Who should be NALCS MVP?

With the regular season over, we can begin to evaluate how teams/players lived up to expectations. Teams like Immortals shocked the NALCS by contending with the best this split. With the split concluding, we soon find out who will win the heralded NALCS MVP of summer.

An MVP, aka Most Valuable Player, is someone who has shown great importance to their team’s success in and outside of the rift. An MVP is someone that, if taken off the roster, would greatly impact their team’s performance greatly.

Looking at the split, we have a few candidates who really separated themselves from the rest. Let’s take a look:

Cloud9 Jensen (Mid laner)

Photo via Riot Esports

Cloud9’s Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen been critiqued as a “KDA player” who some believe cares more about his own stats than the good of his team. Jensen struggled with consistency during his first few splits in the NALCS but has slowly come into his own, contending with Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg for the best mid laner in North America.

He put up monstrous stats towards the end of the split. More specifically, his Orianna play was some of the best play we’ve seen out of him. He finished the season with the best KDA of any player at 8.7. Cloud9 often played through the mid lane enabling Jensen to get huge leads to snowball the game. Jensen rarely fell behind in lane, leading the league in CS diff@10 with a whopping 8.9.

Just based off regular season performance though, Jensen has put up a good argument for NALCS MVP. He has played phenomenally well individually and has the stats to back that up. One could argue how much Cloud9’s playstyle benefits his KDA. They often heavily relied on him to get ahead in lane and snowball for his team. He’s also been critiqued for not roaming as much as he could or for being selfish for resources.

One knock on Jensen has been his inability to step up in crucial moments. Last spring in a close game five against TSM, a costly mistake lead to Jensen dying with ult and Zhonya’s still up on Ekko. His death lead to TSM eventually finishing the series and taking the Spring Split championship. Could this finally be the playoffs we see Jensen step up for his team?

Immortals Xmithie (Jungler)

Jake “Xmithie” Puchero came to Immortals in a trade with CLG in exchange for star jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett. Many thought Xmithie had peaked on CLG and was nearing the end of his professional career. Nobody even expected Immortals to finish this high in the standings and deserving of a Worlds spot.

It has gone to show how much team chemistry and coaching can impact a player. Xmithie has look revitalized after coming to Immortals. He’s been arguably the best jungler this split and is a huge reason why people believe Immortals can qualify for Worlds. Dardoch and Xmithie’s jungle playstyles are almost night and day, but Immortals got the right jungler they needed – someone who was going to be willing to sacrifice for the carries and mesh well with the team. Xmithie has been just that and more.

He lead all junglers in assists for the summer. While none of his stats really pop out, it’s no secret how much of an impact he’s had for the team. Since Xmithie’s arrival, Immortals went from a 7th place team to a 2nd place team. Others on the team have also been able to shine much more with Xmithie for whatever reason. Cody Sun and Pobelter look like different players from their spring split forms.

It’s a huge example of how much coach Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo has done working with the team. When a team has this big of a turnaround you can’t expect it all to be from one player.

Photo via Riot Esports

TSM Bjergsen (Mid Laner)

Ah, just about every year, TSM’s Bjergsen has to be considered to be in the MVP race. He’s undoubtedly always one of the most impactful players on TSM for many reasons. Aside from always putting up monstrous stats, he’s a main shotcaller for the team and has developed into one the main leaders. Bjergsen can add another great regular season to his legacy as he finished second in KDA among mids and damage per minute.

This split, Bjergsen showed off his ability to play different styles such as the Galio in the mid lane. It adds to the versatility we’ve come to know from the Danish mid laner. In terms of how much value Bjergsen brings to TSM, it’s without a doubt that they’d be much worse without him. He just brings so much to the table for a mid laner and plays well without needing too many resources.

Many will argue that Bjergsen plays with some very talented teammates. This may be the same thing that kept Hauntzer from winning MVP in spring. Having other talented individuals on a team can sometimes mask the impact a player actually has on a team.

These are my top three picks for MVP in no particular order. MVP will be a tight race. It will be interesting to see if Bjergsen adds another MVP trophy to his career or if someone new can take it from him.


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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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Thinking like a professional jungler

While the most recent rendition of CLG versus TSM was not as close as many would have liked it to be, there were many important takeaways from the play of both Svenskeren and OmarGod. As these two junglers went head to head, they tracked each other’s camps, jungle pathing and enemy summoner spells during the early to mid game in order to secure a lead.

Jungle tracking

Junglers trade red buffs through tracking each others camps and playing on the strong side of the map. Courtesy of lolesports

In game one of TSM versus CLG, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and Omar “OmarGod” Amin traded camps cross-map through friendly vision and CS tracking. With OmarGod on Sejuani starting raptors and transitioning into a full blue side clear after red, TSM vision from a level one trinket ward allowed for a safe invade of krugs by Svenskeren’s Maokai. As Svenskeren stole CLG’s krugs, Darshan’s Gragas gained vision of the camp revealing a Maokai with 17 cs. This number reveals to OmarGod that Maokai has not done his own krugs, allowing OmarGod to move in for the guaranteed camp.

This is but one example of how enemy junglers track each other in high stake scenarios. Another example comes from game two where CLG received the information of Svenskeren’s red buff start from his level two gank on bottom lane. In this case, CLG used their advantage in the top lane to collapse on the spawning red buff, securing the objective, two kills and several summoner spells.

 

 

Repeat ganks on summoner-less champions

 

Before six minutes in the game, Bjergsen fakes a recall, allowing Svenskeren’s Maokai to then burn Huhi’s flash and ghost as Huhi’s Orianna attempted to shove in the wave. By taking advantage of Huhi’s naturally proactive tendency to deny the enemy CS as they back (like any good laner would do), Svenskeren was able to burn both defensive summoner spells allowing for an easy follow up gank to guarantee the team first blood and with it, a tempo advantage.

Maokai burns both defensive summoner spells mid allowing for a repeat gank later on. Courtesy of lolesports.

 

 

Even before the follow up gank on CLG’s mid laner, the initial Maokai gank gave pressure to TSM’s mid laner allowing the Taliyah to actively deny CS from CLG’s mid laner by threatening both all in’s and ganks. The follow up gank arrived just before Huhi’s flash came up, securing first blood through a four person dive on the mid lane. By ten minutes, TSM’s entire gold lead stemmed out of their mid lane advantage created through repeat ganks by Svenskeren’s Maokai. This advantage would then translate to a four for one teamfight in TSM’s favor utilizing the advantage of the AOE mage in the mid lane that was previously gained.

In game two we witnessed an early invade that resulted in a blown flash for CLG’s immobile Ashe. Svenskeren immediately took advantage of this by ganking bot lane after starting red buff in his topside. Had Ashe’s flash not been down prior to this gank, an early gank from Svenskeren would have more than likely put him behind in his jungle clear. However, since the flash had been down, the 400 gold that comes from killing CLG’s ADC was very worth the minor setback that occurred as a result of pathing so oddly.

 

 

Solo-queue takeaways: Economy of opportunity

Camping a lane is always a good idea, but camping a lane that has no summoner spells is even better. Junglers in competitive environments benefit from playing around strong sides of their map, sides where their laners have item or summoner advantages. The same basic principles can be applied to solo-queue environments.  When playing on the strong side of the map, if both allies and enemies are to collapse on a risky invade, your allies should have the advantage in the following skirmish.

A level two gank on a flash less Ashe ends up being a flashy play. Courtesy of Lolesports

 

Jungling is all about risk versus reward. What benefits you can gain from ganking a lane may not outweigh the benefits that are guaranteed through farming your jungle. More so, they may not outweigh the benefits you can gain from denying the enemy jungler their own resources. Highly skilled junglers take this into account frequently. They often do not gank early due to the tempo loss that can arise from a failed gank. However, the same can be applied for the reverse of this scenario. Easily gankable lanes are prioritized over their own camps and the opportunity to counter jungle. How a jungler utilizes the economy of opportunity will dictate how skilled they are, and furthermore, will decide whose nexus falls.

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Feature image courtesy of lolesports

Playoffs

NA LCS Playoffs team breakdown

It’s time for that special time of the year. Where every team puts it all on the line for the championship. Teams have finally finished the battle of the summer split and have either qualified or fallen short of a playoff berth. The teams that have qualified each have a chance to take home the trophy as this playoff tournament shapes up to be the most competitive in recent history. This year a team that has never won may claim the title of NA LCS champion.

 

I’ll speak to each team’s recent results and the matchup they’ll have, then I’ll highlight both one key strength and one key weakness for each team.

 

Team NV

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

Team NV has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the sixth seed. They will be facing CLG in the quarter finals on the 19th. Though Team NV is the lowest seed, and coming off of an 0-4 run they shouldn’t be discounted. Team NV earlier in the season have proven they can take a series win off of top tier teams such as C9, DIG, and IMT.

 

Strength

Team NV’s clear strength comes from the jungle. Lira has been a dominant force for team NV since he joined the team last split. Despite finishing as a 10th place team Lira was voted as All NA LCS first team jungler. This year he has proved his dominance with 71% KP and strong performances on Elise, Lee Sin, and Nidalee. A great recent example being game 2 versus TSM in week 8.

 

Weakness

NV’s biggest weakness is their top laner Seraph. With a combined score in week 9 of 2-25-10 Seraph is clearly the weak link on NV. With a solid mid and bot lane, it seems as if Lira needs to babysit Seraph in order to prevent the opponent from snowballing. He is sitting on an abysmal 2.31 KDA across the season and has the highest deaths of any top laner in the league.

 

Team Dignitas

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

DIG has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the fifth seed. They will be facing C9 in the quarter finals on the 20th. They are coming off a 3-1 last two weeks with only a close loss to CLG dampening their final few games. With plenty of momentum and thoughts of the mid-season slump long behind them DIG looks good going into the quarters.

 

Strengths

Team DIG’s strength is certainly their top laner Ssumday.  His wide champion pool featured 16 unique champions this split featuring tanks, fighters, and even the occasional marksman. Ssumday is the backbone of DIG and has carried more than his fair share of games for DIG

 

Weakness

In that strength, there is a weakness. Ssumday is easily targeted for frequent ganks and roams, because DIG love to play through him. When that’s the case, and the other laners aren’t able to generate leads despite DIG losses. This was the issue in the mid-season, DIG’s bot lane wasn’t able to hold their own without constant jungle pressure, but with the addition of Altec and Adrian, the team has found much more success.

 

Cloud 9

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

C9 has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the fourth seed. They will be facing DIG in the quarter finals on the 20th. They are coming off an easy last two weeks going 4-0, playing only one other playoff team, NV. This will have only built their confidence and given them opportunity to work on their team play. C9 has a long history of deep playoff runs and there is lots of experience on the roster of high pressure games.

 

Strength

Jensen’s midlane play has been next level since week two. Despite struggling in the beginning and middle of the season as a team Cloud 9’s midlaner has been putting up some incredible numbers. He broke the split record for kills, a record he already held. He has a disgusting 8.70 KDA across the split and has five champions with KDA averages 6+.

 

Weakness

Despite Jensen’s strong performance, Cloud 9 has, at times, seemed lost. Cloud 9’s macro play has not matched their micro. Some games the communication just isn’t there. Either Contractz will gank late or early and they will trade one for one when it could have been a clean gank, or they will lose a fight and surrender an objective while they’re 2k gold up in the mid game.

 

Counter Logic Gaming

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

CLG has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the third seed. They will be facing NV in the quarter finals on the 19th. They are coming off of a 2-2 last two weeks, with an upset from P1 in week 8 and a rough loss to rivals TSM to wrap up their split. They’ll be looking to seek vengeance on their longtime rivals and seek retribution for being upset in last split’s quarter final’s series against Flyquest.

 

Strength

The CLG bottom lane has been a rock for them this split. Both Stixxay and Aphromoo have had great splits. Stixxay has showed competence on a wide range of ADCs, pulling out nine unique champions this split with an impressive 4.33 KDA. Aphromoo, while maybe not in peak performance, is still having a great split. CLG is able to rely on their bot lane duo to either play well and stay even as a weak side, or focus resources to them and have them carry games.

 

Weakness

They’ve elected in their final weeks to replace their jungler with a rookie. While it may help in the long run, there has been signs of a lack of communication from the rookie. Their loss to P1 is an example of this. In game 2 Omargod looked lost on Elise, unable to engage or gank successfully at any point in the game and the team just fell apart in the mid game. This isn’t to say that Omargod is a bad player, only that he lacks the experience on stage to be consistent and that will hurt CLG’s chances in playoffs.

 

 

Immortals

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

Immortals rounded out the split with a 3-1 record in the final two weeks. The loss they did suffer was to DIG. This doesn’t bode well headed into the playoffs, but with a bye they won’t have to face anyone until the semis. Immortals has a lot to prove in this season’s playoffs, having had a rough history in the post season and look to make their first worlds appearance.

 

Strength

Immortal’s strength lies with two players, both in contention for MVP this season. Xmithie in the jungle and Olleh their support. Each player has found a way to control their part of the map, both with vision and pressure. Olleh has really stepped up this year and improved. His laning phase is much better, providing both pressure for Cody Sun and roaming mid for Pobelter. Xmithie has found his stride on IMT after leaving CLG. He plays with a lot of confidence and often chokes out the enemy junglers with invades and frequent ganks.

 

Weakness

Immortals main weakness is their inability to hold onto early game leads against top teams. For example against DIG in game 1 week 8 IMT had an early lead, yet were unable to push that lead to a victory. Same thing happened against TSM in week five. In game one IMT came out to an early lead, yet were unable to stop giving up objectives and going even or less one kill in team fights until eventually they lost their lead and the game.

 

Team Solo Mid

Playoffs

Photo Via Lolesports

TSM has qualified for the NA LCS playoffs as the first seed and have a bye into the semifinals. They have taken a clean 4-0 in the final two weeks with a big win over CLG. TSM has a lot of experience with this roster, and a lot of experience in high pressure games. They’ve yet to miss an NA LCS finals match, and expect to find themselves in the finals this year.

 

Strength

Their strength is certainly their individual play. Each player as an individual has great play. Bjergsen is always arguably, if not definitively, the best midlaner in NA and this split has been no different. The same can be said for Doublelift in the ADC role. Hauntzer has played a great split as well as Sven and Biofrost. Each player as an individual has made great plays.

 

Weakness

When TSM losses, it’s because of team play. When TSM’s team play is on point, domestically they are unbeatable. Take their series in week seven against DIG for an example. A botched team fight in game one at around the ten minute mark lost them their gold lead and led to DIG getting first tower and a cloud drake. If they are all focused together they are unstoppable, but have shown that their team play and macro isn’t as consistent as their individual play.

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Seed

NA LCS playoff seed possibilities

The summer split for NA LCS has been tumultuous. Every week has been a fierce battle for a top spot. At no point has there been a clearly defined best team. Throughout the season we’ve seen bottom of the standings teams upset teams at the top, even as recently as Sunday when P1 pulled out a win over CLG. Now, with only a week left to play, teams fight for a playoff seed.

The teams making playoffs are locked in, but seeds are not. Playoff contenders are as follows: IMT, TSM, CLG, DIG, C9 and NV. IMT and TSM share first, CLG has sole possession of third, DIG and C9 share fourth and NV rounds us out in sixth. It comes down to the final three days of the summer split to determine who will be seeded where in the playoffs.

First Seed

Seed

Photo Via Lol esports

TSM and IMT are the two teams that seem most likely to grab the top seed. They are both sitting at a 12-4 record heading into the final week. IMT has the best chance of going 2-0 this weekend, squaring off against sixth place NV and seventh place Echo Fox. TSM faces P1, who is tied for eighth and last place, but they also face off against CLG. The rivalry matches between TSM and CLG have always been volatile and could easily go either way. A TSM loss would put IMT in the top spot.

To make things interesting, the head to head between IMT and TSM is even, each team having taken a series win against the other. This means if both TSM and IMT go 2-0 this week, the tie will go to game wins and losses. TSM is currently winning in terms of game wins and losses, sitting at 26-11 compared to IMT’s 26-15. If both teams go 2-0 then TSM will take the first seed.

Being first and second in the NA LCS is extremely advantageous. Teams get a bye into the semifinals and as a result, the lowest possible placement in fourth place. In terms of Championship Points the value of a playoff bye is unrivaled. However, teams aren’t going into the post season aiming for fourth place.

 

Second Seed

Seed

Photo Via Lol esports

The difference between a first place seed and a second place seed is bigger than it may appear. The first place team will face the lowest ranked team in the semis while the second place will face the higher. This means that whoever gets first place cannot face the third place team. With the third place team likely being CLG, IMT and TSM will be scrambling to secure the first place spot to avoid playing CLG in the semis and play either C9, DIG or NV.

In the event that TSM loses to CLG then the series will be tied in a head to head. The difference will again go to game win/loss. If TSM wins 2-1 over P1, and CLG 2-0s both DIG and TSM, then TSM will be 28-14 and CLG will be 29-16. The win loss ratio being barely in TSM’s favor. In order to place second CLG will have to win out against DIG and TSM and hope that TSM or IMT loses out.

Third Seed

Seed

Photo Via Lol esports

Short of that CLG will be placed third and have to face off against NV. That is unless NV wins out and either DIG or C9 loses out. Either way CLG wants to secure the third place spot to avoid playing a higher ranked team. Unfortunately they’re only one game up on C9 and DIG and face DIG in a head to head tomorrow. If they lose, DIG will be 2-0 in the head to head and secure the third place spot with a win over TL on Sunday. CLG could end up anywhere between first and fifth, because if both IMT and TSM lose out CLG would be first if they win out.

The rest of the teams will fall where they may. C9 and DIG could each end up as high as third, but cannot qualify for a bye spot. NV can only finish as high as fourth. The parity of the NA LCS has been exciting all split, but now it is culminating in the final week to determine the seeding. The playoffs should be exciting as well with how close the teams are.

 

Week nine has a lot of possible outcomes and a lot of story-lines to follow, and every game counts. The NA LCS is delivering in an exciting way.

 

Cover Photo Via lolesports

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Is this the year North America goes far at Worlds?

For the past few seasons North America has had very little success at Worlds. While other regions have been able to find their way to the finals or even semi finals, NA hasn’t made it past quarterfinals since season one. This year there is a hope with NA showing a dominating performance at rift rivals against EU. Europe has had somewhat more success with teams such as H2k and Fnatic reaching semifinals the past few seasons.

Every year around this time people are slowly getting hyped for the World championships. Teams will begin to qualify in the next month or so and will most likely head to Korea for a boot camp. Bootcamping in Korea has almost become a must for teams wanting to have a shot at the World championship. The same story seems to always come for North America. Korea and other regions hype up their scrim results only to have them flop on stage. One team might make it out of groups, but then be swept handily in the quarterfinals. Here are some reasons NA fans can be hopeful this year:

Improved Competition

Worlds

Photo via Riot Esports

It’s no doubt North America has been improving steadily each year. Some of the best players from around the world have been brought in and overall, the scene seems much improved. More money has allowed teams to invest in better players, coaches, and practice facilities. Many teams such as Immortals and Cloud 9 have shown the effectiveness of bringing in a Korean coach. Immortals literally went from a 7th place team in Spring to a team contending for first with a worse roster under the wings of former ROX coach, Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo.

Not only have imports improved the competition, but new homegrown talent has also begun to flood the scene. Players like Contractz, Akaadian, Mikeyeung, and Cody Sun have begun to show that there is talent to foster here in North America. Despite all the knocks on our solo que, there are talented players out there waiting to be discovered.

The competition throughout NA is much better than it was last year and even last split. Compared to EU, there isn’t really a team like Massive Monkeys or NiP that are free wins for most teams. Every team can take a win under the right circumstances. More importantly, the top six teams look closer than ever. First place has not been held for very long this split, and it almost feels like it’s a good thing. More talented teams, should mean a better showing at Worlds.

Group draws play a huge factor

With Worlds continuing with the same format as previous seasons, group draws will be very important in seeing how far an NA team can actually go. With TSM flailing at MSI, NA comes in as underdogs with no number one seed coming into Worlds. This may not matter much as we saw G2 last year get drawn into a somewhat favorable group at first glance without a number one seed.

While NA hasn’t had the best luck with their group draws, this year could be different. The real jackpot is avoiding drawing a Korean team if possible during the group stages. Korea is undoubtedly always the strongest region.

Teams to Watch out For

Photo via Riot Esports

Due to how important circuit points are in qualifying for Worlds, TSM and Cloud 9 are almost auto locks for Worlds barring a playoff upset. The third spot will most likely be contested for in the gauntlet unless Immortals can win their first NALCS split. While it’s not impossible, Immortals have yet to show up in playoffs after successful regular seasons. This team looks much different than their previous seasons, showing a variety of different strategies to be able to win games. Coach Ssong has had a steady impact for this team. CLG, Dignitas, and Envy have also been steadily improving.

TSM will look to redeem themselves at Worlds this year after a dominating summer last year only to be knocked out of Groups. This year TSM isn’t trying to perfect one sole strategy. Instead, they’re practicing different styles of comps and learning to play off more than one lane carrying. It sounds like a good plan for Worlds success.

Cloud 9 on the other hand have looked inconsistent this split. The team seems to only win through getting star mid laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen ahead. When Jensen snowballs hard the team’s games become much easier. If he doesn’t get ahead, the team struggles to find a way to win. Jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia has had a phenomenal sophomore split as he has the highest DPM among junglers and is near the top in total KDA. If the top and bot lane of C9 can find more consistency, they can definitely show a good performance at Worlds if they qualify.

 

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

 

 

Can a new team break into Worlds for North America?

Over the past two seasons we’ve seen North America represented by the same three teams at Worlds: Team SoloMid, Cloud 9 and Counter Logic Gaming. These organizations have become fan favorites for most, but some new challengers have risen this split to possibly take their shot on the World stage for North America. The North American scene seems to be looking better and better. TSM has continued their dominance, while CLG and C9 have had their share of inconsistencies. Cloud 9 have almost guaranteed their spot at Worlds as long as they do well enough in playoffs. Second place for Spring granted them a massive amount of circuit points. With 3rd/4th place teams Phoenix1 and Flyquest looking close out of the playoff race, CLG will need to play well to ensure their spot at Worlds.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the teams that could contend for a spot:

Immortals

Due to Immortals finishing 7th place last split, they have zero circuit points to help with contention. This almost guarantees that they’ll need to earn their spot either by winning Summer or qualifying through the gauntlet. The latter will be the most likely scenario.

Immortals have become known for having great regular seasons, aside from last spring. This split came as a bit of a surprise to most. People expected the jungle swap of Dardoch and Xmithie to favor CLG, but both teams have benefited greatly. Not only the jungle swap, but the hiring of former ROX tiger coach, Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo, has given them the knowledge to properly out-macro opponents.

Every lane seems to have come into their own. Young rookie, Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun has developed into a top tier ADC this split along with support Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung. Cody Sun is near the top for DPM and DMG percentage among ADC’s. Olleh has shown great performances on playmaking champions such as Thresh.

Immortals is currently tied for first with TSM and CLG. They’ll need to prove that they can finally perform when it matters, not just the regular season if they want to make it to Worlds.

Dignitas

Worlds

Photo via Riot Games

Dignitas stormed out the gates this split, contending for first place for a few weeks before going on a losing streak. They still have their inconsistencies at times. Last week against CLG they flashed the potential to be able to dominate some of the best teams in the league. Other times, they play to the level of their inferior opponents and drop matches.

With jungler Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon taking the reigns as the full time starter now, Dignitas can maybe gain some consistency for a Worlds run. Shrimp has the second highest kill participation percentage among junglers. In the bot lane, they’ve added two veterans of the LCS in Altec and Adrian. It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes the full time bot lane for the team moving forward.

What’s worrisome is how average of a mid laner Lae-Young “Keane” Jang can be. Keane has middle of the pack stats in comparison to the rest of the NA mids. If he can play up to the likes of Bjergsen, Jensen, Pobelter and Huhi, then maybe Dignitas can make it.

Dignitas has 10 championship points from last split which likely means they’ll be battling in the gauntlet for a Worlds spot. If the team can find some consistency, don’t be surprised to see them as real contenders for a Worlds spot.

Phoenix1

Despite Phoenix1 not being far from the playoff race at the moment, and tied for last place, they still have a ton of circuit points that can help them qualify. A third place finish from Spring granted them 50 circuit points, more than a lot of the teams outside of C9/TSM. Even if they don’t qualify for playoffs they still have a shot in the gauntlet based on circuit points.

Rift Rivals was seen as a stepping stone for the team after a rough start to summer split. They had a good performance and were looking to carry that momentum into the second half of the split. That hasn’t been the case as they’ve stumbled coming back. Star rookie jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung hasn’t looked as dominant since he’s returned. The tank jungler meta hasn’t allowed him to show the same carry performances we saw at Rift Rivals.

Mid laner, Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook, stepping down certainly doesn’t help their cause either. Ryu was an integral part of the team, and it’s hard to say that Pirean can come in and perform up to veteran Ryu standards. If Ryu does return after a needed break, Phoenix1 can definitely make a C9 Cinderella run in the gauntlet.

Worlds

Photo via Riot Games

With only two and a half weeks left in the split, any team can make a late run for Worlds. Will it be CLG, Cloud 9 and TSM at Worlds once again for North America? Or will a new team emerge from the ashes?

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Cover photo by Riot Games

 

 

TSM

TSM takes the throne at Rift Rivals

TSM had a great performance at Rift Rivals. In the group stage they had a record of five wins and one loss. They lost to UOL who, coincidentally, faced them in the finals. But the finals showcased a dominating 3-0 from TSM. Rift Rivals had one purpose and one purpose only: to settle the debate of who is better between NA or EU. At least for a year. TSM winning the tournament, and especially in such a dominant fashion, demonstrates that they are the best team in the west.

The reason they are the best team in the west goes beyond their victory at Rift Rivals. They demonstrated their potential as a team and their ability to adapt to the meta.

Individual Level

TSM Rift Rivals

Photo via LoLesports Flickr

On an individual level, TSM looked strong throughout Rift Rivals. Their jungler, Svenskeren, was dominant. Having struggled during MSI, Svenskeren played with purpose and direction during this event. His Lee Sin looked great as always, stealing Baron against UOL in game two of the finals.

 

Hauntzer struggled during the laning phase in a few games, but his mid and late game teamfighting was solid. His Gnar looked impressive, hitting multi-man ultimates and dishing out loads of damage.

The bottom lane was consistent. Doublelift’s positioning has improved since his return to TSM. His Ashe arrows found their target time and again. His Caitlyn dominated the laning phase and dealt massive damage late.

Bjergsen has made the return to peak form. His Syndra was on another level, and he put on a clinic with his Leblanc play in the finals.

Map Play

 

TSM Rift Rivals

Photo via Lolesports Flickr

They did more than play well individually. TSM’s team play was outstanding. In the finals against UOL, TSM played an extraordinary map game.  In game two of the finals, TSM got two kills by bringing Svenskeren down to blue side krugs, while Doublelift and Biofrost pushed in the lane. Hauntzer was also pushing in the lane up top, while Bjergsen played safe. Doublelift sent a decoy Hawkshot over the krugs Sven was on, faking that they didn’t know what was there. This prompted Samux and Hyllisang to try and farm out a few more minions instead of backing, believing they were still in a 2v2. Just as the wave comes under tower, Hauntzer teleports in and Svenskeren shows up in bot lane.

 

Viziscasci couldn’t follow teleport immediately because he was pushed in so hard, thus TSM was in a 2v4 scenario for about four seconds. This gave them enough time to get a double kill onto Hauntzer’s Gragas and begin to snowball the game. All this was possible because of the wards that TSM had laid down earlier, one in the raptor camp and the other by the blue buff. They spotted Xerxe on the topside of the map so they knew he wouldn’t be able to counter gank.

It was also prompted by the lane prowess of Doublelift and Biofrost. They were able to win a great trade against the botlane of UOL, bringing Samux low, and burning his heal.

Team Fights

In game three against UOL, TSM was down 2.5k in gold at the 25-minute mark. Despite that, they still won a team fight. UOL got a little greedy, overstepped and TSM was in a position to punish them for it. Viziscasci had pushed Hauntzer out of the bottom lane, and gained an advantage in that lane. Thus, Hauntzer recalled. This is the moment that UOL decided to initiate. They were in 4v4 in the midlane, with a gold advantage, but Exileh had just lost out on a trade to Bjergsen, and TSM was able to kite their initiation.

TSM then began to turn as they saw both top laners TP in. They knew that UOL had a Mega Gnar on the way, but they had a full heath Gragas.  When the fight started in earnest, TSM was able to win out because of better positioning by the carries, and a great ultimate from Gragas. This is despite a decent Gnar ult by Viziscasci and UOL being ahead 2.5k.

TSM then went on to take Baron and win the game.

The Rest of the West

TSM Rift Rivals

Photo vai LoLesports Flickr

TSM has one team left to prove themselves against. That team is CLG. They crushed IMT before Rift Rivals, and despite losing to C9 in the LCS they certainly out preformed them at the event. CLG is the only team TSM has left to beat before they are truly the undisputed best in the west.

 

I think that they will have little trouble in besting them in a best of three and certainly no trouble in a best of five. TSM and CLG don’t square off until week nine. A lot could change from now until then, but TSM seems to have hit their stride.

As for EU, they sent their best teams and they got beaten. Maybe the new patch didn’t help, or the best of ones, but that just demonstrated TSM’s ability to adapt to a new meta and play within that new meta.


Cover Photo Via lolesports

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TSM is trending in Rift Rivals

Trending in Rift Rivals: NA v. EU

Rift Rivals is on in full force, as regions around the world battle for bragging rights. This new international event is clashing metas against each other, to surprising effect. The Atlantic rivalry, North America versus Europe, has been particularly exciting.

There was so much speculation coming into the event, regarding which teams would be strongest, which player match-ups would be most intense and which pocket picks might be locked in. Some of this guess-work has followed through on stage, but much of it has been turned on its head. Today, we will be looking at what is trending at Rift Rivals: NA v. EU.

TRENDING UP

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the upswing since playing at Rift Rivals. They may have won a key series against a tough opponent. A teammate may have put their team on their back to keep it together. Maybe a particular champion pick was able to shine.

C9 Jensen is trending in Rift Rivals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen

Even though Cloud9 has had a 50 percent win rate after three days at Rift Rivals, their mid laner has been putting up quite a performance. Jensen has the second highest overall KDA (10.4), the second lowest overall death share (7 percent), and the highest overall gold and CS leads at 10 minutes (427, 11.3). Critics in the NA LCS suggested Jensen’s performance may be inflated due to the wide mid lane talent pool within North America. Rift Rivals just may convince them otherwise, having withstood Rasmus “Caps” Winther, Luka “Perkz” Perković and Fabian “Exileh” Schubert.

Phoenix1

Heralded by many to be the weakest team coming into the event, P1 has been rocking the house in Berlin. The orange-and-black hold a 4-2 record after three days of competition, higher than Cloud9, Unicorns of Love, Fnatic and G2. P1 has been the dominant early game by far, averaging 1,272 gold ahead at 15 minutes. Maintaining the highest kill:death ratio, 1.87, P1 is also the team going for blood. Their matches have been invigorating for NA LCS fans hoping for a strong showing.

TSM

Analysts are beginning to shed more and more of their doubts about TSM. The defending champions of North America are on a tear, currently sitting 5-1 with the best record at Rift Rivals. The decisive, coordinated playstyle that allowed TSM to dominate the NA LCS in Spring 2016 has re-surged. They are averaging 1,438 gold ahead at 15 minutes against some of Europe’s strongest contenders. The biggest difference between TSM and other teams in the tournament, however, has been their neutral objective control. At 75 percent dragon control and 80 percent Baron control, they are among the highest of all teams.

Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung

Phoenix1’s jungler is making quite a name for himself in his first international performance. MikeYeung has become a playmaker that is not afraid to aggressively invade the enemy’s jungle or contest neutral objectives. His Lee Sin is very slippery, sporting a 9.8 KDA and 100 percent win rate over three games. Rift Rivals is furthering his claim for “Rookie of the Split” in the NA LCS (even if he is the only one currently eligible).

Top lane Gnar is trending in Rift Rivals

Image from Surrenderat20.net

Top lane Gnar

Gnar has seen plenty of professional gameplay around the world since his release. However, his pick-ban rate has been low for most of 2017: 2.3 percent in spring and 5.9 percent so far this summer. Rift Rivals is seeing a resurgence of the Missing Link in the top lane. Gnar has been picked in seven games, banned in five, equaling 66.6 percent of total games. Teams have won 71.4 percent of games with the champion. This probably signals an increased priority for Gnar for the foreseeable future in NA and EU LCS.

TRENDING DOWN

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the downswing at Rift Rivals: NA v. EU. They may have lost a series against an underdog. A teammate may have faltered over several games. Maybe the meta is shifting and a playstyle is being left in the past.

Fnatic is trending in Rift Rivals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Fnatic

Following an upward trend last week in the EU LCS, Fnatic have slipped up so far at Rift Rivals. Over two days, the number one European team is only 2-4 against TSM, C9 and P1. Doing a complete 180 from the EU LCS Summer Split so far, Fnatic are averaging 2,378 gold behind at 15 minutes, and they have only secured 10 percent of dragons. No one player can take the blame, though.

Jeon “Ray” Ji-won

Cloud9’s top laner is on the decline since competing at Rift Rivals. While Ray has not necessarily put up star performances in the NA LCS, his shortcomings are on full display at this tournament. The third lowest overall KDA (1.6), third lowest overall kill participation (50 percent), second highest overall death share (29.8 percent) and ninth overall lowest damage per minute (261). These all belong to Ray. 

Rek'Sai jungle is trending in Rift Rivals

Image from Surrenderat20.net

Rek’Sai jungle

Rek’Sai saw a sharp up-tick in gameplay last week in NA and EU LCS, since receiving a gameplay update. However, the Void Burrower has not been impactful so far at Rift Rivals. RekSai has only been picked or banned in four games, and only won one game. Zac, Elise, Gragas and Lee Sin have had significantly higher priority in drafts and performance in game.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports FlickrSurrenderat20.net

Champion Statistics: Games of Legends, Oracle’s Elixir

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Rift Rivals day one recap: NA takes the lead

The following recap covers day one of NA versus EU in the Rift Rivals in Berlin.

TSM v G2: Learning how to play a comp

After much practice in the North American League Championship, Team SoloMid finally turned the corner on the Galio and Jarvan IV composition. Like many team comps taken from the LCK, the Galio and Jarvan IV synergy requires communication to cover the weaknesses of both champions’ ultimates.

Practice makes perfect for the TSM Galio and Jarvan IV combo. Courtesy of LoL Esports.

 

Using Galio to pressure side lanes in the early to mid game, TSM was able to lead the game by 4.4k at fifteen minutes.

TSM was still working out the kinks in their team communication with a disastrous mid game team fight around Baron. With a relatively simple game plan, “Kill the Kog’Maw”, TSM used their win condition to instead focus down G2’s tanky jungler, Rek’Sai.

The perfect combo. Courtesy of LoL Esports

 

After losing this early team fight around Baron, TSM seemed to clean up their communications with a cleanly executed team fight that utilized the strengths of their composition. This fight forced G2’s hyper carry based team comp into a position that did not allow Kog’Maw to administer his health depleting projectile vomit onto the damage dealing threats of TSM.

TSM took the victory at 41:19 leading in gold by nearly 15k, eleven towers to three and eighteen to ten kills.

FNC v P1:MIKE YEUNG! MIKE YEUNG! MIKE YEUNG! Broxah?

The early to mid game for FNC v P1 showed a Phoenix 1 that no one expected. With jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung maintaining a small gold lead through nonstop ganks, hope for North America as a region was at an all-time high.

As soon as mid game pulled around, the less than one hundred gold lead Phoenix 1 had at twenty minutes meant little to nothing. With the signature Kennen marksman split push, FNC was able to negate P1’s lead through controlled disengages and devout farming. As soon as the gold gap flipped in favor of Fnatic, Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen utilized Zac to place enemy champions onto a plate for Martin “Rekkles” Larsson’s Kennen.

 

Rift Rivals

Postgame breakdown courtesy of LoL Esports.

G2 v C9: How to lose two games in one by Cloud9

G2’s early game prowess proved that Kim “Trick” Kang Yoon is a jungler not to be doubted. With early game control over every dragon, Trick cashed in on late game insurance, while also pressuring lanes around the map. Trick’s vision control around bot side allowed for some crucial ganks and counter ganks snowballing an early lead for G2.

G2 Trick utilizes vision control to deny C9’s bot lane plays. Courtesy of LoL Esports.

Cloud9 turned things around with a crispy team fight after a pick on Renekton, allowing them to take an uncontested Baron afterward. Through clean tower taking rotations made possible through Baron buff and Tristana’s kit, Cloud9 was able to pull into the lead with one 3058 gold Baron power play.

C9 Sneaky LITERALLY recalls on a ward throwing the game once again into G2’s favor. Courtesy of LoL Esports.

C9, with a tempo advantage, looked to control the rest of the game up until the entirety of their advantage was depleted by one basic ability from Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez’s Blitzcrank. G2 saw Cloud 9’s 3k Baron power play and raised them a 4588 gold Baron power play that was aided by the five stack Elder Dragon buff. This recipe created an advantage that not even G2 was able to throw.

Rift Rivals

Postgame breakdown courtesy of Lol Esports

 

P1 v UoL: Exileh blows Flash and MikeYeung chants come back

Phoenix 1 once again secured a lead into their EU opponents, with mid-laner Ryu Sang-wook picking up three kill participation before ten minutes. However, this lead did not prevent UoL from playing proactively via a successful gank mid and a follow-up Rift Herald. Despite UoL’s Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir having an impactful early game, MikeYeung played out of his mind.

Rift Rivals

The start of a long game for UoL Exileh. Courtesy of Lol Esports

 

MikeYeung’s camp on mid lane left UoL looking for the report for intentional feeding post game for their mid laner,  Fabian “Exileh” Schubert.

Perhaps the most controlled game for Rift Rivals day one, P1 vUoL looked like a completely different team than the P1 we see in NA LCS.

FNC v C9: Contractz buys camping gear from Caps

Rasmus “Caps” Winther was not allowed to lane against the mid lane and jungle synergy that C9 brought with their Leblanc and Gragas combo. With the burning of Caps’ flash before laning phase even began, C9 looked to snowball Jensen’s Leblanc into a champion removal machine.

With gank after gank on mid lane, not all of which were done by C9’s jungler, Jensen secured eight kills by the time C9 went for their game-ending push.

Rift Rivals

Smoothie makes mid lane feel like an REI outlet. Courtesy of Lol Esports.

TSM v UoL: NA finishes strong

UoL Exileh’s tilt from Ryu’s dominance over his Ryze earlier during the day permeated through his unsuccessful Corki performance into Bjergsen’s Syndra. While UoL Vizicsacsi performed very well on Irelia into TSM’s Gnar pick, the same can not be said for the rest of UoL’s team.

Despite having a troubled laning phase, TSM Hauntzer’s Gnar pulled huge Mega Gnar ultimates, two-handedly leading TSM into a victory.

Rift Rivals

Day One completed. Here are the results. Courtesy of Lol Esports.

Bjergsen sealed the game with a beautiful Quadra kill putting NA substantially in the lead for day one of Rift Rivals at 4-2. TSM finished off Day one 2-0 and are looking for more victories in the coming days.


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All images courtesy of LoL Esports

Feature image courtesy of LoL Esports

NA vs. EU Rift Rivals power rankings/predictions

Rift Rivals is around the corner. We will get the chance to see some of the top teams from EU and NA face off in a regional battle for bragging rights. EU and NA has been a long time rivalry in professional League of Legends. They were two of the first big regions to produce pro teams during LoL’s early days.

The history of the NA vs. EU rivalry has been a bit lopsided as of late. EU comes in as heavy favorites with most of the top of NA looking inconsistent for most of the first half of the split. You never really know with international tournaments though. The two regions are used to playing to their own metas so it will be interesting to see how the teams match up. Here are my power rankings for the teams playing at Rift Rivals:

1. Fnatic

Photo via Riot Games

Fnatic come into Rift Rivals with a steady 6-1 record. After struggling last split, they found their groove towards the end. Fnatic have found a style that works for them and continue to show mastery on it. ADC Martin “Rekkles” Larsson has his pocket pick Kennen that teams must watch out for. If it’s not the Kennen, it’s his Tristana that can give teams trouble. Mid laner Rasmus “Caps” Winther gets his first shot at international competition. This is a great opportunity for him to face off against some of the best in the world in Bjergsen and Jensen at Rift Rivals. With Rekkles usually on more utility carries, Caps is heavily relied on to be the main damage dealer for the team. Caps currently leads the league for all mids in damage percentage and damage per minute.

Young jungler Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen gets his chance to prove himself as one of the best junglers in the West. He’s been dominating the EULCS this split with a monster 11.3 KDA. He’s an aggressive jungler that has had phenomenal performances on early game junglers such as Elise and Kha’zix.

Fnatic are comprised of two veterans in SoaZ and Rekkles who should be able to lead this rising squad to a Rift Rivals victory.

2. Unicorns of Love

Unicorns of Love come into Rift Rivals with a 5-1 record, only dropping a series to Splyce. They are led by star top laner Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás. Rookie of the split Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir will also be a player to watch as he’s come into his own in the EULCS. He has a deep champion pool, willing to pull out unique champion picks such as Warwick and Hecarim. With EU having some of the best junglers in this tournament, NA will need to step up.

Fabian “Exileh” Schubert may have a a rough time. In EU he’s currently dead last in CS difference@10. He’s also near the bottom for many mid lane stats. He will be up against the likes of Bjergsen, Jensen and Ryu. Teams will most likely look to exploit the mid and bot lane. ADC Samuel “Samux” Fernández has looked improved this split, he comes in facing the likes of Arrow, Doublelift and Sneaky. UoL have strong shot calling and have shown consistency to play well together. In just about every matchup against TSM they’ve handily defeated them. We’ll see if that changes this time around.

3. Cloud 9

Photo via Riot Games

Cloud 9 come in off a solid win over TSM, but a very deflating loss at the hands of CLG. Had they beaten CLG they may have been in a higher position. Cloud 9 are led by carries Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi. Jensen has been having the best split of his career in the NALCS. He sits near the top in most statistical categories among NA mids.

In NA Cloud 9 has had some of the same issues from last split. Their early game play making still lacks a bit, but their laning phase is still pretty solid. They have a versatile roster with their interchangeable top laners of Jeon “Ray” Ji-won and Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong. Ray has slowly been taking the starting role from Impact showing the ability to be a carry top laner for the team.

In the jungle rookie Juan “Contractz” Garcia has still shown some inconsistencies, but has turned it on as of late. He’ll be facing many good junglers from EU, so he’ll need to step it up if Cloud 9 have a chance. It will be his first international competition so he’ll look to prove himself. Cloud 9’s rivalry with Fnatic will be ignited once again as they get a chance to face off in this tournament. Cloud 9 took the battle of the Atlantic, but Fnatic has gotten the best of them at Worlds.

4. Team SoloMid

TSM are the reigning North American champions and had the chance to eliminate G2 from MSI. They failed to do so and were eliminated themselves. They get another shot in the EU rivalry this time with ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Doublelift vs. Rekkless and Zven will be matchups to watch here at Rift Rivals. Rekkless isn’t really known for his aggressive laning phase so we’ll need to see how he does against one of NA’s best.

Many thought TSM would retake the NA throne easily with the addition of Doublelift back onto the roster. That hasn’t been the case as TSM sit in 2nd place with a 7-3 record. Jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen has looked phenomenal on Lee Sin. Anything outside of Lee, he has looked meh at best. He’ll be a huge crutch for TSM if he has a repeat of his performances at MSI.

TSM have been known to choke at international events. We’ll need to see if Rift Rivals will be another one added to that list.

5. G2

Photo via Riot Games

After a great run at MSI where they reached the finals before losing to SKT, G2 was expected to come back and destroy the EULCS scene. That hasn’t been the case as G2 seem to have taken a step back in terms of performance. They may be using the regular season to try out new things, but their old strategy of playing to the late game has not worked well for them. They currently sit at 3-3, third in their conference.

Their early game play making is lacking. While they can still try to play around star ADC Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen, teams will look to punish them for their lack of early game play making. Support Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez has been a weak link this split getting caught out uncharacteristically. He will need to step it up or he’ll be punished by some of the better supports at the tournament.

6. Phoenix1

Phoenix1 will be heavy underdogs as the only team coming to rift rivals with a negative W-L. They currently sit in 8th place with a 3-7 record. They struggled heavily out the gates, but after bringing in new jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung and veteran support Alex “Xpecial” Chu the team has looked much more competitive.

MikeYeung brings in a signature Nidalee pick that teams will need to watch out for. Former MVP ADC No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon has not shown the same prowess he did last split. He’s currently last in CS differential@10 and near the bottom in other statistics.

The team has looked improved in recent weeks. Maybe Rift Rivals can be a spring board for turning their season around. Ryu, Arrow and Xpecial are the steady veterans who have played in international competition before. Ryu in particular should know his opponents very well. Phoenix1 could definitely take a game or two under the right circumstances.

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Cover photo by Rift Herald

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