Daeja’s View: For or Against Best-of-Ones?
Alliance didn't fare well with the best-of-ones at WSOE 1; photo credit to WSOE.
The ideal format for Dota 2 tournaments is infrequently a favorite topic for pundits. What the optimal qualifiers would be, double elimination brackets versus single and different styles for group stages are all popular fodder for debate. Financial and schedule feasibility are issues that can also enter the conversation. In the case of the WSOE, the event had a tight two-day schedule, dropping from eight teams in the group stage to four in the playoffs. The event used best-of-ones (bo1s) to ensure the group stage was comprehensive within the limitation of a single day.
Now, bo1s are criticized most heavily for their impact on the competitive integrity of a tournament. The biggest issue may be that bo1s place too much emphasis on the outcome of a single game. They make it more likely for a team to be caught out by a niche strategy. Valve’s open qualifiers have used bo1s through the round of 16, making them a dicey prospect. Any team can surprise another and knock them out early.
Why is this an issue? Shouldn’t the better team prevail?
Well, bo1s are the most obvious opportunity for less consistent or weaker teams to upset more highly ranked teams. This can lead to less competitive teams making it deeper into a tournament only to be eliminated in a less entertaining, longer series.
Personally, I like seeing underdogs make it deeper into tournaments. Individual tournaments aren’t meant to reward the teams that are most consistent across a season—that’s what the Dota 2 Pro Circuit is for—but rather to reward the teams who perform most strongly at that specific event. If one team comes up with a gimmicky strategy to survive a best-of-one, I think that’s fantastic.
My concern about bo1s is that they don’t provide an opportunity for teams to learn and adapt versus each other. Seeing a team get steamrolled in game one, only to come back stronger and hungrier for the win in game two is a pleasure. The ability to evolve a drafting strategy and to improve in-game play across multiple games is an important part of competitive Dota 2.
So why EVER have a bo1?
In the right circumstances, bo1s can be great. Because they’re obviously shorter than a series with multiple games, it’s possible to watch more of them in the same amount of time. This can be a boon to both viewers and organizers.
Group stages can especially benefit from bo1s as they permit more quickly cycling through match-ups between different teams. This is important because it gives an admittedly imperfect impression of how well teams perform in relation to each other. Viewers can have the opportunity to see different configurations of teams in less time, which is also positive. Life is busy, saving time but feeling like you’re not missing out on watching some of the teams is great!
Ideally, a round robin of bo1s can be used to seed teams into a bracket, rather than being the basis for elimination during the group stage. But what about when bo1s feature in the playoffs? While it can be frustrating to see a team exit a tournament due to a bo1, it can also be exciting. There’s an immediacy to a bo1. The stakes feel higher when a single game rather than multiple games determine elimination.
Earlier this month, Lawrence "Malystryx" Phillips posted some behind-the-scenes video from WSOE 1 in which he talked with some of the talents at the event. During one video, he spoke with Andrew "Zyori" Campbell:
What struck me most was Zyori's description of best-of-ones as popcorn Dota. It perfectly described how I feel about them. Best-of-ones are great in moderation. There are a time and place for them. The most important events of the year should take more time and care, have more games per series, definitely. But for a tournament like WSOE, which had a solid prize pool and a competitive roster of teams, but a short time frame and no DPC points on the line? Bo1s were a welcome and perhaps ideal way to conduct a group stage rather than seeding directly into a playoff bracket.
What do you think? Are best-of-ones the worst or do they have a place in competitive Dota 2?