Behind China's thriving 'League of Legends' scene

In "First Blood," Ferguson Mitchell dissects the week that was in League of Legends, the most popular esport in the world
Ferguson Mitchell
Dot Esports

In "First Blood," Ferguson Mitchell dissects the week that was in League of Legends, the most popular esport in the world.

Korea’s dominance in League of Legends is, at this point, indisputable. But elsewhere, teams are searching for ways to to close the gap.

The closest contender thus far is China, which fielded two teams to the World Championships. One of them, Royal Club, ended up taking the silver medal, just behind Korea’s SKT T1 K.

China’s premier League of Legends tournament, the League Pro League (LPL), started up late last month. It features some new teams, new players, and most importantly, a new drive to finally dethrone their neighborly rivals.

Here’s a quick rundown of the top teams competing in the other best league in the world.

Team WE

These guys are the Yankees of Chinese esports. They were the first esports club formed in China and have gained recognition in pretty much every strategy game known to man, including Warcraft 3StarCraft 2Dota, and now, League of Legends. They dominated at first, taking home first place after first place.

But in late 2013, they seemed to hit a road bump. After placing fourth in the LPL Spring Playoffs and third at LPL Summer, WE found itself without an invite to the prestigious League World Championships.

Then, disaster struck during the offseason, when former analyst Ji “Aaron” Xing left the team to form his own and took several players along with him. WE didn’t take it too hard; it calmly plugged the holes Xing left in his wake and have rebounded from their uncharacteristic 2013 season. Now, WE’s undefeated and on top of the LPL once again.

Oh My God (OMG)

OMG, the other undefeated team in LPL so far, have a much shorter legacy, but the team quickly becoming a powerhouse. After qualifying for the spring season, OMG went 21-7 and ended up taking first place in the playoffs. They took second place in the summer and went on to the World Championships, where they even took a game off SKT T1 K, the eventual winners.

OMG has youth on its side and will be looking for a repeat performance this year.

Royal Club

2013 was a Cinderella story for the Royal Club. After a fifth place finish in the spring, nobody expected greatness. But summer saw the team end up tied for second with two other teams with a shared 13-8 record. Because the first place team, OMG, already had a World Championships Qualifier invite, it fell on the next two teams, one of which was Royal Club.

A fire was lit under the team, especially veterans Pun-Wai “Wh1t3zZ” Lo and Pak-Kan “Tabe” Wong, who were close to retirement. They put together one of the most impressive runs in League history. After sweeping the Chinese qualifiers, Royal Club topped some of the best teams in the world, including rivals WE, to meet with the Korean team SKT T1 K in the Grand Finals.

They lost 3-0, but for Royal Club, it was enough. WE took home a $250,000 purse and shortly thereafter, Lo and Wong retired. Now, Royal Club seeks to re-establish its strength, and will be working out the kinks in the new roster as 2014 gets underway.

Invictus Gaming (iG)

Invictus has had its fair share of ups and downs since their formation in 2011. IG took first in the 2012 Regional Finals, fell to third in the spring of 2013, then fifth in the fall. The team started out 2014, however, with a first place finish at the Demacia Cup, a small invitational with the top Chinese teams, where it took wins over Royal Club and WE.

The team is headlined by mid laner Liu "PDD" Mou, who became known as China’s best player at that position after his performance in the 2013 All-Stars tournament. He’ll be instrumental towards solidifying this team’s inconsistent play. And iG’ll need it; the team’s only won one of its six regular season games so far.

Edward Gaming (EDG)

Despite the drama surrounding its formation, complete with a fake dead girlfriend scandal, EDG managed to compile one of the strongest rosters in Chinese progaming history. Marksman Zhu "NaMei" Jia-Wen led his former team, Positive Energy, to a first place finish in the LPL Summer Playoffs. Others, like jungler Ming "ClearLove" Kai have similarly strong experiences in their past. EDG has three wins and only one loss, and it looks to only get better as the roster continues to practice together.

The rest

Rounding out the rest of the league are LGD Gaming, Energy Pacemaker.HK, and Positive Energy. The former two are fairly new teams to the scene and will be spending the first few series just establishing themselves in the LPL.

Positive Energy, on the other hand, is coming off a first place finish at the last LPL season, with one major footnote—it lost almost all of its roster from 2013. New faces combine with old as Positive Energy seek to regain their footing. So far, things aren’t looking too bright for the rebuilt team. It currently sits in last place with six games lost, and zero wins.

Whichever team you are cheering for, one thing is clear about this season of the LPL: Chinese teams are stepping up their game as they seek to challenge their Korean rivals, and with many new teams looking to make a splash, competition will be as stiff as ever. You can check out all the action over at the LPL main site, or if you’re like me and don’t speak a lick of Chinese, the Reddit thread compiling all the matches and results.


 

Power rankings of things I like

1)The Copenhagen Wolves

4-0 over the last two weeks, these guys are still just tied for fourth in the European League Championship Series. But (and this is a huge but), consistency in the LCS is way, way more important than being supremely talented. And the Wolves are showing that they have the stamina and cohesion necessary to compete at their best even after two full months of competition. Several more wins could see them nearing the top of the rankings.

2) Curse Academy

This North American challenger team (read, semipro) is currently 8-1 in the independent North American Challenger League, which features the best of the non-LCS teams. It’s put together some really solid wins, and I hope it can make it in the LCS promotional tournament to vie for a spot in the premier league.

3) The people behind r/LoLeventVODs

These superfans document every pro game they can get their hands on, then link to them all for any visitor to enjoy. They even developed a surprisingly useful app that makes it easy for mobile esports viewers to access the games easily. They’ve won me over; definitely check them out if you’re interested.

4) Jamie "Sheep" Gallagher

The new support for XDG, whose woes I documented last week, seems to have already made a big impact to tvel-koz, the last place team in North America. The 4-12 team still has a long way to go, but Gallagher’s 13 assists and a kill against last year’s champs, Cloud 9, was a big reason that XDG pulled out a win last week. Keep up the good work.

5) Vel’Koz

The newest champion for League hit live servers this week, and man, is he a lot of fun to play with. He may not hit the pro scene immediately (mobility seems a major concern), but if the stars align, he can dish out some of the nastiest damage I’ve ever seen. Definitely something to keep a watch out for him.

6) SK Gaming

I’ll be the first to admit it: I had some serious doubts about this team going into the 2014 season. They lost four of the five people on the team but have somehow gone 9-7 this season, good enough for third place going into Week 8. Props to SK for keeping the ship afloat and finding a way to succeed in the face of extreme difficulty.

7) “Moobeat

The eccentrically named contributor over at fan website Surrender @ 20 (a reference to the 20-minute delay before anybody in a game can initiate a surrender vote), he’s been busy breaking new patch notes and public beta changes on a constant basis. If you want to know what’s changing within League, he’s the one to turn to. A great resource for myself, along with many others.

Social of the week

Jeffery Lin of Riot Games has been tweeting avidly this past week in preparation of the “Team Builder Live Beta.” This beta is testing out a new way for people to find their way into a game of League, one that Lin and his team hope will resolve a lot of conflicts between players when choosing which positions to play before each game.

The proposed changes would have players selecting which role they want to play before pressing “Play,” and would then match them with those who want to fill out the rest of the team. The current system, which matches players with no knowledge of who wants to play which position, can sometimes match together players who want to play the same position. This kind of conflict, while minor, can sometimes escalate and ruin the game for everyone. Another big thing to keep an eye out for, and I appreciate his efforts.

Picture of the week

North American LCS team Cloud 9 was shooting a commercial this last week, but not without a stray tweet escaping of mid laner Hai Du Lam in the hot tub with an unknown actress. Nerds sipping booze with girls in hot tubs… somewhere, a Super Bowl ad agency is taking notes.

Best laid plans

I was originally going to have a little bit more League info here, but then this happened:


 

My wife’s car was parked on the street and got slammed into. No injuries, but we’re definitely going to have to get a new one; the Corolla, which she affectionately referred to as “Ducky,” is totalled.

It serves as a lesson, sometimes a little too harshly, about the best laid plans, and the small, uncontrollable details that can cast them aside at a whim.

My wife had been slacking a bit—plans to replace her brakes and change her oil had been put off more times than I could count (mostly due to work-related business and stress). She is starting a brand new job tomorrow, one that will allow her more time to think and to take care of the little things in life like car repair.

Now, she won’t have that chance.

In a way (a tiny way), it’s a blessing. We save about half a grand by not having to take her now-dead car to the dealership. Instead, we’re facing new challenges, like having to deal with insurance companies, grungy tow truck drivers, and the eventual car replacement.

It all comes down to preparedness. We’re down, but far from out, because we prepared for moments like this. We have insurance; we have a functional second car. A small ding I had a few weeks ago means I know exactly how to handle a collision—information that came in handy in this much more severe situation.

Being prepared is perhaps one of the most important qualities for a sporting team, as well. Take a look at the NFL—the Green Bay Packers, this year, lost their superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers for seven weeks with a broken collarbone.

The Packers had gone all-in with Rodgers, and without him, had to scramble with mediocre backups (Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien), until they eventually settled on Matt Flynn, whom had been dropped off the roster two seasons prior. The team finally stabilized under Flynn, but not without a 2-5-1 record. The Packers barely scraped into the postseason.

Similar situations can be said for esports. Counter Logic Gaming’s Marcel “Dexter” Feldkamp, who was turned around at the U.S. border, has proven integral to CLG’s plans this year. They’ve gone 7-1 since he joined up with the team in Week 4 of the League Championship Series. Without him? 4-4.

Learning how to deal with unfortunate scenarios is key in sports. A common phrase I like to use is: “A team is only as strong as they are right now.” You can point to wins, you can point to a legacy, but the truth is, you are only as good as your team is at game time, not under ideal situations. The Packers know that. CLG knows that. And now, unfortunately, so do my wife and I. 

Photo via LoLesports.com

Overwatch's D.Va and Genji battle Diablo in this awesome Heroes of the Storm cinematic

D.Va will be joining the Heroes of the Storm roster soon.
Scott Duwe
Overwatch Writer

Overwatch continues to flood into Heroes of the Storm, as today's Heroes 2.0 reveal came with an awesome surprise.

Along with Genji, who is launching with the 2.0 update today, D.Va will soon be joining the Heroes roster. The announcement was made in a cinematic trailer featuring a battle in Hanamura between Diablo and the two Overwatch heroes.



Not much else about D.Va in Heroes was revealed, other than she will fit into the Warrior class, and that her moves in the cinematic are a "hint" as to what her abilities may entail.

D.Va and Genji join Tracer, Zarya, and Lucio as Overwatch heroes already in the game. The Hanamura battleground also launches with the 2.0 update, and is playable right now.

Call of Duty World League power rankings: April 21

With Stage 1 about to get under way, it’s time for some power rankings.
PrestonByers
Console Esports Writer

After a long wait, the first stage of the Call of Duty World League Global Pro League is here. The world’s 16 best Infinite Warfare teams will be pitted against each other over the next several weekends to decide who will be crowned S1 champions and who will head into the CWL Anaheim a whole lot richer.

Rankings were determined by a point system that calculated seven Dot Esports staff members’ votes. The staff was asked to rank the 16 teams in order from best to worst, with No. 1 the best and No. 16 the worst. Points will be rewarded to mirror a team’s ranking. For example, the first place team will receive 16 points per person, while the last team will receive one point for each vote.

Before S1 playoffs begin, we will release another rankings list.


16. Elevate (21 points)

  • Rhys "Rated" Price
  • Jordan "Reedy" Reed
  • Josh "Watson" Watson
  • Zach "Zed" Denyer

This is definitely not the place you want to begin the power rankings. Coming in at last, Elevate received 21 points. The European team has gradually regressed over the course of Infinite Warfare. Starting with a ninth-place finish at the CWL Las Vegas Open, Elevate failed to keep their momentum up in offline competitions. They finished ninth again at CWL Atlanta but 13th at the following week’s CWL Paris Open. Following Paris, Rated was added to the roster in place of Sean "Seany" O'Connor. Their first offline appearance resulted in an embarrassing 21st-place finish. They’ve made some adjustments recently, and that’s seemed to help out, with the team placing fifth at the CWL Birmingham Open.


15. Mindfreak (22 points)

  • Mitchell "BuZZO" Mader
  • Cody "Excite" Rugolo
  • Lincoln "Fighta" Ferguson
  • Conrad "Shockz" Rymarek

Not a lot of respect for the lone Australian team. ANZ’s most successful team in history has had limited playing time against North America and Europe’s best in offline tournaments. By dominating Australian offline and online competitions, Mindfreak became the top team in the region. Their inexperience against top teams may come back to hurt them. The team has only competed in two NA major events, placing 17th at Atlanta and ninth at Dallas.


14. Epsilon Esports (23 points)

  • David "Dqvee" Davies
  • Billy "Hawqeh" Harris
  • Joshua-Lee "Joshh" Shephard
  • Stephen "Vortex" Allen

Epsilon is coming off an upset title victory at the CWL Birmingham Open but the rankings really don’t reflect that. Despite double-sweeping a powerhouse like Splyce in the grand finals, Epsilon still sits at 14th. The reason? The team didn’t show up until Birmingham and, even then, it was an EU-only event. In the last international tournament, Epsilon flamed out in 21st. That poor showing can be chalked up to some subpar communication after changing a roster member by adding former Splyce player Joshh to the team. But it doesn’t erase the result.


13. Cloud9 (35 points)

  • Patrick "ACHES" Price
  • Adam "Assault" Garcia
  • Andres "Lacefield" Lacefield
  • Richard "Ricky" Stacy

Many believed that Cloud9 was destined to be a top team in IW after a hot start to the game with a second place finish at CWL Las Vegas. C9 failed to follow up their good start and were shockingly dismantled at CWL Atlanta and Paris, finishing 17th at both events. ACHES assured the world that the roster was not the issue following Paris. He was true to his word as C9 returned to respectability with a ninth-place finish at CWL Dallas.


12. Evil Geniuses (38 points)

  • Colt "Havok" McLendon
  • Jared "Nagafen" Harrell
  • Anthony "NAMELESS" Wheeler
  • Jeremy "StuDyy" Astacio

Evil Geniuses re-entered the Call of Duty world at the beginning of IW with so much promise after assembling a fan-favorite roster. Starting out with a seventh-place finish at Las Vegas, the team looked on track to become one of the best in the game. They stumbled in Atlanta though, placing 17th. EG bounced back the next weekend and finished in the money at seventh at the CWL Paris Open. Another seventh place finish at Dallas secured let them become the final North American team to qualify for the Global Pro League. Many believe they have the potential to be a top-four team with their level of natural talent, but they’ve yet to realize that potential.


11. Rise Nation (43 points)

  • Ulysses "Aqua" Silva
  • Brice "Faccento" Faccento
  • Tyler "FeLonY" Johnson
  • Daniel "Loony" Loza

How the mighty have fallen. Winning the first major title of the game usually is a good sign, but it seems that the title cursed Rise Nation and caused them to falter over and over. After being crowned CWL Las Vegas champions, Rise finished ninth at CWL Atlanta. They then came alive at CWL Paris the following weekend to finish third. Despite having a poor event in Atlanta, there was a sense of belief in Rise going into CWL Dallas. There shouldn’t have been. The team played well against good teams but ultimately failed to win their games. Rise finished 17th.


T9. Fnatic (45 points)

  • Matthew "Skrapz" Marshall
  • Gurdip "SunnyB" Bains
  • Tom "Tommey" Trewen
  • Bradley "Wuskin" Marshall

Fnatic returned to Call of Duty after a hiatus of five years. The historic League of Legends and Counter-Strike organization signed a roster that included young and promising talents, partnered with veteran and former champion Tommey. The team has done as expected, finishing within the top 16 in major tournaments and near the top in European play. They may be able to surprise some at the Global Pro League with many underestimating them.


T9. Enigma6 (45 points)

  • Jordon "General" General
  • Kade Jones
  • Mike "MRuiz" Ruiz
  • Nicholas "Proto" Maldonado

Enigma6 has been a very middle-of-the-road team thus far in IW. Their ranking reflects that, putting them in the middle of the pack. By finishing seventh, 13th, and ninth twice in major tournaments, E6 has shown that they can beat basically any team on the fringe of breaking into the top teams. But they can’t break into the discussion as one of the best teams.


8. Millenium (53 points)

  • Mark "MarkyB" Bryceland
  • Tom "Moose" Handley
  • Nick "Nolson" Nolson
  • Adam "Peatie" Peate

The Call of Duty community was shocked when they learned the news of Team Infused parting ways with their roster prior to CWL Dallas. Shortly after releasing their French team, Millenium acquired Infused’s U.K. squad. The Millenium jerseys must’ve had some bad luck for the Brits as they finished 13th at Dallas. This came after successful showings at both CWL Atlanta and Paris, finishing fifth and fourth, respectively. The voters obviously believe that they are better than that 13th-place finish though.


7. Red Reserve (61 points)

  • Joe "Joee" Pinnington
  • Niall "Niall" Sunderland
  • Sean "Seany" O'Connor
  • David "Urban" Marsh

Red Reserve has shown a lot of promise in the short time they have been together. After Rated left, Seany joined and the team hit the ground running. In the four MLG 2000 Series tournaments that they have competed together, they have not finished outside of the top three, finishing first, second, and third on two occasions. They have been relatively successful offline as well, finishing fifth at CWL Dallas and Birmingham.


6. Luminosity Gaming (75 points)

  • Nicholas "Classic" DiCostanzo
  • Sam "Octane" Larew
  • Renato "Saints" Forza
  • Josiah "Slacked" Berry

LG has consistently been good, but not great in Infinite Warfare. The team has finished in the top 10 in every offline tournament and has been close to cracking into the top three. Luminosity’s best performance came at CWL Atlanta, where they placed fourth. Their other top placings have shown that they are the gatekeepers to the upper echelon of CoD.


5. Team EnVyUs (85 points)

  • Bryan "Apathy" Zhelyazkov
  • Jordan "JKap" Kaplan
  • Johnathon "John" Perez
  • Austin "SlasheR" Liddicoat

The defending world champions have had a somewhat weak showing in IW. Despite placing third at CWL Atlanta, the ‘Boys in Blue’ struggled to follow that performance up with some more great placings. Finishing ninth in Paris and fifth in Dallas, EnVyUs is near the top of the game but just can’t seem to put the pieces together to repeat the success they had last year. A major accomplishment that nV does have this year? They are one of the only teams to beat OpTic Gaming offline.


4. Splyce (91 points)

  • Ben "Bance" Bance
  • Jordan "Jurd" Crowley
  • Dylan "MadCat" Daly
  • Trei "Zer0" Morris

The consensus top European team is the top European team in our rankings as well. Although they were double swept in the grand finals of the CWL Birmingham by Epsilon, Splyce has the resumé of a top team. There is a concern that they can lose composure and allow things to snowball, but their results are undeniable. A fourth-place finish at CWL Dallas showed that swapping Joshh out for Zer0 was the right move—and it may be a big enough move to break them into the top three teams in the world if they can bounce back in Stage 1.


3. FaZe Clan (96 points)

  • Dillon "Attach" Price
  • James "Clayster" Eubanks
  • Ian "Enable" Wyatt
  • Tommy "ZooMaa" Paparratto

FaZe is undeniably the third best team in the world. They have finished in the top three in nearly every MLG 2K tournament while staying in the top five in offline tournaments. It’s still disappointing for them. FaZe’s roster is used to success with 13-time champion Clayster leading the way. The disappointment and frustration was most evident at the CWL Paris Open. After being swept by OpTic Gaming in the grand finals, Clayster was visibly upset, even tossing his silver medal after a photo. A second place finish led him to react that way. There’s no way that he or his teammates are content with their play this year, but they will need to step their game up big time against OpTic to break through further.


2. eUnited (106 points; 1 first-place vote)

  • Alec "Arcitys" Sanderson
  • Pierce "Gunless" Hillman
  • Preston "Prestinni" Sanderson
  • Justin "SiLLY" Fargo-Palmer

The surprise of Infinite Warfare is the sudden, meteoric rise of eUnited. After finishing 21st at CWL Las Vegas, eUnited released everyone on their roster except for SiLLY. The former Cloud9 star quickly assembled a roster filled with so-called online warriors: Arcitys, Gunless, and Prestinni. As expected, they dominated online competitions. Many were waiting for their meltdown on LAN at CWL Atlanta but it never came. EUnited just kept winning and winning, eventually holding on in a heart-stopping grand finals to beat OpTic Gaming. A bad showing in Paris had some questioning if they just got lucky in Atlanta, but that was put to rest with a second-place finish at Dallas, where they lost in a heart-stopping grand finals to OpTic.


1. OpTic Gaming (111 points: 6 first-place votes)

  • Ian "Crimsix" Porter
  • Matthew "FormaL" Piper
  • Damon "Karma" Barlow
  • Seth "Scump" Abner

This is pretty obvious. Throwing away their fifth place showing at Las Vegas, OpTic has been the best team in the world without a doubt. EUnited somehow keeping composed and winning at CWL Atlanta showed OpTic that they had a true equal in IW. Other than eUnited, nobody has stepped up to the Green Wall since their historic lower bracket run in February. With two major titles already, it’d be no shock to see even more added to OpTic’s collection.