Pro Breakdown: The canceled Dota 2 Winter Major, new Regional Finals, and DPC format

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·Senior Esports Producer
·5-min read
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The 2021-2022 Dota Pro Circuit season has been split into three Tours for the Fall, Winter, and Spring and will be hosting the regional leagues from 29 November 2021 to 17 July 2022. (Photo: Valve Software)
The 2021-2022 Dota Pro Circuit season's controversial Winter Tour saw the cancelation of its Winter Major and subsequent implementation of online Regional Finals as a replacement. (Photo: Valve Software)

This is Pro Breakdown, a series by Yahoo Esports Southeast Asia where we talk with pro players, coaches, experts, and other personalities about anything and everything in the region's esports scene.

The Winter Tour of the 2021-2022 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) season has now (mostly) concluded, and already it has been a doozy.

After the Winter Major was abruptly canceled, much to the chagrin of the community, Dota 2 developer Valve Software was able to replace the event with the online Regional Finals.

Let's break all of it down with Singaporean Dota 2 veteran and Nigma Galaxy SEA coach Nicholas "xFreedom" Kelvin Ileto Lim (@xfreedom on Twitter).

Also, check out previous installments of Pro Breakdown, which tackled Talon Esports' recent entry into the Dota 2 scene, the importance of coaches in pro-level Dota 2, and the heroes that made waves in the meta during the Winter Tour.

Valve infamously canceled the Winter Major without giving anyone, not even pro teams or players, any prior notice. Why do you think they were forced to cancel the tournament on such short notice?

xFreedom: I think [Valve] are just concerned about how this whole COVID thing will affect the Major. Maybe it was due to how things were at [The International 10] in Romania and they are just taking precautions because of travel restrictions and whether people are able to leave their countries at such short notice.

What do you think about the Regional Finals as a replacement for the canceled Major? Obviously it's good that teams will still be able to get the DPC points from the Major, but what is your opinion on it both as a competitor and a spectator?

xFreedom: It just feels like a rematch for each region's top teams for patch 7.30e and not the whole clash of regions we usually see in Majors.

With that said, I think the Regional Finals being contained within each region is a good thing for the teams there. Some might look to have roster changes before the next season, so it will be a good chance for them to re-evaluate their current rosters or try out new players.

The cancelation of the Winter Major has put a spotlight on issues with the current DPC format, with some segments of the community calling for a return to previous formats to address such issues. As a competitor, would you rather have the current system stay or return to the previous format?

xFreedom: I think having a bit of both is good. This new DPC system has its good and bad things but I also think it's good to have a bit of separation. In the old format you basically just play a Group Stage with the best of the best of the region, then you enter the Majors, and then from there qualify to TI.

I think that was really good for the top dogs, but the current DPC system is more about developing new talent

Since we're already discussing the current DPC format, as a competitor in the DPC, what do you think is the best thing about this current system?

xFreedom: The new DPC system is good for people who want to get a taste of the pro scene, because you really have to climb from the open qualifiers to Division II then to Division I.

The current system is also more rewarding for newer players because you get compensated just for playing in the regional leagues, there's a guaranteed amount of money you can get depending on your placement, whereas in the old format only the few teams at the top got paid.

Basically the best thing about the current system is everyone gets paid.

What about the previous DPC format? What did you like the most about it as a competitor?

xFreedom: I think the older format feels better because it's identical to the TI format, so it kinda trains your mind that you're in that same high-stakes environment of TI, you know? Whereas if you play in the current DPC and place first in the leagues, you'll go straight into the Major playoffs and you don't even get to play in the Group Stage to figure out how other teams play.

It's why you can see the teams that went to the Major playoffs immediately didn't even look like a Major team at all. They didn't really have that practice you would usually get in the Group Stage.

Another point of contention for the community about the DPC format is the space it gives to third-party tournaments. Previous formats allowed organisers aside from Valve and the ones they tap to run the regional leagues to hold events alongside the DPC, whereas the current format is pretty much just the DPC, Majors, and TI. As a competitor, would you want to see more third-party tournaments run alongside the DPC?

xFreedom: For most players, we just want to play every possible tournament that we can. It's just good practice and helps to develop and familiarize the team with a tournament setup compared to just scrims.

You will never play as well in scrims as you do in actual tournaments, it's just a very different environment and feeling. I think it's just time for more third-party organisers to step up.

With all the attention brought to the issues with the DPC format, there's hope that Valve will make some changes for the next season in order to appease teams, players, and the community. Personally, what sort of changes do you want to see in the DPC format?

xFreedom: I think they can shorten the season and make Majors bigger, like have more teams qualify. Because of how the format is, if you play well during the season then you will definitely qualify.

But that's not how some teams run, you know? Some teams really run on momentum and if you spread the competition out over the course of six weeks they'll eventually lose that momentum.

Aside from issues with the DPC itself, the spotlight has also been on Valve and how their hands-off approach to managing the pro Dota 2 ecosystem has not been the best. What do you think Valve can do better moving forward?

xFreedom: They need to have more transparency with the community about what's happening and what they're thinking of doing because people have set their commitments on what they wanna do for this season already.

I think, as a developer, Valve should really let the whole ecosystem know about what's happening instead of doing something at the last minute.

With all the attention on Valve and their hands-off approach, some have even called for a separate entity from them that will manage the pro Dota 2 ecosystem more closely and proactively. Do you think such a move will be good for Dota 2 as an esport?

xFreedom: Dota will find its way. I mean, before Valve came in with Dota 2, the original DotA mod for WarCraft III had tournaments that weren't really paying money and you still have teams and players from back then still playing now. I think Dota can still find its way even if Valve steps out of the picture.

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