NALCS Power Rankings: The greatest sentence I’ve ever written

In my hands is a check. A real check. I had finally convinced someone that my content was something worth more than a chuckle and five minutes during a lunch break. In high school, I was a journalism student writing scathing articles about the administration and puff pieces on our Valentine’s Day fundraisers. In college, I majored in political science and journalism until I realized school just wasn’t for me. After jobs in retail and esports, I’ve come full circle: People want to read what I write.

For someone who’s been searching for his purpose in life for a long time, it has been a long journey, one that I’m sure will have numerous more twists and turns. No one can guess when a peer will throw you under the bus and force you to find a substitute for your initial plans. No one is prepared to become disinterested in something you’ve spent your whole school career studying, only to find a new one in competitive video games. I’m not great at them, but I can write.

I opened that check in the middle of writing this article and from the surge of pride came up with perhaps the best — if not favorite — sentence I have ever written. Hopefully it’s obvious enough to stick out, and thanks to Vince, Joe, and the rest of Slingshot, will be the first of many to come.

All statistics are courtesy of Oracle’s Elixir.

1. Immortals (6-0. Last week: 1. Difference: -)

 

Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

Any time I try to find fault with Immortals, the universe shoots it down. Can support Adrian “Adrian” Ma play anything other than Janna? Yep, Soraka. Its vision is among the worst in the League of Legends Championship Series, but it’s equal to the worst vision team in Korea, which just happens to be the first-place ROX Tigers.

I give up. Immortals is really good.

Every player on the team has continued to surpass their 2015 campaign. Jason “WildTurtle” Tran has only died four times, and mid laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park has played six different champions, nearly matching last summer’s total of eight. Even Fnatic transplants Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin are proving their growth on Fnatic can be continued outside its structure. The free-flowing nature of not only Immortals’ play style, but observed relationships matches the feel good story of the classic 2001 Christmas film “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys,” with Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington replacing Rudolph and Hermey the Elf Dentist.

Feel-good nature aside, Immortals has lived up to the hype created by rumored preseason scrimmage results. Its players’ past performances hang like a dark cloud, but sometimes a shiny red nose is exactly what Santa needs.

2. NRG Esports (4-2. LW: 2. -)

NRG quickly rectified Saturday’s champion select problems with a well-thought Sunday game plan designed to take advantage of a very reactionary Team SoloMid. The selection of Zilean allowed NRG multiple opportunities to reengage onto TSM due to the champions’ inherent utility. The selection further emphasized NRG’s ability to think outside the box while also taking advantage of mid laner Lee “GBM” Chang-seok’s massive champion pool.

Jungler Galen “Moon” Holgate’s growth, on the other hand, has come to a slow halt as the rookie has failed to live up to the expectations set by analysts in the preseason. Moon had a similar slow start in the Challenger scene and gradually grew into one of the best junglers in the amateur circuit. His middling kill participation and CS numbers show a jungler that is still treading water, but his higher than average vision control and low death numbers show he’s not yet costing his team. For NRG, this might be enough to get into the playoffs, but without substantial growth could be an issue when it comes to challenging for the spring title.

3. Counter Logic Gaming (4-2. LW 6. +3)

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“Once CLG can play without relying on Darshan to control one half of the map, it’ll move higher. But not a moment sooner.” ~ Walter “Ceades” Fedczuk, NALCS Week 2 Power Rankings

Yep, I wrote that last week, and despite CLG’s failure to show it can do anything besides relying on Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha to control one half of the map, other teams just don’t want to challenge that strategy. CLG is really good and spent nearly all of the summer split perfecting this style, going so far as to handing to keys to the family car to Darshan when the offseason came.

The real unsung hero has been Jake “Xmithie” Puchero. The “Glacial Prison” missing jungler has often acted as CLG’s lone tank tasked with the sole duty of engaging and protecting the squishier compositions Darshan’s champion pool creates. Xmithie, once dubbed “Dandy Lite,” has long been considered one of the most selfless junglers in North America. That style has allowed all of CLG’s carries, particularly the rookies, to flourish, as his willingness to dive into enemy skillshots and CC allows a constant flow of damage.

CLG’s perceived flaw has in fact become one of its greatest strengths, but don’t forget it wasn’t so long ago that jokes about spinners and a singular play style were made. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…

4. Team SoloMid (3-3 LW: 3. -1)

Reactionary playstyle? Check. Imported mid laner? Check. Embattled AD carry with a demanding attitude that would make Kobe Bryant tell him to chill out? Double check. Is TSM North America’s version of H2k?!

All jokes aside, TSM has continued to steadily build upon its strengths and, after figuring out how to properly lane swap, has opened up the true strength of its carries as lane bullies. AD carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng is the lone ADC, outside of Renegades’ three headed hydra, to post a positive CS differential at ten minutes. TSM’s biggest issue has been dealing with unusual compositions building on the long-time TSM narrative of being incapable of dealing with surprises in champion select. NRG’s Zilean in particular proved to be an issue last week, as it allowed NRG to re-engage after TSM’s initial reaction to team fights. Overall, this reactionary play style has led to lulls in the action since TSM’s inexperience as a team and inconsistent shot-calling has hampered its ability to find openings teams like H2k and Vitality normally do.

TSM still has plenty of room to grow and adapt. Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell has proven to be a capable top laner and as its multiple superstars continue to find their role in the team, better results are on the horizon.

5. Cloud9 (3-3. LW: 4. -1)

With a loss under the belt of reincarnation of Sun Tzu support Hai “Hai” Du Lam, perhaps the narrative of his legendary shot-calling will begin to falter. One of Cloud9’s primary issues in its losses has been the inefficiency of junger Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae.

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Despite his early control over the map, Rush has failed to turn his early advantages into an edge for his teammates. His kill participation and assists sit near the middle of the jungler pack, and despite boasting 21.4 percent of his team’s gold, he has assisted on five or more kills only once. This highly selfish play shows a rough integration into the Cloud9 system, but when Hai has played, Rush seems to be more directed.

6. Team Liquid (3-3. LW 7. +1)

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In a world where substitutes nearly outnumber full time starters, one man has the courage to break free from his bench shackles: Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett is “The Jungler.” Since replacing longtime starter Christian “IWDominate” Rivera, Dardoch has quickly distanced himself from his former Challenger peers, firmly placing in the top three in kills, assists, overall KDA, and kill participation. Dardoch has successfully found a balance between ganking and farming few other junglers have displayed this season.

With Dardoch’s strong map presence behind him, mid laner Kim “Fenix” Jae-hoon has been able to open up his champion pool of control mages knowing that their immobility can be protected in the laning phase. This has led to exceptional team fights, and the entire team’s skill in peeling has allowed the kiting prowess of both Fenix and AD carry Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin to carry them through team fights.

7. Team Dignitas (2-4. LW 5. -2)

After a stellar first two weeks, the passive low-impact laners of Team Dignitas have caught up with them, as jungler Thomas “Kirei” Yuen’s backslide has placed more pressure on the rest of the team. The negative laning differentials displayed by all three laners has been propped up by the early aggression of Kirei, and even in its loss to TiP was suitable to advance with a lead into the mid game. The continued play-making and shot-calling problems DIG has displayed are conducive to a rookie team, but with veterans in both carry roles and at support, it’s highly concerning that Dignitas has such a difficult time making plays.

Outside of support Alan “KiWiKiD” Nguyen, the primary play-making has to come from Danny “Shiphtur” Le. One of Shiphtur’s biggest criticisms, since his days on Good Game University, has been his passive play style throughout the course of the game, allowing opponents to bully him in lane and build massive CS and gold advantages. At times the mid laner has shown flashes of brilliance most notably out dueling Qiao Qu’s Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang at IEM Cologne last December. This schizophrenic behavior has been one of the most frustrating things to watch, but if Shiphtur can continue to ramp up his aggression as shown by his 23 kills, third among NA mid-laners, DIG has placed its faith in the right player.

8. Team Impulse (3-3. LW 8, -)

 

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The jury is still out on Team Impulse as we have yet to truly see their preseason lineup. Substitute top laner Shin “Seraph” Woo-yeong has proven to be a valuable asset because of his split push and flanking teleports, but with his limited substitution coming to its end, how will TiP continue the higher level of play he’s infused into the team? One answer would be to shift Austin “Gate” Yu back into the top lane as in the second game of Week 2. The former mid laner turned support has shown a willingness to play multiple positions, and his Gangplank was a work of art.

Outside of finding a top laner, if preseason choice Wang “Feng” Xiao-feng isn’t the answer, further integrating Korean imports Kim “Procxin” Se-young and Choi “Pirean” Jun-sik should be a priority. Both players sit in the middle of the pack in their respective roles, and while Procxin has proven to have a tremendous map presence out of the jungle, Pirean has mostly blended into the background with his sub-60 percent kill participation rate. TiP’s first real test will come this week, with the Seraph crutch removed. If it can stand on its own, the preseason joke of the league could be a second half dark horse.

9. Renegades (1-5. LW 9, -)

Much like Team Liquid, Renegades feels like a team that needs just one change to get over the hump. Its vision control is the best in the LCS thanks to jungler Alberto “Crumbz” Rengifo, and aggressive early play-making has caught teams off guard.  Despite its measured success in the early game — fifth in early game rating and fourth in gold difference at 15 minutes — Renegades has fallen flat in the late game due in large part to untimely deaths. Outside of its three AD carries, and surprisingly top laner, the three remaining players are all in the top 10 for deaths in North America.

Support Maria “Remi” Creveling has been the biggest culprit dying a LCS-high 26 times, six more than anyone else. Despite the success that was shown during Week 1 when, Crumbz, Remi, and ADC Aleš “Freeze” Kněžínek were roaming as a three man death squad, Remi’s positioning mistakes have cost Renegades openings after her teammates make plays. These mistakes show inexperience, but with the vision that Renegades works so hard for established, could show even deeper problems. Compound this with recent tweets, and it seems like the woman known “Madwife” might no longer be gracing the LCS stage.

10. Echo Fox (1-5. LW 10, -)

*Analysis has been forfeited since a consistent full, work-eligible League of Legends roster could not provided*

All photos courtesy of Riot Games.

Freelance writer and co-host of the Rough Drafts podcast.

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