A lot of Thursday's attention was focused on the multi-kills that Europe's AD Carries picked up, but most of the games demonstrated just how much of an impact top laners can have in the current meta. From spreading map pressure to duels to teleports, there doesn't seem to be a downside to teams getting their top laners ahead in Europe.
I'd like to clarify that I don't rank Cabochard highly in terms of pure power relative to other top laners in Europe, but Gambit understands his importance. Two ganks top, one from Diamondprox and one from Betsy, helped Cabochard sustain a lead.
In this specific case, snowballing Cabochard proved especially important. Opting into Teleport and Ignite signaled a Trinity Force rush Fizz. Opting out of Cinderhulk removes the option of Fizz farming and scaling for a late game with high health and tankiness. Instead, he went all in on early to mid game damage with Trinity Force and Blade of the Ruined King.
The decision to run this build and summoners answered the Rumble selection so that Gambit could still contest early objectives. They wanted to take picks to prepare for dragon using Cabochard. With help from their poke composition, they whittled down targets for Cabochard's all-in.
It helped that Werlyb isn't strong on a wide variety of champions. They specifically targeted his favored Jax and Maokai in bans to make the laning phase easier for Cabochard.
One thing Cabochard does have on some other top laners in the European LCS is his ability to pressure a lead once he secures it. His team puts a lot of weight into getting him ahead, which is surprising given the strength of their AD Carry, FORG1VENGRE. Gambit's strategy in this game despite their bottom lane strength shows a high awareness of the power a snowballed top laner can provide.
ROCCAT took an approach very similar to Gambit's against Elements. They opted into a lane swap and a 4v0 to keep Steve well protected. In the first three week of LCS, Steve was camped by the enemy team, and he's caused a few kill bleeds.
This time around, Jankos added a lot of pressure top for Steve's Fizz. Not only did they protect him in the early game by going for a 4v0 tower push with strength in numbers, but they provided the jungle threat top at about ten minutes after the first tier turrets got taken by both teams in both side lanes.
Steve picked up an early CS lead of about 20, but when the lanes reverted, Jwaow froze the wave closer to Elements' side of the map. This led to Steve over-extending, which meant that Jankos wasn't just there for moral support, but out of necessity to provide vision. In the end, the CS lead became less significant, and Jwaow could still split fights and deal damage with Onslaught of Shadows.
Things went terribly wrong for ROCCAT when they put all their eggs into Steve's basket. ROCCAT's composition necessitated that Vander's Bard used his ult on priority targets, and Steve then triggered his Chum the Waters. Unfortunately, the timing failed repeatedly. The fish on Steve's ultimate rose before the Zhonya's effect expired almost every time, eliminating the damage advantage Steve had as Fizz.
Steve's strength is his ability to impact the game from behind as a tank, not to carry. If ROCCAT want to win, this is the skill they'll focus with other threats in their composition.
The war of the Fnatic tops
The battle between Huni and sOAZ didn't necessarily have anything to do with which top laner had the superior champion or which top laner has more skill head-to-head.
Origen made a series of questionable decisions around Baron pit in the early game that set them behind. They picked fights over no objectives and amassed a deficit. Even so, they didn't fall out of contention. A dragon fight went even, and Origen began to apply intelligent pressure to lanes in the next six minutes to grab the second dragon.
This is where the top lane decision-making had a massive impact. After Origen secured the second dragon, Huni's Ekko began split-pushing the bottom lane to attempt to pull pressure and set up for Baron. Instead of answering with his own push, sOAZ went to the top lane, where he was met with Fnatic members who made farming difficult.
Huni managed to not only get a CS lead in this move, but to also push the wave very far in. Origen responded by sending their support and jungler, and Fnatic secured vision around Baron. From there, a catch on Niels proved disastrous for Origen. Fnatic's ability to rotate to Baron off the pick stemmed from the better top lane rotation and vision control.
The lead on Ekko amassed from the gold advantage in the push made Huni a terror in fights, allowing Fnatic to close the game from there.
About that Baron dance
I'm not sure if the Unicorns made a pre-meditated decision to lose this game against SK Gaming, but it looked like it.
The fateful Baron call saw SK Gaming take a risk. They split Fredy122 in the bottom lane while UoL went for the Baron. SK Gaming attempted to force UoL to take attention away from the Baron, as Fredy122 had managed to farm up enough to 1v2 and secure a kill before falling.
Instead, the Unicorns opted to pull off Baron and fight. SK kited the engagement. Even though Svenskeren had lost most of his health and his Ekko ultimate, SK managed to avoid giving up a kill in an effective 3v5 and stopped the Unicorns' Baron attempt.
It would have made more sense for the Unicorns to continue on the Baron. During this time, no one answered Fredy122, and he managed to take not just one tower, but two and the inhibitor. SK meanwhile miraculously prevented the Baron from dropping.
Having a lead on their top laner allowed SK to make this play, yes, but it really shouldn't have gone as well as it did.
Despite the top lane power trend, Copenhagen Wolves is a team that understands their own strengths and weaknesses. They know they need to involve their AD Carry, Freeze, as early as possible if they want to win a game and get him ahead. Youngbuck can have a positive impact, but like Steve and Werlyb, he won't carry a game on his own.
The lucky thing about Copenhagen Wolves having such a strong AD Carry threat is that a lot of power picks were left open for Youngbuck in the top lane. He snatched up the Ryze as a first pick and never looked back.
Knowing that CW needs something to happen for Freeze, Teleport timings become incredibly important. Youngbuck needed to look to initiate a trade with his Teleport in Freeze's lane, but instead Odoamne and Loulex seemingly always got the advantage and initiated onto Freeze first. Youngbuck showed up late to the party on a few occasions and only succeeded in giving up more kills to Hjarnan and Loulex. His 0/3/1 finishing score reflected his struggles.
If CW wants to make an AD Carry-centric strategy work, they have the right idea, but it's all about the Teleport shot-calling. Today, it didn't come to fruition.