Roster instability is as much a part of the North American Counter-Strike scene as explosive personalities, alleged amphetamine abuse, jetlag, and behind-the-scenes–or, in some cases, livestreamed–drama. With a handful of exceptions, it’s common for professional CS:GO teams in North America to cut, trade, sign, and release players multiple times a year, often without providing a satisfying explanation to the public.
At the top echelons of NA CS, roster instability has become slightly less endemic over the past year–consider Counter Logic Gaming, for example. After AWPer Peter “ptr” Gurney was cut from the team in April of 2015 and replaced by Josh “jdm64” Marzano, the CLG lineup has remained mostly unchanged–Pujan “FNS” Mehta stepped down from the team in December of 2015, with former Team Liquid player Jacob “FugLy” Medina joining the team in his place. Two roster changes in a single calendar year is, by North American standards, remarkably low.
Many of these roster swaps take place in concentrated bursts, with multiple teams announcing their intended roster changes within the span of a single week. This, readers, is what’s known as a ‘shuffle.’ As rumors about high-profile players–including Ryan “fREAKAZOiD” Abadir of Cloud9–potentially leaving their organizations for greener pastures begin to circulate, there’s no escaping the question: are we about to see another NA shuffle?
Why Would It Happen Now?
While CS:GO has lacked any sort of official off-season in the competitive circuit–an issue that many players have voiced concerns about–most high-profile teams will elect to make roster changes directly after a Major. There’s sound logic behind this: an appearance at a Major is, effectively, a final exam for a team. Majors are when teams are supposed to deliver their best performances–in addition to the prestige associated with competing in a Major, the new $1 million dollar prize pool certainly leaves teams with no reason to give anything other than their all at these events.
Especially for teams that end up exiting a Major during the group stage, it’s common to see a roster shuffle take place following the tournament’s conclusion. Earlier this week, longtime French competitor and tactical mastermind Kévin “Ex6TenZ” Droolans was cut from the Gamers2 (G2) roster following the ex-Titan lineup’s failure to progress to the Quarterfinals in Columbus.
In fact, Valve’s rules regarding eligibility for the Majors include a tacit acknowledge of this practice: teams that have qualified for “Legend” status by reaching top 8 at a Major are automatically invited to the next Major, if–and only if–at least three out of the five players who competed at the Major together are still on the roster.
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It’s Already Started (Sort Of)
For now, the only NA team that seems to have taken the leap and removed a player from their lineup is EchoFox. Over the weekend, Trey “tck” Martin posted this on Twitter, in addition to removing the EchoFox logo from his profile picture:
I left mumble when I got cut like I had somewhere to go. I don't, I got cut by my friends.
— Trey Martin (@trey_tck) April 9, 2016
Meanwhile, Shahzeb “ShahZam” Khan of OpTic Gaming sent out a coy Tweet about missing OpTic’s game on Sunday in the newly launched $3.5 million ECS league. While a winky face is far from any sort of confirmation about a roster change, it’s one more suggestive piece of information that indicates we may be in store for a shuffle in the weeks to come, especially since ShahZam was spotted playing ESEA PUGs later that night.
Professional players certainly enjoy leaking information–both true and blatantly false–it has become increasingly clear that there’s a wealth of misinformation about potential roster swaps being circulated. For now, all we can do is wait.
Check back later in the week for an in-depth look at the prospects for Eric “adreN” Hoag, who delivered an absolutely monstrous performance for Team Liquid as a stand-in at MLG Columbus 2016, despite being removed from the team due to internal issues.