Every eSports player I know of will tell you that winning isn’t about improving your A game. Rather, it’s about improving your C game – not doing anything stupid when you’re behind and waiting for opportunities to come your way rather than trying to force them. The theoretical difference between a skilled player and an unskilled one, then, is not the ability to brilliantly execute a play or outmaneuver an opponent, but the ability to do so consistently. Even a low-ranking player like myself can attest that sometimes you have really good days – and I mean really good days. You get the pentakill, shut down the divers, and clean up turrets like there’s no tomorrow. And then you turn around and get crushed just as bad in the next game. What makes the pros so different is that they rarely die, never overextend, and in general play a lot “cleaner” of a game than we do.
As a friend reminded me today, winning isn’t about being brilliant. It’s about being patient. Eventually, the enemy will screw up, but that doesn’t help you if you’re dead and can’t take advantage of the opportunity. To fully exploit your opponent’s mistakes, you have to be around for them, and that means staying alive. It means positioning cautiously rather than diving for a single kill. It means kiting rather than trying to out-DPS a diver. And that was how I carried as AP Nunu.
Now, when most people roll Nunu in an ARAM, they want to reroll. I tend to stop them by instantly trading for it, and that’s because AP Nunu in an ARAM is very fun for me. People aren’t expecting it to be good, they don’t respect it, and in general you can get away with a lot of kills. More than that, I feel like I personally perform very well on AP Nunu – today I went 10/4/22 KDA in a win and 8/4/14 in a loss, and I think I’m starting to understand why. AP Nunu isn’t very good in the meta, and that makes me play carefully. It makes me think about whether I want to go in, and a lot of times, the answer is no. So I stay alive. I kite, and I discourage divers with my ult. And a lot of times, that results in kills. So AP Nunu is strictly worse in the meta, but strictly better for me because it makes me think about what I’m doing. Do you see what’s going on here?
In life, we can often fall into patterns that make us feel comfortable, patterns that make us think we can’t be stopped or that we’re going to carry hard. But more often than not, those patterns can get us into trouble. Thinking we’re invincible isn’t the same as actually being invincible, and eventually, we get burned out by trying to be tougher than we actually are. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is to take a step back, ask ourselves if what we’re doing is healthy for us, and make a good decision based on the facts. Even when you’re playing from behind, you can still win if you take a moment to think about your options and select the best. Remember that not all opportunities have to be forced – some will come along of their own accord, and sometimes patience is enough to walk away with the prize. Other times, you have to put in a little bit of work. But whatever the case, you’re never in a bad spot to stop and think about what you’re doing. In a lot of cases, it may help you make the most of a bad situation, or even turn it around entirely. It certainly has for me.