The players of Kingzone DragonX have been playing exceptionally well coming into the 2018 LCK season. KZ may have lost to KSV during the opening game of the Spring Split with a score of 0-2, but after that match, KZ went on a winning streak - taking 7 series without dropping a single set. In the LCK standings, both KSV and KT are right on KZ's tail, but regardless of that, many fans and analysts have picked KZ as the likely candidate to become the champions of the Spring.
Those who follow the LCK, be it fans and/or analysts, may have come up with an explanation as to why KZ is so dominant in the current scene. A certain head coach of an LCK team said, "the amount of hours KZ players spend on practice is really something else. There are already players that have played hundreds of games." Another figure from the esports scene also once stated, "firstly, the team atmosphere is really good. Every player on their roster is also very talented - I think they motivate each other."
Every team in the League of Legends esports scene puts immense effort into practice, but the amount of time KZ players spend on practice is something beyond the ordinary. Due to the packed and strict schedule of the LCK, many teams are securing scrim time late into the night - but KZ is strengthening themselves through other means. After their planned scrims, the KZ players are free to spend the rest of their practice time using their own methods. During this time, the players take the information that they have gathered and learned through their scrims and apply it to their individual practice. In addition, the players actively share their opinions and views with each other to draw a conclusion for what they have been practicing and/or experimenting.
Practice Earnestly, Freely Give and Receive Feedback
Motivation makes results
Although nothing too out of the ordinary, there is something unique about Kingzone DragonX and their team atmosphere. Fairly recently, head coach Hirai said that the players of KZ must learn to maintain their physical and mental conditions. This was mentioned by him due to the excessive amount of practice his players were having. For Khan, even on a day off or a holiday, he can't go to sleep unless he plays at least 1 game. There couldn't be a more happy concern for the coaching staff.
Usually, the daily scrim schedule of a team is simple. From 1 PM to 4 PM, teams play their first scrim of the day. Then, they are granted approximately 2 hours of free time before playing another scrim at 7 PM. KZ also follow the same schedule, but their practice goes deeper into the night - spotting a KZ player in a solo queue game past midnight is not a rare sight. However, practice alone can't bring good results.
After finishing up with their individual practice, the players get together for feedback. During the feedback process, the players say whatever they have on their minds to the others, with no reserve. Unlike the bright KZ players who frequently joke around, they are very composed and serious during feedback time. It's a time where everyone gets the right to speak - age, experience, and position in the organization - none of that matters here.
If there is something that a player wants to experiment with - be it big or small - the entire team will come forth together to discuss it and actually put it into play. Recently, the players of KZ were experimenting with 'ward experience', to simulate the many outcomes that can happen in a game.
Different Players, Same Team Colors
Rotation system. New players take the baton from the old and practice with the same champions and team playstyle.
It's obvious that a player that performed well during practice will be put on stage. However, KZ's coaching staff will not alter the team composition and the macro that they had planned out beforehand. This is how KZ maintained their speedy and aggressive team playstyle no matter who climbs on the stage to play.
Both Rascal and Cuzz are good examples. Their starter counterparts are Khan and Peanut respectively. But even though they change players, both the sub and starter of a given position practice the same champions and team playstyle - they don't practice one thing more than the other; tanks, for example. Both Cuzz and Rascal play aggressive champions, so there aren't any major differences between the subs and the starters.
During scrims, all the players - including the subs - need to attend. In other words, the players who aren't playing, need to watch the game and go through the feedback process. If Khan and Peanut are the ones playing in a scrim, Rascal and Cuzz are to watch them and give them advice.
These types of processes allow unique and bold team compositions to appear in the LCK. Looking back at their past games, KZ pulled out a toplane Cassiopeia, an unexpected Poppy, and very recently, a Riven pick. Without going against the meta, KZ's beliefs and driving force weren't tied down to standard ideas, and it allowed them to make great results.
Then, We Were Wrong. Now, We're Right.
Head Coach Hirai, who chases after trends
Despite having great members on the team, the previous iteration of Kingzone DragonX (Longzhu Gaming) was a bottom-placed team. Just one season ago, KZ picked up PrillA as their botlane, but their position in the LCK standings didn't change much at all. To not repeat history, coach Hirai not only picked up great players for his roster but a skilled coaching staff as well.
Hirai's biggest interest is "how do strong teams operate?" In order to find the optimal way to run the team, he frequently consults with his players. In addition, he holds as many meetings as possible with the other staff members to find the best way to operate the organization. As a result, Hirai hired staff members who are capable of speaking Chinese, to be able to fluently communicate with the team's sponsor. Also, he picked up coach Yeon for his players, a coach who has playing experience.
Also, this isn't well-known, but coach Choi puts in as much effort as the players themselves. Every day, Choi devotes a lot of his time to League of Legends. While eating, he makes sure to watch League games, and before bed, he watches VODS of leagues from overseas. To the moment right before falling asleep, you will hear league casters from his phone.
Coach Yeon, who is very familiar with the players and their performance, is in charge of "team detail". Once in a while, the feedback process that was mentioned earlier, is extended - mostly because of Yeon's meticulous nature. His biggest and most important role within the team is to keep a check on the players' feedback and make sure they do not repeat mistakes that they have made in the past.
The hardest thing for all professional gamers to do is to win in a "fun manner" for the fans. With that said, the fans expect a lot from the team that they are rooting for. We're still relatively early on in the season, but KZ has been doing a great job at accomplishing this hard task.