The next season of Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) will bring another format change and perhaps some good news for the lower tier teams. In a meeting with team representatives held last month at the Valve headquarters, the Dota 2 developer announced a new format for the 2020-2021 Pro Circuit featuring a qualifier league system for the Majors and The International.
DPC – an unfriendly system for Tier 2
Implemented right after The International 2017, the Dota Pro Circuit changed with every season in an effort to find the best way for the competitive scene to thrive. It all started with an abundance of tournaments back in 2017, when the pro scene had 13 Minors and 9 Majors to battle through for a spot at TI8. The absurdly packed schedule was changed for the 2018-2019 season to 5 Majors and 5 Minors. The new format was seen as an improvement by the pro players, so it stayed in place for the season leading up to TI10 as well. But while the schedule was better, the tier two scene was still suffering.
With no direct invites to the Majors, the big names have always dominated the qualifiers, leaving the lower tiers to hope for a spot into the Minors. Some of the regions, Europe and China for example, boast more than a couple of strong teams, and will always have a much more experienced team in the Minor tournaments that is very likely to win it all. With a few exceptions, through the last two seasons, the Minor titles were claimed by well-established teams such as Ninjas in Pyjamas, Vici Gaming, Nigma and EHOME. The only Minor that gave two tickets to the following Major featured NiP and Alliance in the grand finals.
Having 10 DPC tournaments, all taking place in a LAN set-up, gave little to no room for the third party tournament organizers to put together other events. The exception is ESL One, who didn’t have any DPC event last year, but hosted eight non DPC tournaments in 2018 and 2019.
However, the tier one teams were kings in those events as well. Perhaps the only teams that started from a lower tier and managed to grind their way through qualifiers, Minors, later on Majors and even ESL One events are Gambit Esports and the South American line-up now known as bestcoast. For the rest of the tier two and below scene, the regional qualifiers represented most of the times their best opportunity to play in a competitive environment. Financial sustainability is nearly impossible to find as the qualifiers feature no prize pool and that leads to a very unstable scene. Teams that don’t make it even to the Minors on a regular basis are usually stacks, shuffling every month or every qualifier, trying to find the perfect combination of players that would be able to deliver the upsets.
The tier 2 scene sustainability was often brought into discussion by the pro players. Some were more vocal and proactive about it, the best example being Peter “ppd” Dager. But while not everyone came with suggestions on their social media accounts or on Reddit, this was a topic brought into the discussions behind closed doors more than once and it seems that Valve are ready to make a change for the better.
Regional Leagues a possible solution for Tier 2 scene
In the aforementioned meeting with Valve, it was proposed that the post TI10 DPC season should have less Majors, no Minors, and regional leagues split in two tiers featuring a promote system in order to bring the tier 2 scene to life. For now, the new league system has no specific terms attached to it, but the main idea is that these leagues will run in all six regions, and each will act as qualifiers for the Majors. Making a parallel with CS:GO, you can look at these leagues as Champion-Challenger stages. It’s true that the CS:GO format features three stages, but for Dota 2, Valve has only discussed about two stages. For an easier understanding, we will refer to them as Main and Relegation Leagues.
These Regional Leagues will act mainly as Major qualifiers and the placement in the leagues and at the Majors themselves will determine the DPC rankings. According to liquiddota.com, they will also serve as a soft region lock. If a team enters the competition in a certain region but they decide later in the season to relocate, they will forfeit their current league spot and will have to go through open qualifiers at the start of a new cycle.
With the Majors being down to 3, there will also be 3 “seasonal” Leagues. According to sources close to those present at the meeting with Valve, the entry in the league will be free for everyone but at the end of a league season, the teams at the bottom of the Relegation League will have to go through open qualifiers to claim a spot into the new season. Top two teams from the Relegation Leagues will advance to the Main League while bottom two from the Main will go to the Relegation one. For now, it’s unclear how many teams will each league feature or how many teams will play in the Majors. Leagues prize pools have also not been discussed, but it’s believed that each league will feature some sort of monetary reward, besides the DPC points. These leagues are to be held by third party tournament organizers and are most likely to unfold over a couple of months, which is great news for the pro scene and for the fans alike.