GAM Levi locked in Nocturne jungle

Eight surprise champion picks that shaped Worlds’ group stage

The 2017 League of Legends World Championship continues into the knockout stage, yet there is so much to unpack regarding the group stage. The bottom two teams from each group have gone home defeated, and they will mentally replay every win and loss to make sense of it all. They will review their drafts, early game strategies, mid-game decisions and late-game execution.

Adaptation was a major theme of this year’s group stage. Each week, the teams who brought key innovations onto the stage defined the final standings. Pocket picks, surprise lock-ins and fulfilling match-up win conditions decided matches, which shaped teams’ chances to advance. Here are eight pivotal champion picks that shaped the first wave of 2017 Worlds.

GAM Levi Nocturne – Day 1 v. FNC

GAM Levi locked in Nocturne jungle at Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

After the first few matches included drafts that mostly went by the book, Gigabyte Marines decided to lock in Nocturne for Levi against Fnatic. This decision completely changed the tone of the 2017 Worlds stage. The surprise draft reminded audiences around the world why they fell in love with Gigabyte Marines at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational. Nocturne is such a feast or famine option that he is hardly ever played professionally. However, Gigabyte Marines set up Levi to reach level six in five minutes, and he carried them to a 24-minute victory. 

This game was significant for so many reasons. Firstly, it demonstrated that top teams from minor regions are completely capable of putting up a fight on the international stage. Other members of Group B cannot underestimate Gigabyte Marines. Secondly, this quick win gave Gigabyte Marines the confidence to continue bringing out “never before seen” drafts and strategies throughout the Group Stage. But, most importantly, the loss definitely shook Fnatic’s mentality for their matches in week one. Gigabyte Marines, and their successful Nocturne execution, set up Fnatic to start Worlds 0-3. 

G2 Expect Trundle – Day 3 v. FB

With Cho’Gath locked in for 1907 Fenerbahce’s Thaldrin, and Gnar and Shen banned away, G2 locked in the Trundle for Expect. This match was the first Trundle on the 2017 Worlds stage. With a little help from Perkz to secure First Blood, Expect pushed down first turret and helped Trick acquire Rift Herald. From there, he transitioned into split-pushing to win one-versus-one against Thaldrin.

While Expect was not the only major factor in G2’s day three victory, his pressure did result in G2’s first win after losing to Samsung Galaxy on day one. His Trundle game also set the precedent for Alphari, CuVee and Huni to gain wins with Troll King during group stage. Expect put Trundle on the board, forcing teams to consider him in future drafts, especially against super-tank top laners.

G2 Expect locked in Trundle top at Worlds

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C9 Contractz Graves – Day 3 v. EDG

As one of the only junglers prioritizing high damage over tankiness and crowd control, Contractz surprised with a Graves lock-in on day three. Touted as a counter-pick to Jarvan IV, Graves still maintains fast camp clears and invasion pressure. The pick worked out similarly to Contractz’ Ezreal jungle. He farmed monsters rapidly, and he made sure to visit lanes to help poke out EDG’s laners.

More importantly, Cloud9 won their first game against China’s first seed. The same pick did not work out against EDG on day eight, but the first win basically prevented a tie-breaker match between the two teams for second seed in Group A. Even though no other players tried out Graves on stage, Contractz’ week one success with the pick turned out to be a saving grace for Cloud9’s advancement to quarterfinals.

LZ Khan Nasus – Day 4 v. FNC

What was not to love about this game? The top lane Nasus generated so much hype by itself, disregarding any memes about “dog champs.” Khan had already shown prominence on Lethality Jarvan IV, so everyone expected his Nasus to be nasty. Longzhu realized that Fnatic tends to abandon sOAZ in the top lane, so this champion would hard counter that choice. 

LZ Khan locked in Nasus at Worlds

Screenshot of LoL Esports broadcast

Khan did not disappoint. Longzhu destroyed Fnatic’s nexus in 20:52, the shortest match in the group stage. This victory solidified Longzhu at the top of Group B with a 3-0 record, and Fnatic at the bottom with an 0-3. Almost all of the drama of Group B’s week two would have been nonexistent without this stomp. The Nasus pick, in particular, reinforced the possibility of surprise picks on the international stage.

FNC Caps Malzahar – Day 5 v. IMT

Week two saw Fnatic on a momentous upswing. They won their second matches against Immortals and Gigabyte Marines, while Longzhu remained undefeated. The games played out to create a tie-breaker situation between Immortals and Fnatic, which is when Caps pulled out the first Malzahar of Worlds.

Malzahar is supposed to be a counter-pick to Ryze, which allowed Caps to neutralize Pobelter. The mid lane interactions allowed Fnatic’s other members to have the space necessary to gain advantages and push through neutral objectives. With this victory, Fnatic sent Immortals back to North America, and continued into their tie-breaker against Gigabyte Marines to finalize Group B’s standings.

MSF IgNar Thresh – Day 7 v. FW

MSF Ignar locked in Thresh at Worlds

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This match-up against Flash Wolves was a breakout game for IgNar and Misfits. Their Thresh lock-in presented one of the first non-Ardent Censer supports at Worlds. It also proved that teams can opt for play-making champions in the bottom lane and find success. IgNar finished the game with a 0-0-10 scoreline, making the most of his roams and picks.

While Flash Wolves were not their main competition, Misfits started day seven with momentum. The unpredictability of IgNar’s champion pool allowed them to have flexible drafts, and to know that any member of their team is capable of carrying. Misfits cemented Flash Wolves’ fate in the group stage, since they fell 0-4 with this loss.

WE Mystic Caitlyn – Day 7 v. TSM

One of the most innovative strategies of the group stage, Mystic decided to race the Ardent Censer support build by drafting Caitlyn. Her combination of early poke damage, wave clear, and sieging allows Caitlyn to push in late-scaling AD carries such as Doublelift’s Twitch. Team WE executed the strategy perfectly, pushing through the game in just over 24 minutes. Mystic himself finished with a 10.0 KDA.

This game marked the turning point for TSM in Group D. WE pulled ahead to match Misfits 3-1, while TSM dropped below them at 2-2. This same strategy won WE their second match against Flash Wolves to finish at the top of the group. From a larger scope, this match also introduced another strategy to counter hyper-carries with enchanter supports. Caitlyn would go on to finish the group stage 4-0, including wins from EDG and Cloud9 on the final day.

FW MMD Renekton – Day 7 v. TSM

FW MMD locked in Renekton at Worlds

Screenshot of LoL Esports broadcast

Calling Renekton a “surprise pick” is a bit of a stretch. He is a staple lane bully champion for top laners. However, the 2017 Worlds meta has not seen him played much. Flash Wolves drafted Renekton for MMD to completely neutralize Hauntzer. Karsa and MMD killed Hauntzer twice within the first five minutes, which provided MMD with so much pressure that he zoned Hauntzer off of farm. MMD gained a 2,000 gold lead by 11 minutes, which transitioned into first turret, Rift Herald and complete dominance by the Flash Wolves.

The first seed LMS team had nothing to lose, seeing as they were already guaranteed to be eliminated. They took their only win off of TSM in this match, which forced the tie-breaker with Misfits to finish group stage. This single win, stemming from this single champion match-up, was the catalyst for Misfits to secure second seed in Group D. If TSM had won this game, then they would have graduated into quarterfinals instead of Misfits.

From the first day of group stage to the last, we have seen individual champion selections have huge impacts. Countering the meta, or countering specific team playstyles, these surprise performances influenced the standings. They allowed and denied entry into the knockout stage. Teams, players and the tournament itself are creating highlights, and even legacies to be remembered for World Championships to come.


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UOL Vizicsacsi ranks first among EU LCS top laners

Regular season EU LCS top laner rankings

The European LCS is home to many world-calibur top lane players. Often left on an “island” to themselves, top laners tend to play head-to-head for the longest time compared to other roles. Top lane is also a position whose champion pool changes heavily depending on the meta. If tanks are strong, expect to see tanks. If bruisers are strong, expect to see them instead. Split-pushing is a valid strategy for top laners, as well.

The 2017 Summer Split regular season is over, and the standings are set. Playoffs will be underway soon, as well as the promotion tournament. Votes will be cast for MVP, rookie, coach and all-team awards. Therefore, before any of those biases are incorporated into thinking about who is the best, it is time to rank these players while the play time is as even as possible between teams.

These types of rankings can be controversial. It is difficult to parse apart an individual player’s contribution to their team. Is this a strong player being held down by his team? Or is the team carrying him? Is he only able to play one style, and then falters on another? Does he only play well against teams below his own? Here is an attempt to answer such questions for every starting EU LCS top laner.

10. ROC Phaxi

ROC Phaxi is tenth among EU LCS top laners

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Roccat average the second highest deficit in the EU LCS at 15 minutes. Out of their 628 gold deficit, Phaxi contributes 237 behind. Of course, some of this comes from losing turrets or neutral objectives to enemy teams, which is not entirely his fault. However, part of it has to do with his having the second lowest CS difference at 10 minutes among top laners, -4.2. This amounts to 109 XP behind at 10 minutes, second lowest among top laners, as well.

This wouldn’t be as problematic, but Phaxi’s champion pool has been mostly carries this summer. Out of 33 total games, Phaxi only played tanks in seven (21.2 percent), Galio, Poppy and Shen. His most played champs have been Jarvan IV, Gnar and Renekton. Phaxi also has the lowest First Blood rate (six percent), KDA (1.6) and kill participation (56.6 percent). His damage numbers are lowest among top laners. Even in Riot’s new adjusted damage rating, Phaxi finishes last.

9. MM Kikis

MM Kikis ranks ninth among EU LCS top laners

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Kikis has fewer games than other top laners on this list, because he got picked up by Mysterious Monkeys after the first few weeks of the Summer Split. That being said, his impact on the team was not heavily felt. To be fair, he has the lowest death share of all top laners (17 percent), and he has a 40 percent First Blood rate. Kikis averages close to even in lane at 10 minutes, +73 gold, -3 XP and -3.7 CS. His damage share for the Monkeys is actually pretty good (23.4 percent).

The issue for Kikis, though, is his actual damage and presence on the map. It is hard to imagine replacing other EU top laners with Kikis and seeing improvements throughout the team. His most played champions have been Camille and Renekton, yet neither seems memorable. Kikis is an obvious upgrade from Jisu, Mysterious Monkeys’ previous top laner, but mostly in salvaging deaths, rather than securing kills or objectives. His surprise picks, such as Akali and Aatrox, were welcome from an entertainment standpoint, but they do not help his case as a quality top laner in the EU LCS this split.

8. MSF Alphari

MSF Alphari ranks eighth among EU LCS top laners

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The main element that separates Alphari from the bottom two top laners on this list is his split pushing. Alphari’s statistics are awful. He owns the second lowest damage per minute (375), the lowest CS and XP differences at 10 minutes (-5, -209) and the second lowest gold difference at 10 minutes (-124). However, his KDA is fourth among top laners (3.4).

Although it failed both times, Misfits drafted Kennen in the top lane twice. Alphari plays mostly Jarvan IV, Rumble and Renekton, and he tends to pressure the map away from the rest of the team for as long as possible before flanking with teleport to join fights. While Maxlore and IgNar roam in tandem to pressure mid and bottom lanes, Alphari is left alone in top. He generally sacrifices an early lane advantage for his teammates. However, it is rare to see him actually carry a game, which separates him from the top laners higher in these rankings.

7. VIT Cabochard

VIT Cabochard ranks seventh among EU LCS top laners

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Cabochard contributes 24.6 percent of Team Vitality’s damage. That is the highest damage share among top laners. However, Cabochard also receives 23.1 percent of the team’s gold, which is second highest among EU LCS top laners. Vitality invests a lot into Cabochard’s success. He generally starts the game well, averaging the most gold ahead (152), second most XP ahead (180) and second most CS ahead (3.8) at 10 minutes.

This is to be expected, considering Cabochard played over a third of his games on Rumble (10 out of 29). Rumble is a champion that always gets to bully his lane with Flamespitter and easily farm. The reason Cabochard is not higher on the rankings is that his lead never seemed to propel Vitality’s games. Vitality, as a team, averaged behind in gold at 15 minutes, and their early objective rates are all low. Cabochard’s leads stay with him. They do not get spread across the map for turrets or dragons or Heralds or Barons.

6. nip profit

NIP Profit ranks fifth among EU LCS top laners

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Although Ninjas in Pyjamas finished this split in last place of Group A, Profit seemed to adapt well to the EU LCS. He averaged middle-of-the-pack for gold, CS and XP differences at 10 minutes as well as kill participation (63.5 percent). His damage numbers are decent, a 24.4 percent share for his team, second highest among top laners. However, he also receives a 23.2 percent share of the gold.

Profit may very well be the strongest split-pusher in the EU LCS this split. On champion picks like Rumble, Jarvan IV, Gnar and Renekton, Profit is extremely calculated in the side lane. He only sacrifices 19.9 percent of NiP’s deaths (second lowest among top laners), despite his isolation. This split-push style is Profit’s only real demonstration this split, though. NiP got worse as the games got later. The coordinated teamfighting aspects of the game were lost on the Ninjas, and Profit’s obsession with side lanes did not seem to help.

5. g2 expect

G2 Expect ranks fifth among EU LCS top laners

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G2 have had lower lows this summer than in previous splits, but Expect has done well for himself. He has flown under the radar with third-fourth place laning statistics, such as +2.1 CS, +30 XP and +84 gold at 10 minutes.

Expect also has good teamfighting numbers, such as 458 damage per minute (third highest among top laners) and 69.6 percent kill participation (highest among top laners). And, somewhat surprisingly, Expect ranked second highest among top laners for adjusted damage.

Expect’s ranking on this list represents the first multi-faceted top laner in the EU LCS. Those below him had narrow windows of power in the game, which, if missed, would not result in much. However, Expect has exhibited an ability to play Gnar and Renekton, as well as Galio and Cho’Gath. His flexibility allows G2’s strategies to adapt to their opponent’s. Expect can hold his own in lane, essentially denying enemies the opportunity to get ahead on the top side. He then transitions into strong teamfighting, split-pushing and objective control. He has fulfilled G2’s needs well. But where he falls short is in acting as an individual carry for the team.

4. FNC Soaz

FNC Soaz ranks fourth among EU LCS top laners

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Soaz is difficult to peg against other EU LCS top laners. Fnatic have had an incredibly successful split, and when a team is performing so well together, it can be difficult to pull them apart and compare as individuals. While Soaz looks refreshed compared to his recent history with Origen, he still is not the primary catalyst for Fnatic. Of course, he is ahead in gold and XP at 10 minutes (+117, +118), but not from CS (averages zero at 10 minutes). His teammates create plenty of pressure and take First Blood in 74 percent of games, 52 percent of the time involving him.

Soaz’s adjusted damage rates him third. He performs well 1-v-1 on picks like Gnar and Jarvan IV, but on tankier picks, such as Shen, Gragas and Galio, Soaz truly shines. Fnatic looks best when Soaz is able to enable Caps and Rekkles to dish damage. These resistant, high crowd-control champions are perfect for Soaz’s role on the team, but the players ranked above him have exhibited more diverse playstyles with less stellar teammates.

3. SPY Wunder

SPY Wunder ranks third among EU LCS top laners

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Wunder plays the best Kled in the EU LCS. His other top played champions include Rumble, Camille, Gnar and Cho’Gath. Kled is suitable to Wunder’s playstyle, because he enjoys aggressive dueling in side lanes while split-pushing, but he also acts as an engage tool in most of Splyce’s games. This has been a weakness for Wunder in the past: playing overly aggressive without the support of his team and sacrificing deaths. This split has looked much more polished.

Wunder’s laning statistics are not great by any means: fourth lowest gold difference (+2), third lowest XP difference (-106) and third highest CS difference (+2.2) at 10 minutes. This paints a picture of Wunder on an island in the top lane receiving pressure from the enemy jungler, denying XP, but still managing to secure CS to go even in lane. Wunder has one of the lowest First Blood rates among top laners (15 percent). And although he has sacrificed the fourth most deaths in the league (75), he is tied for the most kills (84). Wunder is also sure to put out the second highest damage per minute (459). He has the opposite problem of Soaz. Splyce jungler is not as active, especially on the top side of the map, yet Wunder manages to make it through laning phase and contribute in engaging, damaging and split-pushing.

2. H2K Odoamne

H2K Odoamne ranks second among EU LCS top laners

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H2K’s top laner has been towards the top of top laners for several splits now. As a veteran, Odoamne has been consistently good through several different metas, including lane swaps. What makes him so good is his ability to bring pressure to the game with any champion he drafts, whether it be Shen, Gragas and Maokai, or Rumble, Gnar and Camille. Odoamne has the highest KDA among top laners (4.7) and is tied with Wunder for most kills (84) even though he has only played 26 games. He also has the fourth highest adjusted damage rating.

Many of the statistics do not do Odoamne justice. Just watching him play the game, you can tell that he is on another level compared to most top laners. When he trades in lane, when he synergizes with Jankos, when he teleports or flanks into a teamfight, he just brings a presence that is not felt with many of Europe’s top laners. The only reason he is not ranked number one is because there is one other top laner that brings the same presence described here, except his laning is even better.

1. UOL Vizicsacsi

UOL Vizicsacsi ranks first among EU LCS top laners

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Vizicsacsi has been named MVP, first team all-LCS, and many others. His role on Unicorns of Love cannot be understated.

Vizicsacsi starts the game by averaging the highest XP and CS differences at 10 minutes of any top laner (+243, +9.6). This sets him up to have the items and advantage to enter skirmishes and fights around the map, particularly bottom lane, and spread his lead into other teammates. For this reason, Vizicsacsi is the best Shen player in the EU LCS, and he looks best on tankier champions, such as Cho’Gath, Galio and Gragas.

Vizicsacsi’s split-pushing is some of the best in the league. When he plays Gnar, Fiora or Rumble, he generally draws a lot of attention. The Unicorns’ top laner is even known to turn on his opponent and secure counter-kills when he is caught out. It can be incredible. Vizicsacsi has the highest damage per minute of all top laners (472), and the highest adjusted damage rating according to Riot. His main flaw is sacrificing deaths. He has the second most deaths among top laners (110), granted he has played the most games (32). However, his 2.4 KDA is fourth lowest among top laners, which is not good for being on a top team.

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Champion Statistics: GamesofLegends.com, OraclesElixir.com

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H2K are trending up in week six EU LCS

Trending in EU LCS: Week 6

The EU LCS returned this week after a brief hiatus to accommodate Rift Rivals. Since week five, Riot introduced patch 7.13 with several minor balance updates. Fans were able to see some adaptation in the various regional showdowns, but many European teams were able to experiment longer with the patch while Fnatic, Unicorns of Love and G2 played on the patch against representatives of the NA LCS.

Every new patch affects the meta. Every new meta affects teams’ performances. There were not too many huge shake-ups in the standings this week. However, week six does finish with some EU LCS elements trending up and others trending down.

Trending Up

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the upswing after week six of the EU LCS. They may have won a key series against a tough opponent. A teammate may have put their team on their back to keep it together. Maybe a particular champion pick was able to shine.

G2 are trending up after week six of EU LCS

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G2

G2 bounces back from a disappointing Rift Rivals showing by defeating Splyce in a dominant 2-0. Perkz looked much more comfortable in the mid lane, ending the series with a 16-1-15 scoreline. Trick utilized Sejuani in the jungle in both games. All-in-all, G2’s wins were clean. For example, the second game was less than 24 minutes long, and the samurai accumulated a 10,000 gold advantage in that time. With Misfits’ loss to Unicorns of Love, G2 tie for second place in Group A with a 4-3 record.

H2K

H2K secured another 2-0 over a Group A team, Roccat. While the win is not unexpected, the sheer severity of Roccat’s losses show that H2K wants to be at the top of Group B at the end of the Summer Split. Game one ended in 26 minutes and game two in 21 minutes. H2K did not die a single time in game one, and only sacrificed two turrets. Roccat got five kills in game two, but only one turret. Nuclear and Chei did not die a single time over the course of the series. H2K has finished every winning series 2-0, and they have only lost games to UOL and Fnatic. They will look to solidify themselves as the third best team in Europe against G2 next week.

MM Kikis is trending up after week six of EU LCS

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MM Kikis

Mysterious Monkeys picked up another series win this week against Roccat, but it was not pretty. Monkeys’ top laner, Kikis, came up huge in every single game to keep the team competitive. In game one it was a split-pushing Jayce. Game two was a mechanically intensive Akali, weaving between enemies, in and out of stealth. In game three it was an aggressive Renekton, finishing almost 4,000 gold over his lane opponent. While the Monkeys do not look too great as a team, Kikis is trying to be a menace in the top lane.

Cinderhulk junglers

The Enchantment: Cinderhulk jungle items were buffed because “while tanks are trying to farm Cinderhulk, everybody else around them is already farming more quickly,” according to the 7.13 patch notes. In response to this change, EU LCS junglers prioritized Gragas and Sejuani much higher than week five. Zac maintained his high ban rate, and was picked once by H2K’s Jankos. Olaf was locked in twice by Vitality’s Djoko. There were still other non-Cinderhulk junglers, such as Elise and Kha’Zix, but they were much less frequent.

Kalista ADC

The Spear of Vengeance has returned to the bottom lane in week six. While Kalista has seen a few lock-ins prior to this week, her play rate jumped this week. She was picked in seven out of 15 games, and banned in another three. This bump in pick and ban comes off the back of her strong showing at Rift Rivals, particularly the LCK-LPL-LMS showdown. Kalista enables her support to engage or disengage around her ultimate, Fate’s Call. Therefore, EU LCS bottom lanes paired her with Alistar, Rakan, Braum and Thresh. Finishing with four wins and three losses, she is not a guaranteed win, but Kalista will most likely continue to be a prioritized marksman pick.

Trending Down

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the downswing after week six of the EU LCS. They may have lost a series against an underdog. A teammate may have faltered over several games. Maybe the meta is shifting and a playstyle is being left in the past. These elements are downward trending in the EU LCS.

Splyce's bottom lane is trending down after week six EU LCS

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Splyce bottom lane

Splyce lost 0-2 to G2 in their week six series, and none of their players looked particularly strong. One part of the map that looked weaker than usual was Splyce’s bottom lane duo, Kobbe and Mikyx. They ended the series with a combined 1-17-15 record playing Kalista-Rakan and Varus-Bard. In game one, G2’s Zven got a Triple Kill before 18 minutes, which included Kobbe and Mikyx. In game two, Zven killed Mikyx around five minutes, and Perkz killed Kobbe around seven minutes to start the snowball.

Roccat

Roccat finishes week six with two series losses against H2K and Mysterious Monkeys. This is going to heavily hinder their chance to make playoffs. H2K completely demolished them in two sub-27-minute games. Roccat lost large early leads in games one and two against the Monkeys. Luckily, they were able to bring it back in game two. However, they still lost game three in convincing fashion. Roccat’s record falls to 2-6, two games ahead of Ninjas in Pyjamas and two games behind G2.

Top lane Galio is trending down in week six of EU LCS

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Galio top

While he was not completely relegated from professional play in the EU LCS, Galio was not drafted into the top lane this week. Tanks and bruisers, such as Renekton, Jarvan IV, Kled, Jax and Gnar were prioritized more. Galio’s armor was reduced in patch 7.13, which made him particularly weak against these AD threats. He may remain as a mid lane niche pick, as he was drafted by UOL’s Exileh and NIP’s Nagne in week six.

Lee Sin jungle

Unlike Galio, Lee Sin was not targeted in patch 7.13 at all. However, Enchantment: Cinderhulk, Rek’Sai and Kha’Zix were all changed in ways that negatively impacted Lee Sin. He was picked once by H2K’s Jankos and once by MM’s Amazing. Graves and Kindred were both picked while Lee Sin was still available. Olaf and Elise were played just as many times, or more. While Lee Sin is almost always a possible pick in professional League of Legends, he seems to have taken a back seat in the EU LCS for the time being.


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The Telecom Wars continue: LCK at its most competitive

The telecom wars, SK Telecom T1 versus kt Rolster, are always the highlight games of the League Championship Korea. This most recent telecom war decided who would be the current captor of first place in the LCK. Before this telecom war occurred, the LCK held a very rare three-way tie for first place between kt Rolster, Samsung Galaxy and SKT T1. The three-way tie in a league where first place (SKT T1) is typically vastly distanced from second place is telling of this season’s fierce competition.

With the winner of the Telecom Wars deciding what phone company LCK caster, Alberto “Crumbz” Rengifo, goes with, SKT T1 v kt Rolster is much more than your average professional League of Legends game. The Telecom Wars are typically a preview of who will win worlds. However with the current competition in the LCK, there are definitely more variables than just the two telecom companies.

Game 1: kt Rolster Victory 24:57

Kt Rolster decimated SKT T1 in the first game of their best of three. SKT failed to take a single tower the entire game, lost every single neutral objective (two Drakes, Rift Herald, and a Baron) and only managed to secure three kills in the sub 25-minute game. If you want to see some clean and controlled League of Legends to the point of near boredom, this is the game to watch. Kt Rolster created the team composition to snowball an early victory against SKT T1, drafting early game power with Renekton, Elise, Corki, Kalista and Thresh.

The top lane combination of Renekton stun into Elise cocoon sealed Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon’s fate in game one. Back to back kills on Huni put him so far behind that he was unable to complete his Cull until the twelve-minute mark. While compared to his opposing laner, kt Rolster’s Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho, Huni led in CS at twelve minutes, Smeb was already up two kills and an assist. Smeb went off. Up until the 18-minute mark, Smeb held 100 percent kill participation, proving that he is one of, if not, the best top laner in the world.

Despite Smeb’s performance, it was not entirely his show. Cho “Mata “Se-hyeong showed that his Thresh was a must ban for the next game. Mata was able to show up to every fight and have significant impact regardless of where the fight started. He seemed miles ahead of SKT T1 and was able to aid almost every play around the map as soon as he was able to roam. After game one, it appeared that kt Rolster was the new team to beat. With such a clean and decisive victory, kt Rolster illustrated that Renekton and Elise are a disgusting top and jungle combination that must be separated.

Kt delivers a swift defeat to SKT with an excellent draft that SKT would have to adapt against. Courtesy of loleventvods

Game 2: SKT T1 Victory 44:31

SKT T1 starts off game two by removing Thresh from Mata’s hands and once again banning kt’s signature Galio flex. The draft phase that SKT pulled off showed that they had learned from their mistakes in game one. Karma was once again picked early on for flex purposes, but this time was moved down to support, while the combination of Renekton and Elise was removed. In addition to this, Huni was subbed out in favor of Park “Untara” Ui-jin most likely as an answer to Huni’s tilting teleports and laning phase in game one. Untara was also able to get a soft counter to Renekton by securing Gnar in the second part of the draft phase.

While Smeb was still able to tear the game apart on Renekton, Untara was able to stop the bleeding by only giving up one kill during laning phase to the crocodile. Untara then drew pressure with his split pushing Gnar playstyle, resulting in a baron for SKT T1 as two kt players killed Gnar. Unfortunately for SKT, they were immediately aced after Faker took the Baron with his Orianna Shockwave. Had the Baron been stolen by kt, that would have undoubtedly been game once again at 25 minutes.

With a very similar early game composition, kt Rolster needed to secure a victory or an early Baron by the 25-minute mark. Unfortunately for them, SKT T1 was able to hold out. At 25 minutes into the game, the score was 2-11 in kills, kt’s lead, but with both SKT solo laners out scaling their counterparts; the game was not yet over. At the 30 minute mark, the score was still 2-11 in kills. By 35 minutes kt Rolster had only managed to acquire two more kills in their favor. Looking to secure the next Baron, kt traded two for one and then went for Elder. With two minutes of Elder buff and Baron buff combined and two open inhibitors, kt Rolster was poised to take out SKT for a clean 2-0.

How a turn around happens; one late game SKT team fight. Courtesy of loleventvods.

But not all went as planned for kt Rolster. They took both open inhibitors, but then stayed to topple the final inhibitor tower. While kt stayed at SKT’s base, their Elder and Baron buffs did not stay. SKT T1 took this moment, their only moment as super minions began pushing down both top and middle lane, to take a momentum-breaking team fight. Bae “Bang” Jun-sik’s Ashe was able to free fire the entire team fight allowing Untara to defend the remains of the base as the inhibitors respawned.

With SKT T1 6k gold and one baron buff down, they somehow managed to clean ace kt Rolster near the Baron pit putting SKT in a position to secure the victory with one dramatic push. While 6k gold is a lot to be down, SKT T1 had reached their individual item power spikes as a team, effectively out scaling kt Rolster’s composition.

Game 3: SKT T1 Victory 44:30

With an incredible upset in game two, SKT T1 looked to continue their late game momentum into the next match. With an early pause due to “Chair Issues”, this game already was off the rocker. An early counter gank made by kt Rolster after seeing Kang “Blank” Sun-gu on Gragas looping on kt’s bot lane left kt Rolster with an early lead once again at 2-0. At 20 minutes kt were 4k gold ahead, however, drakes were in SKT’s favor as they were in prior games. Once again, SKT’s draft for the late game allowed for some of these gold deficits to be nullified by the time thirty minutes came along. At 25 minutes, the score was 7-1 in kills as well as a Baron in kt’s favor. Things were looking grim for SKT, but Untara’s Fiora was just coming online.

Don’t bother looking at the Fiora taking all of your base. Coutesy of loleventvods.

SKT bought more time by catching out  Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu first through a face check into a Thresh and second from an attempt at some untimely vision control. Faker then turned onto Smeb’s Rumble for a solo kill after sneaking through vision gaps of kt Rolster. Things started cascading out of control after this, with Untara’s Fiora taking an inhibitor tower and an inhibitor in one push all while his team was able to get a Baron. This clumsy scramble to address Fiora’s split push sealed kt’s fate. The Untara win condition was too much for kt and they were unable to close out the game before SKT’s composition came online.

The Future of the Telecom Wars

Being the first round of the telecom wars for the Summer split, the matchup between kt Rolster and SKT T1 is and has always been a preview of the highest caliber of League of Legends play. If you do not watch the LCK regularly but are interested in top tier League of Legends play, give this series a watch. Both teams played incredibly well, and games two and three were very close. SKT T1 proved that if you cannot beat them by 25 minutes you will not beat them. Typically drafting towards late game team fights, SKT is the pinnacle of team fight coordination in competitive League of Legends. Pay special attention to how each player rotates their attention to deal with appropriate threats and to stack Crowd Control. SKT makes late game team fights look scripted, even against other top tier teams in the LCK.

Yes, SKT T1 is a team that encapsulates perfection. However, the LCK is as close in skill as it has been in quite some time. Only one victory separates first place from a tie for second place, and fourth place is only two victories behind first; the LCK hosts heated competition. Expect to see the competition grow as, by the time you are reading this, Samsung Galaxy will be playing Longzhu Gaming to see if they can once again tie SKT T1 for first place.

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Featured image courtesy of LOLeventvods

Unicorns of Love may lose some members for 2018

EU’s Final Showdowns: G2-UOL, FNC-MSF

The last matches of the 2017 EU LCS Spring Split are happening this weekend, April 22nd-23rd. The playoffs have been exciting thus far, and the final two series look to be just as juicy. Fnatic will battle Misfits for third place, while Unicorns of Love attempts to dethrone G2. All four of these teams have rounded out the past few weeks well, but here are some notes going into their last match-ups of Spring.

Misfits

Playoffs: Misfits mid laner, PowerOfEvil

courtesy of Riot esports

Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage has had an excellent playoff run. Among all of Misfits and Fnatic’s players, PowerOfEvil has been averaging the highest damage per minute: 620 (the next highest is Martin “Rekkles” Larsson with 497). He makes up 29.8% of Misfits’ damage. His average during the regular season was 495, or 28.8% of the team’s total. PowerOfEvil will need to maintain this high level of play and shut down Rasmus “Caps” Winthe if Misfits want to stand a chance of winning.

Their jungler, Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon, will need to adjust. Between all ten Misfits and Fnatic players, KaKAO sits bottom two in KDA, kill participation, first blood rate, and experience difference at 10 minutes. This is not going to cut it if Misfits are to win this weekend’s series and secure third place. Many analysts have criticized his play on Rengar. His win percentage is only 33% on this champion, so he should try to stay away from it in the draft. Unicorns of Love were smart to ban Lee Sin and Elise, for which he holds 78% and 67% win-rates. His next best options are Ivern and Rek’Sai, for which he also holds 67% win-rates.

Overall, Misfits have mainly lost the early game pressure they exhibited during the regular season. So far, they have averaged 384 gold behind their playoff opponents, which is awful compared to their 820 gold ahead during the regular season. The largest discrepancy between Misfits and Fnatic has been their respective abilities to take the first three turrets. Fnatic holds the top spot among playoff contenders, taking their opponents’ first three turrets in 71% of games. Misfits have only achieved this in 44% of their games.

Fnatic

Playoffs: Fnatic's support, Jesiz

courtesy of Riot esports

Fnatic’s most improved player for playoffs has been Jesse “Jesiz” Le. Almost every statistic of his has improved over the past two weeks. His KDA went from 3.4 to 5.2. His kill participation rose from 60.3% to 68.9%. Jesiz has been a primary engage tool for the team on champions such as Camille, Thresh, and Zyra. He is also a big reason why Rekkles has been able to get through laning phase on off-meta marksmen. Hopefully, Jesiz is able to maintain this high-pressure playstyle.

While having a wide champion pool can be good, it is not always necessary. Fnatic’s odd champion choices essentially ended their series against G2 last weekend. Vayne, Tristana, Kayle, Annie: these selections were not necessary. The flexing of Camille and Kennen have generally worked well for Fnatic, but branching out much beyond those picks is a bit much. The surprise factor does not outweigh the execution factor.

One area where Fnatic has excelled during playoffs is Baron control. Fnatic has taken the first Baron in 86% of their playoff games (compared to 38% during the regular season). They have also maintained a 71% Baron control rate (compared to 33% during the regular season). This focus is much better than Misfits, and will more than likely be the biggest factor in Fnatic’s favor. Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen and crew will need to continue to prioritize this objective.

Unicorns of Love

Playoffs: Unicorns of Love's top laner, Vizicsacsi

courtesy of Riot esports

Unicorns of Love have strong players at every position except, arguably, their AD carry. During playoffs, Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás and Fabian “Exileh” Schubert have averaged 605 and 600 damage per minute, respectively (third and fourth highest of all players). Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir tops the competition in KDA (10.5) and has the second-lowest death share of all player in playoffs (8.9%). While Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort generally averages behind in CS at ten minutes, he stays ahead in gold and experience, and he maintains the third lowest percentage of UOL’s deaths (13.3%).

One of the Unicorns’ biggest strengths is their champion pool. Xerxe has 75-100% win-rates on four champions with three or more games (Warwick, Ivern, Rengar, Rumble). Vizicsacsi has 75-100% win-rates on four champions with three or more games (Renekton, Rumble, Nautlius, Shen). And Exileh has won games on 11 different champions this spring. Pinching their pools will be virtually impossible for G2.

As a team, Unicorns of Love has secured first blood and first dragon in every game of playoffs so far. UOL has also secured the first Baron in in 75% of games with a 71% Baron control rate. If they are going to beat G2, it will most likely be off the back of a Baron trade. G2 have averaged a poor 25% first Baron rate during playoffs, and a 50% Baron control rate. During the regular season, G2 secured first Baron 72% of the time and maintained a 74% Baron control rate.

G2

Playoffs: G2's mid laner, Perkz

courtesy of Riot esports

G2 will be a formidable foe for Unicorns of Love. They offer similar strong players in virtually every role. Luka “Perkz” Perković has really shined throughout playoffs so far. He has the highest damage per minute (635) and percent of his team’s damage (33%). He has the lowest death share of all players in playoffs (8.5%), and he has the third highest KDA (7.0). UOL’s Exileh showed a bit of weakness against PowerOfEvil during laning phase last weekend. Perkz will be even more difficult for him to overcome.

G2’s other primary carry has been Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen. Although he was not quite as dominant in the Fnatic series last weekend, his match-up with Unicorns’ bottom lane should be much easier. Zven has averaged 6.5 CS and 164 gold ahead at ten minutes. If there is a player who needs to step up in this series, though, it is Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun. Trick’s regular season KDA was 4.7. So far in playoffs, it is 1.8. He averaged significantly ahead in gold, experience, and CS at ten minutes. In the playoffs, he has averaged 7 CS and 108 experience behind.

G2’s early game was phenomenal against Fnatic last weekend. The squad averaged 877 gold ahead at 15 minutes. That was the case during the regular season, as well. What looks like a weak spot is taking early towers. During the regular season, G2 took first turret in 64% of games and the first three turrets in 73% of games. In their series last weekend, they only did 50% and 25%, respectively. Unicorns of Love take the first turret less often, but the first three turrets more often. G2 will have to transition their early game leads into early objectives if they want to stand a chance against UOL. Teamfighting may not be the correct strategy. Smart rotations and perfect execution will be their only chance at victory.

predictions

Fnatic has looked much stronger in the past few weeks than Misfits have. I do not think it impossible for Misfits to take this, but it is highly unlikely. Just as Misfits took one game off of Unicorns of Love, they should get one from Fnatic, but Fnatic should win 3-1.

The finals series will be much more exciting. G2 have looked a bit weaker, while Unicorns seem hungry. Either way, it should be a five game series. If UOL wins it will be from snowballing the top side of the map, while G2 should look to snowball the bottom side. While both will likely happen, Vizicsacsi’s gameplay lately is seemingly unstoppable. This should be Unicorns’ spring split playoff victory.


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