credit to JD.
When Valve first implemented their roster lock rulings, it was intended to protect players from their organizations, by striking a commitment between both entities. The rules aimed to prevent something like the Fnatic controversy from happening again, where the organization, right before TI, was attempting to oust their carry player, Era, without his knowledge. Events like these led to the ruling of a March 27th roster lockout for TI6, five months before the event. It contracted players and organizations together for those months, but what about the days before?
Our House, Our Rules
The issue here is that Valve doesn’t hold any authority over how organizations and third party tournaments are managed. There isn’t an association for Dota 2 professional play. The field of esports players and organizations is a massive free for all, with everyone trying to congregate towards their best chances to win the next tournament, but most of all, TI. And that’s where Valve can hold sway, by saying you have to abide by our rules, or you can’t play in our tournaments.
What happened was that the roster deadline lead to a frenzy of roster changes, propelled by players and organizations trying to set themselves up for what would be a $20 million dollar prize tournament. Just a few days before the March 27th deadline, Team Secret released w33 and Misery for Arteezy and Universe, who left Evil Geniuses (who are now, by the way, back with EG). The shuffle stranded players, w33 and Misery, and left an incomplete team, EG, while at the same time disqualifying everybody from TI invites, which EG had secured by winning last year’s tournament.
Gambling With Roster Changes
This wasn’t the first time a situation like this had occurred. Before TI4, A late roster change to the team Summer’s Rift disqualified them from the regional NA qualifiers, forcing them to compete in the jungle of the Open Qualifiers. Summer’s Rift was eliminated, and it seemed like punishment enough for their breaking of the rules.
It’s a high risk gamble for organizations looking to make this last minute change: is it better to grab a TI invite with what you believe is an inferior roster, than to compete through the open and regional qualifiers with your preferred roster? Even for top tier teams, the Open Qualifiers is a gauntlet, comprising of mostly best-of-one’s in a 1024 team bracket. But in recent events, both EG and Team Secret made it out of their open qualifiers, then topped out in their respective regional qualifiers.
Power To The Player
At the same time, team DC was cobbled together, with w33 and Misery, along with other stranded free agents. They managed through the NA regional qualifiers and ended in a surprise, second place finish at TI6. It was a dream run for a roster that didn’t exist for more than five months, and it would have never happened if not for an unlikely chain of events.
EG finished third, and Team Secret, the catalyst for this entire shuffle, finished in the bottom of the standings, at 13-16th place. In the storylines of these three teams—DC, Secret, and EG—it’s hard to say whether the ends justifies the means, and whether the results validated the decisions of each party. The point was that it was Team Secret that made the decision that put everything in motion. W33 and Misery were left without a team and without a potential invite.
The new drop and add window gives some recourse for these kinds of last minute decisions. This year, teams could drop players only up until September 4th, with the final lockout being two weeks later, on September 18th. It would give a two week window for players to search for a new team, or teams to fill out their roster with the players who decided to leave. The rules help both parties of player and organization, but it will be the players who will need more support.
There is a current loophole, which China has exploited, by dropping all players from the roster, and re-adding as the organization wishes. It’s a bold, disruptive move by Chinese organizations, but one they stabilize due to the nature of their player contracts. The new drop deadline may mitigate the effect one party’s decision has on the competitive scene, but it won’t prevent what Team Secret and EG did after the Manila Major, well after the lockout deadline, where they again changed their rosters at the cost of an invite.
Valve has tended to support the players. They pay directly to the players. The lockout rules prevented organizations from dropping players last minute, and the add and drop window may not solve everything but it is another good step, giving free agents time to find a team or create one of their own.