graduated junglers

Preseason: NA’s graduated junglers

After joining the NA LCS in 2017, three former rookies mount their return as NA’s newly graduated junglers. Mike “MikeYeung” Yeung, Omar “Omargod” Amin and Juan “Contractz” Garcia exploded onto the scene in season 7. After an exciting freshman year, these three junglers look to stake their claim on the newly franchised NA LCS. Looking back at their performances the past year, who is poised for even greater breakout performances in 2018? Let’s take a look at North America’s graduated jungler trio as they plot their return.

MikeYeung: From the Ashes

graduated junglers

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

MikeYeung made his NA LCS debut in the Summer Split as the jungler for Phoenix1 (P1). Previously a highly rated solo-queue player, MikeYeung erupted onto the NA scene with an arsenal of carry junglers. His signature pick in “Nidalee” stunned the NA crowd and crushed his opponents. Boasting an insane 80% overall winrate on “Nidalee” in summer, this pocket pick was no joke. Following an already impressive debut, MikeYeung travelled to Germany with Phoenix1 to participate in the Rift Rivals tournament, his first international event. Mike shocked his EU opponents with some flashy plays on his patented “Nidalee,” earning himself the Group Stage MVP distinction.

After returning from a strong showing at Rift Rivals, the MikeYeung hype train was in full gear. However, with the jungle meta shifting to control-oriented tank picks, Mike’s champion pool struggled. His star champions, “Kha’Zix,” “Lee Sin” and “Nidalee” could not snowball enough advantages against more useful utility tanks. Due to these meta changes, fans did not see the dominant MikeYeung that most expected. Phoenix1 suffered a steady decline that saw them forced into the summer Promotion tournament.

After ending their summer season early, news surrounding P1’s failure to earn a spot in the new NA LCS began to leak. The question now: where will P1’s rookie sensation go to reclaim his former glory? With the recent runes overhaul in patch 7.22, carry junglers look to make a serious comeback. MikeYeung has an opportunity to showcase his improvement since the Promotion tournament at the upcoming 2017 All-Stars event. For MikeYeung, the sky is the limit. Can the graduated rookie can reclaim his spot atop NA’s jungle hierarchy?

Omargod: Breaking the Chains

graduated junglers

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Omargod made his professional debut as a substitute jungler for Counter Logic Gaming (CLG). After internal issues involving starting jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett surfaced, Omar became the team’s starter. For Omargod, the road to NA LCS was a long climb. He first appeared on CLG’s radar at the 2016 Scouting Grounds event. Impressed by his carry performances, coach Tony “Zikzlol” Gray and veteran support Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black first-picked Omar as the jungler for Team Cloud Drake. After several fantastic games on carry picks like “Hecarim,” Omargod proved why he belonged on the LCS stage.

After Dardoch parted ways with CLG, Omargod had a huge gap to fill. Dardoch established a name for himself by consistently dominating enemy junglers. But, because of meta shifts in the summer split, Omar found himself mainly on utility tanks. Criticism poured in as CLG struggled to regain their footing in the latter half of the split. Analysts pointed to the recent jungle swap as the obvious reason for CLG’s decline. After falling to Cloud 9 (C9) in the NA LCS regional qualifiers, CLG and Omargod found themselves stuck at home, instead of attending Worlds.

Because of Omar’s shaky performances during the Summer Split, fans have mixed expectations for the upcoming season. However, Counter Logic Gaming is an organization known for the coaching staff’s dedication and loyalty to players. If any coach can bring out the best in Omargod, Zikz is second to none. Now is the time for Omar to free himself of the criticism from last split and prove himself on CLG. Perhaps the preseason meta changes will encourage Omargod to dip into his champion pool and show North America the carry potential that CLG witnessed at Scouting Grounds. After all, rumor has it “Predator Hecarim” is rampaging through preseason.

Contractz: A Carry’s DNA

graduated junglers

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Unlike the other graduated junglers, Contractz began his journey with Cloud 9 in the spring of 2017. After earning spring Rookie of the Split, Contractz stumbled a bit in summer. In the Summer Playoffs, Cloud 9 dropped out in quarterfinals against a surging Dignitas (DIG). So, C9 spent their time preparing for the regional qualifier gauntlet. There, the squad overcame CLG in a solid 3-1 finish and booked a ticket for China.

At Worlds, Contractz battled the likes of SKT Peanut, EDG Clearlove7 and WE Condi. His peerage became a group of elite, international junglers. Still, the rookie performed fantastically on the world stage. Contractz won over many fans, pulling out picks like “Ezreal” and “Graves” in the group stage. While the other NA junglers struggled against international competition, Contractz held his own against the best. After being the only North American representative to advance past group stages, all hope rested with Cloud 9. Although C9 fell to Team WE in quarterfinals, the roster made a definitive statement to the fans back home. “We are the best NA team here.”

With a great Worlds performance behind him, Contractz looks to dominate in the upcoming split. As carry junglers rise both in power and viability in preseason, is this the split for Contractz to stamp his name as the best jungler in NA? A Top 8 finish at Worlds means the onus is on C9 to reclaim their former glory at the top of North America. With changes coming to NA LCS, Cloud 9 look poised to gun for first place. Of the three former rookie junglers, Contractz may be the one to surpass them all. Still, only time will tell which graduated jungler will break ahead of the pack.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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iBUYPOWER Masters 2017: The favourites

iBUYPOWER Masters 2017 starts today, with Cloud9, Liquid, Renegades, OpTic, Misfits, Luminosity, CLG and NRG in attendance. Only half of these teams have a chance at taking the title though. Let’s take a look at those teams.

Cloud9

iBUYPOWER Masters

Photo by: hltv.org

Cloud9 just came off a steaming hot victory at Dreamhack Denver, and even though the only team on their level attending was mousesports, they looked great. Aside from maybe Renegades, they look to be in the best form out of every team. Taking the wins (on LAN) that they should and not getting upset too much.

Placed in a group with Renegades, NRG and Luminosity, they are clear favourites to take the first seed in the group. And, unless an upset in Group B occurs allowing Liquid to face Cloud9, Cloud9 should have an easy path to the finals. The final will be a challenge regardless of whether it’s Renegades or Liquid; but Cloud9 should be the team to take the tournament.

Renegades

Out of the three victories that Liquid, Renegades and Cloud9 managed to get, Renegades achieved the best one. They got a victory at the Starladder i-League Invitational #2 over Virtus.Pro. Not only was it a victory, it was a domination. With a 2-0 over Virtus.Pro in the final, plus a Bo3 victory over HellRaisers, Renegades had a very impressive victory finally getting over their issue of choking away leads.

Renegades should end in the second seed for Group A underneath Cloud9, but there is always the chance for an upset sending them into the playoffs as the first seed. Although they’re not the easy favourites to win the tournament, they could definitely take the trophy at the end of everything.

Team Liquid

iBUYPOWER Masters

Photo by: hltv.org

Liquid have been looking weird since coming off of their double-final run after New York. Being unable to win a series at either ELEAGUE or EPICENTER, they went into the Americas minor with a couple question marks. They lost a Bo3 to Misfits but were able to come back and ended up taking the tournament.

In a group with OpTic, Misfits and CLG, it’s a possibility that Liquid could be upset or even eliminated in the group stage. With all that considered, Liquid should still make it out as the first seed, but it’s not guaranteed. Though, assuming the entire group stage is Bo1s, making it to the playoffs should ensure them at least making the final or taking the trophy.

OpTic Gaming

Being the only one out of the teams I’ve mentioned to not take a tournament in the recent future, they’re still one of the favourites just due to pure firepower. They have looked quite good online as well, although it doesn’t mean too much. They’re currently second in EPL although they’re only seventh in ECS. They did however qualify for IEM Oakland over Renegades.

Losing Bo3s against EnVyUs and Space Soldiers at the European minor means they’re probably unlikely to win against any of the three teams above in a Bo3 on LAN. But of course, since it is CS:GO, it is very possible for them to do anything. And, considering their firepower, they can definitely win matches with just pure aim.


Featured image via iBUYPOWER.

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Edward Gaming: Pressure on China’s hometown heroes

Edward Gaming (EDG) struggles to find success at the 2017 League of Legends World Championship, rounding week one of the group stage with an 0-3 match record. Despite coming in as heavy favorites to advance to quarterfinals alongside defending champions SK telecom T1, China’s first seed cannot seem to find their footing. Let’s dive into EDG’s games and look at what they must do to claw out of Group A.

Game 1: Edward Gaming (EDG) vs ahq e-Sports Club (AHQ)

edward gaming

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Edward Gaming controlled the tempo for the majority of a 54-minute brawl, ultimately crumbling to AHQ’s superior teamfighting. To start the game, EDG locked star mid-laner Lee “Scout” Ye-chan on a comfort pick in Lucian. EDG looked to dominate mid-lane and that advantage across the map. Scout executed, earning a staggering +30 CS differential at 15 minutes.

Despite this aggressive lead in the mid-lane, AHQ found multiple advantageous teamfight opportunities in the mid-game. An extended five on five fight at 20-minutes resulted in a quadra-kill for AHQ’s AD-carry Chun-An “AN” Chou. Taking these small victories, AHQ dragged the game into a plus fifty minute slug fest, ultimately overpowering the Chinese representatives.

What internal factors led to EDG’s loss in their first match of Worlds 2017? Crucially, EDG failed to capitalize on their Shen counter-pick for top-laner Yuhao “Mouse” Chen. As a team, EDG should have prioritized mid-game skirmishes and early Drake control using their Teleport advantage with Shen’s “Stand United” to out-rotate AHQ. Naturally, Cho’Gath stood to outscale Mouse‘s Shen in both teamfight effectiveness, objective control and raw tank stats. EDG had to recognize this weakness in their composition and close out the game early. However, because of Mouse‘s weak lane performance against the enemy Cho’Gath and EDG’s lack of proactive rotations, AHQ secured early objectives that paid dividends in the late-game.

Game 2: Edward Gaming (EDG) vs SK telecom t1 (SKT)

edward gaming

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

EDG had no time to lick their wounds before facing off against long-time rivals, the defending world champions, SK Telecom T1. With the force of an entire arena in Wuhan cheering on their hometown favorites, Edward Gaming stormed into game two with blood in their eyes. Led by Wuhan native, Kai “Clearlove7” Ming, EDG coordinated plays to shut down living legend, Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee. Unlike the day before, EDG did not relent. The Chinese squad continued to wreak havoc on multiple SKT members, ballooning their lead to over 9.1k gold at 25-minutes.

Then, at 29-minutes, SKT finds a single teamfight that swings the entire momentum of the game. In rapid succession, SKT’s support, Jaewan “Wolf” Lee and jungler Wangho “Peanut” Han layer double knock-ups onto EDG’s carries. Faker lands a picture-perfect “Command Shockwave” on four members of Edward Gaming, decimating the opposition and turning the game on its head. EDG are never able to regain control of the game.

One fight. One crystal initiation by SKT’s play-makers leveled Edward Gaming’s seemingly insurmountable lead. It is difficult to find many faults with EDG’s play in this particular game. After successfully neutralizing Faker‘s Orianna, EDG exposed several mid-game vulnerabilities in SKT’s playstyle. However, a single positioning mistake at the height of their gold lead cost EDG their second game. Still, we can find many positives for Edward Gaming. They successfully shut down Faker, whose ability to absorb and outplay enemy pressure is perhaps the best in the world. EDG then took that mid-lane pressure and earned leads across the board, securing three Mountain Drakes, Rift Herald and a Baron.

Game 3: Edward Gaming (EDG) vs Cloud 9 (C9)

edward gaming

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Coming into Game 3, Edward Gaming looked like they had a chip on their shoulder. C9’s rookie jungler, Juan “Contractz” Garcia invaded Clearlove7‘s side of the jungle, stifling EDG’s ability to gain vision control and snowball lanes. Meanwhile, EDG’s top laner Mouse found himself suffocating under early pressure from C9’s top-laner Eonyoung “Impact” Jeong.

Feeling the need to pull his team from the trenches, Scout tried to pressure Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen’s Syndra pick. However, without his team to back him up, Scout found himself on the receiving end of multiple three-man ganks. Edward Gaming cracked under the pressure to perform on their home turf as the North American representatives led them into their third consecutive loss at Worlds 2017.

Taking a look at this game, it is clear EDG is off-center. In an attempt to slow down Contractz‘s aggressive playstyle, EDG banned Ezreal. However, after Contractz locked in Graves, EDG failed to adapt their strategy. The result: Cloud 9 methodically dismantled Edward Gaming, executing clean initiations and trades to put the game away.

Looking at Week Two

edward gaming

Credit: LoL Esports Photos

Despite the odds, an 0-3 match record does not mean Edward Gaming is out of the running. In games one and two, EDG earned sizable leads and control through mid and jungle control. Their crutch was a failure to close out these games. In the days leading up to week two, EDG must work on fixing issues with their macro-play and teamfighting.

The road to quarterfinals will be exceedingly difficult, but EDG is no stranger to being behind. This roster secured China’s first seed by reverse-sweeping regional rivals Royal Never Give Up (RNG) 3-2 at the LPL Summer Finals. Most of EDG’s members are repeat Worlds competitors, veterans even. In times like these, leadership and composure on the world stage will define EDG’s legacy. Team captain, Clearlove7 will look to lead his team surging into week two.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Longzhu finished week one of worlds top of Group B

Worlds’ OP five after week one

The first week of League of Legends’ 2017 World Championship has concluded, and this year’s event is already off to an exciting start. Between Gigabyte Marines’ mysterious “never before seen” strategy, Longzhu’s sub-25 minute average game time, and North America’s teams all being top two in their groups, fans and analysts have been gifted excellent performances thus far. Now the teams will have a few days to regroup and begin adapting for week two.

Almost every team had high points in week one. At some point, almost every player has had a high point, as well. But there is a reason the standings are as they are. Some teams have risen to the challenge of the international stage. Some players have executed a step above the pack. With three games in the books it is difficult to write off any team or player for the remainder of the contest. However, it is easy to recognize the following challengers for their stand-out performances.

Top: LZ Khan

Khan is the most OP top laner after Worlds week one

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Khan has definitely lived up to the hype carried over from LCK Summer Split. This guy has been an absolute monster in all three games so far. He has played a bruiser Jarvan IV against Immortals, a lethality Jarvan against Gigabyte Marines and Nasus against Fnatic. Khan is averaging 437 gold, 17 CS and 721 XP ahead at 15 minutes.

In the mid-game, Khan has been best at split-pushing, but his teamfighting is also incredibly strong. Khan has contributed 24.8 percent of Longzhu’s damage, which is exceptional when taking into account how strong his carries are. His 12.0 KDA is among the highest in the tournament so far.

TSM’s Hauntzer is the only other player currently close to Khan’s level. Some may even see Hauntzer as the better of the two so far, seeing as he has better laning and damage stats. But pressure is Khan’s key elevating factor. While Hauntzer teleports or roams to bring pressure to his teammates, Khan more frequently brings the enemy’s pressure to him. He pushes lanes, damages turrets, chunks out his enemy and forces the opposing team to respond to him.

As we get deeper into Worlds, it will be interesting to see how other teams adapt to Khan. Now that he has crushed a game on Nasus, who knows what else he may have up his sleeve? Few top laners in the entire tournament look up to the task of going toe to toe with Khan. If Longzhu take it all the way it will be hard not to attribute their success to the top lane.

Jungle: C9 Contractz

Contractz is the most OP jungler after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the only junglers who has not drafted a tank, Contractz has been acting as a third carry for Cloud9. He has pulled out an AD Rek’Sai, Ezreal and Graves, topping the jungler damage charts with 24.8 percent. C9’s tempo has totally relied on Contractz’s ability to clear the jungle as fast as possible and pressure the enemy jungler. So far, he has been able to do it successfully.

Contractz is averaging 266 XP, three CS and 146 gold ahead at 15 minutes. He has also helped secure First Blood in two of their three games. C9’s loss to SKT severely skewed Contractz’s KDA down to 3.3, but he is averaging 6.3 assists, fourth highest at Worlds. Contractz is also partially responsible for C9’s 66.7 percent Baron control rate, which has been a huge objective for winning games.

If Gigabyte Marines’ game against Longzhu had gone a bit better, then Levi would most likely be here. His surprise Nocturne pick in game one truly kick-started the energy at Worlds. Highlights from that game will be replayed over and over anytime fans reference back to 2017 Worlds. But when GAM’s Mordekaiser pick got destroyed from level one, all of GAM’s hype deflated. Levi may be able to take this spot with more consistent gameplay next week.

Mid: LZ Bdd

Bdd is the most OP mid laner after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Bdd is the only non-support player to go deathless in week one of Worlds. Despite drafting champions with strong roaming potential, Bdd averages ahead 11.7 CS, 488 gold and 910 XP at 15 minutes. These are all top two among mid laners. His 23.0 KDA is nothing to frown at either.

Longzhu does not look for Bdd to do huge shares of damage for them. Instead, they have drafted Taliyah, Ryze and Galio which each have powerful roaming ultimate abilities. These types of champions allow Bdd to zoom into top or bottom lane and outplay the enemy team by chaining crowd control and damaging abilities. Bdd is the central key that enables Khan’s aggressive playstyle, and he has been crucial for Longzhu’s success in Group B.

TSM’s Bjergsen, C9’s Jensen and RNG’s Xiaohu have also shown strong performances in week one, but none of them felt justified as the most valuable. In TSM and C9’s defeats, their mid laners looked much weaker in teamfights, and Xiaohu has not had the greatest laning phases. Bdd has performed solidly in both phases of the game.

ADC: RNG Uzi

Uzi is the most OP AD carry after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Royal Never Give Up has been on a tear, averaging the highest kills per game (12.3) and the lowest deaths (2.7). Their AD carry, Uzi, has been central to this first week of success. He is carrying a 28.0 KDA, scoring wins on Twitch, Tristana and Kog’Maw. Uzi has gone even or behind in lane with these champions, but truly terrorizes in teamfights.

At 722, Uzi averages fifth highest damage per minute of all players at Worlds. This amounts to a whopping 39.3 percent of RNG’s total damage. Uzi has been expertly navigating late game teamfights to maximize his damage and stay at a safe range. He has only died once so far.

SKT’s Bang is a close second in the bottom lane so far. He carries similar statistics, and has played similar champions. SKT and RNG are both 3-0 at the top of their groups. However, SKT’s wins have not come off the back of any one player. Their style is much more about how cohesive they are as the game gets later. The best players on the Worlds stage not only do not make mistakes, but also pinpoint the mistakes of the enemy and punish them. Uzi has successfully done this, while Bang has not been at that same level.

Support: SKT Wolf

Wolf is the most OP support after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Bang also has the best-performing support at Worlds: Wolf. Although the support meta is fairly stale at the moment, Wolf was able to have a fantastically flashy Rakan performance against EDG. He single-handedly reeled in a game that was out of control by landing a huge Quickness-Grand Entrance and charming the entire enemy team.

It will continue to be difficult to parse apart AD carry and support success, due to the current Ardent Censer priority. It is a shame that audiences are not going to be able to see Gorilla, Olleh, Mithy, Swordart and all of the other fantastic support players on play-makers. Instead, Janna, Lulu and Karma will continue to rein supreme in the bottom lane. Plays such as Wolf’s Rakan will be so much more emphasized than heals, shields and peeling.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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RUSH and tarik to Cloud9, a jaw dropping roster change

Cloud9 opened eyes and dropped jaws Tuesday morning after announcing the additions of Will “RUSH” Wierzba and Tarik “tarik” Celik. This move is one of the most surprising of all the shuffles, and also one of the best. This lineup cements itself as one of the most, if not the most, skilled lineups of NA CS history.

For more information about shufflemania, check out my articles on FaZe Clan and mousesports.

A much higher team-wide skill ceiling

Cloud9

Photo by: hltv.org

In the past Cloud9 has had players on the roster who were much less skilled than the rest. Not only that, Cloud9 has always had the problem of having a player or two not “show up”. While we haven’t yet seen how this roster can change the past issues, it’s almost obvious that it should be fixed. Not only that, but the constant confusion about who is playing what role is now gone. Everyone has their own place, and aside from everyone contributing to the IGL role, everyone knows what to do.

Having, in my opinion, the top three North American players on one team also contributes to the massive jump toward the skill ceiling. As well as having the best AWPer in NA, it helps a lot in the overall skill. Adding tarik into the mix adds a player who rarely has a bad event. Unfortunately in the case of tarik, he does sometimes have a moment where he does something that loses the round. If this can be fixed, there are almost no flaws in this lineup aside from no proper leadership.

Prebuilt chemistry

Cloud9

Photo by: hltv.org

Looking at the players of Cloud9, it’s obvious to see the chemistry already built up among players. The most obvious case is Jake “Stewie2k” Yip and tarik, as they PUG together and joke around a lot. Another example, though less known, is between RUSH and Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham, who both played together at CEVO Season 6 Finals on eLevate, leading to some familiarity.

The mix of players also looks to be quite a good mix on paper. Whether it be in game or out of the game, the players all seem to fit together like a puzzle. Of course it is possible for the players to not get along, but we will just have to wait and see.

Good choice in replacements

 

Cloud9

Photo by: hltv.org

While it’s sad to see the original Cloud9 roster gone, you can’t deny that the replacements are well made and make sense. Mike “Shroud” Grzesiek is now able to do what he loves full time and Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert is able to pursue something else in esports, whether it be playing or being an analyst or caster at events. Unfortunately for the case of n0thing, his benching was a team decision opposed to Shroud’s benching where he stepped down himself.

Role wise, the replacements make sense. Having a 100% dedicated entry in RUSH fixes the problem with n0thing not wanting to entry every now and then. On the other hand with tarik, he is a consistent player. And, despite the peanut-brain meme, as a player he makes smart decisions with the rare occasion of messing up a round for the team. This was an issue with n0thing as well, but opposed to tarik he did it more on a consistent basis.

Overall this move seems to be a win for the organization and players. Having a more skilled roster, players who might fit better together, and having roles make sense for once, there’s few flaws in the move. We’ll just have to wait and see how the roster all together will perform on the 22nd with the kick off of ESL Pro League Season 6.


Featured image via hltv.org

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Playoffs

NA LCS Playoffs team breakdown

It’s time for that special time of the year. Where every team puts it all on the line for the championship. Teams have finally finished the battle of the summer split and have either qualified or fallen short of a playoff berth. The teams that have qualified each have a chance to take home the trophy as this playoff tournament shapes up to be the most competitive in recent history. This year a team that has never won may claim the title of NA LCS champion.

 

I’ll speak to each team’s recent results and the matchup they’ll have, then I’ll highlight both one key strength and one key weakness for each team.

 

Team NV

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

Team NV has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the sixth seed. They will be facing CLG in the quarter finals on the 19th. Though Team NV is the lowest seed, and coming off of an 0-4 run they shouldn’t be discounted. Team NV earlier in the season have proven they can take a series win off of top tier teams such as C9, DIG, and IMT.

 

Strength

Team NV’s clear strength comes from the jungle. Lira has been a dominant force for team NV since he joined the team last split. Despite finishing as a 10th place team Lira was voted as All NA LCS first team jungler. This year he has proved his dominance with 71% KP and strong performances on Elise, Lee Sin, and Nidalee. A great recent example being game 2 versus TSM in week 8.

 

Weakness

NV’s biggest weakness is their top laner Seraph. With a combined score in week 9 of 2-25-10 Seraph is clearly the weak link on NV. With a solid mid and bot lane, it seems as if Lira needs to babysit Seraph in order to prevent the opponent from snowballing. He is sitting on an abysmal 2.31 KDA across the season and has the highest deaths of any top laner in the league.

 

Team Dignitas

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

DIG has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the fifth seed. They will be facing C9 in the quarter finals on the 20th. They are coming off a 3-1 last two weeks with only a close loss to CLG dampening their final few games. With plenty of momentum and thoughts of the mid-season slump long behind them DIG looks good going into the quarters.

 

Strengths

Team DIG’s strength is certainly their top laner Ssumday.  His wide champion pool featured 16 unique champions this split featuring tanks, fighters, and even the occasional marksman. Ssumday is the backbone of DIG and has carried more than his fair share of games for DIG

 

Weakness

In that strength, there is a weakness. Ssumday is easily targeted for frequent ganks and roams, because DIG love to play through him. When that’s the case, and the other laners aren’t able to generate leads despite DIG losses. This was the issue in the mid-season, DIG’s bot lane wasn’t able to hold their own without constant jungle pressure, but with the addition of Altec and Adrian, the team has found much more success.

 

Cloud 9

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

C9 has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the fourth seed. They will be facing DIG in the quarter finals on the 20th. They are coming off an easy last two weeks going 4-0, playing only one other playoff team, NV. This will have only built their confidence and given them opportunity to work on their team play. C9 has a long history of deep playoff runs and there is lots of experience on the roster of high pressure games.

 

Strength

Jensen’s midlane play has been next level since week two. Despite struggling in the beginning and middle of the season as a team Cloud 9’s midlaner has been putting up some incredible numbers. He broke the split record for kills, a record he already held. He has a disgusting 8.70 KDA across the split and has five champions with KDA averages 6+.

 

Weakness

Despite Jensen’s strong performance, Cloud 9 has, at times, seemed lost. Cloud 9’s macro play has not matched their micro. Some games the communication just isn’t there. Either Contractz will gank late or early and they will trade one for one when it could have been a clean gank, or they will lose a fight and surrender an objective while they’re 2k gold up in the mid game.

 

Counter Logic Gaming

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

CLG has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the third seed. They will be facing NV in the quarter finals on the 19th. They are coming off of a 2-2 last two weeks, with an upset from P1 in week 8 and a rough loss to rivals TSM to wrap up their split. They’ll be looking to seek vengeance on their longtime rivals and seek retribution for being upset in last split’s quarter final’s series against Flyquest.

 

Strength

The CLG bottom lane has been a rock for them this split. Both Stixxay and Aphromoo have had great splits. Stixxay has showed competence on a wide range of ADCs, pulling out nine unique champions this split with an impressive 4.33 KDA. Aphromoo, while maybe not in peak performance, is still having a great split. CLG is able to rely on their bot lane duo to either play well and stay even as a weak side, or focus resources to them and have them carry games.

 

Weakness

They’ve elected in their final weeks to replace their jungler with a rookie. While it may help in the long run, there has been signs of a lack of communication from the rookie. Their loss to P1 is an example of this. In game 2 Omargod looked lost on Elise, unable to engage or gank successfully at any point in the game and the team just fell apart in the mid game. This isn’t to say that Omargod is a bad player, only that he lacks the experience on stage to be consistent and that will hurt CLG’s chances in playoffs.

 

 

Immortals

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

Immortals rounded out the split with a 3-1 record in the final two weeks. The loss they did suffer was to DIG. This doesn’t bode well headed into the playoffs, but with a bye they won’t have to face anyone until the semis. Immortals has a lot to prove in this season’s playoffs, having had a rough history in the post season and look to make their first worlds appearance.

 

Strength

Immortal’s strength lies with two players, both in contention for MVP this season. Xmithie in the jungle and Olleh their support. Each player has found a way to control their part of the map, both with vision and pressure. Olleh has really stepped up this year and improved. His laning phase is much better, providing both pressure for Cody Sun and roaming mid for Pobelter. Xmithie has found his stride on IMT after leaving CLG. He plays with a lot of confidence and often chokes out the enemy junglers with invades and frequent ganks.

 

Weakness

Immortals main weakness is their inability to hold onto early game leads against top teams. For example against DIG in game 1 week 8 IMT had an early lead, yet were unable to push that lead to a victory. Same thing happened against TSM in week five. In game one IMT came out to an early lead, yet were unable to stop giving up objectives and going even or less one kill in team fights until eventually they lost their lead and the game.

 

Team Solo Mid

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

TSM has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the first seed and have a bye into the semifinals. They have taken a clean 4-0 in the final two weeks with a big win over CLG. TSM has a lot of experience with this roster, and a lot of experience in high pressure games. They’ve yet to miss an NA LCS finals match, and expect to find themselves in the finals this year.

 

Strength

Their strength is certainly their individual play. Each player as an individual has great play. Bjergsen is always arguably, if not definitively, the best midlaner in NA and this split has been no different. The same can be said for Doublelift in the ADC role. Hauntzer has played a great split as well as Sven and Biofrost. Each player as an individual has made great plays.

 

Weakness

When TSM losses, it’s because of team play. When TSM’s team play is on point, domestically they are unbeatable. Take their series in week seven against DIG for an example. A botched team fight in game one at around the ten minute mark lost them their gold lead and led to DIG getting first tower and a cloud drake. If they are all focused together they are unstoppable, but have shown that their team play and macro isn’t as consistent as their individual play.

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Seed

NA LCS playoff seed possibilities

The summer split for NA LCS has been tumultuous. Every week has been a fierce battle for a top spot. At no point has there been a clearly defined best team. Throughout the season we’ve seen bottom of the standings teams upset teams at the top, even as recently as Sunday when P1 pulled out a win over CLG. Now, with only a week left to play, teams fight for a playoff seed.

The teams making playoffs are locked in, but seeds are not. Playoff contenders are as follows: IMT, TSM, CLG, DIG, C9 and NV. IMT and TSM share first, CLG has sole possession of third, DIG and C9 share fourth and NV rounds us out in sixth. It comes down to the final three days of the summer split to determine who will be seeded where in the playoffs.

First Seed

Seed

Photo Via Lol esports

TSM and IMT are the two teams that seem most likely to grab the top seed. They are both sitting at a 12-4 record heading into the final week. IMT has the best chance of going 2-0 this weekend, squaring off against sixth place NV and seventh place Echo Fox. TSM faces P1, who is tied for eighth and last place, but they also face off against CLG. The rivalry matches between TSM and CLG have always been volatile and could easily go either way. A TSM loss would put IMT in the top spot.

To make things interesting, the head to head between IMT and TSM is even, each team having taken a series win against the other. This means if both TSM and IMT go 2-0 this week, the tie will go to game wins and losses. TSM is currently winning in terms of game wins and losses, sitting at 26-11 compared to IMT’s 26-15. If both teams go 2-0 then TSM will take the first seed.

Being first and second in the NA LCS is extremely advantageous. Teams get a bye into the semifinals and as a result, the lowest possible placement in fourth place. In terms of Championship Points the value of a playoff bye is unrivaled. However, teams aren’t going into the post season aiming for fourth place.

 

Second Seed

Seed

Photo Via Lol esports

The difference between a first place seed and a second place seed is bigger than it may appear. The first place team will face the lowest ranked team in the semis while the second place will face the higher. This means that whoever gets first place cannot face the third place team. With the third place team likely being CLG, IMT and TSM will be scrambling to secure the first place spot to avoid playing CLG in the semis and play either C9, DIG or NV.

In the event that TSM loses to CLG then the series will be tied in a head to head. The difference will again go to game win/loss. If TSM wins 2-1 over P1, and CLG 2-0s both DIG and TSM, then TSM will be 28-14 and CLG will be 29-16. The win loss ratio being barely in TSM’s favor. In order to place second CLG will have to win out against DIG and TSM and hope that TSM or IMT loses out.

Third Seed

Seed

Photo Via Lol esports

Short of that CLG will be placed third and have to face off against NV. That is unless NV wins out and either DIG or C9 loses out. Either way CLG wants to secure the third place spot to avoid playing a higher ranked team. Unfortunately they’re only one game up on C9 and DIG and face DIG in a head to head tomorrow. If they lose, DIG will be 2-0 in the head to head and secure the third place spot with a win over TL on Sunday. CLG could end up anywhere between first and fifth, because if both IMT and TSM lose out CLG would be first if they win out.

The rest of the teams will fall where they may. C9 and DIG could each end up as high as third, but cannot qualify for a bye spot. NV can only finish as high as fourth. The parity of the NA LCS has been exciting all split, but now it is culminating in the final week to determine the seeding. The playoffs should be exciting as well with how close the teams are.

 

Week nine has a lot of possible outcomes and a lot of story-lines to follow, and every game counts. The NA LCS is delivering in an exciting way.

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Cloud9

Cloud 9 needs a change

Over the past few months, Cloud 9 has again hit their almost routine summer peak. Jake ‘Stewie2k’ Yip and the boys managed to make the finals at ESL One Cologne and were the only North American team to qualify for the major. However, if Cloud 9 wish to have sustained success, the current five-man roster they have will need some tinkering.

Leverage

Cloud9

Stewie2k at Global esports cup – via HLTV

In terms of ‘winning’ roster shuffles within your scene, your team needs to have all the leverage. The aforementioned ‘leverage’ is results. Cloud 9 have exactly that going for them right now. As I said, they were the only NA team at the major, not to mention they were one win shy of the playoffs; they also made the finals of Cologne. Cloud 9’s problems as an organization in the past have shown through, not leveraging into roster changes while they had the chance. Instead, they usually wait too long, hoping the roster they have at the time will resolve their issues. In other words, the ‘GM’ of Cloud 9 hasn’t ever really put his foot down and forced a change, but they could redeem themselves post major with some intelligent roster moves.

C9’s needs

Cloud 9 has one of the best duos in the game currently, with Stewie2k and Timothy ‘autimatic’ Ta. They are not lacking in star power, they are lacking in role players. It is possible that Jordan ‘n0thing’ Gilbert, Michael ‘shroud’ Grzesiek or Tyler ‘Skadoodle’ Latham could be moved. However, it is likely only the latter two will be removed if any change is made at all. They need a consistent, bomb site anchor, who can place themselves on the back burner for the good of the team, and play fundamental CS in after plants. The idea of a dedicated AWP player has lodged its way into their minds, but they don’t necessarily need to target one. Most famously they need an in-game leader, who can help them coordinate on both offense and defense.

Their options

Cloud9

North aizy – via theScore

The players in OpTic should be locked up tight after what happened with Peter ‘stanislaw’ Jarguz. So players from OpTic are most likely a no-go. If they could manage somehow, Will ‘RUSH’ Wierzba would be an ideal replacement for n0thing. Team Liquid’s stanislaw would be a good target, but I doubt he would be on board. CLG to me is the most obvious team to take from. C9 have made it clear they want to stay an all NA team; although, an interesting addition to their lineup would be Philip ‘aizy’ Aistrup in place of n0thing, assuming he’s on board with moving to NA. North and aizy’s future is completely undetermined, but it would be an interesting move.

Aizy brings basically everything you get from n0thing, and more. He is an inconsistent player playing an inconsistent style. Although, he has more flexibility than the 1.6 legend, as he can take a role on the back burner and still be semi-effective. It is a real long shot, unfortunately, and has less chance of happening than Gambit winning a major. Oh, I meant it has less chance of happening then the iBUYPOWER guys getting unbanned. Wow, this has been a crazy week for Counter-Strike huh.

Cloud9

Rickeh at SL i-League Season 3 – via HLTV

Terrible jokes aside, let’s take a look at CLG, and what they could give to Cloud 9. The most obvious plus right away would be Pujan ‘FNS’ Mehta. He is an in-game leader, whose style of play actually reflects that of shroud. The man can play fundamental CS, in post plants, or when soloing bomb sites. He is also willing to be the last priority of the team in terms of individual agendas. One player I think Cloud 9 should and will consider is Ricky ‘Rickeh’ Mulholland. He is really the only suitable replacement for Skadoodle within the region, despite not being from NA.

Act now or regret later

An addition of Rickeh would instantly make this team very scary to play against, even without removal of n0thing. While it is also unlikely, it would be in C9’s best interest as they seem to be committed to the idea of a dedicated AWP player. The ideal lineup for Cloud 9 in my mind would be Stewie2k, autimatic, Rickeh, RUSH and FNS.

Cloud9

Stewie2k being interviewed by NadeStack’s Ammar

If Cloud 9 try to roll with their current roster, they will almost certainly end up in the purgatory of being third, potentially even fourth best in NA, and only being able to choose players from the likes of Misfits or NRG. Think of this as a ‘letter’ to the key holders to the beaten up, old Ferrari that is Cloud 9. Stewie and autimatic, either drop that bucket of rust off at the dump or fix it up, give it a new paint job and care for it. Don’t let your vision of what this car once was blind you from what it is right now. What is it right now? It is a project, a project that needs a makeover, and soon.


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Featured image via https://www.csgowallpapers.com/

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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