There's one week remaining in the League of Legends Pro League, and rather than write the usual review, it seemed more productive to comment on the buzzing storylines that left us with a cliff hanger at the end of Week 9. As far back as a week ago, it seemed impossible for Invictus Gaming and LGD Gaming to make the playoffs, but now fans of each team can practically sink their teeth into relief.
It will still take a miracle for Invictus Gaming and LGD Gaming to move up in the standings — just a more likely one than you might think. If Week 10 is a week for miracles, here are ones begging to be granted, from most probable to least likely.
Invictus Gaming sneaks into playoffs
At the start of the year, Ge “Kid” Yan’s ability to adapt to the jungle role took spectators by surprise. With less pressure on his shoulders, he seemed to perform better in a role that relied on him going to lanes with waves prepped for a gank. Liu “Zz1tai” Zhihao continued to develop as a secondary carry, and Song “RooKie” Euijin remained impressive.
Somewhere along the way, iG stalled out. A combination of shifting to the more difficult intergroup round and the realization that they had to do something about their bottom lane caused Invictus Gaming to go on a losing streak that prompted a string of AD carry and support changes. Baek “Save” Youngjin temporarily returned to the lineup as a top laner, but only dealt, on average, 12.6 percent of team damage.
After Zz1tai returned to the starting roster, Invictus again resembled the team that made me tepidly hopeful. They won’t be a team that competes to attend the World Championship, but the solo performances of Zz1tai and RooKie as well as Kid’s marked improvements and promising showings from Feng “Marge” Li and Wang “Baolan” Liuyi make a playoffs birth look again like a possibility.
Because of the relative strength of Group B, iG will most likely be eliminated by the third place team from Group B if they do make playoffs, but a spot in the playoffs saves them from playing in promotions. They can then look forward to next year and bolstering the core of their roster.
At the moment, Invictus Gaming sit in fifth place with two sets left to play, below Newbee, a team with one series win over Invictus Gaming and only one set to play. To claim fourth place, iG either have to 2-0 their week or tie Newbee with a larger difference between individual game wins and losses. The fact that one of iG’s sets is against Newbee (making it Newbee’s only set) gives Invictus Gaming a fair amount of control over their own destiny — but their other set is against EDward Gaming, the monster that has yet to drop a series this split.
This is nowhere near as daunting as it sounds. Invictus Gaming feel like the favored team against Newbee. Newbee tend to draft losing matchups naturally, which plays well into Invictus Gaming’s style of picking strong top and mid lane matchups. Bao “V” Bo is the largest obstacle, as V breaks Newbee’s losing lanes trend by averaging 10 cs over his opponents at ten minutes. Since his return, however, Zz1tai has been impressive on Irelia and Gangplank, playing as if he has something to prove, and Kid tends to favor snowballing top lane more than Baek “Swift” Dahoon.
As Newbee also don’t pressure bottom lane, this will provide a lot of breathing room for Marge and Baolan, making it hard for Newbee to abuse their largest advantage. iG can find an easy way to win lane-win game, setting Newbee down and tying them to end the week.
But just tying Newbee isn’t enough if Newbee still have a larger individual game W-L record. At the moment, Newbee have 12 individual game wins and 24 losses. Invictus Gaming have had a surprising amount of success in best of threes they lose relative to Newbee, giving them more individual game wins at 14 and only 22 losses. This means that, if iG defeat Newbee and lose to EDward Gaming, they will have, at minimum, 16 wins and, at minimum, 24 losses. Newbee will end with, at minimum, 12 wins and 26 losses, giving iG a game difference of -8 and Newbee -14.
This gives iG a very comfortable position. Even if Newbee win a game against iG, and iG don’t win any games against EDward Gaming, the best Newbee can do in that scenario is end with a point difference of -13 to Invictus Gaming’s -9. As a result, no matter the circumstances, if iG defeat Newbee, they will secure a playoffs spot.
If they don’t want to, iG don’t have to prepare for EDward Gaming at all and can still make their miracle happen by focusing solely on Newbee. But if iG want to make a run for EDG, they’re one of the few teams to have ever taken a game from them. Because of iG’s tendency to pressure top, if they get standard lanes against EDward Gaming, they can gank Chen “mouse” Yuhao and follow the same formula for pressuring EDG. They just have to keep in mind that EDG tend to lane swap against teams with top lane focus and match it to give themselves a shot.
LGD Gaming claim a spot in the LPL playoffs
Wei “We1less” Zhen’s return to LGD Gaming has rejuvenated the team, giving them the ammunition to not just 2-0 Vici Gaming, but to 2-1 Team WE, Group B’s second place team. This success gave fans momentary respite as they tied Vici Gaming for fourth place in Group B. A possible future laid out in front of them, including LGD winning LPL yet again and redeeming themselves at the World Championship.
Vici Gaming’s relatively swift 2-0 of I May, Group B’s third place team, in the set immediately following LGD’s 2-1 over WE crushed spirits. In Week 10, both LGD and Vici Gaming play two sets against similarly ranked opponents, and Vici Gaming have a series advantage.
Both LGD Gaming and Vici Gaming play against Oh My God, the last place team in Group B, now guaranteed a spot in Promotion. Vici Gaming then face second place Team WE, and LGD Gaming must try their luck against the intimidating Royal Never Give Up. To secure a spot in playoffs, LGD have to either 2-0 their week and hope Vici Gaming go 0-2 or tie Vici Gaming by winning one more of their matches.
Since VG have 16 wins and 16 losses, if they go 0-4 in individual games in their week, and LGD 2-0 OMG and go 0-2 against RNG, LGD will finish 17-20, and VG will finish 16-20, putting LGD in fourth. If both teams defeat Oh My God, and LGD defeat RNG, but VG lose to WE, LGD will have a single individual game advantage to play with, meaning they hope to 2-0 both their series or for VG to lose at least one game to OMG and not win any games against WE. Since VG losing to OMG would be an upset at this point, LGD should prepare to try to defeat Royal Never Give Up.
This would seem impossible if Royal Never Give Up hadn’t just lost a series to Oh My God to end their week. Liu “Mlxg” Shiyu's over-aggression, and RNG’s failure to apply pressure more evenly to their lanes is starting to leave pickable scabs for the opposition, and LGD, with a more solo lane focused dynamic, are in position to take advantage.
Both LGD’s solo lanes tend to over-extend, but with Royal much more focused on their bottom lane, LGD should rely on Gu “imp” Seungbin and Chen “pyl” Bo to play self-sufficiently and apply pressure and vision for We1less and Jang “MaRin” Gyeonghwan. Without reaction from Mlxg, LGD’s solo lanes can play the way they like without too much fear of repercussion.
Royal Never Give Up’s team fighting has also crumbled. Mlxg tries to initiate fights too early, and when Li “xiaohu” Yuanhao doesn’t play engage or pick-oriented champions, he has trouble getting into the fight. LGD can still hamstring themselves by picking week lane matchups like Kassadin, but at the moment, one might even say LGD are favored next week.
That just leaves Vici Gaming and WE. WE look like the more reliable team than Royal Never Give Up at the moment, but Vici Gaming can get the better of them in the jungle matchup. Unless Xiang “Condi” Renjie plays something he ganks frequently with like Elise or Gragas, Choi “DanDy” Inkyu will simply strangle him out of the jungle. Despite this, WE have a tendency to start slow and are likely to drop a game to VG, putting even more pressure on LGD Gaming not to lose any games this coming week.
OMG also aren’t simple pushovers anymore. With their surprising play and extremely aggressive mid-centric style, they can easily take a single game from Vici Gaming or LGD Gaming. Kog’Maw will be highly contested, and OMG, though they may be doomed to the Promotion, can easily determine who makes playoffs in Week 10.
Team WE’s fleeting bye to semifinals
I give one final word of regret to Team WE. It’s certain that, following Royal Never Give Up’s loss to Oh My God, they were kicking themselves soundly. Had they overcome LGD Gaming, WE would have finished Week 9 tied with Royal Never Give Up in best of three wins. In that scenario, they could have hoped to defeat Vici Gaming in Week 10 and root ardently for I May and LGD Gaming to take down Royal.
Now, even if WE 2-0 their final opponent, Vici Gaming, and Royal Never Give Up finish Week 10 without winning an additional game, WE cannot hope to overtake them. Under these circumstances, WE would have a point difference of 10, and RNG would have a point difference of 11. WE’s spree of three game sets punishes them in the final week. Will Week 10 bring an LPL miracle? Perhaps, but not for WE.
All photos credited to 一村's album.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore esports and believe in LPL miracles. You can follow her on Twitter.