-- Starting Monday, 20 of North American League of Legends' top Challenger ladder players will have a chance to prove themselves in a combinelike competition called Scouting Grounds, hosted by League of Legends developer Riot Games. The competition will bring together four players from each of the five roles -- top lane, jungle, mid lane, AD carry and support -- and will have professional teams in attendance, including Echo Fox and Team Liquid, to scout the competitors.
The requirements for competing are simple. Players must be 16 years of age, the required minimum age for the League of Legends Challenger Series, by January 2017 and must not have played more than two matches in any professional league (Challenger Series or the League Championship Series) in their career.
Player to watch: Maxime "Maxtrobo" Delangis Gallichand
Hailing from Quebec City, Qu?bec, Canada, Maxime "Maxtrobo" Delangis Gallichand is among the small number of Canadian players who are high on the American-dominated Challenger ladder. He is currently ranked 44 overall on the North American Challenger ladder and tells ESPN that he often queues as fill, meaning he plays all roles within the game.
His competitive experience is limited, having only played with amateur team DatZit Gaming Fire in two invitational tournaments, as well as Challenger Series spring qualifiers, at the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016. In the latter event, his team lost in the first round to Team Liquid Academy. But despite the lack of experience, Maxtrobo says he's committed to competing in League of Legends and recently dropped out of school to pursue the career full-time.
"I've been playing a lot of things in solo queue," Maxtrobo told ESPN. "Sometimes, I just put 'fill' because I want a faster queue time, but I realized around a year ago that the role I was the best at was top, and I did a lot to improve during the year."
Excluding champions from other roles, Maxtrobo's highest played top lane champions in the game are Gnar, Jayce, Riven, Illaoi, and Ekko. Despite putting a lot of time into many of these champions, Maxtrobo tells ESPN he doesn't really have a best champion and that he likes to play aggressively in lane regardless of champion pick.
"I just like to carry and play aggressive in lane," he says. "I just play what the coach tells me to play. I have a big champ pool."
Player to watch: Andrew "BmxSpecks" Speckert
Prior to Friday, Andrew "BmxSpecks" Speckert was not slated to attend the Scouting Grounds event. However, due to a last-minute personal emergency for another player on the list, BmxSpecks will compete as a jungler at the event.
Aside from streaming and coaching, BmxSpecks gained his notoriety when he vowed to reach rank one in the League of Legends subreddit in April 2015, despite only being Master tier at the time and Diamond 4 the week before that. In his post, he noted that many pros laughed at him or didn't take him seriously. But less than a week later, he made Challenger and eventually hit rank one in the 2015 season.
At the end of this season, he achieved rank 41 using a diverse pool of jungle champions with a heavy favorite of Elise. Earlier in the year, he competed on Zenith eSports in the Challenger Series Summer Qualifiers, falling out in the first round against a team with inexperienced Challenger players. But if he can apply his determination from 2015 to the competitive scene, the inclusion of BmxSpecks could make for an interesting Scouting Grounds.
Player to watch: Seungmin "Strompest" Lee
Originally born in South Korea, Seungmin "Strompest" Lee moved to the United States at 2 years old and has lived in several places in the States. Currently in Southern California, the 17-year-old Korean-American player, who is still a senior in high school, has recently become known for his Ryze play on the Challenger ladder. Like many of his peers, however, his competitive experience lacks depth, something he hopes Scouting Grounds gives him the chance to improve on.
Strompest tells ESPN he has played League of Legends since spring of 2013, at age 13, and earned the Challenger rank roughly a year later. He now has two Challenger accounts, both of which ended up in the top 30 of the ladder (rank 26 and 28 respectively) before the end of the season last week.
"My aspirations for competitive League at this moment is just to hopefully make it into NA [League Championship Series] and then prove myself to be a good mid laner," he tells ESPN. "I don't think I can become the best instantly, so I'm aiming for what is directly in front of me at the moment. Realistically, I'd probably have to go through NA [Challenger Series] first before I even get to enter NA LCS."
Prior to competing in Scouting Grounds, Strompest competed with Serpentis eSports White and Insomnia eSports. On the latter team, he met a player named Dat "Kitzuo" Nguyen who helped him develop his Ryze play. While neither team found success, Strompest said that both have given him the ability to learn communication skills in a competitive environment.
Player to Watch: Matthew "Deftly" Chen
Eighteen-year-old Matthew "Deftly" Chen of Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, has begun to make his mark on the League of Legends amateur scene even before Scouting Grounds. Like BmxSpecks, he was not originally planning to attend Scouting Grounds, but due to the revocation of Tristan "xPecake" C?t?-Lalumi?re's invite for alleged in-game trolling, Deftly received the invite for the event.
For the past three months, Deftly has worked with a new iteration of Cloud9 Challenger that will bid to compete in the North American Challenger Series next spring. Deftly has also competed on Denial eSports' North American roster and briefly subbed in on Eanix during the summer Challenger Series.
"In season 4, I was able to hit Challenger and start playing for amateur teams, which never amounted to anything," Deftly told ESPN. "Eventually, the lack of strong teams taking interest led me to quit in season 5, where I later returned and am in the position I am now. I'm extremely happy to be where I am now and am hoping to prove myself whenever an opportunity arises."
Deftly earned some of his notoriety during his time trialing for DatZit Gaming. During the trial process, one of the team's scrimmages was leaked to the public, featuring Deftly obtaining a pentakill on Sivir.
Player to watch: Ryan "Whyin" Karaszkiewicz
Known as "cute pupper irl" on the ladder, 17-year-old Ryan "Whyin" Karaszkiewicz of Michigan had his first season in Challenger this season after being Diamond rank in seasons four and five. Whyin has competed on Sain eSports in both Spring and Summer Challenger Series qualifiers this year, but has failed to make it into the series.
During his Spring run in the Challenger qualifier, he supported well-known AD carry Marko "Prototype" Sosnicki. While he has seen limited success on competitive teams, Whyin is currently ranked 54 on the North American Challenger Series ladder.
Whyin plays most support champions within the meta and has played the highest number of games this season on Thresh.