Welcome back to the 2016 Slingshot “Hypothetical Battle of the Atlantic.” The competition heats up as North America hold a strong 3-2 lead going into its second weekend. If you haven’t read Part 1, shame on you, but the rules and history of the tournament are all there.
A reminder: This just-for-fun tournament has replaced this week’s power rankings, but each matchup is based on where that team would be in my rankings. (So, for instance, the next matchup is No. 5 in NA vs. No. 5 in EU).
Without any further ado, let’s get back to the action.
Statistics Courtesy of Oracle’s Elixir.
Team SoloMid (5-3) vs Fnatic (5-3)
In a battle between two of League of Legends’ longest-standing organizations, both Fnatic and Team SoloMid stumble into the “Hypothetical Battle of the Atlantic” with the weight of preseason expectations buckling their once proud strides. Despite their longevity, the fake series would be only the third meeting (the 2015 Mid-Season Invitational and IEM Season VI – Global Challenge New York in 2011) between the legendary franchises and a veritable grudge match following support Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim’s defection to the North American side.
Team SoloMid has been one of the biggest disappointments this season. The widely considered — particularly by this writer — winner of the offseason, this roster has yet to come to terms with its potential. Surrounding superstar mid laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg with top level talent was the biggest goal for TSM, but the problem has been figuring out a way to make that talent work together; metagame constraints have largely shifted TSM away from the Dane. The prevalence of AD carries and carry top laners has forced junglers to the side lanes, and though that should point at easy 1-v-1 lanes, TSM has placed Bjergsen on limited hard carry champions instead settling on zone-control mages like Viktor and Syndra or hard utility champions such as Lulu.
Fnatic has also had similar issues consistently meshing new talent Lee “Spirit” Da-yoon with the old of Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten and Martin “Rekkles” Larsson. Febivan has been luckier in champion select compared to Bjergsen, as LeBlanc and Lissandra selections allow Febiven a great deal of kill pressure while fulfilling the utility role mid lane fills. The larger issues come down to consistency across the board as Rekkles in particular has disappeared at times.
How TSM wins: You can’t teach talent. You can, however, learn how to play as a team. And TSM finally figures it out. The players trust each other’s calls and pick away at the weaknesses in roaming Fnatic’s players have shown.
How Fnatic wins: Spirit is left unchecked in the jungle and, despite lapses in impactful play, Rekkles is untouched in team fights. Febiven is far more useful in the utility midlane style role than Bjergsen is and is able to influence not only team fights but the laning phase with well-timed roams.
Results: Fnatic’s victories this season have been cleaner than anything TSM has been able to produce. Fnatic wins 3-1 and we all wonder what would have happened if Bjergsen returned to Europe.
NRG eSports (5-3) vs Unicorns of Love (6-2)
It could be casually called “Neon Bowl 2016.” The surprising Unicorns of Love have shown some grit, successfully blending three junglers into its roster while NRG’s Lee “GBM” Chang-seok has surprised almost no one with his successful transition to the North American scene.
Speaking of GBM, the former Jin Air Greenwings mid laner is pumping out an absurd amount of damage. His 38.1 percent damage share is the highest in world by nearly three points all while raking in one of the lowest mid lane gold shares in North America. His ability to provide consistent damage — from a variety of champions — in team fights has pulled NRG back from early game deficits caused by its passive laners. That problem has not been helped by rookie jungler Galen “Moon” Holgate, who has seemed unsure of himself at times. His passive style has allowed enemy junglers to run over him and his teammates in the early game, giving up 51.5 percent of all jungle CS and further emphasizing the laning issues GBM and ADC Johnny “Altec” Ru exhibit.
Although Moon has been timid, no matter the jungler UOL has trotted out, the expectation has remained the same: Aggressive invades to create vision control and create plays based on the opposing jungler’s pathing. Rookie jungler Rudy “Rudy” Beltran plugged right into lineup and asserted himself in his first game. From there, his influence has extended to UOL’s vastly improved laners with Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás leading the charge. The top laner has asserted himself among the best in Europe, sporting the second highest CS and gold difference at ten minutes among European top laners.
How NRG wins: GBM’s unique champion pool catches UOL of guard and the team fight presence of Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong is enough to rattle the historically shaky UOL carries. Moon’s lack of early game impact is negated by a crisp game plan designed to end the laning phase as quickly as possible.
How UOL wins: The early game advantages Rudy is able to create leads to a massive item gap that despite, GBM’s best attempts, can’t be overcome. Vizicsacsi is able to out maneuver Impact with both teleports and positioning in team fights, allowing the UOL carries freedom to deal damage.
Results: 3-2 NRG. It’s too difficult to count GBM out, as he’s spent his entire career catching people off guard. The Moon/Rudy matchup would be entertaining, but expect NRG’s support staff to create a strategy to take advantage of Rudy’s solo queue tendencies.
Cloud9 (5-3) vs Team Vitality (5-3)
With words like cloud and vitality, these two seem more at home in a do-it-yourself yoga guide then as esports teams, but to call them flexible would be would be a massive overstatement. Might I suggest some downward dog?
The continued storyline of Hai “Hai” Du Lam’s legendary shot-calling prowess has become more commonplace than the work of Adam Sandler in the late-1990s (And An “Balls” Le is Rob Schneider. You had one good movie!). Carries Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and Zackery “Sneaky” Scuderi have hidden in the background, finally erupting in Week 4 to the point that Hai was a footnote.
Jensen has brought utility and a safe laning phase that’s allowed Hai freedom to dictate the pace of the game away from the mid lane and toward protecting his weak laner, Balls. Cloud9 has allowed itself the weather the storm of the current side-lane-dominated meta, attempting to set its top laner up to split push while letting self-reliant carries scale into the mid game.
Vitality, on the other hand, has lived almost exclusively through top laner Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet. Its heavy split push style relies on Cabochard gaining an early lead, which jungler Ilyas “Shook” Hartsema has been more than willing to provide. With the the split push engaged, disengage from Shook and support Raymond “kaSing” Tsang allows three- or four-man teams to set up sieges on the other side of the map. That forces opponents to pick which threat is more pressing.
With Cabochard getting all the glory, AD carry Petter “Hjärnan” Freyschuss has gone largely unnoticed and uncontested in team fights, allowing the Swede to sit in the back and clean up.
How Cloud9 wins: Shook might be able to get Cabochard ahead, but C9 jungler Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae is able to influence his lanes (as he leads North American junglers in farming). The leads Rush is able to get, combined with C9’s willingness to allow split pushers to split while they group and contest objectives effectively, neutralizes Cabochard and forces him to make a choice: Continue to split push while his team fights 4-v-5, or abandon his game.
How Vitality wins: Cabochard is able to get a lead no amount of jungle influence can stop. KaSing and Shook are able to stave off any C9 aggression, and the Vitality play style frustrates Rush into making mistakes.
Results: 3-1 Cloud9. All hail the mighty Hai and his legendary notebook.
Counter Logic Gaming (5-3) vs G2 Esports (7-1)
With Europe down two series it’s now or never, and the upstarts of G2 Esports take the stage against the CLG. The two distinctive styles will result in the most strategically diverse set of the tournament.
CLG has spent the better part of a year tinkering with the split push style the acquisition of Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha created, and while I have long decried its singular nature, I have overlooked what the support staff has created. CLG has begun to accomplish an extreme mastery of its style, creating subtle nuances and intricacies that didn’t exist a year ago. Darshan has become even less reliant on Jake “Xmithie” Puchero, allowing the jungler to focus on CLG’s rookies. The rookies’ initiation into the system is often limited with very basic concepts at the start, allowing experience and time to ramp up in complexity. This system and the success that its rookies are showing early give CLG a huge advantage during international play, where teams are not used to its unique style.
But G2 has shown that no matter the opponent’s style, aggression is the name of the game. Jungler Kim “Trick” Gang-yun has become the cog that make G2 tick, confidently asserting himself no matter the opponent. His ability to influence his lanes while maintaining a CS lead is unmatched in Europe, leading in kill participation and most early farm metrics. Behind the successful aggression, mid laner Luka “PerkZ” Perković has quickly turned into one of Europe’s best, leading in most mid lane statistical categories. His proficiency on multiple play styles frees up early champion picks to go to his teammates with more limited champion pools and quick pivots in compositions to match G2’s opponents.
How CLG wins: Trick is unable to get off the ground as Xmithie is able to establish vision control early and often. Darshan is able to beat up on the inexperienced Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek and CLG’s playstyle is just different enough that G2 gets tripped up.
How G2 wins: Trick is able to abuse the passive Xmithie, catching CLG’s jungler out when he attempts to ward. PerkZ is able to freely roam alongside his jungler to Kikis’ lane and keep Darshan from ever revving up.
Results: CLG’s rookies aren’t quite there yet, and we’ve seen what happens to CLG when Darshan isn’t able to split the map. G2 wins 3-2.
Immortals (8-0) vs H2k-Gaming (7-1)
No. 1 vs. No. 1. An epic matchup between the best of both regions. Or at least it was until “Visageddon” forced H2k to replace its mid laner. But pay no attention to that.
For Immortals, success has been about the unlikely improvement by players no longer welcome by their old teams. Eugene “Pobelter” Park, Jason “WildTurtle” Tran, and Adrian “Adrian” Ma were all benched from their former teams; all three of them have punished those teams for that mistake. The biggest cause for this has been Immortals’ ability to embrace its player strengths rather than attempt to conceal its weaknesses. Turtle was long faulted for over-aggressive positioning on TSM, stepping into team fights where his teammates would fall back. On Immortals, he has been paired alongside multiple players who share that similar mindset of constantly pushing forward.
Adrian has become the most important piece, typically being the only player with any reliable disengage and given the task of keeping his teammates alive. This system has produced confidence among all members of the team, and the results speak themselves. Immortals still has issues with maintaining vision control, but when you play as well coordinated as Immortals has shown, its difficult to argue against it.
H2k has shown similar cohesion during the first two weeks of the season but has taken a slight step backward since replacing Yoo “Ryu” Sang-ook with Marcin “Selfie” Wolski. The change has caused a shift in the team’s dynamic, relying on top laner Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu to provide the utility Ryu had. The changes have also caused a slight downturn in AD carry Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou’s overall stats, but he’s still turned in one of the strongest starts to the season in all of the West.
How Immortals wins: Don’t change a thing. Against the current iteration of H2k, FORG1VEN is the only consistent damage dealer. And while he might be one of the best, the run down dive buddy style of Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin should be more than enough to disrupt him.
How H2k wins: Never count GODG1VEN out.
Results: FORG1VEN will make this a rough matchup for Immortals, but across the board Immortals has consistently performed better. Immortals takes the series 3-2 and grants North America its second Battle of the Atlantic win.
All photos courtesy of Riot Games.