Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) open qualifiers are less than a day away, and true to form, Valve has left the announcement of their official invites right down to the wire. In a post late on Sunday, Valve revealed all the Season One Upper Division direct invites.
— Wykrhm Reddy (@wykrhm) January 3, 2021
The DPC invites list had previously been sporadically leaked throughout the day on Liquipedia. Questions have arisen as to why the list of invites took so long to release, but the source of the delay might have been down to vetting. On Sunday the entire Newbee organization, along with TI-winning members of its roster, were banned for match fixing. Inside sources have stated that they were a shoe-in for one of the Chinese invite spots, but their surprise disqualification scuppered that.
For the most part, the invite list is to be expected. Europe is headed by Team Secret, after their incredible 2020, followed closely by 2019 TI finalists OG and Nigma. Team Liquid caps off the European core. The big name absence from this lineup is clearly Alliance. While cases could be made for Vikin.gg for more recent performances, they also look poised to be obvious instant qualifiers. Alliance, on the other hand, would be natural to replace either Team Liquid or Nigma, whose recent performances have lacked.
CIS is filled with two familiar faces and two new. Virtus.pro and Natus Vincere are joined by Team Spirit and Live to Win. Meanwhile, in the SEA region, T1 makes a splash alongside TNC Predator and Fnatic. China’s PSG.LGD, EHOME, Vici Gaming, and newcomer super-team ELEPHANT round out that region’s invitees.
North and South America have the most contentious rosters, with SG E-Sports, Thunder Predator, Infamous, and beastcoast making up their invites. Here there are curious absences from squads like paiN Gaming, NoPing e-sports, and others who made up the majority of events in 2020.
I'm not going to be polite about this. If the DPC was going to take form into account teams deserved to know beforehand. These players are being punished heavily for not being "always on" during a global pandemic and it's shameful. https://t.co/xw7i1tOVgE
— Muriëlle 'Kips' Huisman (@Kipspul) January 3, 2021
Members of the SA Dota community have come forward with stories describing how Valve allegedly stated that DPC invites would be based on stable rosters and results. However, almost every roster of the invited teams had inconsistent rosters.
In North America, the lack of competition made the invitees almost a no-brainer. However, the selection of Quincy Crew, S A D B O Y S, 4 Zoomers, and Evil Geniuses still leaves much to be desired. S A D B O Y S competed in just one event before this season, and were reportedly founded specifically to compete in the DPC season. Evil Geniuses also provide their own unique issues, in that their roster has been inconsistent, playing in both North America and Europe last season.
Beyond just the nature of the invites, problems exist in both the alleged selection process and the qualifier format. In many cases, the teams that have missed out on invites will now end up straight in open qualifiers, with no chance at getting to Division One. There, the format in several regions including South America and Southeast Asia is just a single elimination, best-of-one situation. It’s a one-and-done affair for teams which have already spent 2020 struggling just to remain afloat. What’s more, it turns out that 2020 – with its no official DPC events past March – did, in fact, matter for teams. With squads forced to play from home, often on the other side of the world from teammates, their performance was being measured by Valve. Albeit, with no official word that this was the case, and what kind of metric or details on the standards they were being held to.
In my experience, Valve’s subjective assessments of teams’ “form” have over the years been no more accurate than TOs, talent, etc. Dota is extremely hard to predict. All good rankings or rulesets should be based on actual match results and be as transparent as possible.
— Nahaz (@NahazDota) January 3, 2021
Suddenly, every unofficial tournament, every skipped event due to ping issues or health concerns, mattered after the fact. Players in an already hyper-competitive environment are learning now that 2020, a year that Valve itself seems keen to forget, will affect their careers for another year. Missing out on a direct invite this season is a very different animal to any other.