League of Shields

How strong are shields in ranked exactly? Currently, the only support champions that can shield allies with over a 50 percent win rate and significant play rate (above two percent) are Sona and Thresh. In the jungle, there is only Ivern, who sits at a solid 52 percent win rate in plat and above, but Ivern’s power is found in more than just his two-second long Triggerseed. For more on Ivern, check out my Playing Ivern Like the Pros.

While I understand players’ outrage over a six-second duration Lulu shield, Lulu has struggled recently with quest itemization, alongside some awkward Whimsey bugs leaving her at a 47 percent win rate. In short, it’s not the champion that is particularly strong that has the community in arms over shield power, but instead the ability to layer shields with specific team compositions and item paths.

 

2017 College Championship Finals show both supports rushing Locket of Iron Solari after their upgraded sightstone. Courtesy of Riot Games.

Possible Solutions Open Up Unique Gameplay Opportunities

That being said, shield stacking still seems to be very powerful, and a lot of this comes from a lack of support item diversity. Redemption and Locket of the Iron Solari seem to be the go-to items for supports, and a lot of this comes from the lack of viable build alternatives. Knight’s Vow is too expensive and doesn’t give cooldown reduction (the most vital stat for a support), while items like Mikael’s Crucible are too cost inefficient. It is frustrating that a champion like Blitzcrank, who is centered around making picks, has the most commonly built item as Redemption instead of something else that may highlight his pick-off play style. This does not go to say that Redemption should be gutted entirely, as the item is fun to play with and requires a certain amount of skill to use effectively. It does go to say that other items should become more available for supports who want to do something other than heal and shield.

As someone who plays support quite frequently in Diamond Elo, I will never play Soraka again. This is not because I have internalized the “Soraka is cancer” monologue coming out of the loads of players plagued by over-committing aggression, but instead because there is an 800 gold item that reduces the impact of three of her four abilities by 40 percent. Playing just once against an ADC that buys this item first back is an experience that ultimately becomes too frustrating to ever pick this champion back up again. As Soraka in this matchup, you can go from dominating a lane to barely surviving in just one buy. That is insane because once the enemy AD has this item, your champion is significantly less impactful.

That being said, I do understand how frustrating playing against the likes of Janna and Soraka can be, and I do want to see counterplay to the growing power of shields. I just want to see this counterplay come from something more dynamic than a cheap one item buy. This problem actually gives game developers an opportunity for Strategic Diversity, a Riot hot word that will make developers salivate instantly.

The perfect counter for the shield meta could arise in a new champion design. A new “support” champion could have an ability that does damage, but when it hits an enemy with a shield, it completely takes what damage it does to that shield and creates a shield for itself. This ability would have to still be decent enough to be used against team compositions without shields; however, having a hard counter to shielding champions in the bottom lane would add a greater diversity of support champions.

 

The Consequences of a Grievous Wounds for Shields

So what happens if Riot follows the congregation of shield animosity all the way to the Rift? The first thing we would expect to see is the removal of an entire summoner spell, Barrier, as well as the removal of some strategic items, such as Locket of the Iron Solari, Seraph’s Embrace, Sterak’s Gage, Face of the Mountain, and Bloodthirster. But an item that diminishes the effectiveness of shields won’t only cut out the diversity of defensive items, but also defensive masteries. Courage of the Colossus will take a huge hit, and every champion that benefits from the massive late game shields of this mastery will also drop in win rate substantially, or be forced to take a different mastery entirely. This would lead to a situation similar to the league of Thunderlord’s, or Grasp for each and every top laner.

Already, the effective amount of items and masteries would be diminished from the inclusion of a grievous wounds item for shields, but the viable champion pool for many roles would also take a huge hit. Orianna, Camille, Nautilus, Shen, Skarner, Urgot, and most supports would be devastated by such an item. This item would hinder the Rift more than anything.

 

Why Shields Are Here to Stay

So what about nerfing shield duration? This is a common go-to for many, but what these individuals do not realize is that shields have a pretty short duration as is, aside from some variables, such as Lulu and Janna. Locket of the Iron Solari has only a 2.5 second duration, Karma shield only lasts four seconds, Rakan’s Battle Dance only lasts three seconds, and Sona’s shield only lasts 1.5 seconds. Sure each of these numbers can be nerfed, but that would be the nerf of an entire subclass of Support champions; but more than that, it would be an indirect nerf to marksmen.

The classic Mega’Maw team comp makes a return in the MSI Group Stages. Courtesy of Riot Games.

When the ADC in 2k17 meme was at its peak, the most viable support champions were all Ability Power Carries. Brand, Malzahar, and Zyra dominated the Rift, and they did so by devastating other supports in lane and being able to one vs. one the enemy carry early on. ADC was weak at this time due to itemization, but also due to the nature of bot lane. Quite simply, ADCs did not have someone enhancing their abilities; they had no support. What they had instead was a Mage who was ready to kill the enemy carry at any time. What a spooky era. Alas, supports got Redemption, and a few other healing and shielding items were buffed. Then, ADCs got their item paths made more efficient, and with the combination of defensive supports and offensive build paths, the Yin and Yang of bottom lane was finally able to take a crack at the ADC in 2k17 meme.

While ADCs have been stronger, the current shield meta allows them to duke it out in the late game with the protect the carry strategies that have been ever present in League of Legends. These compositions enforce cooperation and teamwork. The claim to fame Mega’Maw and other similar compositions are healthy for competitive League of Legends and solo queue environments alike, just as long as they don’t become the only composition.


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Video Courtesy of OGN. Featured Image Courtesy of leagueoflegends.com

CLG’s 2016 spring of dreams: The sports anime team of the LCS Part 1

When people say what draws them to esports and sports, you’ll often hear two philosophies: to watch the best of the best play their game at the peak level of competition, or for the story lines that weave themselves on and off the playing fields.

This piece is for the second group. This article started in my mind as a joke, as I was looking back with a friend on past NA LCS splits playoffs and remembered just how insanely storybook like Counter Logic Gaming’s (CLG) run to win the Spring Split in 2016 and their performance at MSI was. In my mind, it was the greatest sports anime style narrative we’ve yet to see. (Rivaled by Cloud 9’s Cinderella story to Worlds in S6, mind you.)

I mean, THIS happened so anything is possible folks…

What do I mean by this? Well, think about it. Long time team, they had just come off a big win but now were thrown into question, lots of pressure on the roster, and a bunch of faces old and new, veterans and no name rookies, who managed to stick it to the pundits and win it all.

Hell, even the archetypes are there: the Leader (Aphro), the Cutesy dopey one (Huhi), the Downplayed ace (Stixxay), the Steady and silent one (Xmithie), the Pretty one (Darshan), and the Mr. Serious Coach Guy (Zikz… kind of).

The narrative practically writes itself folks. There were ups and downs, moments it looked bleak and others where they shined as a team, not as individuals. They coalesced, they backed each other up on and off the rift, and they showed that team work meant more than flashy players and big transfers. They also lost in heart breakers, they had to buffer themselves to the community’s constant criticisms, and ultimately to have faith in each other.

With MSI behind us, and the NA LCS ultimately losing their top seed at the next Worlds, lets take a look back a brighter time for North America, a time where, funny enough, the team representing the region was not seen as the best team there. They were criticized harshly going into it, and many felt that perhaps they would not be the best showing for the NA LCS internationally. It turned out, they were. This is the first part of a two part series, so be sure to check in tomorrow for our dramatic conclusion!

The Set Up

I still remember the shock of the off season between Worlds 2015 and the NA LCS Spring Split 2016. Losing  Eugene “Pobelter” Park seemed like a blow enough. Pob was, as I always said, a solid, if not uninspiring, Mid laner. The perfect fit for CLG, who often had… on and off Mid laners. That was fine. Maybe the team had some crazy import in mind, right? After all, Faith has always been part of the CLG fandom. But that wasn’t all.

Then the unthinkable happened. Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng traded in the blue and gray for the black and white of long time rivals TSM. Why not top it all off with picking up two almost unheard of rookies in Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes and Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun, and CLG pulled a full CLG and went counter to everyone’s expectations. They finally found the solution, the team that got them that coveted NA LCS Finals and Worlds appearance. It was supposed to be the Golden Age. Then they decided to remove two key players and replace them with untested rookies.

The rag tag team of dreams, NA’s hope at MSI. Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

The scene was left scratching their heads, as eternal rivals TSM looked to rebound after an off performance during their last Summer’s playoff showing, having gotten arguably the strongest ADC in the West from the very team that beat them. TSM’s rivals, of course, were left with two rookies, Stixxay having been promoted from CLG Black, while Huhi was reportedly scouted in Korea for his talent. But they both had big shoes to fill, and while being surrounded by some of the most storied veterans in Top laner Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha, Jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero and Support Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black, CLG fans felt that maybe, just maybe, they’d be able to pull out a playoff win in Summer.

Alongside the player changes, CLG brought on a new head coach by the name of Tony “Zikzlol” Gray, now a household name as arguably one of the best coaches in North America, there was a lot of new faces and questions mixed with hopes.

Nobody expected that the team would amount to much in Spring. Even CLG didn’t. A win on domestic soil seemed a great showing, but the impressive showings didn’t end there: they also went on to place second at Riot’s Mid-Season Invitational, after showing up against international teams and only falling short against Korean juggernauts SKT. Then again, what would a good sports anime be without the unlikely happening?

Our protagonists

Archetypes in Anime aren’t really set in stone. Sure, there are tropes and there’s kind of constant themes throughout, but archetypes are always kind of murky grounds. Some will disagree with the ones I find almost ever present. Some will say I forgot some. Hell, it’s even likely you’ll disagree with my identification of the players in their archetypes. That’s fine, I’m not claiming objectivity here. But if I were writing the show, this is how I’d envision the players.

Darshan: Even his teacher calls him Zionspartan… but fans now call him Darshan, and arguably last Spring was some of the best times for the one they call Darshan.

He was a monster in the Top lane, eloquent in the lane swap meta, and a menace when left to split push to victory. If fans of the NA LCS had a dime for every time Darshan would split push to win with Fiora or similar split pushers, they’d have a lot of dimes. It wasn’t quite the Flame Horizon in the Top lane, but it was pretty damn close, and many of the W’s in CLG’s Spring Split could be chalked up to the dashing Darshan.

Darshan, probably thinking about how to style his hair or like the next song to cover… Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

Of course, it’s not just about how the players played, but their place in our overall story, right? Darshan could’ve been the kind of Clutch Player, the one who shows up when the team needs him the most and somehow pulls off the victory. But I think the other side of Darshan plays out more in my mind: He seriously was the pretty boy of the group. Amazing facial hair and style aside, he also sings amazingly. If he were to walk onto stage, I feel like he would have to have a flower background and a close up zoom in, as his eye sparkled or something. Next to Huhi, Darshan would probably have the most fanart of himself if we’re being totally honest.

Xmithie: Xmithie has been a staple in the NA LCS since his time way back in Season 3 with Team FeaR and Team Vulcun. He’s been a stable force in the scene, never quite as strong as some of his flashier compatriots in the Jungle, yet Xmithie never failed though to remain a rock and foundational piece for many a team. Hell, he was the unchallenged Best Lee Sin NA for a while folks…

Over the shoulder eye brow raising smoulder. Courtesy of Riot Flikr.

But more than that, Xmithie fit into the CLG story line as that Steady and Silent one. For the entirety of the Spring split and into MSI, Xmithie put in production for the team, helping his lane mates get ahead and maintaining overall map control.

He was there where and when the team needed him and read the game to know who to set up and get ahead. In some ways he was like a tactician for the squad, if not for Aphro’s obvious influence in that department. He was, however, always the quietest member it felt like. He wouldn’t be the player dominating a scene in the show, but he would show up at the right time to help a fellow player. The strong, silent type that always held a place in your heart for his sincere concern for his fellows.

 

Huhi: Huhi came in as a heavily scrutinized player, always at the center of criticism for the team and seemingly always the one that had to go. Still, through all of this, it seemed like the bubbly personality of Huhi persisted on. While notorious for his pocket picks like Aurelion Sol, Huhi’s performance on the rift has always been polarizing. He’s either the one surprisingly carrying his whole team on his giant space dragon back, or the one that’s the anchor for the early game of the team. Huhi was always a polarizing player, but he was never a negative player.

If you don’t find this image heart warming and wholesome, I ask you kindly, but firmly, to leave. Courtesy of Yahoo Esports.

It was his off the rift presence that was the perfect fit for somewhere between the comedic relief and the adorable one of the group. Just check his Twitter, and see the beauty that is the HuhixHaru.

It was, however, I think Huhi’s defining feature in my mind of his overall positive attitude in the face of adversity. He always seemed happy, always ready to try and prove himself again, and never daunted by opponents or critics. He would keep the team cheery and would offer his positive attitude to the team atmosphere.

Stixxay: Fans of CLG may have forgotten this, but Stixxay was considered once one of the weakest members of CLG for a time. Not many should be surprised by this, as stepping into the shoes of ace ADC and Best in the West Doublelift is definitely a tall task. But Stixxay never seemed fazed by those who didn’t believe in him. He was always stepping up, and I think the shinning moment of his Spring career was the Tristana play that propelled them to their victory over TSM and onto the MSI tournament.

From Zero to Hero in no time flat. Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

In a lot of ways, Stixxay would seem our protagonist for this show. The young kid, stepping into the ace role for a team, under heavy scrutiny by fans and pundits, and with a kind of self confidence in himself and his team that felt slightly above what one might feel was warranted. He and Aphromoo set out to prove everyone wrong, the young gun under the mentorship of the leader and brain in the botlane duo of Rush Hour.

Interviews with Stixxay showed this side time and time again: he felt he was good, damn good, but not in a pretentious way, not by putting others down or overstating his point. He felt he had the mechanics and just needed the time to ripen and he could match Doublelift’s legacy. Well, as a spoiler, it seemed he wasn’t too far off, and while a discussion of whether he’s ‘better than’ Doublelift or not would be a hotly contested debate, it’s safe to say that the rookie has proved himself, long before gaining the moniker of Big Dixxay.

Aphromoo: If ever there was a franchise player to match the level of Doublelift, it could be argued that it would be Aphromoo. Support, as a position, occupies a unique role within League of Legends: they’re both the ones to set up the plays and their lane mates success, while also generally tasked with the shotcalling role. In short, the best Supports are often the ultimate altruistic leaders. Aphromoo is no exception to this role either, often being praised as the driving force behind CLG’s success, being the leader the team needs on and off the rift.

There are certain players whose reputation transcends their on the Rift abilities. Aphromoo is one such player. Courtesy of Riot Flikr.

It’s the perfect plot line too. The mentor, the veteran, the one left behind the famous departure of lanemate Doublelift. Aphromoo had to prove himself not only mechanically as a player, but to prove himself to the team captain and mentor everyone believed he could be. He was given the untested, gifted, and highly coachable player that was Stixxay, and their role in the team ultimately became the lynch pin for their success.

While Darshan was known for his split pushing, Huhi his pocket picks and Xmithie for his selfless jungling style, it was the Bot lane duo that often was tasked to face some of the best and strongest opponents and carry. If it’s not a saying, it should be, that behind every God ADC is a Support who whipped them into shape, and look no further for proof of this then the Lethal Weapon duo that is Stixxay and Aphromoo.

Zikz: An untested team needs a leader, but it also needs a coach. Zikz stepped into the role of Head Coach before the roster was finalized, replacing William “scarra” Li and being promoted from Head Analyst position. Fans will remember Zikz for his simple, elegant style, a classy suit and non-distracting hair gave him the appearance of a largely non-menacing coach. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Zikz has established himself in the coaching role, holding one of the longest tenures as such, in a position that largely has seen more revolving doors than an European Super Team.

“Ok guys, if we destroy their Nexus first we win. Break!” Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

So how does Zikz play into this story? Well, he’s the behind the scene coach, the one who propels his team, prepares them to the best he can, and then sits there and watches as his work and tactics unfold before his eyes. Zikz was always there with his team, laughing, encouraging, being one on one with many of the players, and arguably a lot of CLG’s success can be placed as a fact of his impressive coaching. He was a strong Runner Up for the Coach of the Spring Split in 2016, and is a constant contender for the best coach each split.

He also plays the role of the coach who not much is known about. He’s been a relative silent force in CLG’s presence, and while this fits that narrative well of the behind the scenes coach who is stronger than he comes off, it also gave him the kind of mysterious aspect to him. All he needs is some glasses to push up his nose menacing when a team falls into his well laid trap and he’d be perfect.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 everyone!

Is That a Jojo Reference? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr and bad MS Paint skills.

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Bleeding Gods: The Inevitable Fall of SKT

SKT has always been the team to beat. Even in season four, one of the biggest upsets in competitive League up to that point was SKT’s loss to Najin White Shield. This prevented SKT from returning to Worlds. Beyond that SKT, dominated season five and six, and continues to dominate in season seven. They are the first team to win multiple, and the first to win consecutive, Worlds Championships. During this time, they also took second in the first MSI and won the past two. Ask anyone, SKT’s reign is unprecedented and will likely never be repeated in any similar likeness.

That said, their reign will surely end. Their fall is inevitable; no team in the history of any sport has dominated for forever. Teams rise and fall, and suffer defeats as well as achieve victory. SKT, while having been dominant for some considerable amount of time, will eventually lose.

Roster Swap

Photo Via Lolesports

A likely cause of this will be the result of a roster change. Despite roster changes throughout their reign, the team’s center remains Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. The original line-up of SKT T1 K was built around the god himself. Even when the team combined with their sister team, Faker was still looked to as the star.

Faker, ADC Bae “Bang” Jun-sik, and support Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan make up the core of the current iteration of the team. They have all been on the team since season three. They bring skill, stability, and experience to SKT and are irreplaceable.

What will happen when that stability and experience decide to take an offer in China or retire? It’s unlikely that any of the three, especially Faker who has been lauded as the greatest of all time, will have any adequate replacement to continue to propel the team to the height they currently enjoy. The likely outcome of a roster swap in the bot or mid lane will be a dip in performance from the team. But SKT has more than great players – they also have great coaches. These coaches could help to overcome the loss of any skill, stability, or experience that would come with a roster swap.

Coaching Staff

Photo Via Lolesports

That being said, another likely cause for SKT’s reign to end would be SKT’s coaching staff to undergo a major change. Choi “cCarter” Byeong-hoon, Kim “KkOma” Jeong-gyun, and Jung “RapidStar” Min-sung make up the current coaching staff of SKT with KkOma and cCarter having been around since 2013. The coaches have the ability to lead, scout, and create an atmosphere of hard work and dedication. The team’s results speak to their abilities as coaches as well as their ability to continue dominance, despite roster swaps in the top lane and jungle. The most recent example being the acquisition of Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon, who looks even better now than he did in his Fnatic days. It also doesn’t hurt that KkOma’s pick and ban is one of the best in the world.

Thus, it would be no small thing to lose any of the coaches, especially cCarter or KkOma. Losing either one would change the entire dynamic of the team and likely result in a less qualified replacement, leading to losses.  A change in that staff could signal the end of the SKT dominance, and it could also cause some players to leave the org. Considering Faker has never played for anyone but Kkoma, if he leaves Faker might also consider leaving.

All this goes to show the precarious place that SKT finds themselves in. So many of the organization’s members are irreplaceable. If any of them leave, the delicate balance of SKT could falter and the team will start suffering some meaningful defeats.

Challengers

Photo Via Lolesports

A third and perhaps the most likely reason for SKT’s reign to end is that another team will rise to the challenge and dethrone the current kings of League. This has already happened before; SKT didn’t even make it to season four Worlds. Faker even suffered his first ever professional Leblanc loss to EDG in the 2015 MSI finals. Eventually, SKT will just lose. In fact, what makes SKT’s reign so unprecedented is that they did lose, but they came back swiftly and with more force than was thought possible. However, it’s quite unlikely that they can continue to comeback from sustained defeats without a roster swap of some kind.

There is no doubt that SKT will eventually fall. Though it doesn’t seem likely that they will lose anytime soon, it’s inevitable that eventually, something will shake up the roster or some team will rise to the occasion and defeat the gods.


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Flaws With Rift Rivals

Riot Games is finally introducing more chances for international play with their announcement of Rift Rivals yesterday. Rift Rivals will pit regional rivals against each other in a battle between the top three teams of their respective regions. Fans and teams have been begging for more international competitions and Riot looks to have been listening. Things aren’t perfect though and there are some flaws with how the tournament format is set up. Let’s take a look:

Photo via Gamespot

Bo1’s

Has Riot not learned anything from the past few seasons about best-of-one formats? One can see how it can be exciting for fans due to the unpredictability. With B01’s, you can have upsets, such as Albus Nox Luna at last Worlds and Wildcards upsetting highly ranked teams.

In any case, B01’s don’t allow much flexibility in drafts/strategies and can limit how creative a team can get. Most teams will want to just draft standard in a B01 because they only have one game to prove themselves. Having a best-of-three format would allow for more creative drafts, where teams can get risky in game one knowing that if things don’t work out they can go back to standard for game two.

It doesn’t feel like the winner of B01’s is definitively better than the other team. They were only better than them for one game. One mistake can cost a team a game.

Teams are locked in from standings based ON half a split ago

For those who don’t know, teams are already locked in based on the spring split standings for Rift Rivals. Announcing a type of tournament like this should open up more motivation for teams to do well to represent their region at this tournament.

Many things can change in half a split. A team can go from being a top three team to possibly a 4-6th place team. If that’s the case, fans get a lower quality play and may not be represented well. Hypothetically speaking, TSM, Cloud 9, and Phoenix1 could all be bottom tier teams next split and will still be able to play in this tournament. If you’re going to have an international event in July, teams should need to qualify for it as close to the date as possible for the best results.

Relay Format

The relay format basically starts with the 3rd place team of each region pitted against each other in a B01. Whatever team loses is eliminated and the winner stays on to face the next highest ranked team of that region.

The major issue with this is you could potentially never see the first place team of a region play. It’s all based on how well the third place team does. If the third place team were to win all three matches, you wouldn’t even see the other two teams play in this type of format.

Double elimination B03 matches would make the most sense to actually see how the teams stack up against each other. Limiting it to B01’s and this really weird relay format limits the chances of actually seeing who is a better region. Having a gauntlet style tournament would at least give every team a chance to play in a best-of series.

Future tournaments

It seems that with Riot introducing this new tournament, they’ll be looking at doing more in the future. With only four days in between the split to plan this out, time is quite limited for them, which may explain the B01 format. Nonetheless, it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully, with more time, Riot can put on a better format for an international event.

Cover image via Riot Esports

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Post MSI Thoughts: Team SoloMid

Once again, North America’s Team SoloMid failed to get out of groups at an international event. This is the second time we’ve seen them do poorly at MSI. This was somewhat expected of them coming in; Most people had them ranked 5th coming in after struggling to defeat Vietnam’s Gigabyte Marines in the play-in stage.

Problems

It’s hard to know exactly why TSM tends to play worse internationally. Domestically, TSM is usually somewhat proactive and aren’t afraid to pull the trigger on plays.

Photo by: Riot Esports

During MSI, TSM was often playing scared, not willing to make any plays to finish the game. They built up early game leads, but time and time again they didn’t know how to snowball them to victory.

 

It could be an issue of needing to bring in more analysts or coaches. Too many issues have plagued TSM for literally the whole season with little improvement. These issues arose once again during the Mid Season Invitational and ultimately cost them a spot in the bracket stage.

Their drafts may not have been the issue – even though they were heavily criticized for them. A lack of being able to play the meta was.

It seemed that mid laner Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg could not play Syndra counters such as Fizz and Ekko. Syndra was one of the strongest mid lane champions at MSI. Fizz was also a very valuable flex pick if teams could pull it off, but TSM refused to show the ability to play it in their comps. “Protect the ADC” was also a huge strategy that TSM failed to execute in the first game of group stages against Gigabyte Marines. They would go on the rest of the tournament not attempting to play a similar comp again.

Player Performance

Jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and ADC Jason “Wildturtle” Tran were some of the most criticized members during the group stage of MSI. Svenskeren once again was often getting caught out on greedy invades without proper lane pressure. This had been a constant issue in North America, and it continued here. Individually, it felt like Svenskeren was out-classed by most of the junglers at this tournament aside from G2’s Trick. Svenskeren finished the tournament with a 1.9 KDA and most deaths for junglers.

Many were quick to jump on the Wildturtle hate train after he face checked baron with both summs up against WE during a vital part of the game. Wildturtle statistically did not have a great showing; He was basically near the bottom for most categories among ADC’s. In mid-late game team fights outside of that WE face check, he wasn’t terrible. Wildturtle was never a main carry threat for the team and was usually put on something like Ashe or Varus that could help with locking someone down.

Top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell had a somewhat underwhelming performance after being named MVP of the LCS finals. There were games where his split pushing on Kennen won them games, but there were also times where he got solo killed out of nowhere or got caught out. In the G2 game, Hauntzer was caught out split pushing in the bot lane, which helped G2 stall the game even more and led to TSM’s defeat.

Bjergsen and Hauntzer’s shotcalling seemed pretty off for most of the tournament. TSM seemed lost in what to do with their early game leads and had some of the longest games of the tournament. Even when they did win, it usually wasn’t very convincing.

Looking Ahead

It will be interesting to see if TSM can bounce back from their MSI performance. Taking North America hasn’t been a tough task for them, but translating it over to international success has been a struggle. With star ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng coming back into the mix, we have to wait to see how the team adjusts. Doublelift has the capabilities to be a consistent main carry for the team, along with being a major part of the shot calling last Summer.

Most would expect TSM to add another analyst possibly or another head coach into the mix. Parth has been with TSM for awhile now, but some of their problems are still lingering. After Svenskeren’s performance last split and at MSI, he’ll definitely be a player to watch coming in. If he continues to struggle, TSM could look to replace him for Worlds. One bad tournament shouldn’t justify benching him though.


Cover photo by Riot Esports

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MSI: SK Telecom T1 vs. Flash Wolves Preview

In the first round of the knockout stage of MSI, SK Telecom T1 is poised to take revenge upon the only team that has taken a win from them during groups. What may be the most competitive game in this tournament, SKT vs. Flash Wolves will be the game to tune into on May 19th at 11 am PST.

SK Telecom T1

 

Peanut and Huni share a moment while leaving the stage. Courtesy of Riot flickr

Coming into MSI as the most highly favored team in the history of League of Legends is SKT, three-time League of Legends World Champions.

 

SKT’s six-man roster starts with their top laner, Seung-Hoon  “Huni” Heo, a player who currently holds the highest CS per minute in the MSI.

Jumping out of the jungle, Wangho “Peanut” Han holds the most kills at 52 in groups. Known most for his Lee Sin, Peanut is known to be the most aggressive jungler in Korea, with the ability to get 15 kills in a single game.

No introduction is needed for Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee. Faker is simply the best.  

SKT’s bot lane, Junsik “Bang” Bae and Jaewan “Wolf” Lee, are looking better than ever. The two are typically found taking laners that complement each other with  Wolf picking champions that can bail out the immobile carries that Bang has frequently utilized to great success. Wolf has the second most assists throughout Groups, trailing Shou-Chieh “SwordArT” Hu, who also used one more game to have Wolf beat 93 to 90.

 

How SKT Wins

Peanut shares a lot in common with his opponent Karsa. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

SKT wins by having Peanut play Lee Sin and picking their bot lane comfort picks before the Flash Wolves take them out in the draft. With Bang’s adept performance on Twitch, aided greatly by the peeling supports Wolf is often seen on, expect the bot lane picks to come through in the first round of the draft phase. SKT is greatly favored in this matchup. Their chances of failure are minimal as long as they do not lose too much ground early game. SKT can win late game team fights with great ease given their opponents are not too far ahead.

Flash Wolves

The Flash Wolves have proven to be a mixed bag this tournament, showing that they have the skill to beat SKT while simultaneously dropping games to almost every team in the tournament. As the underdog team in the fourth versus first place match, their performance in this best of five will likely decide who takes first place at this year’s MSI. If they can beat SKT, they can beat anyone. Right? Maybe, but this is not guaranteed with the Flash Wolves. However, they are the strongest contender for taking down SKT alongside Team WE.

Playing top lane for the Wolves is Li-Hong “MMD” Yu, a player known for his aggression and carry style, but also able to play supportive tanks by the likes of Nautilus and Shen.

Tearing through the jungle for the Wolves, Hao-Xuan “Karsa” Hong, has the same champion pool and play style as Peanut. He also has 41 kills to his name during groups. He may have what it takes to deny Peanut through a well-executed draft.

Laning against God himself, Yi-Tang “Maple” Huang ties Peanut for the highest KDA throughout groups at 6.1.

Perhaps the Flash Wolves greatest strength lies in their bot lane, where Yu-Huang “Betty” Lu and SwordArT dominate the bottom half of the map. SwordArt is a veteran shot caller, playing supports that can influence more than just the bottom lane. Expect to see Lulu and Tahm Kench as high priority champions for both teams. Meanwhile, Betty has the most kills to his name out of all the ADCs at MSI, and he’s looking to continue this streak. Betty plays many ADC’s, but his Ashe is a staple for the Flash Wolves. Betty may have to branch into other ADC’s in order to take away Bang’s Twitch and secure a victory for the Wolves.

How Flash Wolves Win

They have done it once before, but can they do it again? To win, Flash Wolves need to stifle Huni in the draft much like they did in their only victory over SKT. Because banning out Faker is impossible, their bans must be directed to the top lane carries that Huni plays, and the Marksmen that Bang feels most comfortable on. The optimal top lane draft will have MMD on his signature Kled and Huni on a tank, allowing Flash Wolves to take the game from the top lane.

As for the Jungle, it goes without saying that Peanut’s Lee Sin must be denied in order for the Wolves to have a fighting chance. Taking Lee Sin on the side of the Flash Wolves will also

SwordArT is not the cool, calm, and collected shot caller you may be used to. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

greatly aid Karsa, as he is adept on the champion. In the middle lane, Maple’s utility orientated champion pool must be able to survive the likes of Faker’s assassins. If Maple can avoid giving a lead to Faker, he may be able to turn some mid game team fights into a victory for the Wolves with his excellent Weaver’s Walls and Realm Warps.

 

Taking a lead in the bottom lane is most important for the Flash Wolves. Giving SwordArT the opportunity to roam and snowball his team’s lead alongside Karsa, will be the win condition the Wolves need. However, the lanes go, if the Wolves do not start with leads, it is unlikely they will ever bounce back to take a lead.


Featured image courtesy of Riot Flickr

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Why MSI should transition to a gauntlet tournament

The 2017 Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) is a League of Legends tournament attended by 13 teams from 13 various regions. This year’s MSI consisted of three stages ultimately ending in a grand final between the best two teams. Taking place in Rio de Janeiro, this event took seeding based upon the past two years of Worlds and MSI performances to have a few teams automatically place into group stage (South Korea, China, and Europe) while the rest of the 10 teams battled it out through the play-in stage.

Group stage consists of a double round robin via best of one matches. The top four teams from this double round robin move on to the knockout stage which consists of best of five games with single elimination. It is this knockout stage that does not make the most sense for this international tournament.

The Gauntlet

SKT T1 Huni leaves the stage with team. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

The LCK currently runs a gauntlet-styled tournament that MSI should adopt. The first place team does not play until the final round, receiving a bye for their performance throughout the normal split. The playoffs consist of the third place team playing against the fourth place team, then the winner of that team plays the second place team, ultimately leaving one team to play against the first place team. This style of competition puts much more weight upon the group stages of the tournament, making each and every group stage game bring with it more impactful consequences.

Skating By Groups

Examining the current four teams in groups can lead one to believe that some teams have just “skated by” while other teams have just had a poor performance in the group stage.

After the Flash Wolves controlled performance in play-ins, most fans and even Faker, believed that they were going to be the biggest threat to SKT T1’s empire. The Flash Wolves then managed to beat SKT in a decisive manner during the group stages, further showing their skill and prowess. However, the Flash Wolves later received a few too many losses in groups, ultimately leaving what should be the second best team in the tournament in fourth place during the knockout stages. This being said, expect the most heated competition and the highest skill caliber League of Legends has ever known not in the grand finals, but instead in the first match of the knockout stage.

With the second best team playing against SKT on Friday, May 19th, what should be a game for third and fourth place will be between G2 Esports and Team WE. Potentially, any of the teams that made it into groups has what it takes to make the match that will occur this Saturday, May 20th, a fiercely close competition. That being said, the match between G2 Esports and Team WE will still be one of close competition. However, it is unlikely that either of these two teams will stand a chance against the winner of SKT versus Flash Wolves.

A Better Tournament Style Means Better Games

A gauntlet-style competition not only makes each game of groups much more intense, as each team mus

TSM and Flash Wolves shake hands after their game. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

t compete for standings during the gauntlet-style knockout stages, but it also provides a more accurate way for each team to garner the appropriate rewards from the prize pool. With third and fourth place getting significantly less money than second place, a gauntlet-style competition would more accurately reassign this prize pool based upon how close one can get to taking down SKT T1, a team that has proven to be well and above the rest of the competition. Until then, variables such as TSM taking down Flash Wolves will prevent the most accurate portrayal of skill and will doom each team that enters the knockout stages in fourth place, regardless of their skill, relative to the second and third place teams.

 

Featured image courtesy of Riot Flickr

MSI: TSM vs. Gigabyte Marines Preview

In the first best of series to determine who gets to enter the next stage of MSI, we have North American favorite, TSM, squaring off against Vietnam’s Gigabyte Marines of the GPL. TSM will come in as heavy favorites, but Gigabyte Marines showed some promise in their group. The Gigabyte Marines only dropped one game the entire group stage. TSM will need to not underestimate their opponents if they want to avoid a major upset.

Team SoloMid

TSM comes into MSI after narrowly fending off a reverse sweep by Cloud 9 in the NALCS final. TSM started the spring rather slow, but quickly improved to retake their throne as the kings of North America. Top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell had his best split yet, just barely missing out on NALCS MVP. Soren “bjergsen” Bjerg is still the “GOAT” mid laner of the NALCS and should take over his lane quite handily. In the bot lane, Jason “Wildturtle” Tran and Vincent “Biofrost” Wang showed a lot of improvement in the NALCS finals. Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen was, in my opinion, the MVP of the final. He had a great showing and will look to take that momentum into MSI.

Courtesy: Riot Esports

How they win

TSM should win based solely on individual skill and macro play. I don’t see any lanes losing heavily unless Gigabyte Marines’ star jungler Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh really pops off. If TSM doesn’t play down to the skill of their opponent, they should take this series.

How they lose

If TSM allows Levi to play his signature Lee Sin and he pops off, I could definitely see them losing a game. Levi was an absolute monster during the group stage, but TSM will be a lot stiffer competition for them. TSM is also known to come out slow in the start of their series, usually dropping the first game. If there was a time they could lose, I’d imagine it be the first game.

Player to watch

TSM’s jungler, Svenskeren, will play a major role in shutting down Levi. If he can play more aggressive and track him, Gigabyte Marines don’t have many other options.

 

Gigabyte Marines

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Gigabyte Marines come into this matchup after winning group B quite handily with a 5-1 record. Most of their games were carried by their jungler, Levi, who has shown tremendous plays on Lee Sin and Elise. He’ll need to pressure the map early if they want to stand a chance against TSM. Notably, support Minh “Archie” Nhựt Trần said that teams were denying them scrims, and therefore used play in stage as “scrims.” We’ve seen how not scrimming certain opponents can lead to upset victories, so maybe they’ll be able to use that to their advantage.

 

How they win

Levi will need to have another stellar performance against more formidable opponents. If they do pull off a miracle upset, Levi will be a huge part in it. If he can get them a good early game lead, they’ll need to close things out fast.

How they lose

In their matchups, TSM beats them individually and in macro play. Even if TSM falls behind early, I don’t know if Gigabyte Marines can out macro them to finish the game. If Gigabyte Marines don’t make early aggressive plays, I don’t see them taking down TSM.

Player to watch

By now, you’re probably expecting this pick. Levi will need to take command of the early game for his team to have a shot at taking down TSM. If TSM decides to leave Lee Sin or Elise up, I could definitely see Levi carrying his team to an upset victory for a game or two.

 

Prediction

If everything goes according to plan, TSM should take the series with a commanding 3-0 sweep. Knowing them though, they could possibly let Levi get Lee Sin game 1 and drop a game.

 

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LCK Finals: Telecom Wars Review

The Telecom Slaughter

Not even SKT1 fans wanted to see the blowout that occurred during the 2017 LCK Spring Split Finals this past weekend. SKT1 beat kt Rolster in a 3-0 sweep, with the last two games in the series being pitifully one-sided.

Game 1: SKT Victory at 36 minutes

Kt Rolster: Jayce, Elise, Syndra, Ashe, Malzahar

SKT: Shen, Lee Sin, Fizz, Varus, Lulu

Giving Han “Peanut” Wang-ho Lee Sin, a champion he was 9-0 on, was kt Rolster’s first mistake this series. But despite Peanut’s Lee Sin play, kt Rolster was able to take an early lead through clean rotations, opting for towers over kills. Kt Rolster was up in gold by 20 minutes, with Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho having five kills to his name. Kt Rolster lost their lead when Heo “Pawn” Won-seok got caught out around Baron pit. The next few skirmishes followed the same way, with Pawn going down before anyone else, oftentimes with his cooldowns still up. This eventually led to a 28 minute Baron, followed by another eight minutes of consistent tower taking.

Game 2: SKT Victory at 31 minutes

Kt Rolster: Fiora, Graves, LeBlanc, Ashe, Malzahar

SKT: Camille, Lee Sin, Karma, Twitch, Lulu

Again, Peanut picked Lee Sin, but this time he was able to snowball two early kills leading to a more one-sided victory than the first game. With SKT’s mega-Twitch comp, they only needed one lane to win. However, by 20 minutes SKT had decisively won every lane with exception of bot, which was ahead of kt’s bot lane, but not by much. The shielding from Karma and Lulu led to an ae at 27 minutes giving SKT an uncontested Baron that they efficiently transferred into a victory three minutes later.

Game 3: SKT Victory at 30 minutes

Kt Rolster: Jayce, Rengar, LeBlanc, Ashe, Karma

SKT: Gragas, Graves, Lulu, Twitch, Nami

SKT Peanut awarded MVP for LCK Spring Split Playoffs. Courtesy of SKT Twitter

Kt Rolster finally banned Lee Sin from Peanut, but it was too little too late. An SKT tower dive gone wrong left each team at two kills, but seconds later Faker was able to solo kill Pawn as Lulu into Pawn’s LeBlanc. This embarrassment was furthered as Pawn was given his fifth death at the 20 minute mark. You can ban Lee Sin, but Peanut will still take over games; Peanut’s Graves finished game three 11/1/9, earning MVP for the playoffs.

Just Faker Things

Being announced in the bonjwa throne, an armchair that has seated only three other outstanding esports players in Korea, Faker took the stage with as much force as he took the series. The bonjwa throne was originally intended for professional Starcraft players, who were dominate and unrivaled in their era as the title bonjwa suggests. Faker had taken the throne only once since this opening ceremony, during a 2015 World Champions preview video.

Watching Faker play is always a learning experience. Even playing against some of the League’s best players, he looks leaps and bounds better than them. Even the most subtle of maneuvers speaks to his skill level. At one point in game one, Faker’s Fizz was ganked by Elise, creating a two versus one that he managed to escape using a Control Ward he was keeping in his inventory. Faker throws the Control Ward into the brush along mid lane with the intent to disable enemy wards allowing him to juke enemy skillshots without the opponent having vision of him. While this foresight illustrates Faker’s ability to think about different future scenarios in the game, the enemy did not have wards in the brush he juked into. Not knowing this, Faker chose wisely in placing this Control Ward, as it could have been the difference between a kt Rolster first blood or just another failed gank.

Faker shows his mastery on Fizz by using his ultimate to initiate team fights every time it is up. While this led to a lot of whiffed sharks, the constant pressure allotted by Faker’s cooldown reduction heavy build, led to the skirmish after skirmish that eventually paved the way to SKT’s 28 minute Baron in game one. On top of this constant pressure, Faker input buffered his ultimate ability by casting it during the gap closing element of his Urchin Strike, making it the ability harder to predict and subsequently juke.

Faker showed his flexibility in the next two games, playing supportive mages, Karma and Lulu, and allowing his teammates to carry. Despite taking a support into lane against Pawn’s LeBlanc, Faker was able to get a solo kill as Lulu, taking full advantage of kt Rolster’s tilt in game three. Even at the highest caliber of play, Faker can appear to be on a completely different level than his opponents.

 

SKT to MSI

With SKT’s victory over kt Rolster, the team has earned their ticket to the Mid-Season Invitational. As the team stated after their quick defeat of kt, they are looking to train their hardest in an effort to take the international stage by force. We at The Game Haus look forward to seeing the competition at MSI happening in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from April 28 – May 21. For more Faker on the bonjwa throne check the video below, and for more League of Legends, check back on The Game Haus soon.

Image: Courtesy of Yong Woo ‘Kenzi’

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MSI Power Rankings

Alright Everybody, MSI is just around the corner and it feels like its about time to release my predictions as to how everyone will perform. There are some pretty obvious choices, but there are a couple wild cards too. Rather then use any kind of S+, A, etc. system, I’m just going to do a pure 1-6 ranking with my predictions and thoughts.

 

  1. SKT T1 -This seems like the obvious answer. SKT has repeatedly proven to the world they are the best. Any questions had during the Spring Split were wiped out when SKT beat ROX Tigers. There may come a day when SKT isn’t the best team in the world, but for now the throne remains theirs.
  2. G2 Esports – once against it feels like Europe will be the greatest threat to SKT’s dominance. I’m not sure that G2 will outperform last years Fnatic (I don’t expect a Game 5 against SKT), but I don’t see any other teams giving G2 much trouble. They looked consistently great all of Spring, and will continue their high level of play at MSI.
  3. RNG– This is the point where I feel comfortable moving teams around, but I do believe that RNG will be able to claim the third place spot. RNG have not consistently performed, but if they play at their best during this tournament, they will easily take bronze. Also I’m a Looper fanboy… so that may have some impact on my thoughts as well.
  4. Flash Wolves– This is one of my bolder predictions. I think fourth is the very best FW is capable of doing, but I’m not sure how confident I am that they will perform well enough to hit this mark, but I firmly believe that FW at their best is a better team then the remaining options.
  5. CLG– I honestly feel kind of bad putting CLG this low, but I’m just not expecting much. CLG had a fairly good, but not incredible split. Despite the preseason hype, NA was not the most impressive region this split, and I don’t think even the top NA team can compete with the other teams at this level.
  6. Supermassive– Who? Again… I feel bad about ranking them this low. They have performed well in the context we’ve seen them in so far. But are they capable of competing against the likes of SKT, G2, or RNG? I think not. I’m honestly pulling for these guys, It would be great to see a smaller region get some love on the international stage, but I just don’t think its going to happen this weekend.

 

I’m looking forward to watching the competition, and I’ll be posting game by game analysis right here on The Game Haus, so make sure to come back and check out if my predictions come true!