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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ardent censer meta

Worlds 2017: an Ardent wonderland?

Ardent Censer meta reigns supreme over Worlds 2017. Champions like Janna and Lulu, the main abusers of Ardent Censer, sit atop the support tier list. AD-carries forfeit their laning phase to first purchase Relic Shield in order to funnel gold into their supports. The early game at Worlds has effectively become a race to see which support can ‘mine’ gold faster to hit the all-important Censer power-spike. As with previous World Championships, teams adapt their playstyles and drafts throughout the tournament to challenge the Ardent meta. How are teams exploiting the Censer meta? And how can new strategies affect the Worlds’ meta heading into semifinals?

Team WE resurrects Caitlyn

ardent censer meta

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

As of Patch 7.18 (Worlds patch), Ardent Censer grants recipients of shields and heals with bonus 25% attack speed and 20 health drain. This buff grants AD-carries increased damage output and sustain during explosive mid-game teamfights. Because of the oppressively efficient nature of Ardent Censer, the item became a must-buy for supports across the board. However, this strength comes at a cost. Because some AD-carries forfeit their early power for a Relic Shield, many bottom lanes lack early playmaking and aggression. Teams become increasingly passive, content to fight only over wave control and vision before 15 minutes.

Herein lies the main weakness of an Ardent Censer meta. Because many bottom lanes opt into passive, farm-oriented playstyles, early strength can effectively bully the opposition into an early deficit. On Day 7 of the Worlds group stage, Team WE debuted Caitlyn as a new pick for AD-carry SeongJun “Mystic” Jin. After several rounds of nerfs, Caitlyn, the once queen of AD-carries, faded out of the meta. However, the champion’s oppressive lane pressure and a tweak to her Headshot passive gave her room to shine in a meta of passive carries.

Team WE recognized TSM’s reliance on a passive playstyle and failure to adapt. They dealt a crushing blow to the North American fan-favorites and cemented Caitlyn as a new pick-ban priority. This innovation in the second week of group stages prompted other teams, like Cloud 9 and Edward Gaming, to test Caitlyn in their upcoming games. AD-carries quickly took to Caitlyn’s pressure-heavy playstyle. Coming out of the group stage, Caitlyn boasted a 100% win-rate out of four games.

Misfits ignar Defies the ARdent Supports

ardent censer meta

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

After pairing against defending world champions SK Telecom T1 in the quarterfinals, rookie-team Misfits Gaming looked set for a quiet exit from Worlds 2017. The Misfits had other plans in mind. And they went on to deliver the most thrilling series of Worlds 2017 so far. After losing game 1 to SKT using an Ardent support, Donggeun “IgNar” Lee refused to roll over. Entering into game 2, Misfits rallied the Guangzhou Gymnasium, locking in his signature Blitzcrank. By flexing mid-laner Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage onto Karma, Misfits gave room for IgNar to make plays throughout the game as he landed Rocket Grabs left and right.

SKT hoped to force IgNar onto a slower playstyle in game 3, buying SKT room to play a more methodical, drawn-out game. But the rookie support turned heads locking in Fervor Leona, a pick that was never thought to see the light of day at Worlds 2017. Misfits rounded out their composition with an Ardent Censer user in Ivern for jungler Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian. The Misfits bottom lane dismantled SKT’s legendary duo after an explosive outplay just after two minutes. Misfits put their foot on the gas as IgNar roamed to punish wandering members of SKT. The wildly successful early aggression from the Misfits bottom lane earned their AD-carry Steven “Hans Sama” Liv a +3k gold lead over his counterpart.

Although they lost the series, the rookies on Misfits won global respect and admiration. The rookie European squad took SKT farther than any western team before them. These incredible results came from fundamental team synergy among the players. Particularly, IgNar’s aggressive style showcased that Ardent Censer supports are not a prerequisite at Worlds 2017. After this performance, perhaps we will see more supports taking on play-making roles at semis.

To Bury Ardent Censer Meta

ardent censer meta

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

As semifinals loom just a few days away, how can we expect the meta to take shape? Will SK Telecom T1 adopt some of IgNar’s aggression and pull out the Blitzcrank? Or perhaps we will see RNG’s veteran AD-carry Zihao “Uzi” Jian abuse Caitlyn to crumble towers before ten minutes? Despite Ardent Censer’s undeniable utility, teams must create these micro-adaptations to gain an advantage. It’s exciting to watch as teams strive for constant improvement in response to a seemingly ‘figured-out’ metagame.

The pick-ban phase becomes increasingly nuanced. Banning picks like Caitlyn and Sivir, prized for their ability to siege early towers, frees up champions like Sejuani and Jarvan IV. Coaches like SKT’s Jeonggyun “kkOma” Kim must discover ways to abuse not only Ardent Censer meta, but any possible counters as well. The Worlds 2017 meta continues to grow and bleed into new configurations we have yet to discover. Fans will be anxious to see what unseen pocket picks these semifinal teams have in store for the stage in Shanghai.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Gigabyte Marines: Orchestrated chaos

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

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

GIGABYTE Marines evoke chaos style

gigabyte marines

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

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

The Marines hit a brick wall

gigabyte marines

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

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

Do the GIGABYTE Marines abandon ship?

gigabyte marines

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Longzhu finished week one of worlds top of Group B

Worlds’ OP five after week one

The first week of League of Legends’ 2017 World Championship has concluded, and this year’s event is already off to an exciting start. Between Gigabyte Marines’ mysterious “never before seen” strategy, Longzhu’s sub-25 minute average game time, and North America’s teams all being top two in their groups, fans and analysts have been gifted excellent performances thus far. Now the teams will have a few days to regroup and begin adapting for week two.

Almost every team had high points in week one. At some point, almost every player has had a high point, as well. But there is a reason the standings are as they are. Some teams have risen to the challenge of the international stage. Some players have executed a step above the pack. With three games in the books it is difficult to write off any team or player for the remainder of the contest. However, it is easy to recognize the following challengers for their stand-out performances.

Top: LZ Khan

Khan is the most OP top laner after Worlds week one

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Khan has definitely lived up to the hype carried over from LCK Summer Split. This guy has been an absolute monster in all three games so far. He has played a bruiser Jarvan IV against Immortals, a lethality Jarvan against Gigabyte Marines and Nasus against Fnatic. Khan is averaging 437 gold, 17 CS and 721 XP ahead at 15 minutes.

In the mid-game, Khan has been best at split-pushing, but his teamfighting is also incredibly strong. Khan has contributed 24.8 percent of Longzhu’s damage, which is exceptional when taking into account how strong his carries are. His 12.0 KDA is among the highest in the tournament so far.

TSM’s Hauntzer is the only other player currently close to Khan’s level. Some may even see Hauntzer as the better of the two so far, seeing as he has better laning and damage stats. But pressure is Khan’s key elevating factor. While Hauntzer teleports or roams to bring pressure to his teammates, Khan more frequently brings the enemy’s pressure to him. He pushes lanes, damages turrets, chunks out his enemy and forces the opposing team to respond to him.

As we get deeper into Worlds, it will be interesting to see how other teams adapt to Khan. Now that he has crushed a game on Nasus, who knows what else he may have up his sleeve? Few top laners in the entire tournament look up to the task of going toe to toe with Khan. If Longzhu take it all the way it will be hard not to attribute their success to the top lane.

Jungle: C9 Contractz

Contractz is the most OP jungler after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the only junglers who has not drafted a tank, Contractz has been acting as a third carry for Cloud9. He has pulled out an AD Rek’Sai, Ezreal and Graves, topping the jungler damage charts with 24.8 percent. C9’s tempo has totally relied on Contractz’s ability to clear the jungle as fast as possible and pressure the enemy jungler. So far, he has been able to do it successfully.

Contractz is averaging 266 XP, three CS and 146 gold ahead at 15 minutes. He has also helped secure First Blood in two of their three games. C9’s loss to SKT severely skewed Contractz’s KDA down to 3.3, but he is averaging 6.3 assists, fourth highest at Worlds. Contractz is also partially responsible for C9’s 66.7 percent Baron control rate, which has been a huge objective for winning games.

If Gigabyte Marines’ game against Longzhu had gone a bit better, then Levi would most likely be here. His surprise Nocturne pick in game one truly kick-started the energy at Worlds. Highlights from that game will be replayed over and over anytime fans reference back to 2017 Worlds. But when GAM’s Mordekaiser pick got destroyed from level one, all of GAM’s hype deflated. Levi may be able to take this spot with more consistent gameplay next week.

Mid: LZ Bdd

Bdd is the most OP mid laner after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Bdd is the only non-support player to go deathless in week one of Worlds. Despite drafting champions with strong roaming potential, Bdd averages ahead 11.7 CS, 488 gold and 910 XP at 15 minutes. These are all top two among mid laners. His 23.0 KDA is nothing to frown at either.

Longzhu does not look for Bdd to do huge shares of damage for them. Instead, they have drafted Taliyah, Ryze and Galio which each have powerful roaming ultimate abilities. These types of champions allow Bdd to zoom into top or bottom lane and outplay the enemy team by chaining crowd control and damaging abilities. Bdd is the central key that enables Khan’s aggressive playstyle, and he has been crucial for Longzhu’s success in Group B.

TSM’s Bjergsen, C9’s Jensen and RNG’s Xiaohu have also shown strong performances in week one, but none of them felt justified as the most valuable. In TSM and C9’s defeats, their mid laners looked much weaker in teamfights, and Xiaohu has not had the greatest laning phases. Bdd has performed solidly in both phases of the game.

ADC: RNG Uzi

Uzi is the most OP AD carry after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Royal Never Give Up has been on a tear, averaging the highest kills per game (12.3) and the lowest deaths (2.7). Their AD carry, Uzi, has been central to this first week of success. He is carrying a 28.0 KDA, scoring wins on Twitch, Tristana and Kog’Maw. Uzi has gone even or behind in lane with these champions, but truly terrorizes in teamfights.

At 722, Uzi averages fifth highest damage per minute of all players at Worlds. This amounts to a whopping 39.3 percent of RNG’s total damage. Uzi has been expertly navigating late game teamfights to maximize his damage and stay at a safe range. He has only died once so far.

SKT’s Bang is a close second in the bottom lane so far. He carries similar statistics, and has played similar champions. SKT and RNG are both 3-0 at the top of their groups. However, SKT’s wins have not come off the back of any one player. Their style is much more about how cohesive they are as the game gets later. The best players on the Worlds stage not only do not make mistakes, but also pinpoint the mistakes of the enemy and punish them. Uzi has successfully done this, while Bang has not been at that same level.

Support: SKT Wolf

Wolf is the most OP support after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Bang also has the best-performing support at Worlds: Wolf. Although the support meta is fairly stale at the moment, Wolf was able to have a fantastically flashy Rakan performance against EDG. He single-handedly reeled in a game that was out of control by landing a huge Quickness-Grand Entrance and charming the entire enemy team.

It will continue to be difficult to parse apart AD carry and support success, due to the current Ardent Censer priority. It is a shame that audiences are not going to be able to see Gorilla, Olleh, Mithy, Swordart and all of the other fantastic support players on play-makers. Instead, Janna, Lulu and Karma will continue to rein supreme in the bottom lane. Plays such as Wolf’s Rakan will be so much more emphasized than heals, shields and peeling.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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Introducing Group A of Worlds play-in: Team WE, Gambit and Lyon Gaming

With the addition of a play-in stage to the 2017 League of Legends World Championship, audiences will see several new faces on the international stage. To start things off, 12 third seed and wildcard teams have been divided into four groups of three. Each group of three will play a double round robin, and the two with the best record will move to a second phase. First place of each group will play a random second place in phase two of the play-in. The winners of these best-of-fives qualify for the larger Group Stage with the other top teams.

The LPL’s Team WE, LCL’s Gambit and LLN’s Lyon Gaming were drawn into Group A of the play-in. These three teams come from regions with widely differing teams and metas. The clashing of these differences is one of the many reasons Worlds is always exciting to watch. Here are summaries of the three competitors.

Team WE (LPL Third Seed)

WE 957 will play in Group A

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Top: 957 Jungle: Condi Mid: Xiye Bot: Mystic Support: Ben

2017 Spring Split achievements: Tied 1st Group B Spring regular, 1st Spring playoffs, 3rd/4th MSI

2017 Summer Split achievements: Tied 1st Group A Summer regular, 4th Summer playoffs, Rift Rivals winners

Team WE are one of the more aggressive teams in China. Just look at some of the players’ pocket picks in the regular season Summer Split. Kled for 957. Rengar for Condi. Xiye’s most played champion was Leblanc, and he has not played Orianna since spring. Mystic and Ben’s highest pick rates are for Xayah and Rakan. These guys play fast and hard.

WE may be the LPL’s third seed, but this squad tied China’s first seed, Edward Gaming, in the 2017 regular seasons of Spring and Summer Split. WE had a winning record against Royal Never Give Up in spring, and against EDG in summer. They traded wins with SK Telecom T1 and Flash Wolves at Rift Rivals, and also finished the Mid-Season Invitational group stage ahead of G2, Flash Wolves, TSM and Gigabyte Marines.

WE Xiye will play in Group A

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Essentially a shoe-in for the group stage of Worlds, WE will look to exhibit dominance in the play-in. This is not the place to disrespect opponents. WE should view this first step as a mental warm-up for the rest of the tournament. They need to take down their opponents in the same way they would take down the best in the LPL.

WE knows it deserves a spot in the group stage. Now is their time to prove it. If they were somehow unable to push out of the play-in stage, it would be an unacceptable disappointment. Assuming WE finish first in their group, they will have to face a second seed from another play-in group to make it into the next stage. This would most likely be Gambit, Team One, Young Generation or 1907 Fenerbahce.

In the second phase of play-in, all of these teams would be comfortable on stage, and WE should show up in a best-of-five. Cheesy best-of-one wildcard strategies cannot get teams through this section of competition. WE can adapt to their opponent, shift draft advantages between their players, and ultimately succeed. Any of their players can carry in any given game, unlike many of the wildcard teams. WE needs to use that to their advantage.

Gambit (LCL First Seed)

Gambit will play in Group A

Image from EsportsRanks.com

Top: PvPStejos Jungle: Diamondprox Mid: Kira Bot: Blasting Support: Edward

2017 Spring Split achievements: 6th Spring regular

2017 Summer Split achievements: 1st Summer regular, 1st Summer playoffs

League of Legends fans who watched the 2016 World Championships will remember the LCL’s representative last year: Albus Nox Luna. The Russians surprised the world by pushing out of their group into the quarterfinals, finishing fifth-eighth. In the 2017 pre-season, their slot was acquired by M19, who went on to finish third-fourth in the 2017 Spring Split playoffs.

Between spring and summer, though, mid laner Kira and jungler PvPStejos (who moved to top lane) were signed to Gambit. The organization also brought on Blasting from Virtus.pro and Edward from Vega Squadron, rebuilding the roster around veteran jungler Diamondprox.

Kira and PvPStejos will play in Group A

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

This line-up performed much better during the Summer Split, following Gambit’s sixth place finish in the Spring Split. They finished the summer regular season with a 13-1 record, met M19 in the playoff finals, and edged them out 3-2 to auto-qualify to Worlds this year. Russia is truly sending her best team to the international stage.

The CIS representatives excel at getting an early lead, averaging 1,258 gold ahead at 15 minutes. This does not necessarily always turn into the first turret (57.1 percent) or dragon control (58 percent), but they keep their grip on Baron (85.7 percent control). This major objective will come up huge at Worlds, and Gambit should replicate this strategy as best they can.

Gambit will look to build off of ANX’s success last year, but they have the additional play-in stage to hurdle. Grouping with Team WE all but ensures Gambit’s second place seeding for phase two, so they will ultimately have to beat one of the top seeds from the play-in to advance. If any wildcard team is up for the challenge, it is Gambit.

Lyon Gaming (LLN First Seed)

Lyon WhiteLotus will play in Group A

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Top: Jirall Jungle: Oddie Mid: Seiya Bot: WhiteLotus Support: Genthix

2017 Spring Split achievements: 1st Spring regular, 1st Spring playoffs, 8th-9th MSI

2017 Summer Split achievements: 1st Summer regular, 1st Summer playoffs, 3rd Rift Rivals

Lyon Gaming has one of the most dominant regional histories in professional League of Legends. Their victory this summer marks eight splits won since 2013. These same five players have been on Lyon for the entirety of 2017. They have only dropped five games total within the LLN this whole year.

However, regional perfection does not necessarily translate to the big stage. At last year’s International Wildcard Qualifier, Lyon Gaming finished the first phase at the top of the standings with a 6-1 record. However, they were knocked out by Albus Nox Luna by losing 2-3 in phase two. In 2015, the LLN was not even represented at the International Wildcard Qualifier, because Lyon Gaming lost to Kaos Latin Gamers in the Latin America Cup grand final.

It is unfortunate that Lyon got drafted into Group A with, arguably, the most difficult first and second seed opponents. They will need to get creative in best-of-ones to take down Team WE and Gambit. The members of Lyon do seem to prioritize different champions than others in their group. Seiya frequently drafts Ahri, and WhiteLotus prefers Twitch to several other AD carries. These types of picks may allow Lyon to gain an edge if they catch WE and Gambit off guard.

Lyon Genthix will play in Group A

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Overall

Group A looks like a strong one. WE can take down any other team in the play-in phase. Gambit and Lyon would both be formidable opponents for first seeds in phase two. All three junglers in this group prefer to play carries, like Elise and Kayn over the current meta tanks, like Gragas and Sejuani. This batch of mid laners loves to mix up their mid lane champion selections. The supports are the only players with truly “normal” champion draft distributions.

Expect AD carries and top laners to be most targeted, as those players seem to have the most clear preferences in champion pools. WhiteLotus should not get Twitch. Jirall should not get Galio. Gambit and Lyon should ban Xayah from Mystic, while Lyon and WE should ban Varus from Blasting.

This group will most likely end up finishing in the expected order. WE should not drop many, if any, games. Gambit and Lyon will most likely take games off of each other, but the macro-play and Baron control from Gambit will most likely undo Lyon. Phase two will be the more interesting test for the Russian organization, especially considering ANX’s dream run last year. WE’s phase two should be much more straightforward. Assuming they enter the larger group stage, Team WE would draft into group B or group D. If all first seeds proceed from the play-in, then WE would auto-draft into group D.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr, EsportsRanks.com

Names, dates, etc.: Leaguepedia

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NA LCS Finals: The Old Guard shows that even Immortals bleed

Introduction: “This is where we make history.”

The elevators in TD Garden proudly proclaim, “This is where we make history,” with a Boston Bruins player, Boston’s storied hockey team, displayed. The NA LCS Finals, regardless of the actual results, was just that. Immortals, the first non-C9/TSM/CLG team to make it to the NA LCS Finals since Good Game University. Team SoloMid, the undisputed fan favorites, poised to make history with the first three-peat [edited: Thank you ProArsonist93] in NA LCS history, that would permanently place them as legends. There was no way that fans would be disappointed with either team winning.

With the pre-show done, the teams were brought in. To the excitement of music fans, and Boston locals too, “Shipping up to Boston” by Dropkick Murphys was the pump up song of choice. The crowd went wild, and many followed along.

Immortals, going for the Green Lantern look here. Courtesy of LoL Esports Flikr.

Immortals are called first, the new kids on the block, hoping to upset the favorites in TSM and secure themselves a spot at the elite club of NA LCS winners. A mixture of faces new and old, with the legendary Lee “Flame” Ho-jong in the top lane, the longest tenured jungler in NA LCS Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, the 200 IQ Eugene “Pobelter” Park, their ADC who really likes his own name Cody “Cody Sun” Sun, and the NA LCS All Pro Team Support in Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung.

Then it’s TSM’s turn to take to the stage, the obvious fan favorites, as they walk with confidence to a stage they’ve always found their way to, the NA LCS Finals. The all American top laner of Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, the Dane in the jungle, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, ace and MVP for the Summer Split Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, the trash talking Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng flanked by his lane-mate and eventual MVP of the series, Vincent “Biofrost” Wang.

Game 1 to 3: Ask me about my macro boys

Game one is, in a lot of ways, a testament to many about how the series will go. It can tilt players and entire teams, it can give confidence, or it can mean barely anything at all. The one theme for the rest of the series was the heavy showing of macro play from both teams, and this was on display throughout the series. When TSM made one great macro move, Immortals matched them in kind. Ultimately, Immortals’ draft lost them the game, as they had no damage to close things out, and TSM executed their win conditions exceptionally. The first game goes to TSM, and the excitement of the fans echoes throughout the stadium.

TSM, the fan favorites and NA LCS Finalists. Courtesy of LoL Esports Flikr.

Immortals, undaunted, go into game two with a bold direction: Kill the Bjerg. The total bans reach seven towards mid lane, five of which came directly from the Immortals side. For Doublelift and Biofrost, the Xayah and Rakan are the big takeaways from the draft phase. At the 15 minute mark in the game, both squads are even, but ultimately the ‘keep Bjergsen down’ strat works.

Overall, Immortals controls the tempo, with a tower advantage and a decisive Baron take. With the score evened out, Immortals eventually swing the game in their favor and close the game out off of not just strong macro play, but also understanding and reading the team fights well. Bjergsen wasn’t able to do what he wanted to do on Kassadin, which is scale and then jump on a target. By keeping TSM’s ace down they even up the score 1-1.

Game three brings in a mix up in ADCs for Cody Sun, rocking the Jinx; the game goes a whole 13 minutes before even a single kill is had. Immortals look to be in control of things, but never cementing a lead too crazily. But all it takes is one misstep, Cody Sun being evaporated by Bjergsen’s Oriana, or TSM to bring the fumbling Immortals down around the Elder Dragon. The unchecked Cho’Gath from Hauntzer, and Bjergsen’s strong Oriana, lead to Immortals’ Nexus falling. The pressure is on, as TSM stand at match point.

The series was, from this point on, basically two things: Immortals looking great in the early half of the game, and TSM pulling off the insane comebacks again and again. Immortals looked in control in the macro points of the early game, making the right moves to get ahead. However, TSM executed something important for Worlds: knowing exactly how to play when behind and how to take the fights to come back.

Game Four: The game that history won’t forget

Game four is one of the most insane games I’ve ever seen. I have to confess, half way through, I forgot to keep taking notes, so I had to review the VOD afterward to make sure I had remembered it right. For the first twenty minutes of that historic game, the map, and by all rights the victory itself, belonged to Immortals. They were 7-0, they had taken Baron practically as it spawned, and then proceeded to destroy an inhib moments after. It was all but locked up, we were going to game five… Right?

When you hit the Rakan engage just right and pull off the impossible comeback off of it. Courtesy of LoL Esports Flikr.

I have never been so wrong. TSM pulled off the impossible, they took a team fight from being massively behind. Biofrost, with the heroic play on Rakan, got the perfect engagement, and without any hint of hesitation, TSM jumps onto Immortals like a pack of wolves. It’s a slaughter, and TSM handily win the team fight. And then they took the next one. And the next one. Immortals went from being in the drivers seat to trying to look like a team with the advantage. TSM, fueled by the chants and energy of the crowd, kept pushing, kept pummeling. TSM somehow managed to overcome a massive disadvantage, making attack after attack in a tense tactical battle.

I managed to ask Biofrost what was going through his mind during the fated Rakan engage at the post game press conference. “Those engage timings, I didn’t really think about, ‘if I mess this up we’re going to lose the game,’… If I don’t do this right now, then we lose anyways, and this is the only shot we have. If I do, then we’re going to come back.”

As the final fight begins, the silence and tension of the crowd leading up to it is gone. Instead, the stadium practically shakes, as TSM do what seemed impossible merely minutes prior: win the game when they hadn’t even managed to get on the board with kills. The crowd, and even the relatively more modest and quiet press area is a clamor of cheers and roars. While the Immortal fans, or even those who just root for the underdogs, were crushed, the winning-est team in NA LCS history walks once again to their trophy. And they looked good doing it too.

So what now?: A new NA or the same old narrative?

TSM, the obvious victors of the night, have a lot to look forward to as they march onward to Worlds. The team looked tight, with clean macro play and a kind of trust that will go a long way. They fought when they could win the fight, even when behind 10K. Not only did they play smart, but methodical too. They looked, in a lot of ways, like a team that could be a real contender to make a decent run in Worlds.

But we say that every year. TSM, in the press conference, mentioned their hopes going forward into Worlds that they could shake that curse. Doublelift stated that Worlds last year, they went in overconfident, feeling like they already were a top four team. They weren’t. This year, they plan to go in humble and let their play speak for itself.

For Immortals, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Game four was heartbreaking, and while TSM made the insane comeback a reality, it’ll be in the back of their minds that they managed to lose a game where they were up 10K with one inhib down by 20 minutes.

But Immortals should still walk away with their heads held high. They looked strong throughout the series, and had some insane early game, with their macro play keeping them going toe to toe with TSM. That’s nothing to scoff at, too, for a team to reach Finals in any event. Many fans and pundits agree that TSM and Immortals look like the strongest teams NA could’ve sent. And their meeting had to be a titanic affair.

Battered, but not broken, Immortals next opponents will be the Worlds best. Can they step up to the plate? Courtesy of LoL Esports Flikr.

While the CLG vs. Dignitas game looked like a hyper aggressive, non stop action fest, TSM vs. Immortals turned out to be more like a chess game. Macro play was king, and ultimately both teams seemed to have answers to the other team’s plan. Execution of win conditions was the deciding factor in these games. With both teams guaranteed Worlds spots, the results only having implications for seeding, it was a pride match. But it wasn’t just for pride, or for who got to hang their banner amongst the teams who have won the NA LCS. It was to instill hope into NA fans. To show fans they are ready to face every League of Legends teams’ toughest challenge: showing up at international events.

 

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