The necessary play: Comparing H2K's FORG1VEN and Origen's Zven

Thumbnail image courtesy of EU LCS / lolesports flickr

"He will do the necessary things — the necessary plays — in order to win a game. He will flash in with 0 HP, he doesn't give a f*** if he will die. He will build the right items. He will move correctly into the map. He will try."

—Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou-Napoleon on what he values in players and, in particular, Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage, Summoning Insight Episode 41

On Friday, H2k-Gaming and Origen will play against each other for the second time in the 2016 regular season. Before the start of the season, this would have seemed like an exciting match with both H2K and Origen projected to top the European League of Legends Championship Series standings. With Origen’s recent performances, in particular their struggles with the draft and in-game coordination, few dare to predict anything outside of an H2K victory.

One thing this matchup has going for it — it’s still a clash between the two best AD carries in the EU LCS.

An unlikely rivalry

Unable to play for Fnatic due to age restrictions in 2013, Martin “Rekkles” Larsson went on loan to Copenhagen Wolves during their small rampage as a Challenger team in minor events. One of the region's most promising AD carry prospects, Rekkles joined Fnatic at the end of the year once he turned 17. Many expected Copenhagen Wolves to crumble without the young carry and jungler Ilyas “Shook” Hartsema, who left at around the same time to join Alliance.

The Copenhagen Wolves made their debut at the 2013 Intel Extreme Masters Cologne Amateur tournament with two relative rookies, Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider and Greek AD carry Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou-Napoleon. The Wolves flattened the Ninjas in Pyjamas — a team that featured three members from the World Championship qualifying Lemondogs — in the finals. FORG1VEN finished with a 21 KDA (the only KDA in the amateur tournament above 10) on three games as Lucian and one as Caitlyn.

If nothing else, the Copenhagen Wolves gave European audiences their first major taste of FORG1VEN. From the beginning, he favored lane dominant champions, sported high CS numbers, and a few dared to call him a direct upgrade over Rekkles.

Shortly after, FORG1VEN became a well-defined personality in the European League of Legends Championship Series. He rarely avoided expressing his opinion on a particular subject matter or discontent with a team environment. Since his debut, FORG1VEN has played for a different team every split he's participated in while facing champion bans, public conflict, and a temporary suspension for “toxicity” in solo queue.

With FORG1VEN, what you see is often what you get, but when teams weigh the pros and cons, he always seems to find his way back into the competitive scene. There’s usually at least one team willing to accept the possibility that FORG1VEN’s demanding attitude will create unrest for the sake of, not only his prodigious talent, but the dedication and focus that has apparently driven him to be listed next to some of the best Korean and Chinese AD carries in the world despite rarely having had the opportunity to play against them on the international stage.

By contrast, that’s an opportunity that Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen hasn’t lacked. Rather than talented AD carries, Europe has a much more storied history of fathering world class mid laners, and when one of their most storied, Enrique “xPeke” Cedeno Martinez, made the decision to raise a new team from Challenger, they elected to do so with only one rookie.

Rekkles returns to the story, but again not as one of its stars. As one of xPeke and Paul “sOAZ” Boyer's previous teammates, Rekkles recommended that they sign Zven (then known as Niels). As a result, initial comparisons were made between Zven and Rekkles, but over time they would prove unwarranted due to the fact that Origen devoted much more jungle pressure and resources to their bottom lane.

The star solo laners played more utility and wave clear roles as bottom lane and jungle became Origen's primary focus. High dragon control rates showed Origen’s willingness to focus on skirmishes with their bottom lane and jungler, giving Zven an opportunity to stand out. He relished in it, and used the limelight to become known for his teamfight positioning and his world-class Kalista play.

Unlike FORG1VEN, Zven’s LCS debut placed him on a team with a more defined sense of unity that seemed to improve over time. “I had a really good team,” Zven said when asked how he managed to become so successful in his rookie split.

On his lack of jitters at the World Championship, he added, “I had an entire Challenger Split and nine months of LCS to be bad, haha! I think personally that I didn't play so well in LCS until the final against Fnatic and then the gauntlet. From there on, I think I played really good in almost every match at Worlds and IEM.”

Most would agree. The 2015 World Championship Group Stage accelerated the advancement of Zven’s form when Origen’s superior cohesiveness allowed him to perform against the likes of Gu “imp” Seungbin, who was touted as the world's best AD carry going into the tournament.

In the current split, Zven leads the league in percentage of team damage dealt to champions at 35.6 percent and percentage of team gold at 27.7 percent. Despite Origen's rough start to 2016, they manage to consolidate around Zven to give them a sense of direction.

Even though FORG1VEN compared Zven's style to Rekkles and despite Origen failing to break the Top 5 in the EU LCS standings, there’s an argument to be made for Zven being the best individual AD carry in the league.

With both players exhibiting drastically different styles of play, it may genuinely come down to preference.

An unFORG1Ving sense for pressure

On multiple occasions, FORG1VEN has made it clear that he values players based on their laning phase. On his most recent Summing Insight episode, he attributed the sentiment “You judge an opponent based on the lane phase” to Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, but stated that he agreed with it. Throughout his career, FORG1VEN has favored champions that lane well like Caitlyn, Lucian, Graves, and more recently, Corki.

While Zven deals the highest percentage of team damage to champions, FORG1VEN leads the CS@10 ranking among EU LCS AD carries and only trails behind Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet’s. A lot of this comes down to H2K’s lane swapping proficiency which allows FORG1VEN to benefit from the freeze and push of creeps more than many other AD carries, but CS advantages in 2v2s have also consistently characterized his pro career.

Outside the laning phase, FORG1VEN specializes in aggressive teamfight positioning and occasionally will double as his own initiator. FORG1VEN seems to favor Corki for his use of The Package ability to knock aside targets,and quickly burst down squishy enemies. In the past, many of his most picked champions have shared these characteristics to some extent. The upfront burst damage from champions like Corki and Lucian allow FORG1VEN to take more risks. As long as his reflexes allow him to escape quickly, or in so far as he can account for the crowd control on the enemy team, FORG1VEN takes advantage of champions that can toe the front line and burst down targets before escaping.

Yet, in FORG1VEN's own words, H2K "don't play solo queue."

As H2K have perfected their style, the team has relied less and less on FORG1VEN to do the majority of their damage. FORG1VEN went from dishing out 55.8 percent of team damage dealt and participating in 100 percent of his team's kills in their first game to 58.3 percent kill participation and 25 percent of team damage dealt in their last game against G2. H2K are in the bottom four for average combined kills per minute, which means FORG1VEN is often shuffled into side lanes to push turrets and farm.

While there's no shame in having a developed sense of team macro-strategy, this game approach minimizes opportunities for FORG1VEN's individual strengths to make an appearance. In fact, in part as a result of H2K drafting fewer champions designed to peel for FORG1VEN, there will be instances where H2K's poke and siege composition unravels, and FORG1VEN is left as the obvious target in a forced fight. This makes him look more at fault than he would be otherwise for an H2K "throw" if it seems he's been caught out of position in a team composition not designed to benefit him.

FORG1VEN Kill Participation and Team Damage Percentage over time per game

Far from a simple decline in damage dealt to champions over time, however, FORG1VEN has shown a difference in average percentage of damage dealt depending on the champion he picks. Fifty percent of FORG1VEN's games this split have been on Corki, and he has dealt, on average, 38 percent of team damage as the yordle pilot, but only 27 percent of team damage in their other five games. As a result of Corki's early power spike, this has also lead to a -.39 correlation between percentage of team damage dealt and game time for FORG1VEN in H2K's games.

As a player, FORG1VEN has thrived in situations where he's given the resources to take a lead. It seems as if we've seen that FORG1VEN less and less this split. H2K's fixation on out-rotating the opponent occasionally causes them to collapse when they're forced into a fight.

Perhaps the return of Yoo "Ryu" Sangook can improve H2K's teamfight coordination in addition to their more questionable Baron calls. Until then, the result looks more like FORG1VEN hasn't been able to be the same player he's always claimed to value. As H2K are winning, it's unlikely that he minds, but if H2K ever have a gap in their vision and find themselves caught, eyes fall to FORG1VEN, whose self-sufficiency and game impact has always been his strength. The undeveloped team fighting side of H2K may deserve a second look on the way to the European playoffs in Round 2, especially following a loss in a Baron fight against G2 Esports.

Doing more with the same

Zven has been less outspoken than FORG1VEN in his short career and, as such, the public has less of a sense for what he values in an individual player. Yet following Week 3, Zven made a comment that rings true of his development so far.

"Once I get to the point where I'm actually playing Lucian with Lulu, then I feel like I'm playing really good. I do more with this than some other people do," he said.

In moving from FORG1VEN to Zven, one becomes familiar with a very different kind of AD carry. Rather than relying on himself to initiate and enter a fight or burst down his target before they can turn a situation, Zven plays patiently, and he relies a lot more on his teammates providing utility and gold resources to be effective — but this is where he begins to set himself apart from the Rekkleses of the EU LCS. Zven seems capable of doing more with what he's given than other AD carries that have taken center stage for their teams.

Much of this comes from Origen's alternate approach. Rather than focus on avoiding fights, they sit in the Top 3 for combined kills per minute. Within this setting, Zven's kill participation has yet to fall below 50 percent. Lulu has become known as a formidable power pick for Origen, not because of PowerOfEvil's proficiency with the champion, but because of Zven's ability to use the peel and resources Lulu provides to turn Lucian into a hyper carry.

Origen still hold the highest dragon secure rate in the EU LCS, but this comes more from wanting to force fights with their bottom lane than actually placing value on objectives. They don't always find these fights, but old habits die hard, and Origen are falling back on something that always used to work for them.

Zven leads the league in percentage of team damage dealt and percentage of team gold earned. He's also completely avoided playing Corki so far this split, preferring champions with later power spikes like Lucian (in conjunction with Lulu) and Ezreal. Perhaps the best comparison between FORG1VEN and Zven comes through when one examines how they choose to build their Ezreals. Zven prefers to build the now-standard blue build that allows for kiting, while FORG1VEN rushed Trinity Force in the only Ezreal game he's played so far this split for the burst damage it provides.

FORG1VEN's signature Lucian has become Zven's most played champion this split with his own Kalista perpetually held out of his reach. While FORG1VEN seems to use Lucian as a front-liner, relying on his gap close as more of an escape mechanism after unleashing his cooldowns up front, Zven waits patiently for an opportunity to enter a fight. When cooldowns are burned on his front line, he'll use Relentless Pursuit to find the right opening and damage his opponent.

As with FORG1VEN, Zven's personality can be seen in his play. He isn't as outwardly vocal, but he's unexpected and at times difficult to read. Zven is in and out before the enemy team has time to react.

While FORG1VEN has taken more of a back seat for the sake of his team's fight-avoidance strategy this year, Zven has become increasingly central to Origen. Origen put pressure on Zven, hoping for a sense of unity while their communication struggles. This means slightly more Malphite and Tahm Kench picks for sOAZ than Andrei "Odoamne" Pascu. It also means more focus on laning for Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez.

So far, this system hasn't been perfect for Origen. A team that focuses on late game teamfights continues to make communication mistakes around the Baron pit. Even so, it does a lot to bring out Zven's strengths as an individual player. Unlike FORG1VEN, Zven shows an increased correlation in percentage of team damage dealt with game time (.60). Zven has also boasted a solid CS lead at ten minutes with more focus on his lane (8.2). He plays more aggressively in lane, as he is in a position where he's forced to get a lead, where he's forced to make that lead count and make the necessary play.

Perhaps if H2K's current style didn't de-emphasize some of FORG1VEN's strengths and Origen had a better grasp of coordination, we wouldn't even be in a position to make a comparison between FORG1VEN and Zven. A team of strong talents built around facilitating FORG1VEN might be better than team built around facilitating Zven — or a team with Origen all communicating perfectly and enhancing their current style could buck the trend of the meta, as they did at the World Championship, enough to contest H2K Gaming.

Zven's performance has been the rock to which the current iteration of Origen cling. FORG1VEN's ability to remove himself more and more from center stage and focus almost soleley on chipping down turrets is, in a strange way, nearly as fundamental to H2K's success.

So for now, the debate is open. Both FORG1VEN and Zven are making the necessary plays to make H2K and Origen win as many games as possible. For now, that's enough of a reason to watch H2K take on Origen this weekend.

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

Past to Present: The Story of Zven

theScore esports Staff 3d ago

You may remember him better as Niels.

Following his debut on Origen, Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen has made a name for himself as one of Europe's top AD carries.

However, following a lacklustre 2016 spring season performance with Origen, Zven made the decision to join G2 Esports with fellow teammate Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez. The move sparked outrage from the community.

This is his story.

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The Bad Matchup: Odoamne and H2K's year

Thumbnail image courtesy of EU LCS / lolesports flickr

I actually think Odoamne is one of the more underrated top laners, despite he's been here for such a long time. And people do value him, you know, and say he's a good top laner, but people rarely talk about him as like a star player.

—Martin “Deficio” Lynge, Unicorns of Love vs. H2K Gaming, Game 1

You can tell a lot about a team from its longest standing member. Although most of the 2016 season has focused on their bottom lane turmoil and the inconsistencies of Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski, top laner Andrei "Odoamne" Pascu remains the name that comes to mind the most when I think of H2K Gaming. Odoamne’s stable presence has been vital to keeping H2K afloat even during a tumultuous year, and both his strengths and weaknesses as an individual have been reflected in how the team has developed.

Few will refer to H2K as "Odoamne’s H2K" in the same way as they might refer to 2015’s Fnatic as Bora "YellOwStaR" Kim’s Fnatic, Team SoloMid over the recent years as Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg’s, Ming "clearlove" Kai’s EDward Gaming or Lee "Faker" Sanghyeok’s SK Telecom T1. But that says more about Odoamne’s personality and attitude toward the game than his ability to stand out. Odoamne frequently plays less of a focal role as a carry on H2K because he recognizes what he can do from a deficit and how he can play from behind.

"Our winning condition [in a] game may be to get AD carry ahead, or mid laner needs more item spikes before we can start going aggressive or winning fights," Odoamne said.

"So I just kind of recognize that ... Maybe it's bad for me to just give up the farm or not demand as much, but I feel like even if I give up that farm or give the farm to someone else, I can still stay somewhat relevant."

This is an attitude Odoamne has held since as far back as late 2013 on the new preseason patch. "It was tank meta," he said. "With like Dr. Mundo, Shyvana, and all that stuff. I was just playing a lot of weak matchups, so I just learned how to go even in all the bad matchups."

As a result, H2K drafts can see the team picking top lane much earlier than some of the other top teams in Europe — leaving counterpick priority to Odoamne's teammates. When H2K make that choice, they’re usually consulting Odoamne to make sure he’s happy with taking the bad lane matchup. This tendency opens the team up to a lot more possibilities. Odoamne’s confidence in bad matchups and his willingness to play with low resources allowed H2K to recruit a lot more talent while maintaining their strong core solo laners this year, but it’s also something that may have forced H2K into a fixed rhythm.

To supplement Yoo "Ryu" Sangook and Odoamne, H2K recruited a powerful jungle and support duo in Jankos and Oskar "VandeR" Bogdan, then rounded out their roster with the controversial but undeniably talented, Konstantinos-Napoleon "FORG1VEN" Tzortziou. Odoamne looked like the versatile piece that cold mold to make the roster work.

While Jankos’ all-or-nothing aggressiveness, FORG1VEN’s attentiveness to the 2v2, and Ryu’s assassin favoritism gave H2K strong early game tendencies, Odoamne brought more reactive play and a sense for teamfighting from behind that could get H2K back into the match if the early game didn’t go their way. In 2015, Odoamne’s ability to judge his durability and maximize teamfight presence with backs and Teleport re-engages made him relatively unique among European top laners, and it’s a skill he had to work hard to carry into this year’s iteration.

From Odoamne’s perspective, his greatest contribution to H2K’s communication is his sense for when to take a fight. "I feel like I have this good sense of skirmishing, so I find good fights. Sometimes I still make some mistakes and I troll fights really hard," Odoamne laughed, "but I think most of the time, I get good calls to force fights."

But putting these pieces together in 2016 Spring wasn’t simple. H2K transitioned to turrets easily, amassing fantastic laning phase leads, but lost that sense of unity if they were forced to 5v5. It’s likely that a large lack of teamfight practice given H2K’s tendency toward turret trading and pick play damaged their ability to get a better sense for each other in a teamfight. Odoamne’s apparent "troll" characteristics seemed to come out more.

Notably in the 2016 Spring EU LCS semifinal against Origen, Odoamne got caught in flanks or Jankos triggered the Kindred ultimate at an awkward time. Critics focused on H2K’s ability to teamfight or close games with their leads.

"When that stuff would happen," Odoamne said, "it would mostly be a kind of synergy issue between us. We were just not really on the same page. I would just go in because I thought it would be good for us … We needed a deeper understanding of how to play together … I guess that's why I was over-extending, trying to go in, and that's why we would get punished by that ... I think right now, we are a lot better at that.”

This tendency demonstrated that Odoamne fit a lot more in with the aggressiveness of his teammates than a casual observer might realize. Stable laners, willing to play a weak matchup are generally characterized as patient or cautious. On the contrary, Odoamne even described his sense for fights as "bloodthirsty," believing that in 2016 Spring, Maokai complimented eagerness to fight well.

When I asked Odoamne about his apparent love of Maokai, he immediately started laughing. “The meme with Maokai players is just because, I feel most Maokai players were really bad [in Spring]," he said. "They didn't know the limits of the champion even though, 'Blah, blah, tanks are easy’ … Even if I go in alone, I could just drag the whole team with me. You wouldn't really get that punished. Only if you really, really over-extended it was really bad."

Peeling back the layers of H2K, Coach Neil "pr0lly" Hammad’s emphasis on macro play, lane swaps, and playing the "correct" way dovetails well with the boldness of his players. Odoamne lead the charge in many of H2K’s questionable teamfights, and a combination of a communication gap and simmering issues behind the scenes may have contributed to the catastrophic 2016 Spring failure.

Because that’s what it was. For as much time as H2K spent leading the pack in 2016 EU LCS Spring regular season, the team would have considered anything less than first place and an invitation to MSI a failure. Interviews have suggested that FORG1VEN’s conscription, his clash with pr0lly and Ryu’s visa struggles only provided a brief glimpse into H2K’s internal strife. CEO Susan Tully likened H2K to a "reality show."

Even with all of H2K’s struggles, Odoamne maintained he did his best not to get involved and stay focused. "I just play for the good of the team, so that's why I don't really care about these sorts of arguments," he said. "I just try to work around it as much as I can." This attitude says a lot about why, not just Odoamne, but H2K managed to make the World Championships despite whispers of conflict. Even if all players might not have Odoamne’s determination to stay above the fray, any disagreements or quarrels come from wanting to win.

At least concerning a lot of H2K’s synergy struggles, especially around FORG1VEN, Odoamne affirmed H2K have come to more of an understanding this time around. "When we started playing with FORG1VEN [again], even for these playoffs, we all knew what his tendencies are, so we all worked a lot more to try to go around that and not force him to do something he's not really willing to do," Odoamne said.

A lot of great teams have managed to find success by working with restrictions, but as H2K have settled into their group and have a chance of making quarterfinals this time, a few questions linger. One of the key points is versatility. Between splits, pr0lly doubted H2K’s ability to adapt with FORG1VEN, but this time around, FORG1VEN hasn’t been the focus of Jankos’ pressure in the early game.

In the first 10 minutes of H2K’s 12 playoff games, Jankos only ganked bottom lane four times. He ganked the top lane seven times, the mid lane a grand total of 11 times, and spent considerably more of his time in the top side jungle. In the start of summer split, H2K envisioned a team that could play to any lane. They’ve finally started to achieve that.

"Now [FORG1VEN’s] more respectful of where we're playing and on what side we're playing," Odoamne said. "He's accepted that in some situations he might not be our strong side. I think it's a lot better than in Spring. In Spring we were kind of playing a one-dimensional style where we just go for bot every time and force dives every five minutes."

But even as H2K has become more versatile and can utilize strong matchups in multiple lanes, the nagging semifinal failures remain. H2K have now lost four total EU LCS semifinal series, and Odoamne, Ryu and pr0lly have been present for all of them.

At least from Odoamne’s perspective, there’s no concrete mental block for H2K in series or semifinals. H2K even joked about their misfortune between games against Unicorns of Love. "We were 2-1. So we made a joke like, 'Guys, it's 2-1,' because the last three times it was 2-1, we ended up losing," Odoamne chuckled. "So when we said it was 2-1, everyone started panicking super hard, but it was kind of like funny. It wasn't really that serious … Even when we were playing quarterfinals against Fnatic, the feeling was the same as the semifinals against Splyce. It just happened. We just stopped in semifinals every time."

Without some unknowable mental block, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why H2K have lost their semifinals. Very likely, it was a different reason every time, and H2K’s difficulties have refined and evolved over their two-year period in the EU LCS.

Odoamne spoke of the most recent semifinal series against Splyce like someone who had watched it repeatedly after the fact. Any hint of pain seemed to have worn into a more calculated self-reflection. He recalled the laundry list of mistakes, from his failure to work with Jankos to coordinate ganks with Gangplank's ultimate, a failure to use the strength of H2K’s composition in skirmishes given Martin "Wunder" Hansen’s split-push focused Gnar build, and concluded he still felt H2K’s composition was valid, just poorly executed.

This element of pride in the heat of the moment could be part of H2K’s undoing. They’re vocal about the strengths of their ideas: the way they think about the game. H2K in the past have been famous for long VOD reviews during scrim blocks to ensure the players know and understand their role in game and where their decision-making was flawed. They’re confident.

In the semifinal against Splyce, H2K didn’t ban Gnar because they’d played against it before, they knew there were ways around it if they had played correctly. "In Game 4," Odoamne said, "I think we made some mistakes in skirmishing with Gangplank, and we realized we shouldn't do that, so we tried to implement it in Game 5, but we just went back."

Remaining comfortable in their draft is still a step up from the shambles H2K devolved into in the spring. There were no wild Ryu LeBlanc picks, no truly awkward compositions based on a Hail Mary solo carry. H2K at least remained confident in their ideas this time around, but if they struggled to execute them, that’s something they’ll need to work on acknowledging mid-series. Otherwise even if they get out of Groups at Worlds, they’ll grind to a halt in a best of five.

Part of H2K’s lapse in judgment in this instance can be laid at Odoamne’s feet. Odoamne conceded, "Maybe against Splyce, I think maybe it was better to not give up the Gnar and go for counterpick top." It’s something Odoamne only said after the fact, but either it didn’t occur to him mid-series, or he didn’t speak up at the time because he’s so used to playing the weaker side of a laning phase matchup.

"Since we rarely execute," Odoamne said, "I'm not confident enough to demand more resources and get the team to play off of me." But H2K's top laner also acknowledged that being able to play a bad laning phase matchup has become a point of pride for him. He felt confident in his ability to make Gangplank work into Gnar, especially since the team knew the reasoning was sound.

Odoamne’s flexibility on a variety of champions and ability to stay relevant is the first thing most people praise about him. Wunder himself, prior to the semifinal matchup against H2K, said Odoamne “can always go even in lane or win lane in almost every matchup,” and for this reason acknowledged him as one of the two top laners who had left the deepest impression on him in Europe.

With the rise of the likes of Heo "Huni" Seunghoon and Lucas "Cabochard " Simon-Meslet, this skill has been widely underrated. “Two best of fives in Korea in a row or something,” Odoamne said, “and every game, I see the person playing in the weaker matchup gets solo killed two or three times. Other players don't know how to play weaker sides of the matchup and just go even … I guess I'm proud of that because I just see other players make so many mistakes, and I'm always in my head, 'How does that happen?'”

This quality of Odoamne’s, while it may prevent him from speaking up and demanding a counter matchup in situations like last year’s World Championship — where it would have greatly benefited H2K — also speaks a lot to his outlook on the game. It’s an interesting metaphor for H2K’s entire season, having to adapt to obstacles they didn't expect or hampering themselves by showing their hand too early and being forced into a position where they need to figure out how to adapt in game.

"There's counterplay to anything," Odoamne said. "No matter if you're ahead or behind. It's just how you react to what the enemy is doing."

Throughout the 2016 season, H2K failed repeatedly in instances where they should have succeeded with the level of talent on their roster. When the third place match against Unicorns of Love arrived, they changed their approach to favor red side and counterpick support, to putting more farm on Jankos. They still made the 2016 World Championship after a year of metaphorically putting themselves in the bad matchup.

The Group Stage in San Francisco is the next — and possibly the last — test of this H2K roster. As he prepared to head for Korea to bootcamp against the teams H2K will face throughout October, the regrets of the EU LCS season still weighed on Odoamne.

"I just want to prove that we've grown a lot. Everyone. And we can do a lot with this roster. In the spring, when we lost to Origen … I felt like we were good enough to win the whole split," he said.

"This split was kind of like a mess because we played with Freeze and we played with FORG1VEN … I think, even this split, we could have been the best team. I just want, at Worlds, to go as far as G2, or even beat them. I just want everyone to know H2K is Europe's best team."

With the year H2K have had, that’s not an easy ask. The first step, for both Odoamne and H2K, is getting out of their own way.

All photos credited to lolesports flickr.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter to look out for more of her pre-Worlds content.

Riot Esports directors talk sustainability, building a premiere sport and third-party arbitration

by 5d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

Riot Games' Esports co-directors, Whalen Rozelle and Jarred Kennedy, discussed community feedback and sustainable business development with Yahoo Esports' Travis Gafford following the announcement that team revenue-sharing and crowdfunded prize pools would be coming League of Legends esports in 2017.

RELATED: Riot reveals revenue-sharing for teams, crowdfunding for Worlds and MSI prize pool

The hour-long conversation was wide-ranging, but Rozelle and Kennedy were especially clear on two points: that League of Legend's tremendous growth must be managed carefully and that they need to communicate with the community better.

"The goal is: how do we go from where we've been over the past several seasons, which is multi-platform distribution on a regional basis to potentially multi-platform distribution plus maybe some global sponsors, right?" Kennedy said. "Could we do that, could we have a sponsor that goes across leagues? potentially. what would that look like, how would it be structured? how would those flows work? We've got thirteen leagues around the world so it's hard to solve these types of problems at the business level but we're actively working towards it and we're excited about the potential."

The duo also talked about exploring new revenue opportunities beyond digital goods, such as skins and icons, to more physical merchandise, such as jerseys. They stressed that Riot's plans go much further than 2017 and that their goal is to make League of Legends a sport on the level of the NBA or MLB.

"One common factor is we have to set up a system where everyone is incentivized for the success of the league and everyone has to be thinking along the same time-frame," Rozelle said. "Whether it's split over split or five or ten years out, right now I think we have a system where you know its not bad but at the same point there are these problems where maybe not everyone is incentive for the long term success of the league versus thinking short term because of the relegation system we have now but how we navigate out of that is incredibly complex which is why we stated it's going to take some time to figure out, the solution is going to differ from region to region."

While the new announcement seemed to hit on many of the points brought up by team owners during the public feud between Riot president Marc "Tryndamere" Merrill and Team SoloMid owner Andy "Reginald" Dinh, Rozelle and Kennedy say these plans were in the works long before the firestorm erupted.

"This is not a direct response to any one thing, as we mentioned in the post, we've been on this journey for a long time and we've been targeting getting to the status of being a premiere global sport," Kennedy said. "But we could have done more to share how we were thinking about things and help teams understand that path."

RELATED: Reginald on how Riot’s major patch changes hurt LoL’s competitive scene

While Riot's relationship with its community has become strained as public figures, such as Duncan "Thorin" Shields and Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles, criticized the company during the Tryndamere-Reginald debate, Rozelle says they go to great lengths to listen to the community and take their feedback.

“I’m proud we do react to the community, right?" Rozelle said. "Whether it’s the community blowing up and getting angry at us, I’m proud to react to that. I’m proud when the community has a great idea and we’re like ‘yeah, that’s a pretty good idea, let’s integrate that” into whether it’s our broadcast or our game or something, I’m proud of that."

Rozelle and Kennedy also say that the new revenue-sharing opportunities are the first steps in building stronger partnerships with LCS teams, but they are not ready to talk formal arrangements, such as franchising, until 2018.

"I think in general we want to move away from the supplementing model, where the teams are able to go and thrive independently and also in partnership with Riot and with the league they’re a part of," Kennedy said. "And we’re always looking at our schedules, we’re always thinking about what’s the right way to structure this. We have an entire dedicated to try and optimize this for that ultimate goal, which is to get us all to the place where we’re a sustainable premiere sport that lasts a really long time."

Beyond discussing yesterday's announcement, the two responded to a community question about Riot's controversial arbitration system and announced early plans to look into third-party arbitration for major decisions, such as banning a team from the LCS, as early as 2017.

"Since essentially the Renegades/TDK ruling and onward is that, y'know look, we believe in the ruling, right? We believe in the policies that we have, the process that we have, but we also think that, y'know, this is not the ideal situation, we believe it can evolve as well," Rozelle said. "And so, we believe enough in the ruling that we have that we're willing to begin exploring how can we bring in a third party to help validate, or arbitrate, we don't know exactly the system yet, but we do want to do that as early as 2017."

Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. Follow him on Twitter, it'll be great for his self-esteem.

Riot reveals revenue-sharing for teams, crowdfunding for Worlds and MSI prize pool

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

Riot Games has promised some major changes for LoL esports in 2017, including revenue sharing for team-branded in-game goods, and increases to Worlds' and MSI's prize pools through skin sales.

"As we move into 2017 and beyond, we’re continuing to take steps towards a future where top LoL players have very well paid, long careers doing what they love - and where LoL esports team organizations are thriving businesses led by empowered owners who share responsibility and accountability for the long term prosperity of the sport," the announcement says.

"To help get us there, we’ll share LoL esports revenue streams and collaborate with our partners to develop new business models and actively shape the league. We want these partners to have permanent stakes, to be invested in a stable future and to profit from the continued success of the sport."

While the statement says revenue sharing will begin with 25 percent of Team Championship skin revenues going to the teams they're based on beginning with this year's Worlds, Riot will also be introducing new team-branded in-game content in 2017 and increasing the percentage of summoner icon revenue that goes to the teams.

In addition, 25 percent from Championship skin revenue will go towards increasing the prize pool for Worlds, similar to Dota 2's Compendiums and Capcom's Capcom Pro Tour DLC pack, which added $90,000 to this year's Capcom Cup prize pool. Twenty-five percent of Challenger skin sales will also be going towards the Mid-Season Invitational prize pool.

"As we invest and build towards the future, we recognize that the current ecosystem isn’t consistently profitable yet for team owners or for the league. Costs have risen — namely in the form of player salary increases and support for those pros — mainly as a direct result of significant external investment and interest in the scene," the statement says.

"This part of the journey isn’t unusual; escalated investment is a natural occurrence in a growing ecosystem, and is a sign that our initial approach has been working. However, we recognize that we can help rebalance the scene by accelerating some of our longer-term economic tactics to help address short-term pain felt by many of our partners."

As new revenue-sharing ventures find their feet, Riot will also be giving teams a lump, minimum income in 2017, to be determined on a league-by-league basis.

"In 2017 each league will set aside a guaranteed minimum to each of its teams as it determines appropriate based on regional needs. For example, the EU LCS will have a minimum revenue amount of €100,000 per team for the full season, of which 50% will go to players as supplemental income on top of their existing salaries. Even without counting the retroactive payments to past champions, this will contribute millions of dollars in additional revenue to teams and pros each year."

The promises of revenue-sharing and increased prize pools could go a long way towards alleviating the concerns of LCS team owners brought up during the public feud between Riot president Marc "Tryndamere" Merrill and Team SoloMid owner Andy "Reginald" Dinh that resulted in several in several LCS teams sending a proposal to Riot for better cooperation.

RELATED: Reginald responds to Tryndamere: 'It’s irrational to invest even more money into LCS, given how restrictive LCS is'

While Merrill ultimately apologized for launching personal attacks on Reginald on Reddit and promised new revenue-sharing opportunities for teams in 2017, today's announcement tiptoes around actually giving teams a say in the LCS through formalized partnerships. While the statement says the company is building plans for partnerships, nothing major will happen on that front until 2018.

"Nailing fandom and strong economics is important for a thriving sport — but stability, with partnered organizations and the right structure, helps create a healthier environment in which our sport can grow and evolve over the longer term," the statement says.

"We’re not yet at the stage where we can describe exactly what long-term org partnerships will look like; we’re not sure how they’ll work, or even if there will be the same structure in each region. Creating long-term partnerships across the globe is complicated — legally, financially, operationally. That said, the first step is securing those partners and putting the right structure in place. We will be looking to make this step in 2018."

However, Riot acknowledges that these moves are the first steps on a longer path towards developing a mature sport and a mature business model.

"We believed the future was bright for LoL esports in 2012 — and it’s even brighter today as we take our most significant steps yet. As we face additional challenges and future unknowns, we’ll continue to stick to our core beliefs; to put esports fans first, to build a great ecosystem that keeps the sport you love around for the long-term, and which fans, pros & teams all aspire to," the announcement says.

Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

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