Aaron to take a break from coaching; RapidStar joins EDward Gaming as coach

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EDward Gaming Head Coach Ji "Aaron" Xing will take a break from directly coaching EDG's League of Legends team, Aaron told Chinese E-sports Athletes magazine in an interview. The interview followed the EDward Gaming press conference in which Aaron re-signed with the organization and received a promotion to Managing Director and Head Coach of all titles.

The press conference occurred at 1:00 a.m. EST. EDward Gaming revealed their full starting team and reserve roster on stage and announced new additions to their coaching staff, including Jung "RapidStar" Minsung, previous mid laner for MiG/Azubu/CJ Entus Frost, and ex-LGD Gaming coach and analyst, Huang "FireFox" Tinghsiang. RapidStar confirmed his addition on Twitter.

Bok "Reapered" Hangyu was not included on EDG's list of coaching staff, corroborating the earlier statement by Ham "Lustboy" Jangsik that he is now a free agent. EDward Gaming went on to reveal they will collaborate with Qiang Shi media to produce an eSports Television drama.

Ming "Clearlove" Kai and Aaron took center stage for the main event, re-signing contracts with EDward Gaming. Manager Huang "San Shao" Cheng informed press conference attendees and those watching on the streamed broadcast that Aaron would be promoted to Managing Director and Head Coach of all EDward Gaming titles.

Following the press conference, the team dedicated time to 1-on-1 interviews with media. During the interview with Esports Athletes editor, Pijie, Aaron stated, "I just temporarily quit the coach position" for EDward Gaming's League of Legends team. Pijie clarified that Aaron will not serve as the onstage coach for EDG and that someone else will be taking over the position temporarily. Pijie and Aaron did not state whether or not this person would be RapidStar.

Aaron is one of the most accomplished and experienced coaches in League of Legends. He joined Team WE from in 2011 and guided the team through their six month period of dominance in 2012 and 2013. Aaron joined EDward Gaming when the organization formed at the end of 2013 and has served as EDG's Head Coach since, leading them to multiple domestic titles and victory at the Mid Season Invitational this year.

The new season of the League of Legends Pro League begins next week on Jan. 14. It is unclear if or when Aaron's temporary leave from his position will end.

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

Inside EDward Gaming's training facility

theScore esports Staff 1d ago

EDward Gaming are one of the most successful organization in Chinese League of Legends, so it's only fitting they have a team house that matches their prestige.

During the 2016 Mid-Season Invitational, EDG gave us an inside tour of their 8,900 square foot training facility so we could see just how some of the best players in the world prepare each and every day.

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

Meiko or Break: Why EDward Gaming's support is their MVP

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When trying to assess the most valuable player on a team, a common pitfall is to look for its best player. For a team like EDward Gaming, support Tian "meiko" Ye is rarely considered next to giants like Kim "deft" Hyukkyu and Ming "clearlove" Kai. clearlove has gained a lot of international recognition thanks to a meta that celebrates strong junglers, while deft, as ADC, deals 32.1 percent of his team’s damage on average.

They are certainly EDward Gaming’s strongest individual players. But the advantages they are able to consistently turn into wins don't come from nowhere. Arguably, a team's MVP is the player who controls the flow of the game and creates the most opportunities for the team to succeed — who is able to set up and create multiple openings for victory. For EDward Gaming, that person is meiko.

Based on how much recognition clearlove has been getting recently, the natural conclusion made by someone who hasn't watched a lot of EDG matches is that he's a heavy play-making jungler. But it's his followup plays that truly stand out. As a jungler, clearlove focuses much more on farming and counter-ganking, turning the bottom lane after an opponent's engagement. When he controls the enemy jungle, he does so only after vision has been placed.

As for deft, he was much less aggressive before coming to China. meiko’s ruthlessness in lane and his control of the flow of the 2v2 have facilitated deft's development as a more punchy laner. Among LPL bottom lanes, deft and meiko’s greatest strength is their synergy, particularly in how they control their wave to set up a bait or a thoughtful invade. Unlike many duos, they’ll make plays for early advantages even in weak lane matchups.

As the World Championship draws near, bottom lanes and junglers will figure prominently in analysts' rankings. With the popularity of Teleport and weaker bottom turrets, bot will be the lane to control in the early game. Rather than opening up the map through the mid lane, the bottom lane will be where victory starts and trickles upward, spreading in rashes of vision throughout the map.

Does the team control bottom lane through a jungle advantage, or control the jungle through a bottom lane advantage? That will be a near-semantic distinction to draw when classifying Worlds contenders.

For EDward Gaming — a team with some of the best players in jungle, ADC and support roles — the line is especially blurred. But more often than not, they control the jungle by establishing a lead in the bottom lane first.

Photo credit: 刘一村

There are a few methods they tend to use to achieve early bottom lane control, and almost all of them revolve around meiko. The first involves controlling the wave on the bottom side of the map in order to place vision, an approach they used in the first game of their LPL semifinal against Team WE. deft and meiko pushed out the lane aggressively, engaging WE in a trade and using the threat of their Tahm Kench to head off an Alistar all-in.

The pressure was successful, forcing their opponents back and allowing meiko to place a ward at the entrance to WE’s bottom-side jungle. That ward spotted Xiang "Condi" Renjie, and clearlove invaded WE’s jungle to force out Condi’s flash, which gave EDG easy control of bot side. On the surface, it looked like the play came from clearlove’s initiative and aggression, but it was meiko and the bottom lane that made it possible.

In a variant on this strategy, meiko and deft will use their control of the lane and the vision they set up to prepare a pincer on their opponents. They will push out the lane quickly to place a ward in the second bottom lane bush, then let the enemy team build up a large minion wave, intentionally avoiding last hits. As their opponents push forward, Chen "mouse" Yuanhao Teleports in to flank.

In some cases, after they exert control on the wave, meiko and deft will allow the enemy team to push back in order to bait them into a dive and set up an easy counter-gank for clearlove. This situation can lead to problems, however, if EDG have the weaker jungle matchup or don't properly expect the first gank. For example, in Game 3 of WE vs EDward Gaming, and meiko, deft and clearlove set themselves up for a gank or jungler and duo lane 3v3 in the bottom tri bush. But when Condi initiated, WE’s burst killed meiko almost immediately, and in the followup, EDG lost clearlove as well.

Even if the jungle matchup is even or favors EDG, when meiko and deft are too greedy in a weak 2v2 matchup, the entire team struggles. In their second game against Saint in Week 9, meiko and deft made their usual play for early bot lane control, but as Kalista and Alistar against Sivir and Nami, they lost the trade. The game became an uphill battle, though EDG did eventually win.

These early pushes make or break EDward Gaming. Knowing this, meiko and deft will frequently look for early opportunities to invade and get an edge before even getting to lane. Even at Worlds in 2015, meiko commented that studying the early game was something EDward Gaming did frequently. That came in especially useful against H2K, when they predicted an early invade.

Invades like this were seen throughout the LPL season, but surprisingly, they tended to be led by the bottom lane, rather than clearlove. meiko highlighted his thought process at the press conference after the LPL final when he explained why he decided to invade Royal’s jungle in Game 2. "When I sent to their bush," meiko said, "Taliyah didn't come, so I could judge that there wasn't a ward there." From that, meiko judged RNG wouldn’t anticipate the invade, and knew it was time to strike.

Photo credit: 刘一村

Playing around vision and keeping track of vision timers appears to be one of meiko's greatest strengths. If he pings a ward, he and the rest of the team are good at keeping track of when it will die, and he rarely roams in that area until it expires. Part of the reason EDG have been more successful on their blue side is that it’s easy for meiko to walk up the river and place a ward near the enemy blue buff on red side, which helps EDG with map control substantially. Whereas, on red side, roaming to get vision of the blue-side red buff is riskier.

It’s really important to underscore that clearlove, in contrast with a jungler like Royal Never Give Up’s Liu "Mlxg" Shiyu, is much less likely to initiate a gank or some other action without knowledge of the enemy jungler. He understands that he needs to keep himself and his laners ahead, so he avoids getting trapped in situations where the enemy team can counter-gank him or counter-jungle while he ganks.

For this style of play, it's crucial to have either a good mid laner or support to secure vision and back up invades. Lee "scout" Yechan, who's playing his rookie split, has been more of a beneficiary of clearlove than a facilitator. The jungler has prioritized ganking mid much more this split, despite his reputation for favoring bottom lane pressure — in the summer playoffs, he averaged a nearly 50 percent mid-lane gank rate in the first 10 minutes of every game.

clearlove hasn't had a whole lot of choice in the matter. scout was heavily focused by Condi and WE mid laner Su "xiye" Hanwei in the semifinal, and afterward a distraught clearlove commented in the press conference that he felt WE’s mid and jungle were "stronger than ours." In the final, clearlove adapted by ganking mid early in two out of three games. He even hovered around the mid lane looking for a gank opportunity without actually finding one — twice — which he didn’t do for either top or bottom throughout either series.

Though EDG's map control begins on the bottom side, holding mid remains important. Luckily, with meiko’s agency and vision control, EDG’s bot can set up risky trades while clearlove focuses his pressure on mid. It’s a system EDG may apply more often at the World Championship. If that’s the case, any early lead EDG gain falls at meiko’s feet.

meiko and deft’s control of the bottom wave also provides the best opportunity for mouse to get ahead in top lane. By placing wards to set up Teleport opportunities, mouse is less isolated. That helps to make up for the lower priority clearlove has placed on top lane — across nine games in semifinals and finals, clearlove only ganked top once, and mouse averaged a CS deficit relative to his opponent of 6.27 at 10 minutes for the entire summer split.

With the way EDG plays, top lane will be a natural liability, but if meiko and deft can push out the wave and bring it back to turret reliably after placing a ward, mouse will have a strong bottom lane to fall back on to get back into the game. On the other hand, this puts even more pressure on meiko’s shoulders.

Following the laning phase, meiko serves as the primary initiator in teamfights, and his peels for deft have been instrumental. Two games that stand out in my mind are his Nami game against Royal Never Give Up in the summer regular season, and his Bard game (despite EDG's loss) against RNG in the spring final. In both games, Royal had more answers in their draft, but EDG were able to rely on meiko to reset fights. He managed surpass expectations, in particular outperforming legendary support Cho "Mata" Sehyoung.

Photo credit: 刘一村

Those who didn’t watch LPL closely this year expect Mata to still be the greatest support coming out of the region. Though Mata has bested meiko in wards placed per minute, he hasn’t worked as efficiently with his jungler and ADC, and he hasn’t been able to extend his presence to the rest of the map as effectively, getting caught out in solo warding missions more frequently or attempting foolish 1v2s after Jian "Uzi" Zihao backs. Some of meiko’s greatest moments this season were against Mata, invoking a comparison few dare breathe aloud.

Last year, meiko was still a rookie for EDG. He rose to the occasion at the 2016 Mid-Season Invitational with the most consistent performance of any player on the team. Despite this, he lived in the shadow of giants, and observers scrambling to find a player to blame for the team's faults settled on meiko.

This time around, meiko’s synergy with deft will be hard to ignore. Perhaps the most exciting thing about EDG is how well their bottom laners complement one another. meiko’s aggression is augmented by deft’s positioning, and this allows EDG to get lane advantages early. Sometimes their greed can backfire, and they end up in a disadvantageous position, but as long as meiko finds an opportunity to roam, EDG react well.

The team's unstable setup phase has meant they have averaged a smaller gold lead at 10 minutes relative to other Chinese teams heading to Worlds. But once meiko places the necessary vision, EDG become a team that reacts incredibly well to information, snowballing at an increasing rate throughout the next 10 minutes of the game.

Royal’s focus on the bottom side of the map whenever they face EDG isn’t just about keeping deft down, it's about preventing meiko’s roams as well. The key to defeating EDG is keeping meiko in lane and not allowing EDG to control the wave. As soon as meiko has freedom, he can set up wards that allow EDG comeback opportunities in the mid game. From there, meiko’s synergy with deft in teamfights allows the AD carry more freedom to position aggressively.

With the highest kill participation on the team at 73.5 percent this summer, meiko facilitates most of the action in EDG's games. Almost nothing the team does doesn’t go through meiko, whether it's setting up wards or instigating an engagement.

Throughout much of his career, clearlove has struggled to find a balance between his natural farming style and the need to create early game advantages for his team. With meiko this year, that balance has been much easier to strike. Not only is meiko EDG’s primary playmaker and MVP, he’s the best LPL support heading to the World Championship.

At MSI 2015, during meiko’s rookie year, his coach Ji "Aaron" Xing said, "He’s not a support who’s content to be just a support. I think he will at the very least become on par with Mata… All he’s lacking is some experience."

Photo credit: 刘一村

A year and a half later, meiko has proven himself instrumental to EDward Gaming’s domestic victories. He has overcome Mata this summer, even with the playing field level and teams of similar talent around them.

But Mata still has the legacy. He’s earned his respect internationally. Despite meiko’s past stability on the international stage, if he truly wants to aim higher, he’ll have to earn the same respect.

Teams at Worlds will study EDG’s games and realize how important meiko’s role is in the team’s success. Teams that tunnel in on clearlove without understanding meiko’s role will fail. meiko is not without his flaws — observant competitors will devise ways to pin him down and limit clearlove’s ability to act. He approaches trades with deft as if it doesn’t occur to him that they could lose, and sometimes they do. It’s easy enough to exploit with a strong support matchup. With more teams looking to counterpick support in red side last pick, this shouldn't be overlooked.

With all three of EDward Gaming’s stars performing better than they ever have, and a meta that favors them, meiko will still be the make or break factor in EDG’s final placement. No matter the outcome, viewers will know he isn’t just a footnote.

Photos from 刘一村's album.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports who fervently believes EDG are out of excuses for not making semifinals. You can follow her on Twitter.

MonteCristo not invited to cast Worlds, DoA declines to attend

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In what appears to be the latest development in an ongoing dispute between Riot Games' esports division and OGN caster Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles, MonteCristo claims that he was deliberately excluded from the LoL World Championship casting team, which was announced Friday morning.

In an interview with ESPN's Jacob Wolf, MonteCristo said he was notified on Aug. 9 that he would not receive an invitation to the event. According to ESPN, both of MonteCristo's casting partners, Erik "DoA" Lonnquist and Chris "PapaSmithy" Smith, were invited by Riot to cast the event. PapaSmithy will attend to represent the South Korea region, but DoA said in the interview that he declined due to conflicting obligations in South Korea.

"Riot decided not to invite me to this year's League of Legends World Championship," MonteCristo told Wolf. "I'm sorry to my fans that I will miss this opportunity, but pleased to say that I have upcoming casting projects that I am very excited about for the remainder of 2016."

This will be the first time MonteCristo has not been involved with Riot's Worlds broadcast since he first appeared there in 2013. It will also be the second Riot-hosted event that he sits out this year, after he and his fellow OGN casters boycotted the Mid-Season Invitational in March. At the time, Monte, DoA and PapaSmithy issued a joint statement claiming that Riot offered sub-standard wages to cast the event.

Riot, which announced its casting lineup for Worlds on Friday morning, has not officially commented on MonteCristo's exclusion from the list. In his ESPN interview, MonteCristo gave no details about how he was notified about the decision or the motivation behind it.

However, the caster and ex-team owner has been vocally critical of Riot's esports policies since he and his former team, Renegades, were banned from the NA LCS in May. In a tweet following the ESPN report Friday, he implied that his exclusion from Worlds was related to his past conflicts with Riot's esports team.

In social media and in the press, MonteCristo has argued that Riot's decision to ban Renegades was unfair and non-transparent, claiming that the publisher did not give him an adequate opportunity to present a defense before issuing its ruling. Riot banned Renegades over its alleged connections with banned former team owner Chris Badawi, as well as alleged mistreatment of players and collusion with Team Dragon Knights.

MonteCristo, as the team's owner, was banned for one year from owning a team that participates in any Riot-sanctioned league, though the ruling stated it would not affect his casting career with OGN, which is not owned by Riot. In August, MonteCristo sold Renegades, which still operates CS:GO and Call of Duty teams, to Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko.

In his most recent comments about Riot — which were published after MonteCristo claims Riot notified him he was not invited to Worlds — the caster vehemently criticized the company and its co-founder, Marc "Tryndamere" Merrill, over the way it controls sponsorship in the LCS. Among other criticisms, he accused Riot of playing favorites with league teams and owners, comparing the company to a "f**cked up tyrant Santa Claus" that doles out rewards and punishments to teams it considers "good" or "bad."

In a tweet Friday following ESPN's report, MonteCristo said that further criticism would be forthcoming. "Now that I have zero business ties to Riot, I will be releasing many vlogs on my experiences with the company when I get back from vacation," he said.

Though MonteCristo and DoA's fans will not get a chance to see them at Worlds, the two are set to cast OGN's new $170,000 Overwatch league, Overwatch APEX, beginning in October. They will also continue to broadcast OGN's coverage of League Champions Korea in 2017.

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

UCI League of Legends team to feature former Team Vulcun support BloodWater

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The University of California at Irvine is set to launch an esports arena with a new League of Legends roster that features former Team Vulcun support Lyubomir "BloodWater" Spasov.

UCI's esports scholarship program is similar to most university's traditional sports scholarships, with top LoL players receiving scholarships to study at the university while playing on their collegiate teams. According to a press release, BloodWater has been awarded a scholarship for the school's computer science.

"UCI’s new eSports program gives talented League of Legends players the opportunity to study what they love and to continue their passion for competitive gaming," BloodWater stated in the press release. "When I heard about the scholarship, I was very happy to know that I had a chance to attend one of the best universities in California – or anywhere – and to earn a degree in computer science.”

BloodWater is best known for his time on Team Vulcun, with whom he attended the Season 3 World Championships in 2013. The team placed third in the 2013 NA LCS Summer Playoffs, qualifying them for Worlds. Vulcun went on to place 11th-12th after placing second in their group with a 3-5 record.

The university has three other members of their LoL team set. The players are Youngbin Chung (Mid), James Lattman (ADC), Loc Tran (ADC) and Parsa "Frostalicious" Baghai (Jungle). The team will hold tryouts for a top laner starting Sept. 26.

“We’re honored to work with UCI to create a permanent home for gamers on campus and hope this will inspire similar programs at colleges and universities across North America,” Riot Games' head of collegiate esports Ramon Hermann stated in the press release.

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

Ghostcrawler talks LoL's future in Reddit AMA

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Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street has worked on Age of Empires 1 through 3, World of Warcraft, and now, for over two and a half years, League of Legends. It's not surprising that he has more than a few fans that would like to pick the LoL design director's brain.

And pick they did, as the spectral crab took to Reddit Monday to talk about all of the above in an AMA. While much of it was unrelated to esports, he did come through in a pinch with some gems regarding the potential future of competitive LoL.

A hot topic in the competitive scene has been how lane configurations can or should work: Riot has been notoriously wary of the lane swap phenomenon, for example.

But Ghostcrawler said that he's not opposed to enabling other kinds of setups, it just isn't Riot's first concern.

"There are a lot of comps and strategies that work in 112J, and we know there are a lot of non-112J configurations that are too frustrating, snowbally or easily solved," he wrote. "We are focused more currently on making sure you have good options for whatever lane you pick or whatever champ you want to play than spending a lot of effort supporting say a 2 jungler option or a no jungler option."

While addressing diversity of lane setups may not be in the immediate future, Ghostcrawler said that champion diversity is something that the team wants to address.

When asked if there were any specific champions he wanted to see better represented, he was blunt.

"There are many. I'm not at all satisfied with pro champ diversity."

Discussing the role of items in the game, GC said that there can be tension in reconciling the two goals of the item system: rewarding players for the gold they've earned with sufficient additional power, while also offering them decisions about how to customize their character.

Despite hoping to do both, in practice these decisions often become rote as players tend to choose very similar items.

"If I could just snap my fingers and make it all work, then the best result would be that each champion has multiple build paths with interesting decisions along the way, but without a real risk of making such bad choices that earning gold doesn't help you win," Ghostcrawler wrote. "That is hard to deliver on in practice."

Another response of note dealt with how random chance impacts the game. GC explained that he considers some level of randomness to be a good thing for the game.

Crit chance is one such thing, but he doesn't feel it's done an especially good job of being a random element.

"I don't think crit chance has played out well as that thing though," he wrote. "We have had a ton of meetings on what we could do instead, or even what we would do if we were launching League today, but unfortunately we don't have an awesome solution yet."

Lead champion designer Andrei "Meddler" van Roon also chimed in that the addition of the Elemental Drakes was an attempt to add some unpredictability to the game: specifically, the kind that offered important decision-making points for both teams.

"We've been pretty happy with the system too overall and will be exploring some other, smaller sources of telegraphed randomness in the pre-season as a result," he wrote.

And esports fans need not fear a lack of new champions any time soon: in a response to a query about whether Riot would eventually stop adding champions, Ghostcrawler said that it was not likely for a long time.

"You mean will we hit a number and say 'You know, that's probably enough champs for one game?' I would say yes, we will hit that number, but at the rate we make new champions these days, not for many, many years."

Josh "Gauntlet" Bury was promised a moose! You can find him on Twitter.

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