EU’s Final Showdowns: G2-UOL, FNC-MSF

The last matches of the 2017 EU LCS Spring Split are happening this weekend, April 22nd-23rd. The playoffs have been exciting thus far, and the final two series look to be just as juicy. Fnatic will battle Misfits for third place, while Unicorns of Love attempts to dethrone G2. All four of these teams have rounded out the past few weeks well, but here are some notes going into their last match-ups of Spring.

Misfits

Playoffs: Misfits mid laner, PowerOfEvil

courtesy of Riot esports

Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage has had an excellent playoff run. Among all of Misfits and Fnatic’s players, PowerOfEvil has been averaging the highest damage per minute: 620 (the next highest is Martin “Rekkles” Larsson with 497). He makes up 29.8% of Misfits’ damage. His average during the regular season was 495, or 28.8% of the team’s total. PowerOfEvil will need to maintain this high level of play and shut down Rasmus “Caps” Winthe if Misfits want to stand a chance of winning.

Their jungler, Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon, will need to adjust. Between all ten Misfits and Fnatic players, KaKAO sits bottom two in KDA, kill participation, first blood rate, and experience difference at 10 minutes. This is not going to cut it if Misfits are to win this weekend’s series and secure third place. Many analysts have criticized his play on Rengar. His win percentage is only 33% on this champion, so he should try to stay away from it in the draft. Unicorns of Love were smart to ban Lee Sin and Elise, for which he holds 78% and 67% win-rates. His next best options are Ivern and Rek’Sai, for which he also holds 67% win-rates.

Overall, Misfits have mainly lost the early game pressure they exhibited during the regular season. So far, they have averaged 384 gold behind their playoff opponents, which is awful compared to their 820 gold ahead during the regular season. The largest discrepancy between Misfits and Fnatic has been their respective abilities to take the first three turrets. Fnatic holds the top spot among playoff contenders, taking their opponents’ first three turrets in 71% of games. Misfits have only achieved this in 44% of their games.

Fnatic

Playoffs: Fnatic's support, Jesiz

courtesy of Riot esports

Fnatic’s most improved player for playoffs has been Jesse “Jesiz” Le. Almost every statistic of his has improved over the past two weeks. His KDA went from 3.4 to 5.2. His kill participation rose from 60.3% to 68.9%. Jesiz has been a primary engage tool for the team on champions such as Camille, Thresh, and Zyra. He is also a big reason why Rekkles has been able to get through laning phase on off-meta marksmen. Hopefully, Jesiz is able to maintain this high-pressure playstyle.

While having a wide champion pool can be good, it is not always necessary. Fnatic’s odd champion choices essentially ended their series against G2 last weekend. Vayne, Tristana, Kayle, Annie: these selections were not necessary. The flexing of Camille and Kennen have generally worked well for Fnatic, but branching out much beyond those picks is a bit much. The surprise factor does not outweigh the execution factor.

One area where Fnatic has excelled during playoffs is Baron control. Fnatic has taken the first Baron in 86% of their playoff games (compared to 38% during the regular season). They have also maintained a 71% Baron control rate (compared to 33% during the regular season). This focus is much better than Misfits, and will more than likely be the biggest factor in Fnatic’s favor. Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen and crew will need to continue to prioritize this objective.

Unicorns of Love

Playoffs: Unicorns of Love's top laner, Vizicsacsi

courtesy of Riot esports

Unicorns of Love have strong players at every position except, arguably, their AD carry. During playoffs, Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás and Fabian “Exileh” Schubert have averaged 605 and 600 damage per minute, respectively (third and fourth highest of all players). Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir tops the competition in KDA (10.5) and has the second-lowest death share of all player in playoffs (8.9%). While Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort generally averages behind in CS at ten minutes, he stays ahead in gold and experience, and he maintains the third lowest percentage of UOL’s deaths (13.3%).

One of the Unicorns’ biggest strengths is their champion pool. Xerxe has 75-100% win-rates on four champions with three or more games (Warwick, Ivern, Rengar, Rumble). Vizicsacsi has 75-100% win-rates on four champions with three or more games (Renekton, Rumble, Nautlius, Shen). And Exileh has won games on 11 different champions this spring. Pinching their pools will be virtually impossible for G2.

As a team, Unicorns of Love has secured first blood and first dragon in every game of playoffs so far. UOL has also secured the first Baron in in 75% of games with a 71% Baron control rate. If they are going to beat G2, it will most likely be off the back of a Baron trade. G2 have averaged a poor 25% first Baron rate during playoffs, and a 50% Baron control rate. During the regular season, G2 secured first Baron 72% of the time and maintained a 74% Baron control rate.

G2

Playoffs: G2's mid laner, Perkz

courtesy of Riot esports

G2 will be a formidable foe for Unicorns of Love. They offer similar strong players in virtually every role. Luka “Perkz” Perković has really shined throughout playoffs so far. He has the highest damage per minute (635) and percent of his team’s damage (33%). He has the lowest death share of all players in playoffs (8.5%), and he has the third highest KDA (7.0). UOL’s Exileh showed a bit of weakness against PowerOfEvil during laning phase last weekend. Perkz will be even more difficult for him to overcome.

G2’s other primary carry has been Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen. Although he was not quite as dominant in the Fnatic series last weekend, his match-up with Unicorns’ bottom lane should be much easier. Zven has averaged 6.5 CS and 164 gold ahead at ten minutes. If there is a player who needs to step up in this series, though, it is Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun. Trick’s regular season KDA was 4.7. So far in playoffs, it is 1.8. He averaged significantly ahead in gold, experience, and CS at ten minutes. In the playoffs, he has averaged 7 CS and 108 experience behind.

G2’s early game was phenomenal against Fnatic last weekend. The squad averaged 877 gold ahead at 15 minutes. That was the case during the regular season, as well. What looks like a weak spot is taking early towers. During the regular season, G2 took first turret in 64% of games and the first three turrets in 73% of games. In their series last weekend, they only did 50% and 25%, respectively. Unicorns of Love take the first turret less often, but the first three turrets more often. G2 will have to transition their early game leads into early objectives if they want to stand a chance against UOL. Teamfighting may not be the correct strategy. Smart rotations and perfect execution will be their only chance at victory.

predictions

Fnatic has looked much stronger in the past few weeks than Misfits have. I do not think it impossible for Misfits to take this, but it is highly unlikely. Just as Misfits took one game off of Unicorns of Love, they should get one from Fnatic, but Fnatic should win 3-1.

The finals series will be much more exciting. G2 have looked a bit weaker, while Unicorns seem hungry. Either way, it should be a five game series. If UOL wins it will be from snowballing the top side of the map, while G2 should look to snowball the bottom side. While both will likely happen, Vizicsacsi’s gameplay lately is seemingly unstoppable. This should be Unicorns’ spring split playoff victory.


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The League’s Explorers: A Retrospective

It’s hard not to look back on the League of Explorers expansion with rose-tinted spectacles. It came after the relatively non impactful Grand Tournament expansion that seemed to do little but introduce the much-maligned Secret Paladin, and following on the heels of a controversial Warsong Commander nerf. It provided a well-needed injection of variety and levity. Though the expansion added a number of exciting, archetype defining cards, it’s best remembered for its four eponymous Explorers. These oft-hatted adventurers weren’t just the thematic heart of the expansion; they each provided a powerful and lasting impact on Hearthstone’s history.

 

Sir Finley Mrrglton

This gentleman’s refined demeanor belied his aggro inclinations

Sir Finley heralded the rise of a whole new breed of aggro decks. Previously, many archetypes had been lumbered with an inherently defensive hero power. Classes like Warrior or Shaman could sometimes match Hunters with their quality of cards,; but the consistent pressure granted by the Steady Shot Hero Power made it the premier aggro class. Sir Finley Mrrglton single-handedly smashed that paradigm. He provided a decent body early-game, but mainly allowed a game plan synergistic hero power to replace an otherwise near-useless defensive one. Along with his one mana, 1/3 buddy Tunnel Trogg, he was a vital part in the rise of Aggro Shaman.

Steady Shot and Lifetap were of course the most coveted, but even Fireblast or Druid’s Transform were viable alternatives to the otherwise near-useless Armor Up and Totem powers. Whether or not this impact was healthy in the long run is a matter of perspective. In the short run, though, it contributed massively to an increase in the variety of Aggro. With Hunter on the ropes as a class, perhaps it’s best that Steady shot becomes unique to them once more…

What can we learn after Mrrglton’s Rotation? Well, for one, changing to another class’s hero power might dilute class flavor a bit much. Especially in the days when Small Time Buccaneer and Patches were ubiquitous, opening into the same few cards and the same few hero powers began to get monotonous. On the plus side, his voice acting and entry sequence were truly top-notch. On the other hand, allowing more variety in hero powers can help more viable decks flourish.

Brann Bronzebeard

Brann’s wild combos might be best suited to the Wild format

Brann Bronzebeard was an obvious addition ever since the likes of Baron Rivendare’s Deathrattle-doubling effect was introduced. His battlecry duplication ability with only minor stat costs made him a versatile inclusion in a wide variety of decks. From Dragon, to C’thun, to Jade, there were very few archetypes that couldn’t at least partially justify his inclusion.

While his incremental value was impressive, he could also inspire some truly broken combos. While Brann-Kazakus is the most popular now, few can forget the game-ending might of Brann into a Thaurrisan discounted Doomcaller. Barely any decks could withstand the onslaught of three C’thuns.

However, perhaps it’s for the best that he’s rotating out. As Kazakus has shown, he severely limited the design space for potent battlecry minions, or otherwise making certain archetypes and strategies far more potent than they had any right to be (see Jade Shaman). In that regard, Brann is a perfect advertisement for the merits of the Standard rotation system. While his potentially gamebreakingly powerful interactions will still exist to inspire and provoke wonder in Wild, they won’t pollute the carefully tuned balance of Standard.

Elise Starseeker

This card defined Control before Jade and Kazakus

Elise Starseeker was never meant to be anything other than a fun diversion. When she completely redefined Control decks, it was almost by accident. Together with Justicar Trueheart, she marked the temporary transition of Control decks from having heavy threats like Ysera in their deck to largely relying on her late-game value generation after reaching fatigue. The ability to swap out useless card draw and low-impact spells and minions for a cascade of huge bombs led to the evolution of Warrior and Priest decks. They could afford to go as anti-aggro as possible while still having a fighting chance in the control mirror.

The Golden Monkey itself provoked wonder, counter-play, and frustration in equal measure. While Legendary RNG decided many matchups, the variance was welcomed by adding unpredictability to the otherwise mathematically tedious calculations of Fatigue; and whilst she was powerful, there were numerous counterplay options. Most notably saving tempo tools like removal or Sylvanas for after the monkey hard replaced all comeback mechanics with clunky minions.

That said, the promotion of 20-minute plus games was perhaps an unhealthy one. Many players found it tedious and time-consuming facing decks that stalled out for dozens of turns before doing anything proactive. Still, Elise proved a powerful point; the promotion of potent proactive late-game strategies for control decks that don’t rely on replacing significant proportions of the deck with slow bombs could shake up otherwise stale interactions between late-game decks, while keeping their viability against aggro and midrange.

Reno Jackson

The fact that “Reno decks” are a concept tells of this card’s power

Few cards have been as impactful as Reno. This dapper member of the Explorers inspired multiple breeds of decks. Even the name Reno became a byword for singleton decks. His unique ability to provide incredible burst healing to classes that otherwise struggle with survivability, like Warlock or Mage, resulted in a new style of potent control decks. With the near-extinction of Handlock and struggle of Control Mage to find a raison d’etre after Echo of Medivh rotated out and Molten Giant’s mana was raised, the card provided a safe haven for those who wanted to play late-game oriented versions of those classes.

Kazakus provided a boost for singleton decks, making them the only option for Control after Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. This rise provided an additional spotlight on the less pleasant aspects of the class. By concentrating huge amounts of the decks’ power into a few key cards, decks tended to be exceptionally powerful, but horribly inconsistent, especially versus aggro. This made it especially frustrating when draw RNG was in favor of one player, as games often felt like a coin-flip.

Perhaps the best lesson to learn from Reno Jackson is to spread out the power cards for any given archetype over a decent number of deckslots. This will make games not as overly dependent on one draw-specific answers. The other, more positive lesson is already one that Team 5 has learned from; giving players reward for creative deckbuilding challenges pays off in terms of gameplay variety.

 

All images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.

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Week 8: Team Vitality on stage

EU LCS Players Who Need to Bounce Back in Week 8

The EU LCS had a few shake-ups in Week 7. There was a tilting remake in the Giants-Vitality series. Origen took their first match win of 2017. Splyce had a convincing win against G2 in Game 1, then completely dropped the ball. Roccat finished the week 2-0. H2K beat Misfits much harder than many expected.

Coming into Week 8, several teams will be looking to bounce back. There were some brutal losses last week. There were some who underperformed, and others who surprised the audience. There are only three more weeks until Playoffs begin. Teams at the top are vying for first place in their groups. Teams at the bottom are clawing out of the relegation tournament. Teams in the middle are doing their best to maintain their Playoff spots.

Here are five players who will need to come back this week off of heavy losses to boost their teams into higher positions.

Origen’s Jungler

Week 8: Origen Wisdom

courtesy of Riot esports

While Origen must have been excited to win their first game of Spring Split, they still finished the week with another 0-2. They currently sit at the bottom of Group B at 0-9. They are a full two wins behind the next lowest three teams.

Origen announced that Kim “Wisdom” Tae-Wan will be leaving the team, and they have brought on Jacob “Cinkrof” Rokicki as a replacement. Cinkrof has been playing in the Spanish professional league, LVP. While Wisdom has shown certain bright moments, he stands out as a particularly weak piece of Origen’s roster. He tends to play over-aggressively, especially in the mid-late game, getting picked off or caught out of position regularly.

Cinkrof, if he does start in Week 8, will have his first tests against Team Vitality and Splyce. Neither of these teams should blow Origen out of the water, but they will be challenging. Many fans have written off Origen as already being solidified into the relegation tournament. Cinkrof will be their last hope for rising through the ranks of Group B, and possibly defending Origen’s slot in the LCS.

VIT Djoko

Week 8: Team Vitality Djoko

courtesy of Riot esports

Team Vitality had a rough Week 7, despite their victory against Giants. Vitality gave away Game 1, and Giants were far ahead in Game 2 before the Orianna bug was detected and the game was remade. Giants did lose the next two games, but gameplay-wise, Vitality looked outclassed prior to the bug. Later in the weekend, Roccat beat Vitality 2-0.

Charly “Djoko” Guillard looked particularly weak in these two series. During the first 20 minutes of Game 2 against Giants (prior to the remake), Djoko was killed three times. While he had decent showings on Gragas and Graves, he also had some unconvincing games on Gragas and a sub-par performance on Elise.

In Week 8, Djoko will be battling Origen’s new jungler. This could be a complete wildcard, but it will be up to Djoko to ensure that Vitality maintain control of the game. It should be an easy 2-0 victory, but, then again, same goes for Roccat last week. A loss here could spell devastation for Team Vitality’s chances at escaping the relegation tournament.

SPY Trashy

Week 8: Splyce Trashy

courtesy of Riot esports

Splyce showed us their ceiling in Week 7, Game 1 against G2. They played a clean, fast-paced game, took a decisive Baron, and won. But after that, it all came crumbling down, especially for Jonas “Trashy” Andersen. He finished Game 2 almost 5,000 gold behind G2’s Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun. Game 3 was around 3,500. Since Jungle is such an impactful role in the current meta, these deficits can be difficult to salvage.

Luckily, Splyce play against Origen in Week 8. This series should be a walk in the park for Splyce’s roster; but if Origen’s new jungler, Cinkrof, can hold back Trashy, it may be more difficult than expected. Splyce need to prove to fans that they will be stronger moving forward. Expectations have been high for this squad since the preaseason. If they want to solidify their spot for playoffs and beyond, wins against teams below them have to be convincing.

FNC sOAZ

Week 8: FNC sOAZ

courtesy of Riot esports

Fnatic had a rough time against Unicorns of Love last week. They did get a late-game win in Game 1, but Games 2 and 3 were not as lucky. Paul “sOAZ” Boyer seemed outclassed overall by UOL’s Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás. Even in the win, sOAZ finished almost 3,000 gold behind his counterpart. The losses were less pretty.

Throughout the season, sOAZ has been floating under the radar as a mediocre top laner. There have been few especially bright moments, even when the team had his partner jungler, Maurice “Amazingx” Stückenschneider, starting. His tank plays are generally decent, but his carry plays have looked sub-par.

In Week 8, Fnatic will face Roccat. Similar to the Splyce-Origen match-up, this series needs to be a solid 2-0 from Fnatic to reinstill confidence in fans. Ambrož “Phaxi” Hren has not looked like a huge barrier for opposing teams, so sOAZ should look excellent against him. The veteran should be quicker on Teleports and create more pressure overall. Fnatic seems stuck in the middle of Group A, but Roccat are coming off of a big 2-0 week, and they would love to leapfrog Giants with a win this week.

MSF PowerOfEvil

Week 8: Misfits PowerOfEvil

courtesy of Riot esports

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where Misfits went wrong in Week 7. Many speculated that their match-up versus H2K would be a battle of titans, with either winning 2-1. However, once the cookie crumbled, Misfits seemed out of sorts. One individual that needs to bounce back in Week 8, though, is Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage. He has been such a rock in the mid lane, and looked weak against Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten.

Top players who have bad games look worse than mediocre players having bad games. All of the members of Misfits share the blame for last week, but PowerOfEvil has been the anchor for them all Split. He will also be particularly important in Week 8, because they will face the number one team in Group A: G2. With G2 comes Luka “Perkz” Perković. Perkz is in the same tier as Febiven, so PowerOfEvil will need to shake off last week and hold steady with him. Otherwise, Misfits will risk another hefty loss. Misfits’ jungler, Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon, will be in a similar position, but mid lane should be the biggest factor in Misfits’ success this week.

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