There is a notion that each League of Legends team needs an in-game leader. Whether it’s directing ally map movement, approaching objectives, or making split-second decisions in teamfights and skirmishes, someone has to take charge of the team. Someone has to call the shots.
Yet, as League of Legends keeps growing, the idea of a single leading voice is fading.
Gone are the times when the likes of Hai "Hai" Du Lam and Cho "Mata" Se-hyeong micromanaged their teammates to build some of the most coordinated lineups in the game’s history. Nowadays, most players are happy to share in interviews and other public appearances that their teams employ a democratic style of shot calling. That’s not to say they make every decision as a unit. Instead, they share responsibility, so while one player might be in charge of early game tactics, another might step in when it’s time to look for teamfights or set up neutral objectives.
One reason behind this shift might be that shot callers were a rare breed to begin with. Few players have the strategic foresight or the multitasking capabilities to control the flow of a League of Legends match, and since most teams don’t have access to such talent, they have no choice but to find other ways to navigate the game. On top of that, leadership takes a toll on individual skill. Even the greatest players can have noticeable dips in performance when they need to take the reins of their team, so delegating this responsibility is a good way of enabling your ace to do his job on the Rift.
It’s also hard to argue against the benefits of collective decision-making. Sure, the call might not be the fastest or the sharpest, but there’s a good chance all players will be on the same page. Many coaches (including Griffin’s head coach Kim "cvMax" Dae-ho) subscribe to the idea that five players committing to a single play can make a bad call work. However, if an in-game leader makes the call, but his teammates follow him half-heartedly, the play is doomed from the start.
Democratic shot calling also makes it easier for players to get their ideas out there. It’s easy for a confident leader to drown out the voices of his teammates, but being the loudest voice doesn’t always mean you’re right. The probability of arriving at a correct conclusion is higher when everyone can participate in the discussion, even if that conclusion won’t be as swift as it would be if it came from a single person.
Perhaps the main reason behind the disappearance of shot callers is the nature of League of Legends itself.
At its core, LoL is a game of information. You need to process immense amounts of data before you can even begin to approach the shot calling procedure. This wasn’t as noticeable in the early seasons since the game wasn’t as thoroughly studied as it is now. In the present day, League of Legends has more depth than ever before, and it’s close to impossible for a single person to make educated decisions without the help of his teammates.
The most prominent shot caller of all time—Mata—is still playing the game competitively. However, he’s long since abandoned the authoritative shot calling he used on teams like Samsung White and Royal Never Give Up. And if that doesn’t indicate that the era of shot callers is over, we don’t know what does.