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You’re the Boss here; You get to call the Shots

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The five fresh new members from Team Shanghai sat down behind their computers. They were nervous, excited, and more than anything worried. There was only a month left until the start of the Winter Collegiate Cup and there was still so much left to do. They had to learn how to play with each other and form team and player synergies. Then they had to come up with strategies and practice those strategies. And they also still had a lot of room left to improve on an individual level. But all of this could only be trained in a game. So they entered the queue.

Zeng Rui looked over at the other four players and suggested, “Let’s pick strong early game Champions. I’m thinking something like Leona and Caitlyn in the bot lane.”

Tang Bingyao nodded and said, “Mhm, ok.”

Zhang Hao browsed through his list of Champions and asked, “Is it ok if I go with Rumble then?”

“Sure!” An Xin said, smiling. “I’ll play Jarvan IV so that we have something beefy to support you guys. And Lin Feng, what about you go—”

“Fizz!” Lin Feng exclaimed. He grinned and continued, “I’m really good at Fizz too! I’ll carry this game!”

Team Shanghai queued up for a team ranked game and soon found themselves in Champion Select, where they banned three champions. The other team fortunately didn’t ban away any of the champions they wanted to play. So they locked in the Rumble, Jarvan IV, Fizz, Caitlyn and Leona. After which the game went into the loading screen.

Welcome to Summoner’s Rift!

At 2 minutes: An Xin’s Jarvan IV made an early gank in the mid lane, helping Lin Feng’s Fizz pick up first blood on the Red Team’s Yasuo.

At 4 minutes: Tang Bingyao and Zeng Rui pressured Red Team’s Botlaners away from the minions. Then they waited for their opponents to get greedy for a minion or some poke damage. It was Red Team’s Nami who made that mistake first. She walked a little too far forward, straight into Leona’s Zenith Blade. Zeng Rui’s Leona dashed to Nami as the solar projection of her sword disappeared. Then she slammed her Shield of Daybreak into the Nami and Ignited her! Nami was stunned as an unquenchable fire burned away at her health bar!

Tang Bingyao’s Caitlyn flashed forward to catch up to Zeng Rui’s Leona. Then she aimed her gun at Nami and fired a piercing shot. Piltover Peacemaker! She  followed up with a barrage of auto attacks, each one whittling away at the Nami’s health until it bottomed out.

You have slain an enemy!

At 6 minutes: Red Team’s Evelynn walked up the river to the top lane. But she hadn’t seen the vision ward in the brush near mid lane that gave her position away. Lin Feng’s Fizz and An Xin’s Jarvan IV reacted immediately, charging up after her towards the top lane.

Zhang Hao’s Rumble was battling Red Team’s Irelia. An Xin had warned him that Evelynn was coming and Lin Feng was pinging him to be careful. But he didn’t retreat to the safety of his tower. He fought the Irelia and pretended he didn’t see the Evelynn coming. Then, when she ran into lane, he flashed away towards his outer tower. By waiting so long, he’d given Lin Feng and An Xin all the time they needed to reach the top lane and kill Irelia and Evelynn.

You have slain an enemy!

Double kill!

Team Shanghai won all three lanes and pushed that advantage. Tang Bingyao and Zeng Rui picked up several more kills in the bot lane before they destroyed the tower. Then they walked up to mid lane, where Lin Feng’s Fizz was killing Red Team’s Yasuo every time he returned to lane. An Xin’s Jarvan IV also arrived in the mid lane, as did Zhang Hao’s Rumble. It was the start of the mid game. And also the end of a serious game. Team Shanghai’s advantage was so large that they didn’t have to focus to win anymore. They started running around the map, sometimes as a team and sometimes not, constantly searching for more kills rather than pushing for objectives. Because of this, it took them 25 minutes to close the game out.

Lin Feng was grinning when the large victory crest appeared on his scream. He turned to look at the others and shouted, “That was great! I carried that game! But you guys all played really well too!”

Zeng Rui ignored Lin Feng and turned straight to An Xin. “What do you think?” he asked her.

An Xin considered it for a brief moment and then replied, “You share your thoughts first.”

Zeng Rui gave his analysis. “Our opponents were very weak, most likely not much higher than Platinum. We should’ve won this game within 15 minutes. And we were on track to do that in the laning phase. That part of the game went decently enough for our first game as a team. But we fell apart in the mid game. Our team fights were a chaotic mess. Everyone was just off doing their own thing, instead of pushing for objectives like we should’ve.”

“Eh?” Lin Feng blurted, surprised. “Was it really that bad? I thought our teamfights went pretty good! We won all of them!”

An Xin glared at Lin Feng and admonished him, “Of course you thought it went great! You were off having fun by yourself! But this isn’t the Lin Feng game! It’s a team game and you barely ever fought with the team!” She then turned to look at Zeng Rui and said, “I agree. We need to improve our teamwork. When it comes to timing our engagement, follow-up, and actual teamfighting, I see a lot of issues.”

Zhang Hao looked from Zeng Rui to An Xin and back at Zeng Rui. Then he asked, “Uh, can you maybe show us what you mean?”

An Xin smiled, as if she were waiting for this question. “Of course! That’s why I recorded  the game!” She opened the recording and scrolled through the game until she found an example of a bad teamfight. Then she pointed at her monitor and said, “Take a look at this teamfight here. We’re in the mid lane on our side of the map. Their outer tower is down and they’re being defensive near their inner tower, waiting for us to push.” She turned to Lin Feng and said, “And somehow, you found it necessary to trek through their Jungle and appear from behind their inner tower to towerdive the Ezreal.”

Lin Feng patted his chest and said, “Yeah! Look at that beautiful dive! Boom, kill! I thought I played that really well! And you guys were good too with the follow up!”

An Xin shook her head, briefly stunned by Lin Feng’s response. Then she glared at Lin Feng and shouted, “No! You rushed into that fight before any of us were ready! We were so far away that we couldn’t even see you! The only reason you didn’t die is because Zeng Rui flashed forward to throw down his Leona ultimate!”

Lin Feng laughed it off and said, “Don’t worry about that! I knew my good buddy Zeng Rui was in range for a flash-ultie, and I had full faith that he would! And look, he did!”

Your good buddy? Zeng Rui’s eyebrow twitched in annoyance. He ground his teeth, trying to keep himself from shouting. Don’t yell. It’s not going to do anything. Just focus on the play. What went wrong. Why was it a bad play? He took a deep breath and then turned to look at Lin Feng. He said, “You do realize that my Flash came up two seconds before you engaged that Ezreal, right?”

“Woah, really?” Lin Feng asked. “Perfect timing by me then!”

Zeng Rui stared at Lin Feng and said slowly, “That was luck. And there is nothing I hate more than winning because of luck. All we had to do was wait for Zhang Hao to group up with us. We would’ve won that teamfight easily. As a team.”

“Huh?” Lin Feng blurted out. “Hao Bro wasn’t with us?”

Zhang Hao shook his head and said, “No. I was trying to clear a wave in the top lane when you engaged. So I ran mid to help. But by the time I got there, you guys had already won.”

“Ooooh! Woah, that’s my bad then! I just saw the opening and went for it. I didn’t think you were so far away. Woops!” Lin Feng apologized. Then he grinned and added, “But we won, so it’s all good. Right?”

Zhang Hao frowned. What is wrong with him? We’re trying to do something serious here and he’s just making a joke out of it. He turned to look at Zeng Rui, who was just short from spewing fire, and his eyes went wide. Shit. He looks mad. Weren’t they friends? How does that work? It doesn’t make sense… He looked back at Lin Feng. How are we supposed to practice when he refuses to take this seriously? Is he always like this? How did we lose against him? He is so annoying!

An Xin and Zeng Rui watched through the rest of the recording together, while occasionally pointing things out to the rest of the team. The more they watched, the more apparent it became just how much went wrong in that one game and how much work they had to do in the next month.

Zeng Rui was massaging his temples, fighting off a headache. There is so much we need to improve on. This was such a bad first game. And then the thundering dumbass just goes and makes jokes about it. I have to somehow get him to focus. We just have to tell him when to engage and when to back off. Maybe I can keep him in check like this. “We need a proper shot caller,” he suddenly blurted out. “Someone who makes the ingame decisions and tells everyone what to do.” He then turned to look at An Xin and said, “I know you’re really good at coming up with strategies and tactics before a match, and I think we should work on that together. But during the game, I think it’s important that we have one main shotcaller. I’d like that to be me. You can be the secondary shotcaller. Is that ok with you?”

An Xin nodded and agreed, “Sure!” It was a lot easier for a team to follow the instructions from one player, rather than trying to do what three different teammates were yelling over the team’s voice chat. And the Support was generally a great choice for shotcaller due to the nature of their champions. They had to land crowd control skills, which often started a teamfight. After which they protected their AD-carry at the cost of their life if they had to. And even after dying, they could keep shouting orders over the team’s voice chat. It just made the most sense that Zeng Rui became the team’s main shotcaller.

Lin Feng watched An Xin and Zeng Rui discussing how the team was going to play. Why aren’t they asking me for my input? I’m the best player on the team! I’ve played at Worlds! When Zeng Rui named himself the shotcaller and An Xin agreed, he couldn’t keep himself back anymore. He pushed in between them and asked, “Then what about me?”

Zeng Rui turned to look at Lin Feng and coldly said, “You focus on mid. Just sit in your lane and wait for me to make the calls.” Which was more of a response than An Xin gave Lin Feng. She simply clapped her hands and said to the team, “Now that we’ve got that figured out, let’s try it out in the next game!”

Welcome to Summoner’s Rift!
First Blood!
Double kill!
You have slain an enemy!
Triple kill!
An ally has been slain!
Double kill!
Triple kill!
Aced!

VICTORY!

The changes brought about by Zeng Rui and An Xin had a direct impact on the team’s synergy. They won their lanes again, just more convincingly than in the previous game. More importantly, they crushed the teamfights. Their opponents couldn’t get anything done, and by the end of the game they had only picked up a single kill.

Lin Feng pumped his fist in the air and shouted, “This practice is going great! We’re going to win the trophy! What’s going to be our next tournament after?”

Tang Bingyao looked over at Lin Feng and nodded. “Mhm, that was a good game.”

Zhang Hao also found himself looking at Lin Feng. Or rather, staring. How can he be this stupidt, and then play this well? If he had half a brain, it might actually be really fun playing together with him. Just two games and I feel like I’ve learned so much! The fights he picks that I’d never take. And he wins them! He always wins them! Even when I don’t see any way to win a fight, he wins it. He finds the opening and makes use of it. It’s so impressive. He turned his attention towards An Xin and mumbled under his breath, “And she’s pretty great too.” He finally looked at Tang Bingyao. And she meshes so well with Zeng Rui. We’re looking really strong. He finally grinned and said, “Yes! Maybe we can really win this!”

An Xin shook her head, and Zeng Rui snorted. 

Zeng Rui looked at Tang Bingyao, Zhang Hao and Lin Feng in turn, then said, “Win the trophy? We’re not even close. If we play like this, we’ll get knocked out in the first round. Look.” 

He opened up a webpage and waited for the others to gather around him. “We’re not just playing against players from Shanghai. This is a national tournament. There are seven regions: East China, Central China, South China, Southwest China, North China, Northwest China, and Northeast China. Each of those regions is further divided into at least six different competitive leagues. And dozens of universities and colleges participate in every league.” He paused to let the new information settle in. Then he dealt the killing blow. “We’re not playing against a bunch of high schoolers like in the Shanghai 16 School Tournament. We’re playing against the best players in all of China. We’re going to be playing against Challenger teams! If we want to win this…” He turned to look at Lin Feng before continuing, “We have to take this seriously, or we’re just going to end up embarrassing ourselves.”

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Verbal Diarrhea from Shanks

Shanks Thought: I’ve been left all alone for the thoughts again! Sietse was feeling really tired today and asked to go to bed early. So I thought it would be me and Devshard. And it was going to be me and Devshard. Devshard even came up with a thought for us to talk about. It was how we expected you guys to use the Donation Messages like the Stream Chat, Reader Squeakers, and Translator Thoughts for altruistic causes. Instead, y’all are using it to shame us. Like with the Reader Squeaker today! Honestly, that was a pretty decent thought idea. I’m confident Devshard and I could have made some pretty entertaining banter out of it. Unfortunately, he ditched me out of the blue after kicking my ass in a TFT game.  

Anyway, I’m not having any brain blasts tonight, like I did the other night when I came up with the whole diary log entry thing for the thought. So don’t expect too much out of me. I’m trying my best to be engaging with the thought here! Oh, did you guys know that tea actually goes bad after you brew it? I didn’t. Apparently, it shouldn’t be kept out for more than 8 hours at room temperature. And I ended up drinking some leftover tea on my desk that I brewed four days ago. Only one gulp though. But my stomach is making some very concerning noises, which is a little worrying.So… uh, if you don’t hear back from me tomorrow, you’ll know what happened. 

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