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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huni

SKT Huni: History of the Holo knight

Seonghoon “Huni” Heo is perhaps the most beloved player in League of Legends. Having played in three different regions since his professional debut on Fnatic (FNC), Huni has earned armies of fans across the globe. As a central figure to arguably the most dominant Western team to date (2015 FNC), Huni’s continued success through the years comes as no surprise to his supporters. Now a member of Korea’s defending world champions, SK telecom T1 (SKT), Huni prepares for the match of his career. Let’s take a look at Huni’s storied road to the World finals.

The Hero Europe deserved

huni

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

At the start of Season 5, Fnatic’s historic roster disbanded. Only veteran Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim remained, left to reassemble what would become a historic European squad. Enter Huni and Ui-jin “Reignover” Kim, two fledgling Korean promises destined to take the EU LCS by storm. The pair would go on to play together for several splits, even traveling across continents before parting ways.

Huni’s meteoric rise on FNC began as the freshly forged European squad finished their regular season 13-5 to place second. In playoffs, FNC edged out the Unicorns of Love (UOL) in a five-game finals match to earn first place. With the momentum of a new regional title, FNC displayed a fantastic showing at the 2015 Mid-Season Invitational. In a roller-coaster five-game series, Huni and his teammates took former world champions SKT T1 to the brink, determined to show that Europe was no joke. Returning to EU that summer, FNC carved League history, becoming the first team to ever play an undefeated regular season, finishing an unprecedented 18-0.

Huni was unstoppable. His carry-oriented style tore through Europe’s finest teams. Backed by an ever faithful teammate in Reignover, FNC’s top-laner became a human highlight reel. His impeccable team-fighting on Rumble and Gnar ignited the European home crowd. But, it was his contagious laughter and hilarious nature that won the hearts of fans across the globe. At the end of Season 5, Huni chose to close his chapter in Europe and crossed the Atlantic, hungry for more.

Huni the Immortal

huni

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

At the start of Season 6, Huni and Reignover left Europe to join the emerging team Immortals (IMT) alongside several NA LCS veterans. The duo were instant fan-favorites. With solid reputations after their tear through Europe, Huni and Reignover rampaged through the NA scene. That year, Immortals achieved a 17-1 regular season record, tying with long-time regional powerhouse Team SoloMid (TSM) for first place.

Immortals had a strong case as the best team in North America. Despite being an entirely untested roster, the players gelled like old friends. Huni and his AD-carry, Jason “WildTurtle” Tran, shared a hyper-aggressive playstyle. Luckily, the explosive pair had support Adrian “Adrian” Ma and Reignover in their back pockets to always keep them safe. Adrian’s signature heal and shield type champion pool combined with Reignover’s affinity for tank junglers opened room for their carries to mow enemies down in any ensuing teamfights. With their regular season success, IMT headed into playoffs with high expectations.

Immortals fell to Team SoloMid in a crushing 0-3 sweep in the Spring semifinals. IMT placed third overall, failing to qualify for that year’s Mid-Season Invitational. Again, in NA LCS Summer, IMT only managed to place third. Because of the championship points system set up by Riot, IMT found themselves fighting for a spot at Worlds 2016 in the NA Regional Qualifiers. Because they were seeded the highest, IMT only had to face the winner of three teams: Cloud 9, Team EnVyUs, and Team Liquid. Cloud 9 emerged victorious in the Regional Qualifiers, leaving IMT at home for Worlds 2016.

To be a Champion

huni

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Before his debut on Fnatic, Huni tried out for the top-lane position on SK telecom T1. After not receiving the position, he forged his own path, but the dream remained. In the 2016 off-season, SKT offered Huni a position as the team’s starting top-laner, the opportunity of a lifetime. Although he was still under contract, Immortals CEO Noah Whinston released Huni of his obligations so that he could realize his dream.spr

Although his performance in LCK Spring was great, Huni lost significant playtime to his teammate Jin-Park “Untara” Ui that summer. SKT went on to lose against Longzhu Gaming at the Summer Finals. Eyes were on SKT’s coaching staff to decide which top-laner would accompany the team to Worlds. For a variety of factors, SKT’s head coach Byeong-hoon “cCarter” Choi ultimately announced that SKT would bring Huni. After a somewhat questionable group stage, many of Riot’s casters painted this year’s iteration of SK telecom as the weakest yet. The criticisms stacked after SKT teetered above elimination at the hands of Misfits Gaming (MSF) in quarterfinals.

In semifinals, SKT faced off against China’s Royal Never Give Up (RNG) in another dramatic five-game series. RNG targeted Huni in each ban phase, removing Jayce in all five games. As a result, Huni locked picks like Camille and Gnar to fulfill a crucial split-pushing role for SKT. Specifically, in Game 5, Huni dominated the enemy Shen, forcing the RNG’s mid-laner to swap top-lane. Continued split push pressure forced RNG into a position where their only option was to force teamfights. Instead, SKT pushed small advantages until they could take a fight on their terms. At 40 minutes, Huni found a massive three-man “GNAR!” to crush RNG’s team, sending SKT to the finals.

This weekend, Huni faces against regional rivals Samsung Galaxy. The match-up is a repeat of Worlds 2016, only SKT has a new roster. The stage is set for the most important series of Huni’s career. Will Huni’s everlasting confidence carry him through the match, or is this the year that SK telecom T1 fails?

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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peanut

SKT Peanut: Evolution of an apex predator

Wangho “Peanut” Han earned international acclaim as the star jungler for ROX Tigers (ROX) at Worlds 2016. His hyper-aggressive playstyle and clutch Baron steals on “Lee Sin” won over legions of fans. After losing out to SK telecom T1 (SKT) in the semifinals that year, Peanut would later leave ROX Tigers to join SKT. Over the past year, Peanut’s playstyle on SKT has grown increasingly measured and calculated, far less aggressive than his performance on ROX. Coming into quarterfinals at Worlds 2017, Peanut’s lackluster performance raised several red flags. Despite the criticism, Peanut delivered when SKT closed a five game series against Royal Never Give Up (RNG), to send the reigning champions to their fourth World finals appearance. Let’s take a look at how SKT as a team, built Peanut to evolve beyond his former glory.

SKT’s Winning Formula

peanut

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In their Worlds victories in 2015 and 2016, SK telecom T1 made great utility of their six-man rosters. At Worlds 2015, SKT ran with Ji-hoon “Easyhoon” Lee as the mid-lane substitute for Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee. In this season, SKT used Easyhoon to adjust how the team played stylistically. Then in 2016, Seong-ung “bengi” Bae stood as the team’s substitute jungler and specifically, the “game-closer” on multiple occasions. While most teams struggle to effectively utilize their six-man rosters or avoid using subs altogether, SK telecom seems to have figured out the formula.

At the semifinals of Worlds 2016, SKT found themselves down 1-2 against regional rivals, ROX Tigers. Coach Jeonggyun “kkOma” Kim made the call to sub in bengi over starting jungler Sungu “Blank” Kang. When the pressure was on, bengi delivered two stellar performances, sending his team to the finals. Over the 2017 season, Blank worked to fulfill the role of his mentor bengi. In the quarterfinals series against Misfits Gaming (MSF), Blank subbed in for Peanut as SKT’s match-closer, sealing away the series 3-2.

How does SKT continue to be one of the few professional League of Legends teams that can use substitutes effectively? Teams and players in the past argued that by having a substitute, team-scrims suffer. Because subs and starters have to share scrim time, teams effectively lose out on maximum practice time with a single player. Theoretically, this logic makes some sense, but how does SKT consistently perform with multiple subs and new players cycling in/out every season? The answer seems to lie in the relationship between SKT’s starters and subs.

Growing Pains

peanut

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In 2016, while Blank was the starter for SK telecom, many critics saw him as the weaker jungler compared to the veteran bengi. However, Coach kkOma continued to use him as SKT’s starter, eventually leading SKT to their third World Championship. This dedication to the players undoubtedly pushes both starters and substitutes to grow. This is an aspect of coaching that many teams and players across all regions seem to ignore or overlook. While a starting position is certainly prestigious, SKT’s substitutes exist not as some second-rate bench-warmers, but as bastions for when the cards are down. When SKT call on bengi, and now Blank, the opposing team understands that SKT’s ace has stepped onto the Rift.

SKT uses these substitutes to create a symbiotic relationship between players like Peanut and Blank. The jungle duo constantly grows by watching each other’s play. The substitute ‘paradigm’ for SKT is fundamentally beyond that of any other League of Legends team. Because of this relationship, Peanut’s capacity to grow during the World Championship has been fascinating to watch.

When casters and analysts cited his poor showing in both the group stage and SKT’s quarterfinal match, Peanut’s mental toughness was put to the test. In high pressure situations, many players succumb to criticism. The doubts surrounding Peanut mounted further when Coach kkOma selected to start Blank in SKT’s semifinals series. Was Peanut performing so poorly in scrims that SKT would bench him in such an important match? The answer was a resounding, no. kkOma took this opportunity to push Peanut beyond the doubters and critics. When SKT found themselves down 1-2 against Royal Never Give Up, kkOma called on Peanut to close.

evolve and overcome

peanut

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Peanut loaded into game 4 on Gragas, a standard “Cinderhulk” jungler with which SKT could both engage and disengage teamfights. Gragas did not reflect Peanut’s hyper-aggro playstyle, instead he played the role his team needed. For the past year, Peanut worked to prove himself on non-carry champions and in a crucial elimination game, he delivered. After winning game 4, SKT looked at the final match of the series. Again, Peanut would be their closer. Standing undefeated, with an 8-0 record in elimination games, SK telecom ran the risk of losing it all. The burden weighed on Peanut’s shoulders. In the ensuing 41-minute game, the SKT jungler would cement himself as one of League’s clutch apex predators.

Coming in game 5, Peanut locked in Jarvan IV as his champion of choice. After taking red buff at level one, Peanut found a window of aggression. As RNG’s bottom-lane extended aggressively, Peanut made a brilliant punish, ganking at level two to secure first blood not three minutes in. He maintained this early proactive style to push SKT into a comfortable ~2.0k gold lead throughout the mid-game. Then, at 33 minutes, Peanut found the game-deciding pick onto RNG’s jungler Shiyu “Mlxg” Liu. This single pick earned SKT a Baron buff that would start an unstoppable siege into RNG’s base. SK telecom closed out the game after clutching a massive teamfight at the Elder Dragon.

In his post-series interview, Peanut spoke to coming into those elimination games with a “different mindset” than when he was starting. He said, “Since I was subbed in this time, I could fully focus on the series.” Despite a rough summer split and start to Worlds 2017, Peanut grew remarkably during the tournament. After dropping out in semifinals in 2016, Peanut has a shot at redemption this year. Will this growth be the deciding factor at Worlds 2017? Can Peanut continue to adapt both on-stage and in his mind?

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Samsung Galaxy and SK telecom T1 faced off in the 2016 Worlds finals

LCK innovation and flexibility could lead to a 2016 World finals rematch

The semifinals match-ups are set for the 2017 League of Legends World Championship. SK Telecom T1 (SKT) will take on Royal Never Give Up (RNG), while Samsung Galaxy (SSG) faces Team WE (WE). This stage of the tournament is all about China’s Pro League (LPL) challenging Champions Korea (LCK) in a rivalry as old as professional League of Legends.

Each of these four teams had its own fantastic quarterfinals. WE defeated Cloud9 (C9) 3-2 in a back-and-forth series. SSG skunked Longzhu Gaming (LZ) 3-0, knocking out the Worlds tournament favorite. RNG punished Fnatic’s errors in a 3-1 victory. SKT barely missed losing in a nail biter 3-2 win over Misfits.

Moving into the final four phase of Worlds, these players will be pushed to their limits. SKT has not faced RNG, nor has SSG played versus WE. The second and third seeds from the LPL are facing those of the LCK, seeking redemption for domestic shortcomings. With EDward Gaming, China’s first seed, and Longzhu Gaming, Korea’s first seed, eliminated from competition, Chinese fans have turned to RNG and WE, while Korean fans look to SKT and SSG.

Only two teams move on from here. RNG could be the roadblock which prevents SKT from making their fourth Worlds final. WE could finish in the top two, despite beginning their Worlds run in the play-in stage. SSG and SKT will look for a 2016 finals rematch, which is actually quite likely.

INNOVATION

SSG showed innovation in the quarterfinals

Image from GamesofLegends.com

SSG and WE are the two teams in the final four that have shown innovation during the World Championship. WE completely redefined the meta in Group D when they drafted Caitlyn and Jayce to create a high-pressure siege composition to combat the slow, scaling team-fight composition that everyone was drafting. SSG drafted niche picks, such as Kennen, Malzahar and Lissandra during their series against LZ.

Bold adaptations helped these two teams get this far. However, WE seem less interested in continuing to adapt. They returned to their Kog’Maw-Ardent Censer support comfort zone when facing C9, which is part of the reason their series was so close. Instead, C9’s innovations actually caught WE on the back foot through the first four games. WE even ended up banning Singed after game three.

WE did not innovate much in the quarterfinals

Image from GamesofLegends.com

On the other hand, SSG just started coming into their own against LZ. Since SSG only needed to study a single opponent, they were able to pinpoint potential problems with LZ, particularly during the draft phase. They took advantage of the fact that LZ prioritize Jarvan IV as a flex pick and roaming mid laners for Bdd. SSG picked or banned Taliyah, and then purposefully left her up in game three to pull out Lissandra as a counter.

If C9 were able to win out during the draft phase, and just failed to properly execute their win conditions, then SSG should be the perfect team to stop WE in their tracks. SSG should be able to pull out even more champion diversity, and then follow through after load-in. They will most likely target the Mystic-Ruler and Crown-Xiye match-ups. Taric was a crucial piece of C9’s puzzle in quarterfinals, as he was for CoreJJ. Shen proved important in the C9-WE series, but SSG pulled it off even better against LZ. 

The other crucial difference between WE and SSG is their quarterfinals gold differences at 15 minutes. WE averaged 1,200 gold behind C9, while SSG averaged just over 1,000 ahead of LZ. Keep in mind, WE were still able to take the series, mostly because of their strong scaling picks, such as Kog’Maw, Corki, Cho’Gath and Maokai. Beyond a certain period in the game, these picks overcome their early game gold deficits and come online. SSG will need to be sure they cut the games shorter.

Flexibility

RNG was inflexible during quarterfinals

Image from GamesofLegends.com

RNG is facing SKT on the other side of the semifinals bracket. Flexibility, or lack thereof, is the key contrast between these two squads. RNG’s players have played an average of 4.4 total champions during the World Championship so far. SKT’s players average 5.8. Faker and Wolf have played eight and seven different champions, while Xiaohu and Ming have played five and four. This openness to adaptation will be the main catalyst for SKT to make it through semifinals.

For the most part, RNG has relied on Uzi’s late-game team-fighting on Tristana, Kog’Maw and Twitch to carry them to victory. They draft Ardent Censer supports, zoning and roaming mid laners, Jarvan IV and Sejuani in the jungle and AP tanks in the top lane. Meanwhile, SKT leans on Huni to mostly split-push, although he has played Cho’Gath three times. Blank and Peanut exclusively draft Jarvan IV, Sejuani and Gragas. Faker has shown supportive, roaming, assassin and hyper-carry mid laners. Bang and Wolf have run early pressure and late-scaling bottom lanes. Wolf even played Braum and Tahm Kench against Misfits.

SKT are notoriously good at studying single opponents for best-of-five series. Misfits became a thorn in their side when they started drafting engage supports, Ivern jungle and Karma mid. These types of bold innovations forced SKT to become pliable. RNG are much less likely to bring these shake-ups to the table, which will give SKT much more confidence.

SKT were flexible during quarterfinals

Image from GamesofLegends.com

Targeting the support and top lane champion pool is probably the best way to go. Removing Letme’s fall-back champions and opening up an opportunity for Huni to have the upper hand could puncture RNG’s strategy. Banning out Janna, Lulu and Soraka could take away Uzi’s babysitter (Fnatic’s game three win involved Ming on Morgana). Both sets of junglers will have predictable preferences, as will the AD carries. Finally, Faker has proven that he can adapt and carry in almost any match-up, even if he is set behind early in the game. He can definitely take on Xiaohu, even if he drafts Syndra, Galio or Ryze.

The gold differential at 15 minutes is much closer between these two teams. RNG starts ahead by 371. SKT falls 218 behind. Their early game trends have been slightly different, though. SKT secured first blood in four of their five games versus Misfits, but only first turret in two of five. Meanwhile, RNG took first turret in three out of four games against Fnatic, but only one in four first bloods.

This series is most likely going to come down to late-game decision-making, regardless of the drafts and early games. RNG will be more prone to forcing fights once Uzi has several completed items. SKT will be open to engaging five-versus-five, but they may also implement one-four or one-three-one compositions in certain matches. Huni has pulled off some split-pushing wins with Jayce and Trundle. Faker has drafted Kassadin. The flexibility of their composition and strategy may be the way that SKT pulls through to the finals.

2016 Worlds Rematch

Samsung Galaxy and SK telecom T1 may rematch at the 2017 World finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

SSG’s innovation and SKT’s flexibility will most likely be the crucial factors that result in LCK wins over the LPL. The LCK has proven over the past several years that they are the dominant region. SKT and SSG have both proven so far that, though they have their faults, they come through in the clutch moments. The World Championship is an arduous tournament. While the Chinese organizations have the home field advantage, the Korean ethic has reigned supreme for some time.

These wins would result in a rematch of 2016’s World finals: SKT versus SSG. It would be the first time that two teams had a Worlds finals rematch, and the “script” could not have been written any better. These teams have tested their mettle against the best from North America, Europe, Taiwan and other regions. Now they have their Rift Rivals as their final boss before meeting again. The professional League of Legends landscape would come full circle, and history would be made. It will take innovation and flexibility to get there.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports FlickrGames of Legends

Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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royal squares up

Semifinals Spotlight: Royal squares up

Royal Never Give Up (RNG) advance to the Worlds 2017 semifinals stage after sending Fnatic (FNC) back to Europe. Now, RNG faces their hardest challenge yet squaring up against defending champions SK telecom T1 (SKT). After missing an opportunity to play against SKT at 2017 Rift Rivals, Royal’s mid-laner Yuanhao “Xiaohu” Li swore to blaze a path at Worlds. After dominating their group and cinching their quarterfinals match against Fnatic, Royal have tremendous momentum coming into their semifinals match. Let’s take a look at how Royal squares up against Korea’s greatest bastion.

SKT’s kryptonite?

royal squares up

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

After teetering over the edge of defeat, SK telecom T1 managed to close out a five-game bloodbath against European squad Misfits Gaming. In spite of their 5-1 (edited) group stage and victory in the quarterfinals, doubts continue to circle this iteration of SKT. Unlike in previous years, SKT have not shown the same level of international dominance that fans come to expect. Instead, their group stage performance revealed some possibly glaring weaknesses. Early gold deficits and close brushes with defeat marred their play.

Despite the rough start, analysts still favored SKT to score a dominating 3-0 over Misfits. This was not the case. Instead, SKT found themselves one game from a prompt Worlds 2017 exit. Early aggression from the Misfits support and jungler duo overwhelmed SK telecom’s carries. The SKT bottom lane, of Junsik “Bang” Bae and Jaewan “Wolf” Lee, showed glaring exploitable weaknesses in the laning phase. After struggling in quarterfinals against the rookie bottom lane of Misfits, it will be interesting to see how Royal’s elite bottom duo square up. In a meta dominated by “Ardent Censer,” with massive emphasis on AD-carry microplay, how will a struggling Bang fair against a veteran organization like RNG?

Redemption for xiaohu and Uzi

royals square up

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In his empowering “Chase Your Legend” video, RNG’s Xiaohu recounts his failure at the quarterfinals of Worlds 2016 against SKT. “I still felt that there was a huge skill gap between us,” Xiaohu remarks. This year, the veteran Chinese mid-laner is determined to overcome his rival in Korea, the Unkillable Demon King, Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee. While Faker‘s presence and stature might intimidate many of his lane opponents, Xiaohu is one player who stands unafraid. Coming into semifinals, Xiaohu boasts the second highest KDA ratio (10.3) of all players at Worlds 2017.

Hungry to display his growth, front-and-center for the home crowd, Xiaohu continues to produce highlight reels even on utility champions like “Galio” and “Ryze.” Even on the supportive role, star plays from Xiaohu give room for his AD-carry, the legendary Zihao “Uzi” Jian, to explode in late-game teamfights. Like XiaohuUzi‘s story is a climb toward redemption. A two-time Worlds finalist, Uzi has never earned a single international title, a statistic that haunts him daily. Still, Uzi stands as a paragon of the AD-carry position. With the meta poised to equip him with all the tools necessary to carry RNG to their first World championship, Uzi has come to play.

Uzi continues to demonstrate a level of teamfight mastery that even professionals can only dream of. His acute micro-skill and teamfight awareness have him slated as one of the greatest laning AD-carries of all time. Coming into semifinals, Uzi has his eyes set one SKT’s struggling bot lane. Backed by his team’s willingness to constantly funnel resources his way, Uzi‘s aggressive playstyle can truly shine. As Royal squares up, fueled by hunger and redemption, how will they hope to topple the back-to-back champions of SKT?

Royal: TO FOrge a Warpath

royal squares up

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Clearly, the SKT bottom lane seems to be the team’s weakest link at Worlds 2017. Aside from early jungle attention and superior laning, Royal can go further to limit the resources available to Bang and Wolf. SK telecom generally opens their series with jungler Wangho “Peanut” Han. Despite a history as one of the most aggressive junglers in the world, the SKT iteration of Peanut seems lukewarm. At Worlds 2017, Peanut has demonstrated a severe lack of proactive play encroaching on passivity in the early-game. Royal jungler, Shiyu “Mlxg” on the other hand, has played champions like “Lee Sin” and “Rek’Sai,” capable of exerting serious early pressure on the opposing jungle. In the upcoming semifinals match, RNG can punish Peanut‘s passivity by banning out champions like “Sejuani” and pick “Jarvan IV.”

RNG displayed a clever strategy by layering Mlxg‘s “Cataclysm” on “Jarvan” and Ming‘s “Equinox” on the “Soraka” to lock in and silence opposing carries. Strategies that can catch SKT off-guard will pay dividends for RNG as the series progresses. Because of SKT’s demonstrated ability to grow throughout a series, RNG must not default to a single style and expect to roll the defending champs over. Instead, they must especially attack SKT’s fragile jungle and bottom lane in Game 1 of the series. Then, Royal must have a second strategy available to counteract SKT’s back-up jungler Sunghu “Blank” Kang.

To win against a team like SK telecom T1, RNG must be willing to adapt both in between games and in-game. This year’s iteration of Royal Never Give Up stands a strong chance at toppling the team that has ended their Worlds runs so many times before. This upcoming series is not just a shot at redemption for RNG, but for China as a region. As Royal squares up against the titans of Korea, the weight of their home country rests on their shoulders. Can Uzi and Xiaohu carry the hopes of the LPL to victory?

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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The Telecom Wars continue: LCK at its most competitive

The telecom wars, SK Telecom T1 versus kt Rolster, are always the highlight games of the League Championship Korea. This most recent telecom war decided who would be the current captor of first place in the LCK. Before this telecom war occurred, the LCK held a very rare three-way tie for first place between kt Rolster, Samsung Galaxy and SKT T1. The three-way tie in a league where first place (SKT T1) is typically vastly distanced from second place is telling of this season’s fierce competition.

With the winner of the Telecom Wars deciding what phone company LCK caster, Alberto “Crumbz” Rengifo, goes with, SKT T1 v kt Rolster is much more than your average professional League of Legends game. The Telecom Wars are typically a preview of who will win worlds. However with the current competition in the LCK, there are definitely more variables than just the two telecom companies.

Game 1: kt Rolster Victory 24:57

Kt Rolster decimated SKT T1 in the first game of their best of three. SKT failed to take a single tower the entire game, lost every single neutral objective (two Drakes, Rift Herald, and a Baron) and only managed to secure three kills in the sub 25-minute game. If you want to see some clean and controlled League of Legends to the point of near boredom, this is the game to watch. Kt Rolster created the team composition to snowball an early victory against SKT T1, drafting early game power with Renekton, Elise, Corki, Kalista and Thresh.

The top lane combination of Renekton stun into Elise cocoon sealed Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon’s fate in game one. Back to back kills on Huni put him so far behind that he was unable to complete his Cull until the twelve-minute mark. While compared to his opposing laner, kt Rolster’s Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho, Huni led in CS at twelve minutes, Smeb was already up two kills and an assist. Smeb went off. Up until the 18-minute mark, Smeb held 100 percent kill participation, proving that he is one of, if not, the best top laner in the world.

Despite Smeb’s performance, it was not entirely his show. Cho “Mata “Se-hyeong showed that his Thresh was a must ban for the next game. Mata was able to show up to every fight and have significant impact regardless of where the fight started. He seemed miles ahead of SKT T1 and was able to aid almost every play around the map as soon as he was able to roam. After game one, it appeared that kt Rolster was the new team to beat. With such a clean and decisive victory, kt Rolster illustrated that Renekton and Elise are a disgusting top and jungle combination that must be separated.

Kt delivers a swift defeat to SKT with an excellent draft that SKT would have to adapt against. Courtesy of loleventvods

Game 2: SKT T1 Victory 44:31

SKT T1 starts off game two by removing Thresh from Mata’s hands and once again banning kt’s signature Galio flex. The draft phase that SKT pulled off showed that they had learned from their mistakes in game one. Karma was once again picked early on for flex purposes, but this time was moved down to support, while the combination of Renekton and Elise was removed. In addition to this, Huni was subbed out in favor of Park “Untara” Ui-jin most likely as an answer to Huni’s tilting teleports and laning phase in game one. Untara was also able to get a soft counter to Renekton by securing Gnar in the second part of the draft phase.

While Smeb was still able to tear the game apart on Renekton, Untara was able to stop the bleeding by only giving up one kill during laning phase to the crocodile. Untara then drew pressure with his split pushing Gnar playstyle, resulting in a baron for SKT T1 as two kt players killed Gnar. Unfortunately for SKT, they were immediately aced after Faker took the Baron with his Orianna Shockwave. Had the Baron been stolen by kt, that would have undoubtedly been game once again at 25 minutes.

With a very similar early game composition, kt Rolster needed to secure a victory or an early Baron by the 25-minute mark. Unfortunately for them, SKT T1 was able to hold out. At 25 minutes into the game, the score was 2-11 in kills, kt’s lead, but with both SKT solo laners out scaling their counterparts; the game was not yet over. At the 30 minute mark, the score was still 2-11 in kills. By 35 minutes kt Rolster had only managed to acquire two more kills in their favor. Looking to secure the next Baron, kt traded two for one and then went for Elder. With two minutes of Elder buff and Baron buff combined and two open inhibitors, kt Rolster was poised to take out SKT for a clean 2-0.

How a turn around happens; one late game SKT team fight. Courtesy of loleventvods.

But not all went as planned for kt Rolster. They took both open inhibitors, but then stayed to topple the final inhibitor tower. While kt stayed at SKT’s base, their Elder and Baron buffs did not stay. SKT T1 took this moment, their only moment as super minions began pushing down both top and middle lane, to take a momentum-breaking team fight. Bae “Bang” Jun-sik’s Ashe was able to free fire the entire team fight allowing Untara to defend the remains of the base as the inhibitors respawned.

With SKT T1 6k gold and one baron buff down, they somehow managed to clean ace kt Rolster near the Baron pit putting SKT in a position to secure the victory with one dramatic push. While 6k gold is a lot to be down, SKT T1 had reached their individual item power spikes as a team, effectively out scaling kt Rolster’s composition.

Game 3: SKT T1 Victory 44:30

With an incredible upset in game two, SKT T1 looked to continue their late game momentum into the next match. With an early pause due to “Chair Issues”, this game already was off the rocker. An early counter gank made by kt Rolster after seeing Kang “Blank” Sun-gu on Gragas looping on kt’s bot lane left kt Rolster with an early lead once again at 2-0. At 20 minutes kt were 4k gold ahead, however, drakes were in SKT’s favor as they were in prior games. Once again, SKT’s draft for the late game allowed for some of these gold deficits to be nullified by the time thirty minutes came along. At 25 minutes, the score was 7-1 in kills as well as a Baron in kt’s favor. Things were looking grim for SKT, but Untara’s Fiora was just coming online.

Don’t bother looking at the Fiora taking all of your base. Coutesy of loleventvods.

SKT bought more time by catching out  Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu first through a face check into a Thresh and second from an attempt at some untimely vision control. Faker then turned onto Smeb’s Rumble for a solo kill after sneaking through vision gaps of kt Rolster. Things started cascading out of control after this, with Untara’s Fiora taking an inhibitor tower and an inhibitor in one push all while his team was able to get a Baron. This clumsy scramble to address Fiora’s split push sealed kt’s fate. The Untara win condition was too much for kt and they were unable to close out the game before SKT’s composition came online.

The Future of the Telecom Wars

Being the first round of the telecom wars for the Summer split, the matchup between kt Rolster and SKT T1 is and has always been a preview of the highest caliber of League of Legends play. If you do not watch the LCK regularly but are interested in top tier League of Legends play, give this series a watch. Both teams played incredibly well, and games two and three were very close. SKT T1 proved that if you cannot beat them by 25 minutes you will not beat them. Typically drafting towards late game team fights, SKT is the pinnacle of team fight coordination in competitive League of Legends. Pay special attention to how each player rotates their attention to deal with appropriate threats and to stack Crowd Control. SKT makes late game team fights look scripted, even against other top tier teams in the LCK.

Yes, SKT T1 is a team that encapsulates perfection. However, the LCK is as close in skill as it has been in quite some time. Only one victory separates first place from a tie for second place, and fourth place is only two victories behind first; the LCK hosts heated competition. Expect to see the competition grow as, by the time you are reading this, Samsung Galaxy will be playing Longzhu Gaming to see if they can once again tie SKT T1 for first place.

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Featured image courtesy of LOLeventvods

MSI: SK Telecom T1 vs. Flash Wolves Preview

In the first round of the knockout stage of MSI, SK Telecom T1 is poised to take revenge upon the only team that has taken a win from them during groups. What may be the most competitive game in this tournament, SKT vs. Flash Wolves will be the game to tune into on May 19th at 11 am PST.

SK Telecom T1

 

Peanut and Huni share a moment while leaving the stage. Courtesy of Riot flickr

Coming into MSI as the most highly favored team in the history of League of Legends is SKT, three-time League of Legends World Champions.

 

SKT’s six-man roster starts with their top laner, Seung-Hoon  “Huni” Heo, a player who currently holds the highest CS per minute in the MSI.

Jumping out of the jungle, Wangho “Peanut” Han holds the most kills at 52 in groups. Known most for his Lee Sin, Peanut is known to be the most aggressive jungler in Korea, with the ability to get 15 kills in a single game.

No introduction is needed for Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee. Faker is simply the best.  

SKT’s bot lane, Junsik “Bang” Bae and Jaewan “Wolf” Lee, are looking better than ever. The two are typically found taking laners that complement each other with  Wolf picking champions that can bail out the immobile carries that Bang has frequently utilized to great success. Wolf has the second most assists throughout Groups, trailing Shou-Chieh “SwordArT” Hu, who also used one more game to have Wolf beat 93 to 90.

 

How SKT Wins

Peanut shares a lot in common with his opponent Karsa. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

SKT wins by having Peanut play Lee Sin and picking their bot lane comfort picks before the Flash Wolves take them out in the draft. With Bang’s adept performance on Twitch, aided greatly by the peeling supports Wolf is often seen on, expect the bot lane picks to come through in the first round of the draft phase. SKT is greatly favored in this matchup. Their chances of failure are minimal as long as they do not lose too much ground early game. SKT can win late game team fights with great ease given their opponents are not too far ahead.

Flash Wolves

The Flash Wolves have proven to be a mixed bag this tournament, showing that they have the skill to beat SKT while simultaneously dropping games to almost every team in the tournament. As the underdog team in the fourth versus first place match, their performance in this best of five will likely decide who takes first place at this year’s MSI. If they can beat SKT, they can beat anyone. Right? Maybe, but this is not guaranteed with the Flash Wolves. However, they are the strongest contender for taking down SKT alongside Team WE.

Playing top lane for the Wolves is Li-Hong “MMD” Yu, a player known for his aggression and carry style, but also able to play supportive tanks by the likes of Nautilus and Shen.

Tearing through the jungle for the Wolves, Hao-Xuan “Karsa” Hong, has the same champion pool and play style as Peanut. He also has 41 kills to his name during groups. He may have what it takes to deny Peanut through a well-executed draft.

Laning against God himself, Yi-Tang “Maple” Huang ties Peanut for the highest KDA throughout groups at 6.1.

Perhaps the Flash Wolves greatest strength lies in their bot lane, where Yu-Huang “Betty” Lu and SwordArT dominate the bottom half of the map. SwordArt is a veteran shot caller, playing supports that can influence more than just the bottom lane. Expect to see Lulu and Tahm Kench as high priority champions for both teams. Meanwhile, Betty has the most kills to his name out of all the ADCs at MSI, and he’s looking to continue this streak. Betty plays many ADC’s, but his Ashe is a staple for the Flash Wolves. Betty may have to branch into other ADC’s in order to take away Bang’s Twitch and secure a victory for the Wolves.

How Flash Wolves Win

They have done it once before, but can they do it again? To win, Flash Wolves need to stifle Huni in the draft much like they did in their only victory over SKT. Because banning out Faker is impossible, their bans must be directed to the top lane carries that Huni plays, and the Marksmen that Bang feels most comfortable on. The optimal top lane draft will have MMD on his signature Kled and Huni on a tank, allowing Flash Wolves to take the game from the top lane.

As for the Jungle, it goes without saying that Peanut’s Lee Sin must be denied in order for the Wolves to have a fighting chance. Taking Lee Sin on the side of the Flash Wolves will also

SwordArT is not the cool, calm, and collected shot caller you may be used to. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

greatly aid Karsa, as he is adept on the champion. In the middle lane, Maple’s utility orientated champion pool must be able to survive the likes of Faker’s assassins. If Maple can avoid giving a lead to Faker, he may be able to turn some mid game team fights into a victory for the Wolves with his excellent Weaver’s Walls and Realm Warps.

 

Taking a lead in the bottom lane is most important for the Flash Wolves. Giving SwordArT the opportunity to roam and snowball his team’s lead alongside Karsa, will be the win condition the Wolves need. However, the lanes go, if the Wolves do not start with leads, it is unlikely they will ever bounce back to take a lead.


Featured image courtesy of Riot Flickr

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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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Top Ten Players at MSI

The Mid Season Invitational opening ceremony is a day away, and I’ll be looking at the top players from every region playing this week. Many of these players have been around the pro scene for a while and have made a name for themselves as being some of the best in the world at their positions. Let’s take a look:

10. Swordart (Flashwolves Support)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie has been in the pro scene since season three. He’s been an integral part of Flash Wolves’ success, often roaming with their jungler, Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan in the early game. This season has been no different. SwordArt has shown excellent performances on meta picks, such as Karma. He ended the LMS spring split atop his position with a massive 11.5 KDA, well above any other support in the region.

In their series against Supermassive, he finished with a KDA of 43, only dying once in the entire series. SwordArt is one of the best supports at setting up plays for his team in the early game. He’ll be vital in Flash Wolves’ success in this tournament.

9. Zven (G2 esports ADC)

Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen has slowly developed into one of the best ADC’s in the world. With the ADC meta shifting back to more traditional style carries, Zven will have a chance to prove why he’s one of the best at his position. Despite his support, Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez dipping in performance a bit this season, Zven has still been able to dish out damage in mid game team fights. Most of G2’s success comes in the mid game, often waiting for power spikes to hit before breaking the game wide open with a mid game team fight. Zven’s positioning in team fights is excellent, knowing where he can dish out the most damage from a safe distance.

Zven also has some of the strongest laning of all ADC’s at the tournament. He leads EU in CSdiff@10 with a massive 8.0. Him and Mithy can still compete with the best, and will be up against some World class bot lanes.

8. Hauntzer (TSM Top Laner)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell had one of his best splits on TSM in Spring 2017. With star Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng taking a break for the split, Hauntzer stepped up from the top lane to help be the decisive voice for his team. Despite taking on shot calling responsibilities, Hauntzer’s play did not hinder, it actually got better. With all the talent imported into NA for top laners, Hauntzer held his own and took the title of NA’s best top laner. Hauntzer topped NALCS top laners in DMG% and KDA. He showed excellent performances on a variety of champions as well.

Many believed he deserved the MVP award for the split, but he barely lost out to Phoenix1’s Arrow. He’ll be looking to prove himself on the World stage once again, after struggling to make an impact during their Worlds run last season.

 7. Peanut (SKT Jungler)

Han “Peanut” Wang-ho made a name for himself last season as the starter for ROX tigers. After barely losing to SKT in the semifinals of Worlds last season, Peanut decided to join his rivals this season. Peanut has struggled a bit this season, sometimes getting caught and subbed out for Blank, but he’s still a force in the jungle.

His Lee Sin play has been heralded as some of the best in the world. He has also shown great play on other meta picks, such as Rengar, Graves, and Elise. Along with this, Peanut has had some of the best Dragon/Baron steals anyone has ever seen in pro League of Legends. It’s insane the plays he’s able to pull off.

Peanut will have a chance to win his first international event. With SKT coming in as heavy favorites, anything outside of first will be a failure.

6. Huni (SKT Top laner)

Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo has been a fan favorite for his loving personality and his high play making ability. After spending two seasons playing in Europe and North America, Huni got the chance to play with the best team in the world. He was formerly known for playing hard carry top laners, such as Riven, Fiora, and Gnar, often being criticized for not playing into tank metas.

Many wondered how he’d do under the Korean structure of coaching. On past teams, coaches allowed him to play carry champions, even pulling out Lucian in the top lane in playoffs. He has shown the ability to play tanks, while also still being able to pull out the carry tops when needed for his team. Even when on tanks, Huni has a very strong impact on the game with his teleports and team fighting. He lead the LCK in DMG% for top laners and total KDA.

Playing for SKT has helped Huni become elevated to a World class top laner. He’s more versatile in his champion picks and a huge reason why SKT are favorites to go undefeated here at MSI.

5. Maple (Flash Wolves Mid Laner)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang has been a long time mid laner in the LMS region. He’s shown phenomenal performances in previous international events, such as Flash Wolves’ IEM Katowice victory. In their victory over SKT at Worlds last year, his Aurelion Sol was vital in setting Flash Wolves up with an early lead to snowball. Maple has a deep champion pool, being able to play control mages such as Syndra, or assassins like Zed or Leblanc.

Maple had another great season in the LMS region, posting a 7.1 KDA to top the league. Him and jungler, Karsa, have excellent mid/jung synergy that can often net Flash Wolves huge early game leads. They are also excellent at knowing exactly how to finish games with these heavy leads.

Flash Wolves will be looking to Maple once again, as they are heavy favorites to be the ones to slay Korea once again.

4. Karsa (Flash Wolves Jungler)

Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan is one of many talented junglers at this tournament. His early game play making is huge in Flash Wolves’ success. He loves playing high skill early game champions such as Lee Sin, and Elise. He finished the LMS season top in DMG% and KDA for junglers.

In their series against SuperMassive, Karsa jungled circles around Stomaged, gaining huge CS leads and tracking him quite well. Him and SwordArt have excellent jung/supp synergy, usually setting up vision to do aggressive invades or tower dives. Karsa will be vital in his team’s success, with jungle being one of the most talented positions in the whole tournament.

 3. Bjergsen (TSM Mid Laner)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg has been the star mid laner for Team SoloMid since taking over for owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh in season four. Bjergsen has been a vital part of TSM’s organization, being the only stable member in the past seasons. TSM has literally built the team around him, as he’s slowly just become the best player in the West. His spring season started off a bit slow, as TSM was adjusting not playing with Doublelift, but since then he’s regained his MVP form. He finished the NALCS spring split as leader in total KDA and CSdiff@10.

Bjergsen has slowly taken the title of the Western GOAT for pro League of Legends. He’s become the face for esports talent in North America, and continues to play the game at an extremely high level. The only knock on him is international success. TSM as a whole have one IEM Katowice title in terms of international success. MSI gives them the chance to prove that North America is a region to be on the lookout for.

2. Bang (SKt ADC)

Bae “Bang” Jun-sik has been the starting ADC for their past two Worlds titles. It sometimes feels Bang is underappreciated on a roster full of stars and goofy personalities. Bang has been a consistent carry for SKT, always dishing out damage from a safe distance while also being one of the best laning ADC’s.

He lead the LCK in total KDA for ADC’s while also averaging the highest CSdiff@10 with 8.2. Bang also dished out the highest damage per min among ADC’s. He has shown phenomenal performances on high skill carries such as Ezreal, and even pulled out some amazing Twitch performances in the LCK finals. Bang will look to add another MSI title to his belt as he looks to dominate the bot lane once again.

1. Faker (SKT Mid laner)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok will forever be known as one of the best League of Legends players of all time. He has become known as the best mechanically skilled pro player, while also having the awards and team achievements to back them up. Three world titles, multiple MVPs, along with many Korean esports awards to boast. Since season three, Faker has consistently been the star player of SKT. When they decided to roster change, only him and Bengi were left from the original championship roster. Faker often draws a ton of jungle pressure due to people just knowing how good he is. It opens up a lot of options for the rest of this talented roster.

His impact on the game is unmatched. Faker has become the face of professional esports. When others ask who’s the best player in League of Legends, people will say Faker. His legacy is continually growing, as SKT dominated KT in the LCK finals. He’ll look to add another MSI title to his legacy.

Cover photo by: Riot Esports

MSI kicks off Wednesday!

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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

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Christian!

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