about what the hell team liquid and echo fox are doing

there are certain things a couple of teams in na named team liquid and echo fox are doing that seems to create confusion to most of the fanbase, reddit commentators and even pro players. i think i have a quite accurate idea of what is happening and why.

TL,DR at the end.

about me i am currently analyst in a regional spanish team, i don't main english and hardly ever write with it, i'm a ranked diamond one player in euw and i have zero contact with people of either team nor direct contact with anyone into the scene really, so this is all speculation and i might be wrong about some things so i will have to convince you otherwise. lets start.

league is evolving. the whole league scene is evolving.

from a playing standpoint a time ago you could grab five good young talented players, put them together and teach them how to play the game, and you would had, maybe not a world class team, but a good team whatsoever, how good will depend on the players themselves and even if you have good eyes for it, will be a bit like a lottery and not so much about management skills and coaching if you know what you are doing. but people learn, and involved young and talented players learn a lot. when i started playing and watching this game certain things considered now really common even in the low diamond bracket where praised by commentators like quintessential mechanics, strats and even team coordinated plays. twenty minutes baron calls, clutch teleports and nowadays basic rotations. players are getting smarter, opportunities and advantages in games grow thinner and its harder to keep up with everything. its not anymore about just "transitioning to soloq to teamq" learning it from a single person talking or just learning to drive when already on the road if not everybody knows absolutely everything about the game, what can happen to veteran teams and explain their early success and later stagnation. two things are going to happen if you want to keep in the train; the players eventually will be the ones that know more about their specific role inside the whole organisation and you have to fins a way for them to keep learning and adapting, and the organisation has to maintain and specialise his staff and thus organise a wider thing, a not so easy task.

that's for itself a survival event for some orgs, they realise about the problem because of results and find that results is what they will have to sacrifice to solve it and maybe die in the process, but this problem is not limited to teams that face bad performances right now. if the teams fail to transition to that five players and a coach whose girlfriend is team manager org into a whole oiled machine they will just either lose the train or crumble under their own weight if done poorly, so the risk is huge. 

when you decide to take that road, it is worth then to take resources and invest in that transformation, because west team owners have realised after the last two years that it doesn't really matter what they do short term because they are not going to win worlds in a year or two or three, their growth in the global market is out of the table and they have to focus on regional success, keeping the whole worlds history and goal more of a fantasy to keep the players involved, that after all are here because they have a thrill of competition (see akaadian), more than a real aspiration.

from a brand standpoint, winning is not that important. sure it is important to keep strong players on the team interested in high goals, sure its important when you target regional fanbase if you win or not your own lcs and you go to worlds and stream korea and upload a photo having burger king with bang, but there is not so much difference between barely go into world and just barely avoiding relegation, and even less with the franchising model around. apart from the two extreme cases, we almost can consider all the rest into a middle of the pack tier results for what matters to branding proposes. inside this tier, what will really matter above exact lcs placements is getting and keeping a fanbase interested, creating content and developing a narrative, an ongoing tale that not only direct fans but the playerbase can relate to and somehow get involved with. why is the vaultboy meme being spammed into chinese matches if it is as a dumb reference to the d tier midlaner of one of the last teams of north america? branding. memes, narrative, paid by steve and breaking point.

organisations can say: as long as we don't get relegated, that is what will really matter, because we can't neither impact the international market of league of legends if we are not even the best team in the region, nor monetise a thirth place. 

ok, we have resources because the scene has grown, want to win at the long con because the benefits of winning are obvious but don't really need immediate success until we are capable of reaching the very top and we just aren't there. what do we do? where do we put those resources? do we go deep balls in the contract of star players inflation, targeting an eternal fourth spot in the lcs? precisly this lasts team liquid splits have proved so far that getting one or two star players is not a reliable solution to ensure results in profesional league of legends, see reignover, see piglet. the solution to the problem is, for one side we create an ongoing narrative in form of content or whatever for the fans and work to wide, and for the other we transform the organisation to be an on-going machine able to maintain success when we get there. not easy, it explains why liquid has taken this as a do or die task to do.

how this whole "then we start getting like all the players available in the market and throw them into the gaming house and the lcs chairs the day after they get here from seoul" and other similiary creative ideas fits in here?

a roster wider than five man is not a new idea, skt has been doing it for three years now and lots of explanations have appeared to explain or justify it. strategical diversity, harder to predict, tools to mentally reset in a best of five, all perfect valid points but very direct result oriented, it goes deeper.

we talked about the narrative for the fans, and one of the reasons its important to talk about is because there was an unintentional narrative before, but fans are getting used to the natural narrative of "we are nerds like you we live in a house by ourselves and win money playing video-games", but players are getting used to. the fact itself is just not enough anymore to keep players that have been doing this, some of them for six years now, from being enthusiastic and creative and competitive and giving their all at this game. it's also not enough for a lot of players that grow dreaming about that story and once they reach the lcs stages and get paid real money, get mediocre egirls and away from their fathers, they are just perfect enjoying the dream. it can make them keep playing, but not improving constantly at the needed rate to keep up with the high level competition. to maintain that involvement you need to motivate them, put new and fresh carrots in the way, create an efficient routine and work culture, hire coaches, physic coaches, mental coaches, chess coaches, pay weldon a million dollars; you will eventually need narrative and an environment where keeping with the competition is not a conscious effort but just the way the wind blows. clg has their friendship rainbow narrative, tsm had their everybody rather than our fans hates us narrative, and so on.

there are ways to accomplish similar results, like having a player under another pushing so he doesn't sleep and practice soloq at night fearing to get subbed or just choke at stage, and you can get results from sheer pressure like that depending the type or personality your players have; but it will eventually break them or will just stop having an effect. what will you do when you have a player you are not in a position to replace that, whatever you discover chokes in big moments or its just not good enough, but there is nothing you can do because he can't handle more pressure? the whole sub model works and has worked in skt because being the best team of the world is a narrative for itself that doesn't need reinforcement or special attention, and because world tier players are willing to sub because of who you are. put yourself in situation, you nail a tryout and install from the challenger ladder or from a middle of the pack team into the skt house. you wake up, eat some cereal, wear the skt jacket go into the practice room and you have faker sitting at the desk next to you, woke all night playing fucking poly bridge. you don't need a yoga instructor, this is the best team of the world! as a player inside it, the natural and only response is to try to keep up to this legends and also be the best.

skt had six and seven man rosters but they were really a five man team with a sub or two, what is a lot considering no one was doing it at the time, but from a traditional sport standpoint is just not enough, although necessary because also of stability inside orgs (what happens if a player gets injured or jut can't play anymore? it's pretty obvious concern and very dangerously ignored so far) and they got results from it more because of being skt than because strategic diversity. what a lot of traditional sport teams have, what skt is doing this season, and what liquid and fox are trying to transform their teams into is having some franchise players but eliminating the conception of five man roaster and subs, creating an inside environment into the house based on self competition and constant flow of people related and information about the game. because, we said so, there is a point where every player is the person inside the org that knows the most about his position, and if a player is the only one in that position inside the org, there is nobody he can side to side talk to about the game and the role. that's why liquid was also looking for "positional coaches / parteners" for every position in the game for now months on their website.

having this kind of on-going fluid competition also allows to scrim yourself very specific situations and to try different combinations of players to avoid bad group habits, in general it let you totally control the blocks of scrim practice and break with their inefficiency problems, one of the reasons that usually come up when somebody talks about the korea gap. scrimming with themselves is exactly what echo fox has been doing, at first because of the situation, after that because they realised the possibilities. a space like that can contain any number of players, and is also a place into transition for veteran players just burned in usual models as a perfect transition to streamers, coaches or positional coaches but without leaving the scene.

further, because you can no longer just group them and tell exactly how to play the game at every minute, you can as a coach or whole staff take a step afar from the game itself, and focus on creating and maintaining the environment where players can learn themselves, a much more coach related task than just telling someone how to play the game. it will be them, the players, (and already are) the ones that provide highest level information about the state of the game because they are the ones that are able to keep up into the master and challenger ladders and not staff members, and also be at first line of upcoming talent appearing into the ranks and not having to wait until you suddenly need a new adc for tomorrow to absorb people into the organisation. is much easier to fit a soloq new player into this kind of environment as opposed to a traditional five man model team (although it can be done with success, see biofrost), because there is more space and because there is no immediate pressure or results obligations while they stay in the team bubble and dynamics, while they get anyway consistent practice with the members of team themselves and not with academy ones that share the name but no much else.

a seven, ten or twenty roster also has effects on branding linking to the same solutions as stated before, and makes the whole make content to create narrative even more important. you can't just hype the group of five as your whole marketing tool because at some times certain players will just not play, and viewers will close the stream and go into the other match if they only watch you because of that player. you have to be an identity by yourself as an organisation, maybe abound one particular and link to the hearth of the brand franchised player, and that is impossible if you don't put resources into it, or if you are not strongly linked to a particular county like psg, old giants or most traditional sport teams. even if you have some kind of success, with that kind of promotionless model, eventually the players will rotate from team to team and the people will remember the player they hyped up, as it happens naturally along the process when you are winning, and later forget about the organisation behind it.

if league and the scene keeps going, and everything points that it will, all organisations will sooner or later transition into this model i just named "environmental competition and clusterfuck of people and players involved with the game", and even if a five roster model team gets some stars or happens to have success will eventually be shadowed by the organisations that, when the opportunity was there, were capable of getting his shit done and evolve.

TL,DR: liquid and echo fox don't care about immediate results, they are branding and transforming their organizations into a whole environment based on internal competition by loading a lot of people into the gaming houses, creating, reinforcing narratives and getting sheer attention. and they are doing right.

[Colaboración] Les coses petites 2/3

by Jordina

Segon capítol

Tot i que el número de fulls era de prou gruix, les tapes del quadern eren fines, de cartró. Un bolígraf travessava les molles negres del lateral. En obrir-lo, amb el polze va fer avançar veloçment les pàgines ingràvides, repletes de quadradets abarrotats de llargs paràgrafs blaus, en ocasions negres, amb alguna paraula ratllada. Només hi havia dates fins la meitat del quadern, a partir de la qual cada escrit estava separat per un petit espai; el pas del temps -havia conclòs un dia que, meditabund, mirava per la finestra- era una il·lusió, una mentida inventada i absorbida pels homes, tant per bé com per mal, innecessària en aquella ocasió. Va arribar a la primera pàgina buida. 

Lluny d’allí, un submarinista feia equilibris sobre la fusta masegada del cantó d’un bot. Instants després, saltava d’esquenes al mar i s’hi submergia amb el mateix ímpetu (potser menys frenètic) amb què Víctor se submergia en la cel·lulosa verge. Al cap d’una hora, l’onatge el va arrossegar fins la riba i, de sobte, es va trobar abatut, eixut sobre l’escriptori. 

Després d’un intens sospir, va desar el diari personal dins la frondositat de la jungla de mitjons altra vegada. Aviat arribarien els exàmens, havia d’estudiar. Així doncs, en un segon, la taula blanca passar de subjectar la via d’escapament de l’Adam a suportar el pes dels temaris de la rutina que, dia a dia, el flagel·laven sense pietat i el reduïen a l’automatisme. 

Dues parets enllà, separada pel lavabo, hi havia l’habitació de l’ Ignasi. El noi era un any més petit que l’Adam, el qual havia repetit un curs. Jeia al llit amb la seva nòvia. Parlaven amb paraules dolces. A vegades, ella li feia petons petits a la punta del nas. Quan això passava, l’Ignasi la veia com un ocellet i no podia evitar abraçar-la més i més, a mesura que ella piulava “Bonic...” arran de la seva orella. Ell, mirant-li el bec de pinyó, de mel emmaduixada, s’havia adonat que abans de fer-li un petó s’hi passava la llengua. Cada vegada que ella ho feia, l’altre s’estremia en captar l’avís secret (semblava un gest inconscient) del pardalet que acariciava. No feia gaire que sortien junts; l’un amorosia l’altre i, des que s’havien conegut, fins i tot semblava que els cabells els brillessin més i la pell se’ls hagués tornat més suau com a pretext per fer-hi lliscar els dits. I s’estaven així estones llargues, no es cansaven de besar-se, no tenien pressa per unir-se. La llum tènue de l’estança els acompanyava i feia l’encontre més íntim: era el primer dia que es tastaven i s’havia fet fosc abans que es despullessin.

Quan les cames blanques de la noia van rodejar-li la cintura, -ella el mirava tendra, asseguda sobre seu- va sentir de sobte olor de taronja. Segons més tard, el soroll de la porta tancant-se a l’altra banda del passadís. Va pensar que l’Adam devia haver sortit. I sí. De fet, ja era a l’ascensor fent explotar una bombolla de xiclet. Però a l’esquerp company, l’Ignasi només va dedicar-li un petit racó del seu pensament: l’únic que els ulls del pardalet no emplenaven.

La màgia va trencar-se quan, en ple apogeu de nuesa i passió, ell, indignat amb si mateix per no haver recordat que havia de comprar condons, va deixar anar un: “Merda” i, segons després: “espera un moment”, apressat.

Sort que estaven sols a casa. Tal com un dia va arribar al món, va sortir pengim-penjam de l’habitació i l’aire fresc del passadís el va fer encongir una mica. Va entrar a l’habitació de l’Adam com a última esperança i, nerviós i repetint-se per dins “tonto, que ets tonto, Ignasi”, va posar-se a escodrinyar la calaixera del costat del llit. Quan va haver acabat va pensar que ell, quan en tenia, amagava els preservatius entre els mitjons, de manera que va tornar a comprovar que no fossin allà. 

L’ Ignasi, ja quasi a punt de defallir, palpava el calaix embotit de maleïts mitjons. Per un instant el va envair la idea macabra de fer-los servir i, com pronunciada per algú imaginari, la frase: “Qui no pot segar...” , però va tocar alguna cosa. Esperançat, la va treure del calaix: decebut, va veure que era una llibreta. Per capricis del destí i perquè no sabia res del seu company de pis, en va obrir la primera pàgina. Amb un cop d’ull no va entendre ni un borrall, però en veure-hi dates va deduir que devia ser un diari personal. Li va recar guardar-lo, però no volia fer esperar més el fènix en flames del dormitori. Mentre tornava, una altra veu llunyana, ara consoladora, va sonar dins el seu cap, ja que ell mai es rendia: “Qui no pot segar, espigola” i va fer espetegar la llengua.

Al dia següent, el so de la porta tancant-se de lluny va activar l’adrenalina de l’Ignasi, que va esquitllar-se fins l’estança de l’Adam. Va profanar el calaix dels mitjons amb el deler de qui té un misteri per descobrir i, amb cada pista, pessigolles al ventre. Quan va obrir el quadern, el primer que va distingir va ser el número u de la capçalera de la pàgina seguit d’un gargot semblant a Setembre, amb la primera lletra majúscula i corba. Les es eren minúscules i semblaven is, i la ema era estranyament més gran que la resta de caràcters. Es confonia amb dues us, ja que tenia els ponts invertits. La erra era una barreja entre lletra d’impremta i lligada, una mena d’ ix llargaruda. 

Pres per la curiositat, es va anar a acostumant a les lletres ambigües, exageradament entortolligades. A poc a poc, anava desxifrant cada mot que l’Adam es deia a si mateix i cada qüestió que aquest debatia amb les seves pròpies entranyes. Al mateix temps que l’Ignasi va passar la primera plana, va empassar saliva i es va notar el coll sec. A la novena pàgina va sentir com el cor, latent darrere el pit, se li havia accelerat. 

La concentració li arrugava l’entrecella amb força, i el dring d’unes claus llunyanes el va espantar. En sentir la porta que s’obria va retornar el diari al calaix amb un bot espasmòdic, i de pressa i corrents es va ficar al lavabo, el cau amb balda que va veure més proper. Mentre sentia les passes de l’Adam avançant pel passadís, una profunda angoixa li oprimia l’estómac. Es va treure el paquet de la butxaca i, recolzat sobre la ceràmica blanca de la pica, va encendre un cigarret. El desguàs estava rovellat i uns quants cabells molls s’hi entortolligaven. Xuclava el filtre amb força. 

Al cap d’uns minuts, quan estava a punt de decidir-se a sortir, tres cops a la porta de fusta el van immobilitzar. Sense poder evitar que la veu li sortís amb un filet tremolós, l’Ignasi va dir que un moment, que dos minuts i sortia. Va llençar la burilla al vàter i va desitjar que l’Adam no l’esperés. Però en obrir-la, els dos iris blaus van travessar-lo i el van eixordar; el foradeu de les seves pupil·les omplia tot l’aire de buidor. Una buidor que li enfredava la suor de l’esquena i li arrapava la por al clatell. 

L’atmosfera glaçada es va esquerdar quan l’Adam va acostar-se-li i, a l’Ignasi, cada batec li ressonava, cadascun més fort que l’anterior. Fins que gairebé podia creure que tenia un trepant furiós colpejant-li el pectoral. Tenia la sensació que l’Adam també l’escoltava i veia com li palpitava el pit. Però els ulls blaus van passar de llarg, es van tancar al lavabo i l’Ignasi va asserenar-se com va poder. Va asseure’s a la seva habitació, a una cadira, durant menys de vint tensos segons. Llavors el va envair la pressa per fugir d’aquelles parets que se l’estaven a punt de menjar, amagar-se molt endins d’un calaix de mitjons, lluny. I entortolligar-se perquè l’Adam no el llegís. 

Mentrestant, l’Adam, impertèrrit, observava el fluid groc que sortia de dins seu i pensava en el filet de veu amb què l’havia contestat l’Ignasi. Hi havia una burilla a l’aigua bruta i la feia navegar amb el raig calent, d’un costat a l’altre. Se li va acudir que potser l’Ignasi s’havia estat masturbant abans que ell truqués a la porta. Claríssimament, l’havia interromput. Devia haver fumat allà dins per calmar-se l’erecció. Va estirar de la cadena i es va quedar observant el naufragi de la capitana burilla, que voltava, voltava... I finalment, desapareixia. 

Ja eren les sis d’aquella tarda que no s’acabava mai. Es va encaminar cap a l’habitació per deixar-se caure sobre el llit, de cara al sostre. El llum, enclastat a la paret, era rodó i convex. El resseguia una base de fusta, també rodona. Semblava el botó de perla de la camisa d’una iaia gegant. 

Primer el va veure brut. En fixar-s’hi més, va distingir siluetes negres enmig de la grogor, a través del vidre; resultava ser la tomba d’un grapat d’insectes. En va comptar set, un major que els altres, segurament una mosca grossa. Se la va imaginar volant amb lentitud i zumzejant, tota enlluernada, corpresa pel botó de perla, aproximant-s’hi embadalida i cada vegada amb més escalforeta al cos. Sense saber que, un cop havent travessat la frontera de vidre per una escletxa del lateral, quedaria fregida, garratibada davant d’aquell Sol devastador. Més tard s’assecaria. I restaria allà durant mesos, cremant-se ben endins, prop de la bombeta mortífera. Revivint contínuament allò que l’havia assassinat: com si a un cadàver, després d’esser difunt, el seguissin perforant a punyalades. I de nit, durant les hores de dormir el deixessin descansar i, el dia següent, continuessin amb l’escabrosa tasca. Les víctimes del seu voltant eren puntets alats quasi imperceptibles. Deixaria que el llum se n’omplís.

Encara es va preguntar què faria la mosca si fos de la seva mida. Se la va imaginar negríssima, de metre setanta-vuit, amb pèls llargs i ulls desbordants, plens de mirallets foscos, a vegades verds, amb una trompa xucladora per boca que estirava i arronsava com un acordió. Amb estranya naturalitat i el posat de qualsevol home panxut, a partir de mig tòrax, oprimit per un cinturó, les dues cames humanes consegüents se li allargaven fins el terra amb genolls, sabates i fins i tot mitjons. Es fregava les potetes de dalt maliciosament, encara amb alguna petita resta de femta. Deia “Venjanzzzza...” entre xarrups d’aire i quelcom semblant a una riallada perversa. La seva veu era un llarg brunzit robòtic. Per sort, la mosca –en realitat es tractava d’una arna- era petita. L’Adam, enclastat al llit, es va sentir botó de iaia i insecte alhora. 

Mentre divagava, el sol havia anat caient i, quan va haver baixat la vista del sostre a la finestra, els núvols eren plens de pinzellades roses. Va sentir la urgència d’escriure. Quan va incorporar-se, un lleu mareig, efímer, li va anestesiar el cap. Després va atansar-se a la calaixera de fusta. En obrir el segon caixó, va enfonsar la mà entre els mitjons fins el fons del costat dret, sempre el dret; el racó que feia anys havia considerat perfecte. El mateix lloc on havia amagat, a la calaixera de l’habitació del poble i ja feia uns quants anys, els primers paquets de cigars de l’Òscar. La mare, que ho registrava tot, no els havia trobat mai.