Dignitas Playoff Profile: The One Man Ssumday Army or the Unsung Duo to Victory?

 Setting the Stage

 

The return of the gold and black of Dignitas this split was a welcomed sign by some. Even more welcomed was their highly touted Korean imports. Bringing across the Pacific Top lane phenom, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, and high flying (get it cause he played in Jin Air… sorry) Jungler Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun, Dignitas looked to come back in a big way. Of course, alongside this was the big news of financial backing from the Philadelphia 76ers. This was reportedly the swaying reason why Ssumday joined the team. Integrating these two talents would not only take time, but effort from the organization.

Will Dignitas’ games be another case of Ssumday and co., or will the rest of Dignitas pull their own weight? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

The rest of the Dignitas roster was flushed out with Apex Gaming’s Mid laner, Lae-Young “Keane” Jang, Canadian up and comer, Benjamin “LOD” deMunck, and the 2000 assist man himself, Alex “Xpecial” Chu. Many pundits at the beginning of the split described Dignitas accurately: the Ssumday and friends show, with the heavyweight Top laner often carrying his teammates. Dignitas won and lost games on whether their opponents could contain Ssumday or not.

But that was for the first half of the split. “Trust the process” seems to be the name of the game for Dignitas. After bringing in coach, David “Cop” Roberson, it seemed the process really took off. The team play between the Korean and NA players seemed to pick up too. Dignitas overall matured into a strong team, and while Ssumday was still easily the ace for the squad, games were won on the backs of other teammates. LOD, in particular, stepped up as a player, while Keane earned an insane nine Player of the Games, one behind Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen. 

 

The Players in the Jerseys

 

Probably the most hyped player to be imported in the off season, everyone’s eyes were on Ssumday, a staple for the KT organization in LCK for many years. He didn’t fail to deliver, having a dominant opening season in NA. There’s not much more you could ask for in a Top laner. Strong in lane, impact felt outside of lane, and someone who can carry the team on his own back if needed. Ssumday is definitely still the star of this Dignitas roster and should be showing up to prove it this weekend.

There’s an almost cliche team composition of picking a Korean Top laner and Jungler and it working well (see Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo and Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin for examples). With Ssumday and Chaser, that pattern continues to be effective. Junglers excel at getting their laners ahead, and Chaser will need to be on point to guarantee that Ssumday can be the tyrant of the top half of the map. Bot lane is another possible target for Chaser, with ganks on P1’s bot lane having possible massive gains if they can keep No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon down. Chaser will need to not only play smart, but creatively, and pick up on the opportunities to get his teammates ahead. If not, Dignitas may look worse for ware.

Maybe not the strongest Mid laner in the league, Keane is still a player you should never count out. Can he shore up his weaknesses for the playoff run or will inconsistencies haunt him? Courtesy of Riot Flikr.

Mid lane, as always, dictates much of the team fighting prowess of a team. Keane will need to show his more consistent side, or possibly bring some pocket picks or off meta choices to catch his opponents off guard. While I think many wouldn’t place Keane as the linchpin that Dignitas rotates around, both Phoneix 1 and Cloud 9 do place their mid as top priorities. Keeping the opposing Mid laner in check will be vital, as will be Keane stepping up his performance overall. His stats have him solidly in a middling position for KDA, Damage Per Minute, and Damage Percentages of his team.

The silent pickup from Dignitas was trading Apex’s Apollo “Apollo” Price for EnVyUs’s LOD. I say silent because the signing of two big name Korean imports generally overshadows a domestic swap of two lower tier ADCs. LOD, however, has come up big for Dig and has shined as a contender for best player on Dignitas. He’s stepped up in big ways for Dignitas in a meta that was hard on ADCs, but looks to carry that on into the playoffs. His partner, Xpecial, clocked his 2000th assist with Dignitas, and has also had a noticeable uptick in the latter half of the split. The duo look to show that this isn’t just a Korean team as the two North Americans have put up good performances.

 

The X Factor

 

What’s the X factor for Dignitas to pull off a deep drive into the playoffs? Their botlane duo of LOD and Xpecial. While it may seem like their star in Ssumday would have to pull off the big plays, I actually feel that the duo in the botlane can have more of an impact if they can manage to get ahead of their lane opponents. Arrow has been an absolute monster for P1, but their listed support of Jordan “Shady” Robison has me thinking Arrow may not play up to his potential. If the synergy of LOD and Xpecial can step up to the plate and best Arrow and Shady, Dignitas have a decent shot at defeating their first opponent on their way to the Semis against Cloud 9.

Can LOD and Xpecial show that they’re one of NA’s top duos? Or will they fail to make a dent against the monster, Arrow? Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

If LOD and Xpecial can show up against Arrow, then they stand a chance against Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi and Andy “Smoothie” Ta too. ADCs have come back into a more carry based position, and a strong bot lane coming out of lane can sway the tides in the mid game. Ssumday should be solid in the Top lane against Derek “zig” Shao. Even against fellow Korean, Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, he stands a good chance of holding out. Chaser can possibly gain an advantage from the Jungle, being a more seasoned veteran than both Juan “Contractz” Garcia and Rami “Inori” Charagh. While Keane will also need to be strong or at least keep even with his opposite sides, it’s the duo in the bot lane that will have the biggest impact on their performance. If they step up, they can pull off a great run. If not, I don’t feel they’ll go deeper than Semis.

 

Predictions: 3-1 Dignitas over P1, 3-1 loss against Cloud 9

I’m skeptical of P1’s roster decision going into the Playoffs, and that’s why I give Dignitas the edge here. Starting Inori over William “Meteos” Hartman seems questionable. The team has galvanized around Meteos, but Inori is nothing to scoff at. Regardless though, Chaser should have the edge here, having trust and experience with his teammates. Ssumday against Zig should favour Dignitas, while Keane should be able to hold his own against Ryu. The big question is whether Dignitas’s bot lane can find advantages over P1’s. If yes, Dignitas should win their games cleanly. If they can’t, any win will be hard fought against a well positioned Arrow.

Dignitas will face a much stronger opponent if they move on and face Cloud 9. Cloud 9 retained all of their Worlds attending roster, except Meteos. They picked up Contractz, who seems streaky, but is still a strong Jungler. That means Cloud 9 should easily be the favourites here. Against some of the best laners in the league, Dignitas will be hard pressed to find advantages in the laning phase. While they have looked better recently, mid game should favour the C9 side with experience and communication. If Cloud 9 show up looking like a team that can take first place, Dignitas won’t stand much of a chance. If they show up looking like the roster that loses to Immortals, Dignitas might stand a chance at taking a few wins. Ultimately, C9 should take the series in either scenario.

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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Mid Split Grades For Each NALCS Team

We’re halfway through the NALCS spring split, and I’ll be handing out grades for each team so far. My basis for grading: expectations coming into this split, if they’ve met/under performed those expectations, and their current standing. Every team has played each other once now, so we have a good feel for how each team matches up against one another. Things can definitely change in the second half of the split, so it’ll be interesting to see where these teams end.

10. Team Liquid(2-8)

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Nobody expected us to be halfway through the split with Team Liquid sitting at the bottom, even below Envyus. They acquired supposedly one of the best junglers in the region in Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin, but it hasn’t been enough. One thing that has changed this split is the meta shift to utility style AD carries, in which star Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin has struggled on. In the past, Team Liquid relied on Piglet to be a main carry for the team. That has not been the case this split as Piglet currently sits dead last in KDA and leads all AD’s in deaths.

Team Liquid has obviously hit the panic button with the announcement of possible roster changes during the IEM break. The most notable rumor being Piglet switching to mid. If that doesn’t spell desperation, I don’t know what does. There aren’t many ADC’s in challenger willing to thrust themselves into a sinking ship and be apart of the downfall.

Grade: F

9. Team Envyus(2-8)

In all honesty, everyone expected Envyus to be a low tier team, possibly similar to Echo Fox last summer. The fact that they have two wins, one coming off a talented Echo Fox team, tells me they’re not as bad as people think. They’ve shown the ability to take teams to close matches even when they do lose.

Their laners are able to gain significant CS differences in games. Looking at top laner Shin “Seraph” Wu Yeong and ADC Apollo “Apollo” Price, they’re both near the top in their positions in CS diff@10. They may lack the team fighting needed to really compete on the LCS level, but that’s to be expected when only your bot lane speaks English as their first language.

Grade: B-

8. Team Dignitas(4-6)

Courtesy: Riot Esports

With the big name imports of Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun, Dignitas was expected to be towards the top of the standings. They were off to a slow start, but things have finally picked up for them, going 3-1 in the past two weeks. I’ll admit two of those wins were against Team Envyus and Team Liquid, two teams at the bottom of the standings, but they needed those wins. They also looked impressive in a 2-0 victory against Flyquest, who were tied for second heading into the week.

Their schedule doesn’t get any easier heading into the second half, as they half Phoenix1 and TSM as their first opponents. Maybe this IEM break will give them the needed time to finally come together as the top tier team many had hoped for.

Grade: D

7. Echo Fox

Echo Fox has to be the most inconsistent team in LCS. At least with bottom tier teams you can expect how they’re going to play. With Echo Fox, one week they’re 2-0 sweeping TSM, the next they’re getting 0-2’d by Envyus. This team seems to have trouble playing to the level of their competition. Against the good teams, they play their best, but against the worse ones, they’ll allow themselves to play down to their level. This is just about where people were placing them in terms of standings heading into the split, if not lower.

It is surprising to see a team this low still hold the highest Gold difference@15 among NALCS teams. Their early game isn’t their weak point by any means. Jungler Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham has shown to be the best jungler so far, despite a poor showing last weekend. His early game aggression has allowed Echo Fox to jump to their early leads. It’s been in the mid-late game where Echo Fox has struggled in not knowing how to translate their leads into victories.

If they can fix their macro-play, this team can definitely be a “Cinderella” team heading into playoffs.

Grade: B

6. Immortals (5-5)

For the most part, people pegged Immortals as being around this 5th-8th place team. Immortals was expected to play mostly through star jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and mid laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park. For the most part, Dardoch has had to solo carry the team, with Pobelter playing uncharacteristically poor. Pobelter has improved as the weeks have gone on, but he’s still currently last in KDA and CS diff@10 among mids.

Top laner Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong looks to have fixed some of the communication issues that he was having. In the beginning of the split, his teleports and team fighting seemed off from the team. In a meta where tank play was very important, Immortals struggled to gain any wins to start out. They have gone 3-1 in their past two weeks, but most of those victories came off teams below them in the standings.

They’ll need to show some competitiveness against some of the better teams before we can list them as a definite playoff team.

Grade: C

5. Counter Logic Gaming(5-5)

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) was somewhat expected to thrive to begin the split. Most teams were brand new rosters with absolutely no synergy built up yet, as was evident in the first few weeks. CLG would have the advantage of not having any roster changes and knowing how to play with one another. They struggled to use this to their advantage, as they had a slow start due to not having a great grasp on the meta. CLG have noted that they’ve always been a bit slow on picking up on the meta. As a top tier organization, you’d expect this problem to be fixed by now.

Star support Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black looked lost in the meta of carry style supports, often being caught out of position. Jungler Jake “Xmithie” Puchero has looked as okay as he always has, but with the rise of jungle talent in a meta of carries, it hasn’t been enough.

They’ve recently began to look like they’re returning to top form, going 3-1 in the past two weeks. They took a much needed victory against Immortals last week that put them ahead of them in the standings.

Grade: B-

4. Phoenix1(6-4)

Phoenix1 were my darkhorse favorite heading into the split, and they haven’t disappointed.  Most people ranked P1 as a middle-lower half team heading in, but they’ve shown the ability to compete with the best, after sweeping C9 2-0 with a substitute jungler. No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon has been the best ADC in NA “by far” and a candidate for MVP.

Nobody really knows what exactly is happening with Rami “Inori” Charagh. Before he departed the team, he was looking to be struggling on any champion that wasn’t Rengar or Kha’zix. In recent interviews with substitute jungler Will “Meteos” Hartman, he made it sound like P1 may just be looking for a long term replacement. Meteos is no slouch as a replacement, although he doesn’t sound like he’d be willing to commit long term. If P1 continue with Meteos, I don’t see why this team can’t finish in the upper echelon of the standings.

Grade: A

3.Flyquest (6-4)

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Flyquest have developed into fan favorites as the “C9 White”. No one can really count out any team with prolific shotcaller Hai “Hai” Lam on it. Having three out of five members who have played together for so many years also has to help. Everyone, including myself, wanted to cheer for this team, but honestly expected them to be in the bottom tier.

This was reinforced with the announcement of Galen “Moon” Holgate as their new jungler just days before the LCS start. The last time we saw Moon, he looked scared and out of his element on stage. This split, he’s become one of the most improved players we’ve ever seen in LCS. This may be due to playing with some LCS veterans this time, but Moon himself has been looking like an absolute steal from free agency.

Hai’s effectiveness as a shotcaller will never be able to be measured statistically, but if Flyquest finish top two, I’d peg him as a favorite for MVP.

Grade: A+

2. Cloud 9(8-2)

Cloud 9 came into the split as heavy favorites, as their only roster change was bringing in rookie jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia. They also have top tier players in just about every position. They definitely started the split as the strongest looking team, with an 8-0 record. Before this week, Cloud 9 was the lone wolf atop the NALCS. After an abysmal 0-2 week, they’re now tied with TSM at 8-2.

It’s questionable how Cloud 9 went undefeated through the first half of the split. Other teams may have just needed more time to build synergy. Cloud 9’s early game still isn’t what we’ve come to expect from a top team. They’re currently ranked seventh in CS diff@15. They’re not nearly as proactive as they could be in the early game and often take wins from team fighting in the mid game.

Star top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong has played the worst I’ve ever seen. He seemed out matched against TSM’s Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell in their last series. Cloud 9 seems to live and die by how well Impact does. If Impact isn’t playing, they tend to look much more disorganized as well.

For the most part, they’ve played up to expectations, but losing to Phoenix1 with a sub jungler is unacceptable. They’ll need to bounce back strong to prove that they deserve the NALCS title.

Grade: B

1. Team SoloMid (8-2)

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Team SoloMid had a rough beginning, as the absence of ADC Yiliang “Doubelelift” Peng hindered their play more than expected. Doublelift held a very strong vocal leadership role in game that was missing after he left.

Solo laners Hauntzer and Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg have adapted to take more vocal roles on the team. It was slow at first, but the team has finally looked to be peaking at the right time. They 2-0’ed the two teams ahead of them in the standings, in C9 and Flyquest. Hauntzer and Bjergsen have also been playing extremely well individually. In a meta where tank play is extremely important, Hauntzer has played near perfect in what his team has needed.

TSM will need to continue this trend of improvement as they head into the second half of the split.

Grade: A

 

There’s still much League of Legends to be played. Playoffs will ultimately be decided by who comes out strong for the second half of the split. Can Cloud 9 bounce back from a rough week? Can TSM continue to improve and be the top team in North America? Will Echo Fox break the curse of their odd week struggles? These are only a few questions that will need to be answered before we crown a North American champion.

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NALCS Teams On the Hot Seat

We’re two weeks into the split and there are a few teams on the hot seat, fighting against relegations soon if they don’t turn their play around. These teams were expected to be real contenders heading into the split, but have not met expectations.

Team Liquid

Photo Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

Team Liquid was thought to be real contenders. Most spectators were placing them around 4th-6th in terms of rankings before the split. They’ve come out flat, as it seems jungler, Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin, and AD Carry, Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin have struggled. 

Reignover has a lot to prove as this is his first season playing without Top Laner Seong “Huni” Hoon Heo. Reignover’s playstyle often revolved around ganking Huni a few times to allow him to carry the game as a split pushing threat. Without Huni, Reignover has struggled so far. His 58.6% kill participation is last among NA junglers. Often times this season we’ve seen Reignover make basic mistakes, such as jumping in too aggressive ahead of his team or failing a flash. He just doesn’t look comfortable in this carry jungle meta so far.

Piglet also seems to be in a slump. Team Liquid has dedicated the last few seasons revolving their team comps around Piglet, using him as the main carry. Time and time again, playing around Piglet has not worked for this team. At this point, the individual play of Piglet doesn’t show any signs of him being able to be a top carry in this league anymore. He is middle of the pack in CS differential@10 and dead last in KDA among ADC’s. This may seem blown up since ADC’s tend to look worse on bad teams, but the synergy of Team Liquid looks very worrisome.

They have yet to incorporate sub Mid Laner Austin “Link” Shin. Subbing Link into the starting role could produce better results. Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer hasn’t looked terrible, but sometimes a minor roster change can yield a “honeymoon” effect that we’ve seen from teams in the past. If their play doesn’t turn around soon, I’d expect a change.

 

Immortals

Photo Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

Looking at their record of 2-2, Immortals is in the middle of the standings; but one of their wins was against Team Envy. Most spectators put Envy as a last place team. They did almost take down TSM during week one, but it wasn’t clean by any means on either side. Against Cloud 9, they looked terrible as a team and individually.

Mid laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park in particular has struggled to start the season. Usually heralded as the best resident NA mid, he has not looked up to form. He’s currently dead last in total KDA among mids and second to last in CS diff@10. Many have been quick to point out being on a worse team, but individually he needs to step up.

Top lane import Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong has done little to show that he can replace Huni. Flame has consistently been caught out or misplaying ganks when jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett tries to get him ahead. Communication also seems like a big issue. Flame is too early on engages or late for teleport plays. He currently has the worst KDA among tops and is near the bottom for CS diff@10. We have yet to see his infamous “flame horizon” (being ahead 100+CS) in a match yet.

The bottom lane of Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun and Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung has looked decent in lane. Cody Sun currently has the second best CS diff@10 among ADCs. Cody Sun has been caught out of position too many times to count. As a rookie, it was to be expected though. Their bot lane wasn’t expected to be the best coming into the season. The under performance of the roles around them is what is giving this team the most trouble.

Dardoch is still a steady jungler who can carry the game, but he has also had some really bad misplays that have cost his team. We know how emotions control how he plays the game, so it will be interesting going forward to see how the chemistry unfolds. Dardoch does not like losing, so if this trend continues, we may see this team continue to fall.

Team Dignitas

Dignitas were praised for the roster haul of top lane star Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and jungler Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun. Most people pegged this team as a top three team on paper. After two weeks, this team is 1-3, towards the bottom of the standings.

If Ssumday gets banned out of playing a carry/split-pusher, the team doesn’t play nearly as well. Carry junglers are strong right now, so top revolves more around the tank role. Chaser has one of the worse Damage%’s among jungler, with a measly 13.5%. With the emergence of the North American jungle talents, Chaser will need to step up. Dignitas has yet to show the ability to really have carries elsewhere, other than Ssumday.

Reginald may have been right when he called out teams for importing without knowing how to properly mesh them into the team. While Dignitas have been great at getting early game leads just from laning, their mid/late game have looked mediocre. They’re often reacting to their opponents and not looking to set up their own plays to win.  

Support, Alex “Xpecial” Chu, has been the main shot-caller for the team. He has experience doing this on his previous teams. It begs to differ how much the language barrier is really affecting how they’re performing. For most teams, they’ve pointed out that having one shot-caller isn’t the best way to play the game. If this team wants to succeed, every member will need to be able to communicate effectively.

Photo Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

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The Birth of the Korean Top Lane Era in NA

Home Grown Talent

Without a doubt, when it comes to fostering homegrown talent in North America (NA), the scarcest position seems to be none other than the Top lane.  Aside from Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, not much can be said about the remaining North American Top laners.  You have Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha, from Counter Logic Gaming, who has been declining in recent splits. Next to him, you have the up and coming Samson “Lourlo” Jackson, of Team Liquid, who has shown the ability to perform at times, but hasn’t done it consistently enough just yet.  An “Balls” Le, the former starting top laner for Cloud 9, once considered the best in his role, saw a steady decline before losing his starting role to Korean import Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong.

ssumdayKorean Imports

With the recent roster announcements, teams have imported some terrifying Top laners everyone will have to compete with for next split.  To begin, we have Dignitas bringing in KT Rolster’s Kim “Ssumday” Chan-Ho, known to be one of the best Top laners in the world from his performances in these past two LCK seasons.  He had a tremendous showing at Worlds 2015 and it appears that the money Dignitas received from the 76ers has helped them bring in their star Top laner.  Than you have Echo Fox acquiring former Samsung White World Champion, Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok.  Looper is a seasoned veteran, competing at World’s last season with China’s Royal Never Give Up at an extremely high level. Cloud 9’s infamous “top die” laner we’ve all come to love, Impact, absolutely destroyed during playoffs once the meta shifted off of lane swaps and will look to continue that trend this season. He’s also a former World Champion with SK Telecom T1 in Season 3 Worlds and was a main carry for C9 during their run to Worlds last season.  Immortals made sure to keep up with the other top lane imports by bringing in none other than Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong a longtime name in pro League of Legends and known for the “Flame Horizon” (being ahead of your enemy top laner by 100+ cs).  

Why Top Lane?

With all these imports coming in, it amplifies the discussion of why top lane seems to be the hardest position to garner any talent within NA.  Attempting to think of upcoming challenger Top laners, names like Cris, Solo, and RF Legendary come to mind.   Cristian “Cris” Rosales has been a long time top laner “memed” as good enough to dominate in the challenger series but not good enough to find success on a top LCS roster.  Oleksii “RF Legendary” Kuziuta had a good run with team Renegades through the Challenger series qualifying for LCS but was simply not up to par with LCS level Top laners and has bounced around multiple challenger teams since.  Colin “Solo” Earnest has made appearances in team Ember, and most recently, Team Liquid Academy, but hasn’t been able to reach LCS just yet.  Beyond Hauntzer, Darshan and Lourlo, no NA resident Top laners have been given a shot at a starting position on an LCS team, aside from subbing a game or two due to visa issues with imports.

So what is it about Korean Top laners that make them so much better than all other regions?  In terms of champion pools, you don’t see a lot of champion picks from Korean Top laners be chosen in other regions.  High mechanical Top lane champions such as Riven or Yasuo rarely get touched in some regions as opposed to Korea, where players like Smeb and Huni have shown the ability to solo carry games on them.  Even Jeon “Ray” Ji-won former Apex Top laner (now C9 sub), had his signature full Attack Damage split push Jarvan he would pull out that allowed him to carry games.  You just don’t see the same carry potential coming out of NA Top laners.  Korean’s teleport (TP) usage has always been above par, and that has a lot to do with coaching in Korea.  Korean teams have always been heralded as the kings of macro play and it helps tremendously with setting up huge plays using TP.  It will be interesting to see how they adapt to playing in North America with the language barrier and possibility of inferior coaching.   

We are in store for an intriguing 2017 season of the NA LCS with all these new roster changes making the region look stronger than it’s ever been.  It’s safe to say fans are extremely excited to see the competition in Top lane be at an all time high with all these stars coming in.  We’ll have to wait and see whether these big names can live up to the hype, or flounder under their new organizations.

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immortals

Photo Courtesy of immortals.gg

Ssumday’s Trip to NA LCS: Will it have an Impact or be another case of miscommunication

Courtesy of Esportspedia.

Courtesy of Esportspedia.

Seeing the boys in gold and black from Dignitas back in the NA LCS brings a certain happiness to me. They’re an old team, one of the ‘legacy’ teams, and their eventual removal from the league in relegation seemed sad.

But they’re back, and seemingly with intents of making much better names for themselves than they have in recent splits. The signing of high flying Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho Korean import is the kind of ‘big franchise move’ that Dig needed. They wanted to make a splash in the scene after acquiring middle of the pack squad of Apex. But is it enough to bring a break out year? That depends.

Ssumday’s skill is definitely noteworthy. I always feel a bit of respect for players that have been around for years now, particularly ones who have survived the grueling, cutthroat nature of LCK. Sssumday’s done that with KT in various capacities.

He brings his strong team fighting and overall experience to a roster that, truthfully, will need it. An odd pick up for the Jungle, a relatively uninspiring Mid Laner, a rookie(ish) ADC, and a once-strong-but-now-not-overly-so Support leave Dig with a strange kind of squad to be working with. Can Ssumday turn the kind of rag band team into a winning squad?

The menacing war face of our new Korean Overlord, Ssumday. Courtesy of Inven.

The menacing war face of our new Korean Overlord, Ssumday. Courtesy of Inven.

By the sounds of it, though, I think Dig brings something that other teams have been lacking when bringing in Korean talents: support. Multiple interviews with Ssumday show that he chose Dig because of the stability of not only the NBA ownership, but also of the support staff surrounding the players.

I wouldn’t want to say it’s of a Korean caliber, but by the sounds of it is very much a strong, robust system. This support staff will be key for Ssumday. He’s a good player, a great player, but I think fans often forget that League is strongly a team oriented game. Ssumday will need to be able to integrate with his teammates, get to know them, and ultimately synergize with them.

A genuine interest in learning English is a good step for Ssumday too. It’s been shown time and time again that Top-Jungler synergy can be key for Korea duos in foreign leagues.

I don’t want to say this all falls on the support staff either. As with any new teams, it’s really hard to gauge their exact strength. A smattering of super star players has been shown to flop, while a team that everyone undervalued have won back to back splits.

On a similar note, I don’t know if I want to say either that this falls entirely on Ssumday’s shoulders. But, that kind of happens when you’re arguably the teams closest thing to an ace. I think of Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong for Cloud 9 and how the team seemed to live and die by his plays. He was just able to do so much for the team.

I think Ssumday will have similar potentials for Dig. It also falls on his teams around him to make sure they’re stepping up to the plate. I think, ultimately, Ssumday needs to be more than just an ace: he needs to be a captain. He has to bring this team together, through either his play or his off the Rift abilities.

My honest verdict and prediction? I think Ssumday can do it. TSM showed they were mortal on the Worlds stage and lost key ADC superstar Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Cloud 9 still look like solid contenders for the top, but a new Jungler will mean the team needs to grow together. CLG didn’t make any roster changes and it’s questionable whether this was the right or wrong move. Immortals and Liquid are whole new teams.

If there were any time for Dig to make their impact, or should I say make their Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, it’s this Spring split. I think Ssumday’s got the right attitude too, going into this ambitious, wanting a change of scenery, and, most importantly, trusting in those around him. He has the making of the next ‘great Top Laner,’ bringing not only pedigree but seemingly a genuine desire to grow in the NA LCS. Only time, and results, will tell though if Ssumday found himself the right home to build a new legacy around.