LCK Finals: Telecom Wars Review

The Telecom Slaughter

Not even SKT1 fans wanted to see the blowout that occurred during the 2017 LCK Spring Split Finals this past weekend. SKT1 beat kt Rolster in a 3-0 sweep, with the last two games in the series being pitifully one-sided.

Game 1: SKT Victory at 36 minutes

Kt Rolster: Jayce, Elise, Syndra, Ashe, Malzahar

SKT: Shen, Lee Sin, Fizz, Varus, Lulu

Giving Han “Peanut” Wang-ho Lee Sin, a champion he was 9-0 on, was kt Rolster’s first mistake this series. But despite Peanut’s Lee Sin play, kt Rolster was able to take an early lead through clean rotations, opting for towers over kills. Kt Rolster was up in gold by 20 minutes, with Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho having five kills to his name. Kt Rolster lost their lead when Heo “Pawn” Won-seok got caught out around Baron pit. The next few skirmishes followed the same way, with Pawn going down before anyone else, oftentimes with his cooldowns still up. This eventually led to a 28 minute Baron, followed by another eight minutes of consistent tower taking.

Game 2: SKT Victory at 31 minutes

Kt Rolster: Fiora, Graves, LeBlanc, Ashe, Malzahar

SKT: Camille, Lee Sin, Karma, Twitch, Lulu

Again, Peanut picked Lee Sin, but this time he was able to snowball two early kills leading to a more one-sided victory than the first game. With SKT’s mega-Twitch comp, they only needed one lane to win. However, by 20 minutes SKT had decisively won every lane with exception of bot, which was ahead of kt’s bot lane, but not by much. The shielding from Karma and Lulu led to an ae at 27 minutes giving SKT an uncontested Baron that they efficiently transferred into a victory three minutes later.

Game 3: SKT Victory at 30 minutes

Kt Rolster: Jayce, Rengar, LeBlanc, Ashe, Karma

SKT: Gragas, Graves, Lulu, Twitch, Nami

SKT Peanut awarded MVP for LCK Spring Split Playoffs. Courtesy of SKT Twitter

Kt Rolster finally banned Lee Sin from Peanut, but it was too little too late. An SKT tower dive gone wrong left each team at two kills, but seconds later Faker was able to solo kill Pawn as Lulu into Pawn’s LeBlanc. This embarrassment was furthered as Pawn was given his fifth death at the 20 minute mark. You can ban Lee Sin, but Peanut will still take over games; Peanut’s Graves finished game three 11/1/9, earning MVP for the playoffs.

Just Faker Things

Being announced in the bonjwa throne, an armchair that has seated only three other outstanding esports players in Korea, Faker took the stage with as much force as he took the series. The bonjwa throne was originally intended for professional Starcraft players, who were dominate and unrivaled in their era as the title bonjwa suggests. Faker had taken the throne only once since this opening ceremony, during a 2015 World Champions preview video.

Watching Faker play is always a learning experience. Even playing against some of the League’s best players, he looks leaps and bounds better than them. Even the most subtle of maneuvers speaks to his skill level. At one point in game one, Faker’s Fizz was ganked by Elise, creating a two versus one that he managed to escape using a Control Ward he was keeping in his inventory. Faker throws the Control Ward into the brush along mid lane with the intent to disable enemy wards allowing him to juke enemy skillshots without the opponent having vision of him. While this foresight illustrates Faker’s ability to think about different future scenarios in the game, the enemy did not have wards in the brush he juked into. Not knowing this, Faker chose wisely in placing this Control Ward, as it could have been the difference between a kt Rolster first blood or just another failed gank.

Faker shows his mastery on Fizz by using his ultimate to initiate team fights every time it is up. While this led to a lot of whiffed sharks, the constant pressure allotted by Faker’s cooldown reduction heavy build, led to the skirmish after skirmish that eventually paved the way to SKT’s 28 minute Baron in game one. On top of this constant pressure, Faker input buffered his ultimate ability by casting it during the gap closing element of his Urchin Strike, making it the ability harder to predict and subsequently juke.

Faker showed his flexibility in the next two games, playing supportive mages, Karma and Lulu, and allowing his teammates to carry. Despite taking a support into lane against Pawn’s LeBlanc, Faker was able to get a solo kill as Lulu, taking full advantage of kt Rolster’s tilt in game three. Even at the highest caliber of play, Faker can appear to be on a completely different level than his opponents.

 

SKT to MSI

With SKT’s victory over kt Rolster, the team has earned their ticket to the Mid-Season Invitational. As the team stated after their quick defeat of kt, they are looking to train their hardest in an effort to take the international stage by force. We at The Game Haus look forward to seeing the competition at MSI happening in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from April 28 – May 21. For more Faker on the bonjwa throne check the video below, and for more League of Legends, check back on The Game Haus soon.

Image: Courtesy of Yong Woo ‘Kenzi’

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NALCS: The Good and Bad of Franchising

TheScore esports released an article Friday regarding franchising becoming a real thing in NALCS. Franchising has been a trending topic in terms of LCS since last year. Franchising LCS means that ten teams will be locked in from season to season, not being relegated. Riot would get rid of the relegation system altogether, and most likely opt for something similar to minor league, for teams to scout upcoming talent. New teams would not enter the LCS unless teams voted to expand the number of teams.

The Good

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Owners can rejoice with the announcement of franchising. Franchising in LCS will be amazing for teams already in LCS, and investors. With no risk of relegation, sponsors can freely pour money into teams without the risk of teams dropping out of the LCS. Under the relegation model, bottom tier teams struggle more to garner sponsors with the risk of losing their LCS spot.

More opportunities for players to enter the scene could possibly open up. If each team has a sort of “farm” team in the minor leagues, we could see more talent brought into struggling teams. With most of the best young talent playing in the challenger series during the regular season, there isn’t much room for roster adaptations during the regular split. Teams can feel comfortable doing roster changes in the middle of the split with no threat of losing their spot.

Fans also don’t have to worry about their favorite team being relegated from LCS. CLG and TL fans can assure you that relegation is a terrifying possibility. Franchising will pave the way for more money, continuing the rapid growth we’ve seen in esports recently.

The Bad

Franchising prevents any new organizations from entering the LCS. We may never get to witness a team like Origen or old school Cloud 9 grow from Challenger into Worlds contenders. Franchising will prevent the “underdog” story of LCS with no new organizations being able to play their way into the league.

Player contract security may also be hindered with Franchising. There would be a lot more on the line for players. Underperforming teams could be more open to adapting during the split. Players may not have a secure spot on the team if their team struggles.

Furthermore, competitiveness of the league could also dip. With no fear of relegation, some teams can be complacent with being a bottom tier organization. Without the fear of relegation, teams can be okay with having a bad split.

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NALCS Finals Preview: Rematch of the Gods

After a long LCS spring split, the finals are just days away. Two of the most successful organizations in Cloud 9 and Team SoloMid will face off once again to see who will be crowned as the champions of Spring Split 2017. This match is crucial for both teams. Ninety Circuit points and a spot at MSI are on the line.

Team SoloMid

Courtesy: Riot Esports

TSM comes in as slight favorites, having finished the regular season at the top of the standings. They looked much improved from the start of the split, with top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell having a breakout split. Mid laner Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg is still performing as the star mid laner we’ve come to know. Meanwhile, the bot lane duo of Jason “Wildturtle” Tran and Vincent “Biofrost” Wang have developed into a formidable bot lane duo.

TSM has a long history of NALCS titles, having been one of the first successful organizations in professional League of Legends. Owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh has made it clear that anything short of a first place finish is a disappointment.

They had a few early game hiccups in their semifinal match against Flyquest. Notably, jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen making some overly aggressive plays without proper lane pressure. This resulted in him and Hauntzer getting caught by a collapsing Flyquest in game one.

Despite this, all their lanes were usually fairly far ahead. Their rotations were solid and they were able to out maneuver Flyquest around the map in each game, resulting in their 3-0 sweep.

Cloud 9

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Cloud 9 came into the split as preseason favorites. With Wildturtle taking the helm at ADC for TSM, most expected Cloud 9 to step up as the new kings of North America. After a strong 8-0 start, the team’s problems became apparent. Their lack of early game play making was an evident problem that teams began to exploit.

Rookie jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia has looked like the promising jungler most had hoped for at the beginning of the split. He had a great series against Phoenix1, and will be vital in their series against TSM.

Cloud 9 also has an interesting dynamic with their Korean top lane duo of Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong and Jeon “Ray” Ji-won. Both top laners have shown some great performances on different champions. With Impact, they appear to like him on comps where a tank is needed, such as Nautilus or Maokai. With Ray, you always have to worry about his signature split push Jarvan or his Renekton.

Support Andy “Smoothie” Ta has had a breakout year, being heralded as the best support of the split this year. After some rocky splits on TL and TDK, he’s finally found his groove with this C9 roster.

With another split of coaching under Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu, Cloud 9 looked like they had peaked midway through the split. As teams around them got better, they stayed the same, and dropped games because of this. With two weeks of practice before playing their first playoff match, they looked much improved. They’re hoping it will be enough to retake the North American throne from TSM.

 

Matchup to Watch: Svenskeren vs. Contractz

Courtesy: Riot Esports

My matchup to watch is in the jungle. Cloud 9’s Contractz got the better of Svenskeren in their first meeting of the split, but his performance slowly stagnated as the season progressed. He’s had a decent split with high expectations heading in. He’s had his share of rookie mistakes, sometimes over extending without the help of his team.

In Cloud 9’s match against Phoenix1, Contractz looked revitalized as the star jungler many had expected in the preseason. He seemed to always be in the right place at the right time to help his team.

TSM’s Svenskeren admitted in an interview before playoffs that he felt he wasn’t playing his best. Despite being on the top team in the league, Sven had one of the lowest KP% of all junglers, and was middle of the pack in KDA. The aggression he’s known for sometimes puts him in bad positions to be caught out. Svenskeren will need to be very calculated with his invades, as Contractz is another jungler who likes to play aggressively.

Contractz will need to do a good job tracking Svenskeren in the early game. If they can pick him off early in their jungle, Cloud 9 have the talent to use those small leads to their advantage. With Contractz playing in his first ever LCS final, he may feel the pressure of being in such a packed stadium for the first time. The LCS stage is one thing, but a whole arena packed around you is completely different. He’ll need to keep his nerves in check for Cloud 9 to be able to take the series.

Prediction

With how these two teams played in semifinals, Cloud 9 honestly looked a bit cleaner to me than TSM. It’s tough to say when Phoenix1 played their sub support for whatever reason for the first two games. TSM’s early games against Flyquest weren’t the cleanest, but their mid game teamfighting and shotcalling was what propelled them to huge gold leads.

As a Cloud 9 fan, I’ll be rooting for them all the way, but I think in the end, TSM’s veteran experience will be the difference in a 3-2 victory over Cloud 9.

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EU’s Final Showdowns: G2-UOL, FNC-MSF

The last matches of the 2017 EU LCS Spring Split are happening this weekend, April 22nd-23rd. The playoffs have been exciting thus far, and the final two series look to be just as juicy. Fnatic will battle Misfits for third place, while Unicorns of Love attempts to dethrone G2. All four of these teams have rounded out the past few weeks well, but here are some notes going into their last match-ups of Spring.

Misfits

Playoffs: Misfits mid laner, PowerOfEvil

courtesy of Riot esports

Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage has had an excellent playoff run. Among all of Misfits and Fnatic’s players, PowerOfEvil has been averaging the highest damage per minute: 620 (the next highest is Martin “Rekkles” Larsson with 497). He makes up 29.8% of Misfits’ damage. His average during the regular season was 495, or 28.8% of the team’s total. PowerOfEvil will need to maintain this high level of play and shut down Rasmus “Caps” Winthe if Misfits want to stand a chance of winning.

Their jungler, Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon, will need to adjust. Between all ten Misfits and Fnatic players, KaKAO sits bottom two in KDA, kill participation, first blood rate, and experience difference at 10 minutes. This is not going to cut it if Misfits are to win this weekend’s series and secure third place. Many analysts have criticized his play on Rengar. His win percentage is only 33% on this champion, so he should try to stay away from it in the draft. Unicorns of Love were smart to ban Lee Sin and Elise, for which he holds 78% and 67% win-rates. His next best options are Ivern and Rek’Sai, for which he also holds 67% win-rates.

Overall, Misfits have mainly lost the early game pressure they exhibited during the regular season. So far, they have averaged 384 gold behind their playoff opponents, which is awful compared to their 820 gold ahead during the regular season. The largest discrepancy between Misfits and Fnatic has been their respective abilities to take the first three turrets. Fnatic holds the top spot among playoff contenders, taking their opponents’ first three turrets in 71% of games. Misfits have only achieved this in 44% of their games.

Fnatic

Playoffs: Fnatic's support, Jesiz

courtesy of Riot esports

Fnatic’s most improved player for playoffs has been Jesse “Jesiz” Le. Almost every statistic of his has improved over the past two weeks. His KDA went from 3.4 to 5.2. His kill participation rose from 60.3% to 68.9%. Jesiz has been a primary engage tool for the team on champions such as Camille, Thresh, and Zyra. He is also a big reason why Rekkles has been able to get through laning phase on off-meta marksmen. Hopefully, Jesiz is able to maintain this high-pressure playstyle.

While having a wide champion pool can be good, it is not always necessary. Fnatic’s odd champion choices essentially ended their series against G2 last weekend. Vayne, Tristana, Kayle, Annie: these selections were not necessary. The flexing of Camille and Kennen have generally worked well for Fnatic, but branching out much beyond those picks is a bit much. The surprise factor does not outweigh the execution factor.

One area where Fnatic has excelled during playoffs is Baron control. Fnatic has taken the first Baron in 86% of their playoff games (compared to 38% during the regular season). They have also maintained a 71% Baron control rate (compared to 33% during the regular season). This focus is much better than Misfits, and will more than likely be the biggest factor in Fnatic’s favor. Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen and crew will need to continue to prioritize this objective.

Unicorns of Love

Playoffs: Unicorns of Love's top laner, Vizicsacsi

courtesy of Riot esports

Unicorns of Love have strong players at every position except, arguably, their AD carry. During playoffs, Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás and Fabian “Exileh” Schubert have averaged 605 and 600 damage per minute, respectively (third and fourth highest of all players). Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir tops the competition in KDA (10.5) and has the second-lowest death share of all player in playoffs (8.9%). While Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort generally averages behind in CS at ten minutes, he stays ahead in gold and experience, and he maintains the third lowest percentage of UOL’s deaths (13.3%).

One of the Unicorns’ biggest strengths is their champion pool. Xerxe has 75-100% win-rates on four champions with three or more games (Warwick, Ivern, Rengar, Rumble). Vizicsacsi has 75-100% win-rates on four champions with three or more games (Renekton, Rumble, Nautlius, Shen). And Exileh has won games on 11 different champions this spring. Pinching their pools will be virtually impossible for G2.

As a team, Unicorns of Love has secured first blood and first dragon in every game of playoffs so far. UOL has also secured the first Baron in in 75% of games with a 71% Baron control rate. If they are going to beat G2, it will most likely be off the back of a Baron trade. G2 have averaged a poor 25% first Baron rate during playoffs, and a 50% Baron control rate. During the regular season, G2 secured first Baron 72% of the time and maintained a 74% Baron control rate.

G2

Playoffs: G2's mid laner, Perkz

courtesy of Riot esports

G2 will be a formidable foe for Unicorns of Love. They offer similar strong players in virtually every role. Luka “Perkz” Perković has really shined throughout playoffs so far. He has the highest damage per minute (635) and percent of his team’s damage (33%). He has the lowest death share of all players in playoffs (8.5%), and he has the third highest KDA (7.0). UOL’s Exileh showed a bit of weakness against PowerOfEvil during laning phase last weekend. Perkz will be even more difficult for him to overcome.

G2’s other primary carry has been Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen. Although he was not quite as dominant in the Fnatic series last weekend, his match-up with Unicorns’ bottom lane should be much easier. Zven has averaged 6.5 CS and 164 gold ahead at ten minutes. If there is a player who needs to step up in this series, though, it is Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun. Trick’s regular season KDA was 4.7. So far in playoffs, it is 1.8. He averaged significantly ahead in gold, experience, and CS at ten minutes. In the playoffs, he has averaged 7 CS and 108 experience behind.

G2’s early game was phenomenal against Fnatic last weekend. The squad averaged 877 gold ahead at 15 minutes. That was the case during the regular season, as well. What looks like a weak spot is taking early towers. During the regular season, G2 took first turret in 64% of games and the first three turrets in 73% of games. In their series last weekend, they only did 50% and 25%, respectively. Unicorns of Love take the first turret less often, but the first three turrets more often. G2 will have to transition their early game leads into early objectives if they want to stand a chance against UOL. Teamfighting may not be the correct strategy. Smart rotations and perfect execution will be their only chance at victory.

predictions

Fnatic has looked much stronger in the past few weeks than Misfits have. I do not think it impossible for Misfits to take this, but it is highly unlikely. Just as Misfits took one game off of Unicorns of Love, they should get one from Fnatic, but Fnatic should win 3-1.

The finals series will be much more exciting. G2 have looked a bit weaker, while Unicorns seem hungry. Either way, it should be a five game series. If UOL wins it will be from snowballing the top side of the map, while G2 should look to snowball the bottom side. While both will likely happen, Vizicsacsi’s gameplay lately is seemingly unstoppable. This should be Unicorns’ spring split playoff victory.


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Fnatic win quarterfinals over H2K

Fnatic Quarterfinals Highlights and the Road Ahead

Fnatic played a stellar series against H2K last weekend, finishing 3-0. While H2K looked out of sorts, Fnatic played calm, coordinated League of Legends. This was their best series so far in the 2017 EU LCS. Here is a compilation of their best plays from the quarterfinal match-up.

While Fnatic should be proud of this achievement, they have a challenging playoffs road ahead. Their next opponent will be G2, a squad which has suffered only one series loss thus far. Hypothetically, if Fnatic wins that match-up, they will still need to face the winner of Misfits vs. Unicorns of Love in the finals.

G2 does exhibit some playstyle similarities to H2K, but with fewer weaknesses. H2K’s biggest issue seemed to be communication in their quarterfinal loss. Shin “Nuclear” Jung-hyun and Choi “Chei” Sun-ho were not on the same page with each other or the rest of the team. Many of Fnatic’s advantages came from Nuclear and Chei’s poor positioning. Fnatic should not expect Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez to make the same mistakes.

Fnatic also surprised H2K, and spectators, with lower priority marksmen picks: Twitch, Vayne, and Kennen. Martin “Rekkles” Larsson’s Kennen pick is not surprising, but hardly any other bottom laners look as comfortable on the pick. Twitch and Vayne, though, came out of nowhere. Though these picks most likely threw H2K for a loop, G2 now have the advantage of knowing Fnatic is able to draft and win with such picks. The surprise is no longer a factor.

Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen and Paul “sOAZ” Boyer will need to continue to demonstrate high levels of pressure in the jungle and top lane. They will also need to remain coordinated with the rest of the team to properly rotate, pressure objectives, and counter-gank.

Jesse “Jesiz” Le should try to remain on support champions with strong engage potential. He stood out as a highly impactful player throughout the quarterfinals. If Fnatic are able to replicate the strategies they used against H2K, then their series against G2 this weekend should be a treat.

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Cloud9’s Playoff Profile: The Quest to Body Their Way Back to the Top

Cloud9 finished the season as the second best team to TeamSoloMid, again. Most expected this split to be Cloud9’s with TSM’s starting ADC Yiiang “Doublelift” Peng taking a break from the team. Although Cloud9 surged to a phenomenal 8-0 record, they’ve still struggled to solve their early game issues while other teams have improved. If they want to reclaim the NALCS title, they’ll need to show the ability to make plays in the early game.

Strengths

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Cloud9 has three extremely strong lanes. Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen has had an MVP-like split, ending second in KDA and CSD@10 among mids.

The top lane Korean duo of Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong and Jeon “Ray” Ji-won gives them a diverse range of champions. Ray looked iffy in the beginning of the split, but has shown steady improvement towards the end. It will be interesting to see how C9 utilize each of them in a best of five format.

Cloud9 excels in mid game team fighting and shot calling. They’re great at knowing each other’s power spikes and knowing how to capitalize on their enemy’s mistakes. You give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.

Weaknesses

It’s no secret Cloud9’s weakness this whole split has been their lackluster early game. They’re not ones to make big plays in the early game despite having some of the most talented players. Jensen is often criticized for his lack of roaming and his selfishness to only gain an advantage in his lane.

Rookie jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia is often used as a tracker for the enemy jungler. It’s worrisome that they usually opt to farm it out till mid game to make plays. Against more aggressive playmaking teams such as TSM, we’ve seen that C9 can be punished for it. Despite Cloud9 being the second best team in the league, they are a mediocre 7th in GD@15.

If C9 want to reclaim the North American throne, they’ll need to show that they can make plays in the early game.

Player to Watch: Contractz

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Contractz is a huge X-Factor for this team. As a rookie playing in his first playoffs series, he’ll need to step up big time.

Contractz has shown glimpses of stardom, but he’s also had his share of rookie blunders. Furthermore, when he’s confident and being a nuisance to the enemy jungler, he looks his best. If he gets caught out during crucial objectives and doesn’t have an early game impact, we could see an early upset. With how dominant Phoenix1 looked against Dignitas, it will be a close series.

 

Prediction

While Phoenix1 will give Cloud9 a run for their money, I believe C9 will reach the NALCS finals again to face off in a close series against TSM.

Cloud9 3-2 over Phoenix1 in the semifinals

TSM 3-2 over Cloud9 in the Finals

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Dignitas Playoff Profile: The One Man Ssumday Army or the Unsung Duo to Victory?

 Setting the Stage

 

The return of the gold and black of Dignitas this split was a welcomed sign by some. Even more welcomed was their highly touted Korean imports. Bringing across the Pacific Top lane phenom, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, and high flying (get it cause he played in Jin Air… sorry) Jungler Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun, Dignitas looked to come back in a big way. Of course, alongside this was the big news of financial backing from the Philadelphia 76ers. This was reportedly the swaying reason why Ssumday joined the team. Integrating these two talents would not only take time, but effort from the organization.

Will Dignitas’ games be another case of Ssumday and co., or will the rest of Dignitas pull their own weight? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

The rest of the Dignitas roster was flushed out with Apex Gaming’s Mid laner, Lae-Young “Keane” Jang, Canadian up and comer, Benjamin “LOD” deMunck, and the 2000 assist man himself, Alex “Xpecial” Chu. Many pundits at the beginning of the split described Dignitas accurately: the Ssumday and friends show, with the heavyweight Top laner often carrying his teammates. Dignitas won and lost games on whether their opponents could contain Ssumday or not.

But that was for the first half of the split. “Trust the process” seems to be the name of the game for Dignitas. After bringing in coach, David “Cop” Roberson, it seemed the process really took off. The team play between the Korean and NA players seemed to pick up too. Dignitas overall matured into a strong team, and while Ssumday was still easily the ace for the squad, games were won on the backs of other teammates. LOD, in particular, stepped up as a player, while Keane earned an insane nine Player of the Games, one behind Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen. 

 

The Players in the Jerseys

 

Probably the most hyped player to be imported in the off season, everyone’s eyes were on Ssumday, a staple for the KT organization in LCK for many years. He didn’t fail to deliver, having a dominant opening season in NA. There’s not much more you could ask for in a Top laner. Strong in lane, impact felt outside of lane, and someone who can carry the team on his own back if needed. Ssumday is definitely still the star of this Dignitas roster and should be showing up to prove it this weekend.

There’s an almost cliche team composition of picking a Korean Top laner and Jungler and it working well (see Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo and Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin for examples). With Ssumday and Chaser, that pattern continues to be effective. Junglers excel at getting their laners ahead, and Chaser will need to be on point to guarantee that Ssumday can be the tyrant of the top half of the map. Bot lane is another possible target for Chaser, with ganks on P1’s bot lane having possible massive gains if they can keep No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon down. Chaser will need to not only play smart, but creatively, and pick up on the opportunities to get his teammates ahead. If not, Dignitas may look worse for ware.

Maybe not the strongest Mid laner in the league, Keane is still a player you should never count out. Can he shore up his weaknesses for the playoff run or will inconsistencies haunt him? Courtesy of Riot Flikr.

Mid lane, as always, dictates much of the team fighting prowess of a team. Keane will need to show his more consistent side, or possibly bring some pocket picks or off meta choices to catch his opponents off guard. While I think many wouldn’t place Keane as the linchpin that Dignitas rotates around, both Phoneix 1 and Cloud 9 do place their mid as top priorities. Keeping the opposing Mid laner in check will be vital, as will be Keane stepping up his performance overall. His stats have him solidly in a middling position for KDA, Damage Per Minute, and Damage Percentages of his team.

The silent pickup from Dignitas was trading Apex’s Apollo “Apollo” Price for EnVyUs’s LOD. I say silent because the signing of two big name Korean imports generally overshadows a domestic swap of two lower tier ADCs. LOD, however, has come up big for Dig and has shined as a contender for best player on Dignitas. He’s stepped up in big ways for Dignitas in a meta that was hard on ADCs, but looks to carry that on into the playoffs. His partner, Xpecial, clocked his 2000th assist with Dignitas, and has also had a noticeable uptick in the latter half of the split. The duo look to show that this isn’t just a Korean team as the two North Americans have put up good performances.

 

The X Factor

 

What’s the X factor for Dignitas to pull off a deep drive into the playoffs? Their botlane duo of LOD and Xpecial. While it may seem like their star in Ssumday would have to pull off the big plays, I actually feel that the duo in the botlane can have more of an impact if they can manage to get ahead of their lane opponents. Arrow has been an absolute monster for P1, but their listed support of Jordan “Shady” Robison has me thinking Arrow may not play up to his potential. If the synergy of LOD and Xpecial can step up to the plate and best Arrow and Shady, Dignitas have a decent shot at defeating their first opponent on their way to the Semis against Cloud 9.

Can LOD and Xpecial show that they’re one of NA’s top duos? Or will they fail to make a dent against the monster, Arrow? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

If LOD and Xpecial can show up against Arrow, then they stand a chance against Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi and Andy “Smoothie” Ta too. ADCs have come back into a more carry based position, and a strong bot lane coming out of lane can sway the tides in the mid game. Ssumday should be solid in the Top lane against Derek “zig” Shao. Even against fellow Korean, Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, he stands a good chance of holding out. Chaser can possibly gain an advantage from the Jungle, being a more seasoned veteran than both Juan “Contractz” Garcia and Rami “Inori” Charagh. While Keane will also need to be strong or at least keep even with his opposite sides, it’s the duo in the bot lane that will have the biggest impact on their performance. If they step up, they can pull off a great run. If not, I don’t feel they’ll go deeper than Semis.

 

Predictions: 3-1 Dignitas over P1, 3-1 loss against Cloud 9

I’m skeptical of P1’s roster decision going into the Playoffs, and that’s why I give Dignitas the edge here. Starting Inori over William “Meteos” Hartman seems questionable. The team has galvanized around Meteos, but Inori is nothing to scoff at. Regardless though, Chaser should have the edge here, having trust and experience with his teammates. Ssumday against Zig should favour Dignitas, while Keane should be able to hold his own against Ryu. The big question is whether Dignitas’s bot lane can find advantages over P1’s. If yes, Dignitas should win their games cleanly. If they can’t, any win will be hard fought against a well positioned Arrow.

Dignitas will face a much stronger opponent if they move on and face Cloud 9. Cloud 9 retained all of their Worlds attending roster, except Meteos. They picked up Contractz, who seems streaky, but is still a strong Jungler. That means Cloud 9 should easily be the favourites here. Against some of the best laners in the league, Dignitas will be hard pressed to find advantages in the laning phase. While they have looked better recently, mid game should favour the C9 side with experience and communication. If Cloud 9 show up looking like a team that can take first place, Dignitas won’t stand much of a chance. If they show up looking like the roster that loses to Immortals, Dignitas might stand a chance at taking a few wins. Ultimately, C9 should take the series in either scenario.

Power Rankings: #3 western team

Flyquest’s Playoff Profile: Live and Die by the Cheese

Exceeding Expectations

After being pegged as a relegation team in preseason, Flyquest surged to an amazing 5-1 start. They quickly became fan favorites, pulling out some of the most unique champions of the season, from Mordekaiser ADC to Shaco jungle. As teams around them began to build synergy, Flyquest began to crumble. They finished the season 9-9 just barely making playoffs.

Strengths

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Flyquest is great at pushing advantages. You give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. Having a legendary shotcaller in Hai “Hai” Lam helps. You’ll often see Flyquest try to pull off Baron as soon as possible to help them finish games as efficiently as possible.

Jungler Galen “Moon” Holgate has had an amazing split compared to last year when he looked extremely lost as a rookie on NRG and TL. Moon looked great in the first few weeks, putting up insane kill numbers in the first few games of the split. He has since sizzled out a bit, but still remains one of the better players on this roster.

Lemonnation’s drafting is still extremely unpredictable to say the least. You never know what unique champions they might pull out.

Hai is one of the most selfless mid laners in NALCS. He will often roam to try and get kills for his teammates, even if it means sacrificing resources in the mid lane. As a team, An “Balls” Le, Daerek “Lemonnation” Hart, and Hai have all been playing together since their Cloud 9 days. Hai is amazing at getting everyone to listen to a call and either living or dying by that call.

Weaknesses

They tend to play an eccentric style, taking any fight they can. This can be a weakness for them as most teams have been punishing their over aggressive play style towards the end of the season.

Their attempts at cheesing opponents with their unique champion picks also hasn’t worked much for them. As much as fans love seeing unique champion picks, other teams can just outright beat them with what’s strong in the meta.

They also don’t have the best early game laning. Hai, Balls, and ADC Johnny “Altec” Ru have some of the worst CSD@10 numbers at their respective positions. Flyquest tends to try and go even through laning phase and win through mid game rotations and team fights. If they fall too far behind, they are often punished for trying to fight without the right advantages.

Living and dying by Hai’s shotcalling is a double edged sword. Sometimes it’s the right call, and other times it leaves us scratching our heads, wondering why they decided to fight there.

Player to Watch: Hai

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Mid laner and shotcaller Hai will be essential in how far Flyquest can go in playoffs. It’ll be interesting to see if they’ve improved over the last few weeks in preparation for their playoff match against CLG. Hai has always been tasked with guiding his team to victory no matter what team he is on. He’ll need to be at his best for Flyquest to go deep into playoffs.

Prediction

With how they looked near the end of the split, Flyquest will be heavy underdogs coming into their match with CLG. Hai’s shotcalling and some unique champion picks may net them a win, but I don’t see CLG losing this one.

Lose 1-3 to CLG

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TSM Playoff Profile

TSM Playoff Profile: Long Live the Kings

No one should be surprised that TSM finished the 2017 NA LCS Spring Split at the top of the standings. Finishing the regular season 15-3, this squad was a challenge to all others. Since making a run at the World Championship last year, TSM has done its best to prove that they are still an international threat. However, this team has shown themselves to be far from perfect, and playoffs will be the time for others to capitalize.

TSM Playoff Profile: Mid laner Bjergsen

courtesy of Riot esports

TSM has remained anchored in the mid lane by Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg. An NA LCS icon, continually an MVP candidate, and a world-class mid-laner, there is little to question about Bjergsen’s gameplay. He hardly ever loses lane. His teamfight positioning is stellar. There have been several instances where all seems lost for TSM, and Bjergsen cleans everything up. He is just that good. Of course, he will still need to play 100% to beat other contenders, but Bjergsen has been dependable time and time again.

TSM Playoff Profile: Top laner Hauntzer

courtesy of Riot esports

In the top lane, Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell has had his best split yet. Some fans have also nominated him as NA LCS MVP. Exerting constant pressure in top lane, Hauntzer has become a true force. He can play tanks or carries with high dependability. It is hard to blame TSM losses on the top laner’s play. Hauntzer is also adept at safely absorbing pressure when he has the lower hand in his lane. Expect TSM to play well around Teleport advantages and mid-game side lane pressure, in thanks to his continual improvement. 

TSM Playoff Profile: Jungler Svenskeren

courtesy of Riot esports

Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen has been a moderately consistent jungler this season. His kill participation (65.1%) and his death share (27.4%) are fairly bad compared to other NA junglers. Svenskeren also trends behind in gold, XP, and CS at 10 minutes. What Svenskeren does contribute to the team is vision. He leads junglers in wards per minute (.81). This is partially attributed to his fondness for playing Lee Sin, but it is one of his biggest strengths for TSM’s laners. He also contributes some of the most kills and assists among junglers, but his KDA is middling due to his high death count. While playing against strong jungle talent such as Juan “Contractz” Garcia, William “Meteos” Hartman, and Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun, Svenskeren will need to exhibit much more calculated play.

TSM Playoff Profile: Bot laner WildTurtle

courtesy of Riot esports

TSM’s most widely fluctuating position is bottom lane. Most analysts would agree that Jason “WildTurtle” Tran has proven to be a downgrade from last season’s Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Vincent “Biofrost” Wang has not synergized to the same level with him either. If other teams are to defeat TSM in the playoffs, it will be off the back of bad bottom lane plays. WildTurtle’s kill participation and damage per minute are the lowest in the league, and his death share is one of the highest among playoff ADC’s. He averages even in lane, but only does 23.7% of TSM’s damage. Other marksmen, such as Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes and No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon, make a much larger impact in the game, and may prove too challenging for TSM to overcome.

TSM Playoff Profile: Support Biofrost

courtesy of Riot esports

On the other hand, Biofrost has the second highest KDA among supports, high kill participation, and a low share of TSM’s deaths. His Thresh, Braum, Lulu, and Malzahar have 75% or higher win-rates. Biofrost tends to draw important bans from enemy teams. He helps WildTurtle get through the laning phase as much as possible, and then executes teamfights well. Fans should expect big plays out of Biofrost, and be confident in his consistency.

Overall, TSM stand a good chance at winning this whole tournament. The organization has always proven itself in high pressure LCS situations, especially longer series’ like Best-of-5’s. TSM should have a strong showing, regardless of which team they face in the Semifinals. Cloud 9 will be difficult to overcome if they are TSM’s opponent in the finals. However, if TSM are on their A game, they should close this split in first.

Prediction: TSM make it to finals and beat Cloud9 3-2. Any other opponent will lose 3-1.

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Phoenix1’s Playoff Profile: Roster Swap Trial By Fire

With Phoenix1 playing against Team Dignitas this Saturday, fans should be speculative over the performance of their newest roster additions.

After Adrian “Adrian” Ma left for Team Liquid, Phoenix1 signed two support players to fill the void: Jordan “Shady” Robison and William “Stunt” Chen. Starting for Phoenix1 in support against Team Dignitas will be Shady, sharing the bot lane with one of the most acclaimed ADCs of the NALCS, Dong-Hyeon “Arrow” No. Shady is effectively a nobody in comparison to the star power of the players on the top three NALCS teams, but he is a nobody that also must play alongside some of the most hyped players in the league in Phoenix1’s jungler, Rami “Inori” Charagh and mid laner, Sang Wook “Ryu” Yoo. The pressure is on for Shady, whose previous experience on Robert Morris University’s team, the same team Adrian came from, may not allow for him to flourish on the competitive stage.

While Adrian and Shady share similar experiential backgrounds, his history playing for XDG Gaming and Team Impulse allowed him to hit the ground running on Immortals during their near flawless split. Shady, on the other hand, has only had the competitive stage experience during his two losses against TSM, compiling 101 minutes in total. 

That being said, Shady currently holds rank 46 on the Challenger ladder, which as a support main is exceptionally high. In addition to this, his specialty in high damage mages such as Brand, Malzahar, Vel’Koz, and Zyra make him particularly hard to target ban. His lack of fear in pulling out Brand support, which he performed well on despite the defeat into first place team, TSM, proves he is already comfortable mixing things up on the stage.

Towards the center of the Rift for Phoenix1 lies their greatest strengths: Inori and Ryu. These two superstars have taken games dual-handedly with dominant solo kills by mid laner Ryu and relentless aggression by jungler Inori. Ryu, like Arrow, draws upon experience from Korean team KT Rolster Bullets where he played up until joining the EULCS in 2014. Since then, he achieved second seed for Europe in Worlds with alongside H2K before ultimately leaving to join Phoenix1 this split. His experience in both high caliber and high-pressure teams has paid off as he has proven to be one of the top four mid laners in the league.

Courtesy: Riot Esports

 

While not boasting quite as impressive of a history, Inori can boast the highest kill participation of any jungler and the third highest kill participation across all roles in the NALCS at 71.7 percent. Inori’s aggression knows no bounds as he is involved in a little over one kill every four minutes. To put that into perspective, Inori has more kill participation per minute than the current jungler with the most kills in the league, Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett. If Inori can get ahead early, he stays ahead and turns games into bloodbaths unbeknownst to any other jungler in the league.

Also an option for Phoenix1 is the substitution of William “Meteos” Hartman, also known as “Dark Meteos”. While this substitution may aid in more team fight based compositions, Phoenix1 will lose out on Inori’s unparalleled pressure. That being said, both of these junglers are top tier and will be crucial factors taking a victory over Dignitas.

Phoenix1’s match against Dignitas will not be their biggest challenge, but more importantly, this match will set precedent for P1’s new support, Shady. Shady needs to bring his solo queue prowess onto the stage. If he picks a high damage mage support, he needs to have explosive impact using that champion’s level 6 power spike that he can then use to snowball Arrow. If this does not happen, he will be a detriment to Phoenix1’s superstar, Arrow. Additionally, Phoenix1 must prevent Dignitas’ top laner, Chan-Ho “Ssumday” Kim from taking over the game by using target bans towards the tanks he consistently shows up on. If these stars align, Phoenix1 should expect to win 3-1. However, the real challenge will come from the next match against Cloud9 where Shady’s lack of true competitive experience and synergy with Arrow may be Phoenix1’s ultimate shortcoming. 


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