After two weeks, all eight teams to participate in the League of Legends World Championship are known. While some, like SK Telecom T1, ROX Tigers, and Edward Gaming, were sure bets to make it there, teams like Royal Never Give Up, Samsung Galaxy, Cloud9, and H2K had big question mark next to their names. That’s without even mentioning the last team to get there, Albus NoX Luna.
The first Quarterfinal match, set to be played on the 14th of October, will feature NA’s Cloud9 and South Korea’s Samsung Galaxy, both third seeds from their respective regions. To be honest, I would be surprised if Cloud9 managed to win the Quarterfinal series. While they do have an advantage in the Top Lane, the Jungle position is where they find themselves at a disadvantage, with William “Meteos” Hartman occasionally not being where he needs to be, because killing Wraiths is obviously more important. The rest of the rosters for both teams are a little bit unremarkable, even if they can work well. Samsung does have an advantage against C9’s Mid and Bottom Lanes. This Korean team came out of the Group of Death as the first seed for a reason. While they do have weaknesses that can be exploited, as shown by TSM in Week One, I’m afraid that Cloud9 just isn’t as good. Still, getting matched against SSG is not such a bad thing. They would have a better chance to win only if they had to play Albus NoX or H2K. As far as Asian teams go, Samsung is probably the weakest, with the possible exception of RNG when they’re having a bad day.
The second Quarterfinal match to be played on October 15, is the one where SK Telecom T1 will face Royal Never Give Up in a match, which could have easily been a Worlds title match in any other year. Trying to call it is very hard. Going lane by lane, RNG has an advantage in the Top Lane and Jungle, while nobody would be foolish enough to argue that SKT’s Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok isn’t head and shoulders above RNG’s Mid Laner, Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao. While it’s true that even Faker himself admits that last year’s Faker would kick his ass ingame, it’s also true that Xiaohu’s been massively underperforming in Worlds so far. Faker is definitely good enough to win that micro-battle, even if he’s not the same God he used to be.
In order to not get clobbered, SKT will have to dedicate a lot of resources to the Mid Lane. The problem is that SKT’s legendary Jungler Bae “bengi” Seong-ung is well-known to be the unsung hero behind Faker’s greatness. Having to choose between Xiaohu/Liu “mlxg” Shi-yu and Faker/bengi, I would pick the SKT Mid/Jungle combo any day.
Finally, the Bot lanes. While Jian “Uzi” Zi-hao and Cho “Mata” Se-hyoung are one of if not THE best Bot lanes in the world, SKT’s Bae “Bang” Jun-sik and Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan aren’t that far behind. Probably, the best way for SKT to win the series is to leave the Mid lane to Faker, dedicating bengi’s time to helping out his bot lane, unless they actually don’t need it. While this strategy would open up some vulnerable spots in SKT’s armor to be taken advantage by RNG, Faker should be so far out of Xiaohu’s league that the Mid players would come out even or at least close to it. On the upside, if RNG’s bot lane is crippled similarly to what was done to the TSM Bot lane in the last game of Group D, SKT should have a clear way to victory. This not being a bo1, both teams will obviously be able to adjust the strategy as needed.
Moving along, the next Playoffs series will be played on the 16th of October. It will be one more match, where either of the two teams would raise no eyebrows by making it into the Grand Final. Which teams are those? ROX Tigers and Edward Gaming.
Going lane by lane once again, the biggest advantage ROX have is in the Top lane, with Song “Smeb” Kyung-ho massively outclassing EDG’s Chen “Mouse” Yu-Hao. The rest of the head-to-head matchups are much closer, with ROX Mid, occupied by Lee “kurO” Seo-haeng, being the only weakspot. Even then, the difference between him and his counterparts from China is mostly negligible. The Junglers are about equal, the Bot lanes are mostly even as well, even though EDG’s Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu holds a small edge over Kim “PraY” Jong-in. The difference is made up by Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyeon from ROX, who is probably a better Support than Tian “Meiko” Ye.
There is one last thing to be said, however. While both teams got upset by unexpected squads from Europe, Albus NoX Luna in the case of ROX and H2K in the case of EDG, ROX did get their satisfaction by crushing the European upstarts in the tiebreaker match. EDG, however, proceeded to get upset once again, by the same H2K team. They will probably be quite angry and desperate to prove that the loss was a fluke. This passion might make it harder for ROX to win. It is still likely that they will. Smeb is just. that. Good. One last unfortunate kink in ROX’s plans – Top Lane is not as impactful as it used to be, so Smeb’s effectiveness might be a little reduced.
The final Playoff series, taking place on October 17th, will feature the two surprising teams of the week, Albus NoX Luna and H2K. I know that ANX managed to win against ROX and all, but they got demolished in the tiebreaker, while H2K not only upset EDG once, but also kept standing and convincingly beat EDG for a second time. This shows that the European LCS team is not a one-hit wonder. Despite becoming a fan favorite completely out of the blue, I would be extremely surprised if Albus NoX Luna can go any deeper into the tournament now, when their opponents are going to take them seriously. Don’t get me wrong, they are good, just not THAT good.
So, what matchups should we see in the Semifinals, provided that the world makes sense for once? It’s likely that it will be SKT vs. ROX and H2K vs. SSG, though SKT vs. EDG is also very probable.