Worlds under-performing five after Week One

Week One of Worlds has concluded and we’re slowly seeing where the teams stand amongst eachother in terms of competition. Korea is still dominating for the most part. Meanwhile, North America is off to another strong Week One of Worlds. Europe has an unlikely hero in Misfits, while Fnatic is slowly bleeding out, and the hometown of China has looked really good aside from EDG struggling.

Our own Thomas Baker gave his spin on his “OP 5” from the first week, and I’ll be looking at the under-performing five. Those who made this list primarily had decent expectations coming in to do really well but have struggled. They’ll need to step up huge in Week Two for their teams to have any chance of making it to the bracket stage of Worlds. Let’s take a look:

Image by: Riot Esports

TOP: Paul “sOAZ” Boyer (Fnatic)

Soaz is one of the more veteran players attending Worlds this year. He’s always been a rock steady performer for his team, especially when it comes to Worlds. The mighty have fallen as Soaz has not looked good at all in his first three games this year. The team as a whole seems to have had some longing issues that have been taken to Twitter as of late.

In three games, Soaz has 2 kills, 16 deaths and 6 assists. His KDA of 0.5 is the second lowest among top laners. The Fnatic strategy usually revolved around getting bot and top ahead while leaving mid to play safe, but at Worlds top lane has been feeling the “Dyrus” treatment. It’s a mix of poor play and lack of assistance as Soaz was heavily punished in their first match against Gigabyte Marines. The lane swap prevent Soaz from getting a single cs until 5 minutes into the game.

In the next two games, Soaz would get counterpicked against Immortals and Longzhu Gaming. Cho’gath into Jayce is a really rough lane, but even mid-late Soaz’s impact was not felt. In the game against Longzhu he was put on Mao’kai against a Nasus who could freely farm with no real threat from Mao’kai.

Heading into Week Two, Fnatic is 0-3 in their group and will need to go undefeated to have a real chance of getting out. Soaz will need to step up and show why he used to be one of the most dangerous top laners in Europe.

Jungle: Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan (Flashwolves)

Image by: Riot Esports

Karsa has been a staple for Flash Wolves in previous seasons. His aggressiveness paired with a strong mid lane presence has been the vocal point of Flash Wolves’ success. While Karsa is still a very smart and aggressive jungler, his mid-late game play has cost his team. Time and time again he’s been getting caught out during crucial moments. It was his deaths against TSM that stalled the game out longer. He also had a crucial death against Misfits that basically lead to them taking Baron control. Karsa also got caught face checking mid against WE that once again lead to a baron take.

Not many junglers were hyped up this year when the meta shifted to more tank junglers, but Karsa was being hyped as one of the better junglers entering the tournament. His first blood percentage is still highest among junglers, but his 1.3 KDA is lowest among all junglers in the tournament.

It’s interesting to see Karsa in a jungle meta where it’s more of a supportive role. He’s still making plays early, but translating it to victories has been a struggle for him. He can’t keep getting caught out during crucial moments if Flash Wolves has any shot of making it out.

Mid: Lee “Scout” Ye-chan EDG (Edward Gaming)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Scout came in touted as one of the better mid laners out of China. A former sub of SKT, Scout has been known for his aggressive laning and playstyle. This style was punished for the most part. Against Cloud 9, it was the Shen pick that negated much of his aggressiveness and punished him for overstepping on a trade with Jensen in the mid lane.

For whatever reason, EDG has been content to let Scout play Lucian in all three games. While Lucian does have his strong points in the early-mid, his weaknesses have shown in the late as EDG has failed to close out games with it.

With a big lead against AHQ early, EDG gave up some crucial team fights that allowed AHQ to stall. With each team fully built, the side of AHQ was free to stack armor as EDG had no AP threat due to the Lucian being mid. Scout would eventually get caught out around mid where AHQ would than win the game.

It’ll be interesting to see if EDG plays something other than Lucian going forward. It’s had the early game presence at times, but it just hasn’t worked in getting the win. Scout in particular will need to play phenomenal against the likes of Faker and Jensen for EDG to turn their group around.

ADC: Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk (Samsung Galaxy)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Ruler came to Worlds after finishing rank one of the Korean solo que ladder. He was being preached as one of the best ADC’s of the tournament. He was looking to improve from last years performance where some minor mistakes might have cost his team a World championship.

The first week of the tournament was not a good start for Ruler or Samsung Galaxy as a whole. They were dominant against Europe’s G2, but were dominated by China’s Royal Never Give up, and had a surprisingly close match against Turkish team, 1907 Fehnerbace. It’s hard to stand out as an ADC on a struggling team, but outside of laning phase Ruler hasn’t looked impressive.

He currently has one of the lowest KDA’s among ADC’s at 2.4 and has the 2nd lowest damage per minute numbers. In a meta where teamfighting and bot lane is extremely important, Ruler’s impact hasn’t been felt. In their match against RNG, the bot lane of SSG seemed outmatched by the hometown heroes.

Ruler will need to step up to have a bigger impact in Week Two. Samsung had a somewhat similar slow Week One last year, so I’ll be interested to see how they step up.

Support: Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie (Flash Wolves)

Photo by: Riot Esports

SwordArt received much criticism after being named as a top 20 player at Worlds by some people. SwordArt hasn’t done much to backup these statements as he hasn’t looked incredible by any means.

SwordArt may be suffering the same fate as Karsa; the meta has shifted into a spot where he doesn’t look comfortable. His best plays have been on engage play making supports such as Alistar, Tahm Kench and Thresh. His Taric is the only champion that allows him to still engage for his team.

SwordArt and Flashwolves have a tall task as they have dropped to 0-3 in a group where teams aren’t the strongest. If there was one team I think that could still make it out despite being 0-3, it would be Flash Wolves. They have showed prowess and grit to be able to compete with the teams in their group. It’s the small macro decisions and mistakes that have cost them. SwordArt will need to shotcall a lot better, but there is a chance even if it may be slim.


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Worlds matchups to look out for

The 2017 League of Legends World Championships hype will continue this weekend with the group stages beginning. The play-in stage has concluded and we now have the four completed groups. The draw was just about as even as possible. Each group has top-tier players from their region looking to prove themselves on the Worlds stage. Let’s take a look:

Group A: MID laners

Photo by: Riot Esports

Who could forget Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen’s tweet at last years World Championship when Cloud 9 got drawn into SKT’s group? Many will remember how last years matchup went. SKT and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok dismantled Cloud 9 and dominated them in the two games they faced each other during the group stage. It felt like Jensen never stood a chance as SKT lived in the mid lane setting him farther behind. He finished with two kills and eight deaths in the two games they faced off.

Jensen gets his shot at redemption this year. He’ll be looking to show that he’s grown a lot from last year as he showed his best year in the NA LCS so far. Faker will be looking to show Jensen that he’s still the best player in the World.

From China’s EDG you have Lee “Scout” Ye-chan, who is definitely no slouch. Scout originated as a sub for SKT in 2015 before coming to China to become one of the region’s best mid laners. Scout has shown prowess on very aggressive picks and will need a good performance against the other mid laners in this group.

From the LMS, we have AHQ’s Wong “Chawy” Xing Lei and fan favorite Liu “Westdoor” Shu-Wei. Westdoor has been a longtime player of AHQ, but mechanically had many flaws during his lane phase that would set AHQ behind. Chawy hopes that he can overtake Westdoor as the priority mid for AHQ. We didn’t get to see too much of him at last years Worlds so his first game will be huge.

Group B: Top Laners

Photo By: Riot Esports

Group B will have some of the most fun and legendary top laners to date. From North America’s Immortals you have the original legend from Korea in Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong. After years of jumping from China and Korea, he finally made his way back to the World Stage with this Immortals team.

For EU’s Fnatic you have none other than Paul “sOAZ” Boyer who has become a staple for big performances and escapes on the Worlds stage. There’s just something about Worlds that gives him a “buff” that makes him play like a God no matter how he performed during the regular season.

From Longzhu Gaming you have the new up and coming top lane God in Kim “Khan” Dong-ha. Khan has become famous for his legendary Jayce that draws bans in every game. If one team leaves it up against them, he’s bound to make them regret it.

Gigabyte Marines’ Minh Nhut “Archie” Tran will have his work cut out for him. He played support for the team at MSI before switching to the top lane for the Summer. If Gigabyte Marines stand any chance he’ll need to hold his own against these big names in the top lane.

Group C: ADC’s

Photo by: Riot Esports

In Group C we look to the opposite side of the map from Group B. We have some legendary bot lane talents from each team. In Royal Never Give Up, long time ADC Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao has shown up huge in his past World Championships. He’s been to two World Finals and broke the heart of many NA fans when his phenomenal Ezreal play helped eliminate TSM from Group D last year. Similar to Soaz, Uzi always shows up during Worlds to make huge plays for his team.

From EU, we have G2’s Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen who has been rock solid, taking the crown of best ADC in Europe. G2 likes to play around Zven giving him hyper carries such as Kog’maw and Tristana. He didn’t have the best Worlds performance last year so this will be his chance to show he’s still one of the best in the world.

From Korea, we have Samsung Galaxy’s Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk. Ruler left to China after achieving rank one on the solo queue ladder in Korea. He comes in as one of the best ADC’s in Korea, and had a great showing at last year’s Worlds. His positioning in the finals against eventual champion SKT contributed to their downfall, so he’ll be looking to prove himself once again.

From 1907 Fehnerbace we have Ege “padden” Acar Koparal who got one of the few pentakills during the play-in stage. Padden’s Tristana and Kog’maw paid huge dividends for the team upsetting their way through the play-in stage. Against tougher competition this round, we’ll need to see if he can build up from the play-in stages.

Group D: Mid-Jungle DUos

Photo by: Riot Esports

Lastly, Group D have some of the best mid-jungle duos of the tournament. For North America, you have fan favorite TSM’s Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen. Bjergsen will be looking to add to his legacy as best Western player, while Svenskeren will look to build off his great Worlds performance last year. Bjergsen has yet to go far in a World championship, which hinders his legacy. Group D is the easiest group they’ve gotten by far so they’ll need to prove that they can get first.

From LMS’ Flash Wolves we have the iconic Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang and Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan. Maple has fallen off from his previous form which we’ve been used to seeing. Karsa has had to carry much of the load for the team going forward. Him and Svenskeren have very similar aggressive jungle styles that will be interesting to see when they face off.

EU first timers will sport none other than Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian. Maxlore came into Summer being seen as a better fit stylistically for the team. He often looks to camp around the mid lane to get PoE ahead and snowball.

Hometown heroes, WE have stars  Su “Xiye” Han-Wei and Xiang “Condi” Ren-Jie. Xiye and Condi showed good performances during the play-in stage on a variety of champions. Condi always seemed in control despite WE falling behind in the early game. These teams won’t be as forgiving if they fall behind so they’ll need to step up their game.

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Is Riot taking a major step back going to best of ones?

In recent news, Riot Games has announced that the LCS will be reverting back to best of ones for the regular season. This comes as a shock to many as best of threes seemed to have been improving the regions as a whole.

With the NA LCS heading to franchising next year, viewership will be the main focal point for sponsors and organizations. Best of ones provide more air time for every team without the threat of dual casts. Viewership also favors best of ones for the casual viewer who may not want to spend 3-5 hours watching an entire best of three.

Photo by: Riot Esports

Why they went to best of three to begin with

The major argument for best of threes was that it felt like winning a series made a much more clear cut winner and added variety. It allowed teams to have “cheese” picks they could pull out the first game for an upset, but also required them to need to know how to close it out. Best of threes has also opened the door for six man rosters as many teams looked at subbing players in with different play styles that could change a series.

Best of threes also allowed for more games to be played in general. More practice on stage allowed teams way more games than in best of ones. North America in particular felt lacking as they had not had great results in international competition. In Korea’s LCK they had already been doing best of threes which seemed to make the region much more competitive. There’s more chances to try different strategies on stage, along with being able to try new rosters.

Why they’re reverting back to best of ones

Riot has stated that best of ones provides the most viewership for the average LCS fan. When surveyed, most fans felt like best of threes was too many games to digest and would rather play than watch an entire best of three. With franchising coming soon, viewership will need to stay high for it to succeed for everyone. Not everyone wants to tune in for a 3-5 hour series. Best of ones allows all teams even viewership without the threat of a rivalry being dual streamed at the same time.

Scheduling wise, best of ones are easier to plan/schedule around for fans and Riot alike. Best of three series has too much variability in the time frames that games could occur.

Viewership vs. Competitive quality

The major concern here is how much viewership matters over competition. Best of threes gave teams much for variability for strategies and such, but might be too long for the casual viewer. For the average LCS fan it will be easier to see your favorite team play and than go back to playing yourself. A single stream evens it out for the lower teams to have more people watching their games. Will we get less cheese from the higher ranked teams and more from the lower placed now? Does the quality of play drop off with this change?

When best of threes were first being talked about, many fans/pros felt it was needed to help catch up with the likes of Korea. More games would mean more chances to improve as a team, right? That wasn’t necessarily the case as Korea still dominated Worlds the past two years.

It will be interesting to see how going back to best of ones changes the NA LCS. Viewership may improve, but does the quality of game play fall off?

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Standout players from the Play-in Group Stages

With the first ever “play-in” stage of Worlds concluded, we had the chance to see some exciting matches. We had upsets, stomps and everything in between this past weekend. It’s crazy to see how far some of the Wildcard regions have come. The play-in stage has added some needed experience for the lesser known regions while adding the chance for some exciting upsets as well.

The play-in stage gave some star players from the Wildcard regions a chance to show how good they really are on the international stage. Some players stepped up to the challenge, while others disappointed. Let’s take a look at some of the standouts from this weekend’s play-in stage:

Matías “WhiteLotus” Musso (Lyon gaming adc)

Whitelotus has been a staple name for the LAS region for the past few years. His team, Lyon Gaming, have been known to be mechanically good, but have been unable to show up in Wildcard tournaments in the past. Whitelotus was huge this weekend in his team being able to earn second place out of Group A. He was often on hyper-carries like Kog’maw and Xayah dishing out huge damage for his team.

In their match against WE, he was a huge part of the reason why they were able to keep up with them in the early game. Up against one of China’s best in Jin “Mystic” Sung-jun, Whitelotus held his own, and some. He put up massive stats over four games, leading all ADC’s in KDA with a massive 9.5. He also was able to dish out a high damage percentage with a whopping 35 percent. He also earned the first penta kill of Worlds against Gambit Gaming.

He has the tall task of facing Cloud 9 in a best of five. He’ll need to duplicate his performance once again for Lyon Gaming to have any chance.

Ali “Seiya” Bracamontes (Lyon Gaming mid)

Photo by: Riot Esports

The other carry from Lyon Gaming, Seiya, had quite the performance during the play-in stage as well. Him and Whitelotus made some massive plays to help carry their team to second place in Group A. He finished the play-in stage having only died twice over four games. Seiya definitely made a name for himself as he showed great performances on Syndra.

He posted an incredible 20.0 KDA to lead all mid laners while also participating in 78 percent of his team’s kills. Seiya was instrumental in their close matches against WE. He’ll need to step up even more as he faces off against Cloud 9’s Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen in their best of five.

Võ “Naul” Thành Luân (Young Generation mid)

Naul from Young Generation had quite the showing this past weekend. Personally, I hadn’t heard much of this guy coming into the tournament, but solo-killing Fnatic’s “baby Faker” is a good way to show up at an international event. Vietnam first gave us Levi and Gigabyte Marines, but they now also have Young Generation who looked quite competitive against EU’s Fnatic. This was due to the pressure provided in the made lane from Naul.

In his first match against Fnatic, he was able to put mid laner Rasmus “Caps” Winther behind as he solo-killed him while being ahead 20 cs in the lane. Naul had the second highest damage percentage for mid laners with a 34.3. He was vital in their defeat of Fnatic as he “Xpeke’d” their Nexus in the last few moments.

Juan “Contractz” Garcia (Cloud 9 Jungler)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Contractz looked like one of the best junglers in the play-in stages. This young rookie strutted his stuff during Cloud 9’s 4-0 dominance of Group B. He showed a plethora of different picks/styles bringing out the Ezreal and Nidalee. His early game playmaking helped Cloud 9 snowball into the mid-late game.

He showed no nerves up against Team One and Dire Wolves. He always seemed to be in the right place at the right time to assist his team. He finished the weekend leading junglers in total KDA with an astounding 16 while also leading in kill participation at 80 percent.

Contractz will look to ride this momentum as they take on Lyon Gaming in their best of five. If he can duplicate his last showing, there’s no reason Cloud 9 shouldn’t get a clean 3-0 sweep.

 Ege “padden” Acar Koparal (1907 Fenerbahce adc)

Photo by: Riot Esports

The ADC from 1907 Fenerbahce was huge in their team’s first place finish in Group D. His Tristana positioning was vital in his team upsetting Hong Kong Attitude in their tiebreaker match. Early he was destroyed by the Varus/Blitz combo of HKA, but when it came down to team fighting, he was there to clean up.

His team often relied on him as he dealt 36.9 percent of his team’s damage. His aggressiveness of knowing when to jump in and get resets was crucial in the late game. Fenerbahce got possibly the best group draw up against Brazil’s Team One who didn’t look impressive at all in their group. It will be interesting to see if Padden’s Tristana will draw bans going forward, because he’s looked phenomenal on her.

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Who has the best shot to be this year’s Albus Nox?

With the World Championship starting this weekend we’ll have the chance to see some massive upsets. The possibility of either of the teams dropping a few games could start off Worlds with a bang. Last year we got to witness the first upset of a Wildcard team in groups. Albus Nox Luna of the CIS region were able to take second in their group finishing 4-3 ahead of CLG and G2.

Instead of having a separate Wild Card tournament to determine who will play in Worlds from the non-major regions, we now have the play-in stage. The play-in stage allows for Wildcard teams the chance to face third place teams of the major regions with a chance to upset and qualify for the Group stage.

Will we have another Albus Nox play spoiler for one of the major regions? Let’s take a look at some teams that may have the best chance:

Gambit (1st place lcl)

Photo by Gambit Gaming

Gambit Gaming represent the same region Albus Nox did last year, the LCL. They also have two former players in Alexander “PvPStejos” Glazkov and Michael “Kira” Garmash. Kira and PvPStejos were huge in Albus Nox’s Worlds run last year. Kira has shown the ability to have a wide champion pool.

They also have some legendary veterans in jungler Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov and support Edward “Edward” Abgaryan. Diamond and Edward were longtime legends in the EULCS after dominating tournaments in Season 2 as Moscow 5. This will be a chance for them to add onto their legacy.

Rekkles also shed some light into Gambit calling them an EULCS caliber team in his 3rd place interview. Gambit definitely have the experience to do so. They’re a very much an early game team who can create leads through skirmishes. They’ll often go for these early baron calls despite not having proper vision setup. They’re a high risk, high reward team that can definitely shock some of these teams with weak early games such as Cloud 9.

Gigabyte Marines (1st place gpl)

Photo by Riot Esports

Unlike the other teams on this list, Gigabyte Marines aren’t in the play-in stage as they earned their region a pool two seed at MSI. They are placed in Group B with Korean Powerhouse, Longzhu Gaming, and North American first timers, Immortals. For Gigabyte Marines this could be a hopeful group for them. Longzhu will most likely be favorites, but the second seed is up in the air. Immortals will be favorites, but let’s remember that Gigabyte Marines nearly beat TSM in a best of five at MSI.

The Marines played a lot through ganking the bot lane early at MSI. Star jungler Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh was instrumental in their MSI run and will look to put the team on his back once again. With carry junglers out of the meta now, it will be interesting to see how they decide to play. They built their own meta at MSI, with snowballing the early game through bot, so they have the ability to create their own meta.

1907 fenerbahce (1st place tcl)

1907 Fenerbahce come in with a ton of momentum after winning the TCL 3-0 against SuperMassive. Historically, we’ve seen teams from Turkey do well in Wildcard tournaments and even take games off some of the major regions. Fenerbahce have a mid-jungle korean duo in Kim “Frozen” Tae-il and Kang “Move” Min-su. Move spent some time in NA and EU having some solid seasons before coming over to the TCL. Top laner, Berke “Thaldrin” Demir, has had some international experience with previous Turkish teams.

Being placed in group D has to feel like a blessing. Hong Kong attitude are the 3rd place team out of LMS and finished 6th in the regular season before getting in through the regional qualifier. Fenerbahce have the disadvantage of coming to Worlds late without a bootcamp, but we’ve seen teams do well without scrims.

The mystery of developing your own meta brings an extra surprise factor especially in best of one’s. Albus Nox mentioned not being able to get scrims last year before going on their magical run.

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Group D preview: Group of Life

The 2017 World Championship is approaching, building up hype for this epic tournament. With the group draw concluded most are heralding group D as the “Group of Life.” Group D is considered a favorable group due to not having a Korean team in it. With Korea’s success in previous World Championships, it’s a blessing if you can avoid facing one of their powerhouse teams in the first part of the tournament. This group holds two veteran teams in TSM and Flash Wolves, with new comers from the EU LCS, Misfits. There’s definitely a strong possibility that if things play out the way they should, WE could be put into this group as well.

Flash Wolves

Photo by: Riot Esports

Flash Wolves earned another Worlds berth by winning the LMS region once again, defeating AHQ 3-0 in the finals. They’ve dominated their region for the most part for the past few seasons. They like to play through veteran jungle/mid duo, Maple and Karsa. With the meta shifting to more supportive tank junglers, it will be interesting to see how Karsa performs. We’ve seen in previous Worlds his best performances on aggressive ganking junglers such as Lee Sin and Elise. Maple also hasn’t looked great this past split, but a good boot camp before Worlds could help fix some of their issues.

While Flash Wolves were able to take the top spot in LMS, they haven’t really looked much better from their MSI performance. Top and bot lane are average at best. Support Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie will often times look to roam to setup plays for his team. Their ADC, Lu “Betty” Yuhung, didn’t have a great showing at MSI. If he performs the same way against even better competition, they could be hurting. Nonetheless they have been known to snowball really well off early game leads. TSM and Misfits like to play more towards the mid-late game. If Flash Wolves can set the tempo and get snowballing they can definitely win this group.

Team SoloMid

Photo by: Riot Esports

Team SoloMid come in as the number one seed from North America after defeating Immortals 3-1 in the NA LCS finals. TSM have finally been blessed with one of the better group draws they could have possibly asked for. No Korean teams, so there’s absolutely no excuses for not being able to make it out of their group this time around. The pressure will be on for them to perform and make it out.

They are led by the two star carries of Bjergsen and Doublelift. Support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang was shaky in his first Worlds appearance last year. Up against the likes of Mata and CoreJJ, he looked outclassed. This year he comes in with a lot more experience. He showed up huge for TSM in their finals series against Immortals, earning the finals MVP. His play making on Rakan played a huge part in their series victory.

TSM’s weaknesses lie in the early game. With strong roaming, support/jungle duos can look to gain early leads and possibly snowball the game. TSM likes to play towards the mid-late game where their shot-calling has been much improved since the Mid Season Invitational. Even when they are behind, they are very good at knowing how to catch up. TSM look like favorites to win their group on paper, but they’ll need to show it on stage.

Misfits

Photo by: Riot Esports

Misfits head to Worlds as the second seed after losing to G2 3-0 in the finals. Not much was expected of Misfits heading into the EU LCS Summer Playoffs, but they had a magical run to the finals where they looked like a much different team from the regular season. They looked like a completely new team. Maxlore and Ignar in particular were coordinating some excellent roams to help snowball their leads. They were shot-calling much better in the mid-late game as well.

They have two monster solo laners in mid laner Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and top laner Barney “Alphari” Morris. Both laners have shown the ability to pop off in games with Power of Evil contributing a ton to his team’s total damage. Alphari is a mechanical beast, but can sometimes succumb to early enemy jungle pressure.

Misfits will be the underdogs of this group as no one on their team has ever been to Worlds. It will be good experience for the young organization from EU, but most people are expecting them to finish like Splyce did last season.

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Worlds 2017 group B preview

It’s that time of year again for League of Legends fans. The Worlds 2017 group draw has concluded and we can start getting excited to see some of the best teams from around the World face off in some heated matches. The group draw has been vital in just how far a team can go at Worlds. Group B has a nice mix of Worlds veterans and rookies. Let’s take a look:

Longzhu Gaming

Top: Khan

Jungle: Cuzz

Mid: BDD

ADC: Pray

Support: Gorilla

Longzhu Gaming took the summer split title of LCK after defeating SK Telecom T1 3-1 in the finals. The way LCK sets up playoffs, we only got to see them in one best of five which was their finals match. They threw multiple bans at SKT’s mid laner, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok en route to winning their first LCK finals. Longzhu had the luxury of being able to watch SKT play two best of five series before facing off whereas SKT did not. Nonetheless, winning the LCK final is a major victory for a team that was bottom tier not too long ago. Winning the best region in all of League of Legends definitely pegs you as huge favorites to make it to the World Finals.

Longzhu has a good mix of seasoned veterans and hungry rookies seeing their first World championship. Pray and Gorilla have become household names at the World championship. After qualifying the past two seasons with the Rox Tigers organization, the team split up, but Pray and Gorilla insisted they stay together. They’ve developed an unstoppable bot lane synergy over three seasons together and will look to show up big once again.

One of the more exciting prospects on the team will have to be top laner Kim “Khan” Dong-ha. Khan has become known for his huge play making abilities and carry potential from the top lane. His Jayce almost always draws a ban. If left open, he shows why it is such a pocket pick for him. He was vital in their LCK final match in shutting down the top laners of SKT. Him and Cuzz showed a picture perfect strategy on how to shutdown a Cho’gath in the early game.

Mid laner Kwak “BDD” Bo-seong may be the definition of “KDA” player as he finished the LCK summer with an impressive 11.3 KDA. He loves to play assassins, but has shown the ability to play whatever his team needs.

Immortals

Worlds 2017

Photo by: Riot Games

Top: Flame

Jungle: Xmithie

Mid: Pobelter

ADC: Cody Sun

Support: Olleh

Immortals qualified for Worlds as the team with the most circuit points from North America after a second place finish in the summer playoffs. This team came out of nowhere in summer after making the trade for jungle veteran Jake “Xmithie” Puchero. Many thought Xmithie’s career was on a decline and saw him as a downgrade to former jungler, Dardoch. That was not the case as Xmithie revitalized his career on Immortals and showed to be the best jungler in NA for summer. They also brought in former Rox Tigers and Longzhu coach Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo whose coaching effects showed immediately. The team looked much improved and finished the split atop the standings. Despite losing to TSM 3-1 in a close finals, they go into Worlds looking to prove themselves for the first time on the Worlds stage.

Like Longzhu, Immortals have veterans along with some rookies showing up at Worlds. The bot lane duo of Cody Sun and Olleh will be exciting to watch. They struggled in their first split together, but have steadily improved. They have a tall task going up against the likes of Pray and Gorilla.

As a former LCK top lane star and Longzhu sub, Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong will get the chance to face off against one rising star and another veteran of the pro LoL scene in Khan and Archie. In the jungle Xmithie will need to hold down Gigabyte Marines jungler, Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh. Levi showed the ability to carry games at MSI. With the meta shifted to more supportive tank junglers, Xmithie should feel right at home.

Depending on what last team is drawn into their group, Immortals can definitely show some promise. Don’t be surprised if they are able to take a game off of Longzhu and be the second team out of this group.

Gigabyte Marines

Photo by: Riot Games

Top: Archie

Jungle: Levi

Mid: Optimus

ADC: NoWay

Support: Sya

Gigabyte Marines were able to secure a Worlds spot after helping secure a group stage spot for the GPL region after making it to the groups of MSI. They then went on to qualify in dominating fashion going 6-0 in playoffs.

Last we saw of Gigabyte Marines on the international stage they were handily defeating some of the best teams in the World. They almost took a best of five against TSM in which they led 2-0 before being reverse swept. Most of their MSI victories came off the back of phenomenal jungle performances by Levi. They busted the meta open by openly ganking bot early to get them ahead. This isn’t exactly the same team we saw at MSI. Former support, Minh “Archie” Nhựt Trần moved to the top lane as the team took on a new duo of NoWay and Sya who showed good performances in the GPL.

Top laner Archie will have some stiff competition facing off against two great top laners from Korea in Flame and Khan. With the possibility of drawing 957 or Soaz as well, the top lane competition could become even stiffer. Gigabyte Marines will most likely be looked at as huge underdogs coming in, but the same was said for them at MSI. When underestimated in best of ones, Gigabyte Marines have the chance to shock the World once again. They’ll most likely be looking to go on a run similar to Albus Nox Luna last year.

Last Team Possibilities

With a North American team already in this group, Cloud 9 cannot be placed here. That leaves Fnatic, WE and Hong Kong Attitude of LMS. If we expect all the third seeds from the major regions to advance, Fnatic and WE will be teams to watch. While Longzhu is almost certainly 100% favorites to make it out, the second seed can be a toss up depending on who gets placed here. WE and Fnatic are long time veterans of the LoL pro scene and would make this group even more competitive.

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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Who will win the Gauntlet for North America?

With the first two seeds locked in for North America, there is one more that will earn their spot at Worlds through the Gauntlet. This may be the tightest race ever for the final Worlds spot. Every team in the Gauntlet have a chance to possibly make it out. Let’s take a look:

Flyquest

While Flyquest just barely avoided having to play in the relegation tournament this split, they did earn enough points from last split for a Gauntlet spot. This isn’t unfamiliar territory for them as 3/5 members were on the Cloud9 team that had to play through the Gauntlet in season five to qualify for Worlds. Not only did they qualify, they did it off back to back reverse sweeps like we’ve never seen before. There’s just something about mid laner Hai “Hai” Lam that makes you never want to count a team with him on the roster out. His leadership and shot calling ability can make even the worst rosters look like contenders.

Flyquest also has the luxury of having not played on stage in quite a while since they missed playoffs; Nobody knows what to expect from them outside of scrims. Nobody has seen them play on this patch, so they’ll have the surprise factor heading into their first game of the Gauntlet. What they choose to do with it will be the real mystery. Expect some interesting cheese picks to come out from them.

Dignitas

Photo by: Riot Esports

Dignitas heads into the Gauntlet after a nice playoff run where they upset Cloud9 in the first round before losing to TSM 3-1. They made the mid season move of taking on the bot lane of Adrian and Altec. The move has paid dividends as the team has looked much improved from their mid slump. In their series against Cloud9, they looked like the better team with Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho leading the way. Ssumday has been the solid rock for this team all year.

In their next two series of the playoffs, it looked like the team may have peaked. TSM and CLG seemed to dismantle the team effortlessly in the early game. Mid laner Lae-Young “Keane” Jang seemed to fall behind without jungle pressure. He was a weak link for the team. Without an early game lead, Dignitas looked lost on how to come back from such large deficits.

Counter Logic Gaming

Counter Logic Gaming go from zero to hero over a playoff series. On one hand, they looked shaky against EnVy and Immortals. On another, they dominated Dignitas in their third place match. It was almost a night/day performance for rookie jungler Omar “OmarGod” Amin. In their previous series he was one of the more inconsistent performers for the team, but in their third place match, he looked very comfortable. He was making plays and looked to be synergizing well with the team. Maybe they just needed time, but CLG looks to be the favorites heading into the regional qualifier for now.

Cloud9

Cloud9 had one of the easiest routes of the all the teams looking to qualify for Worlds. As long as they made it past the first round of playoffs, they’d auto qualify with circuit points if things went as expected. They did quite the opposite and now have created a much harder path to Worlds for themselves.

It’s no doubt they were clear favorites at the beginning of the year to be top contenders once again, but questionable drafts during their Dignitas series and under performing members makes us question if they can actually qualify for Worlds.

They’ve had the same issues all year it seems. No early game playmaking and relying heavily on the mid game to snowball. Even with an early lead, Cloud9 squandered their leads in their series against Dignitas.

They’ve had time to practice so hopefully they’ve figured out their issues. This hasn’t been a new trend though, it’s been the same issue all year. This team heavily relies on Jensen to carry a lot of the load. If he doesn’t snowball his lead, the team seems to struggle to find production else where.


Photo by: Riot Esports

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The resurgence of Dignitas

What a journey it’s been for team Dignitas. With high hopes and big name Korean imports Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun, the team looked lost. They had just bought their way back into LCS and on paper, looked like a top team. The coaching and team synergy was way off though and they were barely able to sneak into playoffs for Spring. They started off Summer hot but soon fizzled out back to their former selves. A few changes throughout the team have helped along the way. Let’s take a look:

Changing up the Coaching staff

Dignitas started spring with Korean coaches Kim Jeong-soo and Park Jae-seok. A surprise to many, their coaching really wasn’t helpful for Dignitas at all. As they were watching their spring split hopes wash away, they decided to bring in a familiar face in David “Cop” Roberson. Cop coached many of the former APEX squad during their first run at LCS. Dignitas was able to finish the second half of Spring strong enough to garner a playoff spot.

This split they brought in another familiar face in Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco. Saintvicious has been involved in pro League of Legends for awhile now and also worked with the team when they were APEX gaming.

It was obvious under the Korean coaches the team did not know how to communicate effectively. They could often get decent early leads, but had no idea how to snowball games. With the induction of Cop in spring the team looked revitalized and were taking wins off some of the better teams in the league. They began to struggle mid split of Summer, but a few roster changes turned their season around.

Roster changes

One of the big changes over summer was letting go of Chaser as the starting jungler in favor of Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon. Shrimp played with the team on APEX and just seemed to mesh better with the team stylistically. His Nunu play in their quarterfinals match against Cloud 9 was huge in helping them secure a semi-finals spot.

Shrimp is similar to Xmithie as he’s a selfless jungler who is good at tracking the enemy jungler and providing good vision for his laners. He has the second highest kill participation in the league for junglers which speaks volumes to how active he is for his team. In a meta of tanks, Shrimp is quite comfortable and can even pull out the Nunu to enable ADC Johnny “Altec” Ru to carry even harder.

Altec and Adrian

photo via riot esports

In the bot lane we had the induction of Altec and Adrian “Adrian” Ma into the starting lineup. With a history of issues on other teams, Adrian is stepping up huge for Dignitas this split. He’s shown that he can play more than just his signature Soraka, with he and Altec contending to be one of the better bot lanes this split. Many questioned Altec’s decision to leave Flyquest for Dignitas where he wouldn’t even be guaranteed a starting spot. After he and Adrian were subbed in the team hasn’t looked back.

Altec has looked like a complete monster on this team. He finished 3rd in CS diff@10 and 2nd in DMG%. He’s shown some great plays on meta picks such as Sivir and Tristana. Him and Adrian have developed into one of the best bot lanes in NALCS. TSM is next on their list of upsets.

Dignitas looked great in their 3-1 victory over Cloud 9 yesterday. This only makes their match with TSM more interesting as they’ve held a great record against them during the regular season. If they are able to pull off the upset, who’s to say they aren’t good enough to compete for a championship?

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What Mickey’s acquisition means to Team Liquid

Team Liquid made a huge announcement this week with the acquisition of former ROX tiger mid laner, Sun “Mickey” Yong-min. It’s no secret that Team Liquid has failed to meet expectations this whole year. They thought they could turn things around after acquiring star jungler Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin in the off season. That hasn’t been the case as the team has sat near the bottom of the standings for most of the year, barely avoiding relegation in Spring.

This off the back of an impressive 2-0 week where Team Liquid looked to be finally coming together. Team owner, Steve Arhancet, seems to be highly dissatisfied with the team’s results this year. With franchising coming to LCS soon he wants to start building for the future now. This move infers a lot of things with the team moving forwards.

Piglet’s Inevitable retirement

Mickey

Photo via Riot Esports

Star ADC Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin was brought onto the team two years ago to turn TL into Worlds contenders. That hasn’t come to fruition as the team has struggled mightily for most of his time on the roster. This may be a sign that both sides are ready to move on.

Piglet has put up decent stats throughout his NA LCS career, but the team has never been able to fully use that to their advantage. During his early stages, he would often get caught out farming a side wave and failing to group with his team. His communication and chemistry issues showed in game, and the results mirrored that.

Meanwhile Team Liquid has done everything in their power to make things better for Piglet. Last summer when the Dardoch drama was going on, he requested to play on Team Liquid Academy. Even after that, he’s shown in Breaking Point wanting to quit again. Team Liquid has constantly tried to build a team around him, despite it showing that it hasn’t worked for four splits now.

The signing of Mickey brings Team Liquid to the two import limit. This means either Reignover or Piglet can’t play with Mickey in the lineup. For now it seems that they’ll try to make things work with Inori at jungle. Looking forward, they may try to find a North American talent to replace Piglet. In interviews at the start of the split Piglet states that he’s leaning towards retirement if TL doesn’t win NA LCS.

Goldenglue’s Failed Return

Many were surprised when TL announced they’d be bringing back the exact same roster from last split that was nearly relegated before Doublelift came in. Most notably, the return of mid laner Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer to the starting lineup. Goldenglue spent some time bootcamping in Korea by himself while the team finished out the Spring Split without him. TL hoped that the Korean bootcamp had helped him improve enough to warrant the starting position. That wasn’t the case as the team as a whole seemed to struggle.

Goldenglue specifically hasn’t put up great stats this split. He is currently near the bottom for KDA and CS diff@10 among mids. He had some great performances last week during their 2-0 where he showed flashes of brilliance. But just like that, Mickey is being brought in to challenge him for his spot.

This all but spells his likely end with Team Liquid. It may also mean the end of his pro career as he’s more of a challenger series level mid laner at most. He’s great at helping qualify teams for LCS, but just hasn’t performed well enough on stage. It’ll be interesting to see what he does moving forward. He has definitely put in a lot of work trying to consistently stay in LCS these last few years.

Reignover a bust?

Mickey

Photo via Riot Games

One of the biggest questions coming into the split was how jungler Reignover would do without his long time duo Huni in the top lane. While Huni went onto do great things on SKT, Reignover has been a shadow of his former self. He has not been the MVP performer we were used to seeing last year.

The jungle talent does seem to have been elevated this split. With big name rookies all coming into the split and others getting better, Reignover hasn’t looked the same. Even in this meta where tanks are king, he doesn’t seem to have the same impact.

With Mickey coming onto the team, TL has reacquired Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett as the starter with Reignover waiting in the wings. Many will remember Dardoch as one of the most talented yet toxic members during his time on TL. Another high risk/high reward move that could work well or blow up the team to oblivion. This time around they don’t have the clash of Dardoch and Locodoco so maybe this move can work out. Dardoch seems to have a history of toxicity at this point on every team he’s been on. Even a winning CLG team.

Only time will tell if these moves can actually move TL into Worlds contention in the future.

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Cover photo by The Score Esports

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