A few things happen every October. The World Series, Columbus day, and the disappointment of western League of Legends fans everywhere. The World Championships begin in October, and it brings about several things. North American fans absurdly…Optimistic about at least one of their teams chances to do well at Worlds. European fans are generally very worried, because their regions top teams look unpolished when playing against one another. Weeks later, North American fans are crushed by the heavy handed reality of Korean dominance, European fans are cautiously optimistic that one of their teams can make it far enough to boast about, and Korea looks on, sort of bored by the affair. This happens so often, that many spectators are dubbing worlds LCK Autumn, a mere expansion of League Champions Korea, and the only time the eastern overlords choose to allow western teams to train against the metaphorical Super Saiyans of the League of Legends Universe.
The realization that this has almost always been true, save for Season 1 when E-Sports was a more underground thing, and Season 2 when meta and macro were only just starting to become defined, always leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of western fans and understandably so. It is hard to watch year after year when the same region takes him the Summoners Cup, of course some will raise the argument that people should only care for the quality of game, not the nation that the Cup goes to. This does hold true, to an extent but after a time, it is important to many people in anything that they win, or if not them, their region. This is a feeling expressed in many games and is the spirit behind Smash Bros. crew battles, and, for many people, the Olympics.
Now that we covered that continued losses make western fans feel pretty bad, we can take a look at why it happens. For one, the stakes are far higher in the Korean League scene. Don’t believe me? Ask 3/5’s of 2013’s SK Telecom what happened when they stopped playing well. They were replaced, contrast that with another North American giant, Counter Logic Gaming, whose mid laner is almost a certified one trick, and whose top laner has been getting outplayed far too much, for as much hype is drummed up about him. Did this CLG win North America? For sure, but they haven’t put up any sort of results at Worlds, going so far as to cheese their way through champion select in a semi-deciding game.
“2013’s SK Telecom didn’t put up regional results in that next year either!!”
Ah, I do hear you back there and clearly you are correct, however the difference here is that 2013 SKT had a bunch of young players, in North America, they’d be seen as investments, it would be though that they could improve, that they’re worth keeping, even without domestic results following them, kind of like Dignitas. In Korea they were dropped the moment they were seen to be too weak. For Piglet, he was dropped the year right after his rookie year, he for sure still had some play left in him, especially if you use another Korean returning AD like PraY as an example.
More than just the players, it’s the training. You can sit there and claim that we don’t know what goes on during scrimmages, and you’d be right, but from the games, you can tell the difference in the training regimens. Practice shows in play, if it’s effective, if it doesn’t show, then something is going wrong. The Korean teams look so crisp and confident in their play, immediately reacting to one another, until someone is out of moves to make. It’s like a high level fighting game, where both players are playing the mental game just as much as the game on screen. Teams from the West don’t have that skill accompanying their play. There are always lulls in their cohesive action, and sometimes their entire game is on the back of one player (Shoutout to Jankos) keeping them above water. Koreans are just people, like the rest of us so there’s no reason that their game should look as clean as it does all the time, except for practice. They practice more seriously, they practice better, you don’t have to sit in on scrims to know, because it shows in their game.
Probably the worst part of the situation is the effect the League system has on it. The League system ensures that encounters with these best teams in the world are few and far between, and as a result, so are scrims and any other practice opportunity with these teams. Team Solo Mid can only get so strong from playing IMT, CLG and C9 day in and day out, and when they sit on top of NA, there really isn’t anywhere left for them to go from there, not until they get a chance to boot camp or go to an international tournament. The level of domestic play won’t increase until either new habits are formed from the inside, or picked up from the outside.
So what do you think? Why are the Korean teams always so far ahead of the western ones? Do you believe it’ll stay the same as it always has, or do you think the nickname LCK Autumn is a short lived one? It’s always good to make your own guesses and assumptions, and I’ll always be around to hear them! You can come tell me how ignorant I am on twitter @TirasCarr. And with that self promotion out of the way, enjoy the finals!