Rosterpocalypse 1: Bakery’s Funhouse
Earlier this year, the European scene went through the largest player shuffle in the history of Heroes of the Storm. Several top organizations like G2 Esports and Virtus.Pro released their rosters and flooded the market with talent while literally every top tier team was tinkering with roster swaps and player trades. Most fan favorite teams were splintered, and dozens of rookie teams centered around former pros began to crop up all over the scene.
To some degree, it’s good to have this sort of movement going on. It keeps things fresh and uncovers talent. For instance, Virtus.Pro was a decent team but had difficulty consistently taking a top 4 finish at tournaments; after their dissolution, the players split into three different factions, all of which had highly successful teams (GoogleIshetZont, The Sandwich Monkey, and new Virtus.Pro). Players like Neon and Mopsio who may have gone unappreciated indefinitely appeared on those rosters and quickly became staples of the competitive scene. In this way, the roster swap had a positive effect of breaking up the “old boys” club and bringing in some new competitors to cheer for.
On the other hand, I think we saw the overall caliber of play drop. Combined with the abrupt announcement that the Spring Season qualifiers, many of the rosters that played in the qualifiers had only been together for a week or two. Many of the teams that qualified even opted to swap out a member again before regionals. The result? Everything was bad—a “clown fiesta”, if you will. There was no synergy between the players, coordination was sloppy, and—to be honest—some of the players didn’t even like each other.
Things have slowly settled down since then, but as Dignitas support player Bakery stated on Town Hall Heroes shortly afterward: “I think it’s become pretty clear that Rosterpocalypse was not actually a good thing…overall, the EU scene got a lot weaker because of roster swaps.”
Rosterpocalypse 2: Revenge of NA
Although the NA scene saw a little bit of shuffling in the last few months—the dissolution of Team Blaze and Resurgence as well as the restructuring of Gale Force eSports—there hasn’t been anything on the scale of what happened in Europe. Until now.
The scene has had a huge shift in power from top to bottom. The top teams of last year, Cloud9 and Tempo Storm, didn’t even qualify for the Global Championship this season. Gale Force eSports, previously a North American B-team, took their place instead, showing outstanding play in their last few tournaments. While this may seem like a good thing—talented rookies are getting the exposure they deserve, the scene isn’t 100% top-heavy, etc.—it’s actually a recipe for disaster. When many of the best players in the region aren’t winning anymore, there are really only two options: 1) retire and move onto something else, or 2) make some serious changes.
got an e-mail for class registration next semester from my school right when I was deciding to keep playing or retire. taking it as a sign
— Kun Fang (@C9iDream) June 10, 2016
This week, Cloud9 announced the release of their team, and John Paul “KingCaffeine” Lopez has confirmed that the team is going separate ways. Kun “iDream” Fang hinted that he would be likely be retiring, but it’s fair to assume the rest of the former C9 players will be continuing on as free agents. There is a slight probability that Tempo Storm may rethink their involvement in the Heroes scene after the below-average performance of their newest rosters the past few months unless they can nab some of the high-caliber free agents that are on the market now.
The player pool of free agents is pretty big right now. Earlier this month, COG’s team split from the org. Under the moniker of Brain Power, the unsponsored team stuck together and competed in the North American Regional in Burbank but still remain without a sponsor—essentially, they’re all free agents. Rookie teams like Team Name Change (TNC), the new Team Blaze, Team oVo, or RaccAttack (formerly Team Nom) all have some great talent on their teams and are prime targets for sponsored teams looking to fill out their rosters.
Ok we goin free agent mode, tank/flex/ranged/shotcaller lookin for team, msg me on twitter or bnet
— Ben Bunk (@cattlepillar) June 10, 2016
Astral Authority, while currently sponsored, has been struggling to some degree in recent tournaments. A Top 4 finish is not bad for any team, but for a relatively no-name organization like Astral Authority, big results are very important to growing and keeping it alive. Without some serious results, it will be hard for the organization to stay alive and support the players. In the unfortunate case of Astral Authority losing its sponsorship, the players will be in the same situation as Brain Power: a team full of free agents, all of which are some of the best players in North America.
If it’s not obvious from the impending conditions, continual hints and reminders from high-level community members have, more or less, confirmed that huge changes are coming to North America. In Heroes of the Storm, it’s normal for a teams to make a few swaps every couple of months in between seasons. However, considering the circumstances, we’re likely to have a more-than-usual circulation of players after the Global Finals in Sweden next week. Teams you were a fan of during the Summer season will probably change drastically. Everything you thought you knew about a team will have to be re-evaluated. The landscape of North America is about to change; Rosterpocalypse is upon us.
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Long-Term Effects and Doomsayers
It’s easy to see major orgs pulling out of Heroes of the Storm and call “dead game”. It’s scary to see everything shaken up. It’s hard to adjust to change. With the most recent news of major Korean and Chinese organizations abandoning the game, it’s even more difficult maintaining a positive outlook for the future.
We don’t have a lot to compare this to in the Heroes community except for the first Rosterpocalypse in Europe. They survived, other regions probably should too. We’re not 100% out of legitimate teams, and organizations (even major ones) are always looking for ways to get into the scene and gain more exposure.
If we try to compare it to other games, perhaps Heroes of Newerth or even StarCraft II, I think we can see the correlation between community and developer involvement and the game’s success. Many Heroes of Newerth players went over to League of Legends or Dota 2 at some point, and player involvement dropped drastically; nonetheless, it was S2’s abandonment of the game which led to its ultimate demise as a potentially successful game. On the other hand, Blizzard has shown that they never abandon their games. StarCraft II has had a lot of ups and downs, but Blizzard has never pulled support from it, and it is STILL thriving, despite the general negativity in the community about the game’s growth.
What does this mean for us? Heroes of the Storm is probably going to be all right. As long as we enjoy the game and Blizzard continues to listen to our feedback and support it, we will enjoy this game for years to come. Rosterpocalypse is not a death knell for competitive play, it’s a chance to resort things and start over. Large roster changes are normal in esports, and as we continue along our pathway, Heroes of the Storm will eventually stabilize. No one will ever forget the amazing Cloud9 vs Tempo Storm rivalry of 2015, but the best games ever are still ahead of us.