Mr. I’m Too Good for This World

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It was game time! Team Shanghai and Fuzhou Tech sat down behind their computers in the two soundproof booths and double-checked their settings. The hundreds of spectators in the stands were spending these last couple of minutes until Game 1 speculating about the final outcome of the best of three series. Many of them were relatively new to competitive League of Legends and hadn’t the faintest clue who Team Shanghai or Fuzhou Tech were. But there were also some who’d attended the previous edition of the East China Regionals. One of them turned to a friend and asked, “Fuzhou Tech got this far last time around too, right?”

“Think they might’ve even made it to the quarter finals last year. It’s a bit fuzzy… But from what I recall, they were on a roll,” the friend responded.

“Fuzhou is a pretty decent team then? Are they gonna win this one?” someone else asked.

The friend nodded and explained, “Yeah, I think they were pretty good. If I’m not wrong, they went down against Fudan in quarters. And Fudan was like the best team. Oh shit! I remember now! That was a pretty exciting series too! Fuzhou made it really difficult for Fudan, almost winning a game even! They really should’ve made it to semis…”

“You must be dreaming!” a random audience member butted in. He sat a row behind the friend and leaned forward to join the conversation. Then he continued, “Semis? Fuzhou in semis? Dream on! No way! Only the really big teams make it to semis. Think Fudan, Zhejiang and Shanghai University of Finance! Fudan was just trolling around a bit in that series. They’re like a gazillion times better than Fuzhou Tech!” He shook his head and laughed before adding, “A little team like Fuzhou Tech? They were lucky to get as far as they did. Bunch of noobs.”

The audience had gone mostly quiet, many people either listening or joining in on the conversation going on. One of those joining in was Han Ying. She attended Shanghai University of Finance and was a member of its esports club. She was also the one who’d welcomed Team Shanghai on campus and witnessed the 2-0 KO Team Shanghai dealt to Luo Yu’s team. If our team is one of the big three, then what about Team Shanghai? They destroyed Luo Yu! That Midlaner was a freak! We never did get his phone number after how that played out… She giggled and then said, “Team Shanghai might win this series then. They beat Luo Yu 2-0 a few weeks back in a scrim. It was a really one-sided series. Team Shanghai played that really well!”

There were many people in the stands who refused to follow Han Ying’s line of thought. They didn’t know Team Shanghai and had never seen them play. The only fact of interest to them was that Team Shanghai comprised five high schoolers, two of whom were girls. Their limited view on League of Legends consisted of their experiences in solo queue and the matches they watched on television. Neither spoke very highly of high school students or female players. That alone was reason enough to toss any notion of Team Shanghai actually being good aside.

“Just a bunch of fucking kids!”
“How good can they really be?”
“Fuzhou Tech has an Ionia Master Midlaner! Try and beat him, damn high school kids!”
“He’s a real life B Midlaner! And then you got the noob at Team Shanghai!”
“Noob high schooler better surrender if they know what’s good for them!”
“I should’ve skipped today… Boring matches. Fuzhou is just gonna stomp those high schoolers!”

There were also people in the crowd who’d attended the earlier rounds Team Shanghai had played in. They’d watched the high school kids tear through strong lineups of university teams! And they could hardly believe what they were seeing in those rounds. They’d mumbled and whispered with each other during those games, trying to comprehend what was going on. It didn’t make sense to them that high schoolers could be that good! But seeing is believing. And right now, as a direct result from those earlier rounds, they were on the Team Shanghai bandwagon!

“It’ll be a stomp for sure! But Fuzhou won’t do any of the stomping!”
“You noobs seen Team Shanghai’s Midlaner play? He’s a fucking god!”
“The Lin Feng guy is A+++! He’ll wreck that B scrub from Fuzhou Tech! Mark my words!”
“And they also got a really strong Support! He’s a crazy good Challenger on the Ionia server!”
“Don’t forget about their Jungler either! Her ganks were outta this world!”
“They’ve got such a strong team. Fuzhou won’t know what hit them!”

The former teammates from Team Shanghai had also come to attend this round of the Winter Collegiate Cup. They’d kept quiet, and even shrunk back a little when they heard the sheer ferocity with which some students vocally assaulted their friends. But after the first couple of positive comments rang out, they found their confidence again. Led by Ouyang, they all jumped to their feet and shouted in support of their team!

“What Fuzhou Tech? BUNCH OF NOOBS!”

The organizers of the Winter Collegiate Cup had hired some of the best casters they could find in Shanghai for Regionals. There were different duos for the different phases of the tournament. And for the Round of 16, they’d invited Silent Reed and Rollfire. Silent Reed was an up and comer working for Breaking Esports, a game media company, and had left a great impression after her work with Westwind at the Shanghai 16 School Tournament. Her co-caster was Rollfire. He was a rather famous individual in the scene as a second-rate caster with a lot of experience. The invitation to cast at the Winter Collegiate Cup was a given for him.

But Rollfire wasn’t at all happy about how it played out for him. He glared at the teams preparing for the games in the soundproof booths and then glanced at Silent Reed before quickly looking away. I should’ve declined the offer! What is this shit? Are they trying to make me mad!? I’m far too good for a game like this! A FUCKING HIGH SCHOOL TEAM! I have to cast a stupid fucking high school game! This is so far beneath me that it isn’t even funny! At least give me a game in the quarter finals! That’s the kind of games where I belong! I’m a professional caster! Not some stupid rookie like this one here. He glanced at Silent Reed again, his nose twitching in anger.

Rollfire was introduced to Silent Reed a few hours earlier. He’d cast games with many pretty faces before, but she still caught his eyes. So while he usually expected people to recognize him and take the initiative to greet him, he went out of his way to greet her. To start a conversation with her. To have a little fun before the games started. But she didn’t reciprocate his gestures. She nodded at him and then turned away to talk with someone else.

Bitch. You fucking slut! It’s just because I’m a second-rate caster, right? If I was first-rate… I’m basically a first-rate caster dammit! I’ll get the qualifications for it soon enough! And what are you? YOU’RE NOTHING! NOTHING! Rollfire was steaming in rage, his knuckles white and his teeth clenched. You’re just a pretty face, that’s all you’re good for! You should be happy to be here and cast with me! You stupid, stupid, FUCK ME! I don’t deserve this shit! I should be casting the quarter finals! This stupid fucking bullshit! I’m way too

The audience started cheering and the large LCD screen above the soundproof booths jumped to life. Game 1 of the East China Round of 16 was already getting underway! Fuzhou Tech and Team Shanghai had locked in their Champions and they were in the loading screen, waiting for the game to start!

Game 1 of the East China Round of 16
Fuzhou Tech (Blue) versus Team Shanghai (Red)

Top: Mundo versus Darius
Jungle: Jarvan IV versus Evelynn
Mid: Lux versus Yasuo
AD-Carry: Tristana versus Lucian
Support: Morgana versus Thresh

Silent Reed looked at the lineup for both teams and said into her microphone, “Pretty standard lineups, as we expected. Except, oh! That’s strange. Team Shanghai’s Jungler is playing Evelynn! We’ve seen her play Lee Sin and Jarvan IV before, but I don’t think we’ve ever seen her on Evelynn! I wonder what brought about this change?”

Rollfire snorted and replied, “Evelynn? What a stupid choice. She relies completely on positioning. There are so many ways this can backfire. I don’t see how this is a viable option at this level of play.”

What’s got him going? Silent Reed glanced at her co-caster. Is he mad or something? He looks angry. What’s got into him? She shook her head and focused back on the lineups. I’ve seen that An Xin play quite a few Champions, but never the Evelynn type… I wonder why. Maybe she was just saving it? Right, I’m casting! She smiled and said, “I’ve seen her play before and she was really good! I think she knows what she’s doing.”

Rollfire snorted. Good? Piss off. She’s a dumb high schooler trying to show off. Or whatever. What the fuck am I even doing here? Why am I stuck casting this dumb ass game? They should be inviting me for the fucking main tournament! I’m too good for this! He looked up at the large LCD screen above the soundproof booths and noticed the names of the teams. Team Shanghai. Representatives of the Shanghai Esports Association. My boss. The assholes who hired me to do this stupid shit! He kicked against the back of his desk and grumbled under his breath, “Might as well just quit. Stupid shit. If these dumb high schoolers win, I’m quitting. I’ll quit this stupid ass profession!”

Silent Reed glanced at her co-caster, watching him grumble. What’s he saying? Why isn’t he casting? We need to cast! She tried to catch his attention without making it too obvious, but he didn’t see it. Idiot! Why can’t you be more like Westwind? He knew how to hype a game up! She smiled at the thought and then said, “Looks like the game has loaded! It’s Fuzhou Tech on the Blue team versus Team Shanghai on the Red team! Let’s go in!”

Welcome to Summoner’s Rift!

An Xin started her Jungle path on the Blue Buff Camp. She killed the large golem with the help of Tang Bingyao’s Lucian and Zeng Rui’s Thresh while glancing around the map. Mid looks gankable. It just needs a little push. She said over the team’s voice chat, “Hey, Lin Feng. I’m coming mid right after the Red Buff for a gank. Get ready.” She then had her Evelyn run to the other side of the Jungle to attack the Red Brambleback.

“Okay! I’ll be ready to kill Lux!” Lin Feng exclaimed, laughing.

The players from Team Shanghai knew better than to entertain Lin Feng. They ignored him and focused on their respective lanes. An Xin’s Evelynn attacked the Red Brambleback and killed it almost four minutes into the game. “Coming now,” she said over the team’s voice chat.

Lin Feng had been preparing for the gank by manipulating the minion wave. He’d focused on attacking Lux, causing her health bar to drop, and then baited her into attacking a minion instead of his Yasuo. The minion wave slowly pushed towards Red Team’s outer tower and Lux was forced to push further and further forward to get last hits. This was an incredibly dangerous move with Evelynn on the opposing team. Evelynn was the Mistress of the Shadows. She was invisible unless she walked over a vision ward or entered within range of an enemy Champion or structure. But An Xin was good enough at the game to maneuver her way into the mid lane and behind Lux unseen.

Lux pushed forward to last hit a minion and stay even in creep score with Yasuo right as Evelynn arrived in the mid lane. A storm was already brewing at the tip of Yasuo’s blade. Lin Feng activated the third cast of Steel Tempest! Yasuo swung his blade forward, commanding a tornado to blast over the Rift! It blew through Lux and knocked her up into the air! Yasuo followed up by dashing through a minion to close the gap with Lux and then attacked again with Steel Tempest! His blade cut through Lux and sheared away at her health! All the while, An Xin’s Evelynn stepped out of stealth and slashed twice at the Lux with Ravage! She followed up with a constant stream of Hate Spikes! Thorny shadows erupted from the ground and cut through Lux’s health bar!

First blood!

Silent Reed jumped up from her seat and clutched the microphone, shouting, “BEAUTIFUL! What a perfect flank by Evelynn! It was all timed down to perfection! There was no escape for the Lux!” She glanced at Rollfire. Come on, say something! I can’t be Westwind and me! Cast! You’re supposed to be good!

But Rollfire was in no mood to cast. He nodded and mumbled, “Yeah. Nice gank. Yeeey for Team Shanghai.” I just talked shit about the Evelynn and now she lucks her way into a successful gank! What is this bullshit? I should be casting the quarter finals! Not this crappy round! His eyes were bloodshot and his hands were trembling. I have to cast with this stupid disrespectful girl and now the stupid audience is also cheering for the stupid high school team and, and… He knocked his hand on the table and bit down on his lip. I’m quitting! I’m not degrading myself by casting these low ranked games! I’m really going to do it!

“Did the Lux forget she was up against an Evelynn or something…?”
“Why was she playing so aggressive…?”
“It was so obvious that both Junglers were going to gank… Why in the world be so aggressive?”
“That Lux is stupid. Practically giving the game to Team Shanghai!”
“What a massive misplay by Fuzhou…”

It wasn’t just Rollfire or the audience that could tell that Fuzhou Tech’s Midlaner had overextended, even his teammates had noticed as much. They glanced at their Midlaner and asked him why he didn’t play that more defensively. But the Lux player didn’t agree with his teammates. He shook his head and explained, “It’s not my fault! Really! That wasn’t my fault! It’s because of this Yasuo! I think he’s trolling me or something! It was so troll! I don’t know what else to say! I got confused by his trolling! This isn’t my fault!” He breathed in and chewed on his lips before adding, “Sorry. I’ll play better.”

Sun Ruinian from Zhejiang University’s team was watching the game from the player seating area. The large LCD screen above the stage showed the game in spectator mode, meaning that he could see the Evelynn through the shadows cloaking her. And he also saw Lux moving forward for a last hit at just the wrong time before giving away first blood. He shook his head and mumbled, “What are you doing, mid? Play it safe! It’s an Eve Jungle. What did you expect? You can’t let her get behind you too easily!” He moved his lips around for a bit and eventually added, “The Yasuo played it well though.”

Yasuo was a melee Champion while Lux was a ranged caster. This gave Lux a big advantage in the early game, where she just had to sit back and land her skills and auto attacks on Yasuo. But Lin Feng wasn’t just any Yasuo. He didn’t let himself get harassed and struggle to keep his health up. He learned Sweeping Blade at Level 1 and continuously dashed through the minions, looking for openings to land some poke damage on Lux.

The aggression increased with Yasuo’s level. When he unlocked Steel Tempest at Level 2, he dashed through Lux and swept his blade out at her. Winds gathered at the tip of his blade. He would dash away through a minion behind him and get a second cast of Steel Tempest on a minion. Then, as the storm brewed at the tip of his blade, he dashed through a last minion to throw the Lux off guard and then blew a tornado at her!

Champions had low health at the early levels and minions could deal substantial damage. Lin Feng’s Yasuo was hemorrhaging health with this early game aggression. The Lux failed to hit any of her abilities and got constantly hit by his, yet her health wasn’t any lower than his. But this was acceptable, because Lin Feng wasn’t employing this tactic to get a kill on Lux. His goal was to annoy her until she made a mistake. And that was exactly what happened. She grew irritated with the Yasuo, made a couple of mistakes with last hitting minions, and tunnel visioned so hard on him that she completely forgot about Evelynn.

Sun Ruinian looked at Team Shanghai’s soundproof booth and then up at the large LCD screen. He said, “The Yasuo is good. We can’t underestimate him. He won the mid lane with that little play.” I wonder what Zou Cheng thinks about him. He nodded at the man sitting next to him and asked, “What do you think? Is this guy B+? Better? How much better do you think? Can you beat him?”

Zou Cheng was Zhejiang University’s Midlaner. He knitted his brows and watched the Yasuo play. He’s good, really good! But I’m also really good! He said through gritted teeth, “He’s alright. I’m confident in myself.”

Sun Ruinian nodded and looked back up at the screen. It’s only first blood. Maybe I’m seeing things. Let’s see how this game plays out before coming to any conclusions. We’ve got time to prepare. But I saw the replays… He’s good. Really good. B+ at minimum. Probably better. Just a question of how much. We’re going to have to be careful about him.

Tang Bingyao was focused on last hitting minions, constantly keeping an eye open for an opportunity to land some poke damage on Fuzhou Tech’s Tristana or Morgana. Her Lucian was the stronger ad-carry in the early game and she had to make use of that if she wanted to bring this game home. Zeng Rui was speaking in her ear, constantly telling her what to do. Which minion to hit, when to pause, and how to position. Mhm. I got this. I’m good. I got this.

At 4:30 minutes, Zeng Rui found the opening. He said over the team’s voice chat, “Go in!” He then had his Thresh walk towards the Tristana. A minion protecting the Tristana was one auto attack from dying. The bullet from Lucian’s gun was already in midair. Everything pointed towards Zeng Rui going for the Tristana. And Fuzhou Tech believed as much. Tristana didn’t wait to find out and Rocket Jumped away, while she also received a Black Shield from Morgana to protect her against crowd control. But Zeng Rui was never going for the Tristana. It was all a trick to get a clear line on the Morgana. Thresh’s scythe flew through the air and hooked the Morgana.

Tang Bingyao nodded and replied, “Mhm!” She had her Lucian follow after Zeng Rui’s Thresh with Relentless Pursuit! This activated Lucian’s passive skill. He raised both his guns at Morgana and fired a doubleshot! He then attacked with Piercing Light! Both guns were still aimed at Morgana as a beam of light blasted through her, followed up by another doubleshot!

Fuzhou Tech’s Morgana Flashed away, trying to get in range of the Tristana to get a heal and survive. But the Tristana had run too far away already and Tang Bingyao didn’t give her any time to turn around. Lucian flashed after Morgana and fired two more auto attacks to claim the kill.

You have slain an enemy!

“WHAT A HOOK!” Silent Reed exclaimed. She clutched the microphone and brought it close to her mouth, a little trick she’d picked up from Westwind, and continued, “That was some great skill by Team Shanghai! And I have a juicy bit of intel! This ad-carry and Support were on opposing teams before this tournament! Look at how they’ve come together! Team Shanghai is really pulling ahead here!”

Rollfire wouldn’t hear anything about it. He shook his head and argued, “That was just a bad play by Fuzhou Tech. This should’ve never ended in a kill. Everyone could tell that that Thresh was just baiting Morgana to use her Black Shield on Tristana. He was clearly going for the squishier target, which is the Morgana. I can’t believe how easily Fuzhou Tech fell for this very obvious play. But well done to Team Shanghai for showing some basic tactics.”

The people in the crowd weren’t nearly as invested in talking down the players from Team Shanghai as Rollfire was. There were a couple of halfhearted comments about how Rollfire had a point and several more people arguing that it wasn’t obvious to them at all that Thresh was setting up a bait. Most people, however, were simply cheering for a beautiful play.

“What a play by Team Shanghai! Their mid and bot have already won!”
“Are they going to win top too now?”
“Sick Thresh hook! Absolutely mental! Impressive as fuck!”

Rollfire glared at the audience, annoyed. You idiots can’t even tell how bad these teams are playing! What’s worth watching here? Even I could’ve played that better! And I’m no great player. Only goes to show how terrible these two teams are! They shouldn’t be in the Collegiate Cup… Or, better even, I shouldn’t be asked to cast these crappy games! I should be casting the main tournament! He tried to breathe his annoyance away, but it wasn’t working. There were still people in the audience doubting him or ignoring him altogether, and his co-caster kept glancing at him too. I’ll show them how stupid they are! Stupid idiots! They don’t know shit!

“You see that Evelynn?” Rollfire asked Silent Reed. “See how she only managed to force a flash from Fuzhou Tech’s Mundo in the top lane when that play in bot went down? She’s basically been useless otherwise, except for the early play in mid. Doesn’t look like she knows how to play the Champion at all! How can Fuzhou Tech not be taking advantage of this?”

Silent Reed looked at Rollfire and shook her head, exasperated. First you make me do all the casting and now you’re bitching about something you don’t even need to bitch about? Can you be any more of a man-child? She closed her eyes for a brief moment and then asked, “Please, tell me more.”

Rollfire completely missed the sarcasm in Silent Reed’s words. All he heard was an invitation to talk more. He laughed and explained, “See, it’s very simple. Team Shanghai isn’t playing Evelynn like you’re supposed to play her! Her strength isn’t in clearing Jungle camps, which is what she’s doing. You want to use her invisibility in the early game to get a lot of map pressure! Force the other team to play defensively and help all lanes get ahead!” He briefly paused to make sure he had everyone’s attention before continuing, “Her initial gank in the mid lane was good. That’s exactly how you’re supposed to play Evelynn! But look at what she’s done since… Nothing! Absolutely nothing! There isn’t even any pressure on Fuzhou Tech! She’s, pun intended, invisible. I think that girl should practice playing this Champion a bit more before she pulls it out in a real tournament. She’s going to get punished for it.”

“Who knows?” Silent Reed replied. She looked at the large LCD screen and added, “The way I see it, we’re only a few minutes into the game and she helped two of her lanes while the third lane is doing great on its own. Why can’t she get a bit of experience in the Jungle as well?” She glanced at Rollfire and tried not to smile when she saw the red-hot anger on his face. Annoying idiot!

Sietse Takes Another Step Towards Nirvana!

Sietse Thought: You know that moment where you have this something in your mind that just seems brilliant? Where it makes absolute perfect sense! Kind of like when you’re dreaming when you accept the weirdest shit as normal. And then you say it out loud or you write it down and see what it actually is. It stinks. It’s horrendous. You don’t want to have anything to do with it. That pile of gold suddenly looked and smelled suspiciously much like a pile of horse shit. Maybe Shanks came by or something, I dunno.

Or maybe I was already asleep last night when I thought about it. This fantastic story that I believed to be absolutely brilliant! I lived it in my head and saw it play out. It was dark and creepy and I couldn’t wait to pen it down on paper and show everyone this absolutely outstanding story! I even went so far as to grab my phone and take some notes while the idea was still fresh! Then I went to bed and was giddy the entire next morning about writing it out. I kept replaying it in my head and continued to hype myself up about it. It was going to be great!

Then I wrote it. Something felt off from the start. I couldn’t quite see what, because for me it overlapped with the story that played in my head. I knew how awesome that was, and that meant the written version had to be at least half as good, right? So I pushed through the uncertainty and finished writing the piece. But every step of the way, something felt off. It just never felt quite right. Again, I brushed it aside as insecurities about my writing. The words just wouldn’t come to me. Or any one of another thousand excuses I could come up with. So I asked someone else to read it. It stunk.

And that is fine. Not everything is going to be great. Not everything is going to be what you imagine. Hell, most things won’t. But what makes it fine is that I tried to write something I thought was going to be great. And what is better is that I have the friends around me who will tell me that it is indeed shit, and that I need to get my head out of Shanks’ ponyhole! For that I’m thankful on this sunny, rainy, snowy and thunderous Wednesday (the weather really doesn’t know what it wants).

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