Sister teams in Counter Strike
Coming off of FACEIT Stage 3 Finals at Dreamhack winter 2015; Luminosity Gaming's miraculous success - defeating some of the most prominent names in Counter Strike: Global Offensive, including current world champions; EnVyUs - after what most would consider an erratic and perhaps bizarre roster change only 3 days prior to the event, prompted a thought in my head.
Luminosity as a team have had a pretty good track record thus far; in best of ones, defeating the like of Fnatic and TSM in some of the biggest upsets of the year. However, prior to their latest stint, they had struggled incredibly when it came to best of 3's. Failing to overcome any top ten team in best of 3's for the majority of the year rendered Luminosity a good team, but not a great one. A team capable of beating the best, but not when it mattered. As a result, the team was incapable of achieving the results they were determined to get - though, I'd imagine most North American teams would be overjoyed with a top 8 placement at valve sponsored majors, something luminosity has managed to accomplish 3 times in succession this year. Luminosity weren't so complacent, they were determined to achieve more... so they made roster changes, several in fact.
First change saw the addition of coldzera in place of zqks, a player who was initially unknown to the majority of the international fanbase. Coldzera was vital in much of Luminosity Gaming's, putting up result after result against some of the strongest teams in the world solidifying himself as one of the strongest rookies in the scene.
Three days prior to FACEIT Stage 3 Finals, we heard news of the removal of longstanding players, steel and boltz. To replace them, Luminosity Gaming's captain and leader, Fallen, had picked out 1.6 veteran fnx and his previous teammate TACO. Fnx veteran stature proved to be invaluable at the finals, making clutch after clutch against the best teams in the business to help carry his team to the finals.
These additions, both rookies and veterans, proved to be vital additions to the luminosity lineup. And one thing they all had in common... they were all previously members of Games Academy. A team founded by Luminosity Gaming's captain, Fallen.
Games Academy effectively doubled as a sister team for Luminosity Gaming. It gave them the opportunity to scout out promising talent while simultaneously giving them a practice partner from their home country that they could work with in full confidence.
So that brings me to my point; why haven't larger, more established organisations and teams taken advantage of having sister teams? Isn't it time the biggest names in Counter Strike start taking advantage of the opportunity they are given?
Let's take a look at the history of sister teams within esports. As i've only been in esports for half a century or so, we'll start with League of Legends.
Korea, what's wildly recognized as the mecca of esports, has been dominating League of Legends for years. For three years running the world champion has been a Korean team. Last year, the two strongest teams in the world were Samsung White and Samsung Blue. Up until this year, when RIOT implemented a rule that prevented organisations from maintaining more than one professional team, Korea had had a long history of acquiring sister teams that helped elevate the level of competition within the professional scene. Teams like CJ Entus, SK Telecom, Najin etc. all developed sister teams. Many analysts and fans alike believe sister teams were a significant factor in Korea's dominance.
It is believed that sister teams provided a better practice environment and a better opportunity for coaches and managers to scout out new players in case of potential roster changes within the future. Coldzera, fnx and taco being obvious evidence to this within CSGO but highlight some notable occurrences within League of Legends, we can take a look at the merger SK Telecom T1 S and SK telecom T1 K that lead SK Telecom to become the best team in the world this year. Or perhaps we could take a look at the Samsung roster change which involved swapping the midlaners of the respective teams. This resulted in Samsung White becoming the best team in the world with Samsung blue becoming the second best team in the world. Another example we have is former Fnatic toplaner huni, a former substitute of one of the Samsung teams. A promising Korean players who was scouted out early on, bought out by Fnatic and then finished in the semi finals of the League of Legends world championships.
A slightly more subtle example of this sort of system is what goes on within the domestic counter strike scenes. We have plenty of history of teams like Fnatic, Team Solo Mid and even the likes of Titan who have picked up unknown players from slightly weaker teams only to bring them on and have those players becomes stars in their own rights. One example of this are Olofmeister and Krimz, a duo formerly a part of the second best Swedish team, LGB.
A couple of months ago Coldzera was an unknown player to the vast majority of the community, he was just another player nobody had heard of. After joining Luminosity Gaming he became a superstar. He proved himself against the best players in the world and managed to prove himself as one of the best players within the scene. How many other promising talents out there that just need the opportunity to prove themselves? How many other talents out there can benefit from having the opportunity to grow and develop on a sister team only to be acquired by the main team a few months later and prove himself in front of the world?
I've mentioned this previously, but other than the potential for acquiring, growing and developing up and coming talent, the biggest argument for maintaining a sister team is the elevated, significantly improved practice that having a sister team provides. Now professional teams can practice and discuss strategies with teammates that they can have an increased level of trust in. They can practice set ups and be confident in their ability to pull it out on stage without any opponent ever having seen what secret strategy they've been working on. Having the freedom to work with teammates to figure out new strategies and go over stuff without needing to hold back, practice things over and over again, to your hearts content, because you're no longer practicing against your opponents, is an invaluable asset.
It's time that organisations start taking advantage of the opportunities they have. It's time for teams to start scouting and developing young talents like Coldzera. It's time for Counter Strike to move on to the next level of competition.