The story of last split’s Immortals is now a warning for any team that finds themselves at the top for an extended period of time — don’t get too comfortable. It’s also a reminder of how little a regular season’s worth of games can matter, especially with meta shifts before playoffs.
Heavily-favored going into their semifinals matchup against Team SoloMid, who had struggled throughout the regular season, Immortals were shoo-ins for the finals, if not NA’s ticket to the 2016 Mid-Season Invitational. Unfortunately for Immortals, TSM found their stride in the spring playoffs, using Immortals as a springboard to test out their new team dynamic with jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen becoming more of a DPS carry on Nidalee and Graves. He ended with a combined 16/3/31 scoreline where Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin, the best jungler in North America, ended at 3/13/15. Top lane carry Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon tested out top lane Lucian in Game 1, and was so embarrassed by the outcome that he spammed solo queue afterwards to erase his Lucian games from his match history.
Immortals were stuck, having experienced strong scrim results the week before their semifinals matchup, and wanted to stick with what had worked for them — carry tops, utility tank junglers, and mage supports. However, what worked for them wasn’t optimal in the meta at that time and Immortals had stagnated.
This split, following a far more difficult split of best-of-threes, Immortals are out to prove that they can adapt.
Meanwhile, the third time is seemingly the the charm for Cloud9. They had tried to move on from Hai “Hai” Lam twice prior to this season’s third attempt and finally found their rhythm with former C9 jungler William “Meteos” Hartman returning to the team and the addition of top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong whose utility tank play is the opposite of Huni’s hard carry style, and just what C9 needed.
Much like Cloud9's coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu — who was the puppet master for his Eat, Sleep, Game roster that later began for the first SK Telecom T1 team — Hai was known as the driving force behind all of his team's macro decisions. It's difficult to imagine that Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi were content with the idea that they could not function without him.
This split, where they finished in third-place with only TSM and Immortals ahead of them, they’re out to prove that they can make a deep playoff run without Hai. They now prepare to face Immortals in the 2016 North American League Championship Series Summer semifinals.
Although Cloud9 played last week, Team EnVyUs didn’t put up that much resistance, especially as the games wore on. In comparing both quarterfinals, Counter Logic Gaming rose above the rest as the team that made the most of the new meta and, most importantly, the turret changes on a Rift without laneswaps.
Throughout the regular season, Immortals and Cloud9 swapped similar amounts in their games, both slightly under 50 percent at 48.8 percent and 47.7 percent respectively. They both did well in lane swaps with C9 averaging a 280 experience lead at six minutes and Immortals up 255 over their opponents at six minutes. However, in standard lanes, Immortals found themselves behind their adversaries -101 experience at six minutes while C9 mounted a 211 experience lead. This changes significantly over the course of the next four minutes. Immortals found themselves with a 486 experience lead at 10 minutes in standard lanes, while C9’s experience lead evaporated, leaving them an average -43 experience behind their opponents at 10 minutes.
These numbers — and Immortals' average 587 experience swing from six to 10 minutes — points to the fact that Immortals are better at early adjustments, and also shows the usual window where Immortals jungler Reignover works his magic, getting his lanes ahead while the team works towards early objectives. Huni’s experience increase in standard lanes mirrors that of his team’s — up only 41 experience at six minutes, this rises to 291 experience at ten. By contrast, Impact is up 71.5 experience at six minutes in standard lanes and this decreases to 49 experience at ten. Impact’s lane opponents slowly catch up to him, while Huni uses these four minutes to mount a significant laning lead.
The jungle and top matchups will be interesting to watch, due to their different playstyles and where both Immortals and C9 distribute their resources. Enforcing standard lanes gives Meteos and Reignover more space to make proactive moves on aggressive, early game jungle champions like Rek’Sai and Elise. Huni receives three percent more of his team’s CS after 15 minutes than Impact, frequently sent to absorb side waves and farm up into a late-game carry threat. Standard lanes favor both teams’ talent, but the new turret first blood is solidly in Immortals’ favor. They averaged the highest percentage of first turrets taken of any team in NA this past split at 81 percent, while C9 was towards the bottom of the list, tied for seventh place with Echo Fox at 45 percent. Both teams know how to snowball their lanes, but Immortals has a stronger objective focus.
Unlike nV last week, Immortals are not likely to crumble under C9’s own early pressure. Most importantly, they have a jungler who is able to have stifling early game presence, and a top laner who desperately wants to carry. Immortals feed Huni far more resources than C9 gives Impact, with C9 relying on a combination of their own early pressure and accruing early farm leads to fight their way to a victory in the mid and late game. C9 has the talent and ability to beat Immortals, but they don’t look to be quite at that point yet as a team, still making mistakes by not taking advantage of opportunities given to them or not ensuring that kills immediately turn into taking available objectives. These will become opportunity areas for Immortals to exploit. Even in their worst showings this split, Immortals have had a good sense of objective trading and usually manage to take something from their opponents, even in the most disadvantageous situations.
Cloud9 have one lonely game win to their name against Immortals, and no series wins. Immortals won both of their best-of-one matchups in 2016 NA LCS Spring, and both of their series in the 2016 NA LCS Summer split. Cutting their playoff teeth on nV was one thing, defeating Immortals is something else, especially when IMT have proven that they can play C9’s game more efficiently en route to another victory. Where C9 will hesitate and wait until they can fight in the late game, Immortals will pounce, but both teams are hungry to prove themselves beyond their respective pasts.
Laneswap data can be found at League-Analytics. All other data from Oracles Elixir.
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.