League of Legends World Championship fever is, quite literally, spreading like the plague – nearly every team competing at the international tournament has now reported at least one case of illness within their ranks. Many pros have now expressed their dismay at the situation; having worked all year to reach the tournament, being unable to compete at the top of your game for health reasons must be extremely frustrating.
Aside from the International Wildcard competitors, nearly every other World Championship competitor travelled to South Korea ahead of Worlds 2016 for bootcamp. Players’ routines during bootcamp naturally varied from team to team, the one constant however, is that nearly all the teams who spent time in Korea ahead of the tournament have had members on their roster fall ill upon travelling to San Fransisco for the group stages.
After the first day of games, a significant trend emerged in players’ post match interviews – a number of players looking to excuse their teams’ performance by emphasising the illness circulating within the team camps. Following Counter Logic Gaming’s shock defeat to wildcard, Albus NoX Luna – top laner, Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha credited CLG’s lack of co-ordination to the sickness of shot-caller, Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black:
“The thing for us is people are sick right now – Aphromoo is really sick.
“It kind of sucks for us when our main shot-caller can’t even really focus that well. So practice has been kind of rough for us, especially with that.”
Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha
Counter Logic Gaming were fortunate enough to bounce back from their loss with a stunning victory over ROX Tigers. AD Carry, Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes later clarified in his post-match interview that every member of the team had suffered from illness upon returning from Korea.
CLG certainly weren’t the only squad to suffer upon returning to America. CLG’s rivals, Team SoloMid, also suffered the loss of their primary shot caller. Speaking after their second group stage match and an inconsistent start to the tournament, veteran AD carry, Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng revealed that sickness had also plagued the North American favourites:
“Bjergsen’s really sick so it’s really affecting our team dynamic because he can’t really talk as much – he lost his voice.
“Lacking communication from mid is kinda the opposite to what we were used to the entire season and all the time I’ve been playing with him.
“He’s a really vocal player, all of us have had to step up and fill that hole – that void in our communication.”
Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng
Not even the world’s best player (arguably), Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho is immune from the contagious disease spreading within the professional League of Legends World Championship scene:
Though it by no means absolves the disappointing performances of the European teams, it seems that they are also suffering.
Really sorry couldn’t show up on the fan meet today. I am sick, gotta rest for tommorow. Good night!
— VandeR (@VanderLCS) 2 October 2016
GG to @INTZeSports . Sad we lost yesterday but we managed to pick it up today, we got more comfortable on stage, hope i wont be sick anymore
— Pascu Andrei (@OdoamneLoL) 1 October 2016
GG INTZ group can be possibly already wide open. Hoping our teams dodges the flu that is plaguing our team recently. Next days vs EDG.
— FORG1VEN (@FORG1VENGRE) 1 October 2016
With the crippling effect of illness taking its toll on influential players, are bootcamps really beneficial enough to risk players’ health?
Bootcamps are intense and stressful. Combining an already-run-down player with a long-haul flight, on a plane containing a wealth of foreign germs, jet lag, exhaustion and an immediate return to practice – it’s hardly surprising so many pros have fallen ill.
At this point it feels like the benefits of bootcamping may well be cancelled out by the strain it places on the players. Not bootcamping used to be a legitimate option, but with nearly every competitive team jetting out to Korea every year, not following suit would make you the one anomaly with no-one to practice with.
The 2016 bootcamp process has backfired badly – but with the practice now so deeply engrained into teams’ pre-worlds preparation – the vicious circle seems unlikely to be broken anytime soon.