graduated junglers

Preseason: NA’s graduated junglers

After joining the NA LCS in 2017, three former rookies mount their return as NA’s newly graduated junglers. Mike “MikeYeung” Yeung, Omar “Omargod” Amin and Juan “Contractz” Garcia exploded onto the scene in season 7. After an exciting freshman year, these three junglers look to stake their claim on the newly franchised NA LCS. Looking back at their performances the past year, who is poised for even greater breakout performances in 2018? Let’s take a look at North America’s graduated jungler trio as they plot their return.

MikeYeung: From the Ashes

graduated junglers

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

MikeYeung made his NA LCS debut in the Summer Split as the jungler for Phoenix1 (P1). Previously a highly rated solo-queue player, MikeYeung erupted onto the NA scene with an arsenal of carry junglers. His signature pick in “Nidalee” stunned the NA crowd and crushed his opponents. Boasting an insane 80% overall winrate on “Nidalee” in summer, this pocket pick was no joke. Following an already impressive debut, MikeYeung travelled to Germany with Phoenix1 to participate in the Rift Rivals tournament, his first international event. Mike shocked his EU opponents with some flashy plays on his patented “Nidalee,” earning himself the Group Stage MVP distinction.

After returning from a strong showing at Rift Rivals, the MikeYeung hype train was in full gear. However, with the jungle meta shifting to control-oriented tank picks, Mike’s champion pool struggled. His star champions, “Kha’Zix,” “Lee Sin” and “Nidalee” could not snowball enough advantages against more useful utility tanks. Due to these meta changes, fans did not see the dominant MikeYeung that most expected. Phoenix1 suffered a steady decline that saw them forced into the summer Promotion tournament.

After ending their summer season early, news surrounding P1’s failure to earn a spot in the new NA LCS began to leak. The question now: where will P1’s rookie sensation go to reclaim his former glory? With the recent runes overhaul in patch 7.22, carry junglers look to make a serious comeback. MikeYeung has an opportunity to showcase his improvement since the Promotion tournament at the upcoming 2017 All-Stars event. For MikeYeung, the sky is the limit. Can the graduated rookie can reclaim his spot atop NA’s jungle hierarchy?

Omargod: Breaking the Chains

graduated junglers

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Omargod made his professional debut as a substitute jungler for Counter Logic Gaming (CLG). After internal issues involving starting jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett surfaced, Omar became the team’s starter. For Omargod, the road to NA LCS was a long climb. He first appeared on CLG’s radar at the 2016 Scouting Grounds event. Impressed by his carry performances, coach Tony “Zikzlol” Gray and veteran support Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black first-picked Omar as the jungler for Team Cloud Drake. After several fantastic games on carry picks like “Hecarim,” Omargod proved why he belonged on the LCS stage.

After Dardoch parted ways with CLG, Omargod had a huge gap to fill. Dardoch established a name for himself by consistently dominating enemy junglers. But, because of meta shifts in the summer split, Omar found himself mainly on utility tanks. Criticism poured in as CLG struggled to regain their footing in the latter half of the split. Analysts pointed to the recent jungle swap as the obvious reason for CLG’s decline. After falling to Cloud 9 (C9) in the NA LCS regional qualifiers, CLG and Omargod found themselves stuck at home, instead of attending Worlds.

Because of Omar’s shaky performances during the Summer Split, fans have mixed expectations for the upcoming season. However, Counter Logic Gaming is an organization known for the coaching staff’s dedication and loyalty to players. If any coach can bring out the best in Omargod, Zikz is second to none. Now is the time for Omar to free himself of the criticism from last split and prove himself on CLG. Perhaps the preseason meta changes will encourage Omargod to dip into his champion pool and show North America the carry potential that CLG witnessed at Scouting Grounds. After all, rumor has it “Predator Hecarim” is rampaging through preseason.

Contractz: A Carry’s DNA

graduated junglers

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Unlike the other graduated junglers, Contractz began his journey with Cloud 9 in the spring of 2017. After earning spring Rookie of the Split, Contractz stumbled a bit in summer. In the Summer Playoffs, Cloud 9 dropped out in quarterfinals against a surging Dignitas (DIG). So, C9 spent their time preparing for the regional qualifier gauntlet. There, the squad overcame CLG in a solid 3-1 finish and booked a ticket for China.

At Worlds, Contractz battled the likes of SKT Peanut, EDG Clearlove7 and WE Condi. His peerage became a group of elite, international junglers. Still, the rookie performed fantastically on the world stage. Contractz won over many fans, pulling out picks like “Ezreal” and “Graves” in the group stage. While the other NA junglers struggled against international competition, Contractz held his own against the best. After being the only North American representative to advance past group stages, all hope rested with Cloud 9. Although C9 fell to Team WE in quarterfinals, the roster made a definitive statement to the fans back home. “We are the best NA team here.”

With a great Worlds performance behind him, Contractz looks to dominate in the upcoming split. As carry junglers rise both in power and viability in preseason, is this the split for Contractz to stamp his name as the best jungler in NA? A Top 8 finish at Worlds means the onus is on C9 to reclaim their former glory at the top of North America. With changes coming to NA LCS, Cloud 9 look poised to gun for first place. Of the three former rookie junglers, Contractz may be the one to surpass them all. Still, only time will tell which graduated jungler will break ahead of the pack.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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peanut

SKT Peanut: Evolution of an apex predator

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

SKT’s Winning Formula

peanut

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Growing Pains

peanut

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

evolve and overcome

peanut

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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map

What the Season 5 map changes mean for Smite

A lot has been said about Smite’s map and most of it has not been positive. It appears that Hi-Rez have listened and for Season 5 we are going to have a new map. From the little we already know, it looks like a lot of the community’s gripes have been addressed.

What we know already

The biggest complaint about the map has always been that it’s too small. One of the problems this creates is that it makes rotations go unpunished as you are not sacrificing farm going from lane to lane. As it currently stands it takes less time to clear and get to another lane than it does for new lanes to meet.

This creates multiple problems, but one of the most apparent is the lack of identity junglers have in Smite. A recurring complaint is that compared to other MOBA’s, junglers feel like a second mid rather than an actual jungler. For a while now we have known Smite as having two genuine laners in an ADC and solo, and then the core centered around mid lane of jungle, support and mid. They spend so much time together that instead of feeling like their own roles, it more feels like a combined role which plays different parts in a fight.

map

Image courtesy of Reddit.com/r/Smite /u/Gehlen_

The larger map should help solve this problem to some degree, as rotating around will now be more likely to cost farm on the map, simply due to travel time. As of right now, there is just so much farm clustered around the mid lane which is available without cost that the tri-lane is inevitable. In competitive play we keep hearing that ADC’s are pretty much being left alone, this is one of the reasons why. Warriors from solo can impact and get to the farm around mid quicker and are much better at contesting it early.

The larger map should also help junglers because if people are naturally more spread out, ganks become a more powerful tool. Anyone who plays a lot of Assassins knows that they really thrive when they can isolate people. Turning a 1v1 into a 2v1 is more impactful that turning a 3v3 into a 4v3. Also Assassins for the most part are burst damage, close range squishy targets. So it becomes a lot harder to do what they want to when there are multiple people peeling and there is enough damage to blow them up. If there are more ganks the SPL should also become even more fun to watch.

Another reason for the lack of identity junglers face is that they have no way of being stealthy. How can a jungler hide what side of the map they’re on when they have to constantly dip into waves for XP and all the entrances to the jungle are in the sight of the other team. At least part of this has been addressed as now there are entrances into the jungle which are completely hidden.

What we don’t know

As of now all we have really been given are the dimensions of the map, so there is a lot to still be addressed. We have been told that there will be at the very least new jungle paths and gameplay changes.

What can new jungle paths offer us? Firstly, we could no longer have straight line paths directly from lane to lane. The effect of this would be to artificially make the map bigger, as rotations will take longer. Secondly, they could make the jungle feel more dangerous. The jungle in Smite at the moment is not a particularly dangerous place if warded correctly. The jungle lanes are massive, and there is not a huge amount of mystery in them. By that I mean with decent wards, it’s incredibly easy to have all the major pathways and entrances covered. You know where everybody is or could be, making the jungle a less punishing place than it should be. Especially with how much space there is in them and numerous escape routes.

Other gameplay changes they could make have to do with farm and how it functions. Clear is king in smite, with how the map currently functions early pressure in mid is just far too important. To emphasize that point we are currently in a late game meta, but still the priority is early pressure. Look at the resurgence of Raijin. He is regarded as one of, if not the strongest mid right now. What is the single best thing about Raijin, his early clear. We have also seen ADC’s and mid laners starting together in mid while supports solo duo in Season 4. If that doesn’t highlight the value of mid clear I don’t know what else will.

There are a few things which make the mid clear so important. One of them is how much farm there is around mid and how quickly you can get to it. Another is that the mid wave meets five seconds before any other wave, so not only is it closer but you have a head start. A lot of the stress over mid lane pressure comes from these two reasons. So with the new jungle paths and gameplay changes maybe we will see camps take longer to get to from mid and waves meeting at the same time.

Another big gameplay change we could potentially be seeing is how splitting camps works. As it currently stands splitting a camp actually generates farm out of thin air. This is another reason why you want the mid lane pressure so you can go split all the valuable camps around it. It is also one of the reasons why junglers are attached at the hip to their mid laner. In a competitive setting you just can’t give up the 33 percent extra farm gained from splitting a camp. It’s like trying to play without last hitting, you are just going to fall behind. If you are splitting every camp, you need to also be getting waves, otherwise you are just going to get massively behind in the jungle.

Conclusion

What we know so far about the new map looks good. One of the things holding Smite back for a long time has been the map, both in competitive and casual play. So it is great that it looks like Hi-Rez are really doing something different with the Season 5 map.

If you want to know more about the problems the map creates and have some insight into upcoming changes check out Michael “PolarBearMike” Heiss’ great video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIdjaukI-54

It really is the best resource out there at the moment to understand how and why the map is played as it is currently. Also all the changes we have seen so far are ones that PBM suggests in this video, so if you want a feel for what else might be coming this video is great for that too.

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Top image courtesy of Playstation.com

Worlds’ OP five after week two

The Group Stage of the 2017 League of Legends World Championship has finished, and the quarterfinals are set. The second week was a roller-coaster, as many teams who struggled in week one made a come-back in week two. Groups B and D had massive shake-ups, while groups A and C had major upsets without affecting the standings.

Just like in the first week, we saw certain players shine. We saw new champions drafted, updated item builds, and adapted strategies. Other players faltered, whether on their own or as part of deeper team-wide issues. Recency bias will paint over their week one performances, and they will be remembered for how they fell short.

Rather than dwell on missed opportunities, it is important to lift up those players who executed. These are the five most fearsome from the second week of Group Stage.

Top: ssg Cuvee

SSG's Cuvee was the most OP top laner in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Almost every top laner had major failures this week. In SKT’s loss to AHQ, Huni sacrificed four of their 12 deaths. Khan did not play all three games, and Rascal only played one (not really a failure, but it’s more difficult to judge against players who had 3-4 games). Cloud9’s Impact and TSM’s Hauntzer looked much less coordinated than last week.

However, Samsung’s CuVee actually looked strong in all three of his games. He averaged ahead in gold (+235), CS (+8), and XP (+237) at 15 minutes. SSG’s top laner was the only player with a lead in their game versus RNG. His Cho’Gath found 1907 Fenerbahce’s AD carry multiple times, and helped enable Samsung to deny G2 any neutral objectives.

The top lane pool in Group C (Letme, Expect and Thaldrin) is not the most intimidating, but members of Groups A, B and D all played inconsistently. WE’s 957 had strong showings, but he averaged behind in laning phase, despite having advantageous match-ups. One could also argue that he contributed less to their victories than CuVee did to Samsung’s.

Jungle: EDG Clearlove

EDG's Clearlove was the most OP jungler in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Say what you will about week one EDG, but they played their hearts out this week. Clearlove got first blood in two of three games. He secured the Rift Herald, multiple dragons and first Baron in all three games. While he averaged behind in XP (-323) and CS (-12), Clearlove averaged ahead in gold (+280) at 15 minutes. His 6.0 day eight KDA was the highest in Group A.

EDG’s jungler is a big reason why they accrued over 3,000 gold leads by twenty minutes in all three games this week. Clearlove made sure to give advantages to his carries, particularly Scout and iBoy. His Jarvan IV ultimates were key to locking down Sneaky and AN’s Kog’Maws.

Maxlore did provide spectacular early game pressure for Misfits, but they lost crucial Barons in three of their four games this week. Mlxg was stifled in his Rek’Sai game against G2. WE’s Condi had great performances this week, and he may even be more worthy than Clearlove. Team WE’s lanes seemed less dependent on Condi’s early influence, because they drafted advantageous match-ups more often.

Mid: WE Xiye

WE's Xiye was the most OP mid laner in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

It was difficult to choose the most OP mid laner this week. Arguments could be made for Bdd again, Xiaohu, Xiye, or even Perkz, Caps, Faker or Scout. However, WE’s Xiye seems like the best choice. Not only did he average more kills (4.0) and assists (5.7) per game than any other mid laner in his group, but keep in mind he is in Group D. He clearly out-performed Bjergsen, Maple and PowerOfEvil, which cannot necessarily be said about mids in any other group.

Part of the credit should certainly go to his jungler, Condi, but Xiye knew what to do with his leads once he had them. His Jayce was pivotal in WE’s siege composition versus TSM. Xiye used Corki to roam and dish damage against Flash Wolves. Finally, he had multiple solo kills on PowerOfEvil, helping dismantle Misfits’ lead.

LZ’s Bdd was really the only other mid laner as dominant. He continued to use roaming zone mages to spread his leads and out-roam his opponents. This is a valid strategy. However, it just does not feel as powerful as Xiye’s performance this week. Xiye played three different champions with slightly different play styles. The pressure was higher on Xiye to shut down main components of TSM, MSF and FW for their victories, while Longzhu’s group has those pressure points more on bottom lane and jungle.

ADC: LZ Pray

LZ's Pray was the most OP AD Carry in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Mystic, iBoy, Bang, Uzi, Zven, Rekkles… so many great AD carries are at this championship. But in week two of the Group Stage, Longzhu’s PraY reigned supreme. He carried LZ to another 3-0 week on Kog’Maw and Varus. PraY’s 6.3 kills per game topped all players in Group B, and his 8.7 assists were highest among Group B’s AD carries. He also put up 991 damage per minute, 39.6 percent of LZ’s total.

PraY and GorillA made Immortals, Fnatic and Gigabyte Marines’ bottom lanes pale in comparison. While their early games have not necessarily been oppressive, their late-game fighting is clean. In all three of LZ’s games, PraY came up massive in teamfights just past 30 minutes and they closed. While last week’s wins seemed much more dependent on Khan and Bdd, this week PraY drove them home.

Bang and iBoy had high highs on day eight, but they both had duds, too. Bang finished the AHQ loss 0-1-0 over 37 minutes. IBoy finished the SKT loss 1-3-1 over 38 minutes, despite having a clear early lead. These losses dilute their gameplay in victory. Mystic had a similar situation in Group D, where his two Caitlyn games were extremely oppressive, yet he had two early laning deaths against Misfits from lack of respect. Uzi was outplayed by G2’s Zven in Group C, as well.

Support: SSG Corejj

SSG's CoreJJ was the most OP support in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

As mentioned last week, the support role is currently difficult to judge between players. All of the supports at this year’s Worlds are exceptional. With the meta revolving around Ardent Censer and enchanter champions, Janna and Lulu have dominated the draft. Both have a 92% presence in the draft thus far. Since they focus almost exclusively on the success of their AD carries, if their teammates lose, then they lose.

That being said, Samsung’s CoreJJ had a fantastic week. Even in the loss to RNG, CoreJJ finished with a positive KDA. SSG’s marksman, Ruler, could not put up the carry performances he has shown without CoreJJ’s constant buffs. He came out of day six with a 28.0 overall KDA, averaging 0.3 deaths and 8.0 assists per game.

EDG’s Meiko and Misfits’ IgNar also stood out this week. The only factor preventing Meiko from being in the OP five was the bottom lane competition in his group.  Uzi-Ming, Zven-Mithy and Padden-Japone came out more consistently strong this week than Bang-Wolf, Sneaky-Smoothie and AN-Albis. While IgNar was ambitious to draft Blitzcrank, Taric and Thresh this week, he did not play as crisp as possible. The Blitzcrank ultimately lost in the late game to TSM.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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Longzhu finished week one of worlds top of Group B

Worlds’ OP five after week one

The first week of League of Legends’ 2017 World Championship has concluded, and this year’s event is already off to an exciting start. Between Gigabyte Marines’ mysterious “never before seen” strategy, Longzhu’s sub-25 minute average game time, and North America’s teams all being top two in their groups, fans and analysts have been gifted excellent performances thus far. Now the teams will have a few days to regroup and begin adapting for week two.

Almost every team had high points in week one. At some point, almost every player has had a high point, as well. But there is a reason the standings are as they are. Some teams have risen to the challenge of the international stage. Some players have executed a step above the pack. With three games in the books it is difficult to write off any team or player for the remainder of the contest. However, it is easy to recognize the following challengers for their stand-out performances.

Top: LZ Khan

Khan is the most OP top laner after Worlds week one

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Khan has definitely lived up to the hype carried over from LCK Summer Split. This guy has been an absolute monster in all three games so far. He has played a bruiser Jarvan IV against Immortals, a lethality Jarvan against Gigabyte Marines and Nasus against Fnatic. Khan is averaging 437 gold, 17 CS and 721 XP ahead at 15 minutes.

In the mid-game, Khan has been best at split-pushing, but his teamfighting is also incredibly strong. Khan has contributed 24.8 percent of Longzhu’s damage, which is exceptional when taking into account how strong his carries are. His 12.0 KDA is among the highest in the tournament so far.

TSM’s Hauntzer is the only other player currently close to Khan’s level. Some may even see Hauntzer as the better of the two so far, seeing as he has better laning and damage stats. But pressure is Khan’s key elevating factor. While Hauntzer teleports or roams to bring pressure to his teammates, Khan more frequently brings the enemy’s pressure to him. He pushes lanes, damages turrets, chunks out his enemy and forces the opposing team to respond to him.

As we get deeper into Worlds, it will be interesting to see how other teams adapt to Khan. Now that he has crushed a game on Nasus, who knows what else he may have up his sleeve? Few top laners in the entire tournament look up to the task of going toe to toe with Khan. If Longzhu take it all the way it will be hard not to attribute their success to the top lane.

Jungle: C9 Contractz

Contractz is the most OP jungler after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the only junglers who has not drafted a tank, Contractz has been acting as a third carry for Cloud9. He has pulled out an AD Rek’Sai, Ezreal and Graves, topping the jungler damage charts with 24.8 percent. C9’s tempo has totally relied on Contractz’s ability to clear the jungle as fast as possible and pressure the enemy jungler. So far, he has been able to do it successfully.

Contractz is averaging 266 XP, three CS and 146 gold ahead at 15 minutes. He has also helped secure First Blood in two of their three games. C9’s loss to SKT severely skewed Contractz’s KDA down to 3.3, but he is averaging 6.3 assists, fourth highest at Worlds. Contractz is also partially responsible for C9’s 66.7 percent Baron control rate, which has been a huge objective for winning games.

If Gigabyte Marines’ game against Longzhu had gone a bit better, then Levi would most likely be here. His surprise Nocturne pick in game one truly kick-started the energy at Worlds. Highlights from that game will be replayed over and over anytime fans reference back to 2017 Worlds. But when GAM’s Mordekaiser pick got destroyed from level one, all of GAM’s hype deflated. Levi may be able to take this spot with more consistent gameplay next week.

Mid: LZ Bdd

Bdd is the most OP mid laner after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Bdd is the only non-support player to go deathless in week one of Worlds. Despite drafting champions with strong roaming potential, Bdd averages ahead 11.7 CS, 488 gold and 910 XP at 15 minutes. These are all top two among mid laners. His 23.0 KDA is nothing to frown at either.

Longzhu does not look for Bdd to do huge shares of damage for them. Instead, they have drafted Taliyah, Ryze and Galio which each have powerful roaming ultimate abilities. These types of champions allow Bdd to zoom into top or bottom lane and outplay the enemy team by chaining crowd control and damaging abilities. Bdd is the central key that enables Khan’s aggressive playstyle, and he has been crucial for Longzhu’s success in Group B.

TSM’s Bjergsen, C9’s Jensen and RNG’s Xiaohu have also shown strong performances in week one, but none of them felt justified as the most valuable. In TSM and C9’s defeats, their mid laners looked much weaker in teamfights, and Xiaohu has not had the greatest laning phases. Bdd has performed solidly in both phases of the game.

ADC: RNG Uzi

Uzi is the most OP AD carry after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Royal Never Give Up has been on a tear, averaging the highest kills per game (12.3) and the lowest deaths (2.7). Their AD carry, Uzi, has been central to this first week of success. He is carrying a 28.0 KDA, scoring wins on Twitch, Tristana and Kog’Maw. Uzi has gone even or behind in lane with these champions, but truly terrorizes in teamfights.

At 722, Uzi averages fifth highest damage per minute of all players at Worlds. This amounts to a whopping 39.3 percent of RNG’s total damage. Uzi has been expertly navigating late game teamfights to maximize his damage and stay at a safe range. He has only died once so far.

SKT’s Bang is a close second in the bottom lane so far. He carries similar statistics, and has played similar champions. SKT and RNG are both 3-0 at the top of their groups. However, SKT’s wins have not come off the back of any one player. Their style is much more about how cohesive they are as the game gets later. The best players on the Worlds stage not only do not make mistakes, but also pinpoint the mistakes of the enemy and punish them. Uzi has successfully done this, while Bang has not been at that same level.

Support: SKT Wolf

Wolf is the most OP support after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Bang also has the best-performing support at Worlds: Wolf. Although the support meta is fairly stale at the moment, Wolf was able to have a fantastically flashy Rakan performance against EDG. He single-handedly reeled in a game that was out of control by landing a huge Quickness-Grand Entrance and charming the entire enemy team.

It will continue to be difficult to parse apart AD carry and support success, due to the current Ardent Censer priority. It is a shame that audiences are not going to be able to see Gorilla, Olleh, Mithy, Swordart and all of the other fantastic support players on play-makers. Instead, Janna, Lulu and Karma will continue to rein supreme in the bottom lane. Plays such as Wolf’s Rakan will be so much more emphasized than heals, shields and peeling.


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Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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Terra

4.18: Terra, Skadi and Ratatoskr

The patch notes for 4.18 have been released. Instead of swinging the nerf hammer Hi-Rez has mainly just made some minor adjustments. One issue that is common in balance in pretty much all games is the proverbial see-saw characters seem to get stuck on. Either being far too strong or just completely out of the meta. With this in mind, Hi-Rez’s latest round of adjustments do seem to show a lot of restraint.

Terra

Terra

Image courtesy of smite.gamepedia.com

The big exception to this is Terra. Terra is getting hit by a big nerf. Removing the root on her Obelisk is a big change. While I like the small adjustments elsewhere, Terra probably needed a big nerf. She has such a bloated kit, with far too much AOE cc contained within it. The problem with her root stemmed from a few major issues.

Firstly, the sheer size of it. The amount of space she could control with the Obelisk was just obscene. The second reason is linked to the space control, that was the ability to place it down then proc it. Being able to have a huge area of the map where essentially an enemy team couldn’t walk was just too strong. It also set up a CC chain which was far too long. The root into the stun was oppressive; if the enemy team was grouping at all there was a good chance of being able to get a multi-person CC chain. It was also a great escape tool as she could drop it in front of her and then use two dashes while anyone near her was rooted.

If Terra was released today with Obelisk in its 4.18 state, it would definitely be considered a great ability. It still works as a heal, still gives Terra a second dash and a 30 percent slow, remaining a very nice form of CC. All her other abilities are great as well, having one of if not the strongest Support ult in the game as well as a ranged AOE stun and the possibility of two dashes. Terra just did way too much and she needed a big nerf. How good her kit is after this nerf proves that.

Skadi

Terra

Image courtesy of smitefire.com

Skadi is probably the God apart from Terra who was screaming for a big nerf. The Skadi Nerfs aren’t particularly huge. She has been hit in two key areas, being the early snowball and zone control. One of the biggest problems with Skadi is how much she can steam roll opponents early and when you are behind a Skadi life is practically impossible.

The nerf to Kaldr’s damage is mainly at the early ranks only being a 10 percent nerf at rank five. Permafrost has its area reduced slightly, losing four units at max rank. Make no mistake Skadi is still going to be very strong and S tier but maybe these minor nerfs will be enough to let her see some play instead of being an instaban. Overall I’m not sure the nerf really fulfills its purpose as Kaldr is the last thing to be maxed on Skadi. This nerf is clearly aimed at her early power, but her early power doesn’t come from the Kaldr dash damage. I do like the light touch approach even if it will take a couple of patches to get her to a reasonable level.

Ratatoskr

The Rat buff is interesting as it is rather minor. The problem with Rat especially outside of competitive play is how easy it is for him to just run games. When Rat gets ahead due to his high mobility and semi global he can be everywhere at once and is pretty easy to use. When he is in meta he dominates ranked games and snowballs out of control regularly.

While these buffs seem good, it will be interesting to see how they work out in practice. One of the things about buffing his protection shred on the basis of ‘it will empower his other abilities’ is that it is quite often the last ability he uses. This changes sometimes when he is counter-ganking, but quite often the combo is a dash into a stun to lock them down for the flurry. While this buff will undoubtedly help, I do feel it plays against the God’s synergy, considering his dash is what you want to open with seeing as your abilities reduce its cooldown.

Terra

Image courtesy of smite.gamepedia.com

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Hel

Hel: The new support meta

Hel

Hel has recently found her way back into the meta. What is unusual though, is that she has found her way into the support role. For a god who has been in the game since 2012, Hel has seen very little play in competitive Smite. There have been brief windows where she has been picked, but Hi-Rez for a long time has found it very hard to find the middle ground for Hel. She was either far too strong or far too weak; as such I wouldn’t be surprised if she had been banned more than she had played.

However, it looked like Hi-Rez had managed to make Hel strong again, but nobody seemed to notice. The current version of Hel was implemented into the game on the 1st of February, and didn’t see competitive play until the 5-6th of August at the NRG invitational. Considering that in EU this week she was either picked or banned in 5/8 games played, it is rather extraordinary she never saw play. There have not been many occasions where a character has not seen major changes or adjustments and had their value in the meta skyrocket so quickly.

There are a few contributing factors to why I think Hel was slept on for so long. Firstly, at the start of the year we were dealing with an early game meta. Hel has never been a character associated with early game, and for good reason. I think this in conjunction with the following reasons is the major reason she has only recently started seeing play.

Secondly, Hel is coming into prominence in the support role. Smite has traditionally never really seen healing supports as the meta. There have been notable exceptions such as Erich ‘Shadowq’ Grabowski and his Aphro pick in the support role. However, that was very much a pocket pick and never considered meta.

Finally, and I mean this in all seriousness, it’s Hel. Maybe, a new God released with the same kit would have featured sooner. However, Hel for a long time has been considered trash tier and even the Hel mains were coming out saying they felt she was weaker than her already pitiful state. Although, we all should have known better than to listen to Hel mains.

What makes her good?

Something Hi-Rez Ajax mentioned in his progress report was how big the change to her Dark Stance 1 (Decay) was. The ability to clear from a safe distance was a game changer, especially in the support role. In the duo lane a Hel against good opposition should very rarely be allowed to use Repulse on the wave, without severely risking her life. For those of us who have played the game long enough, we have watched this play out a hundred times when your support picked the pre 4.1 Hel. It was soul destroying to watch your support get repeatedly froze, plucked or stunned in the middle of a creep wave as one of the squishiest characters in the game. This was also an issue in every other role, however this is possibly the biggest change allowing her to transition into support.

Hel

Image courtesy of Smite.Gamepedia.com

Her movement speed buff is incredible. Before CDR she has 50 percent uptime on an AOE 25 percent movement speed increase. With full CDR she only has a downtime of 1.2 seconds, considering that ability also has a HOT; to say the least it’s pretty powerful. Bare in mind that at full CDR, Lotus Crown will also only have a downtime of 2.2 seconds. At the moment this has got to be the highest utility ability in the entirety of Smite. The best way to think of it is like a near constant Heavenly Wings, but trading out slow immunity for a protection boost. Combined with her AOE Cleanse any team she is on is almost impossible to escape from and peel off your carries. She is a walking AOE relic bot.

Warrior junglers are something which I think have benefited Hel to some degree. With more Warriors being run in the jungle it is easier to make up for the front-line you lose from Hel support. Note how NRG played a Ravana jungle with the Hel support, meaning they had a Bellona and a Ravana who could more than fulfill the front-lining duties for the team. However, it is not entirely necessary as Obey showed running a Serqet with the Hel support. It is worth noting though that Serqet pick does make Hel a lot safer as Serqet is one of her natural predators. This was something clearly on Obey’s mind as they also ran one of her other biggest threats Osiris in the solo lane. Plus if you ask Craig ‘iRaffer’ Rathbone Serqet is a support too.

This new version of Hel is an extremely powerful God in the meta and has incredible potential if played properly. The big question at the moment is whether or not the upcoming nerf in 4.17, which will reduce the movement speed she gives to allies from 25% to 10%, is going to knock her out of the meta. If I am honest, I think this nerf is a bit much and we are likely to see that movement speed moved back up slightly in following patches. At least I hope so, it’s been nice to see a support more concerned with empowering their own team rather than disabling the opposing team.

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Misfits and G2 face off in the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split Finals

EU LCS Summer Finals positional breakdown

Sunday, September 3, G2 will face off against Misfits for the title of Europe’s top team. The winner receives the honor of hanging their banner in the rafters, and representing Europe at Worlds as the number one seed. The loser misses out on an EU LCS title, but will still travel to China as Europe’s second seed. This best-of-five will be a battle for glory, and it is shaping up to be a showdown.

G2 finished the regular season with an 8-5 record, good enough to secure second place within Group A. Fnatic took two series off of them, while Unicorns of Love, Misfits and Roccat each took one. G2 won their quarterfinals match-up versus Splyce 3-2, much closer than fans expected. They moved on to slaughter H2K 3-0 in the semifinals. This will be G2’s fourth finals in their four splits. If they win, it will extend their reign in the EU LCS to four splits, two years straight.

Misfits actually finished the regular season with a 6-7 series record. They were able to place third in Group A, one spot below G2. Misfits’ only win over a top six team came against G2 in week three. Fnatic, H2K, Splyce and Unicorns of Love did not lose series to this team. Misfits has upset their way into the finals by skunking Unicorns of Love 3-0 in the quarterfinals, then dominating Fnatic in semifinals 3-1. This is Misfits’ first appearance in the finals in their first two EU LCS splits.

Hussain is Misfits' coach at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Both of these teams have earned their way into the ultimate showdown by stepping up in the playoffs. G2 has had ups and downs throughout this split. They came into the summer season as heavy favorites, since they had no roster changes, and they made it into the finals of Riot’s Mid-Season Invitational.

However, G2 held a 3-3 EU LCS record going into Rift Rivals, proceeded to perform worst at Rift Rivals with a 1-5 record, then returned to Europe to close the season 5-2. These last two weeks of play have shown G2 return closer to form. They had secured wins against Splyce and H2K during the cross-group play, so G2 was not necessarily unfavored in their playoff match-ups. Splyce pushed them to the limit of their five-game series, and a successful Baron steal in game one tilted H2K beyond repair.

Youngbuck is G2's coach at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Misfits has had a more extreme path to this summer’s finals. They came into the split surrounded by questions about their choice to replace KaKAO with Maxlore in the jungle. Misfits had finished second in Group A last spring, and finished fourth place in playoffs. This seemed to be a suitable finish for the newcomers, at the time.

Summer Split has actually been worse on paper. Misfits’ dropped to third place in Group A, finishing with a losing record. They had not beaten Unicorns of Love or Fnatic during the regular season. Misfits came into playoffs as severe underdogs, but they have silenced critics so far. This summers playoffs have shown tremendous improvement over their spring run.

In the end, someone has to lose. One of these teams will lose momentum in this final series. In the final stretch, either G2 or Misfits will slip up and create an opening for their opponent to take the series. Heading into their bout this weekend, here is how these finalists match up, lane by lane.

TOP

Expect is G2's top laner at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2 Expect

KDA: 3.5, 4.9           (reg. season, playoffs)

CSD15: +5, -1

DMG%: 23.7, 20.0

KP%: 69.7, 69.7

Alphari is Misfits top laner in the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MSF Alphari

KDA: 3.2, 9.1

CSD15: -3, +13

DMG%: 20.4, 23.8

KP%: 62.8, 70.2

Alphari has made much more tangible improvements coming into playoffs. Considering he faced off against UOL’s Vizicsacsi in quarterfinals and FNC’s Soaz in semifinals (first and third All-Pro), Alphari’s statistics are impressive. He had been much more pro-active in joining the rest of his team for fights; but, more importantly, his split-pushing has been crucial. Alphari’s strength so far during playoffs has been denying his opponent’s opportunities to join fights, pulling them into the side lane to answer his push.

Expect and G2 have had a slightly different top lane experience. In their series versus Splyce, G2 was unable to contain Wunder in the side lanes. The two top laners went back and forth with their pressure throughout five games. H2K’s Odoamne was held down, though. Expect dominated all three of those games.

Both players look comfortable on Gnar and Jarvan IV. These champions include damage and tank items, hard engage, level six power-spikes and decent wave clear for splitting. Alphari had a monster game on Rumble against UOL, while Expect has won all three of his Cho’Gath games during playoffs. On the flip side, Expect’s Renekton fell flat in game four against Splyce.

During the finals, G2 could try to corner Alphari off of Gnar and Jarvan. He has not shown a single Cho’Gath game this summer. Alphari has also shown a tendency to pull out Kennen, Camille or Kled, but he never quite played to their potential. Sure, Alphari could play Renekton or Rumble, but these picks are currently exploitable in the tankier meta.

Expect has a similar champion pool, except he has had success on the Cho’Gath pick. He is a slightly better Renekton, but a slightly worse Rumble, based on the regular season. Expect also prefers Jayce to Kennen, but did not win either of his two games. Finally, Expect’s Galio had a huge impact in G2’s game against Ninjas in Pyjamas, but that was back in June.

If Alphari is able to take a Gnar or Jarvan pick, then Misfits will have an advantage. Their playoffs have looked much more substantial than their regular season, and much of it has to do with Alphari’s denying his enemy’s ability to join skirmishes. Expect is a player who loves to move around the map to enable his carries, whereas Alphari’s teammates tend to not need him as frequently. If G2 draft the Cho’Gath, it may play right into Misfits’ current strengths, as demonstrated by Fnatic’s prioritization for Soaz last week.

JUNGLE

Trick is G2's jungler in the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2 Trick

KDA: 3.4, 4.8

XPD15: +465, +278

DMG%: 14.0, 14.5

KP%: 71.7, 68.9

Maxlore is Misfits' jungler in the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MSF Maxlore

KDA: 3.7, 9.6

XPD15: -107, +194

DMG%: 14.3, 11.6

KP%: 68.0, 74.0

Misfits and G2 play somewhat differently around their junglers. Trick loves to farm. He has always had a knack for taking camps quicker and more frequently than his opponents, while his lanes remain self-sufficient. Maxlore is more likely to attempt to make an impact in his early levels by ganking.

Trick used Sejuani to full effect in G2’s win over H2K, and Jankos could not effectively answer. Maxlore had a similar effect with his Zac in Misfits’ win over UOL. Expect these two champions to be picked or banned in the finals. Trick has not looked comfortable in his four Zac games, and Maxlore lost his only regular season Sejuani game. Both junglers are willing to pull out Gragas.

Maxlore is widely considered more of a carry jungler than Trick, but do not forget that Trick was five for five on Kha’Zix during the regular season. Otherwise, Maxlore has won games on Kayn and Rengar during playoffs, so far. His most picked champion in the regular season was Lee Sin. While both of these junglers have drafted Elise when she was not banned, neither looked effective with her. Trick’s playoff Elise was game five versus Splyce, which went over 50 minutes. Maxlore ended the regular season one for three with the Spider Queen.

Over 15 EU LCS playoff games, Elise and Jarvan IV have been the most banned jungle champions (nine and five, respectively). Jarvan IV can be flexed into the top lane, which contributes to his 87 percent presence in playoffs. With these two gone, Gragas has been the most picked (11), followed by Zac (five) and Sejuani (five).

Since so many AD carries and mid laners are seeing bans, the draft may not see much jungle diversity, especially since Maxlore is not afraid to pocket pick. If Trick and his team can properly track, counter-jungle and counter-gank Maxlore, that may be a key to taking down Misfits.

MID

Perkz is G2's mid laner at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2 Perkz

KDA: 4.0, 3.9

CSD15: +2, -7

DPM: 579, 663

KP%: 70.8, 71.4

PowerOfEvil is Misfits' mid laner at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MSF PowerOfEvil

KDA: 4.2, 12.1

CSD15: +4, +8

DPM: 622, 587

KP%: 75.5, 81.7

PowerOfEvil has had an incredible playoff performance. He has had huge impacts on every single game. Perkz was a bit shakier in G2’s series against Splyce, but completely ravaged H2K over three games. This mid lane match-up is sure to be intense.

Perkz does seem a bit more aggressive in the laning phase, which can help or hinder G2 in this series. It will depend on how well his team members support him. Champions like Cassiopeia and Leblanc are perfect for Perkz’s playstyle. PowerOfEvil feels more calculated with trades and farming, but truly shines when he can roam and support his teammates. This is one of the main reasons that Orianna is by far his best champion this summer.

These two have played a combined 17 Orianna games, averaging a 17.6 KDA. Cassiopeia has been picked eight games, banned four games, so far in playoffs (80 percent presence). Both Perkz and PowerOfEvil recently crushed UOL’s Exileh with mid lane Lucian. PowerOfEvil has a worse summer record on Syndra (three wins over eight games), but two of those wins have come in two playoff games.

Throughout playoffs, Leblanc, Cassiopeia, Lucian and Orianna have each been banned four to five times over 15 games. G2 and Misfits could try to pinch the mid lane champion pool beyond that, but they would sacrifice crucial bans for the bottom lane. There are four marksmen, four supports, two junglers and four top laners (including Galio and Jarvan) with higher ban rates than the first mid lane champion.

Therefore, this mid lane match-up will mostly come down to execution. Will Misfits give Perkz enough room to play aggressively on Cassiopeia or Leblanc? Could G2 give over PowerOfEvil’s cherished Orianna? Will either of them have the guts to draft Lucian, or will they be willing to whip out an unexpected pocket pick?

BOTTOM

Zven is G2's bottom laner in the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2 Zven

KDA: 5.2, 7.1

CSD15: +4, +1

DPM: 556, 659

KP%: 61.7, 71.4

Hans sama is Misfits' bottom laner at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MSF Hans sama

KDA: 4.3, 11.3

CSD15: -1, -2

DPM: 469, 575

KP%: 70.0, 76.0

During the regular season, this bottom lane would be a completely one-sided match-up. But this is playoffs, and Hans sama has stepped up in a major way. Almost all of his statistics have improved, mostly with respect to team fighting. Hans sama has been much less of a clean-up AD carry, but much more of a damage-per-second threat.

Zven, on the other hand, has always been a threat. During the regular season, he was named second All-Pro for his heavy damage contributions in G2’s team fights. Historically, G2’s bottom lane gained larger advantages during laning phase. But, with the current state of the meta, scaling marksmen dominate the space. Zven is happy to assume that position.

AD carry champions are receiving multiple bans every game. Kalista has been 100 percent banned (15 bans over 15 games). Tristana has been 100 percent pick or ban (10 bans and five picks). Xayah has been third priority with seven picks and three bans (67 percent presence). Both Zven and Hans sama have shown strong Tristana performances throughout the Summer Split.

Splyce and H2K targeted Zven much heavier than UOL or Fnatic pressured Hans sama in the draft phase. So far, G2’s bottom lane has locked in Ashe, Caitlyn, Varus, Tristana and Sivir over eight games. Misfits has picked Tristana three times, Xayah three times and Ashe once.

This could be a weak spot for Misfits if G2 decides to pinch the marksman role. Hans sama has not played a single game of Kog’Maw, Sivir or Twitch this summer, while Zven has shown them at various points. For example, if Kalista, Tristana, Xayah and Caitlyn are banned, and G2 picks Ashe, what would Hans sama play? Varus was his most played champion in the regular season with 11 games and a 63.6 percent win rate.

At the end of the day, the power of these two will come down to team fight execution. Do not expect Zven or Hans sama to break open some huge lead in the laning phase. It will more likely revolve around how they position with regard to enemy crowd control. With champions such as Jarvan IV, Gragas, Sejuani, Alistar, Rakan, Thresh and Elise being such high priorities, the AD carry position is a huge liability. They need to shred down tanks, kite safely and output as much damage as possible.

SUPPORT

Mithy is G2's support at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2 Mithy

KDA: 5.1, 5.1

KP%: 69.2, 73.1

WPM: 1.43, 1.56

WCPM: 0.37, 0.34

Ignar is Misfits' support at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MSF Ignar

KDA: 3.9, 6.1

KP%: 70.0, 76.0

WPM: 1.56, 1.32

WCPM: 0.47, 0.31

The Summer Split first All-Pro support faces off against the Spring Split first All-Pro support. Ignar has had a quiet split, following his explosive performance in spring. Known for his surprise roams and play-making, Ignar has returned closer to form since Misfits entered playoffs. His Blitzcrank has earned bans, and Thresh and Rakan are among his top-picked champions.

Mithy, on the other hand, has maintained a steady presence within the EU LCS. His performances allow G2’s carries, Zven in particular, to stay safe and dish damage. For this reason, two of his most played supports are Tahm Kench and Lulu. However, Mithy has come up huge on Alistar, Trundle and Braum in playoffs. G2 was able to take down Splyce in quarterfinals off the back of an expert flank executed by Mithy.

The gameplay dynamic between these two should be interesting. Ignar may be torn between babysitting Hans sama through a tough laning phase and roaming with Maxlore to impact the map. Mithy may decide to answer the roams, leaving Zven vulnerable in the bottom lane. It will heavily depend on the drafts.

So many bans could be targeted towards carry roles that picks like Rakan, Thresh and Alistar may be left on the table. That being said, Ignar and Mithy have both shown strong recent performances on enchanter supports, such as Janna and Morgana. G2 did find more success against H2K by giving Trick and Expect the primary engage tools, while Mithy played protectors, such as Tahm Kench and Braum. However, Misfits tend to rotate their players’ roles more frequently.

This finals match-up could actually be heavily influenced by the support role. A pivotal Blitzcrank or Thresh hook, a crucial Morgana Black Shield, an Alistar Headbutt-Pulverize; any of these could be a season-winning moment. This is not just another series to put under a team’s belt. This is the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split Finals, and it could be one for the League of Legends history books.


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Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Player Statistics: GamesofLegends.com, OraclesElixir.com

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Trending in EU LCS: Week nine

Consistency remained in the EU LCS from week eight into week nine. Many of the draft priorities stayed at the top. Gnar, Cho’Gath, Rumble and Camille were major picks for the top lane. Junglers included Zac, Elise, Maokai, Jarvan IV and Gragas. Zoning mages, such as Taliyah, Syndra and Orianna dominate the mid lane when Leblanc is banned. Bottom lane duos continue to ban Caitlyn and Kalista, while locking in supports who possess heavy engage.

The teams more-or-less performed as expected. All but one series ended in a 2-0 victory for the team higher in the standings. Ninjas in Pyjamas secured another game win. Game one between Unicorns of Love and Splyce had a gold swing over ten thousand. Roccat blew a 3,000 gold lead against Fnatic. Otherwise, the better teams took their leads and closed out the games.

Like every week, though, there are some elements of the game that are shifting. Trending in the EU LCS is back with your weekly dose of Europe’s ups and downs on the Rift.

TRENDING UP

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

Xayah is trending up in EU LCS week nine

Image from Surrenderat20.net

Xayah

Caitlyn and Kalista have become pick or ban in Europe. Out of week nine’s thirteen games, these two marksmen were picked or banned in every single one. When they were both off the table, Xayah actually rose to priority. The Rebel was drafted in nine out of thirteen matches (69.2 percent), and she was banned in just one (7.7 percent). This 76.9 percent presence is even with Tristana’s, who was picked or banned in ten games.

Xayah has maintained an overall 50 percent presence in the EU LCS this Summer Split. Her ultimate, Featherstorm, is valuable in a tank-centric meta, due to her temporary invulnerability. In most cases, she is paired with a Rakan support. The tandem-released champions augment each other’s abilities, which makes them an attractive pair in the draft. In week nine, Xayah and Rakan were drafted together five times. However, EU LCS supports also chose Trundle once, Morgana twice and Thresh once with a Xayah AD carry.

Kayn is trending up in EU LCS in week nine

Image from Surrenderat20.net

Kayn

While the jungle has been dominated by tanks on patch 7.15, Kayn entered the mix more in week nine. Pridestalker had picked up The Shadow Reaper immediately after he was unlocked in competitive play. Caps tried him out in the mid lane in week eight. Kayn’s popularity continues to grow, as he was picked three times as a jungler, and banned three times last week. His presence in six out of thirteen matches equates to 46.2 percent.

Xerxe picked up a win against Splyce, while Shook went 1-1 against Misfits. Altogether, this brings Kayn’s jungle win rate to 50 percent in the EU LCS. His flexibility to choose between assassin and bruiser forms brings a level of unpredictability to the game. He can be feast or famine, though, demonstrated by an average game time of 29:32 when Kayn is in the jungle (compared to the league average of 34:10).

TRENDING DOWN

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the downswing after week eight 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 is trending down in EU LCS in week nine

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Splyce

Week nine’s 0-2 loss brings Splyce’s game record to 14-13. Of their 14 wins, only two were secured against teams above them in the standings (Unicorns of Love in week three). Game one against UOL went pretty well against last week, until Xerxe stole the Baron. Splyce had accrued up to 3,000 gold over the Unicorns by 17 minutes, but could not recover from the lost Baron.

Game two was a much more convincing loss. The team composition seemed straight-forward. Sejuani should provide the initial engage, along with a Braum ultimate, if needed. Cho’Gath layers his crowd control and nukes down a primary carry. Azir and Tristana output the damage from the back-line. However, when looking at UOL’s composition, there is not an ideal target to engage upon. Nidalee and Leblanc have dashes. Maokai and Trundle are too tanky to be popped. Xayah is briefly invulnerable with Featherstorm. The Unicorns closed it out in 34 minutes, and the kill score was only 7-2.

While they did decisively beat Mysterious Monkeys 2-0 in their series earlier in the weekend, Splyce should not be satisfied. Misfits has won three games against teams ranked above them. As of week nine, Roccat has won five games against the top four EU LCS teams. Of course, Splyce won their series against Misfits and Roccat this split. But, as far as their performance against Fnatic, G2, UOL and H2K, Splyce is on par with these teams. If Splyce want to qualify for Worlds, it will require them to play up to other top teams, particularly their Group B counterparts, UOL and H2K.

Misfits is trending down in EU LCS in week nine

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Misfits

Misfits fans are let down again, as they finish week nine with a 2-3 game score. They hardly put up a fight against a revitalized G2, then they dropped a game to Ninjas in Pyjamas later in the weekend. Misfits is put in a similar position to Splyce, as their game score this split is 14-16; they are solidly third place in their group, and only three of their game wins are off of the top four teams. With Fnatic being much more dominant in Group A this split, Misfits have slumped compared to their inauguration last spring.

As mentioned last week, Misfits’ problem is their mid-late game. Roccat have surpassed them in OraclesElixir.com’s mid-late game rating. They tend to lose leads off of poor decision-making while Baron is on the board. Only Ninjas in Pyjamas has a more dramatic falloff between comparing early game ratings and mid-late game ratings. This is particularly troubling when taking into account that UOL, Fnatic, H2K and G2 do best in the mid-late stages of the game. Just like Splyce, Misfits need to play up to the level of the top four teams if they want a shot at qualifying for Worlds.

Braum is trending down in EU LCS in week nine

Image from Surrenderat20.net

Braum

It has been a little under the radar, but Braum has been picked much less frequently so far this patch. In patch 7.14, Braum had an 84 percent pick-ban rate. So far, Braum has only seen five picks and four bans, equal to 50 percent draft presence. His priority is below Thresh, Rakan and Alistar. Most teams are prioritizing jungle, AD carry and mid lane bans, so many support players are able to take the high priorities. The flexibility of building Ancient Coin is not as attractive on this champion, which may be one of the reasons he has fallen in priority. It is fully possible that this champion will bounce back into higher priority, but week nine was a low point for him.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Champion Statistics: GamesofLegends.com, OraclesElixir.com

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Cho'Gath is trending up in week seven

Trending in the EU LCS: Week seven

Week seven of the EU LCS saw patch 7.14 in full force. It was apparent that the teams were still getting a read on the meta. The drafts and gameplay were unpolished. Prioritizing power picks was different between series. How those picks were used in-game shifted throughout the weekend. Here are some elements that are currently trending in the EU LCS.

Trending Up

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

G2 are trending up in week seven

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2

G2 continues its climb in the standings with a 2-0 week seven, beating H2K and Vitality. Granted, both series ended 2-1, but wins are wins. This week moves G2 up to a 6-3 record to secure second place alone. G2 had a lead over 2,000 gold in all but one game. Even in their losses, they did not go down without a proper fight. This is a good sign for G2 fans. With these last few weeks having playoffs and Worlds implications, G2 should continue on this upward trajectory.

Cho’Gath

The Terror of the Void holds a 100 percent win rate in top, and a 60 percent win rate as a jungler in the EU LCS. Pair that with a 61 percent draft presence for top lane, and a 72 percent presence for jungle, and it is clear this champion is a high priority on 7.14. His recent buffs allow him to clear the jungle easily, while maintaining high health without directly building health items. Unless Riot nerfs this Cho’Gath soon, expect him to stay in the meta.

Maokai is trending up in week seven

Image from Surrenderat20.net

Maokai jungle

Another tank who did well in week seven, Maokai jungle has caught on in the EU LCS. Zac, Elise, Sejuani, Cho’Gath and Gragas were all prioritized higher than Maokai. However, only Kha’Zix had a higher winrate with three or more games. Maokai was picked or banned in 39 percent of games, and had a 67 percent win rate. His saplings can be a nuisance when sprinkled throughout the jungle. Maokai’s ultimate, Vengeful Maelstrom, can be a powerful initiation or disengage tool. It also aids around objectives by zoning the enemy team. Maokai has been flexed into the top lane in other regions, but not this week in the EU LCS.

“ARAM compositions”

The 7.14 meta has developed into what casters and analysts are calling “ARAM compositions.” EU LCS teams are drafting champions that will thrive in five-versus-five team-fighting environments. Tanks are becoming common in top lane, jungle and support positions. Teams generally strategize around powerful engage tools. Mid laners preferred area-of-effect mages. Caitlyn, Kalista, Varus and Tristana were the highest priority AD carries. Most wins this week came from whichever team could initiate and execute the best fights against their opponents.

Trending Down

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the downswing after week seven 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.

UOL is trending down in week seven

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Unicorns of Love

Strangely enough, Unicorns of Love have not benefited from this new “ARAM” meta. They lost both series in week seven to Roccat and Fnatic. Both series were lost 2-1, which is not the worst case scenario, but the Unicorns did not look good. They opted into fights over and over without giving proper respect to their opponents. Fabian “Exileh” Schubert was an inconsistent element for the team. One game he finished 10-5-10 as Talon against Fnatic. Another game he finished 0-6-2 as Vladimir against Roccat. There was a particularly peculiar solo death under Roccat’s mid lane turret that garnered attention. With every series coming closer to playoffs and Worlds qualifications, the Unicorns will need to shore up these weaknesses.

Shen

Shen’s priority was disproportional to his impact in week seven. While he was picked and banned in 39 percent of games, he lost all three games where he was picked. Shen players seemed to fall far behind in the top lane, and then have limited utility through the end. Gnar, Jarvan IV, Cho’Gath and Renekton looked much more useful. Since the nerf to Shen’s ultimate, he seems a bit lackluster. It is much more difficult to pull off the “submarine” strategy with divers and Orianna. This pick should lose priority moving forward.

Zyra is trending down in week seven

Image from na.leagueoflegends.com

Enchanter and mage supports

With the rise of tanks comes the fall of enchanters. In 7.12, the EU LCS saw Rakan, Zyra and Lulu have decent priority and win rates. After one week of 7.14, Zyra and Lulu have fallen off. Braum has risen to number one priority (94 percent pick-ban rate). Alistar has seen some play (17 percent pick-ban rate), as well as Taric and Trundle (one game each). Moving forward, this may change as the meta takes shape. Knight’s Vow, Righteous Glory and Locket of the Iron Solari are all popular support picks right now.

Top lane Rumble

Another pick that has fallen off, Rumble was only played two games this week. In 7.12, Rumble had a 79 percent draft phase presence, highest of all top laners. This week on 7.14, he dropped to 17 percent pick-ban. Rumble is simply unable to compete with the teamfight durability of tanks or early game damage of lethality builders. He may come back into prominence as the novelty of new top lane picks wears off. It is unclear at this time. However, he was also trending down in week five, due to a low win rate.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr, LeagueofLegends.comSurrenderat20.net

Champion Statistics: GamesofLegends.com

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