Better Lux Next Time!

This week, the entire office was abuzz with the Riot Rumble. Colleagues of mine from every discipline and team were playing preparatory League of Legends games, talking strategy, looking up opponents’ preferences and Champions, and generally either psyching themselves up or talking smack. It was a fascinating thing to behold, and more than a little intimidating. The Golden Ganks, my team, had logged a whole six practice games under our belts, all losses. The cloud of impending doom from last week sat over me on Tuesday as I waited for our 8pm match.

One thing I’ve neglected to mention about the Rumble is that it consists of two leagues. One is for the hardcore Ranked players and teams, seeded into Bronze, Silver, Gold, Diamond, and Platinum divisions. The other league is called “Definitely Not Competitive,” or DNC. The DNC league is for people who aren’t gunning for Ranked play, may or may not be level 30, and who mostly just want to have fun. The DNC has three tiers: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. My team, the Golden Ganks, were seeded DNC Silver despite having two players under level 30. We’re all a little bewildered about the “Silver” part, but apparently Todd on our team is pretty good, and it was his fault we had been bumped up from where we belonged. And hey… old guys… Silver division. Heh.

The Rumble organizers, unbeknownst to me, also use DNC to have fun with the formatting. For our Week 1 games, we weren’t playing classic Summoner’s Rift—which happens to be all we’d practiced the past few weeks. Apparently in DNC we play all the flavors of League.

Week 1 was… drum roll… ARAM. Best two out of three games.

For those who don’t know League of Legends, ARAM stands for “All Random All Mid.” Think of League like a big game of capture the flag, where the object is to destroy an enemy team’s base, called a Nexus, before they destroy yours. In between the bases are a series of turrets that fire at you, and the object is to systematically fight your way through these turrets and destroy them on the way to the base. The turrets sit along three paths to each base, called lanes. There’s a top lane, a middle lane, and a bottom lane, and a dark, maze-like jungle between each lane that contains monsters. That’s the normal game of League.

ARAM is different. In ARAM, you’re still fighting through a series of turrets on the way to an enemy Nexus. This time, though, there’s no jungle and only one lane. That’s the “All Mid” part of the name, because it’s as if the whole team is charging up the middle lane. All five members of your team and all five of their team are crammed together in a free-for-all corridor of death. ARAM is nonstop action, with lots and lots of chaos (as a result, they also tend to be shorter games). “All Random,” meanwhile, refers to the fact that each player doesn’t get to pick his or her Champion—it’s assigned randomly. Normally in ARAM you can “re-roll” once or twice to try and get a Champion you feel comfortable with, but the DNC games had no re-rolls. Whoever Lady Luck gave you, that’s who you played.

So, back to Tuesday. The work day swung to a close. The Golden Ganks IM-ed and made plans for the evening (we had six players, so decided we’d rotate for the games). After a quick trip to IHOP for dinner I sat at my desk, headphones on. I could see teammates Bob and Brian at their desks. We had chat going with Todd, Jim, and Eric while they played from home. I cracked my knuckles and my neck. I was, literally, ready to rumble.

Our opponent Week 1 turned out to be named “Better Lux Next Time.” Awww… Cute name, right?

No! Not cute. Not cute AT ALL. As we filed into our game queue, the disparity in skill was glaring. Their team had two Bronze ranked players and two Silver. Ours has no ranked players at all. Uh oh.

I would love to report that Week 1 was a Rocky story, a Bad News Bears epic come to life. It would make a terrific tale for this blog. It would. But, alas, it was the Washington Generals against the Harlem Globetrotters. We got utterly and completely demolished, losing two games to zero in a blink of an eye. In each game, Better Lux Next Time systematically worked their way down the lane, destroying towers on their way inexorably to our Nexus. No drama. No epic plays. Just dying and watching them break our stuff. A lot.

In the first game I rolled up Tryndamere, the Champion named after my boss Marc Merrill’s Everquest character of yore. Surely that was an auspicious beginning, except that I’d never played Trynd. He’s a melee, close-up fighter and the other team knew just how to draw me in and then decimate me. In the second game I rolled up Evelyn. At first I was excited, since I’d actually played her two or three times against computer AI bots with my family. She’s sneaky and can eventually do a lot of damage. Buuuuut she’s also squishy and easy to kill, and also relies on getting in close. Both games had almost identical stats… five kills, a dozen deaths, and a handful of assists.

Well then.

Am I discouraged? I was last night. We had no shot in that match, and it didn’t even feel like an interactive game experience. It’s hard to even laugh at how bad we were. It’s also hard to extract a lesson from our first Rumble match. Did the first little piggy learn anything from his encounter with the Big Bad Wolf? He learned he stunk at making sturdy houses and that wolves are scary.

But I’ve since donned my handy perspectacles. I just spent an evening with my co-workers, playing League of Legends. How fun! We have an organized tournament across the entire company, playing all of the game’s various formats, for the next several weeks. How cool! I’m on a friendly, good-natured team called The Golden Ganks, and we’re getting team t-shirts with a logo designed by Bob’s son. Sweet! Every week I’m getting (slightly) better at this game I love, and playing against people who fist-bump and high-five me in the hallway. Woot! And, eventually, it WILL be funny how bad we were in the first Rumble (eventually). Ha!

So, until next week, I guess it’s best to look for life’s little signs and funny ha-has. Like, oh I don’t know, our opponent’s team name.

Better Lux next time!

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