The Summit 8

The Summit 8: Top competition

Ahh “The Summit”. A tournament beloved for its highly competitive games, yet relaxed and casual atmosphere. Casters sit on comfy couches in street clothes, while players not currently in a match wander around the kitchen looking for food in the background. It’s a fairly human look at the players and casters that tournaments don’t usually present to us. Of course, the casual atmosphere at this weekends “The Summit 8” tournament does not mean that the competition will be lacking. Thus, without further ado, lets take a look at the teams that have a chance at The Summit’s pool of Qualifying Points.

OG

The Summit 8

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Johan “N0tail” Sundstein

Position 2 – Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok

Position 3 – Gustav “s4” Magnusson

Position 4 – Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka

Position 5 – Tal “Fly” Aizik

The year has not been kind to OG until very recently. Despite changing nothing about their roster, the four time Major winners have been plagued with disappointing finishes. That being said, they were finally able to put themselves on the board by taking first place at MDL Macau recently. It very well could be that it has just taken this group a bit longer to understand the new meta. With the gravity of the changes that occurred, no one would blame them. Regardless, they appear to be back in form now, and it will be exciting to see what they can manage this weekend. They still have a long way to go to secure a TI invite, but the season is yet young.

Evil Geniuses

PGL Open, ESL One, DreamLeague

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Artour “Arteezy” Babaev

Position 2 – Sumail “Suma1l” Hassan

Position 3 – Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Aurora

Position 4 – Andreas “Cr1t-” Nielsen

Position 5 – Clinton “Fear” Loomis

 

Evil Geniuses’ 3rd place finish at Dream League is certainly not an achievement to scoff at. Of course they did it in typical EG fashion as well. After losing the first series, the boys in blue decimated every team they faced in the lower bracket 2-0. It is hard to blame them for losing their first set either, as their opponent, Team Secret, went on to win the whole tournament.

EG’s opponents were not easy ones either. Virtus.Pro is still looking strong after their recent Major victory, and Na’Vi fans are celebrating their team’s return to form this year. Say what you will about the SADBOYS, but they’re still a force to be reckoned with, and I reckon they will perform well in The Summit 8.

Team Kinguin

The Summit 8

Image from teamliquid.net

 

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Natan “Exotic_Deer” Michalewicz

Position 2 – Michał “Nisha” Jankowski

Position 3 – Paweł “Patos” Naruszewicz

Position 4 – Rafał “eL lisasH” Wójcik

Position 5 – Jakub “kacor” Kocjan

 

Team Kinguin started out on the right foot at Perfect World Masters by building a story-line worth following in the group stages. While Kinguin is a common gaming and esports brand, they only entered the DotA scene recently. As such, viewers really didn’t expect them to perform well. Kinguin immediately caught everyone’s attention when they took two quick games off of Team Secret during the group stage.

Unfortunately their group stage success did not translate into results in the playoffs. Regardless these players have shown that they can stand toe to toe with the best. I hope that this team can pull out a repeat performance if for no other reason than it makes for some darn good DotA watching.

LGD Gaming  

PGL Open

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Wang “Ame” Chunyu

Position 2 – Lu “Maybe” Yao

Position 3 – Xu “fy” Linsen

Position 4 – Yao “Yao” Zhengzheng

Position 5 – Chen “Victoria” Guanhong (Standin Yao “QQQ” Yi)

LGD have not improved their luck since the last time I covered them in one of these articles. Though they managed a 2nd place finish at PGL Open Bucharest, they’ve hardly been seen in a playoff series since. They were eliminated in the group stage of both Perfect World Masters and MDL Macau. There is however going to be a small change in their roster for this tournament. Victoria will be unable to attend, so the team’s coach QQQ will be standing in for the 5th position. At this point any change seems like it wouldn’t be a bad idea. We’ll have to wait and see how well they can represent Chinese DotA at The Summit 8.

Fnatic

ESL One, DreamLeague

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao

Position 2 – Abed “Abed” Yusop

Position 3 – Khoo “Ohaiyo” Chong Xin

Position 4 – Djardel “DJ” Mampusti

Position 5 – Johan “pieliedie” Åström

 

 

Here we have it. The first team on the list with a permanent roster change since the initial roster lock. Steve “Xcalibur” Ye has been moved to a Sub position, while Abed replaces him in the 2 position. As the first player to reach 10k MMR, it’s clear that he is an individually talented player. Whether he alone will be enough to pull the organization up from their current slump remains to be seen.

Sacred

The Summit 8

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Benjamín “Benjaz” Lanaos

Position 2 – Leonardo “Leostyle” Sifuentes

Position 3 – Renato “Kingteka” Garcia

Position 4 – Farith “Matthew” Puente

Position 5 – Álex “Masoku” Dávila (Standin “DEMON”)

If this lineup looks familiar, it’s for good reason. Sacred is none other than the remnants of DC.SA, DC’s South American branch. Clearly these players were not ready to give up their pro careers yet. The team only formed in October of this year, so it is nigh impossible to guess how they will fare against these top teams. This is especially true considering they too will be playing with a stand-in player in the 5th position.

Virtus.Pro

Virtus Pro VP The Kiev Major, ESL One

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Roman “RAMZES666” Kuchnarev

Position 2 – Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko

Position 3 – Pavel “9pasha” Khvastunov

Position 4 – Ilya “Lil” Ilyuk

Position 5 – Alexei “Solo” Berezin (Sub “Artstyle”)

Virtus.Pro showed us middling performances in both Dream League and MDL Macau recently. While they made it to the playoffs of MDL Macau, they were immediately eliminated by TNC. They did not fare much better at Dream League, where despite beating Na’Vi fairly handily, they ended the tournament in 5th-6th place. Despite these lackluster performances, it’s impossible for a single team to win every tournament. When VP’s drafts click, their momentum can feel impossible to stop. Though the Summit 8 may feel like a more casual tournament, there is still a lot at stake here, and VP will be sure to come at it with everything they have.

compLexity

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Rasmus “Chessie” Blomdin

Position 2 – Linus “Limmp” Blomdin

Position 3 – David “Moo” Hull

Position 4 – Zakari “Zfreek” Freedman

Position 5 – Kyle “melonzz” Freedman

I will admit that compLexity is one of those teams I often root for despite overwhelming evidence that the odds are stacked against them. There is something unique about a team comprised of people that are literal family to each other. The fact that Kyle and Zfreek have played DotA together for so long without going the way of the Gallagher brothers shows their trust in each other as players and brothers.

But familial bonds do not win a DotA tournament, as shown by their single 3-4th place finishes at Star Ladder and Perfect World Masters. Though they always perform well in qualifiers and group stages, they have not been able to carry that momentum into a playoff scenario. I’ve seen nothing recently to indicate this will change, but that won’t stop me from hoping they will surprise me at The Summit 8.

OpTic Gaming

Optic Gaming Esports organisation

Image from teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Per Olsson “Pajkatt” Lille

Position 2 – Quinn “CC&C” Callahan

Position 3 – Ludwig “zai” Wahlberg

Position 4 – Martin “Saksa” Sazdov (Standin)

Position 5 – Peter “ppd” Dager

Given their pedigree, most people expected OpTic Gaming to be doing better than they have this season. PPD is TI winning captain and drafter, and the team he built around himself is full of talent both new and old. They’ve picked up the pace lately with a victory at Midas Mode, and a second place finish at ROG Masters. Unfortunately for them, neither of these tournaments yielded any Qualifying Points.

Saksa has been standing in for MiSeRy ever since his departure from the team, so maybe that has something to do with their recent upswing in momentum. Saksa has announced however that he’s not looking to get back into DotA for a while, so the chances of him becoming a permanent fixture on the team are low. Regardless, maybe they are in a better place than ever with their new teammate to take their first tournament and put some points on the board at The Summit 8.

The Summit 8 will take place in Los Angeles, CA from December 13th to December 17th.


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ESL Pro League

ESL Pro League Season 6 playoff predictions

Coming into this tournament, it looked like it was going to be a thriller, and there have been some fantastic games through the group stage. While the playoff stage is perhaps not as stacked as it could be, there are some interesting fresh matches, and I think we could get some more good games out of this tourney yet. Here’s how I personally think the rest of the tournament will shake out from here.

Quarterfinals

Fnatic vs OpTic

This is a very interesting matchup, as there really is no clear winner. Other than the final, I think this could be the match of the tournament. In terms of likely four banned maps, I’d predict for Cache, Nuke, Overpass and Train to be removed. This one is a real wildcard though, as a team could switch things up easily. I would expect seeing a combination of Mirage, Cobble and Inferno for this match. Picking a winner is really tough, but I think I have to side with the Swedes on this one.

Fnatic 2-1 OpTic

Hellraisers vs Misfits

I expect this to be a white-wash. I personally love an underdog story, such as Gambit at the major; however, I don’t see Misfits, no matter the maps, finding a way to win against a good Hellraisers team. They are just thoroughly out-manned. Then again, that’s what we’ve been saying about them all tournament. There may be some dark horse potential here, as they have played well thus far, but the chances are so incredibly slim that I don’t see it happening.

Hellraisers 2-0 Misfits

Semifinals

FaZe vs Fnatic

To begin this tournament, Fnatic upset FaZe in thriller fashion on arguably FaZe’s best map, Inferno. While that match was awesome, and Fnatic competed very well in that game, there really is no chance that Fnatic beat FaZe two out of three times. Again, maps don’t really matter here as FaZe should just overpower Fnatic on firepower alone.

FaZe 2-0 Fnatic

SK Gaming vs Hellraisers

I’m going to be very clear, SK will not lose to Hellraisers. However, I actually think in a weird way this could be a close one. SK will remove Nuke, which isn’t a good HR map anyways. HR will remove Mirage. From there, I’d expect a Cache pick by SK, followed by an Overpass pick by HR. While I expect the Overpass pick, I think it will be a huge mistake for them too. The third map will probably be Inferno, but I don’t think we will get there. I expect a close 2-0, with a potential to go to a third map; although even if it does go to three, SK should be able to lock it down.

SK 2-0 Hellraisers

Finals

SK Gaming vs FaZe Clan

I expect an insane final here. This could go down as one of the best matches in Counter-Strike history. From the gate, FaZe and SK should stick to their guns and ban Cobble and Nuke respectively. After that, things get interesting. An Inferno pick by FaZe to start is not unlikely, and SK picking Cache wouldn’t surprise me in the least. From there I would expect FaZe to pick Overpass, and SK to follow that up with Mirage, leaving map five, Train.

The first map should be a stunner, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go overtime. I’m going to say that Gabriel ‘FalleN’ Toledo has a big game on the AWP, and Marcelo ‘coldzera’ David does coldzera things, and SK take a 1-0 lead.

Map 1: SK 16-13 FaZe

Second up we have Cache, which should be another close one. I’m saying Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovač, Håvard ‘rain’ Nygaard and Olof ‘olofmeister’ Kajbjer, all fantastic Cache players, turn up and FaZe win SK’s pick.

Map 2: FaZe 19-16 SK

The pivotal game three, and it should be another thriller. While I don’t think it will be as close as the first two, I still expect to see a sick performance from these two teams; however, I think SK take the series lead with this one.

Map 3: SK 16-11 FaZe

As a fan and viewer I want map five. While realistically, you would expect SK to be able to win this map, FaZe certainly will have their chances, and because I love when best of fives come down to map five, I’m taking FaZe to edge out the Brazilians in this one.

Map 4: FaZe 16-14 SK

While I think Inferno would have been the best map five, I can’t complain about Train. This should be another tight one, but I expect a terrific performance from coldzera, which should push SK over the line, to win the ESL Pro League 3-2.

Map 5: SK 16-12 FaZe

Final: SK 3-2 FaZe

MVP: Marcelo ‘coldzera’ David


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Four new organizations enter the NA LCS in 2018

NA LCS team identities following off-season roster upheavals

This year’s off-season has been extremely disruptive to the identity of each NA LCS team. Iconic, long-term and founding members of several rosters have switched to another team for 2018. Aphromoo is no longer playing for Counter Logic Gaming. Echo Fox is without Froggen. Hai has moved on from FlyQuest. TSM does not have Svenskeren.

Four brand new organizations are entering the LCS, while four previous organizations are no more. Immortals, Team Envy, Phoenix1 and Dignitas are out. Optic Gaming, Golden Guardians, 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming are in. All of the narratives surrounding the dissolved teams no longer matter. Immortals’ fumbles domestically, and then their tragic World Championship; Dignitas’ return to the LCS and Summer Split run in the playoffs; Phoenix1’s roller-coaster ups and downs from Rift Rivals, MikeYeung and roster shuffles. All down the drain.

The incoming teams will create new narratives for fans to enjoy. Endemic organizations made big roster moves in the off-season, which will bring their own storylines. The other teams in the middle, like Echo Fox and FlyQuest, will continue to mold into their own identities. 2018 is a watershed year for creating new drama, rivalries and narratives within the NA LCS.

100 Thieves: Old Guard, Modern Marketing

Aphromoo joined 100 Thieves for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The roster and coach announced for 100 Thieves consists of Ssumday, Meteos, Ryu, Aphromoo and Pr0lly. Each of these members could easily help anchor a team with their veteran experience and knowledge. However, they find themselves together on a roster that could very well have the most combined professional League of Legends experience on any announced NA LCS team in 2018. The coaching role, every lane, and the jungle position is covered by an established personality.

The organization itself is rather novel, though. Matthew Haag, aka “Nadeshot,” is well-known in the Call of Duty world as a retired player and team owner. He is partnered with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers to build a brand and a League of Legends roster under the 100 Thieves moniker. With a standout logo and a merch store full of casual-wear, 100 Thieves will most likely bring a different marketing flavor to the LCS.

100 Thieves should bring a mixture of results on and off the Rift. Meteos, Pr0lly and Aphromoo are some of the most recognized personalities in North America, while Ssumday and Ryu rally their own sets of fans. Nadeshot and the Cavaliers may contribute new styles and promotions than League of Legends is used to. Combine the charisma of the players and staff with the creativity and flashiness of the brand, and 100 Thieves could pull a nice set of followers. Not to mention, if the team actually has synergy, then there is no doubt they can be contenders regardless of which AD carry they sign.

Cloud9: question marks

Svenskeren joins Cloud9 for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Fans are filled with confusion and concern towards Cloud9’s off-season. With Impact and Contractz leaving, Cloud9 brought on Svenskeren and Licorice to join Jensen, Sneaky and Smoothie on the starting roster. Factions of the fan-base believe these members to be side-grades at least, downgrades at worst. Licorice has not been tested above the Challenger Series, while Svenskeren was not viewed as a key factor for TSM in 2017. While Impact and Ray had their low moments this year on Cloud9, there is no question that Impact’s high points were on another level.

Cloud9 still remains as one of the goofier, nonchalant organizations. Sneaky will still be the central personality, as the longest tenured member of the organization. Jensen, Smoothie, Svenskeren and even Coach Reapered and team owner Jack have had their fair share of memes and fun. Licorice will probably fall right in line with this theme.

However, the lightheartedness of the players only works if they are winning. Jokes and humor fall flat if the roster has issues clicking, or if results do not show. Despite standing out as an amusing team, Cloud9 actually has a strong League of Legends legacy. They have won two NA LCS championships, and finished runner-up four times. In 2018 Cloud9 will look to continue building on this success, while still playing the jester role off stage.

Counter Logic Gaming: the Nice Guys

Biofrost joins CLG for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

CLG took their first step away from their “Team Friendship” theme when they traded Xmithie for Dardoch in the 2017 mid-season. They took a step further this off-season by bringing on Reignover to start over OmarGod. Add Aphromoo’s departure, and CLG’s identity is reeling.

But look at the starting roster: Darshan, Reignover, Huhi, Stixxay, Biofrost. These are the nice guys of the NA LCS. This squad has charisma. None of these members have any baggage following them from a previous team, or lacks personality. When Stixxay is the most arrogant player on the roster, it is probably a healthy work environment.

CLG should have some concerns, though. Who will be the leader and shotcaller to fill the void left by Aphromoo? Is there enough fire in the team? And is the talent strong enough to pass the test of 2018? Stixxay has never played in the LCS without Aphromoo. Biofrost only played one split without Doublelift, and it was not nearly as impactful. Reignover has not shown a level of play akin to his days with Huni on Fnatic and Immortals. 2018 will be a huge test for these players’ improvement together.

Clutch Gaming: upgraded envy

Febiven joins Clutch Gaming for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Lira, Apollo and Hakuho made up three fifths of Team Envy in 2017, and they will make up three fifths of Clutch Gaming in 2018. Instead of Nisqy and Seraph, though, Clutch opted for Febiven and Solo. Unlike Cloud9’s, these acquisitions should definitely be upgrades. Nisqy brought a level of consistency to the mid lane, which Envy did not have prior to starting him. Seraph was a starter for the team over a longer period of time, but played much less consistently. Febiven earned first team All-Pro in the 2017 European LCS Summer Split, and Solo was a top performer in the North American Challenger Series.

Envy’s jungler and bottom lane were huge contributors to the team’s Summer Split success. They were able to secure a playoff spot, and took CLG to five games in the quarterfinals. With stronger top and mid laners, Clutch Gaming may be able to reach the next level and push even farther. They also brought on David Lim, who led Team Liquid Academy during their promotion into the LCS and Team Liquid during the 2017 Spring Split.

Beyond a possibly underrated roster, the Houston Rockets’ Clutch Gaming identity within the LCS remains unclear. Sebastian Park, their Head of Esports, seems confident in the team’s potential, and the organization has teased analytical tools for optimizing talent scouting, including a “pathfinding engine.” If these types of developments pan out, then Clutch Gaming could become the Moneyball team in the NA LCS.

Echo Fox: The Aggressors

Dardoch and Fenix join Echo Fox for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

List the most aggressive players in the NA LCS over the past two years, and several of Echo Fox’s reported members are likely to pop up. Huni, Dardoch and Fenix are well-known hawkish competitors. Altec and Adrian began building a similar reputation in the 2017 Summer Split, as well. Echo Fox has combined these aggressors into one squad to completely revamp into 2018.

Drama and tension are the other side of this aggression coin. Dardoch and Fenix had their fair share of issues while on Team Liquid in 2016, as showcased in Breaking PointAdrian had his own problems on Phoenix1 in the 2017 Spring Split. These types of off-stage obstacles could bubble up once again without the proper infrastructure.

FOX’s new look is also a departure from the previous Froggen-centric 10-man roster and the Stream Dream Team (Delta Fox). Echo Fox could never develop any synergy on their LCS roster during Summer Split, due to constantly rotating starters. Froggen’s status is still unknown (although Jacob Wolf reported that FOX plans to drop him), but even if he stays, he will no longer be the only voice on the team. This new Echo Fox will have the highest performance variance, as most of the members rely on emotional momentum to succeed. If this roster is able to mesh and remain problem-free, then Echo Fox could reap huge rewards from this huge risk.

FlyQuest: A chemistry experiment

Flame joins FlyQuest for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the few fully announced rosters, FlyQuest is completely revamped for 2018. Following the trend of keystone figures switching teams, Hai is no longer FlyQuest’s mid laner. Balls, Moon and Lemonnation are gone, as well. Instead, FlyQuest acquired Flame, Anda, Fly and Stunt as starters. They also signed Keane and Shrimp, as well as Ngo, Erry and Jayj from the University of Toronto’s collegiate team. Wildturtle is the only remaining member from the 2017 roster.

Other than Flame, these players feel middle of the pack individually. Anda and Fly are untested in the LCS, but have played in the NA Challenger Series with varying success. Wildturtle can spike fairly high, but generally relies on his teammates to play around his style. Stunt was the on-and-off starter during his time on Phoenix1.

Unlocking these players’ ceilings will be FlyQuest’s greatest challenge in 2018. With the proper synergy, FlyQuest could certainly rise higher than their 2017 Summer Split. Communication problems are more likely, though. Wildturtle has veteran experience, but he may not be a loud voice to build a team around. The rookies, Anda and Stunt, will rely on Wildturtle to be a leader and gel together with the Korean imports, Flame and Fly. Keane and Shrimp are smart pick-ups, since they worked fairly well with Ssumday on Dignitas, and could bring that experience into FlyQuest.

Golden Guardians: Hai and Company

Hai joins Golden Guardians for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Hai kick-starts a new organization in 2018, Golden Guardians, and he is basically their only hope. The Golden State Warriors-owned organization has reportedly acquired Lourlo, Contractz, Deftly and Matt. This roster would be the only one in the NA LCS without any imported players. Golden Guardians also seem to have the least combined LCS experience. These two factors will leave many fans wondering what reasoning was used to construct this team.

Golden Guardians will live or die by Hai in 2018. He is surrounded by relatively young players who have never played for more than one previous organization. LCS fans were impressed with Moon’s performance on FlyQuest with Hai as a shotcaller, but that success was short-lived. If Hai is able to unlock Lourlo, Contractz, Deftly and Matt the same way, then Golden Guardians could surprise.

ESPN also reported Locodoco as the Golden Guardians’ head coach, which could be helpful. He has experience coaching younger players on Team Liquid and Gold Coin United, including Lourlo and Matt. It would be surprising if Golden Guardians kept these same five members as their starters throughout 2018. Without the pressure of relegation, this organization could be taking the opportunity to develop younger native talents with Hai’s proven leadership.

Optic Gaming: The HodgePodge

PowerOfEvil joins Optic Gaming for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

A true concoction, Optic Gaming enters the NA LCS pulling together a wide variety of talents. The “Green Wall” is an expansive organization spanning Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty, Overwatch and other esports. They have announced their acquisition of Romain Bigeard, ex-manager of Unicorns of Love, and Zaboutine, former caster, as manager and coach. ESPN has reported the starting roster as Zig, Akaadian, PowerOfEvil, Arrow and LemonNation.

If all of this is true, then Optic is combining rising stars in top and jungle with an experimental European mid laner, an up-and-down Korean AD carry and an analytical, veteran support. The roster will be led by an eccentric manager-mascot and a French caster-turned-coach, and they will have the full support of an esports powerhouse brand. There are some strong pieces to this puzzle, but they are not necessarily a clean fit.

The Optic LCS team seems like it may sit somewhere between 100 Thieves and FlyQuest. Optic is definitely a well-known esports organization, and they should draw a fan-base. The first-person shooter edge and player recognition of 100 Thieves combines with the questionable roster synergy of FlyQuest. Romain is a promotional personality with a knack for creating content and winning hearts, so expect Optic to use him to full effect. There is certainly plenty of talent on this roster, but it may take a while for them to actually produce favorable results.

Team Liquid: Vengeful Spirits

Doublelift joins Team Liquid for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The hoarders of the off-season, Team Liquid emerges with a complete roster overhaul. After acquiring contracts for several different players, Liquid has most likely settled on Impact, Xmithie, Pobelter, Doublelift and Olleh. This five-man group feels much stronger and intuitive than Liquid’s team from 2017 Summer Split. Xmithie, Pobelter and Olleh are proven talents who made up three fifths of Immortals’ World Championship-qualifying roster. Impact had a mostly off year, but still solid during the high points. Doublelift comes to Liquid after being replaced by TSM.

Revenge is the overarching theme for Team Liquid going into 2018. Owner Steve Arhancet wants revenge for his last two years of roster troubles. The ex-Immortals players want revenge for losing to TSM in the Summer Split finals, then being denied from the franchised LCS. Most importantly, Doublelift wants revenge for getting nudged out of TSM.

With Cain remaining as head coach, Team Liquid should trend towards the top of the league. If this roster is unable to perform, then it will be a complete disgrace. All of these players have been victorious in the past. Each of these players have attended the World Championship, many of them as teammates. 2018 serves as a fresh start for Team Liquid and Steve, and they need to use their past frustrations as fuel. Dardoch is not an excuse. Piglet is not an excuse. Goldenglue is not an excuse. It is time for Liquid to put up or shut up.

TSM: the final boss

Zven and mithy join TSM for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Citing international shortcomings and issues with shotcalling and communication, TSM’s owner, Reginald, decided to replace Svenskeren, Doublelift and Biofrost with MikeYeung, Zven and Mithy. He also picked up Coach Ssong from Immortals’ dissolved team. The six-time NA LCS champions continue to adapt and reinvigorate their roster, and TSM will remain as the final boss in 2018. Every individual player on this team should be top three in their role at the beginning of the season.

MikeYeung is the only player worth questioning. He showcased an explosive Rift Rivals in 2017, but Phoenix1 fell off as a team afterwards. Fans will find out how meta-dependent MikeYeung is in 2018.

Hauntzer was the standout player at Worlds, and he had an all-around stellar 2017. Bjergsen continues to be an anchor in the mid lane, ever-present, ever-consistent. Zven and Mithy’s reputation precedes them, as they have been a package deal since their time on Origen starting in 2014.

TSM’s performance floor is higher than several LCS teams’ ceilings, because the consistency and experience on this team should be solid. Ssong obviously factored into Immortals’ Summer Split success. If he can produce even a portion of that improvement with TSM, then they have a fruitful road ahead. With so much volatility in the off-season, TSM is one of the only teams to maintain the same identity as the villain of the league. They are the team that assumes North American dominance, and shoots for greatness abroad. Franchising has opened doors for some others to compete financially and strategically, but will they actually have what it takes to dethrone the kings?

credits

Featured Image: Akshon Esports Twitter

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Silver Edge

Silver Edge: An argument to Break DotA 2

At its core, playing DotA is a sea of numbers and statistics that wail against each other until a winner is decided. Teams of players try to steer these numbers in their favor through the choices they make. Most players see mixed results, but that is expected. There is so much to keep track of in a single game of DotA that professional players are still learning optimal strategies. Infrequent major patches to the game don’t help that either. But this is not a discussion about all of the mechanics in DotA. Instead, I wanted to focus on a single, relatively new mechanic that, though it has its place, feels underutilized within the game. I’m talking about Silver Edge, and the “Break” mechanic.

An introduction

Valve introduced the Break mechanic in patch 6.84. Before then, there were inconsistencies with how passives were impacted by disables like Hex or Doom. Break became the mechanic that was responsible for disabling passive ability, and greatly expanded the number of passives impacted. It is important to note of course that only hero passives are affected by Break. Item passives like Butterfly evasion can only be disabled by a different debuff, and are unaffected by Break.

The number of abilities affected by break is impressive, and very damaging. Heroes like Slardar and Spirit Breaker lose their ability to bash. Phantom Assassin loses her ability to evade attacks and hide on the mini-map. Bristleback loses his eponymous skill “Bristleback” thus losing his damage reduction and automatic Quill Spray trigger. For these heroes, losing these abilities is a blow to their usefulness in combat, and can easily flip a fight on its head. If the ability is so unique and powerful, why then is it also so exceedingly rare?

Give me a break!

Though Break was introduced in 6.84, no hero was immediately able to apply the debuff until 7.00 when Valve re-worked Viper’s “Nethertoxin” ability. Even then, the small AoE skill only applies Break as long as enemies remain within its radius. You can argue that both Doom’s “Doom” and Shadow Demon’s “Demonic Purge” also apply Break, but only after purchasing an Aghanim’s Scepter, a 4200 gold item that is never seen until the late game.

As I mentioned earlier, the only item in the game that can apply this effect is the Silver Edge. However, at 5500 gold, the item is a massive investment for line-ups that require it. Despite granting +15 to all stats, it’s also not an item many heroes want to naturally build. Shadow Blade, Silver Edge’s precursor, is a sneaky engagement tool, or for squishy characters to escape from ganks. At 2700 gold though, it’s still not a casual pickup. It is also only a stepping stone on the way to Silver Edge.

Under-represented

Silver Edge

Courtesy of Youtube.com, from the Dueling Fates Trailer. See why people thought Pangolier would have Break?

It seems odd that an ability so recently re-defined would have such a minimal presence within the game. While its strength cannot be underestimated, Valve has shown us they know how to balance it with proper drawbacks. Viper is actually the poster child for how more heroes could incorporate Break into their abilities without bringing imbalance to the game. Many people even speculated that Pangolier would be the hero with a built in Break given his trailer. You’ll remember that the trailer showed him cutting the quills off of Bristleback’s bristleback, which seemed as clear a sign as any. His Heartpiercer ability by comparison has been disappointing to say the least.

I really do not believe it would take much to bring more Break into action. Plenty of heroes are primed with abilities that could add a Break effect in exchange for efficiency elsewhere. So far Viper possesses the only non-targeted Break in the game. Perhaps other AoE abilities could incorporate this? It would be great to see a targeted Break added to a non-ultimate ability as well. Maybe the Break wouldn’t take effect until the skill is level 4, effectively helping to balance it.

I do not claim to be a game designer, but I strongly believe that granting more heroes Break-like abilities would increase draft diversity and increase utility in certain compositions. Though it might sound like I’m advocating for adding more noise to the cacophony that is the DotA we all know and occasionally love, more options doubtless make drafting decisions more varied and interesting. If they took the time to create a new special mechanic, it should be more prevalent than it currently is.


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predicting

Boldly predicting the next nerfs

Some say they are bold in predicting the power level of Hearthstone’s upcoming cards. Others, like Trump, go further, attempting to predict the entire meta. I, however, scoff at these mere mortals. While they scuffle in the dirt, I shall perform the grandest prediction of all; not only what cards will be good, and how the meta will evolve, but the inevitable nerf patch. My incredible powers of foresight will infallibly divine what and how Blizzard shall nerf or rotate cards. (Disclaimer: powers of foresight may be inaccurate. Gamehaus accepts no responsibility for any golden crafts).

Duskbreaker: 4 to 5 mana

This dragon may be too fiery at 4

“Dragon Priest is a strong archetype that we want to support. However, Duskbreaker has been overperforming at 4 mana. We found that players felt that little they did until turn 4 against a Priest mattered. Additionally, we don’t want to compel Priests to only run Dragons, and we think that changing the cost from 4 to 5 mana will allow other Priest archetypes more opportunity to shine.” – Future Ben Brode (probably)

Duskbreaker feels a lot like the Spreading Plague or Maelstrom Portal of the set; an incredibly strong anti-aggro tool given to a class that was already over-performing. The ability to stall early game board snowballs was one of Priest’s few weaknesses, and this perfectly slots into that niche. Obviously stronger in a Dragon Priest shell, Raza Priest could relatively easily build a limited Dragon shell around it with cards like Netherspite Historian, Primordial Drake and Drakonid Operative.

4 mana for a Hellfire and a 3/3 is frankly disgusting value, even with the required Dragon synergy. Compare it to the old Blackwing Corruptor, which cost 1 more for only +2/+1, wasn’t a dragon and only targeted one minion. That card was an auto-include in Dragon decks, and was far less powerful.

Duskbreaker provides exactly the kind of board sweep Dragon Priest wants on 4 to push into its turn 5 and 6 power plays. Even if it isn’t drawn, Netherspite Historian can discover it. It’s the kind of card a meta is defined around, and we may see a tough time for all tempo and aggro decks as a result. A nerf is almost inevitable.

Jasper Spellstone: 1 to 3 mana

“Druid as a class is meant to have limited removal options. Jaspar Spellstone allowed them to deal with large minions far too easily. We want to keep the classes distinct, and preserving Druid’s identity means lowering the power level of their hard removal. In light of this, we are increasing the cost of Jaspar Spellstone from 1 to 3.”

Druid nerfs in 2018? It could be more likely than you think. After all, Druid is arguably the most-nerfed class in Hearthstone history. Jasper Spellstone threatens to add to its tally. The card doesn’t look too scary on its own; going from mediocre at first to high value when upgraded. But like with Spreading Plague, it shores up a core Druid weakness. Firstly, let’s look at the card in its base, non-upgraded state. At 1 mana for 2 minion damage, it’s very comparable to Living Roots, a card that used to be played in Jade before rotating out. But the card’s true power is that it quickly scales up.

While decent early, its usefulness multiplies with other strong Druid cards like Branching Paths, Ultimate Infestation, Malfurion the Pestilent and Earthen Scales. Even a single upgrade makes the card incredibly potent; a 1 mana Shadowbolt in a class that is meant to have poor removal. After two upgrades it’s a 1 mana fireball on their Scalebane. Aggressive classes will be caught between going wide, and losing to Spreading Plague, and going tall, and losing to Jasper Spellstone. The card offers Druid a huge amount of sustain to reach its late-game Big or Jade minions. It’s essentially a Druid Shield Slam. As such, a nerf will likely be necessary; and with recent memory fresh, Blizzard likely won’t pull any punches.

Druid probably shouldn’t get a Shield Slam

Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Hall of Fame’d

Best off reunited with her best buddy Flamewaker in Wild?

“Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a strong Mage card, and we like how it encourages the use of spells. Unfortunately, the mana discount limits the design of cool, interesting spells. In order to allow us to print exciting spells for Standard, we’ll be moving it to Wild where the craziest combos belong.”

One of the scariest prospects of Kobolds and Catacombs is that Quest Mage will no longer need the Quest. Leyline Manipulator allows for Exodia Combos without a clunky spell generation engine and going down a card. Exodia Mage could look a lot more like Freeze Mage, and be far more consistent as a result. The deck might not be overwhelming, but Blizzard has always been leery for OTKs. Infinite damage even more so. If the deck becomes a lot more consistent, even the upcoming Ice Block rotation may not be enough to quell it.

Since Blizzard tends towards addressing the Classic and Basic cards, it’s likely Sorcerer’s Apprentice will come onto the chopping block. Not only does it allow that OTK, it raises design space issue for other spells that could otherwise go “infinite” with the right triggers.

Hall of Fame seems like the most sensible outcome

Some other random Basic card for no reason

Team 5 is nothing if not unpredictable. Like how Hex was nerfed out of nowhere in the recent balance changes while Ultimate Infestation went unchanged. Or how Molten Giant had a cost increase despite Handlock struggling. It’s likely that just to spice things up, they’ll nerf a core (if arguably overpowered) control tool for a struggling class out of nowhere for little reason.

I don’t know, Equality or something?

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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pressure

The battle of pressure in the 2GG Championship and Smash

As discussed before, the 2GG Championship on December 1 – 3 was an exciting, high-quality tournament. However, this isn’t to say that there weren’t a few bumps on the road throughout the event. One of these bumps was the unfortunate breakdowns of a few players throughout the event. Simply put, pressure got to a few of the entrants at the 2GG Championship.

With future high-stakes Smash tournaments possibly becoming more frequent, it’s important to discuss the prevalence of pressure in competitive Smash. Pressure doesn’t just affect play style. It can make players crack underneath it, and under-perform. Every sport and esport contains players that go through the experience of cracking under pressure. Smash is no different, in that regard. The 2GG Championship serves as a good reminder that Smash players are just as capable of cracking under pressure. Moreover, this tournament serves as a good lesson on how we should improve dealing with tournament pressure. Let’s talk about it.

Pressure at the 2GG Championship

pressure

Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey looked defeated in the middle of his set against James “VoiD” Makekau-Tyson. Image: YouTube

One of the Smash community’s largest critiques of the 2GG Championship, in hindsight, was the Round Robin approach to the event. Certain players performed very well in sets, yet didn’t proceed out of pools because of the event’s priority on number of matches won. This caused a few players to calculate their results before their sets had ended. In the mind of the player, why try to win if it’s impossible for them to proceed? In addition, there was so much money and viewership that made the stakes so high that it got into players’ heads.

Two players succumbed to this circumstance, albeit for different reasons. These players became victims of pressure, drastically affecting their performance at the 2GG Championship. Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey is an example of an incredibly talented and admired player that simply gave up sets throughout the tournament. Dempsey beat himself up over losing matches, feeling the high-stakes pressure of the event’s $50,000 prize pool. This made Dempsey play worse and worse, to the point that he intentionally committed self-deaths (SDs) in multiple matches.

Another player that ended up in a similar situation was Griffin “Fatality” Miller. The Captain Falcon found himself in a pool group with the likes of Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios, Larry “Larry Lurr” Holland and Matt “Elegant” Fitzpatrick. Miller found himself losing 3-0 in his set against Holland, and lost his set against Fitzpatrick 3-1. When it came to Miller’s set against Barrios, Miller ended up hopelessly throwing out Falcon Punches, leaving himself wide open to Barrios throughout their entire set. Miller had given up, knowing he was not going to make it past pools.

Pressure and Smash

These instances are understandable. Pressure gets to all of us, and anyone that plays competitive Smash, whether low-stakes or high-stakes, can attest to that to some capacity. Realistically, it’s impossible to completely remove oneself of pressure, especially when playing against such talented players as was the case in the 2GG Championship. However, this doesn’t mean that pressure must equate to “giving up” sets and playing poorly. As a community, we can learn from this.

pressure

Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey (Donkey Kong) willingly commits a self-death, giving the set to his competitor. Image: YouTube

I’ve experienced tournament anxiety and pressure in Smash on numerous occasions. In my experience, the best way to cope with pressure in the context of playing a competitive game among so many talented players is to simply play. While this may, understandably, be more difficult for higher-stakes events such as the 2GG Championship, I feel that it is equally, if not more important for high-level players to cope with their tournament pressure effectively.

If the top players can manage the pressure placed against through simply playing their best, and giving as good of a tournament performance as possible despite the odds placed against them, that resolve may bleed through the rest of the community. If viewers see their most admired players be in a position in tournament where they feel pressured, and they deal with it through not letting the pressure get to them, then the viewers watching will feel inspired to do the same.

Part of doing well at tournaments is learning how to deal with the pressure and anxiety of being at a tournament and playing against other skilled players. If we see high-level players do this, regardless of the level of stakes at the tournament, then we, the competitive Smash community, may become more able to effectively cope and deal with tournament pressure.

Your thoughts?

pressure

Griffin “Fatality” Miller (C. Falcon) was another player that dealt with pressure poorly at the 2GG Championship by effectively not trying in his last set. This method of dealing with tournament pressure isn’t effective nor enjoyable to watch. Image: YouTube

Of course, seeing players deal with pressure will never automatically make other people capable of dealing with pressure. However, my point is that if we see other players deal with tournament pressure well, then viewers can feel that dealing with tournament pressure themselves is more possible.

What do you think on this subject? Have you encountered tournament pressure and anxiety? How did you deal with it? As always, join the conversation and let us know!

 


 

Featured image courtesy of YouTube.

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From our Haus to yours.

KnC Banner

Kobolds and Catacombs Day 1 Deck Theorycrafting

The next Hearthstone expansion, Kobolds and Catacombs, has finally been released. In the reveal season, we saw many powerful and fun cards that are coming out with the set. But, which of these cards fit into existing decks? What new decks are coming into the meta?

The Meta

Dragon Priest

KnC Dragon Priest

Dragon Priest Decklist

In past expansions, Dragon Priest has been an archetype that many people have toyed around with and played on ladder. In this expansion, we may see the rise of a Dragon-oriented Priest build similar to the Dragon Priest deck that was viable during the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion last year. The iteration I have theory-crafted includes a much more value-orientated game plan by including cards such as Lyra the Sunshard, Drakonid Operative, and the new Priest weapon, Dragon Soul. The deck can also be built to take on a more minion heavy route by taking out cards like Dragon Soul, Lyra the Sunshard, and Shadow Word: Death and replacing them with Cabal Shadow Priest, which synergises with Twilight Acolyte, and Twilight Drake.

 

The inclusion of Duskbreaker in this expansion really helps Dragon Priest’s historically bad matchup versus aggressive decks, which makes the new iteration of Dragon Priest that much scarier. On ladder, this deck seems like a solid choice for climbing at a high pace. In tournaments, players may elect to bring Highlander Priest instead because of its favorable win-rates versus slower decks.

 

 Zoo Warlock

KnC Zoo Warlock

Zoolock Decklist

In the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion, we once again saw the rise of an old friend: Zoo Warlock. The early game minion package combined with Prince Keleseth proved to be the kick this deck needed to get back into the meta, and topping off with Bonemare and Bloodreaver Gul’Dan made Zoo Warlock scary in the late-game as well. This time around, Blizzard has given Zoo Warlock even better tools for taking the board early game and keeping it. The addition of Kobold Librarian helps keep your hand full, which is extremely important when having so many low mana cost minions in your deck. The main difference with this Zoo Warlock compared to the previous deck is that it cuts Prince Keleseth for the new 2-drop, Vulgar Homunculus.

 

With this iteration of the deck, I decided to add the Demon synergy package in the form of Demonfire, Bloodfury potion, and Crystalweaver. We have seen quite a lot of play with Bloodfury Potion and Crystalweaver in the past Zoo Warlock decks, but the addition of the Vulgar Homunculus makes these cards coming down on curve extremely threatening. Hooked Reaver also makes an appearance in this deck because of how solid its stats are when the Battlecry goes off, as well as its ability to synergise with the rest of the demon synergy in the deck.

 

The addition of higher-health minions and buff cards will help Zoo Warlock in the next meta mainly because of the predicted prevalence of Duskbreaker on the ranked ladder. In tournament play, this deck will likely be chosen for inclusion in aggressive lineups.

Big Druid

KnC Big Druid

Big Druid Decklist

The ‘Big’ archetype saw large amounts of play during the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion as a whole, especially during the later half of the set’s meta. Kobolds and Catacombs has not given Big Druid many other tools, but the core of the deck is strong enough to still see play. The only change I have made to the current Big Druid list is taking out Innervate and adding Arcane Tyrants. Innervate, once a staple in most Druid decks, took a huge hit from the nerfs that occured in the middle of the last expansion. It was included in Big Druid, but it was arguably one of the weaker cards within the deck. Two different cards were shown from the new expansion that could find a home in Big Druid: Greedy Sprite and Arcane Tyrant. I chose to include Arcane Tyrant instead of the Sprite because it is very similar to Kun the Forgotten King in the way that it makes your power turns even more powerful. A common way Kun has been used during the meta was playing it as a big free body to pair with Ultimate Infestation. Arcane Tyrant acts in a similar way when paired with Nourish, Spreading Plague, and Ultimate Infestation as well. Greedy Sprite could be included instead of the Tyrant, but the ramp effect is rather slow and your opponent can choose to ignore it. Although this is the case, ramp is powerful enough that Greedy Sprite might see play over Arcane Tyrant.

 

Big Druid seems to be the new go-to Druid deck. In the past, Jade Druid has held this spot, but Big Druid is able to make bigger minions faster and still keep aggression at bay, which may see the ‘Big’ archetype overtaking the Jade mechanic this expansion. Because of this, it is a solid choice for both ranked ladder and tournament play.

 

Tempo Rogue

KnC Tempo Rogue

Tempo Rogue Decklist

Tempo Rogue swept the meta in dominant fashion when it was first discovered to be a powerhouse of a deck. With Kobolds and Catacombs, this deck gets even stronger with the inclusion of some slower yet highly valuable cards. One of these cards is the Rogue Legendary of the set, Sonya Shadowdancer. Sonya replaces the rather weak card of Shaku, the Collector as a card generation engine. Most of the minions in Tempo Rogue have such good effects or Battlecries that Shadowcaster saw a decent amount of experimentation and success during the expansion. Sonya is much cheaper than Shadowcaster, which makes its effect easier to pull off. The second card I have added to the deck is Fal’dorei Strider. Admittingly, a 4 mana 4/4 is rather weak as a tempo play. But, the potential for that minion to pull one, two, or even three additional 4/4 bodies is so powerful that it is worth the initial tempo loss. Even if only 1 additional body is pulled, paying 4 mana for 8/8 worth of stats is crazy powerful. There is also the potential to high-roll by creating a 4/4 on turn 7 to be able to play Bonemare onto after your opponent cleared your board the previous turn.

 

Fal’dorei Strider takes the place of Saronite Chain Gang, mainly because of Chain Gang’s vulnerability to an on-curve Duskbreaker. Overall, Tempo Rogue looks to still be a powerhouse deck next expansion, and I expect to see it played both on the ranked ladder and in tournaments.

 

Highlander Priest

KnC Highlander Priest

Highlander Priest Decklist

Highlander Priest has been at the top of the meta throughout Knights of the Frozen Throne, and it seems to still remain at the top during Kobolds and Catacombs. The Priest list I have selected to showcase only adds one card: Psychic Scream. In order to include the new Priest board clear, I chose to cut Mass Dispel from the deck. Mass Dispel is often times weak, so it made sense to take it out for one of the best cards of the upcoming expansion. This decision shows how good of a deck Highlander Priest already is. Another take on Highlander Priest is to go for a more minion-focused route by including a Dragon package with Duskbreaker. While this seems like a good idea, I feel the current version of the deck is much better. In the past, more value-oriented decks were tested. These decks included cards such as Elise the Trailblazer and Free from Amber. It was ultimately found that the faster and more burst-oriented Priest build was better. Therefore, I feel it is appropriate to stick with the tried-and-true burst style.

 

Once again, Highlander Priest seems to be at the top of the meta. Expect to see a large amount on ladder and as a staple deck in many tournament lineups.

 

The Non-Meta

Combo Hunter

KnC Combo Hunter

Combo Hunter Decklist

For the past few expansions, Hunter has been struggling as a class. Blizzard keeps pushing control tools and weird cards for the Hunter arsenal, which leaves the class in an awkward position in terms of deck building because of how weak each of the archetypes are. With the new Hunter legendary minion, Kathrena Winterwisp, I thought it would be really interesting to build a combo-oriented deck using Kathrena, Charged Devilsaur, and King Krush. It is often not a combo that will instantly kill your opponent, but the amount of stats that the combo provides are truly ridiculous. This deck runs the Secret package to help fend off aggro, the Candleshot and Hunter’s Mark combo to deal with large threats, and Deathstalker Rexxar to create even more value in a late game scenario.

 

While the deck might not be top-tier, it seems extremely fun to play. Personally, I will be testing this deck in tournament play in a lineup that is attempting to target control decks. On ranked ladder, Combo hunter still seems weak to aggro decks and Highlander Priest, which makes it not extremely viable in the upcoming meta.

Conclusion

Overall, Kobolds and Catacombs sees both powerful and fun cards added to the game. While it may not be the best expansion of the year in terms of player attitude and hype, it will likely lead to a diverse and healthy meta both in terms of ranked ladder and tournament play.

 

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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NA LCS: Sleeper teams

With teams announcing their new rosters, this has to be the most active off-season to date. No one was a sure thing, with franchising bringing new teams into the league. With some teams not making it in, it left many players as free agents ready to be picked up. With new teams entering the scene some interesting rosters have come about. Here are a few of my sleeper teams heading into the new season.

100 Thieves

Roster: 

Top: Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho

Jungle: William “Meteos” Hartman

Mid: Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook

ADC: Cody “Cody Sun” Sun (Rumored)

Support: Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black

Head Coach: Neil “pr0lly” Hammad

It looks like Pr0lly was given the lead to construct the roster as he pleased and he did an excellent job. Not only is each player individually talented, but their styles look like they could mesh really well together in game.

Adding a personality like Pr0lly already adds some good PR starting off for a new organization. Pr0lly has experience playing in LCS during his time on Complexity, as well as coaching in EU LCS with H2K. Being able to get a star top laner like Ssumday who has shown the beastly mechanics is definitely a success.

Ryu comes in after a struggling Summer Split with Phoenix1. He’s hoping to revitalize his career by reuniting with coach Pr0lly. Pr0lly noted in an interview with Travis Gafford that Ryu has a loud voice that can sometimes distract from focusing on his own play. Bringing in Aphromoo to shot-call for the team takes a lot of weight off Ryu’s shoulders to let him focus on his own gameplay.

With every member officially announced aside from ADC, Cody Sun looks to be the obvious choice. Ryu and Ssumday take up their import slots so if it isn’t Cody Sun, it would mean bringing in a fresh North American rookie. Cody Sun would be a nice added piece after a decent rookie split on Immortals. He showed flashes of greatness at times last year and under the tutelage of a veteran support like Aphromoo, could really begin to shine. If everything works out, 100 Thieves could be a top 2-4 team heading into Spring.

Clutch Gaming

Top: Colin “Solo” Earnest 

Jungle: Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo

Mid: Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten

ADC: Apollo “Apollo” Price

Support: Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent 

Head Coach:David Lim

Photo by: Riot Games

Another NBA team heading into the NA LCS is Clutch Gaming. Clutch Gaming basically took most of Team EnVyUs and replaced their solo laners. EnVyUs didn’t look terrible last split, making their way into the quarterfinals of playoffs. Clutch Gaming picked up most of the core of their team in Lira, Apollo and Hakuho. David Lim heads the team after spending much time on Liquid. His coaching stint never really worked out, but Team Liquid also didn’t have the best roster.

LirA made a name for himself as one of the best junglers in North America despite being on an average team. Many players praised LirA for his aggressive play style and unpredictable pathing almost solo carrying some games. Apollo and Hakuho developed into a formidable duo who were 2v2’ing some of the best bot lanes in North America. Apollo will never be a flashy ADC, but he’s consistent with his play style and can pop off some games.

The acquisition of Febiven in the mid lane is huge as he comes off a year where he revitalized his career on H2K. Febiven looked great once again, looking like his rookie form with Fnatic. The biggest question mark will be in the top lane with rookie, Solo. Solo has been a longtime Challenger Series player who hasn’t been able to crack into the LCS until now. While he’s looked decent in the Challenger Series, he’s looked average for the most part when it came to going against LCS competition. If he can develop into a decent LCS caliber top laner, Clutch Gaming could definitely surprise a lot of people.

Echo Fox

Top: Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon (Pursuing)

Jungle: Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett

Mid: Kim “FeniX” Jae-hun

ADC: Johnny “Altec” Ru

Support: Adrian “Adrian” Ma

Head Coach: Coach: Nick “Inero” Smith

Photo by: Riot Games

Echo Fox brought in possibly one of the most high risk, high reward rosters of the off-season. From an attitude standpoint, things could internally implode if things don’t work out early.

Everyone knows the Dardoch story. A highly skilled jungler with all the mechanics you’d want from a rising young rookie. We saw first hand with his time on Team Liquid how he is as a teammate and player. Being kicked off Immortals and Counter Logic Gaming has to make you question if he can ever get his act together. Time and time again he has had his chances. This may be his last shot under Echo Fox. He reunites with former Team Liquid mid laner, Fenix, who spent time in the Challenger Series this past year.

Fenix has shown good laning mechanics, but fails to translate his laning success in a team sense. He can lane with some of the best mid laners, but can he truly mesh with the team around him to make his team succeed.

In the bot lane, Adrian and Altec stay together from Dignitas. Dignitas looked like a strong team who could possibly make a strong run at Worlds towards the end of summer. Things seemed to have imploded as the team lost their synergy. Adrian in particular has been noted to have attitude problems during his time on Team Impulse and Phoenix1.

If this team can find the perfect chemistry to be able to succeed, they could definitely be top contenders. If things don’t work out, this team could fall apart very fast.

 

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Cover photo by 100 Thieves Twitter

NBA 2K Series: Interview with Pistons’ NBA 2K League staff

This was the first time I was fortunate to speak with multiple members of a franchise’s esports program. Adam Rubin, manager of esports, and Mike Donnay, vice president of brand networks, are the backbone of the Detroit Pistons’ NBA 2K League program. It’s the perfect partnership. Rubin’s esports and content production expertise paired with Donnay’s background in digital marketing, will allow the Pistons to have one of the best esports programs in the league.

A Shared Love of Storytelling

Rubin’s love for telling stories was apparent in our conversation. He has spent his professional career excelling in the content creation space. He’s created Emmy award-winning content and served as creative director for an entire esports org. Rubin’s enthusiasm for esports combined with his expertise in production made him uniquely qualified for his current position. Thankfully, he’s had a partner in crime to help deliver his incredible ideas.

Enter Mike Donnay. Donnay has proven to be a digital marketing master in Detroit. After attending Michigan State University, Donnay climbed the marketing ranks in the Detroit area. In 2012, Donnay started with the Pistons. He created huge digital platforms in the form of social media accounts, mobile apps and the Pistons Program Network.

This dynamic duo has established themselves and their franchise as a leader in creating content. Rubin spoke specifically about how the Pistons made the best of a less than ideal situation.

“Our franchise made a decision to transition from perennial contender, to a young rebuilding team,” Rubin said. “We had to deliver more to our fans, and that came in the form of content.”

They were pleasantly surprised with how much the fans loved what they were producing. This not only demonstrates their talent and creativity, but also that they understood their fan base. Thus, Rubin and Donnay plan on taking a similar approach with their eventual 2K team.

Building from the Ground Up

It’s important to remember that with all this excitement and anticipation swirling around the NBA 2K League, there is no blueprint for what these franchises are trying to do. Rubin echoed this sentiment with a tweet Monday asking for patience and respect.

Donnay echoed Rubin about how new this concept is.

“We’re all in this together,” Donnay said. “We are essentially building the airplane in the air.”

I believe that there will be less frustration now that the NBA 2K League AMA with Brendan Donohue is complete. As a result, I see franchises getting the opportunity to focus on their individual programs and worry less about players inundating them with questions.

Preview as a Pistons’ Professional 2k player

I found this to be the most interesting and revealing portion of my conversation with Rubin and Donnay. Because the NBA 2K League had scheduled their AMA, I wanted to focus on the Pistons’ program specifically. Of course, like you, I wanted to ask about the tryout mode and draft process.

If you’re just an average sports fan, you’ve seen a piece about professional athletes getting involved in their community. Whether it’s hosting a charity event or remodeling a school library, it’s great to see professional athletes actively engage with their community. If you’re drafted to the Pistons’ team, it’s likely you’ll have a similar experience.

“We want to involve our professional 2K players in the community as much as possible…a professional video gamer will be more relatable to average child in the community.”

– Adam Rubin

Donnay added that access will be key and that the Pistons’ NBA 2K team will serve as an extension of the franchise. Both indicated that they would produce content about their 2K team in the same manner they have covered the Pistons. Rubin hinted at all the different content ideas he has for the team and allowing the community the access needed to connect with their newest professional athletes.

Silencing the Doubters

In every interview, I ask the same question for people who are skeptical about the NBA 2K League.

“If you enjoy watching basketball at all, you’re going to like the product we put on display…It’s just basketball”, Rubin said.

I love consistently getting that answer. It demonstrates that everyone involved understands their product and the distinct advantage they have over other popular esports.

Consistency and communication are critical to ensure the success of any venture, let alone the formation of a new league. It’s clear that the leadership of Adam Rubin and Mike Donnay exhibit these features in spades.

 

You can hear the full interview, including details about the national tryout and the qualification process to become a professional 2K player in the 2K Corner 3 Podcast by clicking here.

To stay updated be sure to follow Adam Rubin, Mike Donnay and the Detroit Pistons on Twitter!

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Overwatch League Roster Breakdown: Los Angeles Gladiators

In this edition of roster breakdown, the Los Angeles Gladiators get the spotlight. One of two Los Angeles, California based teams sporting the flashy purple and white jersey’s for the inaugural season of the Overwatch League. The talented Gladiators squad will house players from all across the globe, and will focus on two things in this upcoming season: having fun and playing aggressive, according to Rob Moore of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment (KSE).

Ownership
Stan Kroenke, owner of the newly acquired Los Angeles Gladiators, is constantly being discussed in sports media. He recently moved the St. Louis Rams franchise out of Missouri and back to Los Angeles where the franchise previously resided in the 1980’s. It’s been a point of contention around NFL circles, and since then the Kroenke name has been vilified by the people of St. Louis.

Regardless of the public perception of Kroenke, one thing’s clear and that’s the fact that he understands how to run a franchise. Consider this, Stan Kroenke owns KSE, a parent company for all his sports holdings. That same company has become a multi-media conglomerate with television and radio stations. On top of that, KSE expanded its holdings to five different franchises major sport franchises (MLB, NBA, MLS, NHL, and NFL) and finally seized the opportunity in the esports space.

Now, along with Boston Uprising owner Robert Kraft, Stan Kroenke adds legitimacy and national media attention to a new, burgeoning league. As someone actively cheering for the Overwatch League to succeed, it can’t go understated how important it is to have the backing of names like the Kroenke’s. KSE is planning to build an arena for the Gladiators, and could be big players in free agency.

Coaching
Team Kungarna was one of the surprising North America teams throughout the last year of Overwatch. The Kungarana roster had talented pieces, but the interchanging roster made it difficult to obtain any team synergy. Current Gladiators’ head coach and former Kungarna coach, David “dpei” Pei, was a big reason for Kungarna’s Overwatch Contenders run and meshing a moving roster. His coaching was key in bringing together a jumbled group of players and making them into one of the best North American teams.

Players

Photo via LA Gladiators Twitter

The LA Gladiators are one the few daring teams to only stick with seven players on the roster. The one backup spot will most likely be filled by one of the teams three-DPS (damage per second) mains. Gladiators decision to stick with seven players limits their ability to counter certain match ups. It puts extra pressure on the tank and support line.

Looking at how this roster was constructed, it’s not trying anything innovative or new, like San Francisco Shock essentially going with a team filled with DPS/Flex players. Gladiators roster will be more straight forward: 3 DPS, 1 Flex, 1 Tank, and 2 support.

Lane “Surefour” Roberts
Role: DPS/Hit-scan
Region: North America (Canada)
Former teams: Cloud 9
Favorite Heroes: Soldier 76, McCree

Surefour, as I’m sure this is the case with most people, was the first player to ever grab my attention in high-level Overwatch. Arguably the best North American Overwatch player, and one of the premier hit-scan players in the world. If there was a player to build around on this team, Surefour would be that player.

Recently, we saw Surefour and the talented Canadian team push Korea in the World Cup final. A strong showing showcased that he’s still improving. He’s certainly good enough to compete with the best players in the OWL, and should be a star in the making in Los Angeles. One of the most accurate players in Overwatch.

Jung Sung “Asher” Choi
Role: DPS/hit-scan
Region: South Korea
Former teams: CONBOX Spirit
Favorite Heroes: Tracer, McCree

Asher is a rather interesting name. Obviously starting off in Korea and getting plenty of Apex experience gives him a leg up, but there’s still some questions regarding his effectiveness heading into this season. His play was often overshadowed by former teammate Park “Architect” Min-ho, and he’s not considered one of the best Korean Tracer’s.

As a Tracer main, his duty will be to be disrupt the enemy back line, but his aggressive play can put himself into bad situations. Luckily, Asher will be playing alongside Surefour which will open up lanes for Tracer. Asher’s Tracer heavy play can be substituted for Hydration’s projectile focus on Genji and Pharah. Asher provides explosiveness, experience, and will be a key starting piece for the Gladiators in season one.

Joao Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles
Role: DPS/Projectile
Region: South America (Brazil)
Former Teams: CLG
Favorite Heroes: Genji, Pharah

Hydration is going to be the first player off the bench. He’s known for his Pharah, but Hydration has a good enough hero pool to go Junkrat or switch onto Genji when needed. He’s one of the few Brazilian born players in the OWL.

 

Gladiators cheering for Surefour. Photo via LA Gladiators twitter

 

Tanks

Aaron “Bischu” Kim
Role: Flex
Region: South Korea
Former teams: Kungarna, Team SoloMid, Ronin
Favorite Heroes: D.va, Zarya

Bischu is a must-watch player and a fantastic pickup for a team looking to play aggressively. The former League of Legends star now switches his focus to Overwatch, and he’s proved in a short amount of time that his Zarya is one of the best.

On top of his efficient play in the flex slot, he brings continuity with his head coach and former Kungarana teammate iRemix. The fact that the Gladiators tank line will have some synergy coming in is a big advantage and is the reason these three guys were brought in over potentially more skilled players. It’s possible this is one of the better tank lines in season one.

Luis Galarza “iRemix” Figueroa
Role: Tank
Region: Puerto Rico
Former Teams: Kungarana, Splyce
Favorite Heroes: Winston, Reinhardt

iRemix’s tank play in Overwatch Contenders was always extremely impressive. His Reinhardt during season two was one of my favorites in North America, and he’s made the necessary adjustments when Reinhardt with Winston when Reinhardt was fazed out of the meta. In his role, iRemix might be the most important player on the team. He’ll be the defensive linchpin.

Supportsional
Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara

Role: Support/Flex
Region: Finland
Former teams: Reason Gaming, Hammers Esports, Team Gigantti
Favorite Heroes: Ana, Zenyatta, Sombra

It’s apparent that Kevin “Kez” Jeon, the Gladiators manager, did his homework. While the decision to go with Asher and Hydration as their DPS-mains is somewhat questionable, bringing in the two Finns is no mistake. Gigantti, which both Shaz and BigGoose played for, overwhelmingly over-succeeded and it’s the play of these two that sprung that success.

Shaz can plug and play any number of heroes, but his primary role in season one will be on Mercy. Look for this team to switch Shaz to get advantageous composition. There’s a reason why they didn’t bring in any other support mains. It’s because this duo is versatile and skilled.

Benjamin “BigG00se” Isohanni
Role
: Support
Region: Europe (Finland)
Former Teams: Rest in Pajamas, Team Gigantti
Favorite Heroes: Lucio

Similarly to the tank line, the Gladiators supports will have plenty of familiarity of how they want to play. It’s a great move to target players that have experience playing with each other. On top of all this, BigGoose’s Lucio is ridiculously good and will play into how this team wants to play on paper.

Expectations?

When I first glanced at the roster, I gave a loud sigh. Another team missing out on Carpe, Saebyeol, and Stitch. After examining it further, this could be a surprise team this season. Yes, they’re lacking the Korean talent, but outside of Miami, Seoul, and London, this is probably the most familiar team in the OWL. A team built around familiarity with each other.

However, it’s tough seeing this squad make a push for the postseason. While Surefour is a game-changer, the two other DPS-mains don’t stack up as well on paper. This team will need more firepower to come out on top.

 

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