NA LCS 2018 Summer Split Regional Qualifier Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

September 13th, 2018

Photo: Riot Games

After a somewhat lackluster conclusion to the playoffs, we’re entering the very last week of North American regular season play. In just a couple of days, we’re going to find out which team will represent North America at this year’s World Championship as the third seed, and for a lot of these teams there’s a lot on the line.

So who are the teams that are fighting to represent North America at Worlds? Meeting in the first round we have Clutch Gaming and Echo Fox.

TSM is waiting in the second round due to the fact that they’ve been able to secure third place after beating out 100 Thieves in a very close 3-2 series. And finally, Cloud9 are waiting at the very end of the gauntlet, so they have to win just a single Best of 5 this Sunday in order to qualify for Worlds since they went all the way up to the finals.

Also, do note that these matches are all Best of 5, so the stakes are high and we’re in for some top-notch League of Legends.

Echo Fox vs. Clutch Gaming

For our first match of the week, we have a fairly interesting clash between one of the best and most versatile (sometimes to a fault) teams in Echo Fox, and a team that wasn’t really able to be that competitive throughout the regular season.

They’ve attained a certain level of success in 2018 for sure, after all they finished fourth in Spring, but ever since the Summer Split began they weren’t able to return back to form. Or, rather, other teams caught up when it comes to synergy and cohesion so the LirA + Apollo + Hakuho trio didn’t have the edge any longer.

In fact, let’s be a bit more exact – Clutch Gaming ended their regular season run with just six wins and twelve losses. They’re just one win ahead of Golden Guardians, and one win beneath Counter Logic Gaming. To put things into perspective, OpTic Gaming, a team no one gave a chance is actually sitting at seventh with nine wins and nine losses, so quite a bit better than Clutch.

When they did manage to get it together and actually play well they were fairly formidable and that makes sense – they have some very capable players on their roster, but since that was rarely the case, they attained the majority of their wins at the very start of the Summer Split.

Furthermore, they’re 0-2 against Echo Fox in Summer – they lost in the very first week of the split and the last.

Echo Fox are insane – and that rings true no matter how you spin it. They’re fearless, sometimes to a fault. They’ll go for any kind of draft just because they feel like it, and the fact that they were flexing Huni into multiple positions back when mages and bruisers started being meta in the bottom lane really tells you how willing they were to experiment and try things out.

In a pretty stale NA meta, that’s a breath of fresh air, but at the same time betting on Echo Fox was and still is a pretty daunting idea.

The last we’ve seen of them was their insanely close Best of 5 against TSM.

It was an incredibly volatile series with both teams showing their potential, but in the end it was Echo Fox that showed more – even though it wasn’t enough to win the series. Dardoch absolutely demolished Grig in almost every single game, and had Huni played at least a bit better (like you’d expect) Echo Fox would have surely won.

Damonte was more than capable to going blow-for-blow with Bjergsen, and even their new bottom lane held their own against Zven and Mithy. Echo Fox’s insane early game gave them an edge from the very get go however their abysmal overly-confident approach to drafting essentially cost them the series.

Why they would pick Lucian against Bjergsen’s Irelia when they have match point is beyond anyone’s comprehension, and it’s not the first time that they’ve played like that.

Huni was also supposedly under the weather because he had a flu and it impacted his play as well, so they should be coming into this Best of 5 reinvigorated and hungry to prove themselves.

They also want revenge on TSM so they’re probably looking to dominate over Clutch and then avenge their loss on Saturday.

So if Echo Fox doesn’t allow their hubris to get in the way, and if they play like they can, then they shouldn’t have too big of a problem in taking Clutch down.

That said, we haven’t seen Clutch Gaming play in quite a while. They could, by all means, come out with some very specific top-secret strats and team comps and get an upper hand over Echo Fox that way – only time will tell. But overall, they’re the weaker team and they’re entering this Best of 5 without much hype or momentum.

We’re going with Echo Fox on this one, and if Dardoch comes out to play like he did against TSM then Echo Fox should take down Clutch in somewhat dominant 3-1 fashion.

Winner: Echo Fox, 1.25 (odds @ Betway)

Day Three – Cloud9 vs. TSM

For our final match of the regional qualifier, we have an insanely exciting clash between two perennial titans – Cloud9 and Team Solo Mid.

Now, this is also a repeat of the playoff semi-final match, where Cloud9 were able to best TSM in a very close five-game series. To be fair, they were on the losing end for a good majority of the series due to their iffy drafts – but once they let go of Quinn ADC they immediately demolished TSM time and time again.

Furthermore, their sub jungle/mid duo also came in handy – they brought a different playstyle, different champion pools as well as a more aggressive approach to the game.

This is an incredibly hard match to predict, especially after seeing TSM outclass and demolish Echo Fox in every way, shape, and form. Bjergsen was back to form and he absolutely dominated regardless of the champion he was on – 45 KDA, with CS leads in every single game, as well as some fantastic DMG/min numbers all-around.

Cloud9 are favored, and with good reason. They’re more flexible, they’re stronger individually as well and they’ve already beaten TSM once – with relative ease once they cleaned up their draft.

They also have a very potent seven man roster, so they’re coming into this match with a lot of potential – but after seeing TSM dominate Echo Fox it’s hard believing in Cloud9 fully.

There are so many questions up in the air – will TSM prepare more for Cloud9’s sub duo? Will Cloud9 finally enable Jensen and give him a high priority pick like LeBlanc, Irelia, or Syndra? Why are they continually putting their mid laner who’s a proven clutch mechanical beast on Galio and Jensen – picks that he can have very limited impact on? Will they continue starting with Blaber – a jungler that hasn’t been able to leave a mark throughout the last two Best of 5s that he’s competed in.

Nuances will become the determining factor, and with both teams playing to the best of their ability it’s quite impossible to go with either side confidently. TSM have the momentum on their side, especially seeing how Cloud9 haven’t played ever since they were 3-0’d in pretty clean fashion by Team Liquid in the Summer Split finals. They tried out three different line-ups and none of them were able to find any semblance of success, but TSM are fall less cohesive and threatening than Team Liquid.

If anything, this should be an insanely close series that’ll almost surely go the five-game distance. Even when behind, Cloud9 have the tools to go blow-for-blow and bounce back.

Winner: Cloud9, 1.65 (odds @ Betway)

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EU LCS 2018 Summer Split Regional Qualifier Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

September 13th, 2018

Photo: Riot Games

After an incredibly exciting playoffs, there is just one more week of play left before the World Championship in Korea, and that’s the regional qualifier.

But before we delve deeper into our analysis and reasoning for the last week of EU LCS play, let’s focus a bit on what’s the regional qualifier in the first place.

The qualifier – also known as the “gauntlet” – is a small tournament at the very end of the playoffs, where the top four teams in the region that didn’t qualify for Worlds get to duke it out on the Rift against one another in order to determine who will be the third seed representing their region.

Pretty straight-forward stuff, right? The format is also Best of 5, so the setting is incredibly competitive, and there’s a lot on the line for all of these teams competing. They’ve spent countless months preparing, watching VODs, developing team-specific strategies, overcoming numerous meta shifts and swings, and it all comes down to this.

Depending on how well a team did in the regular season as well as the playoffs, they get dynamic seeding, so since Schalke 04 went all the way up to the finals, they’re waiting at the end of the gauntlet and they have to play just a single Best of 5 match in order to qualify for Worlds.

G2 is waiting in round two, which means we have a clash between Splyce and Misfits in the very first round – and it’s quite an exciting match-up in every way, shape, and form.

Splyce vs. Misfits

This really is an incredibly layered match-up, and it’s incredibly hard to predict as well, but there are numerous aspects that we could go by in order to reach a conclusion.
Misfits are entering the gauntlet without any hype or momentum. While they did outclass G2 eSports in their quarterfinal match-up, they weren’t able to outperform Fnatic which was somewhat expected. The thing with Misfits is that you never really know how strong they’ll come out.

One thing is for sure though – they’re playing a lot better than they did near the end of the Summer Split, you have to give them that. But will it be enough? Probably not.

Most people thought they’d have a chance against Team Vitality after almost taking Fnatic to five games just a week earlier – but they didn’t.

Sencux couldn’t keep up with a very game, highly capable Jiizuke who had a very easy time playing picks like LeBlanc and Ryze. Vitality were always faster on the map, and even though they were sloppy at times as well, they always outperformed Misfits, even in the macro department.

When Misfits didn’t have a lead, they couldn’t do much and they’d simply regress to their passive state – unwilling to go for plays or be the proactive team. They had the edge against Fnatic on multiple occasions, but they were never able to capitalize fully.

For this Best of 5 specifically, we’re betting on the fact that Misfits shouldn’t have been able to rebound after their crushing 3-1 defeat at the hands of Team Vitality. They were close on numerous occasions but they were never strong enough to compete at the highest possible level.

They had amazing early games, they could capitalize on small openings that their opponents gave them but when it came time to transitioning their leads into the mid and late game they always faltered. It was either a botched Baron start or a mindless engage – but they always made a mistake no matter how you spin it.

Opposite them are Splyce – the most confusing and inconsistent team in the entire region. On a good day, Splyce can beat anyone – even Fnatic. On a normal day, they can take almost an hour to take down the ninth ranked Unicorns of Love, or perhaps even lose to H2K – a team that was winless until they managed to upset Splyce.

What’s up with their level of play, and why they’re so painfully inconsistent is still a mystery, but they have all the necessary tools in order to compete at the highest possible level. After all, they managed to end their Spring Split run as the third best European team for a reason.

The last we’ve seen from Splyce was an insanely competitive, crazy close Best of 5 against Schalke in the quarterfinals.

Now, had Odoamne played to the best of his ability (not feeding, in other words) they would have almost certainly taken down Schalke. The first game – the one where they were backdoored at the very last minute while taking down Elder drake was theirs from the beginning. They had the lead from the very get-go, they had three Infernal drakes, they played better in every way, shape, and form and yet just a single blunder on their end lost them the game.

They managed to bounce back immediately and outclass Schalke in the very next game – they’re veterans after all, mental fortitude is an absolute must. Xerxe and Nisqy in particular had a couple of absolutely insane games – their mid/jungle duo demolished Amazing and Nukeduck in almost every single game.

Even in their losses, both Nisqy and Xerxe played out of their minds – and Kobbe and KaSing didn’t slack behind much, although they did have a couple of iffy moments throughout the series.

If Splyce manage to fix their issues, they should, by all means, have the edge over Misfits. They’re not as dominant early game but they’re very clean and strong when the late game comes – and that should be more than enough to take Misfits down.

They can’t change their complete playstyle in a matter of weeks, so they’re probably going to be playing it out safe in the early game up until they accrue a bit enough gold lead to start team fighting with confidence. When they do get a solid enough lead (paired with enough items) they don’t need long to close things out, and their fantastic individual play and stellar team fighting almost always becomes the determining factor.

Splyce have a seriously big upper hand coming into this Best of 5. They had the opportunity to rest, to relax and recuperate after a very long and draining season. They also had the opportunity to watch other teams play their hearts out and show everything they have – and that’s quite the upper hand in the strategic department.

In the end, this could potentially go the five-game distance, if both teams come out swinging. We’re betting on Splyce on this one, but it could be insanely close.

Winner: Splyce, 2.40 (odds @ Betway)

Day Two – Splyce vs. G2 eSports

For our second gauntlet Best of 5 match, we have a pretty hype clash between Splyce and G2 eSports. Before focusing on G2 and how this match could unfold, let’s first focus a bit on how Splyce got here and how they were able to best Misfits in a very close, highly competitive five-game series.

Essentially, it was an insanely close back-and-forth game that could have gone either way. Both teams threw some really big punches, they went blow-for-blow with each passing game, and it was literally anyone’s series for the taking.

What’s important to highlight is that Splyce pretty much lost every single early game expect one. They were constantly playing from behind, they were always at a deficit, but you could never really see that from their play. They were fearless and proactive when it mattered, and they always drafted easy to execute team comps that were team fight oriented, so even when they were behind in gold and objectives, they just needed a good engage from Odoamne or Xerxe to turn things around – and the engage always came.

Speaking of Odoamne, he played a lot better than against Schalke a couple of weeks ago. He wasn’t getting caught out of position (that often), he was always at the right place at the right time, he didn’t go for Gnar which meant Splyce always had a beefy front line, and he was pretty impactful in team fights, which was integral in Splyce’s wins.

Perhaps the biggest factor though in their win was Kobbe – and that’s somewhat surprising seeing how almost everyone was focused on Xerxe and Nisqy to take the series, much like they almost did against Schalke in the quarter-finals. His play was absolutely top-notch in every way, shape, and form, and that’s partly due to the support he got from his team and KaSing. They were also the better duo in the 2v2, which was also somewhat surprising – no one really thought that Splyce’s bottom lane had what it took to go blow-for-blow with Hans Sama and Mikyx.

If there’s a bottom lane that G2’s bot duo could stand a chance against in the entire gauntlet, then it has to be Kobbe and KaSing. But after seeing Kobbe play out of his mind in a very intense Best of 5 – and not falter once – it’s kinda hard to give Hjarnan and Wadid the benefit of the doubt. Kobbe was absolutely insane and he was exactly the kind of player Splyce needed – subdued, careful, but always at the right place at the right time, ready to dish out consistent damage.

You give the guy some peel, and a solid beefy front line and he will do the damage and carry the game. Had he been just a tad more inconsistent or badly positioned, Misfits would have won, without a doubt. But it was his pristine positioning and insane damage stats (40% Damage Share in game one, 54.3% Damage Share in game two with 1330 DMG/min) that obliterated any kind of front line Misfits had.

He didn’t make any flashy plays but he didn’t have to, and he won’t have to do it against G2 either. He’s an impactful, careful player that knows his role – he won’t go in without a plan, and you can always count on him. When you pair that with a consistent hard carry in Nisqy, a very solid consistent jungler with a champion ocean in Xerxe, and you get a very solid team that’s capable of going toe-to-toe with the very best.

Splyce always had the tools at their disposal, you just never knew whether or not they would play up to their potential or not. They’re also somewhat one-dimensional, which doesn’t help them one bit, but they also have some insane late game teamfighting, so even if they’re at a gold deficit they never play like it. They do lose pretty often because they allow the opposing team to accrue an insurmountable lead, but they still fight tooth and nail every single time.

But to focus a bit more on G2 now, they’re entering this match after a pretty abysmal showing against Misfits just a couple of weeks ago. The sight of them getting outclassed on all fronts in clean 3-0 fashion is still pretty fresh, and there are a lot of question marks regarding their current line-up as well as their realistic power level. Sure, Perkz is always a fantastic player but he wasn’t nearly as impactful recently as we’d come to expect, Wunder cannot play carries or bruisers in the top lane or he’ll get smashed much like he did against Alphari (solo killed twice by Cho’Gath in a match-up that should have been in his favor) so his impact will be lowered by quite a lot, their bottom lane is pretty non-impactful even though they’re very serviceable, especially if you give Wadid an engage support like Pyke or Rakan.

Finally, there’s the Jankos conundrum – will he come out and dominate? Will we see the return of the “First Blood King” or will we get the badly-positioned, mechanically flawed jungler that goes for illogical invades at the worst possible times? They’ve had a lot of time to prepare, and they surely did. But they haven’t been that strong overall, and they haven’t exhibited excellency in any stage of the game – they’re not particularly good at anything.

Splyce aren’t much better, but at least they’ve always had a very clear win condition, and they always stick to it. Draft for late game, don’t go for any crazy team comps, farm it out for fifty minutes and then engage or go for Baron. If things go according to plan they win, if they don’t survive the early and mid game then, well, they pretty much lose by default.

They also have the added benefit of a well performing mid laner – Nisqy was never really a powerhouse in the classic sense but he’s been performing out of his mind recently and that is exactly what you want to have in the regional qualifier. It’s do or die for all these teams, and to have a mid laner that’s able to clutch it out in high-pressure situations is of the utmost importance.

So essentially both teams have somewhat clear win conditions. What’ll happen in reality is pretty much up in the air, but one thing is for sure – it’s probably going to be extremely close.

We’re siding with Splyce on this one, but not will full confidence. If they execute properly, if they give Odoamne the tools to survive possible early pressure from Jankos, and if Xerxe focuses on the mid lane match-up and getting Nisqy ahead then they should, by all means, have the edge over G2. That said, G2 has the talent on their roster so if anything, this should be an extremely engaging five-game series.

Winner: Splyce, 2.55 (odds @ Betway)

Day Three – Schalke 04 vs. G2 eSports

Well, no one really thought it would be one-sided, but to have two insanely competitive Best of 5 matches in two days was about as good as things could have went for the average EU LCS fan.

Predicting the outcome of this very last Best of 5 is as hard as the ones that came before it. We don’t have a lot of intel on Schalke, but they do have an edge. They’ve had an extra week to recuperate after their defeat to Fnatic – and they have nothing to be ashamed of, they’ve had the chance to see G2 show their cards and now they have 24h to come up with a thorough game plan which shouldn’t be too hard seeing how they already know very well how G2 want to play the game.

The thing with G2 is that they’re not consistent, and you could see their flaws even against Splyce. If they manage to get the ball rolling early on in the game, if they accrue a big enough lead then they’re pretty much set to win though their snowball and individual skill, but if they don’t get a lead early then they pretty much lose by default since their late game decision-making and – even more important – team fighting isn’t that good.

Schalke’s late game, on the other hand, is pretty insane. They know very well when they can fight, and they always manage to clutch things out in their favor. They don’t make as many mistakes as Splyce does, so the G2 won’t be able to create the leads they need.

Now, after seeing Perkz play out of his mind on picks like Irelia and Akali, it’s kinda hard giving the edge over to Schalke, but they’re the more layered team, they’re all playing incredibly well on an individual level and they have more tools and avenues to win. Furthermore, Upset will always be able to carry his team when the late game comes, so if they find a way to contain Hjarnan’s Heimerdinger – which can be easily solved by simply banning it out – then they should have the edge in every lane except mid lane.

G2 looked good, but not that good. Had it not been for Hjarnan’s insane Heimerdinger in the very last two deciding games, G2 would have lost. His impact on traditional AD carries was pretty much non-existent whereas Schalke has a Top 3 AD carry within their starting line-up. If Nukeduck manages to hold his own against Perkz, then Schalke should have the upper hand.

That said, this is an insanely close series (especially if Perkz manages to repeat his performance from yesterday) and it could, by all means, go the five game distance. Much like in the first two gauntlet matches, nuances will be the determining factor.

Winner: Schalke 04, 1.65 (odds @ Betway)

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NA LCS 2018 Summer Split Playoff Finals Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

September 7th, 2018

Photo: Riot Games

For our final match of the 2018 regular season, we have an insanely exciting clash between Cloud9 and the 2018 Spring Split champions Team Liquid.

This is quite possibly the absolute best finals we could have gotten, and it’s also a clash between the two best teams in the entire region. The rise of Team Liquid has been absolutely stunning to watch – after years of absolute mediocrity, but Cloud9’s storyline coming into the finals is even better. Going from tenth place to securing a playoff bye is a sensational narrative.

They did make a couple of mistakes against TSM though, but you could argue that their two losses came more because of their iffy drafts rather than the fact that TSM played better.

The interesting thing here is the fact that almost all pros – Doublelift included – said that Cloud9 is the best team in the region right now. While that doesn’t automatically mean that they’ll win, it does send a very singular message. Cloud9 has also been exceptional at punishing Team Liquid – and that was by shutting Pobelter down completely. What’s stopping them from doing the same once again this Sunday?

While Team Liquid does have numerous veterans within their starting line-up, they’re still a somewhat late game (one could argue one-dimensional) oriented team. And when they do manage to impose their own playstyle and strategy they’re incredibly strong and dominant, but against a team that’s so creative and versatile as Cloud9 is, their win conditions become a lot harder to execute.

Even if you go lane for lane, Cloud9 should have the edge. Maybe their bottom lane duo hasn’t been as dominant in lane as you’d think for a second-placed team, they’re clutch in teamfights and that’s what matters the most. Licorice, in particular, should be their biggest asset coming into this match. The 2018 Spring Split Rookie of the Split has been integral in their success, and he’s been playing out of his mind over the entire year – excluding a couple of misplays in the Spring playoffs.

Furthermore, Cloud9 is 2-0 over Team Liquid in the Summer Split, and they all bring more depth and flexibility in the draft phase – which, to be fair, could be a negative as well. They’re far more versatile and they can play a plethora of different playstyles – and we’re not even counting in their secondary jungle/mid duo that completely demolished TSM when it mattered the most.

To be fair, even if Cloud9 lose this match they’re still going to be the “final boss” in the regional qualifier, and they’re absolutely one of the best teams in the entire region right now, so there’s no doubt whether or not they have what it takes to win and lock down their ticket to Worlds.

That said, it would be so much easier for them to simply come out and dominate this Sunday and “be done with it” rather than prepare for an additional week, and they know it. They’re worked hard throughout the split – after all, if they didn’t they wouldn’t have been able to go from tenth to second in just five weeks – and they want to get some well-deserved rest before going into full tryhard mode for Worlds.

How this series will pan out is completely up in the air. Both teams have a chance to win, and both teams have veterans and tons of experience. Cloud9 has a couple of rookies as well, but they’re not playing like rookies. Whether or not the big stage will affect their play remains to be seen, but they know this is their time to shine. There hasn’t been a Cloud9 banner in the LCS studio since 2014, and they want a new one. Furthermore, 2018 seems to be the year of Cloud9 – they’ve won the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive major in Boston, they won the Overwatch League and this is the only thing left.

We’re going with Cloud9 on this one, but it’s going to be insanely close and nuances will be the determining factor.

Winner: Cloud9, 1.95 (odds @ Betway)

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NA LCS 2018 Summer Split Third Place Match Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

September 7th, 2018

Photo: Riot Games

For our North American LCS third-place decider, we have a pretty interesting clash between the perennial NA titan – TSM, and a newcomer that’s been able to attain a pretty respectable amount of success straight out of the gates – 100 Thieves.

Their paths towards this match do differ however. TSM had a pretty abysmal start to the split overall, but they were able to pick up the pace and finally play at least close to the level that people expected from them – especially with such a stacked line-up. 100 Thieves, on the other hand, received a ton of slack online after their mistreatment of Meteos, and ever since AnDa joined the line-up they haven’t been as strong. They still excel at the things they’re good at, they’re still a very formidable team no matter how you spin it, but they’re not exactly top-tier, they’re more of a gatekeeper. A really, really solid gatekeeper.

100 Thieves failed to put up much of a fight against the 2018 Spring Split champions Team Liquid in their semifinal clash, and even though they did win the first game of the series, they didn’t do much else throughout the next three. A couple of good individual plays her, a good teamfight there, but in the end it wasn’t enough. They were pretty mediocre on an individual level, and above all the biggest conundrum that happened was the fact that they decided on starting with their Academy AD carry Rikara instead of Cody Sun – the guy they’ve been developing synergy over the last 9 months.

Differences and squabbles aside, deciding to “punish” a player that’s obviously better and more in-sync with the entire team at such an important moment of the regular season is completely insane, and because of it they could end up without a ticket to Worlds.

TSM, on the other hand, played fairly well against Cloud9. It’s hard to tell whether C9 botched a couple of drafts and lost because of that (putting Jensen on utility picks, Sneaky on Quinn), or if TSM really had the upper hand in a couple of moments, but all in all it was a very close, highly entertaining series. As it came to an end, TSM kind of regressed to their old Spring Split ways and drafts – Bjerg on Ryze, Mithy on Tahm Kench, etc.

But even in their loss they showcased enough to get respect, and they’re surely a Top 4 team right now. The only question that remains is – is 100 Thieves above them or not?

Right now, we don’t know whether or not Cody Sun is starting and that’s a problem. With him, 100 Thieves are a much stronger team than with Rikara, but even with Cody they actually lost to a game TSM near the very end of the regular season.

For TSM, this is the beginning of their redemption story. They didn’t have the best showing throughout the year, but that’s fine. They’ll bounce back as they always do – they just need a bit more time. Sure, it’s a shock not to see them dominate and represent North America at international tournaments, but they’re the most decorated and well-known North American team for a reason.

They want to reach Worlds, and this is the first step. They’re not that close, but it’s possible, it’s within their reach. They should, by all means, be able to step up and secure a better spot in the regional qualifier. The pressure is mounting, but if there was ever a team that’s been able to endure such hardships and volatile swings in play – it’s TSM.

Winner: TSM, 1.60 (odds @ Betway)

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EU LCS 2018 Summer Split Third Place Match Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

September 7th, 2018

Photo: Riot Games

The EU LCS third place match isn’t any less exciting than the finals, so we’re in for two days of action-packed top-tier League of Legends. What makes this match-up so exciting is the fact that we have two teams that are aggressive and prone to go for crazy plays from the very moment they step foot on the Summoner’s Rift. Vitality have generally been considered the most aggressive early game team, but they’re not as clean nor as dominant when they don’t accrue big leads.

Misfits, on the other hand, held the record for some insane gold differentials at ten and fifteen minutes, and they were definitely the cleanest, most proactive team in the entire region for the first couple of weeks of the Summer Split.

We won’t focus on their slump, because right now that’s history. They’re stepping up considerably, and after witnessing their masterclass in execution against G2 eSports, it’s impossible to count them out. Coming into their match against Fnatic though, a lot of people were unsure if the Kings of Europe had what it took to take down a game Misfits squad – after all, Misfits always outclassed Fnatic when it mattered the most, even in 2018.

And while Fnatic did manage to clutch things out in the end, they didn’t look that good, and by default – Misfits did.

They didn’t always draft that well, in essence they outsmarted themselves with certain picks like Ivern in game one, but they almost always had the better early game than Fnatic, they always accrued leads in the early game and transitioned over to the mid game much better than the current “Kings of Europe”.

Their macro was on point, and they were always at the right place at right time. They did struggle individually perhaps, they weren’t able to create big enough leads in order to snowball into the late game, but that wouldn’t have been a problem had they not made just a couple of crucial mistakes in each and every loss.

It was painful to see, like a game you were playing yourself. You were better in lane, you focused objectives instead of mindless skirmishing, you took down everything you had in front of you and it was just a matter of minutes before you would last-hit the enemy Nexus, but a single mistake – either in positioning or a bad call – completely turned the tides of battle.

In the end, it was their lackluster drafting and inability to group up in those clutch moments that cost them the series. But regardless, they showcased a ton of positive play, they were proactive, they made things happen and they were always the one to make the first step.

Against Team Vitality, that kind of playstyle could be the determining factor.

For Vitality though, there’s quite a lot running on this match – their ticket to Worlds. If they manage to win against Misfits, and Fnatic wins the Summer Split, then Vitality automatically qualify for the World Championship due to the fact that they were able to end fourth in Spring.

Their Best of 5 against Schalke was a pretty abysmal showing. All that time that they had thanks to their playoff bye was obviously either unused or at best misused. Their drafts were awful from the very get go – the fact that they can play anything doesn’t mean they should play anything.

They were completely demolished by Amazing’s Skarner and Vander’s Shen, and yet they let both picks go through for the second game as well. Picking Poppy into Shen is a pretty cool idea, but only if you execute it correctly. Jactroll, unfortunately, didn’t. In fact, Vander was able to taunt people at will. They put Jiizuke on picks like Galio which is somewhat in his wheelhouse but after it didn’t work in game one they should have adapted better.

As games went by, they failed to adapt – it was as if they didn’t want to. As if they thought they were the better team, it’s just that their execution was a bit off. Perhaps that’s true as well, but they weren’t better – that was obvious from the very get-go.

Jiizuke, one of the better performing mid laners in the region, didn’t have a good showing against Nukeduck either. His impact was almost non-existent and the way he played was pretty uimpressive as well. He’s one of Vitality’s strongest assets, and yet he was completely underutilized from game one onwards.

Kikis also had a pretty mediocre showing against Amazing. He was a complete non-factor in every game except the one where Vitality managed to get the win, and his staple Trundle pick no longer worked out. As someone who is paramount to Vitality’s more subdued playstyle and success, he absolutely needs to step up and perhaps adapt a bit in the current jungle meta if Vitality want to stand a chance against Misfits.

Now, there’s no easy way to go about this match. We quite literally have no idea how it’s going to pan out – anything is possible. Misfits might come extremely well prepared, and straight-out dominate Vitality from the very get-go. On the other hand, Vitality are quite a strong team, and when they’re able to impose their own will they’re one of the best in the entire region. After all, they were able to secure a playoff bye for a reason. That said, both teams are incredibly volatile, Vitality especially. You never know what they’re going to come out with, and when betting on League of Legends that’s quite the problem.

You can’t even deduce their current power level from their semifinal clashes as their matches develop differently and they were against two completely different teams. Going into the match on Saturday, Misfits are favored for some reason, and the odds are stacked heavily against Vitality. While they didn’t look that good, they absolutely have the tools to make this into an insanely competitive series.

But the problem with Vitality is the fact that they always draft with hubris, they always make the wrong move when it matters the most. They had match point against Splyce in the 2018 Spring Split playoffs and they didn’t want to make a single change in the draft – they “had it”. And yet in actuality they didn’t.

This kind of arrogant approach to the game won’t get them far, and that’s the only thing that’s preventing us from betting on Vitality. They should have the edge on paper, they should have the upper hand in most lanes – Attila and Jactroll shouldn’t have a problem with Hans Sama and Mikyx, Jiizuke should be able to outclass Sencux and Cabochard shouldn’t have a problem against Alphari – but if they play as arrogantly as they always do, then they could get heavily punished.

Misfits don’t need a big opening in order to close things out or to snowball a lead. They probably would have beaten Fnatic last week if they weren’t against Caps – an world-class player that we haven’t really seen in the region for quite some time. His ability to go for insane off-meta picks like Vayne or Wukong and still make them work in the meta is absolutely astonishing.

We’re going with Misfits on this one but not will full confidence. Either way, expect an absolute barn burner that could go the distance. In the end, nuances will be the deciding factor, but one thing is for sure – Misfits are insanely motivated, and they want that ticket to Worlds.

Winner: Misfits, 1.65 (odds @ Betway)

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EU LCS 2018 Summer Split Playoff Finals Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

September 6th, 2018

Photo: Riot Games

After nine weeks of regular season play and two weeks of the playoffs, we are finally just days away from the very last split finals of the year, held at the Palacio Vistalegre in Madrid, Spain. This has, without a doubt, been one of the most exciting years in EU LCS history. We’ve seen numerous exciting narratives and storylines develop from the unlikeliest of places, we’ve seen new prospects rise and the old guard crumble.

The 2018 Summer Split was also the very last time we had the opportunity to watch some of these teams play, seeing how the whole region will be franchised coming into the 2019 Spring Split. All in all, it was an extremely thrilling couple of months, and if you’re a fan of the European LCS, you’re going to be satisfied by the fact that we really do have a couple of highly capable teams that will represent us at this year’s World Championship in Korea.

With that out of the way, let’s focus on the Summer Split finals.

Fnatic are entering this week’s match as the clear favorites – but there’s a lingering feeling in the air that they might not be as strong as people think. They’re considered as the absolute best team in the region almost by default, and with good reason. They’ve displayed an uncanny ability to play and execute almost anything they go for, and they’re also pretty insane to boot so you’re never going to end up regretting watching them duke it out on the Rift.

Their semi-final series against Misfits wasn’t exactly a good display of their skill or potential. Even though Fnatic started the series off on the right foot, it was Misfits that was almost always faster on the map. They often out-macroed Fnatic, and executed their gameplan a lot better. Now, obviously, Misfits were only able to win just a single game, but they had the upper hand in every single game expect the very last one.

It was a strange sight to behold. Even though Misfits were entering the series with some serious momentum after outclassing G2 in quarters, they were still a slumping team no matter how you spin it. To see them go out and almost beat Fnatic in a very competitive match is something you didn’t expect to see.

Game two of their match was especially interesing – or abysmal to watch if you’re a Fnatic fan. The amount of individual and team-wide mistakes that Fnatic made was downright insane. Mindless engages, forced fights, sloppy macro – not something you’re used to see from one of the most decorated European teams in history.

The problem with Fnatic is the fact that they never slow down. They never pull back and devise a secondary plan if the first one fails – they just continue brute forcing things, and at times it works – especially against lower tier opposition, but when it doesn’t work they look alarmingly bad.

Game three was also pretty similar, and Fnatic were just minutes away from being 1-2 in the series – until Caps pulled off a miracle Vayne condemn just in the nick of time and turn the series around. But that one single incredible display of skill doesn’t erase just how sloppy Fnatic played leading up to it.

Now yes, they’re absolutely insane when they’re at the top of their game, but for a team that’s touted as the heavy favorites even before the Summer Split began, they didn’t do enough to justify the hype.

As for Schalke, they were able to pretty much dismantle Team Vitality from the very get-go which was also fairly surprising in a way. They were coming into the match without a lot of hype after barely being able to take down Splyce. Vitality were always an insanely proactive team early on, and their aggression is essentially unmatched in the region.

How could a late-game focused team have a chance, when they couldn’t even handle Splyce’s early game? Somehow, against all odds, they not only managed to endure the early onslaught, but they actually bested Vitality where they were the strongest.

Schalke’s early games were exceptionally clean and proactive, spearheaded by Amazing’s Skarner and Vander’s Shen. To be frank, Vitality kind of made egregious errors whenever they could, so they did help out Schalke considerably, but it was still Schalke’s their superb macro that was the deciding factor.

When they drafted comfort picks, and when they were playing up to their individual potential, Schalke looked absolutely fantastic. Vizicsacsi and Upset once against had a couple of sensational games, and they will surely have to repeat that level of play if they want to stand a chance against Fnatic.

Schalke, much like Misfits, bring a very specific set of threats but it’s nothing that Fnatic hasn’t seen before.

Looking at this match-up specifically, Fnatic have the edge in every single lane. Vizicsacsi is a fantastic top laner, but he shouldn’t be able to accrue any kind of lead against the likes of sOAZ and Bwipo, Amazing isn’t as good nor as flexible as Broxah (both in the draft as well as in-game), Nukeduck is nowhere near as capable or impactful as Caps, and Upset and Vander don’t have an edge over Rekkles and Hylissang either.

Schalke are a very formidable team in the late game though, and Upset showcased some insane teamfighting capabilities against Vitality. His 7/1/10 Ezreal game where he was able to output 1505 damage per minute is the perfect example of just how impactful he can be when given the tools to carry.

He’s also a pretty passive AD carry in lane, so the bottom lane will almost surely be a snooze fest from the very beginning since both players want to scale up until the very late game.

Verdict

So who has the upper hand coming into Sunday’s match? On paper, it should be Fnatic.

But Schalke are far from a negligible challenger. They’ve been outperforming people’s expectations throughout the entire Summer Split, and perhaps importantly, they’ve showcased a fantastic ability to adapt when it matters the most – just like they did against Team Vitality last week.

A very big question lingers in the air – Fnatic always find a way to come out on top, but against such a mid-late focused team like Schalke, that doesn’t make many mistakes throughout the game, maybe they don’t have such a big edge as most people originally thought.

But in the end, Fnatic are the “Kings of Europe” for a reason. They have an insanely capable six-man roster that has proven time and time again that they’re a world-class team that’s capable of going blow-for-blow with the very best teams in the entire world.

Furthermore, this is the very first time Schalke’s playing at such a big venue, in front of such a big crowd – that’s almost surely going to be rooting for Fnatic. This isn’t the regular season, nor are they playing in front of a small Berlin crowd. Schalke has a sports psychologist as a part of their coaching staff, but playing such a high-stakes game is a nerve-racking experience and many players fail to perform up to expectations.

In short, Schalke have a lot of going against them, but they absolutely have the tools to make this into a highly competitive Best of 5 series. How close it’ll be remains to be seen, but it’s simply impossible to bet against Fnatic at this point. They’ve been able to win every time when it mattered, and this match should be no different.

Winner: Fnatic, 1.35 (odds @ Betway)

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NA LCS 2018 Summer Split Playoffs Semifinals Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

September 1st, 2018

Photo: Riot Games

For our first North American LCS semifinal match, we have the perennial clash between two legendary staple NA teams – Cloud9 and Team Solo Mid. If this were the finals no one would really complain, as this clash has fireworks written all over it. When TSM and Cloud9 play against each other, the spectators never lose, and seeing how both teams are on an upswing right now, things really cannot get any more exciting.

TSM is entering today’s match without much hype. While they were able to take down Echo Fox in an insanely close Best of 5 series last week, it was far from pretty or dominant. In fact, you could argue that Echo Fox outplayed themselves. They were far too greedy and sloppy in their execution – and all TSM had to do was wait and capitalize when the right moment came. And capitalize they did, to their credit, but against a team that’s far more proactive, more synergized and clean in their execution, TSM don’t stand a chance.

They had to work for their win, and had Echo Fox not went for an illogical Lucian mid in game four, when they had match point, they would have probably reached the semifinals instead of TSM. Furthermore, Echo Fox were able to win four out of the five early games against TSM, which doesn’t bode well for the perennial NA titan seeing how Cloud9 have an even better early game.

Cloud9, on the other hand, were able to secure a playoff bye after a pretty horrendous start to the Summer Split. There was a ton of drama, a lot of raised eyebrows when their head coach Reapered decided to remove Jensen, Sneaky, and Smoothie from the starting line-up citing “motivational issues”. Benching three of your most recognizable, most impactful players in an insanely competitive split is a decision many questioned – and with good reason.

Cloud9 had a pretty abysmal start – 2W and 6L in the first four weeks. However, after they introduced Jensen and Sneaky back into the line-up, and swapped an underperforming Svenskeren for Blaber, things started improving – immediately. Soon enough, they went from being a bottom-tier team into the playoff conversation, and into Top 2 soon afterwards.

Their level of play was absolutely sublime, and it seemingly came out of nowhere. Many players and teams said flat-out that Cloud9 is the best NA LCS team in the moment, and that they have the biggest chance of winning the entire split.

Cloud9 have the upper hand in this one, and they know it. They’re riding an insane amount of momentum and hype, and you could argue that they didn’t have this big of a chance of lifting the LCS trophy in years. Jensen has consistently been the best performing, most impactful mid laners in the entire region for years, and yet he still hasn’t won an LCS title. It might not seem like it at first glance, but he has a bigger chance of doing so with this line-up than with any roster in the past.

Furthermore, they seem like they have an edge in every department, and that they have the fundamentals down to a tee.

Cloud9 and TSM have met each other in the finals of the NA LCS more times than any other team. TSM have historically been more successful, but right now that doesn’t matter. Right now, Cloud9 have the upper hand. They also have a very potent, highly synergized jungle-mid duo in Svenskeren and GoldenGlue waiting on the sidelines. Two substitutes that they used to utterly demolish Team Liquid in the eight week of the regular season. They bring a completely different playstyle when compared to Blaber and Jensen, and a very unique set of threats that Grig and Bjergsen shouldn’t be able to tackle.

TSM want to win – badly, they want to regain their former glory, they want to get back to their winning ways and reach Worlds – as they’ve never missed a World Championship ever since the team’s inception. They want redemption for not even reaching the playoffs last split, and they want to remind everyone that this was just a sloppy start to the year, and not the complete downfall of the most decorated NA LCS team in history.

Will they be able to win though? Probably not. They have the tools to make this into a very competitive Best of 5, but even if Bjergsen plays out of his mind, he’s going to meet his match in Jensen, and Cloud9 as a whole have more tools to win with when compared to TSM. They’re just more adept at the current meta and they can play a wide range of team comps and strategies at a higher level than TSM.

Winner: Cloud9, 1.40 (odds @ Betway)

Team Liquid vs. 100 Thieves

Photo: Riot Games

For tomorrow’s semifinal match-up, we have yet another clash between Team Liquid and 100 Thieves – a repeat of the 2018 Spring Split finals. This is a fantastic match-up no matter how you spin it, and we’re surely in for some very competitive, highly engaging League of Legends, however the reality of the situation is that Team Liquid is 6W-1L all-time against 100 Thieves.

They’ve also won five matches in a row, including both games during the regular season. 100 Thieves essentially have a very similar playstyle to Team Liquid, however they don’t have Doublelift on their team. Whatever 100T can do well Liquid can do better. They might not be stronger lane-for-lane, but they’re stronger and more capable as a five-man unit, and that’s the only thing that matters.

They also make fewer mistakes in the early game, and they’re a bit more vulnerable in the late game. Liquid play a fairly clean game from start to finish, and that will be their biggest asset in this Best of 5.

Could 100 Thieves come out with something new and unique? Something that will surprise Liquid? In theory, they could, but it shouldn’t be enough against a veteran roster that Liquid has.

To 100 Thieves’ credit, what they’ve been able to accomplish in just a couple of months time is pretty astonishing. They’ve already reached the finals of the Spring Split, and they’re in the Top 4 once again. For a completely new team, that’s quite impressive. They’ve set up a fantastic infrastructure, they’re a marketable team filled with veteran players (and a rookie in AnDa), and their potential is undeniable.

Sadly however, it’s hard to bet against Team Liquid at this point.

Winner: Team Liquid, 1.40 (odds @ Betway)

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EU LCS 2018 Summer Split Playoffs Semifinals Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

August 30th, 2018

Photo: Riot Games

After two extremely engaging quarterfinal match-ups, we’re just days away from the semifinals that – at least on paper – look to be absolute barn burners. We really are down to the four best teams in the region, without a doubt. The surprising thing is, three of them are entering the semifinals reinvigorated. They’re old roster, well-known faces, but they’re coming with a different energy, and that’s something that’s incredibly hard to prepare for. Even though Fnatic are still favored to win the Summer Split, after last week’s matches anything can happen, and that’s exactly what makes these semifinal matches so incredibly engaging.

Let’s focus on the first one at hand, and that’s the Team Vitality vs. Schalke 04 clash.

Both teams are entering this Best of 5 series with a lot of momentum, but perhaps for different reasons. Schalke are still fresh after their win over Splyce in the quarterfinals, but their wins were far from dominant. It never seemed like a fight between a third and sixth placed team, and had Odoamne played just a bit better then the outcome could’ve been completely different. Schalke were losing the first game for its entire duration. They lost almost all objectives they could – including three incredibly impactful Infernal drakes. To their credit, they never slacked behind too much, but things very getting very grim. Now, sure, they did manage to pull off a sensational backdoor, but it doesn’t change the fact that they should have, by all means, lost that game.

Splyce are one of the more reactive teams in the region – depending on the day. It seems like they’re always second-guessing their actions, and that is exactly what allowed Schalke to go for such a ballsy play. But against a team that’s more aggressive and proactive, they won’t have such a luxury, nor such a big opening.

When they went in game two, they were completely demolished by Splyce, even though they had more momentum coming into it – after all, not a lot of teams would be able to bounce back mentally after such a crushing backdoor loss. Splyce drafted a better team comp, but more importantly, they all outplayed Schalke when it mattered the most.

It was yet another example of just how inconsistent Schalke really is. They’re able to play at a high enough level individually, but they often falter as a team. When Splyce were able to impose their own playstyle, Schalke was completely lost and dumbfounded. They didn’t have an answer, they regressed back to their Spring Split way of playing – reactive, passive, always one step behind in every way, shape, and form.

Perhaps the biggest problem they had was just how negligible Amazing was. His impact was nowhere to be found, and in such a high-stakes match that was a problem. Xerxe not only neutralized Amazing from the very get-go, but he also exerted a ton of pressure whereas Amazing was never able to catch up. He was almost always behind in gold and while Xerxe got his laners ahead on a consistent basis, Amazing was mostly playing catch-up.

Fortunately, individual players like Upset and Vizicsacsi clutched things out when it mattered the most. But against a well-oiled machine like Team Vitality – or Fnatic, that’s not going to be enough. Having two well-performing players isn’t enough to be considered a top-tier team that’s fighting for a ticket to the World Championship.

As for Team Vitality, well, they’re entering this week’s match as the favorites, and with good reason. The fact that they were able to secure a playoff bye is absolutely insane, seeing just how inconsistent they were at key moments in the split. When it mattered the most, the boys in black and yellow stepped up and their journey from middle-of-the-pack team with potential to a real contender was thrilling to watch.

Perhaps the most important thing to highlight is the fact that Team Vitality had both Schalke and G2’s numbers when it mattered the most, and that was in the tiebreaker matches that were played at the very end of the regular season.

All of it boils down to just a single change, and that’s swapping Gilius for Kikis. It’s one of those amazing single-man changes that completely reinvigorate the roster.

Now, he essentially only played half the split, but even in those ten games he managed to score the third best KDA at 7.3 (four kills above the next jungler in the rankings), the highest kill participation out of all jungler at 76.1%, the second lower death share (only behind Broxah), he also has Top 2 stats in the Gold, Experience and Creep difference at ten minutes, the highest damage per minute output out of all jungler at almost 300, and also a very respectable 15% damage share. (ranked third behind Caedrel and Maxlore)

What we can deduce from the above is that he’s really been not just one of the best performing junglers in the region, but perhaps even the best one. It’s hard giving him the edge over Broxah, but they have different playstyles, and the one Kikis opts to go for is far more impactful. He’s been able to do so much in twice less time, with teammates that no one really ranked as Top 2 or Top 3. That’s quite the achievement considering just how big of a gap they had to cross to get to where they are now.

But he’s not the only one that’s been stepping up. Everyone in the Vitality roster upped their game when Kikis joined, especially Cabochard. Now a couple of players spoke how Cabochard is currently one of the best performing top laners in the region – and they’re not wrong. He’s just not he flashy type, he doesn’t go for insane outplays and the sort – he’s just at the right place, at the right time, doing his job and pushing his team towards victory. He has some of the best laning stats in the entire region, which is even more impressive when you add the fact that he can play almost any champion and role that his team needs – bruisers, carry, tank, you name it.

His teammates aren’t slacking off either, and it shows. They’re still prone to making mistakes, they’re not as polished as, say, Fnatic is, and their execution isn’t as crisp, but they’re getting there. They’re improving with each passing week, and they should, by all means, have the tools to reach the finals and secure their ticket to Worlds. And they deserve it – Top 4 in Spring, they’ve been working hard at diversifying their own gameplans and strategies, and they bring a very unique set of abilities and tactics to the table that we really haven’t seen from a European team in recent history.

The thing is, Vitality have an answer for anything that Schalke can bring to the table.

They’re incredibly versatile, they all have champion oceans – Attila especially as he’s shown incredibly proficiency at mages as well during the short AP bottom meta, they bring a unique set of problems that Schalke simply aren’t equipped to handle. They’re crazy, they have insane bravado and courage – sometimes it backfires, but when it doesn’t it’s a joy to watch. They’re also an insanely aggressive early game team, and they’re going to have an easy time in creating leads against a late game team like Schalke.

They also win every single lane against Schalke, or they’ll at worst go even.

There’s been quite a lot of hype surrounding Nukeduck this split, but it’s pretty much been all smoke. The games where he manages to have a big impact are almost non-existent. He had one of the worst KDA’s in the entire region throughout the split at 3.3 (bottom two), one of the worst kill participations as well at 64.7% (bottom two), he had the fourth highest death share (but not because he’s always in the heat of the battle doing a lot of work), he’s also bottom two in damage share at 24.6%, and his damage per minute was the worst out of all European mid laners in the Summer Split. (he has 393, whereas Caps has 559, Perkz 551 and even Jiizuke at 520)

The only saving grace for Nukeduck is the fact that he’s a Top 5 EU mid when it comes to laning, but the advantages that he accrues in the laning phase are never used well enough – he’s never turning his leads and snowballing or getting his team ahead. He’s always passive, waiting for the next stage of the game. And even his laning took a serious dip (worst laning stats out of all four mid laners that played in the quarterfinals, and he was on a winning team) in the playoffs.

So coming into their match against Team Vitality, Schalke really don’t have a winning lane.

Kikis’ insane early game pressure will shut down Schalke as well, and they have the tools to completely outclass them in every way, shape, and form. Now, it’s probably not going to be easy nor one-sided, but Vitality have the edge in every stage of the game. They had an extra week to prepare, to watch Schalke’s strategies and tendencies against Splyce, and come up with a thorough game plan. Their execution also improved as the split came to an end, and if they come into this Best of 5 with the same vigor and carnivore-type mindset, they shouldn’t have too big of a problem taking Schalke down.

Winner: Team Vitality, 1.50 (odds @ Betway)

Fnatic vs. Misfits

Photo: Riot Games

This is where things get very interesting, very quickly. Now, if someone told you that the semifinal match-up would be Fnatic against Misfits at the beginning of the Summer Split, you would have believed them. After all, Misfits were destroying teams left and right when the second half of the regular season began. And by destroying, we mean quite literally outclassing on every possible level regardless of the opponent. The gold leads that they had in each and every game were astronomical, and they went up to six thousand gold at fifteen minutes. They were clean, their macro was spectacular and their execution was pristine. There was no stopping them, and they didn’t even play funneling team comps – they were just better than everyone else.

But then came their post-Rift Rivals period, and they just completely crumbled. They were only able to score two more wins after their dominant win streak, and even those two wins were against bottom-tier competition. Coming into the playoffs, they were the laughing stock of the region, and were predicted to get completely dismantled by G2 eSports. Now, while G2 weren’t that strong as the split came to an end, they were at least eons away from Misfits’ level of play.

But boy was everyone wrong.

Misfits came out of the gates swinging. They reverted back to their own strengths – and why it took them so long is a complete mystery. They looked like a completely different team, and Hans Sama played like a man on a mission – from the first game to the very last. He didn’t do it alone, far from it. Maxlore’s stellar play fully enabled Hans Sama to impose his own playstyle, and even though Perkz tried his hardest to carry his team from the jaws of defeat, the odds were stacked against him.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was just how much each individual member stepped up. Alphari was able to solo kill Wunder on multiple occasions – regardless of the matchup, and Maxlore looked like the beast jungler from the very beginning of the split. Sencux was still fairly mediocre, but at least he did his part.

Now, analyzing the statistical side of this match-up makes zero sense, so we’ll skip that part. Misfits are still sitting near the top in most categories thanks to their incredible start to the season and Fnatic are obviously ranked as number one where it matters the most. Fnatic are really the best team in the region – they’re a world-class roster that will surely make Europe proud at this year’s World Championship. They can play so many different team comps and strats that it’s actually insane, and they’re not ones to shy away from a creative challenge.

They’ve displayed a wide variety of fantastic level one strats throughout the split and the way they manage to always execute their plans – no matter how complex – is downright astonishing. Their Summer Split run wasn’t perfect, they did fumble here and there, but that was almost always because they were experimenting. They were gauging how far they can take things as they knew they had the tools to win regardless. They wanted to push their own limites and see how they could go so that they’re prepared for a wider variety of situations later down the road.

The fact that they’ve been able to play with Bwipo in the bottom lane throughout the entire split and simply just “plug in” Rekkles near the very end is also fairly incredible – they didn’t skip a beat. While Rekkles didn’t play out of his mind, he’s a seasoned veteran and he should be more than ready for this Best of 5 against Misfits.

That’s exactly where Fnatic’s edge should be most noticeable. They have such incredible laners and players in every single role – Misfits don’t have an edge no matter how you spin it. Hans Sama and Mikyx were able to create big leads against G2’s bottom lane, but Fnatic doesn’t have Hjarnan and Wadid, they don’t have a mild, non-impactful bottom lane. Instead, they have arguably the two best bottom lane players in recent history. Hylissang doesn’t get praised enough, but he’s a veteran in his own right and he’s maintained an incredibly high level of play throughout the years and multiple metas.

The biggest mismatch is obviously in the mid lane. While Sencux did revert back to some of his staple comfort picks against G2, playing such a passive style against Caps – the best mid laners in Europe and an absolute mechanical madman – won’t get him far. He should, by all means, get crushed game after game, and he shouldn’t be able to compete with Caps’ flexibility in the draft. When you start going lane by lane, Misfits really don’t have an upper hand, nor an obvious win condition.

Fnatic know that they have to shut down Hans Sama, because without a lead he’s a completely different (far worse) player in-game. The problem with Misfits is that they only have one win condition – and shutting just a single player down isn’t a problem, especially not for a well-oiled machine like Fnatic.

The only fear there is, and this is ever-present when Fnatic and Misfits clash, is the fact that Fnatic have generally rarely been able to take Misfits down. With the very best teams in the EU LCS, it often comes down to stylistic match-ups, and Misfits were always a very bad match-up for Fnatic. And it’s not like that was the case with the old PowerOfEvil and IgNar roster – Misfits were Fnatic’s kryptonite even in the 2018 regular season as well.

Fnatic lost both of their matches in the Spring Split – and that’s the split when they finished as number one, and they’re 1-1 in the Summer Split. Now, while Misfits do pose a very complex set of challenges that Fnatic have to solve, they still shouldn’t be on their level when push comes to shove.

When it matters the most, Fnatic always manage to get the job done. Even though it might not be that easy, they should emerge victorious this Saturday.

Winner: Fnatic, 1.40 (odds @ Betway)

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NA LCS 2018 Summer Split Playoffs Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

August 25th, 2018

Photo: Riot Games

For our first North American quarterfinal match-up we have a very enticing clash between one of the most prestigious and well-known NA organizations in Team Solo Mid, and Echo Fox, a team that has been on the verge of greatness many times, but they were never really able to overcome their own limitations and leave a mark on the NA LCS. Sometimes it was an insufficiently strong roster, or a bad coaching staff.

This is also a repeat of the tiebreaker match that happened last week, and Echo Fox emerged victorious, so they’re entering today’s match with more momentum and confidence. It took Echo Fox only twenty five minutes to close out the game with relative ease. It wasn’t exactly a shellacking, but Echo Fox were always one step ahead, and their macro was definitely on point when it mattered the most.

Taking TSM down is no longer a tall task – it’s even expected in most cases. They took on the role of a gatekeeper throughout the year – not strong enough to compete with the absolute best but still strong enough (with great fundamentals) to fend off bottom-tier teams. That said, they’re not an easy team to predict. They reintroduced Sheldon to their staff and the results are showing already. They’re coming in with a four game winning streak from weeks eight and nine, and two of those wins were against 100 Thieves and Team Liquid – you know they’re getting serious when they’re taking down some of the best teams in the region. That said, they did lose to Echo Fox in week seven as well as in the deciding tiebreaker match, so they’re obviously not adept at taking down such a volatile, unpredictable team.

TSM are entering today’s match with a chip on their shoulder. They have a stack roster, some of the best players in the entire world in their respective roles, and yet they fell short of expectations both in Spring and in Summer. Last split was the first time in history that TSM wasn’t a part of the NA LCS finals, and with so much investment it must be a hard blow for the organization. They want to get back to their former glory, they want to re-emerge as one of the strongest teams in North America.

Verdict

Echo Fox should have the edge in this match, but you never really know with TSM. They do have a playoffs buff each and every year, and Bjergsen looked like a man possessed over the last week or two with some vintage, sensational performances on picks like LeBlanc and Akali. If TSM draft well, they should put him on carries and give him enough room and resources so that he can do what he does best – hard carry.

That said, they have too many problems, too many kinks in their armor. They’re often not on the same page, they have differing ideas on how to play the game and they’re often too passive. Zven and Mithy are playing like a pretty mediocre bottom lane duo ever since they moved over to NA, Hauntzer hasn’t been that impactful and Grig, even though he filled in the void from MikeYoung and

Echo Fox is a very proactive team, they’re far from clean but they constantly go for plays, and even though they make egregious mistakes from time to time they at least make things happen. TSM, on the other hand, is just passive and they don’t have the tools to go blow-for-blow with Echo Fox, which is one of the main reasons why they lost all three encounters during the Summer Split. It doesn’t matter if they have the better players individually – Echo Fox is just a stylistic nightmare for a team like TSM.

Now, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to just get demolished. They have the tools to make this into a highly competitive Best of 5 series, and it will probably go the distance. That said, we have to give Echo Fox the benefit of the doubt. They don’t seem like the stronger team, and they’re far more volatile than you’d want if you’re betting on them, but at least they’re the ones pulling the punches and that should be the determining factor against TSM.

Winner: Echo Fox, 2.05 (odds @ Betway)

100 Thieves vs. FlyQuest

Photo: Riot Games

For our second quarterfinal match-up we have a somewhat less interesting clash between 100 Thieves and FlyQuest. Now the resurgence from FlyQuest was something that no one really saw coming, but it was also a refreshing change of pace. They had the tools at their disposal – Keane was always a great midlaner, Flame made waves last year as one of the best top laners in the region, and WildTurtle, even though he’s a bit too volatile at times, is still a top-tier carry. When they introduced Santorin in the line-up, they flourished as a roster and managed to skyrocket into the very top of the standings.

Unfortunately, their momentum kind of got dissolved as time went on. Their record is 10W-10L, and they’re kind of not as good as it might seem. They’re definitely a Top 6 team, but they’re surely the worst and least capable out of the bunch. The fact that they lost to 100 Thieves and TSM in their tiebreakers a couple of days ago also goes to show you that they aren’t really capable of fighting with the very best. They can punch above their weight, that’s for sure, and depending on how well they draft and execute their strategy, they could upset for sure, but against a team that’s as strong as 100 Thieves, that won’t be enough.

At the same time, they have the tools to make this into a very tough series, especially seeing how certain members of the 100 Thieves roster aren’t really playing that consistently. FlyQuest peaked a couple of weeks ago and they’re a pretty easy team to figure out – given that you survive their early game onslaught. They really good at a lot of things, but they’re not really excelling at anything.

100 Thieves, on the other hand, are looking to secure as high of a seeding as possible so that they can secure some championship points and go to Worlds later down the road. Beating FlyQuest is almost a certainty, and they know just how much hinges on this one Best of 5 series. They should be more than prepared coming into today’s match, and they should be able to beat FlyQuest in relatively easy fashion.

Winner: 100 Thieves, 1.40 (odds @ Betway)

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EU LCS 2018 Summer Split Playoffs Preview, Betting Tips & Odds

August 24th, 2018

Photo: Riot Games

The playoffs are finally upon us. For Friday, we have a very exciting clash between Schalke 04 and Splyce. Now these two teams are entering the playoffs on a completely different not. Schalke started off slowly, but they managed to pick up steam mid-split and actually become a force to be reckoned with. That said, their play was often plagued by some serious inconsistency. Depending on the meta and the opponent, they either looked like a dominant force or a bottom-tier team. They had a very impressive win streak but it all came crashing down in week nine of the regular season when they dropped a game to last-placed H2K, thus losing their chances of securing a playoff bye.

Splyce started off their Summer Split run on an abysmal note, and it wasn’t until the later stages of the split that they were able to step up and compete at the highest level. They were never really able to string a win streak, or build anything resembling hype or momentum – they just kinda won when they had to, and that’s it. Which is a problem, and with a 9W-9L record, they’re not exactly screaming “top-tier competitor”. The fact that they were barely able to squeak past the opposition and reach the playoffs isn’t a promising sign, and they’re in the Top 6 only because they’re just a bit better than the bottom of the table.

That said, they are a formidable team when they come to play. But let’s focus on Schalke first.

Schalke is a unique team in the region because of the fact that they don’t really have a hard carry. They don’t have just a single (or two) players that have to perform in order for them to win – they win as a strong five-man unit, and that is not something that we get to see often in Europe. Mostly teams have one or two insanely talented players that take the wheel when necessary, and a couple of players that are good enough to fill in the blanks, but Schalke created a completely different approach, and whether or not it’s better remains to be seen.

The thing is, sometimes you just need that “X factor”, you need a player like Caps, or Rekkles, or Perkz who will jump in, make the mind-blowing play and clutch things out. Sometimes you need that kind of player that will leave a mark on the game and swing things in his favor. Schalke don’t really have that, and if one member of the team isn’t performing up to expectations, then things start to crumble – mainly because they’re only strong as the sum of their parts. Even though they don’t have one though, they’ve been making things work through exceptional macro play and stellar shot calling.

They don’t make many mistakes, they don’t go for risky plays, they play each game out by the book and when they do accrue a big enough gold lead they start pressuring around the map. They’re not crazy playmakers, they don’t have any highlight reels or individual outplays, it’s mostly just standard, clean, perhaps even boring macro – and it works. They can also seriously punish any mistakes and openings that their opponents give them, which is a serious edge over a team like Splyce that’s prone to making mistakes left and right.

Individually, they’re all playing really well. Nukeduck showed off his veteran status once again as he’s playing like one of the best midlaners in the region, but more importantly Vander and Vizicsacsi have been doing a ton of heavy lifting. Vander is always roaming, exerting pressure left and right and setting up vision with Amazing. Vizicsacsi came back into his 2017 Spring Split form, and right now he’s one of the most impactful top laners in the region – when on tanks. His Poppy has been a thing of absolute beauty – he’s been able to turn the tides of a teamfight or a fight around an objective so many times with his ultimate.

Overall, when they come to play, they’re a very tough opponent to tackle. However, whenever a team came out with a creative approach or a strategy, Schalke weren’t able to respond in time. Fortunately, Splyce isn’t known as the proactive, creative team.

Speaking of Splyce, they also have a lot of tools to win – but they almost never use them. They have the right players, they have the right champion pools, but for some reason they almost never get on the same page. The first problem that Splyce has is their draft – sometimes it makes sense, but mostly it doesn’t. That said, they have been going for comfort picks over the last couple of weeks and that’s a nice sight to behold.

The most notable change was that they started putting Odoamne on carries and picks that he can have an impact on – like Rumble and Gnar, his stellar teamfighting was the deciding factor more often than not. The rest of the team is also playing pretty well – but not great. It all depends on the day, as with Splyce it’s a lot like a toss of a coin. They could come out and stomp their opponents, or just fail to do anything on the Rift for some reason.

Xerxe is also pretty flexible and threatening, but he’s also prone to powerfarming throughout the game while his allies get showed in and killed.

Betting on or against Splyce was an absolute nightmare throughout the split and that still rings true even for the playoffs. You never really know how well they’ll prepare, and how well they’ll execute their gameplan.

If anything, they’re a stronger team in a Best of 5 format. They’re all veterans – certain members like Odoamne and KaSing have been playing for as long as we can remember, they’ve been through it all – the hardships, the failures, the triumphs. They know their way around a Best of 5, and they’re not ones to shy away from a challenge. When push comes to shove, they’re a team that will be able to endure and be resilient.

But will it be enough against Schalke?

Statistical Breakdown

From a statistical standpoint, these teams are somewhat similar. They have the same Kill-To-Death ratio at 1.15, almost the exact same early game, but where Schalke excels at is the mid and late game – 18.6, compared to Splyce’s 4.5. They’re also pretty much tied when it comes to objective control, so neither team has an obvious edge.

What we do know is that Splyce have a very singular playstyle – they farm things out and hope for the best when the late game comes. But that won’t be enough against Schalke as they often do the same, but with much cleaner macro and better setups.

These two teams already fought last week, and after a very back-and-forth affair, Schalke was able too emerge victorious. Splyce just didn’t do much, they weren’t proactive nor aggressive enough, and eventually they were outscaled.

Verdict

This is an incredibly hard match to predict. This is where things very interesting and complex. Predicting an outcome of just one Best of 5 match – a different format brings a plethora of different parameters and criteria. How consistent is a team? Do they have good mental fortitude? Can they bounce back after a deficit both in-game as well as in the series? Are they prone to tilting?

In theory, Schalke has the ability to match whatever Splyce comes out with, but their play doesn’t really instill much confidence coming into Friday’s matches either. Splyce could upset, but they’re probably just going to take a game, or at best two. Schalke has been building towards a solid playoff run for so long, and this is the year when they finally made it happen – they won’t let this opportunity pass them by.

It might not be clean, nor particularly dominant, but Schalke should take the win.

Winner: Schalke 04, 1.40 (odds @ Betway)

G2 eSports vs. Misfits

Photo: Riot Games

For our second quarterfinal matchup, we have a somewhat less interesting clash between the former “Kings of Europe” and Misfits. Now, just a couple of weeks ago, this would have been an absolute must-watch, however the way things have developed that is no longer the case. Far from it.

Let’s focus on G2 eSports first. Ever since the Summer Split began, they established themselves as one of the strongest teams in the region. Fnatic wasn’t really that dominant as many people expect, however G2 managed to step up and compete with Misfits for the number one spot fairly quickly. They looked hungry, in-sync, it looked like they might finally be able to compete with Fnatic at the highest possible level, now that they’ve had an entire split to gel and develop synergy.

Then the meta shifted towards funneling team comps and they looked even better.  Jankos proved to be one of the better “supports” in the region as his jungle Braum wrecked house every single week. Kai’Sa was released, and there was really no one better to take the hardcarry role than Perkz – after all funneling all of your resources into one of the best mid laners in the world seems like a complete no-brainer.

Perhaps the biggest strength they had back then was the fact that Hjarnan didn’t have to play traditional AD carries – he’s not a bad ADC, far from it, but he’s pretty much completely ignorable. He’s a smart player, and he doesn’t go for risky plays, but he’s never the reason G2 wins, he’s not the kind of player that’s able to clutch things out when it matters the most. Now, all of a sudden, he’s playing picks like Karma, Morgana, and his staple Heimerdinger. He’s been playing mages in the bottom lane in solo queue for years, and he was more than adept enough at the chaotic meta, whereas other teams and AD carries needed ample time in order to adjust.

But after Rift Rivals, and after Riot nerfed funneling team comps a couple of patches ago, G2 never looked the same. They didn’t even come close to their pre-Rift Rivals form, and they’ve essentially been struggling since week four of the regular season. Perkz never really stopped dominating, but everyone around him did. Wunder didn’t really carry over his momentum from Rift Rivals where he got the MVP award, the meta shifted more towards tanks again and he’s far less impactful when not on carries or bruisers, and Hjarnan wasn’t as dominant now all of a sudden since standard AD carries started getting back into professional play.

What they were best at was no longer the meta, and they didn’t adapt fast enough.

Perhaps the biggest problem that emerged after Rift Rivals was just how badly Jankos started playing. His highs were fantastic, but when he didn’t play the way you’d expect him to, he’d essentially feed to infinity. His bad positioning and greedy playstyle cost G2 eSports multiple games, and he didn’t really show any signs of improving. He still does have amazing games from time to time, but how well he’ll play on a given day is pretty much a toss of a coin.

They were barely able to take down Giants in the last week of competitive play, they were losing for almost the entirety of the game, and when it came time for them to duke it out in order to secure a playoff bye, they were completely demolished by both Team Vitality as well as Schalke 04. Sure, they did some things right, and they did make things somewhat competitive at times but it was never enough.

With so much inconsistency, we never really know which G2 will show up.

Fortunately, they’re up against Misfits today, and that’s quite frankly the easiest match-up they could have gotten.

Misfits’ Summer Split storyline is perhaps even more depressing than G2’s. They had a nine match win streak at the very beginning, and yet they’ve ended the split with eleven wins. Let that sink in a bit. They’ve only been able to win two games in the last four weeks and that was against the likes of H2K and the Unicorns of Love – the two last placed teams. They’ve lost to every single team they could, and they’re entering the playoffs basically off of their strong split start – nothing else.

They’re not deserving of their spot, as their play is pretty abysmal. In fact, you could argue that they’re a bottom three team without a doubt. They’re so painfully reactive and passive that it’s almost illogical at times. When they have a lead they don’t pressure or go for plays, when they’re behind they just roll over and surrender, when they’re even they just hope for the best and never really make anything happen.

They’re afraid of making any kind of play and it’s almost embarrassing. They tried playing through Hans Sama but he’s been pretty awful as well. His KDA throughout the first half of the split was 11.6 – and 1.7 for the second half. His KDA decreased by ten. His damage is almost cut in half, and his dominant laning phase (+15.1 CSD@15) is a remnant of the past as he was always at a deficit during the second half of the split.

Misfits also tried playing through their top laner, and that failed as well. Maxlore sometimes makes a couple of good plays, but it’s not enough. With Sencux underperforming as well, he really doesn’t have a lane to gank for, no one to funnel resources into. Without any well performing players, Misfits are essentially the worst performing team in the region as even H2K started playing fairly well near the end of the split.

They don’t have a win condition, and even though they’re a better team in a Best of 5 setting, they showed absolutely nothing over the last couple of weeks to warrant any benefit of the doubt.

If you take a look at the statistics, you’d actually be surprised since Misfits still occupy the upper half even though they failed to leave a mark in the second half of the split, but that goes to show just how insanely dominant they were when the split began.

Verdict

If anything, both teams want to win – badly. Perhaps for different reasons, but the point still stands. G2 eSports want to go to Worlds, and to be fair they deserve it, even though they aren’t playing at their best right now. They want to get back to their pre-Rift Rivals form, they already have 70 Championship points from the second-place Spring Split finish, and if they manage to get to the finals one again they’re set to go to Worlds which is a great achievement.

Misfits also want some redemption, but unfortunately they don’t have what it takes to take down G2. They might be able to take a single game if G2 really make a couple of huge blunders in the pick and ban phase, but that’s about it. Betting on G2 would be the better and more logical choice.

Winner: G2 eSports, 1.50 (odds @ Betway)

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