As we head into the final tournament of the season, rosters are already being tweaked and swapped, sending more and more teams to the open qualifiers for The International 8 as penance. North America and South America are currently out of the top eight in the Dota 2 Pro Circuit, which could mean very limited representation for these regions at the most important event of the year.
The top eight points earners in the Dota 2 Pro Circuit (DPC) will secure direct invitations to The International 8 (TI8). By region, the top teams currently are one CIS, four Chinese, two European, and one Southeast-Asian team. We’re missing representation for North America and South America in the top eight. And there’s only one team who could change this by the end of the China Dota 2 Supermajor: OpTic Gaming, who are only attending the tournament due to OG’s withdrawal.
While it’s possible that Valve determined the distribution of invitations by region for the Regional Qualifiers at the beginning of the season, I think it’s equally plausible that the company is open to tweaking how many invites each region will have right up until they’re publicly announced.
In March, I took a look at the regions mid-season to get a sense of what was happening at the regional level. Now, I want to take a closer look at the two regions currently without direct invitations.
Though North American teams haven’t broken into the top eight this season so far, the teams in positions nine through eleven are all from that region.
Copyright: ESL | Adela Sznajder; Ludwig”zai” Wahlberg of OpTic Gaming at ESL One Birmingham
OpTic Gaming is just shy of an invite after winning StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 in April and taking second place at ESL One Birmingham 2018 this past weekend. They need another 136 points for the TI8 invitation; if they place within the points, i.e. the top four, in Shanghai this coming week, they’ll make it into at least eighth place, knocking out VGJ.Thunder.
VGJ.Storm swapped out Enzo “Timado” Gianoli in mid-April for Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok. Something clicked for the team after that as they took first place at the GESC: Thailand Dota 2 Minor and second place at the MDL Changsha Major. They’re in tenth place in the rankings, and unfortunately, the roster swap means they’ll be headed through the Open Qualifiers for TI8.
Evil Geniuses made a shocking roster swap this week after a disappointing tenth-twelfth place at ESL One Birmingham 2018. Clinton “Fear” Loomis and Rasmus “MiSeRy-” Filipsen left the team, making space for former OG players Tal “Fly” Aizik and Gustav “s4” Magnusson. This means the team cannot earn points at the China Dota 2 Supermajor; they would have needed a finish or better in order to crack the top eight in the DPC standings.
North America has another pair of notable teams with DPC points. Immortals, who had a successful start to the DPC season but has struggled to qualify for tournaments in recent months, will be eligible for an invitation to the Regional Qualifiers and landed in 21st place in the standings. And then there’s compLexity Gaming. They will need to play in the Open Qualifiers due to a roster change that saw long-time compLexity captain Kyle Freedman as well as Rasmus “Chessie” Blomdin off the team. CompLexity placed 19th in the standings.
With at least three of North America’s top teams going through Open Qualifiers, the whole region has to be rooting for OpTic Gaming to perform well in China. If that team secures themselves an invite, it’ll create that much more space for favorites like Evil Geniuses to squeak through to TI this year.
I’d like to see two regional invites for North America, especially if OpTic doesn’t earn their direct invitation. The teams in the region are strong on the world stage. While the Regional Qualifiers would be especially hype if there’s only one TI8 spot available to win, I think it’s appropriate to give two teams the opportunity to punch their own ticket.
South America’s in rough shape by comparison and the region itself hasn’t performed well on LAN, though great strides have been made in the second half of the season. We might already be seeing the benefits of the “minimum one per region” qualifier rule for all DPC tournaments.
Though Infamous will compete at the final tournament of the year, they’re now ineligible for DPC points due to a roster swap. They did finish in third-fourth at GESC: Indonesia, which is an accomplishment and signaled more success for South America on LAN through the second half of the season.
Copyright: ESL | Adela Sznajder; Danylo “Kingrd” Nascimento of paiN Gaming at ESL One Birmingham
South America’s highest DPC point-earners, paiN Gaming won themselves fans with their third-place performance at ESL One Birmingham. I’m sure I’m not the only person who was browsing their merchandise after they knocked Team Liquid out of the tournament. Unfortunately, the team came together too late in the season to make a serious run for the top eight. They finish with 504 points, landing them in 16th place, and will be going through Open Qualifiers due to Aliwi “w33” Omar joining the team in mid-April.
The rest of the region are question marks, as South American teams have been unstable this year. The other team to frequently qualify for DPC events are SG e-sports, but their position five player left in April. Their coach, Emilano “c4t” Ito has been playing with them, and while they didn’t finish in last place at GESC: Thailand, they also didn’t qualify for either of the two final tournaments of the year.
I want to make a case for two regional spots for South America at TI8, but because the region wasn’t competitive in international tournaments until very recently this season, it’s hard to argue too strongly for more than one spot.
Though there’s past precedent for multiple slots per region—China and SEA both had three last year, North America and Europe each had two—, another route Valve might take is with Wild Cards. At TI6, second-place finishers in all four regions (remember that six regions were new as of 2017) participated in a Wild Card playoff, with the top two teams advancing to the group stages of TI6.
Any method of sending additional representation from regions is a positive for me. I want to see more players given the opportunity to compete on LAN. In a recent interview with Cybersport, w33 talked about the need for South American teams to scrim outside of their region—and the necessity of physically moving the teams to other regions for that purpose due to ping issues and the like. One way to facilitate that, to support the region and foster competitive development, is to bring an additional South American team to TI. If giving South America a second regional invitation feels like a step too far, a Wild Card playoff would be a legitimate, competitive path to invite an additional team to TI8.
We don’t have long to wait before all the details become available as Open Qualifiers begin June 14th, according to the Compendium. If we have eighteen teams at TI8, with eight direct invites, there’s room for six regional slots and four wild cards or additional invites for four of the six regions. I suspect the latter is more likely, but I’m rooting for a wild card scenario.
What do you make of the Americas’ performances in the Dota 2 Pro Circuit this year?