Reignover joined CLG for 2018

Reignover’s journey from 2015 Worlds to the bottom of the NA LCS

When Fnatic announced Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin as their starting jungler for the 2015 Spring Split, the LCS community aired its skepticism and criticism:

“Korean imports again. Can only end well. -_-”

“haha, reignover really?”

“This roster is pretty underwhelming, considering the talent that was available…FNC looking like a bottom-half team atm.”

Several online news outlets voiced similar sentiments:

“While that should have been significant incentive for Fnatic to pull together the best talent they can, the results are somewhat mystifying. To wit: While picking up premier new midlane talent in Febiven is an undeniably good choice, every other decision on the roster seems questionable.”

Reignover joined Fnatic in 2015

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

“Their Worlds placings; their endless top placings in LCS splits; the players who won those games and splits were no more. What was Fnatic’s response? They imported a Samsung Galaxy sub and his duo-que buddy, an ADC from the challenger scene, and the star mid-laner of H2K; Huni and Reignover, Steelback, and Febiven. A lot of people thought of these acquisitions as sub-optimal and disappointing.”

“It’d be a tough season, fans began to reason, but Fnatic had a tremendous eye for talent and would surely find the best possible players to replace their former stars. This general assumption resulted in a great and terrible gnashing of teeth when Fnatic’s signings to complete their new roster for Season 5 included two Korean players—Kim ‘ReignOver’ Yeu-jin, formerly of Incredible Miracle, and Heo ‘Huni’ Seung-hoon, a complete newcomer to competitive League of Legends.”

At the time, importing players from other regions was still uncommon in Europe, and Huni and Reignover were relatively unknown quantities in Korea. It was understandable that audiences would question Fnatic’s pick-ups, following the departure of several star players. Little did they know, these two players would be pivotal to Fnatic’s deep run at the World Championship that year.

Reignover’s Beginning: Spring and Summer Titles

Reignover had a spectacular year with Fnatic in 2015. Huni and he had instant synergy as a top-jungle duo, which allowed them to finish the spring regular season in second place with a 13-5 record. Reignover even earned weekly MVP of the EU LCS in week two for his Rengar and Olaf play.

Reignover and Fnatic won Spring and Summer Split 2015

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Fnatic went on to win a heated playoff bracket that spring. They beat H2K in the semifinals 3-2, despite losing two early games using a double-smite, Lee Sin top composition. With Unicorns of Love upsetting SK Gaming, Fnatic came into the finals as favorites. The series saw several different champions played, but Fnatic was able to pull out another 3-2 to take the Spring Split title. Reignover won MVP of the finals, Huni won the Outstanding Rookie award, and every Fnatic member represented the EU LCS first team All-Pro.

After bringing Europe home a fourth place finish at the 2015 Mid-Season Invitational (and taking SKT to fives games in the semifinals), Fnatic returned to the Summer Split with one new member–Rekkles. He turned out to be the key that unlocked Fnatic’s full potential. This roster finished the regular season undefeated, 18-0, solidifying Huni, Reignover, and the rest as some of the best Europe had ever seen. Reignover’s efficient jungle pathing with mostly Rek’Sai and Gragas provided Huni and Febiven with the upper hand in most match-ups.

The entire Fnatic line-up won first-team All-Pro honors again, and the summer playoffs went mostly as expected. Fnatic took down Unicorns of Love 3-0 in the semifinals. They met a formidable Origen squad in the finals, which went to five games. This match-up represented the narrative culmination of “old Fnatic” versus “new Fnatic”, with xPeke and Soaz facing off against Rekkles and Yellowstar. Huni and Reignover played large parts in allowing Fnatic to win the series 3-2, reinforcing the organization’s off-season roster decisions, and sending them to Worlds as Europe’s top seed.

Reignover’s Peak: Top Four at Worlds

Heading into the 2015 World Championship, western media outlets put Fnatic and Reignover under the microscope with statements like “To make it through their Group and beyond, Reignover needs to be successful in his ganks, specifically top side, to put Huni ahead,” “Reignover relies on high gold values to be effective in team fights, as he likes to play high damage picks like Elise, but with other high gold jungle monsters in this group, that’s less of an easy advantage,” “It’s easy to tag ReignOver as the weakest player on Fnatic based on his performances during the latter stages of the EU LCS,” and “Many have looked at Reignover’s champion pool as a target for Fnatic.”

Reignover and Fnatic went to Worlds in 2015

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Invictus Gaming, Cloud9 and AHQ Esports Club joined Fnatic in Group B, pitting Reignover against Mountain, Hai and KaKAO. In the round robin, Fnatic lost to AHQ and Cloud9 once each, then won their other four games. The 4-2 record put Fnatic at the top of their group, pushing them into the bracket stage.

For quarterfinals, Fnatic faced EDward Gaming. The Chinese organization finished first in the LPL regular season that summer, but flopped in the playoffs to finally place fourth. They won the Regional Qualifiers, which allowed EDG to qualify into Worlds. During the group stage, EDG lost both games to SKT, but went 2-0 against H2K and Bangkok Titans. Clearlove was a primary factor in EDG’s success, which meant all eyes would be on Reignover.

Clearlove and Reignover went back and forth with Rek’Sai and Gragas picks, but Reignover proved to be the better jungle on the day. He finished with more gold and assists in every game of Fnatic’s 3-0 victory. The series win qualified Fnatic for the World semifinals, an achievement no western team had reached since season three (which was also Fnatic).

Unfortunately, KOO Tigers, a top Korean team, crushed Fnatic 3-0. They joined their European rivals, Origen, finishing third-fourth in the tournament. These placements reinstated the EU LCS as a top region behind the LCK, and Fnatic as an international threat.

Reignover’s Move: Immortals’ Domestic Dominance

Reignover and Huni joined Immortals in 2016

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Reignover’s off-season, following such an impressive year with Fnatic, brought opportunities unlike any other. Eventually, Immortals announced their entrance into the NA LCS, and their successful signing of Fnatic’s top-jungle duo–Huni and Reignover. The two were such a hit together that they became a package deal.

Expectations for Immortals’ top-side was through the roof. “Immortals will be relying on the touted top-jungle synergy of former Fnatic duo of breakout rookie top laner Heo ‘Huni’ Seunghoon and junger Kim ‘Reignover’ Yeujin to take them to the top of the standings,” “[Immortals’] starting five is headlined by Fnatic’s South Korean duo from last year, the explosive Heo ‘Huni’ Seung-hoon in the top lane and his partner Kim ‘Reignover’ Yeu-jin at the jungler position,” and “Yes, it was a fantastic move, especially if the Koreans can bring along some of Fnatic’s winning culture and approach, but Immortals really scored points for how they built their team around Huni and Reignover,” were all remarks by the media. It was clear that Reignover and Huni had risen from Korean nobodies to titans in the span of a year.

Spring Split proved these presuppositions to be warranted. Immortals tore through North America’s teams to finish with a 17-1 record, only dropping one series to Counter Logic Gaming in week seven. CLG was the next closest contender, with a 13-5 record, four wins behind. Huni and Reignover won first team All-Pro honors for the third split in a row, and Reignover was deemed North America’s MVP.

However, TSM was able to find Immortals’ achilles heel and vanquish them in the playoffs. Some questionable top lane picks for Huni, and lackluster decision-making from Immortals, resulted in an 0-3 loss, which they took out on Team Liquid for third place. This moment marked the first major domestic shutdown of Reignover and Huni since their start as professional players. 

Reignover and Immortals barely missed playoffs in Spring and Summer Split 2016

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The Immortals roster stayed together for Summer Split, which left many wondering if they could repeat their dominating spring performance. TSM proved to be the only contender, finishing the split with a 4-1 game record against Immortals, and the only team above them in the standings. Immortals 16-2 regular season record was still impressive, but not nearly as dominant as their prior first place finish. Reignover was the only Immortals member to be first team All-Pro, with TSM taking the other spots.

Playoffs seemed all but certain to end with TSM facing Immortals in the finals, but history decided to repeat itself. Immortals faced Cloud9 in the semifinals, and fell 3-2. For the second time in two splits, Immortals missed the NA LCS finals, due to uncharacteristic play in the semifinals. And again, they won the third place match. They took down CLG 3-2, which provided enough championship points for Immortals to get a direct seed to the regional finals for a spot at Worlds. Everyone’s anxieties came true, as Cloud9 defeated Immortals again, this time 3-1. All three losses were fairly one-sided, with most of Immortals’ players suffering negative KDAs and significant gold deficits.

It is hard to believe how disappointed each of Immortals’ members were once they realized they would not make it to the 2016 World Championship. Huni, Reignover and Pobelter had all competed in 2015, and regular-season-Immortals felt like they were set to go. This probably felt like a low point for Reignover, coming off of two years of solid performance. Playing with Immortals in North America had to feel like playing with Fnatic in Europe, except Immortals fell just short of glory–no trophies, no MSI, no Worlds. Reignover could not know that the following year would only get worse.

Reignover’s Fall: Team Liquid’s Mismanagement

Reignover joined Team Liquid in 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Immortals rebuilt their roster around Pobelter in the off-season leading into 2017. Reignover and Huni were given opportunities to weigh other offers, and they ended up splitting for the first time in two years. Huni made the move to Korean powerhouse SKT, while Reignover signed with Team Liquid in North America. He joined Lourlo, Goldenglue, Link, Piglet and Matt.

The media was even higher on Reignover in this move than they had ever been before. Esports news outlets touted “Reignover is a master of being in the right place at the right time,” “Reignover was the best jungler in NA last year, and he’s a welcome, experienced addition to this team,” “If Team Liquid does as well as I’m projecting, it will be mostly due to their superstars, Kim ‘Reignover’ Yeu-jin and Piglet, both of whom are arguably the strongest players at their positions in North America,” and “Stars like Chae ‘Piglet’ Gwang-jin and Kim ‘Reignover’ Yeu-jin can be terrifying.”

This roster turned out to be a mess. They finished the Spring Split in ninth place with a 5-13 series record and a 36 percent game win rate. After announcing changes in the middle of the split, Liquid decided to move Piglet to the mid lane and bring in Youngbin as AD carry. After a couple of weeks with no improvement, Doublelift joined the team as a temporary sub out of his break, and Adrian later joined and started a few games. All of this turmoil and chaos completely overshadowed any positive gameplay out of Reignover.

Luckily, Team Liquid avoided relegation. The Promotion tournament was an extreme low point for the organization, and Reignover himself. No one had questioned his talent and consistency in over two years. Going into Summer Split, everyone was wondering what Liquid would do to rectify the situation. It turns out, they did not change anything. They picked up Inori and Slooshi as substitutes, but kept Lourlo, Reignover, Goldenglue, Piglet and Matt as starters.

Reignover and Team Liquid played both promotion tournaments in 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Similar results ensued. TL finished Summer Split in ninth place again, with a 4-14 series record and a 30 percent game win rate. Just like spring, as the split went on, Liquid started Inori, Slooshi, and KonKwon. They brought back Dardoch, despite past troubles with the controversial jungler. They imported Mickey, a Korean mid laner from ROX Tigers. Liquid even swapped out David Lim for Cain as head coach. They went on to compete in the Promotion Tournament, and defended their spot, yet again.

This was truly the lowest point for Reignover. He was completely dropped from conversations of “the best jungler in the league,” in favor of LiRa, Xmithie and Contractz. Fnatic, Immortals, Huni, Rekkles and Pobelter had some of their best splits yet, and were heading to Worlds. Reignover was fighting in promotion tournaments, getting benched for Inori and Dardoch, and falling from grace.

Reignover’s Present: CLG’s Struggles

Enter CLG, an organization also in need of redemption. Darshan, Huhi and Stixxay carried over into 2018, while Reignover and Biofrost joined in the off-season. Although several sources predicted CLG to be a top three team in their preseason power rankings, few commented on Reignover in the same tone of awe as they had in the past.

Several weeks into the split, CLG sits tied for seventh with a 3-5 record. Many of their losses have chalked up to Stixxay’s shortcomings, but coordination and decisiveness in the late game are contributing, as well. Reignover needs this split to be a success. For his stock to rise, CLG needs to make playoffs and prove they can compete at the top level.

Huni and Reignover are playing in the NA LCS in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Reignover was patient with Team Liquid last year, but now it’s time for dividends. Huni is even back in North America, playing for a different team, and solidifying himself at the top of the standings. A bottom-three finish would be detrimental to Reignover and CLG. In fact, CLG looked best in their 2016 Spring Split victory and MSI performance. They have fallen slightly out of favor since then, narrowly missing a chance at Worlds last year. This organization and this player need each other for success. A high finish this split, and this year, could be an ultimate catharsis for such decorated League of Legends entities. Reignover’s journey has been treacherous thus far, but it is not over yet. 

credits

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Quotes: Reddit, Esports Heaven, Concussion Gaming, Thorin’s Thoughts, Dot Esports, EU LCS Broadcast, LoL Esports, TheScore Esports, TheScore Esports, Esports HeavenYahoo Esports, TheScore Esports, TheScore Esports

Historical Data: Leaguepedia

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The Echo Fox Team

Keeping the faith: Echo Fox, Dardoch and the case for second chances

The path of Echo Fox

When Echo Fox joined the NA LCS prior to the 2016 Spring Split, the expectations and excitement were high. Purchasing the spot from Gravity, former NBA Star and actor Rick Fox wasted no time. He invested quickly and heavily in foreign talent, but due to Visa issues among other things, Echo Fox ended their first split in 7th place. By the end of that year, they found themselves facing NRG Esports in a best of five series for the right to stay in the NA LCS. Though they avoided relegation, they ended both 2017 Splits in 8th place. By the start of 2018, they had a completely new roster. Now, sitting atop the NA LCS at 7-1, they have defied critics with a roster full of second chances.

 

Dardoch and Echo Fox

Courtesy of LoL Esports

 

Dardoch

The signing of Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett to yet another team was one of the most talked about stories this preseason. Since signing with AffNity in 2014, he played for no less than nine teams before finally landing with Echo Fox. The year he spent with Team Liquid was his longest stint in one place. During that time he bounced between being a starter, a substitute and a member of their Academy team.  

A mechanically talented player, the cause of his frequent moves was not because of poor performance. Instead, most were due to personal differences with other members of the organizations. Before long, this understandably earned him the reputation of being hard to work with. Other than Team Liquid, each team that signed him found a replacement within six months. He represented Immortals, Counter Logic Gaming and even found his way back into a Team Liquid uniform for a split before being signed by Echo Fox.

Now, it seems that he has figured out whatever issues he had with teams in the past. Dardoch has built a rapport with his team that is not just built on his talent, but also his presence as a teammate. Additionally, he has excelled on the rift with his current team, and is looking more dominant than ever. Adding improved decision-making and pathing to his already impressive mechanics, he leads both the NA and EU LCS junglers by a margin of over 20 assists after only four weeks of play.

 

A common theme

Though he may be the most well known example, Dardoch’s story isn’t exactly unique on the Echo Fox roster.  ADC Johnny “Altec” Ru has played for 11 different teams since 2014, including three stints as a substitute. Support Adrian “Adrian” Ma has worn six different jerseys in the NA LCS. Three of these came last season when he left Phoenix 1 due to internal issues, spent one month with Team Liquid, and then landed with Team Dignitas. Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun spent last year as the mid lane substitute for Gold Coin United. This NA Challenger Series team finished in second place, but failed to secure a promotion to the LCS. Even Top Laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon, who has the most consistent history of the group, has been a member of four teams in three different leagues over the last four years. SKT T1 released Huni after they failed to win the World Championship last year.

Though all well known players, it’s safe to say that not many would pick this roster to lead the NA LCS. Despite their history, however, the team has come together to earn a top spot, tied for first with Cloud9. One possible reason for this is maturity. Dardoch bounced between all of those teams and earned this reputation for being difficult all before his 19th birthday. Fenix is the only member over 20 at the ripe old age of 22. One can hardly blame players for struggling to navigate relationships and team politics perfectly at such a young age. As these players have grown, the sport has grown as well, and each year the infrastructure is improved to help the athletes succeed. In an esport dominated by younger and younger players, there may be something to be said for those who have earned experience and the level head that comes with it.

Echo Fox

Courtesy of LoL Esports

 

Supporting success

Another factor that should not be overlooked is the organization itself. With Fox’s experience in the NBA, three time NBA Champion Jared Jeffries as the new President, and the recent investment by the New York Yankees, Echo Fox approaches player management from a more traditional manner than most epsorts teams. They create an infrastructure that focuses on the development of the members as people as well as players. Along with this, they have a broad range of experience with players of varying egos and personalities.

Though his background is in traditional sports, Rick Fox has jumped into the esports scene with both feet. He is one of the most vocal supporters of not only his team, but esports in general. After their recent victory against Team Liquid, Dardoch referenced this support in a post game interview with LoL Esports. “I mean, it obviously helps a lot just having people in general…just being there to support us every day.” he said, referencing Rick waving from the crowd. “Stratton comes out, Jared Jeffries comes out, our President. And also Rick Fox comes out very often, so, just seeing them at work every day, and also them to show up on the days that matter most helps us a lot.”

Whatever the key ingredient is, it’s clear that it’s working. They have lost only one game this split to the veterans of CLG. Despite many critics’ predictions, they bounced back the next game just as strong as before. If they can keep succeeding, the members of Echo Fox may have finally found a permanent home and lasting success.

 

If you would like to contact me or keep up with things I like, find me on Twitter: @buttsy11.  For more of the best esports news, follow The Game Haus on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for reading!

Featured image courtesy of LoL Esports

Targon’s? More like TarGONE’s

Apollo – “Targon’s meta is dead… I think.”

 

First thing’s first, let’s breakdown the Double Targon’s meta.

The “Double Targon’s” factor was the scapegoat and catalyst of the prominent competitive meta for patch 8.1. It, along with other contributing factors, allowed weak laners to survive the early game and scale up for late game teamfights. The meta was not only made possible by both ADC and Support taking Targon’s Brace, but also by Fleet Footwork, Overheal, Perfect Timing (AKA Stopwatch), Kleptomancy Elixermancy (Ezreal only), etc. Because of all the defensive options, bot laners were extremely safe (definitely not the status quo). Strong early laners had no guarantee of being able to smash lane because the enemy laners could always count on healing and playing defensively.

This made engage supports, like Alistar, much stronger, the mindset being, “If you don’t lock the enemy down and kill them now, they will heal it all back!”. That, in turn, increased the value of more defensive supports like Braum and Taric too! If Ali engages, Braum throws up a shield and absorbs all the damage. And because Targon’s increased it’s heal by % missing health, it was insanely easy to heal up after any skirmishes that didn’t end up in a kill. If you chunk an enemy ADC down to 30% health, within a couple Fleet Footwork procs and a few clangs of the Relic Shield, they would be back at a comfortable 90%. They may lose pressure for one or two waves, but the danger factor was incredibly low.

To make matters worse, once the Targon’s quest is completed, you generate a hefty shield while out of combat. So this meant laners walked to lane with a passive shield, immediately generated an Overheal shield on top, added even more shield with Fleet Footwork (which also provides even more movement speed for running away), and had tons of Targon’s proc healing if the shield was ever broken.

Combine all that with 4 Stopwatches in the bot lane, and everyone became virtually unkillable. Viable ADCs were almost exclusively late game scalers and top tier team-fighters. Kog’Maw, Kalista, Ezreal, and Tristana topped the charts, with others like Varus and Sivir falling short behind. Lucian, sadly, was left unplayed – except by Huni; but that’s a whole different story for another time.

With all these cheap and effective ways of scaling for late, the bot lane became an extremely dangerous place to be a minion.

Image provided by Minion Champion Spotlight


But don’t just take my word for it. Take a pro’s words instead!

Doublelift explains that, “Targon’s is an extension of the support meta, because people become unkillable, and supports are stronger than ADs in lane. So [prior to this meta] you get in these weird situations where even when you hit a Tahm Kench twice, if he Qs you once, you actually lost the trade… So that’s why Targon’s came in. If I’m gonna be useless, I might as well be useless but generate gold for my support who is actually useful!” 

And what’s with all the festivities? Patch 8.1 is a…

“Farmfest,” – Apollo, Hakuho, Aphromoo, Adrian, Smoothie

“Snoozefest,” – Doublelift (said twice)

 

That equals 7 festivals for our minions! But don’t be fooled. It still is a crap place to be for those little descendants of Lari


Provided by TimeLordJikan

Changes to expect in 8.2?

As it turns out, this meta was pretty lame to watch, mostly due to the slowdown on botside. Therefore, the patch largely focuses bot side to address and influence that lane specifically. Even most of the Keystone changes were focused on the bot lane. Guardian and Aftershock both got a slight power shift to make them each a bit more unique and more specifically viable rather than generally fine.

Smoothie predicts that, “Next patch, the ranged supports are going to have a bigger impact in lane. But, blind picking melees may still be strong.” Aphromoo seemed to be on the same page, stating there is “probably gonna be a lot more ranged supports, [though] Ali and Braum will still be in there for counters.” He also predicts that “ardent is gonna come back a little bit,” though he claims to not really favor that meta either. 

Altec points out that 8.2 will bring back some spice to the lane again. “Now that the double Targon’s meta is gone, you will see more difference between the bot lanes. You’ll get to see who are the good bot lanes and the not so good bot lanes… If people make bad trades, it should be a lot easier to make plays.” 

If Altec is right, the Clutch Gaming duo in Apollo and Hakuho may be in luck! Apollo states, “We’re better when we’re fighting bot lane, rather than the farming, hyper carry [style] bot lane.” Although he later claims it’s all in Hakuho’s favor. “I just go with the flow,” he says. Hakuho agrees, stating “As a laner, I always wanna fight in bot lane.” And with palpable enthusiasm and anticipation for the upcoming matches, he claims he’s “hyped for next patch, because the bot lane meta is kinda boring right now… Bot lane is gonna be fun again!” 

However, even with all of this hope for change, Doublelift still finds time for some last second pessimism realism. “I have a feeling that games are still going to be going super long, and if Janna comes back into the meta, I might actually claw my eyeballs out.”


But Apollo, is it really, really dead?

Of course we won’t know until we see the meta unfold, but we can all sure hope so. Altec claims that while, “Technically you can still buy Targons, it’s just not as good as it was before.” I actually think that is extremely important! The potential to run double Targon’s provides the ability for Kog’Maw (and other crazy scalers) to stay relevant in a meta that is sub-optimal for hyper carries, while still providing room for those like Lucian to shine!

Doublelift agrees, stating “It definitely won’t be as strong, but it’ll still be viable. I don’t think it’ll be every game, but I think initially what’ll happen is everyone is gonna switch to dorans, and then someone is gonna find a way to make targons still viable and it’s gonna be finding its way back. Because yeah sure you don’t have the shield, but what you have is three wards. That’s not bad!” At least now when we see double Targon’s, it will change the entire botside game, because vision control will get a heck of a lot more lopsided. Dives onto the scaling carries will be hard because of vision, not 300+ health shields on the ADC!! 

 

I asked Doublelift if he would be the first to bring out the Yasuo ADC, to which he responded, “Yeah yeah. No. Idk Idk!” Unsatisfied, I challenged him, “Well, can you pull it off?” And with full confidence….

“Yeah, I can pull off Yasuo ADC. Easy!” – Doublelift 

Image Provided by Riot Games

 


And what’s the deal with Thresh? Wildturtle told me there would be buffs!!

Don’t expect to see Thresh much in competitive as long as we are in 8.2. After the Targon nerfs to ranged champions, I think even Nunu might have a higher play rate despite him potentially being perma-banned for a while. And although Aphromoo claimed that “Thresh is still viable, but it really depends on confidence,” Adrian disagreed. “I still think Thresh is pretty bad… He definitely needs more buffs… I don’t think there is any good situation to play him unless you’re really good at Thresh and there’s nothing else to play.” Either way, I hope to see a little love thrown towards everyone’s favorite chain warden so we can get back to watching even more big flays in the bot lane.


 

Image provided by Sunsero

Thanks for reading! For questions on the current meta, find some reliable source somewhere, or just watch the NA LCS every weekend! I’ll be there talking to your favorite pros. Tweet me some questions you want to ask @parkeso. Follow me on Insta @parqueso for some fun stories of pros and fan interactions, especially Saturday and Sunday! For all other inquiries, you can email me at parkesotwo@gmail.com. Thanks! And email Riot asking for Thresh buffs!

Fox Dardoch

Dardoch on Free Agency: ‘I didn’t really have many other options’

Echo Fox debuted their revamped roster this past weekend, premiering their veteran-laden lineup as they begin gunning for their organization’s first playoff berth.

Labeled by some as North America’s biggest boom-or-bust team, the new Foxes swept their opening weekend with convincing wins over FlyQuest and Clutch Gaming, comforting Echo Fox fans heading into Week 2. And with games against Cloud9 (2-0) and TSM (2-0) on the docket, this team will certainly have a chance to prove themselves again this weekend.

Anyways, following their opening victory, we had the opportunity to sit down with Echo Fox jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett.

First off, congratulations on your first win. What do you feel made it such a one-sided victory?

“First, our coach Inero and our assistant coach Thinkcard set us up with a really great draft. And everyone felt really confident going into the game, so that definitely helped us play well. Other than that, I think FlyQuest just kinda let us play to our team comp’s win condition and they didn’t really contest us in places they needed to so we just kinda got to do what we wanted to do, and we won.”

What were your thoughts on AnDa’s debut?

“It’s kind of hard to tell because they were pretty outclassed as a team it seemed, so not much to gain from it. I don’t know yet.”

Dardoch fans

Echo Fox is Dardoch’s fourth team since the beginning of 2017. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

So you picked Echo Fox this offseason, why them over other teams?

“For me personally, I didn’t really have many other options. So, I signed with Echo Fox only knowing Fenix was on the roster and I just kinda trusted them. With the names that they gave me and the options that we had, I felt pretty comfortable signing, so I just did.”

Have you noticed a difference in Huni since his time on SK Telecom?

“Well, he’s definitely a lot better than he was previously. Even though he was already an overwhelming individual player on Immortals. After his year on SKT, he just became a lot more composed and he’s actually a very good leader.”

In terms of your character, do you feel like you have something to prove to people outside of your team?
fox dardoch

Despite his talent, his behavior as a teammate has always been called into question. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

“I don’t feel like I have anything to prove to anyone outside of my organization but I know if I act the way I act my teammates will speak the truth about me. And eventually the word will get out that I’m not this toxic entity.”

No doubt in this team’s talent. You’ve got Huni, yourself and you’ve all played in LCS for quite some time. What do you feel like you guys need to do to unseat the favorites like TSM or TL?

“I think all we need to do is keep practicing as hard as we do and keep the communication line flowing. I think we’re a really creative bunch who aren’t scared to make plays, so I think we can easily dethrone TSM, TL, whoever the top teams will be by the end of the season if we keep our practice up.”

 

Featured image: Riot Games

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NA LCS Week 1 overreactions

Week 1 of NA LCS is in the books and as always, teams don’t always seem too coordinated at the beginning of the split. The new meta has brought a lot of long games that has tested the shot calling and synergy of many of these newly formed rosters. Franchising seems to have upped the competition for sure as every team looked competitive in the first week. Here are some of the overreactions after week 1:

TSM will crash and burn

It’s no secret that Team SoloMid’s new roster debuted with a dud of a week. After being criticized heavily at last years world’s for the lack of early play making ability, the team went for a new look. They imported European duo laners Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez. They also brought in promising all star rookie jungler, Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung, to round out the roster.

TSM looked like a mirror image of their Worlds team during week 1. They were lacking in early game play making and reacting to the enemy team’s moves. Former coach of the split, Kim “Ssong” Sangso was supposed to help fix their issues, but the team looked unchanged.

Star mid laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg faced heavy criticism from Riot analysts for his passive play. Many players were quick to defend him. They came in ranked near the top for most of the preseason power rankings. Going 0-2 is a major disappointment for this new roster and they’ll need to fix their drafts and early game play making if they don’t want to fall too far behind.

Echo Fox can actually win na lcs

Huni

Source: Riot Games Flickr

Echo Fox came being ranked as one of the lower tier teams in the league. Many argued that the egos on the roster would not be able to mesh well together and the team would ultimately fail once they lost a few games. In their first two games, the team looked very good going 2-0. Echo Fox’s early game has been the best in the league. They averaged a gold difference @15 of 4,233 over the two games they played.

Top lane star Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon showed off his top Lucian pick as a counter to Gangplank. He would end the game with a 4-0-6 KDA and flame horizon the originator of the saying, Lee “Flame” Ho-jong.

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett showed out well with two good Zac games and finishing with a 9.5 KDA. Echo Fox looked really strong, but we’ll need to see them stay consistent heading into week 2. They’ll be facing off against a struggling TSM and Cloud 9 this week. If they can pull out another 2-0, this team could be the real deal. This could possibly be the roster that finally gets Echo Fox to playoffs.

100 Thieves Might be the Strongest of all the New teams

With the NA LCS introducing four new teams into franchising, 100 Thieves looked to be the best of all the teams. Built with solid veterans in just about every role this team could be a sleeper team to look out for. They have two strong Korean solo laners in Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook and Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho.

They have a strong core of North American players as well in veterans Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black and William “Meteos” Hartman. Along with rising young stud Cody “Cody Sun” Sun, their roster looks solid. They were able to pull off a really close win against Optic Gaming and dominated Counter Logic Gaming.

Lead by passionate owner, Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag, 100 Thieves could start gaining fans quickly if they keep their success up.

Licorice is the Next Great NA Talent

When Cloud 9 announced that rookie Eric “Licorice” Ritchie would be replacing Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, many were quick to write them off as contenders. Licorice in particular had no LCS experience and hadn’t looked particularly strong against LCS competition. In their first match against CLG Licorice was a victim to camping by the enemy jungler, but was still able to deal the most damage in the game on Gangplank.

In his second game against Golden Guardians, he had an excellent Kled game going 7-0-6. Licorice has been a longtime solo queue stud, so if he can develop into a carry top lane he could be the next star from North America. Cloud 9 is known to be open to letting their players play what they think is strong so he’ll have a lot of freedom for champion choice.

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Huni

Huni’s dominant return to the NA LCS

The History

It’s been around one and a half years since Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon left Immortals and with it, the NA LCS. Many League fans remember the day that Huni threw the match against Team SoloMid by picking Lucian top. It was deemed by many to be a random pick that cost Immortals the match, their perfect scoreline and their chance at Worlds. They had one more chance to qualify by playing CLG. Alas, even after winning the match they were beaten out by Counter Logic Gaming for the 2nd place seed at the 2016 World Championship by a mere 10 championship points. Disgraced, Huni left for Korea to join SK Telecom T1 where he has played for the last year, improving his skills. After the massive upset at Worlds where the SKT dynasty was ended at the hands of Samsung Galaxy (now KSV), Huni was set to play in NA again after being picked up by Echo Fox.

Throughout Huni’s entire career many have said that he is a bad player who is extremely overrated. Now as Huni returns to the NA LCS he has set out to prove to all those people that they are wrong. What better way to accomplish this than by picking up where he left off, with his infamous Lucian top. Despite the heavy criticisms, Huni was determined to show to the world that he was a top-tier player and so, on January 20th, he walked onto the stage, full of confidence and delivered the ‘Huni special’, instalocking Lucian and riling up the crowd.

 

Huni

Source: Riot Games Flickr

how did huni perform?

Huni started off the match by playing as expected. He went for pokes to force his enemy laner in FlyQuest’s Lee “Flame” Ho-jong out of lane so he could gain a CS advantage. He pushed this advantage further by buying a second Doran’s Blade and a Vamp Scepter on his first back to stack lifesteal. These purchases allowed him to go for aggressive trades that would always come out favourably for him. This resulted in him getting a 30 CS advantage and a solo first blood tower at a mere 10 minutes into the game.

It was due to Huni’s massive gold lead that he managed to gain lane priority. It was incredibly important that he gained this advantage as it not only allowed him to make the split-second decision to teleport into the team fight at 12:46, but it also meant that Flame had no teleport as he was forced to use it to get back to lane to stop the growing CS lead. Upon Huni’s teleport in, he instantly flashed away from Jang “Keane” Lae-young’s Cassiopeia Miasma and used his ultimate to not only pick up a kill on William “Stunt” Chen but also to disperse FlyQuest, allowing for easy picks. Echo Fox ended the fight with four kills plus first blood. Thus, allowing them to take vision control of the enemy jungle and begin to slowly bleed them of gold and experience.

Later in the match at 18:45 FlyQuest make the mistake of walking into complete darkness. This allowed for Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett (on Zac) to slingshot in and isolate Stunt with his ultimate. The rest of Echo Fox moved to collapse onto FlyQuest, However, FlyQuest had no answer. Huni, due to his lane priority, had forced Flame to walk the long way around to the fight. This meant he couldn’t get to the fight in time to do anything, securing an Echo Fox victory in the fight. With the end of this fight finally came the conversion Echo Fox was looking for, beginning to pull ahead of FlyQuest by entire items.

With Echo Fox now having a firm lead, they were looking for an opportunity to end, and at 24 minutes into the game, they found just that. As Jason “WildTurtle” Tran (on Varus) tried to stun lock Huni with his ultimate, he was met with his own unfortunate demise as Huni QSS’ed the ult and proceeded to blow up WildTurtle. This converted into a Baron dance that was eventually won out by Echo Fox.

 

Huni

Source: Riot Games Flickr

The Result

The match was over after the very first team fight as Echo Fox slowly began to seal FlyQuest’s fate, ending after they were unable to recover from failing to stop Echo Fox getting Baron. Huni ended the match with a very impressive 4/0/6 KDA, cementing himself as a top-tier player and silencing the naysayers once and for all. The best part? He did it all with a smile on his face.

 

CREDITS

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr, LoL Esports Flickr

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Coach Inero addresses Echo Fox’s off-season and Spring Split expectations

LCS fans and analysts are having difficulty placing Echo Fox in their power rankings following the off-season in North America. Many outlets hesitate to place FOX high on their list, citing reasons like “asking [these] players to work together…raises a lot of questions,” “we just don’t see them having good synergy,” “somebody needs to step up and keep the team together when the going gets tough,” and “negative feelings about this organization.” No one is denying the potential prowess of Huni, Dardoch, Fenix, Altec or Adrian. Everyone is unsure of their abilities to cooperate, or that Echo Fox is the organization to manage them.

On Tuesday, January 16, Echo Fox hosted a Roster Day “to familiarize professionals…with those involved in Echo Fox.” The organization invited journalists and other media to interview members of the FOX family, including players, coaches and executives. Many of these interviews involved asking questions about Dardoch’s past issues and public perception. However, every member interviewed downplayed any current negativity, and promoted him as reformed.

Strangely enough, no one has mentioned Echo Fox’s coach, Nick “Inero” Smith, who has been with the organization since May 2017. He coached the LCS team to an eighth place finish last Summer Split, and oversaw team construction in the off-season. It will be his responsibility to weave FOX’s team members together in 2018. Here are his thoughts on the off-season and Spring Split of NA LCS.

Inero is the head coach for Echo Fox in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

the Off-season

Question: What was Echo Fox’s philosophy for building a roster in the off-season?

“Going into the off-season, our plan for the LCS was to create as competitive a roster as possible. Alongside this, we wanted that roster to be young and committed to us for the long-term. Making sure those players that were all committed to the same goal of being a top team was extremely important, and we believe we’ve acquired the best five possible for this. For academy, we took a similar approach but pulled players from our own scouting boot camps.”

Question: Echo Fox brought on an entirely new roster for 2018. How much of that change came from Echo Fox scrapping everything and starting fresh, versus the previous players deciding to find other options? 

“Our main objective was to have a roster that all were aligned towards the same goal, while also being as competitive as possible. We didn’t go into the off-season wanting to completely redo the entire roster, but when rosters begin moving it happens very quickly and we must be completely certain that all the players we sign are ready and willing to commit to those same goals.”

Inero is the head coach of Echo Fox for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Coach Inero stressed that Echo Fox’s main objectives for roster-building in the off-season were competition and alignment. He wants players that will be able to play at the top level of League of Legends. He also wants players that can come together and build their synergy around wanting to succeed. Fans will look at Echo Fox’s roster for Spring Split and see all competitive players. None of them are talentless. And the big synergy question comes down to hunger for victory. Inero is betting that ferocity will bring these individuals together into a functional unit.

The Spring Split

Question: How do you plan on managing the dominant personalities joining Echo Fox, in-game and out-of-game?

“I don’t think the personalities on this roster are as dominating or conflicting as people make them out to be. Public perception of the players on our LCS roster is overall pretty negative, but it mainly comes from people who have never worked or interacted with them before. Having five players that all want the same thing makes everyone’s lives a lot easier, and everyone is extremely cooperative with one another. For the coaching staff, this means we can all focus on becoming NA LCS champions, rather than trying to motivate the players to want the same thing.”

Question: With that in mind, what are your expectations for your LCS and Academy rosters in Spring Split? 

“I have really high expectations for our LCS roster over the course of this year, but as a step-goal for the Spring Split, we’d like to bring the organization to the playoffs for the first time in their history. Every other team under Echo Fox is performing at the top of their league, and it’s time for us to do the same. I fully expect that we’ll go further than just reaching the playoffs, but also reaching playoffs is a decent start. For academy, it’s tough to say, with every academy team taking different approaches to the league, but I have full confidence in all five players and Peter to be in the top half of their league as well.”

Dardoch and Adrian join Echo Fox in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Just like Dardoch and other team members denied any clashing of personalities, Coach Inero assuages the community’s fears. This is powerful, coming from the coach who oversees everything. Inero describes FOX’s roster as “cooperative,” not something you will find in any power rankings. He believes Echo Fox can realistically make playoffs for the first time since its induction to the LCS. This would be a landmark win for the organization, and it would prove doubters wrong.

With the return of best-of-ones and new organizations entering the LCS, it is impossible to predict this split. But if Echo Fox is able to become a contender in the NA LCS, then Inero should be given credit. There has been so much dissent towards Echo Fox in the past, and towards the current roster in the off-season. If Inero is able to align these players, then he should earn massive props from the community.

credits

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

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Is Echo Fox the biggest sleeper team?

It’s no doubt that when Echo Fox’s roster was announced, the biggest critique would be their clash of personalities. Echo Fox gutted their roster from last split in favor of bringing in young talented players among the scene. Just about every player was known as a rising young star at some point before failing to ever meet their potential.

With these questions being raised, many are ranking Echo Fox in the lower half of pre-season power rankings. The team seemed to have built off raw talent without regards to the problems that could arise.

Echo Fox has a lot of synergy questions to answer heading into the split. While this team on paper has a lot of talent, egos could clash if the team doesn’t perform well early.

New Year, New Dardoch?

Jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett alone is already on his fourth team in his young career. Fans were given an inside look into the life of Team Liquid in the HTC documentary, “Breaking Point,” where Dardoch was at the center of many clashes with teammates and coaching staff.

Last year Immortals granted Dardoch a three year contract, but Dardoch didn’t even last his entire first year before being transferred. In his departure video, it could be seen that Dardoch hadn’t changed much from his Team Liquid days. He was shown still clashing with teammates and coaching staff and Immortals traded him to Counter Logic Gaming after the Spring Split.

With CLG, not much was known to fans about why Dardoch would eventually be replaced. He felt betrayed when the team brought in Omar “Omargod” Amin to split scrims with him. After Omargod was brought in Dardoch felt the need to leave the team and would eventually be transferred back to Team Liquid.

Dardoch has a new chance with Echo Fox to prove that he has matured and can succeed in this league. This may be his last chance as many teams may not be willing to give him another chance if he can’t fix his attitude issues.

Adrian and Altec Stay Together

Photo by: Riot Esports

Echo Fox’s bot lane duo of Johnny “Altec” Ru and Adrian “Adrian” Ma come over after a brief stint on Dignitas. With Dignitas, they instantly made the team better as Dignitas was able to upset Cloud 9 in the first round of playoffs before losing to TSM in the next round. Altec and Adrian were a large part of Dignitas’ improvement.

On Echo Fox, they’ll have the benefit of having played together before. Adrian has had attitude issues on other teams as well. Most recently, on Phoenix1, he was quick to point out Inori’s flaws in an interview. This would eventually lead to Adrian being transferred off of Phoenix1.

Both Altec and Adrian were heralded as rising young stars early in their careers. Neither of them have been able to qualify for a world championship, despite being on some talented rosters. The added synergy from playing together will definitely help in developing Echo Fox’s synergy.

Huni’s Return

The biggest acquisition for this team might be in the top lane with former SKT top laner, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon. Huni had the experience of playing in the most competitive region in the world last year. He failed to win the World Championship with SKT, but his mechanical skill was still seen through his play.

When he played in EU and NA many critiqued his inability to play tank champions. With SKT, he showed the ability to play both tanks and carry champions. He’s always had a positive and fun attitude towards the game in interviews. He gives a bright and positive attitude to a roster that may need it.

Many will remember his great regular season performances in North America the last time he was here with Immortals. If he can duplicate that same success, Echo Fox could be surprise contenders at the end of the split.

With nobody really talking about them at the moment, Echo Fox has the chance to finally have a successful split in the LCS with this new roster.

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Four new organizations enter the NA LCS in 2018

NA LCS team identities following off-season roster upheavals

This year’s off-season has been extremely disruptive to the identity of each NA LCS team. Iconic, long-term and founding members of several rosters have switched to another team for 2018. Aphromoo is no longer playing for Counter Logic Gaming. Echo Fox is without Froggen. Hai has moved on from FlyQuest. TSM does not have Svenskeren.

Four brand new organizations are entering the LCS, while four previous organizations are no more. Immortals, Team Envy, Phoenix1 and Dignitas are out. Optic Gaming, Golden Guardians, 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming are in. All of the narratives surrounding the dissolved teams no longer matter. Immortals’ fumbles domestically, and then their tragic World Championship; Dignitas’ return to the LCS and Summer Split run in the playoffs; Phoenix1’s roller-coaster ups and downs from Rift Rivals, MikeYeung and roster shuffles. All down the drain.

The incoming teams will create new narratives for fans to enjoy. Endemic organizations made big roster moves in the off-season, which will bring their own storylines. The other teams in the middle, like Echo Fox and FlyQuest, will continue to mold into their own identities. 2018 is a watershed year for creating new drama, rivalries and narratives within the NA LCS.

100 Thieves: Old Guard, Modern Marketing

Aphromoo joined 100 Thieves for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The roster and coach announced for 100 Thieves consists of Ssumday, Meteos, Ryu, Aphromoo and Pr0lly. Each of these members could easily help anchor a team with their veteran experience and knowledge. However, they find themselves together on a roster that could very well have the most combined professional League of Legends experience on any announced NA LCS team in 2018. The coaching role, every lane, and the jungle position is covered by an established personality.

The organization itself is rather novel, though. Matthew Haag, aka “Nadeshot,” is well-known in the Call of Duty world as a retired player and team owner. He is partnered with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers to build a brand and a League of Legends roster under the 100 Thieves moniker. With a standout logo and a merch store full of casual-wear, 100 Thieves will most likely bring a different marketing flavor to the LCS.

100 Thieves should bring a mixture of results on and off the Rift. Meteos, Pr0lly and Aphromoo are some of the most recognized personalities in North America, while Ssumday and Ryu rally their own sets of fans. Nadeshot and the Cavaliers may contribute new styles and promotions than League of Legends is used to. Combine the charisma of the players and staff with the creativity and flashiness of the brand, and 100 Thieves could pull a nice set of followers. Not to mention, if the team actually has synergy, then there is no doubt they can be contenders regardless of which AD carry they sign.

Cloud9: question marks

Svenskeren joins Cloud9 for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Fans are filled with confusion and concern towards Cloud9’s off-season. With Impact and Contractz leaving, Cloud9 brought on Svenskeren and Licorice to join Jensen, Sneaky and Smoothie on the starting roster. Factions of the fan-base believe these members to be side-grades at least, downgrades at worst. Licorice has not been tested above the Challenger Series, while Svenskeren was not viewed as a key factor for TSM in 2017. While Impact and Ray had their low moments this year on Cloud9, there is no question that Impact’s high points were on another level.

Cloud9 still remains as one of the goofier, nonchalant organizations. Sneaky will still be the central personality, as the longest tenured member of the organization. Jensen, Smoothie, Svenskeren and even Coach Reapered and team owner Jack have had their fair share of memes and fun. Licorice will probably fall right in line with this theme.

However, the lightheartedness of the players only works if they are winning. Jokes and humor fall flat if the roster has issues clicking, or if results do not show. Despite standing out as an amusing team, Cloud9 actually has a strong League of Legends legacy. They have won two NA LCS championships, and finished runner-up four times. In 2018 Cloud9 will look to continue building on this success, while still playing the jester role off stage.

Counter Logic Gaming: the Nice Guys

Biofrost joins CLG for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

CLG took their first step away from their “Team Friendship” theme when they traded Xmithie for Dardoch in the 2017 mid-season. They took a step further this off-season by bringing on Reignover to start over OmarGod. Add Aphromoo’s departure, and CLG’s identity is reeling.

But look at the starting roster: Darshan, Reignover, Huhi, Stixxay, Biofrost. These are the nice guys of the NA LCS. This squad has charisma. None of these members have any baggage following them from a previous team, or lacks personality. When Stixxay is the most arrogant player on the roster, it is probably a healthy work environment.

CLG should have some concerns, though. Who will be the leader and shotcaller to fill the void left by Aphromoo? Is there enough fire in the team? And is the talent strong enough to pass the test of 2018? Stixxay has never played in the LCS without Aphromoo. Biofrost only played one split without Doublelift, and it was not nearly as impactful. Reignover has not shown a level of play akin to his days with Huni on Fnatic and Immortals. 2018 will be a huge test for these players’ improvement together.

Clutch Gaming: upgraded envy

Febiven joins Clutch Gaming for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Lira, Apollo and Hakuho made up three fifths of Team Envy in 2017, and they will make up three fifths of Clutch Gaming in 2018. Instead of Nisqy and Seraph, though, Clutch opted for Febiven and Solo. Unlike Cloud9’s, these acquisitions should definitely be upgrades. Nisqy brought a level of consistency to the mid lane, which Envy did not have prior to starting him. Seraph was a starter for the team over a longer period of time, but played much less consistently. Febiven earned first team All-Pro in the 2017 European LCS Summer Split, and Solo was a top performer in the North American Challenger Series.

Envy’s jungler and bottom lane were huge contributors to the team’s Summer Split success. They were able to secure a playoff spot, and took CLG to five games in the quarterfinals. With stronger top and mid laners, Clutch Gaming may be able to reach the next level and push even farther. They also brought on David Lim, who led Team Liquid Academy during their promotion into the LCS and Team Liquid during the 2017 Spring Split.

Beyond a possibly underrated roster, the Houston Rockets’ Clutch Gaming identity within the LCS remains unclear. Sebastian Park, their Head of Esports, seems confident in the team’s potential, and the organization has teased analytical tools for optimizing talent scouting, including a “pathfinding engine.” If these types of developments pan out, then Clutch Gaming could become the Moneyball team in the NA LCS.

Echo Fox: The Aggressors

Dardoch and Fenix join Echo Fox for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

List the most aggressive players in the NA LCS over the past two years, and several of Echo Fox’s reported members are likely to pop up. Huni, Dardoch and Fenix are well-known hawkish competitors. Altec and Adrian began building a similar reputation in the 2017 Summer Split, as well. Echo Fox has combined these aggressors into one squad to completely revamp into 2018.

Drama and tension are the other side of this aggression coin. Dardoch and Fenix had their fair share of issues while on Team Liquid in 2016, as showcased in Breaking PointAdrian had his own problems on Phoenix1 in the 2017 Spring Split. These types of off-stage obstacles could bubble up once again without the proper infrastructure.

FOX’s new look is also a departure from the previous Froggen-centric 10-man roster and the Stream Dream Team (Delta Fox). Echo Fox could never develop any synergy on their LCS roster during Summer Split, due to constantly rotating starters. Froggen’s status is still unknown (although Jacob Wolf reported that FOX plans to drop him), but even if he stays, he will no longer be the only voice on the team. This new Echo Fox will have the highest performance variance, as most of the members rely on emotional momentum to succeed. If this roster is able to mesh and remain problem-free, then Echo Fox could reap huge rewards from this huge risk.

FlyQuest: A chemistry experiment

Flame joins FlyQuest for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the few fully announced rosters, FlyQuest is completely revamped for 2018. Following the trend of keystone figures switching teams, Hai is no longer FlyQuest’s mid laner. Balls, Moon and Lemonnation are gone, as well. Instead, FlyQuest acquired Flame, Anda, Fly and Stunt as starters. They also signed Keane and Shrimp, as well as Ngo, Erry and Jayj from the University of Toronto’s collegiate team. Wildturtle is the only remaining member from the 2017 roster.

Other than Flame, these players feel middle of the pack individually. Anda and Fly are untested in the LCS, but have played in the NA Challenger Series with varying success. Wildturtle can spike fairly high, but generally relies on his teammates to play around his style. Stunt was the on-and-off starter during his time on Phoenix1.

Unlocking these players’ ceilings will be FlyQuest’s greatest challenge in 2018. With the proper synergy, FlyQuest could certainly rise higher than their 2017 Summer Split. Communication problems are more likely, though. Wildturtle has veteran experience, but he may not be a loud voice to build a team around. The rookies, Anda and Stunt, will rely on Wildturtle to be a leader and gel together with the Korean imports, Flame and Fly. Keane and Shrimp are smart pick-ups, since they worked fairly well with Ssumday on Dignitas, and could bring that experience into FlyQuest.

Golden Guardians: Hai and Company

Hai joins Golden Guardians for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Hai kick-starts a new organization in 2018, Golden Guardians, and he is basically their only hope. The Golden State Warriors-owned organization has reportedly acquired Lourlo, Contractz, Deftly and Matt. This roster would be the only one in the NA LCS without any imported players. Golden Guardians also seem to have the least combined LCS experience. These two factors will leave many fans wondering what reasoning was used to construct this team.

Golden Guardians will live or die by Hai in 2018. He is surrounded by relatively young players who have never played for more than one previous organization. LCS fans were impressed with Moon’s performance on FlyQuest with Hai as a shotcaller, but that success was short-lived. If Hai is able to unlock Lourlo, Contractz, Deftly and Matt the same way, then Golden Guardians could surprise.

ESPN also reported Locodoco as the Golden Guardians’ head coach, which could be helpful. He has experience coaching younger players on Team Liquid and Gold Coin United, including Lourlo and Matt. It would be surprising if Golden Guardians kept these same five members as their starters throughout 2018. Without the pressure of relegation, this organization could be taking the opportunity to develop younger native talents with Hai’s proven leadership.

Optic Gaming: The HodgePodge

PowerOfEvil joins Optic Gaming for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

A true concoction, Optic Gaming enters the NA LCS pulling together a wide variety of talents. The “Green Wall” is an expansive organization spanning Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty, Overwatch and other esports. They have announced their acquisition of Romain Bigeard, ex-manager of Unicorns of Love, and Zaboutine, former caster, as manager and coach. ESPN has reported the starting roster as Zig, Akaadian, PowerOfEvil, Arrow and LemonNation.

If all of this is true, then Optic is combining rising stars in top and jungle with an experimental European mid laner, an up-and-down Korean AD carry and an analytical, veteran support. The roster will be led by an eccentric manager-mascot and a French caster-turned-coach, and they will have the full support of an esports powerhouse brand. There are some strong pieces to this puzzle, but they are not necessarily a clean fit.

The Optic LCS team seems like it may sit somewhere between 100 Thieves and FlyQuest. Optic is definitely a well-known esports organization, and they should draw a fan-base. The first-person shooter edge and player recognition of 100 Thieves combines with the questionable roster synergy of FlyQuest. Romain is a promotional personality with a knack for creating content and winning hearts, so expect Optic to use him to full effect. There is certainly plenty of talent on this roster, but it may take a while for them to actually produce favorable results.

Team Liquid: Vengeful Spirits

Doublelift joins Team Liquid for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The hoarders of the off-season, Team Liquid emerges with a complete roster overhaul. After acquiring contracts for several different players, Liquid has most likely settled on Impact, Xmithie, Pobelter, Doublelift and Olleh. This five-man group feels much stronger and intuitive than Liquid’s team from 2017 Summer Split. Xmithie, Pobelter and Olleh are proven talents who made up three fifths of Immortals’ World Championship-qualifying roster. Impact had a mostly off year, but still solid during the high points. Doublelift comes to Liquid after being replaced by TSM.

Revenge is the overarching theme for Team Liquid going into 2018. Owner Steve Arhancet wants revenge for his last two years of roster troubles. The ex-Immortals players want revenge for losing to TSM in the Summer Split finals, then being denied from the franchised LCS. Most importantly, Doublelift wants revenge for getting nudged out of TSM.

With Cain remaining as head coach, Team Liquid should trend towards the top of the league. If this roster is unable to perform, then it will be a complete disgrace. All of these players have been victorious in the past. Each of these players have attended the World Championship, many of them as teammates. 2018 serves as a fresh start for Team Liquid and Steve, and they need to use their past frustrations as fuel. Dardoch is not an excuse. Piglet is not an excuse. Goldenglue is not an excuse. It is time for Liquid to put up or shut up.

TSM: the final boss

Zven and mithy join TSM for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Citing international shortcomings and issues with shotcalling and communication, TSM’s owner, Reginald, decided to replace Svenskeren, Doublelift and Biofrost with MikeYeung, Zven and Mithy. He also picked up Coach Ssong from Immortals’ dissolved team. The six-time NA LCS champions continue to adapt and reinvigorate their roster, and TSM will remain as the final boss in 2018. Every individual player on this team should be top three in their role at the beginning of the season.

MikeYeung is the only player worth questioning. He showcased an explosive Rift Rivals in 2017, but Phoenix1 fell off as a team afterwards. Fans will find out how meta-dependent MikeYeung is in 2018.

Hauntzer was the standout player at Worlds, and he had an all-around stellar 2017. Bjergsen continues to be an anchor in the mid lane, ever-present, ever-consistent. Zven and Mithy’s reputation precedes them, as they have been a package deal since their time on Origen starting in 2014.

TSM’s performance floor is higher than several LCS teams’ ceilings, because the consistency and experience on this team should be solid. Ssong obviously factored into Immortals’ Summer Split success. If he can produce even a portion of that improvement with TSM, then they have a fruitful road ahead. With so much volatility in the off-season, TSM is one of the only teams to maintain the same identity as the villain of the league. They are the team that assumes North American dominance, and shoots for greatness abroad. Franchising has opened doors for some others to compete financially and strategically, but will they actually have what it takes to dethrone the kings?

credits

Featured Image: Akshon Esports Twitter

Other Images: LoL Esports’ Flickr

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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.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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