Power Rankings: #3 western team

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

Exceeding Expectations

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

Strengths

Courtesy: Riot Esports

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

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

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

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

Weaknesses

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

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

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

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

Player to Watch: Hai

Courtesy: Riot Esports

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

Prediction

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

Lose 1-3 to CLG

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CLG’s Playoff Profile: United They Stand, Or Divided They Will Fall

Setting the Stage

Counter Logic Gaming (CLG), the perennial contenders (or pretenders) of the NA LCS. They’re (almost) always in contention for playoffs every split. There is always some kind of hype behind them, but they often do the exact opposite of what everyone expects. They were the only NA LCS roster to leave the off season intact, retaining all the same five starters from over a year ago. Top lane held down by the one called Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha, veteran long time LCS Jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, hot and cold Mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun, zero to hero ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes, and team captain on and off the Rift, Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black. It’s the same squad that brought North America some pride at MSI, and then proceeded to lose both games against Wildcard Cinderella story Albus NoX Luna.

Even his teachers call him… Darshan? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

CLG’s path to the playoffs was one that could’ve (or should’ve), gone very differently. They had a rough start to the split, where other teams could draw on new players as an excuse. A strong surge in the middle and a wonky, long game three against EnVy make this CLG roster very… CLGesque. But they’re in the playoffs, and up against the hot and cold Flyquest. The record between these two doesn’t really help us in favouring a side. Both have beat each other in a 2-0 series. While CLG’s win was more recent, Flyquest looked stronger in their last week of games.

 

The Players in the Jerseys

What about the players themselves? Darshan hasn’t had quite the split he had last year, often winning his lane and split pushing CLG to victory. Oftentimes he looks as if he’s trying too hard to be too much for the team. Whether it’s the increased skill in the Top lane, a decline in mechanics, or a massive meta shift (the last one being quite likely), Darshan doesn’t seem to be as solid of a rock for CLG as he used to be. The bright side? Darshan has looked a lot more comfortable in the recent meta than in the first half of the split. If he can temper his aggression, become slightly more calculated in his 1 vs 1’s, or contribute otherwise, he can still be the Top laner CLG need. But that’s quite a few ifs.

Xmithie, the constantly underrated Jungler to the point of being overratedly underrated, has looked… uninspiring this split. Statistically speaking, his KDA is the lowest in the league for Junglers at a startling 2.4 (relative to, say, the highest being 3.8 on Galen “Moon” Holgate). He also ranks at the bottom for Kill Particpation, a vital stat for Junglers at a measly 63.1%. It could be the reason that CLG started so slow. Rookies like Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham and Juan “Contractz” Garcia were on hot streaks, single handedly taking their teams to wins; but as these rookies have cooled down, and the meta shifts away from carry Junglers, we may see the steadier Xmithie return.

Stats aren’t everything, though, and Xmithie is still a strong player for CLG. He has experience and always seems to be where he needs to be. If it makes any CLG fan feel better, Svenskeren ranks only one place above Xmithie. That’s saying something. A Jungler’s role in League of Legends is one of tacticians, making plays to get your teammates ahead and out-thinking the other Jungler. This is something Xmithie has had multiple seasons of practice with.

There are a lot of stats to look at when thinking about Mid laners. Huhi is one of those players that isn’t necessarily understood through his stats. He often looks unstoppable on certain champs, and utterly lost on others. His stats are interesting, though. When you think of Mid laners, you want two things: damage output and CS difference at 15. On the first point, Huhi does pretty well. He places fourth among starting Mid laners with a Damage Per Minute of 559 (28.1% of CLG’s overall damage), putting him third overall for Mid laners.

On the second part, Huhi was dead last, only higher than the much maligned changing Liquid Mid laners of Goldenglue and Piglet. You can never count him out though. He can come up big for the team on certain champions, like Syndra and Aurlieon Sol. His damage output, even while behind in lane, is impressive. He also will play a vital role against Flyquest in (trying) to shut down Hai and possibly get inside the head of the veteran shotcaller.

From zero to hero, Stixxay’s journey with CLG has gone from fans criticizing him to praising him. Can he lead them into another Spring finals? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

CLG’s botlane duo seems to be almost always the stable foundation for the whole roster. This is the case now more than ever. While the rest of the team fell flat some games, or looked completely bewildered, Stixxay and Aphromoo found consistency. It has put Stixxay in the spotlight. From a harshly criticized player, to challenging Aphromoo as CLG’s strongest laner, Stixxay has come alive this split. He is tied with Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi for second in Damage Per Minute at 546, and third in Damage percent at 26.9%. Remember, that’s all coming out of a split that was half dominated by Utility Ult ADC’s, too.

On the other hand, Aphromoo’s contribution to the team isn’t just on the Rift. Stats for Supports are always hard to read. His presence is known inside and out of the Rift, as a team leader and cool head for the squad overall. There’s a lot to be said for that, and a lot to be said about a Support’s ability to bring out the best in their ADC. Stixxay is performing up there among the greats of the league, like newcomer No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon, and long time staple, Sneaky.

 

The X Factor

So what does all this mean for CLG? Well, pretty much the same as always. CLG aren’t expected to take it all, and a deep drive into the playoffs will give some hope to the Faithful. It’s a position they’re all too accustomed to, though. So what needs to happen for CLG here? What’s their X factor? Well, as lame as it sounds, they need to stand as a team again. That was this roster’s strength last year. Stixxay didn’t out-mechanic any ADC in NA of note. Darshan was great for splitpushing, yes, and Aphromoo was always Aphromoo, but it was the team that won that playoff. The X factor is for that team to reappear in this playoff run. Not just the strong talent that each player has shown off at times, but for them as a team to move and work together again.

This is a different CLG than last Spring though. Stixxay, as many have pointed out, has grown into one of the strongest ADCs in the region. Aphromoo is still hailed for his strength as a player and a leader. When Huhi is playing his best, he’s an absolute monster. Darshan can still pull off some insane plays. Xmithie still shows up and performs for his team. It was the roster that looked good as a whole, not as individual units. Some part of me wonders if that is for better or worse.

Can Huhi step up to the plate for CLG when they need him? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

As Piltover’s Sherrif says, “The whole is better than the sum of its parts.” CLG fans will need to see that team play again. The macro and teamwork-oriented style of play, while picking each other up. CLG seems too much like a team trying to always make a play. From greedy 1 vs 1’s for Darshan to awkward engages in the bot lane, CLG needs to get themselves back to their position of working as a team and thinking rather than just hoping the plan of attack works. While the obvious players to watch are Stixxay and Huhi, CLG haven’t relied on solo carries since the Doublelift days. They will win as a team.

 

Predictions

3-2 CLG over Flyquest, 3-1 loss against TSM.

I’m not convinced that Flyquest is back to winning. I wonder more if it was the similar phenomena where teams just can’t seem to handle the ‘new kids on the block’ or not. That being said, you can’t bat an eyelash at Hai “Hai” Du Lam and his boys. They’re a strong roster, and whether that’s more off the back of Hai’s magic touch at shotcalling or as a genuine threat, they’re still tough and always a team that can show up and take the win. CLG seemed to play to the level of their opponents this split though, which might mean they’ll be firing on all cylinders against the mind of Hai.

Nonetheless, I think CLG will pull it out in the end. I just think they have it in them to take down Flyquest, but it really depends which CLG and which Flyquest show up. Hence my 3-2 win. I highly doubt we’d see a complete blow out either way. However, if either team comes to these games playing at their lowest, we might. If each team comes performing at their best, it’ll be a back and forth series. Both teams are underdogs to make it deep into the playoffs and will have that underdog identity hanging over their heads. For CLG, this will be old news. For the new (old?) Flyquest boys, this may be a new feeling.

TSM, on the other hand, I don’t see CLG standing much of a chance against. They looked absolutely horrendous against TSM (I would know, I had Huhi, Aphro, and Xmithie on my Fantasy team…). They didn’t seem to put up much of a fight in their most recent meeting. TSM had control the entire time, and with that in mind, I really can’t see this series going CLG’s way. I’m generous and thinking, hey, maybe they can squeeze one game out. If they do manage to pull out a win, it would possibly be an even bigger upset than their past two wins in playoffs against TSM.

Counter Logic Gaming support, Aphromoo

Over/Under (Part 2): LCS Players Below Expectations

Last week, I highlighted NA and EU LCS players who have been performing above preseason expectations. This week, I am highlighting the other end of the spectrum: athletes playing below expectations. These are players who came into the Spring Split with a reputation that they have failed to live up to in the first three weeks. These members will play a key role in the improvement of their respective teams; if they fail to do so, they may not make the playoffs.

Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet

 KDA: 3.6 (Tied 4th Top)

Team Vitality top laner, Cabochard

courtesy of Riot esports

Team Vitality, Top Laner

DPM: 383 (8th Top)

Some of Cabochard’s numbers seem decent, but his damage is below expectations. Taking into account Cabochard has played five out of nine games on skirmish-oriented split-pushers (and a sixth on Poppy), 383 damage per minute is too low. He averages ahead in CS at 10 minutes, has an okay KDA, and middling Kill Participation. He receives the largest share of his team’s gold out of any top laner (23.9%), but only contributes 21.1% of his team’s damage (tied 8th Top). Cabochard will need to transition his lane leads into successful teamfights if Vitality are to make it to playoffs.

Jonas “Trashy” Andersen

KDA: 2.6 (7th Jungle)

Splyce jungle, Trashy

courtesy of Riot esports

Splyce, Jungle

KP: 60.5% (Lowest Jungle)

After three weeks, Trashy is averaging the lowest Kill Participation of all EU junglers. He also occupies a high share of his team’s deaths–25.2% (6th highest of all players). This is below expectations for Trashy. Splyce depends on him to work the jungle efficiently and enable their superior macro-play. Thus far, Splyce has a 56% win-rate in Group B. They only secure first dragon in 33% of games (2nd lowest of all teams), and first baron in 22% of games (lowest of all teams). Trashy will need to pull this team together to stand a chance in the long run.

Eugene “Pobelter” Park

 KDA: 1.4 (Lowest Overall)

Immortals mid lane, Pobelter

courtesy of Riot esports

Immortals, Mid Laner

D%: 27.2% (Highest Overall)

Immortals replaced every player except Pobelter in the offseason. He is supposed to be the solid foundation for bringing on imported players and rookies. So far his performances have been below expectations. Pobelter has the most deaths in the NA LCS, averaging 4.6 per game. He also averages 6.1 CS behind his opponents at 10 minutes. In a league with strong mid laners, Pobelter will need to step up if Immortals want to make playoffs. 

Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin

 KDA: 2.6 (8th ADC)

Team Liquid AD carry, Piglet

courtesy of Riot esports

Team Liquid, AD Carry

D%: 23.4% (8th Overall)

The utility marksman meta has not been kind to Piglet. The world champion has looked below expectations. Unlike years past, he has only averaged 0.3 CS ahead at 10 minutes. Piglet is also averaging only 2.3 kills per game. While there are others on Team Liquid who are underperforming, Piglet has no excuse. He was benched last Split and needs to prove himself worthy of the starting slot. For Team Liquid to get wins and make it into playoffs, Piglet will need to reinvigorate himself. 

Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black

 KDA: 2.6 (5th Support)

CLG support, Aphromoo

courtesy of Riot esports

Counter Logic Gaming, Support

D%: 22.4% (14th Highest Overall)

He has the highest death share on CLG, averaging 3.8 per game. Aphromoo may still be adjusting to playing squishier, damage-oriented support champions, but, as a veteran, it is below expectations. CLG retained their entire roster coming into 2017, but they currently sit in a four-way tie for fifth place. Since Aphromoo is their shot-caller team captain, he deserves most of the blame. To be fair, three of their losses came from the top teams of the league. If CLG want to make it into playoffs though, Aphromoo will need to play more safe and coordinated.

(DIS)Honorable Mention

Ha “Hachani” Seung-chan

 KDA: 1.4 (Tied 2nd lowest)

Team Vitality's support, Hachani

courtesy of Riot esports

Team Vitality, Support

D%: 34.1% (Lowest Overall)

Although Hachani did not have exceptionally high expectations coming onto Vitality this Split, his performance has been unacceptable. His death rate is a joke in the league (4.8 deaths per game). Hachani’s aggression and over-extensions are a liability for this team. Vitality will not be able to move up the standings until his leash is shortened. These free kills have to stop.

Each of these players will need to reflect on these first few weeks and improve. We are only three weeks in, and a lot can change before playoffs. Most LCS teams thrive on momentum. A single win can turn into a won series or a winstreak. On the other hand, a loss can tilt teams into giving away a series. All of the players mentioned are veterans who need to re-center themselves for the sake of their teams. Their next few matches will most likely define the rest of the Split.

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

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

5. QTV’s Flash-Jukes

courtesy of Riot esports

Courtesy of Riot esports

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

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

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

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

courtesy of Riot esports

Courtesy of Riot esports

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

3. Maple’s Ryze Ult Mind Games

courtesy of Riot esports

Courtesy of Riot esports

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

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

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

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

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

2. xPeke’s Double Kill on Faker and Bengi

courtesy of Riot esports

Courtesy of Riot esports

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

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

1. Smebber Gets a Quadra Kill 

courtesy of Riot esports

Courtesy of Riot esports

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

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

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

A Tale of Two Team Managements: Post NA LCS Finals Discussion

 

The longest running rivalry in NA LCS, possibly even the world, meet again in an unlikely NA LCS finals. Courtesy of loleventvods.

The longest running rivalry in NA LCS, possibly even the world, meet again in an unlikely NA LCS finals. Courtesy of loleventvods.

While a lot of the story lines being covered center around the games themselves and what laid up to them, it’s another thing to note the actual development philosophy of the two teams that actually made it to the finals: CLG and TSM. As we’ll get to in the article, these two teams took very different approaches to forming their squads in the post-Worlds off season, and it is definitely clear that neither approach could be said to be superior to the other currently. For CLG it was a more ‘Ember-esque’ approach, one that focused on the team, its environment, and fostering teamwork and cooperation in and off the rift. For TSM, not saying these previous factors weren’t involved, it was about the star power, about the raw, mechanical skill that makes a team do crazy good things. It was about getting the best in the West together and making the strongest team for raw star power that NA has ever seen. Both team styles showed to be viable in the finals, and it’ll be great to see if both are able to keep up their performances going forward.

I’d like it to be on record that I actually predicted the results from the right half of the bracket correct: I saw Liquid easily moving past NRG, falling to CLG in a tight five game series, with CLG moving onto the finals where they would win that in another close five game series. I just thought that’d be against Immortals or Cloud 9. It was an absolutely insane showing by fan favourite TSM, the 6th seed, to make it to the finals, and not because they got placed against ‘easy opponents.’ They overcame both Cloud 9 and Immortals, the two teams slated to possibly even meet in the finals. The left half of the bracket was a completely unpredictable beast that had all the TSM doubters quickly silenced.

In a lot of ways I think this is probably the greatest way for the finals to go: The new guard, the upstarts, the hyped Titan killers in Immortals and Liquid ultimately falling to the veteran organizations, the time trialed and well-worn path of the old guards in the two oldest teams in the league: TSM and CLG. I also think it should be a humbling experience for those new guard teams, and a need for the organization to make sure their infrastructure is properly in place for the teams to at once not take this too badly, but also to understand where things went wrong.

 

CLG: The Big Ember that Could

 

Wow. What an absolute roller coaster CLG has been in the past year. We saw the suffering Faith Age turn into the Golden Age, with an NA LCS title in the Summer, a strange showing at Worlds (hey, that’s an accomplishment for the team, being at Worlds that is,) and what seemed to be further sunny ways as rivals TSM, the fierce rival of the org, looked to have to rebuild their roster. Then the Dark Age came, CLG dropped both Doublelift and Pobelter, and the fans were torn apart. Doublelift, particularly, was seen as the team’s longest player, but also their strongest and the star power. He also was a main reason for fans of CLG to stick around. The Rush Hour lane was an absolute tyrant in lane and team fights, it’s hard to really see any reason to drop that. Pobelter, too, is a good mid laner, who eventually moved to the newly minted Immortals side to much success there in the Regular season. And then the absolutely unforeseeable happened to Doublelift: he turned in the Blue and Gray of CLG for the Gray and Black of TSM, CLG’s rivals.

The Dark Age seemed to only get worse: CLG brought secondary Mid laner in Huhi to the starting roster, and promoted Stixxay, a relatively unheard of ADC, from their Challenger squad to the starting roster. What an absolutely insane roster move, the fans decried. Most weren’t even calling it a roster move but a full on roster downgrade, purposefully shooting themselves in the foot after such a great showing from the team. It wasn’t a talent upgrade by any stretch of the imagination, that can’t be denied. While CLG went on to say that Stixxay, particularly Aphromoo his fellow bot laner and Support, was on par with Doublelift mechanically, it was a questionable statement to begin with. Was this new rookie really a contender against the fabled Doublelift?

Courtesy of CLGaming.net

Courtesy of CLGaming.net

Well, if he wasn’t the team was able to pick up the slack. They beat Korean side Jin Air Green Wings in a best of three at IEM San Jose, an impressive feat for any NA side, they went 13-5 in the Regular split, getting the oh so coveted semi-finals berth, and a tough road ahead of them to defend their NA LCS title as more than just a fluke in the system. Many doubted them along the whole way: they questioned whether the squad was talented enough, saying they were one dimensional in a split push style, their wins were too cheesy for a best of five series style, they’d crumble and choke once it came down to it, you name it, people probably said it about the team. Some slated the CLG Age to have turned to the Silver Age: a second place showing would be a win for the organization, and many fans shot for just that in their aspirations. Nobody really thought CLG could pull off another Title.

The rookie ADC made a name for himself in the finals, but was it enough to prove critics wrong? Courtesy of ESL youtube.

The rookie ADC made a name for himself in the finals, but was it enough to prove critics wrong? Courtesy of ESL youtube.

Many analysts rightly identified that CLG was an experiment of a very different breed of team management: the long-term, rebuilding mindset. Bring on new talent, rookies with prospective futures, ride out a few bad seasons until they’ve been polished enough to truly shine. It’s an age-old process in traditional sports: as your star talents start to falter, get old, demanding too much money or being emotionally disruptive, a team has to look to rebuild itself around new, young talent. Doublelift wasn’t old (I hope not, he’s only 22!) but his mentality has been hinted at multiple times by current CLG players as having a negative effect on the atmosphere. Talent only gets you so far before your team mates start not feeling comfortable beside you, and that seems to have been what happened in the CLG camp.

They also moved towards what could maybe be called an ‘Ember approach’ to team management, alluding to the current (past? Now defunct? Who really knows…) Challenger Series squad of Ember. Many NA fans will remember their desires to build ‘better humans’ to make better athletes, working on the emotional side of their players just as much as their in-game skills. Fostering talent, too, was a big feature, and what better way to do that then to promote from within the organizations ‘farm team’ and their back bench? Rather than looking abroad for international talent, the team made the conscientious decision to stick within themselves and work as a team. And my gods, what a beautiful team that was when it worked.

 

TSM: The Best of the Best

 

TSM TSM TSM TSM TSM TSM TSM TSM TSM. Sorry, sometimes Twitch chat comes out when I think of TSM. The easily NA fan favourite squad is none other than TSM. The team is just as storied and Legacy as Counter Logic Gaming, just with a lot more success until most recent times. TSM has been much like the European side of Fnatic: always showing up in the playoffs, making it to the finals and either claiming it for themselves or falling but still walking away with the glittering Silver. The team’s practically synonymous for most with NA League, and deservedly so, and they’ve been in a situation unlike CLG where they’ve been able to validate their fans time and time again. But the team’s showings last year, from their regular season shakiness back in Summer 2015, to their falling out of Worlds like much of NA, and mediocre international results, caused this old guard team to do a radical roster shake up: they dropped every player outside of star mid laner Bjergsen. I doubt any League fan will ever forget the Dyrus good bye speech, but outside of that much of the roster faded away without much ceremony. Wildturtle went to Immortals, Lustboy has all but disappeared like John Cena, and Santorin was shipped around to multiple Challenger Series teams trying to make an name for himself.

Spoiler: TSM's roster has some of the scariest talent available in NA. Courtesy of https://www.reddit.com/r/TeamSolomid/comments/3r3k8i/tsm_2016_roster_banner_so_far/ (TSM subreddit.)

Spoiler: TSM’s roster has some of the scariest talent available in NA. Courtesy of https://www.reddit.com/r/TeamSolomid/comments/3r3k8i/tsm_2016_roster_banner_so_far/ (TSM subreddit.)

But who would fill out the legendary squad that is TSM? Well, nothing below legendary players, it would seem. Hauntzer was recruited from NA side Gravity, easily the strongest player on the Gravity side and probably one of the top three NA top laners around. Svenskeren was brought over from the now defunct SK Gaming side to fill the Jungler position, replacing fellow Dane Santroin, which seemed to be another easy upgrade. Sven’s aggressive play style fits well with the TSM identity of heavy team fight focus. Doublelift, as we said above, was brought in from rivals CLG and was seen to be another clear upgrade. Doublelift was one of the few NA ADCs able to compete internationally, and so he seemed a clear pick. Yellowstar was tapped on the shoulder to replace Lustboy, probably the second biggest player to fill out the new TSM 2.0. Yellowstar’s tenure with Fnatic is legendary, and particularly his role as crucial Team captain in the rebuilding of Fnatic after the xPeke exit was arguably the reason Fnatic were able to do their perfect split. There wasn’t much to say about this roster but “wow.” It was the most star studded, international, NA team ever. And fans were hyped, until it just seemed to fail time and time again.

The TSM Dream Super Team of Lots of Talent looked shakey in the regular split, but showed up when it mattered most: Playoffs. Courtesy of TSM Store.

The TSM Dream Super Team of Lots of Talent looked shakey in the regular split, but showed up when it mattered most: Playoffs. Courtesy of TSM Store.

TSM came into the playoffs as the 6th seed after a pretty atrocious regular season that had many TSM fans bemoaning a decline that just didn’t make sense. But there was a silent murmur in the NA LCS fandom and abroad even, whispers muttered in the dark of the time-tested truth: TSM shows up in Playoffs. Worry mounted as Cloud 9 easily dismantled TSM in the first game of the best of 5, but the next three games were absolutely dominated by the fan favourite in TSM. An upset of note, yes, but Cloud 9 was another team that seemed to be all over the place at times. It was an understandable possibility. But surely TSM would fall in their next endeavour: a best of five against the only other team other than Fnatic to almost make it to a perfect split in Immortals. Immortals looked absolutely disgusting throughout the regular split, but again murmurs were heard, as the Immortal side looked very, very, weak against Renegades and Dignitas, being bullied outright by the former. The side wasn’t the same as it had been earlier.

TSM breezed past the faltering Immortals to blaze their way to the finals against long-time rivals CLG and a repeat of last year’s Summer Split finals. Many had said it would be an easy victory for the TSM boys, and what looked to be the most unlikely story line to ever unfold almost seemed to be within grasp. But the games were back and forth evenly, CLG claiming the first, TSM the second, etc. It came down to a 2-2 record with the last game being the decider. And it was only befitting that the came was a nail biter of tension that was palpable, with teams making great plays (CLG’s grabbing baron) that were only meet with setbacks (TSM all but wiping CLG afterwards.) CLG eventually came out on top, after a crazy close teamfight that eventually saw the team pushing into TSM’s base to claim the second NA LCS trophy for the CLG side.

 

The Take Away

I highly doubt anyone expected this to be the final brackets. Courtesy of lolesports.

I highly doubt anyone expected this to be the final brackets. Courtesy of lolesports.

I do not think in any way shape or form TSM fans should be too deeply saddened by their team’s performance. From 6th seed to second place is one helleva trip, and the team looked better than ever. If this is the TSM of Summer split, then the TSM of old may very well be back. That can only mean great things for NA overall. TSM need to make sure they keep up whatever they did during the playoffs, which’ll be aided by the move to Bo3’s for the Summer split. I think TSM have a good chance moving ahead, and I highly doubt any roster changes will happen for the team now. They’ll need to look within, work on their own form, clear up some of their internal infrastructure, and try to keep whatever spirit possessed them to bring them to where they were just a few short days ago: the Finals of the NA LCS.

CLG, too, doesn’t look like they’ll be resting on their laurels anytime soon. The squad, who almost unanimously everyone doubted and trash talked, shut up doubters (well, the ones who aren’t stubborn,) who doubted whether they were even a top-tier NA team, let alone the ‘best.’ Nobody will ever agree on who is really the best, but winning two LCS finals sure does help. The team looks to be moving in the right direction with their rookies, and fans can only hope that they’ve yet to reach their skill ceiling, and with further nourishing they’ll grow even stronger. CLG’s staff will need to make sure to patch up the holes and problems the squad experienced, and maybe attempt to deepen those champion pools and drafting process for the squad. But CLG looks strong, very strong, coming into the Summer split. They’ve shown that they’re not a one trick pony either, and as much as fans of the other teams will still use it against them, it does make a statement that they won their final game off a decisive team fight and not just a split pushing Darshan.

NA LCS semifinals analysis

vegas

(Courtesy of lolesports.com)

TSM advanced to the semifinals in the most TSM fashion possible, losing the first game, adapting, and changing their strategy, won them the next three games and their ticket to Vegas.
TL managed to beat a NRG team that did not look like a playoff team. Piglet and Matt dominated the series as if Trick2g was playing normal games versus viewers. Dardoch put a clinic on how to jungle and demonstrated that his Rookie season award was no mistake.

The semifinals match-ups put Immortals against TSM, and CLG versus Team Liquid. It could have been better if TSM and CLG would have faced each other only to attempt to defeat the final boss of Immortals. Unfortunately that is not the case and puts TSM in the toughest position to make the finals of an LCS split ever.
TSM has made all six finals of the six NA LCS splits, the toughest one was in the summer of 2014 when they had to beat LMQ. If one goes back and remembers that LMQ had dominated the season but started to fall towards the end, one remembers how big of an underdog TSM was coming into that semifinal. The first four games of the semifinal were won by blue side, and it was extremely likely that LMQ would win the fifth game on that side, and against all odds TSM managed to advance to the final of that season.
Season 6 has unprecedented challenges for TSM, one of their worst regular season splits against the best regular season split of any NA LCS team, a 17-1 Immortals. TSM is not used to being heavy underdogs in the NA region, but if they managed to advance one more time to the finals it would prove have invaluable of an asset Reginald really is.

On the other side of the equation CLG has remained a top team in NA since the start of the competitive scene. CLG has struggled in the last couple of years to fight for a split title. At one point they almost got relegated. They finally won a title in the last summer split, but as things looked to have gotten better, star ADC Doublelift left the team. In a renewal of the team’s pieces it seemed unlikely that the team would compete for the title this season. Nonetheless, they finished second in the regular season and were the only team to beat Immortals. The oldest rivalry in League of Legends does not face each other this time, but if they do in the finals, it would put into perspective how superior their management is in terms of experience and organization.

(Courtesy of pentakill.tv)

(Courtesy of pentakill.tv)

TSM vs Immortals

Immortals come in as the heavy favorites, there is no doubt about it. An extremely dominant season ending with an almost undefeated record should be enough reasons to explain why they will win the match-up. However, there is one disadvantage that history has shown to teams that are so superior to others. When teams have been extremely dominant because of mechanical skill and raw talent like LMQ and LGD, once other teams catch-up in raw talent, and they manage to make it out the laning face with minimal losses, history has shown that these teams become vulnerable to transition small leads into winning games. Teams that in the past have relied heavily on outplaying opponents have not shown to be invulnerable. The only exception could be Samsung White in season 4 that almost always won games in the early games. However, they also proved to be an incredible advanced strategic team.

Why TSM Will win?
Immortals has been unchallenged so far. When Fnatic went undefeated last summer they displayed their strategic prowess by not winning games in the early game. In fact in multiple occasions they came back from incredible gold deficits. Immortals has not shown that their macro-level strategies are polished because they have not been able to. If TSM can make it out of the early game, they can exploit the fact that Immortals likes to use Wildturtle as front-line because in previous instances it has not made a difference. Immortals is a great team, but they have not shown what they are capable of and that is scary.

Why Immortals will win?
Not much needs to be said here.

(Courtesy of pentakill.tv)

(Courtesy of pentakill.tv)

CLG VS TL

Had this been the quarterfinals match-up and CLG would have undoubtedly been the favorites. However, TL made NRG looked like a Challenger series team. Not only did they 3-0 NRG, they did so in an extremely convincing fashion.

Why CLG will win?
They have looked strong the entire season. They do not have the best individual players, but in an era where macro-level gameplay is more important, CLG performed better in the regular season and should look to advance to the finals. CLG can lane swap against TL’s strong laners and can reduce the impact that Dardoch can have on the game by doing so. TL strength lies in the early game, and a team with solid macro-level game play like CLG should take the series by lane swapping when advantageous or picking stronger lanes.

Why TL will win?
They put on a clinic against NRG and their early level strategy and mechanical talent secured games from the early stage of the games. If they manage to get standard lanes or standard 2v1  lane swaps, it should be to TL advantage. However, if they get lane swaps were turrets are traded and both teams safely make it out of the early game, it should play to CLG’s advantage.