It's safe to say that the second quarterfinal match in London on Friday — between tournament favorites SK Telecom T1 and AHQ e-Sports Club was not the closest matchup of the Top 8. SKT won three convincing matches, in which AHQ simply failed to match the Korean team's crisp play — apart from a somewhat close Game 3.
But, as the analyst desk pointed out before the games began, many look to the top Korean seed to help set the meta. So, with that said, there are some lessons we can take from the second quarterfinal match about dealing with the patch's many powerful champions, and how the meta could take shape heading into the semi-finals and finals.
Rock, paper, Darius
The most played of the Juggernaut champions, Darius has been picked 35 times so far at this World Championship — and much has been made out of the various perceived counters to the dunking demon. One of those theoretical counters is Fiora — whose mobility and high damage coupled with the heal off her ultimate should make the lane an easy win, forgetting the fact that she can Riposte his ultimate.
But, in this series we saw MaRin struggle to deal with Ziv's Darius, who was able to position perfectly with his Apprehend and his Decimate to give Fiora no chances to proc her ultimate. Without the heal, it appears that Darius can win early trades, and although he was ganked repeatedly in the second showdown between those champions, Ziv continued to win trades in lane.
The tradeoff, though, is that at a certain point Fiora outscales Darius and he is no longer able to contend with her damage. There are a lot of interesting opportunities for out-plays, and some back and forth with item breakpoints, but the bottom line is Fiora is certainly not as hard a counter as we may have thought.
But a perhaps more reliable Darius counter, which SKT busted out in the group stage, is Renekton. His stun and lets him take favorable trades, then dash out before Darius can position to return the favor. We saw MaRin play this matchup in the second game to much success, shutting Ziv down in lane and finishing more than 3K gold ahead of his counterpart.
Tahm Kench makes people Lulu-se their minds
Lulu has been one of the most contested champions so far, and it's been for good reason. In a meta that makes it far too easy to blow up squishy targets (hi ADCs), Lulu puts hyper-carry ADC comps online. But teams are learning that Lulu isn't the only savior of the bot lane. Tahm Kench is perhaps just as lethal.
His ability to save the AD from pretty much any death in lane, while being incredibly sticky, incredibly difficult to kill and having a terrifying single-target lockdown make his kit incredible, even ignoring his ult's global pressure.
The jury is still out as to how much priority will be put on the newest support in the game, but teams with strong AD carries have had a very successful run recently by using both champions to keep their backline alive, and as long as the likes of Mordekaiser and Gangplank stay on the perma-ban list, it looks like that composition could continue to have success.
Faker's champion pool, and where we go from here
Let's be honest, everyone expected AHQ to fall to SKT convincingly, despite the appeal of underdog narratives. The real question of this series was how stoppable SKT looked in their games, and the answer was not very. Despite a falter in Game 3 due to some questionable picks, which hearken back to TSM's Game 3 against Samsung White a year ago, it was a very one-sided match.
So where does this leave SKT's strength moving forward? They certainly look like the tournament favorites they were at the beginning of the day, but they seem to have gone to great lengths not to show any crazy picks in this series. The one thing which has always been true, is Faker's willingness to counter pick almost any mid matchup.
We've seen his Ryze counter to Twisted Fate in the Group Stage against pawN, and it was just as effective today. His Lulu into Diana gave Westdoor tons of trouble, and although we can all agree Kassadin into Fizz was a bit silly, Faker's pool of competitively viable champions looks to be Olympic depth. And whatever you think the meta may be, any game with Faker could see anyone in the mid lane.
And Kkoma if you're reading this, I'm holding out for Teemo. Just sayin'.
Some stats in this story courtesy Oracle's Elixir.
Sean Wetselaar is a writer for theScore eSports and a Toronto journalist. You can follow him on Twitter.