As week nine of the North American League Championship Series draws to a close, the six teams locked into playoffs look on to securing a spot and (in the case of CLG and TL) performing well at Madison Square Garden.
Seeing as there’s an interim of around two weeks ahead of us, it makes sense that now would be the appropriate time to make predictions regarding each individual best of five.
On the ropes: Team Impulse
After recent events transpired revealing Yu ‘XiaoWeiXiao’ Xian to be embroiled in a high profile ELO-boosting scandal, he was promptly suspended from competition and reportedly returned to his native China. This left Impulse in the sticky situation of moving their new support player Austin ‘Gate’ Yu into the role of mid lane in the wake of XiaoWeiXiao’s absence, while also recalling original support player Adrian ‘Adrian’ Ma to continue play in the support position.
Given the untimely nature of the forced roster changes, Team Impulse performed reasonably well during week nine of the regular summer split. Picking up a win against a faltering Gravity squad and drawing out a painstaking loss against Team Liquid, in a game that they had no reason to be considered competitive in given Fenix’s manhandling of Gate. This was then swiftly followed by another victory taken against Gravity in the ensuing tiebreaker match. Team Impulse found themselves weakened, but still displayed their typical hyper-aggressive ‘see champion, kill champion’ style.
A downward spiral: Dignitas
Following a surging start to the 2015 summer split, Dignitas have slowly but surely declined in performance over the ensuing weeks of play. Finalizing a deal with veteran Korean jungler Dong-jin ‘Helios’ Shin, Dignitas looked to shore up one of the bigger question marks that existed on the roster after the departure of Crumbz. Undoubtedly this was an upgrade on the previous stand-in Azingy, who only found success on his preferred Zac pick, however this didn’t solve the long running issues within Dignitas. These being overall synergy of the team and understanding higher level aspects of play(notably vision and objective control).
One upside for Dignitas in their playoff run is the return of coach Rico. Although Brokenshard filled in admirably during his absence, it’s plain to see that Dignitas were at their best under their original coach’s guidance.
In my mind at least, Dignitas find themselves in playoffs due to their opponents losing games in such easy to exploit ways earlier in the split, rather than Dignitas outplaying them.
3-0 in favor of Team Impulse. Despite the obstacles present for TIP, Rush and Impact have clearly shown the ability to hard carry the game from each of their respective positions. Gamsu presents the potential to upset the former World Champion but it would require overcoming the obstacle that is the ever aggressive Rush.
Blood on the throne: Team Solomid
Having faltered at MSI at the hands of international competition, TSM have never quite regained the composure and promise they displayed in the Spring Split of 2015. Although issues regarding top lane priority have seemingly been somewhat resolved(evidenced by the fact that on occasion Dyrus does actually receive help from his team now), other problems regarding mid to late game shotcalling have arisen.
The fact that TSM’s victories have been some of the longest games of the split highlights their ever-present inability to effectively close out games. A painful reminder for TSM fans being the 58 minute ‘epic’ against the lower tier Enemy Esports. The real salt rubbed into the wound was the fact that only 24 hours later, the very same NME squad were beaten with ease by a middling Dignitas.
What does stand to the advantage of TSM is their ability to perform well in a best of five scenario, this is obviously down to their preparation outside of the game and can be attributed to Locodoco’s ability to properly co-ordinate with analysts both in-house and remote.
Live by the cheese, die by the cheese: Gravity Gaming
With the opportune signings of both Move and Altec, Gravity elevated themselves from a middling team in the shadow of their former sister roster to one which could actually place itself in title contention. Even with the departure of coach Nick “LastShadow” De Cesare, recently retired Cop has managed to maintain the improvements and ideas about the game put in place by his predecessor (with LS stating on Summoning Insight that they share a similar mindset about the game).
Gravity is now infamous in the NA LCS for cheesing opponents with uncanny methods to counter team compositions primarily through mid laner Keane. Having started to fall off near the end of the split, it’s a worrisome time to be a Gravity fan given TSM’s well documented prowess in best of fives. Cheese typically works in a best of one scenario and preparing five seperate cheeses would not
only be very difficult to execute but unlikely to succeed.
There’s a reason why ‘five cheese’ pizzas aren’t more commonplace.
3-2 in favor of Team Solomid, arguably at their strongest during best of fives and with the resources and experience necessary to properly scout out and prepare for opposing strategies, TSM should be able to clinch the series win. However, at the very least Gravity might succeed in one of their ‘anti-meta’ strategies.
This set is particularly hard to call with both teams finding issue in their own play in recent weeks. Ultimately, the chance of Gravity emerging victorious is dependent on Move’s ability to out-jungle Santorin- the way to beat TSM is stifle them in a methodical manner with oppressive vision control and on his day, Move is unparalleled in North America for his ability to do this.
My head is telling me that TSM will win out against Gravity, but my heart says that the plucky underdogs might just put a black mark against the playoff record of Team Solomid
The Semi-Final edition will be released once the matchups have been determined.