H2K’s Konstantinos “Forg1ven” Tzortziou. Image courtesy of Riot Games Flickr

What League of Legends Coaches Can Learn from the New England Patriots

The dust has settled on the 2016 League of Legends World Championship Group Stage. Looking back over the past two weeks of competition, I found myself asking an unusual question:

“Why are so many top players getting to play their signature champion?”

Considering each team is only guaranteed six games, each match has a significant impact on whether a team can make it out of their group. So, why was H2K’s Konstantinos “Forg1ven” Tzortziou able to play Caitlyn five times during groups? Why was Samsung’s Lee “Crown” Min-ho effortlessly dominating on Viktor in three of his games? Would three wins and a 23.5 KDA be enough to warrant a ban on Tigers jungler Wangho “Peanut” Han? It’s inexcusable to allow TSM’s Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg to play Syndra once, let alone twice. Counter Logic Gaming’s mid laner Jaehyun “HuHi” Choi’s would have loved to play Aurelion Sol more than once.

The amount of comfort champions making it through pick and ban during groups was befuddling. Targeting an opponents strengths is not a foreign concept in eSports or traditional sports, but there is one organization that may be better at it than everybody else.

Don’t Let Their Best Beat You

Regardless of what you think of The New England Patriots, their resume speaks for itself. During the Bill Belichick era, the Patriots have a regular season record of 191–69 (.735), a post season record of 22–9 (.710) and four Super Bowl titles in six trips.

The Patriots win a lot.

The start of this season has brought nothing but praise for Bill Belichick and his coaching staff. Leading the Patriots to a 3–1 start without quarterback Tom Brady, Belichick continues to make an argument for why he’s one of the greatest coaches in NFL history.

So, what makes the Patriots so successful? Planning and execution come to mind, but part of Belichick’s coaching philosophy is echoed by his father Steve:

“Be strong against a team’s strength. Be alert for anything that they have shown. If they do beat you, make them do it with something they haven’t shown before” — Steve Belichick

The Patriots shut down the top option. They took away the deep ball against the Arizona Cardinals, forcing them to pass short. They neutralized the Houston Texans defence by throwing quick passes and scrambling with rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett. They will do anything to keep the opponents best players down, forcing the secondary and tertiary options to make winning plays.

Samsung’s Lee “Crown” Min-ho. Image courtesy of Riot Games Flickr

Don’t Let Them Play Their Game

Banning out the opponents best player is not a new concept when it comes to competitive League of Legends. The GE Tigers bans of Graves, Lucian and Lulu against SK Gaming during the IEM World Championship Katowice is an excellent example of targeting an opponents comfort picks. The “GE bans” effectively nullified SK Gaming’s comfortable lane shove strategy, leaving them unable to adjust in the playoffs.

As the eight remaining teams head into the best-of-five quarterfinals, the pick and ban becomes more complex. Each match-up will undoubtedly create its own meta with unique champion priorities. It might be worth taking a page out of Bill Belichick’s playbook and target the comfort picks and strategies the teams have already shown. If they do beat you, make them do it with something they haven’t shown before.

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