For this week's edition of Staff Picks, our League of Legends experts took a look at IEM Katowice and made a number of bold predictions about how the tournament will play out.
Who will win IEM Katowice 2015?
Tyler "Fionn" Erzberger - Prediction: GE Tigers
Hahahahaha. Wait, this is a serious question? Oh. The answer is the GE Tigers. They're the best team fighting squad at IEM. They're the best in-lane team at IEM. They know how to comeback from deficits against good teams. Every player can play a number of different champions and they have no problem playing different compositions or strategies if need be. They're not as big a lock as SK Telecom T1 were during the 2013 World Championships and we've seen crazier upsets in eSports, but it would be silly to pick anyone but the Tigers.
Kelsey Moser - Prediction: GE Tigers
The GE Tigers look invincible, at least at this tournament. They can run a variety of strategies effectively, making the ban and pick phase a nightmare for would-be opponents. The likes of PraY and GorillA look to be near the top of the World at their roles. Their team fighting is nearly unparalleled, and any team that boasts team fighting chops as their main strategy like SK Gaming or Team SoloMid is in for a world of hurt. I don't see GE Tigers losing a game.
Nilu Kulasingham - Prediction: GE Tigers
Historically the best team in Korea has been the best team in the world and while this may have changed with the mass exodus, we're not going to be seeing OMG, Snake or EDG at this event.
Matt Demers - Prediction: GE Tigers
Unless some kind of massive upset happens in the Bo1 stage, the winner will be the GE Tigers. They teamfight better, adapt to adversity better, and have more talent than the teams joining them in Poland. I don’t think it’ll be a clean sweep (CJ might take a game off them if they face each other), but you have to frame it in the right way: would any of the teams present be able to beat SK Telecom T1, who took a single game off GE the last time they played?
What will be the biggest upset?
Fionn - Prediction: Team SoloMid over Team WE
Based solely on the first round, I don't see the current good-to-bad-to-good Cloud 9 challenging the Tigers. Even with all of SK's vision troubles and getting off to slow starts, I still think they're comfortable favorites to beat LMS' Yoe Flash Wolves. I think Gambit are going to play well in Katowice and can do well, but CJ Entus are one of their worst match-ups due to CJ being able to team fight as well as they do. This leaves TSM and WE, in a game whichever team wins will be called an upset by different parties. I'll take TSM to upset World Elite with Dyrus beating Aluka senseless.
Moser - Prediction: Gambit Gaming over Team SoloMid in lower bracket
With a strong top lane carry in Cabochard and roam-and-pick based style, Team SoloMid could be easily overwhelmed, using their more straightforward mid carry and group game play. This upset wouldn't be catastrophic, but it's the most likely, and a fourth place European team taking out a first place North American team is sure to open the salt gates.
Kulasingham - Prediction: Gambit Gaming over CJ Entus
If this was a Bo5, CJ would win convincingly. But this is this a Bo1 and Western teams have taken games off Korean teams before. For Gambit, it'll require Diamond displaying a world class performance. The chance of this happening is like 20 percent but if it happens it'll be on Diamond's shoulders.
Demers - Prediction: Gambit Gaming over CJ Entus
Call me crazy, but some part of me is really hyped for the Gambit Gaming's annual IEM power surge. Something deep inside me believes that they could possibly beat CJ Entus in the first match of Group B, sending the Koreans to the losers bracket to make Space and company start the long, scary road to the grand finals. Everyone on Gambit is playing as well as they're going to, so if there's any time they'll show up, it's now. On the opposite side of the rift, CJ Entus have cooled off considerably from their hot start to the LCK. Is this the series to give The West some hope?
Who will be the tournament's MVP?
Fionn - Prediction: NoFe, Head Coach, GE Tigers
Seeing as I have Tigers pegged as the winners in a dominating performance, it has to be one of them. I'm going to cop out and go off the board with my pick, that being their coach NoFe. He has been constantly giving his team good drafts that expose their opponent's weaknesses. People are starting to catch on that Smeb and Pray are possibly the best players in the world at their position, but I don't think people realize how strong their strategies and coaching is. After this tournament, people will see NoFe as a world-class coach.
Moser - Prediction: Smeb, Top Lane, GE Togers
With strong regional top laners showing up at IEM, this is Smeb's time to shine. Smeb has started coming into his own as a top lane carry this year and an impressive international debut should add a feather to his cap.
Kulasingham - Prediction: Spirit, Jungle, Team WE
Realistically this should go to someone on GE or a CJ, but I can't think of a player on either of those teams that stands out from the rest. Spirit on the other hand has been 1v9ing his entire LPL career. He'll without a doubt be the tournament MVP if WE does well.
Demers - Prediction: GorillA, Support, GE Tigers
If I'm going to be confident about the GE Tigers, the MVP is going to have to be one of them. Whether it's Smeb's top lane carry, GorillA's supporting or PraY's ability to come up big in team fights, one of GE's pillars of power should get the nod. I'm always inclined to give this award to supports whenever possible, because you'll always notice a good one; let's just go with GorillA and pray that he has some highlight-worthy moments to prove me right.
Who is the tournament's biggest X-Factor
Fionn - Prediction: Dyrus, Top Lane, Team SoloMid
I'm going with Dyrus here. His first round opponent, Aluka, is one of, if not the weakest top laner in all of China. He is a major weak spot for World Elite and Dyrus needs to destroy him. Shy and Carbochard are also in his group, so I feel like while Bjergsen is the ace of the team, Dyrus is the key to TSM's failure or success in this tournament.
Moser - Prediction: Xiye, Mid, Team WE
Xiye has been hidden from the competitive limelight for nearly a year now. After playing only two Bo2s for World Elite Academy and then resurfacing in the promotion, he's bound to have learned some new tricks. Duoing with Spirit in solo queue will have been likely his only preparation outside a few scrims at and leading up to the event. It's time for him to show if swapping out a rising Ninja is a move that will pay off for WE.
Kulasingham - Prediction: Bjergsen, Mid, Team SoloMid
TSM is all about Bjergsen. He's been a solid, consistent rock in TSM's mid lane and the team can generally rely on him to win his lane and snowball the team. But International competition is very different and Coco/Betsy/Xiye may prove tougher than his domestic counterparts.
Demers - Prediction: Bjergsen, Mid, Team SoloMid
Bjergsen will be the player that lifts TSM to any kind of success in this tournament, as he's been a standout performer in the North American LCS so far. Sometimes it feels like TSM are going through the motions - winning games, but rarely facing any kind of challenge that they are able to adequately able to adapt to and overcome. I've been hankering to see EU and NA in some kind of best-of-X format, so even if they lose to a team in the semifinal round, I'm curious to see how TSM adapts.
What will be the tournament's biggest surprise?
Fionn - Prediction: CJ Entus will not make it to the Finals
I am confident the GE Tigers will be in the finals, but I don't know if I can say the same for CJ Entus. It would be stupid to bet against them when there isn't an elite Chinese team to take them out in the semifinals, but I feel like they might be knocked out by the second place finisher to the Tigers.
Moser - Prediction: Annie being played in the mid lane
For whatever reason, Xiye feels this pick is necessary - even last year when nobody else played it. I doubt it will be a staple for him, but when things get rough, he's liable to lock it in. Let's just hope the opposition brings their double Lockets.
Kulasingham - Prediction: Team SoloMid will exceed expectations
TSM has one of the easiest brackets in Katowice and if the team flops, they will not hear the end of it. Regardless, I think TSM has the potential to do well in this tournament. If Wild Turtle plays like his 2013 form then the team might scrape a finals finish. It's unlikely, but certainly doable.
Demers - Prediction: A Korean team will underestimate an opponent
I feel like we're going to see a Korean team vastly underestimate an opponent, pick troll picks, and then go into a panic mode that they can't recover from. This may result in the GE Tigers or CJ Entus being knocked into the loser's bracket and forcing a rampage for them to save face and get back to the championship. For me, the biggest surprise would be seeing them knocked out afterward, but I don't think that's likely to happen.
Which team will disappoint?
Fionn - Prediction: yoe Flash Wolves
I was on the Taiwanese hype train during the 2014 World Championships. I had TPA to finish atop of their group and use the home-field advantage to break into the Top 8; that decision would turn out to look mighty stupid only a few weeks later. yoe Flash Wolves look good in the LMS, but the back of my head is telling me SK will walk over them in Round 1 and that Cloud 9 will finish them off in the elimination match. I want them to do well, but I've been burned too many times.
Moser - Prediction: Team WE
Spirit will play like a god, and likely fail to win a game. Spirit is probably the best performing jungler at this tournament. He is certainly the best jungler in currently China. He's able to exert enough map pressure to make one believe he's everywhere at once. At the same time, his team cannot coordinate or capitalize on this pressure, and the team fighting is overall lackluster. Spirit will stand out, but he won't win games.
Kulasingham - Prediction: SK Gaming
SK are Europe's No. 1 seed heading into Katowice, but their group is certainly the hardest. They're almost guaranteed a loss against the GE Tigers and while yoe Flash Wolves look like an easy target, Cloud 9 could cause more troubles. A group stage exit for SK will certainly be a disappointing one and the game vs. C9 (if it happens) will be very important.
Demers - Prediction: yoe Flash Wolves
The yoe Flash Wolves are in first place in the LMS, and they probably have the smallest chance of placing higher than eighth. I know it's a bit depressing, but they represent a lot of hope for their region; seeing their first-place team get blown out in an international tournament will not help the region regain any confidence in time for World's. When we head back to Europe in October, will it just be the same story? Will we see TPA or the Wolves join with optimism, only to get crushed in groups?
What game will feature the biggest blowout?
Fionn - Prediction: SK Gaming over yoe Flash Wolves
The cocky answer would be me saying it'll be GE Tigers against every single team in their group, but I'll digress. I think SK will clean up the yoe Flash Wolves, and I wouldn't be too surprised whichever team gets off to a strong start in CJ/Gambit wins in a one-sided blowout.
Moser - Prediction: GE Tigers over SK Gaming
It's time for SK Gaming's lack of vision to get punished in a big way. The GE Tigers move faster than some of their counterparts, and they no doubt have measure in place to skirt SK Gaming's sparse selection of wards. If SK tries to come back through team fighting - well, the game probably won't last that long.
Kulasingham - Prediction: GE Tigers over Cloud 9
C9 haven't been looking their best lately in North America, let alone the world as they lost to a resurgent Team Impulse last week. Anything can happen in a Bo1 so C9 could pull off an upset, but I seriously doubt that the Tigers are going lose their first game of the tournament.
Demers - Prediction: SK Gaming over yoe Flash Wolves
SK are going to utterly dismantle the yoe Flash Wolves. It's not going to be pretty. In their IEM Tapei matches the latter team had a terrible tendency to just get caught out; unlike that grand final against the Taipei Assassins, they aren't going to have five games to shake off the rust and complete the comeback.