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Region hard lock of a roster wasn’t so important for Valve until this season. Over the past few years the Dota 2 developer took one decision after another with the sole purpose of incentivizing the growth of the competitive scene in each of the regions that bring them various benefits, be them viewers, player base, visibility, etc.

From a simple West and East qualifier process at The International 2012 and 2013, to a four regional competition at TI4, Dota 2 now has mandatory six regional qualifiers for each Valve sponsored event; Minor, Major and The International. In 2017, America was also split into two separate regions, when the South American scene has started to show more activity.  However, Valve has never been open about the rules, if any were written at that time. A Dota Pro Circuit guide or a rule book where Valve would explicitly mention the requirements for an organization or a team to compete in a certain region was never to be found and the inevitable happened. The organizations that could afford to fly into a region a bunch of elite players to compete in that region’s qualifiers and then let them either go back home or send the entire team to practice in a more competitive region, they did just that.

At the opposite pole, players who couldn’t find an organization or a sponsor for a newly formed squad tried to build something in an underdeveloped region. Two Majors ago three NA players teamed up with two Brazilians and traveled to Brazil to play in the Chongqing Major qualifiers. They even received a direct invite to those qualifiers. However, before the competition started they made a swap and brought in another NA player, which made Test 123 (formerly known as paiN X) four NA plus one SA representative playing from South America. The team went on claiming the one SA slot to the Major, but they got disqualified immediately after by Valve and the slot was given to the second placed team. In the aftermath of that event, both Quinn “CCnC” Callahan, and Rodrigo “Lelis” Santos wrote their version of the story and explained how poor the communication with Valve was. It wasn’t until this specific incident that Valve has actually publicly stated something regarding how the regional lock should work.

There are a couple of important things published by Valve in a blog post on November 28, 2018.

Context gave by Valve:

“Three months ago, we were contacted by Pain X inquiring about playing in the South American qualifiers. They asked if they could participate in them by traveling back and forth to the region to play in the qualifiers, rather than staying in the region. We explained to them that they couldn’t do that. We walked them through our reasoning, and what the purpose of regional qualifiers are, and why we thought that neither we nor fans would consider them an actual South American team.”

Reasons for regional roster lock:

“The reasons for guaranteed spots for each region is because we want to help nurture competitive growth in different regions, as well as have regional representation for fans around the world. We think it’s important for fans to be able to see their regions grow, and their teams compete in global events. A team temporarily traveling to and from a region just to compete in the qualifiers clearly does not provide any meaningful benefit to the region, and harms growth overall. When you are an actual team that lives in a region, you end up practicing with other teams, nurturing the region and growing local fans there.”

Test 123 was disqualified for traveling to SA to win the regional slot to a Major and then, supposedly, fly back home four of their players. But what should happen when in a region considered competitive and which gets the lion share of slots to DPC qualifiers, the same things take place over and over again?

North America and the qualifiers tourism

Evil Geniuses are without a doubt the powerhouse team in NA. They qualified for every single Major thus far and placed top 3 at two of them, just top 8 at the recent DreamLeague event and are set to participate in the MDL Disneyland® Paris Major next month. The team has 2 NA and 3 European players and that wouldn’t be a problem if they would all be settled in NA for the entire circuit. However, only by a brief look at their Dotabuff profiles, it can be seen that they play a few games on the US Est server, most of them being tournament (qualifiers) matches while the day by day activity is on the European servers.
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So what basically happens at EG for the past six months since the current season started is that the three European players come to NA, play the qualifiers from there and then they either get back home in Europe or they go with the entire team to boot camp outside the region. For instance, EG’s last two boot camps were held in China and Europe, yet Valve seems to be ok with the majority of the team not dedicating their time in the region they compete from.

Similar situation, however for different reasons, has happened at compLexity Gaming. coL is now three SEA plus two NA players. The organization has been extremely open about the visa issues that they are facing and even on their latest episode of “compLexity Press Conference” aired on YouTube, they inform the fans that coL has been on a boot camp in Frankfurt, Germany prior to the MDL qualifiers as that’s the only country where Adam “343” bin Akhtar can currently travel to.

According to the same Dotabuff player pages, adam has a total of 2 pub matches played on US East in the past couple of months. Even the most casual Dota 2 player who runs a few pubs per weekend in his free time can match those numbers of professionals who, according to Valve’s words, should be locked into a region so they can be an important factor in “nurturing the region and growing local fans there” and should be there to practice with other teams.

If coming to SA with the majority of the players from another region to play in the qualifiers and then travel somewhere else after the competition is harmful for the region, the logic shouldn’t say the same thing about NA?

We heard NA players on separate occasion stating that their region is going downhill.

Back in March this year, at the StarLadder ImbaTV Minor we talked to Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao who was playing under the Flying Penguins tag, a team without any sponsor which was trying to make a mark in NA. “We barely practiced because it’s hard to do it in NA,” said EE to us and explained that during the event they had to rely on their instincts when it came to drafts and meta trends rather than things they would have learned from scrim partners.

At the DreamLeague Major we spoke to Mason “mason” Venne who had the same to say about the region overall. “The NA pubs, in general, are very poor. It’s very hard to get better with what you play versus and what you scrim versus in NA. It’s very hard to improve yourself in that environment so, I agree that NA is a little bit behind,” he said.

Solving this issue requires some sort of compromise. One way to go would be for Valve to recognize that the system in place now, vague as it is, simply doesn’t work for all the regions and therefore should be eliminated in order to avoid situations that might smell like favoritism. And this would liberate the organizations to draw their talent from all over the world, without restrictions, much like in many other sports. The other route would be to clearly inforce the regional rule, which obviously would put the organizations under some strain, but most likely would have a long term impact in terms of regional growth.

The limbo status currently in play is harmful for both sides and it’s a source of unnecessary drama.

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