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The goods and bads of the League Clash beta

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The official Rift Herald Clash team comes together to share our thoughts.

Riot Games

This weekend saw the first official test of Clash on NA servers. This highly competitive and new game mode features all kinds of LCS-level features. It’s a fun way to play with friends in a much more serious environment than Flex 5s. At least, that’s how the mode has been sold to us.

Well, a few us here at the Rift Herald staff got together, formed a team, and played some Clash over the weekend. What are our thoughts? Well, Ryan Gilliam, Austen Goslin, and Rift Herald founding editor Pete Volk are here to share.

The good

Ryan:

Right off the bat, I feel like I need to say our score. While I’m pretty salty about it, we went exactly 50/50 on our games. Playing in 4v4 brackets on both Saturday and Sunday, we won one and lost another. But I actually feel like that has given me a pretty decent idea of what the hell Clash is and how it works.

I feel like it’s important to say right away that I had a blast playing with y’all this weekend. Austen and I did Ranked 5s together back in the day and it was always fun. The problem was that getting four other friends on at the exact same time was so rare that it almost never happened. But boy, when we got a team together and were playing regularly, it was one of the most fun League experiences I’ve ever had. Clash reminded me of those times.

What I think is absolutely genius about this system already is the forced schedule. If you make it widely available, like Ranked 5s was, then getting a team together doesn’t feel special enough to really coordinate. With Clash, we’ve been planning all week, and using any other time to Flex together or think about comps. It creates the kind of urgency that makes the mode feel truly unique.

Pete:

First off, I had a great time playing Clash. To me, League is only a shell of itself if you are playing alone or with one or two friends. Getting a full squad of five together is the best possible experience in this game, and to that end, Clash was absolutely a big success for me.

I’m a pick/ban junkie, and while the scouting system needs some fine-tuning, the ability to see who you were about to play against and what champions they play elevated this event well above the old ranked 5s system. Sure, we had to use third-party sources like OP.GG to get the information we actually wanted (like which champions each player has been playing recently/with this group of players), but it made the ban phase feel actually impactful.

Let me give an example: our group of five had practiced a few days before the tournament started, and had settled on a composition that worked for us around Caitlyn, Shen and Orianna. Our Day 1 opponent ended up sniping both Caitlyn and Shen from us, forcing us to alter our strategy on a moment’s notice (and certainly contributing to our first loss). By the time the second day rolled around, not only were we much more comfortable playing as a team, but we had a much better idea of how to approach pick and bans and how to make sure the picks we wanted to prioritize actually got locked in for us.

I had a great experience playing Clash, even if we weren’t able to win either of the tournaments we entered. Three of the four games we played felt close and contested (a third-place match we played in had us face a team that had clearly given up), and I’m really excited to see where the mode goes from here. I’m hoping it’s around pretty often, because it’s absolutely my preferred way to play League.

Austen:

As everyone else has already said, Clash is an absolute blast. League’s always at its best when you are playing with four friends, but where five man lobbies in normal games or flex can often get silly, Clash’s format brings with it some inherent seriousness that I absolutely loved. All five of us were constantly working towards victory, rather than the usual drifting in and out of conversations that can happen across a 30 minute game. It’s certainly not the LCS, but it’s our own little slice of it, at least for a weekend.

As an added bonus to the mode, there was something special about the fact that most of us had played League quite a bit with at least one of the other players on the team, but we had never played as a full group of five before. The pregame lobby, in the moments before scouting began, were a mix of awkward introductions and private conversations held in the middle of Discord, but as soon as the scouting phase started, and better yet the pick and ban phase began, it was all about League. Suddenly, five people who weren’t totally sure who the other one was knew exactly what was happening.

Whether we were close friends or not, everyone in the group could understand the pride and frustration that came with getting target banned, or a jungler pulling off a particularly impressive smite. In all honesty, a group of five people that haven’t really ever played together is probably not the best way to win in Clash, but there was something special about seeing how League of Legends has its own universal vocabulary and can instantly put all five people on the same page.

Where could it improve?

Ryan:

Clash was clearly a wonderful experience for our entire crew, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t frustrations here and there. At one point, we had an issue with needing a substitute on our second day. Trying to navigate the menu and figure out how exactly to do it was a little rough and confusing.

The ticket system is also something that feels a little ... pointless? I bought these things and they got me into the matches, but I also don’t know why I care? Personally, I have plenty of Blue Essence, so buying for me wasn’t too bad. But there were members of our team who are still missing a few champions, and I would much rather they be able to buy more champs to practice with than have some kind of arbitrary entrance fee. And winning multiple Flex 5 games is just ... too much for a single ticket. I’m sure there could be a fine reason for them to exist, but it’s certainly not there yet.

Next, I have a few suggestions. First, I think I’d like to know when the other teams in the tournament have finished playing and who won, even while in the middle of a game via a chat message. Our team was kind of at odds with this, with one other player agreeing with me and the rest of our team being completely indifferent to the idea. Call me nervous, but I’d like to know if I have a second to grab a sandwich in between games or if some other team is waiting on me. It’s not a must have feature, but it would be very nice.

The last suggestion I have is a phone interface. I would love to be able to check in from my phone and even scout from there as well. I understand that this, in some ways, defeats the purpose of the lock in. However, I was running errands and doing laundry and what-not while I was was waiting. It would be nice to be able to say “yes, I wan’t to play, I’m here and paying attention” while not feeling like I have to sit at my desk and kill time with Hearthstone.

Pete:

My chief complaint with Clash is that it’s not available all the time. I also agree with most of what Ryan said in terms of possible new features that would improve the experience, but mainly I just want to be able to play it a lot. It’s already altered how I approach my solo queue and flex games (as preparation for Clash rather than games I really want to win for their own sake), and I’m really excited to see where this mode goes next. There’s nothing better in League than playing the game the way it’s meant to be played (with four other people), and I had a freaking blast doing so on the first weekend of Clash.

Austen:

The one glaring issue that I could see with Clash over the beta weekend was that the scouting tools that Riot gives you just aren’t quite enough to get the job done. Sure, mastery points are nice, and they could give you a nice heads up about a one-trick on the enemy team, but that’s about it. A simple match history would have given us twice the information in half the time. If a player is playing a different role in Clash than they do in solo queue, your chances at useful information get even lower.

As much fun as it was for all five of us to look up a different player on OP.GG, in hopes of quickly building our strategy, it probably shouldn’t feel necessary to consult an outside website to get even the most basic information about what an opponent might want to play.