Upset will be a rookie for the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Meet the rookie class of EU LCS Spring 2018

Riot Games recently announced that the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split will begin on January 19. The league will no longer be split into two groups, and matches return to best-of-ones. FC Schalke 04, Misfits Gaming, Team Vitality, Fnatic, Splyce, Team ROCCAT, Unicorns of Love, Giants Gaming, G2 Esports and H2K are the competing teams.

Like past years, the 2017-2018 off-season was filled with roster changes. Only 14 players will be on the same team in Spring 2018 that they were on in Summer 2017. Febiven, PowerOfEvil, Zven and Mithy transferred to teams in North America. With so many players changing teams and leaving the region altogether, new faces will fill the void left behind.

12 rookies have joined teams in the EU LCS for Spring Split. This is about half as many rookies as the 2017 Spring Split (roughly 21), but more than North America’s 2018 crop (roughly eight). The newcomers are distributed across top lane (two), mid lane (three), AD carry (three) and support (four). There are no starting rookie junglers this split.

 

Ruin will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

GIANTS – RUIN

Most recent experience – 2017 European Challenger Series, Giants Gaming

Summer statistics – 4.0 KDA, 61.8% participation, 22.5% damage

One of the only rookies to remain on his Challenger qualifier team, Ruin is the top laner for Giants. He helped Giants qualify into the LCS through the EU CS Summer Split last year. His best performances were with Gnar, but he also played Jarvan IV, Cho’Gath and Poppy. Jungle-top synergy will be Ruin’s biggest adjustment for 2018. Giants replaced Gilius with Djoko, a much less aggressive jungler with poor 2017 performances.

 

WhiteKnight is a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from Leaguepedia

UNICORNS OF LOVE – WHITEKNIGHT 

Most recent experience – European Challenger Series, Paris Saint-Germain

Summer statistics – 1.2 KDA, 41.4% participation, 16.3% damage

WhiteKnight is the other top lane rookie for Spring 2018. His Challenger team, Paris Saint-Germain, performed much better in the 2017 Spring Split than Summer Split. Nautilus is the only champion that WhiteKnight played more than twice, maintaining a 60 percent win rate. With Unicorns of Love spiraling downward at the end of 2017, and rebuilding in the off-season, WhiteKnight should look to simply learn and grow as much as he can in 2018.

 

Caedrel is a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

H2K – CAEDREL

Most recent experience – 2017 European Challenger Series, FC Schalke 04

Summer statistics – 6.2 KDA, 71.9% participation, 28.4% damage

With all of their 2017 members released, H2K is rebuilding for 2018. Caedrel joins to replace Febiven as mid laner from S04. He finished the EU CS Summer Split with the most kills and assists of any mid laner. While it will take time for all five new H2K players to gel, Caedrel has potential as a rookie. His best performances were with Corki, Orianna and Leblanc.

 

Blanc will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from Leaguepedia

TEAM ROCCAT – BLANC

Most recent experience – 2017 European Challenger Series, Paris Saint-Germain

Summer statistics – 2.7 KDA, 73.5% participation, 36.3% damage

The other rookie from Paris Saint-Germain, Blanc joins Team ROCCAT to replace Betsy in the mid lane. He was a standout while in the EU CS, with solid laning statistics and damage. Blanc also has experience as a starter for Jin Air Green Wings in the LCK, and substituted for G2 during their first series of Summer Split 2017. He will be a pivotal figure for a completely rebuilt ROCCAT line-up.

 

Jiizuke will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

TEAM VITALITY – JIIZUKE

Most recent experience – 2017 European Challenger Series, Giants Gaming

Summer statistics – 6.5 KDA, 72.2% participation, 31% damage

Jiizuke is the only Italian player in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split. He joins as Vitality’s mid laner, along with three other members of Giants’ CS roster. Jiizuke drafted mostly Orianna and Leblanc during Summer Split, but also mixed in five Ekko games. Previous synergy with his teammates is a huge advantage that Jiizuke will have over the other rookie mid laners.

 

Upset will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

FC SCHALKE 04 – UPSET

Most recent experience – 2017 European Challenger Series, FC Schalke 04

Summer statistics – 8.2 KDA, 14.4% death, 29.4% damage

Upset is the other player remaining with his promoted Challenger organization. S04 rebuilt their entire roster around the rookie AD Carry. Unlike some of the other 2018 newcomers, Upset will be surrounded by veterans at every position, which should allow for an easier transition. He has shown proficiency on a wide range of marksmen, and he is well-rounded at every stage of the game.

 

Sheriff will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from 5mid.com

H2K – SHERIFF

Most recent experience – 2017 Turkish Promotion League, Besiktas Esports Club

Summer statistics – 3.3 KDA, 53.8% participation, 20.9% gold

Sheriff enters the EU LCS after a stint in the TPL this summer where he helped Besiktas finish second place. He joins H2K as their rookie AD Carry, along with Caedrel, Santorin, SmittyJ and Sprattel. The veterans of H2K’s team have been relegated to Challenger leagues for a while now, so they will need Sheriff to execute in order to succeed. Kalista and Ashe were his best champions during Summer Split.

 

Minitroupax will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

TEAM VITALITY – MINITROUPAX

Most recent experience – 2017 European Challenger Series, Giants Gaming

Summer statistics – 10.7 KDA, 10.1% death, 27% damage

One of the most anticipated rookie additions to the EU LCS for 2018, Minitroupax is the ADC for Vitality. He finished the EU CS Summer Split with stellar statistics and helped Giants qualify for the LCS. Minitroupax mostly played Caitlyn and Kalista, but he also showcased high marks on Xayah, Tristana and Jhin. Ex-Giants support, Jactroll, is also joining Vitality, making them one of two bottom lanes staying together from 2017 into 2018.

 

Targamas will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from Twitter

GIANTS – TARGAMAS

Most recent experience – 2017 Challenge France, GamersOrigin

Summer statistics – Unavailable

Targamas will be the player with the least experience in the EU LCS this spring. He enters the LCS from Challenge France, the French national league, joining Giants as a rookie support. With supports like Jesiz, Chei, Klaj and Noxiak without LCS starter positions, Giants must see something worthwhile in Targamas. He joins Steeelback in the bottom lane.

 

Norskeren will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

TEAM ROCCAT – NORSKEREN

Most recent experience – 2017 European Challenger Series, FC Schalke 04

Summer statistics – 5.9 KDA, 17.8% death, 64.4 participation

Norskeren will duo with HeaQ in ROCCAT’s bottom lane this spring. The Norwegian rookie support played for S04 last split to help qualify into the LCS. A fiendish Tahm Kench player, Norskeren put up solid performances in EU CS last year. Luckily, Schalke’s jungler, Memento, will join ROCCAT, as well. The synergy and utility of these two players will be the main hope of weaving together Profit, Blanc and HeaQ into a winning team.

 

Jactroll will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

TEAM VITALITY – JACTROLL

Most recent experience – European Challenger Series, Giants Gaming

Summer statistics – 5.3 KDA, 21.2% death, 69% participation

Giants’ Summer Split support, Jactroll, joins Vitality for 2018. Playing mostly Braum and Thresh, he prefers play-makers over enchanters. Jactroll enters the LCS with three of his four Challenger teammates, which should make the transition that much easier. With only five of 10 LCS supports carrying over from 2017, this position is ripe for a rookie to take over.

 

Totoro will be a rookie in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

Image from Unicorns of Love App

UNICORNS OF LOVE – TOTORO

Most recent experience – 2017 League Champions Korea, bbq Olivers

Summer statistics – 2.7 KDA, 19.3% death, 65.1 participation

Totoro is a “rookie” out of the LCK, joining Unicorns of Love as a support. His previous team, bbq Olivers, maintained a 28.9 percent win rate, and Totoro played for ESC Ever prior to that. He mostly played Braum and Rakan during Summer Split, but also drafted 11 different champions over 45 games. As a rookie Korean import, Totoro is the polar opposite of Samux’s previous support, Hylissang, which will take time to adjust.

These are the rookies for the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split. All 12 of these individuals will shape the professional League of Legends landscape this year. One of these players may become the next European superstar. One of these players may not handle the pressure. Nonetheless, it will be exciting to watch these rising talents mesh with their respective teams and coaches and grow throughout the Spring Split.

credits

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr, Leaguepedia, 5mid.com, Twitter, Unicorns of Love App

Player and Champion Statistics: Games of Legends, Oracle’s Elixir

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FlyQuest secured a franchise slot for 2018

FlyQuest: A new logo, a new roster, a new beginning

As the off-season continues, North American LCS organizations are putting together their teams for 2018. Most of the line-ups remain as rumors and reports, but FlyQuest is one of a few that is fully confirmed. While TSM and Team Liquid are garnering attention for their dramatic overhauls, FlyQuest has flown a little bit under the radar. On November 30, they announced top laner Flame, jungler Anda, mid laner Fly, AD carry Wildturtle and support Stunt as their roster.

Balls, Moon, Hai and Lemonnation are no longer apart of the team. The identity of this organization is completely made over, as none of the original 2017 Spring Split members remain. Many fans are questioning whether or not FlyQuest will perform as highly without Hai’s shotcalling presence, but the organization seems prepared to move beyond that next year. With a franchise slot, a more polished logo and an updated roster, FlyQuest will look to reclaim the top of the standings.

Wildturtle Remains

WildTurtle is FlyQuest's AD carry for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

FlyQuest’s 2018 roster was rebuilt around WildTurtle, their veteran AD Carry. Of their five Summer Split players, WildTurtle stood out most often as a hard carry. Despite FlyQuest’s 6-12 record, Wildturtle averaged the fourth most damage per minute, good enough for a 26.3 percent damage share. He has played in the NA LCS for five years now, which makes him one of the longest tenured players.

Moving into 2018, Wildturtle will have a lot on his shoulders. With the likes of Zven, Doublelift and Sneaky, the AD carry position will be very competitive. Wildturtle will need to rise to the occasion for FlyQuest to compete. With a fresh new support backing him up, Wildturtle should take control of the bottom lane and carry FlyQuest to victories.

While Wildturtle died more than any other AD carry in the Summer Split, it was mostly due to FlyQuest’s team playstyle. As the scrappiest team in the league, they would look for fights even if they were behind. Every member of FlyQuest finished the season with the most deaths in their positions. This strategy is most likely gone with Hai.

Wildturtle played on Cloud9, TSM and Immortals before his time on FlyQuest. He has gone to the League of Legends World Championships three times and he has made it to the NA LCS finals even more. Wildturtle is capable of making FlyQuest a top team in 2018, especially if the meta favors late-game scaling marksmen. If the other members are able to play around him by engaging fights and protecting him, then Wildturtle will willingly carry them to victory. He rarely tilts in-game, and he is an apparent positive player out-of-game.

imported solo lanes

Flame will play top lane for FlyQuest in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

FlyQuest will employ Flame and Fly as solo laners in 2018. Flame is known from his past year as Immortals’ top laner. Other than his brief stumbling in the beginning of the 2017 Spring Split, he looked exceptional. While on Immortals, Flame showed strength in laning phase and teamfighting, playing Jarvan IV, Shen, Nautilus and many others.

Fly also played in North America in the Summer Split. Gold Coin United finished the Challenger Series regular summer season 8-2, thanks in part to Fly’s mid lane performance. He maintained a 100 percent win rate with Orianna, and over 10.0 KDAs on Galio, Corki and Taliyah. He should fit right into the stacked LCS talent pool.

Beyond the alliteration, Flame and Fly bring consistency and reliability to the mid and top lanes of the map. These players are also unafraid to carry or support their teammates. They should be compatible with Wildturtle, since Immortals and Gold Coin United played well around their passive AD carries.

There have been several past teams that failed to utilize their dual-Korean solo lanes. Team Envy with Ninja-Seraph and Ninjas in Pyjamas with Profit-Nagne are two examples. Communication and synergy were the major issues holding back those rosters. Since Flame and Fly have already spent time on North American teams with mixed nationalities, then maybe they have overcome any issues with communicating. With relative newcomers playing the supportive positions, it will be of utmost importance.

Jungle and Support Solo Queue Stars

Stunt will play support for FlyQuest in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Anda and Stunt round out the roster as jungle and support. Anyone who watched the NA LCS should recognize Stunt as the support who shared duties with Shady on Phoenix1 in Spring Split. While Shady typically played high-damage supports, Stunt was more apt to play Karma, Lulu or Taric. He was most recently a substitute for Immortals during this year’s Summer Split.

Anda was also a substitute for Immortals this summer. While he has not seen the stage as much as Stunt, Anda is known as a formidable solo queue player. He switched from top lane to jungle, where his top champions are Nidalee, Elise, Lee Sin and Rengar. FlyQuest will hope to channel his mechanics and raw talent into success, much like Moon during the Spring Split.

These two young athletes will be the deciding factors for FlyQuest in 2018. Stunt will need to prove himself as a starter. Anda will need to translate his skills into a more coordinated setting. Hopefully they developed synergy during their time on Immortals, and FlyQuest saw that before signing these two. Jungle-support synergy is huge, as shown by Xmithie-Olleh and Lira-Hakuho in the Summer Split.

If Anda and Stunt are able to develop more playstyle flexibility, then that would boost FlyQuest’s chances even higher. Flame and Fly have shown their willingness to play roaming and utility champions, which would empower Anda and Stunt to play more carry champions. But there will be times when the meta calls for tanks and utility from jungle and support. If Anda and Stunt can work together to establish vision, seamlessly communicate and enable Flame, Fly and Wildturtle, then it could be a recipe for success.

putting together all of the pieces

Fly will play mid lane for FlyQuest in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

FlyQuest’s recipe for success involves each of these players fulfilling their roles. Flame will be a rock in the top lane, absorbing any enemy pressure while steadily chipping away at the opponent top laner. Fly will generally gain an advantage in his lane, but rely more on Anda’s jungling for vision and ganking. Wildturtle and Stunt will play the lane passively. As long as they have a scaling AD carry and enchanter support, then they will be in their comfort zone.

Once mid game rolls around, Fly and Anda will take control of whichever river they want. Flame and Fly will look for any chance to impact other parts of the map and begin the snowball. Anda and Stunt will do their best to protect Wildturtle and allow him to output all the damage in the world.

Finally, this team’s teamfight could be their golden ticket. It all depends on communication and flexibility. The top half of FlyQuest’s team can easily gain a lead, and bottom lane just has to make it through laning phase without giving too much. Coordination will most likely be difficult in the first few weeks of the split, but by the halfway point, FlyQuest could become quite the contender.

They should resemble 2017 Summer Split Fnatic. Each member can carry in their own right, and when they are coordinated and decisive they look amazing. But when communication breaks down, or a player gets tilted, then it all comes crumbling down. FlyQuest is looking to make waves in 2018, and most of the community is sleeping on them.


Featured Image: FlyQuest’s Facebook

Other Images: LoL Esports’ Flickr

Player and Team Statistics: Games of Legends, Oracles Elixir

Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Thomas!

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FC Schalke 04 will live or die by jungle and support in 2018

The 2018 League of Legends preseason continues to heat up, as LCS teams announce roster changes and the media reports daily updates. North American franchising has been a large spot of attention, while the European league has been quiet. Some major players are reportedly transferring to North America, but others have maintained that they are staying in Europe. A select few have announced that they are remaining on the same team from 2017 into 2018.

FC Schalke 04 is the only team to officially announce their entire EU LCS roster. Since re-entering the LCS by promotion from the Challenger Series, Schalke replaced four out of five players and only kept AD carry Upset. Schalke brought on Vizicsacsi, long-time top laner for Unicorns of Love, Pridestalker, Rookie of the Summer Split from Roccat, Nukeduck and Vander, reputable mid laner and support most recently from Team Vitality. There is a plethora of experience between Vizicsacsi, Nukeduck and Vander, while Pridestalker and Upset are promising young talents.

vizicsacsi: the catalyst

During his time on UOL, Vizicsacsi consistently set the pace of their matches. He is able to play carry champions, such as Gangplank, Irelia and Rumble. Tanks, such as Shen, Gnar, Maokai and Poppy, come naturally to him as well. ‘Csacsi has shown mastery of split-pushing, teleport flanks, lane swapping, diving and teamfighting. He is honestly one of the most well-rounded players in the league.

Vizicsacsi enters Schalke 04 as the catalyst of the team. He truly excels when he is able to gain a lead for himself and press the enemy team to respond to him. Pushing towers in the side lane, or diving the enemy bottom duo, ‘Csacsi applies pressure every chance he can get. During laning phase, he will draw enemy jungle attention, making room for Pridestalker to impact mid lane and the enemy jungle.

Moving into the mid game, Vizicsacsi will communicate ways that he can force the enemy’s hand. The opponent’s top laner will choose between regaining control of his lane or following Csacsi to another point on the map. Vizicsacsi always tries to use his tools offensively, so Teleport, Stand United, Cannon Barrage and other timings are crucial for Schalke victories. He will use these global abilities to press the attack when ahead, or turn the game around when behind.

Pridestalker: the wildcard

With only one split under his belt, Pridestalker comes on board without a clear role. Roccat finished the Summer Split with a 5-8 record, mostly losing because of their weak solo laners and poor neutral objective control. The team had an overall lack of proactivity, even when Pridestalker assisted his team in gaining early leads. The team finished the regular season bottom three in the league for First Blood, first turret, first three turrets and dragon percentage.

With the 2018 Schalke line-up, Pridestalker will be the true wildcard player. Team Vitality in the 2017 Summer Split is a good example of what happens when a team of veteran players has a sub-par jungler. Hopefully, Pridestalker pulls through as a keen tracker, keeping tabs on the enemy’s whereabouts and strategy. His most played champions include Kha’Zix, Graves and his pocket pick Warwick, all perfect for singling out the enemy jungler and punishing failed ganks.

Pridestalker needs to be the thorn in the enemy’s side. Each of his lanes are formidable in their own right, so Pridestalker can continue to lock in junglers with solo kill potential. He should focus on managing deep vision in the opponent’s jungle to track their pathing and allow the other members of Schalke to make smart decisions. Pridestalker’s ability to mesh with the rest of the team, to function as a counter-jungler and to control the map will be crucial. He will truly be the wildcard for Schalke’s Spring Split.

Nukeduck: the Anchor

Vitality’s saving grace in the 2017 Summer Split, Nukeduck has won the respect of Europe’s elite players over his several years of experience. Despite Vitality’s 5-8 record, Nukeduck generally won his lane, played a wide range of champions, and output almost a third of the team’s damage. He is one of the only players in recent memory to truly stand out while playing for a losing team.

Moving into 2018, Schalke will hope to utilize Nukeduck’s consistency and unleash more of his carry potential. The mid laner pulled off wins with zoning mages like Orianna and Syndra, AD hyper-carries like Corki and Kog’Maw and mobile assassins like Leblanc and Kassadin. With a more consistent jungler and bottom lane, Nukeduck should be able to be even more dominant in lane, opening him up for more roams and invades.

This could be a match made in heaven. Schalke is looking for redemption since their initial flop in the EU LCS, and Nukeduck could be the key. He continues to prove himself worthy in the eyes of his peers. 2018 is Nukeduck’s chance to regain some team glory since his days with Lemondogs. At worst, he will be the anchor in the mid lane: reliable and consistent.

Upset: the raw talent

Schalke’s AD carry, Upset, is the only qualifying member that they held onto for 2018. With a complete roster rebuild, Upset will need to adapt quickly to his new bottom lane partner and other teammates. Other than Pridestalker, every player Schalke acquired in the off-season will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to help mold Upset into a future star. This player quickly rose to prominence in the European Challenger Series, and he will look to begin his legacy as an LCS-level player next year.

Europe has a great track record with rookies in recent years. Broxah, Caps, Pridestalker, Alphari, Hans sama, Xerxe and Samux were all rookies in 2017. Schalke is betting on Upset’s potential by building the entire team around him, and for good reason. Throughout the Summer Split he averaged ahead in lane at 15 minutes, which transitioned into menacing teamfighting. Always aggressive, Upset is not afraid to step forward to inflict those extra ticks of damage. He typically output 600 damage per minute, good enough for a 30 percent share.

This raw talent needs to become focused in 2018. With the proper structure, Upset could develop into the next Forgiven. His precision and presence on the map are very similar to the legendary AD carry, and it is no coincidence that Schalke is pairing him with Vander, Forgiven’s old support. Upset can easily become a prominent player in the EU LCS Spring Split, and there is a future for him if Schalke plays its cards right.

Vander: the facilitator

Vizicsacsi will create pressure. Pridestalker will scout the enemy. Nukeduck will consistently carry. Upset will pop off. Vander will be left to gel it all together. This support’s first task is to help Upset create pressure in his lane. Then they will transition that pressure into jungle invades and securing dragons. Protecting Nukeduck and Upset in teamfights will be Vander’s ultimate responsibility, since Pridestalker and Vizicsacsi will most likely engage.

Thresh, Braum and Alistar are Vander’s most played champions of all time, but he has had most success with Taric, Trundle, Nautlius and Shen. Vander definitely performs best with tanks that bring utility to the game. He has never really looked as comfortable on Nami or Lulu, and he has never even played Soraka on stage. This could be one opening for Schalke’s opponents in the future, especially if the meta favors enchanters.

Vander did not elevate Team Vitality as expected in the Summer Split. They still did not come close to making it to playoffs. Hopefully, a new roster and infrastructure will see Vander return to his 2016 H2K performance. He supported Forgiven and the rest of H2K to a World Championship semifinals finish. Just like Nukeduck and the Schalke organization, 2018 could be a year of redemption for Vander.

Schalke 04: the New Hotness

Krepo will coach FC Schalke 04 in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

On paper, Schalke has top talent in almost every position. There are some question marks around Pridestalker’s actual skill level, Nukeduck and Vander’s confidence levels since playing for Vitality and Schalke’s support structure as an organization. 2018 will provide the answers to these questions.

Schalke is the first team to officially announce its roster. They have beaten other organizations to the punch, and maybe it will pay off. This mix of formidable veterans, rising stars and overall playstyle flexibility could make for a sharp team. The Spring Split will be full of tests, especially considering Mitch “Krepo” Voorspoels is head coach. This will be Krepo’s first appearance back on the League of Legends scene since stepping down from Riot casting after a scandal earlier this year. This will be his first time coaching, although he is a former LCS player and caster.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Player and Team Statistics: Games of Legends, Oracles Elixir

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Skywrath Mage

Skywrath Mage returns

Dragonus, the Skywrath Mage has been through a turbulent couple of years in DotA 2. Though a favored support pick in TI4, he as since fallen out of favor due to some glaring weaknesses. However, the sweeping changes in 7.07 brought some needed buffs to the hero. These buffs increase his viability in a multitude of ways, and I believe he’ll see increased play in pubs and tournaments because of them.

Skywrath’s problems

Where can I even begin here. For starters, though a powerful nuker, all of his damage is magic based. As soon as teams buy BKB, most of his potential effectively disappears. Once the game hit this point, there wasn’t a whole lot a Skywrath Mage could do. His skill set is centered around picking off heroes, and he does this very well in the early game. Unfortunately this leaves him incapable of pushing lanes or taking objectives. The hero’s inflexible nature made him unappealing to teams who might need to pivot strategies mid match.

Until recently, Skywrath also had trouble getting solo pick offs without outside help. For a hero who was supposed to excel at this, this was a major problem. While concussive shot slowed enemies in order to set up his Mystic Flare ultimate, it was not often enough to keep the enemy within the spell’s effective radius on it’s own. In order to ensure full damage, an ally would need to open the engagement with a stun for Skywrath to achieve his full potential.

It’s all a thing of the past

Skywrath Mage

Image courtesy of Dotabuff.com

Skywrath Mage

Image courtesy of Dotabuff.com

IceFrog has graced the Skywrath Mage with a few choice buffs in the last few patches. These buffs both increase his kill potential and his late game options, effectively addressing both of his previous weaknesses.

We’ll start with the buff before 7.07, with the buff to Rod of Atos. Atos was already a fantastic item on Skywrath thanks to the slow stacking with Concussive Shot. While the stacking slow was akin to a full stun, there was still some wiggle room that allowed enemies to escape the Mystic Flare radius. In patch 7.00, Atos’ Cripple ability changed from a four second slow to a two second root. This change makes Skywrath mage a mid-game ganking fiend. Unless an enemy has an escape mechanism or a ton of health, they will find themselves dead if they get caught by this combo.

A talented bird-man

Skywrath Mage

Image courtesy of Dotabuff.com

With the old news out of the way lets move forward to the present. Skywrath received and entirely new series of talents. A couple of these are more noteworthy than others. For starters, the Ancient Seal cooldown talent changed from a level 25 talent to a level 15 talent. Not only that, but the cooldown reduction was increased from four seconds to six seconds. With the ability at level four, Ancient Seal becomes a six second targeted silence with an eight second cooldown. This amount of uptime for a disable is phenomenal, especially as early in the game as level 15. This dramatically improves Skywrath’s ability to participate in fights early by potentially silencing two heroes per fight.

More important is probably the talent sitting on the other side of the level 15 branch: +1 Arcane Bolt. What used to be an Aghanim’s Scepter upgrade in the late game is available for free at level 15. Better yet, the talent stacks with Aghanims, meaning Skywrath can cast 3 Arcane Bolt mini-nukes for just 70 mana. The ability to cast two arcane bolts give’s Skywrath an ability to push lanes that he didn’t have before. Of course other heroes still clear waves better, but now Skywrath has a way to help his team once the BKBs roll out. Naturally, they also drastically increase his damage in team fights.

A pub pick up

Skywrath is a versatile nuker that can disable key carries in team fights and melt supports with his early game pick off potential. While I believe he will remain a situational pick for professional DotA, he can really be an all-star in pub matches. Arcane Seal is a massive disruption for teams with poor communication, and Arcane Bolt remains a relevant low cost nuke late in the game thanks to his new talents. Most importantly though, hitting the Rod of Atos/Mystic Flare combo never gets old. In a matchmaking world where people seem hesitant to pick supports, it is hard to go wrong with a Skywrath Mage pick.


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Voting is open for the 2017 All-Star Event

My picks for the 2017 EU LCS All-Star team

The 2017 All-Star voting has opened for esports fans around the world. Members of each region are deciding which players in each role get to represent them as All-Stars. The cream of the crop is rising to the top, as League of Legends players cast their votes.

This year Riot regionally restricted voting, meaning North American players vote for the NA LCS All-Stars, Europeans vote for the EU LCS All-Stars, and so on. Just like every year, there are ongoing debates about what factors into a player’s All-Star status. Is it based on their match statistics? Is it about their team’s success? Does a player’s legacy factor into it? These and many more questions are on everyone’s minds.

I have decided to publicize my choices for the EU LCS All-Stars, since that is the league that I covered most this year. Total disclosure, I am a North American resident, so my actual votes were restricted to the NA LCS. Nonetheless, I do have opinions on who should be considered the European All-Stars this year.

As these choices are subjective, much of what someone finds worthy of All-Star status is merely how they feel when watching a player. An All-Star is someone that wows the audience with their skill and consistency. They are a player that always contributes to their team’s success. All-Stars bring a strong presence in every competition, which usually translates into draft strategy, lane pressure, teamfighting and controlling objectives.

Here are my five choice players. I am only factoring in 2017 performances, including Spring and Summer Splits, Mid-Season Invitational and the World Championship. I largely ignored Rift Rivals, and these player choices do not take into account whether or not a player is their team’s shot-caller.

Vizicsacsi

UOL Vizicsacsi ranks first among EU LCS top laners

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

My only player choice that did not qualify for Worlds this year, Vizicsacsi is the best that Europe has to offer. He consistently put up impressive performances this year, while Unicorns of Love suffered inconsistency as a team. ‘Csacsi is the only top laner in the EU LCS that should play up to the level of any other region’s All-Star opponents. He has been a leader on Unicorns of Love for almost four years straight now, longer than any other top laner in Europe.

Vizicsacsi carried games on Shen, Cho’Gath, Galio and Gnar this summer. He is the only EU LCS top laner to be top four in CS, XP and gold at 15 minutes, damage per minute and damage percentage in Spring and Summer Split this year. For these reasons, Vizicsacsi was first team All-Pro in Spring Split, and third team All-Pro in Summer Split. Finally, Vizicsacsi is one of the most talented players in the world who consistently gets denied opportunities to attend international events, so All-Stars would be a chance to provide him one.

SOAZ and Odoamne are the next closest contenders, in my book. Personally, sOAZ’s negative social media presence towards the end of Summer Split and during Worlds makes it difficult for me to vote for him as an All-Star. His performances this year were solid, even if Fnatic’s overall strategy was leaky. He was also much more likely to be stuck on a tank, rather than experimenting with a wider variety of champions (which, of course, is not entirely his fault).

Odoamne’s credentials are similar to Vizicsacsi’s. He is a legacy EU LCS top laner who has been on H2K since May 2014. Odo was a consistent force this spring and summer, which earned him second team All-Pro both splits. However, Odoamne’s laning phase was considerably worse than Csacsi’s in the Summer Split. He finished seventh-eighth among top laners at 15 minutes.

Maxlore

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Misfits’ run at Worlds was due largely in part to Maxlore’s jungling. There is recency bias in my selection, because Maxlore was not as impressive during Spring Split on Roccat, but he clearly improved through Summer Split. Misfits initially brought him on to replace KaKAO because of his communication. I would say Maxlore fulfilled that promise, as Misfits’ team cohesion and synergy got better and better every game.

The Sejuani-Gragas-Jarvan IV meta benefited Maxlore more than almost any other jungler. He consistently made the most of his tankiness and crowd control. While Misfits did not have the best neutral objective or vision control, their team-fighting was definitely better than their European counterparts, and Maxlore was a huge part of that.

Jankos is Europe’s renowned jungler favorite, but he did not have a stellar year. His “First Blood King” title did not ring true, and his pressure did not seem as strong as years past, especially during the tankier jungle metas. Jankos is still definitely a top European jungler, but not the top jungler of 2017, in my opinion.

Broxah would actually be my second choice. He had a strong showing domestically in Spring Split, and he did earn the first team All-Pro honor for Summer Split. Broxah’s early games were clean, but as the game went on he seemed to have a harder time knowing exactly when to engage or peel, when to contest or concede. I could totally understand someone casting their vote for Broxah, but I simply found Maxlore’s performances at Worlds more All-Star worthy.

Perkz

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

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Mid lane is the role that seems the most straight-forward to me. Perkz had a monster year, even with some setbacks towards the beginning of Summer Split. He brought an excellent combination of laning phase pressure and team-fighting prowess that is hard to find. Other mid laners rarely acquired early game leads against Perkz, and even if they did he never felt fully out of the game.

Add in his Mid-Season Invitational and World Championship performances, and Perkz feels like the right choice. He consistently played up to the level of his opponents, including Faker, xiaohu, Crown and xiye. There were plenty of times where the other members of G2 felt non-existent, yet Perkz always seemed like the player with a plan. He is passionate on and off the Rift. You can feel it in his interviews and in his social media, especially his update following Worlds. Perkz simply feels like the best representation of a European All-Star. 

PowerOfEvil is a close second choice. He exhibited quite a resurgence in 2017 from his days on Origen. Misfits brought him on when they entered the LCS, and he helped bring them to a World Championship. PowerOfEvil’s presence made mid lane the focus of most of their matches, especially when playing Orianna. He almost always got roaming priority during laning phase, and was happy to sacrifice CS and XP to assist his teammates. While I can understand votes cast for PoE, he lacks the bravado that Perkz has, which is keeping me from seeing him as an All-Star.

Febiven and Caps are decent choices, but neither seemed as consistent throughout the game as Perkz or PowerOfEvil. Febiven rarely felt as dominant in team-fights, while Caps regularly played without respect for the enemy jungler. H2K threw early leads due to Febiven’s passivity. Fnatic often lost leads due to Caps’ aggression. They are definitely crucial pieces for their respective teams, but they lack the versatility that Perkz and PoE bring.

Rekkles

Fnatic may qualify for Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The entire Fnatic roster was rebuilt around Rekkles for 2017, and he totally delivered on the pressure. In Spring and Summer Splits, as well as Worlds, Rekkles consistently went even or won bottom lane, and quickly transitioned into methodical positioning and damaging in team-fights. It seems like he had the flashiest moments among AD carries in the EU LCS, juking, flashing forward and making the most of every auto-attack.

Rekkles was also the most inventive marksman in Europe this year. His Kennen went unanswered for a long time. He was one of the only players drafting Sivir when the champion pool was pinched. Rekkles also gave the greatest Twitch performances, all while gladly playing the meta Varus, Ashe, Jhin, Caitlyn, Xayah and Tristana. No other AD carry matched this level of versatility, which is a huge reason he is considered an All-Star.

Zven is the only one who came close, but he was not as dominant this year as last year, in my opinion. He was by far the most consistent bottom laner in Europe, outputting damage and not dying. However, he rarely seemed to push his limits the way Rekkles did. To be fair, Fnatic’s playstyle revolved more around Rekkles than G2’s did around Zven, but that does not discount Rekkles’ performances below Zven’s.

There is a wide gap below Rekkles and Zven. Hans sama certainly stepped up in LCS playoffs and Worlds, when the meta needed him most. I’m not convinced he is on the same level as Fnatic and G2’s AD carries, especially when considering the rest of Summer Split. Kobbe and Samux had consistently good performances throughout the year, but their teams were too inconsistent to let them shine.

IgNar

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

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Similar to Rekkles, IgNar’s champion pool seems endless. He played Malzahar, Zyra and Tahm Kench in Spring, and Thresh, Rakan, Alistar and Bard in Summer. Misfits then drafted Taric, Janna, Leona and Blitzcrank at Worlds. IgNar stuck to the meta when necessary, but he was not afraid to adapt and innovate. This flexibility is part of the reason Misfits was able to make a deeper run at Worlds than expected.

G2’s mithy had a great year for himself. He did have several game-saving plays in the Summer Split. However, while he showed a wide variety of playstyles, he lacked the same innovation as IgNar. I cannot remember a time when mithy drafted a surprise, non-meta pick. He generally went with the flow, and locked in an expected support to compliment Zven’s champion. For this reason, mithy feels like less of an All-Star.

Jesiz, Chei and Wadid were impressive in the support role as well, but they showed a bit less consistency and lack that clutch factor. Jesiz is more aligned with mithy, where his role revolves around Rekkles. H2K and Roccat rely more on Chei and Wadid to actually carry them in games.


Featured Image: LoLesports.com

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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Willow

The many talents of Dark Willow

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Dueling Fates made massive changes to how the game is played, but it will take much more time for players to fully understand the information released in the patch notes. What will not take more time is for players to experience the true headliners of this patch: the new heroes. Dark Willow and Pangolier have invaded pubs the same way every new hero does shortly after launch. I admit partial fault for this, as I’ve been playing the hero extensively in an attempt to understand what makes her click. I will always have more to learn, but I wanted to share what knowledge I’ve gained so far in the hopes that it helps you either play a better Willow, or counter one on the enemy team.

Who likes crowd control?

Willow

Dotabuff.com

I sure love crowd control. It is one of the reasons I was so attracted to this hero in the first place. Let’s start by breaking down some of these crowd control abilities and their uses.

Bramble Patch creates a large maze of thorns that roots enemies that touch the brambles. This skill has many qualities that set it apart from other similar abilities in positive ways. Even at level one, the brambles created by the skill last for a full 15 seconds. If Willow places a Bramble patch behind her team to help them escape, the enemy can’t wait out the duration. They either need a method of ignoring the root, or they have to give up on the chase.

Cursed Crown is a delayed area of effect stun that targets an individual hero. If it hits, this disable will stun all heroes within range of the targeted hero for a full 3.5 seconds at level four. I do use the word “if” for a reason though. Cursed Crown is probably the easiest stun in the game to dodge or disjoint with its 4 second delay. Activating BKB, Aeon Disk, Guardian Greaves or Manta style any time before the stun hits completely removes the effect. When the ability does hit though, it removes at least one hero from the fight for a substantial amount of time. To me, it seems worth casting even if it only baits out a premature item use due to its low cast time.

Terrorize, one of Willow’s two ultimates, forces enemies in a moderate area to flee toward their fountain after a short channeling time. This is a great disengagement tool on its own, but coupled with Bramble Patch it can flip a team fight on its head. If placed correctly, enemies will be unable to dodge the brambles, forcing them to both take damage and be rooted in place for upward of 2.5 seconds. This is definitely a large enough window for the cavalry to arrive and clean up.

But how does she do damage?

I’m glad you asked! Dark Willow’s damage lies primarily in her Shadow Realm nuke and Bedlam, her second ultimate. After taking her +300 Shadow Realm damage at level 20, Shadow Realm becomes a devastating 660 magical nuke. That’s not even the best part. The best part is that Willow becomes untargetable by spells or auto attacks while the nuke is charging. The 600 bonus range granted by the ability ensures that she’ll be able to hit her target, even if the target has turned around and given up chase.

 

Willow

Dotabuff.com

 

Willow

Dotabuff.com

Bedlam, on the other hand, requires Willow to be close to her targets. Once activated, Willow’s faerie companion will circle her while firing magic projectiles at the nearest enemy unit similar to Witch Doctor’s Death Ward. As Willow is not a durable hero, charging in with no plan is ill-advised. When used in tandem with Shadow Realm, Willow can keep herself safe while melting a single hero fairly quickly with Bedlam. It is important to note though that Willow is not completely immune while in the Shadow Realm. Any untargeted AoE abilities will still hurt her, so Willow players should be mindful of their positioning at all times.

So she’s a support, right?

Willow’s strength lies in her ability to disrupt the enemy, making her ideal for a support position. Cursed Crown and Bramble Patch make her incredibly useful for setting up kills and escapes in the laning phase. As Shadow Realm levels up, her increased burst damage and range can help secure kills on more elusive heroes as well. Add that to the fact that her abilities scale well with levels and not items, and you’ve got a solid support on your hands.

One of Willow’s biggest problems in the laning stage comes with her mana pool. Her abilities generally require tons of mana and have long cooldowns to start, making mana boots a must buy. A Kaya purchase in the mid game basically solves her mana problems for the rest of the game. The additional spell amplification also helps her nuke, making it a great item for support Willow. Unfortunately, Willow’s other weakness is that she is still incredibly squishy, even in the late game.

Initially, I thought that Meteor Hammer might be the item to solve this, but I was disappointed with the results. Though the strength gain and regen provided by the hammer seemed great, the active ability left me wanting. Even under the protection of Shadow Realm I frequently found myself unable to channel the hammer for the full duration. If for some reason you’re getting tons of gold as Willow, feel free to give it a try yourself. For those less adventurous, a Glimmer Cape will increase your survivability just fine.

Dark Willow has a lot of freedom in the late game when it comes to items. Rod of Atos can help lock a hero in place while you Bedlam them to death. Shiva’s Guard increases Willow’s tankiness and inhibits right click heavy line-ups well. Purchase a Scythe of Vyse if you absolutely need to lock down that one problem hero. Feel free to go more aggressive with an Orchid into Bloodthorn to increase damage as well. As long as you’re picking intelligence items that are appropriate to your individual game, it’s difficult to make a wrong choice.

But in a game I played…

Yes, I am fully aware of the number of carry Willow builds out in the wild. While I don’t think this is the optimal way to play the character, the concept is not without merit. In fact, Willow’s +200 attack speed perk at level 25 almost single-handedly enables this kind of build. First of all, the character’s attack animation is already solid even at level one, tacking almost two full moonshards for free at level 25 transforms her into a machine gun.

If you’re keen to try this playstyle, I would highly recommend the mid lane for a couple of reasons. First of all, you won’t have to be fighting for farm in another lane where your teammate thinks they’re a better carry than you. Secondly, Willow’s abilities benefit greatly from fast levels, which are inevitable in the mid-lane. Willow’s great attack animation should help secure the CS, and an early bottle will sustain her mana in the early game.

As a carry, the enemy team might try to focus you more than as a support. For this reason, a glimmer cape probably is not going to cut it as a defensive item. I have had some success purchasing a Linken’s Sphere as an alternative. Linken’s coupled with Shadow Realm invulnerability makes Willow maddeningly difficult to lock down, and the extra stats and regen help solve her mana problems further. On the way to level 25, additional intelligence items like Scythe or Atos still help with both her lockdown and attack damage. The magic burst from Mjolnir coupled with even more attack speed makes it a solid pick as well.

If you still have money after all of those purchases, Nullifier is a great addition to a carry Willow’s arsenal. By the time you get a nullifier, machine gun mode should be online. Willow will attack so fast that she’ll be able to keep a Nullified enemy slowed all by herself. Bloodthorn will keep enemies from fighting back while giving her machine gun attacks chances to crit.

What are your closing thoughts then?

I still don’t fully agree with carry Willow, but sometimes it is necessary to adapt to the needs of the team. There are worse heroes than Willow to answer the call for an impromptu mid player. Her world-class crowd control abilities make her relevant in every stage in the game, and her talent choices make her versatile enough to shift roles should the need arise. Though I’m sure we’ll all still be learning where she fits into the competitive scene over the next few months, putting in time on her now is definitely a worthwhile investment.


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map

What the Season 5 map changes mean for Smite

A lot has been said about Smite’s map and most of it has not been positive. It appears that Hi-Rez have listened and for Season 5 we are going to have a new map. From the little we already know, it looks like a lot of the community’s gripes have been addressed.

What we know already

The biggest complaint about the map has always been that it’s too small. One of the problems this creates is that it makes rotations go unpunished as you are not sacrificing farm going from lane to lane. As it currently stands it takes less time to clear and get to another lane than it does for new lanes to meet.

This creates multiple problems, but one of the most apparent is the lack of identity junglers have in Smite. A recurring complaint is that compared to other MOBA’s, junglers feel like a second mid rather than an actual jungler. For a while now we have known Smite as having two genuine laners in an ADC and solo, and then the core centered around mid lane of jungle, support and mid. They spend so much time together that instead of feeling like their own roles, it more feels like a combined role which plays different parts in a fight.

map

Image courtesy of Reddit.com/r/Smite /u/Gehlen_

The larger map should help solve this problem to some degree, as rotating around will now be more likely to cost farm on the map, simply due to travel time. As of right now, there is just so much farm clustered around the mid lane which is available without cost that the tri-lane is inevitable. In competitive play we keep hearing that ADC’s are pretty much being left alone, this is one of the reasons why. Warriors from solo can impact and get to the farm around mid quicker and are much better at contesting it early.

The larger map should also help junglers because if people are naturally more spread out, ganks become a more powerful tool. Anyone who plays a lot of Assassins knows that they really thrive when they can isolate people. Turning a 1v1 into a 2v1 is more impactful that turning a 3v3 into a 4v3. Also Assassins for the most part are burst damage, close range squishy targets. So it becomes a lot harder to do what they want to when there are multiple people peeling and there is enough damage to blow them up. If there are more ganks the SPL should also become even more fun to watch.

Another reason for the lack of identity junglers face is that they have no way of being stealthy. How can a jungler hide what side of the map they’re on when they have to constantly dip into waves for XP and all the entrances to the jungle are in the sight of the other team. At least part of this has been addressed as now there are entrances into the jungle which are completely hidden.

What we don’t know

As of now all we have really been given are the dimensions of the map, so there is a lot to still be addressed. We have been told that there will be at the very least new jungle paths and gameplay changes.

What can new jungle paths offer us? Firstly, we could no longer have straight line paths directly from lane to lane. The effect of this would be to artificially make the map bigger, as rotations will take longer. Secondly, they could make the jungle feel more dangerous. The jungle in Smite at the moment is not a particularly dangerous place if warded correctly. The jungle lanes are massive, and there is not a huge amount of mystery in them. By that I mean with decent wards, it’s incredibly easy to have all the major pathways and entrances covered. You know where everybody is or could be, making the jungle a less punishing place than it should be. Especially with how much space there is in them and numerous escape routes.

Other gameplay changes they could make have to do with farm and how it functions. Clear is king in smite, with how the map currently functions early pressure in mid is just far too important. To emphasize that point we are currently in a late game meta, but still the priority is early pressure. Look at the resurgence of Raijin. He is regarded as one of, if not the strongest mid right now. What is the single best thing about Raijin, his early clear. We have also seen ADC’s and mid laners starting together in mid while supports solo duo in Season 4. If that doesn’t highlight the value of mid clear I don’t know what else will.

There are a few things which make the mid clear so important. One of them is how much farm there is around mid and how quickly you can get to it. Another is that the mid wave meets five seconds before any other wave, so not only is it closer but you have a head start. A lot of the stress over mid lane pressure comes from these two reasons. So with the new jungle paths and gameplay changes maybe we will see camps take longer to get to from mid and waves meeting at the same time.

Another big gameplay change we could potentially be seeing is how splitting camps works. As it currently stands splitting a camp actually generates farm out of thin air. This is another reason why you want the mid lane pressure so you can go split all the valuable camps around it. It is also one of the reasons why junglers are attached at the hip to their mid laner. In a competitive setting you just can’t give up the 33 percent extra farm gained from splitting a camp. It’s like trying to play without last hitting, you are just going to fall behind. If you are splitting every camp, you need to also be getting waves, otherwise you are just going to get massively behind in the jungle.

Conclusion

What we know so far about the new map looks good. One of the things holding Smite back for a long time has been the map, both in competitive and casual play. So it is great that it looks like Hi-Rez are really doing something different with the Season 5 map.

If you want to know more about the problems the map creates and have some insight into upcoming changes check out Michael “PolarBearMike” Heiss’ great video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIdjaukI-54

It really is the best resource out there at the moment to understand how and why the map is played as it is currently. Also all the changes we have seen so far are ones that PBM suggests in this video, so if you want a feel for what else might be coming this video is great for that too.

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Worlds’ OP five after week two

The Group Stage of the 2017 League of Legends World Championship has finished, and the quarterfinals are set. The second week was a roller-coaster, as many teams who struggled in week one made a come-back in week two. Groups B and D had massive shake-ups, while groups A and C had major upsets without affecting the standings.

Just like in the first week, we saw certain players shine. We saw new champions drafted, updated item builds, and adapted strategies. Other players faltered, whether on their own or as part of deeper team-wide issues. Recency bias will paint over their week one performances, and they will be remembered for how they fell short.

Rather than dwell on missed opportunities, it is important to lift up those players who executed. These are the five most fearsome from the second week of Group Stage.

Top: ssg Cuvee

SSG's Cuvee was the most OP top laner in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Almost every top laner had major failures this week. In SKT’s loss to AHQ, Huni sacrificed four of their 12 deaths. Khan did not play all three games, and Rascal only played one (not really a failure, but it’s more difficult to judge against players who had 3-4 games). Cloud9’s Impact and TSM’s Hauntzer looked much less coordinated than last week.

However, Samsung’s CuVee actually looked strong in all three of his games. He averaged ahead in gold (+235), CS (+8), and XP (+237) at 15 minutes. SSG’s top laner was the only player with a lead in their game versus RNG. His Cho’Gath found 1907 Fenerbahce’s AD carry multiple times, and helped enable Samsung to deny G2 any neutral objectives.

The top lane pool in Group C (Letme, Expect and Thaldrin) is not the most intimidating, but members of Groups A, B and D all played inconsistently. WE’s 957 had strong showings, but he averaged behind in laning phase, despite having advantageous match-ups. One could also argue that he contributed less to their victories than CuVee did to Samsung’s.

Jungle: EDG Clearlove

EDG's Clearlove was the most OP jungler in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Say what you will about week one EDG, but they played their hearts out this week. Clearlove got first blood in two of three games. He secured the Rift Herald, multiple dragons and first Baron in all three games. While he averaged behind in XP (-323) and CS (-12), Clearlove averaged ahead in gold (+280) at 15 minutes. His 6.0 day eight KDA was the highest in Group A.

EDG’s jungler is a big reason why they accrued over 3,000 gold leads by twenty minutes in all three games this week. Clearlove made sure to give advantages to his carries, particularly Scout and iBoy. His Jarvan IV ultimates were key to locking down Sneaky and AN’s Kog’Maws.

Maxlore did provide spectacular early game pressure for Misfits, but they lost crucial Barons in three of their four games this week. Mlxg was stifled in his Rek’Sai game against G2. WE’s Condi had great performances this week, and he may even be more worthy than Clearlove. Team WE’s lanes seemed less dependent on Condi’s early influence, because they drafted advantageous match-ups more often.

Mid: WE Xiye

WE's Xiye was the most OP mid laner in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

It was difficult to choose the most OP mid laner this week. Arguments could be made for Bdd again, Xiaohu, Xiye, or even Perkz, Caps, Faker or Scout. However, WE’s Xiye seems like the best choice. Not only did he average more kills (4.0) and assists (5.7) per game than any other mid laner in his group, but keep in mind he is in Group D. He clearly out-performed Bjergsen, Maple and PowerOfEvil, which cannot necessarily be said about mids in any other group.

Part of the credit should certainly go to his jungler, Condi, but Xiye knew what to do with his leads once he had them. His Jayce was pivotal in WE’s siege composition versus TSM. Xiye used Corki to roam and dish damage against Flash Wolves. Finally, he had multiple solo kills on PowerOfEvil, helping dismantle Misfits’ lead.

LZ’s Bdd was really the only other mid laner as dominant. He continued to use roaming zone mages to spread his leads and out-roam his opponents. This is a valid strategy. However, it just does not feel as powerful as Xiye’s performance this week. Xiye played three different champions with slightly different play styles. The pressure was higher on Xiye to shut down main components of TSM, MSF and FW for their victories, while Longzhu’s group has those pressure points more on bottom lane and jungle.

ADC: LZ Pray

LZ's Pray was the most OP AD Carry in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Mystic, iBoy, Bang, Uzi, Zven, Rekkles… so many great AD carries are at this championship. But in week two of the Group Stage, Longzhu’s PraY reigned supreme. He carried LZ to another 3-0 week on Kog’Maw and Varus. PraY’s 6.3 kills per game topped all players in Group B, and his 8.7 assists were highest among Group B’s AD carries. He also put up 991 damage per minute, 39.6 percent of LZ’s total.

PraY and GorillA made Immortals, Fnatic and Gigabyte Marines’ bottom lanes pale in comparison. While their early games have not necessarily been oppressive, their late-game fighting is clean. In all three of LZ’s games, PraY came up massive in teamfights just past 30 minutes and they closed. While last week’s wins seemed much more dependent on Khan and Bdd, this week PraY drove them home.

Bang and iBoy had high highs on day eight, but they both had duds, too. Bang finished the AHQ loss 0-1-0 over 37 minutes. IBoy finished the SKT loss 1-3-1 over 38 minutes, despite having a clear early lead. These losses dilute their gameplay in victory. Mystic had a similar situation in Group D, where his two Caitlyn games were extremely oppressive, yet he had two early laning deaths against Misfits from lack of respect. Uzi was outplayed by G2’s Zven in Group C, as well.

Support: SSG Corejj

SSG's CoreJJ was the most OP support in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

As mentioned last week, the support role is currently difficult to judge between players. All of the supports at this year’s Worlds are exceptional. With the meta revolving around Ardent Censer and enchanter champions, Janna and Lulu have dominated the draft. Both have a 92% presence in the draft thus far. Since they focus almost exclusively on the success of their AD carries, if their teammates lose, then they lose.

That being said, Samsung’s CoreJJ had a fantastic week. Even in the loss to RNG, CoreJJ finished with a positive KDA. SSG’s marksman, Ruler, could not put up the carry performances he has shown without CoreJJ’s constant buffs. He came out of day six with a 28.0 overall KDA, averaging 0.3 deaths and 8.0 assists per game.

EDG’s Meiko and Misfits’ IgNar also stood out this week. The only factor preventing Meiko from being in the OP five was the bottom lane competition in his group.  Uzi-Ming, Zven-Mithy and Padden-Japone came out more consistently strong this week than Bang-Wolf, Sneaky-Smoothie and AN-Albis. While IgNar was ambitious to draft Blitzcrank, Taric and Thresh this week, he did not play as crisp as possible. The Blitzcrank ultimately lost in the late game to TSM.


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Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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Longzhu finished week one of worlds top of Group B

Worlds’ OP five after week one

The first week of League of Legends’ 2017 World Championship has concluded, and this year’s event is already off to an exciting start. Between Gigabyte Marines’ mysterious “never before seen” strategy, Longzhu’s sub-25 minute average game time, and North America’s teams all being top two in their groups, fans and analysts have been gifted excellent performances thus far. Now the teams will have a few days to regroup and begin adapting for week two.

Almost every team had high points in week one. At some point, almost every player has had a high point, as well. But there is a reason the standings are as they are. Some teams have risen to the challenge of the international stage. Some players have executed a step above the pack. With three games in the books it is difficult to write off any team or player for the remainder of the contest. However, it is easy to recognize the following challengers for their stand-out performances.

Top: LZ Khan

Khan is the most OP top laner after Worlds week one

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Khan has definitely lived up to the hype carried over from LCK Summer Split. This guy has been an absolute monster in all three games so far. He has played a bruiser Jarvan IV against Immortals, a lethality Jarvan against Gigabyte Marines and Nasus against Fnatic. Khan is averaging 437 gold, 17 CS and 721 XP ahead at 15 minutes.

In the mid-game, Khan has been best at split-pushing, but his teamfighting is also incredibly strong. Khan has contributed 24.8 percent of Longzhu’s damage, which is exceptional when taking into account how strong his carries are. His 12.0 KDA is among the highest in the tournament so far.

TSM’s Hauntzer is the only other player currently close to Khan’s level. Some may even see Hauntzer as the better of the two so far, seeing as he has better laning and damage stats. But pressure is Khan’s key elevating factor. While Hauntzer teleports or roams to bring pressure to his teammates, Khan more frequently brings the enemy’s pressure to him. He pushes lanes, damages turrets, chunks out his enemy and forces the opposing team to respond to him.

As we get deeper into Worlds, it will be interesting to see how other teams adapt to Khan. Now that he has crushed a game on Nasus, who knows what else he may have up his sleeve? Few top laners in the entire tournament look up to the task of going toe to toe with Khan. If Longzhu take it all the way it will be hard not to attribute their success to the top lane.

Jungle: C9 Contractz

Contractz is the most OP jungler after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the only junglers who has not drafted a tank, Contractz has been acting as a third carry for Cloud9. He has pulled out an AD Rek’Sai, Ezreal and Graves, topping the jungler damage charts with 24.8 percent. C9’s tempo has totally relied on Contractz’s ability to clear the jungle as fast as possible and pressure the enemy jungler. So far, he has been able to do it successfully.

Contractz is averaging 266 XP, three CS and 146 gold ahead at 15 minutes. He has also helped secure First Blood in two of their three games. C9’s loss to SKT severely skewed Contractz’s KDA down to 3.3, but he is averaging 6.3 assists, fourth highest at Worlds. Contractz is also partially responsible for C9’s 66.7 percent Baron control rate, which has been a huge objective for winning games.

If Gigabyte Marines’ game against Longzhu had gone a bit better, then Levi would most likely be here. His surprise Nocturne pick in game one truly kick-started the energy at Worlds. Highlights from that game will be replayed over and over anytime fans reference back to 2017 Worlds. But when GAM’s Mordekaiser pick got destroyed from level one, all of GAM’s hype deflated. Levi may be able to take this spot with more consistent gameplay next week.

Mid: LZ Bdd

Bdd is the most OP mid laner after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Bdd is the only non-support player to go deathless in week one of Worlds. Despite drafting champions with strong roaming potential, Bdd averages ahead 11.7 CS, 488 gold and 910 XP at 15 minutes. These are all top two among mid laners. His 23.0 KDA is nothing to frown at either.

Longzhu does not look for Bdd to do huge shares of damage for them. Instead, they have drafted Taliyah, Ryze and Galio which each have powerful roaming ultimate abilities. These types of champions allow Bdd to zoom into top or bottom lane and outplay the enemy team by chaining crowd control and damaging abilities. Bdd is the central key that enables Khan’s aggressive playstyle, and he has been crucial for Longzhu’s success in Group B.

TSM’s Bjergsen, C9’s Jensen and RNG’s Xiaohu have also shown strong performances in week one, but none of them felt justified as the most valuable. In TSM and C9’s defeats, their mid laners looked much weaker in teamfights, and Xiaohu has not had the greatest laning phases. Bdd has performed solidly in both phases of the game.

ADC: RNG Uzi

Uzi is the most OP AD carry after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Royal Never Give Up has been on a tear, averaging the highest kills per game (12.3) and the lowest deaths (2.7). Their AD carry, Uzi, has been central to this first week of success. He is carrying a 28.0 KDA, scoring wins on Twitch, Tristana and Kog’Maw. Uzi has gone even or behind in lane with these champions, but truly terrorizes in teamfights.

At 722, Uzi averages fifth highest damage per minute of all players at Worlds. This amounts to a whopping 39.3 percent of RNG’s total damage. Uzi has been expertly navigating late game teamfights to maximize his damage and stay at a safe range. He has only died once so far.

SKT’s Bang is a close second in the bottom lane so far. He carries similar statistics, and has played similar champions. SKT and RNG are both 3-0 at the top of their groups. However, SKT’s wins have not come off the back of any one player. Their style is much more about how cohesive they are as the game gets later. The best players on the Worlds stage not only do not make mistakes, but also pinpoint the mistakes of the enemy and punish them. Uzi has successfully done this, while Bang has not been at that same level.

Support: SKT Wolf

Wolf is the most OP support after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Bang also has the best-performing support at Worlds: Wolf. Although the support meta is fairly stale at the moment, Wolf was able to have a fantastically flashy Rakan performance against EDG. He single-handedly reeled in a game that was out of control by landing a huge Quickness-Grand Entrance and charming the entire enemy team.

It will continue to be difficult to parse apart AD carry and support success, due to the current Ardent Censer priority. It is a shame that audiences are not going to be able to see Gorilla, Olleh, Mithy, Swordart and all of the other fantastic support players on play-makers. Instead, Janna, Lulu and Karma will continue to rein supreme in the bottom lane. Plays such as Wolf’s Rakan will be so much more emphasized than heals, shields and peeling.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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The Freeze Shaman dilemma

Sometimes the set designers’ plans don’t come to fruition. Balancing Hearthstone is hard, and often cards that are foreseen as viable mainstays end up disappointing. Worse, sometimes whole planned archetypes fail.

This is the case with Knights of the Frozen Throne’s Freeze Shaman. Shaman lacked the necessary tools to consistently freeze minions in an advantageous way, and the synergy cards had mediocre payoff. This leaves a difficult choice for Blizzard. Continue to support an archetype with little competitive core? Or abandon it completely?

Commitment and payoff

freeze

Evolve took several expansions of support and a set rotation to shine

Sometimes, commitment to an archetype can pay dividends. Evolve Shaman got core cards like Evolve in Whispers of the Old Gods, but only reached competitive viability in later expansions as cards like Fire Fly, Primalfin Totem, Devolve and Doppelgangster were added. Despite taking a long time to flourish, the archetype grew into a deck that was both viable, fun and occupied a vital spot in the meta-game.

Blizzard has continued to add to Evolve, with cards like Deathseer Thrall in Knights of the Frozen Throne becoming mainstays and continuing on the core mechanic. By refusing to abandon an archetype that didn’t immediately pan out, Team 5 ended up giving Shaman perhaps its only recent viable deck, and one with huge popular appeal.

Over-investment

freeze

Discard held Warlock back

However, sometimes over-commitment to an archetype doesn’t work out so well. Warlock’s discard mechanic has technically been in the game since Vanilla. Later expansions attempted to experiment, with tentative but ultimately unsuccessful cards like Tiny Knight of Evil and Fist of Jarraxxus. Discard only really began to be “pushed” in One Night in Karazhan, with cards like Silverware Golem and Malchezaar’s Imp driving a discard deck that was explosive, if inconsistent. Though Discard Zoo saw considerable play, it was suppressed heavily by Midrange Shaman.

Intermittent support for discard didn’t help the deck in later expansions. While Mean Streets saw few Discard effects as the Kabal’s highlander effects were prioritised, in Un’goro, Discard was ramped up. The eventually culminated in the nigh-unplayable Warlock Quest, with discard and Warlock as a whole seeing terrible performance and representation on Ladder.

The over-commitment to an unsuccessful and arguably boring archetype not only was a poor use of design resources, it also drove Warlock towards the lowest win-rates and play-rates it had ever seen.

Is Freeze worth following up on?

Freeze Shaman is then faced with two prospects. Either continued support in future expansions to hopefully ignite an interesting, potent and niche-filling archetype; or leave it behind for fresher ideas. There are strong arguments either way.

On the one hand, it’s argued that the utter failure of Freeze to make it into any competitive Shaman means that adding additional tools would be throwing good cards after bad. Freeze is a niche mechanic, best suited to stalling combo decks. While some Combo Shamans have existed in the past, without mana manipulation it’s unlikely that Malygos Shaman or something similar would return.

This would suggest that Freeze Synergy cards are not the answer. While Freeze effects may still be valuable, they currently seem far too scarce, at least in Shaman, to be built around. But adding another set filled with both Freeze and Freeze Synergies would threaten Shaman’s viability if the archetype continued to underwhelm.

Soft support

freeze

Cards like Voodoo Hexer enable Freeze synergies, without being dependent on them

On the other hand, there are strong and interesting cards that could easily be viable with just a little more support. Voodoo Hexer has Alley Armorsmith levels of anti-aggro power, limited only by a lack of Controlling Shamans to put it in. Avalanche is situational but powerful. Ice Breaker could be premium removal if more freeze tools were added.

The answer might lie in soft support. Rather than going down the discard route of going all-in on the failing mechanic, Team 5 could instead add cards that synergise more subtly. Like how Un’goro gave Shaman token options to work with Evolve, without huge minions that were utterly dependent on Evolve.

Freeze Shaman could get support in more incidental Freeze effects on otherwise generally strong cards. This would not “force” Freeze, but leave it as an interesting choice and option for deck-builders. Freeze could be added wholly or partly, depending on how strong the cards turned out. What’s more, this could help push a more controlling, board-clear based Shaman as opposed to the more aggressive token lists currently available.


 

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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