The Challenger circuit in League of Legends is increasingly becoming a playground for big teams to field sister teams and scouting initiatives. Whether it’s Shaq-backed team NRG selling their Challenger spot for a chunk of change, or Counter Logic Gaming’s team CLG Black, it’s clear to see how Challenger is becoming an increasingly dangerous game for the "little guys." Collegiate team Toronto Esports have shown up to shake things up in the recent Open Challenger Qualifier. They’ve fought their way to the grand finals, knocking out CLG Black.
It’s tough to juggle exam season, part time jobs, and pro play, but these guys make it work. Red Bull eSports sat down with their bot lane and talked about scheduling, infrastructure, the collegiate scene and the upcoming finals against Delta Fox.
RedBull.com: So, first of all, as someone from Toronto, it’s super exciting to see you guys succeeding and doing well, especially against some big names in this tournament! So, we’ll start with introductions.
Terry Park: I’m Terry Park, I’m the AD Carry for Toronto Esports, and University of Toronto’s League of Legends team
JayJ: I’m JayJ, the support for Toronto Esports and U of T. Just as a bit of background, we’ve both been on a couple of Challenger teams here and there, and I just recently switched to support a couple of months ago for the collegiate team. It’s pretty exciting being solidified as someone who can actually play, especially after switching so recently, and against top Challenger players.
It sounds like you guys have overcome a lot of challenges: You're in school, you’re studying and these are Challenger teams who have more time and the ability to put that effort into things. Can you talk to me about how it feels to succeed here?
JayJ: For me, it feels amazing. Even on teams I’ve been on before, I’ve never made it this far into the Qualifiers, and I think Terry hasn’t either, and just because especially we didn’t have as much time to prep — we’ve been together longer due to being on the collegiate team since September.
Terry Park: This is my first Open Qualifier, so I’m really excited to make it this far.
A lot of viewers are surprised, especially because you guys do have that focus on studying and they may not realize that university teams can play on this level. What is your current schedule like, and how do you balance school and play?
JayJ: I can say that I only play League, study and work. I work part time, only a couple of shifts, so it’s not too bad. I try to distribute my time so I get in a game or two of League a day, if possible, and if not it’s because I’m studying or work. It’s hard to balance, but at the same time, I feel like getting in a couple of games a day keeps me on a level where I can complete. I think it’s harder for Terry, because he’s ADC-.
Terry Park: [laughs]
JayJ: As a support, I don’t have to stay up to the highest level.
Terry Park: Same with JayJ, but I have more time to play, since I don’t work part time.
Challenger teams are bringing in professional coaches, they’re scrimming, and they have this infrastructure. Do you think there’s more to success than these factors, and you guys have learned to play without them? Is your synergy and natural skill the secret to your success?
JayJ: I actually wouldn’t say that. I’d say it’s ... we have a sense of how each other plays. For instance, our jungler ... [laughs]. We know he has a tendency to go too ham, so we’ll tell him to back off. We have a feel on how we play as a team, whereas other teams don’t. We’ve been having one or two scrims a week, which isn’t a lot, but we’ve been playing since September so that gives us a leg up in terms of experience.
Terry Park: I think we, as a bot lane, we have better synergy than others because we’ve practiced longer, and I trust JayJ. I think he can be a better support than any other Challenger support.
You guys have the finals approaching, where you’ll be playing against Delta Fox. It’s a lot of pressure to deal with, are you almost worried you might advance and your schedule will get busier, or are you excited and hoping you get in?
JayJ: Specifically, I have an exam on Thursday, and I was hoping to get kicked out early so I could go home and study. We’ve been doing really well, so I won’t have as much time to play because tomorrow and Tuesday and even Wednesday I have to keep studying and maybe get a game or two in a day. I know our coach Gabe is going to be preparing for us a lot. He does our picks and bans, I’d like to thank him. A lot of games we won just straight off our team comps.
Terry Park: I’m still really excited to play, even with exams. I’m hoping we win everything, since we made it this far.
There are a lot of people who aren’t interested in, or don’t understand, the collegiate scene. Do you have anything to say to those fans? Do you that this might prove these school teams have their strengths and are watching?
JayJ: Not entirely. A lot of school teams are really good and have a lot of challenger players, but there are also a lot of school teams that don’t have a lot of challenger players, so I think in terms of school teams that are our level, there’s Maryville, RMU, UBC ... There might be a couple more I can’t remember right now. To be honest, when Riot puts out the games that are like, Harvard against their Rival team, it was a really low-level match and I think it makes people think university games are all like that, and they’re all really low level, when at the highest level it can get pretty intense and not as bad as people think.
This may be the first time a lot of people are hearing about Toronto Esports based off your success. Do you have any final thoughts or words to share with these fans?
Terry Park: I’d like to thank Toronto Esports for supporting us all throughout the year.
JayJ: Toronto Esports is a relatively new organization and they signed up with us to sponsor us for LAN events. We decided we want to go into this tournament and we didn’t know how far we could make it, and they supported us. Once again, thanks to Gabe our coach, he put in a lot of the work for us so we could take it easy and play the comps that worked for us.
Toronto Esports faces Delta Fox on Wednesday, Dec. 14. They’ve already upset the competition to get this far. Will they be able to take the entire tournament? It’s a reminder that the collegiate scene remains a viable ground to scout new talent, and if these teams are ignored, they can snatch victory away at the most unexpected times.