Wildcard Regions: LoL Continental League (LCL)

By Riot Brujo

As we continue our trek through the regions competing at the 2016 International Wildcard Invitational (IWCI) from April 16 to the 23rd, this time we take a closer look at the teams from the Commonwealth of Independ States (CIS) vying for a chance to represent the LoL Continental League (LCL). Here’s the rundown.

League Structure

In the world of eSports, the CIS competitive scene is well known for top-notch performances in different video games – and League of Legends is no exception. In 2014, a new team by the name of Team Empire splashed onto the scene. It later became Moscow Five, and now it is known the world over as Gambit Gaming. Although it never competed in the regional league, there’s a great sense of pride and admiration for the team’s current roster, which includes big-ticket names like Darien, Diamondprox, Alex Ich, Genja and Edward. It is definitely one of the most dominant teams in League history, and currently a key contender in the LCS EU.

High-performing players abound in the CEI, but the constant and unpredictable shifts of its league structure and format made it an uphill battle during its early years. At the beginning of the Starladder, none of the teams were able to shine in the international stage. In 2014, for instance, there were a total of five regional, double-elimination tournaments. The 2015 summer split was the only one with a single-elimination format.

It wasn’t until 2016 that the LoL Continental League was finally created with the objective of solidifying and improving the tournament’s structure and to better support regional teams. The LCL now favors a classic format, with eight teams facing off twice a week in a two-way round robin, Bo1 series. The top four teams move on to the semifinals, where the fist seed gets to choose its rival.

Competitive Scene

It’s hard to pinpoint a single influence or distinctive metagame for the LCL. Some teams follow typical drafts and styles from the NA LCS, EU LCS or the LCK, while others completely shy away from the standards, in favor of a more custom style. However, over the last 2 years, it’s become clear that most of the LCL teams love to team fight and prefer hard engage comps. As a result, poke comps are almost unheard of in professional matches.

In this part of the world, Malphite has become a highly contended pick for top laners, who love to spread around their stone-solid doze of team fight threat and initiation. This is not at all surprising in a server where you often find players with a two thousand match history using a single champion. Given these narrower champion pools, you won’t usually see teams trying to steal away enemy picks during drafts, but rather focusing on building strong, comfortable comps of their own.

Aside from Gambit, the best team in the history of the CIS has been Hard Random, with a record of three championship wins and four appearances at the grand finals. Hard Random is known for the constant changes to its roster (three of their four grand finals were played with different rosters), which speaks to the fact that this team doesn’t only rely on the performance of its star players, but rather on strong management and coaching. That said, Kira and Smurf, the team’s two veteran players, are very reliable laners capable of turning the tides of any match thanks to their renowned dueling skills.

Natus Vincere, or Na’Vi, was another key contender during this year’s tournament who made it all the way to the semifinals. Rather than “born to vanquish” it could be said that this team seemed to have been “born to waver and falter”, as their performance on the Rift often hinged on the current mood of Lasagna, the team leader and captain. This jungler could be first-rate or a complete flop from one match to the next, an apparent victim of the age-old laws of chance which no mortal has dared to make sense of. Despite the setbacks, whenever Na’Vi was able to overcome their unpredictability, fans got to enjoy the exciting results of their solid training and concentration.

The Contenders

Four teams moved on to the Spring Split semifinals, where Hard Random was able to overcome Vega Squadron, while Na’Vi succumbed to the younger frontrunner, Team Empire.

  • Hard Random

    We’ve gone over Hard Random’s solid organization, which is reflected on their top-notch team of coaches and strategists, and (quite literally) an all-star line-up. Some consider them to be the SKT of the CEI, given their strong objective control. Unlike other bloodthirsty teams, Hard Random steers clear of risky plays and follows a gameplay philosophy of “if you’re ahead, you better make the most of your lead”.

    Having won the top spot during the regular tournament, they chose the Vega Squadron sharks as their opponents during semifinals, from whom they got a little taste of revenge from the team who was able to beat them early on during the second day of competition. On March 27th, they beat the Vega Squadron to move on to the Grand Final against Team Empire.

    Player to watch: Kira (mid). The 2015 International Wildcard All-Stars in Australia was the epic setting for the now legendary 1v1 clash of regional stars: Seiya, from LAN’s Lyon Gaming, versus Hard Random’s own Kira. As Kira dealt the fatal last blow, he overcame his feline contender to take the 1v1 title. Kira has also been known to overpower some of the world’s greatest, including Faker. A versatile player with one of the largest champion pools in the league, he still has a soft spot for Anivia, Lulu and LeBlanc.

    • Team Empire

      Despite its recent creation, Team Empire was able to secure second place in the regular season standings. With a roster including two veterans, a rookie and two foreign players, Team Empire relies heavily on their jungle pressure and precise team fighting. Week after week, their coach seems to catch opponents off guard with his unconventional strategies. This unpredictability proved to be enough to overcome their opponent, Na’Vi, during the semifinals. They will now get to put their skills to the test against Hard Random during the Grand Final.

      Player to watch: Memento (jungler). Without a doubt, Memento has earned his reputation as the best jungler in the continental league. His unrelenting pressure on enemy junglers, a zero mistake personal policy, and brilliant mid/late game, make him a deadly predator who, true to his name, loves to make hunter’s mementos out of each enemy kill. His favorite picks include Nidalee, Kindred and Gragas.

With a repertoire of unorthodox LCL plays, the CIS representative will be sure to have a few surprises up its sleeve at the IWCI in Mexico City… that is, unless Hard Random, the most level-headed, by-the-book team in the league has anything to say about it. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the next region on our itinerary. And if you want to see some of the LCL teams in action, check out the Din of Battle video below!

The Din of Battle: HR vs Na’Vi

3 years ago

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