Four new organizations enter the NA LCS in 2018

NA LCS team identities following off-season roster upheavals

This year’s off-season has been extremely disruptive to the identity of each NA LCS team. Iconic, long-term and founding members of several rosters have switched to another team for 2018. Aphromoo is no longer playing for Counter Logic Gaming. Echo Fox is without Froggen. Hai has moved on from FlyQuest. TSM does not have Svenskeren.

Four brand new organizations are entering the LCS, while four previous organizations are no more. Immortals, Team Envy, Phoenix1 and Dignitas are out. Optic Gaming, Golden Guardians, 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming are in. All of the narratives surrounding the dissolved teams no longer matter. Immortals’ fumbles domestically, and then their tragic World Championship; Dignitas’ return to the LCS and Summer Split run in the playoffs; Phoenix1’s roller-coaster ups and downs from Rift Rivals, MikeYeung and roster shuffles. All down the drain.

The incoming teams will create new narratives for fans to enjoy. Endemic organizations made big roster moves in the off-season, which will bring their own storylines. The other teams in the middle, like Echo Fox and FlyQuest, will continue to mold into their own identities. 2018 is a watershed year for creating new drama, rivalries and narratives within the NA LCS.

100 Thieves: Old Guard, Modern Marketing

Aphromoo joined 100 Thieves for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The roster and coach announced for 100 Thieves consists of Ssumday, Meteos, Ryu, Aphromoo and Pr0lly. Each of these members could easily help anchor a team with their veteran experience and knowledge. However, they find themselves together on a roster that could very well have the most combined professional League of Legends experience on any announced NA LCS team in 2018. The coaching role, every lane, and the jungle position is covered by an established personality.

The organization itself is rather novel, though. Matthew Haag, aka “Nadeshot,” is well-known in the Call of Duty world as a retired player and team owner. He is partnered with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers to build a brand and a League of Legends roster under the 100 Thieves moniker. With a standout logo and a merch store full of casual-wear, 100 Thieves will most likely bring a different marketing flavor to the LCS.

100 Thieves should bring a mixture of results on and off the Rift. Meteos, Pr0lly and Aphromoo are some of the most recognized personalities in North America, while Ssumday and Ryu rally their own sets of fans. Nadeshot and the Cavaliers may contribute new styles and promotions than League of Legends is used to. Combine the charisma of the players and staff with the creativity and flashiness of the brand, and 100 Thieves could pull a nice set of followers. Not to mention, if the team actually has synergy, then there is no doubt they can be contenders regardless of which AD carry they sign.

Cloud9: question marks

Svenskeren joins Cloud9 for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Fans are filled with confusion and concern towards Cloud9’s off-season. With Impact and Contractz leaving, Cloud9 brought on Svenskeren and Licorice to join Jensen, Sneaky and Smoothie on the starting roster. Factions of the fan-base believe these members to be side-grades at least, downgrades at worst. Licorice has not been tested above the Challenger Series, while Svenskeren was not viewed as a key factor for TSM in 2017. While Impact and Ray had their low moments this year on Cloud9, there is no question that Impact’s high points were on another level.

Cloud9 still remains as one of the goofier, nonchalant organizations. Sneaky will still be the central personality, as the longest tenured member of the organization. Jensen, Smoothie, Svenskeren and even Coach Reapered and team owner Jack have had their fair share of memes and fun. Licorice will probably fall right in line with this theme.

However, the lightheartedness of the players only works if they are winning. Jokes and humor fall flat if the roster has issues clicking, or if results do not show. Despite standing out as an amusing team, Cloud9 actually has a strong League of Legends legacy. They have won two NA LCS championships, and finished runner-up four times. In 2018 Cloud9 will look to continue building on this success, while still playing the jester role off stage.

Counter Logic Gaming: the Nice Guys

Biofrost joins CLG for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

CLG took their first step away from their “Team Friendship” theme when they traded Xmithie for Dardoch in the 2017 mid-season. They took a step further this off-season by bringing on Reignover to start over OmarGod. Add Aphromoo’s departure, and CLG’s identity is reeling.

But look at the starting roster: Darshan, Reignover, Huhi, Stixxay, Biofrost. These are the nice guys of the NA LCS. This squad has charisma. None of these members have any baggage following them from a previous team, or lacks personality. When Stixxay is the most arrogant player on the roster, it is probably a healthy work environment.

CLG should have some concerns, though. Who will be the leader and shotcaller to fill the void left by Aphromoo? Is there enough fire in the team? And is the talent strong enough to pass the test of 2018? Stixxay has never played in the LCS without Aphromoo. Biofrost only played one split without Doublelift, and it was not nearly as impactful. Reignover has not shown a level of play akin to his days with Huni on Fnatic and Immortals. 2018 will be a huge test for these players’ improvement together.

Clutch Gaming: upgraded envy

Febiven joins Clutch Gaming for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Lira, Apollo and Hakuho made up three fifths of Team Envy in 2017, and they will make up three fifths of Clutch Gaming in 2018. Instead of Nisqy and Seraph, though, Clutch opted for Febiven and Solo. Unlike Cloud9’s, these acquisitions should definitely be upgrades. Nisqy brought a level of consistency to the mid lane, which Envy did not have prior to starting him. Seraph was a starter for the team over a longer period of time, but played much less consistently. Febiven earned first team All-Pro in the 2017 European LCS Summer Split, and Solo was a top performer in the North American Challenger Series.

Envy’s jungler and bottom lane were huge contributors to the team’s Summer Split success. They were able to secure a playoff spot, and took CLG to five games in the quarterfinals. With stronger top and mid laners, Clutch Gaming may be able to reach the next level and push even farther. They also brought on David Lim, who led Team Liquid Academy during their promotion into the LCS and Team Liquid during the 2017 Spring Split.

Beyond a possibly underrated roster, the Houston Rockets’ Clutch Gaming identity within the LCS remains unclear. Sebastian Park, their Head of Esports, seems confident in the team’s potential, and the organization has teased analytical tools for optimizing talent scouting, including a “pathfinding engine.” If these types of developments pan out, then Clutch Gaming could become the Moneyball team in the NA LCS.

Echo Fox: The Aggressors

Dardoch and Fenix join Echo Fox for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

List the most aggressive players in the NA LCS over the past two years, and several of Echo Fox’s reported members are likely to pop up. Huni, Dardoch and Fenix are well-known hawkish competitors. Altec and Adrian began building a similar reputation in the 2017 Summer Split, as well. Echo Fox has combined these aggressors into one squad to completely revamp into 2018.

Drama and tension are the other side of this aggression coin. Dardoch and Fenix had their fair share of issues while on Team Liquid in 2016, as showcased in Breaking PointAdrian had his own problems on Phoenix1 in the 2017 Spring Split. These types of off-stage obstacles could bubble up once again without the proper infrastructure.

FOX’s new look is also a departure from the previous Froggen-centric 10-man roster and the Stream Dream Team (Delta Fox). Echo Fox could never develop any synergy on their LCS roster during Summer Split, due to constantly rotating starters. Froggen’s status is still unknown (although Jacob Wolf reported that FOX plans to drop him), but even if he stays, he will no longer be the only voice on the team. This new Echo Fox will have the highest performance variance, as most of the members rely on emotional momentum to succeed. If this roster is able to mesh and remain problem-free, then Echo Fox could reap huge rewards from this huge risk.

FlyQuest: A chemistry experiment

Flame joins FlyQuest for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the few fully announced rosters, FlyQuest is completely revamped for 2018. Following the trend of keystone figures switching teams, Hai is no longer FlyQuest’s mid laner. Balls, Moon and Lemonnation are gone, as well. Instead, FlyQuest acquired Flame, Anda, Fly and Stunt as starters. They also signed Keane and Shrimp, as well as Ngo, Erry and Jayj from the University of Toronto’s collegiate team. Wildturtle is the only remaining member from the 2017 roster.

Other than Flame, these players feel middle of the pack individually. Anda and Fly are untested in the LCS, but have played in the NA Challenger Series with varying success. Wildturtle can spike fairly high, but generally relies on his teammates to play around his style. Stunt was the on-and-off starter during his time on Phoenix1.

Unlocking these players’ ceilings will be FlyQuest’s greatest challenge in 2018. With the proper synergy, FlyQuest could certainly rise higher than their 2017 Summer Split. Communication problems are more likely, though. Wildturtle has veteran experience, but he may not be a loud voice to build a team around. The rookies, Anda and Stunt, will rely on Wildturtle to be a leader and gel together with the Korean imports, Flame and Fly. Keane and Shrimp are smart pick-ups, since they worked fairly well with Ssumday on Dignitas, and could bring that experience into FlyQuest.

Golden Guardians: Hai and Company

Hai joins Golden Guardians for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Hai kick-starts a new organization in 2018, Golden Guardians, and he is basically their only hope. The Golden State Warriors-owned organization has reportedly acquired Lourlo, Contractz, Deftly and Matt. This roster would be the only one in the NA LCS without any imported players. Golden Guardians also seem to have the least combined LCS experience. These two factors will leave many fans wondering what reasoning was used to construct this team.

Golden Guardians will live or die by Hai in 2018. He is surrounded by relatively young players who have never played for more than one previous organization. LCS fans were impressed with Moon’s performance on FlyQuest with Hai as a shotcaller, but that success was short-lived. If Hai is able to unlock Lourlo, Contractz, Deftly and Matt the same way, then Golden Guardians could surprise.

ESPN also reported Locodoco as the Golden Guardians’ head coach, which could be helpful. He has experience coaching younger players on Team Liquid and Gold Coin United, including Lourlo and Matt. It would be surprising if Golden Guardians kept these same five members as their starters throughout 2018. Without the pressure of relegation, this organization could be taking the opportunity to develop younger native talents with Hai’s proven leadership.

Optic Gaming: The HodgePodge

PowerOfEvil joins Optic Gaming for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

A true concoction, Optic Gaming enters the NA LCS pulling together a wide variety of talents. The “Green Wall” is an expansive organization spanning Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty, Overwatch and other esports. They have announced their acquisition of Romain Bigeard, ex-manager of Unicorns of Love, and Zaboutine, former caster, as manager and coach. ESPN has reported the starting roster as Zig, Akaadian, PowerOfEvil, Arrow and LemonNation.

If all of this is true, then Optic is combining rising stars in top and jungle with an experimental European mid laner, an up-and-down Korean AD carry and an analytical, veteran support. The roster will be led by an eccentric manager-mascot and a French caster-turned-coach, and they will have the full support of an esports powerhouse brand. There are some strong pieces to this puzzle, but they are not necessarily a clean fit.

The Optic LCS team seems like it may sit somewhere between 100 Thieves and FlyQuest. Optic is definitely a well-known esports organization, and they should draw a fan-base. The first-person shooter edge and player recognition of 100 Thieves combines with the questionable roster synergy of FlyQuest. Romain is a promotional personality with a knack for creating content and winning hearts, so expect Optic to use him to full effect. There is certainly plenty of talent on this roster, but it may take a while for them to actually produce favorable results.

Team Liquid: Vengeful Spirits

Doublelift joins Team Liquid for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The hoarders of the off-season, Team Liquid emerges with a complete roster overhaul. After acquiring contracts for several different players, Liquid has most likely settled on Impact, Xmithie, Pobelter, Doublelift and Olleh. This five-man group feels much stronger and intuitive than Liquid’s team from 2017 Summer Split. Xmithie, Pobelter and Olleh are proven talents who made up three fifths of Immortals’ World Championship-qualifying roster. Impact had a mostly off year, but still solid during the high points. Doublelift comes to Liquid after being replaced by TSM.

Revenge is the overarching theme for Team Liquid going into 2018. Owner Steve Arhancet wants revenge for his last two years of roster troubles. The ex-Immortals players want revenge for losing to TSM in the Summer Split finals, then being denied from the franchised LCS. Most importantly, Doublelift wants revenge for getting nudged out of TSM.

With Cain remaining as head coach, Team Liquid should trend towards the top of the league. If this roster is unable to perform, then it will be a complete disgrace. All of these players have been victorious in the past. Each of these players have attended the World Championship, many of them as teammates. 2018 serves as a fresh start for Team Liquid and Steve, and they need to use their past frustrations as fuel. Dardoch is not an excuse. Piglet is not an excuse. Goldenglue is not an excuse. It is time for Liquid to put up or shut up.

TSM: the final boss

Zven and mithy join TSM for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Citing international shortcomings and issues with shotcalling and communication, TSM’s owner, Reginald, decided to replace Svenskeren, Doublelift and Biofrost with MikeYeung, Zven and Mithy. He also picked up Coach Ssong from Immortals’ dissolved team. The six-time NA LCS champions continue to adapt and reinvigorate their roster, and TSM will remain as the final boss in 2018. Every individual player on this team should be top three in their role at the beginning of the season.

MikeYeung is the only player worth questioning. He showcased an explosive Rift Rivals in 2017, but Phoenix1 fell off as a team afterwards. Fans will find out how meta-dependent MikeYeung is in 2018.

Hauntzer was the standout player at Worlds, and he had an all-around stellar 2017. Bjergsen continues to be an anchor in the mid lane, ever-present, ever-consistent. Zven and Mithy’s reputation precedes them, as they have been a package deal since their time on Origen starting in 2014.

TSM’s performance floor is higher than several LCS teams’ ceilings, because the consistency and experience on this team should be solid. Ssong obviously factored into Immortals’ Summer Split success. If he can produce even a portion of that improvement with TSM, then they have a fruitful road ahead. With so much volatility in the off-season, TSM is one of the only teams to maintain the same identity as the villain of the league. They are the team that assumes North American dominance, and shoots for greatness abroad. Franchising has opened doors for some others to compete financially and strategically, but will they actually have what it takes to dethrone the kings?

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Featured Image: Akshon Esports Twitter

Other Images: LoL Esports’ Flickr

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2017 Scouting Grounds draft and the future of NA LCS

The 2017 NA Scouting Grounds draft took place this weekend at Riot’s Los Angeles studio. Amidst the crowd of players and press, we witnessed a historic step for the NA LCS. While the players involved in the draft will likely join the 2018 season Academy teams, their significance lies in the future of esports. The 2017 Scouting Grounds draft is one way for Riot to show fans that they mean business. And Riot are not the only ones stepping up. Cloud 9 (C9) and Clutch Gaming (CG) were the only two teams to buy out another org’s draft positions. So what does this draft tell us beyond 10 new faces to Academy teams?

North America’s Development Problem

scouting grounds draft

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

For years, North America as a region has been criticized for its lack of homegrown talent. While many NA fans are quick to throw up names like Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black, Eugene “Pobelter” Kim or Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi, there are undeniable problems with North America’s talent pool. In an interview with Travis Gafford, Team SoloMid owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh, said “we have a third of the player-base as much as Europe and a third of the ranked players as Korea so they have a lot more options to choose from.” Clearly this is an issue that North America cannot fix overnight. There is no waking up tomorrow morning and suddenly the player-base triples to match Europe.

This is precisely why the Scouting Grounds draft is such an important marker for the future. North America’s only option is to capitalize on and develop its existing talent. Enter the Academy league. Unlike the former Challenger Series, the upcoming Academy system emphasizes development over LCS promotion. It’s important to understand that LCS promotion and regional development are not the same in the old CS system. Admittedly, Challenger Series has given us players like Jae “Huhi” Choi and Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes on Counter Logic Gaming (CLG). However, over the course of its inception, Challenger Series became a place for relegated pros and teams to try and regain a spot in the LCS.

This became a huge problem for North America. In addition to favoring already established pros, many teams even opted for imports over fresh talent. This is precisely why Scouting Grounds plays such an important role for the future of NA. It gives a chance for players like Ziqing “League” Zhao and Ming “Spica” Lu to gain recognition outside of solo queue.

Why scouting grounds draft matters

scouting grounds draft

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

At the Scouting Grounds event this past weekend, we saw both Cloud 9 and Clutch Gaming invest in higher draft positions. Cloud 9 bought out two positions to pick up League, Ash, and Blaberfish2 for exclusive negotiating rights. When talking about C9‘s CEO, Jack Etienne, Riot commentator Aidan “Zirene” Moon said, “this guy is serious about growing talent that hasn’t been completely in the spotlight yet.” Zirene highlighted that Jack’s ability to identify and develop early talents like now European stars, Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten and Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu. As a CEO, Jack has a proven track record in bringing out the best of new players.

Alternatively, new team Clutch Gaming does not share this history. At least as far as esports goes. CG picked up two promising players in support Vulcan and mid laner Palafox. But, a single additional draft pick does not exactly scream hype. The fact that Houston Rocket’s GM Daryl Morey attended the small event, does however speak volumes to how seriously the Rockets are about their new team. In an insightful interview with Travis Gafford, Morey emphasized that the Rockets and Clutch Gaming are “in this for the long haul.” He explained that the 2018 season will be a steady learning experience for the CG organization.

Obviously, Clutch Gaming does not share experience that Jack Etienne has developed in his time with C9. However, Daryl Morey’s reputation as a general manager in the NBA is nothing short of incredible. His approach to team investment and growth led the Houston Rockets to major successes over the years. Clutch Gaming made it clear this weekend. They are dead serious about developing North America. It is extremely exciting to see a new org that is hungry and willing to invest in growing NA regionally.

The future of NA LCS

scouting grounds draft

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

To say the sky is the limit is an understatement. Riot NA’s move to franchise the league has already brought about dozens of roster changes and player opportunities. The Scouting Grounds draft is a preliminary step for North America to grow holistically. Meaning, not only should fans pay attention to NA LCS, but also to how teams work on their upcoming Academy rosters. An organization’s success should reflect both LCS and Academy standings. As a whole, teams with the proper infrastructure, coaching staff and player relationships will shine in 2018.

On paper, Cloud 9 and Clutch Gaming have taken the lead in terms of their dedication to player development in NA. Surely, it will not be long before other teams and coaches start to pick up on these trends. And if these team owners take development seriously, we may see a revitalized pool of NA talent in coming years. “This is where winning traditions can start being grown,” analyst, Mark Zimmerman said when discussing the 2017 Scouting Grounds draft. There is perhaps no better way to word the future of NA LCS.

The 2018 season marks a turning point for North American League. What teams choose to do now will set the precedent for years to come.

Featured Image: LoL Esports

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scouting grounds

Standouts at 2017 North America Scouting Grounds

The 2017 North America Scouting Grounds event took place this weekend. 20 of NA’s top challenger players worked alongside four NA LCS organizations to test their mettle in the Riot LA studio. OpTic Gaming (OPT), Team SoloMid (TSM), Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) and Cloud 9 (C9) were the four teams to participate at this year’s scouting event. After a series of placement matches on day one, the players headed into the third and first place matches. Let’s highlight some standout players in their respective teams.

Fighting tooth and nail

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

Coming in at fourth place overall, Team Cloud Drake (CLD), led by C9, struggled to find their footing in their third place match against Team Mountain Drake (MTN). Despite the tough series, two of CLD‘s players managed to show resolve in their play. First off, League in the top lane showed up despite being counter-picked in both games. In game one, League’s Cho’Gath not only stayed toe-to-toe with Rodov‘s Gnar during the laning phase, but even managed to earn a solo kill. At 17 minutes, League’s superior timing at a teamfight bottom turned the fight in CLD‘s favor. In his second game, League demonstrated several heads-up plays using his Teleport to flank and engage teamfights. Although CLD failed to capitalize on some of these plays, League’s proactive playstyle stood out respectably.

Another player on CLD who performed on-stage was Fanatik. Although Fanatik fell behind his veteran counter-part “Nintendudex” pressure early on, he adapted quickly in game one. After recognizing the mid-jungle focus for Team Mountain Drake, Fanatik countered a dive to secure a clean 2-0 fight. In his second game, Fanatik capitalized on a crucial team MTN mistake and stole the Baron to keep his team alive. At 26 minutes, Fanatik’s Jarvan found a four man “Cataclysm” to lock down multiple enemies and win his team the fight. As the youngest player at the 2017 Scouting Grounds, it will be interesting to see how he develops as a player.

A team of duos

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

For Team Mountain Drake, led by Counter Logic Gaming, their duos stood out more than individual play. First, no stranger to the NA LCS, Nintendudex showed serious synergy with Ablazeolive, one of the foremost challenger mid laners in North America. The communication between the two was on clear display during a fight in game one of the series. After Ablazeolive used his Teleport to return to lane, CLD‘s Linsanity saw an opportunity to get a pick. But, Ablazeolive turned on the enemy mid laner, locking him down using Malzahar’s “Nether Grasp” to buy Nintendudex time to join the fight and finish the kill. Ablaze’s teamfight ability shined in game two where he hit multiple key “Shockwave’s” on Orianna to seal CLD‘s fate.

The second pair to come through was MTN‘s bottom lane. Support Winter and AD-carry Value stood out as remarkable players in their roles. Winter’s aggressive style transitioned to key roams on Alistar to tip early skirmishes. In game one, Winter’s awareness on Alistar punished a poorly set up flank by CLD‘s mid and jungle, deleting the enemy Ryze from the ensuing teamfight. In game two, his engages on Rakan set up multiple fights for his mid laner to land game-winning ultimates. Winter’s AD-carry, Value also had his fair share of star play. In game one, an over-ambitious engage from CLD, Value landed a four-man “Featherstorm” + “Bladecaller” combo to clean up the fight. By layering his ultimates with his team’s engages, Value pumped out 927 damage per minute in game two. He earned himself player of the series with a combined 18/3/15 KDA across two games.

Live and die by the flames

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

Team Infernal Drake (INF), led by TSM, gave viewers some heated highlight plays to live up to their team name. In game one of the finals match, INF found themselves pushed in heavily. Their opponents, Team Ocean Drake (OCN), had remarkable vision superiority in INF‘s jungle, making it difficult for them to find fights on favorable terms. But their support Teesum on Rakan was able to find a three man engage with his “Grand Entrance.” This catch gave room for his carries to unload their damage before the enemy team could respond. However, Teesum’s performance in game two was largely lacking. Despite being the team’s main tank on Braum, several flubbed shields using his “Unbreakable” led to multiple teamfight deaths.

Game two was where two of INF‘s carries stepped up. After a rough game one, INF funneled resources into their AD-carry, NoahMost. Although his teamfight presence was weak throughout the early game, Noah was able to capitalize on an overzealous rush by Team Ocean Drake. With five members barreling toward his Xayah, Noah released a “Featherstorm” + “Bladecaller” combo that rooted five members. After locking down the entire enemy team, Noah’s Xayah mowed down the opposition for the only Pentakill at the 2017 Scouting Grounds.

The third player on INF to showcase his star potential was PieCakeLord in the top lane. Although his team was behind for much of the second game, PieCakeLord on Fiora was able to exert tremendous side-lane pressure that often brought multiple OCN members to stop him. Still, he managed to out-pressure the enemy Shen throughout most of the game. After the enemy Azir wiped his team at the Baron pit, PieCakeLord outplayed the enemy mid and top to keep his team in the game.

Stomping the Scouting Grounds

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

After drafting possibly the strongest team at Scouting Grounds, eyes were on OpTic Gaming’s coaching staff to make that roster shine. And boy did they shine. First, Vulcan‘s Taric was able to turn an early gank into a kill on the enemy AD-carry, setting a serious tempo advantage for team OCN. In the late game, Taric’s damage negation with “Cosmic Radiance” allowed his team to stampede over teamfights. In game two, Vulcan’s engages on Rakan practically spoon fed kills to his mid laner, Palafox.

Palafox had questions circling about his potential after being drafted as the 20th pick. But he brought the heat. Playing as Malzahar in game one, Palafox found an aggressive pick onto the enemy Orianna. After Orianna seemingly flashed to safety, Palafox landed an instant over the wall “Call of the Void” to secure the kill. Palafox’s Azir was the single greatest game-deciding factor in game two. A gigantic “Emperor’s Divide” knocked up four members of INF, completely shifting the momentum mid-game. Again at 46 minutes, Palafox earned a quadrakill at the Baron pit to push OCN‘s advantages over the edge.

Third, OCN‘s top laner Kaizen came into his own in game two. His Shen managed to outplay an early 2v1 dive by INF‘s top-jungle duo, earning himself a kill on his lane opponent on the way out. Although the enemy Fiora’s split push pressure was strong, ultimately, Kaizen’s teamfight utility became a winning factor for his team. Across the board, Team OCN performed spectacularly at this year’s Scouting Grounds. It will be exciting to see these players develop on future academy rosters. And, a win here shows good signs for OpTic Gaming who hope to make a definitive statement in their first season in the NA LCS.

Featured Image: LoL Esports

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FlyQuest secured a franchise slot for 2018

FlyQuest: A new logo, a new roster, a new beginning

As the off-season continues, North American LCS organizations are putting together their teams for 2018. Most of the line-ups remain as rumors and reports, but FlyQuest is one of a few that is fully confirmed. While TSM and Team Liquid are garnering attention for their dramatic overhauls, FlyQuest has flown a little bit under the radar. On November 30, they announced top laner Flame, jungler Anda, mid laner Fly, AD carry Wildturtle and support Stunt as their roster.

Balls, Moon, Hai and Lemonnation are no longer apart of the team. The identity of this organization is completely made over, as none of the original 2017 Spring Split members remain. Many fans are questioning whether or not FlyQuest will perform as highly without Hai’s shotcalling presence, but the organization seems prepared to move beyond that next year. With a franchise slot, a more polished logo and an updated roster, FlyQuest will look to reclaim the top of the standings.

Wildturtle Remains

WildTurtle is FlyQuest's AD carry for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

FlyQuest’s 2018 roster was rebuilt around WildTurtle, their veteran AD Carry. Of their five Summer Split players, WildTurtle stood out most often as a hard carry. Despite FlyQuest’s 6-12 record, Wildturtle averaged the fourth most damage per minute, good enough for a 26.3 percent damage share. He has played in the NA LCS for five years now, which makes him one of the longest tenured players.

Moving into 2018, Wildturtle will have a lot on his shoulders. With the likes of Zven, Doublelift and Sneaky, the AD carry position will be very competitive. Wildturtle will need to rise to the occasion for FlyQuest to compete. With a fresh new support backing him up, Wildturtle should take control of the bottom lane and carry FlyQuest to victories.

While Wildturtle died more than any other AD carry in the Summer Split, it was mostly due to FlyQuest’s team playstyle. As the scrappiest team in the league, they would look for fights even if they were behind. Every member of FlyQuest finished the season with the most deaths in their positions. This strategy is most likely gone with Hai.

Wildturtle played on Cloud9, TSM and Immortals before his time on FlyQuest. He has gone to the League of Legends World Championships three times and he has made it to the NA LCS finals even more. Wildturtle is capable of making FlyQuest a top team in 2018, especially if the meta favors late-game scaling marksmen. If the other members are able to play around him by engaging fights and protecting him, then Wildturtle will willingly carry them to victory. He rarely tilts in-game, and he is an apparent positive player out-of-game.

imported solo lanes

Flame will play top lane for FlyQuest in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

FlyQuest will employ Flame and Fly as solo laners in 2018. Flame is known from his past year as Immortals’ top laner. Other than his brief stumbling in the beginning of the 2017 Spring Split, he looked exceptional. While on Immortals, Flame showed strength in laning phase and teamfighting, playing Jarvan IV, Shen, Nautilus and many others.

Fly also played in North America in the Summer Split. Gold Coin United finished the Challenger Series regular summer season 8-2, thanks in part to Fly’s mid lane performance. He maintained a 100 percent win rate with Orianna, and over 10.0 KDAs on Galio, Corki and Taliyah. He should fit right into the stacked LCS talent pool.

Beyond the alliteration, Flame and Fly bring consistency and reliability to the mid and top lanes of the map. These players are also unafraid to carry or support their teammates. They should be compatible with Wildturtle, since Immortals and Gold Coin United played well around their passive AD carries.

There have been several past teams that failed to utilize their dual-Korean solo lanes. Team Envy with Ninja-Seraph and Ninjas in Pyjamas with Profit-Nagne are two examples. Communication and synergy were the major issues holding back those rosters. Since Flame and Fly have already spent time on North American teams with mixed nationalities, then maybe they have overcome any issues with communicating. With relative newcomers playing the supportive positions, it will be of utmost importance.

Jungle and Support Solo Queue Stars

Stunt will play support for FlyQuest in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Anda and Stunt round out the roster as jungle and support. Anyone who watched the NA LCS should recognize Stunt as the support who shared duties with Shady on Phoenix1 in Spring Split. While Shady typically played high-damage supports, Stunt was more apt to play Karma, Lulu or Taric. He was most recently a substitute for Immortals during this year’s Summer Split.

Anda was also a substitute for Immortals this summer. While he has not seen the stage as much as Stunt, Anda is known as a formidable solo queue player. He switched from top lane to jungle, where his top champions are Nidalee, Elise, Lee Sin and Rengar. FlyQuest will hope to channel his mechanics and raw talent into success, much like Moon during the Spring Split.

These two young athletes will be the deciding factors for FlyQuest in 2018. Stunt will need to prove himself as a starter. Anda will need to translate his skills into a more coordinated setting. Hopefully they developed synergy during their time on Immortals, and FlyQuest saw that before signing these two. Jungle-support synergy is huge, as shown by Xmithie-Olleh and Lira-Hakuho in the Summer Split.

If Anda and Stunt are able to develop more playstyle flexibility, then that would boost FlyQuest’s chances even higher. Flame and Fly have shown their willingness to play roaming and utility champions, which would empower Anda and Stunt to play more carry champions. But there will be times when the meta calls for tanks and utility from jungle and support. If Anda and Stunt can work together to establish vision, seamlessly communicate and enable Flame, Fly and Wildturtle, then it could be a recipe for success.

putting together all of the pieces

Fly will play mid lane for FlyQuest in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

FlyQuest’s recipe for success involves each of these players fulfilling their roles. Flame will be a rock in the top lane, absorbing any enemy pressure while steadily chipping away at the opponent top laner. Fly will generally gain an advantage in his lane, but rely more on Anda’s jungling for vision and ganking. Wildturtle and Stunt will play the lane passively. As long as they have a scaling AD carry and enchanter support, then they will be in their comfort zone.

Once mid game rolls around, Fly and Anda will take control of whichever river they want. Flame and Fly will look for any chance to impact other parts of the map and begin the snowball. Anda and Stunt will do their best to protect Wildturtle and allow him to output all the damage in the world.

Finally, this team’s teamfight could be their golden ticket. It all depends on communication and flexibility. The top half of FlyQuest’s team can easily gain a lead, and bottom lane just has to make it through laning phase without giving too much. Coordination will most likely be difficult in the first few weeks of the split, but by the halfway point, FlyQuest could become quite the contender.

They should resemble 2017 Summer Split Fnatic. Each member can carry in their own right, and when they are coordinated and decisive they look amazing. But when communication breaks down, or a player gets tilted, then it all comes crumbling down. FlyQuest is looking to make waves in 2018, and most of the community is sleeping on them.


Featured Image: FlyQuest’s Facebook

Other Images: LoL Esports’ Flickr

Player and Team Statistics: Games of Legends, Oracles Elixir

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Possible reasons Samsung Galaxy were sold to KSV

Current reigning world champions, Samsung Galaxy, were bought by KSV eSports confirming the rumors that have been surrounding the team this off-season. Samsung Galaxy recently resigned every player that was up for free agency on their team. KSV is a new name in the esports scene as they announced ownership of Lunatic-Hai and eventually the South Korean team for the Overwatch league, Seoul Dynasty. They decided to venture into Heroes of the Storm by signing on MVP Black. The company currently signed a PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds roster that is ranked first on the Korean/Japan server.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that KSV entered League of Legends, the surprise is more that they bought the reigning champions instead of another team. There are some reasons why Samsung decided to sell its team, here are some broken down.

an offer you can’t refuse

Courtesy of Riot Esports

KSV is a joint effort between Silicon Valley and Kevin Chou, CEO of Kabam. He is the co-founder of the entertainment company, which has a focus on free to play games on mobile devices. Basically, there is a lot of money in this company where they are stable enough to buy all these top-tier teams. According to sources, the entry fee for the Overwatch league was $20 million. So far money doesn’t seem to be a problem for this company and the price never seems too high.

It’s possible that KSV made Samsung an offer so high that Samsung thought it would be better to take the money and run, despite their team performing well. Samsung’s only ties to esports anymore was just their League of Legends teams after the Starcraft 2 scene in South Korea became defunct. They never ventured past those two games, it wouldn’t be surprising if they saw it as something that is nice to have, but something they don’t need to have.

bleeding money

Courtesy of Riot Esports

Another thing to note is that it’s possible Samsung Galaxy was bleeding money for the company. In order to be competitive in the League of Legends Champions Korea, you need to be able to keep a good roster. Samsung Galaxy already proved they have a world-class roster but in order to maintain that they have to pay a competitive salary compared to other esports and traditional sports teams. The cost of maintaining a roster along with staff and all their needs might not have been deemed worth it in the long run.

Especially when the main sponsor of the team is the company that owns it, while other sponsors might help put a dent in the spending. In the end, Samsung had to find a balance between sponsorships without it overshadowing their free advertisement while trying to make money. That could have caused too much of a headache, so giving up the team to a company who is more esports focused and can pay up a high price may have been too good to pass up. Until then Samsung will have to wait and see if they got the better deal or not.

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

University of Jamestown

Collegiate esports programs: University of Jamestown part 1

While collegiate sports has seen fan-bases that rival that of some of their respective professional leagues, collegiate esports, thus far, has not been able to gather as much fervor. Collegiate esports have seen an insane growth in recent years, with practically every major school in America and Canada clamoring to form some kind of a team. Fans of the scene and esports in general are hopeful the trend will continue to grow. I sat down with head coach of one of the newest esports programs, Josh Knutson of the University of Jamestown. We discussed the program, in its first year at the university, his hopes for the scene and some of the trials and tribulations of collegiate esports.

The program now

The first order of business is always working out the details. Currently, Jamestown fields teams/players in Overwatch, League of Legends, Hearthstone and CS:GO. The usual suspects for any collegiate esport program. However, Knutson also hopes to expand into Heroes of the Storm if possible. “Its an easy add, and Blizzard as a company has been really awesome with working with our association on the corporate level.”

University of Jamestown

Josh Knutson, Head Coach for the University of Jamestown. Courtesy of Jimmies Athletics.

When deciding on which esports to try to enter first, Knutson said they looked first and foremost at what other teams were competing in within their association, NACE (National Association of Collegiate Esports). A focus on hitting the ground running with the program fueled this, as they wanted to get into a regular season from day one, with a good number of fellow colleges involved.

With the physical equipment bought, and an established presence now, Knutson is hopeful for the program’s expansion. Bringing on incoming freshmen to join is easier when you can show them it’s already happening, rather than based on promises. Expanding into other games, too, is an easy step, as with esports it just requires an installation on a computer to play. No need for new stadiums and turfs mean collegiate esports programs can be flexible and more daring with their expansions, Knutson explained.

The program’s future

When I asked about goals for the program, Knutson gave the tried and true hope for his team: “From a coaching standpoint…. I want to put a national championship trophy on my shelf.” Starting off a new program though, Knutson is aware of the challenges they’ll face on that quest. ‘Moving Forward’, is the motto for him and the team. “Every day take practice seriously, take our games seriously, move forward and keep getting better from a skill level and from a player development status.”

More concretely, Knutson discussed hopes for growing the program itself, hoping to (roughly) double the size of the roster from the current 16-30 next year. With a bigger roster comes the usual need for more facility space and more equipment. He highlighted, too, that this year was mostly focused on laying the foundation for success with the program. In the years to come, it’ll be about growing bigger and stronger, along with their chosen league in NACE. “We’re in a really good spot to be in the forefront of that big wave that is coming for esports.”

Alex Huff, one of the Overwatch players for the team, added to the discussion too, from a player’s perspective. Alex notes that two of his fellow Overwatch players are prior friends, so synergy with them was never an issue. However, noting the increase of players that will most likely exist next year, he mentioned his excitement of mixing up that dynamic and learning from his fellow teammates. “It’s going to definitely be able to facilitate growth and to grow the whole program itself. We’re going to have some people who are going to come in who may have more knowledge and teach those who may not have as much knowledge.”

 NACE and a shake up in collegiate esports

I’ll admit, I’m relatively familiar with most of the popular collegiate esports leagues. TeSPA, Collegiate Starladder League, etc. are names I’m aware of. NACE was not one. I asked Knutson why he and the program chose to go with NACE. While being less of a household name as the others, Knutson highlighted how their mission and his program aligned: “To legitimize collegiate esports as a respected athletic activity on college campus’. Really push it to the same level as football, basketball and some of the other traditional sports.”

University of Jamestown

The National Association of Collegiate Esports, or NACE, is the latest league to try and make a dent in Collegiate esports. Courtesy of The National Association of Collegiate Esports

Knutson discussed NACE’s formation frankly, stating that he thinks part of the reason NACE was formed was out of frustration with the other leagues. From league structure to technical help, NACE is attempting to set itself up as something different than the others. Through corporate partnerships with Blizzard, Twitch and Battlefly, to a commitment to ‘doing it right’ from the beginning, Knutson believes NACE has set itself up as a leader in the scene.

Citing a few reasons for this, too, Knutson pointed to the similar level of dedication and regulation that exists already in collegiate sports as one of the reasons. Setting up a league with a similar structure to the NCAA, say, or some other established form of competitive league, was something attractive about NACE for Knutson. “We really bought into that idea of ‘if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this the right way.’ We want to legitimize it right away, and have it as respected as any other program is on our campus. We wanted our student athletes to be in the same vein as the football player or the basketball player.”

Knutson deeply identified with this notion of putting newly minted esports programs on the same level as the traditional programs offered by Jamestown. His players are held to the same requirements as their fellow athletes at the school. From attending the All Athletes meetings to community service requirements in their community, his players check all the same boxes as the football and basketball players. “I think that our administration and our coaching staff really brought in that idea of let’s legitimize this and do it the right way.”

 

This is part 1/2 for an interview with the University of Jamestown’s esports program.

 

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Featured Image courtesy of University of Jamestown Athletics.

biofrost

Biofrost: Following the footsteps of legends

Vincent “Biofrost” Wang began his NA LCS career in 2016 summer as the starting support for Team SoloMid (TSM). In his rookie split, Biofrost had the daunting task of replacing one of League’s most legendary supports, Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim. Against all expectations, Biofrost emerged as one of the league’s premier supports. After two years with TSM, Biofrost signed a contract with Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) as the new starting support for the 2018 season. With new roster announcements dropping daily, let’s take a moment to appreciate all that Biofrost has accomplished.

Filling Bora’s Shoes

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In 2016 spring, team owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh drafted an all-star roster for Team SoloMid, featuring veteran support YellOwStaR alongside Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng in the bottom lane. Following issues with team synergy and performance, YellOwStaR left TSM in May of that year. To fill his shoes, Biofrost, an unknown rookie, joined the squad. While expectations surrounding TSM’s new support remained low, Bio’s performance was anything but. In his rookie split with TSM, Bio helped push the team to a 17-1 win-loss record, a league record.

His lane prowess on champions like “Karma” and “Lulu” complimented Doublelift’s hyper-carry playstyle. Even on non healers/shielders, Biofrost pulled off some incredible highlight saves to keep his AD-carry alive. Bio truly stepped up by honing his teamfighting presence on TSM. Team SoloMid has historically been one of the most dominant teamfighting teams in NA LCS history. As a rookie, Bio had to pick up these skills quick. And his progress proved itself time and again in his playoff performances.

In the summer 2016 playoffs, a clutch two-man Tempered Fate from Bio’s “Bard” earned TSM a quarterfinal victory over summer split juggernaut Immortals (IMT). Team SoloMid went on to win the NA LCS summer finals and met Samsung Galaxy (SSG), Royal Never Give Up (RNG) and Splyce (SPY) at Worlds 2016. Despite drawing into the “group of death,” TSM managed a 3-3 record before dropping against RNG. After failing to advance from groups, TSM‘s AD-carry Doublelift announced that he would take a break from professional play in the 2017 season.

New Season New Botlane

Biofrost

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In spring of 2017, Biofrost partnered with LCS veteran Jason “WildTurtle” Tran to make up TSM‘s new bottom lane. With a hugely successful rookie season already under his belt, Bio’s mission for spring was to grow into his own. With Doublelift taking a break, LoL Esports saw this as an opportunity for Biofrost to find “more space to operate and discover his identity as a support player.” While many fans expected Bio to develop a stronger leadership role, the TSM bottom lane struggled to find consistency. Criticism fell on Turtle and Bio as the roster stumbled to find its footing.

WildTurtle’s famously high-risk, high-reward playstyle became a problem. As TSM worked to tone down Turtle’s flashy plays, Bio also suffered the consequences. Rather than finding more space to operate, he found himself constantly under a lens. Teams focused the bot-duo, pinpointing Turtle and Bio as TSM‘s weak link. While pressure from opponents rained down bottom, TSM shifted their jungle pressure top lane. Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell grew into a carry role to offset his struggling bottom lane. This change in resources gave Biofrost even fewer tools to garner much growth.

Despite the challenges thrown their way, Biofrost and WildTurtle powered their way to yet another NA LCS championship. A two-time LCS champion, Bio boasted a pedigree that some of League’s veterans still have yet to achieve. At the start of summer 2017, TSM announced that Doublelift would return to the starting roster. With the majority of a split apart, it was unclear if the TSM bottom lane could gel once again.

The Biofrost we love

biofrost

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In summer, Biofrost and Doublelift took to the Rift facing some new opponents. A revamped Immortals roster had support, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung, rampaging through NA LCS. Olleh’s exciting play-making and roaming sense on champions like “Alistar” earned him the reputation of best support in NA. Then, as if to directly challenge the title, Biofrost faced off against Olleh’s “Alistar” in the NA LCS grand finals. With “Rakan” as his champion of choice, Bio found multiple key engages that clawed TSM back from a 10.5K gold deficit. That win sent TSM to Worlds 2017 as NA’s first seed.

At Worlds, TSM failed to find their footing in the group stage and suffered an early exit from the tournament. In the off-season, TSM announced that Biofrost, Doublelift and Svenskeren would be leaving the team. Several days later, Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) announced that Biofrost would join the main roster as starting support. With the departure of storied veteran Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black, Biofrost has some legendary shoes to fill once again. In an early DUOS Extra interview, Biofrost explained that Aphromoo was an idol for him early on. As fate would have it, Biofrost will go on to replace Aphro in the 2018 season.

Aphromoo leaves a legacy on CLG that any player will be hard-pressed to surpass. But, there is perhaps no greater player than Biofrost to fill the shoes of North America’s most legendary support. While the goodbye is bitter for most TSM fans, Biofrost will remain one of NA’s most beloved players. A starting position on an endemic organization like CLG will give Bio the resources and play time he needs to grow beyond his previous iterations. Although the future is uncertain, Biofrost will undoubtedly return to captivate North America in 2018.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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FC Schalke 04 will live or die by jungle and support in 2018

The 2018 League of Legends preseason continues to heat up, as LCS teams announce roster changes and the media reports daily updates. North American franchising has been a large spot of attention, while the European league has been quiet. Some major players are reportedly transferring to North America, but others have maintained that they are staying in Europe. A select few have announced that they are remaining on the same team from 2017 into 2018.

FC Schalke 04 is the only team to officially announce their entire EU LCS roster. Since re-entering the LCS by promotion from the Challenger Series, Schalke replaced four out of five players and only kept AD carry Upset. Schalke brought on Vizicsacsi, long-time top laner for Unicorns of Love, Pridestalker, Rookie of the Summer Split from Roccat, Nukeduck and Vander, reputable mid laner and support most recently from Team Vitality. There is a plethora of experience between Vizicsacsi, Nukeduck and Vander, while Pridestalker and Upset are promising young talents.

vizicsacsi: the catalyst

During his time on UOL, Vizicsacsi consistently set the pace of their matches. He is able to play carry champions, such as Gangplank, Irelia and Rumble. Tanks, such as Shen, Gnar, Maokai and Poppy, come naturally to him as well. ‘Csacsi has shown mastery of split-pushing, teleport flanks, lane swapping, diving and teamfighting. He is honestly one of the most well-rounded players in the league.

Vizicsacsi enters Schalke 04 as the catalyst of the team. He truly excels when he is able to gain a lead for himself and press the enemy team to respond to him. Pushing towers in the side lane, or diving the enemy bottom duo, ‘Csacsi applies pressure every chance he can get. During laning phase, he will draw enemy jungle attention, making room for Pridestalker to impact mid lane and the enemy jungle.

Moving into the mid game, Vizicsacsi will communicate ways that he can force the enemy’s hand. The opponent’s top laner will choose between regaining control of his lane or following Csacsi to another point on the map. Vizicsacsi always tries to use his tools offensively, so Teleport, Stand United, Cannon Barrage and other timings are crucial for Schalke victories. He will use these global abilities to press the attack when ahead, or turn the game around when behind.

Pridestalker: the wildcard

With only one split under his belt, Pridestalker comes on board without a clear role. Roccat finished the Summer Split with a 5-8 record, mostly losing because of their weak solo laners and poor neutral objective control. The team had an overall lack of proactivity, even when Pridestalker assisted his team in gaining early leads. The team finished the regular season bottom three in the league for First Blood, first turret, first three turrets and dragon percentage.

With the 2018 Schalke line-up, Pridestalker will be the true wildcard player. Team Vitality in the 2017 Summer Split is a good example of what happens when a team of veteran players has a sub-par jungler. Hopefully, Pridestalker pulls through as a keen tracker, keeping tabs on the enemy’s whereabouts and strategy. His most played champions include Kha’Zix, Graves and his pocket pick Warwick, all perfect for singling out the enemy jungler and punishing failed ganks.

Pridestalker needs to be the thorn in the enemy’s side. Each of his lanes are formidable in their own right, so Pridestalker can continue to lock in junglers with solo kill potential. He should focus on managing deep vision in the opponent’s jungle to track their pathing and allow the other members of Schalke to make smart decisions. Pridestalker’s ability to mesh with the rest of the team, to function as a counter-jungler and to control the map will be crucial. He will truly be the wildcard for Schalke’s Spring Split.

Nukeduck: the Anchor

Vitality’s saving grace in the 2017 Summer Split, Nukeduck has won the respect of Europe’s elite players over his several years of experience. Despite Vitality’s 5-8 record, Nukeduck generally won his lane, played a wide range of champions, and output almost a third of the team’s damage. He is one of the only players in recent memory to truly stand out while playing for a losing team.

Moving into 2018, Schalke will hope to utilize Nukeduck’s consistency and unleash more of his carry potential. The mid laner pulled off wins with zoning mages like Orianna and Syndra, AD hyper-carries like Corki and Kog’Maw and mobile assassins like Leblanc and Kassadin. With a more consistent jungler and bottom lane, Nukeduck should be able to be even more dominant in lane, opening him up for more roams and invades.

This could be a match made in heaven. Schalke is looking for redemption since their initial flop in the EU LCS, and Nukeduck could be the key. He continues to prove himself worthy in the eyes of his peers. 2018 is Nukeduck’s chance to regain some team glory since his days with Lemondogs. At worst, he will be the anchor in the mid lane: reliable and consistent.

Upset: the raw talent

Schalke’s AD carry, Upset, is the only qualifying member that they held onto for 2018. With a complete roster rebuild, Upset will need to adapt quickly to his new bottom lane partner and other teammates. Other than Pridestalker, every player Schalke acquired in the off-season will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to help mold Upset into a future star. This player quickly rose to prominence in the European Challenger Series, and he will look to begin his legacy as an LCS-level player next year.

Europe has a great track record with rookies in recent years. Broxah, Caps, Pridestalker, Alphari, Hans sama, Xerxe and Samux were all rookies in 2017. Schalke is betting on Upset’s potential by building the entire team around him, and for good reason. Throughout the Summer Split he averaged ahead in lane at 15 minutes, which transitioned into menacing teamfighting. Always aggressive, Upset is not afraid to step forward to inflict those extra ticks of damage. He typically output 600 damage per minute, good enough for a 30 percent share.

This raw talent needs to become focused in 2018. With the proper structure, Upset could develop into the next Forgiven. His precision and presence on the map are very similar to the legendary AD carry, and it is no coincidence that Schalke is pairing him with Vander, Forgiven’s old support. Upset can easily become a prominent player in the EU LCS Spring Split, and there is a future for him if Schalke plays its cards right.

Vander: the facilitator

Vizicsacsi will create pressure. Pridestalker will scout the enemy. Nukeduck will consistently carry. Upset will pop off. Vander will be left to gel it all together. This support’s first task is to help Upset create pressure in his lane. Then they will transition that pressure into jungle invades and securing dragons. Protecting Nukeduck and Upset in teamfights will be Vander’s ultimate responsibility, since Pridestalker and Vizicsacsi will most likely engage.

Thresh, Braum and Alistar are Vander’s most played champions of all time, but he has had most success with Taric, Trundle, Nautlius and Shen. Vander definitely performs best with tanks that bring utility to the game. He has never really looked as comfortable on Nami or Lulu, and he has never even played Soraka on stage. This could be one opening for Schalke’s opponents in the future, especially if the meta favors enchanters.

Vander did not elevate Team Vitality as expected in the Summer Split. They still did not come close to making it to playoffs. Hopefully, a new roster and infrastructure will see Vander return to his 2016 H2K performance. He supported Forgiven and the rest of H2K to a World Championship semifinals finish. Just like Nukeduck and the Schalke organization, 2018 could be a year of redemption for Vander.

Schalke 04: the New Hotness

Krepo will coach FC Schalke 04 in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

On paper, Schalke has top talent in almost every position. There are some question marks around Pridestalker’s actual skill level, Nukeduck and Vander’s confidence levels since playing for Vitality and Schalke’s support structure as an organization. 2018 will provide the answers to these questions.

Schalke is the first team to officially announce its roster. They have beaten other organizations to the punch, and maybe it will pay off. This mix of formidable veterans, rising stars and overall playstyle flexibility could make for a sharp team. The Spring Split will be full of tests, especially considering Mitch “Krepo” Voorspoels is head coach. This will be Krepo’s first appearance back on the League of Legends scene since stepping down from Riot casting after a scandal earlier this year. This will be his first time coaching, although he is a former LCS player and caster.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Player and Team Statistics: Games of Legends, Oracles Elixir

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tyler1 world championship

Tyler1 World Championship: The dream is dead

The annual Tyler1 World Championship Series (TCS) came to an action-packed finale this weekend. Sixteen teams faced off on the rift for the title of TCS World Champions. In the end, finalists MLGB and the Stream Dream Team (SDT) loaded in to win the $10,000 prize. With so much on the line, these teams left it all on the rift. From game-saving plays to nail-biting base rushes, the TCS finals had it all. Let’s take a look at the best plays and biggest carries from this weekend’s championship match.

Game 1: The Comeback Kids

Game 1 started as an uphill road for the Stream Dream Team. LCS veteran Marcus “Dyrus” Hill found himself constantly on the back-foot against opposing jungler, MLGB‘s Metaphor. Dyrus fell two levels behind Metaphor early, giving MLGB the freedom to dictate the map. Metaphor chose to go full carry with a “Nocturne” pick, rushing both the “Warrior” enchantment and a “Duskblade of Draktharr.” Metaphor turned his attention on the SDT bottom lane. Time and again, Metaphor used his ultimate, Paranoia, to delete Michael “Imaqtpie” Santana’s “Ezreal.” This constant pressure forced Imaqtpie onto a highly defensive build, first-buying “Ninja Tabi’s” followed by an “Iceborn Gauntlet.”

The Stream Dream Team faced a 4.3K gold deficit at 20 minutes. MLGB took their lead and used it to establish Baron control. At 28 minutes, MLGB seized a window of time in which Dyrus was returning from base, and secured the Baron despite a hard-fought engage by William “Scarra” Li’s “Leona.” Although they lost the Baron, SDT were adamant about taking the fight. SDT‘s top-laner Joedat “Voyboy” Esfahani rammed into the MLGB back-line, taking on three members by himself before falling. After dropping Voyboy, MLGB were in full retreat, but SDT wanted no survivors. Scarra and Dyrus chased down the enemy carries and cleaned up a four for one fight.

The tides turned against MLGB. Their composition began to lose teamfight power in the late game. At 28 minutes, MLGB looked to find a pick onto Voyboy near the red team’s bottom inner tower. After landing some hard CC onto Voyboy’s “Vladimir,” MLGB blew several key ultimate’s trying to finish him off. Still, Voyboy bought enough time for his team to converge. With the teamfight advantage, SDT‘s mid-laner, Danny “Shiphtur” Le, found a five-man Emperor’s Divide to demolish the teamfight. MLGB never recovered, as their opponents slowly wrested control of Game 1.

Game 2: No Love for Yorick Mori

Tyler1 World Championship

Credits: Tyler1 Championship Series

MLGB stood on the brink of elimination. But they looked determined to put on a clinic in Game 2. With Voyboy on a questionable “Yorick” pick, MLGB‘s top-jungle duo pitched a tent top lane. After a level two gank from Metaphor’s “Sejuani,” Voyboy found himself at an early deficit. Rather than letting up, Metaphor repeatedly slammed top lane. MLGBBlade” commanded a two level lead for much of the early game. Blade used this lead to make multiple visits toward the bottom lane, extending his advantages across the map.

With Dyrus, once again, straggling behind Metaphor’s jungle pressure, SDT lacked vision control around Baron. At 21 minutes, MLGB chunked out Scarra’s “Tahm Kench” and withdrew toward Baron. Assuming Scarra would return to base and SDT would not risk a four-versus-five teamfight, MLGB started Baron with little caution. Shiphtur, determined to carry his teammates to the promised land, found a miracle steal that kept his team in the game.

Surging from that steal, SDT ran some high-risk rotations. Sending Dyrus’s “Shyvana” topside and Voyboy’s “Yorick” bottom, SDT created two lanes of side pressure. The dicey 1-3-1 strategy paid off at first. MLGB scrambled to answer the dual pushes, losing four towers and an inhibitor. In one fell swoop, SDT cracked open the enemy base, losing only one tower and a few kills. But, SDT began to over-emphasize this split-push style. At 30 minutes, SDT faced a Baron-empowered MLGB, and their options were limited. In an act of desperation, Voyboy teleported top lane to rush the enemy base. SDT‘s remaining members flung themselves at MLGB, trying to stop their backs. Voyboy managed to collapse both Nexus turrets before MLGB arrived to deliver a swift execution. The base rush failed.

Game 3: It was only just a dream

tyler1 world championship

Original Photo Credits: LoL Esports Flickr

Ten-thousand dollars on the line. Who would take home the Tyler1 World Championship? Hungry to take home the title, the Stream Dream Team came out swinging. Voyboy picked “Vayne” top in a raging attempt to pick apart Blade’s “Ornn.” At first, Dyrus and Voyboy looked to finally create meaningful top pressure. But, after Metaphor’s “Evelynn” reached level six, the game broke wide open. Metaphor rained down on SDT‘s bottom lane like thunder. Scarra suffered the brunt of the damage. Still, the focus set Imaqtpie further behind the TailsJJ‘s “Ezreal,” who slowly took over.

The game began to unravel for SDT post-15 minutes. MLGB punished Voyboy’s greedy split pushing time and again. Suddenly, SDT‘s teamfight ability fell apart. Without leads on their carries, SDT could not deal enough damage onto the enemy front line. Teamfights were impossible and their only split-pusher was too weak to safely create side pressure. MLGB cut out every option for victory and closed out the series with a dominating 18-3 kill scoreboard.

The dream was lost. MLGB won the Tyler1 World Championship to make their mark on history. As Tyler’s confetti rained down on stream, the Stream Dream Team were left to silence. The championship was so nearly within their grasp. Could this crushing defeat mark the end of an era for SDT? Had Dyrus back-stabbed QT one too many times? With NA preseason roster changes all up in the air, the fate of this veteran squad is as unpredictable as Voyboy’s champion pool. Joking aside, the Tyler1 World Championships gave viewers a fantastic show. MLGB and SDT put up a series that was both exciting and entertaining. It will be great to see these players face off in future tournaments.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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How much will this exodus hurt EU LCS?

With most of the NA LCS teams announcing their rosters this week, imports were to be expected. Since franchising is coming to North America, more money is available to every team more than ever before. With EU LCS not franchising until next year, many of their players were drawn to North America for huge pay increases.

Big names such as Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage, Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten, Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez and Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen are all rumored/confirmed to be playing in the NA LCS next split. While there have been cases of a few EU players leaving to North America, this is the first time so many stars have all gone at once.

Many are excited for the NA LCS as franchising has helped create some new and interesting competitive rosters. While North American fans are rejoicing at how competitive the league looks to be, EU fans are left distraught.

EU LCS

Photo by: Riot Esports

Replacing stars

It wasn’t long ago when many of the Korean superstars left to team up in China. Chinese teams offered ridiculous paychecks that Korean organizations were not willing to match. This wasn’t an issue as Korea has been the epicenter of professional League of Legends talent. Teams in Korea have a way of developing talent quickly and efficiently to where the exodus wasn’t felt at all. Korea still took home the world championship that year and still touted the best teams in the World.

Europe will face this same hardship with much less organization and infrastructure. With many teams losing out on stars, the few stars left are attempting to team up together. With Korea notably having one of the most competitive solo queue ladders, it will be interesting to see if EU can find talent among their own competitive scene. EU has far less money and less infrastructure going forward, especially compared to the other main regions.

It will be interesting to see if large fan bases stick around. Most notably Unicorns of Love lost many of their key stars already this off season. Will fans look to NA to watch their favorite EU stars?

Less competitive?

If people thought EU LCS was top heavy last season, one can only expect it to get worse. Many of the fan favorite teams of EU LCS lost core members/personalities. Most of the top EU players will most likely be looking to team up to create the best possible roster. This will likely make EU even more top heavy than before with all the talent funneling into a few teams.

The quality of play may drop as well with so many players leaving, as many of the new rosters will be unfamiliar with one another. This could lead to more hectic clown fiesta games at least for a split while teams recover from this exodus. This could see the overall quality of play drop significantly at a point where EU was beginning to look like they had been getting stronger.

This exodus could be a major step back for the region with franchising rumored to be coming in 2019. 2018 will be a year to watch in EU. With format changes rumored and the EU exodus taking place, the region looks to be in limbo. Time will tell if they’re able to stay competitive and represent their region well on the World stage once again.

Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud.

To continue enjoying great content from your favorite writers, please contribute to our Patreon account! Every little bit counts. We greatly appreciate all of your amazing support! #TGHPatreon

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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