Jungler

Have junglers really lost out in 4.13?

Overview

There has been a lot of talk recently about patch 4.13 hitting junglers pretty hard. Here we break down how much, if at all, junglers have been impacted. The major way the jungle role has been changed is through adjustments to health and XP totals in the jungle. The second way in which jungle has been effected is through a nerf to Bumba’s Mask.

XP Reductions

When you look at the XP reductions that have come into effect with patch 4.13, it does not look as bad as some people have been saying. While the XP reductions are pretty significant, what is more is what camps had their XP reduced. It is the neutral camps of the Fire Elementals and Oracles. While controlling these is a good way for a jungler to get ahead and advance, they are not secured farm and they are very unlikely to be soloed.

Oracles are normally a battle between the duo lane and the Fire Elementals will often be taken by whichever solo is more dominant. This is not to say that a jungler who is farming properly and hitting timers wont also be there, but they are not the bread and butter of the jungle. Will it hurt junglers having an objective that is normally split between 2-3 people getting a reduction in XP? Probably not, especially as I said earlier these are normally objectives shared by multiple roles. This means that we have to look at things in relative terms. While a jungler may farm up slower because of these changes, so is everybody else.

Health Increases

This is probably the change that for my money is going to make the most difference. Jungle buffs now take noticeably longer to do and solo. Taking longer to farm obviously reduces XPM and GPM, thus hurting your overall farm. However, how often are jungle camps really cleared solo anymore? Not often, your adc or mid is likely to be at red and your solo is going to be at blue. It is also usual, especially in the early game, to have someone at your speed with you.

With two members, jungle camps still fall relatively fast. Seeing as the buff that gets soloed the most is speed and that mainly gets soloed later in the game, it doesn’t really make a huge difference. As later in the game you still burst through them in an ability and a couple of AA’s.

At the top levels where everything is pretty much shared anyway, I don’t really see this making that much of a difference. The biggest time you’re going to feel this is when you have laners who don’t want the camp XP and won’t be sharing waves with you. However, even then I don’t think that situation has been made much worse than it already is by these changes.

Overall I don’t think this is going to make a huge change to junglers, but of all the changes I do think it will hurt the most. This is mainly because, as the role that takes most of its farm from camps, having them take longer to kill will obviously hurt them more.

Bumba’s

Jungler

Image Courtesy of smitegame.com

The five percent nerf to Bumba’s Mask is not really all that bad. Bumba’s was probably overtuned, and the nerf justified. In the early game especially, the sustain it would give you was pretty insane. Also as it is percentage based off camp health it has not really been nerfed all that much. With the camps getting significant health increases the difference in regen is not all that noticeable.

Conclusion

Overall I think junglers have little to worry about. Most of these changes either affect more than just the jungle role or are negligible if people are farming effectively. With that in mind, I think it will have a larger impact on the jungle role at the lower level of play compared to higher levels.

 

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H2K are trending up in week six EU LCS

Trending in EU LCS: Week 6

The EU LCS returned this week after a brief hiatus to accommodate Rift Rivals. Since week five, Riot introduced patch 7.13 with several minor balance updates. Fans were able to see some adaptation in the various regional showdowns, but many European teams were able to experiment longer with the patch while Fnatic, Unicorns of Love and G2 played on the patch against representatives of the NA LCS.

Every new patch affects the meta. Every new meta affects teams’ performances. There were not too many huge shake-ups in the standings this week. However, week six does finish with some EU LCS elements trending up and others trending down.

Trending Up

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the upswing after week six of the EU LCS. They may have won a key series against a tough opponent. A teammate may have put their team on their back to keep it together. Maybe a particular champion pick was able to shine.

G2 are trending up after week six of EU LCS

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2

G2 bounces back from a disappointing Rift Rivals showing by defeating Splyce in a dominant 2-0. Perkz looked much more comfortable in the mid lane, ending the series with a 16-1-15 scoreline. Trick utilized Sejuani in the jungle in both games. All-in-all, G2’s wins were clean. For example, the second game was less than 24 minutes long, and the samurai accumulated a 10,000 gold advantage in that time. With Misfits’ loss to Unicorns of Love, G2 tie for second place in Group A with a 4-3 record.

H2K

H2K secured another 2-0 over a Group A team, Roccat. While the win is not unexpected, the sheer severity of Roccat’s losses show that H2K wants to be at the top of Group B at the end of the Summer Split. Game one ended in 26 minutes and game two in 21 minutes. H2K did not die a single time in game one, and only sacrificed two turrets. Roccat got five kills in game two, but only one turret. Nuclear and Chei did not die a single time over the course of the series. H2K has finished every winning series 2-0, and they have only lost games to UOL and Fnatic. They will look to solidify themselves as the third best team in Europe against G2 next week.

MM Kikis is trending up after week six of EU LCS

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MM Kikis

Mysterious Monkeys picked up another series win this week against Roccat, but it was not pretty. Monkeys’ top laner, Kikis, came up huge in every single game to keep the team competitive. In game one it was a split-pushing Jayce. Game two was a mechanically intensive Akali, weaving between enemies, in and out of stealth. In game three it was an aggressive Renekton, finishing almost 4,000 gold over his lane opponent. While the Monkeys do not look too great as a team, Kikis is trying to be a menace in the top lane.

Cinderhulk junglers

The Enchantment: Cinderhulk jungle items were buffed because “while tanks are trying to farm Cinderhulk, everybody else around them is already farming more quickly,” according to the 7.13 patch notes. In response to this change, EU LCS junglers prioritized Gragas and Sejuani much higher than week five. Zac maintained his high ban rate, and was picked once by H2K’s Jankos. Olaf was locked in twice by Vitality’s Djoko. There were still other non-Cinderhulk junglers, such as Elise and Kha’Zix, but they were much less frequent.

Kalista ADC

The Spear of Vengeance has returned to the bottom lane in week six. While Kalista has seen a few lock-ins prior to this week, her play rate jumped this week. She was picked in seven out of 15 games, and banned in another three. This bump in pick and ban comes off the back of her strong showing at Rift Rivals, particularly the LCK-LPL-LMS showdown. Kalista enables her support to engage or disengage around her ultimate, Fate’s Call. Therefore, EU LCS bottom lanes paired her with Alistar, Rakan, Braum and Thresh. Finishing with four wins and three losses, she is not a guaranteed win, but Kalista will most likely continue to be a prioritized marksman pick.

Trending Down

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the downswing after week six of the EU LCS. They may have lost a series against an underdog. A teammate may have faltered over several games. Maybe the meta is shifting and a playstyle is being left in the past. These elements are downward trending in the EU LCS.

Splyce's bottom lane is trending down after week six EU LCS

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Splyce bottom lane

Splyce lost 0-2 to G2 in their week six series, and none of their players looked particularly strong. One part of the map that looked weaker than usual was Splyce’s bottom lane duo, Kobbe and Mikyx. They ended the series with a combined 1-17-15 record playing Kalista-Rakan and Varus-Bard. In game one, G2’s Zven got a Triple Kill before 18 minutes, which included Kobbe and Mikyx. In game two, Zven killed Mikyx around five minutes, and Perkz killed Kobbe around seven minutes to start the snowball.

Roccat

Roccat finishes week six with two series losses against H2K and Mysterious Monkeys. This is going to heavily hinder their chance to make playoffs. H2K completely demolished them in two sub-27-minute games. Roccat lost large early leads in games one and two against the Monkeys. Luckily, they were able to bring it back in game two. However, they still lost game three in convincing fashion. Roccat’s record falls to 2-6, two games ahead of Ninjas in Pyjamas and two games behind G2.

Top lane Galio is trending down in week six of EU LCS

Image from LeagueofLegends.com

Galio top

While he was not completely relegated from professional play in the EU LCS, Galio was not drafted into the top lane this week. Tanks and bruisers, such as Renekton, Jarvan IV, Kled, Jax and Gnar were prioritized more. Galio’s armor was reduced in patch 7.13, which made him particularly weak against these AD threats. He may remain as a mid lane niche pick, as he was drafted by UOL’s Exileh and NIP’s Nagne in week six.

Lee Sin jungle

Unlike Galio, Lee Sin was not targeted in patch 7.13 at all. However, Enchantment: Cinderhulk, Rek’Sai and Kha’Zix were all changed in ways that negatively impacted Lee Sin. He was picked once by H2K’s Jankos and once by MM’s Amazing. Graves and Kindred were both picked while Lee Sin was still available. Olaf and Elise were played just as many times, or more. While Lee Sin is almost always a possible pick in professional League of Legends, he seems to have taken a back seat in the EU LCS for the time being.


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TSM is trending in Rift Rivals

Trending in Rift Rivals: NA v. EU

Rift Rivals is on in full force, as regions around the world battle for bragging rights. This new international event is clashing metas against each other, to surprising effect. The Atlantic rivalry, North America versus Europe, has been particularly exciting.

There was so much speculation coming into the event, regarding which teams would be strongest, which player match-ups would be most intense and which pocket picks might be locked in. Some of this guess-work has followed through on stage, but much of it has been turned on its head. Today, we will be looking at what is trending at Rift Rivals: NA v. EU.

TRENDING UP

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the upswing since playing at Rift Rivals. They may have won a key series against a tough opponent. A teammate may have put their team on their back to keep it together. Maybe a particular champion pick was able to shine.

C9 Jensen is trending in Rift Rivals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen

Even though Cloud9 has had a 50 percent win rate after three days at Rift Rivals, their mid laner has been putting up quite a performance. Jensen has the second highest overall KDA (10.4), the second lowest overall death share (7 percent), and the highest overall gold and CS leads at 10 minutes (427, 11.3). Critics in the NA LCS suggested Jensen’s performance may be inflated due to the wide mid lane talent pool within North America. Rift Rivals just may convince them otherwise, having withstood Rasmus “Caps” Winther, Luka “Perkz” Perković and Fabian “Exileh” Schubert.

Phoenix1

Heralded by many to be the weakest team coming into the event, P1 has been rocking the house in Berlin. The orange-and-black hold a 4-2 record after three days of competition, higher than Cloud9, Unicorns of Love, Fnatic and G2. P1 has been the dominant early game by far, averaging 1,272 gold ahead at 15 minutes. Maintaining the highest kill:death ratio, 1.87, P1 is also the team going for blood. Their matches have been invigorating for NA LCS fans hoping for a strong showing.

TSM

Analysts are beginning to shed more and more of their doubts about TSM. The defending champions of North America are on a tear, currently sitting 5-1 with the best record at Rift Rivals. The decisive, coordinated playstyle that allowed TSM to dominate the NA LCS in Spring 2016 has re-surged. They are averaging 1,438 gold ahead at 15 minutes against some of Europe’s strongest contenders. The biggest difference between TSM and other teams in the tournament, however, has been their neutral objective control. At 75 percent dragon control and 80 percent Baron control, they are among the highest of all teams.

Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung

Phoenix1’s jungler is making quite a name for himself in his first international performance. MikeYeung has become a playmaker that is not afraid to aggressively invade the enemy’s jungle or contest neutral objectives. His Lee Sin is very slippery, sporting a 9.8 KDA and 100 percent win rate over three games. Rift Rivals is furthering his claim for “Rookie of the Split” in the NA LCS (even if he is the only one currently eligible).

Top lane Gnar is trending in Rift Rivals

Image from Surrenderat20.net

Top lane Gnar

Gnar has seen plenty of professional gameplay around the world since his release. However, his pick-ban rate has been low for most of 2017: 2.3 percent in spring and 5.9 percent so far this summer. Rift Rivals is seeing a resurgence of the Missing Link in the top lane. Gnar has been picked in seven games, banned in five, equaling 66.6 percent of total games. Teams have won 71.4 percent of games with the champion. This probably signals an increased priority for Gnar for the foreseeable future in NA and EU LCS.

TRENDING DOWN

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the downswing at Rift Rivals: NA v. EU. They may have lost a series against an underdog. A teammate may have faltered over several games. Maybe the meta is shifting and a playstyle is being left in the past.

Fnatic is trending in Rift Rivals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Fnatic

Following an upward trend last week in the EU LCS, Fnatic have slipped up so far at Rift Rivals. Over two days, the number one European team is only 2-4 against TSM, C9 and P1. Doing a complete 180 from the EU LCS Summer Split so far, Fnatic are averaging 2,378 gold behind at 15 minutes, and they have only secured 10 percent of dragons. No one player can take the blame, though.

Jeon “Ray” Ji-won

Cloud9’s top laner is on the decline since competing at Rift Rivals. While Ray has not necessarily put up star performances in the NA LCS, his shortcomings are on full display at this tournament. The third lowest overall KDA (1.6), third lowest overall kill participation (50 percent), second highest overall death share (29.8 percent) and ninth overall lowest damage per minute (261). These all belong to Ray. 

Rek'Sai jungle is trending in Rift Rivals

Image from Surrenderat20.net

Rek’Sai jungle

Rek’Sai saw a sharp up-tick in gameplay last week in NA and EU LCS, since receiving a gameplay update. However, the Void Burrower has not been impactful so far at Rift Rivals. RekSai has only been picked or banned in four games, and only won one game. Zac, Elise, Gragas and Lee Sin have had significantly higher priority in drafts and performance in game.


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Rek'Sai, the Void Burrower

Rek’Sai void rushes back into LCS

Rek’Sai, the Void Burrower, has returned to the meta within the NA and EU LCS. Junglers have begun to pick her up as an AD bruiser, following Riot’s small-scope rework. Until recently, Rek’Sai has had a firm presence in professional League of Legends over the last two and a half years.

Following Rek’Sai’s release in December 2014, teams around the world picked or banned her in over 70 percent of all games. Her overall presence dropped to around 25 percent in Spring 2016, only to bounce back up to 77 percent that summer. In Spring 2017, Rek’Sai’s pick-ban rate dropped to her lowest ever, just under 15 percent. But since Riot decided to alter her kit and balance her power, professionals have played her in 30 total games.

Eternum Rek'Sai skin splash

Image from LeagueSplash.com

Rek’Sai gameplay changes

The most extreme changes to Rek’Sai are her ultimate, Void Rush and her W, Un-burrow. Void Rush switched from a glorified teleport ability to an execute of sorts. The R now allows Rek’Sai to go unstoppable roughly one second, lunging at an enemy which she has recently attacked. This ability does attack damage based on the target’s missing health.

Rek’Sai’s Un-burrow ability no longer knocks up multiple opponents. The targeted prey is knocked up, while all surrounding enemies are slightly knocked back. These changes shift Rek’Sai’s overall gameplay from a tanky area-of-effect knock-up-bot into a single-target damage threat with execution potential. While this does not change her out-of-combat playstyle too much, it does change her impact in teamfights. Tremor Sense and Tunnels are still powerful abilities that allow Rek’Sai to see enemies effectively and exhibit pressure around the map. However, once she finds a target, she is able to output more damage than ever before.

For example, here are Rek’Sai gameplay highlights from Week 4 of the NA and EU LCS:

rek’sai’s lcs performance

Even though Rek’Sai’s pick and ban rates have increased, her win rates are still low. In NA LCS, she currently holds a 21.4 percent win rate, while in EU LCS she holds 25 percent. This puts the Void Burrower below eight to nine junglers in terms of success (with more than one game played in LCS). Players may still be learning how to effectively play her in a competitive environment.

Although most Rek’Sai players prioritize Mercury Treads for movement speed and tenacity, the rest of her build path varies between North America and Europe. In NA LCS, it has been just as common to build Skirmisher’s Sabre as building Tracker’s Knife. In EU LCS, Tracker’s Knife is almost universal. Europe also commonly builds Spirit Visage or Locket of the Iron Solari, while North America leans towards Black Cleaver and Deadman’s Plate. Tiamat into Titanic Hydra is essential on Rek’Sai in both regions.

Professional League of Legends will most likely continue to see Rek’Sai on the Rift. Despite her low win rates, junglers show a fondness for this champion. LCS players will need to continue practicing Rek’Sai in the current meta to fully develop her best strategies. Currently, her play rates and win rates do not align. Junglers should look to make her more worthwhile, or simply de-prioritize Rek’Sai in the draft.


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Is a Lack of Class Diversity Within Roles a Bad Thing for Smite?

In the earlier seasons of Smite, we had lots of class diversity within the roles. I personally think it made for a more interesting meta and game overall. It did this through genuinely allowing for different approaches to winning, instead of different brands of similar styles. It also made the game more fun to play. Most people will main a role or a couple of roles, so getting to play different classes and play styles stopped your favoured roles from becoming stale. In recent times though this diversity has died off and left Smite worse off as far as I am concerned.

Previous Seasons

Solo lane is a prime example of a narrowing of Smite, particularly in the roles. Over the history of Smite we have seen every class be viable in the solo lane. We have seen certain players make their names from non-warrior picks in the solo lane. The best examples of this are Jarod ‘CycloneSpin’ Nguyen and Jeron ‘Xaliea’ Klaver, players who dominated at times in the SPL with Assassins. When CycloneSpin was the best player on the best team in the world, it was through playing Assassins in the solo lane.

Image courtesy of smite.gamepedia.com

We saw high-octane, high-impact Gods like the Hun Batz being played by Cyclone. It created great games to watch, with early rotations and a pseudo-jungle in the solo lane. It also made solo lane a far more interesting place to watch as there was genuine kill potential between laners instead of the solo slap-fight we have become accustomed to.

Jungle is the other major role where diversity has all but disappeared. Jungle used to be a varied role; being a jungle main, it was that aspect which drew me to it in the early days of Smite. However, now it is just Assassins and not even a particularly large pool of Assassins at that. To newer players it must seem extremely odd that I have a diamond Freya who has been played ADC a max of about 10 times. Ymir used to be a common sight hulking through the Jungle. Tyr used to be a jungler more than a solo laner. All these Gods have in their day been great junglers. At the very least, this made the role more interesting to play and far more flexible.

The reason I focus on these two roles as the epitome of role diversity is two fold. Firstly, these are the roles which lend themselves to role diversity the most. Secondly, these are the roles which allow diversity elsewhere in the team. For example, the Ymir jungle allows your solo laner to worry less about front line, or perhaps your support to consider a better laner than a CC bot.

Where We Are Now

Right now, the classes for roles are very much set in stone. The height of our role diversity is a possible Amaterasu support, a Hunter mid or a Guardian solo.

Even that though seems formulaic. We know which Hunters we are most likely to see in the mid lane, which are basically the more mage-esque Hunters. They are also not always easy to pick as it can hinder your team’s magic damage capabilities. With the lack of magic damage available in the jungle and from solo at the moment, this is a genuine concern.

The Guardian solo at the moment as well is formulaic. The only exception to this is the recent Geb pulled out by Adrian ‘Deathwalker’ Benko. This surprise pick is the exception, not the rule at the moment. It is also worth noting that Deathwalker is someone who is particularly interesting in his picks; think of his recent solo Ah Puch. Also the Guardian is played very much like the Warrior, except for favouring CC over the damage a Warrior provides.

What Created the Issue?

One of the big changes that got us here was the change in Power Pot. Being able to purchase a Power Pot at start made a lot of things more viable, especially in the jungle. It allowed weaker early game characters to improve their clear and impact, meaning they didn’t just fall too far behind to be impactful late game. A prime example of this was the Freya, who with some help from teammates and a Power Pot had manageable clear. It also allowed early game hyper-carries like the Ymir to really utilise that powerful early game. The old Ymir jungle was an example of something I saw as great game design. It was interesting having a hyper carry in the early game who could use it to get his team an advantage and then fall back into a tanky CC bot with very average damage in the late game.

Blink nerfs also reduced diversity in the jungle. Adding mobility to characters who didn’t particularly have it was huge for their viability. The two best examples of how the Blink nerfs reduced the jungle pool are Tyr and Ymir. Ymir obviously has no mobility, so that re-positioning tool for ganks was huge. However, it was just as important for Tyr because while he has his ult for engage, it is his Fearless combo that provides the gank potential.

Image Courtesy of gamerprompt.com

It was these Gods who had CC and early game damage on their primary abilities, which had their jungle viability completely nerfed with the Blink nerf. Especially as they transition into tankier roles, meaning they need to take as much advantage of the early game as possible.

Hi-Rez is also partly at fault for this homogenisation of the roles. They have a history of when a new class finds a footing or takes over a role, not buffing the traditional class but over-nerfing the invasive class. When we had Warrior support as the only support, the answer was a whole-sale nerf to the Warrior class. While Warrior’s did need a nerf, it nearly removed them from the role, and did not focus on making supports better while Warrior’s slightly weaker.

We recently started to see AD-Mages taking over the Hunter Role; again it was a group nerf to those mages. Sol has been made into pretty much a pure Mage. While it is great she has not been nerfed into oblivion, it would have been better to see her have some presence still in the Hunter role. It would be nice to see more of a meeting in the middle of buffing the weaker and nerfing the overpowered when it comes to these sorts of situations.

We have seen a lot of work on Starter Items in recent times. What I think may be missing are starter items which particularly enable multi-role lanes. The easiest example of this is that we could have multiple Bumba’s Mask’s each offering different things.

It would be interesting if Hi-Rez tried a few God releases where they specifically designed characters with role-diversity in mind. I think the community would be very interested in an Assassin designed for the solo lane, or a Guardian designed for the jungle. We have enough Gods in Smite now that they could really start to experiment, not as much hangs on every release.

Another way in which Hi-Rez could facilitate this will have to wait for Season 5. One reason the situation is how it is, comes down to the map. This is a map which has favoured the early game meta heavily. One of the reasons solo has gotten so stale and Warrior heavy is how much that lane effects jungle camps. Losing solo lane normally also means you have lost that side of your jungle. This takes XP and gold from three members of the team. In a meta about getting an early lead and holding it, that is just unacceptable.

Hi-Rez do not seem to have it as a priority at the moment. That may be a mistake, as it is something which I think improves the game from SPL to Casuals.

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The New Shifter’s Shield and Why It Is Broken!

Shifter’s Shield

Shifter’s has gone through a few changes in its long history in Smite. For a while though it has been regarded as a pretty useless item. The former theory-crafter and current Paladins designer, James ‘Krett’ Horgan, highlighted the failings of the old Shifter’s shield. He showed that Void Shield was not just better defensively but provided more damage thanks to the pen. Shifter’s shield has always tried to be a Jack of all trades. Unfortunately, the theme has always been master of none.

Stats

The new Shifter’s Shield is incredibly good. Gone are the days of being a master of none, instead it is a case of one size fits all. This is what Hi-Rez wanted. They said in the patch notes that they ‘want to highlight this aspect of the item’ (Its multi-purpose role).  The item lives up to its name now, going from a very offensive item to a strong defensive item, shifting its role to your needs. Let’s see what it does compared to other items, when it’s fulfilling either one of its roles. When it’s damage and power you are looking for, it provides 70 power. That is the third highest physical power base in the game. Only being beaten by Bloodforge at 75 power and Transcendence at 97 power (fully stacked and at level 20 on a Hou-Yi). Both these items are more expensive, considerably so at 2850 and 2600 respectively.

When we look at what it provides defensively, the numbers are great again. While above 50 percent health, the 15 of each protections it provides are a nice little boost, but nothing special. However, the 50 protections it provides while under 50 percent health is very noticeable. For comparison, a Spirit Robe only provides 40 and you would need five stacks on a Hide of the Urchin to get the same amount of protections. While I am not arguing that this makes you as survivable as a Spirit Robe due to the great passive it provides, it does show that Shifter’s does do the job rather well.

Practical Uses

Image courtesy of Smite Wiki

By amplifying the passive, the practicality of this item has gone through the roof. Who are most likely to build this item? Junglers, as we have seen in the SPL so far, this has become a staple third item for Junglers. Amplifying the passive is incredibly important, particularly for Junglers. This is the case because of how Junglers play the game. When you go in for the gank and blow your kit on whichever poor laner has attracted your ire, 70 power is incredible. However, counter-rotations are a thing you will encounter. You are also most likely an assassin, balancing that tight rope of having to be right on top of people while being squishy. So, this item allows you to gank powerfully, and then helps you get out, running away spamming the VEL’s.

An example of this is God’s like Thor. You dunk in right on everybody’s face, drop all your cooldowns with the 70 power bonus then as you get focused the 50 protections really help you either finish of a target with a few AA’s and gives you enough time to get your hammer off cooldown for the escape. Another example would be Camazotz, who is seeing a massive rise in popularity. As like Thor you have to be right in the thick of things and unless you are using your ult for escape, which is not ideal you do not have a huge amount of escape. The early protections of Shifter’s when combined with his natural sustain do give you the survivabilty required to get out after your picks. It also allows you to get the picks as your damage has not been hampered like it would normally from building early protections.

Image courtesy of Smite Wiki

This is not just a Jungler’s item, ADC’s and Solo’s are building it too. Most notably ADC’s, and the question is why wouldn’t they? Kieran ‘Funballer’ Patidar on the first day of the Summer Split showed us the Shifter’s on a Hou-Yi, and others have followed suit. It is a great power base and a much quicker power spike than the Transcendence, being cheaper and not requiring stacks. Being an ADC is like having a target on your back all the time. You spend most of the laning phase in the longest lane, often by yourself. You are also incredibly squishy, with normally one movement ability being the sum total of your survivability. The late game damage you provide also incentivises people to be gunning for your life. Be it to stop you getting to that late game, or the inability to let you free cast once it has become the late game. So, as a hunter, finally being able to build defense without sacrificing power is a dream come true.

For Solo laners, it has not been quite as prevalent as the other two primarily physical roles. However, as Peter ‘Dimi’ Dimitrov showed in game 2 against Rival, it is a great way to capitalise on a lead. He got ahead on Sun Wukong and went into a third item Shifter’s. This made the already higher level Sun Wukong really start to swing. This showed in the amount of early kills he was getting. Let’s not forget the great synergy this item has with the Sun Wukong passive.

Another big problem Shifter’s Shield has always had is that it does not give you any pen. However, nowadays Physical pen is so much easier to build than it ever has been. From the Jungler’s viewpoint, lots of builds currently have three of the four maces being built. The Crusher, which is the one mace not being built regularly, is not an awful item either. It also bridges me to the next major role using Shifter’s, ADC’s. With Ichvial, Fatalis and Executioner being so prevalent in hunter builds as well as full access to the mace tree, they are not short of pen either. Also, the Shifter’s is mainly being built by ADC’s in the place of what would be a Transcendence. So they haven’t actually lost any pen in the build, just gained a shed-load of on demand protections.

Overall, this Item is probably a bit too strong at the moment. Also Hi-Rez has made a point of trying to create build diversity and avoid cookie cutter builds. Something Shifter’s in its current form is not doing, everyone’s buying it. It pains me to say this as someone who spends most of his time in the Jungle or in ADC, but it does need a nerf. However, I love how the item works and think it should remain in the meta. It would be a mistake to relegate it to the state of uselessness it has spent most of its life being. I think the easiest way to do this would be a slight price increase and see how that works. However, that may be enough just considering how much this item gives you.

Top Image Courtesy of Smite Wiki

 

2017 MSI stage and crowd in Brazil

MSI Play-In Champion Power Picks

The first stage of the 2017 Mid-Season Invitational is complete. Two wildcard teams have moved on to enter the second stage where they will meet representatives from NA LCS and LMS. Last weekend was a joy to watch, as teams from around the globe came together to battle on the Rift. This weekend promises similar excitement.

Before heading into the match-ups, though, it is important to highlight key champions. These are champions who had high pick and ban rates. They have been contested throughout the tournament. As regions enter and exit the competition, some preferences are bound to change. However, the following choices have proven themselves to be fruitful, and will most likely remain power picks for the remainder of the contest.

Top

2017 MSI top lane power pick: Shen   Pick/Ban Rate (P/B): 58%   Win Rate (W%): 25%

Shen is valued for his ability to impact the map. Stand United allows the top laner to protect allies with a shield, or follow the channel with Shadow Dash to engage fights.

Split-pushing is a bit easier, since Stand United and Teleport allow Shen to enter a neighboring lane. Top laners generally build Tytanic Hydra, Spirit Visage and Guardian Angel on this champion.

Do not let the low tournament win rate fool you. Players such as Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo and Yau “MMD” Li-Hung have 100% win rates with the champion, and Ki “Expect” Dae-Han, Asım “fabFabulous” Cihat Karakaya, and Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell are 67% or higher (Spring 2017).

2017 MSI top lane power pick: Fizz   P/B: 79%  W%: 57%

AD tank Fizz has become a menace yet again. Trinity Force is essential to this playstyle. Top laners have built Sunfire Cape, Spirit Visage and Guardian Angel for tankiness. They may include Blade of the Ruined King or Wit’s End for attack speed and augmenting the bonus damage of Seastone Trident.

Fizz has also been used for split-pushing. Playful Trickster is a low-cooldown spell which allows for speedy roaming. Top laners have been choosing Ignite-Teleport as Summoner Spells for early laning and global pressure.

Gigabyte Marines flexed Fizz into the mid lane once already, and other teams will most likely be open to this idea. In the right hands, this champion is truly a nuisance, which is why he has been banned so often.

2017 MSI top lane power pick: Galio   P/B: 75%   W%: 86%

The newly reworked Colossus made his debut at MSI. So far, he has been oppressive. Galio’s combination of tankiness, utility, and damage are difficult to overcome.

Players are building Spirit Visage and Sunfire Cape to provide resistances and ambient damage. Knight’s Vow and Iceborn Gauntlet have been prominent items, too.

The semi-global pressure of Hero’s Entrance is perfect for top laners, especially playing around objectives. Shield of Durand and Justice Punch provide high-impact crowd control for Galio’s team. So far, Nautilus has been the only other top lane champion with a higher win rate than Galio (with more than one game played).

 Jungle

2017 MSI jungle power pick: Ivern  P/B: 79%   W%: 50%

Redemption, Locket of the Iron Solari and Athene’s Unholy Grail are only built by the jungler if they are playing Ivern. His shielding and healing are ridiculously powerful when combined with Triggerseed.

Teams excel when Ivern enables his laners to snowball and siege turrets with Daisy! His jungle clear is quicker than most. He is also able to donate his blue and red buffs more frequently to teammates.

Drafting Ivern allows teams to create protect-the-carry compositions. When paired with Lulu, Orianna, Karma or Shen, Ivern unlocks marksmen, assassins, and mages to play fast and loose.

2017 MSI jungle power pick: Lee Sin  P/B: 88%   W%: 53%

Lee Sin is League of Legends’ perennial jungle champion. Once truly overpowered junglers have been banned or picked, many players fall back to Lee Sin. His mobility and early pressure allows teams to push the pace and snowball quickly when played correctly.

This tournament has seen Lee Sin played 15 times: 6 games more than the next most played champion. He is a versatile pick that can mesh with almost anyone. None of the best junglers are afraid to pull him out to demonstrate their Flash-Dragon’s Rage mechanics.

All of the remaining junglers at MSI have at least 64% win rates on Lee Sin this Spring. Han “Peanut” Wang-ho has maintained a 100% win rate over 11 games.

2017 MSI jungle power pick: Graves   P/B: 88%   W%: 75%

Teams have been smart to frequently ban Graves. Junglers have won 6 out of 8 games with him at MSI. End of the Line provides insanely fast jungle clears. Quickdraw allows him to move through thin walls and gain bonus resistances. Collateral Damage nukes low health targets.

No participating jungler has less than a 73% win rate using Graves. Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan has a 100% win rate and a 13.3 KDA over 5 games on the champion. Kang “Blank” Sun-gu sports 100% and 17.5 over 2 games.

Black Cleaver and Maw of Malmortius are featured items beyond Enchantment: Warrior. Players at MSI have even been building Blade of the Ruined King, which is arguably overpowered at the moment.

 

Mid

2017 MSI mid lane power pick: Syndra   P/B: 79%   W%: 50%

Koray “Naru” Bıçak and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok have the lowest win rates on Syndra: 67%. All other mid laners at MSI sport 71% or higher.

Syndra has been a mainstay in the mid lane for a few splits at this point. Her combination of waveclear, crowd-control and reliable burst damage are hardly matched. She has the highest total number of bans for a reason.

The average damage per minute for Syndra players at MSI is 629. This is higher than any other mid lane champion with multiple games played. Expect her presence to remain on the high side moving forward.

2017 MSI mid lane power pick: LeBlanc   P/B: 71%   W%: 33%

LeBlanc’s strengths are similar to Syndra, except LeBlanc is more of an assassin. Distortion allows mid laners to quickly roam to other lanes or into the jungle. High level players can utilize Mimic to confuse and outplay opponents.

Hextech Gunblade and Void Staff are currently staples within LeBlanc’s build. When paired with Sorceror’s Shoes and Abyssal Scepter, LeBlanc’s burst is unsettling. One successful Ethereal Chains stun onto a squishy target is guaranteed death.

Văn “Optimus” Cường Trần lost his only LeBlanc game at MSI. Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok have yet to get the chance to play her this Spring. All 4 other mid laners have 60% or higher win rates.

2017 MSI mid lane power pick: Ahri   P/B: 50%   W%: 75%

Mobility is Ahri’s biggest strength in the current meta. Spirit Rush gives her three dashes to enter and leave fights as she pleases. Ahri’s item path is also one of the most flexible, as she can build into a teamfighting mage, an assassin, or some combination. MSI featured Morellonomicon, Zhonya’s Hourglass, Hextech Protobelt, Hextech Gunblade, Abyssal Scepter, and Luden’s Echo during the first stage.

Ahri has had the highest total plays during the tournament: 8. She also had the highest win rate of any mid lane champion with more than one game played. It would not be surprising to continue seeing her picked throughout the remainder of the tournament. However, Su “Xiye” Han-Wei lost his only Ahri game this Spring in the LPL.

Bot

2017 MSI bot lane power pick: Ashe   P/B: 88%   W%: 50%

Ever since Blade of the Ruined King rose to prominence, Ashe has remained pick or ban in most regions. Her global engage (Enchanted Crystal Arrow) and follow-up damage (Ranger’s Focus) potential is unrivaled in the AD Carry position.

Only Nguyen “Slay” Ngoc Hung has fewer than nine games on Ashe this Spring. All bot lanes in the tournament should be comfortable playing on this champion.

Items on Ashe are straightforward. Runaan’s Hurricane, Infinity Edge, Berserker’s Greaves, and Last Whisper generally round out the build. Landing ultimates is crucial for an Ashe to succeed. The entire team needs to be ready to pull the trigger after a well-placed Enchanted Crystal Arrow.

2017 MSI bot lane power pick: Caitlyn   P/B: 67%   W%: 40%

The non-utility marksman with the largest presence at MSI thus far is Caitlyn. While her Yordle Snap Traps provide small amounts of crowd control, Caitlyn’s primary goal is to rattle off as many auto-attacks as possible. Her passive, Headshot, can decimate entire teams once Runaan’s Hurricane is in play.

It’s unclear whether or not Caitlyn will remain such a high priority for the rest of the tournament. Her win rate so far has not justified her high pick rate. Many of the world’s top AD Carries seem partial to drafting marksmen with higher skill caps and higher risk-reward, such as Ezreal, Twitch or Lucian.

Only Jin “Mystic” Sung-jun has played Caitlyn more than 3 games this Spring. Lu “Betty” Yuhung, Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Jason “WildTurtle” Tran have played her one game each.

2017 MSI bot lane power pick: Varus   P/B: 67%   W%: 43%

Varus has the lowest average damage per minute of the entire AD Carry class at MSI (392). He is played similarly to Ashe, except he trades lower engage pressure for higher poke damage. A well-placed Chain of Corruption can lock someone down long enough to eliminate them. Piercing Arrow gives bot lanes the ability to snipe low-health enemies.

Varus’ build path is virtually identical to Ashe’s, as well. Blade of the Ruined King, Runaan’s Hurricane, Infinity Edge, and Last Whisper are common. Some attack speed builds can include Guinsoo’s Rageblade.

Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Mystic have win rates 50% or lower with Varus. Betty has maintained a 100% win rate over sevengames played.

Support

2017 MSI support power pick: Lulu  P/B: 100%   W%: 53%

The only champion that is currently 100% pick or ban is Lulu. However, she only won just over half of the time. Lulu’s majorly impactful Wild Growth couple with the reliability of Help Pix!-Glitterlance-Thunderlord’s Decree poke makes her relevant at all stages of the game.

All support players at the tournament should be well-versed in Lulu’s gameplay. Her mechanics are rather straightforward, but proper timing of speed-ups, shields, slows and enlargments separates the best Lulu players from the majority.

2017 MSI support power pick: Zyra   P/B: 33%   W%: 50%

321 damage per minute is not bad for a support champion. That has been the average for Zyra at MSI so far. Brand is the only support to out-damage her.

Zyra seems to work for all support players at the tournament except Vincent “Biofrost” Wang, who only has a 20% win rate on the champion. Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie has even maintained a 100% win rate with Zyra over 8 games.

Depending on the needs of a team, support players build full damage or more healing and shielding. MSI has seen Redemption, Locket of the Iron Solari, Liandry’s Torment and Rylai’s Crystal Scepter.

2017 MSI support power pick: Karma   P/B: 63%   W%: 50%

When Lulu is unavailable, Karma becomes the next best utility support. Her Mantra-Inspire shields and speeds up the entire team, which provides some the most potent engage and disengage a support champion can offer. Karma’s Mantra-Inner Flame offers strong poke in lane, which is why many players choose Thunderlord’s Decree as their keystone mastery.

All of the remaining support players have 60% or higher win rates with Karma. While it has not been as common this Spring, Karma can also flex into mid lane. Xiye, for example, has won 100% of LPL game using mid Karma (6 games).

 

While these may have been the most prominent picks in the first stage of MSI, plenty of champions were played. Unique picks such as Sona, Blitzcrank and Darius left their mark on the Rift. Tahm Kench was played in the top lane. Hopefully, there will be more variation as other teams enter the competition. Nonetheless, look to these last seven teams to show how high the ceilings are on these champions, and why they may currently be so popular internationally.

Champion Images: http://leagueoflegends.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Champion_squares

MSI Champion Statisticshttp://www.gamesoflegends.com/tournament/stats.php?id=MSI%20Play-In%202017

Featured Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lolesports/albums/72157683248434325/with/34384923145/

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Smite Gauntlet: What Did We Learn?

Bellona’s Back!

Bellona, in the online portion of this split, was nothing to scream and shout about. She had a pick/ban rate of 16.36%, a win rate of 50%, and a relatively low KDA of 1.8. Bellona, however, returned to take a prominent place within the Gauntlet meta over the weekend. With a pick/ban rate of 42.42% and a staggering win rate of 88.89%, it was a bit of a surprise as she is not one of these typical LAN monsters, such as the Anhur, who gains a lot from the 0 ping environment. Her abilities are easy to hit regardless of ping (barring the exceptional). She has been seen lately as a bit of a counter pick, as the disarm on her 3 can really hinder basic attack based gods. However, AA gods were not the story of the Gauntlet.

The favoured Hunter, Skadi, is the most ability-based Hunter Smite has ever seen. With power and penetration being the preferred build with very little, if any, attack speed being picked up. Ability based Junglers dominate the meta and the Kali pick we did see was far from expected. It is worth noting that the Bellona was also drafted in that game, perhaps in an attempt to protect the Kali from that disarm, although that is hard to say considering Adrian ‘Deathwalker’ Benko’s tendency to pick the Bellona this LAN anyway.

Image courtesy of SmiteFire

One criticism of Bellona is that she can be low impact. Her burst damage is easily interrupted, a disarm is all well and good but there is better CC, and the ultimate is rather telegraphed. But at the Gauntlet, any claims about low impact and the ult have been dismissed by Deathwalker. Look to game two against NRG when they were fighting for their life being down 0-1. He gets a great ultimate at the left Phoenix setting up the defence against a Fire Giant team, setting Rival up to not lose a Phoenix in that push.

Then the coup de grâce when Deathwalker single-handedly wins his team the game. Left Phoenix down, tank dead and you’re facing a full Fire Giant back to back World Champion team. I mean the game should be over, but in steps Deathwalker with a three-man Eagle’s rally right to the dome of the Support, ADC and Mage. GG Rival and then we all know what happens next.

One thing to point out here is that while that ultimate was great, it should never have been allowed to happen. This is clear from when we hear the NRG comms in their games against eUnited and them screaming ‘safe way!’ repeatedly, when they are making that same rotation to mid Phoenix.

One reason why Bellona showed her potential this LAN is that she is great in every part of the game. Her laning phase is great, and even if you can interrupt her Bludgeon it is still amazing. One reason for this is because of the Season 4 Death’s Toll. The loss of power for increased sustain is great for solo laners with AOE autos. If you go to interrupt the Bellona you will get hit, meaning she can group the minions. Then, Bellona is healing for 48-56 health per auto depending on whether or not she is hitting you, as well as the wave. That means over a wave she has nearly got a full health pot worth of healing. Considering most solo laners will start 4 health pot 4 multi pot early on she is gonna out clear you anyway and doesn’t need to worry about tanking the wave that much.

With that sort of laning phase, it is easy to get Bellona ahead or at the very least stay even. Once that happens, you have a Warrior with strong autos, a decent amount of burst from Bludgeon (serious burst if you are ahead), who is also incredibly tanky when you consider the blocks on her dash and the ability to stop the highest damage characters in the late game from doing their damage thanks to Scourge.

There is also the incredible zoning potential of her ult. You are not going to want to take a team fight down 35 protections from the other team! Let’s not forget her passive giving her movement speed and protections from being hit or hitting you! Bellona has been slept on recently, but with the recent performances in the Gauntlet, most notably on Deathwalker and Peter ‘Dimi’ Dimitrov, do not expect that to be the case going into Masters and the Summer Split.

 

Itemisation

The biggest point of note in Itemisation is how much Spear of Desolation was picked up in the Gauntlet compared to the online section of this Split. Spear of Desolation is a great item for Mages. It has so many of the stats you want giving a decent chunk of power at 90, CDR, and penetration.

Image courtesy of Smite Wiki

Item’s do this occasionally when they are new, they don’t get picked up during the online phase as all scrims are dedicated to the game they are playing that week and they want to get their builds right. As much as the pro’s play the game, they know what works and it will take some time to oust their preferred items from the build. Especially more than the average player, builds are made around timings and pros have a better understanding of how a change in one part of the build effects another. When we have these breaks between the season and LANs it gives the pros time to experiment more in scrims as they aren’t worried about the set in two days. The big bonus of Spear of Desolation is being able to build CDR and Penetration at the same time.

The big bonus of Spear of Desolation is being able to build CDR and Penetration at the same time. The drawback was always the expense of the item, with other pen items being 450 gold cheaper in Spear of the Magus and Obsidian Shard being 300 gold cheaper. Never mind it’s not giving as much pen. However, it seems the pros have decided it is worth the investment. Most are building Spear of Desolation in the third item slot. This means that by your third item as a Mage you have 20 pen due to the 10 also on boots, 10% CDR, and a large power base, especially as a lot of people are building it with Bancroft’s Talon an item which is coming back into favour with recent buffs.

This is also a reason for Spear of Desolation’s entrance into the meta. The low cost of Bancroft’s allows your third item to be slightly more expensive. Most people are building another pen item on top of this later in the game, meaning you end up with more pen overall. Although Alexandru ‘Wlfy’ Lefterică showed this is not necessary, starting Book of Thoth and going a fourth item Rod of Tahuti in Rival’s second game against Eanix. He went top damage with the same build on Thoth as well as in the second game vs Soar. Pulling top damage numbers twice shows that he wasn’t hurting from the lack of pen. It is worth noting there weren’t many dedicated magical defense items built by Eanix that game.

Bancroft’s has seen a resurgence and is worth a quick mention as well. I say quick, because the reasons are obvious: the item is great. At its max effectiveness, you get 200 power 40% Lifesteal and you only pay 2300 gold for it. Also, now you don’t need to be dead to get max effect of the item. Being capped at 25% means you get a lot more use out of this item as the passive is strong when you are healthy enough to still fight.

EU Stronger than Ever

Team Rival

Rival looked very strong at Gauntlet and obviously not the biggest upset of the week considering Oxygen Supremacy’s incredible run. They were however not many people’s favourites to face off against NRG. Then to take that a step further by beating NRG! Although as I have alluded to and will go into more detail later they shouldn’t have. Smite like life, however, is about seeing an opportunity and taking it, something Deathwalker definitely showed in their game two against NRG.

What was probably the most impressive was the way in which they dispatched Soar. I was not expecting their victory, if they got one, to be so comprehensive. The first game, while not always leading in term of kills, they always led in the more important stats of gold and experience. Of the 70 players at the Gauntlet only 17 managed a KDA of above 3 barring their support the remaining four players of Rival all managed this showing this was definitely a team performance.

Stand-Out Performers

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Aleksandar ‘iceicebaby’ Zahariev, apart from having a great IGN, was also the MVP of the Gauntlet. I don’t think I am being unfair when I say nobody saw that coming. He more than tripled his Spring Split KDA of 1.31 with a KDA of 4.5 at Gauntlet. The Bulgarian Jungler looked dominant on his three main picks of Susano, Thor, and Serqet. Particularly the Susano where he has a combined slash line of 26/6/21. While Susano was definitely the most successful Jungler at Gauntlet with a win rate of 76.92 iceicebaby piloted the God incredibly well. His K/D on the God of 4.33 compared to the Gauntlet average of 2.27 proves this point. Look out for him at Masters we may have a new superstar from the Jungle to talk about.

DeathWalker had a great Gauntlet and is one of the major reasons behind the Bellona resurgence the first part of this article was dedicated too. I have made clear how I think without Deathwalker, Rival do not win this Gauntlet. He also has the most interesting pick of the Gauntlet. A solo Ah Puch – nobody who hadn’t been scrimming Rival or is very close to the scene would have been expecting that pick. That is something which would be met with hails of ‘report!’ In most ranked games! Yet, while they lost the game, it wasn’t the Ah Puch which was to blame. The way Deathwalker navigated the early game on one of the easiest Mages to kill in the game is something worth taking note of. This begs the question what else is he likely to pull out at Masters?

NRG

There has been a lot of talk about NRG being knocked off their perch. It is a little too early to be saying that as far as I am concerned. They should have 2-0ed Rival and they only didn’t due to a pathing error. An error as I said earlier, their comms suggests they are not likely to repeat again. Then considering what Rival did to Soar it is more than probable that NRG would have also walked away from that set victorious. The eUnited set was not just NRG booking their place at Masters it was a statement. From one man in particular Kennet ‘Adapting’ Ros. Who decided he wanted to remind us all why for the past two years he has been considered the best player in the world!

eUnited Set

The first game was even through 20 minutes with eUnited actually slightly ahead. Then it just became the Adapting and Dimi show, going 11/0/12 and 8/0/14 respectively with Adapting doing 26k damage. To put that in perspective, the Zhong Kui did 16k. That is another thing often overlooked about NRG during their drafts.

That draft was beautiful at shutting down a Zhong Kui. The Nemesis pick is obvious and its benefits have been espoused numerous times. What was drafted around it was what made it so great. The Scylla Nemesis combo makes it impossible for a Zhong to get a decent ult off. After the Judgement from Nemesis, you have the root chunking 20-30 percent of a Zhong’s health and then the unmissable damage in the Crush which takes off the same or more again. So without even needing to ult the Zhong is on his heels.

Admittedly, the Bellona pick came before the Zhong and it just happened to work out very well for eUnited. The Hou-Yi also zones the Zhong out as he isn’t walking through that and living to tell the tale. This made it nearly impossible for Zhong Kui to be Zhong Kui as he was relegated to a back-line mage.

The second game had NRG dominate the kills throughout although eUnited did a good job utilizing the map to keep it even. That is until the 20 minute mark. Then again, NRG just blew the game open. From minute 20 to 24 they turned a 3k gold lead into a 8 k gold lead. There were impressive performances from multiple players from NRG this game Dimi with top damage on the Erlang Shen going 1/2/17 doing everything you could ask of your solo laner, as well as André ‘Yammin’ Brännvall going 7/1/12 and the ADC Emil ‘Emilitoo’ Stärnman putting in a solid 4/1/8.

However, the main man was Adapting going 13/4/10, not participating in two of his teams kills for an overall kill participation of 92%. Adapting is unreal when he plays at his best. He also shot calls for his team which shows that there is more to this Jungler than mechanical prowess. If I was going to be facing NRG at Masters that set against eUnited is the last thing I would have wanted to see. Not only will NRG have a chip on their shoulder, but they will be the bottom seed from the two major regions in the game. The King is back and has got to be feeling himself after those performances in the final two games they played. This really should have been their 7th straight LAN victory and I wouldn’t be surprised for them to take number 7 when they get to the main event.

Looking to Masters!

Considering the last SWC finals was an entirely European affair, and this LAN, made up of the mid-lower tier teams, was dominated by Europe, the question of the stronger region seems to be pretty self-evident at the moment. Eager and Luminosity will have to play incredibly and put in a great performance to upset the European dominance. Bare in mind that Obey beat Eager in the Semi-Finals of Worlds to go through, and since then have only gotten better. Although, the Anubis pick which went 1-2 in games won in that set for Eager probably hampered them. As I reckon they had a better than 50 percent chance in a straight up game, especially as the first game went horribly for the Anubis. Putting yourself behind in such a pressure cooker of a set is more impactful than normal. LG and Eager are both great teams who could very easily walk away from Masters with a win. My money though is on EU to bring another trophy back across the Atlantic with them.


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NALCS: Grading this Split’s Rookies

In my last piece I took a look at some of newest imports of the North American LCS. This week I’ll take a look at the rookies and how they’ve made an impact to their team this split. There are only four this split, but nonetheless every rookie has come onto their team and made an impact. Grading will be based on expectations heading in and how they’ve met them. Lets take a look:

Phoenix1 Stunt (Support)

 

Courtesy: Riot Esports

William “Stunt” Chen began this split as a sub on Dignitas. He also spent some time last summer on Team Liquid Academy playing alongside Piglet.  Little was known about Stunt heading in, as most didn’t even know he was a sub on Dignitas untill he subbed for a series against Envy.

He finally got his shot at LCS as a starter when Phoenix1 acquired him before the trade deadline. Their former support Adrian “Adrian” Ma was transferred to Team Liquid in wake of internal issues with jungler Rami “Inori” Charagh. Stunt came in as a brand new support who had never really had a starting role on an LCS team. Phoenix1 has not been phased by this at all, if anything, they’ve looked to have grown even stronger.

In the 8 games he’s played, Phoenix1 is undefeated and look to be catching up to Cloud 9 as the second best team in North America. Stunt himself has been performing quite well in this support meta. His champion pool is diverse, having played seven champions already in his short time on P1. Stunt currently has the highest KDA of supports at 5.5 and a spectacular 80 percent kill participation.

Phoenix1 seemed to have done a great job integrating Stunt into the team. Phoenix1 look like top contenders heading into playoffs.

Grade: A-

Cloud 9 Contractz (Jungle)

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Juan “Contractz” Garcia came in as the next hyped upcoming challenger talent. He spent time on Cloud 9 Challenger and helped them qualify for the LCS. Many praised him as a solo que star being bred to take the NA LCS by storm. After a phenomenal week 1 performance many thought Contractz would pop off and propel Cloud 9 to the top team once again. That hasn’t really been the case as Cloud 9 have regressed as other teams around them have improved.

Contractz in particular has had his fair share of rookie mistakes that have cost his team. Sometimes getting caught out before big objectives or invading without the aid of his team behind him. Even a minor accidental slip up in champion select may have cost his team a close series against CLG.

Nonetheless, Contractz has played pretty well for a rookie Jungler in his first split. Expectations may have hindered how well he’s actually played this split. Contractz came in molded to be a somewhat supportive style Jungler helping his talented laners get ahead. He gets deep vision for the team and tracks the enemy Jungler.  He currently has the 2nd highest KDA among Junglers.

What’s worrisome is how much Cloud 9 struggles to make plays in the early game.  With so many talented players, their early game is still one of their biggest weaknesses. Contractz has the worst First Blood percentages among Junglers which speaks to the lack of C9’s play making in the early game. Often times their wins come off mid game fights.

 

Grade: B

Echo Fox Akaadian (Jungle)

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham came into the LCS with little to no expectations of him. Most expected him to be average at best and not make much of an impact. That was not the case as he stormed onto the scene in the first weeks as an extremely talented and aggressive Jungler.

As the split has gone on, some teams may have figured out his style. With teams around them getting better, Echo Fox has struggled to stay afloat. Akaadian went from having one of the best KDA’s in the league, to having one of the worst at 2.7.  Nonetheless, Akaadian has been one of, if not the best player on his team this split. His early game play making has often netted his team huge gold leads. It’s more of the team as a whole not being able to transition those leads into victories.

It will be interesting if he garners interest from other teams during the off-season. Any North American talent is crucial as it allows for imports in other parts of the roster.

Grade: A

Immortals Cody Sun (ADC)

Li “Cody” Yu Sun was an up and coming ADC fresh out of the challenger scene. He spent time on Dream Team last split where he stood out as a top performer. As a rookie, not much was expected from him and his lane partner Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung. People expected Immortals to play mostly through their talented solo laners and Jungle.

It took awhile, but Cody Sun and Olleh are quietly becoming a bot lane force. Their first few weeks were a bit rough. As a rookie ADC being thrown into a meta where ADC’s were basically ult bots was a tall task.

As the ADC meta is slowly shifting back to meta carries Cody Sun has shown some great performances on Ezreal and Cait. He’s one of the underrated pickups during the off season as a North American talent who doesn’t take up an import slot. Moving forward, he’ll need to continue his growth for Immortals to perform at their highest level.

Grade: B-

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Over/Under (Part 1): LCS Players Above Expectations

With two weeks of gameplay under our belts, it is becoming more and more clear which players are carrying their teams, and which players have become burdensome. Most pre-season predictions regarding individual players have come to be true. However, there are several examples of players who have gone a tier above expectations, and others who have gone a tier below.

This week I want to recognize an LCS player from each position that has exceeded expectations. These are individuals who have contributed to their team in a note-worthy way. Some players we thought might have a tough time against strong lane opponents. Others we thought might not be ready for the LCS. Still others we expected to simply be unknown factors coming into the Split. Regardless, these five players have been crucial to the success of their respective teams.  

Samson “Lourlo” Jackson

Team Liquid, Top Laner

KDA:    7.7   (1st Overall)

D%:    6.9% (1st Overall)

While Team Liquid has not looked great as a team, Lourlo has been performing above expectations. He averages almost even with his lane opponents. He averages one death per game (only 10 total deaths so far). This allows Lourlo to constantly engage, playing champions such as Nautilus and Poppy. Lourlo is reliable to survive ganks and remain even with tough lane opponents.

Team Liquid Top laner, Lourlo

courtesy of Riot eSports

FlyQuest Jungler, Moon

courtesy of Riot eSports

 

 

Galen “Moon” Holgate

FlyQuest, Jungle

KDA:  5.0   (7th Overall)

FB:   60%   (3rd Overall)

Moon’s statistics paint him to be an aggressive early-game Jungler far above expectations. He offers a high KDA, high damage throughout the game, and high rates of securing First Blood. Moon is generally behind in CS at 10 minutes; but by then he has most likely allowed his team to create pressure around the map. Moon has even pulled out surprise picks like Evelynn and Kindred.

Hai “Hai” Du Lam

FlyQuest, Mid Laner

DPM:  670    (1st Overall)

EGPM: 284.5 (3rd Overall)

Hai has a middling KDA and averages even in CS at 10 minutes. What he is known for is play-making and decisive shot-calling. Hai has the highest damage to champions of all players, far above expectations. He also has the third highest earned gold per minute. Hai is always making the most of every second of the game. This translates to FlyQuest’s 70% first Dragon rate and 75% first Baron rate.

FlyQuest's Mid laner, Hai

courtesy of Riot eSports

Unicorns of Love AD Carry, Samux

courtesy of Riot eSports

Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort

Unicorns of Love, AD Carry

KDA:      6.4 (4th Overall)

CSD10: +6.7 (6th Overall)

There have been several games where Samux holds lane 1v2 while his Support roams to create pressure around the map. The fact that Samux can come out ahead in CS is even more impressive. With an average of 21.9% of his team’s gold (lowest ADC), he serves as a low-economy player that enables his Top, Mid, and Jungler to get fed. Samux’s instant meshing with Unicorns of Love has been above expectations.

Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun

Misfits, Support

KDA: 7.9    (2nd Overall)

KP:   78%   (4th Overall)

Playing champions such as Thresh and Taric, IgNar is not afraid to play the map. While he already demonstrated his reliability in the Challenger Series, his transition to the EU LCS has been above expectations. IgNar sets up kills for all of his teammates while maintaining very low death rates. He also averages 1.52 wards per minute (2nd highest among all players), which is quintessential for successful roaming and intelligent ganking.

Misfits' Support, IgNar, and Jungler, KaKAO

courtesy of Riot eSports

Each of these players will need to continue exhibiting excellent play to maintain, or improve, their teams’ standings. We are only two weeks in, and as teams begin adapting to one another’s play-style, we could see changes. Whether it is a change in competition, a change within the meta, or a change in League of Legends itself, these players will need to continue to adapt if they want to succeed.

Keep an eye out next week for my list of under-performers. Just as some players have exceeded expectations, others have fallen short. I will acknowledge five more players on that list that will need to improve in order for their team to move up in the standings.

Correction(s): This article previously provided an image of Misfits’ Jungler, Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon, instead of IgNar. Also, Moon was incorrectly labeled as the Jungler for Team Liquid instead of FlyQuest.

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