When a quarterback gets injured, usually a team doesn’t turn to a wide receiver to replace him, especially when they have a couple backup quarterbacks on the roster.
But that’s exactly what Gambit Gaming is doing this week in the League Championship Series (LCS). The League of Legends team is turning to support player Amaury “Moopz” Minguerche to fill their vacant AD carry role this week despite featuring three AD carry substitutes on their roster.
When Riot Games announced AD carry and reigning league MVP Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou would be suspended for the final two games of the regular season and two games after that, it seemed like Gambit Gaming had their bases covered with three potential replacements on the roster. Pierre “Steeelback” Medjaldi had tried out for the position before the Summer season and Tzortziou’s signing. Kristoffer “P1noy” Pedersen started in the role for Gambit in the Spring, a season that produced a better regular season record than this one. And long-time Gambit Gaming started Evgeny “Genja” Andryushin is still rostered and still regularly plays solo queue, spamming games on AD carry champions. But none of the three players are available during Gambit Gaming’s time of need.
Medjaldi’s team, North American Challenger Series squad Imaging Gaming, denied Gambit Gaming’s request to borrow the player. Ditto for Pedersen, who is also competing in the Challenger Series in America. Winterfox has an upcoming Challenger match and still wants Pedersen to play. Gambit Gaming says Andryushin is unable to play due to personal issues.
That left Gambit with two substitute options, support player Minguerche and jungler Karim “ImSoFresh” Bbahla, two Belgian players the team signed as substitutes earlier this month.
“We decided to recruit Moopz, since he is more comfortable with this role,” Gambit Gaming says in a statement on their website. “We did not shuffle the remaining players due to time constraints and our willingness to preserve the existing synergies. We realize that this setup is far from ideal, but we will do our best to qualify for playoffs and approach them in a much better condition.”
Calling the situation far from ideal is certainly an understatement. While Minguerche has LCS experience, playing 20 games with Supa Hot Crew in the Spring of last year, that was as a mid lane player, and most recently, he’s competed as support. Gambit is playing two of the most important games of the season with a player swapping roles at the last minute.
Last night team manager Dmitry “Moo” Sukhanov released a statement lambasting Riot Games for the timing of Tzortziou’s suspension, noting it hurts the organization and his teammates more than it does the player himself.
“At the moment you cannot compare LCS team with professional baseball or football clubs, who have dozens of substitute players, who crucially train with the main roster and are constantly rotated to take part in the official games,” Sukhanov said. “When their players get suspended for a certain amount of games, it is obviously unpleasant, but at the same time completely manageable.”
He notes that league leaders Fnatic, currently sitting atop the LCS with a 16-0 record, have two substitutes on their roster, neither with LCS experience. While Gambit Gaming was more prepared for this situation, in part because Riot Games gave them one week notice that Tzortziou may soon be unavailable, even with three AD carry players rostered as substitutes, circumstances didn’t allow them to call up any of the players. That’s in large part due to the structure of professional League—any substitute player worth rostering will likely be competing on a Challenger Series team. It’s a necessity for them to remain relevant and keep their game sharp. And those teams have no obligation to relinquish their player when the LCS squad comes knocking.
“In my opinion, this kind of punishment harms remaining players and our organization even more than a player in question, especially given the circumstances,” Sukhanov continued. “Having said that, I wish you a joyful viewing experience of the 9th week of LCS, where teams will clash on an equal footing to determine, who will claim 4th-6th place in the standings and will qualify for playoffs and consequently Worlds!”
Gambit Gaming is in the thick of a playoff race, in a three-way tie for the final two playoff spots with a 7-9 record. But that also means they’re just a single game away from relegation, a spot currently owned by the 6-10 Elements. Gambit and Elements will play each other on Thursday, and an Elements win will flip the two in the standings. Then, with Gambit Gaming facing the 10-6 H2k Gaming on Friday and Elements battling the 5-11 SK Gaming, it seems likely Gambit could be heading to relegation. The suspension could literally ruin Gambit in the LCS and send them to relegation.
Of course, that’s nothing new for Gambit Gaming. Last year the team played with nearly an entire roster of substitutes for a couple games so Riot Games could enjoy a week in London, failing to notify Gambit Gaming early enough to secure visas for the trip. That directly contributed to Gambit Gaming’s 8-20 record and subsequent relegation. While they survived and remained in the league, if they fall to relegation this time, perhaps they won’t be as lucky. But at least Riot is just as sorry as last time. Maybe.
Photo via Riot Games/Flickr