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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.

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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

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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

 

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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

 

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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)

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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?

 

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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.

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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

 

 TSM

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

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

 

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: , ,

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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

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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

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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?

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