super-teams

NA LCS: Are ‘super-teams’ a trap?

The 2018 NA LCS preseason has been one wild ride. For the past several weeks, roster announcements/leaks seem like a daily occurrence. Free agency and franchising brought a complete upheaval of many teams. Amidst the widespread changes, we can see the formation of a handful of super-teams such as Team SoloMid (TSM) and Team Liquid (TL). However, these star rosters do raise some flags for concern. After all, some super-teams have not worked in the past. So what makes the 2018 rosters different? Let’s take a look at the performance of NA super-teams in the past and how these new teams look to surpass their predecessors.

Spring 2016 TSM: Enter the Super-team

super-teams

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In the Spring of 2016, Team SoloMid owner, Andy “Reginald” Dinh assembled what many fans saw as the North American dream-team. Following Worlds 2015, and the retirements of Marcus “Dyrus” Hill and Ham “Lustboy” Jang-sik, Reginald rebuilt the TSM roster around star mid laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg. Reginald managed to piece together a monster roster consisting of veteran AD-carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, rising top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, seasoned jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and legendary support Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim.

Despite the staggering roster, this iteration of TSM struggled to find their footing for most of the spring split. Despite glaring synergy issues, the squad surged through playoffs. Ultimately falling to rivals, Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) in the Finals. There were a number of reasons why Team SoloMid seemed to flounder in Spring 2016. Clearly, the bottom lane struggled to effectively complement one another’s playstyle. Against all expectations, TSM demonstrated why super-teams do not always pan out. An expensive mistake for Regi to be sure. Still, we did catch some glimpses of greatness from that TSM roster.

Many point to TSM‘s playoff upswing as a result of Regi’s decision to hire sports psychologist Weldon Green. The following summer, after YellOwStaR left TSM to return to Europe, the team performed outstandingly. With then rookie talent Vincent “Biofrost” Wang, TSM went on to have the organization’s most dominant split to date. In an interview with Blitz Esports, Weldon Green, reflecting on his time with TSM said, “they would build stellar teams … but they couldn’t maintain it.” Weldon went on to explain that after the 2016 season, Reginald showed incredible strides in fixing this internal issue. However, looking at 2018, Team SoloMid has already announced some serious changes to their roster.

The same Story in 2018?

super-teams

Credits: Team SoloMid

Coming into 2018, Regi has again acquired some superstar talents in rising rookie Mike “MikeYeung” Yeung and the famous western bottom duo Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez. Big roster changes like this clearly have not worked out for TSM in the past. So what makes this year different? Reginald made it a point to build on his existing coaching staff. By switching former coach Parth Naidu to General Manager, Regi announced Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo, formerly of team Immortals (IMT), as TSM‘s new Head Coach. In addition to these changes, Regi also brought on Lustboy as a full-time Strategy Coach.

It’s clear that Regi is serious about building on the successes of 2017 Team SoloMid. Bjergsen, Hauntzer, Zven and Mithy have all worked with Weldon Green in the past. These players carry similar mindsets that can be complemented with the solid coaching staff Regi has established. It’s reasonable to think that Weldon’s emphasis on in-game mental resiliency is shared among these four players. Perhaps a shared mentality will give these players an edge in finding their synergy during the season. Now, the biggest question mark on TSM rests on MikeYeung’s shoulders.

As a rookie in 2017 summer, Mike demonstrated serious star potential. His affinity for carry-style junglers seems to clash with TSM‘s preference for control oriented tanks in that role. In that case, are TSM and MikeYeung a good fit for one another? In multiple interviews with MikeYeung, his composure and attitude certainly reflect that of a player open to learning and adapting to new playstyles. On top of that, Mike looks like he is hungry for serious competition. While TSM might look as though they are falling into the same ‘super-team’ trap as 2016, a second glance tells otherwise.

Liquid Doubles down

super-teams

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

While much of this article has centered around the example of Team SoloMid super-teams, it’s time to address the other huge threat in North America. Team Liquid co-owner Steve Arhancet has steadily assembled a super-team of his own. The roster consists of some of NA’s top talents in Doublelift, Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, Eugene “Pobelter” Park, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung and Jake “Xmithie” Puchero. While the roster is certainly stacked, the first question that comes to mind is synergy. Will Spring 2018 TL be the next Spring 2016 TSM? In short, probably not.

As many already know, three of the five players on TL‘s new roster were stars on the 2017 Immortals roster that placed second in NA. On top of this, Pobelter, Xmithie and Doublelift were part of the 2015 CLG roster that won that year’s summer finals. These players have history both as teammates and competitors. This history will lend itself toward TL‘s synergy coming into the 2018 split. In terms of synergy, Impact stands out as a possible weak point. While his mechanical skill and laning are near-immaculate, Impact’s communication will certainly play a factor in the team’s success, or failure. However with Olleh on the team, and TL‘s newly announced Assistant Coach Kang “Dodo” Jun-hyeuk, Impact will have a much easier time communicating both in and out of game.

The 2018 preseason has already uprooted everything fans know about the NA LCS landscape. Standing on the horizon are two super-teams in Team Liquid and Team SoloMid. The hype has already begun long before the season’s start. With the massive changes to the NA LCS in the coming year, these super-teams will be put to the test. Will TSM and TL dominate? Or is this just another expensive lesson for North America?

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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biofrost

Biofrost: Following the footsteps of legends

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

Filling Bora’s Shoes

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

New Season New Botlane

Biofrost

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

The Biofrost we love

biofrost

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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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tyler1 world championship

Tyler1 World Championship: The dream is dead

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

Game 1: The Comeback Kids

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

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

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

Game 2: No Love for Yorick Mori

Tyler1 World Championship

Credits: Tyler1 Championship Series

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

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

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

Game 3: It was only just a dream

tyler1 world championship

Original Photo Credits: LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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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tyler1 championship

Three standout players from Group A of Tyler1 Championship Series

Day 1 of the highly anticipated Tyler1 Championship Series did not disappoint. Group A consisted of eight teams boasting some of League’s most infamous solo queue players. At the end of the day, one team emerged victorious. Fan-favorites, the Stream Dream Team (SDT), rampaged through their bracket. In that blaze of glory, some players stood out above the rest. Here are three players from Day 1 of the TCS that brought the flames.

Dhokla Slices and Dices

Tyler1 Championship Series

Credits: Riot Games

No Clue (NC) opened the tournament with a near perfect victory against Super Nova Esports (SN), dropping only a single tower. Much of the team’s success came on consistent play from top-laner Niship “Dhokla” Doshi. His constant pressure in a side lane really opened up the map for his team. And while his “Maokai” play was definitively solid, Dhokla flipped a switch against R U RDY FOR TRANCE (RDY?). Dhokla blind-picked “Renekton” and dared Skaarlet Kledder to match him.

The match-up was Dhokla‘s “Renekton” against Skaarlet‘s “Sion.” Dhokla abused “Renekton’s” natural lane dominance, forcing multiple early backs from his lane opponent. This early pressure gave the “Renekton” room to earn early split-push priority and a massive 60 CS lead at 20 minutes. Because of this pressure, Dhokla drew heavy jungle attention from RDY?’s NJP. Despite attention from the enemy “Rek’Sai,” Dhokla gave viewers a clutch 1v2 outplay in the bottom lane. After forcing Skaarlet‘s flash, Dhokla had to flash defensively before re-engaging the fight. One versus two, Dhokla managed to secure a kill onto Skaarlet with only a “Black Cleaver” in his inventory. Dhokla remained an unstoppable teamfight menace, mowing down the RDY? team and leading his team to a 24 minute win.

Scarra Unbenches the Kench

Tyler1 Championship Series

Credits: Scarra’s Instagram

Formerly the jungler of Delta Fox (DFX), William “Scarra” Li boasts a 100% win-rate on “Tahm Kench” at the Tyler1 Championship Series. In two of their three matches on the day, Scarra pulled out the River King as his support of choice. Against their first opponents of the day, Gweiss eSports (GWE), Scarra flexed the pick with his top-laner, Joedat “Voyboy” Esfahani, on “Karma.” Along with Michael “Imaqtpie” Santana, the SDT bottom lane rendered the opposing AD-carry near useless in teamfights.

But the heat did not stop there. Scarra‘s “Tahm Kench” made a repeat appearance in the quarterfinals match against Team Brickz (TBZ). His aggressive plays, often flashing onto enemy champions to secure a “Devour” earned his team some crucial kills. Scarra‘s synergy with mid-laner Danny “Shiphtur” Le was on full display, when the duo clutched a kill onto W0WFIXZ‘s “Syndra.” When Voyboy dove deep into Team Brickz’s back-line, it was Scarra who saved his teammate with slivers of health to spare.

In their semifinals game against No Clue, Scarra opted into “Sona” as a counter to “Karma.” Unlike his previous performances, Scarra was not as ‘unstoppable’ on the “Sona” pick. Even in SDT’s voice-comms, Scarra expressed some discomfort on the champion. Is Scarra a “Tahm Kench” one-trick now? Will his limited champion pool be SDT’s undoing? All jokes aside, Scarra put up a great show. But, it was his teammate Shiphtur who had arguably the best performance on the day.

Shiphtur’s Kassawin

Tyler1 Championship Series

Credits: Shiphtur’s Instagram

With a massive 13.0 KDA and only a single death in three games, Shiphtur rocked Group A. Despite the memes surrounding the re-branded Delta Fox squad, these boys came to play. In his first game against Gweiss eSports, Shiphtur on “Taliyah” dominated his lane opponent, GL IM ZWAG, earning himself a solo kill under the enemy tower. But the plays did not stop there for the former Dignitas (DIG) mid-laner; Shiphtur‘s use of the “Weaver’s Wall” secured objective after objective for the Stream Dream Team. With Shiphtur‘s push priority in lane, Marcus “Dyrus” Hill invaded the enemy jungle, able to push Shiphtur‘s mid-pressure throughout the entire map.

Game 2 against Team Brickz was more of the same story. Rather than banning Shiphtur‘s “Taliyah,” TBZ let the pick go through and paid the price. Shiphtur forced his opponent, Scouting Grounds candidate “W0WFIXZ,” to stay chained to the mid-outer tower. While his opponent perpetually farmed, Shiphtur earned multiple kills using “Weaver’s Wall” to deliver himself onto the enemy “Gangplank” and to cut off the escape for the opposing bottom lane.

In the semifinal game, No Clue finally banned Shiphtur‘s “Taliyah,” hoping to force him onto a less comfortable pick. But Shiphtur had other plans in mind. After locking in “Kassadin” to face off against Peridot‘s “Malzahar,” Shiphtur entered the game in full carry mode. Patiently, Shiphtur and his teammates scaled into the late game, taking advantages when possible. Often, Shiphtur found himself matching Dhokla‘s “Ornn” in a split push. His pressure bottom lane earned his team two towers and a level 16 “Kassadin.” Shiphtur was unstoppable. All his team had to do was kite out teamfights while Shiphtur chased down and culled any remaining stragglers.

Honorable Mentions

Tyler1 Championship Series

Credits: Tyler1 Championship Series

  1. Voyboy‘s “Vladimir” was fantastic to watch. On the day, Voyboy opted into mage top-laners, a style that has recently fallen out of favor. His “Vladimir” became monstrous in late teamfights. The kid took on Team Brickz’s entire back line while his team mowed down the tanks. The crucial seconds that he bought in those late-game fights earned his team huge advantages that won them the game.
  2. Faith in Myself‘s “Bard” game against Team FWII was absolutely disgusting. His roaming opened room for his AD-carry, Value, to earn solo-experience while he snowballed advantages for his mid-lane. Clutch “Cosmic Bindings” and “Tempered Fates” won his team multiple teamfights throughout the game against FWII. Faith buried the enemy “Malzahar” who ended the game 0/7/3. This was one merciless “Bard” and the playmaking from Faith was hype to watch.
  3. W0WFIXZ‘s “Viktor” in Team Brickz’s game against DreamerZ Challenger showed why the man is going to the 2017 Scouting Grounds. After the enemy “Orianna” used “Shockwave” to catch the “Viktor” unaware, W0WFIXZ proceeded to solo kill his lane opponent under tower. For the rest of the game, W0WFIXZ‘s “Viktor” unloaded on the DreamerZ squad. Teamfights were downright unfair as the “Chaos Storm” shredded through DreamerZ health bars. Although his team fell today, it will be exciting to see W0WFIXZ at this year’s Scouting Grounds event.

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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graduated junglers

Preseason: NA’s graduated junglers

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

MikeYeung: From the Ashes

graduated junglers

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Omargod: Breaking the Chains

graduated junglers

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Contractz: A Carry’s DNA

graduated junglers

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Zoe's competitive

Early looks: Zoe’s competitive potential

Patch 7.22 brings the largest gameplay update League has seen in years. While the community theory-crafts fresh playstyles and build paths with the Runes Reforged overhaul, a new champion looms just around the corner. Zoe, the Aspect of Twilight, will soon be the latest addition to the Rift. With new play patterns emerging by the day, Zoe will enter the League just in time to sew some chaos. Professional players will no doubt spend much of preseason mastering Targon’s newest champion. How will Zoe‘s competitive future pan out after the pros have a chance to practice her high skill-cap style?

summoner spells, stars and… sleep?

Zoe's competitive

Credits: Riot Games

Zoe introduces several new ideas and a unique mechanic to the League. Her E, “Sleepy Trouble Bubble” is the first ability in the game to have the “drowsy” mechanic. After hitting an enemy with her bubble, Zoe sleeps her target, a form of hard crowd-control seemingly similar to a root. If the initial cast does not hit a target, the bubble lingers as a fairly wide trap. This new mechanic makes messy mid-game skirmishes against Zoe increasingly tricky. Sneaky bubble placement can cause huge disruption in teamfights. Tanks can find themselves immobile for the few seconds it takes to lose their AD-carry. Players can also use these bubbles to zone off entrances or exits to jungle corridors, taking the positional advantage to secure objective control.

Zoe‘s bubble becomes even more threatening when coupled with her ultimate, “Portal Jump.” Zoe gains an extra dimension of mobility with her portal. Although she cannot move while portal jumping, Zoe can cast abilities, ward and auto-attack. A quick “Portal Jump” near the enemy AD-carry can deliver a fast sleep bubble before Zoe jumps back to safety. Alternatively, she can quickly ward dangerous enemy territory and escape unscathed.

Zoe‘s competitive potential and teamfight explosiveness shines with her W ability, “Spell Thief.” When enemy champions use active spells or items, they leave spell shards that Zoe can steal with her WIn her champion teaser, Riot showcased Zoe‘s skirmishing strength by weaving multiple “Flashes” to make for quick spell rotations. Mechanically gifted players will take Zoe‘s competitive gameplay far beyond Riot’s teaser video. But, will this aspect of Zoe‘s kit put her in the ranks of mages like Ryze and Azir? Champions whose skill ceilings are oppressively strong on the competitive stage.

Zoe’s Competitive Skill Ceiling

Zoe's competitive

Credit: LoL Esports Photos

We have seen it with several champions over the past few years. Champs like KalistaRyze and Azir whose kits gave room for massive skill caps that dominated competitively. However, because of their dominance, Riot was forced to nerf these champions beyond viability for the average player. This causes a frustrating disparity between the pros and casual players in solo queue. The question now is, will Zoe be doomed to a similar fate?

Many initial reactions to Zoe highlight her “over-loaded” kit. In all fairness, Zoe does boast a kit with high ceilings for mobility, crowd-control and wave-clear. However, on a recent episode of Beyond the Rift hosted by Michael “imaqtpie” Santana and William “Scarra” Li, RiotWrekz and RiotMeddler dive deeper into a discussion on Zoe‘s mechanics. Scarra used the term “fake mobility” to characterize how Zoe‘s ultimate is more of a deceptive type of mobility. RiotMeddler elaborated on the point, adding that “Portal Jump” excels when used to dodge skillshots, not run down enemy champions. In the podcast, they highlight that Zoe‘s actual strength is her ability to quickly re-position in teamfights.

In Riot’s teaser, Zoe chases down multiple targets in an oppressive display of mobility. However, when we take a step back to really look at the champion, her power lies elsewhere. Zoe seems to excel more in mid-game teamfight scenarios where she can duck enemy crowd-control with “Portal Jump” and steal summoners to effectively lay down her own CC. While Zoe‘s kit is extremely impressive at a glance, the months to come will test her strength in a competitive setting. With the preseason patch constantly reinventing the meta, Zoe‘s competitive viability changes every day.

Featured Image: Riot Games

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performance

Worlds 2017: Breakout and breakdown performances

Worlds 2017 comes to a smashing close with roller-coaster performances across the board. Many fans can agree that this world championship has been the most exciting to date. From rookie upsets to classic battles, this Worlds had it all. But, with high highs come low lows. While some new sensations shook the world with their star performances, some of League’s greatest veterans faltered. Let’s take a look at three players in the Top 8 whose performances truly shocked the crowd.

MSF Ignar: Hook, Line and Sinker

performances

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

It’s fair to say that the entire Misfits Gaming (MSF) roster outperformed expectations at Worlds 2017. After all, many analysts slotted them dead last in Group D alongside Team WE (WE), Flash Wolves (FW) and Team SoloMid (TSM). Misfits shattered these predictions to face off against SK telecom T1 (SKT) in a breathtaking quarterfinals match. And it was their support Donggeun “IgNar” Lee, who went beyond what many thought his team was capable of.

In Game 2 of their quarterfinal match, already down one game against SKT, IgNar fearlessly locked in “Blitzcrank.” If his previous “Blitzcrank” game against TSM was any indication, IgNar would find few hooks against the reigning champs SK telecom. But, time and again, “Rocket Grab” found its mark as Misfits turned the tide against SKT. In a pivotal fight at the Baron pit, IgNar landed a blind “Flash” hook onto SKT’s Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee, causing the famous Faker‘s tilted shoulder roll. “Welcome to the EU LCS baby!” Riot caster Martin “Deficio” Lynge shouted as IgNar pulled off the miracle play.

After this impressive performance, IgNar doubled-down on risky support picks by locking “Leona” with “Ignite” and “Fervor of Battle.” Jaws dropped as IgNar and his AD-carry Steven “Hans Sama” Liv emerged victorious in a massive outplay against the SKT bottom lane. These rookies with no expectations coming into the tournament, had pushed the defending world champions to the brink. Although Misfits fell to SKT in a thrilling five-game saga, they won the hearts of millions of western fans. They pushed SK telecom farther than any team in western history. And they did it with style. After missing an opportunity at the support position for Team SoloMid in 2016, IgNar made his way to the world stage and surpassed all expectations.

SKT Bang: A burden to carry

performances

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Of all his Worlds performances to date, 2017 has been Junsik “Bang” Bae’s toughest year. After having won two world championships back-to-back, Bang stood as a strong contender for the world’s best AD-carry. His synergy with support Jaewan “Wolf” Lee was top-tier and his teamfight decision-making was impeccable. He was SK telecom’s shining AD-carry and he carried those responsibilities like a badge of honor. But his performances all throughout the Top 8 at Worlds 2017 were a shell of his past glory.

In the quarterfinals against Misfits Gaming, Bang found himself on the receiving end of multiple “Rocket Grab’s” and “Zenith Blade’s.” His skills looked duller, cracks started to appear in his play. Although his team managed to scrape past MSF in the quarterfinals, criticism still centered around the bottom lane. Leading up to their semifinal match against Royal Never Give Up (RNG), SK telecom for once, did not look like clear favorites. Even after besting RNG, Bang still looked like a huge liability.

With the SK telecom dynasty weighing heavy on his shoulders, Bang found himself in his third consecutive World Finals. Seated against Jaehyeok “Ruler” Park, Bang had his work cut out for him. After a one-sided defeat in Game One, Bang no doubt felt responsible for his team’s success. Perhaps this pressure was too much. Perhaps it was nerves in Game 2 that compelled Bang to “Flash” forward into three members of Samsung Galaxy. Then, forty-thousand fans watched in the Bird’s Nest in Beijing as Ruler caught Bang and Faker to close a swift 3-0 victory. What thoughts ran through Bang‘s mind as the Samsung colors came raining down in front of him? Would his legacy end with this crushing loss? Or will Bang strike back in 2018?

SSG Crown: Lucky Number 13

performance

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

From the Worlds 2017 Top 20:

“A great 2017 Spring Split led into a Summer Split plagued by inconsistency, dropping him below the more consistent Bdd. However, Crown has the work ethic and the attitude to bounce back and once again challenge Faker for the throne.”

After Worlds 2016, Minho “Crown” Lee showed everyone that he was not afraid to go toe-to-toe with the “Unkillable Demon King.” The story seemed a bit different this year. Samsung Galaxy did not come into the tournament with the confidence that took them to last year’s finals. Instead, the former finalists were overshadowed by their regional counterparts, Longzhu Gaming (LZ) and SK telecom. Crown found himself Number 13 on the LoL Esports Top 20, 12 spaces below his lane opponent, Faker, in the finals in Beijing.

In light of Faker‘s massive carry performances throughout the tournament, SKT looked to earn their third straight title. But, Samsung Galaxy were determined to uproot the SKT dynasty, Crown most of all. After locking “Malzahar” in Game 1, Crown faced off against Faker‘s legendary “Cassiopeia.” Despite the disadvantage of a counterpick, Crown outplayed Faker on multiple occasions, forcing out Summoner Spells and defensive build-pathing. Despite the mid-game strength of Crown‘s “Malzahar,” SK telecom elected not to ban the pick for the remainder of the series. A crucial mistake, and Crown capitalized. By sacrificing early lane priority, Crown‘s single-target suppression gave Samsung the freedom to take winning fights all throughout the mid-game.

With a 6-0 match record on “Malzahar,” and three straight victories against SK telecom, Crown proved that he could match the world’s greatest. While Samsung relishes in their new title as the 2017 World Champions, eyes will stay on Crown and his teammates in the splits to come. Is this only the beginning of the Samsung dynasty? What place will Crown find himself in next year’s Top 20 list? And who can we expect to break out at the next international event?

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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samsung galaxy

Samsung Galaxy: Kingslayers

Samsung Galaxy (SSG) overthrow the greatest dynasty in League of Legends history. After losing out against SK telecom T1 (SKT) at the World Championships in 2016, SSG worked all year for their shot at revenge. SSG’s Top 8 performance will go down as one of the most dominant runs in League history. Closing with a 9-1 record, Samsung Galaxy defeated the world’s top LoL teams and stamped their names in history. Despite this dominating performance, the climb to a world title was not easy.

Road to Redemption

samsung galaxy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In the early years of LCK, Chanyong “Ambition” Kang was regarded as one of the world’s top mid-laners. Enter Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee, SKT’s mid-lane prodigy who, in his debut performance, dominated Ambition‘s former team, CJ Blaze. In 2016, Ambition became the jungler for Samsung Galaxy and met Faker again, this time for the world title. At the World Finals 2016, Samsung Galaxy took SK telecom to a grueling five game series. SKT edged out a victory to secure back-to-back world titles. 2017 would be a redemption chapter for Samsung Galaxy. The main roster stayed together, determined to grow and claim the glory that narrowly slipped through their fingers.

At Worlds 2017, Samsung Galaxy drew into Group C alongside Royal Never Give Up (RNG), G2 Esports (G2) and 1907 Fenerbahçe Espor (FB). Samsung was a huge threat in what many regarded as this year’s “group of death.” Their immaculate control style paired well against G2 and FB, who looked largely outclassed by the Korean representative. But the group stage did not go as smoothly as Samsung would have hoped. A near loss against 1907 Fenerbahçe along with two defeats against China’s RNG, left Samsung as the second seed of Group C.

The road would not get easier. In quarterfinals, SSG paired against tournament favorites, Longzhu Gaming (LZ). Longzhu’s aggressive early game playstyle looked like a perfect match to overpower Samsung’s defensive, late-game team. With the odds against them, Samsung Galaxy delivered the biggest upset of Worlds. After sweeping LZ 3-0, Samsung advanced to meet China’s dark-horse Team WE (WE). Coming into semifinals, buzz around this Samsung team rose. Suddenly, fans remembered that SSG were last year’s world finalists. With momentum on their side, Samsung Galaxy outclassed WE in a convincing 3-1 victory.

Walking the Knife’s Edge

samsung galaxy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

On the other side of the finals bracket, defending champions SK telecom edged out two Top 8 matches against Misfits Gaming (MSF) and Royal Never Give Up (RNG). However this year, the most dominant organization in League history looked shaky coming into Worlds. A loss against Longzhu Gaming in the LCK finals highlighted SKT’s rough summer split. After unexpectedly dropping a game against ahq e-Sports Club (AHQ) in the group stage, criticism surrounding starting jungler Wangho “Peanut” Han and AD-carry Junsik “Bang” Bae clouded the SKT narrative.

In their quarterfinal match against Misfits Gaming, SK telecom stood at the edge of defeat. Down 1-2 in the series, fans prepared for the largest upset of League history. Teetering on the knife’s edge, SKT’s legendary mid-laner Faker stretched his shoulders and carried his team to the promised land. After this narrow victory, SKT stood before Royal Never Give Up in the semifinals.

With RNG’s veteran AD-carry Zihao “Uzi” Jian leading his team, SK telecom geared up for one of their hardest matches of Worlds 2017. With the Shanghai crowd surging for their home team, Royal took the series lead against SKT 2-1. Once again, SK telecom stood at the mouth of the abyss. A single loss would be the end of the SKT dynasty. SK telecom clawed their way to victory in Game 4 of the semifinals to take the series to its final match. One elimination game away from their rightful spot at the finals, SKT zeroed in on their win conditions. Despite the criticism surrounding his play, it was SKT’s Peanut who found a clutch pick to snowball his team to the World Finals. Once again SKT walked on the knife’s edge. Once again, they prevailed.

Samsung Galaxy the conquerors

samsung galaxy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

After their loss in the previous year, Samsung Galaxy had a shot at revenge. In Game 1 against SKT, Samsung Galaxy doubled-down on their top-laner Sungjin “CuVee” Lee. Samsung recognized SKT’s tendency to play around carries and split-pushers for their top-laner Seonghoon “Huni” Heo. SSG locked in AD “Kennen,” a pick that would have CuVee outplay Huni with his own style. CuVee delivered, amassing a 20 CS lead at ten minutes, giving Huni little space to find teamfight initiations. Samsung dominated the vision and objective game to crush SKT in the series opener.

In Game 2, SK telecom struck back. Early proactive plays from Faker‘s “Ryze” gave SKT a sizable lead in the mid-game. But, at 18:47, SKT Bang made a crucial mistake. Flashing into the dragon pit to land a “Chain of Corruption” on Ambition left Bang open to a re-engage from three Samsung members. SKT lost the ensuing teamfight and several fights after. Bang‘s misplay opened a snowball that Samsung used to roll over SKT in Game 2.

Faced with yet another elimination in Game 3, again SKT stood on the knife’s edge. With their backs against the wall, SKT found success in early pressure coming from their substitute jungler Sungu “Blank” Kang. Early proactive plays opened a 7.0k gold lead for SKT at 25 minutes. However, Samsung Galaxy never gave SKT enough room to severely punish these advantages. Samsung took favorable trades when possible and stretched the game out. Finally, at 39:18, SSG’s AD-carry Jaehyeok “Ruler” Park seized his chance for victory. Ruler used “Flash” and “Chain of Corruption” to root Faker and Bang, earning two picks onto SKT’s main carries. Samsung pushed this man advantage to close out a dominating 3-0 sweep to win the World Championship.

The dynasty was over. Samsung Galaxy ascended the throne as the 2017 World Champions. They triumphed over both Longzhu and SK telecom, a feat that few thought was possible. The road was long for Samsung Galaxy, but the prize was all the sweeter for it.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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peanut

SKT Peanut: Evolution of an apex predator

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

SKT’s Winning Formula

peanut

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Growing Pains

peanut

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

evolve and overcome

peanut

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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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royal squares up

Semifinals Spotlight: Royal squares up

Royal Never Give Up (RNG) advance to the Worlds 2017 semifinals stage after sending Fnatic (FNC) back to Europe. Now, RNG faces their hardest challenge yet squaring up against defending champions SK telecom T1 (SKT). After missing an opportunity to play against SKT at 2017 Rift Rivals, Royal’s mid-laner Yuanhao “Xiaohu” Li swore to blaze a path at Worlds. After dominating their group and cinching their quarterfinals match against Fnatic, Royal have tremendous momentum coming into their semifinals match. Let’s take a look at how Royal squares up against Korea’s greatest bastion.

SKT’s kryptonite?

royal squares up

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

After teetering over the edge of defeat, SK telecom T1 managed to close out a five-game bloodbath against European squad Misfits Gaming. In spite of their 5-1 (edited) group stage and victory in the quarterfinals, doubts continue to circle this iteration of SKT. Unlike in previous years, SKT have not shown the same level of international dominance that fans come to expect. Instead, their group stage performance revealed some possibly glaring weaknesses. Early gold deficits and close brushes with defeat marred their play.

Despite the rough start, analysts still favored SKT to score a dominating 3-0 over Misfits. This was not the case. Instead, SKT found themselves one game from a prompt Worlds 2017 exit. Early aggression from the Misfits support and jungler duo overwhelmed SK telecom’s carries. The SKT bottom lane, of Junsik “Bang” Bae and Jaewan “Wolf” Lee, showed glaring exploitable weaknesses in the laning phase. After struggling in quarterfinals against the rookie bottom lane of Misfits, it will be interesting to see how Royal’s elite bottom duo square up. In a meta dominated by “Ardent Censer,” with massive emphasis on AD-carry microplay, how will a struggling Bang fair against a veteran organization like RNG?

Redemption for xiaohu and Uzi

royals square up

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In his empowering “Chase Your Legend” video, RNG’s Xiaohu recounts his failure at the quarterfinals of Worlds 2016 against SKT. “I still felt that there was a huge skill gap between us,” Xiaohu remarks. This year, the veteran Chinese mid-laner is determined to overcome his rival in Korea, the Unkillable Demon King, Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee. While Faker‘s presence and stature might intimidate many of his lane opponents, Xiaohu is one player who stands unafraid. Coming into semifinals, Xiaohu boasts the second highest KDA ratio (10.3) of all players at Worlds 2017.

Hungry to display his growth, front-and-center for the home crowd, Xiaohu continues to produce highlight reels even on utility champions like “Galio” and “Ryze.” Even on the supportive role, star plays from Xiaohu give room for his AD-carry, the legendary Zihao “Uzi” Jian, to explode in late-game teamfights. Like XiaohuUzi‘s story is a climb toward redemption. A two-time Worlds finalist, Uzi has never earned a single international title, a statistic that haunts him daily. Still, Uzi stands as a paragon of the AD-carry position. With the meta poised to equip him with all the tools necessary to carry RNG to their first World championship, Uzi has come to play.

Uzi continues to demonstrate a level of teamfight mastery that even professionals can only dream of. His acute micro-skill and teamfight awareness have him slated as one of the greatest laning AD-carries of all time. Coming into semifinals, Uzi has his eyes set one SKT’s struggling bot lane. Backed by his team’s willingness to constantly funnel resources his way, Uzi‘s aggressive playstyle can truly shine. As Royal squares up, fueled by hunger and redemption, how will they hope to topple the back-to-back champions of SKT?

Royal: TO FOrge a Warpath

royal squares up

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Clearly, the SKT bottom lane seems to be the team’s weakest link at Worlds 2017. Aside from early jungle attention and superior laning, Royal can go further to limit the resources available to Bang and Wolf. SK telecom generally opens their series with jungler Wangho “Peanut” Han. Despite a history as one of the most aggressive junglers in the world, the SKT iteration of Peanut seems lukewarm. At Worlds 2017, Peanut has demonstrated a severe lack of proactive play encroaching on passivity in the early-game. Royal jungler, Shiyu “Mlxg” on the other hand, has played champions like “Lee Sin” and “Rek’Sai,” capable of exerting serious early pressure on the opposing jungle. In the upcoming semifinals match, RNG can punish Peanut‘s passivity by banning out champions like “Sejuani” and pick “Jarvan IV.”

RNG displayed a clever strategy by layering Mlxg‘s “Cataclysm” on “Jarvan” and Ming‘s “Equinox” on the “Soraka” to lock in and silence opposing carries. Strategies that can catch SKT off-guard will pay dividends for RNG as the series progresses. Because of SKT’s demonstrated ability to grow throughout a series, RNG must not default to a single style and expect to roll the defending champs over. Instead, they must especially attack SKT’s fragile jungle and bottom lane in Game 1 of the series. Then, Royal must have a second strategy available to counteract SKT’s back-up jungler Sunghu “Blank” Kang.

To win against a team like SK telecom T1, RNG must be willing to adapt both in between games and in-game. This year’s iteration of Royal Never Give Up stands a strong chance at toppling the team that has ended their Worlds runs so many times before. This upcoming series is not just a shot at redemption for RNG, but for China as a region. As Royal squares up against the titans of Korea, the weight of their home country rests on their shoulders. Can Uzi and Xiaohu carry the hopes of the LPL to victory?

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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