Under the Radar: The story of Team 8
With the start of the 2015 North American League Championship Series, came the debut of Team 8, one of three Challenger teams to successfully qualify for the NA LCS via the Spring Promotion Tournament, or by the LCS Expansion Tournament. Throughout their two splits in the LCS, Team 8 have often flown under the radar of most fans, and analysts. Many fans were quick to dismiss them as “another bottom tier team” joining the league. (After all, they have no Korean imports, how could they be good?) The team remembered for their top lane centric play may not have had the most dominating performances in the LCS, as they finished in the lower half of the standings each split. However they still had many achievements to their name, including splitting their season series with TSM 2-2, or taking upset victories over other top teams, including spring season Cloud 9.
In the spring, the team ran a fast and loose playstyle, relying heavily on Calitrlolz and Slooshi8 to take over games, and carry from the top and mid lanes. Calitrlolz had the second highest gold percentage of all top laners (the average share of his team’s total earned gold) at 21.9%, behind only Gamsu of dignitas. Slooshi8 also took a large percentage of the team’s gold, with 25.0%, equal to that of Bjergsen on the mid-centric Team Solo Mid. During that split Calitrlolz mostly played carry oriented champions, including AP Gragas, Irelia, Jax, and the occasional Fizz , Gnar, or Vladimir.
As a consequence of Team 8 funneling so much gold into their solo laners, somebody had to survive with limited Resources. This man was the team’s ADC, Maplestreet8, also known as frommaplestreet. He took only 24.5% of the team’s gold, and while that may seem like a lot, it was the second lowest of all NA LCS marksmen. Team 8 ran a playstyle where saving and protecting their ADC came as a lower priority than diving the enemy's backline. Calitrlolz has said in an interview that,
“We have a different style where we don’t peel… our mid laner, even our support sometimes don’t peel for our ADC. That’s kind of our style, I like to go into the back line and kill people rather than peel for the AD carry usually.”
This unique style would later be tamed in the Summer Split when Team 8 dropped Maplestreet8 for former CLG top laner, Nientonsoh, the only voluntary roster change in Team 8’s LCS stint.
While fans initially thought the addition of Nien as ADC, and History Teacher as head coach would help push them high enough to make playoffs, which they narrowly missed the split before, the team seemed to have trouble integrating the new members into their team. Team 8 had a lackluster start to the season, landing themselves tied for 8th, (sharing the spot with with a faltering Cloud9) posting a paltry record of 2 wins and 6 losses. The problems seemed to manifest from the playstyle Nien had become accustomed to during his time on Team Fusion.
On Fusion, Nien relied heavily on laneswaps to get farm, and carry his team from the mid game. His playstyle required his team to allow him to position in teamfights, and deal consistent damage from the back, or he would become useless. Unfortunately, this type of playstyle did not mesh with Team 8’s original style of disregarding their ADC, and the team struggled because of it. Team 8 began to adapt over the course of the split. Calitrlolz began to leave his Irelia and Gragas picks for tanky teamfighters that still have the ability to engage and lead the team, including Maokai and Shen. Soon, the team began to right their problems, and are entering the final week of the split in 7th place, despite having Slooshi8 take a leave of absence to help out his family. In replace of Slooshi8 came former Dignitas mid laner GoldenGlue.
Formation and the Road to LCS
Team 8 officially formed the day after Christmas, on December 26th 2013, however with a significantly different looking roster. The familiar faces of Dodo8 and Slooshi8 filled the support and mid roles, RicheRich made his home in the top lane, with Chu8 and Guess8 filling out the team. RicheRich then departed from the team under a month later, on January 17th. Exactly another month later, on February 17th 2014, Team 8 signed both Calitrlolz and Maplestreet8 to contracts. PorpoisePops8 was later signed as the new jungler, and thus began the true formation of the team fans have come to know and love, through their down to earth attitudes, and unusual or eccentric playstyle.
The team’s success did not come quickly. The Challenger scene proved to be a struggle for Team 8, as they seemed unable to put a string of wins together to advance into the LCS. During the first spring Challenger Series, the team lost in the first round of the play-in to vVv Gaming. The second spring season, the team showed slightly better results. They advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to future LCS team LMQ.
Team 8 did however have good success in other non-Riot sponsored events. Facing against other Challenger level teams, Team 8 won the Black Monster Cup twice in 2014, and dominated Lone Star Clash 3, a tournament filled by Curse Academy, Complexity, and Cloud9 Tempest, all of which were teams competing in the summer Challenger League. The team rampaged through tournament with huge performances from PorpoisePops8 on Nocturne, and Calitrlolz on Kha’Zix. Players said that winning LSC3 was a huge confidence booster. After their disappointing NA CS showings, the team was contemplating disbanding, however winning the tournament gave the team enough motivation to try and qualify for the LCS one last time.
With the momentum of winning on their backs, Team 8 went on to place fourth overall in points in the 2014 NA Summer Challenger Series, securing themselves a spot for the playoffs. Throughout 2 best of 3s and 1 best of 5, the team only dropped 2 games, defeating XDG Gaming 2-1, Coast 2-0, and Curse Academy in the finals 3-1. After breezing through the challenger bracket, the team was set to face off against Complexity in the 2015 Spring Promotion Tournament. In a close 5 game series, carried in part by 2 monster games by Slooshi8’s Orianna, Team 8 finally solidified their spot in the NA LCS.
More trouble awaited Team 8 after their qualification into the LCS. Calitrlolz, the main shotcaller, and team leader for the squad had to make a tough decision, between continuing in pharmacy school,(leaving professional gaming completely,) or to stay with the team. The star top laner made it clear to his team earlier in the year, that if he was accepted into pharmacy school, he would have to leave the team to pursue the more stable, and lucrative career. Soon after playing on the LCS stage during the promotion tournament, Calitrlolz said he felt torn about the decision, and that he did not want to miss performing in the LCS. A petition was then started, asking the dean of his school to defer his acceptance for one year. After gaining over 18,000 signatures, the school approved Calitrlolz’s year of absence, and he was set to play for Team 8 for Season 5.
Team 8: A fitting name
One might look at Team 8 on paper and wonder how it has been at all possible for the team to have any success in the LCS. No clear cut superstar dominates his role, leading the team to victory. In fact, the team does not appear to have any players who place top 3, or 4 in their respective role. Because of this they are often forgotten in discussions about the LCS, despite regularly posting solid team numbers. Instead of relying on mechanical superiority as many teams do, the team gets the job done through good old fashioned teamwork and synergy. Some of this synergy comes from the fact that Team 8 have only made 2 roster swaps, (one of which being involuntary,) since they signing PorpoisePops back in 2014. In the span of a year and a half of play together the team has built trust in each other to make the best plays possible. Through this trust members of the team are not afraid to follow calls made by Calitrlolz or Dodo8, not matter how risky.
The Future for Team 8
Entering the final week of play, Team 8 sit in 7th place, 1 game above Cloud9, with a record of 6-10. They face a couple of tough opponents in Team Liquid and Counter Logic Gaming, who both rest in the top 3 spots of the standings. Unfortunately, Team 8 have no chance at making the playoffs, so they must focus on keeping their number 7 spot in order to avoid relegations, and stay in the LCS. If the team is able to split the week 1-1, the odds are likely that they can keep their spot, as Cloud9 faces of against Team Solomid.
Looking beyond the end of the split, the path is unclear for Team 8. Calitrlolz will have to leave his gaming career in order to attend university. Losing a main shotcaller will be tough for the rest of the organization, and while it is likely Slooshi will return after his mother’s health issues have subsided, only time will tell. The future for Team 8 looks hopeful moving towards season 6, although there will be some substantial changes. Many of these changes depend on how well the team performs this weekend, in the final weekend of the 2015 North American League Championship Series.
For a bit more, I thought I’d add some recaps of 2 of my favorite games the team played over the course of the season. These “highlight games” are not necessarily Team 8’s biggest stomps, or biggest upsets, but just games that stood out to me as good examples of how Team 8 work as a team, (or games I found entertaining to watch.)
Team 8 vs TSM - Spring Split week 1
This first highlight match comes from the very first week of the LCS. Team 8 came off a shaky looking loss to CLG before, while TSM was coming off a victory. Before the start of the match the outcome had been decided; the powerhouse of TSM would roll over Team 8 and tie themselves for first with 2-0 Team Liquid. However as the game progressed, it didn’t go quite as expected.
At 3:40 seconds into the game, Team 8 took a four man dive onto Dyrus, who was left exposed on Gnar in the top lane, and secured first blood for PorpoisePop’s Nocturne. While TSM did not seem phased by the move, the early kill gave Calitrlolz the ability to bully Dyrus, and pick up a 15 cs lead by 11 minutes. After a close back and forth mid-game, (saved multiple times by huge Command: Shockwaves from Slooshi8,) Team 8 created a 4 for 1 fight at TSM’s blue buff, leading to the team destroying a 25 minute middle inhibitor, and securing Baron 3 minutes later.
With Baron buff in hand, Team 8 started a 4-1 split push, putting pressure on the bottom lane inhibitor with Calitrlolz’s fed Irelia, and sending the other 4 members top lane to siege TSM’s last inhibitor. The siege was successful; 30 minutes into the game, Team 8 had secured all 3 enemy inhibitors, and a 6.7k gold lead. After recalling, and regrouping, the team again pushed down midlane. Forced to engage as super minions destroyed their base, TSM lost 4 members. At 36 minutes, Team 8 took a commanding teamfight win, and then the game.
Team 8 vs TIP - Spring Split week 6
Team 8 entered week 6 with a record of 3-5, sitting in 7th place, but only 1 game behind a 5 way tie for 3rd place. Their first game of the week was crucial for them to win, to boost their record to 4-5, and put themselves in the mix with the large clump of teams who sat at 4-4. This match happened to be against one of those 3rd place teams, Team Impulse.
TIP drafted a double-ADC composition, putting XiaoWeiXiao on Ezreal, Apollo on Corki, and Impact on a tank top laner Maokai in order to round out the comp. To counter, Team 8 ran a standard pick and splitpush composition, with Slooshi8 on LeBlanc, Calitrlolz on Fizz, and Graves for Maplestreet.
In the early game, Team 8 prayed on TIP’s weak solo lanes. Slooshi secured first blood on a well executed counter gank from PorpoisePops8. 10 minutes later, Rush hands Slooshi8 his second kill of the game when he overextended trying to contest a blue buff transfer. From this play Porpoise heads top lane to freely gank Impact, knowing there is no chance of a counter gank, and picks up T8’s third kill of the game, and a 2k gold lead.
Team 8 continued to find kills around the map, leading them to a 7 to none kill lead, a 6k gold lead, and a 4-1 tower advantage by 22 minutes. At this point the game begins to stall out. Team 8 did increase their kill lead to 12-2, and their gold lead to 8k by 30 minutes, however they were only able to secure one more tower.
The trouble begins when Team 8 begin to seem impatient. First, at 33 minutes, their ad carry, top lane and mid lane all die after overstaying during a bottom lane shove. After a couple more mis-played fights, Impulse clawed their way back into the game, securing a Baron, and cutting the gold lead to 2.5k at 42 minutes.
More fights fall in Impulse’s favor, and it netting them a 1.4k gold lead, and a 3 extra towers. The game seems out of reach for Team 8. Impulse heads back to Baron in an attempt to help them close out the game, however Team 8 find what seems to be the perfect fight. TIP secure the objective, then turn off it and look to fight. Impact tunnel visions too hard onto stopping Rek’Sai from stealing Baron, and wastes all his cooldowns on the tank. Meanwhile Maplestreet8 is untouched on the top side of the fight. He completely solo kills Apollo, before flashing into the pit to secure another kill onto XiaoWeiXiao. Team 8 took the fight 3 for none, pushed down the mid lane and ended the game, placing themselves in a tie for fifth place.
All photos are credit of Team 8, and Riot Games