LCS Playoff Quarterfinals Preview
The last playoffs for the EU and NA LCS are coming up and there is a lot on the line. Although most teams have locked themselves into at least regional finals, there is still a lot on the line and 4 teams will get knocked out of playoffs after this weekend. This article will explore the matchups, what to expect and what to watch.
EU Saturday: H2k Gaming vs Giants Gaming
H2k's test for playoffs
Head to head: 2-0 in favor of H2k
The EU LCS Playoffs start with a rather uninteresting series, and although the outcome is very likely to be in H2k's favor, the series is important for both teams, as a test series for H2k and series to learn and recognize flaws for Giants. Giants have locked themselves in for the regional finals regardless of results, while H2k are the favourites to qualify for worlds based on circuit points. But H2k had a rough ride during the second half of the regular season, dropping games to lower level teams like Copenhagen Wolves and SK Gaming. The series against Giants will likely not challenge them, but gives an indication of their chances of success against Origen in the semifinal. If H2k struggles here and drops a game, that would be a bad sign for Pr0lly's team. On the other side, Giants will use this series as a learning moment and to get experience in LCS level best of 5 series. All their BO5 series have been against challenger teams, and H2k will likely expose their problems going into the regional finals, where they might face less powerful teams like Roccat. They are not favoured to win the gauntlet, but getting a BO5 win against a LCS team will put a crown on their summer season, after having a pretty poor spring season where they were just a tiebreaker game away from autorelegation.
H2k's problems in their slump were mostly caused by individual mistakes: getting caught out, or simply misplaying. They never had a real answer for when these mistakes caused a decent gold deficit, preventing them from towers in the midgame, the way they usually seized the gold lead. Although even in their losses it was clear that their macro play was good, their individual play was lacking. Giants had good early games but against top teams never managed to kill the nexus. Lack of clear lategame shotcalling and understanding on how to close cost them games.
The outcome of the series will likely be a repeat of the quarterfinals H2k played in spring against Copenhagen Wolves, a 3-0. But don't rule out Giants immediately. They have shown that they can hurt top teams in singe games, such as in week 6, where they came very close to beating Fnatic. However, they also lacked the finishing touch in their games, so they need to show improvement. But Giants might do it, and the score might very well be 3-1.
Lane to watch: Odoamne vs. Werlyb (Toplane) Odoamne established himself as a powerful laner during spring but had some hiccups during H2k's slump in summer. On the other hand, Werlyb in spring only performed really well on Jax, but expanded his champion pool in summer and looks to be a strong laner. Look for interesting duels in this lane.
NA Saturday: Team Impulse vs Dignitas
Impulse's necessary hurdle and Dignitas' final stand
Head to head: 1-1 tie
The first Quarterfinal in the NA LCS Playoffs feel similar to the first matchup in EU, with Team Impulse being the overwhelming favourite. However, this matchup has more direct implications for regional finals. If Team Impulse wins as expected, Team Dignitas is out of the running for a spot for worlds. Not that they were a favourite in the first place, but Team Dignitas' season is over if they lose. So if they want to go to worlds, it is a must-win match. On the other hand, Impulse also don't want to lose. If Dignitas can pull the upset, they have to pray for TSM on sunday to win. If Gravity wins, then Impulse don't qualify for the gauntlet, and thus cannot go to Paris. However, it does seem very unlikely for Dignitas to win. After second place in week 4, they lacked wins against top teams, dropping to Impulse, TSM, Liquid and CLG. The only top team they beat after week 4 is Gravity, who were on their own slump. The regular season of Team Impulse seems to be the reverse. They were around 6th place in the first half, until they wend on a 8-game rampage in the second half of the split, only losing to Liquid in the last week.
Dignitas seemed to be capable on individual level, but their macro play has been lacking. This was most exposed when they played TSM in week 3. They won the game based of teamfighting, but they always had minion waves pushing against them, resulting into TSM almost winning based of objective play. Impulse on the other hand seems to have very little trouble adjusting to Gate in the middle lane, after XiaoWeiXiao went back to China. With some extra practice together, Impulse look very strong coming into this match. Extra sad for Dignitas is that their strongest player, Gamsu, has to face former world champion Impact, who is contender for the strongest toplaner in the league. Gamsu's impact in games might by harshly diminished.
Lane to watch: Impact vs. Gamsu (Toplane) Gamsu took over multiple games for Team Dignitas on his AD Jarvan, and looks to be the strongest player on Team Dignitas. He faces the former world champion Impact, who has great synergy with jungler Rush, and on his own almost managed to create a comeback against Liquid in the last game of the split. Expect fireworks from two carry toplaners.
EU Sunday: Team ROCCAT vs. Unicorns of Love
Battle of midlane
Head to head: 1-1 tie
Unicorns of Love had a regular season that you can compare to spring. 9-9 final record, moments of brilliance, and moments of stupidness. They beat Origen once, but lost twice to SK. Even with Kikis departing the team, it is telling that the Unicorns will likely stay the same. Inconsistency is first thing that comes up when you talk about Unicorns. In spring they made it to the final, but you can't really tell what is going to happen this time. On the other hand ROCCAT had a more consistent season. Most of their weeks were 1-1's and they only lost twice to the same team: Fnatic and Elements, while they beat Origen twice. But for ROCCAT, that is very good, given they didn't make it to playoffs in spring. Key members of the team, especially nukeduck have stepped up to what we expected them to be like in spring.
ROCCAT didn't only improve on an individual basis, their team play and rotations were pretty good in their wins. They have shown most success on skirmish compositions. Unicorns of Love on the other hand seems to be dealing with the same problem, their inconsistency, and most of their success can be related to individual play, rather than outstanding team play.
The match is rather difficult to predict, as Unicorns can be everything from utterly terrible to an amazing team. From a statistical standpoint ROCCAT seems to have the overhand in this matchup. Better warding and objective control can help them restrain the wild unicorns. And UOL have barely 2 weeks to practice with their new jungler H0r0 However, UOL has two things running for them: the increased focus on toplane. Steve is the weakest link on ROCCAT and could be abused by UOL. And their favourite style, a chaotic pick-oriented game caused the most trouble for ROCCAT. Roccat only won 1 game out of the 5 times they faced a pick composition.
Lane to watch: PowerofEvil vs. nukeduck (midlane) Both of these players are the primary carry for their team and play very similar. Look for crazy plays and picks from these players, who in the wins of their respective teams always were a major part.
NA Sunday: Gravity vs. Team Solomid
Battle of the fallen
Head to head: 1-1 tie
In week 6, Gravity and Team Solomid were tied for first place. At the time, a TSM vs Gravity final wouldn't look unlikely. However, both teams went in a slump and now they face each other in the quarterfinals of the playoffs. Both Gravity and TSM saw their chances at a bye disappear at the second day of week 9, when both team lost to a team low in the standings, C9 for TSM and TDK for Gravity. This match is important for TSM, because if they win, they go to worlds in every situation possible except if they finish 4th and Liquid second. Gravity is locked in the regional finals if Impulse wins their match on saturday, otherwise they have to win to have a shot at going to worlds. TSM's problems have been reactionary play and more importantly, passive play. Santorin is often criticized for not ganking at all. Gravity's problems seem to be their one-dimensional playstyle and poor rotational play. And although Gravity is good at teamfighting, even that is flawed: They rely heavily on Altec to deal damage.
If TSM want to challange Gravity on teamfighting, then there need to be a major upgrade on Dyrus' teleport usage. Analyst and caster Christopher "Montecristo" Mykkles complained multiple times on 'Summoning Insight' about teleport usage against Gravity. But unfortunately that is one of Dyrus' weaknesses as a player, so there needs a big improvement there. Lusboy's lack of synergy with the team on engages doesn't help this either. As shown in the game against Cloud 9 in week 9, Lustboy and TSM are not always on the same page.
Meanwhile Gravity need to fix their own problems as well. TSM can catch two birds with one stone by laneswapping: evade their weak laning skills in the side lane and hit Gravity, who had poor laneswapping throughout the whole split, unless they step up their laneswap game in playoffs. The damage dealing topic remains a problematic one for Gravity, because if Altec is shut down during the teamfights, Gravity find themselves having no damage at all. Keane, who is the famous anti-carry that causes other midlaners to do substantially less damage, needs to start doing damage as well as Gravity might not make it on Altec alone, especially if TSM succeeds getting good with using teleport to engage on the backline.
And there remains the Bjergsen factor. Bjergsen is one of the only players in the NA LCS that is capable of carrying his full team on his back. Now of course, he faces the anti-carry Keane, but Bjergsen showed in his past that he can destroy teams singlehandily. Now the poke meta doesn't favor him, but even on more passive champions like Kog'maw and Ezreal Bjergsen has the power to hard carry the game.
Lane to watch: Keane vs. Bjergsen (midlane) The anti-carry versus the biggest carry mid in the league. That in itself is enough to make you focus on the midlane. Expect weird picks from Keane to shut Bjergsen down, while the best Dane playing League will try everything he can to carry TSM to victory.
Image credit to Lolesports