The question isn't whether Edward Gaming or LGD-Gaming will win, but who should win. Which team should best represent LPL at the Mid Season Invitational. Which team has the best chance to bring Korea to its knees.
According to a recent interview with pawN and Deft, Edward Gaming has yet to win a scrimmage against a Korean team. This doesn't shed any light on LGD's performances or lack thereof; the reality is that LGD has been in hibernation until they emerged from their caves hungry and ready to tear through the weakened OMG and Snake they encountered on their side of the bracket. They had the most Oscar-worthy performance of any team for the second half of the LPL split. No one knows if this extends to scrims.
Historically, scrimmage results can tell you everything or nothing about a team. All we have to assess is what we see in a match. Based on what Edward Gaming and LGD Gaming have shown us in LPL, EDG is still the best team to send to MSI. Whether they can topple SK Telecom T1 K or GE Tigers remains to be seen, but they're the best team to contest Korea's reign of dominance.
LGD's early lag
LGD loves to lane swap. They didn't just lane swap against Snake and OMG because those tend to be their opponents' weaknesses, but because it covers their own. TBQ does better when he's left to graze, and when at least one member of his team is sent to help guard his jungle.
Acorn, Flame, We1less, and Pyl take turns traversing the jungle, making sure TBQ is guarded, and helping him counterjungle and gank. There's less of a requirement when they lane swap and with fewer aggressive picks in meta, but it's still a priority.
Edward Gaming prefers a 2v2 scenario, but thrives when roaming heavily. Koro1, Clearlove, and Meiko form a high pressure gank squad that capitalizes on stragglers. The one edge LGD will have against Edward Gaming as they don't go for solo ganks or roams. By necessity, LGD will play EDG's game; they will just make less aggressive moves when roaming.
LGD has a strong late game team fight. They favor selections like Orianna or Rumble that punish hard in dragon fights and use terrain. This puts them in a similar situation to SK Telecom T1 and GE Tigers who seem to do better in the late game. SKT with Bengi has also hid a jungle weakness by ramping up vision and taking smarter fights. GE Tigers have also preferred slower early games.
Edward Gaming and the snowball
If Edward Gaming plays the way they've played in the regular season, this isn't a contest. Their early pressure roaming is lead by their jungler, rather than instigated to compensate for his weaknesses. Their strong sense for a countergank means they often have at least two team members ready to turn the tables.
Meiko gets overlooked for the rest of his team, but his addition greatly improved both their early game pressure and vision control. If he's tied in lane, Edward Gaming loses one of the greatest assets, which is a big reason why they haven't executed Kalista well yet.
The problem with Edward Gaming as they stand is that Clearlove still hasn't shown prowess on one of the strongest new jungle picks like Gragas, and Nunu seems to be cramping their early power style. Edward Gaming has slowed down ever so slightly in the Playoffs, which gets LGD-Gaming's foot in the door — it would also allow international teams to jam themselves forcefully through the cracks.
Even so, Edward Gaming has played more like they control the entire map than they haven't. That and Clearlove's high pick and win rate on Nidalee in solo queue recently shows that they have a few more aggressive options to bring to the table.
The team fight execution of Koro1, Clearlove, and Deft has compensated for pawN's growing pains. Now pawN seems much more acclimated, and Edward Gaming can still out play any team in China in the late game. Expecting LGD to win this series would be to expect EDG to not be themselves.
With SKT and GE bringing strong team fighting to the table, though, the best way to hope to get an edge is by pressuring the early game. Even Team WE showed success with this approach, and they're far from matching EDG at their full force.
This time around, the Korean opposition will be prepared, and EDG is less likely to slip by than WE did at Intel Extreme Masters Katowice. Even so, the group roams they'll bring to the table are unlike what either of these teams face frequently in Korea. That gives them the best shot.
A Chinese tradition
Both Edward Gaming and LGD-Gaming sport the heavy roam style. The difference is in who is most often responsible. EDG likes to move around the map with their top laner, jungler, and support, while LGD seems more comfortable using their jungler, mid laner and support. This seems to follow a Chinese entourage theme, leaving Koreans in lane to farm.
Over time, pawN has joined Edward Gaming's roam squad on occasion, as have Flame and Acorn on LGD. Interchangeability has made them more difficult to track; if anyone is missing from lane, it's best to expect an ambush and play safely. This method of invading and swallowing fog of war has thrived in LPL for some time, but not on either Edward Gaming or LGD until this year.
In the past, OMG was most responsible for conducting three man roams. Loveling would get either Gogoing or Cool ahead and then bring both solo laners along for invades. They would strangle the enemy jungle and conduct coordinated dives to get leads.
It's a strange coincidence that the two finalists of LPL should adopt a version of OMG's approach the split they abandon it. Of course, EDG and LGD also seem more refined than OMG did last year and the year before. They often have better vision control and go for more than just buff contests, prioritizing towers and dragons.
The point is that OMG has always seemed to have the greater success rate with a fast group roam approach against Korean squads than other Chinese teams at international events. Last year, OMG disposed of NaJin White Shield 3-0 in the 2014 World Championship qaurterfinals. The year before, they were the only non-Korean team to take a game from SK Telecom T1 K.
Arguably, only WE has had comparable results, and they've at least relied about early game pressure for their success.
Since both Edward Gaming and LGD can execute these roam-and-dive squads, either EDG and LGD would do the Chinese tradition proud. It just comes down to who has done it better for longer. In this case, the answer has to be Edward Gaming.
It's a good thing that EDG are favored to head to Tallahassee in style. The only point of contention centers around whether pawN can make the trip. If he can't, it's better for the level of competition at MSI if LGD takes the set.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for the Score eSports. She finds it especially unfortunate that OMG stopped playing their style when other teams picked it up. You can follow her on Twitter where she will refrain from lamenting this fact at great length.