north america's prophecy

Worlds 2017: North America’s prophecy

Week Two of the 2017 League of Legends World Championship brought miracle comebacks and rookie hype. While some records were broken, others remained.

North America’s prophecy rang true; The North American representatives combined for a meager 2-9 record in Week Two of groups. With a history of defeat, what can explain NA’s consistently poor showings at Worlds? Do the players and teams suffer from some mental block? Or, is NA doomed to their prophetic losses year and again?

NA Hopes and Memes

north america's prophecy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Each year it sounds like a broken record. “North America looks really good this year. The region is a lot more competitive this time around,” they say.

Yet, NA teams never seem to show up when it counts. At Worlds 2015, all three NA representatives failed to advance beyond group stage. Worlds 2016, only Cloud 9 (C9) moved on to quarters before falling to tournament finalists Samsung Galaxy (SSG). This year, analysts had Immortals (IMT) and Team SoloMid (TSM) as heavy favorites to advance coming into Week Two of groups. Still, the North American representatives crumbled under the pressure. Cloud 9, again, was the only team to survive.

It seems that despite the progress North America seems to make, their teams consistently fail to perform on the international stage. Domestic competition grows, but nothing translates come time for Worlds. This trend carried over the past several years, developing into a widely used meme: NA in Week Two. Week Two of group stages has often been NA’s ‘Achilles heel’. The worst part? The results do not lie.

Last week, Immortals only needed to win one of four games to secure themselves a quarterfinals spot. Instead, they crumbled to Fnatic (FNC) in an unparalleled run for the European squad. Team SoloMid fell to rookie squad Misfits Gaming (MSF) in a tiebreaker match that silenced thousands of NA hopefuls, begging the question: is North America’s prophecy a matter of fact, or has the meme grown so large that NA teams succumb to pressure on social media?

NA’s Kryptonite: Prophecies or adaptation?

north america's prophecy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

One of the greatest benefits of participating in the World Championship is team growth. Many Worlds teams show remarkable improvement after the first week of group stage. Misfits Gaming, for example, had several clear weaknesses in Week One. Their bottom lane was susceptible to early pressure in their loss against Team WE. Transitioning into Week Two, MSF’s AD-carry Steven “Hans Sama” Liv and support Donggeun “Ignar” Lee played with a measured aggression that shined through their tiebreaker victory over TSM.

On the other hand, TSM’s most glaring weakness throughout the tournament was an inability to apply early pressure. Instead, TSM relied on a passive playstyle and scaling focused compositions. In fact, TSM’s affinity to float through the first fifteen minutes of a game led to zero first bloods in all seven of their games. Coming into Week Two, it was time to see if TSM fixed these issues. Team WE drafted an aggressive early-game focused composition meant to push TSM out of their usual scaling, late-game comfort. Team SoloMid failed to adapt as WE crushed them in 24 minutes.

TSM showed no signs of growth coming into their Week Two matches. In their games, jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and mid-laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg played uncharacteristically restrained, unwilling to take risks or pressure aggressively. This lack of proactive early shot-calling proved that TSM made little progress fixing their week one problems. Similarly, with Immortals, their opponents in Fnatic and GIGABYTE Marines (GAM) both made huge strides in improving their gameplay while IMT clung to their week one formula. These two North American teams showed little growth coming into the second week of Worlds 2017.

Can C9 Smash North America’s Prophecy?

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Unlike TSM, Cloud 9 demonstrated a clear ability to adapt to meta changes on the fly. In addition, C9 successfully indexed on early aggressive playstyles carried out primarily by rookie jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia. After seeing Team WE pull out the first “Caitlyn” of the tournament, C9 was quick and unafraid to experiment with the champion in a high-pressure match against ahq eSports Club (AHQ). With C9 AD-carry Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi looking increasingly in form, and Contractz overperforming at his first Worlds appearance, the momentum looks good for C9.

However, their quarterfinal opponents in Team WE also look to be rallying with the home crowd booming behind them. Both teams boast aggressive, carry-oriented junglers. So far at Worlds, we have seen Contractz and WE’s jungler RenJie “Condi” Xiang on champions like “Ezreal,” “Kha,zix” and “Graves.” These high risk, high damage junglers will define the early game between these two rosters. How will Contractz, a rookie, fair against a more seasoned jungler in Condi?

In a post-game interview, Contractz spoke to confidence as a crucial part of C9’s mindset coming into every match. With no time to worry about North America’s prophecy or endless memes, Cloud 9 is looking to show up big at Worlds 2017. As the most consistent North American team on an international stage, C9 carries the weight of an entire region coming into quarterfinals. Will this iteration of Cloud 9 be the one to break this cursed prophecy?


 

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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fnatic path

Fnatic: A path of fire

Fnatic (FNC) rewrote Worlds history this week, becoming the first team to ever advance to quarterfinals with an 0-4 start. How did FNC manage this miracle run? Certainly, the path to quarters was no easy feat for the European squad. From criticism in Play-In’s to breakdowns in group stage, Fnatic endured it all. Stepping into week two, FNC looked broken. However, the boys in orange had other plans in mind.

First sparks at Play-In’s

fnatic

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Coming in as the EU LCS third seed, Fnatic’s Worlds 2017 journey started early. With Riot’s newly introduced pre-Worlds Play-In stage, major region third seeds had to compete against emerging-region teams gunning for their seats. Fnatic drew into Group C alongside the GPL’s Young Generation (YG) and the LAS’s Kaos Latin Gamers (KLG). Initial reactions after the group draw pinned Fnatic as easy favorites coming into the week.
Although FNC claimed first in Group C, several questions circled around the squad’s performance. Doubts flared after Young Generation managed to topple Fnatic, securing second in their group. Suddenly, critics referenced FNC’s poor showing at Rift Rivals earlier this season. Others attacked Fnatic for losing to the seemingly weaker Misfits Gaming (MSF) in the EU LCS playoffs. Fans and analysts began to raise preemptive red flags.

Fnatic promptly shut those critics down in the Play-In’s Knockout stage. After securing a clean 3-0 victory over Hong Kong Attitude (HKA) from the LMS, Fnatic calmly advanced to the Worlds main event. There, Korean titans Longzhu Gaming (LZ) waited for them alongside North America’s Immortals (IMT) and Garena’s GIGABYTE Marines (GAM).

Week One: Fnatic reduced to ashes

fnatic

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Fnatic kicked off their Worlds 2017 group stage with an explosive standoff against the GIGABYTE Marines. A blitz strategy by the Marines shoved FNC on the back-foot. Blindsided, Fnatic opened their group stage with a harsh defeat. One player in particular, FNC’s top-laner Paul “sOAZ” Boyer, struggled massively against the Marine’s aggressive lane-swap strategy. sOAZ suffered through the first six minutes of the match, unable to kill a single minion.

The schedule was not getting any easier. Fnatic loaded in against North America’s second seed, Immortals. FNC’s AD-carry Martin “Rekkles” Larsson came out guns blazing. With “Twitch” as his champion of choice, Rekkles infiltrated Immortals’ backline, mowing down enemies with wild abandon. However, living true to his name, Rekkles committed a fatal mistake that would cost his team the game.

Spotting IMT’s mid-laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park seemingly unaware, Rekkles unloaded onto his target. Seeing red, the FNC AD-carry tunneled onto this single kill that could earn his team an all crucial advantage to secure the win. The plan blew up in his face. Rekkles expended his “Flash”, desperate to secure the kill, only to be met by a full Immortals squad gunning straight for him. Fnatic scrambled to save their carry, but the pieces fell apart. Immortals tore through Rekkles‘ health bar and sealed the game.

Following this crushing loss, anxiety crept into the Fnatic camp at 0-2, but the week was not over. Korea’s first seed, Longzhu Gaming, loomed like a tidal wave over FNC. It was sink-or-swim. LZ’s top-laner, Dongha “Khan” Kim, rallied the crowd after locking in “Nasus”, a pick that had not seen competitive play for years. The next twenty minutes would be a systematic dismantling of Fnatic’s team composition. sOAZ again struggled to gain any ground against his disadvantageous match-up. Fnatic were helpless to stop Khan‘s massive “Nasus” from ripping through their lines. FNC ended their first week 0-3, a score that no team in League history had ever overcome to secure a quarterfinals position.

Week Two: Marching through the flames

fnatic

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

After their bitter first week, Fnatic showed signs of internal problems. sOAZ took to Twitter, expressing his frustration toward being abandoned on “dog-champs” (champions, mainly tanks, whose primary goal is to supplement the team at all costs). Leaks and talks of the team’s turmoil spread like a social media wildfire. Suddenly, attention zeroed in on the burning European squad. Was this the end? How could FNC recover internally, much less on-stage?

Despite the eyes pointed at them, Fnatic stepped into week two of group stage determined. Their fate would be decided in a single day of games. The odds were almost insurmountably stacked against them. To throw salt on their wounds, Fnatic began their second week against Longzhu. Analysts feared another 20-minute rampage that would knock the European squad off their feet for good. FNC loaded into the game with clear heads.
Fnatic fought for 30 minutes through a close early-game. After several teamfight outplays from Longzhu, the Korean giants subjugated FNC to 0-4. If Fnatic’s goose was cooked at 0-3, now it was burned to a crisp. FNC recollected. There was still a sliver of a chance that they could change history. And so, they set out to face Immortals.
FNC’s jungler Mads “Broxah” Brock-Perdersen pressured Immortals early on his signature “Rek’Sai”. The game balanced on a knife’s edge for the first 35 minutes. Then, in a play eerily similar to Rekkles‘ previous falter against IMT, Immortals ADC Li Yu “Cody Sun” Sun flashed straight into four members of Fnatic. FNC seizing the opportunity, push through IMT’s entire base on that single mistake. Finally, with a win on the board, Rekkles sent Cody Sun his regards.

Don’t call it a comeback

fnatic

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

As FNC gained momentum, Immortals suffered three consecutive losses. This set in place, the necessary conditions for (dare I say it) a monumental comeback. Now, the onus was on FNC to overcome their previous performance against the GIGABYTE Marines. Having already seen two games from the Marines that day, FNC entered their match with unwavering focus. After GAM’s top-laner, Minh Nhut “Archie” Tran, locked in “Urgot,” FNC’s gameplan was clear.

GIGABYTE’s composition lacked engage, unlike earlier against IMT. Fnatic recognized this weakness, attacking the biggest potential threat on GAM: Archie‘s “Urgot”. Broxah spent this game eliminating Archie‘s pressure through repeated ganks. FNC dominated the GIGABYTE Marines and claimed vengeance over the squad that handed them their first Worlds defeat. Suddenly, Group B had a three-way tie. Fnatic held all the momentum heading into tiebreakers against Immortals and GIGABYTE.

FNC stepped into the first game against Immortals by locking in an unconventional “Malzahar” pick for their mid-laner Rasmus “Caps” Winther. IMT did not know how to react to the single-target pressure from Caps‘s “Malzahar.” And like a fire razing the plains, Fnatic burned through IMT in a 27-minute stomp. FNC stood one game away from rewriting history and once again, the GIGABYTE Marines stood in their way. Unlike their previous performances, GIGABYTE opted for a standard composition, hoping to outplay Fnatic without any hidden antics. FNC tasted victory and sOAZ set his sights on quarters. In a draining 43-minute match, sOAZ dominated on “Gnar,” earning himself eight kills and pushing his team into the history books.

Fnatic’s second week of Worlds 2017 is a testament to the resiliency of one of esport’s most storied franchises. So many times in FNC history, when the cards were down and the odds against them, Fnatic rose above. Now, the European squad stands to represent their home looking onto quarterfinals. After staging the biggest upset in Worlds history, can Fnatic continue feeding this fire? Is quarters as far as FNC goes? Or can Fnatic continue forging the path?

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Gigabyte Marines: Orchestrated chaos

GIGABYTE Marines (GAM) debuted on the international stage at the League of Legends 2017 Mid-Season Invitational. Their blitzkrieg playstyle and unconventional strategies surprised several major-region teams, earning international recognition overnight. After securing a top-six finish, the Marines dominated their region, the Garena Premier League (GPL), and charged toward Worlds.

The Marines drew into Group B at Worlds 2017, along regional powerhouses: Longzhu Gaming (LZ), Immortals (IMT) and Fnatic (FNC). Their notoriety on the international stage meant teams and analysts could not write them off as another ‘wildcard’ team. After week one of the Worlds Group Stage, GAM sit at third place in their group, with a 1-2 match record. How did GIGABYTE find initial success? And can they surge into week two to capture a spot in quarterfinals?

GIGABYTE Marines evoke chaos style

gigabyte marines

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Heading into their first match at Worlds 2017, questions circled around how GIGABYTE Marines would size up against European powerhouse Fnatic. Determined to make a statement at their Worlds debut, GIGABYTE defied the meta. After locking in an unexpected “Nocturne” for their star jungler, Duy Khanh “Levi” Do, GAM took Fnatic for a spin.

Coming into the game, GAM transitioned their AD-carry and Support topside. Meanwhile, their top-laner Minh Nhut “Archie” Tran sacrificed his early levels to accelerate Levi‘s experience advantage. When Archie showed himself bottom, Fnatic responded appropriately, but fumbled the execution. FNC stacked four members onto Archie‘s Galio in a bottom dive. However, this left GIGABYTE’s duo free to rush the opposing top-outer tower. FNC failed to completely punish the lane-swap. Instead, they returned to their standard lane setup while Levi power-farmed his jungle.

Then, at 5:04, Levi broke a record, being the fastest player in Worlds history to unlock his ultimate. Archie‘s early sacrifice set his jungler up for monumental success. And Levi sprung to action. Not twenty seconds after hitting level six, Levi used his ultimate, “Paranoia” straight down bottom lane. Caught in a massive level mismatch, FNC’s support Jesse “Jesiz” Le dropped while his teammates scrambled to respond. What began as a surprise 2-on-2, became FNC committing four members to the fight. Despite the numbers, Levi secured three kills and GIGABYTE set the pace to ‘chaos’.

After a 24-minute bloodbath, GIGABYTE emerged victorious. The air was electric as casters and fans roared behind the Marines’ explosive win. Not only did GAM dominate their European opponents, they made a definitive statement on the metagame. Levi, in an interview with Worlds host Eefje “Sjokz” Depoortere, promised to bring even more exciting strategies against Longzhu and Immortals.

The Marines hit a brick wall

gigabyte marines

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Heading into day two of the Worlds group stage, GAM sat across from Longzhu Gaming, tournament favorites and Korea’s prize first seed. What unforeseen strategy did the Marines have planned to challenge the Korean powerhouse? GAM head coach Nguyen Duy Thanh “Tinikun” Doung reached deep into his playbook for the upcoming match.

The draft between GAM and LZ began surprisingly safe, until Tinikun made the call to lock in “Mordekaiser” for Archie. GIGABYTE plunge deeper into the rabbit hole, rotating their AD-carry Vu Long “Noway” Nguyen mid-lane and placing their mid-laner Van Cuong “Optimus” Tran topside. Few knew what to expect out of GAM’s questionable composition, but Longzhu had a definitive game-plan coming into the match.

Longzhu invaded as five into GAM’s blue jungle quadrant, warding all possible paths to bottom lane. This gave Longzhu information on GIGABYTE’s lane assignments and a glimpse into the GAM strategy. By pivoting Archie and support Thien Nhan “Nevan” Phuong to the bottom lane, the Marines delivered the duo to their deaths. Longhzu, spotting this weakness, executed a clean four-man dive to secure first blood. After dropping to the early dive, Archie commits a crucial mistake, using his “Teleport” bottom, only to be dove again. This poor call set the GAM top-laner so far behind, he never truly recovered.

With their bottom duo limping through the early-game, step one of GIGABYTE’s grandiose strategy crumbled. Suddenly, the game became a steamroll for Longzhu. Archie was largely ineffective on the “Mordekaiser” pick and GAM struggled to trade objectives effectively during the mid-game. Without the early minutes of the game going according to plan, GIGABYTE Marines fell apart and could not seem to pick up the pieces.

Do the GIGABYTE Marines abandon ship?

gigabyte marines

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

After their crushing defeat at the hands of Longzhu Gaming, GAM look onto their third match against North America’s second seed, Immortals. Questions surrounded the Marines as analysts and teams dissected their previous matches. Without precise early execution, GIGABYTE could not seem to regain control of their game. It was clear. Teams that recognized GAM’s early objectives could capitalize on those weaknesses. No doubt Immortals prepared for GAM’s signature lane-swaps, but would the Marines shift to another strategy instead?

GIGABYTE Marines had a particularly weak draft, handing over the “Xayah” and “Rakan” duo to the Immortals bot-lane. Perhaps worse, rather than executing a unique strategy, GAM opted into standard lanes. Aside from an aggressive “Kayn” lock-in for Levi and Nevan running “Heal” and “Ignite” for his summoner spells, the GAM draft was largely underwhelming. Unlike their previous games, GIGABYTE did not have an explosive start. Without securing an early lead, the Marines struggle to play from behind. Once Immortals built up their advantages, IMT pushed those leads into a clean victory.

This third game looked grim for the GIGABYTE Marines. Rather than playing to their unique styles, they revealed glaring weaknesses in their standard compositions and ability to play at a disadvantage. Now, several questions bubble to the surface. Did the defeat from Longzhu shake team morale? Will GIGABYTE have the confidence to execute their unique strategies? Fans can speculate, but it is up to team captain Levi and coach Tinikun to steady their ship. As week two of the Worlds 2017 group stage barrels forward, the GIGABYTE Marines must recollect and march on.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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 Michael!

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Edward Gaming: Pressure on China’s hometown heroes

Edward Gaming (EDG) struggles to find success at the 2017 League of Legends World Championship, rounding week one of the group stage with an 0-3 match record. Despite coming in as heavy favorites to advance to quarterfinals alongside defending champions SK telecom T1, China’s first seed cannot seem to find their footing. Let’s dive into EDG’s games and look at what they must do to claw out of Group A.

Game 1: Edward Gaming (EDG) vs ahq e-Sports Club (AHQ)

edward gaming

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Edward Gaming controlled the tempo for the majority of a 54-minute brawl, ultimately crumbling to AHQ’s superior teamfighting. To start the game, EDG locked star mid-laner Lee “Scout” Ye-chan on a comfort pick in Lucian. EDG looked to dominate mid-lane and that advantage across the map. Scout executed, earning a staggering +30 CS differential at 15 minutes.

Despite this aggressive lead in the mid-lane, AHQ found multiple advantageous teamfight opportunities in the mid-game. An extended five on five fight at 20-minutes resulted in a quadra-kill for AHQ’s AD-carry Chun-An “AN” Chou. Taking these small victories, AHQ dragged the game into a plus fifty minute slug fest, ultimately overpowering the Chinese representatives.

What internal factors led to EDG’s loss in their first match of Worlds 2017? Crucially, EDG failed to capitalize on their Shen counter-pick for top-laner Yuhao “Mouse” Chen. As a team, EDG should have prioritized mid-game skirmishes and early Drake control using their Teleport advantage with Shen’s “Stand United” to out-rotate AHQ. Naturally, Cho’Gath stood to outscale Mouse‘s Shen in both teamfight effectiveness, objective control and raw tank stats. EDG had to recognize this weakness in their composition and close out the game early. However, because of Mouse‘s weak lane performance against the enemy Cho’Gath and EDG’s lack of proactive rotations, AHQ secured early objectives that paid dividends in the late-game.

Game 2: Edward Gaming (EDG) vs SK telecom t1 (SKT)

edward gaming

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

EDG had no time to lick their wounds before facing off against long-time rivals, the defending world champions, SK Telecom T1. With the force of an entire arena in Wuhan cheering on their hometown favorites, Edward Gaming stormed into game two with blood in their eyes. Led by Wuhan native, Kai “Clearlove7” Ming, EDG coordinated plays to shut down living legend, Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee. Unlike the day before, EDG did not relent. The Chinese squad continued to wreak havoc on multiple SKT members, ballooning their lead to over 9.1k gold at 25-minutes.

Then, at 29-minutes, SKT finds a single teamfight that swings the entire momentum of the game. In rapid succession, SKT’s support, Jaewan “Wolf” Lee and jungler Wangho “Peanut” Han layer double knock-ups onto EDG’s carries. Faker lands a picture-perfect “Command Shockwave” on four members of Edward Gaming, decimating the opposition and turning the game on its head. EDG are never able to regain control of the game.

One fight. One crystal initiation by SKT’s play-makers leveled Edward Gaming’s seemingly insurmountable lead. It is difficult to find many faults with EDG’s play in this particular game. After successfully neutralizing Faker‘s Orianna, EDG exposed several mid-game vulnerabilities in SKT’s playstyle. However, a single positioning mistake at the height of their gold lead cost EDG their second game. Still, we can find many positives for Edward Gaming. They successfully shut down Faker, whose ability to absorb and outplay enemy pressure is perhaps the best in the world. EDG then took that mid-lane pressure and earned leads across the board, securing three Mountain Drakes, Rift Herald and a Baron.

Game 3: Edward Gaming (EDG) vs Cloud 9 (C9)

edward gaming

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Coming into Game 3, Edward Gaming looked like they had a chip on their shoulder. C9’s rookie jungler, Juan “Contractz” Garcia invaded Clearlove7‘s side of the jungle, stifling EDG’s ability to gain vision control and snowball lanes. Meanwhile, EDG’s top laner Mouse found himself suffocating under early pressure from C9’s top-laner Eonyoung “Impact” Jeong.

Feeling the need to pull his team from the trenches, Scout tried to pressure Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen’s Syndra pick. However, without his team to back him up, Scout found himself on the receiving end of multiple three-man ganks. Edward Gaming cracked under the pressure to perform on their home turf as the North American representatives led them into their third consecutive loss at Worlds 2017.

Taking a look at this game, it is clear EDG is off-center. In an attempt to slow down Contractz‘s aggressive playstyle, EDG banned Ezreal. However, after Contractz locked in Graves, EDG failed to adapt their strategy. The result: Cloud 9 methodically dismantled Edward Gaming, executing clean initiations and trades to put the game away.

Looking at Week Two

edward gaming

Credit: LoL Esports Photos

Despite the odds, an 0-3 match record does not mean Edward Gaming is out of the running. In games one and two, EDG earned sizable leads and control through mid and jungle control. Their crutch was a failure to close out these games. In the days leading up to week two, EDG must work on fixing issues with their macro-play and teamfighting.

The road to quarterfinals will be exceedingly difficult, but EDG is no stranger to being behind. This roster secured China’s first seed by reverse-sweeping regional rivals Royal Never Give Up (RNG) 3-2 at the LPL Summer Finals. Most of EDG’s members are repeat Worlds competitors, veterans even. In times like these, leadership and composure on the world stage will define EDG’s legacy. Team captain, Clearlove7 will look to lead his team surging into week two.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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 Michael!

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