Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Top 5 Performers During Week 1 of the LCS

by Tristan "verlashcaster" Jakobsen

The first week of the LCS is over, and it has been a rough ride for every LCS team. Huge upsets and surprising consistency/inconsistency has shown up in both North America and Europe. In this article, I will list the top 5 most impressive players of the first week.


5. T8 Slooshi8
“Don’t call my boy Slooshi a noname,” a friend of his wrote on twitter when he landed the first double kill as Orianna in yesterday’s game against TSM. Dyrus and Wildturtle fell to a fantastic shockwave + distortion, and from there he became pretty much unstoppable. He landed every single ultimate, leaving TSM without options and he let his team gracefully stomp. It looked like T8 wasn't a newly qualified team for the LCS at all, but a top contender. Even if his first game of the split didn't go as well as Slooshi would have hoped when he played Lulu against CLG, he clearly showed that his Orianna is a force to be reckoned with. His pure skill and sleeper status earns him the 5th spot on our list for Week 1.


4. FNC Yellowstar
Earning the first week MVP in EU, Yellowstar has shown that he’s still one of the (if not the) best supports in the western regions. Coming into the spring split with almost no weight on his shoulders as a leader of a brand new Fnatic team, his Annie play during the first two games was truly outstanding. Every single flash stun he executed in the games against Elements and H2K was flawless and every single one resulted in more kills funneled over to the new carries of the what-was sleeper team. His amazing stuns, vision control and ability to turn around pretty much any teamfight earned his team a 2-0 the first week and a solid 4th place in this list.


3. FNC ReignOver 
ReignOver brings his Korean prowess to the LCS scene, showing the western world that Rengar isn't useless at all. Managing to pull off two successful ganks pre-level 6 against the reigning European champions is darn impressive. His synergy with his team is overwhelmingly mind-blowing, especially when you take a peek at the top lane. Together with Huni, (who was very close to make it onto this list), they piled up an impressive combined KDA at 6.18. This guy has potential to be a top jungler in the western world.


2. TL IWDominate
Who else to take the title of the 1st week MVP other than IWDominate? He went 3/0/0 as Nunu against their first game against Team Impulse, where he faced the top ranked Korean solo queue player Rush, whom he held down perfectly. His shot calling prowess could clearly be seen shining throughout the first week as he carried his team to a 2-0 even playing with a substitute AD Carry. This was a statement that when Piglet arrives to North America to play for Team Liquid, they are expected to be a contender for the top spot in the NA LCS.


1. FNC Febiven
Everyone bashed him and criticized him for leaving the solid ex-challenger team H2K to join a newly formed Fnatic team with no expectations at all. The result was jaw-dropping. Fnatic went 2-0 in their first week against Elements and H2K. Nobody expected them to, and everyone rejoiced in the fact that Febiven not only handled Froggen with ease, but racked up a KDA of 22 against the reigning European champions. He only missed 3 out of 23 total shots with his Xerath ultimate in the game too, really striking fear into the hearts of every Elements fan. He impressed us again in his game against H2K where he racked up a KDA of 14, even if he was being the focus target for H2K pretty much the entire game. Heed my advice, fantasy LCS-players. You want this guy on your squad.

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Honorable Mention: Keith
I decided not to include subs on this list, but if I had, boy would Team Liquids AD-carry sub make it on. Even though he’s just a challenger player, the team decided to play around him in their first game against Team Impulse. His Kog’Maw went HUGE, ending the game with 17 KDA. The praise came shortly thereafter, but no one could prepare anyone for what a monster Keith would be in the next game against CLG when he had an amazing 21 KDA as Caitlyn, neatly crowning his short LCS run. Let’s see if Piglet can live up to the example the young AD-carry has set on the ADC role.

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  by Tristan "verlashcaster" Jakobsen

Friday, January 23, 2015

2015 NA LCS Spring Split Predictions



by Jodi "PunkLit" McClure and the LCS FanZone Staff 

If there's anything that can be taken away from EU's crazy start, it's that you can be certain of absolutely nothing when it comes to the NA LCS. Teams have a way of surprising even the most knowledgeable of fans, so take our staff predictions with a grain of salt and probably don't bet your kid's college funds on them. To further cover our asses, we have done this in a Top Three – Middle of the Pack – Bottom Three format.

*EACH CATEGORY IS IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

TOP 3

Cloud 9  The Princes of the NA LCS have no real reason to -not- be listed first. They've had no roster swaps and looked stronger than ever in IEM. Meteos played great, and the rest of the team looked solid. The only potential weak link on the team is Hai, but with such a stable team around him he can take his time getting back to form. Expect at least a top 3 finish from these guys

Team Liquid  Falling under new management and getting new players in the big carry positions, including world champion Piglet, the team appears very strong despite the loss of Voyboy. Fenix is a bit of an unknown, but the rest of the team should be very solid. Quas and IWillDominate are two of the more underrated players at their positions in the LCS and this roster more than any other should be able to challenge Cloud 9 for the top spot. This may be the year that the "always 4th" curse is broken for this team.

Team SoloMid  Santorin and Turtle still don't look their best but unless the lesser teams up their game, TSM should stay nice on top of their throne. While not showing up super strong at IEM San Jose (dropping a series to a team that had never played in LCS), TSM still has a strong lineup and the experienced coaching it needs. If they can become more adaptable in-game, they can keep themselves afloat for another split at least.

MIDDLE OF THE PACK

Team Impulse  Known as LMQ last year, Impulse's roster does look strong with farming machine XiaoWeiXiao. They brought former SKT 1K top laner Impact over to replace the departed Ackerman and Apollo takes over for Vasilii in the bottom lane, which is likely the biggest concern for this new roster.

CLG   CLG has a really solid lineup and good coaching backup, but from what we saw at IEM Cologne, they didn’t look like the best team. Zion Spartan and Xmithie have both gone a while since being consistently standout players, but they both seem driven to get back on top. Doublelift and Aphromoo will need to be on point this split for CLG to have a shot at finishing in the top 4.

Winterfox  Altec has shown he is as good an ADC as there is in North America. Pobelter has been playing very well in solo queue and he is entering his prime right now. Helios's brother moved into the top lane, and it remains to be seen how he performs in competitive play. May possibly be the surprise team of the split.

Team Coast – Very nearly did not make the LCS but showed some resiliency in getting out of the expansion tournament.  Have not been able to play much together lately, expect Coast to struggle out of the gate this split and likely further into it.

BOTTOM THREE

Gravity  Curse Academy did well in the Challenger scene, and under the name Gravity, features several ex-LCS players. If they can keep improving, they can probably climb the ranks, but they also may well continue to be plagued by the same issues they have always been.

Team Dignitas  Very shaky performance at IEM Cologne that almost saw them fall in a massive upset to Aces High. At the same time, Shiphtur showed how good of a player he is as he just about single handedly carried Dignitas to victory in that series. With Crumbzz and KiWiKiD both underperforming at the end of the last split, the magic 8 ball would say "Outlook not bright." If they can pick it up, things will be different, but they left little evidence of that before the off-season began.
  
Team 8   Whilst Team 8 is a very fun team to watch, they remain the weakest team in the NA LCS at the time. Calitrolz might be a solid top laner, but every single team has a better player in every other respective role. If they want to have a chance of making worlds (or even the summer split) They will have to practice. A lot.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2015 EU LCS Spring Split Predictions



By Matt “It's Pure Luck” Lee and the LCS FanZone staff.

Let us start off by saying that these preseason predictions often go horribly wrong but, at the same time, they're fun to do and are a great subject for debate. As we think back to the Spring Split of 2015 in Europe, if someone had told you before the season that Roccat would place third you likely would have been laughing uncontrollably on the floor. And yet, there we were at the end of the spring, watching Roccat accomplish a feat that not many people outside of the Roccat organization itself saw coming. Perhaps some team on this list who is not so highly thought of will surprise us all and make us look incredibly foolish come the end of this split. So, for a little more leeway, we have done this in a Top Three – Middle of the Pack – Bottom Three format.

*EACH CATEGORY IS IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

TOP 3

Roccat – It was a great off-season for Roccat who managed to prevent their top two players in Jankos and Vander from being poached. At the same time they removed what seemed to be their weakest links in Xaxus and Celaver. Nukeduck is a huge pickup and his aggressive style in middle should really help this team. Overpow should find his style more suited to the top lane, he was often too passive when he was in mid. Closing out games was an issue at times for them last split, improvement there should see Roccat challenge for top two this spring.

SK Gaming – Logic would say that improving on last season’s roster, which finished in third place in the summer, should have SK Gaming back in the thick of things in Season 5. Unfortunately, that isn’t always how things work out. Add in a somewhat brash personality in Forg1ven and problems could potentially arise in team chemistry. But in the end, there is too much talent here for this team to not compete for a top 3 spot. Fox seems to be a very mechanically gifted player, now it’s up to him to prove it on the big stage. If he can do that and Forg1ven can adapt his style to fit the team, SK should be in a good position at season’s end.

Elements – Admittedly, the new name is indeed somewhat cheesy. But the roster is still really damn good. It’s hard to argue with the pickup of Rekkles as he is regarded as the best AD Carry in western League of Legends. But we aren’t so sure it fixes the problems that they had last split when the team was often at times far too passive. Rekkles is considered a better player than Tabzz, we just aren’t sure he is a better fit for this team. An aggressive playmaker was needed and that’s what Tabzz provided. Regardless, it’s hard to envision any scenario where this team does not finish top three and they remain the favorite to win this season.

MIDDLE OF THE PACK

Meet Your Makers – New name, slightly new roster, likely the same result for the team formerly known as the Supa Hot Crew. MYM was the most disagreed upon team when trying to place each team in their respective places and for good reason; roster shakeups and a lack of consistency the past season. H0R0 was picked up to replace the departed Impaler and it will be interesting to see how the communication between he and Selfie works out. Talented roster will show flashes of brilliance but be a very streaky, up and down team.

Gambit Gaming – IEM Cologne was a very solid showing for this roster and more important than anything perhaps is that Diamond seems to be rejuvenated. P1noy’s style should go quite well with Edward in that they are both very aggressive players. It will be a key for them to keep that aggression curbed just enough so that it doesn't backfire on them as we saw at times at IEM versus CLG. We aren’t sure they will compete for a top three spot, but they won’t be too far away from it. Expect far better results than we saw from them in the summer.

Fnatic – While MYM was perhaps the most disagreed upon team for the FanZone staff when putting this together, Fnatic was perhaps the most difficult to figure out. A legacy is gone as Yellowstar is now the only remaining player from the roster. To say that Febiven is the most proven player of the free agents added is somewhat of a scary thought. He has shown to have a very high level of talent but at the same time struggled mightily in past promotion tournament series. The pressure on newcomers Steelback, Huni and Reignover is immense as those are some big shoes they are left to fill. Yellowstar’s experience will be crucial for this team this split.

Unicorns of Love – They surprised Team SoloMid at IEM San Jose with a little bit of cheese and then…promptly ran into juggernaut Cloud 9 and were annihilated. With their oddball picks the Unicorns have become an entertaining team to watch but it takes more than that to consistently win games at this level. We don’t see them challenging for a top five spot this split, but they shouldn't be atrocious either. PowerOfEvil is a gifted player and should do enough in the mid lane to see the Unicorns return to the LCS in the summer.

BOTTOM THREE

Copenhagen Wolves – Roster stays mostly the same except for Freeze replacing the departed Woolite who jumped ship to Roccat. They found themselves in the promotion tournament twice last year (hey, they've still yet to drop a game there) and we wouldn't be surprised if they found themselves there again at the end of this split. Expect a few surprise wins out of the Wolves, but a finish above 7th place would be surprising.

H2k - The high of getting into the LCS was shortly replaced by a crippling blow as star player and mid-laner Febiven departed for Fnatic just weeks before the new season begins. Ryu isn't the same player he was when he was with the KT organization but he was solid when he substituted for Roccat at IEM Cologne. We liked this roster before the departure of Febiven, but that’s a tough obstacle to overcome for a team that’s new to the LCS.

GIANTS! – We were surprised to see this team escape the expansion tournament and make it into the LCS to be frank. It was hard to justify putting them anywhere above the bottom three because they are untested and have not been in this position before and the competition is much stiffer now than it was in the past for them. They may prove doubters wrong, but it’s something we have to see before we believe it.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Support Lanes 101: Be the Annoyance

(Artwork by ClandestineKnight)

by Jerrod "Thousand Eyes" Steis

In lane, a support’s job is to help their ADC farm in a safe fashion. There’s different ways to accomplish this based on what support you’re playing. Some supports excel at making the laning phase hell for the enemy. Sona or Zyra are great examples of this. Others just want to survive and make more of an impact in teamfights, a la Braum or Soraka. Finally, you’ve got your old-fashioned kill lanes. These lanes want to get in the face of the enemy and just fight fight fight. Leona or Annie can accomplish this pretty well; this is also where a lot of non-meta brusier supports fall too.

Poke Supports
To start, let’s look at the first category, the poke/harass support. Keep in mind I’m looking mainly at laning phase strengths. Supports that fall under this category are the following:

Excel in the Category
  • Sona
  • Zyra
  • Vel Koz
  • Karma
  • Lulu
  • Zilean
  • Any and all mid lane mages (Xerath, Ziggs, I don’t know what weird stuff you play.)

Can accomplish it, but not the best
  • Annie
  • Nami
  • Morgana
  • Fiddlesticks
  • Soraka
  • Janna

If you’re playing a poke support, you’re going to want to know the range of your enemies and your lane partner. It’s easy to know your limits, most people are able to pick that up after playing a champion a few times. To really excel at playing a poke support though you have to know your enemy’s limits. There’s a huge difference walking up to a Janna and walking up to a Taric or Blitzcrank that can punish your misposition hard.

Make good use of your auto attacks. Never let the enemy get something for free. If you watch your own minions and see when the enemy goes up to last hit, you know they’re committing that auto attack to that minion. They can’t retaliate if you sneak a little hit in. Just make sure you’re not agroing minions in the process either.

This is where it’s nice to get experience on a lot of other supports even if you want to focus on one. You’ll get a better feel for the cooldowns after using the abilities yourself than just watching. Take Blitzcrank as an extreme example. He’s extremely scary until you realize that one missed hook makes him a lot less useful as a champion.

This is really what will separate a good poke support player from a bad one. It takes a lot of awareness on all accounts. You have to keep 4 people’s cooldowns and ranges into account while only being able to see one set of them. You have to keep your position as tight as your ADC because with most of these champions, if you get caught out in the wrong spot you’re going down. Take note of if you have a heal or not because this can play a part in your ability to poke someone who could possibly poke back. One of the worst things is to trade with someone and put yourself low in the process when you have no way to heal it off.

If you’re playing Sona vs Janna, you can be a lot more aggressive in trades than you would with a Zyra or Lulu, Sona can heal off that damage immediately, while you only at best have a shield otherwise. Of course, these other supports usually make up for it in CC abilities.


Engage Supports

Next up we have the engage support category. This is the kind of support that can do basically two things. Fight or zone. They’re either going to get your lane really far ahead or fall behind so it’s important to try and make some kind of play with these. Here’s your list:


Excel in the Category
  • Blitzcrank
  • Leona
  • Annie
  • Morgana
  • Thresh


Can accomplish it, but not the best
  • Nami
  • Taric
  • Braum
  • Zyra
  • Alistar


Engage supports are generally binary in their success as a whole. What I mean by that is either they dominate their opponent in lane or do almost nothing. It’s possible that you can use some of your stuff to peel as well though, so keep this in mind when a 2v2 brawl starts and you aren’t the initiator.

These types of supports are generally tanky and are actually pretty great in solo queue. Because of their inherent tankiness, they are pretty forgiving if a miscommunication happens, and that’s not as often as other types of supports since they’re pretty obvious when they either go in or make a pick.

These are also the supports that are going to roam a lot more. Roaming is a great habit to get into, but it takes a lot of communication between you and the rest of your team. Your ADC has  to be aware that you’re leaving them for a while and that they need to play accordingly. Tag team a gank mid with your jungler. You can have the jungler chase them down into you when they head towards river and get a nice easy kill.

The weakness of these supports is that they are pretty cookie cutter in their impact, and if that strategy doesn't work, you’re in a bad spot. It’s also important to note that some of these supports will fall off later on in the game because they focus on bringing a lot of damage in early engages. Once a team starts getting some resistances, your damage will fall because you’re not primarily focusing on building it. Annie and Zyra are examples of this.

Finally, in lane you’ll want to have a control on vision, doubly so if you’re a champion that wants to force fights with skillshots. This would be Morgana, Blitzcrank, and Leona possibly. If the enemy can’t see you, you get a nice surprise on them to hit your shot. Also, having their bushes warded makes it easier to hit them obviously.


Teamfight/Utility Supports (Mostly No Lane Pressure)


Excel in the Category
  • Alistar
  • Braum
  • Janna
  • Soraka
  • Thresh


Can accomplish it, but not the best
  • Morgana
  • Nami
  • Taric
  • Lulu
  • Karma


The basic gist here is that these are the supports that bring power to their teammates. Some of them do it by buffing, others do it by being a tanky wall and standing in the way. A pretty common theme in these supports is not only their ability to protect, but also a lot of them have a very large lack of lane pressure. Let me state, this doesn’t apply to every champion in this list, just most.


Strategizing with these supports often involves sitting back a bit more and using the unique abilities you have to help your carry and/or team win in fights. These supports synergize best with late game focused ADCs and are at home sitting on top of them.


When picking a lot of these supports you have to realize that your laning phase is going to be a bit lackluster when compared to a support like a Sona or Leona. Your kill potential is low and you don’t have a way to retaliate poke most of the time. Granted some supports that bring a  lot of teamfight potential also are a boon in lane. Thresh and Taric can bring some decent engage potential to their ADC, Karma can poke people out pretty nicely as well.


Of course, don’t mistake this ability to bring some of the other categories in as reason to call that their strength. While Thresh and Taric do bring some nice engage, let’s take a look at what they can bring in a teamfight setting.


Thresh can push multiple people off and slow an enemy group while also grabbing a teammate and pulling them to him. Taric is able to bring extra armor to his team and can trade that off for armor pen for his team if he hits an enemy (very useful for an ADC getting chased by a tank). His ult is also one of the most undervalued abilities in the game as it brings free stats to all of his teammates near him and it’s on an outrageously low cooldown.


The idea here is that while you might have some ability to pressure in lane, your real strength is your utility after laning that you can still bring to the team. You give stats and peel to your team that isn't available to a lot of junglers or solo laners since they need abilities that can do damage.

One strength in lane that I do want to mention though is turn around potential. Since these supports are almost all focused on keeping people alive and giving them some extra oomph, they all have a great ability to turn fights around. Whether it’s through shielding damage, healing teammates, AoE CC, etc. you can make a lot of clutch saves for your team and pull out some great wins from losing fights. This is a counter-gankers best friend.

If you’ve got a jungler who wants to try and help you snowball, tell them to sit bot and that you’ll play really aggressively. If they wait a bit they can counter engage, and with your superior utility and safety, you’ll generally come out on top through buffs and debuffs.

Wrapping it up

Overall, it’s important to recognize what you’re able to do in lane as whatever champion you’re playing. Fully understand the weaknesses and strengths of what you can do and make sure the rest of your team is aware of this as well. Forcing yourself to play a champion in a laning style that isn't conducive to what they’re best at can not only hurt your chances in lane, but snowball the enemy team ahead to a point where your late game power spike will only be a spike to catch up. They say laning in solo queue is huge, so make sure you know what you’re doing.

Be sure to check out my other articles:



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by Jerrod "Thousand Eyes" Steis

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Rebranding Festival



by Louis "Guichex" Lemeillet

Roster swaps are common in the off-season, but this was the year of identity changes. Alliance became Elements, Evil Genuises became Winterfox, Curse and Curse Academy respectively became Team Liquid and Gravity. Even LMQ became Team Impulse. New names have also made their way into the scene with the qualification of H2k, Team 8, Giants and Unicorns of Love, and some of the biggest EU talents regrouped into the challenger team, Origen. With all this, it appears quite normal that casual followers of the LCS might be a bit lost in the new season, but it might also hurt the brands and general viewership of the series.

How the heck did this happen?

Part of this major branding issue lies within the GoodGame story. To recap quickly, GoodGame owned both Alliance and EG brands, but the new Riot rules don't allow two teams with the same owner. Therefore, after GoodGame was bought by Twitch, Alliance went on to be Elements and EG reemerged as Winterfox. Did Alex Garfield, owner of GoodGame, decided to sell those two teams after selling his company to Twitch in order to spend the rest of his life watching eSports from a hammock on a beach with a mojito in his hand? Well, yes and no, since the new team owners (Maelk and Guitar) are both former employees of his. 


EG and Alliance have "given away" their LoL teams but kept their other professional teams under the same banner. Dota 2, Counter-strike, Smite, Starcraft, HotS, and other teams will be kept under one and one name only, while the over-mediated League of Legends teams will be under a different name. In the end, Alliance and EG will be hurt to some extent as their fans lose brand recognition and possibly some sponsorships. In some ways, it's a good thing, since Alex Garfield could have easily become one of the most powerful figures in the eSports landscape, owning dozens of teams. But it will reduce further infrastructural development in the Western Scene. Money comes from sponsor, and without them, you can't offer players the necessary environment to perform at their best level.

Multi-gaming structures, which have teams bringing in a lot of cash because of their mediatization and fame, allow some expenses to be redistributed to their minor gaming teams. Therefore, the latter have better infrastructures than others and theoretically win more titles on a minor league scale. Being number one in less popular games, and having a presence in LCS, even if you're not top two, still brings extreme fame among a very wide target audience and might bring more sponsors than just having a top two team in the LCS. The staff costs would also been reduced to some extent, as you don't have to multiply the number of executives, even if you're running teams in various eSports scenes.

Among all this, you're hurting to some extent the long-term possibilities of the brand. Evil Geniuses were already on their way to become the multi-gaming structure with the greatest “hall of fame” in western eSports history. Now they're shooting themselves in the foot by giving away their LCS spot. Even if Evil Geniuses have no problem attracting the best world players in the next years, it will probably hurt them in the long-term if Winterfox performs extremely well during those years. With LoL being the most popular eSport game at the moment, people will remember EG failing where Winterfox succeeded. It's quite an overly simple view, but I believe giving away both Alliance and Evil Geniuses might have been a mistake GoodGame didn't have to make. Even after being bought by Twitch, they could have kept the ownership of that one team among the two.


The same happened with Curse, who had to sell Curse Academy but voluntarily rebranded their main team and “shared it" with Team Liquid, another powerhouse in the eSports landscape, a move I felt was even worse than GoodGame's. Curse is an extremely popular brand along gamers, owning multiple websites which each of us has heard about at least once: the main Curse website with all the popular addons, MMO-Champion, Reign of Gaming, etc. And no, Liquid doesn't appear in the Curse sites. Why would you voluntarily relinquish a sports team which would bring further traffic and revenue to your websites? 

I understand Curse wants to partner Curse Voice with multiple players/teams, something they couldn't do while also sponsoring a team. I also understand Victor "Nazgul" Goossens and Steve “LiQuiD112” Archancet's idea of merging Team Liquid's fame to Curse's potential. Nevertheless, I believe Curse.Inc will suffer a great loss. Why do LG, SKT, Samsung and other huge international companies sponsor Korean teams? Because they know the success of the teams will bring additional revenue to the brand. Sponsoring a sports team for a company has always been some kind of wishing-well where you're throwing money in hoping for further success. Curse.Inc will be relinquished as mere sponsor like any others and will clearly suffer from this as Team Liquid will greatly benefit in terms of fame and mediatization. 

What year is it?!

Even if players didn't swap that much, the casual followers of the LCS might feel a bit lost during the first weeks of the series. Along with learning a crowd of new teams who entered through the expansion tournaments, they'll have to grasp even more with the Alliance, Curse, LMQ and EG rebranding. In fact, I'm a little lost between the swaps, the new teams and aberrant news like Alex Ich joining Team 8 as a sub. It feels like it's the end of an era and I don't know if I'll get as hooked during Season 5. Time will tell but I believe I'm not the only one in that situation and many people might go on and look for something new. Oh wait, what's that new game again? Heroes of the Storm?

The Challenger scene will be quite hurt too, as many of their big names made it into the LCS, leaving behind a few teams with an uncertain future and a bunch of newcomers who might have a lesser skill level. H2k, Coast, Unicorns of Love, etc. grew a fan base during their time in Challenger Series, and those fans follow them to the LCS now. The “lesser competition” will take some time to get back on their feet and to offer the same level of games we had last season. Of course, as all couldn't make it back into LCS, EU & NA will each have one “super-challenger” with Origen and Fusion, but it might not be enough to attract viewership if they just stomp everyone else.

In the end, it's not something major and the LCS format changes already foreshadowed that Challenger Series would be hurt to some extent. For Riot, the changes were necessary to stay on top and answer consumer's desires, and it'll not result in a loss for them. They might lose a bunch of people watching LCS but the additional viewership brought in by new teams, and the more cohesive 10-team format, will quickly make it look as a bad dream. Also, a great deal of eSports followers are more following players than teams, therefore the rebranding of teams and the new hole in the Challenger Scene will not impact them at any point. Only Alex Ich's fans might still have trouble bringing their jaw upwards, trying to believe what they just read.

So wait...who's this team again ?

The fact that all those rebranding happened at the same time as the LCS bringing in two additional teams also left us with another major issue, although it might be just disturbing me: the too-much diversity in team names.

Unicorns of Love, Elements, Copenhagen Wolves, Team 8, Fnatic, Counter Logic Gaming. Not one of those names has a similarity with the others. People, and I can understand that, are just coming up with what's in their mind and what they find “cool.” Or at least that's how I imagine it. And to some point, apart from following the basic branding rules such as: easily readable for anyone, not too long, in english; that's all you gotta do. Yes, I'm looking at you Origen. Do you seriously expect casters to pronounce it with the rolling “rrr” sound on stream?


I must say, even if SEA is not like this anymore (maybe apart from the animal emblems), at least I loved their names. Saigon Jokers, Taipei Assassins...that was some NBA/NFL cachet right here. Of course, I can't expect for all teams to rename themselves, it'd be utopic. But I believe that, as I already wrote for fashion, the lack of uniformity in names is something that will not help mainstream sponsors take your business seriously. It looks unorganized, like a brainstorming session where everyone is throwing their ideas in and no one ever agrees. And come on, it's not like the video gaming and fantasy universes were too small to find any good ideas. Direwolves, ogres, centaurs, ents, tressyms, griffins, manticores...it's full of great names! Why do that instead of naming it “8”? I know I'm seeing this with some bias as I have a marketing background, but still, Team 8 doesn't bring anything to my mind when I'm reading/speaking it. At least bend turn that number 90° to the side, and you'd have Team Infinity. There I can imagine things: infinite potential, to infinity and beyond, etc. There you call values in the minds of followers and companies alike, and you can develop great storytelling and communication around it.

As I said, it's more of a personal matter to me here but to some extent I tend to believe some companies might look at this with the same eye as mine, and between one team with a generic name and one with a great storytelling, well the choice is perfectly obvious. You take the one you can do the most with in terms of communication and marketing campaigns. Even Elements looks somewhat childish and silly, but they still bring something to the table like “Froggen is the air” and “The Elements coach will be named The Avatar!” or whatever. It brings something imaginary which can be promoted. But at least Team 8 is still better than the “Team eSports,” an atrocity I witnessed in some CS:GO tournament.

Branding and naming is a very wide topic and might appear as rather plain for a lot of people but, for that reason, it's one of  the most difficult exercises for marketing professionals, and it's a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. I know it's difficult for Riot to have a real and legitimate impact on naming decisions, and it's also none of their business, but with the number of teams growing and the rebrandings, the start of Season 5 will result in some kind of immense jiggery-pokery for the viewers and might hurt brands and Riot alike in the long-term. 

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by Louis "Guichex" Lemeillet

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

WEEK 1 OGN/LCK BRINGS THE ACTION!



by Jerrod "Thousand Eyes" Steis

The first week of Korea’s professional circuit has completed and we can finally get back into professional LoL. Of course, one week isn't much in the grand scheme of things, but I think there are some good thoughts to take away from what we've seen so far. Keep in mind these are all just off of one series for most teams. This means what we've seen and what we get later on in the season might not match up. It’s also the first time a lot of these teams are working together since the merger and cutting out sister teams. There’s most likely a lot of work that still needs done.

KOREA IS THE FIRST REGION TO LEARN GNAR

Korea has always been known for being the dominant region overall, but they usually aren’t known for being the innovative ones or bringing out new metas. That’s usually reserved for EU or sometimes NA and then Korean players pick up and master it. We saw this with Ziggs, Maokai, and top lane Mundo for example. However this time, with the early start by Korea, they got the chance to be the pioneers. Gnar was almost always first pick or banned on red side. 

You could even bring up the ESL tourneys and say that EU and NA had a chance to bring it out and couldn't. We saw Gnar being played by Balls, widely regarded as one of the best top laners in NA, and he was mediocre on it to say the least. Meanwhile, the Gnar that was seen during Week 1 ranged from pretty solid overall to extraordinary and was an example of why Gnar is so powerful. Granted his 33% win rate wasn't anything spectacular, but even the losses had some good plays involved. 

The one win with Gnar in Smeb’s Game 2 from the GE vs IM series was absolutely spectacular. Not only was he able to win his lane pretty convincingly, but his late game team fighting and overall control of Gnar’s rage meter was impeccable. He was able to teleport at perfect times and control teams with his ults whenever needed. It’s safe to say that IM won’t be playing Gnar any time soon, and eventually he’s going to be permabanned as other pros learn to play him.

On a bit of a side note, it’s interesting to see that Korean players are more open than ever to trying new and innovative things. Wraith picked up not only a Lulu support, when she’s usually a flex mid or top pick, but a Syndra support as well. To be perfectly honest, the Syndra support - while not an optimal position for Syndra - didn't work out all too poorly for Samsung. The peel she had and ability to lower a tank that dove on the carry was pretty effective.

FAKER IS STILL GREAT, BUT CAN'T SOLO CARRY

One of the biggest things I saw was how teams were able to just shut Faker down. Barring his Game 3 vs. Najin, Faker didn't really accomplish much when he played. SKT won their series vs. Najin, but Faker went 1-1 overall. Also in the game he won, he had an early gank from Wolf (who ended up taking the MVP away from Faker who had a pentakill). He needed help getting ahead to become the monster he was always known to be. His Xerath was just not impactful and they even put him in a lane that was destined to lose, as well as giving him a champ that isn't really his playstyle. Easyhoon is outshining Faker on almost all aspects outside of assassin play, which is still only on the outskirts of coming into the meta.

Speaking of Wolf, he’s really shown to be one of the star players with Easyhoon on SKT. His roaming on Janna was top notch and he made his presence known all around the map in both controlling his champion and controlling vision. He almost single-handedly gave Faker his snowball in Game 3 vs IM. Also his Janna became ban worthy after that series which says a lot when you’d rather ban out a support than either mid laner SKT has.

Both Bengi and MaRin looked pretty good in the pre-season, but once they got into the regular season they had a noticeable drop in performance. Bengi just seemed to not know where to be exactly and MaRin lost a few lanes and didn't position his Rumble ults as well as he could have. Combine that with no response to the camping of Faker that CJ Entus pulled off in their second game against SKT and you’ll find a struggling SKT that seemed to pick up where they left off at the end of last season.

RIOT KEPT OUT OF OGN'S BROADCAST

When I saw that OGN would be broadcast for free on Riot’s stream, I was feeling both excited and worried. I was happy that finally the best region in League was going to be as well covered and open to the public as it always should have been, but I had reservations to how Riot would go about it. MonteCristo and DOA are known for their strikingly different style of casting. DOA cracks jokes about the game and talks about his support *insert carry champ* and Monte is very upfront and brutally honest in his analysis of teams play as well as Riot’s decisions in where they move the game.

My biggest fear was that they would try and tone down Monte and DOA in order to fall in line with what the NA and EU LCS casts were like. The recent news of them replacing the LPLEN stream didn't really inspire a lot of hope either. To my delight though, the OGN steam was left untouched. The only difference is where you go to watch the stream. 

According to Monte, both he and DOA are still contracted to OGN and are not considered Riot employees. This gives them a bit more freedom in their ability to cast within their own style. Overall, I’m very happy to see that nothing noticeable is different on the Korean scene coverage.

CJ ENTUS IS MAKING A (bit of a) COMEBACK

Being a CJ fan, I remember seeing that they played SKT and thinking of how they’d most likely get rocked by Faker and Bang/Wolf. I was wonderfully surprised to see that all the players on CJ stepped up to the plate and really improved their play from the preseason. While overall the games themselves weren't exactly high quality in terms of strategy, CJ still looked much better than before.

SKT was making poor and cocky calls all throughout the series and CJ not only called them on it but came up with some great plays of their own. CoCo really shined this series and Shy also proved to be a very powerful and annoying Mundo. Even Ambition seemed to be getting more comfortable in his new jungle role. 

One of the biggest and most surprising things for me though was watching Space. Space has always been known as the player that held CJ Frost back, that MadLife was stuck in “Space Prison.” This series, however, Space made plays. His Corki was just the right amount of ballsy in order to get in and get out without dying. To be honest, it seemed more like MadLife was holding Space back in the series as he was missing some pretty easy skillshots. His vision control was very aggressive though and he was able to get a few nice flash Flays in the second game on Thresh.

One thing I think CJ needs to work on is their pick/ban phase. They didn't ban Gnar in either game, and while MaRin didn't perform spectacularly in Game 1, the composition almost certainly should have left CJ reeling. Let’s look at the P/B phase for Game 1:
While I admire the Janna ban from CJ they left Gnar open first pick, which was immediately locked in by SKT. The Jarvan and Corki pickups were nice though. Now at this point, it should be noted that Easyhoon is playing mid and not Faker. 

Easyhoon is known as a much more passive player and prefers mages rather than assassins. This becomes important when Xerath gets locked in. Xerath is all about poke, and CJ countered with Mundo and Braum, two beefy guys that can stop the poke. Once those were baited out, SKT locked in Lee Sin and Sivir for the massive engage from Annie, Gnar and Sivir which has almost no way of being stopped. CoCo locked in Jayce as a final pick, which didn't really put a lot of pressure on to Easyhoon in lane like you can with a blind pick Xerath.

Honestly, CJ got played hardcore in picks and bans. They left Gnar open and then fell for the thought of it being a poke comp with Xerath rather than taking a deeper look at the Annie and Gnar picks. Yes, SKT is very mid-centric, but they have other good players as well.

It was through some good objective control and some sloppy play by SKT that CJ could pull out the win in the first game. Shy got too tanky to deal with and literally could fight three people at once while his team mopped up the rest.

CONCLUSION

Overall, Week 1 of OGN brought a lot of interesting stories in ways I didn't expect. I knew that Gnar would be an insta pick/ban in every almost every game. I had also figured, as we got closer to the actual broadcast, that Riot was not going to do much to mess with Monte and DOA.

Seeing CJ wake up and SKT and Faker struggle was a bit of a surprise though. All of the unorthodox picks were really fresh from Korea as well. It’s shaping up to be an exciting split for OGN/LCK. Lots of new teams and strategies, old players, new players, and now a way to see it all for free!

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by Jerrod "Thousand Eyes" Steis

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Tips to maximize your Fantasy experience!



by Reece "SabrewoIf" Dos-Santos

Following its success during the Season 4 Summer Split, the Fantasy LCS system is back and re-tuned for the coming Spring Split of Season 5. I'd like to outline a few tips to help your Fantasy LCS experience be as enjoyable as possible.

1. Fantasy LCS isn't region locked.

One of the best parts of Fantasy LCS is the fact that you don’t need to stick within your region like when playing League of Legends itself. You can join a league with anyone from North America, EU West, EU Nordic East, Brazil, Oceania, Latin America North, Latin America South, Turkey and Russia.

However, this freedom should be taken in moderation as the drafting period takes place when the owner of the league decides to start it, meaning it’s in your best interests to join leagues with people you have a good means of communicating with. It is also in a league owner’s best interest to ensure each of the players in their league is available for one specified time to draft. Poor draft organisation can lead to having to wait for 1 minute per round for each missing player which can really slow down and drag out the process since each missing player is a guaranteed 10 minute wait (for the 10 available draft slots).

2. Tactical drafting, know the scene.

One of the cleanest ways to secure a Fantasy win is to be tactical about every single player you draft. When you go to draft a player, think about what they could bring to your team and how they play rather than simply if you like them or if their estimated scores are high. A close eye should also be paid to who is left on the board when it comes to your turn and who is most likely to be picked by your rivals (TSM players and Mid Laners go really fast). Sometimes drafting a player who might be outside of your original game plan can help you secure worthwhile trades and deals later on.

The scoring criteria are as follows:

Players:
Kills: +2
Deaths: -0.5
Assists: +1.5
CS: +0.01
Triple Kill: +2 bonus points
Quadra Kill: +5 bonus points
Penta Kill: +10 bonus points
10+ Kills: +2 bonus points
10+ Assists: +2 bonus points
Teams:
First Blood: +2
Dragons taken: +1
Barons taken: +2
Towers destroyed: +1
Victory: +2

If you know that a particular player is known for being bloodthirsty it might be in your best interest to pick them up; however, it is also a good idea to have a backup player available to swap in for the games where your bloodthirsty player might gift away too many deaths. Teams that have great objective control are also very worthy pick-ups, as that is basically the whole criteria of a team’s points spread. Players like Kerp were goldmines of points on days where they hit their stride but in matches where the pressure was reversed, an oasis of points can quickly turn into a drought.

One of the biggest missteps people make during the drafting process is tunneling too hard on estimated point values. While they’re there to guide you, they’re not a prediction of the future. This is where knowledge of the scene and of the true value of every player to his team comes in handy.

As an example: Copenhagen Wolves and Counter Logic Gaming have for a long time played a style that heavily favoured their AD Carries. Woolite and DoubleLift owners prospered as a result of this. On the flip side, Seraph and Youngbuck owners didn't see as much of a flood in points due to their more supportive playstyles and tendency to be the men to take one for their team, usually in order to help said carries.

3. Stay alert on player news.

Sometimes the unexpected can happen, a player can be hit with an expected illness or be banned from playing for a week. One case to be aware of in the coming season is ZionSpartan’s inability to play for CLG in the first week. There were a few moments in the last season where certain players were unable to attend and one rare moment where Copenhagen Wolves flat out forfeited a game. When a player is unable to play their substitute is later added to the free agents pool where anyone can pick them up, meaning you could be left in a bad position if someone tactically signs them before you can and you’re left with a player who isn’t playing. Quick reactions and an alert watch over the scene can help you not befall any of these fantasy tragedies.

4. Don’t overlook supports.

A common thing I saw from drafting periods was the overlooking of support players in comparison to Mid Laners and AD Carries who were drafted off rather quickly. An A-Tier support can and often is the difference between a win and a loss in Fantasy LCS. In a lot of cases, the sheer amount of assist points picked up by players like Yellowstar and Aphromoo can help clinch tight matches. While it’s easy to see kills and carries as the most important factor to gaining points, supports will usually pick up the most assists on their team and assists are worth only 0.5 less than kills. In addition to this, supports won’t be getting points from stats like kills, CS, or kill streaks, and they often pick up a lot of deaths in tough games. So investing early in a high-assisting and or low risk-taking support can really aid your season.

5. Don’t judge a player based on one week’s performance.

I myself was a victim of this as I removed Amazing from my squad immediately when he failed to score any points worth mentioning one week very early on, I was then disappointed when he went on to find his stride and become a key player for TSM securing a lot more points. Just because a player has a bad week doesn't necessarily mean they deserve the boot. Manage your team with a calm mind and properly evaluate who is a good fit for your team. The best time to make some roster changes, if needed, is not until week three or four in my opinion, because by then you have a good backlog of performances to make a more informed decision on.

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by Reece "SabrewoIf" Dos-Santos