Some organisations rely on a full suite of performance and mental coaching staff to get an edge. Some invest in superteams of proven domestic and international contenders. And then, there are some teams whose strength is built from raw talent and a pure hunger to win.
NVision Esports is one such team. A brand new organisation, NVision was put together by two lifelong gamers, and the team only signed their first players at the start of this year.
Stuart “StueyB” Butcher, one of NVision’s co-owners, described how a passion for the game meant forming a League of Legends team was a natural first focus. “I’ve been travelling quite a lot. I’ve been to Australia, America, Canada, and everywhere I’ve been, I’ve always made a League account and always kept playing,” he laughed. “I don’t know, I just love the game, and Simon [his fellow co-owner] is the same.”
Building the team
Despite fierce competition from international players with a pedigree of success, NVision earned promotion to the UK League Championship with an all-UK line-up. Impressively, it’s also believed to be the youngest set of players in the league. After a long series of trials earlier in the year, StueyB described how both owners found confidence in their starting roster.
“We were super happy with it,” he said. “The only issue with them was bringing in a coach.”
In their quest to build a completely UK side, NVision were struggling at the final hurdle; finding a local coach who meshed well with the team. “Whilst looking at different coaches, […] we did find it quite hard, in all honesty,” he recalled. “Especially getting a UK coach, that was difficult. So, we ended up just going with Josh as a player-coach and tried that out for a little bit. It ended up going really well, he’s super fair to all the guys.”
“Josh” is the team’s support, who played in Forge of Champions under the name ‘UKMealDeal’. However, he’d kept his true identity secret—he’d previously been known as ‘Propapandah‘, something of a veteran in the UK scene. (He’ll now be known as ‘PropaMealDeal’; a satisfying amalgamation of his esports history and this country’s finest culinary experience.)
“I wanted to see if I could coach and micro-manage for UK rookies. Because I think there’s not enough trust into the UK scene, into UK players,” said PropaMealDeal, explaining his re-entry into League of Legends esports. “In the UK scene, I find that it’s clout over skill. So, if you know someone, then you’re more likely to get in the UK scene, even though you could be a good player. But just because you don’t have the connections, you don’t really get into a team.
“So, I kind of wanted to prove that there is a bit of talent in the pool. I did this by finding four pretty young players who hadn’t played competitively in their lives.”
On his mission to develop national rookies, PropaMealDeal never revealed his competitive experience, even to his fellow players. “I didn’t want to explain who I was, or what experience I had, because I wanted to make the project authentic, so that I would start from the bottom and slowly gain the trust of my teammates,” he said.
Forge of Champions
After the UKLC Spring Split regular season came to a close, an opportunity for amateur teams opened up: Forge of Champions Spring 2019. Open to all local teams in the UK and Ireland, the competition allows the cream of the crop to fight UKLC teams in a cup format in the Main Event, before the Promotion Tournament provides teams with a route to the UKLC itself.
When the team registered for the Open Tournament, PropaMealDeal finally decided the time was right for his dramatic reveal. “It was only then that I decided to tell the team who I was, just because Forge demands you to put your real name,” he said. “And I was just saying, ‘This is who I am. If you trust in my calls, trust in my draft, then I think we can qualify for the tournament. I know there are a lot of UK veterans playing and imports, but we can still do it, just because I believe in the team.’ And they believed in me.”
Despite a loss to Hybrid eSports UK in the final of the second Forge of Champions Open Tournament, NVision still secured entry to the Main Event as the qualifier’s second seed. And from that point on, the team only improved.
— UKLC – League of Legends (@LVPukLoL) April 30, 2019
“Coming into facing the UKLC teams, we weren’t actually sure how we were going to face up against them,” said StueyB. “Because it’s always hard to tell… We were just a bit hit-and-miss in our scrims, so we weren’t sure how we were going to face off against these established teams.
“But we ended up taking the first game off Phelan, which was such a confidence boost for us, honestly. As soon as we took that game, we thought, ‘Okay, we can take a game of Phelan. We can actually do this.’ If we didn’t win that game, I’m not entirely sure how we would’ve done, going into the Promotion Tournament. But just winning that one game was massive for our confidence.”
The series went to a third game where, unfortunately the team’s inexperience showed; they failed to lock-in a champion in time, so were handed Singed as an auto-lock. Despite that, the game remained competitive, before Phelan Gaming secured the Baron and ended the game, knocking them out of the cup.
The team may have lost the series, but AD Carry Lucas “Spark” Keith knew that there were plenty of positives for them to take. “Going into relegations, we were super confident,” he said. “We had the opinion that we were better than DarkSpawn and Bulldog, and we were like maybe equal to [EJBY] Brotherhood [now Demise].
“So, we came in with confidence despite the Main Event. And I think it showed. We all played confidently, we all had mechanical outplays, and we took both series, versus Bulldog and DarkSpawn, pretty convincingly.”
— UKLC – League of Legends (@LVPukLoL) May 17, 2019
With 2-0 victories over both established UKLC teams, NVision Esports ensured the start of a new era in their UK League of Legends climb.
Life with a player-coach
Teams with player-coaches (that is, with members of the roster also acting as the head coach of the team) are increasingly rare in competitive gaming. But NVision have found success with PropaMealDeal leading their charges both on and off the Rift.
“As a coach, it’s mostly just getting these guys through the UK scene, because they’re all quite young,” the experienced support said. “I think, before Forge, I talked to everyone on the team, and I said, ‘If we don’t qualify for Forge, I will try to get all of you into a UKLC team. Don’t worry about your future if you don’t know what to do after losing Forge.’ So, everybody was playing pretty confidently, nobody was nervous, just because they had that backup plan, I feel like.”
Unsurprisingly for someone with many years of playing experience, PropaMealDeal’s goals for the season are more elaborate then merely proving his own skill. “I’m not really bothered about myself as a player, because I’m just trying to get these four to competitive. I’ve even said to them several times before Forge, during Forge, after Forge, ‘If you ever think there’s a better support, then hit me up and I’ll try to get him into the team.’ But nobody has said anything about it, so I assume I’m doing a pretty good job!”
With the local veteran’s guidance, the team has made it to the top tier of League of Legends in the UK and Ireland, and the team understands exactly how important his support has been in getting them there.
“The fact that he’s both a player and a coach means he’s got a close relationship with all the players, because obviously he plays with all of us,” said Spark. “Any things he has to say to us, we can take it seriously, because we play with him, we know how he plays, he knows how we play. So, all feedback from him, we all take it seriously, and I think it’s really useful, compared to an external coach.
“Because he’s so experienced, and knows a lot about the game, in terms of macro, his shotcalling is really insane. I think it’ll be one of the best in the scene.”
“As an organisation, we’re not really messing around. We’re just trying to do our own thing, and place as high as we can,” said StueyB.
“Realistically, we think we can get top 5. And then I think playoffs are anybody’s game. You get into playoffs, it’s like the same in any sport—teams crumble, teams get nervous, other teams improve all of a sudden, the meta can change; I think it’s just a bit of a free-for-all throughout playoffs. But during the league, I think we should realistically be aiming for top 5.”
Those are admirable goals, but are they really achievable for an organisation that didn’t exist last year? And as well as winning games, how can they win the hearts of the UK and Irish community? For StueyB, the answer lies in their confidence, their irreverence, and their skill.
“We’re a brand-new team. Fresh-faced, coming on to the scene, and we’re gonna upset a lot of teams coming into the split,” he said. “People see us as the underdog; but we don’t see ourselves as an underdog. We think we’ve actually got a really strong, solid team, and we’re gonna come in and we’re just gonna blow people away. So, if you’re looking for excitement, if you’re looking for high-tempo, back-and-forth games with loads of kills—we’re gonna cause some upsets. We’re definitely a team to cheer for.
“We are an aggressive team. All of our players are super young. And the fact that they’re not afraid to go ham and take on these experienced guys and just say, ‘I can kill you; I can do this. This is me.’ It’s just—it’s really, really exciting.”
You can follow PropaMealDeal and Spark on Twitter, and you can watch NVision Esports when the 2019 UKLC Summer Split kicks off next month. Make sure you’re ready by following our channel at twitch.tv/lvpuklol. And stay tuned to our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more updates and announcements as all the season’s drama unfolds!