Who should be NALCS MVP?

With the regular season over, we can begin to evaluate how teams/players lived up to expectations. Teams like Immortals shocked the NALCS by contending with the best this split. With the split concluding, we soon find out who will win the heralded NALCS MVP of summer.

An MVP, aka Most Valuable Player, is someone who has shown great importance to their team’s success in and outside of the rift. An MVP is someone that, if taken off the roster, would greatly impact their team’s performance greatly.

Looking at the split, we have a few candidates who really separated themselves from the rest. Let’s take a look:

Cloud9 Jensen (Mid laner)

Photo via Riot Esports

Cloud9’s Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen been critiqued as a “KDA player” who some believe cares more about his own stats than the good of his team. Jensen struggled with consistency during his first few splits in the NALCS but has slowly come into his own, contending with Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg for the best mid laner in North America.

He put up monstrous stats towards the end of the split. More specifically, his Orianna play was some of the best play we’ve seen out of him. He finished the season with the best KDA of any player at 8.7. Cloud9 often played through the mid lane enabling Jensen to get huge leads to snowball the game. Jensen rarely fell behind in lane, leading the league in CS diff@10 with a whopping 8.9.

Just based off regular season performance though, Jensen has put up a good argument for NALCS MVP. He has played phenomenally well individually and has the stats to back that up. One could argue how much Cloud9’s playstyle benefits his KDA. They often heavily relied on him to get ahead in lane and snowball for his team. He’s also been critiqued for not roaming as much as he could or for being selfish for resources.

One knock on Jensen has been his inability to step up in crucial moments. Last spring in a close game five against TSM, a costly mistake lead to Jensen dying with ult and Zhonya’s still up on Ekko. His death lead to TSM eventually finishing the series and taking the Spring Split championship. Could this finally be the playoffs we see Jensen step up for his team?

Immortals Xmithie (Jungler)

Jake “Xmithie” Puchero came to Immortals in a trade with CLG in exchange for star jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett. Many thought Xmithie had peaked on CLG and was nearing the end of his professional career. Nobody even expected Immortals to finish this high in the standings and deserving of a Worlds spot.

It has gone to show how much team chemistry and coaching can impact a player. Xmithie has look revitalized after coming to Immortals. He’s been arguably the best jungler this split and is a huge reason why people believe Immortals can qualify for Worlds. Dardoch and Xmithie’s jungle playstyles are almost night and day, but Immortals got the right jungler they needed – someone who was going to be willing to sacrifice for the carries and mesh well with the team. Xmithie has been just that and more.

He lead all junglers in assists for the summer. While none of his stats really pop out, it’s no secret how much of an impact he’s had for the team. Since Xmithie’s arrival, Immortals went from a 7th place team to a 2nd place team. Others on the team have also been able to shine much more with Xmithie for whatever reason. Cody Sun and Pobelter look like different players from their spring split forms.

It’s a huge example of how much coach Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo has done working with the team. When a team has this big of a turnaround you can’t expect it all to be from one player.

Photo via Riot Esports

TSM Bjergsen (Mid Laner)

Ah, just about every year, TSM’s Bjergsen has to be considered to be in the MVP race. He’s undoubtedly always one of the most impactful players on TSM for many reasons. Aside from always putting up monstrous stats, he’s a main shotcaller for the team and has developed into one the main leaders. Bjergsen can add another great regular season to his legacy as he finished second in KDA among mids and damage per minute.

This split, Bjergsen showed off his ability to play different styles such as the Galio in the mid lane. It adds to the versatility we’ve come to know from the Danish mid laner. In terms of how much value Bjergsen brings to TSM, it’s without a doubt that they’d be much worse without him. He just brings so much to the table for a mid laner and plays well without needing too many resources.

Many will argue that Bjergsen plays with some very talented teammates. This may be the same thing that kept Hauntzer from winning MVP in spring. Having other talented individuals on a team can sometimes mask the impact a player actually has on a team.

These are my top three picks for MVP in no particular order. MVP will be a tight race. It will be interesting to see if Bjergsen adds another MVP trophy to his career or if someone new can take it from him.


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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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North America Overwatch Contenders preview

These are exciting, albeit uncertain, times in the Overwatch esports scene. Overwatch League has been announced, the World Cup is underway and Contenders Season 1 is kicking off in a week. This upcoming weekend will have the OWWC take place in Santa Monica and then on the 14th of August Overwatch Contenders will begin. The teams were decided through Contenders Season 0, and two teams were invited.

In a strange turn of events, Team Liquid dropped their roster due to three of their players moving onto (or going back) to other games. This is an interesting wrinkle in the upcoming tournament as the spot needs to be filled within a week. But how does Blizzard resolve this issue? Do they sell the slot to another team or do they give it to a runner-up?

There is no confirmed news regarding what Blizzard chooses to do with this free slot. However, it would be consistent with Blizzard if they were to sell it to the highest bidder. Realistically, there are only three teams that could afford that slot: Cloud9, NRG and CLG. NRG doesn’t even have a full roster so it is unlikely that they would be able to take the spot. Cloud9 is only missing one tank since Kaiser went back to RunAway due to “visa issues”. CLG has a six man roster that they could compete with. Technically, Cloud9 also has a six man roster but Mendo is not a tank player so they wouldn’t be able to play with tanks.

Speculation about that slot aside, this promises to be a highly competitive Contenders Season. Two months ago, there were a couple of teams that dominated the rest, but the gap between Tier 1 and Tier 2 teams has been closing rapidly.

Let’s have a look Contenders Season 1 North America and make some predictions.

The teams

EnVyUs (invite)
Faze Clan
FNRGFE
Immortals
Kungarna
Renegades
Rogue (invite)
Replacement for Team Liquid

Overwatch Contenders

EnVyUs

  • Taimou
  • Mickie
  • Chipshajen
  • HarryHook
  • Cocco
  • Effect

One of the teams that got invited to compete in Season 1. EnVyUs and Rogue were both in Korea for Apex Season 3 where EnVyUs lost to KongDoo Panthera. This isn’t a bash on nV. The fact that they made it so far is a testament to how strong this team is.

However, I do have one reservation. How good are they against Western teams? There is a difference in play style between the West and East. And while the best in the East are unequivocally better than the best in the West, the different play style could hurt nV.

However, they are still a top team and considered one of the favorites for winning the whole event. They have one of the best Ana’s in the world in Chips and one of the best DPS in the world in Taimou. On top of this, they have Effect who tore up in Apex, carrying the team at some points. It will be exciting watching Effect use his Tracer in the West. Here’s hoping for a Soon vs Effect matchup.

Sadly, we can’t do proper predictions because the groups haven’t been made and we don’t know who they will be playing against. But, I would be shocked if they didn’t get a top three finish.

FaZe Clan

  • ShaDowBurn
  • Lui
  • FCTFCTN
  • SPREE
  • Rawkus
  • Joemeister

FaZe Clan is one of the more interesting teams in this competition. They have the parts in place to have a stunning DPS but lack a core backline and tanks. You can have as many star DPS as you want, but if they don’t have space to work with then you will lose. Always.

This happened with Cloud9 a while ago. They had Mendo, Gods, and Surefour. Three players who play DPS but they weren’t able to perform. Gods wasn’t actually a bad tank, but he preferred playing DPS and so he had to learn Winston.

This is sort of the same situation faced by Faze. The Clan lacks a strong supporting unit. But if ShaDowBurn can pop off and deliver insane Genji play on low ping, like he did at the World Cup, then Faze could make it out of groups.

Overwatch Contenders

FNRGFE

The All American Rejects. Except for one Canadian, this is an All American team that was formed from the pieces of other teams. This is true of a lot of teams, but these guys decided to make it a part of their personality. Their name FNRGFE is an acronym of the teams that they came from including NRG and FaZe.

  • buds
  • clockwork
  • Muma
  • coolmatt69
  • Boink
  • Bani

If this team takes the tournament seriously then they may make it out of groups, but even that would be a surprise.

Overwatch Contenders

Immortals

  • GrimReality
  • Agilities
  • Fate
  • hyped
  • envy
  • KariV
  • Verbo

This is one of the strongest teams in the West right now. Anything less than top two will be a disappointment. Immortals has two of the best DPS combined with a solid support and tank line. Their kryptonite may turn out to be communication as they have three Koreans and four North Americans. If the Koreans have put in more effort to learn better English than this team could take first.

Agilities is one of the best Genji’s in the world, he went toe to toe with ShaDowBurn at World Cup. During the match against the Netherlands, he had one of the most insane Genji plays that I have ever seen. Back this up with KariV who is a great support and some solid tanking who can give Grim and Agilities the space that they need and you have a scary team. At the BEAT Invitational last month they took Rogue to within two fights. The score was 3:1 but it doesn’t reflect how close that match actually was.

They did better against Rogue than EnVyUs did.

Overwatch Contenders

Kungarna

  • mYkL
  • babybay
  • iReMix
  • Bischu
  • Dogman
  • Pookz

Kungarna barely qualified for Contenders, beating out Cloud9 with an Overtime BO3 on Oasis. I don’t think that they have the firepower to make it out groups. They don’t have any superstars and their basic gameplay isn’t that strong.

If they have taken their time off to practice and grind then they could surprise some teams, but I don’t think that they will be able to go deep into the tournament.

Overwatch Contenders

5-Hour Energy Detroit Renegades

  • Mangachu
  • J3sus
  • PrimoDulce
  • ZachaREEE
  • Sherlockey
  • Jer

Renegades managed to surprise a lot of teams during season 0 of Contenders. Tying Kungarna and beating Cloud9 3-1 was a huge surprise to many people, including me. They qualified first in their group and looked solid doing it. Then seeing Mangachu represent Canada at the OWWC gave me some hope that they may make it out of groups if they got lucky. He is a solid player and a great Pharah. But I don’t think that they have enough players with a good enough base level to qualify out of groups.

Look at them to get a win or a tie but not quite make it out of groups.

Overwatch Contenders

Rogue

  • soOn
  • uNKOE
  • aKm
  • KnoxXx
  • winz
  • NiCOgdh

The French all star team, their World Cup team and one of the best, if not the best, teams in the West. They have dominated during the dive meta and looked unstoppable. Until Korea. Then they didn’t make it out of groups as the Koreans managed to out think them.

However, it doesn’t look like there are any teams in the West except for maybe nV and Immortals that can beat them. Look to them to take first place.

SoOn is a Tracer god and aKm is top three Soldier in the world. Back both of these up with a Korea level Winston in KnoxXx and a top three Zenyatta in uNKOE and you get an unstoppable force.

But they aren’t unbeatable. As I said in another article, they have a weakness. A glaring weakness, in fact. They lack depth. If you can find a way to neutralise dive, you neutralise a lot of Rogues threat. Rogue will always compete for a top five finish, but if you can shut down dive, then you can shut down the biggest reason Rogue is dangerous.

Easier said than done.

Formerly Team Liquid

Team Liquid qualified for Contenders Season 1 but AZK has decided to go back to CS:GO and two of their other players are switching to Quake which means that they will not be able to compete in Season 1. I can’t make any predictions on where they will end up because we don’t know who is going to replace them.

I hope Cloud9, but we will see. They do seem to be the most logical choice, or ARC6, which would also be a lot of fun.

Conclusion

I think Rogue will take first place in a close match against Immortals with nV coming fourth and FaZe coming third. But FaZe and Renegades could easily switch.

The way Blizzard has done this has been really good. Most of the teams are very closely matched in skill and it is hard to pick the best. Except for the top three which are Immortals, nV, and Rogue. Without a doubt.

That doesn’t matter Overwatch Contenders will be a lot of fun to watch and I am glad that we now have Apex and Contenders at the same time.


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Playoffs

NA LCS Playoffs team breakdown

It’s time for that special time of the year. Where every team puts it all on the line for the championship. Teams have finally finished the battle of the summer split and have either qualified or fallen short of a playoff berth. The teams that have qualified each have a chance to take home the trophy as this playoff tournament shapes up to be the most competitive in recent history. This year a team that has never won may claim the title of NA LCS champion.

 

I’ll speak to each team’s recent results and the matchup they’ll have, then I’ll highlight both one key strength and one key weakness for each team.

 

Team NV

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

Team NV has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the sixth seed. They will be facing CLG in the quarter finals on the 19th. Though Team NV is the lowest seed, and coming off of an 0-4 run they shouldn’t be discounted. Team NV earlier in the season have proven they can take a series win off of top tier teams such as C9, DIG, and IMT.

 

Strength

Team NV’s clear strength comes from the jungle. Lira has been a dominant force for team NV since he joined the team last split. Despite finishing as a 10th place team Lira was voted as All NA LCS first team jungler. This year he has proved his dominance with 71% KP and strong performances on Elise, Lee Sin, and Nidalee. A great recent example being game 2 versus TSM in week 8.

 

Weakness

NV’s biggest weakness is their top laner Seraph. With a combined score in week 9 of 2-25-10 Seraph is clearly the weak link on NV. With a solid mid and bot lane, it seems as if Lira needs to babysit Seraph in order to prevent the opponent from snowballing. He is sitting on an abysmal 2.31 KDA across the season and has the highest deaths of any top laner in the league.

 

Team Dignitas

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

DIG has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the fifth seed. They will be facing C9 in the quarter finals on the 20th. They are coming off a 3-1 last two weeks with only a close loss to CLG dampening their final few games. With plenty of momentum and thoughts of the mid-season slump long behind them DIG looks good going into the quarters.

 

Strengths

Team DIG’s strength is certainly their top laner Ssumday.  His wide champion pool featured 16 unique champions this split featuring tanks, fighters, and even the occasional marksman. Ssumday is the backbone of DIG and has carried more than his fair share of games for DIG

 

Weakness

In that strength, there is a weakness. Ssumday is easily targeted for frequent ganks and roams, because DIG love to play through him. When that’s the case, and the other laners aren’t able to generate leads despite DIG losses. This was the issue in the mid-season, DIG’s bot lane wasn’t able to hold their own without constant jungle pressure, but with the addition of Altec and Adrian, the team has found much more success.

 

Cloud 9

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

C9 has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the fourth seed. They will be facing DIG in the quarter finals on the 20th. They are coming off an easy last two weeks going 4-0, playing only one other playoff team, NV. This will have only built their confidence and given them opportunity to work on their team play. C9 has a long history of deep playoff runs and there is lots of experience on the roster of high pressure games.

 

Strength

Jensen’s midlane play has been next level since week two. Despite struggling in the beginning and middle of the season as a team Cloud 9’s midlaner has been putting up some incredible numbers. He broke the split record for kills, a record he already held. He has a disgusting 8.70 KDA across the split and has five champions with KDA averages 6+.

 

Weakness

Despite Jensen’s strong performance, Cloud 9 has, at times, seemed lost. Cloud 9’s macro play has not matched their micro. Some games the communication just isn’t there. Either Contractz will gank late or early and they will trade one for one when it could have been a clean gank, or they will lose a fight and surrender an objective while they’re 2k gold up in the mid game.

 

Counter Logic Gaming

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

CLG has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the third seed. They will be facing NV in the quarter finals on the 19th. They are coming off of a 2-2 last two weeks, with an upset from P1 in week 8 and a rough loss to rivals TSM to wrap up their split. They’ll be looking to seek vengeance on their longtime rivals and seek retribution for being upset in last split’s quarter final’s series against Flyquest.

 

Strength

The CLG bottom lane has been a rock for them this split. Both Stixxay and Aphromoo have had great splits. Stixxay has showed competence on a wide range of ADCs, pulling out nine unique champions this split with an impressive 4.33 KDA. Aphromoo, while maybe not in peak performance, is still having a great split. CLG is able to rely on their bot lane duo to either play well and stay even as a weak side, or focus resources to them and have them carry games.

 

Weakness

They’ve elected in their final weeks to replace their jungler with a rookie. While it may help in the long run, there has been signs of a lack of communication from the rookie. Their loss to P1 is an example of this. In game 2 Omargod looked lost on Elise, unable to engage or gank successfully at any point in the game and the team just fell apart in the mid game. This isn’t to say that Omargod is a bad player, only that he lacks the experience on stage to be consistent and that will hurt CLG’s chances in playoffs.

 

 

Immortals

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

Immortals rounded out the split with a 3-1 record in the final two weeks. The loss they did suffer was to DIG. This doesn’t bode well headed into the playoffs, but with a bye they won’t have to face anyone until the semis. Immortals has a lot to prove in this season’s playoffs, having had a rough history in the post season and look to make their first worlds appearance.

 

Strength

Immortal’s strength lies with two players, both in contention for MVP this season. Xmithie in the jungle and Olleh their support. Each player has found a way to control their part of the map, both with vision and pressure. Olleh has really stepped up this year and improved. His laning phase is much better, providing both pressure for Cody Sun and roaming mid for Pobelter. Xmithie has found his stride on IMT after leaving CLG. He plays with a lot of confidence and often chokes out the enemy junglers with invades and frequent ganks.

 

Weakness

Immortals main weakness is their inability to hold onto early game leads against top teams. For example against DIG in game 1 week 8 IMT had an early lead, yet were unable to push that lead to a victory. Same thing happened against TSM in week five. In game one IMT came out to an early lead, yet were unable to stop giving up objectives and going even or less one kill in team fights until eventually they lost their lead and the game.

 

Team Solo Mid

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

TSM has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the first seed and have a bye into the semifinals. They have taken a clean 4-0 in the final two weeks with a big win over CLG. TSM has a lot of experience with this roster, and a lot of experience in high pressure games. They’ve yet to miss an NA LCS finals match, and expect to find themselves in the finals this year.

 

Strength

Their strength is certainly their individual play. Each player as an individual has great play. Bjergsen is always arguably, if not definitively, the best midlaner in NA and this split has been no different. The same can be said for Doublelift in the ADC role. Hauntzer has played a great split as well as Sven and Biofrost. Each player as an individual has made great plays.

 

Weakness

When TSM losses, it’s because of team play. When TSM’s team play is on point, domestically they are unbeatable. Take their series in week seven against DIG for an example. A botched team fight in game one at around the ten minute mark lost them their gold lead and led to DIG getting first tower and a cloud drake. If they are all focused together they are unstoppable, but have shown that their team play and macro isn’t as consistent as their individual play.

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Seed

NA LCS playoff seed possibilities

The summer split for NA LCS has been tumultuous. Every week has been a fierce battle for a top spot. At no point has there been a clearly defined best team. Throughout the season we’ve seen bottom of the standings teams upset teams at the top, even as recently as Sunday when P1 pulled out a win over CLG. Now, with only a week left to play, teams fight for a playoff seed.

The teams making playoffs are locked in, but seeds are not. Playoff contenders are as follows: IMT, TSM, CLG, DIG, C9 and NV. IMT and TSM share first, CLG has sole possession of third, DIG and C9 share fourth and NV rounds us out in sixth. It comes down to the final three days of the summer split to determine who will be seeded where in the playoffs.

First Seed

Seed

Photo Via Lol esports

TSM and IMT are the two teams that seem most likely to grab the top seed. They are both sitting at a 12-4 record heading into the final week. IMT has the best chance of going 2-0 this weekend, squaring off against sixth place NV and seventh place Echo Fox. TSM faces P1, who is tied for eighth and last place, but they also face off against CLG. The rivalry matches between TSM and CLG have always been volatile and could easily go either way. A TSM loss would put IMT in the top spot.

To make things interesting, the head to head between IMT and TSM is even, each team having taken a series win against the other. This means if both TSM and IMT go 2-0 this week, the tie will go to game wins and losses. TSM is currently winning in terms of game wins and losses, sitting at 26-11 compared to IMT’s 26-15. If both teams go 2-0 then TSM will take the first seed.

Being first and second in the NA LCS is extremely advantageous. Teams get a bye into the semifinals and as a result, the lowest possible placement in fourth place. In terms of Championship Points the value of a playoff bye is unrivaled. However, teams aren’t going into the post season aiming for fourth place.

 

Second Seed

Seed

Photo Via Lol esports

The difference between a first place seed and a second place seed is bigger than it may appear. The first place team will face the lowest ranked team in the semis while the second place will face the higher. This means that whoever gets first place cannot face the third place team. With the third place team likely being CLG, IMT and TSM will be scrambling to secure the first place spot to avoid playing CLG in the semis and play either C9, DIG or NV.

In the event that TSM loses to CLG then the series will be tied in a head to head. The difference will again go to game win/loss. If TSM wins 2-1 over P1, and CLG 2-0s both DIG and TSM, then TSM will be 28-14 and CLG will be 29-16. The win loss ratio being barely in TSM’s favor. In order to place second CLG will have to win out against DIG and TSM and hope that TSM or IMT loses out.

Third Seed

Seed

Photo Via Lol esports

Short of that CLG will be placed third and have to face off against NV. That is unless NV wins out and either DIG or C9 loses out. Either way CLG wants to secure the third place spot to avoid playing a higher ranked team. Unfortunately they’re only one game up on C9 and DIG and face DIG in a head to head tomorrow. If they lose, DIG will be 2-0 in the head to head and secure the third place spot with a win over TL on Sunday. CLG could end up anywhere between first and fifth, because if both IMT and TSM lose out CLG would be first if they win out.

The rest of the teams will fall where they may. C9 and DIG could each end up as high as third, but cannot qualify for a bye spot. NV can only finish as high as fourth. The parity of the NA LCS has been exciting all split, but now it is culminating in the final week to determine the seeding. The playoffs should be exciting as well with how close the teams are.

 

Week nine has a lot of possible outcomes and a lot of story-lines to follow, and every game counts. The NA LCS is delivering in an exciting way.

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Is this the year North America goes far at Worlds?

For the past few seasons North America has had very little success at Worlds. While other regions have been able to find their way to the finals or even semi finals, NA hasn’t made it past quarterfinals since season one. This year there is a hope with NA showing a dominating performance at rift rivals against EU. Europe has had somewhat more success with teams such as H2k and Fnatic reaching semifinals the past few seasons.

Every year around this time people are slowly getting hyped for the World championships. Teams will begin to qualify in the next month or so and will most likely head to Korea for a boot camp. Bootcamping in Korea has almost become a must for teams wanting to have a shot at the World championship. The same story seems to always come for North America. Korea and other regions hype up their scrim results only to have them flop on stage. One team might make it out of groups, but then be swept handily in the quarterfinals. Here are some reasons NA fans can be hopeful this year:

Improved Competition

Worlds

Photo via Riot Esports

It’s no doubt North America has been improving steadily each year. Some of the best players from around the world have been brought in and overall, the scene seems much improved. More money has allowed teams to invest in better players, coaches, and practice facilities. Many teams such as Immortals and Cloud 9 have shown the effectiveness of bringing in a Korean coach. Immortals literally went from a 7th place team in Spring to a team contending for first with a worse roster under the wings of former ROX coach, Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo.

Not only have imports improved the competition, but new homegrown talent has also begun to flood the scene. Players like Contractz, Akaadian, Mikeyeung, and Cody Sun have begun to show that there is talent to foster here in North America. Despite all the knocks on our solo que, there are talented players out there waiting to be discovered.

The competition throughout NA is much better than it was last year and even last split. Compared to EU, there isn’t really a team like Massive Monkeys or NiP that are free wins for most teams. Every team can take a win under the right circumstances. More importantly, the top six teams look closer than ever. First place has not been held for very long this split, and it almost feels like it’s a good thing. More talented teams, should mean a better showing at Worlds.

Group draws play a huge factor

With Worlds continuing with the same format as previous seasons, group draws will be very important in seeing how far an NA team can actually go. With TSM flailing at MSI, NA comes in as underdogs with no number one seed coming into Worlds. This may not matter much as we saw G2 last year get drawn into a somewhat favorable group at first glance without a number one seed.

While NA hasn’t had the best luck with their group draws, this year could be different. The real jackpot is avoiding drawing a Korean team if possible during the group stages. Korea is undoubtedly always the strongest region.

Teams to Watch out For

Photo via Riot Esports

Due to how important circuit points are in qualifying for Worlds, TSM and Cloud 9 are almost auto locks for Worlds barring a playoff upset. The third spot will most likely be contested for in the gauntlet unless Immortals can win their first NALCS split. While it’s not impossible, Immortals have yet to show up in playoffs after successful regular seasons. This team looks much different than their previous seasons, showing a variety of different strategies to be able to win games. Coach Ssong has had a steady impact for this team. CLG, Dignitas, and Envy have also been steadily improving.

TSM will look to redeem themselves at Worlds this year after a dominating summer last year only to be knocked out of Groups. This year TSM isn’t trying to perfect one sole strategy. Instead, they’re practicing different styles of comps and learning to play off more than one lane carrying. It sounds like a good plan for Worlds success.

Cloud 9 on the other hand have looked inconsistent this split. The team seems to only win through getting star mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen ahead. When Jensen snowballs hard the team’s games become much easier. If he doesn’t get ahead, the team struggles to find a way to win. Jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia has had a phenomenal sophomore split as he has the highest DPM among junglers and is near the top in total KDA. If the top and bot lane of C9 can find more consistency, they can definitely show a good performance at Worlds if they qualify.

 

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

 

 

Grading CLG’s junglers since 2014

With Counter Logic Gaming currently tied for second place with the ever encroaching TSM, special attention must be paid towards the organization’s many junglers. It is without a doubt that Counter Logic Gaming has attracted some of the most skilled junglers as of late, but has this always been the case? Here we will grade the past five junglers CLG has had on the League Championship Series stage.

 

 

The turbulent CLG squad. Of this line-up, only Aphromoo would stay on the CLG we now know today. Courtesy of qz.com

Marcel “Dexter” Feldkamp (C-)

Dexter played on Counter Logic Gaming for the Spring and Summer split of 2014 before he returned to EU to play for Elements. Prior to joining CLG, Dexter had already made a name for himself in EU on teams like Lemondogs and mousesports. Dexter’s achievements on CLG would grant them a third place in the 2014 NA LCS Spring Split.

Known for his Elise play during the 2014 NA LCS Summer split, Dexter was a middle of the pack jungler for a middle of the pack CLG. His on stage performances heavily wavered from games on Elise where he would average a 5.05 KDA to games on Rengar where he would average a 1.38 KDA. Fans never knew what to expect. This is in large part due to the turmoil of tumultuous drama that brewed between each member of CLG during this high stress season. Whether Dexter was better than his on stage performances showed depends a lot on what was happening during the off stage time spent with his teammates.

 

Jake “Xmithie” Puchero (S on Immortals/ A- on CLG)

Ever since his days on Team Vulcun (XDG Gaming), Xmithie has been a staple jungler in the NA LCS. Currently on Team Immortals, Xmithie was a CLG jungler who seemed unscathed by the drama that arose from being on CLG during the peaks and troughs of previous splits. Competing in three separate world championships, Xmithie is potentially the most consistently accoladed jungler of the NA LCS.

Known as the Golden age of CLG, this lineup found great success landing a first place trophy. Courtesy of lolesports

 

Xmithie excels at play making junglers like Elise, Gragas and Lee Sin. His stats on Gragas make me question why that champion ever gets into his hands. His success on each and every team he has gone to show that he has the ability to lead a team to victory with these play making champions. As a shot caller, Xmithie clashed with other voices on CLG, but on Immortals he has found a loudspeaker for his decision making. While his KDA this season has yet to impress, his macro decision making has propelled Immortals into the first place they currently own.

 

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett (B-)

If CLG’s eagerness to find a substitute for Dardoch does not worry you as a CLG fan, then you may not be aware of  Dardoch’s track record. With one of the lowest kill participation and some unimpressive stats in general, the risk CLG took in trading away Xmithie may not have been worth it. These risks arise from Dardoch’s unstable temperament. Being known for flaming his teammates as well as being one of the most proficient Lee Sin players in the LCS, Dardoch is the number one hot button LCS player.

 

For being the LCS bad boy, he doesn’t look like too bad of a guy… Courtesy of lolesports

That being said, CLG had all this information and more when they made the trade with Immortals for Dardoch. While second place in the LCS is deserving of much praise, Dardoch’s individual performance has by no means been the variable that has placed CLG so high in the standings. Having the most deaths per game out of any jungler with over 25 games played, Dardoch’s high risk, high reward play style seems to match his personality.

 

Omar “Omargod” Amin (B?)

The jury’s still out on Omargod. In the four games he has played, Omargod has had significant impact on their victories and troublesome performances in their defeats. However, Omargod has not had the easiest time in his four game tenure. With two games against the first place Immortals, one against a very strong team Dignitas and a flawless Olaf game against FlyQuest, Omargod has played against some very strong opponents. 

While only playing two different champions in the NA LCS so far, Omargod has drawn bans on Elise, Maokai and Zac. Time will tell for Omargod, however, he appears to be performing better than his counterpart and against tougher opponents too.

 

Honorable Mentions

It is true that CLG has had several other junglers throughout the organization’s past. Of these, two come to mind: Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco and Sam “Kobe24” Hartman-Kenzler. As for Kobe, this foxy devil, would only stay in the competitive League of Legends scene for one year after retiring to join Riot’s beloved casting squad. Kobe used to be known for missing smites,

I think we can all be happy that Kobe dropped the 24 and joined the casting crew at Riot games. Courtesy of lolesports flickr.

before Saintvicious himself, and would often be mocked through the “24” meme, which became a suffix for any other jungler who missed smite. It was not until he gave up competitive League of Legends and dropped the “24” in his name, that he would pass the missing smite meme onto his replacement, Saintvicious.

Saintvicious, who is currently one of the coaches on Team Dignitas alongside his former teammate David “Cop” Roberson, has been in the League of Legends competitive scene since before his receding hairline began receding. Beginning on Team SoloMid, Saintvicious later on went to play or coach for what feels like every team in the LCS. Expect to see Saintvicious staying in the competitive League of Legends scene until his hairline no longer exists.

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Featured image courtesy of lolesports Flickr

A fan’s journal of ESL One Cologne – Part Two

Link to part one in case you missed it.

Day 3 – Saturday – Semifinals

A chilled morning

Damn I miss their pizza and doughnuts. [Source: backwerk.de]

Since the semifinals didn’t start until four o clock local time we slept in till our hearts were content. We left to go out for breakfast at about ten – we’d had enough of cereal bars and waffles already – and went to a place called Back Werk which for you Brits is pretty much identical to Greggs except here they have more on offer.

For the remainder of the afternoon, we went back into town to return a t-shirt Lewis bought that was too small and got Subway, which while the menu was in English is quite an awkward thing to order in a foreign country because of the number of questions you get asked.

Game of the tournament

The first semifinal was Natus Vincere vs Cloud9 which was undoubtedly the best series for us, particularly the second map on Overpass. The last five rounds or so were hectic and it felt as if the entire arena was just waiting for Cloud9 to win it. The fact that it went right down to the wire made the ending even better. I’m a sucker for the underdog story so it was thrilling to see C9 make it to the finals.

After the SK/FaZe series, we headed back to the hotel to chill out and have a few drinks. When we reached the lobby of the hotel we saw s1mple lounging in the reception area and with some newly built confidence, I decided to approach him. I’m a big fan of s1mple simply because of his outrageous playstyle and his outlandish attitude which kind of reminds me of myself sometimes. However, because of this reason I was anxious to ask as I thought he might be contentious, but surprisingly he was willing to. I would even go as far as saying that he seemed happy to but we’ll never know, after all, it is s1mple.

Not much else to say about semi-final day as we spent most of our time at the arena. I did forget to mention that I got a picture with MrTweeday which I was particularly pleased about since his old NiP frag movies were one of the reasons that I became really passionate about the esports side of CSGO and NiP as well.

Day 4 – Sunday – Grand Final

I’m not avoiding you Tweeday, the sun was just blinding.

Sunday started out much the same shower, waffles and head out. If you’re interested in another awkward lift story, this time we got cozy with the Brazilians Lucas, kNg and their coach Zakk from Immortals. We exchanged greetings whilst waiting for the lift, but the whole way down to the lobby they were joking around in Brazilian with us having no idea what they were saying. The two of us were more interested in the black and brown Yeezys Lucas had on. We felt like we were hanging since we had our Ultraboosts on. Again the grand final didn’t start till later on in the day so we had a walk around Cologne to try and get some nice pictures.

On our walk around we found the signing area, where fans can obviously meet the players and take pictures or have things signed. You’ve probably been wondering why we had never been before but we didn’t feel the need to since anything like that we could have done at our hotel. The queues were quite long, we were in the area an hour before FaZe Clan were due in and the line was already a hundred people thick. If you have the time I don’t think an hour is too long to wait, I’ve waited longer to see concerts so if having your mouse pad signed or getting a picture with your idol would make your trip I would definitely say it’s worth your time.

A short time later was the grand final. We had our nachos and our cheeseburgers and we were ready to go. The series was opened with a performance of the theme for the event Fly Away by TheFatRat on stage. It was expected but I enjoyed it more than I anticipated. A prop I have for ESL is that they put on a good show all weekend long whether it was entertaining us with fan interviews or the opening ceremony or the various booths around the venue. They certainly made it a lot more enjoyable than just watching CS on a huge screen. Regardless of whether you are a fan of electronic music you have to appreciate the lights show that was put on, mesmerizing was the only way I can describe it.

As for the actual grand final itself, it depends on entirely what you define as entertaining Counter-Strike as to whether you enjoyed it or not. SK Gaming put on a clinic and you could see some of the adaptations they’d made to catch the Americans off guard. It was a shame C9 couldn’t pick one map up for the crowd. The stadium was a beautiful sea of blue and white with a few fishes of other jerseys swimming around. At least they gave us a couple of amazing plays to cheer for, the Autimatic deagle round on Train, in particular, had me jumping out of my seat. At the end of the day, SK deserved to win and the crowd recognized that and cheered many congratulations as they picked the trophy up.

Day 5 – Monday

Time to Leave

The realization that I no longer had to plan my days around watching the best Counter-Strike on one of the most alluring stages was depressing. I actually felt as if there was a piece of my heart missing. It might only have been five days but it was some of the best five of my life. Walking around Cologne for the final time, you could tell that the event was all said and done. The streets were desolate once again, you could tell because you could actually step foot in the Subway near the Lanxess. There were next to no people walking around in mousesports or Cloud9 jerseys or people with ESL lanyards. I wanted to hear the crowd roar. Just one last time.

The trek home was tiresome. Our flight was delayed, meaning that we missed our train. It took us seven hours to get from Manchester to Hull which would usually take two hours. I wouldn’t change any of it for the world though. I discovered esports when it had just started to walk, now I’m watching it run and I believe that it’s only going to get stronger. All I ask is that you give it a chance, be part of it.


You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles. You can find me on Twitter at @JackWrightIGL. Credit to Affen mit Waffen’s YouTube for allowing the use of his recording of FatRat’s performance.

 

overwatch league

Esports Franchising has Begun: First 7 Cities for Overwatch League Revealed

The Overwatch community has been waiting for this day since the announcement of the Overwatch League back in November 2016 at Blizzcon. The first seven teams have been revealed today. They are Boston, New York, Miami-Orlando, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seoul, and Shanghai. This is not just a major announcement for Blizzard and Overwatch, but for the entire esports world.

What does this mean?

Esports has always needed to establish itself outside of just the online world. This began when LAN tournaments first starting popping up and continued on to full blown sold out stadiums for major tournaments and events. To many though, this was not enough. People still believe that esports are just a fad that will eventually die out, as most games can only stay popular for a few years. What esports have needed was a way to show that they were here to stay and today’s announcement signifies that Overwatch is the first game to answer that call.

Having teams play in cities will do many things for the scene. To start, it will allow for people who are already fans to view more games. Instead of tournaments and games just being held in one city every couple weeks, or online, these teams will play in multiple cities on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays for however long they decide to make the season. League of Legends has already set up this method by playing Thursday through Sunday for EU and NA. As a side note, League is also franchising, so it will be interesting to watch how they react.

Also, when you ask traditional sports fans who their favorite teams are, they normally answer the teams in closest proximity to where they live or grew up. While esports fans have grown up with certain teams that may not be near them, new fans will be able to become more attached because they will be able to say, “I am a fan of the Los Angeles Immortals”. How great is that? People also have deep pride for their cities, which in turn translates to their sports and now esports teams. Naturally, people who live close to these cities and who have any interest in competition or video games will gravitate towards their closest team.

The Team Owners

The announced team owners such as Robert Kraft (owner of the New England Patriots), Jeff Wilpon (COO of the New York Mets), and even Noah Winston (CEO of Immortals) show that this league has a lot of promise. People like them do not invest without doing their research and the reported price of up to $20 million in major cities is not inexpensive.

https://www.gamblingsites.org/

Most, if not all, of the new owners have experience in owning teams either in sports or esports and thus they understand what it will take to make these teams successful. It also shows the trend of traditional sports owners, business individuals, and former players getting involved in esports is growing as well. If you would have told me a year ago that Robert Kraft was going to get involved in esports I would have told you, not a chance.

What these owners signify most importantly is that esports are here to stay. Owners would not invest in a league that was not well planned out and one that they thought would not make them money in the long run.

What Teams Go Where?

https://esports.yahoo.com/

So far we know that Immortals will be based in Los Angeles. Also it looks like that NRG will be in San Francisco as that spot was grabbed by Andy Miller and Misfits will be in Miami-Orlando due to Ben Spoont’s buy-in.

As for the other four teams, one can only guess for now. I believe that some established teams will either be bought up or completely new ones will form. For established esports brands such as Team SoloMid, Team Liquid, Cloud9, and many others, one can imagine that they would either have to team up with one of the current owners or find a way to come up with the millions of dollars and establish their brands in their own cities.

For teams like Immortals, NRG, and Misfits, their establishment in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami-Orlando respectively means that if they buy into any other leagues (League of Legends) they will most likely have first dibs on these cities. Wouldn’t it be odd if Immortals had their Overwatch team based in Los Angeles and their League team somewhere else?

The league will not only consist of seven teams. As was seen before, this league will be global and consist of many different teams. It is most likely that they will start with a minimum of 10. If the league succeeds, then more will buy in and possibly at the locations that are pictured.

What is next?

There has yet to be an official date announced for when the Overwatch League will start. Many believe it will begin sometime in 2018 and all of the first season’s games will be played in Los Angeles until proper arenas have been built or at least teams have the rights to use certain arenas in the city.

playoverwatch.com

 

With esports arenas going up around the world one can only hope that we will see esports continue to grow. I have time and again compared what is happening now to the beginning of traditional sports like the MLB, NFL, NBA, etc. For esports fans this is just the beginning. We are at the dawn of stability and major growth for esports as our children will grow up with tradtional sports and esports teams to cheer for.


Featured Image Courtesy of: https://ginx.tv/

Information Courtesy of: overwatchleague.com

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beat invitational

Bizzaro world: Beat.gl Invitational recap

The results of the Beat Invitational were kind of a given, yet the actual matches themselves were definitely a surprise. Rogue won, Immortals took second and Arc6 took third. The placings below those three spots made as much sense as an Ouija board prediction.

LG Evil didn’t place and yet a month ago they looked stellar. Tempo Storm took a game off of one of the best Overwatch teams in the world. Rogue almost lost to Arc6 in a screamer. FNGRFE almost took out Arc6 in a match that required a look at the rulebook. Just what exactly happened in this tournament?

We have found the Scary Door.

Day One: Friday

lg evil, beat invitational

Courtesy of Team Liquid

Of all the matches, look to Envision versus LG Evil to be the real takeaway. Despite a laundry list of production problems, the match between LG Evil and Envision won match of the day.

LG Evil was the favorite, previously playing in groups two weeks prior and crushing Envision’s hopes. Envision now had a much better Genji in Jaru, and like MasterCard, he’s accepted everywhere. ConnorJ stepping down from Envision was a loss but Jaru seemed like an above average fit for a team indeed of a possible carry. On LG Evil’s side, Jake was still considered one of the better Soldier:76 players in the league, not above aKm but certainly no slouch. What played out through this match was a back and forth of Envision going absolutely crazy followed by Jake and the rest of LG Evil tying them to a bench to hold on. Poor team fights, wild ults that did nothing – it was a match that just felt tilted from the get go.

LG won Lijang, then lost Route 66. Envision almost lost Dorado but a last second brain fart cost LG the match. LG beat Envision on Anubis and held them to absolutely zero. The match on Ilios would have been much more interesting but once again Jaru proved to be the difference in killing everyone. Envision looked a lot fresher than they have been while LG just looked tired.

Day Two: Saturday

beat invitational, Arc6

Courtesy of Arc6 twitter

With five matches, the day went off surprisingly without a hitch. Arc6 and Rogue beat their respective teams handily and then nearly killed one another in the very next match. Arc6 going up two games to nothing, putting Rogue into a fly or die mentality. In everything after, Arc6 failed to finish off Rogue in Lijang and opened up the door for a comeback. Rogue blanked Arc6 on King’s Row and it felt like the game was over immediately. As Arc6 failed to get even two points on Route 66, Rogue took out all the brakes and finished them off with time to spare.

The reverse sweeps were just coming, however, as a few short matches later, the exact same thing occurred once again for Arc6. CLG went up one game to nothing against them in a best of three and was unable to close Arc6 out. Another nightcap of a match sent home the message that the tournament could easily be great when it wanted to be.

Day three: Sunday

beat invitational, rogue

Courtesy of TeamLiquid

Sunday borrowed the script from Saturday and turned it into a summer blockbuster. It even added more zany antics and wild plays to top it off.

Immortals looked very strong and nigh unbeatable in Contenders and then fell to Rogue in a three to one. Arc6 and FNRGFE repeated the match between Arc6 and Rogue except Arc6 won out. More so, the match itself went into a best of three, winner-take-all control point on Oasis. It had shades of similarity to Kungarna vs Cloud9 just two weeks prior in Contenders. Arc 6 looked gassed, and Immortals, still licking their wounds from Rogue, ended up trouncing them.

The final deserves recognition.

The heroes of this series were easily Kariv and uNKOE. Kariv became Proffesor Xavier to uNKOE’s Magneto. They just knew what and where the other one was and was planning to do all the time. uNKOE was obviously the aggressor in a lot of the fights and early on Immortals had zero clues on what to do. Enter Envy on D.Va and suddenly the match pulled a massive u-turn.

People joke that if teams want to get better they simply need to add Korean players. Maybe this is the truth because Immortals morphed into a totally different monster with a single substitution. Call it a hail mary of some degree – down three to nothing with the tournament on the line, Envy changed the dynamic of the game by doing a better job of taking care of Kariv on Zenyatta. Both are Korean so it’s probably not a hard guess that Kariv and Envy could actively communicate easier. Rogue looked hard pressed, with Kariv knowing just exactly when uNKOE was going to use EMP on a team fight. Kariv’s absolutely ridiculous aim and game sense seemingly turned on with their backs to the wall. Add in that GrimReality and Agilities woke up and found themselves in a team fight and flank battle with players way better than themselves. Immortals DPS looked very average compared to Rogue, who absolutely annihilated anyone in a one on one. aKm, SoOn and NiCO were above and beyond better but unable to match the support and tank play of Immortals.

The games went from being a possible sweep to a possible reverse sweep, to a best of five, to a best of three to finally winner-take-all on Volskaya. It drew over 25k+ viewers, which was at or higher than Contenders for most of its run barring finals. It highlights that when done well, Overwatch isn’t just great, it’s incredible to watch. Immortals made only a single mistake and it cost them the match, just a single blunder of contention. Otherwise, the match may have flipped and the power pyramid of teams in the US might need some adjusting.

The conclusion

This tournament had a lot of problems, with what felt like a roving bunch of gremlins trying to sabotage it from the get go. But addressing the considerable amount of production woes this tournament had is both unfair to the work that was put in by both the casters and the tournament staff. It’s all over Reddit and other websites, but in the end, it seems pointless to bring it up. Every tournament has a handful of missteps and this one albeit higher than average did a very good job of rolling with those production issues. Hexagrams and ZP are easily a great pair and you can sense that Hex is pushing through a lot of quality work despite the pressure. This tournament shined through the muck and really highlights that Overwatch can and is a good esport to watch.


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Overwatch Contenders week 5: A tale of two finals

Europe

eUnited was favored to win the tournament since June. Their competition in the bracket never really matched up, no matter what or when the match happened. eUnited showed top tier gameplay, coupled with outstanding performances, putting them ahead of the rest of the teams within the European bracket. Their staunchest opponent only reared their ugly head in the final match, an ironic twist of fate. 123, the culmination of unsponsored talent, rose to the occasion. It wasn’t Misfits, or Ninjas in Pyjamas, or even Laser Kittenz – it was a living mirror reflection of eUnited’s team-first mentality.

Dota 2 Power Rankings Team Liquid

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

The ensuing final match was like watching a fighter shadowbox. eUnited did what 123 did, they dove at the problem and let the rest shake out. eUnited just had more firepower than 123, with players like Kruise out-shining Snillo and Mistakes. Vallutaja (pronounced Vallutaya) wasn’t forced to carry heavily like his counterpart Mistakes on Tracer. The D.Va play from uNFixed and Kodak was not comparable. uNFIxed planted himself in front of Snillo and absorbed every bullet, rocket and mean look he had. Kodak had less impact simply because Kruise on Genji never bothered to deal with the D.Va unless he had to.

The score of four to one does not reflect what exactly happened in this match. The key difference between eUnited and 123 was flexibility and firepower. Kruise and Boombox (on Zenyatta) were better than their counterparts. eUnited compensated their deficiencies by plugging their better players into situations where they flourish. 123 could only do what they knew and practiced, never deviating, never wavering, less the house collapse.

North America

While undoubtedly the favorites to win it all, Immortals were not the talk of the tournament. Yes, they won, beating Liquid handedly in a four to one match where Liquid looked hard press to attempt any strategy without a strong counter. But the talk of the tournament was a former sponsored team, now freelance. It was a contenders storyline made in heaven with FNRGFE showing the grit to battle their way in and around every situation. They fell short, like any sad film where the real hero never sees the finish line. They did, however, make it into Season One, and if any indication is true, we’ll be seeing more out of them in the coming months.

Immortals, on the other hand, looked as poised as ever to not just secure the win but annihilate the competition. Whether tired from the previous down to the wire match or overwhelmed, Liquid looked lost. Their one shining win was beating Immortals on Gibraltar, which very well could have been the start of a streak. It was more a bump on the Immortals pathway towards the finale. It’s hard to describe just what exactly makes them better than Liquid. Their DPS with GrimReality and Agilities looked ready to pick and play any hero to guarantee a win. They not only wanted to win, they looked like they wanted to prove something.

One thread to reflect on is that Immortals won the second day of open bracket back in June. They lost to Arc6 (Formerly Yikes!) in a two to nothing rout and later were held to their only draw against them in groups. Now they’re kings of the tournament and Arc6 will be forced to drag themselves through yet another bracket just to qualify. They improved and evolved their games week in and week out against. The only key to beating them lay entirely on knowing to exploit their sometimes rocky team fights. Liquid could not capitalize on those and went down round after round afterward.


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