Photo: By Adela Sznajder for DreamHack
‘Chiu on This’ is a short and regular opinion blast
As someone who has followed various esports for a long period of time, one of the first things I’ve learned is to completely ignore scrim results. There are multiple reasons for that. First, we don’t know under what conditions the scrim results are happening in. In one of the Summoning Insight episodes, it was revealed that TSM was winning scrim results during their bootcamp at Worlds, but that they were also pausing mid-game so that their coach could explain what they should do next.
Secondly, scrim culture is different from region to region. At the beginning of NA Overwatch, people were outright trying to win scrims as if they were real games. Whereas in Korea, they take it more like an experiment or practice. The best encapsulation I ever heard about the Korean mentality when it came to scrims was from Polt. Polt was one of the best SC2 players from 2011-2015 and during one of the streams he said something along the lines of, “I could win 9/10 ladder games if I tried my best, but that mean I’m only learning something out of 1/10 of my games.”
While building confidence from scrims is important, most major competitors understand that the priority of scrims is to learn as much as they can about the game without revealing any of their own hand.
Finally, and most importantly, we have historical precedent. In CS:GO, there have been many stories of times when a team was doing incredibly well or badly in scrims. On broadcast we’d hear that NiP was crushing everyone in scrims and then moments later be eliminated from the Major. The most infamous example of this was at PGL Krakow where Gambit had the worst bootcamp of all time, to the point where AdreN apologized to the pro-gaming community at large in a post-game interview.
In Starcraft 2, the biggest misnomer of this was probably TaeJa. In SC2 Korea, people use ladder to judge how good a player is at any given moment. For almost the entirety of his prime, TaeJa was consistently undervalued and underrated by the Korean community in general as they didn’t see him practice and when they laddered against him, they didn’t see anything special. He then continually smashed all of the best players and by the end of his prime in 2014, had a winning record on LAN against every player that was a candidate for my top 15 greatest players of all time list.
As a spectator, fan, and writer, my advice to anyone from any esports is to ignore all scrim results. While they are a valid data point for teams in the know or people who have seen them first-hand, for everyone else they’re bad data points that are more likely to lead you astray from good argumentation. Though if you do add it as part of your model, keep in mind how low the correlation is between good scrim results and overall placings.