Weaponizing Emotes Without BM

With no way to directly talk to the random foes you face on Ladder, there is only one way to communicate: the Emote system. These short six words or phrases may seem innocuous at first, but they have quickly developed into their own language; each one dripping with implied salt or sneer. Hearthstone is a game of information and bluffing, as well as identifying the mathematically optimal play. By utilizing the hidden meanings of emotes, you can steal wins from losing situations by exploiting your opponent’s hubris or paranoia; as long as you weren’t squelched in the process!

Thanks

What it means: “Thanks” is perhaps the most straightforward emote. Ostensibly expressing gratitude, it’s usually to taunt an opponent after they play right into your hand. They overextend into AOE? Thanks can hammer home their error as you flamestrike. They assume you don’t have Reno and set up two turn lethal? Thanks makes the “We’re gonna be rich!” that much sweeter.

How to exploit it: Outside of simple BM (Bad Manners), Thanks, like “My Greetings,” is a surefire way to express confidence, arrogance, and make your opponent unsure about their play. When your opponent emotes Thanks, they are usually trying to tilt you by highlighting the way you played into their hand. The best counter is to figure out exactly why your opponent is so smug and use it against them.

A classic way to utilize it yourself is after a Druid Mulches one of your minions. Emoting Thanks might make them think you got a spectacular random minion in return. This can lead them to hold back removal for no good reason. Another example is if your opponent gives you draws off your Acolyte of Pain in an effort to fatigue you. “Thanks” can encourage them to believe that they are helping out your game plan, implying you have a combo finisher or something that they will try and play around, when in fact you have none. Or they may just attempt to prevent future draws. On the flip side, when they draw voluntarily, emoting “Thanks” can imply you’re intending to fatigue them. They may then be unprepared for your unexpected burst or value-based combo. More traditionally, bluffing AOE by thanking them for each additional minion played can prevent them from giving you a board too big to deal with.

Threaten

What it means: Despite its tone, Threaten is the most impotent of emotes. Usually used in a losing situation as a futile expression of semi-serious rage, it implies you have little else to do with your hand. Sometimes yelling about how your magic will tear them apart is the only response to their overwhelming board.

How to exploit it: Since its use is typically from a losing position, try using it to press your advantage. Play around their remaining outs, and assume that the cards left in their hand are overly situational, or outright useless.

Implying you have no response can be hard to bluff, but incredibly potent. Typically the way to use this emote is by acting as if you have no response to a minion or board, when in fact you are holding back your most powerful answer in the hope that they go all-in and get destroyed by your perfectly timed counterplay. As well as obvious interactions with AOE, consider using it with hard removal: if you trade your whole board into their Ragnaros Lightlord while using this emote, they will hardly expect the Entomb on their Warleader or Tirion the following turn.

This card isn’t Grommash: but “Well Played” makes my opponent think it is

Greetings

What it means: Outside of its traditional use at the start of the game, Greetings is the supreme expression of confidence. By far the most BM-worthy emote, Greetings is used to infuriate and provoke your opponent when you are sure they have no counter to your devastating play. It is used before lethal, but often also before simply powerful plays, like dropping Harrison Jones into Doomhammer, or Alexstrasza after a tempo Reno.

How to exploit it: If your opponent uses Greetings, they are likely becoming overconfident. Look for awkward or risky plays that might unseat them; perhaps offer them a “well played” to lull them into a false sense of security before aggressively pursuing a risky but rewarding line of play they may not have the answer for.

Using Greetings yourself makes your opponent overestimate your position. They might look for low percentage chances at lethal, or Hail-Mary plays from Discover or other types of cards. Typically it makes them play overly aggressively to try and win, despite your perceived advantage. It can also cause people to play overly defensively if they fear you have set up lethal. If you discover a card, then Greetings can make your opponent fear the worst (such as Coldarra Drake in Reno priest, or Sacrificial pact against a warlock that seeks to play Jaraxxus). It’s best used in combination with a card capable of punishing an overly aggressive play, like lifegain or a beefy taunt. It can also be a value play that can punish overly defensive action (depending on context).

Wow

What it means: Wow, at its most basic level, indicates mild surprise or shock. This is usually relating to in-game RNG; a particularly bad or good hand, or outcome from a random event are usually the most likely inspirations. This is most typically used after the player in question is on the receiving end of bad luck (though it can also be used in a conciliatory sense after good fortune).

How to exploit it: If your opponent emotes Wow without anything especially noteworthy happening on board, they are usually indicating frustration at their hand. Use this against them by playing to your deck’s strengths, and perpetuating the current advantageous situation.

Using it yourself can, like Threaten, imply your situation is weaker than it is, allowing you to goad them into overextending or making an incorrect read. For instance, passing turn one without comment might indicate you are a Control Warrior; but emoting Wow whilst mousing over certain cards before passing over the turn might make your opponent believe you are a frustrated Pirate Warrior with an unfortunate mulligan

Oops

What it means: Oops is either used sarcastically as BM, or sincerely in order to indicate recognition of a misplay. Occasionally it’s used for BM purposes, but otherwise is one of the most sincere emotes.

How to exploit it: Your opponent recognizing their screw-up makes this emote harder to exploit.

Things get more interesting when you use it yourself, however. For instance, seemingly incorrect plays that in fact disguise a higher-level strategy can be passed off as a misplay. For instance, you might deliberately leave yourself with one, rather than two, weapon durability as a Rogue. This plays around Harrison Jones, but you can pretend it was a mistake. This could perhaps lead your opponent to save Harrison for a turn you don’t play around it (that, of course, will never come). Or, if playing one of the few remaining Warrior decks that incorporate Battle Rage, then your lack of Hero Power whilst undamaged can be passed off as negligence, rather than seeking to encourage your opponent to damage your hero for a future extra draw.

Well Played

What it means: Well Played is sometimes used mid-game, either sincerely to acknowledge a good line or spot-on read, or sarcastically to shame an opponents misplay. However, the overwhelming majority of uses of Well Played occur right at the end of the game, when lethal is all but assured.

How to exploit it: Most of the time, your opponent emoting well played indicates resignation if losing, and acceptance of victory if winning. If they use it unexpectedly, it’s often wise to play defensively.

Well Played is perhaps the easiest way to bluff lethal in the game; opponents are often hardwired into panicking the second they hear it. This can push them to adopt sub-optimal and overly defensive lines of play to play around anticipated burst damage. A perfect way to do this would be against any Reno deck while they are at a low, but not dangerous life total. Forcing them to Reno early can allow you to squeeze in extra damage that you otherwise miss. It can also give you the breathing room to stick a powerful minion. A classic move is while playing against a low-health Jaraxxus. A Well Played can bait out taunts or healing. You can then nullify before you draw your true combo that will actually win you the game. Fear is arguably the most powerful emotion, and as such Well Played becomes the most powerful emote to bluff with.

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Northwestern Wildcats Basketball on the Brink of History

The Northwestern Wildcats basketball team is attempting to relinquish one of the most infamous records in college basketball: Its record number of NCAA Tournament appearances. Standing at zero, they are the only power conference team to have never gone dancing.

The tournament consists of 68 teams and has included 64 since 1985.  With the number of Division I teams fluctuating every year near 340, that means approximately 19% of teams make the tournament every year. An overwhelming number of bids go to the power conference teams. Some of the big conferences have eight, nine, or even ten teams punch tickets in a given year. The Big East put in 11 teams in 2011, which is the current record. The fact of the matter is that there is a huge advantage for teams in a big conference.

Yet, even with all of this in their favor, the Wildcats have never made the tournament. Not winning a World Series for a century is bad, but when only one team completes the feat every year it pales in comparison to this. The men in purple have been close a few times but never able to get that signature win or finish the fight toward the end of the season.

Northwestern Wildcats Basketball

Chris Collins has the Wildcats moving in the right direction. (Photo courtesy of northwestern.edu)

Northwestern has not been ranked since the 2009-10 season and that was only a brief stint at the 25th spot. This year they are on the verge of entering the fray once again as they are receiving votes and continuing to win games.

Since Chris Collins took the helm in Evanston, the team has been trending upward. Last year the team finished with its best record since 2010-11 at 20-12. Their current record is 16-4 (5-2) after a close 74-72 win at Ohio State.

They are moving ever so much closer to solidifying a spot in the NCAA Tournament and also to the school record of 20 wins in a season.

With the Big Ten having a bit of a down year, there are not a lot of opportunities for Northwestern to get that statement win. Essentially, the rest of the year they will work to avoid a “fall from grace”. They are 38th in the RPI and have not lost any games to teams outside the top 50. They have a few more opportunities for good wins against teams like Maryland (21), twice against Purdue (27) and Wisconsin (24).

If the Wildcats take a must-win against Rutgers (130) and three others they will be guaranteed a .500 record in the Big 10. That should be enough to push them into the field, but another win or two would push them over the top. Obviously, winning the conference tournament would do the trick as well, but they have never accomplished this either.

An additional factor in their favor is that down the stretch they will not have to do a lot of traveling.  Seven of their last 11 games are at home. This includes two of their best opportunities for key wins against Purdue and Maryland.

A lot of things are in the Wildcats favor. They are currently in the field for many bracketologists including The Game Haus’ Joe DiTullio. DiTullio has them at a nine seed in his most current edition. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi agrees with their current placement in the field.

Northwestern has very little standing in their way at this point.  They just need to take care of business and finish the job. It is about time the program lift this weight from its shoulders.

 

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2017 MLB Season

Position Rankings for 2017 MLB Season: Third Basemen

The sixth installment of our position rankings lands us at the 2017 third basemen rankings. Third base is one of the most top-heavy positions in all of baseball. With steady veterans and young studs all around the league, let’s start our list with number five.

5. Adrian Beltre- Texas Rangers

Like a fine wine, Beltre just seems to get better with age. By the way Beltre has been playing, you wouldn’t know he’s entering his 20th season in the majors. He bested his career averages in 2016 batting (.300/.358/.521.) And while he didn’t earn an All-Star selection in 2016, Beltre was still able to finish seventh in the AL MVP voting by hitting 32 home runs with 104 RBIs. But it wasn’t just his offense that vaulted him into the MVP conversation.

Beltre’s defense has been spectacular throughout his time in Texas, and it continued in 2016. He posted 15 defensive runs saved and was a wizard with the glove down at third base. That fancy glove work and powerful offensive production makes Beltre a solid pick to make the top five. Although he will be entering 2017 in his late 30’s, don’t expect Father Time to catch up with him anytime soon.

4. Manny Machado- Baltimore Orioles

2017 Third Basemen Rankings

Many Machado will try to carry the Orioles to the playoffs in 2017. (Rob Carr, Getty Images).

At 24 years old and entering his fifth season in the majors, Manny Machado will be a mainstay on this list for years to come. Machado really came into his own in 2016, putting up career highs in batting average (.294), slugging (.533) and posting a OBP of .343. Machado was also able to continue to utilize his power in 2016, mashing 37 homers and driving in 96 RBIs.

Like Beltre, Machado was also in the 2016 AL MVP conversation, finishing fifth. Machado also proved to be pretty steady with the glove as well.

Coming up as a shortstop with the Baltimore Orioles, Machado has always been a great fielder. He has been able to utilize his defensive skills at the hot corner, posting 13 defensive runs saved in 2016.

Machado has found his power, and coupled that with an excellent ability to make contact, good batting eye, and stellar defense to up his game even more in 2016. The 2017 season should prove no different for Machado.

3. Josh Donaldson- Toronto Blue Jays

While Josh Donaldson was a great player in 2013 and 2014 with Oakland, he blossomed into a legit MVP player when he was shipped north of the border in 2015. He continued his offensive onslaught in the 2016 season, slashing .284, .404, .549 and launched 37 homers to go along with 99 RBIs.

While Donaldson did have a drop off from his 2015 MVP season to his 2016 season, it is extremely hard to improve on an MVP season. Donaldson also experienced a sight drop off in his defense as well in 2016.

Donaldson had 2 defensive runs saved in 2016, not spectacular, but solid nonetheless. As Donaldson enters the 2017 season, he will look to continue what he accomplished in 2015 and 2016. His glove and his bat are one of the best in all of the majors, and Donaldson has a chance to prove it in 2017.

2017 Third Basemen Rankings

Nolan Arenado has launched 80 plus homers in the past two seasons. (Ben Margot, AP Photo).

2. Nolan Arenado- Colorado Rockies

After two seasons of 40 plus homers, Nolan Arenado has officially cemented himself as one of the best players in the league. He put up a slash line of .294, .362, .570, career bests in average and OBP in 2016. He also earned an NL All-Star appearance, Gold Glove award and Silver Slugger award for the second year in a row.

Arenado has produced at a ridiculous rate in the past two seasons, hitting 83 homers to go along with 263 RBIs. He has certainly found his swing at the plate, but he has always had a stellar glove.

Arenado has been a Gold Glover for his entire major league career, earning the award each season he has been in the majors. And 2016 was no different. He had 20 defensive runs saved in 2016, an amazing number for a third baseman. He is without a doubt one of the best overall defenders in all of baseball, and 2017 will be no different. If Arenado can continue his torrid offensive pace and spectacular defense, he will be a perennial MVP candidate.

1. Kris Bryant- Chicago Cubs

With just two seasons in the majors under his belt, Kris Bryant has done things that many thought would never be done. He helped bring the Cubs a World Series title in 2016 and won the NL MVP in 2016 after winning the NL ROY award in 2015.

Bryant has put up monster numbers since being called up in 2015, batting .284, .377, .522 as well as blasting 65 bombs to go along with 201 RBIs in his career. He has also stole 21 bases in his time in Chicago, exceptional for a slugger like Bryant.

Bryant has also made his name with the glove. Coming up as a third baseman with the Cubs, Bryant was always a solid fielder. But his defensive prowess has grown since being called up to Chicago. He posted 4 defensive runs saved at third base in 2016, providing a solid glove at the hot corner.

But Bryant has also proven to be a solid defender all over the field. Logging time at third, the outfield and first base in 2016, Bryant has become one of the game’s most versatile player. Bryant is a once in a generation talent, and is just beginning his young career.

It is a golden age for third basemen, with multiple young players performing at a high level. From Gold Glovers to Silver Sluggers, the major league landscape is dotted with players who are set to put up monster numbers in 2017.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Brandon Ingram: Slowly Finding His Star

Brandon Ingram, the second overall pick in the draft, somehow has the privilege of being able to work through his rookie struggles quietly without the pressure of the “Right Now” conundrum. Coming into this season, many were comparing his game to that of Kevin Durant. His wiry frame, and scoring prowess led the comparisons. The two seasons couldn’t be any more different. Durant usage rate was much greater than that of Ingram. Additionally, the then Seattle SuperSonics drafted Durant to function as the franchise cornerstone.

via USA Today Sport Images

While unfair, the assumptions of what is game would be at 19 felt just in attribution. Why wouldn’t the player who averaged 17 points and shot 41% from three in his lone year at Duke be expected to have a Rookie of the Year campaign in the NBA? There was no reticence when discussing where Ingram would be taken in the draft – 2nd overall. It was what very intelligent individuals call a “no-brainer”.  Ingram showed all of the potential to become not only a great scorer, but a star.

The Los Angeles Lakers, after the departure of Kobe Bryant, were in prime position to capitalize on the budding promise of their youth movement. Hiring Luke Walton from the Golden State Warriors spearheaded that initiative. Bringing his repertoire, the front office made a heady move by hiring the former Laker. Walton wanted to play with pace and have the floor spread, something that an isolation scorer such as Ingram would thrive in.

Walton however, had different plans for the Duke product. By bringing him on slowly, namely off the bench, Walton has decreased the pressure of “Right Now”. Through the first 20 games of the season, Ingram started only three games – all three of which D’Angelo Russell sat out due to injury.

But even without being a part of the starting lineup, Walton made sure he integrated Ingram into the game-plan. In the month of November, Ingram averaged 27 minutes, second most on the team. Ingram did not produce on the court initially. In that same month he shot 34% from the floor per game, 30% from three, and only attempted a bit over two free throws a game ( a slight indicator of his level of aggressiveness on the court – or lack thereof).

Via USA Today Sports Images

Steadily though, the staff has increased his minutes. In turn so has is production, if only slightly. 30 minutes a game so far in January has pushed his overall minute average to 28 a game – most by any rookie in the league. 40% from behind the arc on three point attempts a game as his true shooting percentage has jumped from 45% in November to 53% in January. His free throw attempts have also increased – four attempts a game.  Getting to the line at a slightly greater pace has dropped his percentage. Which is probably nothing to worry about with a shooter of his potential.

Bringing the rookie along slowly and allowing him to find his place on the team has helped him tremendously. Not receiving the attention many thought he would, Ingram has progressively improved under the lights of Tinsel Town.

Eventually, he will break out and come onto the scene as the scorer and All-Star his college game foreshadowed. Until then, just watch him work.

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Bounty Hunter

Sunday Hero Spotlight – Gondar the Bounty Hunter

Welcome to the second Sunday Hero Spotlight. This week we will be taking a look at Gondar the Bounty Hunter. Bounty Hunter has the potential to be a menace in the early game, and can provide vision of enemy heroes through the use of his ultimate.

Bounty Hunters Lore

Bounty Hunter

Image courtesy of dotafire.com

“When the hunted tell tales of Gondar the Bounty Hunter, none are sure of which are true. In whispered tones they say he was abandoned as a kit, learning his skill in tracking as a matter of simple survival. Others hear he was an orphan of war, taken in by the great Soruq the Hunter to learn the master’s skill with a blade as they plumbed the dark forests for big game. Still others believe he was a lowly street urchin raised among a guild of cutpurses and thieves, trained in the arts of stealth and misdirection.

Around campfires in the wild countryside his quarry speaks the rumors of Gondar’s work, growing ever more fearful: they say it was he who tracked down the tyrant King Goff years after the mad regent went into hiding, delivering his head and scepter as proof. That it was he who infiltrated the rebel camps at Highseat, finally bringing the legendary thief White Cape to be judged for his crimes. And that it was he who ended the career of Soruq the Hunter, condemned as a criminal for killing the Prince’s prized hellkite. The tales of Gondar’s incredible skill stretch on, with each daring feat more unbelievable than the last, each target more elusive. For the right price, the hunted know, anyone can be found. For the right price, even the mightiest may find fear in the shadows.” [Courtesy of www.dota2.com/hero/BountyHunter/]

Overview

Bounty Hunter is a Melee Agility hero, that has a built in escape and is capable of nuking down enemies quickly. In competitive games and higher MMR brackets, Bounty is often played as a roaming Support due to his ability to move around the map unseen. In the lower skill brackets, it is often common to see Bounty in a farming position.

Skills

Shuriken Toss

Bounty Hunter Shuriken Toss

Image courtesy of dotabuff.com

Damage Type – Magical (Does not pierce spell immunity)

Damage – 150 / 225 / 300 / 375

Mana – 120 / 130 / 140 / 150

Cooldown – 10

Track Bounce Range – 1200

Bounty’s first skill is his main nuking ability. Shuriken Toss is a unit target ability that, upon connecting with the target, also applies a mini stun. It is often used in conjunction with Bounty’s ultimate, Track. Shuriken can be used to interrupt channelling abilities, including TP’s.

When a Tracked unit is within 1200 range, the Shuriken will bounce to them, causing them damage and applying the min stun. As such, when Bounty is trying to chase down a target, it is often common to throw the Shuriken at a non Tracked target so that the Shuriken will bounce to all the other Tracked targets.

Aghanims Upgrade – Shuriken Toss will bounce twice on each hero that is affected by Track.

Jinada

Image courtesy of dotabuff.com

Critical Damage – 150% / 175% / 200% / 225%

Move Slow – -15% / -20% / -25% / -30%

Attack Slow – -15 / -20 / -25 / -30

Duration – 3

Cooldown – 12 / 10 / 8 / 6

Bounty’s second ability is a passive that grants him the ability to crit and maim every 6 seconds when maxed. This skill allows Bounty to deal sizable damage out of nowhere early on in the game.

Shadow Walk

Image courtesy of dotabuff.com

Damage Type – Physical (Pierces Spell Immunity)

Duration – 20 / 25 / 30 / 35

Fade Time – 1.0 / 0.75 / 0.5 / 0.25

Bonus Damage – 30 / 60 / 90 / 120

Cooldown – 15

Mana – 65

Bounty’s third ability allows him to fade into the shadows and become invisible for a certain amount of time. When attacking an enemy from Shadow Walk, Bounty will deal bonus damage. The bonus damage will not be included in the calculation for Jinada’s critical strike.

Shadow Walk has a fade time, meaning that it is possible to get an attack off as Bounty fades into invisibility and then attack again whilst invisible to get the bonus damage.

Track

Image courtesy of dotabuff.com

Speed Radius – 900

Bonus Speed – 16% / 18% / 20%

Bonus Gold for Self – 150 / 250 / 350

Bonus Gold for Allies – 40 / 80 / 120

Duration – 30

Cast Range – 1200

Cooldown – 4

Mana Cost – 65

Track is dispellable.

Bounty’s ultimate is a Unit Target that marks any enemy heroes. This will provide True Sight of any Tracked heroes to both Bounty and his allies. As well as providing True Sight, Track will grant bonus gold to Bounty and any allied heroes near the Tracked enemies when they die.

Track provides bonus speed to Bounty and his allies when they are near tracked enemies.

Talents

Bounty Talents

Image courtesy of dotabuff.com

At Level 10, 54% of players choose to take the +15XP Gain instead of the +157 Health. This is likely because Bounty prefers to have levels, and due to his play style, should not require the additional health.

At Level 15, 62% of players choose to take the +40 Attack Speed over the +15 Movement Speed. Interestingly, this seems as if it is the wrong choice, as the +15 Movement Speed talent has a 52% win rate in comparison to the 49% for the Attack Speed.

At Level 20, 73% of players choose the +100 Damage over the +8% Spell Amp. Most players choose the extra damage as it works in conjunction with Jinada, allowing Bounty to Crit for more damage. The Spell Amp talent has a +3% higher win rate in comparison to the Damage. This may come down to the lack of people picking the talent, or it could be that due to Shuriken Toss being a Magical spell and some players building Dagon, it can synergize well with Bounty’s skill set.

At Level 25, 65% of players choose the -5s Jinada Cooldown over the +20% Evasion. This choice seems straightforward in that if players are reaching Level 25, they will likely benefit from the 1s Jinada Cooldown. This will allow them to deal massive damage from right clicks alone.

Skill Build

Popular Skill Build. Image courtesy of Dotabuff.com

This is the generally accepted way of leveling up skills on Bounty Hunter. Choosing to max Shuriken Toss, followed by Shadow Walk, and then Jinada. This is generally the most common way to level up Bounty, as Shuriken Toss can provide good burst damage early in the game. Jinada is left until last as it does not generally show its value until the late game.

Play style Suggestions

Bounty is generally played as a roaming four position Support, who has the ability to cause great havoc in the early to mid game. As a Bounty Hunter, it is important to pressure the lanes where possible. Rotating often has its benefits and can often force Supports to buy counter vision to see the rotations coming.

If possible, rotate to between the Mid Tier 1 and 2 towers to have a chance at killing the Courier in the early game, which will provide your mid player with an advantage.

Getting Level 6 on Bounty is pivotal to being able to use him to his full potential. If a team is behind, a few Track kills can change the tide of a match.

For the best example of an excellent Bounty Hunter, check out this Youtube link to highlights of Maybe Next Time (MNT), widely regarded as the worlds best Bounty, playing for Ad Finem. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LIQbxrtJ8c

Suggested Items

Image Courtesy of Dotabuff.com

When playing Bounty in a Support capacity, players will tend to pick up Arcane Boots, and then progress into Mekansm, followed by Guardian Greaves. This is generally because Bounty is happy to be an aura carrier who focuses on building utility items to help buff the core heroes on his team.

In pub games, it is common to see Bounty players rushing either Dagon or Desolator. Dagon provides great burst potential in combination with Shuriken. Desolator provides good damage, and also armor reduction, both things that Bounty can benefit from if focusing on right clicking and using Jinada to its full effect.

Final Thoughts

Reply from MNT regarding Bounty Hunter in 7.xx Patch.

Whilst MNT might think that Bounty is still viable in the current patch, the stats speak to the opposite. Currently, he only has a 46% average, which is below average. As MNT mentions, the addition of the Backpack has increased the ability for players to carry vision based items whilst not losing inventory space.

Bounty can be played in situational games where the enemy heroes are susceptible to early game aggression. In his Support capacity, Bounty eventually becomes more focused on providing Track vision / gold whilst also giving beneficial auras to his team.

Bounty may receive some buffs to bring him back into the Meta, but for the time being he is more of a situational hero.

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Position Selection highlighting Jungle

The Most Important Position in the EU LCS

There are five positions on a League of Legends team: Top, Jungle, Mid, AD Carry, and Support. But, have you ever wondered which position is the most valuable? Which position brings the most to the table? Which position is the most crucial? While analyzing data surrounding EU LCS roster swaps in the off-season, I came across some intriguing patterns. These patterns suggest that not all positions are valued equally. Namely, Jungle is the key role.

You can tell a lot about an LCS team’s priorities based on its roster changes in between Splits. One team may choose to keep a star Mid laner, while another may choose to try a rookie Support. Some teams keep an entire starting line-up. Some teams start over from scratch and replace every player. If you look at all of the roster changes as a whole, you will begin to notice some fascinating trends.

Here is a chart showing the distribution of veterans and rookies across each position for the 2017 EU LCS rosters, and how many roster changes occurred within each position in the off-season (as well as the ratio of veteran to rookie players accounting for the changes):

Veterans Picked Up Rookies Picked Up Total Changes Total Starting Veterans Total Starting Rookies
Top 1 3 4 6 4
Jungle 4 3 7 7 3
Mid 2 2 4 8 2
ADC 3 3 6 6 4
Support 1 4 5 5 5

For the purposes of this analysis, I am classifying a “veteran” player as any player who has participated in one or more Splits in the EU LCS. I am classifying a “rookie” player as any player who has not participated in any EU LCS Splits. Therefore, any imported players who will be playing their first Split in EU are classified as rookies (for example, Sin “Nuclear” Jeong-hyeon).

Pertaining to the Jungle position, there are two things to point out about this chart. Firstly, the most player replacements happened in this position. 70% of teams changed their Jungler between Summer and Spring. This indicates that many teams were disappointed with their Jungle performance and needed a change in that position specifically.

Secondly, of the seven replacement players, only three are rookies. Compare that to one half of ADCs and Mids, three out of four Tops, and four out of five Supports. Even though many rosters are changing their Junglers, they seem to have disproportionately less faith in rookies and new imports at that position. Many Junglers from last Split simply switched to a new team, rather than retiring, moving to a different region, etc.

Why did so many teams choose to change their Jungler? What about that position made it a priority for so many rosters? Here is a box and whisker plot showing the KDA distribution of EU LCS players by position:

(Disclaimer: the following data only includes players who participated in 12 or more games for the same team.)Junglers represented the widest range of KDA last Summer.

We can see that Junglers occupied the largest range of KDA last year. Some of the highest overall KDAs were Junglers, but also many of the lowest. They had an abnormally low median KDA of 3, 21% lower than the median of all players. This means that there is a large divide between the top 25% of Junglers and the bottom 75%. Half of the Junglers had a KDA between 3 and 6.8, while the other half were between 1.9 and 3.

For a different perspective, I divided all players into tiers based on average KDA last Summer. Players with the top 10 KDAs are Tier 1, top 20 are Tier 2, etc. I then graphed a distribution of each role based on KDA Tier:KDA distribution by role

Besides the huge skew of ADCs to high KDAs, the distribution that stands out is the Junglers’. They are the only other role with more than one player in Tier 1, less than two Tier 2, and less than two Tier 3. It is also the only position with more than three Tier 4 players. Jungle’s line starts high, dips low, then rises high again. That dip, between Tier 1 and Tier 4, represents the divide between excelling Junglers and those under-performing. They generally occupied the high end and the low end of the KDA distribution.

How does this information pertain to the off-season? We can imagine that those three to four Junglers in Tier 1 and 2 would be heavily contested. Teams who have them want to keep them. Teams who do not have them want to incorporate them. The Jungler in Tier 3 is somewhere in the middle, but the Junglers in Tier 4 and 5 should be dropped.

Here is a list of the Junglers from last Split accompanied by their Tier Ranking and KDA:

Trick 1 6.8
Trashy 1 6.2
Jankos 1 4.7
Spirit 2 4.7
Maxlore 3 3.3
Shook 4 3.2
Move 4 2.8
Amazing 4 2.6
Mightybear 4 2.6
Gilius 5 2.5
Memento 5 2.4
Airwaks 5 1.9

Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun, Jonas “Trashy” Andersen,  and Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski were all Tier 1. All three of their teams qualified for Worlds last year. G2, Splyce, and H2k retained them in the off-season. Lee “Spirit” Da-yun barely fell into Tier 2, and mutually parted ways with Fnatic. Then there is a drop off from 4.7 KDA to 3.3. All other teams either dropped or swapped their Junglers. Many teams then picked up one of the dropped Junglers, due to their veteran status.

This analysis shows that the top-tier teams have top-tier Junglers. And those top-tier Junglers are significantly ahead of their low-tier counterparts relative to other positions. Since there is such a variance between good Junglers and bad Junglers, many teams prioritized the role in the off-season. Worlds-qualifying teams kept their Junglers, while all seven other teams incorporated new players. Many of these new players have played at least one EU LCS Split, showing a lack of faith in rookies for Jungle in particular.

In conclusion, I argue that Jungle is the most important position in the EU LCS. There are so many variables that go into the role. Junglers contribute to ganks, lane pressure, neutral objectives, and vision. Oftentimes, viable Jungle champions dictate the meta.

Riot Games has placed a lot of focus on Jungle gameplay. The developer completely reworked the camps, implemented Plants, and adjusted Smite in the pre-season. Lead Gameplay Designer, Andrei “Meddler” Van Roon, recently shared Riot’s thoughts about the state of the game. Simply stated, “We believe jungler influence over game outcome is too high.”

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Genesis 4: Day Two Melee Singles Recap

    Photo courtesy of vgbootcamp

Genesis 4 day two has come to a close. There are eight Melee players remaining and four doubles teams still eligible to take home the Genesis trophy. Day two had fantastic matches tied in with some upsets, but the trend in top 64 was finishing off players 3-0.

Plup Pulls the Upset of the Day
It’s not often William “Leffen” Hjelte gets beat 3-0 in a set. But Justin “Plup” McGrath did just that. He not only swept Leffen, he two stocked him in every single game of the set. Straight domination by Plup’s Sheik, who kept Leffen’s Fox in the corner. His edge guard conversion rate was high.

Plup will enter champion Sunday on winners side of top 8. He matches up against Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman. The two are practice partners, but M2K has an overwhelming advantage in the set count. However, Leffen did qualify for top 8 by eliminating Daniel “ChuDat” Rodriguez.

Mango vs Armada Winners Semifinals
Genesis will get the famous rivalry between Joseph “Mango” Marquez and Adam “Armada” Lindgren, but not in the Grand Finals. Mango was questionably ranked in the fourth slot, setting up the matchup with Armada. Mango had a strong 7-3 record against Armada in 2016, but the match should come down to the wire.

The most likely scenario is winner of this set wins Genesis 4. Mango already sent Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma to losers bracket with a 3-1 victory. Each game was close, but Mango had counter-pick advantage. Hungrybox will face off with Jeff “Axe” Williamson, who’s having a good tournament.

S2J Thrills the NorCal Crowd
Easily the most intriguing set of day two was when Johnny “S2J” Kim sent the crowd into a ruckus and pushed Armada to the brink. Armada is rarely ever in that situation, so it was a key moment for S2J. His neutral game shined as he was landing long combos and evading attacks efficiently.

Unfortunately, his edge guards fell apart on game 5, as Armada got the reverse sweep. S2J eventually went on to get dismantled by Axe’s Pikachu to finish right outside the top 8. Even Armada looked shook at certain points against S2J.

Upset Results
Rishi “SmashG0d” Malhotra managed to take out James “Swedish Delight” Liu before top 64. SmashG0d went on to lose to Weston “Westballz” Dennis, who qualified for top 8 losers, but had another good performance at a major.

Swedish wasn’t the only top-15 player to fall to a lower seeded player. Mustafa “Ice” Ackakaya lost to Southern California Ice Climbers 3-0. Army did finish at his highest career placing, losing 3-0 to Joey “Lucky” Aldama. Lucky ended up winning six games in top 64 and finished one spot outside top 7.

Similarly to Hungrybox, Westball had some hand injury issues last week. His injury has not affected his game play, as Westballz has looked super strong. He qualified for top 8 by beating Zac “SFAT” Cordoni. It was a slaughtering, facilitated by the fact that SFAT wasn’t mentally prepared.

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Russell Westbrook’s Triple-Double Season, Better Than The Big O’s?

Averaging a triple-double is no small feat. Oscar Robertson is known for being the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double for an entire season. Russell Westbrook is trying to make history by becoming the second player ever to do it this season. Both are great players and deserve recognition, but Westbrook’s season is more impressive than Robertson’s. Here are the reasons why:

Minutes Per Game

The minutes played per game shows a huge gap between the two players. Robertson averaged a staggering 44.3 minutes per game during his triple-double season in 1961-1962. Westbrook is averaging about 10 less minutes per game at 34.6.

Russell Westbrook (Photo courtesy:thebiglead.com)

Scoring isn’t an issue for either player, as both could get to 10 points with ease in their allotted time (Robertson averaged 30.8 points, Westbrook averages 30.6 points). These extra minutes allowed Robertson to rack up his assist and rebound numbers that Westbrook doesn’t have the opportunity to (Robertson averaged 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists, Westbrook is averaging 10.6 rebounds and 10.4 assists). Give credit to Robertson for being able to play that much, but overall he produces less stats per minute than Westbrook (including turnovers sometimes).

NBA stat gurus look at what players can do per 36 minutes on the floor. Westbrook’s stats would go up and still be a triple-double with the extra time to get to 36 minutes. Robertson would have come up just short of a triple-double had he played 36 minutes per game. The Big O would have grabbed just enough boards at 10.1 rebounds per 36 minutes, but would have fallen short in his assist numbers with 9.2.

Now, from what the average fan knows about Russ, he would play all 48 minutes if allowed to, but that isn’t how the NBA works anymore. If they played the same amount of time on the floor, so far, Westbrook has Robertson beat.

Shots Attempted Per Game

This stat is surprising. Shortly after the shot clock era started (1954), in the 1961-1962 season, more shots were attempted per game than are now. In that season there was a league average of 107.7 field goal attempts per game, per team. This season, teams are averaging 85.4 field goal attempts per game.

Oscar Robertson (Photo courtesy: cincinnati.com)

As mentioned, this doesn’t really matter in terms of their scoring, but again this gives Robertson more access to assists and rebounds. With over 20 more attempts per game, Robertson has more chances to have teammates make shots off of his passes and has a better chance to rebound more.

In Robertson’s era, he made a rebound on 5.8% of shots attempted per game (average shots per team attempted x2, rebound average per game divided by the first number). Westbrook has done better, rebounding on 6.2% of shots attempted per game, while playing less minutes (giving him less opportunity to rebound the complete number of shots attempted in a game).

For assists, Robertson’s Cincinnati Royals averaged 105.2 shot attempts per game, while he averaged 11.4 assists per game. He assisted on 10.8% of the Royals shot attempts. Westbrook on the other hand has 10.4 assists per game, with the Thunder averaging 86.3 shot attempts per game. His number comes out to 12.1% of assists out of the Thunder’s shot attempts. Considering the field goal percentages of the teams are very similar at around 45%, Westbrook again is outperforming Robertson.

The more shots per game affect how many possessions a team has. Once again Robertson would fall short of a triple-double if his team had 100 possessions per game with 9.9 assists averaged per game, while Westbrook’s stats would improve.

Average Height and Weight

It is really tough for guards to average more than 10 rebounds per game. Players’ heights and weights haven’t changed as drastically as a lot of people would think, but they have changed. The average height has gone up about two inches from the time Robertson had his magnificent season to now. As for average weight, it has gone up around 16 pounds in that same period. 

Robertson was listed at 6’5″ and 205 pounds during his playing days. Taking the average height in inches from the graph above (1961), the average height of an NBA player was 6’4″. He actually had an edge on most players in the league rebounding-wise. His 205 pounds was also above the league average, giving him an advantage.

Westbrook stands at 6’3″ and 200 pounds. With the average height of the league being around 6’6″ tall, he has to fight for his rebounds. He is also well below the average weight of NBA players in today’s game, meaning he has to rely on his freakish athletic ability to jump and fight for rebounds.

With Westbrook battling among the trees for rebounds and Robertson being taller than the average height of his era, Westbrook’s rebounding numbers, though smaller in number, are more impressive.

Conclusion

Westbrook has a long way to go, 38 games to be exact, but as his stats stand now, his season is more impressive than Robertson’s. If he can finish out the year healthy, he will go down in history as having the best all-around individual season of all time.

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What’s Up Down Under? Australian Open Week One Takeaways

By the time this is published the second week of the Australian Open will be just a few hours from getting under way. There will plenty of time to look ahead. Here is look back at some of the best, wackiest, and most unexpected stories from week one in Melbourne.

Djokovic Stunned Early

Just when you think you have the answers, sports changes the questions. Six time Australian Open champ and pre-event favorite Novak Djokovic was ousted by 117th ranked wildcard Denis Istomin in round two. Istomin is a career journeyman who his coached by his mom partly because he cannot afford a traditional full time coach. That tells you all you need to know about the kind of win this is for him. He backed it up with another win and is still alive in the event.

Even so, Djokovic is the bigger story here. He has not won any of the three majors since he capped off his career Grand Slam in Paris in June. In two of those events, he has failed to reach the second week. Ultimately, this had more to do with Istomin playing the match of his life than Djokovic playing poorly, but it was still shocking that the Serb could not find a way. I think Djokovic will be fine, but he is vulnerable for the first time in a long time. How he handles that is the magic question going forward. Meanwhile, everyone else still alive has to feel they have more of an opportunity,

Jennifer Brady’s Fairytale Run

 

Photo Courtesy of ausopen.com

I will be the first to admit I had no clue who Jennifer Brady was prior to this event, I was not alone. However, the Pennsylvania born former UCLA Bruin has won three qualifying matches and three the main draw to reach the last 16. She had never won a Grand Slam main draw match before and will break into the top 100 with this result. While the Cinderella story will likely soon end, in a draw full of upsets, Brady’s is manageable for at least one more round.

 

 

Federer Turns Back the Clock

After a six month injury layoff and a scratchy first two rounds, questions about the all-time men’s Grand Slam winner were still running rampant as he faced 10th seed Tomas Berdych in the third round. Vintage Federer are the only two appropriate words. He raced through Bredych in 90 minutes, 6-2-6-2-6-4. You can watch the best of the best at his best in the small snippet below thanks to the KingOfTennis YouTube channel.

While fifth seeded Kei Nishikori will be tough task for Roger in the next round, it sure looks like the projected Federer-Andy Murray quarterfinal will decide the winner of this event, especially with Djokovic out of the picture.

 Safarova Saves Nine Match Points, wins

 

The early award for nuttiest match of 2017 goes to Yanina Wickmayer and Lucie Safarova in the first round of this Aussie Open. Wickmayer controlled the vast majority of the match, but every now and then the tennis gods remind us all that the last point is the toughest one to get. Safarova saved an incredible nine match points in the second set ended up winning going away, 3-6 7-6(7) 6-1. You can watch the drama below courtesy of tennis.com. Safarova was beaten in straight sets by Serena Williams in round two.

https://www.ausopen.com/en_AU/news/match_reports/2017-01-17/nine_match_points_saved_safarova_advances.html

Tennis Channel and/or the ESPN family of networks continue coverage beginning nightly at 7 PM ET for a few more days. Unfortunately for us Americans, as we get closer to the finals, live match coverage will take place almost exclusively at 3:30 AM ET with re-airs later in the morning.

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The Best Wide Receiver of All Time

The best fans of any sport know stats don’t tell the whole story. Stats play a huge role in judging which players are good, bad, or legendary. If stats were the only thing to judge a player by then the man who scored the most points in NBA history, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, should be the best right? Most would answer that with a no. Well if stats don’t determine who the best of all time is, maybe it is championships that determine the best of all time. Bill Russell won 11 NBA championships, but you won’t find any basketball fan who thinks he is the best of all time. It is a consensus that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever.

(http://www.thedailybeast.com)

How about in baseball? What do you use to determine the best baseball player of all time? Do you go by home runs or strikeouts? Do you look at how many championships a player has won? Is Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds the best baseball player ever?

How about in football? How do you determine who was the best of all time? Is it how much you ran for, threw for, or how many yards you caught passes for? Or are championships how you determine who the best of all time is?

(Detroit Lions-Associated Press)

There is no way to definitively determine who the best of all time is, it’s subjective. That is why there are sports debates about who the best is. Stats and championships don’t tell the entire story, which is why the eye test is so important when judging sports. Circumstances, such as teammates or coaches, affect who the best ever is as well.

There are issues with the eye too. A 13-year-old can’t possibly have seen how great Barry Sanders was without watching the film. Players from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s don’t have a lot of film on them to show people growing up now how great they were. When you bring stats, championships, circumstances, and the eye test all together, then it is possible to determine who the best really is.

So with all that said, who is the best wide receiver of all time?

 

Who Most Would Say

(Mandatory Credit:) Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport

No matter how old you are or how long you have been a fan of football, if someone were to ask you who the best wide receiver of all time is, who would you answer? Jerry Rice, without hesitation. Nobody even thinks about it because it has been the answer for such a long time. How could it not be Jerry Rice? Rice had one of the greatest careers in NFL history. He played for 20 seasons in the NFL. Rice is a 13-time Pro Bowler, a three-time Super Bowl champion, and a Super Bowl MVP.

Six times Rice led the NFL in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Rice still holds recordings for most receptions all-time (1,549), most receiving yards all-time (22,895), most receiving touchdowns all-time (197), and most all-purpose yards all-time (23,546). Perhaps the best season of Rice’s career came in a shortened 1987 season. In just 12 games, Rice finished with 65 receptions, 1,078 yards, and an astonishing 22 touchdowns. That is impressive to say the least. Rice has the stats, the championships, and the eye test as good as anyone in history. He also was always in the best of circumstances.

(AP Photo/Al Golub)

Rice came into the league with an established two-time Super Bowl Champion quarterback, Joe Montana. He played with Montana from 1985 until 1990. Once Montana was gone, Rice began catching passes from another Hall of Fame quarterback, Steve Young. From his rookie season in 1985 until 1998, Rice was fortunate enough to play with these all-time greats. Towards the end of Rice’s career, he caught passes from both Jeff Garcia and Rich Gannon. These quarterbacks were good as well.

Jeff Garcia was a four-time Pro Bowler and in his two seasons with Rice compiled 6,822 yards, 42 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions. Rich Gannon was also a four-time Pro Bowler and in his three seasons with Rice compiled 9,791 yards, 59 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions. Rice has never had an inadequate quarterback and was blessed to play with two Hall of Famers in his career.

Jerry Rice is one of the greatest players of all time and this is not to take away from his greatness. His stats are remarkable and are a testament to his longevity. There is just one receiver who was a better football player and had he been fortunate enough to have 14 seasons with Hall of Fame quarterbacks, such as Rice, he would be unequivocally considered the greatest receiver of all time.

 

Who is Really the Best WR of All Time?

(http://www.footballsfuture.com)

To describe the best wide receiver of all time, one would say he was, “straight cash homie”. That’s right, Randy Moss was the best receiver to ever set foot on the gridiron. He was so great his name became a verb. Anytime someone out-jumped a defender for a ball, the saying was, “he got mossed.” It takes a special kind of greatness for the world to turn your name into a verb like that.

Moss ranks 15th all-time in receptions (982), third all-time in receiving yards (15,292), and second all-time in receiving touchdowns (156). The stats are pretty remarkable over a 15-year career. He also holds the record for most receiving touchdowns in a single season with 23. Statistically speaking, he has been one of the best of all time. As far as championships go, Randy Moss never won a Super Bowl. It is one of the major accomplishments missing from his career.

The eye test is one of the areas Randy Moss excelled at above all. The man could flat out burn anybody and had some of the best hands in NFL history. This video shows how Moss revolutionized the game and became a defense’s worst nightmare.

Moss has the best eye test of any receiver in the history of football. His explosion, hands, and speed are unmatched. As mentioned before, one of the biggest flaws is the fact that he never won a Super Bowl. Moss was also rarely in a good quarterback situation. In his rookie season, he had both Randall Cunningham and Brad Johnson under center. The following year in 1999, Jeff George took most of the snaps. There was a bit more stability from 2000-2004 with Daunte Culpepper, but once Moss was traded to the Raiders, the instability continued.

(http://www.sacbee.com/sports/article31643531.html)

In Moss’ two seasons with the Raiders, he had three quarterbacks: Kerry Collins, Andrew Walter, and Aaron Brooks. Before ending up with Tom Brady and the Patriots in 2007, Moss had played in the NFL for nine seasons and had seven different quarterbacks.  To compare that with Jerry Rice’s first nine seasons, Rice only had two quarterbacks. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

Moss only spent three seasons with a quarterback of the same caliber as when Rice had Montana and Young. In those three seasons with the Patriots, Moss played in 48 games and amassed an amazing 422 receptions, 3,765 yards, and 47 touchdowns.

 

Better Circumstances

(http://gifsoup.com/view/4485570/randy-moss-td.html)

This makes you wonder, what if Moss had 14 seasons with Brady, a Hall of Fame quarterback like when Rice had with both Montana and Young? Moss didn’t play as long as Rice so it is hard to speculate. How about if Moss just had seven seasons with Brady? What would his all-time numbers look like then? For the sake of argument, let’s assume that after Moss left Minnesota he went straight to New England and finished his career there for seven seasons.

His stats after leaving Minnesota were 574 receptions, 9,142 yards, and 90 touchdowns. Moss averaged 83 receptions, 1,255 yards, and 15.7 touchdowns with Brady. Over 7 seasons, based on what he averaged with Brady for his three years in New England, his career stats would have finished with 1,155 receptions, 17,927 yards, and 200 touchdowns. Those numbers are absolutely ridiculous to think about.

(https://www.pinterest.com/pin/573646071256029480/)

Now for the sake of more argument, let’s say he spent 14 seasons in the NFL with Tom Brady, similar to Rice’s 14 seasons with Montana and Young. Moss’s career stats would be 1,162 receptions, 17,570 yards, and 220 touchdowns. The receptions and yards don’t change significantly, but the touchdowns sure do. 220 is unthinkable and Rice finished with 197. Had Moss spent more time with a Hall of Fame quarterback, more people wouldn’t hesitate to call Moss the best of all time. Longevity also really helped out Rice’s overall numbers as well. 20 seasons is a long time and it is rare for a player to last that long in such a violent sport.

The stats don’t tell the entire story of who is really the best. Super Bowl trophies tell the story of how a team did, not an individual. Looking at the eye test, and given the circumstances Moss had to deal with, it is clear to see that he truly was the best wide receiver of all time.

 

 

 

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