Origen's xPeke on returning to the stage: 'I think by Summer Split for sure'

Thumbnail image courtesy of Evan Herrick / theScore eSports

Origen ends Week 4 of the EU LCS 1-1, maintaining their standing in the middle of the pack. Following their match against GIANTS! Gaming, Origen's owner Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez took the time to talk to Marcel "Dexter" Feldkamp about the team's current struggles, returning to professional play and the potential for expanding the organization to other games.

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YellOwStaR's final year

by 23h ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

The face cams drifted between Fabien "Febiven" Diepstraten and Lee "Spirit" Dayoon as the Unicorns of Love dismantled Fnatic's final Nexus in Game 3 of the 2016 Regional World Championship qualifier. Febiven’s anger was palpable. Spirit, after his final death, covered his face before sinking into his seat and hanging his arm across his stomach, uncoiling all of the tension he’d kept locked down tight through his year in the EU LCS.

In the EU LCS studio, Zdravets "Hylissang" Galabov teased his bangs before he stood from his chair. Unicorns, stunned by their victory, huddled together in quiet celebration, while excited fans in pink jerseys punched the air and cheered.

When Unicorns crossed the divider for the handshake, the cameras hovered on Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek as he met his former teammates. He managed to nod and hug both Tamás "Vizicsacsi" Kiss and Hylissang before the Unicorns moved to the front of the stage to tag the crowd. UoL manager Romain "Khagneur" Bigeard crossed Fnatic’s name off his bare chest in black marker. Febiven lagged behind his team, clearing his peripherals one more time before he slogged backstage.

Not once — from his final death to the followup analysis on the desk — did the production team focus in on Bora "YellOwStaR" Kim, team captain and fixture of Fnatic since the start of the LCS era. The loss to UoL meant YellOwStaR wouldn’t attend a sixth consecutive World Championship. His streak had at last come to an end. Yet there's no footage of YellOwStaR’s reaction to the last professional game he played in the 2016 season — the last, it turns out, that he would ever play.

Fans have an idealized narrative that sports heroes are supposed to follow. The seasoned veteran works excruciatingly long hours to achieve an end, he climbs the ranks and makes a name for himself. When he’s reached his peak, when he’s won it all, he retires gracefully because he can rest well on his laurels.

That ending can also be that of a coward who is afraid to want to achieve more. YellOwStaR was no coward. He didn't quit at his peak; he kept doing what he loved until he became weary of the game. His final year in the LCS was a disappointment, likely not just for his fans but for the widely celebrated support player himself. But no pro should know his limit until he reaches it and the drive to push it vanishes. That sort of heroism is what kept us searching for YellOwStaR's face when the camera panned away from the Nexus to show us the emotions of the players and the crowd.

A year prior to his retirement announcement, at the height of YellOwStaR’s career, he attended the 2015 World Championship with Febiven, Martin "Rekkles" Larsson, Heo "Huni" Seunghoon and Kim "Reignover" Yeujin, a squad rebuilt around him. They advanced to a World Championship quarterfinal against EDward Gaming, and though EDG didn’t have the tight form expected of them going into the tournament, Fnatic played clean games their way and closed a 3-0. It was the first best-of-five win by a European team over a Chinese team in the history of League of Legends.

Fnatic had made their definitive mark on the international community. They were the strongest Western team to attend a World Championship since the start of the LCS era. Yet their triumph was punctuated by a 3-0 defeat at the hands of KOO Tigers in the semifinal. Rekkles, commenting on KOO’s unexpected performance and the fact that he personally felt he pushed himself too hard, acknowledged the Tigers were a better team. It left fans with a sense the roster could have achieved more.

By the very nature of competition, those who don’t limit themselves often succeed. That doesn’t mean an individual should set unrealistic goals, nor does it mean he should skip steps along the way and try at something he isn’t ready for. But if he sees something he wants to achieve, he should at least work toward it, insofar as he has the energy to do so.

In his retirement statement, YellOwStaR reflected on the moment he last considered leaving the game: after a disappointing World Championship showing where he failed to escape Group Stage. "Back in 2014 when I was having second thoughts," he said, "I turned to my loved ones for advices and they told me to pursue my dreams as long as I was genuinely happy doing it." Because he chose to continue playing then, YellOwStaR gave LoL fans one of the greatest storylines of 2015, with an 18-0 run in the EU LCS summer regular season and an exciting appearance at the World Championship. I imagine he still felt genuinely happy playing the game then, and he strove to push himself even further.

Following Fnatic’s semifinal appearance at Worlds 2015, it would be ridiculous to think YellOwStaR was satisfied, that his goals had been met and that he didn’t want to achieve something else before he hung up his mouse. Of course he didn’t want to retire before 2016. He wanted a serious run at Worlds with teammates boasting pedigrees of experience that matched his own.

His determination led him to Los Angeles, where he played for League of Legends’ most iconic squad, Team SoloMid, alongside North America’s most renowned AD carry, Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng. He failed spectacularly. It would be dishonest to YellOwStaR’s reputation to call his time on TSM anything other than disaster, even though the team managed to place second in the spring playoffs. Doublelift would later refer to him as "one of the worst supports [he’d] ever played with," going on to criticize both his mechanics and his decision-making.

When YellOwStaR did return to the EU LCS for Fnatic, the expectation was he would replicate Rekkles' triumphant return the previous year. Fnatic’s famed bottom lane, though hardly ever regarded as lane-dominant outside early spring 2014, had a long familiarity that made them reliable and safe, that allowed them to prep the rest of the team and control vision.

Somehow, YellOwStaR managed an even worse performance returning to his old organization. He and Rekkles looked for a way to exert early pressure with the jungler and mid lane farming more passively, but they often misplayed trades and simply fell further behind. Fnatic were aided by the lane swap meta when the team could dictate the pace of the game after turret trades, but the 2v2 emphasis in summer playoffs and regionals proved debilitating.

Much of the blame fell on YellOwStaR. He doesn’t deserve of all of it, not by a large margin; Johan "Klaj" Olsson, Fnatic’s spring support, wouldn’t have been a noticeable improvement, and Fnatic had problems with unity and early pressure in more than just bottom lane. But YellOwStaR didn’t feel as stable on Fnatic anymore.

In their heartfelt farewells, commentators and former teammates of YellOwStaR have often ignored the disappointments of his final year, as if they have been minor black marks on an otherwise steady and stable part of his career. I’ve personally gone into detail to track him from 2011 through 2014, an as-yet incomplete account which leaves off just before his peak in 2015. But I don't want to ignore 2016, his most disappointing year — not now, as I watch one of League of Legends’ most iconic players transition to a new role in 2017. It isn’t a part of his story to be ashamed of.

If YellOwStaR had retired at the end of 2015, I would always wonder what he could have achieved in 2016. Romantic notions are one thing, but the reality of watching him confront difficulty this year, of accepting that he had struggled and failed to replicate results, was almost more fulfilling. I will always remember that in his final year of professional play, YellOwStaR wanted to keep playing and challenged himself until he came to a realization he felt too exhausted to continue.

Bringing up YellOwStaR’s failures in his final year isn’t a disservice to what he achieved. It would also be unfair to say he held his teammates back, based on the struggles Fnatic had and the way TSM bounced back in the spring playoffs and then again in the summer split with a new support.

YellOwStaR simply dared to dream. It would do us well to remember that, sometimes, to fail is also heroic.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.

Sandbox mode on the horizon: Riot Games begins work on "single-player training mode"

by 6d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports / Riot Games

Riot Games have begun work on the much requested in-game practice tools, or sandbox mode, for League of Legends, starting with a "single-player training mode," according to a joint blog post from Andrew “Riot Aeon” Brownell and Rowan “L4T3NCY” Parker posted on Friday.

Riot's proposed practice tool will allow players to have infinite gold, reset their cooldowns, lock their level and freeze minion spawns. A full feature list is still in the works, but they have stated that they're "currently not looking to develop a multiplayer training tool for organized team drills or pro-play specifically.

"Once we get the first version out, we’ll pay close attention to see if we missed anything in terms of how to become better by yourself," Aeon and L4T3NCY said in their blog post.

The news comes a year after Riot's blog post where they stated, "we never want to see a day when a player wants to improve at League and their first obligation is to hop into a Sandbox." In Riot's recent blog post, they admit that their initial thoughts were not in line with the rest of the community.

"A year ago, we shot ourselves in the foot with our first attempt at Riot Pls," Riot Aeon and L4T3NCY said in their blog post. "Back then we said that a practice tool — an environment where you could train solo, without restraints — wasn’t something we wanted to do. You disagreed, and we heard you."

No timeline is stated for the release of Riot's Practice Tool, but further updates are promised throughout the 2017 pre-season.

Here are some initial community reactions:

Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking Abaddon Slardar Clinkz Medusa Oracle a P90 my Souvenir Negev. You can follow him on Twitter.

Werlyb leaves Fnatic

by 6d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Fnatic /theScore esports

Jorge "Werlyb" Casanovas has left Fnatic, and will be joining ThunderX3 Baskonias in the Spanish LVP, the player announced on Facebook Friday.

Werlyb joined Fnatic in April as a member of Fnatic academy, and acted a sub on the LCS team since May. He played one best-of-two match in the 2016 EU LCS Summer Split, a 2-0 loss to Team ROCCAT.

"Losing against Roccat made me lose all the confidence I had and in case that wasn't enough, the very next day I got informed 1 hour before G2 match that I was going to play the first match because an error happened," Werlyb wrote on Facebook. "That was another defeat (this one was not that bad because g2 was x50 times better team). After that game, playoffs were coming so they decided to play fulltime with Kikis, decision that I understand and there is no one else to blame than me for not performing at stage when I needed to."

Before playing for Fnatic, the top laner played for Huma and Giants Gaming, finishing first in the 2016 EUCS Spring Playoffs with Huma and 5th-6th in the 2015 EU LCS Summer Playoffs.

Werlyb wrote that he is looking for a new team to join for the 2017 season, but in the meantime he will play for ThunderX3 Baskonias, a team in the the LVP, the Spanish regional LoL league that feeds into the EU Challenger Series Qualifiers.

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Schalke 04 to host scouting event for new LoL pre-season roster

Thumbnail image courtesy of FC Schalke 04

Schalke 04 are launching a scouting camp for competitive LoL players looking for a chance to play under their banner, the organization announced Wednesday morning.

The event is going to be a five-day competition open to players from around the world, no competitive experience required. It will give up-and-coming players a chance to "show their skills under the eye of the Schalke scouts," the release said.

The grand prize for the top five players at the event is to play under Schalke 04 at the GEFORCE Cup in Warsaw as the team's official pre-season roster.

"By complementing the Scouting Days, we maintain our solid foundation of youth development," Tim Reichert, Head of Esport at Schalke 04 said in the statement. "Looking at the amount of important factors involved in successful, long-lasting teamwork; one of our top priorities has always been to not only reach out to professional players but also to the uncut diamonds in the scene."

Registration is open until Oct. 18. Participants must have reached at least master division on the EU ladder.

Olivia Da Silva is a news editor at theScore esports. She likes piña coladas, getting caught in the rain and dank no-scopes. You're eligible for free high fives if you follow her on Twitter.

Na`Vi drop Saulius, Doxy from LCL roster

Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore eSports / Natus Vincere

Natus Vincere's League of Legends roster have dropped mid laner Saulius "Saulius" Lukošius and top laner Rafael "Doxy" Adl Zarabi, and said that the future of jungler Ilya "Lasagna" Melkumov is uncertain.

The Ukraine-based esports organization announced Tuesday that they were beginning their offseason roster overhaul while the 2016 World Championship is still ongoing. Na`Vi finished 3rd-4th in the LoL Continental League Summer Playoffs after a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Vega Squadron.

"First of all this is related to the fact that in 2016 the roster failed to achieve good results — that is to win the Continental League," team manager Yaroslav "N1ghtEnd" Klochko said in the release. "Some might say that we should keep on practicing and retain the line-up. However, in the current situation it is impossible for us."

Klochko called Lasagna's future with the team "yet under question" without further elaboration. He said that the new lineup will be announced once it has been finalized.

At the 2016 LCL Summer Playoffs, Doxy played Gangplank twice and Ekko, Irelia and Gnar once each, averaging a 3.0 KDA. Saulius played Viktor twice and dabbled in LeBlanc, Zed and Gangplank en-route to a 3.4 KDA.

Here's a look at Na`Vi's remaining roster:

  • Ilya "Lasagna" Melkumov (Jungle)
  • Egor "VincentVega" Medvedev (AD Carry)
  • Arthur "skash" Ermolaev (Support)
  • Kirill "Aoi Haru" Kolupaev (Sub/Mid)
  • Boris "dayruin" Scherbakov (Coach)

Josh "Gauntlet" Bury is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find him on Twitter.

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