Talking Competitive TFT With Team Liquid Robin & GV8

Photo by Team Liquid

The Reckoning World Championship closed a month ago now, leaving Teamfight Tactics fans with mixed emotions. For fans of Jeffrey “DeliciousMilkGG” Pan, a third place finish might have been satisfactory, or it perhaps just left a lingering bad taste. For fans of China, Huanmie and qituX’s performance will have surely exceeded expectations. Together, the pair proved that China was the best region at the Reckoning Championship by finishing in first and second.

Perhaps the ones who felt most turbulent this Worlds were Team Liquid fans who just missed out on having a presence in the final lobby. Community favorites had missed qualifying for the World tournament such as Aleksey “GrandVice8” Tvorogov and Alex “Kurumx” Tompkins, but hope was riding high on the shoulders of Robin “Robinsongz” Sung who dominated the NA Regional Qualifiers by winning five out of six lobbies on the final day. At the World Championships, a strong showing put Robinsongz, or Robin, within reaching distance of the grand finals. Ultimately a three point deficit meant the difference between playing and watching.

The players have had a lot of time to reflect on the World championship now and Set 5 as a whole. With Set 6: Gizmos and Gadgets officially going live, competitive TFT players are riding a wave of excitement for what the new season holds. Competitive TFT has grown massively since the first World championship in Set 3, and the scene is expected to only get bigger with organizations such as GiantSlayer putting their foot in the game for the long haul.

Looking Back at Worlds

“I just needed to do one thing differently,” said Robin when asked what he would have changed back at the World championship. “I knew that the Chinese players don't like to go fast 8. They like to roll to zero gold at 4-1 level seven and because of that they like to play comps that spike at level seven which are Vel'koz and Lucian. So the Chinese players leaned heavily towards Vel’koz and Lucian, whereas NA players, we play a little bit more greedy,” Robin said of the players who would eventually go on to win the whole tournament. “So what I would have done differently would be just roll down with the rest of them at 4-1. If I did that, I definitely would have made it to the final day.” 

Reflecting on his season, GrandVice8, or GV8 said “Honestly, it's just putting in more effort. A lot of the players that made it through, they put in the work. They got coaching from multiple people. They got a lot of input. It's just about the work you put in. You put in the work, you get different points of views, and you'll probably do better.” But in terms of his performance and others who didn’t make it as far as they had hoped, he noted that “There is a lot of variance. There's like so many good players and you could just be having a bad day and it just kind of just kind of falls through.” Players like GV8, Egor “Deis1k” Popov (who just recently won the Set 6 PBE tournament) and Albert “MismatchedSocks” Chen failed to qualify for the Set 5 Reckoning championship by slim margins. TFT is a game of consistency, but sometimes even the most highly regarded and consistent players fail to advance.

Robin shared the same sentiment. “TFT has a really high variance. It's not like Super Smash Brothers where every time the same five people are going to be top five or League where the best team is always going to go. There's way too much variance for it to happen,” said Robin. Both players compared the game to similar situations in poker. “Even though there are really popular poker players, they're probably more consistent throughout 20-30 tournaments. If you're taking the biggest tournament, I don't think the best poker players always make it to the end because of it's high variance.”

Competitive Structure

While knowing that TFT as a game is inherently difficult to always win in, there are some criticisms that the players shared on the competitive format. “The snapshot system could definitely be improved,” said Robin. “It makes people want to sit for snapshots, which means they just play 10 games and benefit from that. The other thing is tournaments should have more games because honestly right now we're playing six games. It is pretty good, but I don't think it's enough to weed out the strongest player consistently.”

On the checkmate format that Riot has decided to go back to for each World Championship, GV8 said “It's a little weird. For competitive there's a lot of controversy. A lot of players don't like it, but then again, it's fun for the fans to watch. It makes the last game more exciting and it kind of puts something on the line. You can kind of see both sides of the whole thing. Do you want to be more fair? Do you want it to be fun to watch? I think you need a balance.”

“It's really bad competitively because not every game you can play for first,” Robin said. “Most games you can't play for first. Look at solo queue win rate. If you have over 20% win rate, that's already a lot right? So one in five games you can win if you're good, but in the competitive stuff it's probably like 15% or 10%, so one in 10 games you can win. Then you just have to play roulette and just hope that your checkmate game is going to be that one out of 10 game. It's just more luck, so I don't really like it competitively.”

Both players agreed that the point scoring system that has been developed in competitive games has become an improved method for scoring matches.

One strong point for competitive TFT has been the improvements in the state of each tournament’s balance. There have been a couple periods of time where TFT balance has been notoriously controversial, but recently Riot has gotten better at ensuring the game is in a good spot for competition. “In all, there hasn't been a patch out at Worlds where it was super unbalanced. The most recent Worlds patch was a pretty good patch because you could play a lot of stuff, a lot of things were balanced and it also did show a lot of skill. Even though Milk played Kled every game, I think he's the only person who could do that,” Robin said. GV8 explained that the later patches in each set are typically the most balanced because of how Riot builds up the balance as time goes on. “Set 5.5 was probably the best competitive set we had. The mechanic wasn't too crazy and it's not super high variance. Riot has been improving a lot and it's all been adding up.”

Looking Forward

Both players have been putting in hours learning Set 6. While the state of the game in PBE never translates fully into how it hits live, beginning to understand the game as soon as possible is crucial for early success in the set - especially for snapshots. Now that the game is live, these players are miles ahead of the others who did not invest in playing the PBE patches of Set 6.

The new set mechanic is a sort of culmination of each previous set, taking the learnings and understandings of each one before it. Augments allow each player to define their team’s path and create unique boards based on their offerings. “I think this set is going to have a lot of variance in how the games are going to play out. Something that set five had was the item armory, and I think that's something they could add, mid set to kind of bring that down. Just give players a little more control over what their game ends up being,” GV8 said. “Honestly, I have high hopes for six in terms of fun. In terms of competitive it might be a little sketchy, but we'll see.”

“If they do a good job balancing it, I think it'll be really cool with high skill expression,” said Robin about Set 6. “You can build different comps depending on what augment you get, but if they do a really bad job balancing it it's going to be horrible for competitive because if you high roll a broken augment, you get your free top 4. It just depends on how well they can balance it honestly, but it's a cool concept and it should lead to a lot of skill expression in my opinion.”

While assessing the competitive nature of Set 6 is complicated for now, both player’s goals for the future are simple. “My goal is to go to worlds again,” said Robin. “I want to actually try to make it to the final day this time, I'm ready for that pressure and stress again.”

”I think there's going to be way more tournaments this set than the last set. My duo partner is Ramblinnn, and we’re totally ready to start synergizing and playing duos. I think this set is going to be more popular than last set. There's definitely going to be more content in Set 6, whether it's tournaments, podcasts, game shows, whatever. I think TFT is going to pop off.”

For GV8, his competitive drive means that Set 6 is just a new opportunity to prove his skill. “I want to make it to Worlds. I want to win it. I think this set suits me a lot and I'm gonna have a good time with it and explore the set for all it has to offer.”