Fnatic win quarterfinals over H2K

Fnatic Quarterfinals Highlights and the Road Ahead

Fnatic played a stellar series against H2K last weekend, finishing 3-0. While H2K looked out of sorts, Fnatic played calm, coordinated League of Legends. This was their best series so far in the 2017 EU LCS. Here is a compilation of their best plays from the quarterfinal match-up.

While Fnatic should be proud of this achievement, they have a challenging playoffs road ahead. Their next opponent will be G2, a squad which has suffered only one series loss thus far. Hypothetically, if Fnatic wins that match-up, they will still need to face the winner of Misfits vs. Unicorns of Love in the finals.

G2 does exhibit some playstyle similarities to H2K, but with fewer weaknesses. H2K’s biggest issue seemed to be communication in their quarterfinal loss. Shin “Nuclear” Jung-hyun and Choi “Chei” Sun-ho were not on the same page with each other or the rest of the team. Many of Fnatic’s advantages came from Nuclear and Chei’s poor positioning. Fnatic should not expect Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez to make the same mistakes.

Fnatic also surprised H2K, and spectators, with lower priority marksmen picks: Twitch, Vayne, and Kennen. Martin “Rekkles” Larsson’s Kennen pick is not surprising, but hardly any other bottom laners look as comfortable on the pick. Twitch and Vayne, though, came out of nowhere. Though these picks most likely threw H2K for a loop, G2 now have the advantage of knowing Fnatic is able to draft and win with such picks. The surprise is no longer a factor.

Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen and Paul “sOAZ” Boyer will need to continue to demonstrate high levels of pressure in the jungle and top lane. They will also need to remain coordinated with the rest of the team to properly rotate, pressure objectives, and counter-gank.

Jesse “Jesiz” Le should try to remain on support champions with strong engage potential. He stood out as a highly impactful player throughout the quarterfinals. If Fnatic are able to replicate the strategies they used against H2K, then their series against G2 this weekend should be a treat.

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EU LCS Group Draft format 2017

Thoughts on EU LCS Group Format

For 2017, the EU LCS adopted a new regular season format which involves two groups of five teams. These changes were put in place to resolve fans’ issues with the dual-stream and best-of-2 format. The new grouping would allow viewers to watch one best-of-3 stream at a time. But is it better?

Most LCS fans would agree that the best-of-3 format is vastly better than the best-of-2 last year. The murky nature of ties left many fans feeling unsatisfied. Having definite winners and losers in such a small league is much more appealing. It can also, theoretically, better prepare European teams for international competition by rewarding consistency and adaptation.

Best-of-3 seems to be the perfect balance between viewer satisfaction, player well-being, and proper preparation. In comparison, best-of-1s reward teams that can successfully cheese their opponents for one match, and do not necessarily allow EU to send its most consistent representatives to international competitions. Best-of-2’s and best-of-4’s create too many undesirable ties, and best-of-5’s can result in more fatigue for the players and an extended schedule that would strain the production crews and viewers.

Having a single stream is fairly beneficial, too. It is the most comfortable way to watch every scheduled series live, rather than choosing which to watch in a dual stream. There may be fewer match-ups to watch in a given weekend, but a viewer is able to see all of them without turning to VODs.

EU LCS weekly schedule format 2017

courtesy of eu.lolesports.com

The sacrifice, it seems, is regular series quality. Of course, the group format should not take the whole blame for this. There are other contributing factors. However, splitting the teams into two groups has resulted in regularly lower quality match-ups.

This split, EU LCS teams were separated into Groups A and B. Teams within Group A play each other twice; teams within Group B play each other twice. But they only play across groups once. This sounds like a small difference in play-rate, but it has huge consequences on viewer experience. For example, G2 and MSF will only face H2K, UOL, and SPY once each, but FNC, ROC, and GIA twice before playoffs. Since the teams were drafted to split their overall abilities evenly, this schedule has created gradients within each group. The gap between the top teams and bottom teams is huge. And just as H2K will only play G2 once, GIA will only play OG once.

Week 9 of the LCS is representative of this unfortunate reality. Previewing the match-ups is not possible because every single one is one-sided. SPY should beat VIT, G2 should stomp GIA, MSF should destroy ROC, and down the list it goes. Most weeks have featured one to three quality match-ups, while the other three to five seem pre-determined.

EU LCS promotion and relegation format 2017

courtesy of eu.lolesports.com

This group format, however, is sufficient for figuring out which teams should go to playoffs and relegation. The top six and the bottom two are extremely apparent. But week to week series are lower quality. There is less to analyze. There is less guessing or postulating.

If EU mirrored the NA LCS format, it may be a bit better. Sure, audiences would sacrifice the comfort of watching every match-up live, but they would receive much more frequent close match-ups. Teams would need to prepare and adapt against nine opponents, rather than four. And if they really wanted to allow viewers to see every stream live, then they would simply spread the series out over four days instead of three.

While this split’s scheduling and grouping format has been an upgrade over 2016’s, there are still issues that need to be addressed. The EU LCS could possibly allow for more teams in the league, such as 12 or 14 total teams (6-7 per group). This, again, leads to longer schedules over more days, but it may create more frequent close match-ups. As professional League of Legends becomes more and more popular, overall viewing experiences will need to be closely managed. Hopefully, moving forward, EU LCS tournament formatting will be able to strike the right balance between audience gratification, production value, player well-being, and quality competition.

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Week 5 Preview: Fnatic mid lane, Caps

EU LCS Week 5: FNC v. SPY Preview

One of the key match-ups coming into Week five will be Fnatic versus Splyce. Both of these squads sit in the middle of their respective groups, third place. Fnatic are 3-2 and Splyce are 2-3. Fnatic has lost to G2. Splyce has lost to H2K and Unicorns of Love (UOL). Misfits have defeated both teams.

This Week five series will be an important one for gaging the strength difference between Group A and Group B of the EU LCS. We will also see G2 taking on UOL, which will further settle the score. But the match-up between FNC and SPY will be just as important for understanding the interplay of these teams. If FNC win in a dominant fashion, then we can conclude that Group A is stronger than Group B, and if SPY win convincingly, then Group B must be more substantial.

There are areas of game-play where these teams overlap, but there are also several where they diverge. Their overall win conditions leading into Thursday are fairly different. Here is an outline of a few factors to keep in mind.

First Blood

Fnatic have taken First Blood in 50% of their games. Oftentimes, it is a result of Rasmus “Caps” Winther roaming from mid lane to assist his jungler or diving a side lane. You can see some examples in the highlights below.

Splyce, on the other hand, have only secured First Blood in 18% of their games, the lowest in the league. Chres “Sencux” Laursen will need to clearly communicate anytime Caps leaves mid in the early game. Jonas “Trashy” Andersen and the rest of his team will need to ward and path to effectively track Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen throughout the map.

First 3 Turrets

Fnatic also consistently take the first three turrets in a game. Their movement across the map in the early game allows them to take advantageous teamfights and then effectively translate trades into towers. So far, they have succeeded in doing this in 79% of games, second highest in the league.

You can see in the highlights below, Fnatic cleanly win a teamfight against Vitality at 20 minutes. They rotate into the river and start Baron. When Vitality contest, Fnatic go aggressive, earning a few more kills and securing the Baron. Notice both teams have knocked down one turret each. After recalling, Fnatic take a turret in bot lane, a turret in mid lane, and a turret in top lane. They almost get a fourth turret top, but Vitality hold them back.

In their game against Giants, neither team had a turret taken in 12 minutes. Fast forward to 16 minutes, and you can see that Fnatic has taken three turrets with none traded to Giants.

Splyce have only accomplished this in 36% of their games. While they have similar first Dragon rates, first turret rates, and kill:death ratios, Splyce are less likely to push those advantages into multiple towers across the map. Their early-mid game rotations are a bit slower than Fnatic’s.

First Baron

The other area where Splyce struggle is in taking first Baron. They are last in the league here, as well, with only 18% of games. Their team has allowed several unfortunate Baron steals, and they usually are slow to check if Baron is being taken by the enemy.

While Fnatic are middle-of-the-pack taking first Baron, their 50% of games is vastly superior. Even in games where Splyce is ahead, or significantly better at teamfighting, opponents can sneak Barons. Fnatic should be sure to take advantage of this blind spot.

Elder Control

While they are unlikely to take first Baron, Splyce are highly likely to take an Elder Dragon. They have 100% Elder control rates thus far. As you can see in the highlights below, even when they get pushed off of a Baron play, Splyce are willing to take a fight in the bot river and secure Elder before moving to Baron. It is how they took a game off of Unicorns of Love It is a bit risky, though. Elder Dragon takes much longer to kill. However, once it is secured, it allows your team to do tremendous amounts of damage, especially if other Elemental Drakes have been secured. From here it is easy to rotate up to Baron, recall, and then push down the enemy’s base.

Fnatic only have 50% Elder Dragon control. Although it is half as high as Splyce, this is still a decent rate considering how few teams actually take Elder Dragon in a game. Nonetheless, Fnatic will need to be sure to ward top and bot rivers to ensure they can react to Splyce’s gameplay.

Overall, Fnatic have the advantage in this series. They will need to play around Caps in the early game, then roam and find skirmishes in the mid game. Once they win a big teamfight, they can take Drakes, or even Baron. Their primary focus should continue to be turrets, though. If they can open up the map quicker than Splyce, then it will make a win much easier.

Splyce will need to do their best to match Fnatic’s dynamic gameplay. They also need to remember that Fnatic are likely to overextend a push at times. If Splyce are unable to keep up in the early game, then they need to do their best to absorb the pressure until they can get openings to make calculated plays. Vision control will be extremely important in this Week five series.

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Power Rankings: G2, #1 western team

Best in the West: NA vs. EU Power Rankings

Other than the few teams that compete at international events, audiences hardly get to see how North American and European LCS teams match up against one another. Nonetheless, it is a constant source of debate. Fans around the world tout their favorite teams as being “The Best in the West,” comparing the 20 teams from both leagues.

It can be difficult to compare teams from different leagues. Anyone who watches international competitions, such as Mid Season Invitational or the World Championships, knows this. With different playstyles and champion preferences, it is impossible to truly know how things would play out before teams actually compete. However, since it is a fun and controversial topic, here are current power rankings for the top 10 teams between the NA and EU LCS.

  1. FNC
Power Rankings: #10 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Fnatic are serving as a litmus test for the EU LCS. Their overall kill-death ratio is 1.08, meaning Fnatic barely gets more kills than deaths. They average only 429 gold ahead at 15 minutes. 50% of the time, Fnatic secures first blood or first Baron, and they only take first turret 43% of the time. The one metric where they skew towards the top of the league is first three turrets rate (79%).

The Fnatic-Splyce match-up this week will either prove or disprove this team’s placement. If Splyce win, then they deserve the tenth slot in these rankings. Fnatic have yet to win a series 2-0, but they also have not lost 2-0. Taking G2 to three games in Week 1 is the main criteria keeping Fnatic ahead at this point. Hopefully they will shore up weaknesses in the jungle with Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen starting. If so, then Fnatic will solidify themselves as a playoff team.

  1. P1
Power Rankings: Phoenix1, #9 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Phoenix1 is tied for fourth place in the NA LCS with a record of 4-4. Prior to Week 4 they would be higher in the power rankings, but losing 0-2 to FlyQuest and 1-2 to CLG has many questioning their consistency. P1 averages 117 gold ahead at 15 minutes and have the highest first Dragon rate (84%). Paired with the second highest Baron control rate, 61%, they show strength playing around neutral objectives.

This squad has exhibited a high skill ceiling in almost every position, but last week showed their low floor. P1 is also the only team in the league who has not faced off against Cloud9. If they can take a game, or the series, then they will solidify themselves in the top of the standings. But, if they lose both games, then they may have a tougher time staying in contention for playoffs. Up to this point they only take first turret and the first three turrets 47% of games. Nonetheless, they seem stronger than any of the bottom six EU LCS teams.

  1. FOX
Power Rankings: Echo Fox, #8 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Echo Fox’s early game is unmatched thus far in the NA LCS. They average 1,530 gold ahead at 15 minutes. Thanks to star rookie jungler, Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham, Echo Fox has secured first blood in 75% of games and first Baron in 68%. The third fastest average game time (just under 38 minutes) implies that they close games well. However, they only have an even 50% winrate over 20 games played, which means they lose just as quickly as they win.

The main issue holding FOX back from being A-tier is their overall Baron control rate, 49%. While they generally take the first Baron of the game, there are usually multiple per game and the enemy teams are getting any that spawn subsequently. Echo Fox also only secures Elder Dragon 25% of the time. While FOX has won series against TSM and FlyQuest, they have also lost series to Phoenix1, Team Liquid, and Immortals. Consistency will be the key moving forward.

  1. TSM
Power Rankings: TSM, #7 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Team Solo Mid sits tied for second place with FlyQuest. However, FLY is the only team they have not matched up against. TSM would be ranked higher were it not for the fact that they have played the most total games in the NA LCS. They have dropped a game to every team ranked beneath them except Envy, and Echo Fox beat them last week 2-0. TSM’s average game time (38:24), gold difference at 15 minutes (-5), and Dragon control rate (52%), are all middle-of-the-pack.

Where this team thrives is in taking turrets. TSM takes first turret in 62% of games (second in the league) and the first three turrets in 71% (first in the league). The primary difference between this squad and C9 and FLY is the K:D ratio. C9 and FLY average 1.45 and 1.49, respectively. TSM averages 1.09. Moving forward, they will need to trade fewer deaths and/or more kills while maintaining proper map pressure. This week’s series with FlyQuest will solidify second place.

  1. MSF
Power Rankings: Misfits, #6 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Misfits average the highest kill-death ratio in the EU LCS and the lowest combined kills per minute. They average 860 gold ahead at 15 minutes, secure the first dragon 67% of the time, and kill 70% of all dragons. This means Misfits plays a clean game, gaining early gold leads from creeps and neutral monsters. A major factor separating this squad from others ranked above them is their first turret rate (50%) and first Baron rate (58%).

If Misfits want to move up in these power rankings, they will need to translate their early game leads into taking down the first three turrets and securing Baron. They took G2 to three games and beat both Fnatic and Splyce 2-0, but the Week 6 match-up with Unicorns of Love will be key. If Misfits take the series, it will establish Group A, and Misfits as a team as much stronger than Group B.

  1. H2K
Power Rankings: H2K, #5 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Staying true to Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski’s moniker as “First Blood King,” H2K secure the first kill in 73% of their games. They also average the highest first turret, first three turrets, and first dragon rates. All of this combines for the highest 15-minute gold difference in the EU LCS (1,160). However, H2K’s average game time is middling (just over 37 minutes). Even though they match up well with Unicorns of Love’s early game statistics, H2K has a harder time actually closing games.

Taking G2 to three games in Week 4 is a good sign for this squad. H2K’s Korean bot lane has appeared more comfortable communicating with the rest of the team. The key for this team to climb to the top of the league is fewer deaths. H2K average 12.4 per game. Unicorns of Love, G2, and Misfits average 11.5, 8.8, and 8.1, respectively. Week 5 should provide an easy win, but H2K will need to secure convincing wins against Fnatic and Misfits before their Week 8 rematch against UOL.

  1. UOL
Power Rankings: UOL, #4 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Many spectators have been surprised by Unicorns’ dominance in the first four weeks. Sporting the highest combined kills per minute (team kills plus enemy team kills) and the shortest average game time, Unicorns of Love play bloody games. They average 1,072 gold ahead of their opponents after 15 minutes. This translates into the highest first Baron rate, 91%, and highest overall Baron control rate of 88%.

Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás is among the most consistent top laners. Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir and Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort have stepped into their roles cleanly as rookies. This team thrives on chaotic teamfights, often pursuing several skirmishes across the map at the same time. Teams ranked below Unicorns are unable to dissect this playstyle and effectively punish it. Teams ranked above them theoretically could. While they have not suffered a series loss up to this point, Unicorns of Love will face G2 in Week 5, their toughest test yet.

  1. FLY
Power Rankings: #3 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Week 4 saw FlyQuest put in their place just below Cloud9. Although it was a back-and-forth series, C9 came out on top. The only other team to beat FlyQuest so far is Echo Fox. Nonetheless, FLY have looked monstrous so far this split. They top the NA LCS in K:D ratio, first turret rate, Dragon control, Elder Dragon control, first Baron, and Baron control. They also hold second for gold difference at 15, first Dragon, first three turrets, and First Blood. There are very few weaknesses on this roster.

However, they have lost two series. Three of those losses had An “Balls” Le on Poppy. Maybe that is an uncomfortable champion for him? In Game 3 against Cloud9, Hai “Hai” Du Lam locked in a blind pick Zed. That may have been a bit arrogant. Nonetheless, FlyQuest should be able to match almost any team in the West, starting with TSM this week.

  1. C9
Power Rankings: C9, #2 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

The last undefeated team in North America is Cloud9. They have only dropped four out of 20 games so far, and two of those were lost while starting substitute top laner, Jeon “Ray” Ji-won. Other than their high K:D ratio and Elder Dragon control rates, C9 do not appear that impressive on paper. They have the lowest first turret rate in the league, average 7 gold behind their opponents at 15 minutes, and only take first Baron or Dragon in 47% of games.

Cloud9’s roster is strong in all positions. Whether it is Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen securing solo kills in the mid lane, or Juan “Contractz” Garcia sacrificing early farm to gank lanes, each player contributes in meaningful ways to the team’s overall goal: winning series. Coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu should be given credit for generally superior drafting, as well. There is no doubt this Cloud9 squad could go toe-to-toe with any team in NA or EU.

  1. G2
Power Rankings: G2, #1 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Finishing four weeks 6-0, G2 have the best record in Europe. Even in a stronger group, G2 have appeared a tier above the rest. They have won 12 of 15 games played. Even though G2 have the longest average game time (just over 39 minutes), they secure first turret 67% of games and first Baron 79% of games. G2 is ranked first overall because they have demonstrated the early game proactivity of FlyQuest, Unicorns of Love, and H2K, as well as the mid/late game teamfighting of Cloud9 and Misfits.

All of G2’s individual players are a force to reckon with. Every single one has demonstrated a high ceiling. Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez has made a habit of over-extending recently, but the rest of the team makes up for it. G2 averages ahead 742 gold at 15 minutes, which sets them up to comfortably make plays across the map. A win in their series against Unicorns of Love this week will solidify their claim to the throne; a loss might reveal a chink in the armor.

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Over/Under (Part 1): LCS Players Above Expectations

With two weeks of gameplay under our belts, it is becoming more and more clear which players are carrying their teams, and which players have become burdensome. Most pre-season predictions regarding individual players have come to be true. However, there are several examples of players who have gone a tier above expectations, and others who have gone a tier below.

This week I want to recognize an LCS player from each position that has exceeded expectations. These are individuals who have contributed to their team in a note-worthy way. Some players we thought might have a tough time against strong lane opponents. Others we thought might not be ready for the LCS. Still others we expected to simply be unknown factors coming into the Split. Regardless, these five players have been crucial to the success of their respective teams.  

Samson “Lourlo” Jackson

Team Liquid, Top Laner

KDA:    7.7   (1st Overall)

D%:    6.9% (1st Overall)

While Team Liquid has not looked great as a team, Lourlo has been performing above expectations. He averages almost even with his lane opponents. He averages one death per game (only 10 total deaths so far). This allows Lourlo to constantly engage, playing champions such as Nautilus and Poppy. Lourlo is reliable to survive ganks and remain even with tough lane opponents.

Team Liquid Top laner, Lourlo

courtesy of Riot eSports

FlyQuest Jungler, Moon

courtesy of Riot eSports

 

 

Galen “Moon” Holgate

FlyQuest, Jungle

KDA:  5.0   (7th Overall)

FB:   60%   (3rd Overall)

Moon’s statistics paint him to be an aggressive early-game Jungler far above expectations. He offers a high KDA, high damage throughout the game, and high rates of securing First Blood. Moon is generally behind in CS at 10 minutes; but by then he has most likely allowed his team to create pressure around the map. Moon has even pulled out surprise picks like Evelynn and Kindred.

Hai “Hai” Du Lam

FlyQuest, Mid Laner

DPM:  670    (1st Overall)

EGPM: 284.5 (3rd Overall)

Hai has a middling KDA and averages even in CS at 10 minutes. What he is known for is play-making and decisive shot-calling. Hai has the highest damage to champions of all players, far above expectations. He also has the third highest earned gold per minute. Hai is always making the most of every second of the game. This translates to FlyQuest’s 70% first Dragon rate and 75% first Baron rate.

FlyQuest's Mid laner, Hai

courtesy of Riot eSports

Unicorns of Love AD Carry, Samux

courtesy of Riot eSports

Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort

Unicorns of Love, AD Carry

KDA:      6.4 (4th Overall)

CSD10: +6.7 (6th Overall)

There have been several games where Samux holds lane 1v2 while his Support roams to create pressure around the map. The fact that Samux can come out ahead in CS is even more impressive. With an average of 21.9% of his team’s gold (lowest ADC), he serves as a low-economy player that enables his Top, Mid, and Jungler to get fed. Samux’s instant meshing with Unicorns of Love has been above expectations.

Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun

Misfits, Support

KDA: 7.9    (2nd Overall)

KP:   78%   (4th Overall)

Playing champions such as Thresh and Taric, IgNar is not afraid to play the map. While he already demonstrated his reliability in the Challenger Series, his transition to the EU LCS has been above expectations. IgNar sets up kills for all of his teammates while maintaining very low death rates. He also averages 1.52 wards per minute (2nd highest among all players), which is quintessential for successful roaming and intelligent ganking.

Misfits' Support, IgNar, and Jungler, KaKAO

courtesy of Riot eSports

Each of these players will need to continue exhibiting excellent play to maintain, or improve, their teams’ standings. We are only two weeks in, and as teams begin adapting to one another’s play-style, we could see changes. Whether it is a change in competition, a change within the meta, or a change in League of Legends itself, these players will need to continue to adapt if they want to succeed.

Keep an eye out next week for my list of under-performers. Just as some players have exceeded expectations, others have fallen short. I will acknowledge five more players on that list that will need to improve in order for their team to move up in the standings.

Correction(s): This article previously provided an image of Misfits’ Jungler, Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon, instead of IgNar. Also, Moon was incorrectly labeled as the Jungler for Team Liquid instead of FlyQuest.

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Position Selection highlighting Jungle

The Most Important Position in the EU LCS

There are five positions on a League of Legends team: Top, Jungle, Mid, AD Carry, and Support. But, have you ever wondered which position is the most valuable? Which position brings the most to the table? Which position is the most crucial? While analyzing data surrounding EU LCS roster swaps in the off-season, I came across some intriguing patterns. These patterns suggest that not all positions are valued equally. Namely, Jungle is the key role.

You can tell a lot about an LCS team’s priorities based on its roster changes in between Splits. One team may choose to keep a star Mid laner, while another may choose to try a rookie Support. Some teams keep an entire starting line-up. Some teams start over from scratch and replace every player. If you look at all of the roster changes as a whole, you will begin to notice some fascinating trends.

Here is a chart showing the distribution of veterans and rookies across each position for the 2017 EU LCS rosters, and how many roster changes occurred within each position in the off-season (as well as the ratio of veteran to rookie players accounting for the changes):

Veterans Picked Up Rookies Picked Up Total Changes Total Starting Veterans Total Starting Rookies
Top 1 3 4 6 4
Jungle 4 3 7 7 3
Mid 2 2 4 8 2
ADC 3 3 6 6 4
Support 1 4 5 5 5

For the purposes of this analysis, I am classifying a “veteran” player as any player who has participated in one or more Splits in the EU LCS. I am classifying a “rookie” player as any player who has not participated in any EU LCS Splits. Therefore, any imported players who will be playing their first Split in EU are classified as rookies (for example, Sin “Nuclear” Jeong-hyeon).

Pertaining to the Jungle position, there are two things to point out about this chart. Firstly, the most player replacements happened in this position. 70% of teams changed their Jungler between Summer and Spring. This indicates that many teams were disappointed with their Jungle performance and needed a change in that position specifically.

Secondly, of the seven replacement players, only three are rookies. Compare that to one half of ADCs and Mids, three out of four Tops, and four out of five Supports. Even though many rosters are changing their Junglers, they seem to have disproportionately less faith in rookies and new imports at that position. Many Junglers from last Split simply switched to a new team, rather than retiring, moving to a different region, etc.

Why did so many teams choose to change their Jungler? What about that position made it a priority for so many rosters? Here is a box and whisker plot showing the KDA distribution of EU LCS players by position:

(Disclaimer: the following data only includes players who participated in 12 or more games for the same team.)Junglers represented the widest range of KDA last Summer.

We can see that Junglers occupied the largest range of KDA last year. Some of the highest overall KDAs were Junglers, but also many of the lowest. They had an abnormally low median KDA of 3, 21% lower than the median of all players. This means that there is a large divide between the top 25% of Junglers and the bottom 75%. Half of the Junglers had a KDA between 3 and 6.8, while the other half were between 1.9 and 3.

For a different perspective, I divided all players into tiers based on average KDA last Summer. Players with the top 10 KDAs are Tier 1, top 20 are Tier 2, etc. I then graphed a distribution of each role based on KDA Tier:KDA distribution by role

Besides the huge skew of ADCs to high KDAs, the distribution that stands out is the Junglers’. They are the only other role with more than one player in Tier 1, less than two Tier 2, and less than two Tier 3. It is also the only position with more than three Tier 4 players. Jungle’s line starts high, dips low, then rises high again. That dip, between Tier 1 and Tier 4, represents the divide between excelling Junglers and those under-performing. They generally occupied the high end and the low end of the KDA distribution.

How does this information pertain to the off-season? We can imagine that those three to four Junglers in Tier 1 and 2 would be heavily contested. Teams who have them want to keep them. Teams who do not have them want to incorporate them. The Jungler in Tier 3 is somewhere in the middle, but the Junglers in Tier 4 and 5 should be dropped.

Here is a list of the Junglers from last Split accompanied by their Tier Ranking and KDA:

Trick 1 6.8
Trashy 1 6.2
Jankos 1 4.7
Spirit 2 4.7
Maxlore 3 3.3
Shook 4 3.2
Move 4 2.8
Amazing 4 2.6
Mightybear 4 2.6
Gilius 5 2.5
Memento 5 2.4
Airwaks 5 1.9

Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun, Jonas “Trashy” Andersen,  and Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski were all Tier 1. All three of their teams qualified for Worlds last year. G2, Splyce, and H2k retained them in the off-season. Lee “Spirit” Da-yun barely fell into Tier 2, and mutually parted ways with Fnatic. Then there is a drop off from 4.7 KDA to 3.3. All other teams either dropped or swapped their Junglers. Many teams then picked up one of the dropped Junglers, due to their veteran status.

This analysis shows that the top-tier teams have top-tier Junglers. And those top-tier Junglers are significantly ahead of their low-tier counterparts relative to other positions. Since there is such a variance between good Junglers and bad Junglers, many teams prioritized the role in the off-season. Worlds-qualifying teams kept their Junglers, while all seven other teams incorporated new players. Many of these new players have played at least one EU LCS Split, showing a lack of faith in rookies for Jungle in particular.

In conclusion, I argue that Jungle is the most important position in the EU LCS. There are so many variables that go into the role. Junglers contribute to ganks, lane pressure, neutral objectives, and vision. Oftentimes, viable Jungle champions dictate the meta.

Riot Games has placed a lot of focus on Jungle gameplay. The developer completely reworked the camps, implemented Plants, and adjusted Smite in the pre-season. Lead Gameplay Designer, Andrei “Meddler” Van Roon, recently shared Riot’s thoughts about the state of the game. Simply stated, “We believe jungler influence over game outcome is too high.”

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Can Mastermind Weldon solve G2’s International Woes?

Weldon’s Own Success

G2 Esports made an amazing addition to their League of Legends team with the official announcement of TSM’s former assistant coach, Weldon Green, joining their coaching staff. Weldon has been working vigorously within the Pro League of Legends scene with high-profile teams such as TSM, CLG, and Fnatic as a team psychologist. With his recent success with TSM, other teams have picked up on this trend and decided to hire their own team psychologists. They are meant to help deal with the mental grind that pros endure throughout the season, along with helping players deal with the jitters that may be related to playing on stage.

Weldon began on TSM in small sessions during the 2016 Spring Split, eventually landing a full-time position for the Summer. TSM finished the Summer Split with a phenomenal 17-1 record while also finishing first place in the NALCS, before failing to get out of their group at Worlds. Weldon was credited with playing a major role in their success last season. TSM decided that they wanted to part ways with Weldon for the upcoming season, noting that having his assistance may be better in sessions as opposed to full time.

Current State of G2

Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

Weldon enters a G2 team that has found much success, almost breezing through the EULCS competition last season. They have a talented roster that has failed to show up in international events since they’ve begun their LCS journey. Last season, G2 failed to make it out of groups at Riot’s Mid Seasonal Invitational, struggling against most of the teams there. They received a lot of hate and criticism from the community when they stated they decided to give their players a break coming into a very serious international tournament that would affect seeding for Worlds.

G2 hoped to redeem themselves at Worlds after being put into a group most agreed they would be able to get out of. That did not prove the case as Albus Nox Luna shocked the World, as they became the first Wildcard to make it out of groups. They beat out CLG and G2 for the second spot out of their group. G2 finished Worlds with a 1-5 record, only taking one game off of Albus Nox Luna. G2 as a whole received a lot of hate from the EU community for representing their region so poorly, coming in as the “best team” from Europe.

Building off Regular Season Success

Weldon comes in looking to improve off an overall successful regular season from G2, and improving on the international problems that have plagued them. In EU, Trick and Perkz have looked like two players with amazing synergy and individual talent. As we know, that hasn’t translated into international play just yet.  Meanwhile, Zven and Mithy, have proven to be one of the best bot lanes in the West, but even they didn’t look as good as most people expected at Worlds. Their top laner, Expect, for the most part, was a consistent performer, doing what his team needed. His miscommunication on Teleport, however, cost his team at times.

What is it about performing at international tournaments that hinder G2 so much?  In a twitlonger posted by Perkz after Worlds, he stated, “I was mostly sad that I disappointed myself because I had a lot higher expectations of myself after the whole Korean bootcamp where I felt like I had reached very high level and consistent performance in scrims and not being able to translate that on stage hit me really hard”. The bootcamp in Korea resulted in many rumors that G2 was one of the stronger teams at Worlds. When it came time to play week one, their showing was miserable. They went 0-3, while not looking competitive for basically every game, besides a strong early game vs. ROX in which some poor teamfighting led them to another hard loss.

Weldon has a tough task ahead of him. With a lot of new, young, revamped LCS teams coming into Europe, G2 will not have as easy of a path to Worlds as they did last season. Will he be able to show off the same success as TSM, or will G2’s nerves get the best of them?

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Does Spring Split Really Matter?

The Effect of Doublelift Stepping Down

A month has passed since Team SoloMid (TSM) released the announcement video that their star AD carry, Yiliang, “Doublelift”, Peng would be stepping down for the Spring Split in an attempt to relieve some of the burnout of being a pro since season one of competitive League of Legends.  

For most spectators who follow the scene, they saw a move like this coming.  It’s fair to say that Doublelift has been a premiere star in North America since pro League of Legends started back in 2011. But playing the game for such a long time at a high level has worn him down.   

This sparks an interesting discussion of how relevant Spring Split is in comparison to the Summer.  It seems that for the most part, teams are content with “trying out” a roster in Spring Split with hopes of improving. They use a possible roster move or two to help themselves contend even harder in the Summer, similar to what we saw in Splyce this past season in the EU LCS.  

Many teams have been quoted in the Spring Split as being “Summer Split teams” aiming just to do well enough to avoid relegation. While hoping to fix team issues in time for a real run to worlds in the Summer.  In an interview with Travis Gafford from Yahoo Esports, Doublelift describes Spring Split as “being a huge waste of time as a pro”.  

He elaborates on this more touching on the fact that for most popular players, they end up losing a lot of money scrimming during the regular LCS split as opposed to streaming. Combining that loss of significant income with the health issues that come from practicing the game 10-12 hours a day for 10 months, it may slowly become appealing to see if some players want to follow suit.

From a fan’s perspective, could some of our favorite stars begin dropping out of Spring Split in hopes of coming back for a fiery summer?  Moves like this jeopardize the state of the LCS in that fans aren’t getting to see teams at their best and in the absence of some of some longtime fan favorites.  

It also hurts the competitive scene in a sense that teams aren’t facing the best that their region has to offer.  What if longtime pros in the scene such as Bjergsen, Sneaky, and Froggen all see this as a prime opportunity for them to take a much needed break?

They are earning much more money streaming as opposed to scrimming for some mere circuit points that may not even matter in terms of qualifying for Worlds. Could Spring Split be used as a much needed break physically for those who have brought attention to wrist injuries such as Bjergsen or Hai?

In terms of circuit points for Spring Split, a team is able to earn 90 points for first, 70 for second, 50 for third, 30 for fourth, and 10 for the remaining teams.  It’s evident to see how these points can go to waste as exemplified by Origen in the EU LCS when their 70 points went to waste in Summer when the team couldn’t stay above relegation standings.

Cloud 9 is a good example of showing how disappointing Spring results didn’t translate to Summer. They were able to secure a spot at Worlds to represent the NA LCS after a few small roster changes and bringing in coach Bok “Reapered” Han-Gyu for Summer Split.  With the want for teams to keep their star players healthy, could we see more teams possibly giving player’s breaks for Spring? Ultimately, if your team is strong enough, you can auto-qualify for Worlds through winning Summer Split or through the Gauntlet without the needed circuit points from Spring Split.  

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Picture courtesy of Riot Games Flickr

Options for a Spring Split Replacement

It allows one to question, what could be a good replacement for Spring Split if it were to be removed? Longtime fans of pro League of Legends and pros would benefit from having more international competitions given the opportunity.  

We witnessed Korea stomp on the rest of the world for another season. Pros are begging for more international competition vying that it could be the jump start needed for Western teams to be real contenders at Worlds.

Isolate the best region, and you will continue to see the same thing at Worlds every year.  It makes it really hard to improve when you spend 6-8 months(LCS) beating up on NA/EU teams that just aren’t up to par with what it takes to win a World Championship.

Cloud 9 in Season 3, Fnatic in Season 5, and TSM in Season 6 are all prime examples of teams that have dominated their LCS region/season only to be destroyed by the Korean powerhouses at Worlds.  It raises the question that if they were given more competitive games against Korean teams, would they be able to match their level?

Until that happens, we may have to continue to watch as Western teams try to import Korean solo que stars in hopes of having the individual talent to compete at a World Championship level.  It’s become evident though that having individual talent just isn’t enough to win anymore  

Results from TSM this Spring Split and Summer, will play a huge factor in seeing how a move like this will affect the scene.  Will Doublelift return as a reincarnated ADC God that dominates the Summer Split?  Or will he enjoy streaming too much to even reconsider wanting to go back to the grind of being a pro?  Could we see more stars in the future ask for a break for Spring?

All of those questions will need to be answered as we see this season unfold.

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Three Things to Look Forward to in the first week of EU LCS

Courtesy of LoLesports.

Courtesy of LoLesports.

Well, another offseason has passed us by and we’re entering into what looks to be another crazy Summer split. As much of the drama over two major organizations receiving the ban hammer from Riot has settled over across the pond, EU has its share of drama. G2, the representative for Europe at MSI, lost the region their First Place Seeding at Worlds, which was essentially gained for the LMS representatives. While many fans thought CLG looked to be the weakest team, Europe’s own seemed to struggle much of the tournament, and it’s questionable whether it was because of the so called G2 Vacation or whether it was just because, well, they’re a relatively young team. Some player trades and movements, too, have fueled the region’s own off season drama too.

But that’s behind us, and now we’ll go through some of the exicting things to look out for in the opening week of EU LCS.

 

1: Bo2 Format

 

This has to be, in some ways, one of the most radical things going on in the EU LCS. Gone are the days of Bo1’s, and while Bo2’s are not necessarily here to stay, they certainly will bring some interesting change to the scene. Riot has purposefully given Europe and NA different formats (Bo2 and Bo3 respectively,) in an attempt to ‘test’ which of the two works better. Regardless, it is certainly going to be refreshing for both fans and competitors alike, as a Bo2 format will be a better test of a team’s strength.

What can fans look forward to with the new format? Well, if it wasn’t already a thing, Europe’s going to love ties. The region is notorious for having multiple tie break games at the end of the split to determine middle of the pack seeding, so it’ll probably be a repeat of history. But there’s another point to be made: teams that are far superiour to the other team will gain ‘more’ than, say, two more evenly matched teams that go 1-1. Why is this? Well, a 2-0 win will give the victorious team a total of three points which go towards determining standings. If teams go 1-1, each team is award only a single point to go towards their standings. Teams, then, that are able to overpower their opponents will shoot up, while teams that go even will be left behind.

Courtesy of lolesports.

Courtesy of lolesports.

It also allows teams to have even more games to play, which can only mean good for the region. More practice will only improve the region, who, along with NA LCS, has lagged behind the East in moving towards a Bo3 or Bo2 format. It also allows teams to have experience in these formats, which require a certain level of endurance, strategy and adaptation from previous games that is not the case in Bo1. Alongside this, it also gives teams a chance to play and draft on both blue and red side, and the ability to adapt and change against a team in their drafting, rather than being completely lost against a secret draft from an opponent and swept away without reply. Overall, Bo2 will provide a much better litmus tests of teams strength and most importantly, will give us more and more games to watch!

 

The New El Claissco

A new El Clasico is born. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

A new El Clasico is born. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

Fans of the EU LCS will remember the ‘old’ El Clasico which was between Fnatic and SK Gaming. The teams had a history of placing always beside each other in the ranking, and had a rivalry not unlike that of TSM and CLG over in NA LCS. Now, SK Gaming managed to lose their EU LCS spot, and Fnatic have, in some ways, fallen off (although this may change with the return of Yellowstar.) But, oddly enough, the new El Clasico, between Origen and G2, has a bit of the old in it still: both owners of the team played against each other in the old El Clasico and even against each other in the same lane. Ocelote and xPeke, the owners of G2 and Origen respectively, were also the midlaners for SK Gaming and Fnatic back in the heyday of El Clasico. And now they’re facing off again, but in a very different way.

The Scarfed Spaniard and owner of G2. Courtesy of ocelote world.

The Scarfed Spaniard and owner of G2. Courtesy of ocelote world.

Not only was it these two teams that eventually met in the latest EU Finals, there’s a bit more ‘drama’ going on between the two teams: Zven and Mithy turned in the blue and black for the grey of G2, while Hybrid joined Origen in turn (Origen picked up FORG1VEN to replace Zven as well.) It was a move that surprised most of the scene, while rumours were whispered amongst fans, and it’ll change the landscape of the scene quite a bit. Origen looked to struggle during the whole of last split in all but one regard: their botlane. Zven won them at least a majority of their games during that split, and the loss will be huge to a side that saw a resurgence in the playoffs, but fell short in the end. G2, on the other hand, look to redeem themselves before their European brothers for a shameful performance at MSI.

 

And in the other corner of the ring, xPeke, the King of Backdoors. Courtesy of Gosugamers.

And in the other corner of the ring, xPeke, the King of Backdoors. Courtesy of Gosugamers.

But it’s not like Origen were forced into a bad position for their botlane either. A pickup of FORG1VEN, who may’ve fell off in H2K’s playoff run, is still one hellva an ADC, and Hybrid is no shrug in the botlane either, previously supporting G2’s import Emperor. The question is whether this duo can do what Zven/Mithy did last split for Origen which is carry the hell out of them. It’s hard to say really that Origen won out in the off season though, as Zven and Mithy just seemed to be one of the strongest duos in Europe, while FORG1VEN and Hybrid are an unproven botlane (together.) Only time will tell, though, whether the new Origen duo will be able to match the old, or whether the old will be as strong in the new G2 roster. But we’ll get a test of it in our first game today!

 

Return of the King

 

Europe’s had a rough bit of a year since their amazing run at Worlds last year. First there was the European Exodus that saw many star players from Europe cross the Atlantic to greener pastures in NA. Then G2, arguably one of the strongest European teams during the split and even the playoffs, floundered in amazing fashion internationally at MSI, birthing the G2-8 or Vacations memes around the globe. But there is a light that many of the European faithful will remember, a beacon of hope for the region, one could say a King: Yellowstar. The Frenchmen was a long-time member of Fnatic, the team’s captain, and arguably one of the reasons the team made their perfect split last year, and not he’s back.

Returning to his home region from his brief trip over the pond to TSM, where he wasn’t able to bring the team the coveted NA LCS title, Yellowstar returns to much of the

The King Returns to his People. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

The King Returns to his People. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

same: Two Koreans in the top half of the map, Febiven in the mid and Rekkles his partner in death in the botlane. Yellowstar has his work cut out for him in leading the squad that seemed to meander around the middle of the pack all last split without much of a purpose, sometimes doing excellent, others looking abysmal. But if there’s anyone who can whip together a team into shape, it seems it would be Yellowstar, who saw the team through a rebuilding split into a perfect split into one of the strongest showings from a Western team in a long time at Worlds.

While the drama and the swapping around has largely focused on other teams like Origen, G2, H2K, and even the recently remade UOL and Roccat, Fnatic look to have made potentially the biggest move towards addressing some of their previous issues. A solid, sturdy, veteran shot caller like Yellowstar is the missing piece that arguably saw Fnatic act without purpose last split. Fnatic is one of the few EU LCS teams that has secured itself as a staple in the scene as an organization, and while they had their first non-showing at an EU LCS Finals in their teams history, the team looks to be heading in the right direction going forward. The question remains whether this will translate onto the rift, whether Rekkles and Yellowstar will click like they did, and whether the team will again form around their captain and secure themselves a good showing.

MSI Power Rankings

Alright Everybody, MSI is just around the corner and it feels like its about time to release my predictions as to how everyone will perform. There are some pretty obvious choices, but there are a couple wild cards too. Rather then use any kind of S+, A, etc. system, I’m just going to do a pure 1-6 ranking with my predictions and thoughts.

 

  1. SKT T1 -This seems like the obvious answer. SKT has repeatedly proven to the world they are the best. Any questions had during the Spring Split were wiped out when SKT beat ROX Tigers. There may come a day when SKT isn’t the best team in the world, but for now the throne remains theirs.
  2. G2 Esports – once against it feels like Europe will be the greatest threat to SKT’s dominance. I’m not sure that G2 will outperform last years Fnatic (I don’t expect a Game 5 against SKT), but I don’t see any other teams giving G2 much trouble. They looked consistently great all of Spring, and will continue their high level of play at MSI.
  3. RNG– This is the point where I feel comfortable moving teams around, but I do believe that RNG will be able to claim the third place spot. RNG have not consistently performed, but if they play at their best during this tournament, they will easily take bronze. Also I’m a Looper fanboy… so that may have some impact on my thoughts as well.
  4. Flash Wolves– This is one of my bolder predictions. I think fourth is the very best FW is capable of doing, but I’m not sure how confident I am that they will perform well enough to hit this mark, but I firmly believe that FW at their best is a better team then the remaining options.
  5. CLG– I honestly feel kind of bad putting CLG this low, but I’m just not expecting much. CLG had a fairly good, but not incredible split. Despite the preseason hype, NA was not the most impressive region this split, and I don’t think even the top NA team can compete with the other teams at this level.
  6. Supermassive– Who? Again… I feel bad about ranking them this low. They have performed well in the context we’ve seen them in so far. But are they capable of competing against the likes of SKT, G2, or RNG? I think not. I’m honestly pulling for these guys, It would be great to see a smaller region get some love on the international stage, but I just don’t think its going to happen this weekend.

 

I’m looking forward to watching the competition, and I’ll be posting game by game analysis right here on The Game Haus, so make sure to come back and check out if my predictions come true!

 

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