Grading CLG’s junglers since 2014

With Counter Logic Gaming currently tied for second place with the ever encroaching TSM, special attention must be paid towards the organization’s many junglers. It is without a doubt that Counter Logic Gaming has attracted some of the most skilled junglers as of late, but has this always been the case? Here we will grade the past five junglers CLG has had on the League Championship Series stage.

 

 

The turbulent CLG squad. Of this line-up, only Aphromoo would stay on the CLG we now know today. Courtesy of qz.com

Marcel “Dexter” Feldkamp (C-)

Dexter played on Counter Logic Gaming for the Spring and Summer split of 2014 before he returned to EU to play for Elements. Prior to joining CLG, Dexter had already made a name for himself in EU on teams like Lemondogs and mousesports. Dexter’s achievements on CLG would grant them a third place in the 2014 NA LCS Spring Split.

Known for his Elise play during the 2014 NA LCS Summer split, Dexter was a middle of the pack jungler for a middle of the pack CLG. His on stage performances heavily wavered from games on Elise where he would average a 5.05 KDA to games on Rengar where he would average a 1.38 KDA. Fans never knew what to expect. This is in large part due to the turmoil of tumultuous drama that brewed between each member of CLG during this high stress season. Whether Dexter was better than his on stage performances showed depends a lot on what was happening during the off stage time spent with his teammates.

 

Jake “Xmithie” Puchero (S on Immortals/ A- on CLG)

Ever since his days on Team Vulcun (XDG Gaming), Xmithie has been a staple jungler in the NA LCS. Currently on Team Immortals, Xmithie was a CLG jungler who seemed unscathed by the drama that arose from being on CLG during the peaks and troughs of previous splits. Competing in three separate world championships, Xmithie is potentially the most consistently accoladed jungler of the NA LCS.

Known as the Golden age of CLG, this lineup found great success landing a first place trophy. Courtesy of lolesports

 

Xmithie excels at play making junglers like Elise, Gragas and Lee Sin. His stats on Gragas make me question why that champion ever gets into his hands. His success on each and every team he has gone to show that he has the ability to lead a team to victory with these play making champions. As a shot caller, Xmithie clashed with other voices on CLG, but on Immortals he has found a loudspeaker for his decision making. While his KDA this season has yet to impress, his macro decision making has propelled Immortals into the first place they currently own.

 

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett (B-)

If CLG’s eagerness to find a substitute for Dardoch does not worry you as a CLG fan, then you may not be aware of  Dardoch’s track record. With one of the lowest kill participation and some unimpressive stats in general, the risk CLG took in trading away Xmithie may not have been worth it. These risks arise from Dardoch’s unstable temperament. Being known for flaming his teammates as well as being one of the most proficient Lee Sin players in the LCS, Dardoch is the number one hot button LCS player.

 

For being the LCS bad boy, he doesn’t look like too bad of a guy… Courtesy of lolesports

That being said, CLG had all this information and more when they made the trade with Immortals for Dardoch. While second place in the LCS is deserving of much praise, Dardoch’s individual performance has by no means been the variable that has placed CLG so high in the standings. Having the most deaths per game out of any jungler with over 25 games played, Dardoch’s high risk, high reward play style seems to match his personality.

 

Omar “Omargod” Amin (B?)

The jury’s still out on Omargod. In the four games he has played, Omargod has had significant impact on their victories and troublesome performances in their defeats. However, Omargod has not had the easiest time in his four game tenure. With two games against the first place Immortals, one against a very strong team Dignitas and a flawless Olaf game against FlyQuest, Omargod has played against some very strong opponents. 

While only playing two different champions in the NA LCS so far, Omargod has drawn bans on Elise, Maokai and Zac. Time will tell for Omargod, however, he appears to be performing better than his counterpart and against tougher opponents too.

 

Honorable Mentions

It is true that CLG has had several other junglers throughout the organization’s past. Of these, two come to mind: Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco and Sam “Kobe24” Hartman-Kenzler. As for Kobe, this foxy devil, would only stay in the competitive League of Legends scene for one year after retiring to join Riot’s beloved casting squad. Kobe used to be known for missing smites,

I think we can all be happy that Kobe dropped the 24 and joined the casting crew at Riot games. Courtesy of lolesports flickr.

before Saintvicious himself, and would often be mocked through the “24” meme, which became a suffix for any other jungler who missed smite. It was not until he gave up competitive League of Legends and dropped the “24” in his name, that he would pass the missing smite meme onto his replacement, Saintvicious.

Saintvicious, who is currently one of the coaches on Team Dignitas alongside his former teammate David “Cop” Roberson, has been in the League of Legends competitive scene since before his receding hairline began receding. Beginning on Team SoloMid, Saintvicious later on went to play or coach for what feels like every team in the LCS. Expect to see Saintvicious staying in the competitive League of Legends scene until his hairline no longer exists.

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Featured image courtesy of lolesports Flickr

Can a new team break into Worlds for North America?

Over the past two seasons we’ve seen North America represented by the same three teams at Worlds: Team SoloMid, Cloud 9 and Counter Logic Gaming. These organizations have become fan favorites for most, but some new challengers have risen this split to possibly take their shot on the World stage for North America. The North American scene seems to be looking better and better. TSM has continued their dominance, while CLG and C9 have had their share of inconsistencies. Cloud 9 have almost guaranteed their spot at Worlds as long as they do well enough in playoffs. Second place for Spring granted them a massive amount of circuit points. With 3rd/4th place teams Phoenix1 and Flyquest looking close out of the playoff race, CLG will need to play well to ensure their spot at Worlds.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the teams that could contend for a spot:

Immortals

Due to Immortals finishing 7th place last split, they have zero circuit points to help with contention. This almost guarantees that they’ll need to earn their spot either by winning Summer or qualifying through the gauntlet. The latter will be the most likely scenario.

Immortals have become known for having great regular seasons, aside from last spring. This split came as a bit of a surprise to most. People expected the jungle swap of Dardoch and Xmithie to favor CLG, but both teams have benefited greatly. Not only the jungle swap, but the hiring of former ROX tiger coach, Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo, has given them the knowledge to properly out-macro opponents.

Every lane seems to have come into their own. Young rookie, Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun has developed into a top tier ADC this split along with support Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung. Cody Sun is near the top for DPM and DMG percentage among ADC’s. Olleh has shown great performances on playmaking champions such as Thresh.

Immortals is currently tied for first with TSM and CLG. They’ll need to prove that they can finally perform when it matters, not just the regular season if they want to make it to Worlds.

Dignitas

Worlds

Photo via Riot Games

Dignitas stormed out the gates this split, contending for first place for a few weeks before going on a losing streak. They still have their inconsistencies at times. Last week against CLG they flashed the potential to be able to dominate some of the best teams in the league. Other times, they play to the level of their inferior opponents and drop matches.

With jungler Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon taking the reigns as the full time starter now, Dignitas can maybe gain some consistency for a Worlds run. Shrimp has the second highest kill participation percentage among junglers. In the bot lane, they’ve added two veterans of the LCS in Altec and Adrian. It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes the full time bot lane for the team moving forward.

What’s worrisome is how average of a mid laner Lae-Young “Keane” Jang can be. Keane has middle of the pack stats in comparison to the rest of the NA mids. If he can play up to the likes of Bjergsen, Jensen, Pobelter and Huhi, then maybe Dignitas can make it.

Dignitas has 10 championship points from last split which likely means they’ll be battling in the gauntlet for a Worlds spot. If the team can find some consistency, don’t be surprised to see them as real contenders for a Worlds spot.

Phoenix1

Despite Phoenix1 not being far from the playoff race at the moment, and tied for last place, they still have a ton of circuit points that can help them qualify. A third place finish from Spring granted them 50 circuit points, more than a lot of the teams outside of C9/TSM. Even if they don’t qualify for playoffs they still have a shot in the gauntlet based on circuit points.

Rift Rivals was seen as a stepping stone for the team after a rough start to summer split. They had a good performance and were looking to carry that momentum into the second half of the split. That hasn’t been the case as they’ve stumbled coming back. Star rookie jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung hasn’t looked as dominant since he’s returned. The tank jungler meta hasn’t allowed him to show the same carry performances we saw at Rift Rivals.

Mid laner, Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook, stepping down certainly doesn’t help their cause either. Ryu was an integral part of the team, and it’s hard to say that Pirean can come in and perform up to veteran Ryu standards. If Ryu does return after a needed break, Phoenix1 can definitely make a C9 Cinderella run in the gauntlet.

Worlds

Photo via Riot Games

With only two and a half weeks left in the split, any team can make a late run for Worlds. Will it be CLG, Cloud 9 and TSM at Worlds once again for North America? Or will a new team emerge from the ashes?

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Cover photo by Riot Games

 

 

Substitutions

Breaking down substitutions in the NALCS

This year has seen a rise in the number of subs used in the LCS. In previous years it was a rare sight to have multiple players starting in the same position. The exception came only when there were illnesses or injuries preventing a player from playing. Now, though it is far from the norm, many teams have started swapping out players between games and sets depending on a number of factors. These factors include: the team being played, the composition the team wants to try, tilt and player to player match ups.

The most prominent example of subs working lies with SKT. Since season five they have had at least one sub. Initially it was Easyhoon subbing in for Faker in the midlane. Then it was Bengi and Blank subbing in and out in the jungle. Now we have Peanut and Blank sharing the jungle and Untara and Huni splitting time in the top lane.

SKT finding success with the sub style has proven that it can work. Though it has been implemented in the NALCS, the strategy has been met with varied degrees of success.

 

Cloud 9

Substitutions

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

Cloud 9 has probably found the most success with substitutions in the NALCS this split. Being able to sub in Ray or Impact when the series isn’t going their way, or when the match calls for a certain playstyle has helped Cloud 9 a few times this season. Most prominently when C9 subbed out Impact for Ray in their series against TSM. Ray came into game two and stayed even in lane, then made a huge play in the bottom lane swinging the momentum in C9’s favor. Then despite picking the wrong keystone mastery in game three of the series he still managed to make plays around the map.

Cloud 9 has found some success with substitutions. They still have a lot of problems that need to be fixed, though. Namely, the team often looks uncoordinated. Take their most recent series against CLG. They lost game one with Impact, who was just destroyed from level one, so they sub in Ray. They win game two with Ray, his J4 looked clean and though he didn’t carry he definitely set up some great plays. Game three was a different story. Despite being up in gold and towers at 20 minutes Cloud 9 is unable to take control of the neutral objectives and lost a fight around Baron and then in midlane giving CLG the advantage and letting them take the game.

Subbing works at times for Cloud 9, but it feels as if the lack of scrims with the same roster, and the different playstyle that each top laner brings unbalances C9 nearly as much as it does the opposing team.

 

Other teams

Substitutions

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

This trend of unbalance on both sides seems to be a staple among all of the teams that utilize subs in the NALCS. Recently CLG has brought in jungler OmarGod. In his first series he came in after CLG picked up a win against Flyquest. He crushed on Olaf with a 5-0-13 performance, dominating the early game and bullying his way into the mid game. He proved that he has the talent to be an LCS jungler. When CLG lost game one to DIG they subbed out Dardoch and brought in Omar. They still didn’t pick up the win, and in fact looked more discombobulated in game two than in game one.

Echo Fox has a “ten man line-up” with a sub for every roll. However, substitutions in any role has only gotten a win against TL since week three.

NV has seen some success with the substitutions between Pirean and Nisqy. Generally, they play out an entire weekend with one, rather than swapping out in between games or series. This allows them time in scrims to prepare for the coming week, rather than splitting time. They still haven’t managed to beat a top team other than the struggling C9.

 

Pros and Cons

Substitutions

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

Whatever advantages teams gain from implementing subs seems to be negated by the unbalance it brings to their own team. The communication seems to be lackluster in all of the teams that have used subs this split. CLG seemed to bring in Omar in the DIG series because they were reaching for a panic button, rather than having a definitive plan to win. The lack of scrim time that each player gets is also a concern. More scrims is always a good thing, and having to split time between players doesn’t promote cohesion.

It is a long term investment though. Having two players that are both integrated with the rest of the team can be a powerful weapon to possess. If teams like CLG and C9 can have seamlessly interchangeable players at their disposal in the future they may have the edge they need to beat other top teams. Until those players get to that level of integration the teams are going to suffer some defeats because of it.

Only time will tell if the investments these teams have made into multiple players will pay off as short term losses and long term gains.

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Worlds

Possibilities for NALCS Worlds teams

There are only three weeks of the regular season remaining in the LCS. Teams are jostling for playoff spots and each game could decide whether a team gets a spot in the top six. With playoff contention on the line, each match is all that more exciting.

Playoffs are the route to the big stage, the only competition that really matters in the end: Worlds. Rift Rivals gave us a small taste, a brief glimpse, a cracked window into the competition that we will see at Worlds. However, the real story is here in the trenches of each league. No team at Rift Rivals is guaranteed a spot at Worlds.

NA LCS has a few favorites. Before the beginning of Rift Rivals, there seemed to be a top four, those being C9, CLG, TSM and IMT. However, with C9 suffering a loss to NV and CLG taking a loss to DIG, those standings have been shaken up a bit. The teams that seem middle of the pack have now proven they can take wins against top tier teams.

Most likely to make Worlds

Worlds

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

No Worlds spot is safe. TSM has a good chance to go, being the team with the most points from their Spring Split victory. They are also the favorites to win Summer Split and have two very likely avenues back to Worlds. They would have to throw a lot of games away the last few weeks and have an abysmal playoff run to not make Worlds.

Cloud9 seems to have the Worlds spot in their grasp too. Though they didn’t have the best record going into Rift Rivals, they have a fairly easy schedule the final few weeks of LCS, only facing one top four team. However, they suffered a loss to NV their first game back. Cloud9 does have the second place Spring finish to work with, and will likely still make playoffs. They have the chance to go to Worlds on points, if TSM wins the playoffs, but will likely have to have at least a third place finish.

IMT and CLG are in the same basket. Neither has enough points to bank on that route. They will either have to win the split out right or battle their way through the gauntlet. Either team will have a challenge in the gauntlet because the mid-tier teams are making a surge for the top spots. CLG does have the 10 points from the previous split. A second place finish from them and a fifth or sixth place finish from C9 will give CLG the championship points needed to go to Worlds.

Dark horses

Worlds

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

NV picked up a win against Cloud9 in a 2-0 series on Saturday. The team looked good all around but more importantly proved they can win against top tier teams. They will have to make playoffs, and likely at least win in the first round, in order to have enough points to qualify for the gauntlet. At this point in the season, with the performance they had in week 5, it is definitely possible.

If NV does pick up some championship points they have the skill and ability to make a run at the Worlds stage through the gauntlet. A dominant win over C9 shows that.

DIG has something that NV does not, and that is 10 championship points. They will still have to make playoffs in order to qualify for the gauntlet, but have the advantage of doing so over NV. DIG started out the split strong, but have slumped in these middle weeks. They have just taken a win over CLG, however, and like NV have proven they game take series wins off of top tier teams.

P1 has a whopping 50 championship points from their third place finish in the spring, but they are sitting towards the bottom of the standings as of right now.  Rift Rivals has shown us that they aren’t a team to be trifled with and they are definitely on the upswing. They did eat a 2-0 loss to TSM, but P1 does have the potential to take some wins away from other top tier teams and climb the rankings. Depending on who makes the playoffs and finishes where, P1 might not even need to make the playoffs to make the gauntlet, but it would certainly help.

Nearly impossible

Worlds

Photo Via Lolesports Flickr

FLY, TL and FOX are all very unlikely to see playoffs, and by extension Worlds. These teams have had lackluster splits so far and have little to no redeeming qualities. Flyquest does have the benefit of having 30 championship points. P1 is playing so well that it wouldn’t come as a surprise if FLY end up in the relegation tournament.

The close standings of this NALCS split have opened the door for a lot of teams to see the Worlds stage. It’s far from the usual Cloud9, TSM, CLG. Instead, there’s a significant chance that only one of those teams will be attending the World Championships.


Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Urgot: Then and now

In preparation for the Urgot rework, we at The Game Haus have prepared a side by side comparison of how The Headsman’s Pride has changed into the Dreadnought that will drop in the next few weeks. Here we will cover the changes Urgot will receive and possible utilizations of his new kit in the top lane.

Urgot, The Headsman’s Pride

Currently, Urgot is a short ranged “Marksman” with the ability to have longer ranges based upon whether or not he can successfully hit his Noxian Corrosive Charge (E). Urgot’s current kit revolves around Acid Hunter (Q), an ability very similar to Ezreal’s Mystic Shot (Q) in that it is a spammable linear skill shot that does physical damage. Acid Hunter synergizes with each of Urgot’s basic abilities and his passive in different ways.

Urgot dreadnought

Old/Current Battlecast Urgot. Alot will change. Courtesy of Surrender at 20

Zaun-Touched Bolt Augmenter, Urgot’s passive, allows for his basic attacks and his Acid Hunter to reduce the damage dealt by his target by 15% for 2.5 seconds. This passive allows Urgot to duel very effectively and has established him as the counter carry that he is used most frequently as. His Terror Capacitor (W) can be activated to shield him for 5 seconds causing his basic attacks and Acid Hunter to apply a slow for 1.5 seconds. His final basic ability, Noxian Corrosive Charge, is a skill shot that shreds armor and allows for his Acid Hunter to lock onto affected targets, extending the range and removing the skill shot restraints of the projectile.

Finally, his ultimate, Hyper-Kinetic Position Reverser allows for him to suppress and reposition target enemy champion causing nearby enemies to flee and slowing the initial target at the end of the channel. The Ultimate also gives Urgot some much needed damage reduction, further enabling his initiation and carry dueling potential.

While Urgot has seen competitive use rarely and sporadically, he used to be one of the hottest picks. Back in 2012, Urgot was seen in the 2012 MLG Spring Championship as either a ban or a pick in 100 percent of games. DreamHack 2012 also has Urgot picked or banned in 80.9 percent of games. It was consecutive nerfs to Urgot’s base damage, base health, base shield on his Terror Capacitor, and a reduction of cast range on his ultimate that led to the death of the Urgot we once knew and loved. The question now is whether or not Urgot’s rework will bring this hunk of meat back into play.

Urgot, The Dreadnought

The new Urgot will have a smaller attack range, at 350, just 50 range more than Rakan and 50 range less than Mini Gnar at level one. Urgot will also have 5 less movement speed, making the new Dreadnought less of a marksman and more of a slow moving death machine. These changes make Urgot’s rework a completely new champion. So let’s get into his kit.

Urgot dreadnought

Urgot’s new kit and new looks. Courtesy of Surrender at 20

Urgot’s passive, Shotgun flamethrower knees, also known as Echoing Flames is where the majority of his damage comes from. The passive reads as follows: When Urgot hits an enemy in the direction of one of his legs with a basic attack, that leg will blast flames outward, dealing [40% of total AD] plus [4.5/5.25/6/7/8% at 1/6/9/13/15] of the target’s max health as physical damage to all enemies in a cone. Each consecutive hits within 5 seconds deal 10% reduced damage, down to a minimum of 70%. After firing, that leg goes on cooldown for [30/25/20/15/10 at 1/6/9/11/13, affected by CDR] seconds (minimum 2.5s).

Urgot’s new (Q), Corrosive Charge is his old (E) minus the damage over time and armor shred. Instead, it has a stronger slow and allows for Urgot to lock onto enemies with his new (W), Purge. Purge combined Urgot’s old Acid Hunter (Q) and shield (W) to allow him to lock onto enemies marked by (Q) and fire a barrage of bullets. Urgot’s final basic ability, Disdain (E), is effectively a gap closing Singed flip that also allows for him to lock onto the target.

Urgot’s ultimate ability, Fear Beyond Death, is a solid burst of damage paired with a debilitating 75 percent movement speed slow based upon their missing health for 3 seconds. If the target falls below 25 percent health, Urgot will reel them in for the kill. Upon a successful execution, Urgot channels his Warwick cosplay and fears all nearby enemies for 1.5 seconds.

Maximizing the Dreadnought

With this combo as his bread and butter, the new Urgot will do absurd amounts of damage just with a Black Cleaver and the Fervor mastery. Black Cleaver will be especially strong on the new Urgot as his Shield now scales with bonus Health instead of Mana. While Boots of Swiftness are not the best boots at the moment, they may be a good pickup for Urgot as Purge also slows Urgot by a flat 125 movement speed. Swiftness boots will reduce this by 31.25 which is especially important for the new Urgot as positioning himself to maximize his passive is key.

Urgot dreadnought

New splash art for Crabgot has him looking like a Kaiju. Courtesy of surrender at 20

While Boots of Swiftness are not the best boots at the moment, they may be a good pickup for Urgot as Purge also slows Urgot by a flat 125 movement speed. Swiftness boots will reduce this by 31.25 which is especially important for the new Urgot as positioning himself to maximize his passive is key.

It is worth noting that all of Urgot’s damage dealing abilities scale with total AD and not bonus AD-like many other champions. This allows for him to build Sterak’s Gage for a huge damage power spike. Sterak’s Gage gives Urgot 400 health, which means an additional 120 health on the shield granted by Purge, and a powerful passive that grants 30 percent additional base damage. This is especially strong given Urgot’s relatively high base AD.

Because of Urgot’s passive, Echoing Flames, deals a percentage of target’s maximum health, armor penetration/ lethality is also a vital stat for tank killing in the top lane. A last whisper item against enemies stacking armor, or a Lethality item paired with an early Black Cleaver will make quick work of squishy opponents. Youmuu’s Ghostblade would be a very strong lethality item against squishy laners as the movement speed active will allow Urgot to reposition in order to maximize his passive.

Urgot’s kit has some obvious weaknesses. Having no sustain in his kit and low mobility paired with a ridiculously short auto attack range, Urgot’s weakness will come from being kited and poked down. Optimizing early lane sustain through Refillable/Corrupting Potion may compensate for the early sustain, while later on in the game, a Death’s Dance will allow Urgot to heal up through the insane amount of physical damage he can pump out.

Being easily kited with only one small gap closer means Urgot will either have to flank in team fights or split push to win. Depending on the hard engage of your team composition, grouping with Urgot’s ability to dump damage and annihilate tanks may be best. Just don’t die overcommitting on a dive.

It seems that Urgot is at his best a ranged Fiora without the sustain and true damage of her ultimate. Like Fiora, Urgot will have to dance around his target, utilizing his passive and dueling. Urgot’s success in the top lane will be largely based on matchups. Opponents who are able to both sustain and poke, such as Swain, will be a nightmare for the Dreadnought, but enemies who must go all in will likely be favorable matchups.


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All images courtesy of Surrender at 20

Feature image courtesy of Surrender at 20

TSM

TSM takes the throne at Rift Rivals

TSM had a great performance at Rift Rivals. In the group stage they had a record of five wins and one loss. They lost to UOL who, coincidentally, faced them in the finals. But the finals showcased a dominating 3-0 from TSM. Rift Rivals had one purpose and one purpose only: to settle the debate of who is better between NA or EU. At least for a year. TSM winning the tournament, and especially in such a dominant fashion, demonstrates that they are the best team in the west.

The reason they are the best team in the west goes beyond their victory at Rift Rivals. They demonstrated their potential as a team and their ability to adapt to the meta.

Individual Level

TSM Rift Rivals

Photo via LoLesports Flickr

On an individual level, TSM looked strong throughout Rift Rivals. Their jungler, Svenskeren, was dominant. Having struggled during MSI, Svenskeren played with purpose and direction during this event. His Lee Sin looked great as always, stealing Baron against UOL in game two of the finals.

 

Hauntzer struggled during the laning phase in a few games, but his mid and late game teamfighting was solid. His Gnar looked impressive, hitting multi-man ultimates and dishing out loads of damage.

The bottom lane was consistent. Doublelift’s positioning has improved since his return to TSM. His Ashe arrows found their target time and again. His Caitlyn dominated the laning phase and dealt massive damage late.

Bjergsen has made the return to peak form. His Syndra was on another level, and he put on a clinic with his Leblanc play in the finals.

Map Play

 

TSM Rift Rivals

Photo via Lolesports Flickr

They did more than play well individually. TSM’s team play was outstanding. In the finals against UOL, TSM played an extraordinary map game.  In game two of the finals, TSM got two kills by bringing Svenskeren down to blue side krugs, while Doublelift and Biofrost pushed in the lane. Hauntzer was also pushing in the lane up top, while Bjergsen played safe. Doublelift sent a decoy Hawkshot over the krugs Sven was on, faking that they didn’t know what was there. This prompted Samux and Hyllisang to try and farm out a few more minions instead of backing, believing they were still in a 2v2. Just as the wave comes under tower, Hauntzer teleports in and Svenskeren shows up in bot lane.

 

Viziscasci couldn’t follow teleport immediately because he was pushed in so hard, thus TSM was in a 2v4 scenario for about four seconds. This gave them enough time to get a double kill onto Hauntzer’s Gragas and begin to snowball the game. All this was possible because of the wards that TSM had laid down earlier, one in the raptor camp and the other by the blue buff. They spotted Xerxe on the topside of the map so they knew he wouldn’t be able to counter gank.

It was also prompted by the lane prowess of Doublelift and Biofrost. They were able to win a great trade against the botlane of UOL, bringing Samux low, and burning his heal.

Team Fights

In game three against UOL, TSM was down 2.5k in gold at the 25-minute mark. Despite that, they still won a team fight. UOL got a little greedy, overstepped and TSM was in a position to punish them for it. Viziscasci had pushed Hauntzer out of the bottom lane, and gained an advantage in that lane. Thus, Hauntzer recalled. This is the moment that UOL decided to initiate. They were in 4v4 in the midlane, with a gold advantage, but Exileh had just lost out on a trade to Bjergsen, and TSM was able to kite their initiation.

TSM then began to turn as they saw both top laners TP in. They knew that UOL had a Mega Gnar on the way, but they had a full heath Gragas.  When the fight started in earnest, TSM was able to win out because of better positioning by the carries, and a great ultimate from Gragas. This is despite a decent Gnar ult by Viziscasci and UOL being ahead 2.5k.

TSM then went on to take Baron and win the game.

The Rest of the West

TSM Rift Rivals

Photo vai LoLesports Flickr

TSM has one team left to prove themselves against. That team is CLG. They crushed IMT before Rift Rivals, and despite losing to C9 in the LCS they certainly out preformed them at the event. CLG is the only team TSM has left to beat before they are truly the undisputed best in the west.

 

I think that they will have little trouble in besting them in a best of three and certainly no trouble in a best of five. TSM and CLG don’t square off until week nine. A lot could change from now until then, but TSM seems to have hit their stride.

As for EU, they sent their best teams and they got beaten. Maybe the new patch didn’t help, or the best of ones, but that just demonstrated TSM’s ability to adapt to a new meta and play within that new meta.


Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Playoff implications for NALCS parity

The summer split has passed its halfway point, and in NALCS there is a race for the top shaping up. It’s very rare in the NALCS for a clear top team or top two teams to not be apparent. Last split it was clear that C9 and TSM were in a tier of their own and the split before TSM was undefeated at this point in the season.

This season there doesn’t seem to be a clear top team, rather it seems anyone at the top of the table can beat anyone else at the top of the table. For example, after this weekend we can see that CLG > C9 > TSM > IMT > CLG. None of the match ups were close. Even though TSM 2-0’d IMT, both games were close in gold, kills and objectives until twenty minutes. The same can be said of the IMT versus CLG series.

Playoff Implications

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The implications this parity has for the playoffs is that they will be much harder to predict than in years past. Last split it seemed like destiny for C9 and TSM to meet for a rematch. The split before TSM was on the warpath for the finals. This year CLG and IMT could both be in the finals, meaning we could have the first split without a TSM finals. It also seems just as likely that C9 and TSM square off again.

The real question though, is who will get the bye? When the dust settles at the end of the season who will be the top two teams? It seems likely that TSM could have a top spot, especially after besting IMT. CLG also seems to be a prime candidate. Their series win against C9 indicates that they are certainly worthy of a playoff bye. They still must face TSM and IMT once more. If they win both of those matchups then they will likely be the number one team at the end of the season.

The IMT vs CLG series in week 7 will likely determine which of them gets the playoff bye, assuming TSM gets the other. IMT still has to face both C9 and CLG before the end of the season and a loss in either series could send them to the quarterfinals.

C9 has the easiest remaining schedule, only having to face IMT out of the other top teams. If they win out from this point in the season they still have a chance to get a bye spot.

 

Other Teams

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One thing that does seem certain is the top four teams. It seems clear at this point that CLG, IMT, TSM and C9 are at the top of the league. That leaves two spots open for the playoffs and there are a few teams in contention for those two spots.

The one team that seems most likely to make the playoffs from the bottom of the table is DIG. They have a very strong top side of the map, and often play through their top laner, Ssumday. They have a solid record, but haven’t faced as difficult of a schedule as Cloud 9 and still have to face each top team once more before the end of the season. DIG did take a series win off of TSM, but it is unlikely they will win their second match up.

Another team with a good chance to take one of the playoff spots is Team Envy. Lira is still a top NA jungler. Also, NV’s team game is much stronger this split with Nisqy/Pirean in the midlane. Seraph continues to be a concern in the top lane, both in terms of play and attitude.

Echo Fox has also put themselves in a position to make the playoffs. Though they came out of the gate strong, they have been in a bit of a slump recently. EF managing to salvage what’s left of the season will mean they can make the playoffs.

Any of these three teams have a chance to upset any of the top teams in the playoffs, and potentially make a run at the finals; but it is unlikely that any of them will make it past quarter finals.

As for the other three teams, the only one I think with any chance of making playoffs is P1. That chance is very slim, however. They’d essentially have to win out from here. They have made a lot of reform, but even with rookie sensation MikeYeung it doesn’t seem likely that P1 has the consistency needed to beat C9, CLG and TSM.

 

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Phoenix One’s wild ride: A look at the past, present and Rift Rivals

Phoenix One has definitely seen better days. The summer split has not been kind to them. More specifically, the first half of the summer split. With Rift Rivals on the horizon, P1 and NA fans alike are disheartened with their performance. Phoenix One doesn’t have the most storied history, but it does have an exciting one. The organization has had a lot of ups and downs, but thus far has managed to overcome them.

Summer 2016

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When Phoenix One entered the LCS the expectations were not very high. There weren’t any big names on the roster. Most preseason speculation put the team at the bottom of the table. Deservedly so, there was very little chance that Phoenix One was going to break into the top half of the league. Making it to the playoffs would be considered a major achievement for the young org. However, P1 came out of the gate much slower than many had anticipated.

It took P1 until week five to win a series, starting the season 0-9 having lost to every other team. The second half of the season marked a change, and P1 almost looked like a different team. They beat Team Apex in their first game of the second half of the split and then Echo Fox in week six to pick up their first and second series wins. Week seven gave P1 their third series win, this time against NRG. This established P1 as the best of the worst, having toppled the three other teams in the bottom of the rankings.

Week eight is when the magic happened. TSM’s record at the time was an unprecedented 14-0. Talks of an undefeated season had started to arise. TSM’s match ups for week eight were Phoenix one and Team Envyus. Many had written off P1 as an automatic win, since they had only beaten teams that looked slated for relegations. The series started with an easy win for TSM and looked as if it would be entirely one sided. Up against the ropes, P1 drafted Rengar for their jungler Inori. Inori went 12-2-7 in the second game and completely controlled the rift. Inori locked in Rek’Sai in the third game and proceeded to have a deathless game, going 6-0-11. This isn’t to say that he was the sole reason for their win. The two solo laners, Pirean and Zig, played really well.

This seemed to ignite the team, and the org. Though they still finished 8th at the end of the split, they had managed to defeat the top team in the league and crush their way out of the relegation tournament. The squad transformed entirely from the team they had started out as.

Spring 2017

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During the off-season Phoenix One made some high profile roster swaps. They picked up a top NA support in Adrian as well as the South Korean midlaner, Ryu, formerly of H2k and KT Rolster. More notably they picked up Arrow, the South Korean ADC also formerly of KT Rolster. The team started off the season with a show of strength, destroying Echo Fox in a 2-0 win. They then struggled slightly, losing to DIG, TSM and Flyquest. By the end of the season however, they had established themselves as the clear third place team. P1 was not quite able to defeat the top tier teams like Cloud 9 and TSM, but there was a clear disparity between them and the teams below them such as CLG and Flyquest.

The Spring 2017 playoff demonstrated this disparity. Phoenix One played a dominant series against DIG taking the series 3-0. Their series against Cloud 9 the next week showed the other half of the disparity. P1 lost the series in a swift 3-0. They managed to win the 3rd place series against Flyquest 3-2. Flyquest’s Arrow won MVP for the split, and the team seemed to have established themselves as a top NA team.

They had achieved all this amid roster issues, having played with two different supports during their last few weeks and in the playoffs, as well as two different junglers. Meteos had subbed in for Inori due to Inori being unable to play. Adrian had left the team and they were trying out both Stunt and Shady. Arrow and Ryu were both rocks for the team to stand on, and Zig played consistently well. Meteos ended up being a big boon for the team, and Stunt seemed to find some synergy with Arrow.

Summer 2017

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Now though, the team is at the bottom of the standings heading into week five. The team shares 9th place and a record of 1-7 with Flyquest. The team started out the split with Inori in the jungle and Shady as support, but has since made roster swaps. Phoenix One brought in the rookie sensation MikeYeung and long standing LCS support Xpecial. The swaps lead them to their first and only victory.

This is the last week before the Rift Rivals tournament. Phoenix One isn’t up to the level of play from the previous split, but they are showing some improvement. Arrow doesn’t seem nearly as consistent, and the team is much worse off without his ability to crank out the constant damage. Their slow season is not all on his shoulders however, Ryu hasn’t had the same impact as he did last split, and the team’s synergy and shot calling has suffered from the roster swaps.

The new players have seemed to breathe life into the beleaguered squad. MikeYeung is proving to be every bit the prodigy that he has been touted as, but clearly needs some time to hone his abilities.

As for Rift Rivals, many expect the team to be a flop, and by current domestic performances, that expectation isn’t unwarranted. However, the history shows that P1 has the ability to outperform their expectations when they are down, and make mid split turnarounds. Hopefully the phoenix can truly rise from the ashes and the team can come together to find some wins at an international tournament.

Photos via Lolesports Flickr

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The evolution of coaching in LCS

Around two years ago head coaches became a necessity for teams in the LCS. In the younger years of professional League of Legends most teams didn’t have the money to support having a head coach. Due to how young the professional scene still was, there wasn’t much availability for people looking to coach. Even if there was a coach, he was mostly just an analyst that helped bounce ideas off the players.

The scene has evolved, making a coach a necessity now. Not just an in-house analyst either. A coach must be able to lead these young players in their professional career. They must be able to give out criticism properly, while also demanding the respect of the players.

Over the past years we’ve seen what having a good coach can do for a team. We’ve also seen the other side of things when a coach can have a negative impact on a team.

Early LCS

When professional LoL started there wasn’t much structure among teams. For the most part you had five players living together with maybe a team manager that helped with scheduling and making sure they were taken care of. Coaching hadn’t really become a necessity yet until Korea began their reign over all the other regions. The West seemed way behind and needed help to catch up.

In the early days of LCS not many coaches had come about yet. Most of the coaches we see today are former players themselves. Teams maybe had an analyst at best, but nothing like a head coach that would need to solve internal issues along with having game knowledge.

Korean coaching

Photo via Riot Games

It’s no secret that Korea has taken over as the best region in terms of competing in professional League of Legends. Korea has taken home the title for four straight years now. SKT head coach Kim “kkOma” Jung-gyun has been apart of every SKT championship and is heralded as the best coach in professional LoL.

North America followed suit hiring several Korean coaches over the past few splits. Most notably Cloud 9’s Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu and Immortals Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo have found much success with their teams after coming over.

 

Before Reapered became coach, Cloud 9 seemed lost without former captain/shotcaller Hai “Hai” Lam on the roster. Immortals were in the same boat before SSONG joined the team this summer. With SSONG coaching, Immortals has jumped from 7th place to 1st place taking wins off many of the top teams from last split. Their macro play has also improved immensely from last split. 

Korean coaches seem to know how to get the most out of their players. They also demand more as an authoritative figure, while also knowing how to deal with internal issues. SSONG and Reapered are accredited with much of their teams’ success since they’ve been brought on.

Western Players’ Mindsets

One could argue that coaching players in the West is much different than their eastern counterparts, or at least in Korea. In Korea, kids are brought up respecting their elders, while in the West kids are brought up more loose. Korean players have also stated that after coming to NA they think it’s much more relaxed compared to training in Korea.

The West seems to lack many good coaches. With some veterans retiring throughout the years, some have stepped up to become decent coaches such as Dignitas’ Cop and Saintvicious. We’ve also seen different personalities, such as Scarra and Lemonnation, not have much success as a coach. CLG’s head coach, Zikz, has received much praise for his coaching. TSM’s anlayst, Parth, has also been around the scene for awhile now.

We’ve also seen in EU with Origen a few splits back not really feeling the need for a coach. It feels that many Western players didn’t see the need for a coach a few seasons ago. That mindset has changed a bit, but some players are still reluctant on just how effective a coach can really be.

The present

Coaches today can’t just be analysts. They must be able to have an authoritative role over their players while also being able to deal with internal issues amongst the teams. Coaches have to know how to effectively get the most out of each practice and also know how to do pick/bans. Coaches have slowly developed into becoming vital in a team’s success.

Cover photo by Riot Esports 

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The boys of silver: Cloud 9’s second place tenure

Recently it’s been an emotional roller coaster for Cloud 9 fans. I should know. I’ve been one since I started watching esports. I came to League by way of Smash. I was, and still am, a Mang0 fan. When I started watching League in spring of season 4 I decided since Mang0 had been picked up by C9 I’d stay true to the org and root for C9. Fortunately, they won that split. Unfortunately, they haven’t won in NA since. While C9 hasn’t had an unsuccessful split since, even finishing 7th didn’t stop them from making it to worlds, they have been unable to clutch the NA championship trophy. Coming in 2nd no less than four times. Falling short all four times to TSM, who hasn’t missed an NA final since the inception of LCS.

I’m not displeased with Cloud 9’s performances, far from it. It is great to be a C9 fan. I can’t imagine the masochism that CLG and Team Liquid fans have endured. However, I can’t help but feel like the team is destined to fall just short, time and time again. It’s hard to pin down the weaknesses among the strengths. What exactly is it that Cloud 9 is missing?

 

Strengths

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Cloud 9 has always been able to team fight. When they joined the league they immediately rose to the top for three reasons.

The first was their mechanical prowess. It’s easily forgotten that at the offset Cloud 9 was considered a top-tier mechanical team. This was before Hai’s wrist issues.

The second was their ability to team fight. They would win nearly every team fight, often winning even when behind in gold.

Cloud 9 also had the x-factor of Hai. Hai was willing to make bold play calls and take risks in order to win, even when down. This often enabled his team to make comeback victories.

These three things combined to make them a dominant team in their first two splits. Cloud 9 had a combined record of 49-7 in their first two splits. They also took grand finals 3-0 both splits against TSM.

More recently the team has struggled at the last. However, they aren’t without their strengths. Jensen is widely regarded as a top two mid-laner. Some put him as the best in NA, but most think that he is second to TSM’s Bjergsen. He has great mechanical prowess and is often able to carry games. He is the superstar mid-laner for Cloud 9.

The bot lane also shows great strength. Sneaky and Smoothie have been consistently good throughout. Smoothie was named the best support in the league last split and Sneaky the second best ADC. Although they rarely display the level of hard carry prowess that Jensen does, they are more consistent. Their ceiling is high, but their floor isn’t far below it.

The top side of the map has shown some strength too. Contractz controls the early game and often ganks successfully to get his teammates ahead.  Impact has the ability to work with little resources yet still have a presence. Jensen can carry games more easily because he soaks up the resources that aren’t devoted to Impact. Impact’s positioning in team fights as well as his engages are second to none. Ray has also shown a lot of promise. His J4 has been deadly and has brought C9 out of a hole more than once this split already.

Weaknesses

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Where then are the weaknesses? If every player has his strengths, what is the team struggling with? In order to highlight it I’m going to compare them to TSM. The reason for this is because Cloud 9 continues to fall short to this team.

At first glance it’s easy to say that TSM’s players are just better. Bjergsen is the better Jensen, Doublelift is the better Sneaky, and Svenskeren the better Contractz. It might be that TSM has better players, but team play is much more important than individual prowess.

TSM is also more proactive. Their macro and rotations are very good domestically. They rarely make bad calls and when they do they often find ways to make up for them. Cloud 9 on the other hand seem to hesitate. They are no longer at the level of macro play that they were when Hai was at the helm. When they play against lesser teams Cloud 9 often make quick work of them. They carve out advantages in the early game and then make decisive calls and win team fights in the mid game. Against teams like TSM, Cloud 9 hesitates a bit, or gets out rotated. C9 is unable to carve out an advantage early game, or struggle to rotate swiftly in the mid game. Cloud 9 doesn’t look lost, just timid.

Solutions

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There most certainly is no one solution to Cloud 9’s problem. However, one thing that is missing from the Cloud 9 of old is that X factor. Hai’s ability to shot call and his ethos was Cloud 9’s X factor. Now that they have a team with great mechanical ability and great team fighting they are struggling to find their X factor. TSM has their’s in Bjergsen. His ethos and prowess has carried TSM to the finals time and time again. Cloud 9 is trying to emulate that in Jensen, but has fallen short two splits in a row, in game 5. It’s as if Cloud 9 is trying to beat TSM at their own game.

Jensen has been unable to pull it out in the clutch. It’d be a lot easier to argue that he is the best mid in NA if he was able to beat the current king when it was all on the line. Cloud 9 needs to find their new X factor. That unquantifiable thing that will push them to the championship.

 

Photos via Lolesports Flickr

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