Each position’s top underperformer in the MSI group stage

The 2018 League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational group stage concludes, with Royal Never Give Up surpassing Flash Wolves in a tie-breaker for first place. The six participating group stage teams represented elite organizations, each major region’s Spring Split victor. Every roster featured big names with historic reputations and colorful narratives. This event is designed to be a clash of major players with unique strengths and diverse talents.

However, like every other tournament, MSI brought out the worst in some individuals. Although fans have faith in their favorite players’ work ethic, ambition and talent, certain players could not put their best foot forward this time around. The group stage saw several teams suffer from lackluster individual performances out of each position. Here are the worst offenders who did not show their true potential over the 10 to 11 games.

Top – Khan

Kingzone Khan underperformed at the 2018 MSI group stage

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The only true top lane carnivore coming into the tournament, Khan is known as a monster that only played three tank games in the 2018 LCK spring regular season. He played significantly more matches on Gangplank, Gnar, Camille and Jayce, unlike the rest of the top lane field at MSI. Just like Worlds 2017, Khan came into this tournament as a touted weapon for Kingzone to wield against his island opponents.

But the anticipated results did not really come to fruition. Sure, Khan tops the charts in laning differences at 10 and 15 minutes, but he failed to transition these leads into major advantages for his team. Other than Kingzone’s match-ups with EVOS, Khan took the back seat to the rest of his team. Khan made poor team-fighting decisions, often over-aggressively diving the back line without back up. Like other tops, Khan over-extended in the side lane without proper vision or communication to back off.

Of course, Khan did not perform poorly in the MSI group stage compared to the rest of the field. He simply underperformed compared to audiences’ expectations. His 21.4 percent MSI kill participation pales in comparison to his 60.9 LCK Spring. He dropped his DPM from 570 to 356 without significantly less gold share. And Khan’s 2.2 KDA ranks lowest among MSI tops, while his 5.9 KDA was number one among LCK tops. He has not been able to perform to expectations just yet, which could be critical to Kingzone’s third place group stage finish.

Jungle – mLXG

Royal Never Give Up Mlxg underperformed at 2018 MSI Group Stage

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Though Royal Never Give Up finished group stage at the top of the standings, Mlxg stands out as an under-performer. Despite RNG’s high average gold difference at 15 minutes (+430), Mlxg averaged behind 308, second to last among junglers. While similar statistics are not available for the LPL, his gold per minute and damage per minute dropped six and 18 percent from Spring Split to MSI, despite playing fewer tanks. RNG’s First Blood percentage also dropped from 50 percent to 27.3 percent, with Mlxg contributing only 30 percent participation.

Similar to Khan, Mlxg did not perform poorly compared to the field. He definitely came across as a top three starting jungler. Mlxg mostly just played lower than fans have come to expect from him, especially in the earlier stages of the game. Few matches felt like he controlled the tempo. Comparatively, Karsa clearly controlled the pace of RNG’s game against Flash Wolves on day four.

By day five, Mlxg looked warmed up. His Xin Zhao against Flash Wolves and Graves against Team Liquid felt more controlled, more calculated. Hopefully, this form transitions into the bracket stage of MSI. Peanut, Broxah and MooJin essentially played to or above expectations. For RNG to reach the next level in a best-of series, Mlxg needs to channel his more aggressive early-game style. He is certainly capable of greater play than he has demonstrated during most of MSI.

Mid – Pobelter

Team Liquid Pobelter underperformed at 2018 MSI group stage

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

While Pobelter is not considered to be a major threat by NA LCS fans, most considered him to be on an upward trajectory since Spring Split playoffs. His role in the finals against 100 Thieves awarded him Most Valuable Player of the series. MSI has brought that momentum to a screeching halt, as Pobelter has not lived up to expectations.

Team Liquid’s mid laner ranks last in laning stats at 15 minutes in the MSI group stage, which is not necessarily surprising, considering he was middle-of-the-pack during the regular season Spring Split. During playoffs he was roughly fourth or fifth in laning among mids. But, what he lacked in early game dominance, Pobelter made up for with team-fighting prowess. He knows the limits of his champion once he hits the two to three item mark, which is how he earned a 7.2 KDA and 527 damage per minute in playoffs.

At MSI, Pobelter has a 2.8 KDA and 363 damage per minute. Team Liquid drafted him slightly different champions, such as Malzahar, Karma and Taliyah, but that does not make up the discrepancy between playoff Pobelter and MSI Pobelter. He seemed off all tournament, often getting caught during his split-push or roaming between lanes. This bump in the road is unfortunate, as many fans were enjoying Pobelter’s success. Caps, Maple, and even Warzone put their teams on their backs at times. Team Liquid could not count on Pobelter in the same way this time around.

AD Carry – Rekkles

Fnatic Rekkles underperformed at 2018 MSI group stage

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Recency bias will cause European fans to turn their heads away from Rekkles’ overall lowered performance at MSI. From awkward drafts featuring Sivir when no other AD carry was playing her, to overly passive skirmishing, Rekkles had major issues during group stage. Unsurprisingly, Rekkles only composed of 27.1 percent of his team’s damage, while other members of the team stepped up to make up for his lack of presence.

For example, Uzi, PraY, Doublelift, and Betty output anywhere from 90 to 110 percent of their 2017 Worlds’ damage at 2018 MSI. Rekkles’ damage per minute dropped to 80 percent of his Worlds’ numbers. He put up a 6.5 KDA, third among AD carries, but mostly from lower deaths, not higher kills or assists. Rekkles’ champion preferences essentially gave up Fnatic’s early game pressure around bottom lane, while other teams prioritized more aggressive champions and playstyles.

Rekkles’ final Xayah game versus Team Liquid should restore hope for EU LCS followers. For seemingly the first time during the tournament, Rekkles and Hylissang exhibited substantial early laning pressure, and transitioned their power throughout the map. Rekkles output larger damage numbers and higher kill participation, which constricted Team Liquid the way Fnatic dominated Spring Split playoffs. As the West’s last hope of an MSI victory, Fnatic will need more of this Rekkles during the bracket stage.

Support – Olleh

Team Liquid Olleh underperformed at 2018 MSI group stage

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Without beating a dead horse too much, Olleh fell flat at MSI, and was arguably the largest liability in the entire event. From sub-par day one play, to stepping down at one point, to further reduced execution, Team Liquid’s support looked completely out of sorts. His decision-making with Tahm Kench, Alistar and Braum was questionable, which is why safer supports, like Janna and Morgana, better suited him.

With supports having much less statistical analysis to back up their play, eye testing becomes much more important. Compared with SwordArt, Ming, GorillA and even Hylissang, Olleh felt outclassed. While every other support player showed off clutch play-making, particularly on Rakan, Olleh’s best plays were in the background and his worst plays remained memorable.

This tournament is far from Olleh’s best, and anyone who has followed his time in North America knows his potential. He was a top support in North America on Immortals, and he was strong this spring. Olleh will most likely come back even stronger this summer. However, this MSI will be a dark stain on his record, as he severely underperformed when Team Liquid needed him most.

credits

Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Player and Team Statistics: GamesofLegends.com

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Smite Verdict: Mousesports

Mousesports – Season 5 Meta Makers or Meta Breakers – Our Verdict

Are Mousesports making a new meta?

One of the most unexpected teams coming out in season 5 so far has been MouseSports. A big question mark at the start of the season, the mixed-bag of Europeans has been something refreshing to watch with their eye-catching drafts. In this article, we will take a look at their weird picks, give our verdict, and work out what the impact for the rest of the meta in Europe is.

Mousesport’s Roster is made up of the following

Support: Bastien “Dardez” Proust

ADC: Ethan “Jermain” Batarsé

Jungle: Mohaned “Cherryo” Walied

Mid: Jordan “BigManTingz” Theaker

Solo: Nika “Nika” Pataraia

 

Match 1: MouseSports vs SK Gaming

 

Game 1

Mouse begun the set by banning Daji, Thoth, Anhur and Athena, pretty standard Season 5 bans – excluding an Anhur which was most likely a targeted ban vs. SK gaming.

Their first picks were also “meta” – with Discordia a comfort pick for BigManTingz and Ullr, considered top of the Hunter Tierlist for Jermain. They then picked up another comfort pick for Cherryo (Cabrakan) followed by what was considered two unusual picks, Camazotz Solo and Ravana Support.

Camazotz solo worked out! Nika, the new Solo laner for this team, looked excellent in game 1 finishing the game with five kills, zero deaths and was able to make a huge impact with his bruiser build. Since this game, this pick has been played a lot in the SPL, working well – reminiscent of Late S3/Early S4 where Camazotz Solo was meta before. Verdict – 5/5.

Ravana support was somewhat more dubious. Mousesport’s philosophy is clearly “pick whatever the roster needs”, ignoring what is considered meta. However, while Ravana can have lane pressure early, his team utility is somewhat limited. Indeed, his kit more focused on burst damage and self-mobility – which means he is more suited to playing Jungle or Solo. Verdict – 2/5.

Game 2

This game saw Mouse pick as “meta” as they ever have (or will). The only unusual and unexpected pick was Ravana support. This again had very little impact as Mouse once again lost the game. Verdict – 1/5.

Game 3

Game three again had similar bans for Mouse, however, they decided to pick “Triple assassin”. Somewhat of a strange pick – leaving only a single Raijin as magical damage – however with assassin’s relative strength in this meta being obvious to all, the composition made a lot of sense. Camazotz solo had been proven in game 1, Hun Batz jungle is very standard so the pick worth analyzing here is Fenrir Support.

Dardez, well known for his flex-pick support gods, was the first to bring out Nox support in the SPL last season. This Fenrir pick worked very well. My personal concerns over having no traditional frontline was negated entirely by the insane burst damage as well as control provided by the Fenrir, as well as the sustain from Camazotz provided enough once the early game was survived. Verdict – 5/5.

Match 2: MouseSports vs Dignitas

 

 

 

 

 

 

Game 1

Once again, Mouse vs Dignitas begun with less-than-meta picks. The “standard” Ravana support and Camazotz solo again worked similar to before, with Ravana being marginally more successful this game – however the real talking point this match was Janus Jungle.

Cherryo’s Janus Jungle was an inspired pick this game. With such high mobility and with the exceptional damage that low-cooldown mages can put out this split, especially with cooldown items such as Chronos Pendant and Soul Gem being strong, it was only natural that some started to experiment with mages in the jungle and this worked out well for Cherryo. The pick worked well, allowing Cherryo to both roam and free-farm (including continually stealing the Dignitas back harpies) and proxy-farming the solo lane wave. This facilitated rotations from the continually excellent Nika, as well as allowing the two players to trade positions and farm/gank.

Ultimately, the composition did run out of gas before the end, and Dignitas (one of the best teams in the world) were able to comfortably win, but Janus Jungle absolutely did do what it was intended to do. Verdict – 5/5.

Game 2

In Game Two, the squad changed things up again and picked Chaac mid and Morrigan Support, against the aforementioned top-two team in Europe.

Chaac mid, piloted by BigManTingz, made sense in theory. The player well known for his support gameplay in Season 4 made sense to be on a warrior, however, the reality was somewhat different. At no point in the game did Mid Chaac make any sense really, despite the theory behind it. By the time Transcendence was online, his strong early game had already fallen off, and the missed burst damage from the role was sorely missed. Verdict – 0/5.

Morrigan Support, again, wasn’t the problem. While the pick didn’t really work out for Dardez, the idea was solid and I think could have had merit in a different composition – perhaps with a mid mage, warrior solo and guardian jungle. Expect this to be tried again. Verdict – 3/5.

What to expect next?

Expect more of the same. Mouse, while not yet defining the meta, will continue to do what works for them, pick for players rather than roles and continue to look for surprising picks that can help them forge their role in the league.

Things I would like to see again:

Janus Jungle

Camazotz Solo

Morrigan Support

Fenrir Support

Things that I would never like to see again:

Chaac Mid. (well, any warrior mid, please!)…

 

What do you think? Have your say in the comments or on twitter, you can tweet me @KingHazzam or us in general at @TheGameHausEsports

All images credit HiRez and Mixer

Typical League of Legends statistics oversimplify the game

Standard League of Legends statistics oversimplify the game

Just like traditional sports, esports analysis is full of statistics which are meant to succinctly represent teams’ and players’ strengths and weaknesses. Professional League of Legends is no exception. League analysts use numbers and percentages regarding creep score, jungle proximity, gold difference, and kill-death-assist ratio to understand each match and to judge each individual over time.

However, the standard League statistics more often oversimplify the game. KDA, CS difference, damage per minute, and other typical measures cannot fully represent a team or a player. Most fans understand that these numbers have their limitations, and are insufficient for understanding the game.

The EU LCS stats team created a complex damage metric.

The EU LCS stats team created a complex damage metric.

The Stats Science series from last year’s EU LCS covered most of the major shortcomings of standard League stats. Kills and assists are affected by team playstyle, champion pool, and game time. Poke champions have higher damage per minute than tanks. Some carries more frequently die while dishing higher damage, while others prioritize survivability over damage to champions. The variables go on and on.

KDA

For example, look at FlyQuest’s Flame in the NA LCS. His 3.4 KDA is tied for second among top laners. Flame only averages 1.8 kills and 4.2 assists per game, but his 1.8 average deaths per game is third lowest. These numbers paint Flame as a conservative player–middle of the pack offensively, but knows how to stay alive. His numbers align closely with CLG’s Darshan (2.1 kills, 5.3 assists, 2.2 deaths, 3.4 KDA).

NA LCS top laners’ statistics after eight weeks

But look at FlyQuest’s team statistics compared to CLG’s. FlyQuest has the lowest kill:death ratio in the league–8.2 kills to 12.1 deaths for a .68 K:D. Meanwhile, CLG rank three places higher with a .98 K:D (11.1 kills, 11.3 deaths). All of FlyQuest’s players have lower KDAs than Flame, but Darshan has the lowest on CLG. These factors provide context for comparing players’ KDAs.

Laning Stats

CS difference, gold difference, and XP difference make up the three primary laning phase statistics. All three of these numbers are tied to one another, as longer laning provides higher XP, which allows more opportunity for farming CS, which allows for more gold. Global gold from dragons, turrets, and other objectives can contribute to the gold difference, as well.

However, several outside factors affect a player’s laning phase. Continuing the comparison from above, Flame averages ahead 190 gold (2nd), 63 XP (3rd), and 4.8 CS (3rd) at ten minutes. Darshan starts behind 49 gold (6th) and 0.4 CS (5th), but ahead 2 XP (7th). But, like KDA, laning statistics require more context to properly judge.

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Out of 16 total games this split, CLG and FlyQuest drafted so that Darshan and Flame both locked in their champion before their laning opponent in six games (37.5 percent), while choosing their champion after their opponent in ten (62.5 percent). Also, their champion pools are similar. Gnar and Gangplank have been the power picks of top lane, so it is not surprising to see them as Flame and Darshan’s most played. Both have a couple of Cho’Gath games, some Camille and Ornn. However, Darshan played Vladimir and Maokai twice each, and Fiora once, while Flame had one Sion game. Flame may have a slight advantage in laning strength champions, but not by much.

Jungle proximity is another variable that might contribute to their laning phase disparities. It is possible that Flame or Darshan gets more early attention from their jungler or the opponent’s jungler. The additional pressure could help them to fall behind or get ahead in the first 15 minutes. These statistics are not publicly available, so it remains unclear whether Reignover or AnDa more frequently pressures top lane. 

Team success can help contextualize an individual’s contributions, as well. CLG generally gets ahead by 135 gold at 15 minutes. FlyQuest starts 1,242 gold behind, on average. According to OraclesElixir.com, FlyQuest carries the lowest Early Game Rating of any NA LCS team (38.1), while CLG sits sixth (51.1). This team-to-team comparison allows analysts to understand each player’s individual contributions within the five-man roster.

Damage

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Damage is usually the final metric for top laners. DPM (damage per minute) is the typical calculation, which just divides a player’s total damage to champions by the number of minutes in the game. Again, Flame and Darshan occupy similar territory compared to other top laners. Flame averages 463 damage per minute (4th), while Darshan averages 450 (6th).

Of course, champion pool probably has the largest effects on a player’s damage, especially in top lane. It is common for tanks, fighters, mages, ranged, and melee champions to rotate through the meta. Gangplank, Jayce, and Vladimir average much higher damage per minute than Ornn, Cho’Gath and Maokai, for obvious reasons.

Multiply each champion’s average damage per minute by the number of times each player drafted them, and we get which player is expected to have higher damage statistics. Flame’s champion pool averages 15 more damage per minute (471) than Darshan’s (456), which makes up the discrepancy between their individual stats. However, CLG has the second highest team damage per minute (2,188), while FlyQuest only has the fifth (1,884), even though FlyQuest games are generally longer (39:36) versus CLG’s 39 minutes.

It is not surprising that Flame contributes 24.5 percent of FlyQuest’s damage (6th), but Darshan only contributes 21.3 percent (9th). But, as GamesofLegends.com founder, Bynjee, explains, “I don’t like when people use DMG% to compare 2 players. If you want to compare their damage, just use DPM. DMG% needs to be used from a team [point of view].” Comparing these two players is a perfect example, as their damage per minute is roughly the same, but their team-wide damage is different. Therefore, Flame’s percentage of damage is higher than Darshan’s.

Conclusion

NA LCS top laners’ statistics after eight weeks

Gold, vision, and other statistics exist that can help judge between players. Baron, dragon, and objective control can help judge between teams. But keep in mind how shallow these figures are, and what they represent. More importantly, figure out what shortcomings they have. Is a low gold percentage necessarily bad if a top laner is playing mostly tanks? Is vision score connected to game length and number of Barons or Elder Dragons? For example, OraclesElixir.com’s founder, Tim Sevenhuysen, commented, “I don’t trust vision score because I don’t really understand it, and because it makes subjective judgments that are disguised as an objective measurement.” 

Balancing all of the data presented above, Flame appears to be the superior individual top laner. Despite FlyQuest’s downward tendencies as a team, and as individuals, Flame maintains mid-high performance compared to other top laners. Opposing top laners usually get to counter-pick Flame in the draft, and his team has the worst early game in the LCS, yet he averages ahead in all laning stats. Flame also outputs the expected damage, while staying safe enough to keep a high KDA. All things considered, Flame is likely a top three top laner in the NA LCS.

credits

Featured Image: Reddit Post-Match Discussion

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Statistics Screenshots: Oracles Elixir

Other Statistics: Games of Legends

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Rethinking Smash 4’s custom specials

The ability to customize a character’s special attacks in a Smash Bros. game is a novel idea, in theory. The idea of customizing any abilities of a character in any fighting/action game is naturally exciting. Custom specials could allow players to pick and choose which particular specials suited their play style. At least, this is what people had hoped would be the case in the months before Smash 4’s release.

custom specials

Custom specials ultimately look a bit similar to each other. Image: SmashWiki

The execution of custom specials in Smash 4 left a bitter taste in peoples’ mouths. There was a brief period after the game’s launch where people gave custom specials a chance and considered the viability of custom specials in competitive play. They are now largely disregarded by most of the Smash 4 community. Only default specials are legal in competitive play. In addition, the seven DLC characters added into the game weren’t even given additional specials beyond their default ones. The concept of custom specials in Smash 4 is very fascinating, and yet it now feels largely abandoned.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. The concept of customizing a character’s moves has a ton of great potential. If given another attempt in a future Smash game, customizable move-sets could give more layers of depth to each character. So how exactly can Smash 4’s execution of customizable move-sets be improved upon?

Abandon Gimmicky Custom Specials

One of the larger problems with the existing custom specials in Smash 4 is the nature of the custom specials themselves. A lot of characters feature custom specials that aren’t actually new moves. Rather, their custom specials are modifications of their default specials. Taking Mario as an example, his neutral special, fireballs, has rather lackluster specials. One is a large, slow moving fireball. The other custom special for this move is a smaller, quicker fireball that travels horizontally. These custom specials don’t make Mario’s neutral special feel any different. Instead, these moves feel like gimmicks simply thrown on top of the existing default special.

custom specials

Donkey Kong’s “Storm Punch” custom special isn’t a new attack – it just adds a different property to an existing attack. Image: YouTube.

This sadly applies to most characters in the roster. One of the most notorious examples of custom moves in Smash 4 is Donkey Kong’s custom neutral specials. One of Donkey Kong’s custom neutral specials simply reduces the damage done by the punch and adds in a large, powerful windbox. The attack itself looks exactly the same. The only difference with this custom special is that it pushes other players away instead of dealing damage.

Custom specials that slightly change properties of default specials are underwhelming. Many custom specials are simply default specials with a gimmick thrown in to make it different. This execution of custom specials feels cheap, for lack of a better word. These moves don’t feel like different moves. For future entries that incorporate customizable move-sets, this approach to customizing moves needs to be abandoned.

So what are some more optimal ways to incorporate customizable move-sets?

The type of Custom Specials that work in Smash 4

There are some characters that provide examples of how good customizable specials can look. Palutena serves as the greatest example of this. Each of her custom specials are significantly different from her default specials. Not only that, but Palutena’s custom specials also significantly change how the character is played. These alternate moves give Palutena better approaching options than what her default specials provide. In fact, many people would argue that using Palutena with custom specials makes her a better character.

custom specials

Many would argue that Palutena is a better character with custom specials. Should she be the model of custom specials done right? Image: YouTube

This example proves that customizable move-sets can work in Smash 4 if approached the right way. Palutena’s custom moves don’t try to add different properties to her existing default specials. Rather, Palutena’s custom specials focus on making her play style feel different depending on which custom moves are selected.

If future Smash games allow players to pick and choose different versions of each special, I think every character’s alternate specials should be modeled after how characters like Palutena were approached in Smash 4.

Picking Specials in Sets

Another approach to custom specials in future Smash games could be to have custom specials only usable in sets. Instead of choosing from three different versions of all four specials, what if players could choose between three different sets of different special attacks? Taking Mario as an example, what if one set had Mario default specials as is in Smash 4, but another set would have, say, the Spin Jump from Super Mario Galaxy and an attack where he throws out Cappy from Super Mario Odyssey?

Imagine Ganondorf having custom specials or even a custom moveset designed around his sword, or his Ganon form. Image: SmashWiki

Perhaps this could even bleed into characters having entire move-sets to choose from. This could give veteran characters a degree of freshness that they may not see otherwise.

Another example would be Ganondorf. We could have the option of a having a heavily modified version of Captain Falcon as he is in Smash 4, but also have the option of him to use the sword that’s seen in his down taunt.

Especially if future Smash games include less new characters than Smash 4, this could maintain a level of freshness to the game without necessarily having to add entirely new characters.

 

Custom Specials and Custom Move-sets in Smash’s Future

Smash 4 took a step in the right direction for custom specials. It under-delivered on many, but there’s plenty of potential for what custom specials can bring to the table in future Smash games. Smash 4 legitimized the idea of custom moves in the series. All that’s needed is for future games to expand and improve upon the idea.

Do you agree or disagree with custom moves? Do you think custom specials and/or custom move-sets should be in future Smash games? As always, feel free to join the conversation and let us know!


 

Featured Image courtesy of fabry90 via YouTube.

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7.07b

Hot fix: Bringing balance back in 7.07b

When there is a patch as big as 7.07 was, imbalances in the game show up sooner or later. Sooner seems to be the answer in this case, as 7.07b arrived a mere week after 7.07 launched. Even in this short amount of time, the community lamented these imbalances and cried out to dear IceFrog for a remedy. It seems their voices reached the enigmatic DotA developer, as the most common complaints were addressed.

Anti-Mage

7.07b

(dota2.gamepedia.com)

Anti-Mage gets his own section in this article because he was an absolute terror in 7.07. His stat gain coupled with his new talents negated his old weakness of having to wait until the late game to come online. Developers reduced his strength gain to give him less health, and spell shield was also weakened to make him more vulnerable early. The biggest change though is that Blink Illusion moved up to a level 20 talent from level 15. Trying to chase a mid level Anti-Mage with this ability was incredibly difficult. Though the illusion took increased damage, the mana it drained would quickly make chasing impossible. This fix should return Anti-Mage to his former glory, without getting a free power spike in the mid game.

The new heroes

Pangolier fans rejoice! Your hero received some much needed buffs. Shield Crash grants increased damage reduction at all levels. Rolling Thunder turn rate is universally improved, so hopefully we’ll see fewer players getting stuck in corners. On top of that, it also does more damage than before. The most important of these buffs though is how Swashbuckle’s damage is now calculated. While previously it was treated as physical ability damage, Swashbuckle damage instances are now treated the same as normal right clicks. This means that on hit effects previously unavailable to him like lifesteal and crit are now completely viable. This is huge news for Pango players, and we’re bound to see his build diversity go up as a result.

I’m more of a Dark Willow person myself, and I’m not even upset about the nerfs she received in 7.07b. Bedlam was absurd on a 20 second cooldown and everyone knew it. By level three the ultimate is still about as strong as it previously was, so no harm was done to her late-game potential. Bramble Maze now also deals its damage over time instead of all in one instance. This brings the spell more in line with similar roots such as Crystal Maiden’s Frostbite, and gives players a chance to save themselves with healing items or spells. To be fair, it was pretty absurd for a low health hero to walk into a bramble patch and just explode to a 250 damage nuke.

Tiny is a big boy again…

7.07b

(dota2.gamepedia.com)

I played one game of Tiny after being intrigued by the massive changes made to the hero in vanilla 7.07. I never felt like I was able to contribute anything meaningful at any point in the game. Valve gave Tiny so much love in this patch that I’m cautiously optimistic about trying him again. Most of his buffs were to his Tree Grab ability, which previously had a long cooldown at lower levels. The cooldown was so long in fact that I never felt like I had it up when I needed it to push.

The ability’s cooldown has since been lowered from 40/32/24/16 seconds to just 15 seconds at all levels. Splash damage done by the tree now deals full attack damage. Tiny even gets an additional swing with the tree once he hits level four with the ability. These 7.07b changes help to turn Tiny into the split pushing tower crusher he was meant to be, and hopefully make him relevant in the meta again.

Meteor Hammer

Most of the other item changes are minor, but Meteor Hammer’s function changed in a pretty meaningful way. It now deals less damage over time, but has a small burst of damage on impact. Players questioned why it was not this way to start with. It made little sense that being hit with a meteor dealt no damage initially. While the weapon’s function now makes more sense, I’m still not sure it is exactly what the item needs to be relevant. The biggest drawback is the three second channel time, which makes it very easy to interrupt or dodge. Most of the time I would probably rather use those three seconds to cast any of my other abilities. Chances are they would probably be more productive.

More changes coming?

Undoubtedly. After all, patch 7.06 went all the way up to 7.06f before the developers finally decided to increment the patch number. It has still been less than two weeks since Valve introduced us to 7.07, so we’re bound to see more in the future. Watching the pros experiment with the patch has been exciting, but it’s clear that they are still learning too. I guess it’s time for us all to get back into it and play more 7.07b DotA 2.

Bummer…


Featured Image: Screenshot grabbed from Dota2.com

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A closer look at Smash 4’s rage mechanic

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is turning three years old in a few weeks, and a lot has happened in that time. Competitively viable stages have been debated and changed over the years. Multiple tier lists have been made by many players. The game has been played at many national and international tournaments. Updates to the game helped further balance the game, making certain characters become significantly more common in competitive play over time. New characters and stages have been released via DLC. All of these are just some of the changes and developments that have been happening to Smash 4 in its less than three years of existence.

However, there are a few aspects of the game that haven’t changed that are unique to Smash 4. One of the most controversial additions to Smash 4 when it first came out was the rage mechanic. This feature makes it so that players at higher percents can output greater knockback and damage to other players. This was done in order to balance the game so that players that had a percent disadvantage could stand a better chance at getting KOs in casual play.

Smash

Every character in Smash 4 has a bit of Lucario in them – Rage makes them stronger the more percent they have. Image: Amino Apps

However, many individuals in the competitive Smash Bros. community continue to voice many criticisms for this mechanic over the course of the game’s life. Many want rage to be an option that players could toggle off. Here, I will take a look at the arguments for and against the rage mechanic, and judge whether or not the criticisms of the game’s mechanic are worth it. Let’s see if the rage mechanic is truly a good gameplay element of Smash 4.

The Unfair Advantages of Rage

The most common critique of the rage mechanic is how it benefits certain characters more than others. Specifically, the characters that benefit the most from rage are the heavier characters in the roster. Characters such as Ganondorf, Donkey Kong, Bowser, King Dedede and Ike are more likely to accumulate more damage over time due to them receiving less knockback from most attacks due to their weight. Since rage caps at 150 percent, these characters often reach or get near the maximum amount of rage at least once in most matches they are in.

Smash

Heavier characters benefit the most from rage. Image: Prima Games.

And since many of the heavy characters in Smash 4 follow the “heavy, but hits hard” trope that we see in just about every fighting game, being at full rage turns a strong character into an incredibly strong character. What’s more, these heavy characters receive the benefits of rage for far longer than other characters do, due to their weight making them not have as much knockback.

This causes what many believe is an unfair advantage for the heavy characters in the roster. Lighter characters in the roster such as Jigglypuff, Kirby, Mr. Game & Watch and Mewtwo don’t benefit from rage nearly as much as heavier characters do. Due to their lighter weight, they receive greater knockback. This makes them often get KO’d at lower percents compared to heavier characters in the roster. Because of this, many people in the Smash Bros. community think that the rage mechanic subtly encourages the use of heavier characters over lighter characters. With the exception of Mewtwo, most light characters in the game are often lower on the third edition of the official Smash 4 tier list, which you can look at here.

In addition to encouraging the use of heavy characters, a common argument against the rage mechanic is that it encourages a certain playstyle from players. Many argue that the rage mechanic encourages players to allow themselves to get to higher percents for the sake of being able to output more knockback and damage towards other players. Many feel that this playstyle makes Smash 4 feel less skill-based than, say, Melee. By making those at higher percents deal greater knockback and damage, many players feel that they have to take damage in order to make certain setups and combos possible. This understandably makes many players frustrated with the mechanic being in the game.

So why is rage in the game at all?

I think it’s easy for many people in the esports and competitive Smash Bros. community to forget that Smash Bros. is, in many ways, a fluke. The only reason as to why Smash 4 became an esport instantly was because of the previous games (and the many mods of Brawl) being played as esports. Even then, Melee – arguably the reason any Smash Bros. became an esport in the first place – developed high-level play thanks to the exploit of the discovered glitch of “wavedashing”.

Many describe Melee as Nintendo’s “perfect accident”, which I feel is appropriate. I think many people forget that what makes Smash Bros. so great as a series is its appeal to multiple demographics. Sure, it’s played at a high, competitive level and played at high-stakes esports events, but it’s also played casually by many people. Masahiro Sakurai, the director of every Smash Bros. game, has made it clear that he doesn’t make these games with competitive play in mind. These games are developed to appeal to coach multiplayer, friends getting together and having 4-8 player battles, with some items turned on. Appealing to the competitive community was never a priority for these games.

In the context of casual, 4-8 player matches, I honestly understand and appreciate the implementation of the rage mechanic. Casually, it’s a magnificent way of having less skilled players, or players that are at a disadvantage, still have a chance to defend themselves, since many players naturally try to KO the player at the highest percent. In the context of a match with multiple players, rage honestly makes sense.

However, the majority of competitive Smash Bros. is 1v1 matches. This makes the rage mechanic feel unnecessary, for lack of a better term. In the context of a match that only has two players, having the player with the higher percentage gives them an advantage over the player with less percent. Simple as that. If the player that has a higher percent KOs the other player, first player still has the high percent. This allows them to continue using their rage on the player’s next stock. Turning the disadvantage of being a higher percent into an advantage in itself.

rage and the future of smash

Despite all of the critiques placed against rage that I’ve mentioned here, I don’t actually dislike rage all that much. Although I totally understand why many players hate the mechanic, I think it helps make certain matches exciting that wouldn’t be otherwise. I think, from the perspective of a viewer of a competitive event, rage makes matches a bit more entertaining to watch. It’s never exactly clear who is in the lead when rage is a factor. If Player 1 is on their last stock and at a high percent and Player 2 is at medium percent on their first stock, there’s still a definite possibility that Player 1 could win the match thanks to rage.

Another component of rage that I personally like is that it makes players have to strategize in the middle of matches. As stated above, rage causes certain combos and setups to only work at certain percents. This, I feel makes matches more dynamic for both players and viewers. It’s simply exciting to see certain combos that are only possible at specific percents. On the other side of that same coin, though, there are still instances of combos possible by rage that many consider to be cheap. Donkey Kong’s “ding-dong” combo is the prominent example of this.

Is rage infuriating for some players? Absolutely. But it’s also entertaining for viewers.

This begs some questions, though: Should rage be in future installments of the series? Is rage good for the core gameplay of the series? These are questions that are clearly difficult to answer. With so much split opinions on rage in the Smash Bros. community, there will definitely be a variety of answers to these questions.

Smash

Does the future of competitive Smash have Rage in it? Image: YouTube

My two possible solutions would be to either reduce the overall effect of rage, but still keeping it as a core mechanic, or making it a setting for players to toggle on or off. I think rage is too versatile of a game mechanic to omit entirely in future installments. Conceptually, it’s a good idea for a fighting game. I just feel that it needs additional tweaks and customization to make it something that both competitive players and viewers can enjoy.

 

Header Image Courtesy of Shoryuken.

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An in Depth Analysis of the Build-Up of FaZe and Allu’s Contribution to the Starladder Victory

There’s really no debate that FaZe deserved to win Starladder. After narrowly losing to Astralis at IEM Masters, Starladder became their sanctuary of strong play. They are a relatively new squad, and it was surprising to see them all playing so cohesively. So, here is an in depth look at how FaZe managed to transition from no roster last year, to having one of the best rosters this year.

The Build-Up

A lot of what went into FaZe’s performance was the product of months and months of player swaps and testing out rosters. FaZe seemed to have blundered their way through 2016, not managing to have any noteworthy victories. The two player swaps to this roster that were imperative to FaZe’s success are the addition of their shot caller and in-game leader (IGL), Finn “Karrigan” Anderson, and the addition of one of the best CS players in current play, Nikola “NiKo” Kovac.

Karrigan

Karrigan Courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

Karrigan came to FaZe in December after his previous team, Astralis, benched him. He departed shortly after and found that FaZe were looking for an IGL. This would be the first time in two years he wouldn’t be with the Astralis core of Danish players, and it was a real test for him. In IEM Masters right before Starladder, Karrigan faced off against his old team in the grand finals, and couldn’t quite beat them. It was still an impressive finish for how newly cemented the roster was though. Karrigan showed the strong command of his team and really helped to create a team mentality for FaZe.

NiKo finally left his death-trap team, Mousesports, for FaZe in February, and hasn’t looked back. He has always been noted by his peers as one of the best in the world, and last year he broke into the HLTV’s top 20 rankings of 2016, coming in at #11. NiKo only had three days to bootcamp for IEM Masters and was still able to help his team to the grand finals in his first tournament with them. NiKo instantly became one of the super stars for the team in terms of individual skill.

Both of these players will be pivotal in contributing to FaZe’s forward momentum.

Allu

Allu

Courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

Aleksi “allu” Jalli had an incredible tournament performance, and was a huge contribution to FaZe’s victory. Allu is a player that has a seen a lot of strife over his career. He has always been a world-class awper and player, but his team environments haven’t been the best. After his departure from Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP), he played on the Finnish team, ENCE, as he was hoping to bring life to the Finnish Counter-Strike scene.

After he determined that it was not a worthwhile use of his talents, he made the change to FaZe, where he has been impressive. At Starladder, in particular, he looked extremely strong. His play on Inferno may have single-handedly secured the tournament for FaZe in the grand finals.

The Map Pressure

inferno

Map: Inferno, Courtesy of CSGO database

The pressure he applies on the map is very noticeable. At the beginning of a map, he will let you know which angle he is holding by killing anyone who peaks. Other teams will learn to play around the angles he likes, and they will show him respect by not recklessly peaking.

This is huge, and can generally go unnoticed. The pressure on the map that allu provides gives so much more freedom to his teammates. While he can cover large areas with the AWP, it gives his teammates much less responsibility around the map. On Inferno, for example, when allu covers mid, all it leaves for his teammates to cover is apartments and banana. This leaves two different two-man teams to cover two choke points.

That strategy is what allowed FaZe to run their CT-side on Inferno. With this setup, NiKo has the freedom he needs to set aggressive picks on B, and for Karrigan to delegate more players to more important situations on the map. FaZe’s map movement, as well as individual play, helped them win, creating momentum moving towards the upcoming Counter-Strike Summit.

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An in-depth analysis of Molten Blade

Another Warrior card from the Journey to Un’goro expansion has been released. Like its Discover-based counterpart, it looks like a “fun”, uncompetitive card. Molten Blade is a 1 mana 1/1 weapon, with the effect “each turn this is in your hand, transform it into a new weapon”. Similar to the legendary minion Shifter Zerus, Molten Blade trades consistency for flexibility. Not limited by class, it can become any weapon in the game. But is the massive variance in outcome worth the potential upside?

The card in all its RNG glory

Why Molten Blade?

King of the early game, Fiery War Axe is less good later on

Many people would look at Molten Blade and think, why would I ever play this? Warrior has access to some of the best weapons in the game, including Fiery War Axe and Gorehowl, the best early and late-game weapons respectively. Why would you run this over these more reliable options?

Well, one answer can come in the form of its constantly varying mana cost. Fiery War Axe is amazing in certain situations, namely, on turn two when the opponent has played a minion. Meanwhile, Gorehowl is perfect for winning late-game grindfests but is completely useless until then. The potential advantage in cards like Molten Blade could come from flexibility. It has a chance to be a powerful early-game weapon on turns 1-5. However, should no opportunity arise, waiting long enough will guarantee that it’ll turn into a late-game powerhouse.

However, the obvious downside is that you’re losing a lot of consistency. If RNG isn’t in your favour, you’ll find it hard to even play this weapon. So, how does the math stack up?

Playing the odds

In order to properly evaluate Molten Blade, we need to look at the chances that two crucial things occur.

The first is that it will be relevant as an early game weapon. The second is the chance to transform into crucial late-game value. In the meantime, the odds that it becomes a mid-game option are worth looking into as well.

The chance of the early game weapon appearing is crucial because it’s what makes the card potentially worth playing over a Gorehowl or Arcanite Reaper. The potential of becoming an early game option in the early game, even a sub-par card, would make this incredibly powerful. In the best case scenario, the Warrior could have additional Fiery War Axes and Truesilver Champions at perfect times, allowing an easy tempo snowball to victory.

Meanwhile, the odds of acquiring a late-game weapon is vital. If the card will simply sit in your hand turn after turn before becoming something truly valuable, there would be no point playing this over reliable early or mid-game options.

Early-game Outcomes

Stormforged Axe isn’t amazing on turn two; but it’s far better than Gorehowl is

Luckily, the pool of weapons is very small, making analysis easy. As of the Un’goro expansion’s release (barring any additional yet-to-be-announced weapon releases), there will be 21 collectible weapons in the game, including Molten Blade itself. Ten of them cost between 1 and 3 mana. This already seems promising; a 50% chance to get an early game weapon and a 50% chance of a high mana option gives a good likelihood of it being worthwhile after being kept in the opening mulligan.

However, things aren’t as rosy as they seem. Whilst weapons are more consistent value-wise than minions, there are still some highly synergy dependent or otherwise underwhelming cards, particularly for the early game. While the worst offender, Cursed Blade, is rotating out, there are still cards like Light’s Justice, Spirit Claws and Molten Blade itself that are highly unlikely to be worth playing. Overall, there are six early game weapons that are undeniably decent. This is Jade Claws, Fiery War Axe, Stormforged Axe (marginal), Rallying Blade, Eaglehown Bow and Perdition’s blade. If you keep Molten Blade in the mulligan, you have a 15% chance of a decent 2 mana weapon on turn 2, and a 30% chance of a decent 2 or 3 mana weapon on turn 3. Overall, this means that you have a roughly 40% chance of Molten Blade giving you a good-enough early game option.

Mid-game Metrics

Any Warrior deck would love to get access to Truesilver Champion

The mid-game clue to Molten Blade is harder to compute. Due to weapons’ situational usefulness, ability to store charges, and function as removal, it’s hard to compute exactly when certain types of weapon are most useful. As the mid-game is usually dictated by tempo, cheap but good options are usually worthwhile, as they can be woven in with other cheap spells and minions. Overall, the odds here look good. There are a number of high value mid and low-cost options. Getting a Hammer of Twilight or Fool’s bane on curve can help snowball tempo, or push face damage if need be.

The odds of a 4-5 mana weapon are pretty high, with 8 of the 21 weapons falling into this category. Of these, there are few bad value options, apart from the relatively slow Pirahna Launcher, awful Tentacles-for-arms, and deck-dependent Brass Knuckles. This means there’s a very good chance that Molten Blade gives you a potent or even game winning option in the mid-game.

Value Statistics

Pirate Warrior getting Doomhammer is the dream, but the odds are pretty low

In terms of late-game value, where the idea is to push face damage ASAP or to gain huge value, there are a couple of options. Doomhammer may count among these, as it has an “effective” mana cost of 7 with its huge overload. Gorehowl is obviously the king of late-game value, though Gladiator’s Longbow may be pretty decent outside of the early-game oriented Hunter. Either way, these three weapons provide a 15% chance each turn of getting a late-game value option.

This sounds OK at first, but may, in fact, be far too low. 15% means that on average, you’d have to keep this in hand for 6-7 turns before getting a truly powerful weapon. What’s worse, Molten Blade is a terrible topdeck card, as the transformation happens the turn after you draw it. Late game options for this card look slim indeed, especially once you consider that it requires perfect timing to set up a super expensive weapon like Gorehowl in a world of Acidic Swamp Oozes and Harrison Joneses.

Molten Madness

So then, this looks like a card that will fill its intended purpose: Trolden fodder and RNG moments. It’s unlikely that the competitive world will be rocked by this card. Nonetheless, it may be worth keeping an eye on. Pirate Warrior sometimes ran the inefficient King’s Defender purely as a third, costly Fiery War Axe. It’s not inconceivable they’d want more early game options for weaponry. What’s more, the small pool of weapons could mean only a few additions of efficient weaponry could make this card incredibly potent. You never know, you may just curse the day when Pirate Warrior is able to beat you with an 8 attack doomhammer.

All images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

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“Not in a million years”; How Pavel Wins

Being a card game, it’s easy to blame singular victories or defeats on “bad RNG”. Even looking at the highest level, it’s tempting to point to this outcome or that topdeck as the cause of a win. Blizzcon champion Pavel Beltukov has been a victim of this outlook; with many assigning his Blizzcon success vs William “Amnesiac” Barton last year on the infamous “Paveling book”.

But rather than fall to the inevitable mediocrity of random noise, Pavel defies gravity. Despite what Amnesiac might have you believe, Pavel Beltukov is an exceptional player. Achieving an impressive 112-46 record in competitive play, he was recently crowned the “Europe Winter Champion” in the Hearthstone Championship Tour Winter playoffs. With his characteristic subdued personality matching his measured, conventional playstyle and decklists, he nonetheless dominated all opposition. With few flashy plays or devastating tech cards, it’s hard to point to exactly what makes Pavel so good.

Micro-Decisions, Macro Success

The answer might lie in a seemingly sub-par series of plays from the HCT winter championships. Pavel’s Renolock is facing off against Eugene “Neirea” Shumilin’s Pirate Warrior; (I recommend watching the whole VOD here). A slow start from Neirea; it’s turn three and the Renolock maintains tenous board control. Pavel, after playing a coined Imp Gang Boss last turn, plays his Dark Peddler as follow up. The situation looks as follows;

Image from Hearthstone Championship Tour Europe Winter Playoffs, courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Would you pick the same as the World Champion? (For reference, the weapon is a 4/1)

You may have seen the clip already. The Casters are disputing the relative merits of Power Overwhelming (PO) and Mortal Coil, and dismissing the Kvaldir as obviously wrong (one caster saying how it wouldn’t be picked “in a million years”). Then Pavel quietly picks and plays the 2/1. But why?

It’s easy to see why this would be considered incorrect. Both PO and Coil are solid cards, cards that are in Pavel’s deck to start with. They’re flexible, potent, and synergistic. PO goes perfectly with the 1/1s spawned by Pavel’s Imp Gang Boss, Shadowflame, and to combo with Leeroy Jenkins. Coil is added removal, against a deck that often demands removal, and cycle towards Reno. Kvaldir, on the other hand, is just a 2/1.

But what Pavel recognises that the casters do not, is the condition of the game. Neirea has given up board control immediately, going face with his weapon twice rather than attempting to clear and win back the board. This signals two things; that Pavel’s minions will stick, and that value is largely irrelevant. Efficient removal is no longer necessary for survival; merely surviving by clearing the board every turn and throwing up sufficient defenses.

When bad cards are better

This means that mortal coil is now inferior to Injured Kvaldir; the added card draw is less likely to be relevant than the fact it requires an additional mana crystal to play. Meanwhile, the PO is unlikely to be worthwhile. With everything going on face damage rather than board, playing big minions (well, big by Pirate Warrior standards) like Frothing Bezerker or Naga Corsair would likely mean Neirea would lose regardless.

What Kvaldir does that neither of the others do is provide damage for free. And against a Pirate Warrior that’s gone all-in on face from turn two, there’s almost no way the 2/1 can get punished. What the pick does is guarantee that Neirea has to double down on his strategy, and likely never get a hit on face with a non-charge minion.

Pavel’s strategy and skill is made even clearer, when he makes another play that seems horrible at first.

 

Bad Trade, Good Play

Suppose you have an Imp Gang Boss and a Dark Peddler. Your opponent has a 4/1 you want to kill. Which do you sacrifice? The answer seems obvious, almost a trick question; surely one should always trade in the 2/2. The 2/4 with greater future opportunities for spawning imps is surely superior?

Image from Hearthstone Championship Tour Europe Winter Playoffs, courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

This trade is awful; it’s also game-winning

 

One of the intuitive, instinctive ways people learn Hearthstone is how to trade. You attack your low-value minions into their high value minions to gain tempo and value. Pavel has had such teachings drilled into him as any of us, which perhaps is why he hesitates before sacrificing the higher mana minion, losing potential value off its effect in the process.

What Pavel recognises is that having a 1/1 next turn is vital, and that the additional health and imp-spawning capabilities of the Gang Boss are largely irrelevant. He continues to exploit his opponents inability to remove minions, and as such is able to go with absurdly anti-value trades that all but guarantee success by shaving off percentages for potential outs and shortening his opponent’s clock. In short, Pavel displays a consistent ability to take the lines that intuitively “feel” bad, but result in the highest chance of victory.

Winning is boring

Now, you may point to these plays as obvious or outliers; but they are unintuitive, tiny decisions that cemented an otherwise shaky position. Such small beginnings are the stuff that considerable edges in percentage winrates are made of. I guarantee that if you look through any Pavel game, you’ll see similar things happening; small, seemingly sub-optimal plays that nonetheless are correct. And I doubt that anyone other than Pavel could properly explain them all.

It’s likely that Pavel’s reputation for “luck” will only continue. What sets him apart from the competition is his canniness at identifying the best play, while playing the best play. Unfortunately, this rarely results in impressive plays that people can instantly recognize as being good. By virtue of his very skill, Pavel is doomed to make plays that few will be able to tell exactly why it is superior; instead, most likely will point to topdecks, matchups and other “RNG” for his largely straightforward, by-the-books victories.

Too long there has been a debate over whether Pavel is “skilled” or just “lucky”. Perhaps, instead of trying to determine whether or not Pavel is good at Hearthstone by analyzing his plays, we should take his winrate as sufficient evidence of his ability, and use that to inform us of the virtue of his decisions.

 

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Protoss Insight – Byun vs Stats

 

By far the most heated discussion within the StarCraft community recently has been the state of Protoss versus Terran. With Protoss winrate in the matchup at times falling below 40% and the very recent announcement this week by Blizzard’s balancing team that they were looking into nerfs to Terran’s Liberator unit. It should come as no surprise, that Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob’s advancement in first place would prove to be a highlight moment of the day, having to best two Terran players back-to-back to do so, including the reigning World and GSL Champion and ESPN’s Esport Player of 2016, “Byun” Hyun Woo of Team Expert.

Stats is one of the very few Korean players to find a new team, Splyce, following the end of Proleague. Having shown consistent strength at the highest level in 2016, he is considered by many to be the current best Protoss player in the world. A showdown between Stats and 2016’s crown king of Terran could well have been a match you could have expected to see in the finals and it sure as hell played out like one.

The Opening Act

Game 1 was something you would expect from a high level game of Brood War, an intense back and forth where both players traded turns pushing into the other’s side of the map attempting to break their fortified choke points. Game 2 was a beautiful, if scrappy, non-stop skirmish between ground infantry. While both players repeatedly traded out their armies, Stats was pushed back harder, wave after wave as Byun continued to tech up behind his constant pushes and Stats failed to do the same.

Leeeeeeeroy!!!

This was but the opening show for what was to come. Game 3 was the climatic ending this game deserved. It left you guessing who would emerge the winner until the very last, absolutely beautiful, engagement.

There’s a lot to get into, so let’s dive in.

Showing Respect

One of the best signs that you’re in for one hell of a game is seeing two players of the highest caliber opening in the safest manner possible. Byun started this game by immediately scouting for proxies while Stats rushed out two observers almost immediately. A major note about Echo is that the base layouts leave you very open to drop strategies, Widow Mine harassment in particular is a very strong strategy on this map.

One of the best examples of how easily Protoss can play prey to Widow Mines on Echo came from Stats’ former teammate on KT Rolster, Joo “Zest” Sung Wook in the very first game of GSL this year against Hwang “KeeN” Kyu Seok. In that game Zest’s forward positioning of his observers left him constantly vulnerable to Widow Mine harassment and unable to respond for extended periods. Stats here was far better prepared with his observer placement and Byun’s early Widow Mine drop was dealt with for minimal damage.

Freedom isn’t Free at all

There was a point in this game where every Protoss player had their heads between their hands while suffering flashbacks and internal screaming. Byun rushed to Advanced Ballistics and Stats had no Stargate out. More confusingly, Byun actually parked a Liberator outside of Stats’ base and he didn’t seem to have a care in the world.

This is fine.

The reality of the situation was that if you knew what Stats knew, you probably wouldn’t be that bothered either. In what was one of the most brilliant but perhaps most overlooked moments of the day, Stats made an amazing attempt to outplay a massive liberator blockade. Making amazing use of the map, Stats forced Byun to siege up an open area with multiple entrances then attempted to flank one entrance before making a beeline to the other.

Because each Liberator needs to be sieged individually there is a significant delay in the time it takes a mobile Protoss army to flank one position compared to the time it takes a Liberator army to siege, un-siege, relocate and re-siege.

Red means Go.

The idea was to use the open terrain to exploit the time it takes the Liberator to set Liberation Zones to get in some amount of safe damage. Ultimately the base he attempted to attack into was empty anyway but the idea behind it was nevertheless ingenious.

Tooth and Nail

Among equals, sometimes for all your planning and tactical maneuvering, it all comes down to one final engagement. All that can be said here is to try to keep a count of what resources you have immediately available before making a major engagement and don’t be conservative in the late game. Always remember that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. You have energy available? Empty it.

And in the case of High Templars, make a mental note to fuse them once they’re spent because those PsiStorms and Archons are exactly what won Stats this game in the end.