The four USC varsity esports teams are hoping to make some (Rico) nasty plays at this year’s Conquest esports tournament.

Varsity League of Legends (LoL), Overwatch, Super Smash Bros and Hearthstone teams will play against UCLA tomorrow from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on McCarthy quad. Awaiting them will be a set of gaming laptops provided by MSI, the new sponsor of the USC Esports Union (ESU) for the 2019/2020 season.

MSI will be hosting a giveaway at this year's Conquest event (Tweet from @USCEsportsUnion)
MSI will be hosting a giveaway at this year's Conquest event (Tweet from @USCEsportsUnion)

“The partnership with MSI makes it possible for our League of Legends club members and all varsity teams to train with state-of-the art technology and compete at the highest level,” said Arnold Ha, the manager of ESU.

But beefy graphics cards don’t win games by themselves.

Joe Jacko, the varsity LoL coach, is making sure his players are training in a holistic fashion, emphasizing the need for proper physical and mental preparation alongside the in-game practice.

“Training for Conquest has consisted of scrimmages versus other universities as well as amateur teams. Generally speaking both USC's Varsity and JV rosters each put in 10-15 hours per week between scrimmages and VoD review,” he said.

In-game preparation may be tough, however, as LoL updated last night causing a whole slew of changes for the varsity team to look out for. They’ll have about 24 hours to adjust for the update before going into the match.

While the game itself is in flux, Jacko is making sure the team is prepared for the factors he can control.

“I host team-building meetings, team dinners, and have even had the luxury of working with the physical therapy school to build a light workout/stretch regimen for our players.”

The Overwatch team also prepared for the match by scrimmaging other teams throughout the week. They’ll be playing on the main stage at 5 p.m., right before the LoL match at 5:20 p.m.

Each varsity team has its own means of preparation, and some already have a few matches under their belts. Last weekend the Smash team placed 3rd at a Collegiate Starleague (CSL) tournament, and 2nd at another one in late October.

The varsity Smash tournament will be presented as a 5v5 match in a “crew battle” format explained in this gif:

An animated explanation of a crew battle taken from The Smash Brothers documentary (from https://www.ssbwiki.com/Crew_battle)
An animated explanation of a crew battle taken from The Smash Brothers documentary (from https://www.ssbwiki.com/Crew_battle)

USC beat UCLA in their most recent matchup.

“We beat them in a 3v3 at a previous CSL event that was held at USC, but it'll be a 5v5 this time and we're also missing our best player [Terence “Smoothie” Li] so I'm honestly not sure how things will go,” said Julian “Jucchan” Kida, 20, a player on the team.

The Smash tournament will begin at 9:30 at the ESU pavilion.

Last year was the first time esports were showcased at Conquest, and varsity LoL teams from USC and UCLA faced off and tied 1-1 in a best of two match.

USC League of Legends team at Conquest 2018
USC League of Legends team at Conquest 2018

The tournament will be exponentially bigger this time with the inclusion of the other three varsity esports. For the LoL, Overwatch and the Smash teams, the games will act as a preview for the coming season.

“I view this as a colossal turning point and no matter the outcome will likely use the event to facilitate a paradigm shift based on what I want to target next in order to see the best results from each and every player,” said Jacko.

But for the USC Hearthstone teams, Conquest comes right at the end of their journey through this year’s collegiate Tespa league.

Both teams, Fight On! and Crimson and Gold made it to the playoffs with records of 4-3 and 5-2, but neither of them made it past the first round. They lost their matches to West Governors University and… as luck would have it… UCLA.

Cardinal and Gold lost to UCLA in the playoffs in a 1-3 scoreline, but Fight On! had more success when they beat them in a nail biter 3-2 victory earlier in the season.

Kida, the renaissance gamer man is also a captain of the Cardinal and Gold team.

“To be honest for hs [Hearthstone] we haven't prepared much because the meta is stale and battlegrounds released,” he said, referring to the eight-player last man standing game mode announced at Blizzcon 2019.

The Hearthstone lads will be playing at 4 p.m. at the ESU pavilion.

Rico Nasty will also be performing on stage following the tournament, and the football team will play UCLA at home on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.