Substitutions

Breaking down substitutions in the NALCS

This year has seen a rise in the number of subs used in the LCS. In previous years it was a rare sight to have multiple players starting in the same position. The exception came only when there were illnesses or injuries preventing a player from playing. Now, though it is far from the norm, many teams have started swapping out players between games and sets depending on a number of factors. These factors include: the team being played, the composition the team wants to try, tilt and player to player match ups.

The most prominent example of subs working lies with SKT. Since season five they have had at least one sub. Initially it was Easyhoon subbing in for Faker in the midlane. Then it was Bengi and Blank subbing in and out in the jungle. Now we have Peanut and Blank sharing the jungle and Untara and Huni splitting time in the top lane.

SKT finding success with the sub style has proven that it can work. Though it has been implemented in the NALCS, the strategy has been met with varied degrees of success.

 

Cloud 9

Substitutions

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Cloud 9 has probably found the most success with substitutions in the NALCS this split. Being able to sub in Ray or Impact when the series isn’t going their way, or when the match calls for a certain playstyle has helped Cloud 9 a few times this season. Most prominently when C9 subbed out Impact for Ray in their series against TSM. Ray came into game two and stayed even in lane, then made a huge play in the bottom lane swinging the momentum in C9’s favor. Then despite picking the wrong keystone mastery in game three of the series he still managed to make plays around the map.

Cloud 9 has found some success with substitutions. They still have a lot of problems that need to be fixed, though. Namely, the team often looks uncoordinated. Take their most recent series against CLG. They lost game one with Impact, who was just destroyed from level one, so they sub in Ray. They win game two with Ray, his J4 looked clean and though he didn’t carry he definitely set up some great plays. Game three was a different story. Despite being up in gold and towers at 20 minutes Cloud 9 is unable to take control of the neutral objectives and lost a fight around Baron and then in midlane giving CLG the advantage and letting them take the game.

Subbing works at times for Cloud 9, but it feels as if the lack of scrims with the same roster, and the different playstyle that each top laner brings unbalances C9 nearly as much as it does the opposing team.

 

Other teams

Substitutions

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This trend of unbalance on both sides seems to be a staple among all of the teams that utilize subs in the NALCS. Recently CLG has brought in jungler OmarGod. In his first series he came in after CLG picked up a win against Flyquest. He crushed on Olaf with a 5-0-13 performance, dominating the early game and bullying his way into the mid game. He proved that he has the talent to be an LCS jungler. When CLG lost game one to DIG they subbed out Dardoch and brought in Omar. They still didn’t pick up the win, and in fact looked more discombobulated in game two than in game one.

Echo Fox has a “ten man line-up” with a sub for every roll. However, substitutions in any role has only gotten a win against TL since week three.

NV has seen some success with the substitutions between Pirean and Nisqy. Generally, they play out an entire weekend with one, rather than swapping out in between games or series. This allows them time in scrims to prepare for the coming week, rather than splitting time. They still haven’t managed to beat a top team other than the struggling C9.

 

Pros and Cons

Substitutions

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Whatever advantages teams gain from implementing subs seems to be negated by the unbalance it brings to their own team. The communication seems to be lackluster in all of the teams that have used subs this split. CLG seemed to bring in Omar in the DIG series because they were reaching for a panic button, rather than having a definitive plan to win. The lack of scrim time that each player gets is also a concern. More scrims is always a good thing, and having to split time between players doesn’t promote cohesion.

It is a long term investment though. Having two players that are both integrated with the rest of the team can be a powerful weapon to possess. If teams like CLG and C9 can have seamlessly interchangeable players at their disposal in the future they may have the edge they need to beat other top teams. Until those players get to that level of integration the teams are going to suffer some defeats because of it.

Only time will tell if the investments these teams have made into multiple players will pay off as short term losses and long term gains.

 

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Worlds

Possibilities for NALCS Worlds teams

There are only three weeks of the regular season remaining in the LCS. Teams are jostling for playoff spots and each game could decide whether a team gets a spot in the top six. With playoff contention on the line, each match is all that more exciting.

Playoffs are the route to the big stage, the only competition that really matters in the end: Worlds. Rift Rivals gave us a small taste, a brief glimpse, a cracked window into the competition that we will see at Worlds. However, the real story is here in the trenches of each league. No team at Rift Rivals is guaranteed a spot at Worlds.

NA LCS has a few favorites. Before the beginning of Rift Rivals, there seemed to be a top four, those being C9, CLG, TSM and IMT. However, with C9 suffering a loss to NV and CLG taking a loss to DIG, those standings have been shaken up a bit. The teams that seem middle of the pack have now proven they can take wins against top tier teams.

Most likely to make Worlds

Worlds

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No Worlds spot is safe. TSM has a good chance to go, being the team with the most points from their Spring Split victory. They are also the favorites to win Summer Split and have two very likely avenues back to Worlds. They would have to throw a lot of games away the last few weeks and have an abysmal playoff run to not make Worlds.

Cloud9 seems to have the Worlds spot in their grasp too. Though they didn’t have the best record going into Rift Rivals, they have a fairly easy schedule the final few weeks of LCS, only facing one top four team. However, they suffered a loss to NV their first game back. Cloud9 does have the second place Spring finish to work with, and will likely still make playoffs. They have the chance to go to Worlds on points, if TSM wins the playoffs, but will likely have to have at least a third place finish.

IMT and CLG are in the same basket. Neither has enough points to bank on that route. They will either have to win the split out right or battle their way through the gauntlet. Either team will have a challenge in the gauntlet because the mid-tier teams are making a surge for the top spots. CLG does have the 10 points from the previous split. A second place finish from them and a fifth or sixth place finish from C9 will give CLG the championship points needed to go to Worlds.

Dark horses

Worlds

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NV picked up a win against Cloud9 in a 2-0 series on Saturday. The team looked good all around but more importantly proved they can win against top tier teams. They will have to make playoffs, and likely at least win in the first round, in order to have enough points to qualify for the gauntlet. At this point in the season, with the performance they had in week 5, it is definitely possible.

If NV does pick up some championship points they have the skill and ability to make a run at the Worlds stage through the gauntlet. A dominant win over C9 shows that.

DIG has something that NV does not, and that is 10 championship points. They will still have to make playoffs in order to qualify for the gauntlet, but have the advantage of doing so over NV. DIG started out the split strong, but have slumped in these middle weeks. They have just taken a win over CLG, however, and like NV have proven they game take series wins off of top tier teams.

P1 has a whopping 50 championship points from their third place finish in the spring, but they are sitting towards the bottom of the standings as of right now.  Rift Rivals has shown us that they aren’t a team to be trifled with and they are definitely on the upswing. They did eat a 2-0 loss to TSM, but P1 does have the potential to take some wins away from other top tier teams and climb the rankings. Depending on who makes the playoffs and finishes where, P1 might not even need to make the playoffs to make the gauntlet, but it would certainly help.

Nearly impossible

Worlds

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FLY, TL and FOX are all very unlikely to see playoffs, and by extension Worlds. These teams have had lackluster splits so far and have little to no redeeming qualities. Flyquest does have the benefit of having 30 championship points. P1 is playing so well that it wouldn’t come as a surprise if FLY end up in the relegation tournament.

The close standings of this NALCS split have opened the door for a lot of teams to see the Worlds stage. It’s far from the usual Cloud9, TSM, CLG. Instead, there’s a significant chance that only one of those teams will be attending the World Championships.


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Jensen

C9 Jensen for NALCS MVP

Since joining Cloud9 and the NALCS in Spring 2015, Jensen has sat in the shadow cast by Bjergsen. Jensen has fallen short of the MVP trophy time and again, often at the hands of the touted mid laner from TSM. It hard to imagine a split where Jensen isn’t a front runner for the title, or at least in the conversation. Despite being a major contender Jensen has yet to achieve the illustrious title of Most Valuable Player.

This year may be his year though. Jensen has put up some amazing numbers this split and had some incredible performances. He is far from the clear choice for the award but has a good shot at it. He still must prove himself better than Xmithie or Bjergsen.

Stats

Jensen

Via Lolesports Flickr

 

It’s hard not to discuss stats when discussing performance. If the MVP of the league is who has had the best performance throughout the split, then talking stats is almost unavoidable. Stats aren’t everything, but they are a big indicator.

KDA has always been a major indicator of overall performance. Not only do kills generate gold, but they generate map pressure, so being able to net kills and assists while not dying yourself is a major key. Jensen currently has the highest KDA in the NALCS with an impressive 6.6. For context, Bjergsen has a 5.7, and Xmithie has a 2.8. It also helps that he has the highest kills in the league at a staggering 134. That’s 18 kills higher than Stixxay and Huhi, who are tied for second at 116.

Kill participation is also an important stat. It lets us know how much of the kills are generated around and through the player. Jensen is tied for fourth in the league with Biofrost and Bjergsen at 75.4%. The highest is Matt who has 77.8% KP. That’s only 2.4% higher than Jensen and Bjergsen. MikeYeung isn’t far behind with a 74.8%. Xmithie only has 66.6% KP, despite having a great showing so far this split.

The final stat that factors into this is CS/M. On top of Jensen’s incredible KDA and KP he also holds the highest CS/M at 9.4, which is .8 CS/M over Bjergsen. This is where it is next level. Having the highest KDA, and a high KP is one thing, but still being able to have the best farm on top of that is truly incredible.

Intangibles

Via Lolesports Flickr

Numbers, however indicative of good performance, can only tell us so much. There are certain intangibles an MVP must demonstrate. This includes playmaking ability, consistency, and carry potential.

Jensen has demonstrated some amazing mechanical ability this split already. While he doesn’t have any huge teamfight turning plays this season, he does have a few solo kills like this. Jensen’s playmaking comes more in the vein of his consistency.

Jensen is the face of consistency. He performs well during most losses, and sports a 41% kill share throughout the regular season.  He isn’t getting quadrakills and pentakills, rather he is pumping out consistent damage in team fights and dominating the laning phase. In fact, Jensen has no quadrakills or pentakills this season, despite having three games with double digit kill scores.

As for his carry potential, Jensen brings that in spades. The man crushes lane opponents and snowballs from the midlane. His roams often net kills for himself and his other laners. From this lead, he is able to relieve pressure from elsewhere on the map by either taking it onto himself in the mid lane, or moving himself to where the pressure is. Take for example his Leblanc game against IMT.

Opponents

Jensen

Via Lolesports Flickr

 

As for the major contenders for the award. Xmithie has plays like this one. His mechanical prowess isn’t the only reason he’s a top three choice for MVP however. His stats are likely so low because of what he has been able to do for his laners. Xmithie has often controlled the jungle of the opponents and thus allowed himself to create large leads for his laners. He often snowballs the game by getting all of his laners ahead in the early game and having a stranglehold on neutral objectives in the mid game.

Bjergsen, on the other hand, spearheads the charge of TSM. He plays much like Bjergsen does, dominating the laning phase and snowballing the side lanes. However, he hasn’t been as nearly as dominant as Jensen has this season. What Bjergsen does have going for him, however, is a better win/loss. I think that speaks more to Bjergsen’s team as opposed to his own individual play, but may be a little bit of both.

In short, Jensen has been an animal this split. When he gets rolling, he’s nearly impossible to stop. He has performed very consistently this split and if he continues this level of play, I’m confident that he will finally take home the NALCS MVP award.


Stats via Best.gg and Lolesports.com

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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TSM

TSM takes the throne at Rift Rivals

TSM had a great performance at Rift Rivals. In the group stage they had a record of five wins and one loss. They lost to UOL who, coincidentally, faced them in the finals. But the finals showcased a dominating 3-0 from TSM. Rift Rivals had one purpose and one purpose only: to settle the debate of who is better between NA or EU. At least for a year. TSM winning the tournament, and especially in such a dominant fashion, demonstrates that they are the best team in the west.

The reason they are the best team in the west goes beyond their victory at Rift Rivals. They demonstrated their potential as a team and their ability to adapt to the meta.

Individual Level

TSM Rift Rivals

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On an individual level, TSM looked strong throughout Rift Rivals. Their jungler, Svenskeren, was dominant. Having struggled during MSI, Svenskeren played with purpose and direction during this event. His Lee Sin looked great as always, stealing Baron against UOL in game two of the finals.

 

Hauntzer struggled during the laning phase in a few games, but his mid and late game teamfighting was solid. His Gnar looked impressive, hitting multi-man ultimates and dishing out loads of damage.

The bottom lane was consistent. Doublelift’s positioning has improved since his return to TSM. His Ashe arrows found their target time and again. His Caitlyn dominated the laning phase and dealt massive damage late.

Bjergsen has made the return to peak form. His Syndra was on another level, and he put on a clinic with his Leblanc play in the finals.

Map Play

 

TSM Rift Rivals

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They did more than play well individually. TSM’s team play was outstanding. In the finals against UOL, TSM played an extraordinary map game.  In game two of the finals, TSM got two kills by bringing Svenskeren down to blue side krugs, while Doublelift and Biofrost pushed in the lane. Hauntzer was also pushing in the lane up top, while Bjergsen played safe. Doublelift sent a decoy Hawkshot over the krugs Sven was on, faking that they didn’t know what was there. This prompted Samux and Hyllisang to try and farm out a few more minions instead of backing, believing they were still in a 2v2. Just as the wave comes under tower, Hauntzer teleports in and Svenskeren shows up in bot lane.

 

Viziscasci couldn’t follow teleport immediately because he was pushed in so hard, thus TSM was in a 2v4 scenario for about four seconds. This gave them enough time to get a double kill onto Hauntzer’s Gragas and begin to snowball the game. All this was possible because of the wards that TSM had laid down earlier, one in the raptor camp and the other by the blue buff. They spotted Xerxe on the topside of the map so they knew he wouldn’t be able to counter gank.

It was also prompted by the lane prowess of Doublelift and Biofrost. They were able to win a great trade against the botlane of UOL, bringing Samux low, and burning his heal.

Team Fights

In game three against UOL, TSM was down 2.5k in gold at the 25-minute mark. Despite that, they still won a team fight. UOL got a little greedy, overstepped and TSM was in a position to punish them for it. Viziscasci had pushed Hauntzer out of the bottom lane, and gained an advantage in that lane. Thus, Hauntzer recalled. This is the moment that UOL decided to initiate. They were in 4v4 in the midlane, with a gold advantage, but Exileh had just lost out on a trade to Bjergsen, and TSM was able to kite their initiation.

TSM then began to turn as they saw both top laners TP in. They knew that UOL had a Mega Gnar on the way, but they had a full heath Gragas.  When the fight started in earnest, TSM was able to win out because of better positioning by the carries, and a great ultimate from Gragas. This is despite a decent Gnar ult by Viziscasci and UOL being ahead 2.5k.

TSM then went on to take Baron and win the game.

The Rest of the West

TSM Rift Rivals

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TSM has one team left to prove themselves against. That team is CLG. They crushed IMT before Rift Rivals, and despite losing to C9 in the LCS they certainly out preformed them at the event. CLG is the only team TSM has left to beat before they are truly the undisputed best in the west.

 

I think that they will have little trouble in besting them in a best of three and certainly no trouble in a best of five. TSM and CLG don’t square off until week nine. A lot could change from now until then, but TSM seems to have hit their stride.

As for EU, they sent their best teams and they got beaten. Maybe the new patch didn’t help, or the best of ones, but that just demonstrated TSM’s ability to adapt to a new meta and play within that new meta.


Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Phoenix One

Phoenix One’s rise from the ashes

I love following Phoenix One. Their story-line really piqued my interest from the beginning, but they’ve especially caught my eye this split. Watching them at the start of this split was like watching a car crash in slow motion. I wanted to turn away and look at something else, but couldn’t tear my eyes away. It was tragic to watch the third-place team from NA fall to a win-less last place for three weeks. Then the magic began. P1 picked up rookie sensation MikeYeung and LCS mainstay Xpecial and started picking up wins.

They are coming off of a two-win weekend in the NALCS with one win against the now tied for second Immortals. They’ve also had a fairly successful first day at Rift Rivals. P1 came out strong against FNC, even though they ultimately lost the game. They then picked up a convincing win against UOL. P1 is definitely on the come up.

Source of Success

Phoenix One

Photo Via Lolesports

So where does the success stem from? The immediate answer is the roster swaps. Xpecial has provided an anchor for the team. The bot lane has stabilized a lot since he joined the squad. A stable bot lane for Arrow is just what Phoenix One needed. Arrow was the last split MVP and star player of the team. Being able to funnel him more resources and keep him safe during laning phase has helped propel him in mid and late game.

Rookie jungler MikeYeung’s play making ability and skill shadows the stabilization that Xpecial has provided. This guy came out of the gates hot and has already impressed on his Nidalee and Lee Sin. Not only is he a good player, but he is fun to watch. His play against IMT around the Baron Pit was hype, and catapulted them to victory.

He also takes a lot of pressure off of Ryu and gives Ryu a lot of priority. Ryu showed consistency as a player last split and throughout his time on H2K. Though caught out in the side lanes a little too often, he plays team fights well and is an aggressive laner. Ryu having a jungler that provides pressure has allowed him to play that aggressive style that he favors and be relevant in mid and late game.

Chances for Playoffs and Beyond

Phoenix One

Photo Via Lolesports

With Phoenix One’s new-found success it’s hard not to get excited about their post season prospects. Though they are 3-7 right now they are only two games down from fifth place. Their remaining schedule is rather difficult though. They still must face TSM twice, as well as C9 and CLG once more. P1 took down IMT, and looked strong doing it, but will have their work cut out for them against the other top teams.

They can definitely pick up some wins against those top of the table teams and if they do they will inevitably find themselves in the top six and in the playoffs.

The interesting thing about Phoenix One in the Playoffs will be where they finish in terms of circuit points. Phoenix One can make a legitimate run to make it to worlds. It’s likely that it will have to be a gauntlet run. TSM won spring split, and have a good chance to win this split, so will either be sent on circuit points or as Summer Split champions. C9 has a good chance at both of those tickets as well. CLG will likely have to win the split or the Gauntlet to go to worlds.

If P1 does better than C9 in the playoffs, and TSM wins, P1 can go to worlds on circuit points. If not they have a chance to win the gauntlet.

Concerns

Phoenix One

Photo Via Lolesports

The only issue is that Phoenix One has yet to prove if they are consistent with this roster. Sure, they’re on an upswing right now, but will they stay on this level? Sometimes MikeYeung plays as if he’s been in the league since season five. Sometimes he still occasionally shows his level of experience making overly aggressive plays.

I personally want to see Phoenix One make a run to the playoffs. Everyone likes to see a good underdog story, and P1 is definitely an underdog.

 

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Playoff implications for NALCS parity

The summer split has passed its halfway point, and in NALCS there is a race for the top shaping up. It’s very rare in the NALCS for a clear top team or top two teams to not be apparent. Last split it was clear that C9 and TSM were in a tier of their own and the split before TSM was undefeated at this point in the season.

This season there doesn’t seem to be a clear top team, rather it seems anyone at the top of the table can beat anyone else at the top of the table. For example, after this weekend we can see that CLG > C9 > TSM > IMT > CLG. None of the match ups were close. Even though TSM 2-0’d IMT, both games were close in gold, kills and objectives until twenty minutes. The same can be said of the IMT versus CLG series.

Playoff Implications

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The implications this parity has for the playoffs is that they will be much harder to predict than in years past. Last split it seemed like destiny for C9 and TSM to meet for a rematch. The split before TSM was on the warpath for the finals. This year CLG and IMT could both be in the finals, meaning we could have the first split without a TSM finals. It also seems just as likely that C9 and TSM square off again.

The real question though, is who will get the bye? When the dust settles at the end of the season who will be the top two teams? It seems likely that TSM could have a top spot, especially after besting IMT. CLG also seems to be a prime candidate. Their series win against C9 indicates that they are certainly worthy of a playoff bye. They still must face TSM and IMT once more. If they win both of those matchups then they will likely be the number one team at the end of the season.

The IMT vs CLG series in week 7 will likely determine which of them gets the playoff bye, assuming TSM gets the other. IMT still has to face both C9 and CLG before the end of the season and a loss in either series could send them to the quarterfinals.

C9 has the easiest remaining schedule, only having to face IMT out of the other top teams. If they win out from this point in the season they still have a chance to get a bye spot.

 

Other Teams

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

One thing that does seem certain is the top four teams. It seems clear at this point that CLG, IMT, TSM and C9 are at the top of the league. That leaves two spots open for the playoffs and there are a few teams in contention for those two spots.

The one team that seems most likely to make the playoffs from the bottom of the table is DIG. They have a very strong top side of the map, and often play through their top laner, Ssumday. They have a solid record, but haven’t faced as difficult of a schedule as Cloud 9 and still have to face each top team once more before the end of the season. DIG did take a series win off of TSM, but it is unlikely they will win their second match up.

Another team with a good chance to take one of the playoff spots is Team Envy. Lira is still a top NA jungler. Also, NV’s team game is much stronger this split with Nisqy/Pirean in the midlane. Seraph continues to be a concern in the top lane, both in terms of play and attitude.

Echo Fox has also put themselves in a position to make the playoffs. Though they came out of the gate strong, they have been in a bit of a slump recently. EF managing to salvage what’s left of the season will mean they can make the playoffs.

Any of these three teams have a chance to upset any of the top teams in the playoffs, and potentially make a run at the finals; but it is unlikely that any of them will make it past quarter finals.

As for the other three teams, the only one I think with any chance of making playoffs is P1. That chance is very slim, however. They’d essentially have to win out from here. They have made a lot of reform, but even with rookie sensation MikeYeung it doesn’t seem likely that P1 has the consistency needed to beat C9, CLG and TSM.

 

 

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Phoenix One’s wild ride: A look at the past, present and Rift Rivals

Phoenix One has definitely seen better days. The summer split has not been kind to them. More specifically, the first half of the summer split. With Rift Rivals on the horizon, P1 and NA fans alike are disheartened with their performance. Phoenix One doesn’t have the most storied history, but it does have an exciting one. The organization has had a lot of ups and downs, but thus far has managed to overcome them.

Summer 2016

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When Phoenix One entered the LCS the expectations were not very high. There weren’t any big names on the roster. Most preseason speculation put the team at the bottom of the table. Deservedly so, there was very little chance that Phoenix One was going to break into the top half of the league. Making it to the playoffs would be considered a major achievement for the young org. However, P1 came out of the gate much slower than many had anticipated.

It took P1 until week five to win a series, starting the season 0-9 having lost to every other team. The second half of the season marked a change, and P1 almost looked like a different team. They beat Team Apex in their first game of the second half of the split and then Echo Fox in week six to pick up their first and second series wins. Week seven gave P1 their third series win, this time against NRG. This established P1 as the best of the worst, having toppled the three other teams in the bottom of the rankings.

Week eight is when the magic happened. TSM’s record at the time was an unprecedented 14-0. Talks of an undefeated season had started to arise. TSM’s match ups for week eight were Phoenix one and Team Envyus. Many had written off P1 as an automatic win, since they had only beaten teams that looked slated for relegations. The series started with an easy win for TSM and looked as if it would be entirely one sided. Up against the ropes, P1 drafted Rengar for their jungler Inori. Inori went 12-2-7 in the second game and completely controlled the rift. Inori locked in Rek’Sai in the third game and proceeded to have a deathless game, going 6-0-11. This isn’t to say that he was the sole reason for their win. The two solo laners, Pirean and Zig, played really well.

This seemed to ignite the team, and the org. Though they still finished 8th at the end of the split, they had managed to defeat the top team in the league and crush their way out of the relegation tournament. The squad transformed entirely from the team they had started out as.

Spring 2017

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During the off-season Phoenix One made some high profile roster swaps. They picked up a top NA support in Adrian as well as the South Korean midlaner, Ryu, formerly of H2k and KT Rolster. More notably they picked up Arrow, the South Korean ADC also formerly of KT Rolster. The team started off the season with a show of strength, destroying Echo Fox in a 2-0 win. They then struggled slightly, losing to DIG, TSM and Flyquest. By the end of the season however, they had established themselves as the clear third place team. P1 was not quite able to defeat the top tier teams like Cloud 9 and TSM, but there was a clear disparity between them and the teams below them such as CLG and Flyquest.

The Spring 2017 playoff demonstrated this disparity. Phoenix One played a dominant series against DIG taking the series 3-0. Their series against Cloud 9 the next week showed the other half of the disparity. P1 lost the series in a swift 3-0. They managed to win the 3rd place series against Flyquest 3-2. Flyquest’s Arrow won MVP for the split, and the team seemed to have established themselves as a top NA team.

They had achieved all this amid roster issues, having played with two different supports during their last few weeks and in the playoffs, as well as two different junglers. Meteos had subbed in for Inori due to Inori being unable to play. Adrian had left the team and they were trying out both Stunt and Shady. Arrow and Ryu were both rocks for the team to stand on, and Zig played consistently well. Meteos ended up being a big boon for the team, and Stunt seemed to find some synergy with Arrow.

Summer 2017

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

Now though, the team is at the bottom of the standings heading into week five. The team shares 9th place and a record of 1-7 with Flyquest. The team started out the split with Inori in the jungle and Shady as support, but has since made roster swaps. Phoenix One brought in the rookie sensation MikeYeung and long standing LCS support Xpecial. The swaps lead them to their first and only victory.

This is the last week before the Rift Rivals tournament. Phoenix One isn’t up to the level of play from the previous split, but they are showing some improvement. Arrow doesn’t seem nearly as consistent, and the team is much worse off without his ability to crank out the constant damage. Their slow season is not all on his shoulders however, Ryu hasn’t had the same impact as he did last split, and the team’s synergy and shot calling has suffered from the roster swaps.

The new players have seemed to breathe life into the beleaguered squad. MikeYeung is proving to be every bit the prodigy that he has been touted as, but clearly needs some time to hone his abilities.

As for Rift Rivals, many expect the team to be a flop, and by current domestic performances, that expectation isn’t unwarranted. However, the history shows that P1 has the ability to outperform their expectations when they are down, and make mid split turnarounds. Hopefully the phoenix can truly rise from the ashes and the team can come together to find some wins at an international tournament.

Photos via Lolesports Flickr

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The boys of silver: Cloud 9’s second place tenure

Recently it’s been an emotional roller coaster for Cloud 9 fans. I should know. I’ve been one since I started watching esports. I came to League by way of Smash. I was, and still am, a Mang0 fan. When I started watching League in spring of season 4 I decided since Mang0 had been picked up by C9 I’d stay true to the org and root for C9. Fortunately, they won that split. Unfortunately, they haven’t won in NA since. While C9 hasn’t had an unsuccessful split since, even finishing 7th didn’t stop them from making it to worlds, they have been unable to clutch the NA championship trophy. Coming in 2nd no less than four times. Falling short all four times to TSM, who hasn’t missed an NA final since the inception of LCS.

I’m not displeased with Cloud 9’s performances, far from it. It is great to be a C9 fan. I can’t imagine the masochism that CLG and Team Liquid fans have endured. However, I can’t help but feel like the team is destined to fall just short, time and time again. It’s hard to pin down the weaknesses among the strengths. What exactly is it that Cloud 9 is missing?

 

Strengths

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Cloud 9 has always been able to team fight. When they joined the league they immediately rose to the top for three reasons.

The first was their mechanical prowess. It’s easily forgotten that at the offset Cloud 9 was considered a top-tier mechanical team. This was before Hai’s wrist issues.

The second was their ability to team fight. They would win nearly every team fight, often winning even when behind in gold.

Cloud 9 also had the x-factor of Hai. Hai was willing to make bold play calls and take risks in order to win, even when down. This often enabled his team to make comeback victories.

These three things combined to make them a dominant team in their first two splits. Cloud 9 had a combined record of 49-7 in their first two splits. They also took grand finals 3-0 both splits against TSM.

More recently the team has struggled at the last. However, they aren’t without their strengths. Jensen is widely regarded as a top two mid-laner. Some put him as the best in NA, but most think that he is second to TSM’s Bjergsen. He has great mechanical prowess and is often able to carry games. He is the superstar mid-laner for Cloud 9.

The bot lane also shows great strength. Sneaky and Smoothie have been consistently good throughout. Smoothie was named the best support in the league last split and Sneaky the second best ADC. Although they rarely display the level of hard carry prowess that Jensen does, they are more consistent. Their ceiling is high, but their floor isn’t far below it.

The top side of the map has shown some strength too. Contractz controls the early game and often ganks successfully to get his teammates ahead.  Impact has the ability to work with little resources yet still have a presence. Jensen can carry games more easily because he soaks up the resources that aren’t devoted to Impact. Impact’s positioning in team fights as well as his engages are second to none. Ray has also shown a lot of promise. His J4 has been deadly and has brought C9 out of a hole more than once this split already.

Weaknesses

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Where then are the weaknesses? If every player has his strengths, what is the team struggling with? In order to highlight it I’m going to compare them to TSM. The reason for this is because Cloud 9 continues to fall short to this team.

At first glance it’s easy to say that TSM’s players are just better. Bjergsen is the better Jensen, Doublelift is the better Sneaky, and Svenskeren the better Contractz. It might be that TSM has better players, but team play is much more important than individual prowess.

TSM is also more proactive. Their macro and rotations are very good domestically. They rarely make bad calls and when they do they often find ways to make up for them. Cloud 9 on the other hand seem to hesitate. They are no longer at the level of macro play that they were when Hai was at the helm. When they play against lesser teams Cloud 9 often make quick work of them. They carve out advantages in the early game and then make decisive calls and win team fights in the mid game. Against teams like TSM, Cloud 9 hesitates a bit, or gets out rotated. C9 is unable to carve out an advantage early game, or struggle to rotate swiftly in the mid game. Cloud 9 doesn’t look lost, just timid.

Solutions

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There most certainly is no one solution to Cloud 9’s problem. However, one thing that is missing from the Cloud 9 of old is that X factor. Hai’s ability to shot call and his ethos was Cloud 9’s X factor. Now that they have a team with great mechanical ability and great team fighting they are struggling to find their X factor. TSM has their’s in Bjergsen. His ethos and prowess has carried TSM to the finals time and time again. Cloud 9 is trying to emulate that in Jensen, but has fallen short two splits in a row, in game 5. It’s as if Cloud 9 is trying to beat TSM at their own game.

Jensen has been unable to pull it out in the clutch. It’d be a lot easier to argue that he is the best mid in NA if he was able to beat the current king when it was all on the line. Cloud 9 needs to find their new X factor. That unquantifiable thing that will push them to the championship.

 

Photos via Lolesports Flickr

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Where are the Fans? A Case for the EU LCS

Based on the results of Worlds and MSI, the EU versus NA debate is firmly in favor of EU. EU LCS has seen more semifinals and finals at major international events since 2015 than NA has since season 1. EU LCS is also shaping up to have a lot of exciting story lines this split. Group A will be a fight between the current kings of EU LCS, G2, and the old guard, Fnatic. Misfits also look strong and have a chance to take a top position in the group. Meanwhile group B will be a battle between H2K and the Unicorns of Love. Splyce is also in a position to make a bid for a top spot of that group. Even the bottom teams of each group could pull out some upsets if they find their rhythm. Roccat specifically being no strangers to slow starts.

The production value of EU LCS is very high, at least equal to that of the NA LCS. Sjokz commands the analyst desk with precision, invoking great conversation. The casters are top percentage, Deficio and Quickshot especially. There are exciting and entertaining players like H2K’s Jankos and G2’s PerkZ. The post-game interviews don’t take themselves too seriously and are still engaging as well.

The EU LCS seems to have everything going for it except for one thing. Where are the fans? The NA LCS has consistently outperformed the EU LCS in terms of viewership. Why does the EU LCS struggle with viewership so much? How does the EU LCS recover?

 

The Problems

 

One issue with the EU LCS in comparison to NA LCS is the top teams in NA have been around longer. TSM, CLG, and DIG (despite a brief hiatus) have all been around since the very first split, and were around before even the LCS. Cloud 9 joined in season three summer, missing only a single split of LCS. Team Liquid kept the Curse Gaming members when they took over, so essentially they have been around since the beginning of the LCS. NA has three teams that have been around since  the inception of the LCS and two that have essentially been around that long. The only team in the EU that has survived since the inception of LCS is Fnatic. The second oldest team is Team Roccat, joining the LCS in season four.

The long standing teams in NA have given rise to more storied rivalries and more long standing fans. Namely with TSM, CLG, and C9. CLG and TSM have been duking it out long before the LCS began. Cloud 9’s and TSM’s continued success has pitted them head to head in the NA LCS finals split after split. Each team consistently gunning for the top spot has created a rivalry between the two teams. This rivalry has only been exacerbated by the rivalry between the two midlaners, who are widely accepted to be the top two of their role in NA.

As for EU, they have largely lost any storied rivalries by way of relegations. The El Classico rivalry between SK gaming and FNC was lost to SK Gaming’s relegation. Gambit Gaming was a fan favorite team that sold their spot in the LCS after an 8th place finish in season 5 summer. Although there are some longer standing teams now, such as H2K and UoL, the teams just haven’t developed a history like that of the NA teams.

It’s also worth mentioning that EU has suffered scheduling conflicts since the beginning. The league was aired on Thursdays and Fridays during work and school hours, as opposed to NA LCS which was aired Saturday and Sunday, making it easier to watch. This made it easier for fans to keep up with their favorite NA teams, while making it harder to keep up with the EU teams.

 

Solutions

The scheduling conflicts have gotten a lot better. EU LCS airs Thursday-Sunday, before the NA LCS, making it easier to watch live for most people. So, the content is available. There has also been developing rivalries. FNC looks to dethrone G2 this season and has already taken their first win over them. UoL and H2K battled fiercely yesterday for control of group B. UoL came back from a rough early game in game 3 to take the win. Storylines are developing in EU, but slowly.

The EU LCS needs stability right now. It’s what will bring in more fans, more sponsors, and more talent. The obvious answer is to franchise. The NA LCS will be franchising next season, but the word came down from Riot that EU will not be. Although this doesn’t spell the death of the EU LCS it certainly doesn’t help. More stability in NA will only increase their viewership, and a lack of that stability in EU may hurt their popularity. It may also hurt their chances at sponsorships and investments. The idea of a stable franchised league is so enticing G2’s ocelote even entertained the idea of applying to join the NA LCS on an episode of Esports Salon. Though he said it would ultimately be unlikely given G2’s success in EU, it might not be a bad move for lower level teams.

As for Riot, they need to move to enfranchise EU if they want that region to grow like NA has. There has been no explanation from Riot as to why they don’t want to franchise EU. They have only said that there are no plans to franchise and they promise to give information on their plans for Europe “later this year”. Personally, I see no reason why EU shouldn’t franchise. It may be a bit challenging with the multiple country region, but no company as large as Riot should have an issue surmounting that. If Riot has a way to bring stability to the region other than franchising, hopefully they release it soon. EU LCS is an entertaining and talented region. Right now, it is the west’s chance to compete with the eastern teams. It deserves stability and it deserves the fandom that will come along with that stability.

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Photos Via Lolesports.

It’s time to believe in League of Legends

The summer split of the seventh season has just begun, and it promises to be exciting. CLG has opened with an unexpected 2-0 while SKT lost their season opener, and FNC once again looks like a force to be reckoned with. Aside from unexpected victories and losses, Riot has announced that next year teams will be able to permanently lock in a spot for the NALCS. This means that the teams will be making a long time buy-in investment when deciding to sign up for a spot. Sure, there will be opportunity for an instant return on investment, but teams are in it for the long haul.

Organizations have indicated that they expect League of Legends to be around for a long time. It’s a game that has been on the incline since its inception, both gaining players and viewers of its professional league. Although it shows no signs of slowing down, many predict that eventually the titan shall fall and fade into obscurity as an esport, much like Starcraft or Quake has in the past – both games are still played competitively, but they are by no means as large or as followed as they once were.

Riot’s Changes

 

Esports have come a long way since Quake and Starcraft were the top titles. There’s much more money, much better infrastructure, and more fan involvement, especially in League of Legends, the clear top title at the moment.

Recently, Riot has made it clear that they are willing to take drastic steps to secure a stable and long future for their game as an esport. They have listened to fans, analysts, orgs, and players alike. They have franchised the NALCS, increased the prize money available at all levels of professional play, introduced a new international tournament, increased wildcard team involvement and coverage, added a player’s association and an Academy league in the NALCS. Not to mention the quality of game changes they’ve made and have planned, such as the remastered runes and masteries and the ten-ban system.

The last year has been a busy one for Riot Games. They have changed a lot to make their game a better one, and they have been much more receptive to players, opening up important communication channels.

 

Fan Impact

 

The once small company turned behemoth has put the onus on us. Riot has held up their end of the bargain and laid the groundwork for us a fandom, a culture, to turn League of Legends into something great. If we want to continue to watch League of Legends for many years to come, we must act now.  There will never be another opportunity to take League of Legends as an esport to greater heights.

It’s time to believe in League of Legends.

How we do it is simple: everyone should do one small thing for the community. Find a way to give back to the game that has given us all so much. Talk to your friends about League, host watching parties and maybe invite someone who has never watched a game. Even something as simple as buying and wearing a t-shirt of your favorite org helps. If you want to do something really big, you could host a local LAN tournament.

The more people that spend time talking about esports, the more seriously people will take us. The more people talking about and interested in League of Legends, the more people will join our community. This endless cycle will propel us to be considered a major force in the world of sports.

It all starts now. We must change how we approach the game. We have to be more vocal and more public in our support. Erase the stigma surrounding esports. Riot has put their trust in us to support the game that we love. If you believe in League of Legends, as a game, as an esport, then now is the time to prove it.


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