the Winner’s Bracket and Loser’s Bracket winners advance.

If we look only at current Glicko ratings, a pretty reasonable set of teams for each region appear — and perhaps one might say the ‘obvious’ teams. For the most part these teams pass the eye test and seem legitimate, but I think that there are other factors which we must consider before solidifying predictions:

  • Glicko 2 does consider results from the past, but more recent results have a more significant impact on your rating. This means that teams which are on the rise might be at a similar rating to a team which is on the fall (and if there were perhaps one week more of results we could see them diverge massively).
  • Some teams have done shuffles recently. Onyx/DC/Thunderbirds/Odd and Ad Finem/Mousesports mean that some of the data from the past isn’t correctly represented on each team. I’ve manually checked this however for the 3 squads and it’s not very significant — just something worth considering.
  • Glicko 2 is a rating system which attempts to quantify performance by looking at historical data. This means that some situations which teams are unused to (for example, the temperament required, and pressure applied when playing in a qualifier for the biggest esports event of the year) isn’t necessarily captivated.
  • Head-to-head matchups are arguably the most important here. If two teams are left fighting for a spot, their ratings mean a lot less than a significant head-to-head recent history. In the SEA bloodbath, you have situations like TNC > Clutch > Faceless > TNC, so the way in which the teams meet can be quite significant.

Despite these issues, this only changes my impressions and predictions slightly. I did chat with @scantzor about these, specifically about SEA (where he works as a coach for one of the Qualifier Teams — Happy Feet), so partial blame/credit can go to him depending on the outcome ;)

There’s two massive differences between the Best Teams by Glicko vs my predictions. The first is EHOME — they haven’t played any officials together yet but have a huge amount of potential; a conglomeration of talented players from a variety of renowned Chinese teams. I think they’re going to do well. The other is that I have Odd in 3rd place in NA (i.e. no qualification spot). This is just a gut feeling based on their recent performance vs the performance of DC and Team NP. No doubt Odd, like all the teams, are practicing super hard right now — so this could quickly turn around.

What is for certain is that almost every region will likely have very tight final-spot deciders, and I expect to see a fair few upsets. If the last few Internationals have taught us anything, it’s that the teams nobody expects which come out throwing the biggest punches.