Buying LCS Spots: Ninjas Make Their Return

Players and fans alike have mixed opinions around the recent announcement of Ninjas in Pyjamas (NIP) purchasing the Fnatic Academy spot in the EU LCS.

The Fnatic Academy roster consists of Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek at top lane, Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider as the jungler, Yasin “Nisqy” Dincer at mid, Rasmus “MrRalleZ” Skinneholm as ADC and Johan “Klaj” Olsson at support. This team worked their way through the EU Challenger circuit only to be bought out earlier this week. This was all done without consent from the players and the bulk of them have tweeted their dismay after the announcement.

With NIP offering spots to three of the five “brothers” of EU’s Fnatic Academy, each being declined due to a desire to stay together as a team, the future of each of these players is still largely up in the air. For now they are choosing to stay with the Fnatic organization, however, they are also available for contracting.

Ninjas move in

The roster looking to replace Fnatic Academy under the NIP brand, consists of ex-SKT top laner, Kim “Profit” Jun-hyung, Ilyas “Shook” Hartsema in the jungle, former KT Rolster mid laner Kim “Nagne” Sang-moon, Martin “HeaQ” Kordmaa at ADC, and Hampus “sprattel” Mikael Abrahamsson in support. This is an exceptionally confusing roster as only a few of these players carry the esteem and praise that the original Fnatic Academy line up achieved throughout their play in the Challenger scene. What is in question is whether or not this new line up would have made it through the EU Challenger series. If so, then the spot is deserved. However, if in this hypothetical they would not perform up to the par set by other EU teams, then a serious strike towards the integrity of competitive League of Legends has been made. 

What is especially worrying is that NIP sought to take three of the five Fnatic Academy players, implying that three players in their current line up are not as valued as those they are replacing. As to who those three are, we do not know. What is more likely than not is that NIP sought to replace both solo laners with imports, despite the solo laners of Fnatic Academy performing relatively well this past split.

How NIP performs in the upcoming split will either leave the ex-Fnatic Academy players vindicated or disdained. It will be hard to watch someone take over your role and flounder after being given a spot on an LCS squad. That being said, it may be more difficult to watch the same team triumph in the spot you worked so hard to carve out for them.

Gold Coin United leaves the stage after a close loss in a best of five against TL. Courtesy of lolesports flickr

This has happened before

Fans in an uproar must check themselves. Buying LCS spots is nothing new. 

Just a few months ago, the NA LCS Summer Promotion tournament held a fierce competition between four teams. These four teams, eUnited, Gold Coin United, Team Envy and Team Liquid, competed for only two LCS spots. While Team Envy secured their LCS spot with their original roster intact, Team Liquid made two temporary purchases during the season’s final weeks with both Adrian Ma and Peng “Doublelift” Yilang. These purchases were never meant to be long-term investments towards their permanent roster, but instead, they were made to prevent Team Liquid from being relegated.

Even with the “rental” of one of NA’s greatest ADC players, Team Liquid was pushed to all five games of a best of five against Gold Coin United. While Gold Coin United made some serious misplays in this best of five, fans of Team Liquid and competitive League of Legends alike must question the integrity of this “rental”. Is Team Liquid more deserving of this LCS spot than Gold Coin United? With DoubleLift in their roster, the obvious answer is yes, however without DoubleLift the picture shows a more skilled team, Gold Coin United, cheated out of an entire season of hard work. 

It must be exceptionally devastating to field a team through the Challenger series only to get to the final match and have the enemy team sub out their weakest link for one of the best players in the league.

League of meritocracy no longer

Amazing meditates after a hard fought victory. Courtesy of lolesports flickr

There is a lot of money in esports nowadays. And sadly, this can act as a corrupting agent for the integrity of the meritocracy competitive League of Legends once created. The times of five friends coming together to win a world championship is long expired, and I for one miss those times. Now the competitive League scene has too much money in it to allow a roster deserving of an LCS spot actually keep their LCS spot. Whether they win the promotion tournament and get bought out, or they lose due to a relegated team renting a roster that would have never been relegated, the sanctity of the LCS is a myth of the past.


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Featured image courtesy of lolesports flickr

FaZe Clan clutch up, Fnatic fall short: CWL GPL Week Two Recap

Throw your predictions out of the window – the CWL Global Pro League is living up to the hype. A few days ago it was all but certain that FaZe would coast through this weekend while Evil Geniuses, Fnatic, and Rise Nation would battle it out for the second seed. This was not the case, as EG would end up taking 1st seed after a 0-2 start to the weekend.

Saturday, we saw FaZe go 0-2, losing to both EG and Fnatic, before clutching up on Sunday versus Rise Nation. Rise would have to settle for 3rd, while Fnatic is now headed for Relegation.

1st Place – Evil Geniuses

Win/Loss – 4-2

Map Count – 12-9

Arguably the biggest upset of the weekend came from the Evil Geniuses camp. Having barely qualified for Stage One of the GPL and taking the last NA spot, the expectations for EG weren’t high. After an abysmal start on Friday, losing to both Fnatic and FaZe 0-3, EG looked like they would place 4th in Week Two.

Saturday we would see a newly invigorated EG take the series from FaZe 3-0 and Rise 3-2, surprising everyone except guest analyst Patrick “ACHES” Price who predicted their victories. After Anthony “NAMELESS” Wheeler switched weapons from the NV4 to the KBAR, the tides turned for EG.

EG would continue their reign of terror Sunday with a 3-1 victory over Faze and a dominant 3-0 win over Fnatic. These wins cemented EG’s place in the Stage One Playoffs, proving their doubters wrong along the way.

ACHES’s prediction for the second EG v FaZe match

2nd Place – FaZe Clan

Win/Loss – 3-3

Map Count – 12-13

FaZe did not make the run for Playoffs easy for themselves this weekend. With a hot start on Friday, Faze was the only team to come out 2-0 with victories over Fnatic 3-1 and EG 3-0. They looked poised to take the first seed heading into Saturday.

Unfortunately for FaZe, Saturday would turn out to be a nightmare. After such a hot start, they did not win a series all day. Their day began with a huge upset, as they were dominated by EG, losing 0-3. Later in the day, they lost to Fnatic in round 11 of the Game 5 S&D after almost completing the reverse sweep.

Sunday was do or die time for FaZe as they, like everyone in their group, were sitting at 2-2. They would lose their first series of the day 1-3 against EG, putting them in a situation where they needed to win their next series to qualify for Stage One Playoffs.

Their final series of the weekend would be one to remember against Rise. After going down 0-2, FaZe began a miraculous reverse-sweep. After a dominant win in the Uplink, FaZe would eventually win the Game 4 Hardpoint 250-249. They would carry that energy for a 6-0 win in the Game 5 S&D, completely outclassing Rise.

FaZe qualify for S1 Playoffs after reverse-sweeping Rise

3rd Place – Rise Nation

Win/Loss – 3-3

Map Count – 14-11

After a disappointing 17th-20th finish at CWL Dallas, many had their doubts about Rise Nation heading into Week Two. However, this weekend we were treated to a reinvigorated Rise squad who were able to stay consistent in every game mode.

On Friday Rise was able to take an easy 3-0 victory over EG, before falling 1-3 to FaZe. Rise started off Saturday well with a 3-1 victory over Fnatic, but was unable to stop EG from their dominant performance. They would eventually lose 2-3, putting them at 2-2 heading into Sunday.

Sunday we would see Rise take an easy victory over Fnatic 3-1 before they would face FaZe in the final match on the weekend. Rise would come out of the gates hot, taking an early 2-0 advantage in the series. However, FaZe was able to dash their dreams of making it into the Playoffs by pulling out a reverse-sweep to remember. The series would end 3-2 in FaZe’s favor.

4th Place – Fnatic

Win/Loss – 2-4

Map Count – 9-14

Fnatic was the only team representing Europe in Week Two. They carried the entire region’s hopes with them.

Fnatic, like every other team this weekend, traded series back and forth Friday and Saturday. They kicked off this weekend battling FaZe Clan. After losing the first Hardpoint by a few seconds they would end up falling 3-1 against the NA giants, managing to take the Uplink.

Later in the day, they would take swift 3-0 over a struggling Evil Geniuses. On Saturday Fnatic lost a close series to Rise Nation 3-1, again, keeping the maps close throughout. Their next series, a rematch against FaZe, would be one to remember. Fnatic would take a 2-0 lead in the series before securing the win in a nail-biting round 11 in the Game 5 Search & Destroy.

Unfortunately for Fnatic, they could not keep the dream alive; they would end Sunday with a 1-3 loss to Rise and a 0-3 loss to Evil Geniuses. Fnatic will now join Cloud9 in the Relegation tournament for Stage Two of the GPL.

Tommey after a close Hardpoint loss to FaZe

Looking forward

Next week we will see eUnited, Luminosity Gaming, Millenium, and Epsilon Esports battle it out at the MLG Arena to see who will advance to the Stage One Playoffs and beyond.


Jack Waters is an avid Call of Duty Esports fan and wants to hear from YOU! Find him on Twitter.

Images: CoD World League Twitter

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A New Scope – The AWP Nerf Years On

Over two years ago, Valve released one of the most memorable updates for seasoned players, the AWP nerf. The patch, released in early April of 2015, reduced the speed at which players could move while scoped in with the sniper. The aim was to make AWPing on the terrorist side less impactful which it definitely achieved.

By making the change, terrorists were unable to use many of the long-time opening pick spots since the slower movement speed means that they could not peek angles already scoped in. This made T side AWPing more difficult because for an AWPer to be able to use these angles, they would have to quickscope and sometimes even prefire common CT spots, in order to try and gain an advantage.

An example would be long on dust2. It is not uncommon for an AWPer with a good spawn to peek long doors in an attempt to catch a player crossing to pit. However, post nerf, terrorists would move too slowly to attain the kill without peeking before scoping in. This gives Counter-Terrorists a god like advantage since not only is it already harder for the T to kill them but the slower movement means that the CT can Molotov deep and deal a substantial amount of damage as the AWPer exits the doorway.

Although the changes impacted a lot of AWPers in a negative way, the patch has allowed certain players to come to fruition. So in this article, I’ll be taking a look at some of the most affected players and where they are now.

Troubling Times

In spite of his return to form in the latter stages of 2016. Fan favorite Kenny “KennyS” Schrub fell from grace a little when the AWP nerf hit years ago. The Frenchman’s ratings dropped from his usual highs to unusual lows from April onwards in 2015. Overall his HLTV rating dropped by 0.14 despite playing with a better line up in Team EnvyUs. He openly admitted in an interview with Aftonbladet that it took a huge toll on him emotionally, when he could feel his confidence slipping away. KennyS will undoubtedly always be a household name in Global Offensive, gifting the community with an array of highlights and montages to watch and love. It will be interesting to see if he continues his rise back to number one and maybe even surpass his 2014 form.

KennyS playing for Team EnvyUs at the Cluj-Napoca major. [Photo Dreamhack]

Similarly, to Kenny players, such Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács and Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham are world-class AWPers that have struggled with consistency ever since the nerf. Both of these players still show us glimpses of their past performances, however, have a higher tendency to go missing. This has led to the world where a lot of AWPers are no longer the star players of their teams. Back in 2014 teams would be built around the likes of KennyS and GuardiaN, however, nowadays they play second fiddle to daring impact players such as Richard “shox” Papillon and Alexander “s1mple” Kostylev. With fantastic skill, s1mple and Shox can utilize not only rifles and pistols but also AWPs just as effectively as their main AWPers.

As I just alluded to the AWP nerf didn’t necessarily make our most famous AWPers play worse. It simply closed the gap between being a good AWPer or an extraordinary AWPer. The niche skill was effectively, no longer niche. Teams would sometimes overly push double AWP setups because they would have their long time god-tier AWPer, for example, Jesper “JW” Wecksell in Fnatic, and their star player, Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer, who on his day, could out AWP his counterpart. This is a situation that occurred in many teams. To name a few s1mple and GuardiaN in Natus Vincere, Nikola “NiKo” Kovač and Chris “chrisJ” de Jong in mousesports as well as Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo and Marcelo “coldzera” David in SK amongst many more.

Despite being one of the world’s best GuardiaN has struggled with consistency. [Photo ESL]

Who Blossomed?

Since the patch, the AWP is seemingly more effective on the Counter-Terrorist side. This has led to the rise of defensive AWPers, for example, Aleksi “allu” Jalli. Allu is a player who anchors critical spots on the map by dominating with strong positioning. An instance would be long on Inferno which he locked down throughout his tenure on the Ninjas and carried through into FaZe. In the clip below you can see he gets the opening pick mid. Following that Allu uses the advantage to aggressively hold second mid gifting himself another kill. However, the last three kills demonstrate his positional knowledge. He uses the corner of the wall to slightly peek out eliminating much of the risk of re-peeking.

Another player who has perhaps benefited from the changes is FalleN. Known as the brain behind Brazilian beasts SK Gaming, FalleN was a star AWPer in the first iteration of Counter-Strike yet didn’t take on the role in Global Offensive. Not until the removal of Caio “zqkS” Fonseca from his roster in favor of Coldzera. As aforementioned, the changes led to the ascension of strong all-around players taking star player spots. This allowed FalleN to settle back into AWPing more easily and play as the second star who supports Coldzera. Being the second star allowed him to take on the leading role more effectively as it meant the team didn’t rely as heavily on him allowing FalleN to focus more on the other four players.

In spite of previously arguing having two great AWPers as a negative, the change cites a reason for some of the greatest teams in Counter-Strike history. Fnatic and SK, who have both had periods of total domination, were built on JW/Olofmeister and FalleN/Coldzera. The fact that the teams could switch between the two added depth to their team play and allowed an individual player to take over if needed, rather than force the AWP into a players hands if he is having an off game.

Olofmeister (Center) and JW (Far Right) were a force to be reckoned with during the Fnatic Era of CS:GO. [Photo ESL]

Conclusion

As I learned in my previous article on Lurking in CS:GO, though not quite to the same extent, AWPing is becoming less of a defined role within certain teams and more of a situational pickup. Gradual changes to the game are placing a greater emphasis on increased movement speed and the use of pistols and SMGs. Thus giving us a rise in incredibly skilled line-ups. This, Combined with the changes to the AWP some teams have up to three players capable of AWPing at the pro level.

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Call of Duty Global Pro League Week Two Preview

Stage One of the Call of Duty Global Pro League is in full swing as it heads into Week Two. Last week, we saw Team EnVyUs and Splyce move onto playoffs, with Mindfreak clinching 3rd and Cloud9 heading to Relegation. This weekend, we will see Faze Clan, Rise Nation, Fnatic, and Evil Geniuses clash at the MLG Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

Like last week, each team will face one another in a double round-robin format. The top two placing teams will advance to Playoffs as well as qualify for Stage Two of the Global Pro League, Pool Play at CWL Anaheim, and Call of Duty World Championship later this year. The 3rd place team will also qualify for Stage Two of the Global Pro League, Pool Play at CWL Anaheim, and Call of Duty World Championship. The team that places last will face Relegation in order to qualify for Stage Two.

Week Two is unique in that it consists of three teams from North America, with EG entering as the 9th seeded team in the region, along with Fnatic from Europe.

FaZe Clan

The FaZe CoD team was assembled during Advanced Warfare to do one thing: defeat OpTic Gaming (OG). They were semi-successful in doing so, however in Infinite Warfare, the tables have turned as they have not been able to defeat OG or eUnited and are currently ranked as the 3rd best team in NA.

FaZe is led by CoD veteran James “Clayster” Eubanks, who is joined by Ian “Enable” Wyatt, Dillon “Attach” Price, and Tommey “ZooMaa” Paparatto. FaZe is hungry for a LAN championship win, having the last one come 19 months ago at the MLG Pro League CoD AW Season 3 Playoffs back in AW. The good news for FaZe is that they are the heavy favorites to take the 1st place seed in Week Two. Only time will tell if they are capable of returning to their dominant form last seen in 2015.

Left to right: Clayster, Enable, Attach, ZooMaa

Rise Nation

Having made a huge roster at the beginning of Infinite Warfare, Rise Nation is now made up of Daniel “Loony” Loza, Ulysses “Aqua” Silva. Brice “Faccento” Faccento, and Tyler “FeLonY” Johnson. After winning the first major tournament of the year, MLG Las Vegas, Rise has yet to repeat their success.

Rise would go on to place 9th-12th at CWL Atlanta, 3rd at CWL Paris, and 17th-20th at CWL Dallas. Earlier this month, Rise brought on CoD veteran Jon “Pacman” Tucker as their team manager and coach. This weekend will show if their newest addition has paid off.

Rise Nation after winning MLG Las Vegas

Evil Geniuses

After leaving the competitive CoD scene at the end of Ghosts, Evil Geniuses has reentered the scene with a new team for IW. Led by another CoD veteran in Anthony “Nameless” Wheeler, EG is rounded out by his Duo Jeremy “Study” Astacio, Colt “Havok” McLendon, and Jared “Nagafen” Harrell.

EG did not have the greatest of start to IW and struggled to clinch the last NA spot in the GPL. Throughout the season, they have placed 7th-8th at every International LAN event excluding a 17th-20th finish at CWL Atlanta.

At MLG Dallas, EG went head-to-head against The Gosu Crew to decide who would make it into the GPL. After a close series, EG would ultimately prevail, but many believe this team will struggle in the GPL.

Evil Geniuses’ 2017 CoD Team

Fnatic

Rounding out Week Two is the European team, Fnatic, led by Tommey “Tommey” Trewren. He is joined by Gurdip “SunnyB” Bains, and twins Brad “wuskin” and Matt “Skrapz” Marshall. Coming off an impressive 3rd place finish at CWL Birmingham, Fnatic is poised to cause a few upsets this weekend.

Touted as the most improved team since the beginning of IW, Fnatic still seems to have not hit their skill ceiling yet. What makes this team dangerous is the explosive play of Skrapz and wuskin paired with their Search & Destroy prowess. The Europeans should not be taken lightly by their NA competition.

Fnatic at ESWC Paris

Predictions

Outside from FaZe taking first seed in this group, there are no other easy predictions. Casters, analysts, and professional players alike are struggling to predict where the other three teams in this group will place. When the race is this tight, it all comes down to which team will show up this weekend and play their best, which perfectly describes CoD Esports.


Jack Waters is an avid Call of Duty Esports fan and wants to hear from YOU! Find him on Twitter.

Images: MLG.tv and CallofDuty.com

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Romain Bigeard, manager of Unicorns of Love

Mascots in the LCS

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

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

Mascots in Traditional Sports

Philadelphia Phillies mascot, Phillie Phanatic

Philadelphia Phillies mascot, Phillie Phanatic

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

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

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

Mascots in LCS

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

Romain Bigeard, manager of Unicorns of Love

courtesy of Riot esports

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

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

What Could Go Wrong?

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

G2 esports fan with ninja logo mask

courtesy of Riot esports

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

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

cosplayers at EU LCS

courtesy of Riot esports

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

Conclusion

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

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


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A History of Trash Talk – Call of Duty at its Finest

For those of us with Call of Duty deeply ingrained in our blood, we know that trash talking is an integral part of the scene. Whether it be a simple public match, an online tournament, or LAN, players learn quickly and sometimes harshly that if you’re losing, somebody will be there to repeatedly remind you. After all, there’s nothing better than rubbing salt in the wound when you win, right? Despite being quite shallow in nature, trash talking in Call of Duty has given us some of our most memorable personalities as well as some of the best entertainment.

The future of Call of Duty is looking bright with the upped investment from Activision. The World League, which includes more lucrative open tournaments and Pro Leagues, gives the space a more professional feel. However, I find it imperative that we remember our roots and ensure that we don’t leave those memories behind.

Trash talk has always been at the heart of Call of Duty, so let’s look back at some of the most memorable insults:

Satisfaction

Beating your opponent is one thing, but ensuring they know you won makes it just that bit more satisfying. This one isn’t a throwback, but instead from the recent CWL Birmingham where Bradley “wuskin” Marshall, from the newly formed Fnatic, gives Team Supremacy a taste of England after annihilating them in their long loser’s bracket run.

A similar scenario from back in Ghosts features OpTic Gaming and Clayster, who after defeating their rivals Team EnvyUs in dominating fashion, had the crowd rampant with a hand sign that would later become one of Clayster’s signature moves.

The Call of Duty scene has become synonymous with ‘letting everyone know’ when they win, but it’s all in good fun. It definitely gets the fans involved and is part of the reason why organizations like OpTic and FaZe have such dedicated fan bases.

Psychological Edge

For long-time viewers, this trash talk clip is probably the one they’ll never forget. The culprit? None other than Adam “Killa” Sloss.

Recently voted the most delusional professional player, the man became a Call of Duty sensation built off of moments just like this. The abuse comes as a result of Damon “Karma” Barlow leaving Killa to join Team EnvyUs, whom Killa just so happens to be playing. The former World Champion runs his mouth in an attempt to throw his enemies off their game. It’s hard to say whether the outlandish tactic was the reason for the win or not. However, one can imagine it would be hard to start performing when this happens on top of already being behind. Without further ado, take a look at the infamous clip from Black Ops II.

Although coaching is rarely seen in Call of Duty, as you can see from the next clip even coaches like to get involved in trash talk. They might look like complete assholes, but they are trying to achieve the same outcome as Killa in the previous clip.

The two in this clip are coach Hilton “Hilton” Howell and player Anthony “Nameless” Wheeler. Another instance of coach trash talk is from compLexity versus Team Kaliber. The compLexity coach Matthew “Mr. X” Morello shows former player Clayster why he was kicked from the team.

It might seem slightly immature, and the Call of Duty scene has come a long way since most of these examples, but hopefully every now and again we get trash talking moments like these because as a fan myself, these are the memories that stick. The victory is marked by the victor.


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EU’s Final Showdowns: G2-UOL, FNC-MSF

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

Misfits

Playoffs: Misfits mid laner, PowerOfEvil

courtesy of Riot esports

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

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

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

Fnatic

Playoffs: Fnatic's support, Jesiz

courtesy of Riot esports

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

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

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

Unicorns of Love

Playoffs: Unicorns of Love's top laner, Vizicsacsi

courtesy of Riot esports

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

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

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

G2

Playoffs: G2's mid laner, Perkz

courtesy of Riot esports

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

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

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

predictions

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

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


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Tournament Preview: Cs_Summit

From April 20th – 23rd, Cs_Summit is being hosted by Beyond the Summit.

The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament is set up as a quarter-final knockout stage with a loser’s bracket. Essentially it’s an eight-team double elimination tournament with best-of-three matches. The quarterfinal matchups are as follows:

  • SK Gaming vs. Team EnVyUs
  • Gambit E-Sports vs. GODSENT
  • OpTic Gaming Vs Cloud9
  • Ninjas in Pyjamas vs Team Liquid

Some of the strongest teams in the world will duke it out to see who walks away victorious. Here’s a look at some of the teams and match-ups.

Teams to Watch:

GODSENT

GODSENT

Courtesy of BeyondtheSummit.tv

GODSENT may not be the strongest roster coming into the tournament, but I think the legendary ex-Fnatic in-game Leader Markus “pronax” Wallsten has some tricks up his sleeve. After the Fnatic roster swap fiascos ended, pronax saw himself leading his team of riflers into the fray. Hopefully the Swedish international can make a strong appearance at Cs_Summit, and GODSENT can take home some prize money.

Many people may turn their heads at this pick, but I think GODSENT has what it takes to seriously win this tournament. They are playing Gambit in the first round and they are no pushover. It will be a tough fought game against the Russian side, but GODSENT could have what it takes.

Cloud9

Cloud 9

Courtesy of media.wwg.com

Cloud9 are among the stronger teams in North America, so it is no surprise I’m picking them to be one of the favorites. Unfortunately, Cloud9 will be short their world class AWPer Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham. However, their stand in is one of the best the game has ever seen. Braxton “swag” Pierce, having previously been banned for match-fixing, has served his time away from professional play as an analyst, now making a return. Recently, he has returned as a stand in for Cloud9, and will hopefully be able to show that he’s still got it in this tournament.

SK Gaming

SK_Gaming

Courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

SK has had a less than stellar season. They are struggling to find the dominant form they showed at MLG Columbus. After taking a sudden exit in the playoff stages to FaZe at Starladder, SK Gaming has really been missing out on deep tournament play. Cs_Summit might be the turn around they need.

They are facing off against Team EnVyUs in the first round and it will not be easy for Gabriel “fallen” Toledo’s team to take a victory. With the strong players that EnVyUs have, we will see if fallen has made the correct adjustments before gametime.

OpTic Gaming

Courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

OpTic Gaming has a mix-mash of good aimers and good shot callers that somehow became one of the best teams in the world in under a year. One of OpTic’s key players, Tarik “Tarik” Celik, fled the barebones CLG squad in hopes of a better future with OpTic and it has paid off for him.

However, Tarik and OpTic have been struggling to find their strong form in 2017. OpTic seems to be making a little bit of comeback, showing life at the IBuyPower Invitational just last weekend where they took home second place. I think that OpTic has turned a corner with their play, but they will be tested in their matchup against Cloud9.

Featured Matchup: Optic vs Cloud 9

OpTic and Cloud9 are two of the best teams in North America and this matchup has always been fiery. Cloud9 seems to have them on most CT sided maps, controlling the long areas with Skadoodle’s AWP. However, it will be very interesting to see how Cloud9 adapts to their new five man lineup.

OpTic has always displayed resilience in their match-ups, being able to persevere in the longer mental battles. They stand a good chance against C9 and this matchup, in particular, seems to be the most balanced and the one to watch. If you can only catch one series from these playoff stages, I would highly recommend this match up.


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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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2017 CWL Birmingham Open Preview

The 2017 CWL Birmingham Open, hosted at the Insomnia Festival, will take place April 14th through the 16th in Birmingham, England and features the top Call of Duty talent Europe has to offer. Teams will battle it out for a $50,000 prize pool, with the winning team taking home $20,000 and 10,000 Pro Points.

CWL Birmingham will feature an open bracket where teams will fight tooth and nail to qualify for a spot in Pool Play. Pool Play will consist of four pools made up of three pre-qualified teams and a spot for the winners of the Open Bracket.

Being the fist European-only event since CWL London back in January, we will get a definitive answer as to who is the most dominant team on the continent. CWL Birmingham will also tell us which team benefitted most from the EU rostermania following CWL Paris.

Pool A

Pool A features what many believe to be the best team in Europe and the fourth best team in the world, Splyce. Now made up of Ben “Bance” Bance, Dylan “Madcat” Daly, Jordan “Jurd” Crowley, and Trei “Zer0” Morris, Splyce is the 1st seeded team in the EU and is the favorite to take this event.

In pool A, Splyce will face off against iGame and Black Forrest Gaming Green. Having replaced Joshua-Lee “Joshh” Shepard with Zer0, this new Splyce roster seems to be reaching its true potential.

Zer0 joins Splyce after leaving Red Reserve

Pool B

In pool B, Millenium (ex-Infused) will go up against the French team Supremacy and Black Forrest Red.

Sticking together after the EU rostermania, Millenium will look to bounce back from an uncharacteristic 13th-16th finish at CWL Dallas. Having finished within the top six in the last three international events, Millenium is the clear favorite to take pool B. Their success will ride on the back of breakout star Tom ”Moose” Handley as they clash with Europe’s best.

Pool C

Unlike pools A and B, pool C does not have a clear-cut favorite. Made up of Fnatic, Epsilon, and Team Vitality the number one and two spots are up for debate.

Hot off wins in the last two EU 2K series, Epsilon seems to have found its form after replacing Ben “Desire” Wright with veteran leader Joshh. Fnatic, on the other hand, has been touted as the most improved team since the start of Infinite Warfare. A group of young talent led by another CoD veteran Tom “Tommey” Trewren, Fnatic squad stands a serious chance of taking this pool and even the whole event.

Fnatic Team Captain Tom “Tommey” Trewren

Pool D

Finally, in pool D we will see Red Reserve take on Elevate and FAB Games.

Red Reserve, seemingly made up of the “leftovers” of the EU rostermaina, has been turning heads with strong finishes in the EU 2K series as well as an impressive 5-6th place finish at CWL Dallas. Elevate, on the other hand, is a team that’s struggled to find its form since the replacement of Sean “Seany” O’Connor for Rhys “Rated” Price. After bombing out in 21st-24th at CWL Dallas, many believe Elevate is in major trouble heading into this weekend. This pool will also feature the clash of former longtime teammates Joe “Joee” Pinnington and Rated.

Pools for CWL Birmingham

What to expect

The favorite to win this event is Splyce, followed closely by any combination of Fnatic, Millenium, Red Reserve, and possibly Epsilon. However, teams such as iGame and the newly formed Vitality, led by Shane “ShAne” McKerral, look to cause some upsets in this clash of Europe’s finest.

CWL Birmingham will be great LAN practice for Europe’s top teams before they travel across the pond for the Global Pro League later this month.


Jack Waters is an avid Call of Duty Esports fan and wants to hear from YOU! Find him on Twitter.

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