Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
LEC

Shotcalling: The art of decision-making

When you’re a pro, communication is usually the defining factor between a middle-of-the-pack team and a top one. Even so, we still tend to underestimate the impact of communication. Far away from the solo queue and its spams, pings, and unfiltered information, the communication at key points of a game is something a lot of teams are focusing on. The person responsible for team communication is commonly called the “shotcaller”. They filter and prioritize information in a precise way depending on what needs to be achieved on the Rift. Let’s take a closer look at this vital role.

“When League started, it was a pretty flexible role within a team because no one really knew what to do, so anyone could have an opinion on the game,” explains Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider, a pro jungler since 2012. After a few years, the most experienced players could see the evolution of the game and knew all of its mechanics. Amazing tells us that Korean teams set the pace when it comes to a player or two being in charge of sharing information with the whole team during a game.

A MAESTRO FOR THE TEAM

That’s no surprise when we consider the discipline and organization that is common in the region. But the question remains: which player should take on that responsibility? Do they need to fit a specific profile? Nothing is written in stone – depending on the information needed in each phase of the game, we can easily say that one profile might be a better fit than another. “There can be multiple shotcallers in the same lineup, depending on the strengths of the team,” explains Hadrien “Duke” Forestier, a coach in the LCS. “It’s fairly common to have a different shotcaller depending on the phase of the game. A jungler might be a better choice during the early game, while during the mid to late game it would be better to give the role to the most experienced player.”

The information in the early stage of a game usually focuses on the lane phase: who has priority in which lane, how the matchups are going, etc. That information is vital to understanding and creating a rhythm for the team. The quest for vision on the map and knowledge of which spells have been picked are useful for the jungler so they know where to strike. Overall, the early phases of a game need to be controlled by the player who has the broadest view of the game so that they can react to anything that happens, but also predict what’s to come during the game.


A CLASSIC PATTERN ACCORDING TO DEFICIO​ : 

EARLY GAME: THE JUNGLER IS IN CHARGE OF SHOTCALLING, WHILE THE OTHERS PASS ON INFORMATION ABOUT THEIR LANE AND OPPONENTS’ POSITIONS
MID GAME: THE SPLITPUSHERS ARE IN CHARGE OF SHOTCALLING, WHILE THE CORE OF THE TEAM PASSES ON INFORMATION
LATE GAME FIGHTS: THE CARRY PASSES ON INFORMATION ABOUT THEIR TARGET, BUT EVERYONE CAN DECIDE ON A COURSE OF ACTION IF THERE IS AN OPENING
*AMAZING ADDS THAT VISION IS ASSURED BY THE PLAYER WHO IS CARRYING THE MOST WARDS, WHICH AFTER THE CHANGES INTRODUCED BY THIS YEAR’S PATCH IS MORE OFTEN THAN NOT THE SUPPORT.

 

So, on top of a good shotcaller needing to be capable of selecting good information, they also need to have an in-depth understanding of the game. Martin “Deficio” Lynge, analyst and caster, explains that “clear rules exists in League of Legends, but being able to read the map and guide your teammates is a difficult task for most players – but not for the best shotcallers!” He adds that knowledge of the game and a capacity to assimilate new information quickly under pressure to make a decision is a rare quality that is necessary for the role. Even though play patterns are talked about and worked on by the players during training sessions, being able to act on the go and make the right decision at the right time is so difficult that even an excellent player can crumble under pressure.

THE RESULT OF A GAME CAN HINGE ON A SINGLE DECISION

As discussed above, different players will have an important voice depending on the phase of the game. Still, taking on that responsibility is not an easy task for a player. Amazing explains that to be a good shotcaller “you need patience, courage, and self-confidence. The player calling the shots needs to give opportunities to his team, but he also needs to take responsibility when things aren’t going as planned.”

A CLASSIC EXAMPLE IS WHEN A TEAM DESTROYS THE OUTER TURRETS, BUT ISN’T ABLE TO PRESS THE ADVANTAGE FURTHER. A TEAM CAN SHOW A BASIC UNDERSTANDING OF THE GAME TO CAPITALIZE ON A PUSH, BUT STILL NOT BEING ABLE TO ADD THE MORE TECHNICAL ASPECT OF THE MACRO GAME, WHICH IS ONE OF THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD SHOTCALLER.

Hadrien “Duke” Forestier

The pressure during a game can lead players to act in a number of ways, and for an analyst it’s easy to detect communication issues or decision-making issues within certain teams: “I often see teams focusing on a single action instead of adapting to the current state of the map. A common example is a team that will totally forget to control the side lanes and rush the midlane again and again,” says Deficio. This is something that has been seen in North America for years. Another example is a team that doesn’t factor in its own team fight timings: “Remember Fnatic versus Misfits!” he continues. “When we see lineups based on scaling that tries to initiate action at the fourth minute mark, it’s a clear indication that even the best teams can struggle to make the right call.”

Of course, even though Duke explains that the role of the shotcaller has evolved a lot and can’t be tied to a single player, it’s clear there are some players that have revolutionized the role and left their mark because of their ability to lead their teams to victory. For Duke and Deficio, Mata is a classic example from Samsung White. EDG’s Clearlove is also an authority figure on the matter and his team often (too often, even) relies on him to achieve success. Hai, who played at a pro level in different lanes, was also named among those great leaders. There are many more worth mentioning, and each of them have shown brilliance at the competition level. Even so, Duke says it’s often very difficult to know which player will be a good shotcaller without working with them, because “reputations are often far from reality”.

A ROLE THAT TEAMS ARE FOCUSING ON

One thing is clear: the way that information is spread in League of Legends is evolving to the point where coaches are pushing the team spirit aspect of the game to the extreme to ensure that the team listens to a call being made. In a recent interview, cvMax, the coach of the Korean team Griffin, said that for him, cohesion and perfect harmony within a team are two factors that allow the right decision to be made without the need for it to be discussed. The instinct that is put to the test during difficult situations requires players to be composed if they want to make the right call. He finished by saying that even if it’s impossible to make decisions without speaking, that’s what he’s pushing his team toward.

League of Legends played solely on instinct without shotcalling? That’s not something outside the realm of possibility according to Deficio and Duke – but only to an extent. The two explain that instinct is a focal point during fights, because it allows players to play faster. The role of a pure shotcaller, as we’ve seen, doesn’t really exist anymore. Multiple players share that responsibility now.

However, cvMax’s declaration was met by strong reactions, because “depending on the players that make up a team, focusing solely on your own plays while still being able to read each and every movement on the map will be extremely difficult for a lot of players,” explains Deficio. “I can’t imagine a world where that pattern is possible for a team in the West. And more generally, there will always be value in communication without it becoming a constant flow of information.”

ULTIMATELY, THE ROLE OF SHOTCALLER CHANGES DEPENDING ON THE NEEDS OF A GIVEN TEAM AND THE PEOPLE IN IT. EVEN THOUGH THERE ISN’T A PERFECT MODEL TO FOLLOW, COMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION SHARING IN LEAGUE OF LEGENDS ARE STILL FOCAL POINTS WHEN IT COMES TO THE SUCCESS OF A TEAM. THE HELP OF THE COACHING STAFF COUPLED WITH TEAM EXPERIENCE IS WHAT ALLOWS THE BEST PLAYERS TO EMERGE AS GREAT LEADERS.