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Kelsey Moser's LPL Roundup: 2015's heroes all-in

by theScore Staff Mar 28 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of LPL / LPL screengrab

Once again, my predictions were nearly clean except for one team: QG Reapers.

Initially, it seemed as if the upset came from LGD Gaming as their crisp execution in two 30 minute games against QG had social media proclaiming that one of the LPL’s giants had returned to claim the top spot in time for the playoffs. While LGD’s moves are to be commended, QG lost two series this week. The second series against Snake eSports came crashing down in situations where QG would normally feel at home.

Most of the rest of the week went as anticipated with some series going less smoothly than others. We’ve finally reached the final stretch of the regular season with two teams, QG Reapers and Team WE, confirmed for the playoffs. But the favorites to win it all remain murky.

Top 3 Takeaways

1. Vici Gaming can only stretch so far

Last week saw Vici Gaming win both their series. This week, Vici dropped to Invictus Gaming, one of their direct competitors for seeding, and a disorganized Royal Never Give Up. Teams didn’t have to deny Lee “Easyhoon” Jihoon his high mobility picks. Choi “DanDy” Inkyu still commanded the early game.

Zhu “Loong” Xiaolong’s qualities as a reliable and slow-paced carry partially lost VG both sets as he brushed against teams that focused the top lane. As Vici Gaming made attempts to run through bottom lane and relied on Loong to hold down the lane, Liu “Zz1tai” Zhihao and Jang "Looper" Hyeongseok better pressured advantages from ganks top. Then when it came to team fights, small mistakes in coordination lost Vici Gaming their leads.

Though Vici’s bottom lane has improved, it still feels that the team has an awkward ceiling. They make too many mistakes, even with well executed early invades or movements made by DanDy. It’s depressing to consider that Vici Gaming are in danger of playing in the Promotion Tournament. As Oh My God only played one opponent and had an easy week, there are still a lot of possibilities remaining for VG.

2. QG Reapers and Royal Never Give Up might actually be bad

Not too long ago, I made a similar takeaway where I suggested that QG and Royal are good teams. I stand by my claim that, in the context of the LPL at that time, they were the league's best teams. QG had developed a strategy unique to them that involved double freezing lanes. They stopped executing this strategy following Intel Extreme Masters, as if they seemingly lost confidence in being able to succeed with it.

Whether or not the hypothetical conclusion that the strategy QG used pre-IEM was worthless is accurate, QG don’t look like they’re doing very well. Even before this week, they showed signs of faltering in sloppy series against iG and EDG. QG are falling back on comfort picks from 2015 Summer with Maokai, Viktor, and Sivir. They haven’t tried to develop a new strategy since the loss of their freeze approach and appear to be playing most games blind.

This comes with very simple mistakes like: Bao “V” Bo canceling Teleport after Yu “Peco” Rui had already committed to an engagement with Sivir, missed ultimates, and other small micro problems that seldom occurred pre-IEM. When I interviewed EDward Gaming’s Huang “San Shao” Cheng about problems with LPL teams playing abroad, he said that sometimes teams will lose confidence in their style and that “these kinds of problems can leave Europe and continue to affect teams when they return to China.” Something similar may be plaguing QG, and it could become difficult for them to find a solution before the playoffs. They’re in danger of losing first place in Group A to Team WE, a feat that seemed impossible at the conclusion of Round 1.

Royal have also stagnated and failed to adapt. The team continues to play the same Baron-centric strategy with an awkward early game that they started with in the LPL. They’ve experimented with swapping their AD carry, and they remained at the top after facing Vici Gaming, but other teams will unravel the Royal riddle, and RNG could find themselves with second seed going into the playoffs.

3. LGD Gaming aren’t dead yet

If you asked an LPL fan what the biggest surprise of Week 8 was, he won’t answer “QG losing two series,” but “LGD stomping QG.” LGD finished QG Reapers in two 30 minute games, playing both against Peco and Jian “Uzi” Zihao.

Xie “Eimy” Dan was pivotal in the first series, as he seemed to read Lee “Swift” Dahoon easily and find freedom on the top side of the map. LGD didn’t play as cleanly against Energy Pacemaker All, but they at least can manipulate lane swaps to get advantages on top lane and seem to find more success playing around top and mid and leaving bottom to fend for themselves.

It’s almost depressing to say that, at the moment, I have more faith in another exciting clash between LGD and EDward Gaming than QG or Snake trying to fix some of their problems before playoffs to take it.

Weeklies

As the old format for weeklies occasionally restricted me and dragged me away from series I felt were most deserving of discussion, I’ve changed it up to allow for more freedom. This week, weeklies consist of two of the most concept-oriented series or games and two of the most back-and-forth and exciting games or series to watch for entertainment.

Concept 1: EDward Gaming’s Teleport Zed

Against Invictus Gaming, EDG drafted a Zed to deal with Kog’Maw, but as Heo “pawN” Wonseok has used Zed most often to split push, he grabbed Teleport instead. This game featured pawN at his most — pawN. When pawN excels, he’s usually creating a distraction with fancy plays by getting caught on one side of the map, letting his team take objectives on the other side. It has been a while since we’ve seen this side of pawN, and as confusing as TP Zed may seem, it suited him very well when he wasn’t trying to blindly team fight with it.

If you have time, watch Game 2 as well for iG’s really creative Gragas/Jayce/Jhin composition that probably should have won if Invictus Gaming weren’t outclassed. EDward Gaming’s final fight was particularly clever.

Concept 2: LGD Gaming vs QG Reapers Game 2

This wasn’t a creative concept so much as strong execution by LGD Gaming of a composition they’ve already used. Their Quinn-Nautilus composition worked really well with Wei “We1less” Zhen roaming with Zz’rot Portal and Banner of Command. Annoying empowered minions crawled the map, and LGD Gaming’s minion control overall was exceptional.

Bloodbath 1: Invictus Gaming vs Vici Gaming Game 3

Often, series ramp down. Teams stall in Game 3, afraid to make mistakes. This didn’t happen here. This game featured grabs at game-turning plays by all the highlight solo laners until Invictus Gaming’s Kog’Maw bomb went off. It’s also just really hard to say no to Song “RooKie” Eujin’s Orianna.

Bloodbath 2: Royal Never Give Up vs Vici Gaming Game 3

I almost feel dirty recommending this game since most of it just wasn’t very good. Vici controlled the pace for most of the game, but seemed too afraid to make a move until the final fight. Zhu “NaMei” Jiawen finally remembered he was playing a game of League of Legends and scored the game ending pentakill. This game is shamelessly chosen for the storyline 2013 or 2014 LPL fans like to hear brought up every once in a while and the excitement came with being at the venue while Royal were giddily jumping up and down.

Make no mistake, I still don’t expect a lot out of NaMei in the future. His play was mediocre for most of the series. Incidentally, this game would probably also have to win my “Just Awful” category had I kept the old format for "Weeklies."

MVP: MaRin

I agonized over the choice of MVP this week. With two 2-0 series for WE, it seemed it was finally Xiang “Condi” Renjie’s turn at the mound, but LGD Gaming’s victories were much more unexpected, especially over QG Reapers.

Since Eimy was probably most pivotal in the victories over QG, the award could easily go to him, but MaRin’s ability to consistently get ahead and land game-changing Gnar ultimates against Energy Pacemaker All was significant. When choosing the weekly MVP, consistency is a major factor. For this reason, MaRin is this week’s pick.

Welcome to the board, LGD Gaming.

“That’s so China” pick: Gragas top (again)

Last week, I may have jumped the gun on Gragas top when I was dismissive of it. As predicted, another top laner has joined the Gragas parade. Zz1tai picked it up to great effect against EDward Gaming in Game 2. He was practically unkillable.

Gragas’ passive of healing for 4% of health whenever he uses an ability coupled with the reduced channel time of Drunken Rage makes Gragas an ugly tank to deal with after he acquires enough armor. EDward Gaming’s composition found it impossible to slay him, and though iG ultimately lost, he was the last man left standing.

Therefore I retract my previous statement upon further reflection. Gragas top will be big, and not just in the LPL.

10 series in 10 words or less

1. HYG vs EDG

28 minutes and Game 1 still felt long.

2. VG vs iG

Give your bad ADC Kog and a lot of shields.

3. QG vs LGD

Maybe don’t just gank bot. Zz’rot is hilarious in LPL.

4. EPA vs WE

Losing monstrous leads every game must be demoralizing for EPA.

5. IG vs EDG

Teleport Zed. Top Gragas. Finding the right fight.

6. HYG vs OMG

Why do I still watch HYG games?

7. RNG vs VG

Royal fixate. NaMei flops, but gets penta. DanDy good jungler.

8. EPA vs LGD

LGD gank top. I think they were asleep Game 1.

9. Snake vs QG

V trolls without picking Trundle. Snake flip the switch.

10. M3 vs WE

Mystic is good at Ezreal.

Standings Summary

Placement Group A Score Group B Score
1. QG Reapers 10-3 Royal Never Give Up 10-2
2. Team WE 9-4 EDward Gaming 9-4
3. Snake eSports 7-5 Oh My God 7-5
4. LGD Gaming 5-8 Invictus Gaming 7-6
5. Masters3 3-9 Vici Gaming 6-7
6. Energy Pacemaker All 2-11 Hyper Youth Gaming 1-12

As only two weeks remain in the regular season, it’s time to begin discussing playoffs seeding and what needs to happen for teams to find an ideal position. As it stands, only QG Reapers and Team WE have clinched a playoffs berth. Two spots still remain for Group A, and all four are technically still open for Group B, with the caveat that Hyper Youth Gaming can no longer make it to the top four and must play Promotion. No team is guaranteed to drop to promotion in Group A.

Both WE and EDward Gaming are one win off from challenging the top of their respective groups. Keep in mind, however, that WE had an exceedingly easy Week 8, playing against both Energy Pacemaker All and Masters3. WE still must contend with all of the other three Group A hopefuls including LGD, Snake, and QG. By contrast, QG played LGD and Snake in their first week and should theoretically still be able to pick up free series wins against M3 and EPA. To bid for Number 1 in Group A, WE have to win one more of their remaining series than QG and also defeat QG. Then number of individual match losses determine seeding. At the moment, WE have three more map losses.

EDG have played one more series than Royal, but with Royal performing as they are, it isn’t out of the question for them to drop to Invictus Gaming or Oh My God. I favor EDG to win their encounter with Royal next week, and this could go a long way in determining first place in Group B.

With neither M3 nor EPA finding a win this week and LGD brushing past both their series, it’s increasingly likely we’ll see LGD Gaming in the playoffs. They probably cannot overtake Snake’s first place with two series between them and Snake with more series left to play. Group A’s top four should remain consistent.

Group B has a more interesting fight in the middle of the standings between OMG, iG and Vici Gaming. Like QG, VG got some of their toughest competition out of their way in Week 8. Vici play only EDward Gaming in Week 9, but an important match is between OMG and iG. If OMG are able to overcome iG as they did in Round 1, Vici’s position will become suddenly very difficult. This might be the most important match for the rest of the regular season barring additional upsets.

A less exciting battle will take place between Energy Pacemaker All and Masters3 for fifth and sixth place in Group A. Depending on where Young Miracles finish in the LSPL Playoffs and who finishes in fifth place in Group B, seeding preferences may vary in Group A. This is the last match of the regular season in Week 10. It isn't too exciting, but it may actually matter a great deal in determining who remains in the LPL this summer.

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

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