LoL Worlds: Analyzing NA’s Three Teams
NA prodigies, a Gnar one trick, and MSI sweethearts are heading into Worlds representing the best three teams in North America. For some, this iteration of NA talent showcases the best set of competitive teams the region has ever seen. But before these teams take to the group stage in San Francisco, lets recap their origin stories (of the summer split) and re-visit how they got here.
After a strange love affair with Yellowstar, TSM fully eloped with rookie Vincent “Biofrost” Wang to emerge as the new coming of NA Jesus. But really, how did this team get so good so fast? Everyone predicted that buying the best mid laner and ADC in Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Yilian “Doublelift” Peng would lead to a super giant. However, it was not until summer 2016 that TSM raised the bar for how good an NA team can be.
What led to this success?
For starters, Sven showed up. A ton of shade was thrown at the imported Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen’s way regarding whether or not he would be able to live up to the TSM title. Also, a ton of shade was thrown his way when memes started flying, calling him Bjergsen’s personal assistant (Blue Buff Giver). But somewhere down the split Sven decided that Graves can carry a game or two after killing some jungle camps and invading. Through in-game aggression, backed up by an intimidating winning streak, Sven became a routine jungle invader. This tactic resembled TSM’s over-aggressive approach that propelled them to one-sided victories across the board all season; all enabled by their laners’ superior control to back up any invades should something go awry.
Outside of the Inori mishap halfway through the season, Sven’s invades kept working. Through this success, TSM showcased the power of communication and future planning in the strategy oriented game that is League of Legends. Most of TSM’s victories in the regular season resembled a strategic dismantling of the enemy team, with on point objective control. No longer did we see the infamous Doublelift bottom lane overextension. We started to see more buff invades on spawn, and immediate follow ups from all five members, making plays as a cohesive unit.
Of course, it helps that the rest of the team are individual stars; Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, Bjergsen and Doublelift put up some of the best results of their careers, not to mention Biofrost starting off his career in a formidable fashion. The decisiveness of Team SoloMid, however, shone brightest across all teams during both season and playoffs. It was through their commitment and confidence that they were able to raise the bar as a team, instead of individual players.
If you follow our Shotcallers podcast, which you should, you’ll know that I have been advocating for C9 as a team for the whole summer split, and now they’ve qualified for Worlds via winning the gauntlet.
How did the team get so good?
Here are some reasons I can pinpoint: C9 was not afraid to experiment during the regular season. The team tried everything under the sun, from Bunny FuFuu to BF Swords on Gragas. While a lot of teams dealt with roster changes throughout the split, C9 managed to maximize their efficiency in finding the perfect team composition to bring to playoffs, both on and off the rift. What I mean by this is they ended up going with Andy “Smoothie” Ta as the support in the bot lane, who proved to be quite the duo with Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi. They even took down Biofrost/Doublelift in a 2 v 2 in the Summer split finals.
- 6.15. The patch that changed it all. Yamato Cannon said it best when he explained how the changes to turret first blood revolutionized the way League of Legends would be played on a competitive scale. A lot has been said about the obvious benefit of earning the first blood gold, but in the efforts of creating a more exciting early game for spectators, 6.15 removed the game-within-a-game aspect of early competitive League and propelled aggressive players to the top of the standings. Cue C9 Eon-Young “Impact” Jeong.
- Impact was quoted, saying he is performing better right now on C9 than he ever did on SKT. He won Worlds on SKT. Let that one sink in. Not only has Impact become a terrifying Gnar one-trick on stage, but Impact’s mechanics and 1 v 1 talents have burst the door wide open for C9. It also helps that lane swaps no longer delay his entrance into the game.
In addition to going without lane swaps, Riot inadvertently removed the “They Could Be Anywhere” period of the early game; the enemy team would be missing on the map, threatening an early game invade. A huge amount of pressure was placed on the mid lane during this period, as the laners would fear playing aggressively. They could be surprised by a stun from fog of war at any point, given they don’t have vision control. Minimizing the uncertainty of where the enemy team could be at any given time relieves the pressure of the mid lane to play conservatively, and therefore enables aggressive laners such as Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen to show what they are all about. Take a look at Jensen’s performances after standard lanes were institutionalized and you will find stellar KDA’s, gold per minute, and even record-breaking kills in the quarterfinals of playoffs.
TLDR; Standard lanes = winning C9.
COUNTER LOGIC GAMING
CLG, CLG, CLG. Counter Logic Gaming locked in their Worlds spot through earning the most championship points out of any North American team, as a result of their second place finish at MSI. However, after their success in spring, CLG suffered a rough summer split, mostly attributed to their time off between MSI and the beginning of last split.
While it may seem natural for a team to take a couple of days off following such an intense tournament, losing one day of training for League of Legends (or any eSport) sometimes translates to a lot more time. In a game where how many actions you can execute per minute determines life or death, where the best players practice upwards of 16 hours a day, a couple of days is more than enough to bring anyone down from the top of the ladder.
It should also be noted that, unlike C9, CLG suffered perhaps the most out of any NA team in response to the 6.15 changes. Traditionally, CLG never relied on the strength or mechanics of one talented player (of which they have had many) to win games. Instead, CLG has consistently demonstrated superior macro play and awareness over other teams in NA in regards to lane swaps. It’s no surprise that in their first LCS game with the new patch, CLG still tried to pull of a cheeky lane swap with rotating their bot lane top after the five minute increased turret armor wore off. But in the face of a new League of Legends iteration forcing players to battle it out in standard lanes, CLG will have to reinvent their strengths and weaknesses in their boot camp heading into the Group Stage in two short weeks.
With that recap out of the way, let me close this off by looking at the groups these teams will compete in and predict the outcome of each bracket (for those of you who follow me, you know that I am either a savant or completely wrong with these things – never in the middle – so if you’re a betting man, listen up!):
COUNTER LOGIC GAMING
ALBUS NOX LUNA
ROX Tigers will come out of this group in first with G2 following in second.
SK Telecom will come out of this group in first with Cloud9 following in second.
ROYAL NEVER GIVE UP
Royal Never Give Up will come out of this group in first with Team SoloMid following in second.
What are your predictions? Think I’m wrong? Let me know in the comments below or on social media!