SK Gaming’s defeat to Fnatic in the first round of the 2021 LEC Spring Split Playoffs last week was perhaps to be expected. A team filled to the brim with rookie talent and LEC newbies was never really expected to surpass a Fnatic side which had infinitely more best-of-five experience at this level of League of Legends and had defeated SK in both regular season ties.
However, despite the series ending with a 3-1 defeat, the games were incredibly close, and could have flipped either way. Strong performances from players like toplaner Janik ‘Jenax’ Bartels and botlaner Jean ‘Jezu’ Massol throughout the match gave SK avenues for success. Throughout the series we saw glimpses of the El Clásicos of old which had forged the rivalry that has been absent between the two teams for some time now.
In our 2021 LEC Spring Split Playoffs predictions, we noted one player who had been crucial to SK’s success so far this season – Erik ‘Treatz’ Wessén. Having achieved a whopping 82.4% kill participation – the highest out of any player in the LEC this split, while also snagging four Player of the Game awards – the former Team SoloMid man has well and truly established himself back home in Europe.
We caught up with Treatz after the Fnatic series to reflect on his first LEC studio experience, the team’s performance, and its next steps. As a former NA import who clearly retains his love for the region, we also gleaned the player’s take on the current discussion surrounding relaxing the LCS import rule.
The Loadout: How was the experience of coming into the LEC studio and playing that first best-of-five series as a team today?
Erik ‘Treatz’ Wessén: I think we’re all very confident playing on stage. We’ve all done it at some point. Obviously, it’s been such a long time for me – it’s been one and a half years or something crazy. But I’ve played so many different series in the past on stage, so I don’t feel any additional pressure from that. It’s just very hype in general to play on stage. I think it brings out a lot of good things in people.
I think it also shows a lot of flaws in general, as a team, because you play way more instinctually than you would in scrims where you can play a bit more calculated. I think Fnatic edged out on a lot of these things from experience, which we just don’t have. But we definitely had a solid series overall, I would say.
Of course you’ve played in series of this level before, but for the rookies you wouldn’t think that this was their first best-of-five in the LEC. I was particularly impressed with Jezu, and I’m sure you’ll agree.
Yeah, for sure. I’m definitely happy with how Jezu played. Especially in game three and four, when there were some unlucky flips in bot lane that made the game kind of unplayable from bot side. But I think we did show up in teamfights a lot. And we showed up in a lot of clutch moments where it mattered. But I’m really happy with how he and all the rookies played. As a team we had a clear game plan in all the games, we were confident in all of our drafts, and I think it showed overall even though we lost the series.
What was the game plan for you two in the bot lane, and how do you think you executed on it?
We showed that we can easily match them [Fnatic] when the situation is correct
In general, we wanted to match Fnatic’s aggression on bot side. Obviously picks like Alistar made it really easy for us to do this, which they also figured out and they banned a lot of the fighting bot AD Carries – I think their bans in the last two games were like Kalista, Alistar, Tristana, right? So they were basically targeting us, because they’re afraid to play those sides of the matchup.
When the game was even, like in game one and two, then I think we showed that we can easily match them and pressure them. But they have a lot of experience, which also shows in this type of series where they fake pressure a lot, and they really try to force you to make mistakes.
This is something that we’re also looking to improve for Summer, where you play really far up and you really pressure the opponent, even though your jungler might not be nearby. So I think they played well from that perspective. But I also think we showed that we can easily match them when the situation is correct.
What else does SK need to improve on as a team heading into Summer?
Right now I think we’re pretty good overall, I think our main goal is to just increase everyone’s level by like 20%. I think it was a really close margin that helped Fnatic win – they were just playing slightly better in lane, in fights, and had slightly better flips. I don’t think we have any problems with our macro in general – I think we take good fights. So I think it’s just about making everyone a better player so we can contest for the title.
Really close series today, a bunch of very small things deciding the series but FNATIC edged out on a lot of them. We improved a lot during the past 2 weeks but it wasn’t quite enough. In summer we will get our revenge and smash them into the ground.
Appreciate the support ❤️
— Erik Wessén (@Treatz) March 26, 2021
Obviously your stats this split have been fantastic, so how does it feel to return to Europe and have that immediate impact, and what else do you think you’ve brought to this SK team so far?
It feels really good to play at a level that I’m happy with, but I still think I can push myself harder and increase my level even further. And I think even in NA, I was already at this level, I just think I didn’t have the proper tools around me to show it. So for myself, personally, I would say I’m happy. But I’m not satisfied, because I know I can do better.
I think, in general, what I bring to SK is a lot of confidence, a lot of good vibes to my teammates, and being a caller for my team.
In recent weeks there has been a lot of discussion over in NA surrounding import rules – as someone who was an import, and from what I can tell continues to keep an eye on the LCS, what is your take on the issue?
The import rule discussion is just really dumb
I honestly think the import rule discussion is just really dumb. I think it’s obvious that there should be these import rules in place. And I think a lot of the problems that NA owners are facing is that they don’t actually understand the talent that they have under their roster or in other teams. And it comes from bad scouting, bad talent understanding, and bad implementation of amateur players, I would say.
I think a good example of this is in Golden Guardians now they have Aiden ‘Niles’ Tidwell and Ethan ‘Iconic’ Wilkinson. They’re getting turbo flamed by Reddit even though I don’t think they should play in LCS right now. Why would they make the step up from amateur to LCS instantly? That’s not their own fault because obviously they would accept the offer, right? It’s up to the management, and it has bad scouting there – they should know that maybe if they play in Academy for one more split, then they can be ready.
It’s so easy for imports to look bad because they’re put in bad situations, instead of being played alongside someone the team has properly scouted and added strategically.
Code S RO16 Preview: Trap, Armani, sOs, Zest
The round of 16 comes to a close with Group D, where three championship-winning Protoss players are joined by an unlikely underdog in Armani. It’s a warped mirror image of Group B, where sole Zerg Solar had to go up against three far more well-regarded Terrans. The streamlined practice may not have availed Solar then, but perhaps Armani will show us what three weeks of his finely honed ZvP can do.
Group D: Trap, Armani, sOs, Zest
Start time: Thursday, Apr 15 9:30am GMT (GMT+00:00)
Any talk about Trap has to start with addressing the elephant in the room: what the hell happened to him at IEM Katowice 2021? Headed into the tournament, he was the most-hyped player on the planet, having won three major titles in a row. But when it came time to play at the world championship, the weak-hearted choker of the past re-emerged. Trap was humiliated in the group stages, getting eliminated after finishing behind players like HeroMarine and Astrea.
This… this is a concern. Trap himself admitted in past interviews that his championship at DH: Last Chance wasn’t quite as meaningful as if he had won a bigger tournament like GSL or IEM Katowice. You have to wonder: did he only manage that three tournament winning streak because the pressure was off? Because those tournaments—two Super Tournaments and DH: Last Chance—were merely ‘tier 2’ tournaments? If that’s the case, then it means Trap still has significant mental barriers to overcome. Sure, there’s a chance his IEM collapse was just the product of crazy variance, the kind that we’ve come to expect in competitive StarCraft II. But even then, Trap will be the subject of much doubt should he reach the Code S finals again.
Still, Trap’s growth and accomplishments over the last two years suggest that the Code S RO16 should hardly be an issue for him anymore. Prior to IEM Katowice 2021, Trap was clearly the best Protoss player in the world—not just a jack-of-all-trades but an ace in every department. Whether it was all-ins or late-game play, macro or micro, you could hardly find fault in anything he did. If Trap is to rehabilitate his reputation and prove that he’s not just a paper tiger, then dominating his opponents in Group D will be an important first step.
At least he has an easy initial opponent on paper—or does he? Trap snapped up Armani with the second pick of the group selections, seemingly unimpressed with Armani’s unbelievable, titan-slaying qualifier run. Code S qualification this season was more complicated than usual—basically, the qualifier was divided into two segments. On the first day of the qualifiers, four direct Code S seeds were handed out to the best players on the day, while everyone else who qualified were forced to go through the rigors of Code A. Obviously, you’d expect the four players to win those direct Code S spots to be the cream of the crop. And that was the case, for the most part. Rogue: Obviously. INnoVation: Sure. Solar: Not a huge surprise if he was playing at his highest level. Armani: WHAT?
Indeed, Armani managed to claim one of those precious direct seeds, defeating Dark (twice!) and Maru in order to do so. Alas, we don’t have much info on what the hell happened. Little could be gleaned from the banter of the group selections, with the precise events of the qualifiers left unmentioned. But the fact that Trap snapped up Armani suggests he is NOT a believer. That’s not to say that Armani is a poor player—he’s become a solid member of the GSL middle-class, even making a one surprise semi-final run in 2020. But, as his #16 standing in the Aligulac.com Korea rankings suggests, he’s not a player who you expect championship contenders like Trap to sweat. While I’ll agree with Trap’s implicit appraisal of Armani for now, I’d love for Armani to show us what let him score those massive upsets in the qualifiers.
Speaking of mysterious players, the third contestant in Group D is none other than sOs. Now, there’s a contingent of readers on TL.net who are convinced that the legendary sOs has been washed for years, and is just living on his reputation from a bygone era. There’s some merit to that viewpoint, considering that this season marks his first return to the Code S RO16 in around two years. Yet, has sOs made enough ‘random’ deep runs in major tournaments during that time to suggest that he’s still got a lot of fight left in him. Furthermore, various video vignettes often reveal that sOs’ fellow progamers are quite averse to playing against his unpredictable style. At the very least, the draft order shows he’s still more respected—or at least more loathed—than the likes of Zoun and Hurricane.
The fourth and final contestant in the group is Zest. There’s an ill omen for fans of the veteran Protoss: among the class of players consigned to mandatory military service this year, both TY and Stats have already been eliminated from their final Code S season (it’s not 100% certain with Stats, but it seems likely). Going out on top is certainly an attractive concept, but when you look across the history of sports, clinging on until you flame out is more of the norm. Even Zest himself has given clues toward this kind of anticlimactic finale, mentioning his reduced practice during the group selections.
Still, there’s more than ample reason to have a positive outlook for Zest headed into this group. He has the best recent major tourney result of any GSL player: a second place finish at IEM Katowice 2021. While his micro, macro, and multi-tasking vexxed viewers at times, there was nothing confusing about his ability to put wins on the board. Sure, warping in 12 Zealots when your opponent doesn’t expect is a bronze-tier tactic—but getting it to work against the best progamers in the world is why Zest is SC2’s galaxy brain.
Prediction: Unless Armani can reinvoke his mojo from the semifinals,this group will probably come down to PvP ability. In that regard, Zest and Trap have a significant advantage. Though PvP still deserves its reputation as an unpredictable match-up where anyone could win, there’s still plenty of skill separation at the top level. Over the course of the 2020/21 EPT Season, both Zest and Trap recorded over 70% match win-rates in PvP, while sOs only recorded a 57% in that same period.
That said, there are some interesting head-to-head quirks to consider. Trap is 7-0 against sOs since 2020. In that same time frame, sOs is 1-0 against Zest, having swept him in their meeting in December’s Super Tournament. As for Trap and Zest, it’s close to a wash, with Trap leading 11-9 in series.
What does all that mean? Ehhh, who knows.
Trap > Armani
Zest > sOs
Trap > Zest
sOs > Armani
sOs > Zest
Trap and sOs to advance.
Use this Cyper tripwire trick to lure enemies into your sites
Cypher’s spy kit shines brightest on Split thanks to the map’s enclosed areas and choke points. This galaxy brain play proves that Cypher is the key to winning on split thanks to his strong options on the B site.
Valorant has 15 agents and all of them are equipped with abilities that may or may not work on select maps. For example, Sova often underperforms on Split since his arrows are best on maps with verticality. On Icebox, controllers lose much of their purpose as their smokes rarely come into play. However, these agents have their own map picks where they become absolutely invincible. Cypher enjoys a sky-high pick rate on Split due to his ability to choke entries.
His tripwires and camera help him keep the backlines secure, but he can be deadly on the defensive side as well. In high-ranked lobbies, this strategy may help you secure extra kills as Cypher.
Attach your tripwire from the B main entrance boxes towards the large wooden box. This is a unique angle that the enemy would likely miss spotting while rushing into the site. After that, place your cage in the middle of default and the wooden box. The purpose of the smoke is to trick enemies into finding a secure corner, a corner where you have placed your tripwire. As soon as the attackers tumble on the wire, you’ll have their positions exposed while they’re vulnerable due to the slight concuss.
While it’s often expected for Cypher to play safely as the team rotates back from A, the agent can singlehandedly lock down a large area and get kills using this trick. The defenders can trust you with a whole bomb site if you know how to execute this setup flawlessly. This trick pairs best with Raze’s grenades and Killjoy’s nano swarm as well. The two agents can injure the dazed enemies after the trip exposes their locations.
What class is Cypher in Valorant?
The information broker was released in the original Valorant roster as a Sentinel who keeps tabs on enemies from the sidelines. He’s a one-man surveillance network who can secure a large area on his own thanks to his information-gathering abilities. Cypher is a valuable agent in full lobbies where teammates can benefit from his map control and extensive intel.
Recent buff deactivated Cypher’s equipment post-death, but his pick rate didn’t falter. The agent is still the top Sentinel in high ranked lobbies and professional Valorant games.
ESL Open Week #66: Stats, Clem, Solar win
The second week of the ESL Open Cups for the 2021-22 ESL Pro Tour (and 66th overall) have come and gone: On Sunday, Stats marked his first win of the second season in Korea, while Clem defended his title in the European showdown on Monday. In the American cup, Solar celebrated his first successful overseas campaign of the season.
The top echelon of Korean Protoss players seem to have thing for EPT points. Their participation in these cups has been steady week after week, while their colleague’s spirits seem lacking in this regard. No wonder, then, that once more the warriors from Aiur dominated the competition on Sunday by taking three out of four top spots in the Asian cup. Stats had a pretty comfortable way to the finals, with MacSed and SpeCial being the only notable opponents he had to overcome to gain entry to the decisive bout. There, he clashed with PartinG, who had already stood in the finals in the previous week (eliminating Stats along the way). Unfortunately for PartinG, he had his hopes thwarted once again. Just like in Cup #65, the Big Boy won the first map, only to be crushed in the three subsequent games. Having defeated Has and Trap along the way, his PvP mojo seemed depleted.
While ‘the Clem Weekly’ really doesn’t have the same ring to it as ‘the Big Gabe Weekly’, the Liquid player seems to have the will to make the new unofficial title for the tournament series a reality, having already secured the second win in the new season and laying a foundation for a long streak of victories. It was a hard-won triumph, for Clem had to contend with souL and HeRoMaRinE to reach the finals. But with his reputed weakness in TvT really not being as much of an issue anymore, the two Terrans were nothing the Frenchman couldn’t handle. On the other side of the bracket, another heavy hitter cruised through the bracket without breaking a sweat: the reigning world champion Reynor graced the cup with his presence and reached the finals without losing a map, disposing of GunGFuBanDa in the semis—already the second top four placement for the German this season. The Italian and his opponent from France rekindled their rivalry from last season, Clem winning the first map after a series of Bio pushes. Reynor struck back by taking a page out of Dark’s book and opting for Roach-Ravager, transitioning into Lurker-Viper and eventually winning the macro game in the second match. He followed this up by showing his range on the third map, taking a win with Muta-Ling-Bane. A wonky base trade scenario on Blackburn equalized the series, with Clem closing things out in another Bio-Mine vs. Muta-Ling-Bane match on the final map—it wasn’t the most exciting series these two have played against each other, but seeing this duel in a weekly cup sure is a fantastic thing for the fans.
After crashing out of the Korean/Asian cup early on, Solar made up for it with a dominating performance in the American ESL Open Cup one day later, going through Vanya, Has and SpeCial without dropping a map to claim the win. Has had already reached the semi-finals in the previous week, seemingly gaining some consistency. The same goes for Polish Protoss Gerald, who had appeared in the finals of Cup #65 and only narrowly missed out on repeating this feat, being eliminated by the Mexican Terran with a 2-3 score after himself defeating the defending champion MaxPax and Korean player NightMare. Taken together with his very solid performance in the World Team League on the weekend, the eXoN player’s form seems to be quite good at the moment, so another finals appearance or perhaps even a win look like they’re in the cards for him.
ESL Open Cup winners earn $200 in prize money and 10 ESL Pro Tour points. Players who finish second earn 5 ESL Pro Tour points and $100. A top 4 finish guarantees at least $50. Edition #67 of the ESL Open Cups will take place on the 18th (Korea) and the 19th of April (Europe and America).
Call of Duty anti-cheat update by Raven Software
Raven Software, a developer in Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War and Warzone, shared their updates and plans on their anti-cheat program, saving players from the plague of cheaters.
An update on the anti-cheat progress:
To date, 475,000 permabans have been issued. Read below for details on the efforts being made, and follow @RavenSoftware for more.
— Call of Duty 🧟 (@CallofDuty) April 13, 2021
Anti-cheat Update and Report
According to the team, over 475,000 permanent bans have gone out to Call of Duty Warzone accounts with cheats. In the update, Raven noted that its security enforcement teams constantly dish out bans every day of the week. A big focus to tackle the high amount of cheaters in Call of Duty is to remove cheat providers and sellers. Thus far, 45,000 black market accounts linked to cheat merchants and sellers have been banned, easing up the play space.
Raven Software points the anti-cheat improvements in Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War and Warzone to four areas. One of the easier options, enabling two-factor authentication deters cheaters and sellers from quickly creating new accounts. Constantly supporting security teams and improving more communication with the CoD community is important. Finally, banwaves go out more and more often in addition to the daily bannings.
Call of Duty and Warzone Cheaters
Though there is still much more work to do, this shows valuable progress. In fact, Raven Software banned 60,000 cheaters in a recent ban wave. On top of that, the company banned 45,000 cheating players over the last week.
🚫 30,000 more bans today 🚫
— Raven Software (@RavenSoftware) April 12, 2021
The fight against cheaters in the gaming and esports industry continues, and for Raven Software, it’s a long one. Thanks to the actions they take, including hardware bans on repeat Warzone cheaters, the Call of Duty community can rest assured knowing anti-cheat measures are taken.
Written by Justin Amin
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