Aaron to take a break from coaching; RapidStar joins EDward Gaming as coach
Thumbnail image courtesy of Robert Paul / TheScore eSports
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.
Overrated: A rational discussion of Clearlove's flaws
Thumbnail image courtesy of Worlds / lolesports flickr
IGN Pro League 5, the 2015 Mid-Season Invitational, 2014 LPL Spring, 2014 LPL Summer, 2015 LPL Spring, 2016 LPL Summer, Enter the Dragon and four Demacia Cup events. The list of Ming “Clearlove” Kai’s victories is long — but because of the nature of League of Legends, the only one that matters is the one he hasn't claimed: The World Championship. It's there he has fallen at the quarterfinals, not once, but four times.
It may be time to acknowledge that, even if Clearlove didn’t choke at Worlds in the past, this time the pressure got to him. He’s at least started to buy into the idea that he’ll never win, or isn’t good enough, and it's finally hurting his performance.
Clearlove has flaws and peculiarities, but he has value as well. He has longevity, creativity, and a persisting sense for teamfights that forever makes it feel as though he hasn't peaked just yet, despite his monstrous career. He's never been the greatest jungler in the world, and he’s had some of his worst games at Worlds — but he is still one of the greatest players to touch the game, and we can at least do him the courtesy of discussing his flaws rationally.
Despite the stature he's achieved, for most of his professional career Clearlove was not very good at jungling. EDG was an organization founded around Clearlove’s intangibles: his work ethic and leadership. This work ethic didn’t make him a great at what he did until 2015.
On his first successful team, he had a unique relationship with mid laner Yu “Misaya” Jingxi, known for Twisted Fate play and vast map pressure. Misaya didn’t have as much skill in the laning phase, but he had the ability to win the rest of the map while Clearlove power-farmed. That’s when his synergy with Gao "WeiXiao" Xuecheng in teamfights made WE the greatest team in the world. Most of his movement consisted of finding the right side of the map on which to farm and less with getting his laners ahead.
In 2013, however, the dynamic between Clearlove and Misaya stretched thin. Laning became more of a necessity, especially with the rise of assassins, and the scale tilted. Internal conflict aggravated Clearlove's problems; WE's split and Clearlove's move to EDward Gaming for the 2014 LPL season marked a new era of inconsistency for him. But within that inconsistency, there were flashes of his emerging understanding of how to create pressure and make plays on the map.
Even then, though I didn’t consider Clearlove a great jungler, I thought of him as a great player. He could flank on both tank and assassin champions, and he showed strong synergy with another AD carry. When EDward Gaming fell behind, a symbiosis developed between Clearlove and Tong “Koro1” Yang to create openings for Ceng “U” Long and Zhu “NaMei” Jiawen. Yet Clearlove's jungling itself was still poor and unreliable, especially when paired with the less pressure-driven laning phase of U, and though both players performed their roles well, they didn’t have much map control in the early game.
Clearlove has often talked about how he believes Chinese junglers could be as creative as their Korean counterparts, and that creativity has become the defining quality of his play. Even if he doesn't vary his gank pathing consistently and still vastly prefers the bottom side of the map, he has always made decisions that made his movements unique to each game — something that has been recognized by his peers. Zeng "Zzr" Zhanran, a Snake Esports sub and part of China's plentiful crop of new jungle talent, earlier this year lauded Clearlove for being a jungler that “used his brain” to come up with creative pathing. Splyce’s Jonas “Trashy” Anderson has listed Clearlove as a jungler he admires, recently recalling a situation in the LPL Summer Final that stood out to him: “EDG was playing a full AD composition that really needed to snowball. [Clearlove] did a full clear top side and red side into path bot and fast-gank mid, and then he got two kills out of it. They had a Zed mid that snowballed out of it. In my mind, that is him understanding that he can’t just play it safe and farm it out with the picks he had.”
Even within EDG's group at Worlds, Brazilian jungler Gabriel "Revolta" Henud has listed Clearlove as a player he studies to learn pathing. Clearlove's creativity was on display even in his worst game of the event, Game 4 against the ROX Tigers. While Han “Peanut” Wangho moved to EDG’s open blue buff, Clearlove swept his wolves and gromp camp on red side, slowing down Peanut’s power-farming route, then stalling Peanut when he attempted to invade and target Clearlove at his own gromp.
Naturally, this mind-gaming died when Clearlove camped the bottom lane too long and didn’t anticipate Peanut’s counter-gank, leading to a 1-for-3 trade for Tigers. This kind of counter-gank bait style was something not uncharacteristic of Clearlove himself in the LPL, and the fact that he transparently forced his own gank was surprising, though not shocking, given how desperate EDG were.
Most of what I've written about EDG this year has been critical. EDward Gaming aren’t a team that have developed fundamentally since their formation in 2014. Some of Clearlove’s most effective gank paths are worn into the Rift through repetition, and it’s practiced execution that has made them both effective and predictable.
His most damning quality, however, is his pickiness. He doesn’t take initiative if he lacks synergy with his mid laner. He doesn’t take initiative if he lacks information. Perhaps he focuses too much on being clever, and not enough on being effective. This is a quality truly worthy of admonishment, and it certainly keeps him from being the best.
Clearlove's creativity means that he works well with information, and without that information, his proactivity is limited. This has been a big factor in EDG's preference for blue side. The team prefers to win the bottom lane, then push out the wave and invade the enemy jungle for vision. That style made Tian “meiko” Ye their most valuable player this year, so long as he could secure roaming support picks. But in situations where EDG can't get the push in the bottom half of the map, and meiko can't roam, a lot of EDG’s mid-game cross-map plays or Clearlove’s early invades and ganks don't materialize.
This was never more evident than in their Worlds quarterfinal. Rather than identifying Clearlove's need for information as a vulnerability, and looking to secure some minimal jungle vision before controlling the lane, EDG seemed to panic and tunnel in on winning the 2v2. That made Clearlove even more predictable. Add to that that he apparently forgot the actual mechanics of his champions, and his quarterfinal performance was nothing short of pathetic.
Likewise, Clearlove's proactivity has been held back by his wavering trust in his mid laner. His primary facilitator this year has been meiko, his support, but last year it was Heo “PawN” Wonseok, EDG's then-starting mid. Like Misaya, PawN had a way of generating pressure. He didn’t gank in place of Clearlove, but he pulled the enemy jungler to his lane. This is something EDG's current starting mid, Lee "Scout" Yechan, couldn’t replicate; at best, he held the lane. Over time, he started to develop more of a tendency to roam to the top lane, but by then it was too late. Clearlove didn’t seem to have faith in Scout, especially after the Team WE series when Xiang “Condi” Renjie and Su “xiye” Hanwei targeted Scout specifically.
But of course no one is to blame for Clearlove's flaws — for his inability to perform well at the one event he’s claimed has kept him competing even after his WE ex-teammates retired — but Clearlove.
At the start of this year, Clearlove said he believed he could compete for at least two more years, as long as he didn’t hold his team back. Given the severe backlash he’s faced for his Worlds flop, he may decide that he is indeed limiting EDward Gaming. But his retirement would mean the loss of the intangibles that have made him valuable to the organization, and domestically speaking, Clearlove is still King.
So let him have one more year, one more attempt. If he makes the World Championship again in 2017, let him play within his parameters. Tracking Clearlove’s Korean solo queue account, he has a fondness for duoing with WE’s xiye. If Clearlove has only one year remaining, this is a duo I would like to see — Clearlove with a mid laner of his choosing, who has finally developed into a jewel of the LPL in his own right. xiye is another proficient Twisted Fate player, who has finally learned the skill of creating map pressure in side lanes. There would be no excuses left.
Clearlove isn’t overrated, at least not catastrophically. He’s had impressive showings at home and internationally, just not at Worlds. He has narrow parameters for success that aren’t always met, and he has no one to fault for that but himself. When it comes to Clearlove, modify your expectations. Don't dismiss his greatness.
Sandbox mode on the horizon: Riot Games begins work on "single-player training mode"
Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports / Riot Games
Riot Games have begun work on the much requested in-game practice tools, or sandbox mode, for League of Legends, starting with a "single-player training mode," according to a joint blog post from Andrew “Riot Aeon” Brownell and Rowan “L4T3NCY” Parker posted on Friday.
Riot's proposed practice tool will allow players to have infinite gold, reset their cooldowns, lock their level and freeze minion spawns. A full feature list is still in the works, but they have stated that they're "currently not looking to develop a multiplayer training tool for organized team drills or pro-play specifically.
"Once we get the first version out, we’ll pay close attention to see if we missed anything in terms of how to become better by yourself," Aeon and L4T3NCY said in their blog post.
The news comes a year after Riot's blog post where they stated, "we never want to see a day when a player wants to improve at League and their first obligation is to hop into a Sandbox." In Riot's recent blog post, they admit that their initial thoughts were not in line with the rest of the community.
"A year ago, we shot ourselves in the foot with our first attempt at Riot Pls," Riot Aeon and L4T3NCY said in their blog post. "Back then we said that a practice tool — an environment where you could train solo, without restraints — wasn’t something we wanted to do. You disagreed, and we heard you."
No timeline is stated for the release of Riot's Practice Tool, but further updates are promised throughout the 2017 pre-season.
Here are some initial community reactions:
Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking AbaddonSlardarClinkzMedusaOracleaP90 my Souvenir Negev. You can follow him on Twitter.
A Place on the Map: Comparing Cloud9's Jensen and Royal's Xiaohu at Worlds
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games / 2016 World Championship
"If you want to prove yourself," Cloud9 mid laner Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen told Riot Games to kick off his second World Championship, "you have to beat Faker, and that’s what I’m going to do."
The hopeful mid laner’s aspirations were crushed almost instantly in his first game of the Group Stage, just shy of the six-minute mark when SK Telecom T1 jungler Bae "bengi" Seongwoong collapsed on an over-extended Jensen, granting Lee "Faker" Sanghyeok First Blood. What followed was a near-complete dismantling of Cloud9 from the mid lane, as Faker overtook the game; Jensen ended around 90 CS behind the World’s greatest mid laner, with a score line of 0/5/4.
Though Jensen spent most of the year improving and is regarded by many as having the best laning phase of LCS mid laners, he lacked the same impact in the Group Stage, and was unable to reliably gain laning leads against Faker and LMS star Huang "Maple" Yitang. In games where he did manage to secure a modest lead, he wasn't able to convert it into pressure.
Unlike Jensen, the tournament’s only Chinese mid laner, Li "Xiaohu" Yuanhao, has already had a strong showing against Faker, at the Mid-Season Invitational in May. Xiaohu’s first MSI match started with a mid lane gank orchestrated by himself and jungler Liu "Mlxg" Shiyu. When Faker cockily remained in lane, Xiaohu went in to finish what he started on his own. As the match progressed, RNG's mid continued to wear the Korean superstar down, picking him off in side lanes with Leblanc flanks.
Yet, although Xiaohu said before Worlds that he wanted the world to see what Chinese mids are made of, his story in the Group Stage was eerily similar to Jensen's. "Underperforming" was a frequent refrain among critics. Despite their fundamentally different styles and storylines, both mids failed to supply much-needed pressure for their teams across the rest of the map. Jensen didn’t convert his leads well, and Xiaohu fell behind or lagged in roams when he tried to make a move, partly due to poor team coordination.
To an extent, however, both mids redeemed themselves in their quarterfinals appearances. Though their teams both bowed out in the Round of 8, the two had some of their best showings of the event. In dissecting their performances — even their best games — it’s easy to see how both of them fell short of meta expectations at Worlds.
Xiaohu's struggles have been different from Jensen's, because he now plays a much more secondary role on his team. Heading into the summer season, Xiaohu was a contender for the title of the LPL's top mid laner, but he flared out abruptly. By the time Royal qualified for the World Championship, he was regarded as a glaring weakness on the lineup. After the LPL final against EDward Gaming, Xiaohu himself said, "In my current state, I feel like, no matter which mid laner I face, I won't be a match for him."
When Xiaohu was at his peak at the MSI Group Stage, he roamed frequently in conjunction with Cho “Mata” Sehyeong and Mlxg. Royal’s frequent skirmishing presented opportunities for Xiaohu to thrive, as he looked for flanks and openings in fights. On Friday, in Royal’s Worlds quarterfinal against SKT, that side of Xiaohu peeked through again. He played Vladimir in fights like he did Lissandra earlier in the season, searching for engagement opportunities that maximized the number of enemies he could impact.
His play was notable in part because of how much of a departure it was from the Royal style that has evolved over the course of this summer. After MSI, they altered their winning formula, in part because of the addition of lane-dominant AD carry Jian “Uzi” Zihao. Royal became much more focused on the laning phase, with each lane attempting to brute-force independently across the map. This hasn't gone as well as it could have, and they have had trouble with early coordination across their lanes.
Xiaohu in particular isn't as comfortable in a laning-focused role, because he lacks proficiency in the 1v1 that other mids like Jensen have honed. Moreover, in locking Xiaohu down in his lane, Royal have neglected one of their most underrated core components from 2016 Spring — that is, Xiaohu and Mata’s chain-crowd control on engage picks. With Mata staying bottom more often, the team’s overall coordination has dropped significantly, making Xiaohu much more awkward.
Royal's weak early-game coordination looks a lot like what troubled Cloud9 in the Worlds Group Stage, and for much of the summer before that. The American team has long been focused on brute-force laning of just this sort. Jensen has never been a roamer — he remains an almost permanent fixture of his mid lane domain. His strength is his near impeccable 1v1 style: his ability to dodge skillshots and trade efficiently while he farms. He thrived in a "win lane, win game" environment, averaging a 2.5 CS lead in the regular season, 31.1 percent of his team’s damage, and 25.9 percent of team gold with relatively low coordination with his jungler — the highest percentage of his team's gold of any Worlds mid laner during his regular summer split. Cloud9's resource allocation also shows how central he has been to their strategy.
Yet Cloud9 have had a problem with fragmented laning for much of the year. Their lane swaps often featured an isolated Jung "Impact" Eonyeong falling behind in CS and experience because the team didn’t know how to reallocate pressure to support him. The removal of lane swaps made this problem less obvious, but it was still there.
In their quarterfinal against Samsung Galaxy, Jensen did what he normally does. Though he individually outperformed Samsung’s Lee "Crown" Minho, he almost never left the mid lane. He did not pop his trinket ward, though he would occasionally venture to place a pink ward near the mid lane, either by wraiths or in a river bush. He would take his blue buff, or join a dragon take with the dragon almost completed by his team, but in general, Jensen didn’t roam for ganks or change his lane assignment in the first 15 minutes of any of Cloud9's three games. He simply pushed out.
If his opponent left lane for some reason, instead of following him, Jensen would push for another wave of minions under the turret. This tradeoff could be risky, especially if his flanks weren’t warded. With such plays, teams with better mid-jungle synergy, like Samsung, suddenly had an opening to gank Jensen and set Cloud9 substantially back on their lead.
Moreover, Cloud9's side lanes suffered from a lack of pressure, both from jungle and mid. Something as simple as Jensen ducking into a river bush could have caused the enemy top and bottom lanes to play more reserved, for fear of him roaming to gank after he disappeared from the map. But Jensen almost never considered the option of giving up mid lane pressure to create opportunities for his side laners to make plays.
C9's lack of cross-lane synergy seems to have also reinforced Meteos’ power-farming style, rather than pushing him to better coordinate. Against Samsung, Meteos would venture towards a lane, gank without much setup from the laner, and either force the opponent laner back or waste time. This awkwardness allowed Samsung to quickly adapt their pressure and set up for objectives better. It wasn't Meteos that made himself a non-threat, but the fact that Cloud9 almost never coordinated with him, which also nullified any impact Jensen could have.
Royal had very similar problems with fragmented coordination across lanes, especially in the Group Stage, but Xiaohu’s more successful games highlighted the pressure he can bring (and hasn't for much of the summer). In RNG's first quarterfinals game against SKT, Xiaohu changed his lane assignment to allow his side lanes to continue to pressure strong matchups after SKT attempted a swap. He also roamed top lane for a game-winning flank on Vladimir.
It was when Xiaohu didn’t leave his lane, or was slower than Faker to react to possible plays, that disaster struck. In Games 2 and 3, Faker secured better pushing lane picks like Varus, so he could roam to the bottom lane more proactively than Xiaohu. In Game 4, Xiaohu had an impressive initial impact with a roaming Aurelion Sol, but a key top lane play was countered by Faker’s roam bottom when Xiaohu backed and returned mid to catch the wave. That was the moment when the game turned back in SKT’s favor, and RNG ultimately lost the series.
Xiaohu’s growing discomfort through the summer split seems to have been a result of Royal's transition to a lane matchup team like Cloud9. As the season progressed, their new, more isolated laning-focused style of play became a drain on Xiaohu, who, without the opportunity to coordinate with Mata and Mlxg to make plays, averaged the lowest percentage of team gold among mid laners in the LPL and started falling behind in CS more often.
Mlxg has started attempting to power-farm much more like Meteos, but his inefficient pathing reflects the same fundamental lack of communication between laners and jungler that Cloud9 suffers from. Both junglers have commented on the importance their teams place on winning lanes outright — Mlxg, in an interview after the Group Stage, explained that the team relies less on his roaming with Mata so that they can have stronger lanes to stand up to opponents. “The reason we decided to change our strategy is that we noticed a lot of teams are playing really strong bottom lanes, so they can have a lot of advantage in the lane,” he said. That sounded a lot like Meteos, who in his own post-Groups interview said, “Going into Worlds, stuff like Karma and Nami bot lane looked really really strong because, in scrims — bot lanes would just play full aggro all the time not caring about the rest of the map.”
Jensen is an obviously more comfortable laner than Xiaohu, and Cloud9 domestically gained a lot of advantages from his laning skill, but he still has much room for improvement. In an interview after their loss to SKT, he acknowledged that he has faults, but pointed out how far he has come since Worlds 2015. “In the beginning, I was just like — I wouldn't say brainless, but I would say I was just way too over-aggressive," he said. "It bit me sometimes, but I think I came out smarter and understood the game better on a macro level ... I'm still one of the best mechanical players, so I just need to become better in that aspect.”
Especially in the current Worlds meta, better macro understanding means being able to play around and with the jungler. Even though it looked like Samsung Galaxy won every lane at once, it wasn’t because Cloud9’s players were unskilled, but because they couldn't convert a lead in one lane to pressure on the other side of the map — either by Teleport use, deep vision, or a mid laner who roamed with lane control rather than relentlessly pushing turret.
Jensen had an exceptional individual summer, and Xiaohu a poor one, but their similar struggles with game impact and World Championship trajectories provide hope for both. They fell short in map positioning more than anything else, which is something they can fix with their teammates.
Maybe next year they’ll both return the better for it. And if Jensen wants another shot, it’s clear Faker isn’t going anywhere.
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games / LoL esports
ROX Tigers have defeated EDward Gaming 3-1 in the quarterfinals of the 2016 World Championship. They advance to the semifinals, where they will face SKT Telecom T1 for a chance to secure a spot in the Grand Finals on Oct. 29.
ROX quickly took control of Game 1 in the opening minutes and did not lose momentum throughout, as the entire team combined for four deaths while securing 18 kills in their 35-minute win. In particular, Song "Smeb" Kyung-Ho thoroughly outplayed Tong "Koro1" Yang with the assistance of Yun "Peanut" Wang-ho, going 2/1/10 on Jayce and holding a 30 CS lead over his fellow top laner at the game's end.
In Game 2, ROX built off of their Game 1 victory in a quick 26-minute victory that saw EDG collapse in fight after fight against their Korean opponents. While EDG secured one more kill than the previous game, they failed to take a single tower over the course of the game. Lee "KurO" Seo-haeng's Aurelion Sol was the star of this game, ending the game with a 4/0/12 KDA in the quickest game of the series.
The beginning of Game 3 featured similar themes to the previous two games: ROX secures several pick offs, slowly building up a gold lead before preventing EDG from going on the offensive. Unlike the previous two games however, EDG managed to counteract the Koreans' initiation, taking a 4K gold lead at 20 minutes. With that foundation, EDG began to push each lane one at a time to slowly wear down ROX, culminating in their first victory of the series.
Despite EDG coming into Game 4 with a victory under their belt, ROX looked rejuvenated, harassing EDG across all lanes with Peanut's Olaf, who would go on to take a 11/0/5 KDA with a 100 percent kill participation by the end of the game. In the mid game, ROX continually forced fights, and EDG put up next to no resistance as their lanes were pushed in one by one. An Ace by Peanut sealed the series in 32 minutes, as ROX advanced to their second straight Worlds semifinal appearance.
ROX will play SKT on Oct. 21 to see which team will secure the first spot in the Worlds finals.
"€20 million invested and one promise: to win all video game matches. It's why Paris Saint-Germain presented its new recruits with great pomp," a TV5 Monde news anchor says at the beginning of a television segment on the team.
The report, which is credited to Bastien Borie, Guillaume Gouet and Alexandre Ageneau, does not cite a specific source when discussing the €20 million figure.
In a response to a question posed on a Reddit Ask Me Anything thread, a PSG spokesperson said that the the team did not release the €20 million figure and that that amount of money was not invested into their EU CS team. The spokesperson failed to clarify whether or not the figure was related to the organization's general esports budget.
"We never gave any number to anyone, but well this is far, far away from the truth," PSG stated. "We have a pretty decent budget for an European League of Legends team, but we are as for now here to learn. Our main goal is to qualify for LCS"
On social media, G2 Esports founder Carlos "ocelote" Rodriguez reacted to the the TV5 MONDE report saying that the €20 million figure was false.
PSG made their official entry to esports on Oct. 20, where they revealed that Bora "YellOwStaR" Kim would manage their esports division and announced an EUCS League of Legends team and the signing of two FIFA players.
Even if the sum represents an initial investment and not an annual operating budget, it's unclear how exactly that money would be (or has been) spent. When ESPN esports' Jacob Wolf reported that PSG had purchased the team's Challenger Series spot from Team HUMA, the reported cost was $70,000.
While PSG have not directly commented on the report, they did however respond nebulously to a tweet discussing the €20 million figure.
Interest in French esports has exploded in recent months. ESL, CANAL Group and Vivendi inked a partnership to develop and broadcast new French esports leagues less than two weeks ago, while the increased competition recently drove Melty esport club to close its doors, citing "an explosion of costs" that forced them to bow out.
This article was last updated on 10/24/16 at 3:32 PM