It’s fitting that the final series in relegations and promotions, the event that decides League of Legends pro gaming careers, was also the closest.
Complexity battled upstarts Team 8 with tooth and nail to maintain the League Championship Series (LCS) standing they earned in promotions last season. But it wasn’t enough against Team 8, the top amateur team in America this season.
Team 8 jumped out to a two-game lead against Complexity, utilizing brilliant teleport play from their top lane captain Steven “CaliTrlolz” Kim to control the pace of the game. But when Complexity shut that down, using Jon “Westrice” Nguyen’s Nidalee to force the match into a four-on-four style bout, Complexity clawed their way back. Some cheesy champion picks by Team 8 in game four failed to hold up against Complexity, with Kim’s top lane Katarina going 0/5/0.
The series was tied. One single match would decide which team became salaried professional gamers. And in that high pressure game, Team 8 shined. In a close 36 minute match, they survived the Complexity onslaught by returning to the aggression served them well in their first two games. Their entire team put together standout performances, peaking at the moment when it mattered most.
Kim in particular had an another amazing game, his Maplhite engages leading to multiple team fight wins.
Team 8 will be the first new team to enter the North American LCS this season.
“This is all I’ve been working for for two years. It’s so relieving, and amazing to just actually make it,” Team 8 jungler Braeden “PorpoisePops” Schwark said in his post-game interview.
This will be Schwark’s first time in the LCS, but one of his teammates has plenty of experience with the league. Marksman Ainslie “Maplestreet” Wyllie competed in the league last year as a member of Velocity Esports, and his brother, Bryan “TheOddOne” Wyllie, is a legendary former jungler for Team SoloMid.
But one of the players won’t be joining them. Kim, the team’s star top laner and in-game leader, is already attending pharmacy school and plans to stay there, making the full-time professional gaming life of the LCS impossible.
“Cali is a big loss for our team,” Wyllie said. “He’s a great shot caller and great personality. A good friend. He’s a beast top laner.”
Team 8 will have a tough time replacing him, but if they can channel the play they showed in that fifth game of the series they should be okay in the heavily competitive LCS.
For Complexity, the loss is a disappointing end to an up and down season. Complexity upset heavy favorite Team Coast in the Summer promotion series to earn their LCS spot. They followed it up with a 10-18 record, last place in the league, but those 10 wins were more than most expected them to win, and even including a few against top teams like Cloud9. It was a promising start to their LCS careers, a starting point for possibly greater things. But a team that’s made a living off being the underdog seemed to struggle as the favorite against Team 8.
Now Complexity are in a struggle for their professional careers. It’s a place they are used to being; they lived it for the first half of 2014. Summer promotions was the last shot for most of them–make it to the LCS, or move on with life. Support player Royce “Bubbadub” Newcomb, for example, quit his full-time job with a six month ultimatum from his wife to make pro gaming work as a career. Complexity succeded then, and lucky for them, they’ll have one more shot this season.
Usually getting relegated would signal an end to LCS dreams, leaving a team with two options: compete in the challenger series for another season to earn another shot, or disband.
The expansion tournament, which will add two more teams to the LCS, offers them new life. Along with Curse Academy, Complexity is a favorite to make it back to the LCS. But if anyone knows the dangers of an underdog, its Complexity, the “blue shell” of the LCS, famous for upsetting higher ranked teams.
Still, it’s a tough position. A year’s worth of effort is dangerously close to being all for naught. But that’s the harsh reality of pro gaming.
“So few people actually make it despite putting in so much work. I consider myself lucky,” Schwark said. Amen.