The resurgence of Dignitas

What a journey it’s been for team Dignitas. With high hopes and big name Korean imports Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun, the team looked lost. They had just bought their way back into LCS and on paper, looked like a top team. The coaching and team synergy was way off though and they were barely able to sneak into playoffs for Spring. They started off Summer hot but soon fizzled out back to their former selves. A few changes throughout the team have helped along the way. Let’s take a look:

Changing up the Coaching staff

Dignitas started spring with Korean coaches Kim Jeong-soo and Park Jae-seok. A surprise to many, their coaching really wasn’t helpful for Dignitas at all. As they were watching their spring split hopes wash away, they decided to bring in a familiar face in David “Cop” Roberson. Cop coached many of the former APEX squad during their first run at LCS. Dignitas was able to finish the second half of Spring strong enough to garner a playoff spot.

This split they brought in another familiar face in Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco. Saintvicious has been involved in pro League of Legends for awhile now and also worked with the team when they were APEX gaming.

It was obvious under the Korean coaches the team did not know how to communicate effectively. They could often get decent early leads, but had no idea how to snowball games. With the induction of Cop in spring the team looked revitalized and were taking wins off some of the better teams in the league. They began to struggle mid split of Summer, but a few roster changes turned their season around.

Roster changes

One of the big changes over summer was letting go of Chaser as the starting jungler in favor of Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon. Shrimp played with the team on APEX and just seemed to mesh better with the team stylistically. His Nunu play in their quarterfinals match against Cloud 9 was huge in helping them secure a semi-finals spot.

Shrimp is similar to Xmithie as he’s a selfless jungler who is good at tracking the enemy jungler and providing good vision for his laners. He has the second highest kill participation in the league for junglers which speaks volumes to how active he is for his team. In a meta of tanks, Shrimp is quite comfortable and can even pull out the Nunu to enable ADC Johnny “Altec” Ru to carry even harder.

Altec and Adrian

photo via riot esports

In the bot lane we had the induction of Altec and Adrian “Adrian” Ma into the starting lineup. With a history of issues on other teams, Adrian is stepping up huge for Dignitas this split. He’s shown that he can play more than just his signature Soraka, with he and Altec contending to be one of the better bot lanes this split. Many questioned Altec’s decision to leave Flyquest for Dignitas where he wouldn’t even be guaranteed a starting spot. After he and Adrian were subbed in the team hasn’t looked back.

Altec has looked like a complete monster on this team. He finished 3rd in CS diff@10 and 2nd in DMG%. He’s shown some great plays on meta picks such as Sivir and Tristana. Him and Adrian have developed into one of the best bot lanes in NALCS. TSM is next on their list of upsets.

Dignitas looked great in their 3-1 victory over Cloud 9 yesterday. This only makes their match with TSM more interesting as they’ve held a great record against them during the regular season. If they are able to pull off the upset, who’s to say they aren’t good enough to compete for a championship?

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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Dignitas

Team Dignitas’ rise to the top

This split has been a roller coaster for Team Dignitas. Initially playing with a top-heavy map DIG came out of the gates strong this summer, but suffered through a mid-season slump. However, after the recent roster swaps the team has begun to surge forward again. Moving into the playoffs they still have to square off against IMT and CLG. Dignitas has proven themselves up to the challenge with a convincing 2-0 win over TSM on Saturday and a close 2-1 loss to C9 yesterday.

As a result, Team Dignitas for the first time since early season three is considered a top team in North America. Long gone are the days of baron tosses and being a middle of the pack team. Instead DIG has the second highest baron control in the LCS and in the last two weeks have been utterly crushing opponents with snowball comps.

The Landscape

Dignitas

Photo Via Lol esports Flickr

The LCS is in utter upheaval. It feels like EU LCS in season three and four: everyone can beat anyone else. There are only two weeks remaining in season before playoffs begin and seeding for the tournament is still up in the air. A rift has opened between the top six teams and the bottom four teams. The teams that will participate in the playoffs are likely locked in, but the gap isn’t insurmountable though. An undefeated run from any of the bottom four teams has the potential to put them in the playoffs.

Team Dignitas is in prime position to take advantage of this upheaval. They are resting in fourth place and have won three of their last four games. They have a chance to ride this winning run to a bye in the playoffs. Winning out will give them a 12-6 record and, assuming CLG or IMT drop a game, tied for second. DIG winning out means a win against both teams, which would tie up the head to head against each team. This means it would come down to game Win/Loss record for who is seeded higher.

At the very least DIG will make playoffs. Even with a 1-3 record in the last two weeks DIG would sit at sixth place. However, it seems unlikely that DIG will drop more than two sets in the next two weeks. The other teams they face off against, other than the aforementioned CLG and IMT, are Echo Fox and Team Liquid. Each series is DIG favored, despite TL coming off an impressive 2-0 week.

The Players

Dignitas

Photo Via Lol esports Flickr

The reason Dignitas finds themselves in this fortuitous position is because of the recent roster swap. The team was slumping because the only threat was coming from Ssumday in the top lane. He was able to carry them through the first few weeks, but teams eventually realized that they just needed to shut him down in order to win.

Now though with Altec and Adrian coming in for Lod and Big, the bot lane has become a threat. This has opened up the map for DIG in the sense that they can play through any lane. If a team focuses too much on shutting down Ssumday, DIG can channel resources to their bot lane and win from there. If a team doesn’t focus on Ssumday he’s able to snowball and carry the game.

A threat in the bottom lane has also unlocked Keane. Keane has been a solid, consistent midlaner this split. He isn’t one to carry his team to a win, but certainly never gets stomped. Now that the pressure is more focused on Dignitas’ top and bottom lanes Keane can play for the teamfights and late game damage, something he has shown to be his forte.

Last, but certainly not least, is Shrimp. Shrimp has been suffocating his opponents in the jungle on his Nunu and Graves these last couple weeks. He’s taking away the jungle pressure from other teams by counter jungling, counter ganking and making them have to focus on neutral objectives instead of lanes. Shrimp understands his role very well and plays to that role. He knows he must get his lanes ahead and they will carry the game.

The Future

Dignitas

Photo Via Lol esports Flickr

DIG came out to three great weeks, slumped in the next two and have now had two great weeks. They are looking to break the trend of peaks and valleys and ride out this victory train into the playoffs. They’ve proven that they can take down the top teams in decisive fashion and certainly have a chance at the NA LCS title. Despite their loss to C9 the series was close and game one was a stomp in DIG’s favor. They can certainly hold their own against top teams, and have a good chance to take down both CLG and IMT. If they can perform in the playoffs to the degree they have shown in weeks six and seven they have the ability to make it deep.

Overall Dignitas looks strong. At this point anything less than fourth in NA LCS should be considered a failure. They put themselves in a position to succeed and are the masters of their own fate. DIG doesn’t need any other teams to have key losses to make the playoffs. They just need to keep winning. As for their playoff run, if they take away some good wins and keep up the level of performance they will take some momentum into the playoffs. They may still be able to secure a bye round, or at the very least a higher seed for side selection and an easier first round.

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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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

 

 

NA

How Dreamhack highlighted the ever growing gulf between NA and EU

How we got here

The big story in competitive Smite throughout Season 4 has been competition. There have been two aspects in regard to competition. Firstly, competition has grown incredibly within the regions. Seed one through six are all capable of taking games off each other now in both regions. What is possibly the bigger story is that NA have fallen off a cliff competitively when it comes to LANs.

In every other season NA has been able to compete at the highest level. Admittedly NRG have been top dogs for the last two years, but between the rest of EU and NA there has not been much difference. However, at the very end of Season 3 things started to change. EU sent only two teams to SWC after not performing all that well at the preceding LAN. However, EU dominance started to show there as both EU teams went to the final. This was even more impressive as at the time Obey were not respected as the team they are now. The second team in EU was OrbitGG who didn’t go to SWC due to poor performances at the preceding LAN.

It was at the Gauntlet though and Smite Masters where we really learned just how big the gap had grown between the two regions. It was dominant from EU just putting NA to the sword. Nothing epitomised this more than the way in which Rival handled Soar (now SpaceStationGaming).

Where we are at now

na

Image courtesy of neogaf.com

EU was known to be stronger than NA; however there was hope that the gap would shrink. Day one of Dreamhack Valencia put such vain hopes to rest. In the three sets between NA and EU only one game went to NA. What was more telling was the way in which EU won. It was brutal, NA were made to look like one of the minor regions. 4th seed in EU, Team Rival, absolutely took SSG, the first seed from NA, to pieces. The way in which that happened makes me confident that Eanix, EU’s 5th seed, has a better chance of winning SWC than any team in NA.

Why?

NA have little success in Moba’s. In pretty much all Moba’s NA are significantly behind the rest of the competition. A few theories are banded around but I don’t put a huge amount of stock in any of them.

Firstly, you hear that ego hinders NA teams; they think they are all better than they are, don’t play for the team and big egos clash. This doesn’t make any sense to me for so many reasons. I mean is John ‘Barracuda’ Salter’s ego getting in the way of LG competing internationally? I think not. You occasionally hear that NA doesn’t take competitive gaming seriously and conventional sports are much more popular. EU is no different, conventional sports are far and away dominant over esports. Most people don’t really know about competitive gaming as a thing. I honestly couldn’t give you the reason, but it is a trend which is hard to ignore.

How?

More focused on Smite I can’t tell you the core problem, but I do have some ideas as to symptoms of the issue. The big thing here that everyone notices is how much more objective focused EU are than NA. I think one of the best ways in which we have been shown at Dreamhack so far is through mid lanes and supports.

The first time this is apparent is in the Rival vs SSG set. Game 2 was won through objective control. The Ra pick by rival was huge. Firstly, it takes away one of Andrew ‘Andinster’ Woodward’s favourite picks. Secondly, it gives you a great ultimate for objective secure. Then SSG backed themselves into a corner with the Hades pick. They had zero objective secure. Up to 20 minutes the game was close but Rival were behind in kills, but had three Gold Furies.

Take away those Gold Furies and SSG are in a dominant position in the game instead of slightly behind. Their objective play was just sloppy as a whole that game though. When they lost a Gold Fury because five people backed at the same time, it was infuriating. This is something that has been known since the game was in open beta. I mean this is not EU playing amazingly but NA playing pretty poorly. Rival were also taking Gold Furies in the face of SSG. This is because of their dominant objective secure.

Look at game number one in the NRG vs Dignitas set. Dig have a Sol in the mid lane and NRG had a Vulcan. While Sol’s objective secure is not bad it just can’t compete with a Vulcan. Dignitas recognise this though, so Jeppe ‘Trixtank’ Gylling starts with a HOG.

NA

Image courtesy of smitepedia.com

This allows them to really compete and contest at Gold Furies. It shows the thought that EU are putting into making sure that they don’t fall behind in the objective game. Something NA clearly are not doing at the moment. Notice how he didn’t go HOG when NRG had a Morrigan in the mid lane, showing that this is a thought process based around big mage ults.

NA also seems to be one step behind when it comes to Meta. One way in which this has risen to prominence is how little they value the Sobek. Sobek has been dominant this LAN. Objective wise he is one of the best supports. If you are baiting a Gold Fury he is great as anybody who comes near has to fear the pluck into your entire team. Same goes for anybody trying to contest. You could be one second away from being flung into the entire opposing team.

On top of that he probably has the best ult for securing objectives, with Lurking in the Waters, slowing anybody who comes in, doing huge amounts of damage to players and objectives. For example, when Trix went HOG on Sobek he alone could probably burst the Gold Fury from 30 percent down in a second or so. If you look at the only NA team to win a game, it was when Sinjin ‘Eonic’ Thorpe was playing the Sobek. NRG noticed this though and started banning out the Sobek vs Trix.

What this means for competitive Smite

Nothing good comes from this ever growing divide. Smite competitively is hamstrung in one major regard. We have no serious Asian scene. In particular, Korea does not recognise Smite as a competitive game. Having Korea as a region in a game is beneficial for so many reasons. Korea takes esports more seriously than any other region in the world. For those of you who do not follow any other esports, the best way to describe this is to mention Kespa. That is the government body specifically designed to deal with esports, who even go as far as hosting their own ‘Kespa Cups.’ Korea drag every other region up as they are so professional and take esports so seriously that to keep up everyone must try to emulate. Korea is very invested in their esports scene.

Missing those benefits hurts competitive Smite, but now not having Korea becomes even more of an issue. Only having one region who is competitive will get boring very quickly. If it stays this way, there will be no inter-region competition at LAN’s. Inter-region competition is the most exciting part about big LAN’s. When that disappears, interest in major events falls rapidly.

At the end of the day if NA doesn’t up their game soon everyone suffers.

Top Image courtesy of twitter.com/SmitePro

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Best Performers this Split: The EU All Star Roster

ADC

Kenny ‘Arkkyl’ Kuska has to be the stand out ADC for EU this Split. This must be incredibly pleasing for the French ADC, mainly because he was the one player people were questioning when Dignitas, the new ‘super-team’, was formed. This Split though he definitely put in an all star performance.

It was not the mechanical skill of Arkkyl that was being questioned though. As in his relatively short time in the SPL he had put in some great performances. Rather it was consistency and how he would manage on a top end team, as there is little doubt that his current roster was a big step up. When on a weaker team, it is often a lot easier to show glimpses of your quality rather than prove it every week. This is down to your team being more likely to be behind and if you are known as one of the best players on a weaker roster you are likely to get a lot more focus.

Arkkyl has more than proved himself to be up to the challenge. Last Split he showed he could be consistent and had some performances which hinted at his potential. However, this Split he has been consistently excellent. He has a KDA of 5.91, 3rd highest in the league. The statistics back up how great his play has been even more, he also has 61 kills the 5th highest in the league. This shows that it is not by being passive that he has such a high KDA but through pro-active aggressive plays.

Jungle

Nobody is going to be surprised at the who MVP in the Jungle for the Summer Split is, it is Kennet ‘Adapting’ Ross, the King is back. He is not just the MVP for the Jungle though he is probably the MVP for the whole of Europe. This guy would make it onto any all star roster, he is probably the best player Smite has ever had.

All Star

Image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

Adapting’s stats this split are eye-watering. He tops KDA at 7.85, which is 1.78 higher than his closest competitor, who just so happens to be his mid-laner. He also has the most kills in the entirety of the SPL with 84. This is 16 higher than anyone else’s and over 23 higher than EU’s closest contender Arkkyl. If you think I have run out of ridiculous stats for Adapting, think again. He also has the highest kill participation in the league at 85.12 percent. All this while managing to come in second in deaths per game at 1.21, only slightly losing out to once again his mid laner!

What else is there to say about Adapting? He has just been tearing up the SPL since he joined. He is so good, he was getting called the best player in the world while this team were still in the Challenger Cup. Last Split it was very much a debate about who the best player in the world was, this split not so much. I’ll end how I started, the king is back!

Solo

It was hard to pick a solo for this all star roster, as the top three in EU have all had excellent performances from their solo-laners. They are all very close in overall performance, so when stuck lets the stats decide!

Harry ‘Varitey’ Cumming just beats out the other two to take his spot in this all star roster. Varitey is someone who has not always been rated as highly as he is now. However, in recent memory he has been lauded as one of the best solo-laners the SPL has to offer, and rightly so.

It is rather simplistic but I see my Solo-Laners in two categories, the Ryan ‘Omega’ Johnson kind who are looking to destroy you in lane. They are forcing you to base at every opportunity, taking your buffs and essentially trying to ground you into the dirt. These Solo laners are bullies in every sense of the word, doing everything short of taking your lunch money and sticking your head down the toilet.

The second kind are in the Peter ‘Dimi’ Dimitrov role who are more willing to take losing match ups to help a draft and are more macro focused. (this is not to say Dimi will not stick your head down the toilet and take your lunch money Smite-wise but it is not all he does) Variety is definitely in the first mold of Solo laners, being especially dominant on Osiris, undoubtedly one of the best in the league on that god.

This is shown by him having the highest kills in Europe for a solo laner on 47. Variety also has the highest KDA for any solo-laner across both regions at 4.59. Showing he is not just aggressive but incredibly successful at it. Another hallmark of a great solo laner is their farm generation or GPM and again Variety tops Europe at 509, putting him 2nd across the entire SPL. An all star set of stats from an all star player.

Support

Step forward you unsung heroes, ye valiant few who die for others sins. Who among these brave and undervalued players of the SPL stands a top the pile? Craig ‘iRaffer’ Rathbone has just edged out all the others this Split.

Stats are a strange thing to examine when it comes to supports, as their deaths can often come from others mistakes or be the best play to make. Kills are also not something that most supports are going for, often being much happier to give it to a carry on the team.

All Star

Image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

However, there are some more reliable stats. GPM is one of them, finding farm on a map when none of it’s yours has always been an art form of the support. Admittedly with the power of Travellers Shoes and Watcher’s gift this has become easier in recent times. In this stat iRaffer came second in the league at 474. What supports really pride themselves on though is assists. Here iRaffer outshone the rest of the league with 152 assists at a rate of 10.86 a game.

Some people may say this is skewed with just how high the amount of kills NRG as a whole was getting but with a participation rate of 74.42 percent which is towards the higher end of the league. Personally I think it is even more impressive. This is because it shows how iRaffer was such a big part of getting these kills and why he is on my all star roster.

Mid

NRG feature again in this all star roster with their mid laner André ‘Yammyn’ Brännvall. He has been consistently one of the best mid laners in the world for the last two years. This Split has been no different, he has been exceptional.

There are a lot of things on which we can judge a mid laner. Is it their damage output? This is an important factor, as mid laners are the aoe damage dealers for a team. Is it kills? Another important factor but counter-intuitively mages are not the ones to finish off kills a lot of the time with their burst ults. Instead they weaken a team while the more mobile characters sweep in and mop them up. Is it GPM? Well seeming as a mid laner shares most of their farm it seems a hard thing to put at the top, being so dependent on whether or not your jungle and support are taking it. In all these stats though Yammyn is near the top of Europe showing how good is play is.

The stats we are left with and which Yammyn does top the league seem to show a lot more to me. These are KDA and and deaths. Mages are probably the squishiest class in Smite. Incredibly low protection and health scaling, combined normally with a lack of mobility. They are also put into the most contested area of the map meaning there is the constant threat of death. So for Yammyn to only have 15 deaths is an impressive feat. When you combine that with the fact that he has the highest KDA in the league for a mid at 6.07 far above the 4.53 of Emil ‘PrettyPrime’ Edstrom (the man who would replace him in this list) and joint 2nd highest kills, it gets all the more impressive.

 

Honorable Mentions

ADC – Kieran ‘Funballer’ Patidar Nate ‘Ataraxia’ Mark

Jungle Anders ‘QvoFred’ Korsbo Benjamin ‘CaptainTwig’ Knight

Solo Dimi

Support Jordan ‘BigManTingz’ Theaker

Mid PrettyPrime

If you would like to know what an NA version of this would look like, look no further my colleague Brendon has you covered! http://thegamehaus.com/2017/06/30/spl-summer-split-north-american-star-team/

A quick shout out to @BluesVult who’s spreadsheet was the source for a lot of these stats.

 

Top image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

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The significance of ESL One Cologne to Counter-Strike

After hearing the news some months ago that ESL One Cologne would not be a major tournament this year, I was disappointed. Since its conception in 2014, Cologne set the benchmark for tournament organizers all over the world. Its ability to provide great games, a great atmosphere and most of all major champions made it a must watch for any Counter-Strike fan. I believe we must credit much of Counter-Strikes transcendence into super-stardom to the infamous ESL One Cologne. This is why I believe, now more than ever, we should continue to support the tournament in the same way despite losing its major status.

Historic Games

NiP won the first ever ESL One Cologne championship. [Source: ESL]

At the heart of any tournament, there has to be amazing games; without that the viewer would simply be bored. Over the years Cologne has provided plenty worth watching again and again. One of the most obvious would have to be the 2014 grand final between NiP and Fnatic. At this point in time NiP had made the final of every major, only never to win, with Fnatic the team beating them out in the very first one. The series went to a decider map on Inferno, one of Fnatic’s best maps. However, clutch plays from Adam “friberg” Friberg and Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund sealed their first and only major win.

Another playoff series that stands out is Team Liquid’s win over the same dominant Fnatic side. The crowd was rooting for the Americans and European outcast Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev to get a juicy rematch of the previous major semi-final which Liquid threw away. The Americans narrowly defeated the Swedes 2-0 after winning both maps 16-13. S1mple sealed the deal with one of CSGO’s most memorable plays which earned him an in-game graffiti to commemorate his efforts.

There are even many astonishing group stage games to be re-watched. Hell, we just saw sixty something rounds between Cloud9 and Natus Vincere. One of the most shocking series of all time is Flipsid3 Tactics beating NiP in a best of three at Cologne 2016 knocking them out of the group stage for the first time in CSGO history. One group game full of exciting plays was at Cologne 2016 between Cloud9 and Team Dignitas. Late game heroics from Spencer “Hiko” Martin and Sean “seang@res” Gares secured a much-needed win.

The Mecca of Counter-Strike

Host Alex “Machine” Richardson hailed the LANXESS Arena as being the Mecca of Counter-Strike despite not being the first large-scale arena used in Global Offensive. Fans might be more familiar with the Spodek Arena, the venue for IEM Katowice. The Spodek was first used in 2014 a year before Cologne was moved to the LANXESS, so what makes the latter our very own Mecca?

The LANXESS Arena has played host to ESL One for three years now. [Source: TalkEsport]

Until this year IEM Katowice played host to an array of esports titles including Counter-Strike, League of Legends and StarCraft. In previous iterations, all the grand finals were played on championship Sunday meaning that there was an abundance of fans all attending for different games. The LANXESS arena was the first time a large-scale arena was used purely for CSGO. Not only that but it was actually free to get in, meaning that people all over Poland and Europe could attend at very little cost.

Heading into Cologne 2015 people were skeptical as to whether such a huge venue could be filled. However, the European fans did not disappoint. The year saw record numbers with over 12,000 attending in person and a peak concurrent viewership of 1,323,960.

After the removal of betting skins within CSGO, it seemed as if viewership was going to take a big hit. Despite concerns 2016 still saw an increase in attendance with 14,000 fans knocking on the door according to ESL. Even now with the tournament losing its major status it seems as if the pilgrims will be back again this year to echo the arena with their prayers.

ESL and their efforts

Although ESL might be the burden of many mishaps, they have been running events for well over a decade now. They have always stepped up their efforts when it comes to Cologne. Last year the biggest was bringing on PGL to handle the stream. However, that relationship might be a bit frosty now. In spite of that, they are still bringing on new ideas this year. One example was showing the B stream during a technical issue on the main stream. It not only made for better viewing but eases the pressure on the casters.

Just the inclusion of a B stream alone is something many tournament organizers won’t do so they don’t split viewership. The system means that we can have more games played in one day and means that more games are played overall. This avoids teams playing two best of ones and being knocked out of the tournament.

Although ESL One Cologne might not be a major this year I believe it is important that we continue to support it as if it is one.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles. You can find me on Twitter at @JackWrightIGL. Feature image courtesy of esl-one.com

 

Three things the Summer Split taught us about the SPL

The early game meta is here to stay

It looks like Season 4 of Smite will be defined by the early game meta. It has persisted through the first two Splits of the season and with only one more split to go it is not likely to change. However, this should be qualified, by the fact that it is not quite as pronounced as it was in the Spring Split. Games in the SPL are going much longer, something Mike ‘PolarBearMike’ Heiss pointed out in a recent tweet.

There are two reasons it is here to stay. Firstly, the map, it caters itself to this early game aggression. PBM has a great video on his YouTube explaining this from the perspective of an SPL player.

One of the reasons PBM gives for this is that, the core of the map has been around for a very long time. As such, the players have gotten much better at exploiting the map as they have gotten better and due to playing on the same core for so long.

This leads to the other reason why the early game meta is dominating at the moment. Players and teams improved, becoming better at holding onto leads. As such playing compositions which give you a lead early on are more powerful as SPL teams capitalise on leads much better than before. It is far harder to hold out for 40 minutes and have Kali win you the game like a famous game from Thomas ‘Repikas’ Skallebaek. Obviously the easiest way for Hi-Rez to counteract this is still through map changes.

NRG are still not the force they once were

This is one that a lot of people may be confused about, as NRG were not the dominating team seen in previous seasons last Split. NRG’s history of dominance in not just Europe but the entirety of the Smite scene means one split is not enough to say their era of dominance is over, more data is needed.

Last Split Craig ‘iRaffer’ Rathbone spoke about how at least at the start of the season, NRG were taking things a bit easier to avoid burning out. This was often suggested as a reason why NRG were not performing to their usual standards. This is not to say NRG are performing badly or aren’t still a great team. It is just NRG used to be head and shoulders above the rest of the competitive Smite scene, setting records we are unlikely to see matched. This is the visual representation of NRG’s performance in Season 3.

View post on imgur.com

People suggested that taking their foot off the pedal meant they were slow to catch up to meta or maybe even just a bit rusty. Those excuses are no longer viable. This is unless perhaps burn out has occurred within the ranks of NRG, or some players just aren’t enjoying the game right now. This is something iRaffer admitted too, in what has become an infamous Reddit post about Sunder. Maybe with all the success and the recent complaints about the Smite meta, it has been harder to get as motivated. Something which could very much change going into the Fall Split, as that is the Split leading into SWC. If getting the three-peat and another chance for cash doesn’t motivate them, I’d be very surprised.

Another factor is that the competition is far better this year. It is not as if NRG are playing badly but the new-look Obey is an incredibly strong team, while Dignitas is looking stronger than the old Orbit team. Throughout the league, especially in Europe there are a lot of really high quality teams.

However, saying all this, there is still a not so small part of me that expects iRaffer to lift the golden hammer again this year. I don’t know if it’s because my mind now sees it as routine, or i’m just too nostalgic for my own good, but I have a sneaking suspicion the three-peat is on.

The competition is real!

This is something that has featured in other parts of this article, but deserves its own segment. The competition levels in the SPL have just risen and risen throughout Season 4. While at the end of the Spring Split the gulf between NA and Europe was exposed, there is hope that over this Split that gap will shrink. I think it is still likely that Europe are going to dominate, though hopefully not as much.

Within the regions though the competition is fierce. I think one thing that illustrates this point quite nicely is when you look at 6th place in both regions. Team Allegiance and Elevate are not bad teams, in fact they are good teams who are getting better. This season is the only season in Smite where we would have teams of that caliber so far down the standings.

Look at the top of NA as well, last split Luminosity looked definitively like the best team in the region. This split they just squeezed into the final LAN spot, one point ahead of eUnited in 4th and only two points ahead of Noble in 5th. Noble was a team everyone was writing off at the beginning of the split.

In Europe, the region that got an extra spot to Dreamhack, we had 2nd-4th being fought over up until the last day of competition. Things are really heating up heading into World’s next split. I genuinely think in Europe that the top five teams will all be going into next split thinking they have a realistic chance at being SWC champs.

Image courtesy of tentonhammer.com

 

Top Image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

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Summer 2017 over/under (part 2): LCS players above expectations

With three weeks of NA and EU LCS in the books, audiences are starting to get a feel for teams’ strengths and weaknesses. Some squads have carried over similar strengths from Spring Split. Others have risen or fallen in performance. But even within rosters that tend to play consistently, there always seems to be an ebb and flow on the individual player level.

Last week, I highlighted players who need to return to past form for their respective teams to have a chance at peak performance. This week it is all about the other side, summoners who are trending upward so far this summer. These players have visibly improved. They are putting up statistics that are exciting and surprising. More importantly, though, these members have elevated their teams’ overall performances with their gameplay on the Rift.

Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha

CLG, Top laner

KP%:    61.8%   (2nd top laner)

D%:        19%    (4th top laner)

Darshan is a player who has come and gone as a presence in the top lane. While he almost mirrors his statistics from Spring Split, Summer Split seems different. Many of the imported top laners who struggled to find their place last split currently feel much stronger. Yet, Darshan has been able to keep up enough in lane to help CLG pressure the map through split-pushing and cleaner Teleports. Darshan’s team will rely on him to anchor his lane against top-heavy teams in the NA LCS.

CLG Darshan is exceeding expectations in top lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

DIG Shrimp is exceeding expectations in the jungle

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon

Dignitas, Jungler

KP%:    79.1%   (2nd overall)

XPD@10:    325  (3rd overall)

Dignitas’ newest jungler, Shrimp, has been on a tear so far this split. He and top laner, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, are the only members of the team to start ahead of their opponents at 10 minutes. Despite Dignitas’ early deficits, Shrimp has enabled the team to control Elder Dragon and Baron better than most teams in the NA LCS. His Lee Sin is particularly strong.

Choi “Pirean” Jun-Sik

Team Envy, Mid laner

KDA:    4.2   (4th mid laner)

DPM:    494  (6th mid laner)

Pirean is by no means close to the best mid laner in the NA LCS. However, his addition to Team Envy has seemed to boost their overall performance. Within the team, Pirean has the highest KDA, lowest death share, and ties Apollo “Apollo” Price in damage share. Even in Envy’s losses, the mid laner looks proactive on picks like Taliyah and Ahri. Pirean seems like a much better fit than Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo in spring.

NV Pirean is performing above expectations in mid lane

LoL Esports Flickr

UOL Samux is exceeding expectations in bottom lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort

Unicorns of Love, Bot laner

DPM:    604   (4th overall)

DMG%: 28%  (6th overall)

Despite already meshing well with Unicorns of Love in his rookie split, Samux is solidifying himself as a top AD carry in EU LCS this split. He is putting out high damage and keeping his deaths low, sporting a 7.7 KDA. Samux’s positioning and decision-making have been crucial to Unicorns’ scary team-fighting. Standing out this way among a strong field of European bot lanes truly is a feat.

Kim “Wadid” Bae-in

Roccat, Support

D%:   15.4%  (2nd support)

KP%:  68.5%  (6th support)

The flashiest Rakan player in the EU LCS, Wadid has been a primary initiator for Roccat this split. This trend started during Roccat’s win streak towards the end of Spring Split, but he has blossomed these past few weeks. Wadid enables his bottom lane partner, Petter “Hjärnan” Freyschuss, to get ahead during laning phase and clean up team-fights. Viewers feel this player’s presence on the map, which is impressive considering there are several competitive, veteran support players in the league.

ROC Wadid is exceeding expectations as support

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

honorable mention

IMT Cody Sun and Olleh are above expectations in bottom lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung

Immortals, Bot lane duo

DPM: 534,251 (2nd bot lane duo)

FB%: 27%,20% (1st bot laner, 1st support)

The success of Immortals’ bottom lane is difficult to separate between marksman and support. Both Cody Sun and Olleh have exhibited vast improvements from their starts at IEM Gyeonggi. Many fans could see the power shift towards the end of Spring Split, but not to the current degree. This duo has consistently pressured opponents throughout the game in laning, turrets and team-fights. Olleh’s aggressive Bard and Morgana pairs particularly well with Cody Sun’s Caitlyn and Varus. Immortals’ bottom lane has been a force so far, and remaining at the top of the standings will definitely depend on their continued growth.

All of these players are playing above their previous benchmarks. It only takes a short time for above expectations to turn into the expectation, and, as the NA and EU LCS advance, viewers will look for continued improvement. No one will necessarily remember which teams and players were stomping or slumping three weeks into the split. If these players truly want to leave their mark, they will need to maintain this high level of gameplay over many more grueling weeks of League of Legends.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Champion Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

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Who is going to DreamHack Valencia?: How the EU standings could end up

Going into the final week there are numerous permutations the EU side of the league can go through. The two major points of contention are going to be fourth spot and second spot in the EU standings. With first spot already wrapped up for Team Dignitas, it is the other spots which will be grabbing most of our attention.

The Battle for Fourth

Fourth place in EU will be hotly contested this weekend. It will be the last spot sending teams to Valencia. The difference between fourth and fifth spot is the difference between a failed Split and a possibly great Split for these teams.

The two teams desperately trying not to be fifth are Eanix and Team Rival. Team Rival have some slight advantages over Eanix towards this end. The biggest advantage is that they are one point ahead in the standings. This point advantage is compounded by the fact that they also took the set against Eanix 2-0. This means that even if they end up on the same amount of points, Eanix are not going to DreamHack Valencia. What this means is that Eanix need to get a 2-0 this weekend while hoping Rival lose both games in their set.

This brings us to the second advantage, the teams they have to face this weekend. Rival are facing sixth seed Elevate this weekend. They have only managed to secure one set victory this entire split. Sitting at sixth in the standings only ahead of two brand new teams to the SPL, this is a team that Rival should beat.

Image courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2GcC1FKkXY

Team Eanix have much sterner opposition in the current World Champions, NRG. Having to 2-0 the current World Champions going into the final week of the Split rather speaks for itself. They would have to be the first team all Split to pull off this difficult challenge. When we consider as well that Eanix only secured 2-0’s against The Papis and Burrito Esports, the two SPL newcomers, the chances look even worse. There is also the fact that against the top two teams their results have not been overly impressive. They got 2-0’d by Rival and Dignitas, and unfortunately last week they couldn’t put away Elevate, severely hurting their DreamHack chances. Do not expect NRG to take it easy on them either as this week is important for them too, with many permutations in the standings still possible.

The Battle for Second

NRG or Obey could  end up in a tie-breaker for fourth, but both of them will be focusing on how they can get second. Currently NRG and Obey are on 12 points with a 3-3-0 record. If Rival win and either or both these teams get shutout in their sets, we will be in a tie-breaker position for second place. If these three teams all split against each other, a tiebreaker will have to be played, meaning we could end up in a three way tournament for seeding.

Both these teams have the ability to guarantee top three for themselves. Having only to secure a Split to guarantee third or better in the Summer Split. Of course though there is still the possibility of a tie breaker between these teams for the coveted second position. As I mentioned earlier, they are on the same amount of points and went 1-1 in their set this Split.

They are equal in all regards other than the challenges they have ahead this week. NRG are facing Eanix this weekend, a team who I expect to come fifth. Compare that to Obey who are facing Dignitas, the top ranked team in the league this Split. To put into context how great Dignitas has been, they have only lost one game all Split. It took until the last week in the Summer Split for them to drop a game against NRG.

Predictions

Luckily for me, first place is all wrapped up for Dignitas, but this is where I believe the EU standings will finish.

Dignitas 5-2-0 17

NRG  4-3-0   15

Obey 3-4-0  13

Rival 3-3-1  12

Eanix 2-2-3  8

What I believe is most likely to change is that NRG and Eanix will split, resulting in a playoff for second place between NRG and Obey.

Top Image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

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A Series of Unfortunate Events – Maikelele

Maikel “Maikelele” Bill is a long-time professional Counter-Strike player. The storied pro comes from one of the Esport’s many homes in Sweden, and has recently joined rising stars and fellow countrymen on Red Reserve. For newer viewers unfamiliar with Maikelele, he has had a number of ups and downs throughout his career, finding himself in tough situations on multiple occasions. This article retells the Maikelele story.

NiP Era

After strong performances both offline and online with Team Orbit in early 2014, the Swede landed himself on the world-famous Ninjas in Pyjamas team. With the legendary lineup, he would open up with second place finishes at the major Dreamhack Winter as well as the X-Games. The team would go on to win their next event at ASUS Rog Winter before bombing out of the Pantamera Challenge. However, it came as a shock to many when Maikelele was cut from the team despite being a top performer at many of the events they attended.

Kinguin Era

Kinguin earned top 8 at ESL One Cologne. [Source: ESL]

Maikelele had nowhere to go. With the other top Swedish side Fnatic starting to garner results, it looked as if it was back to square one, but he had other ideas.

Teaming up with fellow castaway Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom of Belgium, the two decided to form one of CS:GO’s first memorable international teams. Backed by the organization Kinguin, the team originally acquired Alexander “SKYTTEN” Carlsson, Ricardo “fox” Pacheco and Håvard “rain” Nygaard. Before quickly switching out SKYTTEN in favor of Dennis “Dennis” Edman for added firepower. The team saw instant results and earned legend status by reaching the quarter-finals of ESL One Cologne 2015.

Following the achievement, they won a tournament called Gaming Paradise. The irony is that the event turned out to be a total disaster. Plagued with player illnesses, delays and lack of funds to pay winning players. However, despite that, the international team still made a statement beating out Natus Vincere in the final. It was saddening for Maikelele that the win was rarely recognized due to the overshadowing issues.

 G2/FaZe Era

During their time together, the squad had accumulated a large following. This had caught the attention of the G2 owner who subsequently decided to pick the team up. They played the Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca major and had perhaps their best ever performance. The team was just a few rounds short of defeating eventual winners Team EnVyUs in the semi-finals. A heart-breaking loss but nonetheless a tournament to remember.

The continued rise to success attracted further attention, this time by Call of Duty titans FaZe Clan. It is rumored that the group of YouTubers paid big bucks for the CSGO team. The initial results weren’t great with the team finishing joint last at both IEM Katowice and MLG Columbus. This led to Maikelele’s second removal, this time from the team he had created from the ground up.

NiP/Dignitas

With his future uncertain, Maikelele decided to help out his former team NiP during their fifth, Jacob “pyth” Mourujärvi, absence. During this time the Ninjas gave Maikelele what they never could before. A premiere tournament win, they beat the French iteration of G2 convincingly in the grand final. He played three more events with the team and earned one more top four finish. However, the spot was only temporary and Pyth returned a month later.

After becoming a free agent again, Maikelele again created an international lineup, this time under Team Dignitas. Joining him for the second time would be Fox and Joakim “jkaem” Myrbostad, alongside former NiP coach Faruk “Pita” Pita, and North player Ruben “RUBINO” Villarroel. But thunder would strike twice. After just five competitive matches together, the team would drop him and Pita from the squad.

Current Stance

This brings us to the current moment in which Maikelele has found himself on up and coming Swedish lineup Red Reserve. The organization recently made its foray into esports with a European Call of Duty team. Originally signed as a substitute, Maikelele quickly improved results, winning them a small online tournament and helping them take second place at the GeForce Cup. Following the results, the team decided to sign him permanently.

Maikelele has had such a tumultuous career, however, I believe that he plays his best Counter-Strike when he’s having fun. Back in the loose style of NiP, he had the freedom to take the shots he wanted to play. He had fun making top eight at a major with the first successful international lineup in CSGO. And now he’ll have fun nurturing young Swedish stars.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles. Feature image courtesy of Dreamhack.

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