Bleeding Gods: The Inevitable Fall of SKT

SKT has always been the team to beat. Even in season four, one of the biggest upsets in competitive League up to that point was SKT’s loss to Najin White Shield. This prevented SKT from returning to Worlds. Beyond that SKT, dominated season five and six, and continues to dominate in season seven. They are the first team to win multiple, and the first to win consecutive, Worlds Championships. During this time, they also took second in the first MSI and won the past two. Ask anyone, SKT’s reign is unprecedented and will likely never be repeated in any similar likeness.

That said, their reign will surely end. Their fall is inevitable; no team in the history of any sport has dominated for forever. Teams rise and fall, and suffer defeats as well as achieve victory. SKT, while having been dominant for some considerable amount of time, will eventually lose.

Roster Swap

Photo Via Lolesports

A likely cause of this will be the result of a roster change. Despite roster changes throughout their reign, the team’s center remains Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. The original line-up of SKT T1 K was built around the god himself. Even when the team combined with their sister team, Faker was still looked to as the star.

Faker, ADC Bae “Bang” Jun-sik, and support Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan make up the core of the current iteration of the team. They have all been on the team since season three. They bring skill, stability, and experience to SKT and are irreplaceable.

What will happen when that stability and experience decide to take an offer in China or retire? It’s unlikely that any of the three, especially Faker who has been lauded as the greatest of all time, will have any adequate replacement to continue to propel the team to the height they currently enjoy. The likely outcome of a roster swap in the bot or mid lane will be a dip in performance from the team. But SKT has more than great players – they also have great coaches. These coaches could help to overcome the loss of any skill, stability, or experience that would come with a roster swap.

Coaching Staff

Photo Via Lolesports

That being said, another likely cause for SKT’s reign to end would be SKT’s coaching staff to undergo a major change. Choi “cCarter” Byeong-hoon, Kim “KkOma” Jeong-gyun, and Jung “RapidStar” Min-sung make up the current coaching staff of SKT with KkOma and cCarter having been around since 2013. The coaches have the ability to lead, scout, and create an atmosphere of hard work and dedication. The team’s results speak to their abilities as coaches as well as their ability to continue dominance, despite roster swaps in the top lane and jungle. The most recent example being the acquisition of Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon, who looks even better now than he did in his Fnatic days. It also doesn’t hurt that KkOma’s pick and ban is one of the best in the world.

Thus, it would be no small thing to lose any of the coaches, especially cCarter or KkOma. Losing either one would change the entire dynamic of the team and likely result in a less qualified replacement, leading to losses.  A change in that staff could signal the end of the SKT dominance, and it could also cause some players to leave the org. Considering Faker has never played for anyone but Kkoma, if he leaves Faker might also consider leaving.

All this goes to show the precarious place that SKT finds themselves in. So many of the organization’s members are irreplaceable. If any of them leave, the delicate balance of SKT could falter and the team will start suffering some meaningful defeats.

Challengers

Photo Via Lolesports

A third and perhaps the most likely reason for SKT’s reign to end is that another team will rise to the challenge and dethrone the current kings of League. This has already happened before; SKT didn’t even make it to season four Worlds. Faker even suffered his first ever professional Leblanc loss to EDG in the 2015 MSI finals. Eventually, SKT will just lose. In fact, what makes SKT’s reign so unprecedented is that they did lose, but they came back swiftly and with more force than was thought possible. However, it’s quite unlikely that they can continue to comeback from sustained defeats without a roster swap of some kind.

There is no doubt that SKT will eventually fall. Though it doesn’t seem likely that they will lose anytime soon, it’s inevitable that eventually, something will shake up the roster or some team will rise to the occasion and defeat the gods.


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Flaws With Rift Rivals

Riot Games is finally introducing more chances for international play with their announcement of Rift Rivals yesterday. Rift Rivals will pit regional rivals against each other in a battle between the top three teams of their respective regions. Fans and teams have been begging for more international competitions and Riot looks to have been listening. Things aren’t perfect though and there are some flaws with how the tournament format is set up. Let’s take a look:

Photo via Gamespot

Bo1’s

Has Riot not learned anything from the past few seasons about best-of-one formats? One can see how it can be exciting for fans due to the unpredictability. With B01’s, you can have upsets, such as Albus Nox Luna at last Worlds and Wildcards upsetting highly ranked teams.

In any case, B01’s don’t allow much flexibility in drafts/strategies and can limit how creative a team can get. Most teams will want to just draft standard in a B01 because they only have one game to prove themselves. Having a best-of-three format would allow for more creative drafts, where teams can get risky in game one knowing that if things don’t work out they can go back to standard for game two.

It doesn’t feel like the winner of B01’s is definitively better than the other team. They were only better than them for one game. One mistake can cost a team a game.

Teams are locked in from standings based ON half a split ago

For those who don’t know, teams are already locked in based on the spring split standings for Rift Rivals. Announcing a type of tournament like this should open up more motivation for teams to do well to represent their region at this tournament.

Many things can change in half a split. A team can go from being a top three team to possibly a 4-6th place team. If that’s the case, fans get a lower quality play and may not be represented well. Hypothetically speaking, TSM, Cloud 9, and Phoenix1 could all be bottom tier teams next split and will still be able to play in this tournament. If you’re going to have an international event in July, teams should need to qualify for it as close to the date as possible for the best results.

Relay Format

The relay format basically starts with the 3rd place team of each region pitted against each other in a B01. Whatever team loses is eliminated and the winner stays on to face the next highest ranked team of that region.

The major issue with this is you could potentially never see the first place team of a region play. It’s all based on how well the third place team does. If the third place team were to win all three matches, you wouldn’t even see the other two teams play in this type of format.

Double elimination B03 matches would make the most sense to actually see how the teams stack up against each other. Limiting it to B01’s and this really weird relay format limits the chances of actually seeing who is a better region. Having a gauntlet style tournament would at least give every team a chance to play in a best-of series.

Future tournaments

It seems that with Riot introducing this new tournament, they’ll be looking at doing more in the future. With only four days in between the split to plan this out, time is quite limited for them, which may explain the B01 format. Nonetheless, it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully, with more time, Riot can put on a better format for an international event.

Cover image via Riot Esports

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Can Mastermind Weldon solve G2’s International Woes?

Weldon’s Own Success

G2 Esports made an amazing addition to their League of Legends team with the official announcement of TSM’s former assistant coach, Weldon Green, joining their coaching staff. Weldon has been working vigorously within the Pro League of Legends scene with high-profile teams such as TSM, CLG, and Fnatic as a team psychologist. With his recent success with TSM, other teams have picked up on this trend and decided to hire their own team psychologists. They are meant to help deal with the mental grind that pros endure throughout the season, along with helping players deal with the jitters that may be related to playing on stage.

Weldon began on TSM in small sessions during the 2016 Spring Split, eventually landing a full-time position for the Summer. TSM finished the Summer Split with a phenomenal 17-1 record while also finishing first place in the NALCS, before failing to get out of their group at Worlds. Weldon was credited with playing a major role in their success last season. TSM decided that they wanted to part ways with Weldon for the upcoming season, noting that having his assistance may be better in sessions as opposed to full time.

Current State of G2

Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

Weldon enters a G2 team that has found much success, almost breezing through the EULCS competition last season. They have a talented roster that has failed to show up in international events since they’ve begun their LCS journey. Last season, G2 failed to make it out of groups at Riot’s Mid Seasonal Invitational, struggling against most of the teams there. They received a lot of hate and criticism from the community when they stated they decided to give their players a break coming into a very serious international tournament that would affect seeding for Worlds.

G2 hoped to redeem themselves at Worlds after being put into a group most agreed they would be able to get out of. That did not prove the case as Albus Nox Luna shocked the World, as they became the first Wildcard to make it out of groups. They beat out CLG and G2 for the second spot out of their group. G2 finished Worlds with a 1-5 record, only taking one game off of Albus Nox Luna. G2 as a whole received a lot of hate from the EU community for representing their region so poorly, coming in as the “best team” from Europe.

Building off Regular Season Success

Weldon comes in looking to improve off an overall successful regular season from G2, and improving on the international problems that have plagued them. In EU, Trick and Perkz have looked like two players with amazing synergy and individual talent. As we know, that hasn’t translated into international play just yet.  Meanwhile, Zven and Mithy, have proven to be one of the best bot lanes in the West, but even they didn’t look as good as most people expected at Worlds. Their top laner, Expect, for the most part, was a consistent performer, doing what his team needed. His miscommunication on Teleport, however, cost his team at times.

What is it about performing at international tournaments that hinder G2 so much?  In a twitlonger posted by Perkz after Worlds, he stated, “I was mostly sad that I disappointed myself because I had a lot higher expectations of myself after the whole Korean bootcamp where I felt like I had reached very high level and consistent performance in scrims and not being able to translate that on stage hit me really hard”. The bootcamp in Korea resulted in many rumors that G2 was one of the stronger teams at Worlds. When it came time to play week one, their showing was miserable. They went 0-3, while not looking competitive for basically every game, besides a strong early game vs. ROX in which some poor teamfighting led them to another hard loss.

Weldon has a tough task ahead of him. With a lot of new, young, revamped LCS teams coming into Europe, G2 will not have as easy of a path to Worlds as they did last season. Will he be able to show off the same success as TSM, or will G2’s nerves get the best of them?

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Why Imports Might not be the Solution to Competing at Worlds

After Samsung White shredded through the competition on their way to winning the World Championship in Season 4 of League of Legends, there was a “Korean Exodus” in the offseason. Multiple talented Korean LoL players were offered huge salaries to come over to China to play in the LPL. Analysts and fans thought this would mean the end of Korea’s reign on pro League of Legends, when their top talents decided to go elsewhere to chase the money. Multiple super teams formed in China, looking to contend for the World Championship. It’s now safe to say that the exodus was a failure for both sides. Korean players hoping to contend for a World Championship met the same defeat losing to newly bred Korean talent. A lot of Chinese players got lost in the shuffle and never looked quite as good as they had in the past.   

Courtesy of lolgamepedia

Once known as top tier players in the World, many of their careers dissipated in China. Former SSW jungler, Dandy, hailed as a jungle god when he won the World Championship. He then faded on Vici Gaming, even attempting to play top lane for a bit. He just never looked like the same jungler who dominated in Korea and at Worlds. Dade was another huge name who was once considered a top tier mid-laner in the World. He was soon forgotten as his play diminished in China. Even Chinese players, such as Gogoing and Cool, never looked the same after the imports came in and weren’t able to qualify for Worlds again. Some of them were eventually benched, and retired.

Less than Expected Results

It seems that for the most part, since importing became popular in the off season of seasons 4-5, the super teams formed have not been able to meet their expectations of contending for a World Championship. Edward Gaming hailing out of China’s LPL region has always looked dominant in their region. With new star Korean carries, Deft and Pawn, EDG always looked like strong favorites coming into Worlds. Just this previous season, many analysts hailed them as being the second best team competing at Worlds. Clearlove looked like an unstoppable jungler and Deft looked as good as he always had.  They were thoroughly disappointed to lose to Brazilian wildcard INTZ Gaming. They placed second in their group to Europe’s H2K, before being swept at the hands of Korean team ROX Tigers.  

Looking to the bottom of the LCS, a lot of low tier teams have given players from the Korean solo queue ladder a shot at playing just based on their ranked and team ladder performances. Teams like Coast and Roccat specifically, have been guilty of doing this, seeing less than stellar results. Coast decided to bring in two Korean players right before promotion series in an attempt to qualify. They were swept easily, and had looked worse than before they brought in the imports. Roccat failed to make playoffs when they imported Korean top laner, Parang, and support Raise, and eventually had to play through relegation to keep their spot in LCS. Before joining NA’s Counter Logic Gaming (CLG), Seraph was a top lane sub for Najin White Shield and had held a high spot on the Korean solo queue ladder for awhile. CLG found success for a time with Seraph, but eventually fell apart when communication and underlying internal issues became a major issue with the team. Teams also need to understand that rookies coming straight from solo queue don’t always translate to success in professional play.

Should teams try to grow players within their region?

Courtesy of Riot Esports Flickr

It sparks an interesting discussion of whether or not Western and Chinese teams should be importing as much as they do.  It has almost become a necessity, rather than an option.  With the promotion of Goldenglue to Team Liquid’s starting mid laner, he joins Pobelter as the only North American mid laner playing in the region.  On the other hand, you have many North American teams importing Korean top lane talent, negating the growth for talent in that role for the region.  Since Cloud 9 entered the scene, there hasn’t been a team grown from Challenger Series to find success in the LCS. Teams just aren’t grown from Challenger the way they should anymore.  Challenger teams are importing veterans of Pro League, such as Madlife recently, to Gold Coin United, in an attempt to revive their careers and qualify for LCS.

It’s rare to find North American talent that finds instant success playing in the LCS. Most of the time, they aren’t given a shot on a big time LCS team like Biofrost was with TSM.  They’re usually forced to fill one of the three Region slots on a sub-par, low tier LCS or Challenger team, and given two imports who may or may not be great on the professional stage. It’s not the greatest environment to say the least, as communication may not be stellar, and coaching structure is not built for success. This is because most of the Challenger teams are new organizations trying to enter the scene with no prior knowledge of how to run a Pro League of Legends team. There are also many rumors of shady organizations not playing players/coaches, which would definitely hinder a player’s desire to continue pursuing a career like this.  

Should teams focus more towards growing talent in their own region?  Should the most talented NA players look to flood themselves into various NA super teams similar to Flash Wolves and AHQ in LMS?  Import slots, although useful, can be a double edged sword in making or breaking a team.  What if the language barrier is too much or they discover being out of the comforts of their home country isn’t what they had hoped for?  This NALCS season will be a huge measuring stick in looking at the effectiveness of imports, as every roster looks more dangerous than ever, bringing in players from every region to compete.

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The Role of Content in the Evolution of Professional Gaming

“Welcome to the Big Dick Club” – Michael “Imaqtpie” Santana


The growth of esports demands an increase in the quantity and quality of content representing the community. With traditional sport organizations flowing into the esports market, and League of Legends garnering enough traction to sell out the Staples Center with over 30 million viewers worldwide, improving content for League professionals will best shape the global image of esports.

As the most played video game in the world, League of Legends is pioneering the path for esports to solidify its recognition as an established industry; the game has indirectly taken on the burden of mass structuring a sustainable competitive environment in esports. While interest surrounding the scene grows every day, such growth necessitates an increased attention towards defining the esports scene – in terms of voice, community and structure. In this paradigm, content serves as the communal representative for the game and those involved – and escalating its originality and output will help fuel esports’ evolution.


But what are we talking about?

Content exists in many forms. Anyone who has delved into League of Legends can pinpoint streams, YouTubers, documentaries, daily shows, articles, sports websites – the list goes on. Ultimately, League of Legends as a community encourages a spectator relationship between personalities and viewers, favoring content that brings gameplay and lifestyle to the foremast of its narrative.

From this, I value two major outlets for content production as driving forces for the community: streams and documentaries.

Courtesy of Dot Esports.

Courtesy of Dot Esports.

Log into Twitch.tv anytime of day and you will find League of Legends at the top of the streaming charts, seemingly without fail. More so than any other game, League has integrated stream culture as a vital ingredient for its player base and community. Imatpie, Nightblue3, Valkrin, Dyrus, Bjergsen – these are a few of the popular streamers out there whose names have become synonymous with League of Legends – some even doing so without ever going pro.

But what are the consequences of streaming?

Streaming has in some ways invented a new vocabulary for the gaming community. As anyone who has ever read Twitch chat can testify – it takes its own language to understand the rhyme and reason of what exactly is going on in any given Twitch chat box. To the untrained eye, this feature of the broadcast shows nothing but spam and pointless discussions. To a large degree, the untrained eye is correct.

But beyond trolling, Twitch chat has embedded a culture that has grown to shape the attitude of League’s community. Any avid Twitch follower can pinpoint Kappas and 4Heads, PogChamps and BibleThumps, Kreygasms and PJSalts. There is, in fact, a logic to the fashion spectators bond in the chat over the rituals that have evolved of spectating gaming on Twitch. In many ways, commanding the chat to spam Kappa Pride is not much different from a band of Barcelona fans chanting the soccer team’s song mid-game – the main difference being the location at which the event is being consumed; yet the act of unifying the audience stays the same.

Courtesy of WikiCommons.

Courtesy of WikiCommons.


My main issue with Twitch chat used to be the problem with extending its intricacies over to a non-traditional esports consumer. I feared that the uniqueness of streaming culture would create a barrier of entry too bizarre for mass viewership of League as a spectator sport. And surely, I have been consistently proved wrong by the continual records shattered by Worlds every week.

So what does this suggest? Well, to me it reads that instead of resisting streaming idiosyncrasies, League content must embrace them. Successful streamers have already implemented interaction with emotes into their daily routines – tune into BoxBox’s Riven-only stream and see how he asks his chat to “woo” in response to a good play. Does this language barrier exclude outside viewers? Possibly. But more importantly, content creators should generate content that uses this language to such well degree that it energizes the newbie to yearn to learn the culture for its oddities and peculiarities. For ultimately, these strange interactions of 2016 are slowly defining a new movement in pop culture, fed from the emoji millennial culture, and propelling a new form of media consumption special to gaming culture.

Documentaries

Documentaries, on the other hand, turn to demonstrate the lifestyle of gamers. In a lot of ways, documentaries fueling League of Legends closely resemble the trends in reality television such as Real Housewives – the only difference is that the gaming community actually wants to know what Bjergsen had for breakfast the morning of LCS summer split Week 4.

At this time, some of the most successful North American documentaries that have come out are TSM: Legends and Team Liquid’s Rebirth. Not to mention the plethora of non-continuous projects launched by Machinima, Gamespot, Rig8, Push to Talk TV, Riot Games, and plenty of other sources. Perhaps the most ambitious documentary project to launch will be released this November 2nd by 1 UP Studios, the production company responsible for generating Liquid’s Rebirth series, as they have announced on Yahoo esports their upcoming release of BREAKING POINT: a full length feature showcasing the “dirty laundry” of Liquid’s inner struggles during Summer 2016 split.

Courtesy of TSM Youtube.

Courtesy of TSM Youtube.

The danger with such content lies in exposing “too much” – leaking crucial information regarding the team’s organizations or making their players become reality personalities instead of athletes. However, the trailer for BREAKING POINT in particular, that you can find on YouTube, paves the way for a new wave of esports content in the full-length-feature format  – which could go long ways in breaking open the scene to a larger audience – perhaps even finding its way into film festival circuits and the becoming homestays in the likes of Netflix and Amazon. In doing so, these documentaries will boost the recognition of the scene – and their responsibility now lies in determining what angle they craft for the overarching narrative of esports for non-traditional gaming followers.  

I personally am highly anticipating the release of this feature and believe in its potential to shake up the game in terms of the quality expected from the narratives of eSports films. I believe this will launch a movement for content production – and am ready to join said movement when it arrives.

LCK Autumn – Explaining the Regional Gap

A few things happen every October. The World Series, Columbus day, and the disappointment of western League of Legends fans everywhere. The World Championships begin in October, and it brings about several things. North American fans absurdly…Optimistic about at least one of their teams chances to do well at Worlds. European fans are generally very worried, because their regions top teams look unpolished when playing against one another. Weeks later, North American fans are crushed by the heavy handed reality of Korean dominance, European fans are cautiously optimistic that one of their teams can make it far enough to boast about, and Korea looks on, sort of bored by the affair. This happens so often, that many spectators are dubbing worlds LCK Autumn, a mere expansion of League Champions Korea, and the only time the eastern overlords choose to allow western teams to train against the metaphorical Super Saiyans of the League of Legends Universe.

 

Don't let his small hands fool you, this guy would probably be Goku.

Don’t let his small hands fool you, this guy would probably be Goku.

 

The realization that this has almost always been true, save for Season 1 when E-Sports was a more underground thing, and Season 2 when meta and macro were only just starting to become defined, always leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of western fans and understandably so. It is hard to watch year after year when the same region takes him the Summoners Cup, of course some will raise the argument that people should only care for the quality of game, not the nation that the Cup goes to. This does hold true, to an extent but after a time, it is important to many people in anything that they win, or if not them, their region. This is a feeling expressed in many games and is the spirit behind Smash Bros. crew battles, and, for many people, the Olympics.

 

These guys are looking for a third World Championship

These guys are looking for a third World Championship

 

Now that we covered that continued losses make western fans feel pretty bad, we can take a look at why it happens. For one, the stakes are far higher in the Korean League scene. Don’t believe me? Ask 3/5’s of 2013’s SK Telecom what happened when they stopped playing well. They were replaced, contrast that with another North American giant, Counter Logic Gaming, whose mid laner is almost a certified one trick, and whose top laner has been getting outplayed far too much, for as much hype is drummed up about him. Did this CLG win North America? For sure, but they haven’t put up any sort of results at Worlds, going so far as to cheese their way through champion select in a semi-deciding game.

 

“2013’s SK Telecom didn’t put up regional results in that next year either!!”

 

Ah, I do hear you back there and clearly you are correct, however the difference here is that 2013 SKT had a bunch of young players, in North America, they’d be seen as investments, it would be though that they could improve, that they’re worth keeping, even without domestic results following them, kind of like Dignitas. In Korea they were dropped the moment they were seen to be too weak. For Piglet, he was dropped the year right after his rookie year, he for sure still had some play left in him, especially if you use another Korean returning AD like PraY as an example.

 

More than just the players, it’s the training. You can sit there and claim that we don’t know what goes on during scrimmages, and you’d be right, but from the games, you can tell the difference in the training regimens. Practice shows in play, if it’s effective, if it doesn’t show, then something is going wrong. The Korean teams look so crisp and confident in their play, immediately reacting to one another, until someone is out of moves to make. It’s like a high level fighting game, where both players are playing the mental game just as much as the game on screen. Teams from the West don’t have that skill accompanying their play. There are always lulls in their cohesive action, and sometimes their entire game is on the back of one player (Shoutout to Jankos) keeping them above water. Koreans are just people, like the rest of us so there’s no reason that their game should look as clean as it does all the time, except for practice. They practice more seriously, they practice better, you don’t have to sit in on scrims to know, because it shows in their game.

 

Probably the hardest practicing team in LoL Today

Probably the hardest practicing team in LoL today

 

Probably the worst part of the situation is the effect the League system has on it. The League system ensures that encounters with these best teams in the world are few and far between, and as a result, so are scrims and any other practice opportunity with these teams. Team Solo Mid can only get so strong from playing IMT, CLG and C9 day in and day out, and when they sit on top of NA, there really isn’t anywhere left for them to go from there, not until they get a chance to boot camp or go to an international tournament. The level of domestic play won’t increase until either new habits are formed from the inside, or picked up from the outside.

 

So what do you think? Why are the Korean teams always so far ahead of the western ones? Do you believe it’ll stay the same as it always has, or do you think the nickname LCK Autumn is a short lived one? It’s always good to make your own guesses and assumptions, and I’ll always be around to hear them! You can come tell me how ignorant I am on twitter @TirasCarr. And with that self promotion out of the way, enjoy the finals!

LCS Weekly 9/30/16

LCS Weekly is now a VOD! Check out the YouTube channel, ,to see Rob and Alex as they discuss Worlds!
You can also watch Alex and Rob live as they record the podcast on Rob’s or Alex’s Twitch channel, Twitch.tv/rorb23, or Twitch.tv/k1llerkeller. Be sure to ‘Follow’ them to know whenever they’re going live to record, or just to play some games for you!”

LoL Worlds: Analyzing NA’s Three Teams

NA prodigies, a Gnar one trick, and MSI sweethearts are heading into Worlds representing the best three teams in North America. For some, this iteration of NA talent showcases the best set of competitive teams the region has ever seen. But before these teams take to the group stage in San Francisco, lets recap their origin stories (of the summer split) and re-visit how they got here.


TSM

After a strange love affair with Yellowstar, TSM fully eloped with rookie Vincent “Biofrost” Wang to emerge as the new coming of NA Jesus. But really, how did this team get so good so fast? Everyone predicted that buying the best mid laner and ADC in Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Yilian “Doublelift” Peng would lead to a super giant. However, it was not until summer 2016 that TSM raised the bar for how good an NA team can be.

What led to this success?

For starters, Sven showed up. A ton of shade was thrown at the imported Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen’s way regarding whether or not he would be able to live up to the TSM title. Also, a ton of shade was thrown his way when memes started flying, calling him Bjergsen’s personal assistant (Blue Buff Giver). But somewhere down the split Sven decided that Graves can carry a game or two after killing some jungle camps and invading. Through in-game aggression, backed up by an intimidating winning streak, Sven became a routine jungle invader. This tactic resembled TSM’s over-aggressive approach that propelled them to one-sided victories across the board all season; all enabled by their laners’ superior control to back up any invades should something go awry.

Outside of the Inori mishap halfway through the season, Sven’s invades kept working. Through this success, TSM showcased the power of communication and future planning in the strategy oriented game that is League of Legends. Most of TSM’s victories in the regular season resembled a strategic dismantling of the enemy team, with on point objective control. No longer did we see the infamous Doublelift bottom lane overextension. We started to see more buff invades on spawn, and immediate follow ups from all five members, making plays as a cohesive unit.

Of course, it helps that the rest of the team are individual stars; Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, Bjergsen and Doublelift put up some of the best results of their careers, not to mention Biofrost starting off his career in a formidable fashion. The decisiveness of Team SoloMid, however, shone brightest across all teams during both season and playoffs. It was through their commitment and confidence that they were able to raise the bar as a team, instead of individual players.

 

 

CLOUD 9

If you follow our Shotcallers podcast, which you should, you’ll know that I have been advocating for C9 as a team for the whole summer split, and now they’ve qualified for Worlds via winning the gauntlet.

How did the team get so good?

Here are some reasons I can pinpoint: C9 was not afraid to experiment during the regular season. The team tried everything under the sun, from Bunny FuFuu to BF Swords on Gragas. While a lot of teams dealt with roster changes throughout the split, C9 managed to maximize their efficiency in finding the perfect team composition to bring to playoffs, both on and off the rift. What I mean by this is they ended up going with Andy “Smoothie” Ta as the support in the bot lane, who proved to be quite the duo with Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi. They even took down Biofrost/Doublelift in a 2 v 2 in the Summer split finals.

  1. 6.15. The patch that changed it all. Yamato Cannon said it best when he explained how the changes to turret first blood revolutionized the way League of Legends would be played on a competitive scale. A lot has been said about the obvious benefit of earning the first blood gold, but in the efforts of creating a more exciting early game for spectators, 6.15 removed the game-within-a-game aspect of early competitive League and propelled aggressive players to the top of the standings. Cue C9 Eon-Young “Impact” Jeong.
  2. Impact was quoted, saying he is performing better right now on C9 than he ever did on SKT. He won Worlds on SKT. Let that one sink in. Not only has Impact become a terrifying Gnar one-trick on stage, but Impact’s mechanics and 1 v 1 talents have burst the door wide open for C9. It also helps that lane swaps no longer delay his entrance into the game.

 

In addition to going without lane swaps, Riot inadvertently removed the “They Could Be Anywhere” period of the early game; the enemy team would be missing on the map, threatening an early game invade. A huge amount of pressure was placed on the mid lane during this period, as the laners would fear playing aggressively. They could be surprised by a stun from fog of war at any point, given they don’t have vision control. Minimizing the uncertainty of where the enemy team could be at any given time relieves the pressure of the mid lane to play conservatively, and therefore enables aggressive laners such as Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen to show what they are all about. Take a look at Jensen’s performances after standard lanes were institutionalized and you will find stellar KDA’s, gold per minute, and even record-breaking kills in the quarterfinals of playoffs.

TLDR; Standard lanes = winning C9.

 

COUNTER LOGIC GAMING

 

CLG, CLG, CLG. Counter Logic Gaming locked in their Worlds spot through earning the most championship points out of any North American team, as a result of their second place finish at MSI. However, after their success in spring, CLG suffered a rough summer split, mostly attributed to their time off between MSI and the beginning of last split.

While it may seem natural for a team to take a couple of days off following such an intense tournament, losing one day of training for League of Legends (or any eSport) sometimes translates to a lot more time. In a game where how many actions you can execute per minute determines life or death, where the best players practice upwards of 16 hours a day, a couple of days is more than enough to bring anyone down from the top of the ladder.

It should also be noted that, unlike C9, CLG suffered perhaps the most out of any NA team in response to the 6.15 changes. Traditionally, CLG never relied on the strength or mechanics of one talented player (of which they have had many) to win games. Instead, CLG has consistently demonstrated superior macro play and awareness over other teams in NA in regards to lane swaps. It’s no surprise that in their first LCS game with the new patch, CLG still tried to pull of a cheeky lane swap with rotating their bot lane top after the five minute increased turret armor wore off. But in the face of a new League of Legends iteration forcing players to battle it out in standard lanes, CLG will have to reinvent their strengths and weaknesses in their boot camp heading into the Group Stage in two short weeks.

With that recap out of the way, let me close this off by looking at the groups these teams will compete in and predict the outcome of each bracket (for those of you who follow me, you know that I am either a savant or completely wrong with these things – never in the middle – so if you’re a betting man, listen up!):

GROUP A
ROX TIGERS

G2 ESPORTS

COUNTER LOGIC GAMING

ALBUS NOX LUNA

 

ROX Tigers will come out of this group in first with G2 following in second.

 

GROUP B
FLASH WOLVES

SK TELECOM

IMAY

CLOUD9

 

SK Telecom will come out of this group in first with Cloud9 following in second.

 

GROUP D

TEAM SOLOMID

ROYAL NEVER GIVE UP

SAMSUNG

SPLYCE

 

Royal Never Give Up will come out of this group in first with Team SoloMid following in second.

What are your predictions? Think I’m wrong? Let me know in the comments below or on social media!

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