For the first time in League of Legends history, Korea is not the given winner going into the World Championship. As a result of this, the annual North American boot camps are not locked to Korea. In fact, they’ve decided the West is better than the East and have gone to Europe to practice for Worlds. This will have a much bigger effect on the tournament than you would originally think, however. Since Korea was the expected winner of worlds every year, teams have never had a boot camp anywhere else. The difference in teams available, the location, the flexibility of the meta and the difference in solo queues all affect the boot camp. With all these factors coming together, the preparation will prepare Western teams for the most competitive and entertaining World Championship yet.
NA + EU = Free Worlds
The Korean and Chinese teams won’t be in Europe for their boot camps, they’re staying in Korea. This means a much smaller pool of teams to practice against, which means there’s potential more targeted practice. The NA teams and the expected EU teams complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Team Liquid (“TL”) and G2 Esports (“G2”) are an example of this. TL went into MSI with the basic NA understanding of the game. After playing G2, this changed, and it shows. TL has been transformed from a passive team that sits and waits to win. Now they’re an aggressive team that pushes its advantages at every chance it gets. In similar fashion to this, the Worlds-bound EU and NA teams can learn from each other, and the TL/G2 learning synergy has just started.
TL and G2 both have weaknesses in their gameplay. While neither are easily exploitable, both playstyles have their flaws. TL is an amazing standard team. They win their lanes and use their advantages to systematically cut through the enemy’s base while shutting down the enemy plays. The weakness of this playstyle comes from the unexpected. If the enemy team can find plays that TL aren’t expecting, the enemy team can take back the game.
The G2 Effect
G2 is the opposite. G2 is the team that looks for the plays that can’t be predicted. They also have a weakness, regardless of what some EU fans will tell you. They rotate around the map constantly and present themselves to the risk of being picked off. If a team systematically works through the game without being disturbed by a G2 play, then they can beat G2. The team can invade the G2 jungle for vision and shutdown plays before they start by taking advantage when they’re split up. Additionally, Perkz is the ADC that is most open to non-traditional picks, but he’s new to the role. He can learn the intricacies of ADC from Doublelift while Doublelift learns new champions. These teams scrimmaging more frequently will allow both teams to get better at finding plays, creatively pathing around the map and having a more well-rounded bot player.
Different Bootcamps, Different Games
In previous years every team has had the same opportunity to learn the meta. Every team went to Korea and played the other world contenders. They’d play each other constantly and they’d all get the same understanding, barring pocket picks and hidden strategies. This year there’s two. Two boot camps mean the East and the West might as well be playing different patches. Unless the teams leak, any and all strategies that are found while exploring the meta for the tournament will be only known by half the teams. Imagine if MSI took place with only half the teams aware of Sona and Taric. This makes the new boot camp even more beneficial to the Western teams due to the regional differences that Europe has.
Being the most obvious of all the impacting factors, the physical location of the boot camp matters for preparation. NA teams will only have to make a single long-distance trip, allowing for them to recover from jetlag and other problems well before the tournament begins. Additionally, the meta of the tournament is more flexible than it has ever been in the past. Since Europe has historically been the most inventive region, this means another advantage for the West. Europe was the region that brought solo lane Pyke to the rest of the world. Europe is currently the only region playing Yuumi Garen. With the patch remaining constant before and during the World Championship, this experimentation will allow for more and more under-researched picks to be discovered.
The Solo Q Pride
An unmentioned reason why teams have historically gone to Korea, the solo queue. The region has the most competitive solo queue ladder with many professional players being unable to break into the challenger ladder in the past. There are flaws with the Korean solo queue though, the server is inundated with opens and AFKs. The region has even had problems with the pros getting trolled by solo queue players. If you were wanting to experiment with a pick in Korea you’d be out of luck, they’d troll you every time you play something unconventional. These problems are most prevalent before very high ELO in Korea though, so there would be hope for quality games after you get there.
On the other hand, the European solo queue ladder is surprisingly accepting. The players will flame you. They will argue with you. They will play Garen ADC. But they almost always try their best to win. The ladder is filled with players that are trying to actively improve. While the Korean ladder is indisputably the ladder with the most talented players, Europe has no shortage either. With the amount of competition present in the European ladder, teams can practice in Europe without worrying about getting a lower quality solo queue experience.
The change in the boot camp should produce visible differences. The different boot camps should form two mini-metas, meaning each set of teams should come in with different priorities on champions. This clash of playstyle will be the first since Korean boot camps homogenized the preparation teams receive going into worlds. If all teams coming into worlds look similar in playstyle, the preconceived notions of how boot camps benefit teams have been wrong. If this happens then boot camps are pointless. However, there is nothing that would suggest that.
The change in boot camp strategy has huge implications for how the World Championship will play out. The only thing that’s left to see is if the West has the upper hand or if the East has taken back the advantage with this difference. Regardless of which region will have to play catch up, you can watch the games starting October 2nd here on ESTNN TV.