fnatic path

Fnatic: A path of fire

Fnatic (FNC) rewrote Worlds history this week, becoming the first team to ever advance to quarterfinals with an 0-4 start. How did FNC manage this miracle run? Certainly, the path to quarters was no easy feat for the European squad. From criticism in Play-In’s to breakdowns in group stage, Fnatic endured it all. Stepping into week two, FNC looked broken. However, the boys in orange had other plans in mind.

First sparks at Play-In’s

fnatic

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Coming in as the EU LCS third seed, Fnatic’s Worlds 2017 journey started early. With Riot’s newly introduced pre-Worlds Play-In stage, major region third seeds had to compete against emerging-region teams gunning for their seats. Fnatic drew into Group C alongside the GPL’s Young Generation (YG) and the LAS’s Kaos Latin Gamers (KLG). Initial reactions after the group draw pinned Fnatic as easy favorites coming into the week.
Although FNC claimed first in Group C, several questions circled around the squad’s performance. Doubts flared after Young Generation managed to topple Fnatic, securing second in their group. Suddenly, critics referenced FNC’s poor showing at Rift Rivals earlier this season. Others attacked Fnatic for losing to the seemingly weaker Misfits Gaming (MSF) in the EU LCS playoffs. Fans and analysts began to raise preemptive red flags.

Fnatic promptly shut those critics down in the Play-In’s Knockout stage. After securing a clean 3-0 victory over Hong Kong Attitude (HKA) from the LMS, Fnatic calmly advanced to the Worlds main event. There, Korean titans Longzhu Gaming (LZ) waited for them alongside North America’s Immortals (IMT) and Garena’s GIGABYTE Marines (GAM).

Week One: Fnatic reduced to ashes

fnatic

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Fnatic kicked off their Worlds 2017 group stage with an explosive standoff against the GIGABYTE Marines. A blitz strategy by the Marines shoved FNC on the back-foot. Blindsided, Fnatic opened their group stage with a harsh defeat. One player in particular, FNC’s top-laner Paul “sOAZ” Boyer, struggled massively against the Marine’s aggressive lane-swap strategy. sOAZ suffered through the first six minutes of the match, unable to kill a single minion.

The schedule was not getting any easier. Fnatic loaded in against North America’s second seed, Immortals. FNC’s AD-carry Martin “Rekkles” Larsson came out guns blazing. With “Twitch” as his champion of choice, Rekkles infiltrated Immortals’ backline, mowing down enemies with wild abandon. However, living true to his name, Rekkles committed a fatal mistake that would cost his team the game.

Spotting IMT’s mid-laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park seemingly unaware, Rekkles unloaded onto his target. Seeing red, the FNC AD-carry tunneled onto this single kill that could earn his team an all crucial advantage to secure the win. The plan blew up in his face. Rekkles expended his “Flash”, desperate to secure the kill, only to be met by a full Immortals squad gunning straight for him. Fnatic scrambled to save their carry, but the pieces fell apart. Immortals tore through Rekkles‘ health bar and sealed the game.

Following this crushing loss, anxiety crept into the Fnatic camp at 0-2, but the week was not over. Korea’s first seed, Longzhu Gaming, loomed like a tidal wave over FNC. It was sink-or-swim. LZ’s top-laner, Dongha “Khan” Kim, rallied the crowd after locking in “Nasus”, a pick that had not seen competitive play for years. The next twenty minutes would be a systematic dismantling of Fnatic’s team composition. sOAZ again struggled to gain any ground against his disadvantageous match-up. Fnatic were helpless to stop Khan‘s massive “Nasus” from ripping through their lines. FNC ended their first week 0-3, a score that no team in League history had ever overcome to secure a quarterfinals position.

Week Two: Marching through the flames

fnatic

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

After their bitter first week, Fnatic showed signs of internal problems. sOAZ took to Twitter, expressing his frustration toward being abandoned on “dog-champs” (champions, mainly tanks, whose primary goal is to supplement the team at all costs). Leaks and talks of the team’s turmoil spread like a social media wildfire. Suddenly, attention zeroed in on the burning European squad. Was this the end? How could FNC recover internally, much less on-stage?

Despite the eyes pointed at them, Fnatic stepped into week two of group stage determined. Their fate would be decided in a single day of games. The odds were almost insurmountably stacked against them. To throw salt on their wounds, Fnatic began their second week against Longzhu. Analysts feared another 20-minute rampage that would knock the European squad off their feet for good. FNC loaded into the game with clear heads.
Fnatic fought for 30 minutes through a close early-game. After several teamfight outplays from Longzhu, the Korean giants subjugated FNC to 0-4. If Fnatic’s goose was cooked at 0-3, now it was burned to a crisp. FNC recollected. There was still a sliver of a chance that they could change history. And so, they set out to face Immortals.
FNC’s jungler Mads “Broxah” Brock-Perdersen pressured Immortals early on his signature “Rek’Sai”. The game balanced on a knife’s edge for the first 35 minutes. Then, in a play eerily similar to Rekkles‘ previous falter against IMT, Immortals ADC Li Yu “Cody Sun” Sun flashed straight into four members of Fnatic. FNC seizing the opportunity, push through IMT’s entire base on that single mistake. Finally, with a win on the board, Rekkles sent Cody Sun his regards.

Don’t call it a comeback

fnatic

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

As FNC gained momentum, Immortals suffered three consecutive losses. This set in place, the necessary conditions for (dare I say it) a monumental comeback. Now, the onus was on FNC to overcome their previous performance against the GIGABYTE Marines. Having already seen two games from the Marines that day, FNC entered their match with unwavering focus. After GAM’s top-laner, Minh Nhut “Archie” Tran, locked in “Urgot,” FNC’s gameplan was clear.

GIGABYTE’s composition lacked engage, unlike earlier against IMT. Fnatic recognized this weakness, attacking the biggest potential threat on GAM: Archie‘s “Urgot”. Broxah spent this game eliminating Archie‘s pressure through repeated ganks. FNC dominated the GIGABYTE Marines and claimed vengeance over the squad that handed them their first Worlds defeat. Suddenly, Group B had a three-way tie. Fnatic held all the momentum heading into tiebreakers against Immortals and GIGABYTE.

FNC stepped into the first game against Immortals by locking in an unconventional “Malzahar” pick for their mid-laner Rasmus “Caps” Winther. IMT did not know how to react to the single-target pressure from Caps‘s “Malzahar.” And like a fire razing the plains, Fnatic burned through IMT in a 27-minute stomp. FNC stood one game away from rewriting history and once again, the GIGABYTE Marines stood in their way. Unlike their previous performances, GIGABYTE opted for a standard composition, hoping to outplay Fnatic without any hidden antics. FNC tasted victory and sOAZ set his sights on quarters. In a draining 43-minute match, sOAZ dominated on “Gnar,” earning himself eight kills and pushing his team into the history books.

Fnatic’s second week of Worlds 2017 is a testament to the resiliency of one of esport’s most storied franchises. So many times in FNC history, when the cards were down and the odds against them, Fnatic rose above. Now, the European squad stands to represent their home looking onto quarterfinals. After staging the biggest upset in Worlds history, can Fnatic continue feeding this fire? Is quarters as far as FNC goes? Or can Fnatic continue forging the path?

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Gigabyte Marines: Orchestrated chaos

GIGABYTE Marines (GAM) debuted on the international stage at the League of Legends 2017 Mid-Season Invitational. Their blitzkrieg playstyle and unconventional strategies surprised several major-region teams, earning international recognition overnight. After securing a top-six finish, the Marines dominated their region, the Garena Premier League (GPL), and charged toward Worlds.

The Marines drew into Group B at Worlds 2017, along regional powerhouses: Longzhu Gaming (LZ), Immortals (IMT) and Fnatic (FNC). Their notoriety on the international stage meant teams and analysts could not write them off as another ‘wildcard’ team. After week one of the Worlds Group Stage, GAM sit at third place in their group, with a 1-2 match record. How did GIGABYTE find initial success? And can they surge into week two to capture a spot in quarterfinals?

GIGABYTE Marines evoke chaos style

gigabyte marines

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Heading into their first match at Worlds 2017, questions circled around how GIGABYTE Marines would size up against European powerhouse Fnatic. Determined to make a statement at their Worlds debut, GIGABYTE defied the meta. After locking in an unexpected “Nocturne” for their star jungler, Duy Khanh “Levi” Do, GAM took Fnatic for a spin.

Coming into the game, GAM transitioned their AD-carry and Support topside. Meanwhile, their top-laner Minh Nhut “Archie” Tran sacrificed his early levels to accelerate Levi‘s experience advantage. When Archie showed himself bottom, Fnatic responded appropriately, but fumbled the execution. FNC stacked four members onto Archie‘s Galio in a bottom dive. However, this left GIGABYTE’s duo free to rush the opposing top-outer tower. FNC failed to completely punish the lane-swap. Instead, they returned to their standard lane setup while Levi power-farmed his jungle.

Then, at 5:04, Levi broke a record, being the fastest player in Worlds history to unlock his ultimate. Archie‘s early sacrifice set his jungler up for monumental success. And Levi sprung to action. Not twenty seconds after hitting level six, Levi used his ultimate, “Paranoia” straight down bottom lane. Caught in a massive level mismatch, FNC’s support Jesse “Jesiz” Le dropped while his teammates scrambled to respond. What began as a surprise 2-on-2, became FNC committing four members to the fight. Despite the numbers, Levi secured three kills and GIGABYTE set the pace to ‘chaos’.

After a 24-minute bloodbath, GIGABYTE emerged victorious. The air was electric as casters and fans roared behind the Marines’ explosive win. Not only did GAM dominate their European opponents, they made a definitive statement on the metagame. Levi, in an interview with Worlds host Eefje “Sjokz” Depoortere, promised to bring even more exciting strategies against Longzhu and Immortals.

The Marines hit a brick wall

gigabyte marines

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Heading into day two of the Worlds group stage, GAM sat across from Longzhu Gaming, tournament favorites and Korea’s prize first seed. What unforeseen strategy did the Marines have planned to challenge the Korean powerhouse? GAM head coach Nguyen Duy Thanh “Tinikun” Doung reached deep into his playbook for the upcoming match.

The draft between GAM and LZ began surprisingly safe, until Tinikun made the call to lock in “Mordekaiser” for Archie. GIGABYTE plunge deeper into the rabbit hole, rotating their AD-carry Vu Long “Noway” Nguyen mid-lane and placing their mid-laner Van Cuong “Optimus” Tran topside. Few knew what to expect out of GAM’s questionable composition, but Longzhu had a definitive game-plan coming into the match.

Longzhu invaded as five into GAM’s blue jungle quadrant, warding all possible paths to bottom lane. This gave Longzhu information on GIGABYTE’s lane assignments and a glimpse into the GAM strategy. By pivoting Archie and support Thien Nhan “Nevan” Phuong to the bottom lane, the Marines delivered the duo to their deaths. Longhzu, spotting this weakness, executed a clean four-man dive to secure first blood. After dropping to the early dive, Archie commits a crucial mistake, using his “Teleport” bottom, only to be dove again. This poor call set the GAM top-laner so far behind, he never truly recovered.

With their bottom duo limping through the early-game, step one of GIGABYTE’s grandiose strategy crumbled. Suddenly, the game became a steamroll for Longzhu. Archie was largely ineffective on the “Mordekaiser” pick and GAM struggled to trade objectives effectively during the mid-game. Without the early minutes of the game going according to plan, GIGABYTE Marines fell apart and could not seem to pick up the pieces.

Do the GIGABYTE Marines abandon ship?

gigabyte marines

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

After their crushing defeat at the hands of Longzhu Gaming, GAM look onto their third match against North America’s second seed, Immortals. Questions surrounded the Marines as analysts and teams dissected their previous matches. Without precise early execution, GIGABYTE could not seem to regain control of their game. It was clear. Teams that recognized GAM’s early objectives could capitalize on those weaknesses. No doubt Immortals prepared for GAM’s signature lane-swaps, but would the Marines shift to another strategy instead?

GIGABYTE Marines had a particularly weak draft, handing over the “Xayah” and “Rakan” duo to the Immortals bot-lane. Perhaps worse, rather than executing a unique strategy, GAM opted into standard lanes. Aside from an aggressive “Kayn” lock-in for Levi and Nevan running “Heal” and “Ignite” for his summoner spells, the GAM draft was largely underwhelming. Unlike their previous games, GIGABYTE did not have an explosive start. Without securing an early lead, the Marines struggle to play from behind. Once Immortals built up their advantages, IMT pushed those leads into a clean victory.

This third game looked grim for the GIGABYTE Marines. Rather than playing to their unique styles, they revealed glaring weaknesses in their standard compositions and ability to play at a disadvantage. Now, several questions bubble to the surface. Did the defeat from Longzhu shake team morale? Will GIGABYTE have the confidence to execute their unique strategies? Fans can speculate, but it is up to team captain Levi and coach Tinikun to steady their ship. As week two of the Worlds 2017 group stage barrels forward, the GIGABYTE Marines must recollect and march on.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Fnatic qualified for Group Stage from Play-in Stage

Fnatic’s possibilities for the rest of Worlds

The third seed from the EU LCS, Fnatic, has successfully qualified for the Group Stage of the 2017 League of Legends World Championship. By placing first in their play-in group and defeating Hong Kong Attitude in the play-in knockout, Fnatic enters into the main event. They join G2 and Misfits as Europe’s international representatives.

Play-In Stage Recap

Fnatic beat HKA in play-ins knockout

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Fnatic’s play-in stage was not perfect. They dropped a best-of-one to Young Generation, second seed from the GPL. Young Generation was also able to build a 2,500 gold lead in their first match-up, although Fnatic did ultimately win.

Against Kaos Latin Gamers, representatives of LAS, Fnatic handily won both games. The European squad was able to accrue near-10,000 gold leads twice in less than 26 minutes. Fnatic fans should be proud of these performances.

Moving on to face Hong Kong Attitude, Fnatic showed a bit of both worlds. In game one, HKA held the advantage for about 29 minutes. Fnatic turned things around by scoring a pick-off of Godkwai and turning it into a Baron. Then, in Fnatic fashion, they continued pressing through the next five minutes to close the game.

Whether due to HKA tilting or Fnatic adaptation, the next two games stayed favorable for Fnatic all the way through. While Broxah and Soaz remained on tanky disruptors throughout the series, Fnatic’s bottom lane showed some variation. Rekkles and Jesiz executed Xayah-Janna, Xayah-Karma, and Sivir-Rakan. Caps excelled over the series on Cassiopeia and Taliyah. This combination, Rekkles and Caps as scaling AD and AP carries, Broxah and Soaz on hefty initiators and Jesiz abusing Ardent Censer supports, seems to be Fnatic’s sweet spot.

Fnatic’s best bet is to continue drafting towards these compositions. Putting Soaz on Cho’Gath or carries, such as Rumble, Jarvan IV, etc. is not ideal. Broxah has historically performed well on Elise, but when Fnatic does not close the game in less than 40 minutes the pick becomes useless. Jesiz is in a similar boat, where he can perform on Braum, Thresh, and even Camille support, but the meta strongly favors enchanter supports who can abuse the strength of Ardent Censer.

Possibility #1: Group A

Group A consists of EDG, SKT, and AHQ

Image from RiftHerald.com

Assuming Cloud9, Fnatic, Fenerbahce, and Team WE qualify for the Group Stage, Fnatic has two widely varying paths. In one scenario, Fnatic is drafted into Group A with EDG, SKT and AHQ. If that happens, then Fnatic might as well consider their 2017 Worlds run over, because the competition in this group is fierce.

AHQ

AHQ is most likely a reasonable opponent for Fnatic, based on their perceived power level over HKA as the LMS’ second seed. The LMS squad has been to the World Championship on multiple occasions, and they have essentially maintained their entire roster from last year. Westdoor is acting as the mid lane substitute, with Chawy on the starting line-up.

The worrying match-up against AHQ would be top lane. This LMS squad is more likely to draft a winning match-up for Ziv, mixed with a high-tempo jungler for Mountain. For example, it would not be surprising to see a Camille-Kha’Zix or Renekton-Elise. The trade-off, though, would be for bottom lane match-ups, which would benefit Fnatic. AN is put on Ashe or Caitlyn more than Tristana, Xayah, or Kog’Maw.

SKT

SKT is another second seed team in Group A. The Korean team’s reputation speaks for itself, and Fnatic should fear this opponent. Faker may just be the perfect veteran mid laner to shut down young Caps, and the Bang-Wolf bottom lane duo unquestionably matches Rekkles and Jesiz.

The big deciding factor in this match-up would be top lane. Huni is such a wildcard. It is hard to tell if he will be able to stomp Soaz and solo carry, or become a liability. SKT will also bring two junglers, so if Peanut or Blank fails to stuff Broxah, then they have a back-up. Fnatic’s top and jungle will be put to the test, yet again.

EDG

EDG is at the head of the table for Group A as China’s first seed. This is almost certain to be a jungle-mid contest. Clearlove is one of the most touted junglers appearing on the Worlds stage and Scout throws some serious fast balls. Both of these players enjoy similar champion pools to Caps and Broxah, as well.

Mouse and iBoy could be EDG’s weak points. Mouse was left on a supreme island at last year’s World Championship, and EDG’s opponents punished them for it. Fnatic could try to give Soaz a winning match-up, such as Gnar or Jayce, to hinder that position. While iBoy is a hot rookie, he is untested on such a pivotal stage. He will rely heavily on Meiko’s leadership for success.

If Fnatic is placed in Group A, it may be the greatest challenge they have faced all year. SKT and EDG should be tougher than Misfits and G2, Fnatic’s greatest competition in Europe. Every member of the team will be tested, unlike the Play-In stage. Hopefully they will avoid this scenario.

Scenario #2: Group B

Group B consists of Longzhu, IMT, and GAM

Image from RiftHerald.com

Since G2 is in Group C and Misfits is in Group D, then Fnatic’s only other possibility is Group B. These match-ups would most likely be more favorable for Fnatic making it to the next stage. Immortals, Longzhu and Gigabyte Marines would be their opponents.

Gigabyte Marines

Everyone remembers the Gigabyte Marines from their performance at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational. Their primary weapons are their jungler, Levi, and mid laner, Optimus. Levi generally opts into carrying from the jungle. Lee Sin, Nidalee, Kha’Zix, and Graves are right in his wheelhouse. Do not be surprised to see him draft an Ezreal. Optimus sometimes pairs with an assassin, such as Fizz or Leblanc, but he can also pull out Syndra, Taliyah, etc.

Fnatic should be able to match up against this team, but remember their time with Young Generation, GPL’s second seed. If Fnatic’s players come into this match-up without respect for their opponents, the Marines will gladly stifle Broxah from the jungle. The EU LCS third seed should play around Rekkles and bottom lane to win these matches with ease, but there is a world where GAM blows them out of the water.

Immortals

North America’s second seed showed up this summer, taking TSM to four games in the finals. They rely heavily on the dynamic support staff of Xmithie and Olleh, who love to show up in every lane and enable Flame, Pobelter, and Cody Sun. In the current meta, Cody Sun is Immortals’ highest ceiling damage dealer. Pobelter and Flame are consistent laners who slowly build leads over their opponents, only to use their advantages in teamfights.

It is hard to say which team has the advantage between Fnatic and Immortals. The deciding factor will probably be in the support position, actually. Olleh is exceptional on play-making supports, such as Rakan, Alistar, and Thresh. He is more likely to leave the bottom lane and impact other areas earlier and more frequently. Jesiz needs to strap on his Boots of Mobility to stand a chance.

Longzhu

Korea’s first seed, and the most hyped team coming into Worlds, is Fnatic’s trade-off for facing IMT and GAM in Group B. Longzhu is one of the only teams in the tournament that legitimately outclasses Fnatic in every role. Khan, Bdd and Pray are more apt to dominate lane than Soaz, Caps or Rekkles. Gorilla outclasses Jesiz, and Cuzz is the glue that holds it all together. As they say, jungling is easy when you have all three winning lanes.

Fnatic’s strategy could involve preparing much more for GAM and IMT than Longzhu. All they need to do is finish the Group Stage in second place to move on to the next round. If Fnatic is to beat Longzhu, it would need to be in the hands of veterans Soaz and Rekkles. They would need to draft winning match-ups for Broxah and Caps, then hold their own against some of the top League of Legends players currently in the game.

From there, the rest is too speculative to really analyze. Discussing the quarterfinals and beyond would involve lots of assumptions that would probably be wrong. At this point, we know Fnatic is in the Group Stage, and we know that they will slot in either Group A or Group B. Many already viewed Fnatic as an international contender, but their stumbling in the EU LCS playoffs and the Worlds Play-in leaves some with doubt. If they are able to be in Group B with GAM, IMT, and Longzhu, then they could be set up to make a deep run into the entire tournament.

2017 World Championships groups

Image from LoLesports.com


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr, RiftHerald.com, LoLesports.com

Statistics: GamesofLegends.com

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Who has the best shot to be this year’s Albus Nox?

With the World Championship starting this weekend we’ll have the chance to see some massive upsets. The possibility of either of the teams dropping a few games could start off Worlds with a bang. Last year we got to witness the first upset of a Wildcard team in groups. Albus Nox Luna of the CIS region were able to take second in their group finishing 4-3 ahead of CLG and G2.

Instead of having a separate Wild Card tournament to determine who will play in Worlds from the non-major regions, we now have the play-in stage. The play-in stage allows for Wildcard teams the chance to face third place teams of the major regions with a chance to upset and qualify for the Group stage.

Will we have another Albus Nox play spoiler for one of the major regions? Let’s take a look at some teams that may have the best chance:

Gambit (1st place lcl)

Photo by Gambit Gaming

Gambit Gaming represent the same region Albus Nox did last year, the LCL. They also have two former players in Alexander “PvPStejos” Glazkov and Michael “Kira” Garmash. Kira and PvPStejos were huge in Albus Nox’s Worlds run last year. Kira has shown the ability to have a wide champion pool.

They also have some legendary veterans in jungler Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov and support Edward “Edward” Abgaryan. Diamond and Edward were longtime legends in the EULCS after dominating tournaments in Season 2 as Moscow 5. This will be a chance for them to add onto their legacy.

Rekkles also shed some light into Gambit calling them an EULCS caliber team in his 3rd place interview. Gambit definitely have the experience to do so. They’re a very much an early game team who can create leads through skirmishes. They’ll often go for these early baron calls despite not having proper vision setup. They’re a high risk, high reward team that can definitely shock some of these teams with weak early games such as Cloud 9.

Gigabyte Marines (1st place gpl)

Photo by Riot Esports

Unlike the other teams on this list, Gigabyte Marines aren’t in the play-in stage as they earned their region a pool two seed at MSI. They are placed in Group B with Korean Powerhouse, Longzhu Gaming, and North American first timers, Immortals. For Gigabyte Marines this could be a hopeful group for them. Longzhu will most likely be favorites, but the second seed is up in the air. Immortals will be favorites, but let’s remember that Gigabyte Marines nearly beat TSM in a best of five at MSI.

The Marines played a lot through ganking the bot lane early at MSI. Star jungler Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh was instrumental in their MSI run and will look to put the team on his back once again. With carry junglers out of the meta now, it will be interesting to see how they decide to play. They built their own meta at MSI, with snowballing the early game through bot, so they have the ability to create their own meta.

1907 fenerbahce (1st place tcl)

1907 Fenerbahce come in with a ton of momentum after winning the TCL 3-0 against SuperMassive. Historically, we’ve seen teams from Turkey do well in Wildcard tournaments and even take games off some of the major regions. Fenerbahce have a mid-jungle korean duo in Kim “Frozen” Tae-il and Kang “Move” Min-su. Move spent some time in NA and EU having some solid seasons before coming over to the TCL. Top laner, Berke “Thaldrin” Demir, has had some international experience with previous Turkish teams.

Being placed in group D has to feel like a blessing. Hong Kong attitude are the 3rd place team out of LMS and finished 6th in the regular season before getting in through the regional qualifier. Fenerbahce have the disadvantage of coming to Worlds late without a bootcamp, but we’ve seen teams do well without scrims.

The mystery of developing your own meta brings an extra surprise factor especially in best of one’s. Albus Nox mentioned not being able to get scrims last year before going on their magical run.

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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Worlds 2017 group B preview

It’s that time of year again for League of Legends fans. The Worlds 2017 group draw has concluded and we can start getting excited to see some of the best teams from around the World face off in some heated matches. The group draw has been vital in just how far a team can go at Worlds. Group B has a nice mix of Worlds veterans and rookies. Let’s take a look:

Longzhu Gaming

Top: Khan

Jungle: Cuzz

Mid: BDD

ADC: Pray

Support: Gorilla

Longzhu Gaming took the summer split title of LCK after defeating SK Telecom T1 3-1 in the finals. The way LCK sets up playoffs, we only got to see them in one best of five which was their finals match. They threw multiple bans at SKT’s mid laner, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok en route to winning their first LCK finals. Longzhu had the luxury of being able to watch SKT play two best of five series before facing off whereas SKT did not. Nonetheless, winning the LCK final is a major victory for a team that was bottom tier not too long ago. Winning the best region in all of League of Legends definitely pegs you as huge favorites to make it to the World Finals.

Longzhu has a good mix of seasoned veterans and hungry rookies seeing their first World championship. Pray and Gorilla have become household names at the World championship. After qualifying the past two seasons with the Rox Tigers organization, the team split up, but Pray and Gorilla insisted they stay together. They’ve developed an unstoppable bot lane synergy over three seasons together and will look to show up big once again.

One of the more exciting prospects on the team will have to be top laner Kim “Khan” Dong-ha. Khan has become known for his huge play making abilities and carry potential from the top lane. His Jayce almost always draws a ban. If left open, he shows why it is such a pocket pick for him. He was vital in their LCK final match in shutting down the top laners of SKT. Him and Cuzz showed a picture perfect strategy on how to shutdown a Cho’gath in the early game.

Mid laner Kwak “BDD” Bo-seong may be the definition of “KDA” player as he finished the LCK summer with an impressive 11.3 KDA. He loves to play assassins, but has shown the ability to play whatever his team needs.

Immortals

Worlds 2017

Photo by: Riot Games

Top: Flame

Jungle: Xmithie

Mid: Pobelter

ADC: Cody Sun

Support: Olleh

Immortals qualified for Worlds as the team with the most circuit points from North America after a second place finish in the summer playoffs. This team came out of nowhere in summer after making the trade for jungle veteran Jake “Xmithie” Puchero. Many thought Xmithie’s career was on a decline and saw him as a downgrade to former jungler, Dardoch. That was not the case as Xmithie revitalized his career on Immortals and showed to be the best jungler in NA for summer. They also brought in former Rox Tigers and Longzhu coach Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo whose coaching effects showed immediately. The team looked much improved and finished the split atop the standings. Despite losing to TSM 3-1 in a close finals, they go into Worlds looking to prove themselves for the first time on the Worlds stage.

Like Longzhu, Immortals have veterans along with some rookies showing up at Worlds. The bot lane duo of Cody Sun and Olleh will be exciting to watch. They struggled in their first split together, but have steadily improved. They have a tall task going up against the likes of Pray and Gorilla.

As a former LCK top lane star and Longzhu sub, Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong will get the chance to face off against one rising star and another veteran of the pro LoL scene in Khan and Archie. In the jungle Xmithie will need to hold down Gigabyte Marines jungler, Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh. Levi showed the ability to carry games at MSI. With the meta shifted to more supportive tank junglers, Xmithie should feel right at home.

Depending on what last team is drawn into their group, Immortals can definitely show some promise. Don’t be surprised if they are able to take a game off of Longzhu and be the second team out of this group.

Gigabyte Marines

Photo by: Riot Games

Top: Archie

Jungle: Levi

Mid: Optimus

ADC: NoWay

Support: Sya

Gigabyte Marines were able to secure a Worlds spot after helping secure a group stage spot for the GPL region after making it to the groups of MSI. They then went on to qualify in dominating fashion going 6-0 in playoffs.

Last we saw of Gigabyte Marines on the international stage they were handily defeating some of the best teams in the World. They almost took a best of five against TSM in which they led 2-0 before being reverse swept. Most of their MSI victories came off the back of phenomenal jungle performances by Levi. They busted the meta open by openly ganking bot early to get them ahead. This isn’t exactly the same team we saw at MSI. Former support, Minh “Archie” Nhựt Trần moved to the top lane as the team took on a new duo of NoWay and Sya who showed good performances in the GPL.

Top laner Archie will have some stiff competition facing off against two great top laners from Korea in Flame and Khan. With the possibility of drawing 957 or Soaz as well, the top lane competition could become even stiffer. Gigabyte Marines will most likely be looked at as huge underdogs coming in, but the same was said for them at MSI. When underestimated in best of ones, Gigabyte Marines have the chance to shock the World once again. They’ll most likely be looking to go on a run similar to Albus Nox Luna last year.

Last Team Possibilities

With a North American team already in this group, Cloud 9 cannot be placed here. That leaves Fnatic, WE and Hong Kong Attitude of LMS. If we expect all the third seeds from the major regions to advance, Fnatic and WE will be teams to watch. While Longzhu is almost certainly 100% favorites to make it out, the second seed can be a toss up depending on who gets placed here. WE and Fnatic are long time veterans of the LoL pro scene and would make this group even more competitive.

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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Six Takeaways from the MSI Group Stage

The Mid Season Invitational concluded on Sunday, with SKT, WE, G2, and Flash Wolves all advancing to the bracket stage of the tournament. It was a close competition as there were a ton of surprises and close games throughout the tournament. Outside of SKT and maybe WE, every team had its shares of ups and downs throughout the tournament. It’s always interesting to have the top teams from around the world compete. It gives a glimpse at how each region stacks up to one another and gets us more excited for Worlds. Here are some key takeaways from the tournament:

Is the gap closing?

Photo by: Riot Esports

As we’ve come to expect, Korea’s SKT Telecom T1 finished atop the standings.

They did drop two games during the group stage. Once, to the Korean slayers, Flash Wolves, and another to WE. Despite this, SKT still looked quite dominant throughout the tournament. Even when they’re behind, they don’t look the part. Their strength is definitely in the mid-late game shot calling where they almost always know exactly what to do to earn the victory.

SKT could fall behind one thousand gold or so in the early game, but take one big team fight to retake the lead in the mid game. Once the tournament goes to best of 5’s, I’m honestly not sure if they’ll drop a game. They’ve had a chance to scout the competition now. Head coach Kim kkOma Jung-gyun will have a week to prepare SKT which will be more than enough to get his team ready to take another MSI title.

TSM’s International Struggles Continue

North America’s champs, TSM, took a heavy defeat Sunday as they lost out on NA’s chance at a number one seed for Worlds. Failing to make it out of the group stage of MSI just adds to the TSM legacy of under performing at international events. The team had a poor start to the tournament, just barely edging out Vietnam’s Gigabyte Marines in the play-in stage.

Most of the blame was shifted to jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen for getting caught out multiple times on aggressive invades throughout the tournament. ADC Jason “Wildturtle” Tran also received much of the criticism, specifically costing his team a game against WE face-checking at baron with both summoner spells up. Head coach, Parth Naidu, also received a lot of criticism from the community for his drafts. In their tiebreaker match, he banned Kog’maw and Twitch when FW hadn’t played either of those champions the whole tournament.

Overall, it felt like TSM were scared to make plays. In both their matches against G2, they failed to snowball their leads and let G2 back into both games. Game one would have been lost, had it not been for some small misplays by G2. TSM had no idea how to properly close out games, ultimately being the biggest reason for their failure to get out of groups.

Gigabyte Marines Are Fun To Watch

Nobody was really talking about these guys coming in, but Vietnam’s Gigabyte Marines can hold their heads up high. They played phenomenal for a wildcard region and showed that the GPL has some tough competition. From the beginning of the play-ins, Gigabyte Marines’ aggressive early game has given teams troubles and they were able to take some games off some of the top teams, finishing 3-7.

Jungler, Đỗ “Levi” Duy, Khánh made a name for himself this tournament. He was a major part of his team’s success, and analysts even said that he should be imported into a major region for summer. His Lee Sin and Kha’zix were a treat to watch and everyone is hoping to see more of him in the future.

If Gigabyte Marines can keep this momentum going, we can definitely expect to seem them again at Worlds 2017.

G2 Redeems themselves

Photo by: Riot Esports

After a whole year of international tournament stumbles, G2 esports was finally able to play well and earn a spot in the knockout stage for MSI. This has to be relieving for all members, after much of the hate that ensued after their last MSI and Worlds performances.

Their mid laner, Luka “PerkZ” Perković, had a phenomenal tournament, finally getting to showcase his skill on the international stage. Star ADC, Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen, also had a great tournament. G2 often built their comps around him to allow him to carry in the mid/late game.

Jungler Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun didn’t have the greatest performances. He was often reactive to many of the aggressive junglers in the tournament. G2 has shifted to putting him on supportive junglers such as Nunu and Ivern to allow for Zven to carry. It’ll be interesting to see if G2 decides to keep with Trick after many of his international struggles.

G2 can finally breathe a bit as they earned a number one seed for EU at Worlds 2017.

Flash wolves overrated?

Taiwan’s Flash Wolves came into MSI as most people’s 2nd best team to SKT. Most thought they’d take second easily after a dominant showing at IEM and in their championship run. That was not the case as Flash Wolves struggled heavily early in the tournament.

Specifically, it seemed like other teams were exploiting top laner, Yau “MMD” Li-Hung, one of Flash Wolves’ weaker members. Early in the tournament, he struggled to make an impact on the team, often falling behind. As the tournament went on though, MMD’s confidence seemed to come back as Flash Wolves was able to do just enough to beat out TSM for the last spot in the knockout stage.

Flash Wolves are an explosive early game team. Sometimes this can also be their downfall though. The “Korean Slayers” will get a chance to take down SKT in a bo5.

WE Surprises

Photo by: Riot Esports

Maybe team WE wasn’t expected to do that bad, but many people didn’t expect them to do this well. WE was getting ranked around 4-5th position due to many people just not really knowing what to expect.

Team WE doesn’t adhere to the Chinese stereotype of chaotic games. Their macro is solid and they know how to push their leads well. They’ve shown the ability to play a number of unique champions, such as mid laner Su “Xiye” Han-Wei pulling out Lucian in their victory against SKT.

Jungler Xiang “Condi” Ren-Jie showed he can compete with some of the best. He was 2nd in KDA among junglers and was first in kill participation percentage with a whopping 70 percent. His early game plays helped setup his team to snowball leads.

Top laner Ke “957” Changyu had some great performances on carry split pushers like Fizz and Kled. He was a nuisance for the enemy team, pressuring side lanes and getting picks in team fights.

WE look like big contenders to contest SKT for the MSI title. They’ll need to get through EU’s G2 first though.

Cover photo by: Riot Esports

Tune into the MSI Knockout Stage this Friday, Saturday, and Finals Sunday

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MSI 2017 Karma Support

Karma at MSI: Who Played It Best?

Karma was played a total of nine games between rounds two and three of the Play-In stage at Mid-Season Invitational. She was played eight times as a support in the bottom lane and once in the mid lane. Seeing as Karma has become a contested support champion, and support players are often overlooked, it is important to see which pros are contributing most with The Enlightened One.

1. SwordArt (Flash Wolves)

Judging Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie off of one game seems unfair, but against Supermassive he played much better than any other support Karma listed below. He ended with a 19.0 KDA, 76% kill participation, and 326 damage per minute – far ahead of everyone else.

What truly sets SwordArt apart, though, is his positioning. SwordArt positions himself in ways that enable his teammates to play aggressively, engage, and escape. He was one of few Karma supports to choose Exhaust as a summoner spell, which he utilized beautifully against Lee Sin and Fizz to reduce damage and speed. Finally, Redemption placement allowed Flash Wolves to consistently turn fights back in their favor.

2. Biofrost (TSM)

TSM’s support played Karma in their three wins to reverse sweep Gigabyte Marines. Vincent “Biofrost” Wang plays teamfights exceptionally with Karma. He consistently damages, roots, and shields the correct champions to make the best of situations. Biofrost gets into Ignite range several times to finish off low-health enemies. He outplays several of GAM’s players throughout the series. However, GAM baits and outplays Biofrost a couple of times, too.

There were a handful of times during the series that WildTurtle and Biofrost seemed to be out of sync. WildTurtle mispositions, gets caught out, which forces Biofrost to run or die. A 4.4 KDA, 67.4% kill participation, and 266 gold ahead at 10 minutes are solid statistics. However, Biofrost averaged 22.6% of TSM’s death share on Karma.

3. Dumbledoge (Supermassive)

As a veteran of international competition, it is not surprising that Mustafa Kemal “Dumbledoge” Gökseloğlu plays over-aggressively. One of Karma’s strengths as a champion is her acceleration and shielding, which tend to give support players a false sense of security for roaming, face-checking, and engaging fights. Gigabyte Marines punished Dumbledoge’s tendency to overextend less frequently, but it was blatantly obvious against Flash Wolves. Watching the highlights, notice the moments where he gets chunked and survives against GAM, but locked down and deleted against FW.

There are several moments where Dumbledoge decides to shield himself rather than primary carries. His average numbers on Karma are middling to low: 2.6 KDA, 60.5% kill participation, 22% death share, and 106 experience ahead at 10 minutes. Flash Wolves’ routing of Supermassive skews the statistics, which is not entirely Dumbledoge’s fault, but his gameplay overall was not great on Karma.

4. Archie (Gigabyte Marines)

Gigabyte Marines had firm showings against TSM and Supermassive last weekend. However, Minh “Archie” Nhựt Trần did not play very well on Karma. His positioning and decision-making were not the best. And even though he was present during key fights, he did not contribute much with the champion. Flashing directly into high damage, overstaying fights instead of fleeing, hesitating to peel, and other misplays are in the highlights.

While Archie maintained a decent KDA on Karma throughout the tournament, 5.0, he averaged a 25% share of Gigabyte Marines’ deaths. Archie also averaged 62.5% kill participation, 164 damage per minute, and 7.6% of his team’s damage – all very low for support Karma. Finally, Archie started out 206 experience behind at 10 minutes, which is significantly worse than the other supports listed above.

MSI Player-Champion Statisticshttp://oracleselixir.com/statistics/champions/2017-spring-players-by-champion/

Conqueror Karma Splash Imagehttp://www.surrenderat20.net/2017/04/411-pbe-update.html


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Mid Season Invitational Power Rankings

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

1.SK Telecom T1 (Korea)

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

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

2. Flash Wolves (Taiwan)

Photo by: Riot Games

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

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

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

3. G2 Esports (Europe)

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

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

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

4. Team we (China)

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

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

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

5. Team SoloMid (North America)

Photo By: Riot Games

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

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

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

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

6. Gigabyte Marines (Vietnam)

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

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

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

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

Cover photo by: Riot Games

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

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2017 MSI stage and crowd in Brazil

MSI Play-In Champion Power Picks

The first stage of the 2017 Mid-Season Invitational is complete. Two wildcard teams have moved on to enter the second stage where they will meet representatives from NA LCS and LMS. Last weekend was a joy to watch, as teams from around the globe came together to battle on the Rift. This weekend promises similar excitement.

Before heading into the match-ups, though, it is important to highlight key champions. These are champions who had high pick and ban rates. They have been contested throughout the tournament. As regions enter and exit the competition, some preferences are bound to change. However, the following choices have proven themselves to be fruitful, and will most likely remain power picks for the remainder of the contest.

Top

2017 MSI top lane power pick: Shen   Pick/Ban Rate (P/B): 58%   Win Rate (W%): 25%

Shen is valued for his ability to impact the map. Stand United allows the top laner to protect allies with a shield, or follow the channel with Shadow Dash to engage fights.

Split-pushing is a bit easier, since Stand United and Teleport allow Shen to enter a neighboring lane. Top laners generally build Tytanic Hydra, Spirit Visage and Guardian Angel on this champion.

Do not let the low tournament win rate fool you. Players such as Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo and Yau “MMD” Li-Hung have 100% win rates with the champion, and Ki “Expect” Dae-Han, Asım “fabFabulous” Cihat Karakaya, and Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell are 67% or higher (Spring 2017).

2017 MSI top lane power pick: Fizz   P/B: 79%  W%: 57%

AD tank Fizz has become a menace yet again. Trinity Force is essential to this playstyle. Top laners have built Sunfire Cape, Spirit Visage and Guardian Angel for tankiness. They may include Blade of the Ruined King or Wit’s End for attack speed and augmenting the bonus damage of Seastone Trident.

Fizz has also been used for split-pushing. Playful Trickster is a low-cooldown spell which allows for speedy roaming. Top laners have been choosing Ignite-Teleport as Summoner Spells for early laning and global pressure.

Gigabyte Marines flexed Fizz into the mid lane once already, and other teams will most likely be open to this idea. In the right hands, this champion is truly a nuisance, which is why he has been banned so often.

2017 MSI top lane power pick: Galio   P/B: 75%   W%: 86%

The newly reworked Colossus made his debut at MSI. So far, he has been oppressive. Galio’s combination of tankiness, utility, and damage are difficult to overcome.

Players are building Spirit Visage and Sunfire Cape to provide resistances and ambient damage. Knight’s Vow and Iceborn Gauntlet have been prominent items, too.

The semi-global pressure of Hero’s Entrance is perfect for top laners, especially playing around objectives. Shield of Durand and Justice Punch provide high-impact crowd control for Galio’s team. So far, Nautilus has been the only other top lane champion with a higher win rate than Galio (with more than one game played).

 Jungle

2017 MSI jungle power pick: Ivern  P/B: 79%   W%: 50%

Redemption, Locket of the Iron Solari and Athene’s Unholy Grail are only built by the jungler if they are playing Ivern. His shielding and healing are ridiculously powerful when combined with Triggerseed.

Teams excel when Ivern enables his laners to snowball and siege turrets with Daisy! His jungle clear is quicker than most. He is also able to donate his blue and red buffs more frequently to teammates.

Drafting Ivern allows teams to create protect-the-carry compositions. When paired with Lulu, Orianna, Karma or Shen, Ivern unlocks marksmen, assassins, and mages to play fast and loose.

2017 MSI jungle power pick: Lee Sin  P/B: 88%   W%: 53%

Lee Sin is League of Legends’ perennial jungle champion. Once truly overpowered junglers have been banned or picked, many players fall back to Lee Sin. His mobility and early pressure allows teams to push the pace and snowball quickly when played correctly.

This tournament has seen Lee Sin played 15 times: 6 games more than the next most played champion. He is a versatile pick that can mesh with almost anyone. None of the best junglers are afraid to pull him out to demonstrate their Flash-Dragon’s Rage mechanics.

All of the remaining junglers at MSI have at least 64% win rates on Lee Sin this Spring. Han “Peanut” Wang-ho has maintained a 100% win rate over 11 games.

2017 MSI jungle power pick: Graves   P/B: 88%   W%: 75%

Teams have been smart to frequently ban Graves. Junglers have won 6 out of 8 games with him at MSI. End of the Line provides insanely fast jungle clears. Quickdraw allows him to move through thin walls and gain bonus resistances. Collateral Damage nukes low health targets.

No participating jungler has less than a 73% win rate using Graves. Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan has a 100% win rate and a 13.3 KDA over 5 games on the champion. Kang “Blank” Sun-gu sports 100% and 17.5 over 2 games.

Black Cleaver and Maw of Malmortius are featured items beyond Enchantment: Warrior. Players at MSI have even been building Blade of the Ruined King, which is arguably overpowered at the moment.

 

Mid

2017 MSI mid lane power pick: Syndra   P/B: 79%   W%: 50%

Koray “Naru” Bıçak and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok have the lowest win rates on Syndra: 67%. All other mid laners at MSI sport 71% or higher.

Syndra has been a mainstay in the mid lane for a few splits at this point. Her combination of waveclear, crowd-control and reliable burst damage are hardly matched. She has the highest total number of bans for a reason.

The average damage per minute for Syndra players at MSI is 629. This is higher than any other mid lane champion with multiple games played. Expect her presence to remain on the high side moving forward.

2017 MSI mid lane power pick: LeBlanc   P/B: 71%   W%: 33%

LeBlanc’s strengths are similar to Syndra, except LeBlanc is more of an assassin. Distortion allows mid laners to quickly roam to other lanes or into the jungle. High level players can utilize Mimic to confuse and outplay opponents.

Hextech Gunblade and Void Staff are currently staples within LeBlanc’s build. When paired with Sorceror’s Shoes and Abyssal Scepter, LeBlanc’s burst is unsettling. One successful Ethereal Chains stun onto a squishy target is guaranteed death.

Văn “Optimus” Cường Trần lost his only LeBlanc game at MSI. Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok have yet to get the chance to play her this Spring. All 4 other mid laners have 60% or higher win rates.

2017 MSI mid lane power pick: Ahri   P/B: 50%   W%: 75%

Mobility is Ahri’s biggest strength in the current meta. Spirit Rush gives her three dashes to enter and leave fights as she pleases. Ahri’s item path is also one of the most flexible, as she can build into a teamfighting mage, an assassin, or some combination. MSI featured Morellonomicon, Zhonya’s Hourglass, Hextech Protobelt, Hextech Gunblade, Abyssal Scepter, and Luden’s Echo during the first stage.

Ahri has had the highest total plays during the tournament: 8. She also had the highest win rate of any mid lane champion with more than one game played. It would not be surprising to continue seeing her picked throughout the remainder of the tournament. However, Su “Xiye” Han-Wei lost his only Ahri game this Spring in the LPL.

Bot

2017 MSI bot lane power pick: Ashe   P/B: 88%   W%: 50%

Ever since Blade of the Ruined King rose to prominence, Ashe has remained pick or ban in most regions. Her global engage (Enchanted Crystal Arrow) and follow-up damage (Ranger’s Focus) potential is unrivaled in the AD Carry position.

Only Nguyen “Slay” Ngoc Hung has fewer than nine games on Ashe this Spring. All bot lanes in the tournament should be comfortable playing on this champion.

Items on Ashe are straightforward. Runaan’s Hurricane, Infinity Edge, Berserker’s Greaves, and Last Whisper generally round out the build. Landing ultimates is crucial for an Ashe to succeed. The entire team needs to be ready to pull the trigger after a well-placed Enchanted Crystal Arrow.

2017 MSI bot lane power pick: Caitlyn   P/B: 67%   W%: 40%

The non-utility marksman with the largest presence at MSI thus far is Caitlyn. While her Yordle Snap Traps provide small amounts of crowd control, Caitlyn’s primary goal is to rattle off as many auto-attacks as possible. Her passive, Headshot, can decimate entire teams once Runaan’s Hurricane is in play.

It’s unclear whether or not Caitlyn will remain such a high priority for the rest of the tournament. Her win rate so far has not justified her high pick rate. Many of the world’s top AD Carries seem partial to drafting marksmen with higher skill caps and higher risk-reward, such as Ezreal, Twitch or Lucian.

Only Jin “Mystic” Sung-jun has played Caitlyn more than 3 games this Spring. Lu “Betty” Yuhung, Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Jason “WildTurtle” Tran have played her one game each.

2017 MSI bot lane power pick: Varus   P/B: 67%   W%: 43%

Varus has the lowest average damage per minute of the entire AD Carry class at MSI (392). He is played similarly to Ashe, except he trades lower engage pressure for higher poke damage. A well-placed Chain of Corruption can lock someone down long enough to eliminate them. Piercing Arrow gives bot lanes the ability to snipe low-health enemies.

Varus’ build path is virtually identical to Ashe’s, as well. Blade of the Ruined King, Runaan’s Hurricane, Infinity Edge, and Last Whisper are common. Some attack speed builds can include Guinsoo’s Rageblade.

Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Mystic have win rates 50% or lower with Varus. Betty has maintained a 100% win rate over sevengames played.

Support

2017 MSI support power pick: Lulu  P/B: 100%   W%: 53%

The only champion that is currently 100% pick or ban is Lulu. However, she only won just over half of the time. Lulu’s majorly impactful Wild Growth couple with the reliability of Help Pix!-Glitterlance-Thunderlord’s Decree poke makes her relevant at all stages of the game.

All support players at the tournament should be well-versed in Lulu’s gameplay. Her mechanics are rather straightforward, but proper timing of speed-ups, shields, slows and enlargments separates the best Lulu players from the majority.

2017 MSI support power pick: Zyra   P/B: 33%   W%: 50%

321 damage per minute is not bad for a support champion. That has been the average for Zyra at MSI so far. Brand is the only support to out-damage her.

Zyra seems to work for all support players at the tournament except Vincent “Biofrost” Wang, who only has a 20% win rate on the champion. Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie has even maintained a 100% win rate with Zyra over 8 games.

Depending on the needs of a team, support players build full damage or more healing and shielding. MSI has seen Redemption, Locket of the Iron Solari, Liandry’s Torment and Rylai’s Crystal Scepter.

2017 MSI support power pick: Karma   P/B: 63%   W%: 50%

When Lulu is unavailable, Karma becomes the next best utility support. Her Mantra-Inspire shields and speeds up the entire team, which provides some the most potent engage and disengage a support champion can offer. Karma’s Mantra-Inner Flame offers strong poke in lane, which is why many players choose Thunderlord’s Decree as their keystone mastery.

All of the remaining support players have 60% or higher win rates with Karma. While it has not been as common this Spring, Karma can also flex into mid lane. Xiye, for example, has won 100% of LPL game using mid Karma (6 games).

 

While these may have been the most prominent picks in the first stage of MSI, plenty of champions were played. Unique picks such as Sona, Blitzcrank and Darius left their mark on the Rift. Tahm Kench was played in the top lane. Hopefully, there will be more variation as other teams enter the competition. Nonetheless, look to these last seven teams to show how high the ceilings are on these champions, and why they may currently be so popular internationally.

Champion Images: http://leagueoflegends.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Champion_squares

MSI Champion Statisticshttp://www.gamesoflegends.com/tournament/stats.php?id=MSI%20Play-In%202017

Featured Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lolesports/albums/72157683248434325/with/34384923145/

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MSI: TSM vs. Gigabyte Marines Preview

In the first best of series to determine who gets to enter the next stage of MSI, we have North American favorite, TSM, squaring off against Vietnam’s Gigabyte Marines of the GPL. TSM will come in as heavy favorites, but Gigabyte Marines showed some promise in their group. The Gigabyte Marines only dropped one game the entire group stage. TSM will need to not underestimate their opponents if they want to avoid a major upset.

Team SoloMid

TSM comes into MSI after narrowly fending off a reverse sweep by Cloud 9 in the NALCS final. TSM started the spring rather slow, but quickly improved to retake their throne as the kings of North America. Top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell had his best split yet, just barely missing out on NALCS MVP. Soren “bjergsen” Bjerg is still the “GOAT” mid laner of the NALCS and should take over his lane quite handily. In the bot lane, Jason “Wildturtle” Tran and Vincent “Biofrost” Wang showed a lot of improvement in the NALCS finals. Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen was, in my opinion, the MVP of the final. He had a great showing and will look to take that momentum into MSI.

Courtesy: Riot Esports

How they win

TSM should win based solely on individual skill and macro play. I don’t see any lanes losing heavily unless Gigabyte Marines’ star jungler Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh really pops off. If TSM doesn’t play down to the skill of their opponent, they should take this series.

How they lose

If TSM allows Levi to play his signature Lee Sin and he pops off, I could definitely see them losing a game. Levi was an absolute monster during the group stage, but TSM will be a lot stiffer competition for them. TSM is also known to come out slow in the start of their series, usually dropping the first game. If there was a time they could lose, I’d imagine it be the first game.

Player to watch

TSM’s jungler, Svenskeren, will play a major role in shutting down Levi. If he can play more aggressive and track him, Gigabyte Marines don’t have many other options.

 

Gigabyte Marines

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Gigabyte Marines come into this matchup after winning group B quite handily with a 5-1 record. Most of their games were carried by their jungler, Levi, who has shown tremendous plays on Lee Sin and Elise. He’ll need to pressure the map early if they want to stand a chance against TSM. Notably, support Minh “Archie” Nhựt Trần said that teams were denying them scrims, and therefore used play in stage as “scrims.” We’ve seen how not scrimming certain opponents can lead to upset victories, so maybe they’ll be able to use that to their advantage.

 

How they win

Levi will need to have another stellar performance against more formidable opponents. If they do pull off a miracle upset, Levi will be a huge part in it. If he can get them a good early game lead, they’ll need to close things out fast.

How they lose

In their matchups, TSM beats them individually and in macro play. Even if TSM falls behind early, I don’t know if Gigabyte Marines can out macro them to finish the game. If Gigabyte Marines don’t make early aggressive plays, I don’t see them taking down TSM.

Player to watch

By now, you’re probably expecting this pick. Levi will need to take command of the early game for his team to have a shot at taking down TSM. If TSM decides to leave Lee Sin or Elise up, I could definitely see Levi carrying his team to an upset victory for a game or two.

 

Prediction

If everything goes according to plan, TSM should take the series with a commanding 3-0 sweep. Knowing them though, they could possibly let Levi get Lee Sin game 1 and drop a game.

 

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