Worlds Group A

Worlds 2017 group A : The Clash of Titans

Introduction

Every year, as the post-seasons of the multiple leagues around the world come to a close, many fans set their eyes on Worlds and the meeting of the best of the best in the international throw down. While maybe not the exciting affair for some, the group stage draw signals the coming of Worlds in the hearts of fans and is the nostalgic feeling of ‘Worlds is around the corner’ again. The group draw is this series of events that will drastically shape which teams are slated to go forward, who has the easy group, who gets the dark horse team and who gets placed into the dreaded Group of Death™. With that each group has its own story lines that emerge, and for group A, the title I’d give it has to be the Clash of Titans.

Group A drew not only EDward Gaming (EDG), finalists for the LPL, but also Worlds’ favorite and defending champions in SKT T1. As if a more storied and titanic clash could exist, the group, for me at least, avoids the term Group of Death™ because, well, AHQ is there. With the fourth team still to be determined, we can’t comment too much there, but this group is definitely a dance of two. Will it be the resurgent LPL region’s EDG that walks away in first, or the fan favorite in SKT that manages again, even with questions hanging over their head, to prove themselves as the best in the world? Or can AHQ, against all odds, pull off a miracle and make it out of the group? Maybe the fourth team will add some unexpected spice that upsets the perfect balance of the two titans facing off for the first and second seed.

EDG 

With some of the most stylish jerseys out of the LPL, EDward Gaming hope to cement themselves as a force to be reckoned with internationally. Courtesy of EDward Gaming Facebook.

EDG come into Group A as the finalists from the scrappy LPL region, a region known for aggression that can start as early as level one. After reverse sweeping Royal Never Give Up to keep the team from winning an LPL Finals, to cement themselves, at least as far as standings go, to be the best in China, EDG come into Worlds roaring with confidence. However, EDG come into the group in an odd position; they match up against their titanic opponents, SKT, which draws concern.

Questions surround EDG’s top lane, Chen “Mouse” Yu-Hao, and even Ming “Clearlove7” Kai, the on and off star jungler, abound. It’s the weaker side for the roster, that contains Lee “Scout” Ye-chan and Tian “meiko” Ye on the other half of the Rift. That being said, EDG’s draw in the group stage is a slight benefit, they face SKT, which for most would be a bad thing. But with SKT’s struggling top lane and jungler position too, EDG’s weaker sides may not be placed up against a stronger side. This means not only will EDG’s side not be exposed to a stronger lane match up, where the other team can focus and create a lead there, but also maybe EDG can manage to be the stronger side in the top half.

Their bot lane, with new kid on the block Hu “iBoy” Xianzhao, will be the true point of contest between the two titans. Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan have not looked like the dominant force they once were, having been a key part in SKT’s slump mid split. That doesn’t mean that they’re not a formidable foe for a rookie ADC. EDG will have to prove themselves the stronger team even with the questions that surround them, but given their pedigree and history of strong performances, EDG look to be easy favorites for at least second place, if not first in the group.

 

The X Factor: iBoy and Scout

Rookie iBoy will have his skills and mettle tested severely against the veteran bot lane of Bang and Wolf. Can he come out ahead? Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

The two primary carries of EDG are the linchpin of the roster for me. Scout has to be performing at his top tier to dominate the group, and particularly to show up against old teammate Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. If it’s Scout at his ceiling, he can be the carry that EDG needs to maybe secure that first place in the group. If he’s at his floor, EDG will find trouble against possibly even AHQ.

The other big factor is iBoy, the newcomer to the LPL scene. A rookie by all accounts, he comes into Worlds only having played a total of 22 games over his entire professional career. To be thrown into a Worlds roster, let alone one that has SKT and Bang in its group, is one large task for the rookie. However, iBoy’s stats aren’t worrisome, and with the veteran lane mate of Meiko by his side, this could be a real time for the young player to shine. On the other hand, not performing will be costly for the team overall, so the pressure on iBoy is pretty damn high to at least go toe to toe with Bang.

SKT 

Ahh, SKT. They barely need introduction for fans of League of Legends, but the once completely unstoppable juggernauts have had a slightly less than glamorous recent showing. The notable slump in performance, and the question marks not only in top lane of who to start between Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo and Ui “Untara” Jin-Park, were concerns that many analysts brought up. Not just that, but also their jungler position too is up in the air, with Han “Peanut” Wang-hoand and Kang “Blank” Sun-gu, being the two possibilities. For many on the outside looking in, this has put the organization in a bit of a tumultuous position.

SKT’s full roster will be tested as they go into Worlds. Courtesy of SKT T1’s Facebook.

Just as with EDG though, SKT lucked out slightly by placing in a group with similar question marks in the top side of the Rift. With the “Unkillable Demon King” of League in Faker playing on the team though, and the long standing relationship between Bang and Wolf in the bot lane, it’s hard to say SKT is weak, even through their struggling top and jungle positions. Untara looks to be the more stable top lane, and Blank slots in similarly, and that almost feels the stronger formation for SKT going into Worlds. SKT can win games off simply mid and bot lane, and a tank meta supports a more supportive top and jungler position, rather than the more carry-oriented play that one might expect out of Huni or Peanut.

SKT however is still not the guaranteed top squad. With the current draw, they should be able to squash struggling AHQ Esports Club, but will be faced against an equally formidable EDG. The more aggressive nature of LPL teams may be a challenge for the defending champions, but it’s difficult to say they’ll struggle. Sure, at Rift Rivals the LPL were the ultimate winners, but LCK is never a region to bat an eyelash at. And almost most importantly, this is still a team with Faker on it, and Bang and Wolf, who bring not only their experience, but synergy. It will depend on how the squads match up, if Faker can take on his once pupil, Scout and if synergy wins out over new kid and star iBoy in the bot lane and the veteran in Meiko.

 

The X Factor: Untara/Huni and Blank/Peanut

High risk, high reward, is what has always characterized both Huni and Peanut. But can SKT take the gamble at Worlds? Courtesy of SKT T1’s Facebook.

This may come off wrong, but I’m not worried about SKT’s bottom half of the map. Faker has rarely performed negatively, and the Bang and Wolf duo seem a lot more energized after their slump. It’s the top half that’s the tricky part for SKT, and ultimately something they’ll need to address if they plan to make any real statement at Worlds.

The Huni/Untara saga continues, as Huni, previously the star diamond in the rough player, has looked considerably disappointing in recent showings (like, recent for a while…) Untara, on the other hand, may not be as flashy as Huni in his hay day or the phenom in Kim “Khan” Dong-ha, but he gets the job done for SKT. If Huni can be assured to perform, he’s the obvious pick, as a strong top laner into a group with weaker top laners could be another weapon in the SKT arsenal. However, he’s a liability, and SKT may decide to go with Untara for the security in the top lane.

The next question mark is in the jungle. Peanut, the darling of the Rox Tigers that stormed onto the scene last year, is in doubt. He’s not the consistent jungler that SKT needs. Stats aren’t everything, but Blank, particularly in SKT’s playoff run, was the superior jungler in almost every category, having played six games to Peanut’s eight. That’s a decent sample size. With Blank’s solid performance, and the bigger question mark being in the top lane, SKT could very well leave Peanut out of the six man roster for Worlds in favor of a more diverse top lane option. Regardless, whoever fills in the jungle position for SKT will need to be able to get their carries in the position to succeed. 

 

AHQ

The LMS region has always been a dark horse region. Often times discounted, except when one remembers the miracle run of Tapai Assasins, or Flash Wolves’ constant ability to take down the tyrants of SKT, they tend to look to be the weakest region of the non-wild card regions. While expansion of LMS teams at Worlds has gone from two to three, a welcomed sign for the region, it’s not as bright a note given the current teams being fielded.

Can the weird… flying… unicorn… horse thing of AHQ carry the team to one of the biggest upsets of the year against the two titans in Group A? Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Many pundits feel that AHQ is a fairly weak team, and particularly compared to Flash Wolves, is the easier opponent hailing from the LMS region. While an AHQ of yesterday, with a strong top lane in Chen “Ziv” Yi , might’ve posed a threat to the group of weak top side teams, it’s not as big a factor anymore. As the analysts noted, Ziv has not looked as strong as he has in the past. More importantly, the mid lane question mark for AHQ is whether to play weaker Liu “Westdoor” Shu-Wei who synergizes better with jungler Xue “Mountain” Zhao-Hong, or stronger mechanics but weaker synergy in Wong “Chawy” Xing. SKT and EDG are teams that play around their star mid laners, and to have a position of almost a lose-lose scenario of options to field in that vital role, it’s hard to see them coming out ahead.

While longtime Chou “AN” Chun-An and Kang “Albis” Chia-Wei in the bot lane might bring some stability to the roster, it’s difficult to say whether they’d be able to make any real threats against the likes of Bang/Wolf or even iBoy/Meiko. AHQ look like a team that, truthfully, doesn’t have a real edge in any position over their (confirmed) group opponents. While that doesn’t mean they can’t win, their lack of clear, concise team play doesn’t assure a “team play > mechanics” style of winning either. It’s hard to see the team making a real dent in the gargantuan teams of SKT or EDG here, but we’ve seen before that the LMS region can pull some real dark horse prowess on opponents who may not give them the credit they are due.

 

The X factor: Chawy/Westdoor and Ziv

Ziv is one of the old faces of the LMS, and it’ll be on his shoulders to try and create an advantage for his team to work off of. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Group A is a group of strong mid laners, and that’s something that cannot be said for AHQ. The rotating mid lane of Westdoor, who has the weaker mechanics but better jungle synergy, and Chawy, the newer, stronger, but less synergized mid laner, is the biggest hurdle for AHQ. They need to make the proper decision, either trusting Mountain and Westdoor’s ability to work together, or Chawy’s individual prowess, when facing up against some of the strongest mids at Worlds. 

Ziv is the rare situation in the group up until now: he’s a steady top laner for a team. Another long term member of the club, his performance has not be the most impressive, and it’s questionable on whether he would even be able to match up well into either Mouse or Huni/Untara. But if he can, if he can become the strong point of AHQ, he’s in the group of his life to upset. While the mid lane is looking to be a fiery display of strong skill, the top lane is almost unanimously questionable on each roster. A strong showing from the top lane could be just the trick that AHQ needs to be memorable additions to Group A. Without it, there isn’t much in the way of hope for any particular position on the AHQ roster to have any clear advantage against their confirmed rivals of EDG and SKT. 

 

Overall story lines to follow

The big story line here is the mid lane, with Scout facing up against his old organization SKT, and Faker, looking across the rift to a player he once helped improve. Scout has improved considerably with EDG, and while a kind of High Ceiling Low Floor (i.e. can either do really well or really… not… well,) may be enough in a Bo1 series against SKT, it’ll still be questionable on whether he can truly make a god bleed. Faker, on the other hand, looks to reassert SKT’s position to the World, coming in with a lot of questions hanging over their head. If SKT can make quick work of a team like EDG and look comfortable doing so, they’ll remind everyone of why they are still one of the favorites to reclaim their title. If they struggle, if EDG instead are the ones standing atop the battle in the mid lane, SKT’s position in Worlds will be called further into question. And for EDG, the curse of performing not as hot in international tournaments can be fully put to rest. 

AHQ, on the other hand, are on the outside looking in for the group. They’re not really slated to do overly well, and it’s questionable if they can even make a dent against the two teams already pulled, let alone a possible third seed team. Their relevancy at the world stage will be tested, and while not even a gambling person would have them out to make it out of groups, taking a few wins will be imperative to give some sense of dignity going home for the team.

Overall comments

I know it sounds kind of lame, but I have to agree with the analysts on the group from the group draw. This is definitely EDG and SKT’s group to lose. What order that’ll be depends on which team can shore up their leaky top side, or which team can make enough plays around the mid to bottom half to make up for it. That’ll decide who takes the first seed, and while many would be safe in saying SKT has that all but locked up, I’d caution against counting EDG out of that contest.

However, AHQ are a team that many still feel shouldn’t even necessarily be here. The LMS region, while still upset-able, are not necessarily that strong of a region in recent times. EDG historically face up well against AHQ, and SKT, not facing Flash Wolves, should be able to dismantle the LMS representatives fairly easily.

The third spot, as discussed by Jatt, has the potential (note: this is highly speculative so keep that in mind) to have either Fnatic or Cloud 9 in it. While both teams, particularly Cloud 9, seem slightly more assured in the top lane, it’s hard to hold the rest of the roster as showing much potential to upset for a second place slot. They can each bring damage to the records of both, and honestly could be the decider for the top seed teams, but their shots to make it out of groups are thoroughly suspicious. It’s just hard to imagine the two titans in EDG and SKT falling victim to a third place team from the West. But crazier things have happened. 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

Courtesy of LoL Esports.

Counter Logic Gaming’s OmarGod : “I was pretty satisfied with the Series, but there was still a hole in my heart that we should’ve played like this against Immortals.”

With a decisive win over Dignitas, CLG place their sights firmly on the Gauntlet to try and make their way into Worlds. While the 3rd place game wasn’t overly consequential in the grand scheme of things, as both Dignitas and CLG had secured at least making it into Gauntlet, the series was still imperative for both rosters, who had just recently suffered tough losses in the semi finals.

Bouncing back from a tough loss against Immortals, ultimately knocking them into the 3rd placement games, OmarGod talks about his feelings on the series, maturing as a Jungler and as a player, and gives a little insight into life going from CLG.Black to the main squad.

 

Transcript

Jared: So, my name’s Jared, I’m with the Game Haus and Omar, after a… we’ll call it a very dominant 3-0, it was really impressive. So, how are you feeling? IT’s been a couple of interviews in so…

Omar: I feel pretty satisfied with how it went, but there’s still this hole in my heart that we should’ve played like this last week against Immortals. We’ve should’ve been to the finals. I guess it’s ok winning the third/fourth place match, but I’m not too happy about it. For me, it’s just like nice.

Jared: Kind of my first question was, it was kind of my first time getting to know you as a player, your first game when you were promoted to CLG. They interviewed you, and it was a very emotional interview for you, it was very passionate… I think it really showed your character. I was wondering, does that passion, does that kind of emotion come out in your gameplay, is that something you find fueling you, or are you more cool and calm type thing?

Omar: No, I don’t think I have that passion, that emotion, anymore. [laugh]

Jared: It was in the moment?

Omar: It was only in the first day, I just super happy, I’ve never felt like that way before. I didn’t even know I was tearing up. But definitely, being cool, calm, and collected is the way to play.

Jared: So my next question, you know, I think it was a little prophetic when CLG picked you guys out of the scouting grounds, and they formed CLG.Black and that became this academy team before Franchising was like, ‘ohh everyone is going to have academy teams.’ With that, there was that commitment to you guys, with that really rough series against Toronto Esports, that’s in the past. I’m curious though, how was that kind of process for CLG, how was being on CLG. Black, did they help you coach, getting used to being in the team environment?

Omar: Yea, being in CLG.Black was definitely a huge help. Before joining the main team, CLG.Blakc was my first real team in a real gaming house. It was kind of my trial, I made a lot of mistakes as a player, and as a team player esepcially. They’ve helped me grow as a person, they’ve helped shape who I am today. I’m really happy to have played on CLG.Black. The management and staff made sure that all the players will develop as players, first and also as human beings and their attitudes afterwards. I’m really happy with how CLG managed me development, and I’m proud of what I’ve become today and how I played today.

Jared: The last question before I let you go, I think you’ve probably been asked about the intergration between going from CLG.Black to the main squad, was there anyone who in particular on the roster who helped you or coached you from that training where you were helping to develop, where you’re now on the big stage now.

Omar: The LCS team, compared to the Black team, was a completely different level. Being on an LCS team, everyone had to help me, everyone helped me learn. When Josh [“Dardoch” Hartnett] was on the team, he was helping me learn too. I guess, I looked up to… if I had to choose players I looked up to, I looked up to [Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black] and Darshan [“Darshan” Upadhyaha].

They’re the veterans, they’re the leaders of the team and the way they handle they handle themselves and carry themselves around is charismatic and confident. As a rookie coming, I was able to place my trust in the veterans of the team to kind of bring me up to where I am today.

Jared: Awesome, thank you very much, I will let you go after a couple of interviews before us.

Omar: No problem.

Jared: Thank you again for taking the time!

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

Photo and video by ‘The Game Haus’ Patrick Mcd

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

Introduction: “This is where we make history.”

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

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

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

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

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

Game 1 to 3: Ask me about my macro boys

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game Four: The game that history won’t forget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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NA LCS 3rd Place Series: CLG’s Redemption or Dignitas’ Ascension?

Warning: Spoilers

Walking to the TD Gardens for the NA LCS 3rd Place Series feels surreal. As a Canadian, the TD Gardens, and the Boston Bruins, are familiar names, even to someone who admittedly knows very little about hockey. But today, it’s a different black and yellow jersey that takes to the stage: Dignitas. Across from them sit one of the oldest names in League of Legends history, Counter Logic Gaming. A rollercoaster of a team, standing before the scrappy underdogs of the regular split, Dignitas.

As is par for the course, EU LCS goes first. The NA LCS fans eagerly await for their own 3/4th place games to begin. But the crowd isn’t silent, as the fans slowly filter in, the audience comes alive, cheering on their fellow western league in a riveting series. As the series wraps up, the crowd grows bigger and louder.

One wouldn’t be too hard pressed to imagine that CLG, with it’s longer continuous history in the league, would win the jersey war, but Dignitas’s new and old fans are out in force, as an equal amount of yellow and black are in the crowd as the many colors of CLG jersey’s.

The stadium may not be full, but the eruption from the crowd fills the TD Gardens. As the roar dims slightly, James “Dash” Patterson, saluting the local storied sports franchises in the Bruins and the Celtics, is met with a deafening reply.

Dignitas is the first team to be introduced, and as the yellow and black walk up to the stadium, the crowd is alive. The obvious fan favorite Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho unsurprisingly receives the loudest cheers, but the notorious Double A bot lane are no strangers to the crowd.

The loveable Ssumday. Courtesy of LoL Esports Flikr.

As David “Cop” Robertson, the ever stylish coach for Dignitas, is finished being introduced, Counter Logic Gaming enter the fray. The Pocket Pick Prone mid laner Choi “HuHi” Jae-hyun receives a lot of love, rocking the black hair again. The “B Tier” ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes is met with similar fanfare, but the star Support Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black steals the show.

The games begin, with Game 1 a testament to the series. Everyone is locked onto the screen, and as if we were watching the LPL instead, the opening minutes are action packed, with CLG’s Omar and Darshan creating a very strange, yet favorable, top side engagement. The composition is all out aggression. CLG are like a train and DIG quickly become someone strapped to the tracks, as none stop, in your face engagements from CLG pummel the caster voted favorites of the series.  

It’s a statement game from CLG: We are not the team who almost lost to EnVyUs. We are not the team who lost to Immortals handily. They looked confident, they looked on the same page. And most importantly, they didn’t give up the lead.

If Game 1 felt like a statement from CLG, Game 2 was the exclamation mark. CLG again came out of the gates swinging, securing another first blood, this time before the minions even spawned. CLG’s composition, similar to Game 1, are a non-stop aggression of multiple skirmishes and engages going their way. Aphromoo’s Rakan is a tyrant on the Rift, and Dignitas are left dancing to the beat that CLG is playing. Game 2 is almost handed to CLG by the 15 minute mark, and the score goes 2-0 in favor of CLG.

Dignitas look reactive and lost. Some questionable macro plays, and honestly some very unlucky plays, have the underdogs looking like a different roster than the upstarts who took down Cloud 9 no more than a few games back.

Counter Logic Gaming, on the other side of the Rift, look entirely different from their near loss to EnVyUs. They look like a team with a purpose, a team with a concrete win condition, and honestly, a team that understands their identity.

New Hair, New CLG. Aphromoo was a consistent terror throughout the series for CLG.

Huhi drew a consistent two bans to non-meta champions each game. Vel Koz and Aurlion Sol are too much to give away to the once criticized Huhi. Darshan, too, was too much of a threat in the series, and banning champions against him would’ve been useless: he looked strong on three separate champs.

Game three starts, and everyone in the stadium is tense. CLG’s no stranger to being reverse swept, but Dignitas desperately need to shore up some of their shortcomings if they want to stay alive in the series. As the Pick and Bans come to a close, the crowd loses their mind upon seeing the Jax locked in for ZionSpartan– I mean, Darshan. The aggression, and identity, of CLG in this series carries on.

CLG secures the first blood again, off of a counter invade from CLG, Stixxay, on the Tristana, instantly rocket jumping in for the kill. The communication and confidence from CLG is astounding, and Dignitas are again knocked off balance in the opening minutes of play. Fate seems cruel to Dignitas, as multiple occasions a cocoon out of Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon barely misses and CLG narrowly escaping with flashing health bars. This was unfortunate to the many good macro plays out of Dignitas.

A great play from Ssumday’s Jarvan, ultimately resulting in a 4 for 5 trade for a very behind Dignitas, breathes some life back into the game, but ultimately CLG’s pressure and control over the map wins out. While the game’s results aren’t overly impactful for either team, both having secured the gauntlet already, just fighting over who would face FlyQuest and who would wait for the results of that.

If there is one way to summarize the series overall, it’s that CLG looked almost like an LPL squad. If there was a chance to fight, a chance to throw down, CLG were there. Even though the games felt short, they were bloody. They didn’t look like the CLG of the EnVyUs or Immortals series. They looked decisive, confident, in the face of competition many had heavily favored going into their confrontation.

Top Side Synergy. Courtesy of LoL Esports Flikr.

Dignitas, bloodied but not broken, are looking to prove themselves to not just be upstarts, but real contenders to represent NA at Worlds. They’ll have to go through FlyQuest first, and then face off against first CLG in the second round of the gauntlet, and Cloud 9 as the final boss. Dignitas have to pull a CLG in this series, coming back from a tough loss stronger for it.

It was the story of redemption for the top side of CLG that dominated the narrative though. Darshan hasn’t seemed as strong in the post-split push centric metas, and Omargod was promoted trying to fill the big shoes left by Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett. This series, though, showed that both are still starter material. The real crucible for these two teams will be the gauntlet, and whether they can perform there and possibly at Worlds.

For Dignitas, it’s a hard pill to swallow. Their win over Cloud 9 started the giant slayer narrative, but ultimately against CLG it was difficult to find much silver lining. Still, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho’s performance, even when behind, was of the caliber one would expect. Dignitas need to review the VODs, reflect on their early game, and ultimately shore up some of the micro, mechanical errors that cost them compounding issues throughout the series.\

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Ranking the biggest events in esports

In honor of it being the week of the International, I wanted to discuss the events that have helped legitimize esports. From DOTA to League, all the way to fighting games and Counter-Strike, each game has pushed the scene forward with events that not only grab the attention of esports fans, but even more importantly the general public.

The five events mentioned below have all played an important role in building up their respective scenes. They have not only been great for publicity but have also made careers in esports a reality. They have partially changed the communities in which these events take place. Here are the five most essential events today.

5. Call of Duty World Championships

Activision has made serious strides into making Call of Duty a premiere title within the esports landscape. The creation of the Call of Duty Championship, with prize pools over $1 million, along with the creation of Call of Duty World League, is the support this game needed.

It’s not only given fans more to watch each weekend but also gives them a reason to follow along as the season moves closer to the World Championship. In a short time, Call of Duty has become the premier console shooter and it’s thanks to this.

4. ESL CS:GO

Counter-Strike is different than the other esports. The scene doesn’t have one championship event that takes priority over the others. It’s an open landscape with many different events that offer plenty of payouts.

However, there’s one league that consistently puts together the most competitive and prestigious events. ESL has always been a major contributor to Counter-Strike dating back to 1.6, but in Global Offensive they’ve stepped up significantly. The one other event to rival ESL is Turner’s ELEAGUE which brought in a million unique viewers on Twitch alone.

For this reason, I have to mention Counter-Strike in this discussion. While it doesn’t have a keystone tournament like The International or Evo, the largest events in CS surpass any other event in terms of general interest. ESL is a great example of this, but there’s plenty of other tournaments that also take precedent in this argument.

3. League of Legends – Worlds

League of Legends wasn’t the first game to popularize the esports age, but it’s mostly responsible for the boom in popularity since the creation of the League Championship Series. The LCS has been a major success, in terms of growing esports, and has kept players interested in the game since release.

Continually, the League of Legends season culminates into the World Championships, a month long tournament that brings together all the regional champions. League is essentially the only title currently that has a system that funnels into a championship event. 15 days of competition while a litany of the best teams compete for millions in prizes on the big stage of Madison Square Garden and other stadiums.

2. Evo

By the same token, no other event comes close to the history of the Evolution series. Dating back to 1996, Evo has been the linchpin for all the growth in the fighting game community. Evo has single handily brought the underground community into the Mandalay Bay Stadium.

It’s hard to say that any other event matches the intensity that Evo cultivates. Once a player gets on that grand stage, it’s almost a guarantee that something amazing will follow. It’s also the one event that doesn’t require any knowledge coming in because of the simplicity of fighting games. Anyone can enjoy it and more importantly, anyone can feel the hype generated from the world’s most prestigious fighting game tournament.

In spite of the fact that Evo has a significantly lower prize pool than these other events, it’s still considered by many to be the most meaningful tournament for the players. Coupled with the history, an Evo trophy means something more than just a check. It’s a chance to cement a legacy as one of the greats.

The International 7. Photo courtesy of GosuGamers

1. The International

Finally, we reach The International. It’s an event responsible for bringing in a new generation of esports fans. It not only has the highest prize pool in esports, but in a short time has become the most sought after trophy in the entire scene.

It’s a life changing event. The rush of playing for millions of dollars amps up the intensity levels. Even as a fan, the adrenaline begins to pump. It’s a wild ride from start to finish, and not one event has been a let down in seven years. Valve’s responsible for making it an event in every sense of the word. It’s no longer just a DOTA tournament, it’s a happening in the Seattle area.


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Playoffs

NA LCS Playoffs team breakdown

It’s time for that special time of the year. Where every team puts it all on the line for the championship. Teams have finally finished the battle of the summer split and have either qualified or fallen short of a playoff berth. The teams that have qualified each have a chance to take home the trophy as this playoff tournament shapes up to be the most competitive in recent history. This year a team that has never won may claim the title of NA LCS champion.

 

I’ll speak to each team’s recent results and the matchup they’ll have, then I’ll highlight both one key strength and one key weakness for each team.

 

Team NV

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

Team NV has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the sixth seed. They will be facing CLG in the quarter finals on the 19th. Though Team NV is the lowest seed, and coming off of an 0-4 run they shouldn’t be discounted. Team NV earlier in the season have proven they can take a series win off of top tier teams such as C9, DIG, and IMT.

 

Strength

Team NV’s clear strength comes from the jungle. Lira has been a dominant force for team NV since he joined the team last split. Despite finishing as a 10th place team Lira was voted as All NA LCS first team jungler. This year he has proved his dominance with 71% KP and strong performances on Elise, Lee Sin, and Nidalee. A great recent example being game 2 versus TSM in week 8.

 

Weakness

NV’s biggest weakness is their top laner Seraph. With a combined score in week 9 of 2-25-10 Seraph is clearly the weak link on NV. With a solid mid and bot lane, it seems as if Lira needs to babysit Seraph in order to prevent the opponent from snowballing. He is sitting on an abysmal 2.31 KDA across the season and has the highest deaths of any top laner in the league.

 

Team Dignitas

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

DIG has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the fifth seed. They will be facing C9 in the quarter finals on the 20th. They are coming off a 3-1 last two weeks with only a close loss to CLG dampening their final few games. With plenty of momentum and thoughts of the mid-season slump long behind them DIG looks good going into the quarters.

 

Strengths

Team DIG’s strength is certainly their top laner Ssumday.  His wide champion pool featured 16 unique champions this split featuring tanks, fighters, and even the occasional marksman. Ssumday is the backbone of DIG and has carried more than his fair share of games for DIG

 

Weakness

In that strength, there is a weakness. Ssumday is easily targeted for frequent ganks and roams, because DIG love to play through him. When that’s the case, and the other laners aren’t able to generate leads despite DIG losses. This was the issue in the mid-season, DIG’s bot lane wasn’t able to hold their own without constant jungle pressure, but with the addition of Altec and Adrian, the team has found much more success.

 

Cloud 9

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

C9 has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the fourth seed. They will be facing DIG in the quarter finals on the 20th. They are coming off an easy last two weeks going 4-0, playing only one other playoff team, NV. This will have only built their confidence and given them opportunity to work on their team play. C9 has a long history of deep playoff runs and there is lots of experience on the roster of high pressure games.

 

Strength

Jensen’s midlane play has been next level since week two. Despite struggling in the beginning and middle of the season as a team Cloud 9’s midlaner has been putting up some incredible numbers. He broke the split record for kills, a record he already held. He has a disgusting 8.70 KDA across the split and has five champions with KDA averages 6+.

 

Weakness

Despite Jensen’s strong performance, Cloud 9 has, at times, seemed lost. Cloud 9’s macro play has not matched their micro. Some games the communication just isn’t there. Either Contractz will gank late or early and they will trade one for one when it could have been a clean gank, or they will lose a fight and surrender an objective while they’re 2k gold up in the mid game.

 

Counter Logic Gaming

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

CLG has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the third seed. They will be facing NV in the quarter finals on the 19th. They are coming off of a 2-2 last two weeks, with an upset from P1 in week 8 and a rough loss to rivals TSM to wrap up their split. They’ll be looking to seek vengeance on their longtime rivals and seek retribution for being upset in last split’s quarter final’s series against Flyquest.

 

Strength

The CLG bottom lane has been a rock for them this split. Both Stixxay and Aphromoo have had great splits. Stixxay has showed competence on a wide range of ADCs, pulling out nine unique champions this split with an impressive 4.33 KDA. Aphromoo, while maybe not in peak performance, is still having a great split. CLG is able to rely on their bot lane duo to either play well and stay even as a weak side, or focus resources to them and have them carry games.

 

Weakness

They’ve elected in their final weeks to replace their jungler with a rookie. While it may help in the long run, there has been signs of a lack of communication from the rookie. Their loss to P1 is an example of this. In game 2 Omargod looked lost on Elise, unable to engage or gank successfully at any point in the game and the team just fell apart in the mid game. This isn’t to say that Omargod is a bad player, only that he lacks the experience on stage to be consistent and that will hurt CLG’s chances in playoffs.

 

 

Immortals

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

Immortals rounded out the split with a 3-1 record in the final two weeks. The loss they did suffer was to DIG. This doesn’t bode well headed into the playoffs, but with a bye they won’t have to face anyone until the semis. Immortals has a lot to prove in this season’s playoffs, having had a rough history in the post season and look to make their first worlds appearance.

 

Strength

Immortal’s strength lies with two players, both in contention for MVP this season. Xmithie in the jungle and Olleh their support. Each player has found a way to control their part of the map, both with vision and pressure. Olleh has really stepped up this year and improved. His laning phase is much better, providing both pressure for Cody Sun and roaming mid for Pobelter. Xmithie has found his stride on IMT after leaving CLG. He plays with a lot of confidence and often chokes out the enemy junglers with invades and frequent ganks.

 

Weakness

Immortals main weakness is their inability to hold onto early game leads against top teams. For example against DIG in game 1 week 8 IMT had an early lead, yet were unable to push that lead to a victory. Same thing happened against TSM in week five. In game one IMT came out to an early lead, yet were unable to stop giving up objectives and going even or less one kill in team fights until eventually they lost their lead and the game.

 

Team Solo Mid

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

TSM has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the first seed and have a bye into the semifinals. They have taken a clean 4-0 in the final two weeks with a big win over CLG. TSM has a lot of experience with this roster, and a lot of experience in high pressure games. They’ve yet to miss an NA LCS finals match, and expect to find themselves in the finals this year.

 

Strength

Their strength is certainly their individual play. Each player as an individual has great play. Bjergsen is always arguably, if not definitively, the best midlaner in NA and this split has been no different. The same can be said for Doublelift in the ADC role. Hauntzer has played a great split as well as Sven and Biofrost. Each player as an individual has made great plays.

 

Weakness

When TSM losses, it’s because of team play. When TSM’s team play is on point, domestically they are unbeatable. Take their series in week seven against DIG for an example. A botched team fight in game one at around the ten minute mark lost them their gold lead and led to DIG getting first tower and a cloud drake. If they are all focused together they are unstoppable, but have shown that their team play and macro isn’t as consistent as their individual play.

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Seed

NA LCS playoff seed possibilities

The summer split for NA LCS has been tumultuous. Every week has been a fierce battle for a top spot. At no point has there been a clearly defined best team. Throughout the season we’ve seen bottom of the standings teams upset teams at the top, even as recently as Sunday when P1 pulled out a win over CLG. Now, with only a week left to play, teams fight for a playoff seed.

The teams making playoffs are locked in, but seeds are not. Playoff contenders are as follows: IMT, TSM, CLG, DIG, C9 and NV. IMT and TSM share first, CLG has sole possession of third, DIG and C9 share fourth and NV rounds us out in sixth. It comes down to the final three days of the summer split to determine who will be seeded where in the playoffs.

First Seed

Seed

Photo Via Lol esports

TSM and IMT are the two teams that seem most likely to grab the top seed. They are both sitting at a 12-4 record heading into the final week. IMT has the best chance of going 2-0 this weekend, squaring off against sixth place NV and seventh place Echo Fox. TSM faces P1, who is tied for eighth and last place, but they also face off against CLG. The rivalry matches between TSM and CLG have always been volatile and could easily go either way. A TSM loss would put IMT in the top spot.

To make things interesting, the head to head between IMT and TSM is even, each team having taken a series win against the other. This means if both TSM and IMT go 2-0 this week, the tie will go to game wins and losses. TSM is currently winning in terms of game wins and losses, sitting at 26-11 compared to IMT’s 26-15. If both teams go 2-0 then TSM will take the first seed.

Being first and second in the NA LCS is extremely advantageous. Teams get a bye into the semifinals and as a result, the lowest possible placement in fourth place. In terms of Championship Points the value of a playoff bye is unrivaled. However, teams aren’t going into the post season aiming for fourth place.

 

Second Seed

Seed

Photo Via Lol esports

The difference between a first place seed and a second place seed is bigger than it may appear. The first place team will face the lowest ranked team in the semis while the second place will face the higher. This means that whoever gets first place cannot face the third place team. With the third place team likely being CLG, IMT and TSM will be scrambling to secure the first place spot to avoid playing CLG in the semis and play either C9, DIG or NV.

In the event that TSM loses to CLG then the series will be tied in a head to head. The difference will again go to game win/loss. If TSM wins 2-1 over P1, and CLG 2-0s both DIG and TSM, then TSM will be 28-14 and CLG will be 29-16. The win loss ratio being barely in TSM’s favor. In order to place second CLG will have to win out against DIG and TSM and hope that TSM or IMT loses out.

Third Seed

Seed

Photo Via Lol esports

Short of that CLG will be placed third and have to face off against NV. That is unless NV wins out and either DIG or C9 loses out. Either way CLG wants to secure the third place spot to avoid playing a higher ranked team. Unfortunately they’re only one game up on C9 and DIG and face DIG in a head to head tomorrow. If they lose, DIG will be 2-0 in the head to head and secure the third place spot with a win over TL on Sunday. CLG could end up anywhere between first and fifth, because if both IMT and TSM lose out CLG would be first if they win out.

The rest of the teams will fall where they may. C9 and DIG could each end up as high as third, but cannot qualify for a bye spot. NV can only finish as high as fourth. The parity of the NA LCS has been exciting all split, but now it is culminating in the final week to determine the seeding. The playoffs should be exciting as well with how close the teams are.

 

Week nine has a lot of possible outcomes and a lot of story-lines to follow, and every game counts. The NA LCS is delivering in an exciting way.

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Rookie

Who Deserves NA LCS Rookie of the Split?

With the NA LCS summer split drawing to a close, all eyes are looking towards the playoffs and beyond. Many players battle for a position to claim the MVP trophy. However, there’s another award that needs to be given out: Rookie of the Split, and there are some interesting candidates.

This year, around mid-split, the choice seemed obvious. P1’s MikeYeung was tearing up the rift and was snatching victories for the winless team. He has been generating kills, map pressure, and bringing life back into the crestfallen squad. However, after returning from an extremely successful Rift Rivals, P1 has only had a single win as MikeYeung and company look lackluster.

On top of that, other rookies have entered the scene. NV’s midlaner Nisqy, who has shared time on the rift with Pirean looks solid. CLG brought in Omargod from their challenger squad replacing Dardoch. Now with P1 on another disastrous losing streak and two more potentials for the title, Rookie of the Split is again up in the air.

MikeYeung

Rookie

Photo Via Lolesports

One thing that cannot be denied is that winning or losing MikeYeung is fun to watch. His Nidalee is explosive and punishing. He has an 8.25 KDA while playing Nidalee and 7 wins to 1 loss. His jungle control on that champion and his ability to make plays is undeniable. The problem is recently MikeYeung has been put on other champions such as Gragas, Reksai, or Lee Sin. His second highest win rate champion is Elise with %40.

He also has %74 kill participation throughout his time on P1. This shows that he is definitely still generating plays on the map and creating kills for his team. This as well as how the games have turned out shows that P1 as a team struggles to close out games. MikeYeung plays a great early game and has good map play, but P1 struggles in the mid and late game. Though he was a shoe in for Rookie of the Split earlier on, he doesn’t seem as deserving of the title now. He did manage to edge out the win against CLG despite a tragic game 1. However, the long losing streak still stretches out behind him. In order to really make a push for the title he’ll have to really impress in the final week.

Nisqy

Rookie

Photo Via Lolesports

Nisqy has played a quiet season. Coming in around the midseason mark and splitting time in the midlane with Pirean. That said he has a 6.09 KDA on Syndra with 5 wins to 2 losses and an astounding 12.49 KDA on Tailyah with 3 wins to 3 losses. He plays a solid game, no outstanding plays, but also certainly not holding his team back.

As for highlights Nisqy lead NV alongside Lira to 2-0 win against Cloud 9, and NV look to play in the playoffs. Nisqy hasn’t quite made the impact on NV that MikeYueng made on P1, but he also hasn’t dropped off either. NV is still definitely the Lira show, but Nisqy knows his roll and plays it well. He has taken over the Mid position full time, but hasn’t elevated NV to the next level of play. He played well yesterday against Bjergsen, but still felt overshadowed by Lira.

If NV want to make a playoff run Nisqy is going to have to take it to another level. If he can show that in the last week of play, you better watch out.

Omargod

Rookie

Photo Via Lolesports

Omargod has stepped onto the NALCS stage late. His bid for Rookie of the Split was immediately considered after he came out with a perfect KDA in his first match against Flyquest. Though he struggled in his second game on stage he had a good showing against IMT. However, he looked lost against P1 in games two and three despite and outstanding performance in the first game.

Omargod shows a lot of promise and now a lot of pressure rests on his shoulders. He is the only jungler for CLG, who is in position to be first in the league. He has meshed well with the rest of the team and has already shown proficiency on both tank junglers and damage junglers.

The real test will be how he can perform against DIG and TSM in the final week. He’ll have to learn to play on stage and with the team in a very short period of time. If he can learn to be successful when the pressure is on, especially in a rivalry like CLG vs TSM with the bye seed on the line, he is more than qualified for Rookie of the Split.

Rookie of the Split

Rookie

Photo Via Lolesports

As of now it doesn’t feel like anyone deserves the title. In years past the rookie of the split has been incredibly impactful and has really made a positive difference on their team. For example last split C9 Contractz won Rookie of the Split. He was an incredibly aggressive and playmaking jungler that lead C9 to a lot of wins. Before him TSM Biofrost won Rookie of the Split. He had an incredible split, winning NALCS and going to worlds in his first split. Before him was Dardoch who had great mechanics and playmaking ability in the jungle.

Now it feels like none of the current rookies have nearly the same impact as any of the previous winners did. There may be an argument that none of the players deserve the title of Rookie of the Split.

Nisqy really needs to elevate his level of play to become more impactful for his team if he is to be considered worthy of Rookie of the Split. He is solid, but doesn’t show the level of initiative and ability to control the game as some other players have in the past. His stats are great, but NV wins and losses by Lira, and I think to take the Rookie of the Split a player should be more effective on the rift.

As for MikeYeung he looked true to form against CLG after game one, and even picked up his first win on Gragas. If he wants to reclaim his status of Mike “Rookie of the Split” Yeung then he will have to have impressive performances against TSM and Flyquest and continue to find success on champions other than Nidalee.

Omargod looked good before the final two games against P1. His Maokai was the key to CLG’s early game and he choked out MikeYeung. However, losing the set to his direct competitor definitely hurt his chances. He’s going to have to really impress against DIG and TSM next week if he wants a chance to claim the title. Omargod has high highs and low lows. If he can find some semblance of consistency in this last week there is a possibility he can take the title of Rookie of the Split.

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Season four

Season four changes

Three, two, one, go!

Season four of the Rocket League Championship Series kicks off in just a few short weeks. Registration ends August 8, and open qualifiers begin August 12 and 13 for North America and Europe respectively.

Psyonix announced some important new changes to format and qualification, in regards to season four and five. These changes will make Rocket League, as an esport, more accessible to new and long-time viewers.

If you haven’t seen the changes yet, here’s what is happening with NA and EU and why the changes are important. Psyonix has yet to announce information regarding Oceania.

Rocket League Rival Series

Season four

Image courtesy of rocketleague.com

The Rocket League Rival Series, a second, lower division, makes its debut in season four. This division effectively doubles the number of teams competing. The RLCS and RLRS each feature eight teams per NA and EU regions, raising the total to 32 teams.

Twitch, official partner of the RLCS, will continue to stream RLCS matches on Saturdays and Sundays. RLRS matches will take place on Fridays.

The benefit to fans here should be obvious: more Rocket League for everyone.

Auto-qualification, Promotion/Relegation

Perhaps one of the most difficult things for esports fans to keep up with season to season is rapidly changing team compositions. However, some esports are taking measures to limit or discourage this.

For example, Riot Games is moving away from a promotion/relegation system, opting instead to franchise the North American League of Legends Championship Series. The goal is to have permanent partners in the form of professional gaming organizations.

Season four

Image courtesy of steamcardexchange.net

Psyonix, on the other hand, implemented a promotion relegation system into the season four and five format. Instead of permanent partners, a promotion/relegation system focuses on roster consistency.

Psyonix tested this system in season three, relegating five auto-qualification spots for season four. The top two teams from both NA and EU, after the season three regional championships, auto-qualified for season four. These teams include NRG and Rogue for NA and Flipsid3 Tactics and Mock-It for EU. As the current world champions, Team EnVyUs, formerly Northern Gaming, won the fifth auto-qualification spot.

There are two stipulations for retaining auto-qualification: teams must retain two-thirds of their starting roster and they must abide by league rules. Mock-It lost auto-qualification due to not retaining two-thirds of their starting roster.

In a promotion/relegation format, a team’s organization doesn’t affect their auto-qualification.

The RLCS announced they will be expanding this format in the coming seasons. Here’s how the promotion/relegation system looks moving forward.

RLCS

Twelve season five spots are up for grabs during season four. The six teams that make it to the regional championships in each region auto-qualify for season five.

Four teams in each region will battle for the remaining RLCS slots in a promotion/relegation tournament, set to take place between the regional and world championships. The bottom two teams from the RLCS and the top two teams from the RLRS will compete in a double elimination tournament to determine who qualifies for the remaining RLCS slots in season 5.

RLRS

Four teams in each region will auto-qualify for the RLRS division of season five. The bottom two teams from each region’s promotion/relegation tournament, along with the third and fourth place teams receive auto-qualification.

Benefit

There’s a huge benefit to viewers when it comes to a promotion/relegation format. Teams are encouraged to stick together due to the two-thirds roster requirement for auto-qualification. This allows viewers to truly become fans of teams, knowing that the chance of the team entirely splitting up after the season isn’t as high.

Season four

Image courtesy of rocketleague.com

Along with seeing more stability in top level rosters, we will also have the chance to see the rise of new teams. Four RLRS slots in each region, beginning in season five, go to teams competing in open-qualifiers.

The new format provides some roster stability, while at the same time still offering up and comers an opportunity to break into the professional scene through RLRS open qualifiers.

A franchise system such as the one the NA LCS is working on implementing would be closest to a traditional sport. That being said, the additional stability under the promotion/relegation system should still make Rocket League even more appealing to traditional sports fans than it already is.

We’re one step closer to cementing Rocket League as a top-level esport.

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TSM

TSM takes the throne at Rift Rivals

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

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

Individual Level

TSM Rift Rivals

Photo via LoLesports Flickr

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

 

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

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

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

Map Play

 

TSM Rift Rivals

Photo via Lolesports Flickr

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

 

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

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

Team Fights

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

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

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

The Rest of the West

TSM Rift Rivals

Photo vai LoLesports Flickr

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

 

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

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


Cover Photo Via lolesports

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