Four new organizations enter the NA LCS in 2018

NA LCS team identities following off-season roster upheavals

This year’s off-season has been extremely disruptive to the identity of each NA LCS team. Iconic, long-term and founding members of several rosters have switched to another team for 2018. Aphromoo is no longer playing for Counter Logic Gaming. Echo Fox is without Froggen. Hai has moved on from FlyQuest. TSM does not have Svenskeren.

Four brand new organizations are entering the LCS, while four previous organizations are no more. Immortals, Team Envy, Phoenix1 and Dignitas are out. Optic Gaming, Golden Guardians, 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming are in. All of the narratives surrounding the dissolved teams no longer matter. Immortals’ fumbles domestically, and then their tragic World Championship; Dignitas’ return to the LCS and Summer Split run in the playoffs; Phoenix1’s roller-coaster ups and downs from Rift Rivals, MikeYeung and roster shuffles. All down the drain.

The incoming teams will create new narratives for fans to enjoy. Endemic organizations made big roster moves in the off-season, which will bring their own storylines. The other teams in the middle, like Echo Fox and FlyQuest, will continue to mold into their own identities. 2018 is a watershed year for creating new drama, rivalries and narratives within the NA LCS.

100 Thieves: Old Guard, Modern Marketing

Aphromoo joined 100 Thieves for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The roster and coach announced for 100 Thieves consists of Ssumday, Meteos, Ryu, Aphromoo and Pr0lly. Each of these members could easily help anchor a team with their veteran experience and knowledge. However, they find themselves together on a roster that could very well have the most combined professional League of Legends experience on any announced NA LCS team in 2018. The coaching role, every lane, and the jungle position is covered by an established personality.

The organization itself is rather novel, though. Matthew Haag, aka “Nadeshot,” is well-known in the Call of Duty world as a retired player and team owner. He is partnered with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers to build a brand and a League of Legends roster under the 100 Thieves moniker. With a standout logo and a merch store full of casual-wear, 100 Thieves will most likely bring a different marketing flavor to the LCS.

100 Thieves should bring a mixture of results on and off the Rift. Meteos, Pr0lly and Aphromoo are some of the most recognized personalities in North America, while Ssumday and Ryu rally their own sets of fans. Nadeshot and the Cavaliers may contribute new styles and promotions than League of Legends is used to. Combine the charisma of the players and staff with the creativity and flashiness of the brand, and 100 Thieves could pull a nice set of followers. Not to mention, if the team actually has synergy, then there is no doubt they can be contenders regardless of which AD carry they sign.

Cloud9: question marks

Svenskeren joins Cloud9 for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Fans are filled with confusion and concern towards Cloud9’s off-season. With Impact and Contractz leaving, Cloud9 brought on Svenskeren and Licorice to join Jensen, Sneaky and Smoothie on the starting roster. Factions of the fan-base believe these members to be side-grades at least, downgrades at worst. Licorice has not been tested above the Challenger Series, while Svenskeren was not viewed as a key factor for TSM in 2017. While Impact and Ray had their low moments this year on Cloud9, there is no question that Impact’s high points were on another level.

Cloud9 still remains as one of the goofier, nonchalant organizations. Sneaky will still be the central personality, as the longest tenured member of the organization. Jensen, Smoothie, Svenskeren and even Coach Reapered and team owner Jack have had their fair share of memes and fun. Licorice will probably fall right in line with this theme.

However, the lightheartedness of the players only works if they are winning. Jokes and humor fall flat if the roster has issues clicking, or if results do not show. Despite standing out as an amusing team, Cloud9 actually has a strong League of Legends legacy. They have won two NA LCS championships, and finished runner-up four times. In 2018 Cloud9 will look to continue building on this success, while still playing the jester role off stage.

Counter Logic Gaming: the Nice Guys

Biofrost joins CLG for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

CLG took their first step away from their “Team Friendship” theme when they traded Xmithie for Dardoch in the 2017 mid-season. They took a step further this off-season by bringing on Reignover to start over OmarGod. Add Aphromoo’s departure, and CLG’s identity is reeling.

But look at the starting roster: Darshan, Reignover, Huhi, Stixxay, Biofrost. These are the nice guys of the NA LCS. This squad has charisma. None of these members have any baggage following them from a previous team, or lacks personality. When Stixxay is the most arrogant player on the roster, it is probably a healthy work environment.

CLG should have some concerns, though. Who will be the leader and shotcaller to fill the void left by Aphromoo? Is there enough fire in the team? And is the talent strong enough to pass the test of 2018? Stixxay has never played in the LCS without Aphromoo. Biofrost only played one split without Doublelift, and it was not nearly as impactful. Reignover has not shown a level of play akin to his days with Huni on Fnatic and Immortals. 2018 will be a huge test for these players’ improvement together.

Clutch Gaming: upgraded envy

Febiven joins Clutch Gaming for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Lira, Apollo and Hakuho made up three fifths of Team Envy in 2017, and they will make up three fifths of Clutch Gaming in 2018. Instead of Nisqy and Seraph, though, Clutch opted for Febiven and Solo. Unlike Cloud9’s, these acquisitions should definitely be upgrades. Nisqy brought a level of consistency to the mid lane, which Envy did not have prior to starting him. Seraph was a starter for the team over a longer period of time, but played much less consistently. Febiven earned first team All-Pro in the 2017 European LCS Summer Split, and Solo was a top performer in the North American Challenger Series.

Envy’s jungler and bottom lane were huge contributors to the team’s Summer Split success. They were able to secure a playoff spot, and took CLG to five games in the quarterfinals. With stronger top and mid laners, Clutch Gaming may be able to reach the next level and push even farther. They also brought on David Lim, who led Team Liquid Academy during their promotion into the LCS and Team Liquid during the 2017 Spring Split.

Beyond a possibly underrated roster, the Houston Rockets’ Clutch Gaming identity within the LCS remains unclear. Sebastian Park, their Head of Esports, seems confident in the team’s potential, and the organization has teased analytical tools for optimizing talent scouting, including a “pathfinding engine.” If these types of developments pan out, then Clutch Gaming could become the Moneyball team in the NA LCS.

Echo Fox: The Aggressors

Dardoch and Fenix join Echo Fox for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

List the most aggressive players in the NA LCS over the past two years, and several of Echo Fox’s reported members are likely to pop up. Huni, Dardoch and Fenix are well-known hawkish competitors. Altec and Adrian began building a similar reputation in the 2017 Summer Split, as well. Echo Fox has combined these aggressors into one squad to completely revamp into 2018.

Drama and tension are the other side of this aggression coin. Dardoch and Fenix had their fair share of issues while on Team Liquid in 2016, as showcased in Breaking PointAdrian had his own problems on Phoenix1 in the 2017 Spring Split. These types of off-stage obstacles could bubble up once again without the proper infrastructure.

FOX’s new look is also a departure from the previous Froggen-centric 10-man roster and the Stream Dream Team (Delta Fox). Echo Fox could never develop any synergy on their LCS roster during Summer Split, due to constantly rotating starters. Froggen’s status is still unknown (although Jacob Wolf reported that FOX plans to drop him), but even if he stays, he will no longer be the only voice on the team. This new Echo Fox will have the highest performance variance, as most of the members rely on emotional momentum to succeed. If this roster is able to mesh and remain problem-free, then Echo Fox could reap huge rewards from this huge risk.

FlyQuest: A chemistry experiment

Flame joins FlyQuest for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the few fully announced rosters, FlyQuest is completely revamped for 2018. Following the trend of keystone figures switching teams, Hai is no longer FlyQuest’s mid laner. Balls, Moon and Lemonnation are gone, as well. Instead, FlyQuest acquired Flame, Anda, Fly and Stunt as starters. They also signed Keane and Shrimp, as well as Ngo, Erry and Jayj from the University of Toronto’s collegiate team. Wildturtle is the only remaining member from the 2017 roster.

Other than Flame, these players feel middle of the pack individually. Anda and Fly are untested in the LCS, but have played in the NA Challenger Series with varying success. Wildturtle can spike fairly high, but generally relies on his teammates to play around his style. Stunt was the on-and-off starter during his time on Phoenix1.

Unlocking these players’ ceilings will be FlyQuest’s greatest challenge in 2018. With the proper synergy, FlyQuest could certainly rise higher than their 2017 Summer Split. Communication problems are more likely, though. Wildturtle has veteran experience, but he may not be a loud voice to build a team around. The rookies, Anda and Stunt, will rely on Wildturtle to be a leader and gel together with the Korean imports, Flame and Fly. Keane and Shrimp are smart pick-ups, since they worked fairly well with Ssumday on Dignitas, and could bring that experience into FlyQuest.

Golden Guardians: Hai and Company

Hai joins Golden Guardians for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Hai kick-starts a new organization in 2018, Golden Guardians, and he is basically their only hope. The Golden State Warriors-owned organization has reportedly acquired Lourlo, Contractz, Deftly and Matt. This roster would be the only one in the NA LCS without any imported players. Golden Guardians also seem to have the least combined LCS experience. These two factors will leave many fans wondering what reasoning was used to construct this team.

Golden Guardians will live or die by Hai in 2018. He is surrounded by relatively young players who have never played for more than one previous organization. LCS fans were impressed with Moon’s performance on FlyQuest with Hai as a shotcaller, but that success was short-lived. If Hai is able to unlock Lourlo, Contractz, Deftly and Matt the same way, then Golden Guardians could surprise.

ESPN also reported Locodoco as the Golden Guardians’ head coach, which could be helpful. He has experience coaching younger players on Team Liquid and Gold Coin United, including Lourlo and Matt. It would be surprising if Golden Guardians kept these same five members as their starters throughout 2018. Without the pressure of relegation, this organization could be taking the opportunity to develop younger native talents with Hai’s proven leadership.

Optic Gaming: The HodgePodge

PowerOfEvil joins Optic Gaming for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

A true concoction, Optic Gaming enters the NA LCS pulling together a wide variety of talents. The “Green Wall” is an expansive organization spanning Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty, Overwatch and other esports. They have announced their acquisition of Romain Bigeard, ex-manager of Unicorns of Love, and Zaboutine, former caster, as manager and coach. ESPN has reported the starting roster as Zig, Akaadian, PowerOfEvil, Arrow and LemonNation.

If all of this is true, then Optic is combining rising stars in top and jungle with an experimental European mid laner, an up-and-down Korean AD carry and an analytical, veteran support. The roster will be led by an eccentric manager-mascot and a French caster-turned-coach, and they will have the full support of an esports powerhouse brand. There are some strong pieces to this puzzle, but they are not necessarily a clean fit.

The Optic LCS team seems like it may sit somewhere between 100 Thieves and FlyQuest. Optic is definitely a well-known esports organization, and they should draw a fan-base. The first-person shooter edge and player recognition of 100 Thieves combines with the questionable roster synergy of FlyQuest. Romain is a promotional personality with a knack for creating content and winning hearts, so expect Optic to use him to full effect. There is certainly plenty of talent on this roster, but it may take a while for them to actually produce favorable results.

Team Liquid: Vengeful Spirits

Doublelift joins Team Liquid for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The hoarders of the off-season, Team Liquid emerges with a complete roster overhaul. After acquiring contracts for several different players, Liquid has most likely settled on Impact, Xmithie, Pobelter, Doublelift and Olleh. This five-man group feels much stronger and intuitive than Liquid’s team from 2017 Summer Split. Xmithie, Pobelter and Olleh are proven talents who made up three fifths of Immortals’ World Championship-qualifying roster. Impact had a mostly off year, but still solid during the high points. Doublelift comes to Liquid after being replaced by TSM.

Revenge is the overarching theme for Team Liquid going into 2018. Owner Steve Arhancet wants revenge for his last two years of roster troubles. The ex-Immortals players want revenge for losing to TSM in the Summer Split finals, then being denied from the franchised LCS. Most importantly, Doublelift wants revenge for getting nudged out of TSM.

With Cain remaining as head coach, Team Liquid should trend towards the top of the league. If this roster is unable to perform, then it will be a complete disgrace. All of these players have been victorious in the past. Each of these players have attended the World Championship, many of them as teammates. 2018 serves as a fresh start for Team Liquid and Steve, and they need to use their past frustrations as fuel. Dardoch is not an excuse. Piglet is not an excuse. Goldenglue is not an excuse. It is time for Liquid to put up or shut up.

TSM: the final boss

Zven and mithy join TSM for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Citing international shortcomings and issues with shotcalling and communication, TSM’s owner, Reginald, decided to replace Svenskeren, Doublelift and Biofrost with MikeYeung, Zven and Mithy. He also picked up Coach Ssong from Immortals’ dissolved team. The six-time NA LCS champions continue to adapt and reinvigorate their roster, and TSM will remain as the final boss in 2018. Every individual player on this team should be top three in their role at the beginning of the season.

MikeYeung is the only player worth questioning. He showcased an explosive Rift Rivals in 2017, but Phoenix1 fell off as a team afterwards. Fans will find out how meta-dependent MikeYeung is in 2018.

Hauntzer was the standout player at Worlds, and he had an all-around stellar 2017. Bjergsen continues to be an anchor in the mid lane, ever-present, ever-consistent. Zven and Mithy’s reputation precedes them, as they have been a package deal since their time on Origen starting in 2014.

TSM’s performance floor is higher than several LCS teams’ ceilings, because the consistency and experience on this team should be solid. Ssong obviously factored into Immortals’ Summer Split success. If he can produce even a portion of that improvement with TSM, then they have a fruitful road ahead. With so much volatility in the off-season, TSM is one of the only teams to maintain the same identity as the villain of the league. They are the team that assumes North American dominance, and shoots for greatness abroad. Franchising has opened doors for some others to compete financially and strategically, but will they actually have what it takes to dethrone the kings?

credits

Featured Image: Akshon Esports Twitter

Other Images: LoL Esports’ Flickr

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scouting grounds

Standouts at 2017 North America Scouting Grounds

The 2017 North America Scouting Grounds event took place this weekend. 20 of NA’s top challenger players worked alongside four NA LCS organizations to test their mettle in the Riot LA studio. OpTic Gaming (OPT), Team SoloMid (TSM), Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) and Cloud 9 (C9) were the four teams to participate at this year’s scouting event. After a series of placement matches on day one, the players headed into the third and first place matches. Let’s highlight some standout players in their respective teams.

Fighting tooth and nail

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

Coming in at fourth place overall, Team Cloud Drake (CLD), led by C9, struggled to find their footing in their third place match against Team Mountain Drake (MTN). Despite the tough series, two of CLD‘s players managed to show resolve in their play. First off, League in the top lane showed up despite being counter-picked in both games. In game one, League’s Cho’Gath not only stayed toe-to-toe with Rodov‘s Gnar during the laning phase, but even managed to earn a solo kill. At 17 minutes, League’s superior timing at a teamfight bottom turned the fight in CLD‘s favor. In his second game, League demonstrated several heads-up plays using his Teleport to flank and engage teamfights. Although CLD failed to capitalize on some of these plays, League’s proactive playstyle stood out respectably.

Another player on CLD who performed on-stage was Fanatik. Although Fanatik fell behind his veteran counter-part “Nintendudex” pressure early on, he adapted quickly in game one. After recognizing the mid-jungle focus for Team Mountain Drake, Fanatik countered a dive to secure a clean 2-0 fight. In his second game, Fanatik capitalized on a crucial team MTN mistake and stole the Baron to keep his team alive. At 26 minutes, Fanatik’s Jarvan found a four man “Cataclysm” to lock down multiple enemies and win his team the fight. As the youngest player at the 2017 Scouting Grounds, it will be interesting to see how he develops as a player.

A team of duos

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

For Team Mountain Drake, led by Counter Logic Gaming, their duos stood out more than individual play. First, no stranger to the NA LCS, Nintendudex showed serious synergy with Ablazeolive, one of the foremost challenger mid laners in North America. The communication between the two was on clear display during a fight in game one of the series. After Ablazeolive used his Teleport to return to lane, CLD‘s Linsanity saw an opportunity to get a pick. But, Ablazeolive turned on the enemy mid laner, locking him down using Malzahar’s “Nether Grasp” to buy Nintendudex time to join the fight and finish the kill. Ablaze’s teamfight ability shined in game two where he hit multiple key “Shockwave’s” on Orianna to seal CLD‘s fate.

The second pair to come through was MTN‘s bottom lane. Support Winter and AD-carry Value stood out as remarkable players in their roles. Winter’s aggressive style transitioned to key roams on Alistar to tip early skirmishes. In game one, Winter’s awareness on Alistar punished a poorly set up flank by CLD‘s mid and jungle, deleting the enemy Ryze from the ensuing teamfight. In game two, his engages on Rakan set up multiple fights for his mid laner to land game-winning ultimates. Winter’s AD-carry, Value also had his fair share of star play. In game one, an over-ambitious engage from CLD, Value landed a four-man “Featherstorm” + “Bladecaller” combo to clean up the fight. By layering his ultimates with his team’s engages, Value pumped out 927 damage per minute in game two. He earned himself player of the series with a combined 18/3/15 KDA across two games.

Live and die by the flames

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

Team Infernal Drake (INF), led by TSM, gave viewers some heated highlight plays to live up to their team name. In game one of the finals match, INF found themselves pushed in heavily. Their opponents, Team Ocean Drake (OCN), had remarkable vision superiority in INF‘s jungle, making it difficult for them to find fights on favorable terms. But their support Teesum on Rakan was able to find a three man engage with his “Grand Entrance.” This catch gave room for his carries to unload their damage before the enemy team could respond. However, Teesum’s performance in game two was largely lacking. Despite being the team’s main tank on Braum, several flubbed shields using his “Unbreakable” led to multiple teamfight deaths.

Game two was where two of INF‘s carries stepped up. After a rough game one, INF funneled resources into their AD-carry, NoahMost. Although his teamfight presence was weak throughout the early game, Noah was able to capitalize on an overzealous rush by Team Ocean Drake. With five members barreling toward his Xayah, Noah released a “Featherstorm” + “Bladecaller” combo that rooted five members. After locking down the entire enemy team, Noah’s Xayah mowed down the opposition for the only Pentakill at the 2017 Scouting Grounds.

The third player on INF to showcase his star potential was PieCakeLord in the top lane. Although his team was behind for much of the second game, PieCakeLord on Fiora was able to exert tremendous side-lane pressure that often brought multiple OCN members to stop him. Still, he managed to out-pressure the enemy Shen throughout most of the game. After the enemy Azir wiped his team at the Baron pit, PieCakeLord outplayed the enemy mid and top to keep his team in the game.

Stomping the Scouting Grounds

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

After drafting possibly the strongest team at Scouting Grounds, eyes were on OpTic Gaming’s coaching staff to make that roster shine. And boy did they shine. First, Vulcan‘s Taric was able to turn an early gank into a kill on the enemy AD-carry, setting a serious tempo advantage for team OCN. In the late game, Taric’s damage negation with “Cosmic Radiance” allowed his team to stampede over teamfights. In game two, Vulcan’s engages on Rakan practically spoon fed kills to his mid laner, Palafox.

Palafox had questions circling about his potential after being drafted as the 20th pick. But he brought the heat. Playing as Malzahar in game one, Palafox found an aggressive pick onto the enemy Orianna. After Orianna seemingly flashed to safety, Palafox landed an instant over the wall “Call of the Void” to secure the kill. Palafox’s Azir was the single greatest game-deciding factor in game two. A gigantic “Emperor’s Divide” knocked up four members of INF, completely shifting the momentum mid-game. Again at 46 minutes, Palafox earned a quadrakill at the Baron pit to push OCN‘s advantages over the edge.

Third, OCN‘s top laner Kaizen came into his own in game two. His Shen managed to outplay an early 2v1 dive by INF‘s top-jungle duo, earning himself a kill on his lane opponent on the way out. Although the enemy Fiora’s split push pressure was strong, ultimately, Kaizen’s teamfight utility became a winning factor for his team. Across the board, Team OCN performed spectacularly at this year’s Scouting Grounds. It will be exciting to see these players develop on future academy rosters. And, a win here shows good signs for OpTic Gaming who hope to make a definitive statement in their first season in the NA LCS.

Featured Image: LoL Esports

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biofrost

Biofrost: Following the footsteps of legends

Vincent “Biofrost” Wang began his NA LCS career in 2016 summer as the starting support for Team SoloMid (TSM). In his rookie split, Biofrost had the daunting task of replacing one of League’s most legendary supports, Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim. Against all expectations, Biofrost emerged as one of the league’s premier supports. After two years with TSM, Biofrost signed a contract with Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) as the new starting support for the 2018 season. With new roster announcements dropping daily, let’s take a moment to appreciate all that Biofrost has accomplished.

Filling Bora’s Shoes

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In 2016 spring, team owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh drafted an all-star roster for Team SoloMid, featuring veteran support YellOwStaR alongside Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng in the bottom lane. Following issues with team synergy and performance, YellOwStaR left TSM in May of that year. To fill his shoes, Biofrost, an unknown rookie, joined the squad. While expectations surrounding TSM’s new support remained low, Bio’s performance was anything but. In his rookie split with TSM, Bio helped push the team to a 17-1 win-loss record, a league record.

His lane prowess on champions like “Karma” and “Lulu” complimented Doublelift’s hyper-carry playstyle. Even on non healers/shielders, Biofrost pulled off some incredible highlight saves to keep his AD-carry alive. Bio truly stepped up by honing his teamfighting presence on TSM. Team SoloMid has historically been one of the most dominant teamfighting teams in NA LCS history. As a rookie, Bio had to pick up these skills quick. And his progress proved itself time and again in his playoff performances.

In the summer 2016 playoffs, a clutch two-man Tempered Fate from Bio’s “Bard” earned TSM a quarterfinal victory over summer split juggernaut Immortals (IMT). Team SoloMid went on to win the NA LCS summer finals and met Samsung Galaxy (SSG), Royal Never Give Up (RNG) and Splyce (SPY) at Worlds 2016. Despite drawing into the “group of death,” TSM managed a 3-3 record before dropping against RNG. After failing to advance from groups, TSM‘s AD-carry Doublelift announced that he would take a break from professional play in the 2017 season.

New Season New Botlane

Biofrost

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In spring of 2017, Biofrost partnered with LCS veteran Jason “WildTurtle” Tran to make up TSM‘s new bottom lane. With a hugely successful rookie season already under his belt, Bio’s mission for spring was to grow into his own. With Doublelift taking a break, LoL Esports saw this as an opportunity for Biofrost to find “more space to operate and discover his identity as a support player.” While many fans expected Bio to develop a stronger leadership role, the TSM bottom lane struggled to find consistency. Criticism fell on Turtle and Bio as the roster stumbled to find its footing.

WildTurtle’s famously high-risk, high-reward playstyle became a problem. As TSM worked to tone down Turtle’s flashy plays, Bio also suffered the consequences. Rather than finding more space to operate, he found himself constantly under a lens. Teams focused the bot-duo, pinpointing Turtle and Bio as TSM‘s weak link. While pressure from opponents rained down bottom, TSM shifted their jungle pressure top lane. Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell grew into a carry role to offset his struggling bottom lane. This change in resources gave Biofrost even fewer tools to garner much growth.

Despite the challenges thrown their way, Biofrost and WildTurtle powered their way to yet another NA LCS championship. A two-time LCS champion, Bio boasted a pedigree that some of League’s veterans still have yet to achieve. At the start of summer 2017, TSM announced that Doublelift would return to the starting roster. With the majority of a split apart, it was unclear if the TSM bottom lane could gel once again.

The Biofrost we love

biofrost

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In summer, Biofrost and Doublelift took to the Rift facing some new opponents. A revamped Immortals roster had support, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung, rampaging through NA LCS. Olleh’s exciting play-making and roaming sense on champions like “Alistar” earned him the reputation of best support in NA. Then, as if to directly challenge the title, Biofrost faced off against Olleh’s “Alistar” in the NA LCS grand finals. With “Rakan” as his champion of choice, Bio found multiple key engages that clawed TSM back from a 10.5K gold deficit. That win sent TSM to Worlds 2017 as NA’s first seed.

At Worlds, TSM failed to find their footing in the group stage and suffered an early exit from the tournament. In the off-season, TSM announced that Biofrost, Doublelift and Svenskeren would be leaving the team. Several days later, Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) announced that Biofrost would join the main roster as starting support. With the departure of storied veteran Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black, Biofrost has some legendary shoes to fill once again. In an early DUOS Extra interview, Biofrost explained that Aphromoo was an idol for him early on. As fate would have it, Biofrost will go on to replace Aphro in the 2018 season.

Aphromoo leaves a legacy on CLG that any player will be hard-pressed to surpass. But, there is perhaps no greater player than Biofrost to fill the shoes of North America’s most legendary support. While the goodbye is bitter for most TSM fans, Biofrost will remain one of NA’s most beloved players. A starting position on an endemic organization like CLG will give Bio the resources and play time he needs to grow beyond his previous iterations. Although the future is uncertain, Biofrost will undoubtedly return to captivate North America in 2018.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Michael!

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Thanksgiving Free Agents: League of Legends Edition

League of Legends is having their first major free agency period since the start of franchising in North America. As with traditional sports, free agency is going to be a major time for teams to build their rosters for LCS’ new start. Instead of just giving you who some of the free agents are and where they might go, a holiday theme has been added for your enjoyment. (Note: As of the time this was written none of these players have signed officially)

Corn “Froggen”

Froggen has been consistent since the day he entered the LCS. Never overly flashy but a major part and sometimes the best part of his team. Corn like Froggen is never flashy but it is reliable and can be the best part of a bad meal.

Last year on Echo Fox, Froggen was the unchallenged leader of the team. Echo Fox finished in eighth, just outside of the playoffs the last two splits. This was due to many things, but rarely ever Froggen. There are plenty of new openings for Froggen. As an in-game and out of game leader, Froggen will be someone who is going to be brought on to do just that. His play is consistent but his leadership skills are what gets him his next position.

For this reason, Froggen will be going to a completely new squad in NA as some of the newer teams will be looking for a leader to help guide them through their first season. He did this with Echo Fox and maybe with a better and more consistent roster around him, Froggen will finally make NA playoffs this year.  With sources saying Akaadian has been bought out by OpTic Gaming it would make sense that they add arguably the two best players from Echo Fox.

Prediction: OpTic

Cranberry Sauce “PowerOfEvil”

Like cranberry sauce you either love PowerOfEvil or you strongly dislike him. He can be an absolute legend on the rift or look like he is lost. That being said PowerOfEvil is testing the waters of free agency hoping to be picked up by a NA squad.

Misfits made a surprising run in world this last year making it out of group stages. While the team played well as a whole, in most games until the end, PowerOfEvil had looked solid. He can make the flashy plays and keep up with many of the games top mid-laners when he is on his game. If he can find consistency there is no doubt that he can challenge just about anyone while in lane. For that reason I think PowerOfEvil will be a hot commodity for NA this free agency.

A great squad for PowerOfEvil would be Flyquest. With Flame reportedly signing there and a solid bot-lane of WildTurtle and Stunt, bringing on PowerOfEvil would make a nice splash for FlyQuest. For PowerOfEvil he would be able to play with teammates who can help guide him in his first year in NA and allow for him to learn from his mistakes he will probably make early on. If they get the PowerOfEvil we saw during group stages and during Mistfits’ run in EU championships, then FlyQuest could have a very strong squad next season.

Prediction: FlyQuest

Sweet Potatoes “LemonNation”

Sweet Potatoes are classic when talking about Thanksgiving dinner. They are sweet and almost like desert before actual desert. Lemonnation is a classic NA support who can surprise people by quietly being solid throughout the game. (Also both are orange/red) Lemonnation has been a consistent and overall solid support since he came into the professional league scene. He does his work and helps lead teams to being better than many people would have thought.

Last year on FlyQuest, many people felt that they would be a joke because it was made up of players who had not played in the pro-scene in awhile. They came out and surprised everyone by making playoffs their first split and barely missing playoffs their second split. Lemonnation came back with a vengeance and showed that older players in the scene can still play and has maybe changed everyone’s opinions about what a “old” player really is.

While Ignar and Aphromoo are higher on teams’ lists, there are still openings for supports especially on new teams. You could reasonably argue that once the other two have signed, whoever else has an opening would sign Lemonnation. With that in mind 100 Thieves looks like a good place for Lemonnation to end up. Ssumday and Meteos (both of whom are on this list) are rumored to be signed with 100 Thieves and Ryu has been confirmed. With Pr0lly as their coach this group could add Lemonnation and have a very reliable team.

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Green Bean Casserole “Meteos”

Some years it’s there, some it’s not. Sometimes you dislike it, sometimes you love it. Like “Dark” Meteos green bean casserole comes back after missing some time at family events and you’re afraid of what is coming next. It is put on your plate against your will and you are told to try it. This time you like it and oddly want more.

Meteos was a mainstay with Cloud9 for many splits. He has a solid following and thus every time he’s filled in for a team people have been very excited. After spending different parts of the year with Phoenix1, who went from playoffs to last between Spring and Summer split, Meteos is ready to be a starter again. With the many opportunities it is likely that he will get a chance to show he is a top level jungler at the professional level.

It is being reported that Meteos will be signing with 100 Thieves. If this stands, with Ryu and Ssumday, it looks as though 100 Thieves could have a very interesting roster to start of League of Legends franchising.

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Biscuit/Corn Bread/Rolls “Febiven”

Any type of bread is needed with any Thanksgiving meal. They help to fill you up and are a go to if you’re not ready to try something new. Febiven in NA would be that. He is a solid mid-laner who brings consistency to any team. He may not be the mvp on his team but he is needed and a safe pickup for any team.

Febiven brings that feeling of a stalwart in the middle of the rift for any team. For H2k this past year Febiven brought composure to an already winning team. He got his start with Cloud9 Eclipse and many speculate he is testing free agency in order to go back to NA. Febiven can bring a lot to one of these new franchising teams and it is likely that he would have a nice payday doing so.

According to sources Golden Guardians only have their coach so far, Locodoco. It is also rumored that Shiphtur might be signing with them. While Shiphtur is a good mid-laner, the Golden Guardians would be making a big time acquisition by signing Febiven. He would not only attract fans but also players. If they know they have someone like him holding down the middle of the Rift then players will feel more comfortable around him. Also wouldn’t it be fun to see Bjerg, Jensen, Pobelter, Huhi, Ryu and Febiven battling it out in mid next season?

Prediction: Golden Guardians

Stuffing “Ignar”

On the outside, if you have never had stuffing before you might think, “I dont know what to think about this”. Then you try it and realize it’s solid and brings the meal together. In many ways this is Ignar. The All-Pro support had some questions coming over to Misfits and showed this year that he is the stuffing to any Thanksgiving meal.

After a quick stay with KT Rolster Ignar found a home with Misfits. He was exactly what you would want in a support. He is able to speak Korean and getting better at English, and he is able to help get bot-lane ahead. His aggresion mixed well with his lanemate, Hans Sama, as he played champions like Rakan, Blitzcrank and Thresh. He is a playmaker and with that will come many offers from teams for a support who can do more than just keep their ADC alive.

There are rumors that Ignar is looking to head back to the LCK, possibly even with SKT. If this doesn’t happen and he heads to NA, there is no doubt that he will land a starting roll. OpTic would be a good match with Ignar. Sources say that Arrow has already signed and thus Ignar would have another Korean ADC. This would eliminate a language barrier and give OpTic another nice pickup.

Prediction: OpTic Gaming

Gravy “Aphromoo”

If you don’t like gravy, what are you doing with your life? If you don’t like Aphromoo the same question should be asked. The man is one of the best supports in NA and, like gravy, he is liked by mostly everyone. Gravy is also what you put on everything in order to help it taste better. No matter what team Aphromoo joins, he will make them that much better.

The Moo has been one of the best, if not the best, supports in NA since he arrived on the scene. His ability to get his ADC ahead by whatever means necessary has made him a lanemate that any ADC would want. While he still can go back to CLG if he wants to, it is interesting that he is testing free agency. It may help drive up the money for his contract wherever he signs, including CLG.

While it would be interesting to see another team pick up Aphromoo, it is likely he stays with CLG. They will give into giving him a large contract and that should bring him back. He is already familiar with the team as most of his teammates, Darshan, Huhi and Stixxay have all already signed with CLG.

Prediction: CLG

Mashed Potatoes “Ssumday”

Mashed potatoes are one of the best parts of the entire Thanksgiving meal. Is it really Thanksgiving without them? Nearly everyone loves them and sometimes if the other parts of the meal aren’t good you can always turn to mashed potatoes to be the best part. Ssumday will be this for which ever team he signs with. Everyone is going to want to bring him on and when others may not be as good around him, you can turn to him and know he will show why he is one of the best top-laners in the world.

Ssumday did not live up to the hype during his first full year in NA, but was still very good. Coming over from KT Rolster everyone believed Ssumday was easily a top 3 top-laner in the world. Dignitas fans were ecstatic when he signed on. Dig went to the playoffs both splits in their first full season back, but unfortunately were not chosen to go forward with franchising. Now Ssumday is again looking for his next home to show he is a top tier top-laner again.

Originally it was thought that Ssumday would be looking to go back to the LCK this season. Then sources came out claiming that 100 Thieves is looking to sign him. While the team has not confirmed it yet, if he were to sign there 100 Thieves, it would have a very nice start for their team.

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Pumpkin Pie “MikeYeung”

Pumpkin pie is what everyone wants even though they are already full, it is that good. It can be the only part some people care about. MikeYeung is the new, young jungler that everyone is going to be going after. He is the pumpkin pie at this Thanksgiving dinner, every team will be giving him a look.

MikeYueng made a splash in NA during his first split with Pheonix1 by winning Rookie of the Split. He showed that he can be an impact player at every phase of the game, especially when he got ahead. The problem was when he didn’t get ahead or his team struggled, he lacked the experience to bring them back. Now that he has played a full split he will be looking to show anyone who signs him that he is the real deal.

Sources are saying that TSM is likely going to sign MikeYeung. After a disappointing year with Svenskeren, it is not a huge surprise that TSM would be looking at someone with the potential of MikeYeung. With Bjerg and Hauntzer most likely staying, they will be able to help bring Mike along and help him to reach his full potential. Also, with sources saying that Zven and Mithy have come over to TSM, this squad could have an incredible 2018.

Prediction: TSM

Turkey “Peanut”

The main course, the bird that represents all of Thanksgiving is the turkey. Turkey is what people spend days prepping to make sure it looks and tastes amazing. Shows and movies constantly show people fighting over the last available turkey. Thanksgiving dinner is not Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey. Peanut is someone people can build a team around. He is the turkey of this Thanksgiving meal.

Many people were surprised when Peanut announced that he was a free agent. He instantly shot up to the top of teams wishlists, as he is considered by many to be the best jungler in the world. Every team that has a jungle opening should be looking to sign someone of his talent level. He made his name on ROX Tigers and then signed with SKT this last season. While they didn’t win Worlds he was still a major part, along with Faker, of getting this team to Finals.

Peanut is the prize in this free agency and if he heads to NA, every team will want him. If it wasn’t likely that TSM was signing MikeYeung, it is probable that they would be in the mix. Counting them out, there are three teams who will likely be vying for his service: FlyQuest, Golden Guardians and CLG. CLG has a very good squad especially if they bring back Aphromoo. OmarGod had a solid first split after Dardoch left but, if CLG want to be a contender for Worlds, they need to sign Peanut. With him on their team CLG could easily be vying for a top spot in NA and could make a huge run at Worlds.

Prediction: CLG

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

graduated junglers

Preseason: NA’s graduated junglers

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

MikeYeung: From the Ashes

graduated junglers

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Omargod: Breaking the Chains

graduated junglers

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Contractz: A Carry’s DNA

graduated junglers

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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iBUYPOWER Masters 2017: The favourites

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

Cloud9

iBUYPOWER Masters

Photo by: hltv.org

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

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

Renegades

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

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

Team Liquid

iBUYPOWER Masters

Photo by: hltv.org

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

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

OpTic Gaming

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

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


Featured image via iBUYPOWER.

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Counter Logic Gaming’s OmarGod : “I was pretty satisfied with the Series, but there was still a hole in my heart that we should’ve played like this against Immortals.”

With a decisive win over Dignitas, CLG place their sights firmly on the Gauntlet to try and make their way into Worlds. While the 3rd place game wasn’t overly consequential in the grand scheme of things, as both Dignitas and CLG had secured at least making it into Gauntlet, the series was still imperative for both rosters, who had just recently suffered tough losses in the semi finals.

Bouncing back from a tough loss against Immortals, ultimately knocking them into the 3rd placement games, OmarGod talks about his feelings on the series, maturing as a Jungler and as a player, and gives a little insight into life going from CLG.Black to the main squad.

 

Transcript

Jared: So, my name’s Jared, I’m with the Game Haus and Omar, after a… we’ll call it a very dominant 3-0, it was really impressive. So, how are you feeling? IT’s been a couple of interviews in so…

Omar: I feel pretty satisfied with how it went, but there’s still this hole in my heart that we should’ve played like this last week against Immortals. We’ve should’ve been to the finals. I guess it’s ok winning the third/fourth place match, but I’m not too happy about it. For me, it’s just like nice.

Jared: Kind of my first question was, it was kind of my first time getting to know you as a player, your first game when you were promoted to CLG. They interviewed you, and it was a very emotional interview for you, it was very passionate… I think it really showed your character. I was wondering, does that passion, does that kind of emotion come out in your gameplay, is that something you find fueling you, or are you more cool and calm type thing?

Omar: No, I don’t think I have that passion, that emotion, anymore. [laugh]

Jared: It was in the moment?

Omar: It was only in the first day, I just super happy, I’ve never felt like that way before. I didn’t even know I was tearing up. But definitely, being cool, calm, and collected is the way to play.

Jared: So my next question, you know, I think it was a little prophetic when CLG picked you guys out of the scouting grounds, and they formed CLG.Black and that became this academy team before Franchising was like, ‘ohh everyone is going to have academy teams.’ With that, there was that commitment to you guys, with that really rough series against Toronto Esports, that’s in the past. I’m curious though, how was that kind of process for CLG, how was being on CLG. Black, did they help you coach, getting used to being in the team environment?

Omar: Yea, being in CLG.Black was definitely a huge help. Before joining the main team, CLG.Blakc was my first real team in a real gaming house. It was kind of my trial, I made a lot of mistakes as a player, and as a team player esepcially. They’ve helped me grow as a person, they’ve helped shape who I am today. I’m really happy to have played on CLG.Black. The management and staff made sure that all the players will develop as players, first and also as human beings and their attitudes afterwards. I’m really happy with how CLG managed me development, and I’m proud of what I’ve become today and how I played today.

Jared: The last question before I let you go, I think you’ve probably been asked about the intergration between going from CLG.Black to the main squad, was there anyone who in particular on the roster who helped you or coached you from that training where you were helping to develop, where you’re now on the big stage now.

Omar: The LCS team, compared to the Black team, was a completely different level. Being on an LCS team, everyone had to help me, everyone helped me learn. When Josh [“Dardoch” Hartnett] was on the team, he was helping me learn too. I guess, I looked up to… if I had to choose players I looked up to, I looked up to [Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black] and Darshan [“Darshan” Upadhyaha].

They’re the veterans, they’re the leaders of the team and the way they handle they handle themselves and carry themselves around is charismatic and confident. As a rookie coming, I was able to place my trust in the veterans of the team to kind of bring me up to where I am today.

Jared: Awesome, thank you very much, I will let you go after a couple of interviews before us.

Omar: No problem.

Jared: Thank you again for taking the time!

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

Photo and video by ‘The Game Haus’ Patrick Mcd

Dignitas Ssumday: “I really want to play Longzhu”

With the gauntlet stretched before them, Dignitas have their eyes set firmly on FlyQuest. Knowing that Fly will have a number of VODs to comb through Ssumday is expecting a different team than the one they faced already.

Ssumday talks about how he believes Dignitas can win the gauntlet tournament and be the North American third seed for Worlds. Once they make it through the gauntlet he mentions that he would like to meet Longzhu at worlds to hang out and play on stage.

Keep it here for more interviews, pieces and photos from NALCS!

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

Photo and video by ‘The Game Haus’ Patrick Mcdonald

NA LCS 3rd Place Series: CLG’s Redemption or Dignitas’ Ascension?

Warning: Spoilers

Walking to the TD Gardens for the NA LCS 3rd Place Series feels surreal. As a Canadian, the TD Gardens, and the Boston Bruins, are familiar names, even to someone who admittedly knows very little about hockey. But today, it’s a different black and yellow jersey that takes to the stage: Dignitas. Across from them sit one of the oldest names in League of Legends history, Counter Logic Gaming. A rollercoaster of a team, standing before the scrappy underdogs of the regular split, Dignitas.

As is par for the course, EU LCS goes first. The NA LCS fans eagerly await for their own 3/4th place games to begin. But the crowd isn’t silent, as the fans slowly filter in, the audience comes alive, cheering on their fellow western league in a riveting series. As the series wraps up, the crowd grows bigger and louder.

One wouldn’t be too hard pressed to imagine that CLG, with it’s longer continuous history in the league, would win the jersey war, but Dignitas’s new and old fans are out in force, as an equal amount of yellow and black are in the crowd as the many colors of CLG jersey’s.

The stadium may not be full, but the eruption from the crowd fills the TD Gardens. As the roar dims slightly, James “Dash” Patterson, saluting the local storied sports franchises in the Bruins and the Celtics, is met with a deafening reply.

Dignitas is the first team to be introduced, and as the yellow and black walk up to the stadium, the crowd is alive. The obvious fan favorite Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho unsurprisingly receives the loudest cheers, but the notorious Double A bot lane are no strangers to the crowd.

The loveable Ssumday. Courtesy of LoL Esports Flikr.

As David “Cop” Robertson, the ever stylish coach for Dignitas, is finished being introduced, Counter Logic Gaming enter the fray. The Pocket Pick Prone mid laner Choi “HuHi” Jae-hyun receives a lot of love, rocking the black hair again. The “B Tier” ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes is met with similar fanfare, but the star Support Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black steals the show.

The games begin, with Game 1 a testament to the series. Everyone is locked onto the screen, and as if we were watching the LPL instead, the opening minutes are action packed, with CLG’s Omar and Darshan creating a very strange, yet favorable, top side engagement. The composition is all out aggression. CLG are like a train and DIG quickly become someone strapped to the tracks, as none stop, in your face engagements from CLG pummel the caster voted favorites of the series.  

It’s a statement game from CLG: We are not the team who almost lost to EnVyUs. We are not the team who lost to Immortals handily. They looked confident, they looked on the same page. And most importantly, they didn’t give up the lead.

If Game 1 felt like a statement from CLG, Game 2 was the exclamation mark. CLG again came out of the gates swinging, securing another first blood, this time before the minions even spawned. CLG’s composition, similar to Game 1, are a non-stop aggression of multiple skirmishes and engages going their way. Aphromoo’s Rakan is a tyrant on the Rift, and Dignitas are left dancing to the beat that CLG is playing. Game 2 is almost handed to CLG by the 15 minute mark, and the score goes 2-0 in favor of CLG.

Dignitas look reactive and lost. Some questionable macro plays, and honestly some very unlucky plays, have the underdogs looking like a different roster than the upstarts who took down Cloud 9 no more than a few games back.

Counter Logic Gaming, on the other side of the Rift, look entirely different from their near loss to EnVyUs. They look like a team with a purpose, a team with a concrete win condition, and honestly, a team that understands their identity.

New Hair, New CLG. Aphromoo was a consistent terror throughout the series for CLG.

Huhi drew a consistent two bans to non-meta champions each game. Vel Koz and Aurlion Sol are too much to give away to the once criticized Huhi. Darshan, too, was too much of a threat in the series, and banning champions against him would’ve been useless: he looked strong on three separate champs.

Game three starts, and everyone in the stadium is tense. CLG’s no stranger to being reverse swept, but Dignitas desperately need to shore up some of their shortcomings if they want to stay alive in the series. As the Pick and Bans come to a close, the crowd loses their mind upon seeing the Jax locked in for ZionSpartan– I mean, Darshan. The aggression, and identity, of CLG in this series carries on.

CLG secures the first blood again, off of a counter invade from CLG, Stixxay, on the Tristana, instantly rocket jumping in for the kill. The communication and confidence from CLG is astounding, and Dignitas are again knocked off balance in the opening minutes of play. Fate seems cruel to Dignitas, as multiple occasions a cocoon out of Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon barely misses and CLG narrowly escaping with flashing health bars. This was unfortunate to the many good macro plays out of Dignitas.

A great play from Ssumday’s Jarvan, ultimately resulting in a 4 for 5 trade for a very behind Dignitas, breathes some life back into the game, but ultimately CLG’s pressure and control over the map wins out. While the game’s results aren’t overly impactful for either team, both having secured the gauntlet already, just fighting over who would face FlyQuest and who would wait for the results of that.

If there is one way to summarize the series overall, it’s that CLG looked almost like an LPL squad. If there was a chance to fight, a chance to throw down, CLG were there. Even though the games felt short, they were bloody. They didn’t look like the CLG of the EnVyUs or Immortals series. They looked decisive, confident, in the face of competition many had heavily favored going into their confrontation.

Top Side Synergy. Courtesy of LoL Esports Flikr.

Dignitas, bloodied but not broken, are looking to prove themselves to not just be upstarts, but real contenders to represent NA at Worlds. They’ll have to go through FlyQuest first, and then face off against first CLG in the second round of the gauntlet, and Cloud 9 as the final boss. Dignitas have to pull a CLG in this series, coming back from a tough loss stronger for it.

It was the story of redemption for the top side of CLG that dominated the narrative though. Darshan hasn’t seemed as strong in the post-split push centric metas, and Omargod was promoted trying to fill the big shoes left by Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett. This series, though, showed that both are still starter material. The real crucible for these two teams will be the gauntlet, and whether they can perform there and possibly at Worlds.

For Dignitas, it’s a hard pill to swallow. Their win over Cloud 9 started the giant slayer narrative, but ultimately against CLG it was difficult to find much silver lining. Still, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho’s performance, even when behind, was of the caliber one would expect. Dignitas need to review the VODs, reflect on their early game, and ultimately shore up some of the micro, mechanical errors that cost them compounding issues throughout the series.\

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Nisqy is NV's MVP of NA LCS quarterfinals

Recognizing the MVPs of the NA LCS quarterfinals losers

The North American LCS Summer Split playoffs began last week with two quarterfinal match-ups. Cloud9 faced off against Dignitas. Counter Logic Gaming took on Envyus. Each of these teams had clear ups and downs during the split, so it was difficult to peg the favorites going in, except maybe CLG should beat NV.

However, things did not really go as planned. DIG took down C9 convincingly, finishing with a 3-1 series. Dignitas’ bottom lane, in particular, was able to shine. Although, every member of the team performed well. Cloud9 looked shaky in all but game three.

The CLG-NV match-up was even closer, with CLG barely edging out NV 3-2. Various members on both teams had highlight moments, as each adaptation came through. Rookies and veterans faced off in an exciting five game series, but CLG did close out game five, thanks mostly to Darshan’s success with Camille.

Cloud9 and NV left the arena disappointed. C9 has a long history of playoff success within the North American region, including the finals of the Spring Split this year. NV pulled themselves up from 10th place last split to a spot in playoffs. Even though they were so close to pushing through into semifinals, it fell just beyond their grasp.

There is a specific player from each team that deserves recognition for stepping up in quarterfinals. These are players who put their carry pants on, and did what was needed for their teams. Here are two players that proved to be most valuable to Cloud9 and Envy during the first round of playoffs. Each should feel proud of their contributions.

C9 Jensen

Jensen is C9's MVP of quarterfinals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Jensen found himself in a central position with Cloud9 during quarterfinals. Many of C9’s compositions revolved around Jensen and Sneaky dishing damage, while Impact, Contractz and Smoothie acted as utility tanks. Jensen held up his end of the deal. The rest of the team did not.

On Cassiopeia, Jensen prioritized farming over early skirmishes. In game one, C9’s top lane, jungler and bottom lane had ceded kills before 17 minutes, while only securing one in exchange. In game two, the early game was a bit less lop-sided, but still in DIG’s favor. Jensen did get caught out at Baron around 29 minutes, which swung the game heavily to C9’s disadvantage. However, he followed it up with a crucial four-man Petrifying Gaze at 34:20 to completely deflate DIG’s pressure.

In game three, Jensen completely dominated. His mid lane Lucian was 5-0-2 around 25 minutes, and never really got shut down. Contractz looked much better on Elise, bringing more early game pressure. Of course, part of their advantage came from Shrimp’s curveball Nocturne pick, which did not have a large influence on the game. The Lucian was locked in again in game four, but did not have as strong an effect, due to the low effectiveness of Impact’s Galio and the losing bottom lane. Jensen was still able to finish with a 3-2-7 scoreline.

Considering how threatening Ssumday’s Maokai was throughout this series, it is impressive how many fights Jensen came out alive in. Despite losing the series 3-1, Jensen’s statistics were still powerful. He averaged 19 CS ahead of Keane at 15 minutes. He did 33 percent of Cloud9’s damage. 81.7 percent kill participation and a 5.5 KDA are strong on a winning line-up, let alone one that lost.

NV Nisqy

Nisqy is NV's MVP of NA LCS quarterfinals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the more one-sided series going into the quarterfinals, Counter Logic Gaming versus Envy was much closer than expected. CLG took game one, NV responded with two wins of their own, and then CLG closed out the final two games, finishing 3-2. In all but the final game, NV actually had the lead at 20 minutes. However, CLG’s mid-late game fighting proved more effective, particularly around Baron.

Despite the series loss, NV’s mid laner, Nisqy, truly proved himself. He showed a wide range of champions and playstyles, locking in Cassiopeia, Corki, Galio and Kog’Maw throughout the match-up. Nisqy finished the best-of-five with a 5.2 overall KDA, going deathless in NV’s victories.

Nisqy came out of the gate in game one with an aggressive play in CLG’s jungle to pick up two kills, evening out an invade gone wrong. CLG responded with a mid lane gank to shut him down. After Omargod stole the Baron from NV afterwards, there was very little they could do. Every member of CLG got ahead, and the long distance engage of Zac made NV’s carries easy targets.

In games two and three, Nisqy had a huge impact. His Galio ultimates at eight minutes and 25 minutes were crucial for turning around teamfights targeting Apollo. Nisqy expertly utilized Galio’s zoning and crowd control to split up CLG’s carries and tanks. His Corki roam around 16 minutes resulted in a triple kill, and every teamfight for game three he dished out massive damage.

NV’s game four loss could be mostly attributed to their lack of reliable engage. Seraph’s Cho’Gath, LiRa’s Rek’Sai and Hakuho’s Nautilus could never pull off the necessary initial engagement to set up Nisqy’s Hero’s Entrance. Without the proper team-wide execution, the Galio fell flat.

They switched up their composition in game five by drafting Kog’Maw in the mid lane. Nisqy’s damage output came up huge, particularly in the 32:30 teamfight. Unfortunately, Seraph’s Gnar could not overcome Darshan’s Camille counterpick, and NV’s dual-marksman composition had difficulty surviving CLG’s engages long enough to compete, damage-wise. Nonetheless, Nisqy’s heavy contributions throughout this entire series were apparent, which deserves recognition.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Player Statistics: GamesofLegends.com

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