Weekly Recall

StarCraft Weekly Recall

Welcome to my second ever Weekly Recall, a recap of the major events in StarCraft in the past week.

 

GSL Round of 16 – Group C

 

Players: Kim “herO” Joon Ho, Cho “Trap” Sung Ho, Kim “Ryung” Dong Won, Lee “Leenok” Dong Nyung

 

Advancing Players: herO, Ryung

 

herO

herO came into Group C looking to make a statement. With so much focus recently on the top Terrans, it’s easy to forget there are genuine threats from other races. And he made his point, tearing his way through the Group, making it too clear he’s still in the running for the trophy. HerO advanced in 1st place, 4-1, dropping a game only to Trap. It’s no secret that herO has been a dominant force in PvT, and he proved it here.

Especially with the top three Terrans currently playing tournament favorites. If herO can make it past his next round into the final stages of GSL, there is a very real possibility that this could be the season herO finally takes his first GSL title.

Ryung

If there’s one thing to say about Ryung, it’s that he’s resilient. He showcased some intriguing Mech builds against Leenok, taking a relatively clean series 2-1. After getting taken out by herO 0-2 in the Winner’s Match, he took a close series against Trap 2-1. Advancing in second place after a final game on Cactus Valley simply by surviving Trap’s repeated waves of Adept harassment and pushing the fight back to Trap’s side of the map at his most vulnerable point.

Trap

Trap’s ability to harass has to be among the best in the world right now. We saw his ability to dig himself out of a massive disadvantage with only a handful of Adepts against Armani. His Oracle micro against Solar was nothing short of inspirational. And again here against Ryung, taking a map of Ryung with repeated Adept harassment. Taking out as many as 30 workers in a single run to win Abyssal Reef.

Again, in the final game on Cactus Valley, Trap continuously traded out waves of Adepts, but dealing almost crippling economic damage in return. Unfortunately, Trap’s over-commitment to his harassment style ended up costing him the game. Ryung eventually took the fight right to Trap’s main army and Trap was simply unable to hold. He failed to tech up into any form of AoE Protoss needs to take a fight against a complex Terran army.

He ended a hard fought day 4-4.

Leenok

Leenok was, for the most part, just outmatched, ending the day 1-4. He took a single map off Ryung from a disadvantageous situation with some impressive Fungals and swift punishment of Ryung’s aggressive positioning.

 

Weekly Recall

I feel like this one moment is a metaphor for herO’s performance in PvT at the moment.

 

GSL Round of 16 – Group D

 

Players: Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin, Hwang “KeeN” Kyu Seok, Lee “Bunny” Jae Sun, Cho “Maru” Sung Ju

 

Advancing Players: Maru, sOs

 

Maru

A week ago, I said Jun “TY” Tae Yang looked like the best player in the World. Maru came out in Group D to make his case. After dismantling Bunny in his first match 2-0 through superior tactical positioning, he went on to crush KeeN in the winners match. In his first game, he punished a heavy over-extension by KeeN in TY’s base by making a doom drop right into KeeN’s army before he had a chance to replenish.

His second game against KeeN was hard to watch. Pushing into KeeN with a heavy Reaper harassment, taking him apart through nothing but Reaper micro. Closing out the game in less than four minutes and dropping a “manner-MULE” into KeeN’s base for his trouble.

Maru ended the day 4-0, advancing cleanly in first place.

sOs

Ever the wildcard, sOs ended up in the Elimination Match against Bunny after losing to KeeN 1-2 in the first match of the day. SOs would then proceed to win the next four games in a row, first 2-0 against Bunny, and then again against KeeN in the final match. Showcasing his unique take on PvT with mass Phoenix and Adept harassment. Reminding us that sOs’ greatest asset has always been his ability to know exactly what his opponent’s least expects.

SOs ended the day 5-2, advancing in second place.

SOs will face a rematch in the quarterfinals against herO, both of whom met previously in the last GSL, in the quarterfinals as well. SOs took that series 3-0. With herO looking near unstoppable in PvT at the moment, sOs is now looking to play upset, possibly being all that stands in the way of herO’s first GSL win.

KeeN

We really have to give some love to KeeN because he got nothing of the sort from the pair from Jin Air. He first got manner-MULE’d by Maru, then BM’d again from sOs as he closed out the Final Match. KeeN put on a strong show against sOs in the first match of the day. Game 3 of the first match on Abyssal Reef was perhaps the best game of the day. But for KeeN, the day went downhill from there. KeeN ended the day 2-5, losing 0-2 to Maru in the Winner’s Match, and then 0-2 again to sOs in the Final Match.

Bunny

It seems the theme of Week 2 of the Round of 16 to have one player that just failed to show up. For Group D, that player was Bunny. Though it’s unfair to compare Bunny’s performance to Leenok in Group C, Leenok for the most part looked like a fish out of water. Bunny put on a resilient show against Maru, but was just outclassed.

 

 

Weekly Recall

Maru vividly reminds me of one of those pre-teen school girls from those Japanese Horrors. He looks cute and harmless on the outside but there is nothing even remotely resembling a soul on the inside.

 

 

Call to Action: Test Map Updates

 

Terran

Widow Mine: +shield bonus damage on splash reduced from +40 to +25 (to be clear, damage on primary target will be unchanged from live, only the splash damage has been nerfed).

 

Zerg

(New) Corruptor: Movement speed changed from 4.1343 to 4.725. Acceleration speed changed from 3.675 to 4.2. Parasite Spore weapon damage point (ie. attack delay) changed from .1193 to .0446.

Hydralisk: Health increased from 80 to 90

 

 

 

Community Highlights

 

 

And since this is my first Community Highlight ever, I’m just going to cheat with two bonus entries from a couple weeks ago.

 

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

Follow me on Twitter: @Stefan_SC2

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StarLadder I-League StarSeries Season 3 LAN Finals Preview

As we move further into the year, the tournaments are coming thick and fast. Next up is the StarLadder season 3 LAN finals held in the Shanghai International Gymnastics Center. StarLadder will take place February 23rd – 26th and will showcase some of the best teams in the world.

StarLadder Prize Pool

The prize pool is $300,000 USD, split as follows:

Place $ USD Team
1st $135,000 TBD
2nd $60,000 TBD
3rd $37,500 TBD
4th $22,500 TBD
place 5 to 8
5th-6th $15,000 TBD
TBD
7th-8th $7,500 TBD
TBD

Courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/dota2/StarLadder/i-League_StarSeries/Season_3

StarLadder Format

The teams will be split into two groups, each containing four teams. The group stage will contain a double-elimination bracket with the top two teams advancing to bracket play. Bracket play will be a four team single-elimination bracket, with the semifinals being best of threes, and the final a best of five.

The Teams

Wings Gaming – Direct Invite

Wings StarLadder

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Shadow

Position 2 (Mid) – Blink

Position 3 (Offlane) – Faith_bian

Position 4 (Support) – y’

Position 5 (Support) – iceice

Wings have been missing from the competitive scene since ESL One Genting. After facing troubles with visas, they missed out on Dota Pit, meaning they have had very few games on the new patch. Since winning TI, Wings have not reached the heights that were expected by many fans.

Wings will be hoping to put in a good performance to try and secure an invite to Kiev. Considering the talent on show at StarLadder, Wings have a tough task ahead of them.

Prediction – 5th / 6th

Wings placement will rely heavily on the group that they are placed in. However, they have failed to impress since TI and will struggle to make it out of the group stages. They will be hoping to kick start their year with a decent performance to give them some momentum heading into the Kiev Major.

OG – Direct Invite

OG StarLadder

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Notail

Position 2 (Mid) – Ana

Position 3 (Offlane) – s4

Position 4 (Support) – JerAx

Position 5 (Support) – Fly

For some reason there seems to always be questions surrounding the ability of this OG team. Having proved at both Boston and DotaPit that they are one of the best, if not the best, team in the world, they will be hoping to impress at StarLadder. As winners of the Boston Major, they are guaranteed an invite to Kiev, so they hope to silence the critics once again with an emphatic display.

Predictions – 1st Place

OG have the pedigree and ability to win this tournament. Coming off the back of a second place finish at DotaPit, OG will be looking to step it up a level and finish first. Also, as EG are missing from the event, OG will feel confident with their chances.

Team Liquid – European Qualifier #1

Team Liquid StarLadder

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – MATUMBAMAN

Position 2 (Mid) – Miracle-

Position 3 (Offlane) – MinD_ContRoL

Position 4 (Support) – GH

Position 5 (Support) – KuroKy

StarLadder will be the LAN debut for the new Team Liquid and they hope to start it off with a victory. Liquid will be coming into the tournament on the back of an impressive 12 game win streak. They hope that an impressive performance at StarLadder can secure them a direct invite to the upcoming Kiev Major.

Prediction – 2nd Place

Liquid are on an upward trend, however they will eventually cross paths with OG. Taking the W against Fly and the rest of OG may be a step too far for Liquid, but it will be good for the team to get some LAN experience together.

Team Secret – European Qualifier #2

Secret StarLadder

Image courtesy of teamsecret.gg

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – MP

Position 2 (Mid) – MidOne

Position 3 (Offlane) – Khezu

Position 4 (Support) – Puppey

Position 5 (Support) – pieliedie

This is the second major tournament that the new look Secret have competed in as a team. The first, DotaPit, did not go as planned. Secret ended up finishing in a disappointing 5th / 6th. Having displayed good promise early in the tournament by beating DC, they eventually fell in the losers bracket. Secret hope to prove that they can still be one of the best teams in the world. StarLadder provides them with teams they should beat 70% of the time.

Prediction – 4th Place

With Wings and DC both looking fragile, Secret have a real chance at finishing strong in this event. However, with the likes of Liquid and OG also competing, a top three finish may be just out of reach. This will be the chance for Secret to gain some momentum heading into the Kiev Major qualifiers.

Team VG.J – China Qualifier #1

VG.J StarLadder

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Agressif

Position 2 (Mid) – Freeze

Position 3 (Offlane) – rOtk

Position 4 (Support) – fy

Position 5 (Support) – Fenrir

This will be VG.J’s first venture into international competition. The squad is stacked with some of the best players in China and will be expected to perform well on home soil. Mid player Liu “Freeze” Change is a relative unknown in the international scene and hopes to put his name on the map at StarLadder.

Prediction – 3rd

VG.J posses some of the best talent in Chinese Dota currently, and with Wings misfiring and Newbee not at the event, VG.J are China’s only hope. With four veterans of Dota, this team has the makings of a world beater. The only question is whether they can realize their potential or fall by the side.

iG Vitality – China Qualifier #2

iG.V StarLadder

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Paparazi

Position 2 (Mid) – Sakata

Position 3 (Offlane) – InJuly

Position 4 (Support) – Super

Position 5 (Support) – dogf1ghts

iG.V are a small fish surrounded by blood thirsty sharks. Similar to Elements Pro Gaming at Dota Pit, they are slightly out of place. As they have been playing together for nearly a year, they hope to possess an advantage over some of the newly formed teams. Having failed at Boston, they have been relatively quiet. This is also their first appearance on the international scene.

Prediction – 7th / 8th

Dota games are not played on paper. This is the thing iG.V will be relying on heading in to the tournament. They are on home soil and will be hoping that the crowd can push them to victory. However, they are against several strong teams and will be hard pressed to mount any serious challenge.

Digital Chaos – America Qualifier

DC StarLadder

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Resolution

Position 2 (Mid) – w33

Position 3 (Offlane) – MoonMeander

Position 4 (Support) – MiSeRy

Position 5 (Support) – Saksa

In the last six weeks we have seen the two sides of DC. To go from dominating the field at ESL One Genting to finishing last at DotaPit is not good enough. DC are coming into the event in a weird place. They managed to qualify for the event beating NP in a playoff. However, a few weeks later they failed to qualify for DAC, losing to NP in the finals. They hope to make a comeback and put in a solid performance at StarLadder to secure an invite to Kiev.

Prediction – 5th / 6th

DC look out of sorts since ESL One Genting. The nature of the victory may have lead them to slack a bit heading into DotaPit. However, it is nearly time for the direct invites to Kiev to be announced. DC hope that they can reignite the fire of ESL One and put in a solid performance for the tournament.

TNC Pro Team

TNC StarLadder

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Raven

Position 2 (Mid) – Kuku

Position 3 (Offlane) – Sam_H

Position 4 (Support) – Tims

Position 5 (Support) – ryOyr

TNC are used to being the underdogs, so this time around will be no different. They are the second best team in SEA, after Faceless, so this will be a tough challenge for TNC. With Faceless likely to receive a direct invite to Kiev, TNC will be able to use the tournament as a warm-up for the Kiev Qualifiers. TNC hope to catch a few teams off-guard using their unpredictable play style.

Prediction – 7th / 8th

TNC are a difficult team to predict, considering the unpredictable nature of their play. They will be hoping to use this to their advantage and upset a few teams and achieve a decent finish.

StarLadder Final Thoughts

Team Liquid makes their return to international competition at StarLadder, and hope to return with a bang. Standing in their way is OG, the silent assassins that know how to win and win often. OG look to be the favorites for the event, but Liquid have the potential to win. Looking through the rest of the teams, VG.J and Secret have the potential to challenge in the later stages of the tournament. TNC and iG Vitality look to be the weakest of the teams, and will be hoping that they can cause a few upsets and end up with a decent position.

Overall Predictions:

1st Place – OG

2nd Place – Team Liquid

3rd Place – Team VG.J

4th Place – Team Secret

5th / 6th Place – Digital Chaos / Wings Gaming

7th / 8th Place – iG Vitality / TNC Pro Team

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Tony Romo

For Some Teams, Not Signing Romo is a Bigger Risk Than Doing So

Despite Cowboys owner Jerry Jones not sounding fully ready to move on, reports emerged earlier this week that quarterback Tony Romo will be released. Assuming these reports are true, the market for the often injured 36-year-old quarterback is not being viewed correctly. For three teams in particular, he would not be a risk, but rather a lifeline.

Before we get there, let’s trim the field a little bit. By his own admission, Romo only has two or three years left. Thus, being part of a total rebuild in Cleveland or San Francisco is out of the question. Carson Palmer is coming back in 2017 for another season with the Cardinals. The Broncos continue to articulate their commitment to Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.

The Jets and Bills are hoarding young quarterbacks in the hopes that one might stick. Adding a veteran like Romo just does not seem to be on their radar, but perhaps it should be.

All these teams seem poised to either stand pat, add a quarterback through the draft, or look for a longer-term solution in free agency. If he is released and not traded, the teams that should be beating down Romo’s door are as follows.

Bears: Chicago is not as far away as last year’s 3-13 record suggests. They lost six games by one possession. Despite not being highly thought of by fans, John Fox is actually a heck of a coach. He got to a Super Bowl with Jake Delhomme and won a division title with Tim Tebow.

Jay Cutler John Fox

Photo: twitimes.com

The organization seems poised to move on from the temperamental enigma that is Jay Cutler. Romo is the kind of upgrade Fox needs to improve upon his 9-23 mark with the Bears and keep his job beyond this year.

 

Pair Romo with emerging running back Jordan Howard and an improving defense that ranked seventh against the pass last year, and the playoffs are not a stretch. Romo has roots in Illinois. The same can be said of Jimmy Garoppolo, who could be a fallback option for the Bears. Regardless, Chicago will likely add a quarterback at some point in the draft as well.

Texans: These next two teams would be tricky from a financial perspective, but I am not an accountant. It took winning a playoff game with Brock Osweiler for Texans head coach Bill O’Brien to receive confirmation from ownership that he would return in 2017.

O’Brien is a fine coach who had nothing to do with the ridiculous $72 million contract Osweiler was given. Rest assured though, O’Brien will take the fall if quarterback play continues to hold the rest of this championship caliber roster back. A completion percentage under 60 and more interceptions than touchdowns should be enough to give up on Osweiler after one year, despite his contract.

Romo would bring quarterback stability to Houston, something the franchise has never had. If he gets hurt, the Texans would be right back where they are now. However, at least he would offer a potential off-ramp from the path to nowhere they are on with their current quarterback options.

Vikings: I am on an island here, but Minnesota is loaded. With guys like Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen and Xavier Rhodes on defense, the Vikings are a notch below the 2015 Broncos. The defense cannot win a title by itself, but a slightly more balanced Vikings team would be lethal.

After his devastating training camp injury last year, questions continue to linger about Teddy Bridgewater’s future. Mike Zimmer seems strangely stubborn about sticking with Sam Bradford. Granted, the Vikings did give up a lot to bring him in. As good as his record completion percentage and four to one touchdown to interception ratio made him look last year, there is one very important thing Bradford has never done all that well: win games.

sam bradford

Photo: foxnews.com

In 78 career starts for three different franchises, Bradford has posted a winning percentage of 41 percent and has never lead a team to the playoffs. In the words of a very wise Canadian songstress, “that don’t impress me much.” Yes, football is the ultimate team sport. However, the blame has to start going on the quarterback and not the supporting cast.

After fading down the stretch behind Bradford last year and putting up only nine points in a home playoff loss with Bidgewater the year before, Zimmer needs to start winning big quick or whispers will start about his job security. With the talent on this roster, a healthy Romo makes the Vikings instant Super Bowl contenders. Sticking with Bradford makes Zimmer being unemployed within two years a virtual certainty.

Understandably, there is real skepticism about Romo’s ability to stay healthy for an entire season. He has not done so since 2014. Even so, for these three coaching staffs under varying degrees of pressure to win now, his career winning percentage (61 percent) makes him a chance worth taking. In fact, recycling average veteran or unseasoned young quarterbacks that will get them nowhere is a much bigger risk.

 

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“From Our Haus To Yours”

ONOG’s Pokémon Invitational Is Monumental for the Growth of VGC

“To celebrate the recent resurgence of Pokémon, ONOG, in collaboration with GEICO Gaming, would like to invite you to witness a tournament between the best and most storied Pokémon video game players of this generation.”

One Nation of Gamers presents a Pokémon Invitational tournament with prize money on the line. Eight of the best players from around the world will duke it out. The tournament will take place over two days (February 25th-26th) and will be multi-stage, double elimination format. Insurance company turned esports organization GEICO Gaming will be sponsoring and fully supporting the tournament.

Who Ya Got?

Courtesy of ONOG

The eight players that will be competing include the past three World Champions: Wolfe “Wolfey” Glick, Shoma “SHADEviera” Honami, and Sejun Park. It also includes players and popular YouTubers: Markus “13Yoshi37” Stadter, Enosh “Human” Shachar, Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng, Alex Ogloza, and Dan “aDrive” Clap.

The cast of players featured ensures that the level of competition will be high. It seems that every single match will be a feature. With this many well-known players going up against each other, the viewership is sure to be on par with official tournament streams.

What’s On the Line?

There are no Championship Points or trips to Worlds up for grabs. Rather, a $1000 prize pool will be distributed among the top four.

Not Your Traditional Format

The tournament will be structured in two stages: A group stage that is double elimination where players will play best-of-three matches, and a playoff stage that will be single elimination with best-of-five matches. This new approach to the traditional VGC tournament structure is sure to shake things up. It may further mitigate chances of a set coming down to RNG too.

Where Can I Watch the Tournament?

Each match from the tournament will be live on ONOG’s Twitch and YouTube channels. Justin Carris, a newer yet polished commentator, will be leading the match commentary with competitors coming on to assist him.

Why This is a Huge Deal

This is the first independent Pokémon VGC tournament with this big of a sponsor since APEX in 2014. Esports organizations like ONOG and GEICO Gaming bring promise for others to set their eyes on Pokémon as a game that has potential to rise to the level of other major esports. The prize pool, as well as the caliber of players, legitimizes a high level of competitive play that spectators will be excited to watch. The potential viewership numbers makes this tournament sure to attract a ton of attention to the game. Hopefully more of these tournaments are on the way, as this one is sure to set a stellar example.

Final Words

This tournament has a ton of well deserved hype surrounding it. The matches will be exciting, the tournament will be well covered, and the potential growth for VGC is almost certain. In partnership with Trainer Tower, profiles for each player will be posted throughout the week. For more details about the tournament, visit the official site at: http://pokemon.onog.gg/, and get hyped for February 25th!

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2017 American League Preview: The AL East

Divisional competition consistently provides us some of the most compelling storylines in sports. While there are classic rivalries across any league, few match the excitement of a tight September pennant chase. In the weeks leading up to the season, The Game Haus will breakdown these classic divisional matchups and predict their outcome.

This week’s preview looks into the fierce battleground shaping up in the AL East. Baseball is famous for league parity, providing an environment where any team can emerge if they’re in the October hunt. In 2017, no division better represents this notion than the hotly contested American League East.

In addition to playing host to the storied rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox, several other teams have proven themselves contenders in recent years.  The road to the playoffs is never easy, but teams emerging from this division will have undoubtedly earned their spot.

 

#5 Tampa Bay Rays

2017 American League Preview: The AL East

2017 Projected Record: 70-92

One has to admire the Rays continued offseason efforts to infuse young talent into the organization. However, this is not the year for the Rays to compete with the remainder of the division. Tampa still has franchise stalwart Evan Longoria, and Kevin Kiermaier continues to improve.

It won’t be enough to contend. The Rays should improve slightly this year, but their main focus will be expediting young talent through the minors.

 

#4 Baltimore Orioles

2017 American League Preview: The AL East

2017 Projected Record: 82-80

2017 American League Preview: The AL East

The Orioles’ front office must have breathed a collective sigh of relief when Mark Trumbo signed on the dotted line. Attempting to replace league leading home run production with the acquisition of Seth Smith can hardly be considered a strategy. Most would expect some regression as it relates to Trumbo’s torrid power spree, but Baltimore will need every last long ball given the pitching situation.

There’s a ton to like about Baltimore’s lineup, and their power potential could very well lead the MLB once again. That said, relying on Chris Tillman to act as rotation ace should be a clear indication of a gap. Baltimore ended up posting an impressive 89 wins in 2016, but it’s hard to visualize a repeat performance.

 

#3 New York Yankees

2017 American League Preview: The AL East

2017 Projected Record: 85-77

Viewing the Yankees as the dark horse candidate in this division feels foreign. New York has spent the last few years on the cusp of contention but experienced a disappointing finish in 2016. However, a subpar finish to the season was quickly replaced by incredible optimism for the future. In an impressive series of moves, general manager Brian Cashman orchestrated the acquisition of several of the league’s top prospects from contenders.

The Yankees will look to put some of that young talent on display in 2017. Behind young bats Gary Sánchez and Aaron Judge, the Yankees should see an uptick in offensive production. The question facing New York will be last year’s injured and underperforming rotation.  The Yankees will give their divisional opponents headaches but may be a year out of real contention.

 

#2 Toronto Blue Jay’s

2017 American League Preview: The AL East

2017 Projected Record: 87-75

2017 American League Preview: The AL East

Edwin Encarnacion’s WAR in 2016 was 3.7, so perhaps projecting the 2016 win total to only drop by two is optimistic. The acquisitions of Kendrys Morales and Francisco Liriano, along with a dominant rotation has to count for something.

The Jays were also able to resign Jose Bautista and have many options to replace Michael Saunders. Overall, not much has changed for the Jays.

The core of what makes Toronto dangerous is still in place and this fiery Jays team will compete in 2017. The lineup is still strong, but the Jay’s will rely on the rotation that led the American League in ERA.

 

#1 Boston Red Sox

2017 American League Preview: The AL East

2017 Projected Record: 92-70

There are many worthy teams in the AL East, but one club stands above the rest. The Red Sox fell short in the ALDS last year but look to return with a vengeance in 2017. With the offseason acquisition of Chris Sale and rapid progression of star prospect Andrew Benintendi, Boston stands ready to compete.

The team that sported the most runs last year will miss the production of legend David Ortiz. However, the amount of young talent in the batting order backed by a star-studded rotation should put Boston at the top of arguably the most competitive division in the MLB.

 

*All logo images courtesy of MLB.com*

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National League East

Predicting Each MLB Division: National League East

Opening Day is 44 days away, and Spring Training is already here. We are going to take a division by division look at each team and try to predict their 2017 season. Let’s take a look at the National League East.

Philadelphia Phillies – Fifth

National League East

Odubel Herrera was a Rule 5 Draft steal for the Phillies (Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports).

The 2017 season will be another long one for the Phillies. However, contention is not that far away.

Starting pitcher Aaron Nola will look to make the jump from top prospect to top pitcher. He will be joined by young pitchers Vincent Velasquez and Jerad Eickhoff to form a solid pitching core. They will be supplemented by veterans Jeremy Hellickson and Clay Buchholz.

The bullpen will rely on closer Jeanmar Gomez and reliever Pat Neshek to provide solid seasons. Starters will need to pitch late into games to cover their bullpen.

In the field, sluggers Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph will be joined by speedster Odubel Herrera to form a core of young players the Phillies are counting on. Outfielders Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders add experience to the lineup.

The Phillies are one of the youngest teams in the majors and will rely heavily on their farm system in the coming years. For now their talent level is just not there, and it will be difficult for them to finish better than fifth place in a tough division.

Atlanta Braves – Fourth

National League East

R.A. Dickey will move from the AL East to the NL East in 2017 (Credit: AP Photo/Winslow Townson).

General Manager John Coppolella has been aggressive this past offseason, hoping to draw more fans to their new park. The team has improved all over the diamond, especially on the mound.

Staff Ace Julio Teheran will have some good mentors for the 2017 season with the additions of R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon. Mike Foltynewicz and Jaime Garcia will round out the rotation with something to prove in 2017.

Jim Johnson enters 2017 as the closer for the Braves and headlines a no-name pen. Watch out for youngsters Mauricio Cabrera and Paco Rodriguez. Both players put up a sub 3.00 ERA and should only improve after having gained MLB experience in 2016.

The infield will be bolstered by newcomer Brandon Phillips. He will mentor top prospect Dansby Swanson and mix well with Matt Kemp and Freddie Freeman to form a potent lineup.

While there is talent in Atlanta, their prospects in 2017 of winning the division are slim. A fourth-place finish will be an achievement for the Braves, as they have the building blocks for a bright future.

Miami Marlins – Third

National League East

Realmuto is the present and future for the Marlins behind the plate (Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports).

After the Jose Fernandez tragedy at the end of the 2016 season, this year will prove to be a tough one in Miami. While the Marlins can’t replace a personality like Fernandez, they will have to replace him in the rotation. That is a tall task.

The additions of pitchers Edinson Volquez and Dan Straily are a step in the right direction, but they need more. Wei-Yin Chen will be the staff ace, and needs to improve on his 2016 ERA of 4.96. Solid years from Adam Conley and Tom Koehler will stabilize the back of the rotation.

In the pen, closer A.J. Ramos will be joined by a deep supporting cast. Brad Ziegler, Kyle Barraclough, David Phelps and Junichi Tazawa provide plenty of talent and experience to form a solid bullpen.

Dee Gordon will return for a full season, and catcher J.T. Realmuto will look to improve his offense. Led by Giancarlo Stanton, the outfield of Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna will power the Marlins’ offense.

If the Marlins can get solid starts out of their rotation, their bullpen will be able to close out games. With an explosive offense headed by Stanton, the Marlins are a dark horse contender in the NL East. A third place finish seems more likely.

New York Mets – Second

National League East

Walker had a good first season in New York, blasting 23 bombs (Credit: Frank Franklin II/AP).

As the 2017 season approaches, the Mets look to build upon their NLWC loss from last season. With the majority of the roster returning, the Mets are a solid team heading into 2017.

Pitcher Matt Harvey comes into the season trying to rebound from shoulder surgery last season and will be a big boost for their staff. Starters Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz will also try to stick in the rotation. Anchored by Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, the rotation is what drives the Mets success.

The bullpen will be centered around NL All-Star closer Jeurys Familia. Bolstered by Hansel Robles and Addison Reed, the Mets have a pen that should work well in tandem with their star-studded rotation.

Off the mound, the Mets will be led by left fielder Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes provides plenty of power in the middle of the lineup. Coupled with veteran Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Lucas Duda and Jay Bruce, the Mets have a potent lineup. Things could be even better for the Mets if franchise cornerstone David Wright can return from injury.

The story for the Mets this season will be how their star players return from injury. With Harvey and Wright both trying to return to stardom, the Mets can’t count on them for the 2017 season. If they do return, the Mets could go much farther than many think. At this point, the Mets are a good bet to finish second in the division.

National League East

Zimmerman will hope to bounce back after a dreadful 2016 (Credit: Alex Brandon/AP Photo).

Washington Nationals – First

With a stacked rotation and lineup, the Nationals have underperformed in the past few seasons. With new additions in the offseason, they should make the playoffs.

The pitching staff remains intact from 2016, headlined by the one-two punch of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Both pitchers have Cy Young capabilities and are set to have terrific seasons. The rotation will be filled out by Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross to form one of the best in the majors.

The bullpen is lacking, with journeyman Shawn Kelley taking over the closer role in D.C. If relievers Blake Treinen and Sammy Solis can repeat their 2016 performances, this weakness may turn into a strength.

The Washington lineup is one of the deepest in the bigs, headlined by Bryce Harper. He will be joined by Trea Turner, Daniel Murphy and Adam Eaton to form a potent offense. Veterans Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman are also solid players that Washington will be counting on.

The Nationals are one of the deepest teams in the league, and their talent level rivals any other team. The 2017 season should be a good one in D.C., as the Nationals have the talent to finish first in the division.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 5 Setup Men for 2017

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 5 Setup Men for 2017

The Game Haus presents our fantasy baseball rankings: top 5 setup men for 2017.

Setup men have become a premier aspect of baseball in the last decade as teams have begun to acquire multiple high-level relief pitchers in order to lock down the final innings of the game.

Standard fantasy baseball leagues generally do not include holds in their scoring formats, although I believe holds are integral to the game of baseball and thus belong as a stat in the fantasy version as well.

For anyone unfamiliar with a hold, it is a statistic that measures the effectiveness of relievers. A pitcher is rewarded with a hold when he enters the game with his team in the lead in a save situation, which is a lead of no more than three runs, and hands over that lead to another reliever without giving up the lead.

 

Below are the top five setup men heading into the 2017 season.

Exceptions include: Addison Reed, who will close games while Juerys Familia serves his looming suspension, and Cam Bedrosian, who could take Huston Street’s closer job.

Honorable mentions include: Will Harris, Luke Gregerson, Tyler Clippard, Darren O’Day, Kyle Barraclough, Hunter Strickland, Will Smith, and Derek Law.

 

5. Nate Jones, Chicago White Sox

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 5 Setup Men for 2017

What do David Robertson trade rumors mean for Nate Jones? (Courtesy of zimbio.com)

Nate Jones commonly goes overlooked as he is on the rebuilding Chicago White Sox, although he offers great value as a setup man in 2017.

He finished 2016 with a 2.29 ERA, 10.19 K/9, and 28 holds. This was his second consecutive season of over 10 K/9 and a sub-one WHIP.

Jones had an excellent 2.93 FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, which measures what a pitcher’s ERA would look like if they were to receive average fielding results on balls in play.

With David Robertson trade rumors lurking, Jones may be moved to the closer role, but for the time being he is the fifth best option for holds in 2017.

 

4. Tyler Thornburg, Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox acquired the Milwaukee Brewers reliever in December of 2016 in exchange for Travis Shaw, two minor league prospects, and cash considerations.

Thornburg flourished as Milwaukee’s top setup man in 2016, finishing the season with a 2.1 ERA, 20 holds and 13 saves. His mid-90’s fastball and devastating curve helped him strikeout over 12 batters per nine innings. He also had an excellent FIP of 2.83, which suggest that he will find continued success no matter who is fielding behind him.

The 28-year-old will act as the bridge to Craig Kimbrel in 2017, giving him plenty of hold opportunities. Also, if Kimbrel were to go down, Thornburg would be the next man up.

 

3. Brad Brach, Baltimore Orioles

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 5 Setup Men for 2017

Brad Brach looks to build on his 2016 All-star campaign heading to 2017. (Courtesy of The Baltimore Sun)

Brach expanded on his 2015 breakout by exploding in 2016. The first-time All-star finished the year with a 2.05 ERA, 10.48 K/9, and 24 holds.

He improved his career averages across the board, most notably cutting his walks per nine innings down by 1.46, to a very manageable 2.85 BB/9.

I do not see any signs of regression for Brach in 2017, as his BABIP (batting average on balls batted in play), ground ball percentage, and homerun to fly ball rates have remained steady over his last three seasons.

Brach is cemented in as the Orioles’ eighth inning guy, with Darren O’Day working the seventh, and closer Zach Britton shutting it down in the ninth.

 

2. Dellin Betances, New York Yankees

The New York Yankees fireman finished 2016 with 28 holds, 12 saves, and an ERA of 3.08. His ERA was his highest in three seasons, although his FIP was an astounding 1.78, suggesting that his fielding contributed largely to his struggles.

The 6 foot 8, 260-pound hurler has increased his K/9 in every consecutive season, and sports a career average of 14.28. He exhibited a career high 15.53 K/9, which lead the league among qualifying relief pitchers in 2016.

He will return to a setup role as the Yankees reacquired closer Aroldis Chapman in free agency.

Betances will continue to dominate batters with his demoralizing cutter, similar to the likes of Kenley Jansen and Mariano Rivera.

The all-world reliever will be an asset for any fantasy team in 2017, whether the league awards points for holds or not.

 

1. Andrew Miller, Cleveland Indians

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 5 Setup Men for 2017

Andrew Miller is set to continue his regular season dominance in 2017. (Courtesy of Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Arguably the most dominant pitcher in the game, it is no surprise to see Andrew Miller at the top of this list. His 2016 campaign resulted in an astounding 1.45 ERA, 14.89 K/9, 25 holds and 12 saves.

Miller will remain as a late inning work horse for the Indians, offering availability in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings. The 31-year-old will remain as Cody Allen’s setup man in 2017 and will be a key contributor in the tribe’s hunt for October.

The lethal lefty offers great value to all leagues, as he will contribute elite ratios and inevitably a few rogue saves.

 

 

 

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Gustav Nyquist, Brian McGratten, Edmonton Oilers, Zach Kassian, Vancouver Canucks, Charlie Coyle, Minnesota Wild, Duncan Keith, Florida Panthers, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Sam Gagner, NHL, Department of Player Safety, Suspension, Hockey, High-Stick

Is Six Games Enough For Nyquist’s High Stick?

On Wednesday the NHL’s Department of Player Safety handed Gustav Nyquist, of the Detroit Red Wings, a six game suspension for high-sticking Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon. He will be suspended without pay and forfeit $158,333.34 to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

The six game ruling came after the Swedish winger waived the right to an in-person hearing. Given that he was offered an in-person hearing the League’s Department of Player Safety had the ability to hand out a lengthier sentence but chose not to.

Which has many wondering if they should they have?

THE HIGH-STICK

The suspension came in the wake of a blatant high-sticking incident which took place during a game between the Wings and the Wild in Minnesota on Sunday, February 12. Nyquist was penalized for the play, assessed a double-minor for high-sticking at 14:13 of the first period.

In defense of his actions Nyquist stated that his intention was not to spear Spurgeon in the face, but rather deliver a cross-check in retaliation for the one he had just received from the Wild defenseman. He attested that he had attempted to bring his stick across his body but the blade was accidentally caught by Spurgeon instead.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN MORE

Regardless of his intention, Nyquist did in fact spear Spurgeon square in face. He delivered a high-stick the Department of Player Safety called “potentially career-threatening.” Had Nyquist been able to bring his stick across his body without spearing Spurgeon, he still admitted to attempting to deliver a blow to player with his stick.

This intention on this play was to injure and the results could have been much worse.

Handing out only a six game sentence has many dumbfounded of the League’s decision, including the former NHL enforcer Brian McGrattan.

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SIX IS FAIR

Let’s give the guy a little credit here. If he said he didn’t mean to do it then we ought to take his word for it. At least a little bit.

Consider the fact that Nyquist has no prior suspensions and has never been involved in an incident like this. He is not known as an overly physical player and has no history of aggression or behavioral problems. All things considered, Gustav Nyquist has behaved himself while in the NHL and this is really the first time his name has ever come across the desk of the Department of Player Safety.

It is worth noting, as TSN insider Bob McKenzie has, that similar high-sticking incident have in the past been given similar suspensions.

Duncan Keith was suspended for six games for his high-stick against the Minnesotta Wild’s Charlie Coyle back in March of 2016. One of those games being a playoff game.

Similarly, Zach Kassian was handed an eight game suspension for his high-stick on Edmonton’s Sam Gagner back in September of 2013.

The Department of Player Safety defended their ruling by highlighting the fact that, in the end, there was no injury on the play and Nyquist has no history of erratic, aggressive, or dangerous behavior.

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

If you think that six games was too much then you’re just plain wrong. So wrong that there’s simply no point in arguing with you.

Nyquist needs to be held accountable for his actions. Regardless of his intentions, he is responsible for his play on the ice. He made an irresponsible play with his stick and will have six games to think about it.

The Department of Player Safety needs to be careful with their rulings on plays like these, though. A play which has clear intent to injure might be something which ought to warrant more than six games.

Food for thought.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Week 5 Preview: Fnatic mid lane, Caps

EU LCS Week 5: FNC v. SPY Preview

One of the key match-ups coming into Week five will be Fnatic versus Splyce. Both of these squads sit in the middle of their respective groups, third place. Fnatic are 3-2 and Splyce are 2-3. Fnatic has lost to G2. Splyce has lost to H2K and Unicorns of Love (UOL). Misfits have defeated both teams.

This Week five series will be an important one for gaging the strength difference between Group A and Group B of the EU LCS. We will also see G2 taking on UOL, which will further settle the score. But the match-up between FNC and SPY will be just as important for understanding the interplay of these teams. If FNC win in a dominant fashion, then we can conclude that Group A is stronger than Group B, and if SPY win convincingly, then Group B must be more substantial.

There are areas of game-play where these teams overlap, but there are also several where they diverge. Their overall win conditions leading into Thursday are fairly different. Here is an outline of a few factors to keep in mind.

First Blood

Fnatic have taken First Blood in 50% of their games. Oftentimes, it is a result of Rasmus “Caps” Winther roaming from mid lane to assist his jungler or diving a side lane. You can see some examples in the highlights below.

Splyce, on the other hand, have only secured First Blood in 18% of their games, the lowest in the league. Chres “Sencux” Laursen will need to clearly communicate anytime Caps leaves mid in the early game. Jonas “Trashy” Andersen and the rest of his team will need to ward and path to effectively track Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen throughout the map.

First 3 Turrets

Fnatic also consistently take the first three turrets in a game. Their movement across the map in the early game allows them to take advantageous teamfights and then effectively translate trades into towers. So far, they have succeeded in doing this in 79% of games, second highest in the league.

You can see in the highlights below, Fnatic cleanly win a teamfight against Vitality at 20 minutes. They rotate into the river and start Baron. When Vitality contest, Fnatic go aggressive, earning a few more kills and securing the Baron. Notice both teams have knocked down one turret each. After recalling, Fnatic take a turret in bot lane, a turret in mid lane, and a turret in top lane. They almost get a fourth turret top, but Vitality hold them back.

In their game against Giants, neither team had a turret taken in 12 minutes. Fast forward to 16 minutes, and you can see that Fnatic has taken three turrets with none traded to Giants.

Splyce have only accomplished this in 36% of their games. While they have similar first Dragon rates, first turret rates, and kill:death ratios, Splyce are less likely to push those advantages into multiple towers across the map. Their early-mid game rotations are a bit slower than Fnatic’s.

First Baron

The other area where Splyce struggle is in taking first Baron. They are last in the league here, as well, with only 18% of games. Their team has allowed several unfortunate Baron steals, and they usually are slow to check if Baron is being taken by the enemy.

While Fnatic are middle-of-the-pack taking first Baron, their 50% of games is vastly superior. Even in games where Splyce is ahead, or significantly better at teamfighting, opponents can sneak Barons. Fnatic should be sure to take advantage of this blind spot.

Elder Control

While they are unlikely to take first Baron, Splyce are highly likely to take an Elder Dragon. They have 100% Elder control rates thus far. As you can see in the highlights below, even when they get pushed off of a Baron play, Splyce are willing to take a fight in the bot river and secure Elder before moving to Baron. It is how they took a game off of Unicorns of Love It is a bit risky, though. Elder Dragon takes much longer to kill. However, once it is secured, it allows your team to do tremendous amounts of damage, especially if other Elemental Drakes have been secured. From here it is easy to rotate up to Baron, recall, and then push down the enemy’s base.

Fnatic only have 50% Elder Dragon control. Although it is half as high as Splyce, this is still a decent rate considering how few teams actually take Elder Dragon in a game. Nonetheless, Fnatic will need to be sure to ward top and bot rivers to ensure they can react to Splyce’s gameplay.

Overall, Fnatic have the advantage in this series. They will need to play around Caps in the early game, then roam and find skirmishes in the mid game. Once they win a big teamfight, they can take Drakes, or even Baron. Their primary focus should continue to be turrets, though. If they can open up the map quicker than Splyce, then it will make a win much easier.

Splyce will need to do their best to match Fnatic’s dynamic gameplay. They also need to remember that Fnatic are likely to overextend a push at times. If Splyce are unable to keep up in the early game, then they need to do their best to absorb the pressure until they can get openings to make calculated plays. Vision control will be extremely important in this Week five series.

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Recall

StarCraft Weekly Recall

Welcome to my first ever Weekly Recall. A recap of the major events in StarCraft in the past week.

GSL Round of 16 – Group A

 

Players: Jun “TY” Tae Yang, Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob, Han “Byul” Ji Won, Han “Alive” Li Seok

 

Advancing Players: TY, Stats

 

TY: Fresh off his first premier tournament victory at WESG, TY continues to make a strong case for why he’s a tournament favorite. Advancing 4-1, TY cruised his way through Group A. While he did drop a game to Stats in the Winner’s Match, the games he did win were stomps. TY is as close to his peak form as he’s ever been. And based on performances across the board last week, he could be the best player in the world at the moment.

Stats: Stats’ games against Byul were as close to a Code-S level guidebook on defending early Zerg aggression as we’re ever going to get; he made short work of Byuls repeated attempts at early rushes with increasing effectiveness throughout the day. The few games that went into the late-game never showed Stats threatened in any real way. All-round, Stats’ PvZ at the moment is currently near pristine.

Against TY however, Stats looked simply outmatched. If Stats hopes to make it to the semi-finals he’ll need to step up his PvT to at least the level he showed against Byun and Ryung in the Round of 32. The good news for Stats is, if he can make it past his next round, he will have essentially booked his spot in the finals.

Byul vs. Alive: While Byul and Alive would fail to advance, their head-to-head would deliver the most climatic game of the week. Byul vs. Alive on Newkirk Precinct was a 35 minute deadlock. While Byul expanded more aggressively early, Alive’s MULEs would compensate hard. This was especially relevant as ultimately the deadlock would only be broken as Alive’s economy bled out just that much faster.

Recall

The kinds of games that remind you of why you watch StarCraft

GSL Round of 16 – Group B

 

Players: Lee “Innovation” Shin Hyung, Park “Dark” Ryung Woo, Eo “SoO” Yoon Soo, Kim “Classic” Doh Woo

 

Advancing Players: Innovation, SoO

 

Innovation: Innovation would advance 4-1 following a hard fought series against Classic in the Winner’s Match. Inno’s TvZ looked as clean as one would expect from the favorite coming into GSL, moving past SoO 2-0. Classic however was able to reveal cracks in his armor. His TvP was no longer looking as flawless as it did against Stats in IEM Gyeonggi. With a rematch against Stats coming up in the quarter-finals, Stats is without question going to be looking for revenge for Gyeonggi.

SoO: SoO put on an interesting show in Group B, seeming to get better as the day progressed. While he lost 2-0 against Innovation in the second match of the day, he won a clean 2-0 against Dark in the Loser’s Match. SoO would drop a game against Classic in the Final Match, but for the most part, SoO was never in any real danger of losing the series. The last game in particular saw the Protoss struggling to respond to SoO’s aggression, closing out the series against Classic far more cleanly than Innovation.

Classic: It says everything about Group B that Classic, one of the most decorated Protoss in StarCraft II, came in as the underdog. Yet in a Group stacked with monsters, it was Classic that turned out as the unexpected entertainer of the day. Opening Group B with an unusual early Immortal, Classic came out the gate putting on a show. After 2-0ing Dark, Classic went on to put on a spectacular display against Innovation. At the conclusion to a close 2-1, Classic at one point looked as if he were minutes away from punching his ticket into the quarterfinals. However, Classic overextended an advantageous situation, losing his main army as a result, and was wiped out in the counter-attack.

At the very least, Classic got his revenge on Dark for picking him into the group of death. A rare feat as any in Legacy of the Void.

Dark: Dark, the unrivaled King of WCS Korea in 2016. Dark came into the Round of 16 looking in top form, advancing 4-0 from his group. One round later, he exits GSL 0-4. While it would be easy to write Dark off based on this performance, StarCraft II isn’t that type of game. In StarCraft II, anyone can show up having a bad day. It actually says more about the competition at the highest level of StarCraft that even the best Zerg in the world will get destroyed on a bad day. In StarCraft, Gods will inevitably bleed.

But make no mistake, Dark is still a God. And his performance here will be remembered as nothing but an outlier in a legacy of greatness. If remembered at all.

Now I’m not going to pretend to know what Classic was thinking here but I’d imagine “F*** your extractor” is a reasonable guess.

Balance Team Community Feedback

 

Widow Mine
Reaction to the Widow Mine nerf has been positive. However, the balance team will be paying attention to concerns that, coupled with the Liberator nerf, may prove that it was an over-correction. The changes discussed are listed below for reference.

Widow Mine: Splash damage +shield bonus reduced from +40 to +25 (Currently Testing)

Liberator: Concord Cannon damage changed from 85 to 75 (Live)

 

Carrier
The balance team will be exploring buffs to the Corruptor rather than nerfs to the Carrier, based on feedback that the proposed changes have been ineffectual.

Carrier: Interceptor cost increased from 10 to 15

 

Hydralisk
Hydralisk buff will remain in testing due to lack of feedback. Hardly surprising and most likely as a result of community concerns being heavily fixated on the proposed Widow Mine buff.

Hydralisk: Health increased from 80 to 90.

 

 

Balance Team Community Feedback post.

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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