HWC 2018 top four predictions

Over the past three months, hundreds of teams have fought for the chance to appear at this weekend’s Halo World Championships in Seattle. Only sixteen have made it and come Sunday, only one will be left standing. Rosters have been set, groups have been seeded and the show is just getting started. Let’s take a look at some likely top 4 candidates for HWC 2018.

4th: Renegades

HWC 2018

Travis “Neptune” McCloud. By Halo Esports Wiki.

Roster: Jason “Lunchbox” Brown, Aaron “Ace” Elam, Bradley “aPG” Laws, Travis “Neptune” McCloud

The first roster to carry the Renegades banner since 2016 and the only roster to carry a single Brown twin into HWC 2018. This prediction specifically isn’t necessarily a confident one. Team Reciprocity, a squad with the services of Austin “Mikwen” McCleary, Eric “Snip3down” Wrona, Zane “Penguin” Hearon and Tyler “Spartan” Ganza can knock Renegades out of the top 4. In fact, at both MLG Columbus and Orlando, Reciprocity was the squad to beat Renegades into that top 4 spot. In head to head scrims, Reciprocity has won out by a significant margin.

Here’s the catch: The Brown twins, even if it’s just one of them, always show up at live events to play and this team has Lunchbox, one of the smartest and most clutch players in Halo history. He’s also one of the most hungry players, especially after missing out on Worlds last year. HWC 2018 is his chance to turn things around. If Renegades isn’t overwhelmed by Reciprocity’s pure slaying power, they can take the win in a head-to-head series.

3rd: Team EnVyUs

Image result for pistola halo

The Wizard is back. By MLG.

Roster: Justin “iGotUrPistola” Deese, Jesse “bubu dubu” Moeller, Joey “TriPPPeY” Taylor, Tommy “Saiyan” Wilson

A very different roster from the last time NV was at a World Championship event. Only one player from the original NV squad that was the first to defeat OpTic Gaming’s (now Tox’s) dominant roster, remains. Despite that, it seems this is the best group that has ever been mustered for NV. At both Orlando and Columbus this roster placed top four, with one of those finishes coming alongside a 3-0 of Tox. A decent record to have going into the HWC 2018 Finals.

Saiyan has proven to be an absolute monster of a Slayer, posting dominant stat lines even in team losses. Not just in kills, but in damage dealt, assists and accuracy as well. The guy can shoot, there’s no doubts about that. TriPPPeY helps shoulder plenty of that load as well, being an excellent mobile damage-dealer that helps his teammates get easy kills. Combined with bubu dubu’s smart, lurking playstyle and Ola’s experience and wizardry, this squad is dangerous.

Even with all of that, it’s unlikely that they’ll make it to the Grand Finals.

2nd: Splyce

Image result for renegade splyce

Two down, one to go. By MLG.

Roster: Anthony “Shotzzy” Cuevas-Castro, Jonathan “Renegade” Willette, Braedon “StelluR” Boettcher and Kevin “Eco” Smith

To say this squad is red-hot doesn’t even begin to describe their romp throughout the HWC 2018 season. They don’t even scrim other teams. They don’t stream at all. But without a doubt, this team by far has more young talent than any other in all of competitive Halo. Even despite a lack of experience in comparison to the reigning World Champions, they’re dominating. This team won both MLG Orlando and Columbus. Not only that, they did so with relative ease.

Throughout those two events, they played the reigning champions in four separate series. They won three of them. The single loss was a day after one of Splyce’s players ended up in the hospital. The 3 wins? A 4-2, 4-1 and sweep. A few of the games weren’t even close. This squad is quite possibly the future of competitive Halo. That said, they’re missing one factor that always comes to outrank everything.

Experience.

HWC 2018 Victors: Tox Gaming

HWC 2018

3-Peat. By MLG.

Roster: Paul “SnakeBite” Duarte, Mathew “Royal2” Fiorante, Bradley “Frosty” Bergstrom, and Tony “LethuL” Campbell, Jr.

There’s a great analogy for this squad considering the time of year. Ever watch the NBA’s Eastern Conference Playoffs over the last few years? One team in that conference has a player named LeBron James, or “The King.” He has a habit of flipping a switch when it really matters and playing astronomically better than his usual excellent play.

That is similar to Tox. Regardless of any drama regarding OpTic Gaming dropping the roster, the community should be quick to remember what this squad can do. At the 2016 Worlds season, they lost to Evil Geniuses at the X-Games Invitational. They then proceeded to effortlessly roll through the 2016 Finals with ease. Last year, both Team EnVyUs and Team Liquid took series to seven games against them in the events leading to the 2017 Finals. In the 2017 Finals, this squad swept both of them on their way to back-to-back World Championships. There’s little reason to believe they can’t do the same this year. This squad has been the end-all, be-all of Halo 5: Guardians up to this point. In scrims, they’ve played well, with only a handful of teams being capable of taking more than a couple of games from them. All that said, on LAN and specifically at World Championship events, they flip the switch.

To be the man, you have to beat the man and Splyce is yet to do so at the event that is by far the most important.

I believe Tox will win this weekend at HWC 2018 and will become back-to-back-to-back Halo World Champions.

This event is going to be absolutely bonkers, especially with MLG running the show. Be sure to check out the stream on Twitch, Mixer and MLG!

Disagree with me, or have anything to add to the conversation? Catch me on Twitter and in the stream chats all weekend long!

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 Devin! Get in touch with Devin personally to talk more HCS and see more articles by following him on Twitter @DS_Frostbite!

Header image by Halo Waypoint

 

Several players from 2017 Immortals found success in the 2018 Spring Split

An Echo of Immortals in the 2018 Spring Split

Leading into the 2018 Spring Split, ESPN’s Jacob Wolf reported that Immortals would not be included in North America’s franchised LCS. The League of Legends community responded to the decision with disbelief, anger and confusion. They also wondered, “If IMT did not get accepted into the LCS, then which teams are safe?”

A Brief History of Immortals

Immortals entered the NA LCS in 2016 with Huni, Reignover, Pobelter, Wildturtle, and Adrian

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Immortals entered the NA LCS in 2016, announcing Huni, Reignover, Pobelter, WildTurtle and Adrian as its roster. Dylan Falco would coach. They finished the 2016 Spring and Summer regular seasons in first and second, respectively, but only secured third in both playoffs. IMT barely missed Worlds that year, because they lost to Cloud9 in the Regional Qualifier.

In 2017, Immortals broke up and completely rebuilt its roster around Pobelter. Flame, Dardoch, Cody Sun, and Olleh joined as starters, while Anda signed as a substitute. Hermes moved up to fill the head coaching position. During 2017 Spring Split, this roster finished seventh in the regular season, narrowly missing playoffs. In the mid-season, Immortals traded Dardoch to CLG for Xmithie, imported Ssong as head coach, and brought on Stunt as a substitute. The invigorated team rose to second place during the Summer regular season and playoffs. IMT booked their first ticket to Worlds, where they finished 14th-16th.

And Immortals’ time in the NA LCS ended there. They would not get a new opportunity to dominate North America like 2016, or go to Worlds like 2017. The team fully disbanded, and the league moved on.

EX-IMMORTALS IN 2018

Immortals traded Dardoch to CLG in 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Following Riot’s permanent partners announcement, Team Liquid acquired most of Immortals’ released roster. Xmithie, Pobelter, Cody Sun, Anda and Olleh joined the organization initially, but Cody Sun went on to 100 Thieves and Anda went to FlyQuest. Flame and Stunt signed with FlyQuest, as well. TSM picked up Coach Ssong to lead their new roster.

Four fifths of Immortals’ 2017 roster met in the last stage of playoffs. Xmithie, Pobelter, Olleh and Cody Sun made it to the finals, yet again, with Team Liquid winning the whole split and 100 Thieves second. Flame, Anda and Stunt finished the split in eighth place, and Coach Ssong finished fifth-sixth with TSM. However, this was the first time Anda and Stunt entered a split as starters. Flame performed perfectly fine as an individual top laner. And Coach Ssong helped build TSM into a formidable team, even if they fell short in playoffs.

Looking back at previous iterations of Immortals, Huni, Dardoch and Adrian made up three fifths of Echo Fox this split, finishing third in playoffs. Wildturtle joined FlyQuest in eighth place, but had several stand out performances himself. Reignover played with CLG to secure seventh place, and Dylan just led Fnatic to their first LCS title in two years.

Immortals Echoing through the LCS

Olleh, Cody Sun, and Zmithie used to play on Immortals in 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Each of these individuals had significant development during their time on Immortals. Ssong, Huni, Reignover, Flame, and Olleh might not be in North America without importing with IMT. Xmithie and Pobelter might not be as renowned as they are now without taking Immortals to Worlds. Cody Sun, Anda and Stunt might not have starting roles this year. Wildturtle and Adrian’s stock definitely rose after their time on IMT, and Dardoch’s trade may have spurred changes with him. Dylan Falco got his first coaching job on Immortals, long before joining Fnatic.

Although Immortals’ organization no longer plays in the LCS, their players and staff have spread throughout the league. Many individuals had their LCS debut with IMT, and, through their development, upgraded the ecosystem overall. IMT put up strong performances throughout 2016 and 2017, leaving their mark in the history books. Although its banner no longer hangs in the LCS arena, Immortals’ legacy echoes on through the players and coaches they brought to the table.

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Images: LoL Esports Flickr

The Game Haus covered the NA LCS finals LIVE. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for articles, pictures, videos, interviews, and more content from Thomas and other contributors!

Doublelift thinks Olleh can play anything

TL Doublelift on what makes Olleh unique: “Well, first, he’s Korean.”

Team Liquid won the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split on Sunday, becoming the fourth organization to do so. They took 100 Thieves 3-0 in a best-of-five series to cement their victory. Every member contributed powerful performances, between Xmithie’s Baron steal, Impact’s gank resistance, Pobelter’s Shurima Shuffles and Olleh and Doublelift’s bottom lane dominance.

Particularly stand-out, this win presents Doublelift with his third title on a new organization. He won with CLG in Summer 2015, TSM in Summers 2016 and 2017, and now with Team Liquid in Spring 2018. No other player has accomplished this feat in the NA LCS.

Doublelift has won with three different supports, as well. He paired with Aphromoo on CLG, Biofrost on TSM and now Olleh on Liquid. Finding success with so many different players is impressive, because the AD carry and support positions are so intertwined in League of Legends. One cannot succeed without the other, and some marksmen have risen or fallen because of bad supports, and vice versa. Doublelift is one of the only players to remain consistent, regardless of  the teammates that surround him.

Finals press conference

Doublelift and Olleh won the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split finals with Team Liquid

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

After their win on Sunday, Team Liquid held a press conference. Each individual fielded questions regarding their year as a team and how they found success in playoffs. Here is what Doublelift had to say, when asked about what makes Olleh unique compared to his past supports:

Well, first, he’s Korean. (laugh)

I think the main thing is just, every support is totally different actually. Every time you play with a new teammate, you realize they have a different point system. And I think for Olleh, his point system is really play-making and looking to engage–looking to make a big, risky play.

I used to play like that, too, actually, so, we’re playing together at the wrong time. But, now I’m a lot more safe, I guess. After having so many bad experiences at Worlds I play a lot more safe, so, at first, we were really bad together. And every week we just worked on it. So, I think Olleh is unique, because he is really willing to play any style, and when we talk about bot lane, or when I criticize him, he’s really good at improving and making changes.

After the end of the regular season and playoffs and stuff, I think we are really good. It was like every day, every week, we’re just talking about stuff, and he’s making changes, I’m making changes. So I think that’s what’s really unique about him. He’s a really balanced player. He can play everything.

Considering Team Liquid had a 5-1 record over the first three weeks of the split, few outside viewers probably noticed much issue with Doublelift and Olleh’s synergy. However, Doublelift describes a long process of rigorous improvement and adaptation. Winning games on stage in the NA LCS does not seem like enough for Doublelift. His aspirations go beyond North America. Doublelift wants to perform at international events, and grow to be the best. Olleh has helped him secure another NA LCS title; maybe he will finally be the key to international success, as well.

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Images: LoL Esports Flickr

The Game Haus covered the NA LCS finals LIVE. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for articles, pictures, videos, interviews, and more content from Thomas and other contributors!

Team Liquid won the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split finals against 100 Thieves

The NA LCS Spring Split closes with 100 Thieves skunked by Team Liquid 0-3

Leading into Sunday’s match versus 100 Thieves, Team Liquid rolled into The Fillmore Theatre for a red carpet treatment. When asked about facing Meteos, Xmithie commented “it’s going to be a really tight match-up. It’s whoever the better team is, to be honest.”

The series turned out to be almost completely one-sided, favoring Team Liquid. 100 Thieves drafted advantages for every lane over the course of the best-of-three, but Liquid responded with better execution overall. Each subsequent game looked worse and worse for 100 Thieves, with compounding mistakes spelling their downfall. Here is how it went down.

Team Liquid won the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split finals by beating 100 Thieves

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Game One

Impact’s pocket pick locked in for the first game seemed to trip up 100 Thieves. A couple of failed ganks top-side allowed Doublelift and Olleh to gain the early lead in bottom lane. Getting zoned from CS and losing significant trades, Cody Sun and Aphromoo rotated top and secured First Blood. A teamfight win for Team Liquid gained them enough of a lead to Rift Herald, the first three turrets, and all three Drakes. 100 Thieves did gain momentum by picking off Doublelift and Pobelter and pressuring Baron. Xmithie made a miracle steal, which Liquid used to end the game in 29:33.

Game Two

100 Thieves opted for a strange extended level one invade onto Xmithie’s red buff at the beginning of game two. Impact and Meteos both died in the top lane around five minutes, but the real action started around 14 minutes. With Cody Sun and Aphromoo fairly low health, Liquid 4-man dove the duo resulting in a Double Kill for Pobelter’s Azir. Pobelter came up huge again when 100 Thieves collapsed onto Xmithie near the Baron pit. He Shurima Shuffled four members into his team for another Double Kill and a four-for-one. Liquid easily took the Baron at 20 minutes and closed in 26 minutes.

Game Three

Pr0lly and 100 Thieves went into game three with a top lane focused game plan. They drafted Ssumday Gnar and sent Meteos top to help him secure a Double Kill. A few minutes later, Ryu and Meteos helped Ssumday dive Impact under turret in a one-for-one. Meteos returned a third time to dive Impact all the way near his tier two turret, but Xmithie Skarner ulted him for a one-for-one again. Team Liquid then won a skirmish bottom lane, punished Ssusmday’s over-extension top lane, and took an Infernal Drake to equalize the game. Around 20 minutes, Meteos opted to camp a bottom lane brush for an extended time to surprise Impact, but got dragged by Xmithie under turret again without securing the kill. Liquid rotated and took the Baron, then dominated the last five minutes to end.

Team Liquid’s win marked the second 3-0 victory of the weekend, with Echo Fox defeating Clutch Gaming one day earlier in a similar fashion. This is Liquid’s first ever LCS split win, making them the fourth organization to hang their banner. They will participate in Riot’s Mid-Season Invitational in Europe May 3 to May 20, representing North America. Team Liquid, 100 Thieves, and Echo Fox will also represent North America at Rift Rivals July 2-July 8, facing Europe’s best teams.

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Images: LoL Esports Flickr

The Game Haus covered the NA LCS finals LIVE in Miami. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for articles, videos, pictures, interviews, and more from Thomas and other contributors!

Team Liquid's Steve hopes the fourth place meme will die after the 2018 Spring Split finals

TL Steve on memes in 2018: “The fourth place thing, hopefully it’s dead at this point.”

All of Team Liquid arrived to the Fillmore Theatre in Miami, Florida for their last match of the NA LCS Spring Split. They face 100 Thieves, in what is sure to be an exciting finals. While 100 Thieves finished first in the regular season, most fans on-site in Miami favor Team Liquid to take the series, citing Doublelift’s carry potential as the “X-factor” that 100 Thieves does not have.

Prior to the match, both teams arrived in a red carpet-style fashion, surrounded by the press and fans. The players and staff posed for pictures, before breaking up for brief questions and fan-meeting. Team Liquid drew the largest, most enthusiastic crowd of the whole event. Fans battled to the front for signatures, selfies, and handshakes.

Steve Arhancet, the owner of Team Liquid, was among his team for the grand entrance. Accepting a brief interview, here is what he had to say:

Thomas: “What are your thoughts on the match today?”

Steve: “It’s going to be a convincing win, I hope. Based on scrims, things are looking good, but, you know, they can turn up. Hopefully, it’s a great match, but I think we’ve got this.”

Thomas: “How’s Miami treating you so far?”

Steve: “It’s been fun. We haven’t made it to the beach, yet.”

Thomas: “Yeah, me neither. Maybe afterwards?”

Steve: “Yeah, exactly! Maybe after we win today.”

Thomas: “Lastly, what’s your favorite meme so far this year?”

Steve: “Ah, my favorite meme. I mean, the fourth place thing–hopefully it’s dead at this point, right? I don’t know.”

Team Liquid's Steve hopes the fourth place meme dies after the 2018 Spring Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

“Paid by Steve,” “Sent from my HTC phone,” and other memes probably do not sting as hard as the TL-fourth place meme. As an owner with so much invested in the LCS, to never finish higher than third or fourth leaves a constant hunger for Steve. Seeing TSM, Cloud9, and CLG banners lining the LCS studio leaves Liquid as the last old guard organization to win a split.

Team Liquid hopes to win its first NA LCS in 2018. Just by finishing in the top two, TL will have surpassed any of its previous LCS finishes. While Steve hopes to kill the Team Liquid fourth place meme, a victory would peg them as the fourth organization to take home gold in the LCS.

After entering franchising, getting far ahead in the off-season shuffle, and building an entirely new roster and training facility, a 2018 Spring Split trophy would be immensely gratifying for Steve. A win may elevate the organization beyond frequently finishing fourth place, but the Liquid-fourth meme will live on, revitalized. But, knowing it lives on because of an LCS title would probably be okay with Steve.

NA LCS Spring 2018 Playoffs Round-Up

NA LCS Spring 2018 Semifinals round-up

The NA LCS spring 2018 playoffs transitioned into the semifinals over the weekend, and boy howdy was it a treat for League of Legends fans. While the quarterfinals were a light simmer, the semifinals proved to be a boiling pot of tasty action and strategy that satisfied my palate and left me wanting more.

Wild stallions

Bloodthirsty would be the word to describe the first match of the semifinals, as both Team Liquid and Echo Fox put the pedal to the metal. Each game featured non-stop skirmishing and multiple back-and-forth kills that made it extremely fun to watch. Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and Jake “Xmithie” Puchero playing Trundle and Olaf meant that the early game was a lot faster paced and a guaranteed presence whenever a fight were to break out. These picks also enabled the respective top lane players, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, to play big tanks for continuous playmaking and sustained team fighting.  NA LCS

What really impressed me in this series was Team Liquid’s ability turn around multiple fights and ganks that Echo Fox initiated. Xmithie’s ability to control the map mixed well with Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung’s roaming initiations to make it almost impossible for Echo Fox to establish any permanent foothold in the game. What has been so refreshing to see out of this Team Liquid squad is that they operate like a well-oiled machine, showing patience and strategy in the face of bloody, tit-for-tat games. It seems like nothing is able to phase them regardless of how chaotic a situation becomes. Conversely, Echo Fox’s play, while very ambitious, lacked some coordination.

Many of Echo Fox’s plays centered on Dardoch and/or Huni leading the charge through engages that would net quick advantages. Unfortunately, their plays sometimes ended as duds due to a lack of coordination with their mid laner, Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun.

At the end of it all, the battle was won. With a 3-1 victory for Team Liquid, the team was the first to advance to the final match.

Slow and steady wins the race

For those that put strategy and Baron control ahead of non-stop brawls, the match between 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming is right up your alley. Unlike the previous match, this one contained a heavy emphasis on strategy and controlling the area around Baron. On the side of 100 Thieves, top laner, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, and jungler, William “Meteos” Hartman, seemed to be perfectly in-sync as they helped control a slow and steady pace. Meanwhile, Clutch Gaming’s Nam “Lira” Tae-yoo and Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten looked to speed things up through snowballing picks.

While this match was a bit different than the other matches of the spring playoffs, the slower pacing was a welcome change of scenery. The cerebral side of League of Legends has sometimes been overshadowed by the glitz and glamour of big plays and high octane team fighting, so seeing more of how a team behaves as a strategic unit was an interesting experience.

Probably the biggest focus of this match was the play around Baron, and both 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming did not take the threat of it lightly. While most teams would immediately leap at the chance of taking Baron, 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming held firm and waited for their opportune moment. Clutch especially showed a lot of tenacity, as they would constantly turn off Baron to try and gain a more favorable numbers advantageNA LCS in the ensuing fight.

While this sometimes didn’t work out as well as they would have hoped, it was definitely a clever way of trying to force 100 Thieves to panic and potentially make a mistake. The play in this series was often reminiscent of a soccer match in this regard. Both teams would constantly jockey for proper positioning and strike only when it was appropriate to do so. The constant trading of damage made Baron takes tense affairs with no clear outcome until the final second that it was secured.

If you are strapped for time and are looking to only watch one game in this marathon series, I would suggest Game 5. The play in Game 5 was methodical to a fault. There are definitely moments in this particular game where you can feel the weight of the situation. No one dared overstep and throw away their chance at the finals. Every move was well reserved and made with the utmost caution.

The tension was palpable with each passing second whenever the two teams began to circle around the Baron pit. Due to the unkillable nature of the two frontlines, these Baron moments became staring contests with everyone waiting to see who would blink first. While all the tank play and the regeneration from Warmog’s Armor seemed a bit overwhelming (not to mention annoying at times), it was worth it to see 100 Thieves find their finishing blow and close out the extremely tense game for a spot at the spring finals.

Miami bound

With the semifinals completed, we now know who will be competing in the finals in Miami. Through all the spills, chills and thrills of the playoffs so far, both Team Liquid and 100 Thieves have undoubtedly proven their worth for a title shot. The question will, of course, be who will come out on top? Team Liquid and 100 Thieves have both displayed a good amount of strategic patience in their playoff victories, so it will no doubt come down to who is able to more effectively execute their game plan. It will all come to a head this Sunday, so be sure your schedule is clear so you can catch all the action.

You can follow me on Twitter here: @masonjenkinstgh Also be sure to follow The Game Haus on Twitter and Facebook so you can get more and esports action. 

Featured Image courtesy of LoL Esports 

Images courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr

100 Thieves’ First Place Heist

When 100 Thieves entered the North American League Championship Series in 2018, nobody could’ve expected much from them. Despite a solid roster, this new organisation was going up against the powerful line-ups and established infrastructure of old guard teams like Team SoloMid, Cloud9, Team Liquid, and Counter Logic-Gaming. With the likeable face of owner Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag at the helm, 100 Thieves looked poised to establish their brand, but do little else. However, the Thieves ended up doing far more, pulling off the ultimate heist to steal the coveted first place spot at the end of the regular spring season before anyone knew what was happening.

Their ascension to first was a genuine surprise to fans and analysts alike, so it’s worth taking a closer look at what got them there. Will the strengths that took them this far be enough to carry them to a victory in their first ever split? Let’s have a look.

Image courtesy of LoL Esports

 

A Favorable Battlefield

 

The Early Meta

The early spring split meta was characterized by a focus on the top lane. Carries were in, while the majority of tanks seemed comparatively weak. Junglers tended to roam towards the top side of the map. While both mid and bot lane play was defined by this focus, with these lanes expected to cede or apply pressure for the sake of top lane plays. With this both lanes forced to be wary of roams or teleports from fed carry toplaners. Teams like Echo Fox and Cloud 9 understood this, building their incredible early-split records by effectively utilizing their confident top lane carry players in Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Eric “Licorice” Ritchie.

It was in this meta that 100 Thieves first found success, with a strong early record, despite seemingly playing a somewhat different meta. Where other teams looked northward, the Thieves chose to play largely around their botside duo, Cody “Cody Sun” Sun and Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black. Early ganks and pressure would, compared to other teams, be more directed at Cody Sun, who boasted one of the highest first blood participation stats of any AD carry. Cody Sun would prove that he was worthy of the attention, consistently able to snowball small leads to become the primary late game carry.

Image courtesy of LoL Esports

 

The Meta Moves On

As the split progressed, each patch would further entice tanks to return to the top lane. Nerfs to one of the most reliable tank bullies, Gnar, tank-suited items like Banner of Command becoming increasingly attractive, nerfs to Cinderhulk specifically targeting jungle tanks and the removal of Tracker’s Knife giving top/jungle duos less vision to play with all contributed to top lane tanks becoming the norm again. This was a change that suited 100 Thieves toplaner Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho. Though Ssumday has played a large variety of champions in his career, he has traditionally looked the strongest on tanks. In tank focused metas he can be an impassable rock both in the top lane and in teamfights.

As a result of these changes, the meta shifted towards the bottom half the map, yet surprisingly, 100 Thieves attention didn’t always stay there. Though Cody Sun continued to be a major part of the Thieves’ victories, it was as the top/jungle power duos of the league began to falter that 100 Thieves chose to prove that they could play to both sides of the map. Though they didn’t necessarily transition to a top-focused style, they proved that Ssumday couldn’t be underestimated, allowing him to butcher his enemies on a surprise Darius pick. They also sometimes chose to give him more attention on picks like Cho’Gath, on which he could carry while still being the Thieves’ primary frontline. Though he still remained mostly a tank player, it was times like this that one remembers that Ssumday has in the past been a consistent and terrifying carry on picks like Fiora, and even Kled. By the end of the regular split, there remained no doubt that he ought to be feared if he chooses to bring more aggressive picks out again.

 

Credit Where Credit is Due

This story is about far more than Cody Sun and Ssumday, however. Credit must also be given to jungler William “Meteos” Hartman and midlaner Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook. Meteos had the highest first blood participation percentage in the entire league, ensuring his team regularly got an early leg up. Mostly playing champions with powerful pick and engage potential like Skarner, Sejuani, and Zac, Meteos would also often help the Thieves find beneficial midgame fights. Also using creative angles and vision control fought for alongside Ryu to find flanks and engage opportunities. Though not always as aggressive as junglers like Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett or Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, Meteos’ high kill participation stat is testament to his ability to be in the right place at the right time. He was able to repeatedly demonstrate confident and intelligent frontline play.

Though one of the less flashy players of the team, Ryu also provided immense value. Often in the past a ‘role’ player, less interested in stealing the glory than in setting up his team for victory, Ryu has looked comfortable in a meta interested primarily in the side lanes. His Ryze has looked fearsome, giving 100 Thieves’ the opportunity for map plays at various points in the game, and safely scaling to the late game to provide an AP counterpoint to Cody Sun’s damage. Another popular Ryu pick that excels in sidelane metas is Taliyah, whose Weaver’s Wall ultimate can be used to roam, block escape routes, force fights and secure objectives.

Praise must also be given to Aphromoo, one of North America’s most storied supports, who played one of his best splits in years. Cody Sun may have often carried 100 Thieves to victory, but the story of Cody Sun must also be the story of the man who protected him. Aphromoo boasted a 100% winrate on Braum over 7 games. Yet he also broke from the established meta at times to deliver incredible carry performances of his own on champions like Thresh and Blitzcrank. One notable play in their second game versus Team SoloMid saw Aphromoo making a split-second decision to engage with Rakan, despite the team being 4v5 at the time. The resulting teamfight win would catapult them ahead and lead to their victory.

Past this, Aphromoo also lends his incredible shotcalling prowess and experience to the team. Though he reportedly doesn’t solely shoulder the burden of shotcalling, he has time and time again proven his ability to keep a level head and make confident and smart calls in the tensest of situations. He has undoubtedly been one of the primary voices behind many of 100 Thieves team plays.

Image courtesy of LoL Esports

 

Playing the Map

Ryu, Meteos, and Aphromoo were often able to help 100 Thieves find good fights. Ssumday’s frontlining and Cody Sun’s ability as a carry were usually able to make sure they won them. But a good team knows when not to fight as well, and 100 Thieves was no different. Sometimes a lead can be built upon by taking fights and overpowering the opponents, but 100 Thieves regularly opted to instead extend their leads with clever map plays, wave control, and rotations.

One of the marks of a good team is never letting your opponent get something for nothing, and the Thieves would often respond to enemy picks or seized objectives by themselves rotating, setting up waves, or seizing vision control in crucial parts of the map. Fights would rarely be taken desperately, and 100 Thieves knew how to build up advantages and work from behind until they could set up a good fight.

 

Potential Pitfalls

Despite their strengths, possible weaknesses do exist. Champions like Ryze and Taliyah play to Ryu’s strengths, but they’re also two of the only champions Ryu has consistently played and looked good on. Though rarely the main target of ban focus, one has to wonder how Ryu would cope if his comfort picks were taken away. Meanwhile Ssumday, though having a champion pool demonstrably large enough to be able to avoid ban focus, is still likely to continue picking and playing tanks, and answers to this have already begun to pop up.

In the European LCS quarterfinals, Trundle, a strong anti-tank champion, was picked four times by three different teams, with a 100% winrate. Meta reactions of a different sort may prove problematic as well, with Kog’maw, a fantastic anti-tank ADC seeing play, and top lane counterpicks like Fiora still being viable (though also potentially effective in his own hands). Meanwhile Cody Sun hasn’t always looked quite as stellar in lane as he has in fights. Though the team plays with and around him very well, it remains to be seen how well he would cope if he were substantially set behind early. With aggressive and mechanically potent AD carries like Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng still in the playoffs, Cody Sun may meet his match.

These worries exist, yet are unlikely to be enough to oust 100 Thieves from the secure position they find themselves in. Weaknesses are part of any team, and 100 Thieves likely understand theirs. They also clearly understand the meta, both how to play it and when not to. The Thieves seem well suited to patch 8.5, and with this being the patch the playoffs are being played on, it’s hard to deny that 100 Thieves have a favourable battlefield.

 

The Value of Veterancy

Any team heading to its first playoffs will face certain issues. The possibility of nerves can’t be ignored for rookies, or even for experienced players who’ve nonetheless never played a best-of-5 series. The pressure of the situation can be immense, especially as whatever team you’ll be facing will have had at least a week to plan for facing you and you alone. Any player could be the focus of bans or jungle ganks. Strategies that served well during the regular season may not hold up to scrutiny and planning. And with all eyes on you, the pressure to perform, and the stress of making a mistake that could lose a crucial game, can add up. Many teams that have looked mighty in the regular season have faltered in their first test in the playoffs, like Team Liquid in the summer of 2015, or Immortals in both splits of 2016.

It is here that the value of a veteran squad comes to bear, and that is undoubtedly what 100 Thieves is. Toplaner Ssumday has played extensively in the LCK, one of the most competitive and high-level leagues in the world, and has been a finalist there multiple times. Jungler Meteos has won the North American LCS twice and attended worlds multiple times. Ryu, also a veteran of the Korean scene in the pre-LCK days, represented Europe at worlds, making it all the way to the semi-finals. Aphromoo, a famous team leader and shotcaller, led his long-time team Counter Logic Gaming to every single NA LCS playoffs during his tenure on the team, as well as two split victories and a historic international performance by a North American team at the 2016 mid-season invitational. Even Cody Sun, the youngest and least experienced team member, has represented his region on the world stage. These players have been around the block.

Image courtesy of LoL Esports

This experience was undoubtedly important in helping 100 Thieves recover from their mid-split slump. Any new team needs time to gel and work out how they want to play, and players who aren’t new will often have their own ideas about how they want to play the game and how the team should function. As an experienced squad, every member of 100 Thieves will have been in this situation before, understanding the need to maintain mental strength and motivation while maturely working through their issues to shape up in time for playoffs.

It’s fair to ask if 100 Thieves will be able to carry their regular split success forward? Any team is prone to mistakes and failure for any number of reasons, no matter how strong they look. But experience is valuable, and this team will not fall prey to pretty squabbles, nerves, or the standard pitfalls of inexperience.

 

The Rest of the Road

We’ve seen how 100 Thieves got to where they are. But the question before us now is whether they can carry this success forward. The spring quarterfinals were intense and full of surprises, from Team Liquid’s confident sweep of Cloud 9 to the incredible upset pulled off versus TSM by Clutch Gaming, a team that had previously seemed more like a playoffs-stocking-filler than a genuine threat. It is in this chaotic battlefield that 100 Thieves find themselves in as they wait for their semi-finals matchup versus Clutch Gaming. Though the Thieves would appear to be favored in this matchup and have seemingly superior players in the top and AD carry positions, Clutch may also be well poised to take advantages of some of 100 Thieves’ weaknesses.

Clutch Gaming midlaner Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten has been one of the more impressive midlaners in North America this split, and alongside his aggressive and confident jungler Nam “Lira” Tae-yoo, may be just the right person to exploit 100 Thieves’ potentially weaker mid lane, especially with some well-considered bans. However, much of their success in the quarterfinals was predicated on a series of incredible performances on Thresh from support Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent, and if this pick is banned away from him, Clutch Gaming’s botlane may find themselves outclassed by Cody Sun and Aphromoo. Meanwhile, on the other side of the bracket, Echo Fox will undoubtedly have used the time provided by their playoff bye to sort some of the issues seen in their shaky end to the regular season. Their semi-finals opponents Team Liquid look bloodthirsty and motivated to seize their long-awaited first finals win.

Though their trials are far from over in this unpredictable climate, 100 Thieves truly earned their first place finish, and cannot be underestimated. They have the skill, the experience, the flexibility and the shotcalling of a top team. It’s time to see if they can steal not just the first seed, but the split victory and the hearts of the fans.

NA LCS Spring 2018 Playoffs Round-Up

NA LCS Spring 2018 Quarterfinals round-up

The NA LCS spring 2018 playoffs kicked off last weekend and League of Legends fans were excited to see what would happen in what is possibly the most exciting season of the NA LCS to date. Overall, the matches were very exciting, as all four teams had something to prove.

Well oiled machine

The first match of the quarterfinals featured a clash between Team Liquid and Cloud9. Team Liquid, who had struggled in past splits, was looking to fix their tarnished reputation through their super-group roster, while Cloud9 was looking to prove that their recent struggles were not indicative of the team’s true strength.

The match proved exciting, as Team Liquid and Cloud9 were able to draft towards their strengths in all three games. Team Liquid was able to draft Skarner for Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, allowing him to greatly influence how the game was played through Skarner’s pick potential and durability. Team Liquid also benefited from drafting sturdy top lane champions like Swain and Singed for their star top laner, Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong. Cloud9, on the other hand, looked to play around the composition strategies that had aided them in the first half of the split. Eric “Licorice” Ritchie was placed on strong laners in the top lane, while Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi were placed on champions that were both extremely impactful and familiar.

NA LCS Spring 2018 Quarterfinals Round-Up

Courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr

Though the match score was 3-0 in favor of Team Liquid, the match was certainly a close one. While Cloud9 sported good form in lane and in the early game, their issues around neutral objectives and gold leads continued to plague them. Game 1, for example, demonstrated Cloud9’s late game indecision. Team Liquid out maneuvered C9 in a catch-22 style play at Elder Dragon that allowed TL to come up ahead in the first game of the series. Even when making big plays, like Sneaky’s Game 3 quadra kill, C9’s individual play was not enough to get them over the hump. Team Liquid certainly proved to be the more cohesive team, as they were able to run circles around Cloud9 when it came to decisive macro play and securing neutral objectives even when behind in gold.

Underdogs bite back

The next match of the quarterfinals featured Team Solo Mid, the kings of North American League of Legends, defend their title against the newly minted Clutch Gaming. Again, the narratives proved irresistible in this match. TSM, who experienced a rough start to the split with their new jungler and bot lane, looked to grasp another NA title with Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell leading the charge. Meanwhile, Clutch Gaming was a team that no one believed would be able to make it to playoffs and looked to prove everyone wrong.

The game, much like the C9-TL match, proved to be just as exciting. The series started with TSM drawing first blood with a methodical Game 1 win through Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung’s suffocating counter jungling. While down from Game 1, Clutch was not ready to throw in the towel by any means. The next game saw Clutch ramping up with Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent’s insane playmaking on Thresh and Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo’s scrappy, in-your-face playstyle. After winning a back and forth Game 2, the rest of the series was all Clutch, as TSM was not unable to stop LirA or Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten’s Swain from dominating the rift, and ultimately the series.

With the 3-1 win over TSM, the scrappy band of underdogs known as Clutch Gaming look to prove that new faces are just as strong as the old as they enter the semifinals.

NA LCS Spring 2018 Quarterfinals Round-Up

Courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr

This weekend

Looking to this weekend, we will see Team Liquid and Clutch Gaming take on Echo Fox and 100 Thieves respectively. 100 Thieves, the first seed, and Echo Fox, the second seed, look to take advantage of their playoff bye and use the information they have scouted to better prepare for their respective matches. Meanwhile, their opponents will look to gain a spot in the finals and make NA LCS history. Will Team Liquid and Clutch Gaming be able to overcome their higher seeded opponent? You’ll have to watch the games this weekend to find out!

You can follow me on Twitter here: @masonjenkinstgh Also be sure to follow The Game Haus on Twitter and Facebook so you can get more and esports action. 

Featured Image courtesy of LoL Esports 

Images courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr

Tweek Dominates EGLX 2018, could the rest of the season be next?

This Smash 4 season has been one of the most interesting to date. Kicking off with the best player in the world retiring, the race for the top spot is more wide open than ever. But of all of the players projected to take the top spot, I rarely hear Phoenix 1 Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey get mentioned. Based on how he’s performed as of late, I think that’s sure to change.

EGLX 2018

ELGX 2018 wrapped up last week with Tweek winning yet another Smash 4 singles tournament. He recently won King of the spring a few weeks ago as well and his momentum definitely picking up.

Tweek at EVO 2018
MusicJini

Tweek didn’t drop a single set in both of these tournaments, dominating the bracket. He also boasts notable victories over the likes of Dabuz, C9 Ally, Samsora and team YP Fatality. Now these weren’t the most stacked tournaments ever but that shouldn’t discredit Tweek’s play. He managed to place first in two consecutive tournaments, taking no losses in the process.

Tweek took sets off of Ally, Wadi (twice) and Samsora at EGLX and  really opened the eyes of the community. Tweek has always been very consistent and was ranked fifth in the world in the PGR V4. But for one reason or another he sometimes gets overlooked. With these wins under his belt and all of this newfound momentum, that conversation may change. Tweek playing this well and winning consecutive may come as a surprise for some but he is also surprising people with something else.

A new Main?

Cloud has been Tweek’s main character choice for as long as he’s been in the game, switching to him from Bowser jr. Many revere him as the best Cloud in the world, but he may have a new main to take to tournaments. We’ve seen Tweek dabble with Bayonetta in the past and pretty successfully at times. But based on the three tournaments he’s participated in this year, he’s been practicing. Tweek ran through the bracket at EGLX with Bayonetta, only using Cloud in one set. He used her primarily in all three tournaments this year and based on his results it’s working. To put it bluntly, Tweek’s Bayonetta is serious.

Liquid Salem is seen as the best Bayonetta and ranked second in the world last year. Tweek faced him in a Bayonetta ditto at Frostbite 2018 and defeated him 3-1, knocking him out of the tournament.

Tweek dominates the Bayonetta Ditto
Twitch

He has wins over all of the top Bayonetta players including Lima and EMG Mistake. Tweek owns the Bayonetta ditto and has proven that his Bayonetta is much more than a secondary. Now I’m not sure if we can say that Tweek is a Bayonetta main just yet. But I don’t think it’s too big of a reach to say that he could possibly be the best Bayonetta player. The results simply speak for themselves.

A rude awakening

I think one big reason for Tweeks success this year is that his Bayonetta plays different than others. All Bayonetta players put their own personal twist on the character and Tweek is no exception.

Tweek’s Bayonetta could prove to be a terrifying matchup for players
Youtube

Bayonetta is the best character in the game obviously, but she certainly isn’t a pickup and play character. She takes time, and practice to be able to play effectively which actually plays into opponents hands. Just about every Bayonetta player has been playing the character long enough for other players to figure out their tendencies. With Tweek beginning to use her much more in the past few months, not many have experience playing against his Bayonetta.

I honestly think players face tweek’s Bayonetta and get thrown into the proverbial deep end. They aren’t familiar with how he plays the character and get thrown off guard when he handles the matchups in a different way. I think that if Tweek continues to play this well he could be a huge threat this season. Not many top players have experience playing his Bayonetta and this could lead to many victories. Only time will tell as the biggest tournaments of the year are months away. But with this season being as wide open as it is, people should keep a close eye on Phoenix 1 Tweek.

Do you think Tweek could rise to the top this Season, let us know what you think down below!

 

Featured image courtesy of Twitter.

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Team Liquid win the regular season Academy League

Team Liquid finish first in Academy; Cloud9, FlyQuest and Echo Fox to playoffs

The inaugural North American Academy League finished its first split last night. Nine weeks of competition ended with Team Liquid in first place, followed by Cloud9, FlyQuest, and Echo Fox. These four teams move on to the playoff stage of the Spring Split to battle for bragging rights.

Week Nine

The final week of the Spring Split shook up the standings quite a bit. Coming out of week eight, Cloud9 and FlyQuest were tied for first. Team Liquid followed in third with Echo Fox fourth. CLG sat fifth, while 100 Thieves and TSM tied for sixth. Clutch and OpTic tied for eighth, and Golden Guardians rounded out the league in tenth.

Day One

Cloud9 finish the regular season Academy League in second place

Image from Leaguepedia

C9 and FLY faced off on day one of week nine, which would determine who would solely hold first place. C9’s “bouncy house” composition finally came through, despite FLY’s accrued gold lead. FLY’s 8,000 gold lead crumbled quickly after C9’s Baron call around 38 minutes. Two major team fights, and C9 took the Nexus, as well as first place. The rest of Thursday’s matches went to the expected victors (Liquid, Clutch, FOX, and CLG).

Day Two

Team Liquid took their shot at Cloud9 on Friday, hoping to challenge the top spot. V1PER’s snowballing top lane Olaf went berserk, finishing 9-3-4 with the most gold in the game. With the win, Team Liquid tied for first, which would later force a tiebreaker.

The following match, Clutch versus 100 Thieves, was another crucial head-to-head between tied teams. These two, along with TSM, sat tangled in sixth with a 7-10 record. The match remained relatively even through 23 minutes, but a big Baron take for Clutch blew it wide open. Piglet’s Twitch finished 8-1-3. Linsanity’s Ryze went 0-5-2. The loss bumped 100 Thieves out of sixth.

Echo Fox finish the regular season Academy League in fourth place

Image from Leaguepedia

Echo Fox defended their playoff spot by upsetting FlyQuest in Friday’s showdown. Three early kills to FOX’s carries set them up for an easy snowball. Damonte’s Anivia, OddOrange’s Sejuani, and Allorim’s Sion combined for an incredible amount of crowd control, which FLY was unable to overcome. Erry’s Jinx never came online, and FOX closed out the game with only a single tower lost. This victory solidified FOX’s fourth place finish, as well as FLY’s third place finish.

To finish out the day, Liquid and Cloud9 rematched to tiebreak first place. Risky Riven and Kog’Maw picks put a lot of pressure on TL throughout the mid-game. C9 racked up a 4,200 gold lead by 19 minutes, winning skirmishes around Goldenglue’s Ryze. However, like the rest of the matches, TL’s Baron capture and teamfight win put them back in the saddle. C9 looked shaken, as V1PER’s Riven and Mickey’s Swain broke the team up and pushed them back. Liquid ended just under 37 minutes with nearly 10,000 gold over Cloud9.

Playoffs

Unlike the LCS, only four teams enter playoffs in the Academy League. The semifinals consists of Team Liquid versus Echo Fox, and Cloud9 versus FlyQuest. These teams will play a best-of-five to see who moves onto the finals. Team Liquid beat Echo Fox in both of their regular season face-offs, while Cloud9 and FlyQuest went 1-1.

Team Liquid v. Echo Fox

Team Liquid win the Academy League regular season

Image from Leaguepedia

Team Liquid seems the most explosive team in the league. They average .76 combined kills per minute, more than any other team, while Echo Fox averages .57, third lowest. Look for Joey and Hard to force plays, while Damonte and Lost do their best to carry. Mickey does some of the highest damage in the league, so FOX should do all they can to hold him down. According to Oracles Elixir, Echo Fox has the stronger early game, while Team Liquid have the superior mid-late game.

V1PER played 14 of 17 games on carries, such as Riven, Camille, and Yasuo, while Allorim played almost exclusively tanks, like Sion, Ornn, and Maokai. Mickey’s champion pool has been all over the place, while Damonte has mostly drafted Cassiopeia and Ryze over the second half of the split. TL and FOX’s AD carry position is probably the most unbalanced. Lost consistently outputs more damage, more kill participation, and higher KDAs than Shoryu. He is also unafraid to draft Ezreal or Kog’Maw, where Shoryu leans on Tristana and Xayah much more. This offset could be exploited over a series.

Cloud9 v. FlyQuest

Flyquest finish the regular season Academy League in third place

Image from Leaguepedia

FLY and C9 will be a much closer match-up, on paper. Their team-wide statistics generally line up, with FlyQuest looking slightly better overall. Baron and Elder Drake control are their widest gaps. C9 only takes 54 percent of Barons, while FLY takes 72 percent. On the flip-side, FLY takes 33 percent of Elder Drakes, while C9 has taken 100 percent. These trends could result in divisive games.

Keith topped the Academy League in virtually every stat. He has the highest KDA, kill participation and damage per minute, while also maintaining the lowest death share. Zeyzal and he will most likely win Cloud9 the series, matching up against Erry and JayJ. However, Keane and Shrimp will get things going early, maintaining some of the highest First Blood and kill participation rates of any jungle-mid duo. Shiro appears to be C9’s weakest member, and his reliance on Gnar could get exploited.

The rest of the league

The other teams enter the off-season for a much needed break. CLG finished fifth, only one win from fourth place. TSM and Clutch tied for sixth with 8-10 records. 100 Thieves kept eighth for themselves, while OpTic concluded their season ninth. Golden Guardians bottomed out the league at 2-16.

Without the immediate fear of relegation or promotion tournament, it is difficult to predict what this mid-season may be like. The Academy League is supposed to center around developing rising talent, so losing is not necessarily cause for change. Team pride will most likely win out, resulting in plenty of recruitment for fresh new talent. A few players may even get scouted for low-level LCS teams.

Golden Guardians and OpTic Gaming should probably make sweeping change with their rosters, as their Academy and LCS squads failed to really pull together. Xpecial, Hai, Contractz and PowerOfEvil are probably the most safe candidates for rebuilding around, but anyone is fair game at this point. Coaches and support staff may also be considered for replacement. These new organizations most likely learned a lot in their first Spring Split, which they will utilize in off-season decision-making.

credits

Featured Image: LoLesports.com

Other Images: Leaguepedia

Statistics: Oracles Elixir, Games of Legends

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