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The current state of competitive Dota 2 in South Africa

The South African Dota 2 competitive scene is, in my opinion, horribly stale at the moment. The minimal amount of proper tournaments with prize pools large enough to entice players coupled with the low average skill of players competing is worrisome.

Currently, there are only three to four decent tournaments a year; the Do Gaming Championships (DGC), NAG Gaming League (NGL), Orena and the MSI Beat IT qualifiers. To make matters worse, the DGC and NGL occurs on the same weekend, so top teams can not compete in both.

Watching international Dota 2 tournaments then going back to watch a local game is an eye-opener. Most local teams do not have the skill and tactical knowledge to compete at international level. Could the lack of international exposure be the reason for our lower skill level?

I asked three of South Africa’s most knowledgeable Dota 2 experts to weigh in on; the local competitive scene, tournaments and the gap in skill between local and international players.

Donio “Doni” Teixeira

Doni is, in my opinion, the best offlane player in South Africa. Part of the top SA Dota 2 team, Bravado Gaming’s Emotion, Doni is a joy to watch as his team stomps through almost any local competition. He was kind enough to share his thoughts on the current state of SA Dota 2 with us.


Doni on the left and Leon “Flarez” Wong on the right at the MSI Beat It tournament

The state of competitive Dota 2, tournaments and skills gap:

The South African Dota scene is basically dead, baring the two to three real tournaments that actually happen (DGC, NGL Orena) once a year (two of which are on the same date, which is ridiculous).

There are many "fake" tournaments that are held throughout the year, but these are basically glorified scrims because they do not offer any prizes, and if they do they don't pay out - this removes any competitive factor from the tournament games for top teams.

As for the skill gap between South Africa and International Dota 2, I believe that roughly ten players in South Africa are on the skill of tier 2 teams mechanically, and only a few of these actually understand the game well enough to compete at a tier two level.

I completely agree that there are only a few real local tournaments where players can make some real money. This has to change, players need to have a reason to train on a monthly basis, not just before the DGC or NGL. Doni’s words might seem harsh to some, but it rings true in the SA competitive Dota 2 scene. What do other top local teams think?

Robert “rAgeBos" Huckle

The captain of Energy eSports’ Evolution team, Robert “rAgeBos” Huckle took some time off his busy schedule to talk to about the state of SA competitive Dota 2. Not only is rAgeBos a top tier local player, but he also studying for his Bachelor of Business Science Marketing at the University of Cape Town.  


The state of SA competitive Dota 2:  

I feel the competitive scene in SA is growing pretty slowly but definitely growing. Just playing against teams that used to be walkovers seems tough now. There is still a lag period between metas in SA as most teams don’t play on Europe servers, I think, so the teams that do have a better understanding of which heroes are good against SA picks although this lag has shortened I think (or maybe I’m just joining the lag >.<).

I think this will be a good year for SA Dota 2 as the other teams have had some catch-up time to close the gap between bvd.Emo and the rest of the pack. Hopefully tournaments will be more exciting this way."

Local tournaments:

"The only South African tournaments I’m currently aware of are the DGL and Orena. DGL summer leg kinda makes me sad a bit. There’s really no incentive to perform due to no prizes or even seeding benefits for DGC and with some of the strict rules that have caused some teams to not even play each other in games that should be deciders in the premier league. 

I think there is a need for intervention in the summer leg or teams might consider not entering. I’m even considering taking a break during next year’s summer leg to improve on my individual skills by grinding solo ranked.

Orena was fun. The only problem I had was the lack of hype before it started. I didn’t even know if it was still happening the day before group stages and feel that they could work on that (maybe I’m just bad at emails or something who knows). Other than that there were some good games, especially the grand final which was a treat.

The skill gap between SA and international players:

I don’t really agree too much with this assumption. There are some very high skilled SA players that could compete with the best, just look at how well bvd.Emo did at the MSI Beat It tournament. Our players just don’t spam EU games as it can be disheartening to lose games to worse players because of something stupid like not being able to dodge Void Ulti with Blink or dodge spells with BKB, something that top teams rely on in the late game especially. I mean, it’s really only the small player pool that makes it seem like we have trash players. Smaller player pool means people end up playing with teammates that most probably are in a different skill bracket and this leads to massive ego issues and rage, things that I personally have had to work on recently.

Competitively we are bound by a small group of teams that somewhat understand the game that the other teams can learn from, or by ping issues. This makes our drafting far less thought out than international teams in general. I’m sure there are some masterminds in SA that don’t just copy strategies blindly, but on the whole I get the impression that most teams don’t actually understand how they should be executing their drafts at all.

Shout-out to all the eN fans and our sponsors SteelSeries and IS gaming. And a special shout out to my big dog RidditZ the Cannon.

rAgeBos makes an interesting point with the relatively small player pool in South Africa as well as the lack of understanding of some teams with regards to a specific draft and how to execute it properly. Furthermore, it is excellent to see a rival team congratulate Bravado Emotion’s performance at the MSI Beat IT last year.

Ben “Noxville” Steenhuisen

Noxville is a widely known shoutcaster in the SA Dota 2 scene. After meeting him in person at rAge 2014 and having a bit of a party, I can safely say he is one of the most passionate and knowledgeable individuals in the local Dota 2 community.


Noxville sitting in the middle and our very own Kyle “Congo” Wolmerans on the right  

The state of SA competitive Dota 2:  

At the moment it's not horrible, but not great. There are a few new teams that are coming up into the top of local competitive Dota 2. That said, we've not had any good results in any international Dota 2, since Bravado Emotion went to MSI Beat It. The top teams are still improving, just not fast enough. We have a similar number of teams as we did in past years playing in DGL, so the numbers are definitely there.”  

Local tournaments:  

We need more tournaments, and bigger tournaments - with cash prizes. If we ever want teams to be able to play semi-professionally they need to get some money to warrant the effort they put in. It's not ideal that most teams get one big paycheck every year at DGC/rAge - it'd be much better if there were more rewards, and more spread out rewards. It's really annoying that teams play in huge long qualifiers for just a pair of headphones, or for a magazine subscription.

The marketing potential of hosting a tournament is relatively large, there's a few thousand people in the DOTA 2 South Africa Facebook group, and coverage (both live in-game and in video content after the game) is getting bigger and better.   More of the medium-sized LAN events with a few thousand rand prize pool each would be good. This also means that spectators need to get behind their local teams and come watch live events when they can. The top events, with semi-good production and the right timing, can also definitely get a load of international viewers.

The skill gap between SA and international players:  

"Still massive; we need local teams to participate more at top quality international events. Our teams really need to play more on EU, as this is the best way to improve (and means that you can participate in the EU events).  

When at MSI Beat IT, Emotion beat Insidious Idol - a team that had won a load of SEA events. They also took a game off Immunity (who went on to come 2nd). I'd say the top SA teams are kinda tier 3/3.5, but with more practice (and more practice on low latency against good teams) could easily move up to tier 2/2.5 within a few months.

Noxville’s of the competitive scene is extremely accurate. Our players are not improving fast enough, yet the numbers are there. Money is a big issue in the current tournament layout, as players do need an incentive to become semi-professional. If the local scene gets a big infusion of cash, players might work harder and see Dota 2 as a real profession.

Closing Thoughts

All is not lost for the Dota 2 competitive scene in South Africa. We have the numbers, excellent local servers hosted by MWEB and a few top teams that can potentially compete on the international level. There is more than one way to grow eSports in South Africa, we just need some willing and able individuals to step up and help the scene grow.

What do you think of the current state of competitive Dota 2 in South Africa? What can we do to help the scene flourish? Let us know in the comment section below.

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd  

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