Rosters Locked: the Runup to EU Playoffs
Four games left.
This means the cementing of fairly certain playoff positions and increasing desperation from the teams at the bottom. It means that 7th place has become a haven for some teams and a nightmare for others. It’s a chance to experiment with compositions and strategies, whether in preparation for playoffs (Fnatic/Origen) or in an attempt to avoid relegation (SK, Wolves) or simply to break the tie in a close race. It’s hard to follow up on the excitement of Week 7 (in NA as well as in EU), but Week 8 brings the inherent excitement of playoff proximity as the regular season ends. The only guarantee so far is that Fnatic sits in first.
In this article, I take a different approach than the previous weeks, looking back to my pre-season analysis and gauging the accuracy of my predictions in late May.
Back to the Beginning
1: Fnatic. I don’t know what else there is to say about this team. First against H2K, then against Origen, they came back from deep deficits against the strongest competition in the EU. Their play is not just talented but tenacious. Even at thousands of gold in the hole, they pull back into a game with a couple solid teamfights. Playing from behind almost immediately eliminates their sloppiness that put them there, indicating an unmatched ability to adapt on the fly coupled with a terrifying late game prowess. At 14-0, not only are they undefeated in competitive play since returning from MSI; not only have they clinched playoffs, a semifinal spot, and first place with two whole weeks left to play; not only have they surpassed their own EU LCS record, but also Cloud 9’s 13-game streak to set a new LCS record…on top of all that, they did it with a 2-0 week against both of the other top teams in the region. A perfect record is not certain, as this is the time to experiment in preparation for their almost-locked Worlds berth — but it’s hard to bet against Fnatic.
2-3: Origen, H2K. I’d anticipated a stronger showing out of the Unicorns, based on their showing in the spring playoffs, but it is apparent that their single games are still weaker than their best-of-5s. Their slow start (if it continues past the quarterfinals) offers Origen a potential spot at Worlds through the gauntlet instead of them. Origen’s play against Fnatic indicates that they probably deserve it, too. With only one win in the next two weeks they will clinch a playoff spot, and H2K next week presents their only truly difficult game (though Roccat, of course, crushed them in their Week 4 meeting). Expect them to clinch their spot today.
Barring a collapse, H2K is the most likely to take the second spot given to the CP leader, but four losses in the last six games weaken this assertion. They’re still a top team, but the slump does not bode well for their upcoming run for the finals. The ideal scenario for H2K is a finalist position against Fnatic, almost guaranteeing them a trip to Worlds whatever the result. If both 2nd and 3rd place teams play to their potential, the semifinal spot will come down to the Origen-H2K matchup in Week 9 and possibly a tiebreaker. Two wins this week (notably in the game against GIANTS!) will clinch H2K their playoff spot.
4-5: GIANTS!, Unicorns of Love. I’m the slightest bit embarrassed about my preseason prediction for GIANTS!. It’s true that for all their excellent performances, they have only a 7-7 record to boast of; it’s also true that their fourth place (itself a tie with the Unicorns) is a single game ahead of the two teams tied for 6th, and even 9th-place SK has room to catch them. But of their seven losses, five have come against the three teams ahead of them (who they have yet to beat). Though this week sets them against H2K, their playoff position is almost guaranteed.
What is harder to claim is a semifinal spot. If the current standings hold through the next four games, GIANTS! will take on the Unicorns in the quarterfinals. The matchup is dead even: GIANTS! 1-0 record is offset by the Unicorns’ ability in 5-game series. The Unicorns need to hold firm if they want to remain in the running for Worlds — reaching the semifinals vastly increases their chance (almost automatically, given their 90 CP from the spring) of making it to the international stage. Their Week 9 (vs. GIANTS!, Fnatic) presents a serious challenge, so Week 8 (vs. SK, Gambit) is their chance to clinch a playoff spot. The win against Gambit would further set that dangerous contender a step back in their own hunt for the playoffs.
6-9: Gambit, Roccat, Elements, SK. Origen and the Unicorns: two teams that excel on building gold advantages and snowballing leads through aggressive, sometimes messy fights. This is Gambit’s Week 8, and the results will almost certainly bring them down a spot in the standings. Not good for the playoff hopefuls. With H2K as their final game next week, things are looking grim. Two wins are possible but unlikely, and even the game against Elements will be a tough battle given their first matchup's result (heavily in favor of Elements). A 7-11 record would drop them out of the race.
Roccat sits in the same boat, facing GIANTS!, Fnatic, and Origen before the season closes. Of course, they gave Fnatic a great game in the season's first half shortly before handing Origen their first loss back in Week 3; coming off of a victory over H2K, they've proven they can pull off an upset. Still, for all their improvement, expect no more than one win from the aggressive-but-inconsistent squad.
A game against the Wolves should be an easy win, but let’s not forget that Elements have given the 10th-place team one of their two wins. A game behind the battle for 7th, Elements won't be too unhappy to place safely once again. However, they may yet be able to aim higher: apart from a game against Fnatic, they have good control of where they might land, facing the Wolves, Gambit, and SK. As they stomped Gambit back in their first game of the season, the schedule offers them a possible 3-1. 8-10 is no guarantee, but with Gambit's terrible schedule and Roccat's own steep climb, the playoffs just might be in reach.
As far as SK’s star has fallen, they will almost certainly remain in the LCS. It won’t be fun: with games against the Unicorns, Origen, and Fnatic, they can’t make it to the safe 7th place even if Elements utterly collapses. They’re facing the relegation stage, but they have plenty of time in the offseason to regain their spring prowess. Expect two losses this week and a 9th place finish, but an even game (though, probably, a loss) against Elements.
10: Copenhagen Wolves. At 2-12, the best that the Wolves can hope for is to avoid auto-relegation. With games yet to play against H2K (Week 8) and GIANTS! (Week 9), a playoff berth is out of the question. The two crucial games, then, are against Elements and Roccat, the former of whom gave the Wolves their second win in Week 3. Nevertheless, at two games behind SK, the Wolves need a miracle to stay in the LCS. I’d anticipated better from their up and down spring split. Expect 10th and relegation.
That’s all for Rosters Locked! Next series, starting in September, will focus on Valoran’s lore and the intriguing stories to be gleaned from its wide array of characters.
Questions, comments, or critique? Post in the comment section below or email Josh at firstname.lastname@example.org