Overwatch Contenders Week 4: Group stage takeaways

We finally get the matches with the teams the people wanted. Ties, stomps, brutal come-from-behind victories and the occasional “well that just happened” makes its way to the front. The casting has grown to a rather fever pitch with everything becoming more comedic and punchy. Players and teams have settled into the tournament and are actively putting the pedal to the metal. The Overwatch Contenders tournament has been rough around the edges and maybe needs to retool itself, but there’s a working motor underneath this event and it finally got a chance to rev up a bit.

Let’s jump in.

Europe

If there was ever a need to have a guide on how to tie a match, just watch the VODs from Saturday’s matches. We finally get to see Vivi’s Adventure play against Singularity (Formerly Singularity Ninjas) along with 123 Squad smashing Alfa Squad. The uniqueness is that both matches involved ties. Oddly enough, looking at the map scores for Vivi’s, they tied on Anubis twice in a single day of play and if not for a tie with Gamers Origin might have ended up in a tiebreaker with RiP (Formerly Ninjas in Pyjamas).

The other story line is that the European scene has hit a few icebergs on its way through this tournament. Ninjas in Pyjamas released their one-time notorious squad (The Triple Tank inventors) and Cyclowns disbanded (and forfeiting every match this weekend), putting a small cloud in an otherwise strong showing from Europe. RiP qualifying for the final bracket and doing it under pressure speaks volumes for their commitment to playing. They could have easily just thrown their hands up and let it go but stuck it out, putting a hell of a stamp on their dedication mark.

A final thread to point to is Cyclowns. The talent is irrepressible, with the former players cropping up to save major teams. Boombox played out of his mind for eUnited against Team Expert, more specifically, in the match on Route 66 where his Winston play is the stuff of supports nightmares. destro helping push Movistar Riders over the hump after Finnsi’s depature, beating the tie against Alfa Squad which ultimately puts them into the final bracket. Cyclowns are dead but the squad still finds ways to influence the tournament.

Unfortunately, the group stages send home four of their teams with Vivi’s Adventure, GamersOrigin, Alfa Squad, ESPORATI, Ninjas with Attitudes, Team eSporters Cyberatheletes (Quietly Richard Lewis screams into a pillow) and Team Expert. Cyclowns’ demise ultimately begs the question, if the team had remained together could they have knocked off Movistar Riders? But like many hypotheticals, it’ll remain an unresolved question for the ages.

North America

Surprisingly North America’s showing was a bit more chaotic, it just took a long time to get through it. The matches themselves went till the wee hours of the morning. Call it a scheduling issue but the truth was that every match between teams seemingly took forever. Four maps played is a lot to order. In groups, this works because ties are a thing where as brackets need winners and losers. The merit however of having teams go the distance every time is fine. The issue taken is that matches need to be started sooner so viewership doesn’t drop towards the end of the night.

I just wanted to go to bed, thanks C9 and Kungarna

A good reason for so many maps played is highlighted in Liquid vs CLG. While it ended in a tie and made for some great plays on both sides, the idea of mind games lingered. Sure, they’re up two maps to one but they really suck at this map so a chance to draw presents itself. Kungarna drawing five times in groups and notching only two wins really speaks towards the power of draw games. Their final win was over Cloud9 in a winner take all best of one. Their tiebreaker match to cap off the night, Kungarna dug deep and buried C9 finally amidst the talk of the beef from the casters. A way better match to watch in the mid evening with some form of a snack. Suspiciously, Cloud9 was absent from the day’s streams despite their popularity. This harkens back to last week’s recap which highlighted the lack of strong teams being streamed.

Immortals, on the other hand, were essentially looking to run the table for their group until Arc6 (formerly YIKES!) pulled a Leonidas.

Arc6 can know they took the draw against Immortals and proved that their squad is beatable. While Immortals dropped maps, they did not drop matches until that one moment. If Arc6 needs anything to top its resume it’s proving that they were the only team to draw against Immortals. Their run came to an end sadly when FNRGFE won four to nothing. Toronto Esports and Counter Logic Gaming showed they could also hang with the big teams.

The NA teams that ended up leaving at group stages read like a mid tier tournament winners ticker line. Selfless Gaming, Counter Logic Gaming, Toronto Esports, Arc6 (Yikes), Cloud9, Tempo Storm, Hammers Esports (Happy Richard Lewis) and You guys get paid? all leave knowing they left an impression for other teams to look for. Sponsors are watching these tournaments and their actively looking for which teams are truly going the distance in their matches.

Conclusion

This is an open qualifier – the idea was more centered on proof of concept. The teams that did not qualify for final bracket showed they have formulas to win. Teams like Toronto Esports, Vivi’s Adventure, Team expert, Arc6, Cloud9 played incredibly close in their respective groups. If teams need to tell sponsors they’re getting exposure, look no further than this weekend. Contenders was strong this weekend and the finals are looming.

Check in later this week when I break down the upcoming matches for both North America and Europe!


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“From Our Haus to Yours”

The rise of North American junglers

With the phenomenal performance of Phoenix1’s rookie jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung, it seems that NA junglers are the easiest role to fill with homegrown talent, while EU has become known for producing some of the most talented mid laners. Over the past few splits, we’ve seen several junglers come from challenger to the pro scene and do quite well. Names like Contractz, Akaadian, and Dardoch all come to mind.

Dardoch and Contractz were well known names in the amateur scene. Some pros predicted their success into the pro scene. Akaadian and MikeYeung, on the other hand, were very unknown to most and surprised spectators with how well they performed starting out.

Photo by: Riot Esports

Why jungle?

It’s interesting to note how few jungle imports there are in the NALCS. Jungle seems to be one of those vital roles where communication is key to overall team success, and the language barrier may be the reason why. Support/jungle communication is very important in roaming and making plays in the early/mid game.

Solo que junglers also seem to have the most influence when thinking about ranked play. As a jungler, your decisions in the early/mid game can set your team up for the most success. Doing well on the challenger ladder would be the first step to being recognized for pro play.

What’s surprising is that jungle is one of hardest roles to transition from solo que to pro play. Jungling solo que and in a professional setting is much different with all members being able to communicate. Your decisions are much more impactful in the game as they’re not going to be nearly as kill heavy as ranked play. Teams also ward much better so jungle routes have to be efficient. It’s hard to pin point exactly why rookie junglers seem to have the most success right away.

Lack of NA talent in other roles

Although NA rookie junglers seem to find a lot of success, other roles don’t seem to have the same effect. ESPN recently came out with an article discussing the lack of NA mid talent. It’s no doubt that more teams have gone to importing talent from elsewhere for their solo lanes. Just last split, many teams brought over talented Korean top laners instead of trying to recruit within North America.

Rookie junglers such as Contractz, Dardoch, Akaadian, and MikeYeung also seem to find success very early as well. Akaadian stormed onto the scene last split, showing some phenomenal performances on carry junglers. MikeYeung has been able to duplicate that success this split, helping P1 earn their first win of the split off his aggressive Nidalee play.

Immortals rookie ADC Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun struggled his first few matches, but has slowly developed into one of the better ADCs in North America. Most of the times we’ve seen rookies in other roles, they haven’t been able to stand out nearly as much as junglers have.

Looking toward the future

With franchising coming soon to the NALCS, we could see more development of homegrown talent. With each team being able to foster a “minor league” sister team, NA talent will have more chances than ever to be able to make their way into LCS.

With the relegation system, fear losing their spot in the pro league. If teams take a chance on a rookie and it doesn’t work out, their spot could be in danger fast. With franchising, bottom tier teams can experiment with different rosters if they struggle to start out the split.

With most of the successful NA teams fostering veteran junglers at Worlds, these rookies haven’t gotten much of a chance to see international play. That could change this split with Cloud 9 having Contractz and CLG with Dardoch. Mikeyeung potentially will have a chance to represent NA at rift rivals as some of the best teams from EU and NA square off. It’ll be interesting to see how these young junglers do against international competition. One can only hope that they can show that North America also has talent worth importing.


Cover photo by Riot Esports 

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Summer 2017 over/under (part 2): LCS players above expectations

With three weeks of NA and EU LCS in the books, audiences are starting to get a feel for teams’ strengths and weaknesses. Some squads have carried over similar strengths from Spring Split. Others have risen or fallen in performance. But even within rosters that tend to play consistently, there always seems to be an ebb and flow on the individual player level.

Last week, I highlighted players who need to return to past form for their respective teams to have a chance at peak performance. This week it is all about the other side, summoners who are trending upward so far this summer. These players have visibly improved. They are putting up statistics that are exciting and surprising. More importantly, though, these members have elevated their teams’ overall performances with their gameplay on the Rift.

Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha

CLG, Top laner

KP%:    61.8%   (2nd top laner)

D%:        19%    (4th top laner)

Darshan is a player who has come and gone as a presence in the top lane. While he almost mirrors his statistics from Spring Split, Summer Split seems different. Many of the imported top laners who struggled to find their place last split currently feel much stronger. Yet, Darshan has been able to keep up enough in lane to help CLG pressure the map through split-pushing and cleaner Teleports. Darshan’s team will rely on him to anchor his lane against top-heavy teams in the NA LCS.

CLG Darshan is exceeding expectations in top lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

DIG Shrimp is exceeding expectations in the jungle

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon

Dignitas, Jungler

KP%:    79.1%   (2nd overall)

XPD@10:    325  (3rd overall)

Dignitas’ newest jungler, Shrimp, has been on a tear so far this split. He and top laner, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, are the only members of the team to start ahead of their opponents at 10 minutes. Despite Dignitas’ early deficits, Shrimp has enabled the team to control Elder Dragon and Baron better than most teams in the NA LCS. His Lee Sin is particularly strong.

Choi “Pirean” Jun-Sik

Team Envy, Mid laner

KDA:    4.2   (4th mid laner)

DPM:    494  (6th mid laner)

Pirean is by no means close to the best mid laner in the NA LCS. However, his addition to Team Envy has seemed to boost their overall performance. Within the team, Pirean has the highest KDA, lowest death share, and ties Apollo “Apollo” Price in damage share. Even in Envy’s losses, the mid laner looks proactive on picks like Taliyah and Ahri. Pirean seems like a much better fit than Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo in spring.

NV Pirean is performing above expectations in mid lane

LoL Esports Flickr

UOL Samux is exceeding expectations in bottom lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort

Unicorns of Love, Bot laner

DPM:    604   (4th overall)

DMG%: 28%  (6th overall)

Despite already meshing well with Unicorns of Love in his rookie split, Samux is solidifying himself as a top AD carry in EU LCS this split. He is putting out high damage and keeping his deaths low, sporting a 7.7 KDA. Samux’s positioning and decision-making have been crucial to Unicorns’ scary team-fighting. Standing out this way among a strong field of European bot lanes truly is a feat.

Kim “Wadid” Bae-in

Roccat, Support

D%:   15.4%  (2nd support)

KP%:  68.5%  (6th support)

The flashiest Rakan player in the EU LCS, Wadid has been a primary initiator for Roccat this split. This trend started during Roccat’s win streak towards the end of Spring Split, but he has blossomed these past few weeks. Wadid enables his bottom lane partner, Petter “Hjärnan” Freyschuss, to get ahead during laning phase and clean up team-fights. Viewers feel this player’s presence on the map, which is impressive considering there are several competitive, veteran support players in the league.

ROC Wadid is exceeding expectations as support

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

honorable mention

IMT Cody Sun and Olleh are above expectations in bottom lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung

Immortals, Bot lane duo

DPM: 534,251 (2nd bot lane duo)

FB%: 27%,20% (1st bot laner, 1st support)

The success of Immortals’ bottom lane is difficult to separate between marksman and support. Both Cody Sun and Olleh have exhibited vast improvements from their starts at IEM Gyeonggi. Many fans could see the power shift towards the end of Spring Split, but not to the current degree. This duo has consistently pressured opponents throughout the game in laning, turrets and team-fights. Olleh’s aggressive Bard and Morgana pairs particularly well with Cody Sun’s Caitlyn and Varus. Immortals’ bottom lane has been a force so far, and remaining at the top of the standings will definitely depend on their continued growth.

All of these players are playing above their previous benchmarks. It only takes a short time for above expectations to turn into the expectation, and, as the NA and EU LCS advance, viewers will look for continued improvement. No one will necessarily remember which teams and players were stomping or slumping three weeks into the split. If these players truly want to leave their mark, they will need to maintain this high level of gameplay over many more grueling weeks of League of Legends.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Champion Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

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Dreamhack Summer 2017 Preview

Dreamhack returns for their first event back in Jönköping, Sweden this weekend. With several top teams and even a newcomer to the top tier, Dreamhack Summer 2017 is going to be a platform for teams to prove themselves.

 

Group A

SK Gaming

SK Gaming coming into Dreamhack Summer are the favourites to take the title in Sweden. Recent wins at cs_summit and IEM Sydney can back this up, as well as a semifinal finish at the ESL Pro League finals last weekend.

Photo by: hltv.org

Since adding João “felps” Vasconcellos in February, SK Gaming have had a resurgence in performance. While they had two disappointing finishes at IEM Katowice and Starladder i-League Season 3 in Kiev, the team has made three finals and one semifinal. Along with this journey, a slumping Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo has been able to rise up once again and become one of the top AWPers and IGLs in the world.

With Fernando “fer” Alvarenga looking at his best recently, SK Gaming are looking to take the title in Jönköping this weekend.

mousesports

Looking their best in a very long time, mousesports could be considered one of the favourites for the event. Having star level performances from Tomáš “oskar” Šťastný and a constantly improving Robin “ropz” Kool, mouz look to be taking the title or at least a top 2 finish.

When Nikola “NiKo” Kovač left the team in February, a lot of people thought that the team would be in the dumps. After adding in oskar in the place of NiKo, mouz looked impressive. Stealing the third seed in the EU division of ESL Pro League, and then one semifinal place at DH Tours, topping that off with a quarterfinal finish at the EPL Finals in Dallas; mouz have left people with mouths wide open.

A new and improved mousesports might be the recipe for success, and could possibly lead Chris “chrisJ” de Jong and his boys to the trophy this weekend.

Immortals

Photo by: hltv.org

After two events with their new pickup, Vito “kNg” Giuseppe, Immortals look sort of lost in game. With no clear or proper leadership, and the need for constant double AWP setups, Immortals might leave Sweden with a bucket full of disappointment.

Recently, Immortals with their new lineup have attended two LAN tournaments. Getting an upset win against G2 and a win against Cloud9 at the EPL Finals, they left without a chance at playoffs. A week later they went over to the Americas Minor and ended in 2nd place, losing out to a very confident Cloud9 in the Grand Finals. You can definitely make the argument that Immortals need more time, and I personally agree that they do need more time. But in terms of form, mousesports and SK Gaming are a mile above the Immortals.

Immortals are looking to come into Dreamhack Summer to prove themselves, and to prove kNg as a player. If the team come in their top form they can easily make playoffs, and unless they do, it will be a struggle.

Singularity

Coming in as the Danish underdogs, Singularity are going into this event looking to prove themselves and show the world what they got. In a group with two out of four of the toughest teams at the event, Singularity have a long road ahead of them coming into the group stage.

Battling their way through the European qualifier, Singularity faced the rising Team123, as well as the Polish Pride Gaming. Holstering their star Allan “AnJ” Jensen, Singularity essentially out-skilled most of their opponents throughout the qualifier.

With very little experience at a high level, Singularity will have plenty of issues coming into this event. With more experience, this team could make their way to the top of tier 2, and this event could be the boost they need.

 

Group B

Gambit

The Kazakhstani powerhouse have been the best team coming out of the CIS region in 2017. With the leadership of Daniil “Zeus” Teslenko and firepower of Dauren “AdreN” Kystaubayev and Abay “HObbit” Khasenov, Gambit have soared in the rankings coming into the second half of the year.

Photo by: gambit.gg

With a win at DH Austin and a second place finish at cs_summit, Gambit have shown that they are able to go far in tournaments. Something which they struggled with at the beginning of the year. With that as well, their recent form coming into the event is probably enough to get them to second place or even a win at Dreamhack Summer.

In the group stage, Gambit should have no problems. They’ve shown they’re well above Cloud9 and CLG in terms of skill, although they did lose to CLG at Starladder. Fnatic may be the only team to give them problems, and even then they’re a favourite in that matchup.

Fnatic

With the home field advantage, Fnatic are looking to come in swinging when they show up on stage. After narrowly going out in groups at EPL Dallas, fnatic are going to come back and they’ll surely be ready to attack.

With a legendary lineup, arguably the best in all of CS:GO, Fnatic reformed after the ELEAGUE Major. Since then, they’ve had some pretty disappointing results. Only making playoffs at one out of four of the $250k+ tournaments they attended. While Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer has made a comeback in his performance, Fnatic as a whole have been a let down. Many looked to them as possible contenders for the number one spot, but they seem to be barely breaking in to the top 10.

With all that being said, Fnatic are in their own country. They’ll have the crowd and confidence on their side. While they should make playoffs, it’s hard to say if they could go any further.

Cloud9

Cloud9 have been the face of disappointment since their win at the ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals in October of last year. They’ve failed to make it out of groups at any big tournament, as well as failing to qualify for the ELEAGUE Major.

Carrying the same lineup, Cloud9 have refused to make any much needed changes. Mike “shroud” Grzesiek has been under-performing immensely since the EPL Finals. With a recently rising Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham, Cloud9 have failed to do anything significant other than winning the Americas Minor this past weekend. While many still say that Cloud9 are the best team in North America, they’re still very far from any meaningful ranking worldwide.

Although coming off steaming hot from their performance at the minor, Cloud9 have very little to show for what they can do at Dreamhack Summer. There is a small chance that Cloud9 could make it to the playoffs, but it’s a very slim one.

Counter Logic Gaming

CLG have been steadily rising since bringing back Pujan “FNS” Mehta into their lineup. With much needed leadership, the team was able to make their mark on the international scene and make their name something to talk positive about again.

Photo by: hltv.org

Bringing in Ricky “Rickeh” Mulholland brought in some much needed firepower. With Rickeh being one of the most consistent players on the team, Kenneth “Koosta” Suen slowly rose up as the team’s star player, finally living up to his potential as a top tier AWPer. While not having much experience aside from Starladder, he showed at the tournament why he can be considered one of the best AWPers in NA, if not the best.

CLG have nothing to lose and everything to win coming into Dreamhack Summer. If the right cards are played, we could definitely see CLG in the playoffs.

Featured image by: Dreamhack

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Why Dardoch and Xmithie are perfect fits for their teams

It’s only been one week into the Summer Split of the NALCS, but Immortals and CLG look impressive. During the off-season, the two teams agreed to swap junglers Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and Jake “Xmithie” Puchero.

Most people only saw CLG as the clear winners of this trade. With Xmithie looking to have peaked as a jungler, few expected Immortals to have much success after the transfer. Immortals had different plans, though, as they were able to take a commanding 2-0 week after sweeping last split’s champions, TSM. Both junglers seem to be perfect fits on their new rosters.

Photo via Riot Esports

Mid/Jungle Synergy

Before the split, mid laners Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun and Eugene “Pobelter” Park were heading in opposite directions. Huhi was often criticized at the weak link of CLG in his first split, but looked much improved in the spring. Meanwhile, Pobelter was known as being one of the only NA mid talents, had one of his worst splits in spring. Statistically, he was near the bottom when comparing stats among other mids.

Xmithie and Pobelter had previous experience playing together on CLG back when they took the 2015 NALCS finals. The support of Xmithie has helped him and Immortals as a team. Pobelter finished the week with a massive 10 KDA and looked like his former star self.

Huhi benefited from having a more aggressive jungler as he was able to help with roams and pressure his lane more with Dardoch behind him. Huhi did work this week doing 33 percent of his team’s damage while also having the third highest KDA among mids.

Jungle Styles

Stylistically, Dardoch and Xmithie are night and day in comparison. Dardoch is extremely aggressive and loves to make big plays. Xmithie is an efficient pather and likes to play more supportive in tracking the enemy jungler while helping his laners.

On Immortals, Dardoch was a huge voice on the team. On a team of very passive personalities, his ego took over and he basically did whatever he wanted. Immortals staff even acknowledged this in their offseason video where they highlighted some of the team’s issues. On CLG, Dardoch plays with the presence of other strong vocal players such as Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha and Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black. With veteran leadership already in place on CLG, Dardoch isn’t required to do as much of the heavy lifting as he was on Immortals.

With Immortals, Xmithie is willing to sacrifice resources to allow his team to gain leads. Immortals players have rather passive personalities that could easily be run over by someone like Dardoch. But with Xmithie, they have someone willing to help the team by all means necessary. As the meta shifted back to carry tops and tank/support jungles, Xmithie fits perfectly. Xmithie does not try to make flashy plays that will make himself good, rather he tries to allow his carries to do what they need to do.

Team Environments

Photo via Riot Esports

It almost feels that this is the strongest roster and management staff Dardoch has ever played on. With strong veteran presence leading the way on CLG, he can worry about his own play rather than his teammates. CLG has experience dealing with egocentric players having dealt with star ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Dardoch also isn’t relied upon to be the sole shot caller. It’s been known that Darshan and Aphromoo are very vocal in game and help a ton with the macro play.

The Immortals roster felt like it needed a fresh start after playing with Dardoch for a split. In the video going over Spring Split, the roster members felt that because of Dardoch a lot of the relationships amongst team members felt very “artificial”. With that type of team environment, you can’t expect young players to be at their best. Xmithie comes from an environment where team bonding and friendship were a strong vocal point in success. Xmithie doesn’t have near the ego of Dardoch, so you can expect Immortals are riding this honeymoon phase all the way into Week Two.


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Cover Photo by Riot Games

Forgone Conclusion: Overwatch Contenders League Qualifying Weekend Sunday

Immortals versus everyone, it’s not close. Every team fight looked exactly like this.

I miss Saturday’s games already. Sunday’s looked to be a fatalistic foreshadowing of future proceedings. Immortals were not giving a single point to anyone and lived up to their name going two to zero every game they played throughout the bracket. They ended up annihilating any and everything in their way. Not too surprising coming from Carbon League where they went six and four but ultimately won the tournament convincingly. In essence, despite losing in the Bracket Saturday, Immortals returned Sunday like a shadow.

Throughout the night I found myself drawn to the odd ball type teams. The current meta itself rotates primarily through dive comps situated around Winston, D.Va, Zenyatta, Lucio, Soldier 76 and Tracer. The dive meta comp however seemingly disappears, especially on Lijang Tower’s Garden area. Control point maps, especially wide open control points like Lijang Tower Garden and Nepal Sanctum suddenly burst to life when you see a Mercy or a Mei.

Image courtesy of Toronto Esports

The issue however was that outside of the various little differences, you saw teams very rarely try to play anything outside of the dive meta. This staleness in the game really has plagued Overwatch over the last year. Near the inception of Ana, it was the three tank meta where two teams would slam trains together assuming different results. Now with every nerf bat ever made, the three tank meta slowed and it’s now become submarine battles. If your team is unable to dive and kill the critical element of a team, you’re forced to reset and try again usually.

Getting off the soap box however, I’m a sucker for long games with a lot of back and forth. Meta or no meta, if a game is going to be a slug fest, you can sign me up. The series that gifted me such a request was once again the match before the final match. Toronto Esports and Hammers Esports went the distance. Every single match on Sunday night was a two to nothing win except for one and it was a screamer. Not much can really top off a D.Va ult suddenly and irrevocably changing the team fights.

Image courtesy of Hammers Esports, LLC.

A blurb about Toronto Esports from their About Us page “Toronto Esports Club was founded in 2016, with the goal creating a local Esports team for Toronto and Canadian fans to cheer for. On September 6, 2016 the Club announced their intention to enter the competitive Overwatch scene with the introduction of their first professional Overwatch roster.” It also helps that this team has seasoned professional players in Chris “Huk” Loranger. More to the point, most of their entire roster is essentially been together since March but showing they’re stuff in Open Qualifiers thus far.

Hammer Esports was primarily a mobile-MOBA focused team but their expansion into non-mobile Esports, primarily Overwatch feels like an attempt to finally put themselves on a wider stage. Their showings thus far in the Open Qualifiers stands to reason that they have nothing but good things coming their way in the coming competitions.

MAP 1: WATCHPOINT: GIBRALTAR

Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Gibraltar seems to be the initial map for every skirmish. Hammers had Snizzlenose (Roadhog, which is his main) and Christfer (Winston) while Shaz and Tomzey played around with Ana and Lucio. No Zenyatta meant that Winston’s dive target might actually last a tad longer. On the flip side however, Ana using Roadhog to build her nanoboost to give an edge to Winston for the pick was a safe assumption. With a Nano’d Winston, it’s safe to assume that Winston getting a pick in the backline was all but guaranteed. DPS duties were resting with Nesh and Fischer on Soldier: 76 and Genji.

It looked rather one sided with how Toronto started but things definitely turned for the better.

Toronto’s team went full dive comp with Winston, D.Va, Tracer, Zenyatta, Lucio but used Genji instead of Soldier: 76. Cynic (Winston) and Jaru (Genji) were truly on their game though, pushing Hammers back line while Note on D.Va seemingly got picks on her Ult consistently. There was not a single self destruct on offense where Note seemingly didn’t kill someone. In the hanger, Toronto was forcing the issue as they’d lost momentum thanks to the doors shutting. Note bowled a strike by sending D.Va’s ult into the hanging shuttle above the main cart route and getting a double kill. Arguably play of the round as Hammers retreated immediately after losing two.

Hammers stuck with Ana but the better players prevailed as it was showing more and more evident that Fischer was not as strong at Genji as Jaru. Toronto secured the first game, with Hammers trying to be over aggressive on defense and ultimately costing them. Toronto used their obvious advantage in DPS, flipping to a lopsided one tank, three dps, two supports set up. Note held down the first point leaving Jaru and Onigod to get picks and hamstring Hammers push until overtime when Note and Jaru closed down the point with solid point awareness and a devastating team fight.

MAP 2: LIJANG TOWER

Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

As the rotation for the maps plays out in Payload, Control Point, Assault, the next up was Lijang Tower and my personal pick for the best solo game of the night. Hammers and Toronto stuck mostly to script outside of throwing in a Mercy/Pharah combo as well as just unreal D.Va play out of Note and Snizzlenose who finally got comfortable. At no point was any single map in Lijang a conclusive result as you saw Toronto and Hammers trading ults and kills back and forth. There were Mercy ults on both sides, it looked like a modern movie climax with everything exploding into a ball of fire. Garden had the team trading blows and point capture up until the final moments with both teams coming down hard on how to counter and dive one another. Hammers luck held up however and truly showed off their

Suddenly Lijang opened my eyes to a possible real fight happening. Credit to /u/BigMurph26

skills as Note’s impressive D.Va play was matched by Snizzlenose time and again.

With match point, Toronto shows adaptation at its finest as it abandons the 2/2/2 set up and runs lopsided DPS with Note going back to Solider 76, flipping the scales completely and dominating Hammers on Night Market. That game was distilled Overwatch, a game built around switching heroes to better suit your advantage versus another team.

The final match returned to Garden however and another massive brawl happens on the point but ultimately Toronto looked like it was out of ideas on just how to counter Hammers superior map presence. Hammers never conceded the point and tied the match up. We get a real match and suddenly I feel like it’s a no holds bar type of excitement bubbling up from the center. These two teams are insanely even and it really takes just incredibly strong play from both sides but who was going to crack?

MAP 3: TEMPLE OF ANUBIS

Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Final round began with Hammers starting on Offense. Both teams fielded lopsided set ups with Toronto running two tanks, three DPS and Luddee on Lucio. Just a note, Luddee is officially listed as a sub and is only playing with Toronto on this specific tournament which is truly a testament to his skill as a player. People might knock Lucio for being rather simplistic in his playstyle but it’s entirely different to have to sub in for a team on a huge stage. Not to mention being a strong enough a player to keep you in a match by simultaneously getting kills and healing everyone enough to put you in the ring with Immortals.

Toronto managed to hold out on last point for six and a half minutes, punishing Hammers over and over using Sombra’s EMP effectively. Much if the game between FNRGFE and FaZe, with FNRGFE attempting to use Sombra to stall out FaZe, Toronto used Sombra in a much more effective manner. This was primarily because of Toronto abandoning first point the moment it became evident they could no longer hold out. Hammers with a minute left forced a team fight in the enclosed hallway to the side of the last point.

The fight initialized with Shaz landing a hail mary biotic grenade on Jaru who had just activated Dragonblade. Sensing weakness, Christfer identified Jaru as unable to heal, killing him, and Hammers pushed through onto point, despite an EMP. Suddenly it turned into a complete brawl as not only did the EMP not hit Lucio, Lucio had Sound Barrier and put Hammers in a position to score. On top of this, Nesh switched to McCree and that single switch from Nesh seemingly got them into a fight where Tracer and Genji could not. This happened in less than a ten second window with only 40 seconds left to win the point. They tied in the team fight and Hammers finished with 34% of a point captured. True to form for Anubis however, it takes the royal flush level of coincidences to really win Anubis handily.

Sensing an opening, Toronto returned to the 2/2/2 set up but abandoning dive comp completely. Jaru and Snow went with Pharah/Mercy, Note and Cynic on D.Va and Winston respectively and Onigod on Widowmaker with Luddee finishing the squad on Lucio (because of course). What put it in Toronto’s favor was that Hammers too had gone Widow with Nesh picking up the rifle himself.

The casters noted offensive Widowmaker is given a lot of leeway and that put Hammers down essentially to a five versus six without them even knowing it. Within moments of the match beginning, OniGod makes the call of Nesh’s Widow pick, you see Note and Cynic instantly harass. Despite an effort to hold, the first point collapsed like the old ruins they’re fighting in and Toronto began storming towards the last point.

With ultimates a plenty, Toronto drew up a play and laid their Royal Flush on the table. Jaru and Snow still on the Pharah/Mercy flew over the right side picking off Tomzey. A split second later Cynic killed Snizzlenose, and Hammers went down two players. Even if anyone crucial died, Snow’s Rez was ready and waiting to punish any ults used by Hammers. Onigod fired up garbage truck cleaning up the remaining members brave enough to try and stall.

Game, two to one,  Toronto Esports.

The rest of the matches had highlights but this particular one stands out as not only does it highlight one of the primary features of Overwatch, it shows just how much is can radically alter a match when used both effectively and creatively. On the whole however, the night was taken by the best team and that was Immortals. Immortals might ultimately become the ones with the targets on their backs for the rest of this tournament.

Check back June 18 when I cover the Open Qualifiers for Europe as well. In the meantime I’ll be covering other various aspects of Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

2017 NALCS Summer Power Rankings

The North American LCS Summer Split is just days away. There were a few roster changes in the offseason but not too many. It seemed like most teams wanted to try to keep a core of the roster to build off of – similar to what we saw from Splyce last split in the EULCS. Most teams don’t want to have to do a full roster overhaul in between spring and summer.

It’ll be interesting to see how the standings begin to unfold as we begin the Summer Split. Will CLG stumble out of the gates like we’ve grown accustomed to? Will TSM bounce back from their MSI performance? Can Cloud9 reclaim the throne? Without further ado here are our 2017 NALCS Summer power rankings:

10. Echo Fox

Photo via Riot Esports

Echo Fox is deciding to shake up their strategy heading into summer with C9’s owner Jack announcing on Twitter that they decided to only scrim their sister team to start out the split, saying this is a “bold strategy” for the young team. While something like this could work on a more talented team like Cloud9 or TSM, Echo Fox hasn’t proven to have the talent to not need to scrim LCS teams. Their quality of practice could potentially dip from this, but it could also allow for more strategy development as well. Echo Fox can develop their own meta and have a some surprise factor facing off teams on stage.

Echo Fox will need to rely heavily on their mid/jungle duo of Henrik “Froggen” Hansen and Matt “Akaadian” Higginbotham once again. Akaadian stormed onto the scene with some great carry performances in his rookie split, but fell off towards the later half once teams began to figure him out. At ADC Yuri “Keith” Jew still garners the starting position for now, but they did add challenger series veteran Brandon “Mash” Phan in the offseason to compete with him. Keith struggled last split and took much of the criticism for Echo Fox doing poorly last split.

9.Team Liquid

To many people’s surprise, Team Liquid stuck it out and brought back the same exact roster from last split, pre-Doublelift. Team Liquid fans can only hope that mid laner Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer’s bootcamp to Korea has given him Faker-like ability to finally perform well on the LCS stage. This will most likely be his last chance to prove he belongs in the LCS, so it will be do-or-die for his career.

Jungler Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin struggled in his first split without Huni. The carry jungle meta really wasn’t his style and consequently struggled. With the meta shifting back to tank junglers, we could see an emergence of his former all-star self.

Team Liquid is looking to rely heavily on Cain being added as a strategic coach. They seemed to really like how he did near the end of the split so it will be his chance to prove himself as a coach. Talent wise, Team Liquid isn’t in a bad spot.

8. EnVyus

Photo via Riot Esports

EnVyUs returns with basically the same roster besides subbing out mid laner Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo for upcoming EU mid laner Yasin “Nisqy” Dincer. Nisqy can hopefully be an upgrade over Ninja as he was one of the weaker members of the roster last split. Nisqy comes from EU after helping Fnatic Academy qualify through the Challenger series.

Star jungler Nam “lira” Tae-yoo developed into one of the best junglers in North America and had some phenomenal performances last split.

If Nisqy can gel with the team well, EnVyUs could definitely surprise a lot of people. They also brought on Kim “Violet” Dong Hwan, a former pro starcraft player to coach. While he doesn’t necessarily have a LoL background, it will be interesting to see how he handles the language barrier among the players. Lira and Seraph will need to step up their English if nV will have any chance to compete this split.

 7. Immortals

Immortals swapped junglers in the offseason with CLG in an interesting move due to Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett’s toxic attitude. Jake “Xmithie” Puchero brings a much supportive style to the jungle. It will be a complete 180 in terms of jungle styles. Dardoch was often hard carrying Immortals in their victories, while also being tasked with doing much of the shot calling. Having a decisive voice on a team is vital in pro play and Immortals will definitely miss it.

Most people will consider this move a downgrade, but it could also work better chemistry wise. It’s no doubt Dardoch is one of the best up and coming players of the NALCS, but team chemistry wise he needs the right players around him. Maybe having a more supportive jungler in Xmithie will allow Immortals laners to shine more.

6.Dignitas

Dignitas was expected to be strong contenders after adding the star top/jungle duo of Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun and Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho for Spring Split. That was not the case as Dignitas struggled heavily at the start of spring. Their early game wasn’t bad, but they struggled to make plays in the mid to late game. This was most likely due to the language barrier between the imports.

Once new head coach David “Cop” Roberson was introduced to the team during the middle of the split the team begun to find success. During the off season they also added LCS veteran Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco to their coaching staff. Some other additions include the addition of support Terry “Big” Chuong and jungler Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon. Big is starting the first week of LCS so we’ll need to see if their mid-late game shot calling has improved. They definitely have the talent to compete, but their macro shot calling has been lacking.

5. Flyquest

Photo via Riot Esports

Flyquest returns a former player of the team in Jason “Wildturtle” Tran at ADC. Stylistically, Wildturtle fits this team perfectly. He’s known to be extremely aggressive often at the sacrifice of his life at times. Mid laner Hai “Hai” Lam often will call for very aggressive calls where every member must commit and Wildturtle can do that just fine.

Flyquest stormed onto the scene last split contending for top 2-3 for the first half of the split before teams began to figure them out. They were fan favorites for playing off meta picks such as Mordekaiser bot, Shaco jungle, and Maokai support. Jungler Galen “Moon” Holgate had a breakout split for Flyquest after being underwhelming on any other team he was on before. The effect of having a strong shot caller in Hai really allowed him to show his true potential in the jungle.

Flyquest looks to build off a decent first split finishing fourth place in the spring.

4. Counter Logic Gaming

CLG upgraded individually in terms of talent with the jungle swap of Dardoch and Xmithie. Dardoch brings a high ceiling with the potential to be one of the best junglers in the world. The knock on him is his poor attitude and team chemistry that he’s shown from his time on Immortals and Team Liquid. It’s a high risk, high reward move for this organization but can pay off huge.

This is the best roster Dardoch will have ever been equipped with. Veteran Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black is a strong voice and leader on the team that should be able to keep Dardoch in check if things get heated. CLG has experience dealing with high ego players so having a player like Dardoch shouldn’t be anything new. Although if things don’t start off well, one could see things snowballing out of control very quickly. If things mesh well though, CLG could be strong contenders for the NALCS crown in summer.

3. Phoenix1

Phoenix1 returns the same lineup from last split. Led by their Korean carries of Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook and MVP ADC  No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon they were able to place third last split. The disparity between them and the top two was pretty big it seemed as they got swept 3-0 by Cloud9 in the semifinals.

If they want to contend for the title they’ll need to see some consistency in the jungle from Rami “Inori” Charagh. Inori took a few weeks off after having issues with some players on the roster. When Inori returned he did look much improved. Most of his issues seem to stem from him tilting on stage. If he can manage his tilt well, this team can definitely look to contend with the top teams. New support, Shady, also gets his chance at playing an entire split. He was an unknown addition towards the end of last spring and had a decent showing in their third place match against Flyquest.

2. Cloud9

Photo via Riot Esports

Cloud9 was one move away from dethroning TSM last summer in one of the best finals series we’ve seen in awhile. They were huge favorites to win spring in the preseason with TSM’s Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng sitting out. Cloud9 went undefeated for the first half of the split, but once teams began to improve, Cloud9 struggled to adapt. The team was a bit slow to make early game plays and relied heavily on team fighting in the mid game to snowball leads.

Jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia will look to build off a solid ‘Rookie of the Split’ and become even better this split. He started off really well looking like one of the best junglers. He slowly began to stagnate making some of the rookie mistakes we expected. With a split under his belt, he should know what to expect heading into summer. Cloud9 will also bring back the duo top laners of Impact and Ray. It will be interesting to see if they utilize the same way they did last split, Ray on carries and Impact on tanks. More teams should catch onto this and adjust their pick/bans accordingly.

Under coach of the split, Reaper, Cloud9 will look to contend for the title once again and earn another trip back to Worlds.

1. Team SoloMid

TSM will come in as Summer Split favorites with the return of star ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Doublelift won’t be coming in completely cold, as he had the chance to play with Team Liquid near the end of spring. If TSM can begin where they left off when Doublelift was on the roster, they can dominate the LCS once again. They have stated that they want to utilize the six man roster with another ADC. It will be interesting to see who they bring on as a sub.

Domestically, TSM is a dominant team that has shown the ability to not show fear to play at a high level. They struggle to translate this same high level of play to the international stage where they have shown to be scared to pull the trigger on fights. Hopefully with Doublelift returning, he brings another decisive voice in the shot calling that will allow them to make more aggressive plays.

Jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen had a poor showing at MSI. He was simply out classed by every other jungler there aside from maybe Trick. He’ll need to turn things around if TSM wants to continue their reign on North America.


Catch the start of LCS June 2nd!

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Cover Photo by Riot Games

Team Liquid's starting roster for 2017 NA LCS Summer Split

NA LCS Mid-Season Roster Updates

The break between spring and summer has been relatively quiet in North America. Very few big name players were traded, acquired, or released from teams. Most of the biggest changes are at the coaching position, whose impact is difficult to gauge without watching drafts and getting feedback from the players themselves. Here is a summary of every mid-season roster update so far in the NA LCS:

Traded Players

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett

After a single split with Immortals, Dardoch has been bounced to another roster. Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) traded their jungler to Immortals for Dardoch. He brings a higher carry potential and early proactivity. He also brings an out-of-game personality that has been cited as the source of team-wide issues. CLG’s support staff will need to rein Dardoch in and properly channel his aggressive playstyle to find success.

Jake “Xmithie” Puchero

CLG's Xmithie was traded to Immortals for Dardoch

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Xmithie was traded to Immortals in exchange for Dardoch. This is a surprising trade, considering CLG decided to keep their entire roster intact in the off-season leading into Spring Split. Immortals will be receiving a seasoned, veteran, shot-calling jungler to compliment their remaining teammates, particularly the younger players in the bottom lane. Hopefully, Xmithie will ameliorate any out-of-game issue and provide stability within the team.

LCS Aqcuisitions

Jason “WildTurtle” Tran

Unsurprisingly, WildTurtle has decided to leave TSM to find a starting role elsewhere, and he has. FlyQuest is bringing him on as the primary AD Carry. WildTurtle helped TSM win the NA LCS Spring Split, but had a rocky performance at Riot’s Mid-Season Invitational. FlyQuest finished fifth this spring, and with this acquisition they will look to move up in the standings this summer.

Yasin “Nisqy” Dincer

FNA Nisqy enters NA LCS ad mid laner for Team Envy

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Nisqy enters North America from the EU Challenger Series. His spring split team, Fnatic Academy, qualified for promotion into the EU LCS Summer Split. Their slot was bought by Ninjas in Pyjamas, who signed an entirely new roster. Nisqy joins Team Envy after his strong showing within EU CS. Envy finished last split in tenth, and fought their way through the promotion tournament to defend their spot in the NA LCS. Changes in the mid lane may stabilize their gameplay for better overall performance.

Choi “Pirean” Jun-Sik

Team Envy is also signing Pirean to their roster as a mid laner. Pirean most recently started for Phoenix1 in Summer 2016, and helped keep the team in the LCS after finishing eighth and fighting through the promotion tournament. This past split he was benched as a substitute mid laner behind Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook. Pirean looks to share mid lane duties with Nisqy. However, Pirean does seem to be the starter on the LCS website.

William “Stunt” Chen

Stunt is switching teams for the second time in six months. From substitute support on Dignitas to starting support on Phoenix1 to sharing the support role on Phoenix1, Stunt is now signed to Immortals as a substitute. While Stunt had some of the highest first blood rates, kill participation, and average KDA, he sacrificed high death shares and lower overall damage than his counterpart, Jordan “Shady” Robison. The Immortals infrastructure may be able to develop his talent in a stable team environment.

Terry “Big” Chuong

Big joins Team Dignitas as support

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Big is listed as a player for Team Dignitas in Riot’s Global Contract Database, and may be starting over Alex “Xpecial” Chu in Week 1. Xpecial was benched in favor of Stunt a few times throughout the Spring Split. Big most recently played for Echo Fox’s sister team, Delta Fox, in the NA CS. It would be surprising if his starting role on Dignitas is permanent this summer.

Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon

Team Dignitas also signed Shrimp, a jungler substitution. DIG’s early split woes, and late split streak, rested mostly in the jungle position, as Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun built synergy with the rest of the team. Signing Shrimp on as back-up could be a response. Shrimp split jungle duties for Japan’s DetonatioN FocusMe this spring, helping them finish first in the regular season and second in playoffs.

Brandon “Mash” Phan

The last NA LCS substitute worth mentioning is Mash, who has signed to Echo Fox as AD Carry. Echo Fox started the Spring Split strong, but faltered in the second half, finishing eighth in the regular season. The bottom lane was much to blame. Mash comes onto the roster after finishing first in the NA CS with Gold Coin United. While Yuri “Keith” Jew is still listed as the starter for Week 1, it would not be surprising to see Mash splitting time in this role.

Kim “Ssong” Sang-soo

Ssong is another newcomer to Immortals this summer. Stepping in as coach, Ssong has been the head of LCK teams such as Longzhu Gaming and ROX Tigers. Most notably, he was coach when ROX Tigers finished top four in the 2016 World Championships. Signing Ssong shows Immortals’ dedication to improving as a team, and building the proper environment for growing talent. It will be interesting to see how much he elevates the team compared to last split.

Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco

Saintvicious returns to Team Dignitas as coach

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the longest serving veterans of the NA LCS, Saintvicious returns to Team Dignitas this summer. After Apex Gaming chose him as coach, and they qualified into the LCS, Saintvicious was kept on as staff when Apex and Dignitas were acquired by the Philadelphia 76ers. Coming into Spring 2017, Saintvicious joined Team Liquid as a strategic coach. However, after Liquid’s nasty Spring Split, Dignitas has welcomed him back to assist David “Cop” Roberson.

Nick “Inero” Smith

Formerly of OPL’s Tainted Minds, Inero will be head coach for Echo Fox this summer. Prior to Tainted Minds, Inero coached Dream Team and Mousesports in the EU and NA Challenger Series. Tainted Minds was caught up in scandalous reports of mismanagement from players within the team, which eventually led to a competitive ruling from Riot. The staff and players were released, which has allowed Echo Fox to sign Inero on as head coach.

Dong Hwan “Violet” Kim

Team Envy has signed Violet, a reputable Starcraft II player, as head coach for the summer. Violet has been signed to Envy as a Starcraft player since the beginning of 2016. His crossover into coaching League of Legends seems risky considering Envy just missed relegation this past spring. Maybe Violet’s strategic gaming background will allow Team Envy to develop new tactics or playstyles.

Changes to Starting Rosters

Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng

Doublelift promoted to starting AD Carry for TSM

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Unsurprisingly, Doublelift returns to play the Summer Split as starting AD Carry. Although the star AD Carry had taken a temporary hiatus from professional play, Doublelift was temporarily loaned to Team Liquid by TSM for the last few weeks of the Spring Split to help prevent their relegation. Although TSM won the 2017 NA LCS Spring Split, the team aspires to improve for international competition. Based on their underwhelming performance at the Mid-Season Invitational, Doublelift could be crucial for attaining their higher goals.

Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer

Starting Goldenglue as Team Liquid’s mid laner is one of the most controversial roster appointments going into the Summer Split. Leading into the Spring Split, Team Liquid signed Goldenglue and Austin “Link” Shin for mid lane duties. Later in the split, Team Liquid overhauled the roster, moving their AD Carry into mid lane and starting the substitute AD Carry in bottom lane. The team was also almost relegated, even though they had Doublelift on loan from TSM.

In the meantime, Goldenglue bootcamped in South Korea to play against the best in the world and elevate his gameplay. Only time will tell if his Korean solo queue experience has paid off. Goldenglue may be the player with the most pressure on him, coming into this split.

Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin

Piglet is also being reset into his normal role, AD Carry. Team Liquid announced their roster on Twitter as the same roster they signed coming into 2017 Spring Split. While “Midlet” exceeded expectations on a few occasions, it was not a long-term solution for Team Liquid’s problems. Hopefully, the bottom lane meta is more suitable for Piglet to carry, as he has done historically.

Leaving NA LCS

Dylan Falco

Team Envy’s Spring Split coach, Dylan Falco, is leaving North America to coach Fnatic in the EU LCS. His replacement will be Violet, as mentioned above. For more information on Coach Falco’s relocation, and the rest of the roster updates for the EU LCS, check out EU LCS Mid-Season Roster Updates

Status Unknown

Adrian “Adrian” Ma

No updates yet on Adrian for Summer Split 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Adrian was last mentioned signing to Team Liquid while their support, Matt “Matt” Elento, needed to step down due to personal issues. Last playing on March 18, Adrian has not been mentioned in any team announcements for Summer Split. Team Liquid did part ways with Adrian, and Matt came back to assume the starting role, but nothing has been reported since then. Adrian left Phoenix1 due to disagreements with teammates, so it is possible that teams are hesitant to bring him into the mix.

Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo

After a disappointing Spring Split, Ninja has been replaced by two mid laners. There have been no announcements about his status since. He could be in contact with other NA LCS teams. He could be considered for a Challenger team. Ninja could also transfer to another region. The Summer Splits will be starting soon, so it is possible he remains unsigned altogether.

David “Hermes” Tu

Hermes joined Immortals coming into the 2017 Spring Split. He had an almost completely new roster of players, and together they finished seventh in the regular season and missed playoffs. Since the announcement of Ssong entering this position, nothing has been heard from Hermes. Judging by his Twitter, Hermes seems to be a free agent.

Simon “heavenTime” Jeon

HeavenTime is another unaccounted coach. Echo Fox brought on Inero as a replacement, but nothing has been seen from HeavenTime. With the season restarting soon, it is possible that he remains unsigned, as well.


MSI Team and Player Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Can Dardoch finally find success on CLG?

Star jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett will be transferred to Counter Logic Gaming. Counter Logic Gaming has stressed how important friendship is amongst their successes, but failing to get out of the first round of playoffs last split was the last straw.

Photo by: CLG

 

Risk vs. Reward

It’s no doubt Dardoch is one of the most talented junglers in North America. He’s always been one of the more consistent carries of every roster he’s been on. For CLG, his aggressive jungle style is a complete 360-degree change from Xmithie’s jungle style.

Since his time on Team Liquid, Dardoch became known around the community as an extremely talented player with a poor attitude. When Team Liquid released their documentary Breaking Point, Dardoch was at the forefront of a lot of team issues. He’s a player who’s not afraid to speak his mind and can be extremely blunt with his criticism of his teammates in-game. He was also quick to clash with head coaches, most notably TL’s former coach Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-sub.

When Immortals took on Dardoch, they sought an extremely talented jungler who could replace the void left by former jungler Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin. Dardoch was a star on the Immortals roster, but his teammates around him struggled to match his talent level. When the losses started to pile on, Dardoch’s toxic attitude came back again. In Immortals most recent video, you can see that Dardoch’s attitude had not changed since his time on Team Liquid. Immortals players noted how they really never felt like friends and that their relationship was “artificial”.

Dardoch, individually, is one of the most talented players in the region. He literally felt like he had Immortals on his back in some of their games during the regular season.

Moving Forward

Without a doubt, CLG’s roster will be the best one Dardoch’s every played on. If he can continue his stellar play, I don’t see why CLG can’t contend for an NALCS title.

The weakest points of the roster will most likely be in the solo lanes. Top laner Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha and mid laner Choi “HuHi” Jae-hyun have been extremely inconsistent on CLG. HuHi did look much improved last split, so there is hope. Darshan can show phenomenal performances one game and then get over aggressive split pushing the next. He’ll need to become more consistent and return to the form he had when he was a contender for best top laner in the region.

With Dardoch coming in as the new jungler, stylistically this will be the first time CLG has had an aggressive early game jungler. Xmithie was more known for tracking the enemy jungler and counter ganking. Dardoch looks to make aggressive plays in the early game.

CLG has been known to start splits very slow, usually not adjusting well to the meta. If CLG struggles early, we could see internal issues arise among players. CLG, in particular, is quite experienced in handling egocentric players having star ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng on the roster for several years. Aphromoo should be able to handle any tension that arises amongst the team, but even Doublelift wasn’t at the same level of Dardoch in terms of toxicity. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

CLG has stressed friendship among players over the past few years. If Dardoch can come in and mesh well early, they can contend with the best. If they struggle to adapt to the meta once again, internal team issues could arise.


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Cover photo by: Riot Games

 

Interview with Nomy and Aythen: Recent Wins, Thoughts on Overwatch League, and World Cup

Overwatch as an esport title stormed onto the scene before it was even fully released to the public, with a few minor tournaments and leagues being run during the closed beta. Since then, we’ve come a long way. Putting the Overwatch League aside, Overwatch’s esports scene has seen a steady growth since its full release.

We’ve already had multiple teams rise and fall. Players with big personalities and a World Cup that was, to say the least, an interesting ride. Now that Overwatch League is starting to grow into something that people actually know about, it is set to make its real step into the burgeoning esports world.

I got the chance to sit down with some of the players leading this charge into Overwatch’s bright future, Tank player David “nomy” Ramirez and Support player Athen “Aythen” Zhu from Immortals.

From discussions on their recent win in the Overwatch Carbon Series, the on-the-horizon Overwatch League, World Cup, and some changes to the game they’d like to see, the duo took the time to give their thoughts on the scene from the inside.

Carbon Series Win

Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

Immortals as an organization are a staple in the North American esport landscape, hosting teams in League of Legends, CSGO, Vainglory, two Smash players, and Overwatch.

While many fans will be familiar with NRG and EnVyUs, Immortals’ Overwatch squad may have flown under the radar of NA viewers until now. With a surprise win over tournament favourites LG. Evil in the Overwatch Carbon Series, the team cemented themselves as a top tier North American squad.

The biggest tournament showing for Immortals recently was taking it all at the Overwatch Carbon Series. With a lot of hype around LG. Evil, Immortals may have been feeling the pressure; but Nomy says the boys felt confident going into the series. “Personally we felt that we were confident, we were practicing and scrimming a lot… it just gives you more confidence and you just play better overall. I felt we had a big chance for winning a tournament.”

Aythen also commented on the team’s overall impression of the tournament, noting that the format and length threw him off slightly. “We didn’t really keep track, we were like, ‘Hey, we’re in the upper brackets for this.’ ‘Ohh, we’re in the grand finals for something,’ and I’m like okay. And then we all tried super hard and we won it and it was like, ‘holy crap.’” Going into the finals, Aythen noted too that the expected winner wasn’t them, but LG. Evil. “LG Evil was on a tear, and all of a sudden they just didn’t show up for the grand finals.”

A win is a win, but winning a premier tournament like the Overwatch Carbon Series isn’t just another feather in the cap for the team, it’s an added boost to their confidence. “We just came off a win at Overwatch Winter Premiere before that, and then we came off Carbon, and now we’re like ‘holy crap, we just won two majors in a row I guess.’ It felt good, we all were super happy with our performance.” With the up and down aspect of a young esport scene, it’s hard to place teams in a power ranking system. But given their recent performances, Immortals looks to be a stable force in the NA OW scene.

Overwatch League

Let’s face it, in comparison to the hype around any Overwatch tournament to date, Overwatch League easily takes the cake for having the most hype (and mystery) around it. From pundits in the scene curious to see how a franchised, city based system will work for esports, to fans eager to see some more stability in the scene, everyone is excited.

With that in mind, I asked the boys their thoughts on Immortals’ preparations going into Overwatch League. Nomy said that, “What we’re trying to do right now is grind a lot. We’re doing the boot camp as well… [we are] trying to make a similar Overwatch League experience.” While no one is sure how the Overwatch League will take form exactly, Nomy stressed that the team is doing their best to prepare and to make the transition as easy as possible. The one thing we all know is it’ll involve good Overwatch, and that’s something teams can prepare for in the now.

Another aspect that we do know about Overwatch League is that players will not be locked into their native region. This means we could see a full team of European residents represent an American city (looking at you, mysteriously-moves-to-Las-Vegas-Rogue).

With that in mind, certain regions may represent stronger talent than others. Aythen feels that, “the Koreans are going to be dominant seeing how strong they are in Korea right now, with our top NA teams going over and them getting smashed.” It seems that Korea, the esports juggernaut, is looking to dominant another esport title. Aythen feels that this is because, “They just respect everyone, and they all play on LAN as well right now, so they’re just getting that much experience over us.”

Is that doom and gloom for the West’s home grown talent though? Aythen isn’t convinced of this either. “Once the Overwatch League comes out and everyone’s on LAN, I feel like the Koreans are just going to start off super strong. Eventually we’re going to start catching back up, that’s how I see things going though right now.” The wildcard in the regional discussion? China. Aythen commented on the relative radio silence on the region, saying, “I don’t know about China. Nobody has really said much about China in general actually. Except for APAC, that was like a year ago so, so we really have no clue about them.”

It’s one thing to have big plans for the league, but it’s another to deliver on those plans. While Overwatch League has been touted as having a model more akin to the (now) quite prosperous North American style leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB), whether it’ll succeed in esports is another thing. Nomy is confident that it’ll do well though. “I’m not sure how fast the Overwatch League is going to blow up, but it looks like Blizzard is doing everything they can to make sure this is going to be the next big thing.” With Blizzard’s backing and its long tenure (however up and down for fans) in esports, it seems that all cylinders are firing for the Overwatch League to burst onto the scene.

Aythen sounded a more somber tune to the question though. “With spectating right now, I feel like it’s going to be a bit for the Overwatch League to blow up… That’ll definitely help viewership. I don’t know if it’ll blow up as much as LCS, actually I don’t see it blowing up as much as LCS and CSGO the first year. Probably until they fix spectating issues… It’s kind of hard to watch right now.” Spectating in Overwatch has been a concern for the game since its inception, with some fans finding it difficult to follow the action. Others have been concerned with the rather abrupt, shifting nature of the camera work.

FPS games occupy a unique space where spectator mode is a much more nuanced art rather than an intuitive science like in MOBAs. It’s not just about adding indicators for viewers to keep track of key information, but finding ways to properly capture the action accurately and easily for viewers is a big issue. An issue that, hopefully, will be fixed and fine tuned with time.

Nomy, Tank player for Immortal’s Overwatch team. Courtesy of Immortals.

For fans of League of Legend’s Korean league, the LCK, the departure of Erik “DoA” Lonnquist and Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles from the broadcast was a saddening blow to the scene. For Overwatch fans, it turned out to be the best thing confirmed for the Overwatch League to date.

Touted as some of the best casters in the game, not just for their understanding of the game itself but for adding colourful commentary, both Nomy and Aythen seemed hyped for their arrival. For Nomy, “Bringing them over [Doa and Monte] to cast it, I think they’re one of the best currently right now for Overwatch casting. They make the game very entertaining, very easy to watch. That’s something that a new audience really needs.” For a game as complex and multilayered as Overwatch to succeed, casting is going to be key, and who better than some of the most veteran casters around.

Aythen echoed Nomy’s praise for the duo. “In OGN, Doa and Monte, they put in work casting the game and everything, learning about the game. Them transitioning from League to Overwatch, they’re putting in just as much effort. They’re really good at their job, and that’s going to definitely help.” Doa and Monte’s transition from League into Overwatch seemed a smooth one, and Aythen rightfully points to their work ethic in a lot of ways. The effort the two put into their casts and knowing their games in and out, as well as the players and larger narratives is what sets them above other casters.

Regional Esports Teams

NOTE: Image of potential teams for the Overwatch League, this image was already confirmed to not actually indicate which cities they had in mind. In case anyone missed that.

The other aspect Overwatch League has going for it? A unique approach to engaging fans. By basing teams in geographic locations and locking them in for that area, Nomy feels that casual fans or new fans to esports will be drawn to their local teams. Citing his own experience, “Me for example, I don’t watch soccer that much, but my city in particular has a soccer team. So it’s impossible for me not to get hyped when they play, so that’s just going to help normal viewership get familiar with the game.” While the current reach of soccer to a more casual crowd is probably quite high compared to Overwatch, Nomy’s point stands for more casual esports fans too. We could see fans of esports in general flocking towards their local Overwatch teams when they’re playing, and it’s a smart move to create an easier engagement for more casual fans to choose their teams.

This doesn’t mean for Nomy, though, that fans will give up long standing commitments to teams or players to jump ship to regional teams. “Of course certain organizations already have their own particular fan base, so they’re always going to follow their organization no matter what. Some fans will just come because of the players individually.” While this will probably be the case, it isn’t bad for the regional model either. It’s good for both sides, as more casual fans or new comers to esports have ways to find their favorite teams (local, regional teams) while more established fans can still cheer on their favorite organizations or players.

Courtesy of Blizzard.

World Cup Talks

Of course, the biggest event for Overwatch (ok, maybe debatable, but easily the biggest/only from Blizzard themselves) was the World Cup. Last year was a mix of expectations and well… memes.

Korea formed a team. That team won. Nobody really batted an eyelash. They also went undefeated. So there’s that. And while the teams themselves weren’t filled with no-namers, there was a definite random feel to some of the national rosters.

What did the Immortals duo feel about the World Cup? They loved it. Aythen only lamented that he wasn’t apart of the first USA team, but hopes to be one day. “It’s really cool in my opinion. Seeing what regions are strong, who has the best players, and seeing like your favourite players playing on a team with your other favourite players.” On top of that, he noted how it’s a lot of fun for fans of the scene. Seagull on a team with Liquid members? It could happen. “Now you [see] it’s happening on stage at World Cup, and now they’re fighting for their country. It’s super cool.”

Courtesy of Blizzard.

Nomy was equally hyped for World Cup, but for different reasons. Having been chosen for Mexico’s team last year, he noted that the new format of fans voting on a national committee will legitimize the competition a bit more. “This year it looks there’s a lot more organization, it looks like right now it’s just going to be who is the best of the best to see which region is the strongest so this year is going to be a lot better than last years in my opinion.”

This will be in stark contrast to last year’s national team for Mexico, Nomy noted. “The first World Cup, the people who got into the team were the people who had a lot of fans on Youtube or Twitch. We couldn’t say that they were the top competitive players if that makes sense.” The move to voting being restricted for fans will hopefully see a shift away from it coming down to a popularity contest. It sounds like that would be a step forward for certain national teams. I mean, unless you were Korea, who probably don’t need any help in that regard anyways.

Some changes to the game 

Let’s face it, we’re not perfect yet. Overwatch still has a long way to grow, and that’s largely to be expected. I asked the duo what their thoughts were on some possible directions of change that Blizzard could address to improve their experience with the game.

Of course, being pro players, one would expect a comment on the matchmaking system in Overwatch. Aythen didn’t hold back in his comments on the system as it is, saying, “I feel like matchmaking is inflated to all Hell right now, and it’s just… it should be a grind like it is in League. You shouldn’t be able to get top rank in a day or two. That’s insane.” Aythen found that the ability to climb so quickly in Overwatch’s ladder made play at the higher levels feel less consequential. Once you reached Grand Master, there wasn’t much room to grow, and for players at the top tier of Overwatch, that wasn’t hard to get to.

Aythen, Support player for Immortals. Courtesy of Immortals Twitter.

Outside of just the relative ease of climbing the ladder, what else did they feel needed to be changed? Saying goodbye to Flex Queue and bringing a more stable format like Solo Queue and Duo Queue. Both players agreed on this being a big issue, with Aythen saying, “We really don’t want to see 3-6 stacks anymore. I don’t think anyone wants to play against that when you’re solo. It’s just not a fun experience, and I don’t think it does much competitively in a game like that.”  While it may be fun to queue up with multiple friends in competitive, it isn’t necessarily fair to players trying to hone their skills.

Nomy felt the same way about including Solo Queue in Overwatch’s competitive scene. “If you really want to be the best competitive experience, Solo Queue is the way to go. That way you will get the fairest matches possible, everyone is focusing on their character and their role. I think that will really help and boost the game in a competitive aspect for the ladder.”

Nomy also highlighted a reoccurring theme of concern over the spectator mode in Overwatch, particularly for newer fans to the scene. While he didn’t know exactly how to go about it, he had one suggestion that was close to heart: Reinhardt. “Seeing the shield of the other Reinhardt is kind of important. There’s like a shield management battle for example, so adding some cooldowns or ability cooldowns to the thing so that there’s something you can see to track that.”

 

For the memes

Nomy

If you could remove one hero from the game forever, who would it be?

It’s hard to say this but removing one of my favorite heroes, Roadhog. Getting hooked feelsbadman

If you could BE one hero from the game in real life, who would it be and why?

Reinhardt, I like how he protects people that are close to him, I try to do that with my family and friends IRL, but being a big dude with huge armor would kick ass!

Courtesy of… having too much time on my hands, and MS Paint Skillz.

What’s your favorite skin for any hero?

Safari Winston, you can’t beat that mustache.

If you were stranded on a desert island, which teammate would you want with you and why?

I would choose Verbo, being the main shot caller of the team, he always has a play before the gates open. We would survive on that island, eazy peazy.

 

Aythen

If you could remove one hero from the game forever, who would it be?

In the original headshot, Aythen actually had his arms crossed just like Lucio. It’s fated.

Mmmm, that’s a hard question. If I had to choose it would probably be Mei because I hate her ability to stall out points with Cryo-Freeze. I hate how much health she has and I also hate her ability to slow people into a stun for a free headshot.

If you could BE one hero from the game in real life, who would it be and why?

I’d probably want to be Lucio. Speed boost in real-life would be sick and skating on walls would be so much fun! Hahaha.

What’s your favourite skin for any hero?

It would have to be the new Blackwatch Genji skin. That skin is super cool in my opinion. I hope the heroes I play get awesome skins like that 🙁

If you were stranded on a desert island, which teammate would you want with you and why?

It would most likely have to be Hyped. He’s like our team mom and he is really smart about a lot of things, so most likely he knows random stuff about survival.

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