Team Curse's eSports manager took an innovative approach to his LoL team's challenging offseason.
In professional team sports, there are systems in place, from college drafts to free agency, to help manage roster turnover. In eSports, no such formal structures exist. That often leads to a period of mild chaos for professional teams in games like League of Legends or Dota 2 that want to make off-season changes to their lineups.
It’s like a big free-for-all where everyone’s grabbing people and poaching teams—it gets a little crazy,” said Steven 'Liquid112' Arhancet, the Director of eSports for Curse Gaming.
Arhancet decided to take an original approach to roster management in the offseason for League of Legends. Team Curse was faced with a tumultuous offseason after Season 3 of the LCS. They amassed a mediocre 13-15 record during the 2013 Summer Season and despite winning the first game of the best-of-three series against Team Dignitas at the LCS North American Regionals, Curse lost the next two in a row and were denied the possibility of getting a ticket to the League of Legends World Championship.
“We had our glory, we started the season 8-0 and developed one of the largest followings in League. I was really happy with that. But we went through rough times,” said Arhancet.
After the loss to Team Dignitas, Arhancet said he tried to take a step back and rethink his philosophy about what would be important in restructuring a world-class team. He talked to some of the best teams at Worlds like Royal Club and SKT and did some soul searching that finally led to what he calls “a winning recipe.”
“There were a lot of different approaches to take, do you let the players decide how to play or do we copy a specific team? We decided on teaching them a Worlds team’s playstyle. We will spend an hour a day watching them and trying to mimic them,” said Arhancet.
“The goal is to get them to think how this certain player from SKT or whatever thinks and then come up with their own twist on that. The Korean and Chinese teams—their numbers are ridiculous—why not leverage that to get effectiveness as soon as possible in a short time frame?”
Curse also held public tryouts that they advertised on their own site and on Reddit, asking for Diamond 1 and Challenger level players to try their hand at making the team. About 350 players applied by submitting VODs. Arhancet developed his own evaluation process that measured their shotcalls, and game evaluation skills. He narrowed it down to 50 candidates and personally interviewed them all.
“During that time, it was hectic. Worlds was going on so I didn’t have access to everyone, yet I knew we had to re-qualify for Season 4, so we started early,”
It led to some tough choices. Four new starters were chosen with only Joe “Voyboy” Esfahani left from the end of Season 3 (Brandon "Saintvicious" DiMarco, former captain and jungler, is now the team’s coach). But after a few days, Arhancet still wasn’t happy.
“It was just apparent for the three days after Worlds and tournament that it didn’t get off to the type of start I wanted. I knew I needed to make additional changes,” he said.
Eugene "Pobelter" Park and Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black were released after less than a week of their new teams and team recruited Diego "Quas" Ruiz to play top lane and took David "Cop" Roberson off the bench to play AD Carry. With that roster, Arhancet said the team has been doing “phenomenal” since then.
“I’m very happy with what we have now,” he said. “You’re either on the ship and you’re not. So far everyone’s rowing in the right direction.”
But how will the new look Curse do with some of the changes Riot has in store for League of Legends for Season 4? Arhancet admitted he was a bit nervous about that.
“Definitely there’s some apprehension, but part of being damn good at this game, is about being agile about the changes. It’s not like football where it barely changes from year to year,” he said. “We have to understand the changes and play the game enough to find where advantages lie.”