At the end of 2014 LPL Summer, the top two teams of the LoL Secondary Pro League were auto-promoted to the LoL Pro League for the 2015 LPL Spring season. It's almost too contrived that they would meet in the playoff quarterfinals.
King had one of the greatest offseason runs of any team in China from the end of last summer until the start of LPL. They only ever fell to Edward Gaming in domestic events, outside an apparent fluke loss to Gamtee at the World Gamemaster Tournament. They placed top two or three in six offseason events, and even powerhouses like OMG would say they couldn't beat King in scrims.
Snake, by contrast, had underwhelming offseason results. They changed their roster early on in Demacia Cup Season 2 quarterfinals, ensuring that they fell to WE.
When LPL started, performances flipped. Snake remains the only team to 2-0 Edward Gaming through the entire regular season and to have beaten them in the head-to-head. King, one of the few teams to take a game from EDG, narrowly missed the relegation race by managing to 2-0 Invictus near the end of the split. For a while, they were in contention to fall into Promotion, but managed to finish seventh.
Old rivals meet again, and if King has anything they've been hiding, this is the time to bring it out.
The Preshow: Star Horn Royal Club vs Young Glory
Both Star Horn and Young Glory are host to fallen idols of Chinese League of Legends. When Invictus Gaming replaced jungler illuSion with KaKAO, he chose to start as the jungler for their sister team, Young Glory, rather than retire — he's the only member of the golden age Team WE or Invictus Gaming rosters who has not retired or currently playing in LPL.
The sad thing is, he's probably a weak point of the team. Playmaking support, YanSir, and mid laner, Fly, have been the highlights, but Young Glory's near complete lack of strategic depth has left them at fifth seed in LSPL.
Star Horn have fallen from their 2014 World Championship heights. Veterans inSec and NaMei may be looking for a last hurrah, and tonight inSec will be back, recovered from his injury. SHRC has hinged entirely around their own support player, Zero, and struggled with NaMei as a new shot-caller. YG's lack of strategic depth should make this an easy close for SHRC, despite their missteps in LPL.
The year has not been good to us
2014 LPL Summer was the renaissance of the Chinese top lane carries. Flandre, Carry, and Skye all seemed like young players who would contest Gogoing's supremacy in LPL with time. Carry flourishes for Vici Gaming on game-winning Riven and Fizz picks. Things didn't quite pan out for Flandre and Skye.
Snake's LSPL team would rely on Flandre split-pushing on wildcard picks like Yasuo, Statikk Shiv Leblanc, or AP Fizz top last year to distract the opposition while kRYST4L farmed to the point where he could nearly one-shot his foes with an auto attack. Split-pushing was rare in LSPL and allowed them to rise to the top, but success in LPL required a change in approach.
With the entrance of a new coach for Snake, Flandre's style shifted drastically. Snake's struggles in the lane swap have set him behind, and his champion pool has shifted to zoning tanks primarily. Snake's team fighting is nearly the absolute best in the league, but Flandre doesn't shine like he once did.
In the first post-game interview between Flandre and BaoBao in LPL, Flandre declared Snake feared Edward Gaming and King the most. Both teams had traditionally gotten the better of them because of their top laners.
Against King in LSPL, the opposition had to ban Irelia against Skye. During the offseason, even Edward Gaming would ban the champion against him or first pick it. His oppressive dominance in lane allowed the rest of King to do whatever they wanted across the map.
Skye has fared much worse than Flandre in the LPL. He tried to make the full damage Jarvan IV build work, but overall has shown signs of a shallow champion pool. The only meta pick he could seemingly wield effectively was Rumble, and the pick led King to wins against LGD and EDG during the regular season.
Allowing Flandre to flourish, especially with Smite-top being so successful, could be the key to Snake succeeding in a long series with a seemingly one-dimensional playstyle. If King wants wins here, it's been proven the key to beating Snake is in debilitating their front line to crush their team fight zoning. Skye can rescue King's reputation in an instant if he can remember his roots.
Assassin didn't carry King in LSPL
Assassin has likely been King's best performer this split.
That's something I never thought I would have said in the LSPL where either Skye or the bottom lane lead the team to victory.
Assassin has been forced to adapt as Skye has wrestled with his champion pool and Wuxx and LeY have butted heads against formidable LPL bottom lanes. Picks like Sivir haven't suited them, and both side lanes fell behind.
King's mid laner has finally had to prove his namesake, garnering several bans in each matchup. I always argue that the top four mid laners in LPL are evenly matched with Rookie, Cool, We1less, and pawN, who can be ranked depending on playstyle preference. When you get to the fifth best mid laner in LPL, it has to be Assassin.
As yet undefeated on Ahri and at the forefront of the Cho'gath craze with a 4-1 record, Assassin has pulled King into contention for top eight all split. His Karthus performance nearly sealed WE's fate, and he's proved their soul saving grace when King's late game decision making backfires.
If Assassin wants to find himself a top LPL team for 2014 Summer, this is where he makes his case.
Ella is Snake's gem
To be frank, I don't know anything about AVALANCHE. There's absolutely no reason to care about AVALANCE at all other than that they almost qualified for Champions only to be stopped by the GE Tigers.
The other reason is that Ella was on that team.
Like Assassin, Ella sits at around top five in his position in LPL. As a support player, his name gets edged down by the likes of Pyl, Mata, Meiko, and Cloud or Zero. Ella is over-looked in favor of his lane partner or his top laner making flashier plays.
This is a mistake. Ella's peel as Janna is nearly unmatched in LPL. Without him, Snake wouldn't have the vision layers they do around kRYST4L's lane. Without him, Snake wouldn't set up for their dragon fights so flawlessly. Without him, the team fight spacing wouldn't look nearly as flawless. Ella elevates Snake's natural style.
It's time to prove he's the strongest player on his team.