In Part l we discussed the basic concepts that in order to get good, a player needs to resist stressful situations (successfully or not) in order to adapt to them, and that is best accomplished by focusing on specific elements (or fundamentals) of their game play. We concluded that resistance must be combined with specifics, and be done frequently (resistance + specificity + frequency = adaptation), in order for the player to progress. Now in part ll of this series, we’re going to illustrate the method in which a player can use these basics to begin improving right away.
As a brief reminder, in part l we also talked about the fact that matchmaking is chaos, with a lot outside of your control, and that both getting good, and the method revolve almost exclusively around manipulating the things you CAN control.
So without further ado, let’s dive right in.
You may be wondering how you choose the specifics or fundamentals to work on, especially in today’s complex gaming environment where there can be so many factors at play. The answer is actually really simple, and most importantly its scaleable to your level of skill. Whether you’re a complete beginner, or are placing in the money at majors this can and will apply to you.
To determine your starting point begin by making a list that identifies your strengths, and more importantly your weaknesses. We’ll call this your Base.
Without writing a few thousand words as to why weakness matters more, for now we’ll say: any strategy no matter how strong or how many strengths it has, it is only as viable as its weaknesses. Put more simply, your strengths will consistently win you games, but your weaknesses will consistently lose them for you (in tournament of course). This is why understanding fundamentals is so important in improving, because a good strategy with few strengths and fewer weaknesses executed right now, is far better than the perfect strategy with lots of strengths and weaknesses executed at the perfect time (which almost never happens).
Your list of Strengths and Weaknesses (Base) will vary depending on how new or advanced you may be, it goes without saying advanced players will have many more strengths than weaknesses, and vice versa for newer players. One thing to note is that your lists should include both skills (mechanics, movement) and knowledge (both game knowledge [macro], and situational/matchup knowledge [micro]).
It’s important to be honest with yourself when you list these elements as well, if you’re a newer player there are lots of resources available to you that can help identify these things if you’re having trouble, but often the easiest is to just ask a better player for a few things you did wrong when you played them. This can be done in person, at a tournament, or often far easier in many of your games forums or subreddits.
One last note on the subject of getting started: this methodology relies on understanding progress comes via following the plan OVER A PERIOD OF TIME, and especially for newer players expecting immediate, massive results will only leave you disappointed, and frustrated. You have to put your ego in check for the time being. Simply said, if you put in the work, over time, using the framework you’re going to set up for yourself, you will always progress, no matter your level of skill. How much or how fast comes down to how much you’re willing to work, how good you are at identifying where you are weak, and how much you can train without burning out. We all have our limits in training (not in success!), part of the process is learning just what yours are.
Once your list is set, we can start to set up a plan on how to progress moving forward, but before we move on we have to explain what to do with this information.
To begin planning, we’ll have to use something we’re calling The Progression/Maintenance Model, which is partially based off of the concept of Periodization (you don’t need to know this but it’s an interesting read) which was perfected by the Soviets a long time ago.
The model is as follows:
First you will pick a starting point. The Base (which we already did above).
Then you will choose a specific element (aka fundamental) from that list to prioritize.
Now in training, you will attempt to advance that priority as frequently as possible, without abandoning the other elements that make up your gameplay, for a period of time (typically a few days or weeks).
Every so often you will test your progress (in the form of Weeklies, Tournaments, money matches, etc.) if it is not where you would like it to be, simply repeat the above until it is where you would like it to be.
Then you will update your Base.
Then you will choose a specific element to prioritize….
The theory behind this process is simple:
You will progress your weak elements, while looking to maintain your strong ones. By doing so the strong elements do not atrophy or become weak themselves, in reality since you are still performing them consistently, often against better opponents you will find they have actually progressed as well, just not as fast or as radically as the element you prioritized.
The trick here, is that you’re trying to progress those weak elements just enough to get over your next hurdle, where you will find something else is now weak and stopping you from progressing, or more likely since you’ve gotten better, your previous strengths are simply not as good as they need to be for this next level of competition.
This process, whether you choose to utilize it or not, is always running in the background at every level of play. In essence, it never stops, even at the top, it still goes on even though the metrics for progress become much much smaller. As a brief aside, the higher you get in skill and in placing, the more factors other than fundamentals come in to play, such as mind games, having a strong mindset, preparation, etc. This method works for those as well, it’s just much harder to program it without experience.
In reality, the length of time you devote to one specific element (or even a handful of them at once) depends entirely on your game of choice, your skill/knowledge level, and how much time you have outside of scrims, tournaments, etc. (this method also works for your team as a whole in team games, use it. seriously.) and how quickly or slowly you burn out mentally and physically.
It’s very important to use the lowest effective dose when it comes to progressing an element or elements, remember you’re just trying to make it up to the next rung, and too much of a good thing can cause you to backslide, or burnout. As we said before, a large part of the process is knowing your limits, and erring on the side of caution. Since we’re measuring progress over time, you don’t have to make crazy huge jumps at once, keep it to amounts you can handle, and occasionally take some time off to focus on just recharging or having fun (every few weeks or so not every other day!).
As to the timing itself. Since some elements in games progress much, much quicker than others, I would recommend focusing on those ones for much less time (ie a few days) as opposed to elements that take longer, need more variance in matchup or situation, don’t happen as frequently, to be focused on for several days to several weeks. At the highest end of the spectrum if you’re a top player in your region, in qualifiers, or at majors, and much of what you’re working on is mental I would recommend months on things like mental toughness, grit, resilience, etc.
As mentioned above, periodically you’ll need to test yourself to see if/how far you’ve progressed in certain elements or areas. In my opinion the best place to do this is always in tournaments for two main reasons:
- People try really really hard in tourney when they often don’t in less competitive settings
- Your placings are accurate reflections of your skill level. Typically if you lose against a superior opponent it’s because you deserved to lose. Very (extremely) rarely, in fact almost never did you lose and it’s not deserved.
Either way, this provides you with lots of feedback, consistent understanding of how your skill has leveled up, etc. What I mean is in paid ladders/tournaments placings above the first three or four rounds tend to be very stable, so they are a reliable indicator of skill, making your efforts against them reliable indicators of your skill.
Once you’ve evaluated, simply update your base at your new skill level, this may take a week or so sometimes, then start the process all over again. In essence this progression/maintenance model eliminates the plateau that normally comes with grinding games, since you’re always striving to progress elements in practice (aka training), and striving to place higher in tournament.
If for whatever reason tournaments aren’t readily available but high level matchmaking may be quality, smurfing (in games where that’s possible) can also sometimes help you evaluate. By this I mean making a fresh account and seeing how your progress stacks up at higher ranks not against lower players, since your smurf is new its MMR is not tainted by your practice efforts or previous bad placing/play. But seriously try and stick to tournaments.
Give it a whirl, stick with the programming for 6 months to a year and hold fewer expectations for yourself. I promise you will be pleasantly (read very.) surprised at just how far you’re able to progress, and how your understanding of the game will improve alongside it.
This methodology has been time tested outside the realms of gaming, more specifically in the realm of sports, but is the underlying basis of almost every competition in practice. More importantly Czech and I (and several prior teammates of mine) have utilized this process to very quickly make strides, often in titles we’d just started in, or had yet to compete in, or were stuck and plateau’d.
I encourage anyone reading this to seriously consider trying it, and if you need any assistance whatsoever in getting started, regardless of skill level please contact me on twitter @immfenrir, or either of us @fagencyesports anytime with questions, milestones, or updates to progress.
As always, keep it focused, and enjoy the climb.