All season I've said Snake's biggest test is in the playoffs. The best teams have been saving up strategies to take them down. After LGD-Gaming revealed their strongest form yet in their series against OMG this week, they look like a formidable opponent for Snake.
LGD relied on team fighting as a comeback mechanism in the regular season, and now they're getting lane leads. They can strike Snake where they excel in late game fights, and where they're weak in the early game.
In both their regular season encounters, these teams split 1-1. Either LGD will come through, or I'll end the night with egg on my face.
The preshow: Star Horn Royal Club vs Gamtee
Star Horn Royal Club is one of only three teams to go completely undefeated against Gamtee in the regular season. The other two are Edward Gaming and Snake, the top placing teams of the split.
This is either a massive coincidence, or Star Horn Royal Club has Gamtee's number. The first time Star Horn took over Gamtee, they did so off strong duo roaming from Zero and inSec. The second time, NaMei massively outperformed them on a full damage build Jinx.
Star Horn has a lot of answers to Gamtee, but they showed in their series against Legend Dragon that they still have that spark — a small element of strategy and innovation in drafting that let them take games against the likes of Invictus. It's probably not something they can put up in a best-of-five against SHRC, but it isn't out of the question.
The meta jungle buff
Beast and TBQ have not had the best time this split in terms of champion options for very different reasons. Beast's effective champion pool was restricted because he needed to be able to pick a zoning champion for the sake of Snake's team fight-centric composition.
TBQ struggled on most picks outside Vi this split, saved by her easy engage and ability to get out of tough situations.
Patch 5.6 favors both of them. Beast can pull out Nunu, Gragas, or Sejuani to serve as a meat shield and zone. He's looked most comfortable on Gragas. On the LGD side, scaling picks put less pressure on TBQ to try to make awkward plays and allow him to farm patiently and ward the jungle. As his opponents will most likely be playing tankier champions, he can delay his aggression items until later.
Both junglers are free to have a much more positive impact on the game. TBQ has already been put under scrutiny by his organization in the past. Beast is looking for a home after a poor debut season of Champions on Bigfile Miracle. Both want a spot in the finals, and this jungle matchup is much more even than its ever been before.
This is Pyl's team
LGD-Gaming is Pyl's team. He is the core figure who has shaped LGD-Gaming's identity since joining the squad in September of 2012. He's been described as a strong leader with a mediating personality. Generally, he's credited with keeping the team relaxed in game and overall strong shot-calling.
Bit by bit, LGD has been shaped around Pyl. When LGD joined the LPL in Spring of 2014, Styz looked like one of the strongest AD carries of the league. The next we saw Styz, he had one of the lowest impact performances of any other player this year.
Since then, LGD has continued to make modifications to their team with small upgrades over time. Two of their biggest power pickups, We1less and imp, have both stated they wanted to join LGD because they respected Pyl as a leader. Both players have developed new dimensions to their playstyles since joining and added to the feel of the team as a single unit.
LGD has had some of the best minion management of any team in LPL. Waves will be pushed in their favor, letting them take smart fights and chair area of effect abilities. If they lose, teams have to push back the minion waves to get a tower. If LGD wins, they get a string of objectives. A lot of this is down to Pyl's calls.
Outside just smart strategy and presence as a captain, Pyl has always looked good on playmaking champions. His effective roams help guard his support, and when he lanes with imp, they have one of the strongest 2v2s in the league.
The first split LGD joined LPL, they just barely missed the Playoffs cutoff. The second split, they made Playoffs, but didn't win a single game before dropping out. This split, they've 3-0'd their first round opponent. LGD is Pyl's team, and it's finally growing into him.
The kRYST4L question
A lot of pressure is put on kRYST4L, and for the most part, he owns it. This split, few AD carries have been given the team resources kRYST4L has. Snake's shot-caller, Flandre, previously the team's monster of a split pushing carry, has taken a backseat. He grabs utility tank champions and helps zone in team fights.
Snake is one of the best teams at forming a front line, and it's all for kRYST4L.
The problem comes with his over-extensions. Perhaps kRYST4L gets impatient, but when he mis-positions in team fights too often, his team suffers. His continued instances of poor judgment pulls in more and more resources form his team to keep him safe.
How far Snake can go in this tournament comes down to kRYST4L. With a farmed hyper carry, he can smash through any tank line. Though not as young as his teammate, Flandre, kRYST4L has a lot of expectations riding on him for his age. If he places himself behind his team's tanks, Snake can take down LGD.
If he plays like he did against King, they won't. Snake goes all-in on kRYST4L in a big way; nothing else matters.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for the Score eSports. This may be the only time she gives kRYST4L credit on principle. You can follow her on Twitter.