Each position’s top underperformer in the MSI group stage

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

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

Top – Khan

Kingzone Khan underperformed at the 2018 MSI group stage

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

Jungle – mLXG

Royal Never Give Up Mlxg underperformed at 2018 MSI Group Stage

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

Mid – Pobelter

Team Liquid Pobelter underperformed at 2018 MSI group stage

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

AD Carry – Rekkles

Fnatic Rekkles underperformed at 2018 MSI group stage

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

Support – Olleh

Team Liquid Olleh underperformed at 2018 MSI group stage

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

credits

Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Player and Team Statistics: GamesofLegends.com

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Why are Hunters so weak right now?

Smite hunters have always been the rulers of the Team Fight in past seasons. As your team’s main source of consistent damage, many times the performance of your Hunter is what would win or lose you the game. In Season five, though, it’s a different story.

The duo lane is under performing in Season 5. For Supports, this isn’t new. They’ve been getting less farm than anyone else since Season 2. But for Hunters, this is a frightening new meta. They have less impact on the outcome of matches than they ever have. And until very late in the game your Mid Laner is expected to deal far more damage. What brought about this shift in power?

The causes

Easily the most damaging change that hit hunters recently was the reduction of XP sharing. In the Season 5 patch, the total split XP from sharing minions was brought down from 150% to 120%. Originally, this change might not have seemed massively detrimental to Hunters due to the meta toward the end of Season 4 favoring a roaming support. But as the meta developed, this change became the dread of all Hunter players.

The biggest immediate reaction to this change, along with the jungle changes that increased the farm of jungle camps, was to have your jungler primarily farm camps. This meant that when your support rotated, there was less farm in it for them.

Image courtesy of smitegame.com

In addition to this, the larger map size made rotating cost more time. As a result, Supports have wound up ordinarily staying in the duo lane until well into the Mid Game. Compounded with the XP changes, Hunters lost an enormous amount of farm going into season 5.

But in the early Season 5 meta, Hunters were still strong. This was due primarily to the item Deathbringer being way too powerful. At the beginning of Season 5, this item gave 35% critical strike chance, along with its critical damage improving passive. After patch 5.2 hit, it was massively nerfed. But unfortunately, a few other Hunter items were brought down with it: Devourer’s Gauntlet and Asi saw nerfs in the same patch.

Towards the end of Season 4, Hunters were admittedly a little too powerful. But after all the changes, it seems like Hi-Rez has hit the role too hard. What can be done to bring the role back up?

The fixes

The most obvious way to fix this situation would be to give the duo lane more farm. This would help not only the Hunter, but the Support as well. But that’s easier said than done. You can’t just increase a number to give the duo lane more farm.

Smite Hunters

Image courtesy of smitegame.com

A buff to Guardian’s blessing could be the answer. Something that increases the XP split to players in your assist range could improve things. But that’s always a difficult balancing act: you don’t want to improve it to the point where junglers pick it up too.

Another suggestion would be to increase the number of minions in a wave for the duo lane. But this could lead to more problems. With increased minion wave sizes, Sieging duo lane Towers would become too easy. The duo lane’s Towers would need to be buffed in response, creating an inelegant design situation where the Duo Lane follows different rules from other lanes. Additionally, this could impact the meta in unexpected ways. If the Supports decide to roam again, suddenly Hunters are ahead of everyone else in the game. It would also reduce the viability of Hunters with poor clear, like Xbalanque.

There is not an easy fix to this problem. It seems most changes Hi-Rez can make have equal downsides. That’s a problem for Smite’s Designers to solve in the following patches. For the moment, though, the duo lane is going to be stuck feeling a little under powered.

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Top art courtesy of smite.wikia.com

Golden Guardians may need to replace Hai in the mid-season

Potential mid-season targets for NA LCS teams

Jacob Wolf of ESPN recently reported that FlyQuest has signed Santorin as a starting jungler for the 2018 Summer Split. This is the first mid-season roster report for the NA LCS so far. Since this is the first year of franchising, it is unclear how much each organization will shake up their teams after one split.

This time last year, North America saw several roster changes, including the Dardoch-Xmithie trade, Doublelift’s return to TSM and Ssong joining Immortals. This year is different, though, because teams are not under threat of relegation from the league. No one wants to finish towards the bottom of the standings, but the risk of losing is much lower.

The 2018 mid-season will probably be quieter than past years. However, with the Santorin report, it is clear that teams are looking to make changes. Here are some of the most likely updates for Summer Split.

FlyQuest: mid-jungle

FlyQuest may need to replace Anda and Fly in the mid-season

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Considering ESPN already reported Santorin to FlyQuest, jungler change is a given. In Wolf’s report, he also mentions FlyQuest possibly promoting Keane as starting mid laner. These changes make sense, considering FlyQuest’s issues visibly stemmed from mid-jungle synergy and pressure.

FlyQuest finished the Spring Split in eighth place with a 6-12 record, so they are not in desperate need for roster changes. Flame has proved himself an elite solo laner for the past three splits. Wildturtle put on several carry performances this spring, and rarely felt like FlyQuest’s loss factor. Stunt had a fine split, although JayJ got to start two games. Anda and Fly were the key starting members to FlyQuest’s losses.

Anda showed strong ganking and engage throughout the split, with picks like Zac and Sejuani. He did not seem to play well around the rest of the team, especially on Jax and Jarvan IV. Anda frequently invaded the enemy jungle without lane priority and initiated fights without back up. These issues were most prevalent regarding mid lane. Fly’s Galio pick helped cover up their lack of coordination, which is why most teams banned it. It remains unclear if this discord stems from playstyle differences, communication issues or lack of skill.

FlyQuest had the most roster experiments during the Spring Split. They started eight different players, including substitutes Shrimp, Keane, and JayJ. FlyQuest Academy also won the Academy League, which shows roster depth and organizational strength. Simply bringing in a decisive, experienced jungler like Santorin, and promoting Keane could help solve some of FlyQuest’s nuanced problems. As Wolf later mentions, a support like KonKwon could be valuable to organization, as “he is one of the few North American resident supports who speaks both English and Korean, and FlyQuest’s top laner and mid laner (even if it moves to Keane) would be Korean native speakers.” It is not surprising that FlyQuest may be scouting him.

OpTic Gaming: Top-Support-Coach

OpTic Gaming may need to replace Zig and LemonNation in the mid-season

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Finishing ninth place in the Spring Split with a 5-13 record, OpTic Gaming may look to make changes in the mid-season. Most analysts pegged OpTic as a low-tier team in the NA LCS, due to its patchwork roster and lop-sided map strength. These predictions turned out to be true, as the team rarely achieved leads in the early game or coordinated well in the mid-game.

Akaadian and PowerOfEvil held up well in their respective roles, generally going even or ahead individually. Arrow and LemonNation frequently fell behind in lane, but Arrow almost always showed up in team fights and skirmishes. OpTic’s glaring issues revolved around top lane. Zig had his worst split yet, and substitute Dhokla was not an answer. These two never got leads, even in winning match-ups, and opponents pigeonholed OpTic in the draft because of it.

OpTic need to upgrade top lane if they want to compete in Summer Split. With PowerOfEvil and Arrow filling import slots, OpTic is restricted to North American talent, though. V1PER and Allorim are the only players from Academy League worth trying on the big stage. So unless TSM, CLG or Cloud9 are interested in trading, this weakness may carry over into summer.

The support and coaching positions may need tinkering, as well. LemonNation felt outclassed by many other supports in the league this year, and OpTic’s team did not visibly improve much over the course of the split. Moving Lemon to an analyst or coaching to assist Zaboutine, while bringing in Winter or another North American Academy support, could be the best move. OpTic should try out players with Arrow and find one with the best laning synergy. Fans questioned whether Zaboutine would translate his casting background into proper coaching, and it is hard to tell how much of OpTic’s issues revolve around their coach. OPT may need to make some staff changes for next split.

Golden Guardians: Top-Mid-Coach

Golden Guardians may need to replace Lourlo and Hai in the mid-season

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Golden Guardians finished last place this spring with a 4-14 record, but their highs felt much higher than FlyQuest or OpTic’s. GGS took games off of 100 Thieves, Team Liquid, CLG, and Echo Fox over the course of the split. However, it is clear that they need to make changes to be competitive this summer.

Hai and Lourlo account for most of the early game deficit. They both average significantly behind at 15 minutes, while Contractz and the bottom lane go even or ahead. Professional teams have a severely hindered chance of winning with weak solo laners, so Golden Guardians should prioritize those positions. Lourlo has five splits of LCS experience, but only really stood out in one. Hai has five and a half years of LCS experience, but feels underwhelming on stage.

Golden Guardians could make a case for keeping Lourlo and further developing him, but Hai seems forced at this point. Like LemonNation on OpTic, Hai would probably serve best as an analyst or coach outside of the game, while GGS brings in a new mid laner. Coach Tyler did seem to help the team when they released Locodoco, and Hai could supplement that development.

The bad news–Golden Guardians’ Academy team finished last place in the Academy League this spring. They cannot really look there for upgrades. The good news–their LCS roster still has both import slots open. Golden Guardians’ options are unlimited. Mickey, Damonte, V1PER, Goldenglue, and Allorim are available in Academy League, if GGS can buy them out. Europe and other regions have plenty of options to choose from, if GGS can import them. This organization seems to need the most change, from starters to subs, but Jurassiq and Jenkins are the only players released so far.

Everyone Else

CLG may not need any changes in the mid-season

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The rest of the teams will probably keep their LCS rosters for at least another split. CLG, TSM, Cloud9, Clutch Gaming, Echo Fox, 100 Thieves and Team Liquid all have strong players and staff. They each showed moments of brilliance and adapted throughout spring. CLG suffered most from individual shortcomings week-to-week and a lack of decisiveness since Aphromoo left. However, Darshan, Reignover, Huhi, Stixxay and Biofrost all had strong individual showings at different points.

TSM and Cloud9 showcased sheer dominance at certain points in the split, but could not maintain their highest levels of play every week. Clutch Gaming made it way farther than anyone anticipated, including themselves, and out-macro-played most of their opponents regularly. Echo Fox maintained first place most of the split. 100 Thieves finished second in their first ever split, and steadily improved week by week. Team Liquid won their first ever LCS title, never sinking below fifth place. The players and coaches on these teams are solid. They just need more time to develop synergy and consistency as units. They may change up some Academy rosters, but their starters will probably stay the same.

credits

Images: LoL Esports Flickr

The Game Haus covered the NA LCS finals LIVE. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for articles, pictures, videos, interviews, and more content from Thomas and other contributors!

smite meta

The rise of carry junglers in the Smite meta

Assassins are back

During the second half of Season 4, Smite junglers was dominated by Warriors. Warriors Odin and Ravana receiving more bans than any other jungler in the Smite World Championship 2018. It seemed like Assassins couldn’t compete.

With the season 5 patch, players were hoping for a shift back to High Damage junglers. They were tired of the tanky front-liners that had been popular for months. And if the first couple of matches of the Smite Pro League are any indication, it’s official: High damage carries are back in the jungle.

Gods like Nemesis, Serqet, Camazotz and Da Ji are the rulers of the jungle in Season 5. The main reason for this shift is clear: item changes. Assassins received a huge damage buff in the form of a new item: The Crusher.

The items

smite meta

Image Courtesy of smite.gamepedia.com

Well, it’s not exactly a new item; The Crusher has been in the game since Season 2. But with a brand new passive and new stats, it might as well be new. The season 5 patch changed its passive to deal an additional 30 damage, plus 15% of your physical power, over two seconds. For Assassins that aim to burst their target in as few abilities as possible, this extra damage is insane. And to back it up, the item has impressive stats for its price. Most notably, it provides a whopping 15 Flat Penetration. Combined with Heartseeker, Assassins can now deal an extreme amount of burst.

Some junglers have also found a new toy in the recently buffed Transcendence. Already one of the highest Physical Power items in the game, it now also gives 10% CDR. With that small buff, the item now has an enticing spread of stats for Assassins. While not as core to Season 5 Assassin builds as The Crusher is, Transcendence has certainly helped in putting Assassins back in the spotlight.

smite meta

Image Courtesy of smite.gamepedia.com

On the Magical side, Mages got a few new items to help them Jungle as well. Book of the Dead now gives a Shield when under 50% Health. Combined with the slightly buffed Warlock’s Staff (formerly Warlock’s Sash), Mages can boost their survivability without giving up much damage. Mages also got a new item shortly after Season 5’s release in Soul Gem, an item reminiscent of a magical Heartseeker. But instead of just dealing extra damage, Soul Gem heals you and any allies around as well. With these items, we’re seeing the return Mage junglers like He Bo, who was banned twice in the Rival vs NRG set on March 20th.

Conclusion

These changes have created a meta where the jungler is incredibly powerful. Even after a sizable nerf to Heartseeker, and nerfs to gods like Serqet and Nemesis, the jungle carry meta is still thriving. For competitive teams, this means having a strong jungler is more important than ever. With the amount of influence they have over the whole map, a strong jungler can now freely rotate, help struggling lanes, and get their whole team ahead. With the strength of Assassins, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a nerf to The Crusher, Soul Gem, or any of the Assassins and Mages that use these items.

 

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He Bo and Nemesis art courtesy of scebiqu.deviantart.com, Serqet art courtesy of smite.wikia.com

Reignover joined CLG for 2018

Reignover’s journey from 2015 Worlds to the bottom of the NA LCS

When Fnatic announced Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin as their starting jungler for the 2015 Spring Split, the LCS community aired its skepticism and criticism:

“Korean imports again. Can only end well. -_-”

“haha, reignover really?”

“This roster is pretty underwhelming, considering the talent that was available…FNC looking like a bottom-half team atm.”

Several online news outlets voiced similar sentiments:

“While that should have been significant incentive for Fnatic to pull together the best talent they can, the results are somewhat mystifying. To wit: While picking up premier new midlane talent in Febiven is an undeniably good choice, every other decision on the roster seems questionable.”

Reignover joined Fnatic in 2015

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

“Their Worlds placings; their endless top placings in LCS splits; the players who won those games and splits were no more. What was Fnatic’s response? They imported a Samsung Galaxy sub and his duo-que buddy, an ADC from the challenger scene, and the star mid-laner of H2K; Huni and Reignover, Steelback, and Febiven. A lot of people thought of these acquisitions as sub-optimal and disappointing.”

“It’d be a tough season, fans began to reason, but Fnatic had a tremendous eye for talent and would surely find the best possible players to replace their former stars. This general assumption resulted in a great and terrible gnashing of teeth when Fnatic’s signings to complete their new roster for Season 5 included two Korean players—Kim ‘ReignOver’ Yeu-jin, formerly of Incredible Miracle, and Heo ‘Huni’ Seung-hoon, a complete newcomer to competitive League of Legends.”

At the time, importing players from other regions was still uncommon in Europe, and Huni and Reignover were relatively unknown quantities in Korea. It was understandable that audiences would question Fnatic’s pick-ups, following the departure of several star players. Little did they know, these two players would be pivotal to Fnatic’s deep run at the World Championship that year.

Reignover’s Beginning: Spring and Summer Titles

Reignover had a spectacular year with Fnatic in 2015. Huni and he had instant synergy as a top-jungle duo, which allowed them to finish the spring regular season in second place with a 13-5 record. Reignover even earned weekly MVP of the EU LCS in week two for his Rengar and Olaf play.

Reignover and Fnatic won Spring and Summer Split 2015

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Fnatic went on to win a heated playoff bracket that spring. They beat H2K in the semifinals 3-2, despite losing two early games using a double-smite, Lee Sin top composition. With Unicorns of Love upsetting SK Gaming, Fnatic came into the finals as favorites. The series saw several different champions played, but Fnatic was able to pull out another 3-2 to take the Spring Split title. Reignover won MVP of the finals, Huni won the Outstanding Rookie award, and every Fnatic member represented the EU LCS first team All-Pro.

After bringing Europe home a fourth place finish at the 2015 Mid-Season Invitational (and taking SKT to fives games in the semifinals), Fnatic returned to the Summer Split with one new member–Rekkles. He turned out to be the key that unlocked Fnatic’s full potential. This roster finished the regular season undefeated, 18-0, solidifying Huni, Reignover, and the rest as some of the best Europe had ever seen. Reignover’s efficient jungle pathing with mostly Rek’Sai and Gragas provided Huni and Febiven with the upper hand in most match-ups.

The entire Fnatic line-up won first-team All-Pro honors again, and the summer playoffs went mostly as expected. Fnatic took down Unicorns of Love 3-0 in the semifinals. They met a formidable Origen squad in the finals, which went to five games. This match-up represented the narrative culmination of “old Fnatic” versus “new Fnatic”, with xPeke and Soaz facing off against Rekkles and Yellowstar. Huni and Reignover played large parts in allowing Fnatic to win the series 3-2, reinforcing the organization’s off-season roster decisions, and sending them to Worlds as Europe’s top seed.

Reignover’s Peak: Top Four at Worlds

Heading into the 2015 World Championship, western media outlets put Fnatic and Reignover under the microscope with statements like “To make it through their Group and beyond, Reignover needs to be successful in his ganks, specifically top side, to put Huni ahead,” “Reignover relies on high gold values to be effective in team fights, as he likes to play high damage picks like Elise, but with other high gold jungle monsters in this group, that’s less of an easy advantage,” “It’s easy to tag ReignOver as the weakest player on Fnatic based on his performances during the latter stages of the EU LCS,” and “Many have looked at Reignover’s champion pool as a target for Fnatic.”

Reignover and Fnatic went to Worlds in 2015

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Invictus Gaming, Cloud9 and AHQ Esports Club joined Fnatic in Group B, pitting Reignover against Mountain, Hai and KaKAO. In the round robin, Fnatic lost to AHQ and Cloud9 once each, then won their other four games. The 4-2 record put Fnatic at the top of their group, pushing them into the bracket stage.

For quarterfinals, Fnatic faced EDward Gaming. The Chinese organization finished first in the LPL regular season that summer, but flopped in the playoffs to finally place fourth. They won the Regional Qualifiers, which allowed EDG to qualify into Worlds. During the group stage, EDG lost both games to SKT, but went 2-0 against H2K and Bangkok Titans. Clearlove was a primary factor in EDG’s success, which meant all eyes would be on Reignover.

Clearlove and Reignover went back and forth with Rek’Sai and Gragas picks, but Reignover proved to be the better jungle on the day. He finished with more gold and assists in every game of Fnatic’s 3-0 victory. The series win qualified Fnatic for the World semifinals, an achievement no western team had reached since season three (which was also Fnatic).

Unfortunately, KOO Tigers, a top Korean team, crushed Fnatic 3-0. They joined their European rivals, Origen, finishing third-fourth in the tournament. These placements reinstated the EU LCS as a top region behind the LCK, and Fnatic as an international threat.

Reignover’s Move: Immortals’ Domestic Dominance

Reignover and Huni joined Immortals in 2016

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Reignover’s off-season, following such an impressive year with Fnatic, brought opportunities unlike any other. Eventually, Immortals announced their entrance into the NA LCS, and their successful signing of Fnatic’s top-jungle duo–Huni and Reignover. The two were such a hit together that they became a package deal.

Expectations for Immortals’ top-side was through the roof. “Immortals will be relying on the touted top-jungle synergy of former Fnatic duo of breakout rookie top laner Heo ‘Huni’ Seunghoon and junger Kim ‘Reignover’ Yeujin to take them to the top of the standings,” “[Immortals’] starting five is headlined by Fnatic’s South Korean duo from last year, the explosive Heo ‘Huni’ Seung-hoon in the top lane and his partner Kim ‘Reignover’ Yeu-jin at the jungler position,” and “Yes, it was a fantastic move, especially if the Koreans can bring along some of Fnatic’s winning culture and approach, but Immortals really scored points for how they built their team around Huni and Reignover,” were all remarks by the media. It was clear that Reignover and Huni had risen from Korean nobodies to titans in the span of a year.

Spring Split proved these presuppositions to be warranted. Immortals tore through North America’s teams to finish with a 17-1 record, only dropping one series to Counter Logic Gaming in week seven. CLG was the next closest contender, with a 13-5 record, four wins behind. Huni and Reignover won first team All-Pro honors for the third split in a row, and Reignover was deemed North America’s MVP.

However, TSM was able to find Immortals’ achilles heel and vanquish them in the playoffs. Some questionable top lane picks for Huni, and lackluster decision-making from Immortals, resulted in an 0-3 loss, which they took out on Team Liquid for third place. This moment marked the first major domestic shutdown of Reignover and Huni since their start as professional players. 

Reignover and Immortals barely missed playoffs in Spring and Summer Split 2016

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The Immortals roster stayed together for Summer Split, which left many wondering if they could repeat their dominating spring performance. TSM proved to be the only contender, finishing the split with a 4-1 game record against Immortals, and the only team above them in the standings. Immortals 16-2 regular season record was still impressive, but not nearly as dominant as their prior first place finish. Reignover was the only Immortals member to be first team All-Pro, with TSM taking the other spots.

Playoffs seemed all but certain to end with TSM facing Immortals in the finals, but history decided to repeat itself. Immortals faced Cloud9 in the semifinals, and fell 3-2. For the second time in two splits, Immortals missed the NA LCS finals, due to uncharacteristic play in the semifinals. And again, they won the third place match. They took down CLG 3-2, which provided enough championship points for Immortals to get a direct seed to the regional finals for a spot at Worlds. Everyone’s anxieties came true, as Cloud9 defeated Immortals again, this time 3-1. All three losses were fairly one-sided, with most of Immortals’ players suffering negative KDAs and significant gold deficits.

It is hard to believe how disappointed each of Immortals’ members were once they realized they would not make it to the 2016 World Championship. Huni, Reignover and Pobelter had all competed in 2015, and regular-season-Immortals felt like they were set to go. This probably felt like a low point for Reignover, coming off of two years of solid performance. Playing with Immortals in North America had to feel like playing with Fnatic in Europe, except Immortals fell just short of glory–no trophies, no MSI, no Worlds. Reignover could not know that the following year would only get worse.

Reignover’s Fall: Team Liquid’s Mismanagement

Reignover joined Team Liquid in 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Immortals rebuilt their roster around Pobelter in the off-season leading into 2017. Reignover and Huni were given opportunities to weigh other offers, and they ended up splitting for the first time in two years. Huni made the move to Korean powerhouse SKT, while Reignover signed with Team Liquid in North America. He joined Lourlo, Goldenglue, Link, Piglet and Matt.

The media was even higher on Reignover in this move than they had ever been before. Esports news outlets touted “Reignover is a master of being in the right place at the right time,” “Reignover was the best jungler in NA last year, and he’s a welcome, experienced addition to this team,” “If Team Liquid does as well as I’m projecting, it will be mostly due to their superstars, Kim ‘Reignover’ Yeu-jin and Piglet, both of whom are arguably the strongest players at their positions in North America,” and “Stars like Chae ‘Piglet’ Gwang-jin and Kim ‘Reignover’ Yeu-jin can be terrifying.”

This roster turned out to be a mess. They finished the Spring Split in ninth place with a 5-13 series record and a 36 percent game win rate. After announcing changes in the middle of the split, Liquid decided to move Piglet to the mid lane and bring in Youngbin as AD carry. After a couple of weeks with no improvement, Doublelift joined the team as a temporary sub out of his break, and Adrian later joined and started a few games. All of this turmoil and chaos completely overshadowed any positive gameplay out of Reignover.

Luckily, Team Liquid avoided relegation. The Promotion tournament was an extreme low point for the organization, and Reignover himself. No one had questioned his talent and consistency in over two years. Going into Summer Split, everyone was wondering what Liquid would do to rectify the situation. It turns out, they did not change anything. They picked up Inori and Slooshi as substitutes, but kept Lourlo, Reignover, Goldenglue, Piglet and Matt as starters.

Reignover and Team Liquid played both promotion tournaments in 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Similar results ensued. TL finished Summer Split in ninth place again, with a 4-14 series record and a 30 percent game win rate. Just like spring, as the split went on, Liquid started Inori, Slooshi, and KonKwon. They brought back Dardoch, despite past troubles with the controversial jungler. They imported Mickey, a Korean mid laner from ROX Tigers. Liquid even swapped out David Lim for Cain as head coach. They went on to compete in the Promotion Tournament, and defended their spot, yet again.

This was truly the lowest point for Reignover. He was completely dropped from conversations of “the best jungler in the league,” in favor of LiRa, Xmithie and Contractz. Fnatic, Immortals, Huni, Rekkles and Pobelter had some of their best splits yet, and were heading to Worlds. Reignover was fighting in promotion tournaments, getting benched for Inori and Dardoch, and falling from grace.

Reignover’s Present: CLG’s Struggles

Enter CLG, an organization also in need of redemption. Darshan, Huhi and Stixxay carried over into 2018, while Reignover and Biofrost joined in the off-season. Although several sources predicted CLG to be a top three team in their preseason power rankings, few commented on Reignover in the same tone of awe as they had in the past.

Several weeks into the split, CLG sits tied for seventh with a 3-5 record. Many of their losses have chalked up to Stixxay’s shortcomings, but coordination and decisiveness in the late game are contributing, as well. Reignover needs this split to be a success. For his stock to rise, CLG needs to make playoffs and prove they can compete at the top level.

Huni and Reignover are playing in the NA LCS in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Reignover was patient with Team Liquid last year, but now it’s time for dividends. Huni is even back in North America, playing for a different team, and solidifying himself at the top of the standings. A bottom-three finish would be detrimental to Reignover and CLG. In fact, CLG looked best in their 2016 Spring Split victory and MSI performance. They have fallen slightly out of favor since then, narrowly missing a chance at Worlds last year. This organization and this player need each other for success. A high finish this split, and this year, could be an ultimate catharsis for such decorated League of Legends entities. Reignover’s journey has been treacherous thus far, but it is not over yet. 

credits

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Quotes: Reddit, Esports Heaven, Concussion Gaming, Thorin’s Thoughts, Dot Esports, EU LCS Broadcast, LoL Esports, TheScore Esports, TheScore Esports, Esports HeavenYahoo Esports, TheScore Esports, TheScore Esports

Historical Data: Leaguepedia

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Voting is open for the 2017 All-Star Event

My picks for the 2017 EU LCS All-Star team

The 2017 All-Star voting has opened for esports fans around the world. Members of each region are deciding which players in each role get to represent them as All-Stars. The cream of the crop is rising to the top, as League of Legends players cast their votes.

This year Riot regionally restricted voting, meaning North American players vote for the NA LCS All-Stars, Europeans vote for the EU LCS All-Stars, and so on. Just like every year, there are ongoing debates about what factors into a player’s All-Star status. Is it based on their match statistics? Is it about their team’s success? Does a player’s legacy factor into it? These and many more questions are on everyone’s minds.

I have decided to publicize my choices for the EU LCS All-Stars, since that is the league that I covered most this year. Total disclosure, I am a North American resident, so my actual votes were restricted to the NA LCS. Nonetheless, I do have opinions on who should be considered the European All-Stars this year.

As these choices are subjective, much of what someone finds worthy of All-Star status is merely how they feel when watching a player. An All-Star is someone that wows the audience with their skill and consistency. They are a player that always contributes to their team’s success. All-Stars bring a strong presence in every competition, which usually translates into draft strategy, lane pressure, teamfighting and controlling objectives.

Here are my five choice players. I am only factoring in 2017 performances, including Spring and Summer Splits, Mid-Season Invitational and the World Championship. I largely ignored Rift Rivals, and these player choices do not take into account whether or not a player is their team’s shot-caller.

Vizicsacsi

UOL Vizicsacsi ranks first among EU LCS top laners

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

My only player choice that did not qualify for Worlds this year, Vizicsacsi is the best that Europe has to offer. He consistently put up impressive performances this year, while Unicorns of Love suffered inconsistency as a team. ‘Csacsi is the only top laner in the EU LCS that should play up to the level of any other region’s All-Star opponents. He has been a leader on Unicorns of Love for almost four years straight now, longer than any other top laner in Europe.

Vizicsacsi carried games on Shen, Cho’Gath, Galio and Gnar this summer. He is the only EU LCS top laner to be top four in CS, XP and gold at 15 minutes, damage per minute and damage percentage in Spring and Summer Split this year. For these reasons, Vizicsacsi was first team All-Pro in Spring Split, and third team All-Pro in Summer Split. Finally, Vizicsacsi is one of the most talented players in the world who consistently gets denied opportunities to attend international events, so All-Stars would be a chance to provide him one.

SOAZ and Odoamne are the next closest contenders, in my book. Personally, sOAZ’s negative social media presence towards the end of Summer Split and during Worlds makes it difficult for me to vote for him as an All-Star. His performances this year were solid, even if Fnatic’s overall strategy was leaky. He was also much more likely to be stuck on a tank, rather than experimenting with a wider variety of champions (which, of course, is not entirely his fault).

Odoamne’s credentials are similar to Vizicsacsi’s. He is a legacy EU LCS top laner who has been on H2K since May 2014. Odo was a consistent force this spring and summer, which earned him second team All-Pro both splits. However, Odoamne’s laning phase was considerably worse than Csacsi’s in the Summer Split. He finished seventh-eighth among top laners at 15 minutes.

Maxlore

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Misfits’ run at Worlds was due largely in part to Maxlore’s jungling. There is recency bias in my selection, because Maxlore was not as impressive during Spring Split on Roccat, but he clearly improved through Summer Split. Misfits initially brought him on to replace KaKAO because of his communication. I would say Maxlore fulfilled that promise, as Misfits’ team cohesion and synergy got better and better every game.

The Sejuani-Gragas-Jarvan IV meta benefited Maxlore more than almost any other jungler. He consistently made the most of his tankiness and crowd control. While Misfits did not have the best neutral objective or vision control, their team-fighting was definitely better than their European counterparts, and Maxlore was a huge part of that.

Jankos is Europe’s renowned jungler favorite, but he did not have a stellar year. His “First Blood King” title did not ring true, and his pressure did not seem as strong as years past, especially during the tankier jungle metas. Jankos is still definitely a top European jungler, but not the top jungler of 2017, in my opinion.

Broxah would actually be my second choice. He had a strong showing domestically in Spring Split, and he did earn the first team All-Pro honor for Summer Split. Broxah’s early games were clean, but as the game went on he seemed to have a harder time knowing exactly when to engage or peel, when to contest or concede. I could totally understand someone casting their vote for Broxah, but I simply found Maxlore’s performances at Worlds more All-Star worthy.

Perkz

Perkz is G2's mid laner at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Mid lane is the role that seems the most straight-forward to me. Perkz had a monster year, even with some setbacks towards the beginning of Summer Split. He brought an excellent combination of laning phase pressure and team-fighting prowess that is hard to find. Other mid laners rarely acquired early game leads against Perkz, and even if they did he never felt fully out of the game.

Add in his Mid-Season Invitational and World Championship performances, and Perkz feels like the right choice. He consistently played up to the level of his opponents, including Faker, xiaohu, Crown and xiye. There were plenty of times where the other members of G2 felt non-existent, yet Perkz always seemed like the player with a plan. He is passionate on and off the Rift. You can feel it in his interviews and in his social media, especially his update following Worlds. Perkz simply feels like the best representation of a European All-Star. 

PowerOfEvil is a close second choice. He exhibited quite a resurgence in 2017 from his days on Origen. Misfits brought him on when they entered the LCS, and he helped bring them to a World Championship. PowerOfEvil’s presence made mid lane the focus of most of their matches, especially when playing Orianna. He almost always got roaming priority during laning phase, and was happy to sacrifice CS and XP to assist his teammates. While I can understand votes cast for PoE, he lacks the bravado that Perkz has, which is keeping me from seeing him as an All-Star.

Febiven and Caps are decent choices, but neither seemed as consistent throughout the game as Perkz or PowerOfEvil. Febiven rarely felt as dominant in team-fights, while Caps regularly played without respect for the enemy jungler. H2K threw early leads due to Febiven’s passivity. Fnatic often lost leads due to Caps’ aggression. They are definitely crucial pieces for their respective teams, but they lack the versatility that Perkz and PoE bring.

Rekkles

Fnatic may qualify for Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The entire Fnatic roster was rebuilt around Rekkles for 2017, and he totally delivered on the pressure. In Spring and Summer Splits, as well as Worlds, Rekkles consistently went even or won bottom lane, and quickly transitioned into methodical positioning and damaging in team-fights. It seems like he had the flashiest moments among AD carries in the EU LCS, juking, flashing forward and making the most of every auto-attack.

Rekkles was also the most inventive marksman in Europe this year. His Kennen went unanswered for a long time. He was one of the only players drafting Sivir when the champion pool was pinched. Rekkles also gave the greatest Twitch performances, all while gladly playing the meta Varus, Ashe, Jhin, Caitlyn, Xayah and Tristana. No other AD carry matched this level of versatility, which is a huge reason he is considered an All-Star.

Zven is the only one who came close, but he was not as dominant this year as last year, in my opinion. He was by far the most consistent bottom laner in Europe, outputting damage and not dying. However, he rarely seemed to push his limits the way Rekkles did. To be fair, Fnatic’s playstyle revolved more around Rekkles than G2’s did around Zven, but that does not discount Rekkles’ performances below Zven’s.

There is a wide gap below Rekkles and Zven. Hans sama certainly stepped up in LCS playoffs and Worlds, when the meta needed him most. I’m not convinced he is on the same level as Fnatic and G2’s AD carries, especially when considering the rest of Summer Split. Kobbe and Samux had consistently good performances throughout the year, but their teams were too inconsistent to let them shine.

IgNar

Ignar is Misfits' support at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split finals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Similar to Rekkles, IgNar’s champion pool seems endless. He played Malzahar, Zyra and Tahm Kench in Spring, and Thresh, Rakan, Alistar and Bard in Summer. Misfits then drafted Taric, Janna, Leona and Blitzcrank at Worlds. IgNar stuck to the meta when necessary, but he was not afraid to adapt and innovate. This flexibility is part of the reason Misfits was able to make a deeper run at Worlds than expected.

G2’s mithy had a great year for himself. He did have several game-saving plays in the Summer Split. However, while he showed a wide variety of playstyles, he lacked the same innovation as IgNar. I cannot remember a time when mithy drafted a surprise, non-meta pick. He generally went with the flow, and locked in an expected support to compliment Zven’s champion. For this reason, mithy feels like less of an All-Star.

Jesiz, Chei and Wadid were impressive in the support role as well, but they showed a bit less consistency and lack that clutch factor. Jesiz is more aligned with mithy, where his role revolves around Rekkles. H2K and Roccat rely more on Chei and Wadid to actually carry them in games.


Featured Image: LoLesports.com

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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peanut

SKT Peanut: Evolution of an apex predator

Wangho “Peanut” Han earned international acclaim as the star jungler for ROX Tigers (ROX) at Worlds 2016. His hyper-aggressive playstyle and clutch Baron steals on “Lee Sin” won over legions of fans. After losing out to SK telecom T1 (SKT) in the semifinals that year, Peanut would later leave ROX Tigers to join SKT. Over the past year, Peanut’s playstyle on SKT has grown increasingly measured and calculated, far less aggressive than his performance on ROX. Coming into quarterfinals at Worlds 2017, Peanut’s lackluster performance raised several red flags. Despite the criticism, Peanut delivered when SKT closed a five game series against Royal Never Give Up (RNG), to send the reigning champions to their fourth World finals appearance. Let’s take a look at how SKT as a team, built Peanut to evolve beyond his former glory.

SKT’s Winning Formula

peanut

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In their Worlds victories in 2015 and 2016, SK telecom T1 made great utility of their six-man rosters. At Worlds 2015, SKT ran with Ji-hoon “Easyhoon” Lee as the mid-lane substitute for Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee. In this season, SKT used Easyhoon to adjust how the team played stylistically. Then in 2016, Seong-ung “bengi” Bae stood as the team’s substitute jungler and specifically, the “game-closer” on multiple occasions. While most teams struggle to effectively utilize their six-man rosters or avoid using subs altogether, SK telecom seems to have figured out the formula.

At the semifinals of Worlds 2016, SKT found themselves down 1-2 against regional rivals, ROX Tigers. Coach Jeonggyun “kkOma” Kim made the call to sub in bengi over starting jungler Sungu “Blank” Kang. When the pressure was on, bengi delivered two stellar performances, sending his team to the finals. Over the 2017 season, Blank worked to fulfill the role of his mentor bengi. In the quarterfinals series against Misfits Gaming (MSF), Blank subbed in for Peanut as SKT’s match-closer, sealing away the series 3-2.

How does SKT continue to be one of the few professional League of Legends teams that can use substitutes effectively? Teams and players in the past argued that by having a substitute, team-scrims suffer. Because subs and starters have to share scrim time, teams effectively lose out on maximum practice time with a single player. Theoretically, this logic makes some sense, but how does SKT consistently perform with multiple subs and new players cycling in/out every season? The answer seems to lie in the relationship between SKT’s starters and subs.

Growing Pains

peanut

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

In 2016, while Blank was the starter for SK telecom, many critics saw him as the weaker jungler compared to the veteran bengi. However, Coach kkOma continued to use him as SKT’s starter, eventually leading SKT to their third World Championship. This dedication to the players undoubtedly pushes both starters and substitutes to grow. This is an aspect of coaching that many teams and players across all regions seem to ignore or overlook. While a starting position is certainly prestigious, SKT’s substitutes exist not as some second-rate bench-warmers, but as bastions for when the cards are down. When SKT call on bengi, and now Blank, the opposing team understands that SKT’s ace has stepped onto the Rift.

SKT uses these substitutes to create a symbiotic relationship between players like Peanut and Blank. The jungle duo constantly grows by watching each other’s play. The substitute ‘paradigm’ for SKT is fundamentally beyond that of any other League of Legends team. Because of this relationship, Peanut’s capacity to grow during the World Championship has been fascinating to watch.

When casters and analysts cited his poor showing in both the group stage and SKT’s quarterfinal match, Peanut’s mental toughness was put to the test. In high pressure situations, many players succumb to criticism. The doubts surrounding Peanut mounted further when Coach kkOma selected to start Blank in SKT’s semifinals series. Was Peanut performing so poorly in scrims that SKT would bench him in such an important match? The answer was a resounding, no. kkOma took this opportunity to push Peanut beyond the doubters and critics. When SKT found themselves down 1-2 against Royal Never Give Up, kkOma called on Peanut to close.

evolve and overcome

peanut

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Peanut loaded into game 4 on Gragas, a standard “Cinderhulk” jungler with which SKT could both engage and disengage teamfights. Gragas did not reflect Peanut’s hyper-aggro playstyle, instead he played the role his team needed. For the past year, Peanut worked to prove himself on non-carry champions and in a crucial elimination game, he delivered. After winning game 4, SKT looked at the final match of the series. Again, Peanut would be their closer. Standing undefeated, with an 8-0 record in elimination games, SK telecom ran the risk of losing it all. The burden weighed on Peanut’s shoulders. In the ensuing 41-minute game, the SKT jungler would cement himself as one of League’s clutch apex predators.

Coming in game 5, Peanut locked in Jarvan IV as his champion of choice. After taking red buff at level one, Peanut found a window of aggression. As RNG’s bottom-lane extended aggressively, Peanut made a brilliant punish, ganking at level two to secure first blood not three minutes in. He maintained this early proactive style to push SKT into a comfortable ~2.0k gold lead throughout the mid-game. Then, at 33 minutes, Peanut found the game-deciding pick onto RNG’s jungler Shiyu “Mlxg” Liu. This single pick earned SKT a Baron buff that would start an unstoppable siege into RNG’s base. SK telecom closed out the game after clutching a massive teamfight at the Elder Dragon.

In his post-series interview, Peanut spoke to coming into those elimination games with a “different mindset” than when he was starting. He said, “Since I was subbed in this time, I could fully focus on the series.” Despite a rough summer split and start to Worlds 2017, Peanut grew remarkably during the tournament. After dropping out in semifinals in 2016, Peanut has a shot at redemption this year. Will this growth be the deciding factor at Worlds 2017? Can Peanut continue to adapt both on-stage and in his mind?

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Rek'Sai, the Void Burrower

Rek’Sai void rushes back into LCS

Rek’Sai, the Void Burrower, has returned to the meta within the NA and EU LCS. Junglers have begun to pick her up as an AD bruiser, following Riot’s small-scope rework. Until recently, Rek’Sai has had a firm presence in professional League of Legends over the last two and a half years.

Following Rek’Sai’s release in December 2014, teams around the world picked or banned her in over 70 percent of all games. Her overall presence dropped to around 25 percent in Spring 2016, only to bounce back up to 77 percent that summer. In Spring 2017, Rek’Sai’s pick-ban rate dropped to her lowest ever, just under 15 percent. But since Riot decided to alter her kit and balance her power, professionals have played her in 30 total games.

Eternum Rek'Sai skin splash

Image from LeagueSplash.com

Rek’Sai gameplay changes

The most extreme changes to Rek’Sai are her ultimate, Void Rush and her W, Un-burrow. Void Rush switched from a glorified teleport ability to an execute of sorts. The R now allows Rek’Sai to go unstoppable roughly one second, lunging at an enemy which she has recently attacked. This ability does attack damage based on the target’s missing health.

Rek’Sai’s Un-burrow ability no longer knocks up multiple opponents. The targeted prey is knocked up, while all surrounding enemies are slightly knocked back. These changes shift Rek’Sai’s overall gameplay from a tanky area-of-effect knock-up-bot into a single-target damage threat with execution potential. While this does not change her out-of-combat playstyle too much, it does change her impact in teamfights. Tremor Sense and Tunnels are still powerful abilities that allow Rek’Sai to see enemies effectively and exhibit pressure around the map. However, once she finds a target, she is able to output more damage than ever before.

For example, here are Rek’Sai gameplay highlights from Week 4 of the NA and EU LCS:

rek’sai’s lcs performance

Even though Rek’Sai’s pick and ban rates have increased, her win rates are still low. In NA LCS, she currently holds a 21.4 percent win rate, while in EU LCS she holds 25 percent. This puts the Void Burrower below eight to nine junglers in terms of success (with more than one game played in LCS). Players may still be learning how to effectively play her in a competitive environment.

Although most Rek’Sai players prioritize Mercury Treads for movement speed and tenacity, the rest of her build path varies between North America and Europe. In NA LCS, it has been just as common to build Skirmisher’s Sabre as building Tracker’s Knife. In EU LCS, Tracker’s Knife is almost universal. Europe also commonly builds Spirit Visage or Locket of the Iron Solari, while North America leans towards Black Cleaver and Deadman’s Plate. Tiamat into Titanic Hydra is essential on Rek’Sai in both regions.

Professional League of Legends will most likely continue to see Rek’Sai on the Rift. Despite her low win rates, junglers show a fondness for this champion. LCS players will need to continue practicing Rek’Sai in the current meta to fully develop her best strategies. Currently, her play rates and win rates do not align. Junglers should look to make her more worthwhile, or simply de-prioritize Rek’Sai in the draft.


Featured Image: Leaguepedia

Other Image: LeagueSplash

Video Highlights: Game Haus Vibby

Champion Statistics: Games of Legends, Oracle’s Elixir

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The rise of North American junglers

With the phenomenal performance of Phoenix1’s rookie jungler Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung, it seems that NA junglers are the easiest role to fill with homegrown talent, while EU has become known for producing some of the most talented mid laners. Over the past few splits, we’ve seen several junglers come from challenger to the pro scene and do quite well. Names like Contractz, Akaadian, and Dardoch all come to mind.

Dardoch and Contractz were well known names in the amateur scene. Some pros predicted their success into the pro scene. Akaadian and MikeYeung, on the other hand, were very unknown to most and surprised spectators with how well they performed starting out.

Photo by: Riot Esports

Why jungle?

It’s interesting to note how few jungle imports there are in the NALCS. Jungle seems to be one of those vital roles where communication is key to overall team success, and the language barrier may be the reason why. Support/jungle communication is very important in roaming and making plays in the early/mid game.

Solo que junglers also seem to have the most influence when thinking about ranked play. As a jungler, your decisions in the early/mid game can set your team up for the most success. Doing well on the challenger ladder would be the first step to being recognized for pro play.

What’s surprising is that jungle is one of hardest roles to transition from solo que to pro play. Jungling solo que and in a professional setting is much different with all members being able to communicate. Your decisions are much more impactful in the game as they’re not going to be nearly as kill heavy as ranked play. Teams also ward much better so jungle routes have to be efficient. It’s hard to pin point exactly why rookie junglers seem to have the most success right away.

Lack of NA talent in other roles

Although NA rookie junglers seem to find a lot of success, other roles don’t seem to have the same effect. ESPN recently came out with an article discussing the lack of NA mid talent. It’s no doubt that more teams have gone to importing talent from elsewhere for their solo lanes. Just last split, many teams brought over talented Korean top laners instead of trying to recruit within North America.

Rookie junglers such as Contractz, Dardoch, Akaadian, and MikeYeung also seem to find success very early as well. Akaadian stormed onto the scene last split, showing some phenomenal performances on carry junglers. MikeYeung has been able to duplicate that success this split, helping P1 earn their first win of the split off his aggressive Nidalee play.

Immortals rookie ADC Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun struggled his first few matches, but has slowly developed into one of the better ADCs in North America. Most of the times we’ve seen rookies in other roles, they haven’t been able to stand out nearly as much as junglers have.

Looking toward the future

With franchising coming soon to the NALCS, we could see more development of homegrown talent. With each team being able to foster a “minor league” sister team, NA talent will have more chances than ever to be able to make their way into LCS.

With the relegation system, fear losing their spot in the pro league. If teams take a chance on a rookie and it doesn’t work out, their spot could be in danger fast. With franchising, bottom tier teams can experiment with different rosters if they struggle to start out the split.

With most of the successful NA teams fostering veteran junglers at Worlds, these rookies haven’t gotten much of a chance to see international play. That could change this split with Cloud 9 having Contractz and CLG with Dardoch. Mikeyeung potentially will have a chance to represent NA at rift rivals as some of the best teams from EU and NA square off. It’ll be interesting to see how these young junglers do against international competition. One can only hope that they can show that North America also has talent worth importing.


Cover photo by Riot Esports 

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Summer 2017 over/under (part 2): LCS players above expectations

With three weeks of NA and EU LCS in the books, audiences are starting to get a feel for teams’ strengths and weaknesses. Some squads have carried over similar strengths from Spring Split. Others have risen or fallen in performance. But even within rosters that tend to play consistently, there always seems to be an ebb and flow on the individual player level.

Last week, I highlighted players who need to return to past form for their respective teams to have a chance at peak performance. This week it is all about the other side, summoners who are trending upward so far this summer. These players have visibly improved. They are putting up statistics that are exciting and surprising. More importantly, though, these members have elevated their teams’ overall performances with their gameplay on the Rift.

Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha

CLG, Top laner

KP%:    61.8%   (2nd top laner)

D%:        19%    (4th top laner)

Darshan is a player who has come and gone as a presence in the top lane. While he almost mirrors his statistics from Spring Split, Summer Split seems different. Many of the imported top laners who struggled to find their place last split currently feel much stronger. Yet, Darshan has been able to keep up enough in lane to help CLG pressure the map through split-pushing and cleaner Teleports. Darshan’s team will rely on him to anchor his lane against top-heavy teams in the NA LCS.

CLG Darshan is exceeding expectations in top lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

DIG Shrimp is exceeding expectations in the jungle

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon

Dignitas, Jungler

KP%:    79.1%   (2nd overall)

XPD@10:    325  (3rd overall)

Dignitas’ newest jungler, Shrimp, has been on a tear so far this split. He and top laner, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, are the only members of the team to start ahead of their opponents at 10 minutes. Despite Dignitas’ early deficits, Shrimp has enabled the team to control Elder Dragon and Baron better than most teams in the NA LCS. His Lee Sin is particularly strong.

Choi “Pirean” Jun-Sik

Team Envy, Mid laner

KDA:    4.2   (4th mid laner)

DPM:    494  (6th mid laner)

Pirean is by no means close to the best mid laner in the NA LCS. However, his addition to Team Envy has seemed to boost their overall performance. Within the team, Pirean has the highest KDA, lowest death share, and ties Apollo “Apollo” Price in damage share. Even in Envy’s losses, the mid laner looks proactive on picks like Taliyah and Ahri. Pirean seems like a much better fit than Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo in spring.

NV Pirean is performing above expectations in mid lane

LoL Esports Flickr

UOL Samux is exceeding expectations in bottom lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort

Unicorns of Love, Bot laner

DPM:    604   (4th overall)

DMG%: 28%  (6th overall)

Despite already meshing well with Unicorns of Love in his rookie split, Samux is solidifying himself as a top AD carry in EU LCS this split. He is putting out high damage and keeping his deaths low, sporting a 7.7 KDA. Samux’s positioning and decision-making have been crucial to Unicorns’ scary team-fighting. Standing out this way among a strong field of European bot lanes truly is a feat.

Kim “Wadid” Bae-in

Roccat, Support

D%:   15.4%  (2nd support)

KP%:  68.5%  (6th support)

The flashiest Rakan player in the EU LCS, Wadid has been a primary initiator for Roccat this split. This trend started during Roccat’s win streak towards the end of Spring Split, but he has blossomed these past few weeks. Wadid enables his bottom lane partner, Petter “Hjärnan” Freyschuss, to get ahead during laning phase and clean up team-fights. Viewers feel this player’s presence on the map, which is impressive considering there are several competitive, veteran support players in the league.

ROC Wadid is exceeding expectations as support

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

honorable mention

IMT Cody Sun and Olleh are above expectations in bottom lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung

Immortals, Bot lane duo

DPM: 534,251 (2nd bot lane duo)

FB%: 27%,20% (1st bot laner, 1st support)

The success of Immortals’ bottom lane is difficult to separate between marksman and support. Both Cody Sun and Olleh have exhibited vast improvements from their starts at IEM Gyeonggi. Many fans could see the power shift towards the end of Spring Split, but not to the current degree. This duo has consistently pressured opponents throughout the game in laning, turrets and team-fights. Olleh’s aggressive Bard and Morgana pairs particularly well with Cody Sun’s Caitlyn and Varus. Immortals’ bottom lane has been a force so far, and remaining at the top of the standings will definitely depend on their continued growth.

All of these players are playing above their previous benchmarks. It only takes a short time for above expectations to turn into the expectation, and, as the NA and EU LCS advance, viewers will look for continued improvement. No one will necessarily remember which teams and players were stomping or slumping three weeks into the split. If these players truly want to leave their mark, they will need to maintain this high level of gameplay over many more grueling weeks of League of Legends.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Champion Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

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