Snap Judgements: Week 1
- They were by far the best looking team in North America this week and it may be a while before another team has improved enough to challenge them. By the time that happens, they might have already locked up a playoff bye. Or, they could go 0-2 next week against what is undoubtedly a stronger slate as teams gain more practice on 6.1. That’s the beauty of a new season.
- There are no weak links in this roster. Wildturtle, the biggest question mark heading into the split, appears to have recaptured his team fight prowess by tempering his heedless aggression. The other potential weak link, Pobelter, played exceptionally well in his control mage wheelhouse.
- Of course, a lot of this has to be attributed to the near instant synergy between all five players on the team. Some, including Dyrus himself, accurately predicted that this roster of players complimented each other tremendously. Huni is the playmaker, and Reignover is there to get him going. This draws a lot of attention away from Wildturtle in game, mitigating any issues he might have in lane (it must be said that he’s looked fine there so far). Adrian is the enabler, his vision control makes it possible for Huni and Reignover to be aggressive, and his peeling keeps Pobelter and WT safe in team fights (we all saw the tornado on Sneaky to cancel that ultimate). Pobelter can hold his own in the mid lane while farming up, and then use his preferred control mages to lock down the center of the team while occasionally serving a secondary engage role depending on champion pick. So far, it’s worked tremendously. The question is, with all this instant success can they grow even further from here?
- This time next week, all this praise could be rendered moot as Immortals faces two teams in NRG and TSM that many predicted would contend for the Spring Championship. Beating a Hai-less C9 and TiP is one thing, go 2-0 next week and they’ll have my rapt attention.
- If you want a single takeaway from TSM’s games this weekend, it’s that they’re exceptionally tenacious. There’s no quit in this team. In both games, they were down 4-5k gold and they didn’t allow themselves to let up on the pressure. Against CLG, this ended up biting them in the ass when they lingered over long in the mid lane and lost a team fight that gave CLG their first Baron. In their 2nd match of the weekend, that same pressure kept Liquid on their back foot, never quite able to capitalize fully on their many team fight victories. That level of resilience is welcome for a team that many worried would fall apart the moment things started to go wrong. Things went very wrong a lot this weekend, and they held it together.
- While many are pointing to some synergy woes in the bot lane, and some unimpressive play from Svenskeren as some of TSM’s primary issues, I have to shine the spotlight on Bjergsen’s lackluster play. He failed to dominate in lane as we’ve come to expect in either game, nor did he exert his will over team fights to the extent he normally does. It’s quite possible that he’s just rusty after taking significant time off to rest his elbow over the break, but this is definitely something that bears watching going forward.
- Inexplicable death at the start of game one notwithstanding, Hauntzer played exceptionally well all weekend. Whether it was fending off Darshan’s split push (which he rendered mostly ineffective) or carrying TSM in team fights against Liquid, Dyrus’s replacement made a noticeable impact. (Fun Fact: He dealt the most damage on TSM against CLG…without a single damage item).
- Doublelift and Yellowstar flashed some potential against Liquid, pressuring lane hard in a matchup (Ez/Bard vs Lucian/Alistar) that they had no business being the aggressor, let alone succeeding in that aggression. Especially when you consider that Doublelift first back included a tear while Piglet snagged a B.F. Sword. The lane only turned with that insane predictive cacoon.
- It has to be a concern that CLG, whose roster was completed in early November and has had more time to practice together than any other roster, looked so lost at times. They had all the advantages against TSM, including two fed split pushers backed by a solid core to form what should have been an easy 1-3-1 split push, but it took them absolutely forever to close the game. They were even in danger of losing it despite their early lead before TSM let them back into the game with some misplays. Both Huhi and Darshan seemed hesitant to push their advantages. By all rights, CLG should have just been able to dive mid with Lissandra and Jax when they had Baron, win the fight and end the game.
- Darshan on Jax was given a lot of farm/experience priority in both games and did nothing with it. His damage to champion numbers were atrocious, even taking into consideration all the split pushing he did. He dealt 200 more damage to Champions than Hauntzer against TSM. He dealt a mere 4.7k damage to Champions against Dignitas, barely more than Aphromoo on Braum.
- The fact that they played the same style of split push composition in both games would imply that that’s the composition they’re most comfortable with, but Darshan has been party to those types of compositions before and he’s never been able to reliably keep up his end of the bargain. Betting on that one in three games that he carries those games is not the way to go. Darshan is supposed to have an ocean for a champion pool, use it guys.
- The difference between Cloud 9 with Hai, and Cloud 9 without Hai is night and day. I hope Bunnyfufu enjoys the bench, because if C9 wants to be competitive in this improved NA LCS, that’s where he’s going to have to stay.
- Hai had the most profound effect on the performance of Balls and Rush. Hai shotcalls in such a way so that Balls is never left in a position where his subpar laning can be taken advantage of by the enemy team. Rush’s ganks and map movements in general were more precise under Hai’s control, who fine tuned all that aggression into an effective sword to be held at the enemy’s throat.
- Sneaky was his ever-reliable self, effectively fulfilling his role in team fights without taking unnecessary risks, even in the face of Immortals domination when he was the only threat on Cloud 9.
- Jensen failed to make an impact on an Ekko pick that is decidedly not meta (wasn’t picked a single time in the first week of the LCK or LPL) against Immortals, but was another beneficiary of the Hai effect in their second game. His use of Destiny against Echo Fox was nearly perfect, buying his team time to turn small skirmish victories into much larger team fight victories.
- Most teams would be happy just to go 1-1 in a week where they had to use Subs. The fact that NRG managed to go 2-0 is impressive, though they undoubtedly benefited from their sub game being against a Dignitas roster that entered the week with few expectations.
- GBM was pretty much as advertised. Not lane dominant in a way that some might have thought a top tier Korean Mid would be, but absolutely exceptional in team fights. The two Baron steals will get most of the attention because of how flashy that is, but the real treat was watching GBM masterfully weave in and out of team fights on Viktor, dealing surprising damage from odd angles and turning the fights in NRG’s favor. It was beautiful to watch.
- As good as Huni looked this weekend, I think Impact was even better. Put on an absolute master class while crushing RF Legendary. It was honestly brutal to watch. It’s never really brought up, but it’s beyond impressive that Impact has sustained his success over what has become a long career. The best top in North America.
- Altec was sharp in both games, while Konkwon flashed enough potential to be excited about their pairing. Honestly, there are a lot of good bot lanes in North America all of a sudden. It’s pretty exciting. Impact and GBM will do their job, how high NRG flies will depend on whether Altec and Konkwon can match the likes of Doublelift/Yellowstar and Wildturtle/Adrian.
- The Good: Freeze and Remi. The Bad: Pretty much everything else. They did well to take a game off Liquid, who looked much stronger once they subbed in Matt and Dardoch, as they’re likely to be competing for one of the final playoff spots. It’s just hard to see much upside on this team outside of Freeze and Remi.
- There was a time when Alex Ich on Ryze would have sparked fear in the hearts of the opposition, but that was in another time, on another team and it doesn’t seem like those times are returning anytime soon. Maybe I expected too much. Maybe I wished deep down that the player that defined metas in Season two would return. Either way, both he and Crumbz looked their age, with Crumbz choosing some truly awful engages and in general, frequently finding himself out of position. Neither were the worst at their position this weekend, but both were in the bottom half. It was probably too much to expect much from a player that looked liked one of the worst jungler in the LCS a year ago on the way to stepping down from Dignitas in the middle of the split. It’s always sad to see past heroes on the downside of their careers, and it’s often difficult to separate the diminished player in front of us from the rockstar they were in the past, but such is sports. Only age is undefeated.
- On the positive side, Renegades had some of the best map movements of the weekend and showed a clear understanding of how to play the game in the current meta. They won’t be world beaters, but that understanding should be enough to keep them competitive for that 5th/6th spot in the playoffs.
- As one might expect, Echo Fox looked great against Team Impulse. Against a Cloud 9 under Hai, they looked like a young team with barely a few weeks of practice under their belt. There’s potential here, and it’s nice to see some of NA’s best challenger talent get a shot at the big time, but it’s going to be a bumpy road.
- Froggen is eternal. His play style never changes, and his stubborn refusal to move away from his preferred control mages can be infuriating to fans that wish he’d grab the bull by the horns, but he remains an effective force in the mid lane.
- Keith again flashed some of the potential that had both Liquid and TSM testing the waters last season. With a stable roster spot and a full split of games to play, I’m excited to see if one of NA’s premier home grown talents can make the jump to the big time. This is his shot.
- kfo failed to impress in his first two professional games, though I’d attribute part of that to his team failing to set him up for success. Lissandra and Lulu are team-fight oriented control mages that have a lot of nuance in their play style, and it was probably too much to expect him to be able to play them effectively in his first professional games. Top Lane in competitive is vastly different from top lane in solo queue.
- Have to give this roster a lot of credit for punching above their belt against both NRG and CLG. They proved a lot of people who expected them to be in the TiP tier wrong. There’s more talent here than most of us gave them credit for, and I’m excited to see if they can build on what appears to be a solid foundation, even if Kiwikid’s goal of top two is probably not realistic.
- Shiphtur was really impressive, holding his own against GBM and absolutely crushing Huhi. For at least the weekend, the old Shihptur who was known for solo killing his opponent in lane returned. His csing remains absolutely awful (he was down 15 CS to Huhi around the 13 minute mark despite having the kill and pressure advantage), but that’s more palatable if he continues to roam and team fight with the effectiveness that he was able to this weekend.
- Kiwikid’s Alistar play was pretty awful. Don’t quote me on this, because I haven’t counted, but it looks like he messed up more Headbutt/Pulverize combos than he landed successfully. At some points, it actually felt like he and aphro were having a competition to see who could get caught out and die for free more. I like what he brings to the team from a leadership standpoint, but things aren’t going to go well for Dig this split if he continues to mess up his engages to the extent that he did this weekend.
- The Dignitas Baron meme is inescapable at this point. It’s inexplicable how so many roster incarnations could have the same problem. At this point, their coach should just ban them from entering the Baron pit unless its to prevent the enemy team from getting Baron. Having Baron stolen in a Smite war is one thing, losing it twice to a regular spell is inexcusable, though it could have just been LAN jitters for Kirei.
- They were as bad as advertised. There’s no pleasure to be taken in this. They got perfected by Immortals in under 20 minutes and made an Echo Fox roster that got stomped nearly as bad by Cloud 9 look like world beaters. I’m not going to beat a dead horse.