Challenger Series Final: The Good The Bad and the Ugly

Even though the challenger series is often overlooked and underloved, the finals of the 2016 North American Challenger Series had us all on the edge of our seats. This split featured a clash of challenger series titans between Cloud 9 Challenger and Team Liquid Academy. Traditionally the challenger series has been a place where new talent coming into the scene works their way up to eventually make their way onto the big stage. In the playoffs the teams battle it out to earn a chance for a spot in the LCS, with the finals determining the seeding for the LCS relegation tournament.

Although the teams were working their way up the ranks in the Challenger Series, some noteworthy players participated in this years final. Hai “Hai” Lam, An “Balls” Le, and Daerek “LemonNation” Hart are no strangers to LCS play. They played on Cloud 9 during a dominant period, winning several LCS splits and even making it to the World Championship. On the side of Team Liquid Academy, Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin is a world champion who played in the LCS this season with Team Liquid before being benched for Giovani “fabbbyyy” Guillen mid split. The teams were certainly stacked and after going 1-1 in their regular season match they were ready for the rematch in the finals.

This series was not without controversy. After some very close games and the series going the distance to the 5th game, Team Liquid Academy made a surprising mispick in the draft by locking in Rammus, which ultimately was a factor in their loss. This sparked all kinds of debate on the rules and the pro scene went a little crazy.

First there was shock:

Then came acceptance:

He followed up by citing the NACS rulebook that states a team should be allowed a repick for a wrong pick:

He was then replied to by one of the senior eSports coordinators at Riot, J.T. “RiotTiza” Vandenbree. RiotTiza clarified that because the pick happened when time ran out instead of a simple misclick they were not eligible for a repick:

After such a close series it was devastating to have a game 5 begin this way. It’s sad to see them go out like that, especially after working so hard this season. Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer made his thoughts on the situation known as well:

Looking forward Riot rules state that a franchise cannot have two teams competing in the LCS. In an interview after the match with Hai, the former Cloud 9 captain and current mid laner for Cloud 9 Challenger, David “Phreak” Turley asked what was next for them. Hai replied they would sell the franchise if they earned an LCS spot, perhaps to another club and maybe even opening up some room for a new organization to emerge in the LCS. He also stated he would not be making a return to competitive play as he has problems with his wrists but he said he thinks we could see the return of Balls and LemonNation to the LCS.

It will be interesting to see how the relegation tournament plays out and if either of these teams make it to the LCS only to ultimately sell their spots. The lineups they both have are certainly LCS caliber but they will need to face off against current teams not ready to give up their spots either. Furthermore, after this plays out will we see these players returning to the LCS perhaps on other teams or remaining in the challenger series and with their current organizations.

The series ultimately did go to C9C despite some very well played games from TLA. Regardless of the outcome of the upcoming promotional tournament both of the teams are currently working hard getting ready to fight for a spot in the LCS. Lastly, mispick or not Liquid is even getting ready for Rammus pick:

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eSports enthusiast following the scene since the days of Halo 3 on MLG and won't shut up about LCS. Average gamer.