This is Aoime as Leona (the Radiant Dawn) from League of Legends. It took her over a year to put this together, but its detail and heft looks 100% worth the trouble, especially when you see (below) how she had to move the thing around.
Today, League of Legends publisher Riot announced an unprecedented $300 million deal with Major League Baseball spin-off streaming company BAMTech, who will handle LoL broadcasting. Among other things, BAMTech will release a streaming app for the esport and oversee tournament streams on Twitch, the Wall Street Journal reports.
BAMTech, in which Disney recently bought a $1 billion stake, will pay out that hefty sum before 2023. In return, they’ll receive exclusive rights to stream League of Legends to an international audience and monetize the game. BAMTech-facilitated sponsorships and ad sales will help grow Riot’s revenue.
For context, in 2014, the NBA announced a $24 billion, nine-year deal with ESPN.
The specifics of the deal are unclear right now. Riot announced its interest in long-term investments in September so esports teams and players could enjoy some much-needed financial stability. Hopefully, some of the new money flowing through Riot’s coffers will find its way into the pockets of professional LoL players.
After Backlash, Riot Is Changing How Pros Are Paid
Here's How To Get Started Watching The League of Legends World Championships
In 2016, esports experienced even more highs and lows than the previous year. That’s what it means to be growing. But while the industry surrounding competitive gaming continues to expand on the backs of enthusiastic investors and hype-men, it’s important not to forget why anyone actually watches it in the first place: the people playing are really damn good.
Beyond the pageantry and rivalries, the shout-casters and sponsors, the reason esports exist at all is because putting top talent into tense situations where it feels like everything is on the line turns out to be a magnificent way to bring out the best in competitive games. Unexpected triumphs, brilliantly orchestrated defeats, all combine to add an extra layer of drama and artistry to games that would otherwise feel hollow and incomplete.
With that in mind, here’s our selection for some of the best plays in professional gaming we witnessed in 2016.
Blizzard’s collectible card game has always been criticized for the outsized roll that RNG (random number generation) can sometimes seem to play in pivotal games. But those moments of unexpected good fortune (or bad if you’re on the receiving end) are also part of what make the game so exciting to watch. Without that added bit of surprise, Hearthstone wouldn’t quite be a card game anymore. One of those moments occurred during the quarterfinals of the Hearthstone World Championship. Pavel “Pavel” Beltukov, who would go on to win the tournament, seemed to be spinning his wheels against William “Amnesiac” Barton in the latter part of game six. But just when his opponent seemed ready to send Pavel packing, a scene straight out of Maverick occurred.
He drew Babbling Book, a card that summons a random spell, and one which in this case just happened to grant Pavel the perfect spell to completely turn the game around: Polymorph. With it, the young Russian was able to neutralize the biggest threat on the board and effectively reset the game in his favor. The kicker? Babbling Brook was one card in particular that Amnesiac had decided not to include in his own otherwise very similar deck build, meaning it took some foresight and planning on Pavel’s part to induce fortune to smile upon him.
In only the second ever Rocket League World Championship, FlipSid3 Tactics placed first after a series of great plays from both sides. But nothing they pulled off managed to come anywhere close to some of NRG’s finer moments. In a two-strike combination play that left many people’s jaws on the floor, SadJunior and Jacob connected for a moment of pure brilliance during the first game between the two teams. What looks like one player coming up to block the other’s shot is actually a coordinated effort by one teammate to redirect the other’s shot at the last second to make it practically impossible to block.
While the teams for the Overwatch World Cup were mixed between pro players and popular streamers, the event was still one of the game’s biggest to-date, taking place at BlizzCon 2016 in a year that has in many respects belonged to Blizzard’s latest hero-based FPS. And South Korea, the team that went on to win the tournament, did not disappoint. Their dominance culminated in a lopsided grand finals that left Russia choking on their opponents’ fumes. Even among champions, however, it was Won Hyoup “ArHaN” Jeong’s Genji who was star of the show. In perhaps his most stunning play of the tournament, ArHaN linked up with an ultimate from his teamamate’s Zarya to completely obliterate the U.S. in match two of the quarterfinals. Beyond just individual skill and strategic awareness, Overwatch is a game about linking up with teammates to unleash deadly combos, something that’s hard enough in 2D mobas like Dota 2 and League of Legends, let alone the complex 3D environments perceived in limited first-person views.
This year ByuN Hyun Woo became the first team-less player to win the South Korean StarCraft league. He did so against a series of great opponents, including across five matches in the grand finals vs. Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin. StarCraft is not nearly as prone to big moments as other esports. Known for champions who excel in part by being able to out-click and out micro-manage their opponents, Blizzard’s long-running real-time strategy game is about accumulating small advantages over time and then combining them to overwhelm the opponent. However, in a series of four spectacular games after conceding the first to SoS, ByuN showed early-game skirmishes around the edges of players’ bases could be as tense as any other competitive video game. By game four, after scarecly five minutes had passed, ByuN was already imposing himself upon SoS with a Liberator that managed to wrack up eight kills before being shutdown, all while repelling his opponent’s attempt at a counter-attack.
Smash Bros. Melee
Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma, arguably the best Melee player in the world for 2016, almost didn’t win this year’s EVO. His Swedish rival, Adam “Armada” Lindgren, looked to be on his way to maintaining his status as #1. But then Hungrybox came from behind to win the first set in a dramatic finish that paved the way for his eventual victory. Nintendo’s Melee is quick and technical, but moments like the one at the end of the first set’s fifth match show just how elegant it can appear when all the pieces fall into place. On the brink of death, Hungrbox manages to land a six-hit combo in the span of a few seconds that sends Armada flying off the stage. You can see from his reaction immediately afterwards that even Hungrybox can’t believe what he just managed to pull off.
World of WarCraft
Competetive World of Warcraft PVP doesn’t always get a lot of attention, but the grand finals at this year’s BlizzCon were really something to see. In a stellar seven game series that could have seen either team go on to win it all, it ended up being Splyce who took home the trophy. That was thanks to tremendous plays, including healer Simon “Boetar” Heink who manged to escape death more than once. Positioning obstacles between himself and the enemy team, Boetar managed to hold on for dear life thanks to slim margins that, after all the numbers were crunched, went ever so slightly in his favor, allowing Splyce to rally and counter-attack for the win.
Street Fighter V
Before Du “NuckleDu” Dang become the first American to win the Capcom Cup tournament for Street Fighter, he was fighting his heart out in the Capcom Pro Tour’s North America Regional Finals. His determination and recent form carried him all the way to the tournament’s grand finals to face one of the “five gods” in the Japanese Street Fighter scene: Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi. NuckleDu seemed to have Tokido’s number the entire series, but especially in the fourth game of the first set, the young American appeared to be playing the game a split second ahead of his opponent. NuckleDu closed out match with grace, nearly breaking Tokido’s guard in the process. Moments later, desperate to create something, Tokido attempted to go on the offensive only to be countered with a jump uppercut into a Guile’s Special Attack.
League of Legends
There were a lot of great games at this year’s Worlds Championship, but nothing that quite that the simplicity of Kim “PraY” Jong-in’s arrow in the semifinals on the side of ROX Tigers against the eventual champions, SK Telecom T1. A blind Ashe Arrow fired at 32:37 somehow finds SKT’s Duke, striking the player and preventing him from teleporting back to defend his team’s base. ROX won the game, and despite losing the series, managed one of the most stunning (literally) wins in the entire tournament.
This year had a lot of great Dota 2 matches, but nothing can overshadow what occurred at the end of game three of the grand finals of Ad Finum vs. OG. In a marathon of a game that went on for over 75 minutes, it was a few seconds of daring, in a match full of gutsy moves, that helped the all Greek team stop the grand finals from being a blow-out. The match ended when one of AD Finem’s players traipsed into the enemy base using an invisibility buff to evade detection. Thanks to Earthshaker’s attack bonuses, it was just enough to secure victory for the underdogs. While it was not the best Dota 2 play this year in terms of technical execution or skill, it was hands-down the most breathtaking.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Olkesandr “S1mple” Kostyliev is one of CS:GO’s best players, and even if he hadn’t gone and gotten it tattooed on his body, S1mple’s stunning no-scope double-kill against Fnatic during the ESL One Cologne major would have been an easy choice. Falling down from a platform on de_Cache like Neo straight out of the Matrix, the young Ukrainian managed to drop his opponents with casual ease, as if he’d Groundhog Day-ed the entire moment a million times before. It was on the back of clutch plays like this one that Team Liquid was able to survive the Swedish opposition and go on to become the first North American team to make it to the finals of a major CS:GO tournament.
This list is long but could have been even longer. Be sure to add your picks for esports plays of the year in the comments below.
The Chicago Fire have acquired New York Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty in a trade for general allocation money, the teams announced on Monday night.
The Fire will pay the Red Bulls $400,000 over the next two seasons in exchange for the midfielder.
“Since the middle of 2016, we made acquiring Dax our No. 1 priority,” Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez said in a club statement. “In order to do so, we had to exchange worthy and appropriate compensation.
“We believe adding his character and leadership in the locker room, as well as his exceptional soccer abilities on the field, dramatically improves our team.”
NEWS | #cf97 Acquire Midfielder @DaxMcCarty11 in trade with @NewYorkRedBulls
Earlier this month, McCarty was called into the United States national team’s January training camp for the first time in five years.
However, he was given permission to join up with the squad late after he was married this past weekend.
McCarty has become a key piece of the Red Bulls midfield since being traded there from D.C. United in 2011. He played a total of 14,381 minutes for the Red Bulls, a club record.
“We thank Dax for his service to the club,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said in a statement. “He will go down as one of the best players and captains in franchise history. At this point in time, we felt that this was the right move to put our team in the best position to succeed both now and for years to come.”
McCarty joins a Chicago team that finished with the worst record in MLS last season, but which has already taken steps to improve this offseason by signing striker Nemanja Nikolic from Legia Warsaw former LA Galaxy midfielder Juninho on loan from Tijuana.
The Fire will be available to pay off a large portion of the McCarty trade with the $250,000 in general allocation money they received from New York City FC in exchange for the No. 3 pick at the MLS SuperDraft on Friday.
Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.
Manchester United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic has said that handling pressure is like child’s play for him — and teammate Paul Pogba has to handle it too.
Ibrahimovic scored in the 1-1 home draw against Liverpool on Sunday, but Pogba conceded a penalty while attracting more attention to himself with a “#Pogba” emoji on Twitter.
And Ibrahimovic, quoted by the Telegraph, said: “I’m not happy if I don’t win in training so imagine what it’s like in the games. That is the pressure I put on myself and so your pressure becomes like a kindergarten for me.”
Discussing the pressure on Pogba, he said: “Pressure is something I enjoy. I don’t know Paul personally to able to answer that for him. But I think he likes it also because, without pressure, we would not be on our toes at the top level.
“If you want to play at the top, pressure is 24 hours and, if you play better, the pressure becomes even greater. So it’s something that we learn from and something we have to handle because we belong to the top. Paul belongs to the top, absolutely, and the pressure will be there.”
Ibrahimovic and Pogba take different approaches to social media, with the striker having not tweeted to his 4.3 million followers since August, while the midfielder is far more prolific with his tweets to 3 million followers.
Asked about Pogba’s Twitter emoji, Ibrahimovic said: “I think football is like that today. With social media, the media building up the game.
“When I started to play football, there was no social media, none of these things. But it’s part of the game now. What is too much, what is too less? We don’t know. We just follow the game.
He’s ready to light up Old Trafford.#POGBA pic.twitter.com/aivbcCoiDJ
– Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 15, 2017
“We are professional, we try to do our best every game. For Paul the game [against Liverpool] was different. It was a dirty game, in the way we had to play more direct, by jumping over the midfield, because the pressure Liverpool put on us was hard.”
The advertising for Pogba’s emoji was seen on hoardings at Old Trafford during the match, with the club having also promoted it on their website in the build-up to the game.
Arindam is ESPN FC’s Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @ARejSport.
Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez has pleaded guilty to defrauding the Spanish tax authorities of almost €1 million by concealing part of what he earned from image rights during his time at Barcelona, according to reports in Spain.
Europa Press say Sanchez appeared via video link from London at a court in the Catalan city on Monday to plead guilty to the charges and add that he hopes to avoid going to trial having already paid back €983,443.
The public prosecutor’s office initially filed the complaint against the Chile international after suspecting he had filed fraudulent tax returns in 2012 and 2013 while still a Barcelona player.
It was alleged at the time that he sought to conceal earnings from his image rights by using companies set up in Chile and Malta and that he defrauded the authorities of €587,677 in 2012 and €395,766 in 2013.
While Sanchez may not have to stand trial, his defence team will have to negotiate a fine with the Spanish tax authorities — on top of what he has paid back — and he may also be handed a minimal prison sentence.
However, as in the cases of current Barca players Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano, it would be a suspended sentence and therefore would not have to be served.
Argentine international Messi was found guilty of three counts of tax fraud last year and was fined and handed a suspended 21-month prison sentence.
Mascherano, meanwhile, entered a guilty plea for concealing part of what he earned from image rights and was fined and given a one-year prison sentence which was also suspended.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.
Barcelona star Neymar is the most expensive player in Europe’s top five leagues ahead of his teammate Lionel Messi, according to a CIES Football Observatory study.
Neymar, 24, has had a difficult time in front of goal since October, recently ending an 11-game goal drought in last week’s Copa del Rey win against Athletic Club, but the report still attributes him a potential value of €246.8 million.
That’s substantially more than the €170.5m second-placed Messi is valued at, with Barcelona strike partner Luis Suarez joining them in the top five (€145.2m).
Top 100 most expensive players based on transfer values via @CIES_Football @sportCIES: https://t.co/SCFJaB5YCu pic.twitter.com/WtNDxEAWwv
– fcbusiness Magazine (@fcbusiness) January 16, 2017
The Uruguayan striker, though, is behind Paul Pogba (€155.3m), who commanded a world-record transfer fee of €105m in the summer when he re-joined Manchester United from Juventus, and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann (€150.4m).
Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo (€126.5m), who will turn 32 in February, has dropped down to seventh, behind Tottenham’s Harry Kane (€139.2m), the highest ranked Premier League player in the study.
But while La Liga boasts five of the seven most valuable players in Europe’s top leagues, it’s England’s top flight which dominates the top 100. There are 42 players from the Premier League who make the cut.
Juventus’ Paulo Dybala (€113.8m) is deemed to be Serie A’s most valuable player and he makes the top 10, but the most expensive players from Germany and France — Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele (€71m) and Monaco’s Bernardo Silva (€52.5m) — are a long way down the list.
CIES explains that “the statistical model through which prices are calculated includes multiple variables on player performance (minutes, goals, etc.) and characteristics (age, contract, etc.), as well as data on employer clubs and potential recruiting ones.”
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.
LONDON — Diego Costa trained alone on Sunday and Monday and will be assessed by Chelsea’s medical staff and Antonio Conte before a decision is made on whether he can rejoin the rest of the squad, sources at the club have confirmed to ESPN FC.
Chelsea’s players were given two days off by Conte after Saturday’s 3-0 away win over Leicester City stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League to seven points, but Costa was present at Cobham after being omitted from the squad that travelled to the King Power Stadium.
After the match Conte insisted that Costa’s absence was simply due to a back injury, but sources told ESPN FC on Friday that the Spain international had been sent to train alone for three days last week after becoming embroiled in a heated argument with a fitness coach and Conte.
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Lineups and Stats
There is also significant interest from the Chinese Super League in signing Costa this month, but Chelsea are adamant that their star striker will not be leaving Stamford Bridge and, on Saturday, sources close to the player told ESPN Brasil that he is not interested in a January move to Asia.
Costa trained outside at Cobham for around an hour on Monday accompanied by one Chelsea coach, and appeared to be in good spirits as he moved training apparatus around the practice pitch himself.
Club sources insist that Costa’s training regime is not a punishment, but rather the next step in his recovery from the back complaint that ruled him out of the Leicester trip. The 28-year-old’s condition will be assessed by Chelsea’s medical staff and Conte when the rest of the players return on Tuesday.
Asked about the severity of Costa’s back injury after the Leicester City win, Conte replied: “I don’t know. It’s always difficult because the pain I don’t have, his pain. It’s important to understand when he recovers. We’ll see next week about this.”
Liam is ESPN FC’s Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.
Everything that you need to know ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s side’s Premier League encounter with their old rivals at Old Trafford on Sunday
Jurgen Klopp has tasked Liverpool with striking back strongly against Manchester United at Old Trafford as they go in search of a first victory in 2017.
'Rooney was as good as Ronaldo!'
The Reds, who have enjoyed a stellar start to the season, were defeated 1-0 at Southampton in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final on Wednesday night.
That was preceded by the youngest-ever team in the club's history being held to a goalless home FA Cup draw by Plymouth, before Sunderland held them 2-2 in a top-flight fixture at the Stadium of Light.
The attack has been laboured rather than luminary but Liverpool have the perfect stage to remedy a mini-slump and make their first major statement of the year in the 50th Premier League meeting with their adversaries from down the M62.
Jose Mourinho has overseen a United resurgence though, with his side on a nine-game winning spell in all competitions.
Jordan Henderson's absence through a heel issue has undoubtedly weakened the Reds, with Emre Can and Lucas both failing in their attempts to deputise as the club's metronome in the No.6 position. The skipper provides the platform for Liverpool's dominance of the ball and space, while organising their protection against counters.
Sergio Ramos furious at Sevilla fans
He was scheduled to be back in full team training on Thursday and, should he receive the all-clear to start on Sunday, it would be a sizeable lift for the visitors.
Joel Matip, nursing an ankle problem, is also closing in on a return and will hope to feature in the blockbuster match.
Philippe Coutinho, meanwhile, should get a run out from the off after been afforded just over 30 minutes at St Mary's Stadium. The Brazilian sat out the club's previous nine fixtures due to ankle ligament damage but instantly elevated Liverpool's play after being introduced.
Marko Grujic, who has been sidelined with a tendon complaint, "is not injured anymore but he is not match fit" as per Klopp's last update.
Sadio Mane is away on Africa Cup of Nations duty with Senegal, while Eric Bailly will be missing for United as he is also at the continental showpiece with Ivory Coast.
Neither side have any suspension concerns to combat.
LIVERPOOL POTENTIAL STARTING LINE-UP
If Henderson is sharp enough to feature, he should form part of the first XI with Coutinho returning to spark the front three.
Matip's fitness levels will be assessed and his involvement may come as a substitute.
West Ham prepared to fine Payet
As was the case against Manchester City, Klopp could choose to use Roberto Firmino as the focal point with an extra midfield presence to offer greater protection for Liverpool's front-foot play.
Otherwise, the German must decide between Divock Origi or Daniel Sturridge for one of the attacking slots, with the Belgian likely to get the nod.
Loris Karius turned in a brilliant display at St Mary's but Simon Mignolet is expected to return between the sticks, with the goalkeeper performing admirably since returning to the side in December.
MAN UTD DOSSIER
Quite a departure from the side who adopted a stifling approach when these two last met in a goalless draw at Anfield in October, United have displayed a winning resolve and have scored twice or more in their last seven fixtures.
Their nine consecutive triumphs have allowed just three combined goals from the opposition, with their discipline and organisation intact while their offensive game has flourished. Paul Pogba's chemistry with Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been especially pleasing for Mourinho, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata also starring.
As was a trademark of the Alex Ferguson era, United have conjured late wins against Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Middlesbrough.
They are evolving into the fearsome outfit that their manager had envisioned, however, it must be noted that the only truly challenging test during their upturn in form was at home against Tottenham.
The Red Devils are still sixth despite their streak and, while their rivals have stumbled recently, it would be foolish to expose themselves too considerably against the division's top scorers.
Liverpool know from experience, though, that getting the better of David de Gea can be a mountainous task.
BEST OPTA MATCH FACTS
Jurgen Klopp has lost just one of his six meetings with Jose Mourinho (W3 D2 L1)
Only Steven Gerrard (eight) has scored more goals in this Premier League fixture than Wayne Rooney (six – level with Robbie Fowler).
Manchester United had just 35 per cent possession vs Liverpool at Anfield in October, their lowest total in a Premier League match since Opta began recording this data in 2003-04.
TV COVERAGE & KICK-OFF TIME
Kick off is at 4pm, with the match televised live on Sky Sports.
A Collection Of FIFA Ultimate Team Tips, FIFA Guide FAQ