Editorial: Response to Frank “Mirhi” Field’s piece, ‘How Blizzard Should Have Approached the Overwatch League and How They Can Save the Scene.’

Written by: Colin ‘Howl’ Kenitz (7/1/2017)

The subject of critique: https://medium.com/@Mirhi/how-blizzard-should-have-approached-the-overwatch-league-and-how-they-can-save-the-scene-9521b1f9cb24

This article brings up an excellent subject – A matter of investigation that began in a post on the competitive Overwatch subreddit about Jaru, previously of Toronto Esports, playing for Envision for the rest of Contenders Season 0, a tournament that is currently underway. As Frank ‘Mirhi’ Fields shows in his article, this is already the third occurrence of this he’s found. It’s seemingly a breech of the rule set, so how does something like this even happen?

That’s what we all want to know, and for now, there’s no answer. What we do know is that something like this is unacceptable. If rules are not only being broken, but approved by Blizzard in their own tournament, what kind of integrity are we looking at for competitive legitimacy going into Contenders Season 1 and Overwatch League (OWL)? There are a few things that come to my mind. First, is that this is a preseason that doesn’t really mean anything, as Blizzard’s stated that Competitors is supposed to be a proving grounds, or a combine of sorts, such as the NFL has, in order to display player’s abilities. In this respect, perhaps Blizzard is being lax on the rules in order to allow a strong player to show his stuff. This is kind of ridiculous, I know, but remember I’m trying to be hypothetical. This also completely legitimizes the results of the tournament, which would be completely counter productive to this purpose, as those interested in seeing players ability will mainly be looking at the winners, as well as whole team’s and their team work.

Another hypothetical is that it is a completely online tournament. I, personally, don’t give a lot of merit to online results. Maybe Blizzard feels the same way, and are viewing this whole Season 0 as a learning experience. Maybe they’re trying to invoke community critique to gauge how they should conduct things going forward? Who knows, but ultimately, no matter the circumstance of Competitors Season 0, it is a tournament held by Blizzard, there is $50,000 on the line, and everything should be conducted in the most legitimate way, if only to set a precedent going forward into Season 1 and OWL.

Well, there’s actually a good explanation to this, so enough conjuring hypothetical reasons to all this. Reddit user Noukky posted this in the thread of the article I’ll link here.

“The devil is in the detail of the rule which states “None of the Team members may be associated with more than one Team in this Tournament”

The keyword in this rule is “IN” which indicates that you cannot be in two teams that are actively playing in the tournament. For teams that are out of the tournament and/or disbanded or as a free agent that played with a mix in the qualifiers you can still trade or loan players.

With the huge team instability in the scene it would be impossible to not allow teams to get substitutes from other teams that are already out of the tournament (which were about 500+ team per region so about 3000 players)

In the case of Cyclowns it was a forfeit/disband from their site. They actively forfeit all of their machts for week 2 of groups and left the tournament. TO and Jaru is pretty self explainatory due to the fact stated above.”

Noukky is right, and while I don’t think this is a really big deal at this point in Competitors Season 0, I don’t agree with the rule either way. I think the rule should be amended going into Competitors Season 1. I don’t agree with Mihri’s analogy to LoL, and I think it is ridiculous to consider this a viable way to operate a tournament at any level of competition.

Mirhi brings up a lot of good points, but his article takes a hard turn toward criticizing how Blizzard is handling the launch of the OWL. I feel that there is a lot I have to be critical on when responding to this article, so let’s get started.

A lot of the pro players have been critical of the current status of Competitive OW. Mirhi quotes Taimou’s twitter, team EnvyUS’s DPS player, who famously stated recently that he’s becoming burnt out playing in South Korea’s Apex tournament for so long. If the pro players are becoming upset with the circumstances of competitive Overwatch, that’s a big problem. I’m fully with Mirhi when he states that the most important part of any competitive league is the players, and it absolutely can’t be ignored when several top players feel like the scene is a “shithole.” This is a big red flag, and definitely must be addressed by Blizzard directly. Hopefully they follow up with Taimou on this to figure out why he thinks it is this way. Without this exact insight, Mirhi goes on to express his own grievances with the competitive OW scene until now.

There has been a complete lack of western LAN tournaments for months now, and I really don’t think this is Blizzard’s fault. I think that the major tournaments, such as IEM, Dreamhack, MLG, and others, have been hesitating on hosting OW tournaments. Maybe this is because there is a lack of backing by blizzard, but I’m not so sure. Over in South Korea, the Apex series of tournaments started by OGN have quickly become insanely successful and Blizzard fully supports their efforts. If this is the case, why haven’t Blizzard supported any western LANs? I’m making a pretty drastic conclusion based on little data here, but I’m inclined to say that it’s more so because of the tournament organizers and not so much on Blizzard, who seem willing to support third party opportunities in this time before the OWL.

Mirhi goes on in his article to outline why he thinks that pro players are being so critical of OW, so far as to give up completely. He states why he thinks the launch of OWL is going poorly, why it will go poorly, and how they should improve. While I agree with some things he says, especially the issue with the competitive integrity of Competitors Season 0, I couldn’t help but disagree with a lot of his arguments in this piece.

Was Overwatch League Announced too Early?

Early on the article Mirhi criticizes both the timeline of the OWL, pointing to issues with players pouring their livelihood into this game only to be disappointed by Blizzard pushing back OWL and the current scene being rough. Before I get into the meat of this, I want to remind everyone that this game is barely a year old, and as well, despite a lack of LAN tournaments, there have been several consistent online tournaments such as Alienware Monthly Melee, Overwatch Weekly, and many one time events such as Overwatch Pit Championship, Carbon Series, and more. Because of this, teams are active, practicing, trying to figure out their team’s dynamic, who fits in and who doesn’t, and much more. Also, there’s enough of a competitive scene to dictate an understood meta that’s utilized by the best teams. Is it really damaging to the scene that this is all happening without OWL? Are these players wasting their lives for a false opportunity? I just can’t see it.

Esports is a gamble. It always has been. So is any profession. There are hundreds of thousands of kids across the world practicing basketball, playing in their high school and club teams in order to make it to the NBA. Yet, only 1% of NCAA college basketball players even get drafted into the NBA. The same can be said for photography, writing, etc; very few reach the highest echelon of their craft. The same thing happens in LoL, DotA, CSGO, and every other game. There are tons of people pouring their lives into this game because it’s their passion, and the vast majority will never make it. That’s reality, and that’s what makes the top level of any competition so great to spectate and be a fan of. It’s takes a certain level of crazy to push someone to the elite of their craft, and most people, frankly, don’t have the endurance it takes to keep up with them.

There are countless interviews with TSM’s owner and previous player, Reginald, stating that at first he started a team just because it was fun and he wanted to win. It was all about passion and competitive drive. Pro players are just very dedicated individuals who can become “professionals” because of backing by game developers and tournament organizers. None of the Team Fortress 2 players poured their livelihood into the game because of an announced league that never came, they did it because they loved playing the game and wanted to be the best, no matter what.

Let’s not forget that LCS began in February of 2013 while the game launched in 2009. Mirhi cites this timeline as a positive for the LCS, however condemns OWL earlier in the article for a “very long wait” being from November of 2016 until 2018, which is realistically barely over a year to a year and a half. He explains this by saying that the LCS was launched months after it was announced, however I just don’t see how the time between the announcement of the league and the start truly impact player’s decisions to devote themselves to being a top player. The LoL pro players were playing without knowledge of the LCS and they kept going, so how does a certain future to look forward to discourage the best players from pressing forward and dedicating themselves? I can’t see a longer timeline being a significant factor here. It’s not like once OWL begins the players are all set. It’s actually the opposite, and they’ll have to practice even harder to stay on form. OWL isn’t the end game, it’s just the beginning.

Why not shape it from the bottom up instead of the top down?

I do agree, starting a collegiate scene would be highly beneficial to OW overall. However, I think It’s reasonable to think that Blizzard is working on setting this up as well, as they did with Heroes of the Storm (HotS) a bit after there was an established player base. It’s not so easy as saying that this should be the first step, though. Sure, college students can form their own teams and their own clubs within their University, but creating a system for collegiate OW is similarly as arduous as OWL. I think that having a collegiate scene as well as an amateur scene is great, and it will come in the future, but I just don’t see the value in having this precede OWL’s announcement in any way. And what about the players that aren’t college students?

Where do you play if you’re a high school kid, or a full time worker looking to turn pro? Blizzard is looking to set up a league, not just let third party tournament organizers control their game. They have a vision and a direction, and they want a league that they design. It’s not like they can start by making an amateur league, either, because without the existence of a “major” league above it, the amateur league is the premiere league – that’s why going straight into OWL is the answer here.

Mirhi points to Riot Games’ LCS for League of Legends (LoL) to be an example of bottom up development, but I disagree.

It’s absolutely important to understand the context of the genesis of the LCS vs. OWL. LoL’s success was accidental, in many senses. A game produced by a small time studio becoming the biggest Esport in the world. It took time, chance, and a lot of other factors, mainly, an extremely dedicated player base. It’s not outlandish to imagine that Riot developed the LCS because they saw the potential of a competitive league and how beneficial it would be for the company to own it. The LCS is an amazing marketing tool for Riot, displaying new skins and new heroes being played by fan’s heroes. As a player of LoL when I first saw Bjergsen’s Syndra, of course I wanted to jump into solo-queue and emulate his play on her. Their main problem was, at the beginning, Riot didn’t have the necessary resources or experience to make a league right off the bat like Blizzard does. In this way, for LoL, the tournament scene in the early days had to sort itself out, not necessarily because it was a better way of doing things.

I don’t see comparing OWL as a top down creating to the LCS as a bottom up creation as a good analogy for these reasons. Blizzard has a lot more information and resources in just about every way to create a league that meets the goals of their vision of what Overwatch should be right from the start.

What Factors Make this a Now Vs. Then Situation, thus Indirectly Comparable?

Overwatch exists in a world where Twitch.tv has grown by massive percentages each year, all the way back since it was Justin TV and it’s peak stream was Theoddone with 2,000 viewers. Esports is a billion dollar industry now, unlike almost a decade ago. So why not come out of the gates and launch a game that you plan on being an Esport? Is a 2016 game launch to a 2018 League launch really so undesirable a timeline that we should fret about it? I think it’s just the converse, actually, and that we should be patient while Blizzard iron out the details. This will ideally allow us to dodge the numerous glaring problems that the LCS has gone through and still faces, which Mirhi has avoided mentioning. Those of us who eagerly anticipate OWL need to remember some of riot’s suspicious missteps having huge implications, legal and personal, such as the Renegades -TDK fiasco just last year, and it’s complete lack of transparency.

It’s also crucial to remember that the twitch viewer numbers we see aren’t the whole story. Overwatch is gaining momentum in China and is already extremely popular in South Korea. The game has a player base of over 20 million now, so why is there so much concern of integrating non-Esports fans into the viewer base? Sure, that would be really cool, but it’s far more likely that Blizzard’s goal is to draw these millions of players that already enjoy their game casually into a community of competitive fandom, which is how the game will thrive going forward.

Lastly, I don’t think that blizzard’s “first foyer into franchising” has been a rough start. It hasn’t really started yet at all, in fact – it’s still in the works. However, remember back to the networking event blizzard held at last years Blizzcon between traditional sport team owners and endemic Esports team owners to meet, as well as other various investors. Interest was high and well received, since these various entities can work together, complementing one another, to be mutually beneficial and create something really amazing in the future. C9’s Jack Ettiene and Immortal’s Noah Winston eluded to their excitement with future endeavors due to the investment of outside sources in their Esports salon episode with Thorin.

All in all, we have to remember that Contenders Season 0 is a test drive. The end product isn’t out to the consumer’s yet because they’re still working out the details, such as air bags in a car, to avoid dangerous recalls later on in the product’s life. There are going to be mistakes, and probably some pretty big ones early on. What we have to do is trust that Blizzard is keeping track and learning from all of their mistakes so that they don’t happen once OWL begins. Blizzard is well known for listening well to what the top players of their games have to say about the game. It’s known that in HotS they ask top ladder players and pros all the time about what they think is broken, needs tweaking, and how they’d fix it. Sure, there aren’t a lot of details known yet, and yes, that does suck for the pros. That’s why a lot of them, such as Seagull, formerly of NRG, are taking a step back to see what happens. That’s okay, and I really doubt the scene is going to suffer for it. In the long term scheme of what OWL is, a few months early on is nothing. It’s likely that a lot of the details aren’t being shared because they’re not set in stone yet. For now we just need to relax on the subject and in due time Blizzard will fill us in. Pointing out failures in competitive rulings like the one initially brought up by Mirhi is what is important for us as a community to voice our opinions against. This way Blizzard will learn how much competitive integrity means to us, and they will learn to deal with things better on their end.

 

For the record: This is an editorial piece. It is my opinion, not fact, based on disagreements I had reflecting on Frank ‘Mirhi’ Field’s piece after I read it. A lot of what he says has merit, and I’m glad he and other journalists are being hard on Blizzard and OWL. I simply believe there is a lot more to this story than what Frank talks about, and wanted to write a longer form criticism.

P.S. – Sorry for the lack of pictures and super vanilla piece, but I wrote this spur of the moment and don’t have time to frill it up, so take it or leave it.

If you enjoyed this article, please look into some of my other content or follow me on Twitter here. Thanks for reading!

Match Analysis: Lunatic Hai (D) Vs. Conbox Spirit (O) @ Gibraltar Point 1 Apex Season 3 Q.F. Group B Losers

Colin ‘Howl’ Kenitz (06-22-2017)

A3 QF LH v CBS Gibraltar 14

Leading up to Watchpoint: Gibraltar

The loser’s quarterfinal series between Lunatic Hai and Conbox Spirit, for the first three games, was a nail biter. While Lunatic Hai took the Control Map, Nepal, in a convincing fashion, Conbox answered back with their own fairly convincing win on Hollywood; playing much better on point A offense and west world streets phase.

Esca has looked okay flexing onto the Sombra, and his soldier is always good. Despite this, in my opinion he has his highest highs on his Tracer, which he obviously isn’t playing right now since Gido is stepping in for Whoru due to disciplinary action. On top of that, introducing a new player into a team, even if they’re a sub that has played with the team a lot in scrims, changes the attitude and interactions of everyone on the team. Communication is different, tendencies are different, and players have to adjust their game sense to this different, sixth player, from what they’re used to. Besides all of this, Lunatic Hai is obviously not in their peak form right now, but that’s not to say that Conbox wasn’t performing well.

Architect has been showing up in their top 8 matches with his Genji. Gamsu has a strong Winston that controls space very well when he’s got the right support. Twilight’s ability to swap from Ana to Sombra on virtually any map shows his insight and creativity. Was it these factors alone that made this match so close? No, of course not. I prefer to focus on what teams are doing right to beat other teams, however in this case Lunatic Hai’s stubbornness can’t be overlooked. Specifically, their offense on Temple of Anubis was very frustrating to watch. After using the first EMP/Deathblossom on just architect, Esca proceeded to take something like four pushes to build a reaper ult that got instantly shut down once finally used under the Anubis bridge killing no one. Ryujehong used his EMP early in the fight before Esca had the ult, and it was a disaster of an almost six minute point B offense, resulting in a tie.

A3 QF LH v CBS Gibraltar 15

Lunatic Hai won the Tie breaker, making the series an extremely close 2-1 for them. So what happened during Gibraltar that made it so easy for Lunatic Hai? Their offense was great, and looked like the Lunatic Hai we’re used to. I’m going to focus on the Defense, where they held Conbox at point A handily. Here’s my break down.

The Set Up:

Fight 1 (3:45 minutes remaining):

Right off the bat the dive from Conbox is very uncoordinated. Gamsu dives in right away, removing him from his support and also with disjointed timing from his Tracer and Genji. In the very first fight Gamsu gets wrecked by a discord orb from Tobi’s Zenyatta, bio grenade from Ryujehong’s Ana, and Miro’s Winston. Simultaneously Asher gets 1v1’d by Gido, instantly shutting down Conbox’s first push. Architect was dpsing Zunba’s D.Va Meka instead of diving, since he switched over late from Widowmaker onto Genji. Lunatic Hai clean him and Oparochi on the Lucio up quickly after Gamsu and Asher.

Fight 2 (3:15 min remaining):

Gamsu and Miro trade Winstons, but this time Architect and Sleepybear dive Esca’s soldier and find him alone while the rest of Lunatic Hai is on the low ground and retreating past car wash. Zumba and jehong get cleaned up, but it’s of little consequence while LH has time to re-position while the cart moves slowly.

This next room is one of the best rooms for defensive holds in the game. There are three health packs to be used in this room. There is one big health pack back in server room at the rear of the point, opposite the room of check point A. There are two small health packs, labeled on the screenshot above. Notably, they’re all on the low ground, and are all accessible to retreating offenders.

If all three are hacked, it could prove advantageous for Conbox, and as they only have the lucio, it’s quite necessary to make sure they’re all hacked, seeing as the two closest ones are small, they will do little to deter the aggressive dive of a Winston and Tracer plus Zen’s discord orb. Even with the added 100 hp, a discorb orb allows tracer to one clip you with good aim.

Fight 3 (2:35 min remaining):

Twilight throws his translocator as his stealth is running out, teleporting to it as Lunatic Hai are pushing back into the room to set up their defense on the high ground. With all of his escape abilities he gets picked instantly with a discord orb on him. This gives LH plenty of time to push back Conbox, gain more ult charge, and set up a defense that otherwise would have been rushed. Architect does take down Tobi on the high ground but has to retreat when Esca pops his tactical visor. Sleepybear uses his matrix and boost to cover his team for a few seconds but Asher doesn’t retreat, staying on the payload, and gets killed. Gamsu, who had hid in the back room, reemerges only to be killed quickly by Zumba. LH successfully cleans up the fight that began because Twilight was over extended and exposed, stalling out Sleepybear’s little D.Va, giving them extra time to reset their defense.

Six Ultimates versus 5 Ultimates: Conbox Make their Move.

Fight 4 (~1:30 min remaining):

Conbox has six ults going into this, but LH has five; all but Esca’s Tac-visor. For this reason it’s notable to point out that Conbox was likely actively holding all of their ultimates until they had all six. It’s difficult at the highest level of Overwatch to accomplish stockpiling six ults without the enemy team doing the same, or at least very close. In this case, Esca used his tac-visor last fight, however, that is one of the quicker building ults in the game, and it’s also not critical to a team fight like a sound barrier, for example. This strategy relies on one team’s ability to out play the other team in “vanilla” team fights until they can draw out one or two ultimates and then disengage and reset the fight. At the highest level, optimal ultimate usage can mean that having one ultimate over your opponent means victory. I will break down how this strategy fails against Lunatic Hai.

Lunatic Hai, notably, is the team that destroyed Rogue in groups of Apex Season 3 by using the strategy of baiting out ultimates and then disengaging to create an ultimate advantage in the next fight for themselves.

A3 QF LH v CBS Gibraltar 1

At the start of this fight there is less than a minute and a half left of time for Conbox Spirit. Conbox enters on the highground and immediately drop down to the low ground on the cart to push it. As we can see above, Lunatic Hai has Esca and Ryujehong up on the high ground with Tobi hanging back in the shuttle room. Twilight goes for the EMP in the same position he was going to try earlier, the middle of this catwalk between doors, where he can likely get the most members from his EMP. I crossed a line through Tobi, since Twilight doesn’t know he’s there. The rest of LH is down on the low ground to contest the cart pushing. As a side note, Gido did just whiff his pulse bomb.

A3 QF LH v CBS Gibraltar 2

Architect swift strikes up to the high ground from the payload, signaling to both teams that the fight is about to start. Lunatic Hai know for sure, wherever he is, that Twilight has the EMP, since he hasn’t used it yet. Architect pops his dragon blade and goes after Esca. Since Esca is dead here, Jehong immediately uses his nano-boost on Miro’s Winston, who’s down on the cart and diving with Gido onto Conbox. Then, Twilight pops his EMP, catching only a few members of LH.

A3 QF LH v CBS Gibraltar 3

As we can see better from this angle just a second later, Lunatic Hai had already begun diving Oparochi’s Lucio as soon as Architect dove Esca. Oparochi pops the sound barrier, both for his own defense, but also for the team fight initiation. Things to note here are that Asher and Architect were out of range of the sound barrier. This is because They’re both back in shuttle room diving Esca and the Lunatic Hai supports. Gamsu and Sleepybear both got the Sound barrier, but neither of them are anywhere to be seen to defend their only healer. Both of them dove up to the high ground as well. Sending both tanks to dive here with no backline peel is a huge mistake either in strategy or communication. We also know that they dove much later than Architect, as both tanks have the sound barrier and Architect doesn’t. While having dive partners is a crucial part of dive comps, Conbox fails to execute the two most important aspects of dive. Diving at the same time to support one another, and not leaving your own back line completely defenseless. leaving Oparochi’s Lucio, the sole healer, alone on the cart is a fundamental mistake. Most importantly here, though, is that Tobi either managed to avoid the EMP altogether, or got his transcendence off before the hack went though.

A3 QF LH v CBS Gibraltar 4

As we can see above, the result of this was that Esca does die to Architect, however, Ryujehong falls down into Tobi’s Transcendence, avoiding the damage of both the dragon blade, as well as Asher who’s just off screen behind them right now. The two Lunatic Hai supports retreat from the shuttle room back into the main room of checkpoint A where they are by their team again.

A3 QF LH v CBS Gibraltar 5

As this fight plays out, Oparochi quickly dies to Miro’s nano-boosted Winston and Gido’s Tracer with the help of a bio grenade from Jehong, who had survived due to Tobi’s clutch Transcendence. Back in the main room, Tobi finishes off Asher’s Tracer himself with Jehong. Sleepybear’s D.Va self-destruct get’s Zumba’s D.Va’s Meka, but as Zumba’s mini D.Va retreats to one of the small health packs and Twilight Chases him down, Jehong shoots down the Sombra. Right now, the fight is three for one, as Esca is still running back from spawn, however, Conbox already used all six of their ults for this trade.

A3 QF LH v CBS Gibraltar 6

Eventually, Gido does die to Gamsu, but Architect dies to Miro while retreating. Sleepybear finally manages to kill Tobi, but after Miro kills Gamsu with the help of Tobi’s discord orb and Ryujehong, he finishes off Sleepybear’s Meka. Sleepybear is the last one left for Conbox at this point. He tries to retreat to jump off the edge to reset his Meka, however Ryujehong hits him with a sleep dart with only 40 seconds left on the timer, making it impossible for him to kill himself and reset his Meka in time for the next fight. Lunatic Hai are able to reset their defense easily, as they now have the run back time advantage this close to the checkpoint. Miro and Ryujehong were the final survivors of this fight, however, Esca had made it back toward the end, and is already sitting at 92% ult charge. Furthermore, Zumba, who’s running back, also has his ult for the final fight since he didn’t even need to use it. Now, Lunatic Hai has the ultimate advantage.

Fight 5 (~0:08 min remaining) :

Luckily for Sleepybear, he managed to get a lot of shots onto Miro during his retreat which put him at a high charge toward calling his Meka back. However, he still doesn’t get it until there are only twelve seconds left on the timer. As the timer ticks down to overtime, Gamsu’s Winston leaps to the high ground to pressure Esca’s Soldier, but Esca pops his tac-visor and Gamsu has to retreat back down.

A3 QF LH v CBS Gibraltar 7

Zumba takes out Sleepybear’s Meka, which makes for an easy pick with Esca’s tac-visor onto the little D.Va. Asher is dashing around the payload as Tracer in order to keep the O.T. going, and almost goes down to Esca, if not for the recall. Gamsu makes it back to the payload in time to continue contesting. Off screen, Miro does go down to Twilight, diving super deep where Tobi and Jehong couldn’t heal him.

A3 QF LH v CBS Gibraltar 8

Critically for Conbox Spirit, Architect goes off, killing three members of Lunatic Hai with his dragon blade and the assistance of a rapidly generated EMP that Twilight gained from taking down Miro. Architect drops Esca’s Soldier, Zumba’s D.Va Meka and the little D.Va, and, in the last seconds of the balde’s duration, finishes off with Gido’s Tracer. Despite this amazing play, Zumba managed to kill Oparochi’s Lucio, still Conbox’s only real healer. Tobi and Jehong take down Gamsu together, combining discord orbs and the bio-grenade. With no tanks or healer, Architect, Asher, and Twilight must hold the Payload in O.T. against a Winston, Ana, and Zenyatta.

A3 QF LH v CBS Gibraltar 9

Architect tries to kill Tobi’s Zenyatta, which is sitting exposed on cart to stop it from advancing while Miro rushes back to the point from spawn and chases down Asher’s Tracer. Architect gets Tobi low, but Ryujehong nanoboosts him from above, giving him damage and speed. Architect backs off, knowing how fast he could die, and Tobi gains the last bit of charge he needed for his ultimate. Sleepybear returns to hold the cart, but nothing’s going to touch this Zen in transcendence. Architect spots Jehong and takes him down, but as mentioned before, the spawn run back is in favor of Lunatic Hai here, and the rest of the team, including Esca, begin streaming back in to defend.

A3 QF LH v CBS Gibraltar 10

Zumba returns with his ult, which clears out the point, and although it doesn’t get any kills, it does two important things. First, it funneled the remnants of Conbox’s offense into the safety of Gamsu’s Winston bubble, which made them easy targets for Miro’s cleave damage and the other DPS players of Lunatic Hai. This secures kills on three members of Conbox, including Oparochi, leaving Gamsu, again, without mobility or heals for stalling.

A3 QF LH v CBS Gibraltar 11

The Second thing that Zumba’s self-destruct accomplished was destroying Sleepybear’s Meka. With that, Esca finishes off the little D.Va and Gido finishes off Gamsu, leaving Twilight all alone, and securing the map win and the series win for Lunatic Hai.

What made the Difference?

Let me reiterate what I said before a bit to frame our understanding of what made Gibraltar different from the rest of the series.

Up until Gibraltar, this series looked highly competitive. Despite Lunatic Hai taking a 2 – 0 victory on Illios, Conbox came back and took Hollywood next. On the third map, Temple of Anubis, the match actually went to a tie breaker; a one point decider on Oasis, which was taken by Lunatic Hai. This result seems quite beneficial for Luantic Hai’s favor, seeing how dominant they were on the previous control map, and perhaps lucky, in a sense. Even still, the tie breaker round was really close, boiling down to a five to two ultimate fight clearly in LH’s favor due to ultimate economy management. Despite all of this, when it came to the escort map, Gibraltar was extremely one sided. This was due to the experience and superior base skill level of Lunatic Hai, as well as the stubbornness and staleness of Conbox.

A3 QF LH v CBS Gibraltar 13

What I mean by this is pretty straight forward. Throughout the series Lunatic Hai consistently won team fights where neither team used ultimate abilities. This boils down to several aspects of their play that made them last Apex Season’s champion. Lunatic Hai generally has a very high level of ultimate management and discipline. This can be showcased in how they tore apart Rogue in group stages. In that match, Lunatic Hai recognized that their opponents like to start fights out by stacking ultimates. With this knowledge, they learned to bait out the enemy’s ultimates all at once by looking as if they were going all in on a fight, and then immediately disengaging, wasting the enemy’s ultimates. The result of this throughout a series is more frequent fights where their team has an ultimate advantage on their opponents. Another aspect of this high level of play is their game sense and mechanical ability. This goes hand in hand with ultimate management. Essentially, being able to win team fights straight up and not relying on ultimates is the key. In this series against Conbox, as well as many others in Apex, Lunatic Hai displays the ability to consistently win team fights where neither team uses any ultimates.

When I talk about Conbox Spirit’s staleness, I mostly mean their approach to team fights. Every single team fight in their offense on Gibraltar was executed in the same way. They entered on the high ground and then immediately dropped down onto the cart. This is smart, since it allows for a few moments of scouting the enemy’s positioning before dropping down to a more vulnerable position. Even from on the cart, while it’s pushing, at least a few members of Lunatic Hai must also make themselves vulnerable in order to contest the push, evening the positioning odds in that sense. However, Point A of Gibraltar is particularly advantageous for the defense exactly because of how Luantic Hai played it. Gamsu repeatedly used his jump to contest the high ground, but would have to retreat afterward. This left the follow up dive of Architect and Asher disjointed, as well as Gamsu out his movement ability. Twilight’s Sombra was satisfactory, however, he missed key targets with his EMP due to the spread of LH’s defense. Also, the strength of Sombra on this map in accordance with health packs is far weaker than it would be on a 2CP map such as Volskaya or Anubis where Healthpacks are much more central to the play around the point. This is due to the nature of needing both teams to commit members to contest the cart, a small area, whereas 2CP maps have a much larger area anchoring players movements.

On top of these two general factors, there are several more particular factors to point out. LH’s supports completely outplayed Conbox Spirit’s dive at so many points. Working together, they were able to much more effectively shut down the dive, or at least delay it until the rest of their team won the team fight. Between Ryujehong and Tobi, their superior mechanical play, decision making, and communication between one another and their team carried this map pretty hard. This, of course, also comes down to another question of Conbox’s team composition. I really have to severely question the Sombra here and the decision to have Oparochi solo heal on the Lucio. Lucio boost healing is powerful, but it’s on a long cooldown and a very limited area that can’t heal or support anyone diving when he’s contesting the cart. Even with the help of hacked health packs, with the assistance of discord orbs Miro and Gido were completely destroying Oparochi in every fight. Tracer alone can easily one clip the Lucio with a discord orb on him, but with the amount of times Oparochi was left completely defenseless, he was free for Lunatic Hai’s superior dive technique and communication.

A3 QF LH v CBS Gibraltar 12

Gamsu, although a very good player, throughout this series, made a bad habit of diving way too deep onto Esca multiple times. This not only pulled him far from the rest of the fight and leaving his team without their main tank, but he did it many times with his primal rage. While the ability to solo out one player can be extremely effective, it’s often times much more effective to disrupt multiple members, or find a support to solo out, shutting down their heals, while your team targets the DPS players. His desire to do this can clearly be drawn from the effectiveness and success of the dive meta. Teams such as Afreeca Freecs Blue, Luxury Watch Blue, and Lunatic Hai themselves execute this strategy super effectively, which is why it’s seen as Meta. However, as I’ve pointed out before, there are clear differences that make this strategy more effective for Lunatic Hai than Conbox here. Namely on Gibraltar, Jehong and Tobi can defend one another, while Oparochi was left by himself. Also, as I pointed out before, the disjointed timing for Conbox was a big problem.

In the end, Lunatic Hai’s superior game play came from their superior fundamental skill level, ultimate economy management, and communication. Although they suffered from stubbornness heavily on Anubis, overall throughout the series they were able to recognize faults and make changes better than Conbox Spirit. This is what separated Gibraltar as a clear cut victory for Lunatic Hai when compared to the rest of the series. Understanding their clear advantages on Point A, such as the run back time advantage and utilizing the high ground, are reasons that make playing a highly cerebral team such as Lunatic Hai so frightening. When coupled with their insane mechanics, it’s no wonder that the previous Apex Series champions could turn this match into their favor with a fresh approach so quickly.

TLDR: I hate TLDR’s but this is a super long article. I really enjoy breaking down fights in esports, step by step, for many reasons, most of all, so people can learn, including myself. In a nut shell – Lunatic Hai was too stubborn to change their approach when it wasn’t working. Conbox took them to Gibraltar, one of their best maps, and got dumpstered at point one due to their own stubbornness. Conbox tunneled on making Sombra work. LH’s support team could peel for each other while Oparochi’s solo healing Lucio got wrecked.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this content follow me on twitter here. I tweet out all of my content and pin the most recent piece.

Match Analysis: Meta Athena Attack on RG Wings @ Volskaya.

Author: Colin ‘Howl‘ Kenitz (Published 6-8-2017)

Apex Season 3, Group Stage, Tuesday, Day 12.(June 6th).

Meta Athena Vs. Rhinos Gaming Wings.

image1463084198

Point A

Volskaya is well known as a more frustrating Assault map. Meta Athena has used some interesting flanking techniques on this map before, but this time they took a different approach resulting in very quick captures on both points A and B. Notably, Mango is playing the Sombra here, so Rhino’s Gaming Wing’s only has AMY as full healer on the Zenyatta. Mango hacks the 200hp health pack in the garage. Because of this, RG Wings situates their defense inside of the garage.

Meta Athena puts Libero on the Sombra, who rushes directly for the point. Because of this he’s able to both scout RG for the rest of his team as well as hack the health pack in the bunker on the point. This is the easiest accessible health pack when directly contesting the point, as the bunker is the nearest cover for this very open point with high ground on all sides. Having this hack is important for Meta Athena’s strategy as we’ll see soon. It’s also notable that Sayaplayer has already gotten a slight ult charge advantage from hitting Umtae, due to his flanking, which we will also talk about soon.

AS3 MA v RGW Volskaya 1

Meanwhile, Meta Athena’s tank and support lines run up to the high ground to their right side of the point. This immediately pushes Oxo, who’s on the soldier 76, off the high ground and exposes him in the middle of the point with Amy following shortly after. It also pressures RG Wings out of their safe point in the garage as Changsik and Hoon pressure down on them from the stairs.

AS3 MA v RGW Volskaya 2

During this, Sayaplayer heads up to the high ground on the opposite side of point A. This gives both him and RG Wings direct lines of sight on one another. Sayaplayer opens up on RG Wings and as a result both RG tanks commit to knocking him off the high ground or getting the kill, using their mobility abilities. This leaves their support line completely unprotected without peel. As highlighted in yellow, the RG members began backing up into the bunker and are cornered and unable to use the health pack there. Meanwhile, Meta Athena’s supports, highlighted in red, are safe on the high ground with perfect vision of their members diving as well as Sayaplayer.

AS3 MA v RGW Volskaya 3

Because of this commitment the RG tank line is also exposed and away from the hacked health pack in the garage while they have only Amy on the Zenyata with orbs of harmony to heal. This results in Fury losing his mech immediately. In the pink highlighted circle we see Hoon dives into RG’s back line on the D.Va and he dies, but since he dove with Changsik, they maintain pressure. As highlighted in green, they corner AMY into that bunker where Libero hacked the health pack, and he dies to the Winston. While it stands as a one for one trade, Meta Athena lose only one tank while RG Wings lose their only healer, and also their D.Va’s mech. With no other healers, as highlighted in red, Umtae has to jump back across the open point to the health pack in the garage. This allows Sayaplayer to unload on him, bringing him very low and gaining quite a bit more ult charge.

AS3 MA v RGW Volskaya 4

Tyrant and Mango continue to pressure Sayaplayer unntil he eventually does go down. The problem here is that there’s no more healing for RG besides the Soldier’s biotic field and Mango’s health pack. Changsik continues diving the back line, takes out Oxo while Libero on the Sombra finishes off Fury’s Mech-less D.Va. Although Rhino’s Gaming succeed in eventually taking out Sayaplayer and the D.Va trade onto Hoon, they’re trading at a one man disadvantage, 3 – 2 by the time they do so. I highlighted Amy and Hoon in yellow here for a two reasons. First, that although they’re both alive they’re both running back, and second, that Amy switches to Lucio, losing what little ult charge he did have. He likely does this just to get back to the point quicker because this is 2 CP the offensive team has the re-spawn advantage as well, of course.

AS3 MA v RGW Volskaya 5

Without ample support available Umtae goes down from Sayaplayer’s DPS and Changsik finishes him off, then swiftly stomps on Tyrant’s tracer to finish him off. Mango is now the only one left versus four members of Meta Athena and has to concede the point even though he has his EMP since his team cannot regroup in time.

AS3 MA v RGW Volskaya 6

Meta Athena utilized several angles of attack to achieve this fast cap. Coordinating their attack around the fact that the bunker health pack would be hacked and by flanking most of their team to the high ground behind the garage. RG Wings were at a disadvantage in their only safe point and were flushed out of the garage into the open point. Here, they’re either standing in a shooting gallery for Sayaplayer’s Soldier, or forced into the bunker where they were cornered and unable to escape. Even though they traded kills with Meta Athena, even being up one player in these trades is extremely beneficial, especially as the attacking team with re-spawn advantage.

The most critical mistake was when both of RG’s tanks committed to chasing Sayaplayer’s Soldier off the high ground. Better communication could easily solve this, sending up either tank while the other stayed behind to peel for their back line.

What I would have liked to see from RG Wings here would be to answer the flanks from Meta Athena in a different manner. Meta Athena’s attack was clearly in advantage here, but if Rhino’s Gaming had made the call to evacuate the garage they could have circled around to the room on the opposite side of the point. Below, I’ve highlighted the positions of both teams. The orange sight lines indicate where RG Wings should have seen Meta Athena beginning their flank. The better response to this over what they actually did, would be to follow the color coordinated movement lines across the point. Here, it doesn’t matter which one they take. The bunker does provide cover, however it’s important to remember that Libero is back on this side, and may be able to deal a fair amount of damage and gain ult charge while still being safe, since RG Wings has very little time to make this translation across the point.

AS3 MA v RGW Volskaya 10

Relocating to this position would give RG another health pack to hack and access, as well as cornering Meta Athena in a building with a health pack they could not access since it will still be hacked by Mango for about another 45 seconds. I’ve highlighted the health packs on the screen in purple above. This re-position also gives RG Wings access to the high ground, which would give them a stronger position to knock Sayaplayer off the high ground or retreat back into the garage with his team where he wouldn’t have as effective of sight lines. I highlighted this on the diagram above as well. Although this maneuver likely would have given Meta Athena a tick of control on the point while RG Wings re-position, RG could renew their attack from an advantaged position rather than falling prey to Meta Athena’s pincer flanks. Also, if Meta Athena exposed even just Changsik on the Winston to cap the point, he would be immediately exposed once RG Wings were in position, allowing for them to gain some ult charge from shooting him. Below is a slightly different angle of this same maneuver.

AS3 MA v RGW Volskaya 11

Below is the room RG Wings would be moving into, effectively just behind Sayaplayer. As we can see, there is a health pack here. As well as access to the low and more importantly, high ground.

AS3 MA v RGW Volskaya 14

Finally, here is the perspective that RG would have once this maneuver is complete. As we can see, even if Meta Athena stay in the garage, they are open to RG’s lines of sight and unable to use this health pack. If Meta Athena Stays on the High ground, the teams stand on more even footing, however RG Wings have the health pack in their building available to them. Although both teams have access to this rear catwalk, I think it’s more likely that RG can pressure this since the have the additional healing support of the health pack. The biggest question here is if Libero can make it into position to hack the rear most health pack on the left most side of the screenshot. Whichever team could claim this with their Sombra would have the advantage on the catwalk due to being able to drop off and heal very quickly if need be.

AS3 MA v RGW Volskaya 12

Still looking at this above picture, if we are to assume that RG wings now has the advantage and thwarted the initial attack, it is likely that MA has to retreat and regroup. As is highlighted by the shooting options and sight lines, if Meta Athena try to move into the bunker to access that health pack that Libero hacked, they’re pinned down and exposed. The only options left are to retreat back the way they came and completely regroup, or to head through the raised hallway from Garage back toward the choke point, where Libero could hack the health pack and the team could regroup there.

Point B

It’s still so early on in the game that hardly anyone has any ult charge on either team. Mango has his EMP, however Sayaplayer on the soldier and Nus on the Zenyatta are extremely close. Both teams drive themselves into the small utility room with the health pack on MA’s left and RG’s left. The most important thing to take note of here are the health bars and ultimate charges of each player. RG must not have expected Meta Athena to be here so quickly, and already are on the losing side of the health pool wars with Fury and Umtae both dropping very low.

AS3 MA v RGW Volskaya 7

Mango uses his EMP here, realizing he will hit most members of Meta Athena. However, Wings can’t get the DPS to finish anyone off. As soon as the hack wears off Nus activates the transcendence and heals his team back up to full. Even though Mango’s EMP hacks MA so they couldn’t use their abilities, he didn’t block any ultimates with it. If Wings were able to kill off members at this time it might have forced Meta Athena to reset the attack, however, with Fury’s D.Va already extremely low he had to retreat and they were effectively fighting 5v6. Crucially, as we can see in the screen shot below, Libero is able to hack the health pack in the room before Mango can, so the slight healing available to Umtae was denied and he goes down first. Without the Winston on RG, Sayaplayer and Changsik obliterate Fury’s D.Va, leaving the rest of the team completely unprotected.

AS3 MA v RGW Volskaya 8

With no tanks left for RG Wings, Meta Athena storms the point. Sayaplayer pops the tac’ Visor and takes care of Mango and Amy, both of the healers. Since they only need a third of the point, there is hardly any time to contest and MA take the map easily.

AS3 MA v RGW Volskaya 9

In the case of Point B, Meta Athena realized they were at a large advantage. Sure, they don’t know exactly how large the ult charge deficit between themselves and RG has become, but they have a good idea due to how effectively they wont point A. Because of this they decide to charge point B and maintain this momentum. Since they only need the first third of the control completed, it’s a pretty safe bet, consider how much time they’ll have left if they fail. Rhinos Gaming Wings should recognize this, but instead of staying back they try to gain the advantage by hacking the forward health pack in the small room that this big fight occurs in.

It’s not a bad idea, however, since they’re at a severe disadvantage I would have preferred for them to play this point as safe as possible. The best thing they could do for themselves is buy time, ideally turtling out the nearly 6 minute timer. What most teams will do is position themselves up on the high ground, which I have highlighted in the diagram below. With most of the team positioned on the back bridge and one or two players slightly more forward on the shop balcony, RG has sight lines on every point of access to Point B. They also have two health packs on the lower levels directly behind them, as well as re-spawn advantage this time around (highlighted in blue).

AS3 MA v RGW Volskaya 13

I’ve Assumed a few things here. First, I’ve labeled the health packs as hacked by both teams, just showing what will likely happen in a prolonged attack. Secondly, I’ve assumed that Libero and Meta Athena still rush the small room on the right side of the diagram to gain a forward foothold with the hacked health pack. From here MA, especially Libero, can harass more easily and gain his ult charge rapidly. The advantage RG can gain from this high ground, defensive position, is that they can clearly see both attack routes that MA has from this small room, as well as through the main choke. They can even spot flankers from the left hand side. This gives them a huge advantage in a turtling situation.

I’ve also highlighted a movement option where Meta Athena can come from the small utility room on the low ground up the stairs and around the flank to the high ground. This is a likely option, as it gains MA high ground advantage, however, I’ve labeled the two movement options that RG can use to answer this. In this scenario RG would have two health packs much closer to them than does MA. I would like to see most of the team move forward on the left hand side to the high ground of the shop balcony, while a flanker or two retreat back down to the low ground while looping back up the stairs to pincer MA. Ideally, this allows most of RG to remain on the high ground, as well as having closer proximity to hacked health packs. Meta Athena should be forced down to the low ground by the loop around flankers, and forced to retreat and regroup, as they have no health packs to access and are otherwise vulnerable on the low ground of the open point.

I hope to do a Youtube version of this and other play analysis in the near future.

Author: Colin ‘Howl‘ Kenitz (Published 6-8-2017)

Twitter: @Howl_CK – Most recent articles/pieces will be pinned

Korean Dominance is Not a Myth

This article is inspired by a series of tweets I saw a few weeks ago, inspired by South Korea’s performance at the League of Legend’s world championship

Colin Kenitz (10-31-2016)

To say that Korean Dominance is a myth because they’re only dominant in two games is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. Korean Dominance is a fact, and it occurs in more than just two games. In fact, it occurs in just about every game Koreans majorly play, and even some that hardly any play. And, further yet, it’s not boring. It’s a beautiful thing.

Proposing that Korean dominance doesn’t exist because it only exits in a few games is impossible to be sound. It cannot be sound, because any premise that the argument is framed on would be false. That’s like saying Michael Jordan’s dominance was a myth, because he only dominated at one sport – basketball. Why wasn’t he also the best tennis player of all time? Absurd. When the topic is brought up, many will say that Korean dominance doesn’t exist because they don’t dominate in every game. E.g., Korean’s have never dominated at CS:GO, however, Korean’s have no interest in CS:GO. No one plays it there. So how are they going to be the most dominant nation in that scene?

On another hand, many people claimed that Korean’s would struggle in Overwatch because they have such little experience in FPS games. Despite this, as we’ve seen thus far in both the Overwatch World Cup and Apex Series, this hasn’t been a problem at all. It’s true that the game tailors heavily to players with a MOBA background because a lot of peak game play depends on team compositions as well as ultimate timings. Despite this, from what we’ve seen so far, and as observed by caster and analyst Montecristo, we really haven’t seen the aiming or peaking aspects of the game be an issue for the Korean teams.

Ultimately, what matters in the conversation of Korean dominance is the ratio of games that the country actively participates in to games that they dominate in at the highest level (in other words, in Esports). When you take a step back and see what that looks like, well, it’s virtually all of them. If there’s a game that Korean’s play, it’s very likely they dominate in that Esport.

I think without a doubt it can be agreed on that the first Esport to look at would be StarCraft II. In virtually every iteration of this game Korean players are without a doubt named the champions. The name “MVP” might ring a bell. The undisputed best player during the Wings of Liberty era. He’s a four time GSL champion, and the champion of just about every other title out there currently. No? Then perhaps “Jaedong,” one of the most successful players during both the Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm Era. If you’re to google a list of the best Starcraft players of all time, just about every player will be Korean. Even on a top twenty list. The country was the home of the most premiere league, Proleague, for so many years (RIP 2016). Even though Starcraft is the longest running Esport to date, there are plenty of other games to look towards for evidence. For example, League of Legends.

LoL is currently the biggest Esport in the world. It has been for a few years, and it might be for a few more. So, where better to look? As far as world championships go, the only one Koreans didn’t win that they attended was the season 2 World Championship. That’s right, I refuse to acknowledge that season 1 was a “World Championship.” Let’s be honest, it was NA vs. EU. Season 2 completed with Azubu Frost falling 3 -1 to the Taipei Assassins. Since then, however, They’ve won them all. SK Telecom T1 has taken three of those, winning in 2013 and then back to back in 2015 and ’16. Samsung Galaxy White took it in 2014, after which Riot banned sister teams; but it goes to note that Samsung’s sister team, Blue, obtained a 3rd/4th tie, their highest possible placing due to bracket (They were team killed in the semi-final round by White). In 2015, the Season five world championship finally produced an all Korean Grand Final due to appropriate brackets. Despite another Korean team kill in the quarters where Koo defeated KT Rollster, the Koo Tigers and SKT T1 faced in the Grand Finals after each team took down European teams in devastating 3 – 0 fashion in the Semi Finals. Finally, in 2016, the brackets allowed all three Korean teams to place in the top four. There is without a doubt no analyst that would say the three South Korean teams ROX, Samsung, and SKT were not the three best teams in attendance BY FAR. The Semi-final match between the ROX Tigers and SK Telecom T1 was the best LoL match at worlds ever. Until, perhaps, the Grand Finals when Samsung Galaxy nearly brought it back from a 2 – 0 deficit, but was dramatically defeated in the end. SKT won their second title in a row, and their third overall, and almost definitely have cemented themselves as the most winning team that League of Legends will ever have. So just when everyone was claiming the gap between Korea and all other regions was closing, it was quickly proved quite the opposite; and things don’t look too different in other games.

In Heroes of the Storm is far less popular in South Korea, so much so that it’s not even in the same league as LoL. Yet, they’re is far ahead of the competition with no one in their rear view mirror. MVP Black took the 2016 Spring Global Championship in dominating fashion. Then, in Summer, they were barely defeated in the Finals by fellow Korean team Tempest, 3 – 2. Now, as we head into the Fall Championships, the two Korean squads MVP Black and Ballistix look nigh on unstoppable again. Another game that is an example is Street Fighter Five.

Street Fighter is a game series that has never had a major following in the Republic of Korea. Despite this, the second best player in the entire Shoryuken ranking system for the game is Infiltration, who sits just behind Xiaohai in a two year spread of tournament circuit points. Despite being second place on the ladder, he was the champion of EVO 2016, the premiere event in the FGC, which was aired live on ESPN 2. He stood tall over all five Japanese Fighting Game Gods in attendance, taking the tournament over Fuudo in Grand Finals. As the last player standing over 5,000 entrants, his first words of victory? “Download Complete.”

So how do they do it? How are Koreans so dominant in every Esport they try their hand in? It’s just my theory, but it all comes down to culture. There is a very big discrepancy in the seriousness with which players in Korea hold in these games when they play. Often times one doesn’t play to have fun, but to improve. It’s not uncommon for someone who wants to improve to practice non-stop for all of their waking hours each day. It reminds me of Space Jam’s opening scene, where R. Kelly’s song ushers us to a scene of a young Michael Jordan practicing late into the night.

I may be wrong, about my theory here, but there’s something so beautiful to me about Koreans in Esports. Many western fans seem to hate them for their dominance, but I can’t get enough of it. Watching the semi and grand finals of this past League of Legend’s worlds left me in awe. The difference between the regions couldn’t be clearer. It can be frustrating to have one region winning everything from year to year. Many would say that it dulls the game, and no one will care. For me, I don’t see it this way. As long as the game is beautiful to watch, and the strategy keeps evolving, it’s going to be a spectacle worth watching. Witnessing dominant teams or athletes is like watching a famous artist in the process. whether watching Michael Jordan’s Bulls, Michael Phelps become the most decorated Olympian of all time, or Faker and Bengi become three time world champions; sheer and utter dominance is something to appreciate. I can’t help but think to myself: There must have been many nights when Faker must have said to himself, “Just one more Shot.” Just one more game. I bet just like Mike, he didn’t stop at just one more shot. He kept going until he was the best that ever was and ever will be.

2016 Worlds: Post Week One Opinions

Colin Kenitz (10 – 5 – 2016)

TLDR:

LCK (6 – 3) 66.66% – where I expected

NA ( 6 – 3) 66.66% – slightly above where I expected.

LPL (5 – 4) 55.55% – where I expected

LMS (3 – 3) 50.00% – where I expected

IWC (3 – 3) 50.00% – way above where I expected

EU (1 – 8) 11.11% – ????

Group Recap & Predictions

Group A (Thursday):

Group A is surprisingly one of the more contentious groups at this point. Besides G2’s Eulogy at 0 – 3, the rest of the group is all tied at 2 – 1. When looking back upon past worlds, however, it’s really not uncommon for week one to be really chaotic while things settle into place in the second round robin group stage. I think that Group A will perfectly exemplify this. Despite some missteps against CLG, Rox have looked the strongest thus far, including in that loss. Unlike many other teams when they’re behind, there’s no point where Rox look lost, which is a keystone aspect to look for in teams that are behind. Smeb is playing out of his mind and so had PraY. It should be noted that Peanut is very young and has a very limited experience on big stages like this, and He’s got no international experience. I feel he’ll play more dominantly this week if his nerves calm a bit.

29455034314_92fbb82b12_z

(*Peanut playing mid game in their loss against CLG)

As far as Albus NoX Luna goes, I’m going to go ahead and get this out of the way. Barring devastating failure from G2 and CLG, I don’t think they’ll win any more games. It’s not that they’re bad, just that they’re not quite up to snuff. If anything, I’d like to add that they were a breath of fresh air and I’m ecstatic they showed up in week one.

I think that CLG will get out of this group second simply because of their record versus G2. They’ve got a strong enough base line to carry them to second in this group, however, it’s not impossible G2 make it. If G2 wins every game they play this week, they could beat CLG outright, or force a tie breaker. It all depends on how badly G2 want to recover their pride, in my opinion, because I still believe they’re the second strongest team in this group on paper. Hopefully they’re not tilted into oblivion.

Group C (Friday):

Group C is fairly cut and dry for me. Although It’s close right now with EDG and AHQ tied at 2 – 1 and H2K and INTZ tied at 1 -2, like I mentioned before; week two is really when the stronger teams assert their dominance. EDG will secure first seed out of the group, first and foremost because everyone is looking on form. Deft is playing well, and he and Meiko are possibly the strongest bot lane in the tournament. Despite having two of the better junglers in the tournament, INTZ and H2K lack in other areas, so Clearlove will be able to run through them.

Second seed in group C will be won by AHQ. My biggest reserve for them was Westdoor, but he’s been playing up to par and they’re not afraid to play Chawy, who performed better than Westdoor anyways. An and Albis have surprised me as well, and Ziv’s just seems really comfortable in the same-lane meta.

30080321685_5459b74154_z

(*EDG backstage awaiting their game with H2k)

The reason I hold back on H2k getting out of this group is because of the one game they’re already behind AHQ. I think their form will improve greatly from last week, and although they’ve got strong players across the board, they’ve got less room for error when compared to AHQ. INTZ performed well in their victory, but in their losses they look just that – completely lost. They don’t seem to understand how to find win conditions from behind, and I’m even hesitant to say they can for sure close out a lead against the teams in their group. The level of competition they faced back in CBLoL simply doesn’t compare to what they’re facing now. Maybe if they’ve gotten a better scrim situation they can pull some upsets.

Group D (Saturday):

Without a doubt the most contentious group of the four, Saturday’s games are going to be crazy and exciting. Honestly, I’m not sure who’s going to make it out first. Obviously not Splyce … sorry guys. With the rest of the group tied at 2 – 1 It’s going to be a run to the end. If there’s going to be super hype tie breakers this is the group they’ll come from, so plan for a late night (hopefully). RNG is looking supa hot. Uzi and Mata are playing as well as always, and despite what it looked like coming into the tournament, MLXG looks like he’s nearly back to form as well. While Looper’s always a wild card, sometime making the absolute worst teleport decisions you’ve ever seen, if he plays well enough the team will be in a good position. Besides Cuvee, the other top laners can’t compare to him straight up in the lane.

The biggest surprise in this group is TSM. Not because they’re over performing or under performing, but instead which players are doing so. First of all, I don’t understand why Doublelift, or the team, maybe, keep prioritizing Jihn so highly. Double lift needs a character like Ezreal or Lucian to really excel. The team’s really been relying on Svenskeren so far. He’s looking the best he ever has, and I’ve been watching him play since Copenhagen Wolves in 2012. The decisions he’s making show that he’s both studied his opponents well and possess a really strong sense for where to be on the map right now. He’s able to play all of the junglers he needs to, even when the pool is pressed, he’s got the secondary tiers on lock. With the rest of the lineup playing as expected, all TSM needs to boost their chances is to rethink what they’re doing with Doublelift and change around their Pick/Ban.

30058937985_c0a598e7de_z

(*TSM walk across the stage after a win over Splyce)

Despite what most analysts are saying, I think Samsung Galaxy has just as good a chance to make it out of this group. They’ve looked quite dominant in their two wins, and despite their loss to TSM, the NA team played insanely well against them. For nearly the whole regular season Samsung found overwhelming success with Wraith. He and Ruler looked so good together, communicating well and knowing exactly where they should be on the map, it was a major change that Samsung needed. Coming into the LCK playoffs though, CoreJJ came in, particularly on Bard, and absolutely killed it. I must say, thus far in the tournament, from the little we’ve been able to see, I think he’s still looking in higher form than Wraith. The rest of the lineup is performing well, but honestly, I think they’re under performing compared to what they’re capable of. If Ambition, Ruler, Crown, and Cuvee can play like they did at their peak performance during the regular season and playoffs of LCK they could very well win all three games this week.

This group could actually go to a three way tie. If Samsung beat TSM, TSM beat RNG, and RNG beat Samsung, with the rest of their game scores going even and everyone beating Splyce, it could happen. I’m hoping it happens, although getting up for work at 6AM is going to be rough on Sunday if it does.

Group B (Sunday):

Conversely to Group D, Group B looks to be fairly straight forward. SKT will almost certainly come out with the first seed, as they’re looking really insane. I think the reason they lost to Flash Wolves is because their weakest role is jungle, and Karsa played out of his mind that game. This is definitely something they can play around, and without a doubt Kkoma will have a better plan for Pick/Ban now against the Flash Wolves.

For me, I May looks the weakest of the bunch. The fact that they made it to Worlds is pretty impressive in itself, but for me their equatable to Splyce. They’re a respectably strong team in their region, but on an international level they simply do not stack up.

29969218732_6a7847ab83_z

(*Impact telling Memeos to stop memeing … just kidding)

Cloud 9 sits at 2 – 1 while the Flash Wolves are at 1 – 2. Because of this, Similar to AHQ’s situation, I think this is the slight boost they need to edge out as second place seeds in this group. Jensen isn’t playing at a level I’d expect from him, but, and as much as I hate to say this, a lot of it seems to be nerves. One can almost read from his face on the player cam when he dies that he feels like he needs to hard carry his team. This is something that happens to a lot of players at high levels of competition, not just in League of Legends, but it can be overcome. Reapered is a godly analyst and understands the game from a player stand point. He virtually carried the original SKT T1 to a win at IEM cologne in 2012 against Fnatic, so hopefully he’ll be able to help his young mid laner with his nerves. Impact is playing really well, but if Sneaky and Meteos can step it up even just a bit they should be a lock for the two seed.

29999506151_0ebbe840ca_z

(*Flash Wolves celebrate their win over SKT T1, the last undefeated team in the tournament)

The Caveat, of course, is Flash Wolves. It’s been a roller coaster. In their two losses they had massive gold leads in the early game, but they were too reluctant to make a decisive call to finish the game. I think that with VoD reviews they’re going to gain a lot of confidence and we’ll see them moving more aggressively. They’ve got what it takes to steal away the second seed from Cloud9, but judging from what we’ve seen thus far, it’s hard to say it for certain. To reiterate, I think it’s that one win C9 has over Flash Wolves that will give them just the edge they need.

*All Photo Credit goes to the lolesports Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/lolesports)

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this content you can always look forward to more from me in the future. I will always tweet them out and usually Pin the most recent article, so follow me here! Check out my Bio page and my other articles if you’re so inclined.

 

 

The Shady Competitive Ruling of Riot Against RNG/TDK

Colin Kenitz (7/26/16)

My thoughts on RNG (Renegades)/TDK (Team Dragon Knights) decision made by Riot Games before the Summer Split. This is an editorial that is my opinion and insight into the events that transpired on May 8th, 2016.

I’m not including TiP in this because their ruling was made entirely separately and it is a different issue, despite sharing common ground with the Renegades/ TDK decision

Riot has claimed “Renegades management has been found to have knowingly violated the competitive ban against Chris Badawi, misrepresented their relationship with TDK, and compromised players welfare and safety.” Okay, great. Good work protecting the players within your league. Wait, you can’t tell me what happened?

“Over the course of this split we have received multiple serious allegations about he Renegades organization. The allegations have been centered around (1) team ownership structure and behavior, (2) player welfare and treatment within the team and (3) collusion/competitive integrity. After weeks of investigation, we have found several of the allegations to be corroborated by testimony and evidence from parties involved.”

Okay … Great, but what did they do? Can you tell me what this evidence is? Who testified?

Let’s have a super quick Question and Answer session.

Q: Why are you not releasing more evidence of these offenses?

A: “First and foremost, we are not disclosing evidence because we have an obligation to protect the parties involved. People have placed their trust in us by stepping forward and we need to protect them from possible retribution. Further, some of these are serious allegations that extend beyond our LCS ecosystem, and it is not our goal to affect these parties outside of LoL esports.” 

So who did this happen to? Well, where better to look than those directly involved.

UntitledhakuhoRF fullmonte

Well, it wasn’t any of these people, right?

So who’s left? Here’s some stuff that isn’t as concrete, but has heavy inclination against the allegations

SelfieRNGmattseraphalex ich bryce blum RTRNGmatt joke post

So far Crumbz, RF and Hakuho have taken a strong stance in favor of Renegades. Monte is stating that he has no idea what the allegations are. Current management and even past players are speaking in favor of Renegades, or implying they are upset about the ruling, or remorseful of the situation, which wouldn’t be happening if they were the ones that felt mistreated. To add, to this, Marcin Wolski, also known as Kori and Selfie in the past, was the one who was so badly mistreated by MeetYourMakers’ Manager that legal action was threatened. By the way, Riot fined the MYM organization 5,000 Euros after Sebastian Rotterdam Threatened Wolski’s Family.  So who hasn’t said anything? Freeze hasn’t but his recent twitter activity seems to be friendly towards Renegades. Ninja doesn’t have a twitter. That’s it, except Remilia, who it would seem is the only one left that Riot could be referring to.

Well, in an investigative piece written by Jacob Wolf of ESPN published yesterday (7/25/16), more insight on this has been revealed.

http://espn.go.com/esports/story/_/id/17132668/renegades-riot-danger-absolute-power

Remilia’s encounter with Badawi can’t be the only of it’s kind ever to exist across the entire league, so why is Riot taking this so seriously? The term abuse seems to imply that this has been happening over a long period of time. If this has, and it’s serious verbal abuse, I think that this individual subject to said abuse had better contact authorities other than the video game league they play for. Like, perhaps, the police? If this abuse is above verbal, and is physical, the real world authorities should definitely be stepping in here, and honestly, it shouldn’t be Riot’s place to step in BEFORE getting the police involved. At the absolute most those at Riot that were hearing second wind of such things should have spoken directly with the victim and reached a conclusion on the severity of the situation before contacting the Police. If it was bad enough, definitely contact the police, and then make your ruling based on an actual legal system. There has yet to be any evidence produced that would reinforce that circumstances were worse than a single disagreement that seems to have been handled professionally in all regards.

In fact, I would like to compare this to the fabled arguments in CLG when Doublelift still played for them. That must have been epic compared to this; but I digress.

Renegades has violated its team agreement and LCS rules, and is hereby disallowed from participating in any Riot-sanctioned league. In order to minimize disruption to their players, Renegades will be granted a grace period until 11:59pm PST on May 18th to sell all rights and legal claim to their LCS berth, meaning a finalized transfer agreement must be presented to League officials, and the owner must pass the standard approval process. This grace period is contingent on Renegades cooperating with League officials in any requests/communication around player welfare and/or the transfer process, and is subject to revocation.”

This is insane. By doing this you’re destroying the market for these two spots. These owners have ten days and absolutely must sell these spots. This could subject them to being forced into a deal that is far below an accurate market value for their spot. You’re making them desperate and giving leverage to buyers that can take advantage of the situation. This is someone’s livelihood and their life and their career and you’re suggesting that based on no evidence they should lose out on millions of dollars and be subject to stress of unemployment and suddenly needing to find new homes, among other things. Low blow, Riot.

Okay, well. If anything, can you tell us WHEN this evidence surfaced? Telling two LCS teams that they have to sell their team slots in ten days is pretty messed up on just about every level. That screws them over in so many ways. Not just in capital means, but the players, the support staff, management, and owners. Was it earlier in the split? If it was that bad why wasn’t action taken sooner? Did you just find out and are you jumping to conclusions?

In the NBA and NFL and major sports leagues things like this are subject to appeal based on evidence. A lot of the times, this ends up happening in real court. If you are sued by Monte for affecting his property and income, costing potential earnings, etc, you’re going to have to go to court and present the evidence.

This is huge. This is way bigger than banning a toxic player from competitive play, so you have to be careful, Riot. You’re in the real world now. We’re not in the Summoner’s Rift. There are several different levels that MonteCristo could sue on. Whether he will is up to him and his discretion, but even this is unfair. As the sole governing body of itself, Riot has the power to ban him from their league in the future, whether or not Mykles settles in court and wins. He’s got a lot more to risk here than meets the eye.

This is a very shady ruling from Riot. It’s almost impossible to ignore the implications that there are likely other motives at play here. Considering the severity of previous fines and competitive rulings from riot, something of this magnitude is phasing. Things like this will push away sponsors, investors, and ruin the legitimacy of Riot’s League. Personally, I’m no lawyer, but these things need to be brought to light. I don’t know what will happen, or what choice MonteCristo will make in future days. What I do know, is that this issue is not over. Gone but not forgotten. Things like this don’t just disappear. At the bare minimum, I would like to see this ruling challenged in a way that forces Riot into creating a fair appealing process for future competitive rulings.

“Absolute power corrupts absolutely” – John Dalberg-Acton. It is for their own good to seek legal help on how to advance with the ruling and legal department of their league as it grows and affects more and more lives.

Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles is poised to make further statements in the near future, as stated on his twitter account.

 

If you enjoyed this article, please take a look at some of my other works. You can also follow me on Twitter here. I always tweet out my articles as I publish them and pin the most recently written one.

Mid Season Power Ranking: LCK

Colin Kenitz (7 – 14 – 2016)

300px-LCK

Current Actual LCK Standings (as of 7/13/16)

1. Rox Tigers (9 – 3)

1. Samsung Galaxy (9 – 3)

1. SK Telecom T1 (9 – 3)

4. KT Rolster (7 – 5)

5. MVP (6 – 6)

6. Afreeca Freecs (5 – 6)

7 Jin Air Green Wings (5 – 7)

8. ESC Ever (4 – 7)

9. Longzhu Gaming (2 – 9)

9. CJ ENTUS (2 – 9)

The mid-season point in the summer Split has just crested, and we’re now fully on the path towards Worlds, as far away as it may seem. Korea has been the strongest region in the world for years and it’s currently in the middle of one of it’s most competitive Seasons ever. Here is a power ranking and summary of each team in their current state, included in which is where they stand now and how I think they will finish out the season.

  • The number in parenthesis by each team name represents the value, positive or negative, that I rated them differently from their actual league standing.

1. SKT (0) – SK Telecom has had all of their struggles against mid level teams thus far. They came into the split after a clean MSI victory with their coaches saying, hey, we’re tired, so don’t expect much from us. Whether intentional or not, the downplayed SKT went on to begin the season 5 – 0 until they stumbled a bit towards the end of the first half of the season. Falling to surprising teams such as Jin Air and the Afreeca Freecs. Despite this, they’ve been solid against the teams near and above them in the standings. They’ve found wins over an at the time first place KT Rolster and Rox Tigers. Blank has been fielded most games, but we’ve seen some games from Bengi, albeit -mostly- on his old favorite champions, such as Elise. Blank has been playing more proactive early game junglers such as Gragas, which is a good look for such a mechanically skilled player. Duke has looked good, but seems somewhat stagnant. He’s had some questionable picks like the post-nerf Gangplank where he’s just been shut down. In one such game, ADD of MVP solo killed him three times within minutes. Wolf has looked as good as always, and he’s really picked up the Nami this season, which is a tricky pick that he pulls off very well. Since she’s so squishy, he really has to coordinate his invades and warding missions well with his laners and jungler, which for the most part has been great. While Faker is doing Faker Things, his stage has been stolen. Bang has been the true carry of this team through this Summer Split. He’s consistently been out damaging Faker in these games, but it’s not purely because he’s just playing so good. Faker is actually such a strong presence that teams invest so much to pick him off first in team fights, and thus we’re often seeing team fights completely turned around, concluding with a full HP Bang cleaning up the enemy team. The way SKT plays works for them because their shot calling is amazing, Kkoma is an amazing coach, and finally because each player’s individual talent and skill is so good that they can rely on one another at a level most teams cannot.

2. Rox Tigers (-1) – Rox Tigers have, again, found themselves at the top of the table for the third Split in a row. It’s the same thing we’ve seen before, and maybe again, they’ll finish above SKT in the standings, but the real question is: will they be able to beat SKT in the play offs? Smeb has been looking as dominant as ever. He’s the current league MVP leader with 900 points. He’s been crushing both on carry picks like Irelia and tank picks such as Trundle. Pray has been playing immaculately as well. The best thing is that Pray was playing the Jhin last season before it was meta, but now that he’s in the meta it just looks so good. The catch ability of Jhin along with Peanut’s aggressive jungling style creates picks in all phases of the game. Unfortunately for Peanut, his play style was hit hard this season. With the massively increased value of Elemental Drakes (well, three of the four) Peanut’s aggressive early ganking style has been somewhat nullified. If he shows top to gank and gets a kill, its okay, but then the enemy team is advertised a free Drake. It’s been great to see that he’s been able to still play his style of League whilst adapting to the new meta. For me, unquestionably the best support in the league last season was GorillA. I still feel this way. GorillA was criticized as an Alistar one trick, but he’s never been such. To prove that, Alistar got some pretty heavy nerfs this season but GorillA’s still been playing him excellently, as well as many other supports. One recent performance that displays this is their most recent game against KT where GorillA saved so many team fights for him team by himself with good ultimates and consumes. Rox continue to dominate the teams below them, as they do, but their bane has still proven to be SKT, mainly in the Faker – mid matchup. Rox has the highest kills per minute in the LCK, so their agression hasn’t died away, and you can always rely on their games to be exciting.

3. KT Rolster (+1) – KT has been quite up and down this season. Sitting at 7 – 5 doesn’t look that great, but in a league where three teams are currently tied for first mid way through the season, it’s hard to read into standings at face value. When we look at KT’s wins and how they won, as well as their losses and how they lost, we’re able to see that the other Telecom team is in just as strong of form as last year when they went to worlds. To look back at that, they got through the group stage just fine, but were faced against the then Koo Tigers, where they lost 3 – 1 in a match that was one of the only non 3 – 0 sets of the knockout stage. While the Tigers went on to be runner ups, KT went back to focus on another season in the LCK. In Spring they made it to the third round of play offs, but were destroyed by SKT in the semi-final Telecom War. This Summer they’ve been looking great. Ssumday hasn’t been the raw carry force we’ve seen before, but with the meta shifting towards more carry options in the top lane we’ve seen some pretty incredible performances recently. Fly’s been really good on the Vladimir, and his pocket Aurelion Sol surprises and devastates his opponents, including Faker. Despite being one of the oldest players in the League, Score has been a crux for his team’s success as well. KT’s decision making under their veteran jungler has put them in many strong positions, even coming back from some early deficits. Score isn’t the only veteran on the squad though, as Ssumday, Hachani, and especially Arrow have all been around for a long time. Hachani has been suffering less from being caught out by random, unsafe warding missions, and Arrow’s Ashe is now a meta pick, and he’s used it for some pretty awesome Enchanted Crystal Arrow snipes across the map. KT Rolster is a fantastic team to watch and focus on their map movements and decision making, and they’re on their way to another massively successful season

4. Samsung Galaxy (-3) – Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season. The low end to barely middle of the table team of Spring Split has exploded this Summer. Cuvee has looked much more solid in general this season. He’s been more self reliant, better with teleports, and better on both carry and tank champions in the split push and laning phase. Previously he’s been considered a serious liability for his team, but he has indeed shown up on both types of roles this Split. He’s still struggling against the best of the best in Ssumday and Smeb, but in a region loaded in top lane talent, holding your own against the likes of these players is a feat in itself. Crown has been really similar, as he’s improved quite a bit since last season but he’s still struggled quite badly against the likes of Fly and Faker. The team has suffered some rough losses while fielding Corejj as their substitute support player, but while they have Wraith their shot calling looks clean and concise. The players themselves have said that he plays a large role in shot calling, so although Corejj hasn’t individually faltered necessarily, Wraith’s role in the team is irreplaceable. The true strength of the newly wrought Samsung roster comes from Ambition and Ruler. Ambition, the former mid-laner of CJ Entus, the former jungler of CJ Entus, has really found his footing this split on Samsung. His jungle pathing is intelligent and his mechanical ability and veteran game knowledge has gotten him recognized as one of the strongest junglers. With the addition of Ruler, the new ADC, Wraith and Ambition have been able to ward better and more aggressively, because Ruler is a more map aware player, he reacts very quickly and knows how to play while his team mates sneak their way into enemy territory. Samsung is currently tied for first, but I Think once they play their second round of matches against the teams I’ve ranked above them, they’ll find themselves in play-off position, but simply not at the same caliber to compete at the highest level of the LCK.

5. MVP (0) – Perhaps the other biggest surprise of the season! MVP, a previous power house in Korea, but was only just promoted back into the LCK this split. Although they were dominating so hard in the challenger scene, no one could have said they would even be a middle of the table team. The landscapes between challenger and LCK are so vastly different, but it has been a very pleasant surprise for all of us. ADD looks very strong on several picks, his Trundle and Gnar especially have just been dominant, even against the best top laners in the league. His split pushing presence in the mid – late game is quite impressive for a rookie player. At the beginning of the season Maha, the ADC, was being caught out far too frequently both in lane phase and into the late game, causing the team to lose a lot of games. They’ve remedied this somewhat by putting him on the Jhin a lot, a character that is able to fully influence fights and create picks from quite far a away. Ian has looked especially good on Azir and his Varus has shown some clearly dominating performances. He understands his role well in team fights, whether it be CC or back line threat, and as he finds his place in the LCK he’ll only get better. Max is very preferential to the Bard pick, and it’s easy to see why. There’s been more than one game where he’s saved entire team fights for his team with his bard ultimates, whether used to disengage from enemy picks or to engage for his team. Overall, though, Beyond, the jungler, has been the true MVP of MVP. He’s tied with Faker for the second most MVP points in the league at 700 points, only two MVP’s away from tying Smeb at number one. His early jungle presence carries him against straight up stronger players and teams, and his kill participation is insane at over 78%. Overall MVP has incredible mental fortitude for a team with three rookies on it, and have stayed in and made comebacks in several desperate scenarios. Beyond’s pocket Amumu found a win against the Rox tigers, and while losing to Afreeca, individually he performed well. Maha has stepped up a few times on Ashe as well with really clutch accuracy with her ultimate combining with Max’s bindings for chain CC. Their average of being down 1100 gold at fifteen minutes betrays their skill and win rate, because their late game is simply amazing.

6. Afreeca (0) Afreeca was the biggest surprise of the Spring Split. Previously Rebels Anarchy, they struggled to find more than a few set wins in 2015. Toward the end of Spring, however, they made an impressive run and found themselves in the first round of the playoffs, knocking out several other contenders in a close run that came down to game differential. Mickey has been good this season, but it’s no longer the Mickey Show. This started last season, but it’s been more prevalent in the Summer Split. Sangyoon has been the true carry of this team in many ways this Season. He’s got a 4.2 KDA, which although is not by any means the highest of the league, puts him above PraY at 4.0. He gets a fairly small amount of resources from his team, but his positioning in team fights has been so impressive. He and Snowflower look to have good communication in lane, but it really is in the 5v5 scenarios where he shines. Lira hasn’t been getting caught out as much in the jungle as he had been, however junglers such as Score, Ambition, and Peanut still give him clear trouble. The Freecs have been alternating their top players between Ikssu, their top from last season, and Lindarang. Between the two, its difficult to say which player deserves the primary position. Win percentage wise they are very similar at 44% and 43% respectively. As well, both have positive CS and gold differentials at the ten minute mark. Their main difference lies in kill participation, where Lindarang is about 10% higher than Ikssu. Afreeca seems to be finding their footing, and despite where they sit now, they could potentially make a run for play offs once again this season.

7. Jin Air Greenwings (0) – Jin Air is a cruel temptress to it’s fans. In the Spring they were high up in the rankings through most of the season, but then dipped hard near the end. While they finally ended in play offs, their level of play was simply helpless against the likes of their competition. Again, this Summer Jin Air found themselves at the top of the standings, and again, they have dipped down as the mid season mark approached, and are currently all the way down in seventh place. Trace has been the fearless leader of the Sadplane. His pocket Malzahar has been good – the early push relieves pressure from Winged’s Graves so that he can farm, and it provides a strong, reliable CC throughout the late game. Winged is one of the few junglers still playing Graves. The farm heavy, no CC jungler has somewhat lost it’s place in the current meta. Despite this, Winged has still managed to get a lot of early ganks off with Graves, but this brings up the point stated earlier about he Rox Tigers. Early kills have lost a lot of value in the current elemental drake meta, and it seems Jin Air is struggling to adapt properly. The team has been investing a massive amount of resources into Pilot and he hasn’t been carrying at the level he should be to warrant such investment. Lower economy players are putting out much more outstanding performances, such as Trace, who really has been the veteran leader of this team and performing quite well overall. Early on in the season Jin Air found all of their wins in very long games where they scaled heavily. Despite their win over SKT which stopped their winning streak, I have thought their strength was over estimated since the beginning of the Season. It’s easy to say now, seeing how far they’ve fallen, but it’s really all too obvious. Their team comps are okay, but often lack very important aspects such as reliable engages without flashing on, say, a Ryze. When Winged and Chei play engage and CC champions they have looked much stronger. Winged’s Gragas is phenomenal and despite a meta that is more difficult for melee supports, Chei’s Alistar has looked smart and he makes great decisions in team fights. Similar to Afreeca, Jin Air has a chance to make a small resurgence, however, with the talent pool currently in the LCK they will be hard pressed to make anything past the first round of play-offs, if that.

8. ESC Ever (0) – Ever is well known as the Challenger team that beat SKT after they won worlds. They’re known as the team that made a tear through the IEM circuit, despite not even being an LCK team. What most people don’t know is that in their final challenger season before promotion they actually went through several struggles, mostly against MVP. The two teams are both new to the LCK this season and their current standings reflect their status during the Spring in Challenger. ESC is a good team with good players, but they’ve got their struggles as a team that is fairly inexperienced at the highest level of competition. Destroying competition below you is good for the short term, but long term it can inflate one’s ego. Individually, the team is so strong. Crazy has looked good on a wide range of champions, especially his Shen. Bless has been a dominating force when he gets his hands on Gragas, but in general he’s been there for his team when they need him. In fact, Bless, LokeN and Key all have above 70% Kill participation; an impressive stat for a team. As well, each of these players are fairly low economy, spitting their gold distribution well across the whole team. LokeN is very possibly one of the most gifted mechanical players in the LCK this split which is truly displayed on picks such as lucian. Key’s bard has been feared for some time, and for good reason, because he can chain CC with Bless and LokeN very well. Tempt has been really solid, notably because he’s been almost 30% of his teams damage, which is very high. Ever is a solid team that will find a lot of success in the future. Internationally they looked so strong, but on a strictly Korean landscape they’ve struggled to find themselves on the winning side of most sets, although they almost always take one game back in the struggle. They did beat SKT, so they have that in their pocket, but they simply look outclassed against most teams at the top of the table. They have a much better read on the early game than the late game, which is often the case with fairly new teams with individually gifted players. Despite ranking them at 8th place now, they very well could find their stride and move up to 6th or 7th by the end of the Split.

9. Longzhu Gaming (0) – Okay, I know, it’s getting old, but really, perhaps the other other biggest surprise of the Season – This time in a negative connotation. Longzhu Gaming is a roster stacked with previous super stars. Their placement in the Spring Split was considered surprisingly low, but to their own dismay they’ve only been beaten down lower this season. They finished last season at 7th place with an 8 – 10 record. While only two sets below .500, it’s worse than it seems, since the only two teams below them were Sbenu Sonicboom at 2 – 16 and Kongdoo Monster at 1 – 17. While there was a three way tie for 4th, and CJ entus tied Longzhu for 7th, things were murky, but with a lineup that boasted Coco, Chaser, Flame, and more, it was hard to see this team fail. Chaser has been pretty good this season, but he’s no longer the carry he was on Jin Air a year ago. Coco has also been really good, and then again, so has Frozen, their other mid laner. At the start of the season the team had dropped Flame, looking only to field Expession as their top laner, but recently the team picked Flame back up, despite the fact that Expession hasn’t necessarily been performing poorly. If anything, Longzhu’s main struggles have been with their bottom lane since Spring, but it’s really hard to point that finger. What it comes down to is something isn’t clicking with these players. Perhaps it is a situation like we saw when YellOwStaR went to TSM. Going from an undefeated regular season to an absolute train wreck on a team that looked so good was confusing. It was stated by the players, however, that members on the team simply had a different idea on how to play and win the game, and with no hard feelings, they simply didn’t mesh. YellOwStaR has gone back to Fnatic and is having another hugely successful season, so with this as our best case study, it can only be assumed that something like this is the culprit. I personally love ice cream and I also love barbeque sauce, but sometimes things just shouldn’t mix. Longzhu isn’t out of play-off contention yet, but things look bleak. They have a lot of room to grow as a team unit, and they’ll need the rest of the season to do so.

10. CJ Entus (-1) – Currently tied for Longzhu at the bottom of the standings, CJ Entus has more than struggled this season. They didn’t look amazing in the Spring, but they lost the form they spent all Spring building. They’ve only fielded Bubbling once, their jungler all last Split. Instead, they’ve gone with Haru, who’s been stumbling against just about every other jungler. He’ll go for strange, somewhat random invades when his team isn’t in position and there aren’t sufficient wards, and when he is caught out his team cannot react in time. Recently they’ve been playing Sky in the mid lane, who actually has a 50% win rate in 8 games as opposed to Bdd who has 21% in 19 games. Despite Bdd being praised as a mechanical beast, he’s looked lethargic and confused in the mid lane against just about every opponent he’s faced. Luckily, despite being one of the longest standing players in the league, Madlife has looked really good this split. Kramer has as well, posting a good Damage per minute stat at 525, but he hasn’t been as clutch as he was even last Season. CJ is clearly unsure of what direction they need to take with their roster, as they’ve got substitutes in nearly every role being fielded. Even in the past few weeks they’ve brought Shy out of hiding after most thought he was only on the roster as a formality. Shy’s kill participation has been really low thus far, but his Shen play, as well as his trundle have been huge in helping in CJ’s games. He certainly does look far superior to Untara, and he’s doing so at a very low level of economy share on his team. Having his experience along with Madlife’s voice will likely help guide the younger players on the team, which may be just what they’re looking for as they find their style of game play throughout the second half of the season. As with Longzhu, they’re technically not out of play-off contention yet, but it would take a miracle (or disaster) to get them there. CJ Entus has good infrastructure, and under the guidance of the legends tutoring the younger players, they should utilize the rest of this season to try out new things and practice so that they can avoid relegation. It’s not that they look helpless, but with the current landscape of the LCK they’re simply in over their heads.

This has been one of the best seasons of LCK ever. Three teams have been in first place in the past week. One match loss dropped the Rox Tigers from 1st to 4th place. If you’re not very familiar with Korean League of Legends except for their domination at international events, there is no better time than now to become a fan. With this article you can jump in with your feet wet and see what the best region of the world is up to. I also think that this is one of, if not the best Season for North America. See Emily Rand’s article on it here!

If you enjoyed this article please feel free to follow me on my Twitter here. I tweet out all of my articles and pin the most recent one I’ve written.