Summoners!

The League of Legends Challenger Circuit continues to grow in leaps and bounds, and with it comes understandable questions about the ranking and format of official League of Legends competition. What separates the pros from the non-pros and how does one team rank higher than another? One look at the Challenger Circuit, and the answer becomes clear.

Competition at a live event feels much different than competition on a home laptop or Internet café. The thrills, excitement, and increased pressure of a live sporting event come to bear on the competing teams. The crowds watching the match erupt into cheers when favored teams like Curse and Counter Logic Gaming score awesome plays. That extends beyond the match itself: fans often line up for autographs from players like Dyrus or take their pictures with TheOddOne and his teammates. Celebrity players are rapidly becoming the norm on the Challenger Circuit, and top players learn to cope with the added stress.

“It’s very motivational,” Team SoloMid member Reginald said about live competition, “but at the same time, we feel like there’s even more pressure for us to win. We'd really hate to disappoint our fans.”

The players themselves hear every shout and gasp as they play, contending not just with their opponent but with the intense and exciting atmosphere around them. It can serve as a distraction sometimes – as it did at IPL 4 in the Curse vs. Monomaniac match, when the crowd noise grew so loud that the players couldn’t hear each other over the microphone.

The distinctive experience of live events toughens up the top teams, who learn to adjust their game to external conditions. IPL 4 served as a first-rate example of this trend. The top three teams at the competition – Team SoloMid, Counter Logic Gaming and Dignitas – boast considerable live experience at venues across the globe. They know how to travel, they focus and prepare on the road, and they don’t allow the energy and pressure of live events affect their game play. Teams like Against All Authority – who play extremely well online and compete fiercely at matches close to home, but have a history of underperforming in person – exited early from the tournament after enduring several serious losses.

As eSport events continue to grow, live tournaments like IPL 4 will play an increasing role in defining the elites. Just as professional football players face more significant obstacles than those playing a pick-up game, so too do elite League of Legends teams deal with intense pressures that other players never face. It’s part of what makes live events so exciting and why IPL 4 drew over 1,000 live fans to watch the match in person.

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