I never thought I would say this, but time and again, the squads brought back strictly for their Major invite keep on stinking up the competition.

Power to the players

In many ways, the Counter-Strike Majors represent the apex of player power, the triumph of an open circuit. Any five-stack can join the open qualifiers and make it all the way if they have the prowess to do so, with no backing or franchising required. Stories like the ex-BNE squad, currently playing under the auspices of Guild, are part and parcel of what makes this esport so fantastic to follow.

This open and player-centric approach to the Major is also exemplified by the way the invitations are handled: after some controversies in the past, it is now well-established that the majority of the squad gets the golden ticket rather than the organization that fielded them. It is an intelligent and equitable solution, one I was super happy to see back in the day.

Looking back at the first stage of the Copenhagen Major, I kind of want to see it abolished, though?

It’s a bit of a sacrilegious statement and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it just yet. But seeing the level of play on display by some of the teams certainly made me wish for the presence of some stronger competitors.

RIP Pick’Ems

Didn’t we all expect just a little bit more from Apeks? Personally, I had them squeaking past to the next stage, but going 0-3 was a heck of a surprise from the world #14 team (rating-related warts and all). Comfortable wins against underdogs in their RMR CS2 matches, a close-fought series with Cloud9, a win over fellow qualifiers ECSTATIC with a big comeback to secure their spot in Copenhagen – it seemed good enough. Ultimately, it wasn’t.

But they weren’t the only ones who grossly underperformed in the opening stage, and it feels like there is a common thread running through some of these squads: they were the ones hastily (re)assembled from rejected pieces of previous Major invitees to secure a spot in the RMRs. ENCE, admittedly in a desperate situation, picked up the 9INE core, and had it not been for their heroics in Katowice, this run would not have been that big of a surprise considering the upheaval. Meanwhile, the former Bad News Eagles squad, now with Guild, failed to even qualify this time around.

Going back further in the past, rosters of this kind – assembled with a Major spot in mind from discarded parts of previous squads – never really made an impression. Rather, they repeatedly justified why those teams and rosters were cut in the first place. Remember Double Poney at Flashpoint 3, or even 100Thieves’ failed gambit at the Boston Major?

Hell, even the reunification of Astralis’ Major-winning quintet for Stockholm generated a whimper instead of a bang. Past performances are no guarantees of future results, and there’s a reason why the FACEIT London Major saw a new rule implemented that specifically excluded 0-3 teams from getting another invite, with teams like Cloud9 and Virtus.pro stinking up the place for way too long.

The combination of sticker money and nostalgia will always push rosters to stick rather than twist, but if orgs had the freedom to revamp their squad how they see fit, we’d see fewer uncompetitive squads in the RMR and in the opening stage of the Major. I’m all for letting players earn and hold on to the opportunities they deserve, but do they really deserve it many months after the fact, especially when they have already got themselves the first boatload of sticker money to stash away? Maybe it’s time for a rethink. Look at how well Heroic cobbled together a team after losing their core, while those who picked up their parts struggled in their wake.

Also, can we just note how stupid the new stage names are? We’ve now got the elimination matchups of the Opening Stage to contend with, followed immediately by the opening matches in the Elimination Stage. Tomorrow, the elimination matches in the Elimination Stage will continue. Anyone with a sprinkling of branding, please? This isn’t Valorant.

But hey, it’s been pretty solid stuff so far, and we ultimately ended up getting some stickers sometime before Hell froze over. Onwards and upwards!