Why Valve made the right decision giving NA three TI8 slots
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Why Valve made the right decision giving NA three TI8 slots

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The community did not have a positive reaction to Valve’s fresh announcement on the regional qualifier slots for TI8. The distribution placed North America first with most slots allocated, leaving other major regions trailing.

TI8 qualifier slots distribution:

— North America: 3 slots
— China: 2 slots
— SEA: 2 slots
— Europe: 1 slot
— CIS: 1 slot
— South America: 1 slot

It was the consensus that for the most part, the slot allocation was fair, given that four Chinese teams have already secured spots for the next TI and that both EU’s and CN’s slot accurately reflect the number of teams not already qualified. Therefore, the focal point of the discussion became the discrepancy between NA and CIS and the 3-to-1 ratio.

This was perceived as a joke and a slap to the face for CIS but I for one feel this is more of a knee-jerk reaction and not something people have thought through. If one is to sit down and examine the DPC season as a whole, it will become apparent that Valve’s distribution is indeed the fairest.

FTM at EPICENTER XL. Photo by: EPICENTER
FTM at EPICENTER XL. Photo by: EPICENTER Media.epicenter.gg

CIS has received a lot of hype in the last few tournaments on the DPC season and that’s not completely undeserved. FlyToMoon had an amazing run at EPICENTER; Team Spirit have been getting better with each passing week and eliminated Evil Geniuses from ESL One Birmingham; and Natus Vincere were the highest scoring team from the region if you disregard Virtus.pro. Add to that Vega Squadron who, just like Team Spirit, have shown a lot of promise and you have a hell of a qualifier to look forward to. But scratch the surface and that illusion quickly falls apart.

The fallacy that close games equal high skill is the core misunderstanding that leads to all this criticism.

FTM had one amazing run on a new patch and didn't qualify for anything else. Team Spirit were immediately dispatched from the Supermajor only winning one series against NaVi. And NaVi themselves... well seems like Nikola "LeBronDota" Popovic wasn't the problem as they didn't win a single game in the Supermajor groups and were sent home in the first round of the playoffs. To add to that, they wouldn’t have finished 13th if it wasn't for the Ilya "Lil" Ilyuk trade, and — given the same results — would’ve been out of the top 16.

The one thing the region has going for it is that its regional qualifiers have been bloodbaths and this gives the false impression of a highly skilled scene. But the fallacy that close games equal high skill is the core misunderstanding that leads to all this criticism.

NaVi have been struggling all DPC season. Photo by: EPICENTER
NaVi have been struggling all DPC season. Photo by: EPICENTER Media.epicenter.gg

At ESL One Birmingham, I sat down with FNG who briefly touched on the subject of the power struggle on the CIS scene. FTM, Team Spirit, and Vega are currently locked in a power triangle of sorts, Artsiom "Fng" Barshack explained. FTM struggle against Spirit, Spirit against Vega, and Vega against FTM. This makes the CIS qualifiers a lot of fun to watch but does not mean these are all teams deserving of the TI stage. In reality, they're all very flawed teams. They all have the potential to be a threat on the international scene, which they've proven, but they cannot do it consistently.

This confusion of what constitutes a great team seems deeply rooted in the scene. In a tweet, Sébastien "7ckngMad" Debs wrote that NA only has four real contenders for the TI spots while CIS has five. While I agree with him on that, does that really mean that CIS deserves more invites?

Let's have a look at how many Majors/Minors the respective teams have earned points. For NA, the distribution is actually quite even. EG are ahead of everyone else, having collected points from four DPC events this year. The rest of the teams (VGJ.Storm, OpTic Gaming, and compLexity Gaming) have got points in two DPC events.

When it comes to comparing these numbers to CIS’ results, it’s not good reading. NaVi are the only team that has had more success than some of the NA teams, having banked DPC points at three events. Then you have Vega and FTM with one time each, while Team Spirit and Team Empire have zero DPC points.

 EG: points from 4 events
 coL: points from 2 events
 VGJ.S: points from 2 events
 OpTic: points from 2 events

 NaVi: points from 3 events
 FTM: points from 1 event
 Vega: points from 1 event
 Team Spirit: points from 0 events
 Team Empire: points from 0 events

So, numbers-wise, NA teams just had a better season with 10 total top 4 finishes (11 if you count Immortals’ top 4 at the PGL minor) to CIS’ five.

This confusion of what constitutes a great team seems deeply rooted in the scene.

This leads us to the topic of expectations on the different teams. There's no doubt the season hasn't gone as anticipated for the NA-based teams. After TI7, the squads gathered in the region all looked scary. Together, coL, IMT, EG, Optic, and VGJ.S made NA look like a region that would not just compete but possibly dominate the international scene in the season to come. This built the expectation that NA teams were supposed to do great in every tournament, and teams were not able to meet them.

This is a problem their CIS counterparts don't have. No one expects CIS teams, except for Virtus.pro, to do well. When we see Team Spirit take a game off EG it's amazing. On the other hand, if we see Optic take a series off Fnatic that's normal. For a CIS team, a single series win is taken as something huge while not even a top 4 finish seems to cut it for the NA squads.

This does not mean that the NA teams should be happy with their season. As I previously pointed out, the teams all have the skill to make deep runs in any given tournament but that hasn't happened. NA needs to shape up. Nevertheless, the teams in the region are still better than their CIS counterparts and Valve absolutely made the correct decision in giving NA their three slots.

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