At 12AM est the League of Legends World Championship Play-In stage Finals begin! G2 Esports will face Infinity eSports CR in the first match of the night followed by G-Rex versus Bahcesehir Supermassive. Get hype y’all, the 2018 LoL World Championship is actually about to begin in earnest. Watch it here with Patchwork Gaming!
Yesterday (Part 2) can be found here, I’m happy to finally be able to let happiness into one of these previews. There’s no need to define what ‘elite’ is, you know it when you see it. They’ll be in order from what I perceive to the lowest placed team to the highest, so fourth to first.
4. Team Solomid: Reginald, We Have A Jungle Problem
On June 14th Team Solomid announced this,
— TSM (@TSM) June 14, 2018
Honestly I have no confidence in Grig’s ability to play at an LCS level. Having said that I do think this is an important move if TSM want’s to keep their roster together. My personal theory is that Grig has been promoted in order to test MikeYeung and get him to compete for a starting spot that should clearly be his. While MikeYeung does not have a lot of LCS level experience he is still one of the most talented junglers in NA. I believe he could be the missing link for this team and if he’s able to get his act together this could be the best TSM team ever assembled.
Going into the Spring Split there was an argument that on-paper this was the best TSM team. Reginald had undoubtedly won the off-season. There was a very short list of players that TSM could have brought in that would be equal to Doublelift and Reginald instead brought the best botlane in the EULCS over to TSM. It should be simple for them (and Bjergsen) to adapt to the new Meta and I don’t see them stumbling. It will be difficult for them to deal with some of the more outlandish drafts that some teams create when this kind of tectonic shift happens. TSM do take their preparation seriously so here’s hoping their analysts have prepared the team for the curve balls that will come out for the next couple of weeks.
This incarnation of TSM should be able to snag a decent playoff seed at a bare minimum. I’m not confidant that they can win at the NA LCS Summer Playoffs but this team should be able to win NA Regionals after playoffs are over. I want to see this team at worlds, they have far too much talent to stay at home.
3. 100 Thieves, How High Can We Fly Before Our Wings Melt?
100 Thieves rose to the occasion during the Spring Split. This is a team that never lost twice to any other NA LCS team. No one expected 100 Thieves to be performing so well, so quickly. I think some credit is in order for their management for creating a roster that only has 1 player with less than six years experience playing at a professional level. Pairing Cody Sun (their least experienced player) with aphromoo covers that weakness as well. The masterstroke for 100 Thieves (at least to me) has to be signing Pr0lly as the coach.
Despite their loss in the Spring Split final I don’t think that loss is entirely on them. I don’t know if any team in NA could have beaten Team Liquid in that final, Doublelift was still on fire and the rest of his team (especially Pobelter) showed up to play that day. Now 100 Thieves deserve a lot of credit for beating Clutch Gaming in the semifinals 3-2. Clutch Gaming are inferior competition but that best-of series was 100 Thieves first best-of series (of any consequence, scrims don’t count) ever. I think 100 Thieves are capable of another great regular split and I expect them to win their first playoff series again. I don’t like their chances in the Summer Split final (if they make it there) but I could see this team making waves in the NA regional after the playoffs are over.
2. Echo Fox, Don’t Let Your Dreams Be Memes
Echo Fox have got to be the ultimate momentum based team in NA LCS. If both Huni and Dardoch can get fully engaged in a game, Echo Fox can easily roll to a victory. When Dardoch or Huni get held back (or start feeding) Echo Fox tends to lose games pretty hard. This is best exemplified by their series against Team Liquid in the semifinal during the Spring Playoffs. In Echo Fox only win Dardoch had a great performance on Skarner. The issue with both Huni and Dardoch is that they rarely show consistency in a best-of series. On top of that problem Echo Fox don’t really have someone else on this roster to pick up the slack when Huni and Dardoch are having bad games.
I realize that Altec did have a good Game 2 on Caitlyn but his performance in he other four games is what reaffirms my beliefs about him. Altec is a veteran player but he’s never been anything more than an above average AD Carry. Game 2 against Team Liquid is probably his ceiling for any given game. Given the fact that Adrian is less experienced and at his best Adrian is slightly above average; Echo Fox have a very pronounced weakness in the botlane. Some of that is only because Huni and Dardoch can shine so bright but the majority of that weakness comes from Altec & Adrian.
The meta is a bit wonky right now and Echo Fox should be able to play that in their favor. It should only take a few weeks for the Meta to settle down (or stay in it’s completely bonkers current state) and after that Echo Fox can get back to business. Echo Fox may be a very one dimensional team but when that strategy works they are capable of taking a game from any team in NA LCS. I expect this team to make both the Summer Split Playoffs and NA Regionals, what happens once those events start is anyone’s guess.
1. Team Liquid, Once And Future Kings
Did you watch the Spring Playoffs? Did you see any of Doublelift’s games where he didn’t die? Team Liquid didn’t just win the NA LCS Spring Split, they crushed every single team. Through three different playoff series Team Liquid only lost one game. During the off-season when everyone else was looking at expensive imports or prospects Team Liquid went out and found three players that had already won championships and added Impact (still a former world champion) and Olleh. The Spring final finally revealed the truth to the rest of the NA LCS teams, while the regular season is not their forte, Team Liquid has no equals in a best-of-five series. Nothing any team has done during the break between splits has changed that.
Team Liquid did not have a good time at the Mid-Season Invitational but theu did manage to grow as a team. Team Liquid looked like a train wreck during their first few games at MSI and this team deserves credit for getting it together. They didn’t manage to get out of the group stage but it’s a small miracle they forced a tiebreaker at all. Team Liquid’s biggest issue did emerge from MSI though, Olleh had a number of terrible games at MSI. Team Liquid even had Joey start a game before coaxing Olleh back to his starting position. The support position is probably the only thing holding Team Liquid back from a sure victory in the Summer Playoffs. Team Liquid need to work with Olleh, he needs to overcome his confidence issues and the team needs to draft in a way that sets him up for victory.
Speaking of drafting I belive that Team Liquid are in a unique position to take advantage of the current Meta. Unlike most other LCS teams, Liquid have two carries that can always be relied upon in Doublelift and Impact. Pobelter can be trusted to hold his lane and on occasion he too can play a carry champion. Xmithie can easy play whatever his team needs. If Team Liquid really wanted to they could treat Doublelift and Impact as carries in the sense of DOTA 2. This meta encourages unorthodox drafting and Team Liquid has a number of extremely talented and experienced players. I fully expect this team not to finish at the top of the Regular Season standings but at the end of the Summer Playoffs I look forward to seeing Team Liquid hoist their second straight NA LCS trophy.
That’s all for my NA LCS Summer preview, from this point on I’ll be updating sporadically on the NA LCS and hopefully the LPL, LCK and maybe the EU LCS. The NA LCS begins on May 16th at 5pm Eastern Time.
Now that the bottom teams of the North American League Championship Series have been discussed (Part 1 is here) we can get to the fun stuff. Midcard is a term used to describe matches that take place in the middle portion of a wrestling, boxing or MMA event. The Midcard features individuals who might have found their professional ceiling or individuals that are trying to break into main event status. They’ll be in order from what I perceive to the lowest placed team to the highest, so seventh to fifth.
7. Counter Logic Gaming, The Super Friends
The Super Friends is a cartoon that started in the 70’s which prominently featured the Justice League. I refer to CLG that way because of statements like this one,
“Unfortunately, Dardoch was unwilling to adhere to the set of standards expected of every member of the team”
That’s from CLG’s press release following their decision to part ways with Dardoch. I don’t have any issues with a team wanting to create a specific atmosphere among its players or the organization as a whole. My issue with this process CLG are going through is that this contrived method of scouting has left CLG with a roster that’s slightly above average at best. Almost all of the players that have left CLG’s LCS roster have gone on to better things (not Omargod, sorry dude). Dardoch, Aphromoo, Xmithie, Pobelter and Doublelift are all doing significant;y better than their counterparts on CLG. While Aphromoo and Xmithie may have left of their own accord there’s no question CLG should have done more to keep both of them (if it was a financial problem that’s a whole different issue). None of CLG’s current starting roster are necessarily bad, but neither are they exceptional at anything. Even huhi’s vaunted Aurelion Sol was not enough to get them a win during the Spring Split.
I’m honestly angry at CLG’s current management and how this philosophy have seemingly stalled what was once a championship winning franchise. CLG could consider moving players up from their academy team again but performing against lesser competition has never been an indicator of success when a player goes from NA Challenger (or NA Academy nowadays) to the LCS. If this team can’t get its act together and make a playoff run I don’t see any reason to keep anyone on this starting roster. Maybe Darshan, because he’s the only popular player left in this organization.
6. Clutch Gaming, The Little Engine That Could
I actually don’t have much to say here. Clutch Gaming performed as expected during the Spring Split, then they had a nice playoff run. Despite being one of the brand new franchises Clutch Gaming’s management put together a respectable roster and they seem to be coming together nicely. Maybe CG’s management will reevaluate everyone after the Summer Split is over and hopefully make adjustments. I think the glass ceiling for this team is the Semifinals and I would be a little disappointed if they failed to make the playoffs again.
5. Cloud9, Either A Dumpster Fire Or A Clown Fiesta
Of those options I think Cloud9 are more of a Clown Fiesta right now, I wouldn’t classify them as a Dumpster Fire until they make their next unexplained roster move. For those of you who are not aware this video may shed some light on why Sneaky, Jensen and Smoothie are playing on Cloud9 Academy right now.
No one outside of the Cloud9 organization is exactly sure about why Cloud9 are doing this. Theories may include: Cloud9 rewarding their challenger players for in-house performance; Cloud9 experimenting with the Academy roster to find a better LCS roster; Cloud9 wanting to promote their Cloud9 Academy Twitch Stream; motivating their LCS players by moving them down to the Academy team. I honestly don’t know which of these reasons (if any) could be true. Regardless, Cloud9 Academy played their first game of the NA Academy split and it went pretty well. Cloud9 even had a really cool studio set-up in addition to pregame and postgame content. Ordinarily I would never recommend NA Academy games but their broadcast worth a view. Having said that I believe that if they did this roster move just to generate content or viewership (or both), it would go down as one of the worst decisions any organization has made in recent memory. There were five different tiebreaker matches at the end of the Spring Split. For Cloud9 to potentially throw away two easy points (they play Clutch Gaming and Golden Guardians week one and two respectively) is absolutely unforgivable.
What angers me the most about this decision is that I can’t recall any point in time where Goldenglue & Keith have been legitimately better options than Jensen & Sneaky. Maybe when Jensen was known as Incarnati0n and was banned but that’s it. Goldenglue and Keith have both been given opportunities to play at the LCS level (against good competition to boot) and neither of them have proven that they can perform a level where they deserve to start for Cloud9.
Cloud9 had a swift exit from the Spring Playoffs when they were swept by Team Liquid. While that series was disappointing for them I don’t think this move is an appropriate response (if the players playoff performance was considered at all, who knows). If Reapered and/or Westrice (or anyone else in Cloud9 management for that matter) legitimately think that Shiro and Blaber are worth starting on their LCS team they’re not going to get any pertinent information from their play in NA Academy. NA Academy is an inferior competition by design, furthermore it does not make any sense to draw conclusions about team synergy when this iteration of Cloud9 Academy are so significantly better than any of their NA Academy competition. Winning every game by an insurmountable margin does not help a team (or the individual players) grow at all, it’s possible that Jensen, Sneaky and Smoothie all regress while on Cloud9 Academy.
Honestly Cloud9 should be able to make the playoffs while they sleepwalk through the regular split. Right now there’s no permutation of Cloud9 that will find any playoff success and this organization should not expect to make Worlds. I sincerely hope the Cloud9 organization gets its act together as the Cloud9 LCS team should be able to win another NA LCS Summer Championship and compete at worlds.
Part 3 Tomorrow, Potential NA LCS Champions Incoming
That’s all for Part 2 of my NA LCS Summer preview, in Part 3 I’ll be discussing top teams in NA LCS and determining who should be favored to win the Summer Split. The NA LCS begins on May 16th at 5pm Eastern Time.
Dregs are “the remnants of a liquid left in a container” or “the most worthless parts of something”. So let’s get right into the dregs of the North America League Championship Series, Summer 2018. They’ll be in order from what I perceive to the lowest placed team to the highest, so tenth to eighth.
10. Optic Gaming, You Can’t Be Relegated When You Bought The Franchise Slot
When I think of Optic Gaming I am reminded how much I sincerely miss relegation. This team reminds me of the kind of teams that used to get promoted from the Challenger Series up to the LCS. Usually those teams struggle mightily until they either fix their issues and compete or they get relegated at the end of the split. During the Spring Split Optic basically went through the motions and finished with a 5-13. Optic do deserve credit for signing Dhokla and Big because I was not expecting this organization to make any changes at all. Frankly after their initial roster announcement I had very low expectations for Optic (as an organization) and I figured they would just do nothing until the Summer Split ended. Now the issue is whether Dhokla and Big will be a significant enough improvement over zig and LemonNation. Not that either of those players set the bar very high but it’s possible that the team had a certain dynamic that got them their wins.
The beginning of the Split should be a good time for them as every team in NA will also be figuring things out for a few weeks. It’s possible Optic get some surprise wins until everything settles down. At their best maybe this team gets out of the doldrums and makes a run at 6th place. Since this team have never played a single best-of-five series of any consequence together I’d expect them to crash out of the playoffs in spectacular fashion.
9. Flyquest, We Still Have Flame
Both the Flyquest and Optic rosters look like they were quickly assembled from spare parts. In Flyquest’s case they had much nicer parts to work with and it still baffles me that Flame is on this team. Honestly he’s the only reason I expect anything from this team. Flyquest did add Kwonkon, Santorin and Keane to their starting roster and I think Santorin is an upgrade for Flyquest.
Ultimately this team is still the Flame show. I have no faith in any other player on their starting roster (or their academy team) to carry a game to victory. I understand that it’s not always necessary for one player to carry a team but Flyquest don’t have any other strength as a team. They have found ways to grab defeat from the jaws of victory. Occasionally when Flyquest come together they will be worth watching, especially Flame. Maybe their roster comes together and they can make a run at 6th place like Optic but I’m not setting any tangible expectations for this team.
8. Golden Guardians, Formerly The Hai Penitentiary
Bad teammate jail is an expression that’s often used for players who are good but are surrounded by seemingly incompetent teammates who keep them from success. Going into the Spring Split it seemed like Hai was a resident of bad teammate jail. He had a decent run with Flyquest despite their 7th place finish in NA LCS Summer ’17. After that they defeated Dignitas in NA Regionals before falling to CLG.
This team came into the Spring Split with dismal expectations and performed exactly as many people expected. With Hai’s retirement Golden Guardians went out and signed Mickey. I’ve placed Golden Guardians above Optic and Flyquest because of the limited changed they made. Even with the communication issues Mickey might bring to the team it’s possible they keep any team synergy that was built up previously.
Part 2 Tomorrow, Playoff Teams Incoming
That’s all for Part 1 of my NA LCS Summer preview, in Part 2 I’ll be discussing the middle of the pack teams. The NA LCS begins on June 16th at 5pm Eastern Time.
Today marked the last competitive events for the original Witchwood Meta. After the end of Hearthstone Championship Tour Dreamhack Grand Prix on the 21st of May there will be no competitive events until June. The nerfs that Blizzard previously announced will go live on the 22nd of May. In little over a month The Witchwood went from a new expansion brimming with hope to one of the most obnoxious Meta’s Hearthstones ever experienced. Honestly it’s impressive that each general deck archetype (Aggro, Combo & Control) managed to get it’s own special deck that everyone hated to play against. Now whether or not any single one of these deck’s is actually overpowered is up for debate (at least to me). I figured it would be the most productive to break down the newly deceased Meta by each deck type (not mid-range because reasons) and try to predict whats to come.
Aggro, Because Face Is The Place
Even Paladin had a monster weekend at HCT Asia Pacific Playoffs and the HCT Dreamhack Grand Prix. Here’s a more detailed analysis of the HCT Asia Pacific playoff but generally speaking Even Paladin is the most dominant Aggro deck in the Meta. Call To Arms is getting removed from this deck because it’s such an incredible tempo swing. Especially when Call To Arms brings out a Knife Juggler or two. Call To Arms also has the added benefit of thinning out the players deck so it’s easier to draw Val’anyr. Without Even Paladin around it’s possible the Meta could slow down from it’s blisteringly fast pace but honestly that’s probably not likely.
Thankfully most of the other Aggro decks in the current Meta lack the consistency of Even Paladin. Odd Rogue, Tempo Mage & Token Druid both made appearances this weekend and neither deck performed enough to warrant replacing Even Paladin’s in most pro players line-ups. While that could make for a good first week it’s highly likely that either of those decks will be refined as this week goes by and it’s possible they see more play on ladder before making an appearance at an HCT event. Tempo Mage doesn’t have the issue of refinement that the other two decks have and in fact Tempo Mage probably has the most consistency issues out of those three decks. When Tempo Mage doesn’t line up correctly (not perfectly, just in a way that’s usually best for the player) it’s disastrous for the player. Even when Tempo Mage does work the deck has a very limited range of damage and if your opponent can heal themselves out of that range Tempo Mage just straight up loses.
What concerns me most is Even Shaman. Shaman has had a rocky month with the Witchwood and before that Shaman was one of worst classes to play. Even Shaman takes advantage of Genn just like Even Paladin (albeit to a much lesser extent given Shaman’s lackluster Hero Power) but Even Shaman does not have any card similar to Call To Arms to generate an enormous board swing. Shaman standbys like Flametongue Totem and Flame Elemental can both swing the board and Hex could be crucial to Even Shaman’s success. Whats most worrisome about Even Shaman is the inclusion of Hagatha the Witch. Hagatha allows the player to generate additional random shaman class spells with every minion played. A high-roll on a random Hagatha spell could be game ending like a Bloodlust or an additional Hex. Low-rolls on Hagatha could mean cards as useless as Totemic Might and Ice Fishing. Having a card with such an unpredictable nature in competitive events can be infuriating, to say nothing of the rage Hagatha could unleash on the Ranked Ladder.
Combo, Mostly Just Aggro With Style
The nerf to Dark Pact will effect the winrate and playrate of Cubelock. Now to what degree no one can tell right now, only the healing on Dark Pact was touched, not it’s ability to easily combo a Carnivorous Cube on the same turn as playing the Cube. Hopefully the nerf to Cabal Lackey will bring Cubelock down to par with other Combo decks.
Now if there’s room in the new Meta for other Combo decks it will be interesting to see what rises to the top. Token Druid had a number of solid performances last weekend but like many other decks featured here it suffers from consistency issues. Taunt Druid is similar to Token Druid in that aspect but it’s easier for Taunt Druid to function as a straight-up Aggro Deck.
Combo is probably the most interesting archetype to think about right now. Without Quest Rogue looming over the Ranked Ladder it will be easier for many slower paced decks to function. Granted if the Meta doesn’t slow down enough it’ll still be hard to play anything other than the best Combo decks.
Control, Because Sometimes You Hate The Other People Who Play Hearthstone
Control Warlock could be in a good place after the nerfs, Cabal Lackey could still work as a 6 Mana card. If that works out Control Warlock is in a very good place to remain one of the top Control decks on the Ranked Ladder (or competitive for that matter). We won’t know until later this week (and probably a few more weeks after that) if Warlock is still a competitive class. As much as I despise Cubelock, I’d be excited to have Control Warlock around just to have a deck that uses Rin the First Disciple.
Priest and Mage are in a strange place right now. Both Classes have a control variant that actually works. Control Priest did have a place at both events last weekend though it was more of a niche pick than a mainstay of most players lineups. Now because of the awkward match-up situations that Control Priest has it’s not a very attractive class for ranked play. Control Mage sees slightly more play on the Ranked Ladder but it still has many of the match-up issues that Control Priest does. Both of these classes will be heavily reliant on what kind of meta forms after the nerfs go live.
Warrior is in a very strange place right now. The class has similar match-up issues to Priest and Mage but to a lesser extend because of the nature of Warrior decks right now. Both Odd Warrior and Dead Man’s Hand Warrior were featured this weekend and both decks had good results. Despite the aggressive Meta both decks try to force the opponent into fatigue while keeping their armor total high enough to slowly kill of their opponent.
Honestly I feel hopeful about tomorrow. I am genuinely excited for Even Paladin to (probably) meet its demise and maybe the Meta slows down a bit. Maybe someone will make a competitive deck with Dollmaster Dorian or Countess Ashmore. Personally I’d love to see the Last Kaleidosuar be viable but I think I’m hoping for too much there.
There’s way too much to discuss here so let’s get right into it, here is the direct link to the Blizzard announcement and now we can get into each card individually;
Naga Sea Witch Will Now Cost 8 Mana, up from 5
Now I know it will come as a shock to some of you but I don’t play that much Wild Mode. I have been checking various Meta Reports about Standard and Wild Mode and most people agree that Naga Sea Witch + Giants has been a menace to Wild since players starting using those cards together. This change strikes me as one that Blizz have been contemplating for a while but they wanted to hold it for a larger balance update so as not to show Wild Mode any favoritism.
Now onto the actual nerf itself. This is what the nuclear option looks like for Hearthstone card nerfs. It’s not as severe as Warsong Commander but nothing will ever be. I sincerely hope that this change insures that Naga Sea Witch + Giants ceases to exists as a deck archetype in Wild. People who spend time playing Wild Mode haven’t stopped asking for this change since the deck became widespread. Honestly I hope this is enough, it’s difficult enough being a Wild player without this obnoxious deck ruining the fun.
Spiteful Summoner will now Cost 7 Mana, up from 6
I’m actually kind of torn on this nerf. On the one Spiteful Summoner decks are often the most frustrating decks to play against since the Witchwood was released. A typical game against a Spiteful deck involves you doing what you need to do each turn then your opponent plays Spiteful Summoner on turn 6 and gets a Tyrantus, at that point a lot of players concede. Before the Witchwood Spiteful Summoner was good but not consistent. Without the Old Gods in the pool of Minions that can summoned from a 10 Mana spell, Spiteful Summoner got significantly better (the worst possible 10 Mana minion is now an 8/8). That’s my problem with this nerf, Blizzard could have added additional 10 Mana minions with deliberately poor stats to keep Spiteful Summoner in check. That seemed to be Blizzard’s strategy around Evolve or any other minion summoning effect. Since that didn’t happen this is Blizzard’s only option.
Call To Arms will now cost 5 Mana, up from 4 Mana
I’ll be brief, this spell was doing too much. The most surprising thing about this particular nerf was these lines from Blizzard’s blog post:
We expect that players will experiment with Call to Arms at 5 mana in Odd Paladin decks, but we don’t expect this card to have much of an impact. This is because Odd Paladin can’t access 2 mana minions (meaning Call to Arms could only ever summon three 1 mana minions if played in that deck).
This nerf points to Blizzard either wanting to slow the meta down or just give other decks more room to breathe. Either way this change is in the same vein as Spiteful Summoner; too strong, too fast, too consistent.
The Crystal Core will now make minions 4/4, down from 5/5
Quest Rogue was far too good against any deck that wasn’t aggro or control decks that have fantastic board clear. This is the second nerf to the Rogue quest and this nerf is just as warranted as the first one. Honestly I think of Quest Rogue as similar to Giants + Naga Sea Witch, I won’t be sad to see this card (and deck) fall off a cliff.
Dark Pact will restore 4 health, down from 8
There’s two Warlock nerfs in this balance update, I think this one will have the least impact out of the two. Cutting down the healing in Cubelock and Control Warlock is a huge deal but I think it’s important to remember that Dark Pact is also incredibly useful to combo Carnivorous Cube and Possessed Lackey. With the same Mana cost Dark Pact can still do that job, speaking of Possessed Lackey;
Possessed Lackey will now cost 6 Mana, up from 5
This is the second nerf to Warlock and I’m 99% certain this will be the most significant nerf of this entire balance update. Just like Dark Pact I still think that Possessed Lackey can still do it’s job. The issue with this change is that Possessed Lackey will now be moving to the 6 Mana slot in any deck it’s included in. If players still want to use Possessed Lackey (because it’s effect is still awesome) it will definitely mess with the Mana curve of any netdeck list. I think this is a more significant change than simply slowing down Warlock deck’s that use card because they can no longer quickly get out a Voidlord (or Doomguard) on turn 5 (assuming you use coin). My reasoning follows that if Blizzard intends this balance update to slow the meta of The Witchwood, Warlock will benefit from this change. It may not be necessary for Warlock to have to get a Voidlord out on Turn 5.
This balance update goes live after the conclusion of the Hearthstone Championship Tour playoffs. The HCT Summer Asia-Pacific Playoffs will begin on May, 15th and can be viewed live here!
Some people think Japan’s not a top tier civ, They assume Samurai are under-powered and that Japan has no one strength. Christian is not one of those people (mostly).