NALCS Week 3 Key Matchups To Watch

Week 3 of LCS kicks off Friday. Heading into the week we have some under-performing teams looking to turn their season around. Then we have teams looking to build momentum to show that they aren’t flukes. These are some key matchups to look out for.

Photo Courtesy of Youtube

Team Solo Mid vs CLG

The rivalry is rekindled once again this weekend, as CLG and TSM face off for the first time this split. The teams sit in opposite spectrums of the standings after two weeks. TSM is 3-1, tied for second place, but their wins have not been as clean as we’re used to. CLG sits near the bottom at 1-3, but a close series against the league’s best in Cloud 9 showed that they’re not down and out just yet.  

TSM has looked like a much different team compared to the one we saw in Summer. The induction of AD carry Jason “Wildturtle” Tran to the starting lineup has been quite noticeable. Members of TSM have discussed in interviews of how vocal Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng was in game compared to Wildturtle. The team did bounce back well last week and looked a lot better than week 1.

CLG looked outmatched against Flyquest. Specifically, star support Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black has been heavily under-performing. In a meta where control mages are dominating at support, he hasn’t looked comfortable. We’ve come to know CLG as a team centered around bot lane; but that hasn’t been the case lately.

Mid laner Choi “HuHi” Jae-hyun has surprisingly been one of the best performers this split. Meanwhile top laner Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha has looked bad on anything that isn’t a split pusher. Darshan has been prone to ganks and overextending without proper vision.

TSM and CLG is one of those historic rivalries we’ve come to look forward to. Everyone recalls the old school CLG owner George “HotshotGG” Georgallidis against Andy “Reginald” Dinh in the younger era of pro League of Legends. This series will look to not disappoint. TSM looks to build off a successful 2-0 week, while CLG looks to turn their season around after a disappointing start.

Flyquest vs Dignitas

Photo Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

Two of the “newer” LCS teams get their first looks at each other in this weekend’s matchup. Most expected these teams to be reversed in the standings, as Dignitas sits near the bottom with Flyquest contending for the top.

Dignitas were pegged as a top three team on paper, but the roster has not come together the way they had hoped. Their early game dominance has been evident, but their mid/late game is where they’ve lost games. When top lane star Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho isn’t on a split push carry top, the team has struggled to find production from their other roles. Against better teams, they’re often playing reactive, as opposed to setting up their own plays.

Flyquest, on the other hand, have exceeded expectations ten fold. Most analysts pegged them as a bottom tier team on paper. Jungler Galen “Moon” Holgate looks reincarnated from his previous stints on other LCS teams. Many are crediting mid laner Hai “Hai” Lam for Moon’s success, but individually he looks more confident.  

As always, many underrated Hai’s shotcalling abilities. The team is often just looking to hold even coming out of lane phase and out-pace their opponents in the mid/late game. On paper, the roster doesn’t look that great mechanically, but as a team they synergize perfectly. They’ll look to prove that synergy can beat raw talent in this matchup.

After a close series loss to Echo Fox last week, Flyquest look to take a win off a struggling Dignitas. It’s a huge question mark if Flyquest can continue their early season success, or if it’s just a matter of other teams around them adjusting to the start of the split. Dignitas want to prove that the roster moves were worth it and they’re ready to finally contend in NALCS.

Phoenix1 vs. Team Solo Mid

Photo Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

TSM faces off against another great opponent in Phoenix1 on Sunday. P1 and TSM have identical records at 3-1 heading into this week. Phoenix1 and TSM looked much improved from their week 1 performances. Not many expected this start from P1, but for TSM this has become the norm for them.

P1 will have a lot to prove as they’ve had the easiest schedule of all three teams tied for second. They also struggled against Dignitas during their week 1 matchup; it will be a huge question mark if top laner Derek “zig” Shao can compete with Hauntzer. He has been fulfilling his role as a low econ tank top laner quite well. Phoenix1 have been winning games off the play of their other carry roles.

Jungler, Rami “Inori” Charagh, has thrived in this high damage carry jungler meta. In their week 2 series against Team Liquid, Inori showed why teams need to ban Rengar against him.

No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon and Adrian “Adrian” Ma have also developed into one of the strongest bot lanes in NA. Arrow currently leads the NALCS in KDA and damage per minute. Many thought communication issues may plague this bot lane, but they seem to have synergized quite nicely.

TSM will look to build off a nice 2-0 week. TSM still has the raw talent to not fall too far behind, but still need to work on pulling the trigger in making decisive calls. They’re working on slowly improving to be back in form to where they were in Summer.

ADC Jason “Wildturtle” Tran and support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang will need to not fall too far behind against Arrow and Adrian. Wildturtle is currently second to last among ADC’s in CS differential@10.

If both of these teams win their first matchups of the week, this matchup will be key in seeing exactly where the top teams stack up against each other. Phoenix1 want to prove they belong at the top, while TSM will want to prove they’re getting back to where we saw them in summer.

Echo Fox vs. Team Liquid

Photo Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

On one hand you have Echo Fox who is coming off a shocking 2-0 week. With the recent news of LCS teams denying them scrims, this makes this matchup even spicier.

Echo Fox had a much better mid/late game this past week. In week 1 they showed the ability to gain large gold leads from the aggressiveness of jungler Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham, but struggled in late game team-fights. They convincingly beat Dignitas, a team most expected to be a top tier team on paper.

In their second matchup they handed Flyquest their first loss of the Split with a cheese Camille support pick to snowball game one. After being caught many times during week 1, ADC Yuri “Keith” Jew took a lot of criticism from the community for his play. His week 2 looked much better and he finished the week off with the highest kills among ADC’s with 26.

Team Liquid seems to be struggling in their drafts and inside the game. In their games against TSM and P1 they allowed Rengar to go through the draft, when teams are perma-banning Rengar on red side. P1’s Inori made a name playing as Rengar, and he exemplified why when Team Liquid left it open to him.

Jungler Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin has not been able to perform adequately on any of the meta junglers so far. Many expected him to be a key addition to the roster after successful seasons on Immortals and Fnatic. He’s currently second to last among junglers in total KDA and has not played up to par lately.

Their ADC Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin has also struggled to adjust to the utility carry style meta. Piglet was known for his Caitlyn, Vayne, and Twitch picks. With the meta shifting to supportive/utility ADC’s, Piglet has not looked nearly as good. He’s currently last in KDA among ADC’s.

Team Liquid has yet to utilize their sub mid laner Austin “Link” Shin. Although starter Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer hasn’t looked terrible; a roster change may be necessary to see if they can improve. My bold prediction for the week is that we see Link play for the first time sometime this week to help save Team Liquid’s season.

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Can Mastermind Weldon solve G2’s International Woes?

Weldon’s Own Success

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

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

Current State of G2

Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

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

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

Building off Regular Season Success

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

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

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

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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.

The Role of Content in the Evolution of Professional Gaming

“Welcome to the Big Dick Club” – Michael “Imaqtpie” Santana


The growth of esports demands an increase in the quantity and quality of content representing the community. With traditional sport organizations flowing into the esports market, and League of Legends garnering enough traction to sell out the Staples Center with over 30 million viewers worldwide, improving content for League professionals will best shape the global image of esports.

As the most played video game in the world, League of Legends is pioneering the path for esports to solidify its recognition as an established industry; the game has indirectly taken on the burden of mass structuring a sustainable competitive environment in esports. While interest surrounding the scene grows every day, such growth necessitates an increased attention towards defining the esports scene – in terms of voice, community and structure. In this paradigm, content serves as the communal representative for the game and those involved – and escalating its originality and output will help fuel esports’ evolution.


But what are we talking about?

Content exists in many forms. Anyone who has delved into League of Legends can pinpoint streams, YouTubers, documentaries, daily shows, articles, sports websites – the list goes on. Ultimately, League of Legends as a community encourages a spectator relationship between personalities and viewers, favoring content that brings gameplay and lifestyle to the foremast of its narrative.

From this, I value two major outlets for content production as driving forces for the community: streams and documentaries.

Courtesy of Dot Esports.

Courtesy of Dot Esports.

Log into Twitch.tv anytime of day and you will find League of Legends at the top of the streaming charts, seemingly without fail. More so than any other game, League has integrated stream culture as a vital ingredient for its player base and community. Imatpie, Nightblue3, Valkrin, Dyrus, Bjergsen – these are a few of the popular streamers out there whose names have become synonymous with League of Legends – some even doing so without ever going pro.

But what are the consequences of streaming?

Streaming has in some ways invented a new vocabulary for the gaming community. As anyone who has ever read Twitch chat can testify – it takes its own language to understand the rhyme and reason of what exactly is going on in any given Twitch chat box. To the untrained eye, this feature of the broadcast shows nothing but spam and pointless discussions. To a large degree, the untrained eye is correct.

But beyond trolling, Twitch chat has embedded a culture that has grown to shape the attitude of League’s community. Any avid Twitch follower can pinpoint Kappas and 4Heads, PogChamps and BibleThumps, Kreygasms and PJSalts. There is, in fact, a logic to the fashion spectators bond in the chat over the rituals that have evolved of spectating gaming on Twitch. In many ways, commanding the chat to spam Kappa Pride is not much different from a band of Barcelona fans chanting the soccer team’s song mid-game – the main difference being the location at which the event is being consumed; yet the act of unifying the audience stays the same.

Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Courtesy of WikiCommons.


My main issue with Twitch chat used to be the problem with extending its intricacies over to a non-traditional esports consumer. I feared that the uniqueness of streaming culture would create a barrier of entry too bizarre for mass viewership of League as a spectator sport. And surely, I have been consistently proved wrong by the continual records shattered by Worlds every week.

So what does this suggest? Well, to me it reads that instead of resisting streaming idiosyncrasies, League content must embrace them. Successful streamers have already implemented interaction with emotes into their daily routines – tune into BoxBox’s Riven-only stream and see how he asks his chat to “woo” in response to a good play. Does this language barrier exclude outside viewers? Possibly. But more importantly, content creators should generate content that uses this language to such well degree that it energizes the newbie to yearn to learn the culture for its oddities and peculiarities. For ultimately, these strange interactions of 2016 are slowly defining a new movement in pop culture, fed from the emoji millennial culture, and propelling a new form of media consumption special to gaming culture.

Documentaries

Documentaries, on the other hand, turn to demonstrate the lifestyle of gamers. In a lot of ways, documentaries fueling League of Legends closely resemble the trends in reality television such as Real Housewives – the only difference is that the gaming community actually wants to know what Bjergsen had for breakfast the morning of LCS summer split Week 4.

At this time, some of the most successful North American documentaries that have come out are TSM: Legends and Team Liquid’s Rebirth. Not to mention the plethora of non-continuous projects launched by Machinima, Gamespot, Rig8, Push to Talk TV, Riot Games, and plenty of other sources. Perhaps the most ambitious documentary project to launch will be released this November 2nd by 1 UP Studios, the production company responsible for generating Liquid’s Rebirth series, as they have announced on Yahoo esports their upcoming release of BREAKING POINT: a full length feature showcasing the “dirty laundry” of Liquid’s inner struggles during Summer 2016 split.

Courtesy of TSM Youtube.

Courtesy of TSM Youtube.

The danger with such content lies in exposing “too much” – leaking crucial information regarding the team’s organizations or making their players become reality personalities instead of athletes. However, the trailer for BREAKING POINT in particular, that you can find on YouTube, paves the way for a new wave of esports content in the full-length-feature format  – which could go long ways in breaking open the scene to a larger audience – perhaps even finding its way into film festival circuits and the becoming homestays in the likes of Netflix and Amazon. In doing so, these documentaries will boost the recognition of the scene – and their responsibility now lies in determining what angle they craft for the overarching narrative of esports for non-traditional gaming followers.  

I personally am highly anticipating the release of this feature and believe in its potential to shake up the game in terms of the quality expected from the narratives of eSports films. I believe this will launch a movement for content production – and am ready to join said movement when it arrives.

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.

 

 

Faker the “Meta establisher”

Courtesy of, www.youtube.com

                           Courtesy of, www.youtube.com

A Meta Establisher is someone who plays a champion and other people for whatever reason, follow the lead of the Meta Establisher and play the champions that the meta Establisher is playing. Below are a few reasons why Faker has been an incredible Meta Establisher in the midlane throughout his career.
Faker has long been considered one the the best League of Legends player of all time. Although his statistics on every category are beyond impressive, one aspect of his game that should not be overlooked is the respect other players have for him. Faker has established the meta in the mid lane almost since he came into the scene, some of it has to do with his ability to quickly figure out what champions are overpowered after a patch is introduced, but the respect other players have for him, also contributes to his Meta Establisher history.

Xerath:

Faker introduced Xerath into the scene worsening the wave-clear meta where Xerath and Ziggs were prioritized. Throughout the next few months Xerath was the top pick/banned champion across all regions and was introduced by Faker.

Ryze:

Faker introduced Ryze into season 5 Worlds. It was not until the tournament was over that other teams realized that the champion was overpowered, yet Faker figured it out before the tournament started and continued to use it even in the finals against Koo Tigers.

Karma: 

Faker introduced Karma into the scene. The champion was used in the midland for a short time, yet other regions(notably NA) picked it up. Faker only played Karma once, funnily enough lost that game. However, Karma was a contested pick in NA, exacerbating the situation due to the fact that Bjergsen got a pentakill on her.
Faker played his first competitive game of season 6 with Corki. Although he has not played any other games with the champion, Corki has become a priority pick in NA, and has seen some play in other regions.

Viktor:

The champion that was more established by one player in my opinion was Viktor in season 5. Faker prioritized this champion picking it into anything last season. This is something very uncharacteristic of Faker since his incredibly big champion pool, means that he typically does not highly prioritize a single champion. However, his undefeated record on the champion, making it one of the champions that he is undefeated on having played the most games on(used to be LeBlanc, but he lost with her at MSI). The interesting part is that every region prioritized Viktor as well last season when the midlane meta was composed of :Cassiopia, Azir and Viktor. Yet, LMS region and NA had negative win rates on the champion despite prioritizing it. NA had more than ten games played on Viktor and continued to first pick/ban just because Faker had tremendous success on the champion.

LeBlanc:

Arguably Faker’s most successful champion is LeBlanc, one of the champions that requires mastery in order to play at the competitive level. Last season before MSI, around spring time, every team banned LeBlanc against SKT. Yet, anyone else who attempted to play the champion, was not nearly as impressive as Faker was. No other player was feared for his LeBlanc, yet teams had to ban it against SKT and it took the most anti-LeBlanc team composition to finally defeat Faker on that champion. Although very few players followed Faker’s lead around this time, and even fewer had success on her, LeBlanc deserves an honorable mention because Faker was the only one that figured out how to effectively use her. The champion was later nerfed and it can be said it was a target nerf towards Faker as he alone made the champion look overpowered.

Honorable mentions:

There are many more examples like mid Riven, Zed, Ahri and Ezreal that Faker has in some way or another influenced the meta with. They deserve an honorable mention, but they were either not introduced by Faker, or other players did not follow Faker and played the champion enough.

The Five Storylines To Follow Going Into The EU LCS Spring Split

The new El Classico? Courtesy of Fnatic.com

The new El Classico? Courtesy of Fnatic.com

Fnatic vs. Origen: the New El Classico

 

Europe, as a region, has always tended towards monolithic super teams, having some of the greatest talent in the West, born and raised in their own region. During the Summer Split, Fnatic could not be considered any less than the strongest team in Europe, taking the first ever perfect split in the LCS. Right at their heels though were their younger, or older, brother in Origen, the team formed around the leaving of xPeke and Soaz that blazed from the EU CS to the Quarter Finals at Worlds. With the absolute crashing and burning that was SK Gaming’s LCS team, a new El Classico is brewing, that is, between the two European giants in Fnatic and Origen.

What’s to watch between these two teams? Well, right now, Origen looks set to take Europe by complete storm, even more so than last time, and maybe even challenge Fnatics record of a perfect season. Origen looked strong going into the Summer Split in 2015, they looked strong at Worlds where NA teams faltered around them, and they look (possibly?) even stronger with Power of Evil in the midlane (not to slight xPeke in any way.) Fnatic, on the other hand, has done a lot of rebuilding. They lost their Top, Jungler, and Support to NA, and that is a huge hit, particularly in their Support. Yellowstar can take almost full credit for rebuilding the team and leading them on the Fields of Justice to victory, a strong shotcaller and a great support player. Huni and Reignover, Top and Jungler respectively, are huge talent hits, but talent can be replaced. The wealth of experience that Yellowstar brought to the team cannot. Still, everyone casted complete doubt on the lineup that ended up going undefeated in the Summer Split, so if any EU team can almost completely rebuild a roster into a world class team it’s Fnatic. Gamsu and Spirit, Gamsu coming from a rather lackluster Dignitas squad but having his shining moments there and Spirit from Team WE and Samsung Galaxy Blue, are strong pickups to replace the Korean duo for the top half of the map. Noxiak, their Support player, has yet to really be seen, and has some of the biggest shoes to fill coming into this split. The storyline here is a question mark too: will Fnatic and Origen remain the two top dogs in an increasingly competitive league, given some of the star studded talent that’s consolidated in other teams?

The 'Middle of the Pack' squad. Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

The ‘Middle of the Pack’ squad. Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

The middle of the pack shake up

 

Europe’s also probably the most volatile of the regions. Upstart teams like Lemondogs, Alliance, Supa Hot Crew and others, rise and fall almost as quickly. They also lay claim to the most competitive middle of the pack teams ever. Just look to the Summer Split 2015: the four teams ranked 4-8 had 1 game difference between them. That is insanely close. So what does this mean here? Well, these teams have always struggled to really cause the two to three headed giant of the top of the league to sweat. Sure, they’ll take games off of them at times, but overall it’s hard to say that a Roccat or Elements really could take down Origen in a best of three. There’s always something that’ll slip up, maybe nerves or small mistakes, that the upper teams will take advantage of and run with it.

So what’s the story going into this split? Well, the usual talent conglomeration. The Unicorns of Love hope to rebuild themselves, having lost Power of Evil, Kikis, and Vardags, around some pretty talented players: the (in)famous Diamondprox will hold down the jungle, Fox the midlane, a shining player for SK Gaming’s turbulent Summer Split, and lastly the French talent in Steelback, whose tenure in Fnatic is resume enough. For Team Elements, having lost their star in Froggen, they have chosen to try and rebuild largely around Steve, Roccat’s old top laner, and MrRalleZ, the literal Danish ADC Giant. The rest of their roster, other than Gillius who played for Unicorns of Love and G2, are unheard of solo-queue players. Lastly, we’ll look at Roccat’s new lineup, one of the few middle of the pack teams to actually pick up some pretty experienced players in every lane. Fredy112 in the toplane, ex-SK Gaming, Airwaks in the Jungle, ex-Copenhagen Wolves, Betsy in the Midlane and Edward as Support from ex-Gambit, and lastly, the most untested of the team, Safir as ADC, taken from Renegades. Given that each of these players is at least as talented as any middle of the pack team could hope for, it’s the eternal question of whether this can translate onto the stage in any meaningful way.

So, what’s the storyline to follow? Well, the real question hanging over everyone’s head is whether these teams can make any real impact in the league. The dream of every middle of the pack team is to lose that title and make it comfortably in the top 3 or 4 of the League. But, given some of the new talent, this might be just a dream for many of these teams. It’s not impossible, of course, that one of these teams can just ‘click’ and absolutely dominant the league. This is Europe, if it’s going to happen anywhere it’s here. But I think, at least on paper, these teams are going to be a solid middle of the pack group, not able to really make a dent on the pedigree that will claim the top four.

Can the new kids on the block bring their A game? Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

Can the new kids on the block bring their A game? Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

New Kids on the Block in G2, Splyce and Vitality

 

In contrast to NA, Europe was relatively quiet when it came to purchases for LCS spots. Sure, Splyce made headlines with their million(!!) dollar acquisition of Dignitas.EU, the first fully national Danish team to make it into the league in a while (since Copenhagen Wolves did many moons ago with Bjergsen.) Vitality, too, bought into the league, picking up Gambit’s old spot and built arguably one of the scariest rosters for these new comers. Lastly, G2 did it the old fashioned way, constructing a good roster, attempting to get into the LCS, failing, rebuilding, and then managing to get in through the Promotion tournament.

As any team entering the LCS has over their head, the big question mark over all these teams is just how well will they do now that they’re at the big kids table of the LCS? Splyce did amazing during the CS, being probably the most dominant force there and making it in through the automatic promotion that Riot introduced (where the 10th place LCS team is automatically relegated, while the top CS series team is automatically promoted to the LCS.) But how will they fare against this new competitive EU LCS? It’s hard to say. They’re actually quite lucky in one regard over the other newcomers, in that they’ve largely all played together for quite some time. They know each other, and that’ll go a long way to (hopefully) having clear communications and good synergy. Talent-wise, the only notable players are Trashy in the Jungle, who was Jungler for now relegated Enemy eSports, and Nisbeth, the support player for also now relegated Meet Your Makers, which isn’t really telling of any greatness. What about G2 eSports, the eSports ‘club’ built by ex-SK Gaming Ocelote? Well, largely they became a farm team for many other organizations. They’ve had many players come and go, but their current roster, revolves around the hope of Emperor, their ADC from Korea and North America’s Team DragonKnights, and Kikis, their Top laner who played Jungler for Unicorns of Love, being able to make an impact. It’ll be interesting to see how this team does for communication, given the diverse languages within the team. But G2 has a steep uphill battle before them, and it’s questionable as to whether they’ll really leave a mark in the EU LCS.

Last, but certainly not least, is Team Vitality, who get their own paragraph because I think they are the newcomer team to look out for. While Roccat were able to snag notable players for each of their positions, Vitality were able to do so and then some. They grabbed Cabochard for their top lane, a consistent threat on the old Gambit lineup. Next is Shook, the very storied Dutchman whose bounced between Copenhagen Wolves, Alliance-Elements, then Copenhagen Wolves, and now Vitality, making great impacts on each team (as much as can be said for some of them.) Nukeduck holds down the mid lane, who’s also been a European standard and has been slated as the potential-ridden midlane, always expected to do big but never quite making it there. Lastly, and I think this is really the strongest point, is the duo lane taken directly from H2K gaming, in Hjarnan and Kasing. H2K was Europe’s third seed going into Worlds, and while they didn’t overly impress many, that’s still something. It’s all going to come down to how this team actually performs though. Talent is one thing, but League is a team oriented game still, and communication and synergy are not just buzzwords. While on paper they look like the strongest ‘new’ team, this has to translate onto the stage.

FORG1VEN to lead another team to glory or to mediocrity? Horrible Photoshop intended.

FORG1VEN to lead another team to glory or to mediocrity? Horrible Photoshop intended.

H2K: Can they keep their top three status?

 

H2K was another example of Europe’s upstart nature, coming out of CS and into quite a strong position within the LCS and eventually making it to Worlds. They were strong before, but I can’t help but feel they’re both in a better and worse position this split. The good? They got FORG1VEN. Anyone who followed SK Gaming in the Spring Split last year knows this is BY FAR the biggest pickup in the offseason for Europe. He is good, really good, and if he can learn to cooperate with his teammates in H2K they can easily retain their third spot position (dropping maybe to fourth at times.) The bad? Well, Europe’s gotten a lot more competitive too, even with the loss of some major talent, and as good as FORG1VEN is he is also… a difficult player to have on a team. FORG1VEN is a definite improvement on pretty much any ADC in Europe, but he is also just as difficult to have on a team as it is to not have him on your team. The storyline of H2K is really going to revolve around their botlane, and whether the veteran in VandeR can keep him both satisfied as a Support and reign him in when needed. The dynamic of H2K will either make or break them as a top team in EU LCS, and the Spring Split is going to be when all eyes are watching them on which it’s going to be.

ANOTHER European Exodus. Courtesy of na.lolesports.com

ANOTHER European Exodus. Courtesy of na.lolesports.com

European Talent Exodus

 

European exports to NA aren’t much of news, it’s happened before and made huge impacts, like the move for Bjergsen, and also made very small difference, think Evil Geniuses. This time, however, it’s been quite an exodus. Europe lost Huni and Reignover to newly minted Team Immortals in NA. As if that wasn’t hard enough for EU fans, they lost Yellowstar, the jewel of Europe, to TSM and Svenskeren also to TSM. Surely things couldn’t be worse? Well, then they lost Froggen to Echo Fox a new start up team, and then SmittyJ (arguably less of a hit, but one nonetheless,) to Dignitas. It’s all a bitter pill to swallow, having also seen Alex Ich leave to help form Renegades in NA, alongside Jensen, ex-INCARNATI0N, who joined the then struggling Cloud 9 team.

This storyline is kind of twofold to follow. First, the question most pertinent here is whether Europe can recover. Those who caught the EU LCS trailer know that this is going to be a big storyline there. Europe’s been here before, goes the trailer, they’ve been doubted before, but they’ve always come out of it stronger than before. One of EU’s greatest hopes, in Origen, is still fully intact from this exodus. Fnatic’s rebuilt itself before with less. Heck, EU can even claim to have fully imported something from NA in Safir for G2. But the question could also be rephrased less harshly: not whether Europe will ‘recover,’ but how Europe will show it is still one of the most dominant regions in the world. The second side of this coin? Well, it’s whether these Europe imports will affect NA’s LCS. Bjergsen’s rightfully so considered to have kept TSM afloat and relevant since he joined. He’s the strongest mid laner in the region, at least for now. But then Dexter, CLG’s old Jungler, didn’t seem to have such a lasting legacy for CLG. Then there’s also the story of Evil Geniuses, failed import and eventual dissolution. Jensen ultimately was good for Cloud 9, but when he joined many doubted him a worthy heir to Hai’s throne. TSM’s also known no end of ‘failed’ European junglers too. So the question for NA fans is this: will these injected Europeans make an impact to a region that showed such promise going into Worlds but ultimately fell flat on their faces? As with all our storylines here, only time will tell.

When I Met Bjergsen

(Courtesy of dvsgaming.org)

(Courtesy of dvsgaming.org)

In the summer of 2015, my sister and I traveled to Europe to visit our cousin. We stayed in Paris for a few days knowing we also wanted to explore other places in Europe. Interestingly enough, one night we had a conversation about whether we would wait in a line to get a picture with someone. We unanimously agreed, that no one came to our minds for whom we would wait in a line to ask for their autograph, or to take a picture with them. Later that summer, we decided to go to Los Angeles to visit the NA LCS studio.
I had been a follower of Bjergsen ever since he arrived in NA. I thought he was the best Western player, funny, confident and humble. Since the moment we booked those tickets to Los Angeles, I had my eyes on Bjergsen. I jokingly repeated to my sister if she was ready to meet “Senpai”, obviously referring to Bjergsen.
Weeks of anticipation finally arrived on that Saturday morning. I woke up at 8 AM, which is pretty unusual for me, but with all the excitement, I ran downstairs for breakfast. Unfortunately, the studio did not open until twelve, and those were the three longest hours of my life. My sister finally woke up and I accompanied her for breakfast. I talked all the way through and my excitement was probably felt miles away until we got to the studio at 12:30.
As a Sports fan, I have been to many sports events. I have been to the largest sports stadiums around the world, but visiting the LCS was different. I was in the place where the broadcast of a show that I had watched religiously for a few years took place. To be in a place so special to me was completely surreal.  It was the realization how far I have come along into accepting Esports. It was the convergence of a lot of people I looked up to, with the realization that they are very down to Earth.
At the end of every match the winning team would step outside and take pictures with audience members. We took pictures with all the teams that showed up, but one stood out. As we waited until the line got shorter, the members of TSM looked annoyed by the fact that they had the longest line. When the line got short enough that we did not have to stand under the Sun, I whispered to my sister, “are you ready to meet Senpai?”
There were only two groups of people before it was our turn when we realized that Santorin and Bjergsen did not have their jackets on. At that point, we jokingly proposed each other to ask them if we could put them on for the picture, which we quickly dismissed thinking it was “too much” to ask. As the last group stepped out and it was our turn, I immediately asked them if we could use their jackets, to which Bjergsen replied, “as long as you do not steal them” in his usual sarcastic tone. I tried saying a few other things, but quite honestly, words did not come out of my mouth and I do not remember what else I said. I have never been in love, but I assume that the way that minute played out with Bjergsen is pretty similar. Time stopped, words did not come out of my mouth as I made several attempts, and he seemed like the funniest person on Earth. We put the jackets on, took the picture, and in a moment, they were gone.
Going to the NA LCS taught me a few things. Never think that you have complete control over your body. The best memories we will have are ones that initiated by stepping out of our comfort zone. Finally, League of Legends is the best video-game in the world.

Team SoloMid Spring Split Predictions

(Courtesy of brainjunkfood.com)

(Courtesy of brainjunkfood.com)

TSM is coming off as one of the most disappointing teams at Worlds. Despite being known as the “Group of Death,” I believe TSM’s could have managed more than 1 win in their group (KT, OG, LGD)  LGD severely under-performed at Worlds, but still managed to absolutely crush TSM in their second game. TSM not only lost 5 of their games, but were absolutely mauled in every single one of them. However, the team going into this split is almost an entirely different squad. Bjergsen is now joined by a superstar team made up of Gravity Gaming’s Hauntzer, SK’s Svenskeren, CLG’s Doublelift, and perhaps most notable player, FNC YellOwSTaR.

So at this point the roster has two players widely considered NA’s best Mid and best ADC, a top laner who has a similar champion pool and playstyle as Dyrus, a jungler who is at least as good as Santorin, and probably one of the top 5 supports/shotcallers in the world.

(Courtesy of Twitter)

(Courtesy of Twitter)

Hauntzer came from a fairly average team, Hauntzer is a fairly above average Top laner. His KDA during the 2015 Summer Split was a decent 3.94. More impressively is his 72% kill participation. Hauntzer is most proficient on heavy front line champs like Maokai and Hecarim, and has shown himself to have a lot of potential to get better. With some positions, individual skill can easily be determined, but Top and Supports are the most likely to have their skills hidden behind an average team, and I’m truly interested to see how Hauntzer can play this season.

 

(Courtesy of thescoreesports.com)

(Courtesy of thescoreesports.com)

Svenskeren is one of the most experienced junglers in professional League of Legends, He was one of the first EU stand outs in his role. Sven also seems to prefer heavier champions. During last spring split, he played Rek’Sai in a third of his games, with Jarvan IV as his second choice. Interestingly enough, He only played three other champions last spring (Rengar, Lee Sin, and Nidalee) and had a 100% win rate with each of them. During the summer, he played a lot of Gragas, and added Ekko to his pool. His Summer performance was remarkably lackluster, but this could be marginally attributed to SK Gaming, and FORG1VEN’s suspension from LCS.

(Courtesy of lolesports.com)

(Courtesy of lolesports.com)

Bjergsen is a remarkable mid. I’ve heard him referred to as the Faker of the west, and I definitely feel comfortable placing him in my top 10 mids in the world. Bjerg is most impressive on his hard assassin champs like Zed and LeBlanc, and is considered a top tier NA shotcaller. His summer performance was as golden as ever, but something just wasn’t clicking. TSM made sloppy plays, and whether that is an error of Bjerg or his team is something known only by a select few. Regardless, Bjerg has spent the past year being held back by something and not playing to his full pontential.

(Courtesy of Gamespot.com)

(Courtesy of Gamespot.com)

Doublelift is almost certainly the best ADC in North America. He’s coming off of a fantastic season with CLG, and will now have the opportunity to play with one of the best supports in the world. He favored Tristana the past season and consistently was the primary carry for his team. I feel confident that he will excel on TSM even further than he did on CLG.

(Courtesy of hbhud.com)

(Courtesy of hbhud.com)

Yell0wSTaR is my favorite player in the LCS so I’m a little biased, but I would argue he is the best support in the west. The only player I put on his level was his predecessor Lustboy. (Some may question Lustboy’s abilities [especially after an incredibly average last season] but there was a time when he was the top ranked solo queue player in Korea… as a support… So I think that more than speaks to his abilties). Yell0wSTaR is a brilliant shotcaller and is incredibly talented on a variety of champs. I feel very little needs to be said in regards to this man as a player, so I’ll leave it at this: Yell0WSTaR is probably the best player on this team.

 

Strengths: Incredibly talented double threat from Bjerg and DL, Expert Shotcalling from Bjerg and YellOwSTaR

 

Weaknesses: None of these players have played together competitively and there may be some growing pains, 2 expert shotcallers could potentially cause butting heads and bad communication

 

Expected Spring Split Record- 16W 2L.

I expect TSM to go into the spring playoffs with the 1st seed. I think they might lose a few games in the first 3 weeks, but will lock down a playstyle and become a well-oiled machine as the split goes on. If Bjerg is willing to allow YellOwSTaR to take primary shotcalling duties, then he may be able to focus more on his own individual play. With Bjerg playing at full potential and the powerhouse bot lane of DL and YS, I don’t see a single NA team with the ability to stop this train.