Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bard Chimes In on Pro Play

by Jerrod "Thousand Eyes" Steis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


by Jerrod "Thousand Eyes" Steis

Friday, June 5, 2015

A FanZone GoodBye

by Jodi "PunkLit" McClure

Back in 2013, when the LCS first took steps to become the more polished and organized entity we know today, I created a blog called LCS FanGirls. For a year, it was just a place for me to post weekly game schedules and pictures of the pros, and, like the LCS itself, it was enjoyed by a very small handful of fans. If I saw even 50 views a week, I was surprised - and the site would likely have stayed that way if not for Snoopeh, Bjersen, and the Cutest Pro NA contest.

Snoopeh, the undisputed leader of said contest, retweeted one of my tweets about it, and he and Bjergsen joked about the results, and suddenly, my little fangirl site exploded with 50,000 views. I was a bit giddy that day, and not just over the numbers. It was the fact that Snoopeh and Bjerg had even responded to one of my tweets!

Determined to take advantage of the views that week, I started to write actual esports articles. While I was no journalist, I was a novelist, so it wasn't a hard jump for me to make. The views, of course, waned off after the contest hype, but I had gained a small new audience who stopped in weekly for the 'at-a-glance' schedules and standings and I was very happy with that. This new audience had opinions though, and the one that registered the most with me was that, in this mainly male dominated LCS scene, the 'fangirl' theme had to go.

So one year in, I redesigned the site. I changed the name (to LCS Central,) the logo, the layout, got rid of the pastel color theme, and added a question of the day and LCS fan art page. The weekly viewer numbers started to steadily grow and, in a bout of ambition near the start of Season 4, I reached out to the community to see if anyone would like to join me in writing. That initial inquiry brought me budding esports writers Joshua Kon, Jeremy Heimann, and Pieter 'antdriote' Cnudde, and together, we took our first unsure steps towards trying to create a 'real' esports news site. The views were still small...I think we averaged maybe 300 views a week then...but whenever we posted articles, we'd see a little spike. This also brought about my first attempt to post one of our articles to Reddit (which was immediately removed by a mod who cautioned that linking to a blog was a no-no.) I had a ton of LCS twitter friends though, and I was the only person at the time posting about esports on Google+, so we still found ways to get views.

A few months later we were joined by Andy "Bloodvayne' Del-Ray, and since he expressed interest doing interviews, I reached out to a few LCS pros. Sjokz was our first, followed by YoungBuck (whose response brought about several hours of our unrestrained joy on Skype) and Gambit's Darker, whose interview made the front page of r/LOL. That brought in an even larger audience and our views began to hoover around the 20k monthly mark. And that's when I started thinking the site could actually be something. I bought the FanZone domain name, moved the site, redesigned it again and made it a logo..and in June of 2014 I put out another request for writers. That brought me Chase Wassenar's LCS podcasts, Hussain Moosvi's brilliant analytics, Louis LeMeillet's awesome topics, Jerrod Steis' mega-successful support guides, Matt Lee's great writing and Reece "SabrewoIf" Dos-Santos' infamously prophetic weekly predictions. It also pushed us into the realm of 50k monthly views for a little while...but holding those numbers proved difficult in the long run.

Our weekly views jolted up and down so hard, our charts looked like something you'd find in a cardiac unit, and after half a year of trying to keep that beat from bottoming out, I ultimately failed. Because the fact is, FanZone was still a small site with a single owner who didn't have the money to put into its growth and promotion, and after too many months of dwindling numbers, the work it took to maintain it started to feel thankless. This depression worsened when, after multiple attempts, I couldn't even get a single response from Riot for media passes to cover MSI. At that point, between editing and making graphics and keeping all the schedules, results and standings updated, watching 20 games a week and trying to keep up-to-date on all the latest news on Reddit, etc, I started to resent the tax on my free time and ultimately, I stopped caring. There was a time when my passion for the games and players outweighed that time commitment, but lately, I haven't had the same passion for it, and I think the combination of those two problems has led me to this point. It's clear that right now I can't move forward and I don't care to go back, so FanZone, for now, is going to go into hibernation, and if at some future point, I find that passion again, we'll give it another try. 

In addition to the names above, thanks to Anel Musinovic, the only one of us who ever really mastered Reddit, Michael "Tribble" Godani and his extensive and relentless coverage of the LPL, my dear friend Sandie Gade, who snagged the first interview with Santorin after he was picked up by TSM, and excellent writers Ethan Akey, Kennan French, Tristan Jakobsen, Josh C. and Jeremiah Egbert. And again, thanks to Matt Lee and Reece Dos-Santos, who both handled a shit-ton of stuff for me when I wasn't around.

Everyone who contributed here was part of our family, and you guys all stuck around through thick and thin and I'll never be able to aptly express my gratitude. I've been damned lucky to have every one of you write for me!

Lastly, thanks to my beloved LCS twitter friends for your support through the years. This is a difficult field for amateur writers to break in to, and support can be pretty sparse for people who don't write for corporate sites, so you guys were the true stars! 

In the meantime, Twitter is home...and that's where I'll be. ;)

And now, because he's awesome, I leave you with an Andy'ism: