During this off-season we have already seen many changes to teams' rosters, but we analyse whether making roster changes are good or bad for Rocket League teams

20:00, 30 Apr 2020

Rocket League Esports functions in periods of three or four months. While half the time its RLCS season and rosters are locked for months at a time. And then once RLCS is done, we enter the off-season and top sides are free to make roster changes, and this happens regularly in the Rocket League Esports scene, arguably to a laughable amount. It often raises the question: Should teams be changing as often as they do, or is it better to have a stable unit established over time? That's what we’re here to examine today, looking at a variety of rosters from long-standing icons to squads with constantly rotating lineups. 

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

There are legitimate reasons as to why more rosters should stay the same and work past potential issues as opposed to blowing up teams after one poor result, and there are many examples of long-standing three-man rosters doing well. Obviously the most dominant sides of all time, the Gale Force/Dignitas dynasty of Kaydop, Turbopolsa & ViolentPanda had little reason to change over their 19-month reign of terror, from starting basically as the top side and never dropping outside the top two or three sides in the world. While they are an outlier, they absolutely fall into the camp of long standings roster. However, an underappreciated long-standing roster is the original Flipsid3 Tactics roster of kuxir97, Markydooda & M1k3Rules. In an era before RLCS was well established, and especially in the very first year of Rocket League as a game, let alone an esport, they stuck to their guns and would be the most dominant side of their time. It isn't coincidental that both these rosters would only change after a player left on their own terms.

If we’re talking all-time great trios, Cloud9’s roster has stood the test of time. As of writing, SquishyMuffinz, Gimmick & Torment are the current longest-standing three-man roster, and it’s hard not to see why. Up until 2019, they made top four at every major LAN attended, and even when that streak broke, they still perform to at worst a top eight side on LAN. However after a disastrous end to 2019, they very nearly made a roster change, but negotiations with various prospective thirds have broken down on multiple occasions, leading them stranded at the bottom of the league table. However, a miraculous turn of form led to them making the recent NA playoffs, which had five out of six rosters be unchanged from the previous season. Along with Dignitas reigning supreme in Europe after rumours of changes to their team composition, the case for keeping stable rosters may have never been stronger.

A Change for the good… or bad

Despite the success of stable rosters, it hasn’t stopped some highly controversial roster moves from happening over the years. Let’s address the elephant in the room, Complexity dropping Metsanauris for gReazymeister in mid-2018. Now say what you will about Greazy, but Metsa was in the middle of a truly terrific year, and within six months, he would be lifting the ELEAGUE cup with We Dem Girlz, while Complexity would demote out of RLCS. 

A more recent roster move that got a lot of praise was Satthew being removed from Spacestation Gaming. His roster featuring AxB & Sypical had just finished their first season in RLCS, and while they outperformed expectations to come 5th in NA, missing the world championship and a day one exit from Dreamhack Dallas led to a swift kicking of Satthew in favour of Arsenal. Now while Arsenal was obviously respected as a talented player, there were doubts on whether talent was the reason the move was made, or whether it was a mask to get a squad of friends together in RLCS. Regardless, the move worked a treat, as SSG have since come 2nd & 1st in the following RLCS league plays, 3rd-4th at the most recent RLCS world championship and in general are established as one of the top dogs in NA.

Even more recent was Renault Vitality’s decision to release Scrubkila in favour of forming an all-French roster with Alpha54. Now, Alpha54 is a talented player, but Scrubkilla quite arguably was the best performing player of 2019, often taking a starring role in a roster with Kaydop & FairyPeak by his side. While Vitality was expected to remain good, many thought that there was no way this roster could match the predecessor that had won a world title. However, despite no world championship to contend for this season, an 8-1 record in league play and 2nd in the regional championships are a great early showing as the arrival of a 3rd French player has reinvigorated the roster.

And while this may seem laughable in hindsight, cutting fan favourites Jacob & Kronovi from NRG & G2 respectively in favour of young guns Jstn & Chicago has propelled both sides to new heights.

So are roster changes a good or bad move?

So with positives and negatives on both sides, is keeping a stable trio better than cycling players in and out? The answer may seem to be a cop-out, but the truth is it’s ultimately circumstantial. Obviously hindsight makes some decisions look like 4-D chess but if we look at some examples. Compare Spacestation and Complexity’s aforementioned moves. SSG very clearly made an upgrade in talent with Arsenal replacing Satthew, while Complexity in bringing the aggressive minded Greazymeister for their key supportive element in Metsanauris was never going to elevate them above Dignitas liked they had hoped for. Titles aside, you could argue that Complexity side and Renault Vitality were in similar situations, both placing extremely well at the world finals, but with all due respect to al0t & Mognus, FairyPeak & Kaydop could have anyone as their 3rd player and still succeed, making the move for Alpha54 ultimately low risk.

In terms of remaining unchanged, generally, if a roster doesn’t make the RLCS finals, they generally make a roster move. The only sides to not do this are G2 & C9 from this past season and Flipsid3 Tactics from mid-2018. Now while C9 did try to change, both them & G2 were ultimately justified in their decisions to stay put, as, despite the disaster of RLCS season eight, that was only “one bad result”. F3 is lesser-known, but despite failing to make the season five finals in London, winning the Norther Arena EU qualifiers and 3rd place at the LAN itself.

So ultimately, it’s impossible to say that constant roster changes or roster stability are superior, no two sides have the exact same circumstances.

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Image via ZeeboDesigns

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