The Echo Fox Team

Keeping the faith: Echo Fox, Dardoch and the case for second chances

The path of Echo Fox

When Echo Fox joined the NA LCS prior to the 2016 Spring Split, the expectations and excitement were high. Purchasing the spot from Gravity, former NBA Star and actor Rick Fox wasted no time. He invested quickly and heavily in foreign talent, but due to Visa issues among other things, Echo Fox ended their first split in 7th place. By the end of that year, they found themselves facing NRG Esports in a best of five series for the right to stay in the NA LCS. Though they avoided relegation, they ended both 2017 Splits in 8th place. By the start of 2018, they had a completely new roster. Now, sitting atop the NA LCS at 7-1, they have defied critics with a roster full of second chances.

 

Dardoch and Echo Fox

Courtesy of LoL Esports

 

Dardoch

The signing of Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett to yet another team was one of the most talked about stories this preseason. Since signing with AffNity in 2014, he played for no less than nine teams before finally landing with Echo Fox. The year he spent with Team Liquid was his longest stint in one place. During that time he bounced between being a starter, a substitute and a member of their Academy team.  

A mechanically talented player, the cause of his frequent moves was not because of poor performance. Instead, most were due to personal differences with other members of the organizations. Before long, this understandably earned him the reputation of being hard to work with. Other than Team Liquid, each team that signed him found a replacement within six months. He represented Immortals, Counter Logic Gaming and even found his way back into a Team Liquid uniform for a split before being signed by Echo Fox.

Now, it seems that he has figured out whatever issues he had with teams in the past. Dardoch has built a rapport with his team that is not just built on his talent, but also his presence as a teammate. Additionally, he has excelled on the rift with his current team, and is looking more dominant than ever. Adding improved decision-making and pathing to his already impressive mechanics, he leads both the NA and EU LCS junglers by a margin of over 20 assists after only four weeks of play.

 

A common theme

Though he may be the most well known example, Dardoch’s story isn’t exactly unique on the Echo Fox roster.  ADC Johnny “Altec” Ru has played for 11 different teams since 2014, including three stints as a substitute. Support Adrian “Adrian” Ma has worn six different jerseys in the NA LCS. Three of these came last season when he left Phoenix 1 due to internal issues, spent one month with Team Liquid, and then landed with Team Dignitas. Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun spent last year as the mid lane substitute for Gold Coin United. This NA Challenger Series team finished in second place, but failed to secure a promotion to the LCS. Even Top Laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon, who has the most consistent history of the group, has been a member of four teams in three different leagues over the last four years. SKT T1 released Huni after they failed to win the World Championship last year.

Though all well known players, it’s safe to say that not many would pick this roster to lead the NA LCS. Despite their history, however, the team has come together to earn a top spot, tied for first with Cloud9. One possible reason for this is maturity. Dardoch bounced between all of those teams and earned this reputation for being difficult all before his 19th birthday. Fenix is the only member over 20 at the ripe old age of 22. One can hardly blame players for struggling to navigate relationships and team politics perfectly at such a young age. As these players have grown, the sport has grown as well, and each year the infrastructure is improved to help the athletes succeed. In an esport dominated by younger and younger players, there may be something to be said for those who have earned experience and the level head that comes with it.

Echo Fox

Courtesy of LoL Esports

 

Supporting success

Another factor that should not be overlooked is the organization itself. With Fox’s experience in the NBA, three time NBA Champion Jared Jeffries as the new President, and the recent investment by the New York Yankees, Echo Fox approaches player management from a more traditional manner than most epsorts teams. They create an infrastructure that focuses on the development of the members as people as well as players. Along with this, they have a broad range of experience with players of varying egos and personalities.

Though his background is in traditional sports, Rick Fox has jumped into the esports scene with both feet. He is one of the most vocal supporters of not only his team, but esports in general. After their recent victory against Team Liquid, Dardoch referenced this support in a post game interview with LoL Esports. “I mean, it obviously helps a lot just having people in general…just being there to support us every day.” he said, referencing Rick waving from the crowd. “Stratton comes out, Jared Jeffries comes out, our President. And also Rick Fox comes out very often, so, just seeing them at work every day, and also them to show up on the days that matter most helps us a lot.”

Whatever the key ingredient is, it’s clear that it’s working. They have lost only one game this split to the veterans of CLG. Despite many critics’ predictions, they bounced back the next game just as strong as before. If they can keep succeeding, the members of Echo Fox may have finally found a permanent home and lasting success.

 

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Featured image courtesy of LoL Esports

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett on their victory over TSM, onstage intensity and words for MikeYeung

“I genuinely feel like I have a long term home here. I really love playing with my teammates.” – Dardoch on Echo Fox

Parqueso – What are the comms like when it gets into these really late game teamfights? How do you keep calm, how do you keep your composure? Especially as the only one who can get into the backline.

Dardoch – “Well I wouldn’t necessarily say I kept composure during the game. *laughs* I was screaming a lot, and I was really intense… Every time I would engage, I was screaming who I was going for. Like, “Kill Bjergsen! Please kill Malzahar, kill Ez!” That kind of stuff. But overall, when everything calms down and we need to talk about strategy, like after the teamfight disperses and we are clearing waves, everyone is really calmed down and we just get the concise plan out.”

Image provided by Riot Games

P – Everyone talks about 100 Thieves showing up and proving to not just be “pretenders,” but what about you guys on EchoFox? People talk about how you seem to have potential, but could easily fall apart. Any response to that?

D – “I wouldn’t say we have solidified ourselves as a top team yet but we are definitely on the right track. And I think if we have a couple more strong performances, we will definitely solidify ourselves as a top team.”

P – Does the memeing and flame from the community or whomever propel you forward or is it just something you want to die off?

D – “It is something I just wish would die off, but really I am numb to that banter already. It’s been going on for so long, but I know what is going on inside my organization and I know how my teammates feel about me, and I’m really happy about how they feel about me and our relationships. So I don’t really care about the public’s wrong perception of me.”

P – You present as a very emotional player, and I’d say a number of LCS pros are – you can just see the passion when they play. How do you use that emotion? And is it something you actually think about, or does it just exist?

D – “It’s 100% natural onstage. My adrenaline pumps so much in these really high intensity games, when it’s almost entirely on me to get the engage – especially in that game when legitimately no one else on the team could engage the fight – every time it goes correctly, my heart is just racing. It’s so fun! It’s really an awesome experience playing onstage.”

Image provided by Riot Games

P – What changes do you expect to happen in the jungle in competitive play going into patch 8.2?

D – “I mean, we are going to see a lot of Nunu bans. That is probably one of the dumbest balance changes I have ever seen come out of Riot games and it is just actually baffling that they haven’t reverted it yet. And I hope that is the quote of this interview, because it is absolutely ridiculous. It is absolutely ridiculous for them to buff Nunu that absurdly. The champion needs a rework. He is just boring. He needs a rework he doesn’t need a buff. I just needed to say my 2 cents on Nunu. But I think most changes are just from lane matchups. Targons gone from adcs, spellthief’s gone from other laners and junglers. We’ll see the most change in [lanes] due to the change in targeted spells changing minion aggro.”

P – Lastly, I’m starting up a segment called Everyone Else is Trash, where I encourage players to engage in some friendly banter with their opponents. Do you have anything fun you’d like to add?

D – “I actually don’t really want to bm, but I could give some words of encouragement to MikeYeung. Just directly to Mike, ‘Mike I think you’re a really good player and I think you have a lot of potential. You’re going to get a lot of hate because you are on TSM and you’re losing. But just keep your head down and keep working. You have really good players around you, and I think you guys will be fine.’”

Wholesome Dardoch provided by Riot Games

 



Thanks for reading! Shoutout to @Dardochlol for being an amazing interviewee. Stay tuned here for more interviews and content! If you’d like to contact me, go ahead and tweet @parkeso. For pictures and stories, follow my Insta @parqueso. If you’re not big into social media, email me at parkesotwo@gmail.com. =)

Fox Dardoch

Dardoch on Free Agency: ‘I didn’t really have many other options’

Echo Fox debuted their revamped roster this past weekend, premiering their veteran-laden lineup as they begin gunning for their organization’s first playoff berth.

Labeled by some as North America’s biggest boom-or-bust team, the new Foxes swept their opening weekend with convincing wins over FlyQuest and Clutch Gaming, comforting Echo Fox fans heading into Week 2. And with games against Cloud9 (2-0) and TSM (2-0) on the docket, this team will certainly have a chance to prove themselves again this weekend.

Anyways, following their opening victory, we had the opportunity to sit down with Echo Fox jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett.

First off, congratulations on your first win. What do you feel made it such a one-sided victory?

“First, our coach Inero and our assistant coach Thinkcard set us up with a really great draft. And everyone felt really confident going into the game, so that definitely helped us play well. Other than that, I think FlyQuest just kinda let us play to our team comp’s win condition and they didn’t really contest us in places they needed to so we just kinda got to do what we wanted to do, and we won.”

What were your thoughts on AnDa’s debut?

“It’s kind of hard to tell because they were pretty outclassed as a team it seemed, so not much to gain from it. I don’t know yet.”

Dardoch fans

Echo Fox is Dardoch’s fourth team since the beginning of 2017. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

So you picked Echo Fox this offseason, why them over other teams?

“For me personally, I didn’t really have many other options. So, I signed with Echo Fox only knowing Fenix was on the roster and I just kinda trusted them. With the names that they gave me and the options that we had, I felt pretty comfortable signing, so I just did.”

Have you noticed a difference in Huni since his time on SK Telecom?

“Well, he’s definitely a lot better than he was previously. Even though he was already an overwhelming individual player on Immortals. After his year on SKT, he just became a lot more composed and he’s actually a very good leader.”

In terms of your character, do you feel like you have something to prove to people outside of your team?
fox dardoch

Despite his talent, his behavior as a teammate has always been called into question. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

“I don’t feel like I have anything to prove to anyone outside of my organization but I know if I act the way I act my teammates will speak the truth about me. And eventually the word will get out that I’m not this toxic entity.”

No doubt in this team’s talent. You’ve got Huni, yourself and you’ve all played in LCS for quite some time. What do you feel like you guys need to do to unseat the favorites like TSM or TL?

“I think all we need to do is keep practicing as hard as we do and keep the communication line flowing. I think we’re a really creative bunch who aren’t scared to make plays, so I think we can easily dethrone TSM, TL, whoever the top teams will be by the end of the season if we keep our practice up.”

 

Featured image: Riot Games

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Coach Inero addresses Echo Fox’s off-season and Spring Split expectations

LCS fans and analysts are having difficulty placing Echo Fox in their power rankings following the off-season in North America. Many outlets hesitate to place FOX high on their list, citing reasons like “asking [these] players to work together…raises a lot of questions,” “we just don’t see them having good synergy,” “somebody needs to step up and keep the team together when the going gets tough,” and “negative feelings about this organization.” No one is denying the potential prowess of Huni, Dardoch, Fenix, Altec or Adrian. Everyone is unsure of their abilities to cooperate, or that Echo Fox is the organization to manage them.

On Tuesday, January 16, Echo Fox hosted a Roster Day “to familiarize professionals…with those involved in Echo Fox.” The organization invited journalists and other media to interview members of the FOX family, including players, coaches and executives. Many of these interviews involved asking questions about Dardoch’s past issues and public perception. However, every member interviewed downplayed any current negativity, and promoted him as reformed.

Strangely enough, no one has mentioned Echo Fox’s coach, Nick “Inero” Smith, who has been with the organization since May 2017. He coached the LCS team to an eighth place finish last Summer Split, and oversaw team construction in the off-season. It will be his responsibility to weave FOX’s team members together in 2018. Here are his thoughts on the off-season and Spring Split of NA LCS.

Inero is the head coach for Echo Fox in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

the Off-season

Question: What was Echo Fox’s philosophy for building a roster in the off-season?

“Going into the off-season, our plan for the LCS was to create as competitive a roster as possible. Alongside this, we wanted that roster to be young and committed to us for the long-term. Making sure those players that were all committed to the same goal of being a top team was extremely important, and we believe we’ve acquired the best five possible for this. For academy, we took a similar approach but pulled players from our own scouting boot camps.”

Question: Echo Fox brought on an entirely new roster for 2018. How much of that change came from Echo Fox scrapping everything and starting fresh, versus the previous players deciding to find other options? 

“Our main objective was to have a roster that all were aligned towards the same goal, while also being as competitive as possible. We didn’t go into the off-season wanting to completely redo the entire roster, but when rosters begin moving it happens very quickly and we must be completely certain that all the players we sign are ready and willing to commit to those same goals.”

Inero is the head coach of Echo Fox for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Coach Inero stressed that Echo Fox’s main objectives for roster-building in the off-season were competition and alignment. He wants players that will be able to play at the top level of League of Legends. He also wants players that can come together and build their synergy around wanting to succeed. Fans will look at Echo Fox’s roster for Spring Split and see all competitive players. None of them are talentless. And the big synergy question comes down to hunger for victory. Inero is betting that ferocity will bring these individuals together into a functional unit.

The Spring Split

Question: How do you plan on managing the dominant personalities joining Echo Fox, in-game and out-of-game?

“I don’t think the personalities on this roster are as dominating or conflicting as people make them out to be. Public perception of the players on our LCS roster is overall pretty negative, but it mainly comes from people who have never worked or interacted with them before. Having five players that all want the same thing makes everyone’s lives a lot easier, and everyone is extremely cooperative with one another. For the coaching staff, this means we can all focus on becoming NA LCS champions, rather than trying to motivate the players to want the same thing.”

Question: With that in mind, what are your expectations for your LCS and Academy rosters in Spring Split? 

“I have really high expectations for our LCS roster over the course of this year, but as a step-goal for the Spring Split, we’d like to bring the organization to the playoffs for the first time in their history. Every other team under Echo Fox is performing at the top of their league, and it’s time for us to do the same. I fully expect that we’ll go further than just reaching the playoffs, but also reaching playoffs is a decent start. For academy, it’s tough to say, with every academy team taking different approaches to the league, but I have full confidence in all five players and Peter to be in the top half of their league as well.”

Dardoch and Adrian join Echo Fox in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Just like Dardoch and other team members denied any clashing of personalities, Coach Inero assuages the community’s fears. This is powerful, coming from the coach who oversees everything. Inero describes FOX’s roster as “cooperative,” not something you will find in any power rankings. He believes Echo Fox can realistically make playoffs for the first time since its induction to the LCS. This would be a landmark win for the organization, and it would prove doubters wrong.

With the return of best-of-ones and new organizations entering the LCS, it is impossible to predict this split. But if Echo Fox is able to become a contender in the NA LCS, then Inero should be given credit. There has been so much dissent towards Echo Fox in the past, and towards the current roster in the off-season. If Inero is able to align these players, then he should earn massive props from the community.

credits

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

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Is Echo Fox the biggest sleeper team?

It’s no doubt that when Echo Fox’s roster was announced, the biggest critique would be their clash of personalities. Echo Fox gutted their roster from last split in favor of bringing in young talented players among the scene. Just about every player was known as a rising young star at some point before failing to ever meet their potential.

With these questions being raised, many are ranking Echo Fox in the lower half of pre-season power rankings. The team seemed to have built off raw talent without regards to the problems that could arise.

Echo Fox has a lot of synergy questions to answer heading into the split. While this team on paper has a lot of talent, egos could clash if the team doesn’t perform well early.

New Year, New Dardoch?

Jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett alone is already on his fourth team in his young career. Fans were given an inside look into the life of Team Liquid in the HTC documentary, “Breaking Point,” where Dardoch was at the center of many clashes with teammates and coaching staff.

Last year Immortals granted Dardoch a three year contract, but Dardoch didn’t even last his entire first year before being transferred. In his departure video, it could be seen that Dardoch hadn’t changed much from his Team Liquid days. He was shown still clashing with teammates and coaching staff and Immortals traded him to Counter Logic Gaming after the Spring Split.

With CLG, not much was known to fans about why Dardoch would eventually be replaced. He felt betrayed when the team brought in Omar “Omargod” Amin to split scrims with him. After Omargod was brought in Dardoch felt the need to leave the team and would eventually be transferred back to Team Liquid.

Dardoch has a new chance with Echo Fox to prove that he has matured and can succeed in this league. This may be his last chance as many teams may not be willing to give him another chance if he can’t fix his attitude issues.

Adrian and Altec Stay Together

Photo by: Riot Esports

Echo Fox’s bot lane duo of Johnny “Altec” Ru and Adrian “Adrian” Ma come over after a brief stint on Dignitas. With Dignitas, they instantly made the team better as Dignitas was able to upset Cloud 9 in the first round of playoffs before losing to TSM in the next round. Altec and Adrian were a large part of Dignitas’ improvement.

On Echo Fox, they’ll have the benefit of having played together before. Adrian has had attitude issues on other teams as well. Most recently, on Phoenix1, he was quick to point out Inori’s flaws in an interview. This would eventually lead to Adrian being transferred off of Phoenix1.

Both Altec and Adrian were heralded as rising young stars early in their careers. Neither of them have been able to qualify for a world championship, despite being on some talented rosters. The added synergy from playing together will definitely help in developing Echo Fox’s synergy.

Huni’s Return

The biggest acquisition for this team might be in the top lane with former SKT top laner, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon. Huni had the experience of playing in the most competitive region in the world last year. He failed to win the World Championship with SKT, but his mechanical skill was still seen through his play.

When he played in EU and NA many critiqued his inability to play tank champions. With SKT, he showed the ability to play both tanks and carry champions. He’s always had a positive and fun attitude towards the game in interviews. He gives a bright and positive attitude to a roster that may need it.

Many will remember his great regular season performances in North America the last time he was here with Immortals. If he can duplicate that same success, Echo Fox could be surprise contenders at the end of the split.

With nobody really talking about them at the moment, Echo Fox has the chance to finally have a successful split in the LCS with this new roster.

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Cover Photo by Trends Map

Burning 5: LCS questions following roster mania

If you blinked, you may have been lapped by the quickest roster shuffle since the inception of the North American LCS.

It all unfolded quickly. Big names swapping teams, European stars plucked from over the Atlantic and near-blank checks were passed around to the region’s most talented players. With charter membership finally kicking off, roster building became an arms race that could have been missed in the blink of an eye.

Anyways, despite the snappy moves and high-prized free agents, questions remain.

What does Meteos have left in the tank?

LCS roster

Photo courtesy of Riot Games

On one hand, adding a popular two-time LCS champion to an organization in its infancy seems like a no-brainer.

On the other, it’s been a long minute since former Cloud9 star William “Meteos” Hartman has shown the willingness to be a long-term LCS starter.

Recently, he’s been more of a flash in the pan for teams in transition. Cloud9 penciled him back in mid-season for a run that culminated with a berth to the 2016 World Championship before he resurfaced the following spring jungling for Phoenix1. His time on P1 was flashy, brief and he made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t willing to commit long-term to professional play. And after a few forgetful performances, he was supplanted by then-rookie Mike Yeung.

While there is little question he is capable of being a rock for this star-studded 100 Thieves lineup, the comfortable life of a Twitch streamer and Gunnars spokesman will always loom around the corner for a jungler who hasn’t competed for an entire season since 2014.

What can we expect out of MikeYeung?

LCS roster

Photo courtesy of Riot Games

In a perfect world, Mike Yeung isn’t the one to take the mantle of Team SoloMid’s jungler; but absorbing the proven bottom lane of Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Rodríguez was too good of an opportunity to pass on.

The young jungle main is quickly moving onto the biggest stage in Western League of Legends with little experience and heavy expectations. His four teammates have enough hardware to share and have all come together to perform on the international stage.

While he’s put together some nice highlights on the rift, the expectations to perform at the highest level with one of the best Western teams ever assembled won’t be easy. It’s international success or bust and plenty of that pressure rests on the shoulders of a flashy, but largely-unproven player.

How will CLG carry on without aphromoo?

LCS roster

Photo courtesy of Riot Games

The parting of Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black from Counter Logic Gaming is the biggest loss of the off-season no matter how you slice it.

The anchor for an organization plagued by years of instability, failures and 17-page manifestos, aphromoo not only became synonymous with CLG’s branding, but became their in-game leader as they won back-to-back LCS titles, twice qualified for Worlds and clawed their way to a runner-up finish at the 2016 Mid-Season Invitational. With a resume rivaled by few, his cool vibe and team-oriented approach were instrumental for CLG’s renaissance.

The move to former TSM support and three-time LCS champion Vincent “Biofrost” Wang isn’t necessarily a downgrade on the surface, but as we’ve seen from plenty of teams, you can never put a price on leadership.

Life without aphro will be a big transition. It’ll be interesting to see if Biofrost, new jungler Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin and incumbent CLG members can fill that void.

Does Dardoch finally get it?

LCS roster

Photo courtesy of Riot Games

Rick Fox and company put together quite the boom-or-bust roster with the most boom-or-bust personality at jungle.

Joshua “Dardoch” Harnett has never been short of raw talent or passion, which we’ve known since his promotion to Team Liquid’s starting jungle position in 2016. Overshadowing his will, however, has always been the path of destruction his attitude has left along the way.

A year after Team Liquid’s infamous Breaking Point, the documentary that centered around the season-long stare down between Dardoch and then-coach Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-seop, the 19-year-old jungler is coming off a season where his attitude bounced him between three different organizations. And like his previous stops, he’s once again acknowledged his attitude problems weighed down his teams and seems determined to fix them.

“It has to get to a point where there’s a common denominator in all these teams,” he stated in his exit video with Team Liquid posted just over a month ago.

The acquisition of Dardoch is a risky move for a risky lineup, but if he can finally get it together, this team will be ready to compete for a title. If problems persist, it’ll be interesting to see what doors remain open for the controversial star.

Can we trust the Golden Guardians’ process?

LCS roster

Photo courtesy of Riot Games

Yeah, we know. The “trust the process” slogan is latched onto the LCS-exiled Philadelphia 76ers, but the Golden Stare Warriors-owned esports franchise is putting faith in the future.

Behind mid laner Hai “Hai” Lam are four players young, talented and local to North America. In fact, they’re the only team to recruit zero imports, while the rest of the league is carrying the maximum of two, regulated by the Interregional Movement Policy.

Known for his in-game leadership, the 25-year-old has tasked himself to help build a team organically for the long-term, akin to their NBA-counterpart. The Warriors have been perennial title contenders after stockpiling and developing talent over years. It’ll be fun to watch their esports division attempt to emulate their long and successful plan of action.

Featured image: Riot Games

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NA LCS: Sleeper teams

With teams announcing their new rosters, this has to be the most active off-season to date. No one was a sure thing, with franchising bringing new teams into the league. With some teams not making it in, it left many players as free agents ready to be picked up. With new teams entering the scene some interesting rosters have come about. Here are a few of my sleeper teams heading into the new season.

100 Thieves

Roster: 

Top: Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho

Jungle: William “Meteos” Hartman

Mid: Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook

ADC: Cody “Cody Sun” Sun (Rumored)

Support: Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black

Head Coach: Neil “pr0lly” Hammad

It looks like Pr0lly was given the lead to construct the roster as he pleased and he did an excellent job. Not only is each player individually talented, but their styles look like they could mesh really well together in game.

Adding a personality like Pr0lly already adds some good PR starting off for a new organization. Pr0lly has experience playing in LCS during his time on Complexity, as well as coaching in EU LCS with H2K. Being able to get a star top laner like Ssumday who has shown the beastly mechanics is definitely a success.

Ryu comes in after a struggling Summer Split with Phoenix1. He’s hoping to revitalize his career by reuniting with coach Pr0lly. Pr0lly noted in an interview with Travis Gafford that Ryu has a loud voice that can sometimes distract from focusing on his own play. Bringing in Aphromoo to shot-call for the team takes a lot of weight off Ryu’s shoulders to let him focus on his own gameplay.

With every member officially announced aside from ADC, Cody Sun looks to be the obvious choice. Ryu and Ssumday take up their import slots so if it isn’t Cody Sun, it would mean bringing in a fresh North American rookie. Cody Sun would be a nice added piece after a decent rookie split on Immortals. He showed flashes of greatness at times last year and under the tutelage of a veteran support like Aphromoo, could really begin to shine. If everything works out, 100 Thieves could be a top 2-4 team heading into Spring.

Clutch Gaming

Top: Colin “Solo” Earnest 

Jungle: Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo

Mid: Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten

ADC: Apollo “Apollo” Price

Support: Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent 

Head Coach:David Lim

Photo by: Riot Games

Another NBA team heading into the NA LCS is Clutch Gaming. Clutch Gaming basically took most of Team EnVyUs and replaced their solo laners. EnVyUs didn’t look terrible last split, making their way into the quarterfinals of playoffs. Clutch Gaming picked up most of the core of their team in Lira, Apollo and Hakuho. David Lim heads the team after spending much time on Liquid. His coaching stint never really worked out, but Team Liquid also didn’t have the best roster.

LirA made a name for himself as one of the best junglers in North America despite being on an average team. Many players praised LirA for his aggressive play style and unpredictable pathing almost solo carrying some games. Apollo and Hakuho developed into a formidable duo who were 2v2’ing some of the best bot lanes in North America. Apollo will never be a flashy ADC, but he’s consistent with his play style and can pop off some games.

The acquisition of Febiven in the mid lane is huge as he comes off a year where he revitalized his career on H2K. Febiven looked great once again, looking like his rookie form with Fnatic. The biggest question mark will be in the top lane with rookie, Solo. Solo has been a longtime Challenger Series player who hasn’t been able to crack into the LCS until now. While he’s looked decent in the Challenger Series, he’s looked average for the most part when it came to going against LCS competition. If he can develop into a decent LCS caliber top laner, Clutch Gaming could definitely surprise a lot of people.

Echo Fox

Top: Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon (Pursuing)

Jungle: Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett

Mid: Kim “FeniX” Jae-hun

ADC: Johnny “Altec” Ru

Support: Adrian “Adrian” Ma

Head Coach: Coach: Nick “Inero” Smith

Photo by: Riot Games

Echo Fox brought in possibly one of the most high risk, high reward rosters of the off-season. From an attitude standpoint, things could internally implode if things don’t work out early.

Everyone knows the Dardoch story. A highly skilled jungler with all the mechanics you’d want from a rising young rookie. We saw first hand with his time on Team Liquid how he is as a teammate and player. Being kicked off Immortals and Counter Logic Gaming has to make you question if he can ever get his act together. Time and time again he has had his chances. This may be his last shot under Echo Fox. He reunites with former Team Liquid mid laner, Fenix, who spent time in the Challenger Series this past year.

Fenix has shown good laning mechanics, but fails to translate his laning success in a team sense. He can lane with some of the best mid laners, but can he truly mesh with the team around him to make his team succeed.

In the bot lane, Adrian and Altec stay together from Dignitas. Dignitas looked like a strong team who could possibly make a strong run at Worlds towards the end of summer. Things seemed to have imploded as the team lost their synergy. Adrian in particular has been noted to have attitude problems during his time on Team Impulse and Phoenix1.

If this team can find the perfect chemistry to be able to succeed, they could definitely be top contenders. If things don’t work out, this team could fall apart very fast.

 

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Thanksgiving Free Agents: League of Legends Edition

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

Corn “Froggen”

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

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

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

Prediction: OpTic

Cranberry Sauce “PowerOfEvil”

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

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

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

Prediction: FlyQuest

Sweet Potatoes “LemonNation”

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

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

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

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Green Bean Casserole “Meteos”

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

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

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

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Biscuit/Corn Bread/Rolls “Febiven”

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

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

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

Prediction: Golden Guardians

Stuffing “Ignar”

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

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

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

Prediction: OpTic Gaming

Gravy “Aphromoo”

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

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

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

Prediction: CLG

Mashed Potatoes “Ssumday”

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

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

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

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Pumpkin Pie “MikeYeung”

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

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

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

Prediction: TSM

Turkey “Peanut”

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

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

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

Prediction: CLG

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

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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Featured image courtesy of lolesports Flickr

Can a new team break into Worlds for North America?

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

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

Immortals

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

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

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

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

Dignitas

Worlds

Photo via Riot Games

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

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

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

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

Phoenix1

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

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

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

Worlds

Photo via Riot Games

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

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Cover photo by Riot Games