The unique mix of silliness and competition from Moonduck’s custom event shows that there’s still a place for creativity and innovation in the Dota 2 scene
The beginning of the 2019-2020 Pro Circuit season is fast approaching, with the first official qualifiers of of the campaign set to begin on October 5. Before the Pro Circuit season begins though, the Dota 2 world is being treated to a more lighthearted and fun side of the Dota 2 scene. Moonduck’s Midas Mode 2 is currently underway, with the studio bringing new ideas and a more refined premise to its sequel to the original Midas Mode back in 2017. Midas Mode 2 has only recently begun, but the tournament is already proving to be one of the more unique and entertaining events of this offseason/pre-season period, and a fantastic lead up to the start of the Pro Circuit campaign.
Welcome to Midas Mode
For those who are unaware of exactly what the event is and how it works, here is an incredibly brief and incomplete run down of the general rules. Every team competing in Midas Mode 2 is given a starting pool of currency called “Moonbucks” (in honor of organizer Moonduck Studio), with said Moonbucks being used for a variety of purposes. Drafting and banning heroes in matches costs teams a certain amount of Moonbucks, with the prices of heroes fluctuating over the course of the event based upon their popularity and success. The teams in Midas Mode 2 can earn more Moonbucks by playing their matches (with the winning side earning more currency than their opponent), and by completing customized challenges suggested by fans and selected by the organizer. With a new set of challenges released for each day of the competition, the teams participating in the event are forced to balance the risk of completing the often dangerous or convoluted tasks with the potential benefit of more Moonbucks in their overall pool.
A Different Kind of Dota
At first glance, the whole thing sounds a bit ridiculous, which is exactly what the organizers and the fans intended. In fact, the silliness is cranked up even further by some customization options that were made open to the fans and sponsors of the event. Moonduck made the vast majority of the in-game items, heroes, and map locations purchasable by viewers prior to the start of the event, allowing those purchasers to place custom icons over the usual in-game art. These custom item images, hero skins, and map locations, combined with the aforementioned system of Moonbucks and challenges, creates something that feels like regular Dota 2 while looking very different from the game we’re all used to seeing.
With all of the unorthodox rules and silliness of this event, many fans might write Midas Mode 2 off as simply being a community event or not being “real Dota”. While it is true that Midas Mode 2 doesn’t fit the mold of regular competitive Dota 2, those difference are by design, and they aren’t necessarily a bad thing. From the very outset of the tournament, Midas Mode 2 is designed to create as much separation as possible from what we would classify as “standard” Dota. The fluctuating prices for heroes and the customized challenges presented to its participants push the squads away from the tried and true meta strategies that often come to dominate professional events.
To a certain extent, the custom rules of the event actually force teams to put even more thought into their drafts and strategies, as the squads have an added dimension of their Moonbuck pools to consider when entering a particular game or series. The closest parallel that I can think of to draw in this scenario is CS:GO, in which teams and players have to be mindful of their own mechanical and strategic play in addition to balancing and managing an in-game economy. The game takes on an added level of complexity in Midas Mode 2, in which a squad must essentially play two games at once: one being the actual in-game Dota match, while the other centers around the management and strategic use of its Moonbuck pool.
Valuing Creativity and Community Engagement
While the added strategy of an in-game economy is certainly a positive aspect of Midas Mode 2, that really isn’t the main point of the event. At its heart, Midas Mode 2 is about a couple of things: community engagement and creativity. The core premise of the event is to get the teams and players involved to bring a somewhat more relaxed and open attitude to their matches. Of course, every team in the field for the event would obviously prefer to win, but winning is not the sole motivation for the participants, which gives the tournament a more laid back feel while still maintaining a high enough level of stakes and competition to make for compelling matches.
The creativity and participation in Midas Mode 2 isn’t limited to just the professional players though, as the event hangs its hat on the idea of involving the community as much as possible. The map itself is covered in messages that were submitted or purchased by the community, the in-game items all feature custom artwork submitted by fans, hero portraits and skins have also been customized by the community, and the event challenges are all submitted or inspired by the community as well. To put a long story short, the Dota 2 community has been given the opportunity to have a direct impact on this event, and that level of engagement and participation is something that the fans have appeared to respond well to.
Positive Reactions to a Declining Style of Dota Events
One of the biggest reasons for the positive response for Midas Mode 2 and this brand of more “recreational” Dota is the fact that this style of event is becoming more and more rare in the Dota 2 scene as a whole. The introduction of the Dota 2 Pro Circuit added a degree of structure and rigidness to the scene, and that in and of itself has not necessarily been a bad thing. The Pro Circuit system of Majors and Minors has formed the backbone of an actual season in the Dota 2 world, with teams and players now having a less nebulous schedule to work around over the course of a year. Of course, that added structure, along with the incredible prestige and prize pools afforded to Pro Circuit events, means that said events are commanding an ever-increasing level of importance and attention in the scene. With the Pro Circuit now also being the main way in which teams may earn a place at TI, the emphasis on Pro Circuit events and qualifiers only appears to be ramping up heading into the 2019-2020 season. With that being the case, we appear to be seeing a downturn in the number of third party events in the scene, with organizers not wishing to compete with Pro Circuit events.
However, the popularity and generally positive response from the community for Midas Mode 2 shows that these kind of creative, third party events still have their place in the Dota 2 scene. While these smaller events may not have the pull to go toe-to-toe with Pro Circuit Majors or Minors, that shouldn’t be the goal in the first place. Events like Midas Mode 2 work best when they supplement the larger, more prestigious tournaments rather than attempting to directly compete against them. The reason for this appears to be fairly obvious, as the Dota 2 community is expressing a desire for both the ultra competitive, professional environment of the Pro Circuit and the more relaxed and laid back competition from third party events.
Midas Mode 2 found its niche, putting together a community driven event with fan favorite teams and broadcasting talent, that is resonating well with its audience despite a customized rule-set that has created some stark differences compared to the standard Dota 2 tournament. Of course, the fact that Midas Mode 2 is occurring before the start of the official Pro Circuit season is certainly something working in the event’s favor, but the Pro Circuit season is a constraint that every third party organizer is going to have to deal with. The Pro Circuit system doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon, and Moonduck Studios successfully found a way to put together the kind of event that it wanted to run in a time frame that didn’t see it competing with other professional events. Midas Mode 2 has shown that there is still a high demand for creative ideas and more laid back events in the Dota 2 community, and that a third party organizer can still find success with innovative ideas and engagement with that community.