Samsung Galaxy and SK telecom T1 faced off in the 2016 Worlds finals

LCK innovation and flexibility could lead to a 2016 World finals rematch

The semifinals match-ups are set for the 2017 League of Legends World Championship. SK Telecom T1 (SKT) will take on Royal Never Give Up (RNG), while Samsung Galaxy (SSG) faces Team WE (WE). This stage of the tournament is all about China’s Pro League (LPL) challenging Champions Korea (LCK) in a rivalry as old as professional League of Legends.

Each of these four teams had its own fantastic quarterfinals. WE defeated Cloud9 (C9) 3-2 in a back-and-forth series. SSG skunked Longzhu Gaming (LZ) 3-0, knocking out the Worlds tournament favorite. RNG punished Fnatic’s errors in a 3-1 victory. SKT barely missed losing in a nail biter 3-2 win over Misfits.

Moving into the final four phase of Worlds, these players will be pushed to their limits. SKT has not faced RNG, nor has SSG played versus WE. The second and third seeds from the LPL are facing those of the LCK, seeking redemption for domestic shortcomings. With EDward Gaming, China’s first seed, and Longzhu Gaming, Korea’s first seed, eliminated from competition, Chinese fans have turned to RNG and WE, while Korean fans look to SKT and SSG.

Only two teams move on from here. RNG could be the roadblock which prevents SKT from making their fourth Worlds final. WE could finish in the top two, despite beginning their Worlds run in the play-in stage. SSG and SKT will look for a 2016 finals rematch, which is actually quite likely.

INNOVATION

SSG showed innovation in the quarterfinals

Image from GamesofLegends.com

SSG and WE are the two teams in the final four that have shown innovation during the World Championship. WE completely redefined the meta in Group D when they drafted Caitlyn and Jayce to create a high-pressure siege composition to combat the slow, scaling team-fight composition that everyone was drafting. SSG drafted niche picks, such as Kennen, Malzahar and Lissandra during their series against LZ.

Bold adaptations helped these two teams get this far. However, WE seem less interested in continuing to adapt. They returned to their Kog’Maw-Ardent Censer support comfort zone when facing C9, which is part of the reason their series was so close. Instead, C9’s innovations actually caught WE on the back foot through the first four games. WE even ended up banning Singed after game three.

WE did not innovate much in the quarterfinals

Image from GamesofLegends.com

On the other hand, SSG just started coming into their own against LZ. Since SSG only needed to study a single opponent, they were able to pinpoint potential problems with LZ, particularly during the draft phase. They took advantage of the fact that LZ prioritize Jarvan IV as a flex pick and roaming mid laners for Bdd. SSG picked or banned Taliyah, and then purposefully left her up in game three to pull out Lissandra as a counter.

If C9 were able to win out during the draft phase, and just failed to properly execute their win conditions, then SSG should be the perfect team to stop WE in their tracks. SSG should be able to pull out even more champion diversity, and then follow through after load-in. They will most likely target the Mystic-Ruler and Crown-Xiye match-ups. Taric was a crucial piece of C9’s puzzle in quarterfinals, as he was for CoreJJ. Shen proved important in the C9-WE series, but SSG pulled it off even better against LZ. 

The other crucial difference between WE and SSG is their quarterfinals gold differences at 15 minutes. WE averaged 1,200 gold behind C9, while SSG averaged just over 1,000 ahead of LZ. Keep in mind, WE were still able to take the series, mostly because of their strong scaling picks, such as Kog’Maw, Corki, Cho’Gath and Maokai. Beyond a certain period in the game, these picks overcome their early game gold deficits and come online. SSG will need to be sure they cut the games shorter.

Flexibility

RNG was inflexible during quarterfinals

Image from GamesofLegends.com

RNG is facing SKT on the other side of the semifinals bracket. Flexibility, or lack thereof, is the key contrast between these two squads. RNG’s players have played an average of 4.4 total champions during the World Championship so far. SKT’s players average 5.8. Faker and Wolf have played eight and seven different champions, while Xiaohu and Ming have played five and four. This openness to adaptation will be the main catalyst for SKT to make it through semifinals.

For the most part, RNG has relied on Uzi’s late-game team-fighting on Tristana, Kog’Maw and Twitch to carry them to victory. They draft Ardent Censer supports, zoning and roaming mid laners, Jarvan IV and Sejuani in the jungle and AP tanks in the top lane. Meanwhile, SKT leans on Huni to mostly split-push, although he has played Cho’Gath three times. Blank and Peanut exclusively draft Jarvan IV, Sejuani and Gragas. Faker has shown supportive, roaming, assassin and hyper-carry mid laners. Bang and Wolf have run early pressure and late-scaling bottom lanes. Wolf even played Braum and Tahm Kench against Misfits.

SKT are notoriously good at studying single opponents for best-of-five series. Misfits became a thorn in their side when they started drafting engage supports, Ivern jungle and Karma mid. These types of bold innovations forced SKT to become pliable. RNG are much less likely to bring these shake-ups to the table, which will give SKT much more confidence.

SKT were flexible during quarterfinals

Image from GamesofLegends.com

Targeting the support and top lane champion pool is probably the best way to go. Removing Letme’s fall-back champions and opening up an opportunity for Huni to have the upper hand could puncture RNG’s strategy. Banning out Janna, Lulu and Soraka could take away Uzi’s babysitter (Fnatic’s game three win involved Ming on Morgana). Both sets of junglers will have predictable preferences, as will the AD carries. Finally, Faker has proven that he can adapt and carry in almost any match-up, even if he is set behind early in the game. He can definitely take on Xiaohu, even if he drafts Syndra, Galio or Ryze.

The gold differential at 15 minutes is much closer between these two teams. RNG starts ahead by 371. SKT falls 218 behind. Their early game trends have been slightly different, though. SKT secured first blood in four of their five games versus Misfits, but only first turret in two of five. Meanwhile, RNG took first turret in three out of four games against Fnatic, but only one in four first bloods.

This series is most likely going to come down to late-game decision-making, regardless of the drafts and early games. RNG will be more prone to forcing fights once Uzi has several completed items. SKT will be open to engaging five-versus-five, but they may also implement one-four or one-three-one compositions in certain matches. Huni has pulled off some split-pushing wins with Jayce and Trundle. Faker has drafted Kassadin. The flexibility of their composition and strategy may be the way that SKT pulls through to the finals.

2016 Worlds Rematch

Samsung Galaxy and SK telecom T1 may rematch at the 2017 World finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

SSG’s innovation and SKT’s flexibility will most likely be the crucial factors that result in LCK wins over the LPL. The LCK has proven over the past several years that they are the dominant region. SKT and SSG have both proven so far that, though they have their faults, they come through in the clutch moments. The World Championship is an arduous tournament. While the Chinese organizations have the home field advantage, the Korean ethic has reigned supreme for some time.

These wins would result in a rematch of 2016’s World finals: SKT versus SSG. It would be the first time that two teams had a Worlds finals rematch, and the “script” could not have been written any better. These teams have tested their mettle against the best from North America, Europe, Taiwan and other regions. Now they have their Rift Rivals as their final boss before meeting again. The professional League of Legends landscape would come full circle, and history would be made. It will take innovation and flexibility to get there.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports FlickrGames of Legends

Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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royal squares up

Semifinals Spotlight: Royal squares up

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

SKT’s kryptonite?

royal squares up

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

Redemption for xiaohu and Uzi

royals square up

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Royal: TO FOrge a Warpath

royal squares up

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

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

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

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

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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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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Dignitas Ssumday: “I really want to play Longzhu”

With the gauntlet stretched before them, Dignitas have their eyes set firmly on FlyQuest. Knowing that Fly will have a number of VODs to comb through Ssumday is expecting a different team than the one they faced already.

Ssumday talks about how he believes Dignitas can win the gauntlet tournament and be the North American third seed for Worlds. Once they make it through the gauntlet he mentions that he would like to meet Longzhu at worlds to hang out and play on stage.

Keep it here for more interviews, pieces and photos from NALCS!

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

Photo and video by ‘The Game Haus’ Patrick Mcdonald

Sink and swim for the LCK: Rift Rivals recap

With Rift Rivals completed, it may be time to examine the League Championship Korea’s surprising second place as each team continues their swim back to Korea.

Most already know that kt Rolster coach Lee ji-hoon had jokingly said that if “the LCK comes in second or third place, we’ll have to swim our way back to Korea, but that’ll never come to pass, so I hope the fans continue to watch comfortably,” tragically creating a bitterly ironic disposition as the LCK squad came in second place. Losing to none other than the LPL, jokes arose around LCK veterans who had spent time in China’s LPL giving birth to a new era of memes around players like Heo “Pawn” Won-seok, Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong and Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu.

As someone who mostly watches the LCK with some scattered NALCS throughout, watching the LCK lose at Rift Rivals was shocking. While kt Rolster proved that their team fighting was still on an LCK caliber of play, the other Korean squads are going to have to clean up their play on the swim home. This is all rather convenient as they will have to wash up on shore anyways after that 739-mile swim. Memes aside, the unexpected defeat suffered at the hands of LPL teams came in a best of five Relay match resulting in a 3-1.  

 

Game One: Samsung Galaxy v EDward Gaming

(LPL) EDG Victory 45:44

Here it is, a combo that is potentially stronger than the Galio and Jarvan IV ultimate synergy: Kalista and Rakan. Courtesy of Lolesports

Game one between SG and EDG started with a poor draft phase by SG and an even worse early defend of an invade, giving EDG a lead that they would not let go of. Draft phase left EDG with an incredibly strong engage composition with Kalista and Rakan, a combination that offsets Rakan’s lack of tankiness with the safety of Kalista’s ultimate. This combination is devastating, but even more so when the Kalista and Rakan combo is on a team leading in tempo. A tempo lead is exactly what EDG gathered in game one.

Brutalizing their opponents, the LPL’s EDG did not give up a kill until past the thirty-minute mark. This is especially impressive given the nature of their diving hard engage team composition. The double hard engage Kalista/Rakan combination allows for such a long duration of virtually unavoidable crowd control, that EDG was able to take each team fight without suffering casualties. This changed during a team fight at the forty minute mark, where a huge Orianna ultimate coming out of SG’s Crown was able to change the tides. However, this team fight proved to be a fluke as the power of the Kalista and Rakan engage was too much for SG to handle.

 

Game Two: SK Telecom T1 v Team WE

(LPL) Team WE Victory 31:55

WE miss the Galio and Jarvan IV ultimate combination, but they’ll have plenty more shots at it. Courtesy of Lolesports

Game two between SKT1 and WE once again began with the surrender of a crucial team fight combination by the LCK. This time around, SKT1 gave both Galio and Jarvan IV, giving up most team fights in the process. With play at this level revolving heavily around engage, SKT1, like their Korean counterparts SG, prioritized Ashe over all other engage tools. While Ashe is a strong pick, she performs much better when her AOE damage and slows can be combined with other AOE based champions. Champions that, with the exception of Cassiopeia, SKT1 failed to draft. In addition to not drafting for AOE damage, SKT1 picked carries whose only mobility comes from their summoner spells in the face of a Jarvan IV and Galio combination.

Regardless of the players behind the champions, SKT1 drafted a composition that required them to use their Achilles Heel as a battering ram. It would have been an amazing feat for the Korean squad to overtake the wombo combo styled composition that WE had drafted for. Even with improper execution of their team fights, WE was able to secure an early lead from the camp-the-Faker strategy that so many teams utilize against SKT1.

 

Game Three: kt Rolster v OMG

(LCK) kt Rolster victory 34:37

Kt shows that the LCK can draft a team comp and then put that comp to use. Courtesy of lolesports

With kt Rolster’s bottom lane giving up first blood to a gank so early on, you would have expected this game to go in much the same way as the games prior. But this time was different because kt Rolster drafted a team with enough AOE to capitalize on their engage. Ashe and Zyra already have devastating AOE CC and damage to pour into their opponents, but kt took this draft a step further by grabbing Jarvan IV and Zac to further disrupt their opponents alongside the high damage of the skillshot based Corki mid.

The frontline and CC of this composition gives Ashe, Corki and Zyra the time to drop their damage loads onto enemies who are not able to dodge out of the way, while the long range initiation of Ashe allows for easy follow up CC for Jarvan IV and Zac. Despite early laning hiccups, kt Rolster was able to finally prove that with a well-drafted composition, the LCK could stand toe to toe with the LPL.

 

Game Four: MVP v RNG

(LPL) RNG victory 55:14

MVP pulls off an amazing wombo combo using Rakan. Unfortunately for them, they lose this fight too. Courtesy of lolesports

The closest and longest of the entire finals had the LCK showing promising early game play-making that fell short despite some well-executed initiations by the likes of MVP Max. While draft phase looked good for MVP, as they drafted a hard engage composition into the poke composition of RNG, some crucial misplays by MVP or just genuinely good plays by RNG ultimately led to an LPL victory.

Every time these teams fought, there were heavy casualties resulting in a long drawn out game that was as close as it was tense. When MVP would secure Baron, RNG would take it off at least three members immediately, while the same would occur on the opposite side when RNG secured Elder Dragon. The game finally fell into RNG’s favor when they secured an uncontested Baron thanks to a Gragas ultimate that left MVP out of smite range. This baron buff then led to an open base that RNG would ultimately destroy through a TP back door. Unlucky.

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MSI Semifinals 2017: Team WE v. G2 Esports

MSI: Team WE vs. G2 Esports Preview

Saturday May 20, 2017, the second semifinals match of MSI will be underway. Team WE will face off against G2 Esports for a spot in the finals. Both teams have exhibited their fair share of stellar and underwhelming performances throughout the tournament. They will be doing their best to shore up the weak spots and study their opponents in order to reach peak performance. This best-of-five series will be all or nothing.

Team WE

The LPL representatives have made it through MSI with a 7-3 record, just below SKT. They dropped games to TSM, SKT, and GAM. Every player has had standout performances throughout the tournament. Team WE will be favored to win in this match-up, since they defeated G2 in both of their Group Stage bouts.

How They Win

WE outclasses G2 in almost every statistic. Gold difference at 15 minutes (+1,047/-342), first three turrets (80 percent/10 percent), dragon control (47 percent/30 percent) and baron control (54 percent/38 percent) all heavily favor the Chinese team.

In both of their victories against G2, WE drafted Ashe for Jin “Mystic” Sung-jun and Malzahar for Nam “Ben” Dong-hyun. WE’s jungler, Xiang “Condi” Ren-Jie, massacred Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun in the early game. Su “Xiye” Han-Wei played AP diver-assassins LeBlanc and Kassadin. And Ke “957” Changyu has been most impactful on tanky disruptors, particularly Kled.

All of these pieces come together to form a bursty pick composition. Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen was most often caught out by Enchanted Crystal Arrow, Nether Grasp, Explosive Cask, or Chaaaaaaaarge!!! and deleted before he was able to output enough damage. Team WE should maintain this draft strategy and playstyle, because G2 does not seem to have an answer at the moment.

Both wins were secured between 28 and 31 minutes. Team WE took first turret in both matches, which led to the first three turrets in just under 20 minutes. They then proceeded to take baron between 21 and 25 minutes, which allowed WE to break G2’s base and win. In their first game, G2 secured one tower and one dragon. In the follow-up match, WE did not allow them to take any towers or dragons.

How They Lose

Karma and Nami are champion picks that stick out in Team WE’s losses. Xiye lost both games when taking Karma to the mid lane, and Ben lost both games when playing Nami support. 957 looked weak on top lane Jayce, as well. The individuals cannot be fully to blame, but it seems like a good idea to keep these picks on the bench for now.

All of WE’s losses came off the back of sub-30-minute barons secured by their opponent. Against TSM, the gold difference never rose to more than 2,000 until they took a baron. From there, TSM closed out the game, taking a second baron and only ceding 4 kills. Team WE was leading SKT by 2,100 gold at 22 minutes, but Han “Peanut” Wang-ho landed a baron steal. SKT broke their base, took a second baron and won. Team WE’s loss to GAM was mostly due to Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh’s Kha’Zix getting fed a triple kill around 10 minutes.

If WE gives over baron, their chances of losing are high. When viewing statistics for the four semifinal teams, their win rates align with their first baron rates. This objective is pivotal to their playstyle. Properly pressuring around baron was a main catalyst for drawing in G2 and picking off key carries. However, if WE is sloppy in clearing vision or shot-calling around Smite, then it could spell disaster.

Player To Watch

Team WE’s top laner, 957

Team WE’s victory will rely heavily on 957 in the top lane. They have won every game that he has drafted Kled, and he has maintained a 27.0 KDA with the champion. On the other hand, his single Jayce game fed TSM their first 5 kills. G2’s Ki “Expect” Dae-Han is not necessarily the same carry threat that SKT or TSM have. WE will rely on 957 to repeat the masterful disruption he exhibited against G2 in their prior match-ups.

G2 Esports

Making it into semifinals by the skin of its teeth is G2 Esports. The EU LCS representatives finished the Group Stage with a 4-6 record, only picking up wins against Flash Wolves (2), GIGABYTE Marines (1), and TSM (1). Seeing as they lost both matches against Team WE, they are the underdog in this best-of-five series.

How They Win

G2’s victories varied drastically from each other. Three of the four wins were secured 42 minutes or later, and allowed the enemy team to secure at least one baron. Two of those three late-game wins involved G2 falling behind 8,000-9,000 gold at some point. The only champions drafted in multiple wins were Caitlyn, Nunu, and Orianna.

In all of their wins, Zven had two or fewer deaths and had a gold lead on the enemy AD Carry. It is obvious that he is their primary carry threat. G2 lost both games that he drafted Ashe. Zven only has wins on Caitlyn, Twitch, and Kog’Maw thus, G2’s draft will need to revolve around these champions. Ivern, Lulu, Karma, and Orianna have at least 50 percent win rates for G2 thus far. Combining multiple enchanters into the draft may allow Zven to break even through the early game and fully carry in the mid-late game.

Luka “Perkz” Perković has also been a consistent source of damage throughout MSI. Mid lane is arguably the most stacked position at the tournament, and Perkz has been going toe-to-toe with some of the best in the world. He has been averaging 28.8 percent of G2’s damage, the highest among all mid laners (second highest overall behind Zven). Putting Perkz on a champion that can control side waves, particularly Fizz, could be a good back-up if Orianna is banned.

How They Lose

There are several situations that G2 should avoid. Keep Trick off of Lee Sin, he failed horribly twice on the champion. Also, they should not draft Ashe for Zven or Zyra for Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez. Zven needs to be able to output immense damage, and Mithy plays much better on protective champions. Even Tahm Kench or Braum are preferable to Zyra if Lulu or Karma are unavailable.

If Trick continues to have poor early games, then this will most surely be G2’s defeat. Trick has the second lowest KDA and the second highest death share of all players at the tournament. He also has the lowest average damage of all junglers at the event.

While their best strategy generally results in early deficits, G2 will need to play intelligently between 15 and 30 minutes. Team WE’s average game time is over 5 minutes shorter than G2’s, which means if they cede 4,000-6,000 gold leads, then it will be highly unlikely for G2 to win.

Player To Watch

G2 Esport’s top laner, Expect

Expect has been putting up some big games this tournament. He has maintained a 3.7 KDA while only contributing 11.9 percent of G2’s deaths. The top laner has secured wins on Jayce, Gragas, Shen, and Nautilus. G2 also released a video of the final shot-calling from their win over TSM, showing the team’s faith in Expect.

The flip side is that Expect has some of the lowest damage of the top laners at the tournament, and his kill participation is low compared to 957. G2 will need him to be more involved as a proactive member of the team, matching 957’s map movements. Perkz and Zven can pump out the damage. Mithy can shield and provide vision. And Trick is under-performing. Expect may be the biggest factor that could turn this match-up on its head.

Prediction

Unless the stars align, and G2 are able to draft a true “protect the ADC” composition, then Team WE will skunk them 3-0. Trick got steamrolled by Condi in both of their Group Stage games. Mystic and Ben have been performing well enough to keep up with Zven and Mithy. Expect and 957 will most likely be trying to execute similar strategies, but 957 has proven to be more successful up to this point. Perkz matches up against Xiye pretty well, but the synergy among the entire team is heavily in WE’s favor.


Player/Champion Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

All Images: LoL Esports Photos

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Franchising in the World of Esports Part 1

According to multiple sources, Riot has decided to scrap the relegation model and move to franchising in 2018. The first taste of this will be in the LPL where they will officially move to the new model this summer. All of this came after Blizzard similarly announced that they would be franchising for 2018 as well. Now that we got the old news out of the way, let me tell you why franchising is the best thing for League of Legends and Esports as a whole.

Many people have given reactions and opinions to this news. In this three-part series, I will also be putting my opinion out there. I plan to tell you how I envision the new structure could work and some of the realities of it all.

Academy Teams…

To start, I have been asking for Riot to do this since around this time last year. After owning GameHausGG for a few months, I could already see the struggle of even attempting to get a team into Challenger, let alone LCS. The amount of money it would cost was unreasonable (unless you had a lot of backing), and players were and have always been extremely flaky. There is no set system or organization to the whole thing. Players, coaches, and even owners are still as unreliable as ever. (We wrote about the recent Blue Rose debacle)

Image by: Yahooesports.com

With all that in mind, I have personally found that there needs to be a real structure in place. Trying to get to Challenger is what every amateur team strives for, yet many of the best never reach it because of “Academy” teams, or as I like to call them, “ways for their mother teams to get more money by selling off their LCS spot.” Academy teams are a major reason why the Challenger league is not only boring, but also a waste of time.

Normally these teams consist of four reject vets and a rookie, Flyquest being the outlier. The mother teams take a chance because they know it wont cost them much, and it gives these players a chance. Then they normally win due to better backing and they are sold to the highest bidder.

For those of you who may argue that this is a common practice, please look at the closest comparison, the EPL. Relegation happens all the time, but teams do not create sister or ‘Academy’ teams and then sell their spots.

While I understand that many of the owners are losing money, this system will help them short term, but may hurt them long term. Luckily it is rumored that Riot has decided to ban Academy teams.

So far Overwatch has not had this problem, but they also have not been established as long. For now I think that Academy teams will not be something that plagues the new Overwatch league.

CHALLENGER TURNS INTO THE MINORS?

Luckily I believe franchising will end and fix all of these problems in Challenger.

Challenger is the perfect opportunity to develop League of Legends’ next stars. While it has done that to a certain degree, it needs to be an established minor league. They can model it after the minor leagues in baseball, or an even better comparison would be the D-League in the NBA.

Image by: http://faculty.de

This developmental league would allow for players to hone their skills. Every team could be associated with a pro team where they could call up or send down players.

It would be its own league that could be promoted as such. The players would get their chances to shine, and those of us who watch League of Legends religiously could have a new thing to complain about, teams not making certain call-ups and sending certain players down.

Overwatch could very easily institute a similar approach. A developmental league of some type for Overwatch would be extremely beneficial as we barely have any established players, teams, or even styles to the game yet.

So what would adding minor leagues solve?

To start, it would allow for the player pool to grow immensely. People could actually have a better chance of being picked up by orgs to be developed in the Minors just like they do in traditional sports. This could have a huge trickle down effect as well.

Colleges could groom the players thus adding another league, again similarly to traditional sports. Then teams could have scouting departments that could either pick players up or they could even do a developmental draft. That would be the dream. Tell me you wouldn’t watch a League of Legends or Overwatch developmental draft? Your favorite team could pick the next big star and the hype would be all too real. But, I must remind myself, one step at a time.

Also these minor leagues would give players more of a chance to go professional and build their own brand. For now it is all about players trying to grind in solo queue and hope that they get picked up. All the while they are still living at home with no guarantees of a potential career.

Lastly, this would give the players at all levels some real stability and organization. Signing with a team and being in their minor league system allows for these players to get a good contract and know that they could be called up at anytime. They would not have to wait and hope that their team would play into the main league. Also they would know that they are affiliated with an established brand. They would not have to create their own, the fan base would already be there for them.

The Fans

So why would you, as a fan, want this minor league or Challenger system?

Courtesy of: Polygon.com

I will start with the most obvious answer, more games and players for you to watch. There would be series of your favorite game being played more often. You could watch these lower leagues to try and see if your team has some good potential talent to bring up and help the roster, or if they need to bring in different talent. Also you could just watch good gaming all the time.

Another reason is that this system would help the established teams quite a bit. Sponsors would be way more likely to invest in this type of system. You know why? Because they have seen it work with traditional sports. Investors and sponsors are more likely to give their money and time if they know something works.

Lastly, this would also create the possibility of even more teams in the league. League of Legends for example, only has 10 teams in NA and EU. Wouldn’t it be awesome if they had more? With an established minor league system, more people would want to be owners. They would understand the organization better and feel better about establishing a new team. With that, they would establish more minor league teams.

Conclusion

I feel as though I have opened Pandora’s Box with all the possibilities of a minor league system. The new franchising could offer all of this and more.

It also could not solve anything with regards to Challenger and the amateur scene of esports.

Honestly, it will depend heavily on the owners and the companies like Riot and Blizzard.

I understand that many people want esports to be different than traditional sports and they are against the ideas of franchising. My only response is, who cares? They will model it after these traditional sports because that model works. In my opinion, doing it like this will ensure that esports is more than a fad. It can last for decades and people can feel comfortable growing up watching Bjerg or Faker and knowing their legend will continue like Babe Ruth’s or Michael Jordan’s.

Wow, this is only Part 1! Tomorrow I will be looking at how franchising will grow each esport and their individual leagues.

LPL Summer 2016 Power Rankings

With the LPL getting started back up tonight, I figured I’d release my power rankings and expectations going into the split. I’m going to be splitting my rankings up by Groups, but I’ll weigh in as to which group I believe is stronger.

Group A

  1. Edward Gaming – To me, EDG is the only clear standout in Group A. There are some good teams in this group, but without the competition of RNG, I think EDG will have no problem having control over Group A. With an allstar roster (and the addition of former SKTT1 Sub Scout), I think EDG has an easy split.
  2. Newbee – Newbee (Previously QG Reapers) played really well last split, but after not being able to field a mid for the semifinals, had to forfeit. I think they will have similar success this split, and hopefully will be able to show up to the playoffs. dade is now the primary mid laner, with Peco (now HappyY) moving to the ADC position. If there is a team in Group A that can challenge EDG, I think it’s Newbee
  3. Snake Esports – Snake had a great spring split as well, but fell short against EDG in Round 2 of the playoffs. They’ve made a couple changes in the bot lane during the break, and I expect to see a solid performance.
  4. Invictus Gaming – Rookie is probably in my top 2 LPL mids, but last split his shoulders just weren’t strong enough to carry his team through round 1 of the playoffs. With consistent abysmal performance from the bot lane, its no surprise a new support has been brought in that will hopefully bring some new life to the Rift. If Tabe can fix IG’s bot lane, then they may be able to climb much higher.
  5. Saint Gaming – formerly Hyper Youth Gaming, SG had an astounding 1-15 record in the spring. Since then the roster has had an intense overhaul. Highlight pick up is definitely former Samsung Blue top-laner Acorn. Frankly I’m not expecting much from SG this split, but I’ve been surprised before.
  6. Game Talents – Who? Game Talents purchased Energy Pacemaker’s LPL slot. With a roster made up of EPA and M3 players, I don’t have a lot of faith they’ll do any better then EPA’s 4-12 last split.

Group B

  1. Royal Never Give Up – This is perhaps the easiest team to rank in all of LPL. After a fantastic Spring Split, and a respectable showing at MSI, RNG is definitely poised to be the champions of LPL once again. I have high expectations of RNG, and would not be surprised to see them in the top 3 at Worlds.
  2. Vici Gaming – I’ll probably get some hate for this one, but I have high expectations for Vici this split. Despite a fairly average performance in the Spring, I think Easyhoon can lead this team to great places.
  3. Team World Elite – WE took second in the regular season last split, and definitely has the guns to continue being successful. Mystic and Zero aren’t the best bot lane in China, but are consistent enough to provide a good rock for the team. I think Condi is the real wild card for WE, if Condi succeeds, WE will succeed.
  4. LGD Gaming – On paper, LGD should be one of the best teams in China. MaRin and imp are some of the strongest individual players in China, but last split something just didn’t click. I’m afraid that LGD is just missing some key factor of success. I predict this will be MaRin’s last split with LGD.
  5. OMG – To be honest, I wanted to put OMG at number 4. But with 11 people on their roster I struggle to have high expectations for their ability to trust, communicate, and execute. OMG has not done anything particularly impressive since 2014, and doesn’t seem to have done much to change that. Maybe they’ll be able to swap players in and out without a problem, but with that many players I expect that developing any kind of synergy may be difficult.
  6. I MAY – I really like I MAY. Their logo is cool, they’ve got an experienced roster, and they have a lot of potential. I just don’t see them succeeding on the stage. Now: This is almost identical to what I said about Europe’s G2 before the Spring Split. If anything, by placing them here at #6, I’m guaranteeing that they will win the LPL.

 

Overall, I think Group B is the stronger of the two. If I were to rank them all together EDG and Newbee would be the only Group A teams I’d put in my top 6.

Best of luck to all of the LPL, and to all you folks who stay up until 7AM to watch them play!

LPL Quarterfinals Team WE vs. Vici Gaming.

Last night in the wee hours of the morning, the first round of the LPL Quarterfinals began with a clash between WE and VG.

Image result for Team WE vs Vici Gaming

WE came in as the favorite with a marginally better season than VG, though personally I was leaning in VG’s favor. Easyhoon and DanDy have both made me pay for betting against them, and WE hasn’t been playing massively better

.

Game 1’s draft was fairly balanced. WE picked up Ekko, Kindred, Karma, Lucian, and Trundle and VG ran Poppy, Nidalee, Lissandra, Sivir, and Braum. Both teams elected to play standard lanes and Farmville 2k16 began. The game was pretty quiet until about 3 minutes in when DanDy and Easyhoon took an easy kill from Xiye’s Karma. There wouldn’t be any more action until a little after 5 minutes when DanDy landed a max range spear on Condi and managed to get the kill with a little help from Easyhoon

DanDy roamed top next where Loong’s Poppy had 957’s Ekko fairy low. DanDy connected with a spear, but on the dive, 957 managed to pick up a kill on Loong before going down to Easyhoon.

 

At 7 minutes VG was more than 1000 gold ahead of their opponent with noticeable superiority of the map.

VG continued to have complete control of the game and at 30 minutes they found themselves with a 10-1 Kill Advantage, a 11,000 gold lead, and a Baron buff. VG continued to snowball to a win at 36 minutes in what was almost a perfect game from Vici.

 

In Game 2, I feel VG left the draft with a slight advantage. Ekko, Kindred, Lulu, Lucian, Braum for VG and Lissandra, Graves, Karma, Sivir, and Bard for WE. Neither team has a massive advantage, but I feel VG had a minor advantage.

 

This time, WE chose to send Sivir and Bard to the top lane, but VG managed to react fairly efficiently. They took the bot tower before WE could take the top. Managed to go about even on the opposite tier 1’s, and then managed to snag Rift Herald in time to stay even on towers by getting a tier 2. 8 minutes in with the lane swap WE’s only advantage was forcing Loong’s TP. The gold and objectives were almost completely even.

 

At 12 minutes, WE started the second Rift Herald of the game, but VG easily contested 4v5 and pushed WE out of the pit, managing to snag the herald with no casualties.

First blood didn’t come until around 16 minutes in when WE contested at Dragon. VG took the Dragon in no time at all, but a well placed Bard ultimate put WE in position to take an easy 4 for 0. (and its worth knowing that Zero’s Bard went off in this fight and took 2 of these 4 kills)

at 18:30, Loong gets caught in WE’s blue side jungle and slaughtered.

 

WE continued to snowball, and at 30 minutes started a Baron. In VG managed to kill 2 of WE, but WE managed to take the Baron and get Condi a penta-kill for a 5 for 2 and a 10,000 gold lead. With Baron empowerment, WE managed to push through VG’s base and take game 2.

Game 3 showed nearly the same team compositions, only DanDy and Condi swapped Graves and Kindred. I definitely felt this was more of a boost to VG seeing as DanDy’s Graves is one of the best in the world.

The game started almost identital to game two with the WE lane swap and VG’s Rift Herald response. The difference came at only 8 minutes when VG managed to catch Zero’s Bard out and snag the first blood. Things turned around at 10 minutes when WE managed to grab a 3 for 1 in a fight that VG had no reason being in in the first place.

The “1” in that fight would be the last real kill VG got in the game (I don’t count last second fountain dives). With a little less than 30 minutes on the clock and 13 kills on the board, WE took game 3, and a 1 game lead in the series. WE showed complete ownership of the game, turning every fight around on VG for a resounding victory.

 

Game 4’s draft finally showed some different champions. Vici elected to play Maokai, Kindred, Lissandra, Sivir and Bard and WE took Poppy, Graves, Corki, Ezreal, and Thresh. I definitely think the draft favored WE. They built a powerful triple ADC comp with 2 very powerful peeling champions to back up the damage. As much as I’d like to think that Meowkai has the power to change games, I just don’t think he’s a solid enough answer to WE’s insane damage.

 

Game 4 finally gave us some real action with legitimate fighting happening within the first 5 minutes. VG started off looking a bit stronger with an early two kills and managing to take a 4-2 lead in the first 6 minutes.

VG lost their lead on a bad play where Loong was caught out and DanDy died trying to save him. The game remained almost entirely even until 25 when a kill on DanDy allowed to WE to start a Baron, which helped WE to another 3 kills in the contest. This was the beginning of the end for VG. With the Baron, WE’s ability to push was nearly impossible for VG to stop. In an attempt to stop the push, VG went all in, and went 1 for 5. With the ace WE easily managed to push in and take the win, and the series.

You can check out the whole series here courtesy of LoL Esports TV – Tournaments

All photos courtesy of lol.gamepedia.com

Assessing The Lane Swap Meta

lane t

Lane swaps, particularly 3v0 and 4v0 turret pushes have dominated the game for quite sometime. They are incredibly good for the team that wants to avoid bad lane match-ups, the game quickly develops into the middle stage, and it is an incredibly safe way of getting out of the early game for both teams.
From the team’s perspectives, it makes it highly likely that they will transition into the mid game with an equal chance of winning the game.

Typically, both teams get a turret and farm on either the top laner or the ADC. Although the game can become a farmfest, sometimes both teams have an interest in doing so because the reward of setting up a play is not greater than the risk. In the early stages of the game, Dragon nor Rift Herald, give teams a significant advantage. In fact, in many occasions, teams that get either neutral objective uncontested, actually get behind because they sacrifice so much standing gold on the map.

How do lane swaps look in the eyes of the viewers?

The average solo queue player that wants to watch LCS looking for mechanical skill does not enjoy the lane swap meta. Someone who has watched professional League of Legends for quite some time may understand why the lane swaps are good and on what circumstances teams have an incentive to do so.

However, very few viewers enjoy the turret pushes and the lane swap meta because it is a skill that the average player does not need to acquire. It almost feels like watching a different game altogether.
The large majority of viewers watch Pro-League to improve at the game or for entertainment. There is also a component of following your favorite team, which falls under the entertainment category.

However, every skill that the pros possess can be translated and emulated in some way in solo queue. From the average viewer, learning certain team comps, learning how and when to ward, learning about matchups, etc, is useful information that can be readily used in solo queue. Therefore, it is understandable why most people are unhappy with the current lane swap meta.

Montecristo’s response was that if people do not like the current meta, they do not appreciate the complexity of the game. It seems naïve to say so, because if the game somehow changed so drastically that games were literally a push all the way to the nexus, I doubt even Monte would enjoy such meta. In other words, if the game evolved enough to where the optimal way of playing was a 5v0 turret push for both teams, I can hardly conceive anyone liking that meta. This argument shows that one can appreciate the complexity in League of Legends and the complexity of the lane swap, yet still not like it.

draven
I do agree with Monte that lane swaps should be viable options for avoiding bad lane matchups. However, our disagreement seems to lie in that I do not think they are enjoyable to watch. If more action happened like in the lane swaps of earlier seasons, where supports and junglers would roam around, maybe lane swap meta would be more interesting. Lane swap metas where top and jungler killed camps together and sometimes made plays around the map, although less entertaining than standard lanes, those metas were still entertaining to watch because of the strategic diversity the game had to offer. 3v0 and 4v0 turret pushes are not fun to watch even if one appreciates the complexity of that strategy.

 

courtesy of youtube.com and team-dignitas.net

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