With the Season 2 Championships behind us, the off-season kicks off this weekend with the MLG Fall Championships. The tournament will pit 8 of the best teams from around the world against each other with a $30,000 prize pool on the line. These 8 teams will compete in a double elimination best-of-3 format that will kick off on Friday with a terrific match between the new look CLG.Prime vs Najin Sword. Will North America be able to rise to the level of play Asian teams have shown at recent tournaments, or will the Korean teams at this competition continue Asia's mastery of the scene. Matches kick off on Friday, November 2nd at 5:30 PM CST and for a full schedule check out MLG's page here. Let's meet the teams competing and take a look at their shot of winning the first big tournament of the off-season!
Azubu Blaze has been quiet since they steamrolled everyone at the MLG Summer Arena, and they are looking to right the ship. They failed to qualify for the Season 2 Championships losing out to fellow MLG competitor Najin Sword, but have since added new blood to the team replacing old top lane RepearD with Flame (formerly known as Goldtec). Blaze features an extremely talented AP mid in Ambition, and their bottom lane, Captain Jack on AD Carry and Lustboy on support team fights as well as anyone in the competitive scene.
Blaze really introduced the world to the Korean style of play at the MLG Summer Arena where they seemingly toyed with tournament and North American favorite Team SoloMid. Blaze torched TSM in all 5 matches they played turning early aggression into kills and very early towers that forced the issue in the games early and often. If that is the team that shows up to Dallas this weekend, they have to be considered one of the favorites, particularly with their first round draw of Team Dynamic.
CLG.EU since its creation has been one of the top two European teams along with Moscow 5, and is one of the only teams that has shown they can consistently compete on the same level of play as the Asian teams in the scene. They are coming off a hard fought tied for 3rd place finish at the Season 2 World Championships, and their calling card is terrific team-fighting. CLG.EU features terrific players at every position on Summoner's Rift, and their AP Carry Froggen has another gear, that when he hits it no one can match him. If teams are going to beat CLG.EU they need to do it early.
CLG.EU plays for the late game, and is any many ways the antithesis of the Asian style of play. They pick for the late game, play for the late game, and if things are going bad early for them, they do their best to limit the fallout and stall the game. They truly have the ultimate faith in their ability to outplay their opponents after 30 minutes and each game is like a ticking time bomb for anyone that plays them. CLG.EU drew Dignitas in the opening round of the tournament, a team they have historically fared well against. Unfortunately for CLG.EU their normal support Krepo will be unable to attend and they will be playing with a substitute Jree. If you were picking a team to win the tournament that wasn't from Korea, you'd still favor CLG.EU, but with a substitute it is hard to be certain exactly how they will play.
CLG.Prime shows up to MLG Dallas with a new-look lineup that features HotshotGG back in the top lane, former support Chauster in the jungle, and old Korean star AD Locodco playing support. CLG.Prime was disappointed with their showing in the last few tournaments, particularly the World Championships where they failed to make it out of the group stage. This will be the first look at their new team on LAN, and as always fans will get to see if they live up to the hype. CLG.Prime has long been one of the most popular teams in the scene, but since early in Season 2, their success has been limited.
Chauster in the jungle will be the biggest difference for them with this iteration of the team. He plays an aggressive style of jungle, particularly with his excellent Lee Sin play and his ganks can provide a dimension for CLG they haven't had in a long time. The newness of the lineup will be tested early, as they face Maknoon's team Najin Sword who looks to play as aggressive as any team out there from minute 1. CLG.Prime hasn't normally fared well against Korean teams, particularly in the OGN's they competed in, but Locodco's addition should provide them with valuable knowledge and information on the strengths and weaknesses of a team they haven't had the chance to play as often as the rest of the teams in the tournament.
Team Curse showed poorly at WEM Hangzhou, but has played well in MLG tournaments in the past. Before WEM China, Curse had been steadily improving and looked ready to make the jump into a top tier contender from a team that just qualifies for tournaments. They tend to play Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde LoL playing both up and down to their competition, but when they are going right particularly with Saintvicious forcing the issue in the jungle and getting AP Mid Nyjacky fed they can beat anyone out there.
Curse isn't afraid different types of champions, particularly Elementz with inventive supports such as Fiddlesticks and Yorick. However, the team on the whole plays a very standard North American style of play. If Curse can manage to get Orianna and Shyvana their chances greatly improve for victory, but this strategy has been shut down of late and has been causing them some issues. Curse drew TSM in round 1 of the tournament and it is certainly a team they are very familiar with. If anything, TSM is the best possible opponent for Curse because they know them so well and have historically played well very close games. If they manage an upset in the first round, a run is very possible, but they are just as likely to go the other way.
Team Dignitas hasn't seen the success they would have liked in recent tournaments (like much of North America), but they are never a team anyone wants to play especially early in a tournament. They are the North American team most known for innovating strategies and using little known champions. Scarra is the heartbeat of the team as their AP mid player, and the team will go as he goes. If Scarra can manage to set the pace for the team and control the mid lane, their team fight is underrated and they can recapture some of the magic they had when they were the most feared NA team.
Their opening round match sees them face CLG.EU, a team that handled them easily in the World Championships. Scarra has his work cut out for him in this match with Froggen and it will be tough for Dignitas to get by CLG.EU in a best-of-3 series without having one of those famed "cheese" strategies to unleash. Dignitas did make it to the finals of the last MLG event, and if they are going to beat CLG.EU they need to punish them in the bottom lane where CLG.EU will have a sub on support. It will be an uphill battle for a team that needs some victories on LAN from a confidence standpoint, but they have the pedigree and the talent to make a run especially if they can get out of their opening match with a victory against a team that is playing with a substitute.
Team Dynamic is an interesting North American team that has had some minor success on LAN, but has never gotten over the hump to win. They feature some young talent, with many of their players still in high school, and Nintendudex's jungle Olaf has become a fan favorite to watch. However, since October 25th the team has replaced their AD Carry zig with DontMashMe, and released their AP mid Paradoxical. Orb's Nientonsoh will be subbing for them at MLG Dallas in the mid lane, but a team that needed to rely on its synergy and a little bit of luck will undoubtedly have a hard time coping with this new of a lineup.
Dynamic won't get a breather in the tournament, as they open with Azubu Blaze. It is tough to find a scenario where this fresh of a Dynamic lineup can beat Blaze in a best-of-3, but to do so they will need some serious carrying out of ZionSpartan in the top lane and Nintendudex in the jungle. If they can exploit Blaze's new top lane and do their best to snowball games early on and constrict Blaze into playing from behind, they have a shot, but they will need a level of trust and teamwork that is hard for a team that isn't used to playing with each other. Dynamic might be in for a short weekend, but their lineup will gain much needed LAN experience for tournaments to come.
Najin Sword, sometimes affectionately known as Maknoon's team is coming off a strong showing at the Season 2 World Championships before they ran into the eventual champion Taipei Assassins. Sword is without a doubt one of the most fun teams to watch in the competitive scene right now because of how all out aggressive they are from minute one. Maknoon is widely considered to be the best top lane in the world, and is the straw that stirs the drink for the team. He sets the pace, and if he is doing well, Sword is one of the toughest teams out there to beat. The rest of the team are by no means slouches in their own right, but Najin Sword was built to play around Maknoon's success.
Sword has the most interesting first round match, the kick-off for the League of Legends portion of MLG Dallas against CLG.Prime. Maknoon has a bit of a rivalry with both HotshotGG and recent Prime addition Locodoco, so both teams will be ready to play against each other. Sword's success will be looking to punish Hotshot in the top lane and get Maknoon snowballing hard. Both CLG.Prime and EU are known for wanting to play for a later game strategy, and Sword is one of the perfect teams to cut through that strength. If Sword can get ahead of CLG.Prime, especially with Prime having a new lineup, they will snowball the best-of-3 series and be looking onto their next round opponent.
Team SoloMid is perhaps the most popular team in the scene, and the bar by which all other North American teams have been measured since the beginning of the year. Their dominance of the NA scene and success on LAN since adding Dyrus to the top lane speaks for itself, but they are coming off a less then stellar performance at the Season 2 World Championships. Historically, they have yet to beat a Korean team on LAN, and they will have to change that if they look to take down another MLG title. Reginald's play in the middle, especially on Karthus has been the steadying force for TSM of late, and they need the rest of the team to step back up to the championship level necessary to win LAN events.
Their first round match is against a team they seem to always play in Curse. Historically TSM wins very close matches / series against Curse and both teams are coming in a bit of a "slump." For all the big named North American players in the mix, the people to watch for this match will be the bottom lane. If Chaox and Xpecial outplay Copp and Elementz in the bottom lane, navigating around Elementz unique support picks they will take the matches and advance on in the event where their LAN experience should help them make a run at the finals. TSM didn't get to where they are by not showing up when it matters the most, but they have their work cut out for them to get back to their winning ways.
So, who do you think will win in the opening round matches? Who takes the whole tournament? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section and stay tuned to Reign of Gaming for League of Legends news, e-Sports coverage, and theorycrafting needs!