Substitutions

Breaking down substitutions in the NALCS

This year has seen a rise in the number of subs used in the LCS. In previous years it was a rare sight to have multiple players starting in the same position. The exception came only when there were illnesses or injuries preventing a player from playing. Now, though it is far from the norm, many teams have started swapping out players between games and sets depending on a number of factors. These factors include: the team being played, the composition the team wants to try, tilt and player to player match ups.

The most prominent example of subs working lies with SKT. Since season five they have had at least one sub. Initially it was Easyhoon subbing in for Faker in the midlane. Then it was Bengi and Blank subbing in and out in the jungle. Now we have Peanut and Blank sharing the jungle and Untara and Huni splitting time in the top lane.

SKT finding success with the sub style has proven that it can work. Though it has been implemented in the NALCS, the strategy has been met with varied degrees of success.

 

Cloud 9

Substitutions

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

Cloud 9 has probably found the most success with substitutions in the NALCS this split. Being able to sub in Ray or Impact when the series isn’t going their way, or when the match calls for a certain playstyle has helped Cloud 9 a few times this season. Most prominently when C9 subbed out Impact for Ray in their series against TSM. Ray came into game two and stayed even in lane, then made a huge play in the bottom lane swinging the momentum in C9’s favor. Then despite picking the wrong keystone mastery in game three of the series he still managed to make plays around the map.

Cloud 9 has found some success with substitutions. They still have a lot of problems that need to be fixed, though. Namely, the team often looks uncoordinated. Take their most recent series against CLG. They lost game one with Impact, who was just destroyed from level one, so they sub in Ray. They win game two with Ray, his J4 looked clean and though he didn’t carry he definitely set up some great plays. Game three was a different story. Despite being up in gold and towers at 20 minutes Cloud 9 is unable to take control of the neutral objectives and lost a fight around Baron and then in midlane giving CLG the advantage and letting them take the game.

Subbing works at times for Cloud 9, but it feels as if the lack of scrims with the same roster, and the different playstyle that each top laner brings unbalances C9 nearly as much as it does the opposing team.

 

Other teams

Substitutions

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

This trend of unbalance on both sides seems to be a staple among all of the teams that utilize subs in the NALCS. Recently CLG has brought in jungler OmarGod. In his first series he came in after CLG picked up a win against Flyquest. He crushed on Olaf with a 5-0-13 performance, dominating the early game and bullying his way into the mid game. He proved that he has the talent to be an LCS jungler. When CLG lost game one to DIG they subbed out Dardoch and brought in Omar. They still didn’t pick up the win, and in fact looked more discombobulated in game two than in game one.

Echo Fox has a “ten man line-up” with a sub for every roll. However, substitutions in any role has only gotten a win against TL since week three.

NV has seen some success with the substitutions between Pirean and Nisqy. Generally, they play out an entire weekend with one, rather than swapping out in between games or series. This allows them time in scrims to prepare for the coming week, rather than splitting time. They still haven’t managed to beat a top team other than the struggling C9.

 

Pros and Cons

Substitutions

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

Whatever advantages teams gain from implementing subs seems to be negated by the unbalance it brings to their own team. The communication seems to be lackluster in all of the teams that have used subs this split. CLG seemed to bring in Omar in the DIG series because they were reaching for a panic button, rather than having a definitive plan to win. The lack of scrim time that each player gets is also a concern. More scrims is always a good thing, and having to split time between players doesn’t promote cohesion.

It is a long term investment though. Having two players that are both integrated with the rest of the team can be a powerful weapon to possess. If teams like CLG and C9 can have seamlessly interchangeable players at their disposal in the future they may have the edge they need to beat other top teams. Until those players get to that level of integration the teams are going to suffer some defeats because of it.

Only time will tell if the investments these teams have made into multiple players will pay off as short term losses and long term gains.

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Jensen

C9 Jensen for NALCS MVP

Since joining Cloud9 and the NALCS in Spring 2015, Jensen has sat in the shadow cast by Bjergsen. Jensen has fallen short of the MVP trophy time and again, often at the hands of the touted mid laner from TSM. It hard to imagine a split where Jensen isn’t a front runner for the title, or at least in the conversation. Despite being a major contender Jensen has yet to achieve the illustrious title of Most Valuable Player.

This year may be his year though. Jensen has put up some amazing numbers this split and had some incredible performances. He is far from the clear choice for the award but has a good shot at it. He still must prove himself better than Xmithie or Bjergsen.

Stats

Jensen

Via Lolesports Flickr

 

It’s hard not to discuss stats when discussing performance. If the MVP of the league is who has had the best performance throughout the split, then talking stats is almost unavoidable. Stats aren’t everything, but they are a big indicator.

KDA has always been a major indicator of overall performance. Not only do kills generate gold, but they generate map pressure, so being able to net kills and assists while not dying yourself is a major key. Jensen currently has the highest KDA in the NALCS with an impressive 6.6. For context, Bjergsen has a 5.7, and Xmithie has a 2.8. It also helps that he has the highest kills in the league at a staggering 134. That’s 18 kills higher than Stixxay and Huhi, who are tied for second at 116.

Kill participation is also an important stat. It lets us know how much of the kills are generated around and through the player. Jensen is tied for fourth in the league with Biofrost and Bjergsen at 75.4%. The highest is Matt who has 77.8% KP. That’s only 2.4% higher than Jensen and Bjergsen. MikeYeung isn’t far behind with a 74.8%. Xmithie only has 66.6% KP, despite having a great showing so far this split.

The final stat that factors into this is CS/M. On top of Jensen’s incredible KDA and KP he also holds the highest CS/M at 9.4, which is .8 CS/M over Bjergsen. This is where it is next level. Having the highest KDA, and a high KP is one thing, but still being able to have the best farm on top of that is truly incredible.

Intangibles

Via Lolesports Flickr

Numbers, however indicative of good performance, can only tell us so much. There are certain intangibles an MVP must demonstrate. This includes playmaking ability, consistency, and carry potential.

Jensen has demonstrated some amazing mechanical ability this split already. While he doesn’t have any huge teamfight turning plays this season, he does have a few solo kills like this. Jensen’s playmaking comes more in the vein of his consistency.

Jensen is the face of consistency. He performs well during most losses, and sports a 41% kill share throughout the regular season.  He isn’t getting quadrakills and pentakills, rather he is pumping out consistent damage in team fights and dominating the laning phase. In fact, Jensen has no quadrakills or pentakills this season, despite having three games with double digit kill scores.

As for his carry potential, Jensen brings that in spades. The man crushes lane opponents and snowballs from the midlane. His roams often net kills for himself and his other laners. From this lead, he is able to relieve pressure from elsewhere on the map by either taking it onto himself in the mid lane, or moving himself to where the pressure is. Take for example his Leblanc game against IMT.

Opponents

Jensen

Via Lolesports Flickr

 

As for the major contenders for the award. Xmithie has plays like this one. His mechanical prowess isn’t the only reason he’s a top three choice for MVP however. His stats are likely so low because of what he has been able to do for his laners. Xmithie has often controlled the jungle of the opponents and thus allowed himself to create large leads for his laners. He often snowballs the game by getting all of his laners ahead in the early game and having a stranglehold on neutral objectives in the mid game.

Bjergsen, on the other hand, spearheads the charge of TSM. He plays much like Bjergsen does, dominating the laning phase and snowballing the side lanes. However, he hasn’t been as nearly as dominant as Jensen has this season. What Bjergsen does have going for him, however, is a better win/loss. I think that speaks more to Bjergsen’s team as opposed to his own individual play, but may be a little bit of both.

In short, Jensen has been an animal this split. When he gets rolling, he’s nearly impossible to stop. He has performed very consistently this split and if he continues this level of play, I’m confident that he will finally take home the NALCS MVP award.


Stats via Best.gg and Lolesports.com

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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ESL One Cologne: The tournament for the Americas

ESL One Cologne throughout the years has seen a couple different American teams playing on the stages. Whether it be the stage at Gamescon in 2014 or the stage in the LANXESS Arena. Not only that, but the last two years have only seen American teams in the Grand Finals. An interesting statistic to say the least. Here, we’ll go through the teams who played on the main stages of Cologne. Explaining how they got there, and how far they went.

SK Gaming/Luminosity

2015 was the first year the Brazilian scene met the main stage of ESL One Cologne. Barely making the playoffs over FlipSid3 in 2015, Marcelo “coldzera” David found himself in his first international tournament. And oh boy, did he surprise everyone with how skilled he was.

2016 saw the Brazilians dominate under the the Luminosity banner, before moving over to SK for ESL One Cologne. Finding themselves in the group of death, SK scored wins over G2 and FaZe, moving to the quarters against FlipSid3. For a second year in a row, SK beat FlipSid3 in Cologne. Making their way to the Semis against Virtus.Pro, SK Gaming found themselves struggling to close the match, but ultimately doing so in one of the best matches of Major history. Meeting Liquid in the final, it wasn’t too surprising to see SK dominate the North American side and take their second major title.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

So far in 2017, we’ve seen SK at their worst and at their best, and we’re only seven months in. Coming into Cologne, SK had won two tournaments beforehand. They were by far the favourites for the event. Struggling slightly in the swiss stage, SK made it out 3-2 and met OpTic in the quarters. On paper, a one sided match up but OpTic showed themselves to be strong and took Mirage, but ultimately lost the series. SK moved on to beat FaZe, arguably their rival, and dominated the European team. Going into the grand finals, it may have been a surprise to find Cloud9 there. SK didn’t let the surprise get to them though. SK controlled the entire match and took the match 3-0 and won Cologne for a second year in a row.

Cloud9

Cloud9’s first experience with Cologne was 2014, where they played their first tournament with Mike “shroud” Grzesiek. A situation very similar to Luminosity’s first tournament with coldzera at Cologne. In the group stage, Cloud9 won against Titan, and had their famous comeback against Dignitas on Mirage. Making the quarterfinals, Cloud9 met Ninjas in Pyjamas, a fan favourite. Though, Cloud9 were favoured in the match, they ended up losing due to a very important kill by Adam “friberg” Friberg. Without this one kill, Cloud9 could have definitely made the finals of ESL One Cologne 2014, but talking about what if’s is a bad thing.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

Leading up to Cologne 2015, Cloud9 looked like a Top 4 team, favoured to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, Cloud9 left the tournament in the group stage due to yet another clutch play at 13-13 in a round Cloud9 should have won.

Unfortunately, Cloud9 for the first time were unable to qualify for a major, being ESL One Cologne 2016. In 2017 though, Cloud9 were directly invited as PGL took reigns for the second major of 2017 over ESL. Here, we saw Cloud9 struggle at the beginning but claw their way back to make the playoffs. In the first round of the playoffs Cloud9 met NiP, a rematch of 2014. But, this time Cloud9 took the win and advanced to face Na’Vi in the semifinals. Na’Vi, on arguably their two best maps, lost 2-0 to Cloud9 who went on to play the grand finals against SK Gaming. Unfortunately for Cloud9, SK Gaming were looking for revenge for EPL Season 4, and SK won Cologne over Cloud9.

Team Liquid

Team Liquid first met ESL One Cologne in 2016 as they were directly invited by making the playoffs of MLG Columbus. Using Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev as a stand-in for the event, it wasn’t far fetched to say that Liquid would make the playoffs. They did just that by beating mousesports 2-1 to advance to the playoffs to face Na’Vi in the quarters. After beating Na’Vi, Team Liquid made it to the semifinals to face one of the favourites for the tournament. Liquid decided they didn’t like that title for fnatic, so they took the series 2-0. This put them as the first North American team in the finals of a major. Unfortunately for them, they met SK Gaming and lost 2-0 convincingly against the Brazilians.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

2017 saw Liquid qualifying for the tournament online. Watching the swiss stage of the tournament though, you would have thought they were invited. Going 3-0 in the group stage facing Na’Vi, Immortals and OpTic Gaming, Team Liquid showed the world that the major qualifier was not who they truly were and made their way to the LANXESS Arena. Sadly, Liquid met FaZe in the quarters and were dismantled easily by the European team.

OpTic Gaming

ESL One Cologne 2016 was the first time any player on OpTic made a major. With their inexperience on the major level, OpTic lost to both NiP and FlipSid3 in the group stage, going 0-2 and dropping out of the tournament.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

2017 was a different story for OpTic, who showed up to Cologne with zero eyes on them, and as little pressure as possible. At this point, every player on OpTic has played at the top level. Even though they went 0-3 at the major qualifier just a week before, OpTic showed up to Cologne on fire, taking down North, Space Soldiers and most notably FaZe. Only losing to Liquid in the swiss stage. Going into the playoffs they were matched against SK Gaming. Being the most one sided matches of the playoffs on paper, OpTic showed up with a little bit of fight in them. OpTic took the first map in the series off of SK pretty convincingly. But alas, SK Gaming are far more experienced in these situations and left OpTic in the dust in the next two maps.

ESL One Cologne 2017

 

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: Helena K @ ESL Gaming

 

This year, Cologne showed that the Americas, not just South America, has a place on the big stage. Admittedly, Astralis weren’t present at the tournament, but it isn’t too far fetched to say that they could have taken a playoff spot over Na’Vi or NiP rather than the North American teams.

Throughout the years though, Cologne has shown to be a nice tournament for the Americas, having an American team on stage every year. Not only just one, but half the spots were taken by the Americans this year. That shows some heavy improvement from the region, and maybe some extra confidence in the city of Cologne.

Featured image via ESL Gaming

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Rift Rivals day one recap: NA takes the lead

The following recap covers day one of NA versus EU in the Rift Rivals in Berlin.

TSM v G2: Learning how to play a comp

After much practice in the North American League Championship, Team SoloMid finally turned the corner on the Galio and Jarvan IV composition. Like many team comps taken from the LCK, the Galio and Jarvan IV synergy requires communication to cover the weaknesses of both champions’ ultimates.

Practice makes perfect for the TSM Galio and Jarvan IV combo. Courtesy of LoL Esports.

 

Using Galio to pressure side lanes in the early to mid game, TSM was able to lead the game by 4.4k at fifteen minutes.

TSM was still working out the kinks in their team communication with a disastrous mid game team fight around Baron. With a relatively simple game plan, “Kill the Kog’Maw”, TSM used their win condition to instead focus down G2’s tanky jungler, Rek’Sai.

The perfect combo. Courtesy of LoL Esports

 

After losing this early team fight around Baron, TSM seemed to clean up their communications with a cleanly executed team fight that utilized the strengths of their composition. This fight forced G2’s hyper carry based team comp into a position that did not allow Kog’Maw to administer his health depleting projectile vomit onto the damage dealing threats of TSM.

TSM took the victory at 41:19 leading in gold by nearly 15k, eleven towers to three and eighteen to ten kills.

FNC v P1:MIKE YEUNG! MIKE YEUNG! MIKE YEUNG! Broxah?

The early to mid game for FNC v P1 showed a Phoenix 1 that no one expected. With jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung maintaining a small gold lead through nonstop ganks, hope for North America as a region was at an all-time high.

As soon as mid game pulled around, the less than one hundred gold lead Phoenix 1 had at twenty minutes meant little to nothing. With the signature Kennen marksman split push, FNC was able to negate P1’s lead through controlled disengages and devout farming. As soon as the gold gap flipped in favor of Fnatic, Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen utilized Zac to place enemy champions onto a plate for Martin “Rekkles” Larsson’s Kennen.

 

Rift Rivals

Postgame breakdown courtesy of LoL Esports.

G2 v C9: How to lose two games in one by Cloud9

G2’s early game prowess proved that Kim “Trick” Kang Yoon is a jungler not to be doubted. With early game control over every dragon, Trick cashed in on late game insurance, while also pressuring lanes around the map. Trick’s vision control around bot side allowed for some crucial ganks and counter ganks snowballing an early lead for G2.

G2 Trick utilizes vision control to deny C9’s bot lane plays. Courtesy of LoL Esports.

Cloud9 turned things around with a crispy team fight after a pick on Renekton, allowing them to take an uncontested Baron afterward. Through clean tower taking rotations made possible through Baron buff and Tristana’s kit, Cloud9 was able to pull into the lead with one 3058 gold Baron power play.

C9 Sneaky LITERALLY recalls on a ward throwing the game once again into G2’s favor. Courtesy of LoL Esports.

C9, with a tempo advantage, looked to control the rest of the game up until the entirety of their advantage was depleted by one basic ability from Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez’s Blitzcrank. G2 saw Cloud 9’s 3k Baron power play and raised them a 4588 gold Baron power play that was aided by the five stack Elder Dragon buff. This recipe created an advantage that not even G2 was able to throw.

Rift Rivals

Postgame breakdown courtesy of Lol Esports

 

P1 v UoL: Exileh blows Flash and MikeYeung chants come back

Phoenix 1 once again secured a lead into their EU opponents, with mid-laner Ryu Sang-wook picking up three kill participation before ten minutes. However, this lead did not prevent UoL from playing proactively via a successful gank mid and a follow-up Rift Herald. Despite UoL’s Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir having an impactful early game, MikeYeung played out of his mind.

Rift Rivals

The start of a long game for UoL Exileh. Courtesy of Lol Esports

 

MikeYeung’s camp on mid lane left UoL looking for the report for intentional feeding post game for their mid laner,  Fabian “Exileh” Schubert.

Perhaps the most controlled game for Rift Rivals day one, P1 vUoL looked like a completely different team than the P1 we see in NA LCS.

FNC v C9: Contractz buys camping gear from Caps

Rasmus “Caps” Winther was not allowed to lane against the mid lane and jungle synergy that C9 brought with their Leblanc and Gragas combo. With the burning of Caps’ flash before laning phase even began, C9 looked to snowball Jensen’s Leblanc into a champion removal machine.

With gank after gank on mid lane, not all of which were done by C9’s jungler, Jensen secured eight kills by the time C9 went for their game-ending push.

Rift Rivals

Smoothie makes mid lane feel like an REI outlet. Courtesy of Lol Esports.

TSM v UoL: NA finishes strong

UoL Exileh’s tilt from Ryu’s dominance over his Ryze earlier during the day permeated through his unsuccessful Corki performance into Bjergsen’s Syndra. While UoL Vizicsacsi performed very well on Irelia into TSM’s Gnar pick, the same can not be said for the rest of UoL’s team.

Despite having a troubled laning phase, TSM Hauntzer’s Gnar pulled huge Mega Gnar ultimates, two-handedly leading TSM into a victory.

Rift Rivals

Day One completed. Here are the results. Courtesy of Lol Esports.

Bjergsen sealed the game with a beautiful Quadra kill putting NA substantially in the lead for day one of Rift Rivals at 4-2. TSM finished off Day one 2-0 and are looking for more victories in the coming days.


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All images courtesy of LoL Esports

Feature image courtesy of LoL Esports

Playoff implications for NALCS parity

The summer split has passed its halfway point, and in NALCS there is a race for the top shaping up. It’s very rare in the NALCS for a clear top team or top two teams to not be apparent. Last split it was clear that C9 and TSM were in a tier of their own and the split before TSM was undefeated at this point in the season.

This season there doesn’t seem to be a clear top team, rather it seems anyone at the top of the table can beat anyone else at the top of the table. For example, after this weekend we can see that CLG > C9 > TSM > IMT > CLG. None of the match ups were close. Even though TSM 2-0’d IMT, both games were close in gold, kills and objectives until twenty minutes. The same can be said of the IMT versus CLG series.

Playoff Implications

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

The implications this parity has for the playoffs is that they will be much harder to predict than in years past. Last split it seemed like destiny for C9 and TSM to meet for a rematch. The split before TSM was on the warpath for the finals. This year CLG and IMT could both be in the finals, meaning we could have the first split without a TSM finals. It also seems just as likely that C9 and TSM square off again.

The real question though, is who will get the bye? When the dust settles at the end of the season who will be the top two teams? It seems likely that TSM could have a top spot, especially after besting IMT. CLG also seems to be a prime candidate. Their series win against C9 indicates that they are certainly worthy of a playoff bye. They still must face TSM and IMT once more. If they win both of those matchups then they will likely be the number one team at the end of the season.

The IMT vs CLG series in week 7 will likely determine which of them gets the playoff bye, assuming TSM gets the other. IMT still has to face both C9 and CLG before the end of the season and a loss in either series could send them to the quarterfinals.

C9 has the easiest remaining schedule, only having to face IMT out of the other top teams. If they win out from this point in the season they still have a chance to get a bye spot.

 

Other Teams

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

One thing that does seem certain is the top four teams. It seems clear at this point that CLG, IMT, TSM and C9 are at the top of the league. That leaves two spots open for the playoffs and there are a few teams in contention for those two spots.

The one team that seems most likely to make the playoffs from the bottom of the table is DIG. They have a very strong top side of the map, and often play through their top laner, Ssumday. They have a solid record, but haven’t faced as difficult of a schedule as Cloud 9 and still have to face each top team once more before the end of the season. DIG did take a series win off of TSM, but it is unlikely they will win their second match up.

Another team with a good chance to take one of the playoff spots is Team Envy. Lira is still a top NA jungler. Also, NV’s team game is much stronger this split with Nisqy/Pirean in the midlane. Seraph continues to be a concern in the top lane, both in terms of play and attitude.

Echo Fox has also put themselves in a position to make the playoffs. Though they came out of the gate strong, they have been in a bit of a slump recently. EF managing to salvage what’s left of the season will mean they can make the playoffs.

Any of these three teams have a chance to upset any of the top teams in the playoffs, and potentially make a run at the finals; but it is unlikely that any of them will make it past quarter finals.

As for the other three teams, the only one I think with any chance of making playoffs is P1. That chance is very slim, however. They’d essentially have to win out from here. They have made a lot of reform, but even with rookie sensation MikeYeung it doesn’t seem likely that P1 has the consistency needed to beat C9, CLG and TSM.

 

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Overwatch Contenders Week 4: Group stage takeaways

We finally get the matches with the teams the people wanted. Ties, stomps, brutal come-from-behind victories and the occasional “well that just happened” makes its way to the front. The casting has grown to a rather fever pitch with everything becoming more comedic and punchy. Players and teams have settled into the tournament and are actively putting the pedal to the metal. The Overwatch Contenders tournament has been rough around the edges and maybe needs to retool itself, but there’s a working motor underneath this event and it finally got a chance to rev up a bit.

Let’s jump in.

Europe

If there was ever a need to have a guide on how to tie a match, just watch the VODs from Saturday’s matches. We finally get to see Vivi’s Adventure play against Singularity (Formerly Singularity Ninjas) along with 123 Squad smashing Alfa Squad. The uniqueness is that both matches involved ties. Oddly enough, looking at the map scores for Vivi’s, they tied on Anubis twice in a single day of play and if not for a tie with Gamers Origin might have ended up in a tiebreaker with RiP (Formerly Ninjas in Pyjamas).

The other story line is that the European scene has hit a few icebergs on its way through this tournament. Ninjas in Pyjamas released their one-time notorious squad (The Triple Tank inventors) and Cyclowns disbanded (and forfeiting every match this weekend), putting a small cloud in an otherwise strong showing from Europe. RiP qualifying for the final bracket and doing it under pressure speaks volumes for their commitment to playing. They could have easily just thrown their hands up and let it go but stuck it out, putting a hell of a stamp on their dedication mark.

A final thread to point to is Cyclowns. The talent is irrepressible, with the former players cropping up to save major teams. Boombox played out of his mind for eUnited against Team Expert, more specifically, in the match on Route 66 where his Winston play is the stuff of supports nightmares. destro helping push Movistar Riders over the hump after Finnsi’s depature, beating the tie against Alfa Squad which ultimately puts them into the final bracket. Cyclowns are dead but the squad still finds ways to influence the tournament.

Unfortunately, the group stages send home four of their teams with Vivi’s Adventure, GamersOrigin, Alfa Squad, ESPORATI, Ninjas with Attitudes, Team eSporters Cyberatheletes (Quietly Richard Lewis screams into a pillow) and Team Expert. Cyclowns’ demise ultimately begs the question, if the team had remained together could they have knocked off Movistar Riders? But like many hypotheticals, it’ll remain an unresolved question for the ages.

North America

Surprisingly North America’s showing was a bit more chaotic, it just took a long time to get through it. The matches themselves went till the wee hours of the morning. Call it a scheduling issue but the truth was that every match between teams seemingly took forever. Four maps played is a lot to order. In groups, this works because ties are a thing where as brackets need winners and losers. The merit however of having teams go the distance every time is fine. The issue taken is that matches need to be started sooner so viewership doesn’t drop towards the end of the night.

I just wanted to go to bed, thanks C9 and Kungarna

A good reason for so many maps played is highlighted in Liquid vs CLG. While it ended in a tie and made for some great plays on both sides, the idea of mind games lingered. Sure, they’re up two maps to one but they really suck at this map so a chance to draw presents itself. Kungarna drawing five times in groups and notching only two wins really speaks towards the power of draw games. Their final win was over Cloud9 in a winner take all best of one. Their tiebreaker match to cap off the night, Kungarna dug deep and buried C9 finally amidst the talk of the beef from the casters. A way better match to watch in the mid evening with some form of a snack. Suspiciously, Cloud9 was absent from the day’s streams despite their popularity. This harkens back to last week’s recap which highlighted the lack of strong teams being streamed.

Immortals, on the other hand, were essentially looking to run the table for their group until Arc6 (formerly YIKES!) pulled a Leonidas.

Arc6 can know they took the draw against Immortals and proved that their squad is beatable. While Immortals dropped maps, they did not drop matches until that one moment. If Arc6 needs anything to top its resume it’s proving that they were the only team to draw against Immortals. Their run came to an end sadly when FNRGFE won four to nothing. Toronto Esports and Counter Logic Gaming showed they could also hang with the big teams.

The NA teams that ended up leaving at group stages read like a mid tier tournament winners ticker line. Selfless Gaming, Counter Logic Gaming, Toronto Esports, Arc6 (Yikes), Cloud9, Tempo Storm, Hammers Esports (Happy Richard Lewis) and You guys get paid? all leave knowing they left an impression for other teams to look for. Sponsors are watching these tournaments and their actively looking for which teams are truly going the distance in their matches.

Conclusion

This is an open qualifier – the idea was more centered on proof of concept. The teams that did not qualify for final bracket showed they have formulas to win. Teams like Toronto Esports, Vivi’s Adventure, Team expert, Arc6, Cloud9 played incredibly close in their respective groups. If teams need to tell sponsors they’re getting exposure, look no further than this weekend. Contenders was strong this weekend and the finals are looming.

Check in later this week when I break down the upcoming matches for both North America and Europe!


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The boys of silver: Cloud 9’s second place tenure

Recently it’s been an emotional roller coaster for Cloud 9 fans. I should know. I’ve been one since I started watching esports. I came to League by way of Smash. I was, and still am, a Mang0 fan. When I started watching League in spring of season 4 I decided since Mang0 had been picked up by C9 I’d stay true to the org and root for C9. Fortunately, they won that split. Unfortunately, they haven’t won in NA since. While C9 hasn’t had an unsuccessful split since, even finishing 7th didn’t stop them from making it to worlds, they have been unable to clutch the NA championship trophy. Coming in 2nd no less than four times. Falling short all four times to TSM, who hasn’t missed an NA final since the inception of LCS.

I’m not displeased with Cloud 9’s performances, far from it. It is great to be a C9 fan. I can’t imagine the masochism that CLG and Team Liquid fans have endured. However, I can’t help but feel like the team is destined to fall just short, time and time again. It’s hard to pin down the weaknesses among the strengths. What exactly is it that Cloud 9 is missing?

 

Strengths

Photo Via Lolesports Flikr

Cloud 9 has always been able to team fight. When they joined the league they immediately rose to the top for three reasons.

The first was their mechanical prowess. It’s easily forgotten that at the offset Cloud 9 was considered a top-tier mechanical team. This was before Hai’s wrist issues.

The second was their ability to team fight. They would win nearly every team fight, often winning even when behind in gold.

Cloud 9 also had the x-factor of Hai. Hai was willing to make bold play calls and take risks in order to win, even when down. This often enabled his team to make comeback victories.

These three things combined to make them a dominant team in their first two splits. Cloud 9 had a combined record of 49-7 in their first two splits. They also took grand finals 3-0 both splits against TSM.

More recently the team has struggled at the last. However, they aren’t without their strengths. Jensen is widely regarded as a top two mid-laner. Some put him as the best in NA, but most think that he is second to TSM’s Bjergsen. He has great mechanical prowess and is often able to carry games. He is the superstar mid-laner for Cloud 9.

The bot lane also shows great strength. Sneaky and Smoothie have been consistently good throughout. Smoothie was named the best support in the league last split and Sneaky the second best ADC. Although they rarely display the level of hard carry prowess that Jensen does, they are more consistent. Their ceiling is high, but their floor isn’t far below it.

The top side of the map has shown some strength too. Contractz controls the early game and often ganks successfully to get his teammates ahead.  Impact has the ability to work with little resources yet still have a presence. Jensen can carry games more easily because he soaks up the resources that aren’t devoted to Impact. Impact’s positioning in team fights as well as his engages are second to none. Ray has also shown a lot of promise. His J4 has been deadly and has brought C9 out of a hole more than once this split already.

Weaknesses

Photo Via Lolesports Flikr

Where then are the weaknesses? If every player has his strengths, what is the team struggling with? In order to highlight it I’m going to compare them to TSM. The reason for this is because Cloud 9 continues to fall short to this team.

At first glance it’s easy to say that TSM’s players are just better. Bjergsen is the better Jensen, Doublelift is the better Sneaky, and Svenskeren the better Contractz. It might be that TSM has better players, but team play is much more important than individual prowess.

TSM is also more proactive. Their macro and rotations are very good domestically. They rarely make bad calls and when they do they often find ways to make up for them. Cloud 9 on the other hand seem to hesitate. They are no longer at the level of macro play that they were when Hai was at the helm. When they play against lesser teams Cloud 9 often make quick work of them. They carve out advantages in the early game and then make decisive calls and win team fights in the mid game. Against teams like TSM, Cloud 9 hesitates a bit, or gets out rotated. C9 is unable to carve out an advantage early game, or struggle to rotate swiftly in the mid game. Cloud 9 doesn’t look lost, just timid.

Solutions

Photo Via Lolesports Flikr

There most certainly is no one solution to Cloud 9’s problem. However, one thing that is missing from the Cloud 9 of old is that X factor. Hai’s ability to shot call and his ethos was Cloud 9’s X factor. Now that they have a team with great mechanical ability and great team fighting they are struggling to find their X factor. TSM has their’s in Bjergsen. His ethos and prowess has carried TSM to the finals time and time again. Cloud 9 is trying to emulate that in Jensen, but has fallen short two splits in a row, in game 5. It’s as if Cloud 9 is trying to beat TSM at their own game.

Jensen has been unable to pull it out in the clutch. It’d be a lot easier to argue that he is the best mid in NA if he was able to beat the current king when it was all on the line. Cloud 9 needs to find their new X factor. That unquantifiable thing that will push them to the championship.

 

Photos via Lolesports Flickr

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Dreamhack Summer 2017 Preview

Dreamhack returns for their first event back in Jönköping, Sweden this weekend. With several top teams and even a newcomer to the top tier, Dreamhack Summer 2017 is going to be a platform for teams to prove themselves.

 

Group A

SK Gaming

SK Gaming coming into Dreamhack Summer are the favourites to take the title in Sweden. Recent wins at cs_summit and IEM Sydney can back this up, as well as a semifinal finish at the ESL Pro League finals last weekend.

Photo by: hltv.org

Since adding João “felps” Vasconcellos in February, SK Gaming have had a resurgence in performance. While they had two disappointing finishes at IEM Katowice and Starladder i-League Season 3 in Kiev, the team has made three finals and one semifinal. Along with this journey, a slumping Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo has been able to rise up once again and become one of the top AWPers and IGLs in the world.

With Fernando “fer” Alvarenga looking at his best recently, SK Gaming are looking to take the title in Jönköping this weekend.

mousesports

Looking their best in a very long time, mousesports could be considered one of the favourites for the event. Having star level performances from Tomáš “oskar” Šťastný and a constantly improving Robin “ropz” Kool, mouz look to be taking the title or at least a top 2 finish.

When Nikola “NiKo” Kovač left the team in February, a lot of people thought that the team would be in the dumps. After adding in oskar in the place of NiKo, mouz looked impressive. Stealing the third seed in the EU division of ESL Pro League, and then one semifinal place at DH Tours, topping that off with a quarterfinal finish at the EPL Finals in Dallas; mouz have left people with mouths wide open.

A new and improved mousesports might be the recipe for success, and could possibly lead Chris “chrisJ” de Jong and his boys to the trophy this weekend.

Immortals

Photo by: hltv.org

After two events with their new pickup, Vito “kNg” Giuseppe, Immortals look sort of lost in game. With no clear or proper leadership, and the need for constant double AWP setups, Immortals might leave Sweden with a bucket full of disappointment.

Recently, Immortals with their new lineup have attended two LAN tournaments. Getting an upset win against G2 and a win against Cloud9 at the EPL Finals, they left without a chance at playoffs. A week later they went over to the Americas Minor and ended in 2nd place, losing out to a very confident Cloud9 in the Grand Finals. You can definitely make the argument that Immortals need more time, and I personally agree that they do need more time. But in terms of form, mousesports and SK Gaming are a mile above the Immortals.

Immortals are looking to come into Dreamhack Summer to prove themselves, and to prove kNg as a player. If the team come in their top form they can easily make playoffs, and unless they do, it will be a struggle.

Singularity

Coming in as the Danish underdogs, Singularity are going into this event looking to prove themselves and show the world what they got. In a group with two out of four of the toughest teams at the event, Singularity have a long road ahead of them coming into the group stage.

Battling their way through the European qualifier, Singularity faced the rising Team123, as well as the Polish Pride Gaming. Holstering their star Allan “AnJ” Jensen, Singularity essentially out-skilled most of their opponents throughout the qualifier.

With very little experience at a high level, Singularity will have plenty of issues coming into this event. With more experience, this team could make their way to the top of tier 2, and this event could be the boost they need.

 

Group B

Gambit

The Kazakhstani powerhouse have been the best team coming out of the CIS region in 2017. With the leadership of Daniil “Zeus” Teslenko and firepower of Dauren “AdreN” Kystaubayev and Abay “HObbit” Khasenov, Gambit have soared in the rankings coming into the second half of the year.

Photo by: gambit.gg

With a win at DH Austin and a second place finish at cs_summit, Gambit have shown that they are able to go far in tournaments. Something which they struggled with at the beginning of the year. With that as well, their recent form coming into the event is probably enough to get them to second place or even a win at Dreamhack Summer.

In the group stage, Gambit should have no problems. They’ve shown they’re well above Cloud9 and CLG in terms of skill, although they did lose to CLG at Starladder. Fnatic may be the only team to give them problems, and even then they’re a favourite in that matchup.

Fnatic

With the home field advantage, Fnatic are looking to come in swinging when they show up on stage. After narrowly going out in groups at EPL Dallas, fnatic are going to come back and they’ll surely be ready to attack.

With a legendary lineup, arguably the best in all of CS:GO, Fnatic reformed after the ELEAGUE Major. Since then, they’ve had some pretty disappointing results. Only making playoffs at one out of four of the $250k+ tournaments they attended. While Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer has made a comeback in his performance, Fnatic as a whole have been a let down. Many looked to them as possible contenders for the number one spot, but they seem to be barely breaking in to the top 10.

With all that being said, Fnatic are in their own country. They’ll have the crowd and confidence on their side. While they should make playoffs, it’s hard to say if they could go any further.

Cloud9

Cloud9 have been the face of disappointment since their win at the ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals in October of last year. They’ve failed to make it out of groups at any big tournament, as well as failing to qualify for the ELEAGUE Major.

Carrying the same lineup, Cloud9 have refused to make any much needed changes. Mike “shroud” Grzesiek has been under-performing immensely since the EPL Finals. With a recently rising Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham, Cloud9 have failed to do anything significant other than winning the Americas Minor this past weekend. While many still say that Cloud9 are the best team in North America, they’re still very far from any meaningful ranking worldwide.

Although coming off steaming hot from their performance at the minor, Cloud9 have very little to show for what they can do at Dreamhack Summer. There is a small chance that Cloud9 could make it to the playoffs, but it’s a very slim one.

Counter Logic Gaming

CLG have been steadily rising since bringing back Pujan “FNS” Mehta into their lineup. With much needed leadership, the team was able to make their mark on the international scene and make their name something to talk positive about again.

Photo by: hltv.org

Bringing in Ricky “Rickeh” Mulholland brought in some much needed firepower. With Rickeh being one of the most consistent players on the team, Kenneth “Koosta” Suen slowly rose up as the team’s star player, finally living up to his potential as a top tier AWPer. While not having much experience aside from Starladder, he showed at the tournament why he can be considered one of the best AWPers in NA, if not the best.

CLG have nothing to lose and everything to win coming into Dreamhack Summer. If the right cards are played, we could definitely see CLG in the playoffs.

Featured image by: Dreamhack

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Five Things We Learned From The ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals

With the ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals ending on Sunday, we saw G2 Esports take the title. This achievement is the first $250k+ tournament win for the team, and a huge one at that.

But with the tournament ending, we learned plenty of things about teams and the tournament itself. Here are five things that we learned over the course of the last week:

ESL have finally stepped up their game

Photo by: Helena K @ esportphoto.com

ESL have been under a lot of criticism lately, and fairly so. The company calling themselves industry leaders, have only led the company into a pile of mud. With that being said, with their last two tournaments, they’ve started digging themselves out of the pile.

With the conclusion of the tournament came a lot of players saying that the tournament happened to be the best by ESL. From a viewer’s perspective, the tournament wasn’t the greatest. With a couple hiccups here and there along with the organizer moving to YouTube, they weren’t at the top for production. But from the perspective of the players, the tournament was well hosted, and having the best intentions for the players is always a great thing to see.

North’s problems lie beyond inconsistent players

While you can say that making the finals of EPL is a step forward for the team, aside from newfound confidence in the team, they haven’t made much of a step forward.

Starting from the ELEAGUE Major in January, North have struggled in playoffs. Making quarterfinals, or semifinals in some cases, and bombing out. As a Bo3 team, they’re not the best. While they can be considered some of the best on maps such as Overpass or Nuke, one of which happens to be a permanent ban for many teams, they’re generally weaker than most teams on the rest of the map pool.

Tactically it seems that most teams are able to read into what Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen is planning for a match. Being called one of the best in-game leaders at one point, ended up being his downfall. Teams learned what he was doing pretty quickly, an issue that Jake “Stewie2k” Yip and his team faced when reaching their prime at the same time as the former Dignitas lineup did.

Photo by: hltv.org

While yes, you can say that inconsistency in their roster and having a heavily underperforming Philip “aizy” Aistrup is a huge issue, it doesn’t paint the full picture. The team seems to have issues outside and deep inside of the game that isn’t shown by statistics. Cockiness, shown by a trash talking Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke, seems to be a huge issue in the team. Having your star player being overconfident doesn’t help anyone, especially not the team.

Another issue, highlighted here by Richard “shox” Papillon, is their behaviour in practice which shows that the team is only practicing to their strengths rather than to strengthen their weaknesses.

Timothy “autimatic” Ta as the IGL was not the solution

Since their win at EPL Season 4 finals, Cloud9 have been plagued with issues. Stemming from a very readable Stewie and two players in huge downfalls from what they once were. Cloud9 are only a shadow of themselves from last October. Fielding the same lineup, seemingly the same map pool, and the same style. Much like NiP, Cloud9 seem unwilling to change anything. Although changing IGLs from Stewie to autimatic was interesting, in the end they changed back.

Cloud9 don’t have the firepower they had back during their win at EPL. They had four reliable fraggers and a Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham finding his groove. Since then, Skadoodle and Mike “shroud” Grzesiek have been in slumps of their own. One, unfortunately, worse than the other. Skadoodle has found some sort of consistency although it’s consistent at a lower level than what we expect from him. On the other side, shroud, unfortunately, is unable to find an impact on an international level, and with the problems spreading to domestic competition.

Cloud9’s problems lie with the players and possibly management of the team. From the outside perspective, it’s quite obvious that it’s time to change the players. From an inside point of view, it could be very much different.

G2 are the superteam we expected

With the resurrection of a godlike Kenny “KennyS” Schrub, a returning Nathan “NBK” Schmitt, and a rising Alexandre “bodyy” Pianaro, G2 are finally the team they were expected to be. Going from 1-8 in the regular season to winning the finals, the rise in the team’s performance was well documented.

Photo by: Helena K @ esportphoto.com

Being put into the toughest group and possibly the hardest route in the playoffs, G2 still came out on top. Even while suffering bad losses against Cloud9 and Immortals, they were able to keep the confidence high and persevere. An impressive feat we don’t see from a lot of teams.

MR3 tiebreakers are not the way to go and need to go

In Group A we saw a tiebreaker between SK, EnVyUs, and fnatic battling for the second and third spot. Unfortunately, there were issues that were immediately visible from the start.

EnVyUs took the three-way tie-breaker 2-0, getting the second seed. Of course, it’s not an easy thing to do, but seeing a team such as nV come out on top over the likes of fnatic and SK raised eyebrows, but not in a good way. It showed a massive flaw in the system. Only needing to win at least four rounds to make the playoffs is a problem.

Photo by: Helena K @ esportphoto.com

Teams like SK Gaming aren’t teams that rely on brute force like fnatic and nV. They are a team that needs time to set up, and going against teams like the two against them doesn’t allow for them to do that. Pushes from Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom were very frequent on nV’s CT Side and allowed a very broken CT side to allow nV to take the tiebreaker.

You can make the argument that the teams know that this would happen if the matches leading up to it go the wrong way. With that being said, the fact that a situation like this is allowed to happen in the way that it does is very unfair for teams involved. Especially fnatic, who had an overall decent group stage.

 

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EnVy stands strong, C9 struggles: CWL GPL Week One Recap

The first week of the CWL Global Pro League has come to a close and with it, we’ve learned a lot. Week One featured North American teams EnVyUs and Cloud9, Splyce from Europe, and Mindfreak from the APAC region. Each team faced off against one another twice throughout the weekend with the top three placing teams moving onto Stage Two and the last place team facing Relegation.

1st Place – Team EnVyUs

Win/Loss – 5-1

Map Count – 16-7

Having a seemingly slow start that began with a 1-3 loss at the hands of Splyce on Friday, EnVy regained and started a warpath ending with them in the 1st place spot in Week One.

After their initial loss to Splyce, EnVy would not drop another series all weekend. On Friday, they took a hard fought 3-1 victory over Mindfreak. Saturday would see them steamroll Cloud9 3-0 and again beat MF 3-1. Surprisingly, their toughest match would come on Sunday where they fought tooth and nail to defeat a reenergized Cloud9 3-2, but revenge and their most meaningful matchup came against Splyce in the final match of the weekend.

To secure the 1st place seed, EnVy had to defeat Splyce 3-0, a feat in which no other team had been able to achieve. And just like that, EnVy proved their dominance and came out hot, beating the Europeans in the only 3-0 of the day. Every member of EnVy had a chance to shine throughout the weekend as they proved they are still one of the best teams in the game.

EnVy player Bryan “Apathy” Zhelyazkov

2nd Place – Splyce

Win/Loss – 5-1

Map Count – 15-7

The curse of Sunday evenings has followed Splyce all the way from CWL Birmingham. Having coasted through Friday and Saturday, Splyce stood in first place with a 4-0 record, having only dropped two maps. However, like last weekend, Sunday proved difficult for the Europeans as they struggled to defeat Mindfreak 3-2 and ultimately lost 0-3 to EnVy. Splyce only needed to win one map against EnVy to secure their 1st place seed but choked when the time came. They were handed their first Uplink loss of the weekend during this series after looking untouchable in the respawn game modes.

Although they failed to secure 1st place this weekend, Splyce still looks like a formidable foe heading into the Stage One Playoffs. With the 2nd place finish, they now will likely play OpTic Gaming, FaZe Clan, or eUnited in the first round of Playoffs, a position any team should be nervous of.

3rd Place – Mindfreak

Win/Loss – 1-5

Map Count – 10-15

Mindfreak surprised everyone this weekend, coming out tough against the European and North American teams. After boot camping in Atlanta for the last two weeks, the Australians were able to make some noise and upset Cloud9 for the 3rd place spot. On Friday they caused the first big upset as they steamrolled C9 with a 3-0 victory to start off their weekend. They then fell 1-3 to EnVy after putting up a great fight in all three game modes. Saturday was another hard fought day for Mindfreak, that ended with them falling 1-3 against Splyce and Envy.

On Sunday, Mindfreak managed to take Splyce to a game five where they ultimately lost and then did the same against Cloud9, however at that point they had already secured their 3rd place finish.

Throughout the weekend, the unorthodox Search and Destroy play style of the Aussies enabled them to secure a spot in Stage Two and help them avoid Relegation. If they can spend more time boot camping in the US, Mindfreak stands to improve and cause greater waves heading into CoD Champs.

ANZ duo Fighta and Shockz played great all weekend.

4th Place – Cloud9

Win/Loss – 1-5

Map Count – 5-7

The struggles for Cloud9 continued as they entered Week One of the Global Pro League. The team has not been able to replicate their success at CWL Vegas back in December, and this weekend was no different.

After playing four matches over Friday and Saturday Cloud9, stood at a 0-4 record with a 0-12 map count. After choking multiple Hardpoint and S&D maps with significant leads, by the time Uplink rolled around they were so tilted the series was already over. The woes of weak mental strength plagued their weekend as they lost map after map. It was obvious by looking at the players they were not gelling, which reflected in their gameplay.

However, Sunday proved to the be a slightly different story. Needing to finish the day with a 2-0 record, Cloud9 would first play EnVy. But Cloud9 would fall 2-3 in a series they could have won at multiple points, cementing their 4th place finish. Miraculously, Cloud9 were able to defeat Mindfreak in a close fashion in their last match of the weekend, squeaking out at 3-2 victory. Unfortunately for them it was too little too late and now C9 will have to fight through Relegation for a spot in Stage Two. Many believe a roster change is on the horizon for this struggling squad.

Moving Forward

Week One of Stage One of the CWL Global Pro League proved to be a huge success for MLG and the CoD World League. More exciting matches are coming up within the next three weeks as we round out the Playoff spots and head towards CoD Champs!


Jack Waters is an avid Call of Duty Esports fan and wants to hear from YOU! Find him on Twitter.

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