Tenacity: Part 2 in a review of YellOwStaR's career

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Even if a professional player never makes waves, he always experiences periods of downturn. Every League of Legends player in the history of competitive play has had moments where he doesn’t play well, where his form deteriorates. In the game’s infancy, Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim excelled, he earned accolades, he could be referred to as one of the game's best. As a more sophisticated understanding of League of Legends developed, and more players acquired aspirations of “going pro,” the competition increased. As an AD carry shotcaller, YellOwStaR juggled his own performance against his team’s and found himself lacking — and then he found a way to change that.

“People were not playing as good as they are now,” YellOwStaR said in a 2014 Reflections interview with Duncan “Thorin” Shields. When asked if he thought he could perform as an AD carry again in 2014, as he had in early 2013, YellOwStaR said he didn’t think he could.

The swap and the mediocre support player

2013 EU LCS Spring regular season champion picks

Champion Games Wins WR (%)
Thresh 6 4 66.7
Sona 5 4 80
Draven 3 2 66.7
Leona 2 2 100
Fiddlesticks 2 0 0
Nami 2 1 50
Caitlyn 2 0 0
Varus 2 2 100
Lulu 1 1 100
Tristana 1 0 0
Twitch 1 0 0
Nunu 1 0 0
Shen 1 1 100
Ezreal 1 0 0

Fnatic went into the 2013 European League of Legends Championship Series having just won the first ever LCS split. High spirits followed the team, but steeper competition brewed on the horizon. Beginning as early as the playoffs, chatter of green squads rising and creating struggle for European giants like Gambit Gaming bubbled. Three new teams joined the LCS that summer: Lemondogs (qualified as Sinners Never Sleep), Team ALTERNATE, and Meet Your Makers.

During parts of the LCS that summer, both Lemondogs and Team ALTERNATE looked like the best teams in the league. Team ALTERNATE went undefeated in the five game super week of Week 1, beating staples like Evil Geniuses and SK Gaming. The team played a team fighting-oriented and aggressive style reminiscent of the Chinese league with tinges of inspiration from Oh My God as they drafted picks like jungle Hecarim.

By contrast, Fnatic lost three of their five initial games to Evil Geniuses, Meet Your Makers, and Ninjas in Pyjamas. Fnatic lost to an explosive invade from Team ALTERNATE in Week 2. In Week 3, they were defeated by an equally-struggling Lemondogs when support Bram "wewillfailer" de Winter had an improved roaming game over Fnatic’s Christoph "nRated" Seitz.

While some had previously called YellOwStaR a Top 3 AD carry in Europe, players new to the LCS like Erik “Tabzz” van Helvert, Jakub “Creaton” Grzegorzewski, and beginning in Week 3, Aleš “Freeze” Kněžínek exposed very obvious gaps between YellOwStaR’s mechanics and the new generation. Compiled with nRated’s alleged loss of motivation, Fnatic made the decision to execute what became one of the best role swaps in the history of the game.

Prior to Week 4, after losing six of 10 games in the first three weeks, Fnatic announced that they would add substitute AD carry, Johannes “puszu” Uibos to their starting roster and move YellOwStaR to support. As these changes coincided in timing with some of Counter Logic Gaming’s more egregious role swaps in North America, the initial declaration was met with skepticism.

Fnatic wanted to retain YellOwStaR’s vocal presence and motivation, but he struggled to keep up with other AD carries. LCS caster Martin “Deficio” Lynge, then the support for Ninjas in Pyjamas, recalled while describing Fnatic during the 2015 European LCS Final that when YellOwStaR was an AD carry, he would try to last hit and type cooldowns between CS. As YellOwStaR became more comfortable with the role in 2014, he said of his swap, “It's easier for me to pay attention to what we are doing on the map and shotcall.”

While his play as an AD carry in 2013 made it obvious YellOwStaR couldn’t keep up with flashy prodigies, his debut games as a new support were abysmal. In his first game against Meet Your Makers, YellOwStaR died twice in the first two minutes. His one-dimensional warding habits meant he over-warded, dropping greens in both lane bushes when far enough forward. He and puszu hugged turret and found themselves pushed back by MYM’s duo lane.

puszu, YellOwStaR's first AD carry lane partner

But they won, which was more than could be said for Fnatic’s earlier encounter with MYM that summer. In Week 4, Fnatic secured a 3-0 record over MYM, Lemondogs, and a Team ALTERNATE with Matti “WhiteKnight108” Sormunen subbing in the mid lane.

It’s difficult to say what worked for Fnatic immediately with YellOwStaR entering the support role. Perhaps his ability to focus more on the rest of the map in his new position freed up more of his faculties, and puszu’s hunger to advertise himself on the competitive stage made up for their depressingly lacklustre laning phase. puszu showed the same affinity for Varus as YellOwStaR had, and the two developed a rhythm of poking from afar on Sona and long ranged AD carry picks.

When asked about YellOwStaR’s transition, Deficio said, “His change to support was super clunky. It was during the Summer split and he got Puszu as ADC who was also new to the scene so facing them during the Summer Split was super easy. They were a teamfight focused bot lane who almost just ff'd the lane if you got 2v2 against them, but they got solid in lane and then did well outside of lane as a team during playoffs and Worlds.”

In Week 4, Team ALTERNATE gave way to Lemondogs in the running for upstart team of the year. Creaton suffered an injury, and substitute WhiteKnight108 moved to the AD carry position in Week 5. Coincidentally, one of YellOwStaR’s greatest rivals in 2015 entered the LCS the same week in which he transitioned to the support role. Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez replaced wewillfailer on Lemondogs, and over time, many attributed their surge to first place in the regular season to that roster change.

Tabzz and mithy ran an exceedingly aggressive lane (for the time). mithy debuted with Fiddlesticks support, and was able to find key locations to hide in fog of war and spring traps on Fnatic. YellOwStaR finished his first deplorable competitive Thresh game with missed skillshots and 10 deaths, clearly outclassed by Europe’s new support talent.

But, again, Fnatic still won.

Over the course of the 2013 League of Legends Championship Series Summer Split, YellOwStaR learned support in front of stream spectators. Some of his initial flaws beyond predictable warding included strict adherence to the 2v2, uncoordinated back timings with puszu that opened opportunities for the player left behind to die 1v2, and playing scared and far back in fights in order to avoid getting caught out and dying so frequently.

xPeke and sOAZ were Fnatic's stars in 2013

It’s ridiculous to consider how little YellOwStaR’s individual performance mattered to Fnatic during the 2013 Summer split and the team’s subsequent World Championship run. Paul “sOAZ” Boyer and Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez were one of the most threatening solo lane packages, and their supremacy was seldom in question.

Perhaps by focusing less on CSing, YellOwStaR was able to aid the development of Fnatic’s team-play. During this time, they became known for several signature strategies in Europe: the “Fnatic death bush” or hiding in the bush on the top right side of the map for comeback ambushes, borrowing mid lane Teleport use to constantly chip at outer turrets and look for picks, and early group pushes, as in the team’s game against Gambit in Week 6.

In Week 7, Fnatic expressed an increased sense of confidence and flexibility as a unit. sOAZ and YellOwStaR swapped positions for one game. YellOwStaR, known to enjoy playing Shen, and sOAZ, a fan of selecting Blitzcrank, lead Fnatic in a heavy roaming game with frequent picks and dives. sOAZ roamed as a support considerably more than YellOwStaR, leading to a faster game. From that point on, the team seemed much more aggressive and comfortable with YellOwStaR and puszu.

In Fnatic’s third game of the split against Lemondogs, they executed an invasion strategy with YellOwStaR playing Thresh. mithy seemed to have a larger abundance of wards, and YellOwStaR ended the loss with eight deaths instead of 10. Lulu turned team fights in mithy’s hands later in the game.

Relative to mithy, YellOwStaR bad begun execute more overzealous engages. When their initial matchup was reversed, and YellOwStaR played Fiddlesticks, he refused to leave his team in grouping phase to find a flank from fog of war, and he could get easily picked off.

mithy tended to use more pink wards than YellOwStaR — though pink warding in general was still undervalued — and he placed them more often in the enemy jungler, while YellOwStaR favored far more defensive warding. mithy’s ability to secure vision in enemy territory allowed his lanes to play further forward.

Throughout the season, YellOwStaR continued to make steady improvements. By the time of the final game against Gambit, YellOwStaR placed fewer wards in lane and tended to allow wards up river to guard the team’s laning phase efficiently. By then, he also seemed to work out proper positioning on Sona in team fights and had game-changing Sona ultimates to seal Fnatic’s spot in second place in the regular season.

mithy entered the LCS the same week YellOwStaR transitioned to support

Fnatic’s 2013 season culminated in a final series encounter with Lemondogs. Both teams had secured a place at the World Championship by defeating their semifinal opponents. As with Gambit the previous split, Fnatic entered the series with a 1-3 record against their fellow finalist, but they reversed the standings by triumphing over Lemondogs. Though mithy still laid deeper vision, aggressive play in Game 2 up the lane allowed Fnatic’s bottom lane to start off the game with a rare double kill. At this point, it became obvious that even with a lead, puszu and YellOwStaR didn’t have the best concept of how to pressure a lane. mithy traded for a double kill of his own.

Despite this, Fnatic was still entirely the sOAZ and xPeke show. Jungler Lauri “Cyanide” Happonen had very high lane presence, making it easy for Fnatic to snowball, and then they simply ran Lemondogs around the map. Fnatic secured the World Championship's first seed and their second consecutive playoff victory.

Royal Club and the Leona

2013 World Championship champion picks

Champion Games Wins WR (%)
Leona 7 4 57.1
Zyra 6 4 66.7
Sona 1 0 0
Shen 1 1 100

YellOwStaR made a much larger dent in the bracket in his third World Championship appearance than he did in his second.

First seed into the World Championship for Europe amounted to very little in 2013 as, having placed last at All Stars, Europe lost their first seed quarterfinals bye, and every team had to play in the group stage. Fnatic evaded the group stage heavyweights of Group A in SK Telecom T1 and Chinese team Oh My God by placing in Group B with third place European team Gambit Gaming, Korean team Samsung Ozone, North American Team Vulcun, and Philippines hopefuls, Mineski.

Vulcun started the group with an aggressive invade on Fnatic. Level 1s had gotten Vulcun two of the three prized wins against North American favorites, Cloud9, that summer and a Level 1 invade gave Vulcun a spiral to win over Fnatic. Lyubomir "BloodWater" Spasov demonstrated warding technique that would become standard at Worlds with invading to set out three wards and buying an early Oracle’s Elixir.

Fnatic rebounded against the wildcard team, Mineski, and catapulted into Samsung Ozone. The “dade award” for underperformance at a World Championship originated from Bae “dade” Eojin’s play at the 2013 World Championship. His champion pool had been stunted by a patch change, and he and most of the rest of Ozone showed abysmal form due to having failed to properly prepare. Gambit Gaming gave Ozone their first loss of the group, and Fnatic gave them their second.

During the World Championship, the support triumvirate of Zyra, Thresh, and Sona reigned, but YellOwStaR had different ideas. He has become known for his Leona play, though perhaps in a somewhat comical fashion. Leona wasn't heavily favored at the World Championships because of her lack of range, and the fact that she couldn’t help take down turrets in lane swaps or harassing. Fnatic and other teams (especially the Chinese squads) compensated by executing very early turret dives with Leona’s engagement instead.

More aggressive play allowed YellOwStaR to gather a 1/0/3 scoreline in the first 10 minutes of their rematch against Vulcun. Fnatic obtained the first seed from Group B into quarterfinals and drew North America’s first seed, Cloud9.

Despite YellOwStaR’s increased aggressive play in the group stage as Leona, he still warded primarily defensively within Fnatic’s own jungle when Tier 1 turrets fell. Against supports Daerek “LemonNation” Hart of Cloud9 and especially Pan Kan “Tabe” Wong of Royal Club Huang Zu, who tended to place more invasive words, this contrast caused Fnatic to make more misplays.

Fnatic’s series against Cloud9 was a close one. A game went into each team’s favor before Cloud9’s duo lane was caught out, resulting in a very large snowball for Fnatic that won them the best-of-three. After Royal Club Huang Zu defeated their fellow Chinese team, Oh My God, YellOwStaR would once again drop out of the World Championship as a result of “Chinese aggression.”

Though Leona didn’t conform to the World Championship meta, Tabe brought forth an even more outlandish pick that demanded bans: Annie. Tabe and Jian “Uzi” Zihao found success bringing the duo lane mid with Annie’s stun threats as capable backup while their jungler invaded. If a team tried to counter this aggressive style, Tabe would collapse with an Annie stun.

Supports performed much more actions in the first 10 minutes in this series than YellOwStaR had in his games in the European LCS. By toning down some of their over-active play, Fnatic could actually use YellOwStaR’s defensive wards to punish Royal’s over-extensions. The one game Fnatic won, puszu fell back on Varus, and Fnatic relied on the utility of counter-engage of their bottom lane with Leona and Varus to actually turn fights.

In an explosive Game 4, Fnatic let Annie through, opening Royal’s preferred style of play. This was the most back-and-forth game of the series, but Royal managed to find objectives after they won teamfights and ultimately advanced to the final over Fnatic.

Outside just the bottom lane matchup, Royal’s mid laner Pun Wai "Wh1t3zZ" Lo expressed a wider champion pool and decimated xPeke in farm totals by counter-picking him. This series loss gave Fnatic a lot to mull over, and a very different team would appear in the 2014 European League of Legends Championship Series the following year.

2014 and the time Fnatic lost the LCS

Fnatic had advanced little as a team in order to participate in one of the least satisfying interim international events following the World Championship, the Battle of the Atlantic. Cloud9 got their revenge, and Fnatic underwent changes before the new season began.

2014 EU LCS Spring champion picks

Champion Picks Wins WR (%)
Leona 6 2 33.3
Morgana 6 5 83.3
Karma 4 4 100
Thresh 4 1 25
Annie 4 3 75
Lulu 2 1 50
Alistar 1 0 0
Nunu 1 1 100

2014 was not a particularly good year for European League of Legends teams or Fnatic, as they lost their only split in three years, but it was a very important year for YellOwStaR. Martin “Rekkles” Larsson had turned 17 and could start for Fnatic in the first week of the Spring LCS. Immediately, commentators noted the drastic upgrade to Fnatic’s bottom lane, but Rekkles wasn’t the only one dropping jaws.

YellOwStaR adopted the Annie pick that had bested Fnatic at the World Championship. Changes to the support role in the preseason made Annie even more viable, and she worked her way into the champion pools of supports internationally. YellOwStaR and Rekkles began playing further up in lane than puszu and YellOwStaR ever had. Fnatic went on a seven game win streak, and their bottom lane lead the KDA ratings.

YellOwStaR finally understood the power of a support’s threat zone and dictated the pace of the lane the way he never had in 2013. Fnatic suddenly didn’t have to find creative ways to maneuver around the map; they could perform much better in team fights with an AD carry who could position well enough to secure kills and add onto the damage provided by sOAZ and xPeke. This slowed some of their strategic advancement, but made them more threatening in a skirmishes and team fights.

Then things went very, very wrong.

Fnatic's win streak came to an abrupt end against Gambit Gaming. Vision changes meant a general reduction in vision placement by European teams, and Gambit quickly learned to abuse the meta growing pains with an Evelynn rework. Gambit themselves began maximizing their pink ward placement, but Fnatic's map was very dark by contrast.

As a result of stagnation, Fnatic then went about losing to every single team in the LCS after having already beaten them. They topped their seven game win streak by going on an eight game losing streak. High Fnatic KDAs shattered, and they began to grasp for strategies that would work. The public mocked sOAZ's Lulu top fixation, but no single player seemed at fault for the collapse.

Even with a slacking form, Fnatic managed to make the finals of the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship. They bested Millenium, Cloud9, and an Invictus Gaming barely treading water before being utterly humiliated by a lagging KT Bullets in the final.

Eventually, Fnatic found an answer.

Fnatic changed their luck in Week 7 against Gambit Gaming, the team that started them on their losing streak. Fnatic built a poke and disengage composition that allowed them to move around the map quickly with Sivir. They applied the disengage power of a new support popularized by rising Polish squad, Team ROCCAT: Morgana. Gambit could't keep up with the speed of Fnatic's composition and promptly lost.

Despite struggles with Fnatic and Team ROCCAT's initial rise, Fnatic's main 2014 Spring rivals were SK Gaming. SK developed an intelligent approach to the game that focused on setting up fights around dragon by herding teams into the pit and creating space for AD carry Adrian "CandyPanda" Wübbelmann to take advantage. Though CandyPanda didn't stand out, his team had means of impaling the opposition on his Vayne, and they developed a flavor for split-pushing.

Having rewatched games closely, I believe the 4v0 meta of 2014 Spring had a huge impact on YellOwStaR's playstyle. YellOwStaR seemed to lose some confidence around Week 9, as he and Rekkles reverted to more passive laning, but the evolution of the jungle-duo lane-top laner push meta opened up the map much more. In order to lane after taking down outer turrets, more jungle vision was required, which kept YellOwStaR roaming frequently. He picked up support Karma to move more fluidly around the map and started to fall into place as the roaming and vision-oriented support we’ve come to know him as.

After overcoming their hump, it seemed Fnatic engaged with the game much more creatively. During semifinals, Fnatic ran a series of entertaining compositions, including the Soraka/Kayle/Janna composition that served as a maddening counter to Alliance’s catch and Karthus composition.

Despite these advancements, Fnatic were wholly unprepared for the blunt objects that knocked in their teeth at All Stars in Paris that year. By once again winning the LCS in 2014 Spring, Fnatic were invited to the All Stars tournament to compete with the top teams in the five major regions.

Fnatic lost to every single team except the GPL’s Taipei Assassins. It became clear that the Chinese and Korean teams had developed a counter to the 4v0 meta that allowed them to freeze the minion wave top to get an advantage on the AD carry. Completely lacking an advanced concept of wave control, Fnatic fell hard against SK Telecom T1 and got run over by the team fighting prowess of Oh My God.

Perhaps in one of the most memorable humiliations in League of Legends eSports history, SK Telecom T1 fielded a roster of their World Championship skins, despite those champions not synergizing particularly well nor being in meta.

Like KT Bullets, SK Telecom T1 hadn't been performing well in Korea, but they demolished every opposing team at All Stars, demonstrating the full extent of Korean dominance. Sure, the game wasn't a stomp, but given how poorly those champions fit in the meta at the time, Fnatic should have won.

2014 EU LCS Summer champion picks

Champion Picks Wins WR (%)
Morgana 11 8 72.7
Thresh 11 8 72.7
Nami 3 2 66.7
Braum 1 0 0
Zyra 1 1 100
Alistar 1 0 0

Following All Stars, Fnatic returned to the European League of Legends Championship Series and picked up their first analyst in Alvar "Araneae" Martin Aleñar to contend with having fallen behind strategically. Yet Fnatic had even bigger problems in Europe.

Alliance, the super team that only managed to acquire two-fifths of the initially proposed roster, had finally begun to look like a dominant force. Fnatic lost to Alliance and SK Gaming in the first week of the summer split, foreshadowing events to come.

Of Fnatic, Henrik "Froggen" Hansen, the central figure of Alliance, said "Fnatic would rather go between lanes and get kills than focus objectives." This proved to be a very apt description of how games between Fnatic and Alliance would play out.

In response to YellOwStaR roaming more often, Rekkles began to follow. YellOwStaR got picks on champions like Morgana or Thresh, and Rekkles eliminated them with Lucian or Twitch. Alliance held lanes, pushed out, and use hyper scaling champions to chip at turrets and avoid direct confrontation until late game. Kog'Maw was favored by Alliance AD carry Tabzz and seemed to appear in every match against Fnatic to punish their lack of objective focus.

All summer, Alliance relied on other teams making mistakes. Very few squads took it upon themselves to force anything from Alliance, so they simply waited for openings. YellOwStaR himself said that he believed Alliance really capitalized on Fnatic’s mistakes (see video above). Alliance shut down Fnatic 3-1 in the LCS final that summer, handing Fnatic their only LCS loss in six splits to date.

More troubling than Fnatic’s lost summer split was the fact that they didn’t even look like the second best team in Europe. Fnatic barely bested Team ROCCAT in a five game series, and SK Gaming’s close games that met Alliance in objective prioritization made them look better than Fnatic. They secured the second seed into the World Championship, but Fnatic looked like only the third best team in Europe.

2014 World Championship champion picks

Champion Picks Wins WR (%)
Janna 2 1 50
Thresh 2 1 50
Nami 2 0 0

Following the 2015 European League of Legends Championship Summer final, sOAZ told theScore eSports in reference to 2014, "I've said it many times before, but the atmosphere on the team was really bad for the month leading up to Worlds. I was a bit down, but I still tried to focus on what I could." It certainly showed.

It's remotely possible YellOwStaR has an even year World Championship curse because, just as he did in 2012 with SK Gaming, YellOwStaR fell from the tournament in the group stage. During the World Championship, Fnatic displayed both a high ceiling and a disastrous low. Fnatic's highlight moment was their definitive dismantling of Samsung Blue, likely the strongest team in the world for most of the year in 2014. They simply hit the go button from spawn time, Rekkles ended with an impressive Lucian KDA of 8/1/5, and YellOwStaR a score of 0/1/9 on Thresh.

On the low end of the spectrum, Fnatic participated in one of the most strategically void games played at a World Championship against OMG. I haven't actually counted the number of bad trades of an inhibitor for Baron, illogical backs, or canceled auto attacks, but it's actually just bad, and in the end, Fnatic lost.

Naturally, lolesports awarded that game "Game of the Year" in 2014. It's fun to watch if you suspend critical thinking.

Despite the disaster of Fnatic's 2014 World Championship, I think of it as a unique time in YellOwStaR's career up to that point in which he was the single best performing player on his team. Even in the series against OMG where his teammates made terrible misplays every which way, YellOwStaR could make a highlight reel of Nami disengages.

Some would reflect and call Rekkles the best performing member of Fnatic at 2014 Worlds, but he really only excelled on Lucian. Even in losses, YellOwStaR landed the right Thresh hooks and used the right skillshots on Janna and Nami. While xPeke, Cyanide, and sOAZ struggled depending on the game, YellOwStaR maintained a powerful form and ended the tournament having out-warded every support he faced in the group, including Samsung Blue support, Lee "Heart" Gwanhyung.

By the end of 2014, YellOwStaR, a player who had never been a truly elite AD carry, despite the accolades he received, had become an elite European support. Yet Fnatic was in shambles. YellOwStaR had overcome his own battle for relevance after finding himself unable to compete as a shotcalling AD carry. Unfortunately, despite the high level of skill on the Fnatic roster, the team of sOAZ, Cyanide, xPeke, Rekkles, and YellOwStaR had reached a point where it had begun to tear at itself.

Many in the public sphere knew of the discontent within the Fnatic roster. Changes were coming. In the coming months, YellOwStaR would have to make a decision.

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

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Ocelote: 'When I sell players to Fnatic...I take their balls and kind of twist them'

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G2 Esports founder and CEO, Carlos "ocelote" Rodríguez Santiago, is a happy man after watching his team lift the EU LCS trophy for the second straight split. However, the work is never over for the owner of one of the fastest growing and successful brands in esports, which means he has plenty on his mind about the current discussions regarding the ecosystem in League of Legends.

After G2's win at the EU LCS finals, Marcel "Dexter" Feldkamp caught up with the former player and current CEO to get his thoughts on the current debate about the future of LoL's long-term sustainability, possible streams of revenue that could help the scene and the recent allegations made regarding Jens Hilgers' loan to Fnatic.

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Get Good: Worlds patching and the myth of meta-resistance

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The best teams know how to adapt.

As a League of Legends esports spectator and consumer, I’ve heard this phrase uttered by members of the community both in and outside Riot Games. Spectators have said it. Players have said it. It’s entirely possible I’ve even said it. But a quick glance at the game’s history makes one realize that it has absolutely no basis in fact.

The conflict between Rioters and team owners that has been brewing on Twitter and come to a head with the clash between President Marc "Tryndamere" Merrill and Team SoloMid owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh involves a lot of factors I don’t have enough information to discuss. I don’t have the experience to determine how much an LCS team makes compared to other esports in sponsorship, stipends or merchandising. I can’t say how much revenue Riot receives from streaming LCS or indirect game revenue from using it as a marketing tool. The only observation I can make is that this conflict very likely came about because of an inequity of information on one side or the other, but that’s an observation almost anyone can make.

What I can discuss is the comment Reginald made in his interview with theScore esports. Reginald claimed that patch changes hurt the stability of the competitive League of Legends scene. Tryndamere outright dismissed this comment in his Reddit response chain, claiming “patch timing is not correlated with this concern.” By this concern, he’s referring to the “long term well-being of the scene.”

While most of the discussions have revolved around what money is or isn’t to be made from the LCS, this comment has only been briefly addressed as a shorter aside in a meatier argument about financing. Its core leads back to the commonly accepted phrase, “The best teams know how to adapt.” If one accepts this phrase as a true reflection of reality, then it’s true that this comment doesn’t need a great deal of additional treatment. Because of this phrase, players and teams will hesitate to dispute Tryndamere’s claim — it’s like admitting that if they struggle to adapt to a new patch they aren’t one of the best teams.

In this manner, the phrase has been used as a somewhat unfair weapon, especially since I struggle to name a single team that has always just adapted to changes simply and remained dominant. SK Telecom T1 around Lee “Faker” Sanghyeok stand out as the most likely example given multiple international titles, including two World Championships — except there are now two distinct time periods where, at least domestically, they’ve lost hold of their power. Their fall in 2014 and more recently in 2016 summer correlate with the perceived importance of strong, creative junglers in the meta.

SKT have never been a team that appears to understand the concept of playing around a carry jungler, and the desire to make a roster change to compensate for the limited champion pool of Bae "bengi" Seongwoong hasn’t yielded results. Stylistically, they haven’t adapted to the idea of mid laner as a backup resource to their jungler because, frankly speaking, why should Faker have to babysit a jungler?

SKT have made countless adaptations, adjusting to a resource-heavy top laner in Jang "MaRin" Gyeonghwan, swapping out players when necessary, but they’ve mostly remained on top. There are now repeated instances, however, of the team, either because of coaching or Faker himself, struggling to adapt to a jungler-centric playstyle. It’s possible they just haven’t found the right jungler, but with Kang "Blank" Sungu’s style echoing bengi’s more and more over time, my initial prediction is that a jungler swap in and of itself wouldn’t necessarily aid SKT, and instead a carry jungler will slowly adapt to fall in line with the way their junglers have played before.

This is a topic that can be unpacked on its own, so you don’t have to take what I say at face value, but SKT are far from the only example of patching coinciding with the crowning of kings. By now, many know the story of 2014's Samsung White and Samsung Blue. In both of their Champions clashes, pundits pitted Samsung White as the better team, but both in Spring and Summer, Blue triumphed. It took the 2014 World Championship for White to finally overcome their sister team.

One explanation put forth by experts, including Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles at the time, was that Blue was the better team to adapt to patch changes, including champion priority and lane control. The first best of five encounter between White (then Ozone) and Blue after Bae "dade" Eojin joined Blue, cementing both rosters, was on April 30, 2014, with the 4.5 patch coming out in North America on April 3, meaning that the 2-3 week lag before it hit Korea's competitive scene only gave teams a short time to breathe before semifinals.

The Samsung teams' second encounter in Champions Summer on Aug. 1, 2014 meant they had to face newly buffed dragon gold and other small snowball changes that put more emphasis on bottom side dragon fights. Blue had smarter use of Teleport, wave control, and setups in conjunction that demonstrated a faster reaction to patching.

But at the World Championship, teams played on Patch 4.14, rolled out on Aug. 13, 2014. When the Samsung sister teams had their final showdown, it was on Oct. 11, almost two months after the patch change. White decimated Samsung Blue, and many still remember them as the greater team as a result, dismissing their domestic losses to Blue because of meta instability.

If the best teams know how to adapt, why is White remembered as the better team?

More dramatically, for most of 2014 summer, Star Horn Royal Club, the second place team at the 2014 World Chamionship, hovered around fourth in their domestic League of Legends Pro League in China. Team WE, a team more skilled at lane swapping and accustomed to sending AD carry Gao “WeiXiao” Xuecheng to the top lane to freeze farm for late game, sat in the Top 3, slated for a Worlds birth. The surge of Star Horn Royal Club, a team with more skill in the bottom side 2v2 than any team in the league, and the fall of WE, a team used to playing a more patient game, coincided with Lucian buffs, dragon gold increases and other snowball changes.

Due to an average game time difference with LGD, WE didn’t even make playoffs (then only reserved for the Top 4 in the LPL) that split. Royal’s truly impressive run past their domestic opponents to make the World Championship final on China’s side of the bracket stands out in history far more than WE’s more consistent form earlier that summer.

I’m not saying that White and Royal don’t deserve their coveted spots in history, or that it was all on patches. These were teams of fantastic players. Their stories, perhaps not best remembered by the English-speaking esports community, highlight two important realities. Patching has at least a correlation with successes and triumphs, and the World Championship is the single most important event in the competitive year.

All five Samsung White members immediately found lucrative streaming contracts with LPL teams following the 2014 World Championship, but Samsung Blue's Lee "Heart" Gwanhyung went to an LSPL team, and Lee "Spirit" Dayoon joined an LPL team without another ex-Samsung teammate. Jian “Uzi” Zihao had an impressive buyout when Oh My God made the play to change their roster. Having lost to Royal two years running at Worlds, they made a change that’s still regarded as one of the largest blockbuster roster trades in LoL as well as perhaps the single most disappointing when both OMG and Royal’s results tanked for the 2015 competitive season. WeiXiao retired immediately after WE failed to make playoffs.

How a player performs at Worlds can heavily impact his entire career. MaRin, the 2015 World Championship MVP, was one of the only two major Korean players to join a Chinese team in 2016, the other being Lee "Easyhoon" Jihoon, another member of his team. In 2014, the disappointing results for Europe resulted in a large reshuffling, including the famous story of the scouting and rebuilding of 2015's Fnatic. Then, a year later, three of five Fnatic members — at least — were offered major opportunities to join North American teams after they made the semifinal at the World Championship.

Kim “deft” Hyukkyu allegedly went to ex-EDward Gaming co-owner and manager Huang “San Shao” Cheng’s office in tears, begging to return to Korea if he couldn’t win Worlds. deft is still regarded as one of the best AD carries in the world. He has won the Mid-Season Invitational, a major international event. He undoubtedly makes a handsome salary with EDward Gaming, but Worlds matters. Worlds is marketed as the career-making tournament, and the fallout, both monetarily and otherwise reflects that. The entire long year of the league system, a system Riot promotes as important because it’s allegedly more stable for the bottom teams, can be forgotten at the top end by how you play in the month of October.

If we look at 2015, the Juggernaut patch, described as having “sub-optimal” patch timing by Tryndamere, heavily emphasized the power of top lane carries. The teams that succeeded were praised for adapting quickly to lane swap changes, but three of the four teams that made semifinals were already playing around their top laner before the juggernaut patch hit. Adaptations required of Fnatic, SKT and KOO were less dramatic than those required by the two first seed teams that failed to escape Groups — Counter-Logic Gaming and LGD Gaming.

Adaptation should be rewarded, it is part of what makes a team strong, and there's no way one can argue that 2015's results can be laid entirely at the feet of patch timing. But when the qualifier for an event takes place on a drastically different patch than the event, it’s absurd to pretend that the resulting fallout happened entirely because teams that weren’t the best were exposed for a lack of adaptation.

For the purpose of clarity, here are the lane swap rates, differences in gold leads at ten minutes in lane swaps and out of lane swaps, the regular season rank, and the round in which each team finished in playoffs. Non-LPL data are pulled from League of Analytics.

Region Team Swap rate(%) G@10 Swap G@10 No swap Regular season rank Last playoff round
EU GIA 63.9 -33.4 -9.3 3 QF
EU G2 58.3 333.9 198.6 1 F
EU H2K 58.3 364.8 437.1 4 SF
EU FNC 52.8 535.5 -467.5 5 QF
EU UOL 47.2 -403.8 -246 6 SF
EU SPY 44.4 -200.3 266.3 2 F
LCK KT 47.7 210.8 212.4 3 F
LCK SSG 45 619.6 -23.4 4 QF
LCK AFs 44.2 210.8 212.4 5 R1
LCK ROX 37.5 186.6 -20 1 F
LCK SKT 36.6 -379.8 356 2 SF
LMS JT 54.2 423 755.1 1 F
LMS FW 37.5 327 23.4 2 F
LMS HKE 29.2 -41.4 -201.7 4 QF
LMS ahq 25 498.2 148.2 3 SF
LPL GT 51 -68.4 -177.8 3 R1
LPL IM 46 635.3 235 3 SF
LPL VG 46 335 -425 4 QF
LPL RNG 43 547.1 887 1 F
LPL SS 34 538.5 624 2 QF
LPL WE 33 -292.9 432.1 2 SF
LPL EDG 30 545.5 400 1 F
LPL iG 17 -857.1 -120.6 4 R1
NA CLG 60.9 78 -269 4 SF
NA NV 50 -153.6 -112.9 6 QF
NA IMT 48.8 547 509 2 SF
NA C9 47.7 324.1 19.5 3 F
NA TL 46.5 62.9 -10.9 5 QF
NA TSM 34.1 717.4 699.1 1 F

Most of the data doesn’t provide evidence that the removal of lane swaps could have had a massive impact on placing, but a few examples stand out. In particular, Fnatic’s over 1,000 gold spread in leads in lane swap games vs. non-lane swap games makes the 6.15 patch changes look like a death sentence.

Perhaps what Tryndamere said about teams hiding weak players in lane swaps rings true here, but how many people actually believe the majority of Fnatic’s roster is comprised of weak players? Players not necessarily known for their laning phase? Yes. Players clearly disconnected in quarterfinals? Yes. But almost no one would dare to flat out call them weak players.

Fnatic likely have other problems, but they were a Top 3 EU LCS team for much of the split. They made the semifinals last split. At the moment, it feels like that doesn’t matter because the tool they were really good at, the lane swaps, has been taken off the table. Barring other issues with the organization, there’s no way this won’t have ramifications for these players’ futures. Perhaps some of the damage could have been softened if the changes were reserved for the offseason.

Tryndamere’s comment about prioritizing viewer experiences isn’t shocking. Digging through the jargon like “default start” or “non-interactive,” that I’ve discussed more in depth in another article, it was clear Riot made these changes because they thought they were best for the viewers. Of course viewers might be tantalized by a major patch change before Worlds. They want to see how their favorite pros react for the first time on the biggest stage of the year.

But Tryndamere’s more surprising message is, “Coaches/owners are complaining about [the patch] because it makes it harder for them to hide a certain line up/skill deficits they may have on their rosters. In my opinion…they need to continue to develop talent and pay them.”

Lane swapping is a skill. It isn’t even a debate anymore, and I'm tired of hearing people insist upon the contrary. No professional player or coach has come forward and referred to lane swapping as simple. Most responses have been similar to that of Splyce top laner, Martin "Wunder" Hansen, who, despite acknowledging that Splyce perform better in standard lanes (and the above data supports that as well), said, “I think lane swaps are a really skilled thing about the game, even if you don't think that from a spectator point of view. But if you are really good at lane swap, you have some sort of advantage that you can use and win the games against teams that is not only based on mechanics.”

Tryndamere’s Reddit response to Reginald, free of all the other points that have been addressed more thoroughly by others, essentially boils down to “get good,” but apparently he gets to decide what constitutes “good.” What has been good for the majority of the 2016 competitive season, what has made or broken seeding into playoffs, has been the ability to lane swap in just less than 50 percent of total games played.

Further, if Tryndamere believes more five-game series are what happens when we're seeing strong teams succeed, I'm having trouble following his logic. There has been an alarming blue side win rate plaguing the LPL and LCK, with 81 percent blue side win rate in LPL and 73 percent in the LCK. This doesn't necessarily condemn the patch, as it's still early, but I don't see how close five game series means the losing team just has worse players.

Then, beyond just lane swaps, what Riot promised would be competitive-focused tweaks in subsequent patches, turned out to be much more substantial. Patch 6.17, the last patch before the World Championship patch, has 27 champion sub-sections. It includes significant buffs to champions like Vi and Poppy that don’t seem competitive-focused or necessary.

Riot should change their game. That’s expected and healthy. Huge midseason and offseason updates are exciting for both the player and spectator base. It helps teams decide on roster changes for the coming season. Alterations for balance throughout the splits following these major changes are also expected.

But patches have come out consistently twice every month for years, and the lists of changes that occur every time only seem to get larger. In 2014, Riot slowed down for Worlds and froze the competitive patch at the start of August. Last year, the final patch before Worlds was released on Sept. 16, 2014, and the major Juggernaut change was released on Aug. 20. Even with some of the impact that 2014’s changes may have had on competitors, I think the 2014 approach was reasonable. At least this year is somewhere between there and last year.

Making statements like “the best teams adapt” or “get better players” to justify major game alterations and divest responsibility for potentially career-changing moves before the single most important event of the season doesn’t hold up. Meta-resistant teams in League of Legends are a myth. They’re a noble goal everyone aims for, probably because frequent patching makes it so they have to, but there hasn't actually ever been one before.

If Tryndamere honestly thinks “patch timing is not correlated” with the careers of the players he’s accusing Reginald of not protecting, he’s either ignoring the body of evidence I’ve amassed or he’s already performed the rigorous testing I haven’t to destabilize my claims as mere coincidences. To truly do everything Riot can to help create the stability they crave, there either needs to be a way to put less emphasis on Worlds or better steps taken to ensure the best competitive conditions so that teams that are actually good on the Worlds patch make it through qualification to attend. The efforts made so far have been sub-optimal.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter for more rants about the myth of meta-resistance.

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Tryndamere responds to community: Riot is working to improve revenue sharing, will release patches earlier

by 5d ago

Marc "Tryndamere" Merrill has followed up on his initial response to Team SoloMid owner Andy "Reginald" Dinh's comments on the sustainability of League of Legends esports with a new TwitLonger that addresses some of the concerns expressed by members of the community.

"This may surprise some, but I actually agree with a lot of the points Andy makes about sustainability in the LoL ecosystem," Tryndamere said in his post Wednesday. "League esports (in its current form) doesn't provide the long term security and sustainability that we ultimately aspire to for teams and pros."

Throughout the debate that began on Monday with Reginald's interview and Tryndamere's Reddit response, the TSM owner has argued that Riot has demanded more of players and teams without increasing stipends or other league-controlled revenue streams, or giving them access to outside sponsorship opportunities.

"Over time, LCS has become more demanding and restrictive and the dynamics of a mutually beneficial relationship have become more one-sided," he wrote on Tuesday.

In his response Wednesday, Tryndamere acknowledged that team costs are rising while revenue stays mostly stagnant, saying that it is the "short-term reality of growing a young esport."

"Building a self-sustaining global sport requires more revenue generation opportunities for all parts of the ecosystem, and we know there’s more we can do to further unlock the value of the leagues for owners and pros," the Riot executive wrote.

He said that in 2017, Riot plans on releasing additional team-branded in-game items that will provide teams with additional revenue, and they are also looking to sell more physical merchandise through their online store, both concessions that Reginald and other team owners have requested.

"These are just a couple of examples and we’re exploring a lot more major steps, like league sponsorships, franchising, media rights, etc.," Tryndamere wrote.

Sharing sponsorship revenue with teams and broadening opportunities for teams to feature their own sponsors are both issues at the heart of the debate. Though Riot's events and online streams have not generally been sponsored, League of Legends leagues and tournaments have attracted major outside sponsors in the past. Coca Cola currently sponsors the LCK (which is run by OGN and sanctioned by Riot), and also sponsored the 2014 World Championships and the 2015 North American Challenger Series. The LCS itself has never been sponsored.

Tryndamere did not go into detail about what sponsorship revenue-sharing might look like, but rather stressed the complexity of the problem from Riot's perspective.

"As we build additional revenue streams for multi-esport organizations, what mechanisms should we put in place to help ensure that the right amount of revenue is shared with their League pro players?" he wrote. "Who decides what is the right amount? Is it even fair for Riot to influence these third-party teams in this way? There is no road map for this, and we need to continue to learn together with our partners the way we have since we started on this esports journey back in season one at Dreamhack."

The post does not discuss increasing player stipends, which have remained at $12,500 per player per split since 2013, or growing the LCS' prize pools, which have been stable at $100,000 per split since the LCS was founded. (However, Tryndamere said in a previous Reddit comment that Riot was "open to revisiting the Worlds' prize pool," which has also remained relatively stable at close to $2 million since 2012.)

Addressing the criticism that Riot releases game-changing patches too close to major tournaments — in particular this year's lane swap patch, which Reginald and others have complained came out too close to regional playoffs, robbing teams of the time to practice — Tryndamere said it will "do a better job of communicating sooner" and plans to ensure that patches that deeply affect the competitive meta "happen earlier on in the split to give players more time to adjust."

RELATED: Get good: Worlds patching and the myth of meta-resistance​

However, he stuck to his guns on Riot's decision to enforce standard lanes in the latest patch. "Our laneswap changes once again didn’t give teams much time to prepare, but we moved forward believing it will lead to better games and a better viewing experience for fans," he wrote.

After publishing the post today, Tryndamere again responded to community comments on Reddit. He defended his initial, terse response to Reginald's interview on Reddit, saying that it was in line with Riot's communication philosophy of being "unfiltered."

"We prefer to be 'unfiltered' / 'raw' because we are deeply immersed in the game and hate the high level generic corporate speak that says nothing and plays it safe," he wrote. "The downside of these attempts to participate in general community discussions when we occupy this seat and there are tens of millions of players around the world is that it's hard to speak like we know you guys in a casual / comfortable way. ... I infinitely prefer interacting with players than with our PR team (yes we have one) and struggle to engage in the way that I did in 2011 and earlier. Think we need to continue to grow and adapt to our size, scale and the associated expectations."

Since Tryndamere's TwitLonger was posted, Reignald has responded with a short statement of his own, writing that TSM and other NA LCS teams have signed a "detailed proposal" that is being sent to Riot with suggestions for changes to the structure of the LCS.

Several teams have explicitly stated on Twitter they are part of the petition, including Counter Logic Gaming, Team Liquid and Cloud9, while other teams and personalities from NA and EU have voiced their support using the #LCSForever hashtag. The content of the proposal is not public.

Last updated at 7:04 PM on 8/24/2016.

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

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Team SoloMid and the SK Telecom T1 Model

by 2d ago

Team SoloMid’s magical ability to sap a jungler of his energy has been somewhat of a running joke in the North American League Championship Series for the past few years. Relying on importing European junglers known for their aggressive carry potential, these same players widely fell flat on North American soil and were subsequently seen as failures by the legions of TSM fans. Since the arrival of Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider, who was followed by Lucas “Santorin” Larsen and last split, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, the magical space-time pocket that consumed their previously-displayed carry prowess remained undiscovered. Both Amazing and Santorin had strong performances on other teams upon leaving TSM, and Svenskeren’s initial foray into the NA LCS after his time on SK Gaming seemed to fit the pattern — excellent individual carry prowess but ill-suited for TSM.

This joke has lost a lot of steam recently thanks to Svenskeren’s strong performances in the 2016 NA LCS Spring Playoffs and his subsequent Summer split play. Svenskeren has ascended above his import brethren and reached a comfort level with TSM where he fits perfectly, rather than standing out as another failed carry jungler for TSM. Understanding how Svenskeren has succeeded where others have not involves a look through TSM’s history.

Across multiple iterations extending as far back as the era of Andy “Reginald” Dinh as the team’s mid laner, TSM has primarily been a mid-focused team. Back in the latter half of Season 2, Seasons 3 and 4 and as late as 2015, this wasn’t uncommon, and didn’t specifically isolate TSM from any other NA team by playstyle.

The way the team plays the jungle position — and a good deal about initial concepts of jungling — came from Brian “TheOddOne” Wyllie, who is fondly remembered for pioneering Maokai jungle and his Nunu counter-jungling among many other things. Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg’s arrival to TSM in late 2013 ushered in a new era, but ensured that the team would remain mid-focused for years to come.

Comparing any individual player to Faker will inevitably find said player lacking in comparison. Yet, what is interesting about the Bjergsen to Faker comparison specifically is the myriad of roles they have played for their respective teams — both of which have remained at the top or just below the top of their regions. TSM and SKT have continued to play around their mid lane first, rather than defaulting to a more jungle, top or AD carry-focused style to suit the meta. Even when they devote more in-game resources outside of the mid lane, Bjergsen is the pivot around which TSM revolves. This year was the year that Bjergsen ascended beyond simply the best mid laner who could visibly carry TSM to the best player in NA LCS history.

When SKT needed to shift their attention to Jang “MaRin” Gyeong-hwan, Faker adjusted. At the 2015 World Championship, Faker received the lowest percentage of his team’s total gold (23 percent) of any mid laner at the tournament. When Kang “Blank” Sun-gu was initially struggling in the jungle, it was Faker who shifted, playing the likes of Lissandra, Azir and come playoff time Zilean, to control SKT’s teamfights. This allowed Blank to become more of a DPS carry when needed, and affected SKT’s side lanes while Blank farmed.

This year, Bjergsen has played in a similar fashion for TSM, adjusting his role accordingly while continuing to be the most reliable player in North America.

Throughout 2015, TSM waxed and waned, often struggling to find their stride despite taking the 2015 NA LCS Spring title and winning the Season IV IEM World Championship.

Most interesting was the team’s appearance at MSI in 2015. Touted at the time as NA’s best chance at winning an international event, TSM crashed and burned, failing to make it out of the group stage. Their only win came against International Wildcard Representative Beşiktaş e-Sports Club. Bjergsen spent his time on Urgot, Ziggs and Cho’Gath. Opposing teams easily exploited TSM’s lack of support and resources to then-top laner Marcus “Dyrus” Hill, and Bjergsen did not fall back on his typical stable of assassins to carry the team. During the 2015 NA LCS Summer split, TSM received contrary criticism — that they were overly reliant on Bjergsen. The Danish mid laner accounted for 42.5 percent of his team’s total damage, the highest of any mid laner in the season, while Jason “Wildturtle” Tran did 24.2 percent, the worst of any starting NA AD carry. Upon TSM’s 3-0 loss to Counter Logic Gaming in the summer finals, and failure to advance from the group stage at the 2015 World Championship, it was time for changes.

TSM attacked the 2015-16 offseason. Dyrus retired, Wildturtle left, TSM picked up rival CLG’s world-class AD carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, signed Gravity Gaming’s promising top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, SK Gaming’s former jungler Svenskeren and topped it off by acquiring former Fnatic star Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim, the latter of whom was fresh off of Fnatic’s run to the 2015 World Championship semifinals.

However, what looks good on paper is rarely an exact translation in practice, and TSM spent the majority of the 2016 NA LCS Spring split looking confused and lost. Doublelift and YellOwStaR were never on the same page in lane, YellOwStaR got caught out during routine warding patterns and no one from the team followed up on his engages, TSM’s laneswaps set Hauntzer behind from the get-go and Svenskeren was a complete non-factor. Often, the only thing keeping TSM afloat was Bjergsen, whose consistency was welcome on a team that Doublelift described in a broadcast interview as being “like solo queue.”

Yet, something clicked with TSM in playoffs. TSM shifted gold away from Doublelift and to Svenskeren in the jungle who became a DPS carry on the likes of Nidalee and Graves. Bjergsen controlled games with Azir and Lulu, hopped on Zed and LeBlanc to best his opponent in lane, and even brought out Vel’Koz, stymying Cloud9’s Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen’s Azir.

The arrival of rookie support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang for Doublelift, meant a strong bot lane built for 2v2 dominance, in contrast to YellOwStaR's style which is more focused on roaming. Svenskeren has come alive more utility-oriented options like Rek’Sai and Gragas and has since become the team’s primary initiator. Always behind him, backing him up, is Bjergsen, whose Zilean transformed teamfights for TSM, allowing Svenskeren to dive further and still live. They have returned to an older playstyle, which relies on strong lanes to overwhelm and push opponents before attacking them in the mid game when the time comes to fight over objectives.

TSM are again the strongest team in NA and are bound for their eighth straight LCS Finals — there has never been a finals match since the inception of the LCS system without TSM. Much of this is thanks to plucking Bjergsen from Ninjas in Pyjamas at the end of Season 3. The Danish mid laner has continued to grow, evolve, and expand a vast array of playstyles and champion picks, doing whatever TSM has requested of him while remaining an ever-present threat for opponents, always commanding attention. His flexibility gives TSM free reign in how they can distribute resources among the rest of their players and makes TSM a continuous contender for the NA LCS title. As long as they have Bjergsen, they’ll be one of, if not the best team in North America.

Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.

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Top 5 Plays from Team SoloMid vs. Cloud9

theScore esports Staff 3d ago

It's the return of the NA LCS' original giants.

Team SoloMid and Cloud9 haven't met each other in the finals since Spring 2015. While TSM have continued to maintain their reputation as one of NA's top teams by consistently making it to eight straight NA finals, C9 have not been as fortunate.

To preview this Sunday's match, here are the Top 5 plays from the games these two teams has had against each other this year.

For more video interviews and highlights, be sure to subscribe to theScore esports on YouTube.

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