Initial thoughts on the World Championship draw

With the conclusion of the Stage Two playoffs, Call of Duty fans can look ahead to the World Championship in just over a week. The group stages were drawn live after yesterday’s grand final. While some teams will be happy with the outcome others may be starting to sweat. Here are some initial thoughts following the draw and who will make it through to the knockout stages.

In the clear

There are a few teams who I see making it through the groups undefeated. The first being stage two winners, OpTic Gaming. The Green Wall usually has no struggles versus the European teams and having already faced Epsilon in the pro league should only make it easier.

Clayster only recently joined eUnited from FaZe. [Source: MLG]

The second team I have going undefeated is eUnited. Clayster and Arcitys have more than enough slaying power between them to take down Mindfreak, Infused and Lethal Gaming. That’s without adding the other two into the equation. They shouldn’t be tested whilst getting out of groups.

Team number three is Luminosity for similar reasons to eUnited. Octane and Slacked are too strong for the rest of the field. Supremacy and Vitality simply don’t have slayers that can match up to them. Rise, on the other hand, have the potential with Aqua playing well as of late but the rest of the squad is far behind leading me to believe that they will also get steamrolled.

Finally, making it through undefeated I have Fnatic. It might seem like an odd choice considering the potential Str8 Rippin has, and Evil Geniuses’ veteran players, but something Fnatic has shown is that they consistently beat teams underneath them. A skill really undervalued in a game like Infinite Warfare.

The battles for second

Group A could go one of two ways. Epsilon could crush the two qualifiers or they lose out at the biggest tournament of the year. If Epsilon doesn’t return to their previous form they could struggle against Echo Fox and 3sUP who have a blend of experienced and young players. Hopefully, the European boot camp in Orlando helps them as they are a team that could make the playoff bracket interesting with their potential to take out NA giants.

Second seed Team EnVyUs might also have a rough ride in group B. The way they lost the grand final speaks to their inconsistencies. They are stacked up against Elevate, Projekt Evil and Mindfreak Black. Elevate are another team that disappointed in the global pro league so they will be looking to bounce back. Projekt Evil are a team on the rise after they qualified for group play at Anaheim through the open bracket. I am unsure on the Australians as I haven’t seen enough of them but I’m sure they have a few tricks up their sleeve that could catch the aforementioned out.

Rated is known for his aggressive plays. [Source: MLG]

I have a surprising prediction for group E in that I believe Red Reserve will take the first seed over Faze Clan. As I mentioned in a previous article, Red Reserve has all the makings of a quality team. If Seany plays the same as in the pro league I can see him consistently besting Enable. Meanwhile, Rated and Joe can outmatch Attach and Zooma in aggressive playmaking if they play their A-game.

My last thoughts are with group G and Splyce who were disappointing at playoffs. Ghost Gaming was unlucky not to qualify for stage two playoffs. They showed great promise despite having not been formed long before the league kicked off. There’s also Millennium led by MarkyB and Moose waiting in the wings to reclaim their spot at the top of European CoD. Splyce have time to sort out their play and I still expect them to top the group but it could be a tight finish.

What are the storylines to watch?

Previous World Champ from Advanced Warfare, Replays, is back out of retirement to captain the Echo Fox side. Much of the community will be rooting for him to make it deep as he’s loved for his stream and just being an all-around nice guy.

One grudge match everyone is looking forward to is between Str8 Rippin and Evil Geniuses. Str8 Rippin player Study was dropped from the latter not that long ago so he will be out for blood. Str8 is also responsible for bringing young gun Temp back to the top of the scene. He missed out on a lot of top Call of Duty after the age restriction was imposed on the World League, but now he has finally turned eighteen and is ready to dominate the competition.

Can Europe win a world championship? Splyce finished second at CoD XP last year which was a huge boost for the European scene. This year they’ve surpassed that by winning Stage One, the first time an EU team has won an international event in CoD history. Fans from the region will be wondering if there’s any chance they can take first this time around.

Team EnVyUs have the chance to win back to back Worlds, something that has never been done before. This roster has ridden the Infinite Warfare gauntlet but has stuck together in spite of that. The World Championship could be the reward worth all that wait. Not only that, but JKap could actually win three rings in a row. A feat that would probably never be reached again.

JKap first won the World Championship in 2015 with Denial. [Source: zimbio.com]

And finally, will OpTic Gaming do what they couldn’t before? Green Wall fans can be found far and wide but they all crave the same thing, the World Championship. OpTic Gaming has won MLGs to X-Games in recent years but has missed out on the illustrious ring despite fielding the God squad we know and love. With the win at stage two under their belt, is this Scump and Formal’s time to take it?

 

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Substitutions

Breaking down substitutions in the NALCS

This year has seen a rise in the number of subs used in the LCS. In previous years it was a rare sight to have multiple players starting in the same position. The exception came only when there were illnesses or injuries preventing a player from playing. Now, though it is far from the norm, many teams have started swapping out players between games and sets depending on a number of factors. These factors include: the team being played, the composition the team wants to try, tilt and player to player match ups.

The most prominent example of subs working lies with SKT. Since season five they have had at least one sub. Initially it was Easyhoon subbing in for Faker in the midlane. Then it was Bengi and Blank subbing in and out in the jungle. Now we have Peanut and Blank sharing the jungle and Untara and Huni splitting time in the top lane.

SKT finding success with the sub style has proven that it can work. Though it has been implemented in the NALCS, the strategy has been met with varied degrees of success.

 

Cloud 9

Substitutions

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

Cloud 9 has probably found the most success with substitutions in the NALCS this split. Being able to sub in Ray or Impact when the series isn’t going their way, or when the match calls for a certain playstyle has helped Cloud 9 a few times this season. Most prominently when C9 subbed out Impact for Ray in their series against TSM. Ray came into game two and stayed even in lane, then made a huge play in the bottom lane swinging the momentum in C9’s favor. Then despite picking the wrong keystone mastery in game three of the series he still managed to make plays around the map.

Cloud 9 has found some success with substitutions. They still have a lot of problems that need to be fixed, though. Namely, the team often looks uncoordinated. Take their most recent series against CLG. They lost game one with Impact, who was just destroyed from level one, so they sub in Ray. They win game two with Ray, his J4 looked clean and though he didn’t carry he definitely set up some great plays. Game three was a different story. Despite being up in gold and towers at 20 minutes Cloud 9 is unable to take control of the neutral objectives and lost a fight around Baron and then in midlane giving CLG the advantage and letting them take the game.

Subbing works at times for Cloud 9, but it feels as if the lack of scrims with the same roster, and the different playstyle that each top laner brings unbalances C9 nearly as much as it does the opposing team.

 

Other teams

Substitutions

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

This trend of unbalance on both sides seems to be a staple among all of the teams that utilize subs in the NALCS. Recently CLG has brought in jungler OmarGod. In his first series he came in after CLG picked up a win against Flyquest. He crushed on Olaf with a 5-0-13 performance, dominating the early game and bullying his way into the mid game. He proved that he has the talent to be an LCS jungler. When CLG lost game one to DIG they subbed out Dardoch and brought in Omar. They still didn’t pick up the win, and in fact looked more discombobulated in game two than in game one.

Echo Fox has a “ten man line-up” with a sub for every roll. However, substitutions in any role has only gotten a win against TL since week three.

NV has seen some success with the substitutions between Pirean and Nisqy. Generally, they play out an entire weekend with one, rather than swapping out in between games or series. This allows them time in scrims to prepare for the coming week, rather than splitting time. They still haven’t managed to beat a top team other than the struggling C9.

 

Pros and Cons

Substitutions

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

Whatever advantages teams gain from implementing subs seems to be negated by the unbalance it brings to their own team. The communication seems to be lackluster in all of the teams that have used subs this split. CLG seemed to bring in Omar in the DIG series because they were reaching for a panic button, rather than having a definitive plan to win. The lack of scrim time that each player gets is also a concern. More scrims is always a good thing, and having to split time between players doesn’t promote cohesion.

It is a long term investment though. Having two players that are both integrated with the rest of the team can be a powerful weapon to possess. If teams like CLG and C9 can have seamlessly interchangeable players at their disposal in the future they may have the edge they need to beat other top teams. Until those players get to that level of integration the teams are going to suffer some defeats because of it.

Only time will tell if the investments these teams have made into multiple players will pay off as short term losses and long term gains.

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Echo Fox dominates Evo 2017

Echo Fox invested heavily into their fighting game team early in 2017, signing a plethora of talented players in the hope of winning tournaments. At the conclusion of Evo 2017, Echo Fox as a team walked away with four medals and two golds. The investment into the first “super team” in fighting games has paid off handsomely.

Equally important, Echo Fox landed six players in the top 8 and many more in the top 16. The next closest team is Panda Global with three. Special performances propelled Echo Fox to one of the strongest performances from a single team in Evo history.

Certainly, the play of Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi and Kim “JDCR” Hyun Jin put the 2017 squad into the discussion of best team ever. Tokido wins the marquee event in Street Fighter V, and has a dominating effort in both Injustice 2 and Tekken 7.

Tokido in Grand Finals. twitch.tv/evo

In a stroke of genius, Echo Fox bought out the Tekken free agent market before the release of Tekken 7 and have been winning everything since. Evo was no different. JDCR looked dominant taking home the gold, while Choi “Saint” Jinwoo finished second.

Everyone’s chasing Echo Fox

Panda Global is the only team that is anywhere in the vicinity of Echo Fox. Punk’s loss to Tokido was a complete heart-breaker and stole away an Evo Street Fighter for Panda Global. PG is also the only team with players across multiple games and platforms performing well. One medal and three top 8 appearances in three separate games.

SFV pools at Evo.

Not to mention, there’s only five teams with multiple players reaching a top 8. Noble, Splyce, Liquid and CLG had two each. It was Echo Fox far ahead of the pack. The Fox squad had more medals than the next best team had top 8 placings. It was a complete wreck.

In other instances, players still don’t have the sponsors. BlazBlue top 8 didn’t have one player sponsored, but that’s not much of a surprise considering the majority of players hail from Asia. The problem is that the few sponsored Asian born players all play for Echo Fox. With no more MadCatz, Echo Fox swept up all the talent.

Who will be the next team to make a big move in the fighting game free agent market? The best team at Evo changes nearly every year, especially with more teams joining the fray. It will be interesting to see if Echo Fox can hold that title again at Evo 2018.

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Playoff implications for NALCS parity

The summer split has passed its halfway point, and in NALCS there is a race for the top shaping up. It’s very rare in the NALCS for a clear top team or top two teams to not be apparent. Last split it was clear that C9 and TSM were in a tier of their own and the split before TSM was undefeated at this point in the season.

This season there doesn’t seem to be a clear top team, rather it seems anyone at the top of the table can beat anyone else at the top of the table. For example, after this weekend we can see that CLG > C9 > TSM > IMT > CLG. None of the match ups were close. Even though TSM 2-0’d IMT, both games were close in gold, kills and objectives until twenty minutes. The same can be said of the IMT versus CLG series.

Playoff Implications

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

The implications this parity has for the playoffs is that they will be much harder to predict than in years past. Last split it seemed like destiny for C9 and TSM to meet for a rematch. The split before TSM was on the warpath for the finals. This year CLG and IMT could both be in the finals, meaning we could have the first split without a TSM finals. It also seems just as likely that C9 and TSM square off again.

The real question though, is who will get the bye? When the dust settles at the end of the season who will be the top two teams? It seems likely that TSM could have a top spot, especially after besting IMT. CLG also seems to be a prime candidate. Their series win against C9 indicates that they are certainly worthy of a playoff bye. They still must face TSM and IMT once more. If they win both of those matchups then they will likely be the number one team at the end of the season.

The IMT vs CLG series in week 7 will likely determine which of them gets the playoff bye, assuming TSM gets the other. IMT still has to face both C9 and CLG before the end of the season and a loss in either series could send them to the quarterfinals.

C9 has the easiest remaining schedule, only having to face IMT out of the other top teams. If they win out from this point in the season they still have a chance to get a bye spot.

 

Other Teams

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

One thing that does seem certain is the top four teams. It seems clear at this point that CLG, IMT, TSM and C9 are at the top of the league. That leaves two spots open for the playoffs and there are a few teams in contention for those two spots.

The one team that seems most likely to make the playoffs from the bottom of the table is DIG. They have a very strong top side of the map, and often play through their top laner, Ssumday. They have a solid record, but haven’t faced as difficult of a schedule as Cloud 9 and still have to face each top team once more before the end of the season. DIG did take a series win off of TSM, but it is unlikely they will win their second match up.

Another team with a good chance to take one of the playoff spots is Team Envy. Lira is still a top NA jungler. Also, NV’s team game is much stronger this split with Nisqy/Pirean in the midlane. Seraph continues to be a concern in the top lane, both in terms of play and attitude.

Echo Fox has also put themselves in a position to make the playoffs. Though they came out of the gate strong, they have been in a bit of a slump recently. EF managing to salvage what’s left of the season will mean they can make the playoffs.

Any of these three teams have a chance to upset any of the top teams in the playoffs, and potentially make a run at the finals; but it is unlikely that any of them will make it past quarter finals.

As for the other three teams, the only one I think with any chance of making playoffs is P1. That chance is very slim, however. They’d essentially have to win out from here. They have made a lot of reform, but even with rookie sensation MikeYeung it doesn’t seem likely that P1 has the consistency needed to beat C9, CLG and TSM.

 

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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The rise of North American junglers

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

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

Photo by: Riot Esports

Why jungle?

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

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

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

Lack of NA talent in other roles

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

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

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

Looking toward the future

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

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

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


Cover photo by Riot Esports 

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Who’s That Champéon? It’s Galio!

Here we break down the competitive and solo queue uses of a popular meta champion, Galio. Yes, I know how to spell champion, but isn’t everything so much better when you can cash in on some sweet 90’s nostalgia?

Galio – The Colossus

Galio is a supportive tank that excels in the top and middle lane, while also being somewhat viable as a support. With a kit loaded with CC and wave clear, Galio is a must learn champion for pros across the lanes.

Why is Galio Meta

Gallium has always been a metal, but Galio has almost never been meta. His recent rework and high mastery level have allowed him to excel in professional play more than solo queue environments, in part due to his team-play dependent ultimate and safe wave-clear.

Galio’s Q, Winds of War, also known as, “kill the caster minions”, can allow him to safely defend turrets even against 2v1 scenarios. His passive, Colossal Smash, resets based upon the frequent usage of his abilities. In competitive, you are more than likely to see his passive used in tandem with Iceborn Gauntlet procs, to clear waves faster than all other tanks.

Shield of Duran, Galio’s W, provides both a passive magic shield and an active AOE taunt that also reduces damage dealt to Galio. Shield of Duran makes clean dives incredibly hard to pull off on Galio. This adds to his ability to deal with 2v1 scenarios that often arise after the first tower has fallen in pro play.

Galio’s W (top left), Passive (bottom left), ultimate (middle), Q (top right), and E (bottom right). Courtesy of leagueoflegends.com

 

Galio’s gap closing knock up, his E, Justice Punch, allows for some sweet instant knock ups when cast backwards near an enemy. It is also a substantial gap closer when cast normally. Justice Punch allows Galio to set up his bread and butter laning combo for harass in the Top and Middle Lane. Casting E, into Winds of War, followed by a taunt to keep the enemy in the Winds of War AOE is devastating on its own; but with allies around, the CC duration can often be fatal.

In competitive play, Galio’s ultimate, Hero’s Entrance, allows for the largest AOE knock up in the game. Used alongside divers such as Rakan and Jarvan IV, Hero’s Entrance can decide team fights. Used independent of divers and initiators, Galio’s ultimate can provide disengage and pick denial due to the damage reduction it gives its target. If you see a comp with heavy dive, you better expect the Galio pick and vice versa as Galio meta is more than just an LCK craze.

Who Uses it in Competitive

Galio top lane has been a popular pick in solo queue environments. However, the ability to flex this champion in two and sometimes even three roles makes him one of the highest priority picks. In the LCK, Galio has a 90.7 percent pick/ban rate. This is just slightly higher than his NA LCS pick/ban rate which stands at 86.5 percent. The difference in the win rates Galio has in the two regions is illustrative of how comfortable each region is with the popular protect the carry meta. With a 62.5 win rate in the LCK, Galio is a powerful pick that alongside dive champions can be enough to snowball mid game team fights into a victory. In NA, Galio’s  43.8 percent win rate is something to be questioned. Perhaps, NA teams find better success with him in scrims, or maybe they are just trying to replicate the LCK picks without adopting the entire team strategy to go with it.

Who Plays it Best?

In the current meta, hard crowd control based initiation is just as valuable as peeling for carries, making Galio one of the best picks. That being said, who plays it best? And more importantly, what makes them play the best?

Kt Rolster’s mid laner, Heo “Pawn” Won-seok, is the Galio player to watch. With three games and three wins, Pawn boasts a 11.33 KDA on Galio, proving that if he can get his hands on the pick, he will utilize Galio’s kit to the max. Kt Rolster as a team play Galio better than any other team, picking the champion alongside dive champions such as Jarvan IV, Rakan and Renekton.

“Oh, you want to play Galio mid? Well too bad.” Courtesy of Lol Esports flickr

Picking Galio first allows Kt Rolster to flex the pick between mid and top, as both Pawn and Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho are adept Galio players. The flex allows for the shuffling of Galio across lanes based upon the matchup, as Galio has much better match ups into magic damage lanes. Austin “Gate” Yu, support player of Echo Fox, took the ability to flex pick Galio one step further by using him as a support into a Zyra/Varus lane matchup. This pick worked against CLG due to the magic damage in the bottom lane allowing Gate to build a very cost efficient Locket of the Iron Solari.

With his base damage, professional players only pick up a couple of Doran’s Rings as offensive items. While the passive on the Rings’ mana regen has been made Unique, don’t expect Galio to fall off anytime soon. Pawn has shown Galio’s base damages to be more than enough through his purely defensive builds, typically rushing Adaptive Helm into Ninja Tabi and Warmog’s. Pawn’s use of Galio’s ultimate ability during laning phase is something you would expect out of a Shen player on steroids. With Heroic Entrance bringing CC in itself and an easier to hit taunt than Shen, Galio is the champion to beat in competitive League of Legends.

Bringing Galio into Solo Queue

Due to the nature of his kit, Galio is a much better champion in a coordinated team composition. That being said, he is still a powerful solo queue menace given the proper conditions. First, make sure your team has dive. While Galio is great at peeling, solo queue is often about killing the enemy carry over protecting your own. This is because protect the carry comps are a lot more difficult to pull off without proper coordination and trust. So only pick Galio if you have a dive buddy, maybe a duo partner, to go ham with. Second, Galio has a lot of bad matchups. What makes this worse is the fact that popular solo queue champions, such as Riven, Tryndamere, Talon, and Yasuo all do really well into Galio’s core itemization. Try not to blindly pick Galio as he greatly benefits from stacking magic resist. Finally, to play Galio correctly in solo queue you need to have exceedingly good map awareness. Utilizing Galio’s best ability, his ultimate, to bail out your teammates and counter ganks during laning phase is why Galio gets picked for mid lane. Hit level six and counter gank the enemy jungler before the opposing laner can react.

If you can manage to do those three things, then cash in on the colossal amount of LP Galio can grant you.

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Featured Image courtesy of Jesse Baron

Summer 2017 over/under (part 1): LCS players below expectations

The EU and NA LCS Summer Splits are part-way through week three. Every team has played at least four series, and most starting players have played six or more games on stage. The beginning-of-split grace period is coming to an end, and excuses, such as team synergy or a new meta, are no longer acceptable.

Mid-season roster changes and substitutions are shaking up the standings compared to the 2017 Spring Splits. Most of the mix-ups can be attributed to team and player improvements, but just like every split, some players are standing out as weak links. No player can take full responsibility for an under-performing team, but the players below definitely have some work cut out for them if their teams are to reach their maximum potential.

Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong/Jeon “Ray” Ji-won

Cloud9, Top laners

D%:    26.9%/23.5%   (2nd-3rd highest overall)

CSD10:        -8.5/-11           (lowest top laners)

Something is obviously wrong with Cloud9’s top lane. Ray and Impact have both had their lulling periods in the past, but fans hoped those issues might be gone. Ray has had a full split to assimilate into the team, and Impact has been on the team a full year. Cloud9’s other members seem to be playing well, making this top lane duo a liability. Ray and Impact fall far behind in the early game and do not have the KDAs or damage per minute to justify such high death shares.

C9 Ray is underperforming after 3 weeks of LCS

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Phoenix1's Inori is underperforming after three weeks of LCS Summer Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

William “Meteos” Hartman/Rami “Inori” Charagh

Phoenix1, Junglers

KDA:    1.5/3.0   (lowest and 8th junglers)

DPM:    223/187 (9th and lowest junglers)

Another substituting duo that is struggling, Meteos and Inori, has uprooted P1’s entire team. Neither of these junglers has looked well-rounded. Inori brings fewer deaths, but also less damage and lower kill participation. Meteos has higher damage per minute and kill participation, but sacrifices a lot of deaths. In week three, P1 has decided to start Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung, indicating that he may be a better option right now.

Luka “Perkz” Perković

G2, Mid laner

XPD10:    -507   (2nd lowest overall)

DPM:    511      (7th mid laner)

G2’s slow start is a bit of a conundrum. Despite minimal roster changes in Group A, Perkz has fallen in rank in almost every statistic. His KDA, damage, death share, and laning differentials are significantly worse than Spring Split. This is surprising considering how well Perkz performed at the Mid Season Invitational. Mid lane has some of the highest parity among EU LCS positions, so weakness here can inhibit G2’s success.

G2 Perkz is underperforming after three weeks of Summer Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

P1 Arrow has been underperforming after three weeks of Summer Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon

Phoenix1, Bot laner

DPM:    464   (3rd lowest bot laner)

CSD10:    -5.8      (lowest bot laner)

Arrow has fallen far from MVP of the NA LCS Spring Split. While P1 has issues greater than just Arrow, the bot laner has not looked remotely close to form. KDAs are always lower on losing teams, but laning statistics such as gold differential, experience differential, and CS differential are mostly on the individual. Arrow’s laning statistics are significantly lower than last spring, and his overall damage has dropped off, which is strange considering hyper-carries are playable in the current meta.

Austin “Gate” Yu

Echo Fox, Support

KP%:   58.6%  (lowest support)

XPD10:  -119   (2nd lowest support)

Echo Fox has had a stalwart start to the split, but almost none of it can be attributed to Gate. While most other supports are drafting playmakers such as Rakan, Thresh, Blitzcrank, and Zyra, Gate has locked in Karma four games, and Sejuani three. FOX only won one of the three Sejuani games, and Gate did not seem to impact the series at all. For Echo Fox to reach the next level, Gate will need to contribute more meaningfully and consistently.

 

FOX Gate has been underperforming three weeks into Summer Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Each of these players has shown high points in the past, and should be able to bounce back from these first few weeks of competition. However, if they wish to remain contenders for playoffs, then they will need to improve as efficiently as possible. It is not uncommon for professional players to slump here or there. It happens every split. Getting out of it will require change. Trying new champion picks, setting different goals during practice, and working on communication within the team are all ways in which these LCS pros can overcome the criticism thrown their way.

Tune in next week for Summer 2017 Over/Under (Part 2): LCS Players Above Expectations.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Champion Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

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Does Team Liquid Deserve Their LCS Spot?

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

 

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

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

 

 

Team 0-2

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

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

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

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

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

 

Liquid Without the Team Part

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

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Featured Image Courtesy of lolesports flickr

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

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

 

Team Liquid's starting roster for 2017 NA LCS Summer Split

NA LCS Mid-Season Roster Updates

The break between spring and summer has been relatively quiet in North America. Very few big name players were traded, acquired, or released from teams. Most of the biggest changes are at the coaching position, whose impact is difficult to gauge without watching drafts and getting feedback from the players themselves. Here is a summary of every mid-season roster update so far in the NA LCS:

Traded Players

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett

After a single split with Immortals, Dardoch has been bounced to another roster. Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) traded their jungler to Immortals for Dardoch. He brings a higher carry potential and early proactivity. He also brings an out-of-game personality that has been cited as the source of team-wide issues. CLG’s support staff will need to rein Dardoch in and properly channel his aggressive playstyle to find success.

Jake “Xmithie” Puchero

CLG's Xmithie was traded to Immortals for Dardoch

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Xmithie was traded to Immortals in exchange for Dardoch. This is a surprising trade, considering CLG decided to keep their entire roster intact in the off-season leading into Spring Split. Immortals will be receiving a seasoned, veteran, shot-calling jungler to compliment their remaining teammates, particularly the younger players in the bottom lane. Hopefully, Xmithie will ameliorate any out-of-game issue and provide stability within the team.

LCS Aqcuisitions

Jason “WildTurtle” Tran

Unsurprisingly, WildTurtle has decided to leave TSM to find a starting role elsewhere, and he has. FlyQuest is bringing him on as the primary AD Carry. WildTurtle helped TSM win the NA LCS Spring Split, but had a rocky performance at Riot’s Mid-Season Invitational. FlyQuest finished fifth this spring, and with this acquisition they will look to move up in the standings this summer.

Yasin “Nisqy” Dincer

FNA Nisqy enters NA LCS ad mid laner for Team Envy

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Nisqy enters North America from the EU Challenger Series. His spring split team, Fnatic Academy, qualified for promotion into the EU LCS Summer Split. Their slot was bought by Ninjas in Pyjamas, who signed an entirely new roster. Nisqy joins Team Envy after his strong showing within EU CS. Envy finished last split in tenth, and fought their way through the promotion tournament to defend their spot in the NA LCS. Changes in the mid lane may stabilize their gameplay for better overall performance.

Choi “Pirean” Jun-Sik

Team Envy is also signing Pirean to their roster as a mid laner. Pirean most recently started for Phoenix1 in Summer 2016, and helped keep the team in the LCS after finishing eighth and fighting through the promotion tournament. This past split he was benched as a substitute mid laner behind Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook. Pirean looks to share mid lane duties with Nisqy. However, Pirean does seem to be the starter on the LCS website.

William “Stunt” Chen

Stunt is switching teams for the second time in six months. From substitute support on Dignitas to starting support on Phoenix1 to sharing the support role on Phoenix1, Stunt is now signed to Immortals as a substitute. While Stunt had some of the highest first blood rates, kill participation, and average KDA, he sacrificed high death shares and lower overall damage than his counterpart, Jordan “Shady” Robison. The Immortals infrastructure may be able to develop his talent in a stable team environment.

Terry “Big” Chuong

Big joins Team Dignitas as support

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Big is listed as a player for Team Dignitas in Riot’s Global Contract Database, and may be starting over Alex “Xpecial” Chu in Week 1. Xpecial was benched in favor of Stunt a few times throughout the Spring Split. Big most recently played for Echo Fox’s sister team, Delta Fox, in the NA CS. It would be surprising if his starting role on Dignitas is permanent this summer.

Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon

Team Dignitas also signed Shrimp, a jungler substitution. DIG’s early split woes, and late split streak, rested mostly in the jungle position, as Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun built synergy with the rest of the team. Signing Shrimp on as back-up could be a response. Shrimp split jungle duties for Japan’s DetonatioN FocusMe this spring, helping them finish first in the regular season and second in playoffs.

Brandon “Mash” Phan

The last NA LCS substitute worth mentioning is Mash, who has signed to Echo Fox as AD Carry. Echo Fox started the Spring Split strong, but faltered in the second half, finishing eighth in the regular season. The bottom lane was much to blame. Mash comes onto the roster after finishing first in the NA CS with Gold Coin United. While Yuri “Keith” Jew is still listed as the starter for Week 1, it would not be surprising to see Mash splitting time in this role.

Kim “Ssong” Sang-soo

Ssong is another newcomer to Immortals this summer. Stepping in as coach, Ssong has been the head of LCK teams such as Longzhu Gaming and ROX Tigers. Most notably, he was coach when ROX Tigers finished top four in the 2016 World Championships. Signing Ssong shows Immortals’ dedication to improving as a team, and building the proper environment for growing talent. It will be interesting to see how much he elevates the team compared to last split.

Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco

Saintvicious returns to Team Dignitas as coach

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the longest serving veterans of the NA LCS, Saintvicious returns to Team Dignitas this summer. After Apex Gaming chose him as coach, and they qualified into the LCS, Saintvicious was kept on as staff when Apex and Dignitas were acquired by the Philadelphia 76ers. Coming into Spring 2017, Saintvicious joined Team Liquid as a strategic coach. However, after Liquid’s nasty Spring Split, Dignitas has welcomed him back to assist David “Cop” Roberson.

Nick “Inero” Smith

Formerly of OPL’s Tainted Minds, Inero will be head coach for Echo Fox this summer. Prior to Tainted Minds, Inero coached Dream Team and Mousesports in the EU and NA Challenger Series. Tainted Minds was caught up in scandalous reports of mismanagement from players within the team, which eventually led to a competitive ruling from Riot. The staff and players were released, which has allowed Echo Fox to sign Inero on as head coach.

Dong Hwan “Violet” Kim

Team Envy has signed Violet, a reputable Starcraft II player, as head coach for the summer. Violet has been signed to Envy as a Starcraft player since the beginning of 2016. His crossover into coaching League of Legends seems risky considering Envy just missed relegation this past spring. Maybe Violet’s strategic gaming background will allow Team Envy to develop new tactics or playstyles.

Changes to Starting Rosters

Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng

Doublelift promoted to starting AD Carry for TSM

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Unsurprisingly, Doublelift returns to play the Summer Split as starting AD Carry. Although the star AD Carry had taken a temporary hiatus from professional play, Doublelift was temporarily loaned to Team Liquid by TSM for the last few weeks of the Spring Split to help prevent their relegation. Although TSM won the 2017 NA LCS Spring Split, the team aspires to improve for international competition. Based on their underwhelming performance at the Mid-Season Invitational, Doublelift could be crucial for attaining their higher goals.

Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer

Starting Goldenglue as Team Liquid’s mid laner is one of the most controversial roster appointments going into the Summer Split. Leading into the Spring Split, Team Liquid signed Goldenglue and Austin “Link” Shin for mid lane duties. Later in the split, Team Liquid overhauled the roster, moving their AD Carry into mid lane and starting the substitute AD Carry in bottom lane. The team was also almost relegated, even though they had Doublelift on loan from TSM.

In the meantime, Goldenglue bootcamped in South Korea to play against the best in the world and elevate his gameplay. Only time will tell if his Korean solo queue experience has paid off. Goldenglue may be the player with the most pressure on him, coming into this split.

Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin

Piglet is also being reset into his normal role, AD Carry. Team Liquid announced their roster on Twitter as the same roster they signed coming into 2017 Spring Split. While “Midlet” exceeded expectations on a few occasions, it was not a long-term solution for Team Liquid’s problems. Hopefully, the bottom lane meta is more suitable for Piglet to carry, as he has done historically.

Leaving NA LCS

Dylan Falco

Team Envy’s Spring Split coach, Dylan Falco, is leaving North America to coach Fnatic in the EU LCS. His replacement will be Violet, as mentioned above. For more information on Coach Falco’s relocation, and the rest of the roster updates for the EU LCS, check out EU LCS Mid-Season Roster Updates

Status Unknown

Adrian “Adrian” Ma

No updates yet on Adrian for Summer Split 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Adrian was last mentioned signing to Team Liquid while their support, Matt “Matt” Elento, needed to step down due to personal issues. Last playing on March 18, Adrian has not been mentioned in any team announcements for Summer Split. Team Liquid did part ways with Adrian, and Matt came back to assume the starting role, but nothing has been reported since then. Adrian left Phoenix1 due to disagreements with teammates, so it is possible that teams are hesitant to bring him into the mix.

Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo

After a disappointing Spring Split, Ninja has been replaced by two mid laners. There have been no announcements about his status since. He could be in contact with other NA LCS teams. He could be considered for a Challenger team. Ninja could also transfer to another region. The Summer Splits will be starting soon, so it is possible he remains unsigned altogether.

David “Hermes” Tu

Hermes joined Immortals coming into the 2017 Spring Split. He had an almost completely new roster of players, and together they finished seventh in the regular season and missed playoffs. Since the announcement of Ssong entering this position, nothing has been heard from Hermes. Judging by his Twitter, Hermes seems to be a free agent.

Simon “heavenTime” Jeon

HeavenTime is another unaccounted coach. Echo Fox brought on Inero as a replacement, but nothing has been seen from HeavenTime. With the season restarting soon, it is possible that he remains unsigned, as well.


MSI Team and Player Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Romain Bigeard, manager of Unicorns of Love

Mascots in the LCS

As the world of esports grows, analysts, fans, and sponsors will be looking towards examples from traditional sports for inspiration. They will draw comparisons between the two to figure out where exactly esports are heading. Franchising in the LCS, for example, is one such move towards traditional sports, away from the relegation model League of Legends has become accustomed to.

A somewhat less important, yet interesting topic, is that of mascots. Do teams need mascots? Do mascots belong in the LCS? Will this be part of the scene in the near future? What would their purpose be?

Mascots in Traditional Sports

Philadelphia Phillies mascot, Phillie Phanatic

Philadelphia Phillies mascot, Phillie Phanatic

Mascots are generally symbolic representations of the teams they tout. From the Phillie Phanatic to Benny the Bull to Big Red, most sports teams have a mascot. These mascots are a physical representation of the team’s name or logo. They are responsible for hyping up the crowd throughout a competition, during slow times, scores, or wins.

It is commonplace for baseball, basketball, football, soccer, and hockey teams to have mascots. They are out in the crowd. Part of the live audience experience usually includes getting a hug from or pictures with the team mascot. They sign autographs, and they provide immense brand recognition.

Merchandising around mascots is prominent. Slapping the mascot’s picture or logo onto items makes them collectibles. For example, many NBA fans can recognize Boston Celtics merchandise if it features “Boston” in green letters, shamrocks, Lucky the Leprechaun, or some combination of the three.

Mascots in LCS

The closest example of a mascot in the LCS is Unicorns of Love’s manager, Romain Bigeard. He generally wears a unicorn costume and dyes his hair and beard bright pink to support the team as they compete. Romain is an iconic member of the Unicorns’ team and brand, instantly recognizable.

Romain Bigeard, manager of Unicorns of Love

courtesy of Riot esports

There are plenty of opportunities for other teams to create mascots. Between North America and Europe, there are Phoenixes (Phoenix1), Immortals, Foxes, Aliens (Dignitas), Horses (Team Liquid), Ninjas (G2), Rabbits, Cats (Roccat), Giants, and Snakes (Splyce). The other teams’ mascots would be less straightforward, but something like “TSM Titans,” or “Fnatic Falcons” could be a cool way to expand their brand. The mascot can also be incorporated into creating new logos, jerseys, champion skins, and collectible merchandise.

Mascots could also help solidify a team’s fanbase. Many LCS fans get attached to players, rather than the organizations they play for. And since so many players switch teams in between splits and in between seasons, organizations have a hard time keeping a consistent base. For example, Immortals probably gained some fans when they signed their most recent jungler, Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, and probably lost some fans when Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin left. Introducing a mascot onto the scene may be a small way to retain a fanbase by providing a consistent symbol to rally behind, rather than just a simple logo.

What Could Go Wrong?

Individuals who do not closely follow specific sports or teams may find mascots to be cheesy. It may seem immature to grow an attachment to some guy in a costume who peps people up at sporting events, like a Disney World character. Does esports really want to go there?

G2 esports fan with ninja logo mask

courtesy of Riot esports

Another consideration is the fact that League of Legends is a game packed with fantasy characters anyway. Would it make sense to introduce a G2 Samurai mascot onto the scene when similar characters already exist in the game? This could create some awkwardness or show that it is unnecessary for the LCS scene.

Cosplay, where fans dress in elaborate costumes of their favorite characters, is already a huge part of the competitive League of Legends experience. Bringing in mascots could be confusing or over-doing it. Cosplayers already act as League of Legends mascots, in a way.

cosplayers at EU LCS

courtesy of Riot esports

These mascots could also need to span over several esports. For example, Cloud9 has teams in League of Legends, Counter Strike, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Call of Duty, DOTA 2, and a few others. How can they create a mascot that makes sense in all of those venues? What if the organization has competitions for different games at the same time? Traditional sports do not run into this issue. Los Angeles is home to several sports teams, but they all have different mascots.

Conclusion

Mascots may not help a team win, and introducing them to the LCS scene may present some complications. But, overall, it could be an interesting experiment. Romain and the Unicorns of Love have proven that it can be done. Other LCS teams have straightforward opportunities to bring on their respective hype men.

A mascot could greatly help organizations solidify their brands by opening up new merchandising opportunities and retaining fans that may otherwise leave the team with a traded or lost player. Possibly the greatest gain from a mascot, though, is pure fun. Imagine the broadcast cutting to a video of a fox mascot hyping up the Echo Fox fans after Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham secures a First Blood. That could be pretty cool.


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