Despite the sold out arenas, the enormous prize pools and the millions of viewers from all over the world, League is still very much in its infancy as an esport. It is no secret that there is a definitive lack of consistency in the scene. Organizations rise as quickly as they fall and careers tend to be quite volatile across the board. Establishing a solid infrastructure is an endeavor that companies like Riot have been pursuing with fervor for years.
Great leaps were made in recent times, such as the creation of the LEC. Organizations can now look at competition as a profitable and less risky investment. However, beyond specific changes made by large companies, League of Legends has also enjoyed growth at a local level. The development of regional leagues such as the Superliga, the LFL and the UKLC has lead to the creation of many opportunities for rising talent in all fields.
Not only can the players get a chance to compete, but coaches, analysts and managers are able to hone their craft as well. Over time, the level of the regional leagues has steadily improved, to the point that many of their top teams are considered to be LEC caliber.
As a result, these past couple of years, the LEC has seen an advent of rookie talent that makes a big impact. While before many new players had to spend weeks or months adapting to the big stage, now they come ready to dominate even the best teams.
Rogue Shows Trust in the Future
2019 was a crucial year for Rogue. The organization was one of the brand new partners joining the LEC franchising era. As any new team should, Rogue looked to make a splash in their first outing. In order to guarantee success, they signed a group of experienced players, including names like Jun-hyung “Profit” Kim and Chres “Sencux” Laursen.
However, the beginning of the split would be a complete disaster for the lineup. Going a horrendous 0-8, they would be unable to attain a single victory during the first four weeks of competition.
Luckily for Rogue, their coaching and analyst staff had the presence of mind to not only bring experienced talent, but also plan for the future. They got promising rookie players for their academy roster, including Top Laner Finn “Finn” Wiestål, Jungler Kacper “Inspired” Słoma and Mid Laner Emil “Larssen” Larsson.
Considering the already terrible results, Rogue understood that the time was right to give these players an opportunity without hurting their reputation. They would swap in Finn and finally pick up the first wins of the season. But, since the score was already quite bad, they later sent their talent back down to academy and allowed them to have a successful split.
Summer was another story and Rogue went all-in on their rookie talent. With a revamped roster, they were able to remain competitive during the bulk of the Split. Rogue was a part of the famous four-way tie for a spot in playoffs. After dominating Splyce 3-0, a heart breaking misplay by Larssen on Corki would cause the team to fall 3-1 to Schalke. From bottom tier to playoffs contenders, Rogue went through a real transformation.
The New Generation
In 2019, Rogue set a precedent, but they were not the only ones. Plenty of organizations such as Misfits decided to rely on their academy talent later in the year. Standout players include names like Nemesis, who got into World’s quarters in his first year as a competitor.
However, none of the events that took place last year can really compare to what the community is witnessing in 2020. Misfits and MAD Lions are both teams mostly comprised of rookies (all except one member). On the other hand, while Rogue’s players are technically not rookies anymore, most of them are still quite new to the scene.
Despite the amount of new blood, the LEC became what is arguably the most closely contested League among the major regions. All three organizations have been first or second place in the standings and managed to hand defeats to established powerhouses with experienced members.
The Quality of European Talent
The gap that used to exist between rookies and veterans is slowly changing in nature. This is a phenomenon that is not unique to League of Legends. In other competitive esports, new aspiring pro players are able to access more and more tools and resources that didn’t exist before. As a result, at the time of their debut, they don’t need to discover the game and its fundamentals, but instead work on top of what the community has already built.
In the LEC, we are now in an era in which a rookie like Iván “Razork” Martín Díaz can go even against a multiple time champion and Worlds finalist like Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski only a couple of weeks into his very first Split. Young players are no longer simple mechanical geniuses; they come with an understanding of game sense, macro and strategy.
With good skills and knowledge across the board, yet with a relative lack of experience, European newbies are the ideal tools of a capable coaching staff. Rookies have the willingness to listen and the ability to employ any variety of strategies and playstyles. What shines through in performances of organizations like G2 is the individuality of the players. What shines through when looking at Misfits is the synergy of the members and the intelligence of the coach and analysts.
Not only are players new, but the infrastructure around them as well. A coach like Jandro can now enter the league with an innovative vision for a team and make it a reality through the guidance of promising talent. The status quo of competitive League of Legends has changed, likely for good.
A Bright Future with Solid Foundation
As individual problems become less of a factor, we might be looking at an era in the future in which teams in the LEC can focus solely on the strategic aspect of League. Coaches could take center stage as they concern themselves less with polishing new talent and more with discovering effective ways to play out the meta.
The performance of rookies in the LEC also brings legitimacy back to the places they came from. Fans amazed by Razork will no doubt be interested in the Spanish Superliga where he grew and developed, and the same goes for the LFL, the UKLC and all other regional and challenger leagues.
Overall, the rise of rookie talent is a sign of progress and prosperity among the entire League esports ecosystem. As such, it should be celebrated and enjoyed to the fullest by fans all over the world.
Featured photo from @MisfitsGG
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