The Fall of Phoenix1

Phoenix1 came into Summer Split as the third place team from Spring. They had an MVP player in ADC No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon with solid pieces around him. Many expected them to still be strong contenders in the North American LCS, but two weeks in and they’re lone wolves at the bottom with an 0-4 record.

What exactly happened in between splits? For the most part it feels like the team has stagnated a bit, while the rest of the teams around them have gotten better. A few minor roster changes from last split seemed to have carried over as the team just does not look to be meshing well.

Is it time to bench inori?

Photo via Riot Games

Many of P1’s problems arose last split before jungler, Rami “Inori” Charagh, took a leave of absence from the team to deal with personal issues. News then arose that him and support Adrian “Adrian” Ma were bringing much tension to the team with chemistry. Adrian took shots at Inori in an LCS interview basically saying how Meteos was a smarter jungler overall. Inori returned to the team and looked much improved after his break. With the transfer of Adrian to Team Liquid, Inori no longer has the personal issues on the team that he had before.

Inori has looked shaky to start off the split. He’s near the bottom in just about every jungle statistic. He’s known to let his emotions dictate his game play. With Phoenix1 struggling to find their first win, he may be tilting a bit to start off the season. The team overall hasn’t looked very proactive at all, as most of their games have been straight up stomps.

In P1’s last match against Cloud 9, he was subbed out in favor of William “Meteos” Hartman. With Meteos, the team looked a lot more competitive. With the jungle meta shifting away from the carry junglers, Inori’s time could be up on Phoenix1.

If the team wants to move on, they’ll need to find a long term jungler that they can develop. Meteos has voiced that he doesn’t want to be with P1 long term and was only there as a temporary fix. If they can’t find someone else soon, they could be facing relegations.

Was Shady the Right choice at support?

When Adrian was transferred to Team Liquid, P1 brought on Dignitas sub, William “Stunt” Chen, to be the starting support. The team found much success with Stunt on the roster. He seemed to fit well with the team near the end of the season and first round of playoffs. Yet when it came to semifinals, Phoenix1 decided to go with a brand new rookie support in Jordan “Shady” Robison.

With Shady, the team never really looked quite as good. We’ll never know what happens in practice or scrims, but it felt that Stunt was the better option just looking at how the team plays on stage. Individually Shady isn’t blowing any stats out of the water, looking average at best. Maybe having a seven man roster with Stunt would have been the better option.

Photo via Riot Games

Peaked

Perhaps 3rd place was the best Phoenix1 could possibly do as a roster. Arrow hasn’t looked like the MVP from last split. Their early game seems a lot less proactive and more reactive to other teams. This team looked poised for another split of success, but have started off rocky. How they bounce back after rough 0-2 back to back weeks will be huge in how they perform the rest of this split.

As other teams have shown improvement over the offseason, Phoenix1 has looked worse. With rift rivals just weeks away, they’ll need to show a lot of improvement if they want to represent North America well in a huge international rivalry.

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Cover Photo by Riot Esports

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

Daigo’s Adjustments Push Him into ELEAGUE SFV Playoffs

The mark of a great player is having the ability to adjust after below average performances.

Daigo “The Beast” Umehara, only weeks after the unveiling of his new character Guile, was able to make the necessary adjustments to make it out of the Group B and into the ELEAGUE SFV playoffs.

Photo courtesy of https://twitter.com/el/

Daigo’s only loss was at the hands of one of the most explosive players in SFV, Eduardo “PR_Balrog” Perez, who won group B. The top overall seed entering the day took care of business going 2-0 and 6-2 in games (faced Eita and Daigo). Against two of the premier Japanese players, he convincingly owned the neutral game with Balrog.

Aside from another strong performance from PR_Rog, the most unexpected result was Daigo essentially coming out of nowhere to get second in group B. Daigo is obviously a strong player, but after a sub-par finish at NCR and finishing sixth with a 3-4 record questions started to arise regarding Daigo’s play.

During SFV’s life cycle, Daigo’s had a harder time than usual adjusting to the new game. Ryu, his classic character from other Street Fighter games, wasn’t working for him this one around. He needed a character switch. Guile, a charged fireball character with excellent spacing tools, seemed to be the answer.

Despite bad losses in March and early April, Daigo proved this Friday at ELEAGUE that it was only a matter of time. Daigo ended with a 4-1 overall record with a 13-6 record in games. His defensive playstyle was a switch from weeks prior. It ended up working out.

Wins over Hiroyuki “Eita” Ngata (2x), Bruce “Gamerbee” Yu-Lin Hsiang (Necali), and Darryl “Snake Eyez” S. Lewis (Akuma) pushed him into the playoffs. Unfortunately for him, PR Rog’s relentless Balrog gave him fits, but he gained valuable information in that matchup.

Next Round Matchups

Group A and B winners will face off starting with PR Balrog up against Victor “Punk” Woodley, and Daigo will meet with one of his longtime Japanese rivals in Yusuke “Momochi” Momochi. First off, I’m already gleaming over these opening match-ups. Punk is quickly building a legend I. Street fighter V and PR Balrog looks fantastic with Balrog.

However, Daigo vs. Momochi to open as an elimination match will be intense. Daigo will have basically a month to build more Guile experience and prepare for Momochi’s Ken.


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Cloud9’s Playoff Profile: The Quest to Body Their Way Back to the Top

Cloud9 finished the season as the second best team to TeamSoloMid, again. Most expected this split to be Cloud9’s with TSM’s starting ADC Yiiang “Doublelift” Peng taking a break from the team. Although Cloud9 surged to a phenomenal 8-0 record, they’ve still struggled to solve their early game issues while other teams have improved. If they want to reclaim the NALCS title, they’ll need to show the ability to make plays in the early game.

Strengths

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Cloud9 has three extremely strong lanes. Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen has had an MVP-like split, ending second in KDA and CSD@10 among mids.

The top lane Korean duo of Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong and Jeon “Ray” Ji-won gives them a diverse range of champions. Ray looked iffy in the beginning of the split, but has shown steady improvement towards the end. It will be interesting to see how C9 utilize each of them in a best of five format.

Cloud9 excels in mid game team fighting and shot calling. They’re great at knowing each other’s power spikes and knowing how to capitalize on their enemy’s mistakes. You give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.

Weaknesses

It’s no secret Cloud9’s weakness this whole split has been their lackluster early game. They’re not ones to make big plays in the early game despite having some of the most talented players. Jensen is often criticized for his lack of roaming and his selfishness to only gain an advantage in his lane.

Rookie jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia is often used as a tracker for the enemy jungler. It’s worrisome that they usually opt to farm it out till mid game to make plays. Against more aggressive playmaking teams such as TSM, we’ve seen that C9 can be punished for it. Despite Cloud9 being the second best team in the league, they are a mediocre 7th in GD@15.

If C9 want to reclaim the North American throne, they’ll need to show that they can make plays in the early game.

Player to Watch: Contractz

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Contractz is a huge X-Factor for this team. As a rookie playing in his first playoffs series, he’ll need to step up big time.

Contractz has shown glimpses of stardom, but he’s also had his share of rookie blunders. Furthermore, when he’s confident and being a nuisance to the enemy jungler, he looks his best. If he gets caught out during crucial objectives and doesn’t have an early game impact, we could see an early upset. With how dominant Phoenix1 looked against Dignitas, it will be a close series.

 

Prediction

While Phoenix1 will give Cloud9 a run for their money, I believe C9 will reach the NALCS finals again to face off in a close series against TSM.

Cloud9 3-2 over Phoenix1 in the semifinals

TSM 3-2 over Cloud9 in the Finals

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Phoenix1’s Playoff Profile: Roster Swap Trial By Fire

With Phoenix1 playing against Team Dignitas this Saturday, fans should be speculative over the performance of their newest roster additions.

After Adrian “Adrian” Ma left for Team Liquid, Phoenix1 signed two support players to fill the void: Jordan “Shady” Robison and William “Stunt” Chen. Starting for Phoenix1 in support against Team Dignitas will be Shady, sharing the bot lane with one of the most acclaimed ADCs of the NALCS, Dong-Hyeon “Arrow” No. Shady is effectively a nobody in comparison to the star power of the players on the top three NALCS teams, but he is a nobody that also must play alongside some of the most hyped players in the league in Phoenix1’s jungler, Rami “Inori” Charagh and mid laner, Sang Wook “Ryu” Yoo. The pressure is on for Shady, whose previous experience on Robert Morris University’s team, the same team Adrian came from, may not allow for him to flourish on the competitive stage.

While Adrian and Shady share similar experiential backgrounds, his history playing for XDG Gaming and Team Impulse allowed him to hit the ground running on Immortals during their near flawless split. Shady, on the other hand, has only had the competitive stage experience during his two losses against TSM, compiling 101 minutes in total. 

That being said, Shady currently holds rank 46 on the Challenger ladder, which as a support main is exceptionally high. In addition to this, his specialty in high damage mages such as Brand, Malzahar, Vel’Koz, and Zyra make him particularly hard to target ban. His lack of fear in pulling out Brand support, which he performed well on despite the defeat into first place team, TSM, proves he is already comfortable mixing things up on the stage.

Towards the center of the Rift for Phoenix1 lies their greatest strengths: Inori and Ryu. These two superstars have taken games dual-handedly with dominant solo kills by mid laner Ryu and relentless aggression by jungler Inori. Ryu, like Arrow, draws upon experience from Korean team KT Rolster Bullets where he played up until joining the EULCS in 2014. Since then, he achieved second seed for Europe in Worlds with alongside H2K before ultimately leaving to join Phoenix1 this split. His experience in both high caliber and high-pressure teams has paid off as he has proven to be one of the top four mid laners in the league.

Courtesy: Riot Esports

 

While not boasting quite as impressive of a history, Inori can boast the highest kill participation of any jungler and the third highest kill participation across all roles in the NALCS at 71.7 percent. Inori’s aggression knows no bounds as he is involved in a little over one kill every four minutes. To put that into perspective, Inori has more kill participation per minute than the current jungler with the most kills in the league, Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett. If Inori can get ahead early, he stays ahead and turns games into bloodbaths unbeknownst to any other jungler in the league.

Also an option for Phoenix1 is the substitution of William “Meteos” Hartman, also known as “Dark Meteos”. While this substitution may aid in more team fight based compositions, Phoenix1 will lose out on Inori’s unparalleled pressure. That being said, both of these junglers are top tier and will be crucial factors taking a victory over Dignitas.

Phoenix1’s match against Dignitas will not be their biggest challenge, but more importantly, this match will set precedent for P1’s new support, Shady. Shady needs to bring his solo queue prowess onto the stage. If he picks a high damage mage support, he needs to have explosive impact using that champion’s level 6 power spike that he can then use to snowball Arrow. If this does not happen, he will be a detriment to Phoenix1’s superstar, Arrow. Additionally, Phoenix1 must prevent Dignitas’ top laner, Chan-Ho “Ssumday” Kim from taking over the game by using target bans towards the tanks he consistently shows up on. If these stars align, Phoenix1 should expect to win 3-1. However, the real challenge will come from the next match against Cloud9 where Shady’s lack of true competitive experience and synergy with Arrow may be Phoenix1’s ultimate shortcoming. 


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NALCS: Reflecting on preseason rankings

The regular Spring Split of the NALCS has come to a close and the standings are a lock.  In the off season, we saw some big names enter the scene with huge investments made by NBA teams.  Some teams came in with some high expectations, while others may not have looked as promising.  I’ll be reviewing how well I did in my preseason power rankings compared to how things played out. There were definitely some surprises on both sides of the standings so let’s take a look at some of the surprises this split:

Team SoloMid

Projected Ranking: 2nd

Final Ranking: 1st

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Team SoloMid came into this split projected as low as fourth on some preseason power rankings.  Many, including myself, saw ADC Jason “Wildturtle” Tran as a definite downgrade to Doublelift.  It was evident in the first few weeks, and many doubted how well they’d adapt.

Top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell began to take over heavier shot calling duties.  It was rough at first, but TSM finally figured things out mid way through the split.  Hauntzer has looked like an MVP candidate, while support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang has proved to be a star support without Doublelift. Star mid laner Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg had a few rough first games but has steadily returned to MVP form.

The only worrying trend I could see is how inconsistent jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen can be.  Svenskeren did appear to be the weak link of the team throughout the split.  He’ll need to become more of a consistent threat for this team to reclaim their NALCS title.

Cloud 9

Projected Ranking: 1st

Final Ranking: 2nd

Unlike most teams, Cloud 9 stormed out of the gate to a phenomenal 8-0 start.  Teams around them struggled to find synergy in the early parts of the split, but lingering issues have since plagued Cloud9. They’ve struggled to make early game plays and often get wins off their mid game team fighting. Against worse teams, this may work, but to be a top team in the world, this is something they’ll need to improve.

Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen has had an MVP-like season.  His Orianna plays in the last week were carrying many of their games during the final week. Rookie Juan ”

Rookie Juan “Contactz” Garcia has seen his share fair of criticism throughout the split.  It’s easy to forget that this is only his first season.  He’ll need to find a better way to make early game plays for this team to succeed.

Phoenix1

Projected Ranking: 6th

Final Ranking: 3rd

Power Rankings: Phoenix1, #9 western team

Courtesy: Riot Esports

I actually pegged Phoenix1 as one of my dark horse favorites heading into the split.  They didn’t disappoint, as they sky rocketed from relegations to a 3rd place finish this split.  Even with the hiatus of star jungler Rami “Inori” Charagh, Phoenix1 was still able to show that they can be top contenders in this league.

They imported a hidden gem in ADC No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon.  Arrow has looked superb aside from the last week of the split.  Despite changing supports around the mid way point Arrow has looked like the best import this split.  He currently leads the league in KDA and is 4th in CSDiff@10.

Phoenix1 honestly looked like strong contenders heading into the final week before being blown out by the top two teams in the league.  Phoenix1 will need to bounce back heading into their series against a surging  Dignitas.

Counter Logic Gaming

Projected Ranking: 4th

Final Ranking: 4th

CLG had a season similar to last Summer Split.  They struggled to adapt to the meta and lost a lot due to this.  Another issue is playing to the level of their competition.  Against the best teams, CLG looked like they could contend with the top teams.  When facing bottom tier teams, they’d sometimes get upset or may it a closer series than expected.

Around the mid-season, we saw the usual CLG return to their expected form of title contenders.  With the meta shifted back to ADC’s being more than just ult bots, we may see CLG look to play around their bot lane more.  Mid laner Choi “HuHi” Jae-hyun has looked much improved this split after being heavily criticized last year.

CLG have Flyquest as their first opponents heading into playoffs.  They should be favorites considering how much Flyquest struggled during the second half of the split.  CLG look to be improving week by week, so barring another emergency medical emergency, they should face rival TSM in the next round.

Flyquest

Projected Ranking: 8th

Final Ranking: 5th

Power Rankings: #3 western team

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Most had Flyquest pegged as a bottom tier team during pre-season.  Flyquest stormed onto the scene as a top three team for the first half of the split.  Under the shotcalling of Hai “Hai” Lam, they were able to easily out maneuver many of the newer rosters.  Hai’s shotcalling and leadership poised Flyquest to be top contenders heading into the split.

As we entered the second half of the split, Flyquest’s magic fizzled out.  As teams around them improved, Flyquest attempted to “cheese” opponents bringing out unique picks such as Shaco, Mordekaiser, and Blitzcrank.  Teams seem to have figured out their strategies and Flyquest have struggled to adapt.

Despite their late season fall from the top three, they still played well enough to earn the fifth seed in the playoffs.  It’ll be interesting to see how much they decide to rely on cheese picks going into playoffs.  Their drafts have been some of the most interesting, to say the least. CLG is a tough first opponent, but they definitely have the experience to take the series.

Dignitas

Projected Ranking: 3rd

Final Ranking: 6th

Dignitas, on paper, looked like a top three team.  Bringing in two of the best in their roles from Korean in Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun and Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, many thought they’d contend for top two.  That wasn’t the case, as the language barrier and synergy issues were quite evident in the first half of the split.

The team wasn’t very proactive.  After a coaching change in bringing back former Apex coach David “Cop” Roberson, the team finally look to be reaching their potential.  During the second half of the split, Dignitas looked like the team many had hoped for in preseason.

They have a tall task in facing Phoenix1 in the first round of playoffs, but if they prepare well enough I could see them getting the upset.  Chaser has been playing extremely well lately and will play a huge role in deciding whether this team goes far in playoffs.

Immortals

Projected Ranking: 7th

Final Ranking: 7th

Courtesy: Gamepedia.

Immortals came in, like many, struggling with synergy issues.  Uncharacteristically Eugene “Pobelter” Park looked like the worst mid laner during the first few weeks of the spring, but during the mid-season, Immortals looked to be improved and maybe deserved a playoff spot with how they were playing near the end.

The team still heavily relies on jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett to either carry them or lose them games.  Their bot lane looked much improved from the start of the split though.  I could see Immortals sticking it out with this roster and improving a bunch for Summer split.

Barely just missing playoffs hurts, but they’re headed in the right direction.

Echo Fox

Projected Ranking: 9th

Final Ranking: 8th

Echo Fox didn’t have too many expectations heading into the split.  Specifically, nobody knew how good jungler Matt “Akaadian” Higginbotham was going to be.  Akaadian has come out as the next upcoming NA jungle talent in the scene.  His early game aggression netted Echo Fox some enormous early game leads.

Echo Fox struggled in transitioning their early game leads to victories.  ADC Yuri “Keith” Jew received much of the criticism in Echo Fox’s losses for his performances this split.  Top laner Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok was supposed to be an upgrade in his role, but looked to lack synergy with his team.  He was often teleporting late or engaging teamfights without his team behind him.

Look for Echo Fox to make some roster changes if they want to be real contenders for next split.

Team Liquid

Projected Ranking: 5th

Final Ranking: 9th

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Team Liquid was actually another one of my dark horse favorites heading into this split.  Jungler Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin was thought to be a top tier jungler in North America.  Mid laner Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer was finally getting his shot to prove himself.

I don’t think anybody expected Team Liquid to have such a bad season.  Nobody would’ve predicted the role swap for Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin from ADC to mid either.  In an more even shocking turn of events, Team Liquid brought in Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng to take over at ADC.  Team Liquid has done everything to try to climb out of relegations, but still struggled to finish out the games needed towards the end of the split.

Team Liquid will need to play their way through relegations now to find their way back into LCS, but with the roster they’re sporting now, I don’t see this team losing their LCS spot.

This was still one of the most disappointing seasons in Team Liquid’s history.  It’ll be interesting what off season changes they’ll make to claim their rightful spot in fourth place.

Team EnVyus

Projected Ranking: 10th

Final Ranking: 10th

Not much to say here.  EnVyUs’ big need is in the mid lane where they’re wasting an import slot on Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo at the moment. Their bot lane is underrated, and jungler Nam “Lira” Tae-yoo has looked like the best jungler in NA at times.  I don’t see them losing their spot in relegations, but we’ll need to see if Lira sticks with them.

If Lira doesn’t get any offers from other teams, and EnVy replaces Ninja, I could see them improve to at least a playoff team in Summer.

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NALCS: Grading this Split’s Rookies

In my last piece I took a look at some of newest imports of the North American LCS. This week I’ll take a look at the rookies and how they’ve made an impact to their team this split. There are only four this split, but nonetheless every rookie has come onto their team and made an impact. Grading will be based on expectations heading in and how they’ve met them. Lets take a look:

Phoenix1 Stunt (Support)

 

Courtesy: Riot Esports

William “Stunt” Chen began this split as a sub on Dignitas. He also spent some time last summer on Team Liquid Academy playing alongside Piglet.  Little was known about Stunt heading in, as most didn’t even know he was a sub on Dignitas untill he subbed for a series against Envy.

He finally got his shot at LCS as a starter when Phoenix1 acquired him before the trade deadline. Their former support Adrian “Adrian” Ma was transferred to Team Liquid in wake of internal issues with jungler Rami “Inori” Charagh. Stunt came in as a brand new support who had never really had a starting role on an LCS team. Phoenix1 has not been phased by this at all, if anything, they’ve looked to have grown even stronger.

In the 8 games he’s played, Phoenix1 is undefeated and look to be catching up to Cloud 9 as the second best team in North America. Stunt himself has been performing quite well in this support meta. His champion pool is diverse, having played seven champions already in his short time on P1. Stunt currently has the highest KDA of supports at 5.5 and a spectacular 80 percent kill participation.

Phoenix1 seemed to have done a great job integrating Stunt into the team. Phoenix1 look like top contenders heading into playoffs.

Grade: A-

Cloud 9 Contractz (Jungle)

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Juan “Contractz” Garcia came in as the next hyped upcoming challenger talent. He spent time on Cloud 9 Challenger and helped them qualify for the LCS. Many praised him as a solo que star being bred to take the NA LCS by storm. After a phenomenal week 1 performance many thought Contractz would pop off and propel Cloud 9 to the top team once again. That hasn’t really been the case as Cloud 9 have regressed as other teams around them have improved.

Contractz in particular has had his fair share of rookie mistakes that have cost his team. Sometimes getting caught out before big objectives or invading without the aid of his team behind him. Even a minor accidental slip up in champion select may have cost his team a close series against CLG.

Nonetheless, Contractz has played pretty well for a rookie Jungler in his first split. Expectations may have hindered how well he’s actually played this split. Contractz came in molded to be a somewhat supportive style Jungler helping his talented laners get ahead. He gets deep vision for the team and tracks the enemy Jungler.  He currently has the 2nd highest KDA among Junglers.

What’s worrisome is how much Cloud 9 struggles to make plays in the early game.  With so many talented players, their early game is still one of their biggest weaknesses. Contractz has the worst First Blood percentages among Junglers which speaks to the lack of C9’s play making in the early game. Often times their wins come off mid game fights.

 

Grade: B

Echo Fox Akaadian (Jungle)

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham came into the LCS with little to no expectations of him. Most expected him to be average at best and not make much of an impact. That was not the case as he stormed onto the scene in the first weeks as an extremely talented and aggressive Jungler.

As the split has gone on, some teams may have figured out his style. With teams around them getting better, Echo Fox has struggled to stay afloat. Akaadian went from having one of the best KDA’s in the league, to having one of the worst at 2.7.  Nonetheless, Akaadian has been one of, if not the best player on his team this split. His early game play making has often netted his team huge gold leads. It’s more of the team as a whole not being able to transition those leads into victories.

It will be interesting if he garners interest from other teams during the off-season. Any North American talent is crucial as it allows for imports in other parts of the roster.

Grade: A

Immortals Cody Sun (ADC)

Li “Cody” Yu Sun was an up and coming ADC fresh out of the challenger scene. He spent time on Dream Team last split where he stood out as a top performer. As a rookie, not much was expected from him and his lane partner Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung. People expected Immortals to play mostly through their talented solo laners and Jungle.

It took awhile, but Cody Sun and Olleh are quietly becoming a bot lane force. Their first few weeks were a bit rough. As a rookie ADC being thrown into a meta where ADC’s were basically ult bots was a tall task.

As the ADC meta is slowly shifting back to meta carries Cody Sun has shown some great performances on Ezreal and Cait. He’s one of the underrated pickups during the off season as a North American talent who doesn’t take up an import slot. Moving forward, he’ll need to continue his growth for Immortals to perform at their highest level.

Grade: B-

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NALCS: Grading the Newest Imports

This season, in particular, we got the chance to see some big names imported into the NALCS scene. With the split coming to a close soon, I thought I’d review some of the bigger pickups by teams. It will always be an ongoing debate of whether having an all English speaking team is better than having to integrate international players.

This was evident this split, as teams with big name imports, such as Dignitas, Echo Fox, and Immortals stumbled out of the gate. Their team synergy seemed off with top lane imports, especially when using teleport and team fighting.

Phoenix 1’s Arrow and RYu

Courtesy: Riot Esports

ADC No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon has stormed onto the NALCS scene. After playing the last few seasons on KT, Arrow made the move to North America with Phoenix1. Many questioned how much Arrow was being carried by a talented KT roster. Nobody really knew how well Arrow was going to perform, as he’d have to learn English for the first time.

Arrow has heavily exceeded expectations as he’s developed into one of the best ADC’s in North America. His skill shot accuracy on utility carries such as Varus and Jhin has made him one of P1’s most valuable players. He currently leads all ADC’s in KDA, DMG%, and DPM. All key stats for an ADC. He has undoubtedly taken the role of best ADC in North America.

Mid laner Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook, on the other hand, had the advantage of playing in Europe. With his experience on H2K, he’d become accustomed to communicating in English. Ryu hasn’t skipped a beat since coming to NA. He is a solid mid laner for his team and is definitely able to keep up with the talent in the region. He currently has the fourth highest KDA and CSD@10.

Phoenix1 has been able to surge from being a relegation team last split, to title contenders. Ryu and Arrow have been key pickups, and Phoenx1 deserve praise for being able to integrate these two talented imports.

Grade: A+

Echo Fox’s Looper

 

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Former World champion Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok was brought into Echo Fox after a last place finish in Summer. Looper was brought in as someone who knew what it took to win a championship. Some say he benefited from having a world class shot caller in support Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong.

Looper’s tank play has been disjointed from his team at times. His teleport plays may seem a bit off, but it may also be Echo Fox as a team being a bit indecisive. He still has pretty strong laning as he’s fourth in CSD@10, but is near the bottom in KDA.

Looper hasn’t necessarily been a weakness on this team, but he’s certainly not one of the main carries either. Echo Fox as a whole has struggled with mid game shot calling. Their early game is pretty decent, but they usually have no idea how to translate it into a victory.

Grade: B-

Dignitas’ Ssumday and Chaser

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho was arguably one of the biggest names to enter the NALCS in recent history. From his time with KT, he had become heralded as one of the best top laners in the world. Dignitas as a team struggled out of the gate making plays as a team. Bringing in former Apex coach David “Cop” Roberson has seemed to help immensely.

Ssumday individually has played quite well. He has had a few games where he just straight up carried Dignitas on a high skill champion, such as Fiora. With the meta shifting somewhat off of tanks, we may see Ssumday start to do more work. He currently leads the league in CSD@10 and is tied for first in DMG%.

Dignitas’ jungler Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun maybe wasn’t as hyped up as Ssumday, but was still expected to do well. Chaser struggled in his first few weeks of LCS. In a carry jungle meta, he wasn’t making the sort of impact his team needed. Dignitas seemed to struggle with pulling the trigger on engages, but have gotten much better.

Chaser has stepped up most recently. He currently holds the second highest kill participation and had a dominant series in a crucial win over Team Liquid this week.

With Dignitas beginning to look like the possible fourth best team, Ssumday and Chaser have been key contributors. Individually, Chaser may have struggled to start out the split, but he has been getting better each week.

Grade: A

Immortals’ Flame and Olleh

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Top laner Lee “Flame” Ho-jong came onto Immortals with high expectations. After spending time as a sub in China, he came to North America looking to takeover the North American scene. Many questioned if he’d be able to work with jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett. Both players were infamous for having attitude issues on previous teams.

As with most of the teams that had imports, Flame struggled out of the gate. His teleport plays always seemed way out of sync with the rest of his team. He would often times get caught out split pushing or engaging without the help of his team. In recent weeks, Immortals have fixed some of the issues plaguing them, and look to be contenders for a playoff spot. Flame is second in CSD@10, but still holds one of the worst KDA’s among top laners.

Support Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung was a lesser known import to most spectators. He had spent some time on Brazil’s Pain Gaming and LMS’ Hong Kong Esports. Olleh hasn’t necessarily stuck out as a big play-maker support, but that could be due to playing with a rookie ADC in Cody Sun. He’s currently middle of the pack in KDA, but does lead the league in Wards per minute.

Immortals haven’t necessarily been winning off their imports’ play. It’s mostly been heavily reliant on how well jungler Dardoch plays. If he doesn’t do well, there usually isn’t someone else left to help carry the game.

 

Grade: C

Team Envyus’ Lira

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Despite not playing the first week due to visa issues, jungler Nam “Lira” Tae-yoo has looked like a good player on a bad team. Often times when Envyus gets upset wins, it is due to the early activity of Lira. He currently has the fourth best first blood percentage and KDA among junglers.

It’s hard to grade Lira due to where Envyus is in the standings. Without him, they might be winless and headed for relegation. With him, though, I don’t see them losing their LCS spot, especially with the junglers currently playing the Challenger Series.

I’d love to see how he does with a better mid laner, perhaps. Lira has definitely been one of the more effective imports. It seems like Envyus could do well if they got a better player at mid. Other teams may look to seek his services in the off season as he seems to be adapting well.

Grade: B+

 

 

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Thoughts on NALCS Day 1

Standout Rookie Junglers

Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

Rookie Cloud 9 Jungler, Juan “Contractz” Garcia, looked far from any rookie we’ve seen in NALCS. In two games against the North American powerhouse, TSM, he ganked early and often. Both games he got first blood, and set the tempo for Cloud 9 to take the series 2-0. He started game two with a 5-0 kill score on Lee Sin, basically snowballing the early game before sealing the deal with an amazing ult onto Wildturtle in the final team fight.  

A lot of analysts were wondering whether they should believe in the hype for 17 year old Jungle prodigy. After a performance like that, it’s almost hard not to. In his post game interview he was extremely humble, saying, “This isn’t where I want to be yet, I want to be much better.” If this is only the beginning, everyone will be watching to see how far he can really go.

Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham of Echo Fox had much less hype around him. Most people expected him to be average at best. In both games against Phoenix1, Akkadian was able to get Echo Fox off to an early lead with some aggressive ganks to the Mid and Top lane. Although, the team fell short with some late team-fighting failures, Akkadian was a standout player for me. Nobody was really talking about him before the NALCS Split, but it definitely looks like they should be.   

 

TeamSoloMid’s Shotcalling Troubles

Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

People will be quick to place the blame on replacement ADC Jason “Wildturtle” Tran for this loss, but TSM as a whole played poorly from what we’re used to seeing. Even the draft was questionable.  

What stood out the most was the poor shotcalling, specifically in Game 2. Jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen made an amazing Baron steal to keep TSM in the game. He died quickly after, and instead of TSM resetting with four members with Baron Buff they decided to try to make a pick on Cloud 9 support, Andy “Smoothie” Ta. The team takes a poor 4v5 fight and Cloud 9 takes an inhibitor for it. In the final team fight of Game 2, TSM tries to focus down a very tanky Nautilus which leads to them getting Aced, and Cloud 9 ending the game from there.  

This isn’t the first time they’ve had questionable decision making either. Poor decisions with Baron buff against Unicorns of Love also led to them losing 1-2 at IEM Oakland. That was a few months ago. It raises the discussion of how much they miss former ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng’s contribution to shotcalling. If this team hasn’t fixed those issues yet, it will be a tough Split for them. Cloud 9 is a hard first opponent, but if TSM can’t fix their shotcalling issues, Doublelift may need to come back sooner than later. Reginald has made it clear that anything outside of first is a failed Split for TSM. 

P1’s abysmal early game vs. Echo Fox’s terrible late game

Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

Phoenix1 and Echo Fox came into the Spring Split with not too many expectations. Most people were ranking P1 as a middle tier team and Echo Fox near the bottom of the standings.  

Echo Fox surprised most spectators as they were able to take command of the early game for both games. Back to back ganks from Akaadian for Mid laner Henrik “Froggen” Hansen set him up to be able to carry on his Leblanc. That was not the case, as poor teamfighting allowed P1 back into the game. It was a back and forth clown fiesta for a bit before Phoenix1 eventually closed out Game 1 with a victory.

In Game 2, Akaadian aimed his ganks to the Top Lane for former World Champion Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok to  be able to carry on his signature champion, Singed. Echo Fox were ahead by as much as 3.1k at one point, and once again, threw their lead at a poor team fight around dragon. Shortly after, Phoenix1 took baron and ended the game in 24 minutes.  

Phoenix1 simply won’t be able to rely on poor mid-late game team fighting against stronger teams. Inori will need to be more active in the early game if this team really wants to contend. It may have been nerves, but most teams won’t throw away huge gold leads like Echo Fox did today.  

 

Echo Fox’s Jungler, Akaadian, looked better than what most people expected. Much of the early leads were off the ganks and pressure he was distributing among the map. Mid and late game shotcalling will need to improve if this team wants to make playoffs. Looper looked okay at best, but not nearly what we expect from a former World Champion. The language barrier may be more of an issue than they had suspected.  

One thing that may also develop is a rivalry between these two young junglers. In an interview before the match, Akaadian called spectators out for overrating Phoenix1 Jungler, Rami “Inori” Charagh last season. Akaadian also noted that if Inori isn’t able to “cheese” people, than he’s basically useless for the rest of the game. When David “Phreak” Turley asked Inori about it in the post game interview, he declined to fire any shots back towards Akaadian. He chose to let his play speak for him, but it will be interesting if this evolves into a mini-rivalry between these two young NALCS jungle talents.

TeamSoloMid Owner, Reginald, Fires Shots at Other Owners Importing

In an interview in between Games 1 and 2 between C9 and TSM, Andy “Reginald” Dinh fired shots at other team owners, saying, “A lot of the team owners don’t know what they’re doing. They’re importing Korean talent over without knowing how to place them into their roster.”  A lot of NBA teams buying into the NALCS with no experience of the scene have been trying to acquire the biggest names possible and hoping it works without having the right infrastructure to support them  

He specifically aimed his comments towards Team Dignitas and Echo Fox, saying, “They’re going to place bottom half for sure.”  

It’s a bold prediction going into the Spring as most new North American teams have looked to Korea to import some of the best players in League of Legends. Reginald’s philosophy with TSM is to prioritize communication and synergy over individual skill. No one can really argue as his team finished first place in Summer 2016 for North America, only losing one series to Phoenix1. CLG, who won Spring last season, had five players who all spoke English as well.  

This Split will definitely prove Reginald right or wrong. Many of the newer teams entering the scene have imported a lot of Korean talents in an attempt to contend for an NALCS title. It will be interesting if more owners follow Reginald’s philosophy moving forward, or continue with the trend of importing high-profile Korean talent.

Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

Day 1 of NALCS is in the books and I look forward to the rest of the match-ups!

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EU LCS 2017 logos

Spring Watchlist 2017: ROCCAT, Misfits, H2k, and Fnatic

Another year of professional League of Legends is upon us. It is time to reflect on Europe’s end of 2016, adjustments in the off-season, and discuss the possibilities for 2017. With the introduction of a two-group format and 10-ban system, it is difficult to predict how the Spring Split will go. Established organizations changed rosters, veterans retired, and an up-and-coming Challenger team joined the LCS.

Unsurprisingly, G2 and Splyce decided to retain their entire starting rosters. None of the other teams seem prepared to challenge these two for group dominance. Unless the new pick-ban phase exposes unforeseen weaknesses, we expect these two teams to stay at the top. Ideally, they have taken time to address flaws affecting their abilities to compete internationally since the World Championship.

On the other hand, Origen seems to be the only team that did not catch a break in the off-season. After a 9th place finish in the Summer Split last year, the entire squad dissipated. Origen’s pick-ups each appear to be a downgrade from their respective predecessors. Bringing on Erik “Tabzz” van Helvert as AD Carry is an improvement from Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez, but he is not playing at the level that Origen will need. Max “Satorius” Günther, Yoo “NaeHyun” Nae-hyun, and Aleksi “Hiiva” Kaikkonen will all be rookies from Challenger scenes. Kim “Wisdom” Tae-Wan has more professional experience, but not enough to carry this roster. The floor is low on this team, and we expect that they will round out the bottom of Group B.

All remaining teams have room to rise and fall in the ranks. Some storylines will be more exciting than others, but following this season should be interesting, to say the least. Based on 2016 results and pre-season decisions, there are four teams I will be watching closely. These are the teams I see having the greatest influence on shaping their group standings.

Can ROCCAT get higher than 9th place?

courtesy of Riot eSports

ROCCAT had a horrific 2016. After finishing 9th in the Spring Split playing in the Summer Promotion tournament, ROCCAT fell to 10th last Summer. They did maintain their slot in the LCS in the Spring Promotion tournament, as well. They replaced every member of the team in the off-season except mid laner, Felix “Betsy” Edling. Betsy actually saw decent performances last year, despite being on a bottom-tier roster. While many analysts are having conversations about top-level teams, ROCCAT has been able to fly under the radar this off-season.

ROCCAT have added Ambrož “Phaxi” Hren (Top), Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian (Jungle), Petter “Hjärnan” Freyschuss (ADC), and Kim “Wadid” Bae-in (Support). Phaxi and Wadid are relatively unknown entities. Phaxi was a substitute for Dark Passage in TCL, while Wadid was a substitute for SBENU Korea in LCK. We can only speculate at this point what they will be able to do against other players in EU LCS. The language barrier in the bot lane is the only concern that can be raised.

Meanwhile, Maxlore saw passable performances on Giants last Summer. He averaged a 3.2 KDA, 73% Kill Participation, and +2.7 CS above his opponents at ten minutes. These figures put him slightly above Jonas “Memento” Elmarghichi from last Split. Vitality benched Hjärnan, ROCCAT’s new AD Carry, last Summer after a solid Spring Split performance. He ranked 3rd in KDA, 4th in Kill Participation, and 3rd in CS Difference at ten minutes among all ADC’s. He will be replacing Pierre “Steelback” Medjaldi who was consistent in both Splits, despite ROCCAT’s low rank overall.

I find myself wondering if ROCCAT can actually pull it together and get themselves out of this 9th-10th place rut. Origen and Giants both appear to be just as shaky as what ROCCAT has put together. Misfits are new to the pro scene and lost two key players in the off-season. I am keeping my eyes on this new ROCCAT. They could get a few wins under their belt and avoid the Summer Promotion series this year. They could end up in last yet again, but everyone loves an underdog, right?

Are Misfits ready for LCS?

courtesy of Riot eSports

The only newcomer to the EU LCS this Split, Misfits qualified in the Spring Promotion tournament. Touting a 90% win-rate in the Summer Season, this team has many analysts speculating how they will stack up. Challenger teams in the past made serious waves when entering the scene, such as Origen and G2.

However, the situation with Misfits is a bit different. Firstly, there are major formatting changes that were not in place when they were playing last year: the two-group league and the ten-ban system. Challenger teams historically have less coaching and support staff available. Major strategic changes can disproportionately affect them. Secondly, Misfits is not maintaining their same roster coming into 2017. Neither Origen nor G2 kept their qualifying roster when entering the LCS, but their replacements were obvious upgrades at the time. Origen brought in Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen. G2 brought in Kim “Emperor” Jin-hyun and Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun.

Meanwhile, Misfits will be replacing Marcin “SELFIE” Wolski and Kim “Wisdom” Tae-Wan with PowerOfEvil and Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon. SELFIE and Wisdom had the highest average KDA during the Summer Season in Mid and Jungle. They both maintained high average CS Differences at 10 minutes, 10.5 and 6.7, respectively. On the other hand, PowerOfEvil finished with the second lowest average KDA last Summer and averaged 1.7 CS behind his opponent at ten minutes. KaKAO spent 2016 in the Chinese Challenger scene with Wan Yoo, who finished 13th out of 16 teams. Over 24 games KaKAO averaged a 3.69 KDA, which placed him 18th of 36 Junglers with three games or more.

PowerOfEvil and KaKAO have both shown moments of promise, but their recent performances are not reflective of high skill. If Misfits want to make an impact, they will need their remaining players to continue to play at the top level, while incorporating PowerOfEvil and KaKAO seamlessly. Barney “Alphari” Morris, Steven “Hans sama” Liv, and Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun will need to maintain lane dominance against tougher lanes. This team does have a high ceiling, but these roster changes will need to prove themselves fruitful.

Can H2k play as well without FORG1VEN, Vander, or Ryu?

courtesy of Riot eSports

Many did not expect H2k to be the highest finishing Western team at the 2016 World Championships. H2k managed to make it to the Quarterfinals and finished 3rd-4th overall. It seemed like all of their players were on a whole new level, particularly AD Carry FORG1VEN and Mid laner Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook.

Looking at FORG1VEN’s KDA throughout 2016, it bottomed out in the Spring Playoffs at 3.8. This was preceding his announcement to step down as H2k’s starting ADC. After his unsuccessful stint with Origen, FORG1VEN returned to H2k for the tail-end of the Summer Split. He averaged a 14.5 KDA over five games in Week Nine, and carried the team to a 3rd place Playoff finish. His KDA during Summer Playoffs leveled out to 5.9, then boosted to 7.9 at Worlds (1st among all players with more than two games).

Ryu’s KDA followed a similar trajectory throughout 2016. He averaged 2.9 in Spring Playoffs, up to 3.8 in Summer Split, up again to 5.8 in Summer Playoffs, leveling off at 4.0 for Worlds (5th among 17 Mid laners with more than two games). His pressure became noticeably greater among international Mid lane competition. His synergy with Jungler, Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski, also seemed to be smoother. Only one other Mid-Jungle duo had a higher First Blood rate (among players that played more than two games).

But these two carries, along with Support Oskar “VandeR” Bogdan, are not part of the roster for 2017. Will the momentum of last year continue, or did it fizzle in the off-season? H2k picked up Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten, Shin “Nuclear” Jung-hyun, and Choi “Chei” Sun-ho to fill Mid, ADC, and Support. Febiven has proven himself to be a top-tier European Mid laner. He should be able to step in without issue. However, Nuclear and Chei are Korean imports, which could prove to be dangerous. Other experiments in this roster style have been middling at best, such as NA’s Team EnVyUs. On top of that, Chei’s last team, Jin Air, declined throughout last year, and Nuclear’s last team, SBENU Sonicboom, disbanded altogether after they failed to re-qualify for the LCK last August.

Jankos and top laner, Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu, are experienced, high-pressure players that will hold their own against the rest of EU. However, this H2k roster is radically different from the successful team of last year. The coaching and support staff will need to pull these pieces together if they want to maintain the same level of competitiveness.

Will Fnatic bounce back with a rebuilt roster?

courtesy of Riot eSports

Fnatic’s 2016 was tumultuous, especially when compared to expectations coming out of 2015. They had achieved 3rd-4th at the 2015 World Championships and won five out of their last six EU LCS splits. But everything began to decline after Fnatic announced that Top-Jungle duo, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin, would be leaving the team. Then they reported that team captain, Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim, would be departing. Fnatic rebuilt, finished the Spring Split in 6th place, and fought their way to a 3rd place finish in the Playoffs. After replacing a couple of players between Spring and Summer (including bringing back YellOwStaR), they still finished the Summer Split in 5th place. H2k immediately eliminated them from Playoffs. With the Championship Points tallied, Fnatic did not qualify for the 2016 World Championships.

2017 has started with even more changes. Only the AD Carry, Martin “Rekkles” Larsson, remains from last year. Fnatic brought on Paul “sOAZ” Boyer and Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider who played as the Top-Jungle duo for Origen last year. Rasmus “Caps” Winther joins from Dark Passage after helping them win the TCL. Jesse “Jesiz” Le returns as Support after operating as an Assistant Coach for Immortals throughout 2016.

This roster has a lot of combined experience. But will it be enough? SOAZ and Amazing might have helped Origen finish 3rd-4th in the 2015 World Championships, but they fell throughout 2016. SOAZ appeared particularly weak in the Spring. Amazing was lost in the Jungle in the Summer. Jesiz has not played a professional match in more than a year. Most EU LCS fans are probably pulling for Fnatic to do well in 2017. While this line-up’s ceiling is quite high, they could also finish middle-of-the-pack.

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