Potential mid-season targets for EU LCS teams

The 2018 EU LCS Spring Split has concluded, and Europe enters the mid-season. This year is special, because, for the first time in a while, relegation is abolished. While franchising has not happened in the European league, like North America, teams remain secure for Summer Split, regardless of their place in the spring standings.

This time last year, the EU LCS saw several major mid-season roster changes, including Ninjas in Pyjamas and Mysterious Monkeys entering the league, Misfits picking up Maxlore and YamatoCannon leaving Splyce. With the risk of relegation off the table, it is unclear if this mid-season will show the same volume and depth of changes. That being said, here are the most likely targets for EU LCS teams hoping to shake things up this mid-season.

Unicorns of Love: Top-Support

Unicorns of Love may need to consider replacing WhiteKnight this mid-season

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The Unicorns finished Spring Split in tenth place with a 6-12 record. They spent almost the entire nine weeks in last place. Kold stood out as their key catalyst in the early game, playing Kayn, Evelynn, Kha’Zix, and Rengar outside of the meta junglers. His momentum and activity during laning phase pushed the pace for Unicorns’ opponents, but rarely allowed the team to snowball. Samux also performed fairly well across the split, with a string of carry performances on Tristana. These two feel like the best place to start for UOL’s roster moving forward.

Exileh continued his trend of tumultuous performances, sometimes carrying, sometimes feeding. Since Spring 2017, Exileh has been one of the most inconsistent mid laners in the EU LCS. His high points look dominant, while his low points look like feeding. Unicorns of Love will probably keep him, but it would not be too surprising if they replaced him. Bringing in new players to play around him may be better in the short term.

WhiteKnight and Totoro feel like the weak links on this roster. Unicorns’ top laner simply lost lane almost every match, and rarely made up for it in the mid-game. His Gnar was relatively good, but WhiteKnight finished significantly low in almost every top lane statistic. Totoro had a decent LCS debut, but did not bring a “wow” factor to the Unicorns. He was able to make some big plays on Alistar and Tahm Kench, but his Braum and Rakan did not translate as well. Best.GG ranks Totoro seventh among EU LCS supports, around the same level as Promisq, Targamas and Vander. However, these players are a tier below Kasing, Hylissang and Norskeren.

Giants: bot-support

Giants may need to consider replacing Steeelback this mid-season

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Giants came out swinging this spring, hovering among top four for the first six weeks. Unfortunately, a 1-5 record over the last three weeks dropped them to finish ninth overall. Once the meta shifted towards faster games with bottom-centric compositions, Giants fell apart. Ruin could not carry as much as his first few weeks. Betsy did not have adequate time to safely scale to late fights. Djoko’s supportive, control jungle style became much less effective.

However, Steeelback and Targamas were the biggest offenders. Steeelback and Targamas finished the season at the bottom of the league in almost every statistic, from laning phase to damage and KDA. Targamas’ rookie status allows him some grace, but Steeelback is a veteran of Europe, and this split was awful for him. Going into Summer Split, it would not be surprising to see at least one of these two replaced.

Of course, Giants entered the Spring Split with four-fifths of a new roster. It takes time for these players to synergize and build communication, especially when it comes to adapting to changes together. However, it is alarming when a team starts the split strong and progressively gets worse and worse. Betsy and Steelback have played in the EU LCS for a long time, but have not seen success in quite a while. Giants have a lot to think about in this mid-season. They do not need to worry about relegation, but if their goal is to compete with top teams in Europe, then they will have to make changes for summer.

Everyone else

Misfits and ROCCAT may not need to replace anyone on their rosters this mid-season

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Without the fear of relegation, the other eight teams will most likely maintain their rosters. H2K and ROCCAT probably field the weakest rosters, on paper, in the league; yet, they made it into playoffs. Misfits and Schalke 04 are composed of star players, but they consistently lost key matches, and could not execute in clutch moments. Fnatic, G2, Splyce and Vitality showed moments of brilliance over the course of the Spring Split. The players on these teams are not the issue.

Schalke could maybe benefit from organizational change. Something prevented their superstar roster from success, whether that be coaching, management, or something else. From the outside, it is impossible to know what underlying issues plagued them. Misfits falls into a similar category, with three-fifths of their Worlds roster unable to place top six in Europe. Granted, PowerOfEvil and IgNar were powerful components of the squad last year. It is difficult to believe that two new players under the same coach and organization would result in such lowered performance.

H2K and ROCCAT clawed their way into playoffs through steady improvement over the split and winning when it counted. H2K, specifically, made roster adjustments part-way through the split, which made a huge difference in their performance. They could realistically keep what is working and build off of it. ROCCAT understandably struggled in different positions throughout the spring, considering both its solo laners are Korean imports. However, Memento and Norskeren provided stalwart, consistent support. HeaQ exhibited highs and lows, but seems promising overall. Roster-wise, it may be worth retaining these players and working on consistency, communication, and synergy.

The 2018 mid-season may be the least tumultuous in Europe’s history. The region has historically seen rapid turnover between splits, due to new organizations entering the league regularly. Without the Promotion Tournament, the current LCS organizations can rest on their laurels and turn towards improvement and development, rather than risky, immediate change. Unless top talent turns to North America’s bottom-tier teams, expect those players to remain on their same teams.

credits

Images: LoL Esports Flickr

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Fnatic Misfits

Fnatic’s weakness is – Misfits Gaming?

Fnatic had a dominant showing in the EU LCS 2018 Spring Split. After going 2-2 in the first two weeks, they found their footing and defeated every opponent, with one big exception – Misfits Gaming. The team that ended in seventh place was somehow the only team that Fnatic could not beat, and they picked up two of their eight wins over the eventual champions. Whatever Misfits did this season may not have worked against most teams in the EU LCS, but it was the perfect combination to take down Fnatic.

Game 1

Blue Side: Fnatic

Bans: Caitlyn, Ryze, Kalista, Jayce, Camille

Paul “sOAZ” Boyer – Ornn

Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen – Nunu

Rasmus “Caps” Winther – Azir

Martin “Rekkles” Larsson – Xayah

Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov – Rakan

 

Red Side: Misfits Gaming

Bans: Tristana, Galio, Tahm Kench, Jarvan IV, Zac

Barney “Alphari” Morris – Gangplank

Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian – Sejuani

Chres “Sencux” Laursen – Zoe

Steven “Hans Sama” Liv – Kog’maw

Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle – Braum

At their first meeting of the split, the 3-1 Misfits were not yet the underdogs to the 2-2 Fnatic. In champion select, Fnatic chose to ban away carries such as Camille, Jayce and Ryze while picking a mid-game team fighting comp. Their opponents, in turn, tried to keep Rekkles from running away with the game. Not only did they ban Tristana, but also Tahm Kench and Galio – two champions that excel at keeping their carries alive.

An important win condition for Fnatic was to prevent Misfits from scaling into late game, where Gangplank, Kog’maw, and Zoe would all do excessive damage. They used their mid-game power spike to punish Misfits as much as possible. They developed a 4.4k Gold lead by 26:00 and broke the enemy base by 30:00 minutes. At this point, things started to swing back towards Misfits.

Knowing that they needed to close things out or risk losing their lead, Fnatic overextended multiple times, getting caught in bad positions. This led to Misfits getting kills, and as a result, objectives. Though they came close several times, Fnatic failed to end the game before Misfits reached their full potential, and ended up paying the price. At 37:00, Misfits took back the gold lead, and kept building it. When all was said and done, the game had gone on for over an hour. Misfits had taken 4 Barons, amassed a 13k Gold lead, and defeated Fnatic in their first meeting of the season.

Fnatic Misfits

Courtesy of LoL Esports

Game 2

Blue Side: Misfits Gaming

Bans: Tristana, Azir, Galio, Kassadin, Taliyah

Alphari – Shen

Maxlore – Jarvan IV

Sencux – Anivia

Hans Sama – Xayah

Mikyx – Rakan

 

Red Side: Fnatic

Bans: Camille, Ryze, Skarner, Zac, Trundle

sOAZ – Sion

Broxah – Sejuani

Caps – Corki

Rekkles – Sivir

Hylissang – Alistar

By their second game of the season, the situation for both teams had completely changed. Misfits had gone 2-5 since they last met, while Fnatic had won their last seven straight. The latter looked unstoppable, but the former had struggled, especially in the Jungle and Mid Lane. Fnatic once again banned carries like Camille and Ryze, but also took three Champions away from Maxlore. Misfits chose to focus on Caps, banning out four Mid Lane Champions along with Tristana.

Realizing that Rekkles was likely to be strong no matter what, they focused on shutting down the top side of the map, and it worked for them. Though Rekkles went 5/1/5, it was not enough to carry the rest of Fnatic to victory.

Like their game in Week 3, this was another long match, going to almost an hour. However, this time it was much more one-sided. Misfits earned a solid gold lead by the 16 minute mark and kept it for the remainder of the game, stretching it to over 6k by the time they destroyed the nexus. They doubled Fnatic’s kills, controlled the jungle and most of the objectives, and once again shut down the best team in Europe.

How did they do it?

Defeating Fnatic twice in the regular season is an impressive feat, and the middle-of-the-pack Misfits were the only ones to do it. While many factors contributed, there seem to be three that were vital, and consistent through both games.

Bans

Rekkles was undoubtedly one of the main factors of Fnatic’s success throughout the split. Misfits realized that this was not because of the champions he played, but rather how he performed as a player. Because of this, they avoided the trap of banning multiple ADC’s that many others fell into. While they made a good decision to take away his Tristana, they used the rest of their bans to focus on the rest of the team, where they were much more effective. Other teams wasted two, three, and once, even five bans on Marksmen, to little effect.

Fnatic Misfits

Courtesy of LoL Esports

Broxah

Another thing that Misfits did that few others were able to was shut down Broxah. The young Jungler had an impressive season, and while he was not one of the main carries, he was essential to many victories. By essentially keeping him out of the game (KDAs of 0/6/7, 0/5/8), Misfits eliminated one of the main factors that would enable Caps and Rekkles to run away with the game. Additionally, this helped Maxlore to control objectives and have two of his best games of the season.

Control

Fnatic beat many of their opponents by controlling the tempo and flow of the game. Misfits took that away from them. By extending the games past the 40 minute mark, they allowed themselves time to catch up to Fnatic. Denying them this early victory evened the playing field, and got Misfits to a point where they could play to their strengths with a late game lead.

Misfits had an underwhelming split, but being the only team to remain undefeated against the EU LCS champions is something to be proud of.

 

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!

Featured photo courtesy of LoL Esports

Graph of the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split standings over time.

Graphing the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split standings over six weeks

Teams are moving up and down in the EU LCS standings, making 2018 excitingly chaotic so far. They have played six weeks of games, and no one is undefeated or out of the running for playoffs. With most of the league within two wins of each other, every win from here on out will matter. Giants, Splyce and Misfits are tied for fourth at 6-6. Schalke and Roccat are tied for seventh at 5-7. H2K and Unicorns of Love are tied for ninth at 4-8. This totem pole is tight.

However, it has not been this way the entire Spring Split. Even though Unicorns of Love, H2K and Vitality have mostly hovered in the same place over six weeks, all of the other teams have shifted one and a half places per week, on average. All of the movement amounts to frequent upsets and team inconsistencies week-to-week.

Graphing the standings

Graph of the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split standings over time.

Graph of the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split standings over time.

Other than Vitality (light grey), Unicorns of Love (pink), and H2K (black), Europe’s teams have shown wide mobility in the standings this split. After week one, eight of the ten teams stood tied for second place, signified by the intersection at the left of the graph. In week two, Giants (royal blue), Roccat (sky blue), and Misfits (red) secured two wins, while G2 (dark grey) and H2K took two losses, and Fnatic (orange), Splyce (yellow), and Schalke 04 (green) finished 1-1. This checkpoint represented a huge fault-line between the top four teams and the rest.

Week three represented a great reunification. Six teams finished the week 1-1, Roccat went 0-2, and G2 went 2-0, which pulled half the league into fourth place. This is where the most lines intersect after the first week. Schalke beat Giants, but lost to Vitality. Splyce beat Misfits, but lost to G2. Fnatic beat Roccat, but lost to Misfits. These wins and losses make it impossible to create a clear “greater than-less than” paradigm to measure each team’s relative strength.

Since week three, it has become more and more clear that Fnatic and G2 are online. Their lines continued to climb over weeks four and five, while Giants, Schalke, and Misfits fell. Splyce and Roccat meandered through the middle of the league, while Vitality, H2K, and UOL frame the top and bottom.

into week seven

Week six represents the most stratification in the standings so far this Spring Split. There is a single first, second and third team. Three teams are tied for fourth, two for seventh and two for ninth. H2K and UOL are only two wins from Giants and Splyce, making this split’s playoff race an exciting one.

Entering week seven, Fnatic has the most momentum, represented by its extended upward curve from week two to week six. G2 would have been in Fnatic’s spot, had they won the head-to-head this week. UOL are moving upwards for the first time all split, and Schalke stemmed the bleeding of weeks three through five.

Meanwhile, Vitality and Roccat move into week seven with the most downward momentum. Their 0-2 weeks have dropped them two and three spots, respectively. Giants have slowly been flowing down the standings, while Splyce are the equilibrium point, remaining in fourth-fifth for five weeks in a row.

These could be the standings if week six repeats.

These could be the standings if week six repeats.

If week seven turns out to be a repeat of week six, then Fnatic would pull farther away in first at 11-3. G2 would also solidify itself as the second place at 9-5. Vitality, Giants, Splyce and Misfits would all conjoin onto third place with 7-7 records. Unicorns of Love would meet Schalke in seventh place at 6-8, while Roccat would drop to ninth, along with H2K, with a 5-9 record.

Any team that improves enough to take a 2-0 week will drastically improve its chances at playoffs. Teams like H2K and Unicorns of Love that have been floating along the bottom of the standings have a strong chance to climb if they can get an edge. No roster is completely hopeless at this point.

With so many key players switching players in the off-season, and the return of the single round robin, best-of-one format, the EU LCS teams have not quite formed their identities. Every week, teams come in and beat teams above them and lose to teams below them. This fluid movement in the standings has made it difficult to mentally formulate which teams are truly better than others. With four weeks left, it is time for teams to put up or shut up.

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Thanksgiving Free Agents: League of Legends Edition

League of Legends is having their first major free agency period since the start of franchising in North America. As with traditional sports, free agency is going to be a major time for teams to build their rosters for LCS’ new start. Instead of just giving you who some of the free agents are and where they might go, a holiday theme has been added for your enjoyment. (Note: As of the time this was written none of these players have signed officially)

Corn “Froggen”

Froggen has been consistent since the day he entered the LCS. Never overly flashy but a major part and sometimes the best part of his team. Corn like Froggen is never flashy but it is reliable and can be the best part of a bad meal.

Last year on Echo Fox, Froggen was the unchallenged leader of the team. Echo Fox finished in eighth, just outside of the playoffs the last two splits. This was due to many things, but rarely ever Froggen. There are plenty of new openings for Froggen. As an in-game and out of game leader, Froggen will be someone who is going to be brought on to do just that. His play is consistent but his leadership skills are what gets him his next position.

For this reason, Froggen will be going to a completely new squad in NA as some of the newer teams will be looking for a leader to help guide them through their first season. He did this with Echo Fox and maybe with a better and more consistent roster around him, Froggen will finally make NA playoffs this year.  With sources saying Akaadian has been bought out by OpTic Gaming it would make sense that they add arguably the two best players from Echo Fox.

Prediction: OpTic

Cranberry Sauce “PowerOfEvil”

Like cranberry sauce you either love PowerOfEvil or you strongly dislike him. He can be an absolute legend on the rift or look like he is lost. That being said PowerOfEvil is testing the waters of free agency hoping to be picked up by a NA squad.

Misfits made a surprising run in world this last year making it out of group stages. While the team played well as a whole, in most games until the end, PowerOfEvil had looked solid. He can make the flashy plays and keep up with many of the games top mid-laners when he is on his game. If he can find consistency there is no doubt that he can challenge just about anyone while in lane. For that reason I think PowerOfEvil will be a hot commodity for NA this free agency.

A great squad for PowerOfEvil would be Flyquest. With Flame reportedly signing there and a solid bot-lane of WildTurtle and Stunt, bringing on PowerOfEvil would make a nice splash for FlyQuest. For PowerOfEvil he would be able to play with teammates who can help guide him in his first year in NA and allow for him to learn from his mistakes he will probably make early on. If they get the PowerOfEvil we saw during group stages and during Mistfits’ run in EU championships, then FlyQuest could have a very strong squad next season.

Prediction: FlyQuest

Sweet Potatoes “LemonNation”

Sweet Potatoes are classic when talking about Thanksgiving dinner. They are sweet and almost like desert before actual desert. Lemonnation is a classic NA support who can surprise people by quietly being solid throughout the game. (Also both are orange/red) Lemonnation has been a consistent and overall solid support since he came into the professional league scene. He does his work and helps lead teams to being better than many people would have thought.

Last year on FlyQuest, many people felt that they would be a joke because it was made up of players who had not played in the pro-scene in awhile. They came out and surprised everyone by making playoffs their first split and barely missing playoffs their second split. Lemonnation came back with a vengeance and showed that older players in the scene can still play and has maybe changed everyone’s opinions about what a “old” player really is.

While Ignar and Aphromoo are higher on teams’ lists, there are still openings for supports especially on new teams. You could reasonably argue that once the other two have signed, whoever else has an opening would sign Lemonnation. With that in mind 100 Thieves looks like a good place for Lemonnation to end up. Ssumday and Meteos (both of whom are on this list) are rumored to be signed with 100 Thieves and Ryu has been confirmed. With Pr0lly as their coach this group could add Lemonnation and have a very reliable team.

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Green Bean Casserole “Meteos”

Some years it’s there, some it’s not. Sometimes you dislike it, sometimes you love it. Like “Dark” Meteos green bean casserole comes back after missing some time at family events and you’re afraid of what is coming next. It is put on your plate against your will and you are told to try it. This time you like it and oddly want more.

Meteos was a mainstay with Cloud9 for many splits. He has a solid following and thus every time he’s filled in for a team people have been very excited. After spending different parts of the year with Phoenix1, who went from playoffs to last between Spring and Summer split, Meteos is ready to be a starter again. With the many opportunities it is likely that he will get a chance to show he is a top level jungler at the professional level.

It is being reported that Meteos will be signing with 100 Thieves. If this stands, with Ryu and Ssumday, it looks as though 100 Thieves could have a very interesting roster to start of League of Legends franchising.

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Biscuit/Corn Bread/Rolls “Febiven”

Any type of bread is needed with any Thanksgiving meal. They help to fill you up and are a go to if you’re not ready to try something new. Febiven in NA would be that. He is a solid mid-laner who brings consistency to any team. He may not be the mvp on his team but he is needed and a safe pickup for any team.

Febiven brings that feeling of a stalwart in the middle of the rift for any team. For H2k this past year Febiven brought composure to an already winning team. He got his start with Cloud9 Eclipse and many speculate he is testing free agency in order to go back to NA. Febiven can bring a lot to one of these new franchising teams and it is likely that he would have a nice payday doing so.

According to sources Golden Guardians only have their coach so far, Locodoco. It is also rumored that Shiphtur might be signing with them. While Shiphtur is a good mid-laner, the Golden Guardians would be making a big time acquisition by signing Febiven. He would not only attract fans but also players. If they know they have someone like him holding down the middle of the Rift then players will feel more comfortable around him. Also wouldn’t it be fun to see Bjerg, Jensen, Pobelter, Huhi, Ryu and Febiven battling it out in mid next season?

Prediction: Golden Guardians

Stuffing “Ignar”

On the outside, if you have never had stuffing before you might think, “I dont know what to think about this”. Then you try it and realize it’s solid and brings the meal together. In many ways this is Ignar. The All-Pro support had some questions coming over to Misfits and showed this year that he is the stuffing to any Thanksgiving meal.

After a quick stay with KT Rolster Ignar found a home with Misfits. He was exactly what you would want in a support. He is able to speak Korean and getting better at English, and he is able to help get bot-lane ahead. His aggresion mixed well with his lanemate, Hans Sama, as he played champions like Rakan, Blitzcrank and Thresh. He is a playmaker and with that will come many offers from teams for a support who can do more than just keep their ADC alive.

There are rumors that Ignar is looking to head back to the LCK, possibly even with SKT. If this doesn’t happen and he heads to NA, there is no doubt that he will land a starting roll. OpTic would be a good match with Ignar. Sources say that Arrow has already signed and thus Ignar would have another Korean ADC. This would eliminate a language barrier and give OpTic another nice pickup.

Prediction: OpTic Gaming

Gravy “Aphromoo”

If you don’t like gravy, what are you doing with your life? If you don’t like Aphromoo the same question should be asked. The man is one of the best supports in NA and, like gravy, he is liked by mostly everyone. Gravy is also what you put on everything in order to help it taste better. No matter what team Aphromoo joins, he will make them that much better.

The Moo has been one of the best, if not the best, supports in NA since he arrived on the scene. His ability to get his ADC ahead by whatever means necessary has made him a lanemate that any ADC would want. While he still can go back to CLG if he wants to, it is interesting that he is testing free agency. It may help drive up the money for his contract wherever he signs, including CLG.

While it would be interesting to see another team pick up Aphromoo, it is likely he stays with CLG. They will give into giving him a large contract and that should bring him back. He is already familiar with the team as most of his teammates, Darshan, Huhi and Stixxay have all already signed with CLG.

Prediction: CLG

Mashed Potatoes “Ssumday”

Mashed potatoes are one of the best parts of the entire Thanksgiving meal. Is it really Thanksgiving without them? Nearly everyone loves them and sometimes if the other parts of the meal aren’t good you can always turn to mashed potatoes to be the best part. Ssumday will be this for which ever team he signs with. Everyone is going to want to bring him on and when others may not be as good around him, you can turn to him and know he will show why he is one of the best top-laners in the world.

Ssumday did not live up to the hype during his first full year in NA, but was still very good. Coming over from KT Rolster everyone believed Ssumday was easily a top 3 top-laner in the world. Dignitas fans were ecstatic when he signed on. Dig went to the playoffs both splits in their first full season back, but unfortunately were not chosen to go forward with franchising. Now Ssumday is again looking for his next home to show he is a top tier top-laner again.

Originally it was thought that Ssumday would be looking to go back to the LCK this season. Then sources came out claiming that 100 Thieves is looking to sign him. While the team has not confirmed it yet, if he were to sign there 100 Thieves, it would have a very nice start for their team.

Prediction: 100 Thieves

Pumpkin Pie “MikeYeung”

Pumpkin pie is what everyone wants even though they are already full, it is that good. It can be the only part some people care about. MikeYeung is the new, young jungler that everyone is going to be going after. He is the pumpkin pie at this Thanksgiving dinner, every team will be giving him a look.

MikeYueng made a splash in NA during his first split with Pheonix1 by winning Rookie of the Split. He showed that he can be an impact player at every phase of the game, especially when he got ahead. The problem was when he didn’t get ahead or his team struggled, he lacked the experience to bring them back. Now that he has played a full split he will be looking to show anyone who signs him that he is the real deal.

Sources are saying that TSM is likely going to sign MikeYeung. After a disappointing year with Svenskeren, it is not a huge surprise that TSM would be looking at someone with the potential of MikeYeung. With Bjerg and Hauntzer most likely staying, they will be able to help bring Mike along and help him to reach his full potential. Also, with sources saying that Zven and Mithy have come over to TSM, this squad could have an incredible 2018.

Prediction: TSM

Turkey “Peanut”

The main course, the bird that represents all of Thanksgiving is the turkey. Turkey is what people spend days prepping to make sure it looks and tastes amazing. Shows and movies constantly show people fighting over the last available turkey. Thanksgiving dinner is not Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey. Peanut is someone people can build a team around. He is the turkey of this Thanksgiving meal.

Many people were surprised when Peanut announced that he was a free agent. He instantly shot up to the top of teams wishlists, as he is considered by many to be the best jungler in the world. Every team that has a jungle opening should be looking to sign someone of his talent level. He made his name on ROX Tigers and then signed with SKT this last season. While they didn’t win Worlds he was still a major part, along with Faker, of getting this team to Finals.

Peanut is the prize in this free agency and if he heads to NA, every team will want him. If it wasn’t likely that TSM was signing MikeYeung, it is probable that they would be in the mix. Counting them out, there are three teams who will likely be vying for his service: FlyQuest, Golden Guardians and CLG. CLG has a very good squad especially if they bring back Aphromoo. OmarGod had a solid first split after Dardoch left but, if CLG want to be a contender for Worlds, they need to sign Peanut. With him on their team CLG could easily be vying for a top spot in NA and could make a huge run at Worlds.

Prediction: CLG

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Hylissang may change teams in the off-season

Strategies for success in the EU LCS off-season

November 20, 2017 marks the start of the free agency period for the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split, and it is soon approaching. Organizations will begin signing, trading and letting go of various players with hopes of putting together a competitive roster. They will cite all kinds of reasons for making their decisions, but, at the end of the day, they all go into the off-season with one goal in mind: winning.

Various different team-building strategies have been successful in past years. The 2017 World Championship qualifiers from Europe showcased three totally different strategies, which ultimately got them to the top of the standings. G2 kept their entire roster from 2016, which allowed them to continue building synergy while bringing on Weldon Green as an assistant coach. Fnatic completely rebuilt their roster around their star AD carry, Rekkles. The endemic organization brought on a mix of veterans and rookies, which allowed them to shape their playstyle over the course of the year. Misfits came into the league from the Challenger Series, and only replaced their jungler and mid laner. Their focus on combining younger Europeans with talented Korean imports provided fertile ground for experimentation.

Between the reported changes for the EU LCS in 2019, and the expectations surrounding North America’s franchised league starting next year, it feels like there is a lot of pressure on European organizations in 2018. The group system, best-of-three series, mid-season relegations, none of these will be suitable excuses next year. The World Championship is one year away. The path to get there begins in a few days, and decisions made in the off-season will ripple from now until then. Each organization should have had ample time to reflect on 2017 and develop strategies that will get them ahead of their competitors.

Giants Gaming

Gilius returns to the EU LCS with Giants Gaming

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Giants enter the 2018 Spring Split after taking down Ninjas in Pyjamas and Schalke 04 in the 2018 Spring Promotion tournament. Gilius should be a familiar personality to welcome back into the LCS, but everyone else is new. Giants enjoyed a relatively strong run through the Challenger Series, but they would benefit from some upgrades. If a veteran support like Kasing signed on, it would bring more stability on and off the Rift to prop up the rookie carries.

This strategy would mirror Misfits’ updates when they entered the LCS. By bringing in another teammate with multiple splits of LCS experience, Giants could gain leadership and maturity with just a small investment. It would give the new guys an opportunity to prove themselves against other teams without feeling like they are being thrown to the wolves. Spring Split is slightly less important in the grand scheme of the year, so experimentation is a smaller risk. If the team is still not competitive after that change, then mid-season would be the time to shake it up a bit more.

Schalke 04

Schalke 04 joins the EU LCS in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Schalke 04 is the other team promoted from last year’s Challenger scene. SmittyJ is their most veteran player, with several splits of LCS experience under his belt. Memento has been in and out of the LCS for a couple of years now, but the rest of the team is relatively new. Upset is a lauded up-and-coming AD carry, which should be Schalke’s strongest weapon.

It would not be surprising if Schalke took the 2016 Splyce approach to entering the LCS: keeping the entire roster. Each of these players actually produced carry performances last year. With the announcement that Krepo will be head coach this spring, Schalke may decide to invest in infrastructure, rather than talent. They may also be turned off to veteran talents due to last time they entered the LCS with Steve, Gilius, Fox, MrRallez and Sprattel. Just like Giants, Spring Split should act as the testing ground for these new players.

Team Vitality

Week 8: Team Vitality on stage

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Despite optimism towards Vitality’s acquisition of VandeR in the mid-season, the team still had a lackluster Summer Split performance. It turned out that Vitality’s issues ran much deeper than Hachani’s death share. The jungle position turned out to be much leakier than previously understood, and since the role was essential to team-wide success. This position should be Vitality’s primary focus in the off-season. Cabochard and Nukeduck were consistently strong in the laning phase, but could not get much going in the mid-game.

Shook and Amazing are veteran options that will become available since Mysterious Monkeys and NiP were relegated. Kirei, Loulex or even Santorin will be available from other Challenger teams. It may not be the best time for Team Vitality to pick up someone without experience, because they placed highest when they had a complete veteran squad in Spring 2016. AD carry is the only position possibly worth filling with a younger player, kind of like North America’s Immortals this summer. HeaQ is the best recommendation.

Roccat

Roccat enter the off-season looking for change

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The other fourth place team, Roccat’s problems were inverted from Vitality’s. They almost always won games late with scaling compositions and smart play around objectives. Roccat’s solo laners, Betsy and Phaxi, were two of the weakest early game players in their respective positions. Meanwhile, Pridestalker showcased several statement performances, and Roccat’s bottom lane was in the top half of the league during Summer Split.

It is time for Roccat to let Betsy go. They have cemented him in the mid lane for two straight years, and it has not really panned out, especially when compared to Perkz with G2 or Bjergsen with TSM. Roccat could take a Misfits approach to this off-season, importing for one role and filling the second with a sophomore talent. Top lane seems like the role with the best chance for a successful import. Mid lane imports have almost never worked in Europe, which means someone like Selfie could fit into this roster well.

Splyce

Will Splyce change their roster this off-season?

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Arguably, the Snakes have the most difficult off-season of any team. Splyce’s role in the EU LCS is reminiscent of CLG in North America, because this team seems to be stronger than the sum of its parts when it clicks. They could not take more than one series from the top five teams in the league, but then they almost stole semifinals from G2 in the playoffs. Now they have a tough decision in front of them. Does Splyce change its roster and risk losing the synergy of friendship? Or do they stay together and give it another try?

Like CLG this past mid-season, the jungle position would be the most likely target. Trashy felt like the least consistent player on the team throughout the year. When he was on, Splyce was on. When he was off, Splyce was off. And, like Xmithie, he might even feel better switching to another team too. Maybe Splyce tries to nab a Korean aggressor from North America’s discarded teams, such as Chaser, LiRa or Shrimp. They could also try promoting their young substitute, Gripex, to the starting roster to see how it goes. Regardless, Splyce’s coaches and analysts will likely be the most important investments. The team looked best after head coach Gevous stepped down at the end of Summer Split.

Unicorns of Love

Unicorns of Love may lose some members for 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Barely missing Worlds for the third year in a row, Unicorns of Love have to make some changes for 2018. Exileh’s inconsistencies in the mid lane were obviously problematic. Hylissang played uncharacteristically reckless most of the year. Even Vizicsacsi did not look as polished as past splits. Interestingly enough, Xerxe and Samux, the rookies of 2017, felt like the consistent elements on the team.

This is also the first team on the list with a high probability of losing certain members to the hypothesized “EU-xodus,” due to a franchised NA LCS. Hylissang is reportedly signing with Fnatic, and there were rumors of Vizicsacsi moving to North America. If these veterans skip UOL for new opportunities, they may look to VandeR, Kasing or Kikis as replacements. They could also potentially experiment with rookie or imported top laners, such as WhiteKnight or Profit. If the Unicorns are able to keep all of their members, then it would be smart to bring on a substitute mid laner, like Blanc or CozQ, to have back-up for Exileh.

H2K

H2K may lose players in the off-season

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

H2K is in the same boat as Unicorns of Love. They barely missed Worlds after a rocky year, with high peaks during the regular season and low valleys during playoffs. Jankos, Odoamne and Febiven are star players with targets on their talent for new North American organizations. The off-season presents an opportunity for H2K to bring in a new player or two, but also potential for keystone players to leave.

Hypothetically, if H2K can only retain one of their three European starters, then Febiven is probably the best bet. He is a relative newcomer to H2K, while already feeling like someone worth rebuilding around. H2K would most likely release the imported bottom lane duo so they could look towards top and jungle imports. Young AD carries and supports would be easy for a team like H2K to bring on. Noxiak, AoD, HeaQ and Minitroupax are a few players worth considering, especially if they are able to acquire experienced players for the top side of the map. The best case scenario is for H2K to keep top, jungle and mid, while signing a new bottom lane.

Fnatic

Fnatic's roster could remain the same in the off-season

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

While Fnatic did not have a spotless performance in 2017, they certainly grew as the year went on. Broxah and Caps proved to be worthy investments as rookie players, and the veterans, sOAZ, Rekkles and Jesiz pulled their weight. It would be surprising to see this roster change too much in the off-season, considering this year was much better than 2016 for every single player. It seems mutually beneficial for the organization and players to stay together and build off of their accomplishments this year.

However, ESPN esports already reported that Hylissang will sign on as support, replacing Jesiz. This position seemed most likely to change, because Jesiz’s contributions to the team went unnoticed most of the time. With his assistant coaching experience, his value on and off the Rift was most likely more as a leader than an individual talent. Someone like Hylissang would seem to bring just as much veteran experience and flexibility to hopefully elevate Fnatic even higher. Top lane would be the next spot to consider changing, as sOAZ did express issues with his teammates throughout the year via social media. If he can get that part of his personality under control, then he is definitely worth holding.

Misfits

Misfits' roster may change in the off-season

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

What a whirlwind year for this team. Misfits continued Europe’s trend of sending a team to Worlds from the Challenger Series within the same year, like Splyce and Origen in 2016 and 2015. Replacing KaKAO with Maxlore panned out well, and it is difficult to think of what the organization might want to change roster-wise. This team probably has the greatest risk of falling apart due to the players changing teams.

Maxlore and PowerOfEvil jump out as prime candidates for swapping teams. Talented European junglers are a hot commodity, and sophomore star talent could go to another EU or NA LCS squad. PowerOfEvil has switched teams every year since entering the LCS, so another jump would not be a surprise. With IgNar hinting at leaving Europe, Misfits would be left with Alphari and Hans sama. They should definitely fill the mid lane with their strongest possible candidate, such as re-signing Selfie, or trying to score Nukeduck. Pulling Trashy or Jankos would be an excellent fit, and maybe Misfits could be Jesiz’s new home. If this organization continues to prioritize communication, then they will be prone to prioritizing new talent over imports.

G2

Could G2's roster change in the off-season?

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The reigning kings of Europe enter the off-season after suffering another bitter knockout in the group stage of Worlds. Like Splyce, it seems as though the experiment of maintaining the same roster from last year did not pay high enough dividends. International performance was G2’s ultimate focus this year, which showed at Mid-season Invitational, but not at the World Championship. To be fair, they had a difficult group, but the players and staff must still be disappointed.

Trick felt lackluster this year. His farming control style did not punish opponents the same way this year as in the past, and it seemed to hurt G2. It would not be surprising to see him replaced just to freshen up the jungler role, because every other member had relatively consistent performances and carried at times. Expect is the secondary weak point, but even he fulfilled his roles in the tank and split-push metas. Perkz seems highly unlikely to leave, while G2 offered their bottom lane duo to field offers elsewhere. Zven and Mithy have a lot of star power and success under their belts, which makes them an attractive acquisition. It is just hard to imagine them on a different team. It may be worthwhile for Zven and Mithy to stick with G2 another year to try playing with new top-side players, such as Maxlore or Odoamne.

Overall

2018 feels like the year when the EU LCS organizations change their identities. Unicorns without Vizicsacsi, H2K without Jankos, Splyce without Trashy, Roccat without Betsy–these organizations could have new faces next year. It will be exciting to watch veterans try to find the best teams for achieving greatness, while young players try to raise their stocks. Recognized imported players may decide to return home, while newcomers arrive to Europe. And there is a decent chance that keystone European players export to North America’s possible greener pastures. Regardless, this off-season will be another whirlwind of trades, acquisitions and “parting ways,” and EU LCS fans should be excited for change.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

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iBUYPOWER Masters 2017: The favourites

iBUYPOWER Masters 2017 starts today, with Cloud9, Liquid, Renegades, OpTic, Misfits, Luminosity, CLG and NRG in attendance. Only half of these teams have a chance at taking the title though. Let’s take a look at those teams.

Cloud9

iBUYPOWER Masters

Photo by: hltv.org

Cloud9 just came off a steaming hot victory at Dreamhack Denver, and even though the only team on their level attending was mousesports, they looked great. Aside from maybe Renegades, they look to be in the best form out of every team. Taking the wins (on LAN) that they should and not getting upset too much.

Placed in a group with Renegades, NRG and Luminosity, they are clear favourites to take the first seed in the group. And, unless an upset in Group B occurs allowing Liquid to face Cloud9, Cloud9 should have an easy path to the finals. The final will be a challenge regardless of whether it’s Renegades or Liquid; but Cloud9 should be the team to take the tournament.

Renegades

Out of the three victories that Liquid, Renegades and Cloud9 managed to get, Renegades achieved the best one. They got a victory at the Starladder i-League Invitational #2 over Virtus.Pro. Not only was it a victory, it was a domination. With a 2-0 over Virtus.Pro in the final, plus a Bo3 victory over HellRaisers, Renegades had a very impressive victory finally getting over their issue of choking away leads.

Renegades should end in the second seed for Group A underneath Cloud9, but there is always the chance for an upset sending them into the playoffs as the first seed. Although they’re not the easy favourites to win the tournament, they could definitely take the trophy at the end of everything.

Team Liquid

iBUYPOWER Masters

Photo by: hltv.org

Liquid have been looking weird since coming off of their double-final run after New York. Being unable to win a series at either ELEAGUE or EPICENTER, they went into the Americas minor with a couple question marks. They lost a Bo3 to Misfits but were able to come back and ended up taking the tournament.

In a group with OpTic, Misfits and CLG, it’s a possibility that Liquid could be upset or even eliminated in the group stage. With all that considered, Liquid should still make it out as the first seed, but it’s not guaranteed. Though, assuming the entire group stage is Bo1s, making it to the playoffs should ensure them at least making the final or taking the trophy.

OpTic Gaming

Being the only one out of the teams I’ve mentioned to not take a tournament in the recent future, they’re still one of the favourites just due to pure firepower. They have looked quite good online as well, although it doesn’t mean too much. They’re currently second in EPL although they’re only seventh in ECS. They did however qualify for IEM Oakland over Renegades.

Losing Bo3s against EnVyUs and Space Soldiers at the European minor means they’re probably unlikely to win against any of the three teams above in a Bo3 on LAN. But of course, since it is CS:GO, it is very possible for them to do anything. And, considering their firepower, they can definitely win matches with just pure aim.


Featured image via iBUYPOWER.

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Voting is open for the 2017 All-Star Event

My picks for the 2017 EU LCS All-Star team

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

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

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

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

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

Vizicsacsi

UOL Vizicsacsi ranks first among EU LCS top laners

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

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

Maxlore

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

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

Perkz

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

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

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

Rekkles

Fnatic may qualify for Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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

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

IgNar

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

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

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

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

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


Featured Image: LoLesports.com

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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performance

Worlds 2017: Breakout and breakdown performances

Worlds 2017 comes to a smashing close with roller-coaster performances across the board. Many fans can agree that this world championship has been the most exciting to date. From rookie upsets to classic battles, this Worlds had it all. But, with high highs come low lows. While some new sensations shook the world with their star performances, some of League’s greatest veterans faltered. Let’s take a look at three players in the Top 8 whose performances truly shocked the crowd.

MSF Ignar: Hook, Line and Sinker

performances

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

It’s fair to say that the entire Misfits Gaming (MSF) roster outperformed expectations at Worlds 2017. After all, many analysts slotted them dead last in Group D alongside Team WE (WE), Flash Wolves (FW) and Team SoloMid (TSM). Misfits shattered these predictions to face off against SK telecom T1 (SKT) in a breathtaking quarterfinals match. And it was their support Donggeun “IgNar” Lee, who went beyond what many thought his team was capable of.

In Game 2 of their quarterfinal match, already down one game against SKT, IgNar fearlessly locked in “Blitzcrank.” If his previous “Blitzcrank” game against TSM was any indication, IgNar would find few hooks against the reigning champs SK telecom. But, time and again, “Rocket Grab” found its mark as Misfits turned the tide against SKT. In a pivotal fight at the Baron pit, IgNar landed a blind “Flash” hook onto SKT’s Sanghyeok “Faker” Lee, causing the famous Faker‘s tilted shoulder roll. “Welcome to the EU LCS baby!” Riot caster Martin “Deficio” Lynge shouted as IgNar pulled off the miracle play.

After this impressive performance, IgNar doubled-down on risky support picks by locking “Leona” with “Ignite” and “Fervor of Battle.” Jaws dropped as IgNar and his AD-carry Steven “Hans Sama” Liv emerged victorious in a massive outplay against the SKT bottom lane. These rookies with no expectations coming into the tournament, had pushed the defending world champions to the brink. Although Misfits fell to SKT in a thrilling five-game saga, they won the hearts of millions of western fans. They pushed SK telecom farther than any team in western history. And they did it with style. After missing an opportunity at the support position for Team SoloMid in 2016, IgNar made his way to the world stage and surpassed all expectations.

SKT Bang: A burden to carry

performances

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Of all his Worlds performances to date, 2017 has been Junsik “Bang” Bae’s toughest year. After having won two world championships back-to-back, Bang stood as a strong contender for the world’s best AD-carry. His synergy with support Jaewan “Wolf” Lee was top-tier and his teamfight decision-making was impeccable. He was SK telecom’s shining AD-carry and he carried those responsibilities like a badge of honor. But his performances all throughout the Top 8 at Worlds 2017 were a shell of his past glory.

In the quarterfinals against Misfits Gaming, Bang found himself on the receiving end of multiple “Rocket Grab’s” and “Zenith Blade’s.” His skills looked duller, cracks started to appear in his play. Although his team managed to scrape past MSF in the quarterfinals, criticism still centered around the bottom lane. Leading up to their semifinal match against Royal Never Give Up (RNG), SK telecom for once, did not look like clear favorites. Even after besting RNG, Bang still looked like a huge liability.

With the SK telecom dynasty weighing heavy on his shoulders, Bang found himself in his third consecutive World Finals. Seated against Jaehyeok “Ruler” Park, Bang had his work cut out for him. After a one-sided defeat in Game One, Bang no doubt felt responsible for his team’s success. Perhaps this pressure was too much. Perhaps it was nerves in Game 2 that compelled Bang to “Flash” forward into three members of Samsung Galaxy. Then, forty-thousand fans watched in the Bird’s Nest in Beijing as Ruler caught Bang and Faker to close a swift 3-0 victory. What thoughts ran through Bang‘s mind as the Samsung colors came raining down in front of him? Would his legacy end with this crushing loss? Or will Bang strike back in 2018?

SSG Crown: Lucky Number 13

performance

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

From the Worlds 2017 Top 20:

“A great 2017 Spring Split led into a Summer Split plagued by inconsistency, dropping him below the more consistent Bdd. However, Crown has the work ethic and the attitude to bounce back and once again challenge Faker for the throne.”

After Worlds 2016, Minho “Crown” Lee showed everyone that he was not afraid to go toe-to-toe with the “Unkillable Demon King.” The story seemed a bit different this year. Samsung Galaxy did not come into the tournament with the confidence that took them to last year’s finals. Instead, the former finalists were overshadowed by their regional counterparts, Longzhu Gaming (LZ) and SK telecom. Crown found himself Number 13 on the LoL Esports Top 20, 12 spaces below his lane opponent, Faker, in the finals in Beijing.

In light of Faker‘s massive carry performances throughout the tournament, SKT looked to earn their third straight title. But, Samsung Galaxy were determined to uproot the SKT dynasty, Crown most of all. After locking “Malzahar” in Game 1, Crown faced off against Faker‘s legendary “Cassiopeia.” Despite the disadvantage of a counterpick, Crown outplayed Faker on multiple occasions, forcing out Summoner Spells and defensive build-pathing. Despite the mid-game strength of Crown‘s “Malzahar,” SK telecom elected not to ban the pick for the remainder of the series. A crucial mistake, and Crown capitalized. By sacrificing early lane priority, Crown‘s single-target suppression gave Samsung the freedom to take winning fights all throughout the mid-game.

With a 6-0 match record on “Malzahar,” and three straight victories against SK telecom, Crown proved that he could match the world’s greatest. While Samsung relishes in their new title as the 2017 World Champions, eyes will stay on Crown and his teammates in the splits to come. Is this only the beginning of the Samsung dynasty? What place will Crown find himself in next year’s Top 20 list? And who can we expect to break out at the next international event?

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Despite losing, the West can be hopeful

The Worlds quarterfinals have concluded and we have our final four contenders. People may be disappointed to see that once again it is a Chinese and Korean-only semifinals, but the West did impress more compared to recent years. We had some very close series that could’ve seen some of the teams moving forward; Unlike other years, the West looked competitive. Here are a few reasons why fans can be hopeful that the “gap is closing” between the West and East.

Photo by: Riot Esports

Breaking the meta

It only took a few years, but the West finally showed that they can adapt..at least when they reach quarterfinals. Misfits and Cloud 9 showed unique picks that brought out chaotic games and helped with their near-upsets. This Worlds definitely showed us that you absolutely cannot play to Koreans’ meta game. You must have your own strategies and come up with some unique picks if you want to beat them.

Misfits’ support picks of Blitzcrank and Leona caused absolute chaos in their series against SKT in which they were one game away from being the first team to ever beat SKT in a best of five at Worlds. Cloud 9’s Singed pick was absolutely a brilliant pairing with the cataclysm of Jarvan who we saw Contractz pull out for the first time in the tournament. And Fnatic pulled out some unique ADC picks in Vayne and Sivir that saw them barely lose to RNG.

This is what the West needed to learn – that you need to be able to play to your own style and trust your players on executing.

Exceeding Expectations

Of all the Western teams, Misfits had drawn the hardest matchup, having to face off against defending champions, SKT of Korea. After a game 1 in which they got destroyed, many believed the series was heading to a 3-0 sweep. Misfits showed resiliency to come back with their own support picks to get ahead of SKT 2-1. No one expected anything of them heading into the tournament, but they showed the most improvement throughout.

Cloud 9 nearly became the first North American team to ever reach the semifinals of Worlds. Many expected it to be close, but their brilliant drafting was puzzling WE early. Had they not thrown game 1, they may have been on track to sweep the Chinese team after dominating the early part of the first three games. They had every chance to make it to semifinals, but just barely fell short.

Fnatic faced almost impossible odds after a disastrous week 1 which saw them 0-3 and last place. With the odds stacked against them, they fought their way to a three-way tie-breaker to earn second place out of their group. Against RNG they showed glimpses of just how talented they are. It was a slight lack of experience and shot calling that ended up being their downfall. Despite this, they showed grit and determination in making a very strong comeback from week 1.

What’s Next?

Photo by: Riot Esports

With North America heading to franchising, it will be interesting to see if the influx of money helps to actually improve the talent of the region. More money means more room to import and experiment with rosters, and every team will be looking to be competitive.

Franchising will also open up more talent for teams to have “Academy” teams in the Challenger scene. This will mean more opportunity for homegrown talent to make it into the pro scene if they wish to do so. This will hopefully stop the flood of importing and bring more of a focus to growing the talent in the states and making the region stronger overall.

For EU, rumors are still alive that they may be splitting the region into four groups. Most are not too happy about this as talent is already quite scarce across the region. With franchising heading to NA, we could see more talented European players crossing over for the big money investors.

After the success at this year’s Worlds, one has to wonder if Riot should focus on growing the region more. EU has shown that they can be a top performing region in the World. They earned a lot of new fans with how they performed this year, so hopefully Riot can look to helping them improve even more and improving the West overall.


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Cover photo by Riot Esports

ardent censer meta

Worlds 2017: an Ardent wonderland?

Ardent Censer meta reigns supreme over Worlds 2017. Champions like Janna and Lulu, the main abusers of Ardent Censer, sit atop the support tier list. AD-carries forfeit their laning phase to first purchase Relic Shield in order to funnel gold into their supports. The early game at Worlds has effectively become a race to see which support can ‘mine’ gold faster to hit the all-important Censer power-spike. As with previous World Championships, teams adapt their playstyles and drafts throughout the tournament to challenge the Ardent meta. How are teams exploiting the Censer meta? And how can new strategies affect the Worlds’ meta heading into semifinals?

Team WE resurrects Caitlyn

ardent censer meta

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

As of Patch 7.18 (Worlds patch), Ardent Censer grants recipients of shields and heals with bonus 25% attack speed and 20 health drain. This buff grants AD-carries increased damage output and sustain during explosive mid-game teamfights. Because of the oppressively efficient nature of Ardent Censer, the item became a must-buy for supports across the board. However, this strength comes at a cost. Because some AD-carries forfeit their early power for a Relic Shield, many bottom lanes lack early playmaking and aggression. Teams become increasingly passive, content to fight only over wave control and vision before 15 minutes.

Herein lies the main weakness of an Ardent Censer meta. Because many bottom lanes opt into passive, farm-oriented playstyles, early strength can effectively bully the opposition into an early deficit. On Day 7 of the Worlds group stage, Team WE debuted Caitlyn as a new pick for AD-carry SeongJun “Mystic” Jin. After several rounds of nerfs, Caitlyn, the once queen of AD-carries, faded out of the meta. However, the champion’s oppressive lane pressure and a tweak to her Headshot passive gave her room to shine in a meta of passive carries.

Team WE recognized TSM’s reliance on a passive playstyle and failure to adapt. They dealt a crushing blow to the North American fan-favorites and cemented Caitlyn as a new pick-ban priority. This innovation in the second week of group stages prompted other teams, like Cloud 9 and Edward Gaming, to test Caitlyn in their upcoming games. AD-carries quickly took to Caitlyn’s pressure-heavy playstyle. Coming out of the group stage, Caitlyn boasted a 100% win-rate out of four games.

Misfits ignar Defies the ARdent Supports

ardent censer meta

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

After pairing against defending world champions SK Telecom T1 in the quarterfinals, rookie-team Misfits Gaming looked set for a quiet exit from Worlds 2017. The Misfits had other plans in mind. And they went on to deliver the most thrilling series of Worlds 2017 so far. After losing game 1 to SKT using an Ardent support, Donggeun “IgNar” Lee refused to roll over. Entering into game 2, Misfits rallied the Guangzhou Gymnasium, locking in his signature Blitzcrank. By flexing mid-laner Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage onto Karma, Misfits gave room for IgNar to make plays throughout the game as he landed Rocket Grabs left and right.

SKT hoped to force IgNar onto a slower playstyle in game 3, buying SKT room to play a more methodical, drawn-out game. But the rookie support turned heads locking in Fervor Leona, a pick that was never thought to see the light of day at Worlds 2017. Misfits rounded out their composition with an Ardent Censer user in Ivern for jungler Nubar “Maxlore” Sarafian. The Misfits bottom lane dismantled SKT’s legendary duo after an explosive outplay just after two minutes. Misfits put their foot on the gas as IgNar roamed to punish wandering members of SKT. The wildly successful early aggression from the Misfits bottom lane earned their AD-carry Steven “Hans Sama” Liv a +3k gold lead over his counterpart.

Although they lost the series, the rookies on Misfits won global respect and admiration. The rookie European squad took SKT farther than any western team before them. These incredible results came from fundamental team synergy among the players. Particularly, IgNar’s aggressive style showcased that Ardent Censer supports are not a prerequisite at Worlds 2017. After this performance, perhaps we will see more supports taking on play-making roles at semis.

To Bury Ardent Censer Meta

ardent censer meta

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

As semifinals loom just a few days away, how can we expect the meta to take shape? Will SK Telecom T1 adopt some of IgNar’s aggression and pull out the Blitzcrank? Or perhaps we will see RNG’s veteran AD-carry Zihao “Uzi” Jian abuse Caitlyn to crumble towers before ten minutes? Despite Ardent Censer’s undeniable utility, teams must create these micro-adaptations to gain an advantage. It’s exciting to watch as teams strive for constant improvement in response to a seemingly ‘figured-out’ metagame.

The pick-ban phase becomes increasingly nuanced. Banning picks like Caitlyn and Sivir, prized for their ability to siege early towers, frees up champions like Sejuani and Jarvan IV. Coaches like SKT’s Jeonggyun “kkOma” Kim must discover ways to abuse not only Ardent Censer meta, but any possible counters as well. The Worlds 2017 meta continues to grow and bleed into new configurations we have yet to discover. Fans will be anxious to see what unseen pocket picks these semifinal teams have in store for the stage in Shanghai.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Michael!

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