The Bad Matchup: Odoamne and H2K's year

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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.

Febiven: 'I don't think having Koreans over the best European players is that much of a upgrade'

by 19h ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Flickr

While H2k-Gaming's bottom lane has quickly found its footing in the 2017 EU LCS Spring split, mid laner Fabian "Febiven" Diepstraten has been on other teams, like Fnatic's 2016 roster, which didn't get the same synergy from their import players.

When ex-teammate Martin "Rekkles" Larsson mentioned Febiven's positive attitude in a recent interview with theScore esports, we reached out to the mid laner for his own views on mindsets and team dynamics.

Read on for Febiven's opinion on integrating import players, how he feels about the potential of all-European rosters, and what he would tell every solo queue player.

With your time on Fnatic and now H2K, it feels like you’re uniquely positioned to talk about this: in your opinion what are the major factors that determine if Korean players will fit into a European squad? Obviously on Fnatic it didn’t seem to work out too well, but H2K’s bottom lane has done very well this season. What’s the difference between those two situations in your view?

I think it all comes down to how well the players mash together and what kind of mindset the players have towards the game and life in general. Everyone is different and has different mindsets towards the game or attitude towards improving and usually people stick to their comfort zone and don’t like changing that much which happened in FNC to all the players. But right now our bot lane has a really nice attitude towards everything and don't show bad emotions at all which is great for the atmosphere and they are always positive and looking to better the team.

Do you feel there’s any merit to the idea discussed recently in EU that European teams should just build all-European rosters and foster EU talent?

I feel like in Europe there are many good players and they can make a ‘’super team’’ together and I don't think having Koreans over the best European players is that much of a upgrade simply because having five Europeans works better than with two Koreans if they lack the language or they have complaints about stuff.

Rekkles had some kind words for you in a recent interview. Did you make a conscious attempt to be an inspiring part of Fnatic or did that just happen?

I think it is just the person who I am. I am basically smiling naturally most of the time and being happy and trying to cheer up the mood and trying to see things positively.

Was there a specific moment when you decided that you wanted to focus more on improving your competitive mindset, and how did you decide what to do?

I always thought just playing the game is the way to go but I realized that how you think about the game and how you act as a teammate and how you work towards becoming better is the way to go, obviously with spamming the game. So after the bad season with FNC last split, I decided that a change was needed in the way I think about life in general and tried to understand myself better so I could be a better person for the next upcoming years that I am a pro, and I feel like it was a good change.

Besides skill at their chosen role, what is the most important thing you look for in a teammate? Is there a point where that thing becomes more important than skill?

I think the most important thing that I value from my teammates is a positive attitude towards improving and towards everything in general. I believe that if you always look to solve things or always try to look for ways that you can get better, it will make you the player you want to be, and everyone wants to be the best but not many people know how to become the best. I just love seeing progress because it means that you’re growing (in a good way)

If you could tell one thing to every EU solo queue player, what would that be?

Never give up.

Is there a champion you wish you could play right now, but doesn’t fit the current meta?

Riven.

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

Match highlights: H2k-Gaming vs. Fnatic

theScore esports Staff

NicoThePico parts ways with Fnatic

by 4d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Fnatic /theScore esports

Fnatic head coach Nicholas "NicoThePico" Korsgård has left the team, the organization announced Monday. Team manager Finlay “Quaye” Stewart will step in as the team's interim coach until a replacement is found, while Michael “Garki” Bolze will take over as manager.

NicoThePico was previously Origen's head coach before being replaced by Alvar “Araneae” Martín in July. He himself replaced Luis “Deilor” Sevilla as Fnatic's head coach in August.

"After joining Fnatic at the end of Summer Split 2016, I got the chance to build a new roster together with the FNC management for the upcoming season. We started off looking good and had apparent synergy and meshed well together, both in and out of game. As time went on we started facing challenges on the inside. As a result, problems occurred that I could not foresee beforehand and fix in due time," NicoThePico said in a statement.

"As I have been unable to provide the needed remedy, I feel that someone else with an outside perspective on the team and its issues, in both draft and gameplay, might be a better solution than what I was able to provide. I’ve decided to step down as Head Coach of FNC effective immediately."

Fnatic are currently in third place of Group A of the 2017 EU LCS spring split with a 4-6 record. They face Giants Gaming on Mar. 25.

"I am of the belief that we have a truly talented group of players capable of far more than where we currently sit in the standings. I will do my best to give the players a better structure and the resources needed to succeed," Quaye said in a statement. "Together with remote coaches, analysts and our players, we will make sure to give ourselves the best chance at playoffs and making it to Hamburg. The situation is far from ideal but we strongly believe that we are moving in the right direction.

"I'd like to thank Nico for all his hard work and wish him the best of luck in the future."

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

Infographic: What if NA LCS and EU LCS were still best-of-one?

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Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports

While Riot Games abandoned the best-of-one format for the NA LCS and EU LCS back in 2015, theScore esports wanted to see how the current standings would stack up if the leagues still used the format.

Though Team SoloMid are currently leading the NA LCS with a 12-2 match record, counting only the first game of each match, TSM would actually be tied for third place with Echo Fox, Counter Logic Gaming and Immortals, each with 7-7 records. Interestingly, even with best-of-one, Cloud9 would have the same 11-3 record.

In Europe, across both Group A and Group B, league standings would actually remain largely the same counting either first game record or match record. The primary difference would be G2 and Misfits being tied for first in Group A with 7-2 records. G2 are undefeated in the official standings with a 9-0 match record.

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

Laying down the law: Legal professionals on unions, arbitration courts and contracts

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Lonpicman / Wikimedia Commons

This is the second part of a two-part series. To check out the first part, click here.

Blackouts, sub-par equipment, unusable internet and a manager who wasn't paid for two months: these are just some of the issues Tainted Minds' former LoL roster dealt with before terminating their contracts, according to a Twitlonger from former player, Tristan "Cake" Côté-Lalumière. The AD carry also says he has not received full payment for December or Weeks 3-4 of the OPL spring split.

"The part that bothered me is that every single one of the issues we had could’ve been prevented if Tainted Minds listened to Nick and Fas [the team's coach and manager], who were literally telling them what was happening and how it could be fixed," Cake wrote. "Every times we tried to communicate with the organization, be it through Fas, Nick, or any Tainted Minds employee, it felt like talking to a brick wall. They kept promising us things would get fixed and gave us deadlines, which they NEVER respected."

Cake's sentiment was echoed in a Twitlonger from his teammate, Aaron "ChuChuZ" Bland, who says he took in his fellow dissenters for four weeks as their lawyer attempted to get Tainted Minds to acknowledge they breached contract and remove them from their official roster.

"It started getting really depressing in the house, every day felt like another fight on top of the ongoing discomforts of the house," he said of their last days in Tainted Minds' team house. "The packet loss issue was still going on, and players started considering leaving. The entire atmosphere of the house was crushed, we didn't know what to do."

To date, Tainted Minds have made no statement since announcing their new roster and stating that they would not release the former players.

'It's really tough to ask somebody who might have a year or two worth of playing to sit out for half or all of that time'

For many esports players trapped in legal disputes, filing suit simply isn't a realistic option. Not only can getting a lawyer be prohibitively expensive, but navigating international jurisdictions and a burgeoning field with few legal precedents would be a daunting prospect for anyone, let alone esports players in their late teens or early twenties.

While players on the high-end of the spectrum might be protected by big name organizations and their own social media clout, those on the lower end have no such recourse. So the question remains, what will it take to make those players less vulnerable to predatory individuals and shady orgs?

One solution some have suggested is for esports players to take a page from traditional sports and form player unions and associations. Through a formal union, players would be able to bargain collectively to ensure equitable treatment across teams, as well as pool their resources to pursue legal cases.

"If you can create that kind of organization and you spread it around enough players so that they can pay some dues or something to create some body, then that body can pursue more easily," attorney and FGC commentator David "ultradavid" Phillip Graham said.

"You can sort of spread around the costs of an expensive law suit in a way that would hopefully at least dissuade future teams from making that kind of mistake. If there were some body that had a lawyer on its payroll that could spend the time and money to look into this case, then maybe the next jerk who gets involved in esports who just wants to run away with money thinks twice."

In theory, starting an esports union should function the same way a normal union would. When concerned about conditions at their workplace, a group of employees can form an organizing committee and petition their fellow employees to sign union cards. If more than a certain percentage of the workplace sign the union cards, then the organizing committee can petition their jurisdiction's labor board to hold a formal election to recognize their union. Once recognized as an official union, then employees can negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with their employers, which means the union's representatives would negotiate contracts on behalf of all its members to ensure everyone has equal footing with management.

However, ultradavid also notes that starting a union is easier said than done, especially when many players are independent contractors and not actual employees. An independent contractor is someone who does work or performs a service for a company or organization on a freelance basis, usually retaining autonomy but without the rights, benefits and protection legally afforded to employees under labor laws.

According to Paul H. Haagen, co-director of Duke University's Center for Sports Law and Policy, if players are not actual employees of a team or association, but independent contractors, then they wouldn't be eligible to form a union under U.S. labor laws.

"We want to break down a key word: player. The labor laws only apply if the player is an employee," he said.

"If they are either independent contractors or they're customers, then the labor laws don't apply and they can't unionize. And that's what you would be looking at is something like a trade association."

However, even for teams that are formed of bonafide employees, it may still be impossible for them to form an organization similar to the National Football League Players' Association or National Basketball Players Association. Because traditional sports leagues are all formed by team owners, they can constitute a multi-employer bargaining unit, which is what allows each team's employees to form a single union.

At the moment, no organizations like the NBA or NFL exists in esports, though the Professional eSports Association (PEA) and the World Esports Association (WESA) could potentially fit the definition given time and legal precedent.

According to Haagen, even without multi-employer bargaining units in the esports scene, players could still potentially unionize on a team-by-team basis, so long as, again, they were considered employees and not independent contractors.

"If you have an employer and an employee, and you're in private business and it affects inter-state commerce, then there is at least a potential to unionize," he said.

However, even if there's the slim hope that traditional sports precedent and labor laws could hold up an esports union, the fact remains most players are much younger than most potential unionizers and their careers will most likely be considerably shorter.

"Who knows how long a player is gonna have a playing career? It could be just a few years, if that, and it's very difficult to ask them to potentially sit out for however long it would take to get the owners of teams to recognize a player union, rather than just get some replacement," ultradavid said.

"It's really tough to ask somebody who might have a year or two worth of playing to sit out for half or all of that time. It would be great, I'd love it, I really hope that it happens at some point. It's just probably not something very soon."

'...the people that are actually gonna know a little bit better than a retired judge from the New York Superior Court what the industry standard'

So then, if unions are unrealistic at esports' current level, what other mechanisms could make it easier for players to pursue legal action?

According to Michael Strauss and Chris Hoffman of Reed Smith LLP, one mechanism that's developing are arbitration courts — independent bodies that pass judgement on team and player conflict on behalf of organizations like WESA and Riot Games.

"Riot has recently launched an arbitration court that is right now only handling on the field issues, which would consist of sort of suspensions or fines that the league might be imposing on a team or player," Hoffman said. "And they have not gotten into these sort of internal team housekeeping issues yet, but the WESA arbitration court is much broader and would be potentially an avenue that players and teams can take advantage of when these types of internal disputes arise."

Though both Riot and WESA's arbitration courts are still in their fledgling stages, the two say that one substantial advantage arbitration courts have over the legal system is that the adjudicators themselves understand the scene and don't have to interpret traditional legal precedent in the context of esports.

"When you go to an arbitration court that is esports-specific for example, they are going to understand the types of compensation that players are earning. The amount which is industry standard for some of these players and what would trigger, what would be a reasonable amount of money," Strauss said.

"And so when you talk about player recourse and team recourse for that matter, you can end up in an esports specific arbitration court like WESA, and have the people that are actually gonna know a little bit better than a retired judge from the New York Superior Court what the industry standard is for paying a player for prize moneys or salary, or their Twitch channel."

'All they look at is the amount listed on the contract and that kind of thing, if they even look at that. Sometimes they just sign.'

Ultimately, with unions and arbitration courts unrealistic for the majority of amateur and semi-pro esports players, the best thing someone can do to protect themselves is to know their rights, know their contracts and take care of as much of their own business as they can.

For instance, claiming your own prize money instead of allowing your team to accept on your behalf may result in extra taxes but doesn't run the risk of losing out on the money entirely, as happened to former Invasion eSport players Kevin "Harstem" de Koning, Juan Carlos "MajOr" Tena Lopez and Julian "Lambo" Brosig.

Harstem says that he strongly regrets allowing Invasion to handle his prize money and allowing them to regularly dole out his payments late until his former manager, Sebastien "Sebou" Dang, disappeared with several thousand dollars of his, MajOr's and Lambo's prize money.

"Don't accept late payments. Even if you know the people, have like a maximum amount of time for yourself what's late, handle your own prize money," he advised. "Make a — I'm not sure what it's called in English — but like a one-man company so you can basically get your own prize money immediately to you. It's a lot easier with taxes as well."

"When I have clients who are making a deal with a team that I don't know very well, that I don't have a ton experience with, I always try to get it so the money goes directly to them first, then they share whatever the amount is with the team if there is some split," ultradavid said.

He also says it's very important for players to do research on orgs before signing with them. Simply taking someone's word that they're on your side is just not enough.

"You have to look into who's behind the money, you have to look into what their incentives are, look into what the long-term plans of the organization are. Those are all really important things to look through from the players' perspective so that you can minimize the chances that you sort of get in bed with a huckster. You don't want to do that," ultradavid said. "Too often I have had clients or known about other players who get an offer and all they look at is the amount listed on the contract and that kind of thing, if they even look at that. Sometimes they just sign."

As chair of Duke's Student-Athlete Counseling Committee, Haagen has helped numerous young athletes transition from collegiate sports to the big leagues. One thing he cautions any young player to do before they sign a contract is understand how it could affect them deeper into their career.

"I had a baseball player and he was presented with a contract and I said, 'You understand you're giving up the rights to your name in connection with baseball as long as you are a professional athlete,'" Haagen recounted.

"And then he did and I said, 'You understand, you are being paid two very fancy gloves a year, that's what you get out of this. You're giving up this right.' And he said, 'Yeah, I understand it. These are really good gloves and I intend to go to medical school in a year. So y'know, play a year in the minors, have that experience, maybe write something about it, and then I'll go to medical school.' Well, you played in the Major Leagues for 13 years."

One issue that plagues esports much more than traditional sports are people playing for teams without contracts. While less common these days, especially in the gentrifying fields of LoL and CS:GO, the issue still persists, sometimes in teams at the highest peaks of their respective sport. For instance, though Jackie "EternalEnvy" Mau and Rasmus "MiSeRy" Filipsen claim that Team Secret failed to live up to their promises, they nor any of the other players on the roster had contracts.

Though that fact makes a potential legal case exponentially more difficult, Hoffman and Strauss say it wouldn't be impossible. According to them, even without written contracts, players can argue that they had an oral agreement in place with the org or can invoke the Unjust Enrichment theory.

“There is a legal theory, an equitable legal theory, called Unjust Enrichment. And if you can demonstrate that as a team or a player, you've rendered services to the other party, then you're entitled to be compensated for those services,” Hoffman said. “It does bring up issues of definiteness and exactly what the parties agreed or what the value of those services are in that, that can be especially tough to determine in an industry as unique as esports.”

Laying down the law

Despite examples like the situations facing Tainted Minds' former LoL roster and the ex-Invasion StarCraft players, the esports world has made great strides towards legitimacy.

According to Hoffman and Strauss, the best solution may simply be letting nature take its course as more outside investment pours in bringing with it the influence of big money sponsors and business people who won't stand for legal drama.

"Esports as an industry is going through growing pains and that's counter-balanced by just the exponential growth that we've seen and the growth opportunities that lay ahead. And as teams, players and other stakeholders all are sort of figuring out the best ways to monetize in this industry and to realize on their investments," Hoffman said.

However, for the players forced to navigate the barely-charted legal and contractual territory of esports all on their own, Harstem has one piece of advice.

"Don't get ******* over guys."

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

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