Dream Teams, Nightmare Event

The ASE 2017 takes a step back from last year

ASE2017
Image taken from @lolesports on Twitter.

With the League of Legends World Championship officially over, the sun is setting on the 2017 LoL competitive scene. But before we can sit back, relax and look forward to the start of the 2018 season, the All Star Event (ASE) looks to wrap up the year by bringing together superstar players and pitting them against each other in a dream team extravaganza. However, even though the event was never intended to have the magnitude and scale of other international tournaments, the ASE 2017 seems to take a step back in all regards when comparing it to last year’s competition.

The games

First up, considerable changes were announced regarding the tournament’s format and the type of games that will be played. The distinctive “fun” game modes have been replaced by standard 5v5s with the hopes of making the tournament more competitive. The All Star teams will be split into two groups and clash in a single Round Robin spanning over two days. The four with the best results will advance to the Bo3 semifinals and the winners of those to the Bo5 finals. The 1v1 competition will remain largely unchanged.

The removal of the fun game modes marks an odd shift of focus, as these were a highlight of the tournament and they stayed true to the casual and more relaxed nature of the event. In addition to that, they were a delight to watch as a fan and pro players really seemed to enjoy them. With them gone, there’s less things that make the ASE stand out from other international events.

The teams

Efforts were made throughout the year to include Wildcard regions (now referred to as emerging regions) at international competitions without the need for an external tournament. This led to the creation of the Play-Ins and has now affected the ASE 2017. In summary, the International Wildcard All Star Event was effectively scrapped and due to this the teams participating in the ASE 2017 were altered.

With the exception of Brazil, Turkey and South East Asia, emerging regions have been removed as a whole from the event. Whether this is good or bad depends on which team you support. Yet, outright denying most emerging regions from even having a chance to qualify to the event is a low blow to their fans and their players. This also further decreases the importance of voting for fans outside of the participating regions.

The prize pool

After it was replaced by the Mid-Season Invitational in 2015, the ASE was meant to put fun and regional pride over big cash outs. Nevertheless, the aforementioned shift to make it a more competitive event doesn’t include the addition of a prize pool or any other incentive of that sort. Pros are compensated for their attendance with the opportunity to gain exposure and grow their personal brand, neither of which pay the bills.

The venue

The event will take place in the NA LCS Studio in Los Angeles, California. While I couldn’t find confirmation on the exact capacity of the venue, I would be surprised if it was fit for more than a 1000 people. The last time All Stars was held in the NA LCS Studio was back in 2015, which, in a way, was the event’s first year of existence. The year after that, All Stars took place in Barcelona, inside the Palau Sant Jordi. This arena has a capacity of 17,000, leaving the NA LCS Studio dwarfed in that metric.

The decision to once again hold the ASE in the NA LCS Studio not only affects the fans attending in person, as acquiring tickets will be harder, but also the ones watching online, since a smaller crowd means less hype. Moreover, games will be split over the Battle Arena and the Battle Theater, and fans cannot switch areas in between games. I’m certain the LOL ESPORTS production team will do a fantastic job running the ASE, but the limited amount of space available to them makes me skeptical of just how good this event will be.

The tickets

As I stated previously, the smaller venue size can cause problems for fans who want to attend the competition in person. Tickets sales went live friday morning and were sold out almost instantly. Furthermore, tickets were split over multiple days. This caused ticket prices to go up, as partaking in the entirety of the event meant spending around $120 USD (4 $30 USD tickets). One would think that because the ASE 2017 is taking place in a Riot owned venue, tickets would have more accessible prices, but that’s simply not the case.

Closing thoughts

By no means will the All Stars 2017 be a bad event. Dream Teams make great narratives and the regional pride aspect adds a unique charm to the tournament, even though Rift Rivals aims to do something very similar. It’s a great opportunity for up and coming star players to develop their personal brand and grow their fan base. Additionally, Riot’s production crew and on air team is top notch, making the best out of a dubious situation.

But with the fun game modes gone, best of 3 semifinals, the exclusion of most of the emerging regions, the small venue, the complicated ticket system and still no prize pool of any sort, the event at best is taking a step back from what we saw last year with little to no innovation to make up for it. Taking a more competitive approach without making proper adjustments feels unjustified and the event itself feels somewhat forced. Hopefully, Riot will take this feedback for next year’s All Star Event and improve on an already spectacular competition instead of taking a step back.

The old gods are dead, long live the Kingslayers

The end of the SKT T1 era

2017 World Championship Finals Stage
Image taken from the LoL Esports Photos flickr Album.

It’s match point in The Bird’s Nest. It’s not even close to being a five game series. The scoreboard reads 2-0, and 34 minutes into game 3, the Nexus is exposed. Cover the nameplates, ask me to guess who’s winning, and I’d bet on SKT. But it’s their Nexus getting destroyed, their hopes of a three-peat being ruthlessly crushed. Even as Samsung Galaxy marches down the mid lane to seal the deal, it’s hard to believe the undisputed best team in the world is seconds away from falling 3-0 on the biggest international stage. Undisputed no more.

As the Nexus went down, the crowd erupted in SSG chants and the victorious players jumped out of their seats to celebrate their newly acquired title of World Champions. A flurry of memories must have crossed their minds. Faker’s first career kill on the now jungler Ambition. The squad’s unlikely qualification to the 2016 World Championship after taking down kt Rolster in a gruelling five game series. Their surprising appearance at the Worlds 2016 finals, and the bitter defeat in game 5 under the hand of SKT.  

However, that was in the past. The only thing on the minds of the Samsung players, and the most important memory they’d ever have as professional gamers, was the one being made right in that moment. The memory of achieving redemption and revenge in the face of SKT. It was like a dream come true, the glory they could not achieve last year was finally theirs. All the hard work, the years of play and preparation paid off. The Summoner’s Cup was in their hands, held high above their heads.

Across from the arena, the SKT booth was a cemetery. No chants, no celebration, only grief. The players sank into their chairs, disappointed in their performance. For the first time, they had lost a World final. And on that day, with his hand gone, his legacy tarnished, and the Summoner’s Cup being raised by someone else, god cried. Few sights have caused me such sorrow, but it was true. The old gods were dead, long live the Kingslayers.

SSG Finals 2017 Big
Image taken from the LoL Esports Photos flickr Album.

SKT was not the unstoppable goliath it once was, and this showed coming into the 2017 World Championship. They were defeated in the LCK 2017 Summer finals by Longzhu, after making it through the whole playoff bracket and barely reverse sweeping kt Rolster in the semifinals. They were shaky in the group stage, their play was lacking and if not for their stellar team play in late game fights, they would have dropped multiple games. Nonetheless, they took the first seed of Group A and advanced to the knockout stage.

The quarter finals were a testament to SKT’s shortcomings and problems. Their first opponent, Misfits Gaming from the EU LCS, traded blow for blow with them. History was one team fight away from being made, and the european newcomers wanted to make a name for themselves by slaying the korean overlords. Yet, the EU squad was inexperienced, and their innovative strategies were not enough to take down the defending World Champions. Still, Misfits made SKT bleed and their next combatant would cut them no slack.

Uzi was waiting in the semifinals, hungry for revenge after always falling short when it most mattered. The featured match up was Uzi versus Faker, and again SKT was one game away from being eliminated. However, whether it was luck or Royal Never Give Up cracking under the pressure, SKT won the series and guaranteed an appearance in their third straight final. Uzi once again would not find the glory he so desperately craved.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the bracket, Samsung was showing their prowess. A second place finish in their group meant they would have to face LCK champion Longzhu Gaming. It seemed like an impossible task, but SSG’s veteran talent was too much to handle for Longzhu’s rookies. Samsung came out swinging and clean swept the series, sealing the dragon’s fate. They had their eyes fixed on the Summoner’s Cup and they weren’t slowing down.

The semifinal match between SSG and Team WE felt like a formality. Samsung had no plans to lose and WE hadn’t shown they had what was necessary to be a finalist. After a rocky game 1, Samsung Galaxy took the next three games and punched their ticket to a rematch against SKT.

The venue was filled to the brim, every seat had a fan eager to watch the epic conclusion of the tournament. Even if no chinese teams made it to the finals, the clash was one for the ages. SKT was weak, wounded, but their history still made them a threat. Samsung was determined and confident, nothing was going to stop them, not even SKT. And indeed, nothing stopped them. Three games was all it took, the glory and the Summoner’s cup was theirs.

Does that mean the SKT legacy has been destroyed? Not even close. SKT’s dynasty cannot be dismantled by a single loss. However, this defeat does mark the end of an era: The era of SKT dominance. Throughout their history, SKT had only won Worlds with Bengi on the roster. While the jungle was not their sole problem this tournament, it’s evidently clear they cannot remain at the top forever without the pristine mid-jungle synergy they used to have. In addition to that, their bot lane had been trailing behind their opponents for far too long. Defeat was inevitable at this point.

Although SKT’s dynasty still stands, a new one is being forged. With their Worlds victory, Samsung begins to construct their legacy, one that in the future may come to challenge SKT’s. The 2018 season will prove if SKT has the ability to rebuild and reinvigorate their roster. Samsung Galaxy will have the opportunity to cement themselves as equals to the behemoth that is SKT. The only thing that is certain is that Faker will return with a vengeance, hopefully stronger than ever, and his enemies will feel his wrath.

Legends may bleed, but they will never die.