Five Things We Learned From The ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals

With the ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals ending on Sunday, we saw G2 Esports take the title. This achievement is the first $250k+ tournament win for the team, and a huge one at that.

But with the tournament ending, we learned plenty of things about teams and the tournament itself. Here are five things that we learned over the course of the last week:

ESL have finally stepped up their game

Photo by: Helena K @ esportphoto.com

ESL have been under a lot of criticism lately, and fairly so. The company calling themselves industry leaders, have only led the company into a pile of mud. With that being said, with their last two tournaments, they’ve started digging themselves out of the pile.

With the conclusion of the tournament came a lot of players saying that the tournament happened to be the best by ESL. From a viewer’s perspective, the tournament wasn’t the greatest. With a couple hiccups here and there along with the organizer moving to YouTube, they weren’t at the top for production. But from the perspective of the players, the tournament was well hosted, and having the best intentions for the players is always a great thing to see.

North’s problems lie beyond inconsistent players

While you can say that making the finals of EPL is a step forward for the team, aside from newfound confidence in the team, they haven’t made much of a step forward.

Starting from the ELEAGUE Major in January, North have struggled in playoffs. Making quarterfinals, or semifinals in some cases, and bombing out. As a Bo3 team, they’re not the best. While they can be considered some of the best on maps such as Overpass or Nuke, one of which happens to be a permanent ban for many teams, they’re generally weaker than most teams on the rest of the map pool.

Tactically it seems that most teams are able to read into what Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen is planning for a match. Being called one of the best in-game leaders at one point, ended up being his downfall. Teams learned what he was doing pretty quickly, an issue that Jake “Stewie2k” Yip and his team faced when reaching their prime at the same time as the former Dignitas lineup did.

Photo by: hltv.org

While yes, you can say that inconsistency in their roster and having a heavily underperforming Philip “aizy” Aistrup is a huge issue, it doesn’t paint the full picture. The team seems to have issues outside and deep inside of the game that isn’t shown by statistics. Cockiness, shown by a trash talking Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke, seems to be a huge issue in the team. Having your star player being overconfident doesn’t help anyone, especially not the team.

Another issue, highlighted here by Richard “shox” Papillon, is their behaviour in practice which shows that the team is only practicing to their strengths rather than to strengthen their weaknesses.

Timothy “autimatic” Ta as the IGL was not the solution

Since their win at EPL Season 4 finals, Cloud9 have been plagued with issues. Stemming from a very readable Stewie and two players in huge downfalls from what they once were. Cloud9 are only a shadow of themselves from last October. Fielding the same lineup, seemingly the same map pool, and the same style. Much like NiP, Cloud9 seem unwilling to change anything. Although changing IGLs from Stewie to autimatic was interesting, in the end they changed back.

Cloud9 don’t have the firepower they had back during their win at EPL. They had four reliable fraggers and a Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham finding his groove. Since then, Skadoodle and Mike “shroud” Grzesiek have been in slumps of their own. One, unfortunately, worse than the other. Skadoodle has found some sort of consistency although it’s consistent at a lower level than what we expect from him. On the other side, shroud, unfortunately, is unable to find an impact on an international level, and with the problems spreading to domestic competition.

Cloud9’s problems lie with the players and possibly management of the team. From the outside perspective, it’s quite obvious that it’s time to change the players. From an inside point of view, it could be very much different.

G2 are the superteam we expected

With the resurrection of a godlike Kenny “KennyS” Schrub, a returning Nathan “NBK” Schmitt, and a rising Alexandre “bodyy” Pianaro, G2 are finally the team they were expected to be. Going from 1-8 in the regular season to winning the finals, the rise in the team’s performance was well documented.

Photo by: Helena K @ esportphoto.com

Being put into the toughest group and possibly the hardest route in the playoffs, G2 still came out on top. Even while suffering bad losses against Cloud9 and Immortals, they were able to keep the confidence high and persevere. An impressive feat we don’t see from a lot of teams.

MR3 tiebreakers are not the way to go and need to go

In Group A we saw a tiebreaker between SK, EnVyUs, and fnatic battling for the second and third spot. Unfortunately, there were issues that were immediately visible from the start.

EnVyUs took the three-way tie-breaker 2-0, getting the second seed. Of course, it’s not an easy thing to do, but seeing a team such as nV come out on top over the likes of fnatic and SK raised eyebrows, but not in a good way. It showed a massive flaw in the system. Only needing to win at least four rounds to make the playoffs is a problem.

Photo by: Helena K @ esportphoto.com

Teams like SK Gaming aren’t teams that rely on brute force like fnatic and nV. They are a team that needs time to set up, and going against teams like the two against them doesn’t allow for them to do that. Pushes from Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom were very frequent on nV’s CT Side and allowed a very broken CT side to allow nV to take the tiebreaker.

You can make the argument that the teams know that this would happen if the matches leading up to it go the wrong way. With that being said, the fact that a situation like this is allowed to happen in the way that it does is very unfair for teams involved. Especially fnatic, who had an overall decent group stage.

 

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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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MSI Semifinals 2017: Team WE v. G2 Esports

MSI: Team WE vs. G2 Esports Preview

Saturday May 20, 2017, the second semifinals match of MSI will be underway. Team WE will face off against G2 Esports for a spot in the finals. Both teams have exhibited their fair share of stellar and underwhelming performances throughout the tournament. They will be doing their best to shore up the weak spots and study their opponents in order to reach peak performance. This best-of-five series will be all or nothing.

Team WE

The LPL representatives have made it through MSI with a 7-3 record, just below SKT. They dropped games to TSM, SKT, and GAM. Every player has had standout performances throughout the tournament. Team WE will be favored to win in this match-up, since they defeated G2 in both of their Group Stage bouts.

How They Win

WE outclasses G2 in almost every statistic. Gold difference at 15 minutes (+1,047/-342), first three turrets (80 percent/10 percent), dragon control (47 percent/30 percent) and baron control (54 percent/38 percent) all heavily favor the Chinese team.

In both of their victories against G2, WE drafted Ashe for Jin “Mystic” Sung-jun and Malzahar for Nam “Ben” Dong-hyun. WE’s jungler, Xiang “Condi” Ren-Jie, massacred Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun in the early game. Su “Xiye” Han-Wei played AP diver-assassins LeBlanc and Kassadin. And Ke “957” Changyu has been most impactful on tanky disruptors, particularly Kled.

All of these pieces come together to form a bursty pick composition. Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen was most often caught out by Enchanted Crystal Arrow, Nether Grasp, Explosive Cask, or Chaaaaaaaarge!!! and deleted before he was able to output enough damage. Team WE should maintain this draft strategy and playstyle, because G2 does not seem to have an answer at the moment.

Both wins were secured between 28 and 31 minutes. Team WE took first turret in both matches, which led to the first three turrets in just under 20 minutes. They then proceeded to take baron between 21 and 25 minutes, which allowed WE to break G2’s base and win. In their first game, G2 secured one tower and one dragon. In the follow-up match, WE did not allow them to take any towers or dragons.

How They Lose

Karma and Nami are champion picks that stick out in Team WE’s losses. Xiye lost both games when taking Karma to the mid lane, and Ben lost both games when playing Nami support. 957 looked weak on top lane Jayce, as well. The individuals cannot be fully to blame, but it seems like a good idea to keep these picks on the bench for now.

All of WE’s losses came off the back of sub-30-minute barons secured by their opponent. Against TSM, the gold difference never rose to more than 2,000 until they took a baron. From there, TSM closed out the game, taking a second baron and only ceding 4 kills. Team WE was leading SKT by 2,100 gold at 22 minutes, but Han “Peanut” Wang-ho landed a baron steal. SKT broke their base, took a second baron and won. Team WE’s loss to GAM was mostly due to Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh’s Kha’Zix getting fed a triple kill around 10 minutes.

If WE gives over baron, their chances of losing are high. When viewing statistics for the four semifinal teams, their win rates align with their first baron rates. This objective is pivotal to their playstyle. Properly pressuring around baron was a main catalyst for drawing in G2 and picking off key carries. However, if WE is sloppy in clearing vision or shot-calling around Smite, then it could spell disaster.

Player To Watch

Team WE’s top laner, 957

Team WE’s victory will rely heavily on 957 in the top lane. They have won every game that he has drafted Kled, and he has maintained a 27.0 KDA with the champion. On the other hand, his single Jayce game fed TSM their first 5 kills. G2’s Ki “Expect” Dae-Han is not necessarily the same carry threat that SKT or TSM have. WE will rely on 957 to repeat the masterful disruption he exhibited against G2 in their prior match-ups.

G2 Esports

Making it into semifinals by the skin of its teeth is G2 Esports. The EU LCS representatives finished the Group Stage with a 4-6 record, only picking up wins against Flash Wolves (2), GIGABYTE Marines (1), and TSM (1). Seeing as they lost both matches against Team WE, they are the underdog in this best-of-five series.

How They Win

G2’s victories varied drastically from each other. Three of the four wins were secured 42 minutes or later, and allowed the enemy team to secure at least one baron. Two of those three late-game wins involved G2 falling behind 8,000-9,000 gold at some point. The only champions drafted in multiple wins were Caitlyn, Nunu, and Orianna.

In all of their wins, Zven had two or fewer deaths and had a gold lead on the enemy AD Carry. It is obvious that he is their primary carry threat. G2 lost both games that he drafted Ashe. Zven only has wins on Caitlyn, Twitch, and Kog’Maw thus, G2’s draft will need to revolve around these champions. Ivern, Lulu, Karma, and Orianna have at least 50 percent win rates for G2 thus far. Combining multiple enchanters into the draft may allow Zven to break even through the early game and fully carry in the mid-late game.

Luka “Perkz” Perković has also been a consistent source of damage throughout MSI. Mid lane is arguably the most stacked position at the tournament, and Perkz has been going toe-to-toe with some of the best in the world. He has been averaging 28.8 percent of G2’s damage, the highest among all mid laners (second highest overall behind Zven). Putting Perkz on a champion that can control side waves, particularly Fizz, could be a good back-up if Orianna is banned.

How They Lose

There are several situations that G2 should avoid. Keep Trick off of Lee Sin, he failed horribly twice on the champion. Also, they should not draft Ashe for Zven or Zyra for Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez. Zven needs to be able to output immense damage, and Mithy plays much better on protective champions. Even Tahm Kench or Braum are preferable to Zyra if Lulu or Karma are unavailable.

If Trick continues to have poor early games, then this will most surely be G2’s defeat. Trick has the second lowest KDA and the second highest death share of all players at the tournament. He also has the lowest average damage of all junglers at the event.

While their best strategy generally results in early deficits, G2 will need to play intelligently between 15 and 30 minutes. Team WE’s average game time is over 5 minutes shorter than G2’s, which means if they cede 4,000-6,000 gold leads, then it will be highly unlikely for G2 to win.

Player To Watch

G2 Esport’s top laner, Expect

Expect has been putting up some big games this tournament. He has maintained a 3.7 KDA while only contributing 11.9 percent of G2’s deaths. The top laner has secured wins on Jayce, Gragas, Shen, and Nautilus. G2 also released a video of the final shot-calling from their win over TSM, showing the team’s faith in Expect.

The flip side is that Expect has some of the lowest damage of the top laners at the tournament, and his kill participation is low compared to 957. G2 will need him to be more involved as a proactive member of the team, matching 957’s map movements. Perkz and Zven can pump out the damage. Mithy can shield and provide vision. And Trick is under-performing. Expect may be the biggest factor that could turn this match-up on its head.

Prediction

Unless the stars align, and G2 are able to draft a true “protect the ADC” composition, then Team WE will skunk them 3-0. Trick got steamrolled by Condi in both of their Group Stage games. Mystic and Ben have been performing well enough to keep up with Zven and Mithy. Expect and 957 will most likely be trying to execute similar strategies, but 957 has proven to be more successful up to this point. Perkz matches up against Xiye pretty well, but the synergy among the entire team is heavily in WE’s favor.


Player/Champion Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

All Images: LoL Esports Photos

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Why MSI should transition to a gauntlet tournament

The 2017 Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) is a League of Legends tournament attended by 13 teams from 13 various regions. This year’s MSI consisted of three stages ultimately ending in a grand final between the best two teams. Taking place in Rio de Janeiro, this event took seeding based upon the past two years of Worlds and MSI performances to have a few teams automatically place into group stage (South Korea, China, and Europe) while the rest of the 10 teams battled it out through the play-in stage.

Group stage consists of a double round robin via best of one matches. The top four teams from this double round robin move on to the knockout stage which consists of best of five games with single elimination. It is this knockout stage that does not make the most sense for this international tournament.

The Gauntlet

SKT T1 Huni leaves the stage with team. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

The LCK currently runs a gauntlet-styled tournament that MSI should adopt. The first place team does not play until the final round, receiving a bye for their performance throughout the normal split. The playoffs consist of the third place team playing against the fourth place team, then the winner of that team plays the second place team, ultimately leaving one team to play against the first place team. This style of competition puts much more weight upon the group stages of the tournament, making each and every group stage game bring with it more impactful consequences.

Skating By Groups

Examining the current four teams in groups can lead one to believe that some teams have just “skated by” while other teams have just had a poor performance in the group stage.

After the Flash Wolves controlled performance in play-ins, most fans and even Faker, believed that they were going to be the biggest threat to SKT T1’s empire. The Flash Wolves then managed to beat SKT in a decisive manner during the group stages, further showing their skill and prowess. However, the Flash Wolves later received a few too many losses in groups, ultimately leaving what should be the second best team in the tournament in fourth place during the knockout stages. This being said, expect the most heated competition and the highest skill caliber League of Legends has ever known not in the grand finals, but instead in the first match of the knockout stage.

With the second best team playing against SKT on Friday, May 19th, what should be a game for third and fourth place will be between G2 Esports and Team WE. Potentially, any of the teams that made it into groups has what it takes to make the match that will occur this Saturday, May 20th, a fiercely close competition. That being said, the match between G2 Esports and Team WE will still be one of close competition. However, it is unlikely that either of these two teams will stand a chance against the winner of SKT versus Flash Wolves.

A Better Tournament Style Means Better Games

A gauntlet-style competition not only makes each game of groups much more intense, as each team mus

TSM and Flash Wolves shake hands after their game. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

t compete for standings during the gauntlet-style knockout stages, but it also provides a more accurate way for each team to garner the appropriate rewards from the prize pool. With third and fourth place getting significantly less money than second place, a gauntlet-style competition would more accurately reassign this prize pool based upon how close one can get to taking down SKT T1, a team that has proven to be well and above the rest of the competition. Until then, variables such as TSM taking down Flash Wolves will prevent the most accurate portrayal of skill and will doom each team that enters the knockout stages in fourth place, regardless of their skill, relative to the second and third place teams.

 

Featured image courtesy of Riot Flickr

Who will win Dreamhack Tours?

Despite SK’s win at IEM Sydney stealing the headlines, this weekend Dreamhack hosted one of their many open events in Tours, France. The tournament has provided some of the most entertaining Counter-Strike we’ve seen in some time. Na’Vi embarrassed themselves, Robin “ropz” Kool made his LAN debut, while Misfits have given North America some hope. There were eight teams in attendance with only four now remaining. Although we might have lost some big names, today’s semi-finals will be a real treat.

HellRaisers vs Misfits

Misfits caused one of the biggest upsets we’ve seen by defeating Na’Vi in a best of three in their decider game. The North American team lost the opener in a crushing defeat on Cobblestone before reverse sweeping their opposition in dominating fashion. The win largely came through primary AWPer Shahzeeb “ShahZaM” Khan, who outplayed his Na’Vi counterpart Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács all series long. ShahZaM averaged more than a kill a round and was responsible for multiple clutch plays.

HellRaisers advanced straight to the semi-finals after two best of one wins in the group stage. The first was a crushing victory over home team EnVyUs. Their second game was against Danish squad Tricked, who they narrowly beat 16-13 on Train. HellRaisers’ two Slovakian players Patrik “Zero” Žúdel and Martin “STYKO” Styk were the defining players closing out rounds with an array of multi kills across both maps.

This semi-final is hard to predict for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is unknown whether ShahZaM will turn up in the same way for today’s games. The AWPer has shown flickers of this potential in the past although, it has never stuck, leading him to lose his spot on both Cloud9 and OpTic Gaming. In spite of that, Misfits’ usual star player Hunter “SicK” Mims was absent for the majority of the series, meaning he can bring firepower if he can find his footing.

However, HellRaisers will be a more formidable opponent than Na’Vi since they have a more structured style. Kirill “ANGE1” Karasiow stated that he has been working hard with his former In-Game Leader, now the HellRaisers coach, to further develop a tactical approach. Both Zero and STYKO have been consistently on point these past months, so it’s likely to continue into the semi-final. The key player for the CIS team will be their own AWPer Bence “DeadFox” Böröcz, who has been on the decline for some time now. If ShahZaM turns up in-form he will have a hard task trying to do what GuardiaN couldn’t.

In my opinion, HellRaisers will win the series, most likely in three maps. I think their tactical presence will feel completely different to Misfits’ previous game. The Americans will at least win one map if their players step up again, it’s also not completely out of reach that they take the series themselves. HellRaisers are the logical pick because they have consistently shown they are capable of beating the lower opposition.

G2 Esports vs mousesports

Hometown heroes G2 Esports easily has the most hyped roster we’ve seen in CSGO, however, they are yet to live up to that potential. A win at this event will put some of the critics on the backburner for a short time.

G2 stumbled early by losing 16-7 to Tricked on Inferno, one of their better maps, forcing them to play against fellow countrymen in Team EnVyUs. In that series, they were always in front thanks to Alexandre “bodyy” Pianaro, who finished the series +20 in kills.

Following the victory, G2 were to play Tricked again in a best of three. This time, all of the team performed to the level it should with Nathan “NBK-” Schmitt topping the board. It was refreshing to see the likes of Bodyy and NBK dishing out the damage and is a promising sign for G2’s title hopes since then they would only need one of their stars firing on all cylinders to win against just about anyone.

G2’s support player Bodyy contributed highly against Team EnVyUs. [Source: Dreamhack]

G2’s opponents are international team mousesports, who recently picked up Faceit Pro League star Ropz. They advanced straight to the semi-final after two wins over Heroic and the faltering Natus Vincere. It’s hard to gauge how strong the roster really is after these wins since both opponents underperformed at the event. One thing that is clear however is that there is more to come from this lineup and particularly from Ropz himself. However, even though mousesports has some dangerous players, G2 simply has too much individual firepower. That, combined with mousesports lack of time with Ropz, means I find it extremely unlikely that they drop the series.

Highly sought after, Ropz rose through the ranks by playing FPL. [Source: HLTV]

Grand Final

The safe and logical pick for the winner of Dreamhack Tours is, of course, G2 Esports. The Frenchmen have shown a willingness to improve from game to game and their individual prowess should be in full effect by the time the grand final comes around. HellRaisers have a small chance to take a map if they build some momentum following a pistol round win, but otherwise, I see G2 and the sixth man – the crowd – overwhelming the CIS team with raw skill.


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Mid Season Invitational Power Rankings

MSI will officially begin Wednesday as TSM, Flash Wolves, and Gigabyte Marines have earned their spots through the play-in stage. TSM looked shaky, needing a reverse sweep to take down Gigabyte Marines. It will definitely be interesting to see how the teams come out. Will G2 finally play well on the international stage? Can TSM bounce back from their poor performance? Can Gigabyte Marines make a Cinderella Run? Here are my power rankings of the teams heading into the Midseason Inviational.

1.SK Telecom T1 (Korea)

This should come to no surprise to fans and analysts. Korea as a region and SKT as a team have dominated the LoL scene for quite some time now. They’ll be looking to assert their dominance even more if they can go through MSI undefeated. SKT holds some of the best players in the world at each of their position.

Their most infamous has to be their mid laner, the GOAT, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. As long as Faker is on this team, you can bet on them being World contenders for awhile. Alongside Faker, has been his head coach since the beginning Kim kkOma Jung-gyun. Kkoma has been praised for being the best coach in League of Legends, having led SKT to all their World Championships. He’ll look to add a back to back MSI title to that list.

2. Flash Wolves (Taiwan)

Photo by: Riot Games

Flash Wolves may play in a top heavy region, but despite this, they’ve showed consistently time and time again that they cannot be underestimated. Coming off a successful IEM win at Katowice, Flash Wolves will look to surprise spectators and continue their reign as the “Korean Slayers”.

Flash Wolves play an aggressive style, often making plays in the early game with jungler  Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan and support Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie looking to make plays. Not only can they build big gold leads in the early game, they know how to properly finish games as well.

Flash Wolves came into the season sporting a new ADC in Lu “Betty” Yuhung who looks to get better and better every time we see him. Betty finished their series against SuperMassive with a monstrous KDA of 36, only dying once the whole series. Their longtime jungle/mid duo of Karsa and Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang have not shown any signs of slowing down. They had a phenomenal performance against SuperMassive, dominating their opponents. Flash Wolves have the best shot at upsetting SKT here at MSI.

3. G2 Esports (Europe)

Despite G2 having not played a game at MSI yet, they definitely showed a dominant run in playoffs en route to their third European championship. Everyone from G2 are ready to finally prove that they can perform well on the international stage. Maybe with the help of sports psychologist, Weldon Green, they can finally get that monkey off their back of choking internationally.

Mid laner Luka “PerkZ” Perković in particular will have lots of pressure as he’s become known for not playing well in international competitions. If he plays well, G2 can definitely make a decent MSI run. G2’s bot lane of Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez will be one of G2’s power positions. With the meta shifting back to “carry style” ADC’s, G2’s bot lane can definitely have a major impact in games.

What’s worrying is how long their games tend to go. Against some of the best teams in the world G2 will need to have the ability to close out games or risk failing in international play once again

4. Team we (China)

Team WE is a name that’s been around professional LoL for some time now. Once a powerhouse in their region, they’ve returned to take the throne as the number one team in China. After years of mixing rosters, they finally found success dropping only a single game en route to their 3-0 sweep of Royal Never Give Up in the LPL finals. They don’t play the stereotypical play style of all aggressive early game teams we’ve seen in the past from China.

WE plays much more controlled and teamfight well in the mid/late game. Jungler Xiang “Condi” Ren-Jie is an absolute monster and will be essential in WE’s success. In the mid lane, Hanwei “xiye” Su, has a deep champion pool and has shown good performances on both control mages and assassins. He had the 2nd best KDA in the LPL for at 4.7.

China has since fallen off from being the heralded “2nd best region”, but WE will look to prove that they are still one of the best.

5. Team SoloMid (North America)

Photo By: Riot Games

TSM looked shaky in their play-in series vs. Vietnam’s Gigabyte Marines. It felt like they were heavily disrespecting their opponents going for questionable invades and teamfights almost expecting the other team not to be prepared. This caused them to go down 2-0 in the series, before reverse sweeping their way to victory.

That series had many North American fans breathing sighs of relief. TSM will be heavy underdogs now at this point of the tournament if they struggled that heavily against a wild card region.

Even in the reverse sweep, their last two wins were not clean by any means. Gigabyte Marines showed the capability to gain early leads off some poor play out of TSM. Gigabyte Marines nearly had the series in game four, before overstaying in TSM’s base which ultimately led to TSM’s victory.

In particular TSM’s adc, Jason “Wildturtle” Tran had an awful series, dying in a winning 2v2 and often getting caught out of position while only having a 52.9 kill participation percentage. He’ll need to step up big time if TSM wants to finish in the top four of the group stage.

6. Gigabyte Marines (Vietnam)

Although they are the wildcard representative of MSI, their play-in stage performance was amazing in terms of Wildcard performances in international tournaments. Gigabyte Marines gave North America’s TSM a run for their money, nearly taking the series. Maybe some nerves and lack of experience, forced a bad call to try to end the game that resulted in a throw, but nonetheless this team has impressed.

Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh has been an absolute monster this whole tournament. He’s currently 2nd in KDA and first in DMG% among junglers who have played at MSI so far. Gigabyte Marines rely heavily on him to setup plays in the early game to snowball leads. It will be interesting to see how he matches up against the likes of SKT’s Peanut or Flash Wolves’ Karsa.

One of their weak points will definitely be in top laner Phan “Stark” Công Minh. Stark showed some great performances on Gragas during their series against TSM, but was non existent if not on that particular champion. In game three, he was constantly solo killed by Hauntzer’s Gragas and never seemed to comeback from it throughout the series.

Despite losing a close series to TSM, the group stage will be best of 1. Don’t be surprised to find Gigabyte Marines apart of the top four once the group stages conclude at MSI.

Cover photo by: Riot Games

Tune in Wednesday for the opening ceremonies of MSI on May 10

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Support Players: The Unsung Heroes of Counter-Strike

A huge problem among top level teams is that they find themselves with too many players who want to be bigshots. The difficulty lies in the fact that there are only five players on a team, and only so many kills to go around. Naturally, not all players on the team will perform equally. When five different player’s egos come into play, it makes it very difficult to find balance and that’s where the frustration begins. So, the support role is the solution to this problem.

The support is someone who steps up and supports the team with flashbangs and smoke grenades. They usually work to get trade kills with their teammates and stay back to keep the number advantages on their side. Supports won’t typically make risky plays and will stick near other players to help wherever they can. Their contributions won’t show up on the scoreboard, but they make all the difference in high-level matches.

The Angry Fans

The dynamics here are much more subtle from a spectators perspective. When you see players under-preforming on the scoreboard, it becomes easy to point them out as the problem for their team. A lot of support players catch a lot of heat for their performances, but they are essential to the team.

C9 Shroud, Courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

One of North America’s finest, Cloud9’s Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek, has been catching a huge amount of criticism in the community in the last 6 months for his transition to more of a support role. When Shroud originally came to Cloud9, he was supposed to be a rifler. He has some of the best aim and game sense in North America, and so many are questioning why his scoreboard tallies have been so low.

Shroud began his transition after the addition of Jake “Stewie2k” Yip and Timothy “autimatic” Ta as rifler mains. Shroud said himself on his stream that he is “no longer the all-star” and that “his job now is to make [Stewie2k and autimatic] look good… I’ll die for them, I’ll flash for them, I’ll do anything for those guys”.

Some of the Best

 

Xyp9x

Courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

Astralis’ Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth

The current support player for Astralis, Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth, is world renowned for his skill. Xyp9x has been outstanding for Astralis in 2017 and was essential in their completion of their quest for a major trophy. Back in January, when Astralis took their victory over Virtus Pro, he was able to step up and get key kills on the second and third map which massively helped them secure the series.

NBK

Courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

G2’s Nathan “NBK” Schmitt

Nathan “NBK” Schmitt is a strong rifler and support player for G2 E-sports. Having spent the entirety of his career on French CS:GO teams, he has been able to master the support role for his team. He just recently switched to G2 back in February, but his support skill was on a strong display for the two years he spent on Team EnVyUs.

C9 Shroud

Courtesy of Shroud’s youtube channel

Cloud 9’s Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek

Some might find this pick questionable. Shroud is still widely regarded as an aggressive fragger and not so much a support player. But be assured, Shroud is the real deal for supports. He has already proven that he is an amazing rifler and one of the best in North America. He will definitely take some more time to fully adjust to his role, but even he himself said it’s time for this change.

Why Supports Deserve More Respect

A lot of people will look at Xyp9x’s, NBK’s and Shroud’s scores and become disappointed with their results. However, all the hard work they are putting in to help the team is going unrecognized. It’s the contributions outside of the scoreboard that really make the difference in the top tier teams. It’s not so much the number of kills a player has, but when and where they got the kills as well as what they mean for the game. Support players put their egos aside and play with confidence for their team, which deserves more recognition.


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Can Mastermind Weldon solve G2’s International Woes?

Weldon’s Own Success

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

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

Current State of G2

Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

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

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

Building off Regular Season Success

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of LoLesports.

Courtesy of LoLesports.

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

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

 

1: Bo2 Format

 

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

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

Courtesy of lolesports.

Courtesy of lolesports.

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

 

The New El Claissco

A new El Clasico is born. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

A new El Clasico is born. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Return of the King

 

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

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

The King Returns to his People. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

The King Returns to his People. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

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

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

MSI Power Rankings

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

 

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

 

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

 

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