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.

2017 Scouting Grounds draft and the future of NA LCS

The 2017 NA Scouting Grounds draft took place this weekend at Riot’s Los Angeles studio. Amidst the crowd of players and press, we witnessed a historic step for the NA LCS. While the players involved in the draft will likely join the 2018 season Academy teams, their significance lies in the future of esports. The 2017 Scouting Grounds draft is one way for Riot to show fans that they mean business. And Riot are not the only ones stepping up. Cloud 9 (C9) and Clutch Gaming (CG) were the only two teams to buy out another org’s draft positions. So what does this draft tell us beyond 10 new faces to Academy teams?

North America’s Development Problem

scouting grounds draft

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

For years, North America as a region has been criticized for its lack of homegrown talent. While many NA fans are quick to throw up names like Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black, Eugene “Pobelter” Kim or Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi, there are undeniable problems with North America’s talent pool. In an interview with Travis Gafford, Team SoloMid owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh, said “we have a third of the player-base as much as Europe and a third of the ranked players as Korea so they have a lot more options to choose from.” Clearly this is an issue that North America cannot fix overnight. There is no waking up tomorrow morning and suddenly the player-base triples to match Europe.

This is precisely why the Scouting Grounds draft is such an important marker for the future. North America’s only option is to capitalize on and develop its existing talent. Enter the Academy league. Unlike the former Challenger Series, the upcoming Academy system emphasizes development over LCS promotion. It’s important to understand that LCS promotion and regional development are not the same in the old CS system. Admittedly, Challenger Series has given us players like Jae “Huhi” Choi and Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes on Counter Logic Gaming (CLG). However, over the course of its inception, Challenger Series became a place for relegated pros and teams to try and regain a spot in the LCS.

This became a huge problem for North America. In addition to favoring already established pros, many teams even opted for imports over fresh talent. This is precisely why Scouting Grounds plays such an important role for the future of NA. It gives a chance for players like Ziqing “League” Zhao and Ming “Spica” Lu to gain recognition outside of solo queue.

Why scouting grounds draft matters

scouting grounds draft

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

At the Scouting Grounds event this past weekend, we saw both Cloud 9 and Clutch Gaming invest in higher draft positions. Cloud 9 bought out two positions to pick up League, Ash, and Blaberfish2 for exclusive negotiating rights. When talking about C9‘s CEO, Jack Etienne, Riot commentator Aidan “Zirene” Moon said, “this guy is serious about growing talent that hasn’t been completely in the spotlight yet.” Zirene highlighted that Jack’s ability to identify and develop early talents like now European stars, Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten and Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu. As a CEO, Jack has a proven track record in bringing out the best of new players.

Alternatively, new team Clutch Gaming does not share this history. At least as far as esports goes. CG picked up two promising players in support Vulcan and mid laner Palafox. But, a single additional draft pick does not exactly scream hype. The fact that Houston Rocket’s GM Daryl Morey attended the small event, does however speak volumes to how seriously the Rockets are about their new team. In an insightful interview with Travis Gafford, Morey emphasized that the Rockets and Clutch Gaming are “in this for the long haul.” He explained that the 2018 season will be a steady learning experience for the CG organization.

Obviously, Clutch Gaming does not share experience that Jack Etienne has developed in his time with C9. However, Daryl Morey’s reputation as a general manager in the NBA is nothing short of incredible. His approach to team investment and growth led the Houston Rockets to major successes over the years. Clutch Gaming made it clear this weekend. They are dead serious about developing North America. It is extremely exciting to see a new org that is hungry and willing to invest in growing NA regionally.

The future of NA LCS

scouting grounds draft

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

To say the sky is the limit is an understatement. Riot NA’s move to franchise the league has already brought about dozens of roster changes and player opportunities. The Scouting Grounds draft is a preliminary step for North America to grow holistically. Meaning, not only should fans pay attention to NA LCS, but also to how teams work on their upcoming Academy rosters. An organization’s success should reflect both LCS and Academy standings. As a whole, teams with the proper infrastructure, coaching staff and player relationships will shine in 2018.

On paper, Cloud 9 and Clutch Gaming have taken the lead in terms of their dedication to player development in NA. Surely, it will not be long before other teams and coaches start to pick up on these trends. And if these team owners take development seriously, we may see a revitalized pool of NA talent in coming years. “This is where winning traditions can start being grown,” analyst, Mark Zimmerman said when discussing the 2017 Scouting Grounds draft. There is perhaps no better way to word the future of NA LCS.

The 2018 season marks a turning point for North American League. What teams choose to do now will set the precedent for years to come.

Featured Image: LoL Esports

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 Michael!

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scouting grounds

Standouts at 2017 North America Scouting Grounds

The 2017 North America Scouting Grounds event took place this weekend. 20 of NA’s top challenger players worked alongside four NA LCS organizations to test their mettle in the Riot LA studio. OpTic Gaming (OPT), Team SoloMid (TSM), Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) and Cloud 9 (C9) were the four teams to participate at this year’s scouting event. After a series of placement matches on day one, the players headed into the third and first place matches. Let’s highlight some standout players in their respective teams.

Fighting tooth and nail

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

Coming in at fourth place overall, Team Cloud Drake (CLD), led by C9, struggled to find their footing in their third place match against Team Mountain Drake (MTN). Despite the tough series, two of CLD‘s players managed to show resolve in their play. First off, League in the top lane showed up despite being counter-picked in both games. In game one, League’s Cho’Gath not only stayed toe-to-toe with Rodov‘s Gnar during the laning phase, but even managed to earn a solo kill. At 17 minutes, League’s superior timing at a teamfight bottom turned the fight in CLD‘s favor. In his second game, League demonstrated several heads-up plays using his Teleport to flank and engage teamfights. Although CLD failed to capitalize on some of these plays, League’s proactive playstyle stood out respectably.

Another player on CLD who performed on-stage was Fanatik. Although Fanatik fell behind his veteran counter-part “Nintendudex” pressure early on, he adapted quickly in game one. After recognizing the mid-jungle focus for Team Mountain Drake, Fanatik countered a dive to secure a clean 2-0 fight. In his second game, Fanatik capitalized on a crucial team MTN mistake and stole the Baron to keep his team alive. At 26 minutes, Fanatik’s Jarvan found a four man “Cataclysm” to lock down multiple enemies and win his team the fight. As the youngest player at the 2017 Scouting Grounds, it will be interesting to see how he develops as a player.

A team of duos

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

For Team Mountain Drake, led by Counter Logic Gaming, their duos stood out more than individual play. First, no stranger to the NA LCS, Nintendudex showed serious synergy with Ablazeolive, one of the foremost challenger mid laners in North America. The communication between the two was on clear display during a fight in game one of the series. After Ablazeolive used his Teleport to return to lane, CLD‘s Linsanity saw an opportunity to get a pick. But, Ablazeolive turned on the enemy mid laner, locking him down using Malzahar’s “Nether Grasp” to buy Nintendudex time to join the fight and finish the kill. Ablaze’s teamfight ability shined in game two where he hit multiple key “Shockwave’s” on Orianna to seal CLD‘s fate.

The second pair to come through was MTN‘s bottom lane. Support Winter and AD-carry Value stood out as remarkable players in their roles. Winter’s aggressive style transitioned to key roams on Alistar to tip early skirmishes. In game one, Winter’s awareness on Alistar punished a poorly set up flank by CLD‘s mid and jungle, deleting the enemy Ryze from the ensuing teamfight. In game two, his engages on Rakan set up multiple fights for his mid laner to land game-winning ultimates. Winter’s AD-carry, Value also had his fair share of star play. In game one, an over-ambitious engage from CLD, Value landed a four-man “Featherstorm” + “Bladecaller” combo to clean up the fight. By layering his ultimates with his team’s engages, Value pumped out 927 damage per minute in game two. He earned himself player of the series with a combined 18/3/15 KDA across two games.

Live and die by the flames

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

Team Infernal Drake (INF), led by TSM, gave viewers some heated highlight plays to live up to their team name. In game one of the finals match, INF found themselves pushed in heavily. Their opponents, Team Ocean Drake (OCN), had remarkable vision superiority in INF‘s jungle, making it difficult for them to find fights on favorable terms. But their support Teesum on Rakan was able to find a three man engage with his “Grand Entrance.” This catch gave room for his carries to unload their damage before the enemy team could respond. However, Teesum’s performance in game two was largely lacking. Despite being the team’s main tank on Braum, several flubbed shields using his “Unbreakable” led to multiple teamfight deaths.

Game two was where two of INF‘s carries stepped up. After a rough game one, INF funneled resources into their AD-carry, NoahMost. Although his teamfight presence was weak throughout the early game, Noah was able to capitalize on an overzealous rush by Team Ocean Drake. With five members barreling toward his Xayah, Noah released a “Featherstorm” + “Bladecaller” combo that rooted five members. After locking down the entire enemy team, Noah’s Xayah mowed down the opposition for the only Pentakill at the 2017 Scouting Grounds.

The third player on INF to showcase his star potential was PieCakeLord in the top lane. Although his team was behind for much of the second game, PieCakeLord on Fiora was able to exert tremendous side-lane pressure that often brought multiple OCN members to stop him. Still, he managed to out-pressure the enemy Shen throughout most of the game. After the enemy Azir wiped his team at the Baron pit, PieCakeLord outplayed the enemy mid and top to keep his team in the game.

Stomping the Scouting Grounds

scouting grounds

Credits: LoL Esports

After drafting possibly the strongest team at Scouting Grounds, eyes were on OpTic Gaming’s coaching staff to make that roster shine. And boy did they shine. First, Vulcan‘s Taric was able to turn an early gank into a kill on the enemy AD-carry, setting a serious tempo advantage for team OCN. In the late game, Taric’s damage negation with “Cosmic Radiance” allowed his team to stampede over teamfights. In game two, Vulcan’s engages on Rakan practically spoon fed kills to his mid laner, Palafox.

Palafox had questions circling about his potential after being drafted as the 20th pick. But he brought the heat. Playing as Malzahar in game one, Palafox found an aggressive pick onto the enemy Orianna. After Orianna seemingly flashed to safety, Palafox landed an instant over the wall “Call of the Void” to secure the kill. Palafox’s Azir was the single greatest game-deciding factor in game two. A gigantic “Emperor’s Divide” knocked up four members of INF, completely shifting the momentum mid-game. Again at 46 minutes, Palafox earned a quadrakill at the Baron pit to push OCN‘s advantages over the edge.

Third, OCN‘s top laner Kaizen came into his own in game two. His Shen managed to outplay an early 2v1 dive by INF‘s top-jungle duo, earning himself a kill on his lane opponent on the way out. Although the enemy Fiora’s split push pressure was strong, ultimately, Kaizen’s teamfight utility became a winning factor for his team. Across the board, Team OCN performed spectacularly at this year’s Scouting Grounds. It will be exciting to see these players develop on future academy rosters. And, a win here shows good signs for OpTic Gaming who hope to make a definitive statement in their first season in the NA LCS.

Featured Image: LoL Esports

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 Michael!

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biofrost

Biofrost: Following the footsteps of legends

Vincent “Biofrost” Wang began his NA LCS career in 2016 summer as the starting support for Team SoloMid (TSM). In his rookie split, Biofrost had the daunting task of replacing one of League’s most legendary supports, Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim. Against all expectations, Biofrost emerged as one of the league’s premier supports. After two years with TSM, Biofrost signed a contract with Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) as the new starting support for the 2018 season. With new roster announcements dropping daily, let’s take a moment to appreciate all that Biofrost has accomplished.

Filling Bora’s Shoes

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In 2016 spring, team owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh drafted an all-star roster for Team SoloMid, featuring veteran support YellOwStaR alongside Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng in the bottom lane. Following issues with team synergy and performance, YellOwStaR left TSM in May of that year. To fill his shoes, Biofrost, an unknown rookie, joined the squad. While expectations surrounding TSM’s new support remained low, Bio’s performance was anything but. In his rookie split with TSM, Bio helped push the team to a 17-1 win-loss record, a league record.

His lane prowess on champions like “Karma” and “Lulu” complimented Doublelift’s hyper-carry playstyle. Even on non healers/shielders, Biofrost pulled off some incredible highlight saves to keep his AD-carry alive. Bio truly stepped up by honing his teamfighting presence on TSM. Team SoloMid has historically been one of the most dominant teamfighting teams in NA LCS history. As a rookie, Bio had to pick up these skills quick. And his progress proved itself time and again in his playoff performances.

In the summer 2016 playoffs, a clutch two-man Tempered Fate from Bio’s “Bard” earned TSM a quarterfinal victory over summer split juggernaut Immortals (IMT). Team SoloMid went on to win the NA LCS summer finals and met Samsung Galaxy (SSG), Royal Never Give Up (RNG) and Splyce (SPY) at Worlds 2016. Despite drawing into the “group of death,” TSM managed a 3-3 record before dropping against RNG. After failing to advance from groups, TSM‘s AD-carry Doublelift announced that he would take a break from professional play in the 2017 season.

New Season New Botlane

Biofrost

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In spring of 2017, Biofrost partnered with LCS veteran Jason “WildTurtle” Tran to make up TSM‘s new bottom lane. With a hugely successful rookie season already under his belt, Bio’s mission for spring was to grow into his own. With Doublelift taking a break, LoL Esports saw this as an opportunity for Biofrost to find “more space to operate and discover his identity as a support player.” While many fans expected Bio to develop a stronger leadership role, the TSM bottom lane struggled to find consistency. Criticism fell on Turtle and Bio as the roster stumbled to find its footing.

WildTurtle’s famously high-risk, high-reward playstyle became a problem. As TSM worked to tone down Turtle’s flashy plays, Bio also suffered the consequences. Rather than finding more space to operate, he found himself constantly under a lens. Teams focused the bot-duo, pinpointing Turtle and Bio as TSM‘s weak link. While pressure from opponents rained down bottom, TSM shifted their jungle pressure top lane. Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell grew into a carry role to offset his struggling bottom lane. This change in resources gave Biofrost even fewer tools to garner much growth.

Despite the challenges thrown their way, Biofrost and WildTurtle powered their way to yet another NA LCS championship. A two-time LCS champion, Bio boasted a pedigree that some of League’s veterans still have yet to achieve. At the start of summer 2017, TSM announced that Doublelift would return to the starting roster. With the majority of a split apart, it was unclear if the TSM bottom lane could gel once again.

The Biofrost we love

biofrost

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In summer, Biofrost and Doublelift took to the Rift facing some new opponents. A revamped Immortals roster had support, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung, rampaging through NA LCS. Olleh’s exciting play-making and roaming sense on champions like “Alistar” earned him the reputation of best support in NA. Then, as if to directly challenge the title, Biofrost faced off against Olleh’s “Alistar” in the NA LCS grand finals. With “Rakan” as his champion of choice, Bio found multiple key engages that clawed TSM back from a 10.5K gold deficit. That win sent TSM to Worlds 2017 as NA’s first seed.

At Worlds, TSM failed to find their footing in the group stage and suffered an early exit from the tournament. In the off-season, TSM announced that Biofrost, Doublelift and Svenskeren would be leaving the team. Several days later, Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) announced that Biofrost would join the main roster as starting support. With the departure of storied veteran Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black, Biofrost has some legendary shoes to fill once again. In an early DUOS Extra interview, Biofrost explained that Aphromoo was an idol for him early on. As fate would have it, Biofrost will go on to replace Aphro in the 2018 season.

Aphromoo leaves a legacy on CLG that any player will be hard-pressed to surpass. But, there is perhaps no greater player than Biofrost to fill the shoes of North America’s most legendary support. While the goodbye is bitter for most TSM fans, Biofrost will remain one of NA’s most beloved players. A starting position on an endemic organization like CLG will give Bio the resources and play time he needs to grow beyond his previous iterations. Although the future is uncertain, Biofrost will undoubtedly return to captivate North America in 2018.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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 Michael!

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Can SSong solve TSM’s international woes?

According to Jacob Wolf, sources close to TSM have confirmed that they’ll be taking on former Immortals head coach Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo as their new head coach heading into the new season. Coach SSong has a long tenure of successful coaching stints as the former coach of ROX Tigers and Immortals.

During his time at Immortals, Ssong transformed Immortals from a seventh place team in Spring to a second place NA LCS team in summer. It was a major improvement over a short amount of time. Many of the Immortals members credited coach Ssong with the team’s success during summer.

Ssong’s hiring comes in the wake of another failed TSM run at Worlds where the team failed to make it out of groups once again. This year TSM had one of the easiest groups at Worlds. The fact that they failed to make it out again was a major disappointment for the organization.

New Roster Changes Incoming?

Photo by: Riot Esports

It’s no secret Andy “Reginald” Dinh believes avoiding the language barrier is an important factor to a successful team. Introducing a Korean coach may hint that the team is finally breaking that mold and might be importing Korean talent.

In the article from ESPN, sources also say that the team is looking at some roster changes for the upcoming season. One of the most criticized players after Worlds has to be jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen. If there was one position likely to be changed, it would probably be jungle.

Star ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng could also be in talks of retirement again. He’s a longtime pro in the scene, but we could also see TSM utilize a sixth man like they had proposed last summer.

Svenskeren was one of the least proactive junglers at Worlds. The team as a whole failed to make any early game plays and would often fall behind by ridiculous amounts of gold.

ssong brings a new dynamic

The hiring of Ssong starts a new tenure of Korean coaching with TSM. This is the first time TSM will be under the tutelage of a Korean coach. They will also have the help of former support Lustboy and Parth, their old head coach. It’s clear what region has dominated the professional LoL scene for the past years. Korea has five of the seven LoL World Championships. Korean coaching structure has been heralded as more intense than Western coaching styles. Korean players who have imported have stated how much more relaxed the professional scene is compared to Korea.

Coach Ssong will have the chance to lead one of the best North American teams in TSM. While they’ve dominated domestically, they have yet to show much success internationally. Ssong will hope to change that and will add a strong strategic mind who’s had experience coaching a North American team.

Immortals praised Ssong during his time there last summer. Many of the players and leads credited Ssong for their drastic turnaround during summer. It will be interesting to see how he approaches TSM heading into the split. As a team that’s already known to dominate domestically, they’ll need to improve in their international play.

With a new head coach TSM already looks to be getting stronger. We’ll need to wait and see what the roster changes could be, but TSM will be favorites heading in. With Ssong leading the way and more talent incoming, TSM fans can only grow more excited for the upcoming season.

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

north america's prophecy

Worlds 2017: North America’s prophecy

Week Two of the 2017 League of Legends World Championship brought miracle comebacks and rookie hype. While some records were broken, others remained.

North America’s prophecy rang true; The North American representatives combined for a meager 2-9 record in Week Two of groups. With a history of defeat, what can explain NA’s consistently poor showings at Worlds? Do the players and teams suffer from some mental block? Or, is NA doomed to their prophetic losses year and again?

NA Hopes and Memes

north america's prophecy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Each year it sounds like a broken record. “North America looks really good this year. The region is a lot more competitive this time around,” they say.

Yet, NA teams never seem to show up when it counts. At Worlds 2015, all three NA representatives failed to advance beyond group stage. Worlds 2016, only Cloud 9 (C9) moved on to quarters before falling to tournament finalists Samsung Galaxy (SSG). This year, analysts had Immortals (IMT) and Team SoloMid (TSM) as heavy favorites to advance coming into Week Two of groups. Still, the North American representatives crumbled under the pressure. Cloud 9, again, was the only team to survive.

It seems that despite the progress North America seems to make, their teams consistently fail to perform on the international stage. Domestic competition grows, but nothing translates come time for Worlds. This trend carried over the past several years, developing into a widely used meme: NA in Week Two. Week Two of group stages has often been NA’s ‘Achilles heel’. The worst part? The results do not lie.

Last week, Immortals only needed to win one of four games to secure themselves a quarterfinals spot. Instead, they crumbled to Fnatic (FNC) in an unparalleled run for the European squad. Team SoloMid fell to rookie squad Misfits Gaming (MSF) in a tiebreaker match that silenced thousands of NA hopefuls, begging the question: is North America’s prophecy a matter of fact, or has the meme grown so large that NA teams succumb to pressure on social media?

NA’s Kryptonite: Prophecies or adaptation?

north america's prophecy

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

One of the greatest benefits of participating in the World Championship is team growth. Many Worlds teams show remarkable improvement after the first week of group stage. Misfits Gaming, for example, had several clear weaknesses in Week One. Their bottom lane was susceptible to early pressure in their loss against Team WE. Transitioning into Week Two, MSF’s AD-carry Steven “Hans Sama” Liv and support Donggeun “Ignar” Lee played with a measured aggression that shined through their tiebreaker victory over TSM.

On the other hand, TSM’s most glaring weakness throughout the tournament was an inability to apply early pressure. Instead, TSM relied on a passive playstyle and scaling focused compositions. In fact, TSM’s affinity to float through the first fifteen minutes of a game led to zero first bloods in all seven of their games. Coming into Week Two, it was time to see if TSM fixed these issues. Team WE drafted an aggressive early-game focused composition meant to push TSM out of their usual scaling, late-game comfort. Team SoloMid failed to adapt as WE crushed them in 24 minutes.

TSM showed no signs of growth coming into their Week Two matches. In their games, jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and mid-laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg played uncharacteristically restrained, unwilling to take risks or pressure aggressively. This lack of proactive early shot-calling proved that TSM made little progress fixing their week one problems. Similarly, with Immortals, their opponents in Fnatic and GIGABYTE Marines (GAM) both made huge strides in improving their gameplay while IMT clung to their week one formula. These two North American teams showed little growth coming into the second week of Worlds 2017.

Can C9 Smash North America’s Prophecy?

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Unlike TSM, Cloud 9 demonstrated a clear ability to adapt to meta changes on the fly. In addition, C9 successfully indexed on early aggressive playstyles carried out primarily by rookie jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia. After seeing Team WE pull out the first “Caitlyn” of the tournament, C9 was quick and unafraid to experiment with the champion in a high-pressure match against ahq eSports Club (AHQ). With C9 AD-carry Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi looking increasingly in form, and Contractz overperforming at his first Worlds appearance, the momentum looks good for C9.

However, their quarterfinal opponents in Team WE also look to be rallying with the home crowd booming behind them. Both teams boast aggressive, carry-oriented junglers. So far at Worlds, we have seen Contractz and WE’s jungler RenJie “Condi” Xiang on champions like “Ezreal,” “Kha,zix” and “Graves.” These high risk, high damage junglers will define the early game between these two rosters. How will Contractz, a rookie, fair against a more seasoned jungler in Condi?

In a post-game interview, Contractz spoke to confidence as a crucial part of C9’s mindset coming into every match. With no time to worry about North America’s prophecy or endless memes, Cloud 9 is looking to show up big at Worlds 2017. As the most consistent North American team on an international stage, C9 carries the weight of an entire region coming into quarterfinals. Will this iteration of Cloud 9 be the one to break this cursed prophecy?


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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NA LCS Finals preview

As the NA LCS summer split finishes, we have our final two competitors: Immortals and Team SoloMid. You have Immortals who saw much success during the regular season in their first four seasons, but always failed in playoffs. Then you have the consistent veterans of TSM who are adding another NA LCS finals appearance to their legacy.

Immortals

Photo by: Riot Games

What a story it’s been for Immortals. Most people around the league had written them off as a bottom tier team. Most people saw the trade of star Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and veteran Jake “Xmithie” Puchero as a down grade in terms of skill. Xmithie has been the perfect fit for this team. He’s not afraid to sacrifice for his carries and his stats can often be overlooked.

Meanwhile, in the bot lane Cody Sun and Olleh have developed into arguably the best bot lane in North America. After a rough beginning in their first split together, they seem to have found their synergy.

The signing of head coach, Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo, has possibly been the best move of the off season. In past seasons Immortals was able to win off raw talent and skill. This led to them having tremendous regular season success, yet choking in playoffs. SSONG has come in and been an invaluable asset to the team. They finally look like they know how to translate their early game success into victories. They’re also playing much more proactive this split before making plays instead of being reactive.

Team SoloMid

Photo by: Riot Games

North America’s favorites, TSM, once again make it to another NA LCS finals. Their playoff buff is on once again as they were able to defeat Dignitas 3-1 in the semi-finals. They had some rough beginnings to start off the split, but seemed to be using the regular season to test out new playstyles.

Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg is having another MVP-like split leading TSM to another final. Bjergsen will want to continue to add to his legacy with another NA LCS championship. He was constantly building massive leads in lane against Dignitas’ Keane in their semifinal match. Bjergsen finished the series with an average CSdiff@10 of 17.3. He has a much tougher opponent in Immortals’ Pobelter.

TSM have possibly two of the best carries in the west in Bjergsen and Doublelift. Doublelift returned this summer after a much needed break from professional play. The bot lane matchup will definitely be interesting to watch as Doublelift and Biofrost have become known for their strong laning phase.

 

Matchup to watch: Bot lane

Look for the bot lane to be explosive with Doublelift and Biofrost facing off against Cody Sun and Olleh. This is most definitely going to be a battle of the best two bot lanes in North America. Olleh and Biofrost have somewhat similar champion pools. Look for thresh to be a priority pick for both teams. Biofrost and Olleh have shown the ability to carry if thresh is left open.

Doublelift and Cody Sun also match up quite nicely. They’ve both been major carries for their teams. Look for some close skirmishes and 3v3’s with jungler help in the bot lane.

Prediction

Although the results don’t matter much here as both teams have qualified for Worlds as pool two seeds, they will still look to give a good showing for the fans. Prize title money and adding to their org’s legacy will also be on the line.

Based off regular season and semi finals performances, Immortals have honestly looked like the better team. This will be the first time for some of them playing in a finals match on a big stage. I think TSM’s experience gives them the edge they need, taking a close 3-2 finals and earning another NA LCS Summer Split title en route to Worlds.

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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dev1ce: The LeBron James of Counter-Strike

Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz is one of the all-time best players to play the game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Ever since his emergence out of the ashes of the failed Counter-Strike: Source, he has been pure fire. The Danish superstar’s career draws quite a few parallels to LeBron James’ career in the NBA.

Consistency

via http://theurbantwist.com

Dev1ce is the CS:GO poster child for consistency. The last time he has had below a 1.00 HLTV rating for an event was at Fragbite Masters Season 5 Finals; an event that took place in 2015. He has only dropped below a 1.00 rating for an event four times since joining Team SoloMid, and none of those four times came in his tenure with Astralis. One of the most consistent players in the world draws parallels to LeBron James’ consistency in the NBA. LeBron has been selected to the All-NBA team 13 times in his 15 season career and did not play significantly worse when he was not selected. Lebron James throughout his career has a monstrous 28.0 point-per-game average.

They just keep coming, both of these guys don’t even seem to be slowing down in the recent times, despite their age in their respective games. Dev1ce is 21, which in CS:GO years, is old to still be a superstar, especially considering his dominance has stretched four years now. LeBron is 32, yet doesn’t look a day over 25. Both of these guys seem to just be getting started.

Raw Talent

via http://wiki.teamliquid.net

LeBron James and dev1ce are both insanely talented in what they do, and are oozing with raw skill. In the primes of their careers, these two could do anything that could be wanted of them in their respective game. Dev1ce did literally anything you wanted from him with a rifle in his hand, from opening rounds, to closing them. He could play with the AWP pretty well; he was a great pistol player too. Truly a fantastically rounded player, and a perfect superstar candidate. James could do anything with the ball in his hands from taking jumpers, to driving, to even passing. This guy wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty with the rebounding either. Perhaps an underrated part of James’ game was his impeccable defense. Not only was his on-ball defense sound, but he had a knack for creating turnovers.

LeBron doesn’t still have the outside jumper as a major part of his arsenal, but is still incredible at driving to the basket. A very similar feat, deVVe has lost the entry-fragging explosive side to him, but excels at playing a consistent, AWP style of play. They both create great space for their teammates, with enemy teams game-planning around making things tough for these two superstars.

The ‘Choking’ issue

via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IalExPzWrkU

Both of these players have been criticized for not having that killer instinct. While LeBron has gotten less heat for it, he still struggles in the most high-pressure situations it seems. Both of them show flashes of brilliance in these situations, making you think they are over it. Then they make a mistake, or disappear for a bit. Both players have looked much better in these situations as of late but still aren’t up to their usual standard of domination in these scenarios. While they draw attention from the opponent just by showing up, they lack the ability to make their foe crack. They lack the killer instinct.

 

Featured image via https://www.hltv.org

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Post MSI Thoughts: Team SoloMid

Once again, North America’s Team SoloMid failed to get out of groups at an international event. This is the second time we’ve seen them do poorly at MSI. This was somewhat expected of them coming in; Most people had them ranked 5th coming in after struggling to defeat Vietnam’s Gigabyte Marines in the play-in stage.

Problems

It’s hard to know exactly why TSM tends to play worse internationally. Domestically, TSM is usually somewhat proactive and aren’t afraid to pull the trigger on plays.

Photo by: Riot Esports

During MSI, TSM was often playing scared, not willing to make any plays to finish the game. They built up early game leads, but time and time again they didn’t know how to snowball them to victory.

 

It could be an issue of needing to bring in more analysts or coaches. Too many issues have plagued TSM for literally the whole season with little improvement. These issues arose once again during the Mid Season Invitational and ultimately cost them a spot in the bracket stage.

Their drafts may not have been the issue – even though they were heavily criticized for them. A lack of being able to play the meta was.

It seemed that mid laner Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg could not play Syndra counters such as Fizz and Ekko. Syndra was one of the strongest mid lane champions at MSI. Fizz was also a very valuable flex pick if teams could pull it off, but TSM refused to show the ability to play it in their comps. “Protect the ADC” was also a huge strategy that TSM failed to execute in the first game of group stages against Gigabyte Marines. They would go on the rest of the tournament not attempting to play a similar comp again.

Player Performance

Jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and ADC Jason “Wildturtle” Tran were some of the most criticized members during the group stage of MSI. Svenskeren once again was often getting caught out on greedy invades without proper lane pressure. This had been a constant issue in North America, and it continued here. Individually, it felt like Svenskeren was out-classed by most of the junglers at this tournament aside from G2’s Trick. Svenskeren finished the tournament with a 1.9 KDA and most deaths for junglers.

Many were quick to jump on the Wildturtle hate train after he face checked baron with both summs up against WE during a vital part of the game. Wildturtle statistically did not have a great showing; He was basically near the bottom for most categories among ADC’s. In mid-late game team fights outside of that WE face check, he wasn’t terrible. Wildturtle was never a main carry threat for the team and was usually put on something like Ashe or Varus that could help with locking someone down.

Top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell had a somewhat underwhelming performance after being named MVP of the LCS finals. There were games where his split pushing on Kennen won them games, but there were also times where he got solo killed out of nowhere or got caught out. In the G2 game, Hauntzer was caught out split pushing in the bot lane, which helped G2 stall the game even more and led to TSM’s defeat.

Bjergsen and Hauntzer’s shotcalling seemed pretty off for most of the tournament. TSM seemed lost in what to do with their early game leads and had some of the longest games of the tournament. Even when they did win, it usually wasn’t very convincing.

Looking Ahead

It will be interesting to see if TSM can bounce back from their MSI performance. Taking North America hasn’t been a tough task for them, but translating it over to international success has been a struggle. With star ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng coming back into the mix, we have to wait to see how the team adjusts. Doublelift has the capabilities to be a consistent main carry for the team, along with being a major part of the shot calling last Summer.

Most would expect TSM to add another analyst possibly or another head coach into the mix. Parth has been with TSM for awhile now, but some of their problems are still lingering. After Svenskeren’s performance last split and at MSI, he’ll definitely be a player to watch coming in. If he continues to struggle, TSM could look to replace him for Worlds. One bad tournament shouldn’t justify benching him though.


Cover photo by Riot Esports

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Top Ten Players at MSI

The Mid Season Invitational opening ceremony is a day away, and I’ll be looking at the top players from every region playing this week. Many of these players have been around the pro scene for a while and have made a name for themselves as being some of the best in the world at their positions. Let’s take a look:

10. Swordart (Flashwolves Support)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie has been in the pro scene since season three. He’s been an integral part of Flash Wolves’ success, often roaming with their jungler, Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan in the early game. This season has been no different. SwordArt has shown excellent performances on meta picks, such as Karma. He ended the LMS spring split atop his position with a massive 11.5 KDA, well above any other support in the region.

In their series against Supermassive, he finished with a KDA of 43, only dying once in the entire series. SwordArt is one of the best supports at setting up plays for his team in the early game. He’ll be vital in Flash Wolves’ success in this tournament.

9. Zven (G2 esports ADC)

Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen has slowly developed into one of the best ADC’s in the world. With the ADC meta shifting back to more traditional style carries, Zven will have a chance to prove why he’s one of the best at his position. Despite his support, Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez dipping in performance a bit this season, Zven has still been able to dish out damage in mid game team fights. Most of G2’s success comes in the mid game, often waiting for power spikes to hit before breaking the game wide open with a mid game team fight. Zven’s positioning in team fights is excellent, knowing where he can dish out the most damage from a safe distance.

Zven also has some of the strongest laning of all ADC’s at the tournament. He leads EU in CSdiff@10 with a massive 8.0. Him and Mithy can still compete with the best, and will be up against some World class bot lanes.

8. Hauntzer (TSM Top Laner)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell had one of his best splits on TSM in Spring 2017. With star Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng taking a break for the split, Hauntzer stepped up from the top lane to help be the decisive voice for his team. Despite taking on shot calling responsibilities, Hauntzer’s play did not hinder, it actually got better. With all the talent imported into NA for top laners, Hauntzer held his own and took the title of NA’s best top laner. Hauntzer topped NALCS top laners in DMG% and KDA. He showed excellent performances on a variety of champions as well.

Many believed he deserved the MVP award for the split, but he barely lost out to Phoenix1’s Arrow. He’ll be looking to prove himself on the World stage once again, after struggling to make an impact during their Worlds run last season.

 7. Peanut (SKT Jungler)

Han “Peanut” Wang-ho made a name for himself last season as the starter for ROX tigers. After barely losing to SKT in the semifinals of Worlds last season, Peanut decided to join his rivals this season. Peanut has struggled a bit this season, sometimes getting caught and subbed out for Blank, but he’s still a force in the jungle.

His Lee Sin play has been heralded as some of the best in the world. He has also shown great play on other meta picks, such as Rengar, Graves, and Elise. Along with this, Peanut has had some of the best Dragon/Baron steals anyone has ever seen in pro League of Legends. It’s insane the plays he’s able to pull off.

Peanut will have a chance to win his first international event. With SKT coming in as heavy favorites, anything outside of first will be a failure.

6. Huni (SKT Top laner)

Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo has been a fan favorite for his loving personality and his high play making ability. After spending two seasons playing in Europe and North America, Huni got the chance to play with the best team in the world. He was formerly known for playing hard carry top laners, such as Riven, Fiora, and Gnar, often being criticized for not playing into tank metas.

Many wondered how he’d do under the Korean structure of coaching. On past teams, coaches allowed him to play carry champions, even pulling out Lucian in the top lane in playoffs. He has shown the ability to play tanks, while also still being able to pull out the carry tops when needed for his team. Even when on tanks, Huni has a very strong impact on the game with his teleports and team fighting. He lead the LCK in DMG% for top laners and total KDA.

Playing for SKT has helped Huni become elevated to a World class top laner. He’s more versatile in his champion picks and a huge reason why SKT are favorites to go undefeated here at MSI.

5. Maple (Flash Wolves Mid Laner)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang has been a long time mid laner in the LMS region. He’s shown phenomenal performances in previous international events, such as Flash Wolves’ IEM Katowice victory. In their victory over SKT at Worlds last year, his Aurelion Sol was vital in setting Flash Wolves up with an early lead to snowball. Maple has a deep champion pool, being able to play control mages such as Syndra, or assassins like Zed or Leblanc.

Maple had another great season in the LMS region, posting a 7.1 KDA to top the league. Him and jungler, Karsa, have excellent mid/jung synergy that can often net Flash Wolves huge early game leads. They are also excellent at knowing exactly how to finish games with these heavy leads.

Flash Wolves will be looking to Maple once again, as they are heavy favorites to be the ones to slay Korea once again.

4. Karsa (Flash Wolves Jungler)

Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan is one of many talented junglers at this tournament. His early game play making is huge in Flash Wolves’ success. He loves playing high skill early game champions such as Lee Sin, and Elise. He finished the LMS season top in DMG% and KDA for junglers.

In their series against SuperMassive, Karsa jungled circles around Stomaged, gaining huge CS leads and tracking him quite well. Him and SwordArt have excellent jung/supp synergy, usually setting up vision to do aggressive invades or tower dives. Karsa will be vital in his team’s success, with jungle being one of the most talented positions in the whole tournament.

 3. Bjergsen (TSM Mid Laner)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg has been the star mid laner for Team SoloMid since taking over for owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh in season four. Bjergsen has been a vital part of TSM’s organization, being the only stable member in the past seasons. TSM has literally built the team around him, as he’s slowly just become the best player in the West. His spring season started off a bit slow, as TSM was adjusting not playing with Doublelift, but since then he’s regained his MVP form. He finished the NALCS spring split as leader in total KDA and CSdiff@10.

Bjergsen has slowly taken the title of the Western GOAT for pro League of Legends. He’s become the face for esports talent in North America, and continues to play the game at an extremely high level. The only knock on him is international success. TSM as a whole have one IEM Katowice title in terms of international success. MSI gives them the chance to prove that North America is a region to be on the lookout for.

2. Bang (SKt ADC)

Bae “Bang” Jun-sik has been the starting ADC for their past two Worlds titles. It sometimes feels Bang is underappreciated on a roster full of stars and goofy personalities. Bang has been a consistent carry for SKT, always dishing out damage from a safe distance while also being one of the best laning ADC’s.

He lead the LCK in total KDA for ADC’s while also averaging the highest CSdiff@10 with 8.2. Bang also dished out the highest damage per min among ADC’s. He has shown phenomenal performances on high skill carries such as Ezreal, and even pulled out some amazing Twitch performances in the LCK finals. Bang will look to add another MSI title to his belt as he looks to dominate the bot lane once again.

1. Faker (SKT Mid laner)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok will forever be known as one of the best League of Legends players of all time. He has become known as the best mechanically skilled pro player, while also having the awards and team achievements to back them up. Three world titles, multiple MVPs, along with many Korean esports awards to boast. Since season three, Faker has consistently been the star player of SKT. When they decided to roster change, only him and Bengi were left from the original championship roster. Faker often draws a ton of jungle pressure due to people just knowing how good he is. It opens up a lot of options for the rest of this talented roster.

His impact on the game is unmatched. Faker has become the face of professional esports. When others ask who’s the best player in League of Legends, people will say Faker. His legacy is continually growing, as SKT dominated KT in the LCK finals. He’ll look to add another MSI title to his legacy.

Cover photo by: Riot Esports

MSI kicks off Wednesday!

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