Postmortem: Flash Wolves vs Gambit Esports

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

Image courtesy of Riot Games

Setting the scene

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

 

The Fight

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

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

 

Image courtesy of Riot Games

 

Mistake #1: Over-committing

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

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

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

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

 

Mistake #2: Mechanical missteps

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

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

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

 

Image courtesy of Riot Games

 

Mistake #3: The follow-up

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

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

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

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

 

Image courtesy of Riot Games

Lessons learned

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

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Featured photo from Riot Games

MSI

Diamonds in the Rough: The Top 5 Standouts of the MSI Play-In Stage

The Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) kicked off last Thursday with the Play-In Stage. The Play-In phase of the tournament allows the emerging regions of the world to show their stuff and contend for one of the two remaining spots in the main event’s group stage. While these smaller regions were not as spectacular as any of the mainstay competitors, they still possess some diamonds in the rough that were definitely worth keeping an eye on.

5: Dire Wolves’ “Triple”

MSI 2018

Courtesty of LoL Esports

While most of the MSI Play-Ins were about the AD Carries or the Junlgers, one Midlaner that definitely stood out was the Dire Wolves’ Stephen “Triple” Li.

Li displayed some very explosive results on picks like Zoe and Cassiopeia. His mechanical skill and ability to make plays on the individual level, even when his team was losing, made him a definite standout from the other participating Midlaners. There were several moments in the Dire Wolves’ losses where Li came extremely close to turning things around for his team. Sadly, he was not able to push the Dire Wolves over the edge and claim more victories in his group. Hopefully, Li will be returning to the international stage soon and display even more of his great talent.

4: Rainbow7’s “WhiteLotus”

Matías “WhiteLotus” Musso is no stranger to the international stage. Musso was introduced to the world during 2017’s MSI Play-In Stage. League of Legends fans were wowed by this one-man army and his impressively flashy play. This year proved to be no different.

Musso seems to have not lost his penchant for flashy, skin-of-his-teeth play. Any time Rainbow7 was caught in a fight, Musso would seem to stay alive much longer than would be expected, sometimes meaning the difference between a win or loss. This aspect of Musso’s play is a testament to his mechanical skill and his high value within his team. Sadly, there was a lack of explosiveness in his performance this year versus his other international performances that keeps him from reaching a higher place on this list.

3: Gambit Esports

MSI 2018

Courtesy of LoL Esports

While placing a whole team on a list of standout players may seem like cheating, it is hard to argue that Gambit does not deserve the praise that they received during the group stage of Play-Ins. Their crisp teamwork allowed them to easily dismantle any opponent that they came across. Each win for Gambit seemed to be child’s play due to their incredible synergy within the roster.

Though their performance in the group stage was a walk in the park, their match against the LMS’ Flash Wolves was another story. Their crisp coordination went ravaged as the Flash Wolves easily outmatched them for a swift 0-3 loss. Whether their performance in the second stage of Play-Ins was an indicator of the team’s strength or their unpreparedness against the Flash Wolves will be a debated topic. All in all, Gambit should still be proud, as their group stage performance was worth the watch.

2: Supermassive’s “Zeitnot”

Turkish team Supermassive had a lot to prove during this year’s MSI Play-Ins. Turkey has been a region looking to bounce back and show the world just how strong they can be. While they were not able to move on to the main stage of the tournament, Supermassive’s Berkay “Zeitnot” Aşıkuzun proved to be a world class ADC during the Play-In Stage. Aşıkuzun, especially on Caitlyn and Ka’Sai, was ruthless in dominating his opponents. Whether it be as an individual or operating within his unit, he was able to pump out incredible amounts of damage and dodge death multiple times. Aşıkuzun’s team also regularly priotized him when divvying up resources. Supermassive made sure to maintain a steady supply of jungle camps and minion waves  toward their star player. This made Aşıkuzun’s survival a critical point to SUP’s strategy, as his presence was always a key factor between victory or defeat.

Though Aşıkuzun’s play was extraordinary, there was a dynamic duo from Vietnam that stole his claim to the number one spot on this list.

1: “Stark” and “YiJin”

MSI 2018

Courtesy of LoL Esports

Ever since the Gigabyte Marines made their splash at last year’s MSI, the LoL community has fallen in love with the region of Vietnam. This year’s MSI was no different, as fans fell in love all over again thanks to EVOS’ Phan “Stark” Công Minh and Nguyễn “YiJin” Lê Hải Đăng.

The Top-Jungler duo made up the driving force behind EVOS’ crushing win against Supermassive in the second round of the Play-In Stage. This dynamic duo brought smart and aggressive play that was left unchallenged. Lê Hải Đăng’s Graves was especially deadly, as he was able to accrue such an advantage in the early game that he was able to almost single-handedly fight the entire Supermassive roster. Whlie Lê Hải Đăng was creating chaos in Supermassive’s backline; Công Minh was able to make considerable room for his teammates upfront. Even if he was to fall in an ensuing fight, Công Minh’s space-making and damage-soaking would allow the rest of EVOS to sweep through with relative ease.

 

While these were perhaps the best standouts in the Play-In Stage, there is still plenty of action to go around as the Mid-Season Invitational moves on to the main event this weekend. Be sure to tune in and watch out for LoL’s top players and teams that will be participating.

 

You can follow Mason 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 Riot Games. Images courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr

MSI

What to Watch For at MSI 2018

Mid-Season Invitional (MSI) 2018 is here! Amidst all the excitement, here are a few key things to keep an eye out for as the tournament progresses.

ADC Pool

One thing that is constantly brought up when discussing MSI 2018 is the roster of Attack Damage Carries (ADCs) that will be there – and with good reason. The top four teams boast Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, Martin “Rekkles” Larsson, Kim “PraY” Jong-in, and Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao.

Doublelift

Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng joined Team Liquid this season, and was able to turn around a rough start to the split. His exceptional play eventually led his team to 10-1 in the playoffs, taking the trophy. Though not a perfect season by any means, Peng’s impressive mental resilience is something to be admired, as it allowed him to come back from an 8-7 start, going on to win the finals. When he is on form, he can hold his own with the best.

Rekkles

EU LCS Spring Split MVP Martin “Rekkles” Larsson is looking better than ever. Averaging .75 deaths per game, Larsson’s positioning and decision-making are unrivaled in his region this season. Though he was successful on many champions, he earned an insane 65.0 Kill Death Assist Ratio (KDA) over 7 games when allowed to play Tristana. With a Fnatic team around him that looked dominant nearly all season, Larsson is looking to make a big impact at MSI this year.

PraY

Kingzone DragonX are favored by many to win MSI, and that is thanks, in no small part, to Kim “PraY” Jong-in. With a team made up of some of the best players in the world in all positions, Jong-in still finds a way to shine. He has long been considered a top ADC, but will have to break his tradition of coming up just short in international competitions in order to take home the MSI title.

Uzi

Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao is the best ADC in the world, by nearly all accounts. While he has always been top-tier mechanically, it seems that his mental game has recently risen to match. A calmer approach has helped him synergize better with his team, and earned him his first League of Legends Pro League (LPL) Championship. If it comes down to a battle of the ADC’s, Royal Never Give Up (RNG) should be feeling good about their shot at winning MSI.

 

MSI Kaisa

Kai’Sa (Courtesy of Riot)

Kai’Sa

If recent competitions are any indication, Kai’Sa will have a noticeable impact on MSI. Most notably, Afreeca Freecs allowed Kim “PraY” Jong-in to play her in all four of the League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) LCK Spring Split Finals. He ended up going 22/4/17 during the series, earning Kingzone DragonX the title. Additionally, Kai’Sa can potentially be played in the Jungle or even other lanes, and this flexibility only adds to her value. The high damage, high mobility Marksman has shined since her competitive release, and will likely be picked or banned in most games.

Although she made her mark in the LCK, many regions have not yet been able to play Kai’Sa competitively. Released on Patch 8.5, she was unavailable for play throughout the end of the Spring Split for most. This creates an aspect of mystery around which teams will prioritize picking her, prioritize banning her, and which teams will stick with what they know. Though if teams have been paying attention at all, they will keep her out of Kim “PraY” Jong-in’s hands.

Mid Lane Excitement

With Patch 8.8 came several nerfs to the control mages that have been dominating the meta recently. Champions like Azir, Ryze, Galio, and Taliyah have all taken slight nerfs, which opens the door to the possibility of Assassins showing up in the mid lane. These high risk, high reward picks often add a good amount of excitement in professional matches where mechanics are at the highest level. The potential for surprise assassinations and tricky outplays makes for some of the most gripping moments on the rift.

Diamondprox

MSI Diamondprox

Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov (Courtesy of Gambit)

Gambit Esports has been tearing up the LCL since Summer 2017. However, after a dismal 0-4 performance at Worlds last year, they will be looking for redemption on the international stage. Much of their plans for success will rest on the shoulders of veteran Jungler Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov. The former EU LCS All-Star has been in impressive form recently as he led his team to first place in the 2018 LCL Spring Split.

His most popular champion is the tanky Sejuani. Her kit allows players to provide a safe front line for their team while also getting picks on the enemy with Glacial Prison. With six wins out of seven games played on this champ, as well as a 8.75 KDA, Sejuani is his favored pick. It’s safe to say that Gambit’s opponents will try to keep the Fury of the North out of his hands. If they do manage this, however, Diamondprox should still have an impact. He can always go with Kha’Zix, Olaf, Trundle, Skarner, Jax, or Zac – all of which he has a winning record with in 2018.

A New Fan Favorite

It seems that at nearly every international tournament, a relatively unknown team does surprisingly well. These teams tend to gather a large following of those fans who love the underdog story. In recent years Albus NoX Luna and GIGABYTE Marines have both caught the eye of new fans by making unexpected runs through some of the worlds best teams. Once the Play-In stages are done, there will be a large fanbase pulling for one of the lower ranked teams to beat some of the best organizations in the world.

 

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

msi day 1 uzi

Uzi’s LPL Coronation

Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao has always been a player held in the highest regard. Touted as one of the most talented (and unlucky) AD carry players in the world, Uzi’s skill has never been questioned. His dream to take home an LPL title is one that he had chased throughout his storied career. After years of hard work and dedication, Uzi finally made his dream come true as he hoisted the LPL Championship trophy during the Spring 2018 LPL Finals.

RNG luck

Uzi LPL Coronation

Courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr

Sometimes, world class skill means nothing when faced with a streak of bad luck. Before the LPL Spring 2018 Finals, Uzi was never able to win an LPL title. Despite numerous first place finishes in the regular season under Royal Never Give Up, Uzi never could seem to get over the final hurdle. Uzi was seen, and would always seem to be seen, as a player with great talent and potential that was overshadowed by his tendency to choke when the opportunity for success came calling. Before the Spring 2018 Finals, Uzi and RNG came in second place every single split since Summer 2016. With so many opportunities missed, the title of LPL Champion always seemed to be out of reach for Uzi.

Coronation

Uzi’s bad luck finally ran out this season with his 3-1 victory over Edward Gaming. The first game in the series actually ended in a swift loss for RNG. While RNG attempted to protect their VIP, Edward Gaming was able to constantly make picks on Uzi and capitalize through swift map rotations. Though it was a bad defeat for RNG, there was still plenty of room to make a recovery. Down but not out, RNG then took the next two games of the series in dominant fashion, thanks in part to Uzi’s ability to set up and win key fights. With Games 2 and 3 out of the way, the series quickly moved on to a crucial Game 4.

Game 4 meant match point for RNG. Game 4 meant redemption for Uzi.

Uzi LPL Coronation

Courtesy of PentaQ

All was on the line in a game that EDG seemed keen on winning. EDG possessed control of the game, and they looked to cement it through securing Baron. Royal Never Give Up certainly stood by their name as they made their way to contest. Stopping EDG was RNG’s main priority, as a Baron-powered EDG would most likely mean game. A tremendous engage by Liu “Mlxg” Shi-Yu and Yan “Letme” Jun-Ze managed to catch their opponent completely off guard. Through their explosive teamwork, RNG was able to swipe the Baron, and the game, from their rivaled opponent. From there, EDG seemed to fall down like a set of carefully placed dominoes. With momentum and Baron on their side, RNG stormed the base of Edward Gaming and took the series.

 

Elated, RNG came together in a heartwarming embrace. Their years of hard work and sacrifice had built to this moment. Smiles were everywhere as the team made their way to the center stage. In a historic moment, Uzi raised the coveted LPL Cup high above his head. Finally, Uzi could call himself a champion.

 

 

 

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 and images courtesy of LoL Esports PhotosLoL Esports Flickr, and PentaQ

LoL community fan LCS

Those who play together, stay together: A look at the LoL community’s fan driven LCS

Whenever the off-season begins, community spaces tend to experience a slowing down in activity. The usual hustle and bustle wears thin as fans of the various NA LCS teams wait for the next season to start. Less people are posting and less people are chatting. During these slow times, the various communities have always seemed to need something to reinvigorate their fan spirit. Enter the Discord Community Championship Series (or DCCS for short).

Curing off-season blues

What if there was a tournament held between the fan communities of the NA LCS? An LCS for the average fan, if you will. Through this idea, the DCCS was born. The tournament was created with two goals in mind. The first goal was to allow fans of the various NA LCS teams to represent their community and deliver an LCS-like experience. The second was to drum up some much needed excitement during the slow period between the spring and summer seasons. This is exactly what event organizer and Echo Fox Discord moderator Adriaan “GeneralPancake” Schotte had in mind, stating, “We noticed that during the off-season the Discord died down a bit since there was nothing to talk about without LCS going on. We wanted to somehow give the fans something to get hyped for, so firewolf and I (another Echo Fox Discord moderator) decided to set this thing into action.”

LoL community fan LCS

Courtesy of the DCCS

Coming together

While there were some expected bumps in the planning stage, the event seems to be on track to becoming a hit with fans. The event has all the features of what one would expect to see from an NA LCS broadcast. It features casters, graphics, and an official Twitch stream. The teams held tryouts, selected coaches, and practice for their weekend of matches. What makes this all so special is that it is all run and organized by the fans, for the fans. Through this tournament, fans are able to come together and experience a much higher level of involvement within their respective communities. By being able to participate in an LCS of their own, fans are able to grow closer together through some friendly competition.

It remains to be seen whether the Discord Community Championship Series will be an annual off-season tournament or a one-time event. Adriaan, however, is optimistic regarding the DCCS’ future. Though it has only finished its first week, the DCCS has shown a peak of 200 viewers and seems to be stirring some fans from their off-season hibernation. While this is certainly not NA LCS level viewership, it is certainly a step in the right direction toward a closer and more enthusiastic community.

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. Also, be sure to follow the DCCS on Twitter and Twitch

Featured Image and images courtesy of the Discord Community Championship Series

LCS Gag Event

Make ’em laugh: A call for more gag events

Recently, the NA LCS Spring Split came to a close with Team Liquid hoisting the coveted championship trophy. Today’s article will sadly not have anything to do with that. Recently, Riot hosted its annual April Fools’ Day event. The match, like many in the years before, was an entertaining affair featuring the casters and players (and pigeon) wearing silly costumes, performing funny pre-game skits and playing unorthodox compositions that wouldn’t normally be seen. All in all, the match was an enjoyable breath of fresh air amidst all the serious business of playoffs. As the event concluded, I began to ask myself, “Why are these events not held more than once a year?”

Riot’s serious business

Riot’s event organization has been somewhat of a mixed bag for me recently. While events like the Mid-Season Invitational and Worlds have always been great competitive spectacles, their other events did not have the same desired effect. At the beginning of 2017, after a pouring outcry for more international competition, Riot announced two new international events: Rift Rivals and the “new and improved” All-Stars event. 

LCS Gag Event

Courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr

On paper the Rift Rivals event sounded exciting. Each region would send their top teams of the spring season to compete against their regional rivals in a weekend’s worth of matches. Logistical flaws aside, the tournament at least sounded like an entertaining concept on paper. In actuality, it was not very impressive. Though Rift Rivals possessed a decent quality of matches, it lacked some excitement at times because of its non-existent stakes.

This theme seemed to carry over to 2017’s reworked All-Star event. In 2015 and 2016, the All-Star event was a more of lighthearted event similar to the annual April Fools match.The teams, whose rosters were selected by popular vote, would participate in a mix of gimmick and normal matches within the period of a few days. During this period, the event was treated as an unwinding period, capping off a long and grueling season of competition with a bit of cheeky fun that brought the community together. This feeling of togetherness and fun was something the 2017 All-Stars was missing. For 2017 and onward, all the goofy gimmick matches with the exception of the annual one-versus-one tournament would go. This would only leave for the regular structured matches that fans are all too familiar with.

Even with the promise of international League of Legends action, these two new events didn’t feel all that exciting. The lack of stakes gave little weight to the eventual outcome of an event. On top of this, there was nothing to really make the events stand out and generate interest. 

Looking for laughs

LCS Gag Event

Courtesy of LoL Esports Flicker

So why am I calling for more silly events like the April Fools’ match? Do I not enjoy all the strategy and excitement of serious competition? Doesn’t it all seem a bit off brand? While there is an argument against such events, the pros outweigh the cons. Though they lack a serious competitive atmosphere, these gimmick events more than make up for it in sheer entertainment and production value. All the costumes and funny banter come together to make a fun and memorable experience unique to professional environment. These events break a monotony that comes with the constant “serious business” that Riot wants to portray for most of the year. Players and viewers alike are allowed to simply indulge themselves in some harmless fun without any stress of losing a place in the standings or a shot at the championship.

Much like a fine wine, these gag events will allow the professional scene to breath and preserve all of the rich flavors that are offered during the regular seasons. Serious competition year round will only create jaded viewers that will cause viewership to suffer. Though serious competition is probably the more worthwhile event to watch, I believe gimmick events can play an important part in preventing a staleness that constant serious events can create.Ultimately the decision comes down to Riot on how they organize their events. If it was up to me, however, I would definitely try to work in a bit more fun throughout the year.

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 and images courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr

NA LCS Spring 2018 Playoffs Round-Up

NA LCS Spring 2018 Semifinals round-up

The NA LCS spring 2018 playoffs transitioned into the semifinals over the weekend, and boy howdy was it a treat for League of Legends fans. While the quarterfinals were a light simmer, the semifinals proved to be a boiling pot of tasty action and strategy that satisfied my palate and left me wanting more.

Wild stallions

Bloodthirsty would be the word to describe the first match of the semifinals, as both Team Liquid and Echo Fox put the pedal to the metal. Each game featured non-stop skirmishing and multiple back-and-forth kills that made it extremely fun to watch. Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and Jake “Xmithie” Puchero playing Trundle and Olaf meant that the early game was a lot faster paced and a guaranteed presence whenever a fight were to break out. These picks also enabled the respective top lane players, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong, to play big tanks for continuous playmaking and sustained team fighting.  NA LCS

What really impressed me in this series was Team Liquid’s ability turn around multiple fights and ganks that Echo Fox initiated. Xmithie’s ability to control the map mixed well with Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung’s roaming initiations to make it almost impossible for Echo Fox to establish any permanent foothold in the game. What has been so refreshing to see out of this Team Liquid squad is that they operate like a well-oiled machine, showing patience and strategy in the face of bloody, tit-for-tat games. It seems like nothing is able to phase them regardless of how chaotic a situation becomes. Conversely, Echo Fox’s play, while very ambitious, lacked some coordination.

Many of Echo Fox’s plays centered on Dardoch and/or Huni leading the charge through engages that would net quick advantages. Unfortunately, their plays sometimes ended as duds due to a lack of coordination with their mid laner, Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun.

At the end of it all, the battle was won. With a 3-1 victory for Team Liquid, the team was the first to advance to the final match.

Slow and steady wins the race

For those that put strategy and Baron control ahead of non-stop brawls, the match between 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming is right up your alley. Unlike the previous match, this one contained a heavy emphasis on strategy and controlling the area around Baron. On the side of 100 Thieves, top laner, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, and jungler, William “Meteos” Hartman, seemed to be perfectly in-sync as they helped control a slow and steady pace. Meanwhile, Clutch Gaming’s Nam “Lira” Tae-yoo and Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten looked to speed things up through snowballing picks.

While this match was a bit different than the other matches of the spring playoffs, the slower pacing was a welcome change of scenery. The cerebral side of League of Legends has sometimes been overshadowed by the glitz and glamour of big plays and high octane team fighting, so seeing more of how a team behaves as a strategic unit was an interesting experience.

Probably the biggest focus of this match was the play around Baron, and both 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming did not take the threat of it lightly. While most teams would immediately leap at the chance of taking Baron, 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming held firm and waited for their opportune moment. Clutch especially showed a lot of tenacity, as they would constantly turn off Baron to try and gain a more favorable numbers advantageNA LCS in the ensuing fight.

While this sometimes didn’t work out as well as they would have hoped, it was definitely a clever way of trying to force 100 Thieves to panic and potentially make a mistake. The play in this series was often reminiscent of a soccer match in this regard. Both teams would constantly jockey for proper positioning and strike only when it was appropriate to do so. The constant trading of damage made Baron takes tense affairs with no clear outcome until the final second that it was secured.

If you are strapped for time and are looking to only watch one game in this marathon series, I would suggest Game 5. The play in Game 5 was methodical to a fault. There are definitely moments in this particular game where you can feel the weight of the situation. No one dared overstep and throw away their chance at the finals. Every move was well reserved and made with the utmost caution.

The tension was palpable with each passing second whenever the two teams began to circle around the Baron pit. Due to the unkillable nature of the two frontlines, these Baron moments became staring contests with everyone waiting to see who would blink first. While all the tank play and the regeneration from Warmog’s Armor seemed a bit overwhelming (not to mention annoying at times), it was worth it to see 100 Thieves find their finishing blow and close out the extremely tense game for a spot at the spring finals.

Miami bound

With the semifinals completed, we now know who will be competing in the finals in Miami. Through all the spills, chills and thrills of the playoffs so far, both Team Liquid and 100 Thieves have undoubtedly proven their worth for a title shot. The question will, of course, be who will come out on top? Team Liquid and 100 Thieves have both displayed a good amount of strategic patience in their playoff victories, so it will no doubt come down to who is able to more effectively execute their game plan. It will all come to a head this Sunday, so be sure your schedule is clear so you can catch all the action.

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 

Images courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr

NA LCS Spring 2018 Playoffs Round-Up

NA LCS Spring 2018 Quarterfinals round-up

The NA LCS spring 2018 playoffs kicked off last weekend and League of Legends fans were excited to see what would happen in what is possibly the most exciting season of the NA LCS to date. Overall, the matches were very exciting, as all four teams had something to prove.

Well oiled machine

The first match of the quarterfinals featured a clash between Team Liquid and Cloud9. Team Liquid, who had struggled in past splits, was looking to fix their tarnished reputation through their super-group roster, while Cloud9 was looking to prove that their recent struggles were not indicative of the team’s true strength.

The match proved exciting, as Team Liquid and Cloud9 were able to draft towards their strengths in all three games. Team Liquid was able to draft Skarner for Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, allowing him to greatly influence how the game was played through Skarner’s pick potential and durability. Team Liquid also benefited from drafting sturdy top lane champions like Swain and Singed for their star top laner, Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong. Cloud9, on the other hand, looked to play around the composition strategies that had aided them in the first half of the split. Eric “Licorice” Ritchie was placed on strong laners in the top lane, while Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi were placed on champions that were both extremely impactful and familiar.

NA LCS Spring 2018 Quarterfinals Round-Up

Courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr

Though the match score was 3-0 in favor of Team Liquid, the match was certainly a close one. While Cloud9 sported good form in lane and in the early game, their issues around neutral objectives and gold leads continued to plague them. Game 1, for example, demonstrated Cloud9’s late game indecision. Team Liquid out maneuvered C9 in a catch-22 style play at Elder Dragon that allowed TL to come up ahead in the first game of the series. Even when making big plays, like Sneaky’s Game 3 quadra kill, C9’s individual play was not enough to get them over the hump. Team Liquid certainly proved to be the more cohesive team, as they were able to run circles around Cloud9 when it came to decisive macro play and securing neutral objectives even when behind in gold.

Underdogs bite back

The next match of the quarterfinals featured Team Solo Mid, the kings of North American League of Legends, defend their title against the newly minted Clutch Gaming. Again, the narratives proved irresistible in this match. TSM, who experienced a rough start to the split with their new jungler and bot lane, looked to grasp another NA title with Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell leading the charge. Meanwhile, Clutch Gaming was a team that no one believed would be able to make it to playoffs and looked to prove everyone wrong.

The game, much like the C9-TL match, proved to be just as exciting. The series started with TSM drawing first blood with a methodical Game 1 win through Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung’s suffocating counter jungling. While down from Game 1, Clutch was not ready to throw in the towel by any means. The next game saw Clutch ramping up with Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent’s insane playmaking on Thresh and Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo’s scrappy, in-your-face playstyle. After winning a back and forth Game 2, the rest of the series was all Clutch, as TSM was not unable to stop LirA or Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten’s Swain from dominating the rift, and ultimately the series.

With the 3-1 win over TSM, the scrappy band of underdogs known as Clutch Gaming look to prove that new faces are just as strong as the old as they enter the semifinals.

NA LCS Spring 2018 Quarterfinals Round-Up

Courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr

This weekend

Looking to this weekend, we will see Team Liquid and Clutch Gaming take on Echo Fox and 100 Thieves respectively. 100 Thieves, the first seed, and Echo Fox, the second seed, look to take advantage of their playoff bye and use the information they have scouted to better prepare for their respective matches. Meanwhile, their opponents will look to gain a spot in the finals and make NA LCS history. Will Team Liquid and Clutch Gaming be able to overcome their higher seeded opponent? You’ll have to watch the games this weekend to find out!

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 

Images courtesy of LoL Esports Flickr

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

Typical League of Legends statistics oversimplify the game

Standard League of Legends statistics oversimplify the game

Just like traditional sports, esports analysis is full of statistics which are meant to succinctly represent teams’ and players’ strengths and weaknesses. Professional League of Legends is no exception. League analysts use numbers and percentages regarding creep score, jungle proximity, gold difference, and kill-death-assist ratio to understand each match and to judge each individual over time.

However, the standard League statistics more often oversimplify the game. KDA, CS difference, damage per minute, and other typical measures cannot fully represent a team or a player. Most fans understand that these numbers have their limitations, and are insufficient for understanding the game.

The EU LCS stats team created a complex damage metric.

The EU LCS stats team created a complex damage metric.

The Stats Science series from last year’s EU LCS covered most of the major shortcomings of standard League stats. Kills and assists are affected by team playstyle, champion pool, and game time. Poke champions have higher damage per minute than tanks. Some carries more frequently die while dishing higher damage, while others prioritize survivability over damage to champions. The variables go on and on.

KDA

For example, look at FlyQuest’s Flame in the NA LCS. His 3.4 KDA is tied for second among top laners. Flame only averages 1.8 kills and 4.2 assists per game, but his 1.8 average deaths per game is third lowest. These numbers paint Flame as a conservative player–middle of the pack offensively, but knows how to stay alive. His numbers align closely with CLG’s Darshan (2.1 kills, 5.3 assists, 2.2 deaths, 3.4 KDA).

NA LCS top laners’ statistics after eight weeks

But look at FlyQuest’s team statistics compared to CLG’s. FlyQuest has the lowest kill:death ratio in the league–8.2 kills to 12.1 deaths for a .68 K:D. Meanwhile, CLG rank three places higher with a .98 K:D (11.1 kills, 11.3 deaths). All of FlyQuest’s players have lower KDAs than Flame, but Darshan has the lowest on CLG. These factors provide context for comparing players’ KDAs.

Laning Stats

CS difference, gold difference, and XP difference make up the three primary laning phase statistics. All three of these numbers are tied to one another, as longer laning provides higher XP, which allows more opportunity for farming CS, which allows for more gold. Global gold from dragons, turrets, and other objectives can contribute to the gold difference, as well.

However, several outside factors affect a player’s laning phase. Continuing the comparison from above, Flame averages ahead 190 gold (2nd), 63 XP (3rd), and 4.8 CS (3rd) at ten minutes. Darshan starts behind 49 gold (6th) and 0.4 CS (5th), but ahead 2 XP (7th). But, like KDA, laning statistics require more context to properly judge.

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Out of 16 total games this split, CLG and FlyQuest drafted so that Darshan and Flame both locked in their champion before their laning opponent in six games (37.5 percent), while choosing their champion after their opponent in ten (62.5 percent). Also, their champion pools are similar. Gnar and Gangplank have been the power picks of top lane, so it is not surprising to see them as Flame and Darshan’s most played. Both have a couple of Cho’Gath games, some Camille and Ornn. However, Darshan played Vladimir and Maokai twice each, and Fiora once, while Flame had one Sion game. Flame may have a slight advantage in laning strength champions, but not by much.

Jungle proximity is another variable that might contribute to their laning phase disparities. It is possible that Flame or Darshan gets more early attention from their jungler or the opponent’s jungler. The additional pressure could help them to fall behind or get ahead in the first 15 minutes. These statistics are not publicly available, so it remains unclear whether Reignover or AnDa more frequently pressures top lane. 

Team success can help contextualize an individual’s contributions, as well. CLG generally gets ahead by 135 gold at 15 minutes. FlyQuest starts 1,242 gold behind, on average. According to OraclesElixir.com, FlyQuest carries the lowest Early Game Rating of any NA LCS team (38.1), while CLG sits sixth (51.1). This team-to-team comparison allows analysts to understand each player’s individual contributions within the five-man roster.

Damage

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Damage is usually the final metric for top laners. DPM (damage per minute) is the typical calculation, which just divides a player’s total damage to champions by the number of minutes in the game. Again, Flame and Darshan occupy similar territory compared to other top laners. Flame averages 463 damage per minute (4th), while Darshan averages 450 (6th).

Of course, champion pool probably has the largest effects on a player’s damage, especially in top lane. It is common for tanks, fighters, mages, ranged, and melee champions to rotate through the meta. Gangplank, Jayce, and Vladimir average much higher damage per minute than Ornn, Cho’Gath and Maokai, for obvious reasons.

Multiply each champion’s average damage per minute by the number of times each player drafted them, and we get which player is expected to have higher damage statistics. Flame’s champion pool averages 15 more damage per minute (471) than Darshan’s (456), which makes up the discrepancy between their individual stats. However, CLG has the second highest team damage per minute (2,188), while FlyQuest only has the fifth (1,884), even though FlyQuest games are generally longer (39:36) versus CLG’s 39 minutes.

It is not surprising that Flame contributes 24.5 percent of FlyQuest’s damage (6th), but Darshan only contributes 21.3 percent (9th). But, as GamesofLegends.com founder, Bynjee, explains, “I don’t like when people use DMG% to compare 2 players. If you want to compare their damage, just use DPM. DMG% needs to be used from a team [point of view].” Comparing these two players is a perfect example, as their damage per minute is roughly the same, but their team-wide damage is different. Therefore, Flame’s percentage of damage is higher than Darshan’s.

Conclusion

NA LCS top laners’ statistics after eight weeks

Gold, vision, and other statistics exist that can help judge between players. Baron, dragon, and objective control can help judge between teams. But keep in mind how shallow these figures are, and what they represent. More importantly, figure out what shortcomings they have. Is a low gold percentage necessarily bad if a top laner is playing mostly tanks? Is vision score connected to game length and number of Barons or Elder Dragons? For example, OraclesElixir.com’s founder, Tim Sevenhuysen, commented, “I don’t trust vision score because I don’t really understand it, and because it makes subjective judgments that are disguised as an objective measurement.” 

Balancing all of the data presented above, Flame appears to be the superior individual top laner. Despite FlyQuest’s downward tendencies as a team, and as individuals, Flame maintains mid-high performance compared to other top laners. Opposing top laners usually get to counter-pick Flame in the draft, and his team has the worst early game in the LCS, yet he averages ahead in all laning stats. Flame also outputs the expected damage, while staying safe enough to keep a high KDA. All things considered, Flame is likely a top three top laner in the NA LCS.

credits

Featured Image: Reddit Post-Match Discussion

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Statistics Screenshots: Oracles Elixir

Other Statistics: Games of Legends

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