Sometime last month Orena announced a massive R1.4 million prize pool for their upcoming Championship Series for CSGO and DotA2 (that’s R700,000 per title – yikes). Over here at Zombiegamer, that got us interested. We even covered the announcement here, in case you want to double check those figures (Eds: They’re legit). The Championship Series is a little convoluted, but this seems to be a particular strength of our robust South African scene. We don’t like it simple.

The Orena Championship Series | Champions Division

The Orena Championship Series (OCS) is broken down into two very particular parts. Part 1 is the Champions Division which features 8 pre-invited teams. The catch here is that these teams weren’t invited because of their current form in the local scene. If this sounds a little like deja vu, it’s because we went through this before with Masters (just Champions here, but at this point we’re arguing semantics). How on Earth did Damage Control and Flipsid3 Tactics South Africa even crack a nod? DC haven’t achieved much of anything this year while F3 didn’t even have a DotA2 team two weeks ago.

In any regard, the 8 pre-invited Masters/Champions, as per this published schedule, were:

    • White Rabbit Gaming (1st: VS Gaming, 1st: Mega8 Winter Cup)
    • xTc Gaming (2nd: VS Gaming, 2nd: Mega8 Winter Cup)
    • Energy eSports (3rd: VS Gaming, 3rd: Mega8 Winter Cup)
    • eXdee Gaming (5th/6th: VS Gaming, 4th: Mega8 Winter Cup)
    • Bravado Gaming (5th/6th: Mega8 Winter Cup)
    • Aperture Gaming (4th: VS Gaming, 7th/8th: Mega8 Winter Cup)
    • Damage Control (See OCS Seed Playoffs)
    • Flipsid3 Tactics South Africa (See OCS Seed Playoffs)

So 8 teams slug it out for 14 weeks, after which there is going to be a LAN event consisting of 10 teams (2x Wildcard spots) with R700,000 in prize money on the line. While writing this article we reached out to Orena for some comments, and they’ve told us that both DC and F3, along with four scouted top tier teams, will actually compete this weekend over the bottom 2x Champions Division spots in what they’re called the OCS Seed Playoffs (Eds: More on this later in the article). This goes a long way toward filtering the very best DotA2 teams into the Champions Division, and increases fair competition in the Premier Ladder with the remaining teams.

In addition, at the LAN finals 2x Wildcard seeds are available, where the top 2 placed Premier Ladder teams will earn a spot to attend the LAN finals at Emperors in Johannesburg. This means a total of 10 teams will be playing at the Championship LAN (8 Champions Division and 2 Premier Ladder teams). Thus the Premier Ladder is a hypercritical tournament for up and coming teams.

The Orena Championship Series | Premier Ladder

Part II is where it starts to get a little more perplexing. Next up is the Premier Ladder. For those of you that remember as far back as last year, Orena (unsuccessfully) tested out this system for DotA2 before. We weren’t fans then, but it seems the system has been given some upgrades here. The concept is that any team (except those competing in the Champions Division) can sign up for this Ladder. Registrations close this weekend (24h00 on Sunday the 4th of June, probably). If you want the lowdown on how to sign up, because you still have time, read their beginners guide to using the Orena website/system. If you’re already in a team on the Orena website, head over and read their brief how-to explaining how Ladders operate instead.

The Premier Ladder takes place from 5 June to 17 September. The total prize pool for the Premier Ladder is R50,000, which as of yesterday was broken down into R25,000 for 1st, R15,000 for 2nd, and R10,000 for 3rd. Team captains in the Ladder tournament format challenge each other, with DotA2 teams doing some rumbling in (Eds: This isn’t even funny) the Radiant jungle! Wait. How much money did you say? Yes, I’ll wait while you go reread that. R50,000 split across the top 3 placed non-Masters/Champions finishing teams? That prize pool is as big as the recent Mega8 prize pool. Go sign up right now, right? Orena just updated the prize spread, so we’re updating it here. The Premier Ladder is still worth R50,000 in total, but breakdown is as follows:

  • 1st:  R15,000
  • 2nd: R10,000
  • 3rd: R7,500
  • 4th: R6,000
  • 5th: R5,000
  • 6th: R3,000
  • 7th: R2,000
  • 8th: R1,500

The prize breakdown could have been accused of being a little too top heavy, and when we raised that issue with Orena they acknowledged this as a problem. They have said they’re looking into a wider spread, possibly including the top 8 placing teams. This would mean teams placing in the top 8 might get something for their efforts. Remember, entry is free. So even if 8th place is a cool R1,500 that’s still a casual R300 each just for competing online! This is a heck of a lot more fair, in my opinion, and I really hope they do implement this change. (Eds: Update – they have officially changed the prize spread!)

The Orena Ladder: A Work In Progress

At this point it might make sense to ask why we don’t see all that much interest in the Premier Ladder. I presented Orena with a few thoughts on why I thought they were experiencing problems attracting teams. Below are a few of those thoughts, along with some of theirs in response.

  1. The BVD Effect
    We briefly covered how Orena tried this Ladder track before for DotA2, a few months prior to EGE, in 2016. Granted, the prize pool then was somewhere around R5,000 if I remember correctly and it was also a ridiculously top heavy split. I wouldn’t be surprised if almost all of the pot went to the team that finished first. At that time anyone could join. Bravado Gaming instantly joined. Then White Rabbit Gaming joined. And then pretty much no one else did. At that point in time bvd and WRG were fighting for dominance and few teams really matched up. So it was almost certain bvd would take top, or by some miracle WRG would. Either way, no one else bothered signing up.
    Enter 2017 and it looked like this was going to be a repeat issue. But with the OCS Seed Playoffs implemented this weekend, the DotA2 teams will be better/more evenly spread. So instead of having 3 teams clean sweep the Premier Ladder, you could now conceivably see surprise teams snatch higher spots. In addition, Orena has shown interest in changing the prize pool split so that the top 8 teams in the Premier Ladder end in the money, rather than just the top 3, which further incentivizes teams to sign up and compete!
    Now you may be in a team that probably isn’t going to beat 2 of the remaining big 4 teams in Premier Ladder, but now 3rd place is anybodies to take! This also makes the batch of fixtures more attractive for teams to play, because they’re likely to get a fair return on investment (where many other tournaments would fail to reward mid tier teams in RSA DotA2 at all).
  2. Original Content Development
    I don’t work at Orena. So I don’t know how much work they’ve put into getting this new tournament of theirs out there to the public. But after working with Mega8 (and having been a player at both the Mega8 and VS Gaming tournaments) I can tell you that pumping out original content to support your event is hypercritical, before, during, and even after the event. Mega8 have really come to perfect that tenant locally. As it stands, Orena don’t seem to be doing much to connect with the local DotA2 community at all.
    Admittedly their OCS teaser trailer has been showing in Nu Metro cinemas across the country for some two and half weeks now. But that’s not a direct link to the local community. On the flipside, people who aren’t in the community are seeing things about local esports (possibly for the first time ever). Pros and cons to this on either side of this approach. Perhaps there just isn’t a good (or clear) connect right now via Orena and the DotA2 community via Facebook, Twitter, and its various mediums.
    The folks over at Orena have told us that they’re mid move from Cape Town to Johannesburg, and that’s certainly impeded their ability to really nail local content and engage with local communities. They seem aware of these issues and appear eager to rectify this problem in due course. We should get some really clear and concise infographics and FAQ’s soon (Eds: Infographic incoming and we’ll update here once we have it) that we’re told will really help people understand the overall unique Orena approach to the local esports scene. The changes we’ve heard about today (and that are being implemented) make the OCS Premier Ladder probably the most attractive competitive option for up and coming (or mid tier South African) DotA2 teams. I think it’s definitely worth a look (especially if you’re currently in Prem Div. or 1st/2nd Div. in DGL).

  3. Return on Investment
    Let’s be honest, Valve has lead the charge when it comes to better spread prize splits for their competitive events. Top 3 splits are archaic, and don’t help you grow your own tournament base. The teams that your Premier Ladder is specifically appealing to would be much more willing to get involved if even 10th to 6th place finishers bagged a cool R1,000. Most of these teams have never won that much cash for competitive DotA2. The fact organizers are unwilling to more evenly distribute winnings to heighten the competitiveness within their own leagues boggles my mind.
    More teams = more competition = better games to watch. I.e. it directly boosts your own business strategy in the long run. R50,000 is a ridiculous amount of money for a mid tier South African DotA2 tournament. It’s pure madness that more teams aren’t signing up for this. But then, I might understand why. If I were in a 1st/2nd Div. team in the DGL right now, with all the match saturation that goes with those leagues, I might skip this as well. At least that was the case 24 hours ago. With the changes made today, that’s changed. We still don’t know a lot about how the Ladder ELO system is going to work yet, and how challenging teams are going to work, so I can’t tell you how often you’re going to need to play to try make the top 8 spots. But Orena have assured me they’re working on an FAQ for that as well which should be available before they go live on Monday the 5th of June. And with a better spread of prize money, top-tier teams being correctly placed in the Champions Division, the OCS Premier Ladder looks really attractive right now.

The OCS Seed Playoffs

This is a pretty big step in the right direction for Orena and the local DotA2 scene. Both F3 and DC, based on performances in the past three months, do not deserve a direct invite to the Champions Division. Especially while teams that have been performing would then languish in a very top heavy Premier Ladder (with no other teams really standing a chance at a top 3 finish).

Instead Orena have decided that F3 and DC, along with four other performing teams, will compete in a Bo1 double elimination event on Sunday the 4th of June. So the six competing teams are as follows:

  • Flipsid3 Tactics South Africa
  • Damage Control
  • Pulse Gaming
  • Veneration Esports
  • Sinister 5
  • Mythic Gaming

These six teams will compete for the 2x invite spots F3 and DC held in the Champions Division. Now any of these six teams could potentially earn a fair shot at being in the right competitor bracket. This also reduces the top heavy feel to the Premier Ladder.

The OCS Seed Playoffs will take place from approximately 12h00 on Sunday the 4th of June. Both F3 and DC hold the higher seed placing because these were the initial invited teams, but because the tournament is double elimination seeding isn’t really too much of an issue. The teams that should be in the Champions Division should make it there. There are no official streams for these matches as yet, but if this changes we’ll update the article with that information. What are you waiting for? Head over to Orena here and sign up already!

Editors notes: Incorrectly had total prize pool at R1.7 million as per the Orena website – but the correct amount is R1.4 million as per our previous article.