Is it conceivable for a League of Legends noob to become a pro in ten hours? It’s an impossible sounding task, but that hasn’t stopped us from trying. That’s why we hired a League of Legends coach to teach me - Matt Purslow, hater of eSports - how to play a MOBA. With all ten lessons complete, it’s time to judge my skills and reflect on my incredible, life-changing journey.
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End of season report
So, the burning question: are you a League of Legends pro yet, Matt? The answer: of course not. You didn’t really think I could be an eSports man in ten hours, did you? But while I’m not ready to take on Korea’s best players yet, I am apparently not a completely useless noob who should delete my account (something I’ll repeat over and over when the trash talk breaks out).
While my summoner level may be low, coach Tobi informs me that I’m a very good level eight, and am more knowledgeable about the game than people usually are at this stage. Several times in our final lessons he expressed interest at seeing what kind of player I’d be at level 30, the highest you can build an account to. He thinks I’d be pretty good. I think he’s wrong, but who’s the Diamond-ranked professional in this conversation? Not me.
What did you learn in ten hours?
With my term of League lessons over and done with, it’s time to look at what I’ve learnt. In ten hours I’ve progressed from knowing almost nothing about the world’s biggest game to understanding almost all the fundamentals required to play. Interestingly, there are a lot of fundamentals. Contrary to what detractors say, League of Legends is a deeply complex game requiring notable skill to play, and every one of my ten lessons added more and more layers to my knowledge. There are still many things I need to know in order to be a LoL master, but I feel I now understand enough to play with a solid level of competence.
So what is this knowledge of which I speak? Well, I understand the goals of the game, how to push lanes, how to efficiently farm gold, and how to develop my character over the course of a match. I know how to fight at a certain level of effectiveness with a handful of champions, and understand the threats posed by many more. I realise that keeping up with an enemy’s progress is vital to survival, and that knowing what’s going on in all corners of the map is a valuable and life-saving skill. I also know that doing all this at the same time is a task that only people with superhuman attention levels can achieve. That’ll explain all the doping, then.
It’s not all positive, though. When left to my own devices I forget tactics, make bad decisions, and die an awful lot. I fear being overwhelmed by enemies and so stand too far back from fights. I don’t know enough about enemy champions to tailor my equipment for optimum defence. But I am getting better, and that makes everything a little less frustrating.
In my mid-season report I discussed how I felt I’d plateaued and that it seemed impossible to get better. Five lessons later, I realise that those fears were unfounded. I have improved, albeit in very, very small increments. As the old saying goes: doing stuff you hate over and over again makes you a bit better at it. Or something like that.
How does coaching change as you improve?
The majority of my lessons involved playing games alongside my coach. While that framework applied to all Tobi’s lessons, things changed as I became a stronger player. For example, when playing as caster Annie, I was left to play in the middle lane on my own, rather than having back-up from Tobi. Typically casters are expected to deal with this lane solo, and so Tobi offered tips from a more hands-off level.
The more confident I became, the more Tobi applied the teaching techniques that he uses with his advanced students. Much of his method is based around replay study, and for my final lesson we watched back my performance from a recorded game and analysed what I was doing right and wrong. It’s really effective to watch your own movements and start to internalise your errors on an instinctive level. Becoming aware of things you didn’t realise you do is a massive help on the road to ironing out your performance kinks. It’s a technique I can imagine applying to the games I really care about doing well in.
Is coaching worth it?
The big question, eh? I’ve had $112.40/£86.90 worth of lessons with Tobi, which isn’t the kind of cash you find stuck under a sofa. Unless you have a really big sofa and never do any cleaning. So would I recommend coaching? May I please introduce a familiar cliche to the stage: yes and no.
You need to judge exactly what you want to get out of League of Legends before choosing to spend money on coaching. If you’re a casual player just looking to get better, then all you need is practice. You already understand the fundamentals, and simply grinding it out will get you where you want to be.
Not everyone’s a casual though, and that’s where coaching becomes interesting. You don’t need to be at global competition level to warrant a coach, you just need to want to achieve something. Think about how many people undergo tuition for regular sports. We all know someone who does golf lessons, has an archery tutor, or who is part of a five-a-side football team. These people pay coaches to help them improve for the pleasure of it, and there’s absolutely no reason why this shouldn’t apply to video games. So if you want to get better but feel you need a hand, then I can tell you with a degree of confidence that coaching can help.
My personal recommendation would be to invest in coaching when you feel like you’ve hit your peak. Let’s say you’re ranked at bronze in League’s tier system, but struggle to progress further. Set yourself the goal of silver and start taking lessons. You’ll be under instruction from players that know how to get there because they’ve done it themselves. Coaches can explain the finer points of the game and identify your weaknesses in a way that impersonal wiki guides can’t.
If you’re a noob that’s serious about getting somewhere with League, it may be an idea to use a coach as a milestone meter. Take two lessons to start your journey, and then practice as much as you can before taking another hour of tuition a month or so later. A coach will be able to judge the progress you're making and point you in the right direction, but weekly lessons is probably a bit overkill at such an early stage. You’d end up in a similar situation to me: understanding much about the theory of battle, but unable to put it into action because you’re simply not seasoned enough.
It’s also important to recognise that coaching is worth only half its value if you’re unwilling or unable to put in the practice hours on your lonesome. My schedule over the past weeks has not allowed much time to practice in between lessons, meaning my current skill level is based on around ten hours of coaching and three hours of solo play. Just like playing guitar, the time you spend away from your coach is arguably more important than the minutes with them. If you’re going to part with the money, be prepared for the time sink too. If you’re willing to provide both, then I think that coaching can take your far.
And it’s with that exceptionally logical bombshell that our journey comes to a close. I started as a chump, and while I may not be a champion I am at least capable. Don’t ever expect to see me dealing out kills at the LCS finals, but you may find me on Summoner’s Rift again in the future. Probably when the Overwatch servers are down and Battlefield’s broken.
Coaching has been provided by yuwin.net.