The Collegiate Starleague is very familiar territory for the dominant League of Legends force known as McMaster University. Based out of Hamilton, Ontario, McMaster has seen immense success in previous years, winning the CSL outright in 2015, which eventually led to a Top 8 finish in the North American Collegiate Championships, and finishing as CSL runner-up in 2016 at DreamHack Austin. However, as the 2017 University League of Legends season looms in the distance, a new challenge approaches for the Marauders as 3/5ths of the roster is being replaced in the upcoming season.
The Build Up
2016 ended on a high note for McMaster’s LoL team. After a clean run through the regular season and dominant performances in the first couple of rounds of playoffs, only one quarterfinal matchup versus Carnegie Mellon University stood in the way between McMaster and a trip to DreamHack Austin for the semi-finals. Going into that quarterfinal series, the team felt that they had something to prove. “Being known as a powerful team, yet not having actually won anything drove us to want to win something,” said Martin “Janna Mechanics” Kyorkis, McMaster’s support player at the time. In what was described by Kyorkis as their “cleanest series ever”, it only took just 73 minutes for the boys to punch their ticket to Austin.
Coming into DreamHack Austin, McMaster was not seen as an outright favorite, especially with a daunting semi-final match versus Robert Morris University. While Robert Morris may have had the bigger name, McMaster had the bigger motivation. Another 2-0 series sweep gave them a chance to become CSL champions once again. This time with their final competitor was undefeated Maryville University. The Grand Finals did not go as McMaster would have hoped, as they dropped the series 2-0, but in the end, the journey was deemed a success for a team that had been in the works for three years. With the conclusion of the 2016 season, a harsh reality had to be faced sooner than later: Graduation.
Top Laner Richard “HoNSol0” Zhang (Left) and former mid laner Julian “Duocek” LeGard
Passing the Torch
May 2016 saw the departure of two longtime players who formed the backbone of the dominant McMaster team viewers begin to know and love due to graduation. With mid laner Julian “Duocek” Legard and jungler David “Divize” Le leaving the roster, the team had big shoes to fill in finding the right replacements. Another blow to the roster came this fall when Janna Mechanics announced his departure from the main roster. When asked about his motive for the decision, Kyorkis stated that “I simply was not having fun [with the game], so I ended up choosing not to play.” While choosing not to play, Kyorkis’ love for the team stuck, and he helped scout out new talent to develop a roster to debut this January.
Returning to the roster in the upcoming uLoL season are top laner Richard “HoNSol0” Zhang and ADC Jan “Tallwhitebro” Ollers. The first newcomer to the main roster is support George “Autumn Clouds” Mo. Currently ranked in high diamond, Mo made a name for himself on McMaster’s B team, where his stellar performances did not go unnoticed. He racked up a 12-2 individual record and was a key factor in their Division 2 Spring Finals run. For this, he was one of the first to be promoted to the A team.
The next addition to the team came in the jungle role, with 18-year-old freshman Murad “AyoItsJango” Malik rising to the challenge. Kyorkis took note of Malik early on, stating that “When I first saw him, I was like, ‘This guy has potential.” During the interview, nothing but praise was given to the young prospect . Kyorkis explained that he had never seen someone so young effortlessly climb to Diamond 1 so quickly. As a freshman, Malik is lining up to become a promising talent in the CSL that can bring McMaster great success.
The final spot to be filled came in the mid lane. The challenge to Kyorkis was finding a player who could fill the shoes of former mid laner, Duocek, who also formerly played at a semi-professional level on Curse Academy in Spring 2014. Currently, the position belongs to Ahmad “Xcuted” Arif, a low Diamond player who was not seen often on other McMaster teams in the past, but has been known for his pressure drawing, aggressive playstyle amongst fellow teammates, giving him the starting role in the mid lane for now. It is possible that we may see a change throughout the season in the mid lane, but the substitute is still to be determined.
McMaster’s Roster Shift from 2016-2017
A Promising Future
With new talent comes new goals. While the prominent team from 2016 is now bound for the history books, it’s up to this year’s iteration to follow in the footsteps and write the next chapter. “[Looking back], we had a really high ranked team. We, at one point, had four of us sitting in Challenger,” Kyorkis explained as he reflected on the comparison between the past team and the current one. Lacking the sheer power of the previous team, McMaster now plans to focus on growing and nurturing talent by creating an environment in which players can teach themselves and each other to become better individually and as a team. One unique point of interest that has stuck with McMaster’s LoL team since its creation has been the annual dominance despite their lack of coaching staff. “We have never really had a support staff, the team was, and is, its own support staff,” stated Kyorkis. The team plans to continue this trend, allowing their two returning players to take the role of leaders to help develop their up and coming talent with the use of data trends and previous experiences.
Unlike the College Football Playoffs, don’t be 100% certain of a Grand Finals rematch this year between McMaster and Maryville. But that only goes for 2017. This is viewed as a year of rebuilding for the League program, preparing for a return to peak form in future years, potentially even better than 2016. When asked about the 2017 season, Kyorkis was very realistic and straightforward. “I don’t think we are going to go super far this year, but I do think that next year a lot of these players have potential to be Master or Challenger that can then bring [the title] back to McMaster.” Newcoming jungler, AyoItsJango, also chimed in on thoughts about the season, saying that “As a team this season I have faith that we will be very strong. Hopefully we can all bring our best!”
Alongside the nurturing and development of talent in game, past successes have led to talk of helping esports become more recognized by the University outside of the game. Kyorkis has transitioned into putting more focus into the President role of McMaster’s esports club, and hopes to work with the University in creating a gaming space for all competitive esports teams at McMaster, allowing the club to have their own space for more organized meetings, get togethers, practices, and potentially tournaments, also allowing for the growth of the club itself.
ADC Jan “TallWhiteBro” Ollers
Even though the Marauders claim this year to be a “rebuilding” period, don’t be surprised if you see them atop their region once again. The combination of young and hungry talent paired with mature and experienced veterans can lead to a promising season in the biggest tournament collegiate League of Legends has to offer. If not this year, look out for McMaster as a threat in tournaments in the coming years.