After The International last year, Aui_2000 was swiftly dropped from EG, who had won the tournament. The memes were mostly Game of Thrones-themed, to suggest that Aui had been betrayed by his teammates, and although he insisted there was no bad blood, the narrative was too good for Reddit and Twitch chat to pass up. In truth, it’s probably best that he was dropped so quickly—he had time to join up with Digital Chaos and was not left without a team when the next season got started up. This year, to ensure that players are treated as fairly as possible, Valve has introduced more rules for roster locks—players can be dropped without penalty from now until September 4th, and can be invited to teams until September 18th. It’s not going to solve every problem that could arise (EG and Secret both elected to change rosters outside the designated shuffle period and crawl through the Open Qualifiers to TI6), but it’s a good start.
The traditional roster shuffle can put players in bad positions and make the Dota 2 scene harder to follow, but it’s also the most fun thing: I love shuffle season so much. As tweeted by OG’s Captain Fly, the popular opinion is still that “Shuffle season is like game of thrones,” but really they’re not like anything else at all. It’s reasonable to compare them to the trade rumors of the NBA, but instead of questions like “Will LeBron go back to Cleveland?” you’re left asking “Which teams are still good?” and “Will anything ever be the same again?”
Shuffle season is like those gridded logic puzzles—where a mess of logical connections and oblique references will finally reveal who owns the zebra—except half the clues are conjecture and the other half are jokes. Zai says he’ll play with Suma1l but he removed the Evil Geniuses sponsor banners from his Twitch page, but Sumai1l said he’d play with Evil Geniuses, so … Also, Secret’s EE said on his stream he won’t be playing with former Cloud 9 teammate bone7. OG’s Moonmeander comments publicly on Digital Chaos player w33’s stream to rile up the fan base, and according to Chinese player shadow’s girlfriend, Wings is staying together, but also I can’t read Chinese, so I’m just assuming this one Reddit commenter knows what they’re talking about.
Shuffle season means trying to pull sense out of a slurry of deleted tweets and mumbled confessions on streams. All this volatility and obscurity is almost certainly bad for the sport as a whole, but not even Valve can cut out all the goofiness. Since the blog post about the changes to roster locks on Thursday, they’ve updated their FAQ to include the question “CAN I RE-ADD A PLAYER TO MY TEAM DURING THE ADD PERIOD THAT LEFT DURING THE DROP PERIOD?” with the downright diplomatic answer “Yes, any available player can be added.”
WELCOME TO JUSTIN’S AROUND THE MAP, STARRING PRIMAL GROUDON AS HIMSELF
Forget the Olympics—for real proof of American exceptionalism (USA USA USA USA), look no further than this weekend’s Pokémon World Championships, all three age brackets of which were swept by good ol’ homegrown American lads. I watched a bunch of Worlds, and I came away with the following conclusions:
1. In Pokémon, Ruleset Matters a Lot. Even with a stale, Legendary-dominated metagame, Worlds matches were intense, but I couldn’t help but imagine the additional skill ceiling and mind game complexity that would have come with a more diverse cast of viable characters. I would love to see a 2017 ruleset with fewer Legendaries, no “Mega” Pokémon whatsoever, and no Moody Smeargle. Somehow I think it’s unlikely, although since Worlds never surpassed the 30,000 viewer mark it set on day one, it’s not out of the question that The Pokémon Company will give a new, more restrictive ruleset a real close examination this time around.
2. Pokémon Needs Best-Of-Fives. In a game with this much adaptation and luck, it’s just not acceptable to decide championships in three games. I don’t care how good the games are; a 2-0 Grand Finals is never going to leave a good taste in my mouth. Get it together, Pokémon! Also, a more forgiving timer would be great—it’s extremely lame when somebody wins by running out the fifteen-minute clock, football comparisons aside. I’m sure twenty or twenty-five minutes would make for better games.
3. More Esports Should Have Age Divisions. Granted, this makes less sense in games like Dota 2 and Counter-Strike, which are far from kid-appropriate, but the twelve-year-olds battling it out for thousands of dollars were a highlight of the event.
4. Raichu is the Best Pokémon. Wolfe Glick’s Raichu was essential to his victory, landing many a clutch Volt Switch and Endeavor. Did The Pokémon Company rig the tournament so that the evolved form of their mascot would wind up on top? I’m not saying they did, just that I wouldn’t be mad if they did, because after watching this tournament I’m certain that Raichu is the greatest Pokémon there is.
Pokemon isn’t something that I’ve paid much attention to since I graduated from a bright yellow Gameboy, and competitive Pokemon even less so. Settling in for the last round of the Pokemon World Championship it became a bit more obvious what the hype was about.
The finals, which resulted in a championship win for “always a bridesmaid, never the bride” (weird metaphor to pull out for a Pokemon champ, commentators) Wolfe Glick, felt incredibly close for a series of best of three. Jonathan Evans (US) played a series of incredibly solid games and always felt just a moment from upsetting the match. I agree with Justin—Pokemon needs best-of-fives. It felt that Glick had the advantage winning first (as often happens with winning) and made the final championship game last just one more round. In a match a bit less hype, it would’ve felt a bit anti-climatic.