Cloud9 and HellRaisers' Major sacrifice shows forward thinking
The evolution of Counter-Strike has predominantly taken place in Denmark over the last few months, but there is another, quiet revolution happening in the minds of players across the game. First Cloud9 and now HellRaisers have chosen to give up their "automatic" Major spot that comes with keeping the core three from their last Major run in favour of making roster moves that would put them back into the Minor, and it’s an excellent development.
To expand slightly, both C9 and HellRaisers have recently taken the decision to bench or release players that represented them at the last Major. Holding on to three of the five players you take to a Major is supposed to guarantee you a spot at the next Valve-sanctioned Major provided you can get a single win in Legends stage, but both C9 and HR decided to get rid of players who were technically their "third", meaning they surrender that spot and have to go through their respective regional Minors.
Previously, the accepted wisdom was that if you had a locked-in spot for the Major then you should hold on to it, for a variety of reasons. One of those is the extra value your team has in negotiations if you’re part of the biggest show in CSGO, and the other was the perceived wisdom that anything can happen in the Minors, and it is risky to go down that road voluntarily.
The second piece of reasoning is fatally flawed for a single reason. Now the Majors require you to actually win a game to make it back next time around, simply being there is not worth as much, and if you're not good enough to make it out of the NA or CIS Minor you're certainly not going to do anything noteworthy at the Major either, meaning that teams are starting to think about the medium term at least, rather than just the next few weeks.
HellRaisers' thinking is less clear, as they aren’t really a team with Major-winning aspirations and there may have been external factors involved in the decision to jettison the underperforming Hobbit, but from the point of view if Cloud9, who released kioShiMa, it is consistent with their desire to be at the top of the game. Hanging on to a team that you aren’t sure would make it out of the Minor makes no sense for a $300m esports brand.
Ideally there would be a maximum of one qualifying spot for each Major, that being the defending champions, but we are a long way from the sophistication of the Dota Pro Circuit and there are no rumours Valve have plans to introduce that to CSGO in the near future. However, this positive move from teams is the first sign that the new requirement for Legends to actually get a victory at the was a positive move, and shifted the focus from just turning up to actually competing, as it should be.
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