Best available free agents from North America

With the offseason fully underway, many of the newer LCS teams will be looking to fill their rosters. While many will look towards imports to fill some slots, homegrown free agents will be very important in being contenders. With certain teams not making the cut for LCS franchising, there will definitely be some big names to choose from.

In this piece we’ll be taking a look at the best North American free agents available.

Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent (Support)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Hakuho is the former support of team EnVyus. EnVyus had their moments as a team but were never quite able to reach top-tier status. Hakuho was quietly one of the more underrated supports in the league. It’s his time to finally be surrounded by good teammates to show what he’s really capable of.

When he was paired with veteran ADC, Apollo “Apollo” Price, many analysts noted the improvement to Apollo’s play. Hakuho was substantial to his improvement as they were one of the better bot lane duos in the NALCS. On a team with a lower win rate Hakuho was able to maintain the 3rd highest KDA among supports which is rather impressive.

With Team EnVyus missing out on the NALCS, Hakuho will be a valuable support on the market. If surrounded by better talent, Hakuho can surely make a name for himself.

Jake “Xmithie” Puchero (jungler)

Xmithie was a standout player for Immortals in helping them qualify for their first ever World Championship. With Immortals rumored to be out of the NALCS, Xmithie brings loads of experience with three World Championship appearances.

Many people thought his career was on a decline after a struggling split with CLG. On Immortals he showed just how effective he could be if surrounded by the right teammates with smart pathing and aggression, helping turn Immortals from a seventh-place team to an LCS finals one.

Xmithie will be seen as a strong veteran presence on the market after a great Spring Split.

Adrian “Adrian” Ma and Johnny “Altec” Ru (Support and ADC)

Adrian and Altec both sat out for most of the Summer Split before becoming starters on Team Dignitas at the halfway point in the split. For a time it looked like the move was successful as Dignitas began to go on a tear through the NALCS.

Altec and Adrian looked to be one of the better bot lane duos shortly after coming into Dignitas. In a hyper carry ADC meta, Altec was 2nd in the league in DMG% for summer with 27.5%.

Adrian has long been known for his great play on healing/shielding supports such as Janna and Soraka. His attitude has been noted to be an issue from his previous teams such as Phoenix1 and Team Impulse.

It will be interesting to see if this duo attempts to stay together. They have the benefit of having a built-up synergy already and there’s no language barrier between them compared to importing.

Alex “Xpecial” Chu and William “Meteos” Hartman

Photo by: Riot Esports

Xpecial and Meteos are some big-time veterans that may or may not be returning. The money could be too good for them to pass up though and one could see them both getting some decent offers to stay in the scene.

Xpecial is more likely, as Meteos has a decent following for streaming on Twitch. Meteos has also noted his loyalty to Cloud9. It’s no doubt that both these players still have the talent to play at a competitive level. It didn’t take long for Meteos to get back in the groove of professional play that helped Phoenix1 to a third-place finish.

Xpecial will always be a long time favorite among the scenes as a smart aggressive support. Although he hasn’t seen too much success since his days with TSM and Team Liquid, Xpecial does have a veteran experience and game knowledge to still warrant being on a starting roster.

If we do see them on rosters next split, it will be interesting to see if they are still able to compete at a high level.


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Free agent moves to watch for in North America

With Season 7 ending, it’s no secret that Korea is still the most dominant region. Looking towards North America, they once again seemed like the weakest region there. Only one team made it to quarterfinals, as the week two NA curse took hold again. Team SoloMid came in as the top team from North America with a much easier group, as they didn’t have a Korean team. They still managed to not make it out and fail once again.

With franchising coming to North America next year, we can expect a lot of money being invested among the teams that make it. This may see North America become the most competitive it’s ever been. In just a few weeks, we’ve heard rumors of some big names coming to North America. It will be a long off season so expect more big news to keep coming as we go on.

With the off season in full swing here are some of my big free agent moves to look out for:

TSM Jungler

Photo by: Riot Esports

Team SoloMid once again failed to make it out of groups. Even with all the domestic success the team has had, internationally it hasn’t been working. The biggest scapegoat from this year’s worlds has to be jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen. Svenskeren seemed out matched at Worlds as he failed to make any plays in the early game. He was the face of much of TSM’s downfalls as a team lacking early game play making.

It’s questionable at this point whether it’s poor individual play of Svenskeren or a team play style for their jungler? Svenskeren is well known as being an aggressive early play making jungler. This style was punished early in the Spring split where he was often caught out going for cheeky invades.

Rumors swirled on reddit earlier this week that TSM might be looking to import LMS Flash Wolves’ star jungler Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan. While these rumors may be light, it’s definitely a possibility after how the team has looked at Worlds for the past two seasons. Phoenix1’s star rookie Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung could also be available with rumors that Phoenix1 will not be returning to the NA LCS. MikeYeung has been duoing with mid laner Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, but it could just be for fun. MikeYeung showed flashes of stardom as he was a huge play maker on aggressive junglers while he was with Phoenix1. His Nidalee and Lee Sin plays made highlight reels during their run at Rift Rivals.

The possibility of TSM keeping Svenskeren and adding a sixth man jungler is also a possibility. SKT has shown the success of having two junglers so TSM could give it a try as well.

Disbanding Teams

Photo by: Riot Esports

With rumors already swirling about who is in/out of the NA LCS, there could be some good rosters disbanding. Teams rumored to be out are Phoenix1, Envyus, Dignitas and Immortals. Each of these teams have some big names to choose from.

In the top lane from Dignitas and Immortals you have two huge Korean stars in Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong. Each of them has had success in Korea before coming to North America this past year. Ssumday has been known to be a mechanical God, but Dignitas had some synergy issues when it came down to performing well. Flame showed success with Immortals helping them finish second domestically before being eliminated in the group stages at Worlds. It will be interesting to see if these two decide to stay in NA or head back to Korea.

Junglers in this group are also considered pretty strong. Jake “Xmithie” Puchero quietly became the best jungler in North America after transferring to Immortals. His supportive playstyle was vital in their success during Summer Split. MikeYeung will be pursued following a good rookie split on a struggling Phoenix1 team. Nam “lira” Tae-yoo was another jungler who was a great player on a bad team. He was often praised by other players as being one of the best in the league.

One of the more underrated players out of these teams might be EnVyus support Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent. Hakuho has quietly been one of the better supports in North America. He was a major reason for the improvement of ADC Apollo “Apollo” Price. He holds a lot of value as a North American player who wouldn’t take up an import slot.

Cloud 9 Top Lane

While Cloud 9’s top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong had a great split overall after taking over full time as the starter, there were still rumors that he may be looking to retire. His contract does expire this year which was a main reason why Cloud 9 took on Jeon “Ray” Ji-won. Impact had a decent showing at Worlds so maybe that will change his mind, but it’s definitely something to keep our eyes on.

With Dignitas and Immortals not making it in, Ssumday and Flame become available. Ssumday has been a mechanical God since he came over, but hasn’t really had the right team to back him up. Flame showed success on Immortals, but language barrier might be an issue with both of them. Cloud 9 has experience working around that with coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu.

While it’s still likely Impact makes his way back to Cloud 9, it might be interesting to see if they keep Ray around or look for another sub top laner to eventually take over.

New Rookies?

We got the chance to see some new rookies in the challenger scene last year that could be making their way onto the LCS stage. One big name that has been a solo queue star for awhile and showed some promise last year was Eric “Licorice” Ritchie on EUnited. Licorice mechanically seems pretty sound, but just needs more experience on the big stage against better competition. With academy teams becoming more relevant with franchising, he might be a split away from becoming an LCS starter.

Another rookie that we could see soon is ADC Matthew “Deftly” Chen. Deftly has shown the ability to be a great ADC at times, but has also had some inconsistencies. A nice comparison would be Cody Sun last year. Deftly will most likely get picked up for an academy team for Spring in hopes of gaining enough experience to contend for a starting position in Summer.

Jungler Raymond “Wiggily” Griffin is a challenger player who benefited from Riot’s scouting grounds. He played in the challenger scene on Tempo Storm, who looked good for the majority of the regular season. Wiggily is a jungler on the rise and could see his way into a young team looking for NA talent.

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Dethroning of a dynasty: Samsung Galaxy shocks SKT

The 2017 World Championship concluded yesterday in a way nobody was expecting. A 3-0 collapse of three time World Champions, SK Telecom T1. It was a rematch of last year’s World final and Samsung took their revenge against SKT sweeping the former champions. SKT were looking to cement their dynasty by adding a three peat World Championship to their legacy. Samsung Galaxy showed up big and proved that they were the best team in the World this year.

While it wasn’t necessarily an upset, fans have come to know SKT as the powerhouse team in professional League of Legends. Three World Championships in the last four seasons speaks to the dominance of the dynasty that they’ve built. Mid laner Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok has become world renown as the best professional LoL player. He did not disappoint this Worlds, but it just wasn’t enough to overtake Samsung.

Ruler and cuvee play out of their minds

While SKT tried to play thru Faker, Samsung played through their side lanes. Samsung Galaxy ADC Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk stepped up huge for his team this Worlds. Last year was his Worlds debut where he showed glimpses of what was to come. In the end, he fell short of his goal and made some costly mistakes that led to Samsung losing to SKT 3-2 in the finals last year. This year was different. Ruler came out and showed why he is one of the best ADC’s in the World, dominating the game and earning himself the Finals MVP.

Over the three games Ruler had some phenomenal performances on Xayah and Varus. He also made the game ending play off a bold flash Varus ultimate that led to the team catching out Faker and sealing the championship for Samsung Galaxy.

Top laner Lee “CuVee” Seong-jin had himself quite the series as well. It was a close race between him and Ruler for MVP. In game one, Samsung baited SKT top laner Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo into taking Gnar in preparation for unleashing Cuvee’s Kennen. The Kennen pick was amazing as he dominated the lane and then continued to do so, forcing Huni to stay with the threat of the split push. His AD Kennen was such a unique pick and so powerful that it allowed Samsung to steamroll through game one.

In game two he was countered by Huni’s Yasuo as he picked Gnar. He was able to keep up in lane despite the bad match-up and made his presence known with his excellent TP plays. It was his team fighting prowess that helped Samsung come back from major deficits in games two and three.

Bang and Peanut Fall Short

It was no secret who SKT’s scapegoat would become for the series. It was the uncharacteristic misplays of ADC Bae “Bang” Jun-sik that allowed Samsung back into the matches in which SKT grew big leads. SKT were ahead both games after a much more proactive early game as opposed to game one. Looking to snowball even more, Bang flashed into dragon pit to ult Jarvan with his Varus. This left him vulnerable with no followup as Samsung were able to easily eliminate him before moving on to the rest of the team.

Game three looked to be a redemption game for him as he seemed to be doing well for the first half. When it came to the mid-late game, SKT attempted to catch out Ruler without his flash, but it was Bang’s Tristana ult that ended up saving Ruler and allowing him to stay in the team fights to dish out damage. This was a championship costing mistake as Samsung were able to gain Baron control off of it and take control of the game.

For jungler Han “Peanut” Wang-ho many expected his addition to SKT to be the next chapter of a star studded championship roster. As the meta shifted, SKT relied more on Peanut to be less of a carry and more of a control jungler. Not a style we had seen him do well on in the past. Peanut seemed out matched by Samsung’s Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong. Peanut was benched in game three and despite SKT having a good early game due to some early ganks from Blank, they still fell short.

A perfect storybook ending for ambition

Photo By: Riot Esports

Samsung jungler, Ambition, is a long time name in League of Legends. Known as one of the best mid laners in the world when he came onto the scene, many thought he was washed up when he joined Samsung long ago as a jungler. Samsung was nowhere near a Worlds caliber team at the time and had lower expectations. As the season grew on and the roster changed a few times, they slowly grew into the World champions that they are today.

It wasn’t too long ago when Faker made his debut against Ambition solo-killing him on Nidalee against Ambition’s Kha’zix. Having the chance to dethrone the player whose legacy began solo-killing you had to be satisfying for him.

After falling short a year ago, they stuck with the same roster knowing that if they had a second chance they would not allow it to slip from them once again.

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Is an EUxodus heading to North America?

In a recent announcement from G2 the team announced that they would allow their star bot lane of Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez to field offers from other teams. This sparked quite the discussion on if they would leave EU for money in North America. It’s no secret that with franchising heading to North America, just about every team will have money to spend on big name players. Ocelote states in the comments, “North American organizations have contacted us in order to purchase the rights to speak with some of our players. Some of these offers have been unreasonably high, to a point of them making no sense from a business standpoint in order to maintain a sustainable business.” If teams are offering ridiculous amounts just to talk to star players, one can only wonder what the salary offer will be like.

Two years ago we saw what would become known as the “Korean Exodus” as many Koreans bolted to China with promises of huge paydays. With some North American teams preaching communication is key, many might look to EU instead for talent. EU has been known to produce some great talent and their players might be easier to integrate into American culture.

If this “EUxodus” were to happen how would it affect both leagues? Can we expect EU to lose a lot of big names this off-season or will North America still look to the best region in Korea for imports?

Photo by: Riot Esports

Lack of NA Talent Development

In the past few seasons we’ve seen North American teams look to imports to fill the void left by the lack of North American talent. Is there really a lack of talent or are teams just not looking to develop it? Riot has tried to step in last year by implementing “Scouting Grounds” to help gain some recognition for up and coming talent. Franchising will also allow for teams to have “Academy” teams where they can have a competitive challenger squad made up of talent that may not be ready for LCS quite yet.

NA solo queue has become a meme for some as many LCS pros have stated the lack of quality of practice it provides compared to other regions. Pairing that with how much longer queue times are here, you may not be able to get as many solo queue games as you want.

North American teams have not been shy to import where they can. Three of the teams at Worlds this year from North America had a total of six imports among them if you include the Danish star Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg.

Could talent in EU Drop?

When Korea had the massive exodus, it wasn’t long before they just replaced the old talent with new players who developed into their own stars. This was to be expected as Korea has seemed to be the birth place of League of Legends stars and champions. Having claimed the last four World Championships, it’s no secret that they have found the way to develop the best players in the world.

While EU does have talent, it doesn’t compare to the infrastructure and development in Korea. Europe is bound to have less money without franchising coming until 2019 as well. If we do see players leave in chase of the bigger paycheck we could see a massive talent drop in EU for a bit if teams aren’t able to recover.

While some players have mentioned that they would rather represent their home region than take a bigger paycheck, that may not be the case for everyone. Not only does it hurt the competitive side, but also the viewership could dip if some fan favorites bolt.

It’s no guarantee that EUxodus is coming, but the Zven and Mithy announcement definitely hints at some big name imports that could possibly be heading to North America. Franchising definitely opens the pockets for many teams and it will be interesting to see where they look to in finding their talent.

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Despite losing, the West can be hopeful

The Worlds quarterfinals have concluded and we have our final four contenders. People may be disappointed to see that once again it is a Chinese and Korean-only semifinals, but the West did impress more compared to recent years. We had some very close series that could’ve seen some of the teams moving forward; Unlike other years, the West looked competitive. Here are a few reasons why fans can be hopeful that the “gap is closing” between the West and East.

Photo by: Riot Esports

Breaking the meta

It only took a few years, but the West finally showed that they can adapt..at least when they reach quarterfinals. Misfits and Cloud 9 showed unique picks that brought out chaotic games and helped with their near-upsets. This Worlds definitely showed us that you absolutely cannot play to Koreans’ meta game. You must have your own strategies and come up with some unique picks if you want to beat them.

Misfits’ support picks of Blitzcrank and Leona caused absolute chaos in their series against SKT in which they were one game away from being the first team to ever beat SKT in a best of five at Worlds. Cloud 9’s Singed pick was absolutely a brilliant pairing with the cataclysm of Jarvan who we saw Contractz pull out for the first time in the tournament. And Fnatic pulled out some unique ADC picks in Vayne and Sivir that saw them barely lose to RNG.

This is what the West needed to learn – that you need to be able to play to your own style and trust your players on executing.

Exceeding Expectations

Of all the Western teams, Misfits had drawn the hardest matchup, having to face off against defending champions, SKT of Korea. After a game 1 in which they got destroyed, many believed the series was heading to a 3-0 sweep. Misfits showed resiliency to come back with their own support picks to get ahead of SKT 2-1. No one expected anything of them heading into the tournament, but they showed the most improvement throughout.

Cloud 9 nearly became the first North American team to ever reach the semifinals of Worlds. Many expected it to be close, but their brilliant drafting was puzzling WE early. Had they not thrown game 1, they may have been on track to sweep the Chinese team after dominating the early part of the first three games. They had every chance to make it to semifinals, but just barely fell short.

Fnatic faced almost impossible odds after a disastrous week 1 which saw them 0-3 and last place. With the odds stacked against them, they fought their way to a three-way tie-breaker to earn second place out of their group. Against RNG they showed glimpses of just how talented they are. It was a slight lack of experience and shot calling that ended up being their downfall. Despite this, they showed grit and determination in making a very strong comeback from week 1.

What’s Next?

Photo by: Riot Esports

With North America heading to franchising, it will be interesting to see if the influx of money helps to actually improve the talent of the region. More money means more room to import and experiment with rosters, and every team will be looking to be competitive.

Franchising will also open up more talent for teams to have “Academy” teams in the Challenger scene. This will mean more opportunity for homegrown talent to make it into the pro scene if they wish to do so. This will hopefully stop the flood of importing and bring more of a focus to growing the talent in the states and making the region stronger overall.

For EU, rumors are still alive that they may be splitting the region into four groups. Most are not too happy about this as talent is already quite scarce across the region. With franchising heading to NA, we could see more talented European players crossing over for the big money investors.

After the success at this year’s Worlds, one has to wonder if Riot should focus on growing the region more. EU has shown that they can be a top performing region in the World. They earned a lot of new fans with how they performed this year, so hopefully Riot can look to helping them improve even more and improving the West overall.


Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Thomas!

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Can Cloud 9 carry NA to semi-finals?

Quarterfinals start this weekend. Week two proved to be the same old story for North America. After a strong week one performance from all the North American teams, Cloud 9 was the lone survivor to make it out. Cloud 9 will have immense pressure as they are the only North American team left in the tournament.

China on the other hand impressed many in front of their hometown fans as both WE and RNG took first in their respective groups. WE are riding high as they finished the group stage 5-1 looking very strong.

How C9 Wins

Cloud 9 wins if Contractz can keep Condi from taking over the map. We saw in WE’s previous games that they know how to snowball their leads. Not only that, but they also know how to play from behind. Jensen will be vital in his team’s success as always. Cloud 9 will most likely look to camp the mid lane as they always do and try to snowball off Jensen’s lead.

Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi and Andy “Smoothie” Ta will need to hold their own in the bot lane as well. Against EDG and SKT their laning phase didn’t look the best. They will need to be at their best this round. Last year against Samsung Galaxy, they were heavily exploited. They’ll be looking to redeem themselves this time around.

Matchup to Watch: Contractz vs Condi (jungle)

Photo by: Riot Games

WE and Cloud 9 have some of the more talented junglers in the tournament: Juan “Contractz” Garci and Xiang “Condi” Ren-Jie. Condi has been heralded as the best jungler by some from the group stage. Contractz came on with a strong showing in week one showing prowess on carry junglers such as Ezreal and Graves.

Junglers have played a large part of each of these teams’ strategies. Cloud 9 looks to setup mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, so Contractz will often look for multiple ganks there to get him snowballing.

Condi has shown the ability to exert his pressure in many areas of the map. Contractz will need to track him well if Cloud 9 stand a chance against these hometown heroes.

Adjustments

With this matchup being the last of all the quarterfinals matches, they’ll have the chance to see how the meta shifts for the tournament. Near the end of week two we saw Caitlyn as a huge counter to much of the farm fest bot lanes that started out. She can easily bully people in lane and go for the early tower with her range. It will be interesting to see how much teams decide to prioritize her moving forward. Cloud 9 picked up Caitlyn in their final match against AHQ in which they dominated.

With how well top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong has been playing, I’d like to see him be put on a carry champion such as Rumble or even Trundle. We have yet to see Contractz pull out a Jarvan pick, which has been quite impactful. It raises the question of if he’s able to play it or just doesn’t want to.

Prediction

While Cloud 9 may be slight underdogs here, I think they can pull off a close 3-2 upset of this Chinese powerhouse and take North America to semi-finals.

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Worlds under-performing five after Week One

Week One of Worlds has concluded and we’re slowly seeing where the teams stand amongst eachother in terms of competition. Korea is still dominating for the most part. Meanwhile, North America is off to another strong Week One of Worlds. Europe has an unlikely hero in Misfits, while Fnatic is slowly bleeding out, and the hometown of China has looked really good aside from EDG struggling.

Our own Thomas Baker gave his spin on his “OP 5” from the first week, and I’ll be looking at the under-performing five. Those who made this list primarily had decent expectations coming in to do really well but have struggled. They’ll need to step up huge in Week Two for their teams to have any chance of making it to the bracket stage of Worlds. Let’s take a look:

Image by: Riot Esports

TOP: Paul “sOAZ” Boyer (Fnatic)

Soaz is one of the more veteran players attending Worlds this year. He’s always been a rock steady performer for his team, especially when it comes to Worlds. The mighty have fallen as Soaz has not looked good at all in his first three games this year. The team as a whole seems to have had some longing issues that have been taken to Twitter as of late.

In three games, Soaz has 2 kills, 16 deaths and 6 assists. His KDA of 0.5 is the second lowest among top laners. The Fnatic strategy usually revolved around getting bot and top ahead while leaving mid to play safe, but at Worlds top lane has been feeling the “Dyrus” treatment. It’s a mix of poor play and lack of assistance as Soaz was heavily punished in their first match against Gigabyte Marines. The lane swap prevent Soaz from getting a single cs until 5 minutes into the game.

In the next two games, Soaz would get counterpicked against Immortals and Longzhu Gaming. Cho’gath into Jayce is a really rough lane, but even mid-late Soaz’s impact was not felt. In the game against Longzhu he was put on Mao’kai against a Nasus who could freely farm with no real threat from Mao’kai.

Heading into Week Two, Fnatic is 0-3 in their group and will need to go undefeated to have a real chance of getting out. Soaz will need to step up and show why he used to be one of the most dangerous top laners in Europe.

Jungle: Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan (Flashwolves)

Image by: Riot Esports

Karsa has been a staple for Flash Wolves in previous seasons. His aggressiveness paired with a strong mid lane presence has been the vocal point of Flash Wolves’ success. While Karsa is still a very smart and aggressive jungler, his mid-late game play has cost his team. Time and time again he’s been getting caught out during crucial moments. It was his deaths against TSM that stalled the game out longer. He also had a crucial death against Misfits that basically lead to them taking Baron control. Karsa also got caught face checking mid against WE that once again lead to a baron take.

Not many junglers were hyped up this year when the meta shifted to more tank junglers, but Karsa was being hyped as one of the better junglers entering the tournament. His first blood percentage is still highest among junglers, but his 1.3 KDA is lowest among all junglers in the tournament.

It’s interesting to see Karsa in a jungle meta where it’s more of a supportive role. He’s still making plays early, but translating it to victories has been a struggle for him. He can’t keep getting caught out during crucial moments if Flash Wolves has any shot of making it out.

Mid: Lee “Scout” Ye-chan EDG (Edward Gaming)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Scout came in touted as one of the better mid laners out of China. A former sub of SKT, Scout has been known for his aggressive laning and playstyle. This style was punished for the most part. Against Cloud 9, it was the Shen pick that negated much of his aggressiveness and punished him for overstepping on a trade with Jensen in the mid lane.

For whatever reason, EDG has been content to let Scout play Lucian in all three games. While Lucian does have his strong points in the early-mid, his weaknesses have shown in the late as EDG has failed to close out games with it.

With a big lead against AHQ early, EDG gave up some crucial team fights that allowed AHQ to stall. With each team fully built, the side of AHQ was free to stack armor as EDG had no AP threat due to the Lucian being mid. Scout would eventually get caught out around mid where AHQ would than win the game.

It’ll be interesting to see if EDG plays something other than Lucian going forward. It’s had the early game presence at times, but it just hasn’t worked in getting the win. Scout in particular will need to play phenomenal against the likes of Faker and Jensen for EDG to turn their group around.

ADC: Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk (Samsung Galaxy)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Ruler came to Worlds after finishing rank one of the Korean solo que ladder. He was being preached as one of the best ADC’s of the tournament. He was looking to improve from last years performance where some minor mistakes might have cost his team a World championship.

The first week of the tournament was not a good start for Ruler or Samsung Galaxy as a whole. They were dominant against Europe’s G2, but were dominated by China’s Royal Never Give up, and had a surprisingly close match against Turkish team, 1907 Fehnerbace. It’s hard to stand out as an ADC on a struggling team, but outside of laning phase Ruler hasn’t looked impressive.

He currently has one of the lowest KDA’s among ADC’s at 2.4 and has the 2nd lowest damage per minute numbers. In a meta where teamfighting and bot lane is extremely important, Ruler’s impact hasn’t been felt. In their match against RNG, the bot lane of SSG seemed outmatched by the hometown heroes.

Ruler will need to step up to have a bigger impact in Week Two. Samsung had a somewhat similar slow Week One last year, so I’ll be interested to see how they step up.

Support: Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie (Flash Wolves)

Photo by: Riot Esports

SwordArt received much criticism after being named as a top 20 player at Worlds by some people. SwordArt hasn’t done much to backup these statements as he hasn’t looked incredible by any means.

SwordArt may be suffering the same fate as Karsa; the meta has shifted into a spot where he doesn’t look comfortable. His best plays have been on engage play making supports such as Alistar, Tahm Kench and Thresh. His Taric is the only champion that allows him to still engage for his team.

SwordArt and Flashwolves have a tall task as they have dropped to 0-3 in a group where teams aren’t the strongest. If there was one team I think that could still make it out despite being 0-3, it would be Flash Wolves. They have showed prowess and grit to be able to compete with the teams in their group. It’s the small macro decisions and mistakes that have cost them. SwordArt will need to shotcall a lot better, but there is a chance even if it may be slim.


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Worlds matchups to look out for

The 2017 League of Legends World Championships hype will continue this weekend with the group stages beginning. The play-in stage has concluded and we now have the four completed groups. The draw was just about as even as possible. Each group has top-tier players from their region looking to prove themselves on the Worlds stage. Let’s take a look:

Group A: MID laners

Photo by: Riot Esports

Who could forget Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen’s tweet at last years World Championship when Cloud 9 got drawn into SKT’s group? Many will remember how last years matchup went. SKT and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok dismantled Cloud 9 and dominated them in the two games they faced each other during the group stage. It felt like Jensen never stood a chance as SKT lived in the mid lane setting him farther behind. He finished with two kills and eight deaths in the two games they faced off.

Jensen gets his shot at redemption this year. He’ll be looking to show that he’s grown a lot from last year as he showed his best year in the NA LCS so far. Faker will be looking to show Jensen that he’s still the best player in the World.

From China’s EDG you have Lee “Scout” Ye-chan, who is definitely no slouch. Scout originated as a sub for SKT in 2015 before coming to China to become one of the region’s best mid laners. Scout has shown prowess on very aggressive picks and will need a good performance against the other mid laners in this group.

From the LMS, we have AHQ’s Wong “Chawy” Xing Lei and fan favorite Liu “Westdoor” Shu-Wei. Westdoor has been a longtime player of AHQ, but mechanically had many flaws during his lane phase that would set AHQ behind. Chawy hopes that he can overtake Westdoor as the priority mid for AHQ. We didn’t get to see too much of him at last years Worlds so his first game will be huge.

Group B: Top Laners

Photo By: Riot Esports

Group B will have some of the most fun and legendary top laners to date. From North America’s Immortals you have the original legend from Korea in Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong. After years of jumping from China and Korea, he finally made his way back to the World Stage with this Immortals team.

For EU’s Fnatic you have none other than Paul “sOAZ” Boyer who has become a staple for big performances and escapes on the Worlds stage. There’s just something about Worlds that gives him a “buff” that makes him play like a God no matter how he performed during the regular season.

From Longzhu Gaming you have the new up and coming top lane God in Kim “Khan” Dong-ha. Khan has become famous for his legendary Jayce that draws bans in every game. If one team leaves it up against them, he’s bound to make them regret it.

Gigabyte Marines’ Minh Nhut “Archie” Tran will have his work cut out for him. He played support for the team at MSI before switching to the top lane for the Summer. If Gigabyte Marines stand any chance he’ll need to hold his own against these big names in the top lane.

Group C: ADC’s

Photo by: Riot Esports

In Group C we look to the opposite side of the map from Group B. We have some legendary bot lane talents from each team. In Royal Never Give Up, long time ADC Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao has shown up huge in his past World Championships. He’s been to two World Finals and broke the heart of many NA fans when his phenomenal Ezreal play helped eliminate TSM from Group D last year. Similar to Soaz, Uzi always shows up during Worlds to make huge plays for his team.

From EU, we have G2’s Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen who has been rock solid, taking the crown of best ADC in Europe. G2 likes to play around Zven giving him hyper carries such as Kog’maw and Tristana. He didn’t have the best Worlds performance last year so this will be his chance to show he’s still one of the best in the world.

From Korea, we have Samsung Galaxy’s Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk. Ruler left to China after achieving rank one on the solo queue ladder in Korea. He comes in as one of the best ADC’s in Korea, and had a great showing at last year’s Worlds. His positioning in the finals against eventual champion SKT contributed to their downfall, so he’ll be looking to prove himself once again.

From 1907 Fehnerbace we have Ege “padden” Acar Koparal who got one of the few pentakills during the play-in stage. Padden’s Tristana and Kog’maw paid huge dividends for the team upsetting their way through the play-in stage. Against tougher competition this round, we’ll need to see if he can build up from the play-in stages.

Group D: Mid-Jungle DUos

Photo by: Riot Esports

Lastly, Group D have some of the best mid-jungle duos of the tournament. For North America, you have fan favorite TSM’s Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen. Bjergsen will be looking to add to his legacy as best Western player, while Svenskeren will look to build off his great Worlds performance last year. Bjergsen has yet to go far in a World championship, which hinders his legacy. Group D is the easiest group they’ve gotten by far so they’ll need to prove that they can get first.

From LMS’ Flash Wolves we have the iconic Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang and Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan. Maple has fallen off from his previous form which we’ve been used to seeing. Karsa has had to carry much of the load for the team going forward. Him and Svenskeren have very similar aggressive jungle styles that will be interesting to see when they face off.

EU first timers will sport none other than Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian. Maxlore came into Summer being seen as a better fit stylistically for the team. He often looks to camp around the mid lane to get PoE ahead and snowball.

Hometown heroes, WE have stars  Su “Xiye” Han-Wei and Xiang “Condi” Ren-Jie. Xiye and Condi showed good performances during the play-in stage on a variety of champions. Condi always seemed in control despite WE falling behind in the early game. These teams won’t be as forgiving if they fall behind so they’ll need to step up their game.

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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Is Riot taking a major step back going to best of ones?

In recent news, Riot Games has announced that the LCS will be reverting back to best of ones for the regular season. This comes as a shock to many as best of threes seemed to have been improving the regions as a whole.

With the NA LCS heading to franchising next year, viewership will be the main focal point for sponsors and organizations. Best of ones provide more air time for every team without the threat of dual casts. Viewership also favors best of ones for the casual viewer who may not want to spend 3-5 hours watching an entire best of three.

Photo by: Riot Esports

Why they went to best of three to begin with

The major argument for best of threes was that it felt like winning a series made a much more clear cut winner and added variety. It allowed teams to have “cheese” picks they could pull out the first game for an upset, but also required them to need to know how to close it out. Best of threes has also opened the door for six man rosters as many teams looked at subbing players in with different play styles that could change a series.

Best of threes also allowed for more games to be played in general. More practice on stage allowed teams way more games than in best of ones. North America in particular felt lacking as they had not had great results in international competition. In Korea’s LCK they had already been doing best of threes which seemed to make the region much more competitive. There’s more chances to try different strategies on stage, along with being able to try new rosters.

Why they’re reverting back to best of ones

Riot has stated that best of ones provides the most viewership for the average LCS fan. When surveyed, most fans felt like best of threes was too many games to digest and would rather play than watch an entire best of three. With franchising coming soon, viewership will need to stay high for it to succeed for everyone. Not everyone wants to tune in for a 3-5 hour series. Best of ones allows all teams even viewership without the threat of a rivalry being dual streamed at the same time.

Scheduling wise, best of ones are easier to plan/schedule around for fans and Riot alike. Best of three series has too much variability in the time frames that games could occur.

Viewership vs. Competitive quality

The major concern here is how much viewership matters over competition. Best of threes gave teams much for variability for strategies and such, but might be too long for the casual viewer. For the average LCS fan it will be easier to see your favorite team play and than go back to playing yourself. A single stream evens it out for the lower teams to have more people watching their games. Will we get less cheese from the higher ranked teams and more from the lower placed now? Does the quality of play drop off with this change?

When best of threes were first being talked about, many fans/pros felt it was needed to help catch up with the likes of Korea. More games would mean more chances to improve as a team, right? That wasn’t necessarily the case as Korea still dominated Worlds the past two years.

It will be interesting to see how going back to best of ones changes the NA LCS. Viewership may improve, but does the quality of game play fall off?

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Standout players from the Play-in Group Stages

With the first ever “play-in” stage of Worlds concluded, we had the chance to see some exciting matches. We had upsets, stomps and everything in between this past weekend. It’s crazy to see how far some of the Wildcard regions have come. The play-in stage has added some needed experience for the lesser known regions while adding the chance for some exciting upsets as well.

The play-in stage gave some star players from the Wildcard regions a chance to show how good they really are on the international stage. Some players stepped up to the challenge, while others disappointed. Let’s take a look at some of the standouts from this weekend’s play-in stage:

Matías “WhiteLotus” Musso (Lyon gaming adc)

Whitelotus has been a staple name for the LAS region for the past few years. His team, Lyon Gaming, have been known to be mechanically good, but have been unable to show up in Wildcard tournaments in the past. Whitelotus was huge this weekend in his team being able to earn second place out of Group A. He was often on hyper-carries like Kog’maw and Xayah dishing out huge damage for his team.

In their match against WE, he was a huge part of the reason why they were able to keep up with them in the early game. Up against one of China’s best in Jin “Mystic” Sung-jun, Whitelotus held his own, and some. He put up massive stats over four games, leading all ADC’s in KDA with a massive 9.5. He also was able to dish out a high damage percentage with a whopping 35 percent. He also earned the first penta kill of Worlds against Gambit Gaming.

He has the tall task of facing Cloud 9 in a best of five. He’ll need to duplicate his performance once again for Lyon Gaming to have any chance.

Ali “Seiya” Bracamontes (Lyon Gaming mid)

Photo by: Riot Esports

The other carry from Lyon Gaming, Seiya, had quite the performance during the play-in stage as well. Him and Whitelotus made some massive plays to help carry their team to second place in Group A. He finished the play-in stage having only died twice over four games. Seiya definitely made a name for himself as he showed great performances on Syndra.

He posted an incredible 20.0 KDA to lead all mid laners while also participating in 78 percent of his team’s kills. Seiya was instrumental in their close matches against WE. He’ll need to step up even more as he faces off against Cloud 9’s Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen in their best of five.

Võ “Naul” Thành Luân (Young Generation mid)

Naul from Young Generation had quite the showing this past weekend. Personally, I hadn’t heard much of this guy coming into the tournament, but solo-killing Fnatic’s “baby Faker” is a good way to show up at an international event. Vietnam first gave us Levi and Gigabyte Marines, but they now also have Young Generation who looked quite competitive against EU’s Fnatic. This was due to the pressure provided in the made lane from Naul.

In his first match against Fnatic, he was able to put mid laner Rasmus “Caps” Winther behind as he solo-killed him while being ahead 20 cs in the lane. Naul had the second highest damage percentage for mid laners with a 34.3. He was vital in their defeat of Fnatic as he “Xpeke’d” their Nexus in the last few moments.

Juan “Contractz” Garcia (Cloud 9 Jungler)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Contractz looked like one of the best junglers in the play-in stages. This young rookie strutted his stuff during Cloud 9’s 4-0 dominance of Group B. He showed a plethora of different picks/styles bringing out the Ezreal and Nidalee. His early game playmaking helped Cloud 9 snowball into the mid-late game.

He showed no nerves up against Team One and Dire Wolves. He always seemed to be in the right place at the right time to assist his team. He finished the weekend leading junglers in total KDA with an astounding 16 while also leading in kill participation at 80 percent.

Contractz will look to ride this momentum as they take on Lyon Gaming in their best of five. If he can duplicate his last showing, there’s no reason Cloud 9 shouldn’t get a clean 3-0 sweep.

 Ege “padden” Acar Koparal (1907 Fenerbahce adc)

Photo by: Riot Esports

The ADC from 1907 Fenerbahce was huge in their team’s first place finish in Group D. His Tristana positioning was vital in his team upsetting Hong Kong Attitude in their tiebreaker match. Early he was destroyed by the Varus/Blitz combo of HKA, but when it came down to team fighting, he was there to clean up.

His team often relied on him as he dealt 36.9 percent of his team’s damage. His aggressiveness of knowing when to jump in and get resets was crucial in the late game. Fenerbahce got possibly the best group draw up against Brazil’s Team One who didn’t look impressive at all in their group. It will be interesting to see if Padden’s Tristana will draw bans going forward, because he’s looked phenomenal on her.

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