Dota 2 Feature: Is the DPC Division II where Tier 1 teams go to die?

Division II of the DPC seems like a scary place if you are a Tier I team. Is it the Division or team issue? 

Few would have predicted Team Secret‘s fall from grace in the first tour of the 2023 DPC season, but the team had more difficulties gelling with Miroslav “BOOM” Bičan replacing Michal “Nisha” Jankowski. It seems that The International 2022 runner-up team lost this post-TI shuffle game. 

Meanwhile, the SEA shuffle shake-up seems to have done just that. Fnatic suffered from disastrous six losses in a row in the Winter Tour and BOOM Esports,who were undoubtedly the force to be reckoned with last year, looked completely different. 

All three of these teams are headed to Division II for the DPC 2022-23 Spring Tour. Will they end up dying there? Or will any of them be able to bounce back to Division I and regain their previous form?

Division II for Tier I teams

In 2020 Valve introduced the regional league system, consisting of Division I and Division II. 

Starting after TI10, the Dota Pro Circuit will introduce a new system that presents competitive Dota in a more scheduled and consistent way during the year and features a better structure for the development of Tier 2 and Tier 3 teams.

Division I has typically been comprised of Tier 1 teams and the top Tier 2 teams of each region. Division II,  the Tier 2 and Tier 3 teams. 

But it doesn’t always pan out that way.

Tier 1 teams sometimes end up in Division II. Those that end up being relegated seem to never fully recover once they are demoted. 

They struggle to make that comeback, and if they do return to Division I the following season, they seem to bounce back to Division II again like a ping-pong match. Rarely do they ever see real results after. 

Just take a look at Nigma, Alliance, Invictus Gaming, and TNC

In April of 2022, Nigma came in last place in the Spring Tour with a dismal 1:6 series (3:13 game) record. They were demoted to Division II for the last tour of the year. They ended up taking first place and were promoted back to Division I. After that, they took subpar results at any other events, failed to qualify for The International, and came in sixth place (barely) in Division I at the end of Tour I last week. 

Alliance took 7th place in January 2022 in Winter Tour and was relegated to Division II for Spring Tour. They then took 2nd place, were promoted for Summer Tour, and once again landed back in Division II after taking 8th place in Division I. They also failed to qualify for The International. 

At the same time as Alliance, iG dropped from Division I to Division II. They spent Tour 2 and 3 there, and also missed The International. They started this year in Division I but have ended this season with a 6th place finish, barely holding on to their spot in the upper Division for the upcoming Spring Tour. 

Just like iG, TNC went from Division I in January 2022 to Division II for Tours 2 and 3. After their disappointing 13th-place finish in the SEA regional qualifiers for The International, the organization called it quits and dropped their Dota 2 squad. 

Division II for Tier II teams

On the other hand, Division II is the land of opportunity for others. It seems to serve as both a proving ground and a stepping stone for many Tier 2 teams. 

As Valve intended, it is a place where these teams and players have a more structured pipeline toward achievements. 

Execration and Hellraisers were in Division II last year and are now on their way to the first Major of the year. 

Entity started last year in Division II, placed first, and then slowly climbed the ranks of Division I. They then took the regional qualifier spot and eventually a 9-12th place finish at The International 2022. 

Talon spent the first two tours of the DPC season last year in Division II before landing a spot in Division I, then the regional slot for TI, and now are heading to the first Major. 

For Execration, it could be said that their success now is attributed to their hard work and a new coach Taewon “March” Park. A new coach brings about a new mentality and is a significant change in gameplay and strategy approach. Taking a look at the most recent games, anyone can see super strong drafts from March. 

So why is it that it seems like a death sentence for Tier I teams?

The problem isn’t the Division itself. The problem is the mentality.

Tier 2 teams see the grind as a ladder to climb, with rewards and bright promises ahead. They adapt, adjust, strive, and work hard. If they reach Division I, they continue to ride their momentum and opportunities to the fullest extent they are capable of.

If a Tier 1 team ends up there, without a complete roster overhaul or adapting their gameplay and strategies they seem to be stuck in what got them there in the first place, doing the same things over and over expecting different results. 

While this observation and opinion is based on a short period of time, the best test of truth will be this DPC season when the final results are in. Of course, that is if none of them end up buying up a slot in Division I to circumvent the journey.