Zoe's competitive

Early looks: Zoe’s competitive potential

Patch 7.22 brings the largest gameplay update League has seen in years. While the community theory-crafts fresh playstyles and build paths with the Runes Reforged overhaul, a new champion looms just around the corner. Zoe, the Aspect of Twilight, will soon be the latest addition to the Rift. With new play patterns emerging by the day, Zoe will enter the League just in time to sew some chaos. Professional players will no doubt spend much of preseason mastering Targon’s newest champion. How will Zoe‘s competitive future pan out after the pros have a chance to practice her high skill-cap style?

summoner spells, stars and… sleep?

Zoe's competitive

Credits: Riot Games

Zoe introduces several new ideas and a unique mechanic to the League. Her E, “Sleepy Trouble Bubble” is the first ability in the game to have the “drowsy” mechanic. After hitting an enemy with her bubble, Zoe sleeps her target, a form of hard crowd-control seemingly similar to a root. If the initial cast does not hit a target, the bubble lingers as a fairly wide trap. This new mechanic makes messy mid-game skirmishes against Zoe increasingly tricky. Sneaky bubble placement can cause huge disruption in teamfights. Tanks can find themselves immobile for the few seconds it takes to lose their AD-carry. Players can also use these bubbles to zone off entrances or exits to jungle corridors, taking the positional advantage to secure objective control.

Zoe‘s bubble becomes even more threatening when coupled with her ultimate, “Portal Jump.” Zoe gains an extra dimension of mobility with her portal. Although she cannot move while portal jumping, Zoe can cast abilities, ward and auto-attack. A quick “Portal Jump” near the enemy AD-carry can deliver a fast sleep bubble before Zoe jumps back to safety. Alternatively, she can quickly ward dangerous enemy territory and escape unscathed.

Zoe‘s competitive potential and teamfight explosiveness shines with her W ability, “Spell Thief.” When enemy champions use active spells or items, they leave spell shards that Zoe can steal with her WIn her champion teaser, Riot showcased Zoe‘s skirmishing strength by weaving multiple “Flashes” to make for quick spell rotations. Mechanically gifted players will take Zoe‘s competitive gameplay far beyond Riot’s teaser video. But, will this aspect of Zoe‘s kit put her in the ranks of mages like Ryze and Azir? Champions whose skill ceilings are oppressively strong on the competitive stage.

Zoe’s Competitive Skill Ceiling

Zoe's competitive

Credit: LoL Esports Photos

We have seen it with several champions over the past few years. Champs like KalistaRyze and Azir whose kits gave room for massive skill caps that dominated competitively. However, because of their dominance, Riot was forced to nerf these champions beyond viability for the average player. This causes a frustrating disparity between the pros and casual players in solo queue. The question now is, will Zoe be doomed to a similar fate?

Many initial reactions to Zoe highlight her “over-loaded” kit. In all fairness, Zoe does boast a kit with high ceilings for mobility, crowd-control and wave-clear. However, on a recent episode of Beyond the Rift hosted by Michael “imaqtpie” Santana and William “Scarra” Li, RiotWrekz and RiotMeddler dive deeper into a discussion on Zoe‘s mechanics. Scarra used the term “fake mobility” to characterize how Zoe‘s ultimate is more of a deceptive type of mobility. RiotMeddler elaborated on the point, adding that “Portal Jump” excels when used to dodge skillshots, not run down enemy champions. In the podcast, they highlight that Zoe‘s actual strength is her ability to quickly re-position in teamfights.

In Riot’s teaser, Zoe chases down multiple targets in an oppressive display of mobility. However, when we take a step back to really look at the champion, her power lies elsewhere. Zoe seems to excel more in mid-game teamfight scenarios where she can duck enemy crowd-control with “Portal Jump” and steal summoners to effectively lay down her own CC. While Zoe‘s kit is extremely impressive at a glance, the months to come will test her strength in a competitive setting. With the preseason patch constantly reinventing the meta, Zoe‘s competitive viability changes every day.

Featured Image: Riot Games

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Competitive ranking in Rocket League

Rocket League’s competitive ranking system, as with many games, can be a bit confusing to newcomers and veterans alike. Fear not, this article will help you understand the ranks, rank rewards and what’s going on behind the scenes of the ranking system.

Skill Rank versus Reward Rank

competitive ranking

Current skill ranking system. Image by rocketleague.wikia.com

At the beginning of the first four seasons of competitive Rocket League, players found themselves unranked in each of the competitive playlists. They were tasked with winning matches to progress through the ranks. At the end of the season, players would then receive rewards based on the highest rank they reached that season, despite whether they had fallen out of this rank or not.

At the beginning of the month, Psyonix rolled out their two-year anniversary update and competitive season five along with it. This came with two very noticeable differences from previous seasons.

No Reset

Days before the update, Psyonix announced that they wouldn’t hard reset players’ ranks in season five. As players downloaded the update and logged on, they found their respective ranks from season four intact.

Psyonix likely did this for several reasons, but there’s one that stands out in particular. At the beginning of past seasons, players found themselves in extremely uneven matches. For example, a player ranked Gold in the previous season might be playing someone ranked Champion in the previous season. This uneven matchmaking would last several weeks, as players climbed to their respective ranks.

This leads us to the second noticeable change, the Reward Rank.

Reward Rank

A separate rank post-match at the bottom of the screen may still confuse some players. The rank often doesn’t match up with their skill rank, and thus can seem quite strange.

This is your reward ranking level. Since Psyonix decided not to reset skill ranks for season five, there was a need for how to dole out rewards when the end of the season comes. The reward ranking system works as a less complicated version of the skill ranking system.

In each competitive playlist, player’s begin unranked in the reward ranking system. As they win matches, they progress. After 12 wins, the player progresses to the next rank. Losses do not affect the player’s reward rank in any way.

Deranking and ranking up is where it gets a little trickier. A player cannot progress through a reward rank that is higher than their current skill rank.

competitive ranking

Psyonix lowered the number of wins needed from 20 to 12. Image by rocketleague.com

This means if a Platinum II player has already received the reward rank for Platinum in a particular playlist, their reward rank will not progress any further unless they reach Diamond rank.

As for deranking, this does not affect a player’s reward rank. If a player in Platinum I wins 12 matches while in Platinum, securing the Platinum rewards for the end of the season, the player will not lose the rewards by deranking from Platinum I to Gold III.

Once you’ve secured your end of season reward for a particular rank, it’s yours. The only thing you have to worry about is stepping up your skill rank so you can get the reward for the next level.

Now deeper into skill ranking.

Elo Rating System

Arpad Elo initially created the Elo rating system as a means of rating the skill of chess players. It is used to calculate and assign a numbered skill value to competitors in a player-versus-player setting, whether that’s one-on-one or teams. The Elo rating system has since been adopted and adapted throughout esports and sports alike.

Wins and losses impact a player’s Elo value. By winning a match, the player takes points from the opponent to add to his or her score. Vice versa, a player forfeits points to an opponent when losing a match. This is to put it very simplistically. There are a number of factors which determine the point value the player gains or loses.

Determining Factors

competitive ranking

Arpad Elo. Image by worldchesshof.com

A player’s Elo value doesn’t raise or lower a set amount for each win or loss. It depends on their opponent’s Elo rating as well.

Take Solo Duel for instance, Rocket League’s one-one-one competitive playlist. Say you are a Silver I and your opponent is Gold II. There’s a significant difference in ranks here. The stakes are high for the Gold II player but not so much the Silver I player. This is because if the Silver I player loses, the player will only lose a small amount of Elo to the Gold II player since the Silver player was outmatched. If the Gold II player loses, however, he or she forfeits a larger amount of Elo because the match was stacked in that player’s favor, on paper at least.

Now, if matches are even, the amount of Elo lost or gained will be relatively small either way. This attributes to why it may seem as if you go down in rank quicker than you go up. If you win a handful of evenly matched games, then lose one where you outmatch the other player, you may lose all or most of the Elo points you racked up in the previous matches.

Another reason why players might feel they are ranking down at a quicker rate than they rank up is because Rocket League doesn’t show Elo values. You simply see whether you stayed in your current division/rank or whether you went up or down. But you can still keep track.

Rocket League Tracker Network

The Rocket League Tracker Network allows players to keep an eye on their Elo values and the progression for each competitive playlist. The site refers to the Elo value as a Matchmaking Rating, or MMR, as with many other competitive games.

Along with player MMR, Rocket League Tracker Network offers detailed statistics about a person’s play style and percentages throughout their time playing Rocket League.

Pull up your tracker, hit the pitch and continue climbing the ladder to Grand Champion!

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Featured Image by RocketLeague.com

The New Halo 5 Matchmaking Update Won’t Punish You for Bad Teammates

In a community update yesterday, 343 Industries’ Josh Menke shared details of new matchmaking updates coming to Halo 5. These recent updates make life a little easier for players in ranked playlists when teammates decide to quit. Additionally, ranked playlists will see some balance tweaks to competitive skill rating (CSR) and matching times. This article breaks down the latest changes, and explains their importance to ranked Halo 5.

The “Soft Forfeit”

In his update, Menke introduces the concept of a Soft Forfeit for ranked matchmaking games. The premise of the Soft Forfeit is to not punish players for leaving matches if someone has already quit out of the game. Previously, quitting a ranked match under any circumstance automatically decreased CSR, and put the player at risk for a matchmaking ban. These bans ranged in time due to the frequency at which players left ranked games.

Players will no longer be banned for quitting after teammates. Image by Youtube.com

The new system will still net players a standard CSR loss for losing the game, but will not ban players who leave ranked games after someone has already quit. Menke explains that while leavers will always lose CSR, players will not be unnecessarily punished for unsporting teammates. The first player to leave a ranked game, however, will be subject to extra CSR loss, and a potential ban.

This update will surely have ranked playlist-goers rejoicing, as many felt punished for having teammates that don’t stick around. Halo 5 as a team-oriented arena shooter needs balance to operate correctly. An advantage in numbers almost always throws games askew, and now players won’t be forced to finish those games.

 

CSR Economy and Wait Times

In addition to the soft forfeit feature, Menke details some troubles with high-skilled players in matchmaking. Previously in ranked playlists, high-CSR players sometimes received matchmaking ratios (MMR) that are a little too high for their actual skill. These inflated MMRs created a wider gap between players, resulting in greatly increased wait times when searching ranked matchmaking. Menke explains that while these adjustments improve search times, players won’t be placed in extremely uneven matches.

Image by Halowaypoint.com

To combat ranked playlist inflation, the update will tighten up CSR boundaries. The pool of Onyx-ranked players will now be more exclusive, and the elusive “Champion” rank even harder to achieve. These changes will place competitors into ranks that better represent their skill level, while also lowering incentives for smurf accounts.

To represent just how drastic the CSR adjustments are, a comparison between seasons for Champion-ranked players is necessary. Prior seasons required players to earn CSR scores of 3,000 or higher to reach Champion. Currently, the top-ranked champion player only has 1,874 CSR. This score, If applied to prior seasons, would place players in the low-middle tier of Onyx.

 

Conclusion

Although the wait for fair matchmaking treatment has been lengthy, players can now relax a little more when trying to rank up. The changes are another step in 343 Industries’ process to prove to players that feedback is certainly being heard. Rather than being punished for jerk teammates, players can now leave an uneven game without fear of excessive penalties. As a result, players can hop back into more even ranked games, and have a healthier, less rage-inducing matchmaking session.

Featured image by Halowaypoint.com

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The King Falls Early – An Explosive Ro32

The first GSL Code S of 2017 is underway, and already we’ve seen some excellent games and huge upsets. The most notable story from the Round of 32 was the shocking elimination of defending GSL and Blizzcon champion Hyun “Byun” Woo.

Byun

 

Considered widely to be the best in the world, Byun lost a close series with top-tier Protoss Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob after crushing an the unknown Zerg, Lee “DRGLing” Won Ju. Byun rushed to Liberator range in a back-and-forth Game 3, but found himself out-positioned by the high mobility of Stats’s Stalker/Colossus composition. Stats closed it out by faking an attack on Byun’s third base, luring out the inferior Terran army, and blanketing it with Psionic Storms.

 

Next, he would face the Terran-vs-Terran expert Kim “Ryung” Dong Won for a chance to move on to the Round of 16. Game 1 was a very convincing win for Byun, utilizing doom drops and multi-pronged attacks to out position his opponent. In Game 2, Byun went for an odd two-base tank push that Ryung easily repelled with a mirror build, prompting a swift counter with double the siege tanks to choke out Byun’s natural base and win.

Then there was Game 3… Game 3 will surely haunt Byun for years to come, and cost him both a chance at a second consecutive GSL championship, and the title of best in the world. After taking some heavy worker losses from an early Cyclone attack, Byun attempted a doom drop in Ryung’s main base with four full Medivacs. To the horror of Tastless, Artosis, and Byun fans everywhere, he flew over a missile turret, decided NOT to drop after all, and flew back over that same turret without a Medivac boost. 20 supply and two siege tanks exploded out of the sky in a matter of seconds.

“This was the most indecisive thing I’ve ever seen Byun do… This is the worst move that Byun has done that I can remember.” – Artosis

Less than three minutes later, Byun typed out “gg” and buried his head in his hands.

 

 

Scarlett

 

Second only to the fall of the King was Canadian Zerg Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn’s remarkable run in Code S – a very rare occurrence for a non-Korean. After smashing the Protoss Kim “Myungsik” Myung-Sik 2-0, she went on to face Kim “Classic” Doh Woo. Game 1 was very short, as Classic masterfully countered her proxy hatch all-in.

 

 

Game 2 we saw Classic go for the very popular archon drop, but Scarlett was able to push away his mid-game Immortal-Sentry push while defending her main from charge Zealots and a pair of Archons.

 

 

Scarlett immediately launched a Roach/Ravager counter attack on Classic’s third base with a 180 degree surround, wiping his Sentry-heavy army and winning the game.

 Game 3 was one of the best games of group stage. Classic’s first two adepts managed to get a devastating seven drone kills. His follow up with glaives killed another six. Behind massively in economy against a Protoss starting up double-stargate Phoenix production, Scarlett attempted a full force Baneling bust that failed to do game-ending damage.

 

 

He would use that lead to roll over Scarlett’s Hydralisk force with a high-tech Protoss army of Immortals, Archons, Void Rays, and High templar a few minutes later.

 

Another fantastic series and the one that would deny “the foreign hope” passage to the Round of 16 (last time this happened was 2013) was Scarlett vs. Han “aLive” Lee Seok. Scarlett was able to come back from a huge deficit in Game 1 with some fantastic burrowed Infestor play and Zergling counter attacks.

 

She almost took Game 2 with a Roach/Ravager timing, and almost won it again later on with a very low economy Brood Lord play. Before the Brood Lords could arrive at the Terran’s base, Scarlett made a questionable choice in attacking into Alive’s tanks with just her ground army, leaving the Brood Lords exposed to his small Viking force and fully upgraded marines.

 

 

 

Game 3 was very close as well, but Scarlett’s burrowed Infestors and Muta/Zergling/Baneling were not enough to handle Alive’s impressive macro and bio control.

Other great games to watch from the Round of 32 were Solar vs. Trap Game 3, sOs vs Curious Game 2, and Ryung vs Stats Game 3.  All VoD’s can be found organized and in high quality at SC2Links.com. The Round of 16 Groups Selections will be held on February 1.

All photos courtesy of AfreecaTV

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Taric, The Shield of Valoran

Alright everybody, I honestly have to say this is one of the most exciting moments I’ve ever experienced as a LoL player. Taric is FINALLY getting the rework we all knew he deserved.

A lot of times, I hate champion reworks: I was a Shen main until they destroyed his kit and made him no fun to play. So I’m super apprehensive when it comes to reworks, but after Riot revealed the details of the update, I honestly believe Taric is going to dazzle his way back into the meta. For anyone who hasn’t checked out the update I’m gonna run through the major points, and give y’all some insight into League’s most fabulous champion.

So first is Taric’s new passive: Bravado. Whenever Taric casts an ability, his next two basic attacks will have increased damage, attack speed, and will reduce his cooldowns. Having seen a bit of PBE play, this looks super OP. I believe this passive gives him viability outside of bot lane, and is the secret to playing him in a solo lane (or even jungle).

His Q is called Starlight’s Touch, and its his new healing ability. Instead of being his old point/click heal, its now an AOE that heals Taric and any champions near him. The strength of the heal is determined by the number of charges he has stored, which are developed over time.

 

His W is what I’m most excited about. It’s called Bastion, and it allows Taric to link himself to an ally. On cast, the link shields Taric and the ally, and as long as Taric doesn’t recast or move to far away from the linked ally, all his abilities will also be casted from the ally (similar to how Pix mirrors Lulu’s actions). This looks like a completely OP ability. Taric will be able to AOE heal and stun for his allies even when he’s not close enough to do it himself. (Bastion also passively increases his armor)

 

His E is Dazzle. Like the original Dazzle, this is a stun. But unlike the old ability, this is a slightly delayed aoe skillshot. The downside is that it will be harder to hit the enemy, but it is now capable of stunning as many champions as it can hit (and when paired with Bastion has a high stun potential in big team fights).

 

Finally, is Cosmic Radiance, his ultimate. Personally this is the only new ability that I’m not a particularly big fan of. After a slight delay, Cosmic Radiance will make Taric and his nearby allies invulnerable for a few seconds. Honestly, this is kind of a disappointment to me. First off, I feel like this is just a repackaged Kindred ult, and beyond that, the number one reason I rage while playing League is abilities that deny death (Trynd, Kayle, Aatrox, Zac, etc.). I think that having a champion or two with the ability to postpone or deny death is fine, but it feels like there are now far too many options.

One of my biggest worries with this rework is that Taric is no longer going to be viable outside of Support. I for one have always enjoyed playing Top Taric, and I think Riot has done an excellent job of preserving his ability to work alone. He is certainly designed for a duo lane, but frankly I feel he still has great potential to smack things with Iceborn Gauntlet for killtacular fun.

 

My expectation is that Taric will have fantastic synergy with champs that have poor escape mechanics. With Bastion and Dazzle, Taric can help provide stuns for his ADC even when he (or they) are poorly positioned. So good luck to all you Kog’Maw’s out there. I think Taric will have a lot of struggles against high damage assassins though. Unless the players reflexes are incredibly fast, the heal/stun combo are going to do very little against a Zed or LeBlanc all-in. You could argue his ultimate could save teammates, but I don’t think preventing death is all that valuable in a 100-0 in 2 seconds situation.

Overall, I think Taric will find a place in competitive play in the Summer Split, and I look forward to some truly OUTRAGEOUS plays.

 

YouTube videos courtesy of the League of Legends Channel

The State of the Game: Champion Diversity

(Courtesy of gamespresso.com)

(Courtesy of gamespresso.com)

 

With the first week of pro play competition over, let’s take a look at how the game changed, and whether those changes affected in a positive and healthy way.

Champion Diversity:
Champion diversity is something that Riot has repeatedly said they want to see in League of Legends. While there have been worse moments for the game and preseason patches took a step in the adequate direction, I still think that more can be done. Last year, Riot was doing a great job in this category until they introduced the juggernaut patch right before worlds. Worlds was completely played around a few OP juggernauts which is in my opinion unhealthy for the game, and on this occasion, steps on the line of competitive integrity.
In the first week of the NA LCS, we saw great champion diversity specifically in the AD carry role. I do not think I have seen so many different AD carry picks since season 1. In ten games, we saw 8 unique picks in the AD carry position (Miss Fortune, Kalista, Lucian, Ezreal, Kindred, Caitlyn, Corki and Tristana). The preseason patch was mostly targeted towards this player, and it seems Riot accomplished its goal. As the season progresses some champions will be labeled as OP, but it seems that slights buffs or nerfs depending on who rises and who falls should maintain the diversity we saw in the first week.
The jungle is dominated by the same champions that dominated it last season, Elise, Rek’Sai and Lee Sin. It has been more than a year now that the jungle is dominated by these champions and it seems as though people got used to it. The last champion that I remember to have priority in competitive play was Kha’Zix a long time ago.
It has been said that in the current state of the game it is hard to engage because there is so much damage floating around the Rift, that being said, when engages occur, fights explode. For the game to be in a healthy position, it needs to have fights that balance tankiness with damage. If fights are too short that means that there is too much damage in the meta. Which is detrimental for champion diversity because those that do lower amounts of damage over time do not see any action. And if fights are too long like the Cinderhulk meta last season, tanks and champions that can deal well with tanks, like Vayne, are prioritized. In both cases, some champions are simply not viable because of the meta, that means that only when the game is balanced, as in no items are OP, can champion diversity exist.
Riot took a good step during preseason, by giving identity to the AD carry role. Which should introduce new strategies and new ways to win a game of League of Legends, but I would love to see a meta where many strategies are viable and every role has many different picks available. Unlike season four where all we saw was Renekton, Mundo and Shyvanna in the top lane. The best meta is that in which Froggen can play Anivia, Faker can play Zed, and Pray can play the juggermaw.