“Say hello to the winds of change!”
Although Janna’s old joke is long gone from League of Legends, its relevance is evergreen. As the League preseason draws to a close, 2020 brings a structural overhaul of the College League of Legends Championship, affecting all top collegiate teams— including Division I Cal.
“Change is good.”
A new year always brings tough adjustments for college teams in any sport, with players rotating out on a four-year basis, it can be hard to predict success. Cal League of Legends might agree with Kha’Zix, a ravenous bug-monster that adapts based on its enemies — change is good.
The team placed first in the Collegiate Starleague’s preseason tournament — an unofficial competition designed for squads to get competitive practice in the fall — and won a total of $1,500. The Bears took the best-of-three finals match (2-1) against McMaster University on December 7.
“We’re a pretty new team, so getting all the way to the end of preseason feels really solid,” top laner Patrick “LegendAchiever9” Visan said. “I’m happy that even though we dropped a game in the finals, we were able to keep our mental state intact to bounce back to win the series, and I think that bodes well for the regular season.”
Visan is one of the two veterans on Cal’s roster. He and jungler Lawrence “eXyu” Xu have played for the DI team since 2018. Visan credited Eugene “Eugenium” Tang, midlaner, as one of the keys to the Bears’ finals victory.
“I happened to pick up like a couple of kills early, so it was really nervous for me because I have so many resources and I felt like I needed to carry the team,” Tang said. “So I’m glad I came up big with the advantages that I had.”
Although he had played League of Legends competitively before, 2020 will mark Tang’s first year as a DI representative. The sophomore leans on his teammates to keep his cool on game day.
“Lawrence and I had this pregame ritual. I’m nervous all the time playing League, so I actually shake a lot, to the point where my mechanics are not optimal,” Tang said. “So Lawrence usually just comes over and he gives me a mini massage every game, so I become less nervous.”
“I’m just getting started.”
In League, Rengar, a relentless, feline hunter, catches careless players in the jungle.
Just like a big cat, changes in competition can sneak up on you; collegiate players were surprised by the sweeping modifications for the 2020 College League of Legends season, announced by Riot Games, the company behind League of Legends, in the fall.
The maximum size for active rosters has been increased to 10 from the customary six, giving teams more options to work with on game day.
Additionally, the College Championship bracket has been expanded to include 32 teams instead of just eight, and the Play-in phase — which required teams that placed second in regional playoffs to fight through yet another bracket to advance to the championship — has been eliminated.
Lastly, scholarship prize money is now awarded based only on performance in the championship bracket, where in previous years teams could win money for top placement in regional conferences.
Unlike traditional Division I athletes, Cal League of Legends players compete for outside scholarships; “DI” is a designation by the school’s League of Legends esports program, not Cal Athletics.
The overall prize pool for the tournament has decreased significantly. Riot’s announcement cited the increasing amount of schools providing their own scholarships to players as one of the reasons for the reduction, as Riot prizing has become relatively less impactful.
From individual rosters to the competitive league as a whole, change is inevitable. As Akali — one of Tang’s most played League of Legends champions in Season 9 — says, “Can’t stop what’s comin’.”