NA LCS Spring Split Story lines to follow: Preseason Edition

It’s a new year and a new season with the NA LCS Spring Split just around the corner! To welcome in the hype of a new year, I’ll be bringing you the top four story lines to follow going into this NA LCS Split! Also, a quick TL;DR is at the bottom for those in a rush!

The Rebuilds: New players, same placements?

Two of NA’s more troubled franchises, Team Liquid and Immortals, went into what could only be called a ‘rebuilding’ phase over the off season. Immortals, dominating during their regular split showings, always seemed to struggle in their playoff runs. Liquid, on the other hand, seemed to always have mediocre placings during the regular splits, while meeting similar middle of the road results during their postseason matches.

Courtesy of Gamepedia.

Immortals’ rebuild wasn’t much by choice, as the majority of their roster left for greener pastures elsewhere. Retaining Mid laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park, the Immortals side cobbled together a team that is hard to argue as, on paper, more talented than their previous.

Acquiring polarizing talent in Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett is a good core to build around, but given it was a replacement for Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin it’s hard to view it as a clear upgrade. Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong is another solid pick up for the team. Again though, observers are left wondering whether he will be better than Seong “Huni” Hoon Heo. Whether rookie Li “Cody” Yu Sun and Korean import Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung will be a strong bot lane is another question hanging over the roster.

Can one time world Champ Piglet bring help Liquid ascend? Courtesy of Gamepedia.

Liquid seemed to have a lot more agency in their rebuilding choices, looking towards internal problems and needing a change of scenery to make it further.  The team constantly fell just outside of relevancy internationally, so it seems like it was time to change the core of the roster. Keeping rookie talents in Samson “Lourlo” Jackson and Matt “Matt” Elento bring a sense of stability to the roster, with Matt being a particularly strong retention.

Promoting Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin back to the starting five was another wise choice from the team, who will hopefully bring pressure from the botlane that seemed lacking in S6. Joining him from Korea is star studded Reignover, a product of the Liquid-Immortals Jungle shuffle. His tactical mind and presence in the Jungle will need to make up for the downgrade in the Mid lane, with the departure of Kim “FeniX” Jae-hun and the rotating North American Mid laners of Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer and Austin “LiNk” Shin.

Either the rebuilds for these teams will go according to plan, or they’ll continue to be haunted by their postseason woes (Immortals) or stagnating mediocrity (Liquid). Their skill will truly be tested on the rift. This is something that fans will want to keep an eye on. It’s a mix of talented players, Flame/Dardoch/Pobelter for Immortals and Reignover/Piglet/Matt for Liquid, mixed with some questionable players whose skill ceilings may not be as high as fans hope. Still, super teams have failed historically and we’ve seen some incredible splits from teams that ‘shouldn’t have done well,’ like CLG in the NA LCS Spring Split in 2016. Can Immortals pull off another almost perfect split? Will Liquid rise above their middle of the pack status?

Steady as she goes: Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know?

While our previous story line followed teams who thought a change in players was the answer, these teams have chosen (almost) the exact opposite approach. Both Cloud 9 and TSM only have a single player change in their lineups, with Juan “Contractz” Garcia replacing struggling William “Meteos” Hartman in the jungle for Cloud 9, and familiar face Jason “WildTurtle” Tran replacing the hiatus taking Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng in the ADC role for TSM. CLG, on the other hand, did the unthinkable in the craziness of the off season; they didn’t change a single thing about their roster, retaining all five starters without bringing on any ‘backups.’

Can the CLG Fam have a repeat of last Spring Split? Courtesy of Gamepedia.

So what’s the story here? Well, it’ll be whether the stability of these rosters holds out against the crop of new, fresh talent. Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha and Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell will truly be tested in the Top lane against the recent influx of Korean imports, like Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok.

Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong will also be under new pressure to remain the unkillable sponge we saw in Cloud 9’s playoff run. Was struggling Choi “HuHi” Jae-hyun the best choice for CLG, and not another, more talented import Mid laner? Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen’s reign of top NA Mid laners is also up in the air now.

Overall the real questions here is whether these were the right choices. I don’t feel like, outside of CLG, there was much room for growth in acquiring new talent for these rosters. It’s also questionable whether it will be a case of ‘synergy trumps new talent’ or if ‘stagnating water will fail.’ Truth be told, I am more supportive of the first. There is a lot to be said for team synergy and players all ‘clicking’ naturally. For the NA LCS Spring Split? I think these rosters will remain in the top four of the league. During the Summer Split? It will depend on how the other teams in the middle of the pack settle.

The return of the boys in gold and black: Dignitas’ interesting return to the LCS

Dig hold a special place in my heart like a lot of the ‘legacy’ teams do. They were there when I started getting into the scene, and it was not without a bit of sadness that I saw them relegated and dissolve their League operations. It’s great to see the team back, if for no other reason than to see another old team back on the stage.

But Dig also were the talk of the scene when they acquired Top lane talent in Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and potentially scary Jungler in Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun. While the team Dig bought out to return to the LCS, Apex, seemed to meander around the middle of the pack, the addition of a tried and true pattern of Top-Jungle Korea imports, alongside acquiring Benjamin “LOD” deMunck to fill the hole left by Apollo “Apollo” Price has many pundits torn on exactly where to put Dig.

The Terror in the Top Lane? Courtesy of Inven.

The big story line to follow here is whether Dig will actually make an impact in the league or not. Signing big name talent isn’t the sure fired solution to a winning team, and while it is obviously better than signing bad talent, there’s been a few examples of that failing (read Alliance and other super team failures).

But Dig isn’t just a ‘super team in the making’ kind of deal either. They’ve got serious backing from NBA franchise Philadelphia 76er’s, something Ssumday cited as a reason for joining the NA side. It’ll not be just a simple question of whether the team will click, but how the newly moneyed Dig can use those funds to make the integration of their two Korean imports as painless as possible. If they can do that and make the team mesh, we could be looking at a new top four contender. If not? Well, back to the middle of the pack for the Dig boys and hopefully avoiding relegation.

Just call me the Underdog: Can the bottom of the pack make a real move upwards?

Ahhh, the scrappy, loveable underdogs at the bottom of the heap, these teams have seen troubled splits that didn’t turn out like they probably wished. Phoenix 1, Echo Fox, EnVyUs, and newcomers FlyQuest (god awful name) are all slotted pretty low in most pundits minds. P1 struggled last split to a non-memorable split had not been for a miraculous Rengar filled win against (until then) undefeated TSM in the NA LCS Summer Split.

Echo Fox just never seemed to get much momentum going forward, with Henrik “Froggen” Hansen finding himself again in 7th place in the NA LCS Spring Split 2016 and an abysmal, single win showing in the Summer. NV, on the other hand, exploded onto the scene and hyped up many to be the next top flight team, but ultimately petered out as their Summer split continued, ultimately ending with an unsatisfying 6th place in the regular split and an early bow out from the playoffs, falling to Cloud 9. FlyQuest are newcomers to the scene, having climbed into the League from the Challenger Series under Cloud 9 Challenger and are a mix of old Cloud 9 members attempting another foray into the scene.

Can the Foxes double their wins from last split? (Surely two wins isn’t too hard…) Courtesy of Gamepedia.

The big question marks here is whether these sides will make any real waves in the scene. FlyQuest have the luxury of having no real history, so they’ll be coming in with a clean slate, but one that’s questionable as to if it’ll hold up against top flights like TSM and Cloud 9. NV will look to newcomers Nam “lira” Tae-yoo and Apollo “Apollo” Price can carry the team into the top half, but it’s questionable whether they’re even upgrades to the members they’re replacing.

It’s not a daring prediction here, but I think Echo Fox can at least improve on their one win split this time round. The real question is if they can become contenders based on how fast Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok integrates into his English speaking team? Also whether Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham and Austin “Gate” Yu are the answers the Foxes needed to make a dent in the scene. I’m still skeptical of this roster making any real contact with the top tier teams in the league, but I’ve been wrong before.

P1 are the only team I have serious hope for going into this split. Acquisitions of the Boss Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook from European side H2k and KT veteran ADC in No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon add depth and talent to a roster that, once finally figuring out how VISAs work, really looked to be on the up and up. Not just an upset win against TSM last split, but also starting to pick up wins against teams in tiers above them showed improvement to the remaining core of the team.

Can the Boss whip another team into a Worlds team? Courtesy of Gamepedia.

As with any prediction, it’s quite possible that I’ll be shown to be completely wrong. But I don’t think that any of the bottom tier teams outside of P1 hold much of a chance against the top half of the league. FlyQuest is untested (ironically, given the veteran status of their players) in the new competitive league, NV is a bit of a wild card on whether they’ll show up enough, and Echo Fox seems to just not have it in them to really make it far.

P1 showed themselves to be a decent team last split, with clear upgrades in Korean duo of Ryu and Arrow alongside new Support Adrian “Adrian” Ma. they seem to be the best suited to break into the middle of the pack. But, nobody predicted them to be the team to take down the undefeated TSM, so anything is possible for any of the teams at the bottom here. There’s only up to go from the bottom, right? Right? (Ohh wait, relegation exists…)

TL;DR

The Rebuilds: Liquid and Immortals enter the NA LCS Spring Split with a fresh new roster, so the question here is whether this’ll be what the doctor ordered, or whether the teams will find themselves worse for wear? Can Immortals pull off another nearly flawless split? Will Liquid finally find themselves at the top?

Steady As She Goes: TSM and C9 only changed one player on their roster, WildTurtle for Doublelift Contractz for Meteos respectively, in the off season, while CLG vouched to retain all of their starters. The question here is whether this was the right move for the teams, and whether they can continue their placements consistently being in the top four of the League.

The Return of the Boys in Gold and Black: Dignitas’ return to the LCS is met with baited hype, as the team acquired big names in Ssumday and Chaser for their top and jungler positions. Whether this will translate to a team that can challenge for top of the league will depend on how well the team meshes this split.

Just Call me the Underdog: P1, Echo Fox, NV, and newcomer FlyQuest are slated to find themselves again at the bottom of the pecking order. Some interesting off season roster changes, particularly for P1, raise questions as to whether these teams can make a real run for middle of the pack or beyond. P1 holds the highest chance in my opinion, adding depth to a roster that managed to take down TSM, but only time will tell whether this holds any truth now.

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The Telecom Wars Reignited: The Clash of Titans, or Another Super Team Flop?

It seems to be a tradition for Korean teams to, once seemingly at their peak, dissolve and disperse their players throughout the world. It’s almost like a kind of redistribution of talent. Fan favorites Rox Tigers followed such a tradition, as their five members left the roster to find themselves new homes. The two Tigers to highlight here? Well, obviously Top laner Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho and Jungler Yoon “Peanut” Wang-ho, the two stars of the old Tigers roster. Where better to find themselves but new homes, across the rift, in some of the most storied teams in Korean esports history: SKT T1 and KT Rolster. But this is Korea, baby, so these weren’t the only high flying players signed: KT signed Smeb, while also picking up “Faker Stopper” in Heo “Pawn” Won-seok, one time World Champion Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong, and LPL ravaging Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu. SKT retaliated by signing up-and-coming Peanut, and locking up the polarizing, talented Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon from North America’s Immortals.

Courtesy of SKT T1 Twitter.

You should all know this already though. I’m not here to report on the players, but ask the kind of question I find myself always asking when these super teams come together: will these teams become tyrants of their region, or is it just another fallacy of composition? The fallacy of composition is a logical fallacy where someone wrongly assumes that what is true of the parts is true of the whole. To put it another way, if we have the best players in each of our roles, we’ll have the best team. Super teams have abounded in many regions, Europe coming to mind quite often (read Alliance.) These teams haven’t always worked out. Sure, TSM’s super team eventually meshed into an almost flawless machine (pre-Worlds.) But this isn’t always the case.

SKT’s move, in a lot of ways, falls much lower on the chance of being this tried and failed pattern. SKT kept a solid ‘core’ with ever scary, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok in the Mid lane, and dynamic duo Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan in the bot lane. Peanut was just simply a solid pick up, having matured as a player and, pending he integrates well with the team, will bring only positives. Huni, too, makes a lot of sense. He’s a kind of diamond in the rough, and at his peak can be insane mechanically. SKT’s support infrastructure should be more than enough to bring out the best in him as a player. If SKT can’t do it, nobody can. SKT made the necessary moves in the off season to secure their position as the top in the world, only really seeming to be a super team because their core was so strong to begin with.

KT’s move is a little more on the super team side, and it both intrigues me and makes me wonder: are they committing a similar fallacy that has failed so many other teams? Smeb is a solid pick up, no questions asked. Any team would do better to have Smeb on their side. Score is the kind of player you always want to have around. He is a true veteran who still holds his own mechanically. The three remaining, newly signed players are all from Samsung teams (back when sister teams existed) that dissolved. While I’m definitely on the Telecom War reboot going on, I think I have to cautiously point out that it may not be all it’s cracked up to be, just yet.

Can the veteran Score lead the new KT Rolster’s to new heights? Courtesy of Gamepedia.

That’s why I brought up the Fallacy of Composition. I look down the roster of KT and I literally cannot think of players I would replace. They seem to all fit, they’re some of the best available and I cannot fault the KT management for anything but a stellar off season. Just because each player is a good player doesn’t mean they’ll mesh though. Particularly not against a rival that, truthfully, had retained much more of their core lineup and have brought in rookie stars who can and will be molded. KT’s roster is a strong roster of good players, but recognizable faces that have been in the scene for quite some time.

To put another way, I think there’s a contrast here. SKT, in my mind, is in it for the long game here. Faker will, eventually, retire. Bang and Wolf are an amazing duo, but you can’t put your eggs all in one basket. You have to keep the long term in mind. So the signing of two amazingly talented ‘rookies’ (not really, but in contrast to Faker, rookie seems due,) is a developmental way of thinking. Not that they’ll suffer, it’s not like a rebuild, but they’re developing. KT, on the other hand, have assembled a team to win. Their thirst for a Worlds showing is evident. They’re thirsting to come out on top of their telecom rivals. They’re thirsting for the formal recognition they’ve long been due. That all might bite them in the ass if it doesn’t work out. Or it might be the smartest move they’ve made yet.

The Alpaca returns! Courtesy of WWG.

I think the hype surrounding the rebooted Telecom Wars is well warranted. This will produce some amazing series’ over the next two splits. I think the highlight games will come from LCK, and any and all viewers should make sure to watch. But I think there needs to be a cautious voice out there too. I don’t think we can expect the players and teams to all completely mesh and be the team they are slated to be right off the bat. But it won’t take long either. This is Korea, the place where professionalism and support infrastructure are well developed. If there’s any region in my mind that could break the ‘Super Team curse’ I think it’s Korea. I also think we may need to wait a split, particularly for KT. But once they’re settled, oh man, will it ever be the clash of titans we’re all hoping for.

 

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Ssumday’s Trip to NA LCS: Will it have an Impact or be another case of miscommunication

Courtesy of Esportspedia.

Courtesy of Esportspedia.

Seeing the boys in gold and black from Dignitas back in the NA LCS brings a certain happiness to me. They’re an old team, one of the ‘legacy’ teams, and their eventual removal from the league in relegation seemed sad.

But they’re back, and seemingly with intents of making much better names for themselves than they have in recent splits. The signing of high flying Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho Korean import is the kind of ‘big franchise move’ that Dig needed. They wanted to make a splash in the scene after acquiring middle of the pack squad of Apex. But is it enough to bring a break out year? That depends.

Ssumday’s skill is definitely noteworthy. I always feel a bit of respect for players that have been around for years now, particularly ones who have survived the grueling, cutthroat nature of LCK. Sssumday’s done that with KT in various capacities.

He brings his strong team fighting and overall experience to a roster that, truthfully, will need it. An odd pick up for the Jungle, a relatively uninspiring Mid Laner, a rookie(ish) ADC, and a once-strong-but-now-not-overly-so Support leave Dig with a strange kind of squad to be working with. Can Ssumday turn the kind of rag band team into a winning squad?

The menacing war face of our new Korean Overlord, Ssumday. Courtesy of Inven.

The menacing war face of our new Korean Overlord, Ssumday. Courtesy of Inven.

By the sounds of it, though, I think Dig brings something that other teams have been lacking when bringing in Korean talents: support. Multiple interviews with Ssumday show that he chose Dig because of the stability of not only the NBA ownership, but also of the support staff surrounding the players.

I wouldn’t want to say it’s of a Korean caliber, but by the sounds of it is very much a strong, robust system. This support staff will be key for Ssumday. He’s a good player, a great player, but I think fans often forget that League is strongly a team oriented game. Ssumday will need to be able to integrate with his teammates, get to know them, and ultimately synergize with them.

A genuine interest in learning English is a good step for Ssumday too. It’s been shown time and time again that Top-Jungler synergy can be key for Korea duos in foreign leagues.

I don’t want to say this all falls on the support staff either. As with any new teams, it’s really hard to gauge their exact strength. A smattering of super star players has been shown to flop, while a team that everyone undervalued have won back to back splits.

On a similar note, I don’t know if I want to say either that this falls entirely on Ssumday’s shoulders. But, that kind of happens when you’re arguably the teams closest thing to an ace. I think of Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong for Cloud 9 and how the team seemed to live and die by his plays. He was just able to do so much for the team.

I think Ssumday will have similar potentials for Dig. It also falls on his teams around him to make sure they’re stepping up to the plate. I think, ultimately, Ssumday needs to be more than just an ace: he needs to be a captain. He has to bring this team together, through either his play or his off the Rift abilities.

My honest verdict and prediction? I think Ssumday can do it. TSM showed they were mortal on the Worlds stage and lost key ADC superstar Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Cloud 9 still look like solid contenders for the top, but a new Jungler will mean the team needs to grow together. CLG didn’t make any roster changes and it’s questionable whether this was the right or wrong move. Immortals and Liquid are whole new teams.

If there were any time for Dig to make their impact, or should I say make their Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, it’s this Spring split. I think Ssumday’s got the right attitude too, going into this ambitious, wanting a change of scenery, and, most importantly, trusting in those around him. He has the making of the next ‘great Top Laner,’ bringing not only pedigree but seemingly a genuine desire to grow in the NA LCS. Only time, and results, will tell though if Ssumday found himself the right home to build a new legacy around.

Paleo Gaming’s side of the story

 

I got the chance over the weekend to talk with Dan, or as most know him Paleo Praetor, about the recent departure of Ever from the organization. We wanted to give both sides to a rather sensitive story in the amateur/semi-pro scene, as many fans love the work done by both Ever and Paleo gaming. Dan adds some clarifying points to the discussion, alongside with some teasers of things to come with the Imperial esports league.

Dan explains a bit of the backstory too, much of which will be familiar to those who read my Ever piece. He had reached out to Ever upon Dark Wave Gaming’s closure, having liked the idea that had been run there of Fight Night. He saw potential in the current iteration, but also found room for improvement upon it. “There was a lot of avenues to create something great that weren’t being mined, [for it] to be its full potential.”

Fight Night worked as a kind of single elimination, tournament qualification weekly event. Dan commended this aspect, it was great exposure for lower teams with decent viewer turn out. But the promise of qualification, Dan felt, hampered the idea. By pairing the games with a promise for future events, it held the idea back from what it could be. A shift, which found its iteration in Rumble on the Rift (RoR), towards a weekly, single big event with Bo3 matches. Dan highlighted that the worry with the Fight Night format is that Amateur teams come and go quite often, and it wasn’t a for sure thing whether the same team that qualified would be available for a tournament in months to come.

Paleo Gaming brought Ever on with the promise to not micro manage him, unlike other offers he had received. He would take the reins largely, and the only request made was that things were brought by Dan first, that he was consulted on things prior to them being given the green light. “We gave him a large degree of freedom in setting up the event. He did a fantastic job.” In a lot of ways Dan pointed that, rather than Ever not being offered help, it seemed more that Ever would rather do it himself, that, “He was concerned other people would dilute [his] vision [for RoR.]” It adds another dimension to that discussion. Dan put it pointedly that, “People shouldn’t confuse Ever’s effort with it not being a Paleo Gaming event.”

Courtesy of Paleo Gaming.

Courtesy of Paleo Gaming.

It was a hard situation for both parties to be in, it seems. On Ever’s side it was a lot of work and he felt alone in it, but from Paleo’s side, too, they didn’t want to push him into being micro managed or have people interfere with his ideas. Dan said on it particularly that, “Because of how well he was running the event, I didn’t push harder for him to hand over certain responsibilities. Maybe I should have, because then he wouldn’t have felt so overwhelmed, but I assumed if he needed more support, he would ask for it.”

Fast forward to May, and RoR has already become a staple of the semi pro League of Legends scene. Ever pushes to move the weekly format into an LCS style event, including all the glitz and glamour that comes with that. Dan said he was cautious at first about the prospect, citing concerns about having the proper staff and architecture to do the event properly, if at all. Not to mention attempting, then, to compete with other, established leagues. It was that discussion that eventually lead to the outright acquisition of Imperial esports by Paleo, essentially gaining the aforementioned architecture for an LCS style event.

Dan addressed some of Ever’s leaving remarks as well in our talk. He mentioned that Ever was a leader of the Rumble on the Rift team, but also stressed that Ever was not the sole party involved. While it was definitely the case that Ever took the project onto himself and ran with it, putting in a massive amount of work to make it what it was, Dan feels that the depiction that Ever was alone in this process isn’t quite accurate. The two talked much of improvements, and while Dan tried to get people to help out with specific things, Ever was very particular at times with how things were to be done, often time taking them on himself rather than delegating the work.

Dan also felt completely surprised by the article. Up until Ever’s departure, it had seemed the two were on the same page with the event. He offered Ever the position of Broadcasting Director, hoping to have Ever come on not so much as manager-style of the broadcasting, but of setting the standards to be upheld for the tournament. Ever, Dan continued, seemed on board throughout the conversation. Ever approached Dan later saying he needed to step away from esports to have more personal time to spend with family and friends.

It seemed a theme throughout our talks that Dan was taken aback by a lot of the frustrations that Ever expressed. He seemed understanding of them, understanding that real life takes precedence over this, and that burn out can be a real factor. It just seemed that Dan wasn’t aware that there was any frustrations. He said that, “[I] just want an understanding that I was not imposing things on Ever, but that we were on the same page the whole time.”

Another point stressed was the kind of mutual agreement the two had. Dan felt that Ever worked and made Rumble a great success, but also felt that without Paleo and his opinions and acting as a medium it wouldn’t have been what it was. “Paleo gaming was better for having him on as a staff. I learned a lot from Ever, but he also learned from me.” Dan went on further describing the relationship between him and Ever to be quite close. “I consider Ever a close personal friend, who actually came up from Texas to spend time with the Paleo crew and stayed in my home. He is basically family. I think he is immensely talented and knowledgeable about the industry, and business in general. I am grateful for the time he spent here at Paleo, and I wish him nothing but success. I honestly hope we can collaborate in the future, because I think we make a rather formidable team.”

Courtesy of Dragonball wikipedia, Imperial, and Paleo gaming.

The dream lives on! Courtesy of Dragonball wikipedia, Imperial, and Paleo gaming.

There also was a bit of a misunderstanding with the statement that this new league would undo all that Ever had done. While it was true that, originally, the teams already involved with Rumble were going to be given the chance to have higher seeding within the new league format game, Dan stated that, rather than undoing this work, he felt that it was fairer process to have an open qualifier, not giving any preferential treatment to any party involved. In short, “Our big issue was preserving the integrity of Imperial esports. They didn’t show favouritism. We want to show people we are committed to fairness to the scene, [and] the qualifiers were a way to do that.” He laughs and remarked, too, that this was shown that not all of the Paleo teams attempting to qualify made it in even, with only Paleo Tundra qualifying with a team kill. Paleo Green and Paleo Pride were left on the outside of the league.

Dan also stressed that this didn’t mean the end of what the Paleo-Imperial acquisition promised for the future of the semi pro scene. The sudden loss of Ever was a hit, but with a reorganizing of the team involved, Dan is confident that they can carry on with the original plans. Season 3 of Imperial will be ‘business as usual,’ with some minor improvements. It’s in Season 4 that Dan has set his sights on for major improvements. He hopes to surpass Rumble’s high quality streams by then.

Our conversation wrapped up in quite a philosophical fashion. Anyone familiar with the semi pro scene in League knows that Paleo gaming, and many other organizations I’ve spoken with, prefer collaboration to cold competition. Dan has a saying, “If we bring everyone to the table, everyone gets to eat.” He invited organizations, whether established leagues/tournaments or new fledgling ones, to reach out to the community. This is how Dan sees the amateur scene staying relevant in the overall ecosystem of League esports.

Ever’s departure from Paleo Gaming

 

Ever, previously of Paleo Gaming and the brain behind Rumble on the Rift, took time to sit down with me last night to discuss his leaving Paleo Gaming. It was a move that rippled through the semi pro scene, as Ever is a mainstay and a fan favourite of the community. Ever gives me the full story, with all the context and backstory to a lot of it, but for those who want a TL;DR, check the bottom of the page.

Courtesy of Paleo gaming.

Courtesy of Paleo gaming.

To give context to Ever’s decision to part ways with Paleo, he informed me of his past. It all started with Dark Wave Gaming, an idea of his that he started “before other organizations popped up.” There were three teams under that banner, a similar tournament style series like Rumble on the Rift called Fight Night, although on a much lesser production level. But as Dark Wave grew Ever found himself more and more micro managing teams, finding sponsors, and less and less of what he actually wanted to do. He found himself unavailable to the teams even, as he was constantly busy with the more managerial side of things. He eventually left and mulled over the idea of leaving the scene altogether.

Ever was approached by Dan, also known as Paleo Preaetor, asking if he’d come back to the esports scene again and join Paleo Gaming. “Yes… but under the right conditions,” Ever said, not wanting to return to the management/directing aspect of it. Many organizations approached him about doing what he did for Dark Wave Gaming, growing it through sponsorship and marketing, but he wanted the freedom to do something creative, to do something he was actually passionate about, and to refocus himself on content creation. Paleo offered him that.

For a while this was entirely the case. “I don’t want to be micro managed,” Ever had said, and he was left to his own devices, creating a wealth of content and a community around that content. But the more Rumble on the Rift and Paleo Gaming took off, “the more people wanted to have input on it.” More and more opinions on matters popped up and it became increasingly difficult for Ever to manage this input and demand.

The main driving force behind his departure, though, was that slowly it became the case that Ever was becoming a one man production crew. As Rumble on the Rift grew, so did the demand on Ever and the time requirements to meet this demand. Graphic changes, setting the scene, doing interviews, editing those interviews, getting teams to commit to times to play, give aways, MVP graphics, standings, and everything else that made Rumble what it was took over. Ever said that, at one point, he and his girlfriend calculated at least 24 hours of work between Saturday to Tuesday on Rumble, on top of a full time job. He found himself having less and less time outside of his job and Paleo.

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What sustained Ever through this was his sole passion in it, “The only reason I was doing it was that I really, really wanted to focus on community creation. To give the teams identity.” To create the kind of community and fandom that Pro and Challenger scene got for the semi-pro. So many tournaments abound within the scene where players and teams are, “just a name,” and knowing any players in any of the teams before the tournament itself was an oddity. Ever wanted the new Imperial-Paleo league to change that, to give the scene a chance to create identities and personalities.

If you recall my previous article, this was all going to change in the new league planned from the Paleo-Imperial acquisition. Interviews with players, team organizers, past interviews, articles on sites like ours, increased sponsorship, prize pools for the players, consistency with teams and longevity of the scene were all targets for the future. The hope was to create an, “infinite amount of content for the community to sift through.”

But things were changing from what I had previously of reported on. In Ever’s own words, “With the acquisition of Imperial none of [this] was going to come to fruition, I wasn’t going to get a break, teams weren’t going to be given special treatment, and everything I had done for the past 6 months wasn’t going to matter.” The reason for the cancellation was timing: Imperial was just about to start up its 3rd Split, and Rumble on the Rift still needed time to finish its own course (it was on the 17th of a planned 25 games, and Ever had wanted to finish it prior to moving towards the League.) It’s a harsh thing to report, truly. I was beyond excited for the future of that league. Everyone at the Game Haus was too. [Edit: It should be noted that the league with Imperial WILL still have interviews, the quote was not meant to say this would not happen in the league)

All of this mixed with a feeling of being burnt out, of losing the joy for Rumble, is the main reason Ever decided to part ways with the organization. Ever is optimistic about his future, however, feeling confident in his abilities and hoping to, again, focus more on his creative content abilities than his management skills. Having helped build up two organizations, he hopes to find another one that will respect his desire to have a certain amount of freedom in his operations. Time will only tell where you’ll see Ever next, but we at the Game Haus wish him and Paleo Gaming only the best!

 

TL;DR

 

Ever and Paleo went their separate ways over a few reason: mainly, Ever felt burnt out from being a “one man production crew,” the recent decision to cancel Rumble on the Rift in favour of going full force into Imperial, some of the details of the Paleo-Imperial acquisition, and wanting more freedom to pursue his own creative outlets. Ever hopes to still stay within esports and looking forward to plying his trade elsewhere.

Semi Pro LCS: Paleo gamings’s acquiring of Imperial and what it means for the scene

Courtesy of Dragonball wikipedia, Imperial, and Paleo gaming.

Courtesy of Dragonball wikipedia, Imperial, and Paleo gaming.

 

While it may not be as popular as the LCS (yet), the Semi Pro scene is starting to move itself towards a similar League format that should benefit the whole scene. The recent acquisition of Imperial by Paleo Gaming signals a move within the scene that could see it grow even faster than it already is. Not only is it a melding of two of the biggest tournament organizers in the scene, it’s also a partnership that hopes to further unite the scene and improve the standards for players and organizations alike.

For those who may not know, League of Legends esports scene is almost entirely consolidated into the developer-run LCS (League Championship Series) in North America and Europe, along with a similarly formatted league in Korea, China, Taiwan, CIS, Brazil, Latin America, Turkey and Oceania regions, along with Challenger Series’ for many of these leagues. For the most part tournaments outside of Riot (the developer) sanctioned events are sparse, leaving a gap between the Pros (LCS) and Wanna-Be-Pros (Challenger Series) and ‘the rest of us.’ This is where Semi-Pros reside, just outside of the major leagues and playing a smattering of smaller sized tournaments run by third party organizers whose standards, payout, and quality can vary.

But this all might be changing. Paleo and Imperial’s coming together means that the scene is, in a way, making itself a stronger beast overall. In Paleo Ever’s own words, “[The] semi-pro scene is starting to come around, the strength of Paleo, Imperial, Initial and Reverie are all like minded, all setting our standards the same.” It’s a kind of organic unity that many of these organizers share. They want the semi-pro scene to feel legitimate for everyone involved, from fans to players, and that means higher standards for everything from prize pools to production value to coverage around the events.

Current standings of Rumble on the Rift. Notice our boys doing well on there. Courtesy of Paleo gaming.

Current standings of Rumble on the Rift. Notice our boys doing well on there. Courtesy of Paleo gaming.

Ever said that the move to acquire Imperial seemed a natural one. Rumble on the Rift, currently a weekly show match series, was moving towards an ‘LCS style’ League anyways. The move would see teams currently involved invited to qualify for higher seeding within the league, while other teams would then be invited to compete to fill out the rest. The merger, too, seemed a logical step too, bringing the strengths of both organizations together. In short, the ‘best from both worlds,’ kind of mentality, unifying the scene, the fans, and the teams, under a more singular banner in hopes of strengthening the scene and improving the experience for all involved.

Courtesy of Paleo gaming.

Courtesy of Paleo gaming.

The move also was done with the intent uniting the scene, for the benefit of both the community and the teams/players involved. By raising the standards of competition, Paleo hopes to cause other organizations in the semi-pro to either step up their game or eventually wilt away as teams find better homes amongst tournaments and leagues that have higher standards than them. True to its name, it’s survival of the fittest for Paleo, and this can only mean good things for the scene overall.

And when we say ‘LCS-like,’ Ever  wasn’t kidding, he held no punches in the quality the league will bring. Viewers can expect bigger cash prizes, more teams, more marketing for those teams and their players, pre/post game interviews, a weekly show based around the weekly matches, highlight reels, Summoners Show cases, and articles, all of which will be geared towards the league itself. This also includes the obvious things like VODs, streams, highlights on their Youtube pages, and, another key point, a certain sense of longevity for players and teams together. The move towards roster locking helps solidify teams as a unit, rather than players that can be poached or convinced to play for a competitor right away, half way through a league, or even in the last week of it. The league will be “100% geared towards the teams and the players and the marketing for them.”

As with any move to create bigger, conglomerated leagues or tournaments, questions abound about the health and sustainability of such a move and the scene that will follow. Paleo stresses that it was absolutely vital to hear contributions from all stakeholders in the arrangement, from the viewers and fans, to the organizations themselves in the Semi-pro scene, to the teams and players involved in it. Such staples of the scene like Rozenoir, Underdog, Slay, Bladed Kings, Red Bird Esports and others were consulted for their input into the league, alongside fans and community members. Words like ‘organic’ and ‘home grown marketing’ abounded in Ever’s discussion, and it only means good thing for the league going ahead. We’ve seen many failures in esports of, often well meaning, organizations/developers trying to force esports into a community in a way that just doesn’t fit. Paleo looks to have already dodged that bullet.

To say the least, the excitement about the prospect from myself is quite high. It’s a move that the semi-pro desperately needs, and I’m one of those odd esports fans that likes league formats and standardization. It can only improve the quality of life for the players and teams involved, it’ll create its own ecosystem around the league, from interviews to articles to highlight reels, that can only propel the careers of all those involved. As it gets bigger, too, we could see a serious following of teams that are staunchly involved as semi-pro teams, possibly even see the development of talent and players be picked up by CS and LCS side teams. It’s a niche needed in the scene, and one that seems to be expertly filled by the recently merged sides. All of us at the Game Haus are more than excited about it and hope to be bringing our own exclusive covering of the events soon for fans!

Three Things to Look Forward to in the first week of EU LCS

Courtesy of LoLesports.

Courtesy of LoLesports.

Well, another offseason has passed us by and we’re entering into what looks to be another crazy Summer split. As much of the drama over two major organizations receiving the ban hammer from Riot has settled over across the pond, EU has its share of drama. G2, the representative for Europe at MSI, lost the region their First Place Seeding at Worlds, which was essentially gained for the LMS representatives. While many fans thought CLG looked to be the weakest team, Europe’s own seemed to struggle much of the tournament, and it’s questionable whether it was because of the so called G2 Vacation or whether it was just because, well, they’re a relatively young team. Some player trades and movements, too, have fueled the region’s own off season drama too.

But that’s behind us, and now we’ll go through some of the exicting things to look out for in the opening week of EU LCS.

 

1: Bo2 Format

 

This has to be, in some ways, one of the most radical things going on in the EU LCS. Gone are the days of Bo1’s, and while Bo2’s are not necessarily here to stay, they certainly will bring some interesting change to the scene. Riot has purposefully given Europe and NA different formats (Bo2 and Bo3 respectively,) in an attempt to ‘test’ which of the two works better. Regardless, it is certainly going to be refreshing for both fans and competitors alike, as a Bo2 format will be a better test of a team’s strength.

What can fans look forward to with the new format? Well, if it wasn’t already a thing, Europe’s going to love ties. The region is notorious for having multiple tie break games at the end of the split to determine middle of the pack seeding, so it’ll probably be a repeat of history. But there’s another point to be made: teams that are far superiour to the other team will gain ‘more’ than, say, two more evenly matched teams that go 1-1. Why is this? Well, a 2-0 win will give the victorious team a total of three points which go towards determining standings. If teams go 1-1, each team is award only a single point to go towards their standings. Teams, then, that are able to overpower their opponents will shoot up, while teams that go even will be left behind.

Courtesy of lolesports.

Courtesy of lolesports.

It also allows teams to have even more games to play, which can only mean good for the region. More practice will only improve the region, who, along with NA LCS, has lagged behind the East in moving towards a Bo3 or Bo2 format. It also allows teams to have experience in these formats, which require a certain level of endurance, strategy and adaptation from previous games that is not the case in Bo1. Alongside this, it also gives teams a chance to play and draft on both blue and red side, and the ability to adapt and change against a team in their drafting, rather than being completely lost against a secret draft from an opponent and swept away without reply. Overall, Bo2 will provide a much better litmus tests of teams strength and most importantly, will give us more and more games to watch!

 

The New El Claissco

A new El Clasico is born. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

A new El Clasico is born. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

Fans of the EU LCS will remember the ‘old’ El Clasico which was between Fnatic and SK Gaming. The teams had a history of placing always beside each other in the ranking, and had a rivalry not unlike that of TSM and CLG over in NA LCS. Now, SK Gaming managed to lose their EU LCS spot, and Fnatic have, in some ways, fallen off (although this may change with the return of Yellowstar.) But, oddly enough, the new El Clasico, between Origen and G2, has a bit of the old in it still: both owners of the team played against each other in the old El Clasico and even against each other in the same lane. Ocelote and xPeke, the owners of G2 and Origen respectively, were also the midlaners for SK Gaming and Fnatic back in the heyday of El Clasico. And now they’re facing off again, but in a very different way.

The Scarfed Spaniard and owner of G2. Courtesy of ocelote world.

The Scarfed Spaniard and owner of G2. Courtesy of ocelote world.

Not only was it these two teams that eventually met in the latest EU Finals, there’s a bit more ‘drama’ going on between the two teams: Zven and Mithy turned in the blue and black for the grey of G2, while Hybrid joined Origen in turn (Origen picked up FORG1VEN to replace Zven as well.) It was a move that surprised most of the scene, while rumours were whispered amongst fans, and it’ll change the landscape of the scene quite a bit. Origen looked to struggle during the whole of last split in all but one regard: their botlane. Zven won them at least a majority of their games during that split, and the loss will be huge to a side that saw a resurgence in the playoffs, but fell short in the end. G2, on the other hand, look to redeem themselves before their European brothers for a shameful performance at MSI.

 

And in the other corner of the ring, xPeke, the King of Backdoors. Courtesy of Gosugamers.

And in the other corner of the ring, xPeke, the King of Backdoors. Courtesy of Gosugamers.

But it’s not like Origen were forced into a bad position for their botlane either. A pickup of FORG1VEN, who may’ve fell off in H2K’s playoff run, is still one hellva an ADC, and Hybrid is no shrug in the botlane either, previously supporting G2’s import Emperor. The question is whether this duo can do what Zven/Mithy did last split for Origen which is carry the hell out of them. It’s hard to say really that Origen won out in the off season though, as Zven and Mithy just seemed to be one of the strongest duos in Europe, while FORG1VEN and Hybrid are an unproven botlane (together.) Only time will tell, though, whether the new Origen duo will be able to match the old, or whether the old will be as strong in the new G2 roster. But we’ll get a test of it in our first game today!

 

Return of the King

 

Europe’s had a rough bit of a year since their amazing run at Worlds last year. First there was the European Exodus that saw many star players from Europe cross the Atlantic to greener pastures in NA. Then G2, arguably one of the strongest European teams during the split and even the playoffs, floundered in amazing fashion internationally at MSI, birthing the G2-8 or Vacations memes around the globe. But there is a light that many of the European faithful will remember, a beacon of hope for the region, one could say a King: Yellowstar. The Frenchmen was a long-time member of Fnatic, the team’s captain, and arguably one of the reasons the team made their perfect split last year, and not he’s back.

Returning to his home region from his brief trip over the pond to TSM, where he wasn’t able to bring the team the coveted NA LCS title, Yellowstar returns to much of the

The King Returns to his People. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

The King Returns to his People. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

same: Two Koreans in the top half of the map, Febiven in the mid and Rekkles his partner in death in the botlane. Yellowstar has his work cut out for him in leading the squad that seemed to meander around the middle of the pack all last split without much of a purpose, sometimes doing excellent, others looking abysmal. But if there’s anyone who can whip together a team into shape, it seems it would be Yellowstar, who saw the team through a rebuilding split into a perfect split into one of the strongest showings from a Western team in a long time at Worlds.

While the drama and the swapping around has largely focused on other teams like Origen, G2, H2K, and even the recently remade UOL and Roccat, Fnatic look to have made potentially the biggest move towards addressing some of their previous issues. A solid, sturdy, veteran shot caller like Yellowstar is the missing piece that arguably saw Fnatic act without purpose last split. Fnatic is one of the few EU LCS teams that has secured itself as a staple in the scene as an organization, and while they had their first non-showing at an EU LCS Finals in their teams history, the team looks to be heading in the right direction going forward. The question remains whether this will translate onto the rift, whether Rekkles and Yellowstar will click like they did, and whether the team will again form around their captain and secure themselves a good showing.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Part 1

And so our tale begins... Courtesy of Amazon.uk and Leaguepedia.

And so our tale begins… Courtesy of Amazon.uk and Leaguepedia.

Well folks, let it not be said that the offseason in League of Legends is anything less than filled with drama, roster changes, and, well, some new faces. As many of our readers will already be aware of, Riot dropped probably the biggest (and most historic) competitive ruling in LCS history. The short of it? TiP (the organization) is banned from ever playing again for not paying their players on time and contract shadiness, and Renegades and TDK are caught in an awkward dance of player trades that look suspicious to Riot, while the former is banned for having ‘ex’-owner Chris Badawi still involved in the organization following a one year ban due to poaching allegations.

Now that the dust has (largely) settled around the issue, and many pundits within the scene have staked their claim, either in defense of Riot’s actions or decrying them as tyrannical, I thought I’d wager not only my opinion but some alternative views to the rather prevalent feeling. In this three part series, we’ll look at the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of what very well could be Riot’s defining move outside of its forming of the LCS. For our first installment, let’s look at the Good that Riot has done with this move.

 

TiP just couldn’t get the tip…

Socially Awkward... Team Organization? Courtesy of memegenerator.

Socially Awkward… Team Organization? Courtesy of memegenerator.

Alright, so let’s look at the probably only uncontestable point of Riot’s recent ban hammer swinging: TiP getting the boot for not paying their players properly or on time. This absolutely sickens me as a fan of the NA LCS, and is something that, sadly, I almost wish Riot would’ve done earlier (but I think I understand why they didn’t.) This is completely unacceptable behaviour in any workforce, particularly one as young and, well, with as young of workers as you get in esports. It’s completely abhorrent, abusive, and not at all what we want as a representative of one of the premier esports leagues in the world, particularly contrasted to the other top teams who have never had this problem.

What’s worse is that not only did this happen multiple times, Riot had to personally intervene into the situation upon finding out players had not been paid yet to see that they were. To clarify this too, we’re (sadly) not even talking about full salaries here. Riot has a Minimum Player Compensation (MPC), which requires that players are paid a salary of at least $12,000 per split. While we cannot know exactly what player salaries look like for top teams, we imagine (and hope) that they are far beyond this with salaries that the organizations pay to the players per split, which we could call their Full Player Compensation (FPC) to keep with the nice short forms.

An unfortunate aspect of this is that while Riot is essentially banning TiP for not paying their Players their MPC, Riot is unable to act on the FPC because the players never entered into formal, written contracts with the organization (more on this in our next section.) This, sadly, is both a good and bad move from Riot, but I have to favour the former for purely ‘legal’ reasons. Without any actual amounts known, players might, not that they probably would, attempt to extort extra salary from the shamed organization who Riot would be truly tested to believe against the earnest players. If, for instance, Gate was promised a salary of $35,000, he might, the logic goes, say it was $40,000. Riot would then be put in a situation of ‘their voice against ours,’ where it is difficult to objectively see which side is correct. Still, the action stands, and it is easily the most uncontentious of all of Riot’s rulings. I’ve not heard a single person come to TiP’s defense in this issue, and I think that is because there is no reason to do so. Good riddance to ‘em.

 

TiP of the Iceberg…

Courtesy of worldartsme.

Courtesy of worldartsme.

We hinted at in our last paragraph the other major problem with TiP, and a problem in esports in general, that is, of contracts. Contracts are the bane (and boon) of many a pro player, and equally of many an organization. While Counter Strike: Global Offensive offers for much more exciting examples, (Screams contract being bought out from G2 for $150,000 to transfer to Titan as an example,) it is relatively more hush hush or not allowed in Riot’s settings. Players tend to have much more power and places to turn to get ‘out of’ contracts, and I cannot think of a player being ‘held back’ from moving onto a better team in recent memory (although I’m assured there have been examples…) However, contract buyouts have been a major issue recently, but it’s hard to find a fair compromise: without them, poaching and players leaving for greener pastures would leave orgs in their dust, while them being there prevents players (and regions overall) from forming possibly the best teams for that region.

The other main reason TiP was banned, and arguably why they were perma-banned rather than given a certain limited sentence, is that they did not sign, create, or seem to encourage written contracts with their players (until Riot intervention.) This means that, essentially, the players have no written, objective case for what is rightfully ‘promised’ to them in a contract, and equally what they have promised to the organization itself. A verbal contract is shakey business and there is a lot to be said of such a young industry needing clear, concise and accessible contracts. Contracts bind an organization to do what they say they will do, and can make that organization legally bound to do so (and if they don’t, there is, again, formal legal groundwork to take them to court.) Without these written documents, however, players are hard pressed to pressure their team to actually fulfil their promises.

However, there is one point to be made about this: some of TiP’s players (reportedly) did have contracts with TiP, just not all. Riot conducted a League wide audit to ensure contracts were in fact signed, and found that TiP had not done so for this split nor the last. TiP eventually did sign contracts with some of their starting roster, but not all. Actual names are not given either, so we can only assume who it might’ve been (maybe import players, so that they felt security in staying in NA?) This just isn’t a satisfactory process in a scene struggling so hard to standardize itself and, through that, legitimatize itself to the world. Working without a contract makes no sense in a scene whose behind door dealings are relatively unknown to those outside of it. Without public knowledge, there cannot be public outcry, and unless a leak happens (as is the case with the recent incarnation of WESA,) fans, who have the most power in the whole equation of esports, have no way to boycott a team or demand their dismantling. Needless to say, Riot made an excellent choice in banning TiP here; if an organization can’t guarantee their players these two basic needs then surely another can, and with the growth of esports there is no need to allow such shadey organizations to continue operations that abuse their players.

 

Competitve rulings are the law, ye Renegades…

"I'm the Sheriff round these parts," said a Riot Games, before he shot his six shooter of Bans. Courtesy of freepik and wikipedia.

“I’m the Sheriff round these parts,” said a Riot Games, before he shot his six shooter of Bans. Courtesy of freepik and wikipedia.

Now onto the stuff that will either make you hate me or not. Renegades and TDK’s situation is a much more… murky one. Sure, on the one hand, the reasons Riot has given to ban the two organizations seems reasonable (taken as an isolated case without any outside information or opinions on the matter and taking the Riot report as fact.) As I’ve said, this part of the series deals solely with the decisions I think were Good from Riot, so I won’t focus too much on the complexities, nuances and counter-points made by sources close to the organizations themselves. I’ll deal with that in the articles to come, so hold onto your butts because I’m going to try and save at least a bit of this sinking ship.

Riot banned Chris Badawi on charges of attempting to poach players Quas and KEITHMCBREIF from Team Liquid, to which he was given a one year ban from having any dealings with and ownership over Renegades as an organization. It seemed a kind of harsh ban, but that seems to be Riot’s style: ban harshly so to set an example. The problem, then? Well, Renegades broke this ruling, kind of. There was an arrangement in place with ‘current’ owner of Renegades, Christopher Mykles, that, essentially, guaranteed Badawi a 50% stake in the company come the end of his year ban. Not bad right? I mean, he’s technically not owner of Renegades that way… right?

Well, not so much. Apparently that contracted agreement to give 50% ownership to Badawi in a year’s time boils down to… him having 50% ownership at the time of signing. The logic follows that any agreement to ownership, regardless of the actual time, is an agreement to current ownership of some kind. This (kind of?) makes sense. If I am guaranteed half an organization in a year’s time, I have a considerable stake in that organization and its preservation, but also, in a way, in its development. I am a part of it (kind of.) And, therefore, Badawi was still associated with Renegades during his ban time. Yes, this seems a slightly obscure ruling, but I feel like, in a way, it’s still something one should make sure to consult prior to making it a written document.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

But perma-banned from all Riot sanctioned tournaments over this seems to be harsher than even Riot tends to be. I think this is because we cannot isolated this fact from the other multiple infractions that Renegades was found to have done. I have a hard time coming to Renegades aid here. Riot’s rulebook is only 58 pages, and it’s in a neato PDF thing so you can, y’know, Ctrl+F to find sections that might be important… like whether you’re involving a banned party who is not supposed to be associated with your organization or not. I think it was an oversight on the side of Renegades, and I can’t much blame them for that, but I also find it hard to say that they should be forgiven for it because of that. It’s sad, really, because Renegades was such a storied organizations for its relative infancy. Great PR gimmicks, bringing in the first female LCS player in history, these were the starts of a branding that you can’t buy folks. But I think they took the Renegades moniker a little too seriously with their disregard for rules, and it bit them hard(er than it should’ve.)

 

‘Suspicious’ trades and the Balance of Power…

 

While our last Good thing was contentious on the issue of strange legalities (who needs temporality, anyways?) I think this is another one where a serious amount more of information and evidence needs to be made public. Still, if the allegations are correct, well, then I can see it be a problem. What is this allegation then? Well, the Good portion of it, in my opinion, is to do with the strange trade the two organizations made with each other. We could, in a way, say that the balance of power given to Renegades over other LCS teams was skewed (and TDK over other CS teams.)

Why is this? Well, it essentially that the ‘relationship’ between the two organizations wasn’t as clear cut as it is between, say, CLG and TSM. We’ll take the example of Doublelift going to TSM from CLG: we can assume that in this trade/him being dropped/whatever, that there was a kind of contractual agreement between the two that was Riot approved. This prevents a few things: players being traded in a bad way, organizations being ‘shafted,’ unfair deals etc. Well, it appears, according to the official Riot ruling, this was not as clear cut of a case, and certain conditions, like the payment for players and housing of players a month after the trade, was not made explicit, and could be argued to skew the balance of power of those teams against their rivals in their respective leagues.

In other words, Riot had been under the impression that, to quote the report, “Both teams assured officials that their businesses were not linked in any fashion, and that the trade was in the mutual interest of both teams independent of any additional relationship or agreement.” But why is paying a player’s salary (for a months,) such a bad thing? Even some took to twitter saying this was a regular thing in the realm of sports. I think the reason that Riot is still doing a (shade of) Good here is that the teams weren’t frank about this arrangement, and it stinks of financial pooling.

By keeping it all hidden, and because Riot got, it appears, conflicting answers on the topic, I do side with Riot on this occasion again. This is something that, while I will show that I do not like this fact, Riot needs to be the judge, jury and executioner of whether it maintains competitive integrity. The reason I say this is that, unlike teams (think the recent move by Cloud 9) who field, and thus also fund, their own Challenger team, Renegades was given a similar advantage (talent farming,) without having to pay those players. On the flip side, TDK was given the advantage of receiving some valuable, experienced players (whether they really made a difference is questionable…) in the process without needing to buy out contracts or scout for that talent in unsigned players. It puts other teams at a disadvantage who might’ve tried to do the same but go through the proper channels to do so.

Courtesy of all-free-download and Leaguepedia.

Courtesy of all-free-download and Leaguepedia.

Conclusion

 

I think it’s still a hard thing to come out in complete favour of Riot given the nature and context of the situation, but for the reasons I’ve stated I do think Riot is in the right side of history for making some of their decisions. You can’t have things like this happening in a professional sports league, and similarly harsh actions would be taken outside of the LCS if such a case were found. However, Riot occupies a strange field in a way in esports so far: they have an exclusive League in which they, essentially, have complete power over. This is unseen in other esports, as Leagues have existed in, say, CSGO, but these are run by third party entities from Valve (the owner of the IP for CSGO.) This will lead into my later discussions on the issue, but for now we’ll say that I am concerned if Riot does not make the proper moves to distance itself from its (albeit mostly benevolent) despotic ways.

Predications for ELeague: Adam Stevens (guest writer)

Courtesy of Eleague Twitter account.

Courtesy of Eleague Twitter account.

The $1.2million ELeague tournament hosted by Turner is set to kick off May 24th with a plethora of teams attending.

 

In this article I will break down who is attending the event, where I think they will place and who could potentially upset the pack.

 

Since Turner announced the ELeague there was an air of uncertainty around the teams with a small group of teams being announced initially which didn’t include any of the top tier names. After lengthy talks the full list of teams attending was announced, and didn’t disappoint.

 

 

Teams attending:

Astralis

Cloud9

CLG

compLexity

dignitas

Echo Fox

EnVyUs

FaZe

FlipSid3

fnatic

Gambit

G2

Liquid

Luminosity

mousesports

Natus Vincere

NiP

NRG

OpTic

Renegades

SK

TSM

Virtus.pro

TyLoo

 

For those of the more visual bent, or who just like pretty logos. Courtesy of liquidpedia.

For those of the more visual bent, or who just like pretty logos. Courtesy of liquidpedia.

 

The current CSGO competitive landscape is incredibly interesting, we’ve got Luminosity, the most recent Major champions, Na’Vi who consistently challenge for the top spot, and multiple teams that have recently made a roster swap which could potentially see them rocket to the top.

 

My top five looks like this:

Luminosity

Na’Vi

Astralis

Fnatic

NiP

 

Luminosity have shown that they’re an incredibly strong and tactical team that have so much to offer in the top tier CSGO scene. The big question about this line-up is if they can constantly stay at the top and make sure they don’t get figured out and completely antistratted by the other top tier teams.

 

 

Na`Vi have the issue of whether or not GuardiaN will be able to consistently play at the top of his game with the injury he has picked up in the past few months. He’s had to change his ingame sensitivity and has since not been the absolute dominant force he is known for. If Na`Vi can overcome this they will be consistently hitting top two.

Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

 

Astralis have shown they’re a top tier team time and time again, but have never been able to close it out and win tournaments they play well at, they’re the team that keeps on choking. I have no doubt Astralis will be in the top 7 teams in this league, they have the potential to upset and break the top one and two places but it’s more likely they will finish in third to seventh in my opinion.

 

Courtesy of liquidpedia.

Courtesy of liquidpedia.

Fnatic have been constantly changing their roster to try and stay on top after Olofmeisters injury means that he will be unable to play for the coming months. They have tried Plessen, but recently cut him from the roster citing the team’s poor results as the reason for this. Now Fnatic have brought in Wenton, who hasn’t had the best start with Fnatic losing to Astralis but it’s still early days so we can’t read too much in to that. Fnatic have been dominant in the past but without their star player Olofmeister, the question is, can they continue to be dominant?

This last place in my top five could really be a mix of three teams, NiP, Virtus.Pro or EnVyUs. I have chosen NiP since they have been looking like they have transformed their playstyle from a puggy style to a more structured strategic play which worked really well for them at Dreamhack Malmo. I am really impressed with the work Threat has done with this team and I do believe that if they play like they did at Dreamhack Malmo they will be able to challenge the top three spot.

 

 

 

 

The upsetters, the teams I think could potentially bring in some great results against the top tier teams in this league.

 

My first pick in the upsetters category is Tyloo. They’ve shown they’re incredibly dedicated to the game and improving, and they’re bringing a whole new level of CSGO to the West. The top tier teams don’t have much experience against this team and they don’t have many demos to watch back to work out how they play. If they come in to the tournament strong they could bring some upsets. This team is also great to see if the Asian scene can compete with the Western scene, how they match up and how they will improve will be really interesting to watch.

 

Courtesy of liquidpedia.

Courtesy of liquidpedia.

 

A team that seems like it has a lot of potential is NRG, I would really like them to make a roster change to bring in one fragger in replacement of maybe Legija or gob b and move one of the Europeans to coach. They have the brain, I’m just not sure they have the aim.

 

My third and final team included in this upset category is mousesports, they’ve had some really good results lately and have been knocking on the door of the top tier teams constantly. They beat Luminosity and Liquid at Dreamhack Malmo and multiple top tier teams online since.

 

My final ranking prediction is this:

 

Luminosity

Na’Vi

Astralis

Fnatic

NiP

EnVyUs

Virtus.pro

mousesports

TyLoo

G2

CLG

FaZe

Gambit

dignitas

SK

FlipSid3

Cloud9

Liquid

NRG

compLexity

Echo Fox

Renegades

TSM

OpTic

 

 

 

AUTHOR BIO

 

Adam has been playing Counter Strike for a little over 10 years now and has set up http://bc-gb.com a CSGO news and opinion website and https://www.customesports.com a custom esports jersey and apparel supplier. You’ll normally find Adam on his websites, Reddit or https://www.twitter.com/admstevens.

A Tale of Two Team Managements: Post NA LCS Finals Discussion

 

The longest running rivalry in NA LCS, possibly even the world, meet again in an unlikely NA LCS finals. Courtesy of loleventvods.

The longest running rivalry in NA LCS, possibly even the world, meet again in an unlikely NA LCS finals. Courtesy of loleventvods.

While a lot of the story lines being covered center around the games themselves and what laid up to them, it’s another thing to note the actual development philosophy of the two teams that actually made it to the finals: CLG and TSM. As we’ll get to in the article, these two teams took very different approaches to forming their squads in the post-Worlds off season, and it is definitely clear that neither approach could be said to be superior to the other currently. For CLG it was a more ‘Ember-esque’ approach, one that focused on the team, its environment, and fostering teamwork and cooperation in and off the rift. For TSM, not saying these previous factors weren’t involved, it was about the star power, about the raw, mechanical skill that makes a team do crazy good things. It was about getting the best in the West together and making the strongest team for raw star power that NA has ever seen. Both team styles showed to be viable in the finals, and it’ll be great to see if both are able to keep up their performances going forward.

I’d like it to be on record that I actually predicted the results from the right half of the bracket correct: I saw Liquid easily moving past NRG, falling to CLG in a tight five game series, with CLG moving onto the finals where they would win that in another close five game series. I just thought that’d be against Immortals or Cloud 9. It was an absolutely insane showing by fan favourite TSM, the 6th seed, to make it to the finals, and not because they got placed against ‘easy opponents.’ They overcame both Cloud 9 and Immortals, the two teams slated to possibly even meet in the finals. The left half of the bracket was a completely unpredictable beast that had all the TSM doubters quickly silenced.

In a lot of ways I think this is probably the greatest way for the finals to go: The new guard, the upstarts, the hyped Titan killers in Immortals and Liquid ultimately falling to the veteran organizations, the time trialed and well-worn path of the old guards in the two oldest teams in the league: TSM and CLG. I also think it should be a humbling experience for those new guard teams, and a need for the organization to make sure their infrastructure is properly in place for the teams to at once not take this too badly, but also to understand where things went wrong.

 

CLG: The Big Ember that Could

 

Wow. What an absolute roller coaster CLG has been in the past year. We saw the suffering Faith Age turn into the Golden Age, with an NA LCS title in the Summer, a strange showing at Worlds (hey, that’s an accomplishment for the team, being at Worlds that is,) and what seemed to be further sunny ways as rivals TSM, the fierce rival of the org, looked to have to rebuild their roster. Then the Dark Age came, CLG dropped both Doublelift and Pobelter, and the fans were torn apart. Doublelift, particularly, was seen as the team’s longest player, but also their strongest and the star power. He also was a main reason for fans of CLG to stick around. The Rush Hour lane was an absolute tyrant in lane and team fights, it’s hard to really see any reason to drop that. Pobelter, too, is a good mid laner, who eventually moved to the newly minted Immortals side to much success there in the Regular season. And then the absolutely unforeseeable happened to Doublelift: he turned in the Blue and Gray of CLG for the Gray and Black of TSM, CLG’s rivals.

The Dark Age seemed to only get worse: CLG brought secondary Mid laner in Huhi to the starting roster, and promoted Stixxay, a relatively unheard of ADC, from their Challenger squad to the starting roster. What an absolutely insane roster move, the fans decried. Most weren’t even calling it a roster move but a full on roster downgrade, purposefully shooting themselves in the foot after such a great showing from the team. It wasn’t a talent upgrade by any stretch of the imagination, that can’t be denied. While CLG went on to say that Stixxay, particularly Aphromoo his fellow bot laner and Support, was on par with Doublelift mechanically, it was a questionable statement to begin with. Was this new rookie really a contender against the fabled Doublelift?

Courtesy of CLGaming.net

Courtesy of CLGaming.net

Well, if he wasn’t the team was able to pick up the slack. They beat Korean side Jin Air Green Wings in a best of three at IEM San Jose, an impressive feat for any NA side, they went 13-5 in the Regular split, getting the oh so coveted semi-finals berth, and a tough road ahead of them to defend their NA LCS title as more than just a fluke in the system. Many doubted them along the whole way: they questioned whether the squad was talented enough, saying they were one dimensional in a split push style, their wins were too cheesy for a best of five series style, they’d crumble and choke once it came down to it, you name it, people probably said it about the team. Some slated the CLG Age to have turned to the Silver Age: a second place showing would be a win for the organization, and many fans shot for just that in their aspirations. Nobody really thought CLG could pull off another Title.

The rookie ADC made a name for himself in the finals, but was it enough to prove critics wrong? Courtesy of ESL youtube.

The rookie ADC made a name for himself in the finals, but was it enough to prove critics wrong? Courtesy of ESL youtube.

Many analysts rightly identified that CLG was an experiment of a very different breed of team management: the long-term, rebuilding mindset. Bring on new talent, rookies with prospective futures, ride out a few bad seasons until they’ve been polished enough to truly shine. It’s an age-old process in traditional sports: as your star talents start to falter, get old, demanding too much money or being emotionally disruptive, a team has to look to rebuild itself around new, young talent. Doublelift wasn’t old (I hope not, he’s only 22!) but his mentality has been hinted at multiple times by current CLG players as having a negative effect on the atmosphere. Talent only gets you so far before your team mates start not feeling comfortable beside you, and that seems to have been what happened in the CLG camp.

They also moved towards what could maybe be called an ‘Ember approach’ to team management, alluding to the current (past? Now defunct? Who really knows…) Challenger Series squad of Ember. Many NA fans will remember their desires to build ‘better humans’ to make better athletes, working on the emotional side of their players just as much as their in-game skills. Fostering talent, too, was a big feature, and what better way to do that then to promote from within the organizations ‘farm team’ and their back bench? Rather than looking abroad for international talent, the team made the conscientious decision to stick within themselves and work as a team. And my gods, what a beautiful team that was when it worked.

 

TSM: The Best of the Best

 

TSM TSM TSM TSM TSM TSM TSM TSM TSM. Sorry, sometimes Twitch chat comes out when I think of TSM. The easily NA fan favourite squad is none other than TSM. The team is just as storied and Legacy as Counter Logic Gaming, just with a lot more success until most recent times. TSM has been much like the European side of Fnatic: always showing up in the playoffs, making it to the finals and either claiming it for themselves or falling but still walking away with the glittering Silver. The team’s practically synonymous for most with NA League, and deservedly so, and they’ve been in a situation unlike CLG where they’ve been able to validate their fans time and time again. But the team’s showings last year, from their regular season shakiness back in Summer 2015, to their falling out of Worlds like much of NA, and mediocre international results, caused this old guard team to do a radical roster shake up: they dropped every player outside of star mid laner Bjergsen. I doubt any League fan will ever forget the Dyrus good bye speech, but outside of that much of the roster faded away without much ceremony. Wildturtle went to Immortals, Lustboy has all but disappeared like John Cena, and Santorin was shipped around to multiple Challenger Series teams trying to make an name for himself.

Spoiler: TSM's roster has some of the scariest talent available in NA. Courtesy of https://www.reddit.com/r/TeamSolomid/comments/3r3k8i/tsm_2016_roster_banner_so_far/ (TSM subreddit.)

Spoiler: TSM’s roster has some of the scariest talent available in NA. Courtesy of https://www.reddit.com/r/TeamSolomid/comments/3r3k8i/tsm_2016_roster_banner_so_far/ (TSM subreddit.)

But who would fill out the legendary squad that is TSM? Well, nothing below legendary players, it would seem. Hauntzer was recruited from NA side Gravity, easily the strongest player on the Gravity side and probably one of the top three NA top laners around. Svenskeren was brought over from the now defunct SK Gaming side to fill the Jungler position, replacing fellow Dane Santroin, which seemed to be another easy upgrade. Sven’s aggressive play style fits well with the TSM identity of heavy team fight focus. Doublelift, as we said above, was brought in from rivals CLG and was seen to be another clear upgrade. Doublelift was one of the few NA ADCs able to compete internationally, and so he seemed a clear pick. Yellowstar was tapped on the shoulder to replace Lustboy, probably the second biggest player to fill out the new TSM 2.0. Yellowstar’s tenure with Fnatic is legendary, and particularly his role as crucial Team captain in the rebuilding of Fnatic after the xPeke exit was arguably the reason Fnatic were able to do their perfect split. There wasn’t much to say about this roster but “wow.” It was the most star studded, international, NA team ever. And fans were hyped, until it just seemed to fail time and time again.

The TSM Dream Super Team of Lots of Talent looked shakey in the regular split, but showed up when it mattered most: Playoffs. Courtesy of TSM Store.

The TSM Dream Super Team of Lots of Talent looked shakey in the regular split, but showed up when it mattered most: Playoffs. Courtesy of TSM Store.

TSM came into the playoffs as the 6th seed after a pretty atrocious regular season that had many TSM fans bemoaning a decline that just didn’t make sense. But there was a silent murmur in the NA LCS fandom and abroad even, whispers muttered in the dark of the time-tested truth: TSM shows up in Playoffs. Worry mounted as Cloud 9 easily dismantled TSM in the first game of the best of 5, but the next three games were absolutely dominated by the fan favourite in TSM. An upset of note, yes, but Cloud 9 was another team that seemed to be all over the place at times. It was an understandable possibility. But surely TSM would fall in their next endeavour: a best of five against the only other team other than Fnatic to almost make it to a perfect split in Immortals. Immortals looked absolutely disgusting throughout the regular split, but again murmurs were heard, as the Immortal side looked very, very, weak against Renegades and Dignitas, being bullied outright by the former. The side wasn’t the same as it had been earlier.

TSM breezed past the faltering Immortals to blaze their way to the finals against long-time rivals CLG and a repeat of last year’s Summer Split finals. Many had said it would be an easy victory for the TSM boys, and what looked to be the most unlikely story line to ever unfold almost seemed to be within grasp. But the games were back and forth evenly, CLG claiming the first, TSM the second, etc. It came down to a 2-2 record with the last game being the decider. And it was only befitting that the came was a nail biter of tension that was palpable, with teams making great plays (CLG’s grabbing baron) that were only meet with setbacks (TSM all but wiping CLG afterwards.) CLG eventually came out on top, after a crazy close teamfight that eventually saw the team pushing into TSM’s base to claim the second NA LCS trophy for the CLG side.

 

The Take Away

I highly doubt anyone expected this to be the final brackets. Courtesy of lolesports.

I highly doubt anyone expected this to be the final brackets. Courtesy of lolesports.

I do not think in any way shape or form TSM fans should be too deeply saddened by their team’s performance. From 6th seed to second place is one helleva trip, and the team looked better than ever. If this is the TSM of Summer split, then the TSM of old may very well be back. That can only mean great things for NA overall. TSM need to make sure they keep up whatever they did during the playoffs, which’ll be aided by the move to Bo3’s for the Summer split. I think TSM have a good chance moving ahead, and I highly doubt any roster changes will happen for the team now. They’ll need to look within, work on their own form, clear up some of their internal infrastructure, and try to keep whatever spirit possessed them to bring them to where they were just a few short days ago: the Finals of the NA LCS.

CLG, too, doesn’t look like they’ll be resting on their laurels anytime soon. The squad, who almost unanimously everyone doubted and trash talked, shut up doubters (well, the ones who aren’t stubborn,) who doubted whether they were even a top-tier NA team, let alone the ‘best.’ Nobody will ever agree on who is really the best, but winning two LCS finals sure does help. The team looks to be moving in the right direction with their rookies, and fans can only hope that they’ve yet to reach their skill ceiling, and with further nourishing they’ll grow even stronger. CLG’s staff will need to make sure to patch up the holes and problems the squad experienced, and maybe attempt to deepen those champion pools and drafting process for the squad. But CLG looks strong, very strong, coming into the Summer split. They’ve shown that they’re not a one trick pony either, and as much as fans of the other teams will still use it against them, it does make a statement that they won their final game off a decisive team fight and not just a split pushing Darshan.

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