Against All Odds
What separates North America from every other region? Simple. Talent and money, but it’s not quite like you’d think. Before identifying the weaknesses of western League of Legends teams. Let’s take a look at the two best Dota 2 teams at the moment, Team Secret and Evil Geniuses. Dota 2 has the tendency to be dominated by Chinese teams. There’s a much larger talent pool, billionaires buying teams, and a celebrated tradition of Warcraft 3 and Dota Allstars competition. Most major Chinese teams have joined The Association of Chinese eSports (ACE) alliance. This has made trading players between teams very official. Essentially, creating an atmosphere similar to professional sports here in America. Support player Xiao8 had a transfer fee of $320,000. In Dota, the odds are stacked against Western teams. Yet somehow, Evil Geniuses and Team Secret have become the two best standout teams this year. Let’s start with Secret, so we can first understand the correlation of talent, then move on to EG, so we ca understand what role the organization has to play.
Getting in on a Little Secret
Team Secret’s sponsors and essentially everything regarding organization is just that. A secret. That being said, support player Puppey had a mission statement. He wanted this team to be about the players. It definitely is. The creation of Team Secret involved no politics. No ifs ands or buts. From the moment of its inception Secret had one goal in mind. To create the best Western team of all time.
Puppey: Not only one of the greatest supports of all time, but one of the best drafters and team captains. Puppey has been in 3 of The International finals and has one of the biggest trophy cases in the West.
Kuroky: Former Na’vi teammate of Puppey. Though not as decorated as his colleague, Kuroky is still considered by many to be one of the best western supports of all time.
S4: Former champion of the International under the Alliance banner. Won the 1v1 competition at TI4, but left Alliance after their poor performance. Though up for debate, S4 could be considered one of the best western mid laners to date
Arteezy: Former mid lane of Evil Geniuses. A Dota prodigy who was considered one of the best mid laners before even playing for a team. Arteezy was S4’s training partner. As a sub for Speed Gaming, Arteezy helped make the Cinderella story of the now C9 roster possible. Knocking down the Chinese favorite Team DK down in the final match of MLG Colombus. At TI4 he even had a decent run with EG, falling against Vici Gaming in the semi-finals.
Zai: Former Heroes of Newerth professional who switched over to Dota 2. In his time with EG, he proved to be one of the best support players in the west. Zai receives less praise than his other all star team mates, but make no mistake. Arteezy gets a lot of credit for being a Dota prodigy at 19. Zai is 17 years old and not just running with the big boys. He’s absolutely dominating them.
And of course, credit where credit is due, their was a previous iteration of secret which has former Fnatic players Fly and N0tail (BigDaddy and Simbaaa). Both were impeccable supports. Big Daddy going to Cloud 9 and Fly eventually going to Complexity. Both of which are competing at this year’s international.
By all means, Team Secret would be considered a ‘Super Team’ similar to teams in League of Legends. Like EDG or how Alliance was originally suppose to be. When we look at how Secret was formed, it would have never happened in League of Legends. Puppey describes the formation as a logical home for players. The first rounds were Puppey, Kuroky, s4, Fly and Bigdaddy leaving their teams. Contracts weren’t holding them down, they just decided to leave. The next phase may have possibly be considered to be something similar to ‘poaching’ when they took Arteezy and Zai from Evil Geniuses. In the world of League of Legends, we could expect Nick Allen to come down. Renegades owner Chris Badawi probably had one goal in mind. To make the the best team possible. This is in no means in defense of him. What he did was underhanded and hurts professional integrity. He sealed his own fate and made his own decisions. But is Chris anything but a natural reaction to the system? North America as a region is in disarray with every team grasping at straws to perform on the worlds stage. If MSI is any indicator, NA is screwed. Europe fairs a little better, as there’s a larger ranked player base and older organizations. Fnatic as a shining example. When Xpeke wanted to leave Fnatic to form his own team, they let him go, even though his contract ran through the end of 2015. They let ALL their players go except for Yellowstar. All of whom were contracted until the end of the year. What did Fnatic do? They rebuilt. Huni was a complete unknown, even in Korea. Reignover was consistently pretty bad, with some shining moments every now and again. Febiven was up and coming but unproven talent. No one had even heard of Steeleback. Yet that squad took SKT to five games. Fnatic pretty much proved themselves to put players first (At least in League of Legends). Not only is that empowering to the e-sports scene, it also made them stronger. And although Europe seems to be the front runner of e-sports teams putting players first (Fnatic, UOL, Roccat, and Origen for instance). There’s still a debacles like the Gamers 2 and SK gaming incident going on. Let’s not forget Freeze being stucking in NiP prison and Jwaow being entangled with G2 and MYM, that stomped out the dream of the original Alliance super team. Here we reach the thesis. Organizations are actually holding the West (more so NA) back. This is not an argument against e-sports infrastructure. On the contrary it’s an argument for reform. Let’s go back to Dota 2 so we can look at Evil Geniuses.
Put The Players First
Where as Team Secret is primarily European. EG is full of North American players. The only foreign player on their team is Sumail, from Pakistan. Who was playing in North America. Dota 2 teams don’t last long. It’s the nature of professional play. As stated earlier, there’s a lot less infrastructure. Evil Geniuses is a team that knows this very well. Having constantly having to reshuffle every year or so. Yet still, EG has continued to be the most dominant teams and proving North American legitimacy. Consistently attracting/buying the players that are the best of best. Constantly making changes, but always making changes for the best. If you look at their roster you can see a mix of star power and potential.
Fear: ‘Old Man Fear’ Position 1 carry who has been consistently one of the best NA Dota players over the past decade. He has played every position in the game competitively. As of late, Fear still is consistently great.
SumaiL: First off. SumaiL is only 16 years old. Yet has won more prize money than most Dota players have ever earned. Being one of the major factors in EG winning the 1.2 million dollar prize pool of the Dota 2 Asian Championships. A rare find, and one of the best western mid laners at the moment. Truly talented.
Universe: One of the best off-laners in the world. Unbelievable consistent.
Aui2000 and PPD: The best support and drafter in North America respectively. One greedy and the other selfless. Two sides to a winning coin.
I won’t introduce some of there other players that have been on the roster, because the list goes on and on. EG bases their strength on having the best players possible. Mixing in veterans with new talent. Evil Geniuses doesn’t play politics, and they still care for their players. They let the aforementioned Zai and Arteezy go to secret. When Fear broke his elbow and couldn’t play, EG didn’t kick him off. As one of the old organizations, Alex Garfield knows what it takes to do what’s best for e-sports. Which is why he willingly dropped Alliance and EG from the LCS in order to better sponsor the scene as a whole.
Do or Die
With the recent allegations of poaching, failing to provide players, and general corruption. It’s a fair statement to suggest that many of the organizations in League of Legends are failing to be the best they can be. In the status quo, there seems to be no flexibility in regards to what’s best for the players. Either organizations need to get smart and provide like Evil Geniuses, or players need to band together and take a stand like Team Secret. Otherwise, it’s obvious no Western organization is serious about winning a World Championship.
China has infinite money to spend and the largest ranked player base in the world. Korea has an old existing infrastructure, serious corporate sponsors, and a ranked player base that is actually higher than NA or EU. If there is to be any chance at all. The best coaches and player talent must come together to have any sort of chance.
a gentle reminder of what we’re up against
Theoretically, if Impact/ZionSpartan, Rush/Move, Bjergeson, Altec/Piglet and Aphromoo/Xpecial want to come together to win worlds and even compete in LCK. They can’t. End of story. It’s not Riots fault. It’s 100% on the players and organizations.