We’re witnessing a sea change in League of Legends professional play. With two stunning tournament victories – topped by their perfect run to the IEM trophy at Hannover – Moscow Five has elevated the game to the next level. Beyond their raw skill, solid preparation and crack timing contributed greatly to their dominating win. They arrived in Hannover ten days early to prepare for the match and it showed on the field. Other teams are beginning to realize that they must push themselves further in order to compete with the best.

One of the most heavily affected by this revelation is Team Epik, which has witnessed a recent exodus in members following the Hannover tournament. Epik first emerged shortly before the NA Regionals back in Season One and immediately made an impact. Founder and leader Dan Dinh led his crew Dyrus, Doublelift, Salce, and Westrice to a second-place finish in the Season One Regionals. That earned them a spot in the Season One Championship, where they placed a respectable fourth. While Doublelift left shortly thereafter for Team Curse (replaced by Nhat Nyguen), the remaining players formed a consistent core upon which Epik could build.

Following Moscow Five’s domination at Hannover, that changed. Following a disagreement about practice habits and strategies for improvement, SoloMid member Rainman left the team. SoloMid immediately recruited Epik’s Dyrus to fill in the gap. Dyrus shared a house with members of SoloMid, and both SoloMid and Epik share common roots on AON, so the replacement made sense. It also left Team Epik one man down… which became two men down several days later, when Dinh himself left Team Epik. Both Dinh and Dyrus had been serious League of Legends players – active since beta testing and with a substantial fan following – and created a significant hole in Team Epik’s roster. ClakyDeeee and DontMashMe quickly filled out the roster, but it remains to be seen how quickly the new team can gel. Dinh soon joined up-and-coming team 4Not, which has already seen improved results since adding Dan to the team.

Nor has Team Epik been the only team to feel the shift. After Dyrus joined the team, SoloMid acquired a coach to help them up their game – one who cites Sun Tzu in public postings and states an intention to implement curfews and eating regimens onto the team. If it sounds crazy, remember that SoloMid experienced Moscow Five’s tactics first-hand in Kiev and again in Hannover; they recognize the challenge that faces them… and every other competitive team on the circuit.

The concept of living together in shared accommodations takes on an increased focus in this equation. SoloMid’s new coach shares living space with them, as did Dyrus, whose familiarity with them presumably helped him function more efficiently as a teammate. In Korea, Counter Logic Gaming and FnaticRaidCall received invitations from OnGameNet to practice at their gaming house. The impact of such a move comes hand-in-hand with other factors, but there’s no question that living and playing together in the same quarters demonstrates an increased focus on performance. Much the way a professional baseball or football team lives and trains together in order to increase their effectiveness, League teams now look to work more cohesively as a unit.

The full impact has yet to be seen, but the shifts in these top-ranked teams indicate that many of them have come to the same conclusion. With their dominating play, Moscow Five may have heralded an end to the “casual professional” on the League of Legends circuit. Only serious teams, who devote time and resources to honing their skills, can withstand the heat on the battlefield. Fans can expect to see the action grow even more intense, with top teams executing more complex strategies and honing their timing to lethal levels. It’s a whole new game out there! Expect to feel the impact of Moscow Five’s wins for some time to come.

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