Dear Team Liquid, it’s time to change the narrative: An open letter about why we love competitive League of Legends

As a fan of competitive League of Legends since the birth of the NA LCS, what keeps me coming back season after season is the humanity of the team-based esport. When I think of my favorite moments in professional League of Legends, I do not think of the highlight plays, the flash predicting hooks nor the beautiful kiting mechanics of a skilled AD. It’s true these moments are fantastic. They are a form of high-brow art to a League of Legends fan, but even the skill of Zed v Zed play pales in emotional power to the stories these plays create.

Take a step back from the individual plays of the game, and ask yourself why you are a fan of whatever team you just bought a summoner icon for. Why do you love TSM or CLG? Why are you willing to argue with anonymous individuals online for hours over Dignitas or Cloud 9? Where do these arguments go?

It’s all about the story

CLG owner, HotshotGG, gets a henna tattoo after losing a bet to TSM owner, Reginald. Courtesy of lolesports.

For me, and for what I imagine to be the majority of the community, these arguments always end up with the discussion of the individual players. Not just that, this line of discourse tends to transcend how each player performs in game, and stretch into the personal lives of each player. Part of this is fueled by the amazing documentary crew Riot has on staff, with the production of the Drive series and Legends Rising. The ability to peer into the life of a professional esports athlete, a job most of us have fantasized about at one point, fuels the vicarious desire for our team and our favorite player to achieve victory against all odds.

It’s the story that brings us here. And it’s the constantly changing narrative that keeps us here. Think about the community’s favorite matchup, CLG v TSM. Regardless of the current standings of both of these teams, everyone knows this is the most viewed match of the season. Despite both of these teams being consistently high ranked, what brings fans to the CLG v TSM stream, is the narrative behind it. Fueled by zany characters like Reginald, paired with comic relief such as ludicrous bets, and topped off by the traditional interview trash talk; how can you not be entertained?

It’s like the scripted drama before a wrestling match, except it’s not scripted (entirely) and as a gamer, it is entirely relatable. Aphromoo, Doublelift, Bjergsen, Xmithie, Froggen, the list goes on. It’s not the silhouette of a horse nor the imagery of a minimalist helmet, that makes me a fan of Team Liquid or Immortals respectively. It’s the player who I may have been following on twitter or reading about consistently for almost five years.

Dyrus cries and we grow up

Dyrus announces his retirement in an emotional interview. Courtesy of lolesports

Take Delta Fox, North American Challenger Series Team. No one expected them to be a dominant force in the NACS, but they are without a doubt the most beloved team in NA. Why’s that? Because of their stories. One of my most memorable League of Legends moments was Dyrus’ retirement. For me, this single moment had more impact than any baron steal. Dyrus, someone who rarely shows emotion, was overcome by the changes. He felt as though his time in the professional League of Legends scene had come to an end, maybe this was due to his perceived relative skill, or some other issue entirely. The reason itself does not matter, so much as the visible distress he was under during the interview. In the face of a changing world, Dyrus undoubtedly felt lost, and chose to step down from competitive play. This was hard to watch. It was a reality check for the entire community.

The world was changing, and esports with it. What started as a group of friends creating a team in a game they all loved to play began to change. The gritty side of esports, the working gears of the revenue grinding industry has reared its ugly face. International success, domestic gains, investor returns, branding, advertising, sponsorships. These fuel the esports industry, and without them, we could never have a competitive League of Legends scene; so at the end of the day, we must be thankful, but it’s still hard to see. Perhaps this is why the community is so riveted by Delta Fox. Delta Fox marks a return of not just Dyrus, but those players we grew to know so intimately. I mean, I know the name of Imaqtpie’s cat, but I couldn’t tell you the name of my best friend’s cat to save my life. Delta Fox is a nostalgic trip into the the ‘good ol’ days’ of League of Legends when an ‘Insec’ was not a play that any Diamond player could pull off. But at the same time, Delta Fox is also a marketing campaign, which begs my next question.

Maybe the professional esports scene never changed? Maybe I just grew up. I mean, a lot has happened over these past couple of years. I’ve seen my parents grow old and distant, my hometown go from green to brown in a drought that I can no longer pinpoint the start of. I’ve seen my first love find someone else. And I’ve seen Dyrus cry.

These things have all shaped me, they’ve shaped who I am.

Every moment has the power to mold one’s identity, whether it is something as large as the death of a grandparent or as seemingly distant as a short documentary on a professional gamer. These stories become intertwined with our own; they bind together to shape our identity, influencing our interactions with others, in turn shaping them.

TL Matt and Piglet embrace optimistically for a photo. Courtesy of lolesports Flickr

Team Liquid and the underdog archetype

When Riot Games released an episode of Drive on TL Matt, I became a fan. TL Matt is the classic underdog story. Going from challenger series to LCS in three days, TL Matt’s underdog narrative explodes out of the handicaps that plagued his pre-pro days. High ping, low frames, constant crashing and obstructive parents all weighed against him. But despite the odds, the underdog support player made it to LA and is still competing for Team Liquid.

Team Liquid is devastated after another defeat. Courtesy of lolesports flickr.

It was this story that originally led me to follow TL more closely. TL Matt was a new face to the scene and he reincarnated the narratives that had originally led me to become a competitive League of Legends fan. Matt was a nobody who surged onto the stage, not through an elaborate exchange of contracts, but instead through a search for fresh talent and a bright outlook on the future. This is a story I want to follow, and I am happy that it is still going despite its ups and downs revealed in TL’s “Breaking Point”, and several substitutions made in the support role. Those substitutions bring me to the next Team Liquid narrative.

Team Liquid and the madman archetype

We have all heard the story of the man who tries to become the most powerful individual in the world. Maybe we have seen Breaking Bad (Walter White), Code Geass (Lelouch), Death Note (Light Yagami) or even Star Wars (Anakin Skywalker), we are all familiar with the archetypal protagonist who stops at nothing to accomplish everything. In doing so, this protagonist loses their humanity and their reason. They may even accomplish their goals, but at what cost.

Enter Team Liquid’s Co-founder, Steve Arhancet. Steve Arhancet has been with Team Liquid since their ignition in 2015. We know him most recently from the “Paid by Steve” meme, a meme that comments upon Steve’s tendency to substitute his players and constantly “buy” up the latest and greatest for each role. With 27 roster changes in less than two years, Team Liquid’s Steve Arhancet lusts after fame and fortune. This is nothing new, I mean who can forget this.

Steve is the only true person TL fans can call consistent, yet we know little to nothing about him aside from his drive to develop the best NALCS team at any cost. What costs has he created? Well for one, the fan base of TL is relatively low compared to other Vanguard teams. Just last week we witnessed the one TL fan in the crowd waving a “Paid by Steve” sign and cheering TL on. As the only consistent image of TL, it is Steve who must take the reigns on his own public narrative.

Currently, Steve occupies the Mad Genius Archetype. He is desperately trying to string together a top tier team while leaving a trail of destruction and burnout in his path. But this cannot be true. As one of the last remaining TL fans, we just don’t have anything else to believe. So who are you Steve? What drives you to the point of creating an almost two-hour movie called “Breaking Point” that highlighted the destruction of your own team. It can’t just be money. It can’t just be fame. the story is important. It’s what made things like “Breaking Point” and Delta Fox so intriguing, and it is what will bring TL fans back. 

So you acquired Inori, and lost Link. Tell me why I should care. Tell me you will stop replacing your team members faster than tires on a Bugatti Veyron because I’m tired of the short stories your roster creates. It’s time for a novel.

 

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Featured image courtesy of teamliquidpro.com

 

Rocket League’s potential to attract traditional sports fans

In less than two years since its release, Rocket League has blown up as an esport. That being said, there is untapped potential regarding the esport’s audience.

The audience that Rocket League can still, conceivably, reach is that of traditional sports fans. Not just traditional sports fans, but particularly those who haven’t latched on to esports in the past. Rocket League has a somewhat unique dynamic as an esport. This dynamic may pose disadvantages when it comes to attracting fans of other esports, but advantages to drawing fans of traditional sports.

Meta

The meta in Rocket League is unlike that of many other popular esports.

In games such as League of Legends and Overwatch, success relies heavily upon the characters players choose. Not just individually, but the team composition as a whole. Characters have specific stats and are effective at countering certain other characters. While Rocket League offers different vehicle body kits, the importance of the car you choose doesn’t compare to the character you choose in other games.

There are several minor attributes your body kit does affect, including hit box and turning ability. They don’t affect top speed, acceleration, jump height or power when hitting the ball, though. Hit box and turning speed are important, but the differences are minor enough that no car has any dominant advantage over others.

Batmobile, image courtesy of forum.dmg-inc.com

For example, let’s consider two of the most commonly chosen cars among the pros, Octane and the Batmobile. The Batmobile has low height but one of the larger lengths and widths. Octane, on the other hand, has one of the larger heights but is lower in length and width. These hit box differences may make it easier for players to execute certain mechanics, but it won’t guarantee a win or loss depending on your car and your opponent’s car.

Players may find it easier to perform a flick using the Batmobile. For those who don’t know, a flick is when you carry the ball on the hood or roof of your car, jump with the ball still there and then flip the car to launch the ball skyward in a certain direction. The Batmobile may make it easier to perform this mechanic because of its low, flat surface, but it’s by no means impossible to do with Octane.

Vice versa, players may have an easier time popping the ball into the air using Octane. You can pop the ball into the air by touching it just after the ball bounces off the ground and is on its way back up. Octane’s advantage in this maneuver is its height. The ball can be a bit higher up already, and players can still get the touch on it. Again, though, the Batmobile is just as capable – players just have to get to the ball a bit closer to the ground.

Octane, image courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

When it comes to play style, there is the rotation meta. This is less of a meta though, and more of a skill that needs to be mastered in order to truly compete at a high level.

In Rocket League, rotation is the idea that players attempt to make a play on the ball, then fall back allowing their teammates to make the next move. When teams don’t rotate, they often find themselves stuck in their opponent’s half of the pitch, watching as the other team breaks away and scores.

Aside from rotation, there are many different approaches and play styles that teams implement. Some players prefer to send the ball flying towards the opponent’s half and then attempt to set something up for their team once there. Others prefer to slow the pace down, passing the ball or setting something up as they move into the opponent’s half. That being said, one of the most important things players can learn is to adapt their style mid-game to counter that of their opponent’s.

Disadvantage

The lack of a true meta around cars may be something other esports fans have a difficult time with. Metas revolving around certain characters in other games provides the audience with something to grab hold of. They can support professionals who main the same character as them, support a team who has a player that is considered to be the best at playing a particular character or they can simply enjoy a certain character’s abilities.

While there are a select few cars that seem to dominate the pro’s choices, such as the Batmobile, Octane and Dominus, any other car is still a viable option.

Advantage

This same lack of a true character, or in this case car, meta is what makes Rocket League accessible to other viewers. Viewers do not have to worry about why players are choosing certain cars to fully understand what they are seeing.

Rotation is important, but it’s something that viewers can pick up on simply by watching matches. They’ll see teams succeed in rotating back, ready to go on the defensive, or they’ll see teams get scored on due to a mistake in rotation. Since adapting your play style mid-game is vital to success in esports and sports alike, this aspect is something both viewers can relate to.

Fast-paced Ball Sport

Dominus, image courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

Despite the quirky addition of cars that can fly, jump, flip and drive on walls, Rocket League is soccer. This gives it the advantage of being a ball sport, while still being different enough from the actual sport it is mimicking.

It may be difficult to convince a soccer fan to watch FIFA as an esport. The argument can be made as to why you would want to watch someone play soccer on a video game when you can watch the actual sport. Rocket League, however, has the familiarity of soccer, with the added twist of using flying cars to play. This can be a huge draw for traditional sports fans. The same basic idea of soccer is there, making it easy to grasp the concept of what players are trying to do while adding a whole new aspect to how they are trying to do it.

Disadvantage

I don’t really see a disadvantage here. Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong in the comments, but this one seems like a win-win to me.

Advantage

Rocket League has something for everyone. Esports fans get the fantasy aspect that only video games can offer them, through flying cars that perform acrobatic stunts to score soccer goals. Traditional sports fans have a fast-paced ball sport. Fans of both get a combination of the two.

NBC Sports Network

Flying car soccer will hit a television set near you this summer.

In an attempt to break into the expanding esports market, NBC Sports announced they will be hosting a two versus two Rocket League tournament this summer. Post-qualifying matches will be broadcast on the networks regional channels and the grand finals will be broadcast on the network’s national channel, as well as other networks in Europe. On top of this, viewers can stream matches on the NBC Sports app. This is the first time a Rocket League tournament will be broadcast on television.

Image courtesy of nbcsports.com

Disadvantage

Esports fans, more often than not, watch their favorite games through streaming. It may be difficult to get fans to move from watching streams to watching television broadcasts. While some major streams do contain commercial breaks now, they are often much shorter than commercial breaks on television.

There is also the question of whether two versus two, or doubles, is the right way to go for Rocket League’s first television broadcast. The Rocket League Championship Series pits teams against each other in a standard format, or three versus three. Standard allows players a greater rotation, as one person can push the ball up field to set up a play, the second teammate can position himself to score or make a second pass and the third player is in position to follow up on a pass or start playing defense, if the opposing team puts down their team’s attack. Meanwhile, the first player who made the initial push is already rotating back to a position to either defend or continue the attack.

This is not to say that rotation isn’t equally as important in doubles. It simply means one less player on the team to defend or continue attacking, forcing a team to potentially have to move back on the defensive quicker than they would if they had a third teammate.

Advantage

By broadcasting this tournament on television, there is potential for new eyes to fall upon Psyonix’s glorious twist on soccer.

Streaming esports requires viewers to know when and where to find the broadcast. At the very least, they have to know where to check, so they can see what is live at the time. There will certainly be Rocket League fans tuning into NBC Sports this August to watch the tournament, but that goes along with knowing when and where to find the esport you want to see.

The advantage with televising this tournament comes in the form of unsuspecting viewers. Traditional sports fans flipping the channel to NBC Sports at the time will still be greeted with a ball sport, but one with a twist. It may catch viewers off guard at first, but that’s a good thing. The strange way of playing soccer has the potential to draw in traditional sports fans that happen across and keep them coming back for more.

Conclusion

Rocket League can potentially draw in traditional sports fans, ones that may not be interested in other esports. While there is a present meta, it’s not nearly as involved or complicated as other esport’s metas can be. At its core, the game is a ball sport. The general point of the game, to score goals on your opponents, will immediately be understood by traditional sports fans. The uniqueness of using flying cars to play soccer adds something new for sports fans. Finally, NBC Sports Network’s television broadcast of a Rocket League tournament will put the esport into the environment of traditional sports fans, providing them the chance to discover the esport and decide for themselves.


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Summer 2017 over/under (part 2): LCS players above expectations

With three weeks of NA and EU LCS in the books, audiences are starting to get a feel for teams’ strengths and weaknesses. Some squads have carried over similar strengths from Spring Split. Others have risen or fallen in performance. But even within rosters that tend to play consistently, there always seems to be an ebb and flow on the individual player level.

Last week, I highlighted players who need to return to past form for their respective teams to have a chance at peak performance. This week it is all about the other side, summoners who are trending upward so far this summer. These players have visibly improved. They are putting up statistics that are exciting and surprising. More importantly, though, these members have elevated their teams’ overall performances with their gameplay on the Rift.

Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha

CLG, Top laner

KP%:    61.8%   (2nd top laner)

D%:        19%    (4th top laner)

Darshan is a player who has come and gone as a presence in the top lane. While he almost mirrors his statistics from Spring Split, Summer Split seems different. Many of the imported top laners who struggled to find their place last split currently feel much stronger. Yet, Darshan has been able to keep up enough in lane to help CLG pressure the map through split-pushing and cleaner Teleports. Darshan’s team will rely on him to anchor his lane against top-heavy teams in the NA LCS.

CLG Darshan is exceeding expectations in top lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

DIG Shrimp is exceeding expectations in the jungle

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon

Dignitas, Jungler

KP%:    79.1%   (2nd overall)

XPD@10:    325  (3rd overall)

Dignitas’ newest jungler, Shrimp, has been on a tear so far this split. He and top laner, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, are the only members of the team to start ahead of their opponents at 10 minutes. Despite Dignitas’ early deficits, Shrimp has enabled the team to control Elder Dragon and Baron better than most teams in the NA LCS. His Lee Sin is particularly strong.

Choi “Pirean” Jun-Sik

Team Envy, Mid laner

KDA:    4.2   (4th mid laner)

DPM:    494  (6th mid laner)

Pirean is by no means close to the best mid laner in the NA LCS. However, his addition to Team Envy has seemed to boost their overall performance. Within the team, Pirean has the highest KDA, lowest death share, and ties Apollo “Apollo” Price in damage share. Even in Envy’s losses, the mid laner looks proactive on picks like Taliyah and Ahri. Pirean seems like a much better fit than Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo in spring.

NV Pirean is performing above expectations in mid lane

LoL Esports Flickr

UOL Samux is exceeding expectations in bottom lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort

Unicorns of Love, Bot laner

DPM:    604   (4th overall)

DMG%: 28%  (6th overall)

Despite already meshing well with Unicorns of Love in his rookie split, Samux is solidifying himself as a top AD carry in EU LCS this split. He is putting out high damage and keeping his deaths low, sporting a 7.7 KDA. Samux’s positioning and decision-making have been crucial to Unicorns’ scary team-fighting. Standing out this way among a strong field of European bot lanes truly is a feat.

Kim “Wadid” Bae-in

Roccat, Support

D%:   15.4%  (2nd support)

KP%:  68.5%  (6th support)

The flashiest Rakan player in the EU LCS, Wadid has been a primary initiator for Roccat this split. This trend started during Roccat’s win streak towards the end of Spring Split, but he has blossomed these past few weeks. Wadid enables his bottom lane partner, Petter “Hjärnan” Freyschuss, to get ahead during laning phase and clean up team-fights. Viewers feel this player’s presence on the map, which is impressive considering there are several competitive, veteran support players in the league.

ROC Wadid is exceeding expectations as support

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

honorable mention

IMT Cody Sun and Olleh are above expectations in bottom lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung

Immortals, Bot lane duo

DPM: 534,251 (2nd bot lane duo)

FB%: 27%,20% (1st bot laner, 1st support)

The success of Immortals’ bottom lane is difficult to separate between marksman and support. Both Cody Sun and Olleh have exhibited vast improvements from their starts at IEM Gyeonggi. Many fans could see the power shift towards the end of Spring Split, but not to the current degree. This duo has consistently pressured opponents throughout the game in laning, turrets and team-fights. Olleh’s aggressive Bard and Morgana pairs particularly well with Cody Sun’s Caitlyn and Varus. Immortals’ bottom lane has been a force so far, and remaining at the top of the standings will definitely depend on their continued growth.

All of these players are playing above their previous benchmarks. It only takes a short time for above expectations to turn into the expectation, and, as the NA and EU LCS advance, viewers will look for continued improvement. No one will necessarily remember which teams and players were stomping or slumping three weeks into the split. If these players truly want to leave their mark, they will need to maintain this high level of gameplay over many more grueling weeks of League of Legends.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Champion Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

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Who’s That Champéon? It’s Galio!

Here we break down the competitive and solo queue uses of a popular meta champion, Galio. Yes, I know how to spell champion, but isn’t everything so much better when you can cash in on some sweet 90’s nostalgia?

Galio – The Colossus

Galio is a supportive tank that excels in the top and middle lane, while also being somewhat viable as a support. With a kit loaded with CC and wave clear, Galio is a must learn champion for pros across the lanes.

Why is Galio Meta

Gallium has always been a metal, but Galio has almost never been meta. His recent rework and high mastery level have allowed him to excel in professional play more than solo queue environments, in part due to his team-play dependent ultimate and safe wave-clear.

Galio’s Q, Winds of War, also known as, “kill the caster minions”, can allow him to safely defend turrets even against 2v1 scenarios. His passive, Colossal Smash, resets based upon the frequent usage of his abilities. In competitive, you are more than likely to see his passive used in tandem with Iceborn Gauntlet procs, to clear waves faster than all other tanks.

Shield of Duran, Galio’s W, provides both a passive magic shield and an active AOE taunt that also reduces damage dealt to Galio. Shield of Duran makes clean dives incredibly hard to pull off on Galio. This adds to his ability to deal with 2v1 scenarios that often arise after the first tower has fallen in pro play.

Galio’s W (top left), Passive (bottom left), ultimate (middle), Q (top right), and E (bottom right). Courtesy of leagueoflegends.com

 

Galio’s gap closing knock up, his E, Justice Punch, allows for some sweet instant knock ups when cast backwards near an enemy. It is also a substantial gap closer when cast normally. Justice Punch allows Galio to set up his bread and butter laning combo for harass in the Top and Middle Lane. Casting E, into Winds of War, followed by a taunt to keep the enemy in the Winds of War AOE is devastating on its own; but with allies around, the CC duration can often be fatal.

In competitive play, Galio’s ultimate, Hero’s Entrance, allows for the largest AOE knock up in the game. Used alongside divers such as Rakan and Jarvan IV, Hero’s Entrance can decide team fights. Used independent of divers and initiators, Galio’s ultimate can provide disengage and pick denial due to the damage reduction it gives its target. If you see a comp with heavy dive, you better expect the Galio pick and vice versa as Galio meta is more than just an LCK craze.

Who Uses it in Competitive

Galio top lane has been a popular pick in solo queue environments. However, the ability to flex this champion in two and sometimes even three roles makes him one of the highest priority picks. In the LCK, Galio has a 90.7 percent pick/ban rate. This is just slightly higher than his NA LCS pick/ban rate which stands at 86.5 percent. The difference in the win rates Galio has in the two regions is illustrative of how comfortable each region is with the popular protect the carry meta. With a 62.5 win rate in the LCK, Galio is a powerful pick that alongside dive champions can be enough to snowball mid game team fights into a victory. In NA, Galio’s  43.8 percent win rate is something to be questioned. Perhaps, NA teams find better success with him in scrims, or maybe they are just trying to replicate the LCK picks without adopting the entire team strategy to go with it.

Who Plays it Best?

In the current meta, hard crowd control based initiation is just as valuable as peeling for carries, making Galio one of the best picks. That being said, who plays it best? And more importantly, what makes them play the best?

Kt Rolster’s mid laner, Heo “Pawn” Won-seok, is the Galio player to watch. With three games and three wins, Pawn boasts a 11.33 KDA on Galio, proving that if he can get his hands on the pick, he will utilize Galio’s kit to the max. Kt Rolster as a team play Galio better than any other team, picking the champion alongside dive champions such as Jarvan IV, Rakan and Renekton.

“Oh, you want to play Galio mid? Well too bad.” Courtesy of Lol Esports flickr

Picking Galio first allows Kt Rolster to flex the pick between mid and top, as both Pawn and Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho are adept Galio players. The flex allows for the shuffling of Galio across lanes based upon the matchup, as Galio has much better match ups into magic damage lanes. Austin “Gate” Yu, support player of Echo Fox, took the ability to flex pick Galio one step further by using him as a support into a Zyra/Varus lane matchup. This pick worked against CLG due to the magic damage in the bottom lane allowing Gate to build a very cost efficient Locket of the Iron Solari.

With his base damage, professional players only pick up a couple of Doran’s Rings as offensive items. While the passive on the Rings’ mana regen has been made Unique, don’t expect Galio to fall off anytime soon. Pawn has shown Galio’s base damages to be more than enough through his purely defensive builds, typically rushing Adaptive Helm into Ninja Tabi and Warmog’s. Pawn’s use of Galio’s ultimate ability during laning phase is something you would expect out of a Shen player on steroids. With Heroic Entrance bringing CC in itself and an easier to hit taunt than Shen, Galio is the champion to beat in competitive League of Legends.

Bringing Galio into Solo Queue

Due to the nature of his kit, Galio is a much better champion in a coordinated team composition. That being said, he is still a powerful solo queue menace given the proper conditions. First, make sure your team has dive. While Galio is great at peeling, solo queue is often about killing the enemy carry over protecting your own. This is because protect the carry comps are a lot more difficult to pull off without proper coordination and trust. So only pick Galio if you have a dive buddy, maybe a duo partner, to go ham with. Second, Galio has a lot of bad matchups. What makes this worse is the fact that popular solo queue champions, such as Riven, Tryndamere, Talon, and Yasuo all do really well into Galio’s core itemization. Try not to blindly pick Galio as he greatly benefits from stacking magic resist. Finally, to play Galio correctly in solo queue you need to have exceedingly good map awareness. Utilizing Galio’s best ability, his ultimate, to bail out your teammates and counter ganks during laning phase is why Galio gets picked for mid lane. Hit level six and counter gank the enemy jungler before the opposing laner can react.

If you can manage to do those three things, then cash in on the colossal amount of LP Galio can grant you.

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Featured Image courtesy of Jesse Baron

Dragon Fist Lee Sin splash art

SICK KICKS: Dragon’s Rage as Used by LCS Junglers

Lee Sin is an ever-present pick within the jungle pool for professional League of Legends. Players all around the world have perfected the complex mechanics of this champion. The Blind Monk is valuable for his quick clear, his impactful early ganks, his vision on the map, and his outplay potential.

So far in the 2017 EU and NA LCS Summer Splits, Lee Sin is picked or banned in 71-72 percent of games. This presence is massive, especially when considering how often Lee Sin has historically been playable in the meta. His ultimate ability, Dragon’s Rage, is a particularly popular ability, for competitors and audiences alike.

Players use Dragon’s Rage for a range of purposes. A caught out enemy is punished by pushing him into Lee Sin’s team. The jungler can also help peel for primary carries by kicking a chasing enemy back away from the team. Or Dragon’s Rage can zone certain threats out of a fight or away from an objective. This ability gives a player so much agency that fans keep their eye on the positioning of the Lee Sin.

Highlights from week two of the EU and NA LCS Summer Split are below. Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon, Nam “Lira” Tae-yoo, Juan “Contractz” Garcia, Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian, Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun, and Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen are the featured players in the montage. Each of them uses Lee Sin’s Dragon Rage in various ways to demonstrate the power of a well-timed, well-placed kick. This single ability was crucial to several series wins and losses.

Lee Sin currently sits at a 64 percent win rate in the NA LCS, and a 54 percent in EU. Players generally build Tracker’s Knife (Warrior) for the warding and attack damage. Black Cleaver offers health and armor shred. Ninja Tabi grants movement speed and damage reduction, while Deadman’s Plate comes with armor, health, movement speed and attack damage. Lee Sin is best played into Kha’Zix and Elise, according to Games of Legends. Understanding when Dragon’s Rage is available is key to viewing Lee Sin on-screen, or playing against him on Summoner’s Rift.


Featured Image: LeagueSplash

Video Highlights: Game Haus Vibby

Champion Statistics: Games of Legends

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The Fall of Phoenix1

Phoenix1 came into Summer Split as the third place team from Spring. They had an MVP player in ADC No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon with solid pieces around him. Many expected them to still be strong contenders in the North American LCS, but two weeks in and they’re lone wolves at the bottom with an 0-4 record.

What exactly happened in between splits? For the most part it feels like the team has stagnated a bit, while the rest of the teams around them have gotten better. A few minor roster changes from last split seemed to have carried over as the team just does not look to be meshing well.

Is it time to bench inori?

Photo via Riot Games

Many of P1’s problems arose last split before jungler, Rami “Inori” Charagh, took a leave of absence from the team to deal with personal issues. News then arose that him and support Adrian “Adrian” Ma were bringing much tension to the team with chemistry. Adrian took shots at Inori in an LCS interview basically saying how Meteos was a smarter jungler overall. Inori returned to the team and looked much improved after his break. With the transfer of Adrian to Team Liquid, Inori no longer has the personal issues on the team that he had before.

Inori has looked shaky to start off the split. He’s near the bottom in just about every jungle statistic. He’s known to let his emotions dictate his game play. With Phoenix1 struggling to find their first win, he may be tilting a bit to start off the season. The team overall hasn’t looked very proactive at all, as most of their games have been straight up stomps.

In P1’s last match against Cloud 9, he was subbed out in favor of William “Meteos” Hartman. With Meteos, the team looked a lot more competitive. With the jungle meta shifting away from the carry junglers, Inori’s time could be up on Phoenix1.

If the team wants to move on, they’ll need to find a long term jungler that they can develop. Meteos has voiced that he doesn’t want to be with P1 long term and was only there as a temporary fix. If they can’t find someone else soon, they could be facing relegations.

Was Shady the Right choice at support?

When Adrian was transferred to Team Liquid, P1 brought on Dignitas sub, William “Stunt” Chen, to be the starting support. The team found much success with Stunt on the roster. He seemed to fit well with the team near the end of the season and first round of playoffs. Yet when it came to semifinals, Phoenix1 decided to go with a brand new rookie support in Jordan “Shady” Robison.

With Shady, the team never really looked quite as good. We’ll never know what happens in practice or scrims, but it felt that Stunt was the better option just looking at how the team plays on stage. Individually Shady isn’t blowing any stats out of the water, looking average at best. Maybe having a seven man roster with Stunt would have been the better option.

Photo via Riot Games

Peaked

Perhaps 3rd place was the best Phoenix1 could possibly do as a roster. Arrow hasn’t looked like the MVP from last split. Their early game seems a lot less proactive and more reactive to other teams. This team looked poised for another split of success, but have started off rocky. How they bounce back after rough 0-2 back to back weeks will be huge in how they perform the rest of this split.

As other teams have shown improvement over the offseason, Phoenix1 has looked worse. With rift rivals just weeks away, they’ll need to show a lot of improvement if they want to represent North America well in a huge international rivalry.

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Cover Photo by Riot Esports

Where are the Fans? A Case for the EU LCS

Based on the results of Worlds and MSI, the EU versus NA debate is firmly in favor of EU. EU LCS has seen more semifinals and finals at major international events since 2015 than NA has since season 1. EU LCS is also shaping up to have a lot of exciting story lines this split. Group A will be a fight between the current kings of EU LCS, G2, and the old guard, Fnatic. Misfits also look strong and have a chance to take a top position in the group. Meanwhile group B will be a battle between H2K and the Unicorns of Love. Splyce is also in a position to make a bid for a top spot of that group. Even the bottom teams of each group could pull out some upsets if they find their rhythm. Roccat specifically being no strangers to slow starts.

The production value of EU LCS is very high, at least equal to that of the NA LCS. Sjokz commands the analyst desk with precision, invoking great conversation. The casters are top percentage, Deficio and Quickshot especially. There are exciting and entertaining players like H2K’s Jankos and G2’s PerkZ. The post-game interviews don’t take themselves too seriously and are still engaging as well.

The EU LCS seems to have everything going for it except for one thing. Where are the fans? The NA LCS has consistently outperformed the EU LCS in terms of viewership. Why does the EU LCS struggle with viewership so much? How does the EU LCS recover?

 

The Problems

 

One issue with the EU LCS in comparison to NA LCS is the top teams in NA have been around longer. TSM, CLG, and DIG (despite a brief hiatus) have all been around since the very first split, and were around before even the LCS. Cloud 9 joined in season three summer, missing only a single split of LCS. Team Liquid kept the Curse Gaming members when they took over, so essentially they have been around since the beginning of the LCS. NA has three teams that have been around since  the inception of the LCS and two that have essentially been around that long. The only team in the EU that has survived since the inception of LCS is Fnatic. The second oldest team is Team Roccat, joining the LCS in season four.

The long standing teams in NA have given rise to more storied rivalries and more long standing fans. Namely with TSM, CLG, and C9. CLG and TSM have been duking it out long before the LCS began. Cloud 9’s and TSM’s continued success has pitted them head to head in the NA LCS finals split after split. Each team consistently gunning for the top spot has created a rivalry between the two teams. This rivalry has only been exacerbated by the rivalry between the two midlaners, who are widely accepted to be the top two of their role in NA.

As for EU, they have largely lost any storied rivalries by way of relegations. The El Classico rivalry between SK gaming and FNC was lost to SK Gaming’s relegation. Gambit Gaming was a fan favorite team that sold their spot in the LCS after an 8th place finish in season 5 summer. Although there are some longer standing teams now, such as H2K and UoL, the teams just haven’t developed a history like that of the NA teams.

It’s also worth mentioning that EU has suffered scheduling conflicts since the beginning. The league was aired on Thursdays and Fridays during work and school hours, as opposed to NA LCS which was aired Saturday and Sunday, making it easier to watch. This made it easier for fans to keep up with their favorite NA teams, while making it harder to keep up with the EU teams.

 

Solutions

The scheduling conflicts have gotten a lot better. EU LCS airs Thursday-Sunday, before the NA LCS, making it easier to watch live for most people. So, the content is available. There has also been developing rivalries. FNC looks to dethrone G2 this season and has already taken their first win over them. UoL and H2K battled fiercely yesterday for control of group B. UoL came back from a rough early game in game 3 to take the win. Storylines are developing in EU, but slowly.

The EU LCS needs stability right now. It’s what will bring in more fans, more sponsors, and more talent. The obvious answer is to franchise. The NA LCS will be franchising next season, but the word came down from Riot that EU will not be. Although this doesn’t spell the death of the EU LCS it certainly doesn’t help. More stability in NA will only increase their viewership, and a lack of that stability in EU may hurt their popularity. It may also hurt their chances at sponsorships and investments. The idea of a stable franchised league is so enticing G2’s ocelote even entertained the idea of applying to join the NA LCS on an episode of Esports Salon. Though he said it would ultimately be unlikely given G2’s success in EU, it might not be a bad move for lower level teams.

As for Riot, they need to move to enfranchise EU if they want that region to grow like NA has. There has been no explanation from Riot as to why they don’t want to franchise EU. They have only said that there are no plans to franchise and they promise to give information on their plans for Europe “later this year”. Personally, I see no reason why EU shouldn’t franchise. It may be a bit challenging with the multiple country region, but no company as large as Riot should have an issue surmounting that. If Riot has a way to bring stability to the region other than franchising, hopefully they release it soon. EU LCS is an entertaining and talented region. Right now, it is the west’s chance to compete with the eastern teams. It deserves stability and it deserves the fandom that will come along with that stability.

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You can follow Zack on Twitter. He mostly tweets about Esports.

Photos Via Lolesports.

Will Super Teams Ever Be formed in the LCS?

For those who follow the NBA, it’s no doubt that the league has changed. Star players used to be much more loyal to the teams that drafted them. Nowadays if players want to compete for a title, they most likely need the help of fellow superstars to do so. Which brings an interesting topic to LCS. What would happen if some of the best players of the region all came together to form “super teams” to begin to seriously contend for worlds. One could only imagine the possibilities of rosters.

We have yet to really see any formation of super teams take place in LCS. In Europe, Alliance had their small run of success before flopping at Worlds. The transfer of Zven and Mithy to G2 was also a bold move for them as they saw the greatest chance for success in joining G2 esports. In the LMS you somewhat have the formation of two of the best rosters on AHQ and Flash Wolves. It’s an extremely top heavy region where Flash Wolves and AHQ are almost always bound to meet in the finals.

Why not?

Photo via Inven

One could see how the formation of “super teams” could greatly benefit a region. Could you imagine a super team of North American talent of Hauntzer, Dardoch, Bjergsen, Doublelift, and Aphromoo? Possibly the best players at their positions from the region all coming together to compete for a World championship.

Player loyalty is much higher in LCS than the NBA. Players are extremely loyal it seems to the teams that gave them their first real shot at playing professionally. Bjergsen will always be famous for the work he has put in on TSM. The same goes for Aphromoo on CLG. Even Froggen on Echo Fox. Despite having some poor splits so far in the NALCS, Froggen remains loyal to Echo Fox as an organization. It makes it difficult to see if either players would give up their loyalty for a shot at a professional title. In the NBA, a star player can only hope for so long that his GM can garner the right pieces for a championship team. Once they’ve hit their peak, they’re looking for a title contending team which usually means teaming up with other NBA superstars (i.e. Kevin Durant to GSW).

Would Super Teams Hurt the LCS?

The competition of LCS may become worse if all the best players of a region are stacked onto 1-3 teams. Looking at the NBA, we can almost expect the Cavs and Warriors to face off in every finals for the next few years until another super team can form to dethrone them. If super teams dominated LCS, and the gap between a middle tier and top tier team were to expand, the league could grow stale for some. Seeing super star heavy teams leaves less of a talent pool for other teams. Most teams would probably need to turn to imports to compete.

With no real player rivalries anymore in the NBA, more players seem to care more about winning a championship than anything. Player/team rivalries are huge in sports/esports, but if every good player just wants to team together, it sort of defeats the purpose of competing against the best.

Can Super Teams actually compete on the world stage?

Photo via Riot Esports

If super teams were to form in NA LCS, it’d be with one goal in mind: to finally contend for a world championship. For so long Korea has dominated professional League of Legends. Forming a sort of “all star” team could be one way to finally contend for a World title. We’ve seen teams like G2 and TSM do well domestically, but flop at Worlds. Could the solution just be superstar players joining up to form all star caliber teams?

It’s hard to say for sure. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on moving forward as North American fans grow frustrated with seeing Korea win every year and NA fail to make it out of groups. If the years continue on like this, I could definitely see some superstars look to join up as esport athletes don’t have the longest career spans. Searching for a World title may be one or two players away from forming a super team.

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Cover Photo by Riot Esports

Let me know what your super team would be in the comments below!

 

UOL Xerxe will jungle against H2K Jankos in Week 2

Unicorns Will Grapple with H2K for Group B Dominance

This Sunday, June 11, Unicorns of Love will take on H2K to establish the top of the standings in Group B of the EU LCS. It will be a crucial series, as these two teams seek the top spot within the group. While audiences were able to see UOL and H2K debut in Week One, their opponents looked significantly weaker. Week Two will be the true test for Group B dominance.

At the end of the Spring Split, UOL narrowly edged out H2K for first seed going into playoffs. H2K had a 10-3 record, while UOL finished 11-2. H2K lost both head-to-head match-ups against UOL over the course of the split, so they will look for redemption in the series this week.

Spring Split Series

Week Two

UOL and H2K first faced off in Week Two of the Spring Split this year. The Unicorns won games one and three, while H2K took the second game. In all three games, H2K secured a gold lead of 3,000 or more. They took the first kill, the first dragon, and the first turret in all three games. This usually involved UOL initiating a fight or turret dive, and H2K properly absorbing the pressure and punishing the failed attempts.

However, H2K never got these early accomplishments for free. UOL generally secured kills of their own just after first blood. The Unicorns also did not slow down the tempo of the game. Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir and Fabian “Exileh” Schubert were almost always more proactive than H2K’s mid-jungle duo, and most teamfights went in UOL’s favor. In H2K’s losses, they allowed UOL to swing the gold back in their favor twice, dragging the game time beyond 36 minutes. In H2K’s win, they finished before 33 minutes.

These mid-game teamfights transitioned into Baron posturing. Unicorns’ wins came off the back of successful Baron takes post-30 minutes. In H2K’s victory, they did successfully push UOL off of a Baron call, punished the rush, and ended the game.

Week Eight

The other UOL-H2K match-up occurred in Week Eight of the Spring Split. While the Unicorns did win the series 2-0, the games were still competitive. Game one saw H2K with over 7,000 gold over UOL. Game two took UOL three Baron takes to close out the game. The strengths and weaknesses of the two teams carried over into this series, as well. In both games, Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski secured first blood and one of H2K’s solo laners received the second kill.

But, again, UOL excels at securing counter-kills and keeping up the tempo. When playing from behind, they absorb the pressure of H2K’s Baron buff and make sure to take the Infernal Drakes. When playing ahead, UOL pressures the map, takes Baron themselves, and pushes the pace. The aggression does occasionally get them into trouble, though.

Last split, UOL was the only squad with higher first Baron (80 percent) and Baron control (78 percent) rates than H2K. Fighting around the pit is UOL’s biggest strength. Meanwhile, H2K’s early game is key to their success. They maintained the highest average gold lead at 15 minutes (1,056) and the highest first blood rate (63 percent).

It is between these moments where the match-up will be decided. H2K needs to snowball their early leads efficiently and close out the game before UOL gets the opportunity to snag a Baron. Unicorns of Love will need to match H2K’s aggression throughout the first 30 minutes, then pressure Baron and out-fight in the late game.

Summer Split Series

H2K v. Splyce

H2K’s first series of the Summer Split was against Splyce. The series ended 2-0 in H2K’s favor, but the first game did not go as smoothly as the second. Splyce built up a 3,600 gold lead pre-20 minutes. However, H2K’s mid-game teamfighting was too much, particularly out of Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten. H2K took Baron around 22 minutes, swinging the gold lead back in their favor and ending the game. In Game Two, Jankos got three kills on Graves in the first four minutes, and H2K snowballed completely from that point. It was over in 24 minutes.

H2K v. Mysterious Monkeys

Mysterious Monkeys did not put up much of a fight versus H2K in Week One. While MM was able to get a few early kills in the first game, H2K turned it around at the dragon pit. After taking the Infernal Drake, H2K built a lead over 10,000 gold and closed it out. Game Two was a complete stomp. H2K secured six kills before MM could get one, then they took the Baron and ended.

Unicorns v. Team Vitality

Unicorns’ wins against VIT followed a similar trajectory. Although VIT secured first blood, first turret, first dragon, and Rift Herald in Game One, UOL only allowed them to take one more turret after 10 minutes–no more kills or neutral objectives. They secured Baron around 22 minutes, and closed the game. In Game Two, UOL only lost five deaths and two turrets, while securing 18 kills and a 20-minute Baron.

H2K v. UOL This Week

These two teams seem to be utilizing similar strategies to win this summer as they did in spring. H2K is averaging the highest gold difference at 15 minutes among all EU LCS teams. Unicorns averages about half as much. H2K has secured first blood in two out of four games, while UOL did not in either of their games. H2K also has a higher first turret rate, first dragon rate, and Rift Herald rate.

However, UOL took the first three turrets in both games. Their kill-death ratio as a team is over twice that of H2K, which means Unicorns will be looking to win fights. Both teams have a 100 percent first Baron and Baron control rate, but UOL has historically bested H2K around the pit. H2K should stick to their playstyle of getting far ahead early and out-rotating their opponent. UOL needs to absorb that early pressure, punish missed opportunities, push the pace whether ahead or behind, and posture around Baron to force H2K’s hand. This series should be explosive, and the top of Group B is on the line.


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Video Highlights: Game Haus Vibby

Champion Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

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It’s time to believe in League of Legends

The summer split of the seventh season has just begun, and it promises to be exciting. CLG has opened with an unexpected 2-0 while SKT lost their season opener, and FNC once again looks like a force to be reckoned with. Aside from unexpected victories and losses, Riot has announced that next year teams will be able to permanently lock in a spot for the NALCS. This means that the teams will be making a long time buy-in investment when deciding to sign up for a spot. Sure, there will be opportunity for an instant return on investment, but teams are in it for the long haul.

Organizations have indicated that they expect League of Legends to be around for a long time. It’s a game that has been on the incline since its inception, both gaining players and viewers of its professional league. Although it shows no signs of slowing down, many predict that eventually the titan shall fall and fade into obscurity as an esport, much like Starcraft or Quake has in the past – both games are still played competitively, but they are by no means as large or as followed as they once were.

Riot’s Changes

 

Esports have come a long way since Quake and Starcraft were the top titles. There’s much more money, much better infrastructure, and more fan involvement, especially in League of Legends, the clear top title at the moment.

Recently, Riot has made it clear that they are willing to take drastic steps to secure a stable and long future for their game as an esport. They have listened to fans, analysts, orgs, and players alike. They have franchised the NALCS, increased the prize money available at all levels of professional play, introduced a new international tournament, increased wildcard team involvement and coverage, added a player’s association and an Academy league in the NALCS. Not to mention the quality of game changes they’ve made and have planned, such as the remastered runes and masteries and the ten-ban system.

The last year has been a busy one for Riot Games. They have changed a lot to make their game a better one, and they have been much more receptive to players, opening up important communication channels.

 

Fan Impact

 

The once small company turned behemoth has put the onus on us. Riot has held up their end of the bargain and laid the groundwork for us a fandom, a culture, to turn League of Legends into something great. If we want to continue to watch League of Legends for many years to come, we must act now.  There will never be another opportunity to take League of Legends as an esport to greater heights.

It’s time to believe in League of Legends.

How we do it is simple: everyone should do one small thing for the community. Find a way to give back to the game that has given us all so much. Talk to your friends about League, host watching parties and maybe invite someone who has never watched a game. Even something as simple as buying and wearing a t-shirt of your favorite org helps. If you want to do something really big, you could host a local LAN tournament.

The more people that spend time talking about esports, the more seriously people will take us. The more people talking about and interested in League of Legends, the more people will join our community. This endless cycle will propel us to be considered a major force in the world of sports.

It all starts now. We must change how we approach the game. We have to be more vocal and more public in our support. Erase the stigma surrounding esports. Riot has put their trust in us to support the game that we love. If you believe in League of Legends, as a game, as an esport, then now is the time to prove it.


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Photos via Lolesports

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