Valve has announced sweeping changes to the Dota 2 Pro Circuit that will come into place in the 2020/2021 season following TI10. The changes were revealed in a blog post on the official Dota 2 website.
Each region will now have two leagues of eight teams, with open qualifiers for both leagues that will decide the spots for each league. The two leagues will work on a promotion and relegation basis where the worst two teams throughout a season in the first division will be relegated and replaced by the best two from the second division. The two worst teams in the second division will also be removed from the league entirely and replaced by teams who take part in another open qualifier.
Each season will run for six weeks and will be followed up by a major tournament, featuring the top 18 teams from the previous season with 12 slots being allocated through placements that season and the other six coming from wildcard slots that will be fought for between all 3rd-4th place finishers in each first division. With only three seasons throughout the year, this means that there are now only three majors, similar to the 2015/2016 season where Valve hosted three majors throughout the year leading into TI6.
The prize pool for the season remains the same but is much more evenly spread, meaning teams will feel the benefits of their work over the course of the season instead of fighting to make it to the one big tournament in order to make huge money. Each league will feature a $280,000 prize pool that will be spread between the top 14 teams throughout the first and second divisions based on placements, with first-place receiving $30,000. Major prize pools will now be $500,000 rather than the $1 million that they currently stand at, further pushing the importance of performing throughout the whole season in order to get the best placement possible by sticking together and grinding through a season.
Also announced was the days and times of each region’s competitions with the first divisions of each region having three days a week devoted to the league, while games in the second division will be more spread out. For the first season, Valve will be the ones to allocate teams into the first and second divisions whilst teams must also declare what region they plan on competing in, abiding by the new region lock rules that state that a team must have three of its five players be residents of a region throughout the season and teams will be able to use a stand-in for up to four weeks throughout the season but only if the player comes from a lower division or does not play in the league at any level.
Teams who decide to change regions will have to qualify through open qualifiers at the start of the new season and then grind their way through the lower division in order to make it to the top league in their new region. Each season will have a roster lock that will continue until the end of the major for that season. Once the major has finished, teams will be granted the chance to make roster changes however they do risk costing themselves points when doing so, as each player change brings about a 15% penalty on the teams qualifying points for TI that year.
Valve believes that “the consistency and regularity of the league throughout the year, paired with a flat and deep prize pool distribution will, over time, nurture healthy and strong Tier 2/3 competition,” meaning that they want the pro scene to continue to grow. Valve wants teams to try and focus on getting better together rather than changing rosters at the first sign of trouble, a problem that has plagued the Dota 2 pro scene ever since the game’s inception. They also want the scene to stabilize in terms of monetary gains, where in previous years the only real tournament teams would worry about is The International due to the astronomical prize pools the tournament provides. Teams now have a reason to pay players a yearly salary that gives players a more stable environment to work in and giving players a chance to grow into a team where previously they may have been kicked if they didn’t gel instantly.
The dates for the seasons and majors themselves were announced as follows:
- Season 1 Fall League: Oct 5th – Nov 15th
- Season 1 Major: Dec 7th – Dec 19th
- Season 2 Winter League: Jan 4th – Feb 14th
- Season 2 Major: Mar 8th – Mar 20th
- Season 3 Spring League: Apr 12th – May 23rd
- Season 3 Major: June 21st – July 3rd
This planning gives third party tournament organizers an early look at when they can plan their tournament. While giving third party TO’s less dates in between events to host their own tournaments, the extra time given to plan them is a big plus point, as it avoids scheduling conflicts such as the Midas Mode drama that took place this season, where Valve scheduled qualifiers for a tournament the same day as the third party event Midas Mode was to start before community backlash made them change the qualifier dates.
Hopefully, these changes can bring a sense of stability to the Dota 2 pro scene, something that has been lacking for all but the best teams in the world who in the past have not felt threatened about their place at the top because of the weak scenes below tier 1 that would not develop due to the evergoing roundabout of roster swaps and disbands. The best teams would somehow always end up at the biggest events, while the lower-ranked teams struggle to keep their heads above the water. The league system being implemented will now look to spread the wealth in a fairer, more even manner.