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Emily Rand: Format tweaks could better prepare the Brazilian League of Legends region for international competition

Format tweaks could help better prepare the CBLoL teams for international competition.
Keyd Stars was a victim of a bad format for the Brazilian League of Legends league. Photo courtesy of Riot Games Brazil.

When the Rift Rivals tournament was first announced, more than a few Brazilian pundits and CBLoL followers seemed to think it would be easy. Even if they had struggled at larger international events, the Brazilians should have been able to take out their closest regional rivals, Latin America North and Latin America South, with relative ease.

It wasn’t easy, though Brazil — Red Canids and Keyd Stars — did eventually take home the trophy. Both the semifinals and the finals were hard-fought 3-2 victories.

Brazil, to some extent, has stagnated over the past year.

Last week marked the end of the CBLoL winter regular season split. As teams prepare for playoffs, here are a few structural changes that should be considered for future CBLoL seasons.

Make the regular season a double round robin

After INTZ’s upset best-of-one win against EDward Gaming in the group stage of last year’s League of Legends World Championship, I interviewed then-INTZ jungler Gabriel “Revolta” Henud. He remarked that he wasn’t too upset about the shorter length of the Brazilian regular season because it created opportunities for teams to train elsewhere — outside of Brazil where they could scrim better teams.

The idea of traveling to foreign boot camps in search of stronger opponents is fairly common not only in Brazil, as top North American, European, Chinese, and Taiwanese teams all arrange for boot camps in Korea, regardless of the location of worlds. The difference is that those regions also have had more games in their regular seasons, especially since the arrival of best-of-threes last year for most regions. Although it would make the season longer, and pre-playoff boot camps impossible, the tradeoff for a longer season would be worth it because it would give Brazilian teams double the experience they receive in such a short season.

With what was the former International Wildcard Qualifier rolled into worlds presumably for the foreseeable future, there’s no better time than now to restructure the CBLoL regular season.

I harbor no illusions about the strength of Brazil as a region. Although Brazil had the first International Wildcard team to burst into the international spotlight due to KaBuM! eSports’ best-of-one win in 2014, Brazil doesn’t have a reliable track record at qualifying events. Despite 2015 paiN Gaming and 2016 INTZ eSports, I still don’t consider Brazil so far ahead of its minor region competitors that a Brazilian team is a likely victor when competing internationally. Competitive League of Legends in Brazil has seemed even worse this past year than before in terms of gameplay, though teams like ProGaming and Team oNe breathed new life into the standings.

There are too few games in a best-of-two single round robin to truly determine the strength and seeding of teams for both playoffs and relegation, especially with the frequency of game patching. Although many will continue to rail against best-of-twos, the lack of a second set of games is what really hurts the region’s development.  

Admittedly, I know little about the actual CBLoL production other than everyone I’ve met who works toward broadcasting CBLoL every week works tirelessly to offer the best product that they can. This is in no way an effort to undermine anything they do, and from the official broadcast to separate shows, interviews, and videos, the passion behind the scenes is obvious.

Perhaps the situation is similar to what happened with the North American Challenger Series this split, where there wasn’t enough interest to warrant investment in on-air talent and support staff to broadcast every game. Perhaps adding more games would spread talent too thin. But the viewership numbers, both on Twitch and especially YouTube, speak for themselves.

Yes, adding more games, like most moves in League of Legends esports, is still a risk in terms of interest and possibly broadcast talent, but the payoff in practice for Brazilian teams to improve over the course of a season is a worthy investment in the region if they ever want a top team to come close to competing at an international level.

Shortest win time should never be a deciding factor in whether a team makes the playoffs

Read the above sentence to yourself.

Now take a minute to think about what it means.

If you don’t follow Brazil all that closely, yet are reading this article anyway, you’re probably figuratively scratching your head in confusion, or at least cocking it to the side with a quizzical expression. Maybe you thought that nothing could be worse than last summer when Apex Gaming missed playoffs despite having a stronger overall win rate (by six percent) than Team EnVyUs, which snuck into playoffs because of a better head-to-head record against Apex.

CBLoL, which uses set wins/total points, total wins, and then shortest average win time as tiebreakers, is far worse.

The fact that shortest win time is a tiebreaker in determining not only whether a team goes to playoffs, but whether a team plays in the promotion tournament, is absurd. CBLoL gets the first two seeding qualifications right in prioritizing overall set wins/total points as the first criteria and overall game win rate as the second, but it botches the system from there by relying on shortest average game win time as the next determining factor.

Shortest win time in no way guarantees that the better team makes it to the playoffs, or the worse team ends up in relegations, especially since the CBLoL season is so short in the first place as a best-of-two single round robin. Win time gives no leeway for shifts in meta, where game patches can have a dramatic effect on whether teams run compositions that are designed to win early. The last thing a team should be thinking of when preparing to face their opponents on a new patch is whether they can win in a short enough time to keep their playoff, and World Championship, dreams alive.

Yet, that’s exactly what happened this past weekend in Brazil during Keyd Stars’ set with INTZ eSports. After losing Game 1, Keyd knew that they had to win Game 2 in approximately 22 minutes to make playoffs due to the CBLoL tiebreaker rules. A victory in 32 minutes or less would guarantee them a spot safe from the promotion tournament. Knowing this, it’s no surprise that Keyd put their hopes on their strong jungle and top lane duo of Revolta and Felipe “Yang” Zhao, picking up Nidalee (INTZ had banned Elise) and Renekton. Taliyah, Caitlyn, and Zyra rounded out the composition with a heavy focus on early waveclear and pushing. They knew they needed it.

It was also Brazil’s first week on Patch 7.14, which brought with it a strong focus on scaling tanks. Simply put, the easiest compositions to execute were ones that scaled into late game with a strong and tanky front line, often in multiple lanes and the jungle. Keyd started the game with an early lead but lost a team fight at 15:30 when pushing bot lane with Rift Herald.

The game was over after that. Due to the tiebreaker rules, Keyd had to bank on an early game composition. When it didn’t pan out, the team found itself not only out of worlds contention but also shuttled to the promotion tournament.

Combined with the short number of games and the frequency of patches, using average win time as the deciding factor in whether a team makes or misses playoffs, or is sent into the promotion tournament, is unfair, to say the least. Regardless of whether the amount of games is increased in the future, CBLoL should do away with this tiebreaker and go with head-to-head record as their third option, or simply default to a best-of-one tiebreaker match.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games Brazil

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