Astralis recently announced that they have signed Patrick “es3tag” Hansen as a 6th player on their CS:GO roster. Different teams might try to utilize an extra player on their roster for different reasons, depending on their situation, but broadly speaking these reasons can be split into two main categories. The first being that they believe that they can create a roster of six players that will be able to perform better across the map pool than they would be able to with five players. The second category and the one I believe will be the most common, is mainly of convenience and not performance.
No team has implemented a six player roster in CS:GO yet, (not at the highest level) but for the first reason — the idea would be to create a team of six players that could perform better on the server than they would be able to with five. This would entail something like having a 6th player come in and replace one player on one map and another player on another map, (positions on maps you might feel to be your weakest links.) So in theory you would want a player who would be exceptionally good at just two or three positions or roles on two or three maps, that lined up with your weakest players on those maps.
Now I don’t really see this happening — even if everything lined up and you could somehow quantify your worst players in certain positions on certain maps and then you could find some kind of ‘map specialist’ to come in and replace those positions, this kind of situation would be so rare and unlikely I don’t think that’s how teams will try and use a 6th player. The rules on this kind of a scenario are also not clear and it might not even be possible. I suspect tournaments would require teams to select the five players they are planning to use way ahead of time, (in a scenario where they know the team has six players on their roster) but I won’t go too much into this, as these rules could change and maybe this will be a possibility in the future.
So that brings us to the second and far more likely scenario of teams using a 6th player on their roster — the convenience of it. A team would look for a capable 6th player to have on their roster, who will participate in practices and try to learn and understand what he would need to do for each role as best he can. This would probably involve being in the spectator position majority of the time, something similar to an analyst or assistant coach, occasionally being subbed in to play. This would allow teams to continue to practice on days or nights where one player has a personal commitment or needs a day off.
For smaller events or if a player is going through a slump, the 6th player might then be given a chance and take over a player’s position for a period of time. Perhaps even permanently, if he can perform at a higher level than the player he replaced. In some team environments this might also provide motivation for the starting five players and just having a player on the bench, waiting for an opportunity, might improve performance. This might also have a negative effect though — depending on the personalities and team culture.
In a recent interview with HLTV, Danny “zonic” Sørensen commented that,
“We will have six players on the team, not five and a substitute. Some will play more than others, but we focus on long-term performance and the health of the players, and I do think everybody will sit out a tournament.”
Further adding that,
“A really important issue in our considerations regarding the sixth player is rest and taking away a burden from the shoulders of the players.”
Honestly I don’t really think Astralis have worked this out entirely yet and don’t know exactly how they will use es3tag, but to me it sounds like they will be using him for the convenience factor. When it comes to the biggest and most prestigious events, they will be using the best five players available to them. Players who have specialized in doing their specific role or job in the server, are aware of every detail and have mastered it to the best of their ability. They won’t be using a ‘jack of all trades’ that can kind of do each role, but not to the highest level.
Overall I don’t see many teams using 6th players on their rosters, I think most teams would find it difficult to even find a player who is of the required caliber, that would be willing to be a 6th player. This might only be a possibility for the absolute best teams in the world, without facing a significant performance drop of having to use a lesser player. If 6th players are used — I believe they will be used predominantly to reduce the burden of the starting five players and not in the form of a ‘hot-swappable’ player, coming in on certain maps that he is a specialist in.