Thinking like a professional jungler

While the most recent rendition of CLG versus TSM was not as close as many would have liked it to be, there were many important takeaways from the play of both Svenskeren and OmarGod. As these two junglers went head to head, they tracked each other’s camps, jungle pathing and enemy summoner spells during the early to mid game in order to secure a lead.

Jungle tracking

Junglers trade red buffs through tracking each others camps and playing on the strong side of the map. Courtesy of lolesports

In game one of TSM versus CLG, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and Omar “OmarGod” Amin traded camps cross-map through friendly vision and CS tracking. With OmarGod on Sejuani starting raptors and transitioning into a full blue side clear after red, TSM vision from a level one trinket ward allowed for a safe invade of krugs by Svenskeren’s Maokai. As Svenskeren stole CLG’s krugs, Darshan’s Gragas gained vision of the camp revealing a Maokai with 17 cs. This number reveals to OmarGod that Maokai has not done his own krugs, allowing OmarGod to move in for the guaranteed camp.

This is but one example of how enemy junglers track each other in high stake scenarios. Another example comes from game two where CLG received the information of Svenskeren’s red buff start from his level two gank on bottom lane. In this case, CLG used their advantage in the top lane to collapse on the spawning red buff, securing the objective, two kills and several summoner spells.

 

 

Repeat ganks on summoner-less champions

 

Before six minutes in the game, Bjergsen fakes a recall, allowing Svenskeren’s Maokai to then burn Huhi’s flash and ghost as Huhi’s Orianna attempted to shove in the wave. By taking advantage of Huhi’s naturally proactive tendency to deny the enemy CS as they back (like any good laner would do), Svenskeren was able to burn both defensive summoner spells allowing for an easy follow up gank to guarantee the team first blood and with it, a tempo advantage.

Maokai burns both defensive summoner spells mid allowing for a repeat gank later on. Courtesy of lolesports.

 

 

Even before the follow up gank on CLG’s mid laner, the initial Maokai gank gave pressure to TSM’s mid laner allowing the Taliyah to actively deny CS from CLG’s mid laner by threatening both all in’s and ganks. The follow up gank arrived just before Huhi’s flash came up, securing first blood through a four person dive on the mid lane. By ten minutes, TSM’s entire gold lead stemmed out of their mid lane advantage created through repeat ganks by Svenskeren’s Maokai. This advantage would then translate to a four for one teamfight in TSM’s favor utilizing the advantage of the AOE mage in the mid lane that was previously gained.

In game two we witnessed an early invade that resulted in a blown flash for CLG’s immobile Ashe. Svenskeren immediately took advantage of this by ganking bot lane after starting red buff in his topside. Had Ashe’s flash not been down prior to this gank, an early gank from Svenskeren would have more than likely put him behind in his jungle clear. However, since the flash had been down, the 400 gold that comes from killing CLG’s ADC was very worth the minor setback that occurred as a result of pathing so oddly.

 

 

Solo-queue takeaways: Economy of opportunity

Camping a lane is always a good idea, but camping a lane that has no summoner spells is even better. Junglers in competitive environments benefit from playing around strong sides of their map, sides where their laners have item or summoner advantages. The same basic principles can be applied to solo-queue environments.  When playing on the strong side of the map, if both allies and enemies are to collapse on a risky invade, your allies should have the advantage in the following skirmish.

A level two gank on a flash less Ashe ends up being a flashy play. Courtesy of Lolesports

 

Jungling is all about risk versus reward. What benefits you can gain from ganking a lane may not outweigh the benefits that are guaranteed through farming your jungle. More so, they may not outweigh the benefits you can gain from denying the enemy jungler their own resources. Highly skilled junglers take this into account frequently. They often do not gank early due to the tempo loss that can arise from a failed gank. However, the same can be applied for the reverse of this scenario. Easily gankable lanes are prioritized over their own camps and the opportunity to counter jungle. How a jungler utilizes the economy of opportunity will dictate how skilled they are, and furthermore, will decide whose nexus falls.

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Feature image courtesy of lolesports

Playoffs

NA LCS Playoffs team breakdown

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

 

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

 

Team NV

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

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

 

Strength

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

 

Weakness

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

 

Team Dignitas

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

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

 

Strengths

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

 

Weakness

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

 

Cloud 9

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

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

 

Strength

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

 

Weakness

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

 

Counter Logic Gaming

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

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

 

Strength

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

 

Weakness

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

 

 

Immortals

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

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

 

Strength

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

 

Weakness

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

 

Team Solo Mid

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

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

 

Strength

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

 

Weakness

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

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Seed

NA LCS playoff seed possibilities

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

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

First Seed

Seed

Photo Via Lol esports

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

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

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

 

Second Seed

Seed

Photo Via Lol esports

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

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

Third Seed

Seed

Photo Via Lol esports

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

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

 

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

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Is this the year North America goes far at Worlds?

For the past few seasons North America has had very little success at Worlds. While other regions have been able to find their way to the finals or even semi finals, NA hasn’t made it past quarterfinals since season one. This year there is a hope with NA showing a dominating performance at rift rivals against EU. Europe has had somewhat more success with teams such as H2k and Fnatic reaching semifinals the past few seasons.

Every year around this time people are slowly getting hyped for the World championships. Teams will begin to qualify in the next month or so and will most likely head to Korea for a boot camp. Bootcamping in Korea has almost become a must for teams wanting to have a shot at the World championship. The same story seems to always come for North America. Korea and other regions hype up their scrim results only to have them flop on stage. One team might make it out of groups, but then be swept handily in the quarterfinals. Here are some reasons NA fans can be hopeful this year:

Improved Competition

Worlds

Photo via Riot Esports

It’s no doubt North America has been improving steadily each year. Some of the best players from around the world have been brought in and overall, the scene seems much improved. More money has allowed teams to invest in better players, coaches, and practice facilities. Many teams such as Immortals and Cloud 9 have shown the effectiveness of bringing in a Korean coach. Immortals literally went from a 7th place team in Spring to a team contending for first with a worse roster under the wings of former ROX coach, Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo.

Not only have imports improved the competition, but new homegrown talent has also begun to flood the scene. Players like Contractz, Akaadian, Mikeyeung, and Cody Sun have begun to show that there is talent to foster here in North America. Despite all the knocks on our solo que, there are talented players out there waiting to be discovered.

The competition throughout NA is much better than it was last year and even last split. Compared to EU, there isn’t really a team like Massive Monkeys or NiP that are free wins for most teams. Every team can take a win under the right circumstances. More importantly, the top six teams look closer than ever. First place has not been held for very long this split, and it almost feels like it’s a good thing. More talented teams, should mean a better showing at Worlds.

Group draws play a huge factor

With Worlds continuing with the same format as previous seasons, group draws will be very important in seeing how far an NA team can actually go. With TSM flailing at MSI, NA comes in as underdogs with no number one seed coming into Worlds. This may not matter much as we saw G2 last year get drawn into a somewhat favorable group at first glance without a number one seed.

While NA hasn’t had the best luck with their group draws, this year could be different. The real jackpot is avoiding drawing a Korean team if possible during the group stages. Korea is undoubtedly always the strongest region.

Teams to Watch out For

Photo via Riot Esports

Due to how important circuit points are in qualifying for Worlds, TSM and Cloud 9 are almost auto locks for Worlds barring a playoff upset. The third spot will most likely be contested for in the gauntlet unless Immortals can win their first NALCS split. While it’s not impossible, Immortals have yet to show up in playoffs after successful regular seasons. This team looks much different than their previous seasons, showing a variety of different strategies to be able to win games. Coach Ssong has had a steady impact for this team. CLG, Dignitas, and Envy have also been steadily improving.

TSM will look to redeem themselves at Worlds this year after a dominating summer last year only to be knocked out of Groups. This year TSM isn’t trying to perfect one sole strategy. Instead, they’re practicing different styles of comps and learning to play off more than one lane carrying. It sounds like a good plan for Worlds success.

Cloud 9 on the other hand have looked inconsistent this split. The team seems to only win through getting star mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen ahead. When Jensen snowballs hard the team’s games become much easier. If he doesn’t get ahead, the team struggles to find a way to win. Jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia has had a phenomenal sophomore split as he has the highest DPM among junglers and is near the top in total KDA. If the top and bot lane of C9 can find more consistency, they can definitely show a good performance at Worlds if they qualify.

 

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

 

 

Can a new team break into Worlds for North America?

Over the past two seasons we’ve seen North America represented by the same three teams at Worlds: Team SoloMid, Cloud 9 and Counter Logic Gaming. These organizations have become fan favorites for most, but some new challengers have risen this split to possibly take their shot on the World stage for North America. The North American scene seems to be looking better and better. TSM has continued their dominance, while CLG and C9 have had their share of inconsistencies. Cloud 9 have almost guaranteed their spot at Worlds as long as they do well enough in playoffs. Second place for Spring granted them a massive amount of circuit points. With 3rd/4th place teams Phoenix1 and Flyquest looking close out of the playoff race, CLG will need to play well to ensure their spot at Worlds.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the teams that could contend for a spot:

Immortals

Due to Immortals finishing 7th place last split, they have zero circuit points to help with contention. This almost guarantees that they’ll need to earn their spot either by winning Summer or qualifying through the gauntlet. The latter will be the most likely scenario.

Immortals have become known for having great regular seasons, aside from last spring. This split came as a bit of a surprise to most. People expected the jungle swap of Dardoch and Xmithie to favor CLG, but both teams have benefited greatly. Not only the jungle swap, but the hiring of former ROX tiger coach, Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo, has given them the knowledge to properly out-macro opponents.

Every lane seems to have come into their own. Young rookie, Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun has developed into a top tier ADC this split along with support Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung. Cody Sun is near the top for DPM and DMG percentage among ADC’s. Olleh has shown great performances on playmaking champions such as Thresh.

Immortals is currently tied for first with TSM and CLG. They’ll need to prove that they can finally perform when it matters, not just the regular season if they want to make it to Worlds.

Dignitas

Worlds

Photo via Riot Games

Dignitas stormed out the gates this split, contending for first place for a few weeks before going on a losing streak. They still have their inconsistencies at times. Last week against CLG they flashed the potential to be able to dominate some of the best teams in the league. Other times, they play to the level of their inferior opponents and drop matches.

With jungler Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon taking the reigns as the full time starter now, Dignitas can maybe gain some consistency for a Worlds run. Shrimp has the second highest kill participation percentage among junglers. In the bot lane, they’ve added two veterans of the LCS in Altec and Adrian. It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes the full time bot lane for the team moving forward.

What’s worrisome is how average of a mid laner Lae-Young “Keane” Jang can be. Keane has middle of the pack stats in comparison to the rest of the NA mids. If he can play up to the likes of Bjergsen, Jensen, Pobelter and Huhi, then maybe Dignitas can make it.

Dignitas has 10 championship points from last split which likely means they’ll be battling in the gauntlet for a Worlds spot. If the team can find some consistency, don’t be surprised to see them as real contenders for a Worlds spot.

Phoenix1

Despite Phoenix1 not being far from the playoff race at the moment, and tied for last place, they still have a ton of circuit points that can help them qualify. A third place finish from Spring granted them 50 circuit points, more than a lot of the teams outside of C9/TSM. Even if they don’t qualify for playoffs they still have a shot in the gauntlet based on circuit points.

Rift Rivals was seen as a stepping stone for the team after a rough start to summer split. They had a good performance and were looking to carry that momentum into the second half of the split. That hasn’t been the case as they’ve stumbled coming back. Star rookie jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung hasn’t looked as dominant since he’s returned. The tank jungler meta hasn’t allowed him to show the same carry performances we saw at Rift Rivals.

Mid laner, Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook, stepping down certainly doesn’t help their cause either. Ryu was an integral part of the team, and it’s hard to say that Pirean can come in and perform up to veteran Ryu standards. If Ryu does return after a needed break, Phoenix1 can definitely make a C9 Cinderella run in the gauntlet.

Worlds

Photo via Riot Games

With only two and a half weeks left in the split, any team can make a late run for Worlds. Will it be CLG, Cloud 9 and TSM at Worlds once again for North America? Or will a new team emerge from the ashes?

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Cover photo by Riot Games

 

 

Substitutions

Breaking down substitutions in the NALCS

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

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

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

 

Cloud 9

Substitutions

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

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

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

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

 

Other teams

Substitutions

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

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

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

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

 

Pros and Cons

Substitutions

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

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

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

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

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Should psychologists be required for LCS teams?

With the tweets of top laner Jeon “Ray” Ji-won coming to light recently, the discussion of the mental health of professional players returns. Many fans on social media can be harsh to their favorite players when they perform poorly. The criticism pro players can face added with the stress of performing well on stage can take a toll on these young minds.

You also have to factor in that many of the players are experiencing their first times being away from home in a brand new team environment. Not to mention a brand new country/culture for imported players. If players don’t perform up to their own standards, their own mental health can take a toll.

History of Mental Health Issues in LCS

Psychologists

Photo by Riot Games

It’s no secret that some players have seen the need to retire due to the stress of being a pro player. Legendary players such as Dyrus and Voyboy noted the mental stress during their time in LCS. Sport psychologists have slowly been making their way onto professional teams, but not all.

The most well known psychologist in pro League of Legends would have to be Weldon Green who made a name for himself on TSM last year, and now G2. Both teams saw significant upgrades to their team’s play after bringing Weldon in. Most of the teams have bought into hiring sports psychologists for their teams. The early days of LCS of eating whatever and only playing the games are gone.

Teams are training players to be physically and mentally fit in all aspects of life. CLG opted to train in a top sports facility during the offseason as opposed to bootcamping in Korea like some teams. The result has been a first place spot so far after five and a half weeks of LCS.

Should Psychologists be Required for LCS teams?

Not too long ago, Riot made coaches a requirement for LCS teams. Should psychologists become the next thing to join that list of required staff? It definitely could be if more players were to speak out about some of their mental issues. It’s almost certain that Ray isn’t the only player facing these types of mental hurdles.

Even a few sessions a week could help players with managing their stress. Every team could use the benefit of a psychologist. Not only for struggling players, but for team life in general. Many teams that have taken on Psychologists can see the effect it has had on team environments. Roccat last Spring struggled before a late surge almost netted them a playoff spot. They credited this to bringing on a sports psychologist to help with the team atmosphere.

What we can do as fans

As fans, it’s easy to criticize our favorite pros when they fail to meet our expectations. We also need to remember that they’re people just like us who are performing on some of the world’s biggest stages of professional LoL. Most of them haven’t been groomed to receive the hate that some of the community is bound to expel when they have a poor game.

We must not be quick to make remarks based off emotions. Everyone isn’t going to play perfectly, but flaming them over social media most certainly won’t help them play any better. Pro players for the most part, know when they’ve messed up. They know if they cost their team a match. There’s no need for fans to tag them in tweets raging or making angry posts on Reddit. Let them learn from their mistakes and prove themselves next time.

 

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Cover photo by Riot Games

Playoff implications for NALCS parity

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

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

Playoff Implications

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

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

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

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

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

 

Other Teams

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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The evolution of coaching in LCS

Around two years ago head coaches became a necessity for teams in the LCS. In the younger years of professional League of Legends most teams didn’t have the money to support having a head coach. Due to how young the professional scene still was, there wasn’t much availability for people looking to coach. Even if there was a coach, he was mostly just an analyst that helped bounce ideas off the players.

The scene has evolved, making a coach a necessity now. Not just an in-house analyst either. A coach must be able to lead these young players in their professional career. They must be able to give out criticism properly, while also demanding the respect of the players.

Over the past years we’ve seen what having a good coach can do for a team. We’ve also seen the other side of things when a coach can have a negative impact on a team.

Early LCS

When professional LoL started there wasn’t much structure among teams. For the most part you had five players living together with maybe a team manager that helped with scheduling and making sure they were taken care of. Coaching hadn’t really become a necessity yet until Korea began their reign over all the other regions. The West seemed way behind and needed help to catch up.

In the early days of LCS not many coaches had come about yet. Most of the coaches we see today are former players themselves. Teams maybe had an analyst at best, but nothing like a head coach that would need to solve internal issues along with having game knowledge.

Korean coaching

Photo via Riot Games

It’s no secret that Korea has taken over as the best region in terms of competing in professional League of Legends. Korea has taken home the title for four straight years now. SKT head coach Kim “kkOma” Jung-gyun has been apart of every SKT championship and is heralded as the best coach in professional LoL.

North America followed suit hiring several Korean coaches over the past few splits. Most notably Cloud 9’s Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu and Immortals Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo have found much success with their teams after coming over.

 

Before Reapered became coach, Cloud 9 seemed lost without former captain/shotcaller Hai “Hai” Lam on the roster. Immortals were in the same boat before SSONG joined the team this summer. With SSONG coaching, Immortals has jumped from 7th place to 1st place taking wins off many of the top teams from last split. Their macro play has also improved immensely from last split. 

Korean coaches seem to know how to get the most out of their players. They also demand more as an authoritative figure, while also knowing how to deal with internal issues. SSONG and Reapered are accredited with much of their teams’ success since they’ve been brought on.

Western Players’ Mindsets

One could argue that coaching players in the West is much different than their eastern counterparts, or at least in Korea. In Korea, kids are brought up respecting their elders, while in the West kids are brought up more loose. Korean players have also stated that after coming to NA they think it’s much more relaxed compared to training in Korea.

The West seems to lack many good coaches. With some veterans retiring throughout the years, some have stepped up to become decent coaches such as Dignitas’ Cop and Saintvicious. We’ve also seen different personalities, such as Scarra and Lemonnation, not have much success as a coach. CLG’s head coach, Zikz, has received much praise for his coaching. TSM’s anlayst, Parth, has also been around the scene for awhile now.

We’ve also seen in EU with Origen a few splits back not really feeling the need for a coach. It feels that many Western players didn’t see the need for a coach a few seasons ago. That mindset has changed a bit, but some players are still reluctant on just how effective a coach can really be.

The present

Coaches today can’t just be analysts. They must be able to have an authoritative role over their players while also being able to deal with internal issues amongst the teams. Coaches have to know how to effectively get the most out of each practice and also know how to do pick/bans. Coaches have slowly developed into becoming vital in a team’s success.

Cover photo by Riot Esports 

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Overwatch Contenders Week 4: Group stage takeaways

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

Let’s jump in.

Europe

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

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

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

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

North America

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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


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