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EU LCS Playoff-tology: the three-way tie for fifth

by theScore Staff Jul 20 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot Games

The last week of EU LCS summer season is nearly upon us. Given that there is a three-way tie for fifth place, the cutoff between what is and isn't a playoff team is surprisingly unclear. Sure, every game counts, but some count more than others.

While Fnatic rests on their laurels, every other team plays for a better seed. The Copenhagen Wolves have said goodbye to a chance at a playoff berth and are in need of a little help just to keep their place in the LCS, while H2K and Origen will go head-to-head for a ticket to semifinals. For everyone else, it's all about making the Top Six and staying there.

If there isn't a tiebreaker match played this Friday, I'll use the time off to sleep.

Copenhagen Wolves (3-13)

Best possible placing: 9th
Worst possible placing: 10th

Week 9 Matches: ROCCAT, Giants Gaming

The Copenhagen Wolves’ win against H2K Gaming gave them one last gasp before the end. To avoid auto-relegation, they will have to win three matches this week: one against ROCCAT, one against Giants Gaming, and one against SK Gaming, which they will only play if SK lose both of their matches.

Most would say this is a difficult and unlikely ask for the Wolves. ROCCAT and Giants sit in a three-way tie for fifth place, hungry for a spot in the playoffs. SK’s schedule of Fnatic and Elements seems achievable for them. They likely won’t beat Fnatic, but Elements have shown signs of mortality and have only secured one more win than SK.

In approaching their own games, the Wolves’ best chance is to avoid the lane swap. They succeeded against H2K since that is a weak point of the team, but both ROCCAT and Giants have shown better lane swap proficiency than the Wolves’ demoralizing 200 CS deficit in the top lane against Gambit.

As always, get Freeze a lane he can snowball. Adryh’s positioning and over-aggression has seemed somewhat suspect this past week, and that’s something the Wolves can exploit. The 2v2 against ROCCAT will be a tougher ask, but a few dives from Shook will go a long way. Hope the enemy team doesn't ban Caitlyn.

From there, the Wolves do what they do best. Bring a lot of wave clear. Stall. Pray.

SK Gaming (5-11)

Best possible placing: 5th
Worst possible placing: 10th

Week 9 Matches: Fnatic, Elements

The way the rules stand, SK Gaming can still make Playoffs. If they win all of their games, and two teams from the current threeway tie for fifth don't win any games, this will force a threeway tie scenario. The only way to break a threeway tie is if one team is 2-0 against both the other teams in the tie. Since this is not the case for any scenario involving SK, ROCCAT, Giants, or Gambit, this would force a three team tiebreaker, and SK could pull ahead.

SK is tied with ROCCAT, so their best bet for at least securing 7th is having an excellent week while ROCCAT loses both their games. SK face Elements and Fnatic while ROCCAT play against the Copenhagen Wolves and Origen. If ROCCAT bombs their week, and SK does the unthinkable in taking down a comfortably undefeated Fnatic, that would force a tiebreaker with ROCCAT which is definitely winnable.

It gets murkier if both Gambit and Giants also strike out, as they’re also both tied in their head-to-head against ROCCAT. With that being said, if Elements win their game against Gambit, they’d beat out ROCCAT in a head-to-head, but be in contention with SK for a tie-breaker match, assuming SK take them down.

The benefit of seventh place, which is SK's best option outside hoping for a threeway tie, is having a secure spot in the EU LCS 2016 Spring Split, and it’s something for which SK should definitely aim, no matter how difficult the task. To even have a prayer, they have to beat out Fnatic. If they can manage that, everything else will seem possible. Reignover’s pathing is nearly as trackable as Gilius’, so if there’s a jungler to exploit it, it’s Svenskeren.

If SK can secure a lead off punishing Reignover, they should do their absolute best to avoid going bottom after 20 minutes, keep Baron warded, and not overstay any siege. Team fighting will prove difficult. Good luck.

Elements (6-10)

Best possible placing: 5th
Worst possible placing: 9th

Week 9 Matches: Gambit Gaming, SK Gaming

All teams sitting above SK Gaming can still make the playoffs and already have the luxury of avoiding auto-relegation. Even if Elements picks up two wins against Gambit Gaming and SK Gaming (which is far from an impossible task) their 0-2 head-to-head record against Unicorns of Love would make it impossible to shove them off of fourth place. UoL would also have to lose both their games, and it would make a tie-breaker with Giants Gaming necessary.

Elements’ best scenario is hoping Giants, Gambit, and ROCCAT lose all of their matches so that they can zip into fifth place uncontested with a 2-0 against Gambit and SK. It seems unlikely that both Giants and ROCCAT will lose to the Copenhagen Wolves, but after the Wolves brought down H2K anything can happen.

In the event Elements win both their matches, and Gambit, ROCCAT, and Giants each win one match, Elements would have a 2-0 head-to-head record over every team but Giants Gaming, forcing a tie-breaker scenario with Giants. If Giants beat Unicorns of Love and lose to Copenhaven Wolves, and Unicorns of Love also lose to Fnatic, Giants can take fourth, and the whole thing becomes more complicated.

On the bright side for Elements, at least making fifth or sixth place into the playoffs shouldn’t be difficult with potential 2-0 records against two of the three teams currently tied for fifth. If they approach this week by guarding their jungle against SK and Gambit and learn the patch well, their outlook is significantly less dire than one might expect. At the very least, grabbing seventh to avoid playing relegation looks manageable.

ROCCAT (7-9)

Best possible placing: 4th
Worst possible placing: 9th

Week 9 Matches: Copenhagen Wolves, Origen

This is where it gets really complicated. Not only do teams in the three-way tie for fifth all have even head-to-head records, but they also don’t face each other. Here are possible scenarios:

All of them lose their matches.

All of them win one match and lose the other.

All of them win both their matches.

ROCCAT wins one match and loses the other; all other teams lose their matches.

ROCCAT and Gambit each win one match; Giants lose both their matches.

Etc.,

The tie-breaker scenarios are endless. It’s important to remember the bottom line.

Theoretically, any of these teams can secure fourth, but none of them can make third. SK and Elements can theoretically drop ROCCAT to ninth place if they don’t win any of their games this week.

Luckily for ROCCAT, they face the last place team, Copenhagen Wolves, in the first match of the week, which should prevent them from being in danger of ninth place. Origen will be a tougher mountain to scale, but they’ve already conquered them before. If they don’t beat Origen — well, there will probably still be some kind of tiebreaker to secure a playoff berth. If they do, everything gets much easier for them, but there will still probably be a tiebreaker.

ROCCAT should rely on their support player advantage and continue to focus on Nukeduck. The strategy they’ve been going for has finally started to pay dividends.

It’s unclear whether new Korean talent, Dart, will see play. I might even advise against it until the playoffs given their matches this week, but with off-time before the playoffs, he’d make them more difficult to scout and potentially serve as another carry.

Giants Gaming (7-9)

Best possible placing: 4th
Worst possible placing: 8th

Week 9 Matches: Unicorns of Love, Copenhagen Wolves

A 2-0 head-to-head against SK Gaming will save Giants from ninth, but it won’t save them from eigth. We’re still in the soup.

Giants are the only team that can directly influence a bid for fourth against the Unicorns of Love, since they play against them. Giants also contend with Copenhagen Wolves, giving them the easiest Week 9 schedule of the three teams tied for fifth place and the best chance of having a 2-0 week.

If Giants beat out Unicorns of Love and Copenhagen Wolves, Giants will have a 2-0 head-to-head record over the Unicorns and should slip seamlessly into fourth place, even if UoL manages to beat Fnatic.

Of course, if Gambit and ROCCAT have amazing weeks, we’re still looking at a three-way tie between ROCCAT, Gambit, and Giants at the very least. Giants just has the best prognosis for pulling ahead.

Giants have looked shaky lately. Werlyb seems to be an easy target. Their coordination in the mid game is lacking. A seeming refusal to pick Sivir and Adryh’s up-and-down positioning have compounded. Giants may want to fall back on lane scouting and swaps. It’s what gave them their early success.

Gambit Gaming (7-9)

Best possible placing: 4th
Worst possible placing: 8th

Week 9 Matches: Elements, H2K

Like Giants, a 2-0 head-to-head against SK will save Gambit from falling to ninth place. Gambit have perhaps the hardest schedule of the teams tied for fifth since they don’t face Copenhagen Wolves and have to contend with a Top 3 team. H2K’s loss to Copenhagen Wolves this past week may draw that into question.

If Unicorns of Love get one win this week, Gambit cannot take fourth place since they have a negative head-to-head, so they need UoL to lose both their games if that’s their goal. They also need to at least force the tie-breaker with ROCCAT and Gambit for a playoff position.

The most important game for Gambit is against Elements. If they defeat Elements, they can fend off the threat of dropping into eighth and make a strong case for taking a playoff spot through a tie-breaker.

As usual with Elements, the key to success is turning on the gas and keeping Dexter from ganking mid. Gambit should focus on a way to execute this strategy above everything else this week.

Unicorns of Love (8-8)

Best possible placing: 4th
Worst possible placing: 7th

Week 9 Matches: Giants Gaming, Fnatic

Congratulations to Unicorns of Love. They are guaranteed a spot in the 2016 European LCS Spring split. It’s time to make sure they get more than that; it’s quite clear they’re looking toward the playoffs after placing second this Spring. From there, they look toward the World Championship.

If UoL win both of their games, they are guaranteed fourth without playing a tie-breaker. Since they’re 0-2 to H2K, they can’t hope for more. Since one of their opponents this week is Fnatic, a 2-0 isn't. Historically, however, Unicorns have had a way of tipping the scales in unexpected ways, so it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

Gilius has been difficult to integrate into the roster seamlessly. SK took advantage of his somewhat predictable jungle pathing, but Gambit were unable to do the same. Reignover hasn’t shown the same creativity in the early game as Svenskeren, so Gilius might get away with his flaws.

Outside of Fnatic, UoL face Giants, so they can at least hope to keep one of the teams tied for fifth down. If UoL tie with Gambit, their 2-0 record will set them over the Gambit, but UoL will face ROCCAT in a tiebreaker. If they lose to Giants, UoL also cannot hope for a tiebreaker if they end up with the same amount of wins.

At the very least, winning their game against Giants should make it difficult for Gambit, Giants, and ROCCAT to touch UoL. Gambit play H2K, and ROCCAT play Origen, which should limit their ability to get more than one win, and UoL can single-handedly keep Giants down to secure their spot in fourth.

I have no idea what variation of a composition they’ll use to manage this, but I’m sure they already have something in mind.

H2K (10-6)

Best possible placing: 2nd
Worst possible placing: 3rd

Week 9 Matches: Origen, Gambit Gaming

From here, things get much less complicated. H2K can either stay where they are or make it to second place over Origen.

Second place is a crucial goal since it means avoiding playing quarterfinals. If H2K manage to secure the second seed, they’ll be guaranteed at least fourth place. With fourth place, that’s at least 40 points toward qualifying for the World Championship, and 50 points from Spring puts them in good standings for the auto-qualification spot.

To secure second place, H2K need to defeat Origen. If they lose to Origen, winning against Gambit Gaming is meaningless. If they beat Origen, and Origen loses their game to ROCCAT, H2K can either beat Gambit and secure second or they can lose to Gambit and defeat Origen again in a tiebreaker. It’s better to hope to beat Origen and Gambit than to hope to beat Origen twice.

KaSing, Odoamne, and Ryu seem to be the best options for H2K to succeed. Putting Ryu on an AD carry neutralizing assassin is a strong bet for H2K. Standard lanes suit both Origen and H2K, so they can hope for those to succeed. Ryu’s and KaSing’s roams may block Amazing from tipping the scales in laning phase.

Origen (11-5)

Best possible placing: 2nd
Worst possible placing: 3rd

Week 9 Matches: H2K, ROCCAT

Like H2K, Origen can only place 2nd or 3rd in the regular season. Their toughest opponent is H2K. Unlike H2K, they can afford to lose their important match and still keep second place.

If Origen loses to H2K on Thursday, they can beat ROCCAT on Friday. H2K will then have to beat Gambit Gaming and defeat Origen in a tie-breaker.

Of course, it’s much easier for Origen to just defeat H2K and be done with it. If they beat H2K, they can do whatever they want against ROCCAT and keep second place. Origen absolutely need at least a 40 point buffer to make the World Championship since they didn’t play in the LCS this Spring. If Origen want to secure the second most points and not have to play the gauntlet, they must keep down H2K and Unicorns of Love. This week represents the first step.

Origen’s greatest advantage over H2K is in their jungler. Mithy and Amazing have strong synergy in the vision game, which, despite KaSing’s strengths, is missing from H2K. Tracking the map and giving Amazing resources to succeed is a recipe for Origen’s victory.

Fnatic (16-0)

Best possible placing: 1st
Worst possible placing: 1st

Week 9 Matches: SK Gaming, Unicorns of Love

Fnatic should use this week to experiment within reason. If they go too crazy in one direction, their lax attitude toward SK Gaming and Unicorns of Love could imbalance the standings. SK and UoL could take advantage of a less serious Fnatic to upset the status quo, which is an advantage no other team in LCS has received against them.

Trust me when I say it happens in the LPL all the time, and it’s annoying to watch.

It also seems like a smart course of action to aim for the undefeated run. An 18-0 will give Fnatic a nice feather in their cap for bragging rights. Unless the LCS format changes in the future, no team will beat their regular season record again.

3 most important matches:

These matches are the most fundamental in deciding the fates of teams in the European LCS. They all happen on Thursday, so don't miss them.

Unicorns of Love vs Giants
Origen vs H2K
Gambit Gaming vs Elements

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter.

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