Enter: Week 3
Last week’s games saw the standings split right down the middle, leaving one half content but hungry for the top while the other scrambles to figure out what went wrong. This week features a couple high-profile matchups at both ends of the standings: UoL faces a hard week in Origen and H2K while 0-4 teams SK and Gambit face off in a battle to end their winless streaks.
(Rather than a listed rundown of predictions and analysis for each team, this article adopts a somewhat more flavorful style. I’ll likely use this form for future Rosters Locked articles.)
Awakening Sleeping Giants
Perhaps the most surprising story of the split so far is GIANTS! early 3-1 surge. Yes, they’ve mostly faced off against against teams at the back of the pack, beating a confused Elements, eking out a close victory over the Wolves, and pummeling SK. Yes, they’ve played none of the other top 5 teams except Origen, who defeated them decisively. But when they win they look good. Their dives are aggressive but successfully calculated; PePiiNeRo’s assassin play synchs beautifully with the hungry styles of Fr3deric and Werlyb, and Adryh is shaping up to be a LoL Fantasy player’s dream (if you haven’t picked him up already, consider it!). They’re becoming a three-threat team with solid performers in supporting roles.
Their synergy faces a major test in the well oiled machine that is Fnatic. A win against the undefeated spring champions’ powerful map pressure is highly unlikely, but a strong showing might be enough. It would prove that the GIANTS! are not just scraping wins out of the bottom of the barrel but have actually become strong contenders in the LCS. I’m not sold yet — GIANTS! opened the spring with two statement-making victories before sliding over the following month — but clearly this team is more of a force to be reckoned with than I anticipated.
On the other side of the coin rest Elements. With their preseason hype bolstered by a smashing victory over Gambit and a mostly dignified loss to Unicorns, they entered Week 2 with expectations of a strong performance. I confess, I thought they’d be able to give H2K a run, even hand PR0LLY’s squad a loss, and at least emerge 1-1. Not only did they fail to do that, but they lost both games in one-sided fashion. While Froggen finally solved his problem of excessive deaths against H2K (after eight deaths against GIANTS!, four of them before 20 minutes), the other Elements couldn’t hold the lanes against H2K’s fluid aggression. Jwaow gave up First Blood in both games, and the team’s map movement overall looks remarkably sluggish.
For all that, it’s worth noting that Elements’ losses have come against the three teams with 3-1 records. In other words, don’t count them out yet. While it’s not enough to just be losing to the top teams — not if you want to be a top team — it does mean that we don’t yet know where on the table the Elements lie. Week 3 pits them against Fnatic and the Wolves, hardly an easy opportunity to pick up victories. The game against the Wolves provides their best chance at halting their downward slide. Pressure on YoungBuck to get Jwaow rolling will be key, but equally vital will be Tabzz’s performance against the Wolves’ quietly powerful bot lane.
Roccat and the Wolves Try to Claw Out Wins
Week 2 was expected to be rough on the Wolves (UoL, OG) and Roccat (FNC, UoL), and unfortunately for the two teams it played out exactly as expected. Or rather, almost exactly: Roccat’s loss to Fnatic, a game closer than even FNC-UoL in Week 1, speaks a great deal to the potential (insert CLG joke here) of Jankos’ squad. Yes, it’s very much “Jankos’ squad” coming out of Week 2. His unbelievable numbers against Fnatic (posting 14-0-4 on Gragas), along with a strong game against UoL, have cast him as a rally point for his team. Meanwhile, the Wolves recover from a pair of crushing defeats. Unable to hold the line against UoL and simply outmatched by Origen, the Wolves will have to look back to their Week 1 performances and focus on gaining early leads across the map.
Roccat’s games might be just as tough as last week’s. While their game against Fnatic showed they can hold their own against a top team, it’s unclear if that wasn’t also due to Fnatic’s curious lack of utterly smashing victories. Origen’s strategy, oriented toward strong skirmishes and fairly early teamfights, will double the pressure on Roccat’s lanes to merely survive. Their greater chance for victory comes on Day 1 against GIANTS!, an opportunity to pull PePiiNeRo’s climbing squad back down into the middle of the standings. The Wolves’ week, on the other hand, is a golden opportunity in the forms of a disorganized Gambit and a sloppy, hesitant Elements. Two wins this week would nudge them back into the middle of the standings.
Race to the Top: Unicorns of Love, Origen, and H2K
With Fnatic facing two easier (though by no means certain) matches, eyes turn to the other teams at the top. UoL and H2K, posting a loss each to a 4-0 squad, have otherwise shown incredible dominance in their games against admittedly weaker teams. H2K has brought a relentless, efficient playstyle to their victories, building on a powerful Ryu and bolstered by increasingly impressive Odoamne (if you didn’t see his Rumble games last week, you missed out) and stalwart support kaSing. UoL brings a surprise every game, whether in champion picks or in Rift decisions, and their team synergy is so strong that it’s hard to distinguish individual threats. Meanwhile, at 4-0 Origen has all but breezed through its competition with elegant, deliberate, and dare I say flashy play. If xPeke’s team has a flaw right now, it’s that they take far too long to press map and gold advantages or close out won games — one that will only begin to matter internationally.
The Unicorns are the storied team as they face arguably their toughest week of the split. Their clash against Origen will pit two former challenger squads against each other, both known for extraordinary talent, reckless aggression, high kill counts, and otherwise exciting games. The mid lane duel of xPeke and PowerOfEvil will be one to watch, but in the other lanes the presence of Kikis or Amazing could make or break the lane. Day 2 will witness H2K-UoL, a curious matchup between teams with vastly different game philosophies. The spring split was intriguing: H2K was the only team to go 2-0 against UoL in the spring, but UoL was the only team to 2-0 Fnatic, who in turn was the only team to sweep H2K. Both teams, along with Fnatic, took a game off the 15-3 SK. The Unicorns placed 2nd and H2K 3rd, with both teams losing 3-2 to Fnatic and defeating SK 3-2 in comeback victories. Though UoL/OG will probably be advertised as Game of the Week, I can’t recommend enough that you watch the Game 10 matchup between UoL and H2K.
0-4 No More: Battling From the Bottom
It’s still early in the season to take records as they are, but LCS viewers might be asking if FORG1VEN is cursed. It’s worth remembering, however, that Gambit began the spring split with five consecutive losses, only to bounce back and finish with a 4th-place record. They’re still the wildcard of the LCS, and they have enough individual talent that if they ever mop up their mess they may be able to challenge the mid and top tiers once more. Diamondprox needs to show up in lanes early and often, bringing his old reputation for strong duelists to bear. SK faces more pronounced problems, not only in having already lost more games than in the entire spring but in how. Aside from occasionally picking off stragglers in lost teamfights, Fox has been practically invisible, and the return of CandyPanda is exploding as well as a wet firework.
Facing the 1-3 Wolves and fellow 0-4 team SK this week, Gambit has their best chance to reclaim relevance before the standings gap widens too much. If FORG1VEN can shut down Freeze, the Wolves’ superweapon, and Cabochard and Betsy can survive early game objective pressure like that which the Wolves pulled out in Week 1, they might be able to pick up momentum before an ominous Week 4. In H2K, SK faces a stronger, refined version of the Wolves who crushed them in their first match, making for what will almost certainly be an uncontested loss. On Day 2, SK needs to capitalize on Gambit’s current tendency to commit simple errors if they want to avoid the bottom of the standings.
Looking Forward to…
The end of this week will see a third of the split in the record books, with playoff contention beginning to materialize. An 0-6 start is as hard to overcome as a 6-0 start is to drop. Can GIANTS! maintain their surge, or will Roccat launch one of their own? Will Elements (ever) live up to the hype that surrounds them? And will undefeated Fnatic and Origen pull out two victories each in preparation for their star-studded showdown next week?
Questions, comments, or critique? Post in the comment section below or email Josh at [email protected]