Gale Force Esports–Analyzing the roster shuffle

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As most fans are already aware, yesterday Gale Force Esports announced a change to their roster. They have released Equinox and Khroen from the starting lineup. The split appears to be largely amicable between all parties (which certainly speaks to an elevation in the professionalism of the organization since the drama around Fury’s departure).

Now, for the general HOTS fanbase this news is met with PTSD-levels of disappointment. We’ve been subject to many so-called “rosterpocalypse” events in the past, and this change likely signals another such event. However, I believe the actual roster decision itself warrants further scrutiny, and has the potential to be good for all parties involved. Today, I want to examine this change from the perspective of all three parties–Equinox, Khroen, and GFE–and discuss how the move can be beneficial for each, and how it could ultimately be yet another reactionary decision that does not address any inherent team issues.

Equinox

At this point, it appears that Equinox is a known quantity within the Heroes community. He is clearly skilled enough to continue finding work, but not so overwhelmingly dominant so-as to cement a role on any roster for long. There have been comments of toxicity issues in the past, but nothing has been confirmed about that regarding this decision, so it would be irresponsible to assume that team in-fighting had anything to do with the move. Instead, we must examine it purely from a tactical, compositional angle.

GFE tried an experiment with Equinox–they brought in a vocal, talented player and attempted to mold him into their warrior player. Equinox appears to have some leadership qualities, so having a strong voice in that role, even if there was a learning curve for the mechanical play, made sense given the dirth of warriors in NA. Clearly, GFE has determined that the experiment has failed. I have two theories as to why. The first is based on data and history, the other is wild speculation. Lets do data first!

I’ve written recently about the importance of players knowing their role and playing within it. It’s a philosophy I gained from Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter. He said that 95% of NFL pros are “system players” meaning that they can only actually have hall-of-fame-worthy careers if they play in the right system. Cris Carter on the Vikings was one of the best to do it. He himself admitted that in another system he very well could have just had an average career. I believe that Equinox has identified himself as a system player.

This is no disrespect to Equinox at all. As Cris Carter said, the overwhelming majority of players are system players. Equinox needs to be in a system where he can shine as a melee assassin. If he can find a team that has a system can properly utilize a melee assassin player, he will quickly rise back to the top of the league.

My second thought is based on nothing more than observation and conjecture. I could be completely wrong. I encourage anyone from GFE to correct me, and I will make an edit to this section. One of the reasons GFE said they were bringing in Equinox was to have a vocal leader in the Warrior position. However, the team already had two of the loudest, most influential players in the region in Fan and MichaelUdall. Aside from the “VP Core” memes, Udall seems to be a very strong shotcaller. Fan has also proven to be a solid voice in comms in the past, when his team is on point. My theory is that these two players combined with Equinox lead to a sub-optimal shotcalling situation for the team. This is a team that likely needs a clear voice in comms, and it can be very difficult to make transitions in shotcalling, especially while players are also transitioning in roles. Between a sub-optimal role and a sub-optimal communication plan, Equinox was simply not the right fit for GFE.

Khroen

I do not understand the Khroen move from GFE’s perspective. Even if they pick up Kure or K1pro, those are not necessarily upgrades over Khroen at the ranged assassin position. However, GFE was suffering from misuse of both Udall and Khroen, so one had to go (assuming they were going to keep Fan).

Because of GFE’s lack of clear structure, this move could ultimately be beneficial for Khroen. Like Equinox, this is a player with clear strengths, and a team should look to play to those strengths. GFE’s downfall started in earnest when they stopped using Khroen to his fullest, and tried to get too clever with their drafting. A team with Khroen lobbing damage from the backline and occasionally darting in with Tracer is a terrifying team.

Gale Force Esports

The success of this move will ultimately be determined by the moves GFE makes next. To me, there is still the fundamental issue of what to do with Fan and Udall. Both appear to be at their best in the Melee position, which doesn’t work. Thus far I have been underwhelmed by Udall as a flex player compared to his time as a melee. However, if Fan does not want to move to the true flex role, the team is at an impass now.

My ideal scenario for GFE would be this–keep Fan at melee, pickup a true ranged assassin to replace Khroen, and move Udall to the Warrior spot. He has played the role in the past, and puts their most vocal player filling the role they had hoped to have for Equinox. Lastly, I would find a true flex player who is young in the scene, and take the time to train them up. This is a proven process for MOBA teams, and I think GFE has the time and resources to do it.
Currently there are rumors floating about Caff and K1 filling these two spots. I would be entirely against the move because I do not think it would do anything to solve the inherent issues in communication, or the issue of Udall’s role on the team. That said, if GFE does choose to go this route, a good coach should be able to use the offseason to iron out the communication issues, and work specifically with Udall on solidifying a flex hero pool that fits his style and the team’s needs.

Grab a player from the amateur scene with a diverse hero pool and clear mechanical talent. Make sure his pool fills the gaps in the rest of the roster. You have an entire offseason and first split of summer to prepare this player to become a star that will help you get to Blizzcon.

The worst thing that GFE can do is look to plug their holes with the best available hole-filler currently in the league. As we said before, a team needs to make sure that its players actually fit into that team’s system. If they just grab two talented players who fill the warrior and assassin/flex role, those players may not properly fit the system GFE and its coach want to play. By getting a young player from the amateur scene, GFE can groom him and mold him to fit their system.

Ultimately, I am intrigued by this move by GFE, and excited to see what ripples this move creates within the rest of the league. Personally, the offseason is my favorite time in any sport because I love seeing how teams make these sorts of moves.
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