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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

Categories: Original Content Tags: , , ,

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Heya folks. After checking out Cloud9 and Velocity, it’s time to look at the more familiar faces. The North American LCS is starting soon and despite the lack of normal competitive play since the relegation matches, the LCS teams are always developing and looking for something new to bring to the table. Leading up the change train are Team Coast (formerly Good Game University) and Counter Logic Gaming, coming back to the Season 3 Summer Split with roster changes – one small and one massive.

Team Coast players:

Top – ZionSpartan
Jungle – NintendudeX
Mid – Shiphtur
AD Carry – DontMashMe
Support – Daydreamin

Team Coast will be starting off the split with a comparatively light roster swap; they are exchanging their AP Mid Jintae for Shiphtur. Shiphtur was originally a starter for TC, but due to complications with a work visa he was unable to attend the majority og the LCS. While the change may not seem massive, it should have quite a positive impact on TC; that and recent history may just propel them to greatness.

During the Season: Team Coast’s Spring Split was all over the place, from rock bottom to a less rocky second. Early on, the results they brought in were bursting with style, but sadly lacking in wins. The losses continued but the style dissipated quickly as TC lost their midlaner, Shiphtur, in week two; first to a test he had to take, and then work visa complications. Fat, a toplaner, was chosen as their sub out of urgency and TC had to suddenly swap lanes to make the lineup work. Their young burning spirits were extinguished in tower dives and “GG”s; even after Jintae was brought to midlane and Zion could return to his original toplane position. It wasn’t until Team Coast’s support Bloodwater left the team for Vulcun that they really showed their strength. After picking up Daydreamin to replace Bloodwater and looking inward towards them team’s lackluster performance, they fiercely came back and played their hearts out to qualify for playoffs.

It was in the playoffs where Team Coast began to shine. They’d survived being pushed into relegations with a strong LCS Super Week finish and the momentum didn’t stop there. This was the team that had squeaked into 6th place after struggling to swim for the first half of the season. What did people expect when TC had to play Dignitas – the 3rd placed team at the end of LCS? A 2-1 victory for TC. What about Curse – taking up the 2nd place? A 2-1 victory for TC, it was unbelievable. Finally they were playing TSM in the Grand Finals of the playoffs, and while they ended up losing the series 2-3, it was a close series and TC had proven they can fight with the top dogs in North America.

But to bark up a different tree, Team Coast has an old face returning for this split. Jintae has been replaced by Shiphtur, the original starter for TC. Unlike other player swaps, this was more expected; he was benched due to work visa issues, not his play. Jintae improved dramatically throughout the season, but Shiphtur is a damn good player and the team has extensive practice with him. Team Coast should be improving, and having Shiphtur over Jintae might be what it takes for them to flip that 2-3 loss into a 3-2 victory and to reign supreme in North America.

The Reality: Team Coast has a lot of potential to be a number one or number two team at the end of the playoffs. Though they’re not necessarily going to be a team that dominates. If they never get comfortable and keep the emotion that elevated them to their best games during the first split, then TC will do well; it took a player leaving the team for what seemed to be greener pastures before Team Coast really picked up their game. On the flip side, if Team Coast gets cocky but don’t maintain their passion, crazy strats with odd picks such as Leona Jungle will probably get played and have very little success. Elementz, their new coach, will have his work cut out for him to lay out the proper environment where TC feels confident, but not cozy. Even if Team Coast doesn’t have a solid season, their strength and past results in playoffs mean they are a one of the more likely candidates to represent North America in worlds.

Counter Logic Gaming scoffs at only changing one player between splits, let alone not having a single player changing roles for the Summer Split. CLG had ups and downs during the Spring Split, but the roster changes make a lot of what they did throughout the season hard to use as prediction material for the future – except that Doublelift is a fantastic late game carry. The roster changes are outlined with a little bit more detail to show the role swaps and replacements.

AD – DoubleLift
Mid – Link
Top – Nientonsoh – Former AD Carry (HotShotGG becomes coach)
Jungle – BigFatLP – Former AP Mid (Chauster moves to Support)
Support – Chauster (Aphromoo leaves team)

This leaves CLG with two new players and a role change for Chauster and the two fresh players. Which leads to the question that’s on everyone’s mind – “were these changes a good idea?”

In the long term? Possibly, as the team needed some sort of change. CLG was having issues as a team as HotshotGG in particular died quite often without good reason and Chauster had very little Jungle presence. More often than not the team’s strategies revolved around Doublelift carrying late-game- outside of a couple Urgot compositions. The problem with that playstyle is that it’s restrictive, and going into every game assuming top will die and the jungle won’t have an impact has such a low chance of working. Other teams have also improved and learned the secret to stopping CLG: Stop Doublelift from farming or win before he’s relevant.

Looking at the short term is better done by looking at history. The only success CLG has had with roleswaps was with LocoDoco joining the team at IPL5 as a support instead of AD. Aphromoo started to become a decent support late in the Spring Split, but his early and mid-season was incredibly unrefined. Going back further in CLG’s history just says more and more bad things about players changing positions (HotShotGG Jungle anyone?). Nien may have some trouble adjusting to the chaotic nature of the toplane, where farm is rarely guaranteed and it’s easy to find yourself in 3v1 and 4v1 situations. His playstyles as AD and Mid were very farm oriented, possibly surpassing Doublelift when it came to CSing capabilities. Top lane tends to be a lane where CSing early doesn’t happen due to jungle threats or the 1v2 laneswap. Nien is a talented player but the culture shock of a drastically different lane is going to throw him off. BigFatLP is in a similar position: He was a decent midlaner with a big focus on roaming, which will mesh well in the jungle, but the nuances of the jungle and lack of consistent farm are going to be difficult to adjust to. Expect BitfatLP’s timing to seem a little off, where he arrives too early or too late for many situations.

To really put a proper perspective on the situation though, the right questions need to be asked. Could Nientonsoh beat some of the other top laners out there like Dyrus or Voyboy? What about surviving a 1v2 lane with the pressure of Xpecial and WildTurtle? Will Bigfat have the same presence from the jungle as SaintVicious or NintendudeX? How long will it take until they do? Week one, Week ten? The problem is that while CLG has ridiculous potential, they don’t have a lot of time to reach it. There is good news in the fact that CLG doesn’t necessarily need a great season to hit Worlds, if they’ve reached their top level of play and are top 6 they still have a chance to qualify. A bad five weeks doesn’t make playoffs unreachable.

The Reality: The first weeks will probably go very poorly for CLG. They may have some success during week one due to the surprise factor of being a new team, but drastic changes like CLG’s very rarely lead to immediate sustainable results. If CLG can stay top 6 by the time playoffs roll around, then there’s a very good chance they’ll be at the level required to keep up in the playoffs. Doublelift wrote during an AMA on Reddit that he expected the newer players to do poorly, and the team as a whole will have to devote itself to be in a position to advance by the end of this split. Kelby, CLG’s Manager, has shown a lot of prowess in working with the team, and if HotshotGG can also mesh with the personalities of the team as a coach, but don’t expect extensive wows early on in the season.

From the new to the naturally chaotic: the next article will be looking into Dignitas and Vulcun, two teams that are in position to soar high, but can very easily find themselves too close to the sun.

- Christopher “Studio” Grant

@LeagueOfStudio

 

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The second split of the LCS is around the corner, and we’re going to take a look at the teams coming into the second bout of North American LCS. This four-part series will take a look at the teams, their accomplishments prior to the LCS, and changes that might be coming into play since teams were last seen duking it out on the Fields of Justice.

There is a lot of fresh change coming into this split, and what a better way to reflect this by looking first the newest teams? While GGU and CLG have had some changes of their own, it’s time to talk about faces new to the crossed-arm pose involved in most LoL eSports player photography: Cloud9 and Velocity. Both teams were able to succeed in their relegation matches and show some serious punch.

Cloud9 Players:

Top – BalIs
Jungle – Meteos
Mid – Hai
ADC – SneakyCastro
Support – LemonNation

Cloud9, while new to LCS, isn’t new to the League of Legends competitive scene. About a year ago the team played their first LAN event, MLG Anaheim, with a different roster and a different name. What are the perceptions of C9 going into LCS though?

Relegations: Cloud9 triumphed in the relegation matches. They started off by facing Team Astral Poke and impressively left some players on TAP with a KDA of 0. No Kills, no assists, just death. This momentum continued to the next day, when Complexity fared marginally better than TAP – but still couldn’t take a game off the beastly Cloud9. While thrashing TAP and Complexity easily is a great sign, it’s also important to note that TAP was the weakest Challenger team at the event, and Complexity on an off day had almost no success versus other LCS teams. Complexity that day wasn’t playing their standard non-standard compositions, and with a new AD Carry seemed skittish.

The Reality: While tournament results may not be the best indicator of Cloud9’s strengths, there is still scrim results. Scrimmages between Cloud9 and other teams have been tremendously in favor of C9- LCS and Challenger teams alike. C9 scrimmed most of the LCS teams, and all LCS teams that were in Relegation (with the exception of coL), and won. It’s not that they just won, but many of their games were outright stomps. C9 has also been in the process of developing strategies unique to the NA scene, but comfortable with their own play (Ex. Jayce as an AD Carry). Their own organization has grown quite a bit, garnering the support of TSM’s former manager, Jack, and Alex Penn (Leaguepedia Zarox) as a Coach/Analyst.

If Cloud9 replicates their success in scrims, relegations, and past Challenger’s events, there’s no doubt they can be a top two team just based off statistics. Their recent experience and success has put them in a position of heavy momentum, and if they can ride it to a strong early start there is no reason C9 can’t ride it to the end of the season and to the World Playoffs. However, hype can only go so far, and getting into the trenches of the weekly LCS is an entirely different beast compared to the more seldom tournaments they’ve played in. Preparation is tougher, and one bad week can snowball into a bad season as it did with Dignitas and Curse towards the end of the spring split. However, Cloud9 is setup with a strong organization and history. Predicting a team’s placement is difficult with how close the LCS NA teams are, but it might be safe to call C9 a Top four team.

Velocity Players:

Top – Cris
Jungle – NK Inc
Midlane – VileRoze
ADC – frommaplestreet
Support – Evaniskus

Velocity is the other team that falls into the vat of new blood coming into LCS. They come into the scene in a different light than Cloud9 however. While Cloud9 is the older team that sadly couldn’t make it into the first split, Velocity rode a dark horse riddled with controversy from some of their players. 1 Goal 1 Dream in particular, who subbed for Velocity at the IPL6 Replacement. And no, VileRoze isn’t the VileRoze from World of Warcraft.

Relegations: Velocity had a much tighter Relegation life, but were successful. Vel was able to beat their Challenger opposition, The Salad Bar, 2-1. The first two games were incredibly close, and while Velocity only lost one game, The Salad Bar was in control for much of game two; the inexperience of TSB is what kept them from closing out that game and advancing. Velocity did take their series versus MRN but the context of the matches is important to be looked at. While Nientonsoh was playing his heart out, the emotional rush for MRN members was having a major impact, and the majority of the team was not at their normal level. Velocity still won the series and there is still the massive respect that comes with that.

The Reality: The problem Velocity faces is the comparisons they receive between themselves and Cloud9. Since they’re both new teams to the LCS and have tournament results against each other, it’s easier to see that Cloud9 is more well prepared.  Velocity lost to C9 at MLG Dallas and IPL6 Replacement as well as smaller online tournaments. Now Cloud9 aside, there aren’t as many conversations going on about Velocity. Their scrim results around Relegations aren’t being broadcasted like Cloud9s were,  so most of Velocity’s hype is closely related to their tournament results in the past. Unfortunately, that ties back to C9 who they tended to come in second against..

Velocity is the weakest team in LCS as far as statistics are concerned. While the six LCS teams that remained from the first split each have their accomplishments and Cloud9 has been a terror on the scene, Velocity is still filling out that resume. Now, this doesn’t mean that Velocity doesn’t have a shot at #1, LCS has definitely shown that #1 can go any which way when playoffs are involved, but it does mean that Velocity has their work cut out for them. The team puts in a humongous effort however, and while that may seem like an obvious statement, the spunkiness of the team and the support of Atlanta as a coach can go quite a long way. The question is, can the effort and team structure overcome the relative freshness of the team and their less numerous accomplishments? Calling a rank for Velocity is tough since at the start of the season they’re likely to be #8, but if Velocity has been working hard while preparing for LCS and keep the steam engine rolling, they have a chance to improve and do well in playoffs by the end of the season.

In Part 2: CLG and GGU will be up to bat. Two of the teams with major changes going on. An old but rarely seen face comes back to GGU, and CLG has an impressive combination of roleswaps and new players.

- Christopher “Studio” Grant

@LeagueOfStudio

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

tuning

In the first part of this article, I talked about how there is a Three-Talon Strike on balancing champions: kit, thematics and numbers. While reading about the reasoning and explanation behind the trio, it is often a lot more useful to pull in some examples to help flesh out these phenomena. Let’s get out of the kiddie pool and jump right into some examples.

Thematics

A character’s theme and overall “feel” play a lot into their power levels. It might seem that deviating from the theme wouldn’t really matter as long as you learned the character, but the most successful champions are an avatar of their theme. When the character nails theme, the player feels empowered and the perceived strength and viability increases. So who has nailed their theme and who has missed the mark?

thresh

Thresh smashed theme out of the park. He is a recent character, so the thematics will of course be a lot more in line. But his theme is a heavy control jailer/tormentor and he does it extremely well. His passive collects the souls of the dead in order to strengthen himself. He has a hook ability that drags people into the depths and can also bring ‘death’ himself to you. His lantern acts as a ferry and guiding light to souls, whether it be collecting those fallen or aiding those about to fall. He can either push you back or pull you in with his chains, again controlling whatever you do. His ultimate, the box, is the icing on the cake. Not only does it reference jail or solitary confinement, but it traps your enemies and punishes them severely (damage and MS slow) for leaving the box. Because of his thematics, Thresh has an amazing feel to him that a player can really get into. You may not be doing amazingly, but at least it feels totally awesome.

sej

Sejuani’s recent rework addressed these issues, but let’s take the ones she used to have. Sejuani was an ambitious character that lacked focus and didn’t really feel great because of it. They tried to make a mounted character, a female barbarian and a vicious Freljord leader. Her lines and voice made her come off like a very serious leader… wearing a metal bikini. I get a certain immunity to frost, but metal bikini discredits taking her seriously as a commander. For the barbarian portion, there’s the flail. It was another source of confusion, somewhat like Mordekaiser, in that she had this giant ice flail that can freeze/stun several enemies when thrown but her auto attacks did next to nothing. Last but not least was her mount. She’s riding an animal larger than half the cast of the league and he had somehow less impact than Willump (Nunu’s Yeti), who at least gets to attack. At that point, why have a mounted character? The rework made her boar smash into things and knock them up. The flail now smashes down on enemies and is swung around her head menacingly. She’s clad in heavy leathers and armor, really driving home the “I’m a fearless leader ready to wreck some face.” Sejuani now feels strong and makes sense.

Kit

Sometimes a champion can be very thematically correct but their kit is too problematic to balance. The switch over to Season 3 has brought out a lot of champions with strong kits that weren’t an issue before, such as Xin Zhao. Kit changes are necessary when simply shifting numbers up and down doesn’t work out. The last article had some comments that brought up a few kit changes, let’s take a look at some examples.

draven

Draven’s axes have an indicator of where you’ll end up. A lot of his DPS involves catching and using these axes, which is nearly impossible in a real teamfight. So with this skill cap, why does the indicator show where he’s going to end up? It might seem minor, but perhaps this is one of the things that kept him out of the highest levels of play for a long time. Does this add mind games in a “will I catch it or not” style? Or does it just create another obstacle in an already difficult course? If you were to change this part of his kit without number changes, would he be overpowered?

j4

Jarvan’s main form of CC, the flag/spear (EQ) combo, is also his main form of damage, harassment and his escape mechanism. Lowering the cooldown on this creates the problem of infinite CC and being too safe, while raising it creates an issue of being near useless when it is not available. His mana costs and cooldowns were raised, making his combo too sparse and he dropped from play. The mana costs were changed and he popped up again. Resistances were nerfed and his popularity sky-rocketed, which was recently addressed with the removal of armor on his Demacian Standard. Even though he has a strong foothold in the game right now, raising the cooldown and/or mana on his combo would ruin him. Does the fact that his viability hinges on mana and cooldown costs on his combo indicate a flaw in the kit?

Numbers

These are the easiest to see and change and only really require some balance testing. The examples for a number change are seen in every patch note, so I won’t go over them in detail. The important take-away from number tweaks is whether the kit and theme are working properly. A small number-change should not make someone flip the switch from bad to good, but should instead smooth out their power level.

diana

Diana was a problem child and was then lobotomized with some number changes. Her kit is very unique and has proven not to be the issue when they slashed her numbers. While the tag team of range, damage and cooldown nerfs were not entirely necessary, the numbers removed a lot of her strength. Her kit isn’t inherently flawed because she has to make sacrifices to make herself strongest, in this case meaning she has to be in melee range to do her damage and CC. The shield and ultimate reset then become necessary for engaging and fighting enemies. When some of those values were restored, she smoothed out her power level and now fits nicely into the spot that was created for her.

elise

Elise was released with a whimper and then became a power house. The season 3 changes to health stacking and having resistances increase in cost treated her well, so she had to be toned down. Her kit overall is absurd, and is borderline unable to be number balanced. She is a bruiser, mage, %health-dealing carry, support, top laner, with a humongous ranged stun, an escape mechanism, sustain and an execute. There are simply too many things she can do that make balancing her with only numbers incredibly hard. Do you reduce the rappel range? How about her base stats so she can’t jump in? Mana costs? %health scaling? And to top that off, a drop in any of those numbers to a bad state brings her from OP to support/unplayable.

Tuning a Champion

As you can see, there are many variables to play with when balancing a champion, not just the numbers. You have to take a look at their theme to make sure your frost archer isn’t hitting people with a flaming sword. Then you have to take a look at their kit to make sure that what they offer isn’t too amazing. Once you have those two ironed out, take a look at the numbers and tune them up and down accordingly. I provided a bunch of examples, but who do you think they got spot on and who did they really mess up with?

Categories: Original Content Tags: , ,

The Blue Fist

May 13th, 2013

bluefist

There is an interesting trend going on in jungle itemization, and the name of the game is efficiency. The jungle has previously been a role in stuck purgatory; there was always too little farm to be a threat and too many roaming opportunities to justify running a double top. This has driven the picks, for both items and junglers, towards maximum efficiency; or how much you get out of what scraps you manage to scrounge. This is why Wriggle’s is rarely completed quickly, opting instead for Madred’s Razors alone. The Madred option, however, is being overshadowed by the new and improved blue fist – Spirit of the Ancient Golem.

season3

So let’s look at the itemization in Season 3 junglers so far. There are two resonating items with a swing in either direction: Aegis/Bulwark and Locket of the Iron Solari. Junglers used to be happy building Giant’s Belt items, but the trend has definitely shifted back to a teamfight/initiation-oriented jungler, running aura and support items. While other junglers are far from viable, the “safe” pick is a tank character with these items, and this makes sense. NA, EU and KR teams have a very fine line between the best and the worst. It very much reminds me of the American football saying “any given Sunday” where any team that’s hot can make some major upsets because the skill margin is very small. Running a tanky jungler to protect the team and provide a second layer of peeling and auras for the carries simply makes sense.

pic2

At the front of this resurgence of tanky, support junglers is a new build path. The big trend right now in the professional scene is building boots 1, the blue fist and then an Aegis. This is an interesting combination brought about by a change in the Spirit of the Ancient Golem. Originally, it was an armor/HP item with Tenacity, built from a Giant’s Belt and Spirit Stone. This combination was swell for about two characters, but otherwise it was just an “ok” Tenacity choice to those not building Merc Treads. Then the item was changed to provide 10% CDR, and be built from a Kindlegem and Spirit Stone; the armor was removed. While this initially seemed lackluster, it’s opening up an entire new door for junglers.

What’s Changed?

The Kindlegem component is letting junglers purchase parts of the blue fist without needing 1k gold for a Giant’s Belt and also granting CDR, which every character likes. The increase in base movement speed broke through for junglers and now boots 2 are a third item because, frankly, movement speed takes a back seat to life/tenacity and aura resistances in almost all scenarios (especially already running MS Quints). Having a tenacity option other than Merc Treads is saving junglers a ton of money on the most expensive boots in the game. This allows junglers to purchase strong impact items, piecemeal, as the game progresses, while still having strong presence. The small movespeed differential is often made up with CC abilities, plus giving a reduced cooldown tank bearing down on you with 500 additional health and 35% Tenacity. Every single one of the safe, tanky junglers can take advantage of this and bear down on the laners in turn.

Who Cares?

Well the uprising of the Blue Fist means a lot of really cool stuff. First, boot upgrades are taking a back seat to item progression. It’s also taking down Merc Tread’s holy spot of the Tenacity item and exploring other paths of CC reduction. Most importantly, this change is allowing junglers to have a smoother power curve. You have the Machete start into Spirit Stone and then more health with the crystal, then more CDR and then you get super regen plus CDR and a gigantic amount of health, all for a relatively low amount of gold. This means that a successful gank or two now leads you into this blue fist wielding terror, roaming the map smashing souls with supreme tankiness. This is a big change over simply spending 1k for a Giant’s Belt and feeling mediocre about it. It allows junglers to build the fist and boots 1 with a null magic and health crystal towards Aegis and being a threat with 100+ dual resistance. It’s a step in the right direction for jungle tanks, and hopefully not too far a step as to squash the carry junglers.

How do I apply this?

Well, as a jungler, you should consider building the blue fist. The cheap build items mean that even if you hit a rough patch, you can pick up health, regen or CDR easily. This is extremely potent on almost any jungle tank/initiator such as Nasus, Volibear, etc. I personally forgot about this item when playing, but it’s a strong first rush item. If you have any sort of CC, your ganks become much more potent with reduced CC on top of a CDR to re-CC them. Item builds for your junglers will shift depending on how the game is patched, but I don’t think the blue fist is a fluke at all. Try going boots 1, fist and Aegis in your games and reap the rewards or comment on how you did/didn’t like it!

Welcome to Tribunal Cases of the Weak. Every week you’ll get the best/weirdest/worst Tribunal cases. As always, purple text is the accused, green text is the team-mates, and red is the opponents. The title of each case is a link to the full Tribunal case, but don’t click through unless you’re ready for NSFW language. Unsure of what the Tribunal is or how it works? Read Riot’s FAQ.

 

There was a potentially overlooked change in the last patch, Patch 3.06:

Boots_of_SpeedBoots

  • Limited to 1 Boots item at a time

This change may have ruined the dreams of trolls.  No longer can six boots of mobility Master Yi terrorize players everywhere.  This marks the end of an era, and to say goodbye we look back on some of multi-booted that have graced the hallowed pages of TCotW.

 

Case #5: “Nid”ing a Ban submitted by Geonice from Volume 20

This Nidalee is guilty of basically ever violation possible.  According to Geonice, her inappropriate name was “HomoBut”.  Then there’s the intentional feeding:

nid2

There’s also the verbal abuse:

nid4

She got seven reports out of a possible nine.  This Nidalee was a real beast.

PunishWarning

 

 

Case #4: Putting the “Intent” in Intentionally submitted by LuBuFu from Volume 13

This case has been submitted by an observant NA Tribunal judge.  In his words: “So, what makes this case interesting? Well let’s start with [an] average of 5 reports a game… That’s a lot…”  Reports like:

lufubu1

LuBuFu goes on to ask, “So, what could have caused this?”

lufubu2

Multiple mobility boots huh?  That last Pantheon must have been running on all fours.

PunishWarning

 

 

Case #3: A Game of Cat and Mouse from Volume 13

The Lux in this game had a bad score and what appears to be a troll “build”.

lux2

And what is the explanation for four pairs of boots, 20 deaths and no CS?

lux1

Well, that makes sense.  Maybe the four pairs of boots were for the cat.

PunishTime Ban

 

 

Case #2: The Feeder submitted by Vokuhilla fromVolume 18

Vokuhilla passed this case along because of the direct and obvious feeding.  What kind of feeding?

feeding1

While sprinkling in fun comments like:

feeding2

Not much to discuss here:

PunishTime Ban

 

 

Case #1: The Cobbler submitted by AmudielWW from Volume 15

Another submission by AmudielWW, who sent in one last week as well.  In this case, Dr. Mundo has developed a shoe fetish.

mundo1

Intentionally feeding and spending all the money on shoes, he really is the Madman of Zaun.  There isn’t much of an explanation in the chat, other than:

mundo2

Mundo goes where he pleases, but apparently this Mundo needs six boots to get there.

PunishTime Ban

 

 

RIP Mundo’s Shose Shop.

 

That’s all for this week! We’ll be back next week with another round of Tribunal Cases of the Weak.

Have a case you think should be included? Send your submissions to tribunalcasesoftheweak@gmail.com. Be sure to include the case number and region, your summoner name, and explain what makes it interesting.

too

 

Enough time has passed that I feel this isn’t a spoiler; TSM finished out the LCS Spring Split in 1st place! GGU put up a good fight, pushing the series to a fifth game, but fell to TSM at the last. Watching the games, I wanted to put the spotlight onto TheOddOne (TOO). OddOne is beloved by the community, but often doesn’t receive a ton of in-game credit or make gigantic plays. His jungling style tends toward control style junglers that amplify his team, much like Snoopeh on Evil Geniuses. This usually results in obscurity in the game analysis, but in this series TOO really stepped up his game and absolutely wowed me with his Cho’Gath play.

The Games

The picks were almost identical each time. Dyrus was on Rumble or Renekton; WildTurtle was mostly on Cait and some MF or Varus; Xpecial ran mostly Sona, with some Thresh and Lulu; Reginald played either TF or Diana. GGU ended up picking mostly a Nocturne/Orianna/Thresh(/Blitz) core with ZionSpartan swapping his champions out and MashMe on Twitch or Cait. In games 1, 3 and 5 TOO picked Cho’Gath and TSM won. In games 2 and 4 TOO picked Nasus and they lost. Games 1, 3 and 5 also had Xpecial on Sona support, and there are no other relevant trends in the series. Honestly the Cho’Gath pick was what pushed these games into the ‘W’ category for TSM. This is due to the way the games played out and his distinct advantages over Nasus.

nasusvcho

TOO lost two games on Nasus and won three on Cho’Gath. This obviously doesn’t mean that Nasus is bad or TOO’s Nasus is bad, but Cho’Gath brings a set of skills to the table that Nasus does not. Nasus is an extremely strong ganker and diver in the early levels, and post-6 with his wither and armor-shredding ability. This can be used for some incredibly aggressive play and strong counter-ganking opportunities. This is very much in Diamond’s style, who was one of the first people to roll out the jungle dog. However outside of the single-target wither utility and armor shred, Nasus isn’t effective in teamfights. He has an option to either peel with Wither or hit their ADC with Wither and cut their DPS. Looking at the matches, NintendudeX was usually ahead in kills early and ZionSpartan ran an in-your-face style champ 4/5 games. This means that Nasus would want to Wither Nocturne to peel, the ADC to cut DPS and any other snowball top that leapt onto WildTurtle. In the games, MashMe on Twitch or Caitlyn was too far away to Wither, forcing it onto either Nocturne or Kha’Zix. This leaves Twitch free to shred your team, and the jungler or top to pounce on WildTurtle.

Cho’Gath, on the other hand, has the ability to knock-up several enemies or silence them, both of which match or exceed the range of Wither. While this makes for weaker and more predictable ganking, the teamfighting is where this really shines. When Nocturne and Kha’Zix jumped into the fray, they were met with a Feast, silence and a knock-up. This extreme amount of peeling for his team resulted in so many successful teamfights. Typically the fights broke out surrounding TSM’s bottom lane. Nocturne would ult in with an Orianna ball, Kha’Zix would then jump in and Xpecial/Turtle had to fight reactively. When running Nasus the wither wasn’t enough to stop this combination, but a well timed silence onto Orianna, followed by an immediate Feast of Nocturne or Kha’Zix, and a knock-up on them into a Crescendo did the trick every time. This amount of extreme AoE peel kept the back-line-diving GGU out of luck.

teamfight

Daydreamin was always running a hook-initiator, Thresh or Blitzcrank, and Cho’Gath provided a constant block of meat in front of his team. Nasus can do similar, but Cho is much scarier to have in your face looking to pick off a target. This allowed them to pressure objectives extremely well, and objectives are what won these games. TSM didn’t run off on a killing spree, these games were all relatively low-score games, won through taking multiple towers and dragons. The pressure that Cho’Gath offers in comparison to Nasus in that regard is clear; Feast is amazing for dragon control and stopping a team from taking a tower with a 950 range knock-up is quite effective. The changes to Spirit of the Ancient Golem also allows Cho’Gath some cooldown reduction. This means he can Rupture first the targets on his ADC and then their ADC as well, with over 200 more range than Nasus could possibly do. Cho’Gath is stronger in these areas and I’m not even mentioning the amazing 2 and 3 person Rupture into Crescendo combos that turned the game around.

Closing Thoughts

I hope to see TheOddOne and TSM continue running champions that fit their game style and flow. Teams typically have a playing style they work towards and a set of champions in that pool, and TOO embraced his peel/teamfight/support roots with Cho’Gath. I don’t feel Nasus (or Volibear for that matter) are strong choices for his, or his team’s, style and that’s ok. It’s ok for a team not to run a strong jungler because they don’t fit their style, and it’s ok for a jungler to play who they’d like even if they’re considered weak. Both Volibear and Nasus were considered bad, but fit Diamond’s playstyle, so he rolled them out to great success. The OGN Korean series definitely demonstrates this, and I hope to see more of it in the NA and EU scenes. Don’t watch the LCS and take from it “Cho’Gath is a great jungler”, but instead watch these games and think about why certain picks work. In a low score, teamfight and objective-oriented game, control junglers such as Cho’Gath and Nautilus will outshine the others. A player who enjoys playing a support and peel jungler should stick to those roots and find ways to make them work for his team. Take these things into consideration when evaluating picks, teams and yourself in your games.