north america's prophecy

Worlds 2017: North America’s prophecy

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

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

NA Hopes and Memes

north america's prophecy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

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

NA’s Kryptonite: Prophecies or adaptation?

north america's prophecy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Can C9 Smash North America’s Prophecy?

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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


 

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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fnatic path

Fnatic: A path of fire

Fnatic (FNC) rewrote Worlds history this week, becoming the first team to ever advance to quarterfinals with an 0-4 start. How did FNC manage this miracle run? Certainly, the path to quarters was no easy feat for the European squad. From criticism in Play-In’s to breakdowns in group stage, Fnatic endured it all. Stepping into week two, FNC looked broken. However, the boys in orange had other plans in mind.

First sparks at Play-In’s

fnatic

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Coming in as the EU LCS third seed, Fnatic’s Worlds 2017 journey started early. With Riot’s newly introduced pre-Worlds Play-In stage, major region third seeds had to compete against emerging-region teams gunning for their seats. Fnatic drew into Group C alongside the GPL’s Young Generation (YG) and the LAS’s Kaos Latin Gamers (KLG). Initial reactions after the group draw pinned Fnatic as easy favorites coming into the week.
Although FNC claimed first in Group C, several questions circled around the squad’s performance. Doubts flared after Young Generation managed to topple Fnatic, securing second in their group. Suddenly, critics referenced FNC’s poor showing at Rift Rivals earlier this season. Others attacked Fnatic for losing to the seemingly weaker Misfits Gaming (MSF) in the EU LCS playoffs. Fans and analysts began to raise preemptive red flags.

Fnatic promptly shut those critics down in the Play-In’s Knockout stage. After securing a clean 3-0 victory over Hong Kong Attitude (HKA) from the LMS, Fnatic calmly advanced to the Worlds main event. There, Korean titans Longzhu Gaming (LZ) waited for them alongside North America’s Immortals (IMT) and Garena’s GIGABYTE Marines (GAM).

Week One: Fnatic reduced to ashes

fnatic

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Fnatic kicked off their Worlds 2017 group stage with an explosive standoff against the GIGABYTE Marines. A blitz strategy by the Marines shoved FNC on the back-foot. Blindsided, Fnatic opened their group stage with a harsh defeat. One player in particular, FNC’s top-laner Paul “sOAZ” Boyer, struggled massively against the Marine’s aggressive lane-swap strategy. sOAZ suffered through the first six minutes of the match, unable to kill a single minion.

The schedule was not getting any easier. Fnatic loaded in against North America’s second seed, Immortals. FNC’s AD-carry Martin “Rekkles” Larsson came out guns blazing. With “Twitch” as his champion of choice, Rekkles infiltrated Immortals’ backline, mowing down enemies with wild abandon. However, living true to his name, Rekkles committed a fatal mistake that would cost his team the game.

Spotting IMT’s mid-laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park seemingly unaware, Rekkles unloaded onto his target. Seeing red, the FNC AD-carry tunneled onto this single kill that could earn his team an all crucial advantage to secure the win. The plan blew up in his face. Rekkles expended his “Flash”, desperate to secure the kill, only to be met by a full Immortals squad gunning straight for him. Fnatic scrambled to save their carry, but the pieces fell apart. Immortals tore through Rekkles‘ health bar and sealed the game.

Following this crushing loss, anxiety crept into the Fnatic camp at 0-2, but the week was not over. Korea’s first seed, Longzhu Gaming, loomed like a tidal wave over FNC. It was sink-or-swim. LZ’s top-laner, Dongha “Khan” Kim, rallied the crowd after locking in “Nasus”, a pick that had not seen competitive play for years. The next twenty minutes would be a systematic dismantling of Fnatic’s team composition. sOAZ again struggled to gain any ground against his disadvantageous match-up. Fnatic were helpless to stop Khan‘s massive “Nasus” from ripping through their lines. FNC ended their first week 0-3, a score that no team in League history had ever overcome to secure a quarterfinals position.

Week Two: Marching through the flames

fnatic

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

After their bitter first week, Fnatic showed signs of internal problems. sOAZ took to Twitter, expressing his frustration toward being abandoned on “dog-champs” (champions, mainly tanks, whose primary goal is to supplement the team at all costs). Leaks and talks of the team’s turmoil spread like a social media wildfire. Suddenly, attention zeroed in on the burning European squad. Was this the end? How could FNC recover internally, much less on-stage?

Despite the eyes pointed at them, Fnatic stepped into week two of group stage determined. Their fate would be decided in a single day of games. The odds were almost insurmountably stacked against them. To throw salt on their wounds, Fnatic began their second week against Longzhu. Analysts feared another 20-minute rampage that would knock the European squad off their feet for good. FNC loaded into the game with clear heads.
Fnatic fought for 30 minutes through a close early-game. After several teamfight outplays from Longzhu, the Korean giants subjugated FNC to 0-4. If Fnatic’s goose was cooked at 0-3, now it was burned to a crisp. FNC recollected. There was still a sliver of a chance that they could change history. And so, they set out to face Immortals.
FNC’s jungler Mads “Broxah” Brock-Perdersen pressured Immortals early on his signature “Rek’Sai”. The game balanced on a knife’s edge for the first 35 minutes. Then, in a play eerily similar to Rekkles‘ previous falter against IMT, Immortals ADC Li Yu “Cody Sun” Sun flashed straight into four members of Fnatic. FNC seizing the opportunity, push through IMT’s entire base on that single mistake. Finally, with a win on the board, Rekkles sent Cody Sun his regards.

Don’t call it a comeback

fnatic

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

As FNC gained momentum, Immortals suffered three consecutive losses. This set in place, the necessary conditions for (dare I say it) a monumental comeback. Now, the onus was on FNC to overcome their previous performance against the GIGABYTE Marines. Having already seen two games from the Marines that day, FNC entered their match with unwavering focus. After GAM’s top-laner, Minh Nhut “Archie” Tran, locked in “Urgot,” FNC’s gameplan was clear.

GIGABYTE’s composition lacked engage, unlike earlier against IMT. Fnatic recognized this weakness, attacking the biggest potential threat on GAM: Archie‘s “Urgot”. Broxah spent this game eliminating Archie‘s pressure through repeated ganks. FNC dominated the GIGABYTE Marines and claimed vengeance over the squad that handed them their first Worlds defeat. Suddenly, Group B had a three-way tie. Fnatic held all the momentum heading into tiebreakers against Immortals and GIGABYTE.

FNC stepped into the first game against Immortals by locking in an unconventional “Malzahar” pick for their mid-laner Rasmus “Caps” Winther. IMT did not know how to react to the single-target pressure from Caps‘s “Malzahar.” And like a fire razing the plains, Fnatic burned through IMT in a 27-minute stomp. FNC stood one game away from rewriting history and once again, the GIGABYTE Marines stood in their way. Unlike their previous performances, GIGABYTE opted for a standard composition, hoping to outplay Fnatic without any hidden antics. FNC tasted victory and sOAZ set his sights on quarters. In a draining 43-minute match, sOAZ dominated on “Gnar,” earning himself eight kills and pushing his team into the history books.

Fnatic’s second week of Worlds 2017 is a testament to the resiliency of one of esport’s most storied franchises. So many times in FNC history, when the cards were down and the odds against them, Fnatic rose above. Now, the European squad stands to represent their home looking onto quarterfinals. After staging the biggest upset in Worlds history, can Fnatic continue feeding this fire? Is quarters as far as FNC goes? Or can Fnatic continue forging the path?

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Worlds under-performing five after Week One

Week One of Worlds has concluded and we’re slowly seeing where the teams stand amongst eachother in terms of competition. Korea is still dominating for the most part. Meanwhile, North America is off to another strong Week One of Worlds. Europe has an unlikely hero in Misfits, while Fnatic is slowly bleeding out, and the hometown of China has looked really good aside from EDG struggling.

Our own Thomas Baker gave his spin on his “OP 5” from the first week, and I’ll be looking at the under-performing five. Those who made this list primarily had decent expectations coming in to do really well but have struggled. They’ll need to step up huge in Week Two for their teams to have any chance of making it to the bracket stage of Worlds. Let’s take a look:

Image by: Riot Esports

TOP: Paul “sOAZ” Boyer (Fnatic)

Soaz is one of the more veteran players attending Worlds this year. He’s always been a rock steady performer for his team, especially when it comes to Worlds. The mighty have fallen as Soaz has not looked good at all in his first three games this year. The team as a whole seems to have had some longing issues that have been taken to Twitter as of late.

In three games, Soaz has 2 kills, 16 deaths and 6 assists. His KDA of 0.5 is the second lowest among top laners. The Fnatic strategy usually revolved around getting bot and top ahead while leaving mid to play safe, but at Worlds top lane has been feeling the “Dyrus” treatment. It’s a mix of poor play and lack of assistance as Soaz was heavily punished in their first match against Gigabyte Marines. The lane swap prevent Soaz from getting a single cs until 5 minutes into the game.

In the next two games, Soaz would get counterpicked against Immortals and Longzhu Gaming. Cho’gath into Jayce is a really rough lane, but even mid-late Soaz’s impact was not felt. In the game against Longzhu he was put on Mao’kai against a Nasus who could freely farm with no real threat from Mao’kai.

Heading into Week Two, Fnatic is 0-3 in their group and will need to go undefeated to have a real chance of getting out. Soaz will need to step up and show why he used to be one of the most dangerous top laners in Europe.

Jungle: Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan (Flashwolves)

Image by: Riot Esports

Karsa has been a staple for Flash Wolves in previous seasons. His aggressiveness paired with a strong mid lane presence has been the vocal point of Flash Wolves’ success. While Karsa is still a very smart and aggressive jungler, his mid-late game play has cost his team. Time and time again he’s been getting caught out during crucial moments. It was his deaths against TSM that stalled the game out longer. He also had a crucial death against Misfits that basically lead to them taking Baron control. Karsa also got caught face checking mid against WE that once again lead to a baron take.

Not many junglers were hyped up this year when the meta shifted to more tank junglers, but Karsa was being hyped as one of the better junglers entering the tournament. His first blood percentage is still highest among junglers, but his 1.3 KDA is lowest among all junglers in the tournament.

It’s interesting to see Karsa in a jungle meta where it’s more of a supportive role. He’s still making plays early, but translating it to victories has been a struggle for him. He can’t keep getting caught out during crucial moments if Flash Wolves has any shot of making it out.

Mid: Lee “Scout” Ye-chan EDG (Edward Gaming)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Scout came in touted as one of the better mid laners out of China. A former sub of SKT, Scout has been known for his aggressive laning and playstyle. This style was punished for the most part. Against Cloud 9, it was the Shen pick that negated much of his aggressiveness and punished him for overstepping on a trade with Jensen in the mid lane.

For whatever reason, EDG has been content to let Scout play Lucian in all three games. While Lucian does have his strong points in the early-mid, his weaknesses have shown in the late as EDG has failed to close out games with it.

With a big lead against AHQ early, EDG gave up some crucial team fights that allowed AHQ to stall. With each team fully built, the side of AHQ was free to stack armor as EDG had no AP threat due to the Lucian being mid. Scout would eventually get caught out around mid where AHQ would than win the game.

It’ll be interesting to see if EDG plays something other than Lucian going forward. It’s had the early game presence at times, but it just hasn’t worked in getting the win. Scout in particular will need to play phenomenal against the likes of Faker and Jensen for EDG to turn their group around.

ADC: Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk (Samsung Galaxy)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Ruler came to Worlds after finishing rank one of the Korean solo que ladder. He was being preached as one of the best ADC’s of the tournament. He was looking to improve from last years performance where some minor mistakes might have cost his team a World championship.

The first week of the tournament was not a good start for Ruler or Samsung Galaxy as a whole. They were dominant against Europe’s G2, but were dominated by China’s Royal Never Give up, and had a surprisingly close match against Turkish team, 1907 Fehnerbace. It’s hard to stand out as an ADC on a struggling team, but outside of laning phase Ruler hasn’t looked impressive.

He currently has one of the lowest KDA’s among ADC’s at 2.4 and has the 2nd lowest damage per minute numbers. In a meta where teamfighting and bot lane is extremely important, Ruler’s impact hasn’t been felt. In their match against RNG, the bot lane of SSG seemed outmatched by the hometown heroes.

Ruler will need to step up to have a bigger impact in Week Two. Samsung had a somewhat similar slow Week One last year, so I’ll be interested to see how they step up.

Support: Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie (Flash Wolves)

Photo by: Riot Esports

SwordArt received much criticism after being named as a top 20 player at Worlds by some people. SwordArt hasn’t done much to backup these statements as he hasn’t looked incredible by any means.

SwordArt may be suffering the same fate as Karsa; the meta has shifted into a spot where he doesn’t look comfortable. His best plays have been on engage play making supports such as Alistar, Tahm Kench and Thresh. His Taric is the only champion that allows him to still engage for his team.

SwordArt and Flashwolves have a tall task as they have dropped to 0-3 in a group where teams aren’t the strongest. If there was one team I think that could still make it out despite being 0-3, it would be Flash Wolves. They have showed prowess and grit to be able to compete with the teams in their group. It’s the small macro decisions and mistakes that have cost them. SwordArt will need to shotcall a lot better, but there is a chance even if it may be slim.


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Cover photo by Riot Esports

Gigabyte Marines: Orchestrated chaos

GIGABYTE Marines (GAM) debuted on the international stage at the League of Legends 2017 Mid-Season Invitational. Their blitzkrieg playstyle and unconventional strategies surprised several major-region teams, earning international recognition overnight. After securing a top-six finish, the Marines dominated their region, the Garena Premier League (GPL), and charged toward Worlds.

The Marines drew into Group B at Worlds 2017, along regional powerhouses: Longzhu Gaming (LZ), Immortals (IMT) and Fnatic (FNC). Their notoriety on the international stage meant teams and analysts could not write them off as another ‘wildcard’ team. After week one of the Worlds Group Stage, GAM sit at third place in their group, with a 1-2 match record. How did GIGABYTE find initial success? And can they surge into week two to capture a spot in quarterfinals?

GIGABYTE Marines evoke chaos style

gigabyte marines

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Heading into their first match at Worlds 2017, questions circled around how GIGABYTE Marines would size up against European powerhouse Fnatic. Determined to make a statement at their Worlds debut, GIGABYTE defied the meta. After locking in an unexpected “Nocturne” for their star jungler, Duy Khanh “Levi” Do, GAM took Fnatic for a spin.

Coming into the game, GAM transitioned their AD-carry and Support topside. Meanwhile, their top-laner Minh Nhut “Archie” Tran sacrificed his early levels to accelerate Levi‘s experience advantage. When Archie showed himself bottom, Fnatic responded appropriately, but fumbled the execution. FNC stacked four members onto Archie‘s Galio in a bottom dive. However, this left GIGABYTE’s duo free to rush the opposing top-outer tower. FNC failed to completely punish the lane-swap. Instead, they returned to their standard lane setup while Levi power-farmed his jungle.

Then, at 5:04, Levi broke a record, being the fastest player in Worlds history to unlock his ultimate. Archie‘s early sacrifice set his jungler up for monumental success. And Levi sprung to action. Not twenty seconds after hitting level six, Levi used his ultimate, “Paranoia” straight down bottom lane. Caught in a massive level mismatch, FNC’s support Jesse “Jesiz” Le dropped while his teammates scrambled to respond. What began as a surprise 2-on-2, became FNC committing four members to the fight. Despite the numbers, Levi secured three kills and GIGABYTE set the pace to ‘chaos’.

After a 24-minute bloodbath, GIGABYTE emerged victorious. The air was electric as casters and fans roared behind the Marines’ explosive win. Not only did GAM dominate their European opponents, they made a definitive statement on the metagame. Levi, in an interview with Worlds host Eefje “Sjokz” Depoortere, promised to bring even more exciting strategies against Longzhu and Immortals.

The Marines hit a brick wall

gigabyte marines

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Heading into day two of the Worlds group stage, GAM sat across from Longzhu Gaming, tournament favorites and Korea’s prize first seed. What unforeseen strategy did the Marines have planned to challenge the Korean powerhouse? GAM head coach Nguyen Duy Thanh “Tinikun” Doung reached deep into his playbook for the upcoming match.

The draft between GAM and LZ began surprisingly safe, until Tinikun made the call to lock in “Mordekaiser” for Archie. GIGABYTE plunge deeper into the rabbit hole, rotating their AD-carry Vu Long “Noway” Nguyen mid-lane and placing their mid-laner Van Cuong “Optimus” Tran topside. Few knew what to expect out of GAM’s questionable composition, but Longzhu had a definitive game-plan coming into the match.

Longzhu invaded as five into GAM’s blue jungle quadrant, warding all possible paths to bottom lane. This gave Longzhu information on GIGABYTE’s lane assignments and a glimpse into the GAM strategy. By pivoting Archie and support Thien Nhan “Nevan” Phuong to the bottom lane, the Marines delivered the duo to their deaths. Longhzu, spotting this weakness, executed a clean four-man dive to secure first blood. After dropping to the early dive, Archie commits a crucial mistake, using his “Teleport” bottom, only to be dove again. This poor call set the GAM top-laner so far behind, he never truly recovered.

With their bottom duo limping through the early-game, step one of GIGABYTE’s grandiose strategy crumbled. Suddenly, the game became a steamroll for Longzhu. Archie was largely ineffective on the “Mordekaiser” pick and GAM struggled to trade objectives effectively during the mid-game. Without the early minutes of the game going according to plan, GIGABYTE Marines fell apart and could not seem to pick up the pieces.

Do the GIGABYTE Marines abandon ship?

gigabyte marines

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

After their crushing defeat at the hands of Longzhu Gaming, GAM look onto their third match against North America’s second seed, Immortals. Questions surrounded the Marines as analysts and teams dissected their previous matches. Without precise early execution, GIGABYTE could not seem to regain control of their game. It was clear. Teams that recognized GAM’s early objectives could capitalize on those weaknesses. No doubt Immortals prepared for GAM’s signature lane-swaps, but would the Marines shift to another strategy instead?

GIGABYTE Marines had a particularly weak draft, handing over the “Xayah” and “Rakan” duo to the Immortals bot-lane. Perhaps worse, rather than executing a unique strategy, GAM opted into standard lanes. Aside from an aggressive “Kayn” lock-in for Levi and Nevan running “Heal” and “Ignite” for his summoner spells, the GAM draft was largely underwhelming. Unlike their previous games, GIGABYTE did not have an explosive start. Without securing an early lead, the Marines struggle to play from behind. Once Immortals built up their advantages, IMT pushed those leads into a clean victory.

This third game looked grim for the GIGABYTE Marines. Rather than playing to their unique styles, they revealed glaring weaknesses in their standard compositions and ability to play at a disadvantage. Now, several questions bubble to the surface. Did the defeat from Longzhu shake team morale? Will GIGABYTE have the confidence to execute their unique strategies? Fans can speculate, but it is up to team captain Levi and coach Tinikun to steady their ship. As week two of the Worlds 2017 group stage barrels forward, the GIGABYTE Marines must recollect and march on.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Michael!

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Edward Gaming: Pressure on China’s hometown heroes

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

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

edward gaming

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

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

edward gaming

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

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

edward gaming

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Looking at Week Two

edward gaming

Credit: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Trevor May: “Follow the money, it’s where the masses will look”

Trevor May

Courtesy of Twitch.tv

The sports and esports worlds are becoming more intertwined by the week. It was announced that Minnesota Twins pitcher Trevor May and his company Esports Lab were investing time and money to help relaunch Winstonslab.com.

This is just one of the latest examples of traditional sports individuals getting involved with esports. While many of these individuals are only investing because they see business opportunities, May, while also seeing similar opportunities, is following one of his lifelong passions.

As a child May grew up playing on a Super Nintendo with his older brother. They would play games like Super Mario and once the Nintendo 64 came out, games like “Ken Griffey Jr. Major League Baseball”. While he had his passions for traditional sports like baseball, his go to after a long day was video games.

One of his best friends growing up had a dad who built computers just for fun. May, always being a console man at this time, went over and saw the room full of computers.

“This was my first true lan experience, and I loved it,” May said in an interview with The Game Haus.

With this, May was shown another side of gaming, online gaming. He went over to his friends house to play until he finally was able to get his own laptop. Once that happened, he started playing games like the “Total War Series”, “League of Legends”, “Warcraft 3” and “World of Warcraft”. These games allowed him to immerse himself into the world of online gaming and he’s never looked back.

Competition

The one thing that intersects for May between sports and esports is the competition associated with it. As one may expect, he is a high-level competitor and always has been. Whether he is pitching for the Twins or trying to get that Chicken Dinner in PUBG, May is out there to win.

“If you are going to put any real time into something then you want to be good,” May said. “Otherwise you’re just wasting your time and I hate to waste time”.

May is dealing with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. This is a surgery that normally requires anywhere from 10-18 months to come back from. It is much quicker nowadays but that is still a long time to be off the field. For a competitor like May, it is especially hard to be off the field and since he is unable to pitch competitively, he has taken his time to jump into video games and streaming.

A few months back when May started to gain a following on Twitch, he was contacted by the esports organization Luminosity. He quickly joined their streaming team and has felt welcomed since day one. Luminosity and May are working together on a gentleman’s agreement, which means no contract is involved. This is due to May’s contract with the Minnesota Twins.

The Business Side

While he is sidelined, May hasn’t only been playing games. He is also getting involved on the business side of esports.

“I knew from a business standpoint that I wanted to get involved,” May said.

For someone who does not like to waste time, he felt that furthering himself in the business world would be a good thing to focus on. May believes that jumping into the esports scene while it is young is a great business decision.

Trevor May

Courtesy of wwg.com

During this time, he has also been working on his company Esports Lab. One of the company’s first moves was getting involved with Winstonslab.com in order to bring it back.

They had a good following but did not have the means needed to continue on. When May was contacted about the company, he realized that this website was very similar to the analytics in baseball.

He said the world is data-driven and that like advanced metrics in baseball, esports such as Overwatch should use them too. This will allow for people to have a better understanding of what is going on in the game.

He compared this to World of Warcraft. This was a game May had played for many years and spent a long time playing competitively.

“The best way to get advantages was to look for the small ones,” May said. “Whether it was slightly better armor or a better weapon you needed any advantage you could get”.

With this comes his belief in Winstonslab. Franchising for Overwatch is coming with the new OWL and teams will be doing whatever they have to in order to get that slight advantage.

Now that he is more involved with the esports scene, May realizes what esports franchising really means. There will be a lot more money put into the scene and it will continue to attract big time names and playmakers. He also believes that once players become more well-known and esports becomes mainstream, then more people will continue to watch it.

A Newer Generation of Two-Sport Athlete

Trevor May

Courtesy of twincities.com

When asked about people who either don’t understand how people could like both sports and esports, May said if you’re prestigious at something, you warrant respect.

“If you are in the top percentage of people at anything then you deserve respect,” May said.

He continued by pointing out that people who are amazing at anything deserve a chance at making a living off of it. Esports may not be there yet, but they will be. May believes that someday soon they will get their due.

 

Trevor May is showing the world that sports and esports can be interconnected and he is a big advocate for just that. You can watch his stream and hear him talking about this. While he has had the time off he has put a lot of effort into playing games consistently and yet is still able to balance his baseball life. Sadly he knows that his time streaming will decrease once he is healthy and the next season starts.

What May is doing is something that people will hear about more. The esports world is in its infancy but, it’s growing fast. More important people will continue to get involved from both worlds and the message of understanding and respect will hopefully grow along with it.


Featured image courtesy of the New York Post.

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Standout players from the Play-in Group Stages

With the first ever “play-in” stage of Worlds concluded, we had the chance to see some exciting matches. We had upsets, stomps and everything in between this past weekend. It’s crazy to see how far some of the Wildcard regions have come. The play-in stage has added some needed experience for the lesser known regions while adding the chance for some exciting upsets as well.

The play-in stage gave some star players from the Wildcard regions a chance to show how good they really are on the international stage. Some players stepped up to the challenge, while others disappointed. Let’s take a look at some of the standouts from this weekend’s play-in stage:

Matías “WhiteLotus” Musso (Lyon gaming adc)

Whitelotus has been a staple name for the LAS region for the past few years. His team, Lyon Gaming, have been known to be mechanically good, but have been unable to show up in Wildcard tournaments in the past. Whitelotus was huge this weekend in his team being able to earn second place out of Group A. He was often on hyper-carries like Kog’maw and Xayah dishing out huge damage for his team.

In their match against WE, he was a huge part of the reason why they were able to keep up with them in the early game. Up against one of China’s best in Jin “Mystic” Sung-jun, Whitelotus held his own, and some. He put up massive stats over four games, leading all ADC’s in KDA with a massive 9.5. He also was able to dish out a high damage percentage with a whopping 35 percent. He also earned the first penta kill of Worlds against Gambit Gaming.

He has the tall task of facing Cloud 9 in a best of five. He’ll need to duplicate his performance once again for Lyon Gaming to have any chance.

Ali “Seiya” Bracamontes (Lyon Gaming mid)

Photo by: Riot Esports

The other carry from Lyon Gaming, Seiya, had quite the performance during the play-in stage as well. Him and Whitelotus made some massive plays to help carry their team to second place in Group A. He finished the play-in stage having only died twice over four games. Seiya definitely made a name for himself as he showed great performances on Syndra.

He posted an incredible 20.0 KDA to lead all mid laners while also participating in 78 percent of his team’s kills. Seiya was instrumental in their close matches against WE. He’ll need to step up even more as he faces off against Cloud 9’s Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen in their best of five.

Võ “Naul” Thành Luân (Young Generation mid)

Naul from Young Generation had quite the showing this past weekend. Personally, I hadn’t heard much of this guy coming into the tournament, but solo-killing Fnatic’s “baby Faker” is a good way to show up at an international event. Vietnam first gave us Levi and Gigabyte Marines, but they now also have Young Generation who looked quite competitive against EU’s Fnatic. This was due to the pressure provided in the made lane from Naul.

In his first match against Fnatic, he was able to put mid laner Rasmus “Caps” Winther behind as he solo-killed him while being ahead 20 cs in the lane. Naul had the second highest damage percentage for mid laners with a 34.3. He was vital in their defeat of Fnatic as he “Xpeke’d” their Nexus in the last few moments.

Juan “Contractz” Garcia (Cloud 9 Jungler)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Contractz looked like one of the best junglers in the play-in stages. This young rookie strutted his stuff during Cloud 9’s 4-0 dominance of Group B. He showed a plethora of different picks/styles bringing out the Ezreal and Nidalee. His early game playmaking helped Cloud 9 snowball into the mid-late game.

He showed no nerves up against Team One and Dire Wolves. He always seemed to be in the right place at the right time to assist his team. He finished the weekend leading junglers in total KDA with an astounding 16 while also leading in kill participation at 80 percent.

Contractz will look to ride this momentum as they take on Lyon Gaming in their best of five. If he can duplicate his last showing, there’s no reason Cloud 9 shouldn’t get a clean 3-0 sweep.

 Ege “padden” Acar Koparal (1907 Fenerbahce adc)

Photo by: Riot Esports

The ADC from 1907 Fenerbahce was huge in their team’s first place finish in Group D. His Tristana positioning was vital in his team upsetting Hong Kong Attitude in their tiebreaker match. Early he was destroyed by the Varus/Blitz combo of HKA, but when it came down to team fighting, he was there to clean up.

His team often relied on him as he dealt 36.9 percent of his team’s damage. His aggressiveness of knowing when to jump in and get resets was crucial in the late game. Fenerbahce got possibly the best group draw up against Brazil’s Team One who didn’t look impressive at all in their group. It will be interesting to see if Padden’s Tristana will draw bans going forward, because he’s looked phenomenal on her.

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H2K played below expectations in summer split

Reflecting on mid-season EU LCS expectations for Summer Split

On June 1, 2017, the first day of the EU LCS Summer Split, I articulated my expectations heading into the second half of the year. There were a lot of roster changes in between splits, which led to speculation about what shake-ups might occur before Worlds. I called out four of the ten teams that I thought had the best chance to define the landscape of the EU LCS. These would be the variables that shape their groups, depending on how they adapt to their new rosters and build off of Spring Split.

Like every split past, some teams performed to expectations, others did not. Some played up to a higher level, while other teams further fell. The big picture of the EU LCS remained fairly similar to spring, with the same top six teams qualifying for playoffs. However, the intra-group dynamics and individual team results are fairly different compared to expectations coming into this split.

G2

G2 played to expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: G2 dominated Spring Split: they only lost one best-of-three series out of thirteen. The Samurai went on to finish second place at Riot’s Mid-Season Invitational. No other team in Europe looked to be on par with G2 before the tournament, but MSI certainly quieted any dissent. With no roster or staff changes to speak of, G2 looks to remain at the top of the ranks. Their eyes will be on the world stage.

Recency bias will paint G2 as the undoubted best team in Europe. They added another LCS victory to their trophy case. The Samurai will be EU’s first seed representative at Worlds. By the end of playoffs it was clear that no one in the EU LCS could challenge G2 in a best-of-five.

But Summer Split was rocky at the start. G2 was 3-3 after five weeks, beating Roccat, Ninjas in Pyjamas and Mysterious Monkeys, but losing to Fnatic, Misfits and Unicorns of Love. Their game score was 9-7, far from dominant. G2 sat in third place in Group A. It was a trying time for fans who were hoping that the G2 from MSI would be back in Europe.

They did eventually ramp up to finish second in Group A, push through quarter and semifinals and take the finals. Perkz returned closer to his MSI form earlier in the year. Mithy stepped up to become a primary initiator for the team. Trick began to rise towards his past level, as well. While all of these players had low points during summer, the G2 line-up did eventually reinvigorate to pre-split expectations. No one could have predicted their early fumbles after a dominant Spring Split, MSI and no major changes to the roster and staff.

Fnatic and Misfits

FNC played above expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: Fnatic ultimately beat Misfits for third place in playoffs, beating them 3-0 in the best-of-five. Fnatic picked up a new coach, Dylan Falco. Misfits released their jungler, Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon, and acquired Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian. The effects of these changes do not appear to be drastic on the surface. Fnatic should be able to retain second place within Group A, putting Misfits third.

Both of these teams surprised analysts, but in different ways. Fnatic and Misfits followed slightly different trajectories throughout the Summer Split. Fnatic tore through the European competition, finishing the regular season 11-2, but faltered in the playoff semifinals. They pressed on by winning third place against H2K, and went on to win the EU LCS Regional Qualifier to make it to Worlds.

Misfits had strong showings during the LCS regular season, but never fully convinced the fans that they were a top contender. They finished with a 1-6 record against the top six teams and a 5-1 record against the bottom four teams. However, Misfits shifted gears in playoffs, knocking out Unicorns of Love and Fnatic to make it into the finals. They are the surprise second seed to represent Europe at this year’s World Championship.

Fnatic’s surge is not entirely surprising, but it could not necessarily be predicted. This is the same roster that tied Roccat for third place in Group A just a few months ago. Bringing on Dylan Falco, previously of Team Envy in North America, was the only major change to the roster, which was seen as questionable, at best. The veterans of the team, Soaz, Rekkles and Jesiz, approached their top performance levels. The sophomores, Broxah and Caps, showed their own prowess at various points in the split. Most of all, the synergy among these members was much more apparent than any other team in the league.

Misfits’ growth could be a bit more conceivable coming into the Summer Split. They did make a name for themselves in their inaugural Spring Split by placing fourth. Time in the mid-season should allow this new squad to build synergies and come back to the LCS even stronger. However, by switching out KaKAO for Maxlore, it was unclear how this might affect things. The team did cite communication issues as the primary purpose for the replacement, but Maxlore’s actual skill as a jungler did not appear to be much better or worse than KaKAO. Would Misfits’ communication improve enough to offset the synergy and possible skill loss of trading at all?

In the end, the answer must be “yes.” Ignar and Maxlore did develop a strong jungle-support relationship in the playoffs. Alphari and PowerofEvil were better at using laning advantages to rotate, split-push and teleport around the map. Hans sama proved his worth as an AD carry against Samux and Rekkles, both All-Pro this split. Viewers will have to wait and see how this team holds up against international competition at Worlds. Hopefully, Misfits’ peak is yet to come.

Unicorns of Love

UOL played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: Following a similar trajectory to G2, UOL finished the regular season 11-2. They did not drop a series to other members of Group B. UOL went on to finish second in the playoffs. Seeing as the top teams in Group B did not have any major roster updates in the off-season, the Unicorns should easily maintain their top position.

“Should” was the key word above. Just like G2, Unicorns finished at the top of their group and made it to the finals in Spring Split. They did not make any roster changes in the mid-season. Intuitively, UOL would continue to build off of their strengths coming into Summer Split and continue to be a dominant team in Europe.

But that did not necessarily happen. UOL began the season 6-1, including victories over G2, H2K and Misfits. They finished the last four weeks 3-3, including defeats to Roccat, Fnatic and Vitality. This fall-out culminated in UOL’s 3-0 loss to Misfits in the quarterfinals, and their 3-2 loss to H2K in the gauntlet.

Most critics would point to faulty draft strategies, mid lane instability, and failure to adapt to meta changes as UOL’s biggest problems. Exileh fell from third team All-Pro to seventh on Caps’ mid lane tier list. His performance issues, combined with Xerxe’s curve ball jungle picks, caused UOL to have difficulties drafting to be competitive. Exileh’s reliance on Talon and Vladmir shoehorned Vizicsacsi into a lot of AP top laners, instead of Jarvan IV, Gnar or Renekton.

Summer Split is a huge disappointment for the Unicorns. They continue their legacy of missing Worlds by losing in the gauntlet. All of these players have shown excellence on the Rift, but the limited in-game strategies and individual inconsistencies make it hard for this team to reach the next level. It will be interesting to see what changes happen in the off-season for UOL, if any.

H2K

H2K played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: Although playoffs were not pleasant for H2K, their regular season went well. They finished 10-3, losing twice to UOL and once to G2. H2K had not lost to any other team until Fnatic beat them 3-0 in the quarterfinals of playoffs. Only earning 10 Championship Points, H2K will need to perform at a much higher level to re-qualify for the World Championships.

H2K played about where most people expected them this season. They did finish at the top of Group B, but that was more due to Unicorns faltering than H2K scaling higher skill-wise. Febiven looked more refined than Spring Split, but the bottom lane, Nuclear in particular, proved less dominant in the new meta. Odoamne and Jankos showed glimpses of their top-tier play, but could not exhibit such talent consistently against other top teams.

Playoffs was almost more heart-breaking this split for H2K. G2 skunked the squad 3-0 in the semifinals, sending H2K into the gauntlet. Once there, they made it all the way to the finals, but lost 2-3 to Fnatic to miss the World Championship. The expectation was for H2K to grow in the mid-season to stand a chance of making it to Worlds. Unfortunately for them, that did not happen.

Mysterious Monkeys

MM played to expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: While EU Challenger teams have historically performed well in their first split of LCS, this roster’s talent is questionable compared to the others. They even lost their starting jungler. The Monkeys come into the split with low expectations, most likely ending the regular season in fifth for Group B.

As expected, Mysterious Monkeys did not have a successful Summer Split. They lost 23 of 28 regular season games, finishing with a 2-11 record. Ninjas in Pyjamas and Roccat were the only two teams they were able to take series from. Even after signing Kikis and Amazing as a top-jungle duo in week four, the Monkeys struggled to make much of an impact on the EU LCS. They did finish last in Group B, which forced them into the promotion tournament.

Although it is unclear how the reported LCS restructuring will affect European teams in 2018, Mysterious Monkeys did get “relegated” in the promotion tournament. They lost 2-3 to Schalke 04 in round one, and 0-3 to Ninjas in Pyjamas in round two. That is the ultimate proof that a team is not ready for the professional league. The Monkeys’ organization will most likely rebuild the roster in the off-season and come back next year with more experience.

Splyce

SPY played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: It is unclear what Gevous will add to Splyce. It is possible that a new coaching style may help bring Splyce’s members up to a new level. The players know they can play up to the same level as Unicorns or H2K. The anticipated meta shifts will probably help Splyce, as well. Tankier junglers with fast clears and impactful kits suit ‎Jonas “Trashy” Andersen, and  Martin “Wunder” Hansen generally looks more influential with damage-dealing split-pushers.

Firstly, Splyce let Gevous go around two months ago, with two weeks of the regular season, playoffs and the gauntlet remaining. He has yet to be replaced. That being said, it is difficult as a viewer to understand how much of an effect a coach has on a team. How much of Splyce’s shortcomings can be blamed on a lack of chemistry between the coach and the players? It is hard to parse apart.

It should be safe to say that Splyce will be disappointed when reflecting on this split. The organization’s power level in the LCS has effectively plateaued this year. Of course, Splyce has not had the same falling off as Origen. Splyce is still a playoff team, and they are clearly a step above Roccat and Vitality. They took G2 to an edgy five games in quarterfinals of playoffs. However, it has felt like a long time since fans and analysts held Splyce to the same esteem as their LCS debut.

Nothing about Splyce’s gameplay is horrible. Each lane is able to hold its own in the laning phase. They are able to contest objectives and commit to rotations. They are able to team-fight in the mid and late game. Splyce just is not the best at any of these gameplay elements. H2K and Fnatic will almost always get larger early game leads and close the game before Splyce can team-fight them. Unicorns of Love and G2 will almost always beat Splyce in a beefy brawl. The Serpents are the undoing of bottom four teams, just like Misfits, but they have been unable to break through the upper echelon of Europe.

Like Unicorns of Love, it will be interesting to see what happens to this roster in the off-season. Trashy seemed to be the most up-and-down player on the roster, thriving on Gragas and Ivern, but struggling on Elise and Rek’Sai. Mikyx was overshadowed by more proactive support players, but Wunder, Sencux and Kobbe have proven they can carry when needed. Each of Splyce’s players are capable of playing up to the best of Europe, and this roster has played together for two years. The coaching position will obviously need to be filled with someone who can unlock the potential of this squad, or who can make needed adjustments for the future.

Team Vitality

VIT played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: This is another team that looks to benefit from the upcoming metagame. Top laner, Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet, looked best as a split-pusher when Vitality finished the regular season in third place in Spring 2016. A more anchored bottom lane and pressured top lane could open Charly “Djoko” Guillard up to have more options in the jungle. Vitality could look to move up in Group B if they mesh properly and other teams show weakness.

Bringing on Vander was supposed to shore up Vitality’s glaring weaknesses in the support position in Spring Split. It did not. Vitality looked roughly the same as last split. Nukeduck put the team on his back almost every game. Cabochard did look a bit more like his former self while laning, but Vitality’s bottom lane and jungler could not hold up against the rest of the LCS. To make matters worse, H2K, Unicorns of Love and Splyce all showed serious weaknesses this split, which Vitality was unable to punish. It is no coincidence that three members of Group A are attending Worlds as Europe’s representatives.

Vitality finished with a 12-17 game score. They only took one point off of a top six team (UOL), but won all series against MM, NiP and Roccat. Vitality will need to make serious changes coming into the LCS in 2018. They are simply not an exciting team. Replacing one player in one role does not seem to be sufficient. Looking at jungle and bottom lane is a start, but even top lane is not out of the question. A roster overhaul will be necessary before Vitality lives up to the expectations of European fans.

Roccat

ROC played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: Roccat will come into summer an underdog, yet again. But if they can build off of their gameplay, synergy, and growth from spring, then they can definitely take games off of other Group A teams. Ambrož “Phaxi” Hren, in particular, should be able to continue drafting lane bullies such as Gnar, Fizz, and Renekton, which he played well in the final weeks of last split.

Roccat’s spring momentum did not carry over much into Summer Split. This team continues its arc as the most inconsistent performer in the EU LCS. Roccat finished the Summer Split with 1-1 records against every team in Group A, the only one to do so. The Cats also lost every cross-group match-up, except Unicorns of Love. It is strange that the same team that is taking series off of Fnatic, G2 and UOL is also dropping series to NiP, MM and Vitality.

Pridestalker actually pressed himself into the EU LCS in his debut split. Generally starting ahead in CS and gold at 15 minutes, Roccat’s jungler was one of the only players happy to draft Warwick and Kha’Zix over tank junglers throughout the split. Pridestalker also participated in First Blood in 27.3 percent of games.

Phaxi and Betsy were highly inconsistent this summer. The solo laners could never seem to hold pressure in their lanes against other European teams. Meanwhile, Roccat’s bottom lane was solidly top five in the LCS (in my opinion, Wadid deserved recognition as an All-Pro support). Like Vitality, a roster overhaul will be necessary if Roccat wants to reach the next level of competition. While no one would necessarily expect Roccat to suddenly become a title contender, many analysts were probably hoping for more from them after their end-of-split streak in spring.

Ninjas in Pyjamas

NIP played above expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: While this team will most likely be the Spring 2017 Origen of Summer Split, it could also come together as an unexpected surprise. If Shook can manage to find synergy with Profit and Nagne, and HeaQ and Sprattel can grow together, then they could find upsets in Group A. This could also be Coach Nicholas “NicoThePico” Korsgård’s shot at redemption, as well. If they can all put aside their past failures, then they just may find success.

It’s safe to say Ninjas in Pyjamas was better this summer than Origen was in spring. They had a stiff early game, often gaining large gold leads by 15 minutes. NiP showed some signs of strength, such as their win over Fnatic in week 10. As expected, the Ninjas finished last in Group A with a 2-11 record. The team never seemed to synergize in the mid-late game, often missing opportunities to pressure turrets or neutral objectives. Sprattel and Shook were unable to engage or peel effectively for Nagne and HeaQ to carry, which made Profit’s split-push strategies fall flat.

At the end of the day, NiP was not ready for the LCS. This team did get relegated in the promotion tournament by losing to Giants and Schalke 04, but reported 2018 changes may make that insignificant. Like Mysterious Monkeys, NiP may return to the domestic leagues of the EU LCS. If so, they will need to take a hard look in the mirror and make adjustments. NicoThePico did not add much to his resume on this one, but, again, it is hard to tell how many of NiP’s issues were from the roster or the staff. 

Overall

MSF played above expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

While hardly any of the teams in the EU LCS played to pre-split expectations, the on-paper breakdown of the split was fairly usual. Splyce, Misfits, H2K, UOL, Fnatic and G2 qualified for playoffs. Mysterious Monkeys and NiP fought, and lost, in the promotion tournament. Vitality and Roccat were somewhere in the middle. G2 took home another domestic victory. Fnatic is attending Worlds. Rekkles was voted Europe’s MVP.

This Summer Split will be remembered as the last one with two groups and one professional-level league. If the reported changes for the EU LCS come through in 2018, then we will be looking at an entirely different ecosystem. It will be home to 24 total teams with 24 rosters and 24 different dynamics to keep up with. The lines between S tier, A tier, and so on will become more blurred, and placements between organizations should become more nuanced.

Expectations going into Spring Split next year will be so up in the air it may not even be worth writing about. So as we move into the 2017 World Championships, take some time to reflect on your experience with the EU LCS. As you cheer for G2, Misfits and Fnatic through the event, preserve these Summer Split memories so we can talk more in 2018 about the future of League of Legends in Europe.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

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Who has the best shot to be this year’s Albus Nox?

With the World Championship starting this weekend we’ll have the chance to see some massive upsets. The possibility of either of the teams dropping a few games could start off Worlds with a bang. Last year we got to witness the first upset of a Wildcard team in groups. Albus Nox Luna of the CIS region were able to take second in their group finishing 4-3 ahead of CLG and G2.

Instead of having a separate Wild Card tournament to determine who will play in Worlds from the non-major regions, we now have the play-in stage. The play-in stage allows for Wildcard teams the chance to face third place teams of the major regions with a chance to upset and qualify for the Group stage.

Will we have another Albus Nox play spoiler for one of the major regions? Let’s take a look at some teams that may have the best chance:

Gambit (1st place lcl)

Photo by Gambit Gaming

Gambit Gaming represent the same region Albus Nox did last year, the LCL. They also have two former players in Alexander “PvPStejos” Glazkov and Michael “Kira” Garmash. Kira and PvPStejos were huge in Albus Nox’s Worlds run last year. Kira has shown the ability to have a wide champion pool.

They also have some legendary veterans in jungler Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov and support Edward “Edward” Abgaryan. Diamond and Edward were longtime legends in the EULCS after dominating tournaments in Season 2 as Moscow 5. This will be a chance for them to add onto their legacy.

Rekkles also shed some light into Gambit calling them an EULCS caliber team in his 3rd place interview. Gambit definitely have the experience to do so. They’re a very much an early game team who can create leads through skirmishes. They’ll often go for these early baron calls despite not having proper vision setup. They’re a high risk, high reward team that can definitely shock some of these teams with weak early games such as Cloud 9.

Gigabyte Marines (1st place gpl)

Photo by Riot Esports

Unlike the other teams on this list, Gigabyte Marines aren’t in the play-in stage as they earned their region a pool two seed at MSI. They are placed in Group B with Korean Powerhouse, Longzhu Gaming, and North American first timers, Immortals. For Gigabyte Marines this could be a hopeful group for them. Longzhu will most likely be favorites, but the second seed is up in the air. Immortals will be favorites, but let’s remember that Gigabyte Marines nearly beat TSM in a best of five at MSI.

The Marines played a lot through ganking the bot lane early at MSI. Star jungler Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh was instrumental in their MSI run and will look to put the team on his back once again. With carry junglers out of the meta now, it will be interesting to see how they decide to play. They built their own meta at MSI, with snowballing the early game through bot, so they have the ability to create their own meta.

1907 fenerbahce (1st place tcl)

1907 Fenerbahce come in with a ton of momentum after winning the TCL 3-0 against SuperMassive. Historically, we’ve seen teams from Turkey do well in Wildcard tournaments and even take games off some of the major regions. Fenerbahce have a mid-jungle korean duo in Kim “Frozen” Tae-il and Kang “Move” Min-su. Move spent some time in NA and EU having some solid seasons before coming over to the TCL. Top laner, Berke “Thaldrin” Demir, has had some international experience with previous Turkish teams.

Being placed in group D has to feel like a blessing. Hong Kong attitude are the 3rd place team out of LMS and finished 6th in the regular season before getting in through the regional qualifier. Fenerbahce have the disadvantage of coming to Worlds late without a bootcamp, but we’ve seen teams do well without scrims.

The mystery of developing your own meta brings an extra surprise factor especially in best of one’s. Albus Nox mentioned not being able to get scrims last year before going on their magical run.

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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Group D preview: Group of Life

The 2017 World Championship is approaching, building up hype for this epic tournament. With the group draw concluded most are heralding group D as the “Group of Life.” Group D is considered a favorable group due to not having a Korean team in it. With Korea’s success in previous World Championships, it’s a blessing if you can avoid facing one of their powerhouse teams in the first part of the tournament. This group holds two veteran teams in TSM and Flash Wolves, with new comers from the EU LCS, Misfits. There’s definitely a strong possibility that if things play out the way they should, WE could be put into this group as well.

Flash Wolves

Photo by: Riot Esports

Flash Wolves earned another Worlds berth by winning the LMS region once again, defeating AHQ 3-0 in the finals. They’ve dominated their region for the most part for the past few seasons. They like to play through veteran jungle/mid duo, Maple and Karsa. With the meta shifting to more supportive tank junglers, it will be interesting to see how Karsa performs. We’ve seen in previous Worlds his best performances on aggressive ganking junglers such as Lee Sin and Elise. Maple also hasn’t looked great this past split, but a good boot camp before Worlds could help fix some of their issues.

While Flash Wolves were able to take the top spot in LMS, they haven’t really looked much better from their MSI performance. Top and bot lane are average at best. Support Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie will often times look to roam to setup plays for his team. Their ADC, Lu “Betty” Yuhung, didn’t have a great showing at MSI. If he performs the same way against even better competition, they could be hurting. Nonetheless they have been known to snowball really well off early game leads. TSM and Misfits like to play more towards the mid-late game. If Flash Wolves can set the tempo and get snowballing they can definitely win this group.

Team SoloMid

Photo by: Riot Esports

Team SoloMid come in as the number one seed from North America after defeating Immortals 3-1 in the NA LCS finals. TSM have finally been blessed with one of the better group draws they could have possibly asked for. No Korean teams, so there’s absolutely no excuses for not being able to make it out of their group this time around. The pressure will be on for them to perform and make it out.

They are led by the two star carries of Bjergsen and Doublelift. Support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang was shaky in his first Worlds appearance last year. Up against the likes of Mata and CoreJJ, he looked outclassed. This year he comes in with a lot more experience. He showed up huge for TSM in their finals series against Immortals, earning the finals MVP. His play making on Rakan played a huge part in their series victory.

TSM’s weaknesses lie in the early game. With strong roaming, support/jungle duos can look to gain early leads and possibly snowball the game. TSM likes to play towards the mid-late game where their shot-calling has been much improved since the Mid Season Invitational. Even when they are behind, they are very good at knowing how to catch up. TSM look like favorites to win their group on paper, but they’ll need to show it on stage.

Misfits

Photo by: Riot Esports

Misfits head to Worlds as the second seed after losing to G2 3-0 in the finals. Not much was expected of Misfits heading into the EU LCS Summer Playoffs, but they had a magical run to the finals where they looked like a much different team from the regular season. They looked like a completely new team. Maxlore and Ignar in particular were coordinating some excellent roams to help snowball their leads. They were shot-calling much better in the mid-late game as well.

They have two monster solo laners in mid laner Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and top laner Barney “Alphari” Morris. Both laners have shown the ability to pop off in games with Power of Evil contributing a ton to his team’s total damage. Alphari is a mechanical beast, but can sometimes succumb to early enemy jungle pressure.

Misfits will be the underdogs of this group as no one on their team has ever been to Worlds. It will be good experience for the young organization from EU, but most people are expecting them to finish like Splyce did last season.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Christian!

Cover photo by Riot Esports

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