LoL World Championship, Play-In Finals, LIVE!

At 12AM est the League of Legends World Championship Play-In stage Finals begin! Cloud9 will face Gambit Esports in the first match of the night followed by Edward Gaming versus Detonation FocusMe. Get hype y’all, the 2018 LoL World Championship is actually about to begin in earnest. Watch it here with Patchwork Gaming!

NA LCS Summer Preview Part 3, The Elite

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,

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.

RIP Witchwood Meta, No One Will Miss You

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.