PC Gamer

The third and final addition to the XCOM 2 Reinforcement Pack DLC bundle, called Shen's Last Gift, is now available on Steam. The expansion sees a team of XCOM soldiers headed by Avenger Chief Engineer Lily Shen infiltrate a hidden Advent facility containing powerful weapons and technology, including a brand-new type of soldier.

Intel which is to say, the XCOM website indicates that the Advent facility is spread across multiple skyscrapers linked by enclosed bridges, and that the MECs defending it are all based on a single prototype which is believed to be housed somewhere inside. And of course it is, because it's literally the first thing you see in the launch trailer. Once you've got it, you'll have access to a unique new soldier class complete with powerful new combat abilities, strategy mechanics, and customization options.

A more relevant bit of information to be aware of is that you should not purchase this DLC pack which, by the way, sells for $10/ 8 if you've already bought the Reinforcement Pack, because you will be charged for it even though you already own it. (Unless you're buying it for someone else, I suppose.) The Mac and Linux versions of Shen's Last Gift are coming soon.

PC Gamer

It's an understandably quiet weekend as multiple scenes enter their off seasons in preparation for major summer tournaments. Even so, there's plenty to watch: Dota 2, StarCraft, two different types of League ('Rocket' and 'of Legends'). Cap it off with some awesome charity speedruns and it'll be Monday before you know it.

Dota 2: Global Grand Masters

It might seem like small fry compared to the multi-million dollar International (only a month away!) but a number of top-tier teams will play in Global Grand Masters this weekend. Play starts at 16:00 CEST/07:00 PDT on Saturday and Sunday and continues through to Monday if you still need your Dota fix. Here's the livestream.

League of Legends: NA Championship Series

The NCA LCS continues with two days of play across Saturday and Sunday starting at 21:00 CEST/12:00 PDT. As ever, you'll want to check LoLesports.com for schedule, team and livestream information.

Rocket League: Qualifier 2 Group Stage

The second week of Rocket League qualifiers continues across both NA and EU this weekend. You'll want to check out the official Rocket League esports site for the key details and keep an eye on Twitch.tv for the main stream as well as individual player perspectives.

StarCraft II: Proleague 2016 Round 3

Team SCII featuring some of the best players in Korea. Play starts at 11:00 CEST (02:00 PDT) on both Saturday and Sunday, and you can find the English language livestream here. There are plenty of champions among the team rosters, including 2015 global champ sOs on Jin Air Green Wings.

Speedruns: Games Done Quick

Not quite esports and not 100% this weekend, but you should be watching Games Done Quick anyway. It's a week-long multi-game speedrun marathon supporting M decins Sans Fronti res, and it starts on Sunday at 18:30 CEST/09:30 PDT. You can find the full schedule here and the livestream here.

PC Gamer

On behalf of our team here at PC Gamer, I'd like to thank modders for their tireless, passionate work this year. The community of hobbyists, mapmakers, modelers, and countless tinkerers we benefit from on PC have created great things throughout 2016. I invite them to take a break: we've found the only mod we need for the immediate future.

Molkifier, who has previously turned actual cannibal Shia LaBeouf into a Hunter, has repurposed another millennial celebrity's work in Left 4 Dead 2. The Jaden Smith Tweets mod replaces the wall scrawlings found in each of Left 4 Dead's safe rooms with some choice Jaden Smithisms, whose tweets often sound like they're the collaboration of a conspiracy theorist, a spoiled teenager, and a first-year philosophy major.

That prose, as it turns out, works so perfectly in the medium of Left 4 Dead's walls that it's practically canonical.

The smaller text above reads: "Currently Going Through Customs Even Though I Was Born On This Planet." This appears in Left 4 Dead's airport campaign, Dead Air.

Louis isn't buying it.

This inspirational message seemed to fall flat for Deadpool.

Some of the tweets, all of which are copied verbatim from Smith's account, genuinely sound like the scrawlings of a desperate person in the post-apocalypse, struggling to make sense of it all. "It's Okay To Cry Guys," one of the graffiti reassures. "I've Bin Drinking Distilled Water For So Long That When I Drink Normal Water It Feels Like I'm Swallowing Huge Chunks of Aluminum," another complains. The text "Who Was On The Plane" appears in Dead Air, and removed from Twitter it sounds a survivor looking for the answer to who caused the infected to spread to the airport.

Others walk the line between humor and believability. "Shia Labeouf Do Not Leave New York City Without Letting Me See You"; "I'm Slowly Realizing I Need To Make A Trip Out To Norway"; "I Don't Like To Tweet But The New Hunger Games is Literally Amazing."

Elsewhere, they're glimpses into the psyche of those who miss the world they lost. It's a uniquely successful parody: one that pokes at Smith's preachy aphorisms while remaining completely at home in the context of a zombie survival shooter.

You can download this celebrity teenage angst from Steam Workshop.

PC Gamer

Listen closely, Agent 47. You've got a new target. He's called The Gunrunner, and he'll be in Marrakesh beginning on July 1, but only for 72 hours. Here's everything you need to know:

Um. Actually, the above represents everything I do know. Oddly, while the 5th Elusive Target was announced, it was not accompanied by an informative trailer as it has in the past. Apart from the date and time (5:00 AM Pacific), there's only this image:

The Gunrunner does indeed appear to be a gun runner, based on the table covered with guns, but there's not much else to go on. If you see a man's back that looks like that man's back, Agent 47, you should probably shoot it or stab it or something. As always, you only have one chance to take the target down: there no do-overs when it comes to Elusive Targets.

It you kill this man's back successfully, and you have also killed the previous four Elusive Targets, you will unlock a new Hitman suit and perhaps a lifetime of haunting nightmares for all the murders you've callously committed.

If a trailer for the new target appears, I'll update this post with it unless I forget.

PC Gamer

Shen s Last Gift, a new chunk of XCOM 2 DLC landed today. It kicks off when the commander and co. receive a transmission from an abandoned Advent research facility. You and Chief Engineer Shen investigate, take on a bunch of robots, and find a mech prototype presumably her father s Last Gift .The mech prototype isn t just a new character, but an entirely new soldier class with unique abilities. Gamespot s hands-on with the DLC digs into what makes the mechs, called Sparks, different: they're essentially hero units, with more health, maneuverability, and firepower than the normal human soldier. They're also taller and more noticeable targets for enemy Advent forces. So the mechs are harder, better, faster, and stronger than the average soldier, but they re also unable to take cover. That said, they can function as cover for human units, which sounds like a fun way to deepen the pool of available strategic decisions without (as far as we know) breaking the established formula.The DLC is priced at $10 on its own, but can also be purchased as part of the Reinforcement pack, which includes Anarchy s Children and Alien Hunters too. It s normally $20, but as part of the Steam Summer Sale, it s a breezy $13.40.

PC Gamer

Doom has survived, and indeed thrived, by always returning to its fullbore embrace of excess. This a series that goes big on everything: action, gore, and the signature demonic production design. As with both the 1993 original and this year s reboot, when we want more of something, we usually get it. James aptly wrote in his review: Hell is my home now. He didn t sound unhappy about it.Doom draws on a variety of themes that work to draw players into being comfortable in its devilish grip. The game s use of the space marine trope is basically perfect for what that character, and the player, is asked to accomplish kill or be killed. Then there s Mars itself. The Red Planet has always worked so well as a stage for horror because, of its relative similarity to Earth. The dusty landscape feels both somehow familiar, but alien enough to stage the awful things that happen. In this edition of If you like, we take a look at military science fiction, interstellar horror, and a modern sci-fi classic. It s also clear we are still waiting for a good Doom film. What would that film look like? Feel free to pitch us in the comments.

Edge of Tomorrow, directed by Doug Liman

I can t think of a recent film that captures the gameplay loop of a shooter like Doom more perfectly than Edge of Tomorrow. Based on the Japanese novel All You Need is Kill, Tom Cruise plays a military officer who s more comfortable in front of a camera than on the front lines during an alien invasion. And when Cruise s character finds himself having the worst kind of Groundhog Day you could imagine, he has to find a way to learn how to fight, no matter how long it takes.With spectacular effects and a killer performance from Emily Blunt as a hard-bitten fellow soldier, Edge of Tomorrow borrows a lot from the space marine aesthetic familar from games like Doom and movies like James Cameron s Aliens. When horrific aliens want to shred you, grab some power armor and a shotgun because this we know: Talking to the monsters never works.

Aliens: Nightmare Asylum 

One of the best examples of the expanded universe that appeared in the wake of the first two Alien films, this graphic novel gets to the essential core of Doom s premise you re alone, off Earth, just survive somehow. In Nightmare Asylum we join Sergeant Wilks and a woman named Billie on board a ship that s fleeing an Alien infestation back home. We get all the classic Aliens themes that were themselves so obviously influential on games like Doom claustrophobic corridors, morally-questionable government projects, and of course the unstoppable beasts themselves.If you haven t revisited the Alien universe in a while, this book is a great excuse to dive back in.

The Last Days on Mars, directed by Ruairí Robinson 

Despite its excellent production values and stellar cast, 2013 s The Last Days on Mars didn t quite get the reception it perhaps deserved. The movie s plot is a familiar one: A research team is nearing the end of their mission when an unexpected discovery changes everything. Despite some derivative story beats, there s an entertaining and atmospheric Mars horror film hidden inside the otherwise standard issue setup. Most of this is down to the the incredible cast of actors they secured for the project. Liev Schreiber, Olivia Williams, and Elias Koteas bring talent and gravitas to the script and let you dwell, if only for a little while, in their horror story.The impact of Doom s expertly-crafted action set pieces and alien encounters is often punctuated by the quieter moments between these engagements. The Last Days on Mars works on this level as well, where the fear of Mars s hellish and inhospitable environment create a tension that can t be resolved by an obvious, direct path. In a perfect world, if we could mashup the best parts of this film, Cameron s Aliens, and 2012 s excellent action-gorefest Dredd, we d have the perfect Doom movie.

Redliners, by David Drake 

For decades now one of the finest writers working in the subgenre of military science fiction, David Drake s Redliners might be one of his best and most personal works. A Vietnam veteran himself, Drake s usual talent for sharp and intelligent dialogue, well-crafted action scenes and solid characterization are on display in this novel. It s story deals with a unit of battle-weary soldiers who have maybe done and seen too much to be reintegrated into civilian life. Instead, these hardened personalities are deployed to protect a group of colonists on a new deep space outpost in alien territory. What they find there, and what it will take to survive, will require all of their resolve as soldiers, as well human beings.

Patrick currently works as web editor for Hinterland Studios, which is making The Long Dark. For more installments of If you like... , check out the other games he's covered in this series below:

PC Gamer

Life as a support in League of Legends can be hard. Nothing is more depressing than being a support to a half-baked potato masquerading as an AD carry. You try your best to keep your oblivious teammate away from danger by providing vision, shielding/sponging incoming attacks, giving heals or buffs to attack damage/movement speed, but it s never enough. Soon the realisation kicks in that you re on a sinking ship and it s going down fast.

With all of these responsibilities, however, it can be hard for supports to feel appreciated. Their impact on the game isn t celebrated as obviously as a killstreak, for example.

Patch 6.13 aims to bring supports out of the shadows and into the light, making the position feel more satisfying and rewarding, while also making their success easier to observe. Ranked 5s are also making a scheduled return, and general nerfs aim to tackle some of the more terrifying champions.

Experience changes

Snagging an early kill in lane has huge advantages for the victor. This is largely due to early minion waves granting more experience than kills, making it crucial for overall champion progression. The dead miss out on this experience and return to lane underleveled and woefully underpowered, while their opponent continues to capitalise on the early lane advantage. Riot aims to counter the effects of this snowballing by toning the advantages down. Champions are now worth less experience at level 1-9 and especially at level 1-3, meaning that the victor won t be miles ahead.

Catch-up experience now scales with percent missing level, rather than remaining at a set value from level to level. You will now be granted with more catch-up experience at 2.5 levels behind than 2.3 levels behind, etc. This gives those that disconnected or struggled in laning phase a chance to comeback and still have an impact on the game, as opposed to feeling completely useless. The catch-up experience kicks in earlier, but scales less strongly late game.

Post-death kill experience allows champions to gain experience from nearby champion kills for 10 seconds after death, even if they didn't participate. This is great for initiators whose job is to jump into the fray, locking down as many targets as possible, which often results in their death even when done successfully. Because of this initiators don t get full teamfight experience, despite creating the very opportunities that net the team kills. Instead they are left underleveled for the next fight, making them even more likely to die in upcoming skirmishes. The post-death kill experience aims to put a stop to this vicious pattern, rewarding the sacrificial lambs of the team.

As mentioned above, patch 6.13 is also aimed at improving the overall player experience and quality of life when playing support. One of the ways Riot is bolstering the role is by making it easier to gain experience, as supports tend to lag behind the rest of the team in levels. This is largely due to the clearing and placement of wards around the map. Denying vision can often present a high risk/low reward aspect of the game, and losing out-of-combat bonuses just to clear a ward can make survivability harder. The changes in patch 6.13 allow champions to keep their out-of-combat bonuses while clearing wards, making it less punishing overall.

Wards now grant 30 experience when killed (15 for blue wards) making the placement of vision even more strategic. You don t want to place wards in noticeable areas as you will be giving away free experience each time. Attacking wards will also no longer trigger in-combat status for the purpose of Boots of Mobility, Cloud Drake, or Taliyah's Rock Surfing. The above changes will help supports have a greater impact in the Rift, while making the role a more enjoyable experience.

Changes to champions

Tahm Kench is definitely in the spotlight this patch. The River King is a champion many people find frustrating to play against and love having on their team. Patch 6.13 has introduced a lot of changes to his abilities. His ultimate s passive is now his passive and his basic attacks/abilities deal 1/1.25/1.5% (at levels 1/11/16) and scale off Tahm s maximum health. This multiplies depending on how many stacks of Acquired Yaste he has on a champion. There is a minor damage increase to Tongue Lash, but the most notable change is to Thick Skin. The cooldown is now six seconds across all ranks and will convert 70% to 90% of the damage taken into Grey Health.

The duration of the shield is now three seconds as opposed to six seconds and no longer decays over the duration, but if that wasn t enough there are also buffs to his ultimate. Abyssal Voyage s range has been increased, while the channel duration has been decreased. These are some pretty big changes that will most likely lead to him becoming a popular pick this patch.

Historically, Lulu has not fared well from the nerfs to her solo game, leaving her ability to support underwhelming. However, the recent changes aim to offer solo and support lane Lulu value wherever she goes. Her base mana has been increased from 292 to 350 and her movement speed has been slightly increased from 325 to 330. Glitterlance now grants a slow for two seconds at all ranks rather than increasing up to two seconds at rank five, but enemies hit beyond Glitterlance s first target will only take 70% of the damage. The most notable change is to Lulu s ability Whimsy as it now grants bonus attack speed as well as bonus movement speed when cast on an ally. This does not scale with AP so it will remain at 15% to 35%, but the effects can last up to four seconds at rank five. This is a pretty big buff and is a solid ability for Lulu and her AD carry.

Thresh now receives two souls dropped from epic monsters instead of one. This benefits Dark Passage, which now scales based on souls collected as opposed to scaling off 50% of his AP. Casting Dark Passage at an out-of-range location also now throws the lantern at maximum range in the target direction, rather than causing Thresh to walk into cast range.

The recent changes to Trinity Force allowed Irelia to become an absolute monster in top lane. She had become a popular ban amongst higher divisions and was a champion people simply didn t want to risk playing against. Riot has seemingly agreed that her presence in the game has been a little too impactful and have nerfed the cooldown on her ultimate. Originally, Irelia could use Transcendent Blades to kill her opponent, then proceed to wait for her laner to return and kill them a second time due to the cooldown reduction from Trinity Force. This nerf allows for some much-needed breathing space when playing against the Ionian, making her feel less impossible to kill. It will be interesting to see how she copes with these changes, after all the 40 second increase on her ultimate at rank one is quite a hefty increase.

Kindred remains in the sights of Riot s nerf gun and is back again for another round of changes. Base armour has been lowered from 20 to 27 which is quite a big difference when it comes to taking the jungle camps. However, Kindred s armour growth stat has increased very slightly, but the biggest change is to Wolf s Frenzy as it no longer heals you. Instead wolf now maims jungle monsters, reducing their attack speed and movement speed by 50% for 2 seconds. These changes were made due Kindred s dependency on learning how to kite jungle monsters good Kindred players could take little to no damage while clearing the jungle. Given that Riot has made kiting easier with W, the reduction to base armour brings Kindred in line with other ranged champions.

Swain is receiving a small nerf, which is a little surprising considering his current impact in top and mid lane. His ultimate cooldown has been increased from 10 seconds to 20 seconds which is a fairly decent adjustment. I don t think this will hurt Swain too much in teamfights, but in solo lane you may have to play a little safer, due to the larger window of time the enemy has to engage on you.

Changes to support items

The Ancient Coin line is now going to receive early cooldown reduction as well as some minor stat changes, particularly the Talisman of Ascension which now builds out of Raptor s Cloak instead of Forbidden Idol. It costs 2500 gold and grants 45 armour, 150% health regen, 75% mana regen and builds up to 20% movement speed over two seconds while near turrets, fallen turrets, or void gates.

The Forbidden Idol item path is receiving 10% bonus healing and shielding power. The Ardent Censer looks like a good item to purchase if your team has a lot of auto attack-heavy champions. This item path would be a good match for supports like Janna, Karma Soraka etc.

Lastly, the Ruby Sightstone has had its cost decreased and active item cooldown reduction increased by 20%, a minor but a necessary change that creates a more distinct difference between the Eyestone and Sightstone routes.

PC Gamer

There are four different sniper rifles in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. They re all useful, and they can all help you win rounds. The key thing you need to know, aside from how to use them effectively, is when you should be using each one.

Why snipe at all?

Is it worth investing in a sniper rifle at all? Why not just buy another assault rifle instead? Sniper rifles work very differently compared to other weapons in the game. Each one excels in its own area. I d say that it s absolutely worth investing in a sniper rifle every now and then, as long as you know what you want to achieve.

Maybe you want to hold down an area of the map and kill the first guy who peeks. If you suspect that they might have an AWP you should get one as well. Why? Because the AWP kills you with a single hit. That s one of the reasons why AWP has become the most popular sniper rifle in the game: it straightforwardly counters all the other sniper rifles.

Maybe you don t expect them to have an AWP and you want to hold down a narrow corridor where they likely will try to smoke you out? Then an auto-sniper might be the gun you re looking for.

And sometimes it s not just about getting kills. You might be low on cash and want to peek certain spots as safely as possible: behind the van on Mirage, for instance. Then the SSG 08 might be the right choice. You can jump and still shoot accurately when compared to the other sniper rifles, but you will need to land a headshot to kill an enemy with one bullet unless they re close and didn t buy armour. The upside is that the SSG 08 allows you to move around almost as fast as you can without a weapon equipped, making it the ultimate weapon to use when you want to peek for information and stay alive at the same time.

When should you snipe?

First of all you need enough money. The AWP costs $4750, the SCAR-20 and G3SG1 both cost $5000 each and the SSG 08 is yours for $1700. When you use a weapon that expensive (SSG 08 excluded) you really, really want to buy armor as well. Sometimes, when you think it s crucial in order to win the game, you can buy an AWP without armor, also known as a glass cannon. Like I mentioned earlier the AWP kills enemies with a single bullet. That s the key to glass cannons being viable: kill them before they get a chance to shoot back. That s not the case with the other sniper rifles, however, which is why I almost never use them without armor.

Next, let s look at the kill rewards. A kill with the AWP will give you $100 and with all the other sniper rifles you get the normal $300. What this means is that if you use the AWP you ll not only get $200 less per kill, but with each kill you ll deny your own team that same amount of money. As you can see it s pretty important that you have a good reason to buy an AWP. In order for the other team to lose as much money as your team does when you die you need to kill either another AWPer or two riflers. You can t however only look at numbers. At the end of the day you need to win 16 rounds. How you do that is up to you, but it s a lot easier if you maintain a healthy economy throughout the game.

Where should you snipe?

Obviously you can find yourself in a favorable position by being creative and snipe from unexpected positions, but there are a few questions you should ask yourself first. Do I have a backup plan? Make sure you can back off safely in case you miss. Your weapon costs a lot of money and you won t help your team win the game if you re dead. Am I likely to win the duel if they have a sniper on the other side? Practice a lot and get comfortable with all the angles you might need to peek. Come prepared!

Here are some examples of spots I like when using different sniper rifles:

By the van on Mirage. Excellent spot to play with the SSG 08. You can peek B-apartments and stay relatively safe at the same time.

This is a spot where I like to use an auto-sniper. Most teams smoke lower before pushing, in which case I can spam the smoke and hopefully pick up a kill or two and stay safe at the same time. When I play from here I like to have a teammate playing around the bomb train peeking upper. After I ve spammed the smoke I m ready to assist my teammate from far back, using the long distance to my advantage.

Ask a teammate to throw a flashbang over the roof towards long and use your AWP to take control over the area. Practice a bit so that you aim at the right spot when you come around the corner. That way all you have to do is to click and you should be able to score the kill. You should practice how to use angles to your advantage no matter what weapons you use, but it s even more important when you ve invested in a sniper rifle.

It s been little over a year since Valve lowered movement speed while scoped in when using the AWP, which means you now have to move around the corner and then scope if you want to be able to fire as fast as possible. Practice the technique, however, and eventually you ll master it and wreck everyone on the server.

Find all of our other Counter-Strike: Global Offensive guides here:

Inferno Counter-Terrorist guideInferno Terrorist guideCache Counter-Terrorist guideCache Terrorist guideOverpass Counter-Terrorist guideOverpass Terrorist guideCobblestone Counter-Terrorist guideCobblestone Terrorist guideTrain Counter-Terrorist guideTrain Terrorist guideMirage Counter-Terrorist guideMirage Terrorist guideDust2 Counter-Terrorist guideDust2 Terrorist guideSupport role guideEntry fragger role guideLurker role guideAWPer role guideTeam leader guideSMGs guide

PC Gamer

BioShock: The Collection has been officially announced at long last. The collection will contain BioShock, BioShock 2 plus Protector Trials and Minerva's Den DLC, and BioShock Infinite plus Clash in the Clouds, Columbia's Finest and Burial at Sea episodes 1 and 2. It'll arrive September 13 (or 16 outside the States) and cost $59.99.

Yes, they have been remastered. That is, everything except BioShock Infinite has been remastered, 2K stating "it already meets current-gen console standards and runs smoothly on high visual settings."

Better still, players who already own BioShock, BioShock 2 or Minerva's Den will be able to upgrade to the respective remastered editions free of charge. Hopefully the Bioshock remaster will uncap its physics framerate, though there is a mod for that.

In terms of new content, there will be a director's commentary video series with input from Ken Levine, a virtual museum of concepts cut from the original BioShock and a number of 'Challenge Rooms' to test yourself outside BioShock's story.

I'm just tickled that the collection has actually been announced. News of it has been leaking like an ill-advised undersea city.

Update: This article has been edited to include the new details listed in this here Steam announcement.

PC Gamer

Photo credit: Riot Games

Here s a fun piece of trivia: Hai, LemonNation, and Piglet. What do all three of these players have in common?

Some likely answers might be: they re popular players with long careers. They ve all attended Worlds. They could all be reasonably considered Hall of Famers once they retire. All of those answers are correct, but they re not quite what I m looking for. Here s the really interesting answer: all of these players are currently playing in the North American Challenger Series.

Hai and LemonNation are on Cloud9 s Challenger team after announcing that they intended to scout young talent, foster them, and work towards finding new talent. This is certainly an admirable goal. Dardoch and Biofrost are two examples of young talent who come from North America, which is a region that sports its fair share of imported players from other regions. With the region locks in place, and rumours that those locks are about to become even more restrictive, native talent is extremely important. Some fans have wondered whether Cloud9 is really there to pick up Challenger talent, and they re keeping their lips sealed about their plans. There has been word of scrims, and the recent pickup of Contractz (formerly of Ember) is a sign of progress.

Piglet is another tale altogether. From World Champion to Challenger series seems like quite a fall, but at the same time, the circumstances are quite understandable. Piglet is a player who was nicknamed Practice Worm for the long hours that he put into the game. Even when he was on Liquid, there was never any question that Piglet cared. His sights were set firmly on making it back to Worlds, and when Cloud9 knocked Liquid out of the gauntlet in their infamous Cinderella story from ninth place to Worlds, Piglet sobbed into his keyboard. The unrelenting passion, combined with another fourth place finish, must have been devastating. Now, Piglet is playing in Challenger, and his teammates say that he seems happier. There are photos of him smiling with his teammates on Liquid Academy. Even if this is where Piglet s career ends, he s still a World Champion, and his mechanics are no doubt a cut above your average Challenger player.

Photo credit: Riot Games

When you have a world class shotcaller, a World Champion, and a veteran coach and player in a circuit that s meant to be a place for amateurs, that raises the question of whether that s fair. Part of the fun of Challenger has been the dream of getting a group of friends together and competing. Of course, every year, the circuit moves farther and farther away from this casual ideal. Eanix, for instance, bought Team Dragon Knights for a sizable sum, in a mirror of the big money deals that have become commonplace in the LCS. Challenger teams are investing in gaming houses, analysts, coaching, and staff. Challenger is, in essence, developing into a competitive league of its own.

The promotion system encourages this. The best teams have a shot at making it to the LCS. The problem is that, historically, once Challenger teams make it to the LCS, they have a hard time staying there. While Apex seems to be holding their own as a mid tier team, they are an exception who are loaded with LCS-tested talent. Coast, the Renegades, NME, and Team Dragon Knights have all been one split wonders who graduated and were summarily booted back into Challenger. Riot presumably wants to counter the revolving door, hence the changes to auto promotion and relegation, but it doesn t seem quite enough. So, what s to be done?

Well, this might be part of the necessary growing pains. As established esports brands continue to invest into Challenger, they may find that there s more than the scene needs than just money. Think back to Spring, when the Immortals swept through North America with a devastating 17-1 record. While they didn t win the Split, they shook the entire region up. Now, in Summer, the playing field is decidedly more even. This may be a similar situation: with Cloud9 and Liquid fielding strong Challenger rosters, we may see the rest of Challenger grow as a result.

Photo credit: Riot Games

For too long, Challenger has been a field of rough teams against a few polished rosters. People are crying foul now that the gap has widened further, but this may be exactly what the scene needs. If Challenger is meant to be a legitimate stepping stone to the LCS, then it needs to viably prepare players for the LCS. As it stands, that simply isn t working. The dream of a few close friends banding together and becoming pros with no infrastructure or support has been dead for a long time, and it s time to admit it.

Now, does this mean the system is perfect? Of course not. Currently, an LCS spot has a massive monetary value attached to it. When Apex made the LCS, they turned around and prepared to do the exact same thing with Apex Pride, and they re likely doing it for the paycheque involved in selling a second slot over the thrill of competition. Cloud9 and Liquid Academy both have strong rosters and could also benefit from similar paydays. This may not necessarily be a bad thing, however. When there s money involved in the scene, and a way to benefit, that encourages teams to invest in the scene. As long as they stick around and invest some of that payday back, there s nothing inherently wrong with making money off Challenger.

While 2016 s North American Challenger circuit seems lopsided and unfair, consider that 2017 and 2018, and onwards, may end up being legitimately exciting for the scene. Every scene goes through growing pains at one time or another. Playing against a World Champion may seem wildly unfair or it may be the experience of a lifetime. It likely depends on your perspective, and maybe in a couple of years, hindsight will give us a clearer vision on whether this was an opportunity or an oppression by the LCS elite.

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