SEA and China form Asian region in new Dota 2 leagues

By Kenneth WilliamsJuly 27, 2020
When it comes to professional Dota 2, a major factor in deciding champions is geography. Where a team calls home can affect their regular tournament season, training partners, and metagame growth. Due to differences in prize money and competition, many professional teams have outright relocated to new regions with varying results.
The move to online has brought quite a few changes to pro Dota, and tournament runners have been getting creative in coping with the situation. We’re seeing more month-long leagues instead of the usual week-long tournaments, like The Great American Rivalry or DPL-CDA Pro League. The next innovation we’ll be seeing is international events that take place entirely online. Both ESL One Thailand and Moon Studio Asia League will combine the SEA and Chinese regions for their upcoming online events, and this carries a few implications with it.
Simply put, fans are tired of seeing the same matchups now months into the global pandemic. This had led to some interesting experiments, like seeing how different regions tackle an entirely new patch in isolation. Still, it’s been a very long time since the last LAN. Expanding the scope of online events comes with its pros and cons.

Pushing online to its limits

Both of these events will feature teams stationed in northern China and south Indonesia. Moon Studio’s League will mostly feature Tier 2 teams, though it does star TNC Predator and BOOM Esports, two top SEA teams. ESL One Thailand is even more ambitious, featuring top tier talent from both regions and a $135,000 prize pool.
It’s strange to see two regions mashed together for an online tournament. There’s a reason that the scene has become borderline region-locked; internet speed and distance create a ping problem that consolidated tournaments could easily exacerbate. The ping from Shanghai to Jakarta is at 105ms minimum. Aside from the obvious input delay, consistency is also a concern. Distance increases the risk of spikes, drops, and packet loss. Many teams are headquartered in both northern China and southern Indonesia.
These numbers get even worse, with Shanghai to Manila posting at near 170ms. In theory, teams could travel to a suitable distance, but that just defeats the purpose of an online event. I’m sure that ESL and Moon Studio have a plan to deal with internet issues, as we’ve had surprisingly few of them since the digital switch. Aside from the technical obstacle, both regions would benefit greatly from integrated competition.

Tier 2 has the most to gain

While meshing the regions together carries big implications for every level of Dota, the less-winning teams from each region will benefit the most. These teams are currently trapped in their own regions, limited to a small set of scrim partners and tournament opponents. They’re usually bullied out of any big prize pools. The introduction of intercontinental leagues would help solve that issue.
Top-level teams like PSG.LGD and Team Secret are no stranger to long breaks, and I doubt they will enter month-long leagues when seasonal Majors are happening. Giving Southeast Asian teams access to Chinese leagues and vice versa would increase the total amount of events available. That’s more prize money the big guys will pass up and the little guys will earn.
Furthermore, the two regions tend to represent very different metagame trends. The 7.27 metagame has led to symmetrical four-protect-one in China while SEA focuses more on winning the game early. The recent region-lock has led to very different metagames, and seeing these regions clash will be entertaining for viewers and educational for teams.

Could other regions make the leap?

China and Southeast Asia is a logical testing ground, but other regions’ Tier 2 scenes could benefit from integrating their online events. Eastern and Western Europe could be paired up; the ping from Bucharest to Oslo is only 50ms. They’re the regions that most frequently collaborate, but I’d like to see more region-locked CIS qualifiers for EU events. North and South America are two regions that have also become closer thanks to events like The Great American Rivalry.
It has to be said that some of these regions are weaker than others and could lead to some unfair competition. North America is a solid notch above their southern neighbors, and China is more competitive than SEA. The benefits of international events still outweigh the potential threat of regional landslides. Teams will have access to more events, leading to more prize money, learning opportunities, and metagame advancement.
Look forward to seeing SEA and CN Dota finally clash? Tune in to Moon Studio Asian League starting on July 29.
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