H2K are trending up in week six EU LCS

Trending in EU LCS: Week 6

The EU LCS returned this week after a brief hiatus to accommodate Rift Rivals. Since week five, Riot introduced patch 7.13 with several minor balance updates. Fans were able to see some adaptation in the various regional showdowns, but many European teams were able to experiment longer with the patch while Fnatic, Unicorns of Love and G2 played on the patch against representatives of the NA LCS.

Every new patch affects the meta. Every new meta affects teams’ performances. There were not too many huge shake-ups in the standings this week. However, week six does finish with some EU LCS elements trending up and others trending down.

Trending Up

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

G2 are trending up after week six of EU LCS

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

G2

G2 bounces back from a disappointing Rift Rivals showing by defeating Splyce in a dominant 2-0. Perkz looked much more comfortable in the mid lane, ending the series with a 16-1-15 scoreline. Trick utilized Sejuani in the jungle in both games. All-in-all, G2’s wins were clean. For example, the second game was less than 24 minutes long, and the samurai accumulated a 10,000 gold advantage in that time. With Misfits’ loss to Unicorns of Love, G2 tie for second place in Group A with a 4-3 record.

H2K

H2K secured another 2-0 over a Group A team, Roccat. While the win is not unexpected, the sheer severity of Roccat’s losses show that H2K wants to be at the top of Group B at the end of the Summer Split. Game one ended in 26 minutes and game two in 21 minutes. H2K did not die a single time in game one, and only sacrificed two turrets. Roccat got five kills in game two, but only one turret. Nuclear and Chei did not die a single time over the course of the series. H2K has finished every winning series 2-0, and they have only lost games to UOL and Fnatic. They will look to solidify themselves as the third best team in Europe against G2 next week.

MM Kikis is trending up after week six of EU LCS

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

MM Kikis

Mysterious Monkeys picked up another series win this week against Roccat, but it was not pretty. Monkeys’ top laner, Kikis, came up huge in every single game to keep the team competitive. In game one it was a split-pushing Jayce. Game two was a mechanically intensive Akali, weaving between enemies, in and out of stealth. In game three it was an aggressive Renekton, finishing almost 4,000 gold over his lane opponent. While the Monkeys do not look too great as a team, Kikis is trying to be a menace in the top lane.

Cinderhulk junglers

The Enchantment: Cinderhulk jungle items were buffed because “while tanks are trying to farm Cinderhulk, everybody else around them is already farming more quickly,” according to the 7.13 patch notes. In response to this change, EU LCS junglers prioritized Gragas and Sejuani much higher than week five. Zac maintained his high ban rate, and was picked once by H2K’s Jankos. Olaf was locked in twice by Vitality’s Djoko. There were still other non-Cinderhulk junglers, such as Elise and Kha’Zix, but they were much less frequent.

Kalista ADC

The Spear of Vengeance has returned to the bottom lane in week six. While Kalista has seen a few lock-ins prior to this week, her play rate jumped this week. She was picked in seven out of 15 games, and banned in another three. This bump in pick and ban comes off the back of her strong showing at Rift Rivals, particularly the LCK-LPL-LMS showdown. Kalista enables her support to engage or disengage around her ultimate, Fate’s Call. Therefore, EU LCS bottom lanes paired her with Alistar, Rakan, Braum and Thresh. Finishing with four wins and three losses, she is not a guaranteed win, but Kalista will most likely continue to be a prioritized marksman pick.

Trending Down

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

Splyce's bottom lane is trending down after week six EU LCS

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Splyce bottom lane

Splyce lost 0-2 to G2 in their week six series, and none of their players looked particularly strong. One part of the map that looked weaker than usual was Splyce’s bottom lane duo, Kobbe and Mikyx. They ended the series with a combined 1-17-15 record playing Kalista-Rakan and Varus-Bard. In game one, G2’s Zven got a Triple Kill before 18 minutes, which included Kobbe and Mikyx. In game two, Zven killed Mikyx around five minutes, and Perkz killed Kobbe around seven minutes to start the snowball.

Roccat

Roccat finishes week six with two series losses against H2K and Mysterious Monkeys. This is going to heavily hinder their chance to make playoffs. H2K completely demolished them in two sub-27-minute games. Roccat lost large early leads in games one and two against the Monkeys. Luckily, they were able to bring it back in game two. However, they still lost game three in convincing fashion. Roccat’s record falls to 2-6, two games ahead of Ninjas in Pyjamas and two games behind G2.

Top lane Galio is trending down in week six of EU LCS

Image from LeagueofLegends.com

Galio top

While he was not completely relegated from professional play in the EU LCS, Galio was not drafted into the top lane this week. Tanks and bruisers, such as Renekton, Jarvan IV, Kled, Jax and Gnar were prioritized more. Galio’s armor was reduced in patch 7.13, which made him particularly weak against these AD threats. He may remain as a mid lane niche pick, as he was drafted by UOL’s Exileh and NIP’s Nagne in week six.

Lee Sin jungle

Unlike Galio, Lee Sin was not targeted in patch 7.13 at all. However, Enchantment: Cinderhulk, Rek’Sai and Kha’Zix were all changed in ways that negatively impacted Lee Sin. He was picked once by H2K’s Jankos and once by MM’s Amazing. Graves and Kindred were both picked while Lee Sin was still available. Olaf and Elise were played just as many times, or more. While Lee Sin is almost always a possible pick in professional League of Legends, he seems to have taken a back seat in the EU LCS for the time being.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr, LeagueofLegends.com

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Who’s that champéon? It’s Thresh!

Thresh, the Chain Warden, is as edgy as he is powerful; the champion is also borderline overpowered, so that’s saying a lot. With gap closers for himself and a friend, two forms of hard CC, an AOE 99 percent slow and some free damage and armor, it’s no wonder that Thresh is the apex predator of the support champions.

Why is Thresh Meta

What if I said you could have Janna levels of peel and Blitzcrank levels of catch all while having free scaling damage and tankiness? Easy, you’d line right up to pick that Champion before it picks you.

Thresh’s passive, Damnation, is perhaps one of the most overlooked and undervalued passives in the game. Damnation allows for Thresh to pick up souls of nearby enemy minions, champions and neutral monsters. These souls are then converted into Ability Power and Armor, as well as amplifying the damage bonus of his auto attacks based upon the rank of his (E) Fley. Thresh souls also increase the shielding on his lantern. To better qualify the power of this passive here are some numerical comparisons. At 66 souls, Thresh has the same base armor as Gnar at level 18, while at 144 souls, Thresh has more armor than Malphite with a fully-ranked Brutal Strikes at 124 armor. These numbers are taken into account without items, masteries and runes.

Thresh’s Q, Death Sentence, is what he is known for most. Death Sentence is his pick tool and his gap closer. While being difficult to hit, Death Sentence enables the rest of Thresh’s kit, allowing him to get close to his target as well as bringing an ally along for the ride via his W, Dark Passage. Dark Passage gives Thresh and one other a meager shield, but more importantly allows for the relocation of an ally. Dark Passage can also be used in a nifty way to block off terrain between the tower and walls of Summoner’s Rift.

Thresh’s E, Flay, allows him to utilize Relic Shield with ease as well as giving him particularly good matchups into other tanks. The active of Flay allows Thresh to peel and engage based upon the direction by which this small displacement is cast.

Thresh’s abilities as described. Courtesy of surrender@20

 

Finally, Thresh’s ultimate, The Box, puts up a five-sided box. The first wall to fall does magic damage and slows for two seconds while the next walls to fall deal no damage and slow for one second. The Box has a 99 percent slow, which reduces enemy champion movement speed to 110 unless they have Boots of Swiftness. The Box alongside Thresh’s other abilities can be cast during Thresh’s Death Sentence channel.

Who Uses it in Competitive?

Everyone. Thresh has always been one of the most consistent support picks for competitive, even when shielding meta was at its peak. If there is a support champion that professionals play, it is Thresh due to his jack of all trades kit and the way he scales with team communication. Being picked or banned in 79 percent of LCK games and 55 percent of NA LCS games, Thresh is as highly contested as he is impactful. In EU LCS, Thresh is picked or banned in 99 percent of games. Yeah, he’s that powerful.

Who Plays it Best?

While Thresh has an incredibly high play rate in competitive, his win rates across all regions have a low of 45 percent (LCK) and a high of 57 percent (LMS). That being said, who plays it best?

FW SwordArt stoked after a victory. Courtesy of lolesports.com

The answer here is clearly Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie of the LMS. With five games and a 100 percent win rate on Thresh, SwordArt makes the champion a must ban if you are playing into the Flash Wolves. Across all five games, SwordArt has only died once, maintaining a 50 KDA on the champion.

SwordArt knows Thresh down to each cheeky hitbox. Always seeming to be a play ahead of everyone else, SwordArt is constantly utilizing lanterns to avoid ganks and setting up plays for his allies.

While there have been great Thresh players throughout time, such as Madlife and more recently Biofrost, SwordArt is consistent on his Thresh performances and one of the few players to have played Thresh throughout the competitive seasons since release.

Bringing Thresh into Solo Queue

Thresh is the best support to bring into solo queue for any support main who wants to climb the ladder through sheer individual skill.

A good Thresh player is both a master of positioning and reflex heavy skill shots. During laning phase your job is to get level two before the enemy laners and look to control the lane after that through making a play with the level advantage. To do this utilize AD marks paired with a relic shield and an early skill point in Flay. Capitalizing on early Soul pickups is crucial during laning phase, especially early on. Getting one or two souls before trading with the enemy laner allows you to get the upper hand by getting raw stats without going back to shop.

After the level one and two of laning phase your job is to pressure the enemy carry and draw jungle attention. If the enemy laner is going to CS, auto them, Flay them or give them a Death Sentence. When the enemy jungler is bot side, play further back to allow your carry to farm while also being able to bail them out with a Dark Passage. If you are shoving, make use of an early Boots purchase to gank mid with or without your jungler.

During team fights, look to set up picks (initiate) or peel for your carry by being able to re-position them. Often times peeling is better than diving on Thresh, but if you get that sick hook on the enemy carry, then bring a pal in with you.

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Featured Image courtesy of Jesse Barron

Summer 2017 over/under (part 2): LCS players above expectations

With three weeks of NA and EU LCS in the books, audiences are starting to get a feel for teams’ strengths and weaknesses. Some squads have carried over similar strengths from Spring Split. Others have risen or fallen in performance. But even within rosters that tend to play consistently, there always seems to be an ebb and flow on the individual player level.

Last week, I highlighted players who need to return to past form for their respective teams to have a chance at peak performance. This week it is all about the other side, summoners who are trending upward so far this summer. These players have visibly improved. They are putting up statistics that are exciting and surprising. More importantly, though, these members have elevated their teams’ overall performances with their gameplay on the Rift.

Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha

CLG, Top laner

KP%:    61.8%   (2nd top laner)

D%:        19%    (4th top laner)

Darshan is a player who has come and gone as a presence in the top lane. While he almost mirrors his statistics from Spring Split, Summer Split seems different. Many of the imported top laners who struggled to find their place last split currently feel much stronger. Yet, Darshan has been able to keep up enough in lane to help CLG pressure the map through split-pushing and cleaner Teleports. Darshan’s team will rely on him to anchor his lane against top-heavy teams in the NA LCS.

CLG Darshan is exceeding expectations in top lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

DIG Shrimp is exceeding expectations in the jungle

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon

Dignitas, Jungler

KP%:    79.1%   (2nd overall)

XPD@10:    325  (3rd overall)

Dignitas’ newest jungler, Shrimp, has been on a tear so far this split. He and top laner, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, are the only members of the team to start ahead of their opponents at 10 minutes. Despite Dignitas’ early deficits, Shrimp has enabled the team to control Elder Dragon and Baron better than most teams in the NA LCS. His Lee Sin is particularly strong.

Choi “Pirean” Jun-Sik

Team Envy, Mid laner

KDA:    4.2   (4th mid laner)

DPM:    494  (6th mid laner)

Pirean is by no means close to the best mid laner in the NA LCS. However, his addition to Team Envy has seemed to boost their overall performance. Within the team, Pirean has the highest KDA, lowest death share, and ties Apollo “Apollo” Price in damage share. Even in Envy’s losses, the mid laner looks proactive on picks like Taliyah and Ahri. Pirean seems like a much better fit than Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo in spring.

NV Pirean is performing above expectations in mid lane

LoL Esports Flickr

UOL Samux is exceeding expectations in bottom lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort

Unicorns of Love, Bot laner

DPM:    604   (4th overall)

DMG%: 28%  (6th overall)

Despite already meshing well with Unicorns of Love in his rookie split, Samux is solidifying himself as a top AD carry in EU LCS this split. He is putting out high damage and keeping his deaths low, sporting a 7.7 KDA. Samux’s positioning and decision-making have been crucial to Unicorns’ scary team-fighting. Standing out this way among a strong field of European bot lanes truly is a feat.

Kim “Wadid” Bae-in

Roccat, Support

D%:   15.4%  (2nd support)

KP%:  68.5%  (6th support)

The flashiest Rakan player in the EU LCS, Wadid has been a primary initiator for Roccat this split. This trend started during Roccat’s win streak towards the end of Spring Split, but he has blossomed these past few weeks. Wadid enables his bottom lane partner, Petter “Hjärnan” Freyschuss, to get ahead during laning phase and clean up team-fights. Viewers feel this player’s presence on the map, which is impressive considering there are several competitive, veteran support players in the league.

ROC Wadid is exceeding expectations as support

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

honorable mention

IMT Cody Sun and Olleh are above expectations in bottom lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung

Immortals, Bot lane duo

DPM: 534,251 (2nd bot lane duo)

FB%: 27%,20% (1st bot laner, 1st support)

The success of Immortals’ bottom lane is difficult to separate between marksman and support. Both Cody Sun and Olleh have exhibited vast improvements from their starts at IEM Gyeonggi. Many fans could see the power shift towards the end of Spring Split, but not to the current degree. This duo has consistently pressured opponents throughout the game in laning, turrets and team-fights. Olleh’s aggressive Bard and Morgana pairs particularly well with Cody Sun’s Caitlyn and Varus. Immortals’ bottom lane has been a force so far, and remaining at the top of the standings will definitely depend on their continued growth.

All of these players are playing above their previous benchmarks. It only takes a short time for above expectations to turn into the expectation, and, as the NA and EU LCS advance, viewers will look for continued improvement. No one will necessarily remember which teams and players were stomping or slumping three weeks into the split. If these players truly want to leave their mark, they will need to maintain this high level of gameplay over many more grueling weeks of League of Legends.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Champion Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

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Overwatch League Contenders: European Weekend Recap

Never underestimate eUnited or Cyclowns. While playing semi off key, their dive comps both looked very well oiled and extremely dangerous.

European teams have a very strong base in Genji play. Sticky bomb kills going into a three kill was not uncommon but Dragonblades were accounting for most of the deaths in any match, sometimes nanoboosted. Both of these teams played each other off stream on Saturday, with eUnited winning two to one against Cyclowns. eUnited never dropped a match before or after that war with Cyclowns.

Cyclowns went on to crush the Sunday bracket, only getting a serious challenge from the next point. Both teams DPS are the stuff of nightmares and on full display throughout the Saturday and Sunday streams. Highly recommended viewing content for those looking to see great anticipation from Tracers or Genjis.

On Saturday, GamersOrigin lost to Bazooka Puppies but on Sunday stormed through the brackets, ultimately getting second place after losing to Cyclowns. Origin played out of their collective minds throughout Sunday, giving a lot of people the impression that they’re an up and coming team in the European arena. They’ve been around since the beginning of Overwatch. Their two longest tenured players are Hyp, who is captain as well as support, along with Noki, also support.

The casters for Europe are very entertaining. The rapport between the pairs of casters really shows. Erik Lonnquist and Christopher Mykles look to be working through a transition phase from League to Overwatch. You never got an odd vibe from anyone during this section of the tournament. Each pair of casters played off one another, through the blunders and word flubs you see a sense of appreciation for each others company. Blizzard’s picks to commentate are really impressive and give a sense of calm insight and emotional commentary without being too overbearing in either sense.

Things that could definitely use some improvement

The waits between matches almost kill any interest. Some matches take roughly 20 minutes to start, and that 20 minutes is enough to lose any focus one has. This will likely be fixed soon when the next round kicks off next weekend, though. All eight teams will have everything in order before the rounds begin to cut down on wait times. If they’re lacking content between the matches, that’s understandable.

Lack of coverage is another issue. We see a lot of matches scheduled but only half the matches streamed. It’s confusing when someone is looking forward to watching a team only to find out their match is not streamed. Four matches a night with 10 to 20 minutes between each match feels empty.

There’s not much else to gripe about really. The matches are all played online, so pauses are inevitably going to happen. Teams may be a bit late and it may take a bit of time to organize over 750 teams. Getting a controllable bracket can’t be easy and it speaks volumes that Blizzard got this tournament to function as well as it did and still get some coverage on the key matches.

Here’s looking forward to next week when the North American sweet 16 go into the four groups to battle for the top four spots. The round robins will hopefully be getting a lot more coverage than the four matches shown each day so far.


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Forgone Conclusion: Overwatch Contenders League Qualifying Weekend Sunday

Immortals versus everyone, it’s not close. Every team fight looked exactly like this.

I miss Saturday’s games already. Sunday’s looked to be a fatalistic foreshadowing of future proceedings. Immortals were not giving a single point to anyone and lived up to their name going two to zero every game they played throughout the bracket. They ended up annihilating any and everything in their way. Not too surprising coming from Carbon League where they went six and four but ultimately won the tournament convincingly. In essence, despite losing in the Bracket Saturday, Immortals returned Sunday like a shadow.

Throughout the night I found myself drawn to the odd ball type teams. The current meta itself rotates primarily through dive comps situated around Winston, D.Va, Zenyatta, Lucio, Soldier 76 and Tracer. The dive meta comp however seemingly disappears, especially on Lijang Tower’s Garden area. Control point maps, especially wide open control points like Lijang Tower Garden and Nepal Sanctum suddenly burst to life when you see a Mercy or a Mei.

Image courtesy of Toronto Esports

The issue however was that outside of the various little differences, you saw teams very rarely try to play anything outside of the dive meta. This staleness in the game really has plagued Overwatch over the last year. Near the inception of Ana, it was the three tank meta where two teams would slam trains together assuming different results. Now with every nerf bat ever made, the three tank meta slowed and it’s now become submarine battles. If your team is unable to dive and kill the critical element of a team, you’re forced to reset and try again usually.

Getting off the soap box however, I’m a sucker for long games with a lot of back and forth. Meta or no meta, if a game is going to be a slug fest, you can sign me up. The series that gifted me such a request was once again the match before the final match. Toronto Esports and Hammers Esports went the distance. Every single match on Sunday night was a two to nothing win except for one and it was a screamer. Not much can really top off a D.Va ult suddenly and irrevocably changing the team fights.

Image courtesy of Hammers Esports, LLC.

A blurb about Toronto Esports from their About Us page “Toronto Esports Club was founded in 2016, with the goal creating a local Esports team for Toronto and Canadian fans to cheer for. On September 6, 2016 the Club announced their intention to enter the competitive Overwatch scene with the introduction of their first professional Overwatch roster.” It also helps that this team has seasoned professional players in Chris “Huk” Loranger. More to the point, most of their entire roster is essentially been together since March but showing they’re stuff in Open Qualifiers thus far.

Hammer Esports was primarily a mobile-MOBA focused team but their expansion into non-mobile Esports, primarily Overwatch feels like an attempt to finally put themselves on a wider stage. Their showings thus far in the Open Qualifiers stands to reason that they have nothing but good things coming their way in the coming competitions.

MAP 1: WATCHPOINT: GIBRALTAR

Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Gibraltar seems to be the initial map for every skirmish. Hammers had Snizzlenose (Roadhog, which is his main) and Christfer (Winston) while Shaz and Tomzey played around with Ana and Lucio. No Zenyatta meant that Winston’s dive target might actually last a tad longer. On the flip side however, Ana using Roadhog to build her nanoboost to give an edge to Winston for the pick was a safe assumption. With a Nano’d Winston, it’s safe to assume that Winston getting a pick in the backline was all but guaranteed. DPS duties were resting with Nesh and Fischer on Soldier: 76 and Genji.

It looked rather one sided with how Toronto started but things definitely turned for the better.

Toronto’s team went full dive comp with Winston, D.Va, Tracer, Zenyatta, Lucio but used Genji instead of Soldier: 76. Cynic (Winston) and Jaru (Genji) were truly on their game though, pushing Hammers back line while Note on D.Va seemingly got picks on her Ult consistently. There was not a single self destruct on offense where Note seemingly didn’t kill someone. In the hanger, Toronto was forcing the issue as they’d lost momentum thanks to the doors shutting. Note bowled a strike by sending D.Va’s ult into the hanging shuttle above the main cart route and getting a double kill. Arguably play of the round as Hammers retreated immediately after losing two.

Hammers stuck with Ana but the better players prevailed as it was showing more and more evident that Fischer was not as strong at Genji as Jaru. Toronto secured the first game, with Hammers trying to be over aggressive on defense and ultimately costing them. Toronto used their obvious advantage in DPS, flipping to a lopsided one tank, three dps, two supports set up. Note held down the first point leaving Jaru and Onigod to get picks and hamstring Hammers push until overtime when Note and Jaru closed down the point with solid point awareness and a devastating team fight.

MAP 2: LIJANG TOWER

Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

As the rotation for the maps plays out in Payload, Control Point, Assault, the next up was Lijang Tower and my personal pick for the best solo game of the night. Hammers and Toronto stuck mostly to script outside of throwing in a Mercy/Pharah combo as well as just unreal D.Va play out of Note and Snizzlenose who finally got comfortable. At no point was any single map in Lijang a conclusive result as you saw Toronto and Hammers trading ults and kills back and forth. There were Mercy ults on both sides, it looked like a modern movie climax with everything exploding into a ball of fire. Garden had the team trading blows and point capture up until the final moments with both teams coming down hard on how to counter and dive one another. Hammers luck held up however and truly showed off their

Suddenly Lijang opened my eyes to a possible real fight happening. Credit to /u/BigMurph26

skills as Note’s impressive D.Va play was matched by Snizzlenose time and again.

With match point, Toronto shows adaptation at its finest as it abandons the 2/2/2 set up and runs lopsided DPS with Note going back to Solider 76, flipping the scales completely and dominating Hammers on Night Market. That game was distilled Overwatch, a game built around switching heroes to better suit your advantage versus another team.

The final match returned to Garden however and another massive brawl happens on the point but ultimately Toronto looked like it was out of ideas on just how to counter Hammers superior map presence. Hammers never conceded the point and tied the match up. We get a real match and suddenly I feel like it’s a no holds bar type of excitement bubbling up from the center. These two teams are insanely even and it really takes just incredibly strong play from both sides but who was going to crack?

MAP 3: TEMPLE OF ANUBIS

Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Final round began with Hammers starting on Offense. Both teams fielded lopsided set ups with Toronto running two tanks, three DPS and Luddee on Lucio. Just a note, Luddee is officially listed as a sub and is only playing with Toronto on this specific tournament which is truly a testament to his skill as a player. People might knock Lucio for being rather simplistic in his playstyle but it’s entirely different to have to sub in for a team on a huge stage. Not to mention being a strong enough a player to keep you in a match by simultaneously getting kills and healing everyone enough to put you in the ring with Immortals.

Toronto managed to hold out on last point for six and a half minutes, punishing Hammers over and over using Sombra’s EMP effectively. Much if the game between FNRGFE and FaZe, with FNRGFE attempting to use Sombra to stall out FaZe, Toronto used Sombra in a much more effective manner. This was primarily because of Toronto abandoning first point the moment it became evident they could no longer hold out. Hammers with a minute left forced a team fight in the enclosed hallway to the side of the last point.

The fight initialized with Shaz landing a hail mary biotic grenade on Jaru who had just activated Dragonblade. Sensing weakness, Christfer identified Jaru as unable to heal, killing him, and Hammers pushed through onto point, despite an EMP. Suddenly it turned into a complete brawl as not only did the EMP not hit Lucio, Lucio had Sound Barrier and put Hammers in a position to score. On top of this, Nesh switched to McCree and that single switch from Nesh seemingly got them into a fight where Tracer and Genji could not. This happened in less than a ten second window with only 40 seconds left to win the point. They tied in the team fight and Hammers finished with 34% of a point captured. True to form for Anubis however, it takes the royal flush level of coincidences to really win Anubis handily.

Sensing an opening, Toronto returned to the 2/2/2 set up but abandoning dive comp completely. Jaru and Snow went with Pharah/Mercy, Note and Cynic on D.Va and Winston respectively and Onigod on Widowmaker with Luddee finishing the squad on Lucio (because of course). What put it in Toronto’s favor was that Hammers too had gone Widow with Nesh picking up the rifle himself.

The casters noted offensive Widowmaker is given a lot of leeway and that put Hammers down essentially to a five versus six without them even knowing it. Within moments of the match beginning, OniGod makes the call of Nesh’s Widow pick, you see Note and Cynic instantly harass. Despite an effort to hold, the first point collapsed like the old ruins they’re fighting in and Toronto began storming towards the last point.

With ultimates a plenty, Toronto drew up a play and laid their Royal Flush on the table. Jaru and Snow still on the Pharah/Mercy flew over the right side picking off Tomzey. A split second later Cynic killed Snizzlenose, and Hammers went down two players. Even if anyone crucial died, Snow’s Rez was ready and waiting to punish any ults used by Hammers. Onigod fired up garbage truck cleaning up the remaining members brave enough to try and stall.

Game, two to one,  Toronto Esports.

The rest of the matches had highlights but this particular one stands out as not only does it highlight one of the primary features of Overwatch, it shows just how much is can radically alter a match when used both effectively and creatively. On the whole however, the night was taken by the best team and that was Immortals. Immortals might ultimately become the ones with the targets on their backs for the rest of this tournament.

Check back June 18 when I cover the Open Qualifiers for Europe as well. In the meantime I’ll be covering other various aspects of Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Team Liquid's starting roster for 2017 NA LCS Summer Split

NA LCS Mid-Season Roster Updates

The break between spring and summer has been relatively quiet in North America. Very few big name players were traded, acquired, or released from teams. Most of the biggest changes are at the coaching position, whose impact is difficult to gauge without watching drafts and getting feedback from the players themselves. Here is a summary of every mid-season roster update so far in the NA LCS:

Traded Players

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett

After a single split with Immortals, Dardoch has been bounced to another roster. Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) traded their jungler to Immortals for Dardoch. He brings a higher carry potential and early proactivity. He also brings an out-of-game personality that has been cited as the source of team-wide issues. CLG’s support staff will need to rein Dardoch in and properly channel his aggressive playstyle to find success.

Jake “Xmithie” Puchero

CLG's Xmithie was traded to Immortals for Dardoch

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Xmithie was traded to Immortals in exchange for Dardoch. This is a surprising trade, considering CLG decided to keep their entire roster intact in the off-season leading into Spring Split. Immortals will be receiving a seasoned, veteran, shot-calling jungler to compliment their remaining teammates, particularly the younger players in the bottom lane. Hopefully, Xmithie will ameliorate any out-of-game issue and provide stability within the team.

LCS Aqcuisitions

Jason “WildTurtle” Tran

Unsurprisingly, WildTurtle has decided to leave TSM to find a starting role elsewhere, and he has. FlyQuest is bringing him on as the primary AD Carry. WildTurtle helped TSM win the NA LCS Spring Split, but had a rocky performance at Riot’s Mid-Season Invitational. FlyQuest finished fifth this spring, and with this acquisition they will look to move up in the standings this summer.

Yasin “Nisqy” Dincer

FNA Nisqy enters NA LCS ad mid laner for Team Envy

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Nisqy enters North America from the EU Challenger Series. His spring split team, Fnatic Academy, qualified for promotion into the EU LCS Summer Split. Their slot was bought by Ninjas in Pyjamas, who signed an entirely new roster. Nisqy joins Team Envy after his strong showing within EU CS. Envy finished last split in tenth, and fought their way through the promotion tournament to defend their spot in the NA LCS. Changes in the mid lane may stabilize their gameplay for better overall performance.

Choi “Pirean” Jun-Sik

Team Envy is also signing Pirean to their roster as a mid laner. Pirean most recently started for Phoenix1 in Summer 2016, and helped keep the team in the LCS after finishing eighth and fighting through the promotion tournament. This past split he was benched as a substitute mid laner behind Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook. Pirean looks to share mid lane duties with Nisqy. However, Pirean does seem to be the starter on the LCS website.

William “Stunt” Chen

Stunt is switching teams for the second time in six months. From substitute support on Dignitas to starting support on Phoenix1 to sharing the support role on Phoenix1, Stunt is now signed to Immortals as a substitute. While Stunt had some of the highest first blood rates, kill participation, and average KDA, he sacrificed high death shares and lower overall damage than his counterpart, Jordan “Shady” Robison. The Immortals infrastructure may be able to develop his talent in a stable team environment.

Terry “Big” Chuong

Big joins Team Dignitas as support

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Big is listed as a player for Team Dignitas in Riot’s Global Contract Database, and may be starting over Alex “Xpecial” Chu in Week 1. Xpecial was benched in favor of Stunt a few times throughout the Spring Split. Big most recently played for Echo Fox’s sister team, Delta Fox, in the NA CS. It would be surprising if his starting role on Dignitas is permanent this summer.

Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon

Team Dignitas also signed Shrimp, a jungler substitution. DIG’s early split woes, and late split streak, rested mostly in the jungle position, as Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun built synergy with the rest of the team. Signing Shrimp on as back-up could be a response. Shrimp split jungle duties for Japan’s DetonatioN FocusMe this spring, helping them finish first in the regular season and second in playoffs.

Brandon “Mash” Phan

The last NA LCS substitute worth mentioning is Mash, who has signed to Echo Fox as AD Carry. Echo Fox started the Spring Split strong, but faltered in the second half, finishing eighth in the regular season. The bottom lane was much to blame. Mash comes onto the roster after finishing first in the NA CS with Gold Coin United. While Yuri “Keith” Jew is still listed as the starter for Week 1, it would not be surprising to see Mash splitting time in this role.

Kim “Ssong” Sang-soo

Ssong is another newcomer to Immortals this summer. Stepping in as coach, Ssong has been the head of LCK teams such as Longzhu Gaming and ROX Tigers. Most notably, he was coach when ROX Tigers finished top four in the 2016 World Championships. Signing Ssong shows Immortals’ dedication to improving as a team, and building the proper environment for growing talent. It will be interesting to see how much he elevates the team compared to last split.

Brandon “Saintvicious” DiMarco

Saintvicious returns to Team Dignitas as coach

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the longest serving veterans of the NA LCS, Saintvicious returns to Team Dignitas this summer. After Apex Gaming chose him as coach, and they qualified into the LCS, Saintvicious was kept on as staff when Apex and Dignitas were acquired by the Philadelphia 76ers. Coming into Spring 2017, Saintvicious joined Team Liquid as a strategic coach. However, after Liquid’s nasty Spring Split, Dignitas has welcomed him back to assist David “Cop” Roberson.

Nick “Inero” Smith

Formerly of OPL’s Tainted Minds, Inero will be head coach for Echo Fox this summer. Prior to Tainted Minds, Inero coached Dream Team and Mousesports in the EU and NA Challenger Series. Tainted Minds was caught up in scandalous reports of mismanagement from players within the team, which eventually led to a competitive ruling from Riot. The staff and players were released, which has allowed Echo Fox to sign Inero on as head coach.

Dong Hwan “Violet” Kim

Team Envy has signed Violet, a reputable Starcraft II player, as head coach for the summer. Violet has been signed to Envy as a Starcraft player since the beginning of 2016. His crossover into coaching League of Legends seems risky considering Envy just missed relegation this past spring. Maybe Violet’s strategic gaming background will allow Team Envy to develop new tactics or playstyles.

Changes to Starting Rosters

Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng

Doublelift promoted to starting AD Carry for TSM

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Unsurprisingly, Doublelift returns to play the Summer Split as starting AD Carry. Although the star AD Carry had taken a temporary hiatus from professional play, Doublelift was temporarily loaned to Team Liquid by TSM for the last few weeks of the Spring Split to help prevent their relegation. Although TSM won the 2017 NA LCS Spring Split, the team aspires to improve for international competition. Based on their underwhelming performance at the Mid-Season Invitational, Doublelift could be crucial for attaining their higher goals.

Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer

Starting Goldenglue as Team Liquid’s mid laner is one of the most controversial roster appointments going into the Summer Split. Leading into the Spring Split, Team Liquid signed Goldenglue and Austin “Link” Shin for mid lane duties. Later in the split, Team Liquid overhauled the roster, moving their AD Carry into mid lane and starting the substitute AD Carry in bottom lane. The team was also almost relegated, even though they had Doublelift on loan from TSM.

In the meantime, Goldenglue bootcamped in South Korea to play against the best in the world and elevate his gameplay. Only time will tell if his Korean solo queue experience has paid off. Goldenglue may be the player with the most pressure on him, coming into this split.

Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin

Piglet is also being reset into his normal role, AD Carry. Team Liquid announced their roster on Twitter as the same roster they signed coming into 2017 Spring Split. While “Midlet” exceeded expectations on a few occasions, it was not a long-term solution for Team Liquid’s problems. Hopefully, the bottom lane meta is more suitable for Piglet to carry, as he has done historically.

Leaving NA LCS

Dylan Falco

Team Envy’s Spring Split coach, Dylan Falco, is leaving North America to coach Fnatic in the EU LCS. His replacement will be Violet, as mentioned above. For more information on Coach Falco’s relocation, and the rest of the roster updates for the EU LCS, check out EU LCS Mid-Season Roster Updates

Status Unknown

Adrian “Adrian” Ma

No updates yet on Adrian for Summer Split 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Adrian was last mentioned signing to Team Liquid while their support, Matt “Matt” Elento, needed to step down due to personal issues. Last playing on March 18, Adrian has not been mentioned in any team announcements for Summer Split. Team Liquid did part ways with Adrian, and Matt came back to assume the starting role, but nothing has been reported since then. Adrian left Phoenix1 due to disagreements with teammates, so it is possible that teams are hesitant to bring him into the mix.

Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo

After a disappointing Spring Split, Ninja has been replaced by two mid laners. There have been no announcements about his status since. He could be in contact with other NA LCS teams. He could be considered for a Challenger team. Ninja could also transfer to another region. The Summer Splits will be starting soon, so it is possible he remains unsigned altogether.

David “Hermes” Tu

Hermes joined Immortals coming into the 2017 Spring Split. He had an almost completely new roster of players, and together they finished seventh in the regular season and missed playoffs. Since the announcement of Ssong entering this position, nothing has been heard from Hermes. Judging by his Twitter, Hermes seems to be a free agent.

Simon “heavenTime” Jeon

HeavenTime is another unaccounted coach. Echo Fox brought on Inero as a replacement, but nothing has been seen from HeavenTime. With the season restarting soon, it is possible that he remains unsigned, as well.


MSI Team and Player Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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2017 MSI stage and crowd in Brazil

MSI Play-In Champion Power Picks

The first stage of the 2017 Mid-Season Invitational is complete. Two wildcard teams have moved on to enter the second stage where they will meet representatives from NA LCS and LMS. Last weekend was a joy to watch, as teams from around the globe came together to battle on the Rift. This weekend promises similar excitement.

Before heading into the match-ups, though, it is important to highlight key champions. These are champions who had high pick and ban rates. They have been contested throughout the tournament. As regions enter and exit the competition, some preferences are bound to change. However, the following choices have proven themselves to be fruitful, and will most likely remain power picks for the remainder of the contest.

Top

2017 MSI top lane power pick: Shen   Pick/Ban Rate (P/B): 58%   Win Rate (W%): 25%

Shen is valued for his ability to impact the map. Stand United allows the top laner to protect allies with a shield, or follow the channel with Shadow Dash to engage fights.

Split-pushing is a bit easier, since Stand United and Teleport allow Shen to enter a neighboring lane. Top laners generally build Tytanic Hydra, Spirit Visage and Guardian Angel on this champion.

Do not let the low tournament win rate fool you. Players such as Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo and Yau “MMD” Li-Hung have 100% win rates with the champion, and Ki “Expect” Dae-Han, Asım “fabFabulous” Cihat Karakaya, and Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell are 67% or higher (Spring 2017).

2017 MSI top lane power pick: Fizz   P/B: 79%  W%: 57%

AD tank Fizz has become a menace yet again. Trinity Force is essential to this playstyle. Top laners have built Sunfire Cape, Spirit Visage and Guardian Angel for tankiness. They may include Blade of the Ruined King or Wit’s End for attack speed and augmenting the bonus damage of Seastone Trident.

Fizz has also been used for split-pushing. Playful Trickster is a low-cooldown spell which allows for speedy roaming. Top laners have been choosing Ignite-Teleport as Summoner Spells for early laning and global pressure.

Gigabyte Marines flexed Fizz into the mid lane once already, and other teams will most likely be open to this idea. In the right hands, this champion is truly a nuisance, which is why he has been banned so often.

2017 MSI top lane power pick: Galio   P/B: 75%   W%: 86%

The newly reworked Colossus made his debut at MSI. So far, he has been oppressive. Galio’s combination of tankiness, utility, and damage are difficult to overcome.

Players are building Spirit Visage and Sunfire Cape to provide resistances and ambient damage. Knight’s Vow and Iceborn Gauntlet have been prominent items, too.

The semi-global pressure of Hero’s Entrance is perfect for top laners, especially playing around objectives. Shield of Durand and Justice Punch provide high-impact crowd control for Galio’s team. So far, Nautilus has been the only other top lane champion with a higher win rate than Galio (with more than one game played).

 Jungle

2017 MSI jungle power pick: Ivern  P/B: 79%   W%: 50%

Redemption, Locket of the Iron Solari and Athene’s Unholy Grail are only built by the jungler if they are playing Ivern. His shielding and healing are ridiculously powerful when combined with Triggerseed.

Teams excel when Ivern enables his laners to snowball and siege turrets with Daisy! His jungle clear is quicker than most. He is also able to donate his blue and red buffs more frequently to teammates.

Drafting Ivern allows teams to create protect-the-carry compositions. When paired with Lulu, Orianna, Karma or Shen, Ivern unlocks marksmen, assassins, and mages to play fast and loose.

2017 MSI jungle power pick: Lee Sin  P/B: 88%   W%: 53%

Lee Sin is League of Legends’ perennial jungle champion. Once truly overpowered junglers have been banned or picked, many players fall back to Lee Sin. His mobility and early pressure allows teams to push the pace and snowball quickly when played correctly.

This tournament has seen Lee Sin played 15 times: 6 games more than the next most played champion. He is a versatile pick that can mesh with almost anyone. None of the best junglers are afraid to pull him out to demonstrate their Flash-Dragon’s Rage mechanics.

All of the remaining junglers at MSI have at least 64% win rates on Lee Sin this Spring. Han “Peanut” Wang-ho has maintained a 100% win rate over 11 games.

2017 MSI jungle power pick: Graves   P/B: 88%   W%: 75%

Teams have been smart to frequently ban Graves. Junglers have won 6 out of 8 games with him at MSI. End of the Line provides insanely fast jungle clears. Quickdraw allows him to move through thin walls and gain bonus resistances. Collateral Damage nukes low health targets.

No participating jungler has less than a 73% win rate using Graves. Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan has a 100% win rate and a 13.3 KDA over 5 games on the champion. Kang “Blank” Sun-gu sports 100% and 17.5 over 2 games.

Black Cleaver and Maw of Malmortius are featured items beyond Enchantment: Warrior. Players at MSI have even been building Blade of the Ruined King, which is arguably overpowered at the moment.

 

Mid

2017 MSI mid lane power pick: Syndra   P/B: 79%   W%: 50%

Koray “Naru” Bıçak and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok have the lowest win rates on Syndra: 67%. All other mid laners at MSI sport 71% or higher.

Syndra has been a mainstay in the mid lane for a few splits at this point. Her combination of waveclear, crowd-control and reliable burst damage are hardly matched. She has the highest total number of bans for a reason.

The average damage per minute for Syndra players at MSI is 629. This is higher than any other mid lane champion with multiple games played. Expect her presence to remain on the high side moving forward.

2017 MSI mid lane power pick: LeBlanc   P/B: 71%   W%: 33%

LeBlanc’s strengths are similar to Syndra, except LeBlanc is more of an assassin. Distortion allows mid laners to quickly roam to other lanes or into the jungle. High level players can utilize Mimic to confuse and outplay opponents.

Hextech Gunblade and Void Staff are currently staples within LeBlanc’s build. When paired with Sorceror’s Shoes and Abyssal Scepter, LeBlanc’s burst is unsettling. One successful Ethereal Chains stun onto a squishy target is guaranteed death.

Văn “Optimus” Cường Trần lost his only LeBlanc game at MSI. Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok have yet to get the chance to play her this Spring. All 4 other mid laners have 60% or higher win rates.

2017 MSI mid lane power pick: Ahri   P/B: 50%   W%: 75%

Mobility is Ahri’s biggest strength in the current meta. Spirit Rush gives her three dashes to enter and leave fights as she pleases. Ahri’s item path is also one of the most flexible, as she can build into a teamfighting mage, an assassin, or some combination. MSI featured Morellonomicon, Zhonya’s Hourglass, Hextech Protobelt, Hextech Gunblade, Abyssal Scepter, and Luden’s Echo during the first stage.

Ahri has had the highest total plays during the tournament: 8. She also had the highest win rate of any mid lane champion with more than one game played. It would not be surprising to continue seeing her picked throughout the remainder of the tournament. However, Su “Xiye” Han-Wei lost his only Ahri game this Spring in the LPL.

Bot

2017 MSI bot lane power pick: Ashe   P/B: 88%   W%: 50%

Ever since Blade of the Ruined King rose to prominence, Ashe has remained pick or ban in most regions. Her global engage (Enchanted Crystal Arrow) and follow-up damage (Ranger’s Focus) potential is unrivaled in the AD Carry position.

Only Nguyen “Slay” Ngoc Hung has fewer than nine games on Ashe this Spring. All bot lanes in the tournament should be comfortable playing on this champion.

Items on Ashe are straightforward. Runaan’s Hurricane, Infinity Edge, Berserker’s Greaves, and Last Whisper generally round out the build. Landing ultimates is crucial for an Ashe to succeed. The entire team needs to be ready to pull the trigger after a well-placed Enchanted Crystal Arrow.

2017 MSI bot lane power pick: Caitlyn   P/B: 67%   W%: 40%

The non-utility marksman with the largest presence at MSI thus far is Caitlyn. While her Yordle Snap Traps provide small amounts of crowd control, Caitlyn’s primary goal is to rattle off as many auto-attacks as possible. Her passive, Headshot, can decimate entire teams once Runaan’s Hurricane is in play.

It’s unclear whether or not Caitlyn will remain such a high priority for the rest of the tournament. Her win rate so far has not justified her high pick rate. Many of the world’s top AD Carries seem partial to drafting marksmen with higher skill caps and higher risk-reward, such as Ezreal, Twitch or Lucian.

Only Jin “Mystic” Sung-jun has played Caitlyn more than 3 games this Spring. Lu “Betty” Yuhung, Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Jason “WildTurtle” Tran have played her one game each.

2017 MSI bot lane power pick: Varus   P/B: 67%   W%: 43%

Varus has the lowest average damage per minute of the entire AD Carry class at MSI (392). He is played similarly to Ashe, except he trades lower engage pressure for higher poke damage. A well-placed Chain of Corruption can lock someone down long enough to eliminate them. Piercing Arrow gives bot lanes the ability to snipe low-health enemies.

Varus’ build path is virtually identical to Ashe’s, as well. Blade of the Ruined King, Runaan’s Hurricane, Infinity Edge, and Last Whisper are common. Some attack speed builds can include Guinsoo’s Rageblade.

Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Mystic have win rates 50% or lower with Varus. Betty has maintained a 100% win rate over sevengames played.

Support

2017 MSI support power pick: Lulu  P/B: 100%   W%: 53%

The only champion that is currently 100% pick or ban is Lulu. However, she only won just over half of the time. Lulu’s majorly impactful Wild Growth couple with the reliability of Help Pix!-Glitterlance-Thunderlord’s Decree poke makes her relevant at all stages of the game.

All support players at the tournament should be well-versed in Lulu’s gameplay. Her mechanics are rather straightforward, but proper timing of speed-ups, shields, slows and enlargments separates the best Lulu players from the majority.

2017 MSI support power pick: Zyra   P/B: 33%   W%: 50%

321 damage per minute is not bad for a support champion. That has been the average for Zyra at MSI so far. Brand is the only support to out-damage her.

Zyra seems to work for all support players at the tournament except Vincent “Biofrost” Wang, who only has a 20% win rate on the champion. Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie has even maintained a 100% win rate with Zyra over 8 games.

Depending on the needs of a team, support players build full damage or more healing and shielding. MSI has seen Redemption, Locket of the Iron Solari, Liandry’s Torment and Rylai’s Crystal Scepter.

2017 MSI support power pick: Karma   P/B: 63%   W%: 50%

When Lulu is unavailable, Karma becomes the next best utility support. Her Mantra-Inspire shields and speeds up the entire team, which provides some the most potent engage and disengage a support champion can offer. Karma’s Mantra-Inner Flame offers strong poke in lane, which is why many players choose Thunderlord’s Decree as their keystone mastery.

All of the remaining support players have 60% or higher win rates with Karma. While it has not been as common this Spring, Karma can also flex into mid lane. Xiye, for example, has won 100% of LPL game using mid Karma (6 games).

 

While these may have been the most prominent picks in the first stage of MSI, plenty of champions were played. Unique picks such as Sona, Blitzcrank and Darius left their mark on the Rift. Tahm Kench was played in the top lane. Hopefully, there will be more variation as other teams enter the competition. Nonetheless, look to these last seven teams to show how high the ceilings are on these champions, and why they may currently be so popular internationally.

Champion Images: http://leagueoflegends.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Champion_squares

MSI Champion Statisticshttp://www.gamesoflegends.com/tournament/stats.php?id=MSI%20Play-In%202017

Featured Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lolesports/albums/72157683248434325/with/34384923145/

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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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Support Players: The Unsung Heroes of Counter-Strike

A huge problem among top level teams is that they find themselves with too many players who want to be bigshots. The difficulty lies in the fact that there are only five players on a team, and only so many kills to go around. Naturally, not all players on the team will perform equally. When five different player’s egos come into play, it makes it very difficult to find balance and that’s where the frustration begins. So, the support role is the solution to this problem.

The support is someone who steps up and supports the team with flashbangs and smoke grenades. They usually work to get trade kills with their teammates and stay back to keep the number advantages on their side. Supports won’t typically make risky plays and will stick near other players to help wherever they can. Their contributions won’t show up on the scoreboard, but they make all the difference in high-level matches.

The Angry Fans

The dynamics here are much more subtle from a spectators perspective. When you see players under-preforming on the scoreboard, it becomes easy to point them out as the problem for their team. A lot of support players catch a lot of heat for their performances, but they are essential to the team.

C9 Shroud, Courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

One of North America’s finest, Cloud9’s Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek, has been catching a huge amount of criticism in the community in the last 6 months for his transition to more of a support role. When Shroud originally came to Cloud9, he was supposed to be a rifler. He has some of the best aim and game sense in North America, and so many are questioning why his scoreboard tallies have been so low.

Shroud began his transition after the addition of Jake “Stewie2k” Yip and Timothy “autimatic” Ta as rifler mains. Shroud said himself on his stream that he is “no longer the all-star” and that “his job now is to make [Stewie2k and autimatic] look good… I’ll die for them, I’ll flash for them, I’ll do anything for those guys”.

Some of the Best

 

Xyp9x

Courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

Astralis’ Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth

The current support player for Astralis, Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth, is world renowned for his skill. Xyp9x has been outstanding for Astralis in 2017 and was essential in their completion of their quest for a major trophy. Back in January, when Astralis took their victory over Virtus Pro, he was able to step up and get key kills on the second and third map which massively helped them secure the series.

NBK

Courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

G2’s Nathan “NBK” Schmitt

Nathan “NBK” Schmitt is a strong rifler and support player for G2 E-sports. Having spent the entirety of his career on French CS:GO teams, he has been able to master the support role for his team. He just recently switched to G2 back in February, but his support skill was on a strong display for the two years he spent on Team EnVyUs.

C9 Shroud

Courtesy of Shroud’s youtube channel

Cloud 9’s Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek

Some might find this pick questionable. Shroud is still widely regarded as an aggressive fragger and not so much a support player. But be assured, Shroud is the real deal for supports. He has already proven that he is an amazing rifler and one of the best in North America. He will definitely take some more time to fully adjust to his role, but even he himself said it’s time for this change.

Why Supports Deserve More Respect

A lot of people will look at Xyp9x’s, NBK’s and Shroud’s scores and become disappointed with their results. However, all the hard work they are putting in to help the team is going unrecognized. It’s the contributions outside of the scoreboard that really make the difference in the top tier teams. It’s not so much the number of kills a player has, but when and where they got the kills as well as what they mean for the game. Support players put their egos aside and play with confidence for their team, which deserves more recognition.


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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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