DreamLeague's Season 9 takes a different approach
Photo Courtesy of DreamLeague
With its Dota 2 Pro Circuit-approved regional qualifiers pared down not only in size but also in production hijinks, DreamLeague Season 9 is off to a slight different start than the eight seasons that preceded it.
The DreamLeague tournament series has historically been run as a league, with a round robin played out over a few weeks, if not more, and then a LAN playoff between the top teams held at a Dream Hack event. DreamLeague provided Europe and North America with a high-profile league opportunity that allowed for competition across a period of time time in a manner different to what the Dota 2 Pro Circuit (DPC) now facilitates.
Since September 2017, when the DPC began, DreamLeague’s already run one full iteration: Season 8. That season had to adjust to conform to the DPC requirement for regional qualifiers. Season 8 still ran the Europe and CIS regions together using a round robin format and rewarding the teams with two additional qualifier spots for the finals.
The main competitive difference for DreamLeague Season 9 is that none of the qualifiers used a league format; they were all either single-elimination (China) or double-elimination brackets (all five other regions).
Beyond the evolution of DreamLeague’s identity as a league for Europe and North America to a competitive DPC tournament for all six regions, Season 9 has also seen some production changes. DreamLeague’s exceled at producing entertaining content alongside great Dota 2. The dynamic casting duo of Owen “ODPixel” Davies and Ioannis “Fogged” Loucas have covered the Dota 2 action since Season 7—ODPixel’s involvement with the show began in 2015’s Season 3—and it was to these two that the qualifier action of Season 9 was entrusted.
DreamLeague’s developed an irreverent, meme-and-laughter-filled method for filling the air time between Dota 2 matches. Rather than go dark, the hosts and their guests have honed their ability to fill time in creative ways. The show employs analysis and post-match interviews alongside a few gimmicks such as the Red Button to entertain and retain viewers rather than going to a waiting screen or using pre-filmed content. For those who haven’t watched, pushing the red button when prompted by a siren results in some new adventure for the panel—sometimes a costumed character arrives to harass the panel, sometimes props are provided (with or without directions), or the panel is given a small game to play. The live improvisational component may not appeal to everyone, but it has certainly produced its fair share of memorable moments, including the rap battle linked above.
Usually these antics occur during the qualifier stage of DreamLeague, with the LAN final being a more serious affair. That said, the red button has appeared at the finals, used to summon internet personality Dr. Disrespect and rapper Waka Flocka during Season 7. Still, Season 9 has played with the balance a little, citing the “congested Dota 2 schedule” as the reason for the smaller scale of the qualifiers, and assuring viewers that the LAN would feature all of the production components the qualifiers usually offered.
Fogged and ODPixel did a standout job of keeping the qualifier action engaging. They cast all the games except for China’s, which were handled remotely by Travis “Maut” Bueno and Trent “TrentPax” Mackenzie. The set was reduced to a claustrophobic single couch flanked by ferns and shelving for the hero stands used on the DreamLeague Dota 2 map table where Fogged and OD would theorize the lane matchups for each draft. The forced intimacy of the smaller set reflected the intimacy of having two casters tackling what usually has been done by a cast of four-six regulars and a revolving door of guests.
DreamLeague’s production is top notch. The tournament has established itself as a recognizable, engaging, and consistently fun competition to watch. The smaller-scale Season 9 qualifiers were a success. The expanded production for the LAN finals, which begin March 21st, should be quite entertaining. Though the finals take place in the DreamHack Studios rather than on a big LAN stage, the hijinks of the talent may make viewers forget to miss having a live audience.
Check back daily for our coverage of DreamLeague Season 9, March 21-25th.
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