Reflections on IEM Katowice (League of Legends)
China’s still mixed international showings
China’s recent appearances in international tournament, not just in League of Legends, have been rather lackluster. While World’s had many analysts scratching their heads, as many thought another China vs. Korea (like in Season 3) might happen given the strength of China, the fact of the matter was that only Edward Gaming managed to make it out of groups, only to be 3-0ed by Fnatic. IEM Katowice seemed… a little better for China. IEM Katowice also had one Chinese team making it out of groups, Royal Never Give Up (RNG.) The reason, though, that this isn’t as great of a win for China is that RNG arguably had the much easier group: TSM, Origen, and EVER. While TSM is still a strong NA team, they have been disorganized, Origen have looked like a hollow of themselves, and EVER still have signs of their relative rookie-ness. Still, a win is a win, and making it out without dropping a map was good for the Chinese side.
The main problem for China, though, is that both of their teams were defeated by Fnatic. While each managed to take a single map, so it wasn’t a complete thrashing, Fnatic are still one of the weaker teams in the EU LCS. Qiao Gu and RNG are the two top LPL teams currently. That’s a concerning thing going forward. Again, bearing in mind further that this Fnatic squad isn’t even the one that went to World’s. I’m sure there are people much smarter than me that can explain China’s recent performances, but I can’t. It’s almost a ‘TSM case,’ where the talent is there… it just doesn’t manifest in wins. But in some ways China did better than before. They managed to take some wins off the teams that ultimately prevailed, and also made it out of groups. But it’s just that those wins are small in comparison to the other regions.
Korea’s still got it (well, SKT T1 at least…)
One of the must buzzed about storyline going into IEM Katowice was how the ailing SKT T1, two time world Champs, would perform. They’ve struggled in their native region of LCK, and while the doubters (myself included) were small in numbers, it was probably the first time that analysts seriously questioned whether SKT T1 would perform. They did, ultimately not dropping a single map in their tournament life, and hopefully, much like Fnatic, going home to their home region to turn around a rather odd split. While it isn’t much of a surprise that SKT T1 would take it all, coming out of groups unscathed even seemed to be almost predicted, they performed well, hopefully fixing some of their problems of late.
EVER, on the other hand, only managed a single map off of TSM, who were probably the second ‘weakest’ team heading into the group stage, behind Origen. It’d be different, too, if EVER won that game against TSM because they were the stronger team, but they played largely from behind the whole game, until a fateful throw gave EVER the chance to close it out. To further this, they lost their next meeting with TSM 2-0, the second game only getting three kills by the end. EVER, while having the upset of SKT T1 forever under their belt, still need a lot of work before they become real contenders on the international scene.
NA still struggles to break out
Sigh. Well, I mean, at least we actually made it out of groups for once. Still, I feel, in a lot of ways, NA could’ve done better if they weren’t continually up against SKT T1 (ohh look, NA making excuses, that’s new.) That aside, NA doesn’t really need to prove itself as strongly as before, with a least some small appearances at international tournaments (CLG at IEM San Jose,) starting to make it up to NA fans for the debacle that was World’s. TSM received a solid walloping at the hands of SKT T1, but managed some very one sided series’ against Korean side EVER and handled their own against Origen. Given TSM’s recent record in the NA LCS, this is all good signs. They seemed a much more cohesive unit, and a lot of solid plays came out of the entire team, which is not necessarily something we could say recently. Doublelift, doing what he always does, managed a great Pentakill too, even though they ended up losing that game. TSM looks a lot stronger than before, and much like Fnatic, can come back to their home region with their heads quite high and hopefully galvanize around it as a team.
CLG is a slightly more tragic story. Again, it seems unfortunate that they were placed in the same group as SKT T1, but someone had to be. However, more of their showing was against Fnatic, who they put up a strong fight against and, at times, seemed to be able to break through the EU side. Still, they eventually bowed out of the tournament from their group. CLG, like many other Western teams, was seeing this tournament as a learning experience rather than a chance to make their mark, and hopefully CLG can take that away. Still, some over aggression and loss of leads can be worrying for the defending NA champs, but hey man, they killed Faker. That’s something.
Europe: The new little brother of Korea?
Much in the way that IEM San Jose had an NA team coming out as the real ‘winner,’ so too did the European tournament have an EU team coming out as the ‘winner.’ While Fnatic lost to SKT T1 without much of a fight, they still proved themselves as, if nothing else, the Chinese kryptonite. They beat both Chinese teams in a best of 3, which is a formidable task for a middle tier EU team (according to standings, that is.) Fnatic entered IEM Katowice as a kind of question mark team: nobody really knew how well to gauge them in this tournament, and with the fact that two of China’s best, two of NA’s best (minus Immortals,) and SKT T1 were on the docket, Fnatic was kind of lost in the static. They easily showed that this isn’t how it should be, as they managed to fight their way to the finals tooth and nail. Fnatic looked like a team, much like TSM, and that’s a really, really important thing for Fnatic fans to take away from it. Given the competition for the top, though, it’s questionable whether Fnatic can hold onto their title again, but they definitely showed that they are not a write off going into the playoffs.
Then there’s Origen. Origen has very much become the EU whipping boy for me, as those familiar with my storyline articles will know, but it really is just a strange thing going on with them. In a lot of ways Origen seem to be in a kind of Cloud 9 position, wherein they’re a good team, a team that dominated their region, and then a roster change seemed to herald a complete spiral down in form. I don’t think it’s as easy as subbing back in xPeke like Cloud 9 did with Hai, but they need to try and figure something out. A lack of coach makes this difficult, too, so hopefully Origen can figure something out, but nonetheless they’ve all but secured their place in the playoffs, which is enough for them. Still, as far as IEM Katowice goes, there’s not much to go off of. They fell out pretty quickly and uneventfully, probably the only really predictable factor in the whole tournament.