On February 18th, it was announced that the Ukrainian based event organizer, Starladder, would be hosting CS:GO’s 15th major in the latter half of 2019. Fans rejoiced as Starladder had previously hosted a handful of successful events in the CIS region, and China. Will Starladder deliver the event fans deserve?
Since the early days of CS:GO, Starladder has been supporting the scene with their StarSeries: an online league with offline playoffs. Which had moderate success, a decent prize pool, and above-average production. They quickly became a respectable league organizer only behind the likes of ESL, Faceit, and ESEA, the three biggest league organizers at the time. They had top teams playing in their leagues, good viewing numbers, and were hosting events for fans in an otherwise underserved region.
It wasn’t until 2016 where Starladder joined forces with ImbaTV, a Chinese media & production company, that they would be able to contend as a top dogs. With this newly formed partnership they would go on to host a slew of Invitational events and leagues under the StarSeries & i-League name. Players and fans saw an increase to prize pools, production values, and more. The first event under this new brand would be StarLadder i-League StarSeries XIV with a prize pool of two hundred thousand USD, in the Minsk Arena in Minsk, Belarus. From 2016 to 2019 they would go on to host 10 events with 2.6 million in combined prize earnings, with each one receiving it’s share of praise.
So when rumors started circulating in February 2019 that Starladder would be hosting the 15th Valve-sponsored major, many rejoiced. It had been a while that fans were asking for a major to be hosted in the CIS region after Starladder & EPICENTER proved there was hungry to watch great Counter-Strike, and stadium crowds could give off so much energy. Comparable to some of ESL’s best events. However, it was announced that the major would be hosted in Berlin, making it the 4th on German soil. It has been speculated that this is due to the geopolitics surrounding the region. The fans were nonetheless still happy that a long time organizer, who has supported the game since the start, were finally hosting their first major.
There has been skepticism on whether Starladder can live up to the expectations of hosting a Valve sponsored major. After PGL and Faceit letting down the community with their poorly run majors in 2017, and 2018 respectively. It shows that even the most experienced organizers can mess up a major, and fans will not forget about it. Both have been struggling with their own events since their major, with PGL not hosting a single league or “big” event since. Majors are their own beast and shouldn’t be treated just like any ol event. Hosting a major can bring a lot future succuess to the if done correctly, but it can also be detrimental.
Things are changing though. Many argue that winning a major isn’t as prestigious as it once was, with pro players criticizing the format, the expanding of it from 16 to 24, and given that there are other top tier events such as ESL One Cologne, and the lure of achieving an Intel Grand Slam. Nonetheless it’s still important for Starladder host a great event.
Things didn’t start off well for Starladder. StarLadder announced they would be hosting the 15th major with a press release on their website. In the press release, they stated, that tickets would be going on sale in April 2019, without a precise date. However, come mid-May, there was no news on the ticket sale. It wasn’t until reddit post calling them out did we get a response. On the 22nd of May, Starladder, announced that starting that day the tickets would go on sale, close to one month after their original date. For fans wanting to attend the major, they seek to get their tickets as soon as possible in order to plan their trips, book accommodation, etc. By delaying the ticket sale, and not being communicative about it, the fans wanting to attend the event are hurt. In the grand scheme of things, not a big deal , just frustrating.
We wouldn’t hear much about Starladder until the 18th July, right before the minors were set to start. On July 12th, via an HLTV report, it was announced that coldzera would be benched, after expressing his desire to be transferred. In a Twitlonger, MIBR coach zews revealed that coldzera offered to play the major with them, but the team declined his offer, instead they were looking to start rebuilding for a better future. MIBR would instead be fielding zews for the major, or so they thought. Because of the Major roster lock rule, which is a set date, on which all teams must submit the roster they would field for the major, MIBR couldn’t use zews as their fifth player. The rule stated that they could only use their coach if it was an emergency (Visa denial, Illness), like during the Cologne major in 2016, when zonic had to fill who dupreeh, due to an appendix infection. However Starladder deemed, MIBR benching coldzera and choosing not to play the major with him, was not an emergency.
We just learned that Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen will not be able to play the rest of the ESL Cologne 2016 major with us…
After the community wondered if MIBR would change their minds about coldzera or would they have to play the major with a 4 man lineup, out of nowhere, It is reported on HLTV, that Starladder has changed the rule allowing coaches to play for their team, no matter the reason, but wouldn’t be able to switch back and forth. This comes after Zellsis, currently playing for Lazarus, accused Starladder earlier in the month, of selectively enforcing their rules, after his team was withdrawn from NA’s minor due to said roster lock rules, in a now deleted tweet. His teammate yay chimed in on twitter, after the rule change.
It begs the question. Did Starladder realize early on there was an issue with the rule, or did it take likes of MIBR to have roster issues for Starladder to identify that the rule was “unnecessary and unhealthy” and had “created a lot of chaos”?
The roster rule drama doesn’t end there. On 20th, Hellraisers announced their Starladder major roster on their website. In their announcement they explain that nukkye, previously listed as a reserve player, would be replacing DeadFox for the major. Seems simple enough, right?
That is until you remember that Valve majors have a rule in place known as the 3/5 rule.
Hellraisers qualified for the Berlin major when they finished 12th-14th, guaranteeing them a spot as long as they keep 3 of out of 5 players. After the major, Hellraisers made quite a number of roster changes, but always had the 3 players they needed to keep their spot, ANGE1 & ISSAA on the active roster and DeadFox who had been benched, but was still under contract. Starladder changing the rule meant that Hellraisers were able to bring their reserved player nukkye into their roster for DeadFox, somehow negating the 3/5 rule.
I don’t blame Hellraisers for making the change, if the rule says they can then why would they go to the major with an inferior roster? I do however question the ill-thought-out, last minute rule change from Starladder. How can you have two rules that are in conflict with each other? It sets a bad precedent for a major, whose issues, are starting to accumulate.
Finally the latest drama surrounding this major. Dekay reported that certain key members of CS:GO talent community would not be working at the major. According to multiply sources in the report, Anders Blume, moses and Thorin, at this current moment shouldn’t be expected at the major.
Anders, who is arguable the most recognized voice of the CS:GO scene, has already missed the previous major due to the birth of his 2nd child, and wanting to spend time with his family instead of being away for 3 weeks.
Moses, a well liked caster & analyst, who is always too optimistic for his fellow Americans in the tournament. This will mark the first major he’ll be missing, since attending his first in Cologne 2015.
Thorin, the self-proclaimed esport historian, analyst, who has been creating free content in the form of articles, videos, podcasts, for years. Sure, he has what many deem “unpopular opinions”, but it’s hard to deny the value he brings to the desk of an event.
The CS:GO esports scene has some of the best talent in all of esports, period. There is such an abundance of great talent that even when losing some to other games, we stay spoiled for choice. Despite our abundance of talent, I would argue that the major should have the best of the best, the community favorites, those who have proven their worth. I’m all for giving newer, lesser known members’ chance to shine, but it shouldn’t be at a major.
It’s a disgrace to have a major, an event that’s supposed to celebrate the best teams, the community, and the game as a whole, not have some of its best, most praised talent members.
Are we really surprised this is happening, again?
Each year, since 2017, we’ve had a new organizer try their hand at hosting a major, with it not living up to our standards and expectations. With the list of potential major hosts growing smaller, with Dreamhack events becoming less relevant by the day, Eleague who hasn’t hosted a proper CS:GO event proper in over a year, and MLG nowhere to be found since Columbus 2016. There are very few organizers that have proven capable of hosting a major. The truth is that hosting a major is a huge risk for organizers, with highly critical fans who want their game to be watched in it’s best form, at one of the best tournaments of the year, so the returns can be minimal.
Despite all the drama and mishandling so far we should be optimistic, maybe Starladder can identify their mistakes, rectify them, and host a great major.