Telkom Digital Gaming League (DGL) Masters | Transfer Rules and Regulations Overhaul


The Telkom Digital Gaming League (DGL) is a complicated behemoth. Player transfers are an area that’s tightly regulated by the DGL (and has been for years now), although those regulations have taken different forms as time has progressed. Masters has proved even more challenging, with MGOs struggling to keep up with player transfers/movements in early 2017.

As such DGL has just removed the “Sister Team” program and completely overhauled how transfer windows work, thus alleviating a lot of the pressure on MGOs by giving them the ability to self regulate through most of the year. In line with international trends, the DGL have imposed shorter periods where rosters are locked (leading up to LAN events).

Early Seeding Changes in 2016 | Masters as a Work-in-Progress

Prior to the DGL rebrand and Masters announcement in early 2016, competitive team seeding centered around what used to be called “Core Players.” In early 2016 the “Core Players” system was abandoned in favor of the teams themselves carrying the seed (with the “manager” role acting as the defacto “owner”).

This system was far from perfect, with significant problems cropping up throughout 2016. In early 2017 a new problem arose, MGOs were struggling to acquire subs or reliably available players. A potential solution called “Sister Teams” was floated by the DGL to address this problem. The system was apparently in trial phase and the kinks were far from worked out. That didn’t stop teams trying to use it – with problems quickly cropping up.

Sister Teams | The Ventus/Ventus Black/ArmaGeddon Connection

“Sister Teams” appeared to be a rather interesting idea. Step 1, Master’s MGO #A and Premier Division team #C sign some sort of agreement. Step 2, Masters MGO provides “big-brother” support to Premier Division team. Premier Division team then provide backup substitute players for the Masters team in return (outside of the rules in place regarding official transfer periods) in the event the Masters team requires emergency backup.

On the 23rd of February 2017, Ventus played a scheduled Telkom DGL DotA2 Masters fixture against Energy eSports. Instead of the five contracted players that had been playing in the league for Ventus thus far, a wild batch of five new players suddenly appeared in their place to compete against an understandably bewildered Energy team.

The new players were alleged to be from Ventus Black, who were then a 1st Div. team. Apparently Ventus Black was the designated “Sister Team” for Ventus Masters. Remember, at this point, very few people have even heard of “Sister Teams”, and the game went ahead. Further investigation revealed that Ventus transferred 5 players from ArmaGeddon (a then random Ladder Div. team with no Ventus affiliation up to this point) into Ventus Black just minutes before the fixture.

The spirit of this system was meant to provide backup at the top, and development at the bottom. Why was this problematic? Here are a few points on that:

  • 1. Ventus Black were not a Prem Div team, they were only in 1st Div (and were not about to get promoted anytime soon). Ventus had 2x Prem Div. teams at that time that should have been used (in line with early rulesets). Why didn’t they use those?
  • 2. Ventus Black players were not even used. Only the incoming players transferred from ArmaGeddon into Ventus Black, minutes before the fixture, were used.

Transfer Rules and Regulations | What Now?

So with “Sister Teams” not quite working as intended, and the majority of Master’s MGOs in desperate need of player transfers not even halfway through the transfer-locked first leg, the stage was set for DGL to go back to the drawing board. After a significant amount of time ironing out the details, the resulting changes appear to be a well-grounded and innovative blend of old and new, with more than a few pages taken from the international esports scene. I’ve summarized some of the most important changes below:

  • Masters team rosters will now operate as team sheets, which are complete personnel lists of all associated MGO support staff and players. Support staff include coaches, managers, co-managers, and organizers. Players fall into three groups; players, reserves, and substitutes. Only listed players and support staff are eligible to participate in DGL related fixtures (regardless of the transfer period).
  • All core Masters players must have signed contracts with their MGO in order to participate in Masters fixtures. Core players are any players that play more than 33% of a Masters team’s fixtures in one Leg/Season. These players can only be contracted to one Masters team at a time. Teams can have up to a maximum of 15 contracted core players on their books. In order to move to another MGO, core players will need to have their contracts terminated by their existing MGO before moving to a new MGO. These player transfers can happen at any time throughout the year, provided it is not a Roster-Locked period.
  • The Roster-Locked period has been significantly reduced. Masters team’s are only under roster lock from 40 days immediately preceding Day 1 of an official DGL Masters event/tournament, and ends 24 hours after the final day of that same tournament concludes. If the DGL DotA2 Masters LAN takes place from the 19th – 21st of May 2017, the Roster-Locked period would essentially be from the 9th of April up to the 23rd of May 2017.
    • Making emergency lineup changes during the Roster-Locked period remains an option, should MGOs require emergency or unavoidable player transfers. Such transfers would incur severe punitive penalties imposed by DGL on MGOs unable (or unwilling) to comply with these new standards.
  • Players who are competing in 2nd Div., 1st Div, or Prem Div. are still bound by their respective league’s specific transfer windows, and as such can only move to a Masters MGO during an open transfer period. This only applies if these players are being recruited as core players/reserves (i.e. will potentially be playing more than 33% of the Masters team’s games during that Leg/Season). This means that players cannot be core players for both a division team and a Masters team at the same time. However, this is where the substitute clause comes in. In my opinion, this is the Play of the Game.
  • A Masters MGO may now also use uncontracted substitute players. A player in a Masters MGO is defined as a substitute if they do not play more than 33% of that team’s fixtures over a single Leg/Season. Substitute players, once used by a Masters team, cannot move to another Masters team for two weeks. Masters teams may use no more than two uncontracted substitutes in any given match. Substitutes may play for other teams in other DGL divisions. This means that a core player or reserve from a Prem Div. team can also be an uncontracted substitute player for a Masters MGO at the same time. These substitutes must just ensure they don’t play in more than 33% of fixtures in a single Masters Leg/Season. Consider this example, Player A is in Prem Div. Team X and Masters Team Y at the same time. Is Player A allowed to…
    • Play 100% of the matches for Team X, and 30% of matches for Team Y during Leg 1? Yes. Substitute rule applies.
    • Play 20% of the matches for Team X, and 30% of matches for Team Y during Leg 1? Yes. Substitute rule applies.
    • Play 100% of the matches for Team X, and 40% of matches for Team Y during Leg 1? Negative.
    • Play 20% of the matches for Team X, and 100% of matches for Team Y during Leg 1? Negative.

Final Thoughts | Trial and Error

The interesting changes regarding substitutes, reserves, and players (and their interactions between Masters and the divisions) may finally play out the way the DGL had hoped “Sister Teams” would have been used. It’s an interesting fix to the problems that cropped up earlier in this year, and they’ve clearly drawn upon all their experience over the past few years to put together something that, on paper, seems uniquely capable of standing up to international standards and our own unique local competitive landscape. MGOs are afforded more freedom over their rosters for most of the year, but during critical run up periods to DGL events some stability is ensured (great for DGL, but a positive for players as well).

These changes seem pretty solid, but we’ll have to see how teams adapt. The changes look good on paper, but the real tests will occur over the coming months. We should wait and see how long it takes before Ventus finds a way to exploit what loophole they can find this time!

Today (Thursday 4 May 2017) marks the last day teams can make roster changes leading to the upcoming Telkom DGL DotA2 Masters LAN in JHB later this month, after which the new roster lock periods will come into play in future tournaments.


About Sargon

Christopher House is an ex-DotA2 competitive player who works as an independent esports writer.