Monday afternoon, Valve named the eight teams that will receive direct invites to the first DOTA 2 Major, which will be held in Frankfurt, Germany in early November. The DOTA 2 Majors are a new series of four live yearly tournaments sponsored and run by Valve (in association with ESL, a popular worldwide e-Sports league) that will include The International, which set a record in 2014 for having the single largest prize pool in professional gaming history, at over 18 million dollars, an amount that was partially funded by players and fans of DOTA 2 through in-game purchases. Three other tournaments, similar to The International, will run over the rest of the year, providing significant prize pools in this expanding world of e-Sports.
The eight teams receiving direct invites to the event are:
Evil Geniuses– Based in North America (and considered the best team from that region by a wide margin), they won the most recent International tournament and claimed a prize of over 6 million dollars in the process. They also won the 2014 DOTA 2 Asia Championships, which at the time was the second-largest DOTA 2 tournament in the world. A recent quick exit at the ESL New York tournament has some questioning if the team hasn’t slipped a bit since their massive victory, however.
CDEC Gaming – The runners-up at The International, Chinese-based CDEC came out of nowhere to nearly win the biggest yearly prize in DOTA 2. CDEC was not considered a true contender leading up to The International, as they were forced to qualify as a wild-card, and nobody expected them to finish in the top eight, let alone almost walk away as champions. CDEC was also directly invited to ESL One New York as a result of their impressive showing, but were quickly eliminated by Secret, leading some to wonder if their Cinderella story was just a fluke.
Team Secret – This European team was seen by many as the favorites to win the last International, as Team Secret entered that tournament having won several large events in the months leading up to it. However, they finished a disappointing 7th/8th and underwent a massive roster overhaul, with only one of the previous five members remaining to captain the new team. Team Secret has made waves in DOTA 2 by refusing to have a corporate sponsor, choosing instead to remain independent.
LGD Gaming – Considered by many the top Chinese team in the world, they were upset at The International by underdogs CDEC Gaming, but still ended up finishing third overall, leading to minor roster changes and a new team captain. They have not played any official matches since The International, and thus their new roster’s capabilities remain largely unknown.
EHOME – EHOME’s power on the Chinese scene had waned in recent years, and in fact the brand was defunct until a few months before The International. The team pulled of a fairly surprising 5th/6th place finish at The International, but lost several players to other teams. They did qualify for ESL New York, but were unable to secure visas in time to attend. They will be dark horse candidates, but not favorites to walk away with the trophy.
Vega Squadron – The only one of the eight invites who was not a part of The International, Vega was eliminated in the Wild Card qualifiers for the event. Post-International, Vega has grown stronger as other European-based teams seemed to weaken, and unlike many of the invited teams, have had many official matches in the last few months. In fact, they have the most matches on the latest patch of any pro team. They burst onto the scene fully at ESL One New York, where they defeated Evil Geniuses, Chinese mainstays Invictus Gaming, and Team Secret to win the entire tournament. They won’t sneak up on anyone anymore, but they will be ready to prove that they’re here to stay.
Virtus Pro – A solid team out of the Europe/CIS area, Virtus Pro surprised many by eliminating the heavily-favored Team Secret from The International, on their way to a respectable 5th/6th finish. After a year full of roster instability which led to several different lineups, VP left The International as one of the top Western teams in the world. Unlike many teams, they also chose to maintain the same roster from The International going forward, which might help them going into the Major.
Vici Gaming – Vici Gaming, out of China, had a strong second place showing at The International in 2013, and continued their strong play into 2014, and were at one point considered the strongest team in China. However, after switching their carry player, they struggled and entered the most recent International on a slide. They managed to come together in time to place fourth at The International, however, but once again have replaced their carry in the weeks following the tournament. Due to their recent issues, they have gone from a guaranteed top finish to a true wild card.
Eight other teams will qualify for the Frankfurt major through Regional qualifiers, featuring eight of the top teams in each of the four regions (China, Europe/CIS, Americas, and Southeast Asia), plus two teams from Open qualifying tournaments, in which any and all players of DOTA 2 are invited to try their luck with their own teams. The top two teams from each region will advance to the Major. As an attempt to prevent the massive roster re-shuffling that has been prevalent in professional DOTA 2, the Major tournaments require that all eligible teams (both invited and for Regional play) maintain the same group of players for a significant time period prior to the events. Any team violating this rule was relegated to the Open Qualifiers.
This attempt by Valve to create “seasons” for DOTA 2 headed by quarterly Majors, combined with an increased attempt at keeping professional rosters stable (and therefore allowing fans to feel connected to the teams rather than individual players), could be a big step forward in e-Sports gaining mainstream popularity and credibility.