Saturday, September 12, 2015

Worlds 2015 Groups have been drawn!


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bard Chimes In on Pro Play




by Jerrod "Thousand Eyes" Steis

One of the newest champs to be released, Bard, finally gets his chance to see professional play. Bard has proven to be a champion with very mixed results. He is Riot’s first attempt at creating a support that is rewarded for leaving his lane. This creates a lot of interesting strategy possibilities, especially in the current meta of constant lane swaps in professional play.

Bard is one of the more utilitarian supports that have been released. Unlike a support like Leona or Annie who only really bring CC and damage, Bard trades this damage and easy CC for more of an ability to help his team reposition, heal, and keep the enemy from moving where they want. He won’t win a 2v2 very often, but that’s not really what his kit is designed to do.

When Bard is brought out, you can most definitely expect teams to try and swap lanes. IF Bard does go into a 2v2 he’s going to want a safe ADC in his lane so it gives him the freedom to leave lane. A popular ADC right now is Sivir. She has a huge amount of waveclear and a spell shield in case she moves up too far. Sivir also works well with Bard's mid game power in his ultimate. If Bard hits a good ult from afar to engage, Sivir can pop hers to not only let her team get to the enemy, but position correctly in order to keep the enemy team locked up with follow up CC or damage.

Bard is still new, and teams aren’t really sure what to do about him. The only pro to consistently pull him out so far in competitive play is GorillA and he’s only seen spotty success on it, winning just 1 of his last 3 games. Sweet, from JinAir has been getting Bard banned against him as well, although he hasn’t actually played him competitively yet.

An interesting note from most high level players that I’ve noticed is that they max E (Magical Journey) second, over the W. I’ve tried both and I definitely see more impact from leveling E second. Bard’s heal is meant to be used as a screw-up fixer. It’s there in case you need it, not to be used when you need a top off on health. He places it for when he isn’t there to help his team, making him useful all over the map and fitting his theme.

Bard can have his shot in solo queue play as well, but he gets played a little differently. It can really depend on how your ADC is by themselves. If you know what your ADC is, make sure it works with your pick. Sometimes you get a little screwed and your ADC picks Vayne after you already locked in Bard, but it’s not a complete loss. Just make sure you’re not putting yourself into a bad situation if you can help it, Bard isn’t a jack of all trades so make sure you know why you’re picking him.

One of the first questions that comes up on Bard is your starting ability. Do you level Q or W? They have their pros and cons, but I think the higher your ELO, the more likely you are to need Q at level 1. Before you go off on me, let me explain.

In lower level games, like Gold and below, players generally don’t skirmish early and fight over getting the level 2 advantage. This means your Meep empowered auto attacks should be enough to let you stay competitive until you get level 2. However, players that understand the power of getting the early level will punish you hard for your passive start if you level W. The upside of leveling W first in lower level games is that you can place a health relic for each of your other lanes, mid, top and jungle, to make sure they can recover from a bad trade early or getting cheesed, which is once again something that happens more frequently in lower ELO games. Most likely we’ll only see Q from Bard at level 1 in professional games unless the team knows for certain they have a lane swap.

The possibilities of Bard’s ult are incredible especially around a coordinated team. I’ve already mentioned the synergy with Sivir ult, but there’s also the objective control he provides. Bard can help guarantee steals; a lot of people see the possibility of ulting Baron or Dragon to keep the enemy from taking them for a little bit. However, with some careful aiming, you can actually do the exact reverse of that scenario and ult the enemy team, specifically the jungler, and keep them from smiting while your jungler swoops in as the hero.

Bard has a lot of room for mistakes, but he brings a huge amount to a team that no other champion can bring. His abilities to Zhonya’s both enemy and ally champions and portal through walls are extremely unique to him. And while his AP ratios aren’t amazing, he scales just fine into the late game with his stacking of chimes to improve his auto attacks and not only more damage, but more utility in slows. It won’t be long before Bard becomes a staple for professional supports alongside his counterpart Thresh.


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by Jerrod "Thousand Eyes" Steis

Saturday, May 30, 2015

What We Learned from EU LCS Summer Week 1


by Reece "SabrewoIf" Dos-Santos


1. Origen are as good as they were made out to be.

Origen-ally I was sceptical about how xPeke's team would adapt to top tier competition that they haven’t yet been exposed to as a group. I thought that against some of the best EU has to offer, they might have some flaws exposed which they could later build upon. Instead what I received was a 2-0 trash of a week where Origen brushed away the likes of Giants Gaming and then proceeded to steamroll H2k - what I believed to be EU’s second best team and practically guaranteed worlds squad.

While Mithy is no Forgiven and opted against declaring himself as part of the best bottom lane in EU…by far, the duo pair of him and Niels has been crazily effective with the rookie marksman picking up the first MVP award of the summer split. But with so much attention on the oppressive dominance in the bottom lane duo, the good work and Peke, Soaz and Amazing are not to be overlooked. Aside from the occasional positional hiccup from Soaz, the top three members all held down their roles spectacularly showing that they’re still able to exhibit a top level of play. This will be especially warming to the top half trio as they all shouldered their fair share of doubt towards their ability to perform near the end of their last splits on Fnatic and TSM respectively.

I’m now excited to see how Origen fare up against some of the wilder teams in the LCS, as both H2k and Giants are quite tame and telegraphed in their style compared to the likes of UOL or Fnatic who aren’t afraid to shake the table.

2. The Copenhagen Wolves are still consistently inconsistent.

This team is about as consistent as my solo queue MMR, which by the way could be mistaken for an analogue radio wave. On their best days they can pool together a dominating performance and completely clean house against the best teams in EU, the next day or even literally half an hour later, they’re a mess of basic mistakes that can’t retain any control against a team that hardly looked like they knew why they were winning.

Although Freeze’s pure mechanical ability has been a shining point in lost moments along with areas of inspiration from Soren, the team needs heavy focus on regaining their flow and recovering from a loss of tempo if they want to be challenging for any of the spaces in the top half of the table this split.

3. Forgiven ruins the flow of any team he graces.

Although a tad bit harsh, there’s no way to express this without flat out saying it, Forgiven has proven to me that his playstyle appears to be unadaptable for everyone who tries to tame it. While the benefits of his presence are more than evident in having one of the best skilled ADC’s the west has to offer, it seemed like Gambit this week put themselves into a Piglet/Team Liquid situation where they tunneled on the acquisition of a world class talent and tried too hard to pool themselves around making it work. What Gambit need to avoid is the situation that has followed Forgiven like a dark cloud and it’s the internal collapse of teamwork, trust and synergy due to the clash in personalities. While SK Gaming held on for the best part of a split, it was too much for them as was with the Wolves. Personally with the history of how emotional Diamond and Edward can be, I’m a little worried as to how the team will recover if they don’t pull off a momentous upswing like last split.

4. The right Elements may have finally been blended together.

What an upgrade! This team looks to be with the right players in the mix alongside the right mentality. No joke, the KaBuM! incident obliterated the original lineup of Alliance and alongside the embarrassing worlds exit that followed, really tore apart the civil colleague relationship between the team. Only with the purging of the teams members and eventual rebuilding with the return of Tabzz, has the team finally begun to show the spark it showed in the summer of Season 4.

Dexter, Jwaow and PromisQ bring a new fresh feel and dynamic to the playstyle of the team and also seem to mesh with the rest of the team in a much better fashion than the previous trio of Wickd, Shook and Nyph who were simply Mission Impossible, Froggen’s waiter and some guy no one listened to. Rotations were good, the top laner actually looked like a member of the team and Froggen wasn’t giving off the vibe that he believed he was in elo hell.

As to how far this team can go, it’s still unknown as EL’s first game was a stomp over the currently broken Gambit and while they put up a good fight, they were ultimately taken down by the Unicorns. If EL wants to sneak in for a worlds spot, they need to overcome potential rivals for the spaces. Now it looks like they can, and not just on paper.

The question is, will they?

5. Roccat still have many problems that need to be addressed.

Woolite’s positioning has been the cause of many LCS face-desk moments for me and we’re only two games into the split. Whether or not he’s upped his poor positioning game to make up for the loss of his partner in crime, P1noy, is beyond me, but it’s hurting his team’s chances of being anything but relegation zone bound. It’s also apparent that every time Roccat change their top laner, it only seems to make the situation worse. Steve has yet to show why he was worth being selected as Roccat’s new top laner in place of Overpow, who went from the team’s shining star to a quickly ousted unmemorable top laner.

In fact, Steve’s biggest impact upon the LCS so far is the crowd chant of his name which follows a particular pattern of Roccat crowd memes when underperforming, one example being the ward chanting at LCS Wembley last season. On top of this, Jankos and Vander are mere shadows of their former selves and it’s been a very long time since I’ve heard anyone even try and call Jankos the “best jungler in the EU LCS”. Last but not least is Nukeduck, being the one returning Lemondog who isn’t a valuable asset to their new team. Out of the meta and completely out of his depth in most matchups, it’s a surprise Roccat chose only to make a change in the top lane, it’s even more surprising that it doesn’t seem like they’ve made any headway to addressing these issues which have carried on from the last split. In both management and player mentality, something is clearly wrong.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Difficult Life of a CLG Fan



by Jeremy "Ne0 Jets" Heimann

Growing up with an older brother, I learned to be competitive at a very young age. I always wanted to win, no matter what, whether it was video games, sports, or board games. Memories as a child included watching my brother root for his favorite teams. One day, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, a favorite of his, were playing the Michigan Wolverines, and I started rooting for Michigan just to compete against him. Read more...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

NA Summer 2015 – Can TSM stay on top?



by Patrick Garren

The top of the North American competitive League of Legends' landscape has been dichotomous since Cloud9 arrived on the scene a few years back, trading blow for blow with their NA heavyweight counterpart, Team Solomid. TSM has gotten the better of the staggering former champion lately, with two straight NA LCS titles and some international exposure to show for their roster rotations and coaching changes. Up until a couple of weeks ago, Cloud9, unlike their rivals, had maintained a steady roster and with the  addition of Incarnation to their lineup, are now on the road to resurfacing as the primary powerhouse in North America. But can they overtake TSM?

TSM have not been shy about roster swaps. Ever since Reginald stepped back to coach and brought Bjergsen across the pond, they have had a revolving door of replacements at the support and jungle positions. Having finally settled on Korean import Lustboy at support, TSM continued to search for the band-aid that would stop the bleeding that TheOddOne’s retirement started. European jungler Amazing would see an NA LCS title with the team, but with poor international play and mounting criticism from the "always poised to strike" League of Legends community, Amazing decided returning to Europe and his family would bring more happiness to his life. This opened the door for Santorin. Coming from the floundering Team Coast, Santorin would see a quicker bit of success than the former TSM jungler, with a decisive win in the championship of the NA split. Ultimately, TSM’s Mid-Season Invitational proved extremely disappointing, and many fans were unable to decide whether to lay the blame on top laner Dyrus or on Santorin’s aversion to top lane ganks.

Which brings us to the Summer 2015 LCS split. Having made no roster changes, Reginald and coach Locodoco presumably have plans to counter the new and improved Cloud9 line-up, who increased their potential skill level in mid lane by several orders of magnitude with Incarnation’s arrival. While I personally agree with the lack of roster moves, it’s up to the management to continue to guide Santorin in the right direction as he grows and matures as a player. Decision making was not at its best in Tallahassee for Baylife, so some ideas definitely need to be thrown around, all the while fostering a synergistic team attitude, if they hope to continue to reign atop the North American LCS.

However, Cloud9 is not the only team in the North American scene that has bolstered their roster. Several other teams have their eyes on dethroning at least one of the usual finalists from North America. Since former mid-laner Link left with a massive bridge-fire, CLG has made huge moves to improve their shot at showing up in the post-season this summer. With the introduction of former Winterfox wunderkind Pobelter and Korean ringer Huhi, CLG hope that an SKT-like approach to the mid lane position will allow them to be more flexible in terms of their game-to-game strategies, although this will not be readily apparent until we see how CLG plays with both mid laners, and also gets into a relevant best-of series. On the less flashier side of things, Team Impulse has shown significant growth over the course of the past 4 months, led by solo queue superstar Rush, who as of this writing is tied with Faker for first place on the Korean ladder, and will bring the same 5 starters into the Summer split looking for a shot at going to Worlds.

One thing is for sure, though. If North America wants to become an international threat, the middling talent of its leagues needs to step up. Impulse, CLG, Gravity, and Team Liquid will need to continue their improvements shown week-to-week last split if they hope to challenge for the NA title, and Cloud9 and TSM need these teams to become better to put the onus on themselves to improve and compete on an international level. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Three Reasons CLG's Two-Man Midlane isn't like SKT's

by Kennan French

Counter Logic Gaming recently announcing that they will have both Pobelter and HuHi playing mid lane on their main roster, and it's hard not to draw comparisons to SK Telecom's system of rotating Easyhoon and Faker in between games. Personally, I’m glad to see an NA team having a roster with more than five starters. However, there are plenty of differences in these situations that are important to keep in mind.

First, SKT has a distinct strategic decision when choosing Faker or Easyhoon, since they have very different styles: Faker plays aggressively, always looking to make plays and draw pressure, whereas Easyhoon is typically a more passive laner who looks to enable his whole team to get fed. CLG won’t have such a clear decision; both HuHi and Pobelter are most at home playing aggressively on assassins. Now, this may work if CLG wants to really prioritize a certain pick (Zed, for example, is considered to be one of Pobelter's signature champions, while HuHi has seen better results on LeBlanc) but they generally share most of their champion pools so one champion isn't likely to change this much, especially since the other team can just ban it away. 


Second, the caliber of player isn't the same on CLG as it is on SKT. It's not that Pobelter and HuHi aren't good mid laners - they are - but this is Faker and Easyhoon we're talking about. Faker has won a world championship, and Easyhoon is widely considered to be comparable to Faker in skill; Pobelter has had to play to keep his team in the NA LCS twice (and only been successful once). HuHi was winless during his time on Bigfile Miracle when he played mid lane for them in Korea. Of course, one good player does not a good team make, and both Pobelter and HuHi are good players, but it would be hard to argue that they are better than Faker or Easyhoon. Also, while they would have this same problem with only one mid laner, this problem adds another element of uncertainty to their decision about who to play.


The last, and most important, difference between CLG's situation and SKT's is that the NA LCS games are all Best-of-1 series (during the regular season, at least) whereas the OGN LCK it's OGN, let's be real LCK games are Best-of-3. This means that SKT can play Easyhoon in Game 1 and then Faker in Game 2 if they want to try a different strategy or counter something unexpected that the other team did, or one of them is tired, or for any number of other reasons. CLG will not have this option. They have to choose one player for each game and hope they made the right choice, with no recourse if they didn't. 

This leaves us with how CLG will use their rotating mid lane roster this coming season. It's likely that, if they want to run a split-pushing composition, they'll put in Pobelter. Pobelter has also shown more prowess on more supportive mid laners; he has 10 Orianna games to HuHi's 0, and a considerably higher win rate on Lulu with more games. If they want to run a mid lane AD carry, HuHi would be the one to put in. And, as a final prediction and without knowing much about the team dynamic the past split, having two mid laners will likely be a boost to team morale if one of them tilts (assuming they are both mature about being subbed in and out).

So yes, there are some similarities between the mid lane rosters of SKT and CLG, but it's important not to take their situations as identical; to do so would be ignoring the teams' strategies, the skill of the players, and the formats of the respective leagues that the teams are competing in.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The LCS Returns May 28th

2015 Summer Split Predictions


by Jerrod "Thousand Eyes" Steis
NA LCS


1. Cloud 9

A bit surprisingly, I’ve got Cloud 9 back on top. Hai retired, which is a huge loss for their team, but he’s still going to be around providing insight, meaning his contributions will still be felt. The question becomes, will they have Incarnati0n be a shot caller or transition someone else on the team into it. We have yet to see what Incarnati0n will bring, but he’s kept himself up on the top of the solo queue ladder all this time while he was banned. If that doesn’t say he’s been preparing for this moment, I don’t know what does. The rest of the team is still as strong as ever, and with Balls moving past his slump from the early part of the season and Sneaky putting himself in the running for best ADC in NA, Cloud 9 looks like they’re ready to take back their crown from TSM.

What to Watch:

Incarnati0n is back for the first time since LCS’s inception.
Sneaky needs to keep his success up


2. TSM

There really isn’t much to say here for TSM, everyone knows how dominant they’ve been this season and they haven’t had to change a thing. Their one point of competition was Cloud 9 and Hai just couldn’t perform in addition to some early season slumps from Balls. Lustboy was a monster and Bjerg was Bjerg. Santorin was a surprise to me, as watching how other teams have had promising players come in and proceed to trip their way down the split, Santorin looked very comfortable after the first few weeks. Teams kept trying to tilt Dyrus and it just didn’t work. He kept himself on champs like Lulu and Maokai, who don’t need to get as much gold to be useful, and did his thing. If there’s one chink in the armor though it’s WildTurtle. He has a habit of getting very aggressive and sometimes puts himself in a bad position. The rest of the team has been able to cover that, but this split looks like it’s got even more competition than last.

What to Watch:

Dyrus Dying
WildTurtle positioning


3. CLG

Ahh CLG, always looking great until the end of the season. This might finally be the split to break that though. Link has retired and he’s being replaced almost SKT style by bringing in two different mid laners that CLG plan on swapping back and forth. It’s going to be interesting to see how NA teams handle trying to strategize around 2 possible players. The player to watch here is going to be Xmithie, he had a few chokes late in the split in the spring and it’s going to be on him to try and fix those mistakes coming into the home stretch for worlds. I think finally we’ll see the team start to pull themselves together and make a run for Europe.

What to Watch:

Xmithie needs to step up a bit
How will Swapping of mid laners work for and against CLG

All Photos courtesy of Riot Esports

4. Team Impulse

Impulse started off last split in complete disarray. The dirty laundry of LMQ had been aired out and the only remaining player was XiaoWeiXiao. Impulse pulled in Impact of S3 World champs SKT, which everyone thought would be the big pick up. The player that has really shown up though has been Apollo( formerly WizFujiin). His play really solidified Impulse as a threat to other teams. While they needed time to understand their calls, the team speaks 3 different languages, they seemed like they were going full force at the end of the split and they will most likely be keeping that trend up moving into the summer.

What to Watch:

Continued success from the end of last split
XiaoWeiXiao farming



5. Team Liquid

Liquid looked really strong at the end of the split, finally breaking the Curse curse. The real question now is going to be, “will they keep the momentum or start back from the beginning?”. I’m leaning more towards them keeping it up. Piglet looked more like a former world champion than we had ever seen from him in NA at the end of playoffs and while Quas and Dominate will be the backing veterans lead by Xpecial, Fenix has shown how he can be an up and coming threat and brief Mcmoments from Keith have been great signs on where the team is heading.

What to Watch:

Piglet is looking back to his old form
Fenix keeping heat up in mid


6. Enemy Esports

The new kids on the block, we don’t know that much about them, especially because they got a free pass into the LCS. Innox is back and will most likely be trying to lead the team with his previous LCS experience. Otter and Trashy have substitute experience, so they aren’t going in blind. They absolutely stomped the NACS and I think they will hold their own against the lower tier teams in the league.

What to Watch:

Innox back in a new lane
How will Otter stack up against other ADCs


7. Team 8

Calitrolz is the leader of this team. Which is actually unfortunate for two reasons. One, he’s leaving after this split and if Team 8 survives they need to find a new top laner and they most likely won’t find one with the same level of leadership and knowledge as Calitrolz. Two, the meta just doesn’t favor top lane carries at the moment. Maple and Slooshi are usually behind and Cali can only sometimes even it out Usually a win depends on how Porpoise shows up

What to Watch:

Calitrolz pulling his team up as far as he can
Porpoise needs to make an impact


8. Gravity

Saint is retiring and while his mechanical strengths weren’t all too great his shot calling was what made him the right fit for Gravity. He has a lot of game knowledge and I’d love to see him be a coach one day. Regardless he won’t be on Gravity next season. This is a really crushing blow and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gravity making some bad calls this split. Keane is very volatile and he can pull out some weird picks that either make plays or just lose hard. Hauntzer is very underrated, but he don’t play champs that can carry if other lanes fall behind really hard. Bunny is amazing if you put him on Thresh, but he stumbles a bit otherwise, and of course Cop is just Cop.

What to Watch: 

Who’s going to make the calls in game
What will Keane do next


9. Team Dragon Knights

The team that Alex got into the league, whether you agree with what happened or not, they’re here now. It’s gonna be hard to pinpoint these guys since we don’t even know who their mid laner is going to be. Seraph is here, and he seems a lot more comfortable than he was in CLG, and he’s being put in a position that he is more familiar with not only with his team, but the way the meta is shaping up as well. Altec is rumoured to be in talks to join the team, and if that happens in addition to getting a good mid laner, I could see these guys shooting up. For now though I’ve got them in 9th

What to Watch:

Seraph on smite tele hyper tanks
Mid lane and ADC changes


10. Team Dignitas

I was legitimately surprised that Dignitas beat Fusion. Fusion once again flopped out and choked. This doesn’t really mean much other than one more split. dignitas made no roster changes, and have little to offer outside of great engages from KiWiKiD. Both Gamsu and Azingy have been disappointing as well as CoreJJ and Shiphtur has never lived up to his potential.

What to Watch:

KiWiKiD engages
Surprises if someone steps up


EU LCS 


1. H2K

H2K were almost the ones to go to MSI because of a very close best of 5 at the end of the Spring Split. While Fnatic makes their plays by engaging and forcing fights, H2k has a much more tactical approach. With their coach Pr0lly at the helm, they went from being a lower tier team to almost champs in a split. I can only imagine how hungry they are after their small taste of the top and are busting their butts to try and get 1st this split. Their macro game strategy is top notch and a step above other teams in Europe and this is what’s going to take them to number 1.

What to Watch:

Rotations
Wins from map control rather than brute force


2. Fnatic

Fnatic showed themselves as a top tier team at MSI almost being the first team to take down SKT in a best of 5, despite that they’re being placed 2nd. They made an interesting swap in picking up Rekkles again after he left Elements. Once again messing with the synergy, which in my opinion was one of Fnatic’s strengths, and swapping out Steelback. Steelback was doing pretty well for himself, so I’m pretty surprised about this. Febiven looked like a monster at MSI and was able to solo kill Faker a few times. Huni is still Huni and Yell0wStaR is always going to be flash Tibbers stunning people all day. Rekkles is a much safer ADC though and I don’t know how well he’s going to handle the aggression

What to Watch:

Rekkles and his ability to mesh with the new team
Huni being cute


3. Origen

I’m probably gonna get a lot of flak for this one. I think Origen is going to end 3rd regardless. xPeke is still very good and Amazing is solid. Niels is also really good at ADC, but I’m too split on S0az. He’s very tilt happy and I’ve seen it cause his teams losses many times in the past. When he’s on, he’s very very good, but he’s prone to just throwing himself at the enemy if he starts to fall behind.

What to Watch:

S0az tilt and how he handles it
Bot lane is relatively new to pro play, Mithy hasn’t played for over a year




4. Unicorns of Love

I love the playstyle, as it’s exciting and unique, but I don’t see Unicorns of Love making it past 4th this split. Their style is inherently risky and can cause them to get stomped sometimes because it doesn’t work. They know what they’re doing but we’ve seen them falter at points. Not only that but this split there are a lot more competitive teams coming in. Hylissang also has some work to do on supports that aren’t Thresh.

What to Watch:
Lots of weird picks
Bot lane camps since it’s their weakest lane


5. Elements

If you can still call them that. The super team that turned out to be a mess and a half. Froggen is the only remaining member. While I think The move to Jwaow is an upgrade, Wickd is from an era gone by, Tabzz is about even, and Dexter is around the same. PromisQQ is a brand new player to the LCS so we don’t have a lot to go on. There’s a lot of team building that needs to happen, but these guys are all, with the exception of PromisQQ, guys who’ve been in the LCS and around the block for a bit, so I don’t see it as being too much of an issue.

What to Watch:

How will the new guy, PromisQQ handle the big stage pressure
Will missteps happen with little time to prepare

6. SK Gaming

Obviously SK didn’t have the end of the split they had hoped for, but they have moved towards a more team oriented approach now. An approach I feel will be better for them. CandyPanda is a much more selfless ADC and that lets players like Fox and Freddy carry more. The only problem this might cause is that it leaves a very open weak spot in SK where they used to have none. SK needs to understand how to play from behind because they might have to with the mechanical downgrade

What to Watch:

Weaker bot lane than last split
Have they learned to play from behind


7. Gambit Gaming

The addition of FORG1VEN is huge for Gambit, but I don’t believe it’s a purely positive huge. While the “See Hero Kill Hero” strategy of Gambit is a better fit for FORG1VEN I don’t believe they have had enough time to mesh and this can cause, and has caused, teams to melt down. Gambit also only barely got going near the end of the split after making a bunch of changes. While it’s possible they can keep that going, it’ll be hard with a new ADC. The biggest questions are going to be how well Gambit can handle strife as they could very easily spiral down quickly.

What to Watch:
Gosu Pepper and FORG1VEN synergy
If things go sour early in the split, how will they handle it?

8. ROCCAT

The way the split ended for ROCCAT a few weeks ago was disastrous, but that really defined the split for ROCCAT. Small mistakes becoming huge problems. They came into the year as huge favorites to be top 2 and then blew leads or just didn’t show up. There isn’t one person to blame here either, which is why they’ve hit the 8th spot here. I don’t think the past few weeks were enough time to really solidify their issues.

What to Watch:

Woolite tilt
NukeDuck tilt
Everyone tilt



9. Copenhagen Wolves

The Wolves have a lot of improving to do this split as their counterparts in the EU have all gotten extremely good. AirWaks is usually a non-factor, and as a jungler that’s a problem, Unlimited also lacks a lot of pressure as well. Youngbuck has been falling off the past year or so and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. They’ve always been the bottom side of the bracket, but this might be the time they fall out

What to Watch:

Freeze is a very strong ADC
Pressure on Airwaks to show up

10. Giants Gaming

PePii and Werlyb have shown flashes of great play, but even when they show these great sides, it’s usually not enough to pull up their slow macro game. Noxiak was a great addition mid way through the season and his Leona helped snowball their carries past a point where strategy was a big deal, I don’t think they’re going to be able to get away with that this split.

What to Watch:

PePii and maybe Werlyb trying to carry
Flashes of great engages from Noxiak

Saturday, May 9, 2015

MSI Day 2 Review

MSI Day 2 Features Unexpected Victories, Stunning Eliminations 


Day 1 of MSI 2015 was by most accounts an unexciting affair, with nearly no upsets outside of whether or not you thought EDG under-performed against SKT or that they are simply that much worse than SKT. However, the Saturday picture had become pretty clear after a single day of games, with seeding and which western team would get a shot in a best-of series being the only major storylines on the day. Day 2 opened up with an important piece of the latter plot with EDG and Fnatic squaring off.
  
Game 1: Edward Gaming vs Fnatic

Yellowstar and his rookies looked towards EDG on Day 2 with a hopeful mindset. Technically, losing this game didn't put them into any worse of a spot to get themselves into Saturday’s knockout games, but pulling off the upset would put Fnatic firmly in control of their own destiny, and the possibility of any tiebreaker games nearly out of reach for TSM. But things got ugly really fast for Western squad, which would become a recurring theme on the day, as Yellowstar burned his flash to steal Gromp from the EDG bot lane, only to end up on the receiving end of Clearlove and his all-but-patented early aggression out of the jungle. Shortly afterwards, Koro1 would get a retribution kill turning a top lane dive from Fnatic into a nightmare start for the European champions. Koro1 added another couple hundred gold to his pocket after baiting Huni into a close trade, with Clearlove roaming top to help Koro1 secure the kill. By seven minutes, EDG had seven kills, a 3k gold lead, and a choke hold on the remainder of the game. Fnatic’s hopes of putting TSM into panic mode were thwarted by the aggressive Chinese side, with EDG’s strategy of poetic chaos proving to be entirely too much for Fnatic to handle. Statistically, EDG had over a kill per minute, and Fnatic’s nexus would topple over in quick fashion.

Game 2: AHQ eSports Club vs Team Solomid

The drama for TSM was at a crescendo, as not only would a win here put the boys from California (and Denmark and Korea) into a powerful position to force tiebreaker games and reach the semifinals, but a loss would see them at the mercy of either beating EDG, a tall order regardless of the team’s form so far at this event, or rooting for Besiktas to officially take the hand-off from Kabum, and save yet another North American team from elimination at an international event. TSM began the game shifting back to their traditional tactics, successfully initiating a lane swap and beginning their early game. Unfortunately, the past 3 games for TSM were not the proper instructional tools they required, and Dyrus once again gave up first blood from a gank, with TSM’s jungler Santorin nowhere to be found. AHQ would continue to dominate the early game, culminating in a fight near baron that would result in a three-for-one for AHQ, with Wildturtle being the only carry for TSM to pick up any gold from the fight. TSM would continue to fight, however AHQ would lose precisely zero team fights the entire game, and almost like clockwork, another Asian team secured a victory over a western team before the 30 minute mark.

Game 3: Besiktas eSports Club vs Edward Gaming

As we progressed through day 2 and it became more and more clear just how much stronger the eastern teams have been than the western teams, this game promised to be absolutely terrifying for the Turkish wild card invite. EDG would secure first blood on mid laner Energy, before dual 6 minute fights bot lane and top lane would result in several EDG victories, and the beginning of one of the most heinous snowballs in competitive League of Legends history. With EDG looking for wins simply to keep pace with SKT, and with how bloody the first 12 minutes of this game ended up being, I was honestly surprised this game lasted long enough to give Besiktas the option to surrender. To their credit, they didn't, but they would lose shortly afterwards.
  
Game 4: Fnatic gaming vs SK Telecom

The midway point of Day 2 in Tallahassee would provide us with possibly the closest and most exciting game of the tournament, potentially soured by the fact that SKT was clearly goofing off for about 20 minutes. Fnatic jumped out to an early lead on kills, and would maintain it, stretching their lead to as many as 11 kills at one point, but their gold lead would remain close. Almost as if the Kings of Asia were simply playing with their food, the kills continued to go in Fnatic’s favor while the gold stayed identical. SKT would begin clawing back, and while they would never take the gold lead, it was a controversial Sejuani bug that would cause the beginning of the end for Fnatic.


The Sejuani bug in question, as seen above, was originally waved off as a spectator glitch, but has since been replicated by various players on Reddit. However, with the transparently obvious trolling SKT did for 20 minutes, and the absolutely explosive way the game ended, with SKT marksman Bang getting a pentakill on his Lucian, it seems to me that Fnatic simply opted against remaking. No other team came as close as Fnatic did at seemingly dismantling SKT’s defenses, why not shrug off your inevitable loss to a bug rather than remake and have SKT end the game at 25 minutes, as they most likely would have done. Overall, it was the correct decision to avoid remaking, for player and viewer sake.
  
Game 5:  Edward Gaming vs Team Solomid

TSM entered their last game with one option: Win, otherwise Besiktas decides their fate. Unfortunately, for the fifth consecutive game, Dyrus was on the receiving end of an early gank that had no support from Santorin. And, again, Dyrus would be the victim of a second, and a third gank, giving EDG a three kill to zero lead before TSM had reacted in any capacity. TSM’s uninspired performances continued well into this game, with virtually no signs of life anywhere to be seen. What was once seen as the glimmering hope of NA, a mechanically strong TSM team with a superstar mid laner and an ultra-innovative support, saw what would potentially be their final nexus of the tournament fall as EDG embarrassed them at every corner of the map. Like Cloud 9 half a year ago, TSM was now at the mercy of the underdog, this time from Turkey.


Game 6: Besiktas eSports Club vs Fnatic

TSM would see their hope dissipate within minutes of the penultimate group stage game’s start. Fnatic forced two early kills for themselves, as a gank mid would end bot lane with both Energy and Thaldrin succumbing to Fnatic’s pressure. Fnatic would wrangle their early pressure into a dragon and plenty of early turret pressure, while a Rek’sai Thresh combo gank bot lane would result in 4 kills for Fnatic and the first turret of the game. Fnatic’s early gold lead would never be truly tested by Besiktas, and while the game was a bloody affair that lasted a few minutes longer than it maybe should have, Fnatic would topple Besiktas’ nexus, and TSM’s hopes of advancing, at the 25 minute mark.


Game 7: SK Telecom vs AHQ

The final game of the group stages of MSI 2015 would provide a potential finals matchup, with AHQ potentially pushing for a tiebreaker game to decide first place for the group stage. This game would also prove to be the most satisfying game of the entire tournament so far, regardless of whether or not it truly meant anything other than seeding position. AHQ looked to prove themselves once and for all, being harshly underrated coming into the event, having finished fourth in their league before their tremendous playoff streak. However, AHQ put themselves into an early hole as SKT would get first blood on AHQ jungler Mountain, and a roam top from Bengi would cost AHQ top laner Ziv his flash. However, a restitution gank would come from Mountain, getting AHQ marksman AN an early kill on his Sivir. AHQ would wrestling the gold lead from SKT, pushing objectives and gaining ground on kills with their crisper rotations. As the game progressed, Westdoor’s Cho’gath continued to spike in power, with several team fights ending almost as they began after Westdoor’s feast would nearly one shot Bang’s Urgot. With SKT losing team fight after team fight, it looked like we were heading towards tie breakers as SKT’s armor looked to finally be cracked, until Easyhoon decided he’d had enough. An engagement near Baron in the blue side jungle allowed Easyhoon’s Azir to shred through AHQ’s entire team with perfect positioning, ending in an outrageous flash Emperor’s Divide to secure the ace. With a 10k gold deficit, SKT would march through the front door of AHQ’s base, obtaining a perfect 5-0 group round record and the number 1 seed.



As we bid farewell to Besiktas and Team Solomid, we’re forced to wonder just how big the gap between the West and the East is right now. Fnatic look to be the last bastion of hope for western fans, as they match up against SKT to start off Saturday’s semifinal matches. EDG and AHQ will round out the day, in a series that promises to be significantly more entertaining than its opening act, but maybe Fnatic can surprise us?


The MSI 2015 Playoffs Preview

The Heat is On in Tallahassee! 


by Reece "SabrewoIf" Dos-Santos 

We’re about to head into the Semi Finals of the Mid-Season Invitational with SKT heavily tested twice, AHQ in convincing third place, Fnatic looking like a finals ready team and TSM heading home after a shockingly disappointing tournament. Who saw this coming?

Personal preference of team aside, this tournament has been everything the casual LoL scene viewer could have wanted. Top end competition, healthy regional rivalry, fast-paced unforgiving action. The unfortunate side effect of this is how quickly the inability to ramp up and get going can catch you out. Needless to say, the TSM we saw here was not the TSM that shocked everyone at the IEM World Championships. In comparison, this TSM looked lazy, unprepared and culture-shocked by the level of competition. Dyrus was left out to be slaughtered, Turtle never got to have any impact. Some say Santorin never even attended MSI. Seem familiar to some? This display from what was once known as the “Best Team in the West” was shockingly similar to the performances out of EU’s representative teams since the infamous group stage of Worlds 2014 where everything went wrong. Do fans have a cause for concern? Maybe, but it's too early to jump to conclusions as this one performance should not overshadow the team’s recent success or dare I say “golden age.” But generally it is fair to be heavily critical as LCS teams are all too familiar with a one-game format and should honestly be better prepared.

Now for the bracket stage - I couldn't be more excited.

Fnatic vs SK Telecom was easily the best match in the whole of the tournament and, for some EU fans, the biggest sigh of relief and reassurance that the region, like Korea, has not declined and is still of a competitive level despite losing promising players. Fate, however, had a different plan for Fnatic and the gamebreaking wall bug that Reignover had the misfortune of finding literally ended up tipping the scales as Fnatic began to lose grip of their gold lead after that one event.



Nevertheless, maybe this was a good twist of fate for Fnatic as now they have another chance to prove themselves against the team they almost took down. This is a good chance for them to discover if they have what it takes to ride their momentum through a Best-of-Five series, to see if they can not only outplay SKT but out-draft and out-adapt them as well. Bang has more than proven himself to be a huge threat and Fnatic be wary of ADC-centric comps like the one SKT pulled yesterday. But similarly, SKT should be more wary of Reignover’s peaked performance and Steeelback’s worrying reliance on Sivir to perform. While SKT have the superstar mid laner Faker and one of the best top laners in the world in MaRin, Bang deserves a lot of credit for being a heavy driving force behind SKT’s success this tournament. Like it or not, this series may well be decided in the bottom lane. Fnatic need to ensure Steeelback doesn't get mauled if they want a chance in winning. If he doesn't get on Sivir, which he shouldn't if SKT are smart, they’ll need to think carefully about how they’ll keep him comfortable, farmed and relevant.

Now AHQ and EDG are two teams that look on top of their form, Koro1 and Clearlove putting on dominating performances in their victories while Deft and Meiko displayed great teamwork and reminded everyone why the former is still considered the best ADC in the world. Meanwhile, AHQ came in and honestly shocked everyone with how convincingly they swept aside both LCS sides. The Westdoor hype is still alive and kicking but it’s not just him making the plays this time around. The rest of his team look just as strong and the carry potential is spread between all of them. This will now be AHQ’s fifth meeting with EDG across two tournaments with Koro, Clearlove and Westdoor being the only remaining players from the showdown in Group A of Worlds 2014. With both teams looking better than ever, this will also prove to be an entertaining series, I fear it may be more one-sided than the Fnatic and SKT game as EDG look and feel superior to AHQ in every way, but I've learned never to completely doubt this team. Any team with a Unicorn as its logo has the potential to really catch you off guard.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Fnatic vs SKT : Sometimes Winning ISN'T Everything

Photo courtesy of Riot Esports

by Andrey "Hammett" Kuchynskyi 

Fnatic declined a remake of their potentially bugged game vs SKT because they knew, even if they pulled it off, it wouldn't come out any better. They won the game basically. They were the closest out of the entire world to beat SKT. It's better to say "a bug ruined it" instead of "a bug ruined it, we remade it and got stomped." Because really, you don't want to make another 10 floor card house after someone drops a hammer in another room causing your most recent one to collapse; or when you play Flappy Bird and you pull off 5 times your high score, you won't immediately restart it to try and beat it

Throughout this game, I was ready for SKT to win in the end. It is noticeable that Koreans and Chinese, especially on MSI, wait for a mistake from their opponents. Whenever a really small misplay happens, they make sure it is punished to the end, and then abuse their lead out of it. So the goal for other teams is basically to play 100% perfectly in regards to committing mistakes. Fnatic did that until the Nautilus ult over the wall in mid. At that point, Nunu and Rumble pressed R and all the frontline follow-up from Fnatic got melted while this combo zoned Steelback and Febiven. That was Fnatic's first misplay. They still didn't fall from it and kept doing their thing perfectly, but that bug happened (which is really well-known in soloq.)

So in a bigger picture, I am sure everyone felt like Fnatic could have won. Maybe even SKT. This is one of the games we all play and watch League for. This is what "gg" is, and it doesn't mean that other games are not good enough. It's just we all love League and play it for these games.

This will become another Fnatic classic moments. There were moments when FNC took the lead on EU LCS and then suddenly collapsed because of a misplay. And right after those moments, Huni and Reignover would take over and make a comeback. This game was the same, when Sejuani stole the Baron and forced SKT back.

Despite losing hard during MSI, Fnatic concentrated so much, one could say they are playing the last game of their lives. Like really, can everyone be that focused after being dominated two games in a row and then face an even stronger team? I don't think so. I really admire Fnatic right now for pulling it together, concentrating and facing SKT seriously. Congratulations guys, you really won more from this game than SKT. This is the time a fallen nexus doesn't mean that much. Remember it's not Worlds yet, so it is important to grab the experience, see your pros and cons, and prepare for future. 

MSI 2015 Day One Proves Painfully One-Sided.

The Mid-Season Invitational promises to answer many of the questions that have been asked for months. Is SKT or EDG the best team in the world? Has the west really closed the gap between themselves and the Asian teams? Will someone lose to the wild card invite this time? Thursday’s games brought some lucidity to these questions with half of the group stage games being played.

by Patrick Garren


All photos courtesy of Riot Esports


Game 1: Fnatic vs Team Solomid

Game 1 promised to be a fireworks show as the first ever Mid-Season Invitational opened with a classic showdown (from one of the events it replaced, the Battle of the Atlantic.) Fnatic entered picks and bans with a string of methodical Meta picks from their previous games, which they then threw out of the window, instead picking up as many TSM-favored champions as possible while banning out three top laners. Fnatic’s Huni brought Cassiopeia into the top lane for the first time of the season, and Marksman Steeelback and mid laner Febiven took Urgot and Leblanc respectively.

TSM failed, or rather, chose not to initiate a lane swap and paid the price early. Marcus “Dyrus” Hill gave up an early first blood, and from there the game was never in TSM’s control. Fnatic continued to push the early advantage they gained, strangling TSM out in a relatively short, largely uneventful 32 minute game.

Game 2: SK Telecom vs Besiktas eSports 

Besiktas came into this tournament as the winners of the International Wild Card Invitational, and they entered this game as enormous underdogs.  On the other side of the table, SK Telecom entered the tournament as massive favorites to win the entire event, and are in the argument with EDG for the best team in the world. The game started out with a bang in BJK’s favor, though, as a pre-3 minute, 4-man gank squad showed up in Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok’s lane for an early first blood for BJK. However, the true mark of a great team comes in their reaction to diversity, and SKT reacted in the best way they could. Top, bot, and jungle all got advantages over their corresponding lane partners, with several towers and a dragon falling for SKT as a direct result of BJK’s attention mid lane. The game was pretty much defined at 5 minutes when SKT top laner Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-Hwan dove under BJK’s top tower, killing their support Mustafa “Dumbledoge” Gokseloglu, who was still Level 2 due to the early roam, while a skirmish mid lane gave SKT jungler Bae “bengi” Seong-ung a double kill. A dragon fight at 14 minutes that eventually led to a 3 for 0 for SKT as well as a second dragon kill gave SKT a 6k gold lead and dominant control of the game they would end only 12 minutes later.

Game 3: Edward Gaming vs AHQ eSports Club

Game 3 saw an Asian clash between LPL Champions Edward Gaming and LMS winners AHQ eSports club. Edward Gaming were coming off an unimpressive playoff performance, while AHQ saw a recent resurgence culminating in their 3-1 victory over Yoe Flash Wolves during the LMS. With somewhat standard picks and lanes outside of Lie “Westdoor” Shu-Wei’s mid lane Karthus pick, the first bit of action came 5 minutes into the game with a counter gank from AHQ ending in Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu giving up first blood and Westdoor getting a kill onto his controversial Karthus pick. AHQ looked to be in control of the game until disaster struck the Taiwanese side when a gank from AHQ jungler Xue Mountain Zhao-Hong was answered by a teleport from EDG top laner Tong “Koro1” Yang, who got a double kill on his Hecarim while EDG picked up a 4 for 2 fight in their favor. The game stayed generally even from there, with EDG slowly pulling ahead into a slight gold advantage. However, AHQ engaged onto Koro1 in mid lane, with Koro1 able to escape and recall before teleporting back into the fight with homeguards to clean up for EDG, giving them a 3k gold advantage. EDG extended their lead at the 25 minute mark with a strong engage in the red side jungle, acing AHQ and pushing their lead to nearly 5k gold. From there, EDG continued winning minor skirmishes and taking objectives, choking out AHQ’s gold income before Koro1 helped lead EDG to victory with his legendary Hecarim.

Game 4: Team Solomid vs Besiktas eSports

BJK and TSM both came off of losses in their Game 1 matches and were desperate to put a check mark in the W column. TSM picked up an incredibly team-fight and wave clear oriented team comp, with BJK going for the double control mage/lane bully carry roles. This game was largely uneventful early, with the pure mechanical skill level advantage of TSM being very apparent, as Dyrus and Bjergsen gained almost obscenely large CS advantages over their lane counterparts. A roam bot lane from Santorin and Bjergsen’s Ziggs ended in two kills, a turret, and a dragon for TSM. BJK was down by 4k gold by 14 minutes, and for the second game in a row things came completely unraveled for them in the mid game. TSM systematically out-farmed, out-rotated, and out-played BJK at all facets of the game, and would end the game in a mere 26 minutes.

Game 5: AHQ eSports club vs Fnatic

Fnatic were soaring after their domination of TSM in the opening match of the event, but let’s be honest, that was hours ago, and AHQ isn’t TSM. Fnatic really did seem to be on to something with their pick ban strategy in Game 1, however they decided to completely abandon that idea and went back to their boring, predictable pick/ban selves. On the other side of the coin, Westdoor locked in Fizz, so there’s that. Karthus and Fizz on one of the biggest stages you’ve ever been on? I could be friends with this guy. AHQ started off strong and early, getting first blood at 55 seconds on to Steelback, with a 2nd kill on the Fnatic marksman coming minutes later. This game seemed relatively close all the way up until the 20 minute mark, with Westdoor’s Fizz causing Fnatic tons of problems and Huni’s Hecarim picking up the slack for Fnatic’s floundering bot lane. AHQ began to pull ahead when a team fight initiated by Fnatic and Huni’s teleport homeguard ended in Westdoor completely ruining Fnatic’s chances of victory. His massive Fizz damage cleaned up the fight, and with a 4 to 0 team kill advantage, AHQ took a second dragon and snowballed their lead into a 31 minute victory over the European champions.



Game 6: SK Telecom vs Edward Gaming

This game was the most anticipated game of the tournament for anyone who pays attention to the Asian League of Legends scene. The LCK champions and the LPL champions, former world champion Heo “PawN” Won-seok and former LCK all-star Deft facing SKT again for the first time since leaving the Korean league after Season 4 Worlds. A lot of pride was on the line for this game, as well as a considerable advantage at progressing into the knockout stages of MSI. The most notable pre-game event was Lee “Easyhoon” Ji-hoon being substituted in for SKT at mid lane. While this is nothing out of the ordinary, I’m sure many fans would have enjoyed watching the Faker vs Pawn mid lane matchup. EDG managed to pick up first blood in the top lane on SKT marksman Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan, but that would be one of their last hopeful moments of the game. SKT reacted perfectly, securing two kills on MaRin’s Rumble, with a teleport gank bot lane shortly after leading to a 10 minute dragon kill. SKT would systematically out-rotate EDG, taking 5 turrets and 3 dragons compared to 2 turrets and 0 dragons by the 25 minute mark. A 10k gold lead by 30 minutes would result in a decisive SKT victory, with many scratching their head over EDG’s poor performance.


Game 7: Besiktas eSports vs AHQ eSports

In the penultimate matchup of the night, AHQ looked to take a quick win and move to 2-1 after the first day of games against Besiktas, fresh off two harsh lessons in competitive League of Legends from the kings of east and west. This game was easily BJK’s best outing of the day, in that they weren’t completely dead in the water by the 15 minute mark. BJK managed to stay relatively close for the first 20 minutes, but their inexperience and mechanical deficiency against some of the best teams in the world continued to rear its ugly head. Unable to turn an even game with a 2 dragon lead into anything meaningful, Westdoor’s Twisted Fate began to systematically take over the game. Every Destiny resulted in a kill or an objective, often both, and AHQ took firm control of the game after the 25 minute mark. BJK can hold their heads up high going into Day 2, however, as their decision making and early game pressure looked better than it ever has in this game, and they pose a definite threat to a pre-occupied team looking past them towards a tougher matchup going into the second day. Can they take the torch from Kabum! eSports and knock a bigger power out of the tournament? 




Game 8: SK Telecom vs Team Solomid

I want to take a moment, as a genuine fan of competitive League of Legends, to thank whoever’s decision it was in the SKT management to make sure that us Western fans got the matchup we wanted to see. And while the game around it managed to be a relative shellacking, the potential was at least there. But boy was this game a beatdown. SKT held a 2k gold lead at 10 mnutes, and a 5k gold lead at 15 minutes. TSM was never in this game, and SKT continued to bolster their bid for the title of best team in the entire world, much less the MSI trophy itself. This game, almost agonizingly, lasted just over 30 minutes, with SKT rounding up almost 30 kills before finishing the game with nearly a 20k gold advantage.


Day 2 Scenarios

Day 2 poses plenty of interesting outcomes, and every team is still mathematically alive. It’s safe to say Besiktas is likely the first to be truly eliminated, and while maybe one day these play-in regions will have the resources to compete, unfortunately 2015 is not that time. Day 2 opens up with EDG and Fnatic, an enormous match-up for both sides. Both Fnatic and EDG play BJK in one of their three Day 2 matches, so a win here could see one team with a comfortable 3 wins. TSM and AHQ eSports follow up the first match, with TSM desperately needing a victory to have a glimpse at progressing into the knockout stages. Should TSM lose to AHQ, they face EDG later in the day to potentially decide their fate entirely. SKT has likely already secured a spot in the next round, but they have matches against Fnatic and AHQ to handle today. I predict a solid 5-0 for SKT in group stages, regardless of which mid laner they play, and I believe Faker could ride the bench the rest of the tournament, and SKT would likely still emerge from this tournament as the victors. They have that Season 3 World Championship aura about them.  

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mid-Season Invitational 2015 Review


Pawn vs Faker, Faker vs Bjergsen, Lustboy vs Yellowstar and the list goes on. The Mid-Season Invitational 2015 has kicked off with eight terrific games! Did the results live up to everyone’s expectations or was there an upset or two? Let’s have a look! Read More...

Monday, May 4, 2015

Who Can Take The Heat in Tallahassee?

MSI 2015: Stage of Champions

Image courtesy of Riot Esports

Regional champions from around the globe will gather from May 7th-10th in Florida's capital city to attend Riot's new international competition, the Mid-Season Invitational. The four day tournament will feature six champion teams, who'll battle with the hopes of being crowned the MSI Champion 2015. Will it be a Western or Easten team that takes the fame and glory home? Let’s take a look at all the contenders and I'll give my prediction for this wonderful tournament!

By Michael "Tribble" Godani


AHQ E-Sports Club(LMS)




The last time we saw AHQ was in Group A at Worlds 2014, together with Dark Passage, Edward Gaming and current World Champions, Samsung White. Since then some roster changes have occurred. Their jungler, Albis, moved to the support position and former TPS jungler, Mountain, took his place in the jungle. These changes are still very recent, taking place right before the playoffs.

Having dropped only one game in their three Bo5 series to obtain the MSI spot is sure to give a lot of confidence to the team and their fans. They're a team that doesn't seem to struggle with the changes and immediately picks up the title, just like Fnatic.

AHQ's strengths are also their weak points. Westdoor enjoys playing the assassin champions such as Fizz and Zed but has also shown the ability to adapt to the current meta with Karthus and Cho’gath. AN has had impressive results on the likes of Urgot, Jinx, Sivir and Kalista and is able to join Westdoor in carrying the game to good results. Westdoor loves to roam and apply pressure across the map, so his mobile assassins are very important for his playstyle.

But despite being able to carry their team together, they rely too heavily on disengage/peel from their teammates. Once champions such as Janna are taken away from them, they're suddenly incredibly vulnerable. Teams like EDG will be able to punish them for their one-dimensional tactics. Also Westdoor, who is strong inlane, will have it rough against the likes of Pawn and Faker who are easily the top two midlaners in the world.

AHQ are still a very mechanically talented team, and with a couple of outplays and picks they can take control over any game. How will they do at this tournament? I would call it a 4/5th spot team. This all depends Fnatic, the 3rd team that placed themselves for the MSI.

Besiktas E-sports Club(Turkey, ICWI)




The second team to have qualified for the MSI are Turkish representatives Besiktas E-sports Club. Besiktas is a known name in the international sports world when it comes to Football(soccer) and Basketball, and now they've managed to qualify their League of Legends team for one of the biggest events in E-sports.

They haven’t had an easy road to obtain that invitation. They finished first in their region which qualified them for the IWCI tournament, and then they first had to take on the Champions from several other regions including Brasil and OCE. In a nail-biting final, after being down 0-1, they managed to sweep INTZ e-Sports and get their ticket to the tournament. 

We don’t know much about Besiktas, but what we know is that their main carry is in the AD role. He is a strong Lucian player who is both good in a regular lane and in laneswap situations. He is able to impact games as long as he has the sufficient resources to do so. Also, once Besiktas grabs hold of a game, their lead is invested into vision control to be able to deny the enemy team from making plays or grabbing objectives.

This all is relatively strong against the “weaker” opponents in the scene, but Besiktas will meet the likes of EDG, SKT and TSM, teams who have been playing at the top level for many years and who house world champions, so don’t get your hopes up too high. Besiktas will not be able to pull off a trick against any of the competitors that will give them a shot to qualify for the semi-finals.


Fnatic (EU-LCS)




Xpeke, Cyanide, Rekkles and Soaz left Fnatic. The only remaining member was the best European support player, Yellowstar. The addition of Huni, crowned as Spring Split rookie 2015, and Dutch talent Febiven in particular, did the team well. Their naive way of playing has brought them a lot of success and points to work on which they will most likely improve over the next couple of months.

Fnatic made their fans proud by taking down newcomers UoL in the finals of the EU LCS Spring Split in a five-game thriller and regaining the crown they dropped the split before to Alliance (Elements).

Fnatic's (overly) aggressive playstyle has won them the Spring Split 2015 title and their ticket to the MSI and we should all respect them for that. They're a joy to watch with early tower dives, aggressive laners and a bloodthirsty jungler. The entire Fnatic team is a threat in the laning phase. They can get kills and snowball themselves without help, which is what makes them so dangerous. 

For picks, some would say Fnatic has a deep champion pool, but I strongly question the effectiveness of that pool. Their champion mechanics might work against their European opponents, but it will most certainly not go as easy in their favor on the international stage.

A tournament like the MSI is where we compare the players/teams of each region to each other and mechanically, Fnatic has got a long way to go. Meta champions have been of better use in the hands of players from other regions. Still, having won the Spring Split with such a young and inexperienced team shows a lot of potential. It will be interesting to see how the likes of Huni and Febiven do against such superstars as Koro1, Faker and Pawn.

My expectations for Fnatic is that they will battle it out with AHQ for the 4th spot which will qualify one of them for the semi-finals.

Team SoloMid (NA-LCS)




Summer 2014, IET 2015, Spring 2015; they won three of the last four competitions they participated in. They are the uncontested Number 1 of North America and house the best midlaner that can be found in the western region.

Bjergsen is the foundation on which TSM relies, but he is being backed up by Dyrus and Lustboy. Bjergsen is the playmaker, the splitpusher, the ganker, hell you might even call him the carry who supports himself.

Dyrus might not always get the credit that he deserves, whereas he is the black sheep in TSM who will be the first one to be sacrificed when needs be. Dyrus does play to his fullest potential in every match with the limited amount of resources being handed on to him. He is the veteran who survived all the meta changes that you can think of and still sits comfortably in that top lane.

Lustboy was a much needed addition to the team, as Bjergsen doesn't have to carry the games alone anymore. Lustboy is a playmaker. He loves to roam as most Korean supports do and apply pressure on the map. Lustboy's strength lies not only in his mechanics but also in his wide champion pool. If you want a heavy disengage composition, he will be able to play top notch Janna but still make the aggressive plays that he does on the likes of Thresh - but in the Janna way. Lulu, Thresh, Braum, Kennen, he will play whatever is needed for the team.

TSM can play a lot of different styles. For North American teams, they can be a pain in the rear when it comes to team fighting, rotations and split pushing but will this also be the case for the top Asian teams? How well will TSM perform with Wildturtle? A very peel dependent ADC who will have a tough time when guys like Koro1 and Clearlove all of a sudden jump onto the back line. And how will Dyrus, Bjergsen and Lustboy protect their newest member, Santorin, from junglers like Bengi and Clearlove? These are questions we can only speculate about at this point but they will be serious points of interest for TSM and their opponents. 

TSM will continue their dominance this tournament and will fall to either EDG or SKT in the semis. I think that they have a lot of potential but will be mechanically and tactically outplayed by the Chinese and Korean powerhouses.

Edward Gaming(LPL)




Considered by many to be the best team in the world with at least three positions that are filled with the best players in the world for that position. Koro1 in the top lane, Clearlove in the jungle and Deft as ADC.

EDG has always been a very promising team when it comes to international tournaments but for some reason they always failed to deliver. The last chokepoint was Worlds 2014 where they fell short after being hyped to grab the title.

With the addition of Pawn, world champion and Deft, best ADC in the world, EDG have showed a different playstyle during the Spring Split. Their three men gank squad, Clearlove/Koro1/Meiko, have been carrying the team throughout the laning phase into numerous dominant victories over their regional opponents. Their "late game teamfighting and baron" playstyle has changed to a more skirmish based style. EDG is the master in showing up with multiple members, unexpected, in any lane and taking multiple kills followed up by objectives. Does this mean they have left the teamfighting / baron just to be remembered? No, EDG might be the best team to utilize the baron buff. Out of all the teams, EDG makes the best use of the baron and often ignores dragons just to obtain that one baron to turn the game around. They make sure that their side lanes are pushing so that when the baron is slain, they have no problem in applying pressure in all three lanes.

In terms of teamfighting, Deft's positioning and Clearlove/Koro1's ability to disrupt and neutralize the opponent's carries, leads them to very one-sided teamfights in favor of them. Pawn deals in on this too, as he knows exactly when to jump in and out of fights to maximize his damage and disorient the enemy team's focus.

EDG will not be banned out in the picks and ban phase by any means. Though, if you want to have a chance to make a chance to have a chance, be sure that Gnar and Kassadin are banned. Pawn and Koro1 hold incredible win rates on these champions and will be able to turn games in their favor.

As for Meiko, Deft and Clearlove, these players are just as their other two teammates - unbannable. Their champion pools are gigantic and will perform equally on any of their top five picks.

Applying pressure on Clearlove and Pawn is the only way that teams might be able to get some sort of a chance to win games against this team. Also the dragon buffs are not always on top of EDG’s priority list.

My prediction for EDG’s final result might already be clear. I expect them to win and only drop a max of two games throughout the entire tournament.

SK Telecom T1




After missing out on participating at Worlds 2014, a couple of roster changes brought this team back on top of the Korean standings. 

Impact, Poohmandu and Piglet left the S3 World Champions and got replaced by SKT T1S members. Easyhoon is the most valuable player to mention from the roster changes that SKT made in S5. The midlaner, who was often swapped in to give Faker some rest or to let him grow as a player, has made a huge impact on everyone worldwide. Whereas EH started in the semi-finals against CJ but got swapped for Faker, he did not get swapped in the finals. GE Tigers got swept with Easyhoon and Tom in the starting line-up in all three of the games.

EH's Xerath, Ziggs, Azir and Cassiopeia are world class and the diversity of styles that he has shown as a player is remarkable to say the least. Aggressive or passive, EH can deliver, and the scariest fact of this all is that he isn't even the starting midlaner.

Faker, “The Unkillable Demon King” as OMG’s Cool called him, is the starting midlaner for  SKT. There is not much I have left to tell you about Faker; perhaps that his Leblanc is unbeaten and was released in the CJ series in the fifth game. How about the fact that some players want to win titles, while others are satisfied if they can kill Faker in lane.

The man is the best League of Legends' player of all time and the entire team revolves around him. Faker gets the ganks and the resources and with that, he makes the plays and carries his team.

Their jungler, Bengi, has been performing a bit inconsistently but Tom on the other hand has been looking fantastic. A very young and eager player with the right amount of aggression regardless of the jungler that he plays. Tom is giving Bengi a run for his money, but what will SKT do at MSI? Will Bengi or Tom start?

SKT is mechanically very strong and their rotations and teamfighting is on spot, just their toplaner is not always as good as we want him to be. Marin is a very limited player when it comes to champions like Gnar for example. Multiple times his positioning as mini Gnar has been bad but for some reason he is not being punished by teams for it. His Gnar and Hecarim need some work if he want to compete with the world class toplaners but I guess he is aware of that. His Maokai, on the other hand, is of huge value for his team. Marin loves to rush the homeguards and his teleport plays can be devastating, often surprising the enemy team.

How will SKT perform at MSI? I think they will have a hard time against teams like Fnatic and EDG, who will apply early pressure and try to exploit their toplane weaknesses. A final spot will most likely be obtained but if they're against EDG, they shall not be able to take the glory.

These are my predictions for MSI:
1.     Edward Gaming (LPL)
2.     SK Telecom T1 (LCK)
3.     TSM (NA LCS)
4.     Fnatic( EU LCS) / AHQ E-Sports Club (LMS)