While the Esports industry is very young, franchising has allowed for it to mature much faster than its traditional sports counterpart. With franchising coming into play there are many different groups and people buying in, and these entities want esports teams in their cities.
This means that many fans will start to want to see their teams in person and thus esports arenas are the next step, you can check out why that is here.
The teams in League of Legends have not officially stated what cities they will be based in, so some of this is a bit of guessing as either they were founded in these cities or have major investments from them.
Now here is a list of US/NA cities that already have multiple teams in them:
Boston Uprising (Overwatch League)
Celtics Crossover Gaming (NBA2k)
100 Thieves (League of Legends)
Cavs Legion (NBA2k)
Dallas Fuel (Overwatch League)
Mavs Gaming (NBA2k)
Clutch City (League of Legends)
Houston Outlaws (Overwatch League)
OpTic Gaming (League of Legends)
LA Gladiators (Overwatch League)
LA Valiant (Overwatch League)
The Overwatch League
Florida Mayhem (Overwatch League)
Heat Check Gaming (NBA2k)
Bucks Gaming (NBA2k)
FlyQuest (League of Legends)
Counter Logic Gaming (League of Legends)
Echo Fox (League of Legends)
Knicks Gaming (NBA2k)
New York Excelsior (Overwatch League)
Oakland/San Francisco Bay Area:
Golden State Guardians (League of Legends)
San Francisco Shock (Overwatch League)
Warriors Gaming Squad (NBA2k)
76ers GC (NBA2k)
Philadelphia Fusion (Overwatch League)
Raptors Uprising GC (NBA2k)
Team Solo Mid (League of Legends)
We will make sure to continue updating this list as more esports franchise, more teams commit to cities, and more teams join the already franchised leagues. An EU and Asia list will come out once a couple other franchising esports leagues finalize.
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After Rise Nation’s dominating victory in CWL Atlanta, they’ve been having a hard time finding the tempo in their games. In CWL Birmingham, they finished 3rd. In the finals of Stage 1, they finished 7th. It took two times for them to get shut out of first for the team to decide that a roster change was necessary. TJHaly, Gunless and Loony all decided to make the switch from Methodz to Team Envy’s SlasheR and it made all the difference.
Rise Nation’s tough start
In the pool play section of the tournament, Rise Nation was tenderized. They only managed to secure a win over Tainted Minds. This landed them in fourth place and would force them to make a run through the loser’s bracket.
Image courtesy of Dexerto
In the loser’s bracket run, Rise Nation was unstoppable. They took out Heretics, compLexity, Team Envy(SlasheR’s old team), Luminosity(CWL Birmingham champions), Ghost Gaming, Echo Fox and eUnited. This was an outstanding series of games to watch and it landed them a spot right in front of the unstoppable Evil Geniuses who had just beaten eUnited for their spot in the Grand Finals.
Rise Nation recently made the switch for SlasheR in favor of their old player Methodz. Many players on Twitter speculated that SlasheR was easily one of the best in the business at the moment, and Rise Nation decided to heed that call. Though the start of the series was tough to watch, it was fun, however, to see TJHaly and his squad start to heat up and find their momentum.
Evil Geniuses Vs. Rise Nation
Evil Geniuses started off the series with a lot of bite. They ripped into Rise Nation in the opening match of Hardpoint at Saint Marie Du Monte and won by over 100 points.
However, Rise Nation was not to be sat down so easily. The next series of games was all Rise Nation. On London Docks, playing Search and Destroy, EG started out strong, pulling an early 5-2 lead. Rise Nation shut that down quickly, clutching the win out at 6-5. Flak Tower Capture the Flag was another game that was just barely in favor of Rise Nation. They only managed to secure the win by one point. With the newfound momentum, Rise overtook EG on Valkyrie Hardpoint 250-176, which reset the bracket and forced the second best-of-five series.
The rest of the series was a shut out in favor of Rise. They won the first Hardpoint on Ardennes Forest by 85 points. The next S&D on Valkyrie was an absolutely dominating victory for Rise-EG only won a single round. And to finish off the series, Rise Nation obliterated EG on Flak Tower CTF with a commanding victory of 7-0; this was on the map that, not an hour before, Rise had barely won by just one point. Now, they were walking out with an obvious victory.
Peirce “Gunless” Hillman named ASTRO Gaming MVP
This isn’t the first time that Gunless has walked away from a CWL tournament having been named MVP. In 2017 in CWL Atlanta, he was named MVP when he played with eUnited and defeated OpTic Gaming in the Grand Finals.
This is the second Victory for Rise Nation in the course of two months. With one of the most dominating and successful rosters in the league, it’s exciting to see what they will accomplish next. Stage 2 will, hopefully, turn out more successful than their ending in Stage 1.
Echo Fox decimated Clutch Gaming in their third place match of the NA LCS Spring Split playoffs. Their top-side trio of Huni-Dardoch-Fenix took over every single game, leaving both bottom lanes to their own devices. Such inactive bottom lanes are very different from the other games of quarterfinals and semifinals.
Quarters and Semis
Looking at Team Liquid’s victories over Cloud9, Doublelift and Olleh accounted for roughly 73 percent kill participation. Sneaky was involved in 86 percent of Cloud9’s kills. In the TSM-Clutch series, Zven and Mithy combined for an 8-27-23 scoreline (1.15 KDA) versus Apollo and Hakuho’s 20-7-48 (9.71 KDA). When Echo Fox lost to Team Liquid and Clutch lost to 100 Thieves in semifinals, Doublelift and Cody Sun won Player of the Series, with Doublelift specifically dominating TL’s series. Altec and Adrian combined for a 1.31 KDA in that series.
Third place match
Compare those matches to the third place match. Altec only participated in 36 percent of Echo Fox’s kills. Even as support, Adrian was only involved in 51 percent. FOX barely used their bottom lane to take the 3-0 over Clutch Gaming, turning the “bot-centric meta” on its head.
Image from LoL Esports Flickr
When asked about preparing to face Apollo and Hakuho leading into the third place match, Altec responded “I was not afraid of Clutch’s 2-v-2. Sure, Hakuho has looked good on Thresh, but Adrian and I have unique picks of our own that we can pull out whenever we need to. We practiced a lot in scrims, but we didn’t prepare anything special for this series.”
Altec and Adrian played fine. They didn’t need to do more than keep Apollo and Hakuho glued to bottom lane by constantly pushing. Echo Fox only banned Thresh once, but Clutch drafted Tahm Kench and Braum for Hakuho, while Apollo’s Caitlyn and Varus failed to earn any early pressure. Adrian’s Nami was crucial in disengaging any roams and ganks from Febiven and Lira, keeping Altec safe.
Fenix, Dardoch, and Huni’s spectacular play won this series. With their snowballs rolling, Altec and Adrian simply needed to play safe, which they accomplished. Clutch’s bottom lane was unable to gain leads for themselves, and they watched the rest of their team crumbled.
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.
Image from LoL Esports Flickr
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.
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.
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.
The NA LCS spring 2018 playoffs transitioned into the semifinals over the weekend, and boy howdy was it a treat for League of Legends fans. While the quarterfinals were a light simmer, the semifinals proved to be a boiling pot of tasty action and strategy that satisfied my palate and left me wanting more.
Bloodthirsty would be the word to describe the first match of the semifinals, as both Team Liquid and Echo Fox put the pedal to the metal. Each game featured non-stop skirmishing and multiple back-and-forth kills that made it extremely fun to watch. Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and Jake “Xmithie” Puchero playing Trundle and Olaf meant that the early game was a lot faster paced and a guaranteed presence whenever a fight were to break out. These picks also enabled the respective top lane players, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, to play big tanks for continuous playmaking and sustained team fighting.
What really impressed me in this series was Team Liquid’s ability turn around multiple fights and ganks that Echo Fox initiated. Xmithie’s ability to control the map mixed well with Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung’s roaming initiations to make it almost impossible for Echo Fox to establish any permanent foothold in the game. What has been so refreshing to see out of this Team Liquid squad is that they operate like a well-oiled machine, showing patience and strategy in the face of bloody, tit-for-tat games. It seems like nothing is able to phase them regardless of how chaotic a situation becomes. Conversely, Echo Fox’s play, while very ambitious, lacked some coordination.
Many of Echo Fox’s plays centered on Dardoch and/or Huni leading the charge through engages that would net quick advantages. Unfortunately, their plays sometimes ended as duds due to a lack of coordination with their mid laner, Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun.
At the end of it all, the battle was won. With a 3-1 victory for Team Liquid, the team was the first to advance to the final match.
Slow and steady wins the race
For those that put strategy and Baron control ahead of non-stop brawls, the match between 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming is right up your alley. Unlike the previous match, this one contained a heavy emphasis on strategy and controlling the area around Baron. On the side of 100 Thieves, top laner, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, and jungler, William “Meteos” Hartman, seemed to be perfectly in-sync as they helped control a slow and steady pace. Meanwhile, Clutch Gaming’s Nam “Lira” Tae-yoo and Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten looked to speed things up through snowballing picks.
While this match was a bit different than the other matches of the spring playoffs, the slower pacing was a welcome change of scenery. The cerebral side of League of Legends has sometimes been overshadowed by the glitz and glamour of big plays and high octane team fighting, so seeing more of how a team behaves as a strategic unit was an interesting experience.
Probably the biggest focus of this match was the play around Baron, and both 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming did not take the threat of it lightly. While most teams would immediately leap at the chance of taking Baron, 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming held firm and waited for their opportune moment. Clutch especially showed a lot of tenacity, as they would constantly turn off Baron to try and gain a more favorable numbers advantage in the ensuing fight.
While this sometimes didn’t work out as well as they would have hoped, it was definitely a clever way of trying to force 100 Thieves to panic and potentially make a mistake. The play in this series was often reminiscent of a soccer match in this regard. Both teams would constantly jockey for proper positioning and strike only when it was appropriate to do so. The constant trading of damage made Baron takes tense affairs with no clear outcome until the final second that it was secured.
If you are strapped for time and are looking to only watch one game in this marathon series, I would suggest Game 5. The play in Game 5 was methodical to a fault. There are definitely moments in this particular game where you can feel the weight of the situation. No one dared overstep and throw away their chance at the finals. Every move was well reserved and made with the utmost caution.
The tension was palpable with each passing second whenever the two teams began to circle around the Baron pit. Due to the unkillable nature of the two frontlines, these Baron moments became staring contests with everyone waiting to see who would blink first. While all the tank play and the regeneration from Warmog’s Armor seemed a bit overwhelming (not to mention annoying at times), it was worth it to see 100 Thieves find their finishing blow and close out the extremely tense game for a spot at the spring finals.
With the semifinals completed, we now know who will be competing in the finals in Miami. Through all the spills, chills and thrills of the playoffs so far, both Team Liquid and 100 Thieves have undoubtedly proven their worth for a title shot. The question will, of course, be who will come out on top? Team Liquid and 100 Thieves have both displayed a good amount of strategic patience in their playoff victories, so it will no doubt come down to who is able to more effectively execute their game plan. It will all come to a head this Sunday, so be sure your schedule is clear so you can catch all the action.
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.
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.
In the final games of the 2018 Spring Split, two of the top teams decided to field substitutes instead of their starters. Echo Fox and Fnatic each brought in some fresh faces to get some experience. As it turned out, their results were quite different.
Bringing in substitutes at the end of a season isn’t unprecedented. It is often a great way to get young players some stage experience in preparation for them to take a leading role in the future. Despite this, there were still those who wondered if something had happened with veteran Paul “sOAZ” Boyer when it was announced that Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau was starting against the Unicorns of Love in Week 8. In fact, sOAZ had been splitting time with Bwipo and mentoring him during scrims all season.
Bwipo (Courtesy of LoL Esports)
Game 1 – Unicorns of Love
Though Bwipo had proven himself to the team as a mechanically skilled player, most of the questions were focused on experience. Could this young player not only handle the pressure of the stage, but also help a team succeed that is so used to sOAZ in their top lane? Fnatic had picked the perfect time to answer that question. Facing eventual last place finishers UoL, Bwipo could gain LCS experience in one of the easiest possible games. He got to lane against Matti “WhiteKnight” Sormunen, who was one of the worst Top Laners of the split. On top of this, he was able to secure one of his most comfortable pics in Sion.
On a team like Fnatic, it would have been easy to sit back and farm while Martin “Rekkles” Larsson or Rasmus “Caps” Winther carried the team. Bwipo was not looking for a passive first game, however. With the help of Caps and Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen, got first blood on Whiteknight before 7 minutes. Careful not to let this go to his head, Bwipo kept his wits about him. He helped secure the victory for Fnatic by contributing 8 assists and 300 CS over the course of the game without dying once. Five of these assists came in the final seconds of the game. He used Unstoppable Onslaught to charge under the enemy inhibitor tower, securing a Double Kill for Rekkles. Without hesitating, he acted as a threatening front line as Fnatic walked in and took down the enemy Nexus. Fnatic locked in their first place spot in the EU LCS with this victory, and as the players circled up immediately afterwards, they chanted “1-2-3-Bwipo!” in celebration.
Game 2- Giants Gaming
In the first game of Week 9, Bwipo once again joined the rest of Fnatic on stage against Giants Gaming. Having already secured their first place spot, there was even less pressure than the week before. Initially selecting Sion once again, the enemy’s picks caused Bwipo to go with Swain instead, moving Sion down to the Mid Lane for Caps. He started off a bit slower this game, but began to shine with a Double kill during a Team Fight after securing Baron. He earned another Double Kill later in the game, Flashing behind the enemy Inhibitor Turret and eliminating Kim “Ruin” Hyeong-min and Pierre “Steeelback” Medjaldi. It took a few more Team Fights to close out the game, but it was another decisive victory. Despite lacking experience, Bwipo did what he needed to for the team, and the rest of Fnatic was able to adjust to get the job done.
Over in the NA LCS, Echo Fox also brought in some substitutes, but to much different results. They chose to start two of their Academy team players, Tanner “Damonte” Damonte in the Mid Lane and John “Papa Chau” Le as their Support. Just like Fnatic, they were not replacements due to any problems or illnesses. Rather it was to get two exceptional academy players some experience on the LCS stage. Facing 5-11 FlyQuest in their first Week 9 match was a great opportunity for this, and the two substitutes did not disappoint.
Game 1 – FlyQuest
After an uneventful early game, PapaChau (Alistar) roamed up to the Mid Lane at 15 minutes. He flashed in to take Fly (Karma) by surprise, and used Pulverize to allow Damonte to secure First Blood on Cassiopeia. From there, Echo Fox looked like they had for much of the season. Though the game stayed close, they utilized superior team fighting and map awareness to close out a 40 minute game. Damonte finished 3/1/9, and PapaChau consistently found the right engages to give them the edge in Team Fights.
Unfortunately for Echo Fox, the rest of the weekend did not go as smoothly. Up against a 100 Thieves team that was not only significantly stronger than FlyQuest, but rivaling Echo Fox for first place, they decided to keep Damonte and PapaChau in the starting lineup.
PapaChau (Courtesy of LoL Esports
Game 2 – 100 Thieves
In a back and forth, nearly hour long game, the teams looked fairly even. Damonte did well to hold his own in the Mid Lane against the experienced Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook, and PapaChau helped Johnny “Altec” Ru get the edge in the Bottom Lane. As often happens in such long games, it all came down to one team fight.
At the right moment, 100 Thieves used their experience to make sure it went their way. Initially backing away from a fight in the Echo Fox base, four members baited the enemy out just far enough. As Echo Fox chased, they seemed to lose track of William “Meteos” Hartman (Zac). He had stayed in the base, and moved towards the top lane rather than down the Mid Lane. Using Elastic Slingshot, he dove into the middle of the enemy team. With PapaChau’s (Morgana) Black Shield already on Altec, 100 Thieves were able to take out Damonte (Azir) and Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon (Gnar). With Death Timers being so long at this point in the game, the remaining three members of Echo Fox were unable to hold on. 100 Thieves moved in for the victory, and with it, forced a tiebreaker with Echo Fox for first place.
Despite the first place spot being on the line, Echo Fox decided to stay with Damonte and PapaChau as they loaded in for the tiebreaker game. Damonte once again chose Azir, and they secured the Alistar that brought PapaChau success against FlyQuest earlier in the day.
Game 3 – 100 Thieves
In one of the most exciting games of the Split, both teams really showed how much they wanted the title. With seven total kills already recorded by 15 minutes, Echo Fox chose to start a team fight in their own jungle, but bit off a little more than they could chew. Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett (Nocturne) and PapaChau (Alistar) engaged on Cody “Cody Sun” Sun (Jhin). In response, Cody Sun flashed over the wall into the empty Baron Pit. From safety, he used Curtain Call to disrupt the enemy team. This allowed Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook (Ryze) to get off some impressive damage, and 100 Thieves got two kills in the Jungle.
The remaining members of Echo Fox tried to run, and Damonte used Emperor’s Divide to seal off their escape. Without missing a beat, Ryu used Realm Warp followed by a flash over the wall to catch them in the Top Lane, and the team secured two more kills. 100 Thieves tasted blood, and didn’t let up. They kept the pressure on, taking Baron and used the buff to push for the victory, and with it, the first place title in the Spring Split.
Losing first place
Although it of course had an impact, it would be unfair to put much the loss on the two substitutes. They played very well mechanically over the three games, and had respectable stats. In the bigger picture though, that was not enough. Against a team playing as well as 100 Thieves had been for the past several weeks, Echo Fox needed every advantage that they could get, and by mixing up their lineup, they sacrificed something.
Mechanics, CS, and KDA are all important, but it’s not always enough. Late in the game, experience, cohesion, and teamwork are needed in those big team fights in order to come out ahead. It is unrealistic to expect a team with two new players, no matter how skilled, to work together as smoothly as a team that has been playing together for over two months. Both PapaChau and Damonte had very good showings in their first taste of the LCS. However, the decision to start them in the tiebreaker game may have cost Echo Fox first place.
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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.
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.
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.
Courtesy of LoL Esports
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.
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.
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The inaugural North American Academy League finished its first split last night. Nine weeks of competition ended with Team Liquid in first place, followed by Cloud9, FlyQuest, and Echo Fox. These four teams move on to the playoff stage of the Spring Split to battle for bragging rights.
The final week of the Spring Split shook up the standings quite a bit. Coming out of week eight, Cloud9 and FlyQuest were tied for first. Team Liquid followed in third with Echo Fox fourth. CLG sat fifth, while 100 Thieves and TSM tied for sixth. Clutch and OpTic tied for eighth, and Golden Guardians rounded out the league in tenth.
Image from Leaguepedia
C9 and FLY faced off on day one of week nine, which would determine who would solely hold first place. C9’s “bouncy house” composition finally came through, despite FLY’s accrued gold lead. FLY’s 8,000 gold lead crumbled quickly after C9’s Baron call around 38 minutes. Two major team fights, and C9 took the Nexus, as well as first place. The rest of Thursday’s matches went to the expected victors (Liquid, Clutch, FOX, and CLG).
Team Liquid took their shot at Cloud9 on Friday, hoping to challenge the top spot. V1PER’s snowballing top lane Olaf went berserk, finishing 9-3-4 with the most gold in the game. With the win, Team Liquid tied for first, which would later force a tiebreaker.
The following match, Clutch versus 100 Thieves, was another crucial head-to-head between tied teams. These two, along with TSM, sat tangled in sixth with a 7-10 record. The match remained relatively even through 23 minutes, but a big Baron take for Clutch blew it wide open. Piglet’s Twitch finished 8-1-3. Linsanity’s Ryze went 0-5-2. The loss bumped 100 Thieves out of sixth.
Image from Leaguepedia
Echo Fox defended their playoff spot by upsetting FlyQuest in Friday’s showdown. Three early kills to FOX’s carries set them up for an easy snowball. Damonte’s Anivia, OddOrange’s Sejuani, and Allorim’s Sion combined for an incredible amount of crowd control, which FLY was unable to overcome. Erry’s Jinx never came online, and FOX closed out the game with only a single tower lost. This victory solidified FOX’s fourth place finish, as well as FLY’s third place finish.
To finish out the day, Liquid and Cloud9 rematched to tiebreak first place. Risky Riven and Kog’Maw picks put a lot of pressure on TL throughout the mid-game. C9 racked up a 4,200 gold lead by 19 minutes, winning skirmishes around Goldenglue’s Ryze. However, like the rest of the matches, TL’s Baron capture and teamfight win put them back in the saddle. C9 looked shaken, as V1PER’s Riven and Mickey’s Swain broke the team up and pushed them back. Liquid ended just under 37 minutes with nearly 10,000 gold over Cloud9.
Unlike the LCS, only four teams enter playoffs in the Academy League. The semifinals consists of Team Liquid versus Echo Fox, and Cloud9 versus FlyQuest. These teams will play a best-of-five to see who moves onto the finals. Team Liquid beat Echo Fox in both of their regular season face-offs, while Cloud9 and FlyQuest went 1-1.
Team Liquid v. Echo Fox
Image from Leaguepedia
Team Liquid seems the most explosive team in the league. They average .76 combined kills per minute, more than any other team, while Echo Fox averages .57, third lowest. Look for Joey and Hard to force plays, while Damonte and Lost do their best to carry. Mickey does some of the highest damage in the league, so FOX should do all they can to hold him down. According to Oracles Elixir, Echo Fox has the stronger early game, while Team Liquid have the superior mid-late game.
V1PER played 14 of 17 games on carries, such as Riven, Camille, and Yasuo, while Allorim played almost exclusively tanks, like Sion, Ornn, and Maokai. Mickey’s champion pool has been all over the place, while Damonte has mostly drafted Cassiopeia and Ryze over the second half of the split. TL and FOX’s AD carry position is probably the most unbalanced. Lost consistently outputs more damage, more kill participation, and higher KDAs than Shoryu. He is also unafraid to draft Ezreal or Kog’Maw, where Shoryu leans on Tristana and Xayah much more. This offset could be exploited over a series.
Cloud9 v. FlyQuest
Image from Leaguepedia
FLY and C9 will be a much closer match-up, on paper. Their team-wide statistics generally line up, with FlyQuest looking slightly better overall. Baron and Elder Drake control are their widest gaps. C9 only takes 54 percent of Barons, while FLY takes 72 percent. On the flip-side, FLY takes 33 percent of Elder Drakes, while C9 has taken 100 percent. These trends could result in divisive games.
Keith topped the Academy League in virtually every stat. He has the highest KDA, kill participation and damage per minute, while also maintaining the lowest death share. Zeyzal and he will most likely win Cloud9 the series, matching up against Erry and JayJ. However, Keane and Shrimp will get things going early, maintaining some of the highest First Blood and kill participation rates of any jungle-mid duo. Shiro appears to be C9’s weakest member, and his reliance on Gnar could get exploited.
The rest of the league
The other teams enter the off-season for a much needed break. CLG finished fifth, only one win from fourth place. TSM and Clutch tied for sixth with 8-10 records. 100 Thieves kept eighth for themselves, while OpTic concluded their season ninth. Golden Guardians bottomed out the league at 2-16.
Without the immediate fear of relegation or promotion tournament, it is difficult to predict what this mid-season may be like. The Academy League is supposed to center around developing rising talent, so losing is not necessarily cause for change. Team pride will most likely win out, resulting in plenty of recruitment for fresh new talent. A few players may even get scouted for low-level LCS teams.
Golden Guardians and OpTic Gaming should probably make sweeping change with their rosters, as their Academy and LCS squads failed to really pull together. Xpecial, Hai, Contractz and PowerOfEvil are probably the most safe candidates for rebuilding around, but anyone is fair game at this point. Coaches and support staff may also be considered for replacement. These new organizations most likely learned a lot in their first Spring Split, which they will utilize in off-season decision-making.
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There is only one week remaining in the North American League Championship Series, and the postseason is taking shape. After Week 8, there are four teams that have secured a place in the playoffs, three teams that are officially eliminated and three that are still fighting for the chance to go to the finals. Each team only has two games left to solidify their final standing in the spring split.
Echo Fox took off running Week 1, and though they may have stumbled a few times, they hardly slowed down. Even with two losses last week, they are still tied for first place with 11 wins and 5 losses. Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon has returned from Korea to dominate the top lane, and the new roster has been dominating the rift.
Perhaps most surprisingly, Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett appears to have finally found a team that is a good fit. He has spent the last few years bouncing from team to team every few months, and many thought that this would just be another short stop for him before he moved on to another team, or left the pro scene altogether. Instead, he has been playing better than ever, and it seems that for the first time in his career he is connecting just as well with his team off the rift. They are in the position to secure first place as long as they win both of their Week 9 games.
Echo Fox (Courtesy of LoL Esports)
Currently tied with Echo Fox for first place is Cloud9. Though they have not ever won an NA LCS split, they also have never failed to make it to Worlds. Additionally, they have been the only North American team to make it past the group stage in the last two World Championships. They have several experienced players, including Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi who most consider to be the best ADC in the league. However, their rookie Top Laner Eric “Licorice” Ritchie has also been getting a lot of attention. He has held his own against some of the most experienced Top Laners in the West, and his lane control has been a key part of many of their victories.
Clutch Gaming & 100 Thieves
The other two teams to have secured a playoff spot this week are Clutch Gaming and 100 Thieves, but they have a lot more in common than just that. Both new to the NA LCS this year, they each rebounded from a rough start to make it into the postseason. Clutch Gaming and 100 Thieves are backed by the Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers, respectively. Additionally, both have relied on a mix of veteran LCS talent and fresh skill to succeed this season. Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black and the rest of 100 Thieves will take on Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten and Clutch Gaming in the first game of Week 9 to decide their final rankings.
On the other side, this week’s games also saw three teams eliminated from the possibility of extending their seasons.
Last year, FlyQuest finished their first split in 4th place, exceeding the expectations of most. This year has been a different story, and the changes made by the rest of the league outpaced their own. Many people thought it was an improvement when they chose Jason “WildTurtle” Tran to replace Johnny “Altec” Ru last year. Now, Altec is on Echo Fox, tied for first, and FlyQuest is figuring out how to improve before the Summer Split arrives.
The other two teams that are officially out of playoff contention are both brand new to the league. OpTic Gaming is an established esports brand that has just branched out into League of Legends. With a team full of veterans such as Noh “Arrow” Dong-hyeon, Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage, and Daerek “LemonNation” Hart, expectations were high. There were some impressive individual performances that looked promising at times. However, they never really played up to their potential as a team, and it resulted in their current 4-12 record.
OpTic Gaming (Courtesy of LoL Esports)
The Golden Guardians
The Golden Guardians are a new team backed by the Golden State Warriors, and unfortunately for them, they did about as well this season as people expected them to. Hai “Hai” Du Lam’s experience was not enough to outweigh the rest of the team, and they were outplayed in nearly all of their performances this split. They have the skill to improve as a team in the future, but they have a long way to go.
In the final week of the Spring Split, there are 3 teams that are technically still fighting for playoff spots. To make things more interesting, many predicted Team Liquid, Team Solo Mid, and Counter Logic Gaming to be at the top of the table. TSM and TL each only need to win one of their Week 9 games to move on. If either team does this, it will dash the hopes of CLG.
TSM made big roster changes that included the addition of Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez. Coming from G2 Esports, they were widely regarded as the best Bot Lane duo in the West. Unexpectedly, these two were one of the weak points for the team for most of the season. Most of the weight was left on the shoulders of Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg to carry them even this far. Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell was not a liability in the top lane, but wasn’t as consistently strong as he has been in the past, and Jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung was less explosive than they had hoped he would be.
Team Liquid acquired an entirely new roster full of experience at the end of 2017. They started off the season strong, dominating the first 3 weeks to earn a 5-1 record. Two losses to top teams in Week 4 seemed to shake their confidence, and since then they have failed to have another 2-0 week. One of the most “hit or miss” teams in the NA LCS, they will need to be in top form to ensure a playoff spot. If Bot Lane duo Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung play as well as they did in Week 1, this should be a breeze.
Team Liquid (Courtesy of LoL esports)
Counter Logic Gaming
Last, there is Counger Logic Gaming. While technically still in the running, everything possible must go their way to have a chance at playoffs. If they don’t, it will be the first time ever that CLG did not advance past the regular season. Going 3-3 in the first three weeks, they then went on a six-game losing streak. However, something changed in Week 7, and they have won four straight games. Led by incredible performances in the Bottom Lane by Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes and Vincent “Biofrost” Wang, they have looked strong enough to have people hopeful for a last minute comeback to force a tiebreaker.
Regardless of the outcomes of this week’s games, you can bet that they will be some of the best of the season. As some teams fight for a spot in the playoffs, others jostle for a better ranking and playoff berth. Even the eliminated teams will be fighting to win some respect and finish with the best record possible. With so much on the line, the NA LCS games in Week 9 are not ones to miss.
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