Overwatch World Cup Sydney: Up All Night

Enjoy the shows

There’s a lot of dead bodies to be buried this weekend. Counter Strike killed half its audience with a heart attack. No doubt thanks to things not going as planned. The Overwatch community however is just heartbroken and overjoyed. Set the relationship status to it’s complicated. While on one hand, crowd favorites were obviously the home team of Australia, sleepers like Japan and Spain not only gave great performances, they won over the crowds. Sweden shocked no one in their performance. The biggest came from Taimou as he came to life, shunting Finland through a couple of matches with a very realized smile. The dive meta wasn’t natural law for a 72 hour period and that gave him free reign to poor bullets from a certain beloved Cowboy.

Screenshot of Group C, sydney, world, cup, overwatch

Screencap of from Overwatch World Cup’s website

Screenshot of Group D, sydney, world, cup, overwatch

Screenshot from Overwatch World Cup’s Website

Production for this seems well matched for their set up and the groups once again make their return. This tournament feels markedly different from Contenders. The matches thus far are easy to watch, casted at the same high rate and most of all, the teams themselves seem taken to experiment.

The complaints of dive comp and stale meta sat still for only a few moments. Teams are innovating once again because players are all from different squads, forced to mesh together. This is prime ground for throwing out new ideas and losing very little for being wrong. It heightened everything from the excitement of a live crowd to the players themselves.

Day 1: Don’t Belittle Italy and Spanish Rice

Australia made a bold statement immediately as the opening game of the tournament. They blanked Italy immediately. Only one match went to overtime and despite itself, the games were always interesting. Sweden was nearly shocked by Portugal however, as Mowzassa, kiler4fun and horthic (pronounced Orthic) proved to be just as ready to face off against Misfits Sweden. Cwoosh did not have a strong weekend overall but his team rallied regardless. TviQ proved to be a stronger Tracer while Chipshajen, Manneten and Reinforce anchored the impressive line. Zebbosai’s calls also proved to be a difference maker as Sweden’s play looked more refined than Portugal. That having been said, they stilled tied and put Australia in the Driver seat for their respective group.

Finland, and a rather excited Taimou, beat Vietnam with a whiffle-ball bat. Vietnam fielded an entire gaming squad against Finland and yet looked hapless against them. Not to discount Vietnam but it shows the levels between these teams as a whole and it was still a good showing, albeit brief.

This piece cannot leave out Japan however. Japan is an insulated scene, with very little play from the outside world. This has given Japan a write off in the internationally thus far. The world has not only been put on notice but given a wake up punch to the face. Japan beat Spain in an ‘upset’ to close out the night. HarryHook and neptuNo initially doubted who they were dealing with as Japan’s absurd aggression took everyone by surprise. They were serial killers and they committed to everything as a team.

The shocked Spanish squad was on their back heels for Kings Row battling fruitlessly against players like Ta1yo and AKTM. Both Japanese DPS seemed tailor made for wild strategies, rolling characters like McCree on payload maps, wildly head shoting and stunning at will. It was the stuff of nightmares for a very traditional squad from Spain who looked outmatched. (Believe me when I say this, WATCH THE VOD, it does not disappoint.) Japan’s 3 to one final score won over a load of support as suddenly the groups fate no longer looked decided before committee.

Day 2: Fo, Fo, Fo, Fo

Taking a page out of the NBA, the fo, fo, fo, fo is a joke of winning every best of seven in four games. In this case, Japan, Sweden, Australia and Spain blanked the competition. Liam Neeson would’ve been proud as they terrified their opponents with quality play from everyone. Japan continued to highlight an unorthodox aggressive approach against Vietnam. Spain and Finland started incredibly strong with Taimou’s resurgence but Finland lost out in the end. Australia nearly lost matches against Portugal but won in spite to a delirious home crowd. Sweden’s games mirrored that of Japan with back breaking fights that left Italy reeling.

Day two seems like a wash but the difference in this versus Contenders is that no team was ever truly ‘rolled’. Some maps spun wildly out of control but it seemed less scripted than before. The whole idea of a stale game suddenly went away as teams began doing unexpected strategies. Zarya, Reaper, McCree, Widowmaker, all showed their faces. It was an echo of a year gone by with the games beginning to feel fresh and new. While Dive meta remains the same in consistency, the wave may be beginning to crest and recede. If the trend continues, it could theoretically begin developing cracks that grow wider as fights get wilder.

Day 3: Set the table and blow out the candles

The night started with Sweden finally taking the reins from Australia. The hometown favorites from Sydney were toppled in a three to one exchange that could’ve easily spilled into a tie. The initial two games looked hopeless for Australia until Volskaya where the squad came to life. Battling hard despite ceding the high ground constantly to Sweden’s DPS, Australia choked the win right out of Sweden. Route 66 proved to be the heart breaker however after a blown support ultimate on defense cost Australia the top spot and seed. (Sidenote: Italy and Portugal duked it out for nothing but by box score had a hell of set by the looks of it.)

Eyes turned to Japan as Finland sharpened their knives. If Japan lost, they would take second in group standings and be forced to fight Sweden. Refusing this notion, what essentially was the match of the whole weekend took place. Japan lost a close match on Hollywood before putting its foot down on Lijang Tower and Horizon. In the driver’s seat, they lost control of Dorado against Taimou and company and finished two to two tied. It left the crowd and casters breathless. (Sidenote: Spain cruised over Vietnam and secured the second spot based on maps won/lost.)

Finals: Don’t get up!

Sweden versus Spain ultimately went to Sweden. HarryHook and neptuNo provided ample performances but Sweden’s roster was too stacked. Cwoosh was cold all weekend until he put the button in the final match on Horizon Lunar Colony. The game became an instant classic despite it going Sweden’s way.

Swedish Flag, sydney, world, cup, overwatch

Image courtesy of Liquipedia

Australian Flag, sydney, world, cup, overwatch

Image Courtesy of Liquipedia

The true match of the tournament was Japan and Australia. They went tit for tat against one another. Each match becoming a back and forth between great plays made by great players. Ta1yo would struggle only to be saved by AKTM. Ieatuup and Aetar would match aggression with aggression. No team wanted to go home it seemed. The crowd cheered for every kill Australia got, every point captured, yet never seemed spiteful to Japan’s perfomance. There was a magic in the air and the match exploded finally onto Oasis. Australia closed out a gassed Japanese team who ultimately fell. Japan played their hearts out to win but Australia’s home crowd nearly fainted in the process.

Overall, this weekend pulled in massive viewership, a live crowd of 2000 people and a slew of great games. This games audience is at least dedicated. Overwatch league may be getting laughed at behind closed doors, however the audience clearly exists. It may not fill stadiums but it does fill spaces. Grand ideas will have detractors and detractors. The proof of concept however was shown in Sydney. This may actually work, even if no one wants to be the first to admit it.

Okay, admit it, it was a hell of a series at the very least.


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VIT wants to qualify for playoffs

How Roccat, NiP, Vitality and Monkeys make it into EU LCS playoffs

Each EU LCS team has five to seven series left to get into position for playoffs. Over the next five weeks, teams will jockey for a spot in the top three of their groups. If playoffs were to begin today, Fnatic, Misfits and G2 would represent Group A, and Unicorns of Love, H2K and Splyce would represent Group B. It would essentially be a repeat of the Spring Split.

But playoffs does not start today, lucky for Roccat, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Team Vitality and Mysterious Monkeys. These squads still have a chance to muscle themselves into playoffs. The road ahead will be difficult, but not impossible. Here is the outlook for the rest of the split for these four EU LCS teams.


GROUP A

ROC

Record: 2-5 Schedule: MM, UOL, NIP, FNC, G2, MSF

ROC want to qualify for EU LCS playoffs

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

This is one of the most unpredictable teams. ROC served FNC their only loss in week three, but also lost a crucial 2-0 to VIT in week five. Their game record is 7-11 (38.9 percent win rate), but their series record is 2-5 (28.6 percent win rate).

On paper, ROC does not have much going for them. The team averages 1,059 gold behind at 15 minutes. They have the lowest First Blood rate in the LCS. ROC also sits in bottom two of the league for first turret rate, first three turrets rate, Rift Herald control and Elemental Drake control. According to OraclesElixir.com, ROCs early game and mid-late game ratings are ninth and eighth, respectively.

The only areas ROC relatively exceeds in are Elder Drake control and Baron control. They take 67 percent of Elder Drakes and 44 percent of Barons. Pridestalker has been instrumental in ROC’s objective control. The jungle, especially late game, has been ROC’s biggest strength.

For ROC to qualify for playoffs, the solo laners will need to improve. Betsy only looks comfortable with his pocket pick Vladimir. Although he puts out decent damage (445 dpm, 29.1 percent share), Betsy only participates in 60.9 percent of ROC’s kills, second lowest among mid laners. He is also one of three mid laners to be at a deficit in gold, XP and CS at 10 minutes.

Phaxi is in a similar, yet opposite position. He averages some of the lowest damage statistics of all top laners (313 dpm, 20.8 percent share), but does not start as far behind at 10 minutes. Phaxi is only involved in 57.6 percent of ROC’s kills, second lowest among top laners. He and Betsy will need to be more involved if ROC are to pick up wins against other EU LCS teams.

NIP and MM should not be too hard for ROC to overcome in weeks six and eight. Their series against G2 in week 10 will be critical. If G2 and ROC go 2-4 in all other match-ups, then this will be the edge ROC needs to force a tiebreaker based on game wins. Since ROC has proven they can even sneak series wins against FNC, they can reasonably take games off of any team. And if teams from Group B continue to beat Group A teams above them, then that benefits ROC.


NIP

Record: 0-8 Schedule: SPY, G2, ROC, MSF, FNC

NIP want to qualify for EU LCS playoffs

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

NIP is at the largest series deficit in the EU LCS, but it is not too late for them to turn it around. The squad lost to MM at the beginning of week five, but then they came back to take UOL to three games on Sunday. NIP’s early game is their strength. They average 232 gold ahead at 15 minutes, fifth highest in the league. They have a 78 percent First Blood rate, which is second highest in the EU LCS, and a 50 percent first turret rate, fifth in the league.

All three of NIP’s carries average ahead at 10 minutes. Shook is the only one behind in CS and XP, but his 61 percent First Blood rate (fourth overall) more than makes up for it. NIP secures Rift Herald in 72 percent of games, second in the league. This early aggression is a great place to start building winning strategies.

NIP’s issues surround mid-late game. Despite taking first turret in half of their games, NIP are middle-of-the-pack for taking the first three turrets (44 percent), first dragon (44 percent), and overall dragon control (49 percent). Worse yet, they are last in the league for first Baron rate (17 percent) and overall Baron control (21 percent). This is a glaring issue that will inhibit NIP’s ability to win unless it is addressed. EU LCS matches are so often won and lost around a Baron call.

Vision control is another area where NIP needs to improve. While they have high wards per minute (3.76), they have an abysmal wards cleared rate (1.11 per minute). NIP clears the lowest percentage of enemy visible wards in the league (52.1 percent), and only clears 10.4 percent of non-visible wards. This gameplay aspect is crucial to mid-late game, especially strategy surrounding neutral objectives.

Luckily, NIP is in Group A with other struggling teams. In week eight, they face a G2 squad that is heavily underperforming. ROC is the other opponent that week, who has one of the worst early games in the EU LCS. In week 10, NIP will battle FNC, who also disappointed at Rift Rivals. Unfortunately, NIP lost this week’s less intimidating VIT match-up 2-1, losing any momentum from week five. If ROC, G2 and FNC falter, then it may just be NIP’s opportunity to climb into third place within their group and qualify for playoffs.


GROUP B

VIT

Record: 3-4 Schedule: FNC, G2, MM, H2K, UOL, SPY

VIT want to qualify for EU LCS playoffs

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

VIT are a team that came out of week five trending upwards. They put up a decisive 2-0 victory over ROC by utilizing mid lane Corki and Kog’Maw. VIT mid laner, Nukeduck, has been a topic of conversation since Caps shared his EU LCS mid laner rankings and put him at number two.

The VIT solo laners generally hold things together for this team. Nukeduck and Cabochard average ahead of opponents in gold, XP, and CS at 10 minutes. Together they make up 54.7 percent of VIT’s total damage, the second highest top-mid duo in the league. There is a reason these two players have been on the team the longest.

The jungle is problematic, though. This is Djoko’s second split in the EU LCS, and he has not been able to make a name for himself just yet. While he contributes a decent first blood rate (44 percent), gold differential at 10 minutes (+123) and XP differential at 10 minutes (+59), Djoko’s kill participation is very low for a jungler (66.7 percent) and his death share is high (24.9 percent). On top of that, VIT’s worst metrics surround jungle control (46.2 percent), Baron control (42 percent) and dragon control (37 percent).

Part of the poor dragon control starts with VIT’s bottom lane duo. Steeelback has been criticized for “playing for KDA” in the past, and that argument could be made currently. He has a 3.5 KDA, which is highest on the team, but he falls behind by 10 minutes, offers the third lowest damage of AD carries in the league (434) and the second lowest share of damage (24.2 percent). As for support, Vander has the second lowest kill participation (64.8 percent) and low wards placed and cleared per minute (1.42, 0.27).

VIT has potential if they can resolve their jungle-bottom issues. As North America taught Europe at Rift Rivals, early dragon control can hugely benefit a team. Nukeduck and Cabochard are reliable in holding their lanes against other talented top-mid duos, but they cannot carry games alone. Steelback will need to contribute more damage, even if it results in more deaths. Vander and Djoko need to improve in the vision game.

The series against NIP and MM should be expected wins. SPY and G2 are certainly beatable opponents. FNC, H2K, and UOL will probably be the most difficult for VIT, but they only need to overtake SPY in the standings to make playoffs. It may just come down to their week 10 match-up.


MM

Record: 1-6 Schedule: ROC, MSF, VIT, UOL, SPY, H2K

MM wants to qualify for EU LCS playoffs

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MM secured their first series win in week five in a 2-0 victory over NIP. The addition of Kikis and Amazing has certainly improved MM’s overall performance. However, they still lost 2-0 to FNC and G2 since their arrival. This team has plenty to improve while working towards third place within Group B.

Kikis is the best individual performer during laning phase, coming out ahead 51 gold and one XP at 10 minutes, but two CS behind. Every other member falls behind in the early game. The bottom lane is the biggest offender, averaging a deficit of 230 gold, 232 XP and five CS by 10 minutes, lowest in the EU LCS. Altogether, MM’s early game amounts to 1,360 gold behind at 15 minutes, a 36 percent first turret rate and 21 percent first three turrets rate (all lowest overall).

MM is also in the strange position of having the fourth highest combined kills per minute (0.77), yet the lowest kill:death ratio (0.52). These numbers indicate that they like to fight, but often lose. CozQ sacrifices the third highest death share among mid laners at 22.3 percent. At the same time, he only participates in 58.6 percent of MM’s kills, fourth lowest overall. This lack of positive contribution in the mid lane will continue to hurt MM’s chances of winning unless it is addressed.

If MM are to rise through the ranks, they will need to focus less on skirmishing and team-fighting. Being overly proactive can be just as harmful as being overly passive. ROC and VIT are not out of this team’s reach. More of MM’s placement in Group B will depend on how teams above them play against each other. If H2K, SPY, and UOL can beat VIT, then MM have a better shot of moving up to third place. It may be the longest stretch of the bottom four teams.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Team and Player Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir, Games of Legends

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Buying LCS Spots: Ninjas Make Their Return

Players and fans alike have mixed opinions around the recent announcement of Ninjas in Pyjamas (NIP) purchasing the Fnatic Academy spot in the EU LCS.

The Fnatic Academy roster consists of Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek at top lane, Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider as the jungler, Yasin “Nisqy” Dincer at mid, Rasmus “MrRalleZ” Skinneholm as ADC and Johan “Klaj” Olsson at support. This team worked their way through the EU Challenger circuit only to be bought out earlier this week. This was all done without consent from the players and the bulk of them have tweeted their dismay after the announcement.

With NIP offering spots to three of the five “brothers” of EU’s Fnatic Academy, each being declined due to a desire to stay together as a team, the future of each of these players is still largely up in the air. For now they are choosing to stay with the Fnatic organization, however, they are also available for contracting.

Ninjas move in

The roster looking to replace Fnatic Academy under the NIP brand, consists of ex-SKT top laner, Kim “Profit” Jun-hyung, Ilyas “Shook” Hartsema in the jungle, former KT Rolster mid laner Kim “Nagne” Sang-moon, Martin “HeaQ” Kordmaa at ADC, and Hampus “sprattel” Mikael Abrahamsson in support. This is an exceptionally confusing roster as only a few of these players carry the esteem and praise that the original Fnatic Academy line up achieved throughout their play in the Challenger scene. What is in question is whether or not this new line up would have made it through the EU Challenger series. If so, then the spot is deserved. However, if in this hypothetical they would not perform up to the par set by other EU teams, then a serious strike towards the integrity of competitive League of Legends has been made. 

What is especially worrying is that NIP sought to take three of the five Fnatic Academy players, implying that three players in their current line up are not as valued as those they are replacing. As to who those three are, we do not know. What is more likely than not is that NIP sought to replace both solo laners with imports, despite the solo laners of Fnatic Academy performing relatively well this past split.

How NIP performs in the upcoming split will either leave the ex-Fnatic Academy players vindicated or disdained. It will be hard to watch someone take over your role and flounder after being given a spot on an LCS squad. That being said, it may be more difficult to watch the same team triumph in the spot you worked so hard to carve out for them.

Gold Coin United leaves the stage after a close loss in a best of five against TL. Courtesy of lolesports flickr

This has happened before

Fans in an uproar must check themselves. Buying LCS spots is nothing new. 

Just a few months ago, the NA LCS Summer Promotion tournament held a fierce competition between four teams. These four teams, eUnited, Gold Coin United, Team Envy and Team Liquid, competed for only two LCS spots. While Team Envy secured their LCS spot with their original roster intact, Team Liquid made two temporary purchases during the season’s final weeks with both Adrian Ma and Peng “Doublelift” Yilang. These purchases were never meant to be long-term investments towards their permanent roster, but instead, they were made to prevent Team Liquid from being relegated.

Even with the “rental” of one of NA’s greatest ADC players, Team Liquid was pushed to all five games of a best of five against Gold Coin United. While Gold Coin United made some serious misplays in this best of five, fans of Team Liquid and competitive League of Legends alike must question the integrity of this “rental”. Is Team Liquid more deserving of this LCS spot than Gold Coin United? With DoubleLift in their roster, the obvious answer is yes, however without DoubleLift the picture shows a more skilled team, Gold Coin United, cheated out of an entire season of hard work. 

It must be exceptionally devastating to field a team through the Challenger series only to get to the final match and have the enemy team sub out their weakest link for one of the best players in the league.

League of meritocracy no longer

Amazing meditates after a hard fought victory. Courtesy of lolesports flickr

There is a lot of money in esports nowadays. And sadly, this can act as a corrupting agent for the integrity of the meritocracy competitive League of Legends once created. The times of five friends coming together to win a world championship is long expired, and I for one miss those times. Now the competitive League scene has too much money in it to allow a roster deserving of an LCS spot actually keep their LCS spot. Whether they win the promotion tournament and get bought out, or they lose due to a relegated team renting a roster that would have never been relegated, the sanctity of the LCS is a myth of the past.


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Featured image courtesy of lolesports flickr

EU LCS 2017 logos

Spring Watchlist 2017: ROCCAT, Misfits, H2k, and Fnatic

Another year of professional League of Legends is upon us. It is time to reflect on Europe’s end of 2016, adjustments in the off-season, and discuss the possibilities for 2017. With the introduction of a two-group format and 10-ban system, it is difficult to predict how the Spring Split will go. Established organizations changed rosters, veterans retired, and an up-and-coming Challenger team joined the LCS.

Unsurprisingly, G2 and Splyce decided to retain their entire starting rosters. None of the other teams seem prepared to challenge these two for group dominance. Unless the new pick-ban phase exposes unforeseen weaknesses, we expect these two teams to stay at the top. Ideally, they have taken time to address flaws affecting their abilities to compete internationally since the World Championship.

On the other hand, Origen seems to be the only team that did not catch a break in the off-season. After a 9th place finish in the Summer Split last year, the entire squad dissipated. Origen’s pick-ups each appear to be a downgrade from their respective predecessors. Bringing on Erik “Tabzz” van Helvert as AD Carry is an improvement from Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez, but he is not playing at the level that Origen will need. Max “Satorius” Günther, Yoo “NaeHyun” Nae-hyun, and Aleksi “Hiiva” Kaikkonen will all be rookies from Challenger scenes. Kim “Wisdom” Tae-Wan has more professional experience, but not enough to carry this roster. The floor is low on this team, and we expect that they will round out the bottom of Group B.

All remaining teams have room to rise and fall in the ranks. Some storylines will be more exciting than others, but following this season should be interesting, to say the least. Based on 2016 results and pre-season decisions, there are four teams I will be watching closely. These are the teams I see having the greatest influence on shaping their group standings.

Can ROCCAT get higher than 9th place?

courtesy of Riot eSports

ROCCAT had a horrific 2016. After finishing 9th in the Spring Split playing in the Summer Promotion tournament, ROCCAT fell to 10th last Summer. They did maintain their slot in the LCS in the Spring Promotion tournament, as well. They replaced every member of the team in the off-season except mid laner, Felix “Betsy” Edling. Betsy actually saw decent performances last year, despite being on a bottom-tier roster. While many analysts are having conversations about top-level teams, ROCCAT has been able to fly under the radar this off-season.

ROCCAT have added Ambrož “Phaxi” Hren (Top), Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian (Jungle), Petter “Hjärnan” Freyschuss (ADC), and Kim “Wadid” Bae-in (Support). Phaxi and Wadid are relatively unknown entities. Phaxi was a substitute for Dark Passage in TCL, while Wadid was a substitute for SBENU Korea in LCK. We can only speculate at this point what they will be able to do against other players in EU LCS. The language barrier in the bot lane is the only concern that can be raised.

Meanwhile, Maxlore saw passable performances on Giants last Summer. He averaged a 3.2 KDA, 73% Kill Participation, and +2.7 CS above his opponents at ten minutes. These figures put him slightly above Jonas “Memento” Elmarghichi from last Split. Vitality benched Hjärnan, ROCCAT’s new AD Carry, last Summer after a solid Spring Split performance. He ranked 3rd in KDA, 4th in Kill Participation, and 3rd in CS Difference at ten minutes among all ADC’s. He will be replacing Pierre “Steelback” Medjaldi who was consistent in both Splits, despite ROCCAT’s low rank overall.

I find myself wondering if ROCCAT can actually pull it together and get themselves out of this 9th-10th place rut. Origen and Giants both appear to be just as shaky as what ROCCAT has put together. Misfits are new to the pro scene and lost two key players in the off-season. I am keeping my eyes on this new ROCCAT. They could get a few wins under their belt and avoid the Summer Promotion series this year. They could end up in last yet again, but everyone loves an underdog, right?

Are Misfits ready for LCS?

courtesy of Riot eSports

The only newcomer to the EU LCS this Split, Misfits qualified in the Spring Promotion tournament. Touting a 90% win-rate in the Summer Season, this team has many analysts speculating how they will stack up. Challenger teams in the past made serious waves when entering the scene, such as Origen and G2.

However, the situation with Misfits is a bit different. Firstly, there are major formatting changes that were not in place when they were playing last year: the two-group league and the ten-ban system. Challenger teams historically have less coaching and support staff available. Major strategic changes can disproportionately affect them. Secondly, Misfits is not maintaining their same roster coming into 2017. Neither Origen nor G2 kept their qualifying roster when entering the LCS, but their replacements were obvious upgrades at the time. Origen brought in Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen. G2 brought in Kim “Emperor” Jin-hyun and Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun.

Meanwhile, Misfits will be replacing Marcin “SELFIE” Wolski and Kim “Wisdom” Tae-Wan with PowerOfEvil and Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon. SELFIE and Wisdom had the highest average KDA during the Summer Season in Mid and Jungle. They both maintained high average CS Differences at 10 minutes, 10.5 and 6.7, respectively. On the other hand, PowerOfEvil finished with the second lowest average KDA last Summer and averaged 1.7 CS behind his opponent at ten minutes. KaKAO spent 2016 in the Chinese Challenger scene with Wan Yoo, who finished 13th out of 16 teams. Over 24 games KaKAO averaged a 3.69 KDA, which placed him 18th of 36 Junglers with three games or more.

PowerOfEvil and KaKAO have both shown moments of promise, but their recent performances are not reflective of high skill. If Misfits want to make an impact, they will need their remaining players to continue to play at the top level, while incorporating PowerOfEvil and KaKAO seamlessly. Barney “Alphari” Morris, Steven “Hans sama” Liv, and Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun will need to maintain lane dominance against tougher lanes. This team does have a high ceiling, but these roster changes will need to prove themselves fruitful.

Can H2k play as well without FORG1VEN, Vander, or Ryu?

courtesy of Riot eSports

Many did not expect H2k to be the highest finishing Western team at the 2016 World Championships. H2k managed to make it to the Quarterfinals and finished 3rd-4th overall. It seemed like all of their players were on a whole new level, particularly AD Carry FORG1VEN and Mid laner Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook.

Looking at FORG1VEN’s KDA throughout 2016, it bottomed out in the Spring Playoffs at 3.8. This was preceding his announcement to step down as H2k’s starting ADC. After his unsuccessful stint with Origen, FORG1VEN returned to H2k for the tail-end of the Summer Split. He averaged a 14.5 KDA over five games in Week Nine, and carried the team to a 3rd place Playoff finish. His KDA during Summer Playoffs leveled out to 5.9, then boosted to 7.9 at Worlds (1st among all players with more than two games).

Ryu’s KDA followed a similar trajectory throughout 2016. He averaged 2.9 in Spring Playoffs, up to 3.8 in Summer Split, up again to 5.8 in Summer Playoffs, leveling off at 4.0 for Worlds (5th among 17 Mid laners with more than two games). His pressure became noticeably greater among international Mid lane competition. His synergy with Jungler, Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski, also seemed to be smoother. Only one other Mid-Jungle duo had a higher First Blood rate (among players that played more than two games).

But these two carries, along with Support Oskar “VandeR” Bogdan, are not part of the roster for 2017. Will the momentum of last year continue, or did it fizzle in the off-season? H2k picked up Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten, Shin “Nuclear” Jung-hyun, and Choi “Chei” Sun-ho to fill Mid, ADC, and Support. Febiven has proven himself to be a top-tier European Mid laner. He should be able to step in without issue. However, Nuclear and Chei are Korean imports, which could prove to be dangerous. Other experiments in this roster style have been middling at best, such as NA’s Team EnVyUs. On top of that, Chei’s last team, Jin Air, declined throughout last year, and Nuclear’s last team, SBENU Sonicboom, disbanded altogether after they failed to re-qualify for the LCK last August.

Jankos and top laner, Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu, are experienced, high-pressure players that will hold their own against the rest of EU. However, this H2k roster is radically different from the successful team of last year. The coaching and support staff will need to pull these pieces together if they want to maintain the same level of competitiveness.

Will Fnatic bounce back with a rebuilt roster?

courtesy of Riot eSports

Fnatic’s 2016 was tumultuous, especially when compared to expectations coming out of 2015. They had achieved 3rd-4th at the 2015 World Championships and won five out of their last six EU LCS splits. But everything began to decline after Fnatic announced that Top-Jungle duo, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin, would be leaving the team. Then they reported that team captain, Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim, would be departing. Fnatic rebuilt, finished the Spring Split in 6th place, and fought their way to a 3rd place finish in the Playoffs. After replacing a couple of players between Spring and Summer (including bringing back YellOwStaR), they still finished the Summer Split in 5th place. H2k immediately eliminated them from Playoffs. With the Championship Points tallied, Fnatic did not qualify for the 2016 World Championships.

2017 has started with even more changes. Only the AD Carry, Martin “Rekkles” Larsson, remains from last year. Fnatic brought on Paul “sOAZ” Boyer and Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider who played as the Top-Jungle duo for Origen last year. Rasmus “Caps” Winther joins from Dark Passage after helping them win the TCL. Jesse “Jesiz” Le returns as Support after operating as an Assistant Coach for Immortals throughout 2016.

This roster has a lot of combined experience. But will it be enough? SOAZ and Amazing might have helped Origen finish 3rd-4th in the 2015 World Championships, but they fell throughout 2016. SOAZ appeared particularly weak in the Spring. Amazing was lost in the Jungle in the Summer. Jesiz has not played a professional match in more than a year. Most EU LCS fans are probably pulling for Fnatic to do well in 2017. While this line-up’s ceiling is quite high, they could also finish middle-of-the-pack.

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