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Blog: Substitutes/6th player the future of CS:GO?

Blog: Are 6-man-rosters the future of the CS:GO pro scene?

Hello, my name is Alex and I am the main author of EsportFire.com. Due to the current developments on the part of Vitality, who were the first team to successfully implement a six man roster in 2020, I decided to write a small blog post today. In the following article you will get to know my thoughts on this topic and the different aspects, as well as pros and cons. This post, unlike our other articles on EsportFire.com, will be a subjective opinion. I would be very happy to receive feedback or other thoughts. Feel free to share them on Twitter (@EsportFirecom) or email me directly (alex@esportfire.com).


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Leading the way was Astralis, who signed Bubzkji from MAD Lions on July 31, 2020 after a tough year in 2020 in which Xyp9x and gla1ve were out for several weeks due to health issues. He made a few appearances on Nuke but was never really actively involved in the team. For the first time, Astralis' lineup consisted of six players on paper as early as March 2020 with the signing of es3tag.

However, the first team to really successfully implement the concept of a substitute was Vitality. The French signed Belgian Nivera on Oct. 16, 2020, who helped the team make their final breakthrough. By the end of last year, Vitality dominated the scene, winning the IEM Beijing and the BLAST Fall Series, among others. Natus Vincere also implemented a sixth player, named B1T, into their lineup at the top of the world and also had great success.

The trend seemed to go further and further in the development of substitutes, until Valve announced to punish substitutes with drastic points deductions at the RMR events and also at the Major, and thus more or less banned them. The teams will have to figure out how appropriate it would be to play certain maps at the Major with a different lineup.

The concept of rotating players has become commonplace in practically all physical team sports and is accepted as a matter of course. In contrast to conventional sports, mental stress is the primary factor behind team considerations in esports. Players must be able to play six, sometimes even seven maps perfectly, rehearse utility and learn strategies. This involves an enormous amount of time and effort. Correcting mistakes within the championship months further diminishes the already sometimes limited free time of the pros, and the mental pressure on the players increases.

Advantages of substitutes

The pressure of being forced to play every day on every map could be relieved or reduced with one or more substitutes. In the first approaches, a sixth player was usually only on two or at most three maps with the team. This step, for example, resulted in longer relaxation times for several players and thus had a positive effect.

With rotating players, teams could selectively engage specialists for certain maps/spots and let them play. Similar to American Football, for example, a change at half time would be conceivable. An "attack lineup" and a "defense lineup" would probably further increase the quality of the games, but would move Counter Strike further away from the original concept of "5 vs. 5". Even back then, Valve's goal with the coach regulation was to keep the professional area as close to the hobby players as possible.

Switching slots would allow more talent to be integrated into the lineup, for example by having young players take on just one map at first and then gradually becoming better integrated. The top teams can hardly afford such player trials in the stressful tournament schedule without having to fear a drop in results.

One or maybe even more integrated change players would offer the possibility to change depending on the day. Players could get smaller breaks when they need them and individual crises could be better compensated. On the other hand, the pressure of being replaced in a larger squad would further increase the players' motivation and probably all in all improve the quality of the lineup. It is questionable whether this kind of pressure does not lead to additional mental stress, which should originally be minimized with these approaches.

To sum up, the use of alternate players would reduce the pressure within the teams, increase the quality and give young talents a chance. So far so good, right?

Disadvantages of substitutes

The biggest and most significant disadvantage I see in rotating players is the increased reliance on capital. Financially strong top-teams could hire specialists for various maps and build large squads, while teams that are already struggling with the rising salaries of their current lineups would have a serious competitive disadvantage. This aspect alone rules out lineups with more than six or at most seven players for me.

The game would distance itself from the original characteristics of Counter Strike. Would a general acceptance of six man rosters also lead to a change in regional leagues/amateur competitions, such as the ESEA, 99Damage, etc.? If Valve were to one day condone the use of alternate players, it would be a huge change for the mindset of CS:GO. In my opinion, the player and fan scene is also as actively involved in the pro scene as they are because they can identify with it.

All in all, a general acceptance of substitutes would expand the gap between tier-1 and tier-2 teams. Financially weak organizations would have a clear disadvantage and the idea of equality of each lineup, which we all love about CS:GO, would be lost.


In my opinion, it would require a clear regulation, defined deployment options for alternate players and sufficient preparation time. With a timely announcement and appropriate time to get ready, even teams with fewer resources would have the opportunity to integrate young talent into their lineup and build it together with the team. This topic will certainly occupy the scene in the coming years. With the current regulations on the part of Valve, however, it makes no sense for any team to compete with a different lineup than the Major during the year.

Community feedback

Most of the community is of the opinion that alternate players would be a sensible development for the pro scene and would give talents the opportunity for further development as well as increase the general level. However, as long as Valve doesn't accept them in major tournaments, it doesn't make sense to pursue these approaches further.

Closing words

I hope you enjoyed this somewhat different article on EsportFire.com. You can find more everyday reports in the category "Daily Tips". I might try to do a small blog about current topics on a regular basis. If you have any questions or suggestions for topics, feel free to contact me on Twitter (@JALEXCSGO) or by email.

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