graduated junglers

Preseason: NA’s graduated junglers

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

MikeYeung: From the Ashes

graduated junglers

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Omargod: Breaking the Chains

graduated junglers

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Contractz: A Carry’s DNA

graduated junglers

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Can Cloud 9 carry NA to semi-finals?

Quarterfinals start this weekend. Week two proved to be the same old story for North America. After a strong week one performance from all the North American teams, Cloud 9 was the lone survivor to make it out. Cloud 9 will have immense pressure as they are the only North American team left in the tournament.

China on the other hand impressed many in front of their hometown fans as both WE and RNG took first in their respective groups. WE are riding high as they finished the group stage 5-1 looking very strong.

How C9 Wins

Cloud 9 wins if Contractz can keep Condi from taking over the map. We saw in WE’s previous games that they know how to snowball their leads. Not only that, but they also know how to play from behind. Jensen will be vital in his team’s success as always. Cloud 9 will most likely look to camp the mid lane as they always do and try to snowball off Jensen’s lead.

Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi and Andy “Smoothie” Ta will need to hold their own in the bot lane as well. Against EDG and SKT their laning phase didn’t look the best. They will need to be at their best this round. Last year against Samsung Galaxy, they were heavily exploited. They’ll be looking to redeem themselves this time around.

Matchup to Watch: Contractz vs Condi (jungle)

Photo by: Riot Games

WE and Cloud 9 have some of the more talented junglers in the tournament: Juan “Contractz” Garci and Xiang “Condi” Ren-Jie. Condi has been heralded as the best jungler by some from the group stage. Contractz came on with a strong showing in week one showing prowess on carry junglers such as Ezreal and Graves.

Junglers have played a large part of each of these teams’ strategies. Cloud 9 looks to setup mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, so Contractz will often look for multiple ganks there to get him snowballing.

Condi has shown the ability to exert his pressure in many areas of the map. Contractz will need to track him well if Cloud 9 stand a chance against these hometown heroes.

Adjustments

With this matchup being the last of all the quarterfinals matches, they’ll have the chance to see how the meta shifts for the tournament. Near the end of week two we saw Caitlyn as a huge counter to much of the farm fest bot lanes that started out. She can easily bully people in lane and go for the early tower with her range. It will be interesting to see how much teams decide to prioritize her moving forward. Cloud 9 picked up Caitlyn in their final match against AHQ in which they dominated.

With how well top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong has been playing, I’d like to see him be put on a carry champion such as Rumble or even Trundle. We have yet to see Contractz pull out a Jarvan pick, which has been quite impactful. It raises the question of if he’s able to play it or just doesn’t want to.

Prediction

While Cloud 9 may be slight underdogs here, I think they can pull off a close 3-2 upset of this Chinese powerhouse and take North America to semi-finals.

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

 

north america's prophecy

Worlds 2017: North America’s prophecy

Week Two of the 2017 League of Legends World Championship brought miracle comebacks and rookie hype. While some records were broken, others remained.

North America’s prophecy rang true; The North American representatives combined for a meager 2-9 record in Week Two of groups. With a history of defeat, what can explain NA’s consistently poor showings at Worlds? Do the players and teams suffer from some mental block? Or, is NA doomed to their prophetic losses year and again?

NA Hopes and Memes

north america's prophecy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Each year it sounds like a broken record. “North America looks really good this year. The region is a lot more competitive this time around,” they say.

Yet, NA teams never seem to show up when it counts. At Worlds 2015, all three NA representatives failed to advance beyond group stage. Worlds 2016, only Cloud 9 (C9) moved on to quarters before falling to tournament finalists Samsung Galaxy (SSG). This year, analysts had Immortals (IMT) and Team SoloMid (TSM) as heavy favorites to advance coming into Week Two of groups. Still, the North American representatives crumbled under the pressure. Cloud 9, again, was the only team to survive.

It seems that despite the progress North America seems to make, their teams consistently fail to perform on the international stage. Domestic competition grows, but nothing translates come time for Worlds. This trend carried over the past several years, developing into a widely used meme: NA in Week Two. Week Two of group stages has often been NA’s ‘Achilles heel’. The worst part? The results do not lie.

Last week, Immortals only needed to win one of four games to secure themselves a quarterfinals spot. Instead, they crumbled to Fnatic (FNC) in an unparalleled run for the European squad. Team SoloMid fell to rookie squad Misfits Gaming (MSF) in a tiebreaker match that silenced thousands of NA hopefuls, begging the question: is North America’s prophecy a matter of fact, or has the meme grown so large that NA teams succumb to pressure on social media?

NA’s Kryptonite: Prophecies or adaptation?

north america's prophecy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

One of the greatest benefits of participating in the World Championship is team growth. Many Worlds teams show remarkable improvement after the first week of group stage. Misfits Gaming, for example, had several clear weaknesses in Week One. Their bottom lane was susceptible to early pressure in their loss against Team WE. Transitioning into Week Two, MSF’s AD-carry Steven “Hans Sama” Liv and support Donggeun “Ignar” Lee played with a measured aggression that shined through their tiebreaker victory over TSM.

On the other hand, TSM’s most glaring weakness throughout the tournament was an inability to apply early pressure. Instead, TSM relied on a passive playstyle and scaling focused compositions. In fact, TSM’s affinity to float through the first fifteen minutes of a game led to zero first bloods in all seven of their games. Coming into Week Two, it was time to see if TSM fixed these issues. Team WE drafted an aggressive early-game focused composition meant to push TSM out of their usual scaling, late-game comfort. Team SoloMid failed to adapt as WE crushed them in 24 minutes.

TSM showed no signs of growth coming into their Week Two matches. In their games, jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and mid-laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg played uncharacteristically restrained, unwilling to take risks or pressure aggressively. This lack of proactive early shot-calling proved that TSM made little progress fixing their week one problems. Similarly, with Immortals, their opponents in Fnatic and GIGABYTE Marines (GAM) both made huge strides in improving their gameplay while IMT clung to their week one formula. These two North American teams showed little growth coming into the second week of Worlds 2017.

Can C9 Smash North America’s Prophecy?

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Unlike TSM, Cloud 9 demonstrated a clear ability to adapt to meta changes on the fly. In addition, C9 successfully indexed on early aggressive playstyles carried out primarily by rookie jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia. After seeing Team WE pull out the first “Caitlyn” of the tournament, C9 was quick and unafraid to experiment with the champion in a high-pressure match against ahq eSports Club (AHQ). With C9 AD-carry Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi looking increasingly in form, and Contractz overperforming at his first Worlds appearance, the momentum looks good for C9.

However, their quarterfinal opponents in Team WE also look to be rallying with the home crowd booming behind them. Both teams boast aggressive, carry-oriented junglers. So far at Worlds, we have seen Contractz and WE’s jungler RenJie “Condi” Xiang on champions like “Ezreal,” “Kha,zix” and “Graves.” These high risk, high damage junglers will define the early game between these two rosters. How will Contractz, a rookie, fair against a more seasoned jungler in Condi?

In a post-game interview, Contractz spoke to confidence as a crucial part of C9’s mindset coming into every match. With no time to worry about North America’s prophecy or endless memes, Cloud 9 is looking to show up big at Worlds 2017. As the most consistent North American team on an international stage, C9 carries the weight of an entire region coming into quarterfinals. Will this iteration of Cloud 9 be the one to break this cursed prophecy?


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Edward Gaming: Pressure on China’s hometown heroes

Edward Gaming (EDG) struggles to find success at the 2017 League of Legends World Championship, rounding week one of the group stage with an 0-3 match record. Despite coming in as heavy favorites to advance to quarterfinals alongside defending champions SK telecom T1, China’s first seed cannot seem to find their footing. Let’s dive into EDG’s games and look at what they must do to claw out of Group A.

Game 1: Edward Gaming (EDG) vs ahq e-Sports Club (AHQ)

edward gaming

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Edward Gaming controlled the tempo for the majority of a 54-minute brawl, ultimately crumbling to AHQ’s superior teamfighting. To start the game, EDG locked star mid-laner Lee “Scout” Ye-chan on a comfort pick in Lucian. EDG looked to dominate mid-lane and that advantage across the map. Scout executed, earning a staggering +30 CS differential at 15 minutes.

Despite this aggressive lead in the mid-lane, AHQ found multiple advantageous teamfight opportunities in the mid-game. An extended five on five fight at 20-minutes resulted in a quadra-kill for AHQ’s AD-carry Chun-An “AN” Chou. Taking these small victories, AHQ dragged the game into a plus fifty minute slug fest, ultimately overpowering the Chinese representatives.

What internal factors led to EDG’s loss in their first match of Worlds 2017? Crucially, EDG failed to capitalize on their Shen counter-pick for top-laner Yuhao “Mouse” Chen. As a team, EDG should have prioritized mid-game skirmishes and early Drake control using their Teleport advantage with Shen’s “Stand United” to out-rotate AHQ. Naturally, Cho’Gath stood to outscale Mouse‘s Shen in both teamfight effectiveness, objective control and raw tank stats. EDG had to recognize this weakness in their composition and close out the game early. However, because of Mouse‘s weak lane performance against the enemy Cho’Gath and EDG’s lack of proactive rotations, AHQ secured early objectives that paid dividends in the late-game.

Game 2: Edward Gaming (EDG) vs SK telecom t1 (SKT)

edward gaming

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

EDG had no time to lick their wounds before facing off against long-time rivals, the defending world champions, SK Telecom T1. With the force of an entire arena in Wuhan cheering on their hometown favorites, Edward Gaming stormed into game two with blood in their eyes. Led by Wuhan native, Kai “Clearlove7” Ming, EDG coordinated plays to shut down living legend, Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee. Unlike the day before, EDG did not relent. The Chinese squad continued to wreak havoc on multiple SKT members, ballooning their lead to over 9.1k gold at 25-minutes.

Then, at 29-minutes, SKT finds a single teamfight that swings the entire momentum of the game. In rapid succession, SKT’s support, Jaewan “Wolf” Lee and jungler Wangho “Peanut” Han layer double knock-ups onto EDG’s carries. Faker lands a picture-perfect “Command Shockwave” on four members of Edward Gaming, decimating the opposition and turning the game on its head. EDG are never able to regain control of the game.

One fight. One crystal initiation by SKT’s play-makers leveled Edward Gaming’s seemingly insurmountable lead. It is difficult to find many faults with EDG’s play in this particular game. After successfully neutralizing Faker‘s Orianna, EDG exposed several mid-game vulnerabilities in SKT’s playstyle. However, a single positioning mistake at the height of their gold lead cost EDG their second game. Still, we can find many positives for Edward Gaming. They successfully shut down Faker, whose ability to absorb and outplay enemy pressure is perhaps the best in the world. EDG then took that mid-lane pressure and earned leads across the board, securing three Mountain Drakes, Rift Herald and a Baron.

Game 3: Edward Gaming (EDG) vs Cloud 9 (C9)

edward gaming

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Coming into Game 3, Edward Gaming looked like they had a chip on their shoulder. C9’s rookie jungler, Juan “Contractz” Garcia invaded Clearlove7‘s side of the jungle, stifling EDG’s ability to gain vision control and snowball lanes. Meanwhile, EDG’s top laner Mouse found himself suffocating under early pressure from C9’s top-laner Eonyoung “Impact” Jeong.

Feeling the need to pull his team from the trenches, Scout tried to pressure Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen’s Syndra pick. However, without his team to back him up, Scout found himself on the receiving end of multiple three-man ganks. Edward Gaming cracked under the pressure to perform on their home turf as the North American representatives led them into their third consecutive loss at Worlds 2017.

Taking a look at this game, it is clear EDG is off-center. In an attempt to slow down Contractz‘s aggressive playstyle, EDG banned Ezreal. However, after Contractz locked in Graves, EDG failed to adapt their strategy. The result: Cloud 9 methodically dismantled Edward Gaming, executing clean initiations and trades to put the game away.

Looking at Week Two

edward gaming

Credit: LoL Esports Photos

Despite the odds, an 0-3 match record does not mean Edward Gaming is out of the running. In games one and two, EDG earned sizable leads and control through mid and jungle control. Their crutch was a failure to close out these games. In the days leading up to week two, EDG must work on fixing issues with their macro-play and teamfighting.

The road to quarterfinals will be exceedingly difficult, but EDG is no stranger to being behind. This roster secured China’s first seed by reverse-sweeping regional rivals Royal Never Give Up (RNG) 3-2 at the LPL Summer Finals. Most of EDG’s members are repeat Worlds competitors, veterans even. In times like these, leadership and composure on the world stage will define EDG’s legacy. Team captain, Clearlove7 will look to lead his team surging into week two.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Longzhu finished week one of worlds top of Group B

Worlds’ OP five after week one

The first week of League of Legends’ 2017 World Championship has concluded, and this year’s event is already off to an exciting start. Between Gigabyte Marines’ mysterious “never before seen” strategy, Longzhu’s sub-25 minute average game time, and North America’s teams all being top two in their groups, fans and analysts have been gifted excellent performances thus far. Now the teams will have a few days to regroup and begin adapting for week two.

Almost every team had high points in week one. At some point, almost every player has had a high point, as well. But there is a reason the standings are as they are. Some teams have risen to the challenge of the international stage. Some players have executed a step above the pack. With three games in the books it is difficult to write off any team or player for the remainder of the contest. However, it is easy to recognize the following challengers for their stand-out performances.

Top: LZ Khan

Khan is the most OP top laner after Worlds week one

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Khan has definitely lived up to the hype carried over from LCK Summer Split. This guy has been an absolute monster in all three games so far. He has played a bruiser Jarvan IV against Immortals, a lethality Jarvan against Gigabyte Marines and Nasus against Fnatic. Khan is averaging 437 gold, 17 CS and 721 XP ahead at 15 minutes.

In the mid-game, Khan has been best at split-pushing, but his teamfighting is also incredibly strong. Khan has contributed 24.8 percent of Longzhu’s damage, which is exceptional when taking into account how strong his carries are. His 12.0 KDA is among the highest in the tournament so far.

TSM’s Hauntzer is the only other player currently close to Khan’s level. Some may even see Hauntzer as the better of the two so far, seeing as he has better laning and damage stats. But pressure is Khan’s key elevating factor. While Hauntzer teleports or roams to bring pressure to his teammates, Khan more frequently brings the enemy’s pressure to him. He pushes lanes, damages turrets, chunks out his enemy and forces the opposing team to respond to him.

As we get deeper into Worlds, it will be interesting to see how other teams adapt to Khan. Now that he has crushed a game on Nasus, who knows what else he may have up his sleeve? Few top laners in the entire tournament look up to the task of going toe to toe with Khan. If Longzhu take it all the way it will be hard not to attribute their success to the top lane.

Jungle: C9 Contractz

Contractz is the most OP jungler after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the only junglers who has not drafted a tank, Contractz has been acting as a third carry for Cloud9. He has pulled out an AD Rek’Sai, Ezreal and Graves, topping the jungler damage charts with 24.8 percent. C9’s tempo has totally relied on Contractz’s ability to clear the jungle as fast as possible and pressure the enemy jungler. So far, he has been able to do it successfully.

Contractz is averaging 266 XP, three CS and 146 gold ahead at 15 minutes. He has also helped secure First Blood in two of their three games. C9’s loss to SKT severely skewed Contractz’s KDA down to 3.3, but he is averaging 6.3 assists, fourth highest at Worlds. Contractz is also partially responsible for C9’s 66.7 percent Baron control rate, which has been a huge objective for winning games.

If Gigabyte Marines’ game against Longzhu had gone a bit better, then Levi would most likely be here. His surprise Nocturne pick in game one truly kick-started the energy at Worlds. Highlights from that game will be replayed over and over anytime fans reference back to 2017 Worlds. But when GAM’s Mordekaiser pick got destroyed from level one, all of GAM’s hype deflated. Levi may be able to take this spot with more consistent gameplay next week.

Mid: LZ Bdd

Bdd is the most OP mid laner after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Bdd is the only non-support player to go deathless in week one of Worlds. Despite drafting champions with strong roaming potential, Bdd averages ahead 11.7 CS, 488 gold and 910 XP at 15 minutes. These are all top two among mid laners. His 23.0 KDA is nothing to frown at either.

Longzhu does not look for Bdd to do huge shares of damage for them. Instead, they have drafted Taliyah, Ryze and Galio which each have powerful roaming ultimate abilities. These types of champions allow Bdd to zoom into top or bottom lane and outplay the enemy team by chaining crowd control and damaging abilities. Bdd is the central key that enables Khan’s aggressive playstyle, and he has been crucial for Longzhu’s success in Group B.

TSM’s Bjergsen, C9’s Jensen and RNG’s Xiaohu have also shown strong performances in week one, but none of them felt justified as the most valuable. In TSM and C9’s defeats, their mid laners looked much weaker in teamfights, and Xiaohu has not had the greatest laning phases. Bdd has performed solidly in both phases of the game.

ADC: RNG Uzi

Uzi is the most OP AD carry after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Royal Never Give Up has been on a tear, averaging the highest kills per game (12.3) and the lowest deaths (2.7). Their AD carry, Uzi, has been central to this first week of success. He is carrying a 28.0 KDA, scoring wins on Twitch, Tristana and Kog’Maw. Uzi has gone even or behind in lane with these champions, but truly terrorizes in teamfights.

At 722, Uzi averages fifth highest damage per minute of all players at Worlds. This amounts to a whopping 39.3 percent of RNG’s total damage. Uzi has been expertly navigating late game teamfights to maximize his damage and stay at a safe range. He has only died once so far.

SKT’s Bang is a close second in the bottom lane so far. He carries similar statistics, and has played similar champions. SKT and RNG are both 3-0 at the top of their groups. However, SKT’s wins have not come off the back of any one player. Their style is much more about how cohesive they are as the game gets later. The best players on the Worlds stage not only do not make mistakes, but also pinpoint the mistakes of the enemy and punish them. Uzi has successfully done this, while Bang has not been at that same level.

Support: SKT Wolf

Wolf is the most OP support after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Bang also has the best-performing support at Worlds: Wolf. Although the support meta is fairly stale at the moment, Wolf was able to have a fantastically flashy Rakan performance against EDG. He single-handedly reeled in a game that was out of control by landing a huge Quickness-Grand Entrance and charming the entire enemy team.

It will continue to be difficult to parse apart AD carry and support success, due to the current Ardent Censer priority. It is a shame that audiences are not going to be able to see Gorilla, Olleh, Mithy, Swordart and all of the other fantastic support players on play-makers. Instead, Janna, Lulu and Karma will continue to rein supreme in the bottom lane. Plays such as Wolf’s Rakan will be so much more emphasized than heals, shields and peeling.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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Standout players from the Play-in Group Stages

With the first ever “play-in” stage of Worlds concluded, we had the chance to see some exciting matches. We had upsets, stomps and everything in between this past weekend. It’s crazy to see how far some of the Wildcard regions have come. The play-in stage has added some needed experience for the lesser known regions while adding the chance for some exciting upsets as well.

The play-in stage gave some star players from the Wildcard regions a chance to show how good they really are on the international stage. Some players stepped up to the challenge, while others disappointed. Let’s take a look at some of the standouts from this weekend’s play-in stage:

Matías “WhiteLotus” Musso (Lyon gaming adc)

Whitelotus has been a staple name for the LAS region for the past few years. His team, Lyon Gaming, have been known to be mechanically good, but have been unable to show up in Wildcard tournaments in the past. Whitelotus was huge this weekend in his team being able to earn second place out of Group A. He was often on hyper-carries like Kog’maw and Xayah dishing out huge damage for his team.

In their match against WE, he was a huge part of the reason why they were able to keep up with them in the early game. Up against one of China’s best in Jin “Mystic” Sung-jun, Whitelotus held his own, and some. He put up massive stats over four games, leading all ADC’s in KDA with a massive 9.5. He also was able to dish out a high damage percentage with a whopping 35 percent. He also earned the first penta kill of Worlds against Gambit Gaming.

He has the tall task of facing Cloud 9 in a best of five. He’ll need to duplicate his performance once again for Lyon Gaming to have any chance.

Ali “Seiya” Bracamontes (Lyon Gaming mid)

Photo by: Riot Esports

The other carry from Lyon Gaming, Seiya, had quite the performance during the play-in stage as well. Him and Whitelotus made some massive plays to help carry their team to second place in Group A. He finished the play-in stage having only died twice over four games. Seiya definitely made a name for himself as he showed great performances on Syndra.

He posted an incredible 20.0 KDA to lead all mid laners while also participating in 78 percent of his team’s kills. Seiya was instrumental in their close matches against WE. He’ll need to step up even more as he faces off against Cloud 9’s Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen in their best of five.

Võ “Naul” Thành Luân (Young Generation mid)

Naul from Young Generation had quite the showing this past weekend. Personally, I hadn’t heard much of this guy coming into the tournament, but solo-killing Fnatic’s “baby Faker” is a good way to show up at an international event. Vietnam first gave us Levi and Gigabyte Marines, but they now also have Young Generation who looked quite competitive against EU’s Fnatic. This was due to the pressure provided in the made lane from Naul.

In his first match against Fnatic, he was able to put mid laner Rasmus “Caps” Winther behind as he solo-killed him while being ahead 20 cs in the lane. Naul had the second highest damage percentage for mid laners with a 34.3. He was vital in their defeat of Fnatic as he “Xpeke’d” their Nexus in the last few moments.

Juan “Contractz” Garcia (Cloud 9 Jungler)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Contractz looked like one of the best junglers in the play-in stages. This young rookie strutted his stuff during Cloud 9’s 4-0 dominance of Group B. He showed a plethora of different picks/styles bringing out the Ezreal and Nidalee. His early game playmaking helped Cloud 9 snowball into the mid-late game.

He showed no nerves up against Team One and Dire Wolves. He always seemed to be in the right place at the right time to assist his team. He finished the weekend leading junglers in total KDA with an astounding 16 while also leading in kill participation at 80 percent.

Contractz will look to ride this momentum as they take on Lyon Gaming in their best of five. If he can duplicate his last showing, there’s no reason Cloud 9 shouldn’t get a clean 3-0 sweep.

 Ege “padden” Acar Koparal (1907 Fenerbahce adc)

Photo by: Riot Esports

The ADC from 1907 Fenerbahce was huge in their team’s first place finish in Group D. His Tristana positioning was vital in his team upsetting Hong Kong Attitude in their tiebreaker match. Early he was destroyed by the Varus/Blitz combo of HKA, but when it came down to team fighting, he was there to clean up.

His team often relied on him as he dealt 36.9 percent of his team’s damage. His aggressiveness of knowing when to jump in and get resets was crucial in the late game. Fenerbahce got possibly the best group draw up against Brazil’s Team One who didn’t look impressive at all in their group. It will be interesting to see if Padden’s Tristana will draw bans going forward, because he’s looked phenomenal on her.

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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Rift Rivals day one recap: NA takes the lead

The following recap covers day one of NA versus EU in the Rift Rivals in Berlin.

TSM v G2: Learning how to play a comp

After much practice in the North American League Championship, Team SoloMid finally turned the corner on the Galio and Jarvan IV composition. Like many team comps taken from the LCK, the Galio and Jarvan IV synergy requires communication to cover the weaknesses of both champions’ ultimates.

Practice makes perfect for the TSM Galio and Jarvan IV combo. Courtesy of LoL Esports.

 

Using Galio to pressure side lanes in the early to mid game, TSM was able to lead the game by 4.4k at fifteen minutes.

TSM was still working out the kinks in their team communication with a disastrous mid game team fight around Baron. With a relatively simple game plan, “Kill the Kog’Maw”, TSM used their win condition to instead focus down G2’s tanky jungler, Rek’Sai.

The perfect combo. Courtesy of LoL Esports

 

After losing this early team fight around Baron, TSM seemed to clean up their communications with a cleanly executed team fight that utilized the strengths of their composition. This fight forced G2’s hyper carry based team comp into a position that did not allow Kog’Maw to administer his health depleting projectile vomit onto the damage dealing threats of TSM.

TSM took the victory at 41:19 leading in gold by nearly 15k, eleven towers to three and eighteen to ten kills.

FNC v P1:MIKE YEUNG! MIKE YEUNG! MIKE YEUNG! Broxah?

The early to mid game for FNC v P1 showed a Phoenix 1 that no one expected. With jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung maintaining a small gold lead through nonstop ganks, hope for North America as a region was at an all-time high.

As soon as mid game pulled around, the less than one hundred gold lead Phoenix 1 had at twenty minutes meant little to nothing. With the signature Kennen marksman split push, FNC was able to negate P1’s lead through controlled disengages and devout farming. As soon as the gold gap flipped in favor of Fnatic, Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen utilized Zac to place enemy champions onto a plate for Martin “Rekkles” Larsson’s Kennen.

 

Rift Rivals

Postgame breakdown courtesy of LoL Esports.

G2 v C9: How to lose two games in one by Cloud9

G2’s early game prowess proved that Kim “Trick” Kang Yoon is a jungler not to be doubted. With early game control over every dragon, Trick cashed in on late game insurance, while also pressuring lanes around the map. Trick’s vision control around bot side allowed for some crucial ganks and counter ganks snowballing an early lead for G2.

G2 Trick utilizes vision control to deny C9’s bot lane plays. Courtesy of LoL Esports.

Cloud9 turned things around with a crispy team fight after a pick on Renekton, allowing them to take an uncontested Baron afterward. Through clean tower taking rotations made possible through Baron buff and Tristana’s kit, Cloud9 was able to pull into the lead with one 3058 gold Baron power play.

C9 Sneaky LITERALLY recalls on a ward throwing the game once again into G2’s favor. Courtesy of LoL Esports.

C9, with a tempo advantage, looked to control the rest of the game up until the entirety of their advantage was depleted by one basic ability from Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez’s Blitzcrank. G2 saw Cloud 9’s 3k Baron power play and raised them a 4588 gold Baron power play that was aided by the five stack Elder Dragon buff. This recipe created an advantage that not even G2 was able to throw.

Rift Rivals

Postgame breakdown courtesy of Lol Esports

 

P1 v UoL: Exileh blows Flash and MikeYeung chants come back

Phoenix 1 once again secured a lead into their EU opponents, with mid-laner Ryu Sang-wook picking up three kill participation before ten minutes. However, this lead did not prevent UoL from playing proactively via a successful gank mid and a follow-up Rift Herald. Despite UoL’s Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir having an impactful early game, MikeYeung played out of his mind.

Rift Rivals

The start of a long game for UoL Exileh. Courtesy of Lol Esports

 

MikeYeung’s camp on mid lane left UoL looking for the report for intentional feeding post game for their mid laner,  Fabian “Exileh” Schubert.

Perhaps the most controlled game for Rift Rivals day one, P1 vUoL looked like a completely different team than the P1 we see in NA LCS.

FNC v C9: Contractz buys camping gear from Caps

Rasmus “Caps” Winther was not allowed to lane against the mid lane and jungle synergy that C9 brought with their Leblanc and Gragas combo. With the burning of Caps’ flash before laning phase even began, C9 looked to snowball Jensen’s Leblanc into a champion removal machine.

With gank after gank on mid lane, not all of which were done by C9’s jungler, Jensen secured eight kills by the time C9 went for their game-ending push.

Rift Rivals

Smoothie makes mid lane feel like an REI outlet. Courtesy of Lol Esports.

TSM v UoL: NA finishes strong

UoL Exileh’s tilt from Ryu’s dominance over his Ryze earlier during the day permeated through his unsuccessful Corki performance into Bjergsen’s Syndra. While UoL Vizicsacsi performed very well on Irelia into TSM’s Gnar pick, the same can not be said for the rest of UoL’s team.

Despite having a troubled laning phase, TSM Hauntzer’s Gnar pulled huge Mega Gnar ultimates, two-handedly leading TSM into a victory.

Rift Rivals

Day One completed. Here are the results. Courtesy of Lol Esports.

Bjergsen sealed the game with a beautiful Quadra kill putting NA substantially in the lead for day one of Rift Rivals at 4-2. TSM finished off Day one 2-0 and are looking for more victories in the coming days.


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All images courtesy of LoL Esports

Feature image courtesy of LoL Esports

C9’s top lane: Looking into the stats for both Ray and Impact

Many were confused when Cloud 9 announced they’d be adding a sixth man to the roster. With starting top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong coming off one of his best performances in playoffs/worlds, many didn’t see the need for a top lane sub. Jeon “Ray” Ji-won had come off an impressive rookie split with Apex where he showed flashes of potential stardom. Cloud 9 took a chance on Ray in hopes that he could add a unique playstyle to their talented roster.

With so much top talent being imported this split, things were going to be more competitive than ever. Legendary names like Flame, Ssumday and Looper would be added to the North America top lane talent. Impact and Ray would need to keep up for Cloud 9 to have any hopes of duplicating their success from previous splits.

Early days of Ray

Photo by Riot Games

In Ray’s first match with C9 he had the tall task of facing one of the best top laners in the world in Dignitas’ Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho. In a matchup of tanks Ray did well in game 1 to go even with Ssumday. The second match, he fell behind 50 CS and Cloud 9 lost. Impact was subbed in for game three in which Cloud 9 would take the series.

It started to become evident exactly when Cloud 9 would want to play Ray. Whenever the team wanted to run a carry top laner, Ray was their guy. When the team needed a tank, Impact would start. Ray’s first few games for Cloud 9 were hard to watch at times. There were times where he’d flash his brilliant mechanics and earn a solo kill. There were also times when he’d get overaggressive and die to a gank.

Watching Impact and Ray play for the team was almost night/day. Impact’s communication with the team seemed to be much more fluid. Impact had the advantage of playing a full split with the team so he knows how to communicate properly and efficiently. Ray’s English still hadn’t reached a manageable level yet, but in time you could definitely see him overtaking Impact in the near future.

Early game struggles

In all honesty, neither Impact nor Ray have looked consistently great this split. They seem to always be left on an island to fend for themselves. Either dying to ganks or going even at best. Ray will get the occasional solo kill, but it usually doesn’t amount to much. With Ssumday and Flame finally looking like the superstars they were meant to be, Impact and Ray seem to be struggling to keep up.

Looking at the stats for summer, Impact and Ray sit in the middle of the pack in KDA and both hold the last place spots for CSdiff@10, with -5.4 for Impact and -11 for Ray. Those numbers aren’t too far off from their spring stats either. Often times they’ll die to ganks in the early game due to lack of vision and over aggression.

In the mid to late, they still do a decent job of team fighting and drawing pressure. Impact and Ray are near the top when it comes to damage percentage and damage per minute among top laners. Cloud 9 as a team still struggles at times to make plays in the early game. Due to this, top lane seems to be the lane that usually takes the hit in the early game.

Looking towards Worlds

With every teams’ goal set at qualifying for Worlds, Cloud 9’s top lane duo will need to be in top form if they want to attend Worlds for another season. With teams finally hitting their strides, Cloud 9 seems to have taken a step back. Ray and Impact in particular will need to step things up if C9 will have any chance at being back at Worlds. Rift Rivals will be a huge measuring stick in terms of seeing where they stand. EU’s top teams look a little better at the moment, but nobody really knows until they face off on the rift.

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Cover photo by Riot Games

 

 

 

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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The rise of North American junglers

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

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

Photo by: Riot Esports

Why jungle?

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

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

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

Lack of NA talent in other roles

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

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

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

Looking toward the future

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

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

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


Cover photo by Riot Esports 

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