The Dota 2 Pro Circuit looked to add stability and transparency to the scene, but the system meant to protect players is currently hurting them. Roster locks six months before The International places excess strain on teams and undermines the original purpose of the DPC.
Infamous may have been the first South American team to bank qualifying points, but the points are worthless.
The team failed to register their roster by the Feb 5th final roster lock date. They only took home 25% of their earned points. According to the rules, they are not eligible for a TI invite, either direct or to the closed qualifiers. They had not had a roster change since September 2017, although Scofield did recently leave the team following their success at GESC.
They join the list of accomplished and promising teams that have fallen prey to rigid roster locks. OG’s decision
to play without Resolut1on has dropped them into the open qualifiers, despite their current 11th place position in the Dota 2 Pro Circuit. Complexity, with Kyle kicked, and LFY, swapping Inflame back in for Ohaiyo, both lose their eligibility as well. Other teams, like Digital Chaos in NA, have also made roster changes that push them into open qualifiers. These changes have happened almost six months before The International, but the rules are clear. February 5th was the last date that teams could adjust their registered rosters. Teams that either forgot to register (presumably Infamous) or make changes have no choice.
Valve has always had an unwritten roster lock policy. The five person team they invite to The International are the five players they expect to compete. Teams who made late season roster changes risked TI invites. This unwritten rule was seen in action when TI4 Fnatic tried to play without Era. Valve protected Era’s right to play with the team and refused to allow Fnatic a stand in. TI4 EG were one of the few exceptions, where medical reasons allowed Mason to step in and play for Fear. Following TI5, Valve put their rules into writing.
The initial rules had a single lock date. The Shanghai Shuffle disaster of 2016 showed Valve that they needed to adjust the system. Roster locks now have two dates. Players can be added or removed to rosters in phase one. During phase two, players can only be added to a team. This system protects players from last minute kicks and allows time to find and register a new roster. Unfortunately, teams can choose not to add any members and bypass the first date. If they want to keep their entire roster, everyone is just added back before the second date. Players can still be kicked on the last day and be left without a viable roster option.
The final roster lock before TI places immense pressure on teams. This deadline to pick your TI8 team more than six months before the actual event pushes players to make fast decisions. When that is added to a hectic overcrowded qualifier and travel schedule, how can teams be expected to make the best decisions?
The roster lock systems have been too rigid. A Reddit post looked at teams eligible for qualifiers in each region. SEA, China, and EU have a decent number of locked teams while CIS, NA, and SA won’t be able to fill out a standard qualifier. These regions will either have more open qualifier slots or there will just be less teams overall in the qualifiers. Increasing the number of open qualifier slots in these regions would add some flexibility to the system. Teams that made changes would have a better chance of making it out of opens. However, if these teams have performed well in the Dota 2 pro circuit since making changes, it does seem almost unfair for them to face opens.
Although it is too late to change the rules for this season, Valve can make changes for next year. They should add a third roster change deadline, closer to the actual event. Team that have three out of five of their players from the second lock are eligible to register their adjusted player list. This wouldn’t be a “get out of jail free card” - teams that follow the original roster locks will still have a benefit. Valve could have a three tier qualifier system: open qualifiers, phase one invites, and phase two invites. Teams who make changes between the second and third roster lock date would only be eligible for phase one invites. They would play open qualifier finalists and the winning teams move on to play phase two teams. The only teams eligible for phase two would be the ones who had not made roster changes since the second (more strict) roster lock date.
No system is perfect. We should expect to see adjustments to the Dota 2 Pro Circuit every year as Valve gets feedback and constantly looks to improve the scene. Ideally, the next round of the roster lock system will not place such immense pressure on teams. Rosters should be granted the time to test run new lineups and make changes.
Ultimately, this will lead to better teams, a higher level of competition, and ideally the stability that the Dota 2 scene desperately needs.
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