The CS Major: In defence of roster locks

The CS:GO major starts this weekend…except it actually started last weekend. However, the first few days of the event were more of a glorified qualification session for those teams on the borderline of being good enough to play in Boston (and FaZe), and with the weak whittled away it is finally time to see who is truly the best team in the world. Except, again, there is a slight caveat that will come with the title.

As with many events in recent times, one of the topics swirling around this competition has been the issue of roster locks, transfers and so on. Of the qualified teams, a number are having to use a stand-in, including eventual qualifiers Team Liquid, but the noise has mainly centred around SK Gaming. This is mainly due to the fact they are the best team in the world, and therefore have a lot of fans, and in some ways doesn’t make a huge amount of sense when you actually look at the details.

You see, of the teams using a stand-in at this event, there are essentially two types. The first are like Liquid, who signed a player that had already appeared for another org in the qualification process, and are therefore forced to use their coach. The second, in this case SK, type of team, still have a player who is locked out, but rather than having to use a coach the org is being forced to use a player they voluntarily cut from their roster, and who won events whilst part of SK Gaming. So, it is immediately obvious there is a vast gulf in terms of the quality of subs used.

Secondly, the reality is that SK Gaming not only chose to make this change, but have been pretty clear that they don’t really care about the major vs any other event, and would do the same again. Speaking to Cybersport’s Aleksei Louchnikov, TACO said of the move, “There is no point to play a major like: "Oh my god, a major!" - we don't care anymore. We will not practice with felps, we will practice with boltz for future tournaments, because usually we don't have a lot of time to practice, so the little time we do have we will practice with boltz.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean the roster rules are all fine of course, or so perfect they can’t be tweaked, but it does somewhat expose the gulf in perception as to how fans and players view the situation. To a pro like Taco, the Major is another big tournament, with another big prize pool, but equally he understands the value in having the best line up in place as soon as possible, and doesn’t expect special treatment for being a ‘good player’ in a top team.

One alternative proposed by some of the bigger names in the scene is a flat out Wild West situation, where there are no rules on rosters and any player can move at any time. This doesn’t exist in the world of traditional sport, for good reason, although those in favour of unlocking rosters seem to think hiring a ringer wouldn’t really help most teams, due to a lack of time playing together hindering their chemistry.

As it goes, a recent game where s1mple stood in for Mousesports and proceeded to carry the side to a win with virtually no practice together shows just how powerful money could become if there were no rules, and there are definitely orgs at the top who have that kind of cash. This in turn would also make compelling underdog stories like Gambit’s Major win far less likely, as the big boys could just farm the best players not playing for their own teams. Imagine s1mple on FaZe, for example…

There are other slight compromises being made by top teams, with Astralis only recently welcoming dev1ce back from medical issues and FaZe still struggling to find top form, but once the action starts none of that will matter. Crucially too, while some from the side lines might whine about this not being a true result due to those small compromises, the reality is that the integrity of the competition is far greater than it could ever be with open rosters.