Recently, there’s been reports of North American LCS and Challenger Series pros considering not playing Dynamic Queue. There are several reasons for this drastic move. In this article, I will go over them.
First of all, there is a big problem with dynamic queue matchmaking. Keeping in mind that most pros are in Challenger, they face 30+ minutes of waiting for a match to be found, only to have to play vs. low to mid Diamond opponents, which not only impedes the effectiveness of their practice, but also is interpreted as an insult most of the time. We can definitely see the point of this train of thought, because Challenger is not just a rank you have. By being a Challenger, you should be able to play against Challenger opponents, providing you with a… challenge. Unfortunately, with the system as it is, Challengers get matched with mid-Diamond opponents, which is not fair for the Diamond players who have to lane and most often get rekt by Challengers, as well as the pros themselves, who feel as if their MMR was mid-Diamond.
I think this problem hit home after several NALCS teams came back from their Korean bootcamps, where the problem is much less apparent. For those who don’t know, the Korean server is a hub for professional players from the surrounding regions, who use a VPN (or Virtual Private Network, which allows you to access region-restricted websites and servers) service to play there. That, bundled together with the generally different attitude towards Ranked, results in a high population at the highest ranks, Master and Challenger. While Ranked in NA is a chill affair, where people don’t really care about winning that much, playing for fun, it’s very different in Korea. There, at least according to pros, as I haven’t played there, what with the 200 ping I get when I try, people try-hard like nowhere else. The result of that is better quality of games at highest ranks, with more players participating, making the matchmaking problem not as pronounced.
Another problem that is making NA pros consider a move to the Tournament Realm is the ping you get when playing from Los Angeles. The servers used to be located on the west coast of the United States, making the ping good if not great. To try and fix high ping for the east coast players, the servers were moved to Chicago. The distance between the Windy City and the City of Angels is quite big, making the pros play at around 60 ping if they’re lucky. As anyone who’s ever played in a LAN event with sub-10 ping after having to suffer through 60 can tell you, it’s quite different. When you practice all week on 60, it’s not that easy to just adapt with a snap of your fingers and play just as well at 10.
After staying in Korea, a lot of pros saw what the game could be with low ping and good competition, so it’s no wonder that they’re trying to replicate that in NA. The Tournament Realm is just the best way to do it. While Riot allows this in theory, there’s one big caveat to that. If you play on the Tournament Realm, you cannot stream your gameplay. This is a bigger problem than it might seem at first glance, because some pros, like Cloud9’s Sneaky, for example, stream their solo practice to considerably supplement their income. With the rules as they are, players like this will have to choose between more effective practice and money, which is wrong. Another matter to consider is sponsors. If a team or player doesn’t stream, the visibility you get from supporting them is limited to their appearance at tournaments, where your logo is shown on their jerseys, which isn’t that visible all that often, as opposed to a banner on their stream, which is seen close to every day, by thousands of people.
With that said, moving to a Tournament Realm has its upsides and downsides. The pros with huge Twitch fanbases will probably keep playing Dynamic Queue, unless they want to sacrifice alternate income for improvement in-game. To be honest, most highly watched pros are already very good at the game, they don’t really need to improve that much, so most of them will probably choose Dynamic Queue. It’s different for players who aren’t the best among the pros or don’t have a popular Twitch stream. In their case, moving to the Tournament Realm is precisely what the doctor ordered. With that said, don’t take my words as gospel, this is only speculation. We will have to wait and see what happens in reality.