With the 2016 Spring Split playoff matches beginning this week-end, I could not find a better time to start this series of articles. For each European playoff match, I’ll be highlighting what will, in my opinion, be the key match-up to keep an eye for. Each time I will try to use my analysis to predict the winner of the series. Without further ado, let’s get started with the first match of the week: Fnatic versus Team Vitality!
While the biggest level discrepancy of this match will probably be between Fnatic’s rookie support Johan “Klaj” Olsson and Vitality’s Raymong “kaSing” Tsang, deemed as the best European support this split, it’s in the toplane that our focus should be on. There, Fnatic Noh “Gamsu” Yeong-jin will take on Vitality Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet in a fierce brawl that will make or break the series.
Funnily enough, these two players started their “real professional” careers at the exact same tournament. But they both had some amateur experience before that. On one hand Gamsu played with Alienware Arena at a small Korean tournament in season 4, and later joined the dominant Samsung Blue team as a substitute player. This is where he met and befriended his current jungler Lee “Spirit” Da-yoon, who played for that team as well at the time. On the other hand, Cabochard played with several small structures from season 3 onwards, including Ninjas in Pyjamas, in which he played with former Gambit midlaner Alexey “Alex Ich” Ichetovkin.
But it was in the beginning of season 5 that both these players joined the LCS and met in their first tournament with their new teams. Cabochard signed with a struggling Gambit Gaming, and Gamsu joined Team Dignitas over in NA, with Korean AD carry Jo “Core JJ” Yong-in. Both these teams played at the IEM Season IX – Cologne, in which they met in the semi-finals. Gambit Gaming, benefiting from the classic “IEM buff”, bested them 2-0, before eventually winning the whole tournament.
They then got to the LCS with their respective team for a whole season, and while not making it big, only making one playoff appearance each, both Cabochard and Gamsu were widely considered the best performing players of their team (with a special mention for Konstantinos “FORG1VEN“ Tzortziou-Napoleon during Gambit’s summer split). Therefore, they both got contracted during the season 6 pre-season, respectively by newcomers Team Vitality and a restructuring Fnatic team. After a difficult season for the latter, Fnatic managed to qualify for the playoffs as the 6th seed, while Vitality almost got the 2nd seed, but had to settle for 3rd after a surprising loss against Team Roccat in the last week of the regular season.
Now let’s have a closer look at these players. While Cabochard finally escaped Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon’s shadow and showed that he is now arguably the best European toplaner, Gamsu has had a hard time filling Fnatic’s former toplaner’s shoes. Indeed, he has been way more hit or miss in his performances. Let’s get some stats to compare these two players.
The rankings are among every European toplaner that has played more than 10 games in the EU LCS Spring split regular season, which excludes Giants Gaming Lennart “SmittyJ” Warkus.
As we can see from the very high Kill participation of both these players, they’ve been really instrumental to their team’s success. Especially in the beginning of the split, both Fnatic and Vitality played a very toplane-centric style, which can be explained by their inner synergy with their respective jungler. But while Spirit has had a hard time finding opportunities to help his toplaner, Vitality’s jungler Ilyas “Shook” Hartsema has been particularly successful in getting Cabochard ahead, which leads to him having the highest first blood participation of all the toplaners, while Gamsu has the lowest.
And this really predictable toplane gank-heavy playstyle from Vitality only works because of Cabochard’s ability to snowball leads and to use them to win games. This is what already happened in 2015 with Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov always camping for the toplane: once Cabochard is ahead, he knows how to get more ahead, which is why he has the 2nd highest creep score difference at 10 minutes. On the other hand, Gamsu has struggled in the laning phase, often falling behind due to some questionable lane-swaps and drafts from his team, which led him to being solo-killed several times when these two players met.
But these differences can also be explained by each of these players’ style of play. We just have to look at their champion pools during the split to see that they play the game in a very different way.
Cabochard’s (left side) and Gamsu’s (right side) champion picks during the 2016 Spring split regular season.
On one hand, Cabochard has been favoring carry picks such as Graves, Fiora or Kennen and even some unique picks such as Lucian. With these champions, he has shown an unmatched ability to play the split-push game and to crush his opponents, often solo-killing them once he’s in the lead. Therefore, it is obvious why he has one of the highest damage share of any toplaner in the league. However he’s been playing more tanks in the end of the split, especially Nautilus once he became the flavor of the month, which demonstrates that he is able to play a more teamfight-oriented style, letting his jungler pressure other lanes to play to Vitality’s team compositions.
On the other hand, Gamsu has always chosen the safety of tanks, except from that one Graves’ game, while leaving his teammates to do the damage in the fights. But even with this fairly straight-forward style, he has shown some inconsistency. There are games in which he can go off, but there are also games in which he’s a burden to his team. This is easily explained by Fnatic’s main flaws during the split which has been their communication issues and their inability to play various playstyles to the point that they end up with the same one-dimensional style over and over until every team know how to counter it. The fact that Gamsu lost all 4 games playing Poppy clearly demonstrates this problem.
For these reasons, I think that Team Vitality is going to win the series pretty easily, thanks to Cabochard’s ability to outperform Gamsu. The latter’s inability to play the carry toplaner has been a liability for his team, leading Fnatic to ban toplane picks such as Graves or Fiora in a lot of games, which handicapped their pick and ban phase. At the same time, Cabochard has shown that he is a true elite-level toplaner who, despite being more comfortable getting counterpicks to play a pressure-heavy style, has also demonstrated his ability to play the low-icon tanks for the sake of Vitality’s team compositions.
While Fnatic’s other players could outperform their counterpart to create the upset, the toplane should be key in getting to the semi-finals for both of these teams. Unless the infamous “Godsu” shows up in every game, Cabochard will probably be able to snowball his way to victory like he has the last times they faced, Vitality being up 2-0 against Fnatic in the regular season.
I’ll be writing an article about Origen vs the Unicorns of Love tomorrow, stay tuned for another ‘Watch out!’