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Kelsey Moser's LPL Roundup: The quality gap

by theScore Staff Jan 25 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of Worlds / lolesports flickr

I thought I couldn’t get any more confused by the LPL than I was last week. I was wrong. It’s unclear whether having watched all the games makes the results more or less perplexing. Regardless, it’s time to take a crack at it.

Top 3 Takeaways

Royal Never Give Up and QG Reapers have major cracks

Two teams sit undefeated at the top of the LPL groups, QG Reapers and Royal Never Give Up. Neither team showed extensive flaws last week, but QG’s old early game drags resurfaced in Week 2. Much of these result from games where Baek “Swift” Dahoon farmed passively and let the opposing jungler wrangle a lead for his team.

Fortunately for QG, they aren’t the same Reapers as last year. Better lane swap technique, drafting, and ability to maintain even farm suggest the team’s improvements aren’t an illusion. It will continue to baffle onlookers that they consistently find a way to recoup massive deficits in team fights, but stronger teams in Group B will exploit early game weaknesses in the LPL's second leg.

Royal Never Give Up contend with a different beast: youth. Wang “wuxx” Cheng, Royal’s current starting AD carry, has the Jian “Uzi” Zihao all-in flavor without the astronomical upside. It may be fair to say wuxx thinks he’s Uzi, with the Vayne lock-ins and liberal use of Rocket Jump, but he really isn’t. If it takes Cho “Mata” Sehyoung denying him food for a week to learn, this may actually come to pass.

Liu “Mlxg” Shiyu has similar flaws. When he selected Kindred, some of his need to dive became more difficult to smooth over. Kindred’s squishy qualities made his over-extensions an increased liability that led to more extended games against Oh My God and Hyper Youth Gaming, opponents against which Royal should not have struggled. Royal’s late game plays allowed them to overcome deficits, but their young players seem way too scattered and interested in styling to call them collected or calculated.

I have no idea what’s going on

Every week I try to lend some kind of insight, but sometimes I just don’t know how to explain the results. Oh My God’s roster fields arguably the worst performing top laner, jungler, and AD carry of the 2015 LPL Summer and scrapes together more wins than the star-studded LGD Gaming. Teams forget to ban Lee Sin against Zhu “Quan” Yongquan (formerly TBQ). Snake eSports more closely resembles a fire sale than the two-pronged solo lane carry force of Summer.

It’s time to concede the overall level of the League of Legends Pro League has declined. Four of last year's Top 5 teams have faced substantial downgrades. LGD Gaming have lost their ability to communicate. Snake eSports seem adamant about starting Park "TANK" Danwon over Ceng “U” Long, resulting in the worst series of the week between Snake and Energy Pacemaker All in which it became evident that Snake has lost coordination and team fighting prowess. Invictus Gaming traded Lee “KaKAO” Byungkwon, didn’t significantly upgrade their AD carry, and retained Ge “Kid” Yan as a jungler. EDward Gaming fielded a full-time streamer as a jungler (imagine Udyr main Trick2G actually starting for a professional team in North America).

He's not actually an Udyr main though

The meta game also creates extended laning phases in which teams struggle to find something to fight over in the first 20 minutes, resulting in meandering across the map with no clear purpose. For some reason, this extends beyond the first 20 minutes for most teams not called QG Reapers, Royal Never Give Up, or EDward Gaming. LPL is a mess, but at least three teams show significant upsides, and until the tide calms, we’ll cling to them like Team WE cling to their shattered dreams.

This is still Clearlove’s LPL; Welcome to the jungle

EDward Gaming’s Ming “clearlove” Kai returned to his throne on the last day of the LPL when his team played against Vici Gaming. The squad entirely transformed with him at the helm as they executed their compositions and win conditions well, built teams around champions clearlove has been playing in solo queue all offseason, and just looked better in every way.

Before that, spectators could observe promising talents within teams in disarray, and most of them were junglers. Xiang “condi” Renjie, Huang “crisis” Zhen, and even Masters3 jungler Jang "yolo" Hyeonsu all had impressive runs working proactively to get their teams ahead against more experienced opponents.

I posited in a column during offseason that the LPL would experience a jungle renaissance because clearlove has inspired the next generation. It may just be a coincidence, but I’m looking forward to the new jungle talent developing as the year progresses.

Weeklies

Each week, in addition to major themes, it's time to chronicle the best games, the best series, and the things that make the LPL the LPL. Not everyone has time or inclination to watch every game, so it's best to unveil the cheat sheet.

Series to watch

While participating in excessively one-sided games, clearlove burst into the LPL well-practiced and ready to impress. The first thing he seemed to say was, “You’re playing the jungle wrong,” as he locked in Nocturne and Rengar, two picks that have seen scant play this season. His approach to building was aggressive, and EDward Gaming complemented his choices with a global Nocturne-Twisted Fate composition and a Kitty laungher Rengar-Lulu composition that, unsurprisingly, demolished the “let’s all play AD carries” mentality that has dominated the rift.

For something new, EDward Gaming's match against Vici Gaming is well worth watching.

For the pickier connoisseur:

Not everyone enjoys everything, so for the more selective individual:

Hard carry performance: Song "RooKie" Euijin in Invictus Gaming vs Hyper Youth Gaming, Game 2

I doubt you’ll find many Quinn mid games outside the LPL, and it seems even more unlikely that these will be Quinn mids steamrolling Veigars. The only surrender of the LPL so far resulted from RooKie taking to the skies. iG’s mid laner wins this category for the second week in a row.

An honorable mention goes to Wei “We1less” Zhen’s Gangplank in Game 2 against Team WE, but he didn’t actually manage to win the game.

Map play game: Snake eSports vs Energy Pacemaker All, Game 1

I don’t recommend watching this series in its entirety at all, but Game 1 showed off Snake’s improved sense for rotations as they prioritized turrets and ran circles around EPA. Things went incredibly downhill after this, but Game 1 had a few rotational gems to go with cringe-worthy team fighting.

Blowout: LGD Gaming vs Team WE, Game 1

It’s really disheartening to see a team with such promising talent being on the losing end of this category two weeks running.

Nail-biter: QG Reapers vs Masters3, Game 2

I won’t spoil it, but just know QG do “it” again. Also know that Poppy and Sivir as a combination are completely hysterical when QG actually manage to make it work.

Mindless fun: OMG vs Invictus Gaming, Game 2

I wouldn’t recommend this match to just anyone, but if you enjoy near one-trick players performing on their champion specialization, you’ll enjoy Quan and Liu “five” Shiyu playing with Lee Sin and Thresh. The champions synergize well, and Quan and five have the rare standout game they cannot achieve on other picks. Keep up with all the Lantern plays, the hooks, and Lee Sin’s high mobility, but don’t expect anything higher level for this game.

I can’t believe I just recommended a game because of Quan.

For an alternative, try QG vs Energy Pacemaker All, Game 2. It's unfortunate that EPA's rather unique Zilean composition ended up losing.

Just completely awful: Snake eSports vs Energy Pacemaker All, Game 3

As Barento “Raz” Mohammed, Head Coach of Team Dignitas, so aptly put it:

Watch at your own risk.

MVP: Clearlove

To say that clearlove is probably the MVP of the entire League of Legends Pro League at any given moment — well, it’s accurate.

Though EDward Gaming only played one series, the drastic change in not just the jungle position, but the entire squad’s performance because of clearlove’s addition, warrants earning MVP for the week. EDward Gaming gave us new compositions, cleaner drafting from Jung "RapidStar" Minsung, and solid play in every role. It may be premature to say that LPL’s kings have returned, but it felt like it in their series against Vici Gaming.

Mata deserves an honorable mention for his unreal Alistar play and putting up with wuxx’s level four turret diving without tilting. Even when Royal Never Give Up drafted a questionable four-carry threat composition with only Alistar as a tank or initiator, Mata managed to make it work. Quite excellent play from the 2014 World Championship MVP.

“That’s so China” Pick: Poppy Toppy

Again, while Poppy has seen play in many other regions, Poppy has been picked or banned in 31 of 46 League of Legends Pro League games so far, and in games in which she has been played, she’s been picked for the top lane in all instances but two. Poppy toppy is the current terror of the LPL, and it seems difficult to stop her — literally: she’ll just ram you into a wall while continuing to charge along.

Poppy is one of those champions that’s so strong that you could probably just stick her in any role. I’m half-expecting her to appear in the mid lane at a later date. Kim “Doinb” Taesang would definitely try it.

Top lane is the position of choice for LPL Poppy players. Like Tahm Kench, Poppy can take a beating and still provide a large amount of utility or damage. LPL top laners are often known for flinging themselves headlong into the opposing team, and Poppy can manage that with her Steadfast Presence passive, which grants 12% increased armor and magic resistance and 24% increased armor and magic resistance when falling below 40% of maximum health. She also can gain movement speed using the ability active, making it easier for her to run into the enemy team faster. What’s not China about that?

More seriously, the amount of crowd control Poppy provides works well with the team fight loving LPL competitors. With the meta game in LPL shifting increasingly toward split-pushing tops and duelists, Poppy is a formidable adversary. Her appeal is widespread, but at the moment, China loves her so much that even the LPL casters have taken to adamantly insisting she needs a monstrous nerf during the broadcast.

10 series in 10 words or less

For the TL;DW enthusiasts:

1. M3 vs Snake

Too many pauses to take this throwfest seriously.

2. QG vs EPA

EPA’s wombo Zilean lost, QG found.

3. OMG vs RNG

Mlxg should never play Kindred. Please ban Poppy.

4. iG vs HYG

This "RooKie" needs a nerf. Zzitai likes to split push.

5. Snake vs EPA

Snake have lost team fight skill and sense of focus.

6. QG vs M3

Swift farms on Graves. QG team fight from behind.

7. LGD vs WE

Not even Gangplank can save LGD.

8. EDG vs VG

Global comps and angry kitties rule the rift.

9. RNG vs HYG

Shouldn’t games timeout if a team AFKs?

10. OMG vs iG

icon challenged RooKie, Quan’s ADC practice pays off.

Standings Summary

Placement Group A Score Group B Score
1. QG Reapers 4-0 Royal Never Give Up 4-0
2. Team WE 2-1 Oh My God 2-2
3. Snake eSports 2-1 Invictus Gaming 1-1*
4. Masters3 1-2 EDward Gaming 1-1*
5. Energy Pacemaker All 1-3 Vici Gaming 1-2
6. LGD Gaming 0-3 Hyper Youth Gaming 0-3

*EDward Gaming and Invictus Gaming finish their series Feb. 21, iG are one game up.

QG Reapers and Royal Never Give Up top the groups, and are likely to do so for the remainder of the first round. The first round ends next week, and QG Reapers and Royal Never Give Up have one remaining opponent each in Snake eSports and Invictus Gaming, but both are several shades duller than their previous color.

Team WE and Oh My God sit at second place in Groups A and B. Team WE have improved over the week, showing more initiative and increased coordination. Until Snake eSports and LGD Gaming fix whatever mental hangups keep them from the top, Team WE may actually be the second best team in Group A. This puts them in strong standing in Week 4 when the LPL teams play teams in opposing groups.

Oh My God are still experimenting with their roster. Only EDward Gaming stands in their way, and with EDG recharged, they should drop, but snaring wins against iG and HYG allows us to at least say that they have performed better than expected.

Snake have improved their early rotational play, but have a new tendency to throw later on through really incoherent team fighting. A change to this roster in the second round could give us a fresher Snake with a more holistic feel.

I have no idea what to do about Invictus Gaming. If even OMG can see through their camp mid strategy and bait RooKie into collapses, they might finish at the bottom.

EDward Gaming should see a surge with the return of clearlove as they rebuild their Spring 2015 form. Seeing this team play against QG and Royal Never Give Up in the second round will provide a lot of information that their matches against OMG and Hyper Youth Gaming won't next week.

I suppose Tier 5 is where we put the teams with strong or promising junglers and laughably weak AD carries. Energy Pace Maker All plays proactively, but fumbles later, and Vici Gaming can't manage their top-heavy identity yet. Both teams will likely see a surge to Playoffs contention before the end of the season, but at the moment feel very "meh."

Hyper Youth Gaming can work even Royal Never Give Up in the early stages of the game, but they honestly seem to AFK if they haven't won by the 20 minute mark. They're sitting in an appropriate place, but LGD — let's just say they get no more chances. LGD will play EPA and Masters 3 next week, the bottom of their group. I'm not betting on them to win.

Until further notice, I find it unethical to recommend any game that doesn't include Royal Never Give Up, QG Reapers, or EDward Gaming next week unless you're extremely enthusiastic about young Chinese junglers. Enjoy their games.

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

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