Can Cloud 9 carry NA to semi-finals?

Quarterfinals start this weekend. Week two proved to be the same old story for North America. After a strong week one performance from all the North American teams, Cloud 9 was the lone survivor to make it out. Cloud 9 will have immense pressure as they are the only North American team left in the tournament.

China on the other hand impressed many in front of their hometown fans as both WE and RNG took first in their respective groups. WE are riding high as they finished the group stage 5-1 looking very strong.

How C9 Wins

Cloud 9 wins if Contractz can keep Condi from taking over the map. We saw in WE’s previous games that they know how to snowball their leads. Not only that, but they also know how to play from behind. Jensen will be vital in his team’s success as always. Cloud 9 will most likely look to camp the mid lane as they always do and try to snowball off Jensen’s lead.

Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi and Andy “Smoothie” Ta will need to hold their own in the bot lane as well. Against EDG and SKT their laning phase didn’t look the best. They will need to be at their best this round. Last year against Samsung Galaxy, they were heavily exploited. They’ll be looking to redeem themselves this time around.

Matchup to Watch: Contractz vs Condi (jungle)

Photo by: Riot Games

WE and Cloud 9 have some of the more talented junglers in the tournament: Juan “Contractz” Garci and Xiang “Condi” Ren-Jie. Condi has been heralded as the best jungler by some from the group stage. Contractz came on with a strong showing in week one showing prowess on carry junglers such as Ezreal and Graves.

Junglers have played a large part of each of these teams’ strategies. Cloud 9 looks to setup mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, so Contractz will often look for multiple ganks there to get him snowballing.

Condi has shown the ability to exert his pressure in many areas of the map. Contractz will need to track him well if Cloud 9 stand a chance against these hometown heroes.

Adjustments

With this matchup being the last of all the quarterfinals matches, they’ll have the chance to see how the meta shifts for the tournament. Near the end of week two we saw Caitlyn as a huge counter to much of the farm fest bot lanes that started out. She can easily bully people in lane and go for the early tower with her range. It will be interesting to see how much teams decide to prioritize her moving forward. Cloud 9 picked up Caitlyn in their final match against AHQ in which they dominated.

With how well top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong has been playing, I’d like to see him be put on a carry champion such as Rumble or even Trundle. We have yet to see Contractz pull out a Jarvan pick, which has been quite impactful. It raises the question of if he’s able to play it or just doesn’t want to.

Prediction

While Cloud 9 may be slight underdogs here, I think they can pull off a close 3-2 upset of this Chinese powerhouse and take North America to semi-finals.

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

 

north america's prophecy

Worlds 2017: North America’s prophecy

Week Two of the 2017 League of Legends World Championship brought miracle comebacks and rookie hype. While some records were broken, others remained.

North America’s prophecy rang true; The North American representatives combined for a meager 2-9 record in Week Two of groups. With a history of defeat, what can explain NA’s consistently poor showings at Worlds? Do the players and teams suffer from some mental block? Or, is NA doomed to their prophetic losses year and again?

NA Hopes and Memes

north america's prophecy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Each year it sounds like a broken record. “North America looks really good this year. The region is a lot more competitive this time around,” they say.

Yet, NA teams never seem to show up when it counts. At Worlds 2015, all three NA representatives failed to advance beyond group stage. Worlds 2016, only Cloud 9 (C9) moved on to quarters before falling to tournament finalists Samsung Galaxy (SSG). This year, analysts had Immortals (IMT) and Team SoloMid (TSM) as heavy favorites to advance coming into Week Two of groups. Still, the North American representatives crumbled under the pressure. Cloud 9, again, was the only team to survive.

It seems that despite the progress North America seems to make, their teams consistently fail to perform on the international stage. Domestic competition grows, but nothing translates come time for Worlds. This trend carried over the past several years, developing into a widely used meme: NA in Week Two. Week Two of group stages has often been NA’s ‘Achilles heel’. The worst part? The results do not lie.

Last week, Immortals only needed to win one of four games to secure themselves a quarterfinals spot. Instead, they crumbled to Fnatic (FNC) in an unparalleled run for the European squad. Team SoloMid fell to rookie squad Misfits Gaming (MSF) in a tiebreaker match that silenced thousands of NA hopefuls, begging the question: is North America’s prophecy a matter of fact, or has the meme grown so large that NA teams succumb to pressure on social media?

NA’s Kryptonite: Prophecies or adaptation?

north america's prophecy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

One of the greatest benefits of participating in the World Championship is team growth. Many Worlds teams show remarkable improvement after the first week of group stage. Misfits Gaming, for example, had several clear weaknesses in Week One. Their bottom lane was susceptible to early pressure in their loss against Team WE. Transitioning into Week Two, MSF’s AD-carry Steven “Hans Sama” Liv and support Donggeun “Ignar” Lee played with a measured aggression that shined through their tiebreaker victory over TSM.

On the other hand, TSM’s most glaring weakness throughout the tournament was an inability to apply early pressure. Instead, TSM relied on a passive playstyle and scaling focused compositions. In fact, TSM’s affinity to float through the first fifteen minutes of a game led to zero first bloods in all seven of their games. Coming into Week Two, it was time to see if TSM fixed these issues. Team WE drafted an aggressive early-game focused composition meant to push TSM out of their usual scaling, late-game comfort. Team SoloMid failed to adapt as WE crushed them in 24 minutes.

TSM showed no signs of growth coming into their Week Two matches. In their games, jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and mid-laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg played uncharacteristically restrained, unwilling to take risks or pressure aggressively. This lack of proactive early shot-calling proved that TSM made little progress fixing their week one problems. Similarly, with Immortals, their opponents in Fnatic and GIGABYTE Marines (GAM) both made huge strides in improving their gameplay while IMT clung to their week one formula. These two North American teams showed little growth coming into the second week of Worlds 2017.

Can C9 Smash North America’s Prophecy?

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Unlike TSM, Cloud 9 demonstrated a clear ability to adapt to meta changes on the fly. In addition, C9 successfully indexed on early aggressive playstyles carried out primarily by rookie jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia. After seeing Team WE pull out the first “Caitlyn” of the tournament, C9 was quick and unafraid to experiment with the champion in a high-pressure match against ahq eSports Club (AHQ). With C9 AD-carry Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi looking increasingly in form, and Contractz overperforming at his first Worlds appearance, the momentum looks good for C9.

However, their quarterfinal opponents in Team WE also look to be rallying with the home crowd booming behind them. Both teams boast aggressive, carry-oriented junglers. So far at Worlds, we have seen Contractz and WE’s jungler RenJie “Condi” Xiang on champions like “Ezreal,” “Kha,zix” and “Graves.” These high risk, high damage junglers will define the early game between these two rosters. How will Contractz, a rookie, fair against a more seasoned jungler in Condi?

In a post-game interview, Contractz spoke to confidence as a crucial part of C9’s mindset coming into every match. With no time to worry about North America’s prophecy or endless memes, Cloud 9 is looking to show up big at Worlds 2017. As the most consistent North American team on an international stage, C9 carries the weight of an entire region coming into quarterfinals. Will this iteration of Cloud 9 be the one to break this cursed prophecy?


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Edward Gaming: Pressure on China’s hometown heroes

Edward Gaming (EDG) struggles to find success at the 2017 League of Legends World Championship, rounding week one of the group stage with an 0-3 match record. Despite coming in as heavy favorites to advance to quarterfinals alongside defending champions SK telecom T1, China’s first seed cannot seem to find their footing. Let’s dive into EDG’s games and look at what they must do to claw out of Group A.

Game 1: Edward Gaming (EDG) vs ahq e-Sports Club (AHQ)

edward gaming

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Edward Gaming controlled the tempo for the majority of a 54-minute brawl, ultimately crumbling to AHQ’s superior teamfighting. To start the game, EDG locked star mid-laner Lee “Scout” Ye-chan on a comfort pick in Lucian. EDG looked to dominate mid-lane and that advantage across the map. Scout executed, earning a staggering +30 CS differential at 15 minutes.

Despite this aggressive lead in the mid-lane, AHQ found multiple advantageous teamfight opportunities in the mid-game. An extended five on five fight at 20-minutes resulted in a quadra-kill for AHQ’s AD-carry Chun-An “AN” Chou. Taking these small victories, AHQ dragged the game into a plus fifty minute slug fest, ultimately overpowering the Chinese representatives.

What internal factors led to EDG’s loss in their first match of Worlds 2017? Crucially, EDG failed to capitalize on their Shen counter-pick for top-laner Yuhao “Mouse” Chen. As a team, EDG should have prioritized mid-game skirmishes and early Drake control using their Teleport advantage with Shen’s “Stand United” to out-rotate AHQ. Naturally, Cho’Gath stood to outscale Mouse‘s Shen in both teamfight effectiveness, objective control and raw tank stats. EDG had to recognize this weakness in their composition and close out the game early. However, because of Mouse‘s weak lane performance against the enemy Cho’Gath and EDG’s lack of proactive rotations, AHQ secured early objectives that paid dividends in the late-game.

Game 2: Edward Gaming (EDG) vs SK telecom t1 (SKT)

edward gaming

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

EDG had no time to lick their wounds before facing off against long-time rivals, the defending world champions, SK Telecom T1. With the force of an entire arena in Wuhan cheering on their hometown favorites, Edward Gaming stormed into game two with blood in their eyes. Led by Wuhan native, Kai “Clearlove7” Ming, EDG coordinated plays to shut down living legend, Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee. Unlike the day before, EDG did not relent. The Chinese squad continued to wreak havoc on multiple SKT members, ballooning their lead to over 9.1k gold at 25-minutes.

Then, at 29-minutes, SKT finds a single teamfight that swings the entire momentum of the game. In rapid succession, SKT’s support, Jaewan “Wolf” Lee and jungler Wangho “Peanut” Han layer double knock-ups onto EDG’s carries. Faker lands a picture-perfect “Command Shockwave” on four members of Edward Gaming, decimating the opposition and turning the game on its head. EDG are never able to regain control of the game.

One fight. One crystal initiation by SKT’s play-makers leveled Edward Gaming’s seemingly insurmountable lead. It is difficult to find many faults with EDG’s play in this particular game. After successfully neutralizing Faker‘s Orianna, EDG exposed several mid-game vulnerabilities in SKT’s playstyle. However, a single positioning mistake at the height of their gold lead cost EDG their second game. Still, we can find many positives for Edward Gaming. They successfully shut down Faker, whose ability to absorb and outplay enemy pressure is perhaps the best in the world. EDG then took that mid-lane pressure and earned leads across the board, securing three Mountain Drakes, Rift Herald and a Baron.

Game 3: Edward Gaming (EDG) vs Cloud 9 (C9)

edward gaming

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Coming into Game 3, Edward Gaming looked like they had a chip on their shoulder. C9’s rookie jungler, Juan “Contractz” Garcia invaded Clearlove7‘s side of the jungle, stifling EDG’s ability to gain vision control and snowball lanes. Meanwhile, EDG’s top laner Mouse found himself suffocating under early pressure from C9’s top-laner Eonyoung “Impact” Jeong.

Feeling the need to pull his team from the trenches, Scout tried to pressure Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen’s Syndra pick. However, without his team to back him up, Scout found himself on the receiving end of multiple three-man ganks. Edward Gaming cracked under the pressure to perform on their home turf as the North American representatives led them into their third consecutive loss at Worlds 2017.

Taking a look at this game, it is clear EDG is off-center. In an attempt to slow down Contractz‘s aggressive playstyle, EDG banned Ezreal. However, after Contractz locked in Graves, EDG failed to adapt their strategy. The result: Cloud 9 methodically dismantled Edward Gaming, executing clean initiations and trades to put the game away.

Looking at Week Two

edward gaming

Credit: LoL Esports Photos

Despite the odds, an 0-3 match record does not mean Edward Gaming is out of the running. In games one and two, EDG earned sizable leads and control through mid and jungle control. Their crutch was a failure to close out these games. In the days leading up to week two, EDG must work on fixing issues with their macro-play and teamfighting.

The road to quarterfinals will be exceedingly difficult, but EDG is no stranger to being behind. This roster secured China’s first seed by reverse-sweeping regional rivals Royal Never Give Up (RNG) 3-2 at the LPL Summer Finals. Most of EDG’s members are repeat Worlds competitors, veterans even. In times like these, leadership and composure on the world stage will define EDG’s legacy. Team captain, Clearlove7 will look to lead his team surging into week two.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Worlds matchups to look out for

The 2017 League of Legends World Championships hype will continue this weekend with the group stages beginning. The play-in stage has concluded and we now have the four completed groups. The draw was just about as even as possible. Each group has top-tier players from their region looking to prove themselves on the Worlds stage. Let’s take a look:

Group A: MID laners

Photo by: Riot Esports

Who could forget Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen’s tweet at last years World Championship when Cloud 9 got drawn into SKT’s group? Many will remember how last years matchup went. SKT and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok dismantled Cloud 9 and dominated them in the two games they faced each other during the group stage. It felt like Jensen never stood a chance as SKT lived in the mid lane setting him farther behind. He finished with two kills and eight deaths in the two games they faced off.

Jensen gets his shot at redemption this year. He’ll be looking to show that he’s grown a lot from last year as he showed his best year in the NA LCS so far. Faker will be looking to show Jensen that he’s still the best player in the World.

From China’s EDG you have Lee “Scout” Ye-chan, who is definitely no slouch. Scout originated as a sub for SKT in 2015 before coming to China to become one of the region’s best mid laners. Scout has shown prowess on very aggressive picks and will need a good performance against the other mid laners in this group.

From the LMS, we have AHQ’s Wong “Chawy” Xing Lei and fan favorite Liu “Westdoor” Shu-Wei. Westdoor has been a longtime player of AHQ, but mechanically had many flaws during his lane phase that would set AHQ behind. Chawy hopes that he can overtake Westdoor as the priority mid for AHQ. We didn’t get to see too much of him at last years Worlds so his first game will be huge.

Group B: Top Laners

Photo By: Riot Esports

Group B will have some of the most fun and legendary top laners to date. From North America’s Immortals you have the original legend from Korea in Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong. After years of jumping from China and Korea, he finally made his way back to the World Stage with this Immortals team.

For EU’s Fnatic you have none other than Paul “sOAZ” Boyer who has become a staple for big performances and escapes on the Worlds stage. There’s just something about Worlds that gives him a “buff” that makes him play like a God no matter how he performed during the regular season.

From Longzhu Gaming you have the new up and coming top lane God in Kim “Khan” Dong-ha. Khan has become famous for his legendary Jayce that draws bans in every game. If one team leaves it up against them, he’s bound to make them regret it.

Gigabyte Marines’ Minh Nhut “Archie” Tran will have his work cut out for him. He played support for the team at MSI before switching to the top lane for the Summer. If Gigabyte Marines stand any chance he’ll need to hold his own against these big names in the top lane.

Group C: ADC’s

Photo by: Riot Esports

In Group C we look to the opposite side of the map from Group B. We have some legendary bot lane talents from each team. In Royal Never Give Up, long time ADC Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao has shown up huge in his past World Championships. He’s been to two World Finals and broke the heart of many NA fans when his phenomenal Ezreal play helped eliminate TSM from Group D last year. Similar to Soaz, Uzi always shows up during Worlds to make huge plays for his team.

From EU, we have G2’s Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen who has been rock solid, taking the crown of best ADC in Europe. G2 likes to play around Zven giving him hyper carries such as Kog’maw and Tristana. He didn’t have the best Worlds performance last year so this will be his chance to show he’s still one of the best in the world.

From Korea, we have Samsung Galaxy’s Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk. Ruler left to China after achieving rank one on the solo queue ladder in Korea. He comes in as one of the best ADC’s in Korea, and had a great showing at last year’s Worlds. His positioning in the finals against eventual champion SKT contributed to their downfall, so he’ll be looking to prove himself once again.

From 1907 Fehnerbace we have Ege “padden” Acar Koparal who got one of the few pentakills during the play-in stage. Padden’s Tristana and Kog’maw paid huge dividends for the team upsetting their way through the play-in stage. Against tougher competition this round, we’ll need to see if he can build up from the play-in stages.

Group D: Mid-Jungle DUos

Photo by: Riot Esports

Lastly, Group D have some of the best mid-jungle duos of the tournament. For North America, you have fan favorite TSM’s Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen. Bjergsen will be looking to add to his legacy as best Western player, while Svenskeren will look to build off his great Worlds performance last year. Bjergsen has yet to go far in a World championship, which hinders his legacy. Group D is the easiest group they’ve gotten by far so they’ll need to prove that they can get first.

From LMS’ Flash Wolves we have the iconic Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang and Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan. Maple has fallen off from his previous form which we’ve been used to seeing. Karsa has had to carry much of the load for the team going forward. Him and Svenskeren have very similar aggressive jungle styles that will be interesting to see when they face off.

EU first timers will sport none other than Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian. Maxlore came into Summer being seen as a better fit stylistically for the team. He often looks to camp around the mid lane to get PoE ahead and snowball.

Hometown heroes, WE have stars  Su “Xiye” Han-Wei and Xiang “Condi” Ren-Jie. Xiye and Condi showed good performances during the play-in stage on a variety of champions. Condi always seemed in control despite WE falling behind in the early game. These teams won’t be as forgiving if they fall behind so they’ll need to step up their game.

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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Nisqy is NV's MVP of NA LCS quarterfinals

Recognizing the MVPs of the NA LCS quarterfinals losers

The North American LCS Summer Split playoffs began last week with two quarterfinal match-ups. Cloud9 faced off against Dignitas. Counter Logic Gaming took on Envyus. Each of these teams had clear ups and downs during the split, so it was difficult to peg the favorites going in, except maybe CLG should beat NV.

However, things did not really go as planned. DIG took down C9 convincingly, finishing with a 3-1 series. Dignitas’ bottom lane, in particular, was able to shine. Although, every member of the team performed well. Cloud9 looked shaky in all but game three.

The CLG-NV match-up was even closer, with CLG barely edging out NV 3-2. Various members on both teams had highlight moments, as each adaptation came through. Rookies and veterans faced off in an exciting five game series, but CLG did close out game five, thanks mostly to Darshan’s success with Camille.

Cloud9 and NV left the arena disappointed. C9 has a long history of playoff success within the North American region, including the finals of the Spring Split this year. NV pulled themselves up from 10th place last split to a spot in playoffs. Even though they were so close to pushing through into semifinals, it fell just beyond their grasp.

There is a specific player from each team that deserves recognition for stepping up in quarterfinals. These are players who put their carry pants on, and did what was needed for their teams. Here are two players that proved to be most valuable to Cloud9 and Envy during the first round of playoffs. Each should feel proud of their contributions.

C9 Jensen

Jensen is C9's MVP of quarterfinals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Jensen found himself in a central position with Cloud9 during quarterfinals. Many of C9’s compositions revolved around Jensen and Sneaky dishing damage, while Impact, Contractz and Smoothie acted as utility tanks. Jensen held up his end of the deal. The rest of the team did not.

On Cassiopeia, Jensen prioritized farming over early skirmishes. In game one, C9’s top lane, jungler and bottom lane had ceded kills before 17 minutes, while only securing one in exchange. In game two, the early game was a bit less lop-sided, but still in DIG’s favor. Jensen did get caught out at Baron around 29 minutes, which swung the game heavily to C9’s disadvantage. However, he followed it up with a crucial four-man Petrifying Gaze at 34:20 to completely deflate DIG’s pressure.

In game three, Jensen completely dominated. His mid lane Lucian was 5-0-2 around 25 minutes, and never really got shut down. Contractz looked much better on Elise, bringing more early game pressure. Of course, part of their advantage came from Shrimp’s curveball Nocturne pick, which did not have a large influence on the game. The Lucian was locked in again in game four, but did not have as strong an effect, due to the low effectiveness of Impact’s Galio and the losing bottom lane. Jensen was still able to finish with a 3-2-7 scoreline.

Considering how threatening Ssumday’s Maokai was throughout this series, it is impressive how many fights Jensen came out alive in. Despite losing the series 3-1, Jensen’s statistics were still powerful. He averaged 19 CS ahead of Keane at 15 minutes. He did 33 percent of Cloud9’s damage. 81.7 percent kill participation and a 5.5 KDA are strong on a winning line-up, let alone one that lost.

NV Nisqy

Nisqy is NV's MVP of NA LCS quarterfinals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the more one-sided series going into the quarterfinals, Counter Logic Gaming versus Envy was much closer than expected. CLG took game one, NV responded with two wins of their own, and then CLG closed out the final two games, finishing 3-2. In all but the final game, NV actually had the lead at 20 minutes. However, CLG’s mid-late game fighting proved more effective, particularly around Baron.

Despite the series loss, NV’s mid laner, Nisqy, truly proved himself. He showed a wide range of champions and playstyles, locking in Cassiopeia, Corki, Galio and Kog’Maw throughout the match-up. Nisqy finished the best-of-five with a 5.2 overall KDA, going deathless in NV’s victories.

Nisqy came out of the gate in game one with an aggressive play in CLG’s jungle to pick up two kills, evening out an invade gone wrong. CLG responded with a mid lane gank to shut him down. After Omargod stole the Baron from NV afterwards, there was very little they could do. Every member of CLG got ahead, and the long distance engage of Zac made NV’s carries easy targets.

In games two and three, Nisqy had a huge impact. His Galio ultimates at eight minutes and 25 minutes were crucial for turning around teamfights targeting Apollo. Nisqy expertly utilized Galio’s zoning and crowd control to split up CLG’s carries and tanks. His Corki roam around 16 minutes resulted in a triple kill, and every teamfight for game three he dished out massive damage.

NV’s game four loss could be mostly attributed to their lack of reliable engage. Seraph’s Cho’Gath, LiRa’s Rek’Sai and Hakuho’s Nautilus could never pull off the necessary initial engagement to set up Nisqy’s Hero’s Entrance. Without the proper team-wide execution, the Galio fell flat.

They switched up their composition in game five by drafting Kog’Maw in the mid lane. Nisqy’s damage output came up huge, particularly in the 32:30 teamfight. Unfortunately, Seraph’s Gnar could not overcome Darshan’s Camille counterpick, and NV’s dual-marksman composition had difficulty surviving CLG’s engages long enough to compete, damage-wise. Nonetheless, Nisqy’s heavy contributions throughout this entire series were apparent, which deserves recognition.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Player Statistics: GamesofLegends.com

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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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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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Can a new team break into Worlds for North America?

Over the past two seasons we’ve seen North America represented by the same three teams at Worlds: Team SoloMid, Cloud 9 and Counter Logic Gaming. These organizations have become fan favorites for most, but some new challengers have risen this split to possibly take their shot on the World stage for North America. The North American scene seems to be looking better and better. TSM has continued their dominance, while CLG and C9 have had their share of inconsistencies. Cloud 9 have almost guaranteed their spot at Worlds as long as they do well enough in playoffs. Second place for Spring granted them a massive amount of circuit points. With 3rd/4th place teams Phoenix1 and Flyquest looking close out of the playoff race, CLG will need to play well to ensure their spot at Worlds.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the teams that could contend for a spot:

Immortals

Due to Immortals finishing 7th place last split, they have zero circuit points to help with contention. This almost guarantees that they’ll need to earn their spot either by winning Summer or qualifying through the gauntlet. The latter will be the most likely scenario.

Immortals have become known for having great regular seasons, aside from last spring. This split came as a bit of a surprise to most. People expected the jungle swap of Dardoch and Xmithie to favor CLG, but both teams have benefited greatly. Not only the jungle swap, but the hiring of former ROX tiger coach, Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo, has given them the knowledge to properly out-macro opponents.

Every lane seems to have come into their own. Young rookie, Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun has developed into a top tier ADC this split along with support Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung. Cody Sun is near the top for DPM and DMG percentage among ADC’s. Olleh has shown great performances on playmaking champions such as Thresh.

Immortals is currently tied for first with TSM and CLG. They’ll need to prove that they can finally perform when it matters, not just the regular season if they want to make it to Worlds.

Dignitas

Worlds

Photo via Riot Games

Dignitas stormed out the gates this split, contending for first place for a few weeks before going on a losing streak. They still have their inconsistencies at times. Last week against CLG they flashed the potential to be able to dominate some of the best teams in the league. Other times, they play to the level of their inferior opponents and drop matches.

With jungler Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon taking the reigns as the full time starter now, Dignitas can maybe gain some consistency for a Worlds run. Shrimp has the second highest kill participation percentage among junglers. In the bot lane, they’ve added two veterans of the LCS in Altec and Adrian. It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes the full time bot lane for the team moving forward.

What’s worrisome is how average of a mid laner Lae-Young “Keane” Jang can be. Keane has middle of the pack stats in comparison to the rest of the NA mids. If he can play up to the likes of Bjergsen, Jensen, Pobelter and Huhi, then maybe Dignitas can make it.

Dignitas has 10 championship points from last split which likely means they’ll be battling in the gauntlet for a Worlds spot. If the team can find some consistency, don’t be surprised to see them as real contenders for a Worlds spot.

Phoenix1

Despite Phoenix1 not being far from the playoff race at the moment, and tied for last place, they still have a ton of circuit points that can help them qualify. A third place finish from Spring granted them 50 circuit points, more than a lot of the teams outside of C9/TSM. Even if they don’t qualify for playoffs they still have a shot in the gauntlet based on circuit points.

Rift Rivals was seen as a stepping stone for the team after a rough start to summer split. They had a good performance and were looking to carry that momentum into the second half of the split. That hasn’t been the case as they’ve stumbled coming back. Star rookie jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung hasn’t looked as dominant since he’s returned. The tank jungler meta hasn’t allowed him to show the same carry performances we saw at Rift Rivals.

Mid laner, Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook, stepping down certainly doesn’t help their cause either. Ryu was an integral part of the team, and it’s hard to say that Pirean can come in and perform up to veteran Ryu standards. If Ryu does return after a needed break, Phoenix1 can definitely make a C9 Cinderella run in the gauntlet.

Worlds

Photo via Riot Games

With only two and a half weeks left in the split, any team can make a late run for Worlds. Will it be CLG, Cloud 9 and TSM at Worlds once again for North America? Or will a new team emerge from the ashes?

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Cover photo by Riot Games

 

 

Jensen

C9 Jensen for NALCS MVP

Since joining Cloud9 and the NALCS in Spring 2015, Jensen has sat in the shadow cast by Bjergsen. Jensen has fallen short of the MVP trophy time and again, often at the hands of the touted mid laner from TSM. It hard to imagine a split where Jensen isn’t a front runner for the title, or at least in the conversation. Despite being a major contender Jensen has yet to achieve the illustrious title of Most Valuable Player.

This year may be his year though. Jensen has put up some amazing numbers this split and had some incredible performances. He is far from the clear choice for the award but has a good shot at it. He still must prove himself better than Xmithie or Bjergsen.

Stats

Jensen

Via Lolesports Flickr

 

It’s hard not to discuss stats when discussing performance. If the MVP of the league is who has had the best performance throughout the split, then talking stats is almost unavoidable. Stats aren’t everything, but they are a big indicator.

KDA has always been a major indicator of overall performance. Not only do kills generate gold, but they generate map pressure, so being able to net kills and assists while not dying yourself is a major key. Jensen currently has the highest KDA in the NALCS with an impressive 6.6. For context, Bjergsen has a 5.7, and Xmithie has a 2.8. It also helps that he has the highest kills in the league at a staggering 134. That’s 18 kills higher than Stixxay and Huhi, who are tied for second at 116.

Kill participation is also an important stat. It lets us know how much of the kills are generated around and through the player. Jensen is tied for fourth in the league with Biofrost and Bjergsen at 75.4%. The highest is Matt who has 77.8% KP. That’s only 2.4% higher than Jensen and Bjergsen. MikeYeung isn’t far behind with a 74.8%. Xmithie only has 66.6% KP, despite having a great showing so far this split.

The final stat that factors into this is CS/M. On top of Jensen’s incredible KDA and KP he also holds the highest CS/M at 9.4, which is .8 CS/M over Bjergsen. This is where it is next level. Having the highest KDA, and a high KP is one thing, but still being able to have the best farm on top of that is truly incredible.

Intangibles

Via Lolesports Flickr

Numbers, however indicative of good performance, can only tell us so much. There are certain intangibles an MVP must demonstrate. This includes playmaking ability, consistency, and carry potential.

Jensen has demonstrated some amazing mechanical ability this split already. While he doesn’t have any huge teamfight turning plays this season, he does have a few solo kills like this. Jensen’s playmaking comes more in the vein of his consistency.

Jensen is the face of consistency. He performs well during most losses, and sports a 41% kill share throughout the regular season.  He isn’t getting quadrakills and pentakills, rather he is pumping out consistent damage in team fights and dominating the laning phase. In fact, Jensen has no quadrakills or pentakills this season, despite having three games with double digit kill scores.

As for his carry potential, Jensen brings that in spades. The man crushes lane opponents and snowballs from the midlane. His roams often net kills for himself and his other laners. From this lead, he is able to relieve pressure from elsewhere on the map by either taking it onto himself in the mid lane, or moving himself to where the pressure is. Take for example his Leblanc game against IMT.

Opponents

Jensen

Via Lolesports Flickr

 

As for the major contenders for the award. Xmithie has plays like this one. His mechanical prowess isn’t the only reason he’s a top three choice for MVP however. His stats are likely so low because of what he has been able to do for his laners. Xmithie has often controlled the jungle of the opponents and thus allowed himself to create large leads for his laners. He often snowballs the game by getting all of his laners ahead in the early game and having a stranglehold on neutral objectives in the mid game.

Bjergsen, on the other hand, spearheads the charge of TSM. He plays much like Bjergsen does, dominating the laning phase and snowballing the side lanes. However, he hasn’t been as nearly as dominant as Jensen has this season. What Bjergsen does have going for him, however, is a better win/loss. I think that speaks more to Bjergsen’s team as opposed to his own individual play, but may be a little bit of both.

In short, Jensen has been an animal this split. When he gets rolling, he’s nearly impossible to stop. He has performed very consistently this split and if he continues this level of play, I’m confident that he will finally take home the NALCS MVP award.


Stats via Best.gg and Lolesports.com

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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NA vs. EU Rift Rivals power rankings/predictions

Rift Rivals is around the corner. We will get the chance to see some of the top teams from EU and NA face off in a regional battle for bragging rights. EU and NA has been a long time rivalry in professional League of Legends. They were two of the first big regions to produce pro teams during LoL’s early days.

The history of the NA vs. EU rivalry has been a bit lopsided as of late. EU comes in as heavy favorites with most of the top of NA looking inconsistent for most of the first half of the split. You never really know with international tournaments though. The two regions are used to playing to their own metas so it will be interesting to see how the teams match up. Here are my power rankings for the teams playing at Rift Rivals:

1. Fnatic

Photo via Riot Games

Fnatic come into Rift Rivals with a steady 6-1 record. After struggling last split, they found their groove towards the end. Fnatic have found a style that works for them and continue to show mastery on it. ADC Martin “Rekkles” Larsson has his pocket pick Kennen that teams must watch out for. If it’s not the Kennen, it’s his Tristana that can give teams trouble. Mid laner Rasmus “Caps” Winther gets his first shot at international competition. This is a great opportunity for him to face off against some of the best in the world in Bjergsen and Jensen at Rift Rivals. With Rekkles usually on more utility carries, Caps is heavily relied on to be the main damage dealer for the team. Caps currently leads the league for all mids in damage percentage and damage per minute.

Young jungler Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen gets his chance to prove himself as one of the best junglers in the West. He’s been dominating the EULCS this split with a monster 11.3 KDA. He’s an aggressive jungler that has had phenomenal performances on early game junglers such as Elise and Kha’zix.

Fnatic are comprised of two veterans in SoaZ and Rekkles who should be able to lead this rising squad to a Rift Rivals victory.

2. Unicorns of Love

Unicorns of Love come into Rift Rivals with a 5-1 record, only dropping a series to Splyce. They are led by star top laner Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás. Rookie of the split Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir will also be a player to watch as he’s come into his own in the EULCS. He has a deep champion pool, willing to pull out unique champion picks such as Warwick and Hecarim. With EU having some of the best junglers in this tournament, NA will need to step up.

Fabian “Exileh” Schubert may have a a rough time. In EU he’s currently dead last in CS difference@10. He’s also near the bottom for many mid lane stats. He will be up against the likes of Bjergsen, Jensen and Ryu. Teams will most likely look to exploit the mid and bot lane. ADC Samuel “Samux” Fernández has looked improved this split, he comes in facing the likes of Arrow, Doublelift and Sneaky. UoL have strong shot calling and have shown consistency to play well together. In just about every matchup against TSM they’ve handily defeated them. We’ll see if that changes this time around.

3. Cloud 9

Photo via Riot Games

Cloud 9 come in off a solid win over TSM, but a very deflating loss at the hands of CLG. Had they beaten CLG they may have been in a higher position. Cloud 9 are led by carries Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi. Jensen has been having the best split of his career in the NALCS. He sits near the top in most statistical categories among NA mids.

In NA Cloud 9 has had some of the same issues from last split. Their early game play making still lacks a bit, but their laning phase is still pretty solid. They have a versatile roster with their interchangeable top laners of Jeon “Ray” Ji-won and Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong. Ray has slowly been taking the starting role from Impact showing the ability to be a carry top laner for the team.

In the jungle rookie Juan “Contractz” Garcia has still shown some inconsistencies, but has turned it on as of late. He’ll be facing many good junglers from EU, so he’ll need to step it up if Cloud 9 have a chance. It will be his first international competition so he’ll look to prove himself. Cloud 9’s rivalry with Fnatic will be ignited once again as they get a chance to face off in this tournament. Cloud 9 took the battle of the Atlantic, but Fnatic has gotten the best of them at Worlds.

4. Team SoloMid

TSM are the reigning North American champions and had the chance to eliminate G2 from MSI. They failed to do so and were eliminated themselves. They get another shot in the EU rivalry this time with ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Doublelift vs. Rekkless and Zven will be matchups to watch here at Rift Rivals. Rekkless isn’t really known for his aggressive laning phase so we’ll need to see how he does against one of NA’s best.

Many thought TSM would retake the NA throne easily with the addition of Doublelift back onto the roster. That hasn’t been the case as TSM sit in 2nd place with a 7-3 record. Jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen has looked phenomenal on Lee Sin. Anything outside of Lee, he has looked meh at best. He’ll be a huge crutch for TSM if he has a repeat of his performances at MSI.

TSM have been known to choke at international events. We’ll need to see if Rift Rivals will be another one added to that list.

5. G2

Photo via Riot Games

After a great run at MSI where they reached the finals before losing to SKT, G2 was expected to come back and destroy the EULCS scene. That hasn’t been the case as G2 seem to have taken a step back in terms of performance. They may be using the regular season to try out new things, but their old strategy of playing to the late game has not worked well for them. They currently sit at 3-3, third in their conference.

Their early game play making is lacking. While they can still try to play around star ADC Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen, teams will look to punish them for their lack of early game play making. Support Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez has been a weak link this split getting caught out uncharacteristically. He will need to step it up or he’ll be punished by some of the better supports at the tournament.

6. Phoenix1

Phoenix1 will be heavy underdogs as the only team coming to rift rivals with a negative W-L. They currently sit in 8th place with a 3-7 record. They struggled heavily out the gates, but after bringing in new jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung and veteran support Alex “Xpecial” Chu the team has looked much more competitive.

MikeYeung brings in a signature Nidalee pick that teams will need to watch out for. Former MVP ADC No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon has not shown the same prowess he did last split. He’s currently last in CS differential@10 and near the bottom in other statistics.

The team has looked improved in recent weeks. Maybe Rift Rivals can be a spring board for turning their season around. Ryu, Arrow and Xpecial are the steady veterans who have played in international competition before. Ryu in particular should know his opponents very well. Phoenix1 could definitely take a game or two under the right circumstances.

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Cover photo by Rift Herald

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