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My 2016 Highlights

In 2015, I did a pretty detailed recap of my journey up to that point. At that point I had just crested 1,000 Twitter followers and was still working to establish myself as a legitimate voice in the analytical writing space. Fast forward to today and I’m creeping up towards 4,400 Twitter followers and keeping the ball rolling as a content creator.

For 2016 I’m not going to bust out a full timeline or a thank you list, but I made a lot of progress and produced a lot of content. Here are a few of my highlights from the past 12 months.

Joined theScore esports as a freelancer
In April, I signed on with theScore esports as a freelance writer. I had been writing for Unikrn, but I was excited about the opportunity to reach a larger audience and contribute alongside great writers like Kelsey Moser and Emily Rand.

My first article with theScore was about Piglet’s terrific body of work in the 2016 spring split. Since then, I’ve contributed many more articles, a variety of video scripts, and a few infographics. Earlier today I shared links to a few of my favourite pieces from that body of work.

I’m excited to keep producing content with theScore in 2017!

Voted on official LCS awards
During the spring split, Riot invited me (on a caster’s recommendation) to be part of the media voting for LCS awards. That was a huge honour. As far as I’m aware, I was the only person invited to submit a ballot for both the NA LCS and EU LCS, which I did in both the spring and summer splits. I’m pretty proud of that distinction since there aren’t many people who write about both leagues consistently.

I’m planning to cover both North America and Europe closely in 2017 as well, and I hope I’ll have the chance to contribute to the awards process on both sides of the Atlantic again.

Attended summer finals in Toronto
In August, I had the chance to fly out to Toronto to cover the NA LCS summer finals. I watched the games from the press box with some really cool people like Emily Rand and Scarra, and was able to meet (or at least say hi to) a lot of people whose work I really respect, like Jatt, Phreak, Azael, Fionn, Crumbzz, Travis Gafford, and many others.

I’m not sure yet whether I’ll be able to attend any live events in 2017, but I’d like to!

Overall, 2016 was a year of consistent growth for me. I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to put my work out to be read, and especially the chances I’ve had to engage with readers and other analysts.

In 2017, I want to focus on my strengths and keep building up my presence as a writer, statistician, and personality, while also improving OraclesElixir.com and cementing its role in the LoL esports ecosystem. I’m not really looking to break new ground so much as keep the momentum going and double down on the things that are already working.

Thanks for taking the journey with me so far! I’m excited about the year ahead.


Some of My Favourite Work from 2016

As an analytical writer, I don’t do many “timeless” pieces. Most of my work is built around the time it’s released, telling stories about performance rather than personality. So a retrospective of my work from 2016 doesn’t really produce a list of still-readable pieces, but it helps me review my progress as a writer and my ability to present different ideas in different ways.

Here are a few of the pieces I’m most proud of from 2016.

TSM vs C9: A Classic Finals Rematch
I wrote the scripts for quite a few stats-oriented videos for theScore esports this year. One of my favourites was this breakdown of the storied TSM vs Cloud9 playoffs rivalry.

Me First, You First: The contrasting styles of Huni and Impact
I enjoy the process of breaking down a player’s style, their personal strengths and weaknesses and the roles they fill on their teams. It helps move the discussion forward instead of limiting player analysis to “good or bad,” “better or worse.” That’s how I went about contrasting Huni and Impact, two of the best top laners playing in North America in 2016, and I think it made for one of my stronger articles.

I’ll always be an analytical writer; it’s my niche in LoL. But some of my favourite pieces are the ones where I get to build a bit more long-term storytelling into my analysis and flex a slightly different set of muscles. Here are two articles where I did that:

Keeping Love Alive: Hylissang and Vizicsacsi lead the Unicorns’ quest for respect
The Unicorns of Live are a frequently under-discussed team, so I felt good about telling their story and providing a balanced perspective of their ups and downs.

Silver Tigers: The unsatisfying story of Korea’s second-best team
My Tigers article focused on their trajectory as a team, since their inception at the start of 2015, and their efforts to solve play style issues in different ways. Given their eventual performance at the 2016 World Championships, the title of the article seems that much more poignant.

Miracle Run: Cloud9’s Path Through the 2015 Gauntlet
To round out the list, here’s a storytelling video I wrote, looking back at Cloud9’s crazy 2015 gauntlet run. See, I can do retrospective, narrative pieces, too!

In 2017, I’ll continue to focus primarily on analytical writing, breaking down teams and players from a strategic and statistical perspective. I’d love to do a bit more storytelling, too, and possibly connect more with people inside the scene for interview-based pieces. We’ll see where the road takes me!


One Key Question: NA LCS Teams

There are still a few holes in the NA LCS roster landscape, but things are starting to settle down. As we anticipate the start of the 2017 spring split in January, here’s one key question about each of the 10 North American teams that may determine their results.

Cloud9

How long will it take Contractz to adjust to the LCS level of play?

Cloud9 made it to the summer finals and reached the World Championships quarterfinals with Meteos in the jungle, and while he wasn’t a weak jungler, he was one of the softer parts of their roster. Contractz had a strong showing in Challenger but there’s no guarantee he’ll be an upgrade, especially in the short term. If Contractz struggles, it could put a lot more pressure on Impact and Jensen, who are the team’s core playmakers. But if Contractz hits the ground running, C9 will be early frontrunners.

Ex-Cloud9 Challenger

Are there any roster moves on the way?

This seems like an overly simple question, but it’s crucial to the team’s staying power as new LCS qualifiers. The reports say that C9C’s slot was purchased alongside the contracts of Balls, Hai, Altec, and LemonNation. Obviously the team needs to find a new jungler, and they have their import slots free so there’s room to bring in a solid player. But even if they get a strong import like Lira, I’m not convinced these old-school players are good enough to reach the playoffs. In their Challenger run, Hai looked much more comfortable with his return to the mid lane role, but we know what we’re getting in Balls and LemonNation, and it’s hard to give them too much credit. If the team is content with simply avoiding relegation in their first split, fine. That would actually make good business sense, given the timing of their ownership change. But if nothing changes with their roster, and if their new jungler isn’t an impressive pick-up, then I don’t think we’ll have much to be excited about beyond the organization’s new name and big money.

Counter Logic Gaming

How hard have Darshan and Huhi been practicing?

It’s no secret that CLG’s solo lanes were their weak points all summer. I’m on record with the opinion that they didn’t need to replace either player, though. Both players have higher ceilings, and CLG’s core strengths are their innovation and coordination, as well as the strength of their duo lane. Darshan and Huhi only need to improve their laning a little to put CLG back on track, but that little bit of improvement may require a lot of hard work. CLG have great coaching from Zikz and a ton of experience working together, so I have faith in them to get where they need to be.

Dignitas

How well will this team be coached?

The Dignitas roster, even with its AD carry not yet finalized, is very top-heavy. Ssumday and Chaser are obviously the big names in top and jungle, with Keane playing a creative role in the mid lane and Xpecial working with a to-be-determined ADC. The roster bears a lot of similarities to Ssumday’s previous team, KT Rolster, who relied on Fly’s eccentric champion pool in mid lane, Arrow’s low-needs stability at AD carry, and Hachani’s roaming and playmaking at support. Whether it’s Apollo, LOD, or someone else filling the last spot, Ssumday and Chaser will have their work cut out for them to lead the way, and it’s going to take some very intentional coaching to get the team to coordinate that kind of play style. Since the roster is imbalanced across the map, each player will need to have a very clear understanding of their role. With communication challenges likely to be a factor, the coaching staff will be on the hook to get things running smoothly.

Echo Fox

Is Froggen good enough to keep this team out of the basement?

Froggen is a strong mid laner, and he proved himself as a pretty complete player throughout the year. Despite bringing in Looper for the top lane, though, Echo Fox haven’t substantially leveled up their overall roster. The rest of the NA LCS has stronger domestic cores. Even import-centred teams like Dignitas and Team Liquid have mid-tier NA-status players like Keane, Lourlo, and Matt. I hoped to see Echo Fox mirror Phoenix1’s approach of building up their core, but for whatever reason, Echo Fox haven’t made that happen. Their roster hasn’t been finalized, but the pool of North American free agents is pretty thin at this point, so I’m not getting my hopes up for substantive improvements to Froggen’s supporting cast.

EnVyUs

What’s different this time around?

Let’s not beat around the bush: EnVyUs fell off a cliff in the second half of the summer split. Based on their level of play at the end of the summer regular season, they didn’t really deserve to be in the playoffs or regionals, and it showed. There’s no reason to think that stability was the right call for this roster. Procxin appears to be out, and LOD’s name has been attached to Dignitas in rumours, but it’s getting very late in the offseason to pick up meaningful replacements. A new jungler would probably help, but LOD would be a tough loss. Meanwhile Hakuho, Seraph, and Ninja all have issues with their play, but there are no signs that anything will change at those positions. If Procxin’s replacement isn’t an impressive surprise of some kind, there’s no reason to put faith in EnVyUs to right the ship.

Immortals

Is Cody Sun the real deal?

The Immortals management impressed me a lot with their roster-building savvy when they first arrived in the NA LCS. The Pobelter/WildTurtle/Adrian trio was a smart complement to Huni and Reignover’s top-side aggression, with Pobelter and Adrian playing supportive roles and WildTurtle serving as the alternative carry outlet to give Huni some extra room to work. Now we’re seeing a second go-round in their roster building, and while I see some similarly impressive self-awareness, this is also the first time IMT have tried their hand at bringing in a rookie. The success of the new lineup hinges greatly on Cody Sun’s ability to live up to the hype and provide balance to the team’s carry profile. If Cody can become a meaningful threat to share pressure with Dardoch and Flame, it could mean very good things for his team. But if he’s a consistent soft spot, the Immortals’ top-heaviness and tilt potential might become exploitable.

Phoenix1

Can Arrow be a primary carry?

I’ve written about being impressed by Phoenix1’s core of domestic players, and now we know that the team is using its import spots on Ryu and Arrow. For this roster to work, one or both of those players will need to step up as a primary carry and become the central focus of the team. Zig and Adrian tend to be very supportive players, and Arrow is used to being a secondary option behind the powerful top-side duo of Ssumday and Score, with proactive roaming supports like Piccaboo in 2015 and Hachani in 2016. We haven’t really seen Arrow take centre stage the way he’ll need to with P1. That doesn’t mean he can’t or won’t succeed in that role, but there may be some stumbles as he gets accustomed to his new role.

Team Liquid

Is Piglet ready to play with respect?

Over the course of Piglet’s time with Team Liquid, he evolved from an incredibly cocky, tilt-prone player into a more measured decision-maker who paired his incredible mechanics with smart positioning to take over games. At IEM GyeongGi, though, in Piglet’s return to the starting lineup, we again saw Piglet playing as if he thought he was perpetually fed. He and Matt repeatedly opted into damage trades and all-ins that might have worked if they were ahead in levels or items, but instead failed because they were even or behind. Multiple Vayne selections also pointed towards Piglet’s “I’m-better-by-default” mindset. This was classic Piglet, and not in a good way. For Team Liquid to find success this spring, Piglet needs to take a step back and remember that he isn’t simply better than his opponents and capable of winning every trade; he’s only better if he makes better decisions. We’ve seen how good Piglet can be when he gets his ego in check. It’s unfortunate that he seems to have taken a step backwards during his time away.

Team SoloMid

Is Bjergsen ready to increase his work load again?

Part of what made TSM so dominant domestically this year was the dynamic between Bjergsen and Doublelift, with Doublelift drawing tons of focus to himself in the early game through strong laning. That allowed Bjergsen to have some breathing room and use his own laning strength to step up his roaming play. WildTurtle is a much weaker laner than Doublelift, and that will remove some of Bjergsen’s flexibility. Opponents are either going to camp Bjergsen or try to snowball their bot lane against WildTurtle, forcing Bjergsen to either use his roams to help the bottom lane or sacrifice bot when he goes top. Either way, there will be much more pressure on Bjergsen to carry TSM’s early game. He’s capable of doing it; we saw it in 2015, the last time WildTurtle was on TSM. Hopefully it won’t mean an overall step backwards for Bjergsen or his team, though, because his more flexible play this past year was such a great evolution.


ESPN’s All-Star Roster Challenge

I’m a sucker for team-building games! Here’s the latest, from ESPN.

The basic concept is using the All Star rosters to build a team, using a $17 salary cap and ESPN’s prescribed values.

Hit the link for full details and generate your own team! Meanwhile, here’s what I built!

Ziv ($3)
Reignover ($3)
Faker ($5)
Doublelift ($3)
Aphromoo ($3)

Ziv and Reignover at $3 a piece are too good to pass up. Throw in some classic synergy between Doublelift and Aphromoo bot for some more good $3 value to allow for a full-price Faker in mid.

So much playmaking, so much solo lane flexibility.

Impact/Karsa would be similarly good choices for top/jungle, but I really like Ziv, and I think Reignover’s control style would be more useful than Karsa’s slightly more aggressive flavour, given the tools in the rest of the roster.


Rumour Mill Wish List

One of my Twitter followers asked me a three-part question:

Is there a way to write an article about: 1) A rumor you hope is true, 2) one you hope is false, 3) one you wish existed?

I thought it was an interesting idea, so here’s what comes to mind.

Hope It’s True

The most star-studded rumour—or perhaps it’s more speculation than rumour, based on what’s publicly known—is that KT Rolster will be replacing Arrow and Hachani with Deft and Mata.

As a KT Rolster fan, you bet I hope this is true! Deft and Mata are probably the two biggest free agent names out there, depending what you think about GorillA. KT have arguably the strongest top+jungle duo in the world already in Ssumday and Score, and Fly is a very versatile mid laner who could fit in will to a team with so much power—and relatively high resource needs—in both side lanes.

On paper, if KT Rolster sign Deft and Mata they will unquestionably be the most skilled roster in the world. I really hope we get to see that group go up against SK Telecom T1 and others.

Hope It’s False

Fomos, a Korean news service, has reported that players from the ROX Tigers are fielding offers from other teams. It’s probably wishful thinking to hope that isn’t true, but for the sake of the LCK and it’s fans, I’d really like to see that team stick together.

It must be frustrating for Smeb, Peanut, Kuro, Pray, and GorillA to fall to SKT so many times. And I certainly don’t blame them for looking to earn the money they’re worth, given the weaker financial status of the ROX Tigers team. Purely selfishly, though, I’d love to see ROX try again at mid lane with another sub option for Kuro and keep pressing for growth.

Regardless, I’m sure I’ll enjoy watching the players on whatever teams they disperse to, or with whatever new teammates the Tigers sign to fill the holes. It just doesn’t feel like the right development in this team’s story, given what they’ve gone through in the past two years.

Wish it Was Out There

I’d be really excited to hear something about Spirit, maybe see him going to Misfits? Spirit is a super good player whose reputation took an undeserved (in my opinion) hit in 2016 because of Fnatic’s team failures. In the right environment, I think Spirit could really assert himself and dominate the EU LCS. He just needs a team that understands how he plays and what he values. Maybe Misfits isn’t the team to do that; I’m not sure. One way or another, though, I just don’t want to see Spirit wander through another year of mediocre team results. He’s better than that.