2017 NALCS Summer Power Rankings

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

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

10. Echo Fox

Photo via Riot Esports

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

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

9.Team Liquid

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

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

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

8. EnVyus

Photo via Riot Esports

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

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

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

 7. Immortals

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

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

6.Dignitas

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

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

5. Flyquest

Photo via Riot Esports

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

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

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

4. Counter Logic Gaming

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

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

3. Phoenix1

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

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

2. Cloud9

Photo via Riot Esports

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

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

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

1. Team SoloMid

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

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

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


Catch the start of LCS June 2nd!

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Cover Photo by Riot Games

The Evolution of CS:GO’s Metagame

As the years have gone on, the way we play CS:GO has changed drastically. Different changes to guns, along with an ever-changing map pool, has caused teams to adapt. Here are the major turning points within the fluid metagame.

The Hard Lurk

via http://wiki.teamliquid.net

The style first brought to fame by the Ninjas in Pyjamas includes having a lurker on one side of the map as the rest of the team pushes the opposite bombsite. Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund, with his famous backstabs, won the Ninjas many a Terrorist round. Another key detail is that in the early part of his CS:GO career, GeT_RiGhT had a 50% win rate in 1v2 scenarios, an absolutely bonkers figure that helped the Ninjas soar to 87-0 on LAN.

The success of the Ninjas early on led other teams to adapt this style. Vincent “Happy” Cervoni Schopenhauer’s EnVyUs was one such team. However, Happy was not able to achieve the level of perfection GeT_RiGhT had at playing the lurker role. This caused a lot of scenarios in which his timing was off, leading to lost rounds. No top level teams in the current era of Counter-Strike play with this style, but for the first few years, it was highly effective.

Molotovs

via https://www.HLTV.org

It took a long time before people adapted to the new grenade after CS:GO’s release, but as teams started to realize all the different uses on both sides, the Molotov quickly caught fire. The Molotov is now widely considered to be an extremely important grenade.

In terms of its early adopters, surprisingly the NA scene saw some of the first; Kory “SEMPHIS” Friesen was one specific praiser of the Molotov very early on. North American Counter-Strike is most famous for loading up with aimers and ignoring tactics, but made a big breakthrough with the Molotov. However, the top European teams were the first to get the most out of it. The Molotov has forever changed the metagame on the offensive side, and will most likely be used throughout all of CS:GO unless Valve should decide to weaken its effect.

Force-Buy

via http://www.counterstrikeblog.com

The second round force-buy happens in almost every single professional match you watch in the current state of the game. The Frenchmen, more specifically Titan and LDLC, were the early adopters of this idea. With such little risk, and a high potential reward, the CZ-75 buys effectively broke the CS:GO metagame. Team LDLC and Fnatic, who were most known for these CZ and armor buys in 2014, dominated all other teams. No round was safe when facing against these two star-studded teams. The rise of guns such as the Tec-9, Five Seven, and P250 have filled the void left by the nerfed CZ; in the current era with all of these insanely talented teams, it has become almost uncommon to see a second round won by the team who won the pistol.

Submachine Guns

via https://wesg.starladder.com

On the 31st of March 2015, CS:GO received an update that changed the anti-eco metagame forever. The submachine guns became relevant, and teams such as EnVyUs started abusing the guns right away.

Submachine guns are perfect for anti-eco scenarios, with good damage output, fire rate, movement speed, and accuracy. The SMGs used early on were mostly the Mac-10 and MP9, although, the recent discovery of the UMP-45’s power has led to the metagame breaking yet again. The gun was shown to be so good, teams like SK, would use the UMP on gun rounds. Teams such as Ninjas in Pyjamas pushed for an MP7 revolution in 2015, but this never came to life, due to the high cost of the weapon.

Tactics trump Skill

via http://luminosity.gg

In SK Gaming’s era, we finally saw a team with a tactical system dominate for an extended period of time. SK won two majors, in a weakened era albeit, but back to back majors is no joke. Following the SK Gaming era, and flying past the uncertainty era to what is now referred to as the parity era, the Danish powerhouse who have found a way to dominate, Astralis, also has a proper tactical system. Skill based teams like Fnatic dominated for two years, the tactical teams now have their chance to dominate.


 

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Are Six Man Rosters Ideal for Professional LoL?

Six man rosters have slowly been rising in popularity among professional League of Legends teams in recent years. Long time pros of the scene have expressed concerns of burn out, and having a viable sub for the team is slowly becoming more enticing for teams. One of the most successful teams in the world, SK Telecom T1, have used this strategy in utilizing different strengths of certain players. There are definitely some strengths in having an extra player to split scrims with and bounce ideas off of. There can also be flaws in splitting scrim time as well.

With ADC, Jason “Wildturtle” Tran, heading to Flyquest, TSM is still looking to field a six man roster for the summer. Fans are a bit confused as TSM has one of the best ADCs in the World in Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng.

Player burn out

Photo by: Riot Games

It’s no doubt that player burn out is a concern for some of the long time veterans of the scene. TSM’s Doublelift took the Spring Split off to take a rest from the fatigue that sets in from being a pro player. Practicing 12+ hours a day, plus the stress of competing at a high level can be a grueling process for some players.

Pro players have begun to develop wrist injuries to the point of playing more than a few hours a day can be painful. Having someone there to split practice time with could be beneficial for both parties in preserving the longevity of one’s career.

Different Playstyles

Another perk of having an extra roster member is the ability to show off different play styles. Most notably, Cloud 9 did this last split with top laners Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong and Jeon “Ray” Ji-won. Impact was known more for his stellar tank play, while Ray handled playing the split push/carry top laners. Ray described it as a “sword and shield” relationship among the two. Cloud 9 hopes that Ray will be able to learn more from Impact and develop into his replacement one day. This also gives the players a chance to bounce ideas off one another. Having another person who masters the same role as you gives way to more ideas for improvement and discussions.

SK Telecom T1 also did this quite well back in Season 5 when they’d go on to take their second World championship. They utilized two mid laners in Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and Lee “Easyhoon” Ji-hoon. Easyhoon became famous for his Azir play, while Faker dominated on Ryze. SKT continues to use multiple players at different positions among the roster. They’ve been one of the most successful teams in utilizing subs.

Is splitting scrim time bad?

Photo by: Riot Games

It raises the question if splitting scrim time is bad for players. On one end, the team has to adjust to a different player for half the scrims. Some say Impact fell off a bit last season from his phenomenal playoff and Worlds performance of last summer. This could be a result of him needing to split scrim time with Ray and not getting the necessary amount of practice needed to play at that high level we’re used to seeing. Less practice means your competitor could be getting double the practice than the person they’re facing.

EU has yet to really look into fielding a six man roster. In NA it’s slowly becoming an upward trend for teams with star veterans of the pro scene. LCK has begun to utilize it more as well after seeing how much success SKT has had with it. Developing young players under star veterans gives them a chance to reach their ceiling much quicker than if they were thrown into pro play right away. This may explain why LCK is known for developing the best players into League of Legend stars.

Six man rosters are slowly becoming the norm for professional League of Legends. This could slowly develop into ten man rosters so that each position has a sort of “position coach” to bounce ideas off of and learn from. It will be interesting to see if teams begin to follow this upward trend.

Cover Photo by Riot Games

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‘Fixing’ North American Counter-Strike

It is no secret that North American Counter-Strike has been disappointing. The region has always been on par with the top Europeans in terms of skill but has never really been there tactically. 2016 was one of the most successful years for NA CS, but things aren’t on the upward trend for them. Here are a reshuffle of the top 4 North American rosters, in the way I think they should be. I will also be inputting my thoughts on how these teams would rank in the world.

Team Liquid

via HLTV.org

On paper, Liquid are still the best North American roster. The org’s owner Steve “LiQuiD112” Arhancet, has also shown he isn’t afraid to open the checkbook to get good players. That is why I would project Liquid to come out on top of this NA shuffle. As for their roster, I would replace Josh “jdm64” Marzano with Óscar “mixwell” Cañellas. I would also cut Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella, and sign Will “RUSH” Wierzba. Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz will have a field day with this roster. Not only does he have the superstar Jonathan “EliGe” Jablonowski, and hybrid AWP star player mixwell to play with, but he also gets his entry man RUSH back. Moving Russel “twistzz” Van Dulken into the mid-round role would benefit him greatly, as he is very good at winning gun fights. Altogether this team would be an unstoppable force on the Terrorist side, and pretty intimidating on the defense as well. As for where they would rank, I think a spot from 4-6th in the world would suit them.

OpTiC Gaming

 

via @MuggsyOG

I believe in Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez as an owner, and I think he’s done a pretty good job so far in CS:GO. Thus making OpTiC come out in second place in this roster shuffle throughout NA. No player from the current four-man core will stay on OpTiC. The beginning of their roster revamp starts by poaching underrated In game Leader Pujan “FNS” Mehta from CLG, along with his teammate Ricky “Rickeh” Mulholland who shows great promise to become a superstar AWP player. I’m going to bring in Hunter “SicK” Mims from Misfits to be the entry man, who also shows great promise. To round out this roster, I will take Jake “Stewie2k” Yip and Timothy “autimatic” Ta from Cloud9. This team would also be dangerous on both sides; however, the offense would most likely be based more on leveraging the skill on the roster, creating inconsistencies. Their ranking would hover most likely around the 8-11th spot in the world, though if everything goes right this team could even win a tournament.

 

Cloud 9

via http://wiki.teamliquid.net

On paper, they currently have a better roster than OpTiC, but the org’s front office has shown time and time again that they will not do what is necessary to win. The only good signing that this organization has made, was the signing of Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham after the iBUYPOWER controversy. The first thing that needs to happen is to sign former OpTiC member Tarik “tarik” Celik. Skadoodle will be removed to make room for jdm64. Michael “shroud” Grzesiek will be relegated to streamer status, and nitr0 will take his place on the active roster. To round out this roster, the signing of Stephen “reltuC” Cutler to serve as an In-game Leader. The ranking for this team would most likely be floating around the 11-14th spot in the world.

Misfits

I will predict that Misfits swoops in to steal the leftovers from perhaps more accomplished orgs like Counter-Logic Gaming, as I have lost all faith in that organization, or Team SoloMid, as they seem to have lost interest in Counter-Strike. The only current Misfits player I will keep around is David “devoduvek” Dobrosavljevic, as he has shown flashes of talent. I will snatch Keith “NAF” Markovic, along with Skadoodle from free agency. Next, give me Kenneth “koosta” Suen from CLG, as he has been on the up and up recently. Damian “daps” Steele is the best In game Leader left in the NA scene, so I’ll pluck him from NRG. While I doubt this team would do anything internationally, they would be a good NA team, that would probably qualify for tournaments such as the ESL Pro League finals. I would put them around the 12-16th ballpark world ranking.

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NALCS: The Good and Bad of Franchising

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

The Good

Courtesy: Riot Esports

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

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

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

The Bad

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

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

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

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NALCS Finals Preview: Rematch of the Gods

After a long LCS spring split, the finals are just days away. Two of the most successful organizations in Cloud 9 and Team SoloMid will face off once again to see who will be crowned as the champions of Spring Split 2017. This match is crucial for both teams. Ninety Circuit points and a spot at MSI are on the line.

Team SoloMid

Courtesy: Riot Esports

TSM comes in as slight favorites, having finished the regular season at the top of the standings. They looked much improved from the start of the split, with top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell having a breakout split. Mid laner Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg is still performing as the star mid laner we’ve come to know. Meanwhile, the bot lane duo of Jason “Wildturtle” Tran and Vincent “Biofrost” Wang have developed into a formidable bot lane duo.

TSM has a long history of NALCS titles, having been one of the first successful organizations in professional League of Legends. Owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh has made it clear that anything short of a first place finish is a disappointment.

They had a few early game hiccups in their semifinal match against Flyquest. Notably, jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen making some overly aggressive plays without proper lane pressure. This resulted in him and Hauntzer getting caught by a collapsing Flyquest in game one.

Despite this, all their lanes were usually fairly far ahead. Their rotations were solid and they were able to out maneuver Flyquest around the map in each game, resulting in their 3-0 sweep.

Cloud 9

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Cloud 9 came into the split as preseason favorites. With Wildturtle taking the helm at ADC for TSM, most expected Cloud 9 to step up as the new kings of North America. After a strong 8-0 start, the team’s problems became apparent. Their lack of early game play making was an evident problem that teams began to exploit.

Rookie jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia has looked like the promising jungler most had hoped for at the beginning of the split. He had a great series against Phoenix1, and will be vital in their series against TSM.

Cloud 9 also has an interesting dynamic with their Korean top lane duo of Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong and Jeon “Ray” Ji-won. Both top laners have shown some great performances on different champions. With Impact, they appear to like him on comps where a tank is needed, such as Nautilus or Maokai. With Ray, you always have to worry about his signature split push Jarvan or his Renekton.

Support Andy “Smoothie” Ta has had a breakout year, being heralded as the best support of the split this year. After some rocky splits on TL and TDK, he’s finally found his groove with this C9 roster.

With another split of coaching under Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu, Cloud 9 looked like they had peaked midway through the split. As teams around them got better, they stayed the same, and dropped games because of this. With two weeks of practice before playing their first playoff match, they looked much improved. They’re hoping it will be enough to retake the North American throne from TSM.

 

Matchup to Watch: Svenskeren vs. Contractz

Courtesy: Riot Esports

My matchup to watch is in the jungle. Cloud 9’s Contractz got the better of Svenskeren in their first meeting of the split, but his performance slowly stagnated as the season progressed. He’s had a decent split with high expectations heading in. He’s had his share of rookie mistakes, sometimes over extending without the help of his team.

In Cloud 9’s match against Phoenix1, Contractz looked revitalized as the star jungler many had expected in the preseason. He seemed to always be in the right place at the right time to help his team.

TSM’s Svenskeren admitted in an interview before playoffs that he felt he wasn’t playing his best. Despite being on the top team in the league, Sven had one of the lowest KP% of all junglers, and was middle of the pack in KDA. The aggression he’s known for sometimes puts him in bad positions to be caught out. Svenskeren will need to be very calculated with his invades, as Contractz is another jungler who likes to play aggressively.

Contractz will need to do a good job tracking Svenskeren in the early game. If they can pick him off early in their jungle, Cloud 9 have the talent to use those small leads to their advantage. With Contractz playing in his first ever LCS final, he may feel the pressure of being in such a packed stadium for the first time. The LCS stage is one thing, but a whole arena packed around you is completely different. He’ll need to keep his nerves in check for Cloud 9 to be able to take the series.

Prediction

With how these two teams played in semifinals, Cloud 9 honestly looked a bit cleaner to me than TSM. It’s tough to say when Phoenix1 played their sub support for whatever reason for the first two games. TSM’s early games against Flyquest weren’t the cleanest, but their mid game teamfighting and shotcalling was what propelled them to huge gold leads.

As a Cloud 9 fan, I’ll be rooting for them all the way, but I think in the end, TSM’s veteran experience will be the difference in a 3-2 victory over Cloud 9.

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Tournament Preview: Cs_Summit

From April 20th – 23rd, Cs_Summit is being hosted by Beyond the Summit.

The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament is set up as a quarter-final knockout stage with a loser’s bracket. Essentially it’s an eight-team double elimination tournament with best-of-three matches. The quarterfinal matchups are as follows:

  • SK Gaming vs. Team EnVyUs
  • Gambit E-Sports vs. GODSENT
  • OpTic Gaming Vs Cloud9
  • Ninjas in Pyjamas vs Team Liquid

Some of the strongest teams in the world will duke it out to see who walks away victorious. Here’s a look at some of the teams and match-ups.

Teams to Watch:

GODSENT

GODSENT

Courtesy of BeyondtheSummit.tv

GODSENT may not be the strongest roster coming into the tournament, but I think the legendary ex-Fnatic in-game Leader Markus “pronax” Wallsten has some tricks up his sleeve. After the Fnatic roster swap fiascos ended, pronax saw himself leading his team of riflers into the fray. Hopefully the Swedish international can make a strong appearance at Cs_Summit, and GODSENT can take home some prize money.

Many people may turn their heads at this pick, but I think GODSENT has what it takes to seriously win this tournament. They are playing Gambit in the first round and they are no pushover. It will be a tough fought game against the Russian side, but GODSENT could have what it takes.

Cloud9

Cloud 9

Courtesy of media.wwg.com

Cloud9 are among the stronger teams in North America, so it is no surprise I’m picking them to be one of the favorites. Unfortunately, Cloud9 will be short their world class AWPer Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham. However, their stand in is one of the best the game has ever seen. Braxton “swag” Pierce, having previously been banned for match-fixing, has served his time away from professional play as an analyst, now making a return. Recently, he has returned as a stand in for Cloud9, and will hopefully be able to show that he’s still got it in this tournament.

SK Gaming

SK_Gaming

Courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

SK has had a less than stellar season. They are struggling to find the dominant form they showed at MLG Columbus. After taking a sudden exit in the playoff stages to FaZe at Starladder, SK Gaming has really been missing out on deep tournament play. Cs_Summit might be the turn around they need.

They are facing off against Team EnVyUs in the first round and it will not be easy for Gabriel “fallen” Toledo’s team to take a victory. With the strong players that EnVyUs have, we will see if fallen has made the correct adjustments before gametime.

OpTic Gaming

Courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

OpTic Gaming has a mix-mash of good aimers and good shot callers that somehow became one of the best teams in the world in under a year. One of OpTic’s key players, Tarik “Tarik” Celik, fled the barebones CLG squad in hopes of a better future with OpTic and it has paid off for him.

However, Tarik and OpTic have been struggling to find their strong form in 2017. OpTic seems to be making a little bit of comeback, showing life at the IBuyPower Invitational just last weekend where they took home second place. I think that OpTic has turned a corner with their play, but they will be tested in their matchup against Cloud9.

Featured Matchup: Optic vs Cloud 9

OpTic and Cloud9 are two of the best teams in North America and this matchup has always been fiery. Cloud9 seems to have them on most CT sided maps, controlling the long areas with Skadoodle’s AWP. However, it will be very interesting to see how Cloud9 adapts to their new five man lineup.

OpTic has always displayed resilience in their match-ups, being able to persevere in the longer mental battles. They stand a good chance against C9 and this matchup, in particular, seems to be the most balanced and the one to watch. If you can only catch one series from these playoff stages, I would highly recommend this match up.


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Support Players: The Unsung Heroes of Counter-Strike

A huge problem among top level teams is that they find themselves with too many players who want to be bigshots. The difficulty lies in the fact that there are only five players on a team, and only so many kills to go around. Naturally, not all players on the team will perform equally. When five different player’s egos come into play, it makes it very difficult to find balance and that’s where the frustration begins. So, the support role is the solution to this problem.

The support is someone who steps up and supports the team with flashbangs and smoke grenades. They usually work to get trade kills with their teammates and stay back to keep the number advantages on their side. Supports won’t typically make risky plays and will stick near other players to help wherever they can. Their contributions won’t show up on the scoreboard, but they make all the difference in high-level matches.

The Angry Fans

The dynamics here are much more subtle from a spectators perspective. When you see players under-preforming on the scoreboard, it becomes easy to point them out as the problem for their team. A lot of support players catch a lot of heat for their performances, but they are essential to the team.

C9 Shroud, Courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

One of North America’s finest, Cloud9’s Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek, has been catching a huge amount of criticism in the community in the last 6 months for his transition to more of a support role. When Shroud originally came to Cloud9, he was supposed to be a rifler. He has some of the best aim and game sense in North America, and so many are questioning why his scoreboard tallies have been so low.

Shroud began his transition after the addition of Jake “Stewie2k” Yip and Timothy “autimatic” Ta as rifler mains. Shroud said himself on his stream that he is “no longer the all-star” and that “his job now is to make [Stewie2k and autimatic] look good… I’ll die for them, I’ll flash for them, I’ll do anything for those guys”.

Some of the Best

 

Xyp9x

Courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

Astralis’ Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth

The current support player for Astralis, Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth, is world renowned for his skill. Xyp9x has been outstanding for Astralis in 2017 and was essential in their completion of their quest for a major trophy. Back in January, when Astralis took their victory over Virtus Pro, he was able to step up and get key kills on the second and third map which massively helped them secure the series.

NBK

Courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

G2’s Nathan “NBK” Schmitt

Nathan “NBK” Schmitt is a strong rifler and support player for G2 E-sports. Having spent the entirety of his career on French CS:GO teams, he has been able to master the support role for his team. He just recently switched to G2 back in February, but his support skill was on a strong display for the two years he spent on Team EnVyUs.

C9 Shroud

Courtesy of Shroud’s youtube channel

Cloud 9’s Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek

Some might find this pick questionable. Shroud is still widely regarded as an aggressive fragger and not so much a support player. But be assured, Shroud is the real deal for supports. He has already proven that he is an amazing rifler and one of the best in North America. He will definitely take some more time to fully adjust to his role, but even he himself said it’s time for this change.

Why Supports Deserve More Respect

A lot of people will look at Xyp9x’s, NBK’s and Shroud’s scores and become disappointed with their results. However, all the hard work they are putting in to help the team is going unrecognized. It’s the contributions outside of the scoreboard that really make the difference in the top tier teams. It’s not so much the number of kills a player has, but when and where they got the kills as well as what they mean for the game. Support players put their egos aside and play with confidence for their team, which deserves more recognition.


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NALCS: Reflecting on preseason rankings

The regular Spring Split of the NALCS has come to a close and the standings are a lock.  In the off season, we saw some big names enter the scene with huge investments made by NBA teams.  Some teams came in with some high expectations, while others may not have looked as promising.  I’ll be reviewing how well I did in my preseason power rankings compared to how things played out. There were definitely some surprises on both sides of the standings so let’s take a look at some of the surprises this split:

Team SoloMid

Projected Ranking: 2nd

Final Ranking: 1st

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Team SoloMid came into this split projected as low as fourth on some preseason power rankings.  Many, including myself, saw ADC Jason “Wildturtle” Tran as a definite downgrade to Doublelift.  It was evident in the first few weeks, and many doubted how well they’d adapt.

Top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell began to take over heavier shot calling duties.  It was rough at first, but TSM finally figured things out mid way through the split.  Hauntzer has looked like an MVP candidate, while support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang has proved to be a star support without Doublelift. Star mid laner Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg had a few rough first games but has steadily returned to MVP form.

The only worrying trend I could see is how inconsistent jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen can be.  Svenskeren did appear to be the weak link of the team throughout the split.  He’ll need to become more of a consistent threat for this team to reclaim their NALCS title.

Cloud 9

Projected Ranking: 1st

Final Ranking: 2nd

Unlike most teams, Cloud 9 stormed out of the gate to a phenomenal 8-0 start.  Teams around them struggled to find synergy in the early parts of the split, but lingering issues have since plagued Cloud9. They’ve struggled to make early game plays and often get wins off their mid game team fighting. Against worse teams, this may work, but to be a top team in the world, this is something they’ll need to improve.

Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen has had an MVP-like season.  His Orianna plays in the last week were carrying many of their games during the final week. Rookie Juan ”

Rookie Juan “Contactz” Garcia has seen his share fair of criticism throughout the split.  It’s easy to forget that this is only his first season.  He’ll need to find a better way to make early game plays for this team to succeed.

Phoenix1

Projected Ranking: 6th

Final Ranking: 3rd

Power Rankings: Phoenix1, #9 western team

Courtesy: Riot Esports

I actually pegged Phoenix1 as one of my dark horse favorites heading into the split.  They didn’t disappoint, as they sky rocketed from relegations to a 3rd place finish this split.  Even with the hiatus of star jungler Rami “Inori” Charagh, Phoenix1 was still able to show that they can be top contenders in this league.

They imported a hidden gem in ADC No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon.  Arrow has looked superb aside from the last week of the split.  Despite changing supports around the mid way point Arrow has looked like the best import this split.  He currently leads the league in KDA and is 4th in CSDiff@10.

Phoenix1 honestly looked like strong contenders heading into the final week before being blown out by the top two teams in the league.  Phoenix1 will need to bounce back heading into their series against a surging  Dignitas.

Counter Logic Gaming

Projected Ranking: 4th

Final Ranking: 4th

CLG had a season similar to last Summer Split.  They struggled to adapt to the meta and lost a lot due to this.  Another issue is playing to the level of their competition.  Against the best teams, CLG looked like they could contend with the top teams.  When facing bottom tier teams, they’d sometimes get upset or may it a closer series than expected.

Around the mid-season, we saw the usual CLG return to their expected form of title contenders.  With the meta shifted back to ADC’s being more than just ult bots, we may see CLG look to play around their bot lane more.  Mid laner Choi “HuHi” Jae-hyun has looked much improved this split after being heavily criticized last year.

CLG have Flyquest as their first opponents heading into playoffs.  They should be favorites considering how much Flyquest struggled during the second half of the split.  CLG look to be improving week by week, so barring another emergency medical emergency, they should face rival TSM in the next round.

Flyquest

Projected Ranking: 8th

Final Ranking: 5th

Power Rankings: #3 western team

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Most had Flyquest pegged as a bottom tier team during pre-season.  Flyquest stormed onto the scene as a top three team for the first half of the split.  Under the shotcalling of Hai “Hai” Lam, they were able to easily out maneuver many of the newer rosters.  Hai’s shotcalling and leadership poised Flyquest to be top contenders heading into the split.

As we entered the second half of the split, Flyquest’s magic fizzled out.  As teams around them improved, Flyquest attempted to “cheese” opponents bringing out unique picks such as Shaco, Mordekaiser, and Blitzcrank.  Teams seem to have figured out their strategies and Flyquest have struggled to adapt.

Despite their late season fall from the top three, they still played well enough to earn the fifth seed in the playoffs.  It’ll be interesting to see how much they decide to rely on cheese picks going into playoffs.  Their drafts have been some of the most interesting, to say the least. CLG is a tough first opponent, but they definitely have the experience to take the series.

Dignitas

Projected Ranking: 3rd

Final Ranking: 6th

Dignitas, on paper, looked like a top three team.  Bringing in two of the best in their roles from Korean in Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun and Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, many thought they’d contend for top two.  That wasn’t the case, as the language barrier and synergy issues were quite evident in the first half of the split.

The team wasn’t very proactive.  After a coaching change in bringing back former Apex coach David “Cop” Roberson, the team finally look to be reaching their potential.  During the second half of the split, Dignitas looked like the team many had hoped for in preseason.

They have a tall task in facing Phoenix1 in the first round of playoffs, but if they prepare well enough I could see them getting the upset.  Chaser has been playing extremely well lately and will play a huge role in deciding whether this team goes far in playoffs.

Immortals

Projected Ranking: 7th

Final Ranking: 7th

Courtesy: Gamepedia.

Immortals came in, like many, struggling with synergy issues.  Uncharacteristically Eugene “Pobelter” Park looked like the worst mid laner during the first few weeks of the spring, but during the mid-season, Immortals looked to be improved and maybe deserved a playoff spot with how they were playing near the end.

The team still heavily relies on jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett to either carry them or lose them games.  Their bot lane looked much improved from the start of the split though.  I could see Immortals sticking it out with this roster and improving a bunch for Summer split.

Barely just missing playoffs hurts, but they’re headed in the right direction.

Echo Fox

Projected Ranking: 9th

Final Ranking: 8th

Echo Fox didn’t have too many expectations heading into the split.  Specifically, nobody knew how good jungler Matt “Akaadian” Higginbotham was going to be.  Akaadian has come out as the next upcoming NA jungle talent in the scene.  His early game aggression netted Echo Fox some enormous early game leads.

Echo Fox struggled in transitioning their early game leads to victories.  ADC Yuri “Keith” Jew received much of the criticism in Echo Fox’s losses for his performances this split.  Top laner Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok was supposed to be an upgrade in his role, but looked to lack synergy with his team.  He was often teleporting late or engaging teamfights without his team behind him.

Look for Echo Fox to make some roster changes if they want to be real contenders for next split.

Team Liquid

Projected Ranking: 5th

Final Ranking: 9th

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Team Liquid was actually another one of my dark horse favorites heading into this split.  Jungler Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin was thought to be a top tier jungler in North America.  Mid laner Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer was finally getting his shot to prove himself.

I don’t think anybody expected Team Liquid to have such a bad season.  Nobody would’ve predicted the role swap for Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin from ADC to mid either.  In an more even shocking turn of events, Team Liquid brought in Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng to take over at ADC.  Team Liquid has done everything to try to climb out of relegations, but still struggled to finish out the games needed towards the end of the split.

Team Liquid will need to play their way through relegations now to find their way back into LCS, but with the roster they’re sporting now, I don’t see this team losing their LCS spot.

This was still one of the most disappointing seasons in Team Liquid’s history.  It’ll be interesting what off season changes they’ll make to claim their rightful spot in fourth place.

Team EnVyus

Projected Ranking: 10th

Final Ranking: 10th

Not much to say here.  EnVyUs’ big need is in the mid lane where they’re wasting an import slot on Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo at the moment. Their bot lane is underrated, and jungler Nam “Lira” Tae-yoo has looked like the best jungler in NA at times.  I don’t see them losing their spot in relegations, but we’ll need to see if Lira sticks with them.

If Lira doesn’t get any offers from other teams, and EnVy replaces Ninja, I could see them improve to at least a playoff team in Summer.

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NALCS: Grading this Split’s Rookies

In my last piece I took a look at some of newest imports of the North American LCS. This week I’ll take a look at the rookies and how they’ve made an impact to their team this split. There are only four this split, but nonetheless every rookie has come onto their team and made an impact. Grading will be based on expectations heading in and how they’ve met them. Lets take a look:

Phoenix1 Stunt (Support)

 

Courtesy: Riot Esports

William “Stunt” Chen began this split as a sub on Dignitas. He also spent some time last summer on Team Liquid Academy playing alongside Piglet.  Little was known about Stunt heading in, as most didn’t even know he was a sub on Dignitas untill he subbed for a series against Envy.

He finally got his shot at LCS as a starter when Phoenix1 acquired him before the trade deadline. Their former support Adrian “Adrian” Ma was transferred to Team Liquid in wake of internal issues with jungler Rami “Inori” Charagh. Stunt came in as a brand new support who had never really had a starting role on an LCS team. Phoenix1 has not been phased by this at all, if anything, they’ve looked to have grown even stronger.

In the 8 games he’s played, Phoenix1 is undefeated and look to be catching up to Cloud 9 as the second best team in North America. Stunt himself has been performing quite well in this support meta. His champion pool is diverse, having played seven champions already in his short time on P1. Stunt currently has the highest KDA of supports at 5.5 and a spectacular 80 percent kill participation.

Phoenix1 seemed to have done a great job integrating Stunt into the team. Phoenix1 look like top contenders heading into playoffs.

Grade: A-

Cloud 9 Contractz (Jungle)

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Juan “Contractz” Garcia came in as the next hyped upcoming challenger talent. He spent time on Cloud 9 Challenger and helped them qualify for the LCS. Many praised him as a solo que star being bred to take the NA LCS by storm. After a phenomenal week 1 performance many thought Contractz would pop off and propel Cloud 9 to the top team once again. That hasn’t really been the case as Cloud 9 have regressed as other teams around them have improved.

Contractz in particular has had his fair share of rookie mistakes that have cost his team. Sometimes getting caught out before big objectives or invading without the aid of his team behind him. Even a minor accidental slip up in champion select may have cost his team a close series against CLG.

Nonetheless, Contractz has played pretty well for a rookie Jungler in his first split. Expectations may have hindered how well he’s actually played this split. Contractz came in molded to be a somewhat supportive style Jungler helping his talented laners get ahead. He gets deep vision for the team and tracks the enemy Jungler.  He currently has the 2nd highest KDA among Junglers.

What’s worrisome is how much Cloud 9 struggles to make plays in the early game.  With so many talented players, their early game is still one of their biggest weaknesses. Contractz has the worst First Blood percentages among Junglers which speaks to the lack of C9’s play making in the early game. Often times their wins come off mid game fights.

 

Grade: B

Echo Fox Akaadian (Jungle)

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham came into the LCS with little to no expectations of him. Most expected him to be average at best and not make much of an impact. That was not the case as he stormed onto the scene in the first weeks as an extremely talented and aggressive Jungler.

As the split has gone on, some teams may have figured out his style. With teams around them getting better, Echo Fox has struggled to stay afloat. Akaadian went from having one of the best KDA’s in the league, to having one of the worst at 2.7.  Nonetheless, Akaadian has been one of, if not the best player on his team this split. His early game play making has often netted his team huge gold leads. It’s more of the team as a whole not being able to transition those leads into victories.

It will be interesting if he garners interest from other teams during the off-season. Any North American talent is crucial as it allows for imports in other parts of the roster.

Grade: A

Immortals Cody Sun (ADC)

Li “Cody” Yu Sun was an up and coming ADC fresh out of the challenger scene. He spent time on Dream Team last split where he stood out as a top performer. As a rookie, not much was expected from him and his lane partner Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung. People expected Immortals to play mostly through their talented solo laners and Jungle.

It took awhile, but Cody Sun and Olleh are quietly becoming a bot lane force. Their first few weeks were a bit rough. As a rookie ADC being thrown into a meta where ADC’s were basically ult bots was a tall task.

As the ADC meta is slowly shifting back to meta carries Cody Sun has shown some great performances on Ezreal and Cait. He’s one of the underrated pickups during the off season as a North American talent who doesn’t take up an import slot. Moving forward, he’ll need to continue his growth for Immortals to perform at their highest level.

Grade: B-

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