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

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

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

 

Transcript

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

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

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

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

Jared: It was in the moment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Omar: No problem.

Jared: Thank you again for taking the time!

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

Photo and video by ‘The Game Haus’ Patrick Mcd

Who will win the Gauntlet for North America?

With the first two seeds locked in for North America, there is one more that will earn their spot at Worlds through the Gauntlet. This may be the tightest race ever for the final Worlds spot. Every team in the Gauntlet have a chance to possibly make it out. Let’s take a look:

Flyquest

While Flyquest just barely avoided having to play in the relegation tournament this split, they did earn enough points from last split for a Gauntlet spot. This isn’t unfamiliar territory for them as 3/5 members were on the Cloud9 team that had to play through the Gauntlet in season five to qualify for Worlds. Not only did they qualify, they did it off back to back reverse sweeps like we’ve never seen before. There’s just something about mid laner Hai “Hai” Lam that makes you never want to count a team with him on the roster out. His leadership and shot calling ability can make even the worst rosters look like contenders.

Flyquest also has the luxury of having not played on stage in quite a while since they missed playoffs; Nobody knows what to expect from them outside of scrims. Nobody has seen them play on this patch, so they’ll have the surprise factor heading into their first game of the Gauntlet. What they choose to do with it will be the real mystery. Expect some interesting cheese picks to come out from them.

Dignitas

Photo by: Riot Esports

Dignitas heads into the Gauntlet after a nice playoff run where they upset Cloud9 in the first round before losing to TSM 3-1. They made the mid season move of taking on the bot lane of Adrian and Altec. The move has paid dividends as the team has looked much improved from their mid slump. In their series against Cloud9, they looked like the better team with Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho leading the way. Ssumday has been the solid rock for this team all year.

In their next two series of the playoffs, it looked like the team may have peaked. TSM and CLG seemed to dismantle the team effortlessly in the early game. Mid laner Lae-Young “Keane” Jang seemed to fall behind without jungle pressure. He was a weak link for the team. Without an early game lead, Dignitas looked lost on how to come back from such large deficits.

Counter Logic Gaming

Counter Logic Gaming go from zero to hero over a playoff series. On one hand, they looked shaky against EnVy and Immortals. On another, they dominated Dignitas in their third place match. It was almost a night/day performance for rookie jungler Omar “OmarGod” Amin. In their previous series he was one of the more inconsistent performers for the team, but in their third place match, he looked very comfortable. He was making plays and looked to be synergizing well with the team. Maybe they just needed time, but CLG looks to be the favorites heading into the regional qualifier for now.

Cloud9

Cloud9 had one of the easiest routes of the all the teams looking to qualify for Worlds. As long as they made it past the first round of playoffs, they’d auto qualify with circuit points if things went as expected. They did quite the opposite and now have created a much harder path to Worlds for themselves.

It’s no doubt they were clear favorites at the beginning of the year to be top contenders once again, but questionable drafts during their Dignitas series and under performing members makes us question if they can actually qualify for Worlds.

They’ve had the same issues all year it seems. No early game playmaking and relying heavily on the mid game to snowball. Even with an early lead, Cloud9 squandered their leads in their series against Dignitas.

They’ve had time to practice so hopefully they’ve figured out their issues. This hasn’t been a new trend though, it’s been the same issue all year. This team heavily relies on Jensen to carry a lot of the load. If he doesn’t snowball his lead, the team seems to struggle to find production else where.


Photo by: Riot Esports

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

Warning: Spoilers

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

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

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

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

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

The loveable Ssumday. Courtesy of LoL Esports Flikr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Side Synergy. Courtesy of LoL Esports Flikr.

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

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

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

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Thinking like a professional jungler

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

Jungle tracking

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

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

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

 

 

Repeat ganks on summoner-less champions

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

Solo-queue takeaways: Economy of opportunity

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

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

 

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

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Feature image courtesy of lolesports

Cloud9

Cloud 9 needs a change

Over the past few months, Cloud 9 has again hit their almost routine summer peak. Jake ‘Stewie2k’ Yip and the boys managed to make the finals at ESL One Cologne and were the only North American team to qualify for the major. However, if Cloud 9 wish to have sustained success, the current five-man roster they have will need some tinkering.

Leverage

Cloud9

Stewie2k at Global esports cup – via HLTV

In terms of ‘winning’ roster shuffles within your scene, your team needs to have all the leverage. The aforementioned ‘leverage’ is results. Cloud 9 have exactly that going for them right now. As I said, they were the only NA team at the major, not to mention they were one win shy of the playoffs; they also made the finals of Cologne. Cloud 9’s problems as an organization in the past have shown through, not leveraging into roster changes while they had the chance. Instead, they usually wait too long, hoping the roster they have at the time will resolve their issues. In other words, the ‘GM’ of Cloud 9 hasn’t ever really put his foot down and forced a change, but they could redeem themselves post major with some intelligent roster moves.

C9’s needs

Cloud 9 has one of the best duos in the game currently, with Stewie2k and Timothy ‘autimatic’ Ta. They are not lacking in star power, they are lacking in role players. It is possible that Jordan ‘n0thing’ Gilbert, Michael ‘shroud’ Grzesiek or Tyler ‘Skadoodle’ Latham could be moved. However, it is likely only the latter two will be removed if any change is made at all. They need a consistent, bomb site anchor, who can place themselves on the back burner for the good of the team, and play fundamental CS in after plants. The idea of a dedicated AWP player has lodged its way into their minds, but they don’t necessarily need to target one. Most famously they need an in-game leader, who can help them coordinate on both offense and defense.

Their options

Cloud9

North aizy – via theScore

The players in OpTic should be locked up tight after what happened with Peter ‘stanislaw’ Jarguz. So players from OpTic are most likely a no-go. If they could manage somehow, Will ‘RUSH’ Wierzba would be an ideal replacement for n0thing. Team Liquid’s stanislaw would be a good target, but I doubt he would be on board. CLG to me is the most obvious team to take from. C9 have made it clear they want to stay an all NA team; although, an interesting addition to their lineup would be Philip ‘aizy’ Aistrup in place of n0thing, assuming he’s on board with moving to NA. North and aizy’s future is completely undetermined, but it would be an interesting move.

Aizy brings basically everything you get from n0thing, and more. He is an inconsistent player playing an inconsistent style. Although, he has more flexibility than the 1.6 legend, as he can take a role on the back burner and still be semi-effective. It is a real long shot, unfortunately, and has less chance of happening than Gambit winning a major. Oh, I meant it has less chance of happening then the iBUYPOWER guys getting unbanned. Wow, this has been a crazy week for Counter-Strike huh.

Cloud9

Rickeh at SL i-League Season 3 – via HLTV

Terrible jokes aside, let’s take a look at CLG, and what they could give to Cloud 9. The most obvious plus right away would be Pujan ‘FNS’ Mehta. He is an in-game leader, whose style of play actually reflects that of shroud. The man can play fundamental CS, in post plants, or when soloing bomb sites. He is also willing to be the last priority of the team in terms of individual agendas. One player I think Cloud 9 should and will consider is Ricky ‘Rickeh’ Mulholland. He is really the only suitable replacement for Skadoodle within the region, despite not being from NA.

Act now or regret later

An addition of Rickeh would instantly make this team very scary to play against, even without removal of n0thing. While it is also unlikely, it would be in C9’s best interest as they seem to be committed to the idea of a dedicated AWP player. The ideal lineup for Cloud 9 in my mind would be Stewie2k, autimatic, Rickeh, RUSH and FNS.

Cloud9

Stewie2k being interviewed by NadeStack’s Ammar

If Cloud 9 try to roll with their current roster, they will almost certainly end up in the purgatory of being third, potentially even fourth best in NA, and only being able to choose players from the likes of Misfits or NRG. Think of this as a ‘letter’ to the key holders to the beaten up, old Ferrari that is Cloud 9. Stewie and autimatic, either drop that bucket of rust off at the dump or fix it up, give it a new paint job and care for it. Don’t let your vision of what this car once was blind you from what it is right now. What is it right now? It is a project, a project that needs a makeover, and soon.


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Grading CLG’s junglers since 2014

With Counter Logic Gaming currently tied for second place with the ever encroaching TSM, special attention must be paid towards the organization’s many junglers. It is without a doubt that Counter Logic Gaming has attracted some of the most skilled junglers as of late, but has this always been the case? Here we will grade the past five junglers CLG has had on the League Championship Series stage.

 

 

The turbulent CLG squad. Of this line-up, only Aphromoo would stay on the CLG we now know today. Courtesy of qz.com

Marcel “Dexter” Feldkamp (C-)

Dexter played on Counter Logic Gaming for the Spring and Summer split of 2014 before he returned to EU to play for Elements. Prior to joining CLG, Dexter had already made a name for himself in EU on teams like Lemondogs and mousesports. Dexter’s achievements on CLG would grant them a third place in the 2014 NA LCS Spring Split.

Known for his Elise play during the 2014 NA LCS Summer split, Dexter was a middle of the pack jungler for a middle of the pack CLG. His on stage performances heavily wavered from games on Elise where he would average a 5.05 KDA to games on Rengar where he would average a 1.38 KDA. Fans never knew what to expect. This is in large part due to the turmoil of tumultuous drama that brewed between each member of CLG during this high stress season. Whether Dexter was better than his on stage performances showed depends a lot on what was happening during the off stage time spent with his teammates.

 

Jake “Xmithie” Puchero (S on Immortals/ A- on CLG)

Ever since his days on Team Vulcun (XDG Gaming), Xmithie has been a staple jungler in the NA LCS. Currently on Team Immortals, Xmithie was a CLG jungler who seemed unscathed by the drama that arose from being on CLG during the peaks and troughs of previous splits. Competing in three separate world championships, Xmithie is potentially the most consistently accoladed jungler of the NA LCS.

Known as the Golden age of CLG, this lineup found great success landing a first place trophy. Courtesy of lolesports

 

Xmithie excels at play making junglers like Elise, Gragas and Lee Sin. His stats on Gragas make me question why that champion ever gets into his hands. His success on each and every team he has gone to show that he has the ability to lead a team to victory with these play making champions. As a shot caller, Xmithie clashed with other voices on CLG, but on Immortals he has found a loudspeaker for his decision making. While his KDA this season has yet to impress, his macro decision making has propelled Immortals into the first place they currently own.

 

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett (B-)

If CLG’s eagerness to find a substitute for Dardoch does not worry you as a CLG fan, then you may not be aware of  Dardoch’s track record. With one of the lowest kill participation and some unimpressive stats in general, the risk CLG took in trading away Xmithie may not have been worth it. These risks arise from Dardoch’s unstable temperament. Being known for flaming his teammates as well as being one of the most proficient Lee Sin players in the LCS, Dardoch is the number one hot button LCS player.

 

For being the LCS bad boy, he doesn’t look like too bad of a guy… Courtesy of lolesports

That being said, CLG had all this information and more when they made the trade with Immortals for Dardoch. While second place in the LCS is deserving of much praise, Dardoch’s individual performance has by no means been the variable that has placed CLG so high in the standings. Having the most deaths per game out of any jungler with over 25 games played, Dardoch’s high risk, high reward play style seems to match his personality.

 

Omar “Omargod” Amin (B?)

The jury’s still out on Omargod. In the four games he has played, Omargod has had significant impact on their victories and troublesome performances in their defeats. However, Omargod has not had the easiest time in his four game tenure. With two games against the first place Immortals, one against a very strong team Dignitas and a flawless Olaf game against FlyQuest, Omargod has played against some very strong opponents. 

While only playing two different champions in the NA LCS so far, Omargod has drawn bans on Elise, Maokai and Zac. Time will tell for Omargod, however, he appears to be performing better than his counterpart and against tougher opponents too.

 

Honorable Mentions

It is true that CLG has had several other junglers throughout the organization’s past. Of these, two come to mind: Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco and Sam “Kobe24” Hartman-Kenzler. As for Kobe, this foxy devil, would only stay in the competitive League of Legends scene for one year after retiring to join Riot’s beloved casting squad. Kobe used to be known for missing smites,

I think we can all be happy that Kobe dropped the 24 and joined the casting crew at Riot games. Courtesy of lolesports flickr.

before Saintvicious himself, and would often be mocked through the “24” meme, which became a suffix for any other jungler who missed smite. It was not until he gave up competitive League of Legends and dropped the “24” in his name, that he would pass the missing smite meme onto his replacement, Saintvicious.

Saintvicious, who is currently one of the coaches on Team Dignitas alongside his former teammate David “Cop” Roberson, has been in the League of Legends competitive scene since before his receding hairline began receding. Beginning on Team SoloMid, Saintvicious later on went to play or coach for what feels like every team in the LCS. Expect to see Saintvicious staying in the competitive League of Legends scene until his hairline no longer exists.

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The evolution of coaching in LCS

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

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

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

Early LCS

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

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

Korean coaching

Photo via Riot Games

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

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

 

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

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

Western Players’ Mindsets

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

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

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

The present

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

Cover photo by Riot Esports 

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Dreamhack Summer 2017 Preview

Dreamhack returns for their first event back in Jönköping, Sweden this weekend. With several top teams and even a newcomer to the top tier, Dreamhack Summer 2017 is going to be a platform for teams to prove themselves.

 

Group A

SK Gaming

SK Gaming coming into Dreamhack Summer are the favourites to take the title in Sweden. Recent wins at cs_summit and IEM Sydney can back this up, as well as a semifinal finish at the ESL Pro League finals last weekend.

Photo by: hltv.org

Since adding João “felps” Vasconcellos in February, SK Gaming have had a resurgence in performance. While they had two disappointing finishes at IEM Katowice and Starladder i-League Season 3 in Kiev, the team has made three finals and one semifinal. Along with this journey, a slumping Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo has been able to rise up once again and become one of the top AWPers and IGLs in the world.

With Fernando “fer” Alvarenga looking at his best recently, SK Gaming are looking to take the title in Jönköping this weekend.

mousesports

Looking their best in a very long time, mousesports could be considered one of the favourites for the event. Having star level performances from Tomáš “oskar” Šťastný and a constantly improving Robin “ropz” Kool, mouz look to be taking the title or at least a top 2 finish.

When Nikola “NiKo” Kovač left the team in February, a lot of people thought that the team would be in the dumps. After adding in oskar in the place of NiKo, mouz looked impressive. Stealing the third seed in the EU division of ESL Pro League, and then one semifinal place at DH Tours, topping that off with a quarterfinal finish at the EPL Finals in Dallas; mouz have left people with mouths wide open.

A new and improved mousesports might be the recipe for success, and could possibly lead Chris “chrisJ” de Jong and his boys to the trophy this weekend.

Immortals

Photo by: hltv.org

After two events with their new pickup, Vito “kNg” Giuseppe, Immortals look sort of lost in game. With no clear or proper leadership, and the need for constant double AWP setups, Immortals might leave Sweden with a bucket full of disappointment.

Recently, Immortals with their new lineup have attended two LAN tournaments. Getting an upset win against G2 and a win against Cloud9 at the EPL Finals, they left without a chance at playoffs. A week later they went over to the Americas Minor and ended in 2nd place, losing out to a very confident Cloud9 in the Grand Finals. You can definitely make the argument that Immortals need more time, and I personally agree that they do need more time. But in terms of form, mousesports and SK Gaming are a mile above the Immortals.

Immortals are looking to come into Dreamhack Summer to prove themselves, and to prove kNg as a player. If the team come in their top form they can easily make playoffs, and unless they do, it will be a struggle.

Singularity

Coming in as the Danish underdogs, Singularity are going into this event looking to prove themselves and show the world what they got. In a group with two out of four of the toughest teams at the event, Singularity have a long road ahead of them coming into the group stage.

Battling their way through the European qualifier, Singularity faced the rising Team123, as well as the Polish Pride Gaming. Holstering their star Allan “AnJ” Jensen, Singularity essentially out-skilled most of their opponents throughout the qualifier.

With very little experience at a high level, Singularity will have plenty of issues coming into this event. With more experience, this team could make their way to the top of tier 2, and this event could be the boost they need.

 

Group B

Gambit

The Kazakhstani powerhouse have been the best team coming out of the CIS region in 2017. With the leadership of Daniil “Zeus” Teslenko and firepower of Dauren “AdreN” Kystaubayev and Abay “HObbit” Khasenov, Gambit have soared in the rankings coming into the second half of the year.

Photo by: gambit.gg

With a win at DH Austin and a second place finish at cs_summit, Gambit have shown that they are able to go far in tournaments. Something which they struggled with at the beginning of the year. With that as well, their recent form coming into the event is probably enough to get them to second place or even a win at Dreamhack Summer.

In the group stage, Gambit should have no problems. They’ve shown they’re well above Cloud9 and CLG in terms of skill, although they did lose to CLG at Starladder. Fnatic may be the only team to give them problems, and even then they’re a favourite in that matchup.

Fnatic

With the home field advantage, Fnatic are looking to come in swinging when they show up on stage. After narrowly going out in groups at EPL Dallas, fnatic are going to come back and they’ll surely be ready to attack.

With a legendary lineup, arguably the best in all of CS:GO, Fnatic reformed after the ELEAGUE Major. Since then, they’ve had some pretty disappointing results. Only making playoffs at one out of four of the $250k+ tournaments they attended. While Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer has made a comeback in his performance, Fnatic as a whole have been a let down. Many looked to them as possible contenders for the number one spot, but they seem to be barely breaking in to the top 10.

With all that being said, Fnatic are in their own country. They’ll have the crowd and confidence on their side. While they should make playoffs, it’s hard to say if they could go any further.

Cloud9

Cloud9 have been the face of disappointment since their win at the ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals in October of last year. They’ve failed to make it out of groups at any big tournament, as well as failing to qualify for the ELEAGUE Major.

Carrying the same lineup, Cloud9 have refused to make any much needed changes. Mike “shroud” Grzesiek has been under-performing immensely since the EPL Finals. With a recently rising Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham, Cloud9 have failed to do anything significant other than winning the Americas Minor this past weekend. While many still say that Cloud9 are the best team in North America, they’re still very far from any meaningful ranking worldwide.

Although coming off steaming hot from their performance at the minor, Cloud9 have very little to show for what they can do at Dreamhack Summer. There is a small chance that Cloud9 could make it to the playoffs, but it’s a very slim one.

Counter Logic Gaming

CLG have been steadily rising since bringing back Pujan “FNS” Mehta into their lineup. With much needed leadership, the team was able to make their mark on the international scene and make their name something to talk positive about again.

Photo by: hltv.org

Bringing in Ricky “Rickeh” Mulholland brought in some much needed firepower. With Rickeh being one of the most consistent players on the team, Kenneth “Koosta” Suen slowly rose up as the team’s star player, finally living up to his potential as a top tier AWPer. While not having much experience aside from Starladder, he showed at the tournament why he can be considered one of the best AWPers in NA, if not the best.

CLG have nothing to lose and everything to win coming into Dreamhack Summer. If the right cards are played, we could definitely see CLG in the playoffs.

Featured image by: Dreamhack

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Does Team Liquid Deserve Their LCS Spot?

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

 

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

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

 

 

Team 0-2

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

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

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

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

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

 

Liquid Without the Team Part

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

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Featured Image Courtesy of lolesports flickr

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

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

 

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