Cal League of Legends turns heads with 1st-place finish at DreamHack Anaheim

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At a 2014 awards show, Rihanna debuted her iconic Swarovski crystal-encrusted gown and uttered the equally memorable line, “She can beat me, but she cannot beat my outfit.”

Perhaps Cal League of Legends coach Leo “Marx Lenin” Zeng took some inspiration from the pop superstar when he took the stage at DreamHack Anaheim wearing a beige trench coach with black athletic shorts. It was certainly an unbeatable look, and as it turns out, no opponent at the event could best the Bears, either.

Cal beat Arizona State 2-0 onstage in the grand finals of DreamHack Anaheim’s collegiate League of Legends tournament Feb. 21, winning a prize of $2,500. The Bears also beat UC Riverside 2-0 in their semifinals match.

The game’s sportscasters and spectators could not stop talking about Zeng’s outfit whenever he appeared on screen, with reactions ranging from “Why is Cal’s coach not wearing pants?” to “My man’s out here looking like a crepe.” It’s just as they say: If nobody hates you, you’re doing something boring.

Equally as exciting as Zeng’s fashion innovation was Cal’s victory. ASU is a team that Cal has historically struggled against, so revenge for the Bears’ defeat in the finals of the PAC-E Invitational last year and a recent regular season loss was the cherry on top of the title.

Controversial clothing choices aside, Zeng’s picks and bans were key aspects of Cal’s win.

“I watched a lot of their games, like (their DreamHack semifinals match) and our (video on demand) from when we faced them earlier this year,” Zeng said. “I caught their weakness and they had to change their strategy according to us in game two, which they didn’t really plan. So that proves it worked out.”

In game two, ASU chose Syndra — traditionally a mid laner — for its bot lane to try and catch the Bears off guard, but the pick didn’t go as they had hoped. The lack of consistent damage per second in their team composition was one of ASU’s downfalls.

Both games, however, were close. Cal maintained the lead for most of game one, but there were tense moments in which it seemed like the Bears’ win would slip away, as late-game teamfights depended on whether ASU’s Thresh Support was able to find a pick. Cal ultimately took the first game after a successful bait by mid laner Eugene “Eugenium” Tang.

During game two, the Bears clawed their way out of an early game deficit to close the series, largely by capitalizing on ASU’s mistakes around jungle objectives. The team threw away one of the last teamfights in the enemy base but eventually destroyed the enemy Nexus, much to the relief of spectating Cal fans.

“Since we have a history with this team and they’re strong opponents, beating them was a big confidence boost,” said top laner Patrick “LegendAchiever9” Visan. “We were really focused and we didn’t make too many mistakes in the mid game, which is where we’ve typically struggled or lost leads that we’ve generated.”

The team doesn’t usually travel to play; three members of the current roster had never played in front of an audience before DreamHack, where the games were streamed for a physical audience as well as more than 150 online viewers.

“I noticed our players had a stage buff, where they seemed to be playing really well onstage.” said Cindy “cindy bot” Chang, Cal’s competitive program coordinator. “Having an audience and knowing that people are really watching and caring is something that inspires a different level of play.”

The team also played its College League of Legends regular season match the day after DreamHack, winning 2-0 against Oregon State. With a record of 4-1, the Bears must win their sixth and final West Conference game to advance to the playoffs.

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