IWCQ Finals Preview: Sprint to the Finish

by theScore Staff Sep 3 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games Brasil/lolesportsbr / IWCQ 2016 / Riot Games Brasil

Four teams remain in the 2016 International Wildcard Qualifier. After Sunday, two of them will be bound for the 2016 World Championship, representing all International Wildcard regions.

The Commonwealth of Independent States’ Albus Nox Luna returns to the international qualifying stage under a new name. As Hard Random, this team nearly made it to the 2016 Mid Season Invitational and they are hungry for their first larger international event featuring teams from major regions, especially considering the large amount of growth that has accompanied the CIS’ LoL Continental League.

Turkey’s Dark Passage has inherited the mantle of Turkish teams before them. Often shaky in the group stages, Turkish teams almost always win when it counts: the qualifying bracket stage.

Lauded as Brazil’s strongest team of the past two years, INTZ e-Sports desperately wish to represent their region, which has been on the international radar since KaBuM! e-Sports’ group stage victory over Alliance. Yet INTZ have never qualified for a major event at an International Wildcard tournament. This will be their second attempt at redemption, and third attempt overall.

Lastly, there’s the newcomer, Lyon Gaming, who have put Latin American North on the international map, filling the vacancy at the top left by the downfall of the Southeast Asian region. They are the favorites to secure a spot at the 2016 World Championship of all four teams competing in the qualifying round.

INTZ e-Sports vs. Dark Passage

Team head-to-head

Thanks to Gabriel “Revolta” Henud’s proactive jungle patterns along with the team’s generally strong laning, INTZ are known as an early game team. Yet, at this year’s IWCQ, INTZ have the least combined kills per minute of any team at the tournament (0.64) while Dark Passage have the most at 1.04. Dark Passage also have the lowest average game time of all IWCQ teams at 31.5 minutes, meaning that their games are not only bloody but also short in length. Against Albus Nox Luna, Dark Passage and top laner Kaan "Elwind" Atıcı’s Fiora were handed the game at 31 minutes thanks to one poor decision by the CIS team, despite the fact that Albus Nox Luna held the lead for the majority of the game.

Dark Passage has the tools to be a strong team, but this roster has barely played together. By contrast, this INTZ roster now has three splits under their collective belts with Revolta, and one split with support Luan “Jockster” Cardoso role swapping to the jungle position while Brazilian support Leonardo “Alocs” Belo partnered with Micael “micaO” Rodrigues in the bottom lane. They know each other well and it shows on the Rift.

Despite his struggles on Team Dignitas and obvious synergy issues with his lanes during this substitution stint for Dark Passage, Thomas “Kirei” Yuen is one of the strongest junglers at this tournament alongside Revolta and Lyon Gaming’s Sebastián "Oddie" Niño. Dark Passage’s problems have lied in his inability to affect the Turkish team’s side lanes and make early proactive moves. There’s an element of distrust or communication missteps present in Kirei’s map movements with Dark Passage that is absent in Revolta’s approach to INTZ’s early game. INTZ make many mistakes, but they do so as a team and can come back as a team, where Dark Passage have relied on individual outplays from various members, especially top laner Elwind.

Top Lane Insurance

When things go wrong for both Dark Passage and INTZ, it’s up to their respective top laners to right the ship. Yang certainly has the potential to be a flashy, carry top, but his true strength lies in his intelligence when approaching his laning matchup. In many ways, he is a rock for INTZ. Even if he falls behind in lane — which rarely happens regardless of whether he has a favorable matchup or not — he can be relied upon to show up when his team needs him, split push when his team needs him, or do whatever he team needs of him at any given time.

By contrast, Elwind always looms as a carry threat from Dark Passage and his team knows this. Dark Passage funnels a quarter of their total earned gold into Elwind, making him the richest top laner and the third richest player at the tournament behind Lyon Gaming’s Matías "WhiteLotus" Musso and Saigon Jokers’ Nguyễn "Celebrity" Phước Long Hiệp. Past 15 minutes, Elwind receives 29.4 percent of his team’s CS and Dark Passage does nearly everything in their power to ensure that he can carry.

This will be difficult against INTZ, who banned Elwind’s Fiora and rendered Kirei ineffective thanks to Revolta’s strong Rek’Sai performance when these two teams met in the round robin. In order to defeat INTZ, Dark Passage will have to apply stronger early pressure and trade more effectively rather than relying on individual outplays, something that has eluded them due to their inexperience as a unit of five.

Lyon Gaming vs. Albus Nox Luna

Team head-to-head

Darlings of the IWCQ bracket stage, Lyon Gaming have a tough matchup against CIS champions Albus Nox Luna.

Throughout the bracket stage Lyon Gaming were praised as the team that knew how to do things correctly. Of all teams at the tournament, Lyon has some of the strongest individual talent and, more importantly, knew how to use said talent optimally in order to win. They dropped only one game during the round robin group stage. Not-so-coincidentally, this loss was to Albus Nox Luna.

The circumstances of their loss to Albus Nox Luna involved an experimental Kog’Maw and Yasuo composition from Lyon Gaming that failed to snowball early, allowing Albus Nox Luna’s Dmitri "Smurf" Ivanov to farm up on Fiora. Lyon Gaming were presumably able to save picks for their matchup against the CIS champion in the bracket stage, and Albus Nox Luna were able to prove that they could beat Lyon Gaming. This will be a tougher matchup for Lyon Gaming than simply banning out support Kirill "Likkrit" Malofeyev’s Brand. While the Dark Passage and INTZ matchup can be stripped down to individual outplays versus a strong team dynamic, both Lyon Gaming and Albus Nox Luna are strong teams, with good understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses. Lyon Gaming simply makes fewer mistakes.

Based on their performances throughout the group stages, Lyon Gaming edges out Albus Nox Luna, but only just. They’ve proven to give less leeway to their opponents and know how to close out their early leads, something that Albus Nox Luna has struggled with a few times during the group stages. Lyon Gaming and Albus Nox Luna have the second and third quickest average game times at 33.3 and 33.8 minutes respectively and both jump out to early leads against their opponents. Again, Lyon Gaming is just a bit more proactive early, thanks to strong jungling from Oddie and generally strong lanes across the board. Oddie’s map presence allows Lyon strong dragon control, jungle control, and makes them one of the top teams to take all three outer turrets first, alongside INTZ and Dark Passage.

Whitelotus and Likkrit

Of all players at the 2016 IWCQ, Lyon Gaming AD carry Matías "WhiteLotus" Musso has been the most impressive. If there was a tournament MVP presented during the bracket stage, Whitelotus would be smiling onstage, receiving the award. While mid laner Edgar Ali "Seiya" Bracamontes is known for his exploits on the NA server, and is always reliable in the mid lane, Whitelotus has been Lyon’s star at this tournament.

The Lyon AD carry receives nearly a third of his team’s total gold at 27.4 percent, the largest share of any player at the 2016 IWCQ. He repays them by dealing nearly 40 percent of his team’s damage with a 38.3 percent damage share, the highest of any player. During this tournament, he and Lyon have taken an early game approach, picking Lucian more than any other AD carry — especially with Sivir picked or banned away — and dictating the pace of the bottom lane.

His most feared opponent in lane from the Albus Nox Luna side is not their AD carry Vladislav "aMiracle" Scherbyna but their support, Likkrit, whose Brand necessitates target bans in Champion Select. On a champion with strong crowd control like the Brand pocket pick, Bard, Taric or even Zyra, Likkrit can control all of Albus Nox’s teamfights.

Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.