“The gap is closing” many claimed after the first week of the Group Stages. While everyone of us has admittedly fell into the disillusioned trap that Korean teams were within arm’s reach, the eastern overlords have yet to falter on the international stage, once again netting three out of four first seeds coming into the quarterfinals.
Some may argue that certain teams have had easier groups or under-performing opponents, but no one can deny that the eight best teams in the world are legitly competing for the most important prize. To all of you, KT fans, WE fans, Immortals fans, TSM fans, don’t look down on who got this far: they fought hard, and they deserve it. The most intense Best of 5s of the whole year are just a few days from us.
October 13th: Cloud 9 vs Samsung Galaxy
What an incredibly amazing run for both teams! On one side, a team that heavily underperformed in Spring, but managed to rebuild and go through all the qualifiers, despite facing probably stronger opponents; on the other side… pretty much the same! C9 and Samsung defied the expectations of everyone by reaching this point. Samsung in particular have practiced incredibly hard not to disappoint KT and their fans, and as a KT fan I’m not disappointed in the slightest.
While I luckily don’t have to predict who will be the winner, I’m ready to bet my organs that this will be one of the most exciting quarters. Why do I say this? Samsung and Cloud9 have played two completely different play styles. The former has a more controlled and planned strategy, with an heavy focus on structures and objectives (they took first 3 towers in 83% of their games and 67% of the dragons), while C9 are more lane-focused: Sneaky and Jensen respectively have 4.5 and 2.7 CSD@10, while Ruler and Crown are a little below the average. The heavy mismatch lies in the toplane: yes, CuVee can hold his own and has proven to be capable of solo-killing many opponents, but Impact boasts an amazing 13.8 CSD@10.
Another factor I want to highlight is about the teams’ carries: Jensen and Crown receive roughly the same amount of gold percentage (24.8%), but the Korean’s damage percentage is 4% higher than the dane. On the other hand, the contrary is true for ADCs: Sneaky outputs a whopping 30.2% of the team’s damage with less resources than Jensen, while Ruler sits at 24.4%. Jensen and Ruler need to be more efficient with the resources they are given if they don’t want to be a liability.
But there’s more than this. Since their debut in the scene in 2013, Cloud 9 have not lost a single Best of 5 to any team not named Samsung or TSM. Is this their moment to defy their haunting shadows?
Look for: Support rotations. Stats aside, what I feel will be the truly deciding factor in this Best of 5 is the double support available to Samsung. Wraith and CoreJJ have completely different play styles, the first more defensive/reactive, the latter more about aggression and play making. Smoothie needs to perfect his initiation skills if he wants to be able to face his two opponents who bring different skills to the table and make Samsung basically a two-in-one team.
October 14th: SK Telecom T1 vs Royal Never Give Up
Looking for something exciting? Well, stop right here then! One of the most anticipated matches of the whole year is happening during quarters, a heated rematch of some of the most exciting encounters in LoL history: 2013 Worlds finals and 2016 MSI semifinals. Even if Royal has been quickly dispatched in both matches, this is their time to prove they are no fluke.
Two factors will be of paramount importance: lane dominance and teamwork.
Uzi and Mata heavily rely on being ahead of their opponents to snowball the game, but Bang is no easy opponent with his 14.2 CSD@10 (Uzi is at 6.3, for comparison). This is all about their support’s pressure: Wolf can apply incredible pressure to the enemy ADC, and Uzi is notorious for his over-aggressiveness when contesting creeps; on the other hand, Mata has repeatedly set up ganks and 2v2 kills, bringing Uzi to the same GD@10 of Bang (386 to 428). In the other lanes, the mismatch is heavily on the side of SKT1: Looper sits at an embarrassing -16.8 CSD@10, and Xiaohu outputs 7% less damage than Faker.
But what really sets SKT1 apart is their map control: they have the best dragon control at 76%, they always take three towers before the other team and, even though Blank receives a lot of hate from fans, a stunning 57.6% of jungle control. It’s indeed an uphill battle for Royal, who have looked less and less coordinated as time passed, but they are here to fight, and they will.
Look for: Pressure. In the end, everything that SKT1 does is thanks to pressure. The incredible amount of map presence that Faker and Bang apply frees Blank and Wolf, allowing them to set up vision and objectives. If Royal can find a crack on their well-oiled machine, they have a shot at the semifinals, but that would require Mata and MLXG to show a synergy they have been lacking recently.
October 15th: ROX Tigers vs Edward Gaming
Korea’s best against China’s best. The two tournament favorites have undergone a rough Group Stage, but these teams are by no means bad or not worthy to watch. Only one of them will be granted a spot in the semifinals. These teams meet each other for the first time, and it could very well be the birth of a rivalry just like Royal and SKT. Instead of highlighting the strengths of the two Regional Champions, I would like to point out out their weaknesses, which unexpectedly showed during their recent matches.
First off, their early games. While during playoffs the grasp they had over the first minutes of the game was unparalleled, both EDG and the Tigers now have arguably the weakest early games of the eight quarter-finalists. Clearlove and Peanut, among the most hyped junglers in the tournament, sit at a measly 29% first blood percentage, and they have the lowest wards per minute. They also put the lowest focus on dragons and towers among all participants (with the exception of Albus Nox Luna). Not only that: both Scout and Kuro average negative CSD@10!
Needless to say, both teams need to work hard on their issues, and what will probably make the difference is how they fix them. Hopefully for both, once late game comes they show their true potential, often recovering from insurmountable leads with stellar performances by Deft (highest team damage percentage at 35.8%!) and PraY (highest DPM at 799!)
Look for: The toplane. You surely saw this coming, but it can’t be stated enough: despite Smeb’s not-so-dominant performances, his mismatch against Mouse is the main issue that both teams need to focus on. EDG need to find a quick solution if they don’t want Clearlove to be chained up top to stop Smeb’s threat, and the more the Tigers can emphasize that, the more likely they are to win.
October 16th: H2K vs Albus Nox Luna
“Hey, we got the easiest opponent possible!” said both teams at the same time. While funny, this is indeed true: H2K are still behind Korean teams, and Albus, while shocking the whole world, is still an underdog. Given the circumstances, one thing is certain: both teams will give everything they have to make their region proud to have a team in the Top 4 and possibly in the Finals.
H2K have probably read my last article, because they put to practice every thing I pointed out and managed to translate their unparalleled early game presence to an actual nexus exploding. Their early game has been arguably the best (at least statistically) among the team at Worlds, and as we’ve seen last week they have even managed to properly snowball games. Albus Nox, on the other hand, are really hard to interpret: First Bloods aside, they are more or less average on every aspect of the game. The most surprising strategy they have been pulling off is the sneaky Baron, but don’t expect too many of them: H2K have the second-highest wards placed AND cleared, meaning their vision control will not allow any cracks in their rotations to allow Albus Nox to snatch an objective.
I know you are already rooting for Albus Nox, but deep down you know have the feeling that H2K is better. Do not trust your instincts! Albus are a much better team that everyone believed them to be, and even Forgiven said they are favorite to enter semifinals.
Look for: Jungle pressure. Junglers have been tremendously instrumental for both teams: PvPStejos has the highest first bloods of ANY jungler in a group with Xmithie, Peanut and Trick, while on the other side Jankos, the famous European First Blood King, this time has shined for the aforementioned vision control, guiding his teammates through the fog of war.
So, with a rapid overview of all our quarter-finalists, I thank you once again for reading my article! If you want more insight on single matches, check out other SplitPush articles like the C9-SSG preview! As usual, be sure to hit me on Twitter for whatever reason you can think of, and enjoy the last weeks of Worlds! Don’t worry, What to Watch won’t leave you with nothing to watch in the following months!