The resurgence of Dignitas

What a journey it’s been for team Dignitas. With high hopes and big name Korean imports Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun, the team looked lost. They had just bought their way back into LCS and on paper, looked like a top team. The coaching and team synergy was way off though and they were barely able to sneak into playoffs for Spring. They started off Summer hot but soon fizzled out back to their former selves. A few changes throughout the team have helped along the way. Let’s take a look:

Changing up the Coaching staff

Dignitas started spring with Korean coaches Kim Jeong-soo and Park Jae-seok. A surprise to many, their coaching really wasn’t helpful for Dignitas at all. As they were watching their spring split hopes wash away, they decided to bring in a familiar face in David “Cop” Roberson. Cop coached many of the former APEX squad during their first run at LCS. Dignitas was able to finish the second half of Spring strong enough to garner a playoff spot.

This split they brought in another familiar face in Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco. Saintvicious has been involved in pro League of Legends for awhile now and also worked with the team when they were APEX gaming.

It was obvious under the Korean coaches the team did not know how to communicate effectively. They could often get decent early leads, but had no idea how to snowball games. With the induction of Cop in spring the team looked revitalized and were taking wins off some of the better teams in the league. They began to struggle mid split of Summer, but a few roster changes turned their season around.

Roster changes

One of the big changes over summer was letting go of Chaser as the starting jungler in favor of Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon. Shrimp played with the team on APEX and just seemed to mesh better with the team stylistically. His Nunu play in their quarterfinals match against Cloud 9 was huge in helping them secure a semi-finals spot.

Shrimp is similar to Xmithie as he’s a selfless jungler who is good at tracking the enemy jungler and providing good vision for his laners. He has the second highest kill participation in the league for junglers which speaks volumes to how active he is for his team. In a meta of tanks, Shrimp is quite comfortable and can even pull out the Nunu to enable ADC Johnny “Altec” Ru to carry even harder.

Altec and Adrian

photo via riot esports

In the bot lane we had the induction of Altec and Adrian “Adrian” Ma into the starting lineup. With a history of issues on other teams, Adrian is stepping up huge for Dignitas this split. He’s shown that he can play more than just his signature Soraka, with he and Altec contending to be one of the better bot lanes this split. Many questioned Altec’s decision to leave Flyquest for Dignitas where he wouldn’t even be guaranteed a starting spot. After he and Adrian were subbed in the team hasn’t looked back.

Altec has looked like a complete monster on this team. He finished 3rd in CS diff@10 and 2nd in DMG%. He’s shown some great plays on meta picks such as Sivir and Tristana. Him and Adrian have developed into one of the best bot lanes in NALCS. TSM is next on their list of upsets.

Dignitas looked great in their 3-1 victory over Cloud 9 yesterday. This only makes their match with TSM more interesting as they’ve held a great record against them during the regular season. If they are able to pull off the upset, who’s to say they aren’t good enough to compete for a championship?

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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Who should be NALCS MVP?

With the regular season over, we can begin to evaluate how teams/players lived up to expectations. Teams like Immortals shocked the NALCS by contending with the best this split. With the split concluding, we soon find out who will win the heralded NALCS MVP of summer.

An MVP, aka Most Valuable Player, is someone who has shown great importance to their team’s success in and outside of the rift. An MVP is someone that, if taken off the roster, would greatly impact their team’s performance greatly.

Looking at the split, we have a few candidates who really separated themselves from the rest. Let’s take a look:

Cloud9 Jensen (Mid laner)

Photo via Riot Esports

Cloud9’s Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen been critiqued as a “KDA player” who some believe cares more about his own stats than the good of his team. Jensen struggled with consistency during his first few splits in the NALCS but has slowly come into his own, contending with Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg for the best mid laner in North America.

He put up monstrous stats towards the end of the split. More specifically, his Orianna play was some of the best play we’ve seen out of him. He finished the season with the best KDA of any player at 8.7. Cloud9 often played through the mid lane enabling Jensen to get huge leads to snowball the game. Jensen rarely fell behind in lane, leading the league in CS diff@10 with a whopping 8.9.

Just based off regular season performance though, Jensen has put up a good argument for NALCS MVP. He has played phenomenally well individually and has the stats to back that up. One could argue how much Cloud9’s playstyle benefits his KDA. They often heavily relied on him to get ahead in lane and snowball for his team. He’s also been critiqued for not roaming as much as he could or for being selfish for resources.

One knock on Jensen has been his inability to step up in crucial moments. Last spring in a close game five against TSM, a costly mistake lead to Jensen dying with ult and Zhonya’s still up on Ekko. His death lead to TSM eventually finishing the series and taking the Spring Split championship. Could this finally be the playoffs we see Jensen step up for his team?

Immortals Xmithie (Jungler)

Jake “Xmithie” Puchero came to Immortals in a trade with CLG in exchange for star jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett. Many thought Xmithie had peaked on CLG and was nearing the end of his professional career. Nobody even expected Immortals to finish this high in the standings and deserving of a Worlds spot.

It has gone to show how much team chemistry and coaching can impact a player. Xmithie has look revitalized after coming to Immortals. He’s been arguably the best jungler this split and is a huge reason why people believe Immortals can qualify for Worlds. Dardoch and Xmithie’s jungle playstyles are almost night and day, but Immortals got the right jungler they needed – someone who was going to be willing to sacrifice for the carries and mesh well with the team. Xmithie has been just that and more.

He lead all junglers in assists for the summer. While none of his stats really pop out, it’s no secret how much of an impact he’s had for the team. Since Xmithie’s arrival, Immortals went from a 7th place team to a 2nd place team. Others on the team have also been able to shine much more with Xmithie for whatever reason. Cody Sun and Pobelter look like different players from their spring split forms.

It’s a huge example of how much coach Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo has done working with the team. When a team has this big of a turnaround you can’t expect it all to be from one player.

Photo via Riot Esports

TSM Bjergsen (Mid Laner)

Ah, just about every year, TSM’s Bjergsen has to be considered to be in the MVP race. He’s undoubtedly always one of the most impactful players on TSM for many reasons. Aside from always putting up monstrous stats, he’s a main shotcaller for the team and has developed into one the main leaders. Bjergsen can add another great regular season to his legacy as he finished second in KDA among mids and damage per minute.

This split, Bjergsen showed off his ability to play different styles such as the Galio in the mid lane. It adds to the versatility we’ve come to know from the Danish mid laner. In terms of how much value Bjergsen brings to TSM, it’s without a doubt that they’d be much worse without him. He just brings so much to the table for a mid laner and plays well without needing too many resources.

Many will argue that Bjergsen plays with some very talented teammates. This may be the same thing that kept Hauntzer from winning MVP in spring. Having other talented individuals on a team can sometimes mask the impact a player actually has on a team.

These are my top three picks for MVP in no particular order. MVP will be a tight race. It will be interesting to see if Bjergsen adds another MVP trophy to his career or if someone new can take it from him.


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How franchising in North America might affect Europe

ESPN has reported that four teams have applied to the NA LCS in wake of franchising next year. Not just four average teams either. Four major esports organizations from the EU LCS in Fnatic, Misfits, G2 and Splyce. It seems that with franchising coming to North America next year, it would be a safer investment than staying in the EU LCS.

Franchising opens up the ability for investors to have a safer investment with no risk of teams being relegated. Teams will also have a lot more money to pay players than their European counterparts. This could lead to less investors heading to Europe with more money going into the NA LCS.

More Players Leaving Europe?

Photo via Riot Esports

It’s no secret that Europe has produced some very talented players that have come to the NA LCS. Names like Bjergsen, Jensen and Froggen come to mind. With more money coming to North America, could we see a migration of Europeans/Koreans to North America?

Some say money can’t buy everything. But with players typically having short career spans, wouldn’t you want to at least go where your money will be the greatest? Europe has somewhat been known for having less money than North American competitors. With franchising looming next split, could we see even more European stars head to North America in chase of higher pay?

The EULCS would inevitably become weaker if they can’t compete with the money that North American teams can offer. Even European teams have applied to franchise in North America. This would force teams to have to drop over half their roster to satisfy the import rules. This leads into the next topic of combining NA and EU LCS.

One Western League?

Instead of implementing the import rule for EU LCS teams coming over, could Riot think to combine both regions altogether? While it’s highly unlikely, if Europe’s top organizations were to get accepted, it would leave a huge void in Europe for talent and org experience.

Many European fans have discussed their negativity towards franchising in Europe. If all the best teams are already looking towards NA for franchising, it may be better to follow suit. This whole year has almost proved that the EU LCS is a top heavy league.

The difference between the bottom four and top six teams is quite apparent, especially with the results at Rift Rivals. With more money heading to North America, the competition can only grow stronger.

Changing the Format

It’s no secret Europe has become victim to Riot’s LCS experiments. First with the best of 2’s last year and now with the divided groups. The two group format has made EU more dissatisfying to watch as you see a lot less of the top teams going head to head. The bottom teams in each conference are almost auto-wins for the rest as well.

Having only two full days of games compared to three in NA definitely hurts from a sponsorship standpoint. With franchising also coming, EU needs to go to all teams playing each other twice in a best of three. No more groups splitting the league either. It almost feels like it hurt them competitively as well. This was evident at Rift Rivals when Phoenix1 who finished last place this summer was able to handily defeat the top teams from Europe.

The format isn’t the only thing holding Europe back, but it’s definitely an issue. Riot needs to give EU a full three days of games and the same format as North America.

It will be interesting to see what exactly happens next year with franchising coming to North America. Many talented EU players may look to North America in search of the money. This could be detrimental to EU LCS as we move forward.

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

 

Is this the year North America goes far at Worlds?

For the past few seasons North America has had very little success at Worlds. While other regions have been able to find their way to the finals or even semi finals, NA hasn’t made it past quarterfinals since season one. This year there is a hope with NA showing a dominating performance at rift rivals against EU. Europe has had somewhat more success with teams such as H2k and Fnatic reaching semifinals the past few seasons.

Every year around this time people are slowly getting hyped for the World championships. Teams will begin to qualify in the next month or so and will most likely head to Korea for a boot camp. Bootcamping in Korea has almost become a must for teams wanting to have a shot at the World championship. The same story seems to always come for North America. Korea and other regions hype up their scrim results only to have them flop on stage. One team might make it out of groups, but then be swept handily in the quarterfinals. Here are some reasons NA fans can be hopeful this year:

Improved Competition

Worlds

Photo via Riot Esports

It’s no doubt North America has been improving steadily each year. Some of the best players from around the world have been brought in and overall, the scene seems much improved. More money has allowed teams to invest in better players, coaches, and practice facilities. Many teams such as Immortals and Cloud 9 have shown the effectiveness of bringing in a Korean coach. Immortals literally went from a 7th place team in Spring to a team contending for first with a worse roster under the wings of former ROX coach, Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo.

Not only have imports improved the competition, but new homegrown talent has also begun to flood the scene. Players like Contractz, Akaadian, Mikeyeung, and Cody Sun have begun to show that there is talent to foster here in North America. Despite all the knocks on our solo que, there are talented players out there waiting to be discovered.

The competition throughout NA is much better than it was last year and even last split. Compared to EU, there isn’t really a team like Massive Monkeys or NiP that are free wins for most teams. Every team can take a win under the right circumstances. More importantly, the top six teams look closer than ever. First place has not been held for very long this split, and it almost feels like it’s a good thing. More talented teams, should mean a better showing at Worlds.

Group draws play a huge factor

With Worlds continuing with the same format as previous seasons, group draws will be very important in seeing how far an NA team can actually go. With TSM flailing at MSI, NA comes in as underdogs with no number one seed coming into Worlds. This may not matter much as we saw G2 last year get drawn into a somewhat favorable group at first glance without a number one seed.

While NA hasn’t had the best luck with their group draws, this year could be different. The real jackpot is avoiding drawing a Korean team if possible during the group stages. Korea is undoubtedly always the strongest region.

Teams to Watch out For

Photo via Riot Esports

Due to how important circuit points are in qualifying for Worlds, TSM and Cloud 9 are almost auto locks for Worlds barring a playoff upset. The third spot will most likely be contested for in the gauntlet unless Immortals can win their first NALCS split. While it’s not impossible, Immortals have yet to show up in playoffs after successful regular seasons. This team looks much different than their previous seasons, showing a variety of different strategies to be able to win games. Coach Ssong has had a steady impact for this team. CLG, Dignitas, and Envy have also been steadily improving.

TSM will look to redeem themselves at Worlds this year after a dominating summer last year only to be knocked out of Groups. This year TSM isn’t trying to perfect one sole strategy. Instead, they’re practicing different styles of comps and learning to play off more than one lane carrying. It sounds like a good plan for Worlds success.

Cloud 9 on the other hand have looked inconsistent this split. The team seems to only win through getting star mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen ahead. When Jensen snowballs hard the team’s games become much easier. If he doesn’t get ahead, the team struggles to find a way to win. Jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia has had a phenomenal sophomore split as he has the highest DPM among junglers and is near the top in total KDA. If the top and bot lane of C9 can find more consistency, they can definitely show a good performance at Worlds if they qualify.

 

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

 

 

What Mickey’s acquisition means to Team Liquid

Team Liquid made a huge announcement this week with the acquisition of former ROX tiger mid laner, Sun “Mickey” Yong-min. It’s no secret that Team Liquid has failed to meet expectations this whole year. They thought they could turn things around after acquiring star jungler Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin in the off season. That hasn’t been the case as the team has sat near the bottom of the standings for most of the year, barely avoiding relegation in Spring.

This off the back of an impressive 2-0 week where Team Liquid looked to be finally coming together. Team owner, Steve Arhancet, seems to be highly dissatisfied with the team’s results this year. With franchising coming to LCS soon he wants to start building for the future now. This move infers a lot of things with the team moving forwards.

Piglet’s Inevitable retirement

Mickey

Photo via Riot Esports

Star ADC Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin was brought onto the team two years ago to turn TL into Worlds contenders. That hasn’t come to fruition as the team has struggled mightily for most of his time on the roster. This may be a sign that both sides are ready to move on.

Piglet has put up decent stats throughout his NA LCS career, but the team has never been able to fully use that to their advantage. During his early stages, he would often get caught out farming a side wave and failing to group with his team. His communication and chemistry issues showed in game, and the results mirrored that.

Meanwhile Team Liquid has done everything in their power to make things better for Piglet. Last summer when the Dardoch drama was going on, he requested to play on Team Liquid Academy. Even after that, he’s shown in Breaking Point wanting to quit again. Team Liquid has constantly tried to build a team around him, despite it showing that it hasn’t worked for four splits now.

The signing of Mickey brings Team Liquid to the two import limit. This means either Reignover or Piglet can’t play with Mickey in the lineup. For now it seems that they’ll try to make things work with Inori at jungle. Looking forward, they may try to find a North American talent to replace Piglet. In interviews at the start of the split Piglet states that he’s leaning towards retirement if TL doesn’t win NA LCS.

Goldenglue’s Failed Return

Many were surprised when TL announced they’d be bringing back the exact same roster from last split that was nearly relegated before Doublelift came in. Most notably, the return of mid laner Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer to the starting lineup. Goldenglue spent some time bootcamping in Korea by himself while the team finished out the Spring Split without him. TL hoped that the Korean bootcamp had helped him improve enough to warrant the starting position. That wasn’t the case as the team as a whole seemed to struggle.

Goldenglue specifically hasn’t put up great stats this split. He is currently near the bottom for KDA and CS diff@10 among mids. He had some great performances last week during their 2-0 where he showed flashes of brilliance. But just like that, Mickey is being brought in to challenge him for his spot.

This all but spells his likely end with Team Liquid. It may also mean the end of his pro career as he’s more of a challenger series level mid laner at most. He’s great at helping qualify teams for LCS, but just hasn’t performed well enough on stage. It’ll be interesting to see what he does moving forward. He has definitely put in a lot of work trying to consistently stay in LCS these last few years.

Reignover a bust?

Mickey

Photo via Riot Games

One of the biggest questions coming into the split was how jungler Reignover would do without his long time duo Huni in the top lane. While Huni went onto do great things on SKT, Reignover has been a shadow of his former self. He has not been the MVP performer we were used to seeing last year.

The jungle talent does seem to have been elevated this split. With big name rookies all coming into the split and others getting better, Reignover hasn’t looked the same. Even in this meta where tanks are king, he doesn’t seem to have the same impact.

With Mickey coming onto the team, TL has reacquired Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett as the starter with Reignover waiting in the wings. Many will remember Dardoch as one of the most talented yet toxic members during his time on TL. Another high risk/high reward move that could work well or blow up the team to oblivion. This time around they don’t have the clash of Dardoch and Locodoco so maybe this move can work out. Dardoch seems to have a history of toxicity at this point on every team he’s been on. Even a winning CLG team.

Only time will tell if these moves can actually move TL into Worlds contention in the future.

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Cover photo by The Score Esports

Can a new team break into Worlds for North America?

Over the past two seasons we’ve seen North America represented by the same three teams at Worlds: Team SoloMid, Cloud 9 and Counter Logic Gaming. These organizations have become fan favorites for most, but some new challengers have risen this split to possibly take their shot on the World stage for North America. The North American scene seems to be looking better and better. TSM has continued their dominance, while CLG and C9 have had their share of inconsistencies. Cloud 9 have almost guaranteed their spot at Worlds as long as they do well enough in playoffs. Second place for Spring granted them a massive amount of circuit points. With 3rd/4th place teams Phoenix1 and Flyquest looking close out of the playoff race, CLG will need to play well to ensure their spot at Worlds.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the teams that could contend for a spot:

Immortals

Due to Immortals finishing 7th place last split, they have zero circuit points to help with contention. This almost guarantees that they’ll need to earn their spot either by winning Summer or qualifying through the gauntlet. The latter will be the most likely scenario.

Immortals have become known for having great regular seasons, aside from last spring. This split came as a bit of a surprise to most. People expected the jungle swap of Dardoch and Xmithie to favor CLG, but both teams have benefited greatly. Not only the jungle swap, but the hiring of former ROX tiger coach, Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo, has given them the knowledge to properly out-macro opponents.

Every lane seems to have come into their own. Young rookie, Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun has developed into a top tier ADC this split along with support Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung. Cody Sun is near the top for DPM and DMG percentage among ADC’s. Olleh has shown great performances on playmaking champions such as Thresh.

Immortals is currently tied for first with TSM and CLG. They’ll need to prove that they can finally perform when it matters, not just the regular season if they want to make it to Worlds.

Dignitas

Worlds

Photo via Riot Games

Dignitas stormed out the gates this split, contending for first place for a few weeks before going on a losing streak. They still have their inconsistencies at times. Last week against CLG they flashed the potential to be able to dominate some of the best teams in the league. Other times, they play to the level of their inferior opponents and drop matches.

With jungler Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon taking the reigns as the full time starter now, Dignitas can maybe gain some consistency for a Worlds run. Shrimp has the second highest kill participation percentage among junglers. In the bot lane, they’ve added two veterans of the LCS in Altec and Adrian. It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes the full time bot lane for the team moving forward.

What’s worrisome is how average of a mid laner Lae-Young “Keane” Jang can be. Keane has middle of the pack stats in comparison to the rest of the NA mids. If he can play up to the likes of Bjergsen, Jensen, Pobelter and Huhi, then maybe Dignitas can make it.

Dignitas has 10 championship points from last split which likely means they’ll be battling in the gauntlet for a Worlds spot. If the team can find some consistency, don’t be surprised to see them as real contenders for a Worlds spot.

Phoenix1

Despite Phoenix1 not being far from the playoff race at the moment, and tied for last place, they still have a ton of circuit points that can help them qualify. A third place finish from Spring granted them 50 circuit points, more than a lot of the teams outside of C9/TSM. Even if they don’t qualify for playoffs they still have a shot in the gauntlet based on circuit points.

Rift Rivals was seen as a stepping stone for the team after a rough start to summer split. They had a good performance and were looking to carry that momentum into the second half of the split. That hasn’t been the case as they’ve stumbled coming back. Star rookie jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung hasn’t looked as dominant since he’s returned. The tank jungler meta hasn’t allowed him to show the same carry performances we saw at Rift Rivals.

Mid laner, Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook, stepping down certainly doesn’t help their cause either. Ryu was an integral part of the team, and it’s hard to say that Pirean can come in and perform up to veteran Ryu standards. If Ryu does return after a needed break, Phoenix1 can definitely make a C9 Cinderella run in the gauntlet.

Worlds

Photo via Riot Games

With only two and a half weeks left in the split, any team can make a late run for Worlds. Will it be CLG, Cloud 9 and TSM at Worlds once again for North America? Or will a new team emerge from the ashes?

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Cover photo by Riot Games

 

 

Should psychologists be required for LCS teams?

With the tweets of top laner Jeon “Ray” Ji-won coming to light recently, the discussion of the mental health of professional players returns. Many fans on social media can be harsh to their favorite players when they perform poorly. The criticism pro players can face added with the stress of performing well on stage can take a toll on these young minds.

You also have to factor in that many of the players are experiencing their first times being away from home in a brand new team environment. Not to mention a brand new country/culture for imported players. If players don’t perform up to their own standards, their own mental health can take a toll.

History of Mental Health Issues in LCS

Psychologists

Photo by Riot Games

It’s no secret that some players have seen the need to retire due to the stress of being a pro player. Legendary players such as Dyrus and Voyboy noted the mental stress during their time in LCS. Sport psychologists have slowly been making their way onto professional teams, but not all.

The most well known psychologist in pro League of Legends would have to be Weldon Green who made a name for himself on TSM last year, and now G2. Both teams saw significant upgrades to their team’s play after bringing Weldon in. Most of the teams have bought into hiring sports psychologists for their teams. The early days of LCS of eating whatever and only playing the games are gone.

Teams are training players to be physically and mentally fit in all aspects of life. CLG opted to train in a top sports facility during the offseason as opposed to bootcamping in Korea like some teams. The result has been a first place spot so far after five and a half weeks of LCS.

Should Psychologists be Required for LCS teams?

Not too long ago, Riot made coaches a requirement for LCS teams. Should psychologists become the next thing to join that list of required staff? It definitely could be if more players were to speak out about some of their mental issues. It’s almost certain that Ray isn’t the only player facing these types of mental hurdles.

Even a few sessions a week could help players with managing their stress. Every team could use the benefit of a psychologist. Not only for struggling players, but for team life in general. Many teams that have taken on Psychologists can see the effect it has had on team environments. Roccat last Spring struggled before a late surge almost netted them a playoff spot. They credited this to bringing on a sports psychologist to help with the team atmosphere.

What we can do as fans

As fans, it’s easy to criticize our favorite pros when they fail to meet our expectations. We also need to remember that they’re people just like us who are performing on some of the world’s biggest stages of professional LoL. Most of them haven’t been groomed to receive the hate that some of the community is bound to expel when they have a poor game.

We must not be quick to make remarks based off emotions. Everyone isn’t going to play perfectly, but flaming them over social media most certainly won’t help them play any better. Pro players for the most part, know when they’ve messed up. They know if they cost their team a match. There’s no need for fans to tag them in tweets raging or making angry posts on Reddit. Let them learn from their mistakes and prove themselves next time.

 

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Cover photo by Riot Games

NA vs. EU Rift Rivals power rankings/predictions

Rift Rivals is around the corner. We will get the chance to see some of the top teams from EU and NA face off in a regional battle for bragging rights. EU and NA has been a long time rivalry in professional League of Legends. They were two of the first big regions to produce pro teams during LoL’s early days.

The history of the NA vs. EU rivalry has been a bit lopsided as of late. EU comes in as heavy favorites with most of the top of NA looking inconsistent for most of the first half of the split. You never really know with international tournaments though. The two regions are used to playing to their own metas so it will be interesting to see how the teams match up. Here are my power rankings for the teams playing at Rift Rivals:

1. Fnatic

Photo via Riot Games

Fnatic come into Rift Rivals with a steady 6-1 record. After struggling last split, they found their groove towards the end. Fnatic have found a style that works for them and continue to show mastery on it. ADC Martin “Rekkles” Larsson has his pocket pick Kennen that teams must watch out for. If it’s not the Kennen, it’s his Tristana that can give teams trouble. Mid laner Rasmus “Caps” Winther gets his first shot at international competition. This is a great opportunity for him to face off against some of the best in the world in Bjergsen and Jensen at Rift Rivals. With Rekkles usually on more utility carries, Caps is heavily relied on to be the main damage dealer for the team. Caps currently leads the league for all mids in damage percentage and damage per minute.

Young jungler Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen gets his chance to prove himself as one of the best junglers in the West. He’s been dominating the EULCS this split with a monster 11.3 KDA. He’s an aggressive jungler that has had phenomenal performances on early game junglers such as Elise and Kha’zix.

Fnatic are comprised of two veterans in SoaZ and Rekkles who should be able to lead this rising squad to a Rift Rivals victory.

2. Unicorns of Love

Unicorns of Love come into Rift Rivals with a 5-1 record, only dropping a series to Splyce. They are led by star top laner Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás. Rookie of the split Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir will also be a player to watch as he’s come into his own in the EULCS. He has a deep champion pool, willing to pull out unique champion picks such as Warwick and Hecarim. With EU having some of the best junglers in this tournament, NA will need to step up.

Fabian “Exileh” Schubert may have a a rough time. In EU he’s currently dead last in CS difference@10. He’s also near the bottom for many mid lane stats. He will be up against the likes of Bjergsen, Jensen and Ryu. Teams will most likely look to exploit the mid and bot lane. ADC Samuel “Samux” Fernández has looked improved this split, he comes in facing the likes of Arrow, Doublelift and Sneaky. UoL have strong shot calling and have shown consistency to play well together. In just about every matchup against TSM they’ve handily defeated them. We’ll see if that changes this time around.

3. Cloud 9

Photo via Riot Games

Cloud 9 come in off a solid win over TSM, but a very deflating loss at the hands of CLG. Had they beaten CLG they may have been in a higher position. Cloud 9 are led by carries Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi. Jensen has been having the best split of his career in the NALCS. He sits near the top in most statistical categories among NA mids.

In NA Cloud 9 has had some of the same issues from last split. Their early game play making still lacks a bit, but their laning phase is still pretty solid. They have a versatile roster with their interchangeable top laners of Jeon “Ray” Ji-won and Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong. Ray has slowly been taking the starting role from Impact showing the ability to be a carry top laner for the team.

In the jungle rookie Juan “Contractz” Garcia has still shown some inconsistencies, but has turned it on as of late. He’ll be facing many good junglers from EU, so he’ll need to step it up if Cloud 9 have a chance. It will be his first international competition so he’ll look to prove himself. Cloud 9’s rivalry with Fnatic will be ignited once again as they get a chance to face off in this tournament. Cloud 9 took the battle of the Atlantic, but Fnatic has gotten the best of them at Worlds.

4. Team SoloMid

TSM are the reigning North American champions and had the chance to eliminate G2 from MSI. They failed to do so and were eliminated themselves. They get another shot in the EU rivalry this time with ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Doublelift vs. Rekkless and Zven will be matchups to watch here at Rift Rivals. Rekkless isn’t really known for his aggressive laning phase so we’ll need to see how he does against one of NA’s best.

Many thought TSM would retake the NA throne easily with the addition of Doublelift back onto the roster. That hasn’t been the case as TSM sit in 2nd place with a 7-3 record. Jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen has looked phenomenal on Lee Sin. Anything outside of Lee, he has looked meh at best. He’ll be a huge crutch for TSM if he has a repeat of his performances at MSI.

TSM have been known to choke at international events. We’ll need to see if Rift Rivals will be another one added to that list.

5. G2

Photo via Riot Games

After a great run at MSI where they reached the finals before losing to SKT, G2 was expected to come back and destroy the EULCS scene. That hasn’t been the case as G2 seem to have taken a step back in terms of performance. They may be using the regular season to try out new things, but their old strategy of playing to the late game has not worked well for them. They currently sit at 3-3, third in their conference.

Their early game play making is lacking. While they can still try to play around star ADC Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen, teams will look to punish them for their lack of early game play making. Support Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez has been a weak link this split getting caught out uncharacteristically. He will need to step it up or he’ll be punished by some of the better supports at the tournament.

6. Phoenix1

Phoenix1 will be heavy underdogs as the only team coming to rift rivals with a negative W-L. They currently sit in 8th place with a 3-7 record. They struggled heavily out the gates, but after bringing in new jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung and veteran support Alex “Xpecial” Chu the team has looked much more competitive.

MikeYeung brings in a signature Nidalee pick that teams will need to watch out for. Former MVP ADC No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon has not shown the same prowess he did last split. He’s currently last in CS differential@10 and near the bottom in other statistics.

The team has looked improved in recent weeks. Maybe Rift Rivals can be a spring board for turning their season around. Ryu, Arrow and Xpecial are the steady veterans who have played in international competition before. Ryu in particular should know his opponents very well. Phoenix1 could definitely take a game or two under the right circumstances.

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Cover photo by Rift Herald

C9’s top lane: Looking into the stats for both Ray and Impact

Many were confused when Cloud 9 announced they’d be adding a sixth man to the roster. With starting top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong coming off one of his best performances in playoffs/worlds, many didn’t see the need for a top lane sub. Jeon “Ray” Ji-won had come off an impressive rookie split with Apex where he showed flashes of potential stardom. Cloud 9 took a chance on Ray in hopes that he could add a unique playstyle to their talented roster.

With so much top talent being imported this split, things were going to be more competitive than ever. Legendary names like Flame, Ssumday and Looper would be added to the North America top lane talent. Impact and Ray would need to keep up for Cloud 9 to have any hopes of duplicating their success from previous splits.

Early days of Ray

Photo by Riot Games

In Ray’s first match with C9 he had the tall task of facing one of the best top laners in the world in Dignitas’ Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho. In a matchup of tanks Ray did well in game 1 to go even with Ssumday. The second match, he fell behind 50 CS and Cloud 9 lost. Impact was subbed in for game three in which Cloud 9 would take the series.

It started to become evident exactly when Cloud 9 would want to play Ray. Whenever the team wanted to run a carry top laner, Ray was their guy. When the team needed a tank, Impact would start. Ray’s first few games for Cloud 9 were hard to watch at times. There were times where he’d flash his brilliant mechanics and earn a solo kill. There were also times when he’d get overaggressive and die to a gank.

Watching Impact and Ray play for the team was almost night/day. Impact’s communication with the team seemed to be much more fluid. Impact had the advantage of playing a full split with the team so he knows how to communicate properly and efficiently. Ray’s English still hadn’t reached a manageable level yet, but in time you could definitely see him overtaking Impact in the near future.

Early game struggles

In all honesty, neither Impact nor Ray have looked consistently great this split. They seem to always be left on an island to fend for themselves. Either dying to ganks or going even at best. Ray will get the occasional solo kill, but it usually doesn’t amount to much. With Ssumday and Flame finally looking like the superstars they were meant to be, Impact and Ray seem to be struggling to keep up.

Looking at the stats for summer, Impact and Ray sit in the middle of the pack in KDA and both hold the last place spots for CSdiff@10, with -5.4 for Impact and -11 for Ray. Those numbers aren’t too far off from their spring stats either. Often times they’ll die to ganks in the early game due to lack of vision and over aggression.

In the mid to late, they still do a decent job of team fighting and drawing pressure. Impact and Ray are near the top when it comes to damage percentage and damage per minute among top laners. Cloud 9 as a team still struggles at times to make plays in the early game. Due to this, top lane seems to be the lane that usually takes the hit in the early game.

Looking towards Worlds

With every teams’ goal set at qualifying for Worlds, Cloud 9’s top lane duo will need to be in top form if they want to attend Worlds for another season. With teams finally hitting their strides, Cloud 9 seems to have taken a step back. Ray and Impact in particular will need to step things up if C9 will have any chance at being back at Worlds. Rift Rivals will be a huge measuring stick in terms of seeing where they stand. EU’s top teams look a little better at the moment, but nobody really knows until they face off on the rift.

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Cover photo by Riot Games

 

 

 

The evolution of coaching in LCS

Around two years ago head coaches became a necessity for teams in the LCS. In the younger years of professional League of Legends most teams didn’t have the money to support having a head coach. Due to how young the professional scene still was, there wasn’t much availability for people looking to coach. Even if there was a coach, he was mostly just an analyst that helped bounce ideas off the players.

The scene has evolved, making a coach a necessity now. Not just an in-house analyst either. A coach must be able to lead these young players in their professional career. They must be able to give out criticism properly, while also demanding the respect of the players.

Over the past years we’ve seen what having a good coach can do for a team. We’ve also seen the other side of things when a coach can have a negative impact on a team.

Early LCS

When professional LoL started there wasn’t much structure among teams. For the most part you had five players living together with maybe a team manager that helped with scheduling and making sure they were taken care of. Coaching hadn’t really become a necessity yet until Korea began their reign over all the other regions. The West seemed way behind and needed help to catch up.

In the early days of LCS not many coaches had come about yet. Most of the coaches we see today are former players themselves. Teams maybe had an analyst at best, but nothing like a head coach that would need to solve internal issues along with having game knowledge.

Korean coaching

Photo via Riot Games

It’s no secret that Korea has taken over as the best region in terms of competing in professional League of Legends. Korea has taken home the title for four straight years now. SKT head coach Kim “kkOma” Jung-gyun has been apart of every SKT championship and is heralded as the best coach in professional LoL.

North America followed suit hiring several Korean coaches over the past few splits. Most notably Cloud 9’s Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu and Immortals Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo have found much success with their teams after coming over.

 

Before Reapered became coach, Cloud 9 seemed lost without former captain/shotcaller Hai “Hai” Lam on the roster. Immortals were in the same boat before SSONG joined the team this summer. With SSONG coaching, Immortals has jumped from 7th place to 1st place taking wins off many of the top teams from last split. Their macro play has also improved immensely from last split. 

Korean coaches seem to know how to get the most out of their players. They also demand more as an authoritative figure, while also knowing how to deal with internal issues. SSONG and Reapered are accredited with much of their teams’ success since they’ve been brought on.

Western Players’ Mindsets

One could argue that coaching players in the West is much different than their eastern counterparts, or at least in Korea. In Korea, kids are brought up respecting their elders, while in the West kids are brought up more loose. Korean players have also stated that after coming to NA they think it’s much more relaxed compared to training in Korea.

The West seems to lack many good coaches. With some veterans retiring throughout the years, some have stepped up to become decent coaches such as Dignitas’ Cop and Saintvicious. We’ve also seen different personalities, such as Scarra and Lemonnation, not have much success as a coach. CLG’s head coach, Zikz, has received much praise for his coaching. TSM’s anlayst, Parth, has also been around the scene for awhile now.

We’ve also seen in EU with Origen a few splits back not really feeling the need for a coach. It feels that many Western players didn’t see the need for a coach a few seasons ago. That mindset has changed a bit, but some players are still reluctant on just how effective a coach can really be.

The present

Coaches today can’t just be analysts. They must be able to have an authoritative role over their players while also being able to deal with internal issues amongst the teams. Coaches have to know how to effectively get the most out of each practice and also know how to do pick/bans. Coaches have slowly developed into becoming vital in a team’s success.

Cover photo by Riot Esports 

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