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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Group D preview: Group of Life

The 2017 World Championship is approaching, building up hype for this epic tournament. With the group draw concluded most are heralding group D as the “Group of Life.” Group D is considered a favorable group due to not having a Korean team in it. With Korea’s success in previous World Championships, it’s a blessing if you can avoid facing one of their powerhouse teams in the first part of the tournament. This group holds two veteran teams in TSM and Flash Wolves, with new comers from the EU LCS, Misfits. There’s definitely a strong possibility that if things play out the way they should, WE could be put into this group as well.

Flash Wolves

Photo by: Riot Esports

Flash Wolves earned another Worlds berth by winning the LMS region once again, defeating AHQ 3-0 in the finals. They’ve dominated their region for the most part for the past few seasons. They like to play through veteran jungle/mid duo, Maple and Karsa. With the meta shifting to more supportive tank junglers, it will be interesting to see how Karsa performs. We’ve seen in previous Worlds his best performances on aggressive ganking junglers such as Lee Sin and Elise. Maple also hasn’t looked great this past split, but a good boot camp before Worlds could help fix some of their issues.

While Flash Wolves were able to take the top spot in LMS, they haven’t really looked much better from their MSI performance. Top and bot lane are average at best. Support Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie will often times look to roam to setup plays for his team. Their ADC, Lu “Betty” Yuhung, didn’t have a great showing at MSI. If he performs the same way against even better competition, they could be hurting. Nonetheless they have been known to snowball really well off early game leads. TSM and Misfits like to play more towards the mid-late game. If Flash Wolves can set the tempo and get snowballing they can definitely win this group.

Team SoloMid

Photo by: Riot Esports

Team SoloMid come in as the number one seed from North America after defeating Immortals 3-1 in the NA LCS finals. TSM have finally been blessed with one of the better group draws they could have possibly asked for. No Korean teams, so there’s absolutely no excuses for not being able to make it out of their group this time around. The pressure will be on for them to perform and make it out.

They are led by the two star carries of Bjergsen and Doublelift. Support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang was shaky in his first Worlds appearance last year. Up against the likes of Mata and CoreJJ, he looked outclassed. This year he comes in with a lot more experience. He showed up huge for TSM in their finals series against Immortals, earning the finals MVP. His play making on Rakan played a huge part in their series victory.

TSM’s weaknesses lie in the early game. With strong roaming, support/jungle duos can look to gain early leads and possibly snowball the game. TSM likes to play towards the mid-late game where their shot-calling has been much improved since the Mid Season Invitational. Even when they are behind, they are very good at knowing how to catch up. TSM look like favorites to win their group on paper, but they’ll need to show it on stage.

Misfits

Photo by: Riot Esports

Misfits head to Worlds as the second seed after losing to G2 3-0 in the finals. Not much was expected of Misfits heading into the EU LCS Summer Playoffs, but they had a magical run to the finals where they looked like a much different team from the regular season. They looked like a completely new team. Maxlore and Ignar in particular were coordinating some excellent roams to help snowball their leads. They were shot-calling much better in the mid-late game as well.

They have two monster solo laners in mid laner Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and top laner Barney “Alphari” Morris. Both laners have shown the ability to pop off in games with Power of Evil contributing a ton to his team’s total damage. Alphari is a mechanical beast, but can sometimes succumb to early enemy jungle pressure.

Misfits will be the underdogs of this group as no one on their team has ever been to Worlds. It will be good experience for the young organization from EU, but most people are expecting them to finish like Splyce did last season.

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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Should the West head to Korea to Bootcamp again?

This is a foregoing topic around every World championship it seems. Many of the Western teams over the past couple years have gone to Korea to bootcamp and scrim in preparation for the World championship. While it may seem beneficial in retrospect, we have yet to see it really make a difference on the World Stage. We’ve heard the pros and cons of bootcamping in Korea, but with no real results to back it up. Should teams just stay within their regions to practice?

Photo by: Inven

Pros

It’s no doubt Korea has some of the most competitive League of Legends scenes in the World. They’ve produced multiple talents just from solo queue, and usually dominate at the World championships. Korean infrastructure for LoL seems to be miles ahead of their Western counterparts. From the way they develop talent, to how they practice, and their dedication.

The chance to scrim some of the best Korean teams is enticing. To be the best, you have to practice with the best. Since bootcamping in Korea has become the norm for Western teams, you also have the chance to scrim the best teams from other regions as well. Those who don’t attend would miss out on the chance to scrim with some of the best teams at Worlds.

One of the biggest benefits that pros have noted is the solo queue. Being able to practice with very low ping similar to LAN makes a huge difference. Solo queue in North America also tends to have a lot more one tricks, streamers and people who don’t take things too seriously. In Korea, every player in challenger plays to win. The solo queue actually offers a much better practice environment from what we’ve heard from pro players who’ve bootcamped there.

Cons

Practicing with your competition has come up as an interesting topic in pro LoL as of late. Echo Fox was the latest team to decide not to scrim opponents. In all seriousness, why would you practice against your enemies? The most success we’ve seen from a North American competitor was with CLG at MSI 2016. CLG had their own meta developed and had their own pocket picks that they knew they could play. From scrimming Korean teams, many Western teams may try to duplicate their style or try to copy the way they play. A certain meta always develops, and Koreans will almost always have it perfected before any other team.

If Western teams strayed from trying to duplicate Korea’s playstyles, maybe they would find more success. Developing their own meta that they can perfect and show good performances on. It’s fair to say that what they’ve tried the past few seasons has not worked for them. Going to Korea to bootcamp for better solo queue is great, but scrimming against the better competition may not be ideal.

Korean teams are able to get a feel for how Western teams like to play from the first game. From there they’re able to dissect their playstyles and champion pools. If the West doesn’t give them that chance could they have a better surprise factor for when they do face off?

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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Who will win the Gauntlet for North America?

With the first two seeds locked in for North America, there is one more that will earn their spot at Worlds through the Gauntlet. This may be the tightest race ever for the final Worlds spot. Every team in the Gauntlet have a chance to possibly make it out. Let’s take a look:

Flyquest

While Flyquest just barely avoided having to play in the relegation tournament this split, they did earn enough points from last split for a Gauntlet spot. This isn’t unfamiliar territory for them as 3/5 members were on the Cloud9 team that had to play through the Gauntlet in season five to qualify for Worlds. Not only did they qualify, they did it off back to back reverse sweeps like we’ve never seen before. There’s just something about mid laner Hai “Hai” Lam that makes you never want to count a team with him on the roster out. His leadership and shot calling ability can make even the worst rosters look like contenders.

Flyquest also has the luxury of having not played on stage in quite a while since they missed playoffs; Nobody knows what to expect from them outside of scrims. Nobody has seen them play on this patch, so they’ll have the surprise factor heading into their first game of the Gauntlet. What they choose to do with it will be the real mystery. Expect some interesting cheese picks to come out from them.

Dignitas

Photo by: Riot Esports

Dignitas heads into the Gauntlet after a nice playoff run where they upset Cloud9 in the first round before losing to TSM 3-1. They made the mid season move of taking on the bot lane of Adrian and Altec. The move has paid dividends as the team has looked much improved from their mid slump. In their series against Cloud9, they looked like the better team with Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho leading the way. Ssumday has been the solid rock for this team all year.

In their next two series of the playoffs, it looked like the team may have peaked. TSM and CLG seemed to dismantle the team effortlessly in the early game. Mid laner Lae-Young “Keane” Jang seemed to fall behind without jungle pressure. He was a weak link for the team. Without an early game lead, Dignitas looked lost on how to come back from such large deficits.

Counter Logic Gaming

Counter Logic Gaming go from zero to hero over a playoff series. On one hand, they looked shaky against EnVy and Immortals. On another, they dominated Dignitas in their third place match. It was almost a night/day performance for rookie jungler Omar “OmarGod” Amin. In their previous series he was one of the more inconsistent performers for the team, but in their third place match, he looked very comfortable. He was making plays and looked to be synergizing well with the team. Maybe they just needed time, but CLG looks to be the favorites heading into the regional qualifier for now.

Cloud9

Cloud9 had one of the easiest routes of the all the teams looking to qualify for Worlds. As long as they made it past the first round of playoffs, they’d auto qualify with circuit points if things went as expected. They did quite the opposite and now have created a much harder path to Worlds for themselves.

It’s no doubt they were clear favorites at the beginning of the year to be top contenders once again, but questionable drafts during their Dignitas series and under performing members makes us question if they can actually qualify for Worlds.

They’ve had the same issues all year it seems. No early game playmaking and relying heavily on the mid game to snowball. Even with an early lead, Cloud9 squandered their leads in their series against Dignitas.

They’ve had time to practice so hopefully they’ve figured out their issues. This hasn’t been a new trend though, it’s been the same issue all year. This team heavily relies on Jensen to carry a lot of the load. If he doesn’t snowball his lead, the team seems to struggle to find production else where.


Photo by: Riot Esports

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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

 

 

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