Looking at the FlyQuest problem
When the Milwaukee Bucks co-owner, Wesley Edens, bought up the Cloud 9 Challenger spot in the LCS, there was very little talk about the team. It was unknown what their line-up was going to be, as many expected that Daerek “LemonNation” Hart, Hai “Hai” Lam and An “Balls” Le would not stay with the team. However, in a surprise twist, FlyQuest retained 4 members, only replacing Juan “Contractz” Garcia with Galen “Moon” Holgate. The announcement was very muted, with most people finding out the roster from the team page on Riot Games own website. What most were quick to point out was the average age of the players on the team, with “LemonNation” being the oldest active player in LoL eSports at the age of 27. Expectations for the roster were low to middling, with my own initial thoughts being that they would have very little drive to perform well, but after the first weeks of the LCS, they have surprised me.
Jokingly called Cloud9 White; due to the 3 ex-C9 players on the team, FlyQuest finished their first week at 2-0 and are on track to make their record a 4-0. But, what can we take away from FlyQuests apparent success and how it might cause change within the scene? Teams are generally quick to hire younger players as their careers are perceived to be longer lasting and that their mechanical skills may be better than the veteran players. The only real downside when it comes to hiring rookies is the lack of experience, which in eSports, is only a real factor in the first year of a players career, which typically lasts from 17-24. What makes FlyQuest special, however, is that they have no rookies and no imports on their roster. “LemonNation” used to be a coach for Cloud9 and all of the other players have at least one full season of professional play under their belts, with “Hai” having started his LCS career on C9 back in 2012 alongside “LemonNation”.
The sheer amount of experience that some of the players have, is showing its effect on the other members of the team. In 2016, “Moon” was one of the worst performing junglers, a mostly passive jungler who was never highlighted during games. But on FlyQuest, “Moon” performance has shot up drastically. He is no longer passive and participates in plays across the map and is able to assist his laners. This could be down to influence from “Hai”, who is often described as an extremely methodical in-game leader and gives extremely precise instructions to his teammates on how to play out a fight. This could also be seen when “Hai” was playing on Cloud9, as when the team played without him, their play deteriorated for multiple weeks at a time, forcing “Hai” to either make a comeback or in the end, cause the team to restructure itself as to not rely on having “Hai” in an active role on the team.
The other major factor that should cause people to look at the team in terms of what the future of LoL eSports may look like, is the presence of “LemonNation”. At age 27, he is much older than most of the active LCS players. For reference, this makes him 2 years older than the 2nd oldest player in the LCS. Players generally retire around the age of 24 as most players don’t find their salaries satisfactory as they could generate more revenue for themselves by streaming to their established fanbase, which would also alleviate the amount of pressure they would have to play the game with a competitive mindset. What we can take away from “LemonNations” performance is that older players aren’t necessarily less skilled than younger players. His play may be less flashy, but thanks to his experience, his macroplay is on a different level and most likely brings in more life experience to the younger players along with maturity to what might be a glory-seeking attitude that younger players may possess.
Thirdly, another major change from other teams in the LCS is FlyQuest’s lack of imports. All of their 5 players are natives of the NA region. While this may be seen as a weakness by some, the team hasn’t shown that weakness against imported opponents. “Altec” and “LemonNation” took care of Team Liquid’s “Piglet”, someone who is often seen as a highly gifted ADC, and his support “Matt”, who was perceived as an up-and-coming support player in 2016. During that same series, “Moon” outperformed the “Reignover”, someone who was ranked as the best jungler in NA. Both of these victories would have been major upsets in 2016, but FlyQuest’s roster managed to take them down. Some teams may take note of the benefits of having a full native roster in the future if FlyQuest keeps performing at their current level, especially if their imports on their teams don’t begin to adjust well to the LCS.
In all honesty, FlyQuest has not had the most difficult matchups in the first two weeks, with only their victory over Team Liquid being a big surprise. CLG hasn’t performed at their usual standard since Spring 2016 and NV has a really weak roster in terms of talent. However, if FlyQuest keeps racking up wins against higher profile teams, I wouldn’t be surprised to see teams and players looking at age differently, along with looking at the perceived value of import players. Certain owners spend a lot in order to secure a recognized name from a different region who has historically had a fantastic performance on their previous team, only to have the player not perform on the same level as they once had. FlyQuest is on my radar and I can’t help but wonder if their existence in the LCS will change some of the established notions. Currently, FlyQuest has the equal potential in being a top 4 team or falling down into the bottom 4, after all, their first flight has just started.