In the second part of our interview with Alan "Nahaz" Bester, the Dota statistician and university economics professor discusses the single elimination format for the Majors, which teams are the most promising in Dota right now and his future career as an analyst.
Related: Nahaz on Kiev Major predictions
Speaking of Valve's decision making, the single elimination format is returning for Kiev. What do you think about it?
Obviously I would be happier in a double elimination, statistically. When you look at the steepness of the Major prize pools... First of all, I feel like most Dota prize pools are too steep to begin with in terms of the amount of money going to first and second place teams vis-a-vis the rest of the field. But when you look at the fact that, statistically, single elimination is still pretty meaningful for the top two, top four teams, you still get plenty of information there, but the rankings of the teams five and below is very noisy compared to double elimination. When you're talking about the amounts of money that are riding on the line, and when you're talking about the number, location and accessibility of LAN tournaments in Dota, it's hit or miss.
Sometimes you get a number of high quality LANs. Relatively speaking, we had a decent number of high quality LANs between Boston and now to base our decisions. We had relatively few LANs, almost none, between TI and Boston. For me, you want that information. When you talk about Wings not finishing in the Top 8, okay, they lost their opening series against EG and they're gone. Does that give you any information about Wings? That's the thing about invites. If you're going to talk about excluding a TI champion, if Wings had done what they did at Manila and absolutely flamed out and finished bottom four in a double elimination format... hmm, then you think about it. But if you're talking about losing a single elimination best-of-three series to EG, a Top 4 team, how much does that really tell you?
Do you think they'll bring back double elimination for TI7?
Absolutely. 100 percent. Single elimination, they wanted a couple of things. Number one, they the Majors to have a softer footprint in the rest of the schedule. Again, Valve being Valve, Valve doesn't want to announce their schedule of events six to eight months ahead of time. There were a number of tournaments that were severely affected because the Majors were announced three to four months out. If you look at the schedules for a double elimination Major, that's a two week commitment for most teams. When you talk about bootcamping, qualifiers, with a double elimination Major as you had last year, that's a full month out of the schedule, when they were saying, "Hey, we don't want to be competing in other tournaments." And there was a lot of uncertainty regarding when that month was going to be. When ESL is booking stadiums for their tournaments, they have to do it six to eight months or more ahead of time.
Most tournament organizers aren't Valve. Valve can just pour a pot of money on the problem and say, "Okay, we're willing to pay for whatever rate we need to because we want this particular venue and we're Valve." Most organizers can't do that and still make money on their tournaments. The single elimination format was an attempt to decrease the footprint of the Major within the overall schedule, especially for top teams. I don't like it, I would much rather have a double elimination Major announced months in advance. But again, Valve being Valve, they like to take their time and make decisions with as much information as possible. So much of how Valve runs Dota has been about how Valve has been successful as a company. As much as you wish it may be different in some respects, you can't ask the leopard to change its spots.
Is there any particular team that excites you right now in Dota?
B)ears. In terms of a team that is not counted among the very top right now, I am very excited about B)ears. I've told a number of people that I see the kind of upside in them as I see in 5Jungz and (monkey) Business, eventually would become Liquid and OG, I see that same kind of chemistry.
I think that if they continue to improve and stay together, I think Team Onyx could be very, very good. I've looked at that team a bit, and they're not where they want to be quite yet and I'm not sure that they can make the adjustments before the Kiev Qualifiers. B)ears has a chance to be, if they can come through that absolutely brutal EU qualifier, they have a chance to be good right away. If Onyx sticks together and keep improving through Ti, could be a Top 8 team at TI.
Really? Top 8 at TI?
Abed is really good. Jimmy has grown up a lot. A lot of people still give Jimmy shit, there's a reason for that, he's earned some of it, but he's a smart guy and a pretty good player. And he did not captain a team to the Top 8 last TI by accident. And I still, I've said this and I've continued to say this, you ask me who the smartest guy in Dota, who would I bet on in any kind of theory crafting or drafting contest, it's gonna be BuLba everytime. Everytime. It doesn't always necessarily translate to success in game, but in broad Dota IQ, I'm telling you BuLba is.
I would say that he is a very talented drafter. I kind of wish that his time on Liquid went better. I think Liquid are fine with GH right now.
The other part about BuLba is that he's a strong personality. He's a strong and very unique personality and he needs the right team environment. And that Liquid roster, when he was a part of that team, they needed someone who was a little more low-key.
It's been awhile since you've attended a LAN event as an analyst. Should we expect to see you at more in the future?
I hope so. That's not up to me my friend, that is not up to me. Look, everybody right now, all the tournaments want the same top teams, and all the tournaments want the same top talent. For better or for worse, getting invited to TI is the kind of, you're in. Not getting invited to TI is, "Hey what's going on here?" So it goes in cycles. I have plenty to do, I'm going to be devoting more of my time in the next couple of years to doing esports related projects. I'm still going to be teaching of course, I still love what I do. I would love for some of that work to include LAN appearances, but that's not up to me. That's up to the community and the people that plan the events.
Have you ever had to turn down a LAN event because of your job as a professor?
Yes. I have had to turn LAN events down. I should have probably... I go back to last fall, or the year before last at Frankfurt, I got sick and I had to leave the desk. That was a long time coming, I was pushing myself too hard then, trying to teach a full schedule of classes and do multiple weekend LANs in the same term. The fall tends to be a very busy, very stressful period because you try to do as much of the course prep as you can for the year towards the beginning. By the spring I generally have most of the material for the classes set anyway, so the schedule is less crazy.
Have you found a better balance now?
For sure. It's unfortunate. I think if I had to do it over again, I probably could sustain that schedule. Honestly, for a number of these events I came in over-prepared. I was kind of riding the wave, I was really excited to be doing this, I was very passionate about it. And I would have all this stuff ready, and I would catch myself at these analyst desks, like, just trying to put all of that out there. And it's the classic mistake.
It's ironic because, when you teach PhD students, the first thing you teach them is not every regression you ran, every analysis you did. Your paper is the one that is relevant to the point that you are trying to make. I myself fell into that trap with a lot of these Dota events. I had so much that I would lose the train sometimes, and I feel like that's part of why it's nice having these videos and having some other outlets where I take a lot of the analytical problems that I want to work on, have an outlet for those. And when I do events concentrate more on the now and the super relevant stats that tell the story of where these teams are right now, rather than making these longer points at a desk that just don't fit.
Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.