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Ask the North American LCS pros: How do you feel about the state of international competition in League of Legends?

International tournaments in professional League of Legends is a topic that causes many fans angst and nostalgia.

Before Riot Games started the League of Legends Championship Series, the professional circuit resembled the tournament scene that’s common today in Dota 2 and Counter-Strike. The LCS stabilized professional League of Legends, but it left fans clamoring for more international events. The current ISM circuit has left much to be desired, as for one reason or another the field is often void of top teams and interesting matchups.

Slingshot asked 10 North American LCS pros their thoughts about the status of international tournaments and some potential solutions — if there are any.

Andy “Smoothie” Ta, Cloud9: I think international competition is usually good. It’s pretty good to have. It’s just a really weird situation for IEM Katowice because I can’t say too much about it, but there were some complications with expenses and stuff, and just a lot of small stuff that made it not worth it for us to go. A lot of teams do want international tournaments but it’s like, I think it’s OK not to. It’ll be great, of course, because international competition is always good. I’m not sure what my thoughts are because our team specifically, we get jet lagged pretty easily. That really messes with us for the next couple of days. For a lot of the times when we go to Korea for bootcamp or coming back from Korea, we just like, completely shit the bed for the first couple of days, and then we go back to the way we usually play. So I just think about our team, but I’m not sure about other teams honestly.

Benjamin “LOD” deMunck, Team Dignitas: I think international competition is really good. It’s very difficult because it feels like there’s almost never a good time for it. With playing so many games during the spring split and the summer split, most of your year is taken up, and if you want to be a good team, you have to grind insanely hard during both splits. You have to be playing solo queue all day when you’re not scrimming. You always got to be focused on the game, always thinking about the game, watching teams that are successful. It just takes up your entire day, and you get one or two break days a month. You’re always grinding. With Katowice, teams were declining because you get this two-week break to use it to wind down a little bit, get a little bit of relief or use it to go to a completely different timezone on the other side of world and then screw your sleep schedule up, stuff like that. It’s an easy choice. No NA team would be down for that. In the middle of the season, it’s really hard. Maybe in between the splits is better, maybe after MSI and then towards the end of the offseason is really good too. I think international tournaments are really important, but it has to be timed well. In the offseason at the end, everyone’s mostly got their rosters together, so teams are able to participate early. So all in all, I think it’s really good, but timing has to be good.

Henrik “Froggen” Hansen, Echo Fox: I think it’s fine to have more international tournaments. I don’t really mind. I think the IEM Katowice thing was because I think, everything in NA is close, just a few games will decide whether you get into playoffs or not, and so everyone wants to try their hardest and be as good as they can possibly be, because spring split actually matters in part for who goes to the world championships, and you also qualify for other international tournaments. I feel like it was just bad timing for most teams, especially in NA to go to it, and it’ll be very stressful for any team that would really go. I do think it’s good, just different times that you can have those tournaments.

Austin “Gate” Yu, Echo Fox: It’s definitely hard for teams to compete internationally because we’re all bound to the league system. Every region has their own league system, and they all play at the same time, so there really isn’t a compromise. I would say if the leagues are the same as they are now, there’s really no way to get more international competition just purely based on time. Moving into the future, if each league had weeks that they took off to fit in international competition, it would be good. But I think that’s really down the road and most teams definitely value their spot in the league more than just experience in an international competition, as we’ve seen in NA. No teams decided to participate in IEM. I think overall there’s no great solution, but it would be nice to get some more international competition.

Derek “Zig” Shao, Phoenix1: I was like an OG. I played back when international tournaments weren’t all that existent. IPL 4 was my first tournament. It was like in 2012. I actually prefer playing international tournaments compared to how the LCS has turned out, but obviously Riot has the most control for everything so it’s hard to go back to anything. They’re still building it up pretty well as it is, but I definitely wish there were more opportunities for us to prove ourselves internationally, and that they were better set up and more rewarding for teams compared to how IEM is set up. Because the incentives don’t seem good enough right now.

Juan “Contractz” Arturo Garcia, Cloud9: This is a hard one because sometimes international events aren’t worth it because of how much jet lag and the time you have to practice and actually play at the event. It’s really weird. It’s hard for me to say, though, because I’ve never actually been to one before, but from what my teammates say and my coach, sometimes it’s not worth it. But usually if there’s really good teams going like SKT, the top of LPL, the top of EU LCS, then it’s definitely worth going for sure.

Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black, Counter Logic Gaming: The IEM, when we’re on break, isn’t really necessary for any team. It always depends on where it is and no one, I don’t think anybody really wants to travel 10 hours to go to Katowice where the tournament setup isn’t as good as Riot would set up an international tournament. So there’s no reason to go unless the big teams are gonna go there. Just depends on the lineup, what you’re doing if you want to travel out there. Usually it’s not worth it, especially like the prize pool, it’s not even like, yeah it’s not worth it…During the offseason the only thing that could improve that is obviously raise the (prize pool) of the tournament in general. That’s about it. And maybe the place that it’s at, because Katowice isn’t that great (in my opinion).

Alex “Xpecial” Chu, Team Dignitas: Obviously, there are some pros and cons for international tournaments. One big suggestion has been getting rid of the spring split, which is something I personally think could be an option. Back in Season 2 , Season 1, you would go to tournaments all the time, and it was very tiring. But here in LCS, you play every single week, and you don’t really travel as much. The fun in that is gone, but at the same time it makes it so that the league itself is very competitive. You have much more of a structure. You allow for a free agency period and stuff like that. It’s tough to say. I personally do enjoy traveling and doing all those things that way back when we used to do, but I don’t see LCS going away anytime soon and I personally don’t like the regular season and LCS that much because of how drawn out it is. Honestly, the most frustrating thing is that you patch so often, so a team that is Rank 1, it’s very common that the Rank 1 team going out of the regular season isn’t the Rank 1 team going out of playoffs just because the patches change the game so much. It’s not like soccer or basketball or any other traditional sports since they play on the same patch, technically, every single time. It makes it so that what’s the point of the regular season when the game changes so much? For me, it’s very frustrating. I’d rather see kings of a patch, or see teams win on a certain patch and then they have to adjust, to be better on multiple patches, but it allows there to be more winners. I like the tournament style. I like the ability to be like, “Hey we adapted really well this patch, and we’re rewarded for it,” versus if you do well in the beginning of the season, you’re not rewarded for that pretty much at all.

Galen “Moon” Holgate, FlyQuest: We got invited (to IEM Katowice), and I would have liked to have gone because I want to be put in uncomfortable situations, like in front of a huge crowd. I think it would have been nice for me to get that experience. But the majority of my team has already done it before, and for them it’s not worth it. They would rather get their rest and not get jet lagged or something because you’re flying out and you’re getting jet lagged. It’s like a 15-hour flight or something. That’s not good for you overall practice wise and rest wise. I guess the prize pool doesn’t make it worth it. As a player I don’t know what the prize pool was, to be honest, but I’m assuming it was like $50K or $100K, but after taxes that’s not much. Even if we get first place, that’s not that much. It sounds kinda rude to say, but the regular season is too important. I’d much rather get a better regular season performance than go to IEM. If it was closer, if it was in NA or Canada, or somewhere close by to fly, obviously every team would be down to do it.

Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi, Cloud9: I think having more would be beneficial. Just being able to scrim against the teams before the tournament gets played, that helps a lot for the teams but the problem is how much time you actually have. This was a week in the middle of NA LCS, so you go out there, you get to play to scrims before you have to play and then you have to play on stage. You get some experience there, but it’s not set up well like worlds is. For worlds, you get the whole four weeks before you actually have to play where you can sit there and practice. Usually everyone goes to Korea to get the best practice they can. I do think more international tournaments are good, it’s just really hard to fit them in. With this Katowice specifically, I think a lot of teams (were) declining because there’s not enough time to set up for it, and the rewards for even winning it are relatively low. I think every team would lose out unless they’re winning.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games