Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Is it Time for a Ten Team LCS?

by Reece "SabrewoIf" Dos-Santos 

Remember earlier in the year when the possibility of a ten team LCS was hinted at by Riot? I’ve been giving it some more thought now that the regular season is over, and there are a lot of pros and cons to the idea. Based on my own perspective of the scene and what I feel it needs to grow and prosper, I'd like to talk about some aspects I think are important, and examine what it might be like if the LCS were to make this change. 

The first thing I’d like to highlight is that with the current structure, a team that finishes in third place in the regular season standings can find themselves on the receiving end of an unfortunate playoffs run and suddenly end up in the promotion tournament fighting to save their jobs. I personally believe that this is a huge kick in the shins for a team that fought hard for an entire split to reach top three, only to rejected back to the bottom because of two lackluster performances. I saw a lot of talk during the EU LCS's Supa Hot Crew vs Roccat game on how Supa Hot Crew “don’t deserve to be third seed if they lose to the sixth seed," but I believe this to be false. Their position as third seed was decided by a long split of hard work, trials and tribulations, and the possibility of having done all that work and having it overturned by two bad results can be both mentally crippling and simply unfair. This is currently the situation that Millenium faces as they prepare for the promotion tournament off the back of a very hard slide from being a team hell bent on Worlds. 

The LCS in its current format is just too unforgiving. End of split playoffs should be all about pushing forwards to try and grab a spot at Worlds after having a good enough season to qualify, but for the teams who qualify third through sixth, it starts off being about securing your place in the LCS. It doesn't make sense in my mind that the same teams that could go to Worlds could suddenly become teams that lose their jobs within the same tournament. With a ten team LCS, playoffs could still be between the teams in the first to sixth spot, however the tournament could be entirely about progression towards Worlds rather than the double pressure of dropping out the LCS, which could instead be the fate of the teams that simply finish eighth, ninth and tenth, with seventh remaining in the LCS but not in the playoffs bracket. Not only will this ease pressure off the players, but it will make the LCS more stable as a competitive league and less about peaking at the right time. The regular season standings will actually serve more of a purpose in deciding the fates of the teams, which is what it's meant to do in the first place.

On top of changing playoffs and on the topic of making the regular season actually matter, having ten teams in the LCS would also see the end of Super Weeks and bring about a fluid regular season schedule which I believe is more than needed for the LCS players, as well as the staff and the spectators. Super Weeks heavily promote tilting and peaking performances which can greatly affect the standings. Fnatic spent six weeks in fourth place during the Summer Split, and then Week Seven Super Week comes along and suddenly they go 4-0 and remain in second for the rest of the split. The fact that twelve games of the twenty eight are Super Week games can greatly swing the season in your favour or against you if you’re a tilting team or happen to run across unforeseen trouble. Spectator-wise, they’re also very time consuming and taxing on most weekly schedules: six days of consecutive matches following the four from last week provide ten days of LCS streaming with only one day of break in between. It’s just too much in a short amount of time; a normal regular season would be fluid, more consistent and more enjoyable for both players and spectators of the LCS. It would also allow for unavoidable happenings to be less punishing (like Visa issues for a particular player or a sudden loss in confidence for one week.)

One other aspect of the LoL pro scene that will be affected by the change to ten teams is the challenger scene. There is an argument that the challenger scene will greatly diminish in quality if there is space for two more teams in the LCS. The top challengers will have a gateway into the LCS, meaning that the scene in challenger will be less competitive. While this is a fair point, the challenger scene is also a very large pool that could generate great up and coming players at any point and while it will initially become “easier” in a sense due to there being two less top tier teams, other teams will rise to the occasion and take their space at the top. It also makes the challenger scene more attractive as there is more of a chance to actually requalify as many teams that remain in the challenger scene at this current time tend to become unstable and see many roster changes in an attempt to find something that can make it in. A good example of this is Ninjas In Pyjamas, who have yet to find a roster that can make it back into the LCS despite numerous switches and rotations of top level players - at every point having a squad that “should be in the LCS.” The addition of two extra LCS spaces would allow teams like NiP who are stuck in limbo at the top of challenger to have more of a chance to make it in, which in turn also allows for other teams to rise to the top of challenger. We will see more underdogs and rising talent as well as more organisations getting involved in sponsoring teams, which could be beneficial to both the players and the challenger scene in a whole. Teams that “should be in the LCS” will more than likely make it while teams that aren’t quite ready will have more of a chance to improve and grow.

Overall, I believe the switch to ten teams will be a great change to the LCS and I hope it goes through in time for the Season Five Spring Split. The positive effects that the switch will have are more than worth the change and will be a big step towards making the LCS and LoL Esports a better experience for everyone involved. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

MonteCristo Criticism : Legitimate or Schadenfreude?

By Jodi 'PunkLit' McClure

The first time I saw MonteCristo, I was surprised by how fragile he appeared. He was tissue thin, like if someone sneezed on him, he would instantly crumble into a tiny pile of bone and ash. He knew League though, and he was beautiful, and those two things quickly off-set any preconceived notions I had about his size. From regular appearances on the LCS, I grew acquainted with his smoldering bedroom eyes, his perfectly chiseled features, and, more importantly...his notoriously imperious attitude. Being American (and a stalwart TSM fan,) I was quickly perturbed by his continuous bashing of NA and EU teams. Who cared about the Koreans and how much better they allegedly were than us? How dare he come into our house and run his fancy white-gloved finger across the dust. But, unfortunately, time and again, Worlds proved him right. And eventually I had to admit it was true. Somehow, we were lacking.

I don't recall at what point I stopped hating MonteCristo and starting hanging onto his words like he was Jesus, but it was probably somewhere around the start of Season Four. I found myself valuing his keen, experienced insight. He never failed in his predictions. Clearly, he was all-knowing. And even when he was delivering venomous swipes of his knife, he always remained so angelically calm and soft-spoken that the poison was practically negated. But he did like to swing that knife, frequently and sometimes cruelly, at every kid who played in the LCS. It's a habit that has caused him to have a fair share of haters, (with many a pro player among them).

So it was with a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction that his many adversaries watched CLG go down to Curse in a fast 3-0 during Playoffs, and the german term, schadenfreude, applied. Lord, they were quick to swarm social media sites and jump on Monte's ass, thrusting fingers in his face, gleefully cackling, "You said everyone else was bad, and yet, your team has failed. Where are your Korean Gods now?"

For MonteCristo, whose skin is as thick as his ego, these words have little effect. He is a consummate professional, and is fully capable of taking what he dishes out. Having bullets fired at him comes with his job and like Superman, he stands there smirking while they bounce off his chest. But for his team, whose hopes and dreams rode on his wisdom and guidance, it's was hard not to feel the sting, and I don't doubt Doublelift wasn't the only person on the team who considered retirement in the uncomfortable days that followed. So, we can't help but ponder the possibility...did MonteCristo actually fail them? 

A coach must be equal parts teacher, mentor and drill instructor, trying to find a way to bring out the best performance in each and every one of his pupils, and I don't double Monte tried to be those things. According to him, he spends hours and hours each day watching films and working with his team over Skype. But I have a quote from him that's sat on the left sidebar of this site forever. "'Potential' is bullshit. Results are the only thing that matters."   

Monte focused his coaching on changing how the team communicated and having them understand strategy at a very high level. He felt he had a better grasp of what champions were coming up and what strats were being used. Big picture tactics, as he called it. But he probably sees a much different scene gazing out his big picture window in Korea than one might see from Manhattan Beach, and it's possible that by asking his team to look out his window, he took them too far from the reality of their own. 


Opinions on Reddit and Twitter seem to vary. There is the more base, raw emotion of 'He talked shit about other teams, he deserves it,' to the reasoned, 'He's not a bad coach but he needs to spend more time with his team,' to the extremely forgiving, 'He can only do so much. It's up to the players to perform.' But the truth probably lies somewhere between all these. Dexter admitted stress was an issue, and expressed nothing but relief when their playoff game was over. It's possible that by taking the team to Korea, Monte put his boys too far into the center of our cross hairs at a time when they needed less stress, not more.

At the end of the day, at least for now, we can only speculate. MonteCristo once said, "There's nothing that effects me in eSports more than whether CLG wins or loses," but the repercussions from this - their most devastating loss - still remain to be seen.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Underestimated Items Part 2:

by Reece "SabrewoIf" Dos-Santos 

Sword of the Occult

In this meta, it's becoming a lot more common to see hyper-carries snowball their games out of control while having the hard protection of the new breed of top laners like Alistar and Maokai. So in such a meta where snowballing AD Carries are seemingly more important than ever, why do most choose to ignore the basic snowballing item? Simply put, most people choose to ignore the benefits of Sword of the Occult because of the drawback of losing stacks when you die, but also because the item choices for an AD carry are typically very rigid. Statistically speaking, if you come back to lane with a fresh Sword of the Occult, you will be coming back with less power than you could have had building up to another item. Sword of the Occult will always remain a situational pick, a buy that is made when the user has complete confidence in their ability to wait out its low power period and build up the stacks. A typical time where I would purchase the item myself is when you know your jungler is coming for a gank while you are still at base or in the build up to the first dragon fight as both provide easy opportunities to gather assists and kills immediately from purchase, thus voiding the period of low power that the item has while unstacked. With a correctly timed purchase, you can change the game with Sword of the Occult, but with a badly timed purchase you could also do the same. The item is only as efficient as its user. 110 AD and 15% movement speed at full stacks is a prize that shouldn't be overlooked if attainable and right now it’s more attainable than it’s ever been before.

Wit's End

I myself am very surprised at how underestimated Wit's End is as an item. In my opinion, ranged auto attackers with magic damage in their kit like Nidalee, Tristana and Teemo could greatly benefit from both the 50% attack speed boost and 25% magic resistance, but on top of that; the way these champs are played allows for frequent and efficient use of the passive which both adds 42 magic damage per hit onto basic attacks as well as stealing 5 magic resist from the enemy, stacking 5 times while adding 5 to your own. These are not light statistics. A typical Nidalee player could see an even greater burst potential from fully stacking Wit's End, applying the hunted debuff and finishing off with an even stronger Takedown. Similarly, a Tristana might choose to build Wit's End as their attack speed item to further boost the potential of her Explosive Shot and Buster Shot while stacking to be more resistant against a magic damage team. Wit's End also sees benefit on tanky melee auto attacking champs like Volibear and Warwick, both stacking well with their ultimates and the latter being able to fully stack the passive immediately with the 5 hits of Infinite Duress.  Another seemingly unknown benefit of Wit's End is its ability to counter the passive of Thornmail. The on-hit effect of Wit's End not only ignores Thornmail’s passive, but slowly reduces the damage of the reflected damage with each stack while making Wit's End’s passive damage stronger, allowing for a champion, who initially took more damage than they dealt against Thornmail, to negate the item and deal more than Thornmail can reflect.

Ardent Censer

Ardent Censer is an item that got immediately glossed over upon its release; it isn't built on many champions and is generally ignored in favour of other support items most likely because of the specificity of its passive’s benefits and the seemingly low stats it provides the owner. However, it should certainly be considered as a first or second item on any AP support like Nami, Morgana and Janna. In lane trades, you cannot afford to ignore a benefit such as 25% extra attack speed onto your AD Carry for a whole 6 seconds which can be refreshed by another heal or shield; making Janna by far the biggest benefactor of this item by applying the passive with every tick of Monsoon as well as Eye of the Storm. In addition to being proc’d off of champion abilities, Ardent Censer can also be activated through the use of items that heal and shield such as Mikael's Crucible and Locket of the Iron Solari. A powerful combo of items on heavily AD teams is Ardent Censer and Locket because activating the latter provides the attack speed boost of the former to all allies affected by the shield. This item also allows for champions like Tristana with Attack Speed steroids already implemented into their kit to further excel while allowing other AD Carries that lack an Attack Speed boost to try and keep up without being out DPS’d. Lucian particularly benefits from the extra Attack Speed as it provides a more satisfying Culling. This also stacks with Youmuu’s Ghostblade, which could greatly increase the DPS of Lucian’s ultimate as well as any ADC’s DPS in general.

Banner of Command

Banner of Command is the product of reworking the old Summoner Spell: Promote, which showed promise but was simply outclassed by other Summoner Spells in usefulness. As an item, the active is now far more accessible and a great way to affect map pressure while picking up CS from across the map. An effective use of a siege minion promotion can easily turn map pressure against your opponent for being out of position. A typical time to use the active would be in the bottom lane when a baron dance is occurring, this way while minutes are passed battling for the objective you are still gaining map pressure through effective split pushing. To opposite effect, you could have the active promoted minion pushing the top lane while you dance around the Dragon. This item also allows for a double split push in the sense that you could be pushing a lane yourself and providing 15% extra damage to your nearby minions while using the active in another lane to keep pressure on another side of the map. If you even desire to take the minion siege party act further, you can build the Captain enhancement on your boots and provide 20% movement speed to nearby minions as well as the extra damage from Banner of Command. While Banner of Command won’t help infamous Tryndamere’s push out even harder, it can be an enormous asset to AP champions that wish to split push or gain more control. 80 AP and 20% CDR aren’t even laughable stats either; they’re both very helpful and high stats that put the item on par with most others in terms of usefulness. The real key to building Banner of Command is how often and actively you utilize the active and passive. If you plan to spend a lot of time creating map pressure as an AP champion, this is a must buy in my opinion. Another overlooked effect of this item is that the passive increasing minion damage also affects the pets of certain champions such as Elise’s Spiderlings, Heimerdinger’s turrets and Zyra’s plants, but unfortunately doesn't affect Annie’s Tibbers. 

*If you haven't already seen it, be sure to check out Underestimated Items Part 1.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rift of Representation?

By Jerrod "Thousand Eyes" Steis 

League of Legends is home to a diverse set of creatures. There’s normal run of the mill human warriors, sure. But there’s also yordles, who differ greatly from male to female. Then you’ve got people who were regular humans that obtained amazing abilities, like Annie or Brand. Finally, there’s a lot of champions who are the only one of their kind that are in the League (Here’s looking at you Skarner). One thing that pops into my head every now and again though, is how under-represented a lot of real-world groups of people are, or maybe even worse, how some are stereotyped and myths are perpetuated. Maybe this is just because of my great exposure to how these groups have fought for their rights, but there’s some obvious and some less than obvious stereotypes and media perpetuation going on in League.

First off, let me preface everything here with this. I’m not saying we have to or should go back to change anything about these champs design wise or lore wise. I just am trying to point out some patterns I’ve seen in Riot’s design strategy. I love most of Riot’s ideas for champions, and they have put out some really unique characters. I feel that Riot could really be the company to break some molds that gaming has been keeping set in stone though. They have the talent and the willingness to take those kinds of risks, and they've proven before that they want to break though a lot of previous barriers that have been held by the gaming market as a whole. This is not a bashing on Riot, every media outlet is guilty of a lot of these issues, it’s a request more than anything.

I guess the first thing we could look at is one that is pretty easily agreed upon by most people. There are almost no black champions in the game. Of the 65 or so human(depending on how determine human) champions, we have a total of 2 distinctive black champions, about 3%. To be honest, this is pretty humbling when you look at the numbers. Compare this to world numbers which are about 15%. To get that same number in League champs, you’d have to change eight champions from whatever they identify as to black. What’s even funnier is that Karma’s ethnicity was argued about for a long time until Riot officially came out and said she was black.  And remember, that is before we even look at other identities, like Asian, Indian, etc. Plus the entirety of the LGBT community and their representation that they deserve, which is a whole other topic to cover. I’ve focused on one race, but that isn't to say that the same logic can’t be applied to all demographics. When Lucian was about to be released, everyone was rejoicing that there would finally be a black champ in LoL, but I found it was about 50-50 on who was aware of Karma’s race and who wasn't.

League is supposed to take place in a fantasy world, and I get that. However, it’s pretty apparent that in this world the dominant (in numbers) ethnicity is still caucasian, even despite all of these new species that exist like yordles. A great argument against this, I’ve heard, is that we don’t know about a lot of champs. I’ll admit that some champs that we either don’t know or can’t identify could fall into more unique racial categories, but at that point if they aren’t immediately recognizable, we fall into the same issue as Karma, but worse. At least with Karma it was somewhat noticeable that her skin was darker, not to say that dark skin is the end all-be all for identifying as black. If, for some reason, there is no way, besides Riot coming out and stating that we have a champion from a non-caucasian race, it almost seems like it’s being hidden from us. I think Karma and Lucian are awesome steps, but if/when a new champ is announced and the biggest impact that it has on the player base is the fact that they’re black, there’s a bigger core issue to address.

While identity is an issue that was surprisingly pretty well agreed upon, I want to move on to a topic that I’m sure I’ll get a lot of flak for. Oversexualization of the women in the game. Look, I get it, I’m a guy, beautiful women are great! But if every female champion that comes out has to be gorgeous, do you really think there isn't a problem? There’s definite tropes to be filled here. Ahri is a good example of one that I am 100% perfectly okay with. Her lore is that she charms men and lures them. She is “supposed” to be attractive and sexy. If she didn't have revealing clothing and stereotypical attractive traits, there’d be a big disconnect with her character. Ahri is fine to me, but then you look at a champion like Katarina or Janna. They have even MORE revealing clothing, but how does that fit their character? Maybe I’ll buy Katarina needing to be mobile, but in that case why not give her something more flexible than armor elsewhere. Of course there’s the one everyone knows and jokes about, Sona. Her breasts are huge, and because of that it’s a big point to her visual identity, but they have literally no reason to be lore-wise or for gameplay readability. Then when you put some skins on top of that, you mess with some characters that weren't sexualised, Leona and Riven are the first examples that come to mind.

Speaking of Leona, I will give Riot credit. A lot of credit actually. While they could have just gone the route any other company would and made every girl attractive and “hot,” they took time to make deep characters that didn't rely on that as an attention grabber. Leona is a strong, armored warrior that just dives deep on to you. None of her armor is overly accentuated to bring out her breasts unnecessarily. Another great example is Kayle. She’s an awesome angel that wrecks you with her sword and she’s covered in armor from head to toe. Nothing about her screams “Hey I’m a woman, look at me I’m female!” I’d really love to see Riot designers explore this idea more so we can get a more diverse champion pool in terms of female looks.

However, there’s a  bit of a back-peddle because while Leona was one of the only champs to not get sexualized, they gave her a skin that put her in a bikini. I don’t think the issue here is that they gave her a skin that is revealing, but more that she was one of the only female who they had left be as an individual strong woman with no strings attached. Compare this to the male demographic of League. You have your manly, strong, and handsome knights in Garen, J4, etc. Your scary insane people like Ziggs and Shaco. Even your ugly champs (Urgot). The body types that males have differ from big and beefy, to chubby, and everything in between. Almost all of the non-Yordle women have the same body type. Athletic to thin build and accentuated breasts. Skin showing is usually the case as well, but not necessary.

Imagine if some of the guys would have overly huge junk and it was accentuated in their armor. It’d look ridiculous. (Although a Draven skin with that would be great) It’s just a fact that almost all of the women in the game have some kind of skin, whether it’s classic or not, that makes their body and the fact that they’re women overly obvious just for eye candy. Meanwhile, there are few guys in the same situation. Varus, Lee Sin, and Tryndamere are shirtless, and there are a few skins that do this like Pool Party Graves. However, the vast majority of males are untouched as far as revealing skins. Meanwhile, some female champs only have “sexy” skins. There’s no fair representation. Sometimes, the best skins are the ones that don’t do this. One of my personal favorites is Redeemed Riven. She looks badass and ready kill and she’s completely covered in armor. I personally dislike Battle Bunny because it makes Riven into something she’s not meant to be. It takes away from her strength and resolve.

Once again, I’m not saying that we need to go back and try and “fix” champions that are overly sexy. Sometimes it’s a role that needs filling. Champs like Ahri and Miss Fortune are good examples, but they almost get washed out by the sheer amount of sexualization that is going on. I’m just asking for some even distribution. Make some “sexy” and revealing male skins and champs, and make some nasty scary looking females. Make a champion with a deep and definitive background that doesn't follow the same guidelines every other media outlet has set out. Create a multitude of genders, races, etc. The possibility is there and some champions have proven it. Leona and Kayle are great and they don’t need to have revealing skins because on their own they’re deep enough characters as is. Break the mold more Riot, because you’ve done a great job so far, but you can do so much more.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Alliance Calls Top in the EU LCS

There was a time we all snicked at the alleged 'Super Team,' who looked good on paper but got off to a rough start. Then came the their learning to play together, followed by a steady stream of improvement that culminated in a winning Summer Split. They worked hard to prove they were worthy of their 'Super Team' moniker, and they're deserving of all the hype that comes with it. Great job Alliance, and good luck at Worlds!     

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Roccat Cool Off Supa Hot Crew, Advance to Face Fnatic

By Matt “It’s Pure Luck” Lee

It had been a rough Summer Split for Roccat following their surprising performance from the Spring, in which they finished in third place. It was a split full of ups and downs that saw them start off with a dismal record of 1-7, only to claw back to .500 at 10-10 after Week Eight. But they couldn't keep up the momentum they had gained and Roccat dropped six of their final eight games to finish the season in sixth place with a record of 12-16. Heading into playoffs, they were dangerously close to the dreaded relegation matches. 

Now they needn't worry about it anymore.

Roccat managed to eliminate the young and upstart Supa Hot Crew in fairly easy fashion, taking the Best of Five series in four games. With the win, not only does Roccat avoid the possibility of being sent to the LCS promotion tournament, they keep their dreams of qualifying for the World Championship alive and will now have two cracks at achieving it. Supa Hot Crew, meanwhile, have to beat Millenium next week in the fifth place match if they want to dodge participating in their second straight promotion tournament. It would be a disappointing finish for a team that showed so much improvement from the Spring Split where they finished in seventh place.

And yet, watching this series, it looked as if Roccat were the third seed and Supa Hot Crew the sixth. Roccat seemed to come into this set of games incredibly well prepared, and it showed right away in the picks and bans of the first game. They let Kassadin slip through during the banning phase, seemingly knowing that Supa Hot Crew would first pick it, and Roccat was ready as they opted to run the Morgana and Elise pick comp to retaliate. It paid off massively for them. Jankos was able to put out a ton of lane pressure early, and at 8:05, they were able to drop the top turret of Supa Hot Crew. Just a bit over two minutes later the mid turret also fell, along with a dragon for Roccat.

Perhaps the biggest moment of this game came at 15:40. Roccat were able to turn an attempted initiate from Supa Hot Crew back around and pick up first blood when the fight was five versus four in favor of SHC. That fight illustrated the power of the team comp Roccat assembled, despite being one person down while it happened. Vander managed to get a black shield onto himself and avoided being knocked into the air by the Nami ultimate. At just about the same time, Jankos managed to land a cocoon on Mimer to prevent the Renekton dive into the team. From here it goes horribly wrong for Supa Hot Crew as Xaxus teleports in, and they start to scatter a bit in panic knowing their initiate didn't go as planned. Roccat immediately annihilate Selfie with a dark binding chained into an Alistar head butt and pulverize combo. Following this fight, despite only having one kill, Roccat already had a 4.5k gold lead at just over sixteen minutes. Supa Hot Crew was never able to recover from this point. Roccat methodically put the game away in slightly over thirty-five minutes to take a 1-0 series advantage.

In Game Two, Supa Hot Crew attempted to adjust and this time they banned Elise away from Jankos and grabbed Morgana themselves after Roccat first picked Maokai. Early on, things were looking great for SHC. They managed to pick up three kills in the first ten minutes and Impaler was far more active on Rengar than he had been on Kha’Zix the previous game. Yet, as well as they looked early on, the game turned around at just under twenty-one minutes. Holding a slight gold lead of five-hundred at that point, SHC tried to go to the well one too many times. Twice already they had snuck MrRalleZ up to the top lane along with Impaler to get multiple kills on Roccat. The third time wasn't the charm as they had poor ward coverage in the river and never saw Jankos was there along with Celaver and Vander. They were able to kill Vander, but Jankos had a great cataclysm that prevented any members of Supa Hot Crew from getting to Celaver, who picked up a double kill.  All of the sudden, Roccat had the gold lead and the baron buff. They wasted no time with baron as before it had worn off, they pushed bottom lane and won one final fight, ending the game before it was even twenty-six minutes old.

Game Three saw Supa Hot Crew pick up their first and only win of the series in what was a long and drawn out battle. Once again, SHC looked good early as MrRalleZ was able to get a few picks on Twitch for the second game in a row. It might have been nerves due to their season being on the line, but Supa Hot Crew did almost nothing with this early lead. At the 28:40 mark, Jankos and Xaxus picked off Mimer top lane, but in return, SHC was able to pick up the dragon. Fifteen minutes later, despite having picked up the only baron of the game and four of the six dragons, SHC was only ahead by one outer turret and their gold lead was starting to mean less and less. And after a baron steal by Jankos in the forty-seventh minute, it looked as if Supa Hot Crew could be in real trouble as their lead dwindled away. It got worse for the Supa Hot Crew in the fifty-sixth minute. Selfie had a poor Orianna ultimate that only hit Xaxus, and Roccat won the resulting team fight as well as another baron pick up. Selfie would ultimately redeem himself, however. In the final fight of the marathon game, he hit a three person shockwave that allowed Supa Hot Crew to pick up two important kills and push through the nexus turrets for the sixty-seven minute win to avoid being swept.

It was far from a convincing defeat, and Roccat quickly adjusted for game five, as they smartly banned Orianna away from Selfie. One has to question the picks by Supa Hot Crew on the turn after Roccat first picked Maokai; by taking Ryze and Tristana they left both Elise and Morgana open for Roccat who immediately locked them in. Once again, Jankos was helping with an early turret push, this time down in bottom lane as they took down the first turret of the game. Kasing committed a big no-no as he was caught window shopping and Overpower managed to pick up first blood on him right after the turret fell with a long range Ziggs ultimate.

As the game went on, it just felt like Roccat was dictating the terms and the pace; they were being proactive and Supa Hot Crew was being reactive. The fifteenth minute mark of the game is the perfect example of this. Supa Hot Crew sent three people top to get a kill onto Xaxus while Roccat took dragon followed by the bottom lane outer turret. Supa Hot Crew didn't even manage to take the top turret down, and now the gold lead for Roccat swelled to almost 4.5k at sixteen minutes.

It wasn't until the game was in the twenty-first minute that it began to spiral out of control. Despite Celaver having a trinity force on Corki, which is stronger than a mid-game infinity edge Tristana, SHC took a fight in the river near dragon and lost three members. Roccat went on to do baron and managed to get two more picks growing their gold lead to almost 7.5k. The strength of the comp Roccat was running was on display while they were pushing and sieging turrets down mid. Even the beefier targets like Braum and Dr. Mundo were easily dropped if they were hit by a cocoon or dark binding.

Roccat did make a few mistakes as they were trying to close the game out. Impaler managed to sneak a baron steal and Jankos was picked off carelessly in mid. It allowed Supa Hot Crew to cut the gold deficit to around six-thousand, but in the end, it was too little, too late. Once again the cocoon and dark binding chain crowd control combo caught onto Mimer as Roccat was trying to break through the last defense of SHC, pushing down the middle inhibitor. After a chaotic fight where the remaining Supa Hot Crew members desperately attempted to defend the nexus turrets and the nexus itself, Roccat was able to destroy the nexus and take the series 3-1.

It’s hard to say for sure, but Roccat seem to have found their rhythm at an opportune time. They looked much better than the team we saw struggle all summer to close out games where they had leads. In this series, they were quick and decisive in what they wanted to do when they were ahead, and Supa Hot Crew was never able to rise to their level. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

TILT! - Your Greatest Enemy

by Reece "SabrewoIf" Dos-Santos 

Ever have those moments when you believe the matchmaking gods are out to destroy you? When you get players who AFK, flame, feed, and refuse to co-operate? Deep down in your heart you know that you’re playing out of your mind to ensure that your team makes it to the late game, but you just can’t help your three allies who are shouting “GG” nine minutes into the game? Yes, this happens to virtually everyone and it’s something that just can’t be avoided. Especially when you’ve just been on a tearaway win streak, those are the moments when you happen to notice the things that go wrong even more. 

What’s important is how you deal with such events. Like it or not, most of us league players are hot-headed. We will attempt to shrug off the last games problems and storm right into the next game demanding our rightful space in a solo lane ready to carry our scrub teams to the finish line. But what we don’t realize in the spur of the moment is that from the time you enter that lobby and say “Mid” instead of “Hi team, mid pref,” you’re already on tilt.

When on tilt it’s incredibly easy to notice things that are going wrong in other lanes. Suddenly, you become a professional level analyst who feels the need to direct your teammates how to CS properly and how to position themselves. In fact, for some players, it’s the hardest thing to simply not tell that top laner that he might be missing a few brain cells. In the mind of such a player, they’re not trying to flame, they’re merely trying to rally together what they believe is a rag tag group of players desperate for a leader. For some other players, Tilt will have them making mistakes they wouldn't usually make themselves, like overestimating how much mana they have left for an all in dive or believing they can make it away without having to flash. Mistakes turn into desperation and suddenly you find yourself diving three members of the enemy team in an attempt to kill the ADC and ensure your team doesn't get deleted. I mean, if you want a job done right, do it

Some players go into the game simply expecting to lose. What would usually be a cheerful, driven player becomes a pessimist who will sit and wait for a mistake to happen so they can say something along the lines of, “Well I knew that would happen.” The pessimist doesn't actually flame, but their general down putting behaviour and reluctance to commit a hundred percent of their ability to their actions leaves them and their team at the mercy of hungrier opponents. Other players become quickly enraged at the thought of seeing their hard work towards a certain goal reduced to nothing. Ever wanted to simply beat that promotion series but just can’t make it through?

The hardest part of defeating Tilt is simply knowing that you’re on it, but no matter how hard it may be to admit that sometimes your three game losing streak is coming down to things that you've done wrong, you have to do it. Similarly, it’s just as hard to admit to yourself that you played to the best of your ability but simply weren't meant to win that game. Things like that happen. Even the best players don’t win every single game. I don’t have to remind people of Fnatic’s terrible run in the Spring Split of LCS Season Four, where they dropped games to every single team and looked like they were on the verge of collapse. Even throughout the Summer Split, Fnatic looked shaky, but what saved them was the acknowledgement that they were tilting; that they can do better if they cooled down and talked over their strategies and game-flow with Araneae - who became their coach and their source of guidance in what could have been a dark time.

The other alternative to solving tilt is to simply stop, take a break, and commit yourself to doing something else for a while until you’ve reset yourself enough to be able to go into a game again with a clear head and renewed confidence. I myself am doing this right now. This article is being written as a way for me to cool off after acknowledging I was on a tilt. As an example of why this is so helpful, look only to Diamondprox and his sudden increase in efficiency in the last Superweek of this season's Summer Split. His gameplay was suffering as a result of Gambit’s inability to adjust properly, and he was subsequently benched. Within that break, Diamond was able to look back upon the games of his team and said while watching a game from home that he now understood how Gambit fans felt watching their performances. Fast forward to his return and the difference was clear as day. His confidence was back and he helped Gambit surge towards their best week all split.

Before every game and especially if you get wind of yourself tilting, just remember to still your tongue, ready your mind and restrain your feelings. Tilt is an internal battle; only after you master yourself can you truly master your enemies.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

EU Playoffs : Preview and Predictions: Quarterfinals

by Pieter "antdriote" Cnudde 


I’ll be breaking down the teams: looking at recent performances and each position. Then I'll look how they are matched against each other: play style and champion picks. It's incredibly hard to predict what such a big patch like 4.13 will do on the pro scene (I hate it when riot does this right before playoffs, but they want everything in order for worlds so I guess we should forgive them.)

The most notable change is, of course, heal and exhaust. We will probably see more assassin play and perhaps barrier again on ADC's (I definitely recommend it on midlaners that don't want to run ignite.) The nerfs and buffs to the marksmen also open up the pool. Vayne could be a special pick-up again for players like CandyPanda or Rekkles, while Graves and Sivir buffs could bring them back to competitive play. Sivir was a very favourite markswoman, used for quick rotations, and she only got better at it.

The holy trinity of junglers got nerfed, but all three are still very strong and I don't expect too many new jungle picks. All power supports got scaled back except Morgana, but I don't expect many new picks there until Sona becomes available for play. Lulu and Gragas got hit a bit, while Maokai still runs rampant. Ziggs got hit on his ult, but will still be a priority pick for his normal wave clear, together with Xerath if they fix the bug on time. Nothing new and broken seems to have emerged, but no one has had enough time to figure everything out yet.

Supa Hot Crew - Roccat

SHC has been a team on the rise, half because of the downfall of stronger teams, but also because they have consistently improved throughout the split. It’s a team made off pseudo-star players. Selfie and MrRalleZ shine when they carry, but don’t do this frequently enough. Impaler and Mimer are the strong rocks of SHC in that they can be relied on to do their job and push them to victory. With the latest addition of KaSing, they have, so they say, found a better voice in the team; a solid captain in the wild seas they are sometimes in. Selfie’s large champion pool is a strong point for SHC, since he isn't easy to ban out and can really devastate the enemy if he gets a dangerous pick like Yasuo. He is, unfortunately, not the most consistent mid, and if he doesn't get the best start, he tends to falter later in the game. MrRalleZ is somewhat similar; he always brings good numbers, but he can’t do it without his team. Too much pressure in the botlane could make it hard for him to carry. Though he isn't the flashiest player, he will deal considerable damage in teamfights if left unchecked. Impaler is always aggressive, even when he shouldn't be, but it mostly works out for them. He is bannable, though, and not the strongest in 1v1s. He could be targeted with good counterjungling. If Impaler does well, the whole team tends to do well, so a lot will depend on him if the lanes aren't going smoothly. Mimir can be crucial on having great TPs, but should just have a solid laning phase so he can tank or be the utility that Selfie and MrRalleZ need to win the game.

Roccat was a team destined for relegation, then a team on a hot streak, but now they've fallen again in the last few weeks. Overpow is probably the most passive midlaner in EU. Even though he occasionally does well in teamfights at the later stages of the game, it’s usually way too late - when his opponents can just free farm to break the 20 minute CS record or roam the map and make an impact in other lanes. Jankos and Vander are the pillars for Roccat. Vander is a great support that can make clutch plays/picks to win a teamfight or snowball the botlane. While Jankos will always stick to his style, he is very scary at it; an aggressive jungler that carries his team through early ganking or strong counterjungling. Celaver feels like a weaker version of MrRalleZ, only going in when Vander makes a move, but he provides the dps the team needs to win the games. Xaxus is not the most mechanically skilled player, but he was quick to jump on the Maokai train before anyone else, so we might see some strong picks from him on the new 4.13 patch. In general, Roccat secured wins with (mostly in the midlane) strange picks and very long, sloppy games.

The teams' head-to-head is 2-2 this split, with Roccat winning the most recent match this past Superweek. To be fair, SHC didn't had the best start in Superweek. Impaler’s Rengar was lack-luster and the Zilean pick in mid is something teams still have to adjust to. SHC looked stronger on the last day of Superweek and has looked the better team this whole split. Jankos will probably be the key factor for Roccat to win the series. Roccat leads the EU with the most first bloods and Jankos is almost always involved. Overpow’s lack of pressure in mid will be heaven for Selfie, but Jankos will always be around to bite him in the ass. Impaler can handle Jankos if he gets a comfortable jungler to control the early pressure, and makes sure that his lanes can get ahead by themselves. Vander and Jankos could really swing the lead into their favour with good pressure all around the map.

Most bans will probably be targeted around the midlane since both players have a pretty big pool. This will open up the botlane and jungle to get the strong picks that they need to win the game. This mostly benefits Roccat, since Overpow is never the hard carry from the team. SHC’s best chance is focusing on Jankos or Vander, banning out junglers/getting Impaler a strong first pick, and making sure their botlane has a durable combo that can’t be beaten easily in lane. Roccat has to focus the midlane and make sure Selfie doesn't get rolling, or keep pressuring bot and get a lead by keeping MrRalleZ down and getting early dragons.

Both teams haven’t showed the most consistent tactical play, yet but I feel SHC will make the better rotations and clutch calls. Roccat plays conservatively and won’t risk too much in the midgame if they aren’t ahead by a large margin. This is a weakness but could also lure the SHC in a false sense of security and they could make ill-advised moves because of it.

In general, if SHC makes the right calls, they are the stronger team in mid-late game with better rotations and teamfights. Roccat will need to win early and feast on the occasional reckless moves from SHC to get a lead early and close out the game. If Roccat doesn't get a decent gold lead by the twenty minute mark, I don’t see them winning a game unless SHC makes really dumb moves. Both teams are exploitable in pick and bans and should really focus on that and early game vision to make the right moves.

My prediction: 3-1 for SHC. They have to prove that they deserve that third place and didn't just luck out in the split. I do think Roccat can take a game just by having a surprise pick, which could throw SHC off guard, or if Jankos gets a great opening which can snowball the game out of control. 

SK Gaming - Millenium 

What seemed like a top contender for the top three in EU suddenly dropped at the end of the season because a lack of practice. SK Gaming stepped it up again in the last Superweek, beating Millenium, and both Fnatic and Alliance. They looked more focused; back as a solid team that has great synergy and an objective-focused mindset. However, their loss to Gambit showed that they can still fall easy under a lot of early pressure.

Fredy is a solid top laner but has the tendency to feed unnecessary on his favourite feed-to-win champ Aatrox. He hasn't shown much potential on the newly strong top laners like Maokai or Gragas, nor is his Lulu very scary. On the other hand, his Nidalee is ban-worthy, and he can put a lot of pressure down with certain older picks like Shyvana or Renekton. Map vision and clear communication from SK should make sure Fredy doesn't overextend too much so he can grow into a scary threat for the teamfights. Svenskeren makes or breaks most of SK's games. If he can do well, the team will carry with him, but when he isn't impactful early, then the team just seems to whither away like an old man in a nursing home. I feel the team will need to focus their priority on making sure he gets a strong champion and a solid start in each game. Jesiz isn't the flashiest player but has shown brilliant play on a variety of champions, most recently with Ahri. He can’t really be targeted heavily with bans anymore but he can be beaten in lane with some early pressure. He's not the best at farming, so it's very important that he gets off to a good start to be relevant in the whole game. Candy and nRated are not the strongest botlane but are very smart and have a lot of experience. They will not be easily swayed into a bad trade and can surprise the enemy on occasion. nRated’s Gragas support play is very scary when played well, which makes Gragas a great flex pick for the team if Fredy works on that pick as well. Though we have to find out if the Gragas nerfs in the new patch affect him much in laning phase. With Maokai still unchanged, he should probably be the biggest priority for most teams, but I believe we will see him almost perma-banned throughout the playoffs.

Millenium is a one-trick pony team that hasn't changed much at the end of the split. They excel at pick-oriented assassin comps that catch lone players off-guard. Most teams have gotten used to this style and know what to ban and how to play against it to minimize its effectiveness. However, this new patch favours assassins, and with increased Zed and Talon play in other regions, this could be a bright spot for Kerp and his team. Millenium went 0-4 in Superweek and is definitely not looking hot. This patch could be their lucky break to making it into the semi’s. They can beat SK with early power and a strong split push. kev1n is a strong top laner that can excel on certain picks like Irelia. His smart play in lane and timed aggression could be a real problem for SK if he gets help from his jungle. Kottenx has really helped Millenium get away from that relegation position they were in last split. Good pressure and mechanics have really helped the team to a lot of wins. His 2v2 with Kerp is very dangerous for any team if Kerp gets his hands on a strong assassin. Kerp’s Zilean drew some bans but teams just have no idea how to play against it. It’s not the best pick and Kerp should focus on his assassins or some heavy wave clear champs like Ziggs or Orianna.

Millenium’s botlane is the real strength of the team but with most comps relying on split push and pick potential, Creaton and Jree get left out on their own sometimes. Creaton has shown on many occasions that he is a brilliant ADC and can carry if the team lets him. Lucian will be a great champion to have back in his pool. The versatility and all-around strength of that champion let’s Creaton do whatever he wants, even if the team isn't focused around him. Corki and Tristana will probably be the priority picks since they bring mobility and carry potential for Creaton. Jree has also shown solid support ability and is one hell of a fisher on both Blitzcrank and Tresh.

Millenium should focus on their strengths: give Kerp a strong 1v1 champion and Creaton a strong self-peeling ADC - while Jree and Kevin zone for him. Kottenx just needs to take control of the early game and it could set Millenium up for an upset over SK.

The teams' head-to-head is also 2-2. They are both quite even in lanes with a slight edge to Millenium. SK more than makes up for it in having a much better tactical understanding of the game. A lot will depend on the junglers; both of them need to get their lanes rolling and have a big control over the map. SK will try to take advantage by grouping up and rotating to take down turrets, while making sure Kerp doesn't get free kills. Millenium’s recent performance doesn't promise much for the playoffs, but the new patch is really in their favour. SK should stay calm in the early game and not give up too much then they can out rotate and outplay Millenium on a tactical level with probably a better team comp. If SK can attack the weak points of Millennium in the pick and ban phase and then play a measured game, they should take the series without too many problems. Millenium can surprise them though, and their botlane should never be underestimated.

My prediction: 3-2 for SK. SK is the smarter team and have shown recently that their lanes aren’t as weak anymore. If they prepare hard and think about the series, even if they drop a game they should beat Millenium. Millenium has looked very weak lately and their one-style has always been weak and exploitable. They have a lot of talent in their team, however, and could surprise with a strong assassin pick or maybe a more ADC-centered comp. But in my experience, consistency and smart play beats explosive game play in a "best-of" series.

Thanks for reading, I’m open for any comment so leave them below or tweet me @antdrioite
I will make a preview about the semi’s and finals after the quarters are over.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Pro-gaming, pro-communication?

by Louis "Guichex" Lemeillet

There is a lot to say about how communication is handled by professional gaming structures, and it is so because those companies are still in their early stages of development, and so are eSports as a whole. Everybody is trying things to improve their overall image and ultimately try to get on the “mainstream” stage where sponsors and popularity will help them become very profitable companies.

I see two sides inside this industry's communication: the gaming or sportive one, and the brand one. They are of course inseparable and must be run hand in hand, but I separate the two of them because one is actually run flawlessly while the other one depends on which structure you're looking at.

The eSports Titans are One Step Ahead.

Whether you're looking at Fnatic, SK, Na'vi, or some other great multi-gaming structures, you can see that communication regarding gaming performances and merchandising are almost flawless : they update every time it's necessary to inform when each team will be performing, where they are in their respective standings, or to present post-game interviews with the players. All the same, they jump on any occasion to highlight their online store, new branded products (when they have some), their own YouTube videos or even interviews made by other organizations. The timing of such communications is very often related to news regarding one of its team, and help nurture their image. Or they also communicate for the online store when they have a “hole” in their communication schedule, to never let their fans/followers without news more than a few hours.

Those structures do a better job running their gaming & merchandising communication because they have existed a long time and learned from their past experiences. Also, they'll have an easier time publishing various news about their pro-gaming teams because they have so many players! Supa Hot Crew, for example, will face more trouble finding interesting things to tweet about than Evil Geniuses, because they only have an LCS team while the other has multiple gaming factions. It's important to communicate news throughout each day because it'll help your gaming structure nurture and develop its image as a whole. It keeps people interested. It's kind of like advertising : the more you publish, the more people you can touch, then you can sell more products/have more fans/etc. No company has a better communication than the other, but if you don't have it at all, you won't be seen as good as the others.

You have many solutions to fill the gap between a young pro-gaming structures and an older one, but it implies you'll have to talk about less interesting things, but you have to do it if you want to keep people interested in your brand. For eSports, everything is going through social media. You have to keep being seen by your followers and potentially others. The more you communicate, the more you have a chance of a post being shared/re-tweeted and you'll maybe gain one more follower. “Less interesting things” can include: open questions, photos of pro-players performing daily tasks (playing, coaching reunion, eating, whatever), or sharing images sent to your team (fan art, merchandising pictures, etc.) or articles about your team/gaming news. Nevertheless, this job is quite time-consuming and requires a bit of communication knowledge (to know what you can share, communicate, take for yourself, etc.) and I have the feeling that younger gaming structures don't have a specific person related to that task. It's just someone who has another main function (like manager, coach, business analyst), who is running it on the side. It's not THAT important but still has some meaning if you don't want to create an immense gap between bigger structures and yours.

Still, Everyone is Making Mistakes.

All gaming structures made mistakes in their choices, in their communication, and still, younger structures seems to not understand everything from that. Pro-gaming is no different than other industries on that regard: communication is really important if you want to secure a real fanbase and a real merchandising income. Advertising can be considered as important as communication, but it is working with sponsors and will rely on a good campaign.

And here, you have so much room to make the difference. North American structures like TSM, Cloud 9 and Dignitas, are making great moves possible by creating extremely fun and creative sponsor films/web shows. And they decided to do it not only because it was fun, but because consumers want that. On the other side, you have Fnatic making a razor ad that appears to have been shot and edited by your average 13 year-old; or that ugly ad from Razer showing a 14 year-old Snoopeh with a...special facial expression.

The "Hyperglide with Fnatic" campaign may be a bit old, but that Razer ad is extremely recent and was aired on the Twitch channel of Riot Games during the LCS, so more than 200k people could have seen it. After asking Snoopeh directly on Twitter (that's the beauty of eSports), he answered me that he didn't know about this and didn't approve of anything. I think it's safe to assume that Evil Geniuses, as a company, also didn't approve of it. Whether it was an intern at Razer who created this and everyone validated it, it is quite frightening to see this as it may ruin the player's image, but also the gaming structure he belongs too. Moreover, it's a bit of a shame to publish this when you already heard rumors of this gamer being replaced as a starter in his team.

But basically, it means that nobody on Evil Geniuses actively control what is done with their players image. Even if you have a contract saying Razer can use Snoopeh's image for advertising their products since they are the official sponsor of Evil Geniuses, you can't do whatever you want and Evil Geniuses could ask for repairs for this crappy ad (if Razer never sent them anything of course). Conclusion: Something is really wrong somewhere, and it's more probable that it comes from Evil Geniuses not having a proper communication team (which would be really frightening if you consider the size of this company in eSports), or does not have properly educated people in charge of their player's communication. I am not here to blame anyone, but some people are specifically going through many years of studies to handle communication, press relations, sponsorships, etc. And I feel like even older structures are failing to develop such a team of skilled people, relying on people they know in the eSports world.

On the other hand, one of the recent hot topics on Reddit was the possible acquisition of XJ9 by Supa Hot Crew as a coach/analyst. I don't know if what he's done in the past is true or not, I don't know if he's surrounded of hate because of misunderstandings or whatever, and I don't care one bit: what's important is that people are aware of it, and that it creates an ugly controversy. I don't care if he's the best player in the world: controversy is bad for your brand's image and Supa Hot Crew has gone back in time towards global acknowledgment by simply not speaking about this rumor. If those things are true regarding XJ9 (if you're not aware of who he is or what he done, look it up on the interweb), there is a risk that a similar story might break inside SHC and do long-term damage to the teams reputation, at least on the brand side.

Gaming Structures Have to Make the First Step.

I talked in a earlier article about what could become of eSports when it goes mainstream, and when technology companies will come to be personal sponsors of star players. I still think, at this point, that it's up to gaming structures to move forward, and they can't wait to be seen by those mainstream companies hoping money will rain on them. The one with the best communication, around its brand and its players is the one who will get the juicy sponsorship contracts. Actually, in my opinion, the most “valuable” team right now is TSM, as they have really passionate fans, are getting quite good results, and never fail to appear in some epic commercials (like that last HyperX one,) and they've managed to make it into some mainstream news websites like The Hollywood Reporter. Plus, their players come from various countries and have different personalities. TSM is “bankable." Cloud 9 is too.

I think CLG could be one too, but clearly they don't appear in as much mainstream news as TSM or even Curse, who's using its business/company side to get fame. Teams are apparently investing different amounts of times in the search of business partners, as some mainly focus on the game. It's not something to blame, but in the end, some of the teams will get bigger financial means than others and will develop even further with staff, facilities, and financial means to recruit rising star players. In the end, for the long-term, maybe TSM will be the greatest winner of all this.

The point is: gaming is still just a "game" for some gaming structures. They want their players to perform well, and don't think about the rest. But it doesn't mean you should totally exclude this part and never seek potential partners. With the rise of eSports, it's first come, first serve, and some teams might actually focus too much on their performances. Cash prizes won't pay everything at some point. Moreover, it's not like they are alone in this since many eSports marketing agencies are popping up on the market - it's just they don't believe it's necessary or they think they can manage it themselves while doing some work for teams at the same time. Pro-gaming structures might need to trust a bit more in the external world and not focus so much on “gamers are the only ones that can help us.” It's good to get old players into the eSports world, but most of them will lack the expertise needed to successfully market their team's brand and image for the future.

Friday, August 1, 2014

NA LCS Week 11 Power Rankings

by Ethan “AkeyBreakyy” Akey and Matt “It’s Pure Luck” Lee

First it was Europe’s turn, now we turn our attention to the North American scene before super week gets under way!  Just a reminder, here are the criteria the teams will be judged on; it is no different than Europe.

• It’s not just your record that determines your ranking. Just because you have a better record than another team does NOT necessarily mean you are better in my eyes.  The proverbial “eye test” is incredibly important. Are you winning games narrowly or convincingly? Did you go 2-0 in a week where you trailed in both games but the other team made massive mistakes and it allowed you to come back? How a team looks is very important.
• Results from the past few weeks.
• General trends of a team’s performance vs upper-echelon opponents in the league. Playing well vs the top tier teams is obviously more impressive than crushing the bottom three constantly.
• A team’s performance historically. This will weight a bit less, but a team like Fnatic will get more of a pass when they are struggling a bit than someone like the Copenhagen Wolves will.

So let’s get right down to it!

1) Cloud 9 (15-9) – Not much room for debate here. Their win over current top-of-the-table LMQ on Sunday was as dominating a performance as we have seen from any team this entire split. Currently sitting at 5-1 in their last six games and 7-3 in their last ten, Cloud 9 seem to have gotten over the middle season slump they had been in. One other impressive thing to note about Cloud 9 is their record vs the other teams in the top six of the standings. The only teams they do not have a chance to grab a 3-1 record versus are compLexity and Team SoloMid. LMQ has been good and currently hold first place, but everything points to Cloud 9 still being the team to beat in North America.

2) LMQ (16-8) – While LMQ clings to the top of the LCS standings, their devastating loss to Cloud 9 last week has dropped them to our #2 spot. Like Cloud 9, LMQ has a 5-1 record for their previous six matches  - their only loss coming from Cloud 9, who hold a 3-1 record against them. The only other teams LMQ has a losing record against are Curse and Dignitas, both of whom face them in Week Eleven. If LMQ can pull wins off in both matches, C9 will be their only losing record.

3) Team SoloMid (15-9) – Week Ten was a very good week for TSM as they went 2-0, including a big win over slumping arch-rival Counter Logic Gaming. It wouldn't have been surprising if TSM had instead struggled the final two weeks of the season while they adjusted to their roster change, but it turned out not to be an issue. One knock against them is that they have been awful vs the top teams in the league, but I’m not sure that is entirely true. Against the top six, they sport a record of 7-10 which isn't great, but neither is it as terrible as it’s been made out to be. They are also the only team in the top six (and one of only two in the league) to have winning record vs Cloud 9. The major blemishes are the current 0-3 marks vs LMQ and Dignitas, and they will get a shot at both of them this weekend. A bye into the semifinals would be perhaps more important to TSM than any other team; the more time Lustboy and WildTurtle have to play together, the better off they are.

4) Counter Logic Gaming (13-11) – After falling 0-2 in Week 10, and losing to their rivals, TSM, we have CLG sitting in the fourth position. Entering Week Eleven, CLG currently only holds positive win records over three of the four  bottom ranked teams. With their most recent loss to TSM, CLG now sits with a even 2-2 record against them. With their starting roster sitting out Week Eleven in order to attend boot camp in Korea to prepare for playoffs, it is highly likely that CLG will land in the fourth or fifth place semifinal spot. We can’t really judge CLG on how well their substitute roster will play, but from recent showings, CLG has fallen to our fourth spot.

5) Curse (10-14) – Curse is one of the more bizarre teams in the North American LCS. They currently sport winning records vs each of LMQ, CLG and Dignitas respectively. And yet at the same time, they are 1-2 vs Complexity and 1-3 vs EG.  Curse have been playing fairly well since they had a poor 3-7 start with a 7-7 streak since then. While nothing amazing, it’s at a level of what you would expect from a team that’s in the middle of the pack in the standings. Despite the fact they are two games behind Dignitas, Curse gets the nod in this spot with the free fall Dignitas are currently in.

6) Dignitas (12-12) – While Dignitas does hold the better record over Curse,  they are another bizarre team that holds winning records over top teams such as LMQ and TSM. At the same time, Dignitas is also 1-3 vs Complexity and 1-2 vs Curse. Dignitas opened the Summer Split with a stunning 7-2 record into Week Five. Since then, Dignitas hasn't had a positive win record from any week. Even though they have two games on Curse, by going 1-5 in the past 3 weeks of the LCS, Team Dignitas falls down to our sixth spot.

7) Evil Geniuses (7-17) – EG had a rough super week back in Week Seven when they went 0-4. But since then they have played to the tune of a .500 record, winning three out of their past six games and beating Curse twice and CLG once. EG also seems to be the team who lose more heartbreaking games than anybody else (Curse might argue that point though), often giving some of the top tier teams all that they can handle. More often than not, it seems that Altec is the catalyst for this team, especially if he gets his hands on Twitch or Tristana. It will be interesting to see how the Evil Geniuses finish the season as they draw both Cloud 9 and LMQ this week.

8) compLexity (8-16) – Now that we have reached the bottom of our rankings, it’s hard for fans to not expect compLexity to sit at the eighth spot. The difficult decision of whether coL or EG should be at the bottom was decided by the potential that EG shows against top-tiered teams, compared to what compLexity has to show. The only glimpse of light that compLexity has shown this season is the winning record they have over Cloud 9, although one of these wins was coming out of a Super Week when it's easier to snipe a top tier team. In the past six games, compLexity is 2-4, and they haven’t had a winning week at all this split. It will be interesting to see how they fare against Evil Geniuses this week, as they could potentially can finish the season off with a draw.

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