During the end of the regular season, teams have been sandbagging so vehemently it’s hard not to feel trapped in a Frank Herbert novel. With teams like OMG insisting they’re only “playing things they’re bad at” and making frequent roster changes, it’s hard to rank teams and assess the strongest contenders.
No more excuses. Playoffs will yield a place at the Mid Season Invitational and points for the World Championship Regional Qualifier. Competition in the League of Legends Pro League has never been so steep with a tight race for second through sixth place. As you watch Bo5's dwindle to Finals this week, stories will unfold. We’ve got the compendium to add context and flavor to your viewing experience.
Starting April 14th at 1:00 AM Eastern, this week will have back-to-back Bo5's to determine two of eight teams in the Promotion Tournament that will make 2015 LPL Summer, followed by a playoff match with a spot at MSI as the ultimate prize. Tuesday features Master3 vs Kx.Happy followed by Team WE vs Edward Gaming.
The Preshow: Master3 vs Kx.Happy
Ninth place LPL contends with the sixth place LoL Secondary Pro League team in the first Bo5 Promotion Tournament quarterfinals. Kx.Happy has had some of the better strategic elements in the LoL Secondary Pro League teams, relying on pressure from jungler Niunai to keep the side waves maintained and taking turrets. They’ve suffered in the meta change and dropped to sixth place when team fighting and dragon control increased in importance.
Eternal’s inconsistent performances in the top lane match up to looper’s throughout LPL. The real struggle will be in the mid lane, where Dade could excel to keep Master3 in the tournament against Chirchri. His roams and invades to kill opposing junglers have been a bright spot for Master3 lately and could shut down one of Kx.Happy’s strongest assets for the win.
Edward Gaming vs Team WE
Last year, this series would have been rich. WeiXiao vs NaMei was a rivalry that filled the seats. WE’s split to form Edward Gaming kept fans heated. Now, the rivalry mainly lives on as a gag between each team’s new Korean additions. Rumors that Edward Gaming purposefully threw to WE surfaced even though EDG turned on the pressure to lock them out of playoffs last year.
At the moment, Edward Gaming is considered the strongest team in the LPL, and WE has the last seed. In the past two Spring splits, the last seed has upset the first seed, but here that seems beyond unlikely. How soundly EDG crushes WE will set the stage for their progress through the rest of the tournament and their performance at the Mid Season Invitational.
The best junglers in LPL aren’t KaKAO and DanDy
The top half of the playoffs bracket is stacked with jungle talent. KaKAO and DanDy will duke it out as they always did in Champions on Wednesday, but they aren't the best junglers in LPL. The best junglers in LPL are on Edward Gaming and Team WE.
At the end of 2014, Spirit was a top four jungler in the World, but no one suggested that he was the best. As for Clearlove, his Jarvan IV performances against Samsung White in the World Championship Group Stage was played on loop in Chinese forums as a subject of ridicule.
Both of these junglers have had accelerated performances this split, outplaying heavy favorites KaKAO and DanDy. Recently, Clearlove carried Edward Gaming to a 2-0 against Vici Gaming with both pawN and Deft underperforming. Team WE's best records were against Invictus Gaming and Vici Gaming even before the roster change (2-2 each).
Since the back half of the LPL regular season, Spirit and Clearlove has consistently maintained surreal levels of map pressure. Even if the rest of the matchup won’t live up to any semblance of hype, this Bo5 series will contain the highest level of jungle play China has to offer.
WE support life
WE has not had a good split. Even with a playoff sprint in the past several weeks that would make Tyson Gay jealous, life has been rough for WE’s support players.
According to WE management, Conan dropped out of the LPL after the first two weeks of losses, claiming he was unable to perform well. YuZhe, WE’s support for most of the season, has struggled with his own emotional turmoil. After eight straight losses, YuZhe reportedly suffered breakdowns, declaring he couldn’t play. At the Intel Extreme Masters, few analysts praised YuZhe’s contributions to WE’s success, and the support player was noted as a weakness of the team.
This weekend, Conan returned to WE’s starting lineup. YuZhe told his fans he no longer wanted to play for WE after suffering extensive criticism and decay in morale. It’s unclear who will play for the team in the playoffs, but it’s going to be rough.
Both supports have been noted as key points in WE’s communication, bridging gaps between Korean and Chinese speakers. Their contributions are widely unsung. If either player wants to change his fate in the limelight to make a case for his place on the team, this is the series in which to perform.
Koro1’s meta redux
In 2014 LPL Spring, the most consistent thing about Edward Gaming’s matches was that Koro1 would lose lane. His ability to perform with little gold and zone in team fights proved invaluable, but against weaker top laners like Aluka, Koro1 would lose.
Koro1 was noted for a tank-based champion pool before joining Edward Gaming. On his previous team, Rising Star, he received criticism for being restricted to these champions.
Shyvana is appearing again with Teleport-Smite, and Koro1 abused it last night against OMG. Though he didn't outfarm Gogoing, his awkward laning has improved. If he can trounce Aluka with the Smite Shyvana strategy, it will be hard to look at him the same way fans did last year. This is Koro1’s chance to redefine how he plays his old comfort picks and cement himself as a carry style top laner in the most one-sided matchup of the series.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for the Score eSports. You can follow her on Twitter.