Zoe's competitive

Early looks: Zoe’s competitive potential

Patch 7.22 brings the largest gameplay update League has seen in years. While the community theory-crafts fresh playstyles and build paths with the Runes Reforged overhaul, a new champion looms just around the corner. Zoe, the Aspect of Twilight, will soon be the latest addition to the Rift. With new play patterns emerging by the day, Zoe will enter the League just in time to sew some chaos. Professional players will no doubt spend much of preseason mastering Targon’s newest champion. How will Zoe‘s competitive future pan out after the pros have a chance to practice her high skill-cap style?

summoner spells, stars and… sleep?

Zoe's competitive

Credits: Riot Games

Zoe introduces several new ideas and a unique mechanic to the League. Her E, “Sleepy Trouble Bubble” is the first ability in the game to have the “drowsy” mechanic. After hitting an enemy with her bubble, Zoe sleeps her target, a form of hard crowd-control seemingly similar to a root. If the initial cast does not hit a target, the bubble lingers as a fairly wide trap. This new mechanic makes messy mid-game skirmishes against Zoe increasingly tricky. Sneaky bubble placement can cause huge disruption in teamfights. Tanks can find themselves immobile for the few seconds it takes to lose their AD-carry. Players can also use these bubbles to zone off entrances or exits to jungle corridors, taking the positional advantage to secure objective control.

Zoe‘s bubble becomes even more threatening when coupled with her ultimate, “Portal Jump.” Zoe gains an extra dimension of mobility with her portal. Although she cannot move while portal jumping, Zoe can cast abilities, ward and auto-attack. A quick “Portal Jump” near the enemy AD-carry can deliver a fast sleep bubble before Zoe jumps back to safety. Alternatively, she can quickly ward dangerous enemy territory and escape unscathed.

Zoe‘s competitive potential and teamfight explosiveness shines with her W ability, “Spell Thief.” When enemy champions use active spells or items, they leave spell shards that Zoe can steal with her WIn her champion teaser, Riot showcased Zoe‘s skirmishing strength by weaving multiple “Flashes” to make for quick spell rotations. Mechanically gifted players will take Zoe‘s competitive gameplay far beyond Riot’s teaser video. But, will this aspect of Zoe‘s kit put her in the ranks of mages like Ryze and Azir? Champions whose skill ceilings are oppressively strong on the competitive stage.

Zoe’s Competitive Skill Ceiling

Zoe's competitive

Credit: LoL Esports Photos

We have seen it with several champions over the past few years. Champs like KalistaRyze and Azir whose kits gave room for massive skill caps that dominated competitively. However, because of their dominance, Riot was forced to nerf these champions beyond viability for the average player. This causes a frustrating disparity between the pros and casual players in solo queue. The question now is, will Zoe be doomed to a similar fate?

Many initial reactions to Zoe highlight her “over-loaded” kit. In all fairness, Zoe does boast a kit with high ceilings for mobility, crowd-control and wave-clear. However, on a recent episode of Beyond the Rift hosted by Michael “imaqtpie” Santana and William “Scarra” Li, RiotWrekz and RiotMeddler dive deeper into a discussion on Zoe‘s mechanics. Scarra used the term “fake mobility” to characterize how Zoe‘s ultimate is more of a deceptive type of mobility. RiotMeddler elaborated on the point, adding that “Portal Jump” excels when used to dodge skillshots, not run down enemy champions. In the podcast, they highlight that Zoe‘s actual strength is her ability to quickly re-position in teamfights.

In Riot’s teaser, Zoe chases down multiple targets in an oppressive display of mobility. However, when we take a step back to really look at the champion, her power lies elsewhere. Zoe seems to excel more in mid-game teamfight scenarios where she can duck enemy crowd-control with “Portal Jump” and steal summoners to effectively lay down her own CC. While Zoe‘s kit is extremely impressive at a glance, the months to come will test her strength in a competitive setting. With the preseason patch constantly reinventing the meta, Zoe‘s competitive viability changes every day.

Featured Image: Riot Games

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Is Riot taking a major step back going to best of ones?

In recent news, Riot Games has announced that the LCS will be reverting back to best of ones for the regular season. This comes as a shock to many as best of threes seemed to have been improving the regions as a whole.

With the NA LCS heading to franchising next year, viewership will be the main focal point for sponsors and organizations. Best of ones provide more air time for every team without the threat of dual casts. Viewership also favors best of ones for the casual viewer who may not want to spend 3-5 hours watching an entire best of three.

Photo by: Riot Esports

Why they went to best of three to begin with

The major argument for best of threes was that it felt like winning a series made a much more clear cut winner and added variety. It allowed teams to have “cheese” picks they could pull out the first game for an upset, but also required them to need to know how to close it out. Best of threes has also opened the door for six man rosters as many teams looked at subbing players in with different play styles that could change a series.

Best of threes also allowed for more games to be played in general. More practice on stage allowed teams way more games than in best of ones. North America in particular felt lacking as they had not had great results in international competition. In Korea’s LCK they had already been doing best of threes which seemed to make the region much more competitive. There’s more chances to try different strategies on stage, along with being able to try new rosters.

Why they’re reverting back to best of ones

Riot has stated that best of ones provides the most viewership for the average LCS fan. When surveyed, most fans felt like best of threes was too many games to digest and would rather play than watch an entire best of three. With franchising coming soon, viewership will need to stay high for it to succeed for everyone. Not everyone wants to tune in for a 3-5 hour series. Best of ones allows all teams even viewership without the threat of a rivalry being dual streamed at the same time.

Scheduling wise, best of ones are easier to plan/schedule around for fans and Riot alike. Best of three series has too much variability in the time frames that games could occur.

Viewership vs. Competitive quality

The major concern here is how much viewership matters over competition. Best of threes gave teams much for variability for strategies and such, but might be too long for the casual viewer. For the average LCS fan it will be easier to see your favorite team play and than go back to playing yourself. A single stream evens it out for the lower teams to have more people watching their games. Will we get less cheese from the higher ranked teams and more from the lower placed now? Does the quality of play drop off with this change?

When best of threes were first being talked about, many fans/pros felt it was needed to help catch up with the likes of Korea. More games would mean more chances to improve as a team, right? That wasn’t necessarily the case as Korea still dominated Worlds the past two years.

It will be interesting to see how going back to best of ones changes the NA LCS. Viewership may improve, but does the quality of game play fall off?

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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What the EU LCS announcement could mean for NA LCS

The Announcement

After spending a weekend in Boston at the NA LCS Finals my mind has been focused on one thing. I know you’re probably thinking, “Worlds, duh.” Sorry but you’re wrong. The more people I talked to who were in the know or even had inside information made me wonder about my favorite League of Legends topic, franchising.

Courtesy of: https://eu.lolesports.com/

We all know there will be a major announcement for who has been accepted sometime in November. It has also been reported that over 100 teams applied for the NA LCS franchising opportunity. This means that over 100 teams/organizations have either found investors or have the $13 million necessary to join the league.

What this also means is that there is an insane amount of interest in League of Legends for these spots.

Jacob Wolf announced earlier today that EU LCS would be splitting into four regions. With this there will be 24 teams that are all at the top league, six in each region. It sounds like there will be no minor league teams or challenger scene, and with that it will end relegation which has been a huge thorn in the side of teams. They will be playing in London, Paris, Barcelona and Berlin.

What does this mean?

How will this effect NA? Well for starters one would expect there to be at least 16 or more teams in the new league. With over 100 teams applying I can definitely see more. There has been much debate around this over the weekend and especially within The Game Haus.

One of the major concerns that has been brought up is if there is enough talent to allow for this many teams. We have seen in the past that League of Legends normally has about four upper echelon teams in each split with some middle tier teams and then normally at least two teams that struggled mightily.

This is a valid point and a similar one can easily be made for EU as many people feel they are a weaker region. The hope is that with salaries and more of a budget to officially pay players, some of the best in each region will eventually spread out to the different teams. It is also possible that some of the top players in each region may jump back in. Could we see the return of Dyrus to the main league? Although doubtful, the possibility is there.

Courtesy of: http://wwg.com

An argument could be made that this may extend careers as well. Plenty of people have worried about the fact that most League players either burn out or lose their edge once they reach their middle to upper twenties. That would allow more time for development of newer players and expectations may be lowered.

Another point that can be made for NA is that it looks likely that they will at least follow a similar format to EU. It is completely conceivable that NA goes regional and has all of their teams in each region like EU. There could be Northeastern, Northwestern, Southern and Western regions that could accommodate a similar number of teams.

Or, they could do what Overwatch league is planning on doing and have teams in separate cities like the NFL, MLB, NBA, etc. With the team owners of the OWL building Esports arenas, it is also possible that there will be League teams sharing those stadiums similar to traditional sports.

There are clearly so many different questions that can be asked with this news. One that has been answered is that Riot is not letting EU die out. Instead their goal of revamping it and adding franchising should give EU fans hope.

For NA it allows excitement to start brewing for the announcements to come after Worlds. For now League fans can theorize and discuss this on the forums while also enjoying Worlds. Big changes are coming to League of Legends. Riot clearly has a vision that includes League being around for the long haul and one can see that this is only the beginning.


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Will Super Teams Ever Be formed in the LCS?

For those who follow the NBA, it’s no doubt that the league has changed. Star players used to be much more loyal to the teams that drafted them. Nowadays if players want to compete for a title, they most likely need the help of fellow superstars to do so. Which brings an interesting topic to LCS. What would happen if some of the best players of the region all came together to form “super teams” to begin to seriously contend for worlds. One could only imagine the possibilities of rosters.

We have yet to really see any formation of super teams take place in LCS. In Europe, Alliance had their small run of success before flopping at Worlds. The transfer of Zven and Mithy to G2 was also a bold move for them as they saw the greatest chance for success in joining G2 esports. In the LMS you somewhat have the formation of two of the best rosters on AHQ and Flash Wolves. It’s an extremely top heavy region where Flash Wolves and AHQ are almost always bound to meet in the finals.

Why not?

Photo via Inven

One could see how the formation of “super teams” could greatly benefit a region. Could you imagine a super team of North American talent of Hauntzer, Dardoch, Bjergsen, Doublelift, and Aphromoo? Possibly the best players at their positions from the region all coming together to compete for a World championship.

Player loyalty is much higher in LCS than the NBA. Players are extremely loyal it seems to the teams that gave them their first real shot at playing professionally. Bjergsen will always be famous for the work he has put in on TSM. The same goes for Aphromoo on CLG. Even Froggen on Echo Fox. Despite having some poor splits so far in the NALCS, Froggen remains loyal to Echo Fox as an organization. It makes it difficult to see if either players would give up their loyalty for a shot at a professional title. In the NBA, a star player can only hope for so long that his GM can garner the right pieces for a championship team. Once they’ve hit their peak, they’re looking for a title contending team which usually means teaming up with other NBA superstars (i.e. Kevin Durant to GSW).

Would Super Teams Hurt the LCS?

The competition of LCS may become worse if all the best players of a region are stacked onto 1-3 teams. Looking at the NBA, we can almost expect the Cavs and Warriors to face off in every finals for the next few years until another super team can form to dethrone them. If super teams dominated LCS, and the gap between a middle tier and top tier team were to expand, the league could grow stale for some. Seeing super star heavy teams leaves less of a talent pool for other teams. Most teams would probably need to turn to imports to compete.

With no real player rivalries anymore in the NBA, more players seem to care more about winning a championship than anything. Player/team rivalries are huge in sports/esports, but if every good player just wants to team together, it sort of defeats the purpose of competing against the best.

Can Super Teams actually compete on the world stage?

Photo via Riot Esports

If super teams were to form in NA LCS, it’d be with one goal in mind: to finally contend for a world championship. For so long Korea has dominated professional League of Legends. Forming a sort of “all star” team could be one way to finally contend for a World title. We’ve seen teams like G2 and TSM do well domestically, but flop at Worlds. Could the solution just be superstar players joining up to form all star caliber teams?

It’s hard to say for sure. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on moving forward as North American fans grow frustrated with seeing Korea win every year and NA fail to make it out of groups. If the years continue on like this, I could definitely see some superstars look to join up as esport athletes don’t have the longest career spans. Searching for a World title may be one or two players away from forming a super team.

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Cover Photo by Riot Esports

Let me know what your super team would be in the comments below!

 

It’s time to believe in League of Legends

The summer split of the seventh season has just begun, and it promises to be exciting. CLG has opened with an unexpected 2-0 while SKT lost their season opener, and FNC once again looks like a force to be reckoned with. Aside from unexpected victories and losses, Riot has announced that next year teams will be able to permanently lock in a spot for the NALCS. This means that the teams will be making a long time buy-in investment when deciding to sign up for a spot. Sure, there will be opportunity for an instant return on investment, but teams are in it for the long haul.

Organizations have indicated that they expect League of Legends to be around for a long time. It’s a game that has been on the incline since its inception, both gaining players and viewers of its professional league. Although it shows no signs of slowing down, many predict that eventually the titan shall fall and fade into obscurity as an esport, much like Starcraft or Quake has in the past – both games are still played competitively, but they are by no means as large or as followed as they once were.

Riot’s Changes

 

Esports have come a long way since Quake and Starcraft were the top titles. There’s much more money, much better infrastructure, and more fan involvement, especially in League of Legends, the clear top title at the moment.

Recently, Riot has made it clear that they are willing to take drastic steps to secure a stable and long future for their game as an esport. They have listened to fans, analysts, orgs, and players alike. They have franchised the NALCS, increased the prize money available at all levels of professional play, introduced a new international tournament, increased wildcard team involvement and coverage, added a player’s association and an Academy league in the NALCS. Not to mention the quality of game changes they’ve made and have planned, such as the remastered runes and masteries and the ten-ban system.

The last year has been a busy one for Riot Games. They have changed a lot to make their game a better one, and they have been much more receptive to players, opening up important communication channels.

 

Fan Impact

 

The once small company turned behemoth has put the onus on us. Riot has held up their end of the bargain and laid the groundwork for us a fandom, a culture, to turn League of Legends into something great. If we want to continue to watch League of Legends for many years to come, we must act now.  There will never be another opportunity to take League of Legends as an esport to greater heights.

It’s time to believe in League of Legends.

How we do it is simple: everyone should do one small thing for the community. Find a way to give back to the game that has given us all so much. Talk to your friends about League, host watching parties and maybe invite someone who has never watched a game. Even something as simple as buying and wearing a t-shirt of your favorite org helps. If you want to do something really big, you could host a local LAN tournament.

The more people that spend time talking about esports, the more seriously people will take us. The more people talking about and interested in League of Legends, the more people will join our community. This endless cycle will propel us to be considered a major force in the world of sports.

It all starts now. We must change how we approach the game. We have to be more vocal and more public in our support. Erase the stigma surrounding esports. Riot has put their trust in us to support the game that we love. If you believe in League of Legends, as a game, as an esport, then now is the time to prove it.


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Photos via Lolesports

2017 NALCS Summer Power Rankings

The North American LCS Summer Split is just days away. There were a few roster changes in the offseason but not too many. It seemed like most teams wanted to try to keep a core of the roster to build off of – similar to what we saw from Splyce last split in the EULCS. Most teams don’t want to have to do a full roster overhaul in between spring and summer.

It’ll be interesting to see how the standings begin to unfold as we begin the Summer Split. Will CLG stumble out of the gates like we’ve grown accustomed to? Will TSM bounce back from their MSI performance? Can Cloud9 reclaim the throne? Without further ado here are our 2017 NALCS Summer power rankings:

10. Echo Fox

Photo via Riot Esports

Echo Fox is deciding to shake up their strategy heading into summer with C9’s owner Jack announcing on Twitter that they decided to only scrim their sister team to start out the split, saying this is a “bold strategy” for the young team. While something like this could work on a more talented team like Cloud9 or TSM, Echo Fox hasn’t proven to have the talent to not need to scrim LCS teams. Their quality of practice could potentially dip from this, but it could also allow for more strategy development as well. Echo Fox can develop their own meta and have a some surprise factor facing off teams on stage.

Echo Fox will need to rely heavily on their mid/jungle duo of Henrik “Froggen” Hansen and Matt “Akaadian” Higginbotham once again. Akaadian stormed onto the scene with some great carry performances in his rookie split, but fell off towards the later half once teams began to figure him out. At ADC Yuri “Keith” Jew still garners the starting position for now, but they did add challenger series veteran Brandon “Mash” Phan in the offseason to compete with him. Keith struggled last split and took much of the criticism for Echo Fox doing poorly last split.

9.Team Liquid

To many people’s surprise, Team Liquid stuck it out and brought back the same exact roster from last split, pre-Doublelift. Team Liquid fans can only hope that mid laner Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer’s bootcamp to Korea has given him Faker-like ability to finally perform well on the LCS stage. This will most likely be his last chance to prove he belongs in the LCS, so it will be do-or-die for his career.

Jungler Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin struggled in his first split without Huni. The carry jungle meta really wasn’t his style and consequently struggled. With the meta shifting back to tank junglers, we could see an emergence of his former all-star self.

Team Liquid is looking to rely heavily on Cain being added as a strategic coach. They seemed to really like how he did near the end of the split so it will be his chance to prove himself as a coach. Talent wise, Team Liquid isn’t in a bad spot.

8. EnVyus

Photo via Riot Esports

EnVyUs returns with basically the same roster besides subbing out mid laner Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo for upcoming EU mid laner Yasin “Nisqy” Dincer. Nisqy can hopefully be an upgrade over Ninja as he was one of the weaker members of the roster last split. Nisqy comes from EU after helping Fnatic Academy qualify through the Challenger series.

Star jungler Nam “lira” Tae-yoo developed into one of the best junglers in North America and had some phenomenal performances last split.

If Nisqy can gel with the team well, EnVyUs could definitely surprise a lot of people. They also brought on Kim “Violet” Dong Hwan, a former pro starcraft player to coach. While he doesn’t necessarily have a LoL background, it will be interesting to see how he handles the language barrier among the players. Lira and Seraph will need to step up their English if nV will have any chance to compete this split.

 7. Immortals

Immortals swapped junglers in the offseason with CLG in an interesting move due to Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett’s toxic attitude. Jake “Xmithie” Puchero brings a much supportive style to the jungle. It will be a complete 180 in terms of jungle styles. Dardoch was often hard carrying Immortals in their victories, while also being tasked with doing much of the shot calling. Having a decisive voice on a team is vital in pro play and Immortals will definitely miss it.

Most people will consider this move a downgrade, but it could also work better chemistry wise. It’s no doubt Dardoch is one of the best up and coming players of the NALCS, but team chemistry wise he needs the right players around him. Maybe having a more supportive jungler in Xmithie will allow Immortals laners to shine more.

6.Dignitas

Dignitas was expected to be strong contenders after adding the star top/jungle duo of Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun and Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho for Spring Split. That was not the case as Dignitas struggled heavily at the start of spring. Their early game wasn’t bad, but they struggled to make plays in the mid to late game. This was most likely due to the language barrier between the imports.

Once new head coach David “Cop” Roberson was introduced to the team during the middle of the split the team begun to find success. During the off season they also added LCS veteran Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco to their coaching staff. Some other additions include the addition of support Terry “Big” Chuong and jungler Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon. Big is starting the first week of LCS so we’ll need to see if their mid-late game shot calling has improved. They definitely have the talent to compete, but their macro shot calling has been lacking.

5. Flyquest

Photo via Riot Esports

Flyquest returns a former player of the team in Jason “Wildturtle” Tran at ADC. Stylistically, Wildturtle fits this team perfectly. He’s known to be extremely aggressive often at the sacrifice of his life at times. Mid laner Hai “Hai” Lam often will call for very aggressive calls where every member must commit and Wildturtle can do that just fine.

Flyquest stormed onto the scene last split contending for top 2-3 for the first half of the split before teams began to figure them out. They were fan favorites for playing off meta picks such as Mordekaiser bot, Shaco jungle, and Maokai support. Jungler Galen “Moon” Holgate had a breakout split for Flyquest after being underwhelming on any other team he was on before. The effect of having a strong shot caller in Hai really allowed him to show his true potential in the jungle.

Flyquest looks to build off a decent first split finishing fourth place in the spring.

4. Counter Logic Gaming

CLG upgraded individually in terms of talent with the jungle swap of Dardoch and Xmithie. Dardoch brings a high ceiling with the potential to be one of the best junglers in the world. The knock on him is his poor attitude and team chemistry that he’s shown from his time on Immortals and Team Liquid. It’s a high risk, high reward move for this organization but can pay off huge.

This is the best roster Dardoch will have ever been equipped with. Veteran Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black is a strong voice and leader on the team that should be able to keep Dardoch in check if things get heated. CLG has experience dealing with high ego players so having a player like Dardoch shouldn’t be anything new. Although if things don’t start off well, one could see things snowballing out of control very quickly. If things mesh well though, CLG could be strong contenders for the NALCS crown in summer.

3. Phoenix1

Phoenix1 returns the same lineup from last split. Led by their Korean carries of Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook and MVP ADC  No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon they were able to place third last split. The disparity between them and the top two was pretty big it seemed as they got swept 3-0 by Cloud9 in the semifinals.

If they want to contend for the title they’ll need to see some consistency in the jungle from Rami “Inori” Charagh. Inori took a few weeks off after having issues with some players on the roster. When Inori returned he did look much improved. Most of his issues seem to stem from him tilting on stage. If he can manage his tilt well, this team can definitely look to contend with the top teams. New support, Shady, also gets his chance at playing an entire split. He was an unknown addition towards the end of last spring and had a decent showing in their third place match against Flyquest.

2. Cloud9

Photo via Riot Esports

Cloud9 was one move away from dethroning TSM last summer in one of the best finals series we’ve seen in awhile. They were huge favorites to win spring in the preseason with TSM’s Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng sitting out. Cloud9 went undefeated for the first half of the split, but once teams began to improve, Cloud9 struggled to adapt. The team was a bit slow to make early game plays and relied heavily on team fighting in the mid game to snowball leads.

Jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia will look to build off a solid ‘Rookie of the Split’ and become even better this split. He started off really well looking like one of the best junglers. He slowly began to stagnate making some of the rookie mistakes we expected. With a split under his belt, he should know what to expect heading into summer. Cloud9 will also bring back the duo top laners of Impact and Ray. It will be interesting to see if they utilize the same way they did last split, Ray on carries and Impact on tanks. More teams should catch onto this and adjust their pick/bans accordingly.

Under coach of the split, Reaper, Cloud9 will look to contend for the title once again and earn another trip back to Worlds.

1. Team SoloMid

TSM will come in as Summer Split favorites with the return of star ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Doublelift won’t be coming in completely cold, as he had the chance to play with Team Liquid near the end of spring. If TSM can begin where they left off when Doublelift was on the roster, they can dominate the LCS once again. They have stated that they want to utilize the six man roster with another ADC. It will be interesting to see who they bring on as a sub.

Domestically, TSM is a dominant team that has shown the ability to not show fear to play at a high level. They struggle to translate this same high level of play to the international stage where they have shown to be scared to pull the trigger on fights. Hopefully with Doublelift returning, he brings another decisive voice in the shot calling that will allow them to make more aggressive plays.

Jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen had a poor showing at MSI. He was simply out classed by every other jungler there aside from maybe Trick. He’ll need to turn things around if TSM wants to continue their reign on North America.


Catch the start of LCS June 2nd!

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Cover Photo by Riot Games

Mid Season Invitational Power Rankings

MSI will officially begin Wednesday as TSM, Flash Wolves, and Gigabyte Marines have earned their spots through the play-in stage. TSM looked shaky, needing a reverse sweep to take down Gigabyte Marines. It will definitely be interesting to see how the teams come out. Will G2 finally play well on the international stage? Can TSM bounce back from their poor performance? Can Gigabyte Marines make a Cinderella Run? Here are my power rankings of the teams heading into the Midseason Inviational.

1.SK Telecom T1 (Korea)

This should come to no surprise to fans and analysts. Korea as a region and SKT as a team have dominated the LoL scene for quite some time now. They’ll be looking to assert their dominance even more if they can go through MSI undefeated. SKT holds some of the best players in the world at each of their position.

Their most infamous has to be their mid laner, the GOAT, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. As long as Faker is on this team, you can bet on them being World contenders for awhile. Alongside Faker, has been his head coach since the beginning Kim kkOma Jung-gyun. Kkoma has been praised for being the best coach in League of Legends, having led SKT to all their World Championships. He’ll look to add a back to back MSI title to that list.

2. Flash Wolves (Taiwan)

Photo by: Riot Games

Flash Wolves may play in a top heavy region, but despite this, they’ve showed consistently time and time again that they cannot be underestimated. Coming off a successful IEM win at Katowice, Flash Wolves will look to surprise spectators and continue their reign as the “Korean Slayers”.

Flash Wolves play an aggressive style, often making plays in the early game with jungler  Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan and support Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie looking to make plays. Not only can they build big gold leads in the early game, they know how to properly finish games as well.

Flash Wolves came into the season sporting a new ADC in Lu “Betty” Yuhung who looks to get better and better every time we see him. Betty finished their series against SuperMassive with a monstrous KDA of 36, only dying once the whole series. Their longtime jungle/mid duo of Karsa and Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang have not shown any signs of slowing down. They had a phenomenal performance against SuperMassive, dominating their opponents. Flash Wolves have the best shot at upsetting SKT here at MSI.

3. G2 Esports (Europe)

Despite G2 having not played a game at MSI yet, they definitely showed a dominant run in playoffs en route to their third European championship. Everyone from G2 are ready to finally prove that they can perform well on the international stage. Maybe with the help of sports psychologist, Weldon Green, they can finally get that monkey off their back of choking internationally.

Mid laner Luka “PerkZ” Perković in particular will have lots of pressure as he’s become known for not playing well in international competitions. If he plays well, G2 can definitely make a decent MSI run. G2’s bot lane of Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez will be one of G2’s power positions. With the meta shifting back to “carry style” ADC’s, G2’s bot lane can definitely have a major impact in games.

What’s worrying is how long their games tend to go. Against some of the best teams in the world G2 will need to have the ability to close out games or risk failing in international play once again

4. Team we (China)

Team WE is a name that’s been around professional LoL for some time now. Once a powerhouse in their region, they’ve returned to take the throne as the number one team in China. After years of mixing rosters, they finally found success dropping only a single game en route to their 3-0 sweep of Royal Never Give Up in the LPL finals. They don’t play the stereotypical play style of all aggressive early game teams we’ve seen in the past from China.

WE plays much more controlled and teamfight well in the mid/late game. Jungler Xiang “Condi” Ren-Jie is an absolute monster and will be essential in WE’s success. In the mid lane, Hanwei “xiye” Su, has a deep champion pool and has shown good performances on both control mages and assassins. He had the 2nd best KDA in the LPL for at 4.7.

China has since fallen off from being the heralded “2nd best region”, but WE will look to prove that they are still one of the best.

5. Team SoloMid (North America)

Photo By: Riot Games

TSM looked shaky in their play-in series vs. Vietnam’s Gigabyte Marines. It felt like they were heavily disrespecting their opponents going for questionable invades and teamfights almost expecting the other team not to be prepared. This caused them to go down 2-0 in the series, before reverse sweeping their way to victory.

That series had many North American fans breathing sighs of relief. TSM will be heavy underdogs now at this point of the tournament if they struggled that heavily against a wild card region.

Even in the reverse sweep, their last two wins were not clean by any means. Gigabyte Marines showed the capability to gain early leads off some poor play out of TSM. Gigabyte Marines nearly had the series in game four, before overstaying in TSM’s base which ultimately led to TSM’s victory.

In particular TSM’s adc, Jason “Wildturtle” Tran had an awful series, dying in a winning 2v2 and often getting caught out of position while only having a 52.9 kill participation percentage. He’ll need to step up big time if TSM wants to finish in the top four of the group stage.

6. Gigabyte Marines (Vietnam)

Although they are the wildcard representative of MSI, their play-in stage performance was amazing in terms of Wildcard performances in international tournaments. Gigabyte Marines gave North America’s TSM a run for their money, nearly taking the series. Maybe some nerves and lack of experience, forced a bad call to try to end the game that resulted in a throw, but nonetheless this team has impressed.

Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh has been an absolute monster this whole tournament. He’s currently 2nd in KDA and first in DMG% among junglers who have played at MSI so far. Gigabyte Marines rely heavily on him to setup plays in the early game to snowball leads. It will be interesting to see how he matches up against the likes of SKT’s Peanut or Flash Wolves’ Karsa.

One of their weak points will definitely be in top laner Phan “Stark” Công Minh. Stark showed some great performances on Gragas during their series against TSM, but was non existent if not on that particular champion. In game three, he was constantly solo killed by Hauntzer’s Gragas and never seemed to comeback from it throughout the series.

Despite losing a close series to TSM, the group stage will be best of 1. Don’t be surprised to find Gigabyte Marines apart of the top four once the group stages conclude at MSI.

Cover photo by: Riot Games

Tune in Wednesday for the opening ceremonies of MSI on May 10

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MSI: Group A Preview

The first stage of the Mid Season Invitational is just a few days away, and there’s a lot to be excited about. For the first time ever, MSI will have a play-in stage where wildcard regions will play for a chance at a best of five series with either TSM or Flash Wolves. Group A may be nicknamed “group of death” in terms of the talent in this group. Many of these regions have been known for stellar play in Wildcard tournaments.

Red Canids

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Red Canids will have the home field advantage playing in Brazil. They handily swept Keyd Stars 3-0 in the CBLOL en route to qualifying for MSI. On that Keyd Stars team were fan favorites from last worlds, jungler Gabriel “Revolta” Henud, and top laner Felipe “Yang” Zhao, who shocked EDG at last worlds.

They made a key addition to the head coach position, adding on longtime League personality/coach Ram “Brokenshard” Djemal. His latest stint ended with his North American Challenger team, EUnited, falling to Team Liquid in the LCS qualifier.

They come in with one of the strongest bot lanes in Brazil.  At ADC they sport one of the most famous Brazilian superstars in Felipe “brTT” Goncalves. They have the French support, Hugo “Dioud” Padioleau. Dioud who has shown much success in the region.

Mid laner Gabriel “tockers” Claumann also got to strut his ability on the World stage last year. He was a great addition to this roster, allowing them to finally find success in the region.  Their second mid laner is infamous twitch streamer, Felipe “Yoda” Noronha. Yoda is a master of playing assassins. He’s most infamous for his Katarina which has drawn bans in competitive play.

Brazil has been known to have some of the best international success among Wildcard regions. With the home field advantage, everyone in Brazil will be rooting for them to advance to represent their region well.

Super Massive eSports

Courtesy:Riot Esports

Super Massive Esports return to MSI, where they took a game off of NA’s CLG the last time they were here. Statistically, Super Massive has the best players at every role. Each player is a top player in the region. They qualified for MSI after taking a 3-1 series over Crew esports.

Much of their roster from last MSI are returning. Many will remember their star support, Mustafa Kemal “Dumbledoge” Gökseloğlu. In their first match vs. SKT, they did a clever roam to the mid lane to first blood Faker. Jungler Furkan “Stomaged” Güngör and mid laner Koray “Naru” Bıçak also return to the MSI stage.

Top laner Asım “fabFabulous” Cihat Karakaya had one of his best splits earning the TCL MVP award. He had a perfect win rate on Camille so look for it to draw bans possibly.

Turkey has had a very good record in Wildcard play. They’ve had some of the best success in Wildcard tournaments, so they’ll definitely be favorites to get out of group A.

Rampage

Courtesy: lolesports

Rampage is one of the newest Wildcard regions in Japan, qualifying for MSI after barely beating Unsold Stuff Gaming 3-2, en route to sweeping a 3-0 final against Detonation gaming.

At the support and jungle positions, they have Korean imports Jeon “Dara” Jeong-Hoon and Moonyong “Tussel” Lee. Dara has quickly risen to stardom in Japan, being voted to represent the region for the International Wildcard Qualifier two years in a row. He’s been known for playing tanky bruiser supports, but has shown great skill on Lulu as of late.

Dara has shown skill on very high pressure junglers, such as Lee Sin and Nidalee. He’ll look to pressure the map early for them to see success in this group A. The pro scene is definitely growing in Japan, and Rampage will look to prove how much they’re growing as a region.

LG Dire Wolves

Courtesy: OPL lolesports

Last, but not least, we have LG Dire Wolves out of the OPL region of Australia.They qualified for MSI after taking a 3-1 series over Legacy eSports. After a few splits of barely missing success, the Dire Wolves were able to take the OPL championship.

The Dire Wolves are led by star ADC Calivin “k1ng” Truong, who showed great play on some of the early lethality champions, such as Jhin and Varus. He’ll be vital in their team’s success in this group. Mid laner Richard “Phanatiks” Su is an aggressive player, known to play assassin champions when he can, such as Zed, Fizz, or Kassadin.

For the past few IWQ events, the OPL have fallen just short of qualifying for international events. The Dire Wolves will want to come in and prove that they can be the first team to do so. Their first step will be qualifying out of group A.

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5 Rookies to Watch This Split

The North American and European LCS start in a few weeks, and I’ve decided to highlight some up-and-coming rookies who will be playing in their first seasons professionally in LCS. Last season was an exciting one as we got to see a lot of talented rookies come from both regions. These are some names to look out for as we head into Season 7:

Cody Sun  (Immortals ADC)

Formerly known as Massacre, Yi Lu “Cody Sun” Sun is a Chinese American player who has been playing ADC in challenger series since Spring 2015 when he played for Imagine in NACS. Most recently, he played in the NACS with Dream Team who was swept by C9 Challenger in the Summer playoffs. He sported a 9.33 KDA in the NACS Summer Split and was a huge part in many of their victories.  On a day and a half of full team practice before IEM Gyeonggi, Cody Sun was able to showcase an amazing 8-0 Ezreal game vs Korea’s Kongdoo Monster.  Outside of that game, he looked rather inconsistent, which is fair for a rookie playing against some tough international competition for the first time.  It will be thrilling to see what this ADC can show with more practice on the NALCS stage.

Caps (Fnatic Mid)

Picture Courtesy of CLICKon Esports

Rasmus “Caps” Winther is a 17 year old, hungry, Danish kid out to prove himself as Fnatic’s new mid laner. He will have huge shoes to fill, playing alongside a core of veteran LCS players in Soaz, Rekkles, and Amazing.  Caps made Reddit headlines a week after being introduced as Fnatic’s new mid laner, when a thread was made about him threatening a player in Challenger saying, “You have no idea how much impact I have on rosters. You can troll me all you want, but I will make sure you never get to join a CS nor LCS team.” This was a rather bold statement coming from someone who just got introduced as a starter on an LCS roster. Fnatic and Caps later released an apology statement for this event. In 6 games with Challenger team NRV, he showed off a subpar 1.9 KDA with a 76 kill participation, which was highest among EUCS Mids.  EU, and specifically Denmark, have been known to produce fantastic Mid laners such as Bjergsen, Froggen, and Jensen.  Caps will get a chance to add his name to this elite list of Mid laners as he enters his first EULCS season.

 

Contractz (C9 Jungler)

Replacing longtime C9 Jungler, Meteos, will be none other than the young and hungry C9 Challenger Team Jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia. Contractz’ competitive career started in 2015 with Zenith esports, where his team placed 5-6th in the HTC Ascension Challenger invitational. He then played for team Ember in the 2016 NACS Spring season at only 17 years old, before being replaced by Santorin for playoffs. The following summer NACS season, he replaced Rush on the C9 Challenger squad after Riot implemented a new rule regarding residency. He was able to gain veteran mentor-ship playing along LCS veterans, Hai, Balls, LemonNation, and Altec. Contractz sported a 3.92 KDA in the NACS summer season with a 67% kill participation, mostly playing Graves and Reksai. He has been heralded as being a similar player to Dardoche as a young and talented NA Jungler, but with a much better attitude. He joins a very talented C9 roster looking to stay atop the standings and compete for their fifth straight appearance at Worlds.

Goldenglue (Team Liquid Mid)

Picture courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

Greysen “Goldenglue” Gilmer is a well known name around the Pro League of Legends scene. He has made multiple appearances on the NALCS stage, subbing for teams such as Dignitas and T8. One could say he is a veteran of the Challenger series, playing professionally since 2013. He’s never held a starting position at the beginning of a season on an LCS roster, but will be given his first shot with Team Liquid this season. He replaces Fenix after a debacle of a season from Team Liquid as a whole. They had a team meltdown towards the end of the season, ultimately leading to a pathetic showing in the gauntlet in which they played with two challenger players as last minute subs. For the upcoming season, Team Liquid decided to bring back Piglet, while keeping former members Lourlo and Matt. They promoted Golenglue from Challenger Series and brought in All Star Jungler, Reignover to round out the roster. A lot of hate was brought upon social media when Team Liquid announced Goldenglue as their Mid laner, so he will be looking to prove himself coming into this season.

Xerxe (Unicorns of Love Jungler)

Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir is a 17 year old Romanian Jungler, who most recently played for Dark Passage in the Turkish Champions League(TCL). He showed off a phenomenal 7.98 KDA in 36 games, with a 70 percent kill participation in the Summer Split of TCL.  He showed an ability to perform well on a multitude of champions, pulling out seven different champions last season. The Jungler he will be replacing is Move. Unicorns of Love pulled off a stunning win at IEM Oakland, defeating TSM 2-1 in the semifinals en route to a 3-2 victory over LMS’ Flash Wolves. UOL was a win away from qualifying for Worlds last season, and return with their consistent duo, top laner Vizicsacsi, and support Hylissang. They look to be hitting their stride after being so close to attending Worlds and performing well at IEM.  Exileh, their Mid laner, looks like a strong EU talent, and seemed to get better as the Summer Split went on.  Xerxe is plugged into a team that looks to be on the rise. It will be up to him to make sure he plays up to his potential, helping UOL push for Worlds.

Let me know what you think of this list in the comments below, and as always, 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 Christian!

Does Spring Split Really Matter?

The Effect of Doublelift Stepping Down

A month has passed since Team SoloMid (TSM) released the announcement video that their star AD carry, Yiliang, “Doublelift”, Peng would be stepping down for the Spring Split in an attempt to relieve some of the burnout of being a pro since season one of competitive League of Legends.  

For most spectators who follow the scene, they saw a move like this coming.  It’s fair to say that Doublelift has been a premiere star in North America since pro League of Legends started back in 2011. But playing the game for such a long time at a high level has worn him down.   

This sparks an interesting discussion of how relevant Spring Split is in comparison to the Summer.  It seems that for the most part, teams are content with “trying out” a roster in Spring Split with hopes of improving. They use a possible roster move or two to help themselves contend even harder in the Summer, similar to what we saw in Splyce this past season in the EU LCS.  

Many teams have been quoted in the Spring Split as being “Summer Split teams” aiming just to do well enough to avoid relegation. While hoping to fix team issues in time for a real run to worlds in the Summer.  In an interview with Travis Gafford from Yahoo Esports, Doublelift describes Spring Split as “being a huge waste of time as a pro”.  

He elaborates on this more touching on the fact that for most popular players, they end up losing a lot of money scrimming during the regular LCS split as opposed to streaming. Combining that loss of significant income with the health issues that come from practicing the game 10-12 hours a day for 10 months, it may slowly become appealing to see if some players want to follow suit.

From a fan’s perspective, could some of our favorite stars begin dropping out of Spring Split in hopes of coming back for a fiery summer?  Moves like this jeopardize the state of the LCS in that fans aren’t getting to see teams at their best and in the absence of some of some longtime fan favorites.  

It also hurts the competitive scene in a sense that teams aren’t facing the best that their region has to offer.  What if longtime pros in the scene such as Bjergsen, Sneaky, and Froggen all see this as a prime opportunity for them to take a much needed break?

They are earning much more money streaming as opposed to scrimming for some mere circuit points that may not even matter in terms of qualifying for Worlds. Could Spring Split be used as a much needed break physically for those who have brought attention to wrist injuries such as Bjergsen or Hai?

In terms of circuit points for Spring Split, a team is able to earn 90 points for first, 70 for second, 50 for third, 30 for fourth, and 10 for the remaining teams.  It’s evident to see how these points can go to waste as exemplified by Origen in the EU LCS when their 70 points went to waste in Summer when the team couldn’t stay above relegation standings.

Cloud 9 is a good example of showing how disappointing Spring results didn’t translate to Summer. They were able to secure a spot at Worlds to represent the NA LCS after a few small roster changes and bringing in coach Bok “Reapered” Han-Gyu for Summer Split.  With the want for teams to keep their star players healthy, could we see more teams possibly giving player’s breaks for Spring? Ultimately, if your team is strong enough, you can auto-qualify for Worlds through winning Summer Split or through the Gauntlet without the needed circuit points from Spring Split.  

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Picture courtesy of Riot Games Flickr

Options for a Spring Split Replacement

It allows one to question, what could be a good replacement for Spring Split if it were to be removed? Longtime fans of pro League of Legends and pros would benefit from having more international competitions given the opportunity.  

We witnessed Korea stomp on the rest of the world for another season. Pros are begging for more international competition vying that it could be the jump start needed for Western teams to be real contenders at Worlds.

Isolate the best region, and you will continue to see the same thing at Worlds every year.  It makes it really hard to improve when you spend 6-8 months(LCS) beating up on NA/EU teams that just aren’t up to par with what it takes to win a World Championship.

Cloud 9 in Season 3, Fnatic in Season 5, and TSM in Season 6 are all prime examples of teams that have dominated their LCS region/season only to be destroyed by the Korean powerhouses at Worlds.  It raises the question that if they were given more competitive games against Korean teams, would they be able to match their level?

Until that happens, we may have to continue to watch as Western teams try to import Korean solo que stars in hopes of having the individual talent to compete at a World Championship level.  It’s become evident though that having individual talent just isn’t enough to win anymore  

Results from TSM this Spring Split and Summer, will play a huge factor in seeing how a move like this will affect the scene.  Will Doublelift return as a reincarnated ADC God that dominates the Summer Split?  Or will he enjoy streaming too much to even reconsider wanting to go back to the grind of being a pro?  Could we see more stars in the future ask for a break for Spring?

All of those questions will need to be answered as we see this season unfold.

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