At the start of every sporting season, there is a debate over who the best rookies will be, what new talent will rise up from the lower scenes and take their place among the highest levels of their sport and which ones will collapse. We expect the rookies to be the surprises, the ones who rise up and surpass their expectations and lead their teams to victory. We talk about experienced players very differently.
For veterans, we ask who will fail, get caught by age or a change in technique or style that renders their previous job obsolete. This is especially the case in esports, because the age range skews much younger than traditional sports. Most of the competitors are done by 30 and it often feels like there’s a never-ending line of rookies ready to take their places. Veterans are often seemingly only there to give an experienced voice to a roster, if they’re there at all. But over the weekend, we saw the benefits of having veterans on talented rosters.
Schalke 04, who went into the weekend on a 7-game winning streak, certainly benefited from Gilius and Odoamne’s playoff experience. Odoamne’s experience in particular proved helpful in game one of their series against SK gaming. SK went for a lane swap, a maneuver that was relatively popular in season three but has been uncommon in pro games since then. Afterword, S04’s jungler Gilius said in an interview that “Odo is the king of laneswaps, the guy shot called everything and told everyone what to do.”
Odo would, in his own interview, comment that “back when I first started playing in LEC, that’s when lane swaps first started.” His experience as a veteran who had played at the highest levels through that meta allowed S04 to survive the game and get out to an early lead in the series, on their way to a 3-0 victory over SK. On the other hand, we saw the much less experienced MAD Lions fall 3-1 in a bloody series against G2. The more experienced roster, G2, excelled in the playoffs even though this split they had been worse. Their experience in best-of-fives certainly helped them on their way to this victory, though it was far from the only factor.
Now MAD, who was one game from Worlds in week eight, has to win a best-of-five against Schalke in order to advance. Schalke, who have won ten games in a row including a victory over the Lions in week eight which helped keep them out of Worlds, are one series from immortality, one series from unseating 2018 summer Cloud9 for the best comeback performance resulting in a Worlds appearance.
In North America, we’re reminded that as good as veteran players can be, they’re not always enough. When Golden Guardians played against TSM in the lower bracket on Sunday, it was midlaner-turned-support Huhi who excelled in the first few games, despite the fact that prior to the season most people had considered him washed-up. His efforts were not enough to win the series and keep Golden Guardians in the playoffs, but they still earned him high praise from the community and showed that the veteran player can still perform despite the fact that most people assumed he was past his prime.
Heading into next week and the semi-finals for both the LEC and the LCS, the final team from each region going to Worlds will soon be decided. Can Cloud9 beat TSM one more time and secure their place at Worlds, or will TSM finally return to the World stage and deny Cloud9 an appearance at Worlds for the first time in the organization’s history?
Will Schalke 04 beat the MAD Lions and deny the rookie roster their Worlds appearance, or will Schalke’s win streak finally be ended in a devastating defeat that leaves them inches from glory, but still forever so far away?
Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.