The issue with casters competing in qualifiers for Valve events

Do so-called "caster stacks" belong in qualifiers for Valve events at all?

Image via Valve

Why would teams want to play in the qualifiers for an event they won’t be able to compete in?

That question has been asked twice already this year, in regards to the qualifiers for Valve’s Kiev Major and now the upcoming International 7.

The teams that were not fortunate enough to receive an invitation to the International 7 in August, Valve’s flagship event for Dota 2, will spend the next eight days fighting for a spot at the multi-million dollar tournament. This journey starts with a series of open qualifiers free for anyone to enter, which then phases the winners into their respective regional qualifiers.

While the open qualifiers consist primarily of amateur teams and a few professional teams, a recent occurrence is mixteams consisting of established commentators in Dota 2’s competitive circuit. This is, in general, not an issue, as only a small contingent of streamers or content creators attend the International in an official capacity. But when top talent—who are all but certain to be part of the tournament’s broadcasting team—take part in the qualifiers, it can lead to awkward and totally unnecessary issues.

A rather clear example of this occurred during the open qualifiers for Valve’s latest live event, the Kiev Major. The team known as Vegetables Esports Club (or simply Veggies), which has established commentators and analysts Austin “Capitalist” Walsh and Ben “Merlini” Wu, as well as coach William “Blitz” Lee on the roster, proceeded to almost reach the regional qualifier of the Kiev Major’s North American qualifiers. This proved to be quite an issue for the players on Veggies, as several of them had agreed to commentate the very same qualifier they were about to qualify for.

As such, the team made the unanimous decision to forfeit the final game in their last series of the qualifier—resulting in North American squad Wheel Whreck While Whistling advancing into the regional qualifier.

While the idea behind a “caster stack,” as they are known, is pretty innocent in itself—they obviously become an issue once they affect competitive integrity.

While it may be entertaining to see commentators play Dota 2 in a competitive setting, it seems unlikely that a team that was defeated along the way would share the same sentiment.