In November, Riot Games is going to fly top-ranked League of Legends players to its League of Legends Champion Series Studios in Los Angeles. Four of the highest-ranked players in each role—top, jungle, mid, ADC, and support—will receive invitations and be drafted into teams for the event. In the NFL Combine, which is typically held in late February, players are tested on their individual skill and strength, which certainly has its place in traditional sports. NFL teams have spent millions of dollars and years of its time to predict a player’s performance based on Combine results. League of Legends doesn’t have that history—and that’s why scouting teams must focus on a player’s communication and teamwork abilities. Riot’s NA Scouting Grounds is setting up its League of Legends scouts to do just that. Individual skill is League of Legends is important, but communication and teamwork is more so.
Players are drafted on their individual skill and strength.
San Francisco 49s wide receiver Jerry Rice is said to have run the 40 yard dash in 4.59 seconds during the 1985 NFL Combine. And 4.59 seconds is fast, but compared to others in the NFL, it’s just average (for reference: this year, Houston Texans’ speedy wide receiver Will Fuller ran the 40 in 4.32 seconds). Still, Rice is one of the greatest football players of all time—he ran considerably faster on the field, with a ball in his hand, than in the Combine. Watch him play, and his worth as a football player is apparent. Individual skill in a curated environment meant nothing in determining his success.
Throughout the week, invited players will work with professional LCS players and coaches, focusing on what Riot calls the core tenets of professional League of Legends: communication, strategy, and gameplay. A round robin–style tournament at the end of the week is intended to showcase players’ skill and teamwork capabilities, especially under volatile circumstances familiar to the League of Legends competitive scene. Those able to excel under these conditions could lead to good results as professional players. Scouting teams at the Scouting Grounds will be taking the player’s individual skill into consideration, that’s for certain—it’s what got each participate to the Scouting Grounds, after all. But the real test, where a simulated tournament style setting makes sense over skill-based assessment, is in a player’s ability to adapt to their team.
Professional North American teams will be in attendance; so far, Riot has confirmed that representatives from Echo Fox and Team Liquid will be on-site during the Scouting Grounds event. However, Riot will send out video of the matches to international teams, increasing the likelihood of players who perform well being drafted into the LCS. Still, nothing is guaranteed. Players who participate in the Scouting Grounds are not guaranteed a spot on a professional team.
It’s a good time for North American teams to be scouting.
It’s a good time for North American teams to be scouting, though, which is a plus for Scout Grounds hopefuls. Changes to League of Legends’ Interregional Movement Policy were made earlier in August in efforts to encourage teams to sign players from their region of origin. “Increased requirement for residency is needed to ensure that local talent has a chance to flourish and to represent their region,” Riot said, “while also preventing excessive talent drain from certain regions.” NA Scouting Grounds is Riot’s first clear move toward easing teams into the preservation of “distinct regional identities” (whatever that means).
Will the Scouting Grounds work? I don’t know—but it sounds more promising than an NFL Combine–style evaluation event would be. Simulating a tournament environment is going to more accurately judge a player’s worth on a League of Legends team.
It’s interesting, at least, that Riot is taking a different approach to new North American talent than it does with budding European players. European’s won’t get their own Scouting Grounds event because they already have a system is place to expose rising League of Legends players. Participants in the European Regional Leagues have the chance to make it into the League of Legends Challenger Series through a series of national leagues; it’s a clearer path to becoming a professional—and a way to get noticed as a competent, team-focused player.
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