100 Thieves’ First Place Heist

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

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

Image courtesy of LoL Esports

 

A Favorable Battlefield

 

The Early Meta

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

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

Image courtesy of LoL Esports

 

The Meta Moves On

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

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

 

Credit Where Credit is Due

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of LoL Esports

 

Playing the Map

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

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

 

Potential Pitfalls

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

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

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

 

The Value of Veterancy

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

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

Image courtesy of LoL Esports

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

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

 

The Rest of the Road

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

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

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

Cloud9’s Stormy Approach to Playoffs

With Week 9 of the NA LCS finished, the spring 2018 playoffs loom on the horizon. While several teams put their best foot forward to end on a high note and get in gear for playoffs, Cloud9 struggled to capture the same spirit. Things were looking bright for Cloud9 fans with C9 finishing the first half of the round robin with an outstanding win-loss record of 8-1. With only one loss to Echo Fox, Cloud9 was looking unstoppable going into the second half of the split. What went wrong for the team?

Raining on their parade

A mix of meta changes and experimentation gone wrong took the wind out of the team’s sails and left Cloud9 with a second half record of 3-6 and the 5th place spot in the spring playoffs. In the first round, Cloud9 flourished due to a winning combination of Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and Andy “Smoothie” Ta’s hard hitting engages and explosive follow-up from Eric “Licorice” Ritchie, Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi. The team made quick work of their opponents by shifting their focus from their mid lane to their side lanes.

Jensen, their star mid lane player who received a lot of jungle attention last season, roamed often and made sure his teammates were able to get advantages early. These early advantages allowed Cloud9 to throw their weight around the map and more easily take towers and neutral objectives.

With the changes brought by patch 8.4, however, Cloud9 featured a very different dynamic that they struggled to make effective for the remainder of the split. This new dynamic emphasized snowballing the early game and securing Baron as early and easily as possible. This was accomplished through picks like Licorice on Shen, Svenskeren on Kha’Zix, Jensen on late game scaling mages, and Smoothie on big playmaking supports like Blitzcrank or Rakan.

Sadly, this dynamic proved difficult for the team to properly execute. While Svenskeren was able to gather early advantages through early game plays, the team would often lose focus and do nothing with the early leads that they had generated. This, coupled with Licorice’s struggles to effectively pull the trigger on initiations through global abilities like Stand United or Teleport, made controlling leads and executing compositions very difficult. This skittishness to initiate caused problems for the rest of the team during the mid and late game and contributed to the majority of their losses.

Baron was another cause of concern for C9. The objective received a greater amount of emphasis because of the buffs to Baron itself and the synergy it presented with Banner of Command. Cloud9 seemed to be unable to secure Baron, as the team would either mistime backs or get picked off during key moments that allowed their enemy to take it for themselves. The best example of this is during Week 8 when Cloud9 continuously struggled to control the area around the objective.

Plagued by these ongoing issues, Cloud9 plummeted in the standings and ultimately finished 5th in the regular season.

Cloud9 Smoothie

Courtesy of LoL Esports

 

Silver lining

With their playoff match against Team Liquid only a few days away, all eyes will be on Cloud9 to see if they can return to the form that made them so successful in the first half of the spring season. While many will be concerned about the team’s ability to execute their compositions, all may not be lost for Cloud9 fans.

Against Clutch Gaming, Cloud9 showed signs of life by returning to the style that made them so effective in the first half of spring. Also, head coach Bok “Reapered” Han-guy has been vocal about the team’s ongoing issues and recognizes where their troubles lie. Whether the team is able to overcome their woes or not remains to be seen, but it will certainly make this weekend’s match much more interesting.

You can follow me on Twitter here: @masonjenkinstgh Also be sure to follow The Game Haus on Twitter and Facebook so you can get more and esports action. 

Featured image courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr

Fantasy LCS

Fantasy LCS – Week 9

The final week of the LCS is here, and with it, the last chance to improve your Fantasy LCS position. Many teams are still in the hunt for a playoff spot, and there will inevitably be many exciting games. Here is a look at which players may exceed expectations, as well as those that will probably disappoint.

Start:

Vincent “Biofrost” Wang – Support for Counter Logic Gaming

Opponents: OpTic and Team SoloMid

Biofrost’s fantasy value has gone up and down along with Counter Logic Gaming’s success this year, and going into Week 9, that is a very good thing for his fantasy owners. Winning the last four games straight, Biofrost has had two 50+ point weeks in a row. This week they are facing a struggling OpTic Gaming, and long-time rivals TSM. CLG will have to pull off two big wins for even a shot at the playoffs this year, and their Bot Lane duo is likely to lead the way.

 

Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun – Mid Lane for Echo Fox

Opponents: FlyQuest and 100 Thieves

Despite being on first place Echo Fox and the second highest scoring Mid Laner in the LCS, Fenix is still only being started in 57% of fantasy leagues. Although last week was not their best, they will be fighting hard to secure first place in the last week of the Split. On a team that tends to focus on their Mid and Top lanes, and up against two of the weaker Mid Laners in the league, Fenix is primed to produce a lot of fantasy points.

 

Fantasy LCS

Cody Sun and Aphromoo (Courtesy of LoL Esports)

 

Cody “Cody Sun” Sun – ADC for 100 Thieves

Opponents: Clutch Gaming and Echo Fox

Cody Sun has had an exceptional season. He is currently tied for the most kills in the NA LCS with 70, and is second only behind Altec in ADC fantasy points. Though they have already secured a playoff spot, their game against Clutch Gaming will be one to watch. The two teams are currently tied for third, and the winner of this game will likely have an advantage in the postseason. On Sunday they face Echo Fox, who tends to struggle in the Bot Lane, despite what the fantasy points show. Unless something happens to completely throw off Cody Sun, he should have a strong showing this week.

 

Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen – Jungle for Fnatic

Opponents: Giants Gaming and FC Schalke 04

Last week, Fnatic secured their first place spot in the EU LCS, and Broxah played a large role. On a team full of experience and talent, he has consistently given his teammates what they need to succeed. While not yet a Jungle legend, he has been a solid fantasy performer. His 14+ average points per game should earn him a starting spot in more than the current 63% of leagues.

 

Eric “Licorice” Ritchie – Top Lane for Cloud9

Opponents: Team Liquid and FlyQuest

On a team full of veterans, rookie Top Laner Licorice has more than held his own. Second only behind Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon in the NA LCS, his fantasy performance this split has been equal to his success on the rift. Playing high damage Champions has helped him earn a position-high 49 kills, and doesn’t hesitate to go head-to-head with some of the most experienced players in the league. Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong and Lee “Flame” Ho-jong are both on the bottom half of the table in terms of fantasy points this season, and Licorice can be expected to take advantage of them this week.

 

Sit:

Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung – Jungle for Team SoloMid

Opponents: Golden Guardians and Counter Logic Gaming

Joining the LCS halfway through the 2017 season, MikeYeung made a name for himself as a breakout star with Pheonix1. Understandably, many people picked him up for their fantasy team this season expecting big things. While he’s not at the bottom of the Jungler ladder, he’s also far from the top. The Golden Guardians are no longer the easy matchup they were early in the season. On top of that, CLG is on a rampage in their push to make playoffs, making it unlikely that MikeYeung will find fantasy success this week.

 

Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu – Top Lane for Splyce

Opponents: Vitality and Giants Gaming

Odoamne is an an experienced player on a team that has done quite well in the second half of the split, which is the only explanation for him being started in 40% of fantasy leagues. He is a prime example of good plays and teamwork not always translating to fantasy scores, especially for Top Laners. He is currently 14th in terms of total fantasy points for his position, and facing Kim “Ruin” Hyeong-min and Lucas “Cabochard ” Simon-Meslet in the final week of the split is unlikely to improve his standing.

 

Eugene “Pobelter” Park – Mid for Team Liquid

Opponents:  Cloud9 and OpTic Gaming

Although a bit up and down, Pobelter has had a decent season so far. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the past two weeks have been some of his lowest, and this week is not shaping up to be much better. Team Liquid’s first match is against the number one Mid Laner Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, who is on the first place team in the NA LCS. Next on the schedule is the struggling OpTic, but Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage rarely makes things easy for his opponents. Pobelter will have to be in top form to put up even average fantasy scores in Week 9.

Fantasy LCS

Wildturtle (Courtesy of LoL Esports)

Jason “WildTurtle” Tran – ADC for FlyQuest.

Opponents: Echo Fox and Cloud9

WildTurtle had a huge week last week with 50 points, but that is unlikely to repeat. FlyQuest is ending their difficult Spring Split by facing the two teams that are tied for first place. While the Echo Fox Bot Lane has shown some flaws, they are still such a strong team overall that it is unlikely to pan out well for WildTurtle. After this tough game, they will have to turn around and face Cloud9. Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi and Andy “Smoothie” Ta have been impressive all season, and are unlikely to give up many fantasy points to WildTurtle.

Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung – Support for Team Liquid

Opponents: Cloud9 and OpTic Gaming

Leading Immortals to the NA LCS finals last split, Olleh was being talked about for possible MVP honors a few months ago.  This year has been a much different story. While enough people have held onto last seasons performance to have him starting in 72% of fantasy leagues, their faith has not paid off. Olleh is currently the fourth worst support in the LCS in terms of average points per game, and aside from a couple decent weeks early in the Split, he and Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng  have seemed very out of sync. If they can figure out how to be on the same page, they could be a powerhouse in the Summer Split, but chances are that won’t happen before Saturday.

 

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

Featured image courtesy of LOL Esports

cg solo

Solo: ‘I think we can go toe-to-toe with everyone’

Clutch Gaming came out on top against a struggling Counter Logic Gaming this Saturday, climbing to a 2-1 start in their inaugural split as members of the North American League Championship Series.

Following their rout of CLG, their top laner Colin “Solo” Earnest sat down with The Game Haus to talk about their win, his ascension to the LCS and what it’s like to play with a veteran-filled lineup.

Alright, so the CLG game was a stomp. What made it such a one-sided game?

“It seemed like we were really ready for all of their aggressive plays. Their team is like, if one person goes in, they all go in. We were just able to counter their aggression with some good plays of our own.”

Prior to signing on with Clutch you spent a few years in the Challenger Series. How has the jump to LCS been for you? And what do you bring to the table as a player?

“The jump has been pretty good. I have played in a lot of stage games and best-of-five series, so I’m experienced some of the LCS teams. It is a much different animal being week-to-week and against playing some of the really top teams. I’m just trying to get as comfortable as possible stage against some of the really good strong opponents.

CG Solo

Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

I think I just have a really solid base to grow on. I’m a really good teammate, a strong leader and I think I bring a lot of x-factors, as well as my play.”

Now most of Clutch came over together from Team Envy and Febiven arrived after an impressive career in Europe. Has it been tough finding your place in this roster?

“It’s been a little different, they’re definitely really talented guys and they been in the scene for a really long time. I’m really willing to just listen and learn a lot from them. They’ve been really great teachers.”

Speaking of Febiven, you’re playing with one of the most accomplished Western mid laners over the past few years. What’s he like as a player? As a leader?

“He’s a really strong player, can do everything and is willing to make sacrifices for the team. He’s a really funny guy, really great guy to be around and is really strong mentally, which is surprising considering Europe’s reputation with that.

I’ve had a really great time playing with him. We’re very similar in how we look at the game and how we think a team should function.”

Now there’s been a lot of talk about some of the newer faces, such as AnDa and Licorice, and not as much about you. Why do you feel that is?

“I think it’s just because I’ve been around for a lot longer. At least in the spotlight, I’ve done challenger for a long time, so I think people will take for granted how good I am as a player. It’s a lot easier to get excited for someone who kinda just started out than it is for someone who has been grinding for so long.

cg solo

Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

I don’t really worry about too much, at the end of the day I’m just going to do my best for myself and the team, and take it from there.”

Where does Clutch stand amongst the rest of the LCS?

“I think we can go toe-to-toe with everyone. I think we are going to have losses and we’re gonna have wins, but depending on how well we learn from them will dictate how we do in playoffs.”

Tomorrow you play against against a hyped up Team Liquid. What’s it going to take to win?

“We’re gonna have to have a really solid draft and really solid game plan going in. And then we’re going to have to play as a team and really focus on our strengths and making sure they don’t roll over us with their really strong individual play.”

Featured image: Riot Games

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NA LCS Week 1 overreactions

Week 1 of NA LCS is in the books and as always, teams don’t always seem too coordinated at the beginning of the split. The new meta has brought a lot of long games that has tested the shot calling and synergy of many of these newly formed rosters. Franchising seems to have upped the competition for sure as every team looked competitive in the first week. Here are some of the overreactions after week 1:

TSM will crash and burn

It’s no secret that Team SoloMid’s new roster debuted with a dud of a week. After being criticized heavily at last years world’s for the lack of early play making ability, the team went for a new look. They imported European duo laners Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez. They also brought in promising all star rookie jungler, Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung, to round out the roster.

TSM looked like a mirror image of their Worlds team during week 1. They were lacking in early game play making and reacting to the enemy team’s moves. Former coach of the split, Kim “Ssong” Sangso was supposed to help fix their issues, but the team looked unchanged.

Star mid laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg faced heavy criticism from Riot analysts for his passive play. Many players were quick to defend him. They came in ranked near the top for most of the preseason power rankings. Going 0-2 is a major disappointment for this new roster and they’ll need to fix their drafts and early game play making if they don’t want to fall too far behind.

Echo Fox can actually win na lcs

Huni

Source: Riot Games Flickr

Echo Fox came being ranked as one of the lower tier teams in the league. Many argued that the egos on the roster would not be able to mesh well together and the team would ultimately fail once they lost a few games. In their first two games, the team looked very good going 2-0. Echo Fox’s early game has been the best in the league. They averaged a gold difference @15 of 4,233 over the two games they played.

Top lane star Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon showed off his top Lucian pick as a counter to Gangplank. He would end the game with a 4-0-6 KDA and flame horizon the originator of the saying, Lee “Flame” Ho-jong.

Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett showed out well with two good Zac games and finishing with a 9.5 KDA. Echo Fox looked really strong, but we’ll need to see them stay consistent heading into week 2. They’ll be facing off against a struggling TSM and Cloud 9 this week. If they can pull out another 2-0, this team could be the real deal. This could possibly be the roster that finally gets Echo Fox to playoffs.

100 Thieves Might be the Strongest of all the New teams

With the NA LCS introducing four new teams into franchising, 100 Thieves looked to be the best of all the teams. Built with solid veterans in just about every role this team could be a sleeper team to look out for. They have two strong Korean solo laners in Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook and Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho.

They have a strong core of North American players as well in veterans Zaqueri “aphromoo” Black and William “Meteos” Hartman. Along with rising young stud Cody “Cody Sun” Sun, their roster looks solid. They were able to pull off a really close win against Optic Gaming and dominated Counter Logic Gaming.

Lead by passionate owner, Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag, 100 Thieves could start gaining fans quickly if they keep their success up.

Licorice is the Next Great NA Talent

When Cloud 9 announced that rookie Eric “Licorice” Ritchie would be replacing Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, many were quick to write them off as contenders. Licorice in particular had no LCS experience and hadn’t looked particularly strong against LCS competition. In their first match against CLG Licorice was a victim to camping by the enemy jungler, but was still able to deal the most damage in the game on Gangplank.

In his second game against Golden Guardians, he had an excellent Kled game going 7-0-6. Licorice has been a longtime solo queue stud, so if he can develop into a carry top lane he could be the next star from North America. Cloud 9 is known to be open to letting their players play what they think is strong so he’ll have a lot of freedom for champion choice.

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Cover Photo by lolesports

 

 

Is Cloud 9’s new roster underrated?

Heading into the new split, one of the biggest organizations in NA LCS, Cloud 9, made some questionable moves this off season. They lost top laner, Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, to Team Liquid and also let rising jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia leave. With the acquisitions of rookie top laner Eric “Licorice” Ritchie and former TSM jungler, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, most people are considering these moves downgrades. Licorice is a huge question mark as someone who has never seen the LCS stage outside of challenger series. He showed carry potential at times, but when faced against LCS-level competition, he floundered. Svenskeren comes in after a shaky year with TSM in which he took the blunt of the criticism for their failures. Cloud 9 have always been a top organization in NA LCS, but are people downplaying how good this roster can actually be?

is Licorice the next Hauntzer?

Photo by: Riot Esports

Licorice is seen as the biggest question mark heading into the new split. He hasn’t had any LCS experience outside of the challenger series, but has shown flashes of his carry potential. He’s often been high on the solo queue ladder so the mechanics are definitely there. In a region with weaker top lane talent, Licorice has the chance to have the similar path of TSM’s Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell.

Licorice has the chance to learn from many of the LCS veterans on his team. Many people doubted TSM’s signing of Hauntzer after seeing him do decent with Gravity. Nobody thought that he would be as good as he is today. Being surrounded with some of the best players in the league gives him a chance to learn from the best. Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen, Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi and Andy “Smoothie” Ta are all at least top two players within the region. While Svenskeren may have had an off year this past split, the new runes may favor his type of playstyle.

Licorice seems hungry to learn and brings in a new young player that Cloud 9 can mold. This is the second straight season that they’ll be bringing on a rookie NA player.

Keeping the Core

If there’s one move Cloud 9 can be praised for, it’s keeping the core of their success. Jensen and Sneaky are two of the best carries in North America at their positions. Sneaky, being underrated for most of his career, finally began to receive recognition last year after good Worlds and Gauntlet performances. He attended his first All star event this past year. Smoothie has also shined since joining Cloud 9 as a shot caller and play making support. Smoothie continues to grow every year and is arguably one of the best supports in the league now.

While there were rumors that head coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu could bolt after last season, he has stayed with the team. Since coming onto the team in May 2016, he’s given the team the leadership to succeed and shot call in game without former star, Hai “Hai” Lam. Being able to keep a coaching talent like Reapered is huge for staying successful.

Which Svenskeren Will We see?

It’s no secret Svenskeren is coming off one of the weakest years of his career. He received much of the criticism for TSM’s lackluster performances at international events. Joining a new team gives him a fresh start to rebuild himself. This will likely be his last chance to prove that he can be a world class jungler. With the new runes leaning towards more aggressive junglers, Svenskeren might be able to reinvigorate his career.

He matches much of the aggression of star mid laner, Jensen, so it will be interesting to see how the two work together. They could form one of the most aggressive mid/jungle duos if things work out correctly. Former TSM owner, Andy “Reginald” Dinh noted his lack of synergy with former support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang. Jungle and support synergy is especially important in the early game play making. With Smoothie being a very vocal member of the team, I could see him and Svenskeren working really well together.

Cloud 9 will have some big questions to answer in the new season. With franchising shaking up rosters, there will be some new teams on the rise for sure. Cloud 9 will need to be on top of their game if they want to stay contenders in a growing NA LCS scene.

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NA LCS: Rookies to watch

With franchising bringing some newer imports into the league, a few rookies will get their chance on the NA LCS stage. Spring Split brings the excitement of seeing all these newly formed rosters with a shot to make some noise early. With teams still learning to play with one another it will be interesting to see who can separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

With new players being imported from everywhere, some new players were chosen to fill resident slots. It’s been a long time coming for some of these hopeful pros. Here are some of the rookies to look out for this split:

Matthew “Deftly” Chen, Golden Guardians adc

Deftly was featured during last years Scouting Grounds by Yahoo Esports and quickly began to garner some attention. Deftly spent time with EUnited on one of the better NA CS teams. The experience has paid off as he was picked up this split by The Golden Guardians.

Golden Guardians look to be a younger and newer team that wants to build something sustainable, rather than focus on winning in the now. They sport a lot of young players outside of mid laner Hai “Hai” Lam. They are the only team not using an import slot and look to be trying to develop their own chosen North American talent. Under the coaching of experienced Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-seop, this team has a lot of upside if they can get things going early.

Hai has become famous for being a superb shot caller and in game leader. During the early parts of last spring he was able to lead a subpar Flyquest squad to the top of the standings. Deftly plays one of the more flashier positions as ADC, so if this team can be surprise contenders, expect his stats to be on the upper echelon of players. All players seem pretty hungry to prove everyone wrong so maybe they can shock some people.

Andy “AnDa” Hoang, Flyquest jungler

Anda is a name that may not be familiar to many people. He spent last Summer as the substitute for Immortals. In previous seasons he had played in the Challenger Series as a top laner. As a jungler in Korean solo queue he reached top 15 on the ladder in a ridiculous amount of time. His signature champions were Nidalee and Ezreal on his climb.

His aggressive play style helped him climb the ladder fast and a lot of people noticed. Flyquest will give him is first shot at performing on the LCS stage. He has the chance to learn under legendary SKT coach  Jung “RapidStar” Min-sung. Solo queue and professional play are much different for junglers, but if he can make the adjustment this roster has the talent to surprise some people.

Eric “Licorice” Ritchie, Cloud 9 Top laner

na lcs

Photo by: Riot Games

Licorice may have the biggest shoes to fill as a rookie. Cloud 9 has a long tenure as one of the most successful LCS organizations. With former star top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong going to Team Liquid the team had to look towards a replacement. With new jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen taking up an import slot, the team was forced to look at domestic talent.

Taking the risk on Licorice may have high rewards long term. He’s been a notable solo queue talent for awhile. He also spent time on the challenger team, EUnited, where he looked good for the most part. But when it came to taking on LCS caliber talent, he looked average at best.

He comes in as the second rookie that Cloud 9 has brought into the team in the past two years. He’ll get to learn under the coaching of Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu and his veteran teammates. If Cloud 9 can mold him into what Impact was or better this team can continue to be a top three team in this league.

Colin “Solo” Earnest, CLutch Gaming Top Laner

Solo is one of those players who has spent a lot of time in the Challenger Series. He had stints on Team Liquid Academy, Ember and most recently, Gold Coin United. His LCS opportunity has finally come with the new organization of Clutch Gaming. He’ll be surrounded by most of the former members of Team EnVyUs.

Solo has always looked decent in Challenger Series, but failed to stand out against LCS competition. As a long time Challenger Series veteran, he’ll want to prove he belongs with LCS competition. He draws comparison to former pro Cristian “Cris” Rosales who spent a lot of time on low tier LCS and challenger teams. If he can prove that he’s not just another Cris, this roster actually has a lot of potential to be good.

Team EnVyUs was a good top laner away from being possibly a top five team last split. With star jungler Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo sticking with the team there’s a lot of upside that Solo could bring. If he can be a decent low-econ top laner, Clutch Gaming could become a top team in LCS.

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Free agent moves to watch for in North America

With Season 7 ending, it’s no secret that Korea is still the most dominant region. Looking towards North America, they once again seemed like the weakest region there. Only one team made it to quarterfinals, as the week two NA curse took hold again. Team SoloMid came in as the top team from North America with a much easier group, as they didn’t have a Korean team. They still managed to not make it out and fail once again.

With franchising coming to North America next year, we can expect a lot of money being invested among the teams that make it. This may see North America become the most competitive it’s ever been. In just a few weeks, we’ve heard rumors of some big names coming to North America. It will be a long off season so expect more big news to keep coming as we go on.

With the off season in full swing here are some of my big free agent moves to look out for:

TSM Jungler

Photo by: Riot Esports

Team SoloMid once again failed to make it out of groups. Even with all the domestic success the team has had, internationally it hasn’t been working. The biggest scapegoat from this year’s worlds has to be jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen. Svenskeren seemed out matched at Worlds as he failed to make any plays in the early game. He was the face of much of TSM’s downfalls as a team lacking early game play making.

It’s questionable at this point whether it’s poor individual play of Svenskeren or a team play style for their jungler? Svenskeren is well known as being an aggressive early play making jungler. This style was punished early in the Spring split where he was often caught out going for cheeky invades.

Rumors swirled on reddit earlier this week that TSM might be looking to import LMS Flash Wolves’ star jungler Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan. While these rumors may be light, it’s definitely a possibility after how the team has looked at Worlds for the past two seasons. Phoenix1’s star rookie Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung could also be available with rumors that Phoenix1 will not be returning to the NA LCS. MikeYeung has been duoing with mid laner Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, but it could just be for fun. MikeYeung showed flashes of stardom as he was a huge play maker on aggressive junglers while he was with Phoenix1. His Nidalee and Lee Sin plays made highlight reels during their run at Rift Rivals.

The possibility of TSM keeping Svenskeren and adding a sixth man jungler is also a possibility. SKT has shown the success of having two junglers so TSM could give it a try as well.

Disbanding Teams

Photo by: Riot Esports

With rumors already swirling about who is in/out of the NA LCS, there could be some good rosters disbanding. Teams rumored to be out are Phoenix1, Envyus, Dignitas and Immortals. Each of these teams have some big names to choose from.

In the top lane from Dignitas and Immortals you have two huge Korean stars in Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong. Each of them has had success in Korea before coming to North America this past year. Ssumday has been known to be a mechanical God, but Dignitas had some synergy issues when it came down to performing well. Flame showed success with Immortals helping them finish second domestically before being eliminated in the group stages at Worlds. It will be interesting to see if these two decide to stay in NA or head back to Korea.

Junglers in this group are also considered pretty strong. Jake “Xmithie” Puchero quietly became the best jungler in North America after transferring to Immortals. His supportive playstyle was vital in their success during Summer Split. MikeYeung will be pursued following a good rookie split on a struggling Phoenix1 team. Nam “lira” Tae-yoo was another jungler who was a great player on a bad team. He was often praised by other players as being one of the best in the league.

One of the more underrated players out of these teams might be EnVyus support Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent. Hakuho has quietly been one of the better supports in North America. He was a major reason for the improvement of ADC Apollo “Apollo” Price. He holds a lot of value as a North American player who wouldn’t take up an import slot.

Cloud 9 Top Lane

While Cloud 9’s top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong had a great split overall after taking over full time as the starter, there were still rumors that he may be looking to retire. His contract does expire this year which was a main reason why Cloud 9 took on Jeon “Ray” Ji-won. Impact had a decent showing at Worlds so maybe that will change his mind, but it’s definitely something to keep our eyes on.

With Dignitas and Immortals not making it in, Ssumday and Flame become available. Ssumday has been a mechanical God since he came over, but hasn’t really had the right team to back him up. Flame showed success on Immortals, but language barrier might be an issue with both of them. Cloud 9 has experience working around that with coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu.

While it’s still likely Impact makes his way back to Cloud 9, it might be interesting to see if they keep Ray around or look for another sub top laner to eventually take over.

New Rookies?

We got the chance to see some new rookies in the challenger scene last year that could be making their way onto the LCS stage. One big name that has been a solo queue star for awhile and showed some promise last year was Eric “Licorice” Ritchie on EUnited. Licorice mechanically seems pretty sound, but just needs more experience on the big stage against better competition. With academy teams becoming more relevant with franchising, he might be a split away from becoming an LCS starter.

Another rookie that we could see soon is ADC Matthew “Deftly” Chen. Deftly has shown the ability to be a great ADC at times, but has also had some inconsistencies. A nice comparison would be Cody Sun last year. Deftly will most likely get picked up for an academy team for Spring in hopes of gaining enough experience to contend for a starting position in Summer.

Jungler Raymond “Wiggily” Griffin is a challenger player who benefited from Riot’s scouting grounds. He played in the challenger scene on Tempo Storm, who looked good for the majority of the regular season. Wiggily is a jungler on the rise and could see his way into a young team looking for NA talent.

Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud.

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Possible Roster Moves For EnVyUs and Team Liquid

Relegations are over, and EnVyUs and Team Liquid have earned their way back into the LCS. It wasn’t a domination by any means though. Both of these teams will need to make some changes for next split if they don’t want to finish bottom two again. Here are some possible roster moves I could see for both teams going into next split:

EnvYus

Courtesy: Riot Esports

EnVyUs began to pick up its play towards the end of the split. Their jungler Nam “Lira” Tae-yoo developed into one of the best junglers in NALCS. Team EnVyUs will need to build around their star jungler going forward. Where they can look to improve is in their solo laners. Top laner Shin “Seraph” Wu-Yeong and mid laner Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo looked close to mediocre in their roles last split. It’s questionable how Ninja is still worth an import slot at this point.

Envy’s bot lane was heavily underrated last split. Apollo “Apollo” Price and Nikolas “Hakuho” Surgent held their own against some of the best, and have shown they can compete at an LCS level. They also serve as valuable assets as they don’t take import slots.

Possible Roster Moves:

Looking at possible imports and challenger players available, they may look to the team that they had to defeat to get back into LCS. Gold Coin United’s solo laners may be adequate replacements. Mid laner Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun has has also proven to be a mechanically skilled mid laner that’s able to compete with some of the best in North America.

If Seraph doesn’t play next split, they could look to either Colin “Solo” Earnest or Eric “Licorice” Ritchie. Solo has been bouncing around the challenger scene for awhile now, but looked to hold his own during the promotion tournament. Licorice also had some impressive games during the promotion tournament that could see him being looked at for an LCS team soon.

Another notable import could be EU Giants’ Na “NighT” Gun-woo. NighT made quite the impact during his rookie split last season. He was a lone star on a struggling Giants roster this split. He has shown the ability to be able to play against some of the best mids in Europe.

Team Liquid

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Team Liquid has quite the dilemma going forward. With Yiliang “Doubelift” going back to TSM, they’ll need to decide whether they keep Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin at Mid or move him back to his former role. Piglet has quite a while to prepare to become a better mid laner for Summer, but whether he’ll want to come back is the question. Piglet may have reached his breaking point, having failed to bring Team Liquid to Worlds in multiple consecutive splits now.

Support Matt “Matt” Elento has struggled since his phenomenal rookie split. Matt said in interviews that the pressure was beginning to affect his play. With the announcement of Adrian “Adrian” Ma’s departure from the team, Matt will be the support going forward.

The only sure roster locks that I see Team Liquid keeping are top laner Samson “Lourlo” Jackson and jungler Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin. Lourlo was still inconsistent last split, but I don’t think he did bad enough to be benched, and still showed glimpses of a star top laner. Reignover certainly struggled last split, but he returned to star form near the end of the split.

The mid and ADC positions have the biggest question marks heading into Summer.

Possible Roster Moves:

Like team Envy, NighT is a definite option for them. Piglet wasn’t the worst mid laner, but you could tell he didn’t know his lane matchups quite well enough yet. NighT is an adequate option as he has experience communicating in English. Team Liquid has experience integrating Korean Imports into their lineup as well. NighT has shown that he can be a force in the mid lane. Bringing Piglet back to the ADC role would also not be the worst thing with recent patches making them much more powerful than before.

Looking at the ADC role, Eunited’s ADC Matthew “Deftly” Chen showed some good games in the promotion tournament. He had a tremendous score line in game one against TL. He’s an up and coming NA talent to watch after having a feature on his Scouting Grounds experience.

 

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