Hylissang may change teams in the off-season

Strategies for success in the EU LCS off-season

November 20, 2017 marks the start of the free agency period for the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split, and it is soon approaching. Organizations will begin signing, trading and letting go of various players with hopes of putting together a competitive roster. They will cite all kinds of reasons for making their decisions, but, at the end of the day, they all go into the off-season with one goal in mind: winning.

Various different team-building strategies have been successful in past years. The 2017 World Championship qualifiers from Europe showcased three totally different strategies, which ultimately got them to the top of the standings. G2 kept their entire roster from 2016, which allowed them to continue building synergy while bringing on Weldon Green as an assistant coach. Fnatic completely rebuilt their roster around their star AD carry, Rekkles. The endemic organization brought on a mix of veterans and rookies, which allowed them to shape their playstyle over the course of the year. Misfits came into the league from the Challenger Series, and only replaced their jungler and mid laner. Their focus on combining younger Europeans with talented Korean imports provided fertile ground for experimentation.

Between the reported changes for the EU LCS in 2019, and the expectations surrounding North America’s franchised league starting next year, it feels like there is a lot of pressure on European organizations in 2018. The group system, best-of-three series, mid-season relegations, none of these will be suitable excuses next year. The World Championship is one year away. The path to get there begins in a few days, and decisions made in the off-season will ripple from now until then. Each organization should have had ample time to reflect on 2017 and develop strategies that will get them ahead of their competitors.

Giants Gaming

Gilius returns to the EU LCS with Giants Gaming

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Giants enter the 2018 Spring Split after taking down Ninjas in Pyjamas and Schalke 04 in the 2018 Spring Promotion tournament. Gilius should be a familiar personality to welcome back into the LCS, but everyone else is new. Giants enjoyed a relatively strong run through the Challenger Series, but they would benefit from some upgrades. If a veteran support like Kasing signed on, it would bring more stability on and off the Rift to prop up the rookie carries.

This strategy would mirror Misfits’ updates when they entered the LCS. By bringing in another teammate with multiple splits of LCS experience, Giants could gain leadership and maturity with just a small investment. It would give the new guys an opportunity to prove themselves against other teams without feeling like they are being thrown to the wolves. Spring Split is slightly less important in the grand scheme of the year, so experimentation is a smaller risk. If the team is still not competitive after that change, then mid-season would be the time to shake it up a bit more.

Schalke 04

Schalke 04 joins the EU LCS in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Schalke 04 is the other team promoted from last year’s Challenger scene. SmittyJ is their most veteran player, with several splits of LCS experience under his belt. Memento has been in and out of the LCS for a couple of years now, but the rest of the team is relatively new. Upset is a lauded up-and-coming AD carry, which should be Schalke’s strongest weapon.

It would not be surprising if Schalke took the 2016 Splyce approach to entering the LCS: keeping the entire roster. Each of these players actually produced carry performances last year. With the announcement that Krepo will be head coach this spring, Schalke may decide to invest in infrastructure, rather than talent. They may also be turned off to veteran talents due to last time they entered the LCS with Steve, Gilius, Fox, MrRallez and Sprattel. Just like Giants, Spring Split should act as the testing ground for these new players.

Team Vitality

Week 8: Team Vitality on stage

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Despite optimism towards Vitality’s acquisition of VandeR in the mid-season, the team still had a lackluster Summer Split performance. It turned out that Vitality’s issues ran much deeper than Hachani’s death share. The jungle position turned out to be much leakier than previously understood, and since the role was essential to team-wide success. This position should be Vitality’s primary focus in the off-season. Cabochard and Nukeduck were consistently strong in the laning phase, but could not get much going in the mid-game.

Shook and Amazing are veteran options that will become available since Mysterious Monkeys and NiP were relegated. Kirei, Loulex or even Santorin will be available from other Challenger teams. It may not be the best time for Team Vitality to pick up someone without experience, because they placed highest when they had a complete veteran squad in Spring 2016. AD carry is the only position possibly worth filling with a younger player, kind of like North America’s Immortals this summer. HeaQ is the best recommendation.

Roccat

Roccat enter the off-season looking for change

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The other fourth place team, Roccat’s problems were inverted from Vitality’s. They almost always won games late with scaling compositions and smart play around objectives. Roccat’s solo laners, Betsy and Phaxi, were two of the weakest early game players in their respective positions. Meanwhile, Pridestalker showcased several statement performances, and Roccat’s bottom lane was in the top half of the league during Summer Split.

It is time for Roccat to let Betsy go. They have cemented him in the mid lane for two straight years, and it has not really panned out, especially when compared to Perkz with G2 or Bjergsen with TSM. Roccat could take a Misfits approach to this off-season, importing for one role and filling the second with a sophomore talent. Top lane seems like the role with the best chance for a successful import. Mid lane imports have almost never worked in Europe, which means someone like Selfie could fit into this roster well.

Splyce

Will Splyce change their roster this off-season?

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Arguably, the Snakes have the most difficult off-season of any team. Splyce’s role in the EU LCS is reminiscent of CLG in North America, because this team seems to be stronger than the sum of its parts when it clicks. They could not take more than one series from the top five teams in the league, but then they almost stole semifinals from G2 in the playoffs. Now they have a tough decision in front of them. Does Splyce change its roster and risk losing the synergy of friendship? Or do they stay together and give it another try?

Like CLG this past mid-season, the jungle position would be the most likely target. Trashy felt like the least consistent player on the team throughout the year. When he was on, Splyce was on. When he was off, Splyce was off. And, like Xmithie, he might even feel better switching to another team too. Maybe Splyce tries to nab a Korean aggressor from North America’s discarded teams, such as Chaser, LiRa or Shrimp. They could also try promoting their young substitute, Gripex, to the starting roster to see how it goes. Regardless, Splyce’s coaches and analysts will likely be the most important investments. The team looked best after head coach Gevous stepped down at the end of Summer Split.

Unicorns of Love

Unicorns of Love may lose some members for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Barely missing Worlds for the third year in a row, Unicorns of Love have to make some changes for 2018. Exileh’s inconsistencies in the mid lane were obviously problematic. Hylissang played uncharacteristically reckless most of the year. Even Vizicsacsi did not look as polished as past splits. Interestingly enough, Xerxe and Samux, the rookies of 2017, felt like the consistent elements on the team.

This is also the first team on the list with a high probability of losing certain members to the hypothesized “EU-xodus,” due to a franchised NA LCS. Hylissang is reportedly signing with Fnatic, and there were rumors of Vizicsacsi moving to North America. If these veterans skip UOL for new opportunities, they may look to VandeR, Kasing or Kikis as replacements. They could also potentially experiment with rookie or imported top laners, such as WhiteKnight or Profit. If the Unicorns are able to keep all of their members, then it would be smart to bring on a substitute mid laner, like Blanc or CozQ, to have back-up for Exileh.

H2K

H2K may lose players in the off-season

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

H2K is in the same boat as Unicorns of Love. They barely missed Worlds after a rocky year, with high peaks during the regular season and low valleys during playoffs. Jankos, Odoamne and Febiven are star players with targets on their talent for new North American organizations. The off-season presents an opportunity for H2K to bring in a new player or two, but also potential for keystone players to leave.

Hypothetically, if H2K can only retain one of their three European starters, then Febiven is probably the best bet. He is a relative newcomer to H2K, while already feeling like someone worth rebuilding around. H2K would most likely release the imported bottom lane duo so they could look towards top and jungle imports. Young AD carries and supports would be easy for a team like H2K to bring on. Noxiak, AoD, HeaQ and Minitroupax are a few players worth considering, especially if they are able to acquire experienced players for the top side of the map. The best case scenario is for H2K to keep top, jungle and mid, while signing a new bottom lane.

Fnatic

Fnatic's roster could remain the same in the off-season

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

While Fnatic did not have a spotless performance in 2017, they certainly grew as the year went on. Broxah and Caps proved to be worthy investments as rookie players, and the veterans, sOAZ, Rekkles and Jesiz pulled their weight. It would be surprising to see this roster change too much in the off-season, considering this year was much better than 2016 for every single player. It seems mutually beneficial for the organization and players to stay together and build off of their accomplishments this year.

However, ESPN esports already reported that Hylissang will sign on as support, replacing Jesiz. This position seemed most likely to change, because Jesiz’s contributions to the team went unnoticed most of the time. With his assistant coaching experience, his value on and off the Rift was most likely more as a leader than an individual talent. Someone like Hylissang would seem to bring just as much veteran experience and flexibility to hopefully elevate Fnatic even higher. Top lane would be the next spot to consider changing, as sOAZ did express issues with his teammates throughout the year via social media. If he can get that part of his personality under control, then he is definitely worth holding.

Misfits

Misfits' roster may change in the off-season

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

What a whirlwind year for this team. Misfits continued Europe’s trend of sending a team to Worlds from the Challenger Series within the same year, like Splyce and Origen in 2016 and 2015. Replacing KaKAO with Maxlore panned out well, and it is difficult to think of what the organization might want to change roster-wise. This team probably has the greatest risk of falling apart due to the players changing teams.

Maxlore and PowerOfEvil jump out as prime candidates for swapping teams. Talented European junglers are a hot commodity, and sophomore star talent could go to another EU or NA LCS squad. PowerOfEvil has switched teams every year since entering the LCS, so another jump would not be a surprise. With IgNar hinting at leaving Europe, Misfits would be left with Alphari and Hans sama. They should definitely fill the mid lane with their strongest possible candidate, such as re-signing Selfie, or trying to score Nukeduck. Pulling Trashy or Jankos would be an excellent fit, and maybe Misfits could be Jesiz’s new home. If this organization continues to prioritize communication, then they will be prone to prioritizing new talent over imports.

G2

Could G2's roster change in the off-season?

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The reigning kings of Europe enter the off-season after suffering another bitter knockout in the group stage of Worlds. Like Splyce, it seems as though the experiment of maintaining the same roster from last year did not pay high enough dividends. International performance was G2’s ultimate focus this year, which showed at Mid-season Invitational, but not at the World Championship. To be fair, they had a difficult group, but the players and staff must still be disappointed.

Trick felt lackluster this year. His farming control style did not punish opponents the same way this year as in the past, and it seemed to hurt G2. It would not be surprising to see him replaced just to freshen up the jungler role, because every other member had relatively consistent performances and carried at times. Expect is the secondary weak point, but even he fulfilled his roles in the tank and split-push metas. Perkz seems highly unlikely to leave, while G2 offered their bottom lane duo to field offers elsewhere. Zven and Mithy have a lot of star power and success under their belts, which makes them an attractive acquisition. It is just hard to imagine them on a different team. It may be worthwhile for Zven and Mithy to stick with G2 another year to try playing with new top-side players, such as Maxlore or Odoamne.

Overall

2018 feels like the year when the EU LCS organizations change their identities. Unicorns without Vizicsacsi, H2K without Jankos, Splyce without Trashy, Roccat without Betsy–these organizations could have new faces next year. It will be exciting to watch veterans try to find the best teams for achieving greatness, while young players try to raise their stocks. Recognized imported players may decide to return home, while newcomers arrive to Europe. And there is a decent chance that keystone European players export to North America’s possible greener pastures. Regardless, this off-season will be another whirlwind of trades, acquisitions and “parting ways,” and EU LCS fans should be excited for change.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

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Voting is open for the 2017 All-Star Event

My picks for the 2017 EU LCS All-Star team

The 2017 All-Star voting has opened for esports fans around the world. Members of each region are deciding which players in each role get to represent them as All-Stars. The cream of the crop is rising to the top, as League of Legends players cast their votes.

This year Riot regionally restricted voting, meaning North American players vote for the NA LCS All-Stars, Europeans vote for the EU LCS All-Stars, and so on. Just like every year, there are ongoing debates about what factors into a player’s All-Star status. Is it based on their match statistics? Is it about their team’s success? Does a player’s legacy factor into it? These and many more questions are on everyone’s minds.

I have decided to publicize my choices for the EU LCS All-Stars, since that is the league that I covered most this year. Total disclosure, I am a North American resident, so my actual votes were restricted to the NA LCS. Nonetheless, I do have opinions on who should be considered the European All-Stars this year.

As these choices are subjective, much of what someone finds worthy of All-Star status is merely how they feel when watching a player. An All-Star is someone that wows the audience with their skill and consistency. They are a player that always contributes to their team’s success. All-Stars bring a strong presence in every competition, which usually translates into draft strategy, lane pressure, teamfighting and controlling objectives.

Here are my five choice players. I am only factoring in 2017 performances, including Spring and Summer Splits, Mid-Season Invitational and the World Championship. I largely ignored Rift Rivals, and these player choices do not take into account whether or not a player is their team’s shot-caller.

Vizicsacsi

UOL Vizicsacsi ranks first among EU LCS top laners

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

My only player choice that did not qualify for Worlds this year, Vizicsacsi is the best that Europe has to offer. He consistently put up impressive performances this year, while Unicorns of Love suffered inconsistency as a team. ‘Csacsi is the only top laner in the EU LCS that should play up to the level of any other region’s All-Star opponents. He has been a leader on Unicorns of Love for almost four years straight now, longer than any other top laner in Europe.

Vizicsacsi carried games on Shen, Cho’Gath, Galio and Gnar this summer. He is the only EU LCS top laner to be top four in CS, XP and gold at 15 minutes, damage per minute and damage percentage in Spring and Summer Split this year. For these reasons, Vizicsacsi was first team All-Pro in Spring Split, and third team All-Pro in Summer Split. Finally, Vizicsacsi is one of the most talented players in the world who consistently gets denied opportunities to attend international events, so All-Stars would be a chance to provide him one.

SOAZ and Odoamne are the next closest contenders, in my book. Personally, sOAZ’s negative social media presence towards the end of Summer Split and during Worlds makes it difficult for me to vote for him as an All-Star. His performances this year were solid, even if Fnatic’s overall strategy was leaky. He was also much more likely to be stuck on a tank, rather than experimenting with a wider variety of champions (which, of course, is not entirely his fault).

Odoamne’s credentials are similar to Vizicsacsi’s. He is a legacy EU LCS top laner who has been on H2K since May 2014. Odo was a consistent force this spring and summer, which earned him second team All-Pro both splits. However, Odoamne’s laning phase was considerably worse than Csacsi’s in the Summer Split. He finished seventh-eighth among top laners at 15 minutes.

Maxlore

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Misfits’ run at Worlds was due largely in part to Maxlore’s jungling. There is recency bias in my selection, because Maxlore was not as impressive during Spring Split on Roccat, but he clearly improved through Summer Split. Misfits initially brought him on to replace KaKAO because of his communication. I would say Maxlore fulfilled that promise, as Misfits’ team cohesion and synergy got better and better every game.

The Sejuani-Gragas-Jarvan IV meta benefited Maxlore more than almost any other jungler. He consistently made the most of his tankiness and crowd control. While Misfits did not have the best neutral objective or vision control, their team-fighting was definitely better than their European counterparts, and Maxlore was a huge part of that.

Jankos is Europe’s renowned jungler favorite, but he did not have a stellar year. His “First Blood King” title did not ring true, and his pressure did not seem as strong as years past, especially during the tankier jungle metas. Jankos is still definitely a top European jungler, but not the top jungler of 2017, in my opinion.

Broxah would actually be my second choice. He had a strong showing domestically in Spring Split, and he did earn the first team All-Pro honor for Summer Split. Broxah’s early games were clean, but as the game went on he seemed to have a harder time knowing exactly when to engage or peel, when to contest or concede. I could totally understand someone casting their vote for Broxah, but I simply found Maxlore’s performances at Worlds more All-Star worthy.

Perkz

Perkz is G2's mid laner at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Mid lane is the role that seems the most straight-forward to me. Perkz had a monster year, even with some setbacks towards the beginning of Summer Split. He brought an excellent combination of laning phase pressure and team-fighting prowess that is hard to find. Other mid laners rarely acquired early game leads against Perkz, and even if they did he never felt fully out of the game.

Add in his Mid-Season Invitational and World Championship performances, and Perkz feels like the right choice. He consistently played up to the level of his opponents, including Faker, xiaohu, Crown and xiye. There were plenty of times where the other members of G2 felt non-existent, yet Perkz always seemed like the player with a plan. He is passionate on and off the Rift. You can feel it in his interviews and in his social media, especially his update following Worlds. Perkz simply feels like the best representation of a European All-Star. 

PowerOfEvil is a close second choice. He exhibited quite a resurgence in 2017 from his days on Origen. Misfits brought him on when they entered the LCS, and he helped bring them to a World Championship. PowerOfEvil’s presence made mid lane the focus of most of their matches, especially when playing Orianna. He almost always got roaming priority during laning phase, and was happy to sacrifice CS and XP to assist his teammates. While I can understand votes cast for PoE, he lacks the bravado that Perkz has, which is keeping me from seeing him as an All-Star.

Febiven and Caps are decent choices, but neither seemed as consistent throughout the game as Perkz or PowerOfEvil. Febiven rarely felt as dominant in team-fights, while Caps regularly played without respect for the enemy jungler. H2K threw early leads due to Febiven’s passivity. Fnatic often lost leads due to Caps’ aggression. They are definitely crucial pieces for their respective teams, but they lack the versatility that Perkz and PoE bring.

Rekkles

Fnatic may qualify for Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The entire Fnatic roster was rebuilt around Rekkles for 2017, and he totally delivered on the pressure. In Spring and Summer Splits, as well as Worlds, Rekkles consistently went even or won bottom lane, and quickly transitioned into methodical positioning and damaging in team-fights. It seems like he had the flashiest moments among AD carries in the EU LCS, juking, flashing forward and making the most of every auto-attack.

Rekkles was also the most inventive marksman in Europe this year. His Kennen went unanswered for a long time. He was one of the only players drafting Sivir when the champion pool was pinched. Rekkles also gave the greatest Twitch performances, all while gladly playing the meta Varus, Ashe, Jhin, Caitlyn, Xayah and Tristana. No other AD carry matched this level of versatility, which is a huge reason he is considered an All-Star.

Zven is the only one who came close, but he was not as dominant this year as last year, in my opinion. He was by far the most consistent bottom laner in Europe, outputting damage and not dying. However, he rarely seemed to push his limits the way Rekkles did. To be fair, Fnatic’s playstyle revolved more around Rekkles than G2’s did around Zven, but that does not discount Rekkles’ performances below Zven’s.

There is a wide gap below Rekkles and Zven. Hans sama certainly stepped up in LCS playoffs and Worlds, when the meta needed him most. I’m not convinced he is on the same level as Fnatic and G2’s AD carries, especially when considering the rest of Summer Split. Kobbe and Samux had consistently good performances throughout the year, but their teams were too inconsistent to let them shine.

IgNar

Ignar is Misfits' support at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Similar to Rekkles, IgNar’s champion pool seems endless. He played Malzahar, Zyra and Tahm Kench in Spring, and Thresh, Rakan, Alistar and Bard in Summer. Misfits then drafted Taric, Janna, Leona and Blitzcrank at Worlds. IgNar stuck to the meta when necessary, but he was not afraid to adapt and innovate. This flexibility is part of the reason Misfits was able to make a deeper run at Worlds than expected.

G2’s mithy had a great year for himself. He did have several game-saving plays in the Summer Split. However, while he showed a wide variety of playstyles, he lacked the same innovation as IgNar. I cannot remember a time when mithy drafted a surprise, non-meta pick. He generally went with the flow, and locked in an expected support to compliment Zven’s champion. For this reason, mithy feels like less of an All-Star.

Jesiz, Chei and Wadid were impressive in the support role as well, but they showed a bit less consistency and lack that clutch factor. Jesiz is more aligned with mithy, where his role revolves around Rekkles. H2K and Roccat rely more on Chei and Wadid to actually carry them in games.


Featured Image: LoLesports.com

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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samsung galaxy

Samsung Galaxy: Kingslayers

Samsung Galaxy (SSG) overthrow the greatest dynasty in League of Legends history. After losing out against SK telecom T1 (SKT) at the World Championships in 2016, SSG worked all year for their shot at revenge. SSG’s Top 8 performance will go down as one of the most dominant runs in League history. Closing with a 9-1 record, Samsung Galaxy defeated the world’s top LoL teams and stamped their names in history. Despite this dominating performance, the climb to a world title was not easy.

Road to Redemption

samsung galaxy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In the early years of LCK, Chanyong “Ambition” Kang was regarded as one of the world’s top mid-laners. Enter Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee, SKT’s mid-lane prodigy who, in his debut performance, dominated Ambition‘s former team, CJ Blaze. In 2016, Ambition became the jungler for Samsung Galaxy and met Faker again, this time for the world title. At the World Finals 2016, Samsung Galaxy took SK telecom to a grueling five game series. SKT edged out a victory to secure back-to-back world titles. 2017 would be a redemption chapter for Samsung Galaxy. The main roster stayed together, determined to grow and claim the glory that narrowly slipped through their fingers.

At Worlds 2017, Samsung Galaxy drew into Group C alongside Royal Never Give Up (RNG), G2 Esports (G2) and 1907 Fenerbahçe Espor (FB). Samsung was a huge threat in what many regarded as this year’s “group of death.” Their immaculate control style paired well against G2 and FB, who looked largely outclassed by the Korean representative. But the group stage did not go as smoothly as Samsung would have hoped. A near loss against 1907 Fenerbahçe along with two defeats against China’s RNG, left Samsung as the second seed of Group C.

The road would not get easier. In quarterfinals, SSG paired against tournament favorites, Longzhu Gaming (LZ). Longzhu’s aggressive early game playstyle looked like a perfect match to overpower Samsung’s defensive, late-game team. With the odds against them, Samsung Galaxy delivered the biggest upset of Worlds. After sweeping LZ 3-0, Samsung advanced to meet China’s dark-horse Team WE (WE). Coming into semifinals, buzz around this Samsung team rose. Suddenly, fans remembered that SSG were last year’s world finalists. With momentum on their side, Samsung Galaxy outclassed WE in a convincing 3-1 victory.

Walking the Knife’s Edge

samsung galaxy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

On the other side of the finals bracket, defending champions SK telecom edged out two Top 8 matches against Misfits Gaming (MSF) and Royal Never Give Up (RNG). However this year, the most dominant organization in League history looked shaky coming into Worlds. A loss against Longzhu Gaming in the LCK finals highlighted SKT’s rough summer split. After unexpectedly dropping a game against ahq e-Sports Club (AHQ) in the group stage, criticism surrounding starting jungler Wangho “Peanut” Han and AD-carry Junsik “Bang” Bae clouded the SKT narrative.

In their quarterfinal match against Misfits Gaming, SK telecom stood at the edge of defeat. Down 1-2 in the series, fans prepared for the largest upset of League history. Teetering on the knife’s edge, SKT’s legendary mid-laner Faker stretched his shoulders and carried his team to the promised land. After this narrow victory, SKT stood before Royal Never Give Up in the semifinals.

With RNG’s veteran AD-carry Zihao “Uzi” Jian leading his team, SK telecom geared up for one of their hardest matches of Worlds 2017. With the Shanghai crowd surging for their home team, Royal took the series lead against SKT 2-1. Once again, SK telecom stood at the mouth of the abyss. A single loss would be the end of the SKT dynasty. SK telecom clawed their way to victory in Game 4 of the semifinals to take the series to its final match. One elimination game away from their rightful spot at the finals, SKT zeroed in on their win conditions. Despite the criticism surrounding his play, it was SKT’s Peanut who found a clutch pick to snowball his team to the World Finals. Once again SKT walked on the knife’s edge. Once again, they prevailed.

Samsung Galaxy the conquerors

samsung galaxy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

After their loss in the previous year, Samsung Galaxy had a shot at revenge. In Game 1 against SKT, Samsung Galaxy doubled-down on their top-laner Sungjin “CuVee” Lee. Samsung recognized SKT’s tendency to play around carries and split-pushers for their top-laner Seonghoon “Huni” Heo. SSG locked in AD “Kennen,” a pick that would have CuVee outplay Huni with his own style. CuVee delivered, amassing a 20 CS lead at ten minutes, giving Huni little space to find teamfight initiations. Samsung dominated the vision and objective game to crush SKT in the series opener.

In Game 2, SK telecom struck back. Early proactive plays from Faker‘s “Ryze” gave SKT a sizable lead in the mid-game. But, at 18:47, SKT Bang made a crucial mistake. Flashing into the dragon pit to land a “Chain of Corruption” on Ambition left Bang open to a re-engage from three Samsung members. SKT lost the ensuing teamfight and several fights after. Bang‘s misplay opened a snowball that Samsung used to roll over SKT in Game 2.

Faced with yet another elimination in Game 3, again SKT stood on the knife’s edge. With their backs against the wall, SKT found success in early pressure coming from their substitute jungler Sungu “Blank” Kang. Early proactive plays opened a 7.0k gold lead for SKT at 25 minutes. However, Samsung Galaxy never gave SKT enough room to severely punish these advantages. Samsung took favorable trades when possible and stretched the game out. Finally, at 39:18, SSG’s AD-carry Jaehyeok “Ruler” Park seized his chance for victory. Ruler used “Flash” and “Chain of Corruption” to root Faker and Bang, earning two picks onto SKT’s main carries. Samsung pushed this man advantage to close out a dominating 3-0 sweep to win the World Championship.

The dynasty was over. Samsung Galaxy ascended the throne as the 2017 World Champions. They triumphed over both Longzhu and SK telecom, a feat that few thought was possible. The road was long for Samsung Galaxy, but the prize was all the sweeter for it.

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predictions

RLCS playoff predictions

League play for season four of the Rocket League Championship Series and Rocket League Rival Series came to an end last weekend for North America and Europe. With that, it’s time to look at predictions for the upcoming promotion/relegation tournament as well as playoff predictions. Here are the RLCS standings for NA and EU after league play:

 

 NA

  1. Cloud9 6-1
  2. G2 Esports 6-1
  3. Ghost 5-2
  4. NRG Esports 4-3
  5. Rogue 3-4
  6. FlyQuest 2-5
  7. Allegiance 1-6
  8. Renegades 1-6

 EU

  1. Method 6-1
  2. PSG eSports 6-1
  3. Gale Force eSports 5-2
  4. Mockit eSports 4-3
  5. exceL 3-4
  6. Flipsid3 Tactics 2-5
  7. Team Envy 2-5
  8. Team Secret 0-7
playoff predictions

Image courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

Seeds seven and eight for both NA and EU are no longer competing in season four. They are currently in the midst of fighting for the last two seeds moving into season five. The round-robin promotion/relegation tournament is underway. The top two teams from the RLRS in both regions are also competing in said tournament. Those teams include Fibeon and Out of Style for NA, along with Fnatic and The Juicy Kids for EU.

I’ll give you my predictions for the promotion/relegation tournament results before we move onto the rest of season four. In the end, for NA, I’m expecting to see Fibeon and Renegades in season five of the RLCS, with Out of Style remaining in the RLRS and Allegiance moving down to join them. As for EU, I expect to see Fnatic promoted to the RLCS alongside Team Envy retaining their spot, while The Juicy Kids remain where they are and Team Secret is relegated back.

These are certainly the safer predictions when it comes to the promotion/relegation tournament. That being said, they’re safe for a reason. I’ll throw all of you Brandon “Lachinio” Lachin fans a bone and say Out of Style has the potential to come out on top over Renegades, relegating them back to the RLRS.

Now onto the remainder of this season.

NA

The fight for top four in NA was a close one all season. With top two still up for grabs at the start of week five, each of the top four teams had a viable shot at clinching one of those spots. As we now know, Cloud9 and G2 are the teams that managed to pull it off. Cloud9 was no surprise, considering the incredible season they had. I admit, I wasn’t expecting G2 to clinch that other spot.

playoff predictions

Image courtesy of play.esea.net

We’re guaranteed to see Cloud9 and G2 at the world finals this year, but who will the other two NA teams be? Here’s what we’ll see in round one of the NA playoffs: NRG versus Rogue and Ghost versus FlyQuest.

These are certain to be close matches. That being said, my NA playoff predictions are NRG over Rogue and Ghost over FlyQuest. I’m picking NRG over Rogue simply because of the team chemistry here. NRG won the last three NA regional championships and I’m looking to see them pick up number four.

As for Ghost over FlyQuest, the decision is a bit more difficult. FlyQuest looked strong all season, despite ending with a 2-5 record. And let’s not forget Kais “Sadjunior” Zehri made it to every LAN from previous seasons. But, as analyst Michael “Quinn Lobdell” Behrouzi said on RLCS Overtime, there’s a first time for everything. And this might be the first time Sadjunior doesn’t make it to the world championships. I say that because Ghost has looked phenomenal in season four. Despite going in with the number three seed, they could have easily been a top two team.

EU

playoff predictions

Image courtesy of excelesports.com

As we’ve seen all season long, EU is a bit more of an emotional roller coaster for Rocket League fans. Team Envy, formerly Northern Gaming when they won the season three world championships, now sit in the seventh seed. Meaning their season is done. They’re currently fighting for their season five RLCS spot in the promotion/relegation tournament. Gale Force eSports and Flipsid3 Tactics, two other highly anticipated teams at the beginning of season four, are sitting in the number three and six seeds respectively. Needless to say, EU’s had an unexpected season.

That being said, there’s still time for Gale Force and Flipsid3 Tactics, as they look forward to playoffs. Here’s round one of the EU playoffs: Mockit eSports versus exceL and Flipsid3 Tactics versus Gale Force esports.

Now just because Flipsid3 and Gale Force are both looking to keep the dream alive doesn’t mean they’ll both get to. There’s only four EU spots at the world finals, meaning only two up for grabs. One of these two teams’ seasons will come to an end after this weekend.

Here are my EU playoff predictions. ExceL over Mockit eSports and Gale Force over Flipsid3 Tactics, and here’s why.

ExceL had a rough season three, under the name Cow Nose. However, in the off season, the squad dropped Danny “DanzhizzLe” Smol and replaced him with Kasper “Pwndx” Nielsen. They came into season four by securing a spot in qualifiers, and they’ve looked strong ever since.

GFE versus F.3

As for Flipsid3 Tactics and Gale Force eSports, it promises to be nail biter. All six of the players that make up these two starting rosters are veterans of not only the RLCS, but the world championship stage. They’ll all surely be eager to make it back to that stage as well. Flipsid3 Tactics, time and time again, have come up through one loser’s bracket or another to turn their position in a tournament around. They are essentially in that same position now, securing the sixth and final playoff seed. However, I have to give this one to Gale Force.

This Gale Force eSports squad formed after season two. Courant “Kaydop” Alexandre left Mockit eSports after winning the season three regional championships. Had he stayed with Mockit and one other member of that roster from season three, he would have been guaranteed a spot in this season of the RLCS. Despite that, he left to join Jos “ViolentPanda” van Meurs on Gale Force. Their third, Pierre “Turbopolsa” Silfver, has a similar story.

playoff predictions

Image courtesy of @GFEsports Twitter account.

Since then, they’ve been a force to reckon with. Although they had somewhat of a second place curse during the off season, until the NBC Universal Open, they were still coming in at least second consistently. Now they’re looking for yet another first place win in a LAN environment.

So, there you have it, here are the eight NA and EU teams I expect to see in the world championships:

 

 NA

  • Cloud9
  • G2
  • NRG
  • Ghost

 EU

  • Method
  • PSG eSports
  • exceL
  • Gale Force

 



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playoffs

RLCS: looking ahead to playoffs

The Rocket League Championship Series and Rocket League Rival Series are past the half-way mark for season four league play. It’s time for a peek at what playoffs may hold in store, as we move into the last two weeks of North American and European league play.

Standings

First and foremost, here are the current standings after week three of league play:

 

 NA

  1. Cloud9 4-1
  2. NRG Esports 3-1
  3. G2 Esports 2-1 (7-5 games)
  4. Ghost 2-1 (6-6 games)
  5. FlyQuest 2-2 (8-8 games)
  6. Rogue 2-2 (8-8 games)
  7. Renegades 1-3
  8. Allegiance 0-5

 EU

  1. Method 4-0 (12-5 games)
  2. PSG eSports 4-0 (12-5 games)
  3. exceL 2-1 (7-3 games)
  4. Mockit eSports 2-1 (8-5 games)
  5. Gale Force eSports 2-2
  6. Flipsid3 Tactics 1-3
  7. Team Envy 1-4
  8. Team Secret 0-5

As I predicted at the beginning of the season, Allegiance and Team Secret, then Emotion and Aeriality, have all but solidified their spots in the bottom two of the RLCS. Both sit at 0-5 with two matches remaining. These teams have their bye weeks coming up in week four and will return for their final matches of league play in week five.

While there is a chance each of these teams can clinch number six and move on to playoffs instead of their promotion/relegation tournaments, it’s not looking promising.

Playoffs Clinched

Three teams, across NA and EU, have already clinched their top six spot, guaranteeing a shot at playoffs as well as auto-qualification for season five of the RLCS. These teams are Cloud9, Method and PSG eSports.

Cloud9

playoffs

Image courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net.

Cloud9 was perhaps the most highly anticipated newcomers to the RLCS this season. The Cloud9 roster consists of Jesus “Gimmick” Parra, Mariano “SquishyMuffinz” Arruda and Kyle “Torment” Storer, and of these three players, Torment is the only one to compete in a previous season of the RLCS.

Despite a lack of prior RLCS experience, Gimmick and, especially, Squishy, came riding into season four on a hype train. Squishy’s been prominent in the community for quite some time through streaming, known for his next-level mechanical skill. That being said, it was at DreamHack Atlanta 2017 that this roster really made a name for themselves.

Playing under the name The Muffin Men, these three showed up to DreamHack Atlanta to take on some of NA and EU’s biggest name teams. They took first place and were quickly picked up by Cloud9. At DreamHack Atlanta and since, Gimmick continues to build the hype around his name, showing the world that he’s ready to take on the top Rocket League players just as much, if not more, than Squishy and Torment.

Method and PSG eSports

Both Method and PSG eSports sit undefeated at the top of the EU leaderboard. With only three games left to play, these two tames have already guaranteed their top six position.

playoffs

Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org.

Many expected both Method and PSG to do relatively well, even considering the stiff competition in EU. They’ve managed to continue to perform above expectations.

Method is the only EU squad from season three of the RLCS to retain their entire starting roster. They’re showing everyone just how deadly that long-term team chemistry can be. PSG, on the other hand, is showing everyone just how deadly an untried roster can be.

Despite their 4-0 standings right now, these teams will finally meet up in week four, guaranteeing an end to at least one of their undefeated seasons. All things considered though, it’s looking more and more promising that these two teams will come out of league play with the number one and two seeds. It’s tough to predict, but I’m expecting to see PSG come out in the number one seed.

Promotion/Relegation

When Psyonix announced the Rocket League Rival Series, they also announced a Promotion/Relegation tournament which will take place the weekend after league play finish. The bottom two teams from each region of the RLCS will play a round-robin style tournament with the top two teams from the RLRS in their respective regions.

To no surprise, as mentioned above, the current bottom teams in NA and EU are Allegiance and Team Secret respectively. Both sitting at 0-5, it’s difficult to imagine either clinching a top six spot at this point. However, the real interest is around who will wind up in seventh for each region. Right now, that’s Renegades for NA and Team EnVy for EU.

Renegades

Although it’s somewhat surprising to see Renegades out of the top six currently, they were never expected to be a top two, or perhaps even top four, team. That being said, they aren’t in deep water just yet.

Renegades, 1-3, sit just behind Rogue, 2-2, on the NA leaderboard. These two teams will come together for a match in week four. On top of playing each other, Renegades are set to play Ghost and Rogue are set to play G2 Esports. If Renegades are able to secure a win against Rogue and Ghost, and Rogue falls to G2, then Renegades could easily move up to that number six spot. This isn’t an unlikely scenario, but Rogue certainly has other plans.

The current number seven seed across the pond faces some tougher odds than the Renegades.

Team EnVy

Team EnVy is the reigning world champion from season three, the roster playing then for Northern Gaming. One of their starters, Nicolai “Maestro” Bang, was unable to attend the world championships and was then on vacation for much of the off season. As a result, Team EnVy dropped Maestro and picked up Marius “gReazymeister” Ranheim, whom they’d spent much of the off season playing with.

playoffs

Image courtesy of @TeamEnVyUs Twitter account.

There were certainly doubts when the iconic Maestro and Remco “Remkoe” den Boer duo split up. That being said, there was also a lot of anticipation for the addition of gReazymeister, as Remkoe, Maestro and gReazy made up the starting Northern Gaming squad in season one of the RLCS.

However, those doubts and concerns are winning out over the anticipation. Team EnVy sits at 1-4. Although they aren’t currently too far behind Flipsid3 Tactics, who sit at 1-3, Team Envy is the one win that Flipsid3 has so far.

Considering Remkoe’s Twitter responses to their losses after week two, I imagine this squad won’t stick together if they’re relegated to the RLRS. Even they do come out on top of Relegation/Promotion tournament, I still expect to see a roster change, since teams are only required to maintain two-thirds of their starting roster to retain auto-qualification.

Be sure to keep checking back for more info on playoffs and the world championships as season four of the RLCS and RLRS draws closer to the end of league play.


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Febiven joins Clutch Gaming for 2018

Reflecting on mid-season EU LCS expectations for Summer Split

On June 1, 2017, the first day of the EU LCS Summer Split, I articulated my expectations heading into the second half of the year. There were a lot of roster changes in between splits, which led to speculation about what shake-ups might occur before Worlds. I called out four of the ten teams that I thought had the best chance to define the landscape of the EU LCS. These would be the variables that shape their groups, depending on how they adapt to their new rosters and build off of Spring Split.

Like every split past, some teams performed to expectations, others did not. Some played up to a higher level, while other teams further fell. The big picture of the EU LCS remained fairly similar to spring, with the same top six teams qualifying for playoffs. However, the intra-group dynamics and individual team results are fairly different compared to expectations coming into this split.

G2

G2 played to expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: G2 dominated Spring Split: they only lost one best-of-three series out of thirteen. The Samurai went on to finish second place at Riot’s Mid-Season Invitational. No other team in Europe looked to be on par with G2 before the tournament, but MSI certainly quieted any dissent. With no roster or staff changes to speak of, G2 looks to remain at the top of the ranks. Their eyes will be on the world stage.

Recency bias will paint G2 as the undoubted best team in Europe. They added another LCS victory to their trophy case. The Samurai will be EU’s first seed representative at Worlds. By the end of playoffs it was clear that no one in the EU LCS could challenge G2 in a best-of-five.

But Summer Split was rocky at the start. G2 was 3-3 after five weeks, beating Roccat, Ninjas in Pyjamas and Mysterious Monkeys, but losing to Fnatic, Misfits and Unicorns of Love. Their game score was 9-7, far from dominant. G2 sat in third place in Group A. It was a trying time for fans who were hoping that the G2 from MSI would be back in Europe.

They did eventually ramp up to finish second in Group A, push through quarter and semifinals and take the finals. Perkz returned closer to his MSI form earlier in the year. Mithy stepped up to become a primary initiator for the team. Trick began to rise towards his past level, as well. While all of these players had low points during summer, the G2 line-up did eventually reinvigorate to pre-split expectations. No one could have predicted their early fumbles after a dominant Spring Split, MSI and no major changes to the roster and staff.

Fnatic and Misfits

FNC played above expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: Fnatic ultimately beat Misfits for third place in playoffs, beating them 3-0 in the best-of-five. Fnatic picked up a new coach, Dylan Falco. Misfits released their jungler, Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon, and acquired Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian. The effects of these changes do not appear to be drastic on the surface. Fnatic should be able to retain second place within Group A, putting Misfits third.

Both of these teams surprised analysts, but in different ways. Fnatic and Misfits followed slightly different trajectories throughout the Summer Split. Fnatic tore through the European competition, finishing the regular season 11-2, but faltered in the playoff semifinals. They pressed on by winning third place against H2K, and went on to win the EU LCS Regional Qualifier to make it to Worlds.

Misfits had strong showings during the LCS regular season, but never fully convinced the fans that they were a top contender. They finished with a 1-6 record against the top six teams and a 5-1 record against the bottom four teams. However, Misfits shifted gears in playoffs, knocking out Unicorns of Love and Fnatic to make it into the finals. They are the surprise second seed to represent Europe at this year’s World Championship.

Fnatic’s surge is not entirely surprising, but it could not necessarily be predicted. This is the same roster that tied Roccat for third place in Group A just a few months ago. Bringing on Dylan Falco, previously of Team Envy in North America, was the only major change to the roster, which was seen as questionable, at best. The veterans of the team, Soaz, Rekkles and Jesiz, approached their top performance levels. The sophomores, Broxah and Caps, showed their own prowess at various points in the split. Most of all, the synergy among these members was much more apparent than any other team in the league.

Misfits’ growth could be a bit more conceivable coming into the Summer Split. They did make a name for themselves in their inaugural Spring Split by placing fourth. Time in the mid-season should allow this new squad to build synergies and come back to the LCS even stronger. However, by switching out KaKAO for Maxlore, it was unclear how this might affect things. The team did cite communication issues as the primary purpose for the replacement, but Maxlore’s actual skill as a jungler did not appear to be much better or worse than KaKAO. Would Misfits’ communication improve enough to offset the synergy and possible skill loss of trading at all?

In the end, the answer must be “yes.” Ignar and Maxlore did develop a strong jungle-support relationship in the playoffs. Alphari and PowerofEvil were better at using laning advantages to rotate, split-push and teleport around the map. Hans sama proved his worth as an AD carry against Samux and Rekkles, both All-Pro this split. Viewers will have to wait and see how this team holds up against international competition at Worlds. Hopefully, Misfits’ peak is yet to come.

Unicorns of Love

UOL played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: Following a similar trajectory to G2, UOL finished the regular season 11-2. They did not drop a series to other members of Group B. UOL went on to finish second in the playoffs. Seeing as the top teams in Group B did not have any major roster updates in the off-season, the Unicorns should easily maintain their top position.

“Should” was the key word above. Just like G2, Unicorns finished at the top of their group and made it to the finals in Spring Split. They did not make any roster changes in the mid-season. Intuitively, UOL would continue to build off of their strengths coming into Summer Split and continue to be a dominant team in Europe.

But that did not necessarily happen. UOL began the season 6-1, including victories over G2, H2K and Misfits. They finished the last four weeks 3-3, including defeats to Roccat, Fnatic and Vitality. This fall-out culminated in UOL’s 3-0 loss to Misfits in the quarterfinals, and their 3-2 loss to H2K in the gauntlet.

Most critics would point to faulty draft strategies, mid lane instability, and failure to adapt to meta changes as UOL’s biggest problems. Exileh fell from third team All-Pro to seventh on Caps’ mid lane tier list. His performance issues, combined with Xerxe’s curve ball jungle picks, caused UOL to have difficulties drafting to be competitive. Exileh’s reliance on Talon and Vladmir shoehorned Vizicsacsi into a lot of AP top laners, instead of Jarvan IV, Gnar or Renekton.

Summer Split is a huge disappointment for the Unicorns. They continue their legacy of missing Worlds by losing in the gauntlet. All of these players have shown excellence on the Rift, but the limited in-game strategies and individual inconsistencies make it hard for this team to reach the next level. It will be interesting to see what changes happen in the off-season for UOL, if any.

H2K

H2K played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: Although playoffs were not pleasant for H2K, their regular season went well. They finished 10-3, losing twice to UOL and once to G2. H2K had not lost to any other team until Fnatic beat them 3-0 in the quarterfinals of playoffs. Only earning 10 Championship Points, H2K will need to perform at a much higher level to re-qualify for the World Championships.

H2K played about where most people expected them this season. They did finish at the top of Group B, but that was more due to Unicorns faltering than H2K scaling higher skill-wise. Febiven looked more refined than Spring Split, but the bottom lane, Nuclear in particular, proved less dominant in the new meta. Odoamne and Jankos showed glimpses of their top-tier play, but could not exhibit such talent consistently against other top teams.

Playoffs was almost more heart-breaking this split for H2K. G2 skunked the squad 3-0 in the semifinals, sending H2K into the gauntlet. Once there, they made it all the way to the finals, but lost 2-3 to Fnatic to miss the World Championship. The expectation was for H2K to grow in the mid-season to stand a chance of making it to Worlds. Unfortunately for them, that did not happen.

Mysterious Monkeys

MM played to expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: While EU Challenger teams have historically performed well in their first split of LCS, this roster’s talent is questionable compared to the others. They even lost their starting jungler. The Monkeys come into the split with low expectations, most likely ending the regular season in fifth for Group B.

As expected, Mysterious Monkeys did not have a successful Summer Split. They lost 23 of 28 regular season games, finishing with a 2-11 record. Ninjas in Pyjamas and Roccat were the only two teams they were able to take series from. Even after signing Kikis and Amazing as a top-jungle duo in week four, the Monkeys struggled to make much of an impact on the EU LCS. They did finish last in Group B, which forced them into the promotion tournament.

Although it is unclear how the reported LCS restructuring will affect European teams in 2018, Mysterious Monkeys did get “relegated” in the promotion tournament. They lost 2-3 to Schalke 04 in round one, and 0-3 to Ninjas in Pyjamas in round two. That is the ultimate proof that a team is not ready for the professional league. The Monkeys’ organization will most likely rebuild the roster in the off-season and come back next year with more experience.

Splyce

SPY played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: It is unclear what Gevous will add to Splyce. It is possible that a new coaching style may help bring Splyce’s members up to a new level. The players know they can play up to the same level as Unicorns or H2K. The anticipated meta shifts will probably help Splyce, as well. Tankier junglers with fast clears and impactful kits suit ‎Jonas “Trashy” Andersen, and  Martin “Wunder” Hansen generally looks more influential with damage-dealing split-pushers.

Firstly, Splyce let Gevous go around two months ago, with two weeks of the regular season, playoffs and the gauntlet remaining. He has yet to be replaced. That being said, it is difficult as a viewer to understand how much of an effect a coach has on a team. How much of Splyce’s shortcomings can be blamed on a lack of chemistry between the coach and the players? It is hard to parse apart.

It should be safe to say that Splyce will be disappointed when reflecting on this split. The organization’s power level in the LCS has effectively plateaued this year. Of course, Splyce has not had the same falling off as Origen. Splyce is still a playoff team, and they are clearly a step above Roccat and Vitality. They took G2 to an edgy five games in quarterfinals of playoffs. However, it has felt like a long time since fans and analysts held Splyce to the same esteem as their LCS debut.

Nothing about Splyce’s gameplay is horrible. Each lane is able to hold its own in the laning phase. They are able to contest objectives and commit to rotations. They are able to team-fight in the mid and late game. Splyce just is not the best at any of these gameplay elements. H2K and Fnatic will almost always get larger early game leads and close the game before Splyce can team-fight them. Unicorns of Love and G2 will almost always beat Splyce in a beefy brawl. The Serpents are the undoing of bottom four teams, just like Misfits, but they have been unable to break through the upper echelon of Europe.

Like Unicorns of Love, it will be interesting to see what happens to this roster in the off-season. Trashy seemed to be the most up-and-down player on the roster, thriving on Gragas and Ivern, but struggling on Elise and Rek’Sai. Mikyx was overshadowed by more proactive support players, but Wunder, Sencux and Kobbe have proven they can carry when needed. Each of Splyce’s players are capable of playing up to the best of Europe, and this roster has played together for two years. The coaching position will obviously need to be filled with someone who can unlock the potential of this squad, or who can make needed adjustments for the future.

Team Vitality

VIT played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: This is another team that looks to benefit from the upcoming metagame. Top laner, Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet, looked best as a split-pusher when Vitality finished the regular season in third place in Spring 2016. A more anchored bottom lane and pressured top lane could open Charly “Djoko” Guillard up to have more options in the jungle. Vitality could look to move up in Group B if they mesh properly and other teams show weakness.

Bringing on Vander was supposed to shore up Vitality’s glaring weaknesses in the support position in Spring Split. It did not. Vitality looked roughly the same as last split. Nukeduck put the team on his back almost every game. Cabochard did look a bit more like his former self while laning, but Vitality’s bottom lane and jungler could not hold up against the rest of the LCS. To make matters worse, H2K, Unicorns of Love and Splyce all showed serious weaknesses this split, which Vitality was unable to punish. It is no coincidence that three members of Group A are attending Worlds as Europe’s representatives.

Vitality finished with a 12-17 game score. They only took one point off of a top six team (UOL), but won all series against MM, NiP and Roccat. Vitality will need to make serious changes coming into the LCS in 2018. They are simply not an exciting team. Replacing one player in one role does not seem to be sufficient. Looking at jungle and bottom lane is a start, but even top lane is not out of the question. A roster overhaul will be necessary before Vitality lives up to the expectations of European fans.

Roccat

ROC played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: Roccat will come into summer an underdog, yet again. But if they can build off of their gameplay, synergy, and growth from spring, then they can definitely take games off of other Group A teams. Ambrož “Phaxi” Hren, in particular, should be able to continue drafting lane bullies such as Gnar, Fizz, and Renekton, which he played well in the final weeks of last split.

Roccat’s spring momentum did not carry over much into Summer Split. This team continues its arc as the most inconsistent performer in the EU LCS. Roccat finished the Summer Split with 1-1 records against every team in Group A, the only one to do so. The Cats also lost every cross-group match-up, except Unicorns of Love. It is strange that the same team that is taking series off of Fnatic, G2 and UOL is also dropping series to NiP, MM and Vitality.

Pridestalker actually pressed himself into the EU LCS in his debut split. Generally starting ahead in CS and gold at 15 minutes, Roccat’s jungler was one of the only players happy to draft Warwick and Kha’Zix over tank junglers throughout the split. Pridestalker also participated in First Blood in 27.3 percent of games.

Phaxi and Betsy were highly inconsistent this summer. The solo laners could never seem to hold pressure in their lanes against other European teams. Meanwhile, Roccat’s bottom lane was solidly top five in the LCS (in my opinion, Wadid deserved recognition as an All-Pro support). Like Vitality, a roster overhaul will be necessary if Roccat wants to reach the next level of competition. While no one would necessarily expect Roccat to suddenly become a title contender, many analysts were probably hoping for more from them after their end-of-split streak in spring.

Ninjas in Pyjamas

NIP played above expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: While this team will most likely be the Spring 2017 Origen of Summer Split, it could also come together as an unexpected surprise. If Shook can manage to find synergy with Profit and Nagne, and HeaQ and Sprattel can grow together, then they could find upsets in Group A. This could also be Coach Nicholas “NicoThePico” Korsgård’s shot at redemption, as well. If they can all put aside their past failures, then they just may find success.

It’s safe to say Ninjas in Pyjamas was better this summer than Origen was in spring. They had a stiff early game, often gaining large gold leads by 15 minutes. NiP showed some signs of strength, such as their win over Fnatic in week 10. As expected, the Ninjas finished last in Group A with a 2-11 record. The team never seemed to synergize in the mid-late game, often missing opportunities to pressure turrets or neutral objectives. Sprattel and Shook were unable to engage or peel effectively for Nagne and HeaQ to carry, which made Profit’s split-push strategies fall flat.

At the end of the day, NiP was not ready for the LCS. This team did get relegated in the promotion tournament by losing to Giants and Schalke 04, but reported 2018 changes may make that insignificant. Like Mysterious Monkeys, NiP may return to the domestic leagues of the EU LCS. If so, they will need to take a hard look in the mirror and make adjustments. NicoThePico did not add much to his resume on this one, but, again, it is hard to tell how many of NiP’s issues were from the roster or the staff. 

Overall

MSF played above expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

While hardly any of the teams in the EU LCS played to pre-split expectations, the on-paper breakdown of the split was fairly usual. Splyce, Misfits, H2K, UOL, Fnatic and G2 qualified for playoffs. Mysterious Monkeys and NiP fought, and lost, in the promotion tournament. Vitality and Roccat were somewhere in the middle. G2 took home another domestic victory. Fnatic is attending Worlds. Rekkles was voted Europe’s MVP.

This Summer Split will be remembered as the last one with two groups and one professional-level league. If the reported changes for the EU LCS come through in 2018, then we will be looking at an entirely different ecosystem. It will be home to 24 total teams with 24 rosters and 24 different dynamics to keep up with. The lines between S tier, A tier, and so on will become more blurred, and placements between organizations should become more nuanced.

Expectations going into Spring Split next year will be so up in the air it may not even be worth writing about. So as we move into the 2017 World Championships, take some time to reflect on your experience with the EU LCS. As you cheer for G2, Misfits and Fnatic through the event, preserve these Summer Split memories so we can talk more in 2018 about the future of League of Legends in Europe.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

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week two

RLCS/RLRS week two recap: Europe

Season four of the Rocket League Championship Series and Rocket League Rival Series are heading into week three. After week two, here are the standings, upsets and what to look out for moving forward.

If you missed it, take a look at the week two recap for North America.

Standings

 RLCS

  • Method 4-0
  • Frontline 2-0
  • Gale Force eSports 2-2
  • Flipsid3 Tactics 1-1
  • Team EnVyUs 1-2
  • Mockit eSports 0-1
  • exceL eSports 0-1
  • Team Secret 0-3

 RLRS

  • The Leftovers 3-0
  • The Juicy Kids 3-1
  • ExRay 1-0
  • Inspiration 1-2
  • Endpoint 0-1
  • Supersonic Avengers 0-1
  • Most Wanted Esports 0-1
  • Golden Hawks 0-2

As with NA, EU has some clear leaders in both the RLCS and RLRS after only two weeks. Those leaders in the RLRS, to no surprise, are The Leftovers and The Juicy Kids.

Upsets

The Leftovers’ relegation to the RLRS, after losing to Team Secret (then Aeriality) in the loser’s bracket of the Play-Ins, was unexpected. The Leftovers’ founder, Nicolai “Snaski” Vistessen Andersen, promptly tweeted about showing everyone they don’t belong in the RLRS. Since then, they’ve shown why.

The real surprises after week two, heading into week three, come from the RLCS.

Method

This Method roster has been playing together since season three of the RLCS, playing then for Resonant Esports. The squad consists of Linus “al0t” Möllergren, Otto “Metsanauris” Kaipiainen and Joonas “Mognus” Salo.

week two

Image courtesy of @Methodgg Twitter account.

As Resonant, they came in sixth during League Play of RLCS season three and missed out on the World Championships after losing to Flipsid3 Tactics in the first round of playoffs. Despite missing LANs, the trio stuck together and moved from Resonant to Method.

As seen in throughout the history of the RLCS, trios and duos who stick together for multiple seasons often do better than many teams that formed for the season. Method is not only proving that so far this season, they’re showing that trios sticking together might be stronger than threes team with a long-time duo.

Method was hard at work during the off season, consistently competing in season one of Gfinity’s Elite Series and the European Gfinity Weekly Cups, and it has shown. They were easily accepted as a top six team coming into League Play but are quickly showing everyone that they have the potential to be much more than that.

Frontline

week two

Image courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net.

The other surprising team in EU right now is Frontline. While Frontline had a bye week in week two, they still sit at number two in the standings after week one.

Frontline consists of Dan “Bluey” Bluett, Thibault “Chausette45” Grzesiak and Victor “Ferra” Francal.

Ferra, a former member of The Leftovers during season three, knocked his old squad into the loser’s bracket during Play-Ins, securing their spot in the RLCS this season. After their performance during Play-Ins, many expected them to do well. So far they’re doing great.

In week one, Frontline took down two top-tier teams, Mockit eSports and Gale Force eSports. While Mockit lost their auto-qualification bid from season three, due to losing two-thirds of their starting line-up, they still managed to find their way into the RLCS. The real shock here, though, is the victory over Gale Force eSports.

Gale Force eSports was on fire this off season, despite seemingly having a second-place curse until NBC Universal Open. The star-studded Gale Force squad consists of Courant “Kaydop” Alexandre, Pierre “Turbopolsa” Silfver and Jos “ViolentPanda” van Meurs. They were considered the favorites to win EU regionals, and perhaps worlds, at the beginning of league play.

Coming off their bye week, Frontline is looking to continue their undefeated streak and match Method’s 4-0 standing. They are set to play Team Secret and Flipsid3 Tactics in week three. Frontline and Method face off in week four.

Moving into week 3

In NA, the two teams with only one series played so far, G2 Esports and Ghost Gaming, find themselves undefeated. That’s not the case in EU. Both Mockit eSports and exceL are 0-1 so far for the season. While they aren’t looking to continue an undefeated season, as with G2 and Ghost, they are looking to turn their seasons around.

Mockit

week two

Image courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

Mockit consists of Victor “Fairy Peak” Locquet, Sandro “FreaKii” Holzwarth and Philip “paschy90” Paschmeyer.

Mockit has been an ever-present force since the beginning of RLCS, despite constantly changing rosters during off seasons. While they are looking to turn their season around in week three, it certainly won’t be easy. Mockit is scheduled to play Flipsid3 Tactics and EnVyUs, both considered powerhouses of EU. Flipsid3 Tactics were the world champions of season two and EnVyUs, then Northern Gaming, the world champions of season three. The other major powerhouse being Gale Force eSports.

However, as the first two weeks have shown, anything can happen in EU Rocket League. Gale Force, Flipsid3 Tactics and EnVyUs were expected to be top three, in varying orders depending who you ask, coming into season four. However, they currently sit at three, four and five, respectively.

exceL

The exceL squad is my personal EU team to keep an eye on this season. Consisting of Niels “Nielskoek” Kok, Kasper “Pwndx” Nielsen and Hampus “Zensuz” Öberg, these players aren’t strangers to the RLCS.

ExceL has a somewhat easier turnaround week coming than Mockit. Although they are playing EnVyUs in their first match of the day, their second match is against Team Secret.

I expect the match against EnVyUs to be much closer than that of the one against Team Secret. Not to put Team Secret down, but it was a shock they made it into the RLCS this season, and they have yet to prove they belong, sitting at 0-3.

No matter what happens, EU has already flipped expectations on their heads. There’s no reason to assume they won’t do it again as the season moves forward.


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week two

RLCS/RLRS week two recap: North America

It’s time to take a look back at week two of season four of the Rocket League Championship Series and Rocket League Rival Series. From standings and upsets to the drama surrounding the rookie squad Naventic, let’s dive in and find out what’s been happening.

Standings

 

 RLCS

  • Cloud9 3-0
  • NRG Esports 3-1
  • Rogue 2-2
  • G2 Esports 1-0
  • Ghost Gaming 1-0
  • FlyQuest 0-2
  • Renegades 0-2
  • Allegiance 0-3

 RLRS

  • Fibeon 3-0
  • Naventic 2-0
  • Premature Superhero Cops 2-2
  • Radiance 1-0
  • Ambition Esports 0-1
  • Out Of Style 0-1
  • Incognito 0-1
  • Kinematics 0-3

There are some clear leaders in both the RLCS and RLRS at the moment. There’s still plenty of time for some of the lower ranked teams to make their way back, though. G2 Esports and Ghost Gaming, in the RLCS, have only played one series so far. The same goes for Radiance, Ambition Esports, Out Of Style and Incognito in the RLRS.

G2 Esports and Ghost Gaming

week two

Image courtesy of @G2esports Twitter account.

G2 Esports and Ghost Gaming are looking for a strong presence in the coming weeks of the RLCS. Since they’ve each only played one series, their opportunities to rise in the standings are still in front of them. However, they have some major hurdles ahead.

Coming up in week three, both G2 and Ghost are playing the only other undefeated team in NA RLCS, Cloud9. This means at least two of these three teams will no longer be undefeated after week three.

Both teams have a tough week ahead, playing the favorite, for many, to win the NA regional championships. On the other hand, they are also both playing teams that have yet to secure a win this season. All things considered though, I would say G2 has the tougher week three.

The other teams G2 and the Ghost are playing in week three are FlyQuest and Allegiance, respectively.

Flyquest

FlyQuest, despite sitting at 0-2, is a strong team consisting of some of the world’s best players. The lineup consists of Robert “Chrome” Gomez, Gabriel “CorruptedG” Vallozzi and Kais “Sadjunior” Zehri, all of which are RLCS veterans. FlyQuest lost their first series of the season by reverse sweep, in week two, to Rogue. They lost their second series, 3-0, to Cloud9. Although they were reverse swept and then swept in their first two match-ups of the season, they were playing two of the top rated teams North America. Allegiance, on the other hand, is not quite as star-studded as the FlyQuest squad.

Allegiance

Allegiance’s roster, formerly Emotion at the beginning of the season, consists of Braxton “Allushin,” Sebastian “Sea-Bass” Becerra and Ty “TyNotTyler” Helewa. Although Allegiance came barreling through the loser’s bracket of Play-Ins, they weren’t expected to make it to the RLCS.

week two

Image courtesy of halo.esportswikis.com

 

They upset Fibeon, a team expected to make it to the RLCS, during Play-Ins, relegating them to the RLRS and securing their own spot in the RLCS. They’ve yet to prove they belong in the RLCS, sitting at 0-3 so far. On top of this, they’ve only found themselves winning two total games throughout these three series.

So, it’s FlyQuest’s experience, coupled with Allegiance’s inexperience and inability to prove themselves so far that leaves G2 with a more difficult week three, in terms of climbing the leaderboard. Although FlyQuest has yet to prove themselves this season as well, each of the FlyQuest squad members proved they belong in the RLCS during previous seasons.

Upsets

As always, the RLCS is full of upsets so far, just take a look back at this article discussing Play-Ins and the beginning of season four. While Europe has been and continues to be the region of upsets, NA saw it’s first huge upset of season four League Play during week two.

In the second series of the day, NRG Esports faced off against Ghost Gaming. NRG won the previous three NA regional championships and continue to remain one of the top teams in the world, let alone in NA. Ghost Gaming took these goliaths down in a four-game series, however. NRG took the first game in the series but found themselves unable to secure any other wins against the Ghost squad.

Although this is Ghost’s only series so far, and NRG’s only loss so far, Ghost is certainly a team to keep an eye on during the rest of the season and potentially the future. This is no surprise, considering this squad formed for season four is full of RLCS veterans.

Naventic

A matter which is currently still in the process of unfolding…

After week two, Naventic sits just behind Fibeon in the standings at 2-0. Fibeon is currently 3-0. That being said, it’s likely viewers won’t be seeing this Naventic squad anymore during season four, or perhaps ever.

The team consists of Tanner “Dooble” Toupin, Adam “Kerupt” Stankovic and Jay “King Wizard” Kidston. As of Wednesday, Psyonix and the official esports coordinators for the RLCS have not made any official statements, but  here’s what we do know from Kerupt and Naventic’s Twitter accounts.

week two

Image courtesy of @Naventic Twitter account.

Naventic announced Tuesday, via Twitter, that “Kerupt, Dooble and KingWizard will no longer be representing #NaventicRL in the #RLRS Season 4 – more information will be released soon.”

With only this information, it may appear that the esports organization is simply dropping the squad. There’s a bit more, however.

Kerupt offered a bit more information on the topic in a tweet on Tuesday. He stated the team “had to either forfeit ro128 or risk using a sub not on the roster… chose the latter and played with atomic.”

Kerupt has since replied to Twitter users saying that a statement should be out soon regarding the situation.

Since the team used an illegal substitute during the Play-Ins, it’s likely they’ll be banned, for at least the rest of the season, for breaking the rules.

This could create an interesting rest of season for the teams in the RLRS. The Naventic squad was sitting undefeated in the number two spot of the standings. The top two teams from NA RLRS will play the bottom two teams from NA RLCS at the end of League Play in a promotion/relegation tournament. Not only that, the teams in third and fourth keep their spot in the RLRS for season five. Naventic potentially getting banned would, essentially, move everyone up a spot in the standings.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for week two recap of EU.


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Worlds Group A

Worlds Group C preview: The Group of Death™, or a song of Fire and Ice

There’s one every year, and this year it’s the fated Group C that has been dubbed by many as the Group of Death™. Honestly, it’s hard to debate this fact. You’ve got the top seed from Europe in G2, the tyrannical kings of Europe whose track record at international tournaments can be shaky but domestically unquestionable. You have the storied Samsung, managing again to upset KT and find themselves back at the World Stage, looking across from what is quietly becoming somewhat of a Worlds Rivalry in Royal Never Give Up. RNG, the golden darlings of the LPL, return once again to Worlds, bringing the ferocity that the LPL is known for in droves.

It’s a spicy group, but more interestingly it’s a clash of identities, between the cold Ice of a mid to late game team and the fire of early game aggression. G2, once known for their aggressive tendencies, have become quite the defensive team as of late, absorbing early game aggression with grace, to come out swinging in the late game to demolish teams. Samsung are of a similar philosophy, as was shown in their series against KT Rolster, the most aggressive early game team in the LCK. Samsung played like a defensive boxer, taking blow after blow, but ultimately doing so only to wear out their over eager opponents to close in for the knockout.

RNG have never had such ideas cross their mind. They’re aggression through and through, bringing the LPL’s almost trademarked style of taking fights wherever they are, whenever they are and however they are. But RNG is even known within this region of brawlers to be exceptionally brawly, and early aggression is one of their fortes. While the Group is most obviously dubbed the Group of Death™, it very well could be just as easily understood as a case study in style. Will the two defensive sides, absorbing blow after blow effectively, come out on top in a late game orchestra of macro play and team fights? Or can the scrappy, fast and furious Chinese squad of RNG bring that fire into the post-group stage? What could the possible addition of, as Joshua “Jatt” Leesman pointed out, the likes of a Cloud 9 thrown into the group do too?

 

G2 Esports: The tyrant kings of Europe

 

Another EU LCS Finals, another G2 win to make the fourpeat a reality. Courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr.

G2 are one of those teams that just look too damn good domestically. Sure, they’ve stumbled, but a four-peat at claiming the EU LCS title (something they’ve done since qualifying for the league) is something that has to be respected. And yet, commentators are almost always going to remember the G2-8 memes, even if G2 has shown to be much better now internationally at the most recent MSI, making it to the finals after a 3-1 victory over LPL side Team WE. They’re unquestionably the strongest team in Europe, but outside of it they’ve had some troubles.

But that is the past. Too often analysis has to focus on what was, and G2 look to prove that wrong in this group. Lady Luck was not on their side, as they’re facing some of the strongest opponents at the competition. Against Samsung, Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen will be tested against the likes of Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk who has been a dominant force in the LCK. Against RNG, Perkz matches up against the Little Tiger in Li “Xiaohu” Yuan Hao . While Europe is renown for its mid lane talent, Xiaohu, the LPL’s Summer Split MVP, has had the split of his life.

But G2 brings the talent where other teams may not. Sure, against RNG they may struggle in the mid lane, but they very well may not. Luka “PerkZ” Perković has had some great showings against the likes of Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok (getting a first blood quasi solo kill on God himself counts for something); and while Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao and Shi “Ming” Sen Ming are a great bot lane, the Zven/Mithy combo has been one of the most constant terrors in the bot side Europe has ever produced. G2 has recently overcome its international woes, but even then its group stage hasn’t been nearly as dominant as their Bo5’s. Whether G2 can come in strong in a one game showing will determine whether they can flex that adaptability.

Oddly enough, it’s the Korean top side that has questions for me going into this group. While Liu “mlxg” Shi Yu and Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong, one a snowballing gank bot and the other a defensive jungler, may not be the most formidable. Lee “CuVee” Seong-jin and Yan “LetMe” Jun Ze both match up stronger into Ki “Expect” Dae-Han for me. Equally, Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun has not been the strongest point for G2, and is something that can easily be abused if teams want to. Particularly against the likes of RNG this can be worrisome, as an early lead is something the Chinese side will be looking for. However, consistent play from the Korean top half can thwart the game plans of not just RNG’s early game, but Samsung’s mid to late game too.

 

The X Factor: Perkz and Zven/Mithy

The star mid laner Perkz is behind much of G2’s success domestically, but can he show up at Worlds? Courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr.

League of Legends has always required that laners be as strong as they can be for teams to win, but it’s particularly important in the primary carry position of the mid lane. Group C is no exception, with the star Mid of RNG being a constant threat, but also the ability for Perkz to show up against a slightly weaker Lee “Crown” Min-ho. Winning in lane doesn’t just put Perkz ahead, but also puts the opposing jungler on the back foot, making them decide whether to try and save their ailing mid laner with gank(s), something Perkz has been adept at avoiding, or to try and help other lanes get ahead. But that pressure that Perkz can create on the map will only be a good thing, and the European phenom will need to step up against some of his toughest competition yet.

Zven and Mithy also are key factors for this team’s success, not just because they too occupy a huge carry position, but because they can nullify the strongest parts of both of their opposing teams, in Ruler/Jo “Core JJ” Yong-in and Uzi/Ming. Winning lane, or even being ahead in lane, has important macro advantages too, something that G2 can take advantage of over the more pensive Samsung or the rash RNG. An early lead, or at least a showing of good form, can either set themselves up for the late game, or put a halt to the aggression. Either way, Zven and Mithy need to bring their A game for G2 to stand a chance making it out of groups.

 

Samsung Galaxy: The defensive, pensive boxers of the LCK

 

What was tragedy for the KT Rolster organization and their fans (those poor, poor fans…) is a happy repeat for the Samsung organization, qualifying for the second year through the gauntlet format. The roster, largely unchanged from last years iteration, bring a sense of stability to the LCK representatives this year. And as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The Samsung organization is one of the few teams to know the sweet taste of winning at Worlds. Can they make a return to the Finals this time around? Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Samsung occupy a unique space within Group C. They’re the Korean team, so a lot of expectations of them advancing from the group exist. But they’re also stylistically very different from the real wildcard of the group in RNG. They also match up in similar style to G2, and ultimately many have them favored as the stronger outfit in that regard.

But a weak mid laner is not the position you want to be lacking in this group, against the likes of Perkz and Xiaohu. The boon of at least a strong bot lane is good, but could very well be nullified again in a group that boasts the likes of Zven/Mithy and Uzi/Ming. Cuvee is notorious in the top lane, and would be a strong point against G2 and probably RNG, but in a tank meta that may not mean as much. Samsung will need to be the better defensive team, but also be able to react and reply in kind to the aggression of RNG to top the group. Even if first place isn’t secured for the Korean team, a second place finish is just as good, and highly likely.

For Samsung it’s about shoring up their weaker flanks and sticking to their own stylistic way of playing the game. A Bo1 format does not agree the most with a team that tends to be more defensive, as it does not allow for the adjustments in between games. But it’s not the biggest hurdle for the team. This is an experienced roster, and while they seem the ‘I’m you but stronger’ version of G2, they also have a strong win condition against the early game style of RNG. If they play their cards right, the top seed of the group is a big possibility, so long as they can prove to be the stronger mid-late game than G2 and be able to rebuke any of RNG’s aggression.

 

The X Factor: Cuvee and Ruler/CoreJJ

Cuvee may the most underrated top laner going into Worlds, with a strong solo performance. Can he show up in the Group of Death for Samsung? Courtesy of leaguepedia.

While not as hyped as Kim “Khan” Dong-ha is, nor say the Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo of Spring Split, Cuvee is still a terror in the top lane for Samsung. He’s a solid player and can make a great advantage for the team in a group that doesn’t boast the most star studded of top laners. A stronger Cuvee can draw pressure away from Crown and Ruler/CoreJJ, allowing the carries to get ahead, or at least make the opposing junglers dance to Samsung’s beat.

Interestingly enough, he leads all top laners currently at Worlds in solo kills (over Khan). That says something, and Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong may have to be careful of his meme “top die” being handed over to a new top laner. A top laner, particularly a tanky one, in the late game can be a scary thing, particularly for a team so adept at team fighting. Cuvee’s role may not be the most glamorous, but it’s imperative.

You can’t talk about Samsung without talking about the Ruler/CoreJJ bot lane. Ruler has had an amazing split in the Summer, and while Crown hasn’t looked as strong, Ruler and CoreJJ have stepped up in a lot of ways. With the highest damage percent out of any ADC from the LCK in the Summer, not only is Ruler doing work for his team, he’s going to need to in this group. This is a group with Zven and Uzi, who are both formidable ADCs not just in their laning phases, but in their abilities to continually dish out damage effectively and safely. With a strong side lane pressure, Crown is also opened up to bounce back and create some pressure of his own in the mid lane. Keeping ahead, or at least even, favors Samsung heavily into any of their known match ups.

 

Royal Never Give Up: The Little Tiger and the puppy

While under many names, the Royal Club/Royal Never Give Up organization has been a staple of the LPL region. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

For fans that have been in the scene for awhile, Uzi, and the ‘Royal [insert whatever]’ organization are old names, dating back to the Season 3 Worlds. They’ve bounced back from a relatively irrelevant few years (being dropped down to the LSPL league for a second, before picking up a new roster in the LPL) into a monster in the LPL region, and are one of the few teams to consist of only Chinese players. International fans will recognize Uzi and possibly MLXG, but that shouldn’t distract from the mid lane Xiaohu, or the Little Tiger, who has become much of a talking piece for analysts when discussing RNG. With a 70% First Blood rate in the LPL, the highest in the league, they’re a team that puts their foot on the pedal from the first minute of the game.

RNG play a hard and fast game, with MLXG ganking often for his laners, often sacrificing his own farming abilities to do so, to get them ahead. And that makes sense, when you’ve got the likes of Letme, a carry top laner in his own right, Xiaohu, the MVP of the Summer Split, and the duo of Uzi and Ming. There’s a lot of raw talent on the roster, and MLXG is the tinder to ignite those fires. Or to not. He can be the wild card of the team, and whether he performs at his best or his worst often can be the factor that swings games.

If it’s not Uzi and Ming making plays and getting ahead in the bot lane, then MLXG can look to the mid, particularly against a weaker Crown on Samsung Galaxy, for Xiaohu. Or maybe focusing towards Letme against the likes of Expect might be best. MLXG and RNG enter the group stage like a football team. MLXG, the quarterback, has an array of options and weapons to choose from to get the team ahead. It all matters on making the right choices against the right team at the right time. If they can pull that off and close games off of early leads, RNG look poised to top the group. If they struggle with that, or worse, find themselves behind early, RNG are in a much shakier position.

 

The X Factor: Xiaohu and MLXG

Praised in one stroke for his unique jungling, criticized in the next for questionable decision making, MLXG is a key part to any of RNG’s games, for better or for worse.

The first kind of goes without saying, Xiaohu is the scariest carry currently on the RNG roster, and one of the best mid laners at the tournament. But, more interestingly, him performing well has two meanings in each match up. Against G2, he can nullify one of G2’s greatest weapons in Perkz, who has been a star for the European side. Against Samsung, he can cause so much pressure by taking advantage of a weaker Crown, possibly not just getting himself ahead, but opening up other lanes for MLXG to gank.

There’s a lot of RNG’s hopes being rested on the Little Tiger’s shoulders, but if he can pull it off, RNG look to be a titan in an extremely hard group. A first place in the toughest group in the group stage wouldn’t just be a confidence boost for the whole team, but a statement against future foes to take RNG seriously.

MLXG is the other key factor in RNG’s success, or in their failure. Known for getting his laners ahead, but equally for making some… interesting decisions for a jungler, RNG is going to need him to be as strong as possible. RNG bring a strong set of laners for MLXG to choose from, so he’s not stuck ganking for any particular lane to get a star ahead. Rather, each can stand on their own against their lane opponents, and it’ll be up to the decision making on who to get ahead in each game.

If it’s MLXG at his finest, this will be a scary opponent for G2 and Samsung to face up. If it isn’t, and early game miscalls allow the late game teams to stall out that early stage, it can mean the demise of RNG. Consistency may not be RNG’s strongest suite, but with the explosive gameplay and team-fighting, it may not have to be, and MLXG exemplifies that the strongest.

 

The overall story lines: A clash of styles and laners

 

The biggest feature of this group is the two contrasting ways of playing League of Legends. There’s the slower, methodical, late game focused approach that both G2 and Samsung are fond of. On the other side, you have the intense, in your face fiery style of RNG, looking to fight early and often. The question will be, which style is the stronger one come Worlds? Samsung look poised to deal with RNG’s aggression fairly well, having had to take down KT to find themselves at Worlds. G2, on the other hand, may not be as equipped for the fight-fight-fight style of the LPL. Or, possibly, the meta (noting that no patches will be dropped and applicable for the competitive scene) may shift to favor one style over the other. It’s hard to say, but it’s rare for a group to be so crystallized in a contrast of styles.

The other aspect, and this could be argued of every group some might say, is the clash of laners themselves. The three teams locked in for Group C bring some of the strongest players in each position in the tournament, at least individually. Whether it’s the mid lane battle of Perkz/Xiaohu/Crown, or the bot lane of Zven and Mithy/ Uzi and Ming/ Ruler and CoreJJ, sparks will fly in any of these lanes. Even the top lane is no slouch, with the likes of Cuvee and Letme duking it out, while Expect may bring some unexpected (hah) surprises to the tournament. The more defensive teams need to deflect much of RNG’s aggression, and RNG in turn need to make the aggression ‘stick’ to take an advantage in the group. The laning phase will surely be a sight to behold for Group C.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Courtesy of LoL Esports.

season four

Season four begins

We’re just days away from season four of the Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) and inaugural Rocket League Rival Series (RLRS). It’s finally time to take a look at this season’s competitors, with Play-Ins taking place last weekend.

season four

Image courtesy of steamcardexchange.net

Despite upsets already happening, Friday marks the beginning of a long road to the world finals for these players.

Season four will take place over the next six weeks, with Oceania’s league play offset from North America and Europe by a week. Meaning OCE’s fifth week of league play will take place on week six, while NA and EU are in regional championships. Two weeks after this, OCE’s regional championship will take place alongside NA and EU’s promotion/relegation tournament.

Teams

With the addition of the RLRS, there are 40 teams competing in season four. 16 from NA, 16 from EU and eight from OCE. Here’s a look at the season four teams, with substitute players in parenthesis.

NA

RLCS

  • Cloud9: Torment / SquishyMuffinz / Gimmick / (Napp)
  • Emotion: Allushin / Sea-bass / TyNotTyler / (Blaze)
  • Flyquest: CorruptedG / Chrome / Sadjunior / (Pepiope)
  • G2 Esports: Kronovi / Rizzo / Jknaps / (Turtle)
  • Ghost: Klassux / Lethamyr / Zanejackey / (blueze)
  • NRG: Fireburner / Jacob / GarretG / (DudeWithTheNose)
  • Renegades: Dappur / Moses / Timi / (Mijo)
  • Rogue: Matt / Sizz / Insolences / (Red)

 RLRS

  • Ambition Esports: PrimeThunder / Wonder / Air / (sQuillis)
  • Cypher: Dooble / Kerupt / King Wizard / (Akenro)
  • Fibeon: Chicago / Zolhay / Hato / (Raze)
  • Incognito: GoRocksGo / Tuster / JWismont / (Nickymac18)
  • Out of Style: Lachinio / JSTN / EPICJonny
  • Premature Superhero Cops: Gambit / Prem / Genocop / (Donnie)
  • SetToDestroyX: Lemonpuppy / Halcyon / Memory / (Loomin)
  • Wildcard Gaming: Laz / Nomad / Pepper / (Astroh)

EU

 RLCS

  • Aeriality: Continuum / Tylacto / FlamE / (Ertunc)
  • EnVyUs: Remkoe / Deevo / gReazymeister / (Mout)
  • exceL: Nielskoek / Pwndx / Zensuz / (Masterio)
  • Flipsid3 Tactics: Markydooda / Kuxir97 / Miztik / (JHZER)
  • frontline: Ferra / Bluey / Chausette45 / (Yukeo)
  • Gale Force eSports: ViolentPanda / Turbopolsa / Kaydop / (Dogu)
  • Method: al0t / Metsanauris / Mognus / (Sniper)
  • Mockit eSports: paschy90 / Fairy Peak! / FreaKii / (PetricK)

 RLRS

  • BoonkGang: Skyline / Mummisnow / EyeIgnite / (Tizz)
  • eHawkerz: Kontrol / GCR710 / dani_ana
  • Endpoint: Tinny / Cheerio / Shakahron / (Pulsar)
  • Inspiration: Oscillon / Sebadam / Lauty / (Flakes)
  • Soul Gaming: Dadooh / SkieS / ghostfire / (Wolfsonthemoon)
  • Supersonic Avengers: PauliepaulNL / ELMP / Shikuni / (kilEak)
  • The Juicy Kids: Killerno7 / stocki / Frag / (coKaaa)
  • The Leftovers: Snaski / Maestro / Sikii / (Danzhizzle)

OCE

  • Avant Gaming: Cyrix / Ellusive / Siki / (Requiem)
    season four

    Image courtesy of rocketleague.com

  • Chiefs ESC: Torsos / Drippay / Jake / (Enigma)
  • Conspiracy Esports: Hectic / Slurpee / Walcott
  • JAM Gaming: Montyconnor / Express / Shadey / (Bango)
  • Legacy Esports: Soma / Zen / Plitz
  • Noizee Isn’t Toxic: Noizee / Outlast / Zest / (Reggles)
  • Pale Horse Esports: CJCJ / Kamii / Kia
  • Scylla Esports: Dumbo / SnarfSnarf / Addzey

Ultimately, all of these teams are aiming for a chance to take the stage at the world championships. However, the road to the world championships is longer for some of these teams than others. Any team in the RLRS hoping to make it into the world championships will have to wait until season five.

Future seasons

In order for any of the teams in the RLRS to have a shot at the world championships in season five, they’ll have to come in the top two for their region in season four. Even then, they aren’t guaranteed a spot in the RLCS. At the end of season four, the top two teams in each region of the RLRS will take part in a double-elimination, best-of-seven tournament along with the bottom two teams in region of the RLCS. This tournament will determine whether a team drops into the lower RLRS division, rises up into the higher RLCS division, or simply stays in their current division.

The introduction of this promotion/relegation system raises the stakes for these players. They can no longer simply regroup or try a new team after a cold season and make into the RLCS next time around. Any new team hoping to compete in the RLCS must first fight their way to the top of the RLRS.

Upsets

season four

Image courtesy of rocketleague.com

Despite league play not beginning until Friday, season four has already seen several upsets. Many expected to see Fibeon Esports get a shot at the RLCS in season four. However, they were relegated to the RLRS after losing 3-0 to Emotion in the loser’s bracket of Play-Ins.

Perhaps the biggest upset so far, though, is the relegation of The Leftovers to the RLRS. After season three, The Leftovers gave Victor “Ferra” Francal the boot, opting to replace him with veteran Nicolai “Maestro” Bang. Ferra created his own team and knocked The Leftovers into the loser’s bracket with a clean sweep.

In the loser’s bracket, The Leftovers were relegated to the RLRS after losing by another clean sweep. This time to Aeriality. Aeriality was, perhaps, expected to make it into the RLRS. However, the clean sweep over the veterans in The Leftovers sent them into RLCS, causing perhaps the biggest upset of season four so far.

What next?

With teams relegated and league play about to begin, the real question is whether or not these upset teams can hold their own against the veteran teams they’ll be up against in the RLCS. Will the upsets continue, or will they find themselves being relegated down to the RLRS for season five?

Team captain of The Leftovers, Nicolai “Snaski” Vistesen Andersen believes his team will be promoted to the RLCS for season five, as he tweeted “Guess we gotta go through RLRS to show everyone that we definitely don’t belong there.” There’s a strong possibility that this veteran team will do just that, coming in the top two of the RLRS and winning their way into the RLCS during the promotion/relegation tournament. That being said, in order for The Leftovers to be promoted, someone has to be relegated down.

With these upset teams already shattering expectations, it’s surely possible they will continue to do so during league play. Hence the term upset. Yet, I fully expect to see Emotion from NA and Aeriality from EU at least competing in their respective promotion/relegation tournaments, if not being relegated down to the RLRS for season five.


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