How do the North American players stack up against one-another as they head to the international stage this December?
While there is certainly an argument to be made that some of the “best” players in NA may not have qualified for Worlds, at this stage of Vainglory Esports I’d say this qualification is definitely one of the largest & most important indicators of overall performance.
Being one of the best in a region isn’t singularly based on a player’s mechanics, cs per minute, Jungle camp spawn timing, tournament placement, or KDA. Rather it’s a combination of these and more, including less often considered points of impact; such as consistency in decision-making, reliability in tournament attendance and internet connectivity, off-line vs. live performance, international experience, emotional stability, etc. As I think about the impact each player has while in-game, I certainly take all the above (and even more) into consideration.
This ranking will be presented by in-game positions: Lane, Jungle, & Roam; in which I will rank the 3 starters relevant to each category.
For the sake of attention span, I’ll be releasing this in 3 parts! So make sure to keep an eye out for the following articles: “Going to Worlds – NA Junglers” & “Going to Worlds – NA Roamers”. Let’s get into it.
#1 – BestChuckNA
BestChuckNA has shown the most growth out of all NA players heading to Worlds. Struggling on inconsistent rosters during the Winter and Spring 2016 seasons as well as flipping into different roles, it was difficult to understand his full potential or even consider him a front-runner for Worlds contention. Finding a spot on TSM for Summer 2016 and playing alongside FlashX and VONC really allowed for Chuck to focus on his gameplay and bust out as one of the most polished players in North America.
Chuck may not always be the most decorated laner when it comes to basic (available) VG stats during the season, but he has shown solid consistency in live performances. As an example, he finished the Summer Championships as #1 in Top Kills p/m at 0.35, as well as #1 for Top CS p/m at 8.71. The ability to transfer your confidence to the stage is an absolute necessity to compete at the highest levels of play – BestChuckNA brings not only a calm demeanor, but (unlike his carry counterpart VONC) also a seemingly tilt-free approach to the dynamic performance of TSM.
It’s obvious Chuck has a great partnership with FlashX when it comes to discussing strategy, macro play, and draft. In fact, his ability to pick up new meta heroes quickly is critical to one of TSM’s most valuable assets as a team: superior draft understanding. Chuck knows the boundaries of his heroes and the importance of team synergy, typically playing more passively during the laning phase and waiting on key points to execute the strengths of TSM’s comps. Combining all of this together makes him one of the most well-rounded players, and a mixture of great mechanics, maturity, and consistency is a cocktail TSM needs to bring home a Worlds victory.
Point of Weakness
TSM focuses on specific moments and windows in which they attempt to execute a rotation, objective push, and/or team fight. Because Chuck tends to be the glue / fallback that holds TSM together in-game, if an opponent can find a way to pressure his somewhat predictable hero pool and more passive lane-phase, they may be able to force TSM into scrappy fights they aren’t ready for.
#2 – Oldskool
Oldskool is one of the most recognizable players in Vainglory and has been on top of the competitive scene since spring of 2015. One of the most mechanically gifted players, Oldskool paved a successful path for himself that led him to many top 3 finishes, but never quite 1st place in a major SEMC sanctioned tournament. Like many players, he has been on a lot of different team rosters over the past 1.5 years, but the current lineup of GankStars Sirius could easily be seen as his best team yet.
Farm. Farm. Farm. A term that Oldskool is very familiar with and typically grants him many of the advantages he finds in-game. The ability to complete 2-3 offensive items before other laners can easily give Sirius control over both the map and momentum of the match. Coming only 2nd to BestChuckNA in the Summer Championships for CS (@ 8.24 CS p/m) he still finished the tournament with the most Gold p/m at 431.26. He understands how to secure a gold advantage and continue to extend it – giving both his teammates great confidence in their efforts to control the early/mid so Oldskool can handedly carry the late-game. Sirius loves small fights and gaining small advantages across the map, so you will often see them pass over gold to Oldskool any chance they can.
He is also one of the few Vainglory players that understands wave management & control. The ability to manipulate where you want your lane wave and when you do (or don’t) want it to push is incredibly important – a strategy still heavily underutilized in today’s professional scene. Being able to execute on this for the entirety of a match gives him an edge over many opponents. In combination with his solo & duo lane-trade mechanics with R3cKeD, the potential for Oldskool to close out a game once he has even the slightest lead has shown to be very likely.
Point of Weakness
Oldskool can get easily rattled (especially on the live stage) whenever his team is not in the lead & he isn’t able to focus on his macro play. This has been consistent in his past teams, but the success of Sirius has kept him mostly removed from this particular challenge in the Summer Season. If Sirius get’s pressured hard and falls behind, the true test at Worlds will be whether or not Oldskool has finally conquered this tilt-factor and can help his team stay focused.
#3 – Zio
When it comes to confidence and character, few players in Vainglory can match up to the youngest player attending Worlds from North America. At any moment, whether Velocity is a game up, a game down, in the winners or the losers bracket… Zio seems to never let it phase his focus on striving to be the best. His popular quote of being “the zero seed” has led many to cheer him on as the most outspoken laner from NA.
Of all the teams attending Worlds, Zio will be playing on the longest standing competitive roster of the tournament, playing together for over a year. While iterations of Velocity found themselves testing throughout the Summer & Autumn Seasons, the primary trio with Vains and Aloh4 will be back in action. Compared to Chuck and Oldskool, Zio hasn’t been putting up the best performances over the past months. While making it to the Finals during Summer Championships, Zio landed 4th for Kills p/m at 0.26, 5th for CS p/m at 7.57, and 5th for Gold p/m at 383.47. He is also even further down the list for stats during Split 2 of Autumn Season, but a track record to under-perform during the season and over-perform on the live stage seems to be thematic of this team.
Unlike Oldskool and BestChuckNA, on the live stage Zio tends to be more aggressive and puts himself in forward positions to deal damage and attempt to pick up kills. While this sometimes backfires, in a live setting this pressure has many times allowed Velocity to set the pace during the early phases of the match. In a risk-reward setting, Zio tends to lean heavily on the risk in order to receive some huge payoffs. It’s an exciting style of play that has given Velocity victories in the past, and makes Zio such a dynamic player to watch.
Point of Weakness
Zio is an incredibly talented individual that creates a lot of opportunity for his team, but he relies heavily on his shotcaller (Vains) to put the pieces together and keep the team focused when things go awry. If teams punish the high risk plays and aggressiveness of Zio, they challenge him to cut his losses and play a different style in order to get back into it. This adds more mental responsibility to Vains to now rally his team back into action.
Obviously the biggest (and most exciting) question will be how each of these players stack up against the international opposition. Worlds will give us our first look into just how this will turn out, but until then we have a few more NA players to look at.