The first week of a new season is a chaotic labyrinth of retooled rosters trying to decipher a new patch that, in some cases, they’ve only had a few weeks to practice on.
Week 1 of the 2017 North American League Championship Series did not disappoint, game quality aside. Commentary on Team SoloMid’s loss to Immortals, the jungler swap that gave Immortals Jake “Xmithie” Puchero and Counter Logic Gaming Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, and the return of Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng has been plentiful.
A team that has – and is likely to continue — to fly under the radar is Team EnVyUs. Although nV has a massive following stemming their Call of Duty legacy since the organization’s creation in 2007, this has yet to translate into a strong League of Legends fanbase.
One of the best plays in North America last split occurred in the LCS Promotion Series courtesy of nV jungler Nam “LirA” Tae-yoo in front of an audience of approximately 15 people in the LCS studio. In fact, LirA was the best-performing jungler in 2017 NA LCS Spring, despite missing the first few weeks of the season due to visa issues. And yet, nV remained at or near the bottom of the standings throughout the split, necessitating their Promotion Tournament run.
More recently, their series against Phoenix1, which aired against Immortals’ unlikely 2-0 victory over TSM, garnered a meager 5K viewers.
“We’ll try better next time to have a more entertaining match for the viewers,” nV AD carry Apollo “Apollo” Price told Yahoo Esports before bursting into laughter.
nV’s foray into League of Legends is a testament to the difficulty that esports organizations can have in building a fanbase. LirA may still be the best jungler in the league, but this doesn’t translate into immediate viewership or fandom.
With a 1-1 record after Week 1 in the 2017 NA LCS Summer Split — featuring a loss to Team Dignitas and victory over Phoenix1 — nV are now hungry to prove that, even if they don’t have the fan following, they can still become one of the best teams in North America.
“We had more time to prepare for the summer split,” LirA said following their win against Phoenix1. “I think overall all of the rest of the LCS teams are around the same level. No one is really higher than all of the other teams. So, I think it’s hard to say where we’re going to end up. Our start has been good. We need to beat the top teams and see from there.”
They’re already off to a better start than in the Spring Split, where LirA’s visa issues led to mid laner Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo swapping into the jungle position and Alexey “AlexIch” Ichetovkin substituting in the mid lane for two weeks.
The team went 0-4 during that time. They won their first series once LirA was back, a 2-0 sweep of Team Liquid in Week 3, but the jungler was in no way a fix for the team. nV struggled to close out games, exemplified by their final series of the split against CLG. In a way, that series is a microcosm for nV’s spring. With nothing to gain, nV fought CLG at every turn in a lengthy 2-1 loss. nV had the second-highest average game time of any NA team in 2017 spring at 38.6 minutes.
Thanks to LirA’s early-game prowess, they also had the third-best gold lead at 15 minutes (513) and fourth-best early game rating (54.3). This all fell apart come mid game, when nV couldn’t transition these advantages into wins. All too often they would pick disadvantageous teamfights, mis-assign lanes, and group with top laner Shin “Seraph” Woo-yeong when he should have been split-pushing and vice versa. Of all teams that spring, nV had the worst mid/late game rating at -23.2, resulting in a 17 percent series winrate. You could count on an nV series lasting for a long time and, despite an explosive early game, an eventual nV loss.
The vast majority of the time, it’s unfair to place the failure of an entire team onto one person’s shoulders. By contrast, the more visible a player’s mistakes on a losing team, the more blame is assigned to them, regardless of whether that criticism is accurate or not.
Team EnVyUs’ woes last split weren’t all on mid laner Ninja, but he was certainly the most visible underperformer in their lineup, and drew the most community criticism. Ninja struggled to keep pace with his fellow mid laners, and did little to supplement LirA’s jungle invades by pushing appropriately or warding effectively.
It’s only been a week, but former Team Impulse/Phoenix1 Choi “Pirean” Jun-sik appears to be an upgrade in the mid lane. Although he now has a year of experience, he was plucked straight from solo queue by TiP in January 2016 and faced a lineup and organization changes throughout that year.
“Since Pirean is a really young player, I worried about how well he would fit with the team,” LirA admitted. “It was kind of hard at the beginning of the season. But since he’s young, he’s learning about the game really fast. I look forward to him growing up as a pro player and becoming a really good mid laner.”
With Pirean in mid, nV already looks stronger than their 2017 spring version. Pirean is more coordinated with LirA, allowing the team to play around their star jungler.
“Our jungle/mid synergy was really good together, but during scrims Pirean asked me a lot of questions so I was a bit worried about our stage games,” LirA said. “But onstage, he knows what he has to do and he even shotcalled some of the games too. I think our jungle/mid synergy was actually better than P1’s.”
nV also acquired former Fnatic Academy mid laner Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer who, according to the team, will be available to start by Week 3.
Regardless of a mid lane upgrade, this nV has similar issues to the previous iteration of the team. The statistics are admittedly skewed with only six games played in total, but nV have remained early game monsters with a second-best in the league 1,288 gold advantage at 15 minutes. Overextension in the mid to late game and a failure to capitalize on early advantages remain issues, albeit not as egregious as they were last split.
Parity became the main descriptor of last year’s LCS season. A week into Summer, no one team stood out as a definitive best in North America. Perhaps this will change as lineups continue to adjust and teams further acquaint themselves with the patch, but right now nV has just as strong of a chance as any team to make a playoff run.
Emily Rand’s love of the 2013 KT Rolster Bullets will never die. You can follow her on Twitter.