Valve’s Invite System: How does it work?
The TI6 invites are finally out, and we are about 5 weeks away from the biggest Dota 2 event that rewards the effort of teams who stay on top of their form throughout every pro season, and giving away the biggest prize pool in Esports history that amounts to tens of millions of dollars.
But amidst all the hype, the looking forward to’s, and the anticipated matchups that the upcoming TI will spawn, it’s not officially TI season without a few controversies here and there, most particularly regarding who gets Directly Invited and who has to fight it out in the Qualifier Rounds among everyone’s favorite teams.
The curious case of the Director
LGD‘s direct invite proves to be the most questionable amongst the 6 directly invited teams with the team having non-stellar achievements and even struggled for most of the year ever since post-TI5. Perhaps the team’s biggest achievement during the start of the Major tournament series was placing 4th in Manila after being defeated by Team Liquid in the Lower Bracket rounds, and winning the Chinese Qualifier for ESL One Frankfurt 2016 in which the team declined participation on the last minute. When it comes to the other Majors, LGD succumbed to finishing 8th Place in Frankfurt and did not even made it to the top 8 in Shanghai which makes you wonder, how was their invite Justified?
While records of LGD‘s achievements show non-stellar wins in prestige tournaments, the team has been winning in their home turf during the post Shanghai Major period, such as placing 1st in the Dota 2 Professional League, a Chinese only tournament, 1st place in WCA Chinese Qualifier, but then again, even with 1st place finishes, these achievements are heavily outweighed by the team’s performance in prestige events such as ESL and the Majors.
Koreans: SEA’s real MVP?
Remember TI5, when SEA’s Direct Invite was questioned when Valve chose Team Malaysia (now Fnatic) over Rave? Well the same case has spawned again, this time between the Korean squad, MVP and the Malaysians, Fnatic. Both teams have been constantly in contest as to which team holds the top spot in the SEA Rankings, and has also been constantly compared against each other when it comes to their performance in major events. While Fnatic has long been making a name for themselves ever since their acquisition of Djardel “DJ” Mampusti, and winning Regional-level big tournaments such as WePlay SEA, SEA Kappa Invitational, and BTS South East Asia, MVP has managed to out-achieve them with their victories in International prestige events such as the WePlay Dota 2 League, and the Dota 2 Pit League.
Natus Vincere over X-team
Let’s face it, no matter how the team performs, everybody loves Natus Vincere, they’re the TI1 Champions, they’re a cool squad, and Dendi‘s a great guy, but no matter how much they are loved, their struggle ever since the post-TI4 era has raised some questions regarding their invite to TI6, much less to a Major, in fact, Na’Vi‘s last big win was back in 2014 in the Dota 2 Champions League Season 4, that is if we exclude Qualifier wins in various premiere and prestige tournaments. But hey they placed 7th-8th in the last Major right and second place finish in ESL One Frankfurt, plus they’ve been winning qualifier tournaments and making it to the top 8, a sentiment which is shared by team LGD‘s Direct Invite slot, although LGD does have “win” in their home turf, that being the Dota 2 Professional League.
So how does Valve’s invite system work?
Actually, there has been no direct explanation coming from Valve themselves, but using patterns noticed in previous invites for Majors, and for TI, we’ll try to, at least, have a basic understanding as to how the company factors in the teams that will be invited for their tournaments.
Achievements on the Major
The Major tournament series was concocted right after the rising problem of oversaturation when it comes to the events and tournaments during the pre-TI5 era. Back in the day, teams scramble to attend which tournaments that they think will warrant them an invite, based on their accumulated wins that will earn them ranking points on pro-Dota 2 coverage sites such as GosuGamers.net and JoinDOTA.com, not that these sites have become the official basis for team rankings but at the very least properly tabulates team performance in various tournaments and how they rank against each other globally and regionally.
The idea is earning big achievements in the Major such as winning it or at least reaching the Top 4-8 ranks and being consistent helps you warrant an invite to the next Major and ultimately TI without having to worry much about the other big tournaments such as ESL, Starladder, and the like.
Achievements outside the Major
Manila was the most ventured from the norm of Major tournament in the series with 12 directly invited teams, from the previous 8 in Frankfurt and Shanghai, including first time Direct invites such as Natus Vincere and Wings Gaming, and was justified by their achievements in premire and prestige tournaments outside the Major and post Shanghai, which included the ESL One Manila 2016 championship title for Wings and Na’Vi‘s numerous finals appearance in Western tournaments such as Dreamleague and Starladder i-League.
Achievements outside the Major may also help explain why MVP was given a direct invite over Fnatic for the team has won 2 championship titles, WePlay Dota 2 League S3 and the Dota 2 Pit League S4, factors that are drawn in as a tiebreaker qualification between both teams.
However, the problem with the Major is that there is no point system, nor an official ranking system that is applicable to the Major and TI only, which means that teams, especially those who fall below the 4th place ranking, are still having a hard time trying to predict their appearance on the next Major and ultimately TI. Also, with the recent system noticeable on TI6, it would seem that your achievement on the previous Majors (Frankfurt and Shanghai) are nullified by your current achievement in the last major prior to TI (Manila), plus additional achievements in premiere and prestige tournaments in between, which in this case includes the ESL One Frankfurt 2016 second finish for Natus Vincere.
With these non-visible rules, which are somehow also always non-visibly changed, we can draw the conclusion that Valve still draws respect from the already existing tournaments and brings in achievements from those as a deciding factor for their invitees, but then again, the concept of the Major was thought to help eliminate these additional struggles of teams competing in tournaments which can be relatively close to each other when it comes to the dates and travel hundreds, if not, thousands of miles in between venues.
But even so, the current system implies that a team’s performance consistency in the Major tournament series may still not help warrant them an invite to TI if in case another team outweighs their achievements outside the Majors, although an exception would be teams breaking roster trade or shuffle rules, like the case of EG and Secret.
So how can things be made clear? A suggestion would be for Valve to be transparent with teams and/or the community as to how the invite system works, or at least provide a very basic understanding of the factors that affect the invite system that they are using. Additionally, aside from the unofficial official ranking systems from already established Dota 2 coteries, Valve themselves may also arrange their own ranking system for Major-related achievements, and as to how non-Major tournaments help affect team rankings positively, or negatively, instead of being fully reliant on these other rankings.
We are about 5 weeks to go before TI6 and an additional, 5 weeks before the Major tournament series opens up again, and hopefully, it will grant Valve enough time to possibly reassess how they decide on invites, or at least be more transparent when it comes to their rulings and deciding factors.