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  • published the article Week 1 EU LCS Recap: Parity Reigns

    The LCS returned to Europe with 16 exciting games last week where we saw Fnatic rise to their usual spot atop of the standings and Alliance plummet to the bottom. The rest of EU had their ups and downs across a wild week, and it looks to be another tumultuous season in the standings for the most closely contested region in LoL.

    For all intents and purposes we only have 3 teams with the same basic lineup from last split in Europe, but the new blood all showed flashes of greatness and moments of failure. Only Alliance left the week without a win, and they'll have their work cut out for them to climb the standings with the depth of talent Europe is able to boast.

    Fnatic and Gambit - A Cut Above

    Europe's 2 best teams from last year are proving they are once again the teams to beat this year in Europe. Fnatic cruised to a decisive 4-0 week including a win over Gambit, and the Russians went 3-1 with their only loss coming against Fnatic. A new season with changes to the masteries, items, and warding hasn't changed who the elite in Europe are early, and it's tough to see these two teams not on a collision course for each other come playoff time.

    Posted in: Week 1 EU LCS Recap: Parity Reigns
  • published the article Put Up or Shut Up: 3 Players That Need Strong LCS Performances

    The LCS returns to both Europe and North America next week, and it will be once again time for players and teams to test their skill against each other. In the debut season of the LCS, fans were treated to unbelievable plays like Xpeke back-dooring SK's nexus, Wildturtle's unbelievable Caitlyn ultimate, and countless others. We also saw the rise of teams like Cloud 9, the resurgence of Fnatic and Gambit, and the decline of CLG and Curse.

    The competitive scene has been active for over 3 years now, and we have learned it isn't a forgiving place to players who can't adapt. Challenger teams and players are getting better every day and with the introduction of the Coke Challenger League, it's time for a few older players and teams to finally step up and prove they are worthy of the praise they get. If not, they'll find themselves on the outside of the LCS looking in after a disappointing spring season.

    Doublelift

    Doublelift has unbelievable talent and regularly carries CLG to victories they have no business getting. However, their entire team strategy has been about building around him to carry almost since he joined CLG without any first place results. Newer fans of the league scene might not realize this, but CLG was the best team in the world in Preseason 1 and again at the very beginning of Season 2. Since CLG acquired Doublelift on November 23rd, 2011, they have not finished first at a LAN event (they have 3 second place finishes.)

    Posted in: Put Up or Shut Up: 3 Players That Need Strong LCS Performances
  • published the article Defining the Metas: What We Learned from the Battle of the Atlantic

    The Battle of the Atlantic concluded on Sunday with a wonderfully entertaining series between Cloud 9 and Fnatic. Cloud 9 avenged their worlds loss with a 2-0 victory over the European powerhouse and won North America the competition 5-4 in points (even though Europe won 3 of the series).

    5 Teams from each region played their seeded counterpart and both regions came away with something to brag about. More importantly, we got another chance to see the LCS teams compete in the Season 4 patch and observe how they coped with all the changes. What emerged didn't look too differently from Season 3 in the end, but let's take a look at what we learned from these matches.

    Carrying through Mid and Jungle

    The game has evolved over the years and one thing that hasn't changed from season 3 to is the balance of power in the lanes. In Season 2, ADC's reigned supreme and did so much damage it invalidated a lot of champions, particularly bruisers. You saw support mids the likes of Anivia, Lux, Morgana, Orianna rule the day, and although Orianna has survived you don't see many of these types of champions picked anymore because mid lane is now the carry lane. Europe's depth of quality teams can largely be attributed to the fact that their best players reside in the mid lane.

    Posted in: Defining the Metas: What We Learned from the Battle of the Atlantic
  • published the article Battle of the Atlantic Preview: A First Look at Remade Teams from both Regions

    Saturday kicks off the first new LCS event with the EU promotion series and the Battle of the Atlantic, where EU and NA will square off for bragging rights and $25,000 for the winning region. The top 5 teams from NA will face the corresponding seed from EU to earn points for their region. To see the full breakdown of the rules and schedule check here

    Fans and players alike were disappointed with he lack of international competition last season, and Riot took the criticism to heart. This weekend, we will be treated to the brand new Alliance lineup (formerly EG) versus Dignitas followed by the now Bjergsen led TSM versus the revamped Lemondogs in the first of a few international showcases. Let's take a look at how these teams stack up against each other.

    TSM vs Lemondogs

    North America has their work cut out for them if they want to win the Battle of the Atlantic, but TSM versus Lemondogs should give them the lead going into the North American matches next week. This series is worth 2 points, and while TSM has always had their issues with Korean teams, their record against Europeans is much less bleak. 

    Swapping out Reginald with Bjergsen is undoubtedly an upgrade in terms of raw talent, but it will be interesting to see how he meshes with the veteran squad when it comes to team fights and objective control. Reginald was known as the shot-caller and leader of TSM, and this will be our first real glimpse at just how the team looks in a Summoner's Rift without Reginald.

    Posted in: Battle of the Atlantic Preview: A First Look at Remade Teams from both Regions
  • published the article Where's the Line? Why Professional Players Need Protection from the Powers That Be

    News broke yesterday courtesy of Ongamers.com that Riot would be prohibiting LCS players from streaming certain games like Dota 2, Starcraft 2, Hearthstone, World of Warcraft etc. Most of the community immediately went to its first reaction to almost everything - they grabbed their pitchforks. (For the full story on the new rule and what players can and can't play check out Evoli and Slaher's wonderful piece here).

    When I first heard the news, I was right there with everyone questioning what Riot could possibly be thinking. How could they tell players what to do in their free time? Don't they know what freedom is? These colors don't run..MURICA and so forth. Having had some time to digest the news, I now realize this rule isn't so bad and isn't so different from what other sports leagues do. However, it brings about much bigger questions for everyone involved: where's the limit for what Riot can dictate to players and organizations, and should players have some way of negotiating for themselves?

    *Editor's Note: Riot has since removed this restriction to see the statement click here

    Why the New Rule is Fair - A Non-compete Clause

    First and foremost, Riot is a business. Businesses want to grow and expand their brand. Riot loves building up e-Sports, but it doesn't want its stars using their fame to promote other games by playing them on stream. E-Sports is a vehicle for Riot to grow, and more games being popular helps the scene but not necessarily Riot. The clause they added into the LCS players contracts is in effect, a non-compete clause where the person(s) under contracts agrees to not work with any similar competitors. Riot Magus's statement on the situation can be found here confirming the stipulation.

    Posted in: Where's the Line? Why Professional Players Need Protection from the Powers That Be
  • published the article Return of the Prodigal Support: Why Edward Turns Gambit from Good to Great

    This past weekend we were reminded why you never bet against Gambit at an IEM when they decimated the competition in Cologne. It was the first tournament for the reunited Gambit squad and it should have looked familiar to everyone watching. Gambit returned to their old form again with the help of the prodigal support. Their synergy, play-making, and communication appeared as if Edward had never spent a split away from the team.

    As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and it seemed especially true with Edward and Gambit. Both he and Gambit realized that while they are still very good individually, together they are elite. Edward enhances all of Gambit's strengths and doesn't force them to be solely reliant on Diamond or Alex having an incredible game in order to win. Let's examine just what Edward does for Gambit, and one player can make life easier for everyone else.

    Comfort Zones

    Edward's great asset to Gambit is allowing everyone on the team to be in their ideal comfort zones. You saw it game after game at IEM Cologne. Gambit looked fluid and at ease in lane as well in team fights. Having not only a support they can count on, but one that makes plays himself takes the pressure off everyone else and allows a player like Genja to remind people why he's a good ADC.

    Posted in: Return of the Prodigal Support: Why Edward Turns Gambit from Good to Great
  • published the article NA Roster Moves Recap: Examining the Landscape for Season 4

    The off-season has been even wilder than we expected with teams from all region shuffling their rosters to prepare for another season of competitive League of Legends. Even teams that enjoyed some success in Season 3 like TSM have decided to make major changes to stay competitive.

    The reality of e-Sports can be a harsh wake-up call for players, but with the new heights the game is being constantly pushed to, it makes for an incredible viewing experience for the fans. Cloud9 and XDG(formerly Vulcun) stood pat, and who can blame them with their respective dominance of the Summer Split, but every other team has made changes. Let's take a look at  those North American LCS teams from Season 3 and how they will look in Season 4 (Europe coming soon™)

    Team SoloMid

    It's weird even referring to a team called TSM that doesn't include Reginald, but that's the world we live in now after he retired and handed the mid lane reins to the European phenom Bjergsen. We saw countless influential players retire (whether voluntarily or not) over the course of Season 3 and the off-season, but none of them had more success in the scene than Reginald. Love him or hate him, he built TSM into a powerhouse of a team (and organization) that dominated the North American scene for the better part of two years and is the only team that has been to all 3 Season Championships.

    Posted in: NA Roster Moves Recap: Examining the Landscape for Season 4
  • published the article A Whole New World: How the Season 4 Changes Reshape the League Landscape

    As surely as winter comes to Westeros, change comes to League of Legends in the preseason. Season 4 will bring about a new age of League of Legends, the likes of which we have never seen before. It will still be the game millions have come to love, but particularly in the competitive scene, the balance of power will shift dramatically. To see Riot talk about the proposed changes check here and more on jungles changes here.

    Riot isn't afraid to take chances. They aren't fine with good enough, and that is a major reason why they have been such an unbelievably successful company. Tweaking the game in significant ways keeps things fresh, keeps the players on their toes and coming back for more, and most importantly it addresses inherent issues in the game itself. Let's take a look at just what the proposed changes mean going into Season 4.

    Every Player Matters Now in a Meaningful Way

    Gone are the days of hiding players on support. The changes to gold income will make every player, particularly those in the winning lanes, a "carry." This means that everyone has to contribute in meaningful ways throughout the game. Jungles and supports especially will have to step their games up. More gold doesn't always mean more impact on the game. Doing more with less was a valued skill for these low income positions, but it usually involved them going into teamfights to initiate combat or stop their opponents with heavy CC and then wait for death or cooldowns. 

    Posted in: A Whole New World: How the Season 4 Changes Reshape the League Landscape
  • published the article Off-Season Changes: Examining Roster Turnover with Curse's Manager Liquid

    The off-season in all sports is a turbulent time. League of Legends has come a long way in a few short years, and is breaking into the realm of being a legitimate sport. Organizations that own teams recognize this, and with Riot's current rules in place the off-season was always going to be a time of change.

    Just as Riot will change the game in fairly significant ways (like the item overhaul from Season 2 to Season 3), teams will look to change their rosters to contend in the new environment. We've already seen major changes from teams like Curse in North America and the CJ Entus teams in Korea. Before we grab our pitchforks to vilify anyone or put them on our shoulders to praise them, we have to remember that first and foremost e-Sports is a business.

    Seeing changes from the other side of things

    Managers or whomever are in charge of running a team fall into tough positions. As fans, we grow to love the players who stream and interact with us and view management as the villains, but everyone wants to win at the end of the day. Management are the ones who have to make the tough and sometimes unpopular decisions with the team in mind. When the team doesn't perform, it's as much on them as it is on the players. That's not to say organizations are immune from making mistakes or taking criticism, but to point out that their are two sides to every story.

    I got a chance to ask Curse's manager Steve 'Liquid112' Arhacet a few questions about all of Curse's recent changes and it helped shed some light on their weird situation. It's not everyday that a team announces a roster and has to change two members just days later, but figuring out the truth is always harder than picking up a pitchfork.

    Posted in: Off-Season Changes: Examining Roster Turnover with Curse's Manager Liquid
  • published the article Season 3 Grand Finals Preview: Crowning a Champion

    Only 5 games are left in Season 3 and only 3 wins separate pre-tournament favorite SK Telecom T1 and Chinese revelation Royal Club from the Summoner's Cup and 1 million dollars. It's been a wild season, but the two best teams will compete at the Staples Center on Friday to see which can be truly called a champion. For full schedule info check out Riot's official page here.

    Both of these teams have impressed over the last few weeks, and Riot has done a stellar job making the entire tournament a viewing experience LoL fans from around the globe won't soon forget. This best-of-5 doesn't need any hype because the players themselves are that exciting to watch. Let's see how they stack up and figure out how each team wins the best prize in e-Sports.

    Posted in: Season 3 Grand Finals Preview: Crowning a Champion
  • published the article World Championship Semifinals Preview: Where Legends are Made

    The final four has been set at the Season 3 World Championships, and only Fnatic, Royal Club, SK Telecom T1 and Najin Black Sword still have a shot of hoisting the Summoner's Cup and taking home the million dollars guaranteed to the winner. We had some truly fantastic quarterfinal matches, and with the semis moving to best-of-5's, it'll only get better from here.

    SKT T1 will take on fellow Korean team Najin Black Sword in the first semifinal on Friday, while Fnatic will look to regain the world championship crown after their Season 1 win when they take on Royal Club Saturday. A full schedule can be found here. These matches speak for themselves, and the winners will have their names ring out across the rift for months and potentially years to come. Without further ado, let's take a look at the semifinal matches.

    SK Telecom T1 vs Najin Black Sword

    If you had told everyone before the tournament started that 2 Korean teams would meet in the semifinals, they probably would have believed you. However, not many people counted on Najin Black Sword being one of those teams whereas SKT were most people's pre-tournament favorite. Sword took out Gambit in 3 games to get here from the quarterfinals and SKT destroyed the Gamania Bears (and their amazing icon) in 2 lopsided games.

    Posted in: World Championship Semifinals Preview: Where Legends are Made
  • published the article Championship Quarterfinals Preview: The Best of the Best

    The quarterfinals are here and that leaves us with only 8 teams still left with the dream of hoisting the best trophy in e-Sports and raking in 1 million dollars. All quarterfinal matches are best-of-3s and each team proved already they are worthy of being world champions.

    Every single match from here on out is appointment viewing. We have Europe's #1 against NA's #1 and the rematch of two rival Chinese teams that like to brawl (and that's only half the fun). Let's take a look at how the teams stack up against each other in their matches. For those interested in looking at the bracket and schedule just check here.

    Cloud 9 vs Fnatic

    This is the match that will receive the most hype and for good reason. Both regions have fan bases that are intensely passionate and have a bit of an inferiority complex whether justified or not. Both of these teams are legitimate title contenders though make no mistake about the skill of both teams. Fnatic showed in group stages they came to play and Xpeke is playing the best of anyone in this tournament not named Faker right now. Cloud 9 is 30-3 in their last 33 games and that record speaks for itself even if they don't have much experience competitively.

    Posted in: Championship Quarterfinals Preview: The Best of the Best
  • published the article First Impressions from the World Championships: The Good, The Bad, and The Koreans

    We're halfway through the group stage at the Season 3 World Championships and have been treated to some outstanding games. The biggest stage in e-Sports has a way of showing what teams are truly made of, and this year is no exception.

    We've seen European teams come out strong, Koreans stumble, and Faker make us all question whether or not he was a robot designed for league domination. Let's take a look at the emerging story lines headed into the second half of the group stages.

    The Good: Regional Surprises

    Going into the world championships, North America and Europe were largely written off. Most people in and around the scene, including myself thought that the NA and EU teams would fall victim to the same problems that plagued them throughout their respective LCS seasons. However, Europe has come out strong in their two weeks to practice before group stages and looked strong against Asian teams and even has a 2-1 record against Korean teams (more on Korea later).

    Posted in: First Impressions from the World Championships: The Good, The Bad, and The Koreans
  • published the article Season 3 Championship Group Previews: Sorting Out the Best of the Best

    The moment we've all been waiting for is almost here as 14 teams gather from around the world to compete for the Season 3 title. The Season 3 World Championships start on Sunday with the group stages where we'll get to see the likes of TSM vs OMG and Gambit vs MVP Ozone and that's just on day 1.

    10 teams compete in 2 groups of 5 with the top two advancing from each through to the quarterfinals to face the 4 teams with byes by virtue of winning their regions (NaJin Black Sword, Cloud 9, Gamania Bears and Royal Club). Group stages are double round robin, meaning everyone plays each team in their group twice and 6 teams will get sent home in a hurry. Let's take a look at each group and see who has the best chance of advancing.

    Group A

    The first group at worlds is the most stacked featuring the reigning OGN champion and overall favorite to win the whole tournament SKT T1, the best team in China among the LPL seasons OMG, the 1st place team from the EU summer split Lemondogs, fan-favorite and perennial NA contender TSM, and the international wild card GamingGear.EU. The story of this group will be how each mid plays.

    Posted in: Season 3 Championship Group Previews: Sorting Out the Best of the Best
  • published the article Why the Best Teams Won't be at Worlds: Is Regional Representation More Important than Overall Skill?

    Season 3's World Championships start in a few short weeks, but the best teams in the world won't really be in attendance. 14 teams are selected to represent the world for Riot's end of the season championship, but we are all fooling ourselves if we think they are the overall best teams.

    It's no secret to anyone who watches competitive LoL that Korea is the best region by a wide margin. It's not just how good they are, but how many teams are that good that makes Korea deserving of more slots if we truly want the best teams in the world competing. At one point it was Europe who was the best, next year it could China, but we need a way of determining how many seeds a region gets better than we do now. Regional representation is important, but there are better ways to go about selecting the overall teams. Let's take a look at the problem and how to fix it.

    Korean Prominence

    Only one of the following teams will be representing Korea at worlds: CJ Frost, CJ Blaze, KT Rolster B, and the reigning OGN champions SKT T1. Thinking about that fact makes me sad as a League of Legends fan because any of those 4 teams could have easily qualified in any other region. This is before we even mention the two already qualified Korean teams, Najin Black Sword and MVP Ozone. Korea has 3 spots, but should have at least 4 maybe 5 if we want an accurate representation of the best teams. One of the finalists from the most recent OGN championship that went all 5 games won't be at the championship so you know something is flawed.

    Posted in: Why the Best Teams Won't be at Worlds: Is Regional Representation More Important than Overall Skill?