Comparing Current Cloud 9 to TSM of Summer 2016

Cloud 9 look miles above the rest to start the split. They currently sit atop the standings with a 6-0 record and don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. They look like a team ready to retake their North American throne. Their current start is reminiscent of TSM in Summer 2016.

TSM had a similar start to Summer, where they looked so dominant after replacing veteran support Bora “Yellowstar” Kim with rookie Vincent “Biofrost” Wang. TSM had arguably one of the best splits in NALCS history by finishing the season off with a 17-1 record, and a total of 35 games won and only six lost. Let’s look at how TSM of Summer and current Cloud 9 stack up statistically.

TSM Summer 2016

Courtesy of Riot Esports

Three weeks into the split, TSM held a 6-0 record. Same as the current Cloud 9 squad. The difference is that TSM only dropped one game during their first three weeks. C9 has dropped two games so far.

TSM held the highest gold difference @15 with 1,615. TSM was known for getting huge gold leads from pure talent in the laning phase. They were also extremely proactive and had mastered the lane swap meta that dominated that split.

They also held the highest Dragon control %, along with the second highest Baron control %, only behind Immortals. Along with this stat, they held the shortest game time average at 32.2 minutes and had the highest team KD at 1.68. TSM were kings of knowing exactly what to do with a lead and how to translate them to victories efficiently.  

Current Cloud 9

Currently, Cloud 9 is 6-0 and sits alone at the top of the NALCS. They look much stronger than any other team so far, but the competition also seems a bit weaker. Teams are still adjusting to imports, and North American games going to 40+ minutes seems to be the norm at the moment.

Courtesy of Riot Esports

Cloud 9 is third in Gold Difference@15 with only 423. They actually trail Flyquest and Echo Fox. Despite Echo Fox sitting in the middle of the pack, they have the highest Gold Difference@15 with 1,389. Cloud 9 does have strong lanes, but their mid game team fights and skirmishes are where they’ve gotten their leads.

C9’s shotcalling and communication are above the rest of the league at the moment. They’re usually pretty proactive in setting up plays and know how to play their comps properly. They have the third shortest game time, averaging 37.9 minutes. With wave clear picks such as Varus, Orianna, and Corki being in the meta right now, it’s easy for teams to try to stall out when they’re behind.   

Cloud 9’s baron control this split hasn’t been too great. They currently sit fourth at 59% and sixth in Dragon control at 51%. Cloud 9 seem to be content with giving up Dragons if it means getting a tower in exchange. In the lane swap meta, it made it easier for teams to do early dragons as well. They currently hold the highest team KD at 1.72.  

 

 

Who would win in a BO3 series?

The ultimate question is who would win in a best of 3 series between the current Cloud 9 team and TSM of Summer? Cloud 9 looks better and better each match with Reapered coaching them. TSM did look top notch in NALCS last split and definitely looked better with ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng. Contractz also brings the right amount of aggression that synergizes well with Cloud 9.  

Looking into the future, we could very well see this matchup come to fruition. TSM’s record doesn’t necessarily reflect how much they’ve struggled. Even with a lead, TSM has struggled to close out the game cleanly. Various members of TSM have mentioned the absence of Doublelift has hindered the shotcalling of the team. If TSM doesn’t win first place, I believe Doublelift will be returning to the starting lineup for summer.

Owner of TSM, Andy “Reginald” Dinh, has made it clear that he wants to see TSM do well at Worlds. If TSM can’t even win the North American title, he’ll want to see changes. Doublelift has also made it very clear on stream that he wishes to return to pro play for the Summer.  

If these teams do end up getting the chance to play one another, it will be one of the most hyped up matches LCS viewers have ever seen. It’ll be a huge question mark if Doublelift will still be in the same form after his break, and if TSM can continue their success from Summer.

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Three Things to Look Forward to in the first week of EU LCS

Courtesy of LoLesports.

Courtesy of LoLesports.

Well, another offseason has passed us by and we’re entering into what looks to be another crazy Summer split. As much of the drama over two major organizations receiving the ban hammer from Riot has settled over across the pond, EU has its share of drama. G2, the representative for Europe at MSI, lost the region their First Place Seeding at Worlds, which was essentially gained for the LMS representatives. While many fans thought CLG looked to be the weakest team, Europe’s own seemed to struggle much of the tournament, and it’s questionable whether it was because of the so called G2 Vacation or whether it was just because, well, they’re a relatively young team. Some player trades and movements, too, have fueled the region’s own off season drama too.

But that’s behind us, and now we’ll go through some of the exicting things to look out for in the opening week of EU LCS.

 

1: Bo2 Format

 

This has to be, in some ways, one of the most radical things going on in the EU LCS. Gone are the days of Bo1’s, and while Bo2’s are not necessarily here to stay, they certainly will bring some interesting change to the scene. Riot has purposefully given Europe and NA different formats (Bo2 and Bo3 respectively,) in an attempt to ‘test’ which of the two works better. Regardless, it is certainly going to be refreshing for both fans and competitors alike, as a Bo2 format will be a better test of a team’s strength.

What can fans look forward to with the new format? Well, if it wasn’t already a thing, Europe’s going to love ties. The region is notorious for having multiple tie break games at the end of the split to determine middle of the pack seeding, so it’ll probably be a repeat of history. But there’s another point to be made: teams that are far superiour to the other team will gain ‘more’ than, say, two more evenly matched teams that go 1-1. Why is this? Well, a 2-0 win will give the victorious team a total of three points which go towards determining standings. If teams go 1-1, each team is award only a single point to go towards their standings. Teams, then, that are able to overpower their opponents will shoot up, while teams that go even will be left behind.

Courtesy of lolesports.

Courtesy of lolesports.

It also allows teams to have even more games to play, which can only mean good for the region. More practice will only improve the region, who, along with NA LCS, has lagged behind the East in moving towards a Bo3 or Bo2 format. It also allows teams to have experience in these formats, which require a certain level of endurance, strategy and adaptation from previous games that is not the case in Bo1. Alongside this, it also gives teams a chance to play and draft on both blue and red side, and the ability to adapt and change against a team in their drafting, rather than being completely lost against a secret draft from an opponent and swept away without reply. Overall, Bo2 will provide a much better litmus tests of teams strength and most importantly, will give us more and more games to watch!

 

The New El Claissco

A new El Clasico is born. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

A new El Clasico is born. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

Fans of the EU LCS will remember the ‘old’ El Clasico which was between Fnatic and SK Gaming. The teams had a history of placing always beside each other in the ranking, and had a rivalry not unlike that of TSM and CLG over in NA LCS. Now, SK Gaming managed to lose their EU LCS spot, and Fnatic have, in some ways, fallen off (although this may change with the return of Yellowstar.) But, oddly enough, the new El Clasico, between Origen and G2, has a bit of the old in it still: both owners of the team played against each other in the old El Clasico and even against each other in the same lane. Ocelote and xPeke, the owners of G2 and Origen respectively, were also the midlaners for SK Gaming and Fnatic back in the heyday of El Clasico. And now they’re facing off again, but in a very different way.

The Scarfed Spaniard and owner of G2. Courtesy of ocelote world.

The Scarfed Spaniard and owner of G2. Courtesy of ocelote world.

Not only was it these two teams that eventually met in the latest EU Finals, there’s a bit more ‘drama’ going on between the two teams: Zven and Mithy turned in the blue and black for the grey of G2, while Hybrid joined Origen in turn (Origen picked up FORG1VEN to replace Zven as well.) It was a move that surprised most of the scene, while rumours were whispered amongst fans, and it’ll change the landscape of the scene quite a bit. Origen looked to struggle during the whole of last split in all but one regard: their botlane. Zven won them at least a majority of their games during that split, and the loss will be huge to a side that saw a resurgence in the playoffs, but fell short in the end. G2, on the other hand, look to redeem themselves before their European brothers for a shameful performance at MSI.

 

And in the other corner of the ring, xPeke, the King of Backdoors. Courtesy of Gosugamers.

And in the other corner of the ring, xPeke, the King of Backdoors. Courtesy of Gosugamers.

But it’s not like Origen were forced into a bad position for their botlane either. A pickup of FORG1VEN, who may’ve fell off in H2K’s playoff run, is still one hellva an ADC, and Hybrid is no shrug in the botlane either, previously supporting G2’s import Emperor. The question is whether this duo can do what Zven/Mithy did last split for Origen which is carry the hell out of them. It’s hard to say really that Origen won out in the off season though, as Zven and Mithy just seemed to be one of the strongest duos in Europe, while FORG1VEN and Hybrid are an unproven botlane (together.) Only time will tell, though, whether the new Origen duo will be able to match the old, or whether the old will be as strong in the new G2 roster. But we’ll get a test of it in our first game today!

 

Return of the King

 

Europe’s had a rough bit of a year since their amazing run at Worlds last year. First there was the European Exodus that saw many star players from Europe cross the Atlantic to greener pastures in NA. Then G2, arguably one of the strongest European teams during the split and even the playoffs, floundered in amazing fashion internationally at MSI, birthing the G2-8 or Vacations memes around the globe. But there is a light that many of the European faithful will remember, a beacon of hope for the region, one could say a King: Yellowstar. The Frenchmen was a long-time member of Fnatic, the team’s captain, and arguably one of the reasons the team made their perfect split last year, and not he’s back.

Returning to his home region from his brief trip over the pond to TSM, where he wasn’t able to bring the team the coveted NA LCS title, Yellowstar returns to much of the

The King Returns to his People. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

The King Returns to his People. Courtesy of leaguepedia.

same: Two Koreans in the top half of the map, Febiven in the mid and Rekkles his partner in death in the botlane. Yellowstar has his work cut out for him in leading the squad that seemed to meander around the middle of the pack all last split without much of a purpose, sometimes doing excellent, others looking abysmal. But if there’s anyone who can whip together a team into shape, it seems it would be Yellowstar, who saw the team through a rebuilding split into a perfect split into one of the strongest showings from a Western team in a long time at Worlds.

While the drama and the swapping around has largely focused on other teams like Origen, G2, H2K, and even the recently remade UOL and Roccat, Fnatic look to have made potentially the biggest move towards addressing some of their previous issues. A solid, sturdy, veteran shot caller like Yellowstar is the missing piece that arguably saw Fnatic act without purpose last split. Fnatic is one of the few EU LCS teams that has secured itself as a staple in the scene as an organization, and while they had their first non-showing at an EU LCS Finals in their teams history, the team looks to be heading in the right direction going forward. The question remains whether this will translate onto the rift, whether Rekkles and Yellowstar will click like they did, and whether the team will again form around their captain and secure themselves a good showing.

Yell0wSTaR is coming home!

So I’m not the EU LCS beat writer anymore, but I couldn’t resist snagging this topic.

(courtesy of DeoNade)

Since I started watching professional League of Legends, my favorite player has always been Bora Kim. To be honest, I had never really enjoyed watching eSports until Yell0wSTaR, xPeke, sOAZ, Cyanide, and Rekkles came together on the Rift. Then it truly felt like the end of Fnatic when 4 out of the 5 announced they were leaving, but I had faith in Bora… and season 5 started with an entirely new squad (and coach). I’m not sure the exact moment, but at some point in that Spring Split I realized that Bora Kim was easily the best team captain in Europe, and more than likely one of the best in the world. Season 5 was probably the single most entertaining season in Fnatic history, they had found a team that worked perfectly together, and was so good that they spent the latter half of the Summer Split trolling. (I can’t confirm that this is true… but Yell0wSTaR played Trundle support and that was definitely not a standard meta pick).

Imagine my sadness when after taking SKT T1 to 5 games at MSI, an 18/0 Split, and being the only Western team to break into the top 5 Power Ranking for worlds, Bora announced he would be leaving Fnatic to pursue a new adventure in North America. To me, Huni and Reignover leaving wasn’t surprising or particularly upsetting, as much as I respect both of them and their abilities, Huni’s arrogance on the rift was a consistent issue for Fnatic. Huni had the best TP ganks in Europe, but I will never un-see him feeding the bajeezus out of Smeb in Game 3 of the Worlds Semi-Finals. The second he locked in Riven I knew the game, series, and worlds run was over (though for a brief moment I hoped they were going to pull some tom-foolery and have Febiven play top Riven that game). Anyway- Bora announced he was leaving Fnatic, and I was blown away. He had been the rock that Fnatic rebuilt their franchise upon, and now he was leaving for a new adventure.

 

yello1

(courtesy of hoangbody.wordpress.com)

If there was ever any doubt how important Bora’s roll was with Fnatic, this split should negate that. Even with Febiven (who is probably tied for best Mid in Europe), Rekkles (who isn’t a hard carry ADC, but is insanely good regardless), and Spirit (who is individually a far better jungler than Reignover), Fnatic was stagnant and unimpressive. In 6 months Fnatic went from a well oiled machine to one of the least synergized teams in Europe, and I believe that with the return of Yell0wSTaR, we will see Fnatic return to a far more impressive state.

 

Now, I recognize that Fnatic/Yell0wSTaR have not officially announced Bora’s return to the team… but the evidence seems pretty compelling. The facts boil down to:

  1. Yell0wSTaR has left TSM to return to Europe.
  2. Fnatic has announced that Klaj will be moving to their challenger team.
  3. Before leaving for TSM, Fnatic offered Yell0wSTaR a massive salary (I can’t confirm a number, but I have seen transcripts of interviews where Bora states Fnatic offered him more money than TSM)
  4. To my knowledge, no other European teams have made or implied any changes to their Supports

To me this supports two potential theories:

  1. Yell0wSTaR will make a triumphant return home and will return to Fnatic
  2. YellowSTaR will take a leaf from XPeke and build a challenger team

Due to points 2 and 3 from above, I’m more inclined to believe he will be returning to Fnatic. The team and its fans love him, and frankly they need his guidance if Fnatic wants to get back on track and put this Spring behind them.

 

I’m expecting to hear the announcement before the end of this week, so to all you FNC fans out there lets cross our fingers and hope that our Glorious Leader is returning to his rightful throne.

#FNCWin

A Tale of Two Team Managements: Post NA LCS Finals Discussion

 

The longest running rivalry in NA LCS, possibly even the world, meet again in an unlikely NA LCS finals. Courtesy of loleventvods.

The longest running rivalry in NA LCS, possibly even the world, meet again in an unlikely NA LCS finals. Courtesy of loleventvods.

While a lot of the story lines being covered center around the games themselves and what laid up to them, it’s another thing to note the actual development philosophy of the two teams that actually made it to the finals: CLG and TSM. As we’ll get to in the article, these two teams took very different approaches to forming their squads in the post-Worlds off season, and it is definitely clear that neither approach could be said to be superior to the other currently. For CLG it was a more ‘Ember-esque’ approach, one that focused on the team, its environment, and fostering teamwork and cooperation in and off the rift. For TSM, not saying these previous factors weren’t involved, it was about the star power, about the raw, mechanical skill that makes a team do crazy good things. It was about getting the best in the West together and making the strongest team for raw star power that NA has ever seen. Both team styles showed to be viable in the finals, and it’ll be great to see if both are able to keep up their performances going forward.

I’d like it to be on record that I actually predicted the results from the right half of the bracket correct: I saw Liquid easily moving past NRG, falling to CLG in a tight five game series, with CLG moving onto the finals where they would win that in another close five game series. I just thought that’d be against Immortals or Cloud 9. It was an absolutely insane showing by fan favourite TSM, the 6th seed, to make it to the finals, and not because they got placed against ‘easy opponents.’ They overcame both Cloud 9 and Immortals, the two teams slated to possibly even meet in the finals. The left half of the bracket was a completely unpredictable beast that had all the TSM doubters quickly silenced.

In a lot of ways I think this is probably the greatest way for the finals to go: The new guard, the upstarts, the hyped Titan killers in Immortals and Liquid ultimately falling to the veteran organizations, the time trialed and well-worn path of the old guards in the two oldest teams in the league: TSM and CLG. I also think it should be a humbling experience for those new guard teams, and a need for the organization to make sure their infrastructure is properly in place for the teams to at once not take this too badly, but also to understand where things went wrong.

 

CLG: The Big Ember that Could

 

Wow. What an absolute roller coaster CLG has been in the past year. We saw the suffering Faith Age turn into the Golden Age, with an NA LCS title in the Summer, a strange showing at Worlds (hey, that’s an accomplishment for the team, being at Worlds that is,) and what seemed to be further sunny ways as rivals TSM, the fierce rival of the org, looked to have to rebuild their roster. Then the Dark Age came, CLG dropped both Doublelift and Pobelter, and the fans were torn apart. Doublelift, particularly, was seen as the team’s longest player, but also their strongest and the star power. He also was a main reason for fans of CLG to stick around. The Rush Hour lane was an absolute tyrant in lane and team fights, it’s hard to really see any reason to drop that. Pobelter, too, is a good mid laner, who eventually moved to the newly minted Immortals side to much success there in the Regular season. And then the absolutely unforeseeable happened to Doublelift: he turned in the Blue and Gray of CLG for the Gray and Black of TSM, CLG’s rivals.

The Dark Age seemed to only get worse: CLG brought secondary Mid laner in Huhi to the starting roster, and promoted Stixxay, a relatively unheard of ADC, from their Challenger squad to the starting roster. What an absolutely insane roster move, the fans decried. Most weren’t even calling it a roster move but a full on roster downgrade, purposefully shooting themselves in the foot after such a great showing from the team. It wasn’t a talent upgrade by any stretch of the imagination, that can’t be denied. While CLG went on to say that Stixxay, particularly Aphromoo his fellow bot laner and Support, was on par with Doublelift mechanically, it was a questionable statement to begin with. Was this new rookie really a contender against the fabled Doublelift?

Courtesy of CLGaming.net

Courtesy of CLGaming.net

Well, if he wasn’t the team was able to pick up the slack. They beat Korean side Jin Air Green Wings in a best of three at IEM San Jose, an impressive feat for any NA side, they went 13-5 in the Regular split, getting the oh so coveted semi-finals berth, and a tough road ahead of them to defend their NA LCS title as more than just a fluke in the system. Many doubted them along the whole way: they questioned whether the squad was talented enough, saying they were one dimensional in a split push style, their wins were too cheesy for a best of five series style, they’d crumble and choke once it came down to it, you name it, people probably said it about the team. Some slated the CLG Age to have turned to the Silver Age: a second place showing would be a win for the organization, and many fans shot for just that in their aspirations. Nobody really thought CLG could pull off another Title.

The rookie ADC made a name for himself in the finals, but was it enough to prove critics wrong? Courtesy of ESL youtube.

The rookie ADC made a name for himself in the finals, but was it enough to prove critics wrong? Courtesy of ESL youtube.

Many analysts rightly identified that CLG was an experiment of a very different breed of team management: the long-term, rebuilding mindset. Bring on new talent, rookies with prospective futures, ride out a few bad seasons until they’ve been polished enough to truly shine. It’s an age-old process in traditional sports: as your star talents start to falter, get old, demanding too much money or being emotionally disruptive, a team has to look to rebuild itself around new, young talent. Doublelift wasn’t old (I hope not, he’s only 22!) but his mentality has been hinted at multiple times by current CLG players as having a negative effect on the atmosphere. Talent only gets you so far before your team mates start not feeling comfortable beside you, and that seems to have been what happened in the CLG camp.

They also moved towards what could maybe be called an ‘Ember approach’ to team management, alluding to the current (past? Now defunct? Who really knows…) Challenger Series squad of Ember. Many NA fans will remember their desires to build ‘better humans’ to make better athletes, working on the emotional side of their players just as much as their in-game skills. Fostering talent, too, was a big feature, and what better way to do that then to promote from within the organizations ‘farm team’ and their back bench? Rather than looking abroad for international talent, the team made the conscientious decision to stick within themselves and work as a team. And my gods, what a beautiful team that was when it worked.

 

TSM: The Best of the Best

 

TSM TSM TSM TSM TSM TSM TSM TSM TSM. Sorry, sometimes Twitch chat comes out when I think of TSM. The easily NA fan favourite squad is none other than TSM. The team is just as storied and Legacy as Counter Logic Gaming, just with a lot more success until most recent times. TSM has been much like the European side of Fnatic: always showing up in the playoffs, making it to the finals and either claiming it for themselves or falling but still walking away with the glittering Silver. The team’s practically synonymous for most with NA League, and deservedly so, and they’ve been in a situation unlike CLG where they’ve been able to validate their fans time and time again. But the team’s showings last year, from their regular season shakiness back in Summer 2015, to their falling out of Worlds like much of NA, and mediocre international results, caused this old guard team to do a radical roster shake up: they dropped every player outside of star mid laner Bjergsen. I doubt any League fan will ever forget the Dyrus good bye speech, but outside of that much of the roster faded away without much ceremony. Wildturtle went to Immortals, Lustboy has all but disappeared like John Cena, and Santorin was shipped around to multiple Challenger Series teams trying to make an name for himself.

Spoiler: TSM's roster has some of the scariest talent available in NA. Courtesy of https://www.reddit.com/r/TeamSolomid/comments/3r3k8i/tsm_2016_roster_banner_so_far/ (TSM subreddit.)

Spoiler: TSM’s roster has some of the scariest talent available in NA. Courtesy of https://www.reddit.com/r/TeamSolomid/comments/3r3k8i/tsm_2016_roster_banner_so_far/ (TSM subreddit.)

But who would fill out the legendary squad that is TSM? Well, nothing below legendary players, it would seem. Hauntzer was recruited from NA side Gravity, easily the strongest player on the Gravity side and probably one of the top three NA top laners around. Svenskeren was brought over from the now defunct SK Gaming side to fill the Jungler position, replacing fellow Dane Santroin, which seemed to be another easy upgrade. Sven’s aggressive play style fits well with the TSM identity of heavy team fight focus. Doublelift, as we said above, was brought in from rivals CLG and was seen to be another clear upgrade. Doublelift was one of the few NA ADCs able to compete internationally, and so he seemed a clear pick. Yellowstar was tapped on the shoulder to replace Lustboy, probably the second biggest player to fill out the new TSM 2.0. Yellowstar’s tenure with Fnatic is legendary, and particularly his role as crucial Team captain in the rebuilding of Fnatic after the xPeke exit was arguably the reason Fnatic were able to do their perfect split. There wasn’t much to say about this roster but “wow.” It was the most star studded, international, NA team ever. And fans were hyped, until it just seemed to fail time and time again.

The TSM Dream Super Team of Lots of Talent looked shakey in the regular split, but showed up when it mattered most: Playoffs. Courtesy of TSM Store.

The TSM Dream Super Team of Lots of Talent looked shakey in the regular split, but showed up when it mattered most: Playoffs. Courtesy of TSM Store.

TSM came into the playoffs as the 6th seed after a pretty atrocious regular season that had many TSM fans bemoaning a decline that just didn’t make sense. But there was a silent murmur in the NA LCS fandom and abroad even, whispers muttered in the dark of the time-tested truth: TSM shows up in Playoffs. Worry mounted as Cloud 9 easily dismantled TSM in the first game of the best of 5, but the next three games were absolutely dominated by the fan favourite in TSM. An upset of note, yes, but Cloud 9 was another team that seemed to be all over the place at times. It was an understandable possibility. But surely TSM would fall in their next endeavour: a best of five against the only other team other than Fnatic to almost make it to a perfect split in Immortals. Immortals looked absolutely disgusting throughout the regular split, but again murmurs were heard, as the Immortal side looked very, very, weak against Renegades and Dignitas, being bullied outright by the former. The side wasn’t the same as it had been earlier.

TSM breezed past the faltering Immortals to blaze their way to the finals against long-time rivals CLG and a repeat of last year’s Summer Split finals. Many had said it would be an easy victory for the TSM boys, and what looked to be the most unlikely story line to ever unfold almost seemed to be within grasp. But the games were back and forth evenly, CLG claiming the first, TSM the second, etc. It came down to a 2-2 record with the last game being the decider. And it was only befitting that the came was a nail biter of tension that was palpable, with teams making great plays (CLG’s grabbing baron) that were only meet with setbacks (TSM all but wiping CLG afterwards.) CLG eventually came out on top, after a crazy close teamfight that eventually saw the team pushing into TSM’s base to claim the second NA LCS trophy for the CLG side.

 

The Take Away

I highly doubt anyone expected this to be the final brackets. Courtesy of lolesports.

I highly doubt anyone expected this to be the final brackets. Courtesy of lolesports.

I do not think in any way shape or form TSM fans should be too deeply saddened by their team’s performance. From 6th seed to second place is one helleva trip, and the team looked better than ever. If this is the TSM of Summer split, then the TSM of old may very well be back. That can only mean great things for NA overall. TSM need to make sure they keep up whatever they did during the playoffs, which’ll be aided by the move to Bo3’s for the Summer split. I think TSM have a good chance moving ahead, and I highly doubt any roster changes will happen for the team now. They’ll need to look within, work on their own form, clear up some of their internal infrastructure, and try to keep whatever spirit possessed them to bring them to where they were just a few short days ago: the Finals of the NA LCS.

CLG, too, doesn’t look like they’ll be resting on their laurels anytime soon. The squad, who almost unanimously everyone doubted and trash talked, shut up doubters (well, the ones who aren’t stubborn,) who doubted whether they were even a top-tier NA team, let alone the ‘best.’ Nobody will ever agree on who is really the best, but winning two LCS finals sure does help. The team looks to be moving in the right direction with their rookies, and fans can only hope that they’ve yet to reach their skill ceiling, and with further nourishing they’ll grow even stronger. CLG’s staff will need to make sure to patch up the holes and problems the squad experienced, and maybe attempt to deepen those champion pools and drafting process for the squad. But CLG looks strong, very strong, coming into the Summer split. They’ve shown that they’re not a one trick pony either, and as much as fans of the other teams will still use it against them, it does make a statement that they won their final game off a decisive team fight and not just a split pushing Darshan.

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.

Team SoloMid Spring Split Predictions

(Courtesy of brainjunkfood.com)

(Courtesy of brainjunkfood.com)

TSM is coming off as one of the most disappointing teams at Worlds. Despite being known as the “Group of Death,” I believe TSM’s could have managed more than 1 win in their group (KT, OG, LGD)  LGD severely under-performed at Worlds, but still managed to absolutely crush TSM in their second game. TSM not only lost 5 of their games, but were absolutely mauled in every single one of them. However, the team going into this split is almost an entirely different squad. Bjergsen is now joined by a superstar team made up of Gravity Gaming’s Hauntzer, SK’s Svenskeren, CLG’s Doublelift, and perhaps most notable player, FNC YellOwSTaR.

So at this point the roster has two players widely considered NA’s best Mid and best ADC, a top laner who has a similar champion pool and playstyle as Dyrus, a jungler who is at least as good as Santorin, and probably one of the top 5 supports/shotcallers in the world.

(Courtesy of Twitter)

(Courtesy of Twitter)

Hauntzer came from a fairly average team, Hauntzer is a fairly above average Top laner. His KDA during the 2015 Summer Split was a decent 3.94. More impressively is his 72% kill participation. Hauntzer is most proficient on heavy front line champs like Maokai and Hecarim, and has shown himself to have a lot of potential to get better. With some positions, individual skill can easily be determined, but Top and Supports are the most likely to have their skills hidden behind an average team, and I’m truly interested to see how Hauntzer can play this season.

 

(Courtesy of thescoreesports.com)

(Courtesy of thescoreesports.com)

Svenskeren is one of the most experienced junglers in professional League of Legends, He was one of the first EU stand outs in his role. Sven also seems to prefer heavier champions. During last spring split, he played Rek’Sai in a third of his games, with Jarvan IV as his second choice. Interestingly enough, He only played three other champions last spring (Rengar, Lee Sin, and Nidalee) and had a 100% win rate with each of them. During the summer, he played a lot of Gragas, and added Ekko to his pool. His Summer performance was remarkably lackluster, but this could be marginally attributed to SK Gaming, and FORG1VEN’s suspension from LCS.

(Courtesy of lolesports.com)

(Courtesy of lolesports.com)

Bjergsen is a remarkable mid. I’ve heard him referred to as the Faker of the west, and I definitely feel comfortable placing him in my top 10 mids in the world. Bjerg is most impressive on his hard assassin champs like Zed and LeBlanc, and is considered a top tier NA shotcaller. His summer performance was as golden as ever, but something just wasn’t clicking. TSM made sloppy plays, and whether that is an error of Bjerg or his team is something known only by a select few. Regardless, Bjerg has spent the past year being held back by something and not playing to his full pontential.

(Courtesy of Gamespot.com)

(Courtesy of Gamespot.com)

Doublelift is almost certainly the best ADC in North America. He’s coming off of a fantastic season with CLG, and will now have the opportunity to play with one of the best supports in the world. He favored Tristana the past season and consistently was the primary carry for his team. I feel confident that he will excel on TSM even further than he did on CLG.

(Courtesy of hbhud.com)

(Courtesy of hbhud.com)

Yell0wSTaR is my favorite player in the LCS so I’m a little biased, but I would argue he is the best support in the west. The only player I put on his level was his predecessor Lustboy. (Some may question Lustboy’s abilities [especially after an incredibly average last season] but there was a time when he was the top ranked solo queue player in Korea… as a support… So I think that more than speaks to his abilties). Yell0wSTaR is a brilliant shotcaller and is incredibly talented on a variety of champs. I feel very little needs to be said in regards to this man as a player, so I’ll leave it at this: Yell0WSTaR is probably the best player on this team.

 

Strengths: Incredibly talented double threat from Bjerg and DL, Expert Shotcalling from Bjerg and YellOwSTaR

 

Weaknesses: None of these players have played together competitively and there may be some growing pains, 2 expert shotcallers could potentially cause butting heads and bad communication

 

Expected Spring Split Record- 16W 2L.

I expect TSM to go into the spring playoffs with the 1st seed. I think they might lose a few games in the first 3 weeks, but will lock down a playstyle and become a well-oiled machine as the split goes on. If Bjerg is willing to allow YellOwSTaR to take primary shotcalling duties, then he may be able to focus more on his own individual play. With Bjerg playing at full potential and the powerhouse bot lane of DL and YS, I don’t see a single NA team with the ability to stop this train.