In the previous week of North American LCS, we had Riot wager their viewership against the NFL SuperBowl, and arguably delivered a better product. Team Solo Mid defeated their main competition, Cloud 9, in a 37-minute battle for first place. Curse tried to pull a fast one against CLG, bringing out an ultra-fast push/disengage composition, but fouled up one time too many, and lost the game. But the most noteworthy event of NA LCS is the final game of CLG Link from the jungle. CLG will mourn the loss of such a fantastic jungler, leading CLG to a modest 4-5 record so far. But there is a dark cloud forming over the LCS studio in Los Angeles; Dexter is upon us.
Saturday, Feb 8th
Cloud 9 and XDG have had an interesting history over the past year. In the 2013 LCS Summer Split, XDG (known as Vulcun at the time) was the only team to take two games off of Cloud 9. C9 had a weaker early game than most, but an exceptional mid and late game. XDG had the best early game of all LCS teams, but a befuddled late game. Cloud9 defeated XDG with suffocating objective control and preying on the inexperience of the newly role-swapped players.
Cloud9 has had great success through solid objective control, as well as some of the best champion draft selection in the business. C9 Hai received 62.5% of all bans against C9, and has played 6 unique champions of 8 total games; also drawing out 6 Kha’Zix bans. Cloud9 tend to have the best dragon control of any North American team, only giving up 3 dragons out of 36 total (all 3 to Dignitas).
The performance of XDG has been less than optimal, with XDG climbing out of a 5-game slump in a scrappy victory against CLG. The champion draft for XDG has been a difficult, with the lane swaps from jungle and marksman, which leads to XDG prioritizing earlier jungler picks (and more teams banning out junglers against XDG). Right now, the bans are polarized against both Zuna in the jungle (50% of all bans) and Mancloud in mid (41.6% of all bans), with the performance of both players suffering as a result. Aside from a challenging champion draft, the decision-making in game has been poor, with extremely risky and careless plays being made repeatedly.
Jera’s prediction: Cloud9 heavily favored to win.
The last time these two teams met was back in Week 1, where Dignitas picked up their first win of the season in a one-sided victory with Coast’s bottom lane and jungle being the main cause of loss. Since then, Dignitas has gone on to win their next 4 games, while Coast has lost their last 4 games. The season is beginning to look bleak for Coast, but the consistency of Dignitas still leaves a shimmer of hope for Coast.
Dignitas had a depressing showing at the Battle of the Atlantic in December, but managed to gain a significant amount of momentum by defeating Cloud 9 in the first week of the 2014 Spring LCS. Dig have been stepping up their game, with QTpie being an absolute monster with a 14.25 KDA for the last three games and the victory over Cloud9. Jungler Crumbz has shown up to play, having been one of the main factors for Dignitas winning out the early and mid-game. The strategy that has been working for Dignitas is to give Crumbz an aggressive jungler, while Scarra has a heavy wave-clear mid.
Coast has been in a bit of an identity crisis as of late. The main weakness of Coast is the champion pool of Coast Shiphtur, who has played only 4 mid champions. The ban strategy against Coast is simple; ban several high-priority mid lanes, take a mid early. Coast is afraid of getting counter-picked, and draft mid late. What this leaves is a small selection of “comfortable” picks for Shiptur, where he has landed on Katarina for his past 3 games. The fallacy for Coast is that they invest so heavily into an AoE-CC team fight competition that many teams either refuse to fight, or pick off high-priority targets so quickly that the fragile DPS aren’t able to finish a target, which is essential for Katarina’s kit.
Jera’s prediction: Dignitas favored to win, depends if Coast have a better composition planned for the weekend.
The third game of the day is another encounter between Evil Geniuses and Team Solo Mid. In their last encounter, TSM and EG had a 43-kill bloodbath in under 40 minutes, with each player killing at least 3 champions. Let us not forget why we pay homage to the MVP of week 1, Bjergsen.
Evil Geniuses have had strange compositions for the past few weeks, including a jungle Mundo, several occurrences of top lane Nidalee, and even a Soraka/Urgot bottom lane. When examining the compositions of EG, it seems as if the team selects champions that they are comfortable on, at the price of composition synergy. The advantage that this leaves EG is that their champion draft is somewhat unpredictable. Is that first pick Gragas going mid, or into the jungle? Is that a mid or top Yasuo? Certainly that Alistar must be going support…
Team Solo Mid, on the other hand, are not subtle about which champion goes where; as the champion pools are clearly defined. Against TSM, many opponents try to limit the damage that mid lane Bjergsen by attempting to ban out some of the scarier champions from this heavy assassin mid (58% of teams bans). LeBlanc, Zed, Gragas, Kassadin, and Kha’Zix are admirable bans to force Bjergsen on something “uncomfortable”. The big difference between TSM and EG is that TSM has intricate plans according to which mid champions are banned, while EG tends to improvise their compositions.
Jera’s prediction: TSM is heavily favored to win.
The battle between Curse and Dignitas will be the first official LCS encounter of these teams since Dignitas defeated Curse to advance in the 2013 Summer Playoffs, with Curse having to fight to stay out of relegation (and falling to CLG, being relegated). For the most part, both Curse and Dignitas have been seen as B-Tier teams, being just a little above average, but nothing outstanding.
Team Curse have been one of the more innovative teams in the LCS, being the first team to bring jungle Pantheon to the LCS (and having SaintVicious theory-craft the power of jungle Wukong). Curse have also brought out some unfamiliar faces; from mid-lane Akali and Vladimir, to fast push with Janna and Nunu, even a top-lane Karthus. Needless to say, Curse is not afraid to experiment against teams to earn extra bans against them. Bans against Curse tend to fall onto IWillDominate (33% of all bans) and Voyboy (46% of all bans), which is standard in North American draft that focuses on limiting the mid-lane champion selection.
This will be the second game for Dignitas for the day, and Dig have another game on Sunday. One of the problems facing Dig is how they approach the ban phase against Curse. Curse have brought several different compositional strategies to the table, which is uncommon (seeing as most teams have a single strategy planned for the weekend). Which mid lanes will Dignitas wish to ban against Voyboy, or try to preserve for Scarra? Outside of the Gragas/Ziggs picks, neither players champion pool overlaps the other too significantly, which may lead to fewer mid bans and more bans towards jungle and top lane.
Jera’s prediction: 50-50 for either team, will most likely rest on how well Dignitas handle the Curse composition and early game.
Sunday, Feb 9th
This is an exciting weekend for CLG, as this this the first time in the season that they will be able to use their dedicated jungler, Dexter, in the LCS. This will be the only game for CLG this weekend, to all eyes are on Dexter.
Previously, Evil Geniuses defeated CLG (on patch 3.15), where EG initiated a lane swap and heavily punished CLG Nien. EG snowballed the pressure and took the game in under 33 minutes. It’s difficult to read the EG strategy against CLG, as the return to mid for Link is a large unknown for most, and EG will only have solo queue records to make predictions.
The arrival of Dexter relieves Link of his post in the jungle, and also brings several unknowns to the CLG line up. What champions do Dexter and Link have in their repertoire? Will Dexter acclimate to the emerging junglers of Pantheon and Wukong? Will Link have mastery over the mechanical LeBlanc, or will he having something special planned, like an AP Lulu? Either way, this is a terrifying team to prepare against, with EG practically going in blind.
Jera’s prediction: CLG favored to win, 70-30 in favor of CLG.
This is the second match between Curse and TSM this season, with Curse falling flat attempting to run a heavy offense Wukong jungle that was instantly bursted by Bjergsen’s LeBlanc. Still, the elusive LeBlanc eludes even the trickiest of monkey kings. Since then, the Curse strategies have remained somewhat unpredictable.
Curse have had a rough time against some of the better teams, often resorting to these “surprise” compositions to catch teams off-guard. While at times it is innovative, there are serious flaws that can be easily exploited. Against a veteran team like TSM, Curse should try to play the most standard, foundational game they possibly can, and try to beat TSM in the lane phase. The coordination of team fighting for TSM is the best in North America, and it is unlikely that Curse will win a 5-on-5 with gold/items being equal.
Jera’s prediction: TSM heavily favored to win.
Last week, Cloud9 put the Coast AoE composition to the test, and slowly grinded it down to pulp. Coast lasted over 40 minutes against C9, which is no easy task against an objective focused team. The strategies designed by Cloud9 are usually more complex, while Coast has an easy read as to how they want to win the game.
Taking a look at Coast, some of the tendencies for this team is that they tend to bring a single strategy to the table, and play the same strategy for the weekend. The is strategy is planned by taking into account several of the most popular bans, then building a comp without them. Of course, Coast do bring back-up strategies, but if the crucial champions that they want are left open, they will take them.
Cloud9’s jungler, Meteos, has been in somewhat of an identity crisis during season 4. During season 3, he was a dominant, farm heavy jungler whose visits to lane were to push harder. Fast forward to season 4, Meteos has taken pages from the Eastern LoL scene, picking up champions like Lee Sin, Fiddlesticks, and Nunu. The paradigm has shifted for Meteos to bring a new aggressive façade to C9, but his evolution is far from complete. My guess is that Meteos is trying to hard-carry on the jungler in order to demand more bans against him, leaving better options for C9 Hai in the mid lane.
Jera’s prediction: C9 heavily favored to win.
The final game of the weekend is another rematch from week two, where Crumbz stole a 35-minute Baron away from XDG to snowball the game, taking 7 towers in under 4 minutes. Dignitas are looking better than most have expected, and XDG are still dealing with many internal issues.
A huge issue for both of these teams, and this is publicly acknowledged, is the B-word. The Baron has been a mountain of trouble for both of these teams, with both attributing several losses to that regal Worm-beast. An interesting statistic, when Dignitas secure a single Baron in the game, they have a 100% win-rate. XDG put a heavy priority on Baron, and have made plays to secure it several times before the 25-minute mark.
Jera’s prediction: Dig favored to win, depends on champion draft and how both teams perform at Baron.
And that will wrap it up for the NA LCS preview for week 4! The big news for this week is the first appearance of Dexter with CLG in the NA LCS. The games this week aren’t too terribly impactful towards the overall standing, with Dig and CLG looking to break away towards the upper echelon.
Be sure to catch all of the action on www.lolesports.com, starting at 3pm EST/Noon PST.