With only 2 weeks and 10 matches left to play in Korea lets take a look at how things should turn out for the playoffs and give a slight outlook for worlds. Since SK Telecom has their worlds ticket already we will primarily concentrate on the 5 other teams that still have a shot at getting one of the 2 remaining spots. First there will be some words on the teams and their matchups, after that a closer look at playoffs.
First of all here are the rankings after the conclusion of week 11:When looking at the matchups to come the top two places should be safe, but everything else is a mystery:
Upcoming matches for the top teams
KT got sicnificantly better in the second round robin and should at this point be able to go 8-1, with only loosing to SKT. Their game against KOO Tigers has shown, that they are not only extremely good in getting a lead early and snowballing it nearly perfectly (see games against Jin Air), but also in playing a late game composition and shotcall in the lategame (2nd game against the Tigers). This makes KT a big contender for the worlds spots and looking at their matchups they should secure the 2nd place easily:
CJ just won against SKT, crushing their dreams from the perfect split, 2 weeks ago. With KTs win against KOO they also are the team with the highest probability to get the 2nd worlds spot, but more regarding that later. CJ played all in all a consistent split, winning against the weak teams and going 1-1 (both winning and losing one bo3) against the top 5 teams. This year would be only the 2nd worlds participation for the organization, after getting 2nd place in the Season 2 World Championship (at that time under the name Azubu). Even though SKT might not have played their best, with the resurgence of MadLife and Shy, CJ must be seen as one of the best teams in the world right now. The pending matchups should give them the best chances to get 3rd place in the regular split:
The team that got 2nd in the spring split is on a downfall right now. Especially for PraY, considerably one of the best AD Carries in Korea in spring, the summer split has shown that he is not able to keep consistently performing on a top level for a long time. The Tigers might not even be able to secure a playoff seat, depending on how things turn out. They still have to play against Jin Air and Sbenu:Now this needs some further explanation. The game against Sbenu should be an easy win, but for the match against Jin Air things are not that clear. Right now the Green Wings also have difficulties, which makes this matchup hard to predict, but with the recent performance of Jin Air you definetily have to give the edge to KOO. Anyway, we will look at both possible outcomes below.
NaJin has shown major improvements in the last few weeks. Their biggest issue before was their inconsistency, which is still a factor at this point, but not as much as it was before. This team has had for about a year now the most promising roster in Korea and finally things are looking to turn out good. With Watch they also have a player, who was at every single World Championship (where Korea participated) and even though things did look grim NaJin somehow got to worlds every time (e.g. look at their run through the gauntlet last year: where they have won 3 bo5 in 3 days with 9-1 in total, only losing a game to SKT). They still have to face SKT which should, even though NaJin improved a lot, result in a decisive win for SKT. Their second upcoming match does not need any words though:
Jin Air Green Wings
Jin Air is just coming from a big loss against Sbenu, which leaves with no other option as to win everything now. As said above Jin Air is not looking good right now, they seem to have problems adapting to the new meta, with mid/lategame teamfights and decision making regarding when to take fights and when to step away right now. They have also shown major issues in the early game (take the series against KT for example). That said, there is hope for the team, called Chaser. This guy is one of the best junglers in Korea at the moment and somehow gets rolling in almost every game, so everything is not lost yet. Besides KOO the Green Wings still have to face Anarchy, which should be a win for them (but who knows at this point):
Rankings after the regular split
The only match from the ones listed above for which its outcome is not clear at this point is Jin Air-KOO, so lets consider both options below. But first of all, the 2nd and 3rd place are pretty much decided, even if CJ wins both matches with 2-0 and KT only wins 2-1 in their matches the result remains the same:Now to the more interesting part, in the following we expect wins against any of the bottom four teams from KOO, JinAir and NaJin. Because we expect NaJin to lose the match against SKT they will have 7 losses, not considering the Jin Air-KOO game, KOO should be at 6 and Jin Air at 7 losses. Before taking a closer look at the match of Jin Air-KOO here is a reminder of the current standings:
KOO wins against Jin Air
Here things are pretty much decided. KOO gets to a 12-6 score, NaJin to 11-7 and Jin Air to 10-8 which means Jin Air is out, they definetily have to win this match. NaJin on the other side is, as we can see here, benifiting hugely from the Sbenu upset, they even have the comfort of losing against SKT, without their playoff spot being in real danger.
Jin Air wins against KOO
In case this happens, things are getting ultra close. All of the 3 teams should be at 11-7 at this point, which means the gamepoints are getting important. For the Tigers the worst case would be a 0-2 loss to Jin Air and a 2-1 win against Sbenu, which would leave them at +7 points. NaJin could get a minimum of +5 and a maximum of +7, the most realistic option is +6 (with losing 0-2 to SKT and winning 2-0 against Sbenu). Jin Air could jump up to +7 points when they 2-0 both of their opponents. Which means, nothing is decided in this scenario. What is even scarier is a 3 way tie with all of the teams sitting at +7 points.
One thing you have to consider here is the Tigers lost 1 point due to being late to the studio, without that loss they would have a minimum of +8 points and therefore be at a safe 4th place. Winning 2-0 against Sbenu does have the same effect though, in that case Jin Air has no way of getting in front of KOO and NaJin could only take 4th place with upsetting SKT.
Another thing to keep in mind regarding tiebrakers is, that Jin Air did win both of their (bo3) matches against NaJin and NaJin won both against KOO. Thus depending on the excact rules, which are unknown to me, a tiebraker could be prevented, because of the better direct matchup. So look out for this Scenario as anything could happen.
After all those speculations the resulting playoffs should look like this:The 3 gauntlet rounds will happen within one week and another week after the last match will be the grand final.
The 2nd worlds spot
The last thing I want to speak about is the implication for the 2nd worlds spot, which is decided by the curcuit points. Meaning the team with the most curcuit points after the season joins the winner of the summer split as a worlds participant. We therefore have to consider both the curcuit points right now and the point distribution for summer:
Lets assume SKT wins the summer split and qualifies for worlds on that way. That would mean, with the speculations from above, that CJ only has to win one match in the playoffs to get to worlds. Because then they would be at 120 points total, KT could reach 100 points and KOO would be at 110 if they get 4th. So with everything said CJ should be in the prime position to get the 2nd worlds spot right now. Of course there are many possibilities if CJ loses their one match: If KOO gets 3rd or above they will be qualified for worlds, if KOO gets 5th or 6th (90 points) then 2nd place of summer qualifies for worlds, whether it would be KT (100pts), Jin Air (120pts) or NaJin (100pts). And of course, if SKT loses the final (which is not very likely) SKT will get the 2nd worlds spot with an accumulated amount of 180 points, the 1st spot is then of course the winner of the summer split.
Just as a remark: the 3rd to 6th place in curcuit points will battle for the 3rd worlds spot in the regional qualifier, so every top 6 team can still make it to worlds, regardless of them getting into the playoffs. This spot will also be determined using the gauntlet system.
When speaking about worlds nothing, besides SKT, is decided yet, so there should be some exciting weeks to look forward to. One of the things you must not miss is the match between Jin Air and KOO, as this will have a major impact on playoffs.
image credit: OnGameNet, eSportspedia