Postmortem: Flash Wolves vs Gambit Esports

Last week, the Play-In stage of the 2018 mid-season invitational (MSI) concluded not with a bang, but with a whimper, as CIS representatives Gambit Esports found themselves on the wrong end of a barely-contested 3-0 clean sweep at the hands of the LMS’ Flash Wolves. Gambit came close to victory only in the very first game. In this postmortem of Gambit’s defeat, I want to look at the teamfight that ultimately decided that game, and see what it tells us about Gambit, the Flash Wolves and why things turned out the way they did.

Image courtesy of Riot Games

Setting the scene

Before we can analyse the fight, we must understand the context in which it took place. Gambit’s soft-scaling composition, featuring champions most comfortable in mid to late game teamfights like Cassiopeia, Kai’sa and Trundle, had come online after 20 minutes of being forced to cede objective after objective to the Flash Wolves’ stronger, more early-game focused composition. The Flash Wolves attempted to engage multiple times after this point, trying to carry their momentum forward, but to no avail. After one particularly successful fight and an opportunistic baron, Gambit marched down the bot lane towards the Flash Wolves’ inhibitor turret to begin a siege. They had a gold lead, an active baron buff, and the tempo of the game in their hands. It seemed theirs to win or lose. It was here, exactly 29 and a half minutes into the game, that the pivotal teamfight occurred.

 

The Fight

One of the most important features of the Flash Wolves’ composition was Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh’s Rakan. Representing both their primary engage and counter-engage potential, SwordArt had a vital role to play. Thus, when he slightly overstepped on Gambit’s flank, toplaner Alexander “PvPStejos” Glazkov (Maokai), saw the chance to swing the odds in their favour and went for the pick, chaining his Twisted Advance and his ultimate to lock him down. Meanwhile Gambit AD Carry Stanislav “Lodik” Kornelyuk, representing much of Gambit’s damage on a Kai’sa at the peak of her power, immediately blew his own ultimate ability to rush to his toplaner’s side and help secure the kill.

Of course, the kill never actually happened, and SwordArt escaped by the skin of his teeth while the remaining elements of each team clashed at the entrance to the base. The Flash Wolves’ Cho’gath traded his life for that of Gambit jungler Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov (Trundle) while their own carries (Karma and Xayah) dealt as much damage as they could from the back. A tense trade of summoner spells and cooldowns later, Gambit retreated, health bars low. The fight was over, and though it looked like little was ultimately lost, the moments before the fight were the last in which Gambit had any measure of control over the game. In the next several minutes, the Flash Wolves would push out from their base, re-establish control of the map and win the game after a single well-executed teamfight.

 

Image courtesy of Riot Games

 

Mistake #1: Over-committing

 We know what happened, but what did Gambit actually do wrong?

The first mistake that Gambit made was to commit so much to an uncertain play. Gambit spent the ultimates of Maokai and Kai’sa for the prospect of a kill on a Rakan. Though perhaps a fair trade, the cost of these ultimate abilities cannot be overstated. Maokai’s Nature’s Grasp was the central engage mechanic that Gambit relied on. As a lane-wide ultimate with long range, the ability could both force a fight or  zone the Flash Wolves away from important objectives. In the context of a siege, expending a Maokai ultimate for a single pick is more than a little risky.

Kai’sa’s ultimate, meanwhile, looks far less impactful on the surface. It provides a shield and the ability to quickly reposition, but by itself it provides none of Kai’sa’s substantial damage output and tank-shredding ability. However, the difference between having this ultimate available or not is the difference between being able to step forward and provide damage with a safety net versus having to play from the backline, and the difference between being able to forcefully clean up a fight or letting it get away. Though Kai’sa represented only half of Gambit’s primary damage output, with Lodik less than a percentage away from midlaner Mykhailo “Kira” Harmash’s (Cassiopeia) damage share in this game (29.6 to 29%), spending this ultimate came at a substantial cost.

That’s not to say it wasn’t worth it. Any good team knows that sometimes, you have to spend valuable resources to try and get ahead. What makes the play so questionable is how uncertain it was, as SwordArt had both Cleanse and Flash summoner spells available to him, which allowed him to escape. Gambit either failed to properly track his summoner spells, or failed to consider how strong they’d be in avoiding the pick. Either way, Gambit messed up.

 

Mistake #2: Mechanical missteps

A team could have the perfect draft and an unbeatable plan, with every possible risk or outcome accounted for; but at the end of the day what decides games is how well a team executes their plan. Gambit, unfortunately, did not execute their plan well at all.

The first mechanical error came from PvPStejos. We’ve already covered how important the Maokai ultimate could be, however it would’ve been entirely possible to use it for the pick on SwordArt whilst also helping the main fight. If he’d angled his ultimate towards the botlane tower, Gambit may have fared better. PvPStejos instead angled it away from the tower, meaning that aside from (briefly) rooting SwordArt, the ultimate did nothing except zone the Flash Wolves’ least relevant teamfighter, a Kha’zix.

But this had little bearing on the pick itself, and things may well had gone differently if SwordArt had gone down. What more directly influenced that was Lodik’s positioning. Rakan’s ultimate, The Quickness, causes Rakan to gain movement speed and charm whomever he touches. Maokai would almost necessarily be hit by this. A well-positioned Kai’sa, however, would be capable of firing off the crucial extra auto-attacks necessary to secure the kill before succumbing to the CC. It’s therefore tragic that Lodik, in his rush to follow up PvPStejos’ engage, positioned himself in melee range of the Rakan, meaning he was CC’ed and locked out of auto-attacking almost instantly and was unable to secure the kill. Each of these crucial mechanical errors snowballed against Gambit in their own ways, each contributing to their losing the fight.

 

Image courtesy of Riot Games

 

Mistake #3: The follow-up

While SwordArt was making his great escape, toplaner Su ‘Hanabi’ Chia-Hsiang stepped slightly out of the base to support him, and the remaining Gambit squad rushed forward in an attempt to punish him. It’s here that another issue with Lodik’s dive becomes clear: Gambit had no good way of dealing with Hanabi’s Cho’gath.

Gambit had a Trundle, whose Subjugate ultimate shreds through tanks resistances. Effective as this is, Hanabi had both substantial health scaling from his own ultimate, as well as a Gargoyle’s Stoneplate which can temporarily make any tank virtually unkillable. In order to be able to properly utilise Subjugate to burn through Cho’gath and make it to the backline, Gambit needed their consistent damage sources at the ready to take him out. Unfortunately, the best tank-shredder on the team was Lodik, who was busy being CC’ed by a frustratingly not-dead Rakan at the point that Diamondprox and Kira decided to engage on Hanabi. Meanwhile both of Flash Wolves carries were present and dealing incredible amounts of damage to every Gambit member, safe in the knowledge that both the most salient enemy damage threat and the main source of engage were preoccupied.

Though PvPStejos and Lodick did soon rejoin the central fight, Diamondprox was already dead and PvPStejos was forced to use his most reliable remaining method of locking a target down, his Twisted Advance, to secure the kill on Hanabi, allowing the Flash Wolves’ carries a further measure of safety for a few seconds. Meanwhile Lu ‘Betty’ Yu-Hung’ (Xayah) had a full health bar, his flash, and his own safety-net ultimate at the ready.

In other words, at the point that Gambit engaged onto Hanabi they had neither the damage output nor lockdown to secure the kill, or any method of stopping the carries Hanabi was protecting from dealing damage. By the time they were able to secure the kill, Gambit had low health bars across the board, and neither Flash Wolves’ mid or ADC had a scratch on them. Diving SwordArt was problematic in itself, but committing to a fight which had little chance of success with a Cho’gath and two carries was arguably the bigger mistake.

 

Image courtesy of Riot Games

Lessons learned

This teamfight serves perfectly to elucidate Gambit’s issues when faced with a team of the Flash Wolves’ calibre. Gambit demonstrated awkward and poorly considered calls, mechanical errors, and a failure to understand both where the power in their composition lay, and how much of it would be required to stand up to specific elements of the Flash Wolves’ composition. Though this fight only cost them one game, it was the game they were best positioned to win, and what we learned about how Gambit functioned under pressure helps explain how they were so outclassed by the Flash Wolves throughout the series. Yet as tragic as the loss was for Gambit fans, at the end of the day, the better team won.

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Featured photo from Riot Games

Flash Wolves

Flash Wolves wipe the floor with the competition on the first day of MSI

After putting up poor performances on the international stage in the past years, Flash Wolves have come into the 2018 Mid Season Invitational with a point to prove. That point being that they are indeed a top tier team. If the first day of the group stage is anything to go by, that point is very much valid.

Today Flash Wolves faced off against fellow play-in stage survivors, EVOS, and the Kings of the EU LCS, Fnatic to start their run. Flash Wolves triumphed over both of these teams by employing their aggressive, calculated playstyle.

 

Maple is Godly

Much of today’s wins came down to the phenomenal performance coming out of mid laner Huang “Maple” Yi-Tan. Posting an impressive combined scoreline of 19/0/9, Maple came out and showed the world just what he is made of. In their first game against EVOS, Maple was able to roam to his side lanes consistently. Almost every time he did this he would pick up a kill, allowing him to snowball incredibly hard.

Flash Wolves

Source: Riot Games Flickr

In the second game, Maple was a force to be reckoned with on Vladimir. He would constantly dive onto Fnatic’s back line of Martin “Rekkles” Larsson and Rasmus “Caps” Winther and quickly kill or chunk them out to make sure they had no impact in a team fight. This allowed his team to win team fights consistently by dealing with the remaining players.

 

EVOS Can’t Clear Raptors

Flash Wolves

Source: Riot Games Flickr

Whilst there is no doubt that Flash Wolves ‘looked’ very dominant today, it is still to be seen whether or not they can hang with the big dogs. Both the teams they faced today were much weaker than them, especially EVOS. In fact the win against EVOS was cemented from the very first kill on jungler Nguyễn “YiJin” Lê Hải Đăng. YiJin was caught dying to raptors by Kim “Moojin” Moo-jinand. This converted into a 4 man roam down bot and a further two kills. If EVOS can’t even clear a raptor camp, can it really be said that Flash Wolves’ win was at all impressive?

 

The Coming Storm

Flash Wolves move on to face the tournament favourites Royal Never Give Up and Kingzone DragonX in the next two days. Kingzone continued their reign of terror today going 2-0, showing the competition that they are not to be trifled with.

Flash Wolves

Source: Riot Games Flickr

RNG also had an impressive showing posting a 1-1 scoreline. RNG destroyed Fnatic earlier in the day, however they fell to none other than Kingzone themselves later on. With this, RNG will be looking to make up for this loss. Unfortunately for Flash Wolves, they will be taking the full brunt of RNG’s vengeance.

If Flash Wolves want to stand a chance against these powerhouses, they will have to look to continue what they started today. Thus, requiring their carries in Maple and Betty to stay on top form if they hope to even go even with these teams.

 

CREDITS

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Featured image courtesy of Riot Games

MSI

MSI Play-In Round 2 Breakdown

MSI Play-In Round 2

Four teams are still in the running to fill the last two Main Event spots for the 2018 Mid Season Invitational. Gambit Esports, SuperMassive eSports, EVOS Esports, and Flash Wolves will all face one more hurdle in their quest to take on the best team from the top regions in the world. The competition will be intense as they fight to keep their MSI dreams alive.

Series 1 – SuperMassive eSports vs. EVOS Esports

Tuesday, May 8th

SuperMassive eSports

SuperMassive eSports breezed through the initial Play-In Stage as easily as they won the Turkish Champions League (TCL) this Spring Split. Winning their group with a 5-1 record, there was no doubt that they deserved to move on. All members looked exceptional throughout the stage and their teamwork made them stand out against their opponents.

Their only loss came in their last game of the stage after they had already secured first place. The lack of pressure on the outcome resulted in a game that looked more like an ARAM than a competitive match. After SuperMassive locked in a team consisting of three Marksmen and an Irelia Support, their opponents, KaBum! E-sports locked in a Rammus for their Top Lane. The result was a fast-paced match that lasted less than 25 minutes and had an excessive 75 kills.

EVOS Esports

This year, the Vietnam Championship Series is being represented at MSI by EVOS Esports. Founded in 2017, they won the 2018 VCS Spring Promotion, and immediately went on to finish first in the league and take first place in the postseason. With a 12-2 record, the newcomers dominated the VCS.

Though Nguyễn “Slay” Ngọc Hùng and Đoàn “Warzone” Văn Ngọc Sơn have been on the competitive scene for a while now, the team is made up of mostly unknowns. That is unlikely to remain the case for long as they look to make a name for themselves in their first international tournament.

MSI Supermassive

Photo: Leaguepedia

Prediction

SuperMassive eSports 3:1 EVOS Esports

EVOS has had a great season and are a strong team, but they have several things working against them. First, they are still a new team, with no experience on the international stage. Not only does SuperMassive have experience at MSI as an organization, but they boast some seasoned veterans on their roster as well. Midlaner Lee “GBM” Chang-seok has played since 2013 on varioous teams in the LCK, EU LCS, and NA LCS. Their Support, No “SnowFlower” Hoi-jong played several seasons in Korea for Afreeca Freecs and Jin Air Green Wings before finding his way to the TCL.

In addition to the experience advantage, SuperMassive also has the upper hand when it comes to momentum. Coming off of a season where both GBM and AD Carry Berkay “Zeitnot” Aşıkuzun were tied for first place with 8 “Player of the Game” awards apiece, they continued to play and improve throughout the first Play-In Stage. While they have of course been practicing, it will be just over a month for EVOS since they were last on stage. Inexperienced and out of practice, they will have a big hill to climb if they want to keep up with the dynamic SuperMassive Gaming.

 

Series 2 – Flash Wolves vs. Gambit Esports

Wednesday, May 9th

Gambit Esports

Gambit Esports followed up a dominant split with an equally impressive run in the first Play-In Stage. The winners of the League of Legends Continental League have a truly impressive amount of experience throughout the team, and it shows. Not only have Jungler Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov and Edward “Edward” Abgaryan both been playing since early 2012, but they have been teammates for nearly that entire stretch. The game knowledge and synergy that comes from this history compliments the mechanical skill of the rest of the team.

Flash Wolves

As has often been the case, Flash Wolves once again topped the League of Legends Master Series this split. With the legends Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang and Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh leading the team from the Mid Lane and Support position respectively, they also boast impressive young talent in the Solo Lanes. Additionally, Lu “Betty” Yu-Hung had an exceptional season and looks to be one of the few that could rise to the challenge of the AD Carries that will be waiting in the Main Event. 

Though they tend to stumble at Worlds, they traditionally do well at the Mid Season Invitational.

Flash Wolves MSI

Photo: Leaguepedia

Prediction

Flash Wolves 3:2 Gambit Esports

This matchup is shaping up to be one of the closest ones of the tournament. The veteran duo of Diamondprox and Edward is one of the few that can rival the experience of  Maple and SwordArt. Both teams rely on top level Macro play to dissect their opponents, and it will be a constant mental battle to see who can get the upper hand.

Wrapping up their season at the end of April, Flash Wolves did not have the long break that EVOS will have to come back from. In the end, the deciding factor may be the AD Carry matchup, and this is one that Flash Wolves will likely win. Though Stanislav “Lodik” Kornelyuk has been playing quite well, he gained the starting role late in the season, and only has 10 games under his belt with the team this year. Facing off against Betty who has been part of the Flash Wolves lineup for a few years and has been in great form, Lodik and Gambit will likely fall just short.

 

 

 

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: @_mrdantes. For more of the best esports news, follow The Game Haus on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for reading!

GAM Levi locked in Nocturne jungle

Eight surprise champion picks that shaped Worlds’ group stage

The 2017 League of Legends World Championship continues into the knockout stage, yet there is so much to unpack regarding the group stage. The bottom two teams from each group have gone home defeated, and they will mentally replay every win and loss to make sense of it all. They will review their drafts, early game strategies, mid-game decisions and late-game execution.

Adaptation was a major theme of this year’s group stage. Each week, the teams who brought key innovations onto the stage defined the final standings. Pocket picks, surprise lock-ins and fulfilling match-up win conditions decided matches, which shaped teams’ chances to advance. Here are eight pivotal champion picks that shaped the first wave of 2017 Worlds.

GAM Levi Nocturne – Day 1 v. FNC

GAM Levi locked in Nocturne jungle at Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

After the first few matches included drafts that mostly went by the book, Gigabyte Marines decided to lock in Nocturne for Levi against Fnatic. This decision completely changed the tone of the 2017 Worlds stage. The surprise draft reminded audiences around the world why they fell in love with Gigabyte Marines at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational. Nocturne is such a feast or famine option that he is hardly ever played professionally. However, Gigabyte Marines set up Levi to reach level six in five minutes, and he carried them to a 24-minute victory. 

This game was significant for so many reasons. Firstly, it demonstrated that top teams from minor regions are completely capable of putting up a fight on the international stage. Other members of Group B cannot underestimate Gigabyte Marines. Secondly, this quick win gave Gigabyte Marines the confidence to continue bringing out “never before seen” drafts and strategies throughout the Group Stage. But, most importantly, the loss definitely shook Fnatic’s mentality for their matches in week one. Gigabyte Marines, and their successful Nocturne execution, set up Fnatic to start Worlds 0-3. 

G2 Expect Trundle – Day 3 v. FB

With Cho’Gath locked in for 1907 Fenerbahce’s Thaldrin, and Gnar and Shen banned away, G2 locked in the Trundle for Expect. This match was the first Trundle on the 2017 Worlds stage. With a little help from Perkz to secure First Blood, Expect pushed down first turret and helped Trick acquire Rift Herald. From there, he transitioned into split-pushing to win one-versus-one against Thaldrin.

While Expect was not the only major factor in G2’s day three victory, his pressure did result in G2’s first win after losing to Samsung Galaxy on day one. His Trundle game also set the precedent for Alphari, CuVee and Huni to gain wins with Troll King during group stage. Expect put Trundle on the board, forcing teams to consider him in future drafts, especially against super-tank top laners.

G2 Expect locked in Trundle top at Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

C9 Contractz Graves – Day 3 v. EDG

As one of the only junglers prioritizing high damage over tankiness and crowd control, Contractz surprised with a Graves lock-in on day three. Touted as a counter-pick to Jarvan IV, Graves still maintains fast camp clears and invasion pressure. The pick worked out similarly to Contractz’ Ezreal jungle. He farmed monsters rapidly, and he made sure to visit lanes to help poke out EDG’s laners.

More importantly, Cloud9 won their first game against China’s first seed. The same pick did not work out against EDG on day eight, but the first win basically prevented a tie-breaker match between the two teams for second seed in Group A. Even though no other players tried out Graves on stage, Contractz’ week one success with the pick turned out to be a saving grace for Cloud9’s advancement to quarterfinals.

LZ Khan Nasus – Day 4 v. FNC

What was not to love about this game? The top lane Nasus generated so much hype by itself, disregarding any memes about “dog champs.” Khan had already shown prominence on Lethality Jarvan IV, so everyone expected his Nasus to be nasty. Longzhu realized that Fnatic tends to abandon sOAZ in the top lane, so this champion would hard counter that choice. 

LZ Khan locked in Nasus at Worlds

Screenshot of LoL Esports broadcast

Khan did not disappoint. Longzhu destroyed Fnatic’s nexus in 20:52, the shortest match in the group stage. This victory solidified Longzhu at the top of Group B with a 3-0 record, and Fnatic at the bottom with an 0-3. Almost all of the drama of Group B’s week two would have been nonexistent without this stomp. The Nasus pick, in particular, reinforced the possibility of surprise picks on the international stage.

FNC Caps Malzahar – Day 5 v. IMT

Week two saw Fnatic on a momentous upswing. They won their second matches against Immortals and Gigabyte Marines, while Longzhu remained undefeated. The games played out to create a tie-breaker situation between Immortals and Fnatic, which is when Caps pulled out the first Malzahar of Worlds.

Malzahar is supposed to be a counter-pick to Ryze, which allowed Caps to neutralize Pobelter. The mid lane interactions allowed Fnatic’s other members to have the space necessary to gain advantages and push through neutral objectives. With this victory, Fnatic sent Immortals back to North America, and continued into their tie-breaker against Gigabyte Marines to finalize Group B’s standings.

MSF IgNar Thresh – Day 7 v. FW

MSF Ignar locked in Thresh at Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

This match-up against Flash Wolves was a breakout game for IgNar and Misfits. Their Thresh lock-in presented one of the first non-Ardent Censer supports at Worlds. It also proved that teams can opt for play-making champions in the bottom lane and find success. IgNar finished the game with a 0-0-10 scoreline, making the most of his roams and picks.

While Flash Wolves were not their main competition, Misfits started day seven with momentum. The unpredictability of IgNar’s champion pool allowed them to have flexible drafts, and to know that any member of their team is capable of carrying. Misfits cemented Flash Wolves’ fate in the group stage, since they fell 0-4 with this loss.

WE Mystic Caitlyn – Day 7 v. TSM

One of the most innovative strategies of the group stage, Mystic decided to race the Ardent Censer support build by drafting Caitlyn. Her combination of early poke damage, wave clear, and sieging allows Caitlyn to push in late-scaling AD carries such as Doublelift’s Twitch. Team WE executed the strategy perfectly, pushing through the game in just over 24 minutes. Mystic himself finished with a 10.0 KDA.

This game marked the turning point for TSM in Group D. WE pulled ahead to match Misfits 3-1, while TSM dropped below them at 2-2. This same strategy won WE their second match against Flash Wolves to finish at the top of the group. From a larger scope, this match also introduced another strategy to counter hyper-carries with enchanter supports. Caitlyn would go on to finish the group stage 4-0, including wins from EDG and Cloud9 on the final day.

FW MMD Renekton – Day 7 v. TSM

FW MMD locked in Renekton at Worlds

Screenshot of LoL Esports broadcast

Calling Renekton a “surprise pick” is a bit of a stretch. He is a staple lane bully champion for top laners. However, the 2017 Worlds meta has not seen him played much. Flash Wolves drafted Renekton for MMD to completely neutralize Hauntzer. Karsa and MMD killed Hauntzer twice within the first five minutes, which provided MMD with so much pressure that he zoned Hauntzer off of farm. MMD gained a 2,000 gold lead by 11 minutes, which transitioned into first turret, Rift Herald and complete dominance by the Flash Wolves.

The first seed LMS team had nothing to lose, seeing as they were already guaranteed to be eliminated. They took their only win off of TSM in this match, which forced the tie-breaker with Misfits to finish group stage. This single win, stemming from this single champion match-up, was the catalyst for Misfits to secure second seed in Group D. If TSM had won this game, then they would have graduated into quarterfinals instead of Misfits.

From the first day of group stage to the last, we have seen individual champion selections have huge impacts. Countering the meta, or countering specific team playstyles, these surprise performances influenced the standings. They allowed and denied entry into the knockout stage. Teams, players and the tournament itself are creating highlights, and even legacies to be remembered for World Championships to come.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports FlickrLoL Esports broadcast

Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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CLG’s 2016 spring of dreams: The sports anime team of the LCS Part 2

Welcome to Part two of our CLG’s 2016 spring of dreams: The sports anime team of the LCS. For the first part looking at the build up and protagonists of our CLG story, check out my article here.

 

The Split

Not many fans of CLG were expecting much from the Spring Split. Eyes were glued to how the new rookies would integrate into the squad, whether the veterans could teach the new kids how to play the Rift in the LCS, and truthfully if they’d manage to scrap their way into Playoffs. First was the surprise win over long time rival and new home of star ADC Doublelift, TSM. Then, the honor of being the only team in the Spring Split to actually take a win off of the (almost) undefeated Immortals squad (with a cheeky baron steal into Darshan backdoor win). CLG surprised everyone with a 13-5 split, narrowly passing Cloud 9 in Week 9 with Team Liquid being… Team Liquid… and securing fourth place.

Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

It was the split that even the most faithful were cautious in hoping for. The team meshed together as a unit, and countless interviews with CLG players highlighted this. The story line was never about one star player winning games. Rather, it revolved around which player would the team elect to carry them this game. We saw stellar performances obviously from the likely culprits: Darshan with the split pushes that the other team could not answer, Xmithie with the Smite wars and overall map control, and Aphromoo leading his lane to dominance.

But it wasn’t just the vets. Viewers caught glimpses of greatness with Huhi, as he broke out the Aurelion Sol to great effect, still drawing bans against that pocket pick. And Stixxay came up huge when the team needed him most. His triple kill in the final fight between the long time rivals took the Finals for CLG and sent them to MSI. In many fans’ minds, it was clear that the CLG management knew what they were doing, maybe even better than they thought.

But back to the story lines. What a roller coaster of a split. While some looked to CLG’s playoff as a result of other teams failing expectations, that shouldn’t detract from the accomplishment at hand. They didn’t take it because Huhi or Stixxay were amazing diamonds in the rough. It wasn’t the steadfast veterans, the grizzled familiar faces after the roster shuffle, that carried the CLG banner to victory. No. It was the team. They came together, they held each other up, and most importantly, they never stopped believing in each other. The rag band team of veterans and rookies took the split, and ultimately the finals, to propel them further than even they had hoped for: representing their region at the second most important Riot tournament besides Worlds.

Sweet, sweet victory. Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

From “Unlikely” to “Runner-ups”

The now (in)famous power rankings going into MSI 2016 didn’t have CLG doing much. At their brightest, CLG were a dark horse roster, one that could make some upsets and maybe see themselves get into Playoffs. But they weren’t expected to do much. If they showed up, it would be mildly surprising. If they flopped, it also wouldn’t be too shocking a revelation. They weren’t the dominant (domestically) G2, the juggernaut SKT T1, or the stacked Royal Never Give Up. Heck, they weren’t even as hyped as the LMS’ representatives Flash Wolves. The Flash Wolves didn’t mince words with their expectations of CLG, with SwordArt’s comment towards them simply being, “We don’t actually have any preparation. Because CLG is the worst team besides IWC teams.” Ohh the irony.

Worse than an International Wildcard Team you say? Well that’s awkward for you. Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

In true CLG fashion, they did the exact opposite of what the pundits and critiques expected them to do: they thrived. I’m not one for taking phrases from others, but man did ESPN writer Tyler Erzberger put it perfectly for CLG’s mantra, “Respect all, fear none.” This was a roster that didn’t claim to not prepare for an opponent they felt was weaker, because they knew they had to do that to every opponent they would meet. Their record tells the story of group stage well. They had a 2-0 record against Flash Wolves and G2, and a 1-1 record against SKT, RNG, and BAU Supermassive (I mean, it is CLG, Wildcards are pretty much confirmed their kryptonite…).

Of course, in a perfect kind of story line, the team that looked down on CLG were the ones facing them in the Semis. The Wolves had to look across the Rift at the team they felt was as strong as an IWC team. Still, even with their group stage performances, many were timid to cast their vote in favor of CLG. Sure, they had bested the Flash Wolves, but that didn’t paint them as clear favorites going into their confrontation. Keen observers would’ve had the two as neck and neck, equal parties, and that the battle would most likely be a back and forth series.

It was, in a lot of ways, a clash of styles, and a clash of ways to play League of Legends. Flash Wolves brought strong talent and mechanics in their games. Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan in particular found many advantages in his laning phases that put the Wolves ahead. Of course, CLG, on the other side of the spectrum, trusted in each other, in their own style: teamwork and macro plays. CLG played the maps out like an ebb and flow of a tide, and ultimately came out on top of the Wolves in a 3-1 series. The under-looked team, practically spit upon by SwordArt’s comments, came out convincingly on top to move onto the Finals of MSI, the first time any North American squad had done so at a Riot International tournament.

To Face a God

It was only a befitting ending. Sports animes aren’t Mary Sues. It’s about learning, about hardships and about trying to take those lessons and bringing them into the next competition. So when CLG lost 3-0 to SKT, not many were surprised. It’s the narrative any time a team faces SKT, whether it’s in region rivals like KT Rolster or pre-exodus Rox Tigers, or the latest crop of non-Korean teams hoping to make a dent in the armor that is SKT’s record internationally.

Heads held high to face the gods. Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

It was a bit of a miracle run overall, and while they did lose it all in the end, CLG weren’t completely outmatched. Like any good team, they had their shining moments against SKT. In the first game, far behind SKT and ultimately completely outplayed for the first half of the game, CLG almost made the comeback against the Gods. Through smart play and a cheeky hide-and-then-five-man-dive-poor-Faker-and-Wolf, they almost mounted a convincing lead, but ultimately lost to the superior skill and experience of SKT.

On the back of a strong comeback that ultimately fell short, CLG started game two strong, with a 3K gold lead on the Korean giants at the 14 minute mark. The rest of the game was a back and forth, punch for punch game where both teams matched each others plays, with the game being swung in SKT’s favour during a decisive team fight victory. For all the hype and near moments of excellence, CLG eventually dropped the game, unable to withstand the onslaught.

Game three was probably the finale of the series everyone expected, but no NA fan hoped for. It was a lashing, as SKT showed masterfully how to rotate the map and pick off CLG members who seemed completely caught off guard. Outside of a prolonged fight that showcased a lot of CLG’s strength at the 32 minute mark, it was hard to say they stood much of a chance. Ultimately the bloodiest game of the set, and really the most one sided, SKT walked away heads held high, sitting on top of the world of League of Legends.

Murica. Courtesy of Riot’s Flikr.

CLG, on the other hand, walked away beaten but not broken. They still stood toe to toe against the team favored to take it all, the team who ultimately would take Worlds again, and then would end up taking MSI again too. It’s hard to imagine a world where the rag tag team, compiled of a couple of rookies, would be able to take down that dynastic of a team.

But it’s not the victory that makes the story line. It’s the sheer run of it all, a team from NA, going up against multiple opponents who not only were touted to outclass them as a team, but were supposed to outclass even their region. It was the first time an NA team made it into the finals of a Riot international tournament. What an amazing run from a team whose only talent was in working together, in picking up where their teammates faltered.

It wasn’t big roster moves and long time rivals TSM. It wasn’t storied Cloud 9, the wunderkids of the NA LCS, with their opening split of dominance in their minds. No, it was the roster that had every single NA LCS fan, even the most faithful of CLG fans, scratching their heads at the off season. They took it to the finals of MSI and brought recognition back to their region. While the ‘best’ story line is highly subjective and up for debate, the Spring Time of Dreams CLG are at least in the top five for League of Legends esports. And it’d be a damn good sports anime plot line too.

 

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Flaws With Rift Rivals

Riot Games is finally introducing more chances for international play with their announcement of Rift Rivals yesterday. Rift Rivals will pit regional rivals against each other in a battle between the top three teams of their respective regions. Fans and teams have been begging for more international competitions and Riot looks to have been listening. Things aren’t perfect though and there are some flaws with how the tournament format is set up. Let’s take a look:

Photo via Gamespot

Bo1’s

Has Riot not learned anything from the past few seasons about best-of-one formats? One can see how it can be exciting for fans due to the unpredictability. With B01’s, you can have upsets, such as Albus Nox Luna at last Worlds and Wildcards upsetting highly ranked teams.

In any case, B01’s don’t allow much flexibility in drafts/strategies and can limit how creative a team can get. Most teams will want to just draft standard in a B01 because they only have one game to prove themselves. Having a best-of-three format would allow for more creative drafts, where teams can get risky in game one knowing that if things don’t work out they can go back to standard for game two.

It doesn’t feel like the winner of B01’s is definitively better than the other team. They were only better than them for one game. One mistake can cost a team a game.

Teams are locked in from standings based ON half a split ago

For those who don’t know, teams are already locked in based on the spring split standings for Rift Rivals. Announcing a type of tournament like this should open up more motivation for teams to do well to represent their region at this tournament.

Many things can change in half a split. A team can go from being a top three team to possibly a 4-6th place team. If that’s the case, fans get a lower quality play and may not be represented well. Hypothetically speaking, TSM, Cloud 9, and Phoenix1 could all be bottom tier teams next split and will still be able to play in this tournament. If you’re going to have an international event in July, teams should need to qualify for it as close to the date as possible for the best results.

Relay Format

The relay format basically starts with the 3rd place team of each region pitted against each other in a B01. Whatever team loses is eliminated and the winner stays on to face the next highest ranked team of that region.

The major issue with this is you could potentially never see the first place team of a region play. It’s all based on how well the third place team does. If the third place team were to win all three matches, you wouldn’t even see the other two teams play in this type of format.

Double elimination B03 matches would make the most sense to actually see how the teams stack up against each other. Limiting it to B01’s and this really weird relay format limits the chances of actually seeing who is a better region. Having a gauntlet style tournament would at least give every team a chance to play in a best-of series.

Future tournaments

It seems that with Riot introducing this new tournament, they’ll be looking at doing more in the future. With only four days in between the split to plan this out, time is quite limited for them, which may explain the B01 format. Nonetheless, it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully, with more time, Riot can put on a better format for an international event.

Cover image via Riot Esports

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MSI: SK Telecom T1 vs. Flash Wolves Preview

In the first round of the knockout stage of MSI, SK Telecom T1 is poised to take revenge upon the only team that has taken a win from them during groups. What may be the most competitive game in this tournament, SKT vs. Flash Wolves will be the game to tune into on May 19th at 11 am PST.

SK Telecom T1

 

Peanut and Huni share a moment while leaving the stage. Courtesy of Riot flickr

Coming into MSI as the most highly favored team in the history of League of Legends is SKT, three-time League of Legends World Champions.

 

SKT’s six-man roster starts with their top laner, Seung-Hoon  “Huni” Heo, a player who currently holds the highest CS per minute in the MSI.

Jumping out of the jungle, Wangho “Peanut” Han holds the most kills at 52 in groups. Known most for his Lee Sin, Peanut is known to be the most aggressive jungler in Korea, with the ability to get 15 kills in a single game.

No introduction is needed for Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee. Faker is simply the best.  

SKT’s bot lane, Junsik “Bang” Bae and Jaewan “Wolf” Lee, are looking better than ever. The two are typically found taking laners that complement each other with  Wolf picking champions that can bail out the immobile carries that Bang has frequently utilized to great success. Wolf has the second most assists throughout Groups, trailing Shou-Chieh “SwordArT” Hu, who also used one more game to have Wolf beat 93 to 90.

 

How SKT Wins

Peanut shares a lot in common with his opponent Karsa. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

SKT wins by having Peanut play Lee Sin and picking their bot lane comfort picks before the Flash Wolves take them out in the draft. With Bang’s adept performance on Twitch, aided greatly by the peeling supports Wolf is often seen on, expect the bot lane picks to come through in the first round of the draft phase. SKT is greatly favored in this matchup. Their chances of failure are minimal as long as they do not lose too much ground early game. SKT can win late game team fights with great ease given their opponents are not too far ahead.

Flash Wolves

The Flash Wolves have proven to be a mixed bag this tournament, showing that they have the skill to beat SKT while simultaneously dropping games to almost every team in the tournament. As the underdog team in the fourth versus first place match, their performance in this best of five will likely decide who takes first place at this year’s MSI. If they can beat SKT, they can beat anyone. Right? Maybe, but this is not guaranteed with the Flash Wolves. However, they are the strongest contender for taking down SKT alongside Team WE.

Playing top lane for the Wolves is Li-Hong “MMD” Yu, a player known for his aggression and carry style, but also able to play supportive tanks by the likes of Nautilus and Shen.

Tearing through the jungle for the Wolves, Hao-Xuan “Karsa” Hong, has the same champion pool and play style as Peanut. He also has 41 kills to his name during groups. He may have what it takes to deny Peanut through a well-executed draft.

Laning against God himself, Yi-Tang “Maple” Huang ties Peanut for the highest KDA throughout groups at 6.1.

Perhaps the Flash Wolves greatest strength lies in their bot lane, where Yu-Huang “Betty” Lu and SwordArT dominate the bottom half of the map. SwordArt is a veteran shot caller, playing supports that can influence more than just the bottom lane. Expect to see Lulu and Tahm Kench as high priority champions for both teams. Meanwhile, Betty has the most kills to his name out of all the ADCs at MSI, and he’s looking to continue this streak. Betty plays many ADC’s, but his Ashe is a staple for the Flash Wolves. Betty may have to branch into other ADC’s in order to take away Bang’s Twitch and secure a victory for the Wolves.

How Flash Wolves Win

They have done it once before, but can they do it again? To win, Flash Wolves need to stifle Huni in the draft much like they did in their only victory over SKT. Because banning out Faker is impossible, their bans must be directed to the top lane carries that Huni plays, and the Marksmen that Bang feels most comfortable on. The optimal top lane draft will have MMD on his signature Kled and Huni on a tank, allowing Flash Wolves to take the game from the top lane.

As for the Jungle, it goes without saying that Peanut’s Lee Sin must be denied in order for the Wolves to have a fighting chance. Taking Lee Sin on the side of the Flash Wolves will also

SwordArT is not the cool, calm, and collected shot caller you may be used to. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

greatly aid Karsa, as he is adept on the champion. In the middle lane, Maple’s utility orientated champion pool must be able to survive the likes of Faker’s assassins. If Maple can avoid giving a lead to Faker, he may be able to turn some mid game team fights into a victory for the Wolves with his excellent Weaver’s Walls and Realm Warps.

 

Taking a lead in the bottom lane is most important for the Flash Wolves. Giving SwordArT the opportunity to roam and snowball his team’s lead alongside Karsa, will be the win condition the Wolves need. However, the lanes go, if the Wolves do not start with leads, it is unlikely they will ever bounce back to take a lead.


Featured image courtesy of Riot Flickr

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Six Takeaways from the MSI Group Stage

The Mid Season Invitational concluded on Sunday, with SKT, WE, G2, and Flash Wolves all advancing to the bracket stage of the tournament. It was a close competition as there were a ton of surprises and close games throughout the tournament. Outside of SKT and maybe WE, every team had its shares of ups and downs throughout the tournament. It’s always interesting to have the top teams from around the world compete. It gives a glimpse at how each region stacks up to one another and gets us more excited for Worlds. Here are some key takeaways from the tournament:

Is the gap closing?

Photo by: Riot Esports

As we’ve come to expect, Korea’s SKT Telecom T1 finished atop the standings.

They did drop two games during the group stage. Once, to the Korean slayers, Flash Wolves, and another to WE. Despite this, SKT still looked quite dominant throughout the tournament. Even when they’re behind, they don’t look the part. Their strength is definitely in the mid-late game shot calling where they almost always know exactly what to do to earn the victory.

SKT could fall behind one thousand gold or so in the early game, but take one big team fight to retake the lead in the mid game. Once the tournament goes to best of 5’s, I’m honestly not sure if they’ll drop a game. They’ve had a chance to scout the competition now. Head coach Kim kkOma Jung-gyun will have a week to prepare SKT which will be more than enough to get his team ready to take another MSI title.

TSM’s International Struggles Continue

North America’s champs, TSM, took a heavy defeat Sunday as they lost out on NA’s chance at a number one seed for Worlds. Failing to make it out of the group stage of MSI just adds to the TSM legacy of under performing at international events. The team had a poor start to the tournament, just barely edging out Vietnam’s Gigabyte Marines in the play-in stage.

Most of the blame was shifted to jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen for getting caught out multiple times on aggressive invades throughout the tournament. ADC Jason “Wildturtle” Tran also received much of the criticism, specifically costing his team a game against WE face-checking at baron with both summoner spells up. Head coach, Parth Naidu, also received a lot of criticism from the community for his drafts. In their tiebreaker match, he banned Kog’maw and Twitch when FW hadn’t played either of those champions the whole tournament.

Overall, it felt like TSM were scared to make plays. In both their matches against G2, they failed to snowball their leads and let G2 back into both games. Game one would have been lost, had it not been for some small misplays by G2. TSM had no idea how to properly close out games, ultimately being the biggest reason for their failure to get out of groups.

Gigabyte Marines Are Fun To Watch

Nobody was really talking about these guys coming in, but Vietnam’s Gigabyte Marines can hold their heads up high. They played phenomenal for a wildcard region and showed that the GPL has some tough competition. From the beginning of the play-ins, Gigabyte Marines’ aggressive early game has given teams troubles and they were able to take some games off some of the top teams, finishing 3-7.

Jungler, Đỗ “Levi” Duy, Khánh made a name for himself this tournament. He was a major part of his team’s success, and analysts even said that he should be imported into a major region for summer. His Lee Sin and Kha’zix were a treat to watch and everyone is hoping to see more of him in the future.

If Gigabyte Marines can keep this momentum going, we can definitely expect to seem them again at Worlds 2017.

G2 Redeems themselves

Photo by: Riot Esports

After a whole year of international tournament stumbles, G2 esports was finally able to play well and earn a spot in the knockout stage for MSI. This has to be relieving for all members, after much of the hate that ensued after their last MSI and Worlds performances.

Their mid laner, Luka “PerkZ” Perković, had a phenomenal tournament, finally getting to showcase his skill on the international stage. Star ADC, Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen, also had a great tournament. G2 often built their comps around him to allow him to carry in the mid/late game.

Jungler Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun didn’t have the greatest performances. He was often reactive to many of the aggressive junglers in the tournament. G2 has shifted to putting him on supportive junglers such as Nunu and Ivern to allow for Zven to carry. It’ll be interesting to see if G2 decides to keep with Trick after many of his international struggles.

G2 can finally breathe a bit as they earned a number one seed for EU at Worlds 2017.

Flash wolves overrated?

Taiwan’s Flash Wolves came into MSI as most people’s 2nd best team to SKT. Most thought they’d take second easily after a dominant showing at IEM and in their championship run. That was not the case as Flash Wolves struggled heavily early in the tournament.

Specifically, it seemed like other teams were exploiting top laner, Yau “MMD” Li-Hung, one of Flash Wolves’ weaker members. Early in the tournament, he struggled to make an impact on the team, often falling behind. As the tournament went on though, MMD’s confidence seemed to come back as Flash Wolves was able to do just enough to beat out TSM for the last spot in the knockout stage.

Flash Wolves are an explosive early game team. Sometimes this can also be their downfall though. The “Korean Slayers” will get a chance to take down SKT in a bo5.

WE Surprises

Photo by: Riot Esports

Maybe team WE wasn’t expected to do that bad, but many people didn’t expect them to do this well. WE was getting ranked around 4-5th position due to many people just not really knowing what to expect.

Team WE doesn’t adhere to the Chinese stereotype of chaotic games. Their macro is solid and they know how to push their leads well. They’ve shown the ability to play a number of unique champions, such as mid laner Su “Xiye” Han-Wei pulling out Lucian in their victory against SKT.

Jungler Xiang “Condi” Ren-Jie showed he can compete with some of the best. He was 2nd in KDA among junglers and was first in kill participation percentage with a whopping 70 percent. His early game plays helped setup his team to snowball leads.

Top laner Ke “957” Changyu had some great performances on carry split pushers like Fizz and Kled. He was a nuisance for the enemy team, pressuring side lanes and getting picks in team fights.

WE look like big contenders to contest SKT for the MSI title. They’ll need to get through EU’s G2 first though.

Cover photo by: Riot Esports

Tune into the MSI Knockout Stage this Friday, Saturday, and Finals Sunday

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Why MSI should transition to a gauntlet tournament

The 2017 Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) is a League of Legends tournament attended by 13 teams from 13 various regions. This year’s MSI consisted of three stages ultimately ending in a grand final between the best two teams. Taking place in Rio de Janeiro, this event took seeding based upon the past two years of Worlds and MSI performances to have a few teams automatically place into group stage (South Korea, China, and Europe) while the rest of the 10 teams battled it out through the play-in stage.

Group stage consists of a double round robin via best of one matches. The top four teams from this double round robin move on to the knockout stage which consists of best of five games with single elimination. It is this knockout stage that does not make the most sense for this international tournament.

The Gauntlet

SKT T1 Huni leaves the stage with team. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

The LCK currently runs a gauntlet-styled tournament that MSI should adopt. The first place team does not play until the final round, receiving a bye for their performance throughout the normal split. The playoffs consist of the third place team playing against the fourth place team, then the winner of that team plays the second place team, ultimately leaving one team to play against the first place team. This style of competition puts much more weight upon the group stages of the tournament, making each and every group stage game bring with it more impactful consequences.

Skating By Groups

Examining the current four teams in groups can lead one to believe that some teams have just “skated by” while other teams have just had a poor performance in the group stage.

After the Flash Wolves controlled performance in play-ins, most fans and even Faker, believed that they were going to be the biggest threat to SKT T1’s empire. The Flash Wolves then managed to beat SKT in a decisive manner during the group stages, further showing their skill and prowess. However, the Flash Wolves later received a few too many losses in groups, ultimately leaving what should be the second best team in the tournament in fourth place during the knockout stages. This being said, expect the most heated competition and the highest skill caliber League of Legends has ever known not in the grand finals, but instead in the first match of the knockout stage.

With the second best team playing against SKT on Friday, May 19th, what should be a game for third and fourth place will be between G2 Esports and Team WE. Potentially, any of the teams that made it into groups has what it takes to make the match that will occur this Saturday, May 20th, a fiercely close competition. That being said, the match between G2 Esports and Team WE will still be one of close competition. However, it is unlikely that either of these two teams will stand a chance against the winner of SKT versus Flash Wolves.

A Better Tournament Style Means Better Games

A gauntlet-style competition not only makes each game of groups much more intense, as each team mus

TSM and Flash Wolves shake hands after their game. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

t compete for standings during the gauntlet-style knockout stages, but it also provides a more accurate way for each team to garner the appropriate rewards from the prize pool. With third and fourth place getting significantly less money than second place, a gauntlet-style competition would more accurately reassign this prize pool based upon how close one can get to taking down SKT T1, a team that has proven to be well and above the rest of the competition. Until then, variables such as TSM taking down Flash Wolves will prevent the most accurate portrayal of skill and will doom each team that enters the knockout stages in fourth place, regardless of their skill, relative to the second and third place teams.

 

Featured image courtesy of Riot Flickr

Top Ten Players at MSI

The Mid Season Invitational opening ceremony is a day away, and I’ll be looking at the top players from every region playing this week. Many of these players have been around the pro scene for a while and have made a name for themselves as being some of the best in the world at their positions. Let’s take a look:

10. Swordart (Flashwolves Support)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie has been in the pro scene since season three. He’s been an integral part of Flash Wolves’ success, often roaming with their jungler, Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan in the early game. This season has been no different. SwordArt has shown excellent performances on meta picks, such as Karma. He ended the LMS spring split atop his position with a massive 11.5 KDA, well above any other support in the region.

In their series against Supermassive, he finished with a KDA of 43, only dying once in the entire series. SwordArt is one of the best supports at setting up plays for his team in the early game. He’ll be vital in Flash Wolves’ success in this tournament.

9. Zven (G2 esports ADC)

Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen has slowly developed into one of the best ADC’s in the world. With the ADC meta shifting back to more traditional style carries, Zven will have a chance to prove why he’s one of the best at his position. Despite his support, Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez dipping in performance a bit this season, Zven has still been able to dish out damage in mid game team fights. Most of G2’s success comes in the mid game, often waiting for power spikes to hit before breaking the game wide open with a mid game team fight. Zven’s positioning in team fights is excellent, knowing where he can dish out the most damage from a safe distance.

Zven also has some of the strongest laning of all ADC’s at the tournament. He leads EU in CSdiff@10 with a massive 8.0. Him and Mithy can still compete with the best, and will be up against some World class bot lanes.

8. Hauntzer (TSM Top Laner)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell had one of his best splits on TSM in Spring 2017. With star Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng taking a break for the split, Hauntzer stepped up from the top lane to help be the decisive voice for his team. Despite taking on shot calling responsibilities, Hauntzer’s play did not hinder, it actually got better. With all the talent imported into NA for top laners, Hauntzer held his own and took the title of NA’s best top laner. Hauntzer topped NALCS top laners in DMG% and KDA. He showed excellent performances on a variety of champions as well.

Many believed he deserved the MVP award for the split, but he barely lost out to Phoenix1’s Arrow. He’ll be looking to prove himself on the World stage once again, after struggling to make an impact during their Worlds run last season.

 7. Peanut (SKT Jungler)

Han “Peanut” Wang-ho made a name for himself last season as the starter for ROX tigers. After barely losing to SKT in the semifinals of Worlds last season, Peanut decided to join his rivals this season. Peanut has struggled a bit this season, sometimes getting caught and subbed out for Blank, but he’s still a force in the jungle.

His Lee Sin play has been heralded as some of the best in the world. He has also shown great play on other meta picks, such as Rengar, Graves, and Elise. Along with this, Peanut has had some of the best Dragon/Baron steals anyone has ever seen in pro League of Legends. It’s insane the plays he’s able to pull off.

Peanut will have a chance to win his first international event. With SKT coming in as heavy favorites, anything outside of first will be a failure.

6. Huni (SKT Top laner)

Seung “Huni” Hoon Heo has been a fan favorite for his loving personality and his high play making ability. After spending two seasons playing in Europe and North America, Huni got the chance to play with the best team in the world. He was formerly known for playing hard carry top laners, such as Riven, Fiora, and Gnar, often being criticized for not playing into tank metas.

Many wondered how he’d do under the Korean structure of coaching. On past teams, coaches allowed him to play carry champions, even pulling out Lucian in the top lane in playoffs. He has shown the ability to play tanks, while also still being able to pull out the carry tops when needed for his team. Even when on tanks, Huni has a very strong impact on the game with his teleports and team fighting. He lead the LCK in DMG% for top laners and total KDA.

Playing for SKT has helped Huni become elevated to a World class top laner. He’s more versatile in his champion picks and a huge reason why SKT are favorites to go undefeated here at MSI.

5. Maple (Flash Wolves Mid Laner)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang has been a long time mid laner in the LMS region. He’s shown phenomenal performances in previous international events, such as Flash Wolves’ IEM Katowice victory. In their victory over SKT at Worlds last year, his Aurelion Sol was vital in setting Flash Wolves up with an early lead to snowball. Maple has a deep champion pool, being able to play control mages such as Syndra, or assassins like Zed or Leblanc.

Maple had another great season in the LMS region, posting a 7.1 KDA to top the league. Him and jungler, Karsa, have excellent mid/jung synergy that can often net Flash Wolves huge early game leads. They are also excellent at knowing exactly how to finish games with these heavy leads.

Flash Wolves will be looking to Maple once again, as they are heavy favorites to be the ones to slay Korea once again.

4. Karsa (Flash Wolves Jungler)

Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan is one of many talented junglers at this tournament. His early game play making is huge in Flash Wolves’ success. He loves playing high skill early game champions such as Lee Sin, and Elise. He finished the LMS season top in DMG% and KDA for junglers.

In their series against SuperMassive, Karsa jungled circles around Stomaged, gaining huge CS leads and tracking him quite well. Him and SwordArt have excellent jung/supp synergy, usually setting up vision to do aggressive invades or tower dives. Karsa will be vital in his team’s success, with jungle being one of the most talented positions in the whole tournament.

 3. Bjergsen (TSM Mid Laner)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg has been the star mid laner for Team SoloMid since taking over for owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh in season four. Bjergsen has been a vital part of TSM’s organization, being the only stable member in the past seasons. TSM has literally built the team around him, as he’s slowly just become the best player in the West. His spring season started off a bit slow, as TSM was adjusting not playing with Doublelift, but since then he’s regained his MVP form. He finished the NALCS spring split as leader in total KDA and CSdiff@10.

Bjergsen has slowly taken the title of the Western GOAT for pro League of Legends. He’s become the face for esports talent in North America, and continues to play the game at an extremely high level. The only knock on him is international success. TSM as a whole have one IEM Katowice title in terms of international success. MSI gives them the chance to prove that North America is a region to be on the lookout for.

2. Bang (SKt ADC)

Bae “Bang” Jun-sik has been the starting ADC for their past two Worlds titles. It sometimes feels Bang is underappreciated on a roster full of stars and goofy personalities. Bang has been a consistent carry for SKT, always dishing out damage from a safe distance while also being one of the best laning ADC’s.

He lead the LCK in total KDA for ADC’s while also averaging the highest CSdiff@10 with 8.2. Bang also dished out the highest damage per min among ADC’s. He has shown phenomenal performances on high skill carries such as Ezreal, and even pulled out some amazing Twitch performances in the LCK finals. Bang will look to add another MSI title to his belt as he looks to dominate the bot lane once again.

1. Faker (SKT Mid laner)

Photo by: Riot Esports

Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok will forever be known as one of the best League of Legends players of all time. He has become known as the best mechanically skilled pro player, while also having the awards and team achievements to back them up. Three world titles, multiple MVPs, along with many Korean esports awards to boast. Since season three, Faker has consistently been the star player of SKT. When they decided to roster change, only him and Bengi were left from the original championship roster. Faker often draws a ton of jungle pressure due to people just knowing how good he is. It opens up a lot of options for the rest of this talented roster.

His impact on the game is unmatched. Faker has become the face of professional esports. When others ask who’s the best player in League of Legends, people will say Faker. His legacy is continually growing, as SKT dominated KT in the LCK finals. He’ll look to add another MSI title to his legacy.

Cover photo by: Riot Esports

MSI kicks off Wednesday!

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