Halo World Championship Finals Regional Preview: Australia and Latin America

The Halo World Championship Finals begin in just two short days. So far, this regional preview series has covered the best North American and best European teams. Because both Australia and Latin America are sending one team each, this final installment will merge both regions. At the 2016 Halo World Championship, both regions failed to crack the top 8. Both teams have spent the better part of a year practicing for their chance to win big. Is 2017 the year an Australian or Latin American team will raise the HWC trophy, or will these regions fall short yet again?

 

Australia: Team Immunity

Roster: Aaron “Benno” Bennett, Teddy “Junior” Joe Jr., Daniel “Seduce” Franken, Matthew “Voltage” Barker

Led by Australian Halo veteran Benno, Team Immunity will attend the HWC Finals with a roster identical to their 2016 showing. The team faced a crisis last year, with an injury sidelining former player Matt “Heff” Hefren. Just days before the biggest Halo tournament in history, Team Immunity was scrambling for a fourth player. The Australian squad hoped for the best, quickly acquiring rookie player Junior, but it unfortunately wasn’t enough.

Benno and Team Immunity. Courtesy of RespawnNinja

In the group stage, Immunity were swept by two red-hot North American teams, eLevate and Denial eSports. They failed to make bracket play, with their only win being a sweep over European team FAB Games eSports. Although disheartening given the circumstance, this shock lit a fire under Immunity for the 2017 HWC Finals. They were better than their placing, and they knew it.

Team Immunity’s road to the 2017 HWC Finals began in early 2017, with a series of online tournaments, concluding with an Online Regional Qualifier in Februrary. The eight-team qualifier featured the best Australian Halo teams, all fighting for one trip to the 2017 HWC Finals. With last years’ shortcomings on their minds, Immunity demolished all obstacles in their path.

The team swept their way into the Grand Final for a face-off with Gryffindor, but were not slowing down any time soon. A flawless 4-0 victory in the Grand Finals awarded Team Immunity with a ticket to the 2017 HWC Finals, and a massive weight off the shoulders of Benno and crew.

This weekend, Immunity seeks to build on their successes at home, and face the strongest competition in the world. Placed in Group C with North American titans Team EnVyUs, and LCQ Champs Splyce, it seems that they’ve got their work cut out for them. Look for Benno and the rest of Immunity to try catching these teams off-guard, as they battle for a spot in the Championship Bracket.

 

Latin America: SoaR Gaming

Roster: Irving “Drift” Ramírez, Atzin “Atzo” Pulido, Carlos “Bullet” Marlasca, Gilbert “MuNoZ” Muñoz

Munoz hopes to lead SoaR to victory. Courtesy of Twitter @elevateMunoz

SoaR Gaming, formerly Shock the World, has had an interesting week. First, the team acquired Halo veteran MuNoZ after losing Josbe “Tapping Buttons” Valadez to visa issues. Then, the Shock the World roster was acquired by esports organization SoaR Gaming for the HWC Finals. Although MuNoZ brings leadership and experience to the team, can they adjust in enough time to perform well this weekend?

SoaR Gaming began their journey to the HWC Finals by competing at the Mexico City HWC 2017 Qualifier. After barely edging out MuNoZ former team, Aztek Gaming, in Winners Bracket Round 3, SoaR cruised into the Grand Final. A charged-up Synergy Gaming roster proved no match for SoaR, as they defeated the fellow Latin American squad 4-2.

The victory in Mexico City punched SoaR Gaming’s tickets to California, but has left more questions than answers. Will MuNoZ HWC experience be enough to keep team composure? Can SoaR overcome European powerhouse FAB Games, or NA veterans Str8 Rippin in Group D? Can the squad adjust without teammate, Tapping Buttons?

Chosen Squad, the 2016 HWC Latin American team, won only a single game in pool play. On the other hand, the 2017 Latin American team is an entirely new roster. SoaR gaming is well-aware that they are the underdogs heading into the 2017 HWC Finals. Look for the team to unite under MuNoZ as they try to make a miracle run this weekend.

 

Conclusion

This concludes the regional preview series for the 2017 Halo World Championship Finals!  As we approach the beginning of the action, the teams are making their final preparations. Which teams will fall short of expectations, and which will rise to the occasion? Be sure to watch the action unfold this weekend at twitch.tv/halo.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Garrett! Get in touch with Garrett personally to talk more HCS and see more articles by following him on Twitter @gbSTATUS!

NALCS: Grading the Newest Imports

This season, in particular, we got the chance to see some big names imported into the NALCS scene. With the split coming to a close soon, I thought I’d review some of the bigger pickups by teams. It will always be an ongoing debate of whether having an all English speaking team is better than having to integrate international players.

This was evident this split, as teams with big name imports, such as Dignitas, Echo Fox, and Immortals stumbled out of the gate. Their team synergy seemed off with top lane imports, especially when using teleport and team fighting.

Phoenix 1’s Arrow and RYu

Courtesy: Riot Esports

ADC No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon has stormed onto the NALCS scene. After playing the last few seasons on KT, Arrow made the move to North America with Phoenix1. Many questioned how much Arrow was being carried by a talented KT roster. Nobody really knew how well Arrow was going to perform, as he’d have to learn English for the first time.

Arrow has heavily exceeded expectations as he’s developed into one of the best ADC’s in North America. His skill shot accuracy on utility carries such as Varus and Jhin has made him one of P1’s most valuable players. He currently leads all ADC’s in KDA, DMG%, and DPM. All key stats for an ADC. He has undoubtedly taken the role of best ADC in North America.

Mid laner Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook, on the other hand, had the advantage of playing in Europe. With his experience on H2K, he’d become accustomed to communicating in English. Ryu hasn’t skipped a beat since coming to NA. He is a solid mid laner for his team and is definitely able to keep up with the talent in the region. He currently has the fourth highest KDA and CSD@10.

Phoenix1 has been able to surge from being a relegation team last split, to title contenders. Ryu and Arrow have been key pickups, and Phoenx1 deserve praise for being able to integrate these two talented imports.

Grade: A+

Echo Fox’s Looper

 

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Former World champion Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok was brought into Echo Fox after a last place finish in Summer. Looper was brought in as someone who knew what it took to win a championship. Some say he benefited from having a world class shot caller in support Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong.

Looper’s tank play has been disjointed from his team at times. His teleport plays may seem a bit off, but it may also be Echo Fox as a team being a bit indecisive. He still has pretty strong laning as he’s fourth in CSD@10, but is near the bottom in KDA.

Looper hasn’t necessarily been a weakness on this team, but he’s certainly not one of the main carries either. Echo Fox as a whole has struggled with mid game shot calling. Their early game is pretty decent, but they usually have no idea how to translate it into a victory.

Grade: B-

Dignitas’ Ssumday and Chaser

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho was arguably one of the biggest names to enter the NALCS in recent history. From his time with KT, he had become heralded as one of the best top laners in the world. Dignitas as a team struggled out of the gate making plays as a team. Bringing in former Apex coach David “Cop” Roberson has seemed to help immensely.

Ssumday individually has played quite well. He has had a few games where he just straight up carried Dignitas on a high skill champion, such as Fiora. With the meta shifting somewhat off of tanks, we may see Ssumday start to do more work. He currently leads the league in CSD@10 and is tied for first in DMG%.

Dignitas’ jungler Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun maybe wasn’t as hyped up as Ssumday, but was still expected to do well. Chaser struggled in his first few weeks of LCS. In a carry jungle meta, he wasn’t making the sort of impact his team needed. Dignitas seemed to struggle with pulling the trigger on engages, but have gotten much better.

Chaser has stepped up most recently. He currently holds the second highest kill participation and had a dominant series in a crucial win over Team Liquid this week.

With Dignitas beginning to look like the possible fourth best team, Ssumday and Chaser have been key contributors. Individually, Chaser may have struggled to start out the split, but he has been getting better each week.

Grade: A

Immortals’ Flame and Olleh

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Top laner Lee “Flame” Ho-jong came onto Immortals with high expectations. After spending time as a sub in China, he came to North America looking to takeover the North American scene. Many questioned if he’d be able to work with jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett. Both players were infamous for having attitude issues on previous teams.

As with most of the teams that had imports, Flame struggled out of the gate. His teleport plays always seemed way out of sync with the rest of his team. He would often times get caught out split pushing or engaging without the help of his team. In recent weeks, Immortals have fixed some of the issues plaguing them, and look to be contenders for a playoff spot. Flame is second in CSD@10, but still holds one of the worst KDA’s among top laners.

Support Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung was a lesser known import to most spectators. He had spent some time on Brazil’s Pain Gaming and LMS’ Hong Kong Esports. Olleh hasn’t necessarily stuck out as a big play-maker support, but that could be due to playing with a rookie ADC in Cody Sun. He’s currently middle of the pack in KDA, but does lead the league in Wards per minute.

Immortals haven’t necessarily been winning off their imports’ play. It’s mostly been heavily reliant on how well jungler Dardoch plays. If he doesn’t do well, there usually isn’t someone else left to help carry the game.

 

Grade: C

Team Envyus’ Lira

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Despite not playing the first week due to visa issues, jungler Nam “Lira” Tae-yoo has looked like a good player on a bad team. Often times when Envyus gets upset wins, it is due to the early activity of Lira. He currently has the fourth best first blood percentage and KDA among junglers.

It’s hard to grade Lira due to where Envyus is in the standings. Without him, they might be winless and headed for relegation. With him, though, I don’t see them losing their LCS spot, especially with the junglers currently playing the Challenger Series.

I’d love to see how he does with a better mid laner, perhaps. Lira has definitely been one of the more effective imports. It seems like Envyus could do well if they got a better player at mid. Other teams may look to seek his services in the off season as he seems to be adapting well.

Grade: B+

 

 

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Halo World Championship Finals Regional Preview: North America

Next weekend, the top Halo teams from around the world will gather in Burbank, California to battle for the Halo World Championship crown and their share of one million dollars. With the inclusion of last weekend’s Last Chance Qualifier Champs, Splyce, the seventh North American spot has been filled. As the final week of preparation approaches, expect each team to be actively scrimmaging and finalizing strategy for one of the biggest Halo tournaments of all time. This preview will highlight some of the most promising teams from North America.

North American Titans

It’s no secret that North America is objectively the best scene for competitive Halo. North American teams have been at the cutting edge of the Halo franchise’s ever-changing meta since the inception of MLG. Most predictions for the HWC Finals will confidently select an all-American top four, and potentially round out the top six with teams hailing from the region. These two teams have been exchanging blows for the entirety of the season, and are top contenders to hoist the championship trophy when all is said and done.

 

The Defending Champs: OpTic Gaming

Roster: Paul “SnakeBite” Duarte, Matt “Royal2” Fiorante, Bradley “Frosty” Bergstrom, T.J. “LethuL” Campbell.

OpTic Gaming (formerly Counter Logic Gaming) hoist the HWC 2016 trophy. Courtesy of ESPN.

Fresh off two consecutive major tournament victories, and eager for a chance to defend their title of “Halo World Champions,” OpTic Gaming looks unbeatable. Slaying powerhouses SnakeBite and Royal2 lead the charge, and can single-handedly steal a game from the clutches of defeat. These two players are anchored by the always-consistent Frosty, and strategic mind of Lethul.

OpTic Gaming has only suffered one loss on LAN since X Games Aspen 2016 (then Counter Logic Gaming), and has somehow only improved with time. Expect OpTic Gaming to be the favorites at the HWC Finals, and successfully defend their title.

Victory means a satisfying, and well-deserved result for one of the most dominant Halo teams of all-time.

 

The Young Guns: Team Liquid

Roster: Zane “Penguin” Hearon, Timothy “Rayne” Tinkler, Braedon “StelluR” Boettcher, Kevin “Eco” Smith.

Following a disappointing finish at the HCS Fall 2016 finals, Team Liquid parted ways with Tyler “Spartan” Ganza and Hamy “Commonly” Abbaali. Searching for two, Rayne and Penguin acquired StelluR and Eco to round out this roster of young-guns.

Since the pickup, Team Liquid hasn’t skipped a beat, finishing second at both UGC St. Louis and ME Las Vegas. Despite a promising effort, the team came just short of victory, falling to a red-hot OpTic Gaming at both events. As the HWC Finals approach, Team Liquid is gearing up for one last shot to overcome the Green Wall and solidify their place in Halo legacy.

If there is a team to take down OpTic, Team Liquid appears to be the most likely contender. At UGC St. Louis, Liquid nearly bested OpTic in a thrilling seven-game series, but the composure of OG ultimately prevailed. Expect each member of Team Liquid to come out guns-blazing next weekend, where they will attempt to take what they believe is rightfully theirs.

 

The Wild Card: Team EnVyUs

Roster: Austin “Mikwen” McCleary, Justin “iGotUrPistola” Deese, Eric “Snip3down” Wrona, Cuyler “Huke” Garland

Snip3down of Team EnVyUs. Courtesy of Halo EsportsWikis

EnVyUs is the first and only team to make OpTic Gaming bleed. A win over OG at the HCS Fall Finals showed that NV is a force to be reckoned with. Since then, they’ve been unable to replicate their success, finishing an underwhelming third place at both UGC St. Louis and ME Las Vegas.

Led by former MLG Champions Snip3down and iGotUrPistola, EnVyUs seek to prove that their win at the HCS Fall Finals was no fluke. Victory for NV depends on two things: the Huke x-factor, and team mentality. If Huke catches fire, there is no team who can stop him. Additionally, if the team gets in their own heads, a game can quickly spiral out of control. NV are surely aware of their shortcomings, and will seek to make a statement after tasting victory last year. Expect Team EnVyUs to be the dark horse in the HWC Finals.

 

Conclusion

These three teams are the pinnacle of North American Halo competition, making them the teams to beat from the region. OpTic Gaming is a force of nature, and intends to demolish any competition presented at the HWC Finals. Meanwhile, Team Liquid will attempt to reach the mountaintop following consecutive runner-up placings, and Team EnVyUs hopes to recreate the magic that granted them a win at the HCS Fall Finals.

Halo World Championship 2016 Trophy. Courtesy of Xbox Wire

Despite the strong North American competition appearing next weekend, there are some notable exceptions: Evil Geniuses, and Allegiance. Both failed to qualify for worlds in the Last Chance Qualifier, while Splyce cruised to victory, and thus occupy the final North American spot. Look for both EG and Allegiance to rebuild in the offseason, and come back stronger.

Regardless, with both glory and a substantial amount of cash on the line, the Halo World Championship Finals will conclude a dramatic season. The competition is tight, the rosters are locked, and the North American teams are ready to defend their home turf. All of the action will be streamed live at twitch.tv/halo, starting March 24.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Garrett! Get in touch with Garrett personally to talk more HCS and see more articles by following him on Twitter @gbSTATUS!

OGN Apex Season 2 Playoffs are Here

The OGN Apex second regular season has come to a close, as Fnatic and Cloud9 miss the playoffs. The west only gets one team in EnvyUs. After an exhausting decision making process, the round two groups have been decided.

Based on random drawings of the first seeds, the groups were decided. Lunatic-Hai got the first pick, and not only do they get to pick their group, but also their opponent. They chose the defending champions, EnvyUs. With all the Korean teams polled, most teams wanted to face the one foreign team.

  • Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ognglobal

The Group of Death 

For example, the challenger qualifier team, Meta Athena, beat EnvyUs 3-0 in the group stages. The top ranked team showed weaknesses and now has to play in the group of death. In the other match in group A, KongDoo Uncia will face Runaway. Uncia’s sister team, Panthera, had a strong showing against RunAway, holding them to only one point in the entire match.

Additionally, DNCE (Kim Se Yong), from Uncia said “he wanted to get it over with” referring to playing either EnvyUs or the other top Korean team Lunatic-Hai. One of the three best teams in the world will be eliminated before the bracket. The hope for foreign Overwatch all relies on the skills of Taimou (Timo Ketunnen) and HarryHook (Jonathon Tejedor Rua) who carried them to this point.

Prediction: Lunatic-Hai is the most well-rounded team in group A. The supports are possibly the best in all of Overwatch with Whoru (Lee Seunf Joon) playing the DPS role at an extremely high level. KongDoo Uncia will be the second seed. Uncia struggled against Cloud 9, but this team still has strong enough tank players to beat EnvyUs.

photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ognglobal

Group B

In group B, it will most likely come down to who can beat KongDoo Panthers. MetaAthena had a strong showing in round one by beating EnvyUs 3-0. It was the most shocking result of the regular season. MetaAthena had the best draft, avoiding three of the top four teams.

On the other hand, LW Blue and Afreeca Freecs Blue are no slouches. AFB finished second last year in Apex and LW Blue is highly regarded as one of the best teams. The prohibitive favorites will be the latter, but these teams can give them a run for their money. AFB had a rough regular season escaping out from group C by eliminating Cloud 9.

Prediction: it’s tough seeing anyone beat Panthera with their ability to adjust to compositions with excellent flex play. KongDoo Panthera wins the group. MetaAthena is clearly the second best team, Hoon (Choi Jae Hoon) is one of the best Zarya players in a sea of Korean Zarya’s.

The Disappointments
It was a sad day for western Overwatch. Misfits, Cloud 9, and Fnatic all missed the playoffs. Misfits and Cloud 9 had their chance to recover, but lost in the last set to miss out. Cloud 9 took a strong Uncia club to game 5, but ended up getting full-held on Eichenwalde. Each team finished third in their respective groups.

Furthermore, Korean teams like BK Stars and Conbox Spirit had a letdown season. As HarryHook said early on, “it seems harder to win this season.” The level of play has clearly gone up and the rest of the teams need to play catch-up. Squads like Cloud 9 and Misfits, who barely missed the playoffs, might need a retool. The rest might need a full-rebuild.

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Mid Split Grades For Each NALCS Team

We’re halfway through the NALCS spring split, and I’ll be handing out grades for each team so far. My basis for grading: expectations coming into this split, if they’ve met/under performed those expectations, and their current standing. Every team has played each other once now, so we have a good feel for how each team matches up against one another. Things can definitely change in the second half of the split, so it’ll be interesting to see where these teams end.

10. Team Liquid(2-8)

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Nobody expected us to be halfway through the split with Team Liquid sitting at the bottom, even below Envyus. They acquired supposedly one of the best junglers in the region in Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin, but it hasn’t been enough. One thing that has changed this split is the meta shift to utility style AD carries, in which star Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin has struggled on. In the past, Team Liquid relied on Piglet to be a main carry for the team. That has not been the case this split as Piglet currently sits dead last in KDA and leads all AD’s in deaths.

Team Liquid has obviously hit the panic button with the announcement of possible roster changes during the IEM break. The most notable rumor being Piglet switching to mid. If that doesn’t spell desperation, I don’t know what does. There aren’t many ADC’s in challenger willing to thrust themselves into a sinking ship and be apart of the downfall.

Grade: F

9. Team Envyus(2-8)

In all honesty, everyone expected Envyus to be a low tier team, possibly similar to Echo Fox last summer. The fact that they have two wins, one coming off a talented Echo Fox team, tells me they’re not as bad as people think. They’ve shown the ability to take teams to close matches even when they do lose.

Their laners are able to gain significant CS differences in games. Looking at top laner Shin “Seraph” Wu Yeong and ADC Apollo “Apollo” Price, they’re both near the top in their positions in CS diff@10. They may lack the team fighting needed to really compete on the LCS level, but that’s to be expected when only your bot lane speaks English as their first language.

Grade: B-

8. Team Dignitas(4-6)

Courtesy: Riot Esports

With the big name imports of Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun, Dignitas was expected to be towards the top of the standings. They were off to a slow start, but things have finally picked up for them, going 3-1 in the past two weeks. I’ll admit two of those wins were against Team Envyus and Team Liquid, two teams at the bottom of the standings, but they needed those wins. They also looked impressive in a 2-0 victory against Flyquest, who were tied for second heading into the week.

Their schedule doesn’t get any easier heading into the second half, as they half Phoenix1 and TSM as their first opponents. Maybe this IEM break will give them the needed time to finally come together as the top tier team many had hoped for.

Grade: D

7. Echo Fox

Echo Fox has to be the most inconsistent team in LCS. At least with bottom tier teams you can expect how they’re going to play. With Echo Fox, one week they’re 2-0 sweeping TSM, the next they’re getting 0-2’d by Envyus. This team seems to have trouble playing to the level of their competition. Against the good teams, they play their best, but against the worse ones, they’ll allow themselves to play down to their level. This is just about where people were placing them in terms of standings heading into the split, if not lower.

It is surprising to see a team this low still hold the highest Gold difference@15 among NALCS teams. Their early game isn’t their weak point by any means. Jungler Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham has shown to be the best jungler so far, despite a poor showing last weekend. His early game aggression has allowed Echo Fox to jump to their early leads. It’s been in the mid-late game where Echo Fox has struggled in not knowing how to translate their leads into victories.

If they can fix their macro-play, this team can definitely be a “Cinderella” team heading into playoffs.

Grade: B

6. Immortals (5-5)

For the most part, people pegged Immortals as being around this 5th-8th place team. Immortals was expected to play mostly through star jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and mid laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park. For the most part, Dardoch has had to solo carry the team, with Pobelter playing uncharacteristically poor. Pobelter has improved as the weeks have gone on, but he’s still currently last in KDA and CS diff@10 among mids.

Top laner Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong looks to have fixed some of the communication issues that he was having. In the beginning of the split, his teleports and team fighting seemed off from the team. In a meta where tank play was very important, Immortals struggled to gain any wins to start out. They have gone 3-1 in their past two weeks, but most of those victories came off teams below them in the standings.

They’ll need to show some competitiveness against some of the better teams before we can list them as a definite playoff team.

Grade: C

5. Counter Logic Gaming(5-5)

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) was somewhat expected to thrive to begin the split. Most teams were brand new rosters with absolutely no synergy built up yet, as was evident in the first few weeks. CLG would have the advantage of not having any roster changes and knowing how to play with one another. They struggled to use this to their advantage, as they had a slow start due to not having a great grasp on the meta. CLG have noted that they’ve always been a bit slow on picking up on the meta. As a top tier organization, you’d expect this problem to be fixed by now.

Star support Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black looked lost in the meta of carry style supports, often being caught out of position. Jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero has looked as okay as he always has, but with the rise of jungle talent in a meta of carries, it hasn’t been enough.

They’ve recently began to look like they’re returning to top form, going 3-1 in the past two weeks. They took a much needed victory against Immortals last week that put them ahead of them in the standings.

Grade: B-

4. Phoenix1(6-4)

Phoenix1 were my darkhorse favorite heading into the split, and they haven’t disappointed.  Most people ranked P1 as a middle-lower half team heading in, but they’ve shown the ability to compete with the best, after sweeping C9 2-0 with a substitute jungler. No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon has been the best ADC in NA “by far” and a candidate for MVP.

Nobody really knows what exactly is happening with Rami “Inori” Charagh. Before he departed the team, he was looking to be struggling on any champion that wasn’t Rengar or Kha’zix. In recent interviews with substitute jungler Will “Meteos” Hartman, he made it sound like P1 may just be looking for a long term replacement. Meteos is no slouch as a replacement, although he doesn’t sound like he’d be willing to commit long term. If P1 continue with Meteos, I don’t see why this team can’t finish in the upper echelon of the standings.

Grade: A

3.Flyquest (6-4)

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Flyquest have developed into fan favorites as the “C9 White”. No one can really count out any team with prolific shotcaller Hai “Hai” Lam on it. Having three out of five members who have played together for so many years also has to help. Everyone, including myself, wanted to cheer for this team, but honestly expected them to be in the bottom tier.

This was reinforced with the announcement of Galen “Moon” Holgate as their new jungler just days before the LCS start. The last time we saw Moon, he looked scared and out of his element on stage. This split, he’s become one of the most improved players we’ve ever seen in LCS. This may be due to playing with some LCS veterans this time, but Moon himself has been looking like an absolute steal from free agency.

Hai’s effectiveness as a shotcaller will never be able to be measured statistically, but if Flyquest finish top two, I’d peg him as a favorite for MVP.

Grade: A+

2. Cloud 9(8-2)

Cloud 9 came into the split as heavy favorites, as their only roster change was bringing in rookie jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia. They also have top tier players in just about every position. They definitely started the split as the strongest looking team, with an 8-0 record. Before this week, Cloud 9 was the lone wolf atop the NALCS. After an abysmal 0-2 week, they’re now tied with TSM at 8-2.

It’s questionable how Cloud 9 went undefeated through the first half of the split. Other teams may have just needed more time to build synergy. Cloud 9’s early game still isn’t what we’ve come to expect from a top team. They’re currently ranked seventh in CS diff@15. They’re not nearly as proactive as they could be in the early game and often take wins from team fighting in the mid game.

Star top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong has played the worst I’ve ever seen. He seemed out matched against TSM’s Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell in their last series. Cloud 9 seems to live and die by how well Impact does. If Impact isn’t playing, they tend to look much more disorganized as well.

For the most part, they’ve played up to expectations, but losing to Phoenix1 with a sub jungler is unacceptable. They’ll need to bounce back strong to prove that they deserve the NALCS title.

Grade: B

1. Team SoloMid (8-2)

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Team SoloMid had a rough beginning, as the absence of ADC Yiliang “Doubelelift” Peng hindered their play more than expected. Doublelift held a very strong vocal leadership role in game that was missing after he left.

Solo laners Hauntzer and Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg have adapted to take more vocal roles on the team. It was slow at first, but the team has finally looked to be peaking at the right time. They 2-0’ed the two teams ahead of them in the standings, in C9 and Flyquest. Hauntzer and Bjergsen have also been playing extremely well individually. In a meta where tank play is extremely important, Hauntzer has played near perfect in what his team has needed.

TSM will need to continue this trend of improvement as they head into the second half of the split.

Grade: A

 

There’s still much League of Legends to be played. Playoffs will ultimately be decided by who comes out strong for the second half of the split. Can Cloud 9 bounce back from a rough week? Can TSM continue to improve and be the top team in North America? Will Echo Fox break the curse of their odd week struggles? These are only a few questions that will need to be answered before we crown a North American champion.

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OGN Apex Weekly Roundup: Widowmaker Makes its Return into the Meta

The Widowmaker pick has made its valiant return to professional play. Overwatch’s competitive scene is moving back toward a more diverse team composition. Many characters are viable in this meta, and teams are starting to experiment.

The Apex league is where most of the experiments and well thought-out team compositions come into fruition. The strategies from these teams get carried across the world; basing it off of this week, sniper play is going to be imperative moving forward in this meta.

Now let’s get to the games.

KongDuesday

Photo via twitch.tv/ognglobal

The Tuesday games came up all KongDOO, as both the Uncia and Pantera squads played, and won convincingly. It’s no secret these are two of the better teams in Apex, but both teams coming out with a 3-0 result was unexpected. Both squads currently sit at 3-0 with a +6 in their respective groups.

First off, the Uncia team faced off against ConBox, who needed a win desperately to stay alive. Unfortunately for them, Uncia’s positioning and ultimate usage was on point. Uncia’s starting strategy on LI Jiang is to run directly into the point and defend. The back end healing of Lucid (Yoo Jun Seo) with his Ana or Panker’s (Lee Byung Ho) Reinhardt stayed strong. The positioning allowed for the two Uncia healers to stay safe.

The damage plays from DNCE (Kim Se Yong) and Butcher (Yoon Seong Won) were critical in the win. Butcher was the player of the game on Zarya. His forward, aggressive style allowed for him not only to deal plenty of damage, but to constantly have graviton surges available. The difference in this game ultimately stemmed from their ability to have more ultimates available in each game.

It wasn’t any gimmick either. Uncia stayed the course with the “power composition”: three tanks, one damage, and two supports. Biriding’s (Kim Ji Hyuk) high-ground cover on Soldier 76 on maps like Kings Row and Temple of Anubis put Conbox in terrible situations. The strategy for Uncia clearly centered around Birding’s ability to get good sight lines on high-ground.

Next off, Pantera showed the skill gap between them and the rest of their group. RunAway looked like a team capable of pulling off a massive upset, but not against Pantera. RunAway is still alive in the round two chase, but will have to go through Fnatic.

Testing out strategies seemed to play a major factor in KongDoo Pantera’s win. On the second map (Numbani), Pantera tried out a Torbjorn/Mei composition, and it paid off. Despite RunAway taking the less ideal lower route on Numbani, the Mei play of Rascal (Kim Dong Jim) was the difference maker. His ability to stall and throw out clutch blizzards to sustain a defense.

The snowball was in effect. Rascal took Mei to Hanamura and was the main reason Pantera got a full-hold on first point. The damage characters would get grabbed by RunAway, only to see Rascal use Mei’s ice wall to block off the chain and save their lives. After, Wakawaka (An Jee Ho) switched on to the Widowmaker and got two early headshots, making it a 6-4 team fight that eventually won Pantera the set and game.

It was clear the team more willing to make adjustments and try new compositions got rewarded. The frags weren’t always favoring Pantera, so being able to get a 3-0 shows this team’s knowledge of the game. Pantera and Uncia lock up their group two spots.

Foreign Invasion

Photo via twitch.tv/ognglobal

If Tuesday brought us strong Korean play, Friday brought us strong foreign play. Anyone who has followed the Overwatch competitive scene knows about EnvyUs’s skill. Misfits, on the other hand, aren’t as well known; but we saw some dominant play from the French side as well. EnvyUs sets up a group A championship with MetaAthena next week.

EnvyUs took care of business against the worst team in their group: BK Stars. BK Stars isn’t a joke, as they were a top-team in season one. But, they fell into the group of death, and that includes the world’s best: EnvyUs. It ended in a swift 3-0 victory for the American based team.

The story of the day was Taimou (Timo Kattenun) on Widowmaker, turning around entire team fights. His knowledge of specific angles showed on maps like Volskaya Industries. He had a few highlight reel plays that awarded EnvyUs control points.

The rest of the team showed up in other areas. HarryHook (Jonathon Tejedor aria) on the other DPS characters, primarily switching off Reaper and Soldier: 76 to deal with tank-heavy-compositions or play from the back line and get free shots. His positioning on Kings Row and Volskaya allowed for EnvyUs to stay spread out on control points. BK stars would search for shield battles with Reinhardt, and instead get caught in the crossfire father, EnvyUs.

Misfits stay alive

The French squad needed a win to stay alive, as did Afreeca Freecs Red. The only problem for Afreeca was Misfits had Tviq (Kevyn Lindstrom) and they didn’t.. arguably the worlds best player showed up again playing a multitude of characters. Mei, Soldier: 76, McCree, Tracer, and even some Hanzo play. Any character he took out of the vault worked last Friday.

Ultimate economy and positioning weren’t far off for either team in this match. The game was won and lost by getting players to the back-line and keeping those support players alive. Nevix (Andreas Karlsson) and Zave (Kalle Haag Nilsson) were instrumental in winning team fights with different sets of supports (mostly Ana and Lucio) for Misfits. Tviq’s ability to flank and get clear shots on healers and DPS ended most team fights positively for Misfits.

Outside of Tviq, Zebbosai (Sebastian Olson) on the Zarya did great amounts of damage. He was the one consistently building and landing successful ultimates. The forward play, as has become standard in this current meta-game, with the tanks, allowed for Misfits to get clean hooks and built ultimate charge on the tanks. Misfits took advantage of this with the constant flanking and their tendency to not take shield battles in favor of positioning.

Next week’s schedule
Afreeca Freecs Blue (0-1) will take on Cloud9 (1-0) on Tuesday for the second spot in group C. Fnatic (0-1) will face FlashLux (0-1) to try and keep pace with RunAway (1-1).

The Friday games aren’t as enticing with MVP Infinity vs. BK Stars who are both eliminated. LW Blue will also have to match Misfits by beating Afreeca Freecs Red. A win for LW Blue will put themselves in round two.

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North American LCS Pre-Season Power Rankings

With the North American LCS just days away, I’ve decided to give my take on how I rank the teams coming into the season. My rankings are based off how I believe the teams will finish at the end of Spring Split, based on their roster and coaching. I’m going to judge players based on their most recent performances and the region they were competing in. Some teams may struggle to find their synergy, but in the end this is how I believe the teams will play out.

10. EnVyUs

EnVyUs returns three out of five members that made playoffs last Summer. With most teams improving around them, I can’t see this team really contending for playoffs again. Nam “LiRa” Tae-yoo is an upgrade in the Jungle. Keeping Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo as an import slot and downgrading in ADC from Benjamin “LOD” deMunck, to Apollo “Apollo” Price will hurt them though. They’re both average at best for their carry roles, and Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent hasn’t really shown much from Support. Top laner Shin “Seraph” Wu-Yeong and Lira may be able to carry a few games, but the Top lane talent in NA is so much stronger this year with Ssumday and Looper being added to the mix. I just don’t see this team coming together unless Ninja significantly improves from last split. I think it’s also a bit troubling that the bot lane has a language barrier with the rest of the map.

9. Echo Fox

Henrik “Froggen” Hansen leads the way once again this Split, this time alongside former World champion Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok in the Top lane. Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham steps in to replace Anthony “Hard” Barkhovtsev as a rookie Jungle talent. He has made appearances on Challenger teams before, so he’s not completely new to competitive Jungling. Playing on stage could be a huge adjustment for him though. Yuri “Keith” Jew and Austin “Gate” Yu round out the Bot lane as subpar talents at best. Keith showed glimpses of how good he could become on TL and from his own SoloQue time in Korea. Maybe playing with a better support could help him, but he may have already hit his ceiling. Echo Fox might need to improve in other areas of the roster outside of their solo lanes to be able to contend.

8. Flyquest

Photo Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

The original C9 returns to the LCS with a few new faces joining them, and having one of the worst team names I’ve ever seen. Galen “Moon” Holgate joins the team replacing Juan “Contractz” Garcia in the Jungle. Daerek “LemonNation” Hart will have a chance to experiment with the new 10 ban system, as he was one of the first innovators for really mind-gaming pick-ban in pro League of Legends. The last time we saw An “Balls” Le his play had been on the decline, so he’ll need to show he can still play at a high level for this team to avoid relegations. Hai “Hai” Lam will always be a strong shot caller, but the individual talent around him may not be strong enough for them to really contend. Moon and Johnny “Altec” Ru once looked like promising young prospects, but never developed into the stars many teams hoped for. Lemonnation’s pick-ban and Hai’s shotcalling may win them a few games, but mechanically most of the roster looks like washed up veterans and young talent that never reached their potential.  

7. Immortals

Immortals nearly lost all of their roster from last Split, but have brought on some big names to replace them. Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett steps into the jungle after a rocky ending with Team Liquid, where ego issues were an obvious problem. Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong, a longtime star Top laner, comes in after spending some time in Korea and China. Former wildcard All-star Support, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung, joins rookie, Li Yu “Cody Sun” Sun, in the bot lane. Eugene “Pobelter” Park, Flame, and Dardoch are all individually very talented players, but I think if this team doesn’t find success early, attitude issues may arise. We’ve seen how Dardoch can tilt in games from TL’s Breaking Point, and I think those same issues will hinder them with a fairly new Bot lane in their first Split in LCS.    

6. Phoenix1

Photo Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

Phoenix1 is my darkhorse team for this season.  They bring back rising star Jungler Rami “Inori” Charagh, who basically solo-carried them to give TSM their only loss of Summer Split. They bring in star import carries Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook and No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon who looked very good in their respective regions. People forget Arrow had the second highest KDA in LCK, only behind SKT’s Bae “Bang” Jun-sik. Ryu was also regarded as one of the better Mid laners in EU, and comes in already having learned English playing with H2K. Adrian “Adrian” Ma is definitely an upgrade at support, but we’ll need to see if he can finally perform well in playoffs if P1 make it that far. Derek “zig” Shao will need to build off his rookie split for this team to have some real success with all the top lane talent entering the region.  They also brought back Coach Fly who coached when they were Team Impulse. Kim “Fly” Sang-chul is highly respected as a coach, coming off a Worlds run with Royal Never Give Up. If communication issues don’t hinder them, I could see this team contending for top four.  

5. Team Liquid

Team Liquid comes in as the only known six man roster, rotating their Mid between Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer and Austin “LiNk” Shin.  They have two of the best players in the world at their positions in Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin and Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin. It will be interesting to see if Reignover is able to show off the same success without Seong “Huni” Hoon Heo by his side. Top laner Samson “Lourlo” Jackson looks to build off a good IEM Gyeonggi performance, where he looked like he could be a main carry for the team. Support Matt “Matt” Elento looked to have the most confidence playing with Piglet last season, so I think he returns to the big playmaker we saw before the switch. Along with the new coaching staff, this team looks strong. The only big question mark is in Mid lane. Bringing in LiNK makes me think that the team doesn’t fully believe Goldenglue is ready to be a starting LCS Mid laner. With that sort of uncertainty, it makes me question how consistent a North American team can be with two Mid laners since we’ve really only seen it work in other regions.  

4. Counter Logic Gaming

The five best friends all return for CLG and look to prove synergy can trump individual talent once again. You can never count these guys out, with superstar Support Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black, leading the way. Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes comes in as probably the best AD in North America with Doublelift stepping down for the Split. Jake “Xmithie” Puchero is always that steady, consistent Jungler who does what the team needs. Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha had his inconsistencies at times, but he showed up quite well for them at Worlds. Mid laner Choi “HuHi” Jae-hyun will need to step up his champion pool with Riot’s 10 ban system coming in. If he replicates the same issue with being only able to perform godly on one or two champions, this team will have problems and likely see a roster change for Summer if they really want to compete at Worlds.

Photo Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

3. Dignitas

Dignitas looks to try to replicate the success Fnatic had, bringing in Korean talents in the Top lane and Jungle. The difference with Dignitas is that these aren’t two rookie subs with no stage experience. These are two well known players, regarded as some of the best in the World. Top laner, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, has been one of the best in LCK for the last two seasons and had a monstrous showing at Worlds two seasons ago. Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun comes from Jungling against some of the best in LCK, into a rather weak NA scene, Jungler wise. He held one of the highest kill participation ratings in LCK, so he’ll be active around the map. Benjamin “LOD” deMunck is a significant upgrade to Apollo “Apollo” Price since he matches Xpecial’s aggressive style much better. Lae-Young “Keane” Jang is heavily underrated, and the 10 ban system won’t hinder him as much as other players since we’ve seen what his champion ocean holds. With Korean coaches assisting the team, communication issues may not be as bad as people may think. If things come together as well as they look on paper, we could see this team contend for a North American title.

 

2. TSM

TSM comes in with only one roster change: bringing in former ADC Jason “WildTurtle” Tran to replace superstar Doublelift. A lot of people consider this a tremendous downgrade in terms of skill, but I personally believe they’ll be able to adapt without having too much trouble. Wildturtle matches the aggression that TSM like to play with, so I don’t think that should be an issue. However, Vincent “Biofrost” Wang and Wildturtle looked outclassed by UOL’s bot lane at IEM Oakland. Wildturtle is also not known for being a strong laner, and I see TSM struggling to continue gaining huge early game leads because of that. I understand that they hadn’t practiced much before that tournament, but it has to worry you a bit looking forward. Having one of the best Mid-Jungle duos in the World will always keep you at the top of the standings. We can’t forget this team only dropped one game after the change to best of three’s. TSM has a very good drafting phase and coaching structure. They’re also known to work harder than any other team in North America, so I don’t see them dropping out of the top two just yet. I do want to make a bold prediction that Doublelift will need to return at some point in the Split if the team struggles.

1.Cloud 9
Cloud 9 is in a similar situation to TSM in having only one roster change. Most people would say William “Meteos” Hartman stepping down from the jungle, and Juan “Contractz” Garcia coming in would be a significant upgrade. Meteos seemed to have hit his ceiling as a pro, and bringing in a young hungry talent into the Jungle may be the jump start this team needs to start competing on the World Stage. Andy “Smoothie” Ta looks to build off a poor showing at Worlds and get back to the greatness he showed in Summer. Jensen will need to become more consistent if this team wants to really contend for Worlds. Cloud 9 loves this meta as they have top talents in just about every lane. It will be up to Contractz to make sure he can keep up. With the help of head coach Reapered, I think his adjustment into LCS should go smoothly and C9 take the reign as North America’s top team. 

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Next-Best Bell-Weather: Looking Back at ESL One Cologne

The 2016 ESL One Cologne Main Qualifier was the best qualifier for a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive major in history. It had the best format. It had the best competition. As a tournament, it was the best gauge of competition for tier 2 and tier 3 teams we’ve ever had.ESLOne_Cologne_Tournament_QualifierNEW

I hope all major qualifiers after this one pick up the Swiss system. It provided a variety of well-paired and interesting match-ups. And overall, this structure feel more fair than even a double-elimination bracket, since a good team can get two unlucky matchups and still qualify. Just win three out of five, and you qualify, simple as that.

The Cologne qualifier was also a testament to how much CS:GO is growing beneath the elite level. One might think CS:GO’s competition is becoming deeper, but “broader” is more a accurate word. Why? Because the number of championship-caliber teams is lower now than it was a year ago, but the number of good teams is much larger. Many a desperate squad is jockeying for a chance in the limelight, and this made quality of play at Cologne much better than previous qualifiers. It was tough to say that any roster was a shoo-in to qualify; even G2 had to sweat to reach Cologne. In the end, some promising sides like Cloud9, Immortals (ex-Tempo Storm), and TyLoo were eliminated, while others like Gambit, FaZe, and mousesports qualified with strength we didn’t expect. Most importantly, no true clunker teams qualified for the major.

Since I’m a perfectionist, and this tournament was too full of juicy plotlines, I will not refrain. I will paint my thoughts, brief but earnest, on every team in attendance, focusing your eye on the must-learns and tracing with the lightest strokes the must-remembers. 

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Who Is CWL’s Number Two?

Team eLevate is in the thick of second place talk; are they all the way to the number two spot though? (Photo Courtesy: MLG)

Team eLevate is in the thick of second place talk; are they all the way to the number two spot though? (Photo Courtesy: MLG)

With all of the recent happenings in Call of Duty World League, the question is starting to gain more traction. Who is the second best team in the CWL?

OpTic Gaming is the easy number one choice. They’ve been dominant in CoD for over a year now, and during Black Ops Three play, they’ve been nearly untouchable. A Stage One win in the finals and the regular stage play has been followed up by a great Stage Two. They’ve won two LAN events after Anaheim, (ESWC being the other) during the past few months, and they currently sit atop the CWL standings at 10-3 (they didn’t play a match Tuesday evening). Anaheim was total domination from the Green Wall. They only lost three maps, and two of those were in the Championship. A dominant, undefeated weekend and another trophy are returning to Chicago, Illinois with the boys from OpTic.

With all of that being said, OpTic is the only clear choice to be atop the CoD world. The second, third, and fourth best teams are all wide open.

Rise Nation is probably most of the community’s pick for the number two spot. They made it to the Stage One finals against OpTic and nearly won the Stage One Championship. Since then, they’ve maintained a dominant record. However, two LAN events (ESWC & Anaheim) have revealed some flaws for the team. They lost to Team eLevate and finished third. At ESWC they were beaten by Splyce and gave up maps to several EU teams. However, they still weren’t a total embarrassment. A lack of dominant play throughout, they’d get beat 3-0 by OpTic and have to play out of the Loser’s Bracket. They would finish Third at Anaheim after losing to eLevate in the Loser’s Final. The LAN draught continued for Rise and had raised serious questions about the teams ability to take the next step forward. Luminosity Gaming was able to complete the Stage sweep of Rise on Tuesday night, and Rise now sits at 9-6 and in fifth place for Stage play. That comes on the heels of a 3-1 defeat thanks to Team SoloMid, who has been one of the worst teams in the CWL this Stage. Is Rise still number two? We all thought so after Stage One, but maybe they aren’t.

With all of the trouble Rise has had, they’re still a top team. The talk is only gaining traction thanks to stellar play by a variety of other teams in the CWL.

eLevate managed to finish off Anaheim with a second place finish; they performed well above expectations. They nearly beat OpTic, who was flawless for the tournament, and forced a winner-take-all scenario in a second best of five. However, they still lost. In CWL play, they are 8-5, one spot above Rise in the standings. That’s all after an 0-3 start. 8-2 in the last 10 matches, eLv, is making noise in CWL. The only losses since the abysmal start are thanks to Rise and FaZe Clan, two teams we have constantly been talking about. The move to drop Remy and acquire Felony has made huge waves. They dropped Remy’s .74 K/D and picked up Felony’s 1.0 since joining the roster; the slaying has been a huge part of the turnaround. Felony also has added a huge boost to Search and Destroy for eLv, with a score per minute of nearly double that of Remy’s (78-47). The team is riding a hot streak, can they keep it up?

FaZe Clan is another interesting choice. A mainstay in the CoD community, they’ve always been good. However, they’re currently just a step behind OG. They can slay just as well, if not better, than any of the competition. However, they’ve been unable to close games out. A Tuesday evening loss to Dream Team has them sitting in third place. It’s been the inconsistency that often hurts FaZe. With all of the ability to be a top contender, they just have to find the consistent ability to slay and play objectively to really have a shot at number two.

Last but not least, EnVyUs. An enormous 3-1 victory over OpTic before heading to Anaheim gave the team a boost. Since returning they played two matches on Tuesday, winning one and losing the other. The team is in second place on the CWL leaderboards at 10-5. Losses to Rise Nation and Luminosity in Anaheim would be the factor in an early departure for EnVy. Despite that, the team still stands near the top of CWL. They are looking to continue the push now. However, the failure on LAN over the weekend may be a sign. There were some substantial critiques of the event, with slow turn on controllers being the biggest gripe. EnVy may have had a legitimate complaint, but they still finished below what the goal was.

So, who is number two?

Currently, I’ll still give the nod to Rise. They’ve given fits to OpTic over and over again. Despite the dominance from OG of late, they’re still one of the few teams that have shown they can beat OpTic straight up. Yeah, they’ve played below expectations on LAN. But they’ve also won a LAN tournament this year and taken OpTic to the brink of a loss at the conclusion of Stage One. Rise is still number two for now, but eLevate is closing fast. A good run in CWL play and even better showing at Anaheim has placed them in the thick of the talk. They need to finish the season strong, but they’re knocking on Rise’s door right now.

For FaZe and EnVy, they may be above the other two in the standings; they aren’t as good, though. It’s not a wide gap, but it’s still a gap. EnVy beat OG with the Green Wall in Las Vegas, playing at a game shop. So that win isn’t tone setting. A poor performance from both on LAN pushes them to three and four.

My current power rankings:

  1. OpTic Gaming
  2. Rise Nation
  3. Team eLevate
  4. Team EnVyUs
  5. FaZe Clan
  6. Luminosity Gaming
  7. Dream Team
  8. Cloud9

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The Myth of the Honeymoon Period

There is a myth that plagues the mindset of the North American Counter-Strike scene. It’s a falsity that has infected players, casters and leaders of the scene. It’s a bronze idol that has contributed to the instability of the scene’s teams and perhaps reduced its level of results. And it’s a lie so insidious, I’ve even heard European casters and players repeat it, unaware of the poison in their own words.

This is the Myth of the Honeymoon Period.

No, not that sort of honeymoon--though the PGL KeSPA Asia Minor seems like quite the destination...Photo courtesy scoopnest.

No, not that sort of honeymoon–though the PGL KeSPA Asia Minor seems like quite the destination…Photo courtesy scoopnest.

Whenever I see a recently changed NA lineup play an online match and put up rounds, someone casting the game (I’m looking at you, Dustin “dustmouret” Mouret) invariably mentions something along the lines of: “In this honeymoon period, the team is going to have a special synergy unique to newly-formed teammates. They’re getting new looks, they’re feeling excited about the possibilities, and they’ll play better now.”

When I was first getting into CS:GO, this was an alluring idea to me. The sudden connection of a new lineup propels them to unexpected conquest! On some level, it is connected to the Cinderella story, or the band-of-brothers movie trope, where success appears spontaneous and magical, rather than from hard work and training.

I am still a believer in the magic of a victorious team. I think that championship CS:GO sides do have something unique working for them: a special understanding of the game, irreplaceable synergies between certain players, inimitable team-play, a gestalt that produces victory.

But now, whenever I hear it, this “honeymoon” idea, it makes me sick. It’s just wrong.

When a new team forms, its members may be understandably excited about the new team. It’s a blank slate, an untested hypothesis that could lead to any conclusion. Our optimistic minds often jump to the loftiest possibilities. This may lead to its members playing on better-than-average form.

But at the same time, there will be many kinks with a new lineup that need to be ironed out. More likely than not, each teammate’s positions will need to be rehashed, with one or more players needing to learn how to play new CT spots so that the team can have reasonable defaults. The team’s shot-calling will be erratic at first, as a team’s in-game leader will need to learn his player’s strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. And while excitement about the new lineup might smooth over mistakes that come from the poor communication that is natural to a new lineup, those mistakes can only be resolved by the training and learned camaraderie that comes from sticking to the team, not first joining it.

If we extend this idea to the marriage metaphor, we might see how problematic the Myth of the Honeymoon Period is to CS players. If a person enters a marriage expecting that marriage’s success to be founded on the first month’s torrent of rabid and passionate sex, we’d laugh at their expectations. If a person enters a marriage conscious of the negotiation and teamwork that will come after the honeymoon—finding income, fixing dinner, taking out the trash, raising children—we would expect their marriage to be more successful.

A CS:GO player from any scene should not look to jump from team to team, looking for that “perfect match” and constantly striving after the honeymoon feeling of a new team. This will NOT produce his or her best Counter-Strike. That player should look for a lineup that might work, then stick with it, hammering out problems as they arise and devoting practice time to developing strategies, coordination and communication. This will make that player far more successful than any amount of honeymoon high.

A simple look at the history of successful CS:GO teams will show that there are very few instances of a sudden and short-lived burst of championship form from a new team. Teams are either successful after a period of trial and tribulation, or they are successful for an extended period of time at the beginning of a lineup too long to be called a “honeymoon.” I’ll pay special attention to the most successful NA lineups and to famous international examples of hot starts to teams.

The original masters of CS:GO had a long-lived run of form. Courtesy HLTV.

The original masters of CS:GO had a long-lived run of form. Courtesy HLTV.

NiP

This team famously started out 87-0 in the beginning of CS:GO. This was not a honeymoon period, though. This was a group of talented fraggers outclassing everyone else in the scene. Furthermore, the team went on to two years of sustained success after that streak was ended. In a simple sign of their longevity, the current NiP, which has surged back into an elite or near-elite form, has four members of that original dominating lineup. That’s commitment.

Virtus.pro

This lineup burst onto the scene following a big roster move (picking up Snax and byali) by winning ESL One Katowice 2014, the second major. Honeymoon? No, the team has gone on to be the longest-standing lineup in CS history, returning to world-beating form multiple times. The Virtus.pro may come and go, but this lineup lasts forever–or two plus years and going, which feels like forever in CS.

envyus major winners

The closest thing we’ve had to honeymoon winners was EnVyUs with kennyS and apex, a talent-laden exception to the rule. Photo courtesy Daily Dot.

EnVyUs, with apex and KennyS

This lineup is the closest thing to a honeymoon period in CS:GO. Immediately after forming, the lineup became a world-beater, reaching the finals to two straight majors and numerous international finals in between, only to fall of significantly after that. However, a couple things should be noted. First off, this was a true celebrity marriage, perhaps the most talented lineup that CS:GO has ever seen assembled; in this sense, it was a perfect storm for a honeymoon team to assemble. Second, we must note that their plummet in form, was as severe as their start was strong. It was clear the team did not have the tools to establish long-lasting success.

Cloud9 (Summer 2015)

NA lineups always seem to be searching for that magical mix, but the most powerful NA team of all time (three straight international final appearances, all within three weeks–I think that qualifies) showed that such a blend requires hard work, coordination, and leadership. This lineup actually struggled mightily on its first couple international LANs, drawing ire from several voices in the community. It seems like poetic justice that the first map win that sparked their rare NA run of success came on cache versus EnVyUs, a team that had beat them soundly on that same map just a couple weeks ago. C9’s synergy was the result of both clever roster moves and hard work–something other NA teams have barely repeated.

CLG

While other top-achieving NA teams (like Cloud9) have come and gone, CLG has been notable as the one team that sticks with its players for long periods, focusing on teamplay and strategy to improve rather than roster shuffles. This faith has forestalled its progress at times by sticking with an inferior player like FNS, but it has also reaped its rewards. Sticking with tarik has seen him grow from an onliner and FPL star to an impact fragger in the last major. And when jdm was first incorporated into the team, DaZeD called the AWPer the worst player on the team; within a few months, jdm had grown into CLG’s first star and perhaps the best player in NA. Whoever takes Fugly’s place can take some comfort in the fact that his teammates will give him adequate time to incorporate and grow.

Team Liquid with s1mple

This team’s story was not that of a honeymoon. It was that of an NA lineup struggling to incorporate a fiery Ukrainian star—and briefly succeeding in doing so, against the lesser feelings of division that we now know were brooding within the team. This team actually struggled at first, barely managing to qualify for the major and with s1mple performing below expectations. Their run at the major was a minor feat of perseverance as much as it was a momentary self-discovery for a team that had roster, communication, and firepower issues leading up to the major. If only s1mple had the perseverance to stick with Liquid, they might have been able to sort out their issues and become a true threat.

 

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