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.

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Traps in the Bang vs. Deft debate

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"Next time, I hope we can play in a best-of-five or best-of-three setting. Deft and I have been friends for a long time, but this was our first chance to face each other. A best-of-one won't tell us who is better. I hope we meet at a higher stage in the competition."

Bae “Bang” Junsik after SK Telecom T1 defeated EDward Gaming in the 2015 Mid-Season Invitational Group Stage

Thirty-four percent of team damage dealt to champions in the 2016 spring split. That number, hidden among other statistics that filled the graphic detailing EDward Gaming’s starting lineup for their series against Royal Never Give Up, sat just below Kim “deft” Hyukkyu’s name. That number, and deft’s continued aggression as an AD carry, prompted members of the LPL English casting crew to once again crown deft as the greatest AD carry in the world.

Though some rumblings suggest Jian “Uzi” Zihao as an alternative, the largest objection comes from advocates that SK Telecom T1’s Bang holds the title. Though Bang’s 29 percent of team damage dealt doesn’t look as impressive on paper, he stood as the exemplary AD carry of 2015, slowly building himself as a focal point on the team, capable of pulling the limelight from Lee "Faker" Sanghyeok.

With the exception of Gu “imp” Seungbin’s jaw-dropping 2015 LPL Summer playoff performance, over the past two years, it’s been hard to argue that any AD carry except deft or Bang should hold the title of being the world’s best. As the primary carry of EDward Gaming and one of Samsung Blue's main carries, deft won 2014 Champions Spring, made at least Top 8 at two World Championships, won the 2015 LPL Spring Split and the Mid-Season Invitational for good measure. Bang, second only to, and on rare occasions out-performing, Faker, has won multiple domestic titles, the 2015 World Championship and the 2016 Mid-Season Invitational with SK Telecom T1.

The two have a friendly and competitive relationship, and comparing them poses an interesting thought experiment, but ultimately several arguments keep resurfacing. As the differences between deft’s and Bang’s level come out somewhat negligibly, the task becomes assessing the validity of these arguments themselves and ultimately defining the factors that contribute to the strengths and weaknesses demonstrated by both players.

By the numbers

Metric Bang Deft
KDA 8.5 6.4
Gold% 25.2 24.6
CS@10 Difference 9.5 2.9
KP% 72.3 76.9
Death% 19 19.9
Damage% 29 33.7*

*All EDward Gaming damage numbers do not include their series against Royal Never Give Up.

Due to recency, SKT's numbers do not include their series against Afreeca Freecs

Based on the limited data availability for LPL players, Bang and Deft display overall similar statistics. Both teams allocate similar gold resources to Bang and deft, and during games, Bae "bengi" Seongwoong has lately developed a taste for ganking bottom, while it’s well known that EDward Gaming’s Ming “clearlove” Kai all but lives near deft’s lane. Both players average a positive CS lead at 10 minutes, but SK Telecom T1 lane swap more often than EDward Gaming, which could slightly inflate the statistic.

Yet the numbers debaters most often gravitate toward when comparing deft and Bang is percentage of team damage dealt. When players receive an MVP award for a specific match in the LPL, the statistics for the match will display on screen. deft has dealt as much as 50 percent of his team’s damage in a single game, initially tipping off spectators to the overall number. While these MVP instances usually highlight only the best, an overall 33.7 percent of team damage dealt is still incredibly impressive.

Only four players in the five major leagues deal a larger percentage of their team’s damage to champions than deft: Echo Fox’s Henrik “Froggen” Hansen, FC Schalke 04’s Hampus "Fox" Myhre, Machi E-sports’ Chen "Dee" Jun-Dee and Midnight Sun Esports’ Chen "M1ssion" Hsiaohsien. None of these teams sit at the top of their league like EDward Gaming or SK Telecom T1, as it’s become increasingly rare for a squad with close to a single damage threat to dominate a league.

Yet EDward Gaming don’t have just a single damage threat either. Lee “scout” Yechan, EDward Gaming’s current starting mid laner, deals 28.5 percent of the team’s damage to champions, which is not too different from 28.4 percent of team damage dealt to champions by SK Telecom T1's Faker. Additionally, though damage percentage statistics are not shown on the LPL broadcast for junglers, clearlove more often than bengi takes a damage dealing role.

The main source of discrepancy comes in the top lane. The meta has recently started to shift in favor of SK Telecom T1’s top laner, Lee “Duke” Hoseong, who performs best on more split-pushing carry champions. He has recently played both Fiora and Irelia, while EDward Gaming’s current top laner, Chen “mouse” Yuhao, has at most played an incredibly tanky Fizz. mouse receives 19.8 percent of team gold, less than jungler clearlove, while Duke receive 22.3 percent of team gold.

The damage percentage differences reflect the discrepancy. mouse, often left in the top lane to fend entirely for himself, deals only 15.1 percent of the team’s damage to champions while Duke deals 23 percent. This difference more than accounts for the difference between the amount of team damage dealt by deft and Bang.

Given that Bang and deft have played similar champions this split, one can determine that the team damage output is less a dismissal of Bang than a reflection of how the different teams set up their carry threats. While deft is certainly known for dealing a heavy amount of damage, Bang also sits in the top two of Champions Korea for damage per minute at 696, only below Samsung’s Lee "Crown" Minho.

Numbers themselves can occasionally misrepresent how a situation plays out, which is why far more than numbers are needed to sift through the differences between Bang and deft.

The Faker factor

But he has Faker on his team.

This short phrase has been used to dismiss members of SK Telecom T1 and their skill since Season 3. While certainly Faker has contributed fundamentally to SKT’s success, players like Jang "MaRin" Gyeonghwan and Lee "Easyhoon" Jihoon have both suggested that part of their motivation for leaving SKT was to make a name for themselves outside Faker’s shadow.

In several series, including SKT’s most recent loss to Jin Air, Faker has gotten punished for forward positioning in lane or in team fights, and in these instances Bang has shown his value. In Game 2 of the Jin Air series, Bang’s ability to position self-sufficiently on Ezreal and deal damage made this game winnable relative to the other two while Faker performed poorly.

Of all AD carries internationally, Ezreal does the second highest percentage of team damage on average (next to Miss Fortune, who sees much less play) and has the ability to reposition much more easily than Jhin or Ashe, the champions Bang played in SKT’s losses to Jin Air.

bengi (and Kang "Blank" Sungu) has also focused much more on ganking bottom lane, while clearlove has gravitated toward mid lane more often than he has in the past this season. Partly because Faker's role shifted to one more based on initiation in 2016 LCK Spring, SKT have propped up Bang more as their primary carry recently than Faker. Even then, Duke and Faker have contributed more carry performances to SK Telecom T1 than mouse or scout to EDward Gaming.

More pressure exists on deft to perform and carry every game relative to Bang. That doesn’t necessarily make deft the better player. Both players have had questionable performances in recent memory. Against Royal Never Give Up, the one game EDward Gaming lost started snowballing off a gank on deft when EDG had recently had vision of RNG’s jungler Liu “Mlxg” Shiyu nearby, and he died after flashing in front of his front line for a kill in a later instance besides mispositioning and forcing questionable lane trades.

Meanwhile, Bang’s Kalista game against MVP featured him using his passive too liberally to position far forward and getting caught out for it. Yet both players have also performed well when the rest of the team didn’t and secured wins in unlikely scenarios.

A more valid argument against Bang than, “but he has Faker on his team,” may be that, because SK Telecom T1 plays strategically well, hiding flaws in lane swaps and making generally superior decisions relative to their opponents, it becomes increasingly hard to judge individual players. Since SKT almost always execute their lane swap well, for example, Bang will often get ahead in these situations. As he does pressure his advantages well, however, this is hardly different from deft frequently finding himself the happy benefactor of clearlove’s counterganks.

Bang has been with Wolf forever

Frankly speaking, one can qualify the differences between how Bang and deft play by observing trends. In the past, many have described the difference between their laning phase as deft and Tian “meiko” Ye’s search for the kill as they attempt to zone their opponents off minions, while Bang and Lee “Wolf” Jaewan neutralize disadvantages rather than trying to create more pressure.

Outside Alistar, Wolf has demonstrated less proficiency playing tanky engage supports than mage supports, while meiko has always excelled on the likes of Thresh, Annie, or other all-in melee supports. A support often dictates the level of aggression in lane, and this has become increasingly clear watching deft’s development.

With Lee “Heart” Gwanhyung on Samsung Blue, deft gave up a lot of deaths to questionable trades in lane, and his synergy with Heart never seemed as strong as other bottom lanes in the region. His poor laning phase was the most common criticism levied against deft.

In the LPL, in part due to additional jungle pressure and meiko’s willingness to engage (as a new LPL pro, one of meiko’s flaws came in the form of wanting to engage every time an ability came off cooldown), deft’s laning improved considerably. Now, deft and meiko often stand in front of minion waves and use their threat zones as a duo to force their opponents back or poke them down. They can choose weak early lanes like Ezreal and Braum and still win 2v2s against most bottom lanes.

For Bang and Wolf, Wolf’s increased comfort on picks like Soraka or Nami has made Bang and Wolf a more pressure-intensive lane this summer. In instances where SKT does take the 2v2, Bang and Wolf have seemed more likely to trade with their opponents or look for duels. They usually look for small harass or farm leads and wait for a jungle gank, but against the Tigers, for example, they took 2v2 fights on their own.

Bang has played with Wolf for years, from as far back as when he played for NaJin Shield. This has certainly influenced his development as a player, but deft has had meiko as his lane companion for one-and-a-half years as well. The synergy between both pairs seems seamless. meiko has reigned in some of his eagerness and become more patient, and he and deft win lane trades on a consistent basis, even when opponents ban multiple supports against him.

On SK Telecom T1, Bang usually compensates for Wolf’s discomfort by taking a more conservative laning phase, but when Wolf is in his element, SKT’s bottom lane can trade as well as EDG’s. Arguably, Bang has shown more flexibility in that his shift in laning focus seemed automatic, while deft's journey to become a more aggressive AD carry was a more extended process.

In general, both AD carries play aggressively. In teamfights, Bang doesn’t stand far from the front line. When he gets caught by short duration single target CC, Wolf reacts automatically with a heal or peel, which has allowed Bang to position further forward in a meta where his support is more comfortable even outside the lane.

deft seems to get caught by these small crowd controls less, though he also positions close to his opponents to increase his damage output. When deft toes the line of a teamfight, he either reacts quickly or predicts a skillshot to sidestep it. In 2v2s, Bang is much more likely to do this, either because he has fewer opponents to focus on or because in larger fights he knows if he gets caught, his teammates will collapse around him to either guard him or close the fight without him.

This seems like a newer development this split, which suggests Bang takes more risks because his support feels more comfortable. Typically, Bang uses terrain to split off from his team and deal free damage, while deft stands near his team and will step away from them if it’s necessary to dodge. deft may have more confidence his opponents won’t hit him either due to his own skill or their lack of focus.

But deft is in China

When Korean players go to China, many claim they lose form or motivation. Yet deft reportedly still has incredible drive to win to the point that ex-EDG Manager Huang “San Shao” Cheng recalled that deft cried in his office, wanting to leave the team after 2015 Worlds because he wanted to win.

Outside the motivation factor, the argument also exists that there is less competition in China, yet players like imp and Uzi still play in the LPL, and deft lately outdoes them comparatively. deft’s positioning and even skill in lane has become comparable to or surpassed his previous rivals. While imp and Uzi arguably will have a better laning phase on average, deft’s ability to command the 2v2 alongside meiko allows him to best them in duels on occasion in addition to his existing powerful teamfight presence.

While deft playing in China generally comes as a mark against him, it’s also been used as an excuse in his favor. “deft struggles with a language barrier, yet still performs well” or “deft lacks the support of advanced Korean infrastructure.” As deft has played with the same jungler and support for a year and a half, the impact of the language barrier seems increasingly irrelevant, and lacking Korean infrastructure doesn’t necessarily make exhibited individual skill more or less impressive.

Consistency

When I speak to consistency so far in this article, I’ve spoken mostly of within the 2016 season. deft has shown more aptitude in the past for skillshot-based AD carries like Ezreal and Lucian (even Jinx, to an extent, given his aptitude for using her Zap! and Super Mega Death Rocket!), which has made most of the season well-suited to his style.

deft also has a reputation for a sensitive temperament and being an emotional player. Cho “Mata” Sehyeoung has gone so far as to call him a “cry baby.” Given alleged internal problems within EDward Gaming in the 2015 LPL Summer Split, one may assume that deft’s downturn in performance had something to do with a tense environment influencing his emotional state.

Yet Bang has seemingly done nothing but steadily improve since joining SK Telecom. Having started as a less impressive member of SKT T1 S, Bang has slowly developed into a clear front-runner for best AD carry in the world, and has even held the title definitively for parts of his career.

That doesn’t mean Bang doesn’t have bad games or even periods of poor performance. At the Mid-Season Invitational, though Bang performed well on the first day of SKT’s losses, he made just as many mistakes as Faker and the rest of the team on the second day of SKT’s four game loss streak. All told, this is significantly different from deft’s near split-long slump.

deft may well be the best AD carry in the world this summer, but given any day in the future, the gap between the two is small enough that Bang seems like a more reliable bet. Who will be the best AD carry at the 2016 World Championship? Assuming both teams attend, it’s easier to give “Bang” as an answer.

The Verdict

Given how stalwartly I’ve defended Bang, one may find it surprising to learn that at the moment I consider deft the best AD carry between the two. The main reason I choose deft is that he’s able to position further forward in teamfights with fewer catches. deft will still make mistakes that cost his team, but he seems to get hit by fewer short duration crowd control abilities than Bang at the moment, though how much this matters in the long run remains open to interpretation, as it hardly ever even results in Bang’s death.

Both players navigate teamfights well and look for trades in lane. Both players synergize well with their supports. SKT and EDward Gaming both invest a lot of resources into their AD carries, making them look like the primary focal points of their teams this year. Both teams have secondary threats, though EDward Gaming’s top laner does a staggeringly low percentage of team damage.

Rather than decide definitively on the best AD carry in the world, incorrect or misleading arguments in the debate motivated the construction of this article. Statistically and structurally speaking, very little separates Bang and deft in terms of skill. One can’t make a stock point or list a number and leave it at that.

Before making a decision, spend time watching both and determine the answer based on what they show you in game. Either way, they'll make it worth it.

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

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Loveling returns to competitive play

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Oh My God's Weibo announced that Yin "Loveling" Le, jungler and support for the team between 2013 and 2015, will return to the roster.

In OMG's statement, the team revealed that Loveling will be able to play in their matches going forward. They also thanked OMG fans for their continued support, but did not specify when Loveling would start.

Many rumors have recently circulated in the Chinese community regarding Loveling's possible return. He has streamed less frequently, and his solo queue account has climbed rapidly in the rankings.

Loveling, frequently known to OMG fans as "the tactician," may fill a role in the team in terms of shotcalling. If he does play, he will likely start as a jungler. He previously retired from competitive play after three years in the LPL and was part of the original OMG squad that won 2013 LPL Spring.

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

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Kelsey Moser's 2016 LPL Summer Mid-Season Review

by 2d ago

It’s that time again. That time where I make seemingly-arbitrary decisions about the best and worst things that the League of Legends Pro League has to offer. When teams make seemingly-arbitrary roster decisions or draft all losing lanes for seemingly arbitrary reasons, it feels in line with expectations. Naturally, there are absolutely explanations on both sides.

Yet not everything is the same as last split. It’s only fair to highlight that the LPL has made conservative gains in macro play comparatively. Lane swap strategies have improved, and intelligent trades have allowed certain teams like I May to rise through the standings when they otherwise would not.

Even with rosters less holistic and clipped in places, the LPL feels like teams are finding more well-rounded solutions to problems. Newbee and LGD Gaming, despite poor starts, have secured wins, and Snake eSports finally have a team identity. EDward Gaming, with apparent solo lane downgrades, have regained the spring in their step.

Teams must continue to climb to recover their glory, and a constantly shifting landscape will eventually coalesce. In the meantime, the summer has reached its halfway point. While LPL squads travel to Suzhou for the Demacia Cup, it’s time to reflect.

Top story: The strike of the coiled Snake

Snake eSports felt like there was something missing in their day-to-day life — then they acquired a new jungler and suddenly everything has been trending upwards. Though a great deal of shuffling has occurred in the LPL, including the addition of Jian “Uzi” Zihao, the rise of I May, and EDward Gaming's continued dominance, Snake’s story has still garnered the most attention.

Having played in the Garena Pro League as a jack of all trades for Full Louis, Lê "SofM" Quang Duy temporarily found himself on the bench due to his age. After returning to play, he received bids from teams in the Southeast, he finally found a home on Snake eSports. His high elo solo queue play has earned him epithets like “Vietnamese Faker” or “Lee Sin jungle god,” and Snake’s bid to acquire him would either stand out as the greatest stroke of genius or an embarrassing transgression.

Since SofM joined Snake, they’ve only lost three games (an unfortunate 0-2 at the hands of LGD Gaming and a single stumble against WE). They contend for second in their group, and possibly third place in the League of Legends Pro League. SofM’s extremely aggressive play has put him at the top of percentage of team gold in his role, with Nidalee kills breaking the double digits in a single game.

Yet analysts have begun to scrutinize SofM’s play and find it predictable. Against Invictus Gaming, Oh My God, and LGD, teams have managed to keep him from snowballing. In these instances, he’s continued to charge forward disastrously and had to rely on his teammates to pull him back into the game.

So far, the magic that SofM brings to Snake is less solo carry performances and more the ability to unite the team. All last split, Snake scrambled for a unifying identity, and SofM so far, for better or worse, seems to be it.

Whether or not SofM adapts will determine how far this team climbs. SofM, short for “Style of Me,” clearly reflects SofM’s desire to play his style. He’s said in interviews that he focuses getting himself ahead before helping his teammates. Top squads will either find ways to exploit this — or they won’t. LPL’s first non-Korean import could prove to be their most valuable.

That’s worth tuning into the LPL every week.

Main Rivalry: EDward Gaming vs Royal Never Give Up

Prior to the highlight match that opened the intergroup stage, the League of Legends Pro League aired clips of Royal Never Give Up and EDward Gaming players in game, flitting through rapidly before “Revenge” appeared on screen, hovering between the faces of Ming “clearlove” Kai and Liu “Mlxg” Shiyu. Production framed the 2016 LPL Spring final as a confrontation of two Chinese junglers leading each other on a collision course. This regular season confrontation was meant to be about revenge.

If clearlove wanted revenge, he got it. EDward Gaming abused blue side to get advantages in the 2v2 with help from their jungler, and clearlove’s counter-ganking sense seemed to set Mlxg continuously on the backfoot in Game 1. Yet the real surprise came from the bottom lane. The 2v2 prowess of Kim “deft” Hyukkyu and Tian “meiko” Ye unseated Uzi and Cho “Mata” Sehyeong. They looked untouchable.

Yet Royal had one dominant game. They floored EDG with strong lane matchups in match two and got the 2v2 advantage. The series left both teams feeling somewhat one-dimensional, but RNG adapted by setting more jungle pressure across the map in their match against Invictus Gaming.

All told, despite EDward Gaming’s struggles in their solo lane positions, it feels like a true rivalry between two strong teams exists in the LPL for the first time in a long time. They both have exploitable weaknesses, but their strengths align. Jungle and bottom lane will take a victory in LPL this split. As the playoffs loom, the question only becomes which one.

Biggest Disappointment: Newbee Gaming

LGD Gaming have taken a break from occupying this category, as there are only so many splits a team can disappoint before it becomes expected. To an extent, Newbee’s flop was also expected, but they’ve finished Week 5 in fourth in Group A just above Invictus Gaming and below Game Talents. For a team topping their group this time last split, that’s a long fall.

Newbee habitually draft losing lanes, and with a jungler who constantly seems confused as to where he should farm and which side of the map matches his team’s strengths, it’s nearly impossible for Newbee to bootstrap back in for a late game comeback. Though Kim “Doinb” Taesang doesn’t command the same body of work as Bae “dade” Eojin his presence as an aggressive mid game bridge did a lot of work for Newbee as a team, and they’ve suffered since.

An impressive single game victory over Royal Never Give Up to close the week came as the result of the team drafting strong lane matchups and a powerful early game jungle pick in Elise. Unfortunately, Newbee reverted to their old ruts in Game 3, but the signs are there. This team should be good.

They just aren’t.

Best Surprise: I May’s macro play

I May’s underwhelming showing in both the League of Legends Secondary Pro League and its playoff run didn’t give them high expectations going into the new split. After only beating two teams in their group, they found a second wind in the intergroup and have squashed fellow rising stars, Game Talents, to sit in second place in Group B for the time being.

None of I May’s players feel particularly strong relative to their peers in the LPL, and they’ve had cocky draft blunders that leave them without wave clear. Yet they have a better understanding of when and how to trade turrets. Their identity has a simple formula of Hong Kong top lane and jungle duo getting ahead to spread the lead to the rest of the map, then rotating for turrets faster. So far, it has gotten them more wins than expected.

I May won’t win the LPL, but they’re demonstrating the value of prioritizing objectives and understanding when to make a Teleport call. That’s something even the top teams could use a little more of internationally.

Moment of the first half: SofM takes over for Snake eSports

After a desolate first week, I had already written Snake off as a disappointment on par with LGD and Newbee. The team lacked focus and split apart as if dropped from a great height at a mere dragon contest. This looked to be Snake’s worst split so far.

Yet the arrival of jungle talent SofM set the team to rights. I can’t stress enough that SofM’s skill in and of itself hasn’t pulled Snake from the brink, but the confidence his presence seems to inspire. SofM still is far from the best jungler in the LPL. He needs more refinement and creativity in decision making, but he obviously has contagious confidence. Sometimes that’s all it takes to make champions.

Players of the first half

With teams rising despite cobbled rosters, ascribing value to a single player has become more challenging. Much of my criteria remains consistent. Teams that play well around a role make a player look stronger, players best integrated into their teams will have an inherent bias for skill.

Yet some roles, especially top lane, haven’t been used the most effectively. When judging top laners, one has to look at what they do correctly and some of the wasted potential before coming to the most optimal conclusion.

Top lane: Newbee’s V

Bao “V” Bo returns as my mid-season top laner for the second split in a row. This time around, it may be more difficult to make a case for him, but he continues to lane powerfully, engage well, and Teleport optimally, even while Newbee play scattered.

Averaging 14 cs over his opponent at ten minutes, V demonstrates a skill that makes him extremely valuable in the LPL: an ability to play on an island and still command a lead. Newbee rarely draft winning lane matchups, yet V still leads in cs per minute and still is able to create effective flanks in team fights.

dade and Yu “Peco” Rui, by contrast, almost always seem to fall behind in lane. When Newbee do succeed, either Baek “Swift” Dahoon has decided to play toward V’s side of the map, or V has created a zoning opportunity in a team fight for his carries to take advantage and play from behind. Newbee would be in a far worse state without V’s attempts to bridge the gap between early and late game.

LPL is full of players like V that rarely receive jungle attention, but V has demonstrated the best ability to deal with these situations and come out ahead while playing a wide variety of playstyles and champions. Jang "Looper" Hyeongseok makes a solid case for runner up, but his laning phases are more temperamental as a tradeoff for Teleports bottom lane. Ultimately, V has excelled in surviving self-sufficiently, and could be a cornerstone if Newbee climb back to relevance.

Jungle: EDward Gaming’s clearlove

Aside from having a fascination with Skarner (or perhaps in part because of his fascination with Skarner), clearlove remains the most creative jungler in the LPL. His pathing usually allows him to find the appropriate countergank, and his ability to exert pressure on the bottom lane on blue side means that, despite picking losing matchups, EDG have yet to lose a blue side game.

As jungle talent continues to evolve in the LPL, this is becoming an increasingly stacked role. Mlxg has made a larger case for himself with increases warding habits and more variety in his pathing as he farms early. SofM, though he is not the most creative jungler, has boldly unsettled other players through consistency, and his impact on Snake in and of itself makes him worth mentioning.

clearlove’s play has some inconsistencies to it. If he doesn’t continue to hone his skills and vary his approach, he’ll lose his perch. Skarner’s low pressure may not be the answer, especially if his own team is asking him not to pick it after two games, but he can pull out Kha'Zix when things look dire.

Mid: Invictus Gaming’s RooKie

Song “RooKie” Euijin returns to the list yet again as the best mid laner in the LPL. Despite Invictus Gaming occupying an even lower rung on the ladder than Newbee, the case for RooKie is overwhelming. His high damage numbers, ingenuity on high skill champions like Taliyah, and ability to nearly solo carry games make him the best mid laner in the league at a time when most mid laners simply sit and wave clear.

Though RooKie gets a great deal of attention from his jungler and Invictus Gaming as a team does make slight improvements, his impact is obvious. RooKie leads the league's mids.

This split, more than last, however, some other mid laners have had greater growth. Li “xiaohu” Yuanho demonstrated his star power at MSI and continues to perform reliably for Royal Never Give Up. Bong "Republic" Geuntae’s powerful laning makes him an unexpected contender. WE’s Su “xiye” Hanwei has finally begun to emerge from his solo queue star chrysalis and improve his team play.

Yet RooKie still makes the gap between him and the rest of the pack obvious.

ADC: EDward Gaming’s deft

I’ve gone into greater detail to make a case for deft being the best AD carry in the world, but within the League of Legends Pro League, deft has never felt like a more complete package. His laning and synergy with meiko has exceeded any previous level, and he continues to position well, especially in a meta that favors his champion pool where he can play Ezreal frequently.

Uzi is still less adaptable than deft, committed to a laning-oriented style, and WE’s Jin "Mystic" Seongjun has fewer picks where he can provide a high level game impact. Perhaps deft’s ever-present rival, Gu “imp” Seungbin might, provide more competition, but he’s spent too many games lately farming single-mindedly with less team coordination.

Support: Royal Never Give Up’s Mata

It may no longer be reasonable to say that Mata has more mechanical prowess and versatility than meiko. meiko has demonstrated fantastic gains and deserves to enter the conversation of LPL’s best support. His warding from behind remains a major asset, and he seems capable of performing impossible feats on a wide variety of high skill champion picks.

This is when intangibles start to matter. When your entire team sings your praises and insists that you’ve taught them the game, there’s no way meiko can compete for the title of LPL’s best support with Mata on the table.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter for Mata memes.

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Blood vs Ice: Getting Over the Vladimir Obsession

Tim Sevenhuysen 7h ago

Riot's mid-season mage rework has transformed Vladimir from a niche pick to one of the highest priorities in the pro scene, especially in the LCS.

With the ability to lane efficiently, push side waves proficiently and teamfight exceptionally it's easy to understand why the Crimson Reaper has become such a popular pick.

However, with all of his upside, Vladimir is far from perfect. theScore esports breaks down the numbers behind what might be a shocking difference between his results and his pick/ban rate.

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2016 League of Legends All-Star event to take place in Barcelona

by 5d ago

The 2016 League of Legends All-Star event will take place in Barcelona at the Palau Sant Jordi between Dec. 8-11, Riot Games announced Friday.

The format of invites to this year’s All-Star event will be similar to last year’s, with teams from each region eligible to be voted into the event by fans, then separated into two teams, Team Fire or Team Ice, depending on how they performed at either the 2016 World Championships or 2016 MSI.

Last year’s All-Star event took place between Dec.r 10-13 2015 in Los Angeles, California. Shockingly, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok lost to Henrik “Froggen” Hansen in the first round of the 1v1 bracket. Froggen only made it to the event after Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martinez dropped out in late November. The overall winners of the 2015 event were Team Fire, who were made up of All-Stars from the LCK, LMS and NA LCS regions.

Annabelle "Abelle" Fischer is a writer for theScore esports with a love for Dota 2, birds and cheese. You can follow her on Twitter.

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