The Problem/s with the Renegades
I was really excited for the entrance of the LA Renegades to the NA LCS. I feel that the 'team Monte built' was a really interesting mix of players who had obviously been assembled for a reason, especially the addition of Freeze (not really that shocking if you watch Summoning Insight). But they have simply failed to perform. There are a number of reasons for this team having issues, but I want to break them down, as simply not winning games is just a statistic. There is always more to it.
The first problem I have noticed with Renegades is in the drafting phase. In my opinion, they have either drafted poorly with a team that doesnt have a stong identity, or changed draft plans mid way through the phase where decisions they have made have not worked well at all. There have been a few outstanding examples of poor seemingly ‘on the fly’ decisions that I want to dissect.
Firstly, the game against Immortals has stood out like a very sore thumb for a number of reasons. Pick and Bans went accordingly:
IMT: Kalista Tahm Lulu
REN: Fiora Janna Quinn
IMT: Graves (instalock)
REN: Corki Alistar
IMT: Poppy Lucian (instalock)
REN: Nidalee Ezreal
IMT: Viktor Soraka (instalock)
There is a question mark over the Janna ban, but this is only a question. Reignover has not played the same pick in the jungle this season (prior to this game) and is hence difficult to ban against. Flex picking in this instance has helped IMT have a strong pick phase for either Top or Jungle, or Top Support). The Janna pick doesn’t provide kill pressure or lane dominance, so if you are going to ban it out you need to pick against it. Alistar is always a viable pick in support, but combined with an Ezreal seems questionable. Ezreal fails to provide early to mid-game zoning, damage or lane pressure (against waves or champions) and therefore negates the pick of the Alistar until he can scale or get to the late game (i think Bot lane Ezreal is a horrible pick unless you are going for only the late game). Perhaps another ADC pick could have been beneficial here considering the early game (Caitlyn farms well against the Janna Lucian, and can output damage combining with the Alistar abilities throughout the game).
The problem here though, is the Nidalee pick in the jungle. It works really well with the Trundle (a well placed pillar is a great thing) but just about ends there in this composition. Nidalee Corki gank pressure is minimal, as damage output from Corki is easily evaded, as is a Nidalee spear. That removes the pressure, as the Nidalee is made ineffectual. There is no consistent risk that forces the enemy midlaner into situations that require risk. Likewise, in the bottom lane, the Nidalee cant work well with a botlane that cannot poke or create consistent damage and pressure, because it then takes too long to create an opportunity. This makes Nidalee extremely weak across the game, as she cannot build pressure and push advantages because there are none to be had, or it is too difficult to create them. Combine this with the fact that Immortals ran REN around the map with the Top and Bottom T1’s falling to both teams very early in 3 and 4 man roams, they didn’t have a chance to strengthen into the mid game. They were pressured out of every opportunity by IMT because of the Poppy in the jungle – who works extremely well with all of the IMT laners.
It feels that REN are trying to push a particular team composition without executing its strengths and weaknesses in the correct way. If they do get their particular team composition, they then continue to respond to the other team rather than stick to their own gameplan. REN would have done well to stall the IMT game out, defend turrets and hold out. The team is too squishy and don’t output enough front end damage (unlike the Graves Victor Lucian and Poppy CC opposition) to be able to joust or skirmish.
But this isn’t to say that they get stomped. Average Game Time is nearly 40 minutes. That’s the longest AGT in the NALCS. This means they are competing in most of their games (61m against TL in game 1 this year). Wards Per Minute ranks them at 3rd, and Wards Cleared ranks them at second. Their longest games have been running a tank utility top laner (Mundo Kennen), Rek’Sai jungle and zoning/pressuring ADC’s (Lucian Kalista Corki). Mid has been able to farm, stall, and stay incredibly safe, unless AlexIch is playing Corki (0.5/4/3.5KDA). Crumbz seems to be failing to assist in creating pressure around the map or in lanes to assist the team in building advantages. When he is playing Rek’Sai or Elise, he is strongly pushing into lanes that can best use the Junglers kit to form some description of pressure. Sure, a Rek’Sai isnt going to guarantee a kill, but the CC, mobility and tankiness of the champion allows the team to work around it to make something happen. His vision game is also very effective, as he is very proactive in the areas he wards and the advantage that this vision provides.
The C9 game looked abysmal in the REN team comp. Fiora can duel the in your face one dimentional attack from your front Quinn top pick, and is stronger with a Nidalee jungle pick (Quinn becomes immobile and still one dimentional soon after the jump in and out). Ryze Orianna mid is not a horrible match up, possibly in favour of the Ryze unless Nidalee is around, and slopes it aggressively in the Oriannas favour. Lucian Morgana bot is a classic combination with a Black Shield against a Caitlyn Poppy, who can only hope to go even. But in a team fight, the Quinn is squishy, the Fiora is off tanky in the sense that putting damage onto her is difficult, and she needs to be focused, and the Orianna can cause havoc against the immobile Ryze Caitlyn. Second stomp of the season.
Interestingly, REN are in the bottom few when it comes to First Towers taken (38%), First Dragon taken (25%) and poor dragon control rate (35%). Objectively, they are falling behind. This is not because of lack of vision though. It is because they don’t play themselves into a position to be able to contest it. Gold at 15 is much closer to the middle of the League (-384) and respond well to the opposition, but it is at this point that it seems to get away from them. Teams seem to be able to snowball a victory against REN very easily, and this can be for a number of reasons. Shotcalling at this point is paramount, and it seems to be failing them. The length of their games shows that bandaid solutions can be made to defend a turret, or take a dragon to slow their 5th down but the proactive ones to take an advantage and disadvantage the opposition seems to be lacking. Adding to this is the seeming lack of identity of team composition from REN dissuades them from finding where their advantages may come from, and limits their ability to show their full strength in their team compositions. RF Legendary has seemed entirely uncomfortable in the top lane, AlexIch has not been able to pressure the midlane as he has probably wanted to, and Crumbz has not been able to create anything meaningful with his two solo laners. Bottom has had the most changes, and this can ruin the ability for team mates to build strong interpersonal ingame relationships and ruin any gains that could have been made during the off season. Do not underestimate this fact, as the two worst teams in the NA LCS have not had a stable line up all season, while the 5 man IMT and NRG squads are games up on the entire competition.
Renegades are not in a good place. Consistency has not been available to this new LCS team, however good they may have looked before the season. It has dissipated into the Void and the search for possible answers may have been continually detrimental to the team up until this point. Against TSM they were in a position to win, and created the advantages well with a much more solid team composition and stronger identity, and lost the knife-edge battle of the late game. Discussing what changes REN need to make is an exercise in futility without being in the team environment. From the outside, all we can do is try to identify some glaring problems and postulate what remedies may be necessary to correct it. But the changing nature of the failures of REN to win games can be attributed to a number of things, not least of all a team trying anything to find answers. I hope for the sake of the NA LCS that the LA Renegades can become the team many people (including myself) thought they could.