The UKLC has adopted an interesting format for the games of it’s regular season, every week functioning as a mini play offs, with the winner challenging last weeks Tower champions. Early wins are crucial as a late game surge from bottom tier to middle or even top, does not have the same impact it would in the LEC where wins are of equal value, one win being one point, with the UKLC tower champions earning 5 points, nearly double that of the team that reached the final and challenged them for the tower.
I’m not yet convinced that this will lead to a more contentious league as teams like Fnatic Rising are already tearing away from the pack. I suspect that what we might see is the LEC academy teams swapping positions at the top of the tower, with the rest of the league clawing for any points they can get on the way up the tower. While this remains to be seen, what we have seen is teams struggling to hold onto the spot at the top of the tower and I’d like to think about why?
Sitting atop the tower is a privileged position. More points, less games that you could be upset on, guaranteed more points than most on a week to week basis. But does it come with some hidden downsides as well?
To explore this I am going to consider two things, the first of which is pressure. We’ve heard from teams all over the world that games for tournaments have more weight, often leading to a disparity between practice and the live events. While I recognise that the UKLC takes place online unlike some of the other national leagues, there will still be that pressure on players. Perhaps felt particularly clearly by those on the LEC academy rosters, who know that their performance is being watched and that success or in the recent cases of Jizuke and Visicsaci main roster illness, that they could be called up to a bigger stage.
If this pressure is adversely affecting players, the tower champions play less games than the majority of other contenders. This means less games ‘on stage’ that can be analysed for mistakes and in the case Excel, being completely run over by Fnatic Rising after some botlane mistakes in week two, how much does that single game help you?
The second thing that I wanted to look at was the idea of being warmed up. The tower champions play a single game, to be become the challengers for that spot, the other team has had to win three, against three different opponents over two days. This means that have had the chance to fix some mistakes on the fly that day, and having played more competitive matches more time to identify their strengths and or weaknesses for the draft stage on that specific day. The tower champion by contrast has more information and gameplay to study whilst preparing their own strategy. But no time on stage to iron out any foibles in communication or practice executing strategies.
I do want to address one thing here in more detail, the potential strength of the academy rosters skewing the available evidence. At the time of writing, I have only just seen my first tower defence come from Fnatic Rising. Maybe Fnatic had a bad first week and Excel are a clear second place team despite taking the tower in week one? I would expect that the LEC academy teams would have the edge with access to more resources and experienced staff. We will see in the upcoming weeks, there isn’t a huge amount of data to go on. But two different tower champions were smashed from there pedestal, leading me to wonder if the spot atop the tower might have some hidden downsides.
What do you think? Does the top spot have its downfalls? Are the academy teams just too strong. Let me know in the comments section below.