Chauster blog: The Decline of NA Competitive Skill

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With the recent announcement of Scarra’s relinquishing of his position, I thought that it would be a good time to talk about League of Legends and its competitive skill level. There have been lots of discussion going on in the past few years regarding how stagnant the NA competitive scene seems to be. Players that were really good back in the day now seem to have tapered off, yet there are very few new players who can easily fill in their shoes. Is this a phenomenon of NA solo queue being useless due to incessant trolling and raging? Or are the players and management to blame for not being “open minded” to trying out new potential candidates? I am of the opinion that the potential player pool is lacking because players do not improve significantly over time.

The players that we all know and love are all popular for a reason: they can play the game. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Scarra was one of the biggest reasons that Dignitas was a top 3 team in NA for such a long period of time. This sentiment extends out to Reginald for TSM, Saint/Voyboy for CRS, and to Hotshot/Jiji/myself for CLG. After a few years, people would naturally assume that better players would come and surpass us. The sad thing to realize is that at any given time (with proper preparation of course) any one of these old players could come back from retirement to play and do well in the LCS. I believe this is possible because the skill ceiling of players is reached too quickly with almost no room to grow. How many players can you name that weren’t good early in their career and eventually became superstars without a major flaw? If you were considered a legitimately good player years back, you will always be a legitimately good player. All of the old players who never reached the professional stage were never really at that skill level in the first place, and the people who are in the limelight have always been at that skill level.

Many people think that solo queue players at the Challenger level are good players, and capable of being good performers in the LCS. While I know that are a few good Challenger level players, I think this mentality is very flawed. Many Challenger level players have no idea about game flow and lack the knowledge needed to play at a competitive level. The reason solo queue players are unable to match up to the LCS players is because solo queue itself plays completely different than a competitive game. Objectives are almost never prioritized, and the atmosphere is very casual and relaxed. LCS players are supposed to be the motivators here, but after a long day of scrimming it is very hard to continue to play like a robot to perfect execution and decision making. Because of this, the solo queue players who needed the game flow lessons are left short handed, and the scene suffers as a whole. This lowers the player pool for viable competitors, making recruiting new faces increasingly difficult.

If all of the current LCS teams suddenly died to a meteorite and LCS would have to rebuild every team from scratch, the skill level would be significantly lower than the current teams. The amount of competitively viable players is far too low. The amateur scene has been growing and is probably the best source to choose potential replacements, but it still is not enough. This is why you will still see old faces lingering here and there. Players who have shown that they were competitive early in their career will continue to be competitive.

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by Steve Chau, on March 31, 2014