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    League of Franchising: Re-Inventing the Structure of eSports

    Riot has announced this past month that starting in the eighth season of League of Legends, in 2018, they will implement franchising, or “permanent partnership” as they have called it. Organizations will go through a rigorous application and screening process that encompasses financial status, financial and market growth potential, competitive history, and more, and at the end of it all, Riot will then choose the teams that they will like to work with moving forward.

    While it is assumed that the number of teams will remain at ten, the current number of teams is not set in stone, and could potentially increase depending on the quality of the applicants. There’s a laundry list of details that come with an infrastructure overhaul as large as this, but some of the key takeaways are things such as player unions, increased minimum salaries, lack of relegation/safety in the league, and the potential growth outcomes that result from a more stable infrastructure. To some, such as current LCS/CS owners, this can be a fantastic thing.

    To others, such as the owners, players, and staff of amateur teams, the way they do business has basically ended for good: leaving many in an adapt or die scenario. Now, having been on both sides of the coin, as an amateur player, coach, owner, and OQ consultant, and as a pro staff member, I feel like I understand what both are feeling and am able to give my general opinion. On one hand, a number of amateur owners in which I am good friends with have had their chances of qualifying and owning an NACS/LCS team essentially disappear. Because Riot, in efforts to support the longevity and safety of their permanent partnerships, will be removing relegations, this means there are no more open qualifiers: the most important tournament(s) of the year for amateur orgs. The motivation to own an amateur LoL org has been pulled out from under many people. On the other hand, for orgs like Dignitas, Immortals, etc, who have previously toed the line of relegations, this leads down a golden brick road of stability and a greater future earning potential.

    There will always be two sides to situations like this, and I personally see merit in both sides. However, the question I had to ask myself was, do we gain more catering to the small fish swimming near the dock, or do we cast our line out further into the waters and net the big catch? Overall, I think League of Legends, as an entertainment business, greatly benefits from re-structuring the upper echelon of their business to gain the most value from their work and if this means closing the doors to amateur teams and small time NACS buyers, then so be it. I believe that this is a good change. Throughout my time as an esports consultant, I have met with a number of large buyers and organization owners that I did not feel were capable of successfully running a LoL organization that met the standards of season seven infrastructure; Either they were previous owners and their numbers/methods were outdated, they were owners of organizations that specialized in other games and are therefore unfamiliar with the infrastructure needed for LoL, or they were first time buyers/owners. These people get through the cracks all the time and run organizations into the ground.

    There are a multitude of examples of this in LoL, one of the more recent NA examples being Team Impulse: an organization that lied about paying their players. These people are not fit to run an organization, and should not be given a chance to at the cost of the livelihood of their staff and players. On the same note, I am certain in saying that one hundred percent of amateur LoL owners would not even come close to being able to handle running an LCS, even an NACS organization, no matter how diluted their perception of the business is. These people fit into the same category as the ones mentioned previously: not deemed fit for competitive ownership. Riot developing this permanent partnership is an excellent way to hone in on the exact people they need and should be working with. However, this is only if Riot follows through with their criteria. In my opinion, there are multiple current LCS organizations that should not make the franchise cut based on the merits indicated from Riot, but I lack the confidence in knowing that Riot will put their foot down and stick to their guns: rejecting multiple current LCS owners. There are multiple non LCS organizations that deserve to make this cut, and sticking with lackluster ownership in the LCS will not only shaft them out of working with good owners, but it will dilute the quality of the league as a whole.

    If Riot follows through with what they have on paper, then it’s more than likely we will see some “new” faces in the LCS next year. Something that should be noted as well is that each LCS team will be required to field an academy team, aimed at developing players and increasing the depth of skill in our region. This is overall a hazy topic for me, because I personally think numerous organizations, if allowed to stay in the league, will take the lazy way out and import players. However, because NA as a region has such a small playerbase, I do see why they would pay extra to import greater talent rather than scrape the barrel for domestic players. I think it just comes down to what route organizations take when it comes to academy teams. Some organizations like Immortals will almost guaranteed take five NA players and give them the infrastructure to thrive and grow, where some organizations like Liquid, would most likely import players due to their history of negligent spending and, aside from the diamond in the rough that is Dardoch, sub par player scouting and team building. Although the player situation is yet to be really set in stone, a huge benefit to this set up is that there is a large increase of staffing positions available for those looking to get their “big break” into the scene. Academy teams can be just as effective in developing staff as much as players. It all just depends on how the organizations execute. The last section of the totem pole is the amateur scene. What happens to the hundreds of amateur organizations that dream at qualifying for NACS through Open Qualifiers? Well, realistically most of them will dissipate. There is not enough room, time, nor resources to spend on less than capable owners, players, and staff, and this is a good thing. In order for LoL to function as well as it can as a business, it must cut the extra fat. As said earlier, I am certain that even if on some stroke of luck that one of these teams qualified through Open Qualifiers, they would be completely incapable of running a professional organization.

    However, for the few amateur organizations who have stuck around throughout the years and have had consistent development, they should be smart enough to adapt their business model. They can be the last cog in the machine: the development center for the academy and collegiate scene. Yes, they will not be able to own their own LCS organization, but they can re-create their brand as an amateur development center and craft the next generation of players from the ground up. Overall, this is the structure that League of Legends needed in order to become a consistently thriving business. Not only will franchising provide stability and increased growth, but it could open the doors to a world of business possibilities that were simply not plausible in the past due to the sheer cutthroat ride or die nature of a relegation fueled league. I am excited to see how this all unfolds, and am looking forward to what we as a community will gain from it.

    Four New Hearthstone Cards That Just Might Shake Up the Meta in Knights of the Frozen Throne

    Hearthstone’s last expansion, Journey to Un’Goro, has been praised by casual players, streamers, and pros alike for the diverse metagame it created. Of course, some of that diversity results from the sets that rotated out of Standard along with the introduction of the dino-themed expansion. This will be the first year that Blizzard releases three full expansions, and it will be interesting to see if the next two expansions manage to shake up the meta even without any other sets rotating out. Last summer, the 45-card adventure set One Night in Karazhan received criticism for only solidifying the top decks in the meta for several additional months. Blizzard developers and fans alike hope that a full expansion will boost current mid-tier decks and allow new archetypes to emerge.

    At this point, dozens of cards for the next expansion, Knights of the Frozen Throne, have been revealed. Without knowledge of the full set, it’s hard to say which decks will rise and which will fall. And more often than not the new metagame surprises all pundits and prognosticators anyway. Nonetheless, here are four revealed cards that might push some mid-tier decks into the spotlight.

    Blood Razor – It’s hard not to see a bit of Death’s Bite in this card, and warrior players keenly felt the loss of that weapon when Naxxramus rotated out. Blood Razor has less versatility because of its lower attack value. However, the weapon instead focuses on Warrior combo potential with not one but two whirlwind effects. Blood Razor seems too efficient to not see play, and the card might team up with Ravaging Ghoul to provide plenty of activators for powerhouse Warrior cards like Sleep with the Fishes and Frothing Berserker. Along with the intriguing revealed card Dead Man’s Hand, Blood Razor might allow Control Warrior to compete with some of the higher-tier control decks.

    Ghastly Conjurer – At first glance, this Mage minion’s stats and effect might not seem like much, but I think this card is an excellent representation of “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Quest Mage (also called Exodia Mage) works well enough as a mid-tier deck, but one key issue holds it back: the deck wants to stall for time and draw cards like standard Control Mage, but the quest relies on random card generators like Primordial Glyph and Cabalist’s Tome to complete the quest. Ghastly Conjurer seems to slot into Quest Mage perfectly because it not only generates a card to fulfill the quest—a copy of Mirror Image also provides a cheap, consistent stalling effect. With the other revealed Knights of the Frozen Throne card Simulacrum, Quest Mage might receive just enough help to compete with more consistent Control Mage decks.

    Nerubian Unraveler – While not as easy to fit into a deck as the popular Naxxramus card Loatheb, this neutral minion also provides an anti-spell effect. Nerubian Unraveler seems less effective as a tempo play that protects against board removal like Flamestrike, but the card does slow down decks that rely on the card-drawing maniac Gadgetzan Auctioneer. Control decks that struggle mightily against Jade Druid or Miracle Rogue decks might include the Unraveler. However, the card would require precise timing and a good read on when your opponent will try to go all in on the Auctioneer.

    Righteous Protector – The neutral common card Argent Squire has seen play off and on since the first days of Hearthstone, and Righteous Protector is in most cases a strict upgrade with the addition of taunt. Currently, both Aggro and Mid-Range Paladin decks rely on murloc synergy for a strong early game. Righteous Protector packs a lot of punch for a one-drop, and it can also defend murlocs from board trades to ensure they stick around for maximum synergy. Additionally, even though the Paladin quest card was a flop for competitive play, efficient and “sticky” minions that survive until they can be buffed will help push the deck archetype toward relevance. 

    Gaming & How It Unites Us As a Society

    You find yourself in a new place, with people you do not know. For many of us, especially myself, this situation happens far too often. Throughout my twenty-three years on this planet, i’ve had my fair share and more of new situations; the past three years, i’ve lived in five different states and met many eclectic groups of people.

    However, there’s always been something that has linked us together: video games. Whether you play competitively, professionally, or even if it’s just a hobby of yours in your free time, there’s almost always some aspect of gaming that can unite us as people. Over the past few years, i’ve found myself time and time again making new friends out of complete strangers because we are able to bond over electronic fun.

    Video games, at any level, have become commonplace in the United States. In fact, as of 2015,155 million people actively play video games in the United States and 42 percent of them play more than three hours a week (source). It’s slowly becoming as commonplace as traditional sports in our society.

    Writing about this topic was something that kind of struck me in the moment. Just yesterday, I took a flight from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to visit me family for a few days before embarking to Los Angeles, California for work.

    Something to know about me is that I am not a small guy and of course, I found myself in a middle seat on a packed plane in between two fully-grown men. On an eighty-five degree day, it seemed like I struck out comfort wise on the four and a half hour flight. I put in my headphones, blasted the ac above me, and prepared to stick out the flight.

    The first hour or so of the flight, I was knocked out cold; staying up all night being anxious as to what the near future holds will do that to you the next morning. When I woke up and saw that we were only an hour into our flight, I was pretty bummed out. I took out my laptop from my carry on and turned on my N64 emulator to play some Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of

    Time. Any of my 90’s homies understand that this game is one of the cornerstones of the gaming scene. As I opened up my save state and started to play, I looked to my right and was not expecting what I saw. The man next to me, most likely around forty years old in age, was playing the new Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo Switch. To make matters even more weird, the man to my left, about fifty-five to sixty years in age, was playing Legend of Zelda: Wind

    Waker on his laptop. Here we were, three men from three completely different walks of life, time periods, and environments, enjoying one common thing: video games. Trying to not freak out and ask a million questions, I casually struck up conversation with the two guys about them playing. We spent the rest of the flight running through the games and talking to each other about the stories of each. The man on my right helped me with the caves in Ocarina of Time, and the man on my left explained to me how he enjoys playing games on flights because it’s more fun than reading to him.

    This experience made me reflect on the other instances in my life where I made friends in places I did not expect to. I immediately thought back to 2014, where I moved to a ranch ten thousand feet up in the mountains, in order to take a breather from our hectic, high pressure society.

    I met the people I would be living/working with on the ranch: about a dozen other guys roughly around my age. Being in a place of solitude and nature, the last thing I expected was for us to bond over something electronically, but low and behold, within days, we were chatting during lunch and dinner about all of our favorite video games from our childhood. We developed a close bond over things that I would have not expected to bond over. The past few years of my traveling life is littered with experiences like this, bonding with people of all age groups, regions, lifestyles, etc.

    The moral of the story is that you never know where you are going to find a friend, and many times, gaming, in one way or another, can be a catalyst for you to develop these relationships. We understand that even though video games are becoming commonplace in today’s society, there is still a slight mores in our world regarding them.

    I suggest throwing society’s perception of them to the side, because more times than none, you will find a friend where you least expect it because of a video game.

    Salt Lake Gaming Con 2017

    Salt Lake Gaming Con Exclusive Gaming Compression Sleeve

    Salt Lake Gaming Con was an explosive event. Video games, gamers, tournaments, cosplayers and gaming lifestyle were some of the highlights. It's only in it's second year, but the energy and attendance was twice as much as last year. SLC GamingCon is a force to be reckoned with. Especially in the coming years via it's partnership with Salt Lake Comic Con. 

    Gaming - 

    Gamers from all over the state of Utah and surrounding states took to the floor to compete in a wide variety of tournaments. Overwatch, LoL, Rocket League and Smash were big hits at the event. What was really exciting for us here at Mainframe is how the community embraced our Gaming Sleeve.

    We teamed up with SLC Gaming Con to do a colab of our gaming sleeve as well as introduce our latest style - the all black Contender sleeve. You could not walk through the sea of people in attendance without spotting our sleeves. The crew over at Microsoft and all of their volunteers were kitted out and loved them. The Microsoft store has been so involved with promoting and supporting the gaming community. They host loads of tournaments in stores and at events. They have embraced the Mainframe brand and we have plans to team up for later events and tournaments.

    Lines of people formed at our booth looking for the "Gaming sleeve". Hoards of gamers playing in tournaments across the floor were outfitted in Mainframe sleeves. It was a proud moment for the Mainframe Crew to see the gaming sleeve so fully embraced by the gaming community. 

    Mainframe Warzone Junkie & Team Gaming Competition

    Mainframe Gaming Super Smash Bro Wearing Compression Sleeve

    Mainframe Contender Esport Gaming Compression Sleeve

    Cosplay - 

    Gaming and Cosplay go hand in hand. We had some pretty awesome cosplayers come by the booth and say hello. A local homie Dez hung out and talked about games, cosplays and nerdcore favorites. Our friends Ash & Roadhog stopped by. This RD main was one of the best Roadhog's we've seen. He had a custom homemade plaster mask with matching tattoo to round out the look, it was perfect and photo worthy. Widow Maker and a gender-bender Genji also stopped by the booth, showing the Mainframe Crew some Overwatch love. 

    Dezcreepcore Gaming Cosplayer 

    Mainframe Cosplaye Road Hog and Ash Sweetring Gaming Con

    Mainframe Cosplay Widowmaker Gaming Lifestyle

    We are excited to be a part of the Salt Lake Gaming Con going forward. Both brands planted their roots here in Salt Lake in the same year. That makes for a special heritage that we look forward to sharing for many years to come!

    Mainframe Crew

    Q&A Gamer / Cosplayer: FakeNerdBoy

    1. First off, we have to always ask, tell us about how the name FNB came to be! 
    I'm a total fake nerd. I know A LOT about a handful of games and movies, but outside of the things I'm obssessed with, I have no idea what people are talking about. I also want to bring attention that no one ever questions men about their "Nerd knowledge". They just assume since I'm a guy, I know everything on the planet and I'm here to make fun of that.
    2. What was your first cosplay?
    My VERY first cosplay was a generic soul reaper from Bleach. I bought it on ebay and altered it myself.
    3. What is it about cosplay that draws you in?
    The people, hands down. Yeah, costumes are awesome and I'm always floored by the talent cosplayers have, but at the end of the day, I just want to party with friends and meet tons of new people at cons. Literally the most important thing to me is connecting with others.
    4. Do you ever cosplay anything outside of games like anime or movies?
    The only thing I really make costumes of are video-game based things. It's what I'm most passionate about in the "Nerd world" and it takes a lot these days for me to want to work on costumes, so it's almost always gotta be something that I'm super passionate about.
    5. What's the craziest thing that's ever happened to you while cosplaying?
    I genderbent Rogue from X-Men once and wasn't wearing a dancer's belt and this girl's mom came up to me and after taking a photo, told me that she could see my junk. I was very embarrassed and also slightly weirded out.
    6. Do mom and dad approve of your cosplay?
    My mom raised me by herself and she thinks what I do is awesome. She's always told me I need to do something creative for a living. She's seriously the strongest woman I've ever met in my life next to Jessica.
    7. Where do you see cosplay going now that gaming and eSports is stepping into the lime light?
    I think cosplay is kind of kicked into overdrive since the two worlds blend together so well. It's very rare I watch some sort of massive esports tournament without seeing cosplayers there. And you could never go to any convention and NOT see people cosplaying from their favorite games. I love that the two worlds are so comfortably integrated.
    8. What's the biggest challenge to you as a cosplayer?
    Actually making the costume. I've literally made two costumes in the past year and a half, haha. Finding something that gives me the drive is hard enough but to actually sit down and try to bang it out in a reasonable amount of time is... a chore to say the least. Any cosplayer will know exactly what I'm talking about. That's why we all wait until a week before the con and then want to kill ourselves after we accomplish it.
    9. Where is the coolest place around the world that cosplaying has ever taken you?
    That's a toughy. I REALLY enjoy Japan. I'd love to live there for a year just to experience it. London is also a blast. Pretty much anywhere that can facilitate a good time with my friends is okie by me. ^_^
    10. How old were you when you started cosplay and when did you first realize that you wanted to do it?
     I did my first "cosplay" for Dragoncon in 2011. It was that soul reaper costume. I thought I was gonna be hot shit, then I showed up at the con and realized I was a scrub-lord in comparison to everyone else's creativity and skill.
    11. Whats your favorite con and whats your next con?
    Absolute two favorite cons are Katsucon and Anime Expo. Katsu is basically a hub for all of the east coast people to meet up and AX is for all the west coast peeps to hang. Again, it's all about the people for me. ^_^
    12. What is about the Mainframe brand that made you want to wear our stuff?
    I like the simplicity of it. Subtle gaming gear is fantastic and I like that it goes beyond the computer and into a lifestyle category. Makes me happy that a lot of people are thinking outside of that box these days. 

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