Source: Dota 2 Blog
Open qualifiers begin on March 6th and Valve have consistently released invites for Majors somewhere between one to three days in advance, so we can expect the release of invites as the weekend approaches.
The big question surrounding these invites is how many there will be, and who will get them. Valve have been known to make some invite decisions in the past that leave the community perplexed, so in order to predict who's going to Kiev I need to accept the most difficult challenge - to think like Valve.
How many Qualifier slots?
We already know that The Kiev Major LAN will be a sixteen team single elimination bracket, so the determination of how many direct invites will be handed out depends on how many teams will come from each regional qualifier. For this Major, Valve have expanded to include both South American and CIS qualifiers.
In an ideal world for the European region especially, this would mean that each original qualifier region (Europe, China, Southeast Asia and America) would get two spots while each new region would get one, but that split leaves room for just six direct invites.
While the above scenario feels like the most logical and reasonable approach, Valve isn't always known for logic or reason. The other scenario is based partially on Valve's choice of words in their announcement of the new qualifier regions, namely: "we will be breaking the Americas Qualifiers into two distinct regions—North America and South America—and similarly changing the Europe Qualifiers into separate Europe Qualifiers and CIS Qualifiers."
Both "breaking" and "changing" do not seem to imply an addition to the existing format, but rather a modification. What this could mean is that the CIS and South American regions will have a guaranteed spot at the Major at the cost of one of the spots from the region they used to be grouped into. In this scenario, there's one spot for each of Europe, CIS, North America and South America while China and Southeast Asia retain two spots each.
Now that I have my scenarios for regional qualifiers, let's get to the invites themselves. There should be either six or eight depending on how the qualifiers are structured, so let's look at the top six and then add two more that could be invited depending on the format.
First up is a easy one — OG will be invited, no doubt about it. They are The Boston Major champions, and one constant of Valve invites is returning champions (with one notable exception I'll discuss later).
Source: PGL via Flickr
This logic can be applied to the next couple invites as well. Since TI5 (and the introduction of the Major system), the top three teams from a Valve event have been the first three invites to the next Valve event, without fail. Even the top three from TI4 were invited to TI5, but Newbee's position on the list was second to last, probably thanks to their lacklustre year.
If Valve are consistent, this means that Ad Finem will get an invite as the 2nd place team from Boston. Ad Finem's performance since Boston has been underwhelming, but if Valve stick to their apparent formula, the Greeks are a shoe-in.
Source: PGL via Flickr
It would be tough to argue that the charismatic squad won't be fun to watch anyway, and Valve's switch to the single elimination format seems to support the idea that they want to prioritize the audience's enjoyment over a format the players would feel is fair and balanced.
Since The Boston Major was single elimination, there is no distinction between 3rd and 4th place like there has been in double elimination events in the past. Evil Geniuses and Digital Chaos tied for 3rd-4th, but thanks to consistent results since Boston Valve shouldn't need to choose.
That leaves two more guaranteed invites. Valve seems to spread invites out across regions, and use LAN performances to gauge worthiness. The big events since Boston have been ESL One Genting (1st place - Digital Chaos), Dota Pit League Season 5 (1st place - EG) and StarSeries Season 3 (1st place - Team Liquid). Since I've already got EG and DC on the list from their 3rd-4th place in Boston, that leaves Liquid to add to my list. That's already three European teams and two North American teams.
In a six invite scenario there's just one more "guaranteed" slot left, so does it go to a Chinese or SEA team? It feels like a toss-up between Newbee or VG.J for China and Team Faceless or TNC for SEA.
If it's a SEA team, TNC should be the choice. While Team Faceless are more dominant online, TNC have what Valve seems to want, and that's LAN results. First place at WESG and 3rd-4th at StarLadder should be enough to make them the top pick for a SEA invite. Sure, WESG wasn't the most high level competitve LAN in the world, but Valve have made stranger choices than this (see: inviting Na`Vi to TI6).
If the sixth invite goes to a Chinese team, Newbee should have the edge. They've been dominant in Chinese leagues DPL and ACE, got 2nd at ESL One Genting and won the Dota Pit qualifier, though they later gave up their LAN spot.
However, Valve invited four Chinese teams and one "SEA" team (MVP Phoenix) to The Boston Major, and it would be a surprise to one of these two regions snubbed in terms of invites, so it seems more and more likely that the eight invite/eight qualifier scenario will be correct. In that case, here is my list:
I haven't mentioned Wings at all because their performance lately just hasn't been enough. They struggled in online leagues and only attended ESL One Genting (to which they were directly invited). In Genting, they took 4th behind Newbee after beating Warriors Gaming and Execration in the group stage but lost to Newbee in the playoffs.
Being TI champions might mean Valve throws them in anyway (in that case, likely instead of VG.J), but it's hard to say because the precedent doesn't exist. EG were invited to every Major after TI5, but they were Top 3 at Frankfurt and Shanghai. They were the first returning TI champions to not be invited the next year (the aforementioned exception to the rule), but that was a direct result of post-roster lock roster changes, not just sloppy performances.
What do you think of my bold prediction? Am I a Winter-level prediction god, or just as delusional as Swindlezz on the Shanghai Major panel?
Source: fear_itself via reddit