Winners and Losers of the Off-season: NALCS

Franchising has definitely brought a different level of spiciness this off-season that has had many fans alike excited for the upcoming season. It almost feels that anyone and everyone has been on the move with every team having money to spend this off-season. While not everything is confirmed yet, most of the rumors have come to fruition.

Some teams have made big splashes recruiting big names this off-season. Others seemed to have been late to the party. This piece we’ll be looking at the winners and losers of the off-season so far. Let’s take a look:

Winners

Team Liquid

While “Paid by Steve” has become a meme, it became a reality as Team Liquid struck fast in the off-season. They were able to obtain most of the Immortals roster who qualified for Worlds last year and added two veteran stars to go along with them. Their starting roster consists of Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, Eugene “Pobelter” Park, Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, and Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung.

Being able to obtain three players who previously worked together is definitely a win right off the bat will bring some needed synergy for a new team. Pobelter, Doublelift, and Xmithie are all longtime NALCS vets who can bring a lot of leadership to this team. Impact has been a star for the past few seasons on Cloud 9 and had another great Worlds performance. Having played in NA for the past two years, his English has gotten a lot better. He’s often been heralded for his communication and which is a great trait to have as an import. He also has the experience of having been a world champion with SKT in season 3.

Olleh is an aggressive laning support who should do well with star ADC Doublelift. Doublelift comes to Team Liquid after being replaced on TSM by European star, Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen. Doublelift is hungry to be the best and get revenge on his former team. He’s been arguably one of the best ADC’s in the West since becoming a pro. While domestically he’s been great, it’s internationally where he’ll need to show up. His past few Worlds performances have been average at best so he’ll want to get to Worlds again to finally prove himself.

Xmithie and Pobelter come off a summer split where they both revitalized their careers on Immortals. Both players looked to be on the decline after rough Spring Splits. Xmithie had an MVP like split in which the meta leaned towards tank-control junglers. His play was vital in Immortals making it to Summer finals.

Team Liquid without a doubt had a lot of money to spend, and this time spent it in the right places.

TSM’s Mike “MikeYeung” Yeung

Photo by: Riot Esports

Mikeyeung went from playing on a 9th place Phoenix1 team to one of the most successful franchises in NALCS history. While the pressure will be on to perform, he’ll be surrounded by star veterans in every lane. Opportunity arose with TSM importing the European bot lane duo of Zven and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez. With TSM needing a North American talent in the jungle, Mikeyeung’s opportunity was there.

Mikeyeung had one of the most surprising rookie splits this past summer. He came into a flailing Phoenix1 team that went from 3rd to last place and tried to salvage as much as he could. He showed great aggression on champs such as Lee Sin and Nidalee. He’ll have every chance to succeed with TSM being the kings of domestic success. He’ll also have a chance to learn under the leadership of former Immortals coach Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo. Any team Ssong has coach, he’s been praised for improving the team drastically.

TSM has the reputation of turning aggressive junglers into ward bots so we’ll need to see what Mikeyeung becomes. If he stays the aggressive, play making jungler, it may be just what TSM needs.

100 Thieves

Of all the new teams entering the league, 100 thieves have the build of a prominent roster if things pan out. As one of the only teams who hasn’t announced their bot lane yet, all signs point to star support Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black heading their way. The confirmed players look to all be individually really good. They are top laner Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, jungler William “Meteos” Hartman, and mid laner Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook. It’s also good to note that they’ll be coached by Neil “pr0lly” Hammad who showed great success in EU with H2K.

If Aphromoo is heading to 100 thieves as their support it will most likely be a North American rookie at ADC. Aphromoo has shown the ability to mold great ADC’s in the bot lane with Stixxay on CLG so it won’t be new for him. This team could be a major sleeper to storm into the league as legit contenders right away.

 

Losers

 Counter Logic Gaming

Counter Logic Gaming took a major hit this off-season losing long time veteran leader Aphromoo. Aphromoo has always been associated as CLG’s main leader inside and outside of game. His leadership qualities will be missed. He was always seen as the mediator when things got rough and with how inconsistent this roster can be, his absence will be felt.

Taking his place will be TSM’s former support, Vincent “Biofrost” Wang. While mechanically Biofrost has showed to be really good, his communication seems to be lacking as Doublelift and Bjergsen were more of the shot callers on the team. He’s still young, but this roster isn’t too talented on paper. Everyone else imported big names, while CLG looked to stay mostly the same. They picked up jungler in Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin who had a horrific season on Team Liquid. Individually he did okay, but he’ll be looking to bounce back big this year.

The returning members  of the team, mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun, ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes, and Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya have had their share of inconsistencies. Without the leadership of aphromoo this team may crumble if they don’t perform well early.

CLoud 9

Photo by: Riot Esports

In a shocking turn of events rising star Juan “Contractz” Garcia and top laner Impact both left the team for brighter pastures. While one could see Impact leaving as a possibility, the fact that Contractz left meant Cloud 9 needed to either import a jungler or top laner. Cloud 9 seemed to be late to the party as most of the North American junglers had already found new homes.

They found their replacement in former TSM jungler, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen who is an EU talent. This means Svenskeren will be taking an import slot. This most likely means that rookie Eric “Licorice” Ritchie will be the starting top laner for Cloud 9. Svenskeren has had his troubles with inconsistencies. He was a huge scapegoat in TSM’s performance at Worlds in which their early game play making was lacking.

While Svenskeren isn’t necessarily a steep downgrade to Contractz, replacing Impact with a rookie will definitely be felt. Licorice spent his time in the challenger series on EUnited last split. He’s been a top player in the challenger scene for the past few splits. He’ll have big shoes to fill if they plan to start him right away. With many of the top teams looking even better, Cloud 9 may have taken a step back. Only time will tell if this was the right move for them.

EuLCS

An exodus was bound to happen with franchising heading to North America. With EU having some big name talents who can proficiently speak English, North America was bound to try to recruit them to cross the Atlantic. Europe loses the G2 bot lane of Zven and Mithy, along with mid laners Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten. The off-season isn’t even over yet. There’s definitely still room for more players to head over.

This is a major hit for EU. Misfits in particular almost knocked off former champions, SKT. Most of these rosters did not choose to stick together and EU will have to look to garner new talent to replace the ones that left.

With franchising not coming until 2019, many of the EU organizations can’t compete with the salaries being offered in North America. This will most likely result in EU being top heavy. Players are looking to team up with the best in EU while younger orgs will have to fight for scraps.

 

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How much will this exodus hurt EU LCS?

With most of the NA LCS teams announcing their rosters this week, imports were to be expected. Since franchising is coming to North America, more money is available to every team more than ever before. With EU LCS not franchising until next year, many of their players were drawn to North America for huge pay increases.

Big names such as Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage, Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten, Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez and Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen are all rumored/confirmed to be playing in the NA LCS next split. While there have been cases of a few EU players leaving to North America, this is the first time so many stars have all gone at once.

Many are excited for the NA LCS as franchising has helped create some new and interesting competitive rosters. While North American fans are rejoicing at how competitive the league looks to be, EU fans are left distraught.

EU LCS

Photo by: Riot Esports

Replacing stars

It wasn’t long ago when many of the Korean superstars left to team up in China. Chinese teams offered ridiculous paychecks that Korean organizations were not willing to match. This wasn’t an issue as Korea has been the epicenter of professional League of Legends talent. Teams in Korea have a way of developing talent quickly and efficiently to where the exodus wasn’t felt at all. Korea still took home the world championship that year and still touted the best teams in the World.

Europe will face this same hardship with much less organization and infrastructure. With many teams losing out on stars, the few stars left are attempting to team up together. With Korea notably having one of the most competitive solo queue ladders, it will be interesting to see if EU can find talent among their own competitive scene. EU has far less money and less infrastructure going forward, especially compared to the other main regions.

It will be interesting to see if large fan bases stick around. Most notably Unicorns of Love lost many of their key stars already this off season. Will fans look to NA to watch their favorite EU stars?

Less competitive?

If people thought EU LCS was top heavy last season, one can only expect it to get worse. Many of the fan favorite teams of EU LCS lost core members/personalities. Most of the top EU players will most likely be looking to team up to create the best possible roster. This will likely make EU even more top heavy than before with all the talent funneling into a few teams.

The quality of play may drop as well with so many players leaving, as many of the new rosters will be unfamiliar with one another. This could lead to more hectic clown fiesta games at least for a split while teams recover from this exodus. This could see the overall quality of play drop significantly at a point where EU was beginning to look like they had been getting stronger.

This exodus could be a major step back for the region with franchising rumored to be coming in 2019. 2018 will be a year to watch in EU. With format changes rumored and the EU exodus taking place, the region looks to be in limbo. Time will tell if they’re able to stay competitive and represent their region well on the World stage once again.

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

Should the West head to Korea to Bootcamp again?

This is a foregoing topic around every World championship it seems. Many of the Western teams over the past couple years have gone to Korea to bootcamp and scrim in preparation for the World championship. While it may seem beneficial in retrospect, we have yet to see it really make a difference on the World Stage. We’ve heard the pros and cons of bootcamping in Korea, but with no real results to back it up. Should teams just stay within their regions to practice?

Photo by: Inven

Pros

It’s no doubt Korea has some of the most competitive League of Legends scenes in the World. They’ve produced multiple talents just from solo queue, and usually dominate at the World championships. Korean infrastructure for LoL seems to be miles ahead of their Western counterparts. From the way they develop talent, to how they practice, and their dedication.

The chance to scrim some of the best Korean teams is enticing. To be the best, you have to practice with the best. Since bootcamping in Korea has become the norm for Western teams, you also have the chance to scrim the best teams from other regions as well. Those who don’t attend would miss out on the chance to scrim with some of the best teams at Worlds.

One of the biggest benefits that pros have noted is the solo queue. Being able to practice with very low ping similar to LAN makes a huge difference. Solo queue in North America also tends to have a lot more one tricks, streamers and people who don’t take things too seriously. In Korea, every player in challenger plays to win. The solo queue actually offers a much better practice environment from what we’ve heard from pro players who’ve bootcamped there.

Cons

Practicing with your competition has come up as an interesting topic in pro LoL as of late. Echo Fox was the latest team to decide not to scrim opponents. In all seriousness, why would you practice against your enemies? The most success we’ve seen from a North American competitor was with CLG at MSI 2016. CLG had their own meta developed and had their own pocket picks that they knew they could play. From scrimming Korean teams, many Western teams may try to duplicate their style or try to copy the way they play. A certain meta always develops, and Koreans will almost always have it perfected before any other team.

If Western teams strayed from trying to duplicate Korea’s playstyles, maybe they would find more success. Developing their own meta that they can perfect and show good performances on. It’s fair to say that what they’ve tried the past few seasons has not worked for them. Going to Korea to bootcamp for better solo queue is great, but scrimming against the better competition may not be ideal.

Korean teams are able to get a feel for how Western teams like to play from the first game. From there they’re able to dissect their playstyles and champion pools. If the West doesn’t give them that chance could they have a better surprise factor for when they do face off?

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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What the EU LCS announcement could mean for NA LCS

The Announcement

After spending a weekend in Boston at the NA LCS Finals my mind has been focused on one thing. I know you’re probably thinking, “Worlds, duh.” Sorry but you’re wrong. The more people I talked to who were in the know or even had inside information made me wonder about my favorite League of Legends topic, franchising.

Courtesy of: https://eu.lolesports.com/

We all know there will be a major announcement for who has been accepted sometime in November. It has also been reported that over 100 teams applied for the NA LCS franchising opportunity. This means that over 100 teams/organizations have either found investors or have the $13 million necessary to join the league.

What this also means is that there is an insane amount of interest in League of Legends for these spots.

Jacob Wolf announced earlier today that EU LCS would be splitting into four regions. With this there will be 24 teams that are all at the top league, six in each region. It sounds like there will be no minor league teams or challenger scene, and with that it will end relegation which has been a huge thorn in the side of teams. They will be playing in London, Paris, Barcelona and Berlin.

What does this mean?

How will this effect NA? Well for starters one would expect there to be at least 16 or more teams in the new league. With over 100 teams applying I can definitely see more. There has been much debate around this over the weekend and especially within The Game Haus.

One of the major concerns that has been brought up is if there is enough talent to allow for this many teams. We have seen in the past that League of Legends normally has about four upper echelon teams in each split with some middle tier teams and then normally at least two teams that struggled mightily.

This is a valid point and a similar one can easily be made for EU as many people feel they are a weaker region. The hope is that with salaries and more of a budget to officially pay players, some of the best in each region will eventually spread out to the different teams. It is also possible that some of the top players in each region may jump back in. Could we see the return of Dyrus to the main league? Although doubtful, the possibility is there.

Courtesy of: http://wwg.com

An argument could be made that this may extend careers as well. Plenty of people have worried about the fact that most League players either burn out or lose their edge once they reach their middle to upper twenties. That would allow more time for development of newer players and expectations may be lowered.

Another point that can be made for NA is that it looks likely that they will at least follow a similar format to EU. It is completely conceivable that NA goes regional and has all of their teams in each region like EU. There could be Northeastern, Northwestern, Southern and Western regions that could accommodate a similar number of teams.

Or, they could do what Overwatch league is planning on doing and have teams in separate cities like the NFL, MLB, NBA, etc. With the team owners of the OWL building Esports arenas, it is also possible that there will be League teams sharing those stadiums similar to traditional sports.

There are clearly so many different questions that can be asked with this news. One that has been answered is that Riot is not letting EU die out. Instead their goal of revamping it and adding franchising should give EU fans hope.

For NA it allows excitement to start brewing for the announcements to come after Worlds. For now League fans can theorize and discuss this on the forums while also enjoying Worlds. Big changes are coming to League of Legends. Riot clearly has a vision that includes League being around for the long haul and one can see that this is only the beginning.


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How franchising in North America might affect Europe

ESPN has reported that four teams have applied to the NA LCS in wake of franchising next year. Not just four average teams either. Four major esports organizations from the EU LCS in Fnatic, Misfits, G2 and Splyce. It seems that with franchising coming to North America next year, it would be a safer investment than staying in the EU LCS.

Franchising opens up the ability for investors to have a safer investment with no risk of teams being relegated. Teams will also have a lot more money to pay players than their European counterparts. This could lead to less investors heading to Europe with more money going into the NA LCS.

More Players Leaving Europe?

Photo via Riot Esports

It’s no secret that Europe has produced some very talented players that have come to the NA LCS. Names like Bjergsen, Jensen and Froggen come to mind. With more money coming to North America, could we see a migration of Europeans/Koreans to North America?

Some say money can’t buy everything. But with players typically having short career spans, wouldn’t you want to at least go where your money will be the greatest? Europe has somewhat been known for having less money than North American competitors. With franchising looming next split, could we see even more European stars head to North America in chase of higher pay?

The EULCS would inevitably become weaker if they can’t compete with the money that North American teams can offer. Even European teams have applied to franchise in North America. This would force teams to have to drop over half their roster to satisfy the import rules. This leads into the next topic of combining NA and EU LCS.

One Western League?

Instead of implementing the import rule for EU LCS teams coming over, could Riot think to combine both regions altogether? While it’s highly unlikely, if Europe’s top organizations were to get accepted, it would leave a huge void in Europe for talent and org experience.

Many European fans have discussed their negativity towards franchising in Europe. If all the best teams are already looking towards NA for franchising, it may be better to follow suit. This whole year has almost proved that the EU LCS is a top heavy league.

The difference between the bottom four and top six teams is quite apparent, especially with the results at Rift Rivals. With more money heading to North America, the competition can only grow stronger.

Changing the Format

It’s no secret Europe has become victim to Riot’s LCS experiments. First with the best of 2’s last year and now with the divided groups. The two group format has made EU more dissatisfying to watch as you see a lot less of the top teams going head to head. The bottom teams in each conference are almost auto-wins for the rest as well.

Having only two full days of games compared to three in NA definitely hurts from a sponsorship standpoint. With franchising also coming, EU needs to go to all teams playing each other twice in a best of three. No more groups splitting the league either. It almost feels like it hurt them competitively as well. This was evident at Rift Rivals when Phoenix1 who finished last place this summer was able to handily defeat the top teams from Europe.

The format isn’t the only thing holding Europe back, but it’s definitely an issue. Riot needs to give EU a full three days of games and the same format as North America.

It will be interesting to see what exactly happens next year with franchising coming to North America. Many talented EU players may look to North America in search of the money. This could be detrimental to EU LCS as we move forward.

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

 

Should psychologists be required for LCS teams?

With the tweets of top laner Jeon “Ray” Ji-won coming to light recently, the discussion of the mental health of professional players returns. Many fans on social media can be harsh to their favorite players when they perform poorly. The criticism pro players can face added with the stress of performing well on stage can take a toll on these young minds.

You also have to factor in that many of the players are experiencing their first times being away from home in a brand new team environment. Not to mention a brand new country/culture for imported players. If players don’t perform up to their own standards, their own mental health can take a toll.

History of Mental Health Issues in LCS

Psychologists

Photo by Riot Games

It’s no secret that some players have seen the need to retire due to the stress of being a pro player. Legendary players such as Dyrus and Voyboy noted the mental stress during their time in LCS. Sport psychologists have slowly been making their way onto professional teams, but not all.

The most well known psychologist in pro League of Legends would have to be Weldon Green who made a name for himself on TSM last year, and now G2. Both teams saw significant upgrades to their team’s play after bringing Weldon in. Most of the teams have bought into hiring sports psychologists for their teams. The early days of LCS of eating whatever and only playing the games are gone.

Teams are training players to be physically and mentally fit in all aspects of life. CLG opted to train in a top sports facility during the offseason as opposed to bootcamping in Korea like some teams. The result has been a first place spot so far after five and a half weeks of LCS.

Should Psychologists be Required for LCS teams?

Not too long ago, Riot made coaches a requirement for LCS teams. Should psychologists become the next thing to join that list of required staff? It definitely could be if more players were to speak out about some of their mental issues. It’s almost certain that Ray isn’t the only player facing these types of mental hurdles.

Even a few sessions a week could help players with managing their stress. Every team could use the benefit of a psychologist. Not only for struggling players, but for team life in general. Many teams that have taken on Psychologists can see the effect it has had on team environments. Roccat last Spring struggled before a late surge almost netted them a playoff spot. They credited this to bringing on a sports psychologist to help with the team atmosphere.

What we can do as fans

As fans, it’s easy to criticize our favorite pros when they fail to meet our expectations. We also need to remember that they’re people just like us who are performing on some of the world’s biggest stages of professional LoL. Most of them haven’t been groomed to receive the hate that some of the community is bound to expel when they have a poor game.

We must not be quick to make remarks based off emotions. Everyone isn’t going to play perfectly, but flaming them over social media most certainly won’t help them play any better. Pro players for the most part, know when they’ve messed up. They know if they cost their team a match. There’s no need for fans to tag them in tweets raging or making angry posts on Reddit. Let them learn from their mistakes and prove themselves next time.

 

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Cover photo by Riot Games

NA vs. EU Rift Rivals power rankings/predictions

Rift Rivals is around the corner. We will get the chance to see some of the top teams from EU and NA face off in a regional battle for bragging rights. EU and NA has been a long time rivalry in professional League of Legends. They were two of the first big regions to produce pro teams during LoL’s early days.

The history of the NA vs. EU rivalry has been a bit lopsided as of late. EU comes in as heavy favorites with most of the top of NA looking inconsistent for most of the first half of the split. You never really know with international tournaments though. The two regions are used to playing to their own metas so it will be interesting to see how the teams match up. Here are my power rankings for the teams playing at Rift Rivals:

1. Fnatic

Photo via Riot Games

Fnatic come into Rift Rivals with a steady 6-1 record. After struggling last split, they found their groove towards the end. Fnatic have found a style that works for them and continue to show mastery on it. ADC Martin “Rekkles” Larsson has his pocket pick Kennen that teams must watch out for. If it’s not the Kennen, it’s his Tristana that can give teams trouble. Mid laner Rasmus “Caps” Winther gets his first shot at international competition. This is a great opportunity for him to face off against some of the best in the world in Bjergsen and Jensen at Rift Rivals. With Rekkles usually on more utility carries, Caps is heavily relied on to be the main damage dealer for the team. Caps currently leads the league for all mids in damage percentage and damage per minute.

Young jungler Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen gets his chance to prove himself as one of the best junglers in the West. He’s been dominating the EULCS this split with a monster 11.3 KDA. He’s an aggressive jungler that has had phenomenal performances on early game junglers such as Elise and Kha’zix.

Fnatic are comprised of two veterans in SoaZ and Rekkles who should be able to lead this rising squad to a Rift Rivals victory.

2. Unicorns of Love

Unicorns of Love come into Rift Rivals with a 5-1 record, only dropping a series to Splyce. They are led by star top laner Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás. Rookie of the split Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir will also be a player to watch as he’s come into his own in the EULCS. He has a deep champion pool, willing to pull out unique champion picks such as Warwick and Hecarim. With EU having some of the best junglers in this tournament, NA will need to step up.

Fabian “Exileh” Schubert may have a a rough time. In EU he’s currently dead last in CS difference@10. He’s also near the bottom for many mid lane stats. He will be up against the likes of Bjergsen, Jensen and Ryu. Teams will most likely look to exploit the mid and bot lane. ADC Samuel “Samux” Fernández has looked improved this split, he comes in facing the likes of Arrow, Doublelift and Sneaky. UoL have strong shot calling and have shown consistency to play well together. In just about every matchup against TSM they’ve handily defeated them. We’ll see if that changes this time around.

3. Cloud 9

Photo via Riot Games

Cloud 9 come in off a solid win over TSM, but a very deflating loss at the hands of CLG. Had they beaten CLG they may have been in a higher position. Cloud 9 are led by carries Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi. Jensen has been having the best split of his career in the NALCS. He sits near the top in most statistical categories among NA mids.

In NA Cloud 9 has had some of the same issues from last split. Their early game play making still lacks a bit, but their laning phase is still pretty solid. They have a versatile roster with their interchangeable top laners of Jeon “Ray” Ji-won and Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong. Ray has slowly been taking the starting role from Impact showing the ability to be a carry top laner for the team.

In the jungle rookie Juan “Contractz” Garcia has still shown some inconsistencies, but has turned it on as of late. He’ll be facing many good junglers from EU, so he’ll need to step it up if Cloud 9 have a chance. It will be his first international competition so he’ll look to prove himself. Cloud 9’s rivalry with Fnatic will be ignited once again as they get a chance to face off in this tournament. Cloud 9 took the battle of the Atlantic, but Fnatic has gotten the best of them at Worlds.

4. Team SoloMid

TSM are the reigning North American champions and had the chance to eliminate G2 from MSI. They failed to do so and were eliminated themselves. They get another shot in the EU rivalry this time with ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Doublelift vs. Rekkless and Zven will be matchups to watch here at Rift Rivals. Rekkless isn’t really known for his aggressive laning phase so we’ll need to see how he does against one of NA’s best.

Many thought TSM would retake the NA throne easily with the addition of Doublelift back onto the roster. That hasn’t been the case as TSM sit in 2nd place with a 7-3 record. Jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen has looked phenomenal on Lee Sin. Anything outside of Lee, he has looked meh at best. He’ll be a huge crutch for TSM if he has a repeat of his performances at MSI.

TSM have been known to choke at international events. We’ll need to see if Rift Rivals will be another one added to that list.

5. G2

Photo via Riot Games

After a great run at MSI where they reached the finals before losing to SKT, G2 was expected to come back and destroy the EULCS scene. That hasn’t been the case as G2 seem to have taken a step back in terms of performance. They may be using the regular season to try out new things, but their old strategy of playing to the late game has not worked well for them. They currently sit at 3-3, third in their conference.

Their early game play making is lacking. While they can still try to play around star ADC Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen, teams will look to punish them for their lack of early game play making. Support Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez has been a weak link this split getting caught out uncharacteristically. He will need to step it up or he’ll be punished by some of the better supports at the tournament.

6. Phoenix1

Phoenix1 will be heavy underdogs as the only team coming to rift rivals with a negative W-L. They currently sit in 8th place with a 3-7 record. They struggled heavily out the gates, but after bringing in new jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung and veteran support Alex “Xpecial” Chu the team has looked much more competitive.

MikeYeung brings in a signature Nidalee pick that teams will need to watch out for. Former MVP ADC No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon has not shown the same prowess he did last split. He’s currently last in CS differential@10 and near the bottom in other statistics.

The team has looked improved in recent weeks. Maybe Rift Rivals can be a spring board for turning their season around. Ryu, Arrow and Xpecial are the steady veterans who have played in international competition before. Ryu in particular should know his opponents very well. Phoenix1 could definitely take a game or two under the right circumstances.

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Cover photo by Rift Herald

Hooks in the LCS

Week Two of the North American League Championship Series (NA LCS) has proven once again that NA pros are hooked on League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) picks. While Thresh has been a staple in competitive since release, the rise of Blitzcrank has recently rocketed in North America.

Thresh’s Big Moment

Perhaps the most consistent support pick, Thresh has become stronger than ever with the recent meta changes. Having a kit that is overloaded with the ability to create picks, peel, and reposition allies, it is no wonder that Thresh has been a staple in pro play. This being said, Thresh has reached his peak in both competitive and solo queue environments due to some recent changes.

Photo by: lolesports

Changes to support and laning items have made Thresh’s abusable laning phase easier to handle. Doran’s shield protects vulnerable AD carries from the harassment of the ever popular ranged mage supports. Poke based support champions are also hindered by having less mana regen on the Spellthief’s support item line. With poke supports doing less poking, tank supports running the Relic Shield line have been indirectly buffed, but they are again buffed through the power of the Relic Shield Quest which gives them a refreshing shield once it is completed.

Alongside the lack of health regen from the Ancient Coin line, and less mana regen from Spellthief’s, Relic Shield supports such as Thresh and Blitzcrank are at their strongest.

The Great Steam Golem

The Great Steam Golem has seen plenty of screen-time in the LCK, most notably from the likes of MVP MAX, whose signature Blitzcrank is a pick to be feared. With seven bans and five picks since the LCK started three weeks ago, Blitzcrank maintains a 60 percent win rate. Popularized by MVP Max during the Spring Split of the LCK, Blitzcrank is one of Max’s many play making supports. Currently, in the Summer Split of the LCK, MVP Max has only played two games on his claim to fame champion, winning one and losing the other; this shows that the pick has become popular amongst other supports in the LCK as well.

Throwback to Team Alternate versus Gambit (Moscow 5). Photo by: lolesports

Blitzcrank has always been an unpopular pick in the competitive scene, with exception of the first two seasons of competitive. This is in large part due to the reliability of his one-dimensional kit. Blitzcrank is the quintessential Catcher. While being the best pick based support, Blitzcrank’s toolkit starts, stops and ends at his Rocket Grab. The basic combo, hook into knock-up and silence, can be used for peeling through a separation of the combo into its more basic components.

However, there are so many other better-peeling supports. Due to the nature of his one combo kit, Blitzcrank’s power is completely dependent on hitting the initial Rocket Grab. This is the primary reason why professional players have strayed away from Blitzcrank. While this champion is undeniably one of the most powerful supports in the game, consistently sitting in the top three highest win rate supports for the past few seasons, the lack of flexibility and reliability prevents the Steam Golem from being the most picked support.

Blitzcrank’s Fleshling Compatibility Services

Enter Xayah, the Rebel. Xayah has incredible late game scaling, laning phase damage, wave clear, and Crowd Control. Her popularity alongside her partner, Rakan, has soared in the competitive scene. While her go-to bottom lane partner is Rakan, Blitzcrank makes a potentially more powerful support. Much like the Kalista Blitzcrank combination of the past season, Xayah and Blitzcrank compensate for each other’s weaknesses perfectly. Xayah lacks in gap closers that allow for her to dump her insane amount of damage onto backline threats. Blitzcrank’s Rocket Grab allows for her to utilize her damage on threats that would otherwise be too far away. The Steam Golem lacks in reliability to initiate the Rocket Grab combo, but Xayah’s wave clear and root allow for Rocket Grab to become a point and click ability instead of a jukable skill shot.

EULCS Hylissang gets his hook on in time for a victory. Photo by: lolesports

Blitzcrank has incredible play-making ability that was displayed in game three of CLG v Echo Fox. Alongside Xayah, Blitzcrank is a foe to be reckoned with. Regardless of whether or not Blitzcrank is laning with Xayah, the Steam Golem has seen a recent resurgence in both solo queue and competitive environments. Most recently in the EU LCS, Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov, proved the champion’s power supporting Twitch in the bottom lane. Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black’s knack for play-making supports has translated well into his Blitzcrank play. While CLG would ultimately lose to TSM with Blitzcrank, this is in large part due to the unexpected performance by TSM jungler, Dennis “Svenkskeren” Johnsen.

As support itemization is once again being changed, expect to see both hook-heavy champions in the bottom lane. With Redemption being nerfed when not paired with other healing and shielding items, and Knight’s Vow being made more appropriate for supports to pick up, expect to see a new Blitzcrank and Thresh build path. This new itemization will compensate for Blitzcrank’s lack of peel by allowing him to effectively share a health pool with his marksmen.

 

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Featured Image Courtesy of leagueoflegends.com

 

Will Super Teams Ever Be formed in the LCS?

For those who follow the NBA, it’s no doubt that the league has changed. Star players used to be much more loyal to the teams that drafted them. Nowadays if players want to compete for a title, they most likely need the help of fellow superstars to do so. Which brings an interesting topic to LCS. What would happen if some of the best players of the region all came together to form “super teams” to begin to seriously contend for worlds. One could only imagine the possibilities of rosters.

We have yet to really see any formation of super teams take place in LCS. In Europe, Alliance had their small run of success before flopping at Worlds. The transfer of Zven and Mithy to G2 was also a bold move for them as they saw the greatest chance for success in joining G2 esports. In the LMS you somewhat have the formation of two of the best rosters on AHQ and Flash Wolves. It’s an extremely top heavy region where Flash Wolves and AHQ are almost always bound to meet in the finals.

Why not?

Photo via Inven

One could see how the formation of “super teams” could greatly benefit a region. Could you imagine a super team of North American talent of Hauntzer, Dardoch, Bjergsen, Doublelift, and Aphromoo? Possibly the best players at their positions from the region all coming together to compete for a World championship.

Player loyalty is much higher in LCS than the NBA. Players are extremely loyal it seems to the teams that gave them their first real shot at playing professionally. Bjergsen will always be famous for the work he has put in on TSM. The same goes for Aphromoo on CLG. Even Froggen on Echo Fox. Despite having some poor splits so far in the NALCS, Froggen remains loyal to Echo Fox as an organization. It makes it difficult to see if either players would give up their loyalty for a shot at a professional title. In the NBA, a star player can only hope for so long that his GM can garner the right pieces for a championship team. Once they’ve hit their peak, they’re looking for a title contending team which usually means teaming up with other NBA superstars (i.e. Kevin Durant to GSW).

Would Super Teams Hurt the LCS?

The competition of LCS may become worse if all the best players of a region are stacked onto 1-3 teams. Looking at the NBA, we can almost expect the Cavs and Warriors to face off in every finals for the next few years until another super team can form to dethrone them. If super teams dominated LCS, and the gap between a middle tier and top tier team were to expand, the league could grow stale for some. Seeing super star heavy teams leaves less of a talent pool for other teams. Most teams would probably need to turn to imports to compete.

With no real player rivalries anymore in the NBA, more players seem to care more about winning a championship than anything. Player/team rivalries are huge in sports/esports, but if every good player just wants to team together, it sort of defeats the purpose of competing against the best.

Can Super Teams actually compete on the world stage?

Photo via Riot Esports

If super teams were to form in NA LCS, it’d be with one goal in mind: to finally contend for a world championship. For so long Korea has dominated professional League of Legends. Forming a sort of “all star” team could be one way to finally contend for a World title. We’ve seen teams like G2 and TSM do well domestically, but flop at Worlds. Could the solution just be superstar players joining up to form all star caliber teams?

It’s hard to say for sure. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on moving forward as North American fans grow frustrated with seeing Korea win every year and NA fail to make it out of groups. If the years continue on like this, I could definitely see some superstars look to join up as esport athletes don’t have the longest career spans. Searching for a World title may be one or two players away from forming a super team.

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Cover Photo by Riot Esports

Let me know what your super team would be in the comments below!

 

Flaws With Rift Rivals

Riot Games is finally introducing more chances for international play with their announcement of Rift Rivals yesterday. Rift Rivals will pit regional rivals against each other in a battle between the top three teams of their respective regions. Fans and teams have been begging for more international competitions and Riot looks to have been listening. Things aren’t perfect though and there are some flaws with how the tournament format is set up. Let’s take a look:

Photo via Gamespot

Bo1’s

Has Riot not learned anything from the past few seasons about best-of-one formats? One can see how it can be exciting for fans due to the unpredictability. With B01’s, you can have upsets, such as Albus Nox Luna at last Worlds and Wildcards upsetting highly ranked teams.

In any case, B01’s don’t allow much flexibility in drafts/strategies and can limit how creative a team can get. Most teams will want to just draft standard in a B01 because they only have one game to prove themselves. Having a best-of-three format would allow for more creative drafts, where teams can get risky in game one knowing that if things don’t work out they can go back to standard for game two.

It doesn’t feel like the winner of B01’s is definitively better than the other team. They were only better than them for one game. One mistake can cost a team a game.

Teams are locked in from standings based ON half a split ago

For those who don’t know, teams are already locked in based on the spring split standings for Rift Rivals. Announcing a type of tournament like this should open up more motivation for teams to do well to represent their region at this tournament.

Many things can change in half a split. A team can go from being a top three team to possibly a 4-6th place team. If that’s the case, fans get a lower quality play and may not be represented well. Hypothetically speaking, TSM, Cloud 9, and Phoenix1 could all be bottom tier teams next split and will still be able to play in this tournament. If you’re going to have an international event in July, teams should need to qualify for it as close to the date as possible for the best results.

Relay Format

The relay format basically starts with the 3rd place team of each region pitted against each other in a B01. Whatever team loses is eliminated and the winner stays on to face the next highest ranked team of that region.

The major issue with this is you could potentially never see the first place team of a region play. It’s all based on how well the third place team does. If the third place team were to win all three matches, you wouldn’t even see the other two teams play in this type of format.

Double elimination B03 matches would make the most sense to actually see how the teams stack up against each other. Limiting it to B01’s and this really weird relay format limits the chances of actually seeing who is a better region. Having a gauntlet style tournament would at least give every team a chance to play in a best-of series.

Future tournaments

It seems that with Riot introducing this new tournament, they’ll be looking at doing more in the future. With only four days in between the split to plan this out, time is quite limited for them, which may explain the B01 format. Nonetheless, it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully, with more time, Riot can put on a better format for an international event.

Cover image via Riot Esports

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