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Stuchiu: How I’d change the CS:GO Major system

Stuchiu offers a new concept for the CS:GO Major circuit
Photo courtesy of Turner Sports/ELEAGUE

With the announcement of the schedule and bifurcated format leading up to the ELEAGUE Major in January, I thought it was time to take some perspective on the CS:GO Major circuit. Although I’ve never burst out into a full jeremiad on the subject, I find the planning and structure archaic and lacking transparency. Valve’s approach to the Majors is reminiscent of the Wild West days of esports, and while its original looseness might have been appropriate for its time, the scene needs some token coordination from Valve’s end to ensure its premier tournament doesn’t end up being a hassle.

For context, I’m just a writer. I’ve never been in contact with any players, teams or tournament organizations about what they’d like to see. This is just my opinion as a viewer unsatisfied with the status quo.

Scheduling

The furor over the inopportune announcement of the CIS Minor was the latest example of lazy organization on Valve’s end. Besides tiresome platitudes about how the company deserves forgiveness due to contributions in other areas, this is unacceptable if you’re a professional involved in the scene. Teams and their management need to plan ahead to successfully navigate packed schedules; ditto for tournament organizers and broadcast talent. Additionally, knowing the Major and qualifier dates affects the urgency that comes with the roster shuffle. Valve needs to announce dates one year in advance, similar to what it does now in Dota 2.

Second, it appears two Majors per year is the new standard. Although there is no hard rule that it will stay this way, I’ll assume this is how Valve wants things to be. In which case, we should change the dates of the Majors to more conveniently align with the player off-season. A tenable idea would be one Major in the mid year, around May or June, and the other near the end of the year in November.

Commissioners

I think we need two commissioners. The first will deal with rules/regulations and any circumstances that cast the integrity of the competition into doubt. This is specifically for cases that are outside the norm. For instance, the way Freddy “KRiMZ” Johansson played kingmaker as he switched between Godsent and Fnatic during the 2016 roster shuffles was not illegal, but certainly challenged our intuitive notions of what is fair in player trades. A more recent occurrence is the Immortals situation, where one player was clearly in the wrong and the organization/remaining teammates were collateral damage.

The second commissioner will work in concert with the first. The second’s job is to decide an overall global ranking. I don’t really care how it’s managed. Perhaps it can be rankings from HLTV or Duncan “Thorin” Shields. Either option is better than the current method, which uses outmoded data from six months ago. This person could be used in an advisory role, but I think this needs to be a full-time job because it is essential for the next demand to work.

Integration

We need to connect the current open circuit to the Major circuit in a meaningful sense. Teams that consistently perform throughout the year ought to be rewarded when the Majors roll around.

Currently, teams qualify for the next Major either through qualifiers or the Legends seed. Instead, I propose we should use something similar to what the current Dota 2 circuit uses. In my theoretical system, we either get rid of the Legends seed or limit it even further (either top 4 or grand finalists). The rest of the teams are invited based on how many points they’ve accrued through the circuit. This would provide a more accurate reflection on the current skill level of CS:GO teams, as well as making accomplishments like DreamHack wins valuable beyond the title.

This next bit is why I think this system needs a second commissioner. It isn’t enough to assign points based on placement within the tournament: the prestige of a trophy depends in large part on the competition you defeated on your road to first place. I believe a dynamic, robust point system must account for the team faced and their form at that point in time. For instance, imagine a scenario at ESL One New York where Team Liquid lost to SK Gaming in narrow fashion in the semifinals. In that particular case, Liquid would end up with a top 4 placing alongside Cloud9. But given the more difficult competition Liquid had to play to get there, I’d say Liquid deserves more ranking points for its run than Cloud9 in that instance.

Additionally, you need both commissioners to come to an agreement on things like:

  • If a roster up, should the organization retain points? Or should they be distributed among the players? Would they be distributed equally or proportionally through some process based on individual statistics? This would only apply within the Major circuit.
  • Is it practical to update rankings from match to match, or should ranking calibration wait until after a tournament finishes?

Format

It’s time we revamped the format. If the Major is supposed to be the pinnacle of CS:GO competition, then it must also have the most robust format that doesn’t leave in doubt who the best team at the Major was. With two Majors per year, we also have a chance to experiment with the format as well.

I personally like the format for The International, but we don’t need such a drastic change. We can just tweak things we currently have. We can seed the GSL-style groups better or introduce re-seeding into the Swiss bracket. Most importantly though, once it reaches the playoffs we have to have a double elimination playoff bracket.

As for what advantage the team that emerges from the winner’s bracket deserves, it should be an extra life like a normal double-elimination format. So the team that comes from the loser’s side must defeat the team coming from the winner’s side twice.

Qualifiers

The current format works like this: Online qualifier >>> Minor >>> Major qualifier >>> Major.

The problem with that is the various online portions for each region. Some teams will always be disadvantaged when it comes to online play and because LAN is considered the foolproof test to see who is the best, we should be playing these on LAN. The costs of this are prohibitive, but I have a good answer for this. If we assume scheduling can start one year ahead, that means tournament organizers can host different portions of the qualifier process. This could happen at DreamHack events, for example, instead of one of their smaller tier 2-3 tournaments.

Different Tournament Organizers

There is no reason to have the entire Major circuit run by one tournament organizer. It’s nice to have a level of consistency throughout both tournaments, but splitting it up gives more partners involved in the action and creates a base level of competition between them. At the same time, you can evaluate smaller tournament organizers with the smaller portions of the Major circuit.

Crowdfunding

Just do it. There is no downside here. It’s not like having stickers or having crowdfunding is a binary choice. You can do both: one that lets fans directly support their favorite player and one that lets fans directly support the competition itself.

Roster Lock Rules

The current roster lock rule needs to be changed. It seems too stringent. I understand it was made to stop abuses from happening, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way. This falls under the first commissioner’s job. Another way you can do it is have a time lock, for instance no roster changes one month prior to the Major.

Integrating Legacy Tournaments

There are certain tournaments that, despite not being Majors anymore, retain a legacy of distinction. They are still incredible events and should be publicly recognized as such. The biggest ones that come to mind are ESL Katowice, ESL Cologne, and DreamHack Winter. After you’ve built a legacy tournament like that they should be recognized, either by granting more ranking points so as to demarcate their prestige or given actual in-game cosmetics/crates (similar to what Dota 2 once did).

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