12 March 2015 - 22:32
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IEM Power Rankings and Matchup Analysis

IEM Power Rankings and Matchup Analysis In this article I examine the League of Legends teams competing atthe Intel Extreme Masters World Championship, tomorrow.
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IEM Power Rankings and Matchup Analysis

 

In this article I examine the League of Legends teams competing at the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship, tomorrow. I rank each team in terms of strength and examine their first match up of the tournament assigning a statistic that I believe reflects their chances to win. I also examine each team in broad strokes and describe the way in which I believe they should play to maximize a victory against their opponent. Given the nature of such an article, all the opinions shared are sourced or my own and are of course subjective by nature. However after reading the official LoL eSports Power Rankings I felt compelled to make my own, disagreeing with the order in which they placed the teams. So without further ado. 

 

#8 – Team WE

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“They started off the season and we saw Spirit on jungle Riven, they really attempted to hard carry from the jungle position and they had a lot of communication issues to begin with. It was just clear they hadn’t really worked out an identity. Spirit is definitely the best player objectively on the line-up.” – Chris ‘PapaSmithy’ Smith, Summoning Insight, episode 38.

 

It is important to emphasise that the roster that qualified for the IEM World Championship by winning IEM Shenzhen, is not the same team that played this season, going 0-11 in the Chinese LoL Pro League. Undoubtedly one of the worst Chinese team right now, it is unsurprising based on their record to find Team WE at the bottom of the IEM power rankings. It is hard to justify anything else based on such a poor performance.

However, I am still hesitant to damn the team completely. For one two last minute substitutions but substantial changes have been made to their roster, with the under-performing mid laner Ninja being replaced with xiye, a much more consistent player. Additionally AD Carry Styz is being replaced with former Jin Air Green Wings player, Mystic.

Mechanically this is not a team to be taken lightly, boasting an extremely strong jungler; Spirit has really stepped up in terms of carry potential since his time on Samsung Blue. Unfortunately due to either synergy problems or more likely communication issues, Team WE have largely failed to transfer individual leads the Spirit can garner into anything meaningful for the team. Adding a second Korean and a new player will do nothing in terms of fixing any communication issues, potentially exasperating them further. However, things clearly were not gelling as they were and so I think any change here is a welcome one.

How this team will play as a unit, is a complete unknown. However they do have two very strong mechanical ex-OGN pros. This team is a wildcard, it is quite possible that they will simply overpower teams with raw mechanics, or garner such an advantage in laning phase that they can snowball a win off of individual efforts. However, as far as being a team is concerned we must assume that they will be weak. They have had little time to practice as a unit and cannot even communicate fully. We should expect a weak team comprised of strong players.

 

VS Team Solo Mid

Spirit is undoubtedly a higher pressure jungler than Santorin. He will have an opportunity in the early game to cease an advantage for his team. Historically Dyrus has responded badly to being camped but has gotten much better at handling himself over time. Focusing such a solid player may cause him to tilt but it may equally be a waste of time, drawing pressure from Bjergsen. WildTurtle and Lustboy are not known for their powerful lane presence and so should probably not be the focus.

Instead keeping Bjergsen down is a great tactic versus Team Solo Mid and Team WE definitely have the ability to do so, if they come into this match with that being their mission. They should play strong laning champions and attempt to snowball themselves a lead, because I believe as a unit Team Soli mid will be able to make better decisions across the map and are fairly mechanically impressive themselves. They have proven particularly adept in team fighting and even if Team WE proves to be mechanically superior in some areas, the practice and synergy that TSM have managed to build so far should be able to overcome any such deficit.

A scrappy, high aggression game is Team WE’s best shot to get a win. If they can surprise TSM with Spirit’s early game and snowball an advantage then maybe just maybe, they will pull off a win. Team WE are definitely the true wildcards of the tournament.

Prediction: WE chance to win, 25%.

 

#7 – yoe Flash Wolves

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Sitting on top of Taiwan with a 16-1 record (their one loss being at the hands of the Taipei Assassins), the yoe Flash Wolves have displayed incredibly clean victories over their regional competition, never losing games that were meant to be won.” – Alex Manisier, ‘Power Ranking IEM Katowice 2015’ article.

Firstly I must add the disclaimer; I am fairly ignorant in terms of the Taiwanese League of Legends scene. From what I have seen, mechanically the Wolves look fairly strong and they are probably the best team in their region at the moment – with very strong competition in the Taipei Assassins. Maple the mid laner is regarded quite highly and looks to be a competent assassin player, with a fairly balanced champion pool to boot. Likewise the ADC NL is quite mechanically accomplished, favouring mobile carries but like a few of the other carry players in this tournament is prone to over aggressive play that may be punished by stronger teams.

The Flash Wolves strengths seem to be in their aggression, roaming a lot and winning fights versus their opponents. Whilst in a standard lane setup they look decent, their lane swaps have looked strange when compared to the other regions. Taking much more aggressive dives and also attempting to defend towers that should be abandoned. Proper jungle follow and early rotations seem non-existent in their region.

Given their style of play they are certainly capable of an upset if disrespected, however tactically I have seen nothing to believe that they are capable of competing with the other regions at this tournament. In my eyes they go into this tournament an underdog and will have low expectations on them from the other regions. Whether or not they can show up and prove that they are team not to be underestimated remains to be seen, but from all the information it’s not something that should be expected.

 

VS SK Gaming

SK Gaming are very one dimensional in their early play, they will pick lane bullies and they will push you in. They will accrue a lead through towers and early pressure from Svenskeren and if they get that lead, they will never look back. I believe it is paramount that the Wolves try and force standard lanes; they can do so by invading and getting the early vision. Ironically a tactic often used to avoid getting a standard lane with Forg1ven.

The Wolves should pick comfort picks that have the ability to fight early on and should resist the SK aggression with their own. Europe’s Fanatic have proved that strong aggression in the early and mid-game can push SK off their game and when they don’t get what they want early they don’t look nearly as strong. However avoiding lane swaps, assuming this is an aspect that the Wolves are inferior in still leaves the team some problems. Forg1ven is carrying a lot of hype with him and has a lot to prove on the big stage. His laning is reminiscent of China’s Uzi, forcing you to trade to get any creeps at all. Meanwhile Svenskeren is an effective jungler, capable of creating a lot of map pressure on his own and he actively enjoys invading the enemy.

If the Wolves can absorb the early game of SK and if they are mechanically competitive then their roam style may give them a shot against the top European team. SK are known for their poor warding and against a team that will relentlessly punish poor positioning with massive aggressive roams, it may just be that the Wolves style could catch SK off guard. However there are a lot of things that have to go right for the upset, and it would be just that, an upset.

Prediction: yoe Flash Wolves chance to win, 20%.

 

#6 – Cloud 9

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“Cloud 9 have been on an absolute tare recently, they are seven and one in their last 8 matches, they have been just crushing teams down the line, they have the fastest average game time overall.” – David ‘Phreak’ Turley, North American League Championship Series, Week 7, Day 1.

 

In many ways Cloud 9 are the best Western team at IEM and possibly in the world. They had a period of unrivalled dominance that spanned along time and they always seem to pull it together. Placing them in 6th place here at IEM then, may seem controversial.

Whilst strategically the team is extremely dynamic, able to adapt in game and close out leads with ruthless precision and make great decisions to extend the game when behind, the team has only ever performed decently on the international stage. Even at their best they have struggled against both Korean and European teams and as time goes on, Hai look shakier and shakier on an individual level. The worse Hai does in lane the worse his shot calling gets and from there the team’s greatest strength becomes its greatest weakness.

Whilst the team is able to react it seems in almost any situation in a way other teams just simply cannot, the champions the team have success on are actually fairly narrow. Hai defaults to Zed if it’s up and looks fairly mediocre on anything that isn’t a mobile, burst assassin. Balls’ dominance has tapered off, looking fairly solid but only truly impressive on his trademark Rumble. Whilst Sneaky may still be towards the top of his game, even the all-star jungler Meteos has looked less effective than he once did, always being regarded the team’s best player.

Whilst this criticism may be harsh as the team is on an upswing and it is true that Cloud 9 have looked very commanding in the recent weeks, even making a loss to Team Impulse look impressive. It is hard to see the team as back at it’s prime, which is what it needs if it hopes to compete with players much mechanically superior to those in their home region. In the end, the team lives and dies by Hai. It’s the rest of the team’s job to keep him relevant, but given Hai’s performance at international events historically, I think there’s a real chance that they won’t make it out of the punishing group that they have found themselves in.

 

VS GE Tigers

Someone had to draw the Tigers as their first opponents, unfortunately for them it was Cloud 9. Whilst in a best of one, Cloud 9 always has a shot it is hard to see what they can possibly do in this match up. They are across the board out manned, they are severely outclassed in terms of Champion pools and even strategically they may be at a deficit.

Cloud 9’s best shot is keeping Hai relevant. He is one of the greatest in game minds the game has ever seen, being that very rare one man shot caller. Having made it clear that he struggles with making the right moves when he’s behind, I believe Meteos should pick a high impact jungler and camp the top side of the map. Historically the team has done very well when Balls and Meteos can get a lead from the top lane. However, they have also historically not put much in terms of resource mid lane. In this game I feel that warding Hai’s lane and keeping Meteos close by are their best shots at getting him into the mid game in good condition.

If Meteos can carve out any kind of advantage in the early game, by showing the world class play that he can be capable of then maybe, just maybe, Cloud 9 can play the game out and snatch a victory. A lot has to go right against what is the best team in the world currently. It’s a tall order and even at their best I’d only give them one win in a best of five. So for their sake let’s hope that this best of one is that one in five game.

Prediction: Cloud 9’s chance to win, 20%.

 

#5 – Team Solo Mid

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“Even though TSM are trying slightly new tactics, different gank strategies – they are still incredibly competitive games and in all their losses they were very, very close to winning in some ways. Which makes you think, a little bit more time with these compositions could actually make them work and then they could gain the type of versatility and variety that they often lack on the international stage.”  – Joshua 'Jatt' Leesman, North American League Championship Series, Week 7, Day 1.

 

Given that they are number one in North America and have been consistently impressive, it may seem unfair that Team Solo Mid did not manage to place slightly higher. Whilst this may be an error, I feel like whilst an incredibly strong team, they do not necessarily hold the same advantages at IEM that they do at home. Namely, that Bjergsen is not necessarily going to be capable of garnering large advantages in the mid lane and transferring them into game wins. That said it is quite likely that Bjergsen is the best Western mid laner in this tournament and given TSM’s half of the bracket, if he goes off then the team could find themselves doing extremely well. If he can really show up at this tournament, it is possible for TSM to be the best performing Western team but against the Koreans one cannot see this style bearing fruit. With a player of equal skill to Bjergsen, the team will be neutralised quite easily

This raises the question, is anyone else capable of stepping up to carry? Lustboy is incredibly consistent and his crowd control has proved extremely clutch in saving his team in team fights, I expect he will bring the same level of control and poise to a game that he always does. His vision control is also very solid. However his lane partner WildTurtle has been at the receiving end of criticisms for a while now. He plays an extremely aggressive style and frequently makes risky moves, positioning himself extremely forward. Whilst he seems to look much better this season than the prior one, with his aggressive style once again bearing fruit, there are still many examples of the TSM carry flashing forward for kills only to then himself die. If Turtle can step up in a big way and become the level of carry that he was back in Season 3 then the team’s chances increase dramatically. However, there is a reason even amongst the TSM staff that Bjergsen is considered central to the team’s performance.

With Santorin being a fairly solid, but unremarkable supportive style jungle – the kind who should bring decent support to team fights and his laners, we will be very unlikely to see him taking on any responsibilities in terms of raw carry potential. That leaves us with Dyrus the top laner. Dyrus is an incredibly consistent player, over the course of his career he has always been amongst the top, top laners of the region. Regardless of Meta or his teammates he has been a rock. Yet Dyrus has truly thrived as a tank or supportive style player and whilst his Lissandra had some success earlier this season, his Rumble looked quite shaky. With discussion in house about Dyrus becoming a second carry for the team it seems unlikely to me that the team would be able to adapt to this kind of style, even if Dyrus himself is capable of doing this. Whilst this may be a good thing to practice for the future success of the team, for their greatest chances of doing well at this IEM, I think Dyrus should be playing tanks or Lulu.

The team has been fortunate in its half of the bracket and assuming things go as expected, they have a fairly strong chance of getting out of the groups. The success of the team falls down to two questions in my mind. Can Bjergsen carry internationally? Or can WildTurtle step up as a legitimate second threat?

 

VS Team WE

Given that this Team WE roster has yet to even play together, it’s impossible to specify what areas of play Team Solo Mid should focus on to maximise their chances of victory. Perhaps Locodoco and the coaching staff will be able to uncover more information about the individuals and from scrims to make a specific counter strategy; I would say it is safer for TSM to just play their game here.

Although xiye is well regarded in China and considered consistent, I still believe the best bet is to get Bjergsen a favourable mid match up and to play the style that they know how to execute the best. Being comfortable should be enough to exploit the play of their opposition. First off, WE have had very little time to synergise as a unit but to exasperate the issue further; they are now comprised of three Chinese members and two Koreans. The communication on this team should be fairly poor. Playing decisively and playing the map well should be enough to secure the victory for TSM. However, they should be wary of the individual mechanical strength of their opponents. Particularly Spirit who is quite capable of going off and potentially snowballing into a very dangerous player.

On an individual basis, the advantage of Team Solo mid may not be that great, but it is hard to tell. However as a team they should be miles ahead of their opposition. If they play it smart and safe, I feel the poorly performing Chinese squad will crumble.

Prediction: Team Solo Mid’s chance to win, 75%.

 

#4 – Gambit Gaming

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“Individual performance on Gambit at the moment is fantastic to watch. Every single player is a carry.” – Martin 'Deficio' Lynge, European League Championship Series, Week 6 Day 1.

 

Gambit Gaming are my dark horse. Unlike the other Western teams here, they are not Korea-lite. Something of the classic Moscow 5 style has seeped into the new iteration of the squad and whilst they are not by any means what they once were, they do have a very strong roster in regards to individual talent.

Whilst them edging out TSM may have been controversial, based on their respective region positions, but as I mentioned, I don’t think the Bjergsen carry style will be as effective outside of the context of North America. Perhaps I’m wrong and he’ll wreck Betsy if the teams meet, proceeding to carry the game. However I think there’s an equal, if not greater chance that Diamond’s pressure plus the strength of the other lanes give the advantage to Gambit when comparing the two teams.

P1noy surprised everyone at IEM Cologne when Gambit beat CLG to qualify, his Graves making Doublelift look uncharacteristically helpless. Since then his champion pool has diversified, and whilst his hyper-aggressive style comes at a large risk he has proved himself a valuable asset to the team. A new player forged from the spirit of Darien, the anti-Genja.

Likewise amongst the new players, Cabochard is perhaps the most impressive. Initially going a little under the radar, people soon recognised Cabochard for his strong laning and impressive team fighting, particularly his use of big ultimates. He alongside the phenomenal Diamondprox has helped to reshape the team, giving them a very area of effect, team fight heavy style. Gambit’s success comes from forcing their opponent to play their game, refusing to bend to play the controlled objective game, Gambit will let dragon’s go until they feel they have what they need to team fight. Once that happens they will try their damnedest to drag their opponent into the dirt and beat them there.

There is no doubt Gambit is not a particularly diverse team strategically. If they fall behind, or their opponent is able to avoid fighting them unnecessarily, their chances at winning fall drastically. Moreover their new mid-laner Betsy is an unknown quantity, who is largely untested against strong laners. However his team fighting has looked very good in the small sample of games we have so far. How he handles the pressure of a big tournament is a complete unknown however and may be a point of weakness that other teams can aim to exploit.

With veteran status from support and jungle, Edward and Diamond bring a lot of experience in high pressure situations. Both players are able to make big plays for the team, Edward clutch engages and catches on CC champions such as Annie or Thresh. Or Diamond still innovating new picks or making Nidalee look like it’s Evelynn with his immaculate flank positioning. Anyone on this team can make a big play at any time and that’s what makes them scary. Can the new Gambit continue the great IEM tradition?

 

VS CJ Entus

A lot of weight falls on Diamond’s shoulders in this match up. If he’s on form, he may well be the best jungler of the tournament. However he had quite a long slump and has only looked very effective on a select number of champions recently. If he gets his hands on Nidalee or Sejuani then Gambit’s chances of a victory are at their greatest. Likewise if he can pull out something new like he did at the last IEM perhaps that would be enough to push CJ Entus off kilter in a best of one.

Nonetheless, despite Cabochard’s impressive performances so far, he has never faced a truly world class opponent like Shy. It will be a great measure of where he truly stands as a top laner, but it would be unreasonable to expect him to come out of lane more than even.

If CJ opts to play a poke style game, they are extremely good at kiting. Gambit will need long range CC, or incredible vision control for flanking (something Diamond has historically been very good at) if they are to overcome such a style. This would be something the team has not had to deal with in Europe. They should definitely pick strong team fighters and possibly pick away Viktor or ban it, then do the same to Leblanc. They could even opt to take a page out of the GE Tiger’s playbook and try to ban out CoCo. It would certainly help to alleviate some pressure from Betsy. That said, in Korea, Shy’s ungodly Mundo often draws bans, which may limit Gambit in picks and bans.

All in all, I see this being a potentially entertaining series but one that could fall away from Gambit very quickly. They have the tools to pull off the upset, but it won’t be easy.

Prediction: Gambit’s chance to win, 35%

 

#3  – SK Gaming

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“SK Gaming, the undisputed Kings of Europe!” – Trevor 'Quickshot' Henry, European League Championship, Week 7 Day 1.

Whilst SK gaming has been a strong European team for a while now, the team had always been lacking in one core area, hitting power. Whilst regarded by many as the smartest team, often able to garner advantages against rosters that on paper were stronger, by their superior map play – SK managed to get to Season 4 worlds. However it was not until Season 5 that the team really started to look strong.

The addition of Fox in the mid lane was undoubtedly an upgrade to Jesiz and the new player has proven that he can make the plays and carry from time to time. However his acquisition was largely shadowed by the return of controversial ADC Forg1ven. Having lacked for talent on his old team the Copenhagen Wolves, the fans were shown exactly what Forg1ven looked like in a strong roster. With almost immaculate positioning and ridiculously strong decision making, for the first few weeks the new team carry remained un-killed. Garnering hype quickly it wasn’t long before the aggressive marksman was labelled the best ADC in Europe, by far.

Ever since SK has remained dominant, winning eight consecutive games before falling into a ‘mini slump’ which they quick righted and went onto defeat their closest rivals Fanatic in a dominating fashion. The team is strong across the board, Freddy has looked solid all split but given what happened last time he was on an international stage, may even have more to show. Svenskeren’s aggressive jungle style secures the team a lot of pressure early which combined with their strong laning usually leads to them getting ahead extremely quickly and never looking back. The bot lane has the mechanical strength of Forg1ven who is looking to prove himself a global talent and the measured strategically mind of NRated. For me they are the most rounded western team, especially considering current form.

That said there are obvious weaknesses that the roster is yet to overcome. The largest criticism levelled at the team frequently is its poor vision control. The team relies on getting ahead from their laning and then intelligently pushing lanes until they’ve snowballed an insurmountable lead. This makes them susceptible to being picked off and heavily punished if they aren’t able to secure a lead in the early game. Against an equally strong roster it will prove difficult for the team to cleanly win the game and they are predictable insofar as they will pick bully lanes to fit their very singular style. As such whilst I believe them to be the strongest non-Korean team, I think stylistically they will struggle against either of the Korean teams and hence I have placed SK Gaming third.

 

VS yoe Flash Wolves

The Flash Wolves have proved fairly difficult to research and even harder to place into an international context. There is no doubt they are strong within the Taiwan League Masters Series; however what that translates to against a European team is very hard to tell. Mechanically they look fairly impressive, particularly the assassin playing mid laner Maple. Coupled with the Karsa’s more carry style jungle, favouring high damage junglers such as Kha’zix, Nidalee and Rek’sai the team is extremely aggressive and roams a lot.

As such if SK Gaming find themselves in a situation where they do not gain a substantial early lead, they may be punished if they have not managed to fix the holes in their vision control. In a best of one playing against such a volatile style can be incredibly risky. The yoe Flash Wolves seem to have an even more aggressive, fight-picking style than Gambit Gaming and are probably closest to them stylistically from what I can tell. Nonetheless given that they take their opponent seriously and play the map decently, I see SK taking this game fairly easily – especially looking at Taiwanese region’s map play on the whole. Whilst their warding actually looks fairly decent, the lane swaps and creep management looks improvised at best. With risk of looking overly dismissive of the combined regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao, I think SK should win this game fairly easily.

Prediction: SK Gaming’s chance to win, 80%

 

#2 – CJ Entus

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“They are still a top team here in Korea. Things are looking pretty good for CJ, looking up, and it really makes you wonder what they are going to be able to do in Poland next week.” – Eriq 'DoA' Lonnquist, League Championship Korea, Week 8 Day 2.

 

Having slipped from the second place spot that secured their position at IEM, CJ Entus are now a close forth. Unlike the GE Tigers, CJ are not dominating the competition and have close rivals in both SKT1 and the Jin Air Green Wings whom they now tail. Nonetheless they are highly competitive in the highest echelons of the undisputed best region in the world. We have so many examples of Korean’s dominating at international events such as this, that to bet against them is, putting it nicely, optimistic.

After the pre-season there was little expectation on the CJ squad who was not touted to do as well as they have. Having achieved much success primarily on a double AD poke composition, running Jayce or Ezreal mid, and the team has proved highly adept at said strategy. 

However, they have had criticisms levelled at different aspects of their play. An example and frequent target of such criticism is the mid laner CoCo, specifically his champion pool. Until this most recent week, CoCo has only proven effective on four champions, namely; Ezreal, Jayce, Kassadin and LeBlanc. With LeBlanc being highly contested and Kassadin falling away from popularity, the two remaining AD poke champions have a very polarising effect on the team. Eventually the other teams learned to combat this poke style and as such CoCo had to pull out something new. Pulling out Viktor against Najin e-Fire the team looked highly effectual against their up and coming opponents, taking two convincing wins and showing that their team fighting is not to be sniffed at. Given their terrible showing against SKT1 the prior week (whilst unable to practice effectively that week, due to moving gaming house) – the team had many questions to answer this week. Showing some diversity and strong play this week they will enter IEM with their confidence back up.

They are far from unbeatable, but given a strong showing from former mid-laner Ambition in the jungle, and a somewhat resurging Madlife and Shy; this team has some true legends of the game andthe non-Koreans will not be able to beat them easily.

 

VS Gambit

Whilst I believe CJ have the advantage over their once rivals Gambit Gaming, this is not a match that they should take too lightly. One would be remiss when mentioning the resurgence of legendary players not to mention the revival of Diamondprox’s play. With a stronger team around him the slumping, ex-King of the jungle has stepped up in a big way, taking much of the credit for Gambit’s recent winning streak. Target banning his Sejuani is probably wise, as the only player in the world to make that champion look like a Meta pick, CJ may find themselves caught off guard if they don’t do their research.

With proper respect given to Diamondprox, the team should be fairly well equipped to handle the rest of what Gambit has to offer. Flame as a world class top laner should be able to deal with the new talent Cabochard and Madlife should match up decently against similarly aggressive support Edward. In spite of Champion pool criticisms, CoCo is a strong player and should be able to put a lot of pressure on Gambit’s brand new, untested acquisition, Betsy. The mid lane may prove to be the largest disparity.

However Gambit are known to play a very team fight, skirmish based style and love to pick champions with big AoE ultimates. Taking Kennen away could be wise, or reverting to their poke composition routes and kiting Gambit around the map. Their European opposition is not known for its strong map play. However if they fall into the trap of fighting Gambit head to head, they may find themselves surprised. Given they play their own game and keep their heads; CJ should be able to achieve a relatively clean win.

Prediction: CJ Entus’s chance to win, 65%

 

#1 – GE Tigers

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“I honestly don’t even really know what their weaknesses are right now because they’ve run so many different kinds of compositions and their draft has been so good. They’ve run so many bait and switch flex picks in their drafts, when they played against CJ they took away all of Coco’s champions and played those too. I don’t know where you go with GE.” – Christopher 'Montecristo' Mykles, Summoning Insight, episode 37.

 

The GE Tigers are currently the best team in Korea and probably the best team in the world. Needless to say they have to top any serious IEM World Championship power rankings. They are undefeated in the LCK, having lost no best of three series and dropping only two individual games over the entirety of the season so far.

The team was formulated after the reformation of the OGN format, now known as the LCK. When the roster was announced it was impossible to imagine that a team comprised of these players; who were not heralded as amongst the elite in any of their positions, with the exception of the support Gorilla, would be so dominant in the Korean scene. It seems to be that magic formula, reminiscent of the kind of dominance SKT T1 K achieved when it exploded onto the scene in Season 3. Though whether or not they can maintain said dominance to truly make that comparison an apt one is yet to be seen.

Regardless, right now this squad is highly diverse. Each member has a deep champion pool and can perform well individually on a variety of champions. More impressive however is the team’s ability to pull off so many different strategies and execute them at the highest level. They are capable of playing the heavy Meta champions and winning through team fights with champions like Jarvan and Rumble, Lissandra or earlier into the season Gnar.

PraY the has looked highly effectual on a range of carries, from Corki, Lucian and Kalista, to perhaps most notably Kog’maw. Utilising a protect the carry style composition dubbed the Jugger’Maw, the GE Tiget’s pioneered a tactic in which the other players focus on strengthening their artillery gun ADC with shields and protecting him with Lulu ultimate, allowing them to siege and poke with a devastating front line carry. They have helped shaped the Meta domestically as other teams attempt to copy the Kog’maw pick but with much more limited success. Their mid laner kurO may have also helped popularise Viktor, a pick that seems to have gained momentum both regionally and internationally. All in all the other teams will struggle to find an exploit to garner any kind of advantage in picks and bans. Things are likely to go from bad to worse once they enter the game.

 

VS Cloud 9

An on form Cloud 9 is a powerful thing. For a western team their team play is historically unparalleled and on a strategic level they are the closest thing to a Korean level team to ever emerge. Hai has proven himself time and time again to be a world class shot-caller though his individual skill has often come up short internationally. That said as long as the Tigers do their proper research and respect Cloud 9’s potential strength they should easily come out ahead in this matchup.

Hai has a relatively shallow champion pool and has looked only truly effective on Zed. Favouring mobile, burst assassins it may also be worth thinking about picking Le Blanc away and banning his Zed. Putting Hai behind has proven to damage the team’s effectiveness as a whole. On an individual level kurO should have no problem beating his mid lane counterpart.

The same is true for each other match up across the board, not even Cloud 9’s all-star jungler Meteos looks to be at any particular advantage against his counterpart Lee, who looks very much in form. Smeb has been on fire the entire season, looking extremely effective on a large range of top lane champions. Whilst Ball’s has rekindled some of his former team fighting prowess, this too should be a fairly one side match up. Just remember that Ball’s Rumble is very strong and it’s a contested pick for both teams, something the Tiger’s should definitely take away if they can’t secure it for themselves.

Short of denying Cloud 9 comfort picks, respecting Cloud 9’s strategic play even when behind and playing the game out very seriously, there really should be no problem’s for the Tigers in just flat over powering the American powerhouse and beating them down in team fights.

Prediction: GE Tigers chance to win 80%

 

Conclusion

I stand by my predictions but am far from certain on the outcomes. I believe GE Tigers and SK Gaming will emerge from Group A and CJ Entus and Gambit Gaming will be the victors in Group B.

There are a number of games I wish to see, Gambit versus Team Solo mid has the potential to be the closest game, I believe, of the tournament. SK Gaming versus Cloud 9 could also be good. It is unlikely that any team will beat out the Koreans, particularly the GE Tigers but the part of my driven not by logic but emotion wants the new Gambit to continue their strong IEM tradition and pull an upset win. 

Regardless of outcomes I am eager to finally see some high level international play. It will answer a lot of questions about how the regions stack up against one another and promises to be exciting. Hopefully it sates appetites until the mid season invitational arrives.

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Photo Credits: Team WE Photo taken from score eSports article, written by Kelsey Moser. Western team photos taken from LoL eSports flickr account all other team photos taken from eSportspedia. IEM picture taken from Team Liquid Website.

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