LCS Week Four: Battle for the Top
Considering that Fnatic and SK were the two contenders for first in the regular spring split, the current gap between their records (undefeated versus winless) is all the more shocking. Week 3 saw Origen’s own undefeated streak come to a surprising end at the claws of a persevering Roccat, Gambit pull two wins out of thin air, and Elements continue to fall. H2K quietly angles for the top of the league while the Unicorns sit comfortably (but certainly not contentedly) with a 3-3 record.
Week 4 promises more action-packed games and matchups that are sure to surprise us. Even the top teams’ playstyles have visible (though tough to exploit) cracks, and none of the teams at the bottom can be counted out yet.
Clash of the Titans — Origen vs. Fnatic
Day 1, Game 3. It’s the match that’s been hyped for weeks, that came this close to being a showdown between a pair of 6-0 powerhouses. Yet even with Origen having dropped a game to a possibly resurgent Roccat, their match against Fnatic will be a memorable one. It’s the face-off we’ve been waiting for: between xPeke’s stars, who’ve run most opponents in circles with sheer talent, and YellOwStaR’s proven sophomores, whose performance at MSI preceded an undefeated run thus far. YellOwStaR and Rekkles meet old teammates xPeke and sOAZ on the Rift for the first time in 2015. With six victories in a row, Fnatic sets its sights on its own 9-game record, while Origen aims to unseat the reigning European favorite and establish itself at the top. Every lane contains a matchup between LCS veterans and relatively new talent, between players who top the league in stats, between much of the best talent that Europe has to offer.
Some viewers will be hoping for a smooth, subtle chess match, a clash of strategic play. Others, particularly Fantasy owners, will be hoping for a 45-minute bloodbath with frequent teamfights and skirmishes. Fans may be looking for a one-sided stomp or a roaring comeback. Personally, I hope for the latter: Origen’s impeccable snowballing face off against Fnatic’s seeming inability to lose if they draw the game late enough.
But for all these teams’ strengths, each has shown cracks. Origen may have kicked off the season with a string of wins, but they have yet to prove they can even play while behind — in their five wins, they fell behind by more than 100 gold only three times, all against GIANTS! in Week 1 (the highest deficit being a meager 317). By contrast, they managed only similarly small leads against Roccat, who ran away with the game once they had a solid advantage. We don’t doubt the players’ skills, but Origen are a new team whose budding synergy has only recently been tested by LCS-level play. Fnatic, meanwhile, appears to be giving their opponents far too many opportunities to stay in the game, even if the result has always been a ‘W’. This is also, arguably, their first real challenge: as well as GIANTS! are doing, there was never really any doubt that Fnatic would beat them. With their first match against H2K not until next week, Fnatic has yet to truly prove that they’re the uncontested kings of Europe.
Scrapping for the Middle — Gambit’s Moment?
Consecutive wins against a 2-4 Wolves (T-6th) and a 0-6 SK (10th) don’t prove anything out of context. The ‘how’ is what makes them important: both wins were convincing, with Gambit finally mustering a triple threat in FORG1VEN, Cabochard, and Betsy (all three topping 400 GPM for the week). If nothing else, the wins put Gambit back in the running as a competitor. With this week, Gambit could rise.
Or fall. If ever there was a week to test Gambit, this is it. The 4th-place GIANTS! and the 5th-place Unicorns are no pushovers: these teams’ five combined losses come against top-three Fnatic, Origen, and H2K. Even though Gambit may have fixed their early problems, it’s something else entirely to take down . Against the GIANTS!, this will mean Diamondprox showing up early and often to keep Werlyb and PePiiNeRo occupied. If Gambit takes even one win from this week, it could turn their season around. If, as appears more likely, they drop both…well.
The Unicorns have little reason to be overly concerned with their .500 start. After all, they ended last split with an even 9-9 before taking home 2nd place (and 70 Championship Points). In addition to Gambit, they face a struggling SK, and while they’ve dropped winnable games before (see their loss against MYM in the spring) one would hope that they’ve improved their consistency. A pair of wins this week would take them to 5-3, putting them a hop, skip, and jump from the top of the table.
After Gambit, GIANTS! play H2K in a battle that will test GIANTS! strategic capacity to the limit. Ryu, Odoamne, and the bot lane duo (Hjarnan leads the league in GPM, while kaSing’s 8.2 KDA is good for 7th overall) are all extremely threatening. Hjarnan in particular is putting up incredible numbers, and H2K’s team play is only getting better with each game. Their semifinal rematch against Fnatic next week would pose a serious threat with a 7-1 record behind it.
An Uphill Climb, an Easy Week — the Situation for the Wolves and for Roccat
The Copenhagen Wolves will find little relief in their second win last week. Of a 2-4 record, their victories come against the 9th– and 10th-place teams. In at least one loss they’ve simply been outclassed. This week sets them against a confident Fnatic (1st) and an H2K powerhouse (T-2nd). If they’re going to have any chance at giving either team a run, Soren needs to get involved. Despite a passable 3.1 KDA, he’s eked out only 8 kills this split, by far the least among mid laners (as well as tied for least among top laners/junglers and on par with several supports). Freeze (whose 6.86 is 10th overall and 4th among ADs) needs more support if the Wolves are to take anything from this week. Even with drastic improvement, however, the hill might just be too steep this week. Expect two losses.
Roccat, on the other hand, looks forward to what should be a fairly straightforward pair of wins. Not only have they proven they can adapt to their opponents — in addition to their surprising performance in Week 2 against Fnatic, Jankos (whose 6.0 KDA is 3rd among junglers this split) and VandeR systematically picked apart Origen in Week 3 — but they’re also a team on the upswing. Facing the teams at the bottom of the league, this week will prove if they can rejoin the race for playoff contention. Of course, they’re also only a game removed from the bottom themselves, so a loss (or even two) is far from an impossibility.
The Extended Slides — from High Expectations to Paltry Records
What do Elements and SK Gaming have in common? Both teams are packed with talent whose track records are the total opposite of their current results. Both sit in the bottom of the standings (9th and 10th respectively) with, barring a major upset, almost no opportunity to change that in the next two weeks. Both face off this week against a Roccat squad that’s fresh from a crushing victory over Origen.
Oh, and both play each other next week.
The season’s still early, and Gambit proved last split that it’s possible to explode out of the bottom of the standings. 1-5 and 0-6 records are not insurmountable, though even a 12-game win streak would give no better result than H2K’s 3rd-place record in the spring. What creates the extreme difficulty is the teams they face. Aside from Roccat, SK will take on the Unicorns while Elements tries to handle Origen. Both teams have brutally punished disorganized play (just see SK’s game against Origen). Still, Elements at least showed grit last week — they held on against Fnatic until an ill-chosen tower dive that cost them their baron-boosted push (as well as any momentum they had remaining). The introduction of Ekko helps the veteran Froggen more than perhaps any other mid in the EU.
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