Shotcalling and communication in competitive Lol
- Shotcalling very complex and taxing
- Rarely is done by one player. It’s usually a team effort
- A system is needed to reduce the mental load of communication and to be able to replicate it in stage games
- Implementing it can be a nightmare
At the highest levels of League of Legends, communication is the key differential factor between the good and best teams.
Shotcalling is the most complex form of communication. Not only do you need to have a deep understanding of the game; you need to be capable of perceiving subtle details, process them, reach conclusions in split seconds and communicate them. While playing.
We tend to think that great shotcallers micromanage the whole team, but that’s extremely rare. In most cases shotcalling is a team effort. Everyone feeds information, a few suggest plans, make some decisions and one person has the final call.
The negative impact of shotcalling
Shotcalling is demanding to the point of reducing players ability to excel mechanically. And it’s a team effort, so up to a certain point it taxes everyone. Teams should have systems implemented to reduce the amount of conscious effort players need to make in order to communicate.
From the coaches perspective, it’s really common to watch a game and see the same mistake made 3 or 4 times in a row until the team loses. From the outside, it’s easy to see when a team should be doing 1-3-1 instead of teamfighting, but in-game players can’t. They are in a high stress situation and their brains are overloaded.
Lol is a very dynamic game, the team has to be constantly adapting. You want your shotcalling system to run as close as possible to autopilot. This way the team will have more “brain space” to solve problems in game.
You want to practice in scrims a system that you’ll be able to replicate in stressful environments such as stage games. This means that the teams need to understand the structure of the system and internalize their duties.
Communication topics and roles
There’s a limited amount of topics a team needs to communicates about. A single person can control multiple areas of communication and one area can be handled by multiple persons. This can get complex but I’ll try simplifying it as much as I can:
- Macro: objectives, rotations.
- Spikes: win conditions. When to fight, when to wait.
- Vision: coordinate and control vision.
- Lane assignment: Who should handle what waves.
- Early game skirmishes: where, when and how to gank.
- TP plays: When and how set it up.
- Info: status, vision, enemy.
And there are are multiple roles inside a team. As with communication areas, roles can be shared or one person can fill different roles:
- Main shotcaller – Controls macro. Has the final call.
- Secondary shotcaller – Suggest plans and sometimes makes calls.
- Communication link – Refreshes info so the team is aware.
- Cheerleader – Cheers up team when shit hits the fan. Helps avoid tilt.
Structure and hierarchy
Now that we know the topics and roles, we can assign them to the team. Every team does it differently but this would be a standard and system and hierarchy:
The implementation nightmare
Can you just design a system and implement it in your team? No, you’ll break the team and they’ll play worse than they did before. WTF? This is useless! Not useless, but very difficult to implement. You need to adapt this system and structure to your team’s personalities, strengths, weaknesses, gameplay and communication skills.
To be successful you need to:
1) Know the players better than themselves
We all have a distorted image of ourselves and players are no different. You need to know each player’s strengths and weaknesses in game play and communication, who tilts and who raises under pressure. Some players would think they are great shotcallers when they aren’t, and sometimes the most quiet player is the one that makes the best calls.
2) Make sacrifices
Players will feel comfortable doing X (whatever they do naturally). You’ll need to decide who should take what role based on a player’s current ability and their potential. This means that the guy that think he must shotcall won’t do it and the guy that is too quiet has to feed information.
This will create tension. That’s why it’s so important that the players understand what you are trying to do and buy in to it.
3) The team must buy in
The result of the system will be coordinated gameplay while requiring less mental resources. It will be a long process where everyone has to adapt to everyone for the benefit of the team. If players disagree with the reasoning or the process, the implementation will fail.
They have to understand and accept their roles and have an individual work plan. It’s not possible to shotcall if there are players ignoring the calls. This is a 5 man shotcalling system, if anyone doesn’t do their job the whole team will fail.
4) Plan and follow up
Once the coaching staff has a clear picture of the system, they need to create individual plans. On every scrim set work on small things to implement. After every scrim review the progress. Don’t jump to the next thing until it’s been integrated. Awareness, small steps and continuous work are the key.
5) Be flexible and patient
Creating a communication system that fits your team is really complex. Not every player has the same communication skills and willingness to learn. Not everyone handles stress in the same way.
You have to be ready to fail. In your plan and during team’s practice. Be open minded, learn from your mistakes and move forward. Be flexible and take the wins when you can. If someone is not adapting to their new communication role, revise the plan. If someone adapted fast and can do more, maybe you can give them more responsibility.
Maybe the system that you imagined is not the solution, but implementing it will give you the information needed to find that solution. The goal is to help your team perform at a higher level, not that they communicate how you think they should.