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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Dignitas Ssumday: “I really want to play Longzhu”

With the gauntlet stretched before them, Dignitas have their eyes set firmly on FlyQuest. Knowing that Fly will have a number of VODs to comb through Ssumday is expecting a different team than the one they faced already.

Ssumday talks about how he believes Dignitas can win the gauntlet tournament and be the North American third seed for Worlds. Once they make it through the gauntlet he mentions that he would like to meet Longzhu at worlds to hang out and play on stage.

Keep it here for more interviews, pieces and photos from NALCS!

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

Photo and video by ‘The Game Haus’ Patrick Mcdonald

Misfits and G2 face off in the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split Finals

EU LCS Summer Finals positional breakdown

Sunday, September 3, G2 will face off against Misfits for the title of Europe’s top team. The winner receives the honor of hanging their banner in the rafters, and representing Europe at Worlds as the number one seed. The loser misses out on an EU LCS title, but will still travel to China as Europe’s second seed. This best-of-five will be a battle for glory, and it is shaping up to be a showdown.

G2 finished the regular season with an 8-5 record, good enough to secure second place within Group A. Fnatic took two series off of them, while Unicorns of Love, Misfits and Roccat each took one. G2 won their quarterfinals match-up versus Splyce 3-2, much closer than fans expected. They moved on to slaughter H2K 3-0 in the semifinals. This will be G2’s fourth finals in their four splits. If they win, it will extend their reign in the EU LCS to four splits, two years straight.

Misfits actually finished the regular season with a 6-7 series record. They were able to place third in Group A, one spot below G2. Misfits’ only win over a top six team came against G2 in week three. Fnatic, H2K, Splyce and Unicorns of Love did not lose series to this team. Misfits has upset their way into the finals by skunking Unicorns of Love 3-0 in the quarterfinals, then dominating Fnatic in semifinals 3-1. This is Misfits’ first appearance in the finals in their first two EU LCS splits.

Hussain is Misfits' coach at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Both of these teams have earned their way into the ultimate showdown by stepping up in the playoffs. G2 has had ups and downs throughout this split. They came into the summer season as heavy favorites, since they had no roster changes, and they made it into the finals of Riot’s Mid-Season Invitational.

However, G2 held a 3-3 EU LCS record going into Rift Rivals, proceeded to perform worst at Rift Rivals with a 1-5 record, then returned to Europe to close the season 5-2. These last two weeks of play have shown G2 return closer to form. They had secured wins against Splyce and H2K during the cross-group play, so G2 was not necessarily unfavored in their playoff match-ups. Splyce pushed them to the limit of their five-game series, and a successful Baron steal in game one tilted H2K beyond repair.

Youngbuck is G2's coach at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Misfits has had a more extreme path to this summer’s finals. They came into the split surrounded by questions about their choice to replace KaKAO with Maxlore in the jungle. Misfits had finished second in Group A last spring, and finished fourth place in playoffs. This seemed to be a suitable finish for the newcomers, at the time.

Summer Split has actually been worse on paper. Misfits’ dropped to third place in Group A, finishing with a losing record. They had not beaten Unicorns of Love or Fnatic during the regular season. Misfits came into playoffs as severe underdogs, but they have silenced critics so far. This summers playoffs have shown tremendous improvement over their spring run.

In the end, someone has to lose. One of these teams will lose momentum in this final series. In the final stretch, either G2 or Misfits will slip up and create an opening for their opponent to take the series. Heading into their bout this weekend, here is how these finalists match up, lane by lane.

TOP

Expect is G2's top laner at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2 Expect

KDA: 3.5, 4.9           (reg. season, playoffs)

CSD15: +5, -1

DMG%: 23.7, 20.0

KP%: 69.7, 69.7

Alphari is Misfits top laner in the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MSF Alphari

KDA: 3.2, 9.1

CSD15: -3, +13

DMG%: 20.4, 23.8

KP%: 62.8, 70.2

Alphari has made much more tangible improvements coming into playoffs. Considering he faced off against UOL’s Vizicsacsi in quarterfinals and FNC’s Soaz in semifinals (first and third All-Pro), Alphari’s statistics are impressive. He had been much more pro-active in joining the rest of his team for fights; but, more importantly, his split-pushing has been crucial. Alphari’s strength so far during playoffs has been denying his opponent’s opportunities to join fights, pulling them into the side lane to answer his push.

Expect and G2 have had a slightly different top lane experience. In their series versus Splyce, G2 was unable to contain Wunder in the side lanes. The two top laners went back and forth with their pressure throughout five games. H2K’s Odoamne was held down, though. Expect dominated all three of those games.

Both players look comfortable on Gnar and Jarvan IV. These champions include damage and tank items, hard engage, level six power-spikes and decent wave clear for splitting. Alphari had a monster game on Rumble against UOL, while Expect has won all three of his Cho’Gath games during playoffs. On the flip side, Expect’s Renekton fell flat in game four against Splyce.

During the finals, G2 could try to corner Alphari off of Gnar and Jarvan. He has not shown a single Cho’Gath game this summer. Alphari has also shown a tendency to pull out Kennen, Camille or Kled, but he never quite played to their potential. Sure, Alphari could play Renekton or Rumble, but these picks are currently exploitable in the tankier meta.

Expect has a similar champion pool, except he has had success on the Cho’Gath pick. He is a slightly better Renekton, but a slightly worse Rumble, based on the regular season. Expect also prefers Jayce to Kennen, but did not win either of his two games. Finally, Expect’s Galio had a huge impact in G2’s game against Ninjas in Pyjamas, but that was back in June.

If Alphari is able to take a Gnar or Jarvan pick, then Misfits will have an advantage. Their playoffs have looked much more substantial than their regular season, and much of it has to do with Alphari’s denying his enemy’s ability to join skirmishes. Expect is a player who loves to move around the map to enable his carries, whereas Alphari’s teammates tend to not need him as frequently. If G2 draft the Cho’Gath, it may play right into Misfits’ current strengths, as demonstrated by Fnatic’s prioritization for Soaz last week.

JUNGLE

Trick is G2's jungler in the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2 Trick

KDA: 3.4, 4.8

XPD15: +465, +278

DMG%: 14.0, 14.5

KP%: 71.7, 68.9

Maxlore is Misfits' jungler in the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MSF Maxlore

KDA: 3.7, 9.6

XPD15: -107, +194

DMG%: 14.3, 11.6

KP%: 68.0, 74.0

Misfits and G2 play somewhat differently around their junglers. Trick loves to farm. He has always had a knack for taking camps quicker and more frequently than his opponents, while his lanes remain self-sufficient. Maxlore is more likely to attempt to make an impact in his early levels by ganking.

Trick used Sejuani to full effect in G2’s win over H2K, and Jankos could not effectively answer. Maxlore had a similar effect with his Zac in Misfits’ win over UOL. Expect these two champions to be picked or banned in the finals. Trick has not looked comfortable in his four Zac games, and Maxlore lost his only regular season Sejuani game. Both junglers are willing to pull out Gragas.

Maxlore is widely considered more of a carry jungler than Trick, but do not forget that Trick was five for five on Kha’Zix during the regular season. Otherwise, Maxlore has won games on Kayn and Rengar during playoffs, so far. His most picked champion in the regular season was Lee Sin. While both of these junglers have drafted Elise when she was not banned, neither looked effective with her. Trick’s playoff Elise was game five versus Splyce, which went over 50 minutes. Maxlore ended the regular season one for three with the Spider Queen.

Over 15 EU LCS playoff games, Elise and Jarvan IV have been the most banned jungle champions (nine and five, respectively). Jarvan IV can be flexed into the top lane, which contributes to his 87 percent presence in playoffs. With these two gone, Gragas has been the most picked (11), followed by Zac (five) and Sejuani (five).

Since so many AD carries and mid laners are seeing bans, the draft may not see much jungle diversity, especially since Maxlore is not afraid to pocket pick. If Trick and his team can properly track, counter-jungle and counter-gank Maxlore, that may be a key to taking down Misfits.

MID

Perkz is G2's mid laner at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2 Perkz

KDA: 4.0, 3.9

CSD15: +2, -7

DPM: 579, 663

KP%: 70.8, 71.4

PowerOfEvil is Misfits' mid laner at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MSF PowerOfEvil

KDA: 4.2, 12.1

CSD15: +4, +8

DPM: 622, 587

KP%: 75.5, 81.7

PowerOfEvil has had an incredible playoff performance. He has had huge impacts on every single game. Perkz was a bit shakier in G2’s series against Splyce, but completely ravaged H2K over three games. This mid lane match-up is sure to be intense.

Perkz does seem a bit more aggressive in the laning phase, which can help or hinder G2 in this series. It will depend on how well his team members support him. Champions like Cassiopeia and Leblanc are perfect for Perkz’s playstyle. PowerOfEvil feels more calculated with trades and farming, but truly shines when he can roam and support his teammates. This is one of the main reasons that Orianna is by far his best champion this summer.

These two have played a combined 17 Orianna games, averaging a 17.6 KDA. Cassiopeia has been picked eight games, banned four games, so far in playoffs (80 percent presence). Both Perkz and PowerOfEvil recently crushed UOL’s Exileh with mid lane Lucian. PowerOfEvil has a worse summer record on Syndra (three wins over eight games), but two of those wins have come in two playoff games.

Throughout playoffs, Leblanc, Cassiopeia, Lucian and Orianna have each been banned four to five times over 15 games. G2 and Misfits could try to pinch the mid lane champion pool beyond that, but they would sacrifice crucial bans for the bottom lane. There are four marksmen, four supports, two junglers and four top laners (including Galio and Jarvan) with higher ban rates than the first mid lane champion.

Therefore, this mid lane match-up will mostly come down to execution. Will Misfits give Perkz enough room to play aggressively on Cassiopeia or Leblanc? Could G2 give over PowerOfEvil’s cherished Orianna? Will either of them have the guts to draft Lucian, or will they be willing to whip out an unexpected pocket pick?

BOTTOM

Zven is G2's bottom laner in the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2 Zven

KDA: 5.2, 7.1

CSD15: +4, +1

DPM: 556, 659

KP%: 61.7, 71.4

Hans sama is Misfits' bottom laner at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MSF Hans sama

KDA: 4.3, 11.3

CSD15: -1, -2

DPM: 469, 575

KP%: 70.0, 76.0

During the regular season, this bottom lane would be a completely one-sided match-up. But this is playoffs, and Hans sama has stepped up in a major way. Almost all of his statistics have improved, mostly with respect to team fighting. Hans sama has been much less of a clean-up AD carry, but much more of a damage-per-second threat.

Zven, on the other hand, has always been a threat. During the regular season, he was named second All-Pro for his heavy damage contributions in G2’s team fights. Historically, G2’s bottom lane gained larger advantages during laning phase. But, with the current state of the meta, scaling marksmen dominate the space. Zven is happy to assume that position.

AD carry champions are receiving multiple bans every game. Kalista has been 100 percent banned (15 bans over 15 games). Tristana has been 100 percent pick or ban (10 bans and five picks). Xayah has been third priority with seven picks and three bans (67 percent presence). Both Zven and Hans sama have shown strong Tristana performances throughout the Summer Split.

Splyce and H2K targeted Zven much heavier than UOL or Fnatic pressured Hans sama in the draft phase. So far, G2’s bottom lane has locked in Ashe, Caitlyn, Varus, Tristana and Sivir over eight games. Misfits has picked Tristana three times, Xayah three times and Ashe once.

This could be a weak spot for Misfits if G2 decides to pinch the marksman role. Hans sama has not played a single game of Kog’Maw, Sivir or Twitch this summer, while Zven has shown them at various points. For example, if Kalista, Tristana, Xayah and Caitlyn are banned, and G2 picks Ashe, what would Hans sama play? Varus was his most played champion in the regular season with 11 games and a 63.6 percent win rate.

At the end of the day, the power of these two will come down to team fight execution. Do not expect Zven or Hans sama to break open some huge lead in the laning phase. It will more likely revolve around how they position with regard to enemy crowd control. With champions such as Jarvan IV, Gragas, Sejuani, Alistar, Rakan, Thresh and Elise being such high priorities, the AD carry position is a huge liability. They need to shred down tanks, kite safely and output as much damage as possible.

SUPPORT

Mithy is G2's support at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2 Mithy

KDA: 5.1, 5.1

KP%: 69.2, 73.1

WPM: 1.43, 1.56

WCPM: 0.37, 0.34

Ignar is Misfits' support at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MSF Ignar

KDA: 3.9, 6.1

KP%: 70.0, 76.0

WPM: 1.56, 1.32

WCPM: 0.47, 0.31

The Summer Split first All-Pro support faces off against the Spring Split first All-Pro support. Ignar has had a quiet split, following his explosive performance in spring. Known for his surprise roams and play-making, Ignar has returned closer to form since Misfits entered playoffs. His Blitzcrank has earned bans, and Thresh and Rakan are among his top-picked champions.

Mithy, on the other hand, has maintained a steady presence within the EU LCS. His performances allow G2’s carries, Zven in particular, to stay safe and dish damage. For this reason, two of his most played supports are Tahm Kench and Lulu. However, Mithy has come up huge on Alistar, Trundle and Braum in playoffs. G2 was able to take down Splyce in quarterfinals off the back of an expert flank executed by Mithy.

The gameplay dynamic between these two should be interesting. Ignar may be torn between babysitting Hans sama through a tough laning phase and roaming with Maxlore to impact the map. Mithy may decide to answer the roams, leaving Zven vulnerable in the bottom lane. It will heavily depend on the drafts.

So many bans could be targeted towards carry roles that picks like Rakan, Thresh and Alistar may be left on the table. That being said, Ignar and Mithy have both shown strong recent performances on enchanter supports, such as Janna and Morgana. G2 did find more success against H2K by giving Trick and Expect the primary engage tools, while Mithy played protectors, such as Tahm Kench and Braum. However, Misfits tend to rotate their players’ roles more frequently.

This finals match-up could actually be heavily influenced by the support role. A pivotal Blitzcrank or Thresh hook, a crucial Morgana Black Shield, an Alistar Headbutt-Pulverize; any of these could be a season-winning moment. This is not just another series to put under a team’s belt. This is the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split Finals, and it could be one for the League of Legends history books.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Player Statistics: GamesofLegends.com, OraclesElixir.com

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Nisqy is NV's MVP of NA LCS quarterfinals

Recognizing the MVPs of the NA LCS quarterfinals losers

The North American LCS Summer Split playoffs began last week with two quarterfinal match-ups. Cloud9 faced off against Dignitas. Counter Logic Gaming took on Envyus. Each of these teams had clear ups and downs during the split, so it was difficult to peg the favorites going in, except maybe CLG should beat NV.

However, things did not really go as planned. DIG took down C9 convincingly, finishing with a 3-1 series. Dignitas’ bottom lane, in particular, was able to shine. Although, every member of the team performed well. Cloud9 looked shaky in all but game three.

The CLG-NV match-up was even closer, with CLG barely edging out NV 3-2. Various members on both teams had highlight moments, as each adaptation came through. Rookies and veterans faced off in an exciting five game series, but CLG did close out game five, thanks mostly to Darshan’s success with Camille.

Cloud9 and NV left the arena disappointed. C9 has a long history of playoff success within the North American region, including the finals of the Spring Split this year. NV pulled themselves up from 10th place last split to a spot in playoffs. Even though they were so close to pushing through into semifinals, it fell just beyond their grasp.

There is a specific player from each team that deserves recognition for stepping up in quarterfinals. These are players who put their carry pants on, and did what was needed for their teams. Here are two players that proved to be most valuable to Cloud9 and Envy during the first round of playoffs. Each should feel proud of their contributions.

C9 Jensen

Jensen is C9's MVP of quarterfinals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Jensen found himself in a central position with Cloud9 during quarterfinals. Many of C9’s compositions revolved around Jensen and Sneaky dishing damage, while Impact, Contractz and Smoothie acted as utility tanks. Jensen held up his end of the deal. The rest of the team did not.

On Cassiopeia, Jensen prioritized farming over early skirmishes. In game one, C9’s top lane, jungler and bottom lane had ceded kills before 17 minutes, while only securing one in exchange. In game two, the early game was a bit less lop-sided, but still in DIG’s favor. Jensen did get caught out at Baron around 29 minutes, which swung the game heavily to C9’s disadvantage. However, he followed it up with a crucial four-man Petrifying Gaze at 34:20 to completely deflate DIG’s pressure.

In game three, Jensen completely dominated. His mid lane Lucian was 5-0-2 around 25 minutes, and never really got shut down. Contractz looked much better on Elise, bringing more early game pressure. Of course, part of their advantage came from Shrimp’s curveball Nocturne pick, which did not have a large influence on the game. The Lucian was locked in again in game four, but did not have as strong an effect, due to the low effectiveness of Impact’s Galio and the losing bottom lane. Jensen was still able to finish with a 3-2-7 scoreline.

Considering how threatening Ssumday’s Maokai was throughout this series, it is impressive how many fights Jensen came out alive in. Despite losing the series 3-1, Jensen’s statistics were still powerful. He averaged 19 CS ahead of Keane at 15 minutes. He did 33 percent of Cloud9’s damage. 81.7 percent kill participation and a 5.5 KDA are strong on a winning line-up, let alone one that lost.

NV Nisqy

Nisqy is NV's MVP of NA LCS quarterfinals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the more one-sided series going into the quarterfinals, Counter Logic Gaming versus Envy was much closer than expected. CLG took game one, NV responded with two wins of their own, and then CLG closed out the final two games, finishing 3-2. In all but the final game, NV actually had the lead at 20 minutes. However, CLG’s mid-late game fighting proved more effective, particularly around Baron.

Despite the series loss, NV’s mid laner, Nisqy, truly proved himself. He showed a wide range of champions and playstyles, locking in Cassiopeia, Corki, Galio and Kog’Maw throughout the match-up. Nisqy finished the best-of-five with a 5.2 overall KDA, going deathless in NV’s victories.

Nisqy came out of the gate in game one with an aggressive play in CLG’s jungle to pick up two kills, evening out an invade gone wrong. CLG responded with a mid lane gank to shut him down. After Omargod stole the Baron from NV afterwards, there was very little they could do. Every member of CLG got ahead, and the long distance engage of Zac made NV’s carries easy targets.

In games two and three, Nisqy had a huge impact. His Galio ultimates at eight minutes and 25 minutes were crucial for turning around teamfights targeting Apollo. Nisqy expertly utilized Galio’s zoning and crowd control to split up CLG’s carries and tanks. His Corki roam around 16 minutes resulted in a triple kill, and every teamfight for game three he dished out massive damage.

NV’s game four loss could be mostly attributed to their lack of reliable engage. Seraph’s Cho’Gath, LiRa’s Rek’Sai and Hakuho’s Nautilus could never pull off the necessary initial engagement to set up Nisqy’s Hero’s Entrance. Without the proper team-wide execution, the Galio fell flat.

They switched up their composition in game five by drafting Kog’Maw in the mid lane. Nisqy’s damage output came up huge, particularly in the 32:30 teamfight. Unfortunately, Seraph’s Gnar could not overcome Darshan’s Camille counterpick, and NV’s dual-marksman composition had difficulty surviving CLG’s engages long enough to compete, damage-wise. Nonetheless, Nisqy’s heavy contributions throughout this entire series were apparent, which deserves recognition.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Player Statistics: GamesofLegends.com

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

Trending in EU LCS: Week 10

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

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

TRENDING UP

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

Underdog upsets are trending up in EU LCS week 10

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Underdog Upsets

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

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

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

“Clash of the Clowns”

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

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

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

Janna is trending up in EU LCS week 10

Image from boards.na.leagueoflegends.com

Janna

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

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

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

TRENDING DOWN

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

G2 is trending down in the EU LCS week 10

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2

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

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

Zac

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

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

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

H2K is trending down in EU LCS week 10

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

H2K

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

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

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

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

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr, League of Legends boards

Video Highlights: TheGameHaus Vibby

Champion Statistics: GamesofLegends.com

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Who is League of Legends balanced for?

A few months ago I interviewed at Riot Games to become part of their in house balance team. Over the course of two separate interviews, lasting thirty and forty-five minutes, I was thrown through what I can only describe as the gauntlet of game health adjudication. In this interview, I trash talked Nasus, roasted Janna mains like myself and complained avidly about Azir, all to my interviewer’s delight. The aforementioned interviewer was none other than Gleebglarbu.

Rolling through question after question about various “toxic” champions, champions whose design create frustrating experiences for players, we finally got to the big one. I’m not talking about Corki’s package here, but instead a question that left me more perplexed than a drunkard watching Inception for the first time. Here, Gleebglarbu, and later another interviewer by the name of Trevor asked me what demographic of skill would I balance League of Legends for. More specifically, they asked me if I would balance champions for professional play or the average Silver player. The dialogue went something like this:

 

Gleeb: In situations where you can either balance for LCS levels of play or Silver levels of play, which one do you choose and why?

Me: Do the two situations have to be mutually exclusive?

Gleeb: For champions like Azir (a champion I had complained about laning against earlier in the interview) the perfect player will make him seem frustratingly overpowered. But then you see a Bronze II player pick the champion up and all the sudden his team is missing a mid laner.

 

I continued to fumble around with this question, attempting to find some middle ground balance between pro and casual play, but alas with Azir and champions like him, there was no middle ground. I had to pick a side within this dualistic paradigm, and if you know me, you know that I hate dualistic systems more than anything.

Ultimately I suggested that Riot had to first and foremost balance for the competitive scene, a decision I still do not entirely believe in, but I had to choose one or the other. I chose to balance around the professional level of play, pulling data from Masters through LCS to make balancing decisions due to the fact that League of Legends as a Spectator Sport, is for everyone. While it is impossible to balance a game for everyone with the sheer amount of player skill diversity and champion kit variety, it is possible to balance it for just the professional scene.

Ryze is one of the champions whispered about through the halls of Riot games. They speak of him not by name, but as the Rework King. Courtesy of leagueoflegends.com

Balancing for the LCS

Whether you are in promos to Diamond I or someone who has never played ranked, you can watch your favorite players fail flash into the thick part of the wall on side lanes. And most importantly, you can do so on the big screen of the LCS stage. League of Legends has established itself as the pinnacle of Esports and will continue to do so through their constant reinvestment into the competitive scene. It’s paid off too. The production value of Worlds, Rift Rivals and even weekly LCS keep viewers returning week after week, season after season.

Professional League of Legends as a spectator sport is for everyone and not balancing around this level of play cheats both the pros and the viewers out of a dynamic viewing experience. Riot tries their best to make the viewing experience as close to perfect as possible, but there have been long periods of pro play imbalance that have made League of Legends a stale viewing experience.

If you remember the times of lane swaps, where top laners had less farm to their name than the average Cannon minion, you remember a time of darkness and boredom. While this lasted for far too long, changes were made to towers in order to make the viewing experience one worthy of the viewers’ time.

This change had little impact on the solo queue experience for the majority of players and was an all around success, but there have been other dark times on the competitive stage that have bled into casual play. I know I have seen one Shurima Shuffle and several machine gun Ryze plays too many and the repetitive nature of these picks were answered in a timely fashion by Riot’s balancing team. However, the costs of these changes left League of Legends with two champions that when picked in ranked would ensue dodges from those trying to safeguard their LP.

Who can forget this play? TL Fenix takes down almost all of CLG all by himself. Courtesy of lolesports

This is a real drag for players who enjoy playing those champions that are gutted in such an extreme fashion simply because they cannot be balanced in professional play. I am sure Riot has learned a lot from their trouble making Azir and each failed variation of Ryze. The problem with those champions doesn’t entirely run in the power of the numbers in their kit, a problem that champions with more simplistic kits run into a lot of the time. The problem instead lies in the nature of a kit that relies on low ping and insane amounts of team coordination. The fact that getting my team to leave the base before thirty seconds in the game is a problem makes using a champion that requires everyone to hop in a designated zone that’s only available for two seconds even more problematic.

And while I can go on and on about Ryze, that should really be saved for a different piece entirely (hire me Riot I got ideas for the next six Ryze reworks). What Ryze represents at Riot Games is something completely different. The failure of Ryze is Riot making a statement. A statement that Gleebglarbu would have never told me in the interview: League of Legends balances around professional play over all else.

And while this statement does not sound great for the player base, it is one that I ultimately agreed with in my interview. As I have explained earlier, balancing around professional play is not a bad strategy. But there is a better way. Yes, the viewing experience must come first and the sanctity of League of Legends as THE competitive Esport is Riot’s most prized possession. But there is a way to avoid the dualism of champion balance that I have struggled so much with, and that answer comes in the Champion design.

You wouldn’t hop in this van would you? Then why are you going in that Ryze ultimate as Caitlin? Courtesy of imgflip

 

So before you patch with small buffs and incremental nerfs, the design of each champion must come under the highest level of scrutiny. Remember that we are communicating with pings and we are also communicating with strangers, who have no more reason to trust us than we have to trust them. I’m not going to hop in my mid lane Ryze’s ultimate anymore than I’m going to hop in a stranger’s Van. So let’s continue with the Rakans and Kayns whose kits rely upon communication that can easily be done through our five ping options. Let’s stick with champion designs that do not rely upon the blind trust of strangers asking for you to get in the blacked out Van covered in Runes.

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 Rodger Caudill 

Feature image courtesy of lolesports flickr

Cho'Gath is meta in patch 7.14

Cho’Gath returns to feast on the EU LCS

Cho’Gath has spiked in popularity in the EU LCS, following Riot’s implementation of patch 7.14. He was played in six games as a jungler and three games as a top laner in week seven. Cho’Gath was also banned in eight games, maintaining an 89.5 percent overall presence. All three top lane performances resulted in wins, while only three of the six jungle games were wins. This champion’s lack of reliable crowd control hinders his ability to affect the game early from the jungle.

Prior to this patch, Cho had not been on the EU LCS stage for quite a while. The most recent memory of a professional Cho’Gath was Immortal’s Huni in the 2016 NA LCS Spring Split. Other than that, the Terror of the Void has remained out of the hands of LCS pros since at least the 2015 Mid-Season Invitational. Week seven has shown his resurgence into the EU LCS.

Cho’Gath Strategy

Played in the top lane or in the jungle, Cho’Gath acts as an AP-scaling tank with huge nuking potential. As a juggernaut, Cho’Gath’s main weakness is his mobility, as squishy targets can easily kite away from him. The ability to stack Feast has a huge synergy with Gargoyle Stoneplate, due to interactions surrounding bonus health. Patch 7.14 buffed his ability to slow and knock up his enemies, which is the main catalyst for Cho’Gath’s jump in play rate.

In week seven, eight different EU LCS players locked in the Terror of the Void on stage. They generally built items such as Gargoyle Stoneplate, Enchantment: Cinderhulk, Righteous Glory and Warmog’s Armor, and they upgraded boots to Mercury Treads or Ninja Tabi. Many players chose the Bond of Stone keystone mastery, while others chose Grasp of the Undying.

These builds attempt to cover up Cho’s weaknesses. The items provide high amounts of health and mana, increased movement speed and damage resistances. Notice that two major items built on Cho’Gath come with “Active” abilities that go on cooldowns after being used. This further pushes Cho’Gath’s do-or-die playstyle. Once the Gargoyle Stoneplate, Righteous Glory, crowd control and Feast abilities are blown, there is little recourse. A failed engage is a failed fight.

Splyce drafted a composition around Cho'Gath

Image from GamesofLegends.com

Cho’Gath also synergizes best with champions possessing heavy engage, movement speed increases and healing or immunity. Players draft Jarvan IV top lane or Maokai jungle to provide reliable crowd control. Syndra or Orianna mid brings damage and zoning. Ashe and Taric, Rakan or Thresh support compliment him, as well. All of these champions have some way to enable Cho’Gath to enter a fight and do a ton of damage.

His team looks to lock down targets with knock-ups or stuns. Cho’Gath activates Righteous Glory and blows his knock-up and silence for area-of-effect damage. Vorpal Spikes continues to slow the target. Finally, he looks to Feast on a low health victim to finish the fight. Even if enemies limp away from a lost fight, Cho’Gath’s team will generally remain healthy and pressure objectives to snowball the game.

playing against cho’gath

While applying proper response damage, if the enemy is able to survive all of this through kiting and peeling, then Cho’Gath is in trouble. He has no way to escape or run away. His teammates have blown all of their crowd control for the engage, and there is no turning back.

UOL drafted an anti Cho'Gath composition

Image from GamesofLegends.com

Most EU LCS teams answer by drafting Kalista or Xayah, AD carries that can kite well and have an escape tool built into their kit. While throwing Threaded Volleys, Taliyah in the mid lane is good at kiting away, as well. By isolating enemy squishies from Cho’Gath, zoning him away, and soaking crowd control and damage for their carries, Thresh, Braum and Alistar help keep allies alive. Games played around Cho’Gath present clear objectives and win conditions for both teams, which result in five-versus-five team fights.

eu lcs cho’gath highlights

Some highlights of Cho’s entrance into the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split are below. H2K’s Jankos, Splyce’s Wunder, Vitality’s Cabochard, Unicorns of Love’s Vizicsacsi and Fnatic’s Broxah are featured. These are all clips from Cho’Gath wins, showing how his current state allows him to succeed. Enjoy it while it lasts, as Riot promises nerfs to the champion in patch 7.15. It may be years before he is on stage professionally again.


Featured Image: Surrenderat20.net

Other Images: Games of Legends

Video Highlights: Game Haus Vibby

Champion Statistics: Games of Legends

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Thomas

Cho'Gath is trending up in week seven

Trending in the EU LCS: Week seven

Week seven of the EU LCS saw patch 7.14 in full force. It was apparent that the teams were still getting a read on the meta. The drafts and gameplay were unpolished. Prioritizing power picks was different between series. How those picks were used in-game shifted throughout the weekend. Here are some elements that are currently trending in the EU LCS.

Trending Up

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

G2 are trending up in week seven

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2

G2 continues its climb in the standings with a 2-0 week seven, beating H2K and Vitality. Granted, both series ended 2-1, but wins are wins. This week moves G2 up to a 6-3 record to secure second place alone. G2 had a lead over 2,000 gold in all but one game. Even in their losses, they did not go down without a proper fight. This is a good sign for G2 fans. With these last few weeks having playoffs and Worlds implications, G2 should continue on this upward trajectory.

Cho’Gath

The Terror of the Void holds a 100 percent win rate in top, and a 60 percent win rate as a jungler in the EU LCS. Pair that with a 61 percent draft presence for top lane, and a 72 percent presence for jungle, and it is clear this champion is a high priority on 7.14. His recent buffs allow him to clear the jungle easily, while maintaining high health without directly building health items. Unless Riot nerfs this Cho’Gath soon, expect him to stay in the meta.

Maokai is trending up in week seven

Image from Surrenderat20.net

Maokai jungle

Another tank who did well in week seven, Maokai jungle has caught on in the EU LCS. Zac, Elise, Sejuani, Cho’Gath and Gragas were all prioritized higher than Maokai. However, only Kha’Zix had a higher winrate with three or more games. Maokai was picked or banned in 39 percent of games, and had a 67 percent win rate. His saplings can be a nuisance when sprinkled throughout the jungle. Maokai’s ultimate, Vengeful Maelstrom, can be a powerful initiation or disengage tool. It also aids around objectives by zoning the enemy team. Maokai has been flexed into the top lane in other regions, but not this week in the EU LCS.

“ARAM compositions”

The 7.14 meta has developed into what casters and analysts are calling “ARAM compositions.” EU LCS teams are drafting champions that will thrive in five-versus-five team-fighting environments. Tanks are becoming common in top lane, jungle and support positions. Teams generally strategize around powerful engage tools. Mid laners preferred area-of-effect mages. Caitlyn, Kalista, Varus and Tristana were the highest priority AD carries. Most wins this week came from whichever team could initiate and execute the best fights against their opponents.

Trending Down

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

UOL is trending down in week seven

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Unicorns of Love

Strangely enough, Unicorns of Love have not benefited from this new “ARAM” meta. They lost both series in week seven to Roccat and Fnatic. Both series were lost 2-1, which is not the worst case scenario, but the Unicorns did not look good. They opted into fights over and over without giving proper respect to their opponents. Fabian “Exileh” Schubert was an inconsistent element for the team. One game he finished 10-5-10 as Talon against Fnatic. Another game he finished 0-6-2 as Vladimir against Roccat. There was a particularly peculiar solo death under Roccat’s mid lane turret that garnered attention. With every series coming closer to playoffs and Worlds qualifications, the Unicorns will need to shore up these weaknesses.

Shen

Shen’s priority was disproportional to his impact in week seven. While he was picked and banned in 39 percent of games, he lost all three games where he was picked. Shen players seemed to fall far behind in the top lane, and then have limited utility through the end. Gnar, Jarvan IV, Cho’Gath and Renekton looked much more useful. Since the nerf to Shen’s ultimate, he seems a bit lackluster. It is much more difficult to pull off the “submarine” strategy with divers and Orianna. This pick should lose priority moving forward.

Zyra is trending down in week seven

Image from na.leagueoflegends.com

Enchanter and mage supports

With the rise of tanks comes the fall of enchanters. In 7.12, the EU LCS saw Rakan, Zyra and Lulu have decent priority and win rates. After one week of 7.14, Zyra and Lulu have fallen off. Braum has risen to number one priority (94 percent pick-ban rate). Alistar has seen some play (17 percent pick-ban rate), as well as Taric and Trundle (one game each). Moving forward, this may change as the meta takes shape. Knight’s Vow, Righteous Glory and Locket of the Iron Solari are all popular support picks right now.

Top lane Rumble

Another pick that has fallen off, Rumble was only played two games this week. In 7.12, Rumble had a 79 percent draft phase presence, highest of all top laners. This week on 7.14, he dropped to 17 percent pick-ban. Rumble is simply unable to compete with the teamfight durability of tanks or early game damage of lethality builders. He may come back into prominence as the novelty of new top lane picks wears off. It is unclear at this time. However, he was also trending down in week five, due to a low win rate.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr, LeagueofLegends.comSurrenderat20.net

Champion Statistics: GamesofLegends.com

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Franchising in the World of Esports Part 1

According to multiple sources, Riot has decided to scrap the relegation model and move to franchising in 2018. The first taste of this will be in the LPL where they will officially move to the new model this summer. All of this came after Blizzard similarly announced that they would be franchising for 2018 as well. Now that we got the old news out of the way, let me tell you why franchising is the best thing for League of Legends and Esports as a whole.

Many people have given reactions and opinions to this news. In this three-part series, I will also be putting my opinion out there. I plan to tell you how I envision the new structure could work and some of the realities of it all.

Academy Teams…

To start, I have been asking for Riot to do this since around this time last year. After owning GameHausGG for a few months, I could already see the struggle of even attempting to get a team into Challenger, let alone LCS. The amount of money it would cost was unreasonable (unless you had a lot of backing), and players were and have always been extremely flaky. There is no set system or organization to the whole thing. Players, coaches, and even owners are still as unreliable as ever. (We wrote about the recent Blue Rose debacle)

Image by: Yahooesports.com

With all that in mind, I have personally found that there needs to be a real structure in place. Trying to get to Challenger is what every amateur team strives for, yet many of the best never reach it because of “Academy” teams, or as I like to call them, “ways for their mother teams to get more money by selling off their LCS spot.” Academy teams are a major reason why the Challenger league is not only boring, but also a waste of time.

Normally these teams consist of four reject vets and a rookie, Flyquest being the outlier. The mother teams take a chance because they know it wont cost them much, and it gives these players a chance. Then they normally win due to better backing and they are sold to the highest bidder.

For those of you who may argue that this is a common practice, please look at the closest comparison, the EPL. Relegation happens all the time, but teams do not create sister or ‘Academy’ teams and then sell their spots.

While I understand that many of the owners are losing money, this system will help them short term, but may hurt them long term. Luckily it is rumored that Riot has decided to ban Academy teams.

So far Overwatch has not had this problem, but they also have not been established as long. For now I think that Academy teams will not be something that plagues the new Overwatch league.

CHALLENGER TURNS INTO THE MINORS?

Luckily I believe franchising will end and fix all of these problems in Challenger.

Challenger is the perfect opportunity to develop League of Legends’ next stars. While it has done that to a certain degree, it needs to be an established minor league. They can model it after the minor leagues in baseball, or an even better comparison would be the D-League in the NBA.

Image by: http://faculty.de

This developmental league would allow for players to hone their skills. Every team could be associated with a pro team where they could call up or send down players.

It would be its own league that could be promoted as such. The players would get their chances to shine, and those of us who watch League of Legends religiously could have a new thing to complain about, teams not making certain call-ups and sending certain players down.

Overwatch could very easily institute a similar approach. A developmental league of some type for Overwatch would be extremely beneficial as we barely have any established players, teams, or even styles to the game yet.

So what would adding minor leagues solve?

To start, it would allow for the player pool to grow immensely. People could actually have a better chance of being picked up by orgs to be developed in the Minors just like they do in traditional sports. This could have a huge trickle down effect as well.

Colleges could groom the players thus adding another league, again similarly to traditional sports. Then teams could have scouting departments that could either pick players up or they could even do a developmental draft. That would be the dream. Tell me you wouldn’t watch a League of Legends or Overwatch developmental draft? Your favorite team could pick the next big star and the hype would be all too real. But, I must remind myself, one step at a time.

Also these minor leagues would give players more of a chance to go professional and build their own brand. For now it is all about players trying to grind in solo queue and hope that they get picked up. All the while they are still living at home with no guarantees of a potential career.

Lastly, this would give the players at all levels some real stability and organization. Signing with a team and being in their minor league system allows for these players to get a good contract and know that they could be called up at anytime. They would not have to wait and hope that their team would play into the main league. Also they would know that they are affiliated with an established brand. They would not have to create their own, the fan base would already be there for them.

The Fans

So why would you, as a fan, want this minor league or Challenger system?

Courtesy of: Polygon.com

I will start with the most obvious answer, more games and players for you to watch. There would be series of your favorite game being played more often. You could watch these lower leagues to try and see if your team has some good potential talent to bring up and help the roster, or if they need to bring in different talent. Also you could just watch good gaming all the time.

Another reason is that this system would help the established teams quite a bit. Sponsors would be way more likely to invest in this type of system. You know why? Because they have seen it work with traditional sports. Investors and sponsors are more likely to give their money and time if they know something works.

Lastly, this would also create the possibility of even more teams in the league. League of Legends for example, only has 10 teams in NA and EU. Wouldn’t it be awesome if they had more? With an established minor league system, more people would want to be owners. They would understand the organization better and feel better about establishing a new team. With that, they would establish more minor league teams.

Conclusion

I feel as though I have opened Pandora’s Box with all the possibilities of a minor league system. The new franchising could offer all of this and more.

It also could not solve anything with regards to Challenger and the amateur scene of esports.

Honestly, it will depend heavily on the owners and the companies like Riot and Blizzard.

I understand that many people want esports to be different than traditional sports and they are against the ideas of franchising. My only response is, who cares? They will model it after these traditional sports because that model works. In my opinion, doing it like this will ensure that esports is more than a fad. It can last for decades and people can feel comfortable growing up watching Bjerg or Faker and knowing their legend will continue like Babe Ruth’s or Michael Jordan’s.

Wow, this is only Part 1! Tomorrow I will be looking at how franchising will grow each esport and their individual leagues.

CLG’s Playoff Profile: United They Stand, Or Divided They Will Fall

Setting the Stage

Counter Logic Gaming (CLG), the perennial contenders (or pretenders) of the NA LCS. They’re (almost) always in contention for playoffs every split. There is always some kind of hype behind them, but they often do the exact opposite of what everyone expects. They were the only NA LCS roster to leave the off season intact, retaining all the same five starters from over a year ago. Top lane held down by the one called Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha, veteran long time LCS Jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, hot and cold Mid laner Choi “Huhi” Jae-hyun, zero to hero ADC Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes, and team captain on and off the Rift, Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black. It’s the same squad that brought North America some pride at MSI, and then proceeded to lose both games against Wildcard Cinderella story Albus NoX Luna.

Even his teachers call him… Darshan? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

CLG’s path to the playoffs was one that could’ve (or should’ve), gone very differently. They had a rough start to the split, where other teams could draw on new players as an excuse. A strong surge in the middle and a wonky, long game three against EnVy make this CLG roster very… CLGesque. But they’re in the playoffs, and up against the hot and cold Flyquest. The record between these two doesn’t really help us in favouring a side. Both have beat each other in a 2-0 series. While CLG’s win was more recent, Flyquest looked stronger in their last week of games.

 

The Players in the Jerseys

What about the players themselves? Darshan hasn’t had quite the split he had last year, often winning his lane and split pushing CLG to victory. Oftentimes he looks as if he’s trying too hard to be too much for the team. Whether it’s the increased skill in the Top lane, a decline in mechanics, or a massive meta shift (the last one being quite likely), Darshan doesn’t seem to be as solid of a rock for CLG as he used to be. The bright side? Darshan has looked a lot more comfortable in the recent meta than in the first half of the split. If he can temper his aggression, become slightly more calculated in his 1 vs 1’s, or contribute otherwise, he can still be the Top laner CLG need. But that’s quite a few ifs.

Xmithie, the constantly underrated Jungler to the point of being overratedly underrated, has looked… uninspiring this split. Statistically speaking, his KDA is the lowest in the league for Junglers at a startling 2.4 (relative to, say, the highest being 3.8 on Galen “Moon” Holgate). He also ranks at the bottom for Kill Particpation, a vital stat for Junglers at a measly 63.1%. It could be the reason that CLG started so slow. Rookies like Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham and Juan “Contractz” Garcia were on hot streaks, single handedly taking their teams to wins; but as these rookies have cooled down, and the meta shifts away from carry Junglers, we may see the steadier Xmithie return.

Stats aren’t everything, though, and Xmithie is still a strong player for CLG. He has experience and always seems to be where he needs to be. If it makes any CLG fan feel better, Svenskeren ranks only one place above Xmithie. That’s saying something. A Jungler’s role in League of Legends is one of tacticians, making plays to get your teammates ahead and out-thinking the other Jungler. This is something Xmithie has had multiple seasons of practice with.

There are a lot of stats to look at when thinking about Mid laners. Huhi is one of those players that isn’t necessarily understood through his stats. He often looks unstoppable on certain champs, and utterly lost on others. His stats are interesting, though. When you think of Mid laners, you want two things: damage output and CS difference at 15. On the first point, Huhi does pretty well. He places fourth among starting Mid laners with a Damage Per Minute of 559 (28.1% of CLG’s overall damage), putting him third overall for Mid laners.

On the second part, Huhi was dead last, only higher than the much maligned changing Liquid Mid laners of Goldenglue and Piglet. You can never count him out though. He can come up big for the team on certain champions, like Syndra and Aurlieon Sol. His damage output, even while behind in lane, is impressive. He also will play a vital role against Flyquest in (trying) to shut down Hai and possibly get inside the head of the veteran shotcaller.

From zero to hero, Stixxay’s journey with CLG has gone from fans criticizing him to praising him. Can he lead them into another Spring finals? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

CLG’s botlane duo seems to be almost always the stable foundation for the whole roster. This is the case now more than ever. While the rest of the team fell flat some games, or looked completely bewildered, Stixxay and Aphromoo found consistency. It has put Stixxay in the spotlight. From a harshly criticized player, to challenging Aphromoo as CLG’s strongest laner, Stixxay has come alive this split. He is tied with Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi for second in Damage Per Minute at 546, and third in Damage percent at 26.9%. Remember, that’s all coming out of a split that was half dominated by Utility Ult ADC’s, too.

On the other hand, Aphromoo’s contribution to the team isn’t just on the Rift. Stats for Supports are always hard to read. His presence is known inside and out of the Rift, as a team leader and cool head for the squad overall. There’s a lot to be said for that, and a lot to be said about a Support’s ability to bring out the best in their ADC. Stixxay is performing up there among the greats of the league, like newcomer No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon, and long time staple, Sneaky.

 

The X Factor

So what does all this mean for CLG? Well, pretty much the same as always. CLG aren’t expected to take it all, and a deep drive into the playoffs will give some hope to the Faithful. It’s a position they’re all too accustomed to, though. So what needs to happen for CLG here? What’s their X factor? Well, as lame as it sounds, they need to stand as a team again. That was this roster’s strength last year. Stixxay didn’t out-mechanic any ADC in NA of note. Darshan was great for splitpushing, yes, and Aphromoo was always Aphromoo, but it was the team that won that playoff. The X factor is for that team to reappear in this playoff run. Not just the strong talent that each player has shown off at times, but for them as a team to move and work together again.

This is a different CLG than last Spring though. Stixxay, as many have pointed out, has grown into one of the strongest ADCs in the region. Aphromoo is still hailed for his strength as a player and a leader. When Huhi is playing his best, he’s an absolute monster. Darshan can still pull off some insane plays. Xmithie still shows up and performs for his team. It was the roster that looked good as a whole, not as individual units. Some part of me wonders if that is for better or worse.

Can Huhi step up to the plate for CLG when they need him? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

As Piltover’s Sherrif says, “The whole is better than the sum of its parts.” CLG fans will need to see that team play again. The macro and teamwork-oriented style of play, while picking each other up. CLG seems too much like a team trying to always make a play. From greedy 1 vs 1’s for Darshan to awkward engages in the bot lane, CLG needs to get themselves back to their position of working as a team and thinking rather than just hoping the plan of attack works. While the obvious players to watch are Stixxay and Huhi, CLG haven’t relied on solo carries since the Doublelift days. They will win as a team.

 

Predictions

3-2 CLG over Flyquest, 3-1 loss against TSM.

I’m not convinced that Flyquest is back to winning. I wonder more if it was the similar phenomena where teams just can’t seem to handle the ‘new kids on the block’ or not. That being said, you can’t bat an eyelash at Hai “Hai” Du Lam and his boys. They’re a strong roster, and whether that’s more off the back of Hai’s magic touch at shotcalling or as a genuine threat, they’re still tough and always a team that can show up and take the win. CLG seemed to play to the level of their opponents this split though, which might mean they’ll be firing on all cylinders against the mind of Hai.

Nonetheless, I think CLG will pull it out in the end. I just think they have it in them to take down Flyquest, but it really depends which CLG and which Flyquest show up. Hence my 3-2 win. I highly doubt we’d see a complete blow out either way. However, if either team comes to these games playing at their lowest, we might. If each team comes performing at their best, it’ll be a back and forth series. Both teams are underdogs to make it deep into the playoffs and will have that underdog identity hanging over their heads. For CLG, this will be old news. For the new (old?) Flyquest boys, this may be a new feeling.

TSM, on the other hand, I don’t see CLG standing much of a chance against. They looked absolutely horrendous against TSM (I would know, I had Huhi, Aphro, and Xmithie on my Fantasy team…). They didn’t seem to put up much of a fight in their most recent meeting. TSM had control the entire time, and with that in mind, I really can’t see this series going CLG’s way. I’m generous and thinking, hey, maybe they can squeeze one game out. If they do manage to pull out a win, it would possibly be an even bigger upset than their past two wins in playoffs against TSM.

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