Xmithie Xpeaks Mid/Jungle Xynergy

Jake “Xmithie” Puchero – “I think the safest way people can have more consistency on it is having that mid/jungle synergy”

I talked to Doublelift last weekend and he said you guys have a very high ceiling and that all of you are very talented and understand the game well. He also said you as a team are not even close to your full potential. So I’m very curious what this means, if you’re already this good and you still have a lot of room to grow, how does that play out? And how can you improve to reach that ceiling?

“Individually everyone is very talented. Everyone can handle their own internationally against these players. I think what we need to improve on… well, since the meta is [changing] we have to adapt and find all these new things… We have to be ahead of the meta. We have to be five steps ahead of everyone.”

 

What is something you are personally doing to increase your strength in the jungle and overall presence in the game?

Image provided by LoL Esports Flickr

“I think it is just making my time spent really efficiently. Just finding the right things to focus on. So watching vods of the LCK or specific LPL games. Or even EU games that are really interesting. But we just don’t have time usually. We scrim 8 hours a day every week. And usually on breaks, I try to make it a break to refresh my mind and stuff like that. So normally during off time [between] scrims, I try to watch a vod and ask people why it’s good.”

 

 

On the new patch, it doesn’t seem like too much has changed from the jungle perspective… But is there something that you are looking forward to going into the next few games as people get more familiar with the patch? Is there something that you think is strong that people haven’t figured out yet?

“I think there will be a lot more champions in the bot lane and people will ban more in the bot lane. Since Ezreal got nerfed [and Targon’s too], that opens up a lot of champions. Like we were just against a Xayah and Rakan and we haven’t seen that in a long time. If people ban a lot of champions in one role, we are going to see a lot of nuance. I haven’t seen a lot of two teams banning 6 junglers yet, but maybe there will be a change back to carries or back to second rate bruisers. But we will see some change.”

 

Image provided by LoL Esports Flickr

What is the most important lane to be closely connected with for the jungle? In 8.1 it was mostly farm and heal bot lane, so the game was more top/mid centric. But what do you think now, will attention shift back to the bot lane?

“The safest way people can have more consistency on it is having that mid/jungle synergy. Since the game is really adaptable right now where top can either play Maokai or Jayce, it really depends on how people draft the comps around it. But when you have the mid-control set, you can go to top or bottom from there, and you can go to their jungle.”

What would you say your role is on the team outside of the game?

Image provided by LoL Esports Flickr

“It’s kind of funny, because I think I’m the opposite of what I am in game. Like I think I am the most vocal in game. And then outside, I’m pretty much the least talkative out of everyone. In post game review I pretty much observe. And even when we go out – sometimes I try to troll people, but usually I get in my own circle.”

 

 

 

 

 


Thanks for reading! Find Xmithie on Twitter @Xmithie (Liquid really has those handles on lock). Check back here for more interviews and content! If you’d like to contact me, go ahead and tweet @parkeso. For pictures and stories, follow my Insta @parqueso. If you’re not big into social media, email me at parkesotwo@gmail.com. =)

2017 Scouting Grounds draft and the future of NA LCS

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

North America’s Development Problem

scouting grounds draft

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Why scouting grounds draft matters

scouting grounds draft

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

The future of NA LCS

scouting grounds draft

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Featured Image: LoL Esports

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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scouting grounds

Standouts at 2017 North America Scouting Grounds

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

Fighting tooth and nail

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

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

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

A team of duos

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

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

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

Live and die by the flames

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

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

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

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

Stomping the Scouting Grounds

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

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

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

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

Featured Image: LoL Esports

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

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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

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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peanut

SKT Peanut: Evolution of an apex predator

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

SKT’s Winning Formula

peanut

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Growing Pains

peanut

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

evolve and overcome

peanut

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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