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Lost in the shuffle: Fixing Valve's flawed roster system

Steffie Wunderl/ESL

One day before rosters officially lock until after this year's world championship, the Dota 2 scene is in an uproar over the dealings and transactions that have occurred over the past week. Reigning Major champions Team Secret made the biggest moves of the short offseason, unloading impressive rookie player Aliwi "w33" Omar and off-laner Rasmus "MiSeRy" Filipsen in favor of the star-powered duo of Evil Geniuses' Artour "Arteezy" Babaev and the player many believed was the MVP of the last International, Saahil "UNiVeRsE" Arora.

On paper, Team Secret is one of the most electrifying teams in Dota 2 history. A prodigy in Arteezy. The in-your-face carrying ways of Jacky "EternaLEnVy" Mao. The consistent cog of UNiVeRse. Johan "pieliedie" Åström's succeedingly selfless style in the support role. And Clement "Puppey" Ivanov at the the helm, arguably the greatest captain in the game's history and one of its most prolific players.

Who wouldn't try and create this roster if given the chance?

The biggest controversy from this shuffling period is the fact that w33 and MiSeRy, only weeks removed from winning the Shanghai Major, were removed from the team with only days remaining before the rosters locked. Evil Geniuses' move of Kurtis "Aui_2000" Ling following last year's International is the best comparison to the Team Secret situation, but even then EG gave their former player enough time to find a new home with Digital Chaos without having to rush into a decision.

"Rasmus 'Misery' Filipsen and Omar 'w33' Aliwi were both removed from the team in favor of Universe and Arteezy," stated Team Secret in its official press release of the team's new starting five. "While we saw success with our previous roster, we still felt that the team had not reached its full potential. The former Evil Geniuses players felt that they needed to make a change in who they played with as well and chose to join us in becoming a part of Team Secret."

Your first instinct is to hate Team Secret. What kind of team wins a major championship in dominating fashion and then kicks two of its starters only days before the rosters lock? If it were going to cut them, couldn't it have done it a week or two ago and allow them the chance to sign with another established organization instead of scrambling in disarray?

From multiple sources involved in the transaction, the two Evil Geniuses players only agreed to move to Team Secret hours before the news started to leak out on social media. This put Secret in a situation where it would have gone into the upcoming Manila Major and the sixth International with its former roster, but had to pull the trigger when it was formally told the two EG stars wanted to switch over.

In esports, people want a right side and a wrong side. I mean, at the end of the day, esports is all about entertainment, right? People want good guys to root for, and they also want to have players and teams they can root against for being the villains. Whenever a new drama pops up -- from roster transactions to in-team drama -- the community wants to take a side as quickly as possible.

Oh, you kicked two of your Major-winning players with only four days before rosters locked? I'm rooting against you from now on!

Or, on the opposite spectrum, you have people who think Team Secret is in the right. Dota 2 is now an esport where millions are on the line. The next International could have the biggest prize pool in competitive video game history. If you're given one shot to put together a full-fledged dream team, wouldn't you be stupid not to take it?

Team Secret isn't dastardly for what it did, yet at the same time, this situation isn't right for MiSeRy and w33.

The real villain here is Valve's current system of roster locks. While I'm in complete favor of having lengthy locks of teams, as the past years of Dota 2 have been plagued with constant player turnover and stand-ins, the present contemplation is completely flawed. In no world do you want a player like w33, a young player who has established himself as one of the game's fastest rising talents, on the sidelines desperately looking for a new team before the clock runs out.

The answer to this problem is having two separate locks in the offseason. First, you would have a player drop-off lock. After the date you set, a team can no longer drop players from its roster. So if you have players you don't think are working or could be upgraded, you drop them before the clock hits zero on that date.

Then, one or even two weeks following the drop-off lock, you have the roster lock. This would give teams, big and small, the chance to look at the free agents on the market and decide which players they'd like to have contract discussions with. It would allow the players enough time to find a team if they're unexpectedly dropped, and it'll allow all squads around the world a chance to talk to a free agent if they're interested.

If this were in place two weeks ago, the EG duo would have been forced to either leave the team before the drop-off lock ends or stay with the Geniuses. If they still decided to move over to Team Secret, then w33 and MiSeRy would have been dropped into the free-agent pile, and they would have been given enough time to possibly find a tier-one team to sign with.

Fortunately, when the dust settled, the two former Secret members did find a new team to sign with. Along with Roman "Resolut1on" Fominok, Martin "Saksa" Sazdov, and David "Moo" Hull, the duo will attempt to exact some revenge on their former team with their new squad in the upcoming months.

Dota 2's chaotic shuffle periods are one of the game's trademarks. It's fun to follow, exciting to see the new "dream teams" form, and it sets up interesting narratives heading into the next competitions. While it shouldn't go away, it should change -- for the better of the players who don't want their careers to be lost in that shuffle.