Criticism of western scrim culture has become a regular feature of the League of Legends eSports scene. In no other sport are team’s methods of practice so frequently the source of such controversy and drama, with a new depressing revelation emerging seemingly on a monthly basis. Team ROCCAT’s Head Coach Fabian “Grabbz” Lohmann is the latest managerial figure to comment on the ineffectiveness of scrims within the European scene, claiming that the average game duration for his team’s practice series is a measly 15 minutes.
Speaking on a podcast for The Score eSports, Lohmann expressed his concerns on the scrim culture within the European region. Though he later revealed that the news outlet may have misquoted him within their corresponding article, ROCCAT’s Head Coach expressed his dismay at the situation with scrims amongst Europe’s bottom-tier teams and the failing scrim culture within both the EU and NA LCS.
“I would guess the average scrim time [in EU] is 15 minutes – most games are over at ten minutes because teams FF.
“That’s because the player doesn’t care, he dies a few times, and then there’s just no point for either team because that’s not a situation you’d encounter on stage – it’s very rare that a scrim gets played out correctly.
“Let’s say you’re ahead, and the enemy team pauses and you’re like, ‘Hey can we play out please, we want to learn how to play out,’ you can’t force them because the players are gonna be like, ‘No we don’t really want to, we’re gonna troll,’ and they run it down mid until you accept their remake.”
Fabian “Grabbz” Lohmann
Grabbz was keen to clarify that his comments were strictly applicable to his experiences scrimming with ROCCAT’s fellow lower-tier EU LCS sides; ROCCAT do not scrim the EU LCS’ top sides. Lohmann argues that the leagues lower teams will never afford themselves the opportunity to challenge the league’s top teams since they do not take scrims seriously enough.
Misfits analyst Naser “Empyre” Al-Naqi weighed in to provide his insight on the issue, reinforcing that he felt that the poor scrim culture was far more prominent amongst the leagues lower teams. In reality, Emprye argues, the average scrim time amongst EU’s playoff teams is closer to 20 minutes.
Drama surrounding LCS team practice is by no means limited to the European region. At the beginning of the NA LCS Spring Split, it emerged that every other team in the league had agreed to boycott scrims with Echo Fox as a form of retribution.
The disharmony between Echo Fox and the other major NA eSports organisations had been suspected for months, with Froggen’s revelation seemingly confirming the bad blood between FOX team owner Rick Fox and the team owners for some of the NA LCS’ heavyweight organisations.
In an interview with Travis Gafford, Froggen claimed that fellow LCS players had told him their owners have banned them from scrimming against Echo Fox – something Froggen believed had directly affected the team’s ability to improve:
“We don’t really scrim LCS teams because they don’t want to scrim us,
“We can’t really do too much about it, we just try to improve as much as we can… it’s definitely holding us back.
“All I know is that they’re just saying ‘no, we can’t scrim you sorry, our owner said no.’ So can’t do much about that.”
Henrik “Froggen” Hansen
The ability to cripple a team by holding their primary form of practice hostage is yet another issue brought about by the over-reliance on scrims. Unable to trial new techniques on their LCS rivals, Froggen explained that Echo Fox were innovating with new practice methods, focusing on improvement in areas such as communication and team synergy. He underplayed the importance of working on mechanics, claiming that FOX “don’t really have mechanical issues right now…”
Interestingly, Echo Fox enjoyed a series of positive results during their period in the scrimming wilderness. As a result, they were re-introduced to the the scrim circuit… at which point the team’s form curiously fell off a cliff.
Immortals’ Korean top laner Lee “Flame” Ho-jong has similarly expressed his frustrations with the state of scrims in the NA LCS. Used to the high standard of LCK practice and discipline, the dramatic shift in players’ attitudes has caused Flame to question the purpose of western scrims:
“I played in Korea a lot, and spent a year in China as well, with now working in America. I also had some scrim experiences in Europe as well for worlds before.
“Overall, Korea takes scrims very seriously, and the skill you see in scrims would be the skill you see on stage. In NA, I don’t think this is the case.
“They give the feeling of just collapsing once they lose the early game in a scrim. I feel like there is a large gap between scrims and on stage performances.
“Rather than believing that the other teams will perform the way they do in scrims, we focus on our own practice and compositions.”
Lee “Flame” Ho-jong
Time and time again, both players and management are providing testament to the ineffectiveness of scrims within the western scene. Whilst not every player shares the same attitude towards scrims as an efficient form of practice, with so many anecdotes expressing dismay at the current situation, teams need to find a viable alternative.
Ironically however, the solution to the scrim dilemma may be out of the hands of the teams themselves. Arguably, the ideal solution is for Riot Games to create a comprehensive practice tool – applicable to 5 vs 5 situations – providing the opportunity for teams to run drills.
Practice is one of the few aspects of professional play in which eSports could learn a great deal from traditional sports. Traditional sports teams do not simply play practice matches all the time, but rather they work on specific plays. Within a League of Legends setting, a practice tool would allow teams to create scenarios similar to specific in-game evnts, re-do plays and perfect the finer mechanical aspects of the game.
Scrims may work within Korea, but too often they do not translate to the western scene – there needs to be another option.