After a regular season which saw the surprising surge of an unexpected contender, the rise of the hyped powerhouse and even a shockingly successful roster rebuild, the North American Challenger Series playoffs looked to be much more predictable.
Two Goliaths versus two Davids, two teams with LCS potential against two teams with plenty of room to develop.
However in this version of the story, the underdogs weren’t so lucky. Try as they might, the best the NA CS had to offer were not to be stopped so easily.
Renegades vs. Team Imagine
No matter how you look at it, Wednesday’s semifinal match came down to one thing: experience. If there’s one thing to take away from this series, it’s that Renegades looked LCS ready whereas Imagine did not.
Renegades were head and shoulders better than Imagine in terms of individual skills and team movement. Game 1 served as a case study in how not to run a dual-core composition. Rather than waiting out the Renegades’ power spikes and allowing their carries to farm up, Imagine’s tanks forced failed initiations which left Steeelback and mancloud completely out in the cold and at the mercy of RF and Maplestreet.
Overall, Imagine fell victim to their own shortcomings in both laning and shot calling. Game 2 was better for them, as Moon made the correct moves to put his team ahead early, but the rest of the time Imagine looked unsure of how to recover from their deficits and rarely made the right decisions around objectives.
Without Moon contributing damage to the equation, Imagine just couldn’t seem to win fights. Considering how Imagine made a number of avoidable mistakes that can be ironed out over time, like being conscious of power spikes, playing to the strengths of your composition and making better lane swaps, Games 1 and 3 can be chalked up to inexperience and simply being outclassed.
Either way, credit goes to Renegades for taking their early advantages in games 1 and 3 and running with them. They knew Imagine was a two-carry team, and they effectively kept Steeelback and mancloud under wraps while itemizing properly to win mid-game fights convincingly. Renegades looked like the veterans they are, and despite the Game 2 loss their play was otherwise solid across the board.
If nothing else, the series should be a relief for Renegades fans considering that they managed to win despite Alex Ich’s uncharacteristically mediocre play. For a team that has been so mid-centric over the past few months, that’s a good sign. Everyone else stepped up and made some big plays, especially Maplestreet and Remilia, who not only won their lane in all three matches but ended up carrying the team in Game 3. Another standout was RF, whose laning and flanking Teleports in particular were on point.
Other than the Game 2 hiccup and Alex Ich’s lackluster performance, Wednesday’s match was a solid series from the LCS ready Renegades.
Rebel Wards: Crumbzz continues to be an excellent vision jungler, clearing away a ridiculous average of 35 wards across all three games while placing nearly as many as Remilia (39 per game).
Links in the Chain: Expect Thresh bans against both of these teams in the future. Thresh is a key pick for Renegades and Imagine, with a 100% win rate in Wednesday’s series. Baby’s Alistar and Remilia’s Morgana were unimpressive at best.
The Dynamic Duo: Maplestreet went from 20.7% of his team’s damage in the regular season to 35% across in this series while Remilia lead all players with 88% kill participation.
Missing Moon: Moon’s Kill participation on Evelynn: 66%. Moon’s Kill Participation on tanks: 57%.
Team Coast vs. Cloud9 Tempest
The result was wholly expected, and throughout the series it was rarely ever in doubt. In the end, it was a match between a team with significant room to grow and a team on the verge of the LCS, and Team Coast emerged victorious while hardly breaking a sweat.
Unfortunately for Cloud9 Tempest, their nature as a group of talented individuals rather than as a cohesive team was revealed in full. In their lane matchups, the members of C9T played very well and even bullied the Coast players. But, despite seizing an advantage at the start of Game 1, they still lost to Coast’s superior coordination and teamwork.
Game 1’s result wasn’t completely a throw by Cloud9 Tempest, but they didn't snowball their lead as effectively as they could have. Their individual skill was simply not backed up by their team decision making and strategy. After a strong opening, they didn’t use their global presence or fed Olaf to open the map with split pushing, which would have spread Coast’s resources thin. After one good Destiny gank in the early game, Yusui didn’t impact any of the other side lanes further, which allowed Mash and Cris to find their farm without fear.
Basically, the game never looked out of hand for Coast, even when behind by 2.5k gold. They played calm, patient and smart League of Legends, waiting for their moment to turn the game around. And when that moment came, they didn’t hesitate, baiting the Baron and using Emperor’s Divide to split C9T, win the fight and then the game.
Game 2 was the Shrimp show, and his relentless ganking and counter-jungling put Coast ahead by an insurmountable amount. Front to back he outclassed Hard, and took over the game from the early moments.
Ignoring the result, every single member of Team Coast played their part perfectly and had moments of brilliance. But it was their teamwork that won them the day in the end, as they efficiently dispatched C9T.
What’s Yours Is Mine: Shrimp stuck to his style and proved he is a great counter-jungler, taking away a total of 54 of C9T’s jungle creeps in the series.
Little Name, Big Plays: Not only did Shrimp constantly steal away everything from C9T, but he also participated in a team high 87% of all kills and contributed nearly 20% of his team's overall damage while maintaining a 4.5 KDA.
Nic Doucet is a News Editor for theScore eSports. You can follow him on Twitter.