The rise of North American junglers

With the phenomenal performance of Phoenix1’s rookie jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung, it seems that NA junglers are the easiest role to fill with homegrown talent, while EU has become known for producing some of the most talented mid laners. Over the past few splits, we’ve seen several junglers come from challenger to the pro scene and do quite well. Names like Contractz, Akaadian, and Dardoch all come to mind.

Dardoch and Contractz were well known names in the amateur scene. Some pros predicted their success into the pro scene. Akaadian and MikeYeung, on the other hand, were very unknown to most and surprised spectators with how well they performed starting out.

Photo by: Riot Esports

Why jungle?

It’s interesting to note how few jungle imports there are in the NALCS. Jungle seems to be one of those vital roles where communication is key to overall team success, and the language barrier may be the reason why. Support/jungle communication is very important in roaming and making plays in the early/mid game.

Solo que junglers also seem to have the most influence when thinking about ranked play. As a jungler, your decisions in the early/mid game can set your team up for the most success. Doing well on the challenger ladder would be the first step to being recognized for pro play.

What’s surprising is that jungle is one of hardest roles to transition from solo que to pro play. Jungling solo que and in a professional setting is much different with all members being able to communicate. Your decisions are much more impactful in the game as they’re not going to be nearly as kill heavy as ranked play. Teams also ward much better so jungle routes have to be efficient. It’s hard to pin point exactly why rookie junglers seem to have the most success right away.

Lack of NA talent in other roles

Although NA rookie junglers seem to find a lot of success, other roles don’t seem to have the same effect. ESPN recently came out with an article discussing the lack of NA mid talent. It’s no doubt that more teams have gone to importing talent from elsewhere for their solo lanes. Just last split, many teams brought over talented Korean top laners instead of trying to recruit within North America.

Rookie junglers such as Contractz, Dardoch, Akaadian, and MikeYeung also seem to find success very early as well. Akaadian stormed onto the scene last split, showing some phenomenal performances on carry junglers. MikeYeung has been able to duplicate that success this split, helping P1 earn their first win of the split off his aggressive Nidalee play.

Immortals rookie ADC Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun struggled his first few matches, but has slowly developed into one of the better ADCs in North America. Most of the times we’ve seen rookies in other roles, they haven’t been able to stand out nearly as much as junglers have.

Looking toward the future

With franchising coming soon to the NALCS, we could see more development of homegrown talent. With each team being able to foster a “minor league” sister team, NA talent will have more chances than ever to be able to make their way into LCS.

With the relegation system, fear losing their spot in the pro league. If teams take a chance on a rookie and it doesn’t work out, their spot could be in danger fast. With franchising, bottom tier teams can experiment with different rosters if they struggle to start out the split.

With most of the successful NA teams fostering veteran junglers at Worlds, these rookies haven’t gotten much of a chance to see international play. That could change this split with Cloud 9 having Contractz and CLG with Dardoch. Mikeyeung potentially will have a chance to represent NA at rift rivals as some of the best teams from EU and NA square off. It’ll be interesting to see how these young junglers do against international competition. One can only hope that they can show that North America also has talent worth importing.


Cover photo by Riot Esports 

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Summer 2017 over/under (part 2): LCS players above expectations

With three weeks of NA and EU LCS in the books, audiences are starting to get a feel for teams’ strengths and weaknesses. Some squads have carried over similar strengths from Spring Split. Others have risen or fallen in performance. But even within rosters that tend to play consistently, there always seems to be an ebb and flow on the individual player level.

Last week, I highlighted players who need to return to past form for their respective teams to have a chance at peak performance. This week it is all about the other side, summoners who are trending upward so far this summer. These players have visibly improved. They are putting up statistics that are exciting and surprising. More importantly, though, these members have elevated their teams’ overall performances with their gameplay on the Rift.

Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha

CLG, Top laner

KP%:    61.8%   (2nd top laner)

D%:        19%    (4th top laner)

Darshan is a player who has come and gone as a presence in the top lane. While he almost mirrors his statistics from Spring Split, Summer Split seems different. Many of the imported top laners who struggled to find their place last split currently feel much stronger. Yet, Darshan has been able to keep up enough in lane to help CLG pressure the map through split-pushing and cleaner Teleports. Darshan’s team will rely on him to anchor his lane against top-heavy teams in the NA LCS.

CLG Darshan is exceeding expectations in top lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

DIG Shrimp is exceeding expectations in the jungle

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon

Dignitas, Jungler

KP%:    79.1%   (2nd overall)

XPD@10:    325  (3rd overall)

Dignitas’ newest jungler, Shrimp, has been on a tear so far this split. He and top laner, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, are the only members of the team to start ahead of their opponents at 10 minutes. Despite Dignitas’ early deficits, Shrimp has enabled the team to control Elder Dragon and Baron better than most teams in the NA LCS. His Lee Sin is particularly strong.

Choi “Pirean” Jun-Sik

Team Envy, Mid laner

KDA:    4.2   (4th mid laner)

DPM:    494  (6th mid laner)

Pirean is by no means close to the best mid laner in the NA LCS. However, his addition to Team Envy has seemed to boost their overall performance. Within the team, Pirean has the highest KDA, lowest death share, and ties Apollo “Apollo” Price in damage share. Even in Envy’s losses, the mid laner looks proactive on picks like Taliyah and Ahri. Pirean seems like a much better fit than Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo in spring.

NV Pirean is performing above expectations in mid lane

LoL Esports Flickr

UOL Samux is exceeding expectations in bottom lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort

Unicorns of Love, Bot laner

DPM:    604   (4th overall)

DMG%: 28%  (6th overall)

Despite already meshing well with Unicorns of Love in his rookie split, Samux is solidifying himself as a top AD carry in EU LCS this split. He is putting out high damage and keeping his deaths low, sporting a 7.7 KDA. Samux’s positioning and decision-making have been crucial to Unicorns’ scary team-fighting. Standing out this way among a strong field of European bot lanes truly is a feat.

Kim “Wadid” Bae-in

Roccat, Support

D%:   15.4%  (2nd support)

KP%:  68.5%  (6th support)

The flashiest Rakan player in the EU LCS, Wadid has been a primary initiator for Roccat this split. This trend started during Roccat’s win streak towards the end of Spring Split, but he has blossomed these past few weeks. Wadid enables his bottom lane partner, Petter “Hjärnan” Freyschuss, to get ahead during laning phase and clean up team-fights. Viewers feel this player’s presence on the map, which is impressive considering there are several competitive, veteran support players in the league.

ROC Wadid is exceeding expectations as support

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

honorable mention

IMT Cody Sun and Olleh are above expectations in bottom lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung

Immortals, Bot lane duo

DPM: 534,251 (2nd bot lane duo)

FB%: 27%,20% (1st bot laner, 1st support)

The success of Immortals’ bottom lane is difficult to separate between marksman and support. Both Cody Sun and Olleh have exhibited vast improvements from their starts at IEM Gyeonggi. Many fans could see the power shift towards the end of Spring Split, but not to the current degree. This duo has consistently pressured opponents throughout the game in laning, turrets and team-fights. Olleh’s aggressive Bard and Morgana pairs particularly well with Cody Sun’s Caitlyn and Varus. Immortals’ bottom lane has been a force so far, and remaining at the top of the standings will definitely depend on their continued growth.

All of these players are playing above their previous benchmarks. It only takes a short time for above expectations to turn into the expectation, and, as the NA and EU LCS advance, viewers will look for continued improvement. No one will necessarily remember which teams and players were stomping or slumping three weeks into the split. If these players truly want to leave their mark, they will need to maintain this high level of gameplay over many more grueling weeks of League of Legends.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Champion Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

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Hooks in the LCS

Week Two of the North American League Championship Series (NA LCS) has proven once again that NA pros are hooked on League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) picks. While Thresh has been a staple in competitive since release, the rise of Blitzcrank has recently rocketed in North America.

Thresh’s Big Moment

Perhaps the most consistent support pick, Thresh has become stronger than ever with the recent meta changes. Having a kit that is overloaded with the ability to create picks, peel, and reposition allies, it is no wonder that Thresh has been a staple in pro play. This being said, Thresh has reached his peak in both competitive and solo queue environments due to some recent changes.

Photo by: lolesports

Changes to support and laning items have made Thresh’s abusable laning phase easier to handle. Doran’s shield protects vulnerable AD carries from the harassment of the ever popular ranged mage supports. Poke based support champions are also hindered by having less mana regen on the Spellthief’s support item line. With poke supports doing less poking, tank supports running the Relic Shield line have been indirectly buffed, but they are again buffed through the power of the Relic Shield Quest which gives them a refreshing shield once it is completed.

Alongside the lack of health regen from the Ancient Coin line, and less mana regen from Spellthief’s, Relic Shield supports such as Thresh and Blitzcrank are at their strongest.

The Great Steam Golem

The Great Steam Golem has seen plenty of screen-time in the LCK, most notably from the likes of MVP MAX, whose signature Blitzcrank is a pick to be feared. With seven bans and five picks since the LCK started three weeks ago, Blitzcrank maintains a 60 percent win rate. Popularized by MVP Max during the Spring Split of the LCK, Blitzcrank is one of Max’s many play making supports. Currently, in the Summer Split of the LCK, MVP Max has only played two games on his claim to fame champion, winning one and losing the other; this shows that the pick has become popular amongst other supports in the LCK as well.

Throwback to Team Alternate versus Gambit (Moscow 5). Photo by: lolesports

Blitzcrank has always been an unpopular pick in the competitive scene, with exception of the first two seasons of competitive. This is in large part due to the reliability of his one-dimensional kit. Blitzcrank is the quintessential Catcher. While being the best pick based support, Blitzcrank’s toolkit starts, stops and ends at his Rocket Grab. The basic combo, hook into knock-up and silence, can be used for peeling through a separation of the combo into its more basic components.

However, there are so many other better-peeling supports. Due to the nature of his one combo kit, Blitzcrank’s power is completely dependent on hitting the initial Rocket Grab. This is the primary reason why professional players have strayed away from Blitzcrank. While this champion is undeniably one of the most powerful supports in the game, consistently sitting in the top three highest win rate supports for the past few seasons, the lack of flexibility and reliability prevents the Steam Golem from being the most picked support.

Blitzcrank’s Fleshling Compatibility Services

Enter Xayah, the Rebel. Xayah has incredible late game scaling, laning phase damage, wave clear, and Crowd Control. Her popularity alongside her partner, Rakan, has soared in the competitive scene. While her go-to bottom lane partner is Rakan, Blitzcrank makes a potentially more powerful support. Much like the Kalista Blitzcrank combination of the past season, Xayah and Blitzcrank compensate for each other’s weaknesses perfectly. Xayah lacks in gap closers that allow for her to dump her insane amount of damage onto backline threats. Blitzcrank’s Rocket Grab allows for her to utilize her damage on threats that would otherwise be too far away. The Steam Golem lacks in reliability to initiate the Rocket Grab combo, but Xayah’s wave clear and root allow for Rocket Grab to become a point and click ability instead of a jukable skill shot.

EULCS Hylissang gets his hook on in time for a victory. Photo by: lolesports

Blitzcrank has incredible play-making ability that was displayed in game three of CLG v Echo Fox. Alongside Xayah, Blitzcrank is a foe to be reckoned with. Regardless of whether or not Blitzcrank is laning with Xayah, the Steam Golem has seen a recent resurgence in both solo queue and competitive environments. Most recently in the EU LCS, Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov, proved the champion’s power supporting Twitch in the bottom lane. Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black’s knack for play-making supports has translated well into his Blitzcrank play. While CLG would ultimately lose to TSM with Blitzcrank, this is in large part due to the unexpected performance by TSM jungler, Dennis “Svenkskeren” Johnsen.

As support itemization is once again being changed, expect to see both hook-heavy champions in the bottom lane. With Redemption being nerfed when not paired with other healing and shielding items, and Knight’s Vow being made more appropriate for supports to pick up, expect to see a new Blitzcrank and Thresh build path. This new itemization will compensate for Blitzcrank’s lack of peel by allowing him to effectively share a health pool with his marksmen.

 

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Featured Image Courtesy of leagueoflegends.com

 

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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Does Team Liquid Deserve Their LCS Spot?

After a problematic first week in the North American League Championship Series, Team Liquid’s shaky start promotes questions of the competitive integrity within the League itself. Not too long ago, Team Liquid faced relegations at the end of the Spring Split. Their participation in the Summer Promotion tournament following their poor performance throughout the Spring Split was aided through the convenient substitution of some of the League’s best players: “Adrian” Ma and Peter “DoubleLift” Yilang.

 

CLG bring TL their first loss of the weekend through expert dragon control. Courtesy of lolesports

With Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin in the mid lane, Team Liquid was in dire need of a powerhouse bottom lane, and they bought it. Through “renting” these two players, Team Liquid successfully paid their way out of relegations; conveniently so, as franchising has now begun. In renting DoubleLift, TL successfully rented one of the most mechanically proficient players while also securing a venerated shot caller currently at the head of TSM.

 

 

Team 0-2

Currently, Team Liquid sits at 0-2 in the standings. Their losses against Echo Fox and Counter Logic Gaming were both head scratchers in very different ways. Against CLG, Team Liquid were gifted three kills onto Piglet’s Jhin, followed by ten minutes of TL shuffling up and down the river looking for plays they could not find. In game two of TL vs CLG, dragon control led to an inevitable four stack Elder, allowing CLG to dismantle TL in a team fight forty minutes in the making.

Echo Fox versus TL proved Team Liquid had more weaknesses than substitutions could patch, but it also showed how much synergy matters on the competitive stage. Watching the first game of this series showed one of two things: Echo Fox has mastered map movements to a T, or that TL has no idea how to work as a team around objectives. While the latter is definitely true, Echo Fox did show a masterful ability to work the map. However, this has yet to be challenged by a top tier team.

In game two, Henrik “Froggen” Hansen and Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham proved to be a high-pressure combo, killing Slooshi’s Cassiopeia under tower with the Taliyah and Lee Sin synergy. Akaadian then stopped by every lane, snowballing advantages in every sector of the map. Reignover’s Elise was nowhere to be found, failing counter ganks that should have been called out far before they were initiated.

Echo Fox show that dominant map movement and teamplay are the two things that matter most in League of Legends. Courtesy of lolesports

TL then proceeded to ignore a Rift Herald drop in the mid lane until it had already taken a tower and a half. Once again, game two was defined through TL being out macroed as an entire team. Each of these players has undeniably great mechanics, but ultimately Echo Fox brought what TL could not buy, teamplay.

 

Liquid Without the Team Part

 

Teamplay is something Team Liquid sincerely lacks. Team Liquid’s lack of confidence in one another transcends the stage as Piglet has suggested in recent interviews. Piglet has told reporters that he would like to play mid again, while also stating that he should not bring it up to his team for obvious reasons. He openly doubts his teammates, creating an environment of disrespect that will deny team cohesion. Piglet calls out his team’s ability to shot call, claiming there is a lack of clarity in calls. This does not bode well for TL as Erving Goffman, American Sociologist, has stated that the greatest threat to a team is not being able to act in synchronized behavior (Goffman, 1959).

The caliber of play Team Liquid has shown in their first week of the LCS is severely lacking in comparison to their super sub bailout squad that barely beat Gold Coin United in the Summer Promotion Tournament. Due to the last minute substitutions during Team Liquid’s escape from relegations, the Summer split now hosts a team that is of an undeniably lower caliber than teams in the NACS. To add insult to injury, fans will be unable to watch NACS games this season, which will undoubtedly be entertaining, to say the least.

 

TL Goldenflue optimistic before his substitution. Courtesy of lolesports flickr.

For the sake of competition in the NALCS, we must hope that Team Liquid can turn things around. Perhaps the “impersonal contacts between strangers [which]  are particularly subject to stereotypical responses, will change [when] persons come to be on closer terms with each other… this categorical approach recedes and gradually sympathy, understanding, and a realistic assessment of personal qualities take its place” (Goffman, 1963). Team Liquid hosts some undeniably talented players, but until they learn to cooperate, they will continue to be an undeniably untalented team.

 

 

 

 

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Featured Image Courtesy of lolesports flickr

Goffman Erving. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1959 Print.

Goffman Erving. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, 1963 Print

 

Why Dardoch and Xmithie are perfect fits for their teams

It’s only been one week into the Summer Split of the NALCS, but Immortals and CLG look impressive. During the off-season, the two teams agreed to swap junglers Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and Jake “Xmithie” Puchero.

Most people only saw CLG as the clear winners of this trade. With Xmithie looking to have peaked as a jungler, few expected Immortals to have much success after the transfer. Immortals had different plans, though, as they were able to take a commanding 2-0 week after sweeping last split’s champions, TSM. Both junglers seem to be perfect fits on their new rosters.

Photo via Riot Esports

Mid/Jungle Synergy

Before the split, mid laners Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun and Eugene “Pobelter” Park were heading in opposite directions. Huhi was often criticized at the weak link of CLG in his first split, but looked much improved in the spring. Meanwhile, Pobelter was known as being one of the only NA mid talents, had one of his worst splits in spring. Statistically, he was near the bottom when comparing stats among other mids.

Xmithie and Pobelter had previous experience playing together on CLG back when they took the 2015 NALCS finals. The support of Xmithie has helped him and Immortals as a team. Pobelter finished the week with a massive 10 KDA and looked like his former star self.

Huhi benefited from having a more aggressive jungler as he was able to help with roams and pressure his lane more with Dardoch behind him. Huhi did work this week doing 33 percent of his team’s damage while also having the third highest KDA among mids.

Jungle Styles

Stylistically, Dardoch and Xmithie are night and day in comparison. Dardoch is extremely aggressive and loves to make big plays. Xmithie is an efficient pather and likes to play more supportive in tracking the enemy jungler while helping his laners.

On Immortals, Dardoch was a huge voice on the team. On a team of very passive personalities, his ego took over and he basically did whatever he wanted. Immortals staff even acknowledged this in their offseason video where they highlighted some of the team’s issues. On CLG, Dardoch plays with the presence of other strong vocal players such as Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha and Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black. With veteran leadership already in place on CLG, Dardoch isn’t required to do as much of the heavy lifting as he was on Immortals.

With Immortals, Xmithie is willing to sacrifice resources to allow his team to gain leads. Immortals players have rather passive personalities that could easily be run over by someone like Dardoch. But with Xmithie, they have someone willing to help the team by all means necessary. As the meta shifted back to carry tops and tank/support jungles, Xmithie fits perfectly. Xmithie does not try to make flashy plays that will make himself good, rather he tries to allow his carries to do what they need to do.

Team Environments

Photo via Riot Esports

It almost feels that this is the strongest roster and management staff Dardoch has ever played on. With strong veteran presence leading the way on CLG, he can worry about his own play rather than his teammates. CLG has experience dealing with egocentric players having dealt with star ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Dardoch also isn’t relied upon to be the sole shot caller. It’s been known that Darshan and Aphromoo are very vocal in game and help a ton with the macro play.

The Immortals roster felt like it needed a fresh start after playing with Dardoch for a split. In the video going over Spring Split, the roster members felt that because of Dardoch a lot of the relationships amongst team members felt very “artificial”. With that type of team environment, you can’t expect young players to be at their best. Xmithie comes from an environment where team bonding and friendship were a strong vocal point in success. Xmithie doesn’t have near the ego of Dardoch, so you can expect Immortals are riding this honeymoon phase all the way into Week Two.


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Cover Photo by Riot Games

2017 NALCS Summer Power Rankings

The North American LCS Summer Split is just days away. There were a few roster changes in the offseason but not too many. It seemed like most teams wanted to try to keep a core of the roster to build off of – similar to what we saw from Splyce last split in the EULCS. Most teams don’t want to have to do a full roster overhaul in between spring and summer.

It’ll be interesting to see how the standings begin to unfold as we begin the Summer Split. Will CLG stumble out of the gates like we’ve grown accustomed to? Will TSM bounce back from their MSI performance? Can Cloud9 reclaim the throne? Without further ado here are our 2017 NALCS Summer power rankings:

10. Echo Fox

Photo via Riot Esports

Echo Fox is deciding to shake up their strategy heading into summer with C9’s owner Jack announcing on Twitter that they decided to only scrim their sister team to start out the split, saying this is a “bold strategy” for the young team. While something like this could work on a more talented team like Cloud9 or TSM, Echo Fox hasn’t proven to have the talent to not need to scrim LCS teams. Their quality of practice could potentially dip from this, but it could also allow for more strategy development as well. Echo Fox can develop their own meta and have a some surprise factor facing off teams on stage.

Echo Fox will need to rely heavily on their mid/jungle duo of Henrik “Froggen” Hansen and Matt “Akaadian” Higginbotham once again. Akaadian stormed onto the scene with some great carry performances in his rookie split, but fell off towards the later half once teams began to figure him out. At ADC Yuri “Keith” Jew still garners the starting position for now, but they did add challenger series veteran Brandon “Mash” Phan in the offseason to compete with him. Keith struggled last split and took much of the criticism for Echo Fox doing poorly last split.

9.Team Liquid

To many people’s surprise, Team Liquid stuck it out and brought back the same exact roster from last split, pre-Doublelift. Team Liquid fans can only hope that mid laner Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer’s bootcamp to Korea has given him Faker-like ability to finally perform well on the LCS stage. This will most likely be his last chance to prove he belongs in the LCS, so it will be do-or-die for his career.

Jungler Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin struggled in his first split without Huni. The carry jungle meta really wasn’t his style and consequently struggled. With the meta shifting back to tank junglers, we could see an emergence of his former all-star self.

Team Liquid is looking to rely heavily on Cain being added as a strategic coach. They seemed to really like how he did near the end of the split so it will be his chance to prove himself as a coach. Talent wise, Team Liquid isn’t in a bad spot.

8. EnVyus

Photo via Riot Esports

EnVyUs returns with basically the same roster besides subbing out mid laner Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo for upcoming EU mid laner Yasin “Nisqy” Dincer. Nisqy can hopefully be an upgrade over Ninja as he was one of the weaker members of the roster last split. Nisqy comes from EU after helping Fnatic Academy qualify through the Challenger series.

Star jungler Nam “lira” Tae-yoo developed into one of the best junglers in North America and had some phenomenal performances last split.

If Nisqy can gel with the team well, EnVyUs could definitely surprise a lot of people. They also brought on Kim “Violet” Dong Hwan, a former pro starcraft player to coach. While he doesn’t necessarily have a LoL background, it will be interesting to see how he handles the language barrier among the players. Lira and Seraph will need to step up their English if nV will have any chance to compete this split.

 7. Immortals

Immortals swapped junglers in the offseason with CLG in an interesting move due to Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett’s toxic attitude. Jake “Xmithie” Puchero brings a much supportive style to the jungle. It will be a complete 180 in terms of jungle styles. Dardoch was often hard carrying Immortals in their victories, while also being tasked with doing much of the shot calling. Having a decisive voice on a team is vital in pro play and Immortals will definitely miss it.

Most people will consider this move a downgrade, but it could also work better chemistry wise. It’s no doubt Dardoch is one of the best up and coming players of the NALCS, but team chemistry wise he needs the right players around him. Maybe having a more supportive jungler in Xmithie will allow Immortals laners to shine more.

6.Dignitas

Dignitas was expected to be strong contenders after adding the star top/jungle duo of Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun and Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho for Spring Split. That was not the case as Dignitas struggled heavily at the start of spring. Their early game wasn’t bad, but they struggled to make plays in the mid to late game. This was most likely due to the language barrier between the imports.

Once new head coach David “Cop” Roberson was introduced to the team during the middle of the split the team begun to find success. During the off season they also added LCS veteran Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco to their coaching staff. Some other additions include the addition of support Terry “Big” Chuong and jungler Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon. Big is starting the first week of LCS so we’ll need to see if their mid-late game shot calling has improved. They definitely have the talent to compete, but their macro shot calling has been lacking.

5. Flyquest

Photo via Riot Esports

Flyquest returns a former player of the team in Jason “Wildturtle” Tran at ADC. Stylistically, Wildturtle fits this team perfectly. He’s known to be extremely aggressive often at the sacrifice of his life at times. Mid laner Hai “Hai” Lam often will call for very aggressive calls where every member must commit and Wildturtle can do that just fine.

Flyquest stormed onto the scene last split contending for top 2-3 for the first half of the split before teams began to figure them out. They were fan favorites for playing off meta picks such as Mordekaiser bot, Shaco jungle, and Maokai support. Jungler Galen “Moon” Holgate had a breakout split for Flyquest after being underwhelming on any other team he was on before. The effect of having a strong shot caller in Hai really allowed him to show his true potential in the jungle.

Flyquest looks to build off a decent first split finishing fourth place in the spring.

4. Counter Logic Gaming

CLG upgraded individually in terms of talent with the jungle swap of Dardoch and Xmithie. Dardoch brings a high ceiling with the potential to be one of the best junglers in the world. The knock on him is his poor attitude and team chemistry that he’s shown from his time on Immortals and Team Liquid. It’s a high risk, high reward move for this organization but can pay off huge.

This is the best roster Dardoch will have ever been equipped with. Veteran Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black is a strong voice and leader on the team that should be able to keep Dardoch in check if things get heated. CLG has experience dealing with high ego players so having a player like Dardoch shouldn’t be anything new. Although if things don’t start off well, one could see things snowballing out of control very quickly. If things mesh well though, CLG could be strong contenders for the NALCS crown in summer.

3. Phoenix1

Phoenix1 returns the same lineup from last split. Led by their Korean carries of Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook and MVP ADC  No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon they were able to place third last split. The disparity between them and the top two was pretty big it seemed as they got swept 3-0 by Cloud9 in the semifinals.

If they want to contend for the title they’ll need to see some consistency in the jungle from Rami “Inori” Charagh. Inori took a few weeks off after having issues with some players on the roster. When Inori returned he did look much improved. Most of his issues seem to stem from him tilting on stage. If he can manage his tilt well, this team can definitely look to contend with the top teams. New support, Shady, also gets his chance at playing an entire split. He was an unknown addition towards the end of last spring and had a decent showing in their third place match against Flyquest.

2. Cloud9

Photo via Riot Esports

Cloud9 was one move away from dethroning TSM last summer in one of the best finals series we’ve seen in awhile. They were huge favorites to win spring in the preseason with TSM’s Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng sitting out. Cloud9 went undefeated for the first half of the split, but once teams began to improve, Cloud9 struggled to adapt. The team was a bit slow to make early game plays and relied heavily on team fighting in the mid game to snowball leads.

Jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia will look to build off a solid ‘Rookie of the Split’ and become even better this split. He started off really well looking like one of the best junglers. He slowly began to stagnate making some of the rookie mistakes we expected. With a split under his belt, he should know what to expect heading into summer. Cloud9 will also bring back the duo top laners of Impact and Ray. It will be interesting to see if they utilize the same way they did last split, Ray on carries and Impact on tanks. More teams should catch onto this and adjust their pick/bans accordingly.

Under coach of the split, Reaper, Cloud9 will look to contend for the title once again and earn another trip back to Worlds.

1. Team SoloMid

TSM will come in as Summer Split favorites with the return of star ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Doublelift won’t be coming in completely cold, as he had the chance to play with Team Liquid near the end of spring. If TSM can begin where they left off when Doublelift was on the roster, they can dominate the LCS once again. They have stated that they want to utilize the six man roster with another ADC. It will be interesting to see who they bring on as a sub.

Domestically, TSM is a dominant team that has shown the ability to not show fear to play at a high level. They struggle to translate this same high level of play to the international stage where they have shown to be scared to pull the trigger on fights. Hopefully with Doublelift returning, he brings another decisive voice in the shot calling that will allow them to make more aggressive plays.

Jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen had a poor showing at MSI. He was simply out classed by every other jungler there aside from maybe Trick. He’ll need to turn things around if TSM wants to continue their reign on North America.


Catch the start of LCS June 2nd!

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Cover Photo by Riot Games

CLG’s 2016 spring of dreams: The sports anime team of the LCS Part 2

Welcome to Part two of our CLG’s 2016 spring of dreams: The sports anime team of the LCS. For the first part looking at the build up and protagonists of our CLG story, check out my article here.

 

The Split

Not many fans of CLG were expecting much from the Spring Split. Eyes were glued to how the new rookies would integrate into the squad, whether the veterans could teach the new kids how to play the Rift in the LCS, and truthfully if they’d manage to scrap their way into Playoffs. First was the surprise win over long time rival and new home of star ADC Doublelift, TSM. Then, the honor of being the only team in the Spring Split to actually take a win off of the (almost) undefeated Immortals squad (with a cheeky baron steal into Darshan backdoor win). CLG surprised everyone with a 13-5 split, narrowly passing Cloud 9 in Week 9 with Team Liquid being… Team Liquid… and securing fourth place.

Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

It was the split that even the most faithful were cautious in hoping for. The team meshed together as a unit, and countless interviews with CLG players highlighted this. The story line was never about one star player winning games. Rather, it revolved around which player would the team elect to carry them this game. We saw stellar performances obviously from the likely culprits: Darshan with the split pushes that the other team could not answer, Xmithie with the Smite wars and overall map control, and Aphromoo leading his lane to dominance.

But it wasn’t just the vets. Viewers caught glimpses of greatness with Huhi, as he broke out the Aurelion Sol to great effect, still drawing bans against that pocket pick. And Stixxay came up huge when the team needed him most. His triple kill in the final fight between the long time rivals took the Finals for CLG and sent them to MSI. In many fans’ minds, it was clear that the CLG management knew what they were doing, maybe even better than they thought.

But back to the story lines. What a roller coaster of a split. While some looked to CLG’s playoff as a result of other teams failing expectations, that shouldn’t detract from the accomplishment at hand. They didn’t take it because Huhi or Stixxay were amazing diamonds in the rough. It wasn’t the steadfast veterans, the grizzled familiar faces after the roster shuffle, that carried the CLG banner to victory. No. It was the team. They came together, they held each other up, and most importantly, they never stopped believing in each other. The rag band team of veterans and rookies took the split, and ultimately the finals, to propel them further than even they had hoped for: representing their region at the second most important Riot tournament besides Worlds.

Sweet, sweet victory. Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

From “Unlikely” to “Runner-ups”

The now (in)famous power rankings going into MSI 2016 didn’t have CLG doing much. At their brightest, CLG were a dark horse roster, one that could make some upsets and maybe see themselves get into Playoffs. But they weren’t expected to do much. If they showed up, it would be mildly surprising. If they flopped, it also wouldn’t be too shocking a revelation. They weren’t the dominant (domestically) G2, the juggernaut SKT T1, or the stacked Royal Never Give Up. Heck, they weren’t even as hyped as the LMS’ representatives Flash Wolves. The Flash Wolves didn’t mince words with their expectations of CLG, with SwordArt’s comment towards them simply being, “We don’t actually have any preparation. Because CLG is the worst team besides IWC teams.” Ohh the irony.

Worse than an International Wildcard Team you say? Well that’s awkward for you. Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

In true CLG fashion, they did the exact opposite of what the pundits and critiques expected them to do: they thrived. I’m not one for taking phrases from others, but man did ESPN writer Tyler Erzberger put it perfectly for CLG’s mantra, “Respect all, fear none.” This was a roster that didn’t claim to not prepare for an opponent they felt was weaker, because they knew they had to do that to every opponent they would meet. Their record tells the story of group stage well. They had a 2-0 record against Flash Wolves and G2, and a 1-1 record against SKT, RNG, and BAU Supermassive (I mean, it is CLG, Wildcards are pretty much confirmed their kryptonite…).

Of course, in a perfect kind of story line, the team that looked down on CLG were the ones facing them in the Semis. The Wolves had to look across the Rift at the team they felt was as strong as an IWC team. Still, even with their group stage performances, many were timid to cast their vote in favor of CLG. Sure, they had bested the Flash Wolves, but that didn’t paint them as clear favorites going into their confrontation. Keen observers would’ve had the two as neck and neck, equal parties, and that the battle would most likely be a back and forth series.

It was, in a lot of ways, a clash of styles, and a clash of ways to play League of Legends. Flash Wolves brought strong talent and mechanics in their games. Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan in particular found many advantages in his laning phases that put the Wolves ahead. Of course, CLG, on the other side of the spectrum, trusted in each other, in their own style: teamwork and macro plays. CLG played the maps out like an ebb and flow of a tide, and ultimately came out on top of the Wolves in a 3-1 series. The under-looked team, practically spit upon by SwordArt’s comments, came out convincingly on top to move onto the Finals of MSI, the first time any North American squad had done so at a Riot International tournament.

To Face a God

It was only a befitting ending. Sports animes aren’t Mary Sues. It’s about learning, about hardships and about trying to take those lessons and bringing them into the next competition. So when CLG lost 3-0 to SKT, not many were surprised. It’s the narrative any time a team faces SKT, whether it’s in region rivals like KT Rolster or pre-exodus Rox Tigers, or the latest crop of non-Korean teams hoping to make a dent in the armor that is SKT’s record internationally.

Heads held high to face the gods. Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

It was a bit of a miracle run overall, and while they did lose it all in the end, CLG weren’t completely outmatched. Like any good team, they had their shining moments against SKT. In the first game, far behind SKT and ultimately completely outplayed for the first half of the game, CLG almost made the comeback against the Gods. Through smart play and a cheeky hide-and-then-five-man-dive-poor-Faker-and-Wolf, they almost mounted a convincing lead, but ultimately lost to the superior skill and experience of SKT.

On the back of a strong comeback that ultimately fell short, CLG started game two strong, with a 3K gold lead on the Korean giants at the 14 minute mark. The rest of the game was a back and forth, punch for punch game where both teams matched each others plays, with the game being swung in SKT’s favour during a decisive team fight victory. For all the hype and near moments of excellence, CLG eventually dropped the game, unable to withstand the onslaught.

Game three was probably the finale of the series everyone expected, but no NA fan hoped for. It was a lashing, as SKT showed masterfully how to rotate the map and pick off CLG members who seemed completely caught off guard. Outside of a prolonged fight that showcased a lot of CLG’s strength at the 32 minute mark, it was hard to say they stood much of a chance. Ultimately the bloodiest game of the set, and really the most one sided, SKT walked away heads held high, sitting on top of the world of League of Legends.

Murica. Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

CLG, on the other hand, walked away beaten but not broken. They still stood toe to toe against the team favored to take it all, the team who ultimately would take Worlds again, and then would end up taking MSI again too. It’s hard to imagine a world where the rag tag team, compiled of a couple of rookies, would be able to take down that dynastic of a team.

But it’s not the victory that makes the story line. It’s the sheer run of it all, a team from NA, going up against multiple opponents who not only were touted to outclass them as a team, but were supposed to outclass even their region. It was the first time an NA team made it into the finals of a Riot international tournament. What an amazing run from a team whose only talent was in working together, in picking up where their teammates faltered.

It wasn’t big roster moves and long time rivals TSM. It wasn’t storied Cloud 9, the wunderkids of the NA LCS, with their opening split of dominance in their minds. No, it was the roster that had every single NA LCS fan, even the most faithful of CLG fans, scratching their heads at the off season. They took it to the finals of MSI and brought recognition back to their region. While the ‘best’ story line is highly subjective and up for debate, the Spring Time of Dreams CLG are at least in the top five for League of Legends esports. And it’d be a damn good sports anime plot line too.

 

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CLG’s 2016 spring of dreams: The sports anime team of the LCS Part 1

When people say what draws them to esports and sports, you’ll often hear two philosophies: to watch the best of the best play their game at the peak level of competition, or for the story lines that weave themselves on and off the playing fields.

This piece is for the second group. This article started in my mind as a joke, as I was looking back with a friend on past NA LCS splits playoffs and remembered just how insanely storybook like Counter Logic Gaming’s (CLG) run to win the Spring Split in 2016 and their performance at MSI was. In my mind, it was the greatest sports anime style narrative we’ve yet to see. (Rivaled by Cloud 9’s Cinderella story to Worlds in S6, mind you.)

I mean, THIS happened so anything is possible folks…

What do I mean by this? Well, think about it. Long time team, they had just come off a big win but now were thrown into question, lots of pressure on the roster, and a bunch of faces old and new, veterans and no name rookies, who managed to stick it to the pundits and win it all.

Hell, even the archetypes are there: the Leader (Aphro), the Cutesy dopey one (Huhi), the Downplayed ace (Stixxay), the Steady and silent one (Xmithie), the Pretty one (Darshan), and the Mr. Serious Coach Guy (Zikz… kind of).

The narrative practically writes itself folks. There were ups and downs, moments it looked bleak and others where they shined as a team, not as individuals. They coalesced, they backed each other up on and off the rift, and they showed that team work meant more than flashy players and big transfers. They also lost in heart breakers, they had to buffer themselves to the community’s constant criticisms, and ultimately to have faith in each other.

With MSI behind us, and the NA LCS ultimately losing their top seed at the next Worlds, lets take a look back a brighter time for North America, a time where, funny enough, the team representing the region was not seen as the best team there. They were criticized harshly going into it, and many felt that perhaps they would not be the best showing for the NA LCS internationally. It turned out, they were. This is the first part of a two part series, so be sure to check in tomorrow for our dramatic conclusion!

The Set Up

I still remember the shock of the off season between Worlds 2015 and the NA LCS Spring Split 2016. Losing  Eugene “Pobelter” Park seemed like a blow enough. Pob was, as I always said, a solid, if not uninspiring, Mid laner. The perfect fit for CLG, who often had… on and off Mid laners. That was fine. Maybe the team had some crazy import in mind, right? After all, Faith has always been part of the CLG fandom. But that wasn’t all.

Then the unthinkable happened. Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng traded in the blue and gray for the black and white of long time rivals TSM. Why not top it all off with picking up two almost unheard of rookies in Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes and Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun, and CLG pulled a full CLG and went counter to everyone’s expectations. They finally found the solution, the team that got them that coveted NA LCS Finals and Worlds appearance. It was supposed to be the Golden Age. Then they decided to remove two key players and replace them with untested rookies.

The rag tag team of dreams, NA’s hope at MSI. Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

The scene was left scratching their heads, as eternal rivals TSM looked to rebound after an off performance during their last Summer’s playoff showing, having gotten arguably the strongest ADC in the West from the very team that beat them. TSM’s rivals, of course, were left with two rookies, Stixxay having been promoted from CLG Black, while Huhi was reportedly scouted in Korea for his talent. But they both had big shoes to fill, and while being surrounded by some of the most storied veterans in Top laner Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha, Jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero and Support Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black, CLG fans felt that maybe, just maybe, they’d be able to pull out a playoff win in Summer.

Alongside the player changes, CLG brought on a new head coach by the name of Tony “Zikzlol” Gray, now a household name as arguably one of the best coaches in North America, there was a lot of new faces and questions mixed with hopes.

Nobody expected that the team would amount to much in Spring. Even CLG didn’t. A win on domestic soil seemed a great showing, but the impressive showings didn’t end there: they also went on to place second at Riot’s Mid-Season Invitational, after showing up against international teams and only falling short against Korean juggernauts SKT. Then again, what would a good sports anime be without the unlikely happening?

Our protagonists

Archetypes in Anime aren’t really set in stone. Sure, there are tropes and there’s kind of constant themes throughout, but archetypes are always kind of murky grounds. Some will disagree with the ones I find almost ever present. Some will say I forgot some. Hell, it’s even likely you’ll disagree with my identification of the players in their archetypes. That’s fine, I’m not claiming objectivity here. But if I were writing the show, this is how I’d envision the players.

Darshan: Even his teacher calls him Zionspartan… but fans now call him Darshan, and arguably last Spring was some of the best times for the one they call Darshan.

He was a monster in the Top lane, eloquent in the lane swap meta, and a menace when left to split push to victory. If fans of the NA LCS had a dime for every time Darshan would split push to win with Fiora or similar split pushers, they’d have a lot of dimes. It wasn’t quite the Flame Horizon in the Top lane, but it was pretty damn close, and many of the W’s in CLG’s Spring Split could be chalked up to the dashing Darshan.

Darshan, probably thinking about how to style his hair or like the next song to cover… Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

Of course, it’s not just about how the players played, but their place in our overall story, right? Darshan could’ve been the kind of Clutch Player, the one who shows up when the team needs him the most and somehow pulls off the victory. But I think the other side of Darshan plays out more in my mind: He seriously was the pretty boy of the group. Amazing facial hair and style aside, he also sings amazingly. If he were to walk onto stage, I feel like he would have to have a flower background and a close up zoom in, as his eye sparkled or something. Next to Huhi, Darshan would probably have the most fanart of himself if we’re being totally honest.

Xmithie: Xmithie has been a staple in the NA LCS since his time way back in Season 3 with Team FeaR and Team Vulcun. He’s been a stable force in the scene, never quite as strong as some of his flashier compatriots in the Jungle, yet Xmithie never failed though to remain a rock and foundational piece for many a team. Hell, he was the unchallenged Best Lee Sin NA for a while folks…

Over the shoulder eye brow raising smoulder. Courtesy of Riot Flikr.

But more than that, Xmithie fit into the CLG story line as that Steady and Silent one. For the entirety of the Spring split and into MSI, Xmithie put in production for the team, helping his lane mates get ahead and maintaining overall map control.

He was there where and when the team needed him and read the game to know who to set up and get ahead. In some ways he was like a tactician for the squad, if not for Aphro’s obvious influence in that department. He was, however, always the quietest member it felt like. He wouldn’t be the player dominating a scene in the show, but he would show up at the right time to help a fellow player. The strong, silent type that always held a place in your heart for his sincere concern for his fellows.

 

Huhi: Huhi came in as a heavily scrutinized player, always at the center of criticism for the team and seemingly always the one that had to go. Still, through all of this, it seemed like the bubbly personality of Huhi persisted on. While notorious for his pocket picks like Aurelion Sol, Huhi’s performance on the rift has always been polarizing. He’s either the one surprisingly carrying his whole team on his giant space dragon back, or the one that’s the anchor for the early game of the team. Huhi was always a polarizing player, but he was never a negative player.

If you don’t find this image heart warming and wholesome, I ask you kindly, but firmly, to leave. Courtesy of Yahoo Esports.

It was his off the rift presence that was the perfect fit for somewhere between the comedic relief and the adorable one of the group. Just check his Twitter, and see the beauty that is the HuhixHaru.

It was, however, I think Huhi’s defining feature in my mind of his overall positive attitude in the face of adversity. He always seemed happy, always ready to try and prove himself again, and never daunted by opponents or critics. He would keep the team cheery and would offer his positive attitude to the team atmosphere.

Stixxay: Fans of CLG may have forgotten this, but Stixxay was considered once one of the weakest members of CLG for a time. Not many should be surprised by this, as stepping into the shoes of ace ADC and Best in the West Doublelift is definitely a tall task. But Stixxay never seemed fazed by those who didn’t believe in him. He was always stepping up, and I think the shinning moment of his Spring career was the Tristana play that propelled them to their victory over TSM and onto the MSI tournament.

From Zero to Hero in no time flat. Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

In a lot of ways, Stixxay would seem our protagonist for this show. The young kid, stepping into the ace role for a team, under heavy scrutiny by fans and pundits, and with a kind of self confidence in himself and his team that felt slightly above what one might feel was warranted. He and Aphromoo set out to prove everyone wrong, the young gun under the mentorship of the leader and brain in the botlane duo of Rush Hour.

Interviews with Stixxay showed this side time and time again: he felt he was good, damn good, but not in a pretentious way, not by putting others down or overstating his point. He felt he had the mechanics and just needed the time to ripen and he could match Doublelift’s legacy. Well, as a spoiler, it seemed he wasn’t too far off, and while a discussion of whether he’s ‘better than’ Doublelift or not would be a hotly contested debate, it’s safe to say that the rookie has proved himself, long before gaining the moniker of Big Dixxay.

Aphromoo: If ever there was a franchise player to match the level of Doublelift, it could be argued that it would be Aphromoo. Support, as a position, occupies a unique role within League of Legends: they’re both the ones to set up the plays and their lane mates success, while also generally tasked with the shotcalling role. In short, the best Supports are often the ultimate altruistic leaders. Aphromoo is no exception to this role either, often being praised as the driving force behind CLG’s success, being the leader the team needs on and off the rift.

There are certain players whose reputation transcends their on the Rift abilities. Aphromoo is one such player. Courtesy of Riot Flikr.

It’s the perfect plot line too. The mentor, the veteran, the one left behind the famous departure of lanemate Doublelift. Aphromoo had to prove himself not only mechanically as a player, but to prove himself to the team captain and mentor everyone believed he could be. He was given the untested, gifted, and highly coachable player that was Stixxay, and their role in the team ultimately became the lynch pin for their success.

While Darshan was known for his split pushing, Huhi his pocket picks and Xmithie for his selfless jungling style, it was the Bot lane duo that often was tasked to face some of the best and strongest opponents and carry. If it’s not a saying, it should be, that behind every God ADC is a Support who whipped them into shape, and look no further for proof of this then the Lethal Weapon duo that is Stixxay and Aphromoo.

Zikz: An untested team needs a leader, but it also needs a coach. Zikz stepped into the role of Head Coach before the roster was finalized, replacing William “scarra” Li and being promoted from Head Analyst position. Fans will remember Zikz for his simple, elegant style, a classy suit and non-distracting hair gave him the appearance of a largely non-menacing coach. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Zikz has established himself in the coaching role, holding one of the longest tenures as such, in a position that largely has seen more revolving doors than an European Super Team.

“Ok guys, if we destroy their Nexus first we win. Break!” Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

So how does Zikz play into this story? Well, he’s the behind the scene coach, the one who propels his team, prepares them to the best he can, and then sits there and watches as his work and tactics unfold before his eyes. Zikz was always there with his team, laughing, encouraging, being one on one with many of the players, and arguably a lot of CLG’s success can be placed as a fact of his impressive coaching. He was a strong Runner Up for the Coach of the Spring Split in 2016, and is a constant contender for the best coach each split.

He also plays the role of the coach who not much is known about. He’s been a relative silent force in CLG’s presence, and while this fits that narrative well of the behind the scenes coach who is stronger than he comes off, it also gave him the kind of mysterious aspect to him. All he needs is some glasses to push up his nose menacing when a team falls into his well laid trap and he’d be perfect.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 everyone!

Is That a Jojo Reference? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr and bad MS Paint skills.

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NALCS: The Good and Bad of Franchising

TheScore esports released an article Friday regarding franchising becoming a real thing in NALCS. Franchising has been a trending topic in terms of LCS since last year. Franchising LCS means that ten teams will be locked in from season to season, not being relegated. Riot would get rid of the relegation system altogether, and most likely opt for something similar to minor league, for teams to scout upcoming talent. New teams would not enter the LCS unless teams voted to expand the number of teams.

The Good

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Owners can rejoice with the announcement of franchising. Franchising in LCS will be amazing for teams already in LCS, and investors. With no risk of relegation, sponsors can freely pour money into teams without the risk of teams dropping out of the LCS. Under the relegation model, bottom tier teams struggle more to garner sponsors with the risk of losing their LCS spot.

More opportunities for players to enter the scene could possibly open up. If each team has a sort of “farm” team in the minor leagues, we could see more talent brought into struggling teams. With most of the best young talent playing in the challenger series during the regular season, there isn’t much room for roster adaptations during the regular split. Teams can feel comfortable doing roster changes in the middle of the split with no threat of losing their spot.

Fans also don’t have to worry about their favorite team being relegated from LCS. CLG and TL fans can assure you that relegation is a terrifying possibility. Franchising will pave the way for more money, continuing the rapid growth we’ve seen in esports recently.

The Bad

Franchising prevents any new organizations from entering the LCS. We may never get to witness a team like Origen or old school Cloud 9 grow from Challenger into Worlds contenders. Franchising will prevent the “underdog” story of LCS with no new organizations being able to play their way into the league.

Player contract security may also be hindered with Franchising. There would be a lot more on the line for players. Underperforming teams could be more open to adapting during the split. Players may not have a secure spot on the team if their team struggles.

Furthermore, competitiveness of the league could also dip. With no fear of relegation, some teams can be complacent with being a bottom tier organization. Without the fear of relegation, teams can be okay with having a bad split.

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