The recent second season of Southeast Asia Dota Pro Circuit 2021: Season 2 Open Qualifiers 2 saw a surprise upset, as Mushi's Team SMG, already eliminated, got a reinstatement.
That was because Team SMG's opponents, Team D, were disqualified after beating them.
Team D, who had Cheng "vtFaded" Jia Hao playing on his smurf account, was found to have broken the rules by supposedly playing for two teams. He had registered to play with Team Mystery, but partnered up with Team D instead.
This resulted in a disqualification (DQ), and a competing ban for vtFaded till after TI10. Team D also consisted of veteran players such as Michael "ninjaboogie" Ross, Muhammad "inYourdreaM" Rizky and Wu "Deth" Heng Yang.
vtFaded's teammate, Remus "Ponlo" Goh Zhi Xian, took to Twitter to complain about the ruleset, and claimed that vtFaded had not broken any.
He stated that the rules allow vtFaded to leave a team but not let a team remove them after the deadline, and as such, was not illegally playing for two teams.
He could have a point. After all, Valve's rule states that "teams can only drop players until the Tuesday after the end of the Major, however, and after that point players can only be added". It doesn't say anything about leaving the team yourself.
To be fair, it seems that the intent of the rule is to prevent teams from dropping players and leaving them unable to join a team in time.
This also ensures that a team sticks with a player for the season leading up to the end of the Major, instead of swapping them after qualifying.
Whether a player leaves or is dropped before or after the deadline, Valve seems to think it's the same thing.
There's also a penalty if it chooses to substitute a player — but they still aren't allowed to drop a player. Instead, such players become inactive or benched.
Valve's rules also tend to be a bit more ambiguous, such as when it came to community broadcasts for tournaments, an issue that was raised back in 2017. But the Dota 2 developer would quickly clarify when something breaks the spirit of the rule.
Now, this isn't the first controversy for the DPC that has been taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some players had earlier allegedly threatened a boycott of the Singapore Major, hoping for the event to be cancelled.
Besides the isolation period, was also somewhat due to the lack of time to be able to return and get out of quarantine ahead of the second DPC season.
However, this seemed to have quickly faded away, and the Singapore Major showed that there was demand for top-level competitive Dota both from teams and viewers.
Back to the topic at hand, PGL was also aware that vtFaded was playing on a smurf, and seemed to not see it as an issue.
Team D's Deth had allegedly reached out to PGL's admin BenQ, who appeared to tell them smurfing was not a problem, and had said he only needed to know when "you guys win" and had registered at the DPC website. The issue of vtFaded being on another team was not raised to the admin at all.
Sadly, this turned out to be the key point. vtFaded was playing for Team D and had left Team Mystery after the deadline.
Valve caught wind of this, and then told PGL to ban vtFaded, disqualify Team D, and allow Team SMG to advance instead.
The decision seemed to have left a bitter taste in scene watchers, such as former Dota 2 coach Anthony "scantzor" Hudson, who said in a tweet that it was "an unclear, poorly advertised ruleset" and the "response to be so heavily punitive feels entirely disproportionate".
Other critics felt that the SEA open qualifiers were run concurrently with the transfer window, instead of before the Major, as with other regions.
However, Fnatic's Team Director for Dota 2 Eric Khor felt otherwise, telling me that the rules "could be clearer, but were clear enough as is".
Khor added that the rules were implemented to protect players from being disadvantaged, but not for abuse.
"I do not think that Valve would have given Team D any concession. While the TI10 ban is a little harsh, I can see how Valve will think this is an attempt by vtFaded to game the system, even if he's telling the truth," Khor had said.
Regardless, Team SMG seems to have benefited from the decision, having beaten their last two opponents to make it to the lower division of the SEA DPC League.
They will also be playing against Team Mystery, who have recruited Daniel "Ghost" Chan Kok Hong to take over vtFaded's former slot.
If vtFaded had decided not to register in two teams, or had withdrawn properly, perhaps he would now be competing in the DPC for a shot at the upcoming Major and a chance at the first International in two years.
Aloysius Low is an ex-CNET editor with more than 15 years of experience. He's really into cats and is currently reviewing products at canbuyornot.com
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