Wisely and slow: Cal League of Legends qualifies for playoffs

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“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.”

William Shakespeare must not have been thinking of collegiate esports when he wrote that line, because it’s totally wrong. The difference between the regular season and regional playoffs of the 2019 College League of Legends tournament is “-gary.”

Cal League of Legends beat the University of Calgary in an extremely close three-game series Saturday, ending the regular season with a 5-1 record. Before last weekend’s match, both Cal and Calgary were 4-1 overall, and teams must finish either 5-1 or 6-0 to advance to playoffs.

“There’s always the possibility of losing the (series) after morale is down from throwing a game, but I had confidence in our team and our shotcallers to bring us back,” said top laner Patrick “LegendAchiever9” Visan.

Visan, jungler Lawrence “eXyu” Xu, mid laner Aaron “isthatthem” Olguin and marksman Steven “Issys Cutie” Dai are all heading to playoffs for the first time. Team captain and support Robert “Roflcopter” Lemons was already playing for the team when Cal last made playoffs, in 2017.

“I’m back. Can’t get rid of me for too long,” Lemons said. “Being on an elimination match is always fun to play because the stakes are high.”

Thanks to their qualification, each player on the Cal team is guaranteed a scholarship worth at least $1,000. The amount increases for higher placements, all the way up to $8,000 per player for the first-place team at the end of playoffs.

Lemons, a senior this year, has high hopes for his final tournament run. When asked what he’ll do with his $1,000 prize, he responded, “I have no clue, but I’m hoping to make it more.”

Game one

Early teamfights in game one put Calgary in the lead. Top laner “Kryous” on Jax consistently hit “Counter Strike” stuns on multiple Cal players, turning skirmishes in his team’s favor.

The game stalled after 25 minutes, with Calgary ahead by almost 3,000 gold. Kryous, now at level 16, pushed bot lane against Cal top laner Visan, two levels behind on Poppy. The split push left the eight other players to hover around Baron pit, looking for an engage.

Cal was the team to find its fight. Jungler Xu kicked Calgary marksman “Chubymonkey” into the rest of the Cal team while marksman Dai flashed a “Sleepy Trouble Bubble” to chase down Calgary’s Zoe mid.

With most of Calgary’s damage gone, the Bears took Baron and reset. Outside the mid lane inhibitor, support Lemons landed a Thresh hook on Chubymonkey, and jungler Xu took the opportunity to kick him into three other Calgary players for the knockup.

When the dust settled, Kryous had only just made it back to base from bot lane, and Cal dropped Calgary’s last remaining member for game one.

Game two

No clear lead emerged throughout the first half of the second game. A double kill for Kryous on Olaf set the Cal top lane behind, but the Bears built pressure in the mid and bot lanes through ganks by jungler Xu (playing Jarvan, with a phase one Lee Sin ban from Calgary) and mid laner Olguin’s roams.

The Bears were up by 3,500 gold after 20 minutes, with four turret kills to Calgary’s two, but a two-for-two dragon pit fight and a pick on Cal marksman Dai kept Calgary in the running. Almost immediately afterward, three Cal players were caught out top, and Calgary went to Baron.

Though Calgary had only just taken the game into its hands, the team’s victory was swift. Massive damage from mid laner “Octacton” turned the final teamfight into a 5v4. With an unstoppable Olaf in Cal’s base, Calgary took the series to game three.

Game three

Both teams were hyperaware of the playoffs spot on the line — they played cautiously, unwilling to take the risks they had taken in the previous two games.

Kills were traded across the map, but Cal was gaining a lead; by 20 minutes, jungler Xu had a score of 5/0/1 and felt confident enough to two-man Baron with mid laner Olguin. Calgary caught on and contested, but the Bears secured the objective.

Calgary went to take dragon while a few of the Bears were still down. Xu attempted to steal, but he was easily warded off. Only Olguin was left alive with Baron buff, and Calgary came away with a total of four kills and the Infernal Dragon.

Both teams were still on edge, and they began searching for a mid lane fight. Calgary spotted marksman Dai alone, lacking the vision to see the rest of the Bears in the river nearby. Jungler “Treebro001” initiated with Jarvan’s “Cataclysm,” only for Dai to flash out.

The rest of the Calgary team had jumped in to follow up, but with several critical ultimate abilities wasted and no walls for Calgary’s top lane Gnar to ult onto, the players were easy targets for a counterengage.

Cal chased the entire enemy team down mid, and with 40-plus-second death timers and Cal still at full health, the Bears destroyed the Nexus to stamp their ticket to playoffs.

2019 College League of Legends overview

The 2019 College League of Legends tournament is the collegiate League of Legends competitive esports league, sponsored by Riot Games. Cal is playing in the West Conference of the tournament and has qualified for the playoff stage, along with UC Irvine, the University of British Columbia, Arizona State University, the University of Washington, California State Polytechnic University – Pomona, and UC San Diego. The seven teams will compete (from March 16 to March 30) for part of the $100,000+ scholarship prize pool.

Julia Shen covers esports. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @yinglol.