Several players from 2017 Immortals found success in the 2018 Spring Split

An Echo of Immortals in the 2018 Spring Split

Leading into the 2018 Spring Split, ESPN’s Jacob Wolf reported that Immortals would not be included in North America’s franchised LCS. The League of Legends community responded to the decision with disbelief, anger and confusion. They also wondered, “If IMT did not get accepted into the LCS, then which teams are safe?”

A Brief History of Immortals

Immortals entered the NA LCS in 2016 with Huni, Reignover, Pobelter, Wildturtle, and Adrian

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Immortals entered the NA LCS in 2016, announcing Huni, Reignover, Pobelter, WildTurtle and Adrian as its roster. Dylan Falco would coach. They finished the 2016 Spring and Summer regular seasons in first and second, respectively, but only secured third in both playoffs. IMT barely missed Worlds that year, because they lost to Cloud9 in the Regional Qualifier.

In 2017, Immortals broke up and completely rebuilt its roster around Pobelter. Flame, Dardoch, Cody Sun, and Olleh joined as starters, while Anda signed as a substitute. Hermes moved up to fill the head coaching position. During 2017 Spring Split, this roster finished seventh in the regular season, narrowly missing playoffs. In the mid-season, Immortals traded Dardoch to CLG for Xmithie, imported Ssong as head coach, and brought on Stunt as a substitute. The invigorated team rose to second place during the Summer regular season and playoffs. IMT booked their first ticket to Worlds, where they finished 14th-16th.

And Immortals’ time in the NA LCS ended there. They would not get a new opportunity to dominate North America like 2016, or go to Worlds like 2017. The team fully disbanded, and the league moved on.

EX-IMMORTALS IN 2018

Immortals traded Dardoch to CLG in 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Following Riot’s permanent partners announcement, Team Liquid acquired most of Immortals’ released roster. Xmithie, Pobelter, Cody Sun, Anda and Olleh joined the organization initially, but Cody Sun went on to 100 Thieves and Anda went to FlyQuest. Flame and Stunt signed with FlyQuest, as well. TSM picked up Coach Ssong to lead their new roster.

Four fifths of Immortals’ 2017 roster met in the last stage of playoffs. Xmithie, Pobelter, Olleh and Cody Sun made it to the finals, yet again, with Team Liquid winning the whole split and 100 Thieves second. Flame, Anda and Stunt finished the split in eighth place, and Coach Ssong finished fifth-sixth with TSM. However, this was the first time Anda and Stunt entered a split as starters. Flame performed perfectly fine as an individual top laner. And Coach Ssong helped build TSM into a formidable team, even if they fell short in playoffs.

Looking back at previous iterations of Immortals, Huni, Dardoch and Adrian made up three fifths of Echo Fox this split, finishing third in playoffs. Wildturtle joined FlyQuest in eighth place, but had several stand out performances himself. Reignover played with CLG to secure seventh place, and Dylan just led Fnatic to their first LCS title in two years.

Immortals Echoing through the LCS

Olleh, Cody Sun, and Zmithie used to play on Immortals in 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Each of these individuals had significant development during their time on Immortals. Ssong, Huni, Reignover, Flame, and Olleh might not be in North America without importing with IMT. Xmithie and Pobelter might not be as renowned as they are now without taking Immortals to Worlds. Cody Sun, Anda and Stunt might not have starting roles this year. Wildturtle and Adrian’s stock definitely rose after their time on IMT, and Dardoch’s trade may have spurred changes with him. Dylan Falco got his first coaching job on Immortals, long before joining Fnatic.

Although Immortals’ organization no longer plays in the LCS, their players and staff have spread throughout the league. Many individuals had their LCS debut with IMT, and, through their development, upgraded the ecosystem overall. IMT put up strong performances throughout 2016 and 2017, leaving their mark in the history books. Although its banner no longer hangs in the LCS arena, Immortals’ legacy echoes on through the players and coaches they brought to the table.

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Images: LoL Esports Flickr

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Echo Fox arrive on the red carpet for the NA LCS third place match

Dardoch, Huni and Fenix completely dismantle Clutch Gaming in a 3-0 for third place

Following Clutch Gaming’s victory over TSM in the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split quarterfinals, Riot’s Ovilee May asked Febiven if he had any doubts about winning. He responded:

Yeah, for sure, I mean, our scrims have been really bad. I think we lost, like, every game. But we always, like, seem to be really good on stage. Even in the regular season we lost, like, 80 percent of our scrims, but it feels like on stage we have this switch on and we just kill everyone.

Echo Fox seemed to have figured out how to turn that switch off, as Clutch looked completely out of sorts during their third place match series. FOX took CG down three for three, setting a new record for the fastest game this split in the process. Dardoch stood out as the clear Player of the Game, while Huni and Fenix benefited the most from his advantages. Here is a quick summary of the series.

Echo Fox defeated Clutch 3-0 in the third place match of the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Game One

Echo Fox prioritized Olaf for Dardoch, while Clutch drafted Febiven’s Azir and Lira’s Skarner. Due to FOX’s pushing lanes in mid and bot, Dardoch bullied Lira the entire early game, taking every neutral objective and forcing down mid turret. Apollo’s Caitlyn slowly racked up a 3-0-1 scoreline by responding to FOX’s pressure. A relatively uncontested Baron for Echo Fox at 23 minutes allowed them to siege over the next six minutes to end in under 30 minutes.

Game Two

Clutch drafted Swain for game two. Echo Fox took Camille and Cassiopeia to answer, and, even though Lira locked in Trundle, Dardoch still took Olaf. Lira died to FOX’s level one invade, and then again due to his own aggressive roam near mid. From there, Echo Fox had complete control of the top side of the map, going 6-2 with Clutch’s top-jungle-mid trio. With Trundle and Swain so far behind, FOX punched straight through mid lane and finished the match in 21:10–the shortest game in the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split.

Game Three

CG wisely banned Olaf in the third draft, but it did not end up meaning much. Huni’s Camille completely warped the game, gaining four kills in 15 minutes. A Chronobreak and a second long pause later, and Clutch felt defeated. No one on Clutch could match Huni’s split-push. When they finally sent several members to shut him down, the rest of FOX pushed top and mid inhibitor and the game was over in 25 minutes with Echo Fox ahead by 16,500 gold.

Clutch Gaming ends their season in fourth place, good enough for 30 championship points. Echo Fox finishes in third place, granting them 50 championship points and a slot at Rift Rivals. Team Liquid faces 100 Thieves in the final series of the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split to crown a winner and a runner-up.

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Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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100 Thieves’ First Place Heist

When 100 Thieves entered the North American League Championship Series in 2018, nobody could’ve expected much from them. Despite a solid roster, this new organisation was going up against the powerful line-ups and established infrastructure of old guard teams like Team SoloMid, Cloud9, Team Liquid, and Counter Logic-Gaming. With the likeable face of owner Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag at the helm, 100 Thieves looked poised to establish their brand, but do little else. However, the Thieves ended up doing far more, pulling off the ultimate heist to steal the coveted first place spot at the end of the regular spring season before anyone knew what was happening.

Their ascension to first was a genuine surprise to fans and analysts alike, so it’s worth taking a closer look at what got them there. Will the strengths that took them this far be enough to carry them to a victory in their first ever split? Let’s have a look.

Image courtesy of LoL Esports

 

A Favorable Battlefield

 

The Early Meta

The early spring split meta was characterized by a focus on the top lane. Carries were in, while the majority of tanks seemed comparatively weak. Junglers tended to roam towards the top side of the map. While both mid and bot lane play was defined by this focus, with these lanes expected to cede or apply pressure for the sake of top lane plays. With this both lanes forced to be wary of roams or teleports from fed carry toplaners. Teams like Echo Fox and Cloud 9 understood this, building their incredible early-split records by effectively utilizing their confident top lane carry players in Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Eric “Licorice” Ritchie.

It was in this meta that 100 Thieves first found success, with a strong early record, despite seemingly playing a somewhat different meta. Where other teams looked northward, the Thieves chose to play largely around their botside duo, Cody “Cody Sun” Sun and Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black. Early ganks and pressure would, compared to other teams, be more directed at Cody Sun, who boasted one of the highest first blood participation stats of any AD carry. Cody Sun would prove that he was worthy of the attention, consistently able to snowball small leads to become the primary late game carry.

Image courtesy of LoL Esports

 

The Meta Moves On

As the split progressed, each patch would further entice tanks to return to the top lane. Nerfs to one of the most reliable tank bullies, Gnar, tank-suited items like Banner of Command becoming increasingly attractive, nerfs to Cinderhulk specifically targeting jungle tanks and the removal of Tracker’s Knife giving top/jungle duos less vision to play with all contributed to top lane tanks becoming the norm again. This was a change that suited 100 Thieves toplaner Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho. Though Ssumday has played a large variety of champions in his career, he has traditionally looked the strongest on tanks. In tank focused metas he can be an impassable rock both in the top lane and in teamfights.

As a result of these changes, the meta shifted towards the bottom half the map, yet surprisingly, 100 Thieves attention didn’t always stay there. Though Cody Sun continued to be a major part of the Thieves’ victories, it was as the top/jungle power duos of the league began to falter that 100 Thieves chose to prove that they could play to both sides of the map. Though they didn’t necessarily transition to a top-focused style, they proved that Ssumday couldn’t be underestimated, allowing him to butcher his enemies on a surprise Darius pick. They also sometimes chose to give him more attention on picks like Cho’Gath, on which he could carry while still being the Thieves’ primary frontline. Though he still remained mostly a tank player, it was times like this that one remembers that Ssumday has in the past been a consistent and terrifying carry on picks like Fiora, and even Kled. By the end of the regular split, there remained no doubt that he ought to be feared if he chooses to bring more aggressive picks out again.

 

Credit Where Credit is Due

This story is about far more than Cody Sun and Ssumday, however. Credit must also be given to jungler William “Meteos” Hartman and midlaner Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook. Meteos had the highest first blood participation percentage in the entire league, ensuring his team regularly got an early leg up. Mostly playing champions with powerful pick and engage potential like Skarner, Sejuani, and Zac, Meteos would also often help the Thieves find beneficial midgame fights. Also using creative angles and vision control fought for alongside Ryu to find flanks and engage opportunities. Though not always as aggressive as junglers like Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett or Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, Meteos’ high kill participation stat is testament to his ability to be in the right place at the right time. He was able to repeatedly demonstrate confident and intelligent frontline play.

Though one of the less flashy players of the team, Ryu also provided immense value. Often in the past a ‘role’ player, less interested in stealing the glory than in setting up his team for victory, Ryu has looked comfortable in a meta interested primarily in the side lanes. His Ryze has looked fearsome, giving 100 Thieves’ the opportunity for map plays at various points in the game, and safely scaling to the late game to provide an AP counterpoint to Cody Sun’s damage. Another popular Ryu pick that excels in sidelane metas is Taliyah, whose Weaver’s Wall ultimate can be used to roam, block escape routes, force fights and secure objectives.

Praise must also be given to Aphromoo, one of North America’s most storied supports, who played one of his best splits in years. Cody Sun may have often carried 100 Thieves to victory, but the story of Cody Sun must also be the story of the man who protected him. Aphromoo boasted a 100% winrate on Braum over 7 games. Yet he also broke from the established meta at times to deliver incredible carry performances of his own on champions like Thresh and Blitzcrank. One notable play in their second game versus Team SoloMid saw Aphromoo making a split-second decision to engage with Rakan, despite the team being 4v5 at the time. The resulting teamfight win would catapult them ahead and lead to their victory.

Past this, Aphromoo also lends his incredible shotcalling prowess and experience to the team. Though he reportedly doesn’t solely shoulder the burden of shotcalling, he has time and time again proven his ability to keep a level head and make confident and smart calls in the tensest of situations. He has undoubtedly been one of the primary voices behind many of 100 Thieves team plays.

Image courtesy of LoL Esports

 

Playing the Map

Ryu, Meteos, and Aphromoo were often able to help 100 Thieves find good fights. Ssumday’s frontlining and Cody Sun’s ability as a carry were usually able to make sure they won them. But a good team knows when not to fight as well, and 100 Thieves was no different. Sometimes a lead can be built upon by taking fights and overpowering the opponents, but 100 Thieves regularly opted to instead extend their leads with clever map plays, wave control, and rotations.

One of the marks of a good team is never letting your opponent get something for nothing, and the Thieves would often respond to enemy picks or seized objectives by themselves rotating, setting up waves, or seizing vision control in crucial parts of the map. Fights would rarely be taken desperately, and 100 Thieves knew how to build up advantages and work from behind until they could set up a good fight.

 

Potential Pitfalls

Despite their strengths, possible weaknesses do exist. Champions like Ryze and Taliyah play to Ryu’s strengths, but they’re also two of the only champions Ryu has consistently played and looked good on. Though rarely the main target of ban focus, one has to wonder how Ryu would cope if his comfort picks were taken away. Meanwhile Ssumday, though having a champion pool demonstrably large enough to be able to avoid ban focus, is still likely to continue picking and playing tanks, and answers to this have already begun to pop up.

In the European LCS quarterfinals, Trundle, a strong anti-tank champion, was picked four times by three different teams, with a 100% winrate. Meta reactions of a different sort may prove problematic as well, with Kog’maw, a fantastic anti-tank ADC seeing play, and top lane counterpicks like Fiora still being viable (though also potentially effective in his own hands). Meanwhile Cody Sun hasn’t always looked quite as stellar in lane as he has in fights. Though the team plays with and around him very well, it remains to be seen how well he would cope if he were substantially set behind early. With aggressive and mechanically potent AD carries like Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng still in the playoffs, Cody Sun may meet his match.

These worries exist, yet are unlikely to be enough to oust 100 Thieves from the secure position they find themselves in. Weaknesses are part of any team, and 100 Thieves likely understand theirs. They also clearly understand the meta, both how to play it and when not to. The Thieves seem well suited to patch 8.5, and with this being the patch the playoffs are being played on, it’s hard to deny that 100 Thieves have a favourable battlefield.

 

The Value of Veterancy

Any team heading to its first playoffs will face certain issues. The possibility of nerves can’t be ignored for rookies, or even for experienced players who’ve nonetheless never played a best-of-5 series. The pressure of the situation can be immense, especially as whatever team you’ll be facing will have had at least a week to plan for facing you and you alone. Any player could be the focus of bans or jungle ganks. Strategies that served well during the regular season may not hold up to scrutiny and planning. And with all eyes on you, the pressure to perform, and the stress of making a mistake that could lose a crucial game, can add up. Many teams that have looked mighty in the regular season have faltered in their first test in the playoffs, like Team Liquid in the summer of 2015, or Immortals in both splits of 2016.

It is here that the value of a veteran squad comes to bear, and that is undoubtedly what 100 Thieves is. Toplaner Ssumday has played extensively in the LCK, one of the most competitive and high-level leagues in the world, and has been a finalist there multiple times. Jungler Meteos has won the North American LCS twice and attended worlds multiple times. Ryu, also a veteran of the Korean scene in the pre-LCK days, represented Europe at worlds, making it all the way to the semi-finals. Aphromoo, a famous team leader and shotcaller, led his long-time team Counter Logic Gaming to every single NA LCS playoffs during his tenure on the team, as well as two split victories and a historic international performance by a North American team at the 2016 mid-season invitational. Even Cody Sun, the youngest and least experienced team member, has represented his region on the world stage. These players have been around the block.

Image courtesy of LoL Esports

This experience was undoubtedly important in helping 100 Thieves recover from their mid-split slump. Any new team needs time to gel and work out how they want to play, and players who aren’t new will often have their own ideas about how they want to play the game and how the team should function. As an experienced squad, every member of 100 Thieves will have been in this situation before, understanding the need to maintain mental strength and motivation while maturely working through their issues to shape up in time for playoffs.

It’s fair to ask if 100 Thieves will be able to carry their regular split success forward? Any team is prone to mistakes and failure for any number of reasons, no matter how strong they look. But experience is valuable, and this team will not fall prey to pretty squabbles, nerves, or the standard pitfalls of inexperience.

 

The Rest of the Road

We’ve seen how 100 Thieves got to where they are. But the question before us now is whether they can carry this success forward. The spring quarterfinals were intense and full of surprises, from Team Liquid’s confident sweep of Cloud 9 to the incredible upset pulled off versus TSM by Clutch Gaming, a team that had previously seemed more like a playoffs-stocking-filler than a genuine threat. It is in this chaotic battlefield that 100 Thieves find themselves in as they wait for their semi-finals matchup versus Clutch Gaming. Though the Thieves would appear to be favored in this matchup and have seemingly superior players in the top and AD carry positions, Clutch may also be well poised to take advantages of some of 100 Thieves’ weaknesses.

Clutch Gaming midlaner Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten has been one of the more impressive midlaners in North America this split, and alongside his aggressive and confident jungler Nam “Lira” Tae-yoo, may be just the right person to exploit 100 Thieves’ potentially weaker mid lane, especially with some well-considered bans. However, much of their success in the quarterfinals was predicated on a series of incredible performances on Thresh from support Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent, and if this pick is banned away from him, Clutch Gaming’s botlane may find themselves outclassed by Cody Sun and Aphromoo. Meanwhile, on the other side of the bracket, Echo Fox will undoubtedly have used the time provided by their playoff bye to sort some of the issues seen in their shaky end to the regular season. Their semi-finals opponents Team Liquid look bloodthirsty and motivated to seize their long-awaited first finals win.

Though their trials are far from over in this unpredictable climate, 100 Thieves truly earned their first place finish, and cannot be underestimated. They have the skill, the experience, the flexibility and the shotcalling of a top team. It’s time to see if they can steal not just the first seed, but the split victory and the hearts of the fans.

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A surprise ending to the Spring Split

Week 9 of the League Championship Series came with a lot of hype, and it didn’t disappoint. Possibilities, predictions and guesses were everywhere. While just about every outcome was discussed at some point, some options were quickly brushed aside, and even laughed at. Everyone debated whether CLG had a real shot to make the playoffs, if Cloud9 or Echo Fox would come out ahead, or if Misfits could hold on long enough to continue their season. When the dust settled, two of the most surprising outcomes had occurred. 100 Thieves was the best team in the NA LCS, and H2K was headed to the postseason.

100 Thieves

In their inaugural season, 100 Thieves came out swinging, winning four of their first five games. After losing their next four games in a row, however, they fell off the radar for many people. For some reason, they seemed to stay there despite rebounding to end their season with a 7-1 stretch. With so much talk focusing on the battle for first between Echo Fox and Cloud9, and TSM, Team Liquid and CLG all fighting for playoff spots, 100 Thieves slid under the radar into third place after Week 8.

In Week 9, 100 Thieves dominated Clutch Gaming on Saturday in a 33 minute match. On Sunday, they continued their winning streak by one more. Facing an Echo Fox team that included two subs (Midlaner Tanner “Damonte” Damonte and Support John “Papa Chau” Le), 100 Thieves didn’t hold back. Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook was able to secure Ryze who had been banned against him 11 times during the season, and William “Meteos” Hartman punished the enemy on Zac. They took down Echo Fox to tie them for first place in the NA LCS with a 12-6 record.

Tiebreaker

In the first of four NA LCS tiebreakers, the two went head to head for the second time that day. The action started early, with Meteos (Skarner) invading the enemy’s Top Side Jungle. He caught Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett (Nocturne) at the Red Buff, and they dueled briefly before being joined by both Mid and Top Laners. Ryu, once again on Ryze, took down Dardoch for first blood. Lamonte (Azir) responded with a kill on Meteos, and Ryu eliminated Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon (Shen) before being killed by Lamonte. Both Mid Laners had earned a double kill before 4 minutes had passed.

Damonte played well for Echo Fox as the match continued, but the superior teamwork and experience of 100 Thieves paid off. They had better objective pressure, team fighting and shot calling. More than once they were able to use Realm Warp to catch the enemy off guard. Destroying the Nexus in just under 27 Minutes, 100 Thieves truly looked deserving of the first place spot in the NA LCS.

 

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Courtesy of LoL Esports

H2K

Over in the EU LCS, another team also turned around a dismal early season to find success this weekend. H2K was 1-7 going into Week 5. One of the older and more successful organizations in Europe, they were struggling to make things work. Unable to compete with team after team, they were easily the worst team in the EU LCS.

Desperate to end their losing streak, they made several changes. H2K tried subbing out Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer for Marc “Caedrel” Robert Lamont in the Jungle before finally settling on Ilyas “Shook” Hartsema in Week 5. This move, combined with putting Marcin “Selfie” Wolski in the Mid Lane turned out to be exactly what they needed. Looking like a completely different team, H2K went 6-3 in the back half of the split and put themselves in the position to decide their own fate. If they beat ROCCAT in their last game of the Spring Split, they would earn a spot in the playoffs.

ROCCAT took the lead early on as Shook (Sejuani) and Selfie (Kassadin) overextended to attempt to kill Jin “Blanc” Seong-min (Anivia). Jonas “Memento” Elmarghichi (Skarner) and Kim “Profit” Jun-hyung (Sion) responded quickly, and it resulted in Profit getting First Blood on Shook. This set the tone for the next 30 minutes, and ROCCAT used this early advantage to control objectives. They took six towers, three dragons, and a Baron to earn a 7k gold lead.

The comeback

Though it may have looked like it, H2K was not done yet, and at 30 minutes they used superior positioning to allow Patrik “Sheriff” Jírů (Jinx) to put out impressive damage. He was able to get a double kill, leading to the teams first Baron of the game. They were able to push and take two Towers before repeating the play. Sheriff once again got a double kill in a prolonged team fight, leading to another Baron and the first significant gold lead for H2K.

Despite an Elder Dragon that allowed ROCCAT to get another inhibitor, H2K kept the gold lead for the rest of the match. At 52 minutes were able to use their third Baron buff of the game to crush the enemy Nexus. In one of the most impressive regular season comebacks in recent memory, H2K went from 1-7 to earning themselves a Playoff spot.

Find the rest of my articles here. If you would like to contact me or keep up with things I like, find me on Twitter: @buttsy11. For more of the best esports news, follow The Game Haus on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for reading!

Featured image courtesy of LoL Esports

Cloud9 and Smoothie are doing very well with Alistar

The winningest player-champion combos in the NA LCS

*Presence of champion with specific team – Pick rate of champion with specific team – Win rate of champion with specific team (Presence of champion within the NA LCS – Win rate of champion within the NA LCS)

FOX Dardoch – Zac

Dardoch and Echo Fox have been very successful with Zac

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

80% PRESENCE – 50% PICK – 100% WIN (54% PRESENCE – 77% WIN)*

Since Echo Fox has a 90 percent overall win rate, it is easy to point out strong player-champion combos that exist on this team, but not others. Altec’s Kalista and Fenix’s Cassiopeia are good examples. However, it is clear that Dardoch’s Zac has been the most successful. FOX picked the blob in five of ten games, and teams banned him another three. Dardoch carries a 100 percent win rate, while the LCS holds 77 percent.

Echo Fox generally utilizes Zac to gank the mid and top lanes from fog-of-war, then engage and disrupt teamfights in the mid-late game. Dardoch clearly understands the limits of the champion, often peeling with a sliver of health, only to regenerate using Warmog’s. Even if the power picks of the jungle move away from tanky initiators (Sejuani, Jarvan IV, etc.), Echo Fox and Dardoch will probably keep Zac as a pocket pick.

C9 Smoothie – Alistar

Cloud9 and Smoothie have been very successful with Alistar

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

90% PRESENCE – 50% PICK – 60% WIN (66% PRESENCE – 40% WIN)*

Smoothie has been showing the power of the current support role. Constant engages and peeling, surprise roams and ganks, protecting and enabling carries–these are all characteristics of Cloud9’s support. Alistar seems like the perfect champion for Smoothie, which is why he is virtually pick or ban in Cloud9’s games. Most teams are able to snag Braum or Taric, the highest presence supports, but Smoothie sometimes prioritizes Alistar over them.

Alistar is a popular pick in most metas, because of his repertoire of crowd control and tankiness. In the hands of a team shot-caller, the minotaur can realize its true potential. GorillA, Mata, and Ming are also currently prioritizing Alistar in other regions. Smoothie’s mastery of this champion put Cloud9’s opponents in the difficult position of choosing whether or not to ban him out and give Jensen or Sneaky a power pick. Even if the meta shifts, Alistar will remain a pocket pick, and Smoothie has a diverse pool.

CG Lira – Skarner 

Clutch Gaming and Lira have been very successful with Skarner

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

40% PRESENCE – 30% PICK – 100% WIN (30% PRESENCE – 80% WIN)*

Skarner has spiked in priority in the NA LCS, since Riot introduced patch 8.3. Lira and Clutch Gaming are benefiting more from the champion, with a 100 percent win rate. Skarner’s versatility and powerful displacement potential allow the jungler to hard engage like no other. Globally, Skarner only has a 40 percent presence in professional play, but he has 100 percent presence for North America’s teams.

Clutch has had the most success with multi-initiation compositions, and Lira’s Skarner fits right in. Just like others on this list, Lira is a crucial shot-caller for his team. They rely on him to pull the trigger on plays, which makes Skarner even better than Sejuani, Zac, or Jarvan IV. Clutch has picked up three of its six wins with the pick, so they may suffer if Skarner gets nerfed.

TL Doublelift – Tristana 

Team Liquid and Doublelift have been very successful with Tristana

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

90% PRESENCE – 50% PICK – 60% WIN (66% PRESENCE – 55% WIN)*

While Tristana has been a top three priority AD carry, and rising, Team Liquid prioritizes her for Doublelift even more. They have only had one game in ten without Tristana picked or banned. She allows Doublelift to never truly have a weak point in the game. He can push waves easily, chip away turrets, and utilize Rocket Jump to get closer or farther from his opponents. When paired with Olleh’s top pick, Taric, Doublelift becomes an engage mechanism. He and Olleh work together to threaten stuns and kill pressure in lane.

Doublelift has shown mastery of nearly every marksman. He obviously enjoys high-skill options, like Lucian, but Tristana gives him versatility for his team. Doublelift has the fewest deaths per game and the highest CS per minute, due, in part, to his comfort with Tristana.

100 Cody Sun – Kog’Maw 

100 Thieves and Cody Sun have been very successful with Kog'Maw

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

70% PRESENCE – 30% PICK – 66.7% WIN (60% PRESENCE – 47% WIN)*

Kog’Maw is another marksman champion that has been popular this split. His Rageblade power spike, combined with the safety of the Relic Shield-Fleet Footwork bottom lane strategy, made him a prime option. While other North American AD Carries selected Kog’Maw for one game while he was meta, 100 Thieves locked him in three times. The team coordinated well with Cody Sun on an immobile, squishy champion, as they won two of those three games.

Cody Sun currently has the highest damage per minute and the highest damage share in the NA LCS. Kog’Maw, when played correctly, unlocks this potential. 100 Thieves scored wins against TSM and Team Liquid using this pick, which has allowed them to remain in the top five. With the meta shifting away from Kog’Maw, 100 Thieves have started a downward trend, even locking in a Jinx pick. Hopefully, they can click with other champions.

TSM Bjergsen – Taliyah

TSM and Bjergsen are doing very well with Taliyah

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

60% PRESENCE – 30% PICK – 66.7% WIN (42% PRESENCE – 40% WIN)*

TSM have three of their four wins with Bjergsen on semi-global champions, which is why Taliyah is a preferential choice. Her Weaver’s Wall allows Bjergsen to influence every phase of the game, from early roams to mid-game picks and late-game zoning. Champions like Taliyah put TSM’s steering wheel in Bjergsen’s hands, allowing him to directly control momentum. While TSM is having issues with coordination, it makes sense that they would pick Taliyah in three games, and other teams would ban her in another three.

Most professional mid laners have wide champion pools, rarely locking in the same one several times. With Zoe, Ryze, and Azir being nearly pick or ban for most of the split, NA mid laners go for Galio or a pocket pick if those three are banned out. Expect to see more mid laners picking or banning Taliyah, especially against TSM.

GG Hai – Orianna

Golden Guardians and Hai are doing very well with Orianna

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

40% PRESENCE – 30% PICK – 66.7% WIN (32% PRESENCE – 40% WIN)*

Orianna is to Hai what Taliyah is to Bjergsen. Zoning, shielding, slowing, hasting, stunning, and damaging–Orianna is the whole package. Hai is the central leader for Golden Guardians, so putting so much versatility and control into his hands makes sense. In their only two wins, Golden Guardians drafted Orianna for Hai, after Zoe, Azir, Ryze, and Galio were banned out.

With Lourlo and Contractz taking on initiation duty, and Matt playing more defensive options, Hai’s Orianna brings the necessary damage to stay relevant, while also boosting his teammates’ utility. He can put the ball onto Contractz’s Skarner or Camille for speedier engages. Lourlo’s Gnar or Illaoi can wombo combo with the Shockwave. Deftly can receive a large shield, if it comes to that. No one else in the NA LCS has played Orianna as often, or to as much success. Teams may start to let Hai have the power picks, instead.

credits

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Champion and Player Statistics: Games of Legends

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The Echo Fox Team

Keeping the faith: Echo Fox, Dardoch and the case for second chances

The path of Echo Fox

When Echo Fox joined the NA LCS prior to the 2016 Spring Split, the expectations and excitement were high. Purchasing the spot from Gravity, former NBA Star and actor Rick Fox wasted no time. He invested quickly and heavily in foreign talent, but due to Visa issues among other things, Echo Fox ended their first split in 7th place. By the end of that year, they found themselves facing NRG Esports in a best of five series for the right to stay in the NA LCS. Though they avoided relegation, they ended both 2017 Splits in 8th place. By the start of 2018, they had a completely new roster. Now, sitting atop the NA LCS at 7-1, they have defied critics with a roster full of second chances.

 

Dardoch and Echo Fox

Courtesy of LoL Esports

 

Dardoch

The signing of Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett to yet another team was one of the most talked about stories this preseason. Since signing with AffNity in 2014, he played for no less than nine teams before finally landing with Echo Fox. The year he spent with Team Liquid was his longest stint in one place. During that time he bounced between being a starter, a substitute and a member of their Academy team.  

A mechanically talented player, the cause of his frequent moves was not because of poor performance. Instead, most were due to personal differences with other members of the organizations. Before long, this understandably earned him the reputation of being hard to work with. Other than Team Liquid, each team that signed him found a replacement within six months. He represented Immortals, Counter Logic Gaming and even found his way back into a Team Liquid uniform for a split before being signed by Echo Fox.

Now, it seems that he has figured out whatever issues he had with teams in the past. Dardoch has built a rapport with his team that is not just built on his talent, but also his presence as a teammate. Additionally, he has excelled on the rift with his current team, and is looking more dominant than ever. Adding improved decision-making and pathing to his already impressive mechanics, he leads both the NA and EU LCS junglers by a margin of over 20 assists after only four weeks of play.

 

A common theme

Though he may be the most well known example, Dardoch’s story isn’t exactly unique on the Echo Fox roster.  ADC Johnny “Altec” Ru has played for 11 different teams since 2014, including three stints as a substitute. Support Adrian “Adrian” Ma has worn six different jerseys in the NA LCS. Three of these came last season when he left Phoenix 1 due to internal issues, spent one month with Team Liquid, and then landed with Team Dignitas. Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun spent last year as the mid lane substitute for Gold Coin United. This NA Challenger Series team finished in second place, but failed to secure a promotion to the LCS. Even Top Laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon, who has the most consistent history of the group, has been a member of four teams in three different leagues over the last four years. SKT T1 released Huni after they failed to win the World Championship last year.

Though all well known players, it’s safe to say that not many would pick this roster to lead the NA LCS. Despite their history, however, the team has come together to earn a top spot, tied for first with Cloud9. One possible reason for this is maturity. Dardoch bounced between all of those teams and earned this reputation for being difficult all before his 19th birthday. Fenix is the only member over 20 at the ripe old age of 22. One can hardly blame players for struggling to navigate relationships and team politics perfectly at such a young age. As these players have grown, the sport has grown as well, and each year the infrastructure is improved to help the athletes succeed. In an esport dominated by younger and younger players, there may be something to be said for those who have earned experience and the level head that comes with it.

Echo Fox

Courtesy of LoL Esports

 

Supporting success

Another factor that should not be overlooked is the organization itself. With Fox’s experience in the NBA, three time NBA Champion Jared Jeffries as the new President, and the recent investment by the New York Yankees, Echo Fox approaches player management from a more traditional manner than most epsorts teams. They create an infrastructure that focuses on the development of the members as people as well as players. Along with this, they have a broad range of experience with players of varying egos and personalities.

Though his background is in traditional sports, Rick Fox has jumped into the esports scene with both feet. He is one of the most vocal supporters of not only his team, but esports in general. After their recent victory against Team Liquid, Dardoch referenced this support in a post game interview with LoL Esports. “I mean, it obviously helps a lot just having people in general…just being there to support us every day.” he said, referencing Rick waving from the crowd. “Stratton comes out, Jared Jeffries comes out, our President. And also Rick Fox comes out very often, so, just seeing them at work every day, and also them to show up on the days that matter most helps us a lot.”

Whatever the key ingredient is, it’s clear that it’s working. They have lost only one game this split to the veterans of CLG. Despite many critics’ predictions, they bounced back the next game just as strong as before. If they can keep succeeding, the members of Echo Fox may have finally found a permanent home and lasting success.

 

If you would like to contact me or keep up with things I like, find me on Twitter: @buttsy11.  For more of the best esports news, follow The Game Haus on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for reading!

Featured image courtesy of LoL Esports

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett on their victory over TSM, onstage intensity and words for MikeYeung

“I genuinely feel like I have a long term home here. I really love playing with my teammates.” – Dardoch on Echo Fox

Parqueso – What are the comms like when it gets into these really late game teamfights? How do you keep calm, how do you keep your composure? Especially as the only one who can get into the backline.

Dardoch – “Well I wouldn’t necessarily say I kept composure during the game. *laughs* I was screaming a lot, and I was really intense… Every time I would engage, I was screaming who I was going for. Like, “Kill Bjergsen! Please kill Malzahar, kill Ez!” That kind of stuff. But overall, when everything calms down and we need to talk about strategy, like after the teamfight disperses and we are clearing waves, everyone is really calmed down and we just get the concise plan out.”

Image provided by Riot Games

P – Everyone talks about 100 Thieves showing up and proving to not just be “pretenders,” but what about you guys on EchoFox? People talk about how you seem to have potential, but could easily fall apart. Any response to that?

D – “I wouldn’t say we have solidified ourselves as a top team yet but we are definitely on the right track. And I think if we have a couple more strong performances, we will definitely solidify ourselves as a top team.”

P – Does the memeing and flame from the community or whomever propel you forward or is it just something you want to die off?

D – “It is something I just wish would die off, but really I am numb to that banter already. It’s been going on for so long, but I know what is going on inside my organization and I know how my teammates feel about me, and I’m really happy about how they feel about me and our relationships. So I don’t really care about the public’s wrong perception of me.”

P – You present as a very emotional player, and I’d say a number of LCS pros are – you can just see the passion when they play. How do you use that emotion? And is it something you actually think about, or does it just exist?

D – “It’s 100% natural onstage. My adrenaline pumps so much in these really high intensity games, when it’s almost entirely on me to get the engage – especially in that game when legitimately no one else on the team could engage the fight – every time it goes correctly, my heart is just racing. It’s so fun! It’s really an awesome experience playing onstage.”

Image provided by Riot Games

P – What changes do you expect to happen in the jungle in competitive play going into patch 8.2?

D – “I mean, we are going to see a lot of Nunu bans. That is probably one of the dumbest balance changes I have ever seen come out of Riot games and it is just actually baffling that they haven’t reverted it yet. And I hope that is the quote of this interview, because it is absolutely ridiculous. It is absolutely ridiculous for them to buff Nunu that absurdly. The champion needs a rework. He is just boring. He needs a rework he doesn’t need a buff. I just needed to say my 2 cents on Nunu. But I think most changes are just from lane matchups. Targons gone from adcs, spellthief’s gone from other laners and junglers. We’ll see the most change in [lanes] due to the change in targeted spells changing minion aggro.”

P – Lastly, I’m starting up a segment called Everyone Else is Trash, where I encourage players to engage in some friendly banter with their opponents. Do you have anything fun you’d like to add?

D – “I actually don’t really want to bm, but I could give some words of encouragement to MikeYeung. Just directly to Mike, ‘Mike I think you’re a really good player and I think you have a lot of potential. You’re going to get a lot of hate because you are on TSM and you’re losing. But just keep your head down and keep working. You have really good players around you, and I think you guys will be fine.’”

Wholesome Dardoch provided by Riot Games

 



Thanks for reading! Shoutout to @Dardochlol for being an amazing interviewee. Stay tuned here for more interviews and content! If you’d like to contact me, go ahead and tweet @parkeso. For pictures and stories, follow my Insta @parqueso. If you’re not big into social media, email me at parkesotwo@gmail.com. =)

Fox Dardoch

Dardoch on Free Agency: ‘I didn’t really have many other options’

Echo Fox debuted their revamped roster this past weekend, premiering their veteran-laden lineup as they begin gunning for their organization’s first playoff berth.

Labeled by some as North America’s biggest boom-or-bust team, the new Foxes swept their opening weekend with convincing wins over FlyQuest and Clutch Gaming, comforting Echo Fox fans heading into Week 2. And with games against Cloud9 (2-0) and TSM (2-0) on the docket, this team will certainly have a chance to prove themselves again this weekend.

Anyways, following their opening victory, we had the opportunity to sit down with Echo Fox jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett.

First off, congratulations on your first win. What do you feel made it such a one-sided victory?

“First, our coach Inero and our assistant coach Thinkcard set us up with a really great draft. And everyone felt really confident going into the game, so that definitely helped us play well. Other than that, I think FlyQuest just kinda let us play to our team comp’s win condition and they didn’t really contest us in places they needed to so we just kinda got to do what we wanted to do, and we won.”

What were your thoughts on AnDa’s debut?

“It’s kind of hard to tell because they were pretty outclassed as a team it seemed, so not much to gain from it. I don’t know yet.”

Dardoch fans

Echo Fox is Dardoch’s fourth team since the beginning of 2017. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

So you picked Echo Fox this offseason, why them over other teams?

“For me personally, I didn’t really have many other options. So, I signed with Echo Fox only knowing Fenix was on the roster and I just kinda trusted them. With the names that they gave me and the options that we had, I felt pretty comfortable signing, so I just did.”

Have you noticed a difference in Huni since his time on SK Telecom?

“Well, he’s definitely a lot better than he was previously. Even though he was already an overwhelming individual player on Immortals. After his year on SKT, he just became a lot more composed and he’s actually a very good leader.”

In terms of your character, do you feel like you have something to prove to people outside of your team?
fox dardoch

Despite his talent, his behavior as a teammate has always been called into question. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

“I don’t feel like I have anything to prove to anyone outside of my organization but I know if I act the way I act my teammates will speak the truth about me. And eventually the word will get out that I’m not this toxic entity.”

No doubt in this team’s talent. You’ve got Huni, yourself and you’ve all played in LCS for quite some time. What do you feel like you guys need to do to unseat the favorites like TSM or TL?

“I think all we need to do is keep practicing as hard as we do and keep the communication line flowing. I think we’re a really creative bunch who aren’t scared to make plays, so I think we can easily dethrone TSM, TL, whoever the top teams will be by the end of the season if we keep our practice up.”

 

Featured image: Riot Games

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Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Coach Inero addresses Echo Fox’s off-season and Spring Split expectations

LCS fans and analysts are having difficulty placing Echo Fox in their power rankings following the off-season in North America. Many outlets hesitate to place FOX high on their list, citing reasons like “asking [these] players to work together…raises a lot of questions,” “we just don’t see them having good synergy,” “somebody needs to step up and keep the team together when the going gets tough,” and “negative feelings about this organization.” No one is denying the potential prowess of Huni, Dardoch, Fenix, Altec or Adrian. Everyone is unsure of their abilities to cooperate, or that Echo Fox is the organization to manage them.

On Tuesday, January 16, Echo Fox hosted a Roster Day “to familiarize professionals…with those involved in Echo Fox.” The organization invited journalists and other media to interview members of the FOX family, including players, coaches and executives. Many of these interviews involved asking questions about Dardoch’s past issues and public perception. However, every member interviewed downplayed any current negativity, and promoted him as reformed.

Strangely enough, no one has mentioned Echo Fox’s coach, Nick “Inero” Smith, who has been with the organization since May 2017. He coached the LCS team to an eighth place finish last Summer Split, and oversaw team construction in the off-season. It will be his responsibility to weave FOX’s team members together in 2018. Here are his thoughts on the off-season and Spring Split of NA LCS.

Inero is the head coach for Echo Fox in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

the Off-season

Question: What was Echo Fox’s philosophy for building a roster in the off-season?

“Going into the off-season, our plan for the LCS was to create as competitive a roster as possible. Alongside this, we wanted that roster to be young and committed to us for the long-term. Making sure those players that were all committed to the same goal of being a top team was extremely important, and we believe we’ve acquired the best five possible for this. For academy, we took a similar approach but pulled players from our own scouting boot camps.”

Question: Echo Fox brought on an entirely new roster for 2018. How much of that change came from Echo Fox scrapping everything and starting fresh, versus the previous players deciding to find other options? 

“Our main objective was to have a roster that all were aligned towards the same goal, while also being as competitive as possible. We didn’t go into the off-season wanting to completely redo the entire roster, but when rosters begin moving it happens very quickly and we must be completely certain that all the players we sign are ready and willing to commit to those same goals.”

Inero is the head coach of Echo Fox for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Coach Inero stressed that Echo Fox’s main objectives for roster-building in the off-season were competition and alignment. He wants players that will be able to play at the top level of League of Legends. He also wants players that can come together and build their synergy around wanting to succeed. Fans will look at Echo Fox’s roster for Spring Split and see all competitive players. None of them are talentless. And the big synergy question comes down to hunger for victory. Inero is betting that ferocity will bring these individuals together into a functional unit.

The Spring Split

Question: How do you plan on managing the dominant personalities joining Echo Fox, in-game and out-of-game?

“I don’t think the personalities on this roster are as dominating or conflicting as people make them out to be. Public perception of the players on our LCS roster is overall pretty negative, but it mainly comes from people who have never worked or interacted with them before. Having five players that all want the same thing makes everyone’s lives a lot easier, and everyone is extremely cooperative with one another. For the coaching staff, this means we can all focus on becoming NA LCS champions, rather than trying to motivate the players to want the same thing.”

Question: With that in mind, what are your expectations for your LCS and Academy rosters in Spring Split? 

“I have really high expectations for our LCS roster over the course of this year, but as a step-goal for the Spring Split, we’d like to bring the organization to the playoffs for the first time in their history. Every other team under Echo Fox is performing at the top of their league, and it’s time for us to do the same. I fully expect that we’ll go further than just reaching the playoffs, but also reaching playoffs is a decent start. For academy, it’s tough to say, with every academy team taking different approaches to the league, but I have full confidence in all five players and Peter to be in the top half of their league as well.”

Dardoch and Adrian join Echo Fox in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Just like Dardoch and other team members denied any clashing of personalities, Coach Inero assuages the community’s fears. This is powerful, coming from the coach who oversees everything. Inero describes FOX’s roster as “cooperative,” not something you will find in any power rankings. He believes Echo Fox can realistically make playoffs for the first time since its induction to the LCS. This would be a landmark win for the organization, and it would prove doubters wrong.

With the return of best-of-ones and new organizations entering the LCS, it is impossible to predict this split. But if Echo Fox is able to become a contender in the NA LCS, then Inero should be given credit. There has been so much dissent towards Echo Fox in the past, and towards the current roster in the off-season. If Inero is able to align these players, then he should earn massive props from the community.

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Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

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Is Echo Fox the biggest sleeper team?

It’s no doubt that when Echo Fox’s roster was announced, the biggest critique would be their clash of personalities. Echo Fox gutted their roster from last split in favor of bringing in young talented players among the scene. Just about every player was known as a rising young star at some point before failing to ever meet their potential.

With these questions being raised, many are ranking Echo Fox in the lower half of pre-season power rankings. The team seemed to have built off raw talent without regards to the problems that could arise.

Echo Fox has a lot of synergy questions to answer heading into the split. While this team on paper has a lot of talent, egos could clash if the team doesn’t perform well early.

New Year, New Dardoch?

Jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett alone is already on his fourth team in his young career. Fans were given an inside look into the life of Team Liquid in the HTC documentary, “Breaking Point,” where Dardoch was at the center of many clashes with teammates and coaching staff.

Last year Immortals granted Dardoch a three year contract, but Dardoch didn’t even last his entire first year before being transferred. In his departure video, it could be seen that Dardoch hadn’t changed much from his Team Liquid days. He was shown still clashing with teammates and coaching staff and Immortals traded him to Counter Logic Gaming after the Spring Split.

With CLG, not much was known to fans about why Dardoch would eventually be replaced. He felt betrayed when the team brought in Omar “Omargod” Amin to split scrims with him. After Omargod was brought in Dardoch felt the need to leave the team and would eventually be transferred back to Team Liquid.

Dardoch has a new chance with Echo Fox to prove that he has matured and can succeed in this league. This may be his last chance as many teams may not be willing to give him another chance if he can’t fix his attitude issues.

Adrian and Altec Stay Together

Photo by: Riot Esports

Echo Fox’s bot lane duo of Johnny “Altec” Ru and Adrian “Adrian” Ma come over after a brief stint on Dignitas. With Dignitas, they instantly made the team better as Dignitas was able to upset Cloud 9 in the first round of playoffs before losing to TSM in the next round. Altec and Adrian were a large part of Dignitas’ improvement.

On Echo Fox, they’ll have the benefit of having played together before. Adrian has had attitude issues on other teams as well. Most recently, on Phoenix1, he was quick to point out Inori’s flaws in an interview. This would eventually lead to Adrian being transferred off of Phoenix1.

Both Altec and Adrian were heralded as rising young stars early in their careers. Neither of them have been able to qualify for a world championship, despite being on some talented rosters. The added synergy from playing together will definitely help in developing Echo Fox’s synergy.

Huni’s Return

The biggest acquisition for this team might be in the top lane with former SKT top laner, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon. Huni had the experience of playing in the most competitive region in the world last year. He failed to win the World Championship with SKT, but his mechanical skill was still seen through his play.

When he played in EU and NA many critiqued his inability to play tank champions. With SKT, he showed the ability to play both tanks and carry champions. He’s always had a positive and fun attitude towards the game in interviews. He gives a bright and positive attitude to a roster that may need it.

Many will remember his great regular season performances in North America the last time he was here with Immortals. If he can duplicate that same success, Echo Fox could be surprise contenders at the end of the split.

With nobody really talking about them at the moment, Echo Fox has the chance to finally have a successful split in the LCS with this new roster.

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