In most competitive sports, the basic principle of achieving victory is to maximize your gains and minimize your damage. That’s why one of the basics of LoL macro, the “Diagonal Rule” was brought in. For example, when your jungler ganks top lane to secure a kill, your bottom duo should fall back or at least be ready for an enemy gank.
▲ Credit: Riot Games / LoLeventVODs-LoL Esports VODs YouTube channel
This is the full clip from Jan. 17 (KST), 2019 of the LCK Spring, Kingzone vs Griffin series, game 1. Near the 18:30 mark, while Tarzan hunts down the Rift Herald alone, Kingzone decides to go for a bottom dive. Using 2 Teleports, Kingzone instantly makes it a 5 vs 3. On the other hand, Griffin decides to only spare Sword’s Teleport; Chovy, who had his Teleport as well, walks down to join and Tarzan secures the Herald and uses it on Kingzone’s top tier 1 tower right away.
So, what was the result of the exchange? Kingzone did kill Viper-Lehends-Sword, but Rascal-PawN were killed in the process. They also lost the Herald and their top tier 1 turret. Kingzone failed to destroy Griffin’s bottom tier 1 turret as well. Chovy, who did not use his Teleport, gained 2 kills, and Tarzan instantly earned that game’s first-turret gold. As a result, Kingzone earned approximately 2.6k whereas Griffin earned 3.9k. Griffin also managed to push through both top and bottom lane waves.
Although they say that the meta has changed, in the aforementioned situation, most LCK teams still choose to fall back from the enemy’s 5-man dive or counter it by Teleporting to bottom lane or by calling for backup from their jungler who was hunting down the Herald.
After Griffin’s one-sided victory against Kingzone, we wanted to learn the details on their rather off-meta decisions during the series. We decided to meet up with their head coach, cvMax, who was at the core of it all.
Looking back on Griffin’s past performance and the one they displayed today, (notes: this interview was conducted on Jan. 17) we found 3 things that were different compared to the other LCK teams. One was that they did not use the 10-man roster, and two, that they used off-meta strategies such as their counter to Kingzone’s 5-man dive in game 1. The last difference was their drafts; picking support Elise in game 2 would be an example.
The 10-man roster has a lot of benefits. First off, it can bring positive competition to the team since the starters can always be substituted to their bench members based on their performance. This is why the overall performance of the team increases. Also, you can plan scrims inside the team. This means that one can try out special strategies without exposing it to your opponents.
So, why didn’t Griffin choose to utilize the 10-man roster which has become a standard for numerous LoL teams across the world?
We use a rather different training method. It’s going to be highly difficult to bring in the 10-man roster if one is using the same methods we do. Most importantly, it will take an immense amount of time to understand our training methods; those methods can be thought of as a bit ‘awkward’ for others.
It’s very similar to our players being able to play without making specific calls. When someday others get to hear how we train, they’ll understand why I’m not using the 10-man roster. Still, theoretically, the 10-man roster can be used in Griffin. However, it will take a lot of time. My players will have to put in a lot to understand our training methods and I would have to put in a lot of my energy as well.
It seemed likely that cvMax’s reasoning for why they can’t use the 10-man roster would have a connection to their unexpected off-meta plays. So, following our first question, we asked why they did not choose to join the bottom lane when Kingzone 5-man dived their tier 1 turret.
Our decision was simply the best choice we could make. If the choice you just asked was the best, we would have gone for that one. Try to think this way; let’s say the opponent chose to outnumber you. In this case, we make an ‘imaginary’ pause. Once the game is paused, the players talk for 10 minutes.
“The opponents have just put 5 members near bottom lane. Should we wait for back up? Or we can sacrifice our players and the remaining players can push through the opposite lane alone. Or should we just fall back and go to mid lane?” And after we finished talking, we resume the game and try out every option. Then we choose the most beneficial one; our plays are similar to that. We’ve gained a lot of data. Our goal is to play this game in the best way.
I know that it’s not normal to imagine pausing the game. However, it’s like passing a crossroad; we simply chose the best route.
According to cvMax, this was not a result of simply stacking experience.
This can’t be done only by having a lot of experience. Experiencing a lot doesn’t mean that anyone else can make our plays. The reason why my players can make those plays is that the 5 of them and I share the same thoughts and understanding. I prefer to open my methods, and I’ve told the truth and nothing but the truth: we just go with what we think is the best.
We put in our utmost to find a perfect answer for every play. I’m also confident in that way and that’s why I try to give feedback focused on that matter a lot. “You should have joined the team to fight.”, “In this kind of situation, you guys shouldn’t have joined up for a teamfight. You should have sacrificed a member and the rest should have scattered throughout the map which would be an advantage for us.”
The team has been receiving this kind of feedback for an entire year. Using the feedback we shared, now we can predict and analogize situations that we’ve never encountered before. If I drop a glass window and show them it shatters, they’ll know from that point on that they shouldn’t drop it. Then, when I try to drop a plate, the players will have a clue as to whether it will shatter or not by looking back on their past experience. Even if it’s made up of a different material, they can still understand from the glass window experience.
We’ve been sharing feedback for a year and that data has stacked a lot. I’ve been repeating this numerous times and the players can now anticipate situations that they’ve never encountered. Yes, experience is important. Even if that experience seems useless, if it’s stacked, it can be useful at some point. However, it’s more about the quality than quantity.
Head coach cvMax’s thoughts might be theoretically understandable. It was like asking a summa cum laude how you can get better grades. Although he has an answer, it’s still hard for others to make use of it; it was an answer that only he and his Griffin crew can utilize.
His answer about the team’s off-meta drafts was nothing different.
Well...To be honest, my answer for this is pretty much the same: in that situation, that pick was simply the best. I’ve never thought about showing off a new pick or anything like that. About our support Elise pick in game 2… I just thought about what kind of pick would fit best in that situation and my answer was “Elise”. That’s why I picked her. We’ve also practiced using Elise in that kind of draft situation in the past.
You know, when I was in middle school, I had to do a speech presentation in front of the class. I was a bit nervous and eventually, I started to write a small cheat sheet to help me out during the presentation. But, as I wrote down my points I started to have a general understanding of what to speak and soon memorized my whole speech.
Planning a draft is pretty similar to my past experience. As I kept on writing down my picks and bans for different kind of situations, I soon had a general understanding in my head. Although I do have a note when I’m planning my draft on stage, I actually don’t really need it. Having a pen in my hand does make me think, but the notes themselves aren’t really needed.
Benchmarking someone is an efficient way to improve. Even at this very moment, numerous coaches will be analyzing Griffin’s plays and drafts. It’s quite likely that teams will soon be using similar strategies. However, as cvMax said, he’s practiced with their 5 players for more than a year, and based on their past data he is confident that they will make their best possible choices inside the game. It is likely that the LCK teams will follow Griffin’s footsteps, but at this point, it’s hard to imagine them displaying the same dominance that Griffin has been showing as of late.
photo credit: League of Legends Champions Korea LCK flickr