Looking back at the LCS Semis
Two clean sweeps and two 3-1’s, those were the final scores at the end of the last weekend. The two dominant teams from both regions dominated the lower seeds in convincing fashion. In NA, Cloud9 demolished Phoenix1, forcing the rising stars to play for the 3rd place against FlyQuest; whose unexpected run was halted by TSM, effectively showcasing the difference between the top two teams in NA and the rest of the top 6. In EU, the clash between the former kings of Europe, Fnatic, and the current kings, G2 Esports, started off in favour of FNC, until G2 showed them that their lineage means nothing in the current era of the EU LCS. The other battle in EU was fought by the up-and-coming Misfits who were forced to take on the veteran team of the Unicorns of Love, nearly falling to a clean sweep against them, before showing that they would not go down without a bloody brawl.
NA saw two clean sweeps coming in from their top 2 teams. Whether this is an indicator on how strong the two are, or how weak the other two were will be a discussion had by fans for weeks to come as TSM and C9 face each other again in the Finals of the NA LCS. The first series of the weekend was the one between C9 and P1, which ended up being a very controlled series from C9, with the games ending decidedly in their favour. Even after P1 rotated in their subs, they still couldn’t even dent the line-up of C9. Game 1 was tied up before C9 picked up the first Baron of the series, which skyrocketed their lead in game, ending the first game off the back of it. Looking at this game as the baseline, it would be easy to say that the teams were evenly matched before the game blew open. However, the later games showed the deficiencies of the Phoenix1 line-up. While they had managed to beat C9 during the regular season cleanly, the team had grown stronger between the regular split and the play-offs and P1’s momentum had been somewhat stifled.
On Sunday, FlyQuest went up against Team SoloMid, the #1 team from the regular split. Unlike the C9 vs. P1 series, the games between the two teams were much more bloody, but FlyQuest never had a significant gold lead in the games. FlyQuests strength was clear, their communication between laners was superb, which allowed them to pick off kills and all lanes, but they had difficulties furthering their advantages as TSM would respond to their plays appropriately. The moment to moment decision making of FlyQuest was definitely an advantage in the games, but the lack of follow-up ended up costing them more often than not. This does highlight a weakness in TSM however, their play is sometimes tied to playing in a responsive manner, after which they come up with a new long-term strategy, relying somewhat on having a quick reaction to an opponents play.
With both series over, C9 are going into the play-offs with a slight advantage based on their dominating performance against the #3 team from the regular split, with TSM actually coming in from a slightly less convincing 3-0 sweep. This advantage simply comes from the more controlled playstyle that we were able to see and contrasting that to TSM’s style, I believe that it will create small advantages for C9 during key moments of games, which they should be able to turn into an eventual victory. However, if these moments don’t go in the favour of C9, TSM has an equally good chance of beating C9, making the series more about who is better on the day of the finals, rather than who is coming in with the most momentum.
The match for 3rd place is sure to be a bloody one, with FlyQuests ability to force even teamfights around the map and catch people off-guard, and P1’s tendency to allow their laners to attempt to hard carry their games, while 2 of their players perform more supportive duties. A week ago, I would have given P1 the advantage, but after seeing their series against C9, FlyQuest could take 3rd place if their plays are not punished during the series.
Saturday was the day of the royal showdown in Europe as Fnatic took on G2 Esports. FNC are the most decorated team in EU, only having lost out on 3 EU LCS titles since its inception, while G2 have not lost a single season of the LCS since they qualified during the 2016 Spring Promotion tournament as Gamers2. At the same time, FNC had been surging in the past weeks, having defeated their quarterfinals opponents in a clean sweep. These factors made the series seem almost as important as the finals based on the on-going narrative. FNC took the first game of the series, but the next 3 games all went in the favor of G2 in, convincingly in games 2 and 3, while game 4 was decidedly more even through most of it. FNC’s new style seems to be a better fit for them than their more controlled style from the regular season, but it wasn’t enough to throw off Europe’s most consistent team in terms of performance and playstyle, G2. On an individual level, most of G2’s players seemed to outmatch their opponents, but FNC’s teamplay carried them through the tougher games, and “Rekkles” remained the teams primary carry. While their run at the finals may have ended, if FNC keeps improving in a similar fashion during the next season, they may be able to reclaim their title during Summer 2017.
Group A’s #2 team went up against Group B’s #1 on Sunday as Misfits tried to make it the organizations best week by making it to the finals after their Academy team had just qualified for the LCS. However, the Unicorns of Love had different plans, as they dominated most of their lane opponents. UOL showed us a very controlled style, which was in stark contrast to the “chaos style” that the team has been in previous seasons, which Misfits were unable to respond to despite having had better pick and ban phases which gave them multiple advantages in lane on paper. “Xerxe” lived up to his title as the Rookie of the Split as he defeated Misfit’s “KakaO” in the jungle. The most interesting match-up in the series was the fight between MSF “PowerofEvil” and UOL’s “Exileh“. While UOL’s other lanes won out in the end, “PowerofEvil” kept his team afloat during rougher games as he outplayed UOL on multiple occasions. These carry performances weren’t enough to turn the tide as after their singular win, the following game sealed their fate as their nexus fell at 26 minutes.
These victories mean that the finals are going to be between the current champions G2 Esports, and Unicorns of Love. Looking at the performances from the regular split and the play-offs, G2 still seem to be the favourites to win it once again. However, UOL are always tricky to analyse as they are willing to play in a variety of styles of the course of a series if something isn’t working out as they had intended. The individual match-ups are mostly in the favour of G2, as the bottom lane duo on their side has more experience and slightly better mechanics, and the mid lane matchup is somewhat in the favour of “Perkz“, especially after “Exileh” had a hard time against “PowerofEvil“. Where UOL have the advantage however, are the top lane as UOL’s “Viziscaci” is stronger than his opponent “Expect“. The main difference in the match comes in the form of the junglers, as they are going to have to influence their lanes more than before to make a difference.
The 3rd place match-up between Fnatic and Misfits looks somewhat one-sided after FNC’s improved performances in the recent weeks and the slump that Misfits appear to be going through. Unless MSF come up with a plan on how to deal with FNC’s new playstyle, they will have an extremely hard time coming up with win conditions during games. However, if “PowerofEvil” keeps up his performance from their UOL series, they may have some advantages during their games, which could translate into win conditions, but they will need to sharpen up their communication and playmaking in order to make an impact.