The Challenger Series playoffs completed last night, deciding the team that will join League of Legends’ top competition next season.
Enemy Esports, the favorite entering the playoffs after posting a 9-1 record in the regular season, made good on their promise and beat Team Dragon Knights with a 3-1 series score to secure their spot in the League Championship Series (LCS) Summer season.
Thanks to a new rule instituted this season, the top team in the Challenger Series receives an automatic berth in the LCS, this time at the expense of Team Coast, who placed last in the LCS with a dismal 1-17 record.
Enemy Esports failed to qualify for the LCS in the expansion tournament in November, where they lost to Team Fusion and Yoon “MakNooN” Ha-woon’s two games on Poppy. The only holdovers from that roster, however, are the bottom lane of Brian “otter” Baniqued and Adam “Bodydrop” Krauthaker. It’s been a long road to the LCS for Otter, who at the start of 2013 tried out for Cloud9 before the team decided to go with Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi. That gave him a taste of what might-have-been, and now he’s realized his dream two years later.
Last year Innox manned the top lane for Evil Geniuses but came under criticism for his focus on playing carry-oriented champions at the expense of his play on tanks. In the mid lane he’s seemingly found his calling as one of the standouts in the Challenger scene, dominating Team Dragon Knight in multiple games today with Kassadin.
Trashy follows in the footsteps of Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen, another Danish jungler who left Europe to play on a Challenger team in America and reached the LCS.
While Enemy Esports certainly earned their spot in the LCS, it’s too early to count out Team Dragon Knight.
The Knights will play in the Promotion Tournament at the conclusion of the LCS playoffs where they will face one of Winterfox or Dignitas in a final chance at reaching the Summer Split of the LCS. If they play like they did last night against Enemy, they certainly have a shot.
Top laner Shin “Seraph” Woo-yeong looked much more comfortable playing a more aggressive carry style than he did last year during his stint with Counter Logic Gaming. His abuse of the increasingly popular Cinderhulk and Skirmisher’s Sabre build on Shyvana nearly pulled the series even in game four.
Also performing well was Kevin “Kez” Jeon, jungler and shot caller for Complexity during their ill-fated run in the Summer split. If Dragon Knights fails to make the LCS, Kez could be a prime acquisition target for a team like Dignitas, who’d benefit from his shot-calling experience and ability to speak Korean. That is, if Dignitas survives relegations; they may face Dragon Knights for a shot at the LCS.
Also competing in the promotion tournament is Team Fusion, who managed to beat Final Five in the third-place match of the challenger series. LCS organization Team Coast bought Final Five and stacked the roster with their LCS talents Matt “Impaler” Taylor and Jamie “Sheep” Gallagher in a bid to keep a team in the LCS, but Team Fusion shut the door. Zach “Nientonsoh” Malhas continued to impress with his move back to his traditional AD carry role after his time in the top lane with Counter Logic Gaming ended in heartbreak at the end of the Spring Split last year.
The promotion and relegation matches are scheduled for April 24 and 25. As the eighth ranked team in the LCS, Winterfox will get to choose whether they want to face Team Fusion or Team Dragon Knights in their bid to retain their LCS position. It’ll be a tough choice considering both squads have the potential to upset Winterfox, but there’s some silver lining. At least they don’t have to face Enemy Esports.