ESL LA 2020
Invitational System Investigation
To clarify off the bat, ESL is under no obligation to follow any system other than one of their choice when their event has no standing in the DPC. They have already made it clear that their ranking system is in place to “add to the conversation” and is by no means perfect. An article by Ben “Noxville” Steenhuisen goes more in depth on the issues with their ranking system. Though very appreciative of ESL for continually bringing the Dota 2 community events, I want to discuss the potential ethical obligation that ESL has with their decision to fall back on their ranking system for the ESL One Los Angeles 2020 invitational. This ethical responsibility may not solely fall on the shoulders of ESL but Valve as well, but we will discuss the further.
All teams qualified for the ESL One Los Angeles 2020 Major except for Team Aster will be playing in the replacement invitational by a similar name. Team Aster has already publicly stated that due to the quarantine of 4 of their players and team manager, the team would be unable to participate in any online tournaments before March 30th. This new online invitational will feature 34 teams globally instead of the 16 that qualified for the Major. When counting the additional 7 teams that competed in the Minor leading up to the Major, it brings the total to 23 teams. Thus, with Team Aster’s inability to participate, we are left with 12 additional teams to add to the lineup of competitors.
ESL One LA 2020 Invitational
The North American and Southeast Asian regions will see no difference in the teams participating. South America only had 3 teams participating in the Major/Minor, so ESL gave an extra spot to the second-place team of the Minor qualifier, FURIA Esports. Another difference, ESL has chosen to delegate the Southeast Asian region to be the same tier as North America, with same number of teams and same access to prize pool. Valve had given Southeast Asia priority among the other regions, giving them 3 spots for the Majors instead of 2. These changes can mostly be attributed to the formatting of the online invitational, but the question arises to why they didn’t treat Southeast Asia with the same respect they gave China.
The Chinese region benefits from having a leg up on the previously mentioned regions, being given 6 spots and an additional $15,000 in prize money. As stated before, 3 of those spots were given to the teams that qualified for the ESL One Los Angeles 2020 Major. With Team Aster’s absence, the rest of the spots were given out to Newbee, PSG.LGD and Vici Gaming. Newbee, much like FURIA Esports, placed second in the Minor qualifier, creating a trend to the additional invitations.
Though I cannot state whether or not Keen Gaming was invited to this invitational, they did place 3rd in the Minor Qualifier. Instead Vici Gaming and PSG.LGD were invited in their place. I doubt their poor performance at the qualifiers has anything to do with their lack of appearance on the ESL Dota 2 World Ranking, considering PSG.LGD is 15th, previously 24th and Cloud9 is currently ranked 27th, with the lineup of vtFaded, EternalEnVy, Sneyking, Skemberlu, and MiSeRy. This continuously brings into the question how these teams are rated by ESL and what warrants an invitation.
Cloud9 Rating and Lineup to ESL's World Ranking
Finally, the joint regional of Europe and CIS, where controversy has already been had. There are 16 spots, of which 14 have already been given out, and $200,000 up for grabs. Again, half of the teams had already qualified for the Major or Minor, leaving the remaining 8 spots to be given out to those who didn’t qualify for either. Team Nigma and Team Liquid were both given spots, having placed 2nd and 3rd respectively in the European Minor qualifier. Additionally, HellRaisers and Cyber Legacy, who both participated in the Minor qualifier were invited. Leaving Team Spirit and B8 as the last 2 remaining invitations that have been announced.
Team Spirit placed 7th-8th in the CIS Major qualifier, along side Modus Unity, and are currently ranked 35th on the ESL Dota 2 World Rankings. B8 on the other hand lost to Modus Unity in the open qualifiers but is currently ranked 23rd on the ESL Dota 2 World Rankings.
B8’s current achievements include taking a series off Infamous at the WePlay! Dota 2 Tug of War: Mad Moon event placing 5th-6th and placing 5th-6th at the EGB.com Arena of Blood online event, for which Winstrike Team (formerly Modus Unity) placed 4th, Aggressive Mode’s new roster placed 2nd, and Chicken Fighters placed 1st. With B8’s achievements they rank higher on the ESL Dota 2 World Rankings than Royal Never Give Up, EHOME, OG, Geek Fam, and Aggressive Mode. If you haven’t read Noxville’s article, this ranking system doesn’t allow for points to be lost. This leaves the following teams who place equal to or better than B8 in the qualifiers hoping to receive one of the two remaining spots: OG Seed, Viking.gg, Aggressive Mode, Winstrike Team, EXTREMUM, Unique Nova, and Godsent.
In conclusion, it seems as though ESL is sending their additional invitations based on popularity and not competitive standings this season. At the end of the day, ESL is a business, and their goal is to ensure their stakeholder are pleased with the bottom line. Though this event currently has no barring on the DPC season, piggybacking an event by the same name creates this ethical grey zone that will surely have consequences for teams not receiving an invitation, especially with these hard times ahead.
This moral obligation doesn’t solely lie on the shoulders of ESL, but Valve as well. With only speculation, it is imperative that Valve doesn’t consider any of these invitationals when deciding what to do with the remainder of the DPC season. That is unless the system that was put in place for team’s participation is followed continuously. This favoritism/popularity contest can only hurt the lower tier competitive state of Dota 2 with no word from Valve on the state of the DPC.