League of Legends pro gamers tell us what it takes to get recognised in the world's biggest eSport.
League of Legends is massive. With over 30 million people watching players compete for a share of over $2m in the World Championships, it’s little wonder that many fans would love to play it for a living. However, only a small minority get to experience what it’s like to be a League of Legends professional. So, if you’re just starting out, how can you break through?
Pro players Jesper ‘Zvanillan’ Svenningsen, Paul ‘sOAZ’ Boyer and Warren ‘WaWa’ Waldrom have got some top tips for you as they reveal the steps players need to take to follow their dream of becoming a LoL pro.
Dedicate your life to it.
This isn’t like playing FIFA. You can’t just play for a few hours to keep your skill levels up. To make it as a League of Legends pro, you need to practise all day. Top UK player Warren ‘Wawa’ Waldrom laid down exactly what you need to do to get to the top. “If your dream is to become an LCS player you're looking at years of playing all day, nearly every day,” said the Team Infused man.
“And we're not talking about playing hours of dominions or trolling with your friends in arams. It’s a case of grinding soloq - which at times can be disgustingly boring, but is the best way to improve as an individual - as well as spamming ranked 5 matches with your team (when you get one).
"When you're starting to get good, play hours of scrims against the best teams in your region each day. It’s certainly not a short term goal. You need to dedicate your life to it.”
Origen player sOAZ agreed, adding that to compete at the very top, an average day of practice "is probably between 8 to 12 hours.”
Get a daily practise routine
A consistent practice schedule is important to develop as a player. Origen marksman Zvanillan explained the daily routine for most European teams: “They play 3-6 hours of ‘scrims’ which consists of custom games against other pro teams.
“Teams also watch replays of previous scrims to reflect on mistakes and learn from them. Other teams play Solo Queue after scrims to keep up their mechanical skill or to learn a champion that has recently become popular.”
You see, it’s not just about playing. For some players, watching is almost as important. “It depends on the player, his role and approach,” added Zvanillan. “Some players like myself like to grind a lot of games to improve mechanical play, while some players - let's say support players - like to theorize about the strategy part of the game.
“Supports are often shot callers, so it's important for them to watch top teams in other regions in order to know how to play the map in terms of pick/ban, objectives, vision, rotations and such. But playing at least a couple of games a day is good.”
For WaWa, however, playing takes up most of his day. This is his daily routine: “Wake up, play a soloq game or two to warm up, play 3-5 hours of scrims, food break, another 3-5 hours of scrims then more soloq and, finally, free time.”
How to get noticed
As the League of Legends community is so vast, it is tough to get recognition, but as Zvanillan explains, it’s not impossible. If you have the right skills, you just need to prove yourself against the best.
“The only way for a new player to prove themself to pro organisations is through Solo Queue,” said the Origen player. “Pros play soloq, you play soloq. Playing with them and being high on the ladder will make them know who you are. When a pro team is in need of a new player, the first thing they will look for are either previous pros who are available or a highly rated soloq player for that role. I was recognised because I had two accounts in the top 10 of EU West solo queue for the entire season, and was known by lots of pros.”
However, you don’t need to wait around for a team to pick you up first. According to WaWa, there is another way. “You can make your own team, grind some tournaments, attend a few LAN events and turn a few heads,” he said. “If you're a good enough player, eventually you will get noticed.”
sOAZ believes that you do need a certain amount of luck as well as skill: “Right now, you pretty much have to be a challenger player, be really good so people notice you, have a good attitude and be really lucky. You will get recognised by players and not organisations.”
Be a great team player
You can get noticed for your individual skill, but to make an impact on the League of Legends scene, you can’t do it on your own – you need to be part of a strong, stable and talented team.
WaWa said: “Besides the obvious things like talent and good mechanics, you need a good team dynamic. If the team dynamic is bad then you really won’t get anywhere, and there’s a lot more to being a team player than just being mechanically amazing. The types of players on each team, communication with each other, and game knowledge are all just as important”.
Danish talent Zvanillan added that you don’t even need to be the greatest player individually to be successful. “Historically, weak individual players have achieved greatness through excellent team play.”
While Zvanillan admits that “teams with zero team play but very strong individual playmaking have also made it far,” surely it would be better to have both.
Learn the best strategies
You need to do your homework if you want to be a top player as learning the top strategies and fine tuning your skills will help you thrive. WaWa suggests watching other players performing on live streams is the best way to learn.
“When I was first starting to play League competitively, I feel I grew the most as a player when I was watching high level player’s stream,” said Warren. “Back then, leagues like LCS/ OGN either didn’t exist or weren’t being broadcasted. So I could only watch individuals streaming. Now, it’s a lot easier with regular LCS, OGN and LCK streams, etc.
"So just watch streams, but don’t just copy what the best players and teams do - try to understand why they do them. It’s one thing being able to pull off something and copy what a pro does, but another thing to understand why that player or team chose to do it.”
Zvanillan agreed that it is important to not only watch pro players play, but also adapt what you have learned to suit your own play style. “For strategies, watching the current top teams in other regions play is a great way to learn their approach to the game. Then you can use that information and mix it around or change something to make it fit your own team's play style.”
However, sOAZ suggested that you shouldn't just follow the crowd. “You should always come up with new strategies or variations on some you have learned, because you will never be as good if you copy things.”
Analyse your own game
So, you need a mixture of skill, strategy and teamwork to be a top League of Legends pro, plus consistent practice. But, our pro League of Legends players have one last bit of advice they’d give to an aspiring pro. You should analyse your own game in a bid to cut out mistakes.
Svanillan said: “If you are stuck at a certain division and can't climb any higher on the ladder, try to stop mindlessly grinding games and think about what mistakes you made and how to prevent them in future games. Try focusing on improving at one thing at a time (last hitting, positioning, map awareness, etc).”
WaWa suggests that as well as watching streams involving other pro gamers, you should take time out from playing to watch your own replays. “Download a replay program and watch your games back to see what you could improve on, because there is always something you could have done better. If you notice the small mistakes you are making and try your best to not make the same mistake twice, then you will see massive improvements in a very short space of time.”
Got all that? Good. Now head over to the Summoner's Rift and hopefully one day your skills will be witnessed by millions of viewers around the world in the LCS!