Incoming Turbulence

Will FlyQuest make it to Worlds?

FQ Gauntlet
Image taken from @FlyQuestSports‘ Twitter page

Ever since their unlikely fourth place finish in the 2017 Spring Split, FlyQuest eSports captivated the hearts of many, proving that a veteran roster still had what it took to reach the top. I consider myself a fan of the organization and have written about them multiple times. Yet, no amount of bias can make me ignore the turbulence that is headed in FlyQuest’s way.

Their unimpressive Summer Split had them crashing and burning, in spite of the acquisition of Jason WildTurtle Tran, who was supposed to be an overall upgrade for the team. They barely avoided relegation, finishing eighth, and miraculously squeezed into the regional qualifiers. They’ll have to win three Best of Five series against teams that outclass them in every role in order to advance to Worlds. It wouldn’t be the first time Hai Lam carries a team to the World Championship, but will he be able to repeat history? The optimist in me says “Maybe”. However, the answer to that question is much more complex than it seems.

Understanding how the meta is shaping up for the gauntlet is fundamental if FlyQuest wants to stand a chance in the tournament. Substantially, the meta revolves around protecting your carries/one shotting the enemy carries. It’s a teamfight meta and tanks are the cornerstone to almost every composition. Most builds for tanks include utility items like Knight’s Vow and Locket of the Iron Solari to keep their team safe. Even champions that aren’t that tanky innately can purchase Gargoyle Stoneplate to increase their survivability.

In the jungle and top lane, super tanks like Maokai, Sejuani and Gragas can single out and chain CC a priority target in a fight. Jarvan IV is extremely effective at locking down immobile carries, forcing their Summoner Spells, and punishing them before they come back up. In the late game, the likes of Cho’Gath can threaten to one shot a squishy member of the enemy team.

Nevertheless, players have found answers to the notoriously passive playstyle of tanks in the early game. Thanks to his extended range, Gnar has been picked as a hard counter to most matchups. In addition, he has incredible side lane presence in the late game and the resources to start a fight when he transforms into Mega Gnar. Likewise, Renekton’s base damages are useful in order to snowball and keep his opponents down for as long as possible. Tanks need those first couple of items to start being relevant, so Gnar and Renekton make sure it takes them time to get there.

An Balls Le has shown proficiency playing front line tanks and engagers for FlyQuest in the past. Yet, Gnar doesn’t seem to be a part of his champion pool, which leaves him at the mercy of more skilled top laners if the champion is available. One of his signature picks has been Rumble. Even if the champion does well in a select amount of tank matchups, he’s hard to execute properly and needs setup from his team.

Furthermore, FlyQuest has their fair share of problems in the jungle. Galen Moon Holgate excelled the most when he was playing heavy snowballing assassins in the jungle. Evelynn, Rengar and Kha’Zix were some of his top champions in the Spring Split, but with the meta forcing him onto tanks, his play has left a lot to be desired. Unless Moon has a noticeable impact on his early lanes and can help them snowball via ganks, FlyQuest will not find a win condition in their jungler.

The mid lane is considerably more flexible and versatile than any other lane. Strong control mages like Orianna, Syndra and Cassiopeia still top the charts in terms of priority, yet there are plenty of champions that have favorable matchups into them. Galio has been chosen as a great way to mitigate the magic damage mages bring and picks like Lucian and Corki  have proven to be solid blind picks in most cases.

For FlyQuest, their strongest carry sits in said role. Hai, iconic for his precise shotcalling, is the team’s most reliable way to win a game. His champion pool is considerably deep and he has shown mastery over the meta champions. However, he’ll be playing against the best mid laners this split has to offer and, in the regular season, he struggled to stay even with his lane opponents or play from behind. The amount of attention the jungler pays to the mid lane  will be paramount in tipping the scale in FlyQuest’s favor.

Moving towards the bottom lane, marksmen want as much range as possible to stay away from potential threats, making scaling hypercarries like Kog’Maw and Tristana a priority in the pick and ban phase. Xayah is also exceptionally useful as her ultimate ability grants her invulnerability and she synergizes wonderfully with her partner Rakkan. Another powerful champion is Sivir. Thanks to her immense wave clear and late game AOE damage she can shred through the enemy team swiftly with a couple of items.

Good positioning is crucial for a team’s ADC to succeed. Sadly, this is a quality I cannot attribute to FlyQuest AD Carry, WildTurtle. Throughout the split he had very inconsistent performances. His highs were underwhelming and his team rarely played through him to generate leads. In spite of that, Tristana is one of his best champions and, given that they don’t ban it, he can strive to step up his play on that particular ADC.

Finally, engage supports, like Alistar, Rakkan, and Thresh, are rising to the top of the tier list due to how easily they can force fights. Rakkan has even become a must pick or ban champion thanks to how quickly he can jump on enemy carries, leaving them with no time to react. In spite of that, Morgana has surfaced as a powerful counter pick to these types of champs, and it just so happens that Daerek LemonNation Hart is well known for his performances on this champion. If Balls and Moon are solely tasked with engaging and frontlining, LemonNation can focus on providing protection for his back line.

FlyQuest’s strategy is clear, put Balls on a front line tank, Moon on a jungler that can effortlessly gank and influence lanes, give Hai a winning lane matchup, and have the bot lane play for scaling into the late game. If the Hai-Moon duo can acquire leads and push them further around the map, they might just have a chance to take some games in the gauntlet. Nevertheless, on paper, their game plan looks dangerously exploitable. If their opponents can effectively shut down their mid-jungle synergy, FQ doesn’t have any other avenues to get back in the game. Unless FlyQuest shows clear signs of improvement in all roles, they might not make it past the first round, where their old teammate, Johnny Altec Ru, and the rest of Team Dignitas await.

The miracle run to China might be a possibility for FlyQuest, but it’s looking more like a far off dream soon turned nightmare. The FQ fan inside me wants to believe they can make it, but Team Dignitas, CLG, and C9 could prove to too much to handle for the white and gold squad. The games will speak for themselves in order to determine if FlyQuest has what it takes to qualify for the World Championship as they clash with Team Dignitas this friday September 8th.  

Team Siempre Mal

Los decepcionantes resultados de TSM internacionalmente

TSM MSI 2017
Imagen tomada de @lolesports en Twitter.

Decepción y Norteamérica parecen ser un binomio inseparable cuando se trata de competencias internacionales de League of Legends (LoL). Tras tener un terrible desempeño en la fase de Play Ins y en la de grupos, Team Solo Mid (TSM) quedó eliminado del Mid Season Invitational (MSI). Para TSM, esto significa otro fracaso en uno de los escenarios competitivos más grandes del mundo, ya que el campeonato mundial pasado también defraudaron con su rendimiento.

La última vez que un equipo norteamericano destacó en un evento internacional fue en el MSI de 2016. Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) triunfó sobre TSM en las finales de primavera de la North American League of Legends Championship Series (NA LCS) y obtuvo un pase directo a la competencia. Era el segundo título de la NA LCS de CLG y la primera vez que representarían a la región de Norteamérica en una competencia importante. Las expectativas no eran altas. Muchos consideraron que CLG terminaría en quinto lugar de los seis posibles. Sin embargo, sorprendieron al mundo jugando de forma excelente durante todas las fases del torneo. Llegaron a las finales y, aunque las perdieron, demostraron que eran un equipo altamente competitivo.

Durante el Campeonato Mundial de LoL de ese mismo año, ningún equipo norteamericano consiguió resultados favorables. Los tres equipos representativos de la región eran CLG, TSM y Cloud 9 (C9). Su rendimiento a través de todo el torneo fue irregular. Ganaban contra equipos que, según las estadísticas, eran mejores que ellos y perdían contra equipos considerados peores. No había consistencia en sus estrategias ni mecánicas de juego. TSM, cuyas expectativas eran altísimas al iniciar el torneo, no pasó de la primera etapa. CLG tampoco salió de su grupo. El único equipo que llegó a cuartos de finales fue C9 y, sinceramente, sus victorias fueron mediocres.

La temporada de primavera de la NA LCS de 2017 vio a TSM coronarse de nuevo como campeón y, por ende, atender al MSI 2017 como representante único de Norteamérica. Para el MSI 2017, se agregó una nueva fase al torneo, los Play Ins. Para Norteamérica esto significaba que debían competir por su lugar en el evento principal. TSM tendría que vencer a GIGABYTE Marines, un equipo vietnamita, en una serie a mejor de cinco si querían asegurar su presencia en la etapa de grupos. Aparentaba ser una tarea fácil para TSM. No obstante, perdieron los primeros dos juegos de manera desastrosa. Si perderían el tercero su aparición en el MSI se comprometería.  Afortunadamente para ellos, lograron remontar las siguientes tres partidas y se llevaron la serie. Los corazones de los fanáticos del equipo podían descansar por ahora.

El próximo obstáculo que TSM debía superar era la fase de grupos. Si obtenían como mínimo el cuarto lugar, su posicionamiento dentro del campeonato mundial de este año se vería favorecido. Empezaron perdiendo su primer juego y no parecían mejorar conforme pasaban los días. En la última jornada hubo un empate entre TSM y los Flash Wolves (FW) de Taiwán. Quién ganará una partida rompería el empate y pasaría a la fase de eliminatorias. FW emergió victorioso tras desmantelar completamente a TSM. Después de esa derrota, la participación del representante norteamericano en el MSI 2017 terminó. TSM fue de regreso a casa.

Los resultados que obtuvo TSM sin duda fueron una decepción para los fanáticos tanto del equipo como de la región norteamericana. Algunos dirían que era de esperarse. Puede que TSM haya tenido una muy buena temporada regular pero todo cambia cuando pasan de su liga doméstica al escenario internacional. Los equipos contra los que se enfrentan generalmente son más hábiles y decisivos. Existe mucha más presión sobre los jugadores cuando compiten en un torneo tan grande como el MSI. También cabe destacar que TSM no jugó para nada bien, cometían errores de manera frecuente y eran demasiado pasivos en ocasiones. Sin embargo, estoy seguro que TSM tenía la capacidad para avanzar a la segunda fase de la competencia.

TSM es un equipo que ha asistido a todas las nueve finales de la NA LCS y cuentan con cinco campeonatos de la misma. Su jugador estrella, Søren Bjergsen Bjerg, es considerado como el carrilero central número uno de Norteamérica y, además, como uno de los mejores del mundo. Tienen de las mejores infraestructuras para asegurar el desempeño de sus jugadores, incorporando múltiples entrenadores y especialistas para satisfacer todas sus necesidades. Entonces, ¿por qué después de tantos años de ser los mejores en su región no han podido alcanzar el éxito internacionalmente? Hay una infinidad de factores por los cuales un equipo fracasa, pero a TSM ya se le acabaron las excusas. No es aceptable que un equipo tan prestigioso, uno con tanta experiencia y antigüedad, no alcance las expectativas que se le asignan.