League Format Debate
Season 5 kicks off this January after one of the most hectic offseasons in recent years. Restructuring of leagues, mass player transfers, and fines galore filled the time before the start of a much anticipated Spring Season. Whilst the West waits for LCS to begin, the two strongest leagues in China & Korea began early. Even though it has only been a week or two of action, they’re already showcasing why their league formats are superior. In this article I’ll discuss what I like & dislike about Riot’s offseason format changes.
LCS 8->10 Teams
LCS EU & NA expanded their league to 10 teams in total now which I think is a great thing for the scene. Not only are there more jobs for the professionals, it is now much more viable to achieve from a challenger series point of view. More professional teams in a league also creates a large amount of diversity in every sense of the word. Whether it is skill level or team style, having more teams in a league is better for the spectators. It makes it easier to identify which teams are on top and creates more of a spectacle when 2nd place goes against 3rd for example.
On that same tangent, Riot announced that due to the increase in teams, teams will only match up twice instead of four times throughout a season. Therefore there will only be 18 matches per team, as opposed to 24, placing further importance on winning each match. Whilst I agree each and every match should be important, the fact that the league is still in a Bo1 format is a shortcoming. Season 4 emphasized how much the game is about adapting and tactical prowess. Throughout Worlds spectators saw the quality of the Bo5 format in allowing teams to make adaptations to their opponents game to game. Teams also prefer the Best Of (X) format due to this sole facet. In 18 Bo1s, that just shows who can show up on a single day, not necessarily the best team in terms of the qualities needed to be at the top. Any team can win or lose a Bo1, but the Bo3/5 format proves the best team will come out on top.
LPL should be looked up to in the West
With the mass exodus of Koreans to teams in the LPL, there is a horde of talent recognizable to Westerners whom followed OGN. Being knowledgeable and fans of certain players should be helpful for Western LoL fans to start watching LPL. However the increase in talent in the 2nd best region isn’t the only reason why the West should look to the LPL for inspiration. The LPL has the largest league in terms of teams vying for Season 5 World Championship spots. With 12 teams competing each week, it is the most relatable league to LCS in number of teams alone.
Whilst comparable in numbers, the format of the LPL is one of my favorite in all of competitive League of Legends. For fans of soccer/football the point system the LPL employs is the easiest to relate to. LPL follows the OGN group stage format of Bo2s with the team going 2-0 receiving 3 points, and if the teams go even, both receiving 1 point. Much like sports have two halves, the LPL format employs that same sort of system of adaptation.
I believe that the LCS should adopt this system for a multitude of reasons:
- Reduces the impact of one-off games
- Point system proves consistency and strength level > Head to Head record
- Allows for tactical adaptation
- Trains teams in Best Of Format->Will assist in playoffs/Worlds
Why the LCS won’t adopt this system:
- Westerners hate the concept of a Tie
- Must be a winner/loser
- Want to field all 10 teams each day
- Stubbornness to spread # of games out throughout the week
- Production Quality to please fans > Competitive Integrity
- Delusional concept of High Stakes Bo1
LCK/OGN is still the best in format alone
League fans were graced with a very entertaining preseason and an early start to Champions Spring. When the entire scene in Korea was in pure chaos with all the player transfers up in the air and final rosters in question, Korea came out with one of the best league formats in the entire LoL community. In the ashes of the highly coveted two team system, the 8 team LCK is still the best League of Legends to watch. Whilst the league deterred from the group stage tournament style format, it still retained some of its more important aspects. The format is that every team faces each other twice in a season, much like the LCS, but in a Bo3 format.
The preseason and early weeks of Champions Spring already showed us why this format is amazing. Where sports have halftime and time outs to incorporate tactical adjustments via substitutes and coaching, LCK offers that same facet. It allows the same level of tactical adaptations that a playoff game enables, on top of potential proper use of substitutions. In other leagues substitutes are on the roster in case someone is truly incapable of playing but have no reasonable shot of claiming a spot. SK Telecom T1 already showed why subs are brilliant and the tactical depth they provide. Much like in soccer/football where a team’s strength is often seen in the quality of their bench, LCK allows the same factor to be incorporated into LoL. SKT T1 flexed this muscle by substituting the best player in the world, Faker, for Easyhoon in their Week 1 matchup versus Najin e-mFire. Whilst inconceivable to most, the substitute worked in the end due to the quality of Easyhoon on Xerath in the strategy SKT T1 wanted to employ. Finally using substitutes for their genuine purpose and allowing tactical adjustments, the LCK will more than likely prove throughout the season to be the best league in format and quality.
With the reconstruction of league formats season 5 has provided, the amount of changes in the West does not compare to the LCK/LPL. The stubbornness to change some aspects and not others is evident and harmful to Western LoL. LCS will always host a lack of experience in Bo3/5 formats compared to the East based solely on innate league format problems. However having a universal Spring and Summer Season is a great step to provide proper mid/offseason tournaments, I just wish there were more steps taken in restructuring LCS like Riot did in Korea.