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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Worlds’ OP five after week two

The Group Stage of the 2017 League of Legends World Championship has finished, and the quarterfinals are set. The second week was a roller-coaster, as many teams who struggled in week one made a come-back in week two. Groups B and D had massive shake-ups, while groups A and C had major upsets without affecting the standings.

Just like in the first week, we saw certain players shine. We saw new champions drafted, updated item builds, and adapted strategies. Other players faltered, whether on their own or as part of deeper team-wide issues. Recency bias will paint over their week one performances, and they will be remembered for how they fell short.

Rather than dwell on missed opportunities, it is important to lift up those players who executed. These are the five most fearsome from the second week of Group Stage.

Top: ssg Cuvee

SSG's Cuvee was the most OP top laner in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Almost every top laner had major failures this week. In SKT’s loss to AHQ, Huni sacrificed four of their 12 deaths. Khan did not play all three games, and Rascal only played one (not really a failure, but it’s more difficult to judge against players who had 3-4 games). Cloud9’s Impact and TSM’s Hauntzer looked much less coordinated than last week.

However, Samsung’s CuVee actually looked strong in all three of his games. He averaged ahead in gold (+235), CS (+8), and XP (+237) at 15 minutes. SSG’s top laner was the only player with a lead in their game versus RNG. His Cho’Gath found 1907 Fenerbahce’s AD carry multiple times, and helped enable Samsung to deny G2 any neutral objectives.

The top lane pool in Group C (Letme, Expect and Thaldrin) is not the most intimidating, but members of Groups A, B and D all played inconsistently. WE’s 957 had strong showings, but he averaged behind in laning phase, despite having advantageous match-ups. One could also argue that he contributed less to their victories than CuVee did to Samsung’s.

Jungle: EDG Clearlove

EDG's Clearlove was the most OP jungler in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Say what you will about week one EDG, but they played their hearts out this week. Clearlove got first blood in two of three games. He secured the Rift Herald, multiple dragons and first Baron in all three games. While he averaged behind in XP (-323) and CS (-12), Clearlove averaged ahead in gold (+280) at 15 minutes. His 6.0 day eight KDA was the highest in Group A.

EDG’s jungler is a big reason why they accrued over 3,000 gold leads by twenty minutes in all three games this week. Clearlove made sure to give advantages to his carries, particularly Scout and iBoy. His Jarvan IV ultimates were key to locking down Sneaky and AN’s Kog’Maws.

Maxlore did provide spectacular early game pressure for Misfits, but they lost crucial Barons in three of their four games this week. Mlxg was stifled in his Rek’Sai game against G2. WE’s Condi had great performances this week, and he may even be more worthy than Clearlove. Team WE’s lanes seemed less dependent on Condi’s early influence, because they drafted advantageous match-ups more often.

Mid: WE Xiye

WE's Xiye was the most OP mid laner in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

It was difficult to choose the most OP mid laner this week. Arguments could be made for Bdd again, Xiaohu, Xiye, or even Perkz, Caps, Faker or Scout. However, WE’s Xiye seems like the best choice. Not only did he average more kills (4.0) and assists (5.7) per game than any other mid laner in his group, but keep in mind he is in Group D. He clearly out-performed Bjergsen, Maple and PowerOfEvil, which cannot necessarily be said about mids in any other group.

Part of the credit should certainly go to his jungler, Condi, but Xiye knew what to do with his leads once he had them. His Jayce was pivotal in WE’s siege composition versus TSM. Xiye used Corki to roam and dish damage against Flash Wolves. Finally, he had multiple solo kills on PowerOfEvil, helping dismantle Misfits’ lead.

LZ’s Bdd was really the only other mid laner as dominant. He continued to use roaming zone mages to spread his leads and out-roam his opponents. This is a valid strategy. However, it just does not feel as powerful as Xiye’s performance this week. Xiye played three different champions with slightly different play styles. The pressure was higher on Xiye to shut down main components of TSM, MSF and FW for their victories, while Longzhu’s group has those pressure points more on bottom lane and jungle.

ADC: LZ Pray

LZ's Pray was the most OP AD Carry in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Mystic, iBoy, Bang, Uzi, Zven, Rekkles… so many great AD carries are at this championship. But in week two of the Group Stage, Longzhu’s PraY reigned supreme. He carried LZ to another 3-0 week on Kog’Maw and Varus. PraY’s 6.3 kills per game topped all players in Group B, and his 8.7 assists were highest among Group B’s AD carries. He also put up 991 damage per minute, 39.6 percent of LZ’s total.

PraY and GorillA made Immortals, Fnatic and Gigabyte Marines’ bottom lanes pale in comparison. While their early games have not necessarily been oppressive, their late-game fighting is clean. In all three of LZ’s games, PraY came up massive in teamfights just past 30 minutes and they closed. While last week’s wins seemed much more dependent on Khan and Bdd, this week PraY drove them home.

Bang and iBoy had high highs on day eight, but they both had duds, too. Bang finished the AHQ loss 0-1-0 over 37 minutes. IBoy finished the SKT loss 1-3-1 over 38 minutes, despite having a clear early lead. These losses dilute their gameplay in victory. Mystic had a similar situation in Group D, where his two Caitlyn games were extremely oppressive, yet he had two early laning deaths against Misfits from lack of respect. Uzi was outplayed by G2’s Zven in Group C, as well.

Support: SSG Corejj

SSG's CoreJJ was the most OP support in week two of worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

As mentioned last week, the support role is currently difficult to judge between players. All of the supports at this year’s Worlds are exceptional. With the meta revolving around Ardent Censer and enchanter champions, Janna and Lulu have dominated the draft. Both have a 92% presence in the draft thus far. Since they focus almost exclusively on the success of their AD carries, if their teammates lose, then they lose.

That being said, Samsung’s CoreJJ had a fantastic week. Even in the loss to RNG, CoreJJ finished with a positive KDA. SSG’s marksman, Ruler, could not put up the carry performances he has shown without CoreJJ’s constant buffs. He came out of day six with a 28.0 overall KDA, averaging 0.3 deaths and 8.0 assists per game.

EDG’s Meiko and Misfits’ IgNar also stood out this week. The only factor preventing Meiko from being in the OP five was the bottom lane competition in his group.  Uzi-Ming, Zven-Mithy and Padden-Japone came out more consistently strong this week than Bang-Wolf, Sneaky-Smoothie and AN-Albis. While IgNar was ambitious to draft Blitzcrank, Taric and Thresh this week, he did not play as crisp as possible. The Blitzcrank ultimately lost in the late game to TSM.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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Gigabyte Marines: Orchestrated chaos

GIGABYTE Marines (GAM) debuted on the international stage at the League of Legends 2017 Mid-Season Invitational. Their blitzkrieg playstyle and unconventional strategies surprised several major-region teams, earning international recognition overnight. After securing a top-six finish, the Marines dominated their region, the Garena Premier League (GPL), and charged toward Worlds.

The Marines drew into Group B at Worlds 2017, along regional powerhouses: Longzhu Gaming (LZ), Immortals (IMT) and Fnatic (FNC). Their notoriety on the international stage meant teams and analysts could not write them off as another ‘wildcard’ team. After week one of the Worlds Group Stage, GAM sit at third place in their group, with a 1-2 match record. How did GIGABYTE find initial success? And can they surge into week two to capture a spot in quarterfinals?

GIGABYTE Marines evoke chaos style

gigabyte marines

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Heading into their first match at Worlds 2017, questions circled around how GIGABYTE Marines would size up against European powerhouse Fnatic. Determined to make a statement at their Worlds debut, GIGABYTE defied the meta. After locking in an unexpected “Nocturne” for their star jungler, Duy Khanh “Levi” Do, GAM took Fnatic for a spin.

Coming into the game, GAM transitioned their AD-carry and Support topside. Meanwhile, their top-laner Minh Nhut “Archie” Tran sacrificed his early levels to accelerate Levi‘s experience advantage. When Archie showed himself bottom, Fnatic responded appropriately, but fumbled the execution. FNC stacked four members onto Archie‘s Galio in a bottom dive. However, this left GIGABYTE’s duo free to rush the opposing top-outer tower. FNC failed to completely punish the lane-swap. Instead, they returned to their standard lane setup while Levi power-farmed his jungle.

Then, at 5:04, Levi broke a record, being the fastest player in Worlds history to unlock his ultimate. Archie‘s early sacrifice set his jungler up for monumental success. And Levi sprung to action. Not twenty seconds after hitting level six, Levi used his ultimate, “Paranoia” straight down bottom lane. Caught in a massive level mismatch, FNC’s support Jesse “Jesiz” Le dropped while his teammates scrambled to respond. What began as a surprise 2-on-2, became FNC committing four members to the fight. Despite the numbers, Levi secured three kills and GIGABYTE set the pace to ‘chaos’.

After a 24-minute bloodbath, GIGABYTE emerged victorious. The air was electric as casters and fans roared behind the Marines’ explosive win. Not only did GAM dominate their European opponents, they made a definitive statement on the metagame. Levi, in an interview with Worlds host Eefje “Sjokz” Depoortere, promised to bring even more exciting strategies against Longzhu and Immortals.

The Marines hit a brick wall

gigabyte marines

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Heading into day two of the Worlds group stage, GAM sat across from Longzhu Gaming, tournament favorites and Korea’s prize first seed. What unforeseen strategy did the Marines have planned to challenge the Korean powerhouse? GAM head coach Nguyen Duy Thanh “Tinikun” Doung reached deep into his playbook for the upcoming match.

The draft between GAM and LZ began surprisingly safe, until Tinikun made the call to lock in “Mordekaiser” for Archie. GIGABYTE plunge deeper into the rabbit hole, rotating their AD-carry Vu Long “Noway” Nguyen mid-lane and placing their mid-laner Van Cuong “Optimus” Tran topside. Few knew what to expect out of GAM’s questionable composition, but Longzhu had a definitive game-plan coming into the match.

Longzhu invaded as five into GAM’s blue jungle quadrant, warding all possible paths to bottom lane. This gave Longzhu information on GIGABYTE’s lane assignments and a glimpse into the GAM strategy. By pivoting Archie and support Thien Nhan “Nevan” Phuong to the bottom lane, the Marines delivered the duo to their deaths. Longhzu, spotting this weakness, executed a clean four-man dive to secure first blood. After dropping to the early dive, Archie commits a crucial mistake, using his “Teleport” bottom, only to be dove again. This poor call set the GAM top-laner so far behind, he never truly recovered.

With their bottom duo limping through the early-game, step one of GIGABYTE’s grandiose strategy crumbled. Suddenly, the game became a steamroll for Longzhu. Archie was largely ineffective on the “Mordekaiser” pick and GAM struggled to trade objectives effectively during the mid-game. Without the early minutes of the game going according to plan, GIGABYTE Marines fell apart and could not seem to pick up the pieces.

Do the GIGABYTE Marines abandon ship?

gigabyte marines

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

After their crushing defeat at the hands of Longzhu Gaming, GAM look onto their third match against North America’s second seed, Immortals. Questions surrounded the Marines as analysts and teams dissected their previous matches. Without precise early execution, GIGABYTE could not seem to regain control of their game. It was clear. Teams that recognized GAM’s early objectives could capitalize on those weaknesses. No doubt Immortals prepared for GAM’s signature lane-swaps, but would the Marines shift to another strategy instead?

GIGABYTE Marines had a particularly weak draft, handing over the “Xayah” and “Rakan” duo to the Immortals bot-lane. Perhaps worse, rather than executing a unique strategy, GAM opted into standard lanes. Aside from an aggressive “Kayn” lock-in for Levi and Nevan running “Heal” and “Ignite” for his summoner spells, the GAM draft was largely underwhelming. Unlike their previous games, GIGABYTE did not have an explosive start. Without securing an early lead, the Marines struggle to play from behind. Once Immortals built up their advantages, IMT pushed those leads into a clean victory.

This third game looked grim for the GIGABYTE Marines. Rather than playing to their unique styles, they revealed glaring weaknesses in their standard compositions and ability to play at a disadvantage. Now, several questions bubble to the surface. Did the defeat from Longzhu shake team morale? Will GIGABYTE have the confidence to execute their unique strategies? Fans can speculate, but it is up to team captain Levi and coach Tinikun to steady their ship. As week two of the Worlds 2017 group stage barrels forward, the GIGABYTE Marines must recollect and march on.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Edward Gaming: Pressure on China’s hometown heroes

Edward Gaming (EDG) struggles to find success at the 2017 League of Legends World Championship, rounding week one of the group stage with an 0-3 match record. Despite coming in as heavy favorites to advance to quarterfinals alongside defending champions SK telecom T1, China’s first seed cannot seem to find their footing. Let’s dive into EDG’s games and look at what they must do to claw out of Group A.

Game 1: Edward Gaming (EDG) vs ahq e-Sports Club (AHQ)

edward gaming

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Edward Gaming controlled the tempo for the majority of a 54-minute brawl, ultimately crumbling to AHQ’s superior teamfighting. To start the game, EDG locked star mid-laner Lee “Scout” Ye-chan on a comfort pick in Lucian. EDG looked to dominate mid-lane and that advantage across the map. Scout executed, earning a staggering +30 CS differential at 15 minutes.

Despite this aggressive lead in the mid-lane, AHQ found multiple advantageous teamfight opportunities in the mid-game. An extended five on five fight at 20-minutes resulted in a quadra-kill for AHQ’s AD-carry Chun-An “AN” Chou. Taking these small victories, AHQ dragged the game into a plus fifty minute slug fest, ultimately overpowering the Chinese representatives.

What internal factors led to EDG’s loss in their first match of Worlds 2017? Crucially, EDG failed to capitalize on their Shen counter-pick for top-laner Yuhao “Mouse” Chen. As a team, EDG should have prioritized mid-game skirmishes and early Drake control using their Teleport advantage with Shen’s “Stand United” to out-rotate AHQ. Naturally, Cho’Gath stood to outscale Mouse‘s Shen in both teamfight effectiveness, objective control and raw tank stats. EDG had to recognize this weakness in their composition and close out the game early. However, because of Mouse‘s weak lane performance against the enemy Cho’Gath and EDG’s lack of proactive rotations, AHQ secured early objectives that paid dividends in the late-game.

Game 2: Edward Gaming (EDG) vs SK telecom t1 (SKT)

edward gaming

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

EDG had no time to lick their wounds before facing off against long-time rivals, the defending world champions, SK Telecom T1. With the force of an entire arena in Wuhan cheering on their hometown favorites, Edward Gaming stormed into game two with blood in their eyes. Led by Wuhan native, Kai “Clearlove7” Ming, EDG coordinated plays to shut down living legend, Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee. Unlike the day before, EDG did not relent. The Chinese squad continued to wreak havoc on multiple SKT members, ballooning their lead to over 9.1k gold at 25-minutes.

Then, at 29-minutes, SKT finds a single teamfight that swings the entire momentum of the game. In rapid succession, SKT’s support, Jaewan “Wolf” Lee and jungler Wangho “Peanut” Han layer double knock-ups onto EDG’s carries. Faker lands a picture-perfect “Command Shockwave” on four members of Edward Gaming, decimating the opposition and turning the game on its head. EDG are never able to regain control of the game.

One fight. One crystal initiation by SKT’s play-makers leveled Edward Gaming’s seemingly insurmountable lead. It is difficult to find many faults with EDG’s play in this particular game. After successfully neutralizing Faker‘s Orianna, EDG exposed several mid-game vulnerabilities in SKT’s playstyle. However, a single positioning mistake at the height of their gold lead cost EDG their second game. Still, we can find many positives for Edward Gaming. They successfully shut down Faker, whose ability to absorb and outplay enemy pressure is perhaps the best in the world. EDG then took that mid-lane pressure and earned leads across the board, securing three Mountain Drakes, Rift Herald and a Baron.

Game 3: Edward Gaming (EDG) vs Cloud 9 (C9)

edward gaming

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Coming into Game 3, Edward Gaming looked like they had a chip on their shoulder. C9’s rookie jungler, Juan “Contractz” Garcia invaded Clearlove7‘s side of the jungle, stifling EDG’s ability to gain vision control and snowball lanes. Meanwhile, EDG’s top laner Mouse found himself suffocating under early pressure from C9’s top-laner Eonyoung “Impact” Jeong.

Feeling the need to pull his team from the trenches, Scout tried to pressure Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen’s Syndra pick. However, without his team to back him up, Scout found himself on the receiving end of multiple three-man ganks. Edward Gaming cracked under the pressure to perform on their home turf as the North American representatives led them into their third consecutive loss at Worlds 2017.

Taking a look at this game, it is clear EDG is off-center. In an attempt to slow down Contractz‘s aggressive playstyle, EDG banned Ezreal. However, after Contractz locked in Graves, EDG failed to adapt their strategy. The result: Cloud 9 methodically dismantled Edward Gaming, executing clean initiations and trades to put the game away.

Looking at Week Two

edward gaming

Credit: LoL Esports Photos

Despite the odds, an 0-3 match record does not mean Edward Gaming is out of the running. In games one and two, EDG earned sizable leads and control through mid and jungle control. Their crutch was a failure to close out these games. In the days leading up to week two, EDG must work on fixing issues with their macro-play and teamfighting.

The road to quarterfinals will be exceedingly difficult, but EDG is no stranger to being behind. This roster secured China’s first seed by reverse-sweeping regional rivals Royal Never Give Up (RNG) 3-2 at the LPL Summer Finals. Most of EDG’s members are repeat Worlds competitors, veterans even. In times like these, leadership and composure on the world stage will define EDG’s legacy. Team captain, Clearlove7 will look to lead his team surging into week two.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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KT Rolster could be Korea's fourth seed at Worlds

The LCK should send four teams to Worlds

For the last few years, fans and analysts have looked to the League of Legends World Championship to select the world’s greatest team. Organizations from all over the world descend on a location to duke it out and shoot for the top. Representatives from North America, Europe, China, Taiwan, Korea and more get drafted into four groups based on their year-long performance within their regions, and from there they scrap for two of the four slots into quarterfinals.

This system seems fair enough, but there has been an interesting trend since 2013. The LCK representatives continue to push towards the top of the tournament. In Season Three, Korean teams finished first, third-fourth, and ninth-tenth. Season Four was first, third-fourth, and fifth-eighth. They nabbed first, second, and fifth-eighth in 2015, and then first, second, third-fourth last year. In 2017 they will be looking to continue this trend.

Such consistently high placings begs the question: when will LCK get a fourth competitor at Worlds? Looking at the competition this year, Longzhu Gaming, SK Telecom T1 and Samsung Galaxy should theoretically remain a cut above. The LCK has been touted as a much more competitive league than other regions in the world, yet they get allotted the same number of Worlds seeds as China, Europe and North America. It is worth questioning the reasoning of this choice.

strength of korea’s fourth seed

KOO Tigers knocked out KT Rolster at 2015 Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Hypothetically, KT Rolster would be Korea’s fourth seed representative. No one would argue that they are unfit for the world stage. KT is made up of Smeb, Score, Pawn, Deft and Mata–world-class players by all measures. This is the squad that tied Longzhu for first place in the Summer Split regular season. KT only lost 2-3 to SKT in the playoffs to miss finals, then lost 0-3 to Samsung to miss Worlds.

What is the justification for KT to stay at home, while wildcard teams and other regions’ third seeds get to the Group Stage through play-ins? Sure, some fans may be upset about equal representation, or how Worlds would become LCK playoffs 2.0, but what about competitive integrity? KT Rolster would most likely make a deep run in the World Championship, but they are denied that opportunity because they play in a region that has too much talent.

Of course, there will be someone to point out the obvious slippery slope. Why stop at four? Why not five or six or seven Korean teams? Next, there will be four different play-in-type stages to Worlds, and it will last eight weeks, and people are not going to tune in for an eight-week-long tournament. This is a valid point.

Fairness of the Group Stage

2017 World Championships groups

Image from LoLesports.com

Four Korean teams feels right because there are four groups in the main event of Worlds. Each year teams from other regions cross their fingers and hope they are drawn into the group without an LCK seed. That gives them the highest probability to make it out of their group, which means a higher chance to win the entire tournament. Introducing a fourth LCK team would remove that hope.

Picture a World tournament where Longzhu heads Group A, SKT in Group B, Samsung in Group C and KT in Group D. Every other team in the tournament would be guaranteed to face one from Korea. There may still be “groups of death,” but there would no longer be a safe haven-type group.

Bringing in a fourth team would also be a proper test for other regions at Worlds. If a TSM or G2 or Flash Wolves truly wants to feel accomplished making it out of their group, then they should be facing a Longzhu, an SKT or a Samsung. Just look at H2K last year. Many would argue that they only made into the semifinals because they topped the only group without a Korean roster, then faced the wildcard team in quarterfinals, and when they faced Samsung in semifinals they lost 3-0.

Competitive Integrity

H2K did not face an LCK team until semifinals last year

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

On that same note, if TSM tops this year’s Group D, they would face the second place from another group. For example, they could have to play Fnatic, Immortals or Gigabyte Marines in the quarterfinals. If TSM then made it to semifinals and lost to SKT or Longzhu, would they feel like they earned their way, knowing that other teams were knocked out earlier by Korean teams? It is not surprising that analysts were worried for North America’s chances going into the group draw but quickly became optimistic once TSM was placed in a group without an LCK seed.

The logistics of bringing in a fourth team from Korea would be relatively straight-forward. Each group is headed by the top four teams from LCK: Summer Split champion in Group A, second-most championship points in Group B, third most in Group C and a regional qualifier for Group D. From there, the first seeds of Europe, China, North America, and Taiwan would divide into the four groups. The second seeds would follow, and then there would be a play-in for the final four spots. Riot would need to revoke the wildcard slot promised from the Mid-Season Invitational, and include them in the play-in for their chance to the Group Stage.

Fleshing out this hypothetical, we could have groups that look like this:

A–Longzhu, Flash Wolves, RNG, Cloud9

B–SKT T1, TSM, Misfits, Team WE

C–Samsung, G2, Immortals, Gigabyte Marines

D–KT Rolster, Edward Gaming, AHQ, Fnatic

These seem a lot more balanced than the current groups. There are still ways to make them less fair, such as grouping KT, Flash Wolves, Misfits and Gigabyte Marines, while Longzhu, G2, RNG and Cloud9 faced off. However, no team would be able to make it into the semifinals of Worlds without beating a member of the LCK. This setup would also present Korea with the opportunity to truly prove its prowess, because if they could potentially secure all top four spots in the World.

Conclusion

The LCK has proven itself over several years of international and domestic competition. This year Riot allowed them instant access to the Group Stage without a play-in, but that is not enough. The World Championship should feature four teams from the LCK. Critics may point to the slippery slope “why stop at four Korean teams? Why not five, six, or seven?” but settling on four seems natural, given there are four groups in the Group Stage.

Each of the four groups would be assigned one Korean team, ensuring more fairness in the draw. It would also strengthen the competitive integrity of Worlds. KT Rolster would be a prime candidate to compete in this year’s World Championship when compared to other competitors.

It would be impossible for a team to reach the semifinals of the tournament without winning against an LCK representative. Any true professional League team should want to leave a competition knowing that it did the best it could. They would not want to think it was the luck of the draw. Adding in a fourth Korean seed would make that a reality.


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Worlds Group A

Worlds Group C preview: The Group of Death™, or a song of Fire and Ice

There’s one every year, and this year it’s the fated Group C that has been dubbed by many as the Group of Death™. Honestly, it’s hard to debate this fact. You’ve got the top seed from Europe in G2, the tyrannical kings of Europe whose track record at international tournaments can be shaky but domestically unquestionable. You have the storied Samsung, managing again to upset KT and find themselves back at the World Stage, looking across from what is quietly becoming somewhat of a Worlds Rivalry in Royal Never Give Up. RNG, the golden darlings of the LPL, return once again to Worlds, bringing the ferocity that the LPL is known for in droves.

It’s a spicy group, but more interestingly it’s a clash of identities, between the cold Ice of a mid to late game team and the fire of early game aggression. G2, once known for their aggressive tendencies, have become quite the defensive team as of late, absorbing early game aggression with grace, to come out swinging in the late game to demolish teams. Samsung are of a similar philosophy, as was shown in their series against KT Rolster, the most aggressive early game team in the LCK. Samsung played like a defensive boxer, taking blow after blow, but ultimately doing so only to wear out their over eager opponents to close in for the knockout.

RNG have never had such ideas cross their mind. They’re aggression through and through, bringing the LPL’s almost trademarked style of taking fights wherever they are, whenever they are and however they are. But RNG is even known within this region of brawlers to be exceptionally brawly, and early aggression is one of their fortes. While the Group is most obviously dubbed the Group of Death™, it very well could be just as easily understood as a case study in style. Will the two defensive sides, absorbing blow after blow effectively, come out on top in a late game orchestra of macro play and team fights? Or can the scrappy, fast and furious Chinese squad of RNG bring that fire into the post-group stage? What could the possible addition of, as Joshua “Jatt” Leesman pointed out, the likes of a Cloud 9 thrown into the group do too?

 

G2 Esports: The tyrant kings of Europe

 

Another EU LCS Finals, another G2 win to make the fourpeat a reality. Courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr.

G2 are one of those teams that just look too damn good domestically. Sure, they’ve stumbled, but a four-peat at claiming the EU LCS title (something they’ve done since qualifying for the league) is something that has to be respected. And yet, commentators are almost always going to remember the G2-8 memes, even if G2 has shown to be much better now internationally at the most recent MSI, making it to the finals after a 3-1 victory over LPL side Team WE. They’re unquestionably the strongest team in Europe, but outside of it they’ve had some troubles.

But that is the past. Too often analysis has to focus on what was, and G2 look to prove that wrong in this group. Lady Luck was not on their side, as they’re facing some of the strongest opponents at the competition. Against Samsung, Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen will be tested against the likes of Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk who has been a dominant force in the LCK. Against RNG, Perkz matches up against the Little Tiger in Li “Xiaohu” Yuan Hao . While Europe is renown for its mid lane talent, Xiaohu, the LPL’s Summer Split MVP, has had the split of his life.

But G2 brings the talent where other teams may not. Sure, against RNG they may struggle in the mid lane, but they very well may not. Luka “PerkZ” Perković has had some great showings against the likes of Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok (getting a first blood quasi solo kill on God himself counts for something); and while Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao and Shi “Ming” Sen Ming are a great bot lane, the Zven/Mithy combo has been one of the most constant terrors in the bot side Europe has ever produced. G2 has recently overcome its international woes, but even then its group stage hasn’t been nearly as dominant as their Bo5’s. Whether G2 can come in strong in a one game showing will determine whether they can flex that adaptability.

Oddly enough, it’s the Korean top side that has questions for me going into this group. While Liu “mlxg” Shi Yu and Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong, one a snowballing gank bot and the other a defensive jungler, may not be the most formidable. Lee “CuVee” Seong-jin and Yan “LetMe” Jun Ze both match up stronger into Ki “Expect” Dae-Han for me. Equally, Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun has not been the strongest point for G2, and is something that can easily be abused if teams want to. Particularly against the likes of RNG this can be worrisome, as an early lead is something the Chinese side will be looking for. However, consistent play from the Korean top half can thwart the game plans of not just RNG’s early game, but Samsung’s mid to late game too.

 

The X Factor: Perkz and Zven/Mithy

The star mid laner Perkz is behind much of G2’s success domestically, but can he show up at Worlds? Courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr.

League of Legends has always required that laners be as strong as they can be for teams to win, but it’s particularly important in the primary carry position of the mid lane. Group C is no exception, with the star Mid of RNG being a constant threat, but also the ability for Perkz to show up against a slightly weaker Lee “Crown” Min-ho. Winning in lane doesn’t just put Perkz ahead, but also puts the opposing jungler on the back foot, making them decide whether to try and save their ailing mid laner with gank(s), something Perkz has been adept at avoiding, or to try and help other lanes get ahead. But that pressure that Perkz can create on the map will only be a good thing, and the European phenom will need to step up against some of his toughest competition yet.

Zven and Mithy also are key factors for this team’s success, not just because they too occupy a huge carry position, but because they can nullify the strongest parts of both of their opposing teams, in Ruler/Jo “Core JJ” Yong-in and Uzi/Ming. Winning lane, or even being ahead in lane, has important macro advantages too, something that G2 can take advantage of over the more pensive Samsung or the rash RNG. An early lead, or at least a showing of good form, can either set themselves up for the late game, or put a halt to the aggression. Either way, Zven and Mithy need to bring their A game for G2 to stand a chance making it out of groups.

 

Samsung Galaxy: The defensive, pensive boxers of the LCK

 

What was tragedy for the KT Rolster organization and their fans (those poor, poor fans…) is a happy repeat for the Samsung organization, qualifying for the second year through the gauntlet format. The roster, largely unchanged from last years iteration, bring a sense of stability to the LCK representatives this year. And as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The Samsung organization is one of the few teams to know the sweet taste of winning at Worlds. Can they make a return to the Finals this time around? Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Samsung occupy a unique space within Group C. They’re the Korean team, so a lot of expectations of them advancing from the group exist. But they’re also stylistically very different from the real wildcard of the group in RNG. They also match up in similar style to G2, and ultimately many have them favored as the stronger outfit in that regard.

But a weak mid laner is not the position you want to be lacking in this group, against the likes of Perkz and Xiaohu. The boon of at least a strong bot lane is good, but could very well be nullified again in a group that boasts the likes of Zven/Mithy and Uzi/Ming. Cuvee is notorious in the top lane, and would be a strong point against G2 and probably RNG, but in a tank meta that may not mean as much. Samsung will need to be the better defensive team, but also be able to react and reply in kind to the aggression of RNG to top the group. Even if first place isn’t secured for the Korean team, a second place finish is just as good, and highly likely.

For Samsung it’s about shoring up their weaker flanks and sticking to their own stylistic way of playing the game. A Bo1 format does not agree the most with a team that tends to be more defensive, as it does not allow for the adjustments in between games. But it’s not the biggest hurdle for the team. This is an experienced roster, and while they seem the ‘I’m you but stronger’ version of G2, they also have a strong win condition against the early game style of RNG. If they play their cards right, the top seed of the group is a big possibility, so long as they can prove to be the stronger mid-late game than G2 and be able to rebuke any of RNG’s aggression.

 

The X Factor: Cuvee and Ruler/CoreJJ

Cuvee may the most underrated top laner going into Worlds, with a strong solo performance. Can he show up in the Group of Death for Samsung? Courtesy of leaguepedia.

While not as hyped as Kim “Khan” Dong-ha is, nor say the Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo of Spring Split, Cuvee is still a terror in the top lane for Samsung. He’s a solid player and can make a great advantage for the team in a group that doesn’t boast the most star studded of top laners. A stronger Cuvee can draw pressure away from Crown and Ruler/CoreJJ, allowing the carries to get ahead, or at least make the opposing junglers dance to Samsung’s beat.

Interestingly enough, he leads all top laners currently at Worlds in solo kills (over Khan). That says something, and Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong may have to be careful of his meme “top die” being handed over to a new top laner. A top laner, particularly a tanky one, in the late game can be a scary thing, particularly for a team so adept at team fighting. Cuvee’s role may not be the most glamorous, but it’s imperative.

You can’t talk about Samsung without talking about the Ruler/CoreJJ bot lane. Ruler has had an amazing split in the Summer, and while Crown hasn’t looked as strong, Ruler and CoreJJ have stepped up in a lot of ways. With the highest damage percent out of any ADC from the LCK in the Summer, not only is Ruler doing work for his team, he’s going to need to in this group. This is a group with Zven and Uzi, who are both formidable ADCs not just in their laning phases, but in their abilities to continually dish out damage effectively and safely. With a strong side lane pressure, Crown is also opened up to bounce back and create some pressure of his own in the mid lane. Keeping ahead, or at least even, favors Samsung heavily into any of their known match ups.

 

Royal Never Give Up: The Little Tiger and the puppy

While under many names, the Royal Club/Royal Never Give Up organization has been a staple of the LPL region. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

For fans that have been in the scene for awhile, Uzi, and the ‘Royal [insert whatever]’ organization are old names, dating back to the Season 3 Worlds. They’ve bounced back from a relatively irrelevant few years (being dropped down to the LSPL league for a second, before picking up a new roster in the LPL) into a monster in the LPL region, and are one of the few teams to consist of only Chinese players. International fans will recognize Uzi and possibly MLXG, but that shouldn’t distract from the mid lane Xiaohu, or the Little Tiger, who has become much of a talking piece for analysts when discussing RNG. With a 70% First Blood rate in the LPL, the highest in the league, they’re a team that puts their foot on the pedal from the first minute of the game.

RNG play a hard and fast game, with MLXG ganking often for his laners, often sacrificing his own farming abilities to do so, to get them ahead. And that makes sense, when you’ve got the likes of Letme, a carry top laner in his own right, Xiaohu, the MVP of the Summer Split, and the duo of Uzi and Ming. There’s a lot of raw talent on the roster, and MLXG is the tinder to ignite those fires. Or to not. He can be the wild card of the team, and whether he performs at his best or his worst often can be the factor that swings games.

If it’s not Uzi and Ming making plays and getting ahead in the bot lane, then MLXG can look to the mid, particularly against a weaker Crown on Samsung Galaxy, for Xiaohu. Or maybe focusing towards Letme against the likes of Expect might be best. MLXG and RNG enter the group stage like a football team. MLXG, the quarterback, has an array of options and weapons to choose from to get the team ahead. It all matters on making the right choices against the right team at the right time. If they can pull that off and close games off of early leads, RNG look poised to top the group. If they struggle with that, or worse, find themselves behind early, RNG are in a much shakier position.

 

The X Factor: Xiaohu and MLXG

Praised in one stroke for his unique jungling, criticized in the next for questionable decision making, MLXG is a key part to any of RNG’s games, for better or for worse.

The first kind of goes without saying, Xiaohu is the scariest carry currently on the RNG roster, and one of the best mid laners at the tournament. But, more interestingly, him performing well has two meanings in each match up. Against G2, he can nullify one of G2’s greatest weapons in Perkz, who has been a star for the European side. Against Samsung, he can cause so much pressure by taking advantage of a weaker Crown, possibly not just getting himself ahead, but opening up other lanes for MLXG to gank.

There’s a lot of RNG’s hopes being rested on the Little Tiger’s shoulders, but if he can pull it off, RNG look to be a titan in an extremely hard group. A first place in the toughest group in the group stage wouldn’t just be a confidence boost for the whole team, but a statement against future foes to take RNG seriously.

MLXG is the other key factor in RNG’s success, or in their failure. Known for getting his laners ahead, but equally for making some… interesting decisions for a jungler, RNG is going to need him to be as strong as possible. RNG bring a strong set of laners for MLXG to choose from, so he’s not stuck ganking for any particular lane to get a star ahead. Rather, each can stand on their own against their lane opponents, and it’ll be up to the decision making on who to get ahead in each game.

If it’s MLXG at his finest, this will be a scary opponent for G2 and Samsung to face up. If it isn’t, and early game miscalls allow the late game teams to stall out that early stage, it can mean the demise of RNG. Consistency may not be RNG’s strongest suite, but with the explosive gameplay and team-fighting, it may not have to be, and MLXG exemplifies that the strongest.

 

The overall story lines: A clash of styles and laners

 

The biggest feature of this group is the two contrasting ways of playing League of Legends. There’s the slower, methodical, late game focused approach that both G2 and Samsung are fond of. On the other side, you have the intense, in your face fiery style of RNG, looking to fight early and often. The question will be, which style is the stronger one come Worlds? Samsung look poised to deal with RNG’s aggression fairly well, having had to take down KT to find themselves at Worlds. G2, on the other hand, may not be as equipped for the fight-fight-fight style of the LPL. Or, possibly, the meta (noting that no patches will be dropped and applicable for the competitive scene) may shift to favor one style over the other. It’s hard to say, but it’s rare for a group to be so crystallized in a contrast of styles.

The other aspect, and this could be argued of every group some might say, is the clash of laners themselves. The three teams locked in for Group C bring some of the strongest players in each position in the tournament, at least individually. Whether it’s the mid lane battle of Perkz/Xiaohu/Crown, or the bot lane of Zven and Mithy/ Uzi and Ming/ Ruler and CoreJJ, sparks will fly in any of these lanes. Even the top lane is no slouch, with the likes of Cuvee and Letme duking it out, while Expect may bring some unexpected (hah) surprises to the tournament. The more defensive teams need to deflect much of RNG’s aggression, and RNG in turn need to make the aggression ‘stick’ to take an advantage in the group. The laning phase will surely be a sight to behold for Group C.

 

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Courtesy of LoL Esports.

Worlds Group A

Worlds 2017 group A : The Clash of Titans

Introduction

Every year, as the post-seasons of the multiple leagues around the world come to a close, many fans set their eyes on Worlds and the meeting of the best of the best in the international throw down. While maybe not the exciting affair for some, the group stage draw signals the coming of Worlds in the hearts of fans and is the nostalgic feeling of ‘Worlds is around the corner’ again. The group draw is this series of events that will drastically shape which teams are slated to go forward, who has the easy group, who gets the dark horse team and who gets placed into the dreaded Group of Death™. With that each group has its own story lines that emerge, and for group A, the title I’d give it has to be the Clash of Titans.

Group A drew not only EDward Gaming (EDG), finalists for the LPL, but also Worlds’ favorite and defending champions in SKT T1. As if a more storied and titanic clash could exist, the group, for me at least, avoids the term Group of Death™ because, well, AHQ is there. With the fourth team still to be determined, we can’t comment too much there, but this group is definitely a dance of two. Will it be the resurgent LPL region’s EDG that walks away in first, or the fan favorite in SKT that manages again, even with questions hanging over their head, to prove themselves as the best in the world? Or can AHQ, against all odds, pull off a miracle and make it out of the group? Maybe the fourth team will add some unexpected spice that upsets the perfect balance of the two titans facing off for the first and second seed.

EDG 

With some of the most stylish jerseys out of the LPL, EDward Gaming hope to cement themselves as a force to be reckoned with internationally. Courtesy of EDward Gaming Facebook.

EDG come into Group A as the finalists from the scrappy LPL region, a region known for aggression that can start as early as level one. After reverse sweeping Royal Never Give Up to keep the team from winning an LPL Finals, to cement themselves, at least as far as standings go, to be the best in China, EDG come into Worlds roaring with confidence. However, EDG come into the group in an odd position; they match up against their titanic opponents, SKT, which draws concern.

Questions surround EDG’s top lane, Chen “Mouse” Yu-Hao, and even Ming “Clearlove7” Kai, the on and off star jungler, abound. It’s the weaker side for the roster, that contains Lee “Scout” Ye-chan and Tian “meiko” Ye on the other half of the Rift. That being said, EDG’s draw in the group stage is a slight benefit, they face SKT, which for most would be a bad thing. But with SKT’s struggling top lane and jungler position too, EDG’s weaker sides may not be placed up against a stronger side. This means not only will EDG’s side not be exposed to a stronger lane match up, where the other team can focus and create a lead there, but also maybe EDG can manage to be the stronger side in the top half.

Their bot lane, with new kid on the block Hu “iBoy” Xianzhao, will be the true point of contest between the two titans. Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan have not looked like the dominant force they once were, having been a key part in SKT’s slump mid split. That doesn’t mean that they’re not a formidable foe for a rookie ADC. EDG will have to prove themselves the stronger team even with the questions that surround them, but given their pedigree and history of strong performances, EDG look to be easy favorites for at least second place, if not first in the group.

 

The X Factor: iBoy and Scout

Rookie iBoy will have his skills and mettle tested severely against the veteran bot lane of Bang and Wolf. Can he come out ahead? Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

The two primary carries of EDG are the linchpin of the roster for me. Scout has to be performing at his top tier to dominate the group, and particularly to show up against old teammate Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. If it’s Scout at his ceiling, he can be the carry that EDG needs to maybe secure that first place in the group. If he’s at his floor, EDG will find trouble against possibly even AHQ.

The other big factor is iBoy, the newcomer to the LPL scene. A rookie by all accounts, he comes into Worlds only having played a total of 22 games over his entire professional career. To be thrown into a Worlds roster, let alone one that has SKT and Bang in its group, is one large task for the rookie. However, iBoy’s stats aren’t worrisome, and with the veteran lane mate of Meiko by his side, this could be a real time for the young player to shine. On the other hand, not performing will be costly for the team overall, so the pressure on iBoy is pretty damn high to at least go toe to toe with Bang.

SKT 

Ahh, SKT. They barely need introduction for fans of League of Legends, but the once completely unstoppable juggernauts have had a slightly less than glamorous recent showing. The notable slump in performance, and the question marks not only in top lane of who to start between Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo and Ui “Untara” Jin-Park, were concerns that many analysts brought up. Not just that, but also their jungler position too is up in the air, with Han “Peanut” Wang-hoand and Kang “Blank” Sun-gu, being the two possibilities. For many on the outside looking in, this has put the organization in a bit of a tumultuous position.

SKT’s full roster will be tested as they go into Worlds. Courtesy of SKT T1’s Facebook.

Just as with EDG though, SKT lucked out slightly by placing in a group with similar question marks in the top side of the Rift. With the “Unkillable Demon King” of League in Faker playing on the team though, and the long standing relationship between Bang and Wolf in the bot lane, it’s hard to say SKT is weak, even through their struggling top and jungle positions. Untara looks to be the more stable top lane, and Blank slots in similarly, and that almost feels the stronger formation for SKT going into Worlds. SKT can win games off simply mid and bot lane, and a tank meta supports a more supportive top and jungler position, rather than the more carry-oriented play that one might expect out of Huni or Peanut.

SKT however is still not the guaranteed top squad. With the current draw, they should be able to squash struggling AHQ Esports Club, but will be faced against an equally formidable EDG. The more aggressive nature of LPL teams may be a challenge for the defending champions, but it’s difficult to say they’ll struggle. Sure, at Rift Rivals the LPL were the ultimate winners, but LCK is never a region to bat an eyelash at. And almost most importantly, this is still a team with Faker on it, and Bang and Wolf, who bring not only their experience, but synergy. It will depend on how the squads match up, if Faker can take on his once pupil, Scout and if synergy wins out over new kid and star iBoy in the bot lane and the veteran in Meiko.

 

The X Factor: Untara/Huni and Blank/Peanut

High risk, high reward, is what has always characterized both Huni and Peanut. But can SKT take the gamble at Worlds? Courtesy of SKT T1’s Facebook.

This may come off wrong, but I’m not worried about SKT’s bottom half of the map. Faker has rarely performed negatively, and the Bang and Wolf duo seem a lot more energized after their slump. It’s the top half that’s the tricky part for SKT, and ultimately something they’ll need to address if they plan to make any real statement at Worlds.

The Huni/Untara saga continues, as Huni, previously the star diamond in the rough player, has looked considerably disappointing in recent showings (like, recent for a while…) Untara, on the other hand, may not be as flashy as Huni in his hay day or the phenom in Kim “Khan” Dong-ha, but he gets the job done for SKT. If Huni can be assured to perform, he’s the obvious pick, as a strong top laner into a group with weaker top laners could be another weapon in the SKT arsenal. However, he’s a liability, and SKT may decide to go with Untara for the security in the top lane.

The next question mark is in the jungle. Peanut, the darling of the Rox Tigers that stormed onto the scene last year, is in doubt. He’s not the consistent jungler that SKT needs. Stats aren’t everything, but Blank, particularly in SKT’s playoff run, was the superior jungler in almost every category, having played six games to Peanut’s eight. That’s a decent sample size. With Blank’s solid performance, and the bigger question mark being in the top lane, SKT could very well leave Peanut out of the six man roster for Worlds in favor of a more diverse top lane option. Regardless, whoever fills in the jungle position for SKT will need to be able to get their carries in the position to succeed. 

 

AHQ

The LMS region has always been a dark horse region. Often times discounted, except when one remembers the miracle run of Tapai Assasins, or Flash Wolves’ constant ability to take down the tyrants of SKT, they tend to look to be the weakest region of the non-wild card regions. While expansion of LMS teams at Worlds has gone from two to three, a welcomed sign for the region, it’s not as bright a note given the current teams being fielded.

Can the weird… flying… unicorn… horse thing of AHQ carry the team to one of the biggest upsets of the year against the two titans in Group A? Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Many pundits feel that AHQ is a fairly weak team, and particularly compared to Flash Wolves, is the easier opponent hailing from the LMS region. While an AHQ of yesterday, with a strong top lane in Chen “Ziv” Yi , might’ve posed a threat to the group of weak top side teams, it’s not as big a factor anymore. As the analysts noted, Ziv has not looked as strong as he has in the past. More importantly, the mid lane question mark for AHQ is whether to play weaker Liu “Westdoor” Shu-Wei who synergizes better with jungler Xue “Mountain” Zhao-Hong, or stronger mechanics but weaker synergy in Wong “Chawy” Xing. SKT and EDG are teams that play around their star mid laners, and to have a position of almost a lose-lose scenario of options to field in that vital role, it’s hard to see them coming out ahead.

While longtime Chou “AN” Chun-An and Kang “Albis” Chia-Wei in the bot lane might bring some stability to the roster, it’s difficult to say whether they’d be able to make any real threats against the likes of Bang/Wolf or even iBoy/Meiko. AHQ look like a team that, truthfully, doesn’t have a real edge in any position over their (confirmed) group opponents. While that doesn’t mean they can’t win, their lack of clear, concise team play doesn’t assure a “team play > mechanics” style of winning either. It’s hard to see the team making a real dent in the gargantuan teams of SKT or EDG here, but we’ve seen before that the LMS region can pull some real dark horse prowess on opponents who may not give them the credit they are due.

 

The X factor: Chawy/Westdoor and Ziv

Ziv is one of the old faces of the LMS, and it’ll be on his shoulders to try and create an advantage for his team to work off of. Courtesy of Leaguepedia.

Group A is a group of strong mid laners, and that’s something that cannot be said for AHQ. The rotating mid lane of Westdoor, who has the weaker mechanics but better jungle synergy, and Chawy, the newer, stronger, but less synergized mid laner, is the biggest hurdle for AHQ. They need to make the proper decision, either trusting Mountain and Westdoor’s ability to work together, or Chawy’s individual prowess, when facing up against some of the strongest mids at Worlds. 

Ziv is the rare situation in the group up until now: he’s a steady top laner for a team. Another long term member of the club, his performance has not be the most impressive, and it’s questionable on whether he would even be able to match up well into either Mouse or Huni/Untara. But if he can, if he can become the strong point of AHQ, he’s in the group of his life to upset. While the mid lane is looking to be a fiery display of strong skill, the top lane is almost unanimously questionable on each roster. A strong showing from the top lane could be just the trick that AHQ needs to be memorable additions to Group A. Without it, there isn’t much in the way of hope for any particular position on the AHQ roster to have any clear advantage against their confirmed rivals of EDG and SKT. 

 

Overall story lines to follow

The big story line here is the mid lane, with Scout facing up against his old organization SKT, and Faker, looking across the rift to a player he once helped improve. Scout has improved considerably with EDG, and while a kind of High Ceiling Low Floor (i.e. can either do really well or really… not… well,) may be enough in a Bo1 series against SKT, it’ll still be questionable on whether he can truly make a god bleed. Faker, on the other hand, looks to reassert SKT’s position to the World, coming in with a lot of questions hanging over their head. If SKT can make quick work of a team like EDG and look comfortable doing so, they’ll remind everyone of why they are still one of the favorites to reclaim their title. If they struggle, if EDG instead are the ones standing atop the battle in the mid lane, SKT’s position in Worlds will be called further into question. And for EDG, the curse of performing not as hot in international tournaments can be fully put to rest. 

AHQ, on the other hand, are on the outside looking in for the group. They’re not really slated to do overly well, and it’s questionable if they can even make a dent against the two teams already pulled, let alone a possible third seed team. Their relevancy at the world stage will be tested, and while not even a gambling person would have them out to make it out of groups, taking a few wins will be imperative to give some sense of dignity going home for the team.

Overall comments

I know it sounds kind of lame, but I have to agree with the analysts on the group from the group draw. This is definitely EDG and SKT’s group to lose. What order that’ll be depends on which team can shore up their leaky top side, or which team can make enough plays around the mid to bottom half to make up for it. That’ll decide who takes the first seed, and while many would be safe in saying SKT has that all but locked up, I’d caution against counting EDG out of that contest.

However, AHQ are a team that many still feel shouldn’t even necessarily be here. The LMS region, while still upset-able, are not necessarily that strong of a region in recent times. EDG historically face up well against AHQ, and SKT, not facing Flash Wolves, should be able to dismantle the LMS representatives fairly easily.

The third spot, as discussed by Jatt, has the potential (note: this is highly speculative so keep that in mind) to have either Fnatic or Cloud 9 in it. While both teams, particularly Cloud 9, seem slightly more assured in the top lane, it’s hard to hold the rest of the roster as showing much potential to upset for a second place slot. They can each bring damage to the records of both, and honestly could be the decider for the top seed teams, but their shots to make it out of groups are thoroughly suspicious. It’s just hard to imagine the two titans in EDG and SKT falling victim to a third place team from the West. But crazier things have happened. 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

Courtesy of LoL Esports.

Dignitas Ssumday: “I really want to play Longzhu”

With the gauntlet stretched before them, Dignitas have their eyes set firmly on FlyQuest. Knowing that Fly will have a number of VODs to comb through Ssumday is expecting a different team than the one they faced already.

Ssumday talks about how he believes Dignitas can win the gauntlet tournament and be the North American third seed for Worlds. Once they make it through the gauntlet he mentions that he would like to meet Longzhu at worlds to hang out and play on stage.

Keep it here for more interviews, pieces and photos from NALCS!

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

Photo and video by ‘The Game Haus’ Patrick Mcdonald

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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What the EU LCS announcement could mean for NA LCS

The Announcement

After spending a weekend in Boston at the NA LCS Finals my mind has been focused on one thing. I know you’re probably thinking, “Worlds, duh.” Sorry but you’re wrong. The more people I talked to who were in the know or even had inside information made me wonder about my favorite League of Legends topic, franchising.

Courtesy of: https://eu.lolesports.com/

We all know there will be a major announcement for who has been accepted sometime in November. It has also been reported that over 100 teams applied for the NA LCS franchising opportunity. This means that over 100 teams/organizations have either found investors or have the $13 million necessary to join the league.

What this also means is that there is an insane amount of interest in League of Legends for these spots.

Jacob Wolf announced earlier today that EU LCS would be splitting into four regions. With this there will be 24 teams that are all at the top league, six in each region. It sounds like there will be no minor league teams or challenger scene, and with that it will end relegation which has been a huge thorn in the side of teams. They will be playing in London, Paris, Barcelona and Berlin.

What does this mean?

How will this effect NA? Well for starters one would expect there to be at least 16 or more teams in the new league. With over 100 teams applying I can definitely see more. There has been much debate around this over the weekend and especially within The Game Haus.

One of the major concerns that has been brought up is if there is enough talent to allow for this many teams. We have seen in the past that League of Legends normally has about four upper echelon teams in each split with some middle tier teams and then normally at least two teams that struggled mightily.

This is a valid point and a similar one can easily be made for EU as many people feel they are a weaker region. The hope is that with salaries and more of a budget to officially pay players, some of the best in each region will eventually spread out to the different teams. It is also possible that some of the top players in each region may jump back in. Could we see the return of Dyrus to the main league? Although doubtful, the possibility is there.

Courtesy of: http://wwg.com

An argument could be made that this may extend careers as well. Plenty of people have worried about the fact that most League players either burn out or lose their edge once they reach their middle to upper twenties. That would allow more time for development of newer players and expectations may be lowered.

Another point that can be made for NA is that it looks likely that they will at least follow a similar format to EU. It is completely conceivable that NA goes regional and has all of their teams in each region like EU. There could be Northeastern, Northwestern, Southern and Western regions that could accommodate a similar number of teams.

Or, they could do what Overwatch league is planning on doing and have teams in separate cities like the NFL, MLB, NBA, etc. With the team owners of the OWL building Esports arenas, it is also possible that there will be League teams sharing those stadiums similar to traditional sports.

There are clearly so many different questions that can be asked with this news. One that has been answered is that Riot is not letting EU die out. Instead their goal of revamping it and adding franchising should give EU fans hope.

For NA it allows excitement to start brewing for the announcements to come after Worlds. For now League fans can theorize and discuss this on the forums while also enjoying Worlds. Big changes are coming to League of Legends. Riot clearly has a vision that includes League being around for the long haul and one can see that this is only the beginning.


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