Fan Reflections: Weeks 4–6 of the Pro Circuit
Qualifiers are exhausting. This is what I’ve learned about Dota 2 thanks to the Pro Circuit so far.
Make me care, Tournament Organizers!
Weeks 4 through 6 of the Pro Circuit were characterized by more regional qualifiers, and capped off with the first Minor LAN of the year — StarLadder i-League Invitational 3 LAN. The idea of a contained event really appealed to me by the end of week three, when I last reflected on the season.
Now, to be honest, I zoned out by the end of Dota Pit and Perfect World qualifiers, but DreamLeague Season 8 drew me back in. DreamLeague produces their qualifiers like LANs — the teams aren’t on site, but there’s a panel with rotating guests, there’s additional content to fill time, interviews with players, and DreamLeague has one of my favorite sets, specifically its “war room.”
DreamLeague makes it easy for viewers to understand why each game matters, and to have a sense of what’s coming in the next few hours and days (or weeks, as qualifiers are on hiatus until November 4th). I’m more heavily invested in these qualifiers because they’re so well produced.
How about StarLadder?
StarLadder was supposed to be my refuge from multiple events happening at the same time, but then I discovered there were two other LANs worth keeping an eye on. The Manila Invitational and the ROG MASTERS EMEA qualifiers featured teams debuting on LAN for the season, some that have qualified for Pro Circuit tournaments, and the rest who are familiar faces in their respective regional qualifiers.
I didn’t want to write-off these other Dota events entirely. But I wasn’t invested in them enough to watch — there’s only so many hours in the day. I kept tabs on what was happening so I’d have a sense of how the teams were performing, but I focused my viewing efforts on StarLadder.
It was quite rewarding.
I was hyped for StarLadder before it started. All the teams had great stories leading up to day one — highlights included Team Liquid, the TI7 winners, returning to competition; and Team Secret, SG e-sports, and Mineski dominating their regions. I was eager to see how these teams would do outside of their regions, and they did not disappoint. There were a few upsets, but perhaps based on perceptions of relative strength between region, rather than the teams themselves.
Team Liquid took first place, defending their title as the winners of the previous StarLadder iteration, and *perhaps* silencing some whispers about the TI curse — that TI winners perform worse following their win. Of course there will be those who point to Wings Gaming winning both Nanyang Dota 2 Championships: Cruise Cup #1 and Northern Arena BEAT Invitational in October and November after winning TI6, and subsequently disbanding. I guess Liquid better win ESL One Hamburg and then Dota PIT as well to silence the doubters.
Back to StarLadder
The tournament’s casting was great. Capitalist and Blitz returned — a classic caster pair who had been on hiatus. They have great chemistry, and I was glad to see them back together.
Winter is so good on panel. He’s got a fantastic, wry sense of humor, and offers great insights. His is not a showy personality, but I think that just masks how much of a positive impact he can have on panel.
And Fogged. Let’s have Fogged at as many events as he can handle this year, please. I really enjoy him paired with ODPixel for casting — they match each other for intensity and genuine enthusiasm for the game, and between OD’s lightning quick play-by-play, and Fogged’s smart and clear analysis, it’s always a pleasure to listen to them.
On the flip side, there was some notably bad observing at this event. I don’t want to dwell on this, because I think there’s been plenty of comments about it already. Instead, I will be grateful that Weppas and skrff are going to be observing at the PGL Open Bucharest. And now is their time to shine, because I think there’s more awareness of the quality and value of observing after StarLadder.
My TL;DW for the tournament:
Fountain-diving by Miracle- on day one. Capitalist and Blitz’ reactions to it were excellent.
The third game between Natus Vincere and Team Secret on day two — also the longest game of the tournament.
Newbee being knocked out in last place on day three; who predicted the second place team at TI7 would be done so early in the first tournament of the year?
And then, of course, Team Liquid winning it all on the last day.
StarLadder made me optimistic for the rest of the season. It was a welcome return to tournaments after such a long hiatus.
A few issues popped up during these weeks that I want to touch on, starting with there being a few qualifier games during this time frame that had no English casters. And then there was the opposite problem, when some people decided to stream games despite official streams running. Valve chimed in, but I’m not convinced they were clear enough to put a long-term end to the drama. “Play nice!” works in a lot of scenarios, but rarely in business….
The roster lock also happened during this period. Did you miss it? Wouldn’t blame you if you did; it happened on October 3rd. I think there was more attention paid in previous years when the lock didn’t happen after we’d already had weeks of Dota qualifiers. But there have been some significant roster changes already, the most important of which might well be the disbanding of Digital Chaos.SA, the team that had qualified for the PGL Open Bucharest. Infamous beat SG e-sports in a replacement series, so they’ll be heading to Bucharest for the upcoming tournament.
I could speculate about the impact of roster locks, and the timing therein. There’s a penalty for earned Qualifier Points associated with breaking rosters during the lock periods, and how that will actually impact standings a few months from now is anyone’s guess. Certainly, it doesn’t seem to be helping those teams who haven’t had great success yet with tournament invites, and who might like to shuffle before additional qualifiers get under way. The next registration phase isn’t until “early 2018,” and it’s unclear to me whether shuffling for qualifiers for tournaments that take place in January will be okay or not. Presumably…not, as rosters are locked, and there’s a requirement to attend LANs with the same roster that qualified. But I don’t know for sure (a recurring issue for me where Valve is concerned).
Let’s Talk Scheduling
Looking ahead, we’ve got some qualifiers to get through still: DreamLeague’s LAN finals happen in December, along with two Minors that need to start their qualifiers (I’m looking at you, MarsTV and Beyond the Summit, to release that scheduling information!). And then there’s four events in January. There are two two-week gaps with no weekend Pro Circuit tournaments before the end of the year, one in November and another at the end of December, when I expect qualifiers to be clustered.
And that ignores the non-Pro Circuit events and their own qualifiers. Between tournaments like ProDota Cup, the Dota 2 Professional League, the joinDOTA League, WESG, WCA, and so many others, there’s constant Dota, which is great, and overwhelming, and great.
In the next three weeks, we’ll have two Minors and one Major, all of them running from Thursday-Sunday, and all three in Europe. DreamLeague Season 8 qualifiers will also return on Nov 4th, for North America. I think this might be the Dota 2 sweet spot — weekly tournaments, with high stakes, a single qualifier in a slightly different time zone, so it’s (hopefully) not too hard to follow at the same time.
Oh, and lots of people are rooting for the Dueling Fates patch to be released soon…. I’m sure that would be fine.
Good luck to you and your favorite teams!