One Night in Karazhan – Initial Impressions

Reddit got it right, the new adventure announced by Blizzard is Karazhan. I think though nearly nobody expected what twist the Hearthstone developers would give to this iconic World of Warcraft raid, that the once dark halls would host a party! Apparently the aim of the adventure is to find the host, Medivh, and try to save the party! In this article I wanted to give my first impressions of the announcement as I was super hyped after seeing the first sneak peak of what we will get.

The Announcement

The adventure was announced in Shanghai at a big videogame EXPO called China Joy. The event for us English speakers was hosted by the great partners in crime: Dan “Frodan” Chou and Tj “Azumoh” Sanders. As usual both of them did a great job in entertaining the public during the pre-show and giving us interesting insight in the brief segments where they spoke, I followed it even if it was 6:40 in the morning for me. I really laughed when Tj said that he liked the theory that Ben Brode brought all the famous hearthstone personalities at the China Joy just to show his famous Unicorn Priest deck!

When the funky music started my body was ready for whatever announcement Blizzard had to make, I was really pumped up! Initially I was disappointed, the start of the event wasn’t great as there was no translation for us non-Chinese speakers. Overall I felt the organizers were trying to really milk the moment and tease all the Hearthstone players tuned in to know what the new adventure was going to be. Probably the most iconic moment of this section of the show was a Chinese player which when asked if he wanted to say something to the Hearthstone dev team, he replied he wanted to tell them that the Chinese community gives them a big hug. That is some Love!

Looks better than the Old Gods one for sure.

Looks better than the Old Gods one for sure.

As soon as I heard the loud Ben Brode’s voice I was ready, as usual Ben was great orator and managed to enthrall all the people watching with his unique presentation style. I want to emphasize this was the first time Blizzard announced new content outside the United States, Ben just made history right there! The rest was awesome, we got to see a sneak peek of a few fights, cards and also the board which looked amazing! This part was really short but by no means was it not worth it, I will admit I did watch the presentation another time on VOD and enjoyed it even more than the first time round. Maybe announcements are like wine, they get better as they get older? Really doubt it…

 

The Setting

I for one was very confused when I realized the theme of the expansion, the music and the trailer looked amazing but I do mostly like Darker themed expansions like Naxxramas. I settled with the idea that since the Hearthstone devs have done a wonderful job until now in setting the mood for past expansions the flavour and the setting of the adventure will be awesome even if not exactly in my taste.

Look at the characters!

Look at the characters!

The trailer merits a mention all by itself. I watched that video about 10 times now, there is just something about the music and the images that enthralls me. The start of the video with the announcer announcing the party (as he should do) is fantastic, it creates so much hype! Then we get to see the look of a young Medivh, it is absolutely perfect. When the door’s to the party open there are too many characters to see the first time round. The curator, Prince Melchezaar and many more, so cool! The most iconic scene is probably the moment you see: Reno, Finley and a cow chilling in a pool, it is just hilarious! In this particular scene you can also see a kobold and a gnome flirting in the background and Rafaam stealing books. Whoever made this you are geniuses! I bet that if I looked at the video once more I would probably find even more Easter eggs which I didn’t notice the first time round. One last thing is the music, I am a sucker for Funky music I really wish there was an extended piece of the tune!

The Wings

The expansion is composed of four wings plus a bonus mission, this bonus mission will be available to everybody for free. I won’t comment on the boss fights because they will probably be loads of fun as usual. There is only one thing I wanted to talk about, 4 wings and only 3 boss battles per wing seems a low number. The adventure will have 13 fights in total, when we compare this to the other adventure we see that: Naxxramas had 15, Blackrock had 17 and League of Explorers had 13. I guess this probably mean that 13 boss fights is the new standard for adventures. A part of me wishes to go back to more boss fights rather than less boss fights as I had loads of fun when completing those adventures, but I understand that a full wing more must be resource intensive for an aspect of the game which gets played and then discarded by most players. Not much more here to say, just a bit sad about the number of boss fights staying around 13, I am sure though the content will be awesome to play.

The Cards

I want to start by saying that I will do a more in depth analysis of the cards when the whole set is revealed, for now I will just give an initial impact thought. Additionally I only will focus on the announcement cards, the ones that have been revealed in the days after the announcement I will look at in another article.

card 1 kara

Enchanted Raven: Reddit went crazy when it saw this card, the call for it being OP were heard nearly immediately. I think the card is solid, stat wise is a vanilla 1 drop, the distribution is unique. Obviously when coupled with Mark of Y’Shaarj it can be an insane turn 2 play. The question is if this will be broken enough to support an archetype, Beast Druid, which has no way to come back on board once it loses the early game.

card 2 kara

Kindly Grandmother: This card is insane, the only thing I can think of it not being broken is because it is in Hunter and not in Warlock (Warlock already play Infested Villager which is a 1/1 which spawns a 1/1). Yep I am an idiot, when I first saw the card I thought it was 1 mana not 2 mana. Anyway, coupling this card with Abusive Sergeant in a Hunter deck will probably make Board control for the deck much easier as now you can run have a pretty scary early game. This coupled with the fact Hunter has late game bombs like Savanah Highmane and Call of the Wild, makes it a good inclusion in a curve Hunter deck.

card 3 Kara

Firelands Portal: This card is kind of neat and it is one of the card every player will get, regardless of the fact if the expansion was bought or not. People on reddit were complaining about this card since it seemed to be over the top for arena, I cannot comment as last time I played an arena was more than a month ago. What I can say is that for competitive play you will probably never include this card in your deck, but you won’t be unhappy if you get this card off of an Ethreal Conjurer or Cabalist Tome.

Card 4 Kara

Ivory Knight: I was reading on the competitive sub-reddit that Paladin has eleven 1-mana spells, meaning that a lot of the time at least one choice will be a Secret. On the other hand Paladin has many high value spells such as Consecration, Equality, Lay on Hands, etc. These can always come useful in any match-up and all provide card advantage by themselves. The stat line of the card is obviously bad, but at least it is off-set by a heal, potentially providing with some chance to get a good follow up turn with an Equality play. Overall I fear this card will probably not see too much play, it mainly depends on what other spells and cards are printed (anyway it is not like every card will always be playable).

Card 5 Kara

Ethreal Peddler: It has vanilla stats plus an effect, I guess this means in arena it should be decent. In constructed probably this card will not see that much play because even if you Burgle cards, you do not care about playing them for less. I say this because if you are running Burgle you are probably playing a control Rogue archetype which tries to win through card advantage not tempo. Whilst some may argue that innervate on cards is always good, you would probably run Emperor Thaurissan if you are going for that type of play-style.

Card 6 Kara

The Curator: This card is really interesting as it is one of those cards which is very hard to evaluate. I will say that with the current choice of Murlocs and Beasts the only deck that could really run this is some sort of Control Paladin. On the other hand in order to fully assess this card we need to see what other Beasts, Murlocs and Dragons get printed, as depending on this it could be this card provides an invaluable tool when deck-building.

card 7 Kara

Barnes: I fear this card might be really un-fun to play against, it can win the game on the spot if it gets the right card. A turn 4 Sylvanas or Tirion might be impossible to deal with. On the other hand it might be that I am looking at this card only through the perspective of best case scenario while ignoring the average or less than average ones, meaning that on average it will just be bad and not worth running. Overall I am not sure, I think this one will probably make the cut in control decks as it seems strong enough. One last thing to consider is that maybe it won’t be bad in a more Deathrattle focused Zoolock, as Zoo can always make good use of tokens and Deathrattles.

Concluding Remarks

Overall I am really excited for this new adventure and I cannot wait to get to play it in two weeks’ time. I think that whilst for now the setting might not be my cup of tea, as the Hearthstone team has managed multiple times they will change my mind and make me love this adventure even more than the past ones. You can find the VOD of the announcment at: https://www.twitch.tv/playhearthstone/v/80582512 if you missed it and want to watch it!

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Disclaimer: All the pictures were taken from the Hearthstone Facebook Page owned by Blizzard Entertainment.

Combo Theory

With Evo behind us, I’d like to to start a new series of tutorial articles. I’ve had this project on the docket for awhile and I’d like to talk about Killer Instinct. Killer Instinct is a 6 button fighting game from the crew at Iron Galaxy Studios. The game had a rough launch as it struggled under the weight of the negative press surrounding the Xbox One reveal. Killer Instinct’s third season saw the launch of 4 new characters and a solid PC port that has revitalized the community. Today’s topic will scratch the surface on two of TJ’s offensive options. Before we get started, Killer Instinct uses the same inputs as Street Fighter and I’ll have the commands for the moves used in this article listed.

Flying Knee(←→+HK, MP, LP, LK, MK, HK, HP)

Flying Knee →AutoDoubleBarrage(←→+HK, MP, LP, LK, MK, HK, HP)

TJ Combo is Killer Instinct’s boxer character. He has good normal attacks, but his specialty comes from the wide range of uses for his special attacks. TJ also has a unique trait called the Auto Double Barrage that lets him chain together blows for a safe, damaging combo. This is done by starting a combo then doing hitting all three punch and kick buttons in any order. TJ can cancel Tremor(↑↓+Punch), Spin Fist(←→+LP) or Flying Knee(←→+HK). Spin fist is the safest way to start a barrage especially since the player can cancel into it from TJ’s Punching Bag Command Normal(Repeatedly Mash LP).

Auto Double Barrage is TJ’s hardest combo to break and is his best damage ender. If TJ is willing to use shadow meter, he can get up to 60 percent damage off a single combo. Auto Double Barrage can be cancelled by repeating any button in the sequence. This causes TJ to gut check his opponent and TJ can cancel a light kick into his Shoot Toss (←→+MP) command grab to start a new combo.

TC→BSC→TC-> (←→+MP)→ (↑↓+HP)→ ADB

TC → BSC → TC → (←→+MP) → (↑↓+HP) → ADB

The second tool I want to talk about is TJ’s first target combo and back step cancel. Target Combos (TC) are sequences of buttons that can be mashed for certain moves. This lesson revolves around TJ’s first Target Combo, MP→HP. Target Combo 1 is fast, far-reaching and can be used to whiff punish opponents. TJ can also cancel it into any of his specials to lead into Auto Double Barrage. You can also use the first Target Combo as a manual and I recommend using that to practice manual timing as TJ’s auto-linkers are easy to read.

Target Combo isn’t safe on block, but it can be made safe by cancelling it with Back Step (←→+LK). Backstep Cancels (BSC) have a wide variety of uses including extending combos and applying pressure to their opponent. TJ can cancel his first target combo with a backstep then immediately follow it with another target combo up to 3 times before having to special cancel it. You can fake opponents out by whiffing target combo then immediately Backstep canceling to make it safe. This sets up situations where your opponent will attempt to whiff punish and you can counter punish them.

TJ’s ability to combine Target Combos, Backstep Cancels and Auto-Double Barrages make him incredibly dangerous. Don’t be afraid to stay aggressive with your opponents, because Auto Double Barrage is a guaranteed 30 to 40 percent damage if unbroken. TJ players dominate at close range and these tools will compliment that. Auto Double Barrage is a safe way for reliable damage while the Target Combo loop is effective for pressure and mind games. The options listed here are some basic tools for TJ players to start their offense and play footsies with the opponent. Thank you for reading and I hope this helps anyone looking to play TJ. Last but not least, here are some additional resources for people who want to play TJ Combo:

 

Seth Hall has been playing fighting games for the last four years and writing for the last two. He can be found on twitter @themanseries and will be competing at The Fall Classic in Raleigh, North Carolina.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ them on Twitter. We also have our own subreddit. Be sure to check out TGH’s newly revamped forums if you want to discuss with Seth or any of the other writers!

Cincinnati Can’t Hold On Against Battery

FC Cincinnati drew 1-1 with the Charleston Battery on a warm night in front of 19,229 at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. Cincinnati scored first by way of Omar Cummings and Charleston’s Heviel Cordoves burying the equalizer. The draw keeps Cincinnati in third place, over Charleston who is in fourth, by two points. This is their second meeting of the season, the first Charleston won 1-0 at home in Cincinnati’s first ever USL match.

Coach John Harkes stated, “We’re not happy,” in response to the game tonight. But, he is happy with the maturity of the team saying, “We set the expectations high and that shows a lot of maturity there. The guys played well and they battled.”

This is the second time in three games where Cincinnati has gotten the lead and lost the match, against New York Red Bulls II ten days ago. Cummings when asked if he viewed the draw as points lost he replied, “Definitely, I felt like we dominated the game, especially getting the go ahead goal.”

Cincinnati was the aggressor for most of the match, with Charleston sitting back and countering. They had a few close misses in the first half before being able to give themselves the lead early in the second. Charleston played a physical game picking up 14 fouls and one yellow card.

The first half started off fast with both teams getting good shots off early and late in the half, the middle proved to be a dull affair. Both keepers played extremely well when placed under pressure. Cincinnati keeper Mitch Hildebrandt made a great diving save off a shot from Romario Williams early. Not to be outdone by his counterpart Charleston’s keeper Alex Tambakis made an even better diving save off a shot from Andrew Wiedeman.

Cummings opened scoring in the 52’ off a cross from a centered ball that was deflected to him. The few minutes after the goal Cincinnati was attacking and looked like they would be able to grab another. Charleston was able to equalize in the 70’ off a header from the substitute Cordoves after being on for 12 minutes, in the minutes before the goal Charleston had a handful of chances that were very close to finding the back of the net. The last 20 minutes Cincinnati was charging toward goal looking for an equalizer to no avail. In the last minute of extra time Harrison Delbridge made what could have been a point saving tackle on a breakaway for Cordoves.

Harrison Delbridge picked up his fifth yellow card of the season tonight meaning he will be suspended for Cincinnati’s next match away against FC Montreal. Commenting on next week he is hoping the team will allow him to travel for the game next Saturday.

Cincinnati concluded an exciting four-match stretch of home games starting with the Crystal Palace friendly and three USL matches where they collected four points. The next two matches are away in Montreal next Saturday August 3rd, and against the Richmond Kickers on the 13th. They come back home on the 24th against the Rochester Rhinos at 7pm.

Moments of the Match

Sean Okoli had a shot blocked by a sliding challenge from a Charleston defender on a good chance in the 9’.

Hildebrandt made a diving save on a shot from Williams that went out for a corner in the 16’. He was able to catch the ensuing corner from Charleston.

Jimmy McLaughlin had a shot from the top of the box go just wide of the post on a counter attack by Cincinnati in the 35’.

Cincinnati’s Eric Stevenson had a shot go just wide in the 40’ from the top of the box. Two minutes later Wiedeman had a ball come to his feet at the outside the box and his shot was acrobatically saved by Charleston keeper Tambakis diving to his right.

Omar Cummings scored the first goal in the 52’ of a cross that landed at his feet. Jimmy McLaughlin sent a low ball across the box toward Okoli which was deflected by the defender, landing at Cummings feet.

The first booking goes to Charleston’s Shawn Ferguson in the 64’, he fouled Okoli on a counter just passed midfield.

Corben Bone played a long pass up to Cummings who was just unable to find a good angle for the shot; he decided to shoot from a tight angle instead of passing to one of his teammates who were rushing in to help.

Cincinnati’s Delbridge picked up his team’s first yellow on Williams in the 68’ on a counter.

Charleston’s Cordoves evened up to match in the 70’ with a header off a corner from Maikel Chang.

In the 83’ Cordoves almost gave his team the lead with a free header from the six yard box that hit the bottom of the crossbar and was almost knocked in by Hildebrandt, but it harmlessly was pushed to his right and cleared by Tyler Polak.

Delbridge made an incredible sliding challenge just inside the box on Cordoves who had a breakaway in the third minute of stoppage time. It looked as though he corralled the ball with his hand as he came through but, the referee saw nothing wrong.

Three Potential MLB Trade Deadline Deals

Jon Lucroy

Could Jonathan Lucroy be on the move? Credit to Jim McIsaac of Getty Images

The trade deadline is looming, and it gives MLB teams both the chance to reload for the playoff race or unload for the future. The MLB deadline is notorious for being a whirlwind of activity all day, with trades being announced all over social media and television. This article will outline some of the more obvious candidates to be moved as August 1st looms, along with some of the potential returns that could be gained by each team on both sides of the trade.

 
Jonathan Lucroy is an obvious candidate because he has bounced back from his injury plagued 2015 season to be a 2016 National League All Star for the Brewers. This season his average has been hovering around .300 all season coupled with 13 home runs and being near the top in a number of defensive categories, which displays him as one of the top all-around catchers in the game.
The Brewers are sitting 16.5 games back in the division and are looking to quickly rebuild their team, so Lucroy could be moved to a contender in exchange for prospects. Lucroy’s contract does not hinder a team, with him earning $4 million in 2016 and him having a team option for $5.25 million on his contract for 2017.
The cost would be heavy because he is not in a contract year and he is an elite catcher, so that limits the interested parties to teams that have a deep enough farm system for him. Ultimately, I think the Indians close the deal on him, especially with the troubles facing Yan Gomes all season. It would be a hefty price to pay, but I think the Indians get it done by starting a package around both Bradley Zimmer (Outfielder) and Justus Sheffield (Left-Handed Pitcher), both of whom are top 100 prospects according to mlb.com.
Despite the Brewers having a number of Outfielder prospects already, Zimmer would jump in front of all of them in terms of both getting to the MLB first and in the farm system rankings. Sheffield is a young pitcher who has the potential for three above average pitches by the time he reaches the majors. He has the floor of a mid-rotation guy but could develop into a front-line starter if his development remains strong. The Indians have, arguably, the best young rotation in baseball, so losing Sheffield will not hurt. Zimmer would hurt a little, but the Indians have enough outfield depth in their system that it only stings, especially since Zimmer has not been performing as well as the Indians’ other stud outfield prospect Clint Frazier.

 

Update: The latest news has the Rangers eyeing Lucroy as an alternative to paying for pitching. Lucroy is an excellent defensive backstop and would help strengthen the rotation from a different perspective. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported the Rangers interest first.
Source: http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/texas-rangers/rangers/2016/07/29/rangers-take-indirect-path-improve-pitching-rotation

 

Jay Bruce

Jay Bruce smiling at the idea of moving to a contender. Credit to Sam Greene for the photo.

Jay Bruce is another strong candidate to be moved before the deadline comes on the first of August. The right fielder has produced an all-star season for the Cincinnati Reds, hitting .271 and knocking in 79 RBI’s (runs batted in), leading the league at the time of writing. Bruce has always been known as a power left-handed bat, yet many Reds fans were worried about his power outage in the 2nd half of 2015 that maybe he was not the player that was a staple in their playoff lineups through the early 2010’s. All worries have been erased though, and with the Reds sitting comfortably in last place in the National League Central, the time appears ripe to make a deal.

 

Bruce, just like Lucroy, also has a team option for 2017, so Bruce would not be a rental for a team, but also a contributor for all of next season. His biggest knock is his defensive value this season, with him leading the league in errors in right field.

 

According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, Bruce still has at least 4 teams interested, including the Mariners, despite the defensive deficiencies. The Reds want at least one top prospect, it is just a matter of how valuable that one top prospect is when all is said and done.
The arms race may drive up the price for Bruce, but I think a deal will be struck between the Reds and the Rangers for a package headlined by Jurickson Profar. Profar was once a top prospect in baseball, before injuries and lack of playing time has diminished his reputation a tad. The Reds would use him in the infield, especially if Zack Cozart and/or Brandon Phillips are traded either at the deadline or in the offseason. Even without a middle infield trade for the Reds, Profar can slot into third base for a slumping Eugenio Suarez and will be expected to handle the middle of the diamond in the future.
The Rangers infield is set for the foreseeable future, especially with Adrian Beltre signing his extension through the 2018 season, so Profar’s loss would not hurt too badly. Bruce would fill the third slot in the outfield for the Rangers and bring some power to a team that is hurting in the outfield. Rookie Nomar Mazara started hot, but has been slumping as late, and the Rangers currently have Shin-Soo Choo on the disabled list.

Update: Latest rumors have the Dodgers circling Bruce still. Bruce was rumored to be involved in a 3 way trade with the Dodgers, Rays and Reds, but those talks have stalled according to Jayson Stark of ESPN. Other potential teams, as of now, include the Nationals, Mets, and Mariners.
Source: https://twitter.com/jaysonst/status/759390902813093888

Jeremy Hellickson

Jeremy Hellickson has been dealing all season, could he be moved as well? Photo from Gary Landers of the Associated Press.

Jeremy Hellickson is the final player that will be analyzed in this article. Hellickson broke through with the Rays before being traded to the Dbacks in 2015, and then the Phillies in his final year before he hits free agency. Since joining the Phillies, he has displayed ample skill that has led to a 3.65 ERA (Earned Run Average) and a WHIP (Walks+Hits per Innings Pitched) sitting at 1.12. His bounce-back this season has led to the Phillies shopping him around.
The Phillies are out of the playoff race and Hellickson remains their strongest chip to trade. The starting market is rather thin, as evidenced by the return the Padres got for a struggling Andrew Cashner this season. The only other strong rental starting pitcher, Rich Hill, has been hit with nagging injuries over the past couple weeks which has hurt his trade value. The Phillies also have three young starting pitchers that the team will focus on building around and as such, will not have a need for Hellickson in the future.
As previously mentioned, Hellickson will be on the last year of his contract before hitting free agency. A perk of trading for Hellickson is that the receiving team will be able to potentially get a draft pick for him if he signs the other team. Hellickson will be able to receive a qualifying offer from the team, which if turned down, will grant the team a draft pick at the end of the first round in the following amateur draft.
There are a number of teams that could be interested in adding to their rotation including the Rangers, Orioles, Blue Jays and Dodgers. After seeing the return for Andrew Cashner on 7/29, the Phillies will be in a prime position to get at least one stud prospect. I am going to go with the Blue Jays that make the trade for Hellickson, who would slot in to the back-end of the rotation and push Marcus Stroman into the bullpen for the playoff push. The Blue Jays have gotten solid seasons from castaway veterans Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, along with an arguably Cy-Young season from their young stud Aaron Sanchez. Combined with the potent Blue Jays offense, Hellickson could be one of the final pieces to their playoff puzzle.
In exchange, the Phillies would receive a package centered around the pitcher Sean Reid-Foley, who has been dominant at both Low and High A minor league ball this season. The Phillies have a plethora of stud position player prospects in their farm system, but have graduated their handful of stud pitching prospects to the majors already this season. Reid-Foley has a four pitch arsenal, with his fastball, slider, and changeup all grading out to be above-average offerings. He could easily slot in to the middle of the rotation for the Phillies down the road.

Walker and Streb Hold Lead Through 36 at PGA

Day two was a sight for the sore eyes of golf after the opening round at Baltusrol Golf Club chewed up and spit out the likes of Matt Kuchar, Rory McIlroy, and Dustin Johnson. Not one of the three men listed made the cut during this week’s major.

Jimmy Walker and Robert Streb

Jimmy Walker (Courtesy of Marco Garcia, AP via foxsports.com)

As it sits right now, Jimmy Walker and Robert Streb each hold a share of the 9-under-par lead.

Walker, a long-time pro on the PGA Tour, hasn’t had much luck this year since finishing sixth at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in early March. Since then Walker has missed four cuts and hasn’t finished better than tied for 14th in 11 events. Walker key to winning this weekend would have to be his putter. Over the last two weeks, Walker has found some life in his putter and wasn’t afraid to show it either sinking a 26-foot putt on the par-3 12th hole and a near 39-footer on the par-4 13th.

You remember Robert Streb don’t you? Well if you don’t allow me to refresh your memory. Streb was the golfer who made the putter wedge famous after accidentally snapping his putter midway through his round. You can find the videos of these putts by clicking here.

Jimmy Walker and Robert Streb

Jason Day (Courtesy of Reuters via independent.co.uk)

Streb, a relatively short-time pro since becoming a full-time PGA pro in 2011, has struggled even worse than Walker. Streb has missed nine cuts in 23 starts and with his best finish of 2016 being a tied for 18th finish at the Farmers Insurance Open in January. Streb’s success can be attributed to many things but also helps when you get on the green in regulation 75% of the time. Over the last two days, Streb has hit 27 of 36 greens in regulation but didn’t start capitalizing on those opportunities until his second round where he would go on to shoot a 7-under 63.

The Open Championship winner, Henrik Stenson, is currently three shots off the lead as he tries to win his second major in three weeks. Last year’s PGA Championship winner, Jason Day sits two strokes off the lead after 3-under and 4-under rounds in his first and second, respectively.

Round three will be currently underway as you read this but once you’re done, plop yourself down on the couch and tune into TNT from 1 p.m. EST to 7 p.m. EST to watch coverage of the third round as Walker and Streb try to fend off other golfers and more importantly themselves as they try to maintain their lead.

Cover 1, Cover 2, Cover Who: Exploring Football Coverages

Unless you have experience playing football or study it intensely, you probably are stumped when you hear football commentators say things like “base cover two”, “nickel package” or “cover zero”.  The average fan probably shrugs it off when they hear this kind of terminology.

But, as far as the different coverages are concerned, it’s really quite understandable material, albeit wordy.  All of these coverages can be applied to either the 4-3 or 3-4 defenses.

Here is an overview of the primary football coverage schemes that defenses utilize.

Key: FS = free safety, SS = strong safety, C = cornerback, SAM/MIKE/LB = inside linebacker, WIL/LB = outside linebacker

Cover 1 (man coverage)

Cover 1 may sound foreign but hopefully “man coverage” gives you an intuitive grasp.  The premise of this coverage is simple: The cornerbacks and one of the two safeties are playing man coverage with the outside wide receivers or slot receivers.  This means that wherever the receivers go, the defensive backs follow.

The cornerbacks and the safety, typically the strong safety or nickel corner – nickel translates to “third” – lock in at reading where the receivers go, not the quarterback.  The outside and inside linebacker(s) are usually covering tight ends or running backs.  So, every defender that isn’t on the defensive line, is shadowing or trailing an offensive receiver except for the other safety, usually the free safety, is playing deep as the last line of defense.  Simple enough, right?  Here’s a visual to help process the assignments:

football coverages

*4-3 defenses contain one middle linebacker while 3-4 defenses have two.

Cover 2

This is a very standard, basic defense that all defenses should be familiar with.  You may hear someone say “Tampa two” and that is a reference to the cover 2 defense that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers employ.  Unlike cover 1, cover 2 does not involve any man coverage; it is all about zone coverage.

The cornerbacks have flats this time, which are the sideline zones about 5-10 yards off the line of scrimmage.  The outside linebackers drop into their “hook to curl” zones, a dropback coverage that first takes away the “hook” or shallow middle routes, usually where tight ends go. Then the “curl” or routes that trail off towards the sidelines.  The middle linebacker has the biggest pressure on him because at times he must help out the safeties deep while also being responsible for any short to intermediate patterns over the middle.  The safeties have got to be ball hawks as well as strong hitters to close the gap on the deep ball.  Essentially, the safeties split the deep portion of the field in half so they’ve got a lot of ground to cover between the two of them.

I like this visual because it indicates with a yellow circle the soft spots in this coverage. Though cover 2 is built around athleticism and is a base defense against the run and the pass, there are a few areas of the field that the offense can exploit.

The obvious first weakness is the deep middle of the field. With each safety occupied in open space, responsible for each half of the deep field, the middle is this sort of flex spot or zone that lies in between safety responsibilities.  This is why a strong cover 2 defense requires a fast middle linebacker who can cover. A good middle linebacker must drop back deep to help make the quarterback hesitant of throwing the ball down the middle. If there is a shallow crossing route, hitch pattern, or something of the sort, then the middle linebacker must come up and collapse on it, even if they only surrender a few yards.

Cover 2 shouldn’t be concerned of underneath routes as much as protecting the deep middle of the field.  The second weakness of the cover two defense is the intermediate zones in between the cornerbacks and safeties’ responsibilities.  Just like the middle linebacker, the cornerbacks should drop back deeper rather than shallower to help close the gap between them and the safeties.

football coverages

Cover 2 Man (2 Man Under)

Cover 2 man is a hybrid between cover 1 and cover 2.  The cornerbacks and outside linebackers/nickel/dime (fourth cornerbacks) are playing man coverage with the outside and inside receivers.  The middle linebacker plays middle zone but, whether he’s deep or shallow usually differs from team to team.  I’m okay with the middle linebacker playing closer to the line of scrimmage because he’s able to help take away the slants and crossing routes if the receivers get an inside release.  Plus, everyone who is playing man coverage has got help over top in this coverage because the safeties split the field in half, just like in regular cover 2.

Bottom line: If a team has excellent man to man cornerbacks, this is a great coverage to deploy.  I always love playing in this coverage as a cornerback because I know that even if the receiver I’m up against blows by me that I have deep safety help.  This coverage also works well in the dime defense (four cornerbacks and only one linebacker).football coverages

 

 

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Five Non-Power Five Teams to Watch for this Season

Everyone loves an underdog story, a David slaying a Goliath. Yet, there’s few non-power 5 teams that make it to a prestigious bowl, even with a solid record. And it seems that every year, there is at least one team from a non-power five conference that dominates their schedule with one loss or no losses, wins their conference title, and enters an esteemed bowl game with more to prove than any number of District Attorneys.

Cutting to the chase, here are, in my opinion the top five non-power five teams in terms of what they bring to the table — excluding Notre Dame, who is normally the quality of a power five school.

5. Marshall (Conference USA)

non power 5 college football teams

Chase Litton comes out of a stellar freshman season to lead the charge for the Thundering Herd. Thanks to tbo.com for the photo.

Marshall lost a lot and kept a lot from a team that finished 10-3 with a win in the St. Petersburg Bowl last year. Sophomore quarterback Chase Litton, pictured above, comes off a season where he threw for 2,608 yards and 24 touchdowns. Marshall has been a pass-based offense as of late (no one rushed for 600 yards or more for them last year) and they have their gunslinger to continue the aerial attack.

The question is who he will throw the ball to.

Marshall lost their top two receivers in Devonta Allen and Deandre Reaves, who reeled in 715 and 705 yards worth of catches, respectively.

Of course, those two don’t compare to the graduation of stud linebacker Evan McKelvey, who led the team with 121 tackles and was second with 9.0 tackles for loss. Also gone defensively is third leading tackler and starting safety Taj Letman (80 of them) who intercepted three passes. And the starter next to Letman and second leading tackler last year Tiquan Lang (91) faces a possible suspension after being arrested in late April.

Seems like quite a bit to overcome, doesn’t it? Until you hear that four of five starting offensive linemen for Marshall are returning from last year, and the one that isn’t a returning starter missed last year with injury and was first-team all-conference in 2014, Clint Van Horn. Litton will have a lot of time to find an open man.

And on defense stud defensive end Gary Thompson is back, who led the team in two categories defensively in 2015: sacks with 9.0 and tackles for loss with 12.5. At cornerback returning is Corey Tindal, who defended thirteen passes and intercepted two more.

In the end, Marshall needs contributors from two position groups to step forward: receivers and linebackers. Two starters are gone from both groups. The receiving corps gets some help from returning 400 yard receiving tight end Ryan Yurachek, but will need wideout production from a group that contains no one ever to have a season of at least 350 at that specific position. Justin Hunt, who has progressed steadily each year at Marshall and enters as a senior in 2016, and converted former tight end Deon-Tay McManus could look to try and get some production. And at linebacker the names appear to be Devontre’a Tyler and Shawn Petty.

My prediction: Marshall gets cake games against Morgan State and Akron, then wins one of their two tougher non-conferences either against Louisville or at Pitt. I see them tripping up against Western Kentucky and missing out on the conference championship, coming out mad in their bowl game and finishing 11-2 with a win in the New Mexico Bowl.

4. Appalachian State (Sun Belt)

non power 5 college football teams

The Mountaineers return the talent to climb to the top of the Sun Belt conference. Photo courtesy of 247sports.com.

Appalachian State used a balanced offensive attack and solid defense to earn an 11-2 record and a victory in the Camellia Bowl with a Sun Belt title. They bring back a lot of impact players from a team that was top-25 nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

Those impact players include 2,300 yard passer Taylor Lamb, 1,400 yard rusher Marcus Cox, three starting offensive linemen, their top two tacklers on defense Eric Boggs and John Law with 104 and 72 tackles last year, respectively, and interception leader Latrell Gibbs who picked off seven passes — returning two of them for touchdowns.

Wow.

The only detrimental loss seems to be stud defensive end Ronald Blair, who led the team in TFLs and sacks while coming in third for total tackles.

One spot of bother for the Mountaineers could be the tough opening to their schedule, they head to Tennessee in the opening week and then have to host Miami (FL) following their week two match-up with Old Dominion. Get out of those two brawls healthy, and it could turn into another ten win season with a bowl win for the Mountaineers.

My prediction: Someone important goes down in either the Tennessee or Miami game, and Appalachian State drops one during their conference play. They manage to get out with title in the Sun Belt though, or at least a share of one, as no team runs the table in the conference. The finish is 9-4, the aforementioned Sun Belt title, and a loss in the New Orleans Bowl.

3. Western Kentucky (Conference USA)

non power 5 college football teams

Taywan Taylor is the featured player in this year’s Western Kentucky attack. Photo courtesy of youtube.com.

Losing a 5,000 yard passer (that number led the nation) is never going to be easy. But when you have two receivers who were both over 950 yards last season back, one of which is 1,400 yard man Taywan Taylor, it makes the adaptation for your knew starter a bit less demanding. That replacement will likely be one of three players: Junior USF transfer Mike White, who threw for 1,639 yards and 8 touchdowns with the Bulls last year, senior Nelson Fishback, who has attempted 8 passes in his Hilltopper career, or senior Louisville transfer Tyler Ferguson.

The rushing attack will have no issue complementing whomever is under center, however. Anthony Wales returns off a 1,000 yard season, behind an offensive line totalling 130 combined starts of experience. That line includes first-team all-conference left tackle Forrest Lamp. New O-line coach Dale Williams has been given the keys to a Porsche and told not to crash it.

A mid-tier defense last year for Western Kentucky will look to improve for this season, as they return leading tackler and backfield plug in linebacker T.J. McCollum (106 tackles, 12.0 TFLs) and second leading tackler Branden Leston (96). Top defensive lineman Derik Overstreet also returns.

But if that defense wants to make the necessary jump, and in turn bring this team from a conference leader to potential contender for a New Year’s Six bowl, they will need a boost in the secondary, specifically at corner. Both starters are gone, including the only player with more than three interceptions for that Hilltopper defensive backfield in Prince Iworah.

The most experienced pair are juniors Joe Brown and De’andre Simmons. Both intercepted one pass last year, and Brown may have asserted his role as the primary cornerback with 9 PBUs. Both will have assistance from senior safeties, the aforementioned Branden Leston and Marcus Ward. The pair combine for 291 tackles and four interceptions on their respective careers.

My prediction: In the end, I think it could really come together for the Hilltoppers, one of three teams on this list (the top three, of couse) that I think finishes ranked nationally. They open with a win over Florida International before falling by no more than 20 to Alabama, a moral victory that will allow them to run the table… including wins over Vanderbilt, Marshall, Louisiana Tech, their opponent in the Conference USA title game, and their opponent in the Boca Raton bowl.

That’s 13-1, for those of you counting at home.

2. San Diego State (Mountain West Conference)

non power 5 college football teams

The Aztecs’ defense makes them a force to be reckoned with in 2016. Photo form sandiegouniontribune.com.

San Diego State is going to defend their conference title from 2015.

Literally.

The biggest loss from a defense that was top ten nationally last year in scoring is fifth leading tackler Jake Fely (75, 8.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks). They return stud linebacker Calvin Munson, who led the team in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks (98, 15.0, 10.5). Damontae Kazee (pictured above), returns and brings 8 interceptions with him. Defensive end Kyle Kelley, who had 7.5 sacks last year, will lead the defensive line. They return third leading tackler and second leading interceptor safety Malik Smith. And they return the centerpiece of their 3-3-5 defense, all-conference nose guard Alex Barrett. In other words, the offense won’t have to score all that much.

But they bring back the firepower to score a lot.

Sure they lost their leading passer. But when that quarterback barely cleared 1,500 yards, it doesn’t matter that much. Why? Because San Diego State is a running offense. And you know what they do return? A rusher of 1,653 yards and 17 touchdowns named Donnel Pumphrey. He runs behind three returning starters on his line, including all-conference offensive guard Nico Siragusa.

Needless to say, the Aztecs look incredible entering this season.

My prediction: SDSU upsets Cal early in the season and goes on a rampage. It is tough to go undefeated, but easier with a Mountain West schedule. They do it, win the conference title game, and head to the Cotton Bowl as the “group of five” representative. From there I can’t tell, depends on who faces them there.

So either 14-0 or 13-1 is what I predict dependant on who they play in that bowl game.

1. Houston (American Athletic)

non power 5 college football teams

Second-year coach Tom Herman looks to repeat the success of 2015. Photo from al.com.

Notice I put above that I believe San Diego State becomes the “group of five” representative that receives a berth into the Cotton Bowl. I think Houston is the better team, but they run into Oklahoma week one… a game I don’t see them winning. Hence, number one team but not the number one finish.

Why is Houston the number one team? They come off a Peach Bowl win and return their star player, leading passer and rusher (he and Deshaun Watson are the only two quarterbacks ever to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000) Greg Ward. While his favorite target in Demarcus Ayers left early for the NFL, man number, two Chance Allen, does return off a season of over 750 yards. The ground game will have to replace second leading rusher and top running back Kenneth Farrow, which they were looking to do with junior Javin Webb.

Until he was dismissed from the team in February.

With that and the graduation of Ryan Jackson, Houston has lost its next three rushers after Ward. No other running back posted even 100 yards last season, the only one even to gain positive yardage being upcoming sophomore Kaliq Kokuma, who ran 18 times for 92 yards. He should compete with fellow sophomore Tyreik Gray.

At the very least they do have four returning starters up front to pave the way for the inexperienced backs.

Flipping the coin to the defensive side, Houston’s 3-4 defense returns all-conference nose guard B.J. Singleton, backed by linebacker Steven Taylor who had 92 tackles with 18.5 TFLs and 10.0 sacks.

Houston should be able to cope fine with the loss of their leading takedown getter Elandon Roberts, as Taylor returns with fellow linebackers Tyus Bowser (35 games experience) and Matthew Adams (49 tackles in 2015). The real worry is the departures at safety, where the Cougars lost both starters in 2016. That includes Adrian Mcdonald, who intercepted 17 passes in a career that also included 299 tackles. The most senior player remaining is junior Khalil Williams, who registered 18 tackles and intercepted a pass last year.

The rest are a group of inexperienced sophomores including Garrett Davis, Michael Eke, and Darius Gilbert. One of them needs to fill some shoes.

As said at the beginning, Houston loses week one in a moderately close bout with Oklahoma, but wins out and goes to dominate the conference championship game and a dominating win in either the Hawaii Bowl or Armed Forces Bowl.

 

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Overwatch Patch 1.1.0.2 – Competitive Analysis

Overwatch patch 1.1.0.2 has been released with some changes to character balance, hot off the heels of the last large patch. This patch actually reverts a few changes made to characters like Mcree earlier last week and buffs Ana after a week of play.

Hero Balance Updates

ana

  • Biotic Rifle
    • Rate of fire increased by 20%
    • Magazine size increased from 8 to 10


WRITER’S ANALYSIS


Ana was well received by the player base but according to her stats she was a bit under powered. The 20 percent rate of fire buff is absolutely noticeable and makes a big difference to how she helps her team.

 

mcree

  • Peacemaker
    • Primary Fire
      • Damage falloff range decreased by 10 meters
        • Damage falloff amount is unchanged
        • As a result, even with this change, McCree’s effective range is still higher than it was at launch
    • Alternate Fire
      • Rate of fire increased by 15%
  • Flashbang
    • Recovery time (i.e. the amount of time before McCree can fire again) decreased from 0.5 seconds to 0.35 seconds


WRITER’S ANALYSIS


In the last patch Mcree’s range was buffed significantly to help him stay toe to toe with characters like Soldier 76. However this was deemed too powerful so his range was toned down yet again. Blizzard notes that his range is still farther then at the time of release, just not as crazy as Soldier’s. His flashbang and right click have been buffed in recovery time. It should be easier for you to stun and kill low health characters no like Mcree is supposed to be able to do.

FULL PATCH NOTES

TSM DETHRONED: LOSING AS THE BEST OUTCOME FOR THE TEAM

Phoenix 1 rose from the figurative ashes and shut down TSM’s unbreakable streak in the NA LCS summer split. 14 match win streak. 17 games in a row. Taken away by lowly P1, a team that a lot of viewers, including myself, shrugged off as mere placeholders for NALCS2’s twitch channel.

If you’re reading this article, I trust that you probably have seen the games – you watched TSM confidently win game 1; you witnessed Sven as Gragas strut his way through enemy vision for Inori’s blue buff; you cheered in utter triumph when Inori, as Rengar, said NO MORE! NOT TODAY SVEN! And so Inori turned, forcing Sven to flash over the wall and feed Pirean that juicy First Blood.

That exchange, that moment when Inori walks  through the river to fight Gragas at his own Blue Buff best represents why we watch competitive League of Legends. It’s the moment when the over-confident team becomes blinded by their own perceived infallibility, and the underdog brings down the hammer, reminding the heroes that the game is still going. That the Nexus has yet to fall. And so Inori goes ham on Rengar, then bms as Rek’Sai, and joins his team in a celebratory huddle.

It should be noted that the other members of P1 played particularly well, or at least TSM’s tilted gameplay made P1’s seem spectacular. Unfortunately for P1, the team fell too hard in the first half of the split and has numerically locked itself out of playoffs. But such performance against TSM demonstrates P1’s ability to play League of Legends, and proves that the team is not going to go away quietly into the night. TLDR; look out for this young group.

On a separate note, TSM now has to face against IMT in the run for first place in the NA LCS summer split. The first place title at this point is largely moot, given that regardless of this weekend’s match both teams have solidly locked up first and second place in the standings, guaranteeing their byes in the playoffs. However, the IMT vs TSM match this weekend promises to deliver the most hyped-match of the NA LCS summer split thus far, as well as providing an opportunity for IMT to attain redemption.

After TSM’s loss to P1, Dylan Falco – coach of IMT – tweeted: “next week vs TSM got a lot more interesting.” I must say, I agree. IMT has now lost to TSM in their last two on-stage matches, with a notable loss in the semi-finals of last Spring split. The tables now seem to have turned, as TSM lost to P1 in an over-confident fashion that resembled IMT’s Lucian Top defeat, and so the question becomes: will IMT be able to capitalize on TSM’s faltering?

On the contrary, losing to P1 was perhaps the best result that TSM could have hoped for leading up to these final matches. As a way to keep the team honest, losing to P1 demonstrated holes in TSM’s game that the team now has the opportunity to fix before the high-stake matches. I do not claim to be an expert analyst on competitive League, but it does not take a genius to point out the over-confidence displayed by TSM in Game 2 against P1, notably: Sven greeding Inori’s Blue Buff; Hauntzer getting solo-killed by Zig in an unsuccessful dive; and the lack of respect for Rengar’s solo pushing with Baron to end the game.

Tune in this weekend to see if TSM can turn it around against the other colossus of NA LCS. Also, of note, there is a small chance that APX jumps NV to secure that lost spot for playoffs. Of course, this means APX needs to 2-0 and NV has to win literal zero matches against two teams who lie respectively lower in the standings. What do you think, can they do it? I’ll root for the old-fashioned underdog story and put my faith on APX. Let’s go.

 

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Broodmother Tips

The huge, disgusting Black Arachnia the Broodmother is one of the most unique Heroes in the game. Her playstyle is such that it can lead to her winning the game very early while also possibly becoming a big liability.

Broodmother is known for her combination of strong lane control and pushing skills. Left unchecked, she can take objectives fast and easily. Countering her isn’t too difficult; using her full potential though is something not many players actually pull off.

First, let’s look at a few common mistakes to avoid when playing Brood:

-Plainly obvious, but don’t pick her too early. Certain picks can counter her completely. The ideal scenario is to last pick her. Other than that, wait until a counterpick won’t fit easily in the enemy lineup. We’ll go through details about this later.

-Don’t fully commit to a push too much. You don’t always have enough space to do that. If there’s 4 Heroes missing, you can expect you’re going to be the target; as Brood, you’re a very high priority kill.

-You don’t have to solo push/farm for the whole duration of the game. A mistake I personally make all the time, so I can assure you, it’s worth it to join some fights here and there if you can’t take towers fast.

Now, let’s see some tips to take your gameplay up a notch.

-Bring Sentry Wards with you from the start so you can deward the enemy’s wards. No need to ask your support, you can buy them yourself; they’ll be more important than most starting items. Generally, you’ll want to start with Sentries, Tangoes and Soul Ring Recipe. Be mindful of where there can be Sentries and eat them with your Tangoes, or destroy them with your spiderlings.

-Always keep one half of your webs in impassable terrain,especially during the laning stage. That way you won’t ever be zoned out completely even if you have 2 enemy supports getting true sight constantly. You also use your Spawn Spiderlings from safety to keep up your farm.

-Get a few levels before you start bullying people out of the lane. You’re not very strong early on. The ideal case would be a level 4-5 with a Soul Ring.

-Be versatile when you’re at a disadvantage. This is perhaps the most important tip I can give. There will be times where you won’t have enough space or a very good matchup. If your spiders keep getting killed, use them to farm woods or scout, don’t just feed them. If you’re facing something like an Axe or Dark Seer, try putting some webs behind and away from their tower and farm there. If the supports are getting dusts 24/7, stay in fog, stack some spiderlings without letting them die and bully the supports away. And of course, consider starting at a different lane to gain yourself some time.

To wrap this up, a few things to keep in mind when picking Brood. As we said before, the best would be to pull off a last pick when you can see the whole enemy lineup. That won’t always be possible, so to evade your greatest enemies (Axe, Dark Seer, Timbersaw, Bristleback, etc) you generally need to look at the enemy cores and whether such a pick would fit in or not. If, for instance, they’ve already picked a woods Hero and their carry, getting an Axe to counter a Brood is possible, but it also means their carry and support would have to pull off a dual offlane. This is a painful choice you can give them; maybe you’ll get a counterpick anyway, but screwing their whole lineup over just to deal with a single Hero can be totally worth it.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ them on Twitter. We also have our own subreddit. Be sure to check out TGH’s newly revamped forums if you want to discuss with Goz or any of the other writers!

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