I wasn’t intent on writing anything for this, for a number of reasons — but I see some value in describing the experience as a whole for people who might be interested — particularly in the concept of a long-term event in which you play with a pre-made team, as opposed to the drafts we do in Clarity and RD2L.
I’ll place an emphasis on the pitfalls of such a setup — and how we felt them come to fruition in this case — but before I get to that, I feel the need to make one thing abundantly clear: I do this not to shit on anyone’s efforts, nor to attempt to provide “feedback” as such.
I very much appreciate seeing people try to expand the amateur Dota space, and I’d love nothing more than to see the scene thriving in that regard (which is the main reason I had any interest in participating — to keep an eye on developments). It’s very easy to dismiss these efforts simply because we collectively are used to our primary communities, which are a result of years of trial and error and slow but consistent improvement — and there’s nothing to suggest the same isn’t possible for any other league.
Nonetheless, I will talk about the issues inherent to these kinds of formats, primarily to elaborate on why they’re not a focal point of the efforts of Clarity. This may come to serve as an interlude to a series of similar blogs; I have a couple of drafts that touch on a variety of talking points, all of which are, in my view, concepts that aren’t talked about much, but may serve to shine a light on the thought process of a league admin. They’re all very dry, for what it’s worth — musings on monetization in the space, different organizational setups for staff teams, dealing with issues like burnout and player retention and what have you.
Whether I’ll actually finish those up and post them is a separate topic, but I have an interest in sharing my thoughts on this sort of behind the scenes processes, with the aim of leaving behind resources to reference for the next person who has the drive to carry on the efforts of the Dota league janitors that came before them, since the time I’ll commit to the space is finite.
Anyway, back to ED2L. Apologies in advance for spotty formatting, this is all mostly written on mobile and I don’t know that I care enough to go back and fix.
What the Fuck is ED2L, Madsen?
ED2L stands for European Dota 2 League (renamed, in what was a shrewd decision, from EDL), and is a new amateur Dota league founded late 2022/early 2023. The first season is a couple more matches from ending, though first place has already been locked in — yours truly is the captain of the inaugural ED2L season champions, but more on why this is utterly meaningless in a bit.
The two core concepts by which it operates are:
- Teams sign up as such, rather than going through a draft;
- Rather than an elimination tournament, the league is based on something not dissimilar to a football league, with all teams playing eachother once throughout the season, and the outcome being determined by the standings. Future seasons are planned to additionally have separate tiers, between which teams move through a promotion and relegation process, based on standings (though this was not present in season 1).
Sounds cool enough, right?
Let’s talk about the issues with this.
- Signups for season 1 were MMR capped, with only divine and lower players being allowed to play. This still meant that you’d have players ranging from triple digit MMR, up to about 5.6k (with 5630 being immortal MMR). By default, this means there will be a massive amount of incredibly imbalanced matchups, and it means that teams that aren’t majority ancient/divine have essentially no chance at winning — or having a vaguely enjoyable experience in many of their games. This is compounded by a number of other things, chief of which is…
- The length of the season. They had a great turnout, with 17 teams registering and being approved to start the season. All 17 teams need to play every other team once (and I might be making this up but I could swear the initial plan was to do twice, mirroring the home/away system in football; similarly, early plans were to allow new teams to join throughout the season). The league is played once per week. The problem should be apparent now. 4 months and some change (due to reschedules) would have to be committed to this league. Now, imagine you’re a 3k average stack, and you’ve gritted your teeth through two grueling months, snatching a couple of wins off the weaker teams, losing to all the stronger teams, and have no prospects of finishing in the top 3, yet are supposed to play 2 more months, including multiple teams who nearly double your average. You’d nope the fuck out, right? Well, so did many teams. Admittedly for a wider array of reasons than that, and frankly a surprising amount stuck around, but 6 of 17 teams ultimately left. Okay, 11 teams left, that’s still fine…except their results are now invalidated, their prior and future scheduled opponents receiving 2–0 wins. What this also means is that a bunch of matches are left unplayed, so many teams towards the latter half of the season went anywhere from weeks to months without a match.
- Did someone say prize pool? Well, the admins certainly did. While meager in the grand scheme of things, a 200€ prize pool likely served to entice some participants. There’s always a significant worry that this also invites unsavory, smurfing inclined individuals, though to the best of my ability this wasn’t an issue at all, presumably due to it being early days for the league, so it didn’t reach people who might be tempted, and if any were, they may have been eliminated by what is admittedly decent due diligence from the staff. Now, yes, I wouldn’t blame you for describing what my team did (signing up with 7 divines, some of which are ex-immortal, some of which got there through the season — and then subsequently lost it because the season lasts a third of a year) as being smurfing adjacent, but there were other fully divine teams (and we’ve dropped games to teams below that), and the cap allows for it. Nevertheless, this is a major concern for future seasons, if there are to be any.
- The schedule is…weird. Rather than everyone playing their once a week series at the same time on the same day, there are 4 days of the week (Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday) that matches can be scheduled on, in two time slots (18:00 CEST and 21:00 CEST). Series are randomly allocated to these days (with potentially some staff involvement to change things around for teams who express an inability to play on a given day, though I’m not sure this was actually done in practice), but teams are free to reschedule — and hoo boy, reschedule they did. Off the top of my head I’d say we played a majority of our games on a different day from what was scheduled (for the most part at the behest of our opponents), and while this is overall fine, it makes me appreciate more than usual the set times we operate with in Clarity and adjacent spaces — though admittedly in my case this was compounded by having a team of chimpanzees with keyboards, most of whom communicate via memes. I’d be remiss not to elaborate on what I gather is the reason for this scheduling setup — the idea was seemingly to cover as many matches as possible, and with multiple timeslots across multiple days, it allows greater focus on each individual match for casting…which leads me into the next point.
- Burnout hits like a truck — and it’s not only players that feel it. In the early stages of the season, the staff displayed a pretty gripping and enticing enthusiasm; most games are casted, admins are fairly attentive, you come into lobbies created ahead of time by the staff, rather than dealing with it yourself. This lasted for a couple weeks, at which point casters and lobby hosts started to lose interest, which eventually extended to admins; getting a response on tickets for issues became unreliable, none of the games seemed to get coverage (despite a midseason captain meeting we were heavily encouraged to attend to provide feedback, at which we were told there would be panels and coverage for more games, particularly ones between top of the table teams). From what I see, at this late stage, there’s about 1 staff member (shoutout Rick) still dealing with whatever’s happening, who alone updated the Challonge that was about a month behind on result entry. Something to be said there about caring about a league in which a third of the teams left and the admins don’t care about.
There’s other minor things that might warrant talking about (the ruleset is… quirky), but I think that about does it for the main concerns and issues I felt. Overall, it boils down to a very ambitious project that isn’t backed by the experience necessary to know when they might be flying too close to the proverbial sun.
What, pray tell, is this necessary experience? It’s that pre-made stack tournaments suck ass. It’s pointless to talk about how one might potentially nail a format and setup that doesn’t have massive issues with team balance — at least until you’re dealing with a much larger playerbase than is really possible to attain, at least in Europe. There’s other major components to why ED2L in particular is a mess past just the pre-made stack thing — the football league concept doesn’t really work, and weird shenanigans with scheduling for the sake of coverage don’t work unless you’ve got a massive talent pool — but those are ideas that’d be dismissed outright in a setting like Clarity if we were to attempt a similar tournament.
There’s a fair bit more I’d want to say on the topic of pre-made team competition, but don’t feel like doing so at this stage (and might instead touch on it in a separate blog), so I’ll finish with a brief rundown of the Dota itself.
Team How Could You Tell I’m UK?
Madsen — Midking — jihadi swamp — Calli — Nappa — Marceline — Rapdis
We played on average some pretty dogshit Dota because every team except like, maybe 2 or 3, were significantly lower MMR. We even managed to drop a couple matches and one full series to a stack of Ancient players which was pretty funny.
Madsen | There was a game we played where I picked carry Bat and was super excited to do the funny meme where I blow a core up within a Lasso with shard witchblade moonshard but my team ended the game before I got a chance to interact with an enemy hero. I’m still not over it.
Midking | There were a couple games where we had Marceline standing in so we’d first phase Techies and then Bunny decided to play it mid instead so he started ring of regen windlace and rushed tranqs and I found it hilarious. Was cool to see him allow himself to have fun even if you can’t really tell based on the things he says.
jihadi swamp | Rat bastard kda farmer who wouldn’t tp to save his mother from a tower dive, much less his carry. Something about playing against exclusively lower MMR players makes him that much more irritable and having a rough lane in these games is the only time I’ve heard him get like actively tilted to the point of being exasperated. Pretty funny.
Calli | Calli is the only person I haven’t played on a team with before, and thus haven’t done a review of, which is presumably why he’s the only one who asked if I’m doing a review for ED2L. The funny part is he has no clue that he still won’t get one here. Poor fella.
The artist formerly known as Nappa | He’s called no sense now
Rapdis | Latvian funnyman we do the hahas. Gets yelled at sometimes for his pranks but it comes from a place of love. Maybe.
Marceline | Most reliable person on the team (isn’t on the team)
Shoutout haraway mikel nfd gunson harry and whoever else has been on the team server