In League of Legends esports, mid lane has always been king. In spite of countless patches and meta shifts, there’s always tremendous value in being located at the center of Summoner’s Rift.
Good mid laners know how to use their superior position to take over the entire map. This turns them into superstars, invaluable assets that no team would be willing to give up.
Yet their success is fleeting. In fact, many top-tier mid laners begin their League of Legends careers as unstoppable juggernauts only to lose their bite a year or two later. And while some just lose motivation over time, there’s usually another reason behind this downfall.
Losing that edge
When Bjergsen entered the competitive scene, he scored the first-ever pentakill in the EU LCS. Three years later, another up-and-coming mid laner—Perkz—dominated the 2016 Spring Split and seamlessly qualified for the MSI. As time went on, both these players kept growing, gradually gaining more experience … and becoming more mellow.
Their identities shifted from confident daredevils to risk-averse veterans. Most fans would blame meta changes—after all, you can’t solo carry LoL games the same way you used to. And there are only so many high-impact champions you can play nowadays. However, another rising mid laner, Caps, had no issues being a one-man-army on the MSI stage, and he introduced several new picks in the process.
Are Bjergsen and Perkz just too out of shape to keep up with the new blood? No. In fact, most experts deem them much more well-rounded now than at the beginning of their careers.
So why don’t they reach the same highs? The answer is simple: they became shot callers.
The added weight
At some point, Bjergsen and Perkz turned into the most experienced players on their teams. Thus, they had to take up the mantle of leadership.
This development makes sense on the surface. You want the most knowledgeable person in charge of your team, and since mid laners are at the vanguard of the vast majority of plays, they should know what they want from their teammates.
But while the notion seems correct, it goes against the very nature of mid lane. Remember, this is the most complex role in the game. A top-tier mid laner isn’t only expected to have one of the widest champion pools in League of Legends, but he or she is also supposed to have a good grasp of trading, roaming, controlling minion waves and setting up plays with the jungler.
A good mid laner has to be selfish. He or she needs to focus on playing at the highest possible standard because this player is always in a position to decide the outcome of the game. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mesh with shot calling. The burden of leadership is heavy, and it forces you to divide your attention and make sacrifices for the good of the team.
With that, it’s no wonder that Bjergsen and Perkz adopted reserved playstyles. In pro play, aggression requires complete concentration, which is a luxury shot callers simply do not have.
Besides, if you go for a play and it backfires, you can sabotage the entire match because so much depends on you. Even Hai, the best mid lane shot caller of all time, was notorious for forfeiting his lane in favor of making his presence known elsewhere. And in the end, he sacrificed so much he could no longer keep up with rising mid laners.
Most mid-lane leaders are caught up in a weird balancing act where they have to lead their teammates while performing the hardest role in the game.
However, preserving this equilibrium is so challenging that even the best players in the world inevitably fall off. If teams want to avoid that, it’s be smart to look for shot callers elsewhere.
Image credit: Riot Games