NiP

NiP: The fall of giants

Ninjas in Pyjamas were once a legendary team and name in CS:GO. Unfortunately for them they are far from being legends, literally. They have failed to qualify for the last three majors, the last two being in the minor qualifiers. What went wrong?

Lack of proper leadership in-game

Richard “Xizt” Landström has never been the best IGL in the world, and pretty far from it in most people’s eyes. For years his approach to the game hasn’t changed. The only times that NiP has looked their best is either when everyone is hitting their shots or when their coach Björn “THREAT” Pers takes the IGL role. Both of these instances are very rare nowadays, especially the latter.

NiP

Photo by: hltv.org

Map vetoes have also been a very famous issue for this team. Xizt is known to pretty much pick and ban in the opponents’ favor. The most well known example of this issue is whenever NiP plays Cache. Aside from ESL One Cologne, NiP fail to win a map on Cache in almost every important matchup. FlipSid3 at Cologne 2016, Vega Squadron at the ELEAGUE Atlanta Main Qualifier and now PRiDE in the qualifiers for the EU Minor.

Not only is there these two issues, but from an outside point of view, Xizt doesn’t seem like the leader type. He doesn’t hype the team up as much as he should. While yes, you do have practically all your other teammates doing that aside from Fredrik “REZ” Sterner, not doing it yourself while being the IGL of the team isn’t a good sign.

A dying star and no compensation

Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund is seen as one of the greatest, if not the greatest player of CS:GO. But ever since a shift in the lurker meta, GTR, Spencer “Hiko” Martin and Vincent “Happy” Cervoni aren’t as important. GTR managed in 2016, but towards the end and into 2017 he dropped off into an abyss. Being one of the main reasons that NiP could even close out rounds due to his clutches, NiP lost the ability to win the rounds late.

Losing GTR in-game happened to be a huge blunder for the team, with only Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg consistently performing. It’s very hit or miss if William “draken” Sundin shows up on the server as well, and he’s also a huge part of any wins that this team will get. Xizt is also very inconsistent due to the IGL role. When taken away during the time that THREAT was calling, he was able to perform well without the pressure of shot-calling. REZ has also been mediocre since joining the squad, and it doesn’t look like much is changing.

There are very obvious flaws in this team, and unfortunately for NiP, fixing them is the hard part. Replacing a player isn’t always easy, especially when Sweden lacks any insane talent worth picking up that’s not already on fnatic or GODSENT.

Featured image via hltv.org.

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H2K played below expectations in summer split

Reflecting on mid-season EU LCS expectations for Summer Split

On June 1, 2017, the first day of the EU LCS Summer Split, I articulated my expectations heading into the second half of the year. There were a lot of roster changes in between splits, which led to speculation about what shake-ups might occur before Worlds. I called out four of the ten teams that I thought had the best chance to define the landscape of the EU LCS. These would be the variables that shape their groups, depending on how they adapt to their new rosters and build off of Spring Split.

Like every split past, some teams performed to expectations, others did not. Some played up to a higher level, while other teams further fell. The big picture of the EU LCS remained fairly similar to spring, with the same top six teams qualifying for playoffs. However, the intra-group dynamics and individual team results are fairly different compared to expectations coming into this split.

G2

G2 played to expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: G2 dominated Spring Split: they only lost one best-of-three series out of thirteen. The Samurai went on to finish second place at Riot’s Mid-Season Invitational. No other team in Europe looked to be on par with G2 before the tournament, but MSI certainly quieted any dissent. With no roster or staff changes to speak of, G2 looks to remain at the top of the ranks. Their eyes will be on the world stage.

Recency bias will paint G2 as the undoubted best team in Europe. They added another LCS victory to their trophy case. The Samurai will be EU’s first seed representative at Worlds. By the end of playoffs it was clear that no one in the EU LCS could challenge G2 in a best-of-five.

But Summer Split was rocky at the start. G2 was 3-3 after five weeks, beating Roccat, Ninjas in Pyjamas and Mysterious Monkeys, but losing to Fnatic, Misfits and Unicorns of Love. Their game score was 9-7, far from dominant. G2 sat in third place in Group A. It was a trying time for fans who were hoping that the G2 from MSI would be back in Europe.

They did eventually ramp up to finish second in Group A, push through quarter and semifinals and take the finals. Perkz returned closer to his MSI form earlier in the year. Mithy stepped up to become a primary initiator for the team. Trick began to rise towards his past level, as well. While all of these players had low points during summer, the G2 line-up did eventually reinvigorate to pre-split expectations. No one could have predicted their early fumbles after a dominant Spring Split, MSI and no major changes to the roster and staff.

Fnatic and Misfits

FNC played above expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: Fnatic ultimately beat Misfits for third place in playoffs, beating them 3-0 in the best-of-five. Fnatic picked up a new coach, Dylan Falco. Misfits released their jungler, Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon, and acquired Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian. The effects of these changes do not appear to be drastic on the surface. Fnatic should be able to retain second place within Group A, putting Misfits third.

Both of these teams surprised analysts, but in different ways. Fnatic and Misfits followed slightly different trajectories throughout the Summer Split. Fnatic tore through the European competition, finishing the regular season 11-2, but faltered in the playoff semifinals. They pressed on by winning third place against H2K, and went on to win the EU LCS Regional Qualifier to make it to Worlds.

Misfits had strong showings during the LCS regular season, but never fully convinced the fans that they were a top contender. They finished with a 1-6 record against the top six teams and a 5-1 record against the bottom four teams. However, Misfits shifted gears in playoffs, knocking out Unicorns of Love and Fnatic to make it into the finals. They are the surprise second seed to represent Europe at this year’s World Championship.

Fnatic’s surge is not entirely surprising, but it could not necessarily be predicted. This is the same roster that tied Roccat for third place in Group A just a few months ago. Bringing on Dylan Falco, previously of Team Envy in North America, was the only major change to the roster, which was seen as questionable, at best. The veterans of the team, Soaz, Rekkles and Jesiz, approached their top performance levels. The sophomores, Broxah and Caps, showed their own prowess at various points in the split. Most of all, the synergy among these members was much more apparent than any other team in the league.

Misfits’ growth could be a bit more conceivable coming into the Summer Split. They did make a name for themselves in their inaugural Spring Split by placing fourth. Time in the mid-season should allow this new squad to build synergies and come back to the LCS even stronger. However, by switching out KaKAO for Maxlore, it was unclear how this might affect things. The team did cite communication issues as the primary purpose for the replacement, but Maxlore’s actual skill as a jungler did not appear to be much better or worse than KaKAO. Would Misfits’ communication improve enough to offset the synergy and possible skill loss of trading at all?

In the end, the answer must be “yes.” Ignar and Maxlore did develop a strong jungle-support relationship in the playoffs. Alphari and PowerofEvil were better at using laning advantages to rotate, split-push and teleport around the map. Hans sama proved his worth as an AD carry against Samux and Rekkles, both All-Pro this split. Viewers will have to wait and see how this team holds up against international competition at Worlds. Hopefully, Misfits’ peak is yet to come.

Unicorns of Love

UOL played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: Following a similar trajectory to G2, UOL finished the regular season 11-2. They did not drop a series to other members of Group B. UOL went on to finish second in the playoffs. Seeing as the top teams in Group B did not have any major roster updates in the off-season, the Unicorns should easily maintain their top position.

“Should” was the key word above. Just like G2, Unicorns finished at the top of their group and made it to the finals in Spring Split. They did not make any roster changes in the mid-season. Intuitively, UOL would continue to build off of their strengths coming into Summer Split and continue to be a dominant team in Europe.

But that did not necessarily happen. UOL began the season 6-1, including victories over G2, H2K and Misfits. They finished the last four weeks 3-3, including defeats to Roccat, Fnatic and Vitality. This fall-out culminated in UOL’s 3-0 loss to Misfits in the quarterfinals, and their 3-2 loss to H2K in the gauntlet.

Most critics would point to faulty draft strategies, mid lane instability, and failure to adapt to meta changes as UOL’s biggest problems. Exileh fell from third team All-Pro to seventh on Caps’ mid lane tier list. His performance issues, combined with Xerxe’s curve ball jungle picks, caused UOL to have difficulties drafting to be competitive. Exileh’s reliance on Talon and Vladmir shoehorned Vizicsacsi into a lot of AP top laners, instead of Jarvan IV, Gnar or Renekton.

Summer Split is a huge disappointment for the Unicorns. They continue their legacy of missing Worlds by losing in the gauntlet. All of these players have shown excellence on the Rift, but the limited in-game strategies and individual inconsistencies make it hard for this team to reach the next level. It will be interesting to see what changes happen in the off-season for UOL, if any.

H2K

H2K played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: Although playoffs were not pleasant for H2K, their regular season went well. They finished 10-3, losing twice to UOL and once to G2. H2K had not lost to any other team until Fnatic beat them 3-0 in the quarterfinals of playoffs. Only earning 10 Championship Points, H2K will need to perform at a much higher level to re-qualify for the World Championships.

H2K played about where most people expected them this season. They did finish at the top of Group B, but that was more due to Unicorns faltering than H2K scaling higher skill-wise. Febiven looked more refined than Spring Split, but the bottom lane, Nuclear in particular, proved less dominant in the new meta. Odoamne and Jankos showed glimpses of their top-tier play, but could not exhibit such talent consistently against other top teams.

Playoffs was almost more heart-breaking this split for H2K. G2 skunked the squad 3-0 in the semifinals, sending H2K into the gauntlet. Once there, they made it all the way to the finals, but lost 2-3 to Fnatic to miss the World Championship. The expectation was for H2K to grow in the mid-season to stand a chance of making it to Worlds. Unfortunately for them, that did not happen.

Mysterious Monkeys

MM played to expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: While EU Challenger teams have historically performed well in their first split of LCS, this roster’s talent is questionable compared to the others. They even lost their starting jungler. The Monkeys come into the split with low expectations, most likely ending the regular season in fifth for Group B.

As expected, Mysterious Monkeys did not have a successful Summer Split. They lost 23 of 28 regular season games, finishing with a 2-11 record. Ninjas in Pyjamas and Roccat were the only two teams they were able to take series from. Even after signing Kikis and Amazing as a top-jungle duo in week four, the Monkeys struggled to make much of an impact on the EU LCS. They did finish last in Group B, which forced them into the promotion tournament.

Although it is unclear how the reported LCS restructuring will affect European teams in 2018, Mysterious Monkeys did get “relegated” in the promotion tournament. They lost 2-3 to Schalke 04 in round one, and 0-3 to Ninjas in Pyjamas in round two. That is the ultimate proof that a team is not ready for the professional league. The Monkeys’ organization will most likely rebuild the roster in the off-season and come back next year with more experience.

Splyce

SPY played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: It is unclear what Gevous will add to Splyce. It is possible that a new coaching style may help bring Splyce’s members up to a new level. The players know they can play up to the same level as Unicorns or H2K. The anticipated meta shifts will probably help Splyce, as well. Tankier junglers with fast clears and impactful kits suit ‎Jonas “Trashy” Andersen, and  Martin “Wunder” Hansen generally looks more influential with damage-dealing split-pushers.

Firstly, Splyce let Gevous go around two months ago, with two weeks of the regular season, playoffs and the gauntlet remaining. He has yet to be replaced. That being said, it is difficult as a viewer to understand how much of an effect a coach has on a team. How much of Splyce’s shortcomings can be blamed on a lack of chemistry between the coach and the players? It is hard to parse apart.

It should be safe to say that Splyce will be disappointed when reflecting on this split. The organization’s power level in the LCS has effectively plateaued this year. Of course, Splyce has not had the same falling off as Origen. Splyce is still a playoff team, and they are clearly a step above Roccat and Vitality. They took G2 to an edgy five games in quarterfinals of playoffs. However, it has felt like a long time since fans and analysts held Splyce to the same esteem as their LCS debut.

Nothing about Splyce’s gameplay is horrible. Each lane is able to hold its own in the laning phase. They are able to contest objectives and commit to rotations. They are able to team-fight in the mid and late game. Splyce just is not the best at any of these gameplay elements. H2K and Fnatic will almost always get larger early game leads and close the game before Splyce can team-fight them. Unicorns of Love and G2 will almost always beat Splyce in a beefy brawl. The Serpents are the undoing of bottom four teams, just like Misfits, but they have been unable to break through the upper echelon of Europe.

Like Unicorns of Love, it will be interesting to see what happens to this roster in the off-season. Trashy seemed to be the most up-and-down player on the roster, thriving on Gragas and Ivern, but struggling on Elise and Rek’Sai. Mikyx was overshadowed by more proactive support players, but Wunder, Sencux and Kobbe have proven they can carry when needed. Each of Splyce’s players are capable of playing up to the best of Europe, and this roster has played together for two years. The coaching position will obviously need to be filled with someone who can unlock the potential of this squad, or who can make needed adjustments for the future.

Team Vitality

VIT played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: This is another team that looks to benefit from the upcoming metagame. Top laner, Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet, looked best as a split-pusher when Vitality finished the regular season in third place in Spring 2016. A more anchored bottom lane and pressured top lane could open Charly “Djoko” Guillard up to have more options in the jungle. Vitality could look to move up in Group B if they mesh properly and other teams show weakness.

Bringing on Vander was supposed to shore up Vitality’s glaring weaknesses in the support position in Spring Split. It did not. Vitality looked roughly the same as last split. Nukeduck put the team on his back almost every game. Cabochard did look a bit more like his former self while laning, but Vitality’s bottom lane and jungler could not hold up against the rest of the LCS. To make matters worse, H2K, Unicorns of Love and Splyce all showed serious weaknesses this split, which Vitality was unable to punish. It is no coincidence that three members of Group A are attending Worlds as Europe’s representatives.

Vitality finished with a 12-17 game score. They only took one point off of a top six team (UOL), but won all series against MM, NiP and Roccat. Vitality will need to make serious changes coming into the LCS in 2018. They are simply not an exciting team. Replacing one player in one role does not seem to be sufficient. Looking at jungle and bottom lane is a start, but even top lane is not out of the question. A roster overhaul will be necessary before Vitality lives up to the expectations of European fans.

Roccat

ROC played below expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: Roccat will come into summer an underdog, yet again. But if they can build off of their gameplay, synergy, and growth from spring, then they can definitely take games off of other Group A teams. Ambrož “Phaxi” Hren, in particular, should be able to continue drafting lane bullies such as Gnar, Fizz, and Renekton, which he played well in the final weeks of last split.

Roccat’s spring momentum did not carry over much into Summer Split. This team continues its arc as the most inconsistent performer in the EU LCS. Roccat finished the Summer Split with 1-1 records against every team in Group A, the only one to do so. The Cats also lost every cross-group match-up, except Unicorns of Love. It is strange that the same team that is taking series off of Fnatic, G2 and UOL is also dropping series to NiP, MM and Vitality.

Pridestalker actually pressed himself into the EU LCS in his debut split. Generally starting ahead in CS and gold at 15 minutes, Roccat’s jungler was one of the only players happy to draft Warwick and Kha’Zix over tank junglers throughout the split. Pridestalker also participated in First Blood in 27.3 percent of games.

Phaxi and Betsy were highly inconsistent this summer. The solo laners could never seem to hold pressure in their lanes against other European teams. Meanwhile, Roccat’s bottom lane was solidly top five in the LCS (in my opinion, Wadid deserved recognition as an All-Pro support). Like Vitality, a roster overhaul will be necessary if Roccat wants to reach the next level of competition. While no one would necessarily expect Roccat to suddenly become a title contender, many analysts were probably hoping for more from them after their end-of-split streak in spring.

Ninjas in Pyjamas

NIP played above expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Presplit thoughts: While this team will most likely be the Spring 2017 Origen of Summer Split, it could also come together as an unexpected surprise. If Shook can manage to find synergy with Profit and Nagne, and HeaQ and Sprattel can grow together, then they could find upsets in Group A. This could also be Coach Nicholas “NicoThePico” Korsgård’s shot at redemption, as well. If they can all put aside their past failures, then they just may find success.

It’s safe to say Ninjas in Pyjamas was better this summer than Origen was in spring. They had a stiff early game, often gaining large gold leads by 15 minutes. NiP showed some signs of strength, such as their win over Fnatic in week 10. As expected, the Ninjas finished last in Group A with a 2-11 record. The team never seemed to synergize in the mid-late game, often missing opportunities to pressure turrets or neutral objectives. Sprattel and Shook were unable to engage or peel effectively for Nagne and HeaQ to carry, which made Profit’s split-push strategies fall flat.

At the end of the day, NiP was not ready for the LCS. This team did get relegated in the promotion tournament by losing to Giants and Schalke 04, but reported 2018 changes may make that insignificant. Like Mysterious Monkeys, NiP may return to the domestic leagues of the EU LCS. If so, they will need to take a hard look in the mirror and make adjustments. NicoThePico did not add much to his resume on this one, but, again, it is hard to tell how many of NiP’s issues were from the roster or the staff. 

Overall

MSF played above expectations in summer split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

While hardly any of the teams in the EU LCS played to pre-split expectations, the on-paper breakdown of the split was fairly usual. Splyce, Misfits, H2K, UOL, Fnatic and G2 qualified for playoffs. Mysterious Monkeys and NiP fought, and lost, in the promotion tournament. Vitality and Roccat were somewhere in the middle. G2 took home another domestic victory. Fnatic is attending Worlds. Rekkles was voted Europe’s MVP.

This Summer Split will be remembered as the last one with two groups and one professional-level league. If the reported changes for the EU LCS come through in 2018, then we will be looking at an entirely different ecosystem. It will be home to 24 total teams with 24 rosters and 24 different dynamics to keep up with. The lines between S tier, A tier, and so on will become more blurred, and placements between organizations should become more nuanced.

Expectations going into Spring Split next year will be so up in the air it may not even be worth writing about. So as we move into the 2017 World Championships, take some time to reflect on your experience with the EU LCS. As you cheer for G2, Misfits and Fnatic through the event, preserve these Summer Split memories so we can talk more in 2018 about the future of League of Legends in Europe.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

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Schalke 04 joins the EU LCS in 2018

2018 EU LCS changes helping or hurting Europe?

Riot is rolling out big plans for European professional League of Legends, according to a recent report from ESPN esports. Jacob Wolf’s sources outlined a new format for the EU LCS starting in 2018, which includes “the league…[splitting] into four regions… 24 total teams,” “a number of group stages and a double-elimination playoff bracket,” and “a multi-year license from Riot Games.”

These updates come in response to several instances of dissatisfaction from organizations that own teams in the EU LCS. Top-tier European teams applying to join the NA LCS in 2018, and H2K’s recent public announcement to the community are two recent, high profile examples. These organizations cite financial unsustainability and insecurity as primary causes of strife within the EU LCS.

Maintaining the current promotion-relegation model creates an environment of uncertainty and risk for LCS teams, which scares sponsors from making high-value investments. European organizations also suffer from a more fragmented, regional market, when compared to those in North America. Without more certainty for organizations, and without the possibility of larger investment, the value of EU LCS slots has stagnated.

As reported by TheScore esports, EU LCS viewership is on the decline, especially when compared to the NA LCS. While Riot has developed and announced plans for franchising in the NA LCS next year, fans and players are worried that the EU LCS will suffer without serious change. The newest report shows Riot EU is looking to bring needed changes in the following areas.

BUSINESS & FINANCES

Misfits Academy sold to Mysterious Monkeys for $400,000

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

First and foremost, these changes aim at improving the economic environment of the EU LCS. Growth and excitement in esports, professional League of Legends included, revolve around money. Viewership, audiences and fans create opportunities for advertising, which allows developers, like Riot, to monetize the broadcasting of their games. Business organizations, such as Roccat or Splyce, view esports events as opportunities to advertise their products by sponsoring teams to compete. Players and coaches see esports as opportunities to make a living.

The decline in EU LCS viewership and the maintenance of the promotion-relegation model, coupled with the immense potential of an expanded, franchised NA LCS, present problems for European League of Legends organizations. While other regions and esports are taking major steps forward to increase revenue opportunities, the EU LCS is lagging behind. For example, while North America’s most recent LCS slot purchase (FlyQuest) clocked in at $2.5 million, Europe’s (Mysterious Monkeys) only sold for $400,000. Mysterious Monkeys was relegated within one split of entering the EU LCS, demonstrating the riskiness of such a venture.

From a financial perspective, the most compelling portion of Jacob Wolf’s’ report states “Participating teams will be granted a multi-year license from Riot Games to compete in the league, but a hard date on those licenses has not been established, sources said. This means teams won’t have to fear the possibility of relegation from their domestic leagues.” Doing away with relegation boosts the security for teams within the league, which, in turn, makes them more attractive as investment opportunities. This change removes the risk of a team, like Mysterious Monkeys, entering and exiting the LCS within a split or two.

Another element that should affect the business side of the EU LCS is the localization. Since there will now be four domestic leagues centered in Berlin, Paris, London and Barcelona, companies and organizations with more ties to specific locations may be more likely to invest. Spanish businesses may be drawn to sponsor a team in the Barcelona league, while French agencies might invest into Paris. Assuming this localization is more attractive to European investors, splitting parts of the LCS should be a beneficial move.

A final, less direct benefit of these new changes is the fact that Riot EU has tangible plans for next year. Financial backing is impossible without clear, executable strategies for the future, especially when organizations are targeting investments that may not return over several years. Once Riot unveils more detailed plans, organizations, team owners, sponsors and investors can begin to seriously consider their financial future with less uncertainty.

The only possible problem with the new EU LCS league format would be the need for more overall investment in a short period of time. There are currently 10 teams in the LCS and six teams in the Challenger Series. The reported 24-team league would require eight additional professionally funded organizations. This would mean each localized region would need to find two additional major organizations to enter the league from scratch. It is unclear if this is feasible. However, Riot EU has most likely analyzed the market to a point to determine this as a realistic goal for 2018.

COMPETITIVE INTEGRITY

Fnatic Academy sold to Ninjas in Pyjamas for $500,000

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

When talking about professional sports and esports, the competitive environment is of utmost importance. No one wants to watch matches that are excessively one-sided or low overall quality. The EU LCS has not struggled too much with these two problems up to this point, but the new reported format could have an impact.

Riot will break up the EU LCS into four regional leagues. The  increase in overall league size will bring in at least 40 new players to the big stage, most likely more. This will have an effect on competitive integrity by drawing in a larger pool of players, which may not be impactful immediately, but it will train a mass of players as professionals.

The second part of the reported formatting that will affect the competition is this:

“The top two teams of each domestic league will automatically qualify into the greater league, which will run alongside the competitive seasons of the domestic league, similar to the Champions League, according to sources. The third- and fourth-place teams will compete in a play-in, while fifth and sixth places will play in an open qualifier. The greater league will house a total of 16 teams, with a number of group stages and a double-elimination playoff bracket.”

Paris, Berlin, Barcelona and London will now have their own domestic leagues with six teams representing each. These teams will play within their locality first to qualify for the greater league and the play-in. This format will create competition by having all teams competing to get into the greater league, rather than having only the bottom two LCS teams facing off against the top two CS teams for slots.

The major downside to this is that there will most likely be even more striation within localities than what currently exists in the EU LCS. For example, during the regular season this year, Group A created clear first, second, third, fourth and fifth place teams with Fnatic being a couple of wins ahead of G2, G2 a couple of wins ahead of Misfits, etc. Imagine this concept stretching to four groups, and that layered effect may be more extreme.

On the flip-side, this may create more competition, just more often at a lower level. Unicorns of Love may be able to crush all of the teams in the bottom four, but maybe the fights for third through sixth within the Berlin locality would be closer. Maybe the greater league will have closer match-ups more frequently between the bottom 10 teams, while the top six continue to duke it out for championship points.

It is also possible the concentration of high-profile players will decrease if the team market expands. Instead of having several star players within a few rosters, and less notable players meshed together for Challenger teams, perhaps more teams will be able to sign one of the very best and build around them with lower-profile and rookie players. 

FAN EXPERIENCE

Origen may rejoin the EU LCS in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Esports are nothing without an audience. This is where the cycle of monetization begins, and a major factor in the success of professional League of Legends. Making headway with EU LCS fans is vitally important to the future of the league. As stated earlier, viewership for the EU LCS has been on the decline, so investors, organizations, teams and players are looking at Riot to make changes to address the issue.

However, Wolf’s report does not really touch on this part of the conversation, leaving many questions unanswered. With so many more teams, there must be many more games. How will this affect streaming? Will Riot schedule simultaneous broadcasts in Paris, Berlin, London and Barcelona? Will they be in their native languages, or English for all? Are these going to be best-of-ones, twos, or threes? Are these the only changes directed at gaining more viewers?

Audiences have expressed dissatisfaction with best-of-ones and best-of-twos in the past. The two group format for 2017 has also been underwhelming. Splitting even further into four groups may make everyone even more fractured, causing viewership to further decline. If fewer of the match-ups are of higher competitive quality, then viewers may elect to spend time watching other regions, rather than Europe.

There is also the question of production staff. Can Riot get enough casters and analysts to effectively carry four different domestic leagues? Will the quality of the overall production decrease in response to the increase in the total amount of production? The EU LCS already has less week-to-week content when compared to the NA LCS. Will stretching those resources across more broadcasts affect this disparity?

Hopefully, more information will come to light to address these concerns. While it is understandable that Riot may be primarily focused on the health of organizations and the financial future of the league, they cannot completely forget about the fuel for esports: the viewers. Creating opportunities for investment into the league is not enough. Viewership has to scale with the investment, or else it will all be a sink.

PLAYERS’ & COACHES’ WELL-BEING

Paris St. Germain may join the EU LCS in 2018

Image from http://lol.esportsmatrix.com

The EU LCS is not the EU LCS without its players and coaches. These are the individuals that train day in and day out to achieve peak performance and beat all opponents. Professional League of Legends, and esports as a whole, would be nothing without them. Organizations sign contracts with these people to provide them enough resources to get on stage, play the game and gain viewers. Investors have no business in the EU LCS without these talents.

Of course, there is a bit of cyclic nature to professional esports athletes. Money and material gains are the incentives that bring high quality talent up to create professional teams. High quality players need to exist for audiences to watch regularly. But the players may not play if the financial incentives are not high enough.

It is unclear how these changes for 2018 will affect players and coaches in the EU LCS. Will most players’ and coaches’ salaries go up due to an overall larger pie, due to investment? Will the top players and coaches maintain the same pay and benefits, while only nascent teams bring in new money? Is it possible that the top players and coaches already make too much money, and they may see a decline, as the market expands into four separate leagues with more teams and players available to choose from?

The report also does not mention anything about revenue sharing or players’ associations, akin to the announcements for the NA LCS. While owning organizations and teams may be gaining more investment opportunities, there is no guarantee that players, coaches or other staff will actually benefit. Players and coaches should expect higher salaries and more resources, but that may be naive thinking. Some investors may simply view these updates as a chance to recoup losses before expanding their costs in any meaningful way.

OVERALL

Challenger teams may join EU LCS in 2018

Image from http://windandrain.org

These reported changes do seem to be overall beneficial for the EU LCS in the grand scheme. Creating four district leagues that compete alongside a greater regional league seems to address European investors’ issues with the small, localized markets. Removing relegation and introducing multi-year licenses should ease organizations’ fears of the risk-reward nature of the league. Formatting the LCS to include more teams may create a healthier environment for developing more European talent, upping the overall competitive spirit.

There are some concerns with regards to the logistics and quality of broadcasting, as well as the effects on players and coaching staff. These should be addressed more in-depth in the near future. More steps may need to be taken by Riot EU to ensure that these increased economic opportunities are not lost on the individuals that make esports work at the end of the day, audiences and players. Higher investment ceilings only mean so much if there are no consumers to drive the advertising and monetization of the broadcast.

Finally, organizations have been rather quiet in response to Wolf’s report. This silence may be due to non-disclosure agreements with Riot EU. However, considering how vocal owners and organizations have recently been, one would expect more public announcements expressing thoughts and feelings on the subject.

In the report, Wolf mentions “other teams with ventures in League of Legends, such as Paris Saint-Germain, Origen and Red Bulls, have expressed interest in participating.” Misfits’ owner, Ben Spoont, gave some brief insight on Reddit, and former H2K manager, Chris Kalargiros, wrote an opinion piece for Blitz Esports. However, not much else has been heard from the rest of the professional League of Legends community. This may turn out to be a critical moment for European League of Legends. The community is waiting for more clarity from European organizations.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Best plays of Dreamhack Malmö so far

This year’s edition of Dreamhack Malmö has lived up to the hype so far.

The Ninjas in Pyjamas have shown up in championship-winning form. Meanwhile, the major champions on the rocks Gambit fended off FaZe Clan’s advances. Astralis moved on to the quarterfinals unscathed. However, their Brazilian counterparts SK Gaming dropped a map to Valde’s North. With the tournament moving into the arena today, this article will highlight some of the insane plays that occurred in the group stages.

William “draken” Sundin’s ridiculous 1v2 clutch

The Ninjas in Pyjamas have been in dire need of a flashy dedicated AWPer for well over a year now. The Swede is NiP’s highest rated player at the tournament so far and is the biggest factor as to why they look so strong. It’s clear to see why fans are in awe over this clip – to get the second kill with his crosshair that distance away with that little time is something we likely won’t see again for some time. The play was even huge in the context of the game. Sundin kept Gambit off of match point, allowing the Ninjas to push the game into overtime. I can’t imagine the scene if this happened in the Malmö Arena.

Richard “shox” Papillon’s pistol 1v2

This clip is a glimpse of Shox’s true form for those who haven’t been around too long. Not only is the killing blow a nice flick onto the jumping counter-terrorist, but the decision to even go for the kill makes it so much greater. The Frenchman decides to get off the bomb with three seconds left. 99 times out of 100 in that situation, the terrorist would be left standing around after giving up the round, but not Shox. Lucas’s decision to jump peek for information is one that he will certainly be regretting now.

Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev’s 1v5 clutch

By now it’s no secret that I’m a bit of a s1mple fan boy and this clip tells you why. Not only does he demonstrate his raw skill by instantly trading three of his teammate’s deaths, he shows off his game sense. He makes a quiet but swift rotation to the A bomb site and then gives Nifty no chance by getting aggressive after planting. The clutch put Natus Vincere on map point and put any chance of a Renegades come back to bed.

Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund’s double wall bang on Cache

A vintage Ninjas in Pyjamas showing wouldn’t be complete without GeT_RiGhT. The clip had me reminiscing about the 1.6 days and in particular, 1.6 GeT_RiGhT. While it’s not uncommon for players to get kills through the garage door on Cache, it was made better that he kept teammate Rez alive, meaning they didn’t lose the B bomb site. A rare time where VAC was appropriate in Twitch chat.

Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer Gustafsson’s ninja defuse

Despite the new FaZe Clan not making the playoffs, they did leave us with a little parting gift. It came in the second half pistol which is incredibly important for obvious reasons. While it may not be one of the best ninja defuses we’ve seen in Counter-Strike history it is nice to see one every now and again. As caster Moses said on stream, usually when a sneaky defuse happens the pros get anxious about leaving the bomb too early for a while after.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles. If I missed any clips let me know on Twitter at @JackWrightIGL. Feature image courtesy of HLTV. Props to MrSpotter and DiFendo for uploading the clips to YouTube.

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Storylines to watch at DreamHack Masters Malmö 2017

At last year’s DreamHack Masters Malmö, Swedish fans were gifted the title they had longed for. A special performance from the Ninjas in Pyjamas caused a stir in the vibrant Malmö Arena. This time around it looks to be another spectacle, thanks to the roster-mania that took place in the player break. With the tournament kicking off tomorrow, this article will discuss some of the storylines on everyone’s minds heading into DreamHack Masters Malmö.

The high profile transfers

During the off season, FaZe Clan made two huge signings in Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács and Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer Gustafsson. Meanwhile, overseas Cloud9 were making waves of their own pinching Will “RUSH” Wierzba and Tarik “Tarik” Celik from OpTic Gaming. The two widely supported organizations have a lot of fans brimming with excitement heading into their first big test.

Olofmeister will don a FaZe jersey for the first time this week. [Source: HLTV]

There has been much deliberation on how FaZe Clan is going to bring this superstar team together. I believe that initially, they’ll struggle more than Cloud9. It is presumed that Håvard “rain” Nygaard will be taking on the support role. That leaves Nikola “NiKo” Kovač, Olofmeister and GuardiaN. This is where the Red Militia will struggle most. Allocating resources to all three of these players will be hard, I anticipate that NiKo will play similarly to Rain in order to give Olofmeister the space he needs to settle into the new style of calling.

Another question mark is how Finn “karrigan” Andersen will make use of GuardiaN. The Dane hasn’t played with an out and out AWPer for some time, since Aleksi “allu” Jalli was a more passive AWP, while he could leave Nicolai “device” Reedtz to his own devices before that.

Cloud9 should have an easier time making adjustments. They’ve essentially swapped firepower for more firepower. Rush is going to be the biggest difference maker. With him entry-fragging it allows Jake “Stewie2K” Yip and Timothy “autimatic” Ta to go in second and third, rather than first. This is better for C9 since the aforementioned duo can easily win lost rounds if they are left last alive.

Rush and Tarik won ELEAGUE Season 2 together. [Source: OpTic Gaming]

In spite of that, FaZe has a stronger case for getting out of groups. They are in group C with Gambit and mousesports who’ve also made changes and the ever inconsistent Ninjas in Pyjamas. Meanwhile, NA’s hope is in group A with the unchanged SK Gaming, Valde’s North and unknown entity B.O.O.T-d[S] of Singapore. The game paramount to Cloud9’s chance will be the one versus North. If they win that they should get out of groups.

How will the major finalists fare?

Even with the PGL Major still fresh in our minds the two rosters that made the final seem far removed from what they were then. Gambit lost their prestigious leader while Immortals is reportedly suffering from internal conflict. It seems both rosters are aware their major run was a fluke.

Zeus left his major winning team to return to Na’Vi. [Source: Gfinity]

Replacing Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko on Gambit is Kazakhstani Bektiyar “Fitch” Bahytov. The player’s only notable appearance was at the Major qualifier with Tengri where they lost with an abysmal 0-3 record. It will be hard to match the presence Zeus brought to the team and with the Gambit coach also leaving for Natus Vincere it’s unlikely he’ll be able to rally the troops this early on. It seems the head of the snake has been cut off with this one.

The Brazilians on Immortals have actually kept the same squad but their reported internal struggles alongside a difficult group might result in an early exit. They are placed in a group with G2 Esports, EnVyUs and Fnatic. G2 have the potential to come alive at any time while EnVy is enjoying a hot streak, winning qualifier after qualifier. Here in Malmö, I believe there’s a huge chance they qualify for their first major playoffs in some time. Unfortunately, this will leave Immortals watching from the stands.

The other big swaps

Following on from the previous storyline, Zeus left Gambit to reunite with Natus Vincere. In one of my previous articles, I discussed in depth how I believe his return will ignite Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. DreamHack Masters will be the first chance we get to see this in action on LAN and hopefully, it lives up to the hype.

Valde stood in with the North bunch at the ECS Season 2 finals. [Source: Cybersport]

Valdemar “valde” Bjørn Vangså replacing Emil “Magisk” Reif on North was also a huge talking point. The former is regarded as one of the hottest topics in Counter-Strike. Fellow Dane Casper “cadiaN” Møller recently likened Valde to Stewie2k citing his perfect timing and using enemy grenades against them as hallmarks of his play. Maybe he can be the consistent star Magisk never could?

The final change to discuss is Fnatic bringing on Jonas “Lekr0” Olofsson and Maikil “Golden” Selim. This move has already been reviewed by fellow Haus mate Joe Sitavanc. However, to sum up his thoughts it’s probably going to take some time before these Swedes make it back to the top.

Could the Ninjas hold the crown?

I’m sure most fans are expecting a win out of either SK Gaming or Astralis but is it possible NiP defends their title? The last time we saw this team out on LAN they won DreamHack Valencia. Admittedly, that tournament didn’t have anywhere near the caliber of teams Malmö has but it has to be a confidence boost if nothing else.

Their recent Pro League results have been lackluster but we all know how unreliable they are. I hope the Ninjas come into the tournament fully prepared and give the home crowd something to cheer about. The new coaching rule from DreamHack should benefit them massively. With Björn “THREAT” Pers being able to have more input again it should relieve some pressure off of Richard “Xizt” Landström who still has fragging potential in his own right.

NiP have become synonymous with being inconsistent from tournament to tournament. So who knows, maybe this could be one of their hot weeks. To get you in the mood for tomorrow’s action watch this video of the Malmö Arena.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles. You can find me on Twitter at @JackWrightIGL. Feature image courtesy of DreamHack. Huge credit to the Ninjas in Pyjamas YouTube for the footage.

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The Clash of Clowns is trending up in EU LCS week 10

Trending in EU LCS: Week 10

The final week of the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split regular season was one of the most dynamic yet. There were match-ups with pride on the line, and others with no real consequences. Most draft phases looked familiar, as many champion priorities remained the same as week nine. It is difficult to put too much stock into each team’s gameplay this week, because the standings were already locked after week nine. However, there were clear “serious” games and “fun” games between teams in week ten.

Taking all of these elements into account, there are some clear winners and losers coming out of week ten. Trending in the EU LCS is back with your weekly dose of Europe’s ups and downs on the Rift.

TRENDING UP

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the upswing after week 10 of the EU LCS. They may have won a key series against a tough opponent. A teammate may have put the team on their back to keep it together. Maybe a particular champion pick was able to shine.

Underdog upsets are trending up in EU LCS week 10

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Underdog Upsets

Thursday and Friday’s games were full of upsets. Roccat beat G2 2-1; Ninjas in Pyjamas beat Fnatic 2-0; and Team Vitality beat Unicorns of Love 2-0. H2K was the only one to take down their lesser opponent in the first two days. As mentioned above (and outlined in Kelsey Mosers recent article for Slingshot Esports), it is unclear how serious these losses are for the top teams.

Nonetheless, these match-ups did appear to be legitimate wins for the underdogs. G2, Fnatic and UOL did not seem to hold back against Roccat, NiP or Vitality. It was a bit exciting to see some semblance of parity within the EU LCS, since most of the split has felt more stagnant in the standings. Roccat’s bottom lane, NiPs Profit, and Vitality’s solo laners proved why they have received praise at various times throughout the Summer Split.

Another layer of significance pertains to the EU LCS promotion tournament, which began Thursday. NiP will enter their series against Giants with momentum from their victory over the top team in Europe. Meanwhile, Mysterious Monkeys enter the promotion tournament with only five total game wins, finishing week 10 with a 0-2 loss to H2K. The last week of the regular season could be a preliminary indicator of how these teams will defend their LCS slots.

“Clash of the Clowns”

On a less serious note, some series in week 10 amounted to show matches, as the standings were fully locked in after Friday’s match-ups. Roccat and Misfits kicked off these “Clash of Clowns” games by locking in Heimerdinger, Master Yi, Kayle and Draven. The players also role swapped. For example, Wadid tried his hand at Lee Sin in the jungle, and IgNar drafted Kled. Game two included a Malphite-Yasuo combination against a Nasus, Karthus and Vayne.

Splyce and Vitality picked up the torch on Sunday by playing jungle Bard, Fiddlesticks, Garen, Shaco and jungle Twitch in game one. Their second game involved Mikyx’’s mid lane AP Gragas, Steeelback’s AD Thresh and Djoko’s support Pantheon. The casters were quite disappointed with Trashy’s choice of Ardent Censer Lulu, but spirits were high throughout the series.

These types of exhibitions are always immensely fun for the fans. Seeing professional players let loose and go full solo queue style is refreshing when compared to the high stakes of the Summer Split. Since G2 played Fnatic and H2K played UOL in the afternoons, these lighthearted games acted almost like true clown fiestas to preface more serious match-ups.

Janna is trending up in EU LCS week 10

Image from boards.na.leagueoflegends.com

Janna

Within the serious games of week 10, Janna saw a rise in priority among supports. Rakan, Alistar and Thresh have had the highest priority over the last few weeks, but Janna rose to fourth priority last week. Since the inception of patch 7.15, Janna has maintained a 35 percent draft presence with seven picks and four bans. Out of the 14 “serious” matches in week 10, Janna was picked five times and banned twice.

Janna currently keeps a strong presence in solo queue. According to OP.GG, Janna has a 55 percent win rate with a 22 percent pick rate. This trend is bleeding into the EU LCS, as she has a 57 percent win rate right now. Her uptick in professional play can be attributed to the current strength of Ardent Censer, an item intended for healing and shielding supports.

Ardent Censer has been in the spotlight lately, as analysts have computed the massive power spike for enchanter supports after finishing the item. During one of G2’s games versus Fnatic, the EU LCS broadcast team was cued into the race between Mithy’s Janna and Jesiz’s Karma to finish Ardent Censer. As long as the item remains in its current state, expect Janna to stay towards the top of the support champion tier list.

TRENDING DOWN

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the downswing after week 10 of the EU LCS. They may have lost a series against an underdog. A teammate may have faltered over several games. Maybe the meta is shifting and a playstyle is being left in the past. These elements are downward trending in the EU LCS.

G2 is trending down in the EU LCS week 10

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2

Fans and analysts alike expected the top teams of Group A to battle it out as the “Kings of Europe.” However, G2 fell flat in week 10. Not only did they lose 2-0 to Fnatic, but they also lost to Roccat. For a team with hopes for Worlds, G2 did not look convincing at all. In their series against Fnatic, Perkz and Trick simply fell flat. Perkz’s Galio lacked impact, and Fnatic completely punished his Lucian pick.

More important than individual performances, G2’s overall team gameplay seemed off. Soaz, Caps and Rekkles drafted Gnar, Orianna and Ashe in both games, and G2 could not avoid the crowd control in the later stages. Fnatic was sure to answer every lost objective with an objective of their own. However, this loss felt more like a faltering from G2, rather than an out-classing from Fnatic.

Zac

Zac has been the most contested champion in the EU LCS for the entire Summer Split. He has maintained an incredible 93 percent pick or ban rate and a 71 percent win rate. Most teams ban him in the first round just to take him off of the table for the rest of the draft. However, week 10 was a little bit different.

Zac was picked four times out of 14 “serious” games in week 10 (28.6 percent), and he was banned eight times (57.1 percent). Altogether, this amounts to an 85.7 percent draft presence. More importantly, though, teams that drafted Zac only won once out of four matches (25 percent). Jankos showcased one win, but lost two others. Trick was the other jungler to give Zac a shot, but he also fell short.

Riot has hit Zac with changes every single patch since the tank update in patch 7.9, yet he has continued to be a mainstay for professional junglers in Europe. Zac’s unique combination of long distance engage, sustain and clear speed puts him above all other junglers. His weak presence and performances in week 10 raise the question, “Are junglers still practicing Zac?” It is possible that he has become more balanced and teams just have not been able to gauge it. It is also possible that Zac is still strong, but no one is actually playing him in scrims, because he is permanently banned.

H2K is trending down in EU LCS week 10

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

H2K

On that note, two of the losses involving Zac came at the hands of H2K. Their win against Mysterious Monkeys was fully expected, but their loss to Unicorns of Love was a tough blow. Game one of the series went extremely well. H2K secured an early couple of kills, which snowballed almost perfectly. UOL ended the game with just six kills, two turrets and one dragon.

Game two was different. By 21 minutes into the match, H2K was over 2,000 gold ahead. They had secured four turrets and a Cloud Drake to UOL’s single turret and Rift Herald. This all came crumbling down when the Unicorns grouped in the mid lane and activated the Rift Herald.

H2K grouped in response, lost their turret and poorly engaged onto Xerxe’s Poppy. Jankos pulled Xerxe into the rest of his team with Zac’s ultimate, which triggered H2K to focus him down, including Syndra’s ultimate. However, Xerxe responded by snap-casting Poppy’s ultimate, knocking up Jankos, Nuclear and Chei. Exileh flashed in, and the rest of UOL moved in, to assassinate Nuclear’s Tristana, kill Odoamne’s Gnar and chunk the other members to a point where they could not contest a Baron attempt.

That is the moment that tilted H2K beyond return. The Unicorns pushed down two turrets, took another Baron, and ended game two. In game three, UOL almost skunked H2K, who only finished with six kills. They did not secure a single turret, dragon, Baron or Herald. Being the last series of the regular season, this is an uninspiring note on which to end. Luckily, H2K earned Group B’s quarterfinals bye, so they will have adequate time to decompress, strategize and adapt for playoffs. They still have a tumultuous road ahead, if they are to qualify for the World Championship.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr, League of Legends boards

Video Highlights: TheGameHaus Vibby

Champion Statistics: GamesofLegends.com

Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Thomas!

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UOL Vizicsacsi ranks first among EU LCS top laners

Regular season EU LCS top laner rankings

The European LCS is home to many world-calibur top lane players. Often left on an “island” to themselves, top laners tend to play head-to-head for the longest time compared to other roles. Top lane is also a position whose champion pool changes heavily depending on the meta. If tanks are strong, expect to see tanks. If bruisers are strong, expect to see them instead. Split-pushing is a valid strategy for top laners, as well.

The 2017 Summer Split regular season is over, and the standings are set. Playoffs will be underway soon, as well as the promotion tournament. Votes will be cast for MVP, rookie, coach and all-team awards. Therefore, before any of those biases are incorporated into thinking about who is the best, it is time to rank these players while the play time is as even as possible between teams.

These types of rankings can be controversial. It is difficult to parse apart an individual player’s contribution to their team. Is this a strong player being held down by his team? Or is the team carrying him? Is he only able to play one style, and then falters on another? Does he only play well against teams below his own? Here is an attempt to answer such questions for every starting EU LCS top laner.

10. ROC Phaxi

ROC Phaxi is tenth among EU LCS top laners

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Roccat average the second highest deficit in the EU LCS at 15 minutes. Out of their 628 gold deficit, Phaxi contributes 237 behind. Of course, some of this comes from losing turrets or neutral objectives to enemy teams, which is not entirely his fault. However, part of it has to do with his having the second lowest CS difference at 10 minutes among top laners, -4.2. This amounts to 109 XP behind at 10 minutes, second lowest among top laners, as well.

This wouldn’t be as problematic, but Phaxi’s champion pool has been mostly carries this summer. Out of 33 total games, Phaxi only played tanks in seven (21.2 percent), Galio, Poppy and Shen. His most played champs have been Jarvan IV, Gnar and Renekton. Phaxi also has the lowest First Blood rate (six percent), KDA (1.6) and kill participation (56.6 percent). His damage numbers are lowest among top laners. Even in Riot’s new adjusted damage rating, Phaxi finishes last.

9. MM Kikis

MM Kikis ranks ninth among EU LCS top laners

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Kikis has fewer games than other top laners on this list, because he got picked up by Mysterious Monkeys after the first few weeks of the Summer Split. That being said, his impact on the team was not heavily felt. To be fair, he has the lowest death share of all top laners (17 percent), and he has a 40 percent First Blood rate. Kikis averages close to even in lane at 10 minutes, +73 gold, -3 XP and -3.7 CS. His damage share for the Monkeys is actually pretty good (23.4 percent).

The issue for Kikis, though, is his actual damage and presence on the map. It is hard to imagine replacing other EU top laners with Kikis and seeing improvements throughout the team. His most played champions have been Camille and Renekton, yet neither seems memorable. Kikis is an obvious upgrade from Jisu, Mysterious Monkeys’ previous top laner, but mostly in salvaging deaths, rather than securing kills or objectives. His surprise picks, such as Akali and Aatrox, were welcome from an entertainment standpoint, but they do not help his case as a quality top laner in the EU LCS this split.

8. MSF Alphari

MSF Alphari ranks eighth among EU LCS top laners

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The main element that separates Alphari from the bottom two top laners on this list is his split pushing. Alphari’s statistics are awful. He owns the second lowest damage per minute (375), the lowest CS and XP differences at 10 minutes (-5, -209) and the second lowest gold difference at 10 minutes (-124). However, his KDA is fourth among top laners (3.4).

Although it failed both times, Misfits drafted Kennen in the top lane twice. Alphari plays mostly Jarvan IV, Rumble and Renekton, and he tends to pressure the map away from the rest of the team for as long as possible before flanking with teleport to join fights. While Maxlore and IgNar roam in tandem to pressure mid and bottom lanes, Alphari is left alone in top. He generally sacrifices an early lane advantage for his teammates. However, it is rare to see him actually carry a game, which separates him from the top laners higher in these rankings.

7. VIT Cabochard

VIT Cabochard ranks seventh among EU LCS top laners

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Cabochard contributes 24.6 percent of Team Vitality’s damage. That is the highest damage share among top laners. However, Cabochard also receives 23.1 percent of the team’s gold, which is second highest among EU LCS top laners. Vitality invests a lot into Cabochard’s success. He generally starts the game well, averaging the most gold ahead (152), second most XP ahead (180) and second most CS ahead (3.8) at 10 minutes.

This is to be expected, considering Cabochard played over a third of his games on Rumble (10 out of 29). Rumble is a champion that always gets to bully his lane with Flamespitter and easily farm. The reason Cabochard is not higher on the rankings is that his lead never seemed to propel Vitality’s games. Vitality, as a team, averaged behind in gold at 15 minutes, and their early objective rates are all low. Cabochard’s leads stay with him. They do not get spread across the map for turrets or dragons or Heralds or Barons.

6. nip profit

NIP Profit ranks fifth among EU LCS top laners

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Although Ninjas in Pyjamas finished this split in last place of Group A, Profit seemed to adapt well to the EU LCS. He averaged middle-of-the-pack for gold, CS and XP differences at 10 minutes as well as kill participation (63.5 percent). His damage numbers are decent, a 24.4 percent share for his team, second highest among top laners. However, he also receives a 23.2 percent share of the gold.

Profit may very well be the strongest split-pusher in the EU LCS this split. On champion picks like Rumble, Jarvan IV, Gnar and Renekton, Profit is extremely calculated in the side lane. He only sacrifices 19.9 percent of NiP’s deaths (second lowest among top laners), despite his isolation. This split-push style is Profit’s only real demonstration this split, though. NiP got worse as the games got later. The coordinated teamfighting aspects of the game were lost on the Ninjas, and Profit’s obsession with side lanes did not seem to help.

5. g2 expect

G2 Expect ranks fifth among EU LCS top laners

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2 have had lower lows this summer than in previous splits, but Expect has done well for himself. He has flown under the radar with third-fourth place laning statistics, such as +2.1 CS, +30 XP and +84 gold at 10 minutes.

Expect also has good teamfighting numbers, such as 458 damage per minute (third highest among top laners) and 69.6 percent kill participation (highest among top laners). And, somewhat surprisingly, Expect ranked second highest among top laners for adjusted damage.

Expect’s ranking on this list represents the first multi-faceted top laner in the EU LCS. Those below him had narrow windows of power in the game, which, if missed, would not result in much. However, Expect has exhibited an ability to play Gnar and Renekton, as well as Galio and Cho’Gath. His flexibility allows G2’s strategies to adapt to their opponent’s. Expect can hold his own in lane, essentially denying enemies the opportunity to get ahead on the top side. He then transitions into strong teamfighting, split-pushing and objective control. He has fulfilled G2’s needs well. But where he falls short is in acting as an individual carry for the team.

4. FNC Soaz

FNC Soaz ranks fourth among EU LCS top laners

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Soaz is difficult to peg against other EU LCS top laners. Fnatic have had an incredibly successful split, and when a team is performing so well together, it can be difficult to pull them apart and compare as individuals. While Soaz looks refreshed compared to his recent history with Origen, he still is not the primary catalyst for Fnatic. Of course, he is ahead in gold and XP at 10 minutes (+117, +118), but not from CS (averages zero at 10 minutes). His teammates create plenty of pressure and take First Blood in 74 percent of games, 52 percent of the time involving him.

Soaz’s adjusted damage rates him third. He performs well 1-v-1 on picks like Gnar and Jarvan IV, but on tankier picks, such as Shen, Gragas and Galio, Soaz truly shines. Fnatic looks best when Soaz is able to enable Caps and Rekkles to dish damage. These resistant, high crowd-control champions are perfect for Soaz’s role on the team, but the players ranked above him have exhibited more diverse playstyles with less stellar teammates.

3. SPY Wunder

SPY Wunder ranks third among EU LCS top laners

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Wunder plays the best Kled in the EU LCS. His other top played champions include Rumble, Camille, Gnar and Cho’Gath. Kled is suitable to Wunder’s playstyle, because he enjoys aggressive dueling in side lanes while split-pushing, but he also acts as an engage tool in most of Splyce’s games. This has been a weakness for Wunder in the past: playing overly aggressive without the support of his team and sacrificing deaths. This split has looked much more polished.

Wunder’s laning statistics are not great by any means: fourth lowest gold difference (+2), third lowest XP difference (-106) and third highest CS difference (+2.2) at 10 minutes. This paints a picture of Wunder on an island in the top lane receiving pressure from the enemy jungler, denying XP, but still managing to secure CS to go even in lane. Wunder has one of the lowest First Blood rates among top laners (15 percent). And although he has sacrificed the fourth most deaths in the league (75), he is tied for the most kills (84). Wunder is also sure to put out the second highest damage per minute (459). He has the opposite problem of Soaz. Splyce jungler is not as active, especially on the top side of the map, yet Wunder manages to make it through laning phase and contribute in engaging, damaging and split-pushing.

2. H2K Odoamne

H2K Odoamne ranks second among EU LCS top laners

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

H2K’s top laner has been towards the top of top laners for several splits now. As a veteran, Odoamne has been consistently good through several different metas, including lane swaps. What makes him so good is his ability to bring pressure to the game with any champion he drafts, whether it be Shen, Gragas and Maokai, or Rumble, Gnar and Camille. Odoamne has the highest KDA among top laners (4.7) and is tied with Wunder for most kills (84) even though he has only played 26 games. He also has the fourth highest adjusted damage rating.

Many of the statistics do not do Odoamne justice. Just watching him play the game, you can tell that he is on another level compared to most top laners. When he trades in lane, when he synergizes with Jankos, when he teleports or flanks into a teamfight, he just brings a presence that is not felt with many of Europe’s top laners. The only reason he is not ranked number one is because there is one other top laner that brings the same presence described here, except his laning is even better.

1. UOL Vizicsacsi

UOL Vizicsacsi ranks first among EU LCS top laners

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Vizicsacsi has been named MVP, first team all-LCS, and many others. His role on Unicorns of Love cannot be understated.

Vizicsacsi starts the game by averaging the highest XP and CS differences at 10 minutes of any top laner (+243, +9.6). This sets him up to have the items and advantage to enter skirmishes and fights around the map, particularly bottom lane, and spread his lead into other teammates. For this reason, Vizicsacsi is the best Shen player in the EU LCS, and he looks best on tankier champions, such as Cho’Gath, Galio and Gragas.

Vizicsacsi’s split-pushing is some of the best in the league. When he plays Gnar, Fiora or Rumble, he generally draws a lot of attention. The Unicorns’ top laner is even known to turn on his opponent and secure counter-kills when he is caught out. It can be incredible. Vizicsacsi has the highest damage per minute of all top laners (472), and the highest adjusted damage rating according to Riot. His main flaw is sacrificing deaths. He has the second most deaths among top laners (110), granted he has played the most games (32). However, his 2.4 KDA is fourth lowest among top laners, which is not good for being on a top team.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Champion Statistics: GamesofLegends.com, OraclesElixir.com

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Inferno: The hallmark of grand finals

PGL Major Kraków was a topsy turvy tournament, to say the least. A Gambit side led by Danylo ‘Zeus’ Teslenko took the victory in a thrilling final map on the historic Inferno. We saw an incredible clutch from Abay ‘HObbit’ Khasenov and consistent fragging from Dauren ‘AdreN’ Kystaubayev whilst the AWPing of Vito ‘kNg’ Giuseppe and the leadership of Lucas ‘steel’ Lopes tried to keep them in the game.

The map in question, Inferno, has hosted a number of grand final deciders. Despite only being reintroduced into the map pool this year, it has remained a popular choice among top teams. It is favored as a neutral playing field because most teams know all the basic strategies but the tempo can be changed between fast and slow. Its design also allows for clutch plays whether that be as a CT from pit defending the A bomb or as a terrorist running down banana.

For these reasons, we’ve been gifted many memorable finals thanks to Inferno. This article will pick out some of the best that you may be interested in re-watching.

SL-iLeague Starseries Season 3 Finals

FaZe Clan had been on the rise since picking up Bosnian superstar Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovač. They had recently formed a rivalry with the Danes of Astralis, who bested them in the final of Counter-Strikes famed ESL One Katowice.

However, there was more than just the rivalry at stake for FaZe. The team was out to prove what international teams can achieve. Not only that, Finn ‘karrigan’ Andersen craved revenge against his former team while Fabien ‘kioShiMa’ Fiey wanted to prove he wasn’t ‘The Problem’. With the grand final one a piece, was there a better way to end than in overtime on Inferno?

ESL One Cologne 2014

Over three years ago now, back when it was still a major, the grand final of ESL One Cologne 2014 was decided by Inferno. The perfect stage for the still ripe El Classico between Fnatic and NiP. The aforementioned beat the Ninjas in CSGO’s first ever major championship while the legendary team was still missing one from their trophy cabinet.

Facing one of the most dominant Inferno teams in Fnatic, it seemed as if all the odds were pitched against them. After going down early, an unforgettable ace from Adam ‘friberg’ Friberg instilled confidence in the Ninjas who would go on to win their only major in CSGO.

ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals

For this match, we head over to London to witness an intense best of five final. Luminosity, now known as SK Gaming, was fresh off the back of a major win at ESL One Cologne 2016. While challengers G2 Esports had struggled with consistency. It was on the astounding duo of Richard ‘shox’ Papillon and Adil ‘ScreaM’ Benrlitom to prove French CS was still at large.

The first four maps were nail-biting with every map ending with both teams in double figures. The last map Inferno did the entire series justice. The game went into overtime boasting incredible plays from Shox and Marcelo ‘coldzera’ David. If you are a newer viewer it’s one I’d definitely recommend watching.

ESL One Katowice 2015

After looking into Cologne 2014, you’ll probably get a sense of Déjà vu here. We’re back, map three, Inferno, NiP versus Fnatic. This time Fnatic demonstrated that dominance through utterly crushing the Ninjas on their CT side. In spite of that, NiP would make the game entertaining through a second half resurgence.

This game is a great example of how to play the CT side of Inferno. NiP making great use of crossfires on the A bombsite, meanwhile, Fnatic perfected the art of banana control. If learning some new tricks is your thing, many of these can still be used in the newest iteration of the map.

 

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Fnatic may qualify for Worlds

Prediction: Fnatic, G2 and H2K will represent the EU LCS at Worlds

While four weeks of Summer Split, playoffs and the regional gauntlet remain for the EU LCS, Worlds is just around the corner. The window for qualifying is quickly closing, and every match counts. The teams have four to six series left to prove themselves and solidify their spot in the World Championships to represent Europe.

Keeping that in mind, I believe Fnatic (FNC), G2 and H2K will be the qualifying teams. Below, I outline the various different circumstances of these three teams. There are spectrums of results that these squads can fall into. There is enough parity within the league that any of these teams could miss out on Worlds, but they can also win the split and be Europe’s top seed. Here are the ways in which FNC, G2 and H2K can finish out their split.

fnatic

How they miss Worlds: Let’s say Fnatic loses its upcoming series against Unicorns of Love (UOL), Misfits (MSF) and G2. They would end the split with a 9-4 record. MSF or G2 would need to win five out of six of their remaining games to overtake FNC for first place in Group A. Therefore, they are most likely going to end first in their group.

Fnatic may qualify for Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

First place gives FNC a first round bye in playoffs. If they lose in the semifinals, FNC would end the split in third or fourth place. Third gives them 70 championship points; fourth gives 40 points. Since they finished Spring Split with 50 points, FNC’s total championship points would come to 120 or 90.

If playoffs played out in this way, then G2 and UOL would both most likely finish with more championship points, pushing FNC into the regional qualifiers. If we are assuming MSF beat FNC in week eight, then they may very well beat them in the gauntlet to qualify. This would be FNC’s lowest probable outcome, in my opinion.

Realistic expectations: FNC should reasonably win three of their last five series. Their record would end at 10-3, meaning MSF or G2 would need to win all of their remaining series (including those against FNC) to overtake first place in Group A.

Again, first place gives FNC a first round bye in playoffs. Realistically, FNC will end up playing against UOL or H2K in the semifinals. They can beat either of those opponents to make it into the finals and auto-qualify via first place in Summer Split or highest total championship points.

H2K or UOL winning playoffs to auto-qualify would be the only possibilities that would rule out these qualifications. FNC would then be competing with G2 and UOL for highest championship points. For example, if UOL finishes first, FNC second and G2 third, then G2 would total 160 points. FNC would have 140, forced into the gauntlet. If G2 instead finishes fourth, then they would total 130 points.

Fnatic may qualify for Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Finally, if the playoff standings end with H2K-FNC-UOL-G2 in first through fourth, then FNC and UOL will tie with 140 total championship points. According to lolesports.com, FNC would qualify for Worlds, because they accrued more points in the Summer Split.

Best case scenario: FNC can realistically win the entire Summer Split. They currently sit at 7-1, and it is likely they will finish first in Group A. Therefore, they are likely to have a bye in the first round of playoffs. H2K or UOL are FNC’s most likely semi-finals opponent. FNC could definitely beat them to qualify for the finals.

Once there, FNC will most likely face H2K, UOL or G2. Again, they can conceivably beat any of these opponents in a best-of-five series to win the Summer Split and auto-qualify for Worlds as Europe’s first seed.

G2

How they miss Worlds: G2 are second in Group A with a 5-3 record. They have five series left to solidify their spot in the standings. Assuming G2 beats all teams below them and loses to FNC and MSF, they would end the regular season with an 8-5 record. This may put them at third in their group.

G2 may qualify for Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

They would likely face UOL or H2K in the quarterfinals. Either of those teams could eliminate G2 from playoffs immediately. They would finish in fifth-sixth, gaining only 20 championship points. G2’s total would be 110 points. If UOL finishes second, third or fourth, FNC finishes second or third, or MSF finishes second, then G2 would be forced into the regional qualifiers.

Within the gauntlet, G2 would most likely auto-qualify for the semifinals or finals. They could reasonably win into Worlds, but they could also fall flat. It would be hard to imagine the 2017 World Championships without G2 in attendance, but that is not out of the realm of possibility.

Realistic expectations: Suppose G2 beats Vitality (VIT), Ninjas in Pyjamas, MSF and Roccat (ROC) in their last four weeks of the Summer Split. G2 would finish the split with a 9-4 record, second in Group A. This could completely change their likelihood for qualifying into Worlds. Splyce (SPY) would be the most likely opponent from Group B.

If G2 were to win that quarterfinals match, then they would automatically finish in the top four in the EU LCS. Fourth place would give G2 130 championship points. UOL would have to get second or third, or FNC would need to get second, to push G2 into the gauntlet. Under those circumstances, G2 would most likely bye into the finals of the Regional Qualifiers, putting them one best-of-five away from Worlds.

G2 may qualify for Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

If G2 finish in third, that would put them at 160 points. UOL would have to get second place to knock G2 into the gauntlet. Any other circumstance would allow G2 to qualify for Worlds as Europe’s second seed.

Best case scenario: Most EU LCS fans know that G2 are completely capable of making it into the playoff finals. Even if they lose, G2 would finish the year with 180 championship points. It would be impossible for another team to surpass.

It is not inconceivable for G2 to win the entire Summer Split. They have won three splits in a row, and performed highly at Mid-Season Invitational. G2 would love to go to Worlds as Europe’s top seed to set themselves up for international success.

H2K

How they miss Worlds: H2K do not have an easy road to Worlds this year. Spring Split really set them back compared to other top teams. They currently sit towards the top of Group B with a 6-3 record. They are battling UOL for the first place spot. SPY is two wins behind H2K with four weeks to go.

H2K may qualify for Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

If H2K drops series to SPY and UOL, and SPY is able to overtake them for second place in Group B, then H2K will most likely face G2 or MSF in the quarterfinals. MSF will be a decent match-up, but losing to G2 would mean ending fifth-sixth again. H2K would finish the year with 30 championship points and be forced into the gauntlet, where they would likely lose.

Even if H2K makes it into semifinals from quarterfinals, they would have to then face FNC or G2. Either of these teams could knock H2K into the third place match. If H2K finish fourth, they would have accumulated 50 total points, and most likely need several Regional Qualifier wins to get to Worlds. If they finish third, they would have 80 points, and still most likely need to win two series for Worlds.

At H2K’s lowest, they will not make Worlds. Their Spring Split playoffs performance has set them back so far that every single series win could be the difference for them to qualify. Losses now mean a lower playoff seed. Losing early in playoffs means a longer gauntlet run. A loss in the gauntlet means another team is representing Europe at Worlds.

Realistic expectations: H2K is fully capable of beating every single opponent in the league. It is just a matter of which team is playing well that day. They can beat UOL. SPY, VIT and Mysterious Monkeys should be easier wins. UOL faltering against ROC this week proves that H2K can finish first in Group B.

A first round bye for playoffs would be a boon for H2K. It would solidify a top four finish in the Summer Split, essentially guaranteeing they are included in the Regional Qualifiers. If they finish third in playoffs, then H2K most likely has to beat SPY or MSF and face UOL to qualify for Worlds. In this hypothetical, H2K finished at the top of their group by beating UOL, so they could then beat them in the gauntlet and qualify as Europe’s third seed team.

H2K may qualify for Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Best case scenario: At H2K’s peak, they win the whole Summer Split. FNC, G2 and UOL had troubles at Rift Rivals, but it is not necessarily going to be easy. H2K could finish the split in first place for Group B. They could go on to beat MSF or G2 in the semifinals, then win the finals against UOL or FNC.

This is H2K’s best scenario. Of course, winning Summer Split is everyone’s best scenario, but this is especially true of H2K when compared to FNC, G2 and UOL. Points-wise, those three teams are contenders for Europe’s second seed if they don’t win playoffs. Because of H2K’s fifth-sixth finish in the Spring Split, they do not have this luxury. If H2K finish first in Group B, then they only need to win two best-of-five series to go to Worlds. If they do not finish first in their group, then H2K will have to win four to six series to qualify.

Prediction

My actual predictions are a hodge podge of the hypotheticals described above. I expect Group A will see FNC in first, G2 in second and MSF third. Group B will have H2K finish first, UOL second and SPY third. FNC and H2K will go into playoffs with a bye.

In that scenario, UOL would face MSF in the quarterfinals. G2 would match with SPY. Both of the second place teams would win those best-of-fives. UOL will go on to face FNC, while G2 goes up against H2K.

The “Kings of Europe” really should reign supreme at this point. FNC and G2 have impressive histories of winning European best-of-fives. UOL and H2K, on the other hand, have faltered on many occasions when it truly mattered. FNC and G2 should meet in the finals.

It may end up being a close series, but it is hard to bet against G2 at this point in the EU LCS. Sure, they looked rough at Rift Rivals against the NA LCS teams, but this is not Rift Rivals. This is the EU LCS. G2 has won the last three splits in a row, and they seem to always do better in longer series. I expect them to take Europe’s first seed spot for Worlds this year.

FNC would finish the year with 140 championship points, taking Europe’s second seed qualifier. UOL would have 110, H2K would have 80, MSF would have 50 and SPY would have 30. It is hard to imagine this gauntlet final facing off anyone besides H2K and UOL. These Group B rivals will be exciting to watch. Following their week 10 match-up, I expect H2K to follow through and qualify as Europe’s third seed to Worlds.

Regardless of what happens over the last few weeks of the EU LCS, it is going to be riveting. The standings are much closer than many expected coming into the split. The parity within Groups A and B is shaping up to come down to the wire. Series losses now can have Worlds-qualifying consequences. Every match counts.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

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Dreamhack Valencia: Reflections

Dreamhack Valencia took place last week; although, it flew a bit under the radar, as bigger tournaments, specifically the Major and ESL One Cologne, overshadowed it. While it was no Cologne, this tournament was another tournament to use an idea for group stage formatting that could be massive for the scene. Before I get into implications in terms of tournament formatting, I’ll give my thoughts on the tournament results.

The New NiP

via https://www.hltv.org/

NiP with Fredrik ‘REZ’ Sterner at ESL One Cologne looked pretty decent, and at Dreamhack Valencia, they further cemented themselves back into the top 15 in the world. While they didn’t face the ‘best’ team there in terms of rankings, they laid the hammer down against the lesser ones. They may not have a very deep map pool, but their map pool is very tricky to play against. They are once again the best team in the world on Cache. You cannot play Cache against them, or you will go down 0-1. Their next best map is up for debate. For my money, it’s Nuke; however, they have looked pretty decent on Train as well. What makes their map pool tricky, is that no team in the top 10 besides Natus Vincere permaban Cache. This gives them a ‘free’ map in almost any series, and right now they look like they can play almost every map in the pool; admittedly they aren’t very good on most of the maps, but it is still an improvement for this squad.

The key for the Ninjas here is if REZ can prove to be a superstar player. The kind of player NiP has lacked since Christopher ‘GeT_RiGhT’ Alesund was in good form. He doesn’t need to be the next GeT_RiGhtT, but he does have to be their superstar. If he proves that he is, NiP could again be contenders for the world number one spot, as the supporting cast on NiP is among the best in Counter-Strike, with GeT_RiGhT’s recent resurgence.

The Rise of Red Reserve

via http://wiki.teamliquid.net

The young Swedish team, that acquired Mikiel ‘Maikelele’ Bill a little over a month ago, managed to make the finals of Dreamhack Valencia. To do so, they upset Heroic, a favorite to make the final, in the semifinals in narrow fashion. This upset doesn’t really mean much in my opinion. To me, it just seemed like the new Swedish roster was just on a hot run this tournament, and will not pose a threat to any of the top 15 teams in the near future. Their play style is erratic, and they rely too much on the skill of their players. This style will not get them very far in the current era; however, one particular player that impressed me was Hampus ‘hampus’ Poser. He could be someone to watch out for as an up and coming star player.

Heroic Fall Short

Dreamhack Valencia

via https://www.hltv.org/

I know I’ve already said it, but Red Reserve did upset this Danish Squad in narrow fashion. All in all, a bad showing from Heroic. Heroic with Patrick ‘es3tag’ Hansen is a pretty decent team; however, for my money, they could really make great use of a player like Philip ‘aizy’ Aistrup. As we know, aizy’s time in North is coming to a close. Es3tag has not been awful, but aizy is more skilled and would better fit this team. Not to mention, Marco ‘Snappi’ Pfeiffer, has shown us throughout his entire time with Heroic, he knows how to get players involved, and use them correctly. This is exactly what aizy needs to help get his career back on track.

GSL Bo3

Dreamhack Valencia

via https://allevents.in

The real headliner for Dreamhack Valencia, for me anyway, is the use of GSL format in groups; however, not the GSL Bo1 groups we are used to. Instead, the elimination matches were both best of three. I think this sort of group stage is a great idea and would love to see more of it; although, if I could have it all my way, I would make the first match a best of one, the winner’s, loser’s and decider matches would all be best of three. I think this would be the ultimate format for a tournament group stage, and would not even necessarily warrant an extra day for the tournament to run. Smaller tournaments can just invite fewer teams, and bigger tournaments would be able to fit the extra maps in.

The major for example has one day per group stage anyway, meaning this format would fit just fine. Not to mention, not every tournament organizer has to use this format; however, for a tournament that is seen as the end all for the discussion of who the best team in the world is, I think only the best format should be used, and the legend system simply must go, but that topic is for another article.

Dreamhack Valencia may not have had a huge prize pot, or all the best teams, but it did have some great formatting, that with some tinkering and patience, could well be the future of our game.


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