Valve and PGL have come down hard on Team D and vtFaded, but is it a fair call?
Fresh Dota drama rocked the lead up to Season 2 of the DPC. With PGL announcing that carry player Cheng "vtFaded" Jia Hao would be banned from events until after TI 10. While SEA Open Qualifier winners, Team D, would be disqualified from the DPC.
ESTNN spoke with Remus “Ponlo” Goh Zhi Xian about the situation surrounding Team D and vtFaded to gather a clearer perspective on exactly what went down from the player’s side.
⚠️DPC SEA 2021 Qualifiers update
Team D was disqualified from the 2nd Q.
Reason: vtFaded left team Mystery after the transfer deadline and played with Team D in OQ 2.
Team SMG, Team D's latest opponent, replaced them.
vtFaded can no longer compete in the DPC until after TI10
— PGL (@pglesports) April 9, 2021
The decision comes about due to the DPC’s player lock rules. Rules originally intended to protect players from being dropped by teams at the last minute.
The following copy of the rules was taken from the Dota Pro Circuit 2021 page.
When can teams no longer switch players? UPDATED
Teams can drop players from the end of the league up until the Tuesday after the Major at 12PM PST, receiving a 15% penalty to their points up to that point. Teams participating in the major will receive a penalty to their major points as well, as stated above if they change roster before the major ends. After that period, teams can no longer release players from their roster. However, teams can still add players if they don't have a full set of 5 up until 12PM PST on the Sunday one week after the Seasons's Major concludes, at which point all teams will be considered locked. This separation is meant to prevent players being dropped last minute without giving them a possibility to join a new team.
It’s worth noting at this point. These rules did not protect Souliya "JaCkky" Khoomphetsavong from the fate they were designed to protect him from.
He carried T1 through Season 1 to the Singapore Major. But that didn’t stop the organisation from summarily dropping him for a hot new kid on the MMR block, Nuengnara "23savage" Teeramahanon. And taking a 15% hit to their DPC points to do it.
Players vs Teams
Another thing worth noting; all this language is directed at teams as a whole. Not individual players. There’s a good reason for this, players sign contracts with their respective teams to protect them. In the Tier 1 scene.
But in the Tier 2 scene, the volatility of roster line-ups is well known. If these rules were written for player-formed teams, who’ve yet to even secure sponsorship, what kind of a disadvantage does this place them at?
ESTNN spoke directly with Ponlo regarding the last-minute arrangement that saw vtFaded play with the team.
According to Ponlo, after confirming to Mystery he would compete with them earlier, vtFaded had changed his mind. Meanwhile, Team D were scrambling to build themselves a roster to make the qualifiers. Because he wasn’t currently competing with Team Mystery. And didn’t intend to stay registered with them, he decided he’d lend a hand.
“…and in the chaos of trying to find a carry in half a day,” as Ponlo explains, “when he said he'll just use a smurf first in case got problems [sic.] with him getting locked or not, we said ok.”
According to Ponlo, vtFaded informed Team Mystery at “8pm after our games were done that he wanted to play with us & left the DPC team on the website.”
It was a decision that would cost the fresh team the spot they earned through play.
According to Ponlo, vtFaded was using a smurf because he was concerned about the fact he was still locked to Mystery on the website, despite having changed his mind about playing with the team.
Sympathy from both sides
According to conversations between Ponlo and Lee “X1aOyU” Qianyu, Team Mystery were also unaware that vtFaded was unable to leave the roster. With X1aOyU expressing that they too were confused at his inability to leave the roster and play with Team D if he wanted to. X1aOyU said if vtFaded had been able to leave the team safely, without receiving this kind of punishment, Mystery were happy to let him go.
X1aOyU expressed confusion about teams still changing their rosters; mentioning Mystery were reaching out to other key Dota figures about the roster rules.
X1aOyU said the team shouldered some of the blame for vtFaded’s fate. Suggesting perhaps Mystery confirmed their roster too early, and perhaps they should have waited.
“i also sad for jiahao we talked a lot also [sic.]” He said, while also acknowledging that Valve were the final authority on the decision. As a player, his hands are ultimately tied and Mystery will abide by the ruling.
That said, Mystery are happy to take vtFaded back if Valve change their mind. According to the same conversations, they agree the punishment has been too harsh for the carry player. Especially over what everyone sees as a misunderstanding of the rules without any ill intent behind it.
Another thing that’s known to be volatile in the T2 scene is player contracts. We’ve seen plenty of players kicked to the curb ahead of big events in previous years. See MDL Disney & Gunnar circa 2019 for a prime example.
One of the big selling points of the new format was a better environment for Tier 2 teams and players.
ESTNN have not sighted any binding player contract between Team Mystery and vtFaded confirming he had fully committed to the team. Team Mystery have recently been competing in the Acer Predator League with a different line-up to the one registered for Season 2 of the DPC. A factor that further complicates issues from the player’s perspective.
PGL’s ruling is based solely on the registration. Which Team Mystery are still forced to amend now anyway, thanks to the ban.
Which means in this instance, the rules haven’t protected anyone.
Even if Valve and PGL aren’t willing to overturn Team D’s disqualification, lifting the ban on vtFaded would save Team Mystery more headaches so close to the start of Season 2.
Supporting the T2 scene is part of the job
So, what does Team D’s disqualification and vtFaded’s ban really show us about the protection of players?
vtFaded’s decision to step in and help Team D out has prompted a lot of questions; about whether or not it’s players or corporate, who are in charge of their future careers.
Relying on lower tier players to not only play the best Dota they can, but also handle all the behind-the-scenes admin puts a lot of onus on new teams. Especially those just trying to qualify together for the first time. While rules are rules, there should be some oversight from event organizers. They should ensure they’re giving fresh teams enough time to find their feet. It’s in the best interest of Valve, TO’s and the scene itself, if greater support is given to new teams. The Tier 2 scene can’t become a sustainable force without it.
We asked Ponlo what Team D hoped they might be able to achieve by expressing their disagreement with the rulings.
“No idea,” he said. “Kinda just tired.”
If this was what Valve had in mind when it said the new format aimed to nurture the Tier 2 scene, perhaps they’ve missed the mark.