The 2016 North American League Championship Series Spring Playoffs are inching closer, and each mistake can potentially cost a team their playoff position. Three games in particular on Saturday showcased just how punishing a mistake could be, especially for teams jostling for postseason berth.
Renegades vs. Cloud9
In terms of overall map play, Renegades – regardless of their particular roster iteration – have always seemed to know what to do early, but inevitably falter in executing their gameplan later on. Their mid and late game lack necessary vision and jungle control to maintain pressure, forcing the team into disadvantageous fights that slowly bleed away any lead they may have had.
Prior to Team Dragon Knights’ 3-1 win over Ember in the 2016 North American League of Legends Challenger Series, the recent TDK and Renegades player trade appeared wholly in Renegades' favor — the struggling LCS team acquired mid laner Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo and top laner Shin “Seraph” Woo-yeong. Seraph had already substituted throughout the split for both Team Impulse and Renegades, performing well above his play throughout the Challenger season, and Ninja had yet to play for TDK as he was banned until recently. Already in their one game together, the two have given Renegades a fresh look – Ninja was particularly strong on Zilean and often landed double bomb stuns that kept Renegades in teamfights.
However, the same old problems that have plagued Renegades throughout the season were apparent in Saturday's match. Cloud9 didn’t wield their poke composition well early and the game looked to be in Renegades’ control following cross map skirmishes at around 17 minutes that resulted in a four-for-one trade in Renegades’ favor. The team then spent the next 10 minutes slowly ceding their pressure to Cloud9 with inopportune back timings that yielded control over the opposing jungle as well as key vision placement. If Renegades failed to take down a turret, they often backed in unison rather than prepping waves in side lanes to rotate towards for additional sieges, staggering their back timings to keep up the pressure, or casting a wider vision net around key objectives. Once Cloud9 finally began to siege turrets, Renegades had squandered their early advantages. Aided by Dark Bindings from support Hai “Hai” Du Lam’s Morgana which created important picks to force favorable C9 siege situations, Renegades watched yet another lead slip away.
It may be too late for the Renegades to make the playoffs, but they can throw a wrench into the NA LCS standings, especially with their final game against Echo Fox. This Renegades are fighting for a place in the promotion, and both Seraph and Ninja appeared to rejuvenate the team for a bit in this match. Their largest hurdle to overcome remains their overall pressure, and knowledge of how to apply it correctly throughout the entirety of a game.
Immortals vs. NRG eSports
The first time these two teams met, NRG eSports brought a poke composition to the rift around Johnny “Altec” Ru’s Corki, Lee “GBM” Chang-seok’s Varus and Galen “Moon” Holgate’s Nidalee. This was met by a pick composition that revolved around engage from Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon’s Lissandra and Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin’s Rengar with Eugene “Pobelter” Park’s Zed and Jason “WildTurtle” Tran’s Lucian cleaning up skirmishes and fights. Immortals’ superior vision control and ward placement allowed Huni to Teleport in at will, flanking NRG’s damage dealers. This broke NRG’s turret sieges, forcing them to fight in suboptimal situations.
Their second meeting was much of the same in that both teams chose their compositions for specific results. This time, Immortals committed to poking and sieging with WildTurtle again on Lucian and Pobelter taking Corki to the mid lane. Immortals added global presence to this in the form of Rek’Sai for Reignover and Gangplank for Huni. Gangplank’s Cannon Barrage additionally helped Immortals’ siege possibilities by zoning opponents away from turrets while Corki and Lucian fired away.
NRG fought with some global pressure of their own in a pick and skirmish composition. GBM picked Twisted Fate while Altec chose Sivir, who boosts the mobility of her entire team with On The Hunt and recently received a strong buff to Ricochet where an initial critical hit results in critical hits throughout her attack’s bounces.
Immortals have excelled in North America due to their understanding of objective trading and general efficiency, particularly from jungler Reignover. In this game against NRG, Reignover bought Mercury’s Treads before upgrading his jungle item, opting into early movement speed and magic resistance. More importantly, Mercury’s Treads offer 30 percent tenacity, which stacks multiplicatively with 15 percent tenacity from the Swiftness mastery. When Reignover escaped from GBM at around the nine minute mark, GBM’s Gold Card stun (which he had put two points into at Level 8) was reduced from 1.25 seconds to 0.74 seconds, allowing Reignover to escape.
These was supplemented by Distortion enchantment and a Sightstone, again before Reignover upgraded his Hunter’s Machete. The extra movement speed made Reignover’s global pressure even more effective, while the early Distortion ensured that his Flash was up as often as possible in order to initiate fights. With support Adrian “Adrian” Ma once again picking Soraka and Huni on the damage option of Gangplank, initiation fell almost solely onto Reignover’s Rek’Sai Unburrow — especially between Corki's packages — necessitating the use of Flash.
NRG’s demise came after two back-and-forth trades and a 4v5 setup where the team felt safe after getting a pick onto Adrian. While sieging the mid tier-two turret, Immortals successfully funneled the entirety of NRG into Immortals’ top side jungle entrance – a perfect setup for Cannon Barrage into a Flash and Unburrow from Reignover. This resulted in a near-ace for Immortals and a Baron. Prior to this fight, the gold was relatively even (Immortals’ 41.2K to NRG’s 40.1K and two dragons) with turrets equal at three apiece. The fight and subsequent Baron combined netted Immortals a quick 5K gold lead, opening up the game and the map in their favor.
For all of NRG eSports’ mistakes on Saturday, this is the first time in a long time that their team has looked inspired on the Rift. While communication issues are still evident — the most egregious example of which involved Impact diving past a tier-two mid turret alone — NRG no longer seems content to passively lose, which is a significant step in the right direction. On the precipice of missing playoffs, they have the most difficult schedule ahead and will need all of the determination and coordination that they can muster.
Echo Fox vs. Dignitas
A myriad of mistakes were made by both teams in this 67:50 epic, where minions were paid more attention to more most anything else on the map. Honing in on one crucial mistake is impossible, but Dignitas managed to lose after acquiring two Zz’Rot Portals, six of eight dragons, and four Barons (out of a possible four).
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The crux of Dignitas’ downfall was a record-breaking amount of farm onto Henrik “Froggen” Hansen’s Gangplank. Cannon Barrage acted almost as a sixth man for Echo Fox, dealing massive amounts of damage across Dignitas whenever they attempted to make their final, late game push.
There were so many points in this game where Dignitas could have made a more decisive call to press their advantages after taking an objective, especially Baron, but chose to back or passively clear waves on their side of the map instead. Both teams seemed resolutely hesitant to make proactive moves until the final two minutes, where Echo Fox’s decision to send AD carry Yuri “KEITH” Jew and support Terry “BIG” back into Dignitas’ base netted their team the victory.
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. If you want to find out what happened throughout the Echo Fox/Dignitas match, she still recommends only watching the final three minutes. You can follow her on Twitter.