NA LCS 2017: Players to Watch

Any NA LCS fan that has been following the off-season knows that the past few months have been crazy with roster swaps, imported talent, and a sweep of new players hitting the scene for 2017. One might have found themselves asking “How much of Immortals’ roster will stay?” “Who will be Team Solo Mid’s new AD Carry?” or “What will Echo Fox and Phoenix1 do to improve for next Spring?” It was apparent that this season would bring about much change, but it was uncertain which teams and which players would be shuffled around.

The 2016 season was filled with surprises and disappointments. New esports organizations were formed from the ashes of old with big names and big money, while endemic organizations continued to field stable rosters. Veteran players came out of retirement. Korean and European summoners were imported to completely rebuild certain rosters. Rookies were put under pressure to perform on the big stage.

Looking into 2017, most of the dust has settled. The buyouts have gone through and many of the starting line-ups have been submitted to Riot. With so much changing it can be difficult to realistically make predictions of how the Spring Split will turn out. We will find out if their is more power in maintaining a stable roster, like Counter Logic Gaming, Team Solo Mid, or Cloud9. We will find out if drastic roster changes can still perform at top level with a high-quality support system behind them, such as Immortals. We will find out if the new imported talent can carry under-performing teams, Phoenix1, Echo Fox, Dignitas, to greatness. We will also see if newcomers to the scene will be able to step up and handle the heat. Taking all of this into account, here are some players to watch out for in the 2017 NA LCS.

VETERANS

Being a veteran in the NA LCS is a blessing and a curse. Sure, the player now has several splits under his belt. He should be able to execute under the pressure of being on stage. He should be able to help call the shots for his team. He should be a leader in and out of the game. He is a mentor for the younger players around him, and he is the bridge between coaches, rookies, and non-English speakers. For this article, I chose 3 players who will be remaining on their same team from 2016 and need to step up for victory.

PLAYER: Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin 

TEAM: Team Liquid

ROLE: AD Carry

courtesy of Riot eSports

Piglet spent a solid portion of the Summer Split playing for Team Liquid Academy in the NA Challenger Series. Despite playing on a top 6 team, Piglet averaged a 2.33 KDA while playing the first part of the LCS, putting him in 10th of 12 starting ADC’s. When he swapped into TLA for the remainder of Summer, that boosted to 6.44.
In order for Liquid to have a successful 2017, Piglet will need to translate his dominance into the LCS. We all know Piglet is capable of being a fearful force in the bot lane; he was a Season 3 World Champion, after all.
Now that the Jungle role has been filled with an experienced, veteran Jungler, Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin, hopefully Team Liquid’s performance will be more stable. Top, Mid, and Support are all being filled by sophomore players who will rely heavily on Piglet to remain consistent and powerful. IEM Gyeonggi was not the best showing for Piglet, but if Team Liquid can get in some practice they should be solid contenders this year.

PLAYER: Eugene “Pobelter” Park

TEAM: Immortals

ROLE: Mid Lane

courtesy of Riot eSports

Pobelter is the only member remaining on Immortals for 2017 from the 2016 season. This is somewhat surprising considering Immortals had stellar regular season performances in Spring and Summer Split, only falling short in the Playoffs and Regional Qualifiers. Nonetheless, a complete overhaul of the roster can be scary.
Pobelter is one of 2 North American Mid laners for the 2017 Spring Split. This makes him incredibly valuable in his position. Combine that with the fact that Immortals is fielding a rookie AD Carry, a sophomore Jungler with a history of disciplinary issues, and Korean players for Top and Support, and you begin to see the pressure that will be placed on Pobelter.
It will be up to him to be consistent against staunch opponents, to be a mentor to the younger players, and to help orient the imported talent. These various cogs will need to brought together cohesively for Immortals to succeed this year, and Pobelter will be a huge asset in that project. If he crumbles under the pressure, the entire team will fall with him.

PLAYER: Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha

TEAM: Counter Logic Gaming

ROLE: Top Lane

courtesy of Riot eSports

Counter Logic Gaming had a rollercoaster 2016. Never quite considered the #1 team, yet never being counted out against NA’s best, it is difficult to figure out what was holding them back from greatness. Their teamwork is undoubtedly great, so then we look at individual performances and come upon a weak spot: Darshan.
His play last year seemed to peak in the Spring Playoffs (4.08 KDA, 79% Kill Participation), hit a pretty low floor in the Summer Split (2.31 KDA, 55% Kill Participation), and was passable at the World Championships (3.92 KDA, 53% Kill Participation). Darshan’s split-pushing was a prominent part of CLG’s wheelhouse during the Spring Split and Mid-Season Invitational, but once the meta shifted in the off-season leading into Summer Split he never really seemed to pick back up.
Considering CLG kept their entire roster for 2017, it is expected that they have shored up any weaknesses in the Top lane. Still, many teams have imported proven Korean Top laners, meaning Darshan will need to push beyond his past capabilities if CLG are to have a successful season.

ROOKIES

With each new Split and each new organization comes new players. They could be picked up as Solo Queue stars or previous participants in the Challenger Series. But regardless of where they were found, there is always a risk involved in bringing rookies onto the scene. Limited experience on stage generally leads to inconsistent play under pressure. And individual play in Solo Queue does not always easily translate to more coordinated, practiced opponents. But sometimes with the right teammates and the right support system behind them, rookies are able to shine and become the stars of tomorrow. Here are 3 rookies who were picked up in the off-season to start in the NA LCS 2017.

PLAYER: Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham

TEAM: Echo Fox

ROLE: Jungle

courtesy of http://lol.esportspedia.com

Picked up by Echo Fox from the Challenger Series, Akaadian is looking to put his mark on the Jungle role this year. After placing 3rd-4th in the NA CS last Spring he moved from Team Liquid Academy to Dream Team, where he went on to place 3rd-4th again in the Summer series.
The Jungle role is particularly important in the current League of Legends meta. A lack of early pressure, or limited communication, can be detrimental to teams hoping to gain a lead or stop the opposing team from snowballing.
Akaadian will need to build synergy with Mid laner, Henrik “Froggen” Hansen, and incoming Top laner, Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok, if Echo Fox are to stand a chance this year. In my opinion, Echo Fox’s weakest link last year was then-Jungler, Anthony “Hard” Barkhovtsev. Ideally, Echo Fox has figured out how to play better around this role.

PLAYER: Juan “Contractz” Arturo Garcia

TEAM: Cloud9

ROLE: Jungle

courtesy of Riot eSports

Another rookie Jungler coming out of the NA CS, Contractz helped Cloud9 Challenger qualify for the LCS in the Summer Playoffs last year. He was the only player from that squad that was not included in the buyout by FlyQuest. Contractz is listed on the starting roster for Cloud9, taking the place of William “Meteos” Hartman.
Cloud9 historically does not adapt to roster changes well. The retirement-unretirement meme of Hai “Hai” Du Lam is not easily forgotten. Now Meteos has retired, come back from retirement, and seems to be ready to retire yet again. Hopefully, Cloud9 has learned enough from these experiences to be able to seamlessly bring Contractz onto the starting squad without too much of a set-back.
As mentioned above, Jungle is a crucial role for the success of a professional League of Legends team. Control of the Jungle and neutral objectives can allow a leading team to strangle their opponents into losing, and lack of control can cause a leading team to throw the whole game. Playing against the likes of Reignover, Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, and Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun will truly be a test.

PLAYER: Cody “Cody Sun” Sun

TEAM: Immortals

ROLE: AD Carry

courtesy of http://lol.esportspedia.com

Cody Sun joins Immortals from after playing as AD Carry for Dream Team in the NA Challenger Series under the moniker “Massacre”. He will be one of four new members joining the re-built roster after all but Pobelter left to play for other teams.
Cody Sun finished the NA CS Summer Season with the second highest KDA of all players with more than 2 games played, averaging 9.3. His Kill Participation was 6th out of all players with more than 2 games played, but his CS and Gold Differences at 10 minutes were middling. Another interesting statistic is that he only had 9 total Deaths over 11 games played, fewest among players with more than 4 games played, and second fewest among players with more than 2 games. These numbers indicate he plays conservatively: giving over lane pressure and getting kills during team fights while remaining as safe as possible.
It is difficult enough bringing a rookie onto an established roster. Once you factor in that 3 other players will be brand new to each other, that the Jungler has a history of disciplinary issues, and the other two are Korean imports, you can start to see where things could go wrong. Cody Sun will need to play a bit more aggressively with his support, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung, to exert pressure in lane. IEM Gyeonggi was not pretty for this Bot lane, and a lot of it was due to AD Carry passivity.

IMPORTS

Professional League of Legends has consistently involved the importation of players from outside North America. The NA LCS includes European and Korean summoners of all positions. However, due to Riot rules, a team may have no more than 2 non-NA starters at a time. This rule has created some dynamic off-season roster changes. If Cloud9 start an imported Jungler, then they have to have a native Top or Mid laner. Since Team Liquid have solidified native Top and Support players, then they can experiment with imports in the Jungle, Mid, or AD Carry role. Regardless of the team or position, though, importing players can cause headaches for a variety of reasons, whether they be visa issues, higher salaries, or disappointing performances due to language barriers and adapting to life in North America. They can resuscitate a dying organization or be a mortal reminder to an established squad. Here are 3 players who were imported in the off-season that will need to execute at their highest level for their teams to succeed.

PLAYER: Noh “Arrow” Dong-hyeon

TEAM: Phoenix1

ROLE: AD Carry

courtesy of http://lol.esportspedia.com

One of Phoenix1’s two imported players for 2017, Arrow is an AD Carry who previously played for KT Rolster in the LCK. While holding down the Bot lane, Arrow helped KT Rolster finish third in the Spring Playoffs and second in the Summer Playoffs in 2016.
Arrow will be replacing Brandon “Mash” Phan, who ranked 7th of 10 AD Carries (who played more than 9 games) in KDA, but also 3rd out of 10 in Kill Participation and 5th of 10 in CS Difference at 10 minutes. Since Phoenix1 finished 8th of 10 teams last Summer Split, changes needed to be made to this roster.
Arrow’s veteran experience in the LCK should be a vital asset in 2017. And with 5 of 10 AD Carries in the 2017 LCS having 1 or fewer years of professional experience, Arrow should be able to hold his own. He will need to ensure that their are no communication issues with his North American Support, Adrian “Adrian” Ma, which would be the only potential issue.

PLAYER: Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok

TEAM: Echo Fox

ROLE: Top Lane

courtesy of Riot eSports

Looper joins as the new Top laner for Echo Fox, replacing Park “kfo” Jeong-hun, who ranked last in the NA LCS Summer Split among Top laners for KDA and Kill Participation, and second to last in Gold Difference at 10 minutes. Looper previously played for LPL’s Royal Never Give Up, who finished 5th-8th in the 2016 World Championships.
This will be a 180 degree turnaround for Echo Fox’s Top lane. Looper’s KDA was middle-of-the-pack at Worlds, and his CS Difference at 10 minutes was on the low side, -10.4. But his Kill Participation was second highest of all Top laners. If he can effectively communicate with the rest of the team for smart uses of Teleport and split-pushing, then he will work out well for Echo Fox.
A major factor in the success of this team will be the Jungle-Top synergy. As mentioned above, Akaadian is a rookie Jungler, and there will be a language barrier between Looper and his teammates. Echo Fox will need to focus resources on making sure these pieces come together to form the proper puzzle.

PLAYER: Lee “Flame” Ho-jong

TEAM: Immortals

ROLE: Top Lane

courtesy of immortals.gg

Immortals’s Top laner for 2017 is Flame, previously of Longzhu Gaming in the LCK. After having a middling performance during Spring Split, Longzhu benched Flame in favor of Gu “Expession” Bon-taek, so Flame did not play competitively during Summer Split.
He will be filling a void in the roster left by Seong “Huni” Hoon Heo, who left the team on short notice. Huni was an aggressive player for Immortals, securing the most Kills out of all Top laners in the NA LCS Summer Split, and sixth most out of all players. However, he also tied for the second most Deaths out of all players, and had significantly more than any of his teammates.
Hopefully, Flame can produce more stable results. It is no small feat to bring together a Korean Top and Support, a rookie AD Carry, a sophomore Jungler with a history of disciplinary issues, and a single player from the original roster. IEM Gyeonggi should have pointed to some clear strengths and weaknesses in Immortals’ gameplay. Flame will be a key player in forging this roster.

 

 

NA LCS Spring Split Story lines to follow: Preseason Edition

It’s a new year and a new season with the NA LCS Spring Split just around the corner! To welcome in the hype of a new year, I’ll be bringing you the top four story lines to follow going into this NA LCS Split! Also, a quick TL;DR is at the bottom for those in a rush!

The Rebuilds: New players, same placements?

Two of NA’s more troubled franchises, Team Liquid and Immortals, went into what could only be called a ‘rebuilding’ phase over the off season. Immortals, dominating during their regular split showings, always seemed to struggle in their playoff runs. Liquid, on the other hand, seemed to always have mediocre placings during the regular splits, while meeting similar middle of the road results during their postseason matches.

Courtesy of Gamepedia.

Immortals’ rebuild wasn’t much by choice, as the majority of their roster left for greener pastures elsewhere. Retaining Mid laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park, the Immortals side cobbled together a team that is hard to argue as, on paper, more talented than their previous.

Acquiring polarizing talent in Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett is a good core to build around, but given it was a replacement for Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin it’s hard to view it as a clear upgrade. Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong is another solid pick up for the team. Again though, observers are left wondering whether he will be better than Seong “Huni” Hoon Heo. Whether rookie Li “Cody” Yu Sun and Korean import Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung will be a strong bot lane is another question hanging over the roster.

Can one time world Champ Piglet bring help Liquid ascend? Courtesy of Gamepedia.

Liquid seemed to have a lot more agency in their rebuilding choices, looking towards internal problems and needing a change of scenery to make it further.  The team constantly fell just outside of relevancy internationally, so it seems like it was time to change the core of the roster. Keeping rookie talents in Samson “Lourlo” Jackson and Matt “Matt” Elento bring a sense of stability to the roster, with Matt being a particularly strong retention.

Promoting Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin back to the starting five was another wise choice from the team, who will hopefully bring pressure from the botlane that seemed lacking in S6. Joining him from Korea is star studded Reignover, a product of the Liquid-Immortals Jungle shuffle. His tactical mind and presence in the Jungle will need to make up for the downgrade in the Mid lane, with the departure of Kim “FeniX” Jae-hun and the rotating North American Mid laners of Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer and Austin “LiNk” Shin.

Either the rebuilds for these teams will go according to plan, or they’ll continue to be haunted by their postseason woes (Immortals) or stagnating mediocrity (Liquid). Their skill will truly be tested on the rift. This is something that fans will want to keep an eye on. It’s a mix of talented players, Flame/Dardoch/Pobelter for Immortals and Reignover/Piglet/Matt for Liquid, mixed with some questionable players whose skill ceilings may not be as high as fans hope. Still, super teams have failed historically and we’ve seen some incredible splits from teams that ‘shouldn’t have done well,’ like CLG in the NA LCS Spring Split in 2016. Can Immortals pull off another almost perfect split? Will Liquid rise above their middle of the pack status?

Steady as she goes: Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know?

While our previous story line followed teams who thought a change in players was the answer, these teams have chosen (almost) the exact opposite approach. Both Cloud 9 and TSM only have a single player change in their lineups, with Juan “Contractz” Garcia replacing struggling William “Meteos” Hartman in the jungle for Cloud 9, and familiar face Jason “WildTurtle” Tran replacing the hiatus taking Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng in the ADC role for TSM. CLG, on the other hand, did the unthinkable in the craziness of the off season; they didn’t change a single thing about their roster, retaining all five starters without bringing on any ‘backups.’

Can the CLG Fam have a repeat of last Spring Split? Courtesy of Gamepedia.

So what’s the story here? Well, it’ll be whether the stability of these rosters holds out against the crop of new, fresh talent. Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha and Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell will truly be tested in the Top lane against the recent influx of Korean imports, like Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok.

Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong will also be under new pressure to remain the unkillable sponge we saw in Cloud 9’s playoff run. Was struggling Choi “HuHi” Jae-hyun the best choice for CLG, and not another, more talented import Mid laner? Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen’s reign of top NA Mid laners is also up in the air now.

Overall the real questions here is whether these were the right choices. I don’t feel like, outside of CLG, there was much room for growth in acquiring new talent for these rosters. It’s also questionable whether it will be a case of ‘synergy trumps new talent’ or if ‘stagnating water will fail.’ Truth be told, I am more supportive of the first. There is a lot to be said for team synergy and players all ‘clicking’ naturally. For the NA LCS Spring Split? I think these rosters will remain in the top four of the league. During the Summer Split? It will depend on how the other teams in the middle of the pack settle.

The return of the boys in gold and black: Dignitas’ interesting return to the LCS

Dig hold a special place in my heart like a lot of the ‘legacy’ teams do. They were there when I started getting into the scene, and it was not without a bit of sadness that I saw them relegated and dissolve their League operations. It’s great to see the team back, if for no other reason than to see another old team back on the stage.

But Dig also were the talk of the scene when they acquired Top lane talent in Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and potentially scary Jungler in Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun. While the team Dig bought out to return to the LCS, Apex, seemed to meander around the middle of the pack, the addition of a tried and true pattern of Top-Jungle Korea imports, alongside acquiring Benjamin “LOD” deMunck to fill the hole left by Apollo “Apollo” Price has many pundits torn on exactly where to put Dig.

The Terror in the Top Lane? Courtesy of Inven.

The big story line to follow here is whether Dig will actually make an impact in the league or not. Signing big name talent isn’t the sure fired solution to a winning team, and while it is obviously better than signing bad talent, there’s been a few examples of that failing (read Alliance and other super team failures).

But Dig isn’t just a ‘super team in the making’ kind of deal either. They’ve got serious backing from NBA franchise Philadelphia 76er’s, something Ssumday cited as a reason for joining the NA side. It’ll not be just a simple question of whether the team will click, but how the newly moneyed Dig can use those funds to make the integration of their two Korean imports as painless as possible. If they can do that and make the team mesh, we could be looking at a new top four contender. If not? Well, back to the middle of the pack for the Dig boys and hopefully avoiding relegation.

Just call me the Underdog: Can the bottom of the pack make a real move upwards?

Ahhh, the scrappy, loveable underdogs at the bottom of the heap, these teams have seen troubled splits that didn’t turn out like they probably wished. Phoenix 1, Echo Fox, EnVyUs, and newcomers FlyQuest (god awful name) are all slotted pretty low in most pundits minds. P1 struggled last split to a non-memorable split had not been for a miraculous Rengar filled win against (until then) undefeated TSM in the NA LCS Summer Split.

Echo Fox just never seemed to get much momentum going forward, with Henrik “Froggen” Hansen finding himself again in 7th place in the NA LCS Spring Split 2016 and an abysmal, single win showing in the Summer. NV, on the other hand, exploded onto the scene and hyped up many to be the next top flight team, but ultimately petered out as their Summer split continued, ultimately ending with an unsatisfying 6th place in the regular split and an early bow out from the playoffs, falling to Cloud 9. FlyQuest are newcomers to the scene, having climbed into the League from the Challenger Series under Cloud 9 Challenger and are a mix of old Cloud 9 members attempting another foray into the scene.

Can the Foxes double their wins from last split? (Surely two wins isn’t too hard…) Courtesy of Gamepedia.

The big question marks here is whether these sides will make any real waves in the scene. FlyQuest have the luxury of having no real history, so they’ll be coming in with a clean slate, but one that’s questionable as to if it’ll hold up against top flights like TSM and Cloud 9. NV will look to newcomers Nam “lira” Tae-yoo and Apollo “Apollo” Price can carry the team into the top half, but it’s questionable whether they’re even upgrades to the members they’re replacing.

It’s not a daring prediction here, but I think Echo Fox can at least improve on their one win split this time round. The real question is if they can become contenders based on how fast Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok integrates into his English speaking team? Also whether Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham and Austin “Gate” Yu are the answers the Foxes needed to make a dent in the scene. I’m still skeptical of this roster making any real contact with the top tier teams in the league, but I’ve been wrong before.

P1 are the only team I have serious hope for going into this split. Acquisitions of the Boss Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook from European side H2k and KT veteran ADC in No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon add depth and talent to a roster that, once finally figuring out how VISAs work, really looked to be on the up and up. Not just an upset win against TSM last split, but also starting to pick up wins against teams in tiers above them showed improvement to the remaining core of the team.

Can the Boss whip another team into a Worlds team? Courtesy of Gamepedia.

As with any prediction, it’s quite possible that I’ll be shown to be completely wrong. But I don’t think that any of the bottom tier teams outside of P1 hold much of a chance against the top half of the league. FlyQuest is untested (ironically, given the veteran status of their players) in the new competitive league, NV is a bit of a wild card on whether they’ll show up enough, and Echo Fox seems to just not have it in them to really make it far.

P1 showed themselves to be a decent team last split, with clear upgrades in Korean duo of Ryu and Arrow alongside new Support Adrian “Adrian” Ma. they seem to be the best suited to break into the middle of the pack. But, nobody predicted them to be the team to take down the undefeated TSM, so anything is possible for any of the teams at the bottom here. There’s only up to go from the bottom, right? Right? (Ohh wait, relegation exists…)

TL;DR

The Rebuilds: Liquid and Immortals enter the NA LCS Spring Split with a fresh new roster, so the question here is whether this’ll be what the doctor ordered, or whether the teams will find themselves worse for wear? Can Immortals pull off another nearly flawless split? Will Liquid finally find themselves at the top?

Steady As She Goes: TSM and C9 only changed one player on their roster, WildTurtle for Doublelift Contractz for Meteos respectively, in the off season, while CLG vouched to retain all of their starters. The question here is whether this was the right move for the teams, and whether they can continue their placements consistently being in the top four of the League.

The Return of the Boys in Gold and Black: Dignitas’ return to the LCS is met with baited hype, as the team acquired big names in Ssumday and Chaser for their top and jungler positions. Whether this will translate to a team that can challenge for top of the league will depend on how well the team meshes this split.

Just Call me the Underdog: P1, Echo Fox, NV, and newcomer FlyQuest are slated to find themselves again at the bottom of the pecking order. Some interesting off season roster changes, particularly for P1, raise questions as to whether these teams can make a real run for middle of the pack or beyond. P1 holds the highest chance in my opinion, adding depth to a roster that managed to take down TSM, but only time will tell whether this holds any truth now.

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Can Mastermind Weldon solve G2’s International Woes?

Weldon’s Own Success

G2 Esports made an amazing addition to their League of Legends team with the official announcement of TSM’s former assistant coach, Weldon Green, joining their coaching staff. Weldon has been working vigorously within the Pro League of Legends scene with high-profile teams such as TSM, CLG, and Fnatic as a team psychologist. With his recent success with TSM, other teams have picked up on this trend and decided to hire their own team psychologists. They are meant to help deal with the mental grind that pros endure throughout the season, along with helping players deal with the jitters that may be related to playing on stage.

Weldon began on TSM in small sessions during the 2016 Spring Split, eventually landing a full-time position for the Summer. TSM finished the Summer Split with a phenomenal 17-1 record while also finishing first place in the NALCS, before failing to get out of their group at Worlds. Weldon was credited with playing a major role in their success last season. TSM decided that they wanted to part ways with Weldon for the upcoming season, noting that having his assistance may be better in sessions as opposed to full time.

Current State of G2

Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

Weldon enters a G2 team that has found much success, almost breezing through the EULCS competition last season. They have a talented roster that has failed to show up in international events since they’ve begun their LCS journey. Last season, G2 failed to make it out of groups at Riot’s Mid Seasonal Invitational, struggling against most of the teams there. They received a lot of hate and criticism from the community when they stated they decided to give their players a break coming into a very serious international tournament that would affect seeding for Worlds.

G2 hoped to redeem themselves at Worlds after being put into a group most agreed they would be able to get out of. That did not prove the case as Albus Nox Luna shocked the World, as they became the first Wildcard to make it out of groups. They beat out CLG and G2 for the second spot out of their group. G2 finished Worlds with a 1-5 record, only taking one game off of Albus Nox Luna. G2 as a whole received a lot of hate from the EU community for representing their region so poorly, coming in as the “best team” from Europe.

Building off Regular Season Success

Weldon comes in looking to improve off an overall successful regular season from G2, and improving on the international problems that have plagued them. In EU, Trick and Perkz have looked like two players with amazing synergy and individual talent. As we know, that hasn’t translated into international play just yet.  Meanwhile, Zven and Mithy, have proven to be one of the best bot lanes in the West, but even they didn’t look as good as most people expected at Worlds. Their top laner, Expect, for the most part, was a consistent performer, doing what his team needed. His miscommunication on Teleport, however, cost his team at times.

What is it about performing at international tournaments that hinder G2 so much?  In a twitlonger posted by Perkz after Worlds, he stated, “I was mostly sad that I disappointed myself because I had a lot higher expectations of myself after the whole Korean bootcamp where I felt like I had reached very high level and consistent performance in scrims and not being able to translate that on stage hit me really hard”. The bootcamp in Korea resulted in many rumors that G2 was one of the stronger teams at Worlds. When it came time to play week one, their showing was miserable. They went 0-3, while not looking competitive for basically every game, besides a strong early game vs. ROX in which some poor teamfighting led them to another hard loss.

Weldon has a tough task ahead of him. With a lot of new, young, revamped LCS teams coming into Europe, G2 will not have as easy of a path to Worlds as they did last season. Will he be able to show off the same success as TSM, or will G2’s nerves get the best of them?

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Link’s Return to LCS

Welcome “Back” To Summoner’s Rift

In an unexpected move, Team Liquid has signed CLG’s former Mid laner, Austin “Link” Shin, as a substitute. They announced that they intend to play both Link and starter, Goldenglue, throughout the split.

The last time we saw Link it was with CLG Spring Split 2015, coming off a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Team Liquid in the first round of the playoffs.

Shortly after Link announced his retirement with the “donezo manifesto”, in which he brought out CLG’s team environment to light. Most infamously, he called out star AD Carry Doublelift, for being a selfish and poor teammate and mainly blaming him for the failure of CLG.

Link, himself, received a lot of hate from the community when Machinima’s video series, “Chasing the Cup” seemed to show his inability to mesh as a teammate. In the series you witness everyone’s tempers flare, as the team seemed to be regressing from its hot start.

Link refused to duo que with his own Jungler, Dexter. This seemed to translate to a lack of team chemistry on the LCS stage. His own work ethic was questioned even by the community. It seemed like Link was playing more Hearthstone than League of Legends outside of scrims.

During his time in the NALCS, most people would have rated Link as a subpar LCS Mid Laner. He was never known as a flashy playmaker or a main carry, but he was a consistent performer. He played what his team needed and was the main shot caller for CLG.

When C9’s Hai went down with a collapsed lung, they called upon Link to sub for them in the All Stars tournament. He held his own against legendary Mid laners like Faker and xPeke. For the most part, he played the role of shot caller well. Thanks in part to him, C9 was able to take games off of OMG, Fnatic, and TPA. This allowed them to get to the semifinals of the tournament. He praised C9’s team environment in his donezo manifesto, in compasrison to CLG’s.

Second Chances

Link gets a second chance with a fresh roster and under a new organization. Team Liquid has been around for awhile but just hasn’t found the right formula for success just yet. Obviously, he’s still been playing the game at a high enough level to be picked up by a new team.

Others on social media have noted that he had been playing Dota 2 at high level as well. It does raise the question of if being away from the professional scene for such a long time will be more beneficial or hinder his play starting out.

Photo courtesy of Gamurs.com

It seems Team Liquid is emphasizing a better team environment this split, parting ways with Dardoche. They also let go of head coach Locodoco and every player on the team seems hungry to improve off of last split.

They look to be modeling CLG in having five players that are all friends outside of game. Will they truly utilize the six man roster or will it be more like C9’s support situation last season?

If Link is able to play better with the other four members than Goldenglue, I don’t see why they wouldn’t eventually make him the starter. It will be up to Link to prove he belongs in LCS once again.  

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5 Rookies to Watch This Split

The North American and European LCS start in a few weeks, and I’ve decided to highlight some up-and-coming rookies who will be playing in their first seasons professionally in LCS. Last season was an exciting one as we got to see a lot of talented rookies come from both regions. These are some names to look out for as we head into Season 7:

Cody Sun  (Immortals ADC)

Formerly known as Massacre, Yi Lu “Cody Sun” Sun is a Chinese American player who has been playing ADC in challenger series since Spring 2015 when he played for Imagine in NACS. Most recently, he played in the NACS with Dream Team who was swept by C9 Challenger in the Summer playoffs. He sported a 9.33 KDA in the NACS Summer Split and was a huge part in many of their victories.  On a day and a half of full team practice before IEM Gyeonggi, Cody Sun was able to showcase an amazing 8-0 Ezreal game vs Korea’s Kongdoo Monster.  Outside of that game, he looked rather inconsistent, which is fair for a rookie playing against some tough international competition for the first time.  It will be thrilling to see what this ADC can show with more practice on the NALCS stage.

Caps (Fnatic Mid)

Picture Courtesy of CLICKon Esports

Rasmus “Caps” Winther is a 17 year old, hungry, Danish kid out to prove himself as Fnatic’s new mid laner. He will have huge shoes to fill, playing alongside a core of veteran LCS players in Soaz, Rekkles, and Amazing.  Caps made Reddit headlines a week after being introduced as Fnatic’s new mid laner, when a thread was made about him threatening a player in Challenger saying, “You have no idea how much impact I have on rosters. You can troll me all you want, but I will make sure you never get to join a CS nor LCS team.” This was a rather bold statement coming from someone who just got introduced as a starter on an LCS roster. Fnatic and Caps later released an apology statement for this event. In 6 games with Challenger team NRV, he showed off a subpar 1.9 KDA with a 76 kill participation, which was highest among EUCS Mids.  EU, and specifically Denmark, have been known to produce fantastic Mid laners such as Bjergsen, Froggen, and Jensen.  Caps will get a chance to add his name to this elite list of Mid laners as he enters his first EULCS season.

 

Contractz (C9 Jungler)

Replacing longtime C9 Jungler, Meteos, will be none other than the young and hungry C9 Challenger Team Jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia. Contractz’ competitive career started in 2015 with Zenith esports, where his team placed 5-6th in the HTC Ascension Challenger invitational. He then played for team Ember in the 2016 NACS Spring season at only 17 years old, before being replaced by Santorin for playoffs. The following summer NACS season, he replaced Rush on the C9 Challenger squad after Riot implemented a new rule regarding residency. He was able to gain veteran mentor-ship playing along LCS veterans, Hai, Balls, LemonNation, and Altec. Contractz sported a 3.92 KDA in the NACS summer season with a 67% kill participation, mostly playing Graves and Reksai. He has been heralded as being a similar player to Dardoche as a young and talented NA Jungler, but with a much better attitude. He joins a very talented C9 roster looking to stay atop the standings and compete for their fifth straight appearance at Worlds.

Goldenglue (Team Liquid Mid)

Picture courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

Greysen “Goldenglue” Gilmer is a well known name around the Pro League of Legends scene. He has made multiple appearances on the NALCS stage, subbing for teams such as Dignitas and T8. One could say he is a veteran of the Challenger series, playing professionally since 2013. He’s never held a starting position at the beginning of a season on an LCS roster, but will be given his first shot with Team Liquid this season. He replaces Fenix after a debacle of a season from Team Liquid as a whole. They had a team meltdown towards the end of the season, ultimately leading to a pathetic showing in the gauntlet in which they played with two challenger players as last minute subs. For the upcoming season, Team Liquid decided to bring back Piglet, while keeping former members Lourlo and Matt. They promoted Golenglue from Challenger Series and brought in All Star Jungler, Reignover to round out the roster. A lot of hate was brought upon social media when Team Liquid announced Goldenglue as their Mid laner, so he will be looking to prove himself coming into this season.

Xerxe (Unicorns of Love Jungler)

Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir is a 17 year old Romanian Jungler, who most recently played for Dark Passage in the Turkish Champions League(TCL). He showed off a phenomenal 7.98 KDA in 36 games, with a 70 percent kill participation in the Summer Split of TCL.  He showed an ability to perform well on a multitude of champions, pulling out seven different champions last season. The Jungler he will be replacing is Move. Unicorns of Love pulled off a stunning win at IEM Oakland, defeating TSM 2-1 in the semifinals en route to a 3-2 victory over LMS’ Flash Wolves. UOL was a win away from qualifying for Worlds last season, and return with their consistent duo, top laner Vizicsacsi, and support Hylissang. They look to be hitting their stride after being so close to attending Worlds and performing well at IEM.  Exileh, their Mid laner, looks like a strong EU talent, and seemed to get better as the Summer Split went on.  Xerxe is plugged into a team that looks to be on the rise. It will be up to him to make sure he plays up to his potential, helping UOL push for Worlds.

Let me know what you think of this list in the comments below, and as always, you can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and eSports articles from other great TGH writers along with Christian!

Why Imports Might not be the Solution to Competing at Worlds

After Samsung White shredded through the competition on their way to winning the World Championship in Season 4 of League of Legends, there was a “Korean Exodus” in the offseason. Multiple talented Korean LoL players were offered huge salaries to come over to China to play in the LPL. Analysts and fans thought this would mean the end of Korea’s reign on pro League of Legends, when their top talents decided to go elsewhere to chase the money. Multiple super teams formed in China, looking to contend for the World Championship. It’s now safe to say that the exodus was a failure for both sides. Korean players hoping to contend for a World Championship met the same defeat losing to newly bred Korean talent. A lot of Chinese players got lost in the shuffle and never looked quite as good as they had in the past.   

Courtesy of lolgamepedia

Once known as top tier players in the World, many of their careers dissipated in China. Former SSW jungler, Dandy, hailed as a jungle god when he won the World Championship. He then faded on Vici Gaming, even attempting to play top lane for a bit. He just never looked like the same jungler who dominated in Korea and at Worlds. Dade was another huge name who was once considered a top tier mid-laner in the World. He was soon forgotten as his play diminished in China. Even Chinese players, such as Gogoing and Cool, never looked the same after the imports came in and weren’t able to qualify for Worlds again. Some of them were eventually benched, and retired.

Less than Expected Results

It seems that for the most part, since importing became popular in the off season of seasons 4-5, the super teams formed have not been able to meet their expectations of contending for a World Championship. Edward Gaming hailing out of China’s LPL region has always looked dominant in their region. With new star Korean carries, Deft and Pawn, EDG always looked like strong favorites coming into Worlds. Just this previous season, many analysts hailed them as being the second best team competing at Worlds. Clearlove looked like an unstoppable jungler and Deft looked as good as he always had.  They were thoroughly disappointed to lose to Brazilian wildcard INTZ Gaming. They placed second in their group to Europe’s H2K, before being swept at the hands of Korean team ROX Tigers.  

Looking to the bottom of the LCS, a lot of low tier teams have given players from the Korean solo queue ladder a shot at playing just based on their ranked and team ladder performances. Teams like Coast and Roccat specifically, have been guilty of doing this, seeing less than stellar results. Coast decided to bring in two Korean players right before promotion series in an attempt to qualify. They were swept easily, and had looked worse than before they brought in the imports. Roccat failed to make playoffs when they imported Korean top laner, Parang, and support Raise, and eventually had to play through relegation to keep their spot in LCS. Before joining NA’s Counter Logic Gaming (CLG), Seraph was a top lane sub for Najin White Shield and had held a high spot on the Korean solo queue ladder for awhile. CLG found success for a time with Seraph, but eventually fell apart when communication and underlying internal issues became a major issue with the team. Teams also need to understand that rookies coming straight from solo queue don’t always translate to success in professional play.

Should teams try to grow players within their region?

Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

It sparks an interesting discussion of whether or not Western and Chinese teams should be importing as much as they do.  It has almost become a necessity, rather than an option.  With the promotion of Goldenglue to Team Liquid’s starting mid laner, he joins Pobelter as the only North American mid laner playing in the region.  On the other hand, you have many North American teams importing Korean top lane talent, negating the growth for talent in that role for the region.  Since Cloud 9 entered the scene, there hasn’t been a team grown from Challenger Series to find success in the LCS. Teams just aren’t grown from Challenger the way they should anymore.  Challenger teams are importing veterans of Pro League, such as Madlife recently, to Gold Coin United, in an attempt to revive their careers and qualify for LCS.

It’s rare to find North American talent that finds instant success playing in the LCS. Most of the time, they aren’t given a shot on a big time LCS team like Biofrost was with TSM.  They’re usually forced to fill one of the three Region slots on a sub-par, low tier LCS or Challenger team, and given two imports who may or may not be great on the professional stage. It’s not the greatest environment to say the least, as communication may not be stellar, and coaching structure is not built for success. This is because most of the Challenger teams are new organizations trying to enter the scene with no prior knowledge of how to run a Pro League of Legends team. There are also many rumors of shady organizations not playing players/coaches, which would definitely hinder a player’s desire to continue pursuing a career like this.  

Should teams focus more towards growing talent in their own region?  Should the most talented NA players look to flood themselves into various NA super teams similar to Flash Wolves and AHQ in LMS?  Import slots, although useful, can be a double edged sword in making or breaking a team.  What if the language barrier is too much or they discover being out of the comforts of their home country isn’t what they had hoped for?  This NALCS season will be a huge measuring stick in looking at the effectiveness of imports, as every roster looks more dangerous than ever, bringing in players from every region to compete.

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The Telecom Wars Reignited: The Clash of Titans, or Another Super Team Flop?

It seems to be a tradition for Korean teams to, once seemingly at their peak, dissolve and disperse their players throughout the world. It’s almost like a kind of redistribution of talent. Fan favorites Rox Tigers followed such a tradition, as their five members left the roster to find themselves new homes. The two Tigers to highlight here? Well, obviously Top laner Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho and Jungler Yoon “Peanut” Wang-ho, the two stars of the old Tigers roster. Where better to find themselves but new homes, across the rift, in some of the most storied teams in Korean esports history: SKT T1 and KT Rolster. But this is Korea, baby, so these weren’t the only high flying players signed: KT signed Smeb, while also picking up “Faker Stopper” in Heo “Pawn” Won-seok, one time World Champion Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong, and LPL ravaging Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu. SKT retaliated by signing up-and-coming Peanut, and locking up the polarizing, talented Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon from North America’s Immortals.

Courtesy of SKT T1 Twitter.

You should all know this already though. I’m not here to report on the players, but ask the kind of question I find myself always asking when these super teams come together: will these teams become tyrants of their region, or is it just another fallacy of composition? The fallacy of composition is a logical fallacy where someone wrongly assumes that what is true of the parts is true of the whole. To put it another way, if we have the best players in each of our roles, we’ll have the best team. Super teams have abounded in many regions, Europe coming to mind quite often (read Alliance.) These teams haven’t always worked out. Sure, TSM’s super team eventually meshed into an almost flawless machine (pre-Worlds.) But this isn’t always the case.

SKT’s move, in a lot of ways, falls much lower on the chance of being this tried and failed pattern. SKT kept a solid ‘core’ with ever scary, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok in the Mid lane, and dynamic duo Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan in the bot lane. Peanut was just simply a solid pick up, having matured as a player and, pending he integrates well with the team, will bring only positives. Huni, too, makes a lot of sense. He’s a kind of diamond in the rough, and at his peak can be insane mechanically. SKT’s support infrastructure should be more than enough to bring out the best in him as a player. If SKT can’t do it, nobody can. SKT made the necessary moves in the off season to secure their position as the top in the world, only really seeming to be a super team because their core was so strong to begin with.

KT’s move is a little more on the super team side, and it both intrigues me and makes me wonder: are they committing a similar fallacy that has failed so many other teams? Smeb is a solid pick up, no questions asked. Any team would do better to have Smeb on their side. Score is the kind of player you always want to have around. He is a true veteran who still holds his own mechanically. The three remaining, newly signed players are all from Samsung teams (back when sister teams existed) that dissolved. While I’m definitely on the Telecom War reboot going on, I think I have to cautiously point out that it may not be all it’s cracked up to be, just yet.

Can the veteran Score lead the new KT Rolster’s to new heights? Courtesy of Gamepedia.

That’s why I brought up the Fallacy of Composition. I look down the roster of KT and I literally cannot think of players I would replace. They seem to all fit, they’re some of the best available and I cannot fault the KT management for anything but a stellar off season. Just because each player is a good player doesn’t mean they’ll mesh though. Particularly not against a rival that, truthfully, had retained much more of their core lineup and have brought in rookie stars who can and will be molded. KT’s roster is a strong roster of good players, but recognizable faces that have been in the scene for quite some time.

To put another way, I think there’s a contrast here. SKT, in my mind, is in it for the long game here. Faker will, eventually, retire. Bang and Wolf are an amazing duo, but you can’t put your eggs all in one basket. You have to keep the long term in mind. So the signing of two amazingly talented ‘rookies’ (not really, but in contrast to Faker, rookie seems due,) is a developmental way of thinking. Not that they’ll suffer, it’s not like a rebuild, but they’re developing. KT, on the other hand, have assembled a team to win. Their thirst for a Worlds showing is evident. They’re thirsting to come out on top of their telecom rivals. They’re thirsting for the formal recognition they’ve long been due. That all might bite them in the ass if it doesn’t work out. Or it might be the smartest move they’ve made yet.

The Alpaca returns! Courtesy of WWG.

I think the hype surrounding the rebooted Telecom Wars is well warranted. This will produce some amazing series’ over the next two splits. I think the highlight games will come from LCK, and any and all viewers should make sure to watch. But I think there needs to be a cautious voice out there too. I don’t think we can expect the players and teams to all completely mesh and be the team they are slated to be right off the bat. But it won’t take long either. This is Korea, the place where professionalism and support infrastructure are well developed. If there’s any region in my mind that could break the ‘Super Team curse’ I think it’s Korea. I also think we may need to wait a split, particularly for KT. But once they’re settled, oh man, will it ever be the clash of titans we’re all hoping for.

 

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The Birth of the Korean Top Lane Era in NA

Home Grown Talent

Without a doubt, when it comes to fostering homegrown talent in North America (NA), the scarcest position seems to be none other than the Top lane.  Aside from Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, not much can be said about the remaining North American Top laners.  You have Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha, from Counter Logic Gaming, who has been declining in recent splits. Next to him, you have the up and coming Samson “Lourlo” Jackson, of Team Liquid, who has shown the ability to perform at times, but hasn’t done it consistently enough just yet.  An “Balls” Le, the former starting top laner for Cloud 9, once considered the best in his role, saw a steady decline before losing his starting role to Korean import Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong.

ssumdayKorean Imports

With the recent roster announcements, teams have imported some terrifying Top laners everyone will have to compete with for next split.  To begin, we have Dignitas bringing in KT Rolster’s Kim “Ssumday” Chan-Ho, known to be one of the best Top laners in the world from his performances in these past two LCK seasons.  He had a tremendous showing at Worlds 2015 and it appears that the money Dignitas received from the 76ers has helped them bring in their star Top laner.  Than you have Echo Fox acquiring former Samsung White World Champion, Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok.  Looper is a seasoned veteran, competing at World’s last season with China’s Royal Never Give Up at an extremely high level. Cloud 9’s infamous “top die” laner we’ve all come to love, Impact, absolutely destroyed during playoffs once the meta shifted off of lane swaps and will look to continue that trend this season. He’s also a former World Champion with SK Telecom T1 in Season 3 Worlds and was a main carry for C9 during their run to Worlds last season.  Immortals made sure to keep up with the other top lane imports by bringing in none other than Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong a longtime name in pro League of Legends and known for the “Flame Horizon” (being ahead of your enemy top laner by 100+ cs).  

Why Top Lane?

With all these imports coming in, it amplifies the discussion of why top lane seems to be the hardest position to garner any talent within NA.  Attempting to think of upcoming challenger Top laners, names like Cris, Solo, and RF Legendary come to mind.   Cristian “Cris” Rosales has been a long time top laner “memed” as good enough to dominate in the challenger series but not good enough to find success on a top LCS roster.  Oleksii “RF Legendary” Kuziuta had a good run with team Renegades through the Challenger series qualifying for LCS but was simply not up to par with LCS level Top laners and has bounced around multiple challenger teams since.  Colin “Solo” Earnest has made appearances in team Ember, and most recently, Team Liquid Academy, but hasn’t been able to reach LCS just yet.  Beyond Hauntzer, Darshan and Lourlo, no NA resident Top laners have been given a shot at a starting position on an LCS team, aside from subbing a game or two due to visa issues with imports.

So what is it about Korean Top laners that make them so much better than all other regions?  In terms of champion pools, you don’t see a lot of champion picks from Korean Top laners be chosen in other regions.  High mechanical Top lane champions such as Riven or Yasuo rarely get touched in some regions as opposed to Korea, where players like Smeb and Huni have shown the ability to solo carry games on them.  Even Jeon “Ray” Ji-won former Apex Top laner (now C9 sub), had his signature full Attack Damage split push Jarvan he would pull out that allowed him to carry games.  You just don’t see the same carry potential coming out of NA Top laners.  Korean’s teleport (TP) usage has always been above par, and that has a lot to do with coaching in Korea.  Korean teams have always been heralded as the kings of macro play and it helps tremendously with setting up huge plays using TP.  It will be interesting to see how they adapt to playing in North America with the language barrier and possibility of inferior coaching.   

We are in store for an intriguing 2017 season of the NA LCS with all these new roster changes making the region look stronger than it’s ever been.  It’s safe to say fans are extremely excited to see the competition in Top lane be at an all time high with all these stars coming in.  We’ll have to wait and see whether these big names can live up to the hype, or flounder under their new organizations.

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immortals

Photo Courtesy of immortals.gg

Ssumday’s Trip to NA LCS: Will it have an Impact or be another case of miscommunication

Courtesy of Esportspedia.

Courtesy of Esportspedia.

Seeing the boys in gold and black from Dignitas back in the NA LCS brings a certain happiness to me. They’re an old team, one of the ‘legacy’ teams, and their eventual removal from the league in relegation seemed sad.

But they’re back, and seemingly with intents of making much better names for themselves than they have in recent splits. The signing of high flying Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho Korean import is the kind of ‘big franchise move’ that Dig needed. They wanted to make a splash in the scene after acquiring middle of the pack squad of Apex. But is it enough to bring a break out year? That depends.

Ssumday’s skill is definitely noteworthy. I always feel a bit of respect for players that have been around for years now, particularly ones who have survived the grueling, cutthroat nature of LCK. Sssumday’s done that with KT in various capacities.

He brings his strong team fighting and overall experience to a roster that, truthfully, will need it. An odd pick up for the Jungle, a relatively uninspiring Mid Laner, a rookie(ish) ADC, and a once-strong-but-now-not-overly-so Support leave Dig with a strange kind of squad to be working with. Can Ssumday turn the kind of rag band team into a winning squad?

The menacing war face of our new Korean Overlord, Ssumday. Courtesy of Inven.

The menacing war face of our new Korean Overlord, Ssumday. Courtesy of Inven.

By the sounds of it, though, I think Dig brings something that other teams have been lacking when bringing in Korean talents: support. Multiple interviews with Ssumday show that he chose Dig because of the stability of not only the NBA ownership, but also of the support staff surrounding the players.

I wouldn’t want to say it’s of a Korean caliber, but by the sounds of it is very much a strong, robust system. This support staff will be key for Ssumday. He’s a good player, a great player, but I think fans often forget that League is strongly a team oriented game. Ssumday will need to be able to integrate with his teammates, get to know them, and ultimately synergize with them.

A genuine interest in learning English is a good step for Ssumday too. It’s been shown time and time again that Top-Jungler synergy can be key for Korea duos in foreign leagues.

I don’t want to say this all falls on the support staff either. As with any new teams, it’s really hard to gauge their exact strength. A smattering of super star players has been shown to flop, while a team that everyone undervalued have won back to back splits.

On a similar note, I don’t know if I want to say either that this falls entirely on Ssumday’s shoulders. But, that kind of happens when you’re arguably the teams closest thing to an ace. I think of Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong for Cloud 9 and how the team seemed to live and die by his plays. He was just able to do so much for the team.

I think Ssumday will have similar potentials for Dig. It also falls on his teams around him to make sure they’re stepping up to the plate. I think, ultimately, Ssumday needs to be more than just an ace: he needs to be a captain. He has to bring this team together, through either his play or his off the Rift abilities.

My honest verdict and prediction? I think Ssumday can do it. TSM showed they were mortal on the Worlds stage and lost key ADC superstar Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Cloud 9 still look like solid contenders for the top, but a new Jungler will mean the team needs to grow together. CLG didn’t make any roster changes and it’s questionable whether this was the right or wrong move. Immortals and Liquid are whole new teams.

If there were any time for Dig to make their impact, or should I say make their Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, it’s this Spring split. I think Ssumday’s got the right attitude too, going into this ambitious, wanting a change of scenery, and, most importantly, trusting in those around him. He has the making of the next ‘great Top Laner,’ bringing not only pedigree but seemingly a genuine desire to grow in the NA LCS. Only time, and results, will tell though if Ssumday found himself the right home to build a new legacy around.

Top 5 Big Plays of League of Legends’ All-Star Event

The League of Legends’ All-Star Event is an opportunity to highlight popular players from around the world. Esports fans nominate their favorite players in each position from each region, and the players with the most votes get to come together on a Fire or Ice themed all-star team. Playing a variety of game modes, including normal 5v5’s, 1v1’s, Tandem mode, and One-for-All, the competition focuses on showcasing the best international talents, as well as allowing players and viewers alike to have some light-hearted, no-pressure fun. However, the inconsequential nature of this tournament may turn off some fans from watching, so I have taken the liberty of compiling 5 top plays from the 2016 All-Star Event for anyone who may have missed out.

5. QTV’s Flash-Jukes

courtesy of Riot esports

Courtesy of Riot esports

Day 3 of the tournament included an All-Assassin game. Players formed inter-regional Fire and Ice teams and selected their Assassin of choice for a 5v5. This mode made for a bloody series of teamfights full of mechanics and micro-play, but my favorite moments came from Team Fire’s Nguyễn “QTV” Trần Tường Vũ. He got to display just how slippery Akali can be.

At 1:56, Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan’s Rengar jumps from the bottom brush onto QTV for a chunk of damage. Văn “Optimus” Cường Trần retaliates with a couple of Orbs of Deception, bringing Karsa’s health pretty low. QTV get aggressive, dropping Akali’s Twilight Shroud. They trade Ignites, which takes down Karsa, but QTV stays alive. As Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang chases QTV he lands a Razor Shuriken from Zed. Fleeing towards the enemy jungle with dangerously low health, QTV uses Flash through the wall to dodge Maple’s shuriken and return to safety by Optimus.

Later in the same game, at 9:37, QTV finds himself stranded alone under tower with 3 members of Team Ice collapsing onto him: Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski, Karsa, and Maple. Reacting to the projection of Zed’s Living Shadow, QTV drops his shroud to buy time. Jankos drops a Control Ward out of old habit (since the pre-season updates, they do not detect invisible champions). And as the three of them move in, QTV Shadow Dances to Rengar and immediately Flashes to safety under the inner turret. Anyone looking for tips on how to evade a turret dive: look no further.

4. NA All-Stars Wombo-Combo on LPL All-Stars

courtesy of Riot esports

Courtesy of Riot esports

In the last game of Day 3, the NA LCS All-Stars represented Team Fire against Team Ice’s LPL All-Stars. This was a standard Summoner’s Rift 5v5 match. At 25:40, with a solid lead of 5 kills, 3,000 gold, and 2 Cloud Drakes over their opponents, Team Fire moves into the bot-side river to realize Team Ice have started taking the Ocean Drake. Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong on Nautilus immediately channels his Teleport onto a ward in the enemy jungle to block their escape. As Team Ice clump up and retreat directly towards him, Impact activates Depth Charge onto Wei “We1less” Zhen’s Orianna, knocking up two other members in the process. Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin unburrows Rek’Sai for a knock-up and Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black catches all three in a Flash-Crescendo from Sona. If “wombo-combo” were in the dictionary, then this would be the definition.

3. Maple’s Ryze Ult Mind Games

courtesy of Riot esports

Courtesy of Riot esports

One of the most novel pieces of Ryze’s reworked kit is the ultimate ability, Realm Warp, which teleports all allies within the circle (including minions) to a nearby location after a brief channel. Some pros have been able to leverage this ability in creative ways, and Maple of the LMS is is one of them.

Midway through Day 3, the LMS All-Stars of Ice took on the GPL All-Stars of Fire in a standard Summoner’s Rift 5v5. Karsa got pretty fed on Graves, but the true stand-out for me was Maple. There are several times where Maple utilizes Realm Warp to catch the GPL squad off-guard and make plays.

At 7:55, Maple activates his ultimate to zone Optimus’s Twisted Fate in towards his turret. He then walks forward to connect Rune Prison while Karsa’s Graves rounds the wall and Kang “Albis” Chia-Wei’ Maokai takes the Realm Warp. A Twisted Advance, Overload, and End of the Line later, and Optimus is deleted.

Around 10 minutes, Maple pushes Optimus into turret. He roots with a Rune Prison and follows up with an Overload, but this time Optimus lands a Yellow Card stun while Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh flanks with Lee Sin. Maple quickly Cleanses the crowd control and runs away, but Levi Safeguards to a ward, Flashes behind the Ryze, and proceeds to use Dragon’s Rage to kick Maple towards Optimus. Levi chains Sonic Wave and Resonating Strike while the Realm Warp channels. Maple escapes with 1/4 health, but Optimus activates Destiny to cover the distance. Maple immediately procs Overload’s passive shield to absorb the incoming damage. Meanwhile, Karsa makes his way down to clean up and get a Double Kill.

The third play comes at 12:00. Karsa is waiting in the wings while Maple pushes Optimus under turret and continues to harass. Levi decides to try a similar flank as before, but does not realize Karsa is present for the counter-gank. The Lee Sin drops rather quickly. Karsa last-hits the turret and continues to pursue Optimus with Maple. QTV channels Teleport into the mid lane hoping to finish Karsa, but is too late. He instead begins attacking Maple with Fiora’s Grand Challenge. After the final Vital times out, QTV realizes he will not be able to finish the Ryze and Lunges into the jungle. Maple activates Realm Warp, zoning QTV to run towards his base, and Flashes the wall to land the finishing blows.

2. xPeke’s Double Kill on Faker and Bengi

courtesy of Riot esports

Courtesy of Riot esports

Anyone who watches professional League of Legends knows that it is extremely rare to ever see a Garen picked in the top lane. But what about the mid lane? Strange things happen when the players have no pressure of losing, which must explain why Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez decided to answer the LCK All-Stars and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok’s Galio pick with a mid lane Garen. Sure, the silence on Decisive Strike is able to interrupt Idol of Durand, but the overwhelming reaction of shoutcasters and viewers was a combination of “What?” and “That is awesome!”

But xPeke came out with a bang. In the fourth minute of the game, Faker and Bae “bengi” Seong-ung ventured through the bot-side river after turning around a gank on bot lane. In typical Garen fashion, xPeke waited in the brush to surprise Faker with a Decisive Strike-Judgment-Ignite combo. This prompted bengi to be the aggressor with Olaf, but with the help of his Flash and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez’s Zyra, xPeke was truly able to “spin to win” with a Double Kill.

1. Smebber Gets a Quadra Kill 

courtesy of Riot esports

Courtesy of Riot esports

One of the most entertaining game modes of the All-Star Event is Tandem, which is where players pair up to split the duties of the game: one operates the mouse and the other operates the keyboard. This mode in particular devolves into quite the fiesta, but it can be impressive how coordinated the duos can be.

One fun fusion was Smebber–Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho and Reignover. While they play in different regions, both speak Korean, which becomes important for communicating each player’s intentions when sharing a champion. Smebber decided to go top lane with Darius. Dunkmaster Darius to be exact. I can think of no better champion for such a chaotic game mode, and no better skin to do it with.

10:15 into the match, Smebber engages onto Bebelove (Cheng “bebe” Bo-Wei and Ming “Clearlove” Kai) while they take Blue Buff. They easily get 5 stacks of Hemorrhage and execute with Decimate for the first kill. Meanwhile, QT Prime (QTV and Optimus), Celeb Life (Nguyễn “Celebrity” Phước Long Hiệp and Hong “MadLife” Min-gi), and Baker (Faker and Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg) take out Kappa (Karsa and Maple) and are continuing the fight against Ruzi (Martin “Rekkles” Larsson and Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao) and xMithie (Mithy and xPeke). Smebber ends Ruzi with 2 auto-attacks and Noxian Guillotine before unleashing a combo onto xMithie’s Nautilus before they are able to escape with a Blasting Cone. That’s the Triple Kill. Finally, he turns to The Miz (Chen “Mouse” Yu-Hao and Chen “Ziv” Yi) and procs the full Hemorrhage. Just as The Miz seems to b escaping, Smebber Flash-Apprehends and Celeb Life lands a Thresh Death Sentence to set up one last Noxian Guillotine for the Quadra Kill.

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