S3 North American Qualifiers Preview

Written with statistical assistance by Mdaz from Leaguepedia

Tomorrow, the Season 3 North American qualifiers start and 16 of North America's best teams will duke it up for a chance to qualify as one of the top 8 teams.  The top 5 finishers in this qualifier will win a Season 3 salary of $175,000 for each team, exposure for opportunity to pick up new sponsors, and the chance for glory and fame.  Today, I'll be bringing you a comprehensive preview of each of the contending teams, along with an introduction of their players, recent team performance, and expected picks during the tournament.

The first round of the tournament will be played in a Korean dual tournament format in four groups.  The top two finishers in each group will advance and the winner of the first bracket match (quarterfinals) afterwards will automatically qualify for Season 3.  The fifth qualifying spot will go to run-off winner of the quarterfinals losers.  While most of the top 8 teams are expected to move on to the group stage, watch out for an upset: each of the teams playing tomorrow represent the best of the best, so don't be surprised if the third or even the fourth team from each group knocks out a favorite to advance.


Group A

While the group stage games may be difficult in Group A -- three of the four teams are loaded with familiar names to the professional scene -- anybody who comes out as the top 2 teams of Group A has a high chance of qualifying for Season 3.  The winners of this group will be pitted against Group D, which is arguably the weakest out of the four qualifying groups.  While the performance of Curse Gaming is almost second to none, the strength of Pulse ESports, a group of former Absolute Legends players, cannot be discounted.  Also featured here are The Brunch Club, made up of players from various disbanded teams.  Last but not least, the relative unknowns of compLexity Academy round up this strong group.

  (1) Curse Gaming

  Qualified via Season Two North American Regional Finals

  Top: Joe "Voyboy" Esfahani
  Mid: Jacky "Nyjacky" Wang
  Jungle: Brandon "Saintvicious" DiMarco
  AD Carry: David "Cop" Roberson
  Support: Cody "Elementz" Sigfusson
  Sub: Keenan "Rhux" Santos

Curse Gaming is considered by many to be the strongest team in the entire tournament.  It would be a major upset if Curse does not qualify for the S3 LCS, let alone fail to make it out of the group stage.  With former CLG players Voyboy, Elementz, and Saintvicious, Curse is a regional powerhouse that is impossible to ignore for teams both big and small.  Recently, Curse has taken 2nd place in the 12th SoloMid invitational and 1st place in the SoloMid Series Finals, as well as a 4th place finish during the Season 2 Regional Finals that landed them the first seed in the qualifiers.  As such an established team, Curse has many bags of tricks of their sleeves, but recent tournaments and scrims indicate that common picks may include Nunu (support), Katarina (top or mid), and Amumu (jungle).

  (8) The Brunch Club (She Said She Was Level 18)

  Qualified via MLG Online Qualifier

  Top: Nicholas Wu "Nickwu" Smith
  Mid: Samuel "Chuuper" Chu
  Jungle: Tyler "Lautemortis" Nicholls
  AD Carry: Josh "brunch Ü" Abrantes
  Support: Abe "Ellie Beee" Nguyen


Although The Brunch Club is a relatively new teamname on the scene, the players are not.  Nickwu, Chuuper, and Ellie Beee have been playing together since last summer on the team Chuuper's Troopers, while Lautemortis comes from the disbanded Team Legion.  Apart from qualifying for the qualifiers, The Brunch Club has not racked up any significant tournament wins. They were recently knocked out in the first round of the 12th SoloMid Invitational and have recently dropped tournament sets to Cloud 9 and Good Game University.  Common picks from this team may include Twitch (AD), Maokai (Jungle), Zed (top), Kha'Zix (mid), and Soraka/Sona (support).

  (9) Pulse ESports

  Qualified via Online Qualifier (Semifinalist)

  Top: Brent "Halfers" Tsuji
  Mid: Nam "Kenikth" Truong
  Jungle: Leon "Onionbagel" Chen
  AD Carry: IZachary "SnEaKyCaStRoO" Scuderi
  Support: Evan "Evaniskus" Stevens

Pulse ESports, like The Brunch Club, is a new team made out of old players. OnionbagelSneakycastro, and Kenikth were all former members of Absolute Legends over the summer, but they have added two previously unknown (to the pro scene) players to their roster. While they do not have any notable tournament achievements, Pulse was able to take two games off of CLG in a best of 5 during the SoloMid Series Week 3 tournament.  Despite this strong showing, Pulse has not had much team practice recently: in the past week, they have not (publicly) scrimmed or played organized matches beyond playing in the online qualifiers.  Look out for Ezreal/Graves picks on AD, as well as Twisted Fate (AP), Jarvan IV (jungle), and Zed/Kayle (top).

  (16) compLexity Academy

  Qualified via Online Qualifier (Quarterfinalist)

  Top: Dustin "Grim Samurai" Serafin
  Mid: James "Raiynz" Lee
  Jungle: Kevin "Niero" Behnaz
  AD Carry: Chase "chaseonfireeeee" Cunningham
  Support: Solomon "Cheezycookie" Davidsohn

compLexity Academy is a wildcard team.  They are new (formed in December), their players aren't widely known (or even high Elo), they have no notable achievements, and they're the last seed in the entire tournament.  In ranked teams, compLexity has recently dropped games in Ranked 5s to both Epik Gamer and an incomplete CLG (featuring a sub support and jungle Taric) and they don't have a notable scrim record.  That being said, there isn't a huge chance of this team making it past the group stage.  Given their small public record of games featuring the full team, it's impossible to make champion predictions for this team beyond standard picks like Ezreal, Lee Sin, Olaf, and Cho'Gath.

Group B

Expect some of the most thrilling play of the tournament to come out of this group.  Featuring long-term North American (2nd-tier) powerhouses such as Team FeaR and the young upstarts of Good Game University. From the online qualifier comes the revived roster of Epik Gamer, a fan favorite team and the Season One runner-ups of North America as well as underdogs Team TowerdiveTV.  Group B has the most difficult path to a Season 3 berth between their difficult group stage and their equally difficult quarterfinal matches against the winners of Group C.

  (2) Team FeaR

  Qualified via Season Two North American Regional Finals

  Top: Benny "Sycho Sid" Hung
  Mid: Zachary "mandatorycloud" Hoschar
  Jungle: Jake "Xmithie" Puchero
  AD Carry: Chris "Zuna" Buechter
  Support: Jake "Muffinqt" Lowry

Born from the ashes of mMe/mTw, Team FeaR is truly a team to be feared.  Despite the loss of ADC player Aphromoo to CLG.Prime, FeaR has grown even stronger than before with the acquisition of Sycho Sid and Zuna from CLG.Black.  Despite high finishes in NESL Season 4 (2nd) and the SoloMid Series Finals (3rd), FeaR only took their first 1st place finish this week in the SoloMid NA Invitational 12.  FeaR has scrimmed extensively against Curse in the recent week, and they are a favorite to win this entire tournament.  Don't be surprised if you see picks like Zyra (support) or Ezreal (AD) on the bottom lane, but expect versatility of FeaR's jungle and solo lanes.

  (7) Good Game University (formerly Team Dynamic)

  Qualified via IPL Online Qualifier

  Top: Darshan "ZionSpartan" Upadhyaha
  Mid: Danny "Shiphtur" Le
  Jungle: Joshua "NintendudeX" Atkins
  AD Carry: Brandon "DontMashMe" Phan
  Support: Angelo "I Am Anjo" Cortez
  Sub (Support): David "Pixel" Zarinski

Good Game University is a team with a long history of strong tournament placings.  The original iteration of the team formed over a year ago as Monomaniac.  This summer, GGU became best known for finishing in 4th place consistently in tournaments behind the big three of CLG, TSM, and Dignitas, and for their young roster, which features some of the youngest players in North America.  Despite the team's long history, it's unknown how strong they really are right now after signing new players I Am Amjo and Shiphtur.  While Good Game University always has the potential to take a set from the best teams, the uncertain variable of new players always leads to surprising results.  Given the relative unfamiliarity of the mid lane, watch out for bruiser picks like Olaf (jungle), Riven (top/jungle), Darius (jungle), as well as Lulu (support).


  (10) Epik Gamer

  Qualified via Online Qualifier (Semifinalist)

  Top: Jonathan "Westrice" Nguyen
  Mid: Trevor "Salce" Salce
  Jungle: Dan "Dan Dinh" Dinh
  AD Carry: Will  "cat8" 김우성 K
  Support: Jonathan "PureGoldenBoy" Au
  Sub: Daryl "Wingsofdeathx" Hennegan

The recently revived Epik Gamer is a team with a famous history and even more famous players.  The latest iteration of the team features original members Westrice and Salce after their resignations from Curse as well as captain and caster/personality Dan Dinh.  Also returning to the team is PureGoldenBoy, with the sole new member of the team being ADC player cat8.  If the aforementioned players weren't well known enough for you, the team also played popular streamer Wingsofdeathx as a sub during the online qualifier.  Despite the hype surrounding Epik, the team has barely practiced publicly, and we can probably expect standard metagame picks during their matches.  It should be noted that PureGoldenBoy can be easily banned out: he only plays Sona and Nunu in addition to his famous Soraka.

  (15) Team TowerdiveTV

  Qualified via Online Qualifier (Quarterfinalist)

  Top: Urek Mazin0
  Mid: cybolic
  Jungle: Xzevz
                                                    AD Carry: zxkeisukexz
                                                    Support: cosommak

Team TowerdiveTV is an unknown team, like most of the others who qualified via the online qualifier.  TowerdiveTV has a limited scrim/ranked team record, but they did manage to win one Go4LoL tournament during the month of December.  Expect standard picks like Nidalee (top), Rumble (mid), and Ezreal (bot), but don't be surprised if you see a Jarvan IV (jungle) thrown into the mix.

Group C

Unlike the other three groups, Group C does not have a clear underdog team.  Meat Playground and Dirt Nap Gaming are both well known teams within the North American scene; however, with fame also comes uncertainty when faced with the solo queue antics of Falafel Gaming and 1 Trick Ponies.  While the established teams are the ones favored to win the group, it would not be a gigantic upset if the online qualifier teams take a win instead.

  (3) Meat Playground

  Qualified via IGN ProLeague Season 5

  Top: Michael "XHazzard" Kuhlman
  Mid: Arthelon
  Jungle: Andrew "Nk Inc" Erickson
  AD Carry: An "BalIs" Le
  Support: "Lemongod"

Meat Playground is a team of solo queue All-Stars including former APictureOfAGoose players Lemongod and Balls, as well as XHazzard, who came to prominence after subbing for CLG at MLG Anaheim and GESL.  While they have traditionally finished decently in minor online tournaments, Meat Playground has yet to show a major result on LAN and tournaments including big teams. Look out for picks like Nidalee (top), Cho'Gath (top/jungle), Kha'Zix (mid), and Lulu/Sona (bot).

  (6) Dirt Nap Gaming

  Qualified via IPL Online Qualifier

  Top: Cristian "Cris" Rosales
  Mid: Neil "PR0LLY" Hammad
  Jungle: Joe "jdwu" Wu
  AD Carry: Tyler "ecko" Orr
  Support: Daniel "Prophet" Fetterman
  Sub: Will "dx30" Levine

Dirt Nap Gaming, like many of the other highly seeded teams, was constructed in November from the ashes of disbanded teams.  PR0LLY and jdwu are former players of 4Not, while Cris is a top lane player from vVv Gaming.  Dirt Nap has a strong history of finishes in minor tournaments, such as two 1st place finishes and a 3rd place finish in December Go4LoLs.  Dirt Nap should run standard picks like Lulu (support), Jax (top), and Maokai (jungle).

  (11) 1 Trick Ponies

  Qualified via Online Qualifier (Semifinalist)

  Top: Adrian "PawnGypsy" Mandee
  Mid: Kevin "lilkvn" Nguyen
  Jungle: Christopher "ScubaChris" Lee
  AD Carry: Kenny "RagingKenny" Mac
  Support: Linh "Reduron" Pham

1 Trick Ponies is an interesting team.  Like Dirt Nap, all of its players are from Southern California.  In fact, three players -- PawnGypsy, ScubaChris, and Raging Kenny -- are all former players of Dirt Nap Gaming.  The other two players, lilkvn and Reduron, come from the same collegiate team as PawnGypsy that won Lone Star Clash 2.  While they have no major tournament showings to their name, the coordination of a group of friends such as 1 Trick Ponies cannot be underestimated.  True to their name, their mid and and top lane players are known for their one trick of Leblanc and Irelia, respectively.  Aside from their trademark champions, expect picks like Olaf (top), Miss Fortune (AD), and Katarina (mid).

  (14) Falafel Gaming

  Qualified via Online Qualifier (Quarterfinalist)

  Top: Trevor "DrTrevor" Hunter
  Mid: Richard "Valkrin" Royer
  Jungle: Andrew "Azingy" Zamarripa
  AD Carry: MrWish
  Support: Nikhil "NiksBrotha"
  Sub: Ozadin

The power of Falafel Gaming is a large wildcard question.  Featuring Azingy, famous for his unpredictability and rivalry with TSM's TheOddOne, Falafel will be unpredictable in both its gameplay and its style.  Although the team has not played in many tournaments, most of the players on Falafel have been consistently strong players, with mid player Valkrin even taking a pentakill in the recent online qualifier.  Common picks should include Amumu (jungle), Nunu (jungle), Ezreal/Miss Fortune (AD), and Pantheon (mid).

Group D

Group D is a group of sleepers.  The teams in D have the lowest profile out of any group but despite this each has shockingly powerful rosters of players.  None of the teams have shown strong performances on the North American scene but given the opportunity to shine, all four of the underdog teams in this group have the ability to take a game off of the Group A winners.  Featured in this group are Cloud 9, known for their former sponsorships with Orbit and Quantic.  Also in this group is the hyped Team MRN, the brainchild of fighting game professional Marn and featuring the brothers of Nickwu and TreeEskimo.  Rounding out the group are the solo queue heroes of The Salad Bar and the wildcard Azure Gaming.

  (4) Azure Gaming

  Qualified via MLG Online Qualifier

  Top: Gabriel "nothinghere" Charbonneau
  Mid: Shaosters
  Jungle: David "DJ LAMBO" Jeong
  AD Carry: Diamond
  Support: Lyubomir "Bloodwater" Spasov


Despite having the highest seed in the group, Azure Gaming is a team that fans of competitive play know nearly nothing about.  Having recently lost their top laner to FeaR, the new lineup of Azure has almost no games together against competitive teams.  Although they feature former CLG.Black support player Bloodwater, the rest of the team is relatively unknown to the competitive scene.  Given their limited scrim record, expect standard meta picks during the qualifiers, and don't be surprised if one of the lower seeds manages to knock Azure out of the tournament.

  (5) Cloud 9 (formerly Team NomNom/Quantic)

  Qualified via MLG Online Qualifier

  Top: Gabriel "Yazuki" Ng
  Mid: Zach "Nientonsoh" Malhas
  Jungle: Hai "Hai" Lim
  AD Carry: Jason "WildTurtle" Tran
  Support: Daerek "LemonNation" Hart

Cloud 9 is an old team under a new name: the lineup of the team has not changed in over half a year despite many changes in team sponsors, which means that the players are comfortable with each other and with different picks.  That being said, Cloud 9 is a strong contender for the win; they recently took 2nd place in the SoloMid Series Finals and 3rd place into the Lone Star Clash 2.  Expect a few unorthodox (for North America) picks such as Kog'Maw (AD), Lulu/Zyra (support), Elise (top), and Kassadin (mid).

  (12) Team MRN

  Qualified via Online Qualifier (Semifinalist)

  Top: Patrick "MegaZero" Glinsman
  Mid: Tyler "ecco" Spesick
  Jungle: Clark "ClakeyD" Smith
  AD Carry: Peter "Heartbeattt" Lim
  Support: Dylan "At0mic" Newton
  Sub: Martin "Marn" Phan
  Sub: Scott "BananaOoyoo" Kang

Team MRN comes from a pedigree of fame: it features two former fighting games pros in substitute/owner Marn and jungler ClakeyD, commentator djWHEAT is the team's manager, and jungler "MegaZero" is the little brother of popular streamer TreeEskimo.  Beyond the famous names, however, there is nothing special about Team MRN except for the fact that they are the only team (beyond Curse/FeaR) that have practiced together for the entire week, as many teams have waited until the qualifying groups have been announced to scrim.  Look out for nonstandard picks such as Jarvan IV (jungle), Ziggs (mid), and Viktor (mid).

  (13) The Salad Bar

  Qualified via Online Qualifier (Quarterfinalist)

  Top: Kevin "Hirishin" Duong
  Mid: Edward "EHomda" Hom
  Jungle: Alex "Ghoztzero" Dubois
  AD Carry: Joshua "Impactful" Mabrey
  Support: Cameron" NinjaSalad" Cox

Despite their low seeding, The Salad Bar is not a team to be underestimated.  Back-to-back wins in the two most recent Go4LoL tournaments ensure that The Salad Bar is coming into the qualifiers with positive momentum.  Although some of the members have played together in amateur teams, this team doesn't have a very large scrim record in recent weeks with the players choosing instead to play in normal game premades.  Like Falafel Gaming, this team has a large degree of unpredictability regarding their picks: in six online qualifier games, they played five different champions mid: Annie, Syndra, Evelynn, Jayce, and Ahri.  This team's strength lies in the unpredictability of its solo lanes picks, although the other roles tend to favor aggressive picks.

Which teams do you think will qualify for Season 3?  Leave a line below!


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