Preview of the 2018 NA Scouting Grounds

Chris Semp
Nov 4, 2018 · 17 min read
Photo: Riot Games

The third annual 2018 North American Scouting Grounds is an event with the goal of exposing professional teams to the pool of solo queue League of Legends talent by selecting the top four players in each role and exposing them to the professional environment.

Player Requirements

  • You must respond to the survey (planned to be sent in October).
  • You must be 16 years of age by January 19th, 2019.
  • Have not played more than two League matches in a semi-professional or academy league in the most recent split and/or two League matches in a professional league during the past three splits
  • Not be under contract by any semi-professional or professional team
  • You’re a North American resident as determined by the Interregional Movement Policy.
  • Pass a behavior check, similar to NA LCS and Academy players, which reviews in-game behavior, Terms of Service violations, and looks at previous bans and/or suspensions

In this article I will attempt to preview the players selected to the Scouting Grounds which will take place on November 12–17 2018.

Top Lane

Jenkins (Thomas Tran) — 335 Scouting Grounds score

Qualifying under the ‘thtr’ Summoner name, Jenkins (also known as BobJenkins) previously played competitively for Golden Guardians Academy in the Spring 2018 split before being replaced by Zig. His stint was hindered by the team’s general lack of focus or pro activity, and as such his peripheral stats were in the bottom half of all top laners. His Gold and Experience differentials at ten minutes were last in the league for players with more than 10 games. He also competed in the 2016 Scouting Grounds playing almost solely Kennen, before Riot implemented a “one trick” champion rule. Jenkins has expanded his champion pool this season to include champions like Irelia, Poppy, Gangplank, Aatrox, Viktor and Kled . His knowledge of these champions will be important for him to be successful during the Scouting Grounds event. Jenkins is currently playing in the amateur scene with team Super Nova with two other Scouting Grounds participants, Strompest and Tactical. It will be interesting to see if the teams drafting will select all of these players together for synergy purposes, as CLG did in the 2016 Scouting Grounds with the amateur roster from Team Checkpoint that is still their Academy team to this day.

FakeGod (Aaron Lee) — 320 Scouting Grounds score

Qualifying under his account FakeGo, FakeGod has played 90 games of Jax across two known accounts, and other notable champions played are Aatrox, Irelia, Poppy, Kled, and recently Viktor. According to twitter, he is 18 years old, so he is likely to be one of the youngest competitors in the event. It does not look like he is playing in the amateur scene on any team, so it will be revealing to see what FakeGod has to offer to the professional teams.

Aetheres (Cuong Ta) — 165 Scouting Grounds score

Formerly known as Flaresz, Aetheres first entered the professional scene in 2014 with Team Lol.Pro and in NALCS with Team Enemy. Aetheres played with a plethora of other Challenger teams before joining Sin Gaming in the Oceania region for Spring 2017. After returning to North America, he has been playing in the amateur scene for a few different teams and currently plays for Polar Ace. Polar Ace will be sending all of their players (Julien, Jurassiq, Winter) except their jungler, Dragonminkim, to the 2018 Scouting Grounds so it may be advantageous strategically to try and draft a few of these players together for increased team synergy. His solo queue champion pool trends towards carries like Camille, Irelia, Jax, Jayce, and Gangplank, but is known to play some tanks while playing competitively with Polar Ace.

MistyStumpey (Ian Alexander) — 105 Scouting Grounds score

The first of all qualifiers with collegiate experience, MistyStumpey comes from one of the top collegiate teams in North America, Columbia College. The Cougars reached the collegiate finals last season, losing the championship to University of California Irvine 3–0. MistyStumpey has been consistently high masters the last three seasons, playing predominantly Jayce. He also plays other carry champions Camille, Gangplank, Irelia, and Fiora but is known to be comfortable on tanks in competitive play. His experience in the collegiate scene both in the team environment and physically playing on the stage should help him be comfortable performing in the Scouting Grounds event.

Top lane has two veterans and two younger players, one with slightly more experience in a team environment than the other, which makes this an interesting group of players. With Aetheres and Jenkins, there’s a lot of history and analysis you can do with their previous professional experience, but with the other two you don’t really know what you’re going to get. MistyStumpey’s collegiate experience will help adjusting to this event, but the level of competition between professional and collegiate is still a big difference in League of Legends at this stage. While winning Scouting Grounds is exciting for the players, the goal for the teams is definitely to find talent you haven’t seen already. They may not prioritize the younger players in the draft, but they should definitely be interested in seeing what they bring to the table.

Jungle

Metaphor (Luke Canning) — 250 Scouting Grounds score

Metaphor, also known as Shout or Meta, is an aggressive high elo jungle known for carry play and the occasional off-kilter pocket pick. He has been playing competitive in the amateur scene for a few seasons, notably with Team Secret and MLGB Esport Club. With Team Secret he played in the 2017 Challenger Series qualifier match, losing to NACS team Big Gods Jackals. His common teammate on each of those teams, Consensual Clown, has also qualified for the 2018 Scouting Grounds as a support. The majority of his games are on Kha’Zix, but he also plays Kayn, Hecarim, Evelynn and other carry-style junglers.

SrKenji (Kenji Kaneko) — 185 Scouting Grounds score

Srkenji climbed the challenger ladder playing mostly support but managed to play the majority of his games in the qualification periods as a jungler, allowing him to be eligible for the 2018 Scouting Grounds for jungle. His split role focus brings an interesting dynamic to his skill set, perhaps exemplified by his most played Sejuani pick. Stronger earlier in the season, the supportive tank jungle’s strengths lie in her area control and teamfight potential. Having the perspective of a support player gives Srkenji some advantages, like understanding botlane matchups and timings more readily than the other players, in addition to an attention to vision control a carry jungler may not focus on as much. His lower ratio of games played in the jungle could be a red flag for the teams, despite some claims that solo queue jungling is most detached from competitive jungling at the highest levels. Unfortunately for Srkenji, his competitive experience is limited as well, so he will have to prove a lot to the Scouting Grounds organization he joins for the event.

Fragas (Kristopher Myhal) — 120 Scouting Grounds score

Fragas is known mostly for his eccentric social media presence, but he has been a staple in high elo challenger and master tier play for a few seasons now. I believe he has played a small amount of competitive across his seasons of playing, but not for an extended period of time or professionally. He’s played a lot of Graves and Kindred this season, but is also known for his Ivern play. He has a lot to show off in this event, as his reputation precedes him and a strong performance in the 2018 Scouting Grounds could go a long way for proving himself as a competitive player.

An Obese Panda (James Ding) — 75 Scouting Grounds score

With the lowest Scouting Grounds score of all competitors qualified, An Obese Panda has a lot to prove on his qualification. He has been a consistent Master tier player for many seasons, including a Season 7 Challenger finish. An Obese Panda attended University of California — San Diego and competed in the Western division, finishing fourth in the West playoffs. He currently jungles in the amateur scene for Azio Esports. His tendencies lean towards strong metagame champions, with Elise/Rek’Sai in Seasons 5 and 6, with Xin Zhao, Graves, and Sejuani in Season 8.

Jungle has a very chaotic group of qualifiers, with the broadest range of qualifying score of all positions. An Obese Panda has played in collegiate and lead his team to high finishes in that environment. Metaphor is the highest profile jungler here and has had success in high stakes matches. Srkenji qualified for jungle, but also has a lot of Support games on his account. The well-known Fragas may be the biggest question mark among junglers, as he’s had the least amount of team experience of the group. More interesting is each player’s distinct champion pools, overlapping with a few metagame champions but each player having many unique pocket picks to supplement them. While Junglers in Academy were mostly alright last season, there were a couple spots that could definitely be replaced on the lower end, so this could be a good opportunity for these players to get onto those Academy rosters.

Middle

5fire (Aidan Reckamp) — 320 Scouting Grounds score

The 19 year old mid laner 5fire starts off the midlane preview with just barely the highest Scouting Grounds score at 320, aptly peaking at rank 5 on the Challenger ladder for the 2018 season. He has played for AZIO esports for the 2018 amateur league year, putting up strong performances on each roster iteration hes been included in. His most played solo queue champion, Malzahar, holds a 70% winrate for him, and he also has experience on Zoe, Karthus, Vladimir, and Galio. With his youth and relative inexperience to competitive League, he could be a player teams want to develop and mold for the future.

Soligo (Max Soong) — 315 Scouting Grounds score

Soligo has been around the challenger/amateur scene for a few years now, playing for various teams but has settled in currently as a substitute for Polar Ace to Julien, another Scouting Ground qualifier. Despite being a solely amateur player, Soligo has had the opportunity to play at two different LAN tournaments, winning Dreamhack Montreal 2017 and getting second at Player 1 25k LAN. Currently Rank 13 overall, Soligo’s most played champions in solo queue are LeBlanc, Ryze, Orianna, and Azir. Although the LeBlanc stands out as an assassin, Soligo trends towards control mages in the midlane.

Julien (Julien Gelinas) — 310 Scouting Grounds score

Formerly known as Zatsmod, Julien attended the 2017 Scouting Grounds before joining Columbia College for a season of collegiate League. His champion pool consists almost entirely of control mages, notoriously Malzahar, Syndra, Orianna, and Cassiopeia in season 8. In past seasons, Julien was known as a player who died a lot, often averaging 6 or more deaths a game on his most successful champions, but in season 8 those numbers are much closer to other top tier midlaners and has helped him become more consistent on the ladder. His performance at the 2017 Scouting Grounds was lackluster, finishing last of the four midlaners in KDA, CS per minute, Gold per minute, kill participation, and kill share. Despite his solo queue improvements he will need to convince the Scouting Grounds teams that he is better than last year in the competitive environment if he wants a chance at an Academy team.

Strompest (Lee Seung-min) — 305 Scouting Grounds score

The former Team Gates midlaner of 2017 summer and 2016 Scouting Grounds participant, the current rank 6 Challenger player looks to improve his reputation as a professional after a stumbling beginning on the aforementioned Team Gates. His statistics from his Challenger stint — low KDA, high CS per minute, low kill participation, high kill share, and high gold share — indicate a lack of roaming or pro-activity. It was too common for him to turn lanes into a trading of farm without a gaining of priority or pressure, leading to other midlaners creating pressure too easily and snowballing the map around him. He normally keeps a pretty tight champion pool, first coming up as a Fizz and Veigar two-trick, before expanding his pool to include Ryze and Azir. He still prioritizes Ryze, but has added a competent Syndra, Vladimir, Cassiopeia, and Malzahar to his pool. Since his challenger experience, he has played for a couple amateur teams including GGEA and Zenith Esports. Like Julien, he will need to show improvements on his previous experience in order to change the opinion of coaches and managers in Academy.

The midlane group of qualifiers is defined by a tight selection of three players with very similar experience and one younger player, all with very similar champion pools. Each have their own dominant comfort champion, 5fire with his Malzahar, Soligo with his LeBlanc, Julien with his Syndra, and Strompest with his Ryze. All of them play control mages, possibly highlighting the consistency these styles bring to placing high on the solo queue ladder. All of these players should be close in performance overall, and therefore I don’t see teams prioritizing these players over some of the other positions with a wider gap in skillsets.

Marksman

Jurassiq (Clarence Mabansag) — 330 Scouting Grounds score

After a string of competitors with little competitive experience, Jurassiq comes in fresh off competing in the Academy Spring split for the Golden Guardians Academy team. He also played in the relegation series for Team Gates in Spring 2017, making his professional experience just a bit higher than most on this list sans Flaresz. Similar to his teammate from GGA, Jenkins, Jurassiq’s statistics don’t tell a great story. Last in KDA, GPM and 2nd to last in CSPM, it was hard for Jurassiq to stand out on the team. A bright spot in the statistics is Jurassiq, Potluck, and Xpecial’s high kill participation. All three players were near the top of their positions with around 80% KPAR each, which could suggest decent laning 2v2 and 3v3 against other teams. Supporting this is Jurassiq’s high Gold, Experience, and CS differentials at ten minutes. His CSPM drops off after ten minutes, likely due to game state. Xpecial’s high Gold share on the team can also suggest low gold generation in other lanes and high activity in botlane for Golden Guardians Academy. Since leaving GGA, Jurassiq has played for the Polar Ace amateur team. Sticking with traditional AD carries, Jurassiq favors Ezreal, Varus, and Lucian but also has experience on Xayah, Ashe, and Caitlyn.

Sophist Sage (Min Ta-Hyun) — 310 Scouting Grounds Score

Sophist Sage might be the most mysterious of all qualifiers, with no known Social media. A 20 year old Korean living in North America, Sophist Sage has been a Masters level player in North America and made a push for Scouting Grounds, placing consistently in the top 20 ranks for solo queue. With two Challenger level accounts and a third in Diamond 1, Sophist has amassed over 3200 games played this season. He’s got a lot of Ezreal and Kai’Sa games supplemented by Lucian, Varus, Jhin, Tristana, and Xayah.

Prismal (Jacob Feinstein) — 185 Scouting Grounds score

A repeat qualifier of the Scouting Grounds, Prismal also played in the 2017 Scouting Grounds last year for Team Ocean. Not currently playing for any amateur teams, the 18 year old marksman player had some varying experience in the past in the assorted amateur leagues. He’s wavered between Masters and Diamond two from Season 4 to Season 6, but the last two years has consistently been Challenger-level, relying mostly on Lucian as his most played champion but supplementing him with Jhin, Twitch, and Kaisa across the seasons. He ended up on the winning 2017 Scouting Grounds team, Ocean, where four of his teammates went on to play in Academy the next year.

Tactical (Edward Ra) — 175 Scouting Grounds score

Qualifying under the summoner name 758ˉ , the 18 year old Tactical has been playing in amateur level competitions for a few seasons, currently with Super Nova for the past year. Consistently Diamond 1 for the past couple seasons, he recently broke into Challenger in Season 7 and continued up in Season 8. Also playing traditional marksman champions, Tactical leaned on Kai’Sa this season but also played a lot of Tristana, Ezreal, and Xayah. Solo queue statistics aren’t always a great indicator of success alone, but most of his top picks have great K/D ratios, with kills often over 7 and deaths around or below 4 per game. When comparing those stats to the other Scouting Ground marksmen, Prismal has one more death a game on average on his top picks, while Jurassiq gets less kills per game. He also has a slight CS per minute advantage over each of them as well. We shall see if this translates to his Scouting Grounds performance against the other participants.

The marksmen qualified for the 2018 Scouting Grounds show a lot of potential and could be the most promising position for organizations to evaluate talent from. Jurassiq has the most competitive experience, with stints with two professional teams and high level amateur team experience as well. Prismal and Tactical have had success in solo queue and amateur, while Sophist Sage is raw solo queue talent. Teams may be most interested in Sophist Sage because the only data available for him is from solo queue, and should be necessary to see more from him to evaluate appropriately in a team environment.

Support

Duoking (James Stephenson) — 325 Scouting Grounds score

Duoking, formerly known as Clown, qualified for the 2018 Scouting Grounds on his duoking1 account, remaining consistently in the top 20 of the ladder for most of the qualifying period. He has had about as much success you can ask for without playing professionally so far; he’s champion of the Tyler 1 Championship series, winner of Dreamhack Montreal 2017, and made it through the Open Qualifiers for the Challenger series in 2017 before losing to Big Gods Jackals. Duoking in past seasons started out as an AD carry player, playing a lot of Sivir and Caitlyn, before shifting to playing support more. His notorious aggressive Sona pick is a staple of high challenger games, one of the few players who still pick the champion at all. His lane dominant style is highlighted by his other top picks, Soraka, Morgana, and Zyra, who all accentuate his ability to win lane and support his team.

Diamond (David Bérubé ) — 295 Scouting Grounds score

Also known previously as t3azor and Karigan, Diamond has a long history in the competitive League of Legends scene. Some of his earliest action starts in 2012, moving on to play in early pre-challenger tournaments like the NACL and NESL, before playing for Curse Academy in the first official Challenger series in 2014. He’s played in multiple roles throughout the years, but finds himself qualifying as a support player for the 2018 Scouting Grounds under the summoner name Carmen Campagne. He hasn’t played serious competitive games since 2015 so it will be interesting to see if he has retained the atmosphere of a team environment, especially considering how much the game has developed since 2015. His most played champions include Thresh, Rakan, Morgana, and Pyke.

Winter (Olivier Lapointe) — 285 Scouting Grounds score

Winter is the only competitor to attend all three Scouting Ground competitions and is one of the more experienced attendees, with some time on Cloud 9 challenger teams in 2015 and 2017 as well as OpTic’s academy team in Spring 2018. His Academy statistics show an interesting story, with the worst gold and XP differences at ten minutes than any other support, yet he also had the highest wards placed and cleared per minute of all supports in his 16 games.These statistics might be used to infer a weaker laning ability, but above average vision control potential. He laned with Andybendy on OpTic, who also was one of the weakest AD carry players in Academy spring. His XP differential combined with high warding stats suggest he may have left lane to roam too often, leaving his carry exposed at poor times. He mainly finds comfort on tanky, engage supports like Alistar, Leona, and Thresh.

Call Lin (Colin Hin) — 270 Scouting Grounds score

With limited competitive experience, Call Lin comes into the 2018 Scouting Grounds as the final support qualifier. Currently, he plays for Team Clarity with Tony Top, a top laner who qualified for Scouting Grounds but had to decline due to school. His most played champion is Alistar by 50 games and behind that has a mix of enchanter and tank supports, including Morgana, Soraka, Lulu, Janna, and Karma for enchanters and Braum, Pyke, Tahm Kench, and Rakan for tank supports. Based on his experience he may be the most raw out of all Scouting Grounds qualifiers, but that could mean it is easier to instill good habits and break developing bad habits.

The support position at 2018 Scouting Grounds has a good mix of playstyles demonstrated by each qualifier. Diamond and Call Lin each have a mix of enchanter and tank supports at their disposal, Clown represents lane dominant mages/enchanters, and Winter plays mostly melee tank supports. Teams should be aware of this before selecting these supports as taking them away from the style they are most comfortable on would not show a true evaluation of their abilities.

Strong Pairings

There are a good chunk of players qualified who have played with each other before, and I think it is worth highlighting some pairings that should be favorable for teams looking to draft cohesive teams in order to optimize evaluation of talent.

Polar Ace

Aetheres, Julien, Jurassiq, and Winter with Soligo substituting, all currently play on Polar Ace. Considered one of the strongest, if not the best amateur team currently competing, the Polar Ace players should be more comfortable playing with each other and won’t need to spend time learning how their new event teammates like to communicate or play out certain situations. Using a botlane that has already spent a few months playing together will allow a team to see them at a sort of baseline potential. The negative of the team aspect is the inherent advantage playing with players you’ve already developed habits with against players who haven’t had any time to gain synergy. You may be seeing qualities that are tough to differentiate, such as a player who communicates well always, or only with this set of players.

An Obese Panda and 5fire

This midlane and jungle duo have been playing together on amateur team AZIO esports for the past few months and should have a developed synergy with each other. While all midlaners and junglers should know basic timings of scuttle crabs, matchup powerspikes, and lane priority, the communication tendencies between these roles are very important to consistently see opportunities to win games. Already knowing how your teammate is going to play out his matchup is a nice advantage to have before finding yourself in an uncomfortable spot where there was a difference in opinion during the game.

Metaphor and Duoking

These two have played on two different teams together before Scouting Grounds, and for controlling the game Support and Jungle roles pair well together already. Both players have aggressive champion pools, play forwards a lot, and generate a ton of pressure individually. With their increased synergy with each other, it could be a good idea to get them on the same team.

Jurassiq and Duoking

I anticipate these two could both be chosen pretty early in the draft, so it may not be feasible to group both on the same team, but based on their playstyles should be a pretty good match. Jurassiq has a flexible, but aggressive champion pool led by Lucian and Varus that can pair very well with Duoking’s Sona, Morgana, or Soraka. The problem that could arise with this pairing is Jurassiq’s relatively low experience playing with Sona or Zyra, which have not been metagame/competitive champions in a long time.

Conclusion

With a majority of teams making sweeping roster changes at the LCS and Academy level, organizations will be evaluating a plethora of players leading up to the start of the next season. With four organizations experiencing their first year of League of Legends, they will look to learn from this experience and take a better look at the talent pool. Last year’s Scouting Grounds participants had the distinct advantage of a Challenger-Academy league growing from six teams to ten, and only a few pre-established rosters in the league. This year they will be fighting for roster spots already established and will need to prove themselves in a different way than last years competitors. The performance of Cloud 9 at this year’s World Championships may benefit these newcomers, as teams see that a homegrown developed team can be successful on an international level. Teams may be more inclined to have faith in newer players rather than recycling old talent expecting different results.

Here are my rough pre-event rankings of each player by role:

It will be hard for the 2018 Scouting Grounds to replicate last year’s success due to the unique circumstances of the event that had ten out of the twenty participants to play in Academy teams that season, so expectations should be tempered in that regard. But this event can and should still be successful in its own right, as teams look for youthful choices in their roster development. The 2018 Scouting Grounds take place November 12–18 at Riot Games studios.

Chris Semp

Written by

Sport Management Grad of Rutgers University. Pokemon VGC player and League of Legends player/fan. Aspiring LoL Coach