When a fan looks at their favourite team throwing a game or getting thumped, it’s the most frustrating experience. You feel powerless as the team and players you love lose heartbreakingly, as our observer-assisted perfect vision shows exactly what they cannot see. If they would just do ‘the thing,’ they’d win effortlessly, for sure!
Of course, it’s never this easy; and to pretend it does borders on insulting. Despite what Twitch Chat would tell you, they are not bots, and are actively doing their best to stop what your team is doing.
Teams can never do “can we just group and win now” or “just win already.” Practically any endeavour of resisted effort will show you that the element we can control is not the success itself, but rather to put ourselves in the best position to succeed.
Before a team even loads into the server, there are factors along these lines that affect those chances of success, for better or worse.
In this episode of Ties’ Takes, I’m going to talk about a couple of recent examples, and one old one to see how some of these factors affect how things play out in the server.
The path of least resistance
A favourite bugbear of mine runs along the old adage: “In the most important games, you want your best players to be Your Best Players.”
It was the Order game plan in OPL Split 2 2018 playoffs gauntlet match vs Legacy.
They went in with a plan to put Victor “FBI” Huang and Jake “Rogue” Sharwood on the safe and scaling botlane of Ezreal-Braum. It was an extremely popular lane at the time, one that would get their best player – FBI – safely into the late game to carry.
The risk of this plan is that it also handed a safe passage for Julian “Raid” Skordos and Daniel “Decoy” Ealam. Legacy could then play around their strongest area, the solo laners of Brandon “Claire” Nguyen and Min “Mimic” Ju-seong. Jordan “Only” Middleton could focus on the top side, without fear of the bot lane collapsing beneath them.
The issue I took with this match was not that Order drafted poor champions. Other similar-or-identical drafts and tactics had won many matches in the meta of the time.
However, I feel like this was taking the path of most resistance. Order’s top half got bopped, and the bot lane were not equipped to offer a point of realistic pressure because they were playing a safe lane. There was no room for proactivity, and no easy path to victory.
When we look at our favourite titles and some recent games within Oceania, we can see other examples of teams that choose particular paths to victory in their games.
The most obvious example of this is the LCO’s Peace. They have identified (correctly, in my opinion) that Vincent “Violet” Wong is their best player, and a real frontrunner for the best player in the league.
And they play to him constantly.
Peace are at their best when they can make a match about who has the best ADC, and then make sure it’s their guy that gets his team over the line.
They know their best strategy, and they index heavily on it. It might make their playstyle “predictable” but being predictable is only bad if you can stop them. You do not need to know a thousand punches if you can do one really well. And their 9-2 record shows that it’s mighty hard to stop.
The only success that teams have had is when PGG’s Gnar-Udyr-Viktor-Kaisa-Seraphine composition made it too hard for Peace to fight on their terms; and when the Dire Wolves went ballistic through Ari “Shok” Greene-Young and Claire, leaving Peace too far behind from about 16 minutes onwards for an ADC to recover.
Roster changes aren’t always the solution
Another way that teams can open paths to victory is surrounding roster changes. We often hear that a team that has been together a while has success because “they just all seem to know where each other is and what they’re doing.”
The common refrain is that teams that play together longer can rote-learn not just their roles on the team, but they begin to rote-learn their teammates’ roles on the team. The less brain power that a player needs to devote to figuring out what’s the go, the more they can devote to simply playing the game they’re so good at.
When a new element is added to this, it takes time to acclimatise. We can see an example of this in the Vertex vs Chiefs match from ANZ Champs this past week.
Will “yourwombat” Allchin is one of the new additions to the Vertex mix after the departures of Benny “tensai” Phan and James “Roflko” Lytras. After a (perhaps too…) comfortable start against an overwhelmed Simplicity, yourwombat came across a speed bump in Vertex’s 1-0 bracket match against the Chiefs.
Chiefs, of course, are also blending a new mix of team members, so this is not a universal truth. However, this match can be an example of what happens when you aren’t all the way there yet with your new team in terms of communication.
Starting off on the Vertex’s CT side, we saw yourwombat holding down the B Site without much to do as Chiefs plundered A-Short and A-Long for much of the start of this Dust 2 contest.
On retakes and the occasional B hit from the Chiefs, we commonly saw yourwombat be the second or third player dead to the Chiefs attack, including a couple of times in the upper tunnels area where he wasn’t able to get a kill back. This effectively ended rounds in favour of the Chiefs.
This is not to say that he’s a bad player – far from it – but the point is that on teams where you’re more established, then the communication is clearer, the execution is crisper, and the team doesn’t lose three to an MP-9 because he’s trying to work out exactly where to the right he is.
It certainly wasn’t a targeted attack on the new player by the Chiefs. The success on A meant that he was largely left alone by the Chiefs T-side. But they did mercilessly punish the new player on Vertex’s B-hold when the opportunity presented itself.
This is the kind of thing that will only get better with time and experience. They’re also the kind of rounds you win when you can stick together for more than a couple of months. This is why pundits will bemoan as the quarterly roster shuffle happens: It isn’t always the solution.
These are just two examples of something you see all the time – whether it’s something as straight-forward as giving your best player the best gun after a save in CSGO, or League teams drilling the lane swap to exploit teams who were not as prepared in it in the 2016 leadup and Worlds meta.
These are the kinds of decisions and factors that affect teams before they even set foot into a game that makes the game so much harder or easier to play.
Hopefully next time we just want to blame the draft, veto, or what have you, perhaps we would be better off looking at what’s happening in the game and consider that it could be one of these factors affecting things.
It won’t show you all the answers, but I promise that you will be asking better questions.
Follow Reece Perry on Twitter.