Faker, G2, LCS, the recent World Championships – if you play League of Legends, there’s a good chance that you know what these are. LoL has one of the biggest Pro Scenes of any Esport today, and it’s not surprising that many players aspire to be part of that scene as a pro gamer. However, being a pro gamer isn’t just about being good enough to “hang with the big boys”; it takes a deeper understanding of the game’s competitive environment.
There are many kinds of pro gamers, but for the purpose of this discussion, we’re going to limit ourselves to LoL players who participate in professional-level competitions. If you want to go pro in this game, you have to know where to start. There are two main approaches to going pro:
- Get into an existing pro team
- Make your own team
Regardless of which path you take, you have a lot of work cut out for you. We’re talking months or even years worth of trying to make it big. More importantly, any tactic at trying to go pro is not a sure-fire thing; if that was the case, there would be a lot more pro players in the scene. Still, if you think you have what it takes, any bit of info helps.
Getting Into a Pro Team
FunPlus Phoenix, Invictus Gaming, SK Telecom T1, Fnatic – these are just some of the most famous professional teams in League of Legends’ professional scene. Anybody who even considered going pro has probably thought of being a member of a major team. Here’s the thing, though: everyone started out just like you – an amateur LoL player. By knowing how those guys ended up being in the strongest LoL Rosters in the world, you’ll be one step closer to realizing your dream of going pro.
The Road to Challenger
If you want to be part of the best teams, you have to start by proving to yourself that you are one of the best. For most players that went pro, this means conquering your own region’s ranked divisions by getting into challenger division. That means trying to improve your skills to the point where you’re one of the top 200 in the region.
Having trouble even reaching Challenger Division? Check out this helpful guide on how to climb up the ranks!
Of course, getting promoted to Challenger is just the start of your journey. You have to remember that you have to keep winning games to stay in Challenger, so it’s a constant fight for survival. Also, don’t expect to get any further if you’re fine at the bottom of Challenger; after all, pro teams will only look for the best of the best. Being in the top 200 means there are still dozens upon dozens of players that will more likely be picked over you, so keep striving for the top spot!
After Challenger – Trying Out for a Team
If you somehow managed to stay on top of the Challenger Division, then congratulations! You finally have a chance of being in a professional LoL team! I’m not kidding; reaching and conquering the division may be tough, but that’s just a stepping stone to going pro.
In rare cases, existing pro teams will invite you to try out for a spot in their team. This usually happens when existing members of the team already know your capabilities (by playing with them in ranked games), or if they’re desperate to have a full roster. People invited for tryouts often have to compete with other top challenger players for the same spot (don’t assume that you’re the only one given such an opportunity).
If you managed to ace the tryouts, there’s a good chance that you’ll be accepted into the team. In case you failed, don’t worry; it’s not the end of your journey. There are still other teams that may hold general tryouts for your preferred role. Open tryouts generally happen after a split, because that’s when players change teams or end contracts, leaving vacant spots for newcomers to fill in.
Becoming a Full-pledged Pro Player
Technically, you’re already a pro player when you end up as a member of an existing team. However, it doesn’t mean you’ll be out there playing live matches against other pro players. There are many cases where new members of the team are limited to practice sessions or scrims with other players. At best, they may participate in less prominent tournaments.
If you perform consistently at this point in your career, you’re more likely to be promoted from a trainee/rookie to a regular pro player. Congratulations! You are now one of the few players talented enough to become part of a pro team! It’s your time to make a name for yourself in tournaments and perhaps even in the international stage.
Making Your Own Team
Some want to make their own legacy without having to rely on bigger names to get them to the top. This is why you will also see a lot of players trying to go pro by making their own team. After all, there’s no need to be noticed by major teams if you can have a team all to yourself. In fact, creating your own team offers a few advantages over the previous method:
- Team members don’t have to be in Challenger division just to be in a team
- You get to choose your teammates
- You get to pick which tournaments to join in
- You control your training schedule
At this point, you’re probably thinking it’s a way better decision than just waiting for the major teams to scout you. However, it also presents a few challenges that you have to overcome.
- Scouting talent for your team can be difficult
- Even if you find good talent, they may pick other teams over yours
- You have to manage your own team’s schedules
- You will have to find sponsors to sustain your team
That being said, finding your own team is still a viable option, but how do you actually go about it? You have to start with the basics:
Your Team’s Initial Roster
If you want a proper professional LoL team, you need to have five people on board with your idea. The easiest way to fill up your roster is to find four other people around your skill level that you are already comfortable playing with. Check your friends’ list for players you play with the most and see if they are interested in joining your team.
Ideally, you’d want to limit your options to challenger level players. However, you can’t expect a typical challenger player to start their pro career with a team with zero reputation. Work on your initial roster’s individual skills and polish your team play by playing as a group in flex queue. Scrimming with other teams will also go a long way in building your experience fighting other fully-coordinated teams.
Setting Your Schedule
Five top-tier players will make a good team, but five top-tier players who know each other very well will deliver even better results. The only way to get your teammates on the same page is to spend time practicing together, but how much time do you really need for your team?
A couple of games a day won’t do at the highest levels of play; good teams spend 3-4 hours of playing at minimum, plus a couple more just analyzing their performance to figure out where they need to improve. Practice becomes even more demanding if you’re not starting with an all-challenger team. If you have lower-skilled players, they may have to spend even more time just honing their individual skills.
You probably think that your team is fine with practicing on ranked 5v5 queue, but that’s not how a pro team works. Sure, you can work with each member using their own computers from their own homes, but you’re already putting yourself at a disadvantage because of the following problems:
- Communication issues – Playing remotely makes your team more likely to encounter problems talking.
- Latency – If even one of your teammates is suffering from poor latency/lag, you won’t be able to fine-tune tactics that require precise coordination.
- Familiarity – most tournaments that you will be participating in will require you to spend time physically playing together. This can actually affect how you can relay info while in the game.
- Schedule – each session would require you to wait for every single team member to be ready to log in.
- Logistics – You have to keep meeting up somewhere so you can go to events at the same time. After all, you don’t want to get disqualified because someone arrived late.
If you’re serious about your team going pro, you need a proper base of operations – a training facility, so to speak. It doesn’t have to be super-fancy at the beginning; a common space with a reliable connection and five computers should be enough. Major teams have an entire house devoted to training because it allows them to wake up, train and rest at the same time.
Like it or not, running a professional LoL team will cost a lot of resources. Aside from the budget needed for buying the equipment and rent, you also have to worry about travel expenses and even accommodations if you’re in a tournament away from your hometown. Unless you’re filthy rich, your best bet is to get sponsored.
Here’s the thing: anyone or any company willing to invest in your team can sponsor you. Making them willing to invest is the hard part. For a new team, your first few sponsorships will probably be a local business, a friend, or a family member. Take note that sponsorships don’t always have to come in the form of money. Some sponsors can provide you with equipment or even help you with transportation and other needs.
Some gaming-oriented companies will hold tournaments that provide sponsorship as rewards. Others require applying for sponsorship which often requires you to have certain accomplishments already as a team). These sponsors will usually offer a contract that requires you to advertise their team, either by having their brand on your merchandise or active brand promotion.
Making Your Mark
Participating in several minor tournaments should be enough to garner the attention of some players, but if you want to be known, you have to know which tournaments matter more than others. Start by looking for regional tournaments that are active in your area. At this level of play, you will face mostly amateur teams and other startups like yours.
Your next target would be one or more of the game’s “Tier 2” leagues, where tournaments get plenty of secondary teams for more popular names. For example, the North America Academy League’s latest winner was 100 Thieves Academy, the sister team of the more well-known 100 Thieves. The main difference between local tournaments and Tier 2 leagues is the general talent of players. At this point in your professional team’s journey, expect teams that include upcoming talents and former members of bigger teams.
If you’re already thriving in the Tier 2 scene, it’s probably time to rise up to Tier 1 tournaments aka “the big leagues”. Out of these tier 1 tournaments, four stand out in particular, collectively known as premier leagues:
- North America – League of Legends Championship Series (formerly NA LCS)
- Europe – League of Legends European Championship (formerly LEC)
- Korea – League of Legends Champions Korea aka LCK
- China – League of Legends Pro League aka LPL
The two best teams on each premier league (either as 1st placers or 1st in league points) automatically earn a spot in the World Championship Series, while the third overall team gets a chance to get in via the Play-in stage.
Teams winning the following tier 1 leagues earn a spot in the play-in stage, along with the third placers from the premier leagues:
- South East Asia – Pacific Championship Series
- Vietnam – Vietnam Championship Series
- Russia – League of Legends Continental League
- Turkey – Turkish Champion League
- Brazil – Campeonato Brasilerio de League of Legends
- Latin America – Liga LatinoAmerica
- Japan – League of Legends Japan League
- Oceania – Oceanic Pro League
How to Be a Pro Gamer – Conclusion
Nobody said going pro was easy, but it is a plausible idea if you have the skills, resources, and determination to climb to the top of the pro scene. We hope this has given you a better understanding of how it is to “be a pro” in the game. Whether you decide to try to get in a team or start with your own one, we wish you the best of luck in your professional LoL career!