Understanding the Sub War: A War Where Everyone Wins

About a month ago, streamer Trick2g, known for his “My Way” videos on Youtube (notorious for his Nunu ones) and ex-pro player/streamer Chaox decided to have some fun on stream and recruit five of their Twitch subscribers in Bronze ELO to battle it out. Thus began the “sub wars.” Since then, streamers and pro players like aphromoo and imaqtpie have joined the ranks, pitting their devoted fans against one another at every tier, creating a movement of sorts within the streaming community.

Now, the “sub war” has obtained a certain level of popularity with more people subscribing to be picked to represent their favorite streamer and more people watching the “wars,” enjoying the many highlights that make it to the front page of /r/leagueoflegends. In and of that, there’s a certain avenue for success in the “sub war” as both a potentially lucrative streaming model, as a teaching tool, and as a means of influencing positive change in the community at all ELOs.

The Draft: Recruiting New Subscribers

Until now, the subscriber model offered by Twitch didn’t seem to make much sense in that it was hard to offer one’s subscribers something exclusive outside of giveaways or a chance at playing ARAM when the stream was over for the day. In a world with AdBlock (whose merits or faults are not a subject of concern with this article), the benefit of not having ads from subscribing is a bit of a non-factor, so largely, Twitch subscriptions are simply about the act—choosing to support the people you enjoy. While certainly not a bad thing, the advent of the sub war offers something unique to the viewers:  the chance to have that favorite streamer assess and analyze your play and/or give them something to enjoy for some 20 minutes.

Basic Training: Teaching the Community

On the side of the streamer, the sub war offers the opportunity to build a community from their extensive knowledge of the game. When streamers begin to build their teams using Twitch’s roll generator, they often note the viewers who recently subscribed to get the chance to play on their team. While actual numbers are unavailable, it seems as though the sub war can only offer a positive increase in the number of subscribers for a streamer as there is no repercussion for doing so.  Specifically, Trick2g’s “in house” sub wars (where he chooses ten of his subscribers to make two teams) provide even more reason to subscribe.

And that’s when the sub war becomes a teaching tool and more of a reason to subscribe to the streamer. Though the criticism from the end of the streamer may be a bit blunt, there lies a certain benefit in playing with players of the same tier, under the eyes of a high ELO player. Certainly, the criticism could be taken offensively, but taken objectively and constructively, participating in the sub war is essentially a replay of a game with high ELO commentary; the sub war, as a teaching tool, is that solo queue game you just played, but with Chaox or Trick2g telling you what you did wrong and what you should’ve done. That sort of commentary alone stands to be a valuable experience.

In a fellow Cloth5 article by foxdrop, he explains the top 5 mistakes of low ELO. In summation (though you should certainly read the article in its entirety), he attributes 1.) poor item builds, 2.) poor champion selects, 3.) overrating and underrating objectives, 4.) weak mechanics and positioning, and 5.) the inability to close out games by taking advantages as the mistakes most commonly seen at low ELO. Tuning into one Bronze or Silver (even Gold) tier sub war game will make all of these mistakes quite clear. Chaox always notes when a bot lane fails to push early and get the lane advantage and Trick2g always notes when a jungler either wastes time on a gank or doesn’t correctly punish an enemy jungler for ganking, successfully or not. The players of the sub wars make these mistakes, sure, but by being selected, they’ve essentially been given a lesson on League of Legends by going back and watching the saved broadcast on their own time.

A Band of Brothers: Changing the Community

With thousands of players watching streams daily, the subscribers chosen to participate in the sub war are now held accountable for the actions on a much larger stage. In a sense, it promotes a certain level of play whereby each member of the formed team tries their best, maybe to make the streamer proud or to not make a mistake in front of an audience. Either way, the streamers, by selecting the players, put the selected subscribers, by choosing to participate, in a position that necessitates some amount of teamwork and communication to win in front of viewers.

In terms of accountability, that audience is key. The players that represent the streamer could very well be those flamers or toxic people seen in the average solo queue, but only seen by the nine other people in the game. Now, when you have thousands of people watching you from two streams, if you flame your team, you essentially embarrass yourself. Maybe it’s a bit much—a rude awakening in front of a larger audience who now knows your summoner name—but the potential for behavior changes, though extremely idealistic, lies very much so in the sub war. The subscribers are accountable for their own embarrassment. Making a bad play or mistake will surely be discussed in the Twitch chat, yes, but it’s not as big of a deal as being a flamer, and then known as one.

Out of the aforementioned possible benefits of the sub war, community improvement is definitely the most wishful. It’s a hard thing to do in the League of Legends community, but there seems to be something lying in the sub war, especially at lower tiers. Gathering ten Bronze/Silver/Gold players and putting them into that “viewed” position that they almost assuredly have never experienced is an interesting experiment (if you can call it that, but that’s besides the point). Because that “viewed” position forces a sort of accountability on the player’s actions and just the general motivation behind the sub war (read: to win), teamwork stands as the key to a successful sub war. And it seems as though the largest problem toxic players of those respective tiers has is understanding how much teamwork matters in all areas of League of Legends, arguably the single most important factor to winning on the Rift.

So even if it’s just ten players exposed to that level of teamwork–in champion select, when they have to decide who can play what and form a respectable team composition around champion pools; or in the game, when they have to decide whether to invade, set up ganks, force objectives, etc.–there’s some part of the low ELO player base that either learns these essential concepts or reinforces them. It’s a bit similar to how the sub war could operate as a teaching tool, though less concerned with the mechanical side of the game and more focused on the overarching philosophies behind the game. There’s something there, right?


Above all else, it’s entertaining. Maybe assessing the sub war as a means of teaching, positive behavior changes, or a potentially lucrative streaming model, is a bit much, but entertainment and the like aren’t mutually exclusive, and with the return of streamers like Dyrus, TheOddOne, Scarra, and more after Worlds, the sub war could grow and become that constructive force.

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Editor for Cloth5; resident grammar enthusiast. Loves to talk about League, especially anything tactical, strategic, and community-oriented. Jungler main, but plays support or mid in the off-chance someone else wants to be blamed for the loss. Follow him on Twitter: @amagzz

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