Aug 2 2014 - 10:25 pm

Voyboy's Talon nearly clinches playoffs for Curse Gaming

Everything was on the line for Curse Gaming
Samuel Lingle
Dot Esports

Everything was on the line for Curse Gaming. They needed a win against Dignitas to ensure they’d finish the day with control of the final playoff spot in the League Championships Series, and avoid sitting in the relegation zone, where their careers as League of Legends professional gamers could end.

So what did they do? Pull out their secret weapon: Talon.

Mid laner Joedat “Voyboy” Esfahani is a League veteran famous for his aggressive top lane play in his younger years. As the mid laner of Curse Gaming, he’s earned a reputation for his fierce Yasuo play. Today, he bucked the current metagame trend, favoring utility mid laners, and pulled out Talon for the first time in the history of the NA LCS. And it was just what the doctor ordered for Curse Gaming.

Dignitas would try to shut down Esfahani on the carry-oriented Talon in the early game, but they couldn’t stop him from becoming a force.

The threat of Esfahani would allow the rest of his lanes to build up and eventually push Curse into a victory. He would finish the game with a 6/3/10 KDA on the rarely used champion, earning 19018 gold over the course of the match.

“I was just feeling Talon,” Esfahani explained in a post-game interview. “I just said, 'Guys, I think I want to play Talon here,' and they said go for it.”

The team’s support, Alex “Xpecial” Chu, wasn’t so sure about the pick. “I was a bit scared,” he said. “It was the first Talon ever, but we’ve been confident in scrims so I was OK with it.”

Esfahani’s play was all the more impressive in that he was able to control Dignitas mid laner Danny “Shiphtur” Le, who managed a 4/2/4 KDA on Ziggs. Le leads the league with a ridiculous 8.1 KDA, but Esfahani managed to keep Le contained, even out-farming the farm-heavy champion Ziggs.

“People always say [assassins] are just solo queue champions," Esfahani said, "but in all honesty, you can pull out anything that you think is good, and make it work in a competitive level as long as you have a solid plan and you know how to play the champion. I think we’ll start to see more pocket picks from players.”

Curse Gaming also got solid play from their other carries. Marskman David “Cop” Roberson put up a 9/2/12 KDA on Corki, while top laner Diego “Quas” Ruiz was a handful on new top lane force Maokai with a 5/1/13 KDA.

“Winning today was huge," Chu said. "We really needed that." 

The victory pulls Curse Gaming to 11-15, two games ahead of the 9-17 Complexity and 8-17 Evil Geniuses. A single win or Complexity loss will land Curse Gaming a playoff spot, but that’s not guaranteed. Curse Gaming still needs to play LMQ and Team SoloMid, two of the top three teams in the league. Complexity, on the other hand, faces a squad of Counter Logic Gaming substitutes and Evil Geniuses.

Curse Gaming isn’t out of danger yet, but their victory over Dignitas pulled them much, much closer to a playoff spot and avoiding relegation, where their LCS careers may be on the line. And it was in large part thanks to an off-the-wall champion selection.

Image via Riot Games

Jan 21 2017 - 10:20 pm

G2 Esports and H2k-Gaming on top after EU LCS opening weekend

Last year's top teams haven't missed a beat.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Photo via Riot Games

G2 Esports and H2k-Gaming picked up exactly where they left off as the 2017 European LCS season got underway.

Both G2 and H2k, who had the most championship points in Europe in 2016, won both of their first two matches of the 2017 Spring Split as they look to win out in their respective groups.

In the biggest match of the weekend on paper, G2 beat Fnatic 2-1 in a thrilling series to the delight of the crowd in the LCS studio. The first game was a cagey affair, with G2 securing all of the objectives and getting a relatively comfortable win, but the second game was far closer.

The game was level for most of the first thirty minutes, until Fnatic managed to take Baron. From there the team's advantage slowly developed despite G2's best efforts. Fnatic broke down G2's defences and left the Nexus exposed, before this daring flash play let Fnatic in the backdoor to win the game.

Fired up by the audacious play, G2 Esports fired back in game three. Though Fnatic were able to secure more kills than G2, 20-14, G2 once again took almost all of the objectives. They wore down Fnatic with repeated attacks on the Nexus until Fnatic could no longer withstand the pressure.

G2 also defeated Roccat 2-0, finishing the week top of Group A.

H2k-Gaming went just one better than G2 in Group B—not only did they win both of their initial matches, they also did without dropping a game. The 2016 World Championship semifinalists defeated Origen in the first game of the season, before knocking off fellow World Championship competitors Splyce.

Misfits and Unicorns of Love were the only other victorious sides on the opening weekend, over Giants Gaming and Vitality respectively.

Today - 3:33 pm

How Hauntzer saved TSM

TSM’s top laner stabilized his lane and opened up the map for the team’s first 2017 win.
Xing Li
Dot Esports
Photo via Riot Games

Expectations for TSM are always high. But after dropping a set against a talented Cloud9 squad, the team found itself in trouble against Immortals. That’s when top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell—their most unassuming player—found himself in a position to win the series.

Hauntzer can be easy to overlook. After all, one of his greatest strengths is being a chameleon, in adapting his play style and champion pool to match the needs of his team. But sometimes even chameleons need to stand out. And in the deciding game against Immortals, Hauntzer picked the perfect moment.

After struggling in his first few games, Hauntzer blew open the deciding game.

What happened to Hauntzer?

Hauntzer was a key component as TSM swept through the LCS Summer 2016. Per Oracle’s Elixir, he had the highest creep score (CS) differential at 10 minutes in the entire league. That’s right: The leading laner in NA wasn’t Heo “Huni” Seong-hoon, a primary carry, or Darshan Upadhyaya, a steady split pusher. Hauntzer was able to build leads and absorb pressure while playing a wide variety of champions, from Irelia to Shen to Gnar.

The leads Hauntzer built allowed him to shove and roam for his team while not sacrificing farm. This forced his opponents to choose between CS and teamfights. Building advantages like this takes time and patience. The effects can be overlooked, especially when the other TSM stars are the ones getting kills in teamfights. It’s the perfect role for Hauntzer.

This year, Hauntzer hasn’t had as much success in lane, and it’s hurting his team. The sample size is small, but he’s currently averaging a CS deficit at 10 minutes. That’s given the team fits as it seeks to find the identity it had just a few months ago.

How did Hauntzer turn it around?

Betting big on the top lane

The first sign came in the Game 3 draft. TSM first-picked Maokai for Hauntzer, a no-brainer not because of the priority given to Hauntzer, but because of how broken Maokai is with the Courage of Colossus mastery. The treant’s ability to lock down a target with a point-and-click ability while gaining a huge shield makes him extremely powerful in fights.

TSM then picked Ashe for Jason “WildTurtle” Tran but declined to pair him with a matching support. Instead, they grabbed Cassiopeia for star mid laner Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg.

Sensing an opportunity, Immortals (on red side), started banning supports in the second ban phase. Because Immortals also had the next pick, TSM felt forced to counter with a support ban of their own. These bans seemed to target Vincent “Biofrost” Wang’s champion pool, forcing him onto a tank support (Thresh) who could be poked out in lane. With their own support, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung, comfortable on Morgana, Immortals created a winning duo lane matchup.

It’s extremely hard to win in professional League with more than one losing lane. Bjergsen can usually win his. But with the melee into ranged matchup in the duo lane, it was critical for Hauntzer to come through. He had to at least go even with Lee “Flame” Ho-jong’s Poppy.

He did more than go even.

A familiar pattern

Flame isn’t a perfect player but the guy knows how to CS. And Hauntzer straight bullied him. He went up four CS after two waves. Six after three. Small, steady advantages.

Meanwhile in the bottom half of the map, TSM jungler Dennis “Sveskeren” Johnsen read counterpart Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett’s overtly obvious plays, blowing flashes on nearly everyone. When Dardoch switched focus and roamed to the top, Hauntzer just walked out.

Blowing flashes wouldn’t mean much if TSM couldn’t capitalize. Hauntzer wouldn’t make that mistake. After teleporting back to lane and shoving his minions (up 11 in CS), he roamed with Svenskeren to the mid lane. The resulting dive was clinical: a summoner-less Pobelter was easily killed.

After the kill, Hauntzer walked back to lane and hardly suffered for farm. Meanwhile, Flame’s own roam saw him miss a whole wave of CS. This was the familiar TSM strategy of last year: shove, roam, and force the opponent into bad choices. When Dardoch overextended to kill Svenskeren, Hauntzer was there to earn an assist. When Flame overextended to steal a blue buff, Hauntzer was there to help Bjergsen earn it back.

The coup de grâce came at 10 minutes, where Hauntzer forced Flame to teleport back to lane. Less than two minutes later, when Dardoch ganked the bot lane, Hauntzer’s TP was on time. They won that fight and took first turret. By the time Dardoch finally shut him down, the game had already snowballed too far into TSM’s hands.

TSM needs this from Hauntzer in every game

Going into the season, we thought we knew how TSM would work. Bjergsen is the carry, working with Sevenskeren to control the map. The biggest question mark was the duo lane of Jason “WildTurtle” Tran and Vincent “Biofrost” Wang. Hauntzer just needed to be solid. The advantages he carves out are small and take time. Although he plays a role in TSM’s wins, he is rarely assigned credit for victories or blame for losses.

But with WildTurtle struggling in the early game as well, TSM is requiring more of Hauntzer. He needs to have an early impact in every game for them to reach their potential. The urgency is heightened with the current crop of top lane talent, including formidable international stars like Jang "Looper" Hyeong-seok, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, and of course, Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong.

Hauntzer may not be the most talented top laner in the region. But he is exactly the player that TSM needs.