Telkom DGL & Telkom Masters Cup 2017 Changes

The Telkom Digital Gaming League (DGL) introduced the invite only Masters league at the beginning of 2016. This was an elite Telkom controlled league where top hand picked MGOs were “invited” to compete against each other. In 2016, this was for a R1 000 000 prize pool. It’s thus the largest prize pool allotment in South African competitive DotA2. The structure implemented by Telkom for both CS:GO and DotA2 now keeps Masters entirely separate from the rest of the lower tier Telkom DGL leagues. How do you go about rectifying some of the problems that this structure obviously creates? Well, you follow the route Valve has perfected; introduce the Wildcard element. This allows any team, based upon their skill alone, the opportunity to earn their ticket in the biggest local events; whether they’re the recipient of the Telkom Golden Free Ride Ticket or not (I’m looking at you, Veneration) matters little. There is a realistic way for skilled teams to compete at the highest levels. This is one of the best ways you keep accusations of elitism out of your top tier invite only premium league. So… that’s what the Telkom DGL and Telkom DGL Masters has done, right? Kind of…

Telkom Presents The Emerald… Sapphire… Genesis Do-or-Die Community Event Shield FA Cup… WHAT?!

Pokemon DGL - Emerald and Sapphire Gym Showdowns

If that header made no sense, it’s because Telkom DGL has introduced their own overly complicated take on the Wildcard system in an exceptionally confusing and cluttered infographic (above). Their take on the wildcard system Valve employs (and has used for years) is more than a little complicated. It’s also a lot on the saturated side.

Emerald (Green) Stream

So here is how I think it plays out in a nutshell for DotA2. There are going to be two streams of events where competitors can attempt to win an opportunity to win an opportunity to play in the qualifier (yeah – you read that right), so that they can play in the Masters Cup. Let’s say you are a team who registers for the Emerald Genesis Proving Grounds (green stream because Emeralds are green). If you successfully register for this event you’ll be one of 128 teams playing from the 16th of January 2017. If you happen to be one of the Top 8 teams by the end of this event you’ll proceed to the Emerald Showdown on 30 January 2017.

But wait, that’s not all. On the 23rd of January 2017 there is going to be another green event called the Emerald Do-or-Die Proving Grounds. I assume it’s called Do-or-Die because if you didn’t make it the first time and this is your last chance to make it (it isn’t, though, but the name is catchy). So you’ll once again be pitted against the non-Masters teams of RSA where, once again, the Top 8 proceed to the Emerald Showdown. This means that 16 teams (8 from each event) will fight it out in the Emerald Showdown on the 30th of January 2017. Of those 16 teams only two will proceed to the Community Shield Masters Wildcard Qualifier. Yeah. You did read that correctly. You didn’t just qualify for the Masters Cup after beating hundreds of other teams. You just qualified to qualify for the event. #Jebaited.

Sapphire (Blue) Stream

Well, at least there is some silver lining, as on the 20 February 2017 this cycle repeats itself. But instead of being called Emerald “this or that 2.0” (or “2nd chance” Saloon) it’s renamed to the Sapphire (blue stream because Sapphires are blue) Genesis Proving Grounds, the Sapphire Do-or-Die Proving Grounds, and the Sapphire Showdown. If you manage to place in the Top 2 at the Sapphire Showdown you’ll also advance to the Community Shield.

At this point we have 4 teams in the Community Shield from the entirety of the Digital Gaming League DotA2 non-Masters roster of South African teams. In addition there seem to be another two community events (not clear on this) where the top 4 of each one (so 8 teams in total) also book places in the Community Shield. Okay, now there are twelve teams? Will these 12 teams then battle it out and the top two will proceed to the Masters Cup? Hahaha. No. That would be too easy and would dilute the quality of the Masters Cup.

Pokemon DGL – Emerald and Sapphire Edition

Instead, these qualifying teams (from literally hundreds of teams) will be joined by the bottom four teams from the end of the 2017 Telkom DGL Masters Leg 1. That’s right, it turns out the Wildcard event is not even a Wildcard event. You only have to beat multiple Masters level teams (they got a direct invite to the final stage of the “wildcard”) to have a shot at the Masters Cup. Remember, only the Top 2 from the Community Shield crack the nod for the Masters Cup. Now, very few non-Masters teams managed to beat Masters teams over the course of the 2016 DotA2 season. I can only think of a few instances this happened, so few that I can count them on one hand. But instead of doing that once, which is tough enough, you’ll have to do it thrice. Which is an impossible task for the majority of non-Masters teams. Especially when smaller teams have zero access to playing significantly better teams and improving from those experiences within the structures that the Telkom DGL currently provides.Just a reminder what Telkom is all about

I can already hear you saying, “Masters events should be tough to get into.” And I agree with you there, the top tier of any sports league should be the pinnacle of skill. But we aren’t dealing with just skill here, as invites are still the central dominating theme by making up 25% of the final Wildcard event. This is why I’m so conflicted about the track Telkom has taken here. It’s a heck of a lot of work for smaller teams to undergo, without them seeing much game time against those bigger teams. The point of these events should be getting smaller teams to occasionally play against the best teams. But all Telkom have done here is realistically ensure that the Masters Cup will have Masters teams in it, or some super sub team made just for the Wildcard events. It probably won’t be the DotA2 team you and your friends have been working so hard on that’s just made it to Premier Division cutting the grade here. More than likely it’s a redemption chance for the four Masters teams that came bottom of Leg 1.

Pokemon DGL - Amber and Ruby Gym Showdowns

As an aside, this whole cycle begins anew in a mirrored second Community Shield for the Masters Grand Final event. In this second stream, starting April and ending in June, you’ll be playing in the Amber and Ruby gyms (errr I meant cups) for an equally small shot at the Community Shield spot against four very pissed off Masters teams that came bottom at the end of Leg 2.

However, I’ve gotta give props where it is due. Telkom has at least started to realize and deal with some problems its Masters league has introduced to competitive gaming in South Africa. This is the first of many steps needed in the right direction to get us to where we need to be. And Telkom is clearly building on all the hard work they’ve put into the local esports scene for years, so we can’t fault them for trying different strategies for creating a sustainable and inclusive esports competitive scene.

What about the Telkom DGL DotA2 schedule in 2017?

Telkom have stated that Leg 1 officially starts on the 23rd of January. This means a lot of these qualifiers are going to be smack up in the middle of all the league action and I foresee teams struggling to deal with the saturation. League restructuring (promotions/demotions) takes place around the 15th of January, so teams need to ensure their team pages and player lists are all in order so they’re still eligible to participate, etc.

Telkom DGC: Now Comes With Possible Failed Masters Teams

It also appears the Telkom DGL Championship (the major cup for non-Masters teams) is also getting a revamp. This  year the top 4 from Prem Div. get direct invites. The other spots are going to be made up from: Top 8 from Telkom DGL Playoffs (after Leg 4), 4 spots from the top 2 of each Community Shield Championship Qualifier (not to be confused with the Masters qualifiers). This also opens up the possibility that should a Masters team perform poorly enough they may be playing at the Do Gaming Championships while a lower tier team takes their place at a DGL Masters Cup LAN event. Unless, of course, I’ve completely missed something here.

TL;DR Major changes in 2017 for the Telkom DGL DotA2, and Telkom DGL Masters. Telkom introduces the Wildcard Element. 2017 the year of invitations & infographics. Telkom DGL Masters still home to some of the best RSA DotA2 teams. Edited article to reflect the changing Telkom DGL landscape (20170113).


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Abigail “Tenshimon” Kwan

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Allan “Pariah” Levitt