League of Censership

If you’ve been playing League of Legends lately you may have noticed an odd occurrence in the support champion pool. For some reason only champions with heals and shields seem to be played as supports, most notably Janna. But that’s not all, these champions also seem to be skipping their Sightstone rush in favor of a different build path entirely. It gets even weirder when you see ADCs in the LCK start with a relic shield in order to funnel gold into their supports.

Ardent Censer

Starting a relic shield to buff up your support. Just LCK things. Courtesy of OGN

The Ardent Censer is an item that is so cost efficient, ADCs and supports are delaying their builds to complete it. The item gives 50 percent base mana regeneration, 60 ability power, ten percent cooldown reduction and eight percent movement speed. These raw stats provide 2138 gold alone for an item that costs 2300. The item then increases all healing and shielding by ten percent. Its final unique passive reads as follows: “Heals and shields on allied champions (excluding yourself) enhance their basic attacks for 6 seconds. Granting them +20% – 35% (based on level) attack speed and 20 – 35 (based on level) bonus on-hit magic damage healing them for the same amount.” This unique passive can be given a value of 1000 gold at level one, and 1750 gold at level eighteen. With this passive, the Ardent Censer is 136 to 169 percent gold efficient at levels one and eighteen respectively.

 

Quite the gold differential between supports by the time Janna comes back with an Ardent Censer. Courtesy of OGN

Ardent Censer is changing the meta in the bottom lane. For the first time, supports are rushing an item that does not grant vision control in favor of the raw stats and unique passive that the Ardent Censer offers. Supports are also taking summoner heal more often than ever before due to their build path and mastery choices. While this has probably been the better way to go ever since Windspeaker Blessing it has only just become a popular choice in competitive play. So if you are taking a healing and shielding support, take heal.

Who/what to nerf

Currently, Janna, Sona and Soraka seem to be utilizing the Ardent Censer best, but that is not to say that Lulu, Nami and Karma don’t effectively use it as well. Janna seems to be so powerful with Ardent Censer that nerfs have appeared for her on PBE. While these nerfs seemed to be healthy for her kit, they have since been taken down in favor of a nerf to Ardent Censer first.

The nerf to Ardent Censer shows that Riot’s balance team is staying on the safe side. Many times have champions been nerfed because they utilize an especially strong item, only for that item to later be nerfed. Cinderhulk, tank junglers have experienced this many times before.

The passive attack speed buff it gives champions you heal or shield is being lowered from 20-35 percent to 25 percent at all levels, while the health drain it gives is being reduced from 20-35 health to 25 health at all levels. Will this nerf be enough to keep Janna and other shield spammers in line with their support counterparts? Probably not, but it is a definite start. 

Sona benefits from being able to easily apply the buff throughout the entire team. Courtesy of leagueoflegends

 

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Who is League of Legends balanced for?

A few months ago I interviewed at Riot Games to become part of their in house balance team. Over the course of two separate interviews, lasting thirty and forty-five minutes, I was thrown through what I can only describe as the gauntlet of game health adjudication. In this interview, I trash talked Nasus, roasted Janna mains like myself and complained avidly about Azir, all to my interviewer’s delight. The aforementioned interviewer was none other than Gleebglarbu.

Rolling through question after question about various “toxic” champions, champions whose design create frustrating experiences for players, we finally got to the big one. I’m not talking about Corki’s package here, but instead a question that left me more perplexed than a drunkard watching Inception for the first time. Here, Gleebglarbu, and later another interviewer by the name of Trevor asked me what demographic of skill would I balance League of Legends for. More specifically, they asked me if I would balance champions for professional play or the average Silver player. The dialogue went something like this:

 

Gleeb: In situations where you can either balance for LCS levels of play or Silver levels of play, which one do you choose and why?

Me: Do the two situations have to be mutually exclusive?

Gleeb: For champions like Azir (a champion I had complained about laning against earlier in the interview) the perfect player will make him seem frustratingly overpowered. But then you see a Bronze II player pick the champion up and all the sudden his team is missing a mid laner.

 

I continued to fumble around with this question, attempting to find some middle ground balance between pro and casual play, but alas with Azir and champions like him, there was no middle ground. I had to pick a side within this dualistic paradigm, and if you know me, you know that I hate dualistic systems more than anything.

Ultimately I suggested that Riot had to first and foremost balance for the competitive scene, a decision I still do not entirely believe in, but I had to choose one or the other. I chose to balance around the professional level of play, pulling data from Masters through LCS to make balancing decisions due to the fact that League of Legends as a Spectator Sport, is for everyone. While it is impossible to balance a game for everyone with the sheer amount of player skill diversity and champion kit variety, it is possible to balance it for just the professional scene.

Ryze is one of the champions whispered about through the halls of Riot games. They speak of him not by name, but as the Rework King. Courtesy of leagueoflegends.com

Balancing for the LCS

Whether you are in promos to Diamond I or someone who has never played ranked, you can watch your favorite players fail flash into the thick part of the wall on side lanes. And most importantly, you can do so on the big screen of the LCS stage. League of Legends has established itself as the pinnacle of Esports and will continue to do so through their constant reinvestment into the competitive scene. It’s paid off too. The production value of Worlds, Rift Rivals and even weekly LCS keep viewers returning week after week, season after season.

Professional League of Legends as a spectator sport is for everyone and not balancing around this level of play cheats both the pros and the viewers out of a dynamic viewing experience. Riot tries their best to make the viewing experience as close to perfect as possible, but there have been long periods of pro play imbalance that have made League of Legends a stale viewing experience.

If you remember the times of lane swaps, where top laners had less farm to their name than the average Cannon minion, you remember a time of darkness and boredom. While this lasted for far too long, changes were made to towers in order to make the viewing experience one worthy of the viewers’ time.

This change had little impact on the solo queue experience for the majority of players and was an all around success, but there have been other dark times on the competitive stage that have bled into casual play. I know I have seen one Shurima Shuffle and several machine gun Ryze plays too many and the repetitive nature of these picks were answered in a timely fashion by Riot’s balancing team. However, the costs of these changes left League of Legends with two champions that when picked in ranked would ensue dodges from those trying to safeguard their LP.

Who can forget this play? TL Fenix takes down almost all of CLG all by himself. Courtesy of lolesports

This is a real drag for players who enjoy playing those champions that are gutted in such an extreme fashion simply because they cannot be balanced in professional play. I am sure Riot has learned a lot from their trouble making Azir and each failed variation of Ryze. The problem with those champions doesn’t entirely run in the power of the numbers in their kit, a problem that champions with more simplistic kits run into a lot of the time. The problem instead lies in the nature of a kit that relies on low ping and insane amounts of team coordination. The fact that getting my team to leave the base before thirty seconds in the game is a problem makes using a champion that requires everyone to hop in a designated zone that’s only available for two seconds even more problematic.

And while I can go on and on about Ryze, that should really be saved for a different piece entirely (hire me Riot I got ideas for the next six Ryze reworks). What Ryze represents at Riot Games is something completely different. The failure of Ryze is Riot making a statement. A statement that Gleebglarbu would have never told me in the interview: League of Legends balances around professional play over all else.

And while this statement does not sound great for the player base, it is one that I ultimately agreed with in my interview. As I have explained earlier, balancing around professional play is not a bad strategy. But there is a better way. Yes, the viewing experience must come first and the sanctity of League of Legends as THE competitive Esport is Riot’s most prized possession. But there is a way to avoid the dualism of champion balance that I have struggled so much with, and that answer comes in the Champion design.

You wouldn’t hop in this van would you? Then why are you going in that Ryze ultimate as Caitlin? Courtesy of imgflip

 

So before you patch with small buffs and incremental nerfs, the design of each champion must come under the highest level of scrutiny. Remember that we are communicating with pings and we are also communicating with strangers, who have no more reason to trust us than we have to trust them. I’m not going to hop in my mid lane Ryze’s ultimate anymore than I’m going to hop in a stranger’s Van. So let’s continue with the Rakans and Kayns whose kits rely upon communication that can easily be done through our five ping options. Let’s stick with champion designs that do not rely upon the blind trust of strangers asking for you to get in the blacked out Van covered in Runes.

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Thinking like a professional jungler

While the most recent rendition of CLG versus TSM was not as close as many would have liked it to be, there were many important takeaways from the play of both Svenskeren and OmarGod. As these two junglers went head to head, they tracked each other’s camps, jungle pathing and enemy summoner spells during the early to mid game in order to secure a lead.

Jungle tracking

Junglers trade red buffs through tracking each others camps and playing on the strong side of the map. Courtesy of lolesports

In game one of TSM versus CLG, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and Omar “OmarGod” Amin traded camps cross-map through friendly vision and CS tracking. With OmarGod on Sejuani starting raptors and transitioning into a full blue side clear after red, TSM vision from a level one trinket ward allowed for a safe invade of krugs by Svenskeren’s Maokai. As Svenskeren stole CLG’s krugs, Darshan’s Gragas gained vision of the camp revealing a Maokai with 17 cs. This number reveals to OmarGod that Maokai has not done his own krugs, allowing OmarGod to move in for the guaranteed camp.

This is but one example of how enemy junglers track each other in high stake scenarios. Another example comes from game two where CLG received the information of Svenskeren’s red buff start from his level two gank on bottom lane. In this case, CLG used their advantage in the top lane to collapse on the spawning red buff, securing the objective, two kills and several summoner spells.

 

 

Repeat ganks on summoner-less champions

 

Before six minutes in the game, Bjergsen fakes a recall, allowing Svenskeren’s Maokai to then burn Huhi’s flash and ghost as Huhi’s Orianna attempted to shove in the wave. By taking advantage of Huhi’s naturally proactive tendency to deny the enemy CS as they back (like any good laner would do), Svenskeren was able to burn both defensive summoner spells allowing for an easy follow up gank to guarantee the team first blood and with it, a tempo advantage.

Maokai burns both defensive summoner spells mid allowing for a repeat gank later on. Courtesy of lolesports.

 

 

Even before the follow up gank on CLG’s mid laner, the initial Maokai gank gave pressure to TSM’s mid laner allowing the Taliyah to actively deny CS from CLG’s mid laner by threatening both all in’s and ganks. The follow up gank arrived just before Huhi’s flash came up, securing first blood through a four person dive on the mid lane. By ten minutes, TSM’s entire gold lead stemmed out of their mid lane advantage created through repeat ganks by Svenskeren’s Maokai. This advantage would then translate to a four for one teamfight in TSM’s favor utilizing the advantage of the AOE mage in the mid lane that was previously gained.

In game two we witnessed an early invade that resulted in a blown flash for CLG’s immobile Ashe. Svenskeren immediately took advantage of this by ganking bot lane after starting red buff in his topside. Had Ashe’s flash not been down prior to this gank, an early gank from Svenskeren would have more than likely put him behind in his jungle clear. However, since the flash had been down, the 400 gold that comes from killing CLG’s ADC was very worth the minor setback that occurred as a result of pathing so oddly.

 

 

Solo-queue takeaways: Economy of opportunity

Camping a lane is always a good idea, but camping a lane that has no summoner spells is even better. Junglers in competitive environments benefit from playing around strong sides of their map, sides where their laners have item or summoner advantages. The same basic principles can be applied to solo-queue environments.  When playing on the strong side of the map, if both allies and enemies are to collapse on a risky invade, your allies should have the advantage in the following skirmish.

A level two gank on a flash less Ashe ends up being a flashy play. Courtesy of Lolesports

 

Jungling is all about risk versus reward. What benefits you can gain from ganking a lane may not outweigh the benefits that are guaranteed through farming your jungle. More so, they may not outweigh the benefits you can gain from denying the enemy jungler their own resources. Highly skilled junglers take this into account frequently. They often do not gank early due to the tempo loss that can arise from a failed gank. However, the same can be applied for the reverse of this scenario. Easily gankable lanes are prioritized over their own camps and the opportunity to counter jungle. How a jungler utilizes the economy of opportunity will dictate how skilled they are, and furthermore, will decide whose nexus falls.

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Top five junglers and how they are used in the LCK and NA LCS

Strategies and picks in the North American League Championship Series (NA LCS) often get criticized for imitating those pioneered in the League Championship Korea (LCK). This is a fair criticism and is in a large part due to the fact that the LCK plays before the NA LCS on each patch by a couple of days, allowing for their North American counterparts to learn vicariously from the trials and errors in the LCK.

The jungle has always been a role that remains fairly static despite changes in the meta, with picks like Lee Sin and Elise seeming to always be viable. But with each region being on a ten ban system, this season has shown some prominent divergences from the standard jungle picks. Here we explore the top five jungle picks in both regions to see how each region has success with the strategies that arise from these power picks.

In the following list, the most picked junglers will be graded for each region based upon the entire Summer Split so far. Other junglers of note are Maokai, Rek’Sai, Jarvan IV, Graves and Nidalee who have either not seen enough play to make conclusions upon their value or have simply been outclassed by the five junglers mentioned below. 

 

1. Lee Sin: S tier in NA / A tier in the LCK

With a win rate at 64 percent in the NA LCS it is no wonder that Lee Sin is the most picked jungler. His big plays allow for any player, rookie or veteran to steal the spotlight with a flashy play. No other champion is capable of the hype plays that Lee Sin can pull off. I’m talking about MikeYeung hype tier plays. While his success is slightly less impactful in the LCK, where Lee Sin has a 52 percent win rate, both regions have seen him picked in 25 games. Lee Sin is the jack of all trades and his value is recognized by all teams across all regions. Having the capacity to fit any team composition due to the diversity of his kit and the power of his mobility, Lee Sin is S tier in the NA LCS and A tier in the LCK. The reason for Lee Sin being slightly less valuable in the LCK is mostly due to the smaller amount of Lee Sin one tricks in the LCK when compared to the MikeYeungs of NA. Additionally, Thresh and Taliyah, both of which do very well into Lee Sin, are even more popular of picks in the LCK than they are in NA.

 

Elise dives Gragas with an enemy minion wave in the way of a free cocoon that would have secured the kill cleanly. This is not how you do the Elise Renekton combo NA. Courtesy of lolesports.

2. Elise: C tier in NA / S tier in the LCK

Similar to Lee Sin in more than just being a flashy playmaking jungler, Elise is the LCK’s version of Lee Sin. With a 81.8 percent win rate in the LCK and a dismal 31.8 in the NA LCS, Elise shows a distinct difference in the meta for each region. The LCK has only picked Elise a total of 11 times, which is less than half that of the NA LCS. Additionally, teams that pick Elise consistently try to pick champions like Syndra and Renekton. More so than any other champion, Renekton has the ability to lock down a champion giving Elise a free stun, oftentimes resulting in not only a kill but also the depletion of the enemy top laner’s summoner spells as well. In the NA LCS Elise is not used in the same as in the LCK and is instead used as a “fit all team compositions” jungler much like Lee Sin. In the LCK, Elise is an S tier jungler, while in NA she appears to be one of the many C tier picks.

 

3. Gragas: B tier in both regions

Being able to choose your fights makes you the strongest on the rift. Courtesy of lolesports

Often picked early due to the ability to flex this pick in top lane, Gragas is another one of those champions that always seems viable in competitive play. Being the second most picked champion in the NA LCS Summer split comes as no surprise, but the priority by which Gragas is picked does not always follow the success that he garners. While having a positive win rate in both regions, Gragas’ jungle success is much higher in the LCK, while his laning success is higher in NA LCS. While the fat man lacks in clear speeds, he makes up for it with the versatility of his kit. If you are noticing a trend in the top jungle picks so far, you are right to do so. Elise, Lee Sin and Gragas all have the ability to engage and disengage from fights, which is especially valuable in competitive. The ability for a champion to win most fights is great at all levels of play, but the ability to choose which fights to enter into is ultimately much more valuable at higher levels of play. For this reason, Gragas is a B tier jungler in both regions.

 

4. Kha’Zix: D* tier in NA / A tier in the LCK

One item Kha’Zix damage. That just doesn’t seem right… Courtesy of OGN

Being the third most picked jungler in the LCK, Kha’Zix has recently been attributed as the most overpowered jungler in Korea. The rise of Kha’Zix is primarily due to his ability to abuse the very powerful Duskblade of Draktharr item, but despite the power of this item, his win rate and pick rate in NA is dismally low. With a 16.7 percent win rate in NA and a 64.3 in the LCK many viewers are left scratching their head. A lot of this difference in pick rate between the two regions stems from the assassin junglers being overvalued in Korea. More high damage AD junglers like Graves, Kha’Zix and Rengar are seen in Korea in general, potentially to round out the magic damage that is so popular in top lane tanks like Gragas, Maokai and more recently Cho’ Gath. NA, on the other hand, seems to be struggling with Kha’Zix as an AD assassin while simultaneously performing exceedingly well on Rengar. This is in large part due to who is picking Kha’Zix. Reignover, Contractz and Moon are prolific Kha’Zix players and unfortunately for them, they are on teams that have not found much success as of lately. For this reason, I have added an asterisk to the D tier rating for Kha’Zix in NA.

5. Olaf: B tier in NA / D tier in the LCK

Olaf is not the most popular jungler in either region being discussed. He seems to have arisen from the ten ban system as a result of junglers not being prioritized in the first pick stage. Despite his lack of popularity, Olaf has seen some success in NA. Olaf is one of the few champions that Team Liquid has seen success on and appears to be a popular back up pick for the likes of both Xmithie and Contractz. While on the other side of the Pacific, Olaf has been met with much disdain. Standing at a 30 percent win rate over the course of ten picks, Olaf’s lack of success in the LCK is to be expected given his inability to be able to pick and choose the fights he engages in. Having no way to traverse the jungle walls, Olaf’s invades can be risky. Olaf simply does not have the mobility that other top tier junglers have, but he still remains an “if all else fails” pick for many junglers in competitive.

 

 

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Featured image courtesy of leagueoflegends.com

Why blue side wins more than red side

If you have played a game of League of Legends on red side recently and lost, it may not entirely be your fault. I wouldn’t go so far as to throw your teammates under the bus, but like the RNG that plays so heavily into pairing you with your DC’d mid laner, the seemingly trivial side of the map you get placed on has a significant factor in whether you win or lose.

The minute flip of the camera brings with it some not so small of advantages and disadvantages that can take effect even before minute one. In solo queue, blue side has a 52.9 percent win rate while red side has a 47.1 percent win rate. This delta in win rates is exacerbated in the North American League Championship Series where blue team has a 54.4 win rate and red team has a 45.6 percent win rate.

League Championship Series: Pick order rules

In the final game of the best of three between Team Liquid and Cloud9, Cloud9 was not allowed any target bans due to not having first pick and thereby needing to ban the “uncounterables”. Courtesy of lolesports

Having first pick is an advantage that is often neglected in solo queue environments despite the tremendous advantage it can give a team. First pick can often mean securing a champion that currently does not have counters. While red side gets the next two picks, there is often just one champion that necessitates being picked or banned regardless of matchups.

This was recently the case with Zac in patches following his rework. The poor flubber had to be banned by red side every game due to his power, effectively making red side have one less ban. While Zac was incredibly broken during this time, other champions were able to slip through ban phases such as Maokai, whose LCS performance was a treet for whoever’s team he ended up on. Zac has since been gutted and is now sitting at one of the lowest win rates in the game.

Solo Queue Gank Advantage

With only one ward to spare, Impact dies from an Elise gank through tribrush. Courtesy of lolesports

While this advantage applies to all levels of play, the advantage blue side has over red side during ganks on the top lane is enough to make Rumble one of the worst champions in the game when on red side. Rumble, who is most vulnerable due to his limited mobility, illustrates why red side has it worse than any other top laner.

Blue side Rumble is much safer from ganks as he can simply ward river in order to avoid most of them. But red side Rumble requires a ward in tribush and river. In general, blue side is better for top laners and red side is better for bot lanes in terms of safety because of vision.

The view of toplane. It looks even better from Blue side. Courtesy of leagueoflegends

 

Having your botside being more vulnerable to ganks through the need to ward both tribrush and river is not as much of a disadvantage. Because there are two people there, there are more wards to be dropped, both in river near dragon and in tribrush. While enemy junglers are usually spotted earlier botside, ganks are also easier to avoid due to double combat summoners. Heal and exhaust provide for excellent disengage while teleport will not help a toplaner escape a gank, unless of course, that top laner is Soaz.

Another map advantage blue side has is a safer entrance to Baron. While red side has a safer entrance to dragon, Baron fights are often more influential due to the death timers and power of the neutral objective itself.

HUD positioning advantage

Due to the way the HUD is positioned and the screen perspective in League of Legends, it is much easier to dodge skillshots on blue side, especially in the bottom lane. If you are shoved into tower on red side, positioning the camera to easily see everything you need to pay attention to is difficult. The minimap, your champion stats and your item box all cover up small portions of the Rift that appear to be even more annoying when you are playing on red side. 

There are many factors as to why blue side has the advantage on the Rift. Some of these consequences extend onto other maps, such as ARAM’s Howling Abyss. Even in ARAM, blue side has the advantage, and since there is no pick order, this must be because of the perspective of the player’s point of view.


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Feature image courtesy of leagueoflegends.com

Grading CLG’s junglers since 2014

With Counter Logic Gaming currently tied for second place with the ever encroaching TSM, special attention must be paid towards the organization’s many junglers. It is without a doubt that Counter Logic Gaming has attracted some of the most skilled junglers as of late, but has this always been the case? Here we will grade the past five junglers CLG has had on the League Championship Series stage.

 

 

The turbulent CLG squad. Of this line-up, only Aphromoo would stay on the CLG we now know today. Courtesy of qz.com

Marcel “Dexter” Feldkamp (C-)

Dexter played on Counter Logic Gaming for the Spring and Summer split of 2014 before he returned to EU to play for Elements. Prior to joining CLG, Dexter had already made a name for himself in EU on teams like Lemondogs and mousesports. Dexter’s achievements on CLG would grant them a third place in the 2014 NA LCS Spring Split.

Known for his Elise play during the 2014 NA LCS Summer split, Dexter was a middle of the pack jungler for a middle of the pack CLG. His on stage performances heavily wavered from games on Elise where he would average a 5.05 KDA to games on Rengar where he would average a 1.38 KDA. Fans never knew what to expect. This is in large part due to the turmoil of tumultuous drama that brewed between each member of CLG during this high stress season. Whether Dexter was better than his on stage performances showed depends a lot on what was happening during the off stage time spent with his teammates.

 

Jake “Xmithie” Puchero (S on Immortals/ A- on CLG)

Ever since his days on Team Vulcun (XDG Gaming), Xmithie has been a staple jungler in the NA LCS. Currently on Team Immortals, Xmithie was a CLG jungler who seemed unscathed by the drama that arose from being on CLG during the peaks and troughs of previous splits. Competing in three separate world championships, Xmithie is potentially the most consistently accoladed jungler of the NA LCS.

Known as the Golden age of CLG, this lineup found great success landing a first place trophy. Courtesy of lolesports

 

Xmithie excels at play making junglers like Elise, Gragas and Lee Sin. His stats on Gragas make me question why that champion ever gets into his hands. His success on each and every team he has gone to show that he has the ability to lead a team to victory with these play making champions. As a shot caller, Xmithie clashed with other voices on CLG, but on Immortals he has found a loudspeaker for his decision making. While his KDA this season has yet to impress, his macro decision making has propelled Immortals into the first place they currently own.

 

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett (B-)

If CLG’s eagerness to find a substitute for Dardoch does not worry you as a CLG fan, then you may not be aware of  Dardoch’s track record. With one of the lowest kill participation and some unimpressive stats in general, the risk CLG took in trading away Xmithie may not have been worth it. These risks arise from Dardoch’s unstable temperament. Being known for flaming his teammates as well as being one of the most proficient Lee Sin players in the LCS, Dardoch is the number one hot button LCS player.

 

For being the LCS bad boy, he doesn’t look like too bad of a guy… Courtesy of lolesports

That being said, CLG had all this information and more when they made the trade with Immortals for Dardoch. While second place in the LCS is deserving of much praise, Dardoch’s individual performance has by no means been the variable that has placed CLG so high in the standings. Having the most deaths per game out of any jungler with over 25 games played, Dardoch’s high risk, high reward play style seems to match his personality.

 

Omar “Omargod” Amin (B?)

The jury’s still out on Omargod. In the four games he has played, Omargod has had significant impact on their victories and troublesome performances in their defeats. However, Omargod has not had the easiest time in his four game tenure. With two games against the first place Immortals, one against a very strong team Dignitas and a flawless Olaf game against FlyQuest, Omargod has played against some very strong opponents. 

While only playing two different champions in the NA LCS so far, Omargod has drawn bans on Elise, Maokai and Zac. Time will tell for Omargod, however, he appears to be performing better than his counterpart and against tougher opponents too.

 

Honorable Mentions

It is true that CLG has had several other junglers throughout the organization’s past. Of these, two come to mind: Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco and Sam “Kobe24” Hartman-Kenzler. As for Kobe, this foxy devil, would only stay in the competitive League of Legends scene for one year after retiring to join Riot’s beloved casting squad. Kobe used to be known for missing smites,

I think we can all be happy that Kobe dropped the 24 and joined the casting crew at Riot games. Courtesy of lolesports flickr.

before Saintvicious himself, and would often be mocked through the “24” meme, which became a suffix for any other jungler who missed smite. It was not until he gave up competitive League of Legends and dropped the “24” in his name, that he would pass the missing smite meme onto his replacement, Saintvicious.

Saintvicious, who is currently one of the coaches on Team Dignitas alongside his former teammate David “Cop” Roberson, has been in the League of Legends competitive scene since before his receding hairline began receding. Beginning on Team SoloMid, Saintvicious later on went to play or coach for what feels like every team in the LCS. Expect to see Saintvicious staying in the competitive League of Legends scene until his hairline no longer exists.

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Featured image courtesy of lolesports Flickr

One item to rule them all: How Duskblade has changed the Rift

Alright, here’s the play: Your support, Zyra is struggling to keep vision control around Baron. You as the mid laner move in to assist, dropping your own trinket ward like a good little laner and moving your ball into the nearest brush to offer more safety for your friendly Zyra. All of the sudden Talon appears on your minimap and before you could even move your ball to shield that poor innocent Zyra, she’s dead.

Duskblade of Draktharr is a pretty imbalanced item right now and while carries hate being flogged around the Rift, I can assure you they do not have it as bad as supports. But before we talk about the woes of the untouchable caste of League of Legends players, let’s break down the item itself.

 

One item to rule them all: How Duskblade has changed the Rift

Even without a consistent way of proccing the on hit passive, Zed is very fond of the Duskblade build. Courtesy of leagueoflegends.com

Duckblade of Quacktharr

At 2900 gold, the Duskblade of Draktharr offers 55 flat AD, 10 percent cooldown reduction and 18 lethality. Without the two other passives taken into account, the gold value of these raw stats is 2596.67. This makes the item 89.54 percent cost efficient. These numbers are created using base items such as a Long Sword (plus 10 AD) valued at 350 gold, thereby making each point of Attack Damage valued at 35 gold. Without the next two passives, soon to be discussed, this is not a good item. This is simply based upon its gold efficiency. However, the Duskblade of Draktharr has so much more to offer.

 

Passive: Blackout

The first passive is Blackout, which on a 90 second cooldown passively spots enemy wards, causing a blackout for eight seconds, disabling all nearby enemy wards and revealing them. This passive is most comparable to the Oracle Alteration trinket, which becomes available to all champions at level nine. While the Blackout passive is two seconds shorter and has a shorter active range, it allows the user to keep their warding totem trinket, giving a vision advantage to the user.

Given that in Gold ranked games and higher, the average wards placed is 69.4, if a mid lane Talon has Duskblade by 20 minutes they will likely accrue eight to thirteen Blackout procs by the end of the game. If they destroy at least eight of these wards, that’s 240 gold from this passive alone. That is just the gold value of removing the vision. The objective control that can come from the removal of one ward alone could be enough to win the game off of a single pick or Baron bait.

 

One item to rule them all: How Duskblade has changed the Rift

One shot does a lot. Courtesy of league of legends replay

Passive: Nightstalker

With the value of Blackout’s utility being immeasurable, it is time to discuss what truly makes the Duskblade of Draktharr so overpowered: the Nightstalker passive. Nightstalker works like this: “After being unseen for at least 1 second, your next basic attack against an enemy champion deals 55 – 360 (based on level) bonus on-hit physical damage and slows by 99% for 0.25 seconds. The enhanced attack lasts 5 seconds after being seen by an enemy champion (http://leagueoflegends.wikia.com).”

So what exactly does this passive mean when you actually apply it to an in game scenario? Well, the average Miss Fortune and Talon are going to be getting this item second, while Rengar and Kha’ Zix will be getting it second or third. At the point in time where solo laners are coming back with a completed Duskblade, they will likely be level nine about 15 minutes in the game, given that they have picked up one kill and farm like the average Gold player.

At this point in time, the average Zyra support will be level six or seven depending on how long said player has spent roaming and warding. In this scenario, Duskblade’s passive does 208 damage alone. Given that a Zyra has 941 health at level six (with a sightstone in inventory) and only 32 armor, the on hit passive of Duskblade alone will do almost one fifth of her current health. That’s only including the on hit passive. The actual auto attack and the follow-up burst damage coming from the champion’s abilities should easily do the remaining health, giving Zyra the grey screen in under a second.

The burst damage coming from this item cannot directly be given a gold value. While there is only a five second window for the burst to be dealt, this window can be easily abused in lane through brush control and with the invisibility found in kits of champions like Kha’Zix, Rengar and Talon.

That’s pretty rough for Zyra, and the unintended consequence for her and other squishy support champions like Sona, Soraka, Lulu and Nami is their win rates unsurprisingly falling this patch. So what should you take away from this article? Play a champion that can abuse this item. If you are playing a role like support, then I would only advise you to play a tanky champion that can stack some armor, as lethality’s weakness is armor stacking. Frankly, it is a disappointment that one unbalanced item that supports do not even build, can have such an impact upon champion diversity in the role. While Duskblade of Draktharr will be nerfed in the coming patch, and it has already been hot-fixed once, that patch may not be enough for an item that is literally defining the meta for all roles across the Rift.

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 Rodger Caudill 

Featured image courtesy of leagueoflegends.com

Urgot: Then and now

In preparation for the Urgot rework, we at The Game Haus have prepared a side by side comparison of how The Headsman’s Pride has changed into the Dreadnought that will drop in the next few weeks. Here we will cover the changes Urgot will receive and possible utilizations of his new kit in the top lane.

Urgot, The Headsman’s Pride

Currently, Urgot is a short ranged “Marksman” with the ability to have longer ranges based upon whether or not he can successfully hit his Noxian Corrosive Charge (E). Urgot’s current kit revolves around Acid Hunter (Q), an ability very similar to Ezreal’s Mystic Shot (Q) in that it is a spammable linear skill shot that does physical damage. Acid Hunter synergizes with each of Urgot’s basic abilities and his passive in different ways.

Urgot dreadnought

Old/Current Battlecast Urgot. Alot will change. Courtesy of Surrender at 20

Zaun-Touched Bolt Augmenter, Urgot’s passive, allows for his basic attacks and his Acid Hunter to reduce the damage dealt by his target by 15% for 2.5 seconds. This passive allows Urgot to duel very effectively and has established him as the counter carry that he is used most frequently as. His Terror Capacitor (W) can be activated to shield him for 5 seconds causing his basic attacks and Acid Hunter to apply a slow for 1.5 seconds. His final basic ability, Noxian Corrosive Charge, is a skill shot that shreds armor and allows for his Acid Hunter to lock onto affected targets, extending the range and removing the skill shot restraints of the projectile.

Finally, his ultimate, Hyper-Kinetic Position Reverser allows for him to suppress and reposition target enemy champion causing nearby enemies to flee and slowing the initial target at the end of the channel. The Ultimate also gives Urgot some much needed damage reduction, further enabling his initiation and carry dueling potential.

While Urgot has seen competitive use rarely and sporadically, he used to be one of the hottest picks. Back in 2012, Urgot was seen in the 2012 MLG Spring Championship as either a ban or a pick in 100 percent of games. DreamHack 2012 also has Urgot picked or banned in 80.9 percent of games. It was consecutive nerfs to Urgot’s base damage, base health, base shield on his Terror Capacitor, and a reduction of cast range on his ultimate that led to the death of the Urgot we once knew and loved. The question now is whether or not Urgot’s rework will bring this hunk of meat back into play.

Urgot, The Dreadnought

The new Urgot will have a smaller attack range, at 350, just 50 range more than Rakan and 50 range less than Mini Gnar at level one. Urgot will also have 5 less movement speed, making the new Dreadnought less of a marksman and more of a slow moving death machine. These changes make Urgot’s rework a completely new champion. So let’s get into his kit.

Urgot dreadnought

Urgot’s new kit and new looks. Courtesy of Surrender at 20

Urgot’s passive, Shotgun flamethrower knees, also known as Echoing Flames is where the majority of his damage comes from. The passive reads as follows: When Urgot hits an enemy in the direction of one of his legs with a basic attack, that leg will blast flames outward, dealing [40% of total AD] plus [4.5/5.25/6/7/8% at 1/6/9/13/15] of the target’s max health as physical damage to all enemies in a cone. Each consecutive hits within 5 seconds deal 10% reduced damage, down to a minimum of 70%. After firing, that leg goes on cooldown for [30/25/20/15/10 at 1/6/9/11/13, affected by CDR] seconds (minimum 2.5s).

Urgot’s new (Q), Corrosive Charge is his old (E) minus the damage over time and armor shred. Instead, it has a stronger slow and allows for Urgot to lock onto enemies with his new (W), Purge. Purge combined Urgot’s old Acid Hunter (Q) and shield (W) to allow him to lock onto enemies marked by (Q) and fire a barrage of bullets. Urgot’s final basic ability, Disdain (E), is effectively a gap closing Singed flip that also allows for him to lock onto the target.

Urgot’s ultimate ability, Fear Beyond Death, is a solid burst of damage paired with a debilitating 75 percent movement speed slow based upon their missing health for 3 seconds. If the target falls below 25 percent health, Urgot will reel them in for the kill. Upon a successful execution, Urgot channels his Warwick cosplay and fears all nearby enemies for 1.5 seconds.

Maximizing the Dreadnought

With this combo as his bread and butter, the new Urgot will do absurd amounts of damage just with a Black Cleaver and the Fervor mastery. Black Cleaver will be especially strong on the new Urgot as his Shield now scales with bonus Health instead of Mana. While Boots of Swiftness are not the best boots at the moment, they may be a good pickup for Urgot as Purge also slows Urgot by a flat 125 movement speed. Swiftness boots will reduce this by 31.25 which is especially important for the new Urgot as positioning himself to maximize his passive is key.

Urgot dreadnought

New splash art for Crabgot has him looking like a Kaiju. Courtesy of surrender at 20

While Boots of Swiftness are not the best boots at the moment, they may be a good pickup for Urgot as Purge also slows Urgot by a flat 125 movement speed. Swiftness boots will reduce this by 31.25 which is especially important for the new Urgot as positioning himself to maximize his passive is key.

It is worth noting that all of Urgot’s damage dealing abilities scale with total AD and not bonus AD-like many other champions. This allows for him to build Sterak’s Gage for a huge damage power spike. Sterak’s Gage gives Urgot 400 health, which means an additional 120 health on the shield granted by Purge, and a powerful passive that grants 30 percent additional base damage. This is especially strong given Urgot’s relatively high base AD.

Because of Urgot’s passive, Echoing Flames, deals a percentage of target’s maximum health, armor penetration/ lethality is also a vital stat for tank killing in the top lane. A last whisper item against enemies stacking armor, or a Lethality item paired with an early Black Cleaver will make quick work of squishy opponents. Youmuu’s Ghostblade would be a very strong lethality item against squishy laners as the movement speed active will allow Urgot to reposition in order to maximize his passive.

Urgot’s kit has some obvious weaknesses. Having no sustain in his kit and low mobility paired with a ridiculously short auto attack range, Urgot’s weakness will come from being kited and poked down. Optimizing early lane sustain through Refillable/Corrupting Potion may compensate for the early sustain, while later on in the game, a Death’s Dance will allow Urgot to heal up through the insane amount of physical damage he can pump out.

Being easily kited with only one small gap closer means Urgot will either have to flank in team fights or split push to win. Depending on the hard engage of your team composition, grouping with Urgot’s ability to dump damage and annihilate tanks may be best. Just don’t die overcommitting on a dive.

It seems that Urgot is at his best a ranged Fiora without the sustain and true damage of her ultimate. Like Fiora, Urgot will have to dance around his target, utilizing his passive and dueling. Urgot’s success in the top lane will be largely based on matchups. Opponents who are able to both sustain and poke, such as Swain, will be a nightmare for the Dreadnought, but enemies who must go all in will likely be favorable matchups.


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 Rodger Caudill 

All images courtesy of Surrender at 20

Feature image courtesy of Surrender at 20

Sink and swim for the LCK: Rift Rivals recap

With Rift Rivals completed, it may be time to examine the League Championship Korea’s surprising second place as each team continues their swim back to Korea.

Most already know that kt Rolster coach Lee ji-hoon had jokingly said that if “the LCK comes in second or third place, we’ll have to swim our way back to Korea, but that’ll never come to pass, so I hope the fans continue to watch comfortably,” tragically creating a bitterly ironic disposition as the LCK squad came in second place. Losing to none other than the LPL, jokes arose around LCK veterans who had spent time in China’s LPL giving birth to a new era of memes around players like Heo “Pawn” Won-seok, Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong and Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu.

As someone who mostly watches the LCK with some scattered NALCS throughout, watching the LCK lose at Rift Rivals was shocking. While kt Rolster proved that their team fighting was still on an LCK caliber of play, the other Korean squads are going to have to clean up their play on the swim home. This is all rather convenient as they will have to wash up on shore anyways after that 739-mile swim. Memes aside, the unexpected defeat suffered at the hands of LPL teams came in a best of five Relay match resulting in a 3-1.  

 

Game One: Samsung Galaxy v EDward Gaming

(LPL) EDG Victory 45:44

Here it is, a combo that is potentially stronger than the Galio and Jarvan IV ultimate synergy: Kalista and Rakan. Courtesy of Lolesports

Game one between SG and EDG started with a poor draft phase by SG and an even worse early defend of an invade, giving EDG a lead that they would not let go of. Draft phase left EDG with an incredibly strong engage composition with Kalista and Rakan, a combination that offsets Rakan’s lack of tankiness with the safety of Kalista’s ultimate. This combination is devastating, but even more so when the Kalista and Rakan combo is on a team leading in tempo. A tempo lead is exactly what EDG gathered in game one.

Brutalizing their opponents, the LPL’s EDG did not give up a kill until past the thirty-minute mark. This is especially impressive given the nature of their diving hard engage team composition. The double hard engage Kalista/Rakan combination allows for such a long duration of virtually unavoidable crowd control, that EDG was able to take each team fight without suffering casualties. This changed during a team fight at the forty minute mark, where a huge Orianna ultimate coming out of SG’s Crown was able to change the tides. However, this team fight proved to be a fluke as the power of the Kalista and Rakan engage was too much for SG to handle.

 

Game Two: SK Telecom T1 v Team WE

(LPL) Team WE Victory 31:55

WE miss the Galio and Jarvan IV ultimate combination, but they’ll have plenty more shots at it. Courtesy of Lolesports

Game two between SKT1 and WE once again began with the surrender of a crucial team fight combination by the LCK. This time around, SKT1 gave both Galio and Jarvan IV, giving up most team fights in the process. With play at this level revolving heavily around engage, SKT1, like their Korean counterparts SG, prioritized Ashe over all other engage tools. While Ashe is a strong pick, she performs much better when her AOE damage and slows can be combined with other AOE based champions. Champions that, with the exception of Cassiopeia, SKT1 failed to draft. In addition to not drafting for AOE damage, SKT1 picked carries whose only mobility comes from their summoner spells in the face of a Jarvan IV and Galio combination.

Regardless of the players behind the champions, SKT1 drafted a composition that required them to use their Achilles Heel as a battering ram. It would have been an amazing feat for the Korean squad to overtake the wombo combo styled composition that WE had drafted for. Even with improper execution of their team fights, WE was able to secure an early lead from the camp-the-Faker strategy that so many teams utilize against SKT1.

 

Game Three: kt Rolster v OMG

(LCK) kt Rolster victory 34:37

Kt shows that the LCK can draft a team comp and then put that comp to use. Courtesy of lolesports

With kt Rolster’s bottom lane giving up first blood to a gank so early on, you would have expected this game to go in much the same way as the games prior. But this time was different because kt Rolster drafted a team with enough AOE to capitalize on their engage. Ashe and Zyra already have devastating AOE CC and damage to pour into their opponents, but kt took this draft a step further by grabbing Jarvan IV and Zac to further disrupt their opponents alongside the high damage of the skillshot based Corki mid.

The frontline and CC of this composition gives Ashe, Corki and Zyra the time to drop their damage loads onto enemies who are not able to dodge out of the way, while the long range initiation of Ashe allows for easy follow up CC for Jarvan IV and Zac. Despite early laning hiccups, kt Rolster was able to finally prove that with a well-drafted composition, the LCK could stand toe to toe with the LPL.

 

Game Four: MVP v RNG

(LPL) RNG victory 55:14

MVP pulls off an amazing wombo combo using Rakan. Unfortunately for them, they lose this fight too. Courtesy of lolesports

The closest and longest of the entire finals had the LCK showing promising early game play-making that fell short despite some well-executed initiations by the likes of MVP Max. While draft phase looked good for MVP, as they drafted a hard engage composition into the poke composition of RNG, some crucial misplays by MVP or just genuinely good plays by RNG ultimately led to an LPL victory.

Every time these teams fought, there were heavy casualties resulting in a long drawn out game that was as close as it was tense. When MVP would secure Baron, RNG would take it off at least three members immediately, while the same would occur on the opposite side when RNG secured Elder Dragon. The game finally fell into RNG’s favor when they secured an uncontested Baron thanks to a Gragas ultimate that left MVP out of smite range. This baron buff then led to an open base that RNG would ultimately destroy through a TP back door. Unlucky.

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 Rodger Caudill 

All images courtesy of LoL Esports

Feature image courtesy of Google Maps

Rift Rivals day one recap: NA takes the lead

The following recap covers day one of NA versus EU in the Rift Rivals in Berlin.

TSM v G2: Learning how to play a comp

After much practice in the North American League Championship, Team SoloMid finally turned the corner on the Galio and Jarvan IV composition. Like many team comps taken from the LCK, the Galio and Jarvan IV synergy requires communication to cover the weaknesses of both champions’ ultimates.

Practice makes perfect for the TSM Galio and Jarvan IV combo. Courtesy of LoL Esports.

 

Using Galio to pressure side lanes in the early to mid game, TSM was able to lead the game by 4.4k at fifteen minutes.

TSM was still working out the kinks in their team communication with a disastrous mid game team fight around Baron. With a relatively simple game plan, “Kill the Kog’Maw”, TSM used their win condition to instead focus down G2’s tanky jungler, Rek’Sai.

The perfect combo. Courtesy of LoL Esports

 

After losing this early team fight around Baron, TSM seemed to clean up their communications with a cleanly executed team fight that utilized the strengths of their composition. This fight forced G2’s hyper carry based team comp into a position that did not allow Kog’Maw to administer his health depleting projectile vomit onto the damage dealing threats of TSM.

TSM took the victory at 41:19 leading in gold by nearly 15k, eleven towers to three and eighteen to ten kills.

FNC v P1:MIKE YEUNG! MIKE YEUNG! MIKE YEUNG! Broxah?

The early to mid game for FNC v P1 showed a Phoenix 1 that no one expected. With jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung maintaining a small gold lead through nonstop ganks, hope for North America as a region was at an all-time high.

As soon as mid game pulled around, the less than one hundred gold lead Phoenix 1 had at twenty minutes meant little to nothing. With the signature Kennen marksman split push, FNC was able to negate P1’s lead through controlled disengages and devout farming. As soon as the gold gap flipped in favor of Fnatic, Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen utilized Zac to place enemy champions onto a plate for Martin “Rekkles” Larsson’s Kennen.

 

Rift Rivals

Postgame breakdown courtesy of LoL Esports.

G2 v C9: How to lose two games in one by Cloud9

G2’s early game prowess proved that Kim “Trick” Kang Yoon is a jungler not to be doubted. With early game control over every dragon, Trick cashed in on late game insurance, while also pressuring lanes around the map. Trick’s vision control around bot side allowed for some crucial ganks and counter ganks snowballing an early lead for G2.

G2 Trick utilizes vision control to deny C9’s bot lane plays. Courtesy of LoL Esports.

Cloud9 turned things around with a crispy team fight after a pick on Renekton, allowing them to take an uncontested Baron afterward. Through clean tower taking rotations made possible through Baron buff and Tristana’s kit, Cloud9 was able to pull into the lead with one 3058 gold Baron power play.

C9 Sneaky LITERALLY recalls on a ward throwing the game once again into G2’s favor. Courtesy of LoL Esports.

C9, with a tempo advantage, looked to control the rest of the game up until the entirety of their advantage was depleted by one basic ability from Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez’s Blitzcrank. G2 saw Cloud 9’s 3k Baron power play and raised them a 4588 gold Baron power play that was aided by the five stack Elder Dragon buff. This recipe created an advantage that not even G2 was able to throw.

Rift Rivals

Postgame breakdown courtesy of Lol Esports

 

P1 v UoL: Exileh blows Flash and MikeYeung chants come back

Phoenix 1 once again secured a lead into their EU opponents, with mid-laner Ryu Sang-wook picking up three kill participation before ten minutes. However, this lead did not prevent UoL from playing proactively via a successful gank mid and a follow-up Rift Herald. Despite UoL’s Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir having an impactful early game, MikeYeung played out of his mind.

Rift Rivals

The start of a long game for UoL Exileh. Courtesy of Lol Esports

 

MikeYeung’s camp on mid lane left UoL looking for the report for intentional feeding post game for their mid laner,  Fabian “Exileh” Schubert.

Perhaps the most controlled game for Rift Rivals day one, P1 vUoL looked like a completely different team than the P1 we see in NA LCS.

FNC v C9: Contractz buys camping gear from Caps

Rasmus “Caps” Winther was not allowed to lane against the mid lane and jungle synergy that C9 brought with their Leblanc and Gragas combo. With the burning of Caps’ flash before laning phase even began, C9 looked to snowball Jensen’s Leblanc into a champion removal machine.

With gank after gank on mid lane, not all of which were done by C9’s jungler, Jensen secured eight kills by the time C9 went for their game-ending push.

Rift Rivals

Smoothie makes mid lane feel like an REI outlet. Courtesy of Lol Esports.

TSM v UoL: NA finishes strong

UoL Exileh’s tilt from Ryu’s dominance over his Ryze earlier during the day permeated through his unsuccessful Corki performance into Bjergsen’s Syndra. While UoL Vizicsacsi performed very well on Irelia into TSM’s Gnar pick, the same can not be said for the rest of UoL’s team.

Despite having a troubled laning phase, TSM Hauntzer’s Gnar pulled huge Mega Gnar ultimates, two-handedly leading TSM into a victory.

Rift Rivals

Day One completed. Here are the results. Courtesy of Lol Esports.

Bjergsen sealed the game with a beautiful Quadra kill putting NA substantially in the lead for day one of Rift Rivals at 4-2. TSM finished off Day one 2-0 and are looking for more victories in the coming days.


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All images courtesy of LoL Esports

Feature image courtesy of LoL Esports

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