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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.

Analysis Paralysis

May 1st, 2013

analaysisparalysis

The internet is a wonderful source of information, depth and strategy for nearly anything you can imagine. This access to information on a quick and reliable platform certainly has its upsides, however it can lead to an overload of information. In addition, there can also be misinformation spread by people who make their voice the loudest. Having too much to think about and a lack of focus causes a phenomenon called analysis paralysis, in which the interpreter of data is confused by the bombardment of information.

The Warning Sign

The warning sign is focusing on the the minute details, while not understanding the context. A standard player will read guides, watch professionals play and/or read up on the game a little bit. They’ll see these players doing and saying really remarkable stuff and will obviously want to replicate it. This in itself isn’t a bad thing, but it can easily get murky, like this:

When you’re top lane, you need to be harassing your foe and winning the lane. But you also want to be roaming around the map to help the other lanes. Top laners can run teleport and do awesome bottom lane ganks as well as help with dragon control- so you should run teleport. Are you a jungler? Well maybe you should be invading a whole bunch and messing up the enemy jungle. How about playing Maokai, he’s good at ganking right? You need to be ganking all the time. No, just counter ganking. No, invading and map control. Mid? Gotta be hyper aggressive, it’s how Regibro does it. Nah, maybe a little passive with Anivia, Froggen is considered real good, right? Curse has some great dragon control, we should focus on early dragons and doing them just as they spawn! The jungle is about buff control only, we need to have the strictest timers on our buffs! That Nunu/Caitlyn bottom lane is amazing, we should try to run it all the time. But it’s weak early and Leona and Alistar are fun, let’s do a kill lane! Man, this matchup in lane is considered weak in my favor. Strong in my favor. This guy counters them in lane! Maybe I should choose a safer character to play…

CLG runs three teleport. You shouldn’t.

Clearly you can see there’s an abundance of information and things you can work on. What’s left out of all of these descriptions? Fundamentals such as farming and warding are left entirely out of this. Far too often players focus on things they could be doing to change the game, like counter picking lanes and item builds. The reason the actions in the paragraph above work, at the professional level, is because they’re good at doing whatever they want while maintaining farm. Emphasis on fundamentals is not glorified most of the time (except maybe some comments about how well a player can do it) and is swept under the rug. However, if you are able to farm better than your opponent and can ward properly, you can make it to the higher leagues. Having sound fundamentals is also the key to improving because it creates a feedback loop.

The Feedback Loop

The feedback loop is how you can diagnose and address problems in your performance. By having sound farming and warding skills, you’re removing variables. Why did you lose this game? Well you were only ten CS behind where you should be and warded well enough to avoid most ganks. This means that those aren’t the reasons you lost the game; maybe you lost because you didn’t shut down the opposing laner, join teamfights or contest dragon, etc. But if you are at 52 CS at the fifteen minute mark, you’re missing a substantial amount of income. Did you lose the game because you didn’t have that money, or for any of the above reasons? Having strong fundamentals in lane helps you find your actual problems so you can work on them.

More farm = more gold

Dumb It Down

Keep yourself out of analysis paralysis and don’t let too many different options stop you from fixing something that can be much simpler. If you’re not able to farm with 90% efficiency (you miss maybe one creep in a wave of 6), work on your farm. If you’re not buying wards and you are being ganked or losing map control because of it, learn to ward. Item builds, lane harassment, counter picks, lane matchups, roaming, counter jungling, buff control and teamfighting can take a back seat to these issues. Get to great farming and warding and I will guarantee your game will not only improve, but it will become easier to spot errors in your play.

Categories: Original Content Tags: , ,

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.

 

Case #5: The Master of Feeding

This player really has figured out how to feed.  His motivations are unclear, but the results can’t be questioned:

yi1

42 deaths, now that’s some serious feeding.  He did ask one question:

yi2

The Tribunal sure loves punishing players like him:

PunishWarning

 

 

Case #4: Unhappy Ending

Unlike the case before, this player didn’t give you a lot of notice that something terrible was coming.  Right at the end of the game, this player likes to add:

sej1

That was game two.  Here is game three:

sej2

And here is game four:

sej3

And here is the punishment:

PunishTime Ban

 

 

Case #3: Spamalot submitted by HDDragon

HDDragon, for reals this time (sorry Geonice!), passed along this case, saying: “Oh…my…goodness… I have never seen such spamming!!”  Frankly, it’s hard to do this case justice.

spam1

Imagine someone doing that, over and over, for 30 minutes.  The mute feature was made for people like him…  But he did sprinkle in a little:

spam2

The Tribunal got the last laugh here. Tribunal es # 1.

PunishWarning

 

 

Case #2: Worst Troll of the Week

You may have read about Restricted Chat mode in a NoL article recently.  The basic idea is to limit the number of times a player can speak in chat as a way to instruct them on being more polite.  This is rehabilitation, as opposed to the banning system previously in place. For example, you take a player who says things like this:

chat1

And instead of giving them a Time Ban, you give them limited chat.  Now there have been cases of this working on the official forums, but in this case…

chat2

Yeah…  This player doesn’t look like he’s reforming any time soon.

PunishTime Ban

 

 

Case #1: Permaban of the Week

Our permaban of the week shows just how ineffective bans can be. This is certainly not this player’s first account. On this smurf, he feeds like crazy:

10minutemail1

And his motivation isn’t exactly pure:

10minutemail2

And he’s definitely not afraid of the other players or the Tribunal. He even tries to recruit his fellow smurfs into trolling too.

10minutemail3

You can see the dilemma Riot is in. Permaban these trolls and they just create new accounts and terrorize new players. Restrict their chat and some will just troll anyway. Hopefully with enough data they can figure out which one to give to whom. So remember to report the trolls you see, and if you have some time, judge some players in the Tribunal. The next game they ruin could be yours.

Punishpermaban

 

 

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.

lateandfat

It’s been a while since I wrote an article but I figured better late than never. Today I want to talk about some old habits formed in Season 2 which may have carried over to Season 3 but are no longer the norm. Some of these things may be common knowledge to a lot of you, but some of us are late to the party.

QuintessencesChanges in Rune Pages

With some of the changes in Season 3, there’s now more room for rune page development. The main trend I want to talk about, something that I didn’t discover till about a week ago, is the switch from “Flat Mana Regen” yellows, to “Scaling Mana Regen” yellows for mid lane champions. Ever since the beginning of Season 3, I knew that mana in the early game got better for casters so I started to switch out all my Flat Mp5 runes for Scaling HP; but it’s safe to say Mana Regen is still king. The switch from Flat Mp5 to Scaling is because mana regen options in the early game are much more accessible. With Crystaline Flask, or even starting with one mana potion, you can now run the mana regen runes that scale because there is less pressure on making your natural mana-bar sustain the majority of the laning phase on its own. The Scaling runes also break even with the flat runes at level seven which means that usually after your first base you will have survived lane long enough for the runes to kick in like the old runes, and additionally provide you with a nice healthy regen rate through to the late game.

The other class that got some leeway on yellow runes is Support. With the added +3 Gp10 to ambient gold, Supports no longer have to run the +2.25 Gp10 runes in yellow and can instead substitute for things like Armor or Mana per level. Of course you can still run the Gp10 yellow runes for an excellent gold flow throughout the game, but the armor for more early survivability is definitely tempting. I would at least consider switching to Mana per level runes for champions like Lulu who I always find to have a meager manapool. Her ult costs 100 mana and she has a manapool of roughly 500 at level 6, which is usually on the empty side if you have been harassing a lot, so switching runes might give you the breathing room you need.

 GP10 Items and  Sightstones

A bad habit I developed in Season 3 was instead of going a Gp10 item on my Supports, I would just rush a Sightstone as fast as possible and then never buy additional wards. I did this because I believed that if you placed two wards with the Sightstone every three minutes, the money you saved on wards would equate to a Gp10 greater than that provided by PhiloStone’s 5Gp10. While the math is correct, it always left my team at a sight disadvantage because I would neglect buying actual wards and instead continue to develop my other items. To help combat this habit I started going Philosopher’s Stone first on all my supports and manually buying wards until I eventually got a Sightstone, and continued to buy wards afterwards. Constantly needing to buy actual Sight Wards will help remind you to not solely rely on your Sightstone. If you rush a Ruby Sightstone it is easy to crutch on just those three wards and forget to spend additional gold on regular Sight Wards. Remember it is less important for you, as the Support, to actually develop items past a Gp10, a Sightstone and Boots; you need to put priority on warding. Since I switched over to getting a PhiloStone first, I was able to break my Sightstone dependence and now it is uncommon to see me on a Support with less than three wards, in addition to my Sightstone. I have increased my Support game win-ratios just by providing my team with tons of vision. It is a great feeling to win by catching an opponent off-guard because you provided your team with excellent vision.

 CDR Changes  Seraph’s Embrace and  Sorc Shoes

CDR was revamped in Season 3 quite a bit and Fiendish Codex is an attractive item since the mana regen was removed and the stats were reallocated. It also builds into three items that give 20% CDR, which is amazing, and finally gives us a flat 40% CDR with Blue Buff. I urge you to try and fit the Codex alone into your early builds and then late game transform it into one of its 20% CDR builds to really give you that DPS spike you need to compete.

Seraph’s Embrace is also the real deal if you play a Champion that can charge the Tear of the Goddess quickly (188 spell casts). It is ridiculously gold efficient at 2700g and after you factor in the bonus AP, which is usually ~60+, and the Shield, which is about ~550 after the patch, its quite a fantastic item! Here is a cost analysis provided by LolWiki:

Base Gold Value

Passive Gold Value

Gold Efficiency

  •  Seraph’s Embrace is gold efficient even without the activate.

The last item I wanted to talk about is Sorc Shoes. It is important to note that these boots were nerfed in Season 3 (-5 Mpen), but still cost 750g, the same as before. I think it’s safe to say that Sorc Boots are worth skipping in a lot of scenarios to further develop your core items. In high level games, LCS included, it’s not uncommon to see most AP mids finishing their Death Cap, RoA, or Athene’s before purchasing Sorc Boots. In some cases I would argue it is better to get Ionian Boots of Lucidity (15% CDR) for 700g and then Void Staff earlier in your build, but that’s just me. I think overall in Season 3 Mpen is a much weaker stat, which is a shame. We see a lot less Abyssal Scepters in Season 3, compared to Season 2. Liandry’s Torment seems to be the hands-down best Mpen item to build, but it works best on most of the top lane APs and not so much the AP mids. It is something to think about but with less Mpen from runes and boots, and bonus MR from Runes and Masteries staying the same I think stacking more AP is better in most cases then getting an overpriced 15 Mpen.

 

I know a lot of this information may not be relevant to a lot of players, but as I said I was late to the party on finding all of this out and so I hope that this article serves as a bridge for people who may still be stuck in some of their Season 2 ways. I would argue that Season 3 is still fresh and there is a lot of room for experimentation, so do not be afraid to venture outside the box and try more unorthodox builds and strategies.

In my recent hiatus, I took some time to refocus my priorities and I have decided to continue writing about soloqueue (sorry Dom and TT communities) because I think I can stomach it again. Also in my free time I had been doing a lot of personal research in the fields of Health and Fitness and have started a blog about what I have discovered there, so for anyone looking to get in better shape inside and outside the game I suggest you keep reading my articles and also check out my blog. If you want to keep up with me you can always follow me on Facebook and Twitter also listed below. Stay tuned for more!

Love, Dcgreen

Facebook

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LoLKing Profile

Health & Fitness Blog

Previous “Glory of the Climb” Articles:

Making Sense of Season 3

Dominion: Helping You To Win More Lanes and Games

Developing Your Killer Instincts: Why to be Aggressive in Season 3

Working With Your Team to Win

Countering Health with DFG

Reviewing the New “League System”

Why Losing is Just as Important as Winning

The Stale Meta: Intro + Top 5 Junglers

The Stale Meta: Intro + Top 5 AP Mids

The Stale Meta: Intro + Top 5 Top Laners

The Stale Meta: Top 5 AD Carries

The Stale Meta: Top 5 Supports

The Stale Meta: Poke

Junglers: How to Win 65% More Games!

Snowball Queue

(Disclaimer: While I am a law student, I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.)

Last time, I looked at the possibility of bringing another player to court in a civil action for trolling. This article follows the same theme, but from a criminal law perspective. Of course, 99.99% of “troll-like” behavior (flaming, spamming, etc.) should be simply brushed off. From a legal standpoint, ignoring this behavior is generally the only realistic option. 

A couple months ago, I had the “privilege” of being teammates with a real winner. His messages displayed a wide variety of “adult” topics, which included some very creative threats. The player  disclosed some specific information about an individual he intended to “kill” – including some advice to “watch the news” for it. (Although I didn’t believe his threats were serious, I took some screenshots and sent them to Riot. At the very least, he seemed like he needed a “grown-up’s time-out.”)

That incident started me thinking on both Part 1 and Part 2 of this article. Specifically, I was curious to answer the following question:

troll-question2

The short answer is: Yes. 

I will divide this article into two main parts. First, I’ll briefly talk about the 1st Amendment and the role it plays in criminal statutes. The second part will look at a criminal statute that outlaws certain types of online communication (“true threats”).

 

I. 1st Amendment: Right to Flame Speech?

The biggest obstacle to regulating any type of communication is the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads, in part:

Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.

Although the 1st Amendment has been held to protect almost all expressions of ideas, this freedom is not absolute – in very limited circumstances, Congress can take some steps to regulate speech. 

While most speech is protected, a handful of speech is not
Although we just established that “Congress shall make no law” that restricts freedom of speech, there are limited exceptions. For example, you can’t provoke an angry mob to take violent action (“fighting words”); make false statements that harm a company’s reputation (“defamation”); or provide”obscene” material to minors (“pornographic speech”). Another exception, the focus of this article, prohibits the making of “true threats.”

 

II. Federal statutes regulate “threats”
Supreme Court interpretation has held that the 1st Amendment does not offer protection for threat-making. As such, Congress passed 18 U.S.C. 875(c), which imposes criminal penalties for making threats over the Internet. Courts have narrowly defined what can be considered a “true threat” for the purposes of the statute:

threats elements

The easiest way to get a good grasp on the idea of a “true threat” is by understanding what the government does not have to prove.

a. Whether you actually intended to carry it out doesn’t matter
What matters is whether the threat could place a reasonable person in apprehension – a question that would be left to a jury to answer. The jury analysis in our case would be complicated by the fact that players in League are anonymous to one another. 

In order to make a “true threat,” a reasonable person has to believe you might actually do what you’re threatening to do. Making a general threat to someone in all-chat, like “I’m gonna kill you Ziggs!!” is much too ambiguous – you could mean “in-game”. Even “I’m gonna kill you in real life, Ziggs!” still is unlikely to meet the standard. Without further evidence, it’s hard to say that a reasonable person would believe a true threat exists; it’s reasonable to believe that the player has no idea who the “real life” Ziggs is.

All this means is that a true threat requires a certain level of specificity. If the player making the threat is specific enough about who they are threatening to make a reasonable person believe they might intend to carry it out, § 875(c) has likely been violated.

b. Whether you even intended to make a threat doesn’t matter
Most crimes require some sort of subjective intent – you meant to do what you did, even if you didn’t know it was a crime. For example, burglary is different than theft or larceny, in part because a burglar enters a house with the intent to commit a crime – a thief could have simply seen an opportunity to steal, but didn’t begin with that intention (like a kleptomaniac).

“True threats,” unlike many crimes, don’t require subjective intent. They simply have the objective, reasonable apprehension standard listed above. Even if a player is just expressing frustration, and doesn’t actually mean what they say, if a reasonable person would interpret the communication as a threat, then they could still be found guilty. That being said, courts have held that the context of the situation should be taken into account. 

The “context” of a League game adds yet another layer to the jury’s analysis. Without visual and other non-verbal methods of communication, not to mention language barriers, mediums such as all-chat allow for a single sentence to be interpreted in a variety of ways. To deal with this, the reactions of the other players would likely be considered to determine if a “true threat” had been made.

c. Whether the person threatened knows of the threat doesn’t matter
This is pretty straightforward, even though it may be a little surprising. Let’s say a player, Swain, has been verbally harassing Ziggs all game – so much that Ziggs has done the smart thing and muted Swain. But towards the end of the game, Swain loses it, and makes some disturbingly specific claims regarding beating his neighbor to a bloody pulp.

As far as § 875(c) goes, it doesn’t matter who sees the threats. It could be Soraka, or even Soraka’s Mom who happens to read the threats while passing by the computer. Or even if everyone in the game had Swain ignored, it could be the tribunal readers. The point is that Swain’s neighbor would never have to know the threats existed.

d. Additional Misc. Factors
Each fact pattern will be different, but there are some general factors that are usually considered in § 875(c) cases. As mentioned above, the reaction of the actual recipients of the threat usually plays a large role, often in the form of witness testimony. Additionally, whether or not the threat was conditional – “if you keep feeding, I’ll saw off your hands off with your own keyboard” – can reduce the likeliness of a “true threat.” Finally, if the threat in question could be interpreted as a mere expression of desires, it would be more difficult to be a true threat. Telling Teemo that you really hope someone burns his house down is unlikely to cause the reasonable apprehension element above.

Most trolling would never rise to this level. But the federal government doesn’t mess around with true threats – several Myspace, Facebook and even Twitter postings have led to violations of federal law. Even some rap lyrics have been deemed “true threats.” And the penalties can be hefty. While the protections of anonymity and the context of a virtual game greatly reduce the chances of a guilty verdict, some may take comfort in knowing there is a line that can’t be crossed.

Bottom Line: Making a real-world, unconditional threat against a specific target could violate federal law under 18 U.S.C. 875(c) if it causes a reasonable person to fear that the threat is intended to be carried out.

Follow me on Twitter @VCDragoon for updates!

 

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