Broken Myth Esports Interview 1

Vainglory’s Unsung Heroes: Support Staff

Support staff: the unseen hands that toil backstage in Vainglory’s competitive scene. Not many people know of their existence, and even less about what they do for the team. However, the effects of their work can make or break games.

Support staff (analysts and coaches in particular) have contributed immensely to Vainglory’s competitive play, but they rarely get the credit or compensation that they deserve. This isn’t meant to point fingers and throw dirt on anyone, but to call out for a change to the way the community and teams view support staff.

To the analysts and coaches who are out there reading this, I hope I’ve represented you and your work relatively accurately. I’ve gathered as much background stories and information as I could, and I want to do you justice. You’ve invested your time and effort, even sacrificed things that are precious to you. And I want the Vainglory community to know and appreciate that.

Time for your voices to be heard.

— Edgedancer


Who are we?

We are analysts and coaches. Similar to Vainglory’s competitive players, we hail from vastly different backgrounds and occupations: from professors and students to caregivers and engineers, from Australia to Germany to Canada. There are Vainglory8 analysts as young as fourteen, and as old as forty. Just like you, we live our everyday lives in school, at work or at home. But we do a little extra stuff in Vainglory as a hobby or part-time job: Vainglory analysis.


What do we do?

We do exactly as our name suggests: we support the team. Analysts perform numerical calculations, data and statistical analysis, theorycrafting and programming. Coaches interact with the team directly to provide psychological support, as well as teach the team strategies and tactics. However, our roles often mix a lot. There are coaches who do calculations to find optimal strategies, and there are analysts who coach teams to teach them Vainglory knowledge.

“At a high level, we spend a lot of time with theorycrafting, optimization, situational analyses. Practically speaking, this is a lot of spreadsheet work combined with a lot of conversation and debate.”
namnnumbr, a member of GankStars’ analyst team

Really like a team’s draft? Chances are their analyst was helping out behind the scenes. Think the competitive players’ synergies are on point? Chances are their coach was preparing them before the tournament. A player’s skill might be innate talent, but it’s a group effort to make the entire team shine.

Coaches and analysts pore over VODs, study opponents and take the burden of strategizing so that the players can just focus on improving their own gameplay. It’s not just a matter of many minds coming together, it’s relieving a large portion of preparation pressure from the players themselves.

We do so much for the team, but they think we do nothing. It wasn’t just analysis and coaching, it was data mining, databasing, managing, cooking, teaching, anything that could help. During the tournament and bootcamp, we were constantly running around town to fetch anything they needed. Food, water, anything…
— support staff from a Vainglory8 team (anonymized)

But it’s more than just tactical support, it’s also the psychological and emotional support as well. Many coaches and analysts act as “parents” to the team, basically helping them with every small need or desire that the players have. It’s more than just the advice, we support the team in any way we can.

I’ll do anything it takes to get the team to play well. If I need to read a bedtime story to them, I’ll do it.
Keygasza, analyst for FNATIC
During a podcast with Time For Rolling


Why do we coach or analyze?

We love Vainglory, and we’re interested in the competitive scene. Most of us do analysis or coaching as a hobby. Vyzeox and Halinator from GankStars are known math prodigies — they’ve won many national math olympiads and competitions. Tapping on their love for numbers and programming, they decided to bring what they love from their academics into Vainglory. Infamous Gaming’s coach idmonfish is a medical ethics associate professor in a medical school. Finding that he had the potential to be a competitive player but lacked the time, he decided to transition into coaching instead to keep in touch with the competitive scene.

I played professionally briefly (for two seasons) but it was clear to me that I was both a bit old and I don’t really have the time needed to perform at that level consistently. So analysis seemed like the obvious alternative option.
idmonfish, coach for Infamous Gaming

Some of us take on the support staff role as a part time job. HotSauceUT from Immortals balances his contracted coach/analyst job with his occupation as an engineer. Bayu is a part-time caretaker on top of being a coach for SK Gaming’s Vainglory team. Some teams also attempt to obtain compensation for analysts — Infamous Gaming insisted on sharing their winnings from SEA tournaments with their analyst idmonfish.

But we don’t do coaching or analysis as a part time job for the salary; the monetary compensation is not near enough to be able to replace the everyday jobs that we have.

When our team was almost acquired, I was offered a full-time analyst role — which I laughed at, analysis doesn’t pay very well.
support staff from a Vainglory8 team
(anonymized)

We take on the role of support staff because we love Vainglory, and we love the organization that we support. We enjoy coaching and doing analysis for the team members, and in some cases even treat them as our own kids.


How have we impacted the competitive scene?

Let’s take a look at the standings for Vainglory8 Summer 2017.

In North America, the top seven of the eight Vainglory8 teams have analysts and coaches. Nova was struggling at the fifth place in the first split, until LeftSpectrs and BLG3RNT joined and put in some work as analyst and coach. Nova ended up as third place at the end of the Summer regular season. This was the only season that GankStars did not qualify to join a Live tournament — the same season that their coach BLG3RNT left to join Nova.

In Europe, the top two teams are the only ones which have official support staff. Bayu is the coach for SK Gaming — the top team in Europe for both splits in the Summer Season. Fnatic was struggling in the initial few weeks, until Keygasza joined their team as an analyst/coach. Fnatic has risen to the top at quite a few Vainglory8 weekends, and was in close contention with SK Gaming.

I think it’s worth talking about, specifically, the coaches behind these two teams, because often we talk about the players, we talk about how brilliant they are. But don’t get me wrong, all six players on this stage right now are absolutely brilliant… I just wanted to highlight the coaches behind these teams, the analysts, all the work they do, because without them, the players won’t have the platform they need to succeed and they [the support staff] provide that platform.
— Excoundrel, professional Vainglory caster
On stream during Western Live Unified Championships, Summer 2017

Still not convinced? Alright, let’s rewind a little more into Vainglory8 Spring 2017.

Three of the four teams that competed in the semi-finals had either an analyst or coach physically present at the Unified Western Live Championship Spring 2017. The support staff were able to directly communicate with and support the team on-site, including pre-tournament preparation and drafting on-stage.

Cloud9 emerged as the champion, toppling the tournament favorite team Team SoloMid. The key to their success was bringing unexpected yet effective strategies into this tournament, including Rona as an off-meta pick and outdrafting their opponents in every series. These ideas were prepared by their coach wailmer and their analyst physiX. The team members themselves acknowledged the importance of their support staff in guiding them to victory.

I would definitely put 70-80 percent [of our success] on our coach and analyst. They really helped with settling these guys down and getting us more together as a team, and our analyst physiX and coach wailmer did all of our drafts. We just had to do the playing. They did all the drafting, and we weren’t really worried about that.
gabevizzle, Captain of Cloud9’s team
During an interview with RedBull

Analysts and coaches have an enormous impact on teams, polishing players’ skills and putting their talent on display with carefully crafted strategies.


What Problems do we face?

Being a support staff isn’t easy, it’s not “just supporting” a team. There are many roadblocks along the way, and some of them are never really overcome.

  • Managing Time

Analysis and coaching is time-consuming. Support staff attend scrims, watch VODs, optimize strategies and do match preparation every week. It swallows hours of precious time each day on top of our school work, jobs or time with family and friends. In the case where teams and support staff are located in different timezones, support staff sometimes stay up til the wee hours of the morning to accommodate the players’ timings.

In Spring, I’d go for scrims at midnight for at least two hours, then wake up at 8 am for university lectures. In Summer, I pull a 8-6 job and still spend time doing analysis work and attempt to keep up with the competitive scene. I’ve dedicated blood, sweat and time to this game but I still don’t dare call myself a professional.
physiX, analyst for Cloud9
In a Twitter reply

  • Player Problems

Coaches often see players as their own kids (often children who act unprofessionally during inappropriate times) and act as the “team dad.” Analysts deal with the angsty attitude while attempting to offer advice they feel is best. A number of players in the Vainglory competitive scene harbor unprofessional conduct. It’s no surprise, considering the young age range of Vainglory’s competitive players — many players are in their teens, and the youngest competitive player was 13 years old. Inexperienced in professionalism and lacking maturity, these players make the role of support staff exponentially more difficult.

Folks not doing what you want is a classic problem with the SEA boys. It was one of the reasons we lost all 3 games against Ace Gaming (apart from them being scarily solid and having an impressive draft strategy) The first two games, the player who didn’t turn up to our strategy meeting the previous night insisted on using common SEA strats that were not going to work into their ludicrously efficient siege comp.
idmonfish, coach for Infamous Gaming

From ignoring advice to trolling during practices to simply oversleeping, it’s frustrating to accommodate players and deal with their quirks. Many players (even mature ones) also don’t respect their support staff plainly because they believe that their support staff aren’t qualified to coach or analyze. Many support staff members, who didn’t previously hail from the competitive scene as players, had to grind up to a sufficient rank or play against the team directly in order to personally gain respect from the team. While it is important for an analyst or coach to fully understand the game and it’s key strategies before raising suggestions to professionals, some support staff are ignored despite proving their worth again and again.

The biggest challenge has always been earning trust from the team and getting them to admit they don’t know everything. For most gamers, especially in Vainglory where coaching is relatively new to the game, they’ve spent their entire lives playing on their own. Many players think if you can’t be as good as them you have nothing to offer that they don’t know already.
BLG3RNT, coach for Nova eSports, previously coach for GankStars

  • Lack of Credit or Compensation

The competitive scene is all about the glory and fame, hence the name “Vainglory.” But support staff rarely get mentioned, and fewer still are compensated for their time, monetarily or otherwise.

While the professional players themselves and their substitutes are featured on Vainglory’s tournament streams, a majority of the community rarely even know of the existence of their support staff. Most of us work behind the scenes, rarely acknowledged by the community or in the competitive scene itself. Yes, we are quiet, and some of us aren’t even active on social media, but we still take pride in our work and would love it if the community acknowledged it.

People like Vyzeox and such basically don’t exist in the eyes of the community. I doubt people even knew BLG3RNT existed till he left GankStars…
support staff from a Vainglory8 team
(anonymized)

Few organizations announce their support staff on their social media, much less pay them. A majority of analysts and coaches in Vainglory8 teams are volunteering their services freely. Any salaries provided are unable to support individuals on a full-time basis; we have to juggle our analysis or coaching on top of other part-time (or even full time) jobs. Many of us do not have negotiating power for compensation, due to the perceived “little” effect that support staff have on the team, and the fact that Vainglory in itself is too small a game for organizations to justify investing money to obtain support staff.

They’ll thank an analyst and give them praise to keep them in. However, from a capitalist standpoint, they’ll leave you in the dust. Effectively secretly saying, ‘Let’s just use the analyst to get us first and then thank them afterwards just enough to keep them on the bait so we can continue asking them for help, while we reap all of the riches and fame.’
support staff from a Vainglory8 team (anonymized)

There are a few success stories out there: FooJee, physiX, Owens, Bayu, SuiJeneris, and so on. But a majority of us remain hidden in the shadows, putting effort into our work without getting even a mention from our team or known by the community.

Most of us are told that we should be happy that we were even given the honor to do analysis or coach for the team, much less get compensation or even appreciation from the team. Many of us are afraid to voice our opinions, some even requesting to be anonymized when quoted for this article, for the fear that we will be thrown out of the organization, with no one else to turn to. Others just stick to the organization without public complaint due to loyalty, happy to support the organization in whatever way we can.


Conclusion

We are support staff. We are the analysts and coaches who toil behind the scenes for the teams we love and support. We are the unsung heroes behind many of their successes and brilliance.

We shine in our own everyday life: a medical ethics associate professor teaching in medical school, a fourteen year old who can conduct professional statistical analysis, a professional data analyst, an ex-senior leader who worked at a multi-billion dollar company, a student with an professionally-tested IQ in the 99th percentile of 152, an undergraduate scholar who has academically excelled in national and international competitions, and an entrepreneur and founder of a world-famous company.

We take on our support staff role because we love Vainglory and want to further the competitive scene. Don’t discount us and our work. Let us and our work be acknowledged in the Vainglory community.

Give us a voice.

Edgedancer

Speaker for the Unheard

On behalf of the support staff community.


Acknowledge the work of the Vainglory8 support staff (as of Summer 2017):

NameRoleTwitterTwitch / YouTube
Bayucoach for SK Gaming, EUB4YU77Twitch
BLG3RNTcoach for Nova, NAblg3rnt_vg
DeiNominecoach for Hollywood Hammers, NA DeiNomine
Halinatoranalyst for GankStars, NAgs_halinator
HotSauceUTcoach/analyst for Immortals, NAHotSauceUT
idmonfishanalyst for Infamous Gaming, SEAidmonfish
Justusanalyst for Dynasty Gaming, EUIlJustusIl
Keygaszaanalyst for FNATIC, EUKeygasza
Kyoumianalyst for Popeyes, SEA
LeftSpectrsanalyst for Nova, NALeftSpectrsTwitch | YouTube
LuckyBreadanalyst for TSM, NAvgLuckyBread
MiniMitreanalyst for SK Gaming, EUMiniMitre
nomiateyouanalyst for TSM, NAnomiateyou
namnnumbranalyst for GankStars, NAnamnnumbr
oddscoach/analyst for Tempo Storm, NAOddly_Odds
Owensanalyst for GankStars, NAowens_vg
physiXanalyst for Cloud9, NAphysiX_VG
Poli5208substitute/analyst for Hollywood Hammers, NAPoli5208
R0scachanalyst for Infamous Gaming, SEAR0scach
Vyzeoxanalyst for GankStars, NAVyzeox
wailmercoach for Cloud9, NA

Edgedancer

Vainglory journalist | Speaker for the Unheard | Teller of stories

Latest posts by Edgedancer (see all)

1 Comment

  • Reply
    N4te
    Oct 05, 2017 8:46 pm

    Give yourself credit if nobody else will, you deserve it! 🙂

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