Golden Guardians may need to replace Hai in the mid-season

Potential mid-season targets for NA LCS teams

Jacob Wolf of ESPN recently reported that FlyQuest has signed Santorin as a starting jungler for the 2018 Summer Split. This is the first mid-season roster report for the NA LCS so far. Since this is the first year of franchising, it is unclear how much each organization will shake up their teams after one split.

This time last year, North America saw several roster changes, including the Dardoch-Xmithie trade, Doublelift’s return to TSM and Ssong joining Immortals. This year is different, though, because teams are not under threat of relegation from the league. No one wants to finish towards the bottom of the standings, but the risk of losing is much lower.

The 2018 mid-season will probably be quieter than past years. However, with the Santorin report, it is clear that teams are looking to make changes. Here are some of the most likely updates for Summer Split.

FlyQuest: mid-jungle

FlyQuest may need to replace Anda and Fly in the mid-season

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Considering ESPN already reported Santorin to FlyQuest, jungler change is a given. In Wolf’s report, he also mentions FlyQuest possibly promoting Keane as starting mid laner. These changes make sense, considering FlyQuest’s issues visibly stemmed from mid-jungle synergy and pressure.

FlyQuest finished the Spring Split in eighth place with a 6-12 record, so they are not in desperate need for roster changes. Flame has proved himself an elite solo laner for the past three splits. Wildturtle put on several carry performances this spring, and rarely felt like FlyQuest’s loss factor. Stunt had a fine split, although JayJ got to start two games. Anda and Fly were the key starting members to FlyQuest’s losses.

Anda showed strong ganking and engage throughout the split, with picks like Zac and Sejuani. He did not seem to play well around the rest of the team, especially on Jax and Jarvan IV. Anda frequently invaded the enemy jungle without lane priority and initiated fights without back up. These issues were most prevalent regarding mid lane. Fly’s Galio pick helped cover up their lack of coordination, which is why most teams banned it. It remains unclear if this discord stems from playstyle differences, communication issues or lack of skill.

FlyQuest had the most roster experiments during the Spring Split. They started eight different players, including substitutes Shrimp, Keane, and JayJ. FlyQuest Academy also won the Academy League, which shows roster depth and organizational strength. Simply bringing in a decisive, experienced jungler like Santorin, and promoting Keane could help solve some of FlyQuest’s nuanced problems. As Wolf later mentions, a support like KonKwon could be valuable to organization, as “he is one of the few North American resident supports who speaks both English and Korean, and FlyQuest’s top laner and mid laner (even if it moves to Keane) would be Korean native speakers.” It is not surprising that FlyQuest may be scouting him.

OpTic Gaming: Top-Support-Coach

OpTic Gaming may need to replace Zig and LemonNation in the mid-season

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Finishing ninth place in the Spring Split with a 5-13 record, OpTic Gaming may look to make changes in the mid-season. Most analysts pegged OpTic as a low-tier team in the NA LCS, due to its patchwork roster and lop-sided map strength. These predictions turned out to be true, as the team rarely achieved leads in the early game or coordinated well in the mid-game.

Akaadian and PowerOfEvil held up well in their respective roles, generally going even or ahead individually. Arrow and LemonNation frequently fell behind in lane, but Arrow almost always showed up in team fights and skirmishes. OpTic’s glaring issues revolved around top lane. Zig had his worst split yet, and substitute Dhokla was not an answer. These two never got leads, even in winning match-ups, and opponents pigeonholed OpTic in the draft because of it.

OpTic need to upgrade top lane if they want to compete in Summer Split. With PowerOfEvil and Arrow filling import slots, OpTic is restricted to North American talent, though. V1PER and Allorim are the only players from Academy League worth trying on the big stage. So unless TSM, CLG or Cloud9 are interested in trading, this weakness may carry over into summer.

The support and coaching positions may need tinkering, as well. LemonNation felt outclassed by many other supports in the league this year, and OpTic’s team did not visibly improve much over the course of the split. Moving Lemon to an analyst or coaching to assist Zaboutine, while bringing in Winter or another North American Academy support, could be the best move. OpTic should try out players with Arrow and find one with the best laning synergy. Fans questioned whether Zaboutine would translate his casting background into proper coaching, and it is hard to tell how much of OpTic’s issues revolve around their coach. OPT may need to make some staff changes for next split.

Golden Guardians: Top-Mid-Coach

Golden Guardians may need to replace Lourlo and Hai in the mid-season

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Golden Guardians finished last place this spring with a 4-14 record, but their highs felt much higher than FlyQuest or OpTic’s. GGS took games off of 100 Thieves, Team Liquid, CLG, and Echo Fox over the course of the split. However, it is clear that they need to make changes to be competitive this summer.

Hai and Lourlo account for most of the early game deficit. They both average significantly behind at 15 minutes, while Contractz and the bottom lane go even or ahead. Professional teams have a severely hindered chance of winning with weak solo laners, so Golden Guardians should prioritize those positions. Lourlo has five splits of LCS experience, but only really stood out in one. Hai has five and a half years of LCS experience, but feels underwhelming on stage.

Golden Guardians could make a case for keeping Lourlo and further developing him, but Hai seems forced at this point. Like LemonNation on OpTic, Hai would probably serve best as an analyst or coach outside of the game, while GGS brings in a new mid laner. Coach Tyler did seem to help the team when they released Locodoco, and Hai could supplement that development.

The bad news–Golden Guardians’ Academy team finished last place in the Academy League this spring. They cannot really look there for upgrades. The good news–their LCS roster still has both import slots open. Golden Guardians’ options are unlimited. Mickey, Damonte, V1PER, Goldenglue, and Allorim are available in Academy League, if GGS can buy them out. Europe and other regions have plenty of options to choose from, if GGS can import them. This organization seems to need the most change, from starters to subs, but Jurassiq and Jenkins are the only players released so far.

Everyone Else

CLG may not need any changes in the mid-season

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The rest of the teams will probably keep their LCS rosters for at least another split. CLG, TSM, Cloud9, Clutch Gaming, Echo Fox, 100 Thieves and Team Liquid all have strong players and staff. They each showed moments of brilliance and adapted throughout spring. CLG suffered most from individual shortcomings week-to-week and a lack of decisiveness since Aphromoo left. However, Darshan, Reignover, Huhi, Stixxay and Biofrost all had strong individual showings at different points.

TSM and Cloud9 showcased sheer dominance at certain points in the split, but could not maintain their highest levels of play every week. Clutch Gaming made it way farther than anyone anticipated, including themselves, and out-macro-played most of their opponents regularly. Echo Fox maintained first place most of the split. 100 Thieves finished second in their first ever split, and steadily improved week by week. Team Liquid won their first ever LCS title, never sinking below fifth place. The players and coaches on these teams are solid. They just need more time to develop synergy and consistency as units. They may change up some Academy rosters, but their starters will probably stay the same.

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Images: LoL Esports Flickr

The Game Haus covered the NA LCS finals LIVE. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for articles, pictures, videos, interviews, and more content from Thomas and other contributors!

Several players from 2017 Immortals found success in the 2018 Spring Split

An Echo of Immortals in the 2018 Spring Split

Leading into the 2018 Spring Split, ESPN’s Jacob Wolf reported that Immortals would not be included in North America’s franchised LCS. The League of Legends community responded to the decision with disbelief, anger and confusion. They also wondered, “If IMT did not get accepted into the LCS, then which teams are safe?”

A Brief History of Immortals

Immortals entered the NA LCS in 2016 with Huni, Reignover, Pobelter, Wildturtle, and Adrian

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Immortals entered the NA LCS in 2016, announcing Huni, Reignover, Pobelter, WildTurtle and Adrian as its roster. Dylan Falco would coach. They finished the 2016 Spring and Summer regular seasons in first and second, respectively, but only secured third in both playoffs. IMT barely missed Worlds that year, because they lost to Cloud9 in the Regional Qualifier.

In 2017, Immortals broke up and completely rebuilt its roster around Pobelter. Flame, Dardoch, Cody Sun, and Olleh joined as starters, while Anda signed as a substitute. Hermes moved up to fill the head coaching position. During 2017 Spring Split, this roster finished seventh in the regular season, narrowly missing playoffs. In the mid-season, Immortals traded Dardoch to CLG for Xmithie, imported Ssong as head coach, and brought on Stunt as a substitute. The invigorated team rose to second place during the Summer regular season and playoffs. IMT booked their first ticket to Worlds, where they finished 14th-16th.

And Immortals’ time in the NA LCS ended there. They would not get a new opportunity to dominate North America like 2016, or go to Worlds like 2017. The team fully disbanded, and the league moved on.

EX-IMMORTALS IN 2018

Immortals traded Dardoch to CLG in 2017

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Following Riot’s permanent partners announcement, Team Liquid acquired most of Immortals’ released roster. Xmithie, Pobelter, Cody Sun, Anda and Olleh joined the organization initially, but Cody Sun went on to 100 Thieves and Anda went to FlyQuest. Flame and Stunt signed with FlyQuest, as well. TSM picked up Coach Ssong to lead their new roster.

Four fifths of Immortals’ 2017 roster met in the last stage of playoffs. Xmithie, Pobelter, Olleh and Cody Sun made it to the finals, yet again, with Team Liquid winning the whole split and 100 Thieves second. Flame, Anda and Stunt finished the split in eighth place, and Coach Ssong finished fifth-sixth with TSM. However, this was the first time Anda and Stunt entered a split as starters. Flame performed perfectly fine as an individual top laner. And Coach Ssong helped build TSM into a formidable team, even if they fell short in playoffs.

Looking back at previous iterations of Immortals, Huni, Dardoch and Adrian made up three fifths of Echo Fox this split, finishing third in playoffs. Wildturtle joined FlyQuest in eighth place, but had several stand out performances himself. Reignover played with CLG to secure seventh place, and Dylan just led Fnatic to their first LCS title in two years.

Immortals Echoing through the LCS

Olleh, Cody Sun, and Zmithie used to play on Immortals in 2017

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Each of these individuals had significant development during their time on Immortals. Ssong, Huni, Reignover, Flame, and Olleh might not be in North America without importing with IMT. Xmithie and Pobelter might not be as renowned as they are now without taking Immortals to Worlds. Cody Sun, Anda and Stunt might not have starting roles this year. Wildturtle and Adrian’s stock definitely rose after their time on IMT, and Dardoch’s trade may have spurred changes with him. Dylan Falco got his first coaching job on Immortals, long before joining Fnatic.

Although Immortals’ organization no longer plays in the LCS, their players and staff have spread throughout the league. Many individuals had their LCS debut with IMT, and, through their development, upgraded the ecosystem overall. IMT put up strong performances throughout 2016 and 2017, leaving their mark in the history books. Although its banner no longer hangs in the LCS arena, Immortals’ legacy echoes on through the players and coaches they brought to the table.

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Images: LoL Esports Flickr

The Game Haus covered the NA LCS finals LIVE. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for articles, pictures, videos, interviews, and more content from Thomas and other contributors!

Doublelift thinks Olleh can play anything

TL Doublelift on what makes Olleh unique: “Well, first, he’s Korean.”

Team Liquid won the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split on Sunday, becoming the fourth organization to do so. They took 100 Thieves 3-0 in a best-of-five series to cement their victory. Every member contributed powerful performances, between Xmithie’s Baron steal, Impact’s gank resistance, Pobelter’s Shurima Shuffles and Olleh and Doublelift’s bottom lane dominance.

Particularly stand-out, this win presents Doublelift with his third title on a new organization. He won with CLG in Summer 2015, TSM in Summers 2016 and 2017, and now with Team Liquid in Spring 2018. No other player has accomplished this feat in the NA LCS.

Doublelift has won with three different supports, as well. He paired with Aphromoo on CLG, Biofrost on TSM and now Olleh on Liquid. Finding success with so many different players is impressive, because the AD carry and support positions are so intertwined in League of Legends. One cannot succeed without the other, and some marksmen have risen or fallen because of bad supports, and vice versa. Doublelift is one of the only players to remain consistent, regardless of  the teammates that surround him.

Finals press conference

Doublelift and Olleh won the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split finals with Team Liquid

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After their win on Sunday, Team Liquid held a press conference. Each individual fielded questions regarding their year as a team and how they found success in playoffs. Here is what Doublelift had to say, when asked about what makes Olleh unique compared to his past supports:

Well, first, he’s Korean. (laugh)

I think the main thing is just, every support is totally different actually. Every time you play with a new teammate, you realize they have a different point system. And I think for Olleh, his point system is really play-making and looking to engage–looking to make a big, risky play.

I used to play like that, too, actually, so, we’re playing together at the wrong time. But, now I’m a lot more safe, I guess. After having so many bad experiences at Worlds I play a lot more safe, so, at first, we were really bad together. And every week we just worked on it. So, I think Olleh is unique, because he is really willing to play any style, and when we talk about bot lane, or when I criticize him, he’s really good at improving and making changes.

After the end of the regular season and playoffs and stuff, I think we are really good. It was like every day, every week, we’re just talking about stuff, and he’s making changes, I’m making changes. So I think that’s what’s really unique about him. He’s a really balanced player. He can play everything.

Considering Team Liquid had a 5-1 record over the first three weeks of the split, few outside viewers probably noticed much issue with Doublelift and Olleh’s synergy. However, Doublelift describes a long process of rigorous improvement and adaptation. Winning games on stage in the NA LCS does not seem like enough for Doublelift. His aspirations go beyond North America. Doublelift wants to perform at international events, and grow to be the best. Olleh has helped him secure another NA LCS title; maybe he will finally be the key to international success, as well.

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The Game Haus covered the NA LCS finals LIVE. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for articles, pictures, videos, interviews, and more content from Thomas and other contributors!

Team Liquid won the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split finals against 100 Thieves

The NA LCS Spring Split closes with 100 Thieves skunked by Team Liquid 0-3

Leading into Sunday’s match versus 100 Thieves, Team Liquid rolled into The Fillmore Theatre for a red carpet treatment. When asked about facing Meteos, Xmithie commented “it’s going to be a really tight match-up. It’s whoever the better team is, to be honest.”

The series turned out to be almost completely one-sided, favoring Team Liquid. 100 Thieves drafted advantages for every lane over the course of the best-of-three, but Liquid responded with better execution overall. Each subsequent game looked worse and worse for 100 Thieves, with compounding mistakes spelling their downfall. Here is how it went down.

Team Liquid won the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split finals by beating 100 Thieves

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Game One

Impact’s pocket pick locked in for the first game seemed to trip up 100 Thieves. A couple of failed ganks top-side allowed Doublelift and Olleh to gain the early lead in bottom lane. Getting zoned from CS and losing significant trades, Cody Sun and Aphromoo rotated top and secured First Blood. A teamfight win for Team Liquid gained them enough of a lead to Rift Herald, the first three turrets, and all three Drakes. 100 Thieves did gain momentum by picking off Doublelift and Pobelter and pressuring Baron. Xmithie made a miracle steal, which Liquid used to end the game in 29:33.

Game Two

100 Thieves opted for a strange extended level one invade onto Xmithie’s red buff at the beginning of game two. Impact and Meteos both died in the top lane around five minutes, but the real action started around 14 minutes. With Cody Sun and Aphromoo fairly low health, Liquid 4-man dove the duo resulting in a Double Kill for Pobelter’s Azir. Pobelter came up huge again when 100 Thieves collapsed onto Xmithie near the Baron pit. He Shurima Shuffled four members into his team for another Double Kill and a four-for-one. Liquid easily took the Baron at 20 minutes and closed in 26 minutes.

Game Three

Pr0lly and 100 Thieves went into game three with a top lane focused game plan. They drafted Ssumday Gnar and sent Meteos top to help him secure a Double Kill. A few minutes later, Ryu and Meteos helped Ssumday dive Impact under turret in a one-for-one. Meteos returned a third time to dive Impact all the way near his tier two turret, but Xmithie Skarner ulted him for a one-for-one again. Team Liquid then won a skirmish bottom lane, punished Ssusmday’s over-extension top lane, and took an Infernal Drake to equalize the game. Around 20 minutes, Meteos opted to camp a bottom lane brush for an extended time to surprise Impact, but got dragged by Xmithie under turret again without securing the kill. Liquid rotated and took the Baron, then dominated the last five minutes to end.

Team Liquid’s win marked the second 3-0 victory of the weekend, with Echo Fox defeating Clutch Gaming one day earlier in a similar fashion. This is Liquid’s first ever LCS split win, making them the fourth organization to hang their banner. They will participate in Riot’s Mid-Season Invitational in Europe May 3 to May 20, representing North America. Team Liquid, 100 Thieves, and Echo Fox will also represent North America at Rift Rivals July 2-July 8, facing Europe’s best teams.

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The Game Haus covered the NA LCS finals LIVE in Miami. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for articles, videos, pictures, interviews, and more from Thomas and other contributors!

Team Liquid's Steve hopes the fourth place meme will die after the 2018 Spring Split finals

TL Steve on memes in 2018: “The fourth place thing, hopefully it’s dead at this point.”

All of Team Liquid arrived to the Fillmore Theatre in Miami, Florida for their last match of the NA LCS Spring Split. They face 100 Thieves, in what is sure to be an exciting finals. While 100 Thieves finished first in the regular season, most fans on-site in Miami favor Team Liquid to take the series, citing Doublelift’s carry potential as the “X-factor” that 100 Thieves does not have.

Prior to the match, both teams arrived in a red carpet-style fashion, surrounded by the press and fans. The players and staff posed for pictures, before breaking up for brief questions and fan-meeting. Team Liquid drew the largest, most enthusiastic crowd of the whole event. Fans battled to the front for signatures, selfies, and handshakes.

Steve Arhancet, the owner of Team Liquid, was among his team for the grand entrance. Accepting a brief interview, here is what he had to say:

Thomas: “What are your thoughts on the match today?”

Steve: “It’s going to be a convincing win, I hope. Based on scrims, things are looking good, but, you know, they can turn up. Hopefully, it’s a great match, but I think we’ve got this.”

Thomas: “How’s Miami treating you so far?”

Steve: “It’s been fun. We haven’t made it to the beach, yet.”

Thomas: “Yeah, me neither. Maybe afterwards?”

Steve: “Yeah, exactly! Maybe after we win today.”

Thomas: “Lastly, what’s your favorite meme so far this year?”

Steve: “Ah, my favorite meme. I mean, the fourth place thing–hopefully it’s dead at this point, right? I don’t know.”

Team Liquid's Steve hopes the fourth place meme dies after the 2018 Spring Split finals

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“Paid by Steve,” “Sent from my HTC phone,” and other memes probably do not sting as hard as the TL-fourth place meme. As an owner with so much invested in the LCS, to never finish higher than third or fourth leaves a constant hunger for Steve. Seeing TSM, Cloud9, and CLG banners lining the LCS studio leaves Liquid as the last old guard organization to win a split.

Team Liquid hopes to win its first NA LCS in 2018. Just by finishing in the top two, TL will have surpassed any of its previous LCS finishes. While Steve hopes to kill the Team Liquid fourth place meme, a victory would peg them as the fourth organization to take home gold in the LCS.

After entering franchising, getting far ahead in the off-season shuffle, and building an entirely new roster and training facility, a 2018 Spring Split trophy would be immensely gratifying for Steve. A win may elevate the organization beyond frequently finishing fourth place, but the Liquid-fourth meme will live on, revitalized. But, knowing it lives on because of an LCS title would probably be okay with Steve.

FOX Altec did not prepare anything special for Clutch Gaming's bot lane

FOX Altec on facing Clutch’s bottom lane for third place: “I was not afraid of Clutch’s 2-v-2.”

Echo Fox decimated Clutch Gaming in their third place match of the NA LCS Spring Split playoffs. Their top-side trio of Huni-Dardoch-Fenix took over every single game, leaving both bottom lanes to their own devices. Such inactive bottom lanes are very different from the other games of quarterfinals and semifinals.

Quarters and Semis

Looking at Team Liquid’s victories over Cloud9, Doublelift and Olleh accounted for roughly 73 percent kill participation. Sneaky was involved in 86 percent of Cloud9’s kills. In the TSM-Clutch series, Zven and Mithy combined for an 8-27-23 scoreline (1.15 KDA) versus Apollo and Hakuho’s 20-7-48 (9.71 KDA). When Echo Fox lost to Team Liquid and Clutch lost to 100 Thieves in semifinals, Doublelift and Cody Sun won Player of the Series, with Doublelift specifically dominating TL’s series. Altec and Adrian combined for a 1.31 KDA in that series.

Third place match

Compare those matches to the third place match. Altec only participated in 36 percent of Echo Fox’s kills. Even as support, Adrian was only involved in 51 percent. FOX barely used their bottom lane to take the 3-0 over Clutch Gaming, turning the “bot-centric meta” on its head.

FOX Altec did not preapre anything special before facing Clutch Gaming in the third place match

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When asked about preparing to face Apollo and Hakuho leading into the third place match, Altec responded “I was not afraid of Clutch’s 2-v-2. Sure, Hakuho has looked good on Thresh, but Adrian and I have unique picks of our own that we can pull out whenever we need to. We practiced a lot in scrims, but we didn’t prepare anything special for this series.”

Altec and Adrian played fine. They didn’t need to do more than keep Apollo and Hakuho glued to bottom lane by constantly pushing. Echo Fox only banned Thresh once, but Clutch drafted Tahm Kench and Braum for Hakuho, while Apollo’s Caitlyn and Varus failed to earn any early pressure. Adrian’s Nami was crucial in disengaging any roams and ganks from Febiven and Lira, keeping Altec safe.

Fenix, Dardoch, and Huni’s spectacular play won this series. With their snowballs rolling, Altec and Adrian simply needed to play safe, which they accomplished. Clutch’s bottom lane was unable to gain leads for themselves, and they watched the rest of their team crumbled.

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Echo Fox arrive on the red carpet for the NA LCS third place match

Dardoch, Huni and Fenix completely dismantle Clutch Gaming in a 3-0 for third place

Following Clutch Gaming’s victory over TSM in the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split quarterfinals, Riot’s Ovilee May asked Febiven if he had any doubts about winning. He responded:

Yeah, for sure, I mean, our scrims have been really bad. I think we lost, like, every game. But we always, like, seem to be really good on stage. Even in the regular season we lost, like, 80 percent of our scrims, but it feels like on stage we have this switch on and we just kill everyone.

Echo Fox seemed to have figured out how to turn that switch off, as Clutch looked completely out of sorts during their third place match series. FOX took CG down three for three, setting a new record for the fastest game this split in the process. Dardoch stood out as the clear Player of the Game, while Huni and Fenix benefited the most from his advantages. Here is a quick summary of the series.

Echo Fox defeated Clutch 3-0 in the third place match of the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Game One

Echo Fox prioritized Olaf for Dardoch, while Clutch drafted Febiven’s Azir and Lira’s Skarner. Due to FOX’s pushing lanes in mid and bot, Dardoch bullied Lira the entire early game, taking every neutral objective and forcing down mid turret. Apollo’s Caitlyn slowly racked up a 3-0-1 scoreline by responding to FOX’s pressure. A relatively uncontested Baron for Echo Fox at 23 minutes allowed them to siege over the next six minutes to end in under 30 minutes.

Game Two

Clutch drafted Swain for game two. Echo Fox took Camille and Cassiopeia to answer, and, even though Lira locked in Trundle, Dardoch still took Olaf. Lira died to FOX’s level one invade, and then again due to his own aggressive roam near mid. From there, Echo Fox had complete control of the top side of the map, going 6-2 with Clutch’s top-jungle-mid trio. With Trundle and Swain so far behind, FOX punched straight through mid lane and finished the match in 21:10–the shortest game in the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split.

Game Three

CG wisely banned Olaf in the third draft, but it did not end up meaning much. Huni’s Camille completely warped the game, gaining four kills in 15 minutes. A Chronobreak and a second long pause later, and Clutch felt defeated. No one on Clutch could match Huni’s split-push. When they finally sent several members to shut him down, the rest of FOX pushed top and mid inhibitor and the game was over in 25 minutes with Echo Fox ahead by 16,500 gold.

Clutch Gaming ends their season in fourth place, good enough for 30 championship points. Echo Fox finishes in third place, granting them 50 championship points and a slot at Rift Rivals. Team Liquid faces 100 Thieves in the final series of the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split to crown a winner and a runner-up.

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G2 and Fnatic face each other for the first time in the finals for 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

The top six storylines for EU finals that are not “Old Kings versus New Kings”

Fnatic and G2 are poised to take the stage this Sunday for the 2018 Spring Split EU LCS Finals. Fans and analysts anxiously await the showdown. Fnatic ended the regular season 14-4, and they defeated Team Vitality in the playoff semifinals last weekend. G2 move into the finals after defeating Splyce in the semifinals and ending the regular season 12-7. The regular season first and second place teams will meet in the finals to truly crown 2018’s Spring champion.

Both G2 and Fnatic have storied legacies moving into the last playoff stage in Copenhagen. As an organization, Fnatic covers the entire positive record books of the EU LCS. They have the most championships (five), the best season records, and the longest winning streaks of all time. This is Fnatic’s seventh final in 11 splits of LCS. Internationally, Fnatic has won the World Championship, and finished top four two other times.

However, since most of their dominance occurred in 2015 and earlier, Fnatic is painted as the “Old Kings of Europe.” The English organization’s legacy mostly exists in the past. Listening to long-time Fnatic fans revel in their past victories sounds like ancient esports legend. Almost all of the individuals that brought Fnatic success in the past are long gone and never coming back.

G2 Esports, on the other hand, are considered the “New Kings of Europe.” Since they entered the EU LCS in 2016, G2 has finished every split in first place. The Spanish organization has dominated Europe for the last two years, taking down four different finals opponents in the process. G2 has four gold trophies of its own, and has qualified for Worlds two years in a row as Europe’s top seed.

This “Old Kings versus New Kings” narrative is pushed by the LCS Broadcast every time these two teams face off. G2 and Fnatic battled in Group A all last year, and, regardless of either team’s form, the casters slated the match-up as “Old Kings versus New Kings of Europe.” The analysts and casters will most likely rehash this storyline in the 2018 Spring finals, but here are six alternatives for anyone finding the “Old Kings versus New Kings” idea worn out.

G2’s fifth straight EU LCS Final

G2 enter the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split finals for their fifth straight time

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G2 Esports has attended the finals for every split they have been in EU LCS, despite significant roster changes. The organization entered the LCS in 2016 with Kikis, Trick, Perkz, Emperor and Hybrid on the roster, and YoungBuck as coach. They finished first in the regular season and went on to defeat Origen in the finals. That summer, G2 brought on Zven and Mithy in the bottom lane, and eventually started Expect over Kikis. Again, they finished first in the regular season and took down Splyce for the finals victory.

This same roster continued maintained their dominion over the EU LCS for all of 2017. They topped Group A in Spring and Summer Split, then took down Unicorns of Love and Misfits in the finals. G2 Esports has won four splits straight, the first team in Europe or North America ever to do so. This level of consistency at the top of the league is unprecedented.

Coming into 2018, G2 changed almost every member of its roster. Expect, Trick, Zven, and Mithy parted ways with the organization, while Wunder, Jankos, Hjarnan, and Wadid joined. YoungBuck switched teams, so G2 brought on GrabbZ from last year’s ROCCAT. Perkz is the only remaining member of the original LCS roster from 2016, yet they still made it to the finals for the fifth straight split. This finals presents an opportunity for G2 and Perkz to build on their legacies by winning a fifth EU LCS title. A victory would extend their win streak to five splits straight, two more than the next best title streak (Fnatic’s Spring 2013, Summer 2013, Spring 2014).

Fnatic’s first finals in two years

Fnatic enters the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split finals for their first finals in two years

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Despite being the most successful organization in the EU LCS, Fnatic has not made finals in the past four splits. G2 played spoiler in Spring 2016 (3-1 in semifinals) and Spring 2017 (3-1 in semifinals), while H2K knocked them out in Summer 2016 (3-0 in quarterfinals) and Misfits in Summer 2017 (3-1 in semifinals). Fnatic has finished playoffs third place in three of the last four splits.

Just making the EU LCS finals is a huge step in righting Fnatic’s ship for the future. Every third place or lower finish tarnishes Fnatic’s reputation for long-time EU fans, while setting tarnished standards for newcomers to esports. A win this weekend would push Fnatic back into the spotlight as a dominant organization in Europe. But, more importantly, Fnatic will need to continue making the finals for splits to come.

First time G2 and Fnatic face each other in The finals

G2 and Fnatic face each other for the first time in the finals for 2018 EU LCS Spring Split

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Although G2 and Fnatic have met a few times in past playoffs, this is their first chance to fight in the finals. If G2 win, then they extend their legacy of winning every LCS split since entering the league in 2016. They also tie Fnatic for the most total EU LCS championships won. If Fnatic win, then they add an extra title to their name, bringing their total championships to six. G2 would remain second with four.

This Spring Split finals will set the narrative between these two teams for Summer Split and onward. Their rivalry meets its nexus here. If G2 pulls out a win, then Fnatic will be viewed as the team that failed. They will become the underdogs moving into Summer Split, and their “most championships” record will become tainted, since G2 will also have five trophies. If Fnatic wins, then they will solidify their spot as the single best EU LCS organization ever. Fnatic would break G2’s win streak, which will bring them down a peg as the current apex predator, and reinforce Fnatic’s off-season roster decisions.

Jankos’ first EU LCS finals

Jankos enters his first EU LCS finals ever in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split playoffs

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Despite playing in the league since Spring 2014, Jankos has never appeared in the finals. While on H2K, he placed fourth twice, third once, and fifth-sixth once. Jankos played for ROCCAT prior to H2K, and they placed third once, fourth once, and fifth-sixth once. Just like Pr0lly with 100 Thieves in the NA LCS, this weekend will be Jankos’ first time on stage for a title.

Simply getting this deep in the EU playoffs should be vindication for Jankos’ move to G2. However, a win would be important for proving Jankos is one of the top European junglers of all time. Diamondprox, Cyanide, and others have LCS titles under their belts. While Jankos has consistently carried his teams towards the top of the pack, without a first place finish most fans will discount his individual strength.

several players’ first finals (second most ever)

Broxah enters his first finals in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split playoffs

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This will be the first playoffs finals for Bwipo, Broxah, Caps, Jankos, Hjarnan and Wadid. This year’s six players ties with Summer 2016 and Summer 2013 for second most finals debuts ever. Only 2015 Summer had more (9 new players). While this fact is not extremely important, spreading the competitive experience across more players is almost always better for the league ecosystem. When these individuals switch teams, return to finals, or compete internationally, analysts will reflect on the results of this Spring Split finals and weigh each players’ contributions. This championship would be especially valuable for the younger Fnatic players.

Continued dominance for youngbuck, redemption for dylan falco

YoungBuck, Dylan Falco, and GrabbZ all have something on the line for the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split finals

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Besides the organizations and the players, all of the coaches in the finals have something on the line, as well. Youngbuck coached G2 over the past two years, racking up four championships for himself. For this Spring Split final, the tables have turned, and Youngbuck will support Fnatic in ending G2’s title streak, while extending his own. His coaching record is far superior to any other coach Europe has seen.

Dylan Falco, Fnatic’s other coach, hopes to reach a new height with Fnatic this year. While Dylan coached Immortals in the NA LCS in 2016 they finished playoffs in third place both splits. Immortals was unable to translate their regular season dominance into playoffs, dropping out in semifinals. When Dylan moved to Team Envy, the team finished in tenth place and faced the Promotion Tournament. Finally, he moved to Fnatic in the EU LCS, where he finished third in the 2017 Summer Split playoffs again, despite Fnatic’s regular season dominance. Moving into the finals, similar to Jankos, is such a crucial step for Dylan, and winning would be so gratifying.

Finally, GrabbZ enters his first finals ever. Since he has only previously coached for ROCCAT, GrabbZ should be proud to bring a rebuilt G2 roster all the way to the Spring Split finals. A win here gives a solid jump-start to his coaching career, and would play spoiler to YoungBuck and Dylan’s above-mentioned hopes.

Tune in this Sunday, April 8, to watch these teams, organizations, players, and coaches put everything on the line. Their legacies, their records, and their stories will be built off of the results of this final best-of-five. Only one team can walk away with the win. With it, they will get the glory, and everything that comes with it. All of these storylines coalesce in the 2018 Spring Split finals, which goes much deeper than “Old Kings versus New Kings.”

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Fnatic will face G2 in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split finals

EU playoffs update: Semifinals review and finals preview

The EU LCS moved into the playoff semifinals this past weekend, with Europe’s quarterfinal winners stepping up to the plate. Splyce met G2 after defeating ROCCAT 3-0 in quarterfinals, while Vitality had beaten H2K 3-2 to face Fnatic in semifinals. Check out last week’s article to get the setup for quarterfinals and semifinals.

G2 v. SPY

G2 defeated Splyce in the 2018 Spring Split semifinals

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Splyce came into Friday’s match as the slight underdog, as they lost the second place slot in a tiebreaker with G2 at the end of the season. That being said, four of Splyce’s members won All-Pro honors, while only three from G2 were recognized. Splyce also dominated ROCCAT just last week, which made their match-up versus G2 even more exciting.

Their first game kicked off with Perkz giving First Blood to Xerxe’s Trundle in the mid lane. Jankos and the rest of G2 responded with a successful top lane gank and a pair of Ocean Drakes. He then turned to bottom lane for a dive, but KaSing’s Janna ultimate and Odoamne’s Sion Teleport nullified Jankos’ attempt, which turned into a death for Wadid and G2’s bottom turret. Over the next several minutes, Splyce and G2 traded rotations to take all outer turrets until G2 won a mid lane fight and took Baron. Using the pushing pressure, G2 accrued a 7,000 gold lead, but when G2 took their second Baron, Splyce traded for Elder Drake and was able to win every fight from there. They took G2’s Nexus in 42 minutes, still over 5,000 gold behind.

Game two was relatively quiet for the first 15 minutes. G2 was able to sustain enough lane pressure to allow Jankos space to take two Infernal Drakes. Wunder showcased the power of Swain, gaining around 40 CS over Odoamne and pushing down both solo lane turrets. G2 more-or-less forced their will onto Splyce for the rest of the game, sometimes a bit overzealous. Hjarnan’s Jhin and Jankos’ Skarner were able to engage onto Splyce at will, which allowed G2 to easily siege. Securing a Baron at 25 minutes was the straw that broke Splyce’s camel’s back, as G2 successfully kited any counter-engage from Odoamne’s Sion or Xerxe’s Sejuani. G2 ended the game almost 10,000 gold ahead by 34 minutes.

G2 gained the early lead in game three, by surviving a massive bottom lane gank from Splyce. They came out of it with two kills and bottom lane turret for just Wadid’s death. G2 also outplayed Splyce when they contested Rift Herald, but Odoamne, Xerxe, and Nisqy took mid lane turret in exchange. By 20 minutes, Splyce and G2 took all six outer turrets. They danced around the first Baron on even terms, but G2 secured it and a kill, which cracked open a 5,000 gold lead. After a surprise pick on Perkz’s Zoe, Splyce turned to secure Baron. Kobbe secured the objective, but G2 forced the fight and Hjarnan’s Jhin cleaned up a Quadra Kill. G2 pushed the series to match point.

Splyce and G2 remained even through the first 20 minutes of game four. However, G2 outplayed Splyce once more in a large top lane fight to take the lead. Odoamne’s Camille teleported in with KaSing’s Shen ult on him, but Wunder’s Fiora teleported in reply. Hjarnan and Wadid beat Kobbe to the lane, which resulted in a three for one for G2. Splyce pressured Baron just after 20 minutes, which resulted in a pick, but G2 staved them off of the objectives. Minutes later, Splyce sent three members bottom to kill Wunder, but G2 secured the Baron in response. In a desperation play, Splyce turned to pressure Baron again, at 33 minutes, but G2 took the fight, took the Baron, took the Elder Drake, and took the series. Hjarnan went 19-2-22 over the four games.

FNC v. VIT

Fnatic defeated Vitality in the 2018 EU LCS Semifinals

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Analysts were not sure what to make of Vitality versus Fnatic coming into the match-up. Fnatic were clearly the most dominant team in Europe, but Vitality had been their biggest rival during the regular season. Most expected the early game to revolve around Caps and Jiizuke in the mid lane, while Rekkles would be Fnatic’s late game ace up their sleeve. On top of that, Bwipo would substitute for SoaZ, due to an injury. The series could theoretically go many ways.

Fnatic drafted a powerful poke composition for game one, including Nidalee, Zoe, and Ezreal. Most of Fnatic’s pressure was on mid lane, as Broxah pulled off three successful ganks on Jiizuke pre-13 minutes. Although Vitality got a couple of picks on Hylissang’s Tahm Kench, Fnatic secured a 4,000 gold lead by 16:30. Caps’ Zoe roamed several times to nuke down Gilius and Minitroupax, while Fnatic also took first turret and a Mountain Drake. Fnatic took an uncontested Baron just after 20 minutes, and they finished in less than 26 minutes.

Game two saw Fnatic take a level one jungle invade, which ended as a one for one. Vitality ruled the early game this time around, as Gilius’ Skarner pulled off successful ganks top and mid. Fnatic also got outplayed in an early skirmish in their top-side jungle, giving Vitality a 2,000 gold lead around 10 minutes. Hylissang’s Braum made an aggressive play in the mid lane to shut down Jiizuke’s Taliyah and Gilius, which helped even out the game. Fnatic continued to pick up kills by punishing Vitality’s aggression towards Bwipo’s Gangplank in the side lane, gaining their own 3,000 gold lead by 20 minutes. The rest of the game was the Fnatic show, as Vitality only got one kill for the rest of the 30-minute game–no more turrets or neutral objectives.

Vitality got their first win in the third game. Gilius’ Olaf and Jiizuke’s Taliyah focused on the top side and Cabochard’s Camille pick, roaming and ganking Bwipo’s Cho’Gath twice in the first 10 minutes. With so much pressure, Cabochard was able to open up the map, taking several turrets, but Fnatic rotated as a team to match. They evened out the gold around 20 minutes, aggressively outplaying Vitality with Rekkles’ Ezreal and Caps’ Swain. Vitality pushed Fnatic off of a 20-minute Baron and took it for themselves. Fnatic returned to Baron around 29 minutes, but Gilius stole it and Cabochard and Jiizuke’s split push knocked down Fnatic’s Nexus turrets. With the next siege, Vitality closed game three.

Fnatic won out the early skirmishes of game four, mostly centered around Caps’ Swain. By 11 minutes, he was 3-0-2 with 100 percent kill participation. Vitality were active in finding picks on Bwipo’s Gangplank and shutting down Caps, but Fnatic always traded for turrets. Fnatic won the first big fight in the mid lane around 19 minutes, and they snowballed from there. Vitality contested Fnatic’s every move, but Broxah’s Trundle and Hylissang’s Braum permanently slowed their opponents, easily allowing Rekkles and Caps to secure kills. Fnatic took a Baron at 15 minutes without losing any members, and the following siege ended the game in 30 minutes. Vitality lost the series 1-3, qualifying Fnatic for their first finals in two years.

G2 v. FNC

G2 will face Fnatic in the 2018 EU LCS Finals

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The classic “Old Kings versus New Kings” showdown will happen this weekend for the EU LCS Spring Split title. Of the 10 total LCS championships, Fnatic won five between 2013 and 2015, while G2 has won the last four in a row. These two organizations are the most decorated in EU LCS history.

But these are very different teams than the championship winners of the past. Huni, Reignover, Febiven, Zven, and Mithy play in North America now. Trick moved to the LCK and Yellowstar coaches. Perkz and Rekkles are the only remaining members of these previous winning teams, and everyone is watching them in this final.

2018 Spring Split G2 and Fnatic have relatively similar styles. Their junglers usually wait a while to make moves, opting for safer farm in the early game. Wunder and Perkz generally gain leads from laning phase, while Rekkles and Hylissang are more controlled for Fnatic. Giving a dragon or a turret is okay for these two, as long as they are safely farming and controlling vision.

However, once Baron spawns, the game truly starts. Both of these teams jockey for vision around Baron non-stop. Caps and Hylissang are often Fnatic’s initiators, engaging onto unsuspecting targets or baiting their opponents into an unwanted skirmish. Perkz and Hjarnan stay on the backline, while Jankos and Wadid check all fog-of-war. Wunder is quick to teleport into the fight, while Bwipo tends to hesitate.

Before semifinals, this match-up would be much more Fnatic-favored. But, with Hjarnan stepping up big time against Splyce, and Bwipo subbing in for Soaz, this match-up should be extremely close. Both teams showed variations in their playstyles over their series. Fnatic showed their extreme poke composition and strong team-fighting. G2 showed they can play split-pushing with Fiora and a pick composition with Zoe and Thresh.

Expect intense drafts from these two. Braum, Camille, Swain, Zoe, and Gangplank proved extremely strong for both teams. G2 and Fnatic will most likely stick to the meta picks and opt for scaling through the first phase of the game. Once they are in-game, the victories are going to come down to five-versus-five team-fighting and macro play. It should be a historic series, as these fights are going to be explosive. G2 could tie up the trophy count five and five, or Fnatic may re-establish their dominance in Europe. Find out on Sunday, April 8.

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EU playoffs update: Quarterfinals review and semifinals preview

The first stage of the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split playoffs kicked off this past weekend, with Splyce facing off against ROCCAT and H2K versus Team Vitality. These two pairs battled in best-of-five matches to determine who would continue into the semifinals. Here is what has happened so far, and what playoffs looks like moving forward. 

SPY v. ROC

ROCCAT faced Splyce in the quarterfinals of 2018 Spring Split playoffs

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Splyce was the heavy favorite coming into their quarterfinals match against ROCCAT, since they closed the regular season in third, while ROCCAT finished sixth. Splyce had four of five members voted into EU’s All-Pro team; ROCCAT had none. The Snakes finished the last four weeks of LCS with only two losses, while ROCCAT went 4-4, including one loss to Splyce.

The first game of the series began with Splyce reacting to deep invades from ROCCAT. Nisqy secured three early kills on Kassadin, two from Memento, one from Blanc. ROCCAT maintained momentum, taking the first three turrets, three dragons, and Rift Herald, until a three for zero fight in Splyce’s favor around 25 minutes. Splyce took Baron, which unlocked the map. Nisqy finished the game 12-0-2.

Top lane pressure characterized game two’s early game, with Xerxe and Memento both pulling off successful ganks. Splyce gained the momentum with an Infernal Drake, a two for zero fight, and mid lane turret secured by 17 minutes. ROCCAT were completely out of sorts from there, as Splyce knocked down three more turrets by 20 minutes. With the map opened up, Odoamne’s Camille and Xerxe’s Zac were unlocked to roam the map and engage at their leisure. Splyce took Baron and ended the game by 29 minutes.

ROCCAT started game three with early game success on the bottom side, with KaSing dying twice and Nisqy dying once pre-10 minutes. However, ROCCAT’s messy skirmishing around the bottom side allowed Splyce to grab the reins. Odoamne’s Camille wreaked havoc once again, split-pushing down turrets and catching out unsuspecting ROCCAT members. Splyce took a 30-minute Baron and ROCCAT was unable to stall long enough for HeaQ’s Jinx to come online. The series ended in a 3-0 for Splyce, eliminating ROCCAT from playoffs in fifth-sixth.

H2K v. VIT

H2K faced Team Vitality in the quarterfinals of the 2018 Spring Split playoffs

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Saturday kicked off with fourth place Vitality battling fifth place H2K for the semifinals spot versus Fnatic. H2K looked to ride the momentum of the back half of their split, which finished 7-3 over the last five weeks. Vitality felt the inverse effect, finishing 3-7 over that same time. This quarterfinal match-up would be a nexus point between the rise and fall of these two teams.

Game one saw H2K controlling the top side with Smittyj’s Camille gaining a leading and taking the turret, while Vitality’s bottom lane gained a lead and took their turret. Both teams matched their rotations to take second turrets, but Vitality’s Infernal Drakes and superior skirmishing allowed them to take a 2,000 gold lead, their third Infernal, and mid lane turret around 20 minutes. Vitality took the Baron and sieged bottom lane to end in 27 minutes.

Vitality won out bot lane again in their second game against H2K, with Sheriff and Promisq falling to an early turret dive. Minitroupax’s Caitlyn sieged down all three outer turrets by 17 minutes. However, Shook’s Baron steal around 27 minutes was the great equalizer. H2K pushed Vitality’s bottom lane all the way into the Nexus turrets, which gave them pressure to take the second Baron. Vitality never found the proper engage between Shen, Sejuani and Thresh, and H2K closed the game.

With Caitlyn and Leona locked in, Vitality continued to index heavily on bottom lane dominance in game three. By 18 minutes, Vitality knocked down two bot lane turrets and two Ocean Drakes, compared to H2K’s single top turret. Despite their 8-1 kill lead, Vitality were unable to properly posture around Baron. H2K forced them off with a three for one fight, then secured Baron for themselves the next go around. Sheriff got caught out during the siege, which gave Vitality enough control to take the third Baron. Vitality pushed down mid, but H2K defended the inhibitor, which caused both teams to dance around the 44 minute Baron. Neither team lost members, but Vitality secured Baron, rotated and took Elder Drake, then rolled over H2K to take the series to game four.

H2K flipped the script by taking the Morgana-Caitlyn bot lane combo, killing Jactroll, and taking turret around 9 minutes. Shook ganked bot with Zac and helped secure two more kills on Vitality’s bottom lane. With Smittyj solo killing Cabochard’s Shen with Sion, H2K maintained tempo advantage. They aced Vitality in the mid lane around 18 minutes, including a Quadra Kill for Selfie’s Kassadin. A 20 minute Baron for H2K set them up for an unstoppable siege. They ended the game in 23 minutes for “silver scrapes.”

The match point game saw both teams return to top side focus. Gilius and Jiizuke visited top lane for kills on Smittyj’s Ornn in the first 12 minutes. H2K responded by outplaying Gilius’ gank to bottom lane, resulting in a Double Kill for Smittyj. They took bottom turret, then rotated top for Rift Herald, where Vitality lost the fight 0-2. H2K contested Vitality around Infernal Drake, which Shook stole, but Minitroupax’s Tristana also got a Double Kill. From there, Vitality won siege after siege, eventually taking a 22 minute Baron. Over the next 10 minutes, H2K was only able to successfully engage and kill Minitroupax once, and Vitality used the Tristana and Baron buffs to push down all the way to the Nexus. The series went to Vitality, eliminating H2K from playoffs in fifth-sixth.

G2 v. SPY

Splyce will face G2 in the semifinals of the 2018 Spring Split playoffs

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G2 awaits Splyce in Europe’s first semifinals match. The Samurai hold a slight advantage in this match-up, considering they defeated Splyce in a tiebreaker two weeks ago to secure second place. Both teams ended the regular season 11-7, with G2 winning in week three and Splyce winning in week seven.

In their first best-of-one, G2 gained a slight lead in laning phase. Most of the game held a 2-2 kill score, with both teams focusing on trading turrets and vision. Around 36 minutes G2 secured a 50/50 Elder Drake, which allowed them to win the fight and blow the game open.

When they met in the seventh week of LCS, Splyce took decisive control of the early game. Nisqy’s Galio paired nicely with Xerxe’s Ivern to wander around the map catching G2 out. Splyce also took the first turret and dragon by 11 minutes. The open map made it even more difficult for G2 to wander out of vision, and Splyce took over. Their Rakan-Galio engage combined with the buffed Baron-Banner-Ivern bush minion to mow down all of G2’s base without much resistance. Splyce almost perfect-gamed G2, who only ended with one kill and one turret.

Their tiebreaker match began with Splyce taking early control, yet again. Xerxe pulled off successful ganks in top lane and bottom lane, but a couple of uncoordinated plays in the top river cost Splyce several kills, two more turrets, and, ultimately, a 21 minute Baron. With G2 fully unlocked, they gained a 12,000 gold lead and bled Splyce out for second place.

Expect both of these teams to play standard League of Legends for the first 20 minutes. G2 and Splyce will politely lane against one another with the occasional gank from Xerxe or Jankos. They will group and rotate to contest turrets and dragons, but will otherwise avoid one another. Baron and Elder Drake will be game-breaking for these two, because once one of them secures the major neutral objective, they kick the game into overdrive and push their advantages hard.

G2’s individual members should be able to gain laning phase leads, if left to their own devices. Xerxe has been fairly successful with early game ganking in top and bottom lane, though. Over the course of a best-of-five, both of these teams should hold up. Splyce seem most likely to adapt their draft between each game, and prepare surprise strategies that could net them wins. This series should go to five games, unless Splyce or G2 heavily over-performs.

FNC v. VIT

Vitality will face Fnatic in the semifinals of the 2018 Spring Split playoffs

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Vitality will challenge first seed Fnatic in the second semifinals series this weekend. Fnatic are favorites in this match-up, as they only lost four games all split. Vitality finished the season 10-8, but the back half of their spring was much less convincing than the front half. These two went 1-1 against each other over the regular season, with Vitality winning first in week two and Fnatic getting revenge in week seven.

Jiizuke’s Ryze was the star of the show in Vitality’s win over Fnatic. Gilius basically camped mid to put Caps’ Azir far behind. In response, Fnatic rotated top several times to shut down Cabochard’s Lucian. However, Jiizuke persistently pressured the side lanes with Ryze, frequently winning versus multiple opponents. Vitality ultimately feigned an Elder Drake take, but instead backdoored Fnatic’s nexus to end.

In their rematch, Vitality attempted a similar strategy, earning two kills for Jiizuke’s Azir by camping Caps’ Corki in mid lane. This pressure spilled over into bottom and top lane, as Vitality had a 4,000 gold lead by 15 minutes. Fnatic held it together long enough to sneak Broxah’s Kha’Zix into the Baron pit and steal it from Vitality. The steal brought Fnatic right back into the game, and allowed Rekkles’ Tristana and Caps’ Corki to lay siege. They pushed all the way to Vitality’s nexus turrets, then back off. Vitality responded with several picks and an Elder Drake, which they used to break open Fnatic’s base. Caps and SoaZ tried to teleport and backdoor, but Cabochard and Minitroupax stopped them. Vitality attempted to take Elder Drake, but Broxah stole that, too. The buff pushed Fnatic over the top to almost aced Vitality and end the game.

Vitality may have some weaknesses in their draft, if they try to utilize the same “camp mid” strategy every game. Rekkles has shown multiple times that he can remain self-sufficient playing into losing match-ups. Fnatic could easily force Vitality to pick Jiizuke’s mid lane champion first, and save the counter for Caps. They could also remove Gilius’ safest champions, Sejuani and Zac, and force him to play Trundle or Olaf. He would have less crowd control for mid lane that way, and less agency to gank early. Fnatic also have much more experience as a team in longer high pressure series, and should be able to adapt.

On the other hand, Fnatic will not start SoaZ this weekend. He is out with an injury, which means Bwipo will step in as their starting top laner. Putting a rookie in such a position could slightly compromise Fnatic’s chances. However, in their two games with Bwipo so far, Fnatic seemed just as dominant. They should be able to take this series quickly and efficiently, but Vitality will probably take a win in the first two games. Vitality’s unbridled playstyle should yield some exciting games, but if any team can stamp out their sparks before they burn everything down, it is Fnatic.

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