Echo Fox have made the bold decision to no longer scrim their rivals in the North American League of Legends Championships. The alienated eSports organisation will exclusively practice with their challenger team Delta Fox throughout the NA LCS Summer Split.
As the most common form of practice in the western regions, scrims have formed part of the LCS culture since the league’s inception. Scheduled in blocks, teams agree to stage a competitive match against league opposition, allowing rosters to practice new picks and strategies before unveiling them on the studio stage.
Echo Fox have historically struggled with the scrim system, with every team in the NA LCS reportedly refusing to practice with the FOX roster for a period during the 2017 Spring Split. With only a few days to go until the start of Echo Fox’s summer campaign, the team are reported to have cancelled all their scheduled scrims. The decision for FOX to exclusively scrim their sister team was revealed by aggrieved Cloud9 team owner, Jack Etienne.
.@echofoxgg with last minute cancellation of a planned full day scrim as they will only scrim their challenger team now. Bold strategy ?
— Jack Etienne (@C9Jack) 28 May 2017
After an off-season in which Echo Fox were framed as an outsider, the team’s mid laner Henrik “Froggen” Hansen revealed that none of the other teams in the NA LCS were willing to scrim with last season’s relegation survivors. The disharmony between Echo Fox and the other major NA eSports organisations had been suspected for months, with Froggen’s revelation seemingly confirming the bad blood between FOX team owner Rick Fox and the team owners for some of the NA LCS’ heavyweight organisations.
“We don’t really scrim LCS teams because they don’t want to scrim us,
“We can’t really do too much about it, we just try to improve as much as we can… it’s definitely holding us back.
“All I know is that they’re just saying ‘no, we can’t scrim you sorry, our owner said no.’ So can’t do much about that.”
Henrik “Froggen” Hansen
The unwillingness to scrim with Echo Fox acted as a form of backlash from the series of off-season events embroiling Echo Fox’s management. Amidst the tussle for franchising, LCS team owners seemingly formed a united front in drafting a letter to Riot Games regarding their untenable positions. Nine out of the 10 owners signed the letter, Rick Fox’s signature was notably absent from the document.
Echo Fox’s position as the black sheep of the group came to a head in November, when reports were released claiming that Riot Games had announced all North American LCS teams would be allowed to poach players from rival teams without punishment, should the teams continue with their refusal to sign the 2017 LCS team agreement. Suspiciously, Riot later defended Echo Fox against accusations that they had attempted to poach Adrian “Adrian” Ma from Phoenix1.
The revelation ignited a frenzied response from many Echo Fox and LCS fans, condemning the other LCS teams for their spiteful actions and voicing their concerns over the impact this would have on FOX’s development. Kyle Fox, the son of owner Rick Fox, quickly released a statement in an attempt to dampen the flames:
“For those who think we’re owed scrims, or are worried: don’t be. It’s better this way.”
Kyle Fox, Son of Team Owner Rick Fox
Remarkably, Echo Fox began to perform better upon being denied scrims by their NA LCS rivals. After mounting a surge up the league table, toppling leaders Team SoloMid in the process, fans and analysts began to question whether inter-team scrims really were the best form of practice for professional organisations.
As noted by Riot Games analyst Joshua “Jatt” Leesman in a segment of This or That, exclusively scrimming your own sister team can provide a number of benefits over the traditional scrim routine. Though Delta Fox, as a challenger squad, will not provide the same level of competition as an NA LCS roster, internal scrims serve to keep a team’s strategies close to their chest, avoiding any possible strategy leaks.
Additionally, practicing exclusively with a sister team can be considered as a form of ‘true practice’, working to refine certain scenarios such as teamfights and objective contests, even repeatedly targeting specific match-ups. In theory, Echo Fox’s practice should become far more efficient and focussed.
The western scene’s scrim culture has long since been criticised for its refusal to innovate, with Echo Fox leading the way as the first team to distance themselves from the arguably outdated model. FOX may well be the team to watch in the NA LCS Summer Split, as their success could mark the start of a dramatic shift in the way competitive teams practice.