Oh, how the mighty has fallen. I can't say Curse Gaming's League of Legends team has, in the past, always been a dominant presence but they typically have a decent showing year-to-year and aren't often caught outside the top four list. In this Season 4 League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) summer split however, currently being in last place and a 2W-5L record denotes a lot of decline for Team Curse, especially when their fellow big-named teams are all tied for first place. You can tell me how early it is all you want, but there are a number of things wrong with how Curse is managing their eSports team right now.
Money doesn't buy championships in eSports
I'm sure pro players in the LCS aren't being paid a salary based on statistics and performance (otherwise the best players would just retire, hue). It's just a common saying, in the eSports community at least, that Curse is said to be an organization that grabs star quality players and jams them into their team. Curse does have the name and the financial backing to do so after all. Perhaps it is all mere coincidence but the acquisition of former TSM all-star support, Xpecial, doesn't help that argument.
From my experience, successful teams have a level of synergy that makes the players within them click almost immediately. After this immediate click, scheduled practice helps hammer out the kinks but usually it's clear what the team needs to work on next. Very rarely, or closer to never, does a perfect set-up poof out of thin air. Sometimes, testing out pro players is like jamming a circle into a square shaped hole. It either works, or it doesn't... Though, with enough pressure, that circle will eventually mold into a shape that fits.
I've seen a lot of pick-up teams just grab the best players in their immediate circle and take a whack at the eSports thang but very rarely go beyond getting eliminated in the second round of an open tournament. Teams need to be made based on synergy. While individual skill is important, establishing a certain playstyle -- and finding someone that naturally fits said playstyle -- is much more important than relying on someone's overall percentage of landing a specific skill shot.
When you look at Cloud 9, who has set-up a rather successful formula in their line-up, and stays dominant after not switching up their chemistry, it makes you wonder what their secret is. Duh, you don't fix what ain't broken.
Curse needs to take an approach to making player trades that mimics how real sports does it. When you make a trade, you have to have your team philosophy in mind. Meticulous counterplay? Aggressive manuevers? Then you find a player that helps build around that.
Build around your star player
I'll give credit to David "Cop" Roberson and Alex "Xpecial" Chu for being excellent players with equally excellent credentials, but Joedat "Voyboy" Esfahani is still Curse Gaming's biggest threat and most powerful tool just waiting to be used. His performance over the last year hasn't exactly been at the top of his game. Why? Because he has transitioned to a new role.
Voyboy may be a pro, and pros need to adapt, but forcing a top calibur player in one position to move to another is bad management. That's like making Kobe perform the inbound pass when he's the guy who can knock down the buzzer-beater. The only time a role swap works at the highest level is when you plan to acquire a a proven all-star level player to act as replacement, inherently giving the team two all-star level players.
This was not the case when Diego "Quas" Ruiz was acquired however. A consistent player indeed, Quas doesn't exactly hurt the team, but to transition a proven player out of his practiced role means you need to acquire someone with more beneficial effects, otherwise, you're moving a carry-type player out of his element... You kind of want to maintain a player's ability to carry games on their back and build around that and swapping Voyboy for Quas puts the organization in the red.
A proven shot-caller in exchange for a better player is not always correct
In eSports, teams and fans will overlook the power of excellent shot-calling. It's pretty common for a dedicated shotcaller at the professional level to not always be the best player statistically. They do however, maintain consistency within the team through their understanding of the current situation and know what to do in the event the team is down; a skill that even top level teams, not just in League of Legends, don't always have a grasp of. Often times, when deciding a shotcaller, you have to look at their ability to mold the team and not so much their amazing KDA. Not all shotcallers are the same. If you happen to have an excellent communicator who can also carry games, shower that person with all your assets and don't let go.
While Saintvcious may not have been the best player imaginable, he did have a proven track record and his aggresive play suited Voyboy. I will agree it may have been time for him to retire but was re-acquiring Christian "IWillDominate" Rivera the best possible move? Overall performance aside, the effects of a "top-tier" shotcaller are often immediate; it's synergy that has to be re-acquired. However, the past 30 or so games by Curse. I don't really see anything impressive enough to denote good shotcalling. Great individual plays are often made: ganks and baron steals; but the team can't seem to get it together when they need to group up.
Curse Gaming needs to step up their game. They already fell behind in season 3 and was under relegation, a scenario I did not expect to happen. I feel they need to bring Voyboy back into his comfort zone and then proceed to or tune their shotcalling methods, or find someone who can. It won't be long before Cop and Xpecial get to the level they need to be at. Their current situation solo lanes and the jungle does not fit into the current meta. However, with the changes Riot Games have announced towards the bottom lane, be prepared to reap the rewards of having the safest carry in the league.
In reality, I just want to win my fantasy LCS, so start doing better, Curse!