Kelsey Moser's LPL Review: The Unfortunate Bottom 5

by theScore Staff Aug 4 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of 一村 / LPL / 一村‘s album

At the conclusion of the intergroup round, one team remains undefeated, one team has only lost a single best-of-three, and the scramble for second place in each group remains heated. Teams unused to stylistic matchups clashed. The shine fell off the Snake’s apple. I May stole match wins against Group A teams.

Group B finished the intergroup round with 37 points to Group A’s 29. It looks like Group B is the superior of the two, but the results aren’t worth throwing away the group format just yet.

Top Story: The Bottom 5

Unlike last split, I’m happy to definitively conclude that Group B is the overall stronger group (with the exception of the unassailable EDward Gaming, a team that has proven themselves against every possible opponent in both groups). With Royal Never Give Up at the top of the group and both I May and WE, two of the three teams with designs on third place, Group B is undeniably stacked. Even Vici Gaming have performed considerably better than nearly every team in Group A besides EDG and Snake eSports.

Meanwhile, three of the five bottom teams reside in Group A. With Trundle denied from them, Game Talents have descended down the ranks. Invictus Gaming, with their new fresh-from-dynamic-queue bottom lane, seem even worse off than before.

Nonetheless, the way the LPL's groups have broken down doesn’t really feel like a tragedy. It’s less an issue of good teams being shut out of the playoffs by the format, and more that the LPL has five teams — not four — that don't deserve a playoffs spot. Whichever Group A bottom team (it’s looking increasingly like it will be Newbee) advances to playoffs and avoids playing Promotion, they almost certainly won’t win a single game.

That doesn’t mean that if the teams at the bottom of Group B had the opportunity, they would do better than Newbee. They probably wouldn’t. The bottom five teams are all just as bad. LGD have gotten a few extra wins out of camping their top laner, but outside getting Jang "MaRin" Gyeonghwan ahead, they don’t have a plan and lack coordination mid game. Newbee continuously draft weak lane matchups and fail to take the initiative, with both Yu “HappYy” Rui and Bae “dade” Eojin sitting near the bottom of the rankings in CS differential at ten minutes. They also don’t know how to play around their top laner, even when Bao “V” Bo continuously gets ahead.

Oh My God lack anything resembling team or map play; their approach is simply win-lane-win-game. Saint Gaming have two gimmicks — either Choi “acorn” Cheonju solo carries the game or Qu "Styz" Ziliang picks Caitlyn and mows turrets. Neither strategy is executed with finesse, and their few wins were full of aimless meandering and thrown leads. Invictus Gaming’s true tragedy is a rotating bottom lane full of underperformers, and mid laner Song “RooKie” Euijin’s poor performance this week hasn't helped. His Malzahar play made spectators finally question his motivation.

It doesn’t matter if Group B is ultimately better than Group A. Those eight extra points come from having one extra bottom level team, and none of the bottom level teams are currently worth “imbalanced group” outrage as long as Vici Gaming, I May, Team WE and Royal Never Give Up all have spots in the playoffs.

Recommended watching

Do yourself a favor and only watch EDward Gaming’s series this week. EDG vs. I May takes the top with IM playing the map well early on and successfully countering EDG’s predictable 2v2 lane ganks. They can’t read the rest of EDG’s formula and fail to predict their Baron control at 20 minutes. I May also fail when it comes to setting up for dragon and fall to Heo “pawN” Wonseok’s Vladimir, but one can enjoy both EDG’s lazy early game getting punished as well as their sharp mid game play taking them home.

With additional time, Game 1 of EDward Gaming vs. LGD Gaming shows that even bottom tier teams can take advantage of EDG’s lax control of top lane in standard lane scenarios. Following an early game snowball, LGD repeatedly isolated and assassinated EDG’s main threat in Kim “deft” Hyukkyu. Yet following Game 1, EDward Gaming opted into lane swaps and used their better understanding of macro play to actually focus on getting Chen "Mouse" Yuhao ahead. This is a new development that EDG’s critics will find worth watching.

Why do EDG (outside Royal Never Give Up) only seem to drop games to bottom tier teams? That’s a topic for another day.

Most Valuable Player: meiko

This looks like a retroactive MVP since I’m also heavily considering Tian “meiko” Ye’s Braum play from EDward Gaming’s 2-0 over WE last week, but as the meta shifts progressively more into the engage support realm, meiko’s value comes through stronger. As the third EDward Gaming member to earn a coveted MVP honors from me this season, meiko rounds out the current high-performing trio of Ming “clearlove” Kai and Kim “deft” Hyukkyu. This week’s win is less a reflection on this week’s performance and more “he was overdue.”

With relentless Thresh hooks, multi-man Alsitar pulverizes, directing ward placement, increased roams and the highest kill participation of any player to play in more than five LPL matches, meiko is doing a lot of work for EDward Gaming this split. After EDG pulled off yet another 2-0 week, meiko is up for praise, and he has earned it.

That’s so China pick of the week: Ezreal

After conducting my investigation into different regional pick priorities, one champion in particular stood out from the League of Legends Pro League. Not only is the LPL the only region to choose Ezreal in more than 40 percent of games on Patch 6.12 and Patch 6.13, but Ezreal is present in more than 50 percent of games as of last week.

Ezreal saw less play this week, but still appeared for Invictus Gaming and Saint Gaming. The largest Ezreal offenders include Vici Gaming, Royal Never Give Up, Newbee, EDward Gaming, Saint Gaming, and Team WE. Each of these teams have an AD carry known for his Ezreal (with varying degrees of notoriety) who can carry games with the champion.

As a relatively safe pick, one can choose Ezreal early on in the draft, allow him to scale, and then kite. He works well in pick comps, paired with champions like Karma mid and doesn’t require a significant amount of peel. Ezreal doesn’t necessarily have a lot of early lane pressure, however, and ultimately doesn’t provide as much utility as the major AD carry selections like Jhin, Ashe, or Sivir.

Ezreal’s popularity appeared to wane slightly, but since Gao “WeiXiao” Xuecheng, the champion will always be a staple of the LPL. Many of the Koreans that have joined the league have also heavily favored Ezreal. When heading to the international stage, opponents should always keep an eye open for the pocket Ezreal from Chinese teams.

Standings summary

Placement Group A Score Group B Score
1. EDward Gaming 11-0 Royal Never Give Up 10-1
2. Snake eSports 6-5 I May 7-4
3. Game Talents 5-6 Team WE 7-4
4. Newbee 4-7 Vici Gaming 6-5
5. Invictus Gaming 2-9 LGD Gaming 4-7
6. Saint Gaming 1-10 Oh My God 3-8

Group B's Top 4 have positive win-loss records next to only two teams in Group A. I May have changed their fates drastically from their time in the first intragroup round when they could only defeat LGD Gaming and Oh My God. Have they improved, or will they drop again when they come head-to-head with their own group mates again?

Team WE play Royal Never Give Up again at the start of the new intragroup stage. Last time, Team WE took a game from RNG. This time around, Team WE have descended slowly. As the support meta shifts away from Yoon "Zero" Kyungsup and into heavy engage supports, his ability to engage fights and make plays for his team will increase, but his game-winning plays on his preferred range champions might not shine through as well. WE lost 0-3 to Royal in Demacia Cup's quarterfinals in an underwhelming series. I May might shoot further ahead.

The shine has fallen off Snake's apple as more teams start to decipher their play. They nearly lost to Vici Gaming, but relatively week opposition in their own group will allow them to stay comfortably in second place. EDward Gaming have not only locked in a spot in playoffs, but the worst they can place in their group is second, and Snake don't seem likely to take first from them.

Can LGD make a bid for playoffs? They look like the bottom team most capable of transcending their status, but MaRin's somewhat limited pool of counterpicks and other behind-the-scenes issues make me think they'll stay in the bottom. Invictus Gaming may have been better off keeping RooKie as an AD carry, and the gamble might give them the ammunition to rise above Newbee in their weaker group. The rest of the standings seem fairly cemented.

Photos credited to 一村's album.

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