Archive for the ‘Original Content’ Category
Lately in competitive play, you rarely find that both teams end up going to the “expected” lanes. For instance, the bot lane duo on blue may go mid to siege the most important outer tower, as it opens up the largest part of the map by being destroyed. Along with that, the minions are quickest to get to the middle lane, contacting each other just around 1:55. If the mid laner attempts to stay there, they are likely lose their tower; however if they don’t, they and whoever comes into that lane will lose exp by having to move into/out of the lane.

Along with that, the bot lane duo may choose to siege whatever lane has the highest potential to snowball. Riven is a champion that both snowballs well and has a strong early game. The enemy team may decide to try and shut her down early and thus prevent a strong late game.

Riven has an ability to snowball that can be shut down by duo-laners.

For instance, if the duo on blue has gone top lane, the purple side duo could go bottom, while the jungler helps mid. This would help them take 1-2 towers and a dragon, in exchange for losing top and it’s snowball potential. A really efficient team can usually take an early tower, rotate, and repeat. However, a team comp that allows that may be shut down by a team with a hard engage, or some champions such as Singed that really don’t give a crap and will run circles around you until you’re dead. This really brings some interesting strategies to competitive play, and it’s just recently hit the NA and EU LCS in the past couple months; though they are still far behind the Koreans who really know how to make it work. The ability to push down towers so early and get your team ahead is huge.

Teams in Korea, and recently Cloud 9, have employed an “Always Take an Objective” strategy. After all, the goal of the game is to take down the opponents’ Nexus. Not get the most kills, ace them X amount of times; you want to destroy their nexus. Killing them is a means to an end. The enemy champions are just in your way. You might take the dragon or baron to kill them, so that you can get to the nexus. You can only reach it by taking down towers. By lane-swapping, teams take down multiple towers at a high rate. Games are a bit shorter nowadays, the game is no longer about “Let’s force a fight here, ace them and win!” It’s about pushing, killing them if need be, and pushing again. Certain picks have really helped that.


Pictured: Cloud 9′s ADC and Support: Sneaky and Lemonnation.

Caitlyn, for example, has the ability to siege towers very early with her long auto-attack range, and can zone you from defending with her traps. She also packs in the escape mechanisms to take the tower and live. She has a very high pick/ban rate in competitive play, simply because if going 2v2 lane, she’ll outrange you and if she has a ranged support as well, can poke you down and your tower. If she’s in a 2v1 lane, the tower is essentially hers, as one person cannot clear so many waves so early. If she draws the jungler to her lane, all the other lanes can pressure hard with the help of her own jungler, take objectives, or even have the jungler counter-gank. Other champions can suit this playstyle of taking down towers, such as Singed. While not common in competitive play, his ability to push down the minions in his lane can draw the attention of the jungler or a champion from another lane, which allows the rest of the team to pressure or take objectives while two people worry about Singed. If they don’t go after him he ends up with an incredibly high amount of farm, which allows his DPS and Tankyness to be incredibly high later in the game. Overall, what’s been pushed, whether or not it was Riot’s intention, is a faster-paced, skirmished based, objective focused game of LoL.

The game will continue to evolve, and innovation is sure to come for the victors. We’ll see how this all plays out at an international level, if the game stays like this when Worlds roll around.


Categories: Original Content Tags: , , ,


Week two has passed and it’s time to see where the teams stand. This has been the most balanced week possible with the three-way second-place tie expanding to a four-way tie, and Cloud9 finally suffering their first loss. The rankings are still primarily based off of wins and head-to-head, but the competition has surprisingly gotten tighter. With week three at MLG Anaheim giving teams three games each, the ties will hopefully get smashed; but the teams have started to show off what they excel at and the LCS is anything but set in stone.

Cloud9 – LCS W/L: 6-1 – LCS Ranking: 1 – Power Ranking: 1.

Cloud9 reigns supreme, but Earth looks a whole lot closer after their most recent results. This week was very different from week one for the Cloud brothers with their first loss and a very tight win. It was only two games however, and while they didn’t win the week, they’re still two wins ahead of the competition. C9 has a particular strength that makes it very difficult for them to fall too far behind in games: dragon control. Like clockwork the team is picking up dragons early and coming back every six minutes for that extra thousand gold. Even in games where they’re down in towers or kills, the fact that they have such a rigid focus on dragon means that by the 30 minute mark they’ve made 3000 to 4000 in dragon gold – keeping them from falling behind. This strength could be turned into a weakness however, and teams may start bullying around Cloud9 if they become too predictable with dragon approaches.

~Note: Second place power rankings are primarily based off head to head scores~

Team Solo Mid Snapdragon – LCS W/L: 4-3 – LCS Ranking: 2 – Power Ranking: 2.
TSM is in a weird spot compared to their Season One selves. Their strengths used to be that they never had a negative week, and only once went even in wins and losses. However it’s week two and they’ve already had their “one even week” by going 1-1 and the rest of North America seems to be keeping steady with them. TSM is strong this season, but so is everyone else. TSM’s biggest weakness right now seems to be their ability to adapt to bad situations. In TSM vs CLG, TSM took a very direct approach to fighting CLG: push lanes and hope to kite back once CLG engages with their heavy-engage team. The problem was that CLG had too much engagement and TSM would only kite after having lost 1-2 to the Malphite ult. TSM’s discipline was amazing, but unfortunately the strategy itself was lackluster in that circumstance.

Team Coast - LCS W/L: 4-3 – LCS Ranking: 2 – Power Ranking: 3.
Coast’s champion picks are still exciting as hell to watch, but unfortunately for them, crazy picks are not guaranteed to work out. They are the warriors wielding awesome champion choices, but their aggressive snowball-style tends to melt against more stable team compositions, if not successful early on. Of the second place luchadores, they’re the hardest to predict the future for. Every game where they pick very snowball-oriented characters like Fiddlesticks or Riven, is a game that can end in 20 minutes for either side. It’s how they play though and if teams can’t adapt to their constant aggressive playstyle, they could easily skyrocket to first place. One way or another Coast is going to break this tie; the question is do they go up or straight down? Though there is the possibility that some teams could adapt while others get left for dead, giving Coast very unique strengths and weaknesses on a team-to-team basis.

Counter Logic Gaming - LCS W/L: 4-3 – LCS Ranking: 2 – Power Ranking: 4.
This Week’s Winner
Counter Logic Gaming showed some vastly improved play this week as the role-swapped members have gotten comfortable enough to secure a 2-0 finish for the week. CLG’s biggest growth wasn’t individual player skill however, though Nientonsoh and BigfatLP have gotten much better since last week, but the team’s coordination. Cloud9 vs CLG’s level-one fight was a great example of this:  CLG expected an aggressive play, spammed wards from multiple players, and turned an aggressive invade into two free kills. Ward placement and the very meta-specific route CLG took to avoid wards were all team decisions. Meta-specific decisions used to be CLG’s strong suit back in 2012; the team said they didn’t adhere to the meta, but in reality they played with strategies that had a little influence from the meta or even countered it. They can deal with the strategy of the week, but they have to make sure that the players don’t get comfortable and be sure to expand their champion pools. They went 2-0 once, can they keep it up?


Vulcun TechBargains – LCS W/L: 4-3 – LCS Ranking: 2 – Power Ranking: 5.

Vulcun has the very confusing “weak spot” of the second placers. They lost to both TSM and Coast, beat CLG – but CLG is the only team to have taken down Cloud9 – hence fifth place. However they’re still tied for second place and even if they’re in a theoretical fifth place they’re in a very comfortable position for how Vulcun plays. Vulcun doesn’t necessarily have the consistency of TSM, but last season, after Bloodwater joined the team, they would mirror a terrible week with a great week. The fact that they’re only two wins up from 7th place isn’t terrific, but if they can maintain an even win ratio they’ll most likely make it to the playoffs- where the team’s Bo3 skill comes into play. Their game versus Cloud9 showed a moment of disorganization however, when two quick picks led to Cloud9 gaining very quick momentum late in the game. That mistake could have been one sloppy mistake, rather than a continuous problem, but MLG’s games will reveal that. Vulcun has cleaned up their act when it comes to “carry” status on the team, now everyone has a chance at it (including Bloodwater), but more standard issues that teams have should reveal themselves over time.


Team Dignitas - LCS W/L: 4-3 – LCS Ranking: 6 – Power Ranking: 6.

Dignitas showed some steady improvement this week, but the team is similar to Curse in that improvements still need to be made. They’re only one win behind the other teams though, and with every team having the same number of games played it’s not too shabby of a spot to be in- since they’re theoretically two wins from second place. They were able to stomp Coast, and were counter-stomped by Curse, which puts them in the middle of the NA pack. The team does have an issue when it comes to their approach towards games. This happened last season but it wasn’t uncommon for Dignitas to underestimate the strength of a team and get blasted as a result. This might have happened in week two versus Curse, due to their perceived weakness, but this should be a smaller issue as enough teams have beaten Dignitas to give a great perspective.


 Curse - LCS W/L: 2-5 – LCS Ranking: 7 – Power Ranking: 7.

Curse showed a spark this week, going 1-1 and looking fearsome in their victory against Dignitas. Edward is playing very well, and the rest of the team has started to regain their former glory. While they’re still in a rough state, they’re steadily transitioning into their former selves. Based off statements from last week, Curse was both distracted by E3 and also adjusting to Edward, the first week shenanigans may have been due to a lack of practice. It’s not by any means a good excuse since the game should be taking priority, but it is a problem that can be fixed. If it truly was bad practice prior to the first week, then by the end of the season Curse will have had a chance to win their way back to the top six and possibly secure top two. It’s going to be a tough road, but if they are able to stay confident and stay practiced they could be the Curse from early Spring Split once more.


 Velocity eSports - LCS W/L: 1- 6 – LCS Ranking: 8 – Power Ranking: 8.

Velocity was the only team this week not to secure a win, resulting in a 0-2 week and last place in both rankings and power rankings. The good news is that it’s still early in the season and it’s still very possible for Velocity to take the top six and represent themselves in the playoffs. However, the problems from last week remained the same this week. They can play well in the early game and come out ahead, but they’re not pressing a huge advantage. Similar to Vulcun versus Cloud9, someone will get caught out in the mid-game and Velocity will lose any advantage they’ve accrued. The team needs to find a way to transition out of their strong early game to a powerful snowball, and it’s just not happening. If an analyst looked at the first 20 minutes of Velocity’s games they’d look like a very strong team, but there is some aspect to their play or picks that is holding them back. The team needs a lot of work, and if it’s not done soon, the playoffs are quickly slipping away from them.


No disappointment this week! Teams either met perceived notions or did better than anticipated. North America is a helluva lot closer than anyone anticipated. No team is perfect however and as team strengths and weaknesses reveal themselves, it’s going to be up to the teams to adapt and change on a game to game basis. It’s still early in the season though, and even little Velocity can find their way into the playoffs.





Hello ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the first installment of the League of Breakdown.  Today is a special day because we’re going to look at dominion-specific changes, which will affect about 0.1% of the community. More than that, we’re also going to look at the changes to all the Tear of the Goddess items,  and the different champions which will benefit from these changes, as well as the differences between the Archangel’s and Manamune. First off, the changes!


  • Added Dominion variants of several items.

TearTear of the Goddess (Crystal Scar)

  • Mana per charge increased to 5 from 4.

ManamuneManamune (Crystal Scar)

  • Mana per charge increased to 8 from 4.

AAngelArchangel’s Staff (Crystal Scar)

  • Mana per charge increased to 10 from 6.

ROARod of Ages (Crystal Scar)

  • Now gains stacks every 40 seconds, down from 60 seconds.


This will allow the few champions who can spam skills at level one much stronger The Crystal Scar. For instance Singed, who can spam his Q and gain significant stacks by the time he leaves the platform.  This will help you get your stacks earlier on, so you don’t end up getting your seraph’s when the game is over. Other champions that should gain power with these changes include:




MundoDr. Mundo (Because He really needs the Mana as he has none).





(Of course you can spam skills with other champions, like Ezreal, but most of these have toggles, which will make it very easy to charge up a Tear of the Goddess).

Along with that, the ROA is now granting stacks every 40 seconds. Previously if you bought the ROA it would take twenty minutes to reach full power; this meant you often never reached full stacks.  Now it takes a mere 13.3 minutes to reach full stacks, which makes it more viable on the map- but still only if you rush it.

This makes for some interesting strategies on Dominion. Singed for instance will gain 250 health from a fully-stacked Tear, along with a massive amount of AP thanks to ROA, which will also add mana, which in turn will give extra AP through Seraph’s. This will allow deceptively high damage on Fling, and the ability to bait with the large shield from Seraph’s Embrace. Amumu with a Tear can consistently run his W to shred high-health targets. Karthus is an interesting one, it allows him to run his E near constantly; this will help him to defend a capture point for some time without suddenly running out of mana. It’ll enable Karthus to very quickly get full stacks on the Tear, allowing a TP Revive Karthus to pull off easy chain kills by simply running in, baiting the shield, outputting massive damage, repeat, and ult.

I’ve prepared a special paragraph for my favorite champion which I build Tear-into-Manamune/Muramana on, TARIC. Now, if you intend to play AD/Mana Taric, Tear is an absolute must. The AD given from having mana makes his autoattacks hurt. A lot. At level 18, with a full Tear and all his base-mana, he has 2008. This adds an extra 80+ damage per autoattack, paired with 80 AD from Muramana, and with baseAD, you get 196 AD and 80 extra damage on autoattacks from passive. With ONE item. I love Taric with a burning passion.

There are some other general strategies you can use; the ability to take the storm shield and use a Seraph’s shield adds a deceivingly high amount of tankyness to anybody taking the Tear. Muramana will enable many champions to do massive damage, especially those stacking mana items, such as Ryze. Rod of Ages is a staple on many AP casters, enabling you to have good sustain, balanced with some decent damage, and the mana it provides couples with the AP from Archangels/Seraphs, so it’s quite a strong combo even if the ROA only gives a base 60 AP.

Overall, these changes adapt these items to fit a fast-paced gamemode and are going to make the Crystal Scar more enjoyable. I hope that soon they’ll implement Champion-specific changes like this to Dominion, to suit the shorter, faster-paced game.

Is this going to inspire you to play some dominion?





Categories: Original Content Tags: ,
Categories: Original Content Tags: , , , ,


It may be the year of the serpent- but it’s the week of the Yordle, Kennen has been showing his furry face in the LCS again. We’re going to take a look at the favored Yordle and figure out why this Ionian has gone from a 0% Pick or Ban rate in the North American LCS to a whopping 90%. When a character becomes a common staple in LCS games there has to be some quality that transitioned them from viable to vital. It’s time to explore a little bit of Kennen’s history and his current skill-set in order to figure out why he’s so strong.

How does Kennen fare early game?

When weighing the viability of a champion, the first question always asked is “how does the champ lane (or jungle)?” It’s important to remember that professional League of Legends laning has a lot more variation than normal play. Lanes have been swapping like crazy and junglers are getting different amounts of buffs. The normal 1v1 top, 1v1 mid, and 2v2 bottom setup, or even the common 1v2 top, 1v1 mid, and 2v1 bottom setup aren’t even close to being guaranteed. While he has been run as an AD Carry in the post, his resurgence in the scene is based primarily off his soloing capabilities- particularly the solo off-lane (1v2 or 1v1 Top/Bot).

In this older video, Kennen is able to kill Irelia due to his high poke damage before the fight starts.

In the 1v1 Top/Bot:
Kennen is an amazing 1v1 champion in the laning phase. He has the range of a standard AD Carry (550), a very high base attack speed, an escape ability, a stun, and a really powerful level six all-in ability. What that leads to is really aggressive level one pressure with Kennen constantly autoattacking and throwing out Thundering Shurikens. This constant pressure doesn’t really stop as he levels up and unlocks his other abilities. Lightning Rush is both an initiation tool and escape tool, and Electrical Surge works as both a great pressure tool and a solid disengage. If he’s against a lower-range character, or someone who needs levels before they’re effective – like Vladimir – Kennen applies enough pressure to control the lane. If it’s a lane he can’t win, he can always play a safer game focusing on farm via autoattacking and tossing out Shurikens.

In the 1v2 Top/Bot:

It was surprising to hear that Kennen was played as a 1v2er, since at first glance he seems too squishy to spend enough time in the lane. However, his Q can be used to help last hit creeps, and eventually can be spammed to try and keep a creepwave smaller and more manageable. Lightning Rush is one of the best anti-dive skills in the game for the 1v2, it provides a tiny bit of tankiness and enough movespeed to escape characters using ghost, and is also available before most players have boots. An organized 3v1 turret dive can survive single-target CCs and Elise’s Rappel, but if they can’t reach Kennen in the first place he’s safe. Doran’s Blade is also a popular starting item, allowing Kennen to fight off a support with his high AD while providing more HP to survive ganks. He has decent kill potential with a jungle gank due to his CC and ability to close the distance on those pesky non-mobile supports. Having someone who can’t really fail alleviates a lot of pressure, since he’ll either be freefarming or dodging ganks.

Cloud9’s Kennen player Hai

What does he do mid to late game?

Kennen has a forgiving power-curve where he stays generally strong, with the exception of a mid-game lull where he’s easily blown up, but doesn’t quite have his Zhonya’s. If the Yordle goes in without that Zhonya’s as the first initiator, he dies, and he dies quickly. Once he does pick up the Hourglass or if someone else is hard initiating first like Zac, that issue is gone. When he does initiate, it is an incredibly disruptive action and has ridiculously high damage. His stun is only one second long, but it’s likely to trigger a second time.

But what about his damage?

His damage is absolutely insane. In a team fight one of Kennen’s big goals is to get close to an important squishy enemy, and land every skill he can on them. His reliable single target burst at level 11 with 100 AP is 1220, which with an Ignite can kill an AD carry very easily. His AoE damage is less consistent, but if optimal he’s only missing a Shuriken, which still leaves him dealing 910 damage. What gets more impressive is how well Kennen scales, with his whopping 3.5:1 Single Target AP Ratio, and 1:2.75 AoE Ratio. Once he builds a Zhonya’s he can survive long enough to output his crazy damage, and at that point it’s up to his team to have some decent clean up and lockdown to win team fights. The reason his ratios are so comparable to a character like Veigar is due to all his abilities having AP Ratios unlike casters like Annie and Veigar, and the bonkers 1.2:1 AP Ratio max single target damage on his ultimate.

What made him popular?

Kennen has had great damage output, crowd control, and initiation for quite a while now, even before he started getting picked around the world. He had massive usability issues though, due to a resource that other champions aren’t quite as limited by: Energy. All of his skills used to need quite a bit of energy, including his ultimate, and using his full combo required more than his maximum energy allowed. He does have a total of 65 energy return from his passive and Lightning Rush, but it’s not always possible for Kennen to close the gap, and Electrical Surge can’t proc the passive if the Kennen is trying to hold the spell for when his ultimate is activated.

When his ultimate still used energy, a level 11 Kennen using his Slicing Maelstrom needed the following: 45 energy on a max rank Shuriken, 45 on Electrical Surge, 100 on a Rank 1 Lightning Rush, and finally 45 on his ultimate. That’s 235 energy, which means if anything happens to his energy management his efficiency goes way down and he has to wait for energy – a death sentence in tight games. That issue is gone though, and his counterplay is limited.

Ways to Counter Kennen

There’s one amazing way to counter Kennen: knockbacks. Someone like Janna can use Monsoon to knock Kennen away and keep him from getting that solid ultimate down. A champion like Ezreal might be able to get away easily, but if Kennen isn’t knocked back himself then Lightning Rush will let him keep up with Ezreal and keep pecking away with his ultimate. Heavy disengagement really is the key, but heavy disengagement isn’t highly valued in the LCS right now. It was shown by CLG vs Cloud9 though, that the more skills you have to keep Kennen away, the less he can do.


To recap:

He wins or survives both 1v1 and 1v2 lanes.
He doesn’t have a huge weakness at any point in the game.
His damage and usability are crazy.
His usability has gone through the roof since they changed his energy costs
His only real counter is the unpopular heavy disengagement


It makes sense that he’s being picked now, and hell, he should have seen earlier play, but it’s cool to see him where he is. It’s unlikely that Kennen will stay top tier for very long as disengage gets more valued, but it’s very cool to see his quick growth. If you have any questions or comments about the character, feel free to leave a comment or follow me @LeagueOfStudio.


-Christopher “Studio” Grant

Categories: eSports, Original Content Tags: , ,

logoThe twist was huge in this match between Curse and Cloud 9 and it’s time to breakdown what happened. This isn’t really a game where the individual plays can be analyzed so much as the team decisions, and the huge differences in the overall strategies behind the champions chosen by the two teams. The best way to look at these strategies is to look at them on the individual champion level, and see what the champs naturally build into.



Here is a link to the game.

Curse’s picks: Elise, Draven, Blitzcrank, Twisted Fate and Maokai.

Elise: Elise provides a very strong “catch” initiation, as well as heavy sustained DPS and the ability to dive a squishy target in a team fight – depending on build. With the minimal help of a second diver she can reliably burst down a target, or provide a lot of kite and peel with an item like Rylai’s. Her laning is one of the safer ones, and with proper play she shouldn’t die without the help of a jungler.

Draven: Draven has gained massive popularity since the end of the Spring split, and this is due to his ridiculous damage. He has a solid attack speed steroid, Spinning Axe almost doubles his auto attack damage, and he’s amazing in lane. He does lack an escape though, and his mid-late game is dependent on a strong frontline. In the end though, if Draven is in the game he is a heavy threat as long as he can stay alive. He can snowball on his own, but requires a team snowball to really get going.

Blitzcrank: Curse was running Edward on Blitz, and it’s an Edward character. Laning as Blitz can be rough but a good grab can cause kills, and in the mid to late game a strong grab has the potential to end the game if it’s on the right target- similar to Elise’s stun it’s another great catch spell. His only AoE CC however is the silence from his ultimate, which is useful as an interrupt, but not much else.

Twisted Fate: Twisted Fate is that mid-game ganker that terrorizes solo queue. Late game he has incredibly powerful burst, and can take out an AD Carry that doesn’t have a defensive summoner up. He lacks reliable AoE damage, but can consistently output quite a bit onto a single target. His laning isn’t the safest, but against melee characters like Kha’Zix he’s fine as long as proper ward coverage protects him from jungle ganks. Strong pushers can make his ganks weaker, but only if TF doesn’t strongly push as well before he leaves lane.

Maokai: Maokai fits into the same mold as the other champions in Curse’s lineup. Lots of early game gank potential, lots of catch potential later on, but generally he’ll be used for his ult to prevent AoE damage. This is the only commonly thought of “team fighting character” on Curse’s lineup. His CC is either single target or in a very small radius for AoE, so he’s just adding to the catch potential in the end.

This team has ridiculous single target potential. They have four characters that are amazing at catching out individuals and lots of single target stuns, but lacked in AoE. Their team comp is based off winning early and using map control to keep the enemy team down. If they do end up against a stronger teamfighting composition later on in the game with equal or more gold, Curse has very little chance of winning that fight.

Cloud9’s picks: Kha’Zix, Zac, Sona, Ezreal and Rumble.

Kha’Zix: Note that these games weren’t played on patch 3.8, so none of the recent changes had been put in. The bug with the passive applying Void Spikes is still around. Kha’Zix himself provides a lot of roaming potential, and ridiculous AoE damage in team fights through Void Spike, with a lot of follow up damage through his leap. Against Twisted Fate he can leave his lane and arrive for a fight, but generally doesn’t have the needed movement until he has both leap and his Void Spikes evolved (note this was on the last patch).

Zac: Zac provides decent AoE damage, average pre-6 ganks, and one of the best mid to late game engages out there. Let’s Bounce isn’t the hardest CC in the game, but his Elastic Slingshot means that if there aren’t wards past a turret, Zac can still get solid initiation from out of line of sight. He’s shown his strength for teamfight style catches in the LCS, and he cannot be trifled with.

Sona: These picks are all leading down a road, and the road is AoE team fight ability. Zac has amazing initiation, Sona can possibly have amazing initiation, though riskier, or she can follow up on Zac’s initiation with Crescendos, making the enemy team dance. In lane she suffers from being incredibly squishy; one hook from a Blitz and she’s gone. She also has strong sustain for pushes and siege engagements.

Ezreal: Ezreal has taken up the role of a really strong mid-lane ADC. His laning can vary and if he falls behind it’s terrifying, but with the advent of Blue Ezreal (Frozen Fist, Muramana, Spirit of the Elder Lizard), Ezreal provides solid damage and great team fight presence with the slow from Frozen Fist, a team attack speed boost, and AoE damage from his ult.

Rumble: Rumble falls into the similar category as Ezreal. He provides great teamfight damage, has a slow that can stack with the other CC, and his laning is powerful as long as he doesn’t fall behind. While even he can be hyper-aggressive and god help the man facing the Rumble that’s overlevelled.

Cloud9’s team has very limited individual catch potential – nothing as quick or snappy as an Elise stun. Zac can make some awesome ganks happen, as well as Kha’zix with the slow from his evolved W, but C9 can’t compare to anything Curse has in regards to ganks. This team is entirely based off of teamfighting in the mid-game, leading to a fast win or a heavily snowballed lategame. They’re not just good at team fighting though, they’re amazing at it. This is one of the scariest team fight compositions imaginable, but it suffers from a weaker early game.

When players predict games from picks they usually look at laning and what the mid-game will be like, assuming both teams are even. In this case Curse’s team has beautiful early game gank potential, and in the mid-game, if they can stay spread out across the map and apply split push pressure, they can catch just about anybody in a bad spot. Curse’s lanes are also really solid. the only possible lane-loss would be related directly to Zac ganks. If they make it to the super-late game, a six item Draven outscales a 6 item Ezreal. Even though Could9 has a much stronger five man battle potential, the early laning can set the team so far back that Curse can play their spread out game. However, if Curse ever engages without a massive lead or certain spells down on Cloud9, they’ll lose the fight.

Looking at Cloud9’s team, their lanes are weak, but once the team groups up as five they’re going to be unstoppable. Everything they have is built around AoE damage, and against a comp like this the only way to win in an outright 5v5 style team fight is to have similar AoE and get better initiation, or to be so far ahead that the AoE damage doesn’t instantly kill the team and they can fight back and win afterwards. The only weakness would be super late in the game, but there is never a point where Draven could safely survive a fight if he’s hit by a Zac initiate, since Rumble, Sona, and Kha’zix can follow up so well on it. Even Ezreal with his ultimate.

So how did the game play out? Curse was able to make picks. A lot of picks. No seriously, look at all these picks. These picks are Curse’s strength, and they were playing their team composition to the max. Unfortunately they didn’t keep up this pick-focused gameplay, and Cloud9 were quick to step into action. It took one fight for Cloud9 to become relevant again, and that was Curse getting too confident and not properly playing the style of game the team needed. If you watch that fight, C9 locked down three in a Sona ult, deal damage, but don’t instantly get kills. Curse was about 1000 gold from being able to win the fight by tanking C9’s damage, but they weren’t there yet, and C9 was able to clean up the members of Curse that had been left with slivers of HP. After the won fight C9 instantly came back into action and just controlled the game, and Curse kept trying to team fight.

The moral of the story is the need to play team comps with their design in mind. It took one fight for Curse to lose their massive lead in the game, and it was all because they thought they could tank through the massive amount of AoE on Cloud9.

What Curse could have done better?

For the first portion of the game, not all that much. They got lots of kills, held the map, and lived a good life. After the Baron teamfight is when they lost their grip on the game, but they had a chance to reclaim it. Instead of using the Oracles Edward bought to clear C9’s wards from the map and go for more catch-style of gameplay, they found themselves going for pushes and playing 5-man League of Legends. The big problem is how atrocious their picks were for 5-man League of Legends. It doesn’t matter how much they want the team to work, going into AoE hell without being massively far ahead or with key items like a Runic Bulwark, is ineffective.

What could Cloud9 have done better?

Not lose lanes. They were in the fun position where their team composition had a clear cut way to beat Curse through 5v5 fights, but their lanes had to not lose terribly. They were lucky that they were still able to win that first fight, but a lot of that was overconfidence on Curse which led C9 to have really strong positioning. The solo queue school of thought is to pick to win lanes, and if you’re far enough ahead the comp doesn’t really matter. This also used to be the meta for about a year, before teams developed. Now that is a valid strategy, but the lanes have to be outright crushed, it’s very risky, and the game has to end quickly.

“The Dream Job”

June 20th, 2013


The LCS has just started back up with quite a shift in the regions. Two teams from North America were dismissed from the LCS as well as three from the European region. The concept of having to fight for your livelihood keeps the players sharp, prepared and playing at their best— or one would hope. While the spirit of competition and having to prove your worth in the arena is excellent from a viewer’s perspective, fans and casters have been throwing around the “dream job” moniker on this position. But is professional gaming really a dream job or are we simply in love with the idea of playing video games for money?


Pay Paid to Play



Every avid gamer has this golden image of being paid to do what they already do: play video games. Even outside of the simple monetary gains from being a professional gamer, there are many reasons this is an attractive position: the idea that you can outperform others in a realm not limited by physical capabilities, competition based on mental capacity with fast reactions and, of course, the fame that goes along with being a top player. These factors are often all players see into a pro’s life, and from the outside it looks amazing. However, being a professional gamer is no easy task, or we would all be challenging CLG for their spot in the LCS. So what goes on behind the scenes that makes this job not so glamorous after all?


The Mind Game



Almost anyone can play video games to a high level, regardless of physical fitness or disability. Video games at a competitive level are battles of wit, execution and snap decision making without having a physical component- aside from dexterous hands. Conceptually, having to duke it out with your brain and some muscle memory is ideal, until you recognize the actual ramifications of that. A game such as Starcraft or League of Legends requires extreme mental fortitude. It’s not simply about your ability to out-think your opponent, it’s about outlasting them as well. Think about the amount of stress and emotion going into losing the first two matches in a best of five and knowing that a single misstep in game three removes you from the competitive scene or costs you $25,000. The mental strength of a professional gamer has to be to an equivalent to the physical strength of an athlete, if not more.


Fight for your Right (to game)


The eSports scene is relatively unique in both the pace of challengers arising and the ease of getting in. Going through high school and college sports to maybe get drafted is a much longer and complicated process. The allure of competitive gaming is that anyone that can game can play, so long as they pass through the tournament ranks. At a Starcraft tournament, people can blow through the casual round, open to anyone and make it, into a huge sanctioned tournament to face off with the best. But imagine being a mid-level or even top player in this situation. A newcomer on a streak is blowing through and taking your chances to win away.

Objectively, this seems like the proper thing; if you can’t hang with the crowd, you don’t deserve to be there. In reality, the livelihood of these gamers can hinge on having an off-week or slump period. This is amplified further in a team sport, for example, in the recent aAa v SK match where aAa were missing a player due to a personal reasons and this contributed hugely to their removal from the LCS. Say a family member passes away the week of a major tournament for a $50,000 prize pool, and they’ve had a rough few weeks with a new patch or map pool coming out. From the outside, it’s easy to turn your thumb down and sentence them to death: they’re not worthy of continuing if they can’t beat other players. But what if you’re aAa?


It’s a Small World


Professional gamers are well known commodities. If you play League of Legends, you know the heavy hitters: Doublelift, Saintvicious, TheOddOne, anybody on EG, and so on. Starcraft fans know of Flash, IdrA, Boxer, and many more. In any sport or event there are huge celebrities and it feels really good to be in that spot. But think about the viewership and diversity of the subject. There are megastars in sports like Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, David Beckham, Tiger Woods or John Madden that almost everyone knows, but those are incredibly rare. Remember that these sports have millions and millions of fans and viewers. There are football, basketball and baseball players that you have never, ever heard of who make more money than your family combined and tripled in a year. And these are professional sports, not eSports. Even at a massive concurrent viewership of 600,000 people for a tournament, that number is significantly less than a regular television program needs to stay on the air.

To give some examples, let’s name JennaMarbles, Dan O’Brien, Flash and Wickd. The first two routinely have millions of views on their videos/articles on a weekly basis; Flash is one of the strongest players in Starcraft: Broodwar history and is quickly making waves in the SC2 scene; and Wikd is a popular top laner for team EG with a massive viewership peaking during his 1v1 for the All Star position. Ask yourself and your friends who knows all of these people. Ask your parents or coworkers. Your fame is great within the community, but it’s a drop in the bucket. The fame you experience is through a tournament or online, and rarely will that carry over into real life. It’s still better than no fame, but you’re by no means famous.


It Never Ends


If you go to work, you can punch out at the end of the day and go home. You also have a time that you have to be there and start your day. While your job might suck, it almost always has these boundaries to it. What if your job is to “get better at League of Legends”? What the hell does that mean? Do you play for a couple hours a day? How about scrim against other teams? Play some solo queue? When do you play? TSM has a good setup where they have a separate building for their gaming, but it’s really hard to draw the line between work and play and there is no time off if you can’t draw a line. You either play morning, noon and night for 7 days a week or have to set up some solid play time.

This fluid scheduling often leads teams to train for 10-14 hours per day to stay in tip-top shape. Can you imagine having to play a game for that amount of time for 5 to 7 days a week to keep your job? And you’re not just mindlessly chugging away—you have to be thinking, adapting and reacting for 60+ hours a week just to keep your job. And if you take a break and play other games, you’re often berated for not working hard enough. As a Broodwar player, playing SC2 in your off time was not well received because why do you have off time? You’re just sitting around all day; no reason you can’t be working at improvement during your waking hours. And keep in mind that if you don’t want to train 10+ hours a day, someone else will. And they’ll beat you. And you lose your job. It never ends.


Chump Change



The professional gaming organizations are pretty big operations with a lot of money and sponsors coming through. While a lot of these gamers make a comfortable living and some make absurd amounts of money, it’s incredibly rare. The streaming and video money from ads and sponsors is excellent supplemental pay, but you can’t really live well or support a household. Now this is great for some, but I’ll always remember what a vendor for Magic: The Gathering cards told me concerning the professional scene for MTG. He participates in events and is a very strong player, but he makes a living through reading trends in the market and reselling cards. When I asked him why he didn’t participate in the Pro events, he said something along the lines of, “Hey man, I’m not going to grind it out, work my ass off and go to every event to scrape up $25,000 a year.” This is a reality for tons of professional gamers. Not only are you working your ass off, known by next to nobody outside your bubble and can be replaced by anybody on an off week, but you’re doing this for chicken scratch.


Why do it?


Well I’ve sort of put a pin in the balloon that was your dreams, and sorry for that. But there is still a positive side to all of this, and that is you can get paid to do what you love. If you truly love the competition, game and community, you can succeed. But this is really the trick here: you have to love it. People are envious of pro gamers, but don’t realize that these folks are not in it for the money, the fame or because they like video games. They are in it for the glory, competition and love of the game that runs deeper than you know. The other things are byproducts of their drive to become the best and compete against the best. So if you truly love the game and all of the aspects of it, becoming a pro gamer is less a choice and more the end game. A drive to do better, compete and the passion to continue playing will lead to the top if it runs deep enough. So the next time you start throwing around the “dream job” title, ask yourself if it’s your dream or someone else’s that you think looks nice from the outside.


The LCS is underway and the games are gettin‘ hot. Let’s take a look at the most influential game from June 12, the battle between Team Solo Mid and Cloud9. TSM came in as the number one seed, while C9 are the new hotshots on the block, having already tossed Dignitas aside by the start of this game. How do the new C9 strats match up versus old-guard TSM ones?


TSM Picks – Blue Side

Top – Renekton
Jungle – Elise
Mid – Orianna
ADC – Ezreal
Support – Sona


Cloud9 Picks – Red Side

Top – Kennen (Hai)
Jungle – Zac
Mid – Ryze (Balls)
ADC – Draven
Support – Lulu


Team Compositions



This is where it all starts, the picks and bans screen. Objectively looking at a team comp can be a difficult feat, it requires knowledge of the individual characters and the ability to remain aware of the little details that can sometimes be forgotten. These are the areas that a team can excel in or… not.  To make looking at comps a little bit easier: damage output (early- mid- and late-game), initiation, hard CC (stuns/suppression), soft CC (slows/silences), mixed damage, wave clear, push potential, gank potential, split-push potential, kite potential, and mobility are just a portion of what teams build around. TSM’s team comp is a traditionally balanced comp where most of those categories are partially filled out. Two sources of magic damage, two sources of physical and decent levels of CC. The team doesn’t really excel in anything but they have a little bit of everything- except possibly reliable ways to start fights. They have ways to set up Orianna‘s ball, but nothing along the lines of a Zac or Malphite initiation. This jack-of-all-trades team is designed to do anything. It’s heavily communication based and it leaves the enemy unable to predict what TSM can do.


Cloud9’s picks are pretty damn interesting. Hai went top lane as Kennen, instead of Balls; C9 isn’t afraid to mix up their traditional roles and if Hai is a the better Kennen, why not put him there – leaving Balls with the relatively simple Ryze. The C9 composition only has Draven for physical damage, but his damage is so bonkers that they rely on it, or the threat of it, to force TSM out of position. With Zac and Kennen able to rush the frontline and make initiating onto Ryze and Draven difficult, they work to protect the backline through aggressive action. It’s pretty neat when it works out, though it is weak to very heavy initiation, especially if there’s AoE to back it up. It’s important to note that TSM doesn’t have a way to reliably get on Draven. Everyone but Ezreal has a way to CC him, but if SneakyCastro has relatively safe positioning TSM is going to get burned before they can come close.




Laning for both sides was incredibly passive in terms of player engagement, but very active in pushing. The one person that couldn’t fall behind for C9 was Draven, so they sent him to 2v1 top to provide him with safe farm. If Draven did fall behind then a Runic Bulwark would neuter the damage output of C9 significantly. TSM had a similar situation; Orianna needed to get to here Athene’s before she could be as active as other mids. She has great scaling but needs to have a major item backing her up; by rotating and letting Regi farm multiple lanes he reached his Athene’s even faster. There wasn’t any real action until a short skirmish and over-aggression on both teams led to quick pick-offs. The resulting punishes that ended at a 1-1 trade stuck with both teams and left them roaming passively.

The mid-game was pretty balanced. TSM would lose a fight on their side of the map, then pick up a kill on Cloud9 a minute later in their jungle. C9 did manage to maintain a tower lead, but never by more than one, as both teams showed similar map presence and won an equal number of fights. This fight really shows the back and forth nature of the game, since Cloud9 had just won a battle, but TSM was prepared and ready to fight on. A lot of this stemmed back to that first engagement. Both teams knew that going over-aggressive in a 5v5 situation would result in quick picks and death, so instead of forcing fights both teams tried to play around quick picks. This sneaky and quick method of play led to both teams being terrified to go for the aggressive push. With good reason, since a Zac initiation over a wall could shutdown a TSM push, and an Elise initiation with the Orianna ball could do the same thing to Cloud9 at a turret. This passive gank style of play went back and forth for quite some time until Cloud9 was able to take control of the game with a post-Baron team fight. A Baron they didn’t get. How they won the fight is tied heavily into how Cloud 9 utilized their picks.


Cloud9’s Team Fight Strategy


Cloud9’s team fight strategy was pretty cool too see in action. It went like this: Zac and Kennen either initiating as a pair to win a quick fight, or stagger the AoE ults so the CC lasts longer rather than going for the heavy damage. If anyone squishy moves towards the backline they get blown up, and if Renekton or Elise go for the dive then C9 can kite them back and the rest of TSM couldn’t react. If TSM kites away then C9 can always just walk away from the fight, or use the high mobility of Zac and Kennen to land some more CC.

A good example of their planned fight is this fight that gave control of the game to C9. TSM was able to sneak Baron to near death, due to some poor positioning on Cloud9’s part, but with a quick response they were able to arrive… just in time for Baron to die. The followup fight shows the grinder that Cloud9 had formed. Reginald was funneled into it by a knockback, and afterwards you can see the rest of the TSM initiation failing to crack Cloud9. Watch the Elise dive, watch Renekton dive, TSM is helpless once the dive is initiated.

The game still remained fairly passive, but Cloud9 was able to pressure turrets down after securing a baron, and it wasn’t until this final fight that the action really went down.


What Could TSM Have Done?


A heavier initiation would have helped stop the pressure from Draven since he has no escapes, but overall TSM’s composition didn’t have a particularly strong focus. Fluid picks like TSM’s used to be the norm, where there might be a focus on some aspect but not anything as clearly planned out as Cloud9’s strategy. Having their “direct way to win a fight” and a decent battleplan would have led to crisp fights. Aside from that, they needed to play aggressively earlier. Since they couldn’t kill Draven early, being able to take out Kennen before his Zhonya’s would have been amazing, and the 20% attack speed boost from a rank one Ezreal Essence Flux would have let them shred towers to a fine confetti. They still could have won with a solid initiation later on in the game, but were reliant on less stable initiation that had the potential to be amazing, but was most likely not going to land well- aside from maybe an Elise Rappel with Orianna’s ball.

This is just the beginning however. Cloud9 is number one, but they’re going to have to stay innovative and maintain their unique style of picks to keep themselves unpredictable. It’s a good start though, and if this is just the beginning of the LCS’s unique team compositions then it’s going to get downright awesome. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave a message down below or message me on twitter @LeagueOfStudio)

-Christopher “Studio” Grant

Categories: eSports, Original Content Tags: , ,


The first week of the NA LCS is over and it is now time to take a look at how the teams did. This first power ranking is primarily based off the Win/Loss ratio of the teams, as that’s the only tournament data we have to go on. As the season progresses expect the possibility of qualifying for playoffs and the teams current relative strength to be bigger factors. A team can do great the first couple weeks, but if they’re going 0-5 the week before playoffs they’re not going to be number one. This week leads off with the rise of newer teams and many of the old-guard falling to the bottom four.

Cloud9 – LCS W/L: 5-0 – LCS Ranking: 1 – Power Ranking: 1
This Week’s Winner

There’s no denying that Cloud9 is high in the sky, looking far down at the North American scene. It’s still early on in the season, so their two game lead over the opposition isn’t guaranteed to last, but they’re already looking like a top two team- if not number one. They’re not unbeatable though, as the Curse game showed when they found themselves down 2-10 in kills and down towers, but they did something that shows the strength of the team: they recovered through aggressive play. Despite being totally slammed, they recovered. Cloud9 was clearly on top of their game coming into the season. If they can maintain the focus that put them on top of the pile, it may be weeks until we see them lose.

Team Solo Mid Snapdragon – LCS W/L: 3-2 – LCS Ranking: 2 – Power Ranking: 2

TSM is tied with two other teams, but their games looked the cleanest of the bunch and they also beat the teams they tied with. Their victories over Coast, Vulcun, and Curse were very neat and calculated, and their loss versus C9 was a pretty great watch, both teams were on point. TSM did have a game that left a bad taste in the mouths of fans though, their game and eventual loss versus Dignitas. Based off TSM’s extra aggressive gameplay, interviews with players after the game, and knowing TSM watched CLG versus Dignitas – TSM predicted Dignitas was going to be dead in the water. Because of this TSM played very fast and very aggressively – trying to make unnecessary plays and giving away free kills. This underestimation of Dignitas is not a good reason to lose a game; Dig did play well but TSM also outplayed themselves. If the Bay Life Bunch can keep their eyes on the prize and not let theoretical skill differences go to their heads, they may be a contender for Cloud9 soon.


Vulcun TechBargains – LCS W/L: 3-2 – LCS Ranking: 2 – Power Ranking: 3

Vulcun has decided to split the burden of carrying, with Sycho Sid getting a chance to spread his wings and show he’s got the stuff to contend with the best. Overall Vulcun still feels like the same team, but their ability to turtle and punish mistakes has increased dramatically. Some of their matches were outright dirty, but the fact that the general atmosphere of the team seems to have improved and Vulcun has stepped away from being subtitled “MandatoryCloud Carries” makes them a really solid mid-ranking team. Note that this isn’t a bad thing, it means the team has become consistent, and it doesn’t mean that they’ll be eliminated in playoffs by a higher ranking team. Their prowess in Bo3s is hard to match up, but being able to stay in a decent position and get to playoffs in the first place is a huge deal.

Team Coast - LCS W/L: 3-2 – LCS Ranking: 2 – Power Ranking: 4

Coast has to be one of the most entertaining teams to watch this LCS split. Players, casters, spectators, and possibly Coast themselves have no idea what the hell they’re going to bust out in a match. Try to snowball the Riven toplane? Jungle Fiddlesticks? It’s just too hard to pindown. They haven’t had the cleanest of games though, and in the games they did lose they’re awesome picks quite often haunted them. Versus Cloud9 the Jungle Fiddlesticks built tanky, but was never able to survive long enough to get in position to ult or even CC, and at the same time his mid-game damage wasn’t noticeable. The pick was essentially a non-factor unless their team snowballed out of laning and Fidlesticks was able to “Caw Caw” Cloud9 into submission. This snowball factor is important, as the majority of Coast’s comps are terrifying if they get even a tiny bit ahead, but at the same time the more standard and balanced teams that survive Coast’s early aggression will likely crush them. If their drafting is focusing on snowballing every game will be a gamble, luckily they’ve shown they know how to make the dice roll.

Counter Logic Gaming - LCS W/L: 2-3 – LCS Ranking: 5 – Power Ranking: 5
This Week’s Surprise

No one expected CLG to do this well. CLG is composed of good players but Nientonsoh and BigfatLP are just so new to the roles that getting crushed was the expected outcome. The reason they’re ranked above Dignitas is due to how new the roster is, there really isn’t any direction for CLG to go besides up. BigFatLP and Nientonsoh are still vulnerabilities to the team. However, Link has busted out his carrying boots in order to keep the team alive and allow themselves to reach an extra late game situation, often to the point where multiple people on a team have a fully completed item build. The team has shown they have endurance to work with the late game style, but this does mean their play is very sloppy until they reached the late game. CLG isn’t in the clear by any means though, if other older teams can kick it into shape, CLG can very easily be left in their dust since Nien and BigFat have so much more to learn and will most likely be slower to improve.

Team Dignitas - LCS W/L: 2-3 – LCS Ranking: 5 – Power Ranking: 6

Dignitas was able to show some prowess in their victory over Velocity, and outright stomp-potential versus TSM, but the team isn’t looking good right now. Dig as a whole seemed to be down in the dumps emotionally, not even specifically related to a gameplay issue. Even Patoy, considered one of the top NA supports, was missing ultimates as Sona during the CLG match. That match really showed Dignitas’ weaknesses in going for the longer game. As the game progressed the initiations became more and more staggered where Diana, Kennen, and Zac were initiating with no backup from the rest of the team. Hopefully they used this week as a chance to wake up and get into the groove, but the players just seemed tired.

 Velocity eSports - LCS W/L: 1- 4 – LCS Ranking: 7 – Power Ranking: 7

Velocity has promise, despite being tied for last in the rankings. Each of their matches have shown potential, similar to Coast’s week one dealings in last season – they didn’t win but they looked good. However, their only win was versus CLG, who were at their weakest at that point. Their biggest problem seems to be their lack of experience and possibly picking team compositions that even when ahead, can be initiated on and beaten. They’re doing well in-lane, taking early advantages, then getting crushed by a hard initiate when they group up and push. The fact that they are putting themselves ahead in-lane is a great sign however, if the team can figure out what’s crushing them in their grouping then they can ride that lane snowball to victory.They’re still very new to this style of play though, and their score reflects it, but if they can pull a Coast and improve in time to qualify for playoffs, don’t be surprised if they do great.

 Curse - LCS W/L: 1-4 – LCS Ranking: 7 – Power Ranking: 8
This Week’s Disappointment

Curse was the big disappointment this week, having many issues and failing to perform, for reasons that shouldn’t be relevant. They’re tied for last place and with a new member, but most of the misplay isn’t coming out of Edward, the mistakes are being made by the team as a whole. Saint is being caught out, Cop isn’t auto-attacking, Voyboy is having trouble developing his snowball, and Jacky is having overall difficulty. While Cloud9 should be praised for their comeback, Curse managed to bungle a snowballed game. Part of it was their picks, but when Curse started play a 5v5 game against the team with massive AoE, they were gambling in a game where they could have split pushed until they had no chance at losing a fight, or better yet never team fight in the first place. There is something wrong in the state of Nevada, and the team has to figure out what’s holding them back before having to make a difficult midseason recovery. If Curse has another bad week they may put themselves in a position where getting top 2 has almost no chance of happening.

Why are some of the old guard weak?

There may be a reasoning for some of the strong teams from last season underperforming this season. The teams may not care about the earlier portion of the season. Curse and Dignitas had phenomenal starts last season, but the exuberance wore off by the time playoffs rolled around and they accomplished very little there. If the teams feel that focusing on doing well later is worth the sacrifice of losing some games now, it may justify their decision. In the end there isn’t too much incentive for the teams to play well ASAP if they feel they can reach playoffs, but it will add extra games to their playoff run and there’s always the chance that the team takes 7th or 8th. Someone has to take up those two slots, and while Velocity was predicted for it, they’re by no means guaranteed to take it. If you have any comments about this week’s power ranking, feel free to contact me on twitter @LeagueOfStudio or to leave a comment below.

-Christopher “Studio” Grant


Heya folks. North American LCS is here and it’s time to take a look at the big dogs. There might be eight teams in the brackets, but the real competition during  the Spring Split’s regular season was Curse and TSM riding the high life. What’s their Summer Split life looking like?

Top – Dyrus
Jungle – TheOddOne
Mid – Reginald
ADC - WildTurtle
Support – Xpecial

Team Solo Mid has been the North American rock for quite some time. Regardless of the many heated debates on TSM’s skill, Baylife has brought damn good results in North America for years. The last LAN without foreign teams that TSM participated in and didn’t take first place was IPL 3 in October of 2011. It’s a bit different when the team goes international, but the LCS of North America isn’t really the place to look at foreign results (that’s for World Playoffs, which are quite a ways off).

While TSM did take first last season, it wasn’t  a clean sweep, and their results rarely are. Early on in the season TSM lagged behind both Curse and Dignitas, boasting a 7-4 record at the end of week four, compared to Curse’s 9-2 and Dig’s 10-2. They never had a bad week however, and that showed as the season progressed and both Curse and Dig slipped, while TSM remained steady and ended with a solid two win lead for first place. It’s the consistency that makes TSM likely to be a top two finisher, if not number one.

In terms of actual gameplay there are a ridiculous amount of  shots fired at TSM over Reginald being overaggressive, but the reality is that most of the jokes and criticisms tend to happen because TSM is a team shining in the spotlight. They’re not perfect though, as no team is. TSM has to make sure they’re prepared for each game and to constantly respect the level of play their opponents are at. At the start of the Spring Season TSM seemed unprepared for some of the new S3 strategies and this lack of preparation also cost them matches at MLG Anaheim- which led to Chaox being cut from the team. Chaox being cut is important though, it shows that the team is willing to adapt. Cutting a member is tough, but if Chaox was costing them games and causing more drama than Gamecribs could handle, severing his connection to the team is important and justified. They take their game seriously.

What does this mean for the Summer Split? They are consistent, and that consistency can lead to safer predictions for them taking first place, but at the same time being consistently good, but not great, can have its drawbacks. This isn’t as big a deal for the season itself, since the ten week cycle is about the week to week persistence over flashes of brilliance, but the playoffs are going to be TSM’s weak point. While they were able to cinch number one in the Spring Split, the results show that they’re not far from losing a set. Losing a set in Summer Split’s playoffs will be huge, as it could cost them a spot in the World Playoffs. They beat Vulcun 2-1, and Team Coast 3-2, every game went to its final match. These final matches show how the North American scene as a whole has improved and even “weaker” North American teams are a major threat; TSM will have to remain focused on staying relevant with their strategies. The week where they underestimate their opponents will be the never before seen bad week for TSM.

Top – Voyboy
Jungle – SaintVicious
Mid – Ny Jacky 
ADC – Cop
Support – Edward

Curse Gaming used to follow in the footsteps of TSM by being a fairly steady rock, but with bigger falls compared to TSM. However the inclusion of Edward, formerly of Gambit Gaming, onto the team has shut down those predictions and Curse is a bit of a wildcard with their new European blood. Their botlane is going to be naturally different now that Elementz’s small shoes are being filled by Edward, but knowing how big the change will be is hard to predict.

Cop has been heavily criticized as being a passive AD, focused more on playing safe and farming rather than going for aggressive actions. In tournament play throughout Season 3 this was most certainly the case. However a lot of that playstyle rested on his cohesion with Elementz, and as the dissent between Elementz and the rest of the team grew, that began to falter. Cop has shown his ability to kill dudes in solo queue and if Edward is there going aggressive and landing hooks left and right he will be there to follow up, but will he be able to keep pace with Edward?

That is the (potentially) million dollar question. Can Edward work with the rest of Curse? Back when he was known as GosuPepper and as a huge troll, his aggressive personality made him one of the most disliked League of Legends pros. To put it bluntly, Gosu was a pretty big jackass on stream, and that personality might stick with him off stream. Factor in that Edward had issues with Genja and it hasn’t been revealed who caused the conflict between Edward and Gambit Gaming’s shotcaller, and a possible recipe for disaster might be brewing on Curse. Cop, Voyboy, and NY Jacky all have fairly passive personalities in relation to SaintVicious’ aggressive nature, and Edward breaks that mold solidly. The team respects each other right now, but will they be able to handle each other a week from now? At playoffs? There is going to be early steam going forward since the team hasn’t had time to learn to hate Edward, but the road for Curse looks unsteady in an emotional sense.

That tends to be the Achilles Heel of Curse. Unlike other teams that tend to fall behind and have difficulty recovering with their play, Curse has a nasty habit of having difficulty with a member and stirring up drama. In Season 2 a lot of the blame was dedicated at Westrice, and Westrice downward spiralled into more losses as the hate grew. In January they had major issues with Jacky prior to the Season 3 qualifiers, but Curse was able to whip him back into shape. In April there was the Elementz debacle and he ended up leaving the team after underperforming. Since Curse tends to be very public with their statements, this leads to situations where there are upvoted Reddit threads stating whether a player should quit or stay. While most players have learned to ignore Reddit’s opinions on players, in tense situations the public hate can be a breaking point. They’ve shown with Jacky that they can recover from their hate cycle, at the same time it’s not the norm and it’s with Edward’s personality it’s very likely if the bad blood gets in the way of games it won’t dissipate.

What does this mean for the Summer Split? No one knows how the botlane will play out. North America is known for its AD carries moreso than other roles, so Edward may not be able to pull off some of his normal 1v2 bullying. Sona is getting nerfed and Thresh needs to be banned or picked versus Edward, so his naturally aggressive champion pool is going to be a little smaller than Curse would like it to be. At the same time, Edward might just kill everybody, ever. If Curse does well and doesn’t have an extended period of losses (more than a week) they’re not likely to fall into Curse drama and the team will have a strong grip in the top three. On the other hand if they fail for an extended amount of time the team might collapse and eventually SaintVicious will drunkenly threaten to replace Edward with L0cust. It’s anyone’s guess at this point.

For the other teams, check out these articles on Cloud9 and Velocity, Team Coast and CLG, and Dignitas and Vulcun. For are any questions or comments, feel free to contact the author Twitter (@LeagueOfStudio) or leave a comment below.

-Christopher “Studio” Grant

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