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Race to the Top: What it takes to hit Challenger first

An interview with the first player to reach Challenger during the Festival of Beasts.

CommunityAuthorRodger “MinionsRpeople2” Caudill
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For the first time in TFT history, Challenger unlocked with the release of the mid-set, Festival of Beasts. So when the mid-set patch dropped on January 21st, players raced to be the first to Challenger in their region. During the weeks leading up to the Festival of Beasts, players entered competitions such as Common.gg’s “Race to Challenger” to claim their spot as the first to the top.

And because the first only happens once (a set), we took the time to ask the Festival of Beasts' first to Challenger in North America, Coralie, about her success in the race.

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: Coralie, thanks for taking the time to chat with me, mind giving yourself an introduction and maybe telling us who your favorite Little Legend is?

CORALIE: Sure! Hiya! I'm Coralie (she/her) and am the first player to hit Challenger in set 4.5! I've had a history of adapting to patches really quickly and finding the strongest comps. I decided to play to that advantage and put that to the test with the start of a new set. Right now, my favorite Little Legend is Umbra, probably because I used it the entire race and love the guitar riff.

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A numbra of Umbra concepts we thumbra’d through before landing on our final variants.

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: That guitar riff is pretty great. I know you’ve been playing TFT since the very beginning. What got you into TFT?

CORALIE: When TFT came out I was immediately interested. I've been playing League of Legends since season three, so I was already invested in the champions. I've always liked theory crafting in League and playing off meta builds. I felt like TFT gave me that avenue to use my theory crafting skills in a universe that I enjoyed. TFT is also much more strategic and less mechanic intensive, which I prefer.

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: So have you always played ranked on TFT?

CORALIE: Yes, I played a decent amount of Normals at the start, and then I started playing Ranked just to see how I would do, and I did fairly well. And then I'd go back and play Normals with friends, and Normals wouldn't do it for me 'cause the game was too easy, in my opinion. I was winning with stuff I know should be losing, 'cause I think in Normals for somebody that's high skill, you can just win with any comp in the game, just straight up through econ. So I stopped playing Normals all together 'cause I didn't have fun with it and just decided to play Ranked.

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: Have you always been a high rank?

CORALIE: So in set 1... I think I finished D1, I didn't play a whole lot, and then every set after that, I finished or hit Masters, but I've increased my LP each set.

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: And so set 4.5, was the first set that you hit Challenger,?

CORALIE: It’s the first set I hit Grandmasters as well.

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: Wow. So then set 4.5 rolls around and how many hours go by until you reach Challenger?

CORALIE: 29 hours. 

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: Holy moly. How’d you do it?

CORALIE: Well, I took off the day of work before, so I could actually get some sleep this time, 'cause I did race in set 4... It was a race from Iron to Masters, and at the end of the first day I think everyone finished around Plat or something, and I finished at the end of the day of rank 3. I never quite got to rank 1, I think I was 50 LP behind. But I was doing very well and I figured out the meta very quickly, but then I went to sleep that day because I came straight from work to playing, which ended up being like 36 hours without sleep. But for this set, I knew if I got some sleep, maybe I could do it. 

I put in a lot of work beforehand, theory crafting what comps I thought would be good, so I had several strategies ready. But I didn't actually play PBE until three days before it went live, when I knew there wouldn't be any more changes 'cause I didn't wanna get the wrong impression, or build bad habits. I did play in a bunch of in-houses that Robinsongz invited me to, and so I got some good practice in there and found what was good that way.

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: So three days of playing on PBE, early theorycrafting, and sleep — and it’s those three things that helped you do the Challenger run in 29 hours?

CORALIE: Pretty much.

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: Can we dive deeper into the theorycrafting and strategy that you did right before the 29 hours?

CORALIE: Yeah, so it was mostly during the first five games I was playing on live too, that I actually figured out what the strengths were of the comps I wanted to run. The two comps I noted that I thought were underrated, that could be strong, were Sivir and Rakan. But Rakan was hard to tell how strong he was, and I think Rakan was overlooked because most people just look at damage dealers—they're looking for who their carry will be.

So while other people are looking for their big four-cost carries, all I wanted to do is play a strong level seven board, and consistently top four off of that.

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A two cost with the ability to disarm, taunt, and shield himself against incoming damage. And that’s not even mentioning his cape!

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: Why’s that?

CORALIE: Well, I noted in the Chosen changes at level six that you can no longer get a one-cost Chosen. So my thought was, every game at 3-2, I just roll it down, find a strong Chosen 'cause I'm basically guaranteed one, and I am loss streaking prior, so that I had 50, 60 gold to roll on 3-2 and guarantee a strong board that I could just coast a top four off of.

And that's where my favorite comp comes from, because there were so many 2- and 3-cost Chosens that can work into that strategy. And you’re guaranteed a win streak once you make the transition because other players are still waiting to roll down at level eight. 

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: So you’re focused on having a strong mid-game board, is that what you work your theorycrafting around?

CORALIE: Yeah, ‘cause I knew that's where people would probably be the weakest. Every game you're going to play mid game, but if you play your early game or mid game bad, your late game transition doesn't matter 'cause you've probably already lost. And I think late game transitions are a bit harder because as we see now, carries need pretty specific items and units around them to be successful. So while people are still trying to figure that out, you can just win with a mid-game board.

And with that in mind, Elderwood is a perfect fit because at stage 3, rolling down, I could get a Chosen that I would keep to the end of the game in over 90% of my games, just because any Elderwood would work, or any Mage as well. You're not getting the one cost Chosens—you're getting just the two- and three-cost carries that you can just build the comp around, and you could afford to be greedy when you had a bunch of gold.

And the other thing is because people have those weak mid-game boards, ever since they increased the damage in stage 3, you can really punish people, 'cause all of my wins were like five, six unit wins, so nobody else could afford to greed to eight, 'cause everyone was just losing too much health. 

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: Wow, so aside from looking at how strong Rakan was during the PBE days and the days before the 29-hour run, were there any other flags that popped up for you when one-tricking this Elderwood comp?

CORALIE: I don't think so, because I didn't plan on one-tricking—I just found out quickly how overtuned Rakan was, along with how guaranteed it was to get a Chosen that fit my comp. And I kind of realized as I was hitting the 12-hour mark and still climbing that if I'm gonna go all the way, I could do it in 30-ish hours. But, at some point, I'm just not gonna be able to make the transitions late game because I’m going to be too tired in the roll downs and miss units. So instead of focusing on learning, all transitions and all pivots, I could master this one comp and variations of it

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A capture of the team comp in the second to last game before Coralie reached Challenger.

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: So not just with your climb to Challenger, but also right now, what tips do you have for players who are adapting to a game that is continuously changing?

CORALIE: I think there's two different thoughts on how you can be better at this game. For people like me, I know my biggest advantage is always on patch day. I normally climb on patch day, and then the second week of a patch, I normally don't climb anymore. If anything, I'll drop a bit or I'll just stay stagnant depending on how much I play. Cause I know I'm quick, I can read patch notes and I can pick stuff out that's strong or whatnot. I don't play on PBE, but I just follow what the notes are. I'm pretty good at that.

And then, there's other people that are better once a comp is figured out. They're a lot better at copy pasting and they have good skills, they just play the comp better, and they climb that way as well, but I think the biggest advantage is definitely when you can find what's strong first.

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: Okay, so we're in the future. The new set is upon us. What are you doing right before it? Are you changing any of your game plans and your meta strategies or are you gonna keep it the same?

CORALIE: I think it depends on how the meta of this set ends, 'cause that was part of the reason why I was happy to play the aggressive early mid game and rolled down a lot at 3-2. ‘Cause a lot of people are just gonna default to their tendencies of what worked for them before, and I knew that I could punish that with a 3-2 power spike.A lot of my strategy will come into play based upon the end of this set, but also what set five looks like. So what will set 5 look like?

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: Well...

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: So TFT is a game that's always being solved as the devs are changing the rules. How would you change the rules for TFT right now?

CORALIE: There's a lot of different ways to change the game, but at the same time, it's hard to... Because I don't have the ability to test what these changes would do, I can theorize what a lot would be... but at the end of the day they could just fail. And I think right now, the game’s in a spot where it's kind of hard to determine what the best path is. I like some of the testing that they're doing on PBE right now with Chosens... then the problem becomes finding the correct percentages of what costs show up.

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: Switching gears a bit, but do you have any plans to enter the competitive scene or go pro?

CORALIE: Not currently, I don't think I'm quite there yet. I'd have to play more consistently to stay up in Challenger, and for the most part, that’s a full-time job. Cause most at the top are streamers and play full-time and I don't have that time to put in... Since I hit Challenger my LP has been pretty stagnant, 'cause I went back to working... I haven't had the time to play. I've also had a few internet issues lately, so it's like I can't commit to keep up the climb, and I one-tricked to make it to Challenger as fast as possible. 

Now I have to find the time to learn the game in other ways, as it’s constantly changing. But that’s also how I enjoy playing it, being flexible and whatnot, 'cause I don't enjoy one-tricking all the time. So right now, no aspirations to actually go pro, but I will start looking at more stuff like the Giant Slayer fight nights, signing up for stuff like that, just small tournaments that are in the scene. 

But I did play in the set 3.5 TFT Guardian Angels League, which is an all-women’s group that I competed in. They had weekly tournaments, and I had a lot of fun competing there, but the bracket was smaller. The league is not currently active right now, but now that I'm confident in my skill, that I can compete with the best players and whatnot, I feel comfortable signing up for other tournaments and am not worried about just going 8th every game and not enjoying myself.

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: Hey sometimes, 8th happens. 

CORALIE: Yeah, especially when you're playing a four-game tournament. There were tournaments in Guardian Angel that I played in where... I didn't make it out of qualifiers 'cause there was a two-game qualifier, most points advanced, and back then, when the openers were a lot more varied, you could just lose off your first few rounds. The openers now are more consistent, but some of those openers back then are like, alright, well, I'm probably playing for a fourth at best.

MINIONSRPEOPLE2: Well let’s hope for more top fours in the future. For now, I would like to thank you for your great insights throughout our conversations. And finally, where can folks follow you, watch your stream, and get more TFT insights?

CORALIE: Right now, I can be found at twitch.tv/colrux. I streamed the entire 29-hour climb there, which was the second time I've ever streamed. But I am looking to stream more now that I've had a lot of people reach out. My hours are limited ‘cause I am working a full-time job, but I’m tentatively looking at Thursday/Saturday nights. I always enjoy sharing my thought process during the climb and answering questions for all those that came out to support the stream! So feel free to stop on by!

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Umbras gather together to umbrace their inner rock star and celebrate Coralie’s achievement.


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