The West is set for a cerebral battle between coaches like never before in 2018
Amidst the fanfare over the new rosters entering the NALCS in 2018, it will also be an interesting year for coaching in League of Legends in the West. With several well-known names flocking to North America, and Europe stepping up their game themselves, there has never been a better chance to watch how coaches handle their sparkling new and expensively-assembled teams.
There is reason to be excited by the current crop of coaches. With all-new brands entering the scene and others completely revamping their structure, there is plenty of room for individuals to experiment and build squads they wish to work with. Such a proposition has to be attractive to any coach looking to stamp their influence on the game.
It is notable that nearly every head coach in the NALCS have cut their teeth in Korea, China or Europe, with Ziks and DLim the only ones who have had no experience outside North America. Zaboutine, despite his newness to coaching, is from Europe and has been exposed to a different culture and player base prior to moving to North America.
Meanwhile, the likes of Reapered of Cloud 9 and Rapidstar, who will be FlyQuest’s strategic coach in 2018, have both worked with Edward Gaming, possibly China’s most dominant team since Season 4.
Pr0lly (100T) was one of the first North Americans to coach in Europe and earned plaudits for his work with H2K over the years. Now back in North America, there should be considerable interest in how his assembled team can stack up on the Rift.
Speaking of Europe, Hussain Moosvi from Misfits has emerged as the most distinguished coach in the region in 2017, taking MSF to the Quarter-Finals at Worlds. Through his AMA on Reddit and interviews, there is a palpable sense that he has the mindset and mentality to possibly take MSF or another team even further. Of course, we cannot merely judge him on his public appearances, but having first-hand information on how a coach works is always beneficial for the scene.
The notion that coaches can be a primary influence on a team’s success is more nuanced than it would appear; the ‘style’ a team plays can be as easily attributed to the players. What a coach rarely does, at least in League of Legends, is moulding a team to play in a way the coach desires. Unlike in soccer, where the game and its rules are fairly static and the ‘metas’ are hence dictated by innovations by specific coaches, League of Legends changes far too often for a single ‘style’ to remain dominant over a prolonged period. Adaptation is the name of the game and often, it is up to both coaches and players to find the best way to swim against the tide of unerring change.
This makes the job of a coach in League of Legends different; it more often than not becomes a matter of getting the best out of the players at their disposal. Inevitably, player power becomes as valued as any single coach, as the coach cannot influence the game once the draft stage is over.
Therefore, when we look at a coach’s performance relative to the team and their results, we cannot merely look at how the team performs on the Rift, but also how the drafts change between games, and how players’ mentalities are managed. As such, a coach need not be the most proficient at the game to be successful, although that helps especially when it comes to the drafting stage. Jobs like these can be delegated too, so this is not as much of a requirement for a head coach as one would expect, and one should keep that in mind as the split unfolds and it comes time to judge who the best coach of the split was.
Perhaps there is some worth in a discussion over what metrics should be used to judge a coach, but as matters currently stand, there are not many ways to judge a coach’s influence due to the lack of transparency of certain coaches’ methodologies. If we were to look merely at what is visible, more outspoken coaches would have a natural advantage in this regard, when this should not be the case. A results-based analysis would not serve anyone either, and would be too simplistic.
What we can gauge is the level of change or improvement over time. A team garnering mediocre results, say, being merely good enough to land 6th spot and stepping up during play-offs to reach 3rd or higher, is a sign that the team used the time between play-offs in an effective manner. Meanwhile, a team which posted strong results in the regular season but got knocked out early during play-offs would signify the opposite.
This is but one example. Other factors can include ability to adapt in between games in a series, or general ability of coaches to garner drafts advantageous to them. Note that this is not limited to drafting winning lanes but also drafting appropriately according both to how the team wants to play, and also taking into account how the other team plays.
With the increased level of coaches coming in, the conversation surrounding them should also shift away from what has been typically judged based on public interviews and results. It would be doing a disservice to these coaches if we do not do so.
Images courtesy of LoL Esports Photos.
Credits to Riot Games LAS for Deilor's picture
If you enjoyed this article, follow the author on Twitter at @dzhonyee.