The group stages at the League of Legends world championships featured big upsets, proof that Korean teams can be beaten, and a Nexus just a single attack away from destruction. Now only eight teams remain.
Will the strength of the three Korean teams get amplified in front of a home crowd in Busan, South Korea? Which of the two devastating Chinese bottom lanes will come out on top in the matchup between Star Horn Royal Club and Edward Gaming that both teams have called the “Civil War”? With two teams in the bracket stage, can North America strike a blow against either of the powerful Samsung Galaxy teams? All of these questions underpin the lane matchups to keep an eye on.
UZI/Zero vs NaMei/FZZF: Duel for Chinese Supremacy
The artillery line for both teams will be under the microscope in this matchup. The Edward Gaming duo, AD Carry Zhu “NaMei” Jia-Wen and support Feng “FZZF” Zhuo-Jun, took a lot of flak from fans for a disappointing performance in the group stage, particularly during Edward Gaming’s upset loss to AHQ e-Sports Club. Zhu is still one of the most cerebral AD Carries in the tournament, though, and has a penchant for impeccable positioning during battles once Edward Gaming powers up into the middle and late game.
Unfortunately for the Edward Gaming duo, their Star Horn Royal Club counterparts went on a tear through the group stage, and come into the series with a ton of momentum. AD Carry Jian “UZI” Zi-Hao and support Yoon “Zero” Kyung-sup put up garish numbers in the group stage including Jian’s 10.25 KDA. In fact, all of Jian’s numbers eclipse Zhu’s by a large amount. It’s unequivocal that Jian was a bigger force than Zhu throughout the group stage.
Even so, this is an interesting stylistic matchup. Jian’s statistical dominance is built off of aggression, and forcing his opposition into a disadvantageous situations throughout the game. Yoon is able to temper Jian, or get him out of a sticky situation in many cases, but that aggression can also be Jian’s undoing. Similar to Samsung White’s AD Carry Gu “imp” Seung-bin, Jian can get stuck in an awful situation if his aggression takes him too far into a fight, and those mistakes only get magnified against a precise AD Carry as Zhu.
Looper vs Dyrus: Understated, but important
The matchup between Team SoloMid’s Marcus “Dyrus” Hill and Samsung White’s Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok will pit two of the most understated players left in the 2014 World Championship against one another. Jang is subordinated by the brashness of several teammates, and Marcus’s quiet nature, established from years of almost complete silence while streaming, is well-known.
While their individual trends keep them out of the limelight, their contribution to their team’s success is prodigious. TSM’s strength relies heavily on strong laning to set them up for neutral objectives, as well as five-vs-five fighting. Marcus is a major part of that formula, and his picks reflect that.
He prefers lane bullies, such as Rumble or Lulu, to win early. Conversely, Jang plays a slightly longer game. While Samsung White is known for their early aggression, and quickly snowballing out of control, Jang focuses on champions that gain strength as the game goes on, such as Ryze or Maokai. What makes Jang’s picks work is his Teleport usage. He is considered one of the best in Korea at using the ability, and it will fall onto Marcus’s shoulders to be in position to block any Teleport advantage that Jang tries to create.
PawN vs Bjergsen: Here comes the Danish Dynamo
Team SoloMid’s Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg entered the 2014 World Championships with as much pressure on him as any player in the tournament. Following his standout performance in the North American Regional Qualifier, fans placed tremendous expectations on the young man from Denmark. To Bjerg’s credit, he responded with an elite performance throughout the group stage.
The most eye-opening part from the group stage centers on the fact that Bjerg played six different champions in six games, and it wasn’t all assassins, or all mages, it was both. That sort of flexibility will come in handy during the quarterfinals against Samsung White’s Heo “PawN” Won-seok.
Heo hasn’t displayed Bjerg’s versatility. He predominantly played assassins during the group stage, including Katarina twice. The only time he ventured away from assassins was against Edward Gaming, and he posted a forgettable 2/4/10 KDA on Zilean in that game. While assassins are valid options on patch 4.14, how well Bjerg played Orianna (3/0/11 against the Taipei Assassins), one of the nastiest middle lane matchups for a melee assassin, will give White pause as the two teams head into their series.
Save vs GoGoing: Kings of the top lane collide
Coming into the tournament, OMG’s Gao “Gogoing” Di-Ping was considered the best top lane player in China, and his play only reinforced that notion. Allowing him to play Ryze (5/0/15 against Fnatic) is a death sentence, but he can also flex out to other champions such as Maokai if Ryze is taken away.
He uses those champions to try to dominate the lane and, once he has broken his opponent, power up OMG’s other lanes through TP usage. Thanks to his preference for champions that have an engage tool, those Teleports, or invades into the enemy jungle, pay dividends for Gao and his teammates.
Opposing him is NaJin White Shield’s Baek “Save” Young-Jin, widely considered the best top laner in Korea. Baek has the tools for any job that White Shield needs to get done. He has an excellent understanding of the map pressure game and has singlehandedly brought his team back through destroying objectives while the opposing team is busy elsewhere.
Should he gain a lane advantage, he will transform into a rough analog of Gao and roam. The bedrock of the map pressure game is understanding where to inflict the most damage on an enemy, whether it be with a venture deep into enemy territory, or a flank attack. Baek has a preternatural ability to show up at the perfect time to lock up a team fight for his team.
One of the things that makes Baek unique, though, is his champion pool. As a former middle lane player, he can play Zed and Kassadin, two picks generally reserved for the middle lane, in the top lane. He has already played Kassadin in the top lane once and recorded an 8/2/9 KDA against Cloud9.
Deft/Heat vs Sneaky/LemonNation: North America’s hope
Samsung Blue’s AD Cary Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu and support Lee “Heart” Gwan-hyung had one of the most outstanding performances of any duo in the group stage, and they had to overcome the adversity of an upset loss to Fnatic to do it. Kim posted a garish 44.9 percent damage share throughout Samsung Blue’s six games, while Lee had a 77.59 percent kill participation, among the highest in the group stage.
What makes these two great is their presence later in games, but they can be had early in the lane, and that is where Cloud9’s AD Carry Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi and support Daerek “LemonNation” Hart must strike. Zachary picked either Lucian or Corki, two AD carries that love to mix it up early, in five of Cloud9’s seven games so he certainly has the champion pool to challenge Kim early.
There is a problem with Hart and it centers on his picks. He ran Janna four times in seven games, and Lee ran it twice in six. That sets up for a contested pick between the two teams. How Cloud9 works around that fact will be key. Hart does have Morgana has a backup plan, even though Morgana has fallen out of favor due to the rise of Nami and ubiquitous presence of Thresh.