The League of Legends 2017 World Championship Quarterfinals was a week to remember. With some huge upsets, it’s a wonder to everyone how the next stages will play out. In terms of picks and bans this week we obviously saw much of the same- Sejuani, Jarvan IV, Jayce, Tristana, and the Ardent Censer supports made regular appearances for good reason. However, some teams did venture outside of the established meta and took bold chances that astonished the spectators and opponents alike. I am very proud of those teams who managed to show up with some imagination and even deliver on it in the form of resounding victories. Not only is it more interesting to watch but it can reap rewards.
Longzhu v Samsung Galaxy: Longzhu Gaming were the favorites coming into this series. They went 6-0 in the Group Stage and after perfored well throughout Worlds and the year on the whole. They are a very strong team with a cohesive strategic sensibility, and they had been on a seemingly unstoppable rampage coming into the Quarterfinals. Of course, not many people realized how much of an obstacle the immovable object of Samsung Galaxy would prove. They were enough of an obstacle to deny Longzhu a single victory in the Quarterfinals best-of-five series! That’s right, Longzhu Gaming have failed to reach the Semi-finals, after predictions saw them beating Samsung outright.
Longzhu honestly seemed off form coming into this series. A sequence of silly mistakes cost them the games early on, and although they had some moments where there seemed to be a glimmer of their former selves, in the end they failed to pull out even a single victory.
This is a promising time for Samsung Gaming, however, the underdogs in this match-up, who were given a much-needed boost of confidence heading into the semi-finals. Now they have the mammoth task of squaring up to the best teams in the world. Let’s hope they are up for it.
Fnatic v Royal Never Give Up: This series was basically the antithesis of the previous series. The team who everyone expected to win (RNG) smashed Fnatic into little pieces. Even though Fnatic put up a better fight than Longzhu in that they secured a victory for themselves, they were outmatched, outclassed and outgunned.
Fnatic has been on a long, difficult road in League of Legends. Having won the Season 1 World Championships, some would claim it has been downhill for them since then. This is an incomplete (if not entirely inaccurate) summation, considering their varying levels of success in the European LCS and placements at Worlds.
Royal Never Give Up, however, has exploded onto the scene with an unmatched intensity, and they gave the former World Champions no room for error in this series. Fnatic did their best, and sOAZ gave us his classic circus performance of leading members of RNG on a merry chase around the Rift, but in the end it wasn’t enough. RNG is heading to the Semi-finals.
Team WE v Cloud9: This series wasn’t nearly as clean-cut as the others, and both teams put up a valiant fight. Cloud9 drew the best placement they could have done and put up a good fight with that advantage. Unfortunately, they just couldn’t quite manage to knock down these Chinese titans on their own stage.
Despite coming up short overall in this series, Cloud made it to Game 5. They pulled out some unexpected picks (such as Aurelion Sol and Singed), which I approve of. They even managed to hand it to WE in terms of map pressure and macro-play (things that Chinese and Korean teams are renowned for exploiting masterfully). Despite their best efforts they are out of the League of Legends 2017 World Championship and with them go the hopes of a North American victory.
Team World Elite now has a serious challenge ahead of them. They have thus far had a relatively easy time of it coming up through the groups but that ends here. Can they tango with the Big Boys? We’ll find out next week.
Misfits v SKT: Without being biased, this series was honestly what this week was all about for me. This was the most exciting, nail-biting, roller-coaster ride of a best-of-five I have ever witnessed. It was an absolute privilege to witness a true support genius in the form of Ignar bring out such aggressive picks as Blitzcrank and Leona with (wait for it) Fervor of Battle as his keystone on the World Stage. Also to see such an experienced, intelligent team as SKT be kicked around by the European underdogs gave me no small amount of pleasure I must say.
However, as painful as it is for me to say admit it, Misfits bit the bullet in the end and lost to SKT in an extremely close fifth game. That said SKT may still be reeling after those games.
The first game was a white-wash. SKT steamrolled Misfits with ease. I don’t know whether this was simply nerves or an attempt to play to the Worlds meta, but either way Misfits didn’t show up. Game 2 and 3, however, were a different story. Misfits obviously heard my prayers and refused to play SKT’s game. SKT historically like to play the game as a war of attrition- lengthening out the game until they can utilize their excellent team fight coordination. Misfits, on the other hand, like to take early kills and objectives and continuously snowball, never letting up the pressure. These two games exhibited that. Despite Huni constantly split-pushing for SKT, they managed to deal with the split threat and exhibited near-perfect execution.
Game 4 saw Misfits misplay their team fights, and Game 5 was a similarly unfortunate tale. SKT was the favorite afterall, but after the other teams have seen them bleed, I am predicting a difficult path to the finals for the three-time World Champions.
Samsung Galaxy (Korea)
Royal Never Give Up (China)
World Elite (China)
So, it could be two Korean teams in the League of Legends 2017 World Championship finals. Not only that but a repeat of last year’s final. However, that is looking unlikely based on SKT’s weak performance this year and the Chinese teams’ comparative strength. With the “home-field advantage,” we may potentially see two Chinese teams vying for glory.
Picks and bans may remain largely the same (this year has sadly been defined by the poor balancing of Ardent Censer), but as we saw in the Quarterfinals a lot can hang on whether or not a team is brave enough to bring out something unexpected. The most likely team to attempt something like this in my mind is World Elite. The other teams’ playstyles have proven too effective up until now. My quiet hope is that the teams will take that brave step, pick that unorthodox champion, and give us all the exciting games we long to watch. I mean shields are fun and all… but shields really suck and should be removed from the game.
My prediction for the Semi-finals is that SKT and Royal Never Give Up will prevail. SKT is the three time World Champions for a reason, however, and may surprise everyone after a weak season. Team WE is a strong contender but I don’t see them making it to the final based on what we’ve seen thus far. The other three teams are just too powerful.
This arrangement of teams does present the interesting quandary of how playstyles and tactics may evolve in the next stage. These teams historically have similar enough styles- a focus on objectives, calculated map movements and strong team fighting. If allowed into the later stages of games, SKT may prove unstoppable with their astounding level of coordination and skill in team fights. However, if allowed to gain any early momentum Royal Never Give Up may prove victorious. Samsung Galaxy is similar to SKT in that they focus more on pushing out the game and starving their opponents than making highly aggressive plays. In terms of individual player skill, SKT would come out on top. Team WE is the underdog in my eyes, and even if afforded time in the sun in the earlier stages, underdogs get eaten up once they reach the Semi-finals.
With that said, if Misfits can pull it out of the bag versus the best team in the world, who’s to say that WE can’t? The competition has boiled down to this: Korea versus China. Old rivalries abound and I am sure the Chinese teams will have a certain extra intensity as we draw ever closer to the final. They are on home soil. They have lost out to SKT each and every time they have reached the finals; they will be determined not to let that happen again.
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