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!

The Five Storylines To Follow Going Into The EU LCS Spring Split

The new El Classico? Courtesy of Fnatic.com

The new El Classico? Courtesy of Fnatic.com

Fnatic vs. Origen: the New El Classico

 

Europe, as a region, has always tended towards monolithic super teams, having some of the greatest talent in the West, born and raised in their own region. During the Summer Split, Fnatic could not be considered any less than the strongest team in Europe, taking the first ever perfect split in the LCS. Right at their heels though were their younger, or older, brother in Origen, the team formed around the leaving of xPeke and Soaz that blazed from the EU CS to the Quarter Finals at Worlds. With the absolute crashing and burning that was SK Gaming’s LCS team, a new El Classico is brewing, that is, between the two European giants in Fnatic and Origen.

What’s to watch between these two teams? Well, right now, Origen looks set to take Europe by complete storm, even more so than last time, and maybe even challenge Fnatics record of a perfect season. Origen looked strong going into the Summer Split in 2015, they looked strong at Worlds where NA teams faltered around them, and they look (possibly?) even stronger with Power of Evil in the midlane (not to slight xPeke in any way.) Fnatic, on the other hand, has done a lot of rebuilding. They lost their Top, Jungler, and Support to NA, and that is a huge hit, particularly in their Support. Yellowstar can take almost full credit for rebuilding the team and leading them on the Fields of Justice to victory, a strong shotcaller and a great support player. Huni and Reignover, Top and Jungler respectively, are huge talent hits, but talent can be replaced. The wealth of experience that Yellowstar brought to the team cannot. Still, everyone casted complete doubt on the lineup that ended up going undefeated in the Summer Split, so if any EU team can almost completely rebuild a roster into a world class team it’s Fnatic. Gamsu and Spirit, Gamsu coming from a rather lackluster Dignitas squad but having his shining moments there and Spirit from Team WE and Samsung Galaxy Blue, are strong pickups to replace the Korean duo for the top half of the map. Noxiak, their Support player, has yet to really be seen, and has some of the biggest shoes to fill coming into this split. The storyline here is a question mark too: will Fnatic and Origen remain the two top dogs in an increasingly competitive league, given some of the star studded talent that’s consolidated in other teams?

The 'Middle of the Pack' squad. Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

The ‘Middle of the Pack’ squad. Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

The middle of the pack shake up

 

Europe’s also probably the most volatile of the regions. Upstart teams like Lemondogs, Alliance, Supa Hot Crew and others, rise and fall almost as quickly. They also lay claim to the most competitive middle of the pack teams ever. Just look to the Summer Split 2015: the four teams ranked 4-8 had 1 game difference between them. That is insanely close. So what does this mean here? Well, these teams have always struggled to really cause the two to three headed giant of the top of the league to sweat. Sure, they’ll take games off of them at times, but overall it’s hard to say that a Roccat or Elements really could take down Origen in a best of three. There’s always something that’ll slip up, maybe nerves or small mistakes, that the upper teams will take advantage of and run with it.

So what’s the story going into this split? Well, the usual talent conglomeration. The Unicorns of Love hope to rebuild themselves, having lost Power of Evil, Kikis, and Vardags, around some pretty talented players: the (in)famous Diamondprox will hold down the jungle, Fox the midlane, a shining player for SK Gaming’s turbulent Summer Split, and lastly the French talent in Steelback, whose tenure in Fnatic is resume enough. For Team Elements, having lost their star in Froggen, they have chosen to try and rebuild largely around Steve, Roccat’s old top laner, and MrRalleZ, the literal Danish ADC Giant. The rest of their roster, other than Gillius who played for Unicorns of Love and G2, are unheard of solo-queue players. Lastly, we’ll look at Roccat’s new lineup, one of the few middle of the pack teams to actually pick up some pretty experienced players in every lane. Fredy112 in the toplane, ex-SK Gaming, Airwaks in the Jungle, ex-Copenhagen Wolves, Betsy in the Midlane and Edward as Support from ex-Gambit, and lastly, the most untested of the team, Safir as ADC, taken from Renegades. Given that each of these players is at least as talented as any middle of the pack team could hope for, it’s the eternal question of whether this can translate onto the stage in any meaningful way.

So, what’s the storyline to follow? Well, the real question hanging over everyone’s head is whether these teams can make any real impact in the league. The dream of every middle of the pack team is to lose that title and make it comfortably in the top 3 or 4 of the League. But, given some of the new talent, this might be just a dream for many of these teams. It’s not impossible, of course, that one of these teams can just ‘click’ and absolutely dominant the league. This is Europe, if it’s going to happen anywhere it’s here. But I think, at least on paper, these teams are going to be a solid middle of the pack group, not able to really make a dent on the pedigree that will claim the top four.

Can the new kids on the block bring their A game? Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

Can the new kids on the block bring their A game? Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

New Kids on the Block in G2, Splyce and Vitality

 

In contrast to NA, Europe was relatively quiet when it came to purchases for LCS spots. Sure, Splyce made headlines with their million(!!) dollar acquisition of Dignitas.EU, the first fully national Danish team to make it into the league in a while (since Copenhagen Wolves did many moons ago with Bjergsen.) Vitality, too, bought into the league, picking up Gambit’s old spot and built arguably one of the scariest rosters for these new comers. Lastly, G2 did it the old fashioned way, constructing a good roster, attempting to get into the LCS, failing, rebuilding, and then managing to get in through the Promotion tournament.

As any team entering the LCS has over their head, the big question mark over all these teams is just how well will they do now that they’re at the big kids table of the LCS? Splyce did amazing during the CS, being probably the most dominant force there and making it in through the automatic promotion that Riot introduced (where the 10th place LCS team is automatically relegated, while the top CS series team is automatically promoted to the LCS.) But how will they fare against this new competitive EU LCS? It’s hard to say. They’re actually quite lucky in one regard over the other newcomers, in that they’ve largely all played together for quite some time. They know each other, and that’ll go a long way to (hopefully) having clear communications and good synergy. Talent-wise, the only notable players are Trashy in the Jungle, who was Jungler for now relegated Enemy eSports, and Nisbeth, the support player for also now relegated Meet Your Makers, which isn’t really telling of any greatness. What about G2 eSports, the eSports ‘club’ built by ex-SK Gaming Ocelote? Well, largely they became a farm team for many other organizations. They’ve had many players come and go, but their current roster, revolves around the hope of Emperor, their ADC from Korea and North America’s Team DragonKnights, and Kikis, their Top laner who played Jungler for Unicorns of Love, being able to make an impact. It’ll be interesting to see how this team does for communication, given the diverse languages within the team. But G2 has a steep uphill battle before them, and it’s questionable as to whether they’ll really leave a mark in the EU LCS.

Last, but certainly not least, is Team Vitality, who get their own paragraph because I think they are the newcomer team to look out for. While Roccat were able to snag notable players for each of their positions, Vitality were able to do so and then some. They grabbed Cabochard for their top lane, a consistent threat on the old Gambit lineup. Next is Shook, the very storied Dutchman whose bounced between Copenhagen Wolves, Alliance-Elements, then Copenhagen Wolves, and now Vitality, making great impacts on each team (as much as can be said for some of them.) Nukeduck holds down the mid lane, who’s also been a European standard and has been slated as the potential-ridden midlane, always expected to do big but never quite making it there. Lastly, and I think this is really the strongest point, is the duo lane taken directly from H2K gaming, in Hjarnan and Kasing. H2K was Europe’s third seed going into Worlds, and while they didn’t overly impress many, that’s still something. It’s all going to come down to how this team actually performs though. Talent is one thing, but League is a team oriented game still, and communication and synergy are not just buzzwords. While on paper they look like the strongest ‘new’ team, this has to translate onto the stage.

FORG1VEN to lead another team to glory or to mediocrity? Horrible Photoshop intended.

FORG1VEN to lead another team to glory or to mediocrity? Horrible Photoshop intended.

H2K: Can they keep their top three status?

 

H2K was another example of Europe’s upstart nature, coming out of CS and into quite a strong position within the LCS and eventually making it to Worlds. They were strong before, but I can’t help but feel they’re both in a better and worse position this split. The good? They got FORG1VEN. Anyone who followed SK Gaming in the Spring Split last year knows this is BY FAR the biggest pickup in the offseason for Europe. He is good, really good, and if he can learn to cooperate with his teammates in H2K they can easily retain their third spot position (dropping maybe to fourth at times.) The bad? Well, Europe’s gotten a lot more competitive too, even with the loss of some major talent, and as good as FORG1VEN is he is also… a difficult player to have on a team. FORG1VEN is a definite improvement on pretty much any ADC in Europe, but he is also just as difficult to have on a team as it is to not have him on your team. The storyline of H2K is really going to revolve around their botlane, and whether the veteran in VandeR can keep him both satisfied as a Support and reign him in when needed. The dynamic of H2K will either make or break them as a top team in EU LCS, and the Spring Split is going to be when all eyes are watching them on which it’s going to be.

ANOTHER European Exodus. Courtesy of na.lolesports.com

ANOTHER European Exodus. Courtesy of na.lolesports.com

European Talent Exodus

 

European exports to NA aren’t much of news, it’s happened before and made huge impacts, like the move for Bjergsen, and also made very small difference, think Evil Geniuses. This time, however, it’s been quite an exodus. Europe lost Huni and Reignover to newly minted Team Immortals in NA. As if that wasn’t hard enough for EU fans, they lost Yellowstar, the jewel of Europe, to TSM and Svenskeren also to TSM. Surely things couldn’t be worse? Well, then they lost Froggen to Echo Fox a new start up team, and then SmittyJ (arguably less of a hit, but one nonetheless,) to Dignitas. It’s all a bitter pill to swallow, having also seen Alex Ich leave to help form Renegades in NA, alongside Jensen, ex-INCARNATI0N, who joined the then struggling Cloud 9 team.

This storyline is kind of twofold to follow. First, the question most pertinent here is whether Europe can recover. Those who caught the EU LCS trailer know that this is going to be a big storyline there. Europe’s been here before, goes the trailer, they’ve been doubted before, but they’ve always come out of it stronger than before. One of EU’s greatest hopes, in Origen, is still fully intact from this exodus. Fnatic’s rebuilt itself before with less. Heck, EU can even claim to have fully imported something from NA in Safir for G2. But the question could also be rephrased less harshly: not whether Europe will ‘recover,’ but how Europe will show it is still one of the most dominant regions in the world. The second side of this coin? Well, it’s whether these Europe imports will affect NA’s LCS. Bjergsen’s rightfully so considered to have kept TSM afloat and relevant since he joined. He’s the strongest mid laner in the region, at least for now. But then Dexter, CLG’s old Jungler, didn’t seem to have such a lasting legacy for CLG. Then there’s also the story of Evil Geniuses, failed import and eventual dissolution. Jensen ultimately was good for Cloud 9, but when he joined many doubted him a worthy heir to Hai’s throne. TSM’s also known no end of ‘failed’ European junglers too. So the question for NA fans is this: will these injected Europeans make an impact to a region that showed such promise going into Worlds but ultimately fell flat on their faces? As with all our storylines here, only time will tell.