The 2018 North American Academy League starts soon.

Introducing the 2018 North American Academy League rules and rosters

Along with the franchising of the North American LCS, Riot is introducing an Academy League for the 2018 season. This league is replacing the North American Challenger Series of previous years. Each LCS organization is required to support an Academy roster alongside their primary team, which will compete in the “minor league.”

While this move is not a huge change for North American League of Legends, Riot has stated slightly different goals for this Academy League compared to the Challenger Series:

“At its core, Academy League is a service for organizations to develop in-house talent–unlike its high-stakes predecessor, the Challenger Series, whose focus was to promote new teams to the NA LCS.”

The Academy League is not necessarily designed to be competitive in the same way Challenger Series was. It is a space for organizations to focus on bringing in players and coaches to season them into LCS talents.

STRUCTURE and RULES

The 2018 Academy League Spring Split schedule is available online

Image from lolesports.com

The Academy League will run parallel to the NA LCS. For every Saturday and Sunday LCS match-up there will be a Thursday or Friday Academy match. For example, since TSM and Team Liquid’s LCS teams face off in week one, their Academy teams also face off in week one. Academy League is a best-of-one double round robin, just like the LCS. Riot will broadcast Friday’s Academy series, but Thursday’s will only be available as VODs. The entire schedule is published on their website.

In order to keep the Academy League true to its goals, Riot has implemented a few roster restrictions. Every organization has to lock in their active roster each Wednesday, then set starters by 1:00pm for Academy, and 12:00pm for LCS, each game day. Riot kept roster changes relatively flexible, because they “felt it would be detrimental for player development if it was difficult for players to move between the starting Academy and LCS rosters.”

In addition, Academy teams have veteran and import player limits. For the 2018 Spring Split, Academy teams can only start up to three veterans and one non-resident. Riot was torn between expanding North America’s rising stars and continuing to support established talents through the chaos of the franchising off-season. Moving forward, Academy teams will be restricted to two veterans.

They define a veteran as “if the player has started over 50% of eligible regular season games over the course of the last two splits of professional, Worlds-eligible League of Legends competition (i.e. NA LCS, EU LCS, etc).” Riot believes veterans bring several benefits to Academy teams. They allow LCS organizations to field a couple of solid substitutes for their bench. Veterans on Academy teams can also help influence young players in and out of the game. Import players can use the Academy to “get acclimated to NA esports, as well as learn English and deal with the transition of living in a new country.”

Academy Team Rosters (previous team-recent achievement)

OpTic Gaming joins the 2018 Academy League

Image from lolesports.com

OpTic Academy (OPTA)

Dhokla – Sin Gaming – 4th place 2017 Oceanic Pro League Summer

Kadir – ÇİLEKLER – 8th place 2017 Turkish Championship League Summer

Palafox – Team Ocean – 1st place 2017 NA Scouting Grounds

Andy – Zenith eSports – 2nd place 2016 Carbon Winter Invitational

Winter – Team Mountain – 3rd place 2017 NA Scouting Grounds

OpTic’s roster-building strategy did not carry over as much from their LCS roster. While Dhokla most recently competed in Australia, he is North American, along with Palafox, Andy and Winter. Kadir, from the Netherlands, is the only technical non-resident.

This Academy squad seems to truly be about developing young talent, as these players have hardly anything on their resume coming into 2018. Hopefully the OpTic LCS team gels better than predicted, because none of these players appear ready to take the main stage just yet.

Team Liquid joins the 2018 Academy League

Image from lolesports.com

TL Academy (TLA)

RepiV – NA Solo Queue – Challenger

Hard – Echo Fox – 10th place 2016 NA LCS Summer

Mickey – Team Liquid – 9th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Shoryu – NA Solo Queue – Challenger

Joey – CLG sub- 3rd place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Liquid’s Academy team centers around Korean mid laner Mickey, who TL brought on towards the end of Summer Split. Hard has some LCS experience as a starter and substitute, while Joey was a substitute for CLG under Aphromoo. He did get to start a couple of times during the Spring Split.

RepiV (previously Viper) and Shoryu are essentially solo queue talents, although RepiV was Liquid’s top lane substitute for most of last year. This Academy roster provides Mickey, Hard and Joey as substitutes if Xmithie, Pobelter or Olleh do not pan out. However, it is mostly a testing ground for RepiV and Shoryu.

FlyQuest joins the 2018 Academy League

Image from lolesports.com

FlyQuest Academy (FQA)

Ngo – University of Toronto – 2nd place 2017 uLoL Collegiate Series

Shrimp – Team Dignitas – 4th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Keane – Team Dignitas – 4th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Erry – University of Toronto – 2nd place 2017 uLoL Collegiate Series

JayJ – University of Toronto – 2nd place 2017 uLoL Collegiate Series

FlyQuest is the only Academy roster to bring on collegiate talent for Spring Split. Ngo (aka iMysterious or Gaow Gaiy), Erry and JayJ played together on the University of Toronto uLoL team last year. The team took second place in North America, but this will be their first test in the minor league.

Keane and Shrimp join FQA from a disbanded Team Dignitas, which took fourth place in the LCS last summer. They are, arguably, the strongest duo out of any Academy line-up. Their mid-jungle synergy should provide FlyQuest with a sturdy anchor to develop the Toronto trio.

TSM joins the 2018 Academy League

Image from lolesports.com

TSM Academy (TSMA)

Brandini – Echo Fox – 8th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Grig – Echo Fox sub- 8th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Ablazeolive – Team Mountain – 3rd place 2017 NA Scouting Grounds

MrRalleZ – TSM sub – 1st place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Shady – Phoenix1 sub – 10th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

TSM’s Academy roster is not nearly as threatening as their LCS line-up. MrRalleZ carries over from last year as a tenured substitute AD Carry. Playing under Zven should expand the veteran’s repertoire even further, after training with Doublelift last year.

Brandini, Grig and Shady have each gotten a small share of LCS experience, but mostly acted as substitutes for their respective teams. Ablazeolive has played in the Challenger Series, but is mostly known as a versatile solo queue mid laner. These individuals should be able to go toe-to-toe with most in the Academy League, but synergy may take time to develop.

CLG joins the 2018 Academy League

Image from lolesports.com

CLG Academy (CLGA)

Fallenbandit – CLG Academy – 5th place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Omargod – CLG – 3rd place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Tuesday – CLG Academy – 5th place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Zag – CLG Academy – 5th place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Fill – CLG Academy – 5th place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

CLG is the only team that already had a reasonable sister team playing in the Challenger Series. They simply carried over their entire roster from Summer Split and re-added Omargod.

It is hard to say whether this line-up’s synergy will overcome the raw talent of some of these other rosters. Omargod is the closest to a veteran on the team, due to his LCS experience last split. Maybe he will be the leader to elevate the rest of CLGA into a threat.

100 Thieves joins the 2018 Academy League

Image from lolesports.com

100 Academy (100A)

Kaizen – Team Ocean – 1st place 2017 NA Scouting Grounds

Levi – GIGABYTE Marines – 1st place 2017 Garena Premier League Summer

Linsanity – Team Cloud – 4th place 2017 NA Scouting Grounds

Rikara – Gold Coin United – 1st place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Whyin – Gold Coin United sub – 1st place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

100 Thieves put together a creative Academy roster for 2018. Everyone will focus on Levi, the aggressive GPL superstar jungler, but there is more to 100A. Rikara and Whyin played together last summer on Gold Coin United. Linsanity has been a touted solo queue mid laner for years now.

Most importantly, Levi and Linsanity could be 100 Thieves’ answer to Meteos and Ryu’s retirement. With a split or two of experience together, Levi and Linsanity could fill Meteos and Ryu’s roles without needing to change out Ssumday, Cody Sun or Aphromoo.

Golden Guardians joins the 2018 Academy League

Image from lolesports.com

GGS Academy (GGA)

Jenkins – NA Solo Queue – Challenger

Potluck – eUnited sub – 2nd place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Bobqin – eUnited sub – 2nd place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Jurassiq – NA Solo Queue – Challenger

Xpecial – Phoenix1 – 10th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Golden Guardians used the same mentality to construct their Academy team as their LCS team. Xpecial acts as the long-term veteran shot-caller who will develop four young North American talents. Hai assumes that role on GG’s main line-up.

Jenkins, Potluck, Bobqin and Jurassiq are relatively unknown quantities. No one can really comment on how effective they may be. However, if Xpecial proves to be better than Matt, then he just may get the starting spot. It also might not be out of the question for Jenkins or Jurassiq to see some starts, depending on Lourlo and Deftly’s performances.

 

Cloud9 joins the 2018 Academy League

Image from lolesports.com

C9 Academy (C9A)

League – Team Cloud – 4th place 2017 NA Scouting Grounds

Wiggily – Tempo Storm – 3rd/4th place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Goldenglue – Team Liquid – 9th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Keith – Echo Fox – 8th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Zeyzal – eUnited – 2nd place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Fans should be pleased with Cloud9’s Academy off-season, despite questionable LCS pick-ups. Goldenglue and Keith have previously had starting LCS roles, even if they were weak points for those teams. Wiggily and Zeyzal showed promise in last year’s Challenger Series.

League is the most questionable addition, but C9 worked with him at Scouting Grounds and obviously see something in him worth developing. As long as these personalities mix, C9 Academy should be fairly competitive. All of these players need a bit of development before promoting into the LCS.

Echo Fox joins the 2018 Academy League

Image from lolesports.com

EF Academy (FOXA)

Allorim – Phoenix1 sub – 10th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

TheOddOrange – Team Gates – 6th place 2017 NA Challenger Spring

Damonte – Echo Fox sub – 8th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Lost – Legacy Esports – 3rd place 2017 Oceanic Pro League Summer

Papa Chau – eUnited sub – 2nd place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Echo Fox brings together five players with limited professional experience. Allorim and Damonte were substitutes for LCS teams, while Papa Chau subbed for eUnited. TheOddOrange has played in the NA Challenger Series, and Lost started in the OPL.

EF Academy is probably the weakest-looking out of the bunch. None of these players have much prior history or synergy together. Damonte previously played for Echo Fox, but he did not see many starting opportunities. Even parts of last year’s Delta Fox/Stream Dream Team might have been valuable for developing raw talent.

Clutch Gaming joins the 2018 Academy League

Image from lolesports.com

Clutch Academy (CGA)

Maxtrobo – Tempo Storm sub – 3rd/4th place 2017 NA Challenger Summer

Moon – FlyQuest – 7th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Sun – NA Solo Queue – Challenger

Piglet – Team Liquid – 9th place 2017 NA LCS Summer

Vulcan – Team Ocean – 1st place 2017 NA Scouting Grounds

Piglet returns to the minor league as part of Clutch Gaming Academy. He is joined by Moon and three rookies. Vulcan had a decent showcase at Scouting Grounds, and Maxtrobo and Sun have consistently maintained high Challenger solo queue rankings.

Clutch Gaming is smart to bring on Moon and Piglet as substitutes for LiRa and Apollo. These two duos would be interchangeable while still starting two or fewer non-residents. LiRa and Apollo were more consistent in Summer Split, but Moon and Piglet showed high ceilings in Spring Split. Hopefully, they are also able to lead this squad in the Academy League.

Expectations for 2018

Based on the rosters that these organizations have fielded, the 2018 Academy League should be much better for developing new North American players. Less than 10 percent of these players are imports. Close to 30 percent of these players have started in a major competitive league (LCS, LCK, etc.). Many of these players will have their professional debut in the Academy League, and others will finally get a chance to have a starting position in the minor league.

There are still a few players, such as Levi, Xpecial, Piglet and Keane, who have opportunities to rotate into the NA LCS this year. If they are able to prove themselves as leaders, and the rosters can conform to import limits, then they could be promoted. For now, though, they will need to focus on growth and development.

Academy League may not be as competitive as the Challenger Series was previously. It may be more of a training ground for players and coaches to condition and mature. Teams are going to have difficulty synergizing immediately. Some players may find they are unable to work well in a team environment. Nonetheless, 2018 will be full of growth, and the Academy League will be a huge part in continuing that growth for years to come.

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Featured Image: LoL Esports

Other Images: LoL Esports

Team and Player History and Achievements: LeaguepediaOP.GGuLoL

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dota 2, universe, evil geniuses

Universe leaves EG and Sumail sounds off

On Wednesday, Evil Geniuses announced that Universe would be leaving the team, along with a few other roster moves. Including a new captain in Misery coming over from Optic Gaming. While also moving Fear to the midlane and Sumail to the offlane. Removing SVG as their coach and replacing him with Bulba. Evil Geniuses has been one of the most stable teams of the past couple years. Especially when it came to roster moves. This change marks a new beginning for those who “bleed blue.”

What’s next for Universe?

Arguably the best offlaner in the game is now on the market. What does this mean for the new Pro Dota Circuit? This won’t affect Evil Geniuses who hold firm with 750 Qualifying Points. Putting them in 5th place as of right now. Only the top three players on each team are able to apply their Qualifying Points to their total. As the rest of Evil Geniuses has 250 Qualifying Points (aside from Misery), their total does not change.

Though this provides an interesting opportunity for teams who may currently be outside of the top 8. Universe comes with 250 Qualifying Points and could provide a nice boost to a team looking to make up some ground in the Pro Circuit. Aside from being an amazing player. Universe has had success everywhere he goes. Whether it was with Team Secret or winning TI5 with Evil Geniuses. This is easily the most interesting player to hit the market since Resolution went to OG after this year’s International.

Peter has some advice for his old team

When the news broke that Evil Geniuses and Universe were parting ways, the community needed time to process it. But not former Evil Geniuses CEO, Peter, who quickly had some words of wisdom for his old organization. Specifically saying that they should have kicked either Arteezy or Sumail, which Sumail did not let slide.

dota 2, sumail, peter, ppd, optic gaming, evil geniuses

(Twitter)

The next day Sumail went on BeyondTheSummit’s “HotCox” podcast to shed a little light on the exchange. “I meant what I said,” was one of his early sound bites from the interview. He went on to discuss his relationship with PPD during his time at EG. Mentioning a time where they wanted Bulba as a coach after the Frankfurt Major, but Peter blocked it. Sumail was also very self-critical and took note of some of his own faults when it came to his practice ethic earlier in his career. As well as mentioning that Peter was a great Captain for them during their TI run. That he was “the best Captain in the history of DotA” over that span. Praising Peter’s ability to synergize their team with ease, with players like Sumail and Aui2000 who require a lot of farm to be successful. Sumail talked about how easily Peter was able to direct their team.

What upset him was being on the receiving end of a lot of Peter’s criticisms. Even mentioning a time where he offered to be the one to leave Evil Geniuses prior to Peter leaving the organization:

“This is how it went down. I decided I would have to leave. I wasn’t suggesting that I should be the one the team should be made around. I offered to leave… But others decided to build around me. If I were that bad of a player, if I had like no respect for the game. Every other player on the team had played for longer than me. They would’ve decided to build around them, but it didn’t work out that way. Sometimes you just have to accept the fact that you’re wrong…”

– Sumail on “HotCox”

NA DotA fans, make sure to mark the next Optic vs EG match on your calendar. It should be a fun one.

(Featured Image courtesy of PCGAMER)

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Four new organizations enter the NA LCS in 2018

NA LCS team identities following off-season roster upheavals

This year’s off-season has been extremely disruptive to the identity of each NA LCS team. Iconic, long-term and founding members of several rosters have switched to another team for 2018. Aphromoo is no longer playing for Counter Logic Gaming. Echo Fox is without Froggen. Hai has moved on from FlyQuest. TSM does not have Svenskeren.

Four brand new organizations are entering the LCS, while four previous organizations are no more. Immortals, Team Envy, Phoenix1 and Dignitas are out. Optic Gaming, Golden Guardians, 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming are in. All of the narratives surrounding the dissolved teams no longer matter. Immortals’ fumbles domestically, and then their tragic World Championship; Dignitas’ return to the LCS and Summer Split run in the playoffs; Phoenix1’s roller-coaster ups and downs from Rift Rivals, MikeYeung and roster shuffles. All down the drain.

The incoming teams will create new narratives for fans to enjoy. Endemic organizations made big roster moves in the off-season, which will bring their own storylines. The other teams in the middle, like Echo Fox and FlyQuest, will continue to mold into their own identities. 2018 is a watershed year for creating new drama, rivalries and narratives within the NA LCS.

100 Thieves: Old Guard, Modern Marketing

Aphromoo joined 100 Thieves for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The roster and coach announced for 100 Thieves consists of Ssumday, Meteos, Ryu, Aphromoo and Pr0lly. Each of these members could easily help anchor a team with their veteran experience and knowledge. However, they find themselves together on a roster that could very well have the most combined professional League of Legends experience on any announced NA LCS team in 2018. The coaching role, every lane, and the jungle position is covered by an established personality.

The organization itself is rather novel, though. Matthew Haag, aka “Nadeshot,” is well-known in the Call of Duty world as a retired player and team owner. He is partnered with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers to build a brand and a League of Legends roster under the 100 Thieves moniker. With a standout logo and a merch store full of casual-wear, 100 Thieves will most likely bring a different marketing flavor to the LCS.

100 Thieves should bring a mixture of results on and off the Rift. Meteos, Pr0lly and Aphromoo are some of the most recognized personalities in North America, while Ssumday and Ryu rally their own sets of fans. Nadeshot and the Cavaliers may contribute new styles and promotions than League of Legends is used to. Combine the charisma of the players and staff with the creativity and flashiness of the brand, and 100 Thieves could pull a nice set of followers. Not to mention, if the team actually has synergy, then there is no doubt they can be contenders regardless of which AD carry they sign.

Cloud9: question marks

Svenskeren joins Cloud9 for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Fans are filled with confusion and concern towards Cloud9’s off-season. With Impact and Contractz leaving, Cloud9 brought on Svenskeren and Licorice to join Jensen, Sneaky and Smoothie on the starting roster. Factions of the fan-base believe these members to be side-grades at least, downgrades at worst. Licorice has not been tested above the Challenger Series, while Svenskeren was not viewed as a key factor for TSM in 2017. While Impact and Ray had their low moments this year on Cloud9, there is no question that Impact’s high points were on another level.

Cloud9 still remains as one of the goofier, nonchalant organizations. Sneaky will still be the central personality, as the longest tenured member of the organization. Jensen, Smoothie, Svenskeren and even Coach Reapered and team owner Jack have had their fair share of memes and fun. Licorice will probably fall right in line with this theme.

However, the lightheartedness of the players only works if they are winning. Jokes and humor fall flat if the roster has issues clicking, or if results do not show. Despite standing out as an amusing team, Cloud9 actually has a strong League of Legends legacy. They have won two NA LCS championships, and finished runner-up four times. In 2018 Cloud9 will look to continue building on this success, while still playing the jester role off stage.

Counter Logic Gaming: the Nice Guys

Biofrost joins CLG for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

CLG took their first step away from their “Team Friendship” theme when they traded Xmithie for Dardoch in the 2017 mid-season. They took a step further this off-season by bringing on Reignover to start over OmarGod. Add Aphromoo’s departure, and CLG’s identity is reeling.

But look at the starting roster: Darshan, Reignover, Huhi, Stixxay, Biofrost. These are the nice guys of the NA LCS. This squad has charisma. None of these members have any baggage following them from a previous team, or lacks personality. When Stixxay is the most arrogant player on the roster, it is probably a healthy work environment.

CLG should have some concerns, though. Who will be the leader and shotcaller to fill the void left by Aphromoo? Is there enough fire in the team? And is the talent strong enough to pass the test of 2018? Stixxay has never played in the LCS without Aphromoo. Biofrost only played one split without Doublelift, and it was not nearly as impactful. Reignover has not shown a level of play akin to his days with Huni on Fnatic and Immortals. 2018 will be a huge test for these players’ improvement together.

Clutch Gaming: upgraded envy

Febiven joins Clutch Gaming for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Lira, Apollo and Hakuho made up three fifths of Team Envy in 2017, and they will make up three fifths of Clutch Gaming in 2018. Instead of Nisqy and Seraph, though, Clutch opted for Febiven and Solo. Unlike Cloud9’s, these acquisitions should definitely be upgrades. Nisqy brought a level of consistency to the mid lane, which Envy did not have prior to starting him. Seraph was a starter for the team over a longer period of time, but played much less consistently. Febiven earned first team All-Pro in the 2017 European LCS Summer Split, and Solo was a top performer in the North American Challenger Series.

Envy’s jungler and bottom lane were huge contributors to the team’s Summer Split success. They were able to secure a playoff spot, and took CLG to five games in the quarterfinals. With stronger top and mid laners, Clutch Gaming may be able to reach the next level and push even farther. They also brought on David Lim, who led Team Liquid Academy during their promotion into the LCS and Team Liquid during the 2017 Spring Split.

Beyond a possibly underrated roster, the Houston Rockets’ Clutch Gaming identity within the LCS remains unclear. Sebastian Park, their Head of Esports, seems confident in the team’s potential, and the organization has teased analytical tools for optimizing talent scouting, including a “pathfinding engine.” If these types of developments pan out, then Clutch Gaming could become the Moneyball team in the NA LCS.

Echo Fox: The Aggressors

Dardoch and Fenix join Echo Fox for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

List the most aggressive players in the NA LCS over the past two years, and several of Echo Fox’s reported members are likely to pop up. Huni, Dardoch and Fenix are well-known hawkish competitors. Altec and Adrian began building a similar reputation in the 2017 Summer Split, as well. Echo Fox has combined these aggressors into one squad to completely revamp into 2018.

Drama and tension are the other side of this aggression coin. Dardoch and Fenix had their fair share of issues while on Team Liquid in 2016, as showcased in Breaking PointAdrian had his own problems on Phoenix1 in the 2017 Spring Split. These types of off-stage obstacles could bubble up once again without the proper infrastructure.

FOX’s new look is also a departure from the previous Froggen-centric 10-man roster and the Stream Dream Team (Delta Fox). Echo Fox could never develop any synergy on their LCS roster during Summer Split, due to constantly rotating starters. Froggen’s status is still unknown (although Jacob Wolf reported that FOX plans to drop him), but even if he stays, he will no longer be the only voice on the team. This new Echo Fox will have the highest performance variance, as most of the members rely on emotional momentum to succeed. If this roster is able to mesh and remain problem-free, then Echo Fox could reap huge rewards from this huge risk.

FlyQuest: A chemistry experiment

Flame joins FlyQuest for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the few fully announced rosters, FlyQuest is completely revamped for 2018. Following the trend of keystone figures switching teams, Hai is no longer FlyQuest’s mid laner. Balls, Moon and Lemonnation are gone, as well. Instead, FlyQuest acquired Flame, Anda, Fly and Stunt as starters. They also signed Keane and Shrimp, as well as Ngo, Erry and Jayj from the University of Toronto’s collegiate team. Wildturtle is the only remaining member from the 2017 roster.

Other than Flame, these players feel middle of the pack individually. Anda and Fly are untested in the LCS, but have played in the NA Challenger Series with varying success. Wildturtle can spike fairly high, but generally relies on his teammates to play around his style. Stunt was the on-and-off starter during his time on Phoenix1.

Unlocking these players’ ceilings will be FlyQuest’s greatest challenge in 2018. With the proper synergy, FlyQuest could certainly rise higher than their 2017 Summer Split. Communication problems are more likely, though. Wildturtle has veteran experience, but he may not be a loud voice to build a team around. The rookies, Anda and Stunt, will rely on Wildturtle to be a leader and gel together with the Korean imports, Flame and Fly. Keane and Shrimp are smart pick-ups, since they worked fairly well with Ssumday on Dignitas, and could bring that experience into FlyQuest.

Golden Guardians: Hai and Company

Hai joins Golden Guardians for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Hai kick-starts a new organization in 2018, Golden Guardians, and he is basically their only hope. The Golden State Warriors-owned organization has reportedly acquired Lourlo, Contractz, Deftly and Matt. This roster would be the only one in the NA LCS without any imported players. Golden Guardians also seem to have the least combined LCS experience. These two factors will leave many fans wondering what reasoning was used to construct this team.

Golden Guardians will live or die by Hai in 2018. He is surrounded by relatively young players who have never played for more than one previous organization. LCS fans were impressed with Moon’s performance on FlyQuest with Hai as a shotcaller, but that success was short-lived. If Hai is able to unlock Lourlo, Contractz, Deftly and Matt the same way, then Golden Guardians could surprise.

ESPN also reported Locodoco as the Golden Guardians’ head coach, which could be helpful. He has experience coaching younger players on Team Liquid and Gold Coin United, including Lourlo and Matt. It would be surprising if Golden Guardians kept these same five members as their starters throughout 2018. Without the pressure of relegation, this organization could be taking the opportunity to develop younger native talents with Hai’s proven leadership.

Optic Gaming: The HodgePodge

PowerOfEvil joins Optic Gaming for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

A true concoction, Optic Gaming enters the NA LCS pulling together a wide variety of talents. The “Green Wall” is an expansive organization spanning Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty, Overwatch and other esports. They have announced their acquisition of Romain Bigeard, ex-manager of Unicorns of Love, and Zaboutine, former caster, as manager and coach. ESPN has reported the starting roster as Zig, Akaadian, PowerOfEvil, Arrow and LemonNation.

If all of this is true, then Optic is combining rising stars in top and jungle with an experimental European mid laner, an up-and-down Korean AD carry and an analytical, veteran support. The roster will be led by an eccentric manager-mascot and a French caster-turned-coach, and they will have the full support of an esports powerhouse brand. There are some strong pieces to this puzzle, but they are not necessarily a clean fit.

The Optic LCS team seems like it may sit somewhere between 100 Thieves and FlyQuest. Optic is definitely a well-known esports organization, and they should draw a fan-base. The first-person shooter edge and player recognition of 100 Thieves combines with the questionable roster synergy of FlyQuest. Romain is a promotional personality with a knack for creating content and winning hearts, so expect Optic to use him to full effect. There is certainly plenty of talent on this roster, but it may take a while for them to actually produce favorable results.

Team Liquid: Vengeful Spirits

Doublelift joins Team Liquid for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The hoarders of the off-season, Team Liquid emerges with a complete roster overhaul. After acquiring contracts for several different players, Liquid has most likely settled on Impact, Xmithie, Pobelter, Doublelift and Olleh. This five-man group feels much stronger and intuitive than Liquid’s team from 2017 Summer Split. Xmithie, Pobelter and Olleh are proven talents who made up three fifths of Immortals’ World Championship-qualifying roster. Impact had a mostly off year, but still solid during the high points. Doublelift comes to Liquid after being replaced by TSM.

Revenge is the overarching theme for Team Liquid going into 2018. Owner Steve Arhancet wants revenge for his last two years of roster troubles. The ex-Immortals players want revenge for losing to TSM in the Summer Split finals, then being denied from the franchised LCS. Most importantly, Doublelift wants revenge for getting nudged out of TSM.

With Cain remaining as head coach, Team Liquid should trend towards the top of the league. If this roster is unable to perform, then it will be a complete disgrace. All of these players have been victorious in the past. Each of these players have attended the World Championship, many of them as teammates. 2018 serves as a fresh start for Team Liquid and Steve, and they need to use their past frustrations as fuel. Dardoch is not an excuse. Piglet is not an excuse. Goldenglue is not an excuse. It is time for Liquid to put up or shut up.

TSM: the final boss

Zven and mithy join TSM for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Citing international shortcomings and issues with shotcalling and communication, TSM’s owner, Reginald, decided to replace Svenskeren, Doublelift and Biofrost with MikeYeung, Zven and Mithy. He also picked up Coach Ssong from Immortals’ dissolved team. The six-time NA LCS champions continue to adapt and reinvigorate their roster, and TSM will remain as the final boss in 2018. Every individual player on this team should be top three in their role at the beginning of the season.

MikeYeung is the only player worth questioning. He showcased an explosive Rift Rivals in 2017, but Phoenix1 fell off as a team afterwards. Fans will find out how meta-dependent MikeYeung is in 2018.

Hauntzer was the standout player at Worlds, and he had an all-around stellar 2017. Bjergsen continues to be an anchor in the mid lane, ever-present, ever-consistent. Zven and Mithy’s reputation precedes them, as they have been a package deal since their time on Origen starting in 2014.

TSM’s performance floor is higher than several LCS teams’ ceilings, because the consistency and experience on this team should be solid. Ssong obviously factored into Immortals’ Summer Split success. If he can produce even a portion of that improvement with TSM, then they have a fruitful road ahead. With so much volatility in the off-season, TSM is one of the only teams to maintain the same identity as the villain of the league. They are the team that assumes North American dominance, and shoots for greatness abroad. Franchising has opened doors for some others to compete financially and strategically, but will they actually have what it takes to dethrone the kings?

credits

Featured Image: Akshon Esports Twitter

Other Images: LoL Esports’ Flickr

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scouting grounds

Standouts at 2017 North America Scouting Grounds

The 2017 North America Scouting Grounds event took place this weekend. 20 of NA’s top challenger players worked alongside four NA LCS organizations to test their mettle in the Riot LA studio. OpTic Gaming (OPT), Team SoloMid (TSM), Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) and Cloud 9 (C9) were the four teams to participate at this year’s scouting event. After a series of placement matches on day one, the players headed into the third and first place matches. Let’s highlight some standout players in their respective teams.

Fighting tooth and nail

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

Coming in at fourth place overall, Team Cloud Drake (CLD), led by C9, struggled to find their footing in their third place match against Team Mountain Drake (MTN). Despite the tough series, two of CLD‘s players managed to show resolve in their play. First off, League in the top lane showed up despite being counter-picked in both games. In game one, League’s Cho’Gath not only stayed toe-to-toe with Rodov‘s Gnar during the laning phase, but even managed to earn a solo kill. At 17 minutes, League’s superior timing at a teamfight bottom turned the fight in CLD‘s favor. In his second game, League demonstrated several heads-up plays using his Teleport to flank and engage teamfights. Although CLD failed to capitalize on some of these plays, League’s proactive playstyle stood out respectably.

Another player on CLD who performed on-stage was Fanatik. Although Fanatik fell behind his veteran counter-part “Nintendudex” pressure early on, he adapted quickly in game one. After recognizing the mid-jungle focus for Team Mountain Drake, Fanatik countered a dive to secure a clean 2-0 fight. In his second game, Fanatik capitalized on a crucial team MTN mistake and stole the Baron to keep his team alive. At 26 minutes, Fanatik’s Jarvan found a four man “Cataclysm” to lock down multiple enemies and win his team the fight. As the youngest player at the 2017 Scouting Grounds, it will be interesting to see how he develops as a player.

A team of duos

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

For Team Mountain Drake, led by Counter Logic Gaming, their duos stood out more than individual play. First, no stranger to the NA LCS, Nintendudex showed serious synergy with Ablazeolive, one of the foremost challenger mid laners in North America. The communication between the two was on clear display during a fight in game one of the series. After Ablazeolive used his Teleport to return to lane, CLD‘s Linsanity saw an opportunity to get a pick. But, Ablazeolive turned on the enemy mid laner, locking him down using Malzahar’s “Nether Grasp” to buy Nintendudex time to join the fight and finish the kill. Ablaze’s teamfight ability shined in game two where he hit multiple key “Shockwave’s” on Orianna to seal CLD‘s fate.

The second pair to come through was MTN‘s bottom lane. Support Winter and AD-carry Value stood out as remarkable players in their roles. Winter’s aggressive style transitioned to key roams on Alistar to tip early skirmishes. In game one, Winter’s awareness on Alistar punished a poorly set up flank by CLD‘s mid and jungle, deleting the enemy Ryze from the ensuing teamfight. In game two, his engages on Rakan set up multiple fights for his mid laner to land game-winning ultimates. Winter’s AD-carry, Value also had his fair share of star play. In game one, an over-ambitious engage from CLD, Value landed a four-man “Featherstorm” + “Bladecaller” combo to clean up the fight. By layering his ultimates with his team’s engages, Value pumped out 927 damage per minute in game two. He earned himself player of the series with a combined 18/3/15 KDA across two games.

Live and die by the flames

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

Team Infernal Drake (INF), led by TSM, gave viewers some heated highlight plays to live up to their team name. In game one of the finals match, INF found themselves pushed in heavily. Their opponents, Team Ocean Drake (OCN), had remarkable vision superiority in INF‘s jungle, making it difficult for them to find fights on favorable terms. But their support Teesum on Rakan was able to find a three man engage with his “Grand Entrance.” This catch gave room for his carries to unload their damage before the enemy team could respond. However, Teesum’s performance in game two was largely lacking. Despite being the team’s main tank on Braum, several flubbed shields using his “Unbreakable” led to multiple teamfight deaths.

Game two was where two of INF‘s carries stepped up. After a rough game one, INF funneled resources into their AD-carry, NoahMost. Although his teamfight presence was weak throughout the early game, Noah was able to capitalize on an overzealous rush by Team Ocean Drake. With five members barreling toward his Xayah, Noah released a “Featherstorm” + “Bladecaller” combo that rooted five members. After locking down the entire enemy team, Noah’s Xayah mowed down the opposition for the only Pentakill at the 2017 Scouting Grounds.

The third player on INF to showcase his star potential was PieCakeLord in the top lane. Although his team was behind for much of the second game, PieCakeLord on Fiora was able to exert tremendous side-lane pressure that often brought multiple OCN members to stop him. Still, he managed to out-pressure the enemy Shen throughout most of the game. After the enemy Azir wiped his team at the Baron pit, PieCakeLord outplayed the enemy mid and top to keep his team in the game.

Stomping the Scouting Grounds

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

After drafting possibly the strongest team at Scouting Grounds, eyes were on OpTic Gaming’s coaching staff to make that roster shine. And boy did they shine. First, Vulcan‘s Taric was able to turn an early gank into a kill on the enemy AD-carry, setting a serious tempo advantage for team OCN. In the late game, Taric’s damage negation with “Cosmic Radiance” allowed his team to stampede over teamfights. In game two, Vulcan’s engages on Rakan practically spoon fed kills to his mid laner, Palafox.

Palafox had questions circling about his potential after being drafted as the 20th pick. But he brought the heat. Playing as Malzahar in game one, Palafox found an aggressive pick onto the enemy Orianna. After Orianna seemingly flashed to safety, Palafox landed an instant over the wall “Call of the Void” to secure the kill. Palafox’s Azir was the single greatest game-deciding factor in game two. A gigantic “Emperor’s Divide” knocked up four members of INF, completely shifting the momentum mid-game. Again at 46 minutes, Palafox earned a quadrakill at the Baron pit to push OCN‘s advantages over the edge.

Third, OCN‘s top laner Kaizen came into his own in game two. His Shen managed to outplay an early 2v1 dive by INF‘s top-jungle duo, earning himself a kill on his lane opponent on the way out. Although the enemy Fiora’s split push pressure was strong, ultimately, Kaizen’s teamfight utility became a winning factor for his team. Across the board, Team OCN performed spectacularly at this year’s Scouting Grounds. It will be exciting to see these players develop on future academy rosters. And, a win here shows good signs for OpTic Gaming who hope to make a definitive statement in their first season in the NA LCS.

Featured Image: LoL Esports

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Thanksgiving Free Agents: League of Legends Edition

League of Legends is having their first major free agency period since the start of franchising in North America. As with traditional sports, free agency is going to be a major time for teams to build their rosters for LCS’ new start. Instead of just giving you who some of the free agents are and where they might go, a holiday theme has been added for your enjoyment. (Note: As of the time this was written none of these players have signed officially)

Corn “Froggen”

Froggen has been consistent since the day he entered the LCS. Never overly flashy but a major part and sometimes the best part of his team. Corn like Froggen is never flashy but it is reliable and can be the best part of a bad meal.

Last year on Echo Fox, Froggen was the unchallenged leader of the team. Echo Fox finished in eighth, just outside of the playoffs the last two splits. This was due to many things, but rarely ever Froggen. There are plenty of new openings for Froggen. As an in-game and out of game leader, Froggen will be someone who is going to be brought on to do just that. His play is consistent but his leadership skills are what gets him his next position.

For this reason, Froggen will be going to a completely new squad in NA as some of the newer teams will be looking for a leader to help guide them through their first season. He did this with Echo Fox and maybe with a better and more consistent roster around him, Froggen will finally make NA playoffs this year.  With sources saying Akaadian has been bought out by OpTic Gaming it would make sense that they add arguably the two best players from Echo Fox.

Prediction: OpTic

Cranberry Sauce “PowerOfEvil”

Like cranberry sauce you either love PowerOfEvil or you strongly dislike him. He can be an absolute legend on the rift or look like he is lost. That being said PowerOfEvil is testing the waters of free agency hoping to be picked up by a NA squad.

Misfits made a surprising run in world this last year making it out of group stages. While the team played well as a whole, in most games until the end, PowerOfEvil had looked solid. He can make the flashy plays and keep up with many of the games top mid-laners when he is on his game. If he can find consistency there is no doubt that he can challenge just about anyone while in lane. For that reason I think PowerOfEvil will be a hot commodity for NA this free agency.

A great squad for PowerOfEvil would be Flyquest. With Flame reportedly signing there and a solid bot-lane of WildTurtle and Stunt, bringing on PowerOfEvil would make a nice splash for FlyQuest. For PowerOfEvil he would be able to play with teammates who can help guide him in his first year in NA and allow for him to learn from his mistakes he will probably make early on. If they get the PowerOfEvil we saw during group stages and during Mistfits’ run in EU championships, then FlyQuest could have a very strong squad next season.

Prediction: FlyQuest

Sweet Potatoes “LemonNation”

Sweet Potatoes are classic when talking about Thanksgiving dinner. They are sweet and almost like desert before actual desert. Lemonnation is a classic NA support who can surprise people by quietly being solid throughout the game. (Also both are orange/red) Lemonnation has been a consistent and overall solid support since he came into the professional league scene. He does his work and helps lead teams to being better than many people would have thought.

Last year on FlyQuest, many people felt that they would be a joke because it was made up of players who had not played in the pro-scene in awhile. They came out and surprised everyone by making playoffs their first split and barely missing playoffs their second split. Lemonnation came back with a vengeance and showed that older players in the scene can still play and has maybe changed everyone’s opinions about what a “old” player really is.

While Ignar and Aphromoo are higher on teams’ lists, there are still openings for supports especially on new teams. You could reasonably argue that once the other two have signed, whoever else has an opening would sign Lemonnation. With that in mind 100 Thieves looks like a good place for Lemonnation to end up. Ssumday and Meteos (both of whom are on this list) are rumored to be signed with 100 Thieves and Ryu has been confirmed. With Pr0lly as their coach this group could add Lemonnation and have a very reliable team.

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Green Bean Casserole “Meteos”

Some years it’s there, some it’s not. Sometimes you dislike it, sometimes you love it. Like “Dark” Meteos green bean casserole comes back after missing some time at family events and you’re afraid of what is coming next. It is put on your plate against your will and you are told to try it. This time you like it and oddly want more.

Meteos was a mainstay with Cloud9 for many splits. He has a solid following and thus every time he’s filled in for a team people have been very excited. After spending different parts of the year with Phoenix1, who went from playoffs to last between Spring and Summer split, Meteos is ready to be a starter again. With the many opportunities it is likely that he will get a chance to show he is a top level jungler at the professional level.

It is being reported that Meteos will be signing with 100 Thieves. If this stands, with Ryu and Ssumday, it looks as though 100 Thieves could have a very interesting roster to start of League of Legends franchising.

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Biscuit/Corn Bread/Rolls “Febiven”

Any type of bread is needed with any Thanksgiving meal. They help to fill you up and are a go to if you’re not ready to try something new. Febiven in NA would be that. He is a solid mid-laner who brings consistency to any team. He may not be the mvp on his team but he is needed and a safe pickup for any team.

Febiven brings that feeling of a stalwart in the middle of the rift for any team. For H2k this past year Febiven brought composure to an already winning team. He got his start with Cloud9 Eclipse and many speculate he is testing free agency in order to go back to NA. Febiven can bring a lot to one of these new franchising teams and it is likely that he would have a nice payday doing so.

According to sources Golden Guardians only have their coach so far, Locodoco. It is also rumored that Shiphtur might be signing with them. While Shiphtur is a good mid-laner, the Golden Guardians would be making a big time acquisition by signing Febiven. He would not only attract fans but also players. If they know they have someone like him holding down the middle of the Rift then players will feel more comfortable around him. Also wouldn’t it be fun to see Bjerg, Jensen, Pobelter, Huhi, Ryu and Febiven battling it out in mid next season?

Prediction: Golden Guardians

Stuffing “Ignar”

On the outside, if you have never had stuffing before you might think, “I dont know what to think about this”. Then you try it and realize it’s solid and brings the meal together. In many ways this is Ignar. The All-Pro support had some questions coming over to Misfits and showed this year that he is the stuffing to any Thanksgiving meal.

After a quick stay with KT Rolster Ignar found a home with Misfits. He was exactly what you would want in a support. He is able to speak Korean and getting better at English, and he is able to help get bot-lane ahead. His aggresion mixed well with his lanemate, Hans Sama, as he played champions like Rakan, Blitzcrank and Thresh. He is a playmaker and with that will come many offers from teams for a support who can do more than just keep their ADC alive.

There are rumors that Ignar is looking to head back to the LCK, possibly even with SKT. If this doesn’t happen and he heads to NA, there is no doubt that he will land a starting roll. OpTic would be a good match with Ignar. Sources say that Arrow has already signed and thus Ignar would have another Korean ADC. This would eliminate a language barrier and give OpTic another nice pickup.

Prediction: OpTic Gaming

Gravy “Aphromoo”

If you don’t like gravy, what are you doing with your life? If you don’t like Aphromoo the same question should be asked. The man is one of the best supports in NA and, like gravy, he is liked by mostly everyone. Gravy is also what you put on everything in order to help it taste better. No matter what team Aphromoo joins, he will make them that much better.

The Moo has been one of the best, if not the best, supports in NA since he arrived on the scene. His ability to get his ADC ahead by whatever means necessary has made him a lanemate that any ADC would want. While he still can go back to CLG if he wants to, it is interesting that he is testing free agency. It may help drive up the money for his contract wherever he signs, including CLG.

While it would be interesting to see another team pick up Aphromoo, it is likely he stays with CLG. They will give into giving him a large contract and that should bring him back. He is already familiar with the team as most of his teammates, Darshan, Huhi and Stixxay have all already signed with CLG.

Prediction: CLG

Mashed Potatoes “Ssumday”

Mashed potatoes are one of the best parts of the entire Thanksgiving meal. Is it really Thanksgiving without them? Nearly everyone loves them and sometimes if the other parts of the meal aren’t good you can always turn to mashed potatoes to be the best part. Ssumday will be this for which ever team he signs with. Everyone is going to want to bring him on and when others may not be as good around him, you can turn to him and know he will show why he is one of the best top-laners in the world.

Ssumday did not live up to the hype during his first full year in NA, but was still very good. Coming over from KT Rolster everyone believed Ssumday was easily a top 3 top-laner in the world. Dignitas fans were ecstatic when he signed on. Dig went to the playoffs both splits in their first full season back, but unfortunately were not chosen to go forward with franchising. Now Ssumday is again looking for his next home to show he is a top tier top-laner again.

Originally it was thought that Ssumday would be looking to go back to the LCK this season. Then sources came out claiming that 100 Thieves is looking to sign him. While the team has not confirmed it yet, if he were to sign there 100 Thieves, it would have a very nice start for their team.

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Pumpkin Pie “MikeYeung”

Pumpkin pie is what everyone wants even though they are already full, it is that good. It can be the only part some people care about. MikeYeung is the new, young jungler that everyone is going to be going after. He is the pumpkin pie at this Thanksgiving dinner, every team will be giving him a look.

MikeYueng made a splash in NA during his first split with Pheonix1 by winning Rookie of the Split. He showed that he can be an impact player at every phase of the game, especially when he got ahead. The problem was when he didn’t get ahead or his team struggled, he lacked the experience to bring them back. Now that he has played a full split he will be looking to show anyone who signs him that he is the real deal.

Sources are saying that TSM is likely going to sign MikeYeung. After a disappointing year with Svenskeren, it is not a huge surprise that TSM would be looking at someone with the potential of MikeYeung. With Bjerg and Hauntzer most likely staying, they will be able to help bring Mike along and help him to reach his full potential. Also, with sources saying that Zven and Mithy have come over to TSM, this squad could have an incredible 2018.

Prediction: TSM

Turkey “Peanut”

The main course, the bird that represents all of Thanksgiving is the turkey. Turkey is what people spend days prepping to make sure it looks and tastes amazing. Shows and movies constantly show people fighting over the last available turkey. Thanksgiving dinner is not Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey. Peanut is someone people can build a team around. He is the turkey of this Thanksgiving meal.

Many people were surprised when Peanut announced that he was a free agent. He instantly shot up to the top of teams wishlists, as he is considered by many to be the best jungler in the world. Every team that has a jungle opening should be looking to sign someone of his talent level. He made his name on ROX Tigers and then signed with SKT this last season. While they didn’t win Worlds he was still a major part, along with Faker, of getting this team to Finals.

Peanut is the prize in this free agency and if he heads to NA, every team will want him. If it wasn’t likely that TSM was signing MikeYeung, it is probable that they would be in the mix. Counting them out, there are three teams who will likely be vying for his service: FlyQuest, Golden Guardians and CLG. CLG has a very good squad especially if they bring back Aphromoo. OmarGod had a solid first split after Dardoch left but, if CLG want to be a contender for Worlds, they need to sign Peanut. With him on their team CLG could easily be vying for a top spot in NA and could make a huge run at Worlds.

Prediction: CLG

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

iBUYPOWER Masters 2017: The favourites

iBUYPOWER Masters 2017 starts today, with Cloud9, Liquid, Renegades, OpTic, Misfits, Luminosity, CLG and NRG in attendance. Only half of these teams have a chance at taking the title though. Let’s take a look at those teams.

Cloud9

iBUYPOWER Masters

Photo by: hltv.org

Cloud9 just came off a steaming hot victory at Dreamhack Denver, and even though the only team on their level attending was mousesports, they looked great. Aside from maybe Renegades, they look to be in the best form out of every team. Taking the wins (on LAN) that they should and not getting upset too much.

Placed in a group with Renegades, NRG and Luminosity, they are clear favourites to take the first seed in the group. And, unless an upset in Group B occurs allowing Liquid to face Cloud9, Cloud9 should have an easy path to the finals. The final will be a challenge regardless of whether it’s Renegades or Liquid; but Cloud9 should be the team to take the tournament.

Renegades

Out of the three victories that Liquid, Renegades and Cloud9 managed to get, Renegades achieved the best one. They got a victory at the Starladder i-League Invitational #2 over Virtus.Pro. Not only was it a victory, it was a domination. With a 2-0 over Virtus.Pro in the final, plus a Bo3 victory over HellRaisers, Renegades had a very impressive victory finally getting over their issue of choking away leads.

Renegades should end in the second seed for Group A underneath Cloud9, but there is always the chance for an upset sending them into the playoffs as the first seed. Although they’re not the easy favourites to win the tournament, they could definitely take the trophy at the end of everything.

Team Liquid

iBUYPOWER Masters

Photo by: hltv.org

Liquid have been looking weird since coming off of their double-final run after New York. Being unable to win a series at either ELEAGUE or EPICENTER, they went into the Americas minor with a couple question marks. They lost a Bo3 to Misfits but were able to come back and ended up taking the tournament.

In a group with OpTic, Misfits and CLG, it’s a possibility that Liquid could be upset or even eliminated in the group stage. With all that considered, Liquid should still make it out as the first seed, but it’s not guaranteed. Though, assuming the entire group stage is Bo1s, making it to the playoffs should ensure them at least making the final or taking the trophy.

OpTic Gaming

Being the only one out of the teams I’ve mentioned to not take a tournament in the recent future, they’re still one of the favourites just due to pure firepower. They have looked quite good online as well, although it doesn’t mean too much. They’re currently second in EPL although they’re only seventh in ECS. They did however qualify for IEM Oakland over Renegades.

Losing Bo3s against EnVyUs and Space Soldiers at the European minor means they’re probably unlikely to win against any of the three teams above in a Bo3 on LAN. But of course, since it is CS:GO, it is very possible for them to do anything. And, considering their firepower, they can definitely win matches with just pure aim.


Featured image via iBUYPOWER.

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HCS Pro League 2017 DreamHack Fall Finals Predictions

After seven weeks of intense online matches, the Fall 2017 season of the HCS Pro League is wrapping up. This weekend, the Fall Finals will kick off at DreamHack Denver, with eight North American teams, four European teams and a swarm of open squads battling for glory. The competition is closer than it has ever been, so let’s take a look at one way this weekend’s top eight could shake out.

7th / 8th: Team Infused

Roster: James “Jimbo” Bradbrook, Robby “Kimbo” Faulk, Luciano “Mose” Calvanico, Brandon “Respectful” Stones

DreamHack

Jimbo, one of the EU’s best players. By James Bradbrook.

Infused has been making noise on the EU side of things. The squad earned their spot at DreamHack Denver by defeating all competition quite decisively earlier this season at HCS London. A makeup that looks very similar to the dominant FabE roster of last year could allow this group to put EU Halo back in the top eight. This squad had the firepower to raze every other EU squad that showed up to play them.

Infused, as well as a few other EU squads, showed up to Denver a little early in order to get some online practice in against the top tier North American teams. In scrims, they’ve for the most part massacred the other European rosters, only encountering difficulties when against the NA pro teams. Their only win against an NA team was an 8-5 victory over Ronin Esports. Other than that, they lost out to EG with a 5-8 score and were also beaten by NV 4-9. This squad has some promise and can definitely upset some teams if they get a hot start. That said, EU as a whole is still lagging behind NA when it comes to Halo. I can see this squad just squeezing into the top eight and even that will be a slog.

7th / 8th: Luminosity Gaming

Roster: Joe “TriPPPeY” Taylor, Tim “Rayne” Tinkler, Tommy “Saiyan” Wilson, Bradley “APG” Laws

LG has sat firmly within the middle of the pack for the majority of their time in Halo 5 despite going through multiple rosters.

DreamHack

Saiyan, likely LG’s key player. By Tommy Wilson.

They’re not a team that can consistently challenge the top four but they’re also not a team who will ever come close to being relegated by the vast majority of amateur teams. Despite going through multiple rosters, it’s hard to picture this changing for DreamHack Denver. Saiyan is consistently putting up big numbers for the team but TriPPPeY on the other hand, has his fair share of great and terrible games. Rayne is an excellent objective player and play-maker but can’t seem to find enough room to do his thing on this team, despite having three great on-paper slayers around him. APG seems to be in a similar place to LG’s former star, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins. He puts down great damage and has games where he absolutely takes over. The flip-side of this means that he usually has the most deaths in games, leading to many losses, especially in Team Slayer games.

LG ended their regular season with a 3-4 record, with all of their losses being to top four teams (OpTic, NV, Liquid, Splyce), with all of these losses being sweeps. They very narrowly beat EG and Cryptik but swept Ronin with a 3-0 victory. This team doesn’t stand much of a chance at beating the top four and EG has a reputation for showing up big at live events. They may be able to slide into that sixth spot, but there’s an open team that I think can do better.

5th / 6th: Str8 Rippin

Roster: Aaron “Ace Elam, Dan “Danoxide” Terlizzi, Hunter “BxbyJ” Schline, Hamza “Commonly” Abbaali

DreamHack

Ace has returned to Str8 Rippin. By Halo Esports Wikis.

After being relegated last season, Ace has returned to Str8 Rippin and revamped the roster, with the only returning player being Danoxide. New to the squad are main-slayer BxbyJ and objective play-maker Commonly. Ace sits in between BxbyJ and Commonly in terms of play-style but he is very consistent. This balances out Danoxide’s monstrous-but-sometimes-inconsistent slaying power. Ace, Danoxide and Commonly will all be hungry to get back into the top eight while BxbyJ is sure to want it the most after being so close but falling short time and time again.

Despite technically not being a pro team, this squad has proven that they can compete. The HCS Open Circuit held four open cups this season, with three of them being won by Str8 Rippin and the other having them finish second. Scrims paint a similar picture for Str8. They haven’t had much progress against the top four but they have mopped up the weaker top eight teams such as Ronin. That said, they’ve also had some close scrims against Splyce, showing that Str8 does indeed have some potential. While other open teams such as Check6 and eRa have shown some potential, Str8 seems head and shoulders above them. They are playing at a pro level and despite having to play through the open bracket, they’ll get further than any other open team at DreamHack.

5th / 6th: Evil Geniuses

Roster: Jason “Lunchbox” Brown, Justin “Roy” Brown, Josbe “Tapping Buttons” Valadez, Michael “Falcated” Garcia

EG, as usual has had a confusing season. They are the only team outside of the top four to not make a roster change. Lunchbox handles the objective work, Roy makes sure everyone he sees has their shields popped, Tapping Buttons and Falcated win 1v1s and clean up kills.

DreamHack

Roy, one half of the Brown Twins. By Halo Esports Wikis.

On paper, this squad works and they’ve proven it has at the Summer finals. However, things just didn’t seem to come together over the regular season. Every sort of coin toss situation seemed to go against them. Sometimes, they just made bad plays.

Scrims continue to show EG’s inconsistency. One day, they’ll lose to LG, the next, they’ll split games with Liquid. EG finished their season with a 2-5 record, with their only victories being a game 5 win over Ronin and a sweep of Cryptik. There’s no nice way around it, EG choked against LG in game 5. When they were playing well, they lost by the skin of their teeth to Liquid. The potential of this squad is nearly palpable. At their best, they can challenge the top four. At their worst, they are barely avoiding relegation. Usually, they sit somewhere in between. This, combined with the Brown Twins’ reputation for saving their best for LAN events, lands them solidly in the top six for DreamHack.

4th: Team Liquid

Roster: Braedon “StelluR” Boettcher, Zane “SubZero” Hearon, Tyler “Spartan” Ganza, Kevin “Eco” Smith

DreamHack

Will Spartan come through for Liquid? By Tyler Ganza.

Liquid has fallen back significantly from where they stood just prior to HWC 2017. While they were able to challenge OpTic and overcome NV then, they now are the weakest of the top four teams. After DreamHack Atlanta, they dropped Ace prematurely in my opinion. During the off-season, they seemingly picked up Spartan after having only one good scrim against him despite having numerous other, likely better, items on the table. This led to them having a surprisingly slow start to the Fall season, with not even being able to contest NV. All that said, they have picked things up since then and teams should bear in mind that while they are the weakest top four team, they are still top four for a reason.

Liquid ended their season with a 5-2 record, with their only losses being lopsided affairs against NV and OpTic. The biggest surprise of the season was that they were able to defeat Splyce, the Summer Champions, with a decisive 3-1 victory. This helped propel Liquid up the power rankings and also sparked their comeback over the course of the season. The key to how far this squad gets, is their start. They will play EG first in the champ bracket. Online, Liquid only beat EG because of a lucky break where Spartan stumbled upon Roy’s hiding spot. This in addition to the Brown twins truly coming alive at events means that this won’t be easy for Liquid. Dropping to the loser’s bracket could lead to an early flight home for the team. If they pull out a victory, they should be able to make top four, but getting past that will require everyone on the team to step up.

3rd: Splyce

Roster: Jonathan “Renegade” Willette, Jesse “bubu dubu” Moeller, Ryan “Shooter” Sondhi, Anthony “Shotzzy” Cuevas-Castro

Splyce managed to nab their first event win earlier this year at DreamHack Atlanta. They defeated OpTic twice in order to do

DreamHack

Bubu Dubu, for two? By Halo Esports Wikis.

it. Without a doubt, the squad earned that win. Fans should keep this in mind, despite Splyce’s current Pro League record. Online and event environments are completely different and it’s not especially uncommon for terrible online teams to be dominant LAN teams. A prime example being the Denial roster during HWC 2016. At the end of the day, Splyce has two dominant young players and two top tier flex players. They won’t be falling out of the top four at DreamHack if they play how they should.

Splyce ended the league with a 4-3 record, with losses to OpTic, NV and Liquid. While Liquid did manage a surprise win over Splyce, Splyce was the only team besides OpTic to come close to snapping NV’s win streak. Liquid on the other hand, was swept. These players will show up this weekend and they are a better team than Liquid, but two giants stand in the way of another win for these young guns.

2nd: Team EnVyUs

Roster: Justin “iGotUrPistola” Deese, Austin “Mikwen” McCleary, Eric “Snip3down” Wrona, Cuyler “Huke” Garland

DreamHack

Can NV capture another win? By Halo Waypoint.

Despite a disappointing finish at DreamHack Atlanta, NV has shown up this season. If you picked a team to win every event on paper, the correct answer would be EnVyUs. Three of the best players and slayers in Halo history, plus Huke’s explosive power. During any other time in Halo, this would have been a championship team, even possibly a dynasty. This squad has consistently been in the top three, without ever really any risk of falling out of it. This weekend, they won’t have any excuses.

NV has blitzed the Pro League, ending the season undefeated, 7-0. Splyce and OpTic took them to full series, but every other team was defeated 3-0. In recent scrims, this roster has trounced every squad with the only exception being OpTic. This squad will only encounter difficulty with Splyce and OpTic. That said, there is a big and particularly green wall that stands between them and a victory.

1st: OpTic Gaming

Roster: Tony “LethuL” Campbell, Jr, Paul “SnakeBite” Duarte, Mathew “Royal2” Fiorante, Bradley “Frosty” Bergstrom

Let’s just recap. OpTic are back-to-back World Champions. They haven’t made a roster change in nearly two years.

Back to back World Champions for a reason. By Halo Waypoint.

Since then, they’ve been consistently at the top of the Halo Championship Series. Everything that happens in competitive Halo is in response to this team and their performance. That won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. This squad’s last win was HWC 2017. They lost to NV at Daytona and Splyce at Atlanta. They will be hungry to have the last say in 2017 before going into another World Championship season.

OpTic finished 6-1 in the Pro League, with their only loss being a close one to NV. When it comes to scrims, OpTic just quite simply haven’t lost. They have clashed with NV multiple times, usually closing the series 9-4 or 8-5. Based off their history and online performance recently, I see another championship coming to the #Greenwall.

Be sure to check out the HCS 2017 Fall Finals at DreamHack Denver this weekend at https://www.twitch.tv/halo. 

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Team

Analyzing 2018’s new teams

It has been almost two months since Team Liquid claimed the Aegis at TI7, and since then roster shuffles have been in full swing. Though parting ways with an old team can be difficult, it also opens up new opportunities. During these shuffles, many players understandably choose to accept offers from other well established teams. However, some times these players decide to form completely new teams from a large pool of free agents. The latter of these choices is incredibly exciting. While often composed of well-known players within the DotA scene, it is impossible to guess how well teams work together until they play. This uncertainty makes watching tournaments much more exciting whenever one of these wildcards is thrown into the bracket. The TI8 season has already seen its fair share of these new rosters, and here are just a few worth keeping an eye on.

Optic Gaming

Shortly after confirming their departure from Evil Geniuses, Ludwig “Zai” Wahlberg and Peter “PPD” Dager announced the formation of a new team with this tweet.

Teams, DotA, Optic, PPD, Zai, Misery, Pajkatt, CCnC

From left to right, Pajkatt, MiSeRy, CCnC, PPD, Zai. Photo by Optic Gaming

Briefly named “The Dire”, the team was recently picked up by Optic Gaming due to their remarkable talent. As “The Dire”, they qualified for the Dota 2 Minor Beyond the Summit 8 after winning King’s Cup America. The team also placed second in both the PGL North American Qualifier and the Star Ladder i-League Invitational qualifier.

Most of the players on this team require little to no introduction. Per Anders Olsson “Pajkatt” Lille has played MOBAs professionally since the original DotA. Rasmus “MiSeRy” Filipsen and PPD have proven their drafting talents during their time as captains of Digital Chaos and Evil Geniuses respectively. As these two begin to learn from each other, drafting against Optic Gaming will surely be nightmarish. Interestingly enough, this team composition shows Zai stepping back into the offlane position for the first time since his Team Secret days in early 2015. His performance during that time on heroes such as Broodmother and Dark Seer was impressive, and I am glad we get to see more of it.

Quinn “CCnC Callahan is the wildcard on the team. Most recently CCnC played for Team Freedom and narrowly missed appearing in TI7 after finishing third in the NA Qualifiers. Despite playing the game professionally since late 2015, he has few notable tournament results. Formulating an opinion on the young mid-laner is difficult with so little base material, but his teammates clearly see potential. Regardless, CCnC now finds himself in a position to learn from the wealth of experience around him, and that journey is going to be something worth watching.

mID OR fEED

Another new team captained by ex-Digital Chaos vet Martin “Saksa” Sazdov was announced via twitter.

Aliwi “w33” Omar is a world class mid-laner best known for his Invoker, Wind Ranger and Meepo play. It’s interesting then that he is giving up mid to play a four position support role in this line-up. The remaining three members of Mid or Feed have a fair bit of history themselves. KheZu has played in two Internationals, though his teams failed to place well in either. Cancel spent most of his competitive career with Complexity before leaving following a string of poor team performances. Timado recently left the South American team Infamous in August, who he played with in TI7. While these players don’t have many major LAN victories yet, they have the individual talent to make waves.

Since this announcement was made, Saksa has removed himself from the roster after saying he felt “burned out” on his twitter. This is a shame since w33 and Saksa would have been a great foundation to build a team around. Fortunately they have already found a replacement.  After the recent disbandment of his own squad “No Diggity”, Troels “syndereN” Nielsen will captain Mid or Feed moving forward.  SyndereN is a 4 time TI competitor himself, though most of his notable tournament placements occurred before 2013.  However, his time as a caster and analyst demonstrated his deep knowledge of the game, and that is an invaluable tool in today’s competitive space.

Spartak Esports

Russian esports organization Spartak Esports makes its debut in the DotA 2 circuit with the following roster.

It is not surprising if these names seem unfamiliar. For starters, Egor “.Ark” Zhabotinskii and Evgeniy “Chuvash” Makarov have each been active competitors for less than two years. Also, while Maxim “yoky-” Kim and Stanislav “633” Glushan have histories with teams like Virtus.Pro and Empire, the remaining members have played mostly on minor league teams.

But Spartak Esports does have a few things going for them. .Ark, Chuvash and team captain Mihail “Misha” Agatov have all played together at length on the Russian team Commanche. As any DotA player knows, competing with people you enjoy playing with has a profound effect on mindset and morale. DotA players also know that a solid mindset and good moral will not win games without technical skills to back them up. Will this team allow Spartak Esports to compete with top tier teams like Evil Geniuses, Virtus.Pro and Digital Chaos?  Only time can tell us the answer.


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OpTic

Can the new OpTic make a splash in North America?

OpTic gaming, after being stripped of arguably their best player, Will ‘RUSH’ Wierzba, and in-game leader Tarik ‘tarik’ Celik, has decided to follow in the footsteps of their rival ‘clan’ FaZe, and pick up a European roster. Their new look roster includes the likes of legendary Swede, Adam ‘friberg’ Friberg, Finnish star AWPer Aleksi ‘allu’ Jalli and a kid from Denmark you’ve probably heard of, Emil ‘Magisk’ Reif. This roster, on paper, looks pretty convincing, especially playing in the North American region. So, let’s take a look at the potential strengths/weaknesses of this roster, and see if they are going to turn some heads.

Absolutely loaded

No, this team isn’t as loaded as teams like SK, FaZe or even Astralis, but in comparison to the teams in North America, they have an abundance in firepower. Magisk will easily be the best player in the region. When he was ‘the guy’ in North (formerly Dignitas), Magisk had some of the best tournament performances we have ever seen. One such performance being a monstrous 1.26 HLTV rating at EPICENTER Moscow across 15 maps; Moscow is the only $250k+ tournament he has won. When his former teammate Kristian ‘k0nfig’ Wienecke began to take the spotlight from him, he began to fall off. On this new OpTic team, I expect him to be the focal point, so, in theory, he could return to peak form.

Oh, did I mention the Spanish star Óscar ‘mixwell’ Cañellas? On top of this massive big three, they also have the up-and-comer from Estonia, Kevin ‘HS’ Tarn. HS is coming off of a decent performance at the PGL major, which saw him at a 1.02 HLTV rating, and an incredible major qualifier performance, where he was tied for seventh highest rated player at the tournament. This team will have no trouble putting frags on the board. All that said, this team won’t be the best in North America. Quite frankly, I think Cloud9 have more proven firepower. Though I do see them in the second to third best spot, depending on if Liquid ever decides they want to do anything. If you’re including the Brazilian teams, OpTic move down two spots but could prove to be better than Immortals. Of course, that is if Immortals even stay together.

Is there a catch?

For almost every wonderful thing in life, there comes a catch. With tasty food, comes a not so great receipt. With dank memes, comes crippling depression. You get the idea, so what’s the catch with all this firepower OpTic obtained? Well actually, multiple things.

First, let’s address the elephant in the room, friberg is not an in-game leader. For all I know, he could become a great leader, he has the experience; however, he could also fail in his endeavor, and end up being back in free agency. One thing friberg has going for him, is one of the best coaches in the world, Chet ‘ImAPet’ Singh. ImAPet will help friberg massively, just as he did CLG; for example, one notable win I happen to remember was when CLG ended Gambit’s 10 map win streak on Cobblestone when the CIS squad looked untouchable on the map. Even when taking that into account, I’d say the odds are about 60-40 against him, so it is a gamble, but will be massively beneficial if it works out.

You also have to look at the way they’ll gel on the CT side, which could also be a problem. I don’t see a clear bomb site anchor here, who can consistently delay enemy pushes on the smaller bomb sites on maps. I suppose you’d have to give the nod to friberg; although HS could fit into this role, once he gets some experience under his belt. To make matters even worse, there will be growing pains in communication. In high-pressure situations, speaking your first language can be difficult, much less your second language.

Will they succeed?

In the short term, they will probably dominate smaller, North American LANs, but in long term, I don’t foresee this team breaking the top 10 in the world, but could potentially make top 15. While I’d love to believe in this team, there are just too many question marks right now to tell; if one of you OpTic members are out there reading this, I challenge you to prove me wrong and do something incredible.


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Initial fall season roster transfer thoughts

After two weeks of play and four matches for each team, Halo Championship Series players are going to have another chance to make a roster change. Teams will have until September 19th to finalize a roster for the remaining duration of the season. Let’s take a look at what teams should consider making changes and what their best options are.

Top Dogs

A few teams don’t need to consider making changes at all, even if their record has a few blemishes. Mainly, we’re talking about OpTic Gaming, Team EnVyUs and Splyce.

Roster

OpTic Halo. Image by Turtle Beach.

OpTic is OpTic, they’ve been the most dominant roster in Halo 5 and need no introduction. EnVyUs was the only team to challenge them for a good amount of time and have been able to defeat OpTic on two separate occasions. Splyce is the newcomer to this group. While they placed top 4 at Daytona, the team caught fire at DreamHack Atlanta and beat OpTic with a solid 4-2 in the Grand Finals to become Summer Season champs.

Liquid is a bit of a wildcard and could be on or off this list. After DreamHack, they dropped Aaron “Ace” Elam for a returning Tyler “Spartan” Ganza. This was a lateral team change at best, with the roster unlikely to be much better if at all than they were with Ace. The team’s only loss so far has been to EnVyUs but Liquid has shown on multiple occasions that they can practically bury nV. Since then, the team has racked up some wins, notably with a 3-1 victory over Splyce. That said, it remains to be seen if this roster can succeed.

Evil Geniuses

Roster

EG’s new star, Tapping Buttons. Image by Josbe Valadez.

Current Roster: Michael “Falcated” Garcia, Josbe “Tapping Buttons” Valadez, Justin “Roy” Brown, Jason “Lunchbox” Brown

EG is not at all a bad team. In fact, they’ve shown they can be a contender, with DreamHack Atlanta being evident of that. The team started the Pro League strong, with a 3-0 sweep over Naventic. However, the very next night they were reverse-swept by Luminosity and fell to both OpTic and Splyce convincingly this past week. While losses to Splyce and OpTic have to be expected, the loss to LG should have never happened, it should have been another 3-0.

A roster change will not help this team. Falcated and Tapping Buttons are two of the best individual players around. The Brown twins aren’t slouches either, they’ve proved they can still compete with the best. The current EG roster has run into the same issue as a couple of the previous rosters. They make bad plays at the most crucial of moments. This comes down to lack of practice. The only way to get an idea of what to do when your team is in a bad situation is to be in that bad situation previously and getting out of it through practice. If this team puts their heads down and grinds, we could see a top 4 run come DreamHack Denver.

Ronin Esports and Luminosity gaming

Current Ronin Roster: Cory “Str8 SicK” Sloss, Sabur “Sabinater” Hakimi, Ayden “Suspector” Hill, Visal “eL ToWn

Roster

Commonly during his time on Renegades. Image by Halo Esports Wiki.

Mohanan

Current Luminosity Roster: Joe “TriPPPeY” Taylor, Tommy “Saiyan” Wilson, Bradley “APG” Laws, Tim “Rayne” Tinkler

Both of these teams are in a similar spot. Both of their losses have been to top teams. For Ronin, eL ToWn has seriously stepped up to help a squad that no longer has main-slayer Spartan on it. As for LG, Saiyan as per usual has been leading his team. However, with the temporary departure of Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, APG and Rayne need to step up. Both have had some underwhelming performances.

Newcomer Sabinater has been making some great plays for Ronin, but his slaying and play-making ability has been lacking. It would be unfair to say that he isn’t capable, especially as this is his first time on a pro team. He could grow into being one of the best players in the league. If Ronin was to make a change, the most likely player to be on the chopping block would be Str8 Sick. He didn’t have the best event at Atlanta and his Pro League stats, while not terrible, weren’t great either. A pickup like Dan “Danoxide” Terlizzi could help fill in that role. If LG was to make a change, one of their best picks would be Str8 Rippin’s Hamza “Commonly” Abbaali for Rayne. Both are great objective player, but Commonly seems to have an edge over Rayne in slaying, which could be just what the team needs.

Naventic

Current Roster: Ryan “RyaNoob” Geddes, Troy “DasTroyed” Dusman, Cody “ContrA” Szczodrowski and Kyle “Nemassist” Kubina

Roster

Ace during his time on OpTic. Image by Halo Esports Wiki

This team is confusing. During the summer season, they were able to contest top 4 teams while technically being an amateur team. Despite this, since the start of the Pro League, the squad hasn’t been able to win anything. The roster did play Liquid somewhat close, but it seems like something is off for this squad. Despite being a fan-favorite, the only player who has been sticking out a bit has been RyaNoob. That said, it is well known that RyaNoob doesn’t necessarily have the best shot. Instead, his value is in his ability to be an excellent in-game leader and to make objective plays. This is similar to Justin “SK” Mann back in Halo 3, who saw success with Triggers Down. Despite the bad start in Pro League, a team change could be premature for this squad. Even RyaNoob stated on the Team Beyond forums that his attitude was dragging the team down. The good part about this is that an attitude can be changed relatively quickly, meaning this team could become a contender again.

If Naventic was set on making a change involving RyaNoob, their best option would be Ace. He is not only an IGL similar to RyaNoob, but has also shown that he knows how to handle objectives while also being one of the most individually skilled players in Halo 5.

What rosters do you think need some fresh faces? Put your opinion out on Reddit or Twitter and tag Devin to start a discussion!

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 Devin! Get in touch with Devin personally to talk more HCS and see more articles by following him on Twitter @DS_Frostbite!

Featured Image by Halo Waypoint