2019 World Championship Finals — Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

November 10th, 2019

Photo: Riot Games

The day we’ve all been waiting for. The clash of the year. The one Best of 5 that will define not just the entire 2019 competitive season, but also the world of competitive League going forward. Talk about a barnburner. Months upon months of playing, grinding, VOD reviewing, endless strategizing and meta adapting has brought G2 Esports and FunPlus Phoenix to this one moment in time — the 2019 World Championship finals.

It is a prestigious moment, without a doubt. Many teams and players across the globe dream of this one moment; the moment when they step foot on stage and hear their names chanted by thousands of roaring fans, all eager to watch these talented individuals play their heart out on the Summoner’s Rift. Many dream of these scenes, and yet they’re reserved for only a handful of people each year.

And this time, we’re getting a clash that’s — at least regionally speaking — a repeat of 2018. We are once again witnessing a clash between China and Europe, much like last year. The only difference this time are the teams that are playing: G2 Esports instead of Fnatic, and FunPlus Phoenix instead of Invictus Gaming. These two challengers have taken over their predecessors; they have beaten them both back on home soil, but also at Worlds (at least in FunPlus’ case). By all accounts, this is a fight between two of the best, most stacked, talented, flexible and capable teams in the world of competitive League.

Heck, they’re so talented and capable it’s not even fair to the rest of the teams competing. There’s such a huge gap between them, it’s baffling, really. And no matter which patch they fight on, these two titans always find a way to win. But they’re somewhat different — FunPlus Phoenix mostly consists of young, “unproven” players who burst onto the scene in incredible fashion. G2 Esports, on the other hand, is dominated by European legends; players who have been competing at the highest of levels of years now. It’s also home to — arguably — the best jungler Europe ever fostered Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski, the best mid laner in Rasmus “Caps” Winther, and the best Western player of all time: Luka “Perkz” Perković.

It is this veteran presence — along with a boatload of innate talent — that brought G2 Esports so much success throughout 2019. They already went through thick and thin. They’re well aware of the tenacity that’s necessary to survive in competitive League, and they’ve fought many a time in those high-pressure situations in which a single click often ends up being the difference between victory and defeat. They know what it takes to be a champion, and they’ve fought through many years of ups and downs to get to where they are now.

FunPlus, on the other hand, just started dominating in their most recent split. Now sure, they definitely dominated, but it’s still a relatively fresh result. But despite the recency of their success, they showed no signs of stopping throughout their entire Worlds run; they have shown no obvious weakness. Most of their players are absolute behemoths in their respective roles, and some might argue that they have the best jungler and support in the world right. And the frightening thing is, they don’t always win through their most potent tools. Instead, they take turns. You’ll see their mid laner Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang dominate in one game, after which Lin “Lwx” Wei-Xiang takes on the burden of hardcarrying and plays out of his mind. You can never tell how they’ll play, nor what they’ll draft. Some of their decisions don’t always make sense on first glance — like putting Doinb, one of their best and most mechanically talented players, on Nautilus for four games in a row. In hindsight, however, it all makes sense.

They’re always a couple of steps ahead of their opposition, and are always prepared no matter the opponent. While they did have a couple of miss-steps against Splyce, they were quick to adapt and fix their biggest flaws. There aren’t any evident kinks in their armor, and even the problems that most teams have in the current meta are absent whenever FunPlus plays. But how is that possible?

Most of it boils down to their inherent playstyle — the patented LPL aggression. When FPX decides on a play, they follow through, regardless of the odds. They all get on the same page and play with such staggering confidence, that a 50/50 play becomes 70/30, or 80/20. When you’re willing to fight for every inch of the Summoner’s Rift and haven’t the faintest notion of losing on your mind, then you’ve increased your chances tenfold. Such conviction is present only with the best LPL teams, and FunPlus reigns supreme in that regard.

Their series against Invictus Gaming was an absolute masterclass in execution, team play, and mechanical prowess.

The first game of the series was insane, but it wasn’t until the second one that we were blessed with some true insanity. FunPlus Phoenix had the edge in every regard, but Invictus fought back to the best of their ability. Invictus adapted after their first loss and brought comfort picks and stellar teamfighting tools to the second game.

When you have ten individuals who fully believe they have what it takes to make the game-winning play, you’re bound to be entertained. It wasn’t long before IG found the one opening they needed and capitalized by focusing on Doinb and evening the series 1-1.

The best LPL teams and players will take humongous gambles because they always have full faith that they can make things happen. Sometimes it backfires, that’s for sure, but when it doesn’t — which is fortunately far more frequent — they make miracles happen.

Their jungler Gao “Tian” Tian-Liang is also incredibly impactful on Qiyana, a champion G2 didn’t show any proficiency on and has been banning it in every single game.

FPX wanted to get out of their bad lane match-ups, whereas IG just wanted to scale into the late-game and capitalize through their incredible teamfighting. But FunPlus always showed the willingness to make a step forward and engage on their own terms, when and how they feel like it. Their insane champion pools are staggering, and they’re definitely greater than the sum of their parts.

IG was slow, which allowed FPX to set the pace of each game and dominate right from the very get-go. Both teams showcased immense resilience and mental fortitude, but it was FPX who prevailed in the end.

It was a fantastic series that had 169 deaths across four games. Let that sink in. That’s carnage in every way, shape, and form. Everyone hoped that an LPL vs. LPL semifinal would deliver, and it definitely did. Perhaps most importantly, FPX showcased incredible flexibility and creativity which are paramount when facing a team like G2. You need to play their game as well, to understand how they want to do things and when.

G2 Esports’ series against SKT T1 was, by all accounts, even better. And that’s saying something, really. Game one was a back-and-forth affair that saw both teams trade heavy blows, albeit in somewhat slow fashion. Neither team was willing to over-extend and, in doing so, give over a lead to their opponent. Macro was the name of the game, as G2 split-pushed whenever possible. In the end, their better team fighting and ability to control the pace of the game without ever giving in to SKT and their pressure was what got them the lead in the series. It wasn’t as hectic as many anticipated, and the gold difference by the end was barely one thousand.

A clash of two seemingly equal titans.

Game two was much of the same, as both teams went back and forth, although this time it was SKT who had control of the game. Even after twenty minutes of action, the gold difference was two-thousand. Pretty negligible at this level of play. But as time went on, SKT got more and more ahead, until their lead became insurmountable. At that point, closing things out was more of a formality. This was the SKT many expected, and even though G2 fought to the best of their ability, it simply wasn’t enough. The series continued developing in fairly similar fashion, as both teams traded leads in game three. There were just six kills on the board fifteen minutes in, but it felt like chaos was almost guaranteed one both teams attained their level and item spikes. In the end, it was Perkz who was able to push his team over the finish line with his incredible 9/0/4 Xayah performance.

Coming into game four, G2 Esports had match point. But multiple egregious errors across the map gaev SKT a noticeable lead. It wasn’t as evident in their gold or objectives, but they were definitely the more proactive team, But G2 never surrendered. They fought their hearts out and utilized their team fight to perfection. It was an incredible, commanding performance. When everything was on the line, they persevered and thrived under pressure. A huge blunder from Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok at the thirty-minute mark allowed G2 to take down two SKT members, kill Baron and turn the game around. A Perkz Yasuo quadra kill was the final, finishing touch, and it signaled to the world that Europe really belongs in the pantheon of competitive League of Legends.

So what about this one match-up, in particular? There’s not a lot of information overall, as these two teams never fought against each other. For every similarity between them, there’s a huge difference as well. This World Championship has been an absolute nightmare betting-wise as you’re never really sure who’s going to win. That, on one hand, is incredibly exciting and engaging. On the other, however, it’s infuriating as no amount of preparation or statistical analysis will give you peace of mind. This really will be a game of inches. Both teams have what it takes to go the distance and to ultimately hoist the World Championship trophy. And when both competitors meet on such a level playing field, predicting anything with confidence becomes impossible.

It all boils down to who plays better on the day. And everything that we knew beforehand — like FunPlus’ international inexperience — is pretty much negated as this point in time. Both teams deserve our full benefit of the doubt, as they already attained a metric ton of success even against such stiff opposition.

In the end, however, we’ll side with G2 Esports. There’s an actual chance that they might win it all, and that, when put in context, is awe-inspiring. They have the right players and the depth which is necessary to win the whole thing. This is the best European team to ever play the game. And while some still discredit their accomplishment and doubt their potential, they’ve already proven their worth throughout 2019. Finally, preparing for G2 is as hard as one can imagine. There’s no one way in which they play the game, and their weapons are as diverse as their players. If they draft as well as they can, play to their strengths and perhaps put a bit of emphasis on Perkz and his deep and creative champion pool, they could definitely pull this off and become the first year in competitive League’s history to complete a golden calendar slam.

All of that said, do have in mind that this series can truly go either way. FunPlus Phoenix has shown no big weakness, and Europe has a history of faltering against LPL giants. The sights of Fnatic losing to Invictus last year still linger in the minds of many, and while the odds (depending on the website) paint a fairly one-sided picture, don’t let that fool you. The LPL behemoth is more than well-equipped for any strategy that G2 Esports can come out with. Further, FunPlus has arguably been far more consistent when it mattered the most.

Regardless of the final outcome, it’s fair to say that this Best of 5 could become one of the best and most competitive clashes in history.

Winner: G2 Esports, 1.90 (odds @ Bet365)

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2019 World Championship Semifinals — Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

November 2nd, 2019

Photo: Riot Games

Just three Best of 5s separate us from the end of the 2019 World Championship. It’s feels strange to even write such a thing — the competitive season flew by, and it is only so because it was defined by many exciting, back and forth wars and brand-new narratives that made this into the best and most engaging year in competitive League’s history. We have four teams left competing, and no one’s quite sure what to think.

Will SKT reclaim their long-lost throne? Will China cement itself as the strongest region in the world for the second year in a row? Will G2 Esports upset the status quo and usher in a different kind of era, one that is defined by more equality (skill and success-wise) between all the major regions?

These are all burning questions, and yet there’s no definitive answer in sight. Not yet, at least. This means every single game going forward is an absolute must watch — as if you didn’t know that already. Regardless of which team eventually emerges victorious, one thing is for certain: each and every one of these four challengers has what it takes to go all the way; each team has the right tools to ultimately hoist the World Championship trophy in front of thousands of roaring fans.

That’s why this is all so exciting, but also dangerous — if you’re looking to bet on the three last remaining Best of 5s, that is.

We need to say this flat-out: there are no favorites, and nothing is set in stone. The winner could be decided on a coin-toss — that’s how it feels. It’s no longer region vs. region or the East vs. the West. Instead, it’s team vs. team. One behemoth against another. One titan of competitive League against another.  All four line-ups are brimming with talent. It’s mind-boggling, really. There have never been four teams in the semifinals that were as stacked as they are now.

And to make matters even more interesting, each and every one of them poses a different kind of test and challenge. They all adhere to the meta, but they find success through slightly different means and have slightly different ideas on how they want to play. These minute differences might not seem all that much on paper, but in actuality, they are what makes or breaks the game. Slight nuances that end up being determining factors.

Now it’s all about who prepares the best, and which team adapts the quickest in the Best of 5 setting.

In the end, we’re bound to get one LPL team in the finals against either the Korean or European champions. Regardless of how things eventually unfold, we should be in for one insane, action-packed weekend.

So with that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the first semifinal clash!

FunPlus Phoenix vs. Invictus Gaming

Photo: Riot Games

Whenever we get a clash between two LPL behemoths, there’s a reason to celebrate. Top-tier play is always guaranteed. Always. While it might not be the cleanest League of Legends around, it’s certainly the most exciting. And this clash, in particular, is especially fascinating. It’s a fight between the old and the new guard; a fight between the defending champions (Invictus Gaming) and a pack of hungry, mechanically gifted newcomers who completely mopped the floor with the opposition back on home soil.

In fact, they only lost one Best of 5 on their road to becoming the 2019 Summer Split LPL champions. And that one loss? It was to Invictus Gaming. It really doesn’t get any better than this.

Furthermore, the trajectories of both teams throughout the World Champions are fairly similar. They were fairly hyped up coming into the tournament, but they failed to play as well as most expected in the beginning. FunPlus Phoenix struggled mightily against Splyce, whereas Invictus simply couldn’t find a way to beat DAMWON Gaming, who also happens to be a third seed (albeit from Korea). Overall, things looked somewhat dire for both competitors and even though everyone knew they would pick up steam eventually, they were definitely running out of time.

But then the quarterfinals came around, and both FunPlus as well as Invictus dominated beyond measure. To win is one thing, but to win like they did is to make a statement. They wanted redemption for their inconsistent play and they wanted to show the world that they meant business.

And sure enough, they got everyone’s attention.

FunPlus Phoenix had to go through Fnatic, whereas Invictus had Griffin. By all accounts, neither team had an easy road up to this point, and yet they made it look so easy.

Let’s focus on Invictus first. They had to take on a frightening challenger from the LCK; a team that is well-known for their immense mechanical prowess and unrelenting aggression. Everyone was fully aware of just how dangerous and capable Griffin is when they’re at the top of their game, and the fact that they outclassed G2 Esports twice in a row meant they definitely had all the right tools in order to advance further into the tournament and potentially even challenge in the finals. They had all the hype in the world, and their inherent flaws (coupled with their inexperience) seemed like a thing of the past.

But then they faced Invictus Gaming, and everything went awry.

They fought valiantly, but the defending champions definitely had the edge in every regard. Every game was — to a certain degree — a back-and-forth affair that could have gone either way. Griffin had their leads, they were beating Invictus out in multiple facets of play but they simply couldn’t capitalize and close out when they had to. When push came to shove, Invictus’ veteran status prevailed. Then again, that’s a very nice and somewhat diplomatic way of saying that they had Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok and Song “Rookie” Eui-jin who performed out of their minds.

When you’re up against two League of Legends titans, it’s hard to find an opening. Invictus is by no means perfect, but they’re well aware of their weaknesses and they know how to play around them. They’re also well-equipped for every stage of the game and can play through all three of their lanes — much like G2 Esports and SKT T1. They can pick and choose how they want to play things out and in a Best of 5 setting that’s of incredible value.

It was a fascinating match-up primarily because one team’s biggest strength (TheShy) was facing another team’s biggest weakness (Choi “Sword” Sung-won). It was a huge mismatch (although it always is when TheShy plays) and it defined the entire series. And that’s perhaps one of the biggest questions right now: will Invictus’ stellar solo laners be enough against FunPlus Phoenix? Will they once again accept the heavy burden of hard carrying and excel much like they did against Griffin? That’s a big “if” and even though they almost always succeed, it only takes one bad day for everything to fall apart.

Now, they’re not exactly the only ones who do the heavy lifting, but whenever Invictus needs that little extra, whenever they need that final push to get them towards victory, their two Korean imports are there to seal the deal. Knowing you have such talented solo laners — in a meta that favors solo lane dominance and deep champion pools — is absolutely huge. Finally, Invictus already did this whole “thing” once — they already went through thick and thin and succeeded in winning the World Championship. They’re fully aware of the trials and tribulations that come with such an endeavor and are focused on repeating their seismic triumph from last year.

Many doubted them and it’s easy to understand why. They simply didn’t look that good throughout the 2019 Summer Split, but once they had to step up they did. That’s a true hallmark of a veteran team. Finally, the fact that they’re once again playing with Gao “Ning” Zhen-Ning is definitely a plus. While Ning is always hard to read (for better and worse), he’s one of their biggest catalysts and can definitely turn the tides with relative ease. When he’s at the top of his game there’s only a handful of junglers in the world who can compete.

By the same token, FunPlus Phoenix blew Fnatic out of the water, and they did so in an even cleaner and more dominant a fashion than Invictus. Once FunPlus got the win over the former “kings of Europe”, there was no doubt left. It was obvious that they were better in every segment of the game and had no opening or weakness for Fnatic to exploit. It was an absolute masterclass in every regard, and it was also slightly heartbreaking because you could see just how hard Fnatic was trying, but nothing went their way — they couldn’t compete at FunPlus’ level.

Things started off with Fnatic’s now staple Garen and Yuumi bottom lane, with Twisted Fate for Tim “Nemesis” Lipovšek and Elise and Rengar to round out the top side of the map. It was a very specific, highly idiosyncratic late game-oriented team comp. It was also ill-advised as it could have backfired immensely. Fortunately, Fnatic found a way to make it work, at least early on. They got the lead fairly quickly, but whenever they wanted to engage or set things up, FunPlus was simply faster to react. Whenever Fnatic thought they found a play, FunPlus immediately turned the tides with staggering ease. After a couple of failed engages and team fights, Fnatic started bleeding across the map. It was a slow kind of defeat, and while they did fight to the best of their ability they were simply no match for the Chinese champions.

FunPlus read them like a book and were confident in their play. They controlled the bot side and were incredibly commanding once they got control of the series. They were always first to collapse in a team fight and once they had even the slightest of leads they made no mistakes whatsoever.

Game two wasn’t much different. Fnatic made egregious errors left and right, whereas FunPlus displayed impeccable macro and stellar decision-making. Many people thought Lin “Lwx” Wei-Xiang wouldn’t be able to match Martin “Rekkles” Larsson’s experience and level of play in the bottom lane, but it was actually FunPlus’ AD carry who dominated far beyond what anyone expected. Another game, and yet another one-sided shellacking.

Finally, game three was do or die for the former LEC champions. They adapted quite a lot and were much better from the very get-go. In fact, they nearly took FunPlus down, but thanks to some incredible play from Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang, FunPlus was able to hold on, defend their Nexus and eventually escape defeat by the skin of their teeth. Gao “Tian” Tian-Liang deserves a mention as well as he was able to completely shut down Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen in all three of their games. It was a fascinating thing, really, as Tian always reached level six more than a minute before his adversary. That’s absolutely insane, especially at this level of play and against a player of Broxah’s caliber.

FunPlus is a highly volatile team, but whenever they find their groove they’re almost unstoppable. This is what peak League of Legends looks like, and they’ve shown no signs of stopping or slowing down, in true LPL fashion, one might add.

In the end, we’re siding with Invictus Gaming, although not with full confidence. The sheer talent present within their line-up is baffling, but they’re also fairly inconsistent, and that’s worrying. This one can really go either way, and there’s no favorite whatsoever regardless of what the bookmakers say. Both teams have what it takes to get the win and it’ll all boil down to who plays better on the day. Regardless of how things ultimately unfold, we should be in for one insane, action-packed Best of 5 that’s probably going to be decided in game five.

Winner: Invictus Gaming, 2.20 (odds @ Betway)

SK Telecom T1 vs. G2 Esports

Photo: Riot Games

For our second semifinal clash we have an absolute barnburner. By all means, postpone any kind of responsibility or task you have, because this is one Best of 5 you do not want to miss. Heck, if this series pans out as expected, it could be a clash for the ages. And it’s not just a fight between two exceptional titans and champions — it carries a bit of weight narrative-wise as well.  These two teams already fought back at the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational, and it was G2 Esports who were — for the first time ever — able to best the LCK giants in 3-2 fashion. It was an insanely close series that, in all fairness, could have gone either way.

But it ultimately went in G2’s favor as their staggering mechanical prowess and sheer flexibility proved to be superior. It was a seismic upset and for the first time ever, we actually felt like anything could transpire in the world of competitive League. After all, G2’s incredible performance gave us a Western final. For a brief moment, we all felt that change was inevitable; we felt like the West finally found a way to leave a mark in the grand scheme of things.

Whether or not that’s the case still remains to be seen. We were wrong, frankly, in more ways than one. It wasn’t that the West improved leaps and bounds, but rather that individual teams attained a staggering read on the meta and improved as five-man units; it was about the teams, rather than the regions themselves. Not a single North American representative advanced out of the Group Stage, so it’s hard to sing their praises in any way, shape, or form. As for Fnatic and Splyce, even though they surprised in more ways than one, they were still obviously heavily outmatched when they faced FunPlus Phoenix and SKT T1, respectively.

That leaves us with G2 Esports, the best and most successful European team in history. With a roster as stacked and talented as this one, it’s really no surprise that they’ve gotten this far into the tournament even amidst such stiff competition. They’re the one team that defied the meta and in doing so dictated what the best and most optimal way to play the game was. They were “disobedient” because they felt like they had a better understanding of what needed to be done and when in order to attain success. Not everyone was aboard the hype train, but once they started taking heads left and right (a journey that was crowned with the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational trophy), teams started realizing — this is what peak League of Legends looks like.

Five exceptional players, each of them insanely talented and experienced. These are veterans, and within their lines is one of the best junglers in European history (Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski), the best Western mid laner in history (Rasmus “Caps” Winther), and arguably the best Western player of all time (Luka “Perkz” Perković), an individual whose triumphs (across two roles and many years) are nothing short of awe-inspiring.

They’re five madmen, and they’re finding so much success not just because they’re talented, but because they friends both in and out of the game. They revel in their profession and function, attack, defend, and breathe as a single unit. You can see that in their engages as well — whenever one players goes in, the rest of the team follows in a split of second. There’s no hesitation whatsoever. When you have five individuals performing as a unit, then they’ll either dominate beyond measure or implode trying. Fortunately, for G2’s it has only been the former. They’ve attained a seismic amount of success throughout 2019 and have yet to lose a Best of 5. They’re one of the biggest favorites to win the whole tournament and with good reason. They don’t have many flaws and are even more dangerous and capable in a multi-game series than in a double round robin.

They can win through any lane or player, and have some of the biggest champion pools in the history of competitive League. How does one prepare for such a behemoth? Where do you start, when they’re capable of playing nearly any champion in the game and still find immense success? If anything their biggest inherent flaw is their approach to the game. Sometimes, they just want to have fun. They get carried away by their own hype train — they fall to their own hubris. That’s what happens when you win day after day without investing much energy. To them, 2019 was mostly a breeze. They were rarely challenged, and we can count the instances when they were close to defeat on just one hand. The fact that they didn’t lose also speaks volumes about their preparation, mental fortitude and sheer resilience.

There’s simply no team like G2 out there in the world. They are, however, somewhat inconsistent. For G2 to fire on all cylinders, for them to play as well as they can, there can’t be a weak link. And 2019 also gave us a look at a wounded, exploitable G2. Talented and capable though they are, their jungler and support didn’t have the best of performances throughout the tournament. Confusing engages, ill-advised decisions and mechanical misplays were often on full-display whenever G2 faced someone who could match their aggression and early game prowess. Now, they always clean up their play after a loss — as one would expect from a team of their caliber — but they simply cannot afford a bad day when they’re facing a team like SKT T1.

The margin for error shrinks considerably, and even though SKT also makes mistakes, they need a far smaller opening in order to capitalize and win the whole game.

Most of the praise we’ve given to G2 also applies to SKT. They are by no means an inferior team. On the contrary, they can match the European champions lane for lane. They are, however, a bit less flexible. That is, at once, both a positive as well as a negative. On the plus side, being less diverse means they’ll focus on their strengths. On the negative, they won’t be as prepared for the wide array of strategies and team comps that G2 could bring to the table.

Despite this, they’re as well rounded as they come. Again, much like G2, multiple seasoned veterans, multiple avenues for success. They’re SKT T1, after all, and while that is somewhat of a cliche statement, it’s still fully applicable. The fact that they’re still able to compete at the highest of levels even though the roster underwent immense change over the year is a true testament to their coaching staff, coach Kim “kkOma” Jeong-gyun, and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok — the greatest League of Legends player to ever grace the stage.

If there’s one worrying sign when it comes to SKT, it has to be their confusing willingness to engage and speed things up when they should, instead, be focused on the opposite. They’re often too aggressive and it ends up backfiring. It’s a strange sight as well. Maybe they’re trying a bit too hard to adhere to the current meta, or maybe they just see openings that aren’t there. Be as it may, they’re making uncharacteristic and unforced mistakes, and they’re making them often. And again, at this level of play, you only need one bad decision to completely lose control of the game and/or series.

When they’re at the top of their game, when they come out prepared and fight for every inch of the Summoner’s Rift, they’re an absolute, towering giant. And much like with Invictus Gaming vs. FunPlus Phoenix, this whole Best of 5 will hinge around the smallest of adaptations mid-series. We’re talking minute nuances here, and predicting the outcome with confidence is downright impossible. Both teams have what it takes to get the win; both line-ups are stacked with talent, experience and potential.

There is but a single question that still lingers in the air: now when every team has adapted to the meta, does G2 Esports still have an edge? That’s a key question, and it’s impossible to answer at this point in time.

In the end, however, we’re siding with G2 Esports. We can talk ad nauseam about all the potential factors, the tournament-specific meta, who’s better than whom, and so on and so forth. But none of it will matter once these teams step foot on stage. The fact that G2 already beat SKT a couple of months ago tells us one incredibly important thing: that the LCK giants can bleed and that they’re mortal. If they did it once, they could, by all means, do it again. Now, things are rarely that simple, but we know they’re carrying the expectations of hundreds of thousands of local fans on their shoulders, and they’re a team that thrives under pressure. When everything is on the line, they’re always capable of clutching things out and creating highlight reel moments that’ll be remembered for years to come. That’s G2 Esports, and that’s why we all love them.

Their flexibility could also give them a huge upper hand in their clash against SKT — given that they draft around it. SKT won’t be able to ban them out, nor will they be contain Perkz and his potential champion ocean — AP mages and fighters/bruisers included. G2 Esports has all the right tools to get the win and reach the finals. That’s a fact. Whether or not they made the right moves behind the scenes in order to achieve such a thing still remains to be seen, but we’re optimistic.

If things pan out as expected, we could witness one of the best clashes in competitive League of Legends history, so make sure to tune in!

Winner: G2 Esports, 2.30 (odds @ Betway)

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2019 World Championship Quarterfinals — Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

October 27th, 2019

Photo: Riot Games

For our first quarterfinal match of the day, we have a rather fascinating clash between the perennial League giants SK Telecom T1 and an unlikely challenger — Splyce! Now, coming into 2019, no one could have predicted such a random, confusing, out-of-place match-up. Heck, Splyce never attained much success (regionally as well as internationally), and their one Worlds appearance back in 2016 didn’t exactly blow anyone away, although it was a commendable showing overall.

SKT, on the other hand, is the most storied and accomplished organization in the game’s competitive history. That’s a nicer, much more prolonged way of saying that this is quite a big mismatch. But 2019 already gave us many exciting upsets, and Splyce is definitely a team that’s not afraid of trading heavy blows, regardless of the opponent.

The first two quarterfinal Best of 5s failed to deliver, in a way. We all expected hectic, back-and-forth matches that would be decided by the slimmest of margins. We wanted to see teams fight for every inch of the Rift; a fight between seemingly equal challengers. Instead, we got two one-sided shellackings, basically. It’s not that we weren’t entertained, but rather that it didn’t live up to the immense hype coming into the Knockout Stage.

Invictus Gaming didn’t need a lot of time in order to outclass Griffin (through sheer mechanics and experience), whereas Fnatic couldn’t find an answer to FunPlus Phoenix’s aggressiveness and clean play. Both matches were impossible to predict coming into the week, and yet they also surprised us a fair bit.

Before we delve deeper into the SKT vs. Splyce match-up itself, let’s take a closer look at how each team performed throughout the tournament.

SKT T1 are, without a doubt, one of the biggest tournament favorites, and that’s really saying something given just how competitive things have been. They were able to finish the Group Stage as the number one team in their group, which was fairly expected. Their talent and cohesion were second to none, and there wasn’t much Royal Never Give Up or Fnatic could have done to fight back (other than that one Veigar game). In short, this was the SKT we all expected: dominant, in sync, aggressive, flexible, and highly versatile both in the pick and ban phase as well as in game.

But even though they dominated against incredibly tough opposition, they were not without fault. In fact, the mistakes they made were baffling; they simply boggled the mind. A team of SKT’s caliber, a team that’s brimming with so much talent and potential simply cannot afford to play like this. Sooner or later a team will come that will seriously capitalize whenever SKT overextends or has a lapse in judgement. They’re often too aggressive and they tunnel in for a play that they feel like is the right call — and yet it rarely is. When they should farm up for late they always try to initiate, when they need to group up they decide it’s best to scatter across the map, and when they see an isolated target they feel like they’re more than capable of making a pick and swinging the game in their favor.

These are all natural in-game instincts, but SKT simply tries too hard at the worst possible moments. Now, when you’ve been as dominant as they have, it’s easy to get carried away. They closed out the last day of the Group Stage with a one-sided loss to Fnatic and a win over Clutch Gaming in which they fought tooth and nail to get their hands raised. Their unforced errors complicate things, and they mostly make them when they’re ahead. So sure, they got the first seed but they didn’t look particularly dominant in the process. It’s a deceptive result, by all means, and it didn’t instill us with much confidence.

Then again, this is SKT we’re talking about, and their biggest strengths shine brightest in the Best of 5 format. They know when they can slack off and they’ve surely done so over the last couple of weeks. When push comes to shove, they’re on point. That’s a given, and it’s also a historical fact as well. Fortunately for SKT, they’re not up against a challenger that’ll punish their mistakes as hard — if at all.

Instead, they’re facing the third seed from Europe: Splyce.

Even writing such a thing feels strange. For many of Splyce’s players, an appearance on the Worlds stage has been a long time in the making; it’s been long overdue. And to their credit, they’ve accomplished a spectacular thing here. Reaching Top 8 and standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of SKT T1, Invictus Gaming, Royal Never Give Up and G2 Esports (among others) is no small feat. If you told them at the start of 2019 that they would be fighting against SKT by the end of the year they probably wouldn’t have believed you. Why would they? Such a luxury was always reserved for the most legendary European titans — something they never quite became, for a wide variety of reasons.

But 2019 brought a fascinating change in the overall status quo, and it was also positively inclined towards Splyce — a perennial gatekeeper. These most recent winds of change gave them a push in the right direction, and we can fairly say that Splyce didn’t disappoint. Heck, they overperformed by many metrics. Now sure, they were slotted into the “group of life”, but to nearly take down the LPL champions three times in a row is no small thing. They played far better than anyone ever thought they would, and were able to lock down a spot in the quarterfinals.

Now, Splyce — for all of their many faults and inherent weaknesses — is not a team that surrenders. They fight from the very get-go, and they’re not afraid of anyone. Such bravado and fearlessness allowed them to find so much success, but now they’re up against their hardest test yet: the LCK champions. It’s also fair to say that Splyce has more than enough tools to make this into a somewhat competitive series. They have the mechanical talent (enough of it, at least), the deep champion pools as well as a stellar coaching staff that’ll surely prepare them for the most biggest and most exciting Best of 5 of their careers.

Finally, Splyce will be playing without any pressure. They know they’re the underdogs in this one — they’re not crazy enough to think otherwise. That means no one’s expecting anything from them, so it’s impossible to actually disappoint. This is arguably their biggest asset coming into the series. Each and every member of the team will have to play out of their minds if they want to stand a chance of even winning a single game. But Splyce got this far with a roster that many thought wouldn’t be able to crack Top 3 in the LEC. Everyone doubted them throughout their 2019 journey, and yet they thrived and performed regardless.

Unfortunately, betting against SKT T1 on this one would be like betting against reason and healthy logic. The only thing we can hope for at this point is that Splyce really does step up and challenges the LCK giant as it’s hard to get excited for a one-sided shellacking.

Winner: SKT T1, 1.02 (odds @ Betway)

G2 Esports vs. DAMWON Gaming

Photo: Riot Games

This is where things become increasingly more interesting. A fight between the LEC champions and the third best team from Korea. On paper, there’s not much to get excited about. In reality, however, this match has “fireworks” written all over it. G2 Esports, by all metrics, disappointed during the Group Stage. Conversely, DAMWON played out of their minds. Neither team had an easy group, but it was DAMWON who was able to maintain a certain level of play throughout the two weeks and, as a result, lock down the number one spot in group D.

The fact that they took down Invictus Gaming — the defending World Champions, mind you — twice in a row with relative ease just goes to show that they’re an immensely talented young team that’s brimming with potential. They might not look the part, but this five-man line-up has the potential to go far, and they’ve shown it on more than one occasion. They’re not perfect, of course, but given what they have to work with, they’re performing well above expectations.

And it’s not just the fact that they’re currently a number one seed. Instead, it’s the fashion in which they got the job done. Their early game wasn’t always commanding, but they persevered. They played to their strengths and were always cognizant of what they had to do and when. Add a bit of bravado and even more mechanical prowess, and you get a fantastic, well-rounded team that’s hungry for the spotlight.

G2 Esports, on the other hand, disappointed. Maybe that’s a harsh way to phrase things, but it really comes down to what you expected from the best and most talented team that was ever assembled on European soil. No one thought they would end up second in their group. Not after dominating their region throughout the year, and not after they won the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational in record time. They’re the one team that defined today’s meta. So it is only natural for them to dominate and challenge for the Worlds throne. After all, that was the biggest narrative coming into Worlds.

“Did the rest of the world catch up with G2? Could they go for a repeat and complete the golden year?”

That’s why everyone was hyped beyond measure. It really didn’t matter for whom you rooted for. What did matter, however, is the fact that for the first time in history there were three regions who stood shoulder to shoulder, and each and every one of them had the tools to emerge victorious. Most of us expected a lot from G2 Esports, which was only natural after watching them dominate throughout the year with staggering ease. They’re the kind of team that had no problem with flexing a single champion in all five positions. They’re crazy, unhinged, confident and also quite a bit cocky. But when the going gets rough they’re always up to the task.

That’s the one reason why we’re giving them our benefit of the doubt on this one. They didn’t exactly earn it, and it mostly boils down to individual members underperforming (Jankos and Mikyx, in particular). But they made such egregious blunders at the right moment and as a result, had more than enough time to shore up their weaknesses and prepare a solid game plan for a dangerous opponent.

Now, this is definitely the easiest route G2 Esports could’ve gotten coming into the quarterfinals, and this isn’t a knock on DAMWON either. Fighting against SKT T1 or FunPlus Phoenix would’ve been a much harder test, both mechanically, strategically as well as stylistically. This one, however, is pretty okay in that sense. If the LEC champions play as well as they can, they’re bound to cruise through DAMWON with relative ease. If that fails to be the case, they’re going to struggle — a lot. Either way, we should be in for one heck of a series that has the potential to go the distance!

Winner: G2 Esports, 1.75 (odds @ Betway)

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2019 LEC Summer Split Gauntlet Round 3 — Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

September 15th, 2019

Photo: Riot Games

Finally, for our third Best of 5 in a row — and also the series that will not only close out the regional qualifier but also the regular portion of the season — we have a rather exciting clash between Splyce and the former “kings of Europe”. This is, by all means, the most exciting and best way to end the season, and if everything goes “according to plan”, we should be in for one heck of a match.

First of all, it’s important to highlight that there’s very little on the line this time around. Both teams have locked in their spots for the upcoming World Championship, and they’re basically just fighting in order to see who’s going as the second, and who as the third seed. Now, generally speaking, getting that second seed is always preferable, seeing how you’re immediately guaranteed a spot in the Group Stage. The third seed, however, will have to go through the Play-In stage which, to be fair, isn’t as dramatic as it sounds. G2 Esports and Cloud9 had to go through the Play-In stage last year and yet they both finished in the Top 4 once all was said and done.

Being the third seed is not indicative of a team’s actual strength, and it can even be a positive thing as they actually get on stage and acclimate before anyone else.

Regardless, both competitors are going to represent Europe at the biggest of stages come October, and we cannot wait to see them in action.

Because they already attained a bunch of success just by qualifying, they’re surely going to play without pressure, and that’s always a positive thing. They’re going to step foot on stage and test their might against a challenger of seemingly equal strength. But before we delve deeper into the match-up at hand and how it might develop, let’s take a closer look at where each team is at right now and how they got to this point.

For Fnatic, the 2019 season can only be deemed as a resounding success. Now sure, they failed to dethrone G2 Esports, but that’s also understandable. After all, G2 is the most stacked, capable and flexible team Europe ever fostered. Anyone who faces them will automatically be considered as a heavy underdog.

Fnatic lost one of their most important players and yet they still found a way to persevere, to thrive in such a hyper-competitive environment and meet their perennial adversaries in the finals. Heck, they nearly won. That would’ve been a shocker. They went blow for blow with the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational champions; they nearly ended G2’s regional reign. That’s an accomplishment worthy of the highest achievement, and they did so after a pretty tumultuous and inconsistent regular season.

They lost the best and most accomplished European mid laner in history and yet still found a ton of success. That’s a hallmark of a truly great team, and of an equally capable coaching staff. Fnatic had to rebuild from the ground up — more psychologically and style-wise than literally.

Their two recent Best of 5s against G2 Esports left no one indifferent. It was the moment when Fnatic proved that they still belong at the very top of the region and that if G2 Esports wasn’t as staggeringly flexible and stacked as they are, Fnatic would be right next in line for the LEC throne. While their recent losses to G2 did feel somewhat bittersweet and heart-breaking, they were formative experiences and they will surely fuel the former LEC champions for months to come.

Perhaps most importantly, they showcased that they are not as one-dimensional as everyone previously thought. They’re still not a flexible behemoth — not even close, but at least they have deep enough champion pools to actually contest in a Best of 5 against a team of G2 Esports’ caliber.

And the man who filled the void created by Caps’ absence — Nemesis — did far better than anyone expected. He even solo killed the guy he replaced with relative ease, one might add. All in all, Fnatic stand shoulder to shoulder with the best European team in history, and that’s downright spectacular. The sheer fact that Europe will have two such challengers on the Worlds stage is more than enough reason to get excited beyond measure.

Splyce, on the other hand, are a mixed bag right. If you’ve been following their 2019 run, you’d know perfectly well what that means. One day they’ll struggle to execute even the most basic of strategies and team comps. Another, they will blow your mind with their split-second engages, spectacular team fighting and sheer bravado. That’s just the Splyce way of doing things, and that’s why we love them.

That said, their inherent inconsistency is oftentimes worrying. When they’re at the top of their game, when they draft well and when they start off on the right foot, they’re fantastic. But that’s not always the case. In fact, as the season progressed, their bad days were far more frequent. You never know what would happen, and whether or not it would impede their chances of attaining success.

The fact that they had multiple avenues for success — top, mid and bottom lane — meant they were no longer a one-dimensional team. They could win through Vizicsacsi, Humanoid or Kobbe, and how they went about their ways didn’t really matter. What did, however, is the fact that they were competitive from the very get-go, and didn’t need to wait for the late game and a Hail Mary team fight that would swing the game in their favor.

This fascinating mix of players also performed much better than most expected, and they found an identity to call their own. They were proactive, and their patented aggression came in handy on more than one occasion. Their mid laner Humanoid quickly became one of the best mid laners in the region — when he got his hands on a hard carry pick like Akali or Qiyana, and their jungler Xerxe (of Unicorns of Love fame) also (low-key) solidified his spot as a top-tier jungling behemoth.

And for a good couple of weeks, they didn’t even rely on their AD carry to do the heavy lifting. Kobbe, who became known as a late game insurance kind of player, rarely had to do much, seeing how his teammates shared the burden. He couldn’t even flex his late game team fighting prowess because Splyce won a lot earlier than anyone expected.

Until last night, that is. His stellar play was the last nail in the coffin for Schalke 04. But he didn’t win alone, nor did he exactly carry Splyce over the finish line. Once again, everyone played their part. Vizicsacsi’s incredible Gankplank pick absorbed a ton of pressure and created absolute chaos once the late game came around, Xerxe’s early pathing and impact completely outclassed Trick, and Humanoid… Well, Humanoid did Humanoid things, depending on the pick.

It was an absolute shellacking, a masterclass in every regard — but it was also a picture perfect scenario. Schalke imploded in every conceivable way. They didn’t draft well (taking Karma for Odoamne two times in a row is basically a self-inflicted death sentence), they left Gankplank open three times in a row, they didn’t prioritize Aatrox, and they had free reign from the very get go. Any other team would’ve adapted. It’s not that hard, really, and yet Schalke failed to change even a single thing.

As a result, Splyce basically employed similar methods three games in a row and won with relative ease. To their credit, we saw a night and day difference when compared to their previous series against Origen, and it’s obvious that they attained a ton of confidence over night. They were proactive, they were the ones dictating the pace of the game and they were unwilling to give Schalke much room to breathe or focus. They knew they had to overwhelm their opponents, and they did a stellar job in doing so.

That said, they’re not going to have such a field day against a team like Fnatic, that’s for sure. Fnatic are much more flexible, and they share much of the same champion pools. They’re also far more aggressive and in sync when compared to Schalke. It’s not even a close match, frankly.

The Splyce boys are going to have to play their best League of Legends in order to stand a chance, and even then it’s probably not going to be enough. Fnatic are simply too good at this point in time, too synergistic and too capable in order to lose today. That said, the Splyce five-man unit is no pushover, that’s for sure. They were “supposed” to lose against Schalke — all signs were pointing to such a conclusion, and yet they took control of their fate and for the second time ever (as an organization) secured a ticket to the World Championship. A seismic achievement in every regard.

So this probably won’t be a clean 3-0 in favor of Fnatic (although that’s always a possibility). Splyce is going fight to the best of their ability and they’re going to do so without any pressure to perform. They’ve already accomplished what they set out to do, and anything they attain beyond this point is extra. They want to see just how well they can play against a team of Fnatic’s caliber when there’s nothing on the line, and even if they lose in one-sided fashion they’ll still be able to learn something from it. As far as Splyce is concerned, there’s nothing to lose in today’s Best of 5.

Regardless of how things eventually resolve, we should be in for one hectic, skirmish-heavy series.

Winner: Fnatic, 1.15 (odds @ Betway)

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2019 LEC Summer Split Gauntlet Round 1 — Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

September 13th, 2019

Photo: Riot Games

As far as regional qualifier openers go, this is a great one. That’s for sure.

Then again, it feels like it could have been considerably better, hype-wise. These two teams are European giants, and yet it feels like they’re somewhat past their prime. Maybe that’s even an understatement. And although we saw short glimpses of their innate potential, they failed to step up when it mattered the most; they failed to play their best when the pressure was mounting. That said, their failures are completely different, and the same goes for their avenues for success.

Splyce definitely diversified their arsenal coming into Summer, and it showed on the Rift almost immediately. They were strong from the very get-go — no long did they await the later stages of the game in an attempt to turn the tides. Instead, they were the ones that were dictating the tempo; they were the ones who imposed their will whenever they saw fit. Such dominant play, paired with their patented team fighting, allowed them to climb the ranks with staggering speed. Once all was said and done, they were neck and neck with Fnatic, and were fighting for a playoff bye. Now, whenever you’re competing with the former “kings of Europe”, there’s a reason to celebrate. They became a member of an elite club, and their incredible resurgence was spearheaded by none other than their own mid laner Humanoid.

Once he signed for Splyce in Spring he wasn’t exactly a top-tier competitor. He did, however, have short bursts of excellence, but they simply didn’t happen often enough to actually warrant any hype or momentum. His level of play in Summer, however, was a completely different story. Humanoid was, by all means, a Top 3 mid laner, and that’s saying something when you’re standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Caps and company. He’s still a bit rough around the edges, but give him a pick that can hard carry and he’ll do the rest. When he was at the top of his game he’s really a force to be reckoned with.

And even though the meta remained the same, Splyce started faltering. There wasn’t any obvious reason as to why that was happening, but week after week they were less and less dangerous. Then again, they were always prone of having dips in performance, so we just thought this was “one of those days”. But they never got back to where they once were; things simply didn’t “click”. After they got outclassed by Rogue it was hard saying whether they lost to a competitor much more capable than themselves, or if they imploded and simply couldn’t mount an offensive. Be as it may, they’re not entering this clash with a lot of hype. Not in the slightest.

They’re no longer getting our full benefit of the doubt, which makes things incredibly complicated betting-wise. We haven’t seen them in action since their 0-3 loss on August 23rd, which means they had more than enough time to get on the same page, fix their issues and enter the gauntlet as a highly competitive, well-rounded contender. But did they iron their kinks out? There are so many question marks this time around.

Despite their inherent inconsistencies, they’re still miles ahead of Origen, that’s for sure. The Spring Split finalists imploded to a staggering degree. Even though they remained somewhat competitive throughout the regular portion of the split, they never reached their former heights. Not even close. They were as inconsistent as humanly possible and their level of play was a far cry from Spring.

In the end, they were unable to climb higher than eighth place. From second in Spring, from a top-tier contender challenging for the LEC throne, to a bottom-tier dweller. That’s as big of a fall from grace as we’ve seen in recent history. Their 7W-11L record left a lot to be desired, and even though you could never really underestimate them, they were unable to get on the same page and mount an offensive. It was a depressing sight, that’s for sure. We’ve seen their highs, and we were definitely not left indifferent. To see them this meek and subdued isn’t a pleasant sight.

The way they ended the split was even more depressing. They are 1-4 in their last five games, and they lost to Rogue, Splyce, SK Gaming and Schalke 04 in a matter of three weeks. The only team they won against is Excel Esports — hardly anything worth bragging about. So if they lost against almost every single team in the region, how will they be able to compete against the likes of an in-sync, hungry Splyce? While they did have a lot of time to step up and get on the same page, we’re just not expecting to see a lot of improvement. They did nothing to earn our trust and even though underestimating Origen doesn’t feel right, they still failed to show top-tier League of Legends throughout the second half of 2019.

Then again, they have a fantastic coaching staff, along with one of the best coaches in the region. They’re all experienced veterans that have experienced playing on the biggest of stages. Time and time again, they’ve felt the pressure of performing. They’ve seen it all, and they know how it’s like to play with their backs against the wall. All of these facts should allow them to prosper and clutch things out, but still. Their veteran status isn’t worth much if the majority of their roster is past their prime.

They definitely have an upper hand due to the sheer fact that they haven’t played in quite a while. They were in a luxurious position. While others fought week after week, Origen laid back, recharged and surely came up with a thorough strategy. They knew who they would eventually have to face so we expect them to come out the gates guns blazing.

With so many VODs do go over, one would think that they’d prepare beyond comprehension; that they would be ready for any scenario. And yet we’re weary of trusting them.

To make matters even worse, they’re not even going to play with their full roster:

This one fact changes everything.

Even if we gave them our benefit of the doubt, even if we believed in their ability to turn things around, losing one of their most important players is as big of a blow as possible. Kold is one of the best junglers Europe has to offer. His cerebral, intelligent and calculated style of play ekes out advantages for Origen more often than not, and he’s also fairly impactful on a wide variety of picks. He’s not exactly at the top of his game at this point in time, but he’s still one of Origen’s biggest catalyst — not to mention the fact that he’s an integral voice in-game.

Without one of their most important players, they’re bound to struggle from the very get-go. Their academy jungler might not be half bad, but he’s nowhere near Kold’s level, and their team-wide synergy is going to suffer. That’s guaranteed. And even if they manage to sync up (much like Team SoloMid did with Spica), they shouldn’t be able to compete with the likes of

Spylce and Xerxe. Speaking of Xerxe, the Romanian jungling phenom is having a renaissance of his own. He’s one of the most underappreciated junglers in the region, and yet his flexibility and sheer creativity are second to none, at least in the LEC. He’s a veteran at this point in time and he’s bound have a field day with a relative rookie on the side of Origen, a player who still hasn’t experienced playing on the biggest of stages.

In the end, we simply have to side with Splyce. There’s no reason not to, and even if they hadn’t found a fix for most of their issues they should still be more than capable of getting the win against a weakened Origen line-up. That said, seeing how Splyce are far from a world class team right now, this could potentially go the distance. Regardless of the final outcome, we should be in for quite an entertaining scrap.

Winner: Splyce, 1.35 (odds @ Betway)

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2019 LCS Summer Split Gauntlet Round 3 — Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

September 8th, 2019

Photo: Riot Games

For our third gauntlet Best of 5, we have a clash for the ages: Team SoloMid vs. Clutch Gaming. Now, regardless of whom you cheer for, it’s hard not to be at least a little bit excited about this one. There are so many exciting narratives surrounding both teams and if they play to the best of their ability, we’re bound to get some insane League of Legends.

There’s also a lot to go over, so let’s first delve a bit deeper into both teams and their paths up to this point.

First of all, it’s impossible not to highlight Team SoloMid’s current momentum wave, or lack thereof. For a staple organization, for a veteran-filled roster, for an LCS giant, they’re not doing as hot as everyone anticipated coming into the 2019 Summer Split. Perhaps that’s even an understatement.

They have the least amount of hype and momentum as humanly possible, and that fact is even further highlighted and enlarged because of their legendary status. Heck, the sights of them trading heavy blows with Team Liquid in the Spring Split finals are still fresh in everyone’s minds. Not a lot of time has passed since that point, and yet they imploded and fell off the tracks — by TSM standards.

The last time we saw them, they were being smacked around the Summoner’s Rift by none other than Clutch Gaming. It was a shocking upset, although it made some sense in the grand scheme of things. After all, Team SoloMid was playing with a substitute jungler. And no, we’re not talking about Grig, nor are we talking about Akaadian. The two jungler they had signed, the two players who are definitely worthy of playing on the LCS stage and already have built-in synergy with the rest of the team weren’t even given the chance to start in the playoffs. In fact, they weren’t even signed on as replacements.

That one decision made absolutely no sense, and it wasn’t the first time Team SoloMid opted for such an ill-advised twist. Now, obviously only they know what they’re doing and why, but if they fail to lock down a ticket to the World Championship it’s going to be for one reason and one reason only — because they decided to make such a tremendous change so late into the split; to make a change they had no business making.

But there’s a positive side as well. Or at least a potentially positive one. We haven’t seen the boys in black and white play in quite a long while. They had more than enough time to adjust, to work on their issues, to communicate and come up with a solid game plan. They had the luxury of watching their opponents skirmish on the Summoner’s Rift. They had to show everything in order to advance, whereas Team SoloMid kept all of their cards close to the chest.

In other words, they showed nothing. We also know they have a well-rounded, highly capable coaching staff. Pair that with a lot of free time and you’re bound to get improvement sooner rather than later. Everything, it seems, is going in their favor. Even Spica, the jungler they opted for, had to show something great in order to warrant a spot on the starting line-up.

They have the edge, and even though that might not be the overall consensus right now, they should not be underestimated. Not in the slightest. They’ve been waiting things out, working on their problems and they’re bound to enter the LCS arena and start swinging. They’re hungry, they want redemption and they know what’s on the line. They’ve worked too hard up to this point and not going to Worlds would truly be a failure of seismic proportions.

Again, we can’t know how well they’ll play, but the odds are definitely stacked in their favor, even though they’re universally deemed as underdogs coming into this Best of 5.

And even if we say Spica isn’t up to snuff (although there’s evidence that suggests otherwise), we mustn’t forget that he’s surrounded by four exceptional players, three of which are experienced, grizzled veterans that have been playing at the biggest of stages for years. He has some of the best players in the world to learn from, so there’s definitely ample room to grow and develop. Whether or not that happened, of course, is an entirely different matter, but it’s not like Team SoloMid — once all of a sudden — don’t have the necessary tools to compete. On the contrary, the few weeks that went by shouldn’t erase what they’ve done and accomplished in the recent past.

They’re still a fantastic challenger, albeit a painfully inconsistent one as well.

But the team on the opposite side is perhaps even more interesting. They’re the definition of volatile, and we all love ’em for it. They’re insane, and are the closest North America has to G2 Esports playstyle-wise. Obviously, we’re comparing apples and oranges here, but the crazy tendencies and sheer insanity that Clutch has displayed over the last couple of weeks truly is akin to the way G2 Esports plays League of Legends.

And their run so far has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. First they took down Team SoloMid without breaking much of a sweat. Then they nearly took down the defending champions Team Liquid in what was a nerve-wracking five-game brawler. Then came their reverse sweep loss to Counter Logic Gaming just a week later; yet another insane clash in which they displayed admirable fortitude and mechanical prowess.

Then they outclassed FlyQuest in the first round of the gauntlet, before actually getting revenge on Counter Logic Gaming yesterday in relatively clean 3-1 fashion.

Talk about a spectacular run. A thrilling roller coaster in every regard. 

And throughout this chaos, Clutch persevered with a smile on their face, unrelenting in their aggression and bravado. These couple of weeks heavily resemble the Cloud9 miracle gauntlet run from 2015 back when Hai decided to try his hand as a jungler. We’ve yet to see whether it ends on a positive note, but so far it’s been every bit as crazy and unexpected.

To say that Clutch Gaming is potentially a Top 3 team in North America in 2019 boggles the mind. It makes no sense whatsoever. And yet it seems like it’s the truth. They’re one-dimensional — we all know that, but they’re so strong and cohesive in the things they do that they’re somewhat unstoppable, at least against mid-tier opposition.

Their most recent win over Counter Logic Gaming was eerily similar to their reverse sweep loss. Everything was developing in such a fashion. The first two games were exceptionally dominant. Then Counter Logic Gaming bounced back in style in the third before getting a lead in the fourth. But Clutch Gaming came prepared. After their crushing defeat they went back to the drawing board and worked on their biggest faults. Sure, they’re still inherently flawed as a team but they worked out a ton of problems, as evident from yesterday’s play.

There are two sides of the Clutch coin right now, a positive and a negative one. The positive one is that they’re accustomed to the LCS stage and have wasted no time. They’re in sync and are ready to go at a moment’s notice. There are no stage jitters whatsoever. That’s good. What’s bad, however, is that they played  almost twenty games over the last couple of weeks.

They might not be feeling the impending burnout, but they definitely did give Team SoloMid a metric ton of footage to go over. Their strengths and weaknesses are on full display, and they’ve hidden nothing. They’ve reached the very end of the gauntlet and are about to face the final boss — a team that was awarded such a prestigious position primarily because of their success in Spring.

What a ludicrous turn of events. And yet there is no better way to end the season.

Team SoloMid have the edge this time around. That’s a fact. They know darn well how Clutch wants to play the game. They know of their ten-minute Rift Herald. They know of their relatively shallow champion pool and the way they want to play around the map. They’ve seen it all. Every single thing.

But that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to stop it. That’s why this is so darn exciting. Whenever Clutch steps foot on stage we know we’re in for absolute chaos. It’s so hard to prepare for them, in spite of their one-dimensional nature. You know exactly what they’re going to do and yet it’s so hard to stop them because they’re going head-first through any impending obstacle.

Team SoloMid needs to step up. They need to prove their worth, and they know just how dangerous of a spot they’ve found themselves in. Furthermore, one could argue (perhaps a bit dramatically) that their spot in the LCS pantheon getting challenged. They have to get the job on this one. Otherwise their entire 2019 run has been for naught.

That said, it’s downright impossible not to give Clutch Gaming the benefit of the doubt on this one. They’ve already beaten this iteration of Team SoloMid mere weeks ago and have stood strong in the face of many diverse challenges. They’re not perfect. Heck, they’re not even close. But they embraced their inherent flaws and are doing the best they can with what they’ve got.

It would truly be refreshing to see such a fearless North American challenger go to Worlds. They’re bringing their own flavor to the game; their own twist, and it’s refreshing to see. It might not be particularly one-sided, but Clutch should once again be able to get the win.

Winner: Clutch Gaming, 1.55 (odds @ Betway)

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2019 LEC Summer Split Final — Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

September 8th, 2019

Photo: Riot Games

The grand finals. The clash of kings. The Best of 5 everyone knew was bound to happen and the only match-up that makes sense. The LEC el clasico.

For what it’s worth, we really are getting the best and most exciting conclusion to a split that was already one of the most thrilling rides in LEC history. A fight between two European kings.

Then again, it’s hard to really get excited, for a wide variety of reasons. The mechanical prowess is there. Both teams have experience in spades and have played on the biggest of stages, but G2 Esports just feels better in every regard. They’re downright staggering. They’re not perfect, but many of their inherent flaws are self-inflicted. They want to create a big fight. They want to fight from a 0-2 deficit and complete the reverse sweep.

They’re at home with the current meta and have shown no signs of stopping whatsoever. They’re as clean, capable and dominant as a team can be. Fnatic certainly has the right tools to fight back and make things somewhat competitive, but when push comes to shove, G2 Esports should always prevail — as they did just a week ago when their backs were against the wall. They were looking at an upset loss and yet still found the strength to persevere, turn things around and complete the sweep over Fnatic. It was absolute insanity on all fronts.

To bet against G2 Esports, at this point in time, would be to bet against reason itself. It would mean betting against proper judgment, and that we cannot do. We never know what’s going to happen when G2 Esports steps foot on stage. That’s always a complete unknown. Will we see a Soraka top? Will they role swap for days? Will Mikyx pick his staple (and highly feared) Gragas? Who will get his hands on Pyke? We don’t know, and neither do they. That’s why it’s fun, and that’s why they’re always smiling beyond comprehension regardless of the state of the game.

To G2 Esports, this is all a game; and the LEC finals are just a negligible block in the road, a minute puzzle just waiting to get solved. They have the bigger picture in mind, and they’re unwilling to waste much time to get there.

They might not outclass Fnatic beyond comprehension, but they’re definitely going to win. There’s no doubt about it. How it’s going to unravel, however, is anyone’s guess.

Winner: G2 Esports, 1.28 (odds @ Betway)

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2019 LCS Summer Split Gauntlet Round 2 — Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

September 7th, 2019

Photo: Riot Games

For our second gauntlet Best of 5 we have a match-up that is, by all means, ten times more exciting than the one that preceded it. Now, this is by no means a fight between two giants of unparalleled strength, but it is a fight between two teams that are fairly similar when it comes to strength and potential.

Clutch Gaming and Counter Logic Gaming already fought against one another mere weeks ago, and it was definitely a clash for the ages. It wasn’t exactly a display of premier League of Legends seeing how both teams showed incredible inconsistencies throughout the series, but it was an exciting, rather thrilling five-game barnburner nonetheless.

Both teams fought their hearts out and by the end proved their worth in front of thousand of roaring fans. In the end, however, Counter Logic Gaming did more. It was a constant back and forth affair that left us at the edge of our seats, but it also ended on a somewhat underwhelming note: Counter Logic Gaming completely dismantled Clutch Gaming.

It was a series’ worth of evolution, and they adapted and grew as the games went by. It was almost comical. They started off as badly as a team could. Nothing worked in their favor and yet they didn’t surrender. Game two was pretty much the same, and yet this veteran-filled roster never lost their poise; they never stopped believing in the reverse sweep. And sure enough, they made it work. They found an avenue toward success; they drafted towards their strengths and completely outclassed Clutch Gaming at the one moment no one thought they could.

They made ample mistakes, that’s for sure, but so did Clutch. Perhaps most importantly, they experimented and yet still found the strength to bounce back. They had mental fortitude for days and their grit was admirable, to say the least. It was the Counter Logic Gaming everyone expected to see, they just needed a bit more time before coming online.

By the end of the series, there was no doubt when it came to saying who was the better and more capable team. Clutch Gaming, for all of the fantastic things they did up to that point, were inherently flawed and it only took Counter Logic Gaming two games to come up with a solution.

It was an exciting clash, that’s for sure, but the fashion in which it ended definitely felt a bit sour. It felt like we witnessed a sham, like we were duped into thinking Clutch had what it took in order to persevere and emerge victorious. It felt like we were being set up for a fantastic underdog story, and yet we never got the ending we thought was coming.

But fast forward a couple of weeks and we have a repeat on our hands.

Now, the meta didn’t change. Nothing earth-shattering came out. Clutch Gaming played one rather underwhelming (to put it mildly) Best of 5 against FlyQuest and that’s all. Counter Logic Gaming had the luxury of relaxing and watching their opponents play, so that have the edge in every way, shape, and form. They already won once when everything was against them, when they were at a staggering deficit. There’s no reason why they won’t be able to do the same yet again.

They’re two Best of 5 wins from going to the World Championship. That would be a seismic triumph for an organization that was irrelevant since 2016. They know such a thing is within reach, and they’re also fully aware that they have all the right tools within their disposal in order to make it a reality. They’re in full control and they’re dangerous, they’re flexible, original, and in sync as a five-man unit. They can attain success through a plethora of different ways, and even though they’re not the most stable or consistent of challengers, they’re more than solid enough to get the win tonight.

Regardless of the way it finally resolves, we could be in for one heck of a Best of 5 if Clutch Gaming steps up and plays to their strengths.

Winner: Counter Logic Gaming, 1.70 (odds @ Betway)

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2019 LCS Summer Split Gauntlet Round 1 — Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

September 6th, 2019

Photo: Riot Games

For our first gauntlet Best of 5, we have a rather exciting clash between Clutch Gaming and FlyQuest. Now, this match-up doesn’t exactly scream “potential”, but it’s far from an underwhelming one as well. In essence, this is a fight between two teams that love to skirmish. They’re always willing to throw caution out the window and fight until there’s just one team standing.

That’s why we love them, and while they don’t always play at the highest of levels, it’s hard to fault them. They’re trying their best, they’re thriving in a fairly competitive region and are always working on refining their identity and playstyle. They’re not perfect, and they don’t need to be. Right now, they’re not aiming to become the best team the LCS has to offer. They both know that ship has sailed for 2019. Instead, they want to salvage their season and to continue developing.

Also, there’s an incredibly valuable prize on the line — a ticket to the World Championship. They both have three Best of 5s before potentially going to Europe and fighting on the biggest of stages. Not too shabby. As far as consolation prizes go, this one is rather monumental.

That said, both of these two teams are entering this Best of 5 with differing amounts of hype and momentum. Clutch Gaming are, in a way, at the top of the world after their incredible matches against Team Liquid and Counter Logic Gaming. They won everyone over and their fighting spirit left no one indifferent. We all want them to succeed — they’re the ultimate underdog and are fighting their hearts out any time they step foot on the Summoner’s Rift.

They’re also the kind of teams that never shy away from a challenge. Heck, they might not be capable enough to win when it’s expected from them, but they’re going to try their hardest.

This time around, however, there are more than just a couple of exciting question marks.

We’ve seen just how strong and dangerous Clutch Gaming can be when they’re focused and in sync. They’re a beast of a team and they’ve shown no signs of stopping. Their inherent weaknesses sometimes also function as strengths as well, which is quite a confusing sight. They’re fearless, almost to a fault. They found their groove and they’re unrelenting when they get on the same page. In short, they’re an original North American challenger that’s playing its own style. They’re not imitating the Korean macro-oriented style of play, nor are they imitating G2 Esports. The way Clutch Gaming plays League of Legends is completely original — for better or worse.

While they do have glaring weaknesses and holes in their game, they fight with so much grit and passion that it’s impossible not to cheer for them. Also, while they can be exploited, a team has to survive Clutch’s early onslaught and off-the-wall decision making to actually stand a chance later on in the mid and late game. They’re not exactly as flexible or talented as G2 Esports, but they’re every bit as crazy. To make matters even better, they’re a fairly solid mix of players, style-wise.

Huni and Damonte always want to go in and have the mechanical prowess to back it up. Lira is more of a subdued, cerebral style of jungler who prefers playing the vision game rather than invading like a headless chicken. And their bottom lane — which is horrendously underrated — is perhaps their biggest asset. Cody Sun and Vulcan have been playing out of their mind ever since they stepped foot on the LCS stage as a bottom lane duo.

Their biggest weaknesses, however, have to be their unhinged aggression along with individual mistakes and shallow champion pools. Huni is arguably the biggest offender whose patented susceptibility to tilt and overextend was punished on more than one occasion. When he’s on fire, he’s the one who’s carrying his team over the finish line. But when that’s not the case, and that happens far more often, he’s dragging Clutch down to the jaws of defeat. Their confusing drafting tendencies don’t help out either.

But they had more than enough time to diversify their arsenal, to re-focus and adjust to the current meta. They know exactly against whom they’re playing, they know when and how they failed and what they need to do in order to fix it. Whether or not they’ll succeed at doing so is a completely different matter, but the odds are definitely stacked in their favor.

FlyQuest, on the other hand, is a huge question mark right now.

The last time they played on the LCS stage was all the way back on August 4th, and the last time they won a game was on July 27th against Cloud9. Their 5W-13L regular season record tells you all you need to know and their ninth-place finish didn’t exactly blow anyone’s mind. Not in the slightest. Their fall from grace was staggering, especially after their meteoric rise in Spring. Regardless, they’re a talented bunch and they still have some exceptional player within their five-man line-up. They had a month to chill, relax, recharge their batteries and come up with a solid game plan for the gauntlet. They had the luxury of observing their opponents and have kept all of their cards close to the chest, meaning they have the capacity to upset this time around.

The thing is, we simply don’t know how strong they’ll be tonight. They could step on stage and completely obliterate Clutch Gaming. We’ve seen their highs and we were not left indifferent. Conversely, they could completely implode and fail to mount an offensive. It’s also important to highlight that the problems they had throughout the Summer Split could have easily been solved over the last month, so they definitely have a puncher’s chance.

Regardless of the final outcome, one thing is for certain — we should be in for one heck of Best of 5. Both teams know what’s on the line which means they’ll trade heavy blows from the moment they spawn on the Rift. In such a chaotic affair, we simply have to side with Clutch Gaming. They’ve done more than enough over the last couple of weeks to earn our benefit of the doubt. They might not blow FlyQuest out of the water but they definitely have all the right tools in order to emerge victorious.

Winner: Clutch Gaming, 1.40 (odds @ Betway)

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LCS 2019 Summer Split ⁠— Finals Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

August 25th, 2019

Photo: Riot Games

The last — and arguably most exciting — Best of 5 remaining before the playoffs officially conclude. To say that this is an exciting match-up would truly be an understatement. On paper, this clash has the potential be one for the history books. Even though the LCS landscape often changes in unexpected ways, we could always envision yet another Team Liquid vs. Cloud9 split finals. In fact, one could argue that this was the only match-up that made sense.

Both Liquid and Cloud9 are the only North American teams (excluding Counter Logic Gaming and their 2016 Mid-Season Invitational run) that have ever attained any semblance of success on the international stage. They are the only two North American teams that have made their region proud. So it only makes sense that they should be the ones to go the distance and clash once again in the finals.

But no one could have foreseen the many narratives surrounding his match-up, along with the metric ton of hype and momentum both teams have coming into the finals.

But before delving deeper into the match-up itself, let’s look at both teams separately, and how they got this far.

Team Liquid is, as you surely already know, the reigning, defending LCS champions. They’ve won three championships in a row, and by doing so have tied Team SoloMid for the most consecutive victories in LCS history. By defeating Cloud9, they would etch their names in history, and would accomplish a spectacular feat that, by all intents and purposes, won’t be broken for a long, long time — if ever.

If we take a look at their regular season run, however, there’s a lot to like and dislike at the same time. There were their patented Liquidesque moments of brilliance, but more than just a couple of fumbles as well. Despite their commendable accomplishments, they were unexpectedly vulnerable — given their pedigree. We don’t have to turn back the clock much in order to see that as well, seeing how they were nearly brought down by Clutch Gaming just mere days ago. They made more mistakes than anyone expected, and they simply weren’t as dominant, clean, or proactive as one would expect from a team with their laurels.

Cloud9, on the other hand, have been staggeringly flexible, creative, and perhaps even a bit unhinged every time they stepped foot on stage. They were far from perfect, but thanks to their jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, they were able to often weather the storm and persevere under imperfect circumstances. The legendary European jungler became the first man wearing a Cloud9 jersey to have received the highly-coveted MVP award — an incredible feat, no doubt. His play was, simply put, awe-inspiring, and was the reason Cloud9 was able to get the win more often than not.

As a team, they had their fair share of ups and downs, but have always stepped up when it mattered the most. Above their heads, however, lies a fascinating narrative. The organization itself is as legendary as they come, but hasn’t tasted ultimate triumph in half a decade. Five long years have passed since Cloud9 last won the LCS. A drought, in every sense of the word. They want it, and they want it badly. They’re sick and tired of always playing second fiddle to someone seemingly more talented and adept at that one point in time. The only player that has remained from that championship-worthy roster is Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi. Everyone else has yet to lift an LCS trophy.

Recent history is also not particularly kind to Cloud9 when it comes to facing Team Liquid. They have lost every important match ever since Liquid’s dominance started, so it’s kind of hard to get hyped about a potential upset win.

Saying who’s going to win this Best of 5 is an incredibly thankless task. In fact, one could argue that it’s even impossible. Most of the information we have is heavily outdated, or simply no longer as valid as one would think. The fact that Liquid has a stellar record over Cloud9 shouldn’t impact our judgement too much, seeing how both teams grew (and changed) considerably over the last couple of months. These are titans in every sense of the word, and they adapt whenever it is necessary. It’s also hard to give Cloud9 any benefit of the doubt seeing how they failed to get the win even when they had Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen in their line-up (a mid laner many deem superior to his current replacement).

Conversely, Team Liquid always stepped up when it mattered. They know they’re on the brink of writing history, which should definitely give them a noticeable push tomorrow night. What’ll happen is anyone’s guess, as both teams are known for exceptional flashes of brilliance. The fact that Cloud9 won both of their most recent Best of 1 encounters makes us think that this series definitely can go the distance. Regardless, we simply have to side with Team Liquid. They still haven’t given us a reason to doubt them.

Winner: Team Liquid, 1.40 (odds @ Betway)

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