EU LCS Playoff-tology: The sixth place cutoff

by theScore Staff Jul 26 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of EU LCS / lolesports flickr

It’s time for yet another pre-final week of regular season playoff-tology, but this time around, the best-of-two format has shaken things up. While it adds a few layers of complexity, it also makes a lot of things simpler because the points system has a lot of built-in tie-breakers that reduce the need for teams to play actual tie-breakers. That makes my day shorter, reduces the need for teams to prepare for extra matches, and makes the schedule run smoother — though we miss the chance for the top teams to duke it out in the end for number 1 before finals.

For a brief overview, placement in the European League of Legends Championship Series this split is determined first by number of points. Three points are awarded for a 2-0 in a best of two series, one point is awarded for a 1-1 and zero points are awarded for an 0-2. If teams are tied in points, then total number of matches won will be consulted as a first tie-breaker. Following that, head-to-head totals will be addressed with teams with 2-0-0 or 1-1-0 over the other team taking the higher placement.

This time around, despite all the ties, EU LCS is actually slightly less chaotic in the final week than it has been in the past. That doesn’t mean that a significant chunk of teams already slated for playoffs can’t fight for better seeding and that the battle for sixth place and the final place in playoffs itself isn’t intense. Only G2 sit comfortably with a semifinal bye guaranteed. The rest is a veritable scramble for preferential seeding.

Team ROCCAT: 11 pts (2-5-9)

Best possible placing: 8th
Worst possible placing: 10th

Week 9 matches: Fnatic, Giants Gaming

Team ROCCAT’s case is a depressing one. They are unable to make a play for a playoffs seed. Not only that, but because FC Schalke 04 and Team Vitality play each other in Week 9, guaranteeing one of them at least a point, ROCCAT are unable to escape the Promotion Tournament. The best they can do is play for 8th place so that they can get better seeding in said Promotion Tournament.

Accomplishing this goal will be very difficult, as ROCCAT play Fnatic and Giants, the third and fourth place teams respectively. Even if they manage to 4-0 their week, because of individual game wins, Origen only need to best one of their opponents 2-0 to keep them down, and Schalke 04 and Team Vitality only need to tie, regardless of their results in their other matches.

To give themselves a chance, ROCCAT need to cash in on the hint of promise in their roster. Pierre "Steeelback" Medjaldi is incredibly talented, but they tunnel on getting him ahead and protecting him in poorly executed lane swaps. Perhaps more of a hand at matching or standard laning might give them some surprise factor, as their players themselves are not unskilled, just lacking in team play.

Origen: 14 pts (2-8-6)

Best possible placing: 7th
Worst possible placing: 10th

Week 9 matches: Splyce, H2K-Gaming

All teams besides Team ROCCAT and Origen, can at least make a play for playoffs. Origen's case is slightly better than ROCCAT's, as they at least have the hope of escaping Promotion, though admittedly it won't be easy.

Even if Origen 2-0 Splyce and H2K-Gaming, if either FC Schalke 04 or Team Vitality secure four points, a tie situation will be forced for seventh place. Origen have a negative head-to-head with Vitality, meaning Vitality can muscle them out if they’re the only team to tie, but FC Schalke 04 are tied with Origen in head-to-head, so if all three finish with 20 points, a set of tie-breaker matches will likely occur since no team will have a head-to-head advantage over both of the other two.

H2k-Gaming have looked far from invincible, constantly altering their formula to find something that works and relying perhaps too much on Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski’s agency with players across the board showing signs of unexpected misplays. Splyce is a much tougher opponent, but Origen will need to get ahead earlier, likely through the top lane, to make this work. Earlier this split, I wrote a few suggestions to Origen that are still relevant, especially with Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez returning to the starting ADC position.

FC Schalke 04: 16 pts (3-7-6)

Best possible placing: 6th
Worst possible placing: 10th

Week 9 matches: Giants Gaming, Team Vitality

While H2k-Gaming’s superior head-to-head with Schalke and Vitality as well as the fact that they face Unicorns of Love, another competitor for the lower playoff rungs, makes it difficult for Schalke and Vitality to advance too far in the standings, hope is still alive for sixth place. Luckily, Schalke face Vitality directly, placing some of their fate in their own hands. Otherwise, they prepare for Giants, hope for Splyce to take out Unicorns, and at best for H2K to tie with UoL. None of these things are too far out of the frame of possibility.

Giants Gaming have performed poorly if they fall behind in mid lane, which can happen if Schalke chooses to act first. Given the fact that Hampus "Fox" Myhre has performed relatively well this split, Schalke have the tools to make this work. With the fewest ties in EU LCS, Giants also appear to be a somewhat momentum-based team, meaning Schalke might find it easier to close the second game after winning the first.

Team Vitality is a bit less of a straightforward matchup simply because Vitality, like Schalke, are unpredictable in that they haven’t necessarily found a strategy that works consistently. Right now I’d say Vitality have the edge because their jungle and vision control are slightly stronger, but both teams have been incredibly difficult to predict.

Team Vitality: 16 pts (3-7-6)

Best possible placing: 6th
Worst possible placing: 10th

Week 9 matches: G2 Esports, FC Schalke 04

Team Vitality will have a much more difficult week than Schalke despite being in roughly the same position because they have the unfortunate task of playing against G2 Esports, a team that still hasn’t gone 0-2 this season. If they want to make playoffs, a simple 1-1 against G2 may suffice as long as Unicorns don’t win any of their games and Vitality properly 2-0 FC Schalke 04. In this instance, Vitality will have the same number of points as Unicorns, but one more single game win.

To go about trying to unseat G2 Esports, Vitality need to keep their jungle well warded with defensive vision. They may also consider lane swapping, as G2’s lane swap play has been more vulnerable than their standard lane power, and Vitality AD carry Park "Police" Hyeonggi has appeared to do better in the late game than in lane.

Though G2 have been dominant, a comfortable promise of a semifinal bye and their own publicly expressed tendency to be more willing to use BO2 to try out new things might allow Vitality to sneak a win unexpectedly.

Unicorns of Love: 20 pts (5-5-6)

Best possible placing: 4th
Worst possible placing: 7th

Week 9 matches: H2K-Gaming, Splyce

Unicorns at least have the luxury, by virtue of having won five series 2-0 of knowing they don't have to play Promotion. They also face a top two opponent in Splyce, but they might find themselves unexpectedly equipped to deal with H2K-Gaming, who play a more patient game and are reliant on teams not contesting their attempts to get a lead. Unicorns’ tendency to slam on the gas and never let up allowed them to 2-0 H2K in the first round.

This can put Unicorns somewhat at ease, as playing well in and of itself can more or less ensure they keep a playoffs birth. If Giants Gaming have a bad week, Unicorns can even play for fourth, but Giants have relatively easy opponents in Team ROCCAT and FC Schalke 04, and placing fourth or fifth likely won’t even change their quarterfinals opponent in playoffs.

Avoiding sixth place will, however, keep them away from meeting the third place team, so knocking down H2K decisively becomes the priority. H2K’s second opponent is a bottom-two team, so this may still be much harder than anticipated.

H2k-Gaming: 21 pts (5-6-5)

Best possible placing: 3rd
Worst possible placing: 7th

Week 9 matches: Unicorns of Love, Origen

The last of the teams not guaranteed a playoffs spot, H2K can fall out of contention if they lose all four of their games, and either Schalke or Vitality win all of theirs. H2K will either need to up their vision game to keep Unicorns at bay or act first to try to keep them from taking over.

Both the teams they face are below them in the standings, but H2K will have to shake the H2-Tie reputation to advance to third. If UoL prove too stressful, H2K may even prefer their chances against Giants Gaming and find third an undesirable seeding. One win is all it takes to ensure they keep a playoffs birth, so they have wiggle room.

To get the best possible placing, H2K need to not only find stability but hope for bad weeks from Giants and Fnatic. Both teams face Team ROCCAT, so this may prove impossible. At least the ability to keep Unicorns down by either taking advantage of some of their lane swap peculiarities or making sure Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski gets one of his best early game picks and finding a top lane advantage can give them a bit of respite.

Giants Gaming: 23 pts (7-2-7)

Best possible placing: 3rd
Worst possible placing: 6th

Week 9 matches: FC Schalke 04, Team ROCCAT

Giants are locked into a quarterfinal spot with only a spread of options from third to sixth place. They probably have the easiest final week of any team in the league, however, so they can afford to be ambitious and aim for third place for bragging rights and the hope of an easier quarterfinal opponent.

If Giants 4-0 their week, placing third may even be considered likely. Fnatic can easily defeat Team ROCCAT, but they still have to play against G2. One might predict Fnatic can 1-1 G2 if G2 are willing to take the first game easily, but a 2-0 would be a definite upset. Any game win over G2 would give Fnatic 30 points and ensure that Giants don’t overtake them. If Fnatic only 2-0 ROCCAT, lose both matches to G2, and Giants 4-0 their week the two teams will tie in points. But because Fnatic, in that case, would only have eight match wins, and Giants would have nine, Giants would take third place.

Beyond that, it isn't even impossible for Fnatic to drop a game to Team ROCCAT. Fnatic are still finding their stride, and they lost a game to Origen in the previous week. If Giants want third, they need to keep practicing the same strategies they have been and use their mid and jungle control to 4-0, giving them favorable odds.

Fnatic: 26 pts (7-5-4)

Best possible placing: 2nd
Worst possible placing: 5th

Week 9 matches: Team ROCCAT, G2 Esports

I asked for the EU LCS script writers to at least give me this weeks’ first draft, but did not receive a response. As a result, I have no insight as to whether Fnatic will manage to secure a semifinal bye or drop to a pitiable fifth place to prepare the heroic storyline in which they blow through quarters and semis for a close and exciting final.

At minimum, if Splyce receive no points this week, Fnatic 2-0 Team ROCCAT and split 1-1 with G2, Fnatic can force a tie-breaker match with Splyce to get second, but they’d much rather 2-0 both Team ROCCAT and G2 to give themselves a better shot. This seems daunting, but as Splyce play Origen and are excepted to receive at least a point, most likely a necessary one if FNC want to shoot for the tantalizing semifinal bye.

Fnatic need to hit through the top lane. They can do this through lane swap techniques or trying to make sure they can counterpick top. Fnatic also want a comfortable champion for Fabien “Febiven” Diepstraten. In this case, I would advise for Fnatic to avoid tunneling onto the jungle matchup, as it’s something G2 are much more adept at enforcing, and try to have Lee “Spirit” Dayoon play more proactively to get advantages in lanes. I wish them luck, because they’re likely to need it.

Splyce: 30 pts (8-6-2)

Best possible placing: 1st
Worst possible placing: 3rd

Week 9 matches: Origen, Unicorns of Love

Most will assume, given Splyce’s opponents, that their first round bye is all-but assured. They need only three points to make sure Fnatic cannot unseat them, and the semifinal placement is theirs. This is a significant thing to say given many (including myself) expected Splyce to be fighting for a spot in the playoffs at all and looking bleakly at the Promotion Tournament.

Splyce split with both Unicorns of Love and Origen in their last encounters, but most of their improvements in control have been made in the second half of the split. Splyce have quietly developed a way to get back into the game from a deficit, which helps shore up some of their laning faux pas. This should keep them from falling prey to Unicorns’ antics.

The key to Splyce’s success has been in accepting their strengths while also learning to play counter to them. They know their playstyle and their identity well, but can also understand the value in how other teams operate. Splyce, like G2, may not have the most conventional approach to macro strategy and draft, but they understand their strengths well, so I’d be incredibly surprised to see them drop to third this week. Better be ambitious and play for first.

G2 Esports: 34 pts (9-7-0)

Best possible placing: 1st
Worst possible placing: 2nd

Week 9 matches: Team Vitality, Fnatic

G2 Esports round out our climb. The most interesting possibility is Splyce 2-0ing both Unicorns of Love and Origen to secure first place and take it from G2’s grasp. At maximum, if G2 split with both Vitality and Fnatic, Splyce can unseat them with a point tie and one more match win. G2 2-0ing either of their opponents dashes Splyce’s hopes and ensures G2 remain in first.

To secure their top seed, G2 can try to take the easy route and focus on 2-0ing Vitality. G2’s superior team cohesion means that they can probably focus on playing in standard lanes, putting down Lucas "Cabochard" Simon-Meslet, which shouldn’t be difficult considering that G2 have played significantly more toward top side this split, and forcing dragon fights to make this a clean set.

Their tougher matchup will be against Fnatic. Most likely the match of the week, G2 can take advantage of the fact that Fnatic tunnel too much on playing around Spirit. By invading (which they do naturally anyway) and removing some of Febiven’s wave clear champions from the table, G2 have a fairly straight forward strategy for hitting Fnatic where they’re weak.

Three matches to watch this week:

Our time is limited, especially with the move to best of twos, but if you want to be there for the moments that decide standings and rewrite the fates of the teams present, make sure you catch these three. Matches chosen either are between direct competitors for a seed or some of the highest quality matchups we can expect before playoffs.

Unicorns of Love vs. H2K-Gaming
FC Schalke 04 vs. Team Vitality
G2 Esports vs. Fnatic

I’ll see you then.

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