Alex Ich & Crumbzz to form Challenger team


Veteran players Alexey "Alex Ich" Ichetovkin and Alberto "Crumbzz" Rengifo will be joining forces to form a new Challenger team. The team will be owned and financed by Chris Badawi - a former lawyer who was formerly in the running to pick up Curse Academy.

Rengifo and Ichetovkin will be joined by Maria "Yuno" Creveling in the support position. Creveling previously played for Team Roar’s bottom lane alongside Shan "Chaox" Huang.

The AD Carry and Top lane positions have yet to be finalized, but the team is currently scrimming with Ritchie "Intense" Ngo (AD Carry) and Oleksii "RF Legendary" Kuziuta (Top lane). Badawi states that the scrims so far have been going great but that the team is still considering all available options and accepting applications.

The team’s name is still to be determined, but Badawi states that they’re happy to accept name suggestions via this email:

The Score had a mini Q&A with Chris Badawi.

Q. Greetings Chris, so first off - what was the inspiration behind forming the challenger team?

I was a lawyer in New York doing patent litigation and one day I got run over by a car and almost died. Facing the end of your life is the best way to see where you want your future to go and I realised that I really didn’t want to do patent law anymore. I’ve always been a gamer at heart - not a very good one - but it has always been in my heart. So when I saw that there was a massive opportunity to create real business in this industry, I figured that I owed it to myself to try.

Q. So how did you get in touch with Crumbzz and Alex?

So initially, I was in the running to purchase Curse Academy from Steve Arhancet. I got outbid but I formed a relationship with Steve and during that process he invited me to work with Liquid for a couple of weeks and see what it is that I wanted to get out of the scene. Steve opened a lot of doors for me and really welcomed me into the scene. I made a lot of great connections and met a lot of good people. After my experience with Liquid, I decided to create my own team and we parted on good terms. Steve was really wonderful throughout the whole process.

I saw Crumbzz left Dignitas, had drinks with him and talked about what we wanted out of the future. We wanted to create something that was really player centric - less of a company and more a family, something like the early Cloud 9 - a bunch of guys doing something that they loved. The scene is so competitive and there is so much money involved that there is a lot of pressure on these guys and a lot of the times their love of the game diminishes. Overall I think it is possible for players to play this game for a living and have fun doing it.

I decided I wanted to create an atmosphere and a team where they felt like they were part of an organization - something they were proud of and were personally invested in the outcome of how the organization does and Crumbzz really liked the philosophy. So he and I together started talking about what kind of team we wanted and what kind of roster we wanted. Crumbzz suggested Alex and I talked with Alex to see if he was contracted to any team. He said he wasn’t and so we ended up getting Alex. Crumbzz and Alex are two of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. Any team with these two kind, professional and distinguished personalities at its core will be an absolute pleasure for all involved - not to mention Alex is a legend and Crumbzz has been in the scene from the start.

So with this philosophy in mind, I started to search for other players and found Yuno. All three of us agreed that she was a diamond in the rough. We’re now three strong and still looking to solidify the rest of the roster. We have plenty of time until the Challenger Series qualifiers.

Q. What are you looking for in those roles?

Again, with this philosophy in mind, it’s of paramount importance that they’re not just a player who talks - they’re somebody who would be your friend and you’d want to wake up and see everyday. Somebody that creates an atmosphere of joy and not tension.  Obviously, pure mechanical skill and game knowledge is a requisite.

Q. You stated that that you saw an opportunity to create real business but then you stated you wanted to create a family, do these two not clash stylistically? How do you aim to be a family and a real business?

When I was working within the LCS I noticed that there was a lot of pressure and expectations on the players and that personality seemed to be taking a backseat to skill alone. I wanted to create an environment where players felt more a part of the organization and less like an employee. My goal is to create a team where players feel valued and appreciated and I believe that the organization can be profitable with that mentality.

That isn’t to say that we won’t bench people for underperforming, but we won’t ignore their feelings either. It’s rather a place where players feel heard and have a personal stake in the success of their business. I’m planning to implement a profit sharing model.

Q. You mentioned in your previous answer that you were planning to implement a profit sharing model - could you elaborate a bit more on this and how do you plan to avoid the pitfalls that ex-Alternate had in 2013?

Its tentative and a work in progress. But ultimately I can envision a system where the players compensation grows as the organization grows.  What I believe that perhaps some in the scene do not, is that the players essentially are the organization.  I just think they should be treated as such.

In terms of avoiding pitfalls, the profit share would belong to the spot, not the player. For example. each player on the active roster is entitled to a base salary + X percent of org profits (however we decide to calculate that). So a player would have to be on the active roster to obtain a profit share

Q. Lets move on to infrastructure. What infrastructure do you plan on implementing?

Regarding staff - we’re looking at a number of different coaches. We’ve been working with different people and seeing who we work the best with. There is still a lot of time left and we believe that there are a lot of great people out there - many who are committed to other things that may become available, so we haven’t committed to any staff at the present.

In terms of facilities, we’ll get a gaming house near the Los Angeles area once we get into the Challenger Series.

Q. What is the team’s name?

We haven’t decided on a team name yet. It’s important to me that the members feel that the team is theirs - as well as the staff. Once the roster is finalized, we’ll see what the community has come up with and decide together. Alex was particularly excited about NA 5.

Q. Thanks for answering all these questions - is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’d like to express my gratitude to Steve Arhancet for opening all these doors for me and that I couldn’t be happier to work with the people I’m working with. These are some of the best people I’ve ever worked with. It’s exciting and all very fun.


Picking With Purpose: The most popular and most effective bot lane champion pairings

Tim "Magic" Sevenhuysen 1d ago

There’s no “action,” no bloodshed, no flashy outplays, but even so, the champion draft at the start of each game of League of Legends can be one of the most exciting parts. Fans cheer for the out-of-left-field choices, the Yasuo, the Urgot, the accidental Teemo. Analysts get excited by clever use of flex picks and the thrust and parry of choosing which OPs or “overpowered champions,” to ban, and which to pick early at the risk of being countered.

At the end of it all, both teams land five champions, including an AD carry and support pairing. In the 2016 summer regular season, those pairings have featured certain faces far more often than others. The mid lane and jungle have demanded more attention in the ban phase, often leaving the AD carry and support pools relatively untouched. As a result, the duo lane has seen heavy play from certain champion pairings.

But are the most popular AD carry + support pairings actually the most effective? Not necessarily. Just because each champion is perceived as individually strong does not mean that they will work well together and produce good results, as a look at the numbers will show.

Note: All of the statistics that follow are based on the 2016 summer regular season across the NA LCS, EU LCS, LCK, LPL, and LMS, and include matches completed as of July 24 To explore the data yourself, visit Oracle’s Elixir’s ADC/Support Champion Duos page.

The Cool Kids

This split, the AD carry popularity contest has been led by Sivir, Lucian and Ashe, with Karma, Braum and Bard leading the way from support. Here are the 10 duo lane pairings played the most this season in the five major pro leagues, as of July 24.

Pairing  Games Played  Win Rate
Sivir + Braum  87  52%
Sivir + Karma  84  60%
Lucian + Braum  79  43%
Ashe + Braum  72  49%
Lucian + Karma  62  36%
Ezreal + Braum  60  47%
Ezreal + Karma  55  49%
Sivir + Bard  55  46%
Jhin + Braum  51  55%
Sivir + Alistar  44  52%

Despite their popularity, it’s interesting to note that only four of the top ten pairings have a win rate over 50 percent, and three of those winning duos feature Sivir (much to Kelsey Moser’s delight).

There are good reasons for the repetition we see across the AD carry and support sides of the pairings. Certain champions individually rise to the top of the tier lists, and deservedly so.

There’s Something About Sivir

As has so often been the case in recent seasons, Sivir has taken the lead as the most contested AD carry pick in the game, appearing as a pick or ban in more than two-thirds (67%) of major-region matches. Her combination of utility and damage is unmatched, from her wave clear and tower-taking speed to her initiation-boosting ultimate and late-game teamfighting. Sivir is more threatening than Ashe, more useful than Lucian, more flexible than Jhin.

Sivir can’t necessarily claim that she’s the best AD carry of summer, though: Ashe has been picked or banned in just 40 perecent of games, but has a much higher win rate, at 58 percent compared to Sivir’s 53 percent. Even so, Sivir seems to have found a role in a wider range of team compositions, playing alongside a broader spread of support champions.

All Aboard the Karma Train

From the support side of the equation, Karma has been a steady presence, featuring alongside Sivir in the Gotta Go Fast lane, where their speed boosts synergize so smoothly, but also putting in 40 or more games alongside Lucian, Ezreal and Ashe. Karma’s wide spread of win rates in different pairings is evidence, though, that even professional teams don’t always think through the synergy of their compositions. Three of Karma’s frequent duo lane partners have produced sub-40 percent win rates.

ADC + Support Pairing  Games Played  Win Rate
Sivir + Karma  84  60%
Ashe + Karma  42  60%
Ezreal + Karma  55  49%
Jhin + Karma  27  37%
Lucian + Karma  62  36%
Caitlyn + Karma  27  33%

Karma’s low win rates while playing with Jhin, Lucian, and Caitlyn suggest that teams sometimes put more thought into Karma’s value as a top-tier flex pick, rather than the role they intend her to play in their team composition. It can seem appealing to first-pick Karma, giving yourself the option to put her into mid or support depending on how the rest of the draft goes, but if the rest of the draft leads to an AD carry pick that matches poorly with Karma, then it doesn’t matter where she is flexed to: the team comp will still be ill-constructed.

In fact, when Karma is flexed to mid lane, her strongest pairings have been much weaker, and her weak pairings have still failed to consistently win.

ADC + Mid Pairing  Games Played  Win Rate
Sivir + Karma 19  32%
Ashe + Karma  10  30%
Ezreal + Karma  11  55%
Jhin + Karma  19  47%
Lucian + Karma  19  37%

Stand Behind Braum

Next to Karma, there’s Braum. His 64 percent pick/ban rate is marginally lower than Karma’s 68 percent, but that gap is easily narrowed by the fact that Karma is a flex pick. Braum has paired up with all of the popular AD carries, and has helped most of them to good win rates. One surprising standout, though, is the weak results of the Lucian/Braum combo, which has been played 79 times but only achieved a 43 percent win rate.

Lucian and Braum have been best friends for a long time, perhaps because Braum’s kind, protective heart soothes Lucian’s vengeance-fueled, caustic spirit. Or maybe it’s because Lucian’s double-tap passive synergizes so well with Braum’s Concussive Blows. Who can say? The summer split has not been kind to this pairing, though, perhaps because there have been fewer opportunities to get into 2v2 matchups and secure stuns and kills. Change is coming, and Lucian and Braum may find back some of their former glory, but for now they’re near the bottom of the list for effectiveness.

The Real Winners

Popular champions and popular pairings are at the top of the pick/ban lists for a reason, but as win rates suggest, it’s not always optimal to simply draft to the meta, picking from a tier list and expecting the “best champions” to give you the best chance of winning. The real winners are found in the harmonious marriage of their strengths and weaknesses, choosing for the strength of the pairing rather than the strength of the individuals.

Where the “most popular pairings” list was all about meta picks, the list of duo lanes with the highest win rates screams “synergy!”

Pairing  Games Played  Win Rate
Ashe + Thresh  16  81%
Sivir + Taric  13  77%
Kalista + Braum  12  67%
Sivir + Thresh  12  67%
Lucian + Bard  31  65%
Jhin + Trundle  19  63%
Ashe + Alistar  32  63%
Ashe + Nami  15  60%
Caitlyn + Alistar  10  60%
Sivir + Karma  84  60%

Unlike some of the more popular but less successful pairings, each of these duos has a clear role within a defined game plan. Ashe/Thresh is all about landing overlapping crowd control, the backbone of an incredibly powerful pick comp, and Ashe/Alistar and Ashe/Nami fill a similar niche. Sivir/Taric, a more recent development, is a terrifying deathball in team fights. Kalista/Braum, a throwback to earlier in the split, has amazing utility and control because of their area-of-effect knock-ups and how quickly they can proc Concussive Blows on multiple targets. Trundle can use his Pillar of Ice to set up Jhin’s long-range skill shots. Caitlyn and Alistar can siege down turrets with range, disengage and dive threat. The synergy between Sivir and Karma is obvious.

The fact that some of these high-win-rate duos are on the edge of the meta game, made up of second- or third-tier picks like Thresh and Caitlyn, shows how much value there is in drafting with purpose, rather than just drafting from a tier list. Purposeful drafts are more difficult to pull off, because they require clear recognition of what the enemy is drafting, and some disguise of your own game plan, so that the enemy team doesn’t see your win condition too early and counter-pick it — grabbing a Tahm Kench or a Zilean to neutralize your Ashe/Thresh pick comp, for example — but the rewards for straying slightly outside the lines can be significant.

Because of the greater challenge in drafting outside the lines, there is a balance to be found. Fnatic is an example of a team that is willing to draft from the fringe-meta, finding some success with picks like Kalista and Kha’zix but also finding failure by straying a bit too far off the beaten path (hi there, Zac and Jarvan IV), or staying too long in the fringes and losing the element of surprise. That can allow opponents to predict and counter, either by drafting specific tools or using in-game tactics that deny the sometimes predictable win conditions of the fringe picks or pairings.

As is always the case, the teams that put the most work and creative thinking into their drafts will reap the greatest rewards, by having a better understanding of when and where to stick to the defined meta game, and when and where to diverge from it, pulling out a Tahm Kench or a Tristana in the perfect time and place.

Visions of the Future

Every patch brings about some shifts in popularity. Recent trends have seen Alistar re-ascending the tier lists, and the situational emergence of Tahm Kench and Taric. Patch 6.14 has brought Sona into the fold, as well, though her record of 3-5 in NA and EU hasn’t exactly cemented her status as a rising star, and the live server has already seen hotfixed nerfs that could prevent her from seeing too much more play. Among AD carries, Lucian went through a mid-split lull but is threatening to overtake Ashe and Jhin as the go-to picks when Sivir is not available, although the LCK and LPL haven’t yet played on 6.14, and their preferences may bring some shifts to those numbers.

The real specter on the horizon is Patch 6.15, which promises to curtail the popularity of lane swaps by removing the early bonus defenses on bot lane towers and offering bonus gold to the team that kills the game’s first tower. If standard 2v2 matchups take over, we’ll likely see a spike in popularity among strong laning picks like Caitlyn and Lucian, or even Kalista. AD carries who can shove waves quickly and take down the first tower will still have their place, so Sivir probably won’t go anywhere, and Tristana may find a wider niche. Among supports, Karma should remain popular with her poke in lane and her ability to shove the wave and chip the tower. Ranged supports in general should take hold, because of their ability to harass and sustain in 2v2s. Then again, in some cases, teams will pick melee supports like Braum, Alistar, and Taric because of their ability to receive ganks with crowd control, providing more kill threat.

The cycle of picks and counter-picks will continue. Tier lists will be made and remade. Pick/ban rates will fluctuate as everyone tries to identify the new OPs.

And some teams, the smart ones, will find creative ways to subvert those tier lists, drafting not for popularity, but for synergy, applying more intention and design to their team compositions. The winners, as always, will be the teams that pick with purpose.

Tim "Magic" Sevenhuysen runs, the premier source for League of Legends esports statistics. You can find him on Twitter, unless he’s busy giving one of his three sons a shoulder ride.


My Immortal: NA LCS Week 9 Staff Picks

by 1h ago

theScore esports' League of Legends experts have tapped into their inner oracle for the ninth week of the North American LCS Summer Split and offer up predictions for each of the games.

2016 NA LCS Summer Season Records: Kelsey Moser (59-21), Emily Rand (61-19), Tim Sevenhuysen (57-23).

Friday Rand Moser Sevenhuysen
P1 vs. NV P1 P1 P1
Saturday Rand Moser Sevenhuysen
C9 vs. FOX C9 C9 C9
Sunday Rand Moser Sevenhuysen
TL vs. C9 TL TL TL

Immortals vs. Team SoloMid

Rand: North America's top two teams battle it out for first place this week. Seeing P1 knock off TSM last week must have been a huge confidence boost for Immortals, who more than likely smell blood in the water now that TSM are no longer undefeated. Their first meeting in Week 2 went to three games, and I expect the same this week. I'm picking TSM because they've been the more consistent team this split, but wouldn't be surprised to see Immortals take down TSM to claim sole possession of the first-place spot.

Moser: I think Immortals will actually win this one. When Team SoloMid want to take an objective, they have a tendency to look for kills. A way to counter this is to take more defensive options that allow you to turn skirmishes. This is a style of play Immortals's bottom lane has frequently been known for. Though Immortals are more likely to take the P1 approach, choose something out of meta, and hit their opponent first. Both can be very effective against TSM, and we've seen Immortals improve while TSM have become somewhat stagnant as the top team. Either way, I think this series will be incredibly close.

Sevenhuysen: The stakes of a regular season match can’t get much higher than this. TSM is the only team to beat Immortals so far this season, and as long as they stay disciplined, I think they’ll do it again. Immortals have been impressive, but messy, giving away far too many unnecessary deaths. In a match this important, I doubt TSM will make the kind of arrogant, overly aggressive calls that hurt them so badly against Phoenix1. Immortals’ best chance to win is to set Reignover up to dominate Svenskeren’s jungle, but TSM’s laning is stronger, so that’s a tall order. This is a likely preview of the Finals, and I’m calling TSM 2-1.

Counter Logic Gaming vs. Apex

Rand: Apex have a ways to go to claim a playoff spot, and it begins with taking out both of their opponents this week (and relying on EnVyUs losing). Unfortunately for Apex, CLG have spent the past few weeks regaining their swagger, and this will be a tough matchup for them. Xmithie and Darshan should be able to keep Ray at bay en route to a CLG win.

Moser: CLG is a team that seems to understand really well where they should be on the map and what steps they should take, but fumble in execution. Apex have one mode of play, and have looked progressively flimsy as teams learn about countering it. CLG's know-how should allow them to take down Apex.

Sevenhuysen: CLG have been showing growth lately, with 2-1 wins over Cloud9 and Team Liquid. Xmithie has continued to be solid, aphromoo has been more noticeable than he was earlier in the split, and Darshan has been a bit better, though not yet consistent. Meanwhile, Ray may be a lot of fun to watch with his offense-only item builds, but Apex don’t have the coordination needed to keep up with the stronger teams in NA. Shrimp is a weak point, too, and that could hurt Apex, since CLG have been one of the better early-game teams in the league. CLG can take this 2-0.

Team Liquid vs. Cloud9

Rand: Both of these teams have already clinched playoff spots, and neither of them can make the top two, so this is an all-important battle for seeding, and a possible third-place spot. I'm tentatively picking TL, since they bested C9 in their previous matchup and showed surprisingly strong mental fortitude in the Week 5 series that included a remake. Regardless of who wins, this is the match I'm looking forward to the most after TSM vs. IMT on Friday.

Moser: This is fairly simple, just because I think Team Liquid are more flexible and reactive, while Cloud9 rely too much on getting ahead in lanes.

Sevenhuysen: Liquid have strength in all the right places to take Cloud9 out once again, from Fenix’s laning to Dardoch’s ganking and aggressive teamfighting. But with Team Liquid’s predictable team comps and solo-lane- based win conditions, Cloud9’s roadmap to victory is already laid out in front of them: hang on in the early game, and don’t let Fenix, Lourlo and Dardoch snowball. That’s easier said than done, of course, and despite much better play by Impact — and much better support to allow him to play well — I haven’t seen quite enough from Cloud9 to make me confident that they can pull it off in two games out of three. I see Team Liquid taking another 2-1 win in a close series.

theScore esports compiles staff picks for different leagues weekly. Let us know what you think by tagging our Twitter or Liking us on Facebook.


EnVy someone else: NA LCS Week 8 staff picks

theScore esports Staff

theScore esports' League of Legends experts have tapped into their inner oracle for the eighth week of the North American LCS Summer Split and offer up predictions for each of the games.

2016 NA LCS Summer Season Records: Kelsey Moser (51-19), Emily Rand (52-18), Tim Sevenhuysen (49-21).

Friday Rand Moser Sevenhuysn
Saturday Rand Moser Sevenhuysen
NV vs. C9 C9 C9 C9
Sunday Rand Moser Sevenhuysen
C9 vs. P1 C9 C9 C9

Counterlogic Gaming vs. Team Liquid

Rand: CLG are coming together at the right time — immediately before playoffs. Their rise has been coupled with inconsistent performances from Team EnVyUs, Apex Gaming, and even Cloud9. Against Team Liquid, CLG have a chance to prove that they're a top team in North America once more. I can see either team taking it, although I'm siding with CLG, since they seem to have figured out their team dynamic again. More than anything, I'm looking forward to the jungle matchup between Dardoch and Xmithie — both have been key components in their respective teams' successes.

Moser: This is actually somewhat difficult given some slight upticks CLG displayed last week. Still, I'm not convinced that a CLG win is a reliable expectation since some of their successes relied on specific champions like Aurelion Sol, and though Team Liquid have had some growing pains, they still feel like the better team for now.

Sevenhuysen: CLG are finally beating teams above them in the standings, but both EnVyUs and Cloud9 were slumping before CLG beat them, so there’s still plenty of room for doubt. Fenix vs. Huhi is a big mismatch in Team Liquid’s favor in the laning phase — Fenix has been the best 1v1 mid in NA this split — so CLG will need to look to their team play, and maybe try to snowball Stixxay. Darshan vs. Lourlo is another intriguing head to head, and Lourlo may have the edge. Imagine writing that sentence last split! I’m expecting a close series and a 2-1 victory for TL.

Team SoloMid vs. EnVyUs

Rand: We'll likely have to wait for Week 9 to see if Immortals can take down TSM. Team Liquid seemed like a fairly strong bet until TSM swept them last week, and nV have looked disorganized as of late. They started off the season with a strong understanding of the meta and team dynamic, but have failed to improve since.

Moser: EnVy are no longer enviable. A drop to NRG exposed even more issues in keeping the jungle in check as NRG played much more strongly around neutrals. Though Team SoloMid had a few hiccups against EFX in Game 1, their assertiveness should easily set NV on the back foot.

Sevenhuysen: EnVyUs barely outlasted Apex last week. There were some signs that they may be getting back on track, but realistically, it would be surprising if they took a game off TSM. With Biofrost showing off an impressive Alistar against Team Liquid, any lingering questions about his versatility should be put to rest. TSM’s list of potential weaknesses keeps getting shorter.

EnVyUs vs. Cloud 9

Rand: This is the series I had the most trouble picking this week, and am still unsure of who will win. I chose C9 because I think their talent is more prone to individual outplays that can eventually carry a game, but both teams have looked messy in recent series. These will not be clean games unless one or both of these teams have made significant improvements in the past week during practice.

Moser: Cloud9's largest problems are playing outside standard lane scenarios. While I do think C9's shirking of the top lane could be an advantage Seraph can exploit, I don't think NV have enough coordination at the moment to fully take advantage of C9's lane swap weaknesses.

Sevenhuysen: Cloud9 have some big issues lately, making mistakes across the board, from their rotations to their lane assignments to their game planning. Impact gets starved too often, and Sneaky has been faltering. That leaves Jensen to do most of the work, and he’s had inconsistencies of his own. Cloud9 are capable of 2-0ing the series if they’ve practiced efficiently this week, but EnVyUs will win if they maintain the controlled, intentional play they started to bring back against Apex, if they keep their drafts clean and if Procxin flies under the radar. Neither team has been consistent enough lately, so I’m predicting a 2-1, but I’m slightly favoring Cloud9.

theScore esports compiles staff picks for different leagues weekly. Let us know what you think by tagging our Twitter or liking us on Facebook.


Pastrytime on the NA LCS region: 'I don’t know if they can challenge the strong Asian teams just yet'

William "scarra" Li

This season, the NA LCS's caster desk welcomed a new face: Julian "Pastrytime" Carr.

theScore esports' William "scarra" Li got the chance to catch up with the Australian play-by-play caster to discuss why his move to North America took longer than originally planned, his strengths as a caster and how he thinks the NA LCS teams stack up against the international scene.

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


Sugar, Splyce and everything nice: EU LCS Week 8 staff picks

theScore esports Staff

theScore esports' League of Legends experts have tapped into their inner oracle for the eighth week of the European LCS Summer Split and offer up predictions for each of the games.

2016 EU LCS Summer Season Records: Emily Rand (25-45), Kelsey Moser (27-42) Tim Sevenhuysen (26-44).

 FNC vs. SPY Split Split FNC
H2K vs. VIT  H2K H2K H2K
OG vs. GIA GIA GIA Split
G2 vs. UOL G2 G2 G2
S04 vs. ROC S04 Split S04
H2K vs. SPY SPY SPY Split
G2 vs. S04 G2 G2 G2

Fnatic vs. Splyce

Rand: I picked this as a split set since I find it impossible to ever truly count Fnatic out, but if it goes with one team over the other, Splyce will likely take it. Since their first meeting in Week 3 — a 2-0 victory for Fnatic — Splyce have been one of Europe's more consistent teams, gelling in time to make a strong playoff push, and have yet to be swept since that Fnatic set.

Moser: Fnatic have managed to exert a great deal more pressure in the early game since adding Kikis to the roster. This happens, allegedly, due to increased communication flow creating more opportunities for the team to make plays through Teleports or other moves, avoiding a stagnant early game. This is important given the tight ability to close on a lead Splyce have demonstrated. The previous Fnatic roster, unable to exert early pressure and get a lead, would not fare well against Splyce, but in this scenario, I think Splyce make enough mistakes setting up their mid game lane assignments that Fnatic can get the lead in at least one game.

Sevenhuysen: Splyce is on a tear, only dropping a single game in their last five series. Their schedule has been relatively soft, though, aside from their 1-1 split with G2 Esports. Fnatic is their next real challenge, and to have a chance in the series, Trashy will need to bottle up Spirit, no small challenge. Fnatic takes 54.3 percent of the jungle CS in their games, on average, best in Europe, and Splyce is just fifth at 50.5 percent. The jungle should be a key area of advantage for Fnatic, which is why I’m calling for them to win 2-0.

G2 Esports vs. Unicorns of Love

Rand: Again, my Unicorns of Love curse will probably rear its ugly head here — when I pick them to win, they lose, and when I pick them to lose, they win — but I'm still going with Europe's top team, G2, over UOL.

Moser: Unicorns of Love reacted extremely well to some of Giants' weaknesses last week, but G2 don't have the same problems. They aren't easily set back by reckless and proactive moves, and could instead punish a lot of what the Unicorns like to do. I still get the sense that G2 are taking a more relaxed approach to their Game 1s, so Unicorns getting a first win isn't out of the question, but I must predict based on my assessment of the teams overall, and I see a 2-0 for G2.

Sevenhuysen: The Unicorns deserve credit for being 6-2 over their last four best-of- twos, but the only really noteworthy win was the one game they took off Fnatic, and that was before Kikis arrived. G2 is a different beast, and I don’t see the Unicorns standing up to the challenge. I’ve been impressed by Hylissang’s play, but Zven and mithy are the best duo lane in Europe. For G2, I want to see continued improvement from Perkz as we approach the playoffs. He still hasn’t gotten back to the form he displayed in the spring split.

H2K-Gaming vs. Splyce

Rand: For me, this series is a question of momentum. I don't doubt that H2K have the talent and wherewithal not only to split this set but to win it outright, yet their continued struggles and lack of coordination hint at internal confidence issues. Meanwhile, Splyce is on the rise, and even if they lose outright to Fnatic on Day 1, I think they'll be able to overcome H2K.

Moser: H2K-Gaming have lost pep in their step. Splyce have managed to take their 1-3-1 to another level that relies less on the jungle to work independently and have up and down agency. Splyce feel more like a unit when they play, and though their drafts may be less conventional than H2K's, I believe this will be the most important factor.

Sevenhuysen: It’s worth noting that H2K’s 2-0 losses last week came against G2 and Fnatic, the two best teams in the league. There are some signs of frustration showing through, possibly because they’ve shown minimal progress in fixing their long-standing teamfighting issues. That said, H2K still has enough going to take a game off Splyce, if they can keep their discipline and punish Splyce’s relatively weak early game.

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