In Week 5, the EU contingent proved with only a couple upsets that it’s still remarkably unpredictable. Apart from a breakaway Fnatic, few places in the league are even close to assured. Elements and Roccat, the latter overcoming a particularly dismal fifth week, are poised to launch themselves back into contention, while the Unicorns may have just discovered their ceiling. Gambit’s losses against the top two teams don’t speak to their talent, but with only eight games left in the split “potential” isn’t enough.
Here I discuss the results of Week 5, focusing on Fnatic, with a brief discussion of what the results may mean for the next four weeks of regular season play.
4-6: One Falls, Two Rise
At first I wasn’t quite sure what to say about the Unicorns of Love. Have they finally hit their ceiling? Are other teams adapting and improving at a faster rate? Is this just classic UoL inconsistency? Whatever the case, they’ve lost five of their last six and dropped to a losing record, tied for 5th with Roccat and Elements (who, at the week’s beginning, both sat in last). Vizicsacsi put up remarkable numbers for an 0-2 top laner, but PowerOfEvil had his worst week of the split with a meager 1.83 KDA. Worse, the Unicorns look disjointed. Their playmaking style just isn’t providing returns, mainly because they haven’t been able to turn kills into objectives. Worse, Week 6 has them face an Origen who seem to have recovered their stride and H2K, the one EU team the Unicorns have yet to beat. Prospects aren’t good for the pink squad.
On the flip side are Roccat, whose Week 5 replacement of Woolite with MrRalleZ paid off this week in victories over the Wolves and the Unicorns, and Elements, who overcame SK and GIANTS!. They’re not quite in the same boat, though. Where Roccat takes on Gambit and SK, guaranteeing close matches and a good likelihood of a win in either or both games, Elements battle uphill against H2K and Origen. H2K’s recent fall to SK can give Elements hope, but I’d be shocked by anything other than two fairly clean losses for Froggen’s group.
A friend asked me the other day if Fnatic would go 18-0, sweep the semis, and then take the finals in three games. We ended up debating if Fnatic could replicate their weekly success in a Bo5 series against a strategically sound H2K or the improving synergy of Origen. Neither of us questioned the undefeated regular season in that scenario. Maybe Fnatic will drop a game or two (aside from Gambit, every team gets another crack at them), but I’ve been looking for a game-breaking flaw every week so far and frankly, they don’t have one.
We talk about teams being dangerous if they have multiple threats; a triple threat (Team Liquid) is incredibly hard to beat, since locking down one lane is not enough. Fnatic, at least in the EU, is beyond this kind of talk. Each of their players has carried a game this split, and each is comfortable taking a supportive role. YellOwStaR leads the league with a 14.8 KDA; Febiven, whose KDA ranks lowest in Fnatic for his role (at 3rd among mids, behind xPeke and Ryu), has the highest league’s highest GPM. Reignover, Huni, and Rekkles have all carried games.
Even more impressive is how consistently they convert their performances into results. Not just the obvious ten consecutive wins, but the manner in which they do it. Fnatic has the highest GPM across the EU, by the highest differential between them and the next team. They have been substantially behind in gold total only a handful of times: once last week against Gambit, twice against Roccat (which was also the only game Fnatic has given up a lead of more than 500 gold). Whether they dominate from the start, pull advantages and leads out of an even game, or fight from behind, they look patient. They win when they win — they time objectives without rushing, they rarely throw themselves into unnecessary fights, and they move on from small mistakes.
This week they play GIANTS! and the last-place Copenhagen Wolves, teams they efficiently dismantled in their first meetings. Though in a still-surprising fourth, the GIANTS! have lost to more than just the top teams. Fnatic should have little trouble taking them down. The Wolves will probably present even less of a challenge. Airwaks’ replacement was needed to shake things up (I couldn’t help it), but this isn’t the Shook from last summer’s Alliance — and even if he were, the Wolves don’t have the tactical wherewithal to overcome Fnatic. A twelve-game win streak might be just around the corner.
Same Week, Different Places
Good performances without result are still losses. For all Gambit’s fight against Fnatic (and Betsy’s notable Azir game), they’re still just a game out of tenth. However, losses against the top of the standings drop Gambit’s last six games to an even 3-3, which includes a win over their first matchup this week. Gambit have plenty of time to pull into playoff range, much as they did in the spring. They should scrape together at least one win from this week.
The Wolves’ pair of losses settles them firmly in the bottom of the standings with little opportunity to dig themselves out. Replacing Airwaks with Shook may prove to be too little, too late in spite of the Elements veteran’s resume (4.39 KDA in the spring, highest among junglers and 13th overall, to say nothing of his dominance on Alliance). The Wolves need to snap their losing streak before it extends too far past four games — not every team can be Sunday’s TDK — and the next two weeks offer them their best chance to prove they still belong in the LCS. Expect one win this week.
I doubt many thought H2K would lose to SK (I certainly didn’t), and their 0-2 week puts them in a peculiar situation — but one with some important takeaways. Firstly, their draft phase against Fnatic (and to some degree even the way they played it) was phenomenal. Their team composition allowed them to eke out kills even while far behind (note Ryu’s assassination of Rekkles). Secondly, Ryu himself. He performed well on poke champions Varus and Jayce, offering chances at a comeback. Odoamne and loulex each had their worst week of the split (Odoamne went 2/13/8; loulex managed 0/10/8, allowing Reignover’s Olaf to steal a crucial first dragon with an Undertow), and both can be expected to return to form against Elements and the Unicorns this week.
A Tenuous Position — Into the Final Third
GIANTS! Gaming continues their crawl toward an improved finish, but it’s still too early to get comfortable. Their surge is certainly over, unless they can pull off an upset victory over Fnatic this week. They haven’t collapsed, either, which is why they may be able to hold off a dangerous SK. Fox and PePiiNeRo will be a matchup to watch in this second outing. After a quiet week, Werlyb will need to return to form if the GIANTS! are to find success in the next two weeks, but the shifting top meta doesn’t seem to favor him now as it did in the season’s first month.
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