NA League of Legends Talent

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NA talent

Let me preface this blog by saying that compared to most people I have quite a bit of experience with tryouts for LCS teams. On dignitas, we had tryouts for the top lane position twice and I held an extensive tryout period with CLG for both the jungle and mid lane positions. I went through hundreds of applicants and came to a pretty tame conclusion. North American talent is harder to find than most people think due to a variety of different factors.

So mechanical they call him a robot

“Just pick up someone mechanically skilled and teach them how to play this role” is something I hear quite frequently, but very rarely do I find players that are even as mechanically gifted in their role as their peers are in the LCS. Even disregarding mechanics, a lot of a player’s strengths come from their game sense, which is a factor that’s not only hard to quantify but also extremely hard to work on specifically. Other qualities like communication, playmaking ability, and teamwork capability are factors that are extremely important in a player as well and sometimes hard to guage.

These kind of non-mechanical qualities were extra important in earlier seasons because without a support staff to help the players go through stuff, knowledge that might seem rudimentary to some might be missing in other players, and building off of an incomplete knowledge foundation causes a lot of problems later on in a player’s career. Things like where to stand in a level one or how to stay grouped may seem easy at first, but if one player isnt on the right page and it isn’t immediately obvious then there can be problems down the line when you try to expand the complexity of your strategies.

This also means that finding players that were very good at being self-critical and having ways and means of consistent self-improvement were very highly sought after, and even now I would say that it’s a very important factor with the newness of western coaches and support staffs.

Are training wheels necessary

Now with all of this being said, don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect to pick up players with LCS knowledge, LCS mechanics, and LCS game sense, but a lot of the time, people get the wrong message about scouting talent.

One of the hardest things to do is identify talent you can train. I personally use a combination of watching how they play, talking to the player, and seeing what kind of responses to certain stimuli or requests that I get. I try to meet all three of these and more during my process with CLG where I took potential candidates through the phases of written application, verbal interview process, and playing scrims with the actual roster. What i’m looking for typically is to identify player intelligence, motivations to play the game, communication levels, the type of player they are, game sense, mechanical skill, as well as growth potential and what type of teammate the player is when placed in a squad of five.

Additionally I look at what the role I need on the team is. Do I need a heavy shotcaller? A player who has super strong map sense with a good idea of vision control? Someone who’s extremely strong and self sufficient given very limited resources? All of these questions are important to ask yourself when scouting players. If you get a player for the wrong role or get a player that doesnt’ have upward growth, you’re frankly out of luck.

How do I find the best trainable players? To answer that question I’m going to look at another question I get asked quite a bit.

“How do i go pro?” Quite frankly the simplest answer is be very high rated in solo Q. Especially now when there’s such a visible challenger ladder, I promise you people scout players by just going to the challenger ladder and going from rank 1 and downwards. It sounds silly and a lot of people will say solo q isn’t an indication of exact skill, but a lot of times it’s a pretty strong indicator in terms of dedication to the game, mechanical skill, and just raw abililty to play the game. Here’s a list of players who were regarded as people who smashed NA soloq : Pobelter, Shipthur, Link, Quas, Altec, and WildTurtle. I’m obviously missing some but generally these are all players who have at some point had 3+ accounts in the top 50 of challenger. These players need no introduction because you see them on a week by week basis in the LCS.

The P-word: Oh how I loathe thee

Growth potential is another thing I’d like to talk about. I’ve already established that I think that very few challenger players are comparable with top tier LCS players in their respective roles at the moment that they get scouted. Only some players can ever grow into being monsters at their respective roles. By what factors can you use to establish future monsters though? I typically agree that potential is pretty meaningless. If a player is good you’ll immediately know that he’ll have a good chance at excelling based on your initial impression of the player after a few sets of scrims. However, once I find a player, I have to trust in his ability to grow to outperform LCS players to some extent.

A lot of times, especially when you’re scouting to find talent that is world if not near-world class, there is a luck factor because, at some point, you are indeed working around potential and “potential” becomes a necessary evil to judging player growth. It’s just a risk you are forced to take sometimes if you want to stay within the region.

Some top teams however tend to scout professional players in other major regions because it eliminates a lot of X factors in terms of potential. You tend to know what you’re going to get with certain players in terms of mechanical skill as well as other in game factors. However other problems can occur like team synergy, language barriers, and cultural differences that you have to keep in mind to see if the pros of the foreign talent outweighs the cons.

Drowning in the desert

Then there’s the real kicker: certain roles in NA just lack top tier talent.

The top and support roles have a derth of talent in both positions. I’m not really sure why, but for some reason there seems to just not be much western talent in either role especially in the amateur scenes. What this means is that you tend to settle for stuff. I feel like a lot of mistakes that happen in those respective roles get a lot of leniency just because of the lack of skilled players in those roles.

For top lane, I feel like a lot of mistakes that happen in terms of laning do not get punished nearly as hard as in other lanes or other regions. This is especially obvious when you see some of the top LCS top laners play against the lower rated LCS top laners/amateur players. They typically get torn to bits really fast. I feel like the joke of top lane being an island has caused there to be a weird idea that top players do not need to interact with the rest of the team. This notion has created a really awkward situation where top laners feel isolated from the rest of the team. A lot of times the game impact of top laners is really weak in NA compared to the other respective roles. However, top lane is also the lane that differs the most from competitive to solo queue. It’s only been recently within the last 2 months that top laners have been taking teleport, but even if you unoptimally use TP, you can still get away with it because there just is a larger burden as a competitive top laner than there is for one in solo q. Additionally, a lot of the champions you tend to play in solo Q for top laners (riven is a great example) are considerbly worse competitive picks, so top lane has somehow become the role that has the most variance from solo Q to it’s competitive counterpart.

For support, there just seems to be nobody left. I know it’s super desperate when all of these recently formed challenger teams are switching ADCs over to support because all the current supports in solo Q for some reason don’t make the cut. I don’t have any glimpses in possibilities on why this role is so lackluster, but some of it might come down to the fact that vision control and roaming is a lot harder to visualize and execute than just pure laning. For most laning roles you can just sit in lane and lane all day, but supports have the responsibility of controlling the vision on the team as well as making sure to support your other lanes. That’s something that’s really hard to learn just by playing the game and is a lot harder to quantify than KDA or gold. Alongside this, support somehow also has a stigma for being a low mechanically demanding role. While I feel that support and jungle may require less mechanics than other roles, it’s a role where mechanical strength can have a huge impact in how the lane and team fights work out, but a lot skilled players tend to orient themselves onto other roles rather than be called a “support main”.

The light

Not all is grim though. I think that the introduction of more support staff for challenger teams and expanded infrastructure from Riot could, in 6 months or so, provide a really strong challenger player pool to draw from. With bigger organizations looking at the challenger scene after the succesful sale of curse academy we can expect a lot more attention to be paid to challenger players throughout the year rather than more particularly during the offseason. I think that there will be a strong showing of challenger players within the next year, and I’m excited to see which players can step up and truly challenge the throne in this region.

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by William Li, on January 8, 2015