Image Courtesy of Riot Games
‘League of Legends’, or LoL, has been the most played game in the world since 2012. Riot Games has held control over the online gaming scene for over half a decade. If you identify as a gamer, then you have definitely heard of LoL. League of Legends is a complicated game that has a steep learning curve, but with knowledge comes power.
League of Legends is often categorized as a MOBA, or multiplayer online battle arena, but League has a lot of different genre elements. MOBAs typically have RTS, or real time strategy, components throughout the game. In a nutshell, League of Legends can be described as a MOBA that has two teams, five players each, fight against each other with an objective in mind. MOBAs, like League of Legends, often require more dexterity and strategy than a lightning-fast trigger finger reactions.
League of Legends is one of the most in-depth games out there to play and isn’t known for its shallow learning curve. It is a frustrating and unforgiving game but can be very rewarding at the same time. Organizing strategies and becoming familiar with each champion are all daunting tasks. Over time players will be pulling off new strategies and falling into the norm, while the skill gap continues to excel. League of Legends is an ever-changing game and that is one of the main reasons it remains at the top.
League of Legends has six different categories for champions:
Every champion has a combination of abilities and one perk to create a unique combination. There is a lot of information to absorb that can leave new players feeling uneasy. Players with thousands of hours understand how each champion plays, what champions are the best selections for a match, and an in-depth understanding of the game’s mechanics. Putting five players together and expecting results is a poor choice in League, as there is a lot to consider. Every champion and player has a role, and they need to perform that role perfectly.
One of the main goals is to destroy enemy structures like turrets. Turrets can deal a lot of damage, and if there are no other minions or champions or around, they will deal that damage towards that one champion. When attacking a turret, champions need as many minions attacking as possible. If a team destroys an enemy’s inhibitor, it will grant a super minion for five minutes.
In order to fight and keep up against the enemy team, a champion needs to level up. Leveling up requires experience, which is gained from kills. Killing minion grants a little experience, while killing an enemy champion awards quite a bit more. Killing minions in the early stages of a match is crucial, as this is the most efficient way to gain gold and experience. As a player gains more experience and gold, they can spend them on leveling up abilities or buying items. It is important to know that experience is shared between the surrounding champions that are nearby a kill, but not for gold. The act of “last-hitting” is one of the most important and fundamental skills a League of Legends player can develop.
Gold allows players to buy items which grant champions bonuses. There are different bonuses that can effect champions, like passive armor boosts, or a temporary shield. There are over 200 items in League of Legends, and figuring out the right “build” is a time-draining task. For new players, the game offers hints and recommendations for item builds. There are thousands of build strategies, but selecting the right one for your play style is important to succeeding. A build strategy that might work for your friend may not work for you.
Establishing lane control is vital in League of Legends. If a champion is not establishing control over their lane, then a champion will consequently fall behind in leveling. Lane control is established by killing minions and enemies, leveling up, and defending turrets and structures. If a champion clears and controls and lane, they will have a direct line of sight towards the enemy’s base.
There are open areas between each lane called the jungle. The jungle is where monster camps are that spawn unique monsters every few minutes. The jungler’s job is to destroy these monsters as they provide buffs to the entire team or individual champions. Killing the monsters at the right time in order to activate these abilities can be an important momentum shift.
North America has historically lagged behind other regions due to the fact that Europe and Asian teams have had more time to perfect their craft. Organizations have dedicated years to working out the kinks and imperfections that have existed within the esports community, which North America is beginning to pick up. For instance, North American teams are beginning to move out of a relaxed team house atmosphere into a professional environment.
In 2018, North America moved into a franchising system where teams do not have to fight for relegation. Instead of teams worried and fighting for a place in the split, teams can take some time to develop teams and personalities. Some results are starting to show, while others are still taking time to show their potential.
Team Liquid has been a rock throughout the North American league for years. The organization has recently invested in a complex for their teams and staff to work and have a designated location to call home. The team tripped over themselves throughout 2017, however, they overhauled their roster with part of the Immortals squad. The Immortals made it to worlds last year, and the additions are a clear improvement to their roster.
During the 2018 Spring Split, Team Liquid had a solid start as the roster began to show their potential. Throughout the split, they began to falter and inconsistencies began to show. The team fought through their lack of team synergies between top players Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung and made it to the spring playoffs. After defeating the new 100 Thieves organization, Team Liquid obtained their first-ever LCS title.
As I mentioned before, 100 Thieves is the new team in town. The spring split was the first split 100 Thieves participated in as a team and rebranded organization. Owned by prior professional Call of Duty player, Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag, the new owner had something to prove. 100 Thieves as an entire organization certainly proved that they were not to be taken lightly.
On paper, the roster is a top three team. As new synergies begin to develop, the team will naturally settle into comfort and their positions. The spring split made it obvious that the team was new as the rest of the rosters have had months, sometimes years, to gather experience playing together as a squad. In the beginning, 100 Thieves only had months to prepare. The likely-hood that 100 Thieves would perform well was low, but they proved everybody wrong. They came out swinging and placed 2nd at the NALCS 2018 Spring Championship.
If you are familiar with esports at all then you will recognize Team SoloMid, or TSM. TSM performed well in North America during the 2017 season. They stood on shaky ground throughout 2017, but they finished 1st in the regular season. They stomped Team Dignitas and Immortals to take home their third title in a row, which was a first for the NA LCS.
TSM walked into 2018 with a roster shakeup, as they bought on EULCS stars Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen, Alfonso “Mithy” Rodriguez, and the unproven Mike “MikeYeung” Yeung. After an up-and-down 2018 spring split, TSM finished in a three-way tie for third with Clutch Gaming, Cloud 9, and Team Liquid. The tiebreaker would be determined by a tiebreaker series, which TSM won to claim 3rd place. Unfortunately, TSM lost to Clutch Gaming. This loss would mark the first time TSM would not be at the NALCS. Do not expect this loss to shut down TSM, as they will use that loss as motivation to come back swinging stronger than ever.
We can’t end this section without mentioning some of the best Asian teams, as they are inarguably the best in the world. NA teams have historically struggled against Asian teams. Some would say NA teams are the equivalent of minor league baseball teams as Asian teams are comparable to MLB All-Stars. There is simply no comparison.
SK Telecom T1 is a professional Korean organization based out of South Korea. SK Telecom T1 is the only team to win the world championships three times, along with the only team to hold the unofficial “triple crown”. The “triple crown” in League means that the team has won Intel Extreme Masters, the Mid-Season Invitational, and Worlds. The title remains “unofficial” due to the fact these titles were not won within the same season, however, the achievements are still career-defining. In fact, SK Telecom T1 is considered to be one of the best esports teams of all time.
For the first time in League of Legends history, the same teams faced each other in back to back years, as SK Telecom T1 faced Samsung Galaxy. Samsung Galaxy has always been a team that poked at SK Telecom T1, but Faker and his squad always seemed to land on top.
Samsung Galaxy swept SK Telecom T1 in a 3-0 final series to lift the Summoner’s Cup and break SK Telecom T1’s winner’s streak. Samsung Galaxy managed to not only knock the SK Telecom T1 team off their throne, but they did so with a clean sweep. It’s a piece of history we cannot ignore.
Several League players face the fan-fatigue that NBA or NFL players live through. Lebron is considered one of the best basketball players to ever live, but another basketball fan may think the opposite. As esports grow and expand, fan views and opinions weigh heavily on players.
Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg is a mid-laner for TSM and is considered one of the best NALCS players. Even as Bjergsen struggled throughout the split, on paper, he still managed to lead the league in KDA and kills. Regardless of the TSM roster change, adding three new players, Bjergsen proved his place in NA… again.
Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black has been playing League since 2011 as he appeared with multiple teams. Since his start, he has made his mark time and time again throughout NALCS. Aphromoo took home the prize and recognition as MVP of the spring split, which was a first for an NA support player. His ability to make plays and support his team has launched the new 100 Thieves organization past the “new guys on the block” tag. Aphromoo isn’t just a rock to the team, but he is one of the most entertaining players to watch.
Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok is a South Korean League of Legends player for SK Telecom T1. Faker is known for his highly technical gameplay along with the ability to play almost any champion flawlessly. Faker is one of the only players, along with his former teammate Bae “Bengi” Seong-ung, to have won the world championship three times. SK Telecom T1 offered a new contract to Faker with an “unprecedented” offer that would keep him on the team. After SK Telecom T1 got swept during the 2017 world championships, you can expect to see Faker take that anger and turn it into an in-game beating.
The League of Legends World Championship is the yearly professional championship hosted by Riot Games. At the end of each season, teams compete in the championship for the title, the 70-pound Summoner’s Cup, and the $1 million championship check. In 2017 over 60 million people tuned in to watch the championship, which crushed the previous year’s record of 50 million. The LOLWC has been praised for its ceremonial performances and broadcasting quality. In 2017, over $2 million was raised through sales of the 2017 Worlds Championship Ashe skin, which went towards player salaries and prize pools.
The Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) is a yearly League of Legends tournament that has been held since 2015. It is the second-most important tournament of the year besides the World Championship. The MSI marks the half point of the season as the Spring Split champions from each of the five major regions compete. The MSI features five of the major competitive teams from each regional league along with a wildcard team from a lesser-known region. The wildcard team is picked through the International Wildcard Invitational, which is held a few weeks before MSI.
Rift Rivals, or RR, is a series of cross-regional tournaments hosted and organized by Riot Games. Regions participate in five concurrent competitions which put teams against their closest rival regions. There are a total of 14 regions that compete, and they are chosen by who placed the best in their individual region. Each region is separated into two or three teams while they participate at international LAN tournaments.
Here are how the regions break down:
As of 2018, there are 14 professional ‘League of Legends’ leagues around the world. As for the LOLWC, or League of Legends World Championship, there are 5 premier leagues that have 3 allocated spots, while the rest are split between the 9 remaining regions.
Here is how it breaks down:
League has a worldwide professional scene that has been established with regional leagues along with numerous annual international tournaments. Hundreds of players around the world practice daily to keep up in ranks. Along with gaming comes additional training like agility workouts, mechanical skills, teamwork, and personality training.
Most professional gamers retire around the age of 21-23. It has been scientifically proven that reaction times begin to lower around late teens to the early 20s. However, even after competitive gaming, players continue to establish their brands.
Many pros stream themselves playing and practicing so fans and supporters can interact with them. Many players will practice for 6-8 hours a day with their team through scrimmages and game footage, however, that is not shown to the public. Most of the fun starts around dinner time when players are out of “work”.
Imagine sitting down and watching Payton Manning or Steph Curry warm up for a game. Imagine asking questions towards the best players in the game, and interacting with them on a one-on-one basis. This is how streaming helps propel players to household names. Players are allowed to interact and chat with fans while answering questions and helping newcomers with strategies and tips.
We have talked before about how complicated League can be, however, Riot Games is on the case. Each game that is streamed online, there is a cast of commentators and announcers whose jobs are to explain the game and breaking down the hype. Of course over time League will be easier to follow. Until then, Riot knows how complicated League can be on the surface, so they have you covered.