NA LCS Summer playoffs: Quarterfinals

Jess Carruthers Roar Pro

By , Jess Carruthers is a Roar Pro

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    Who will find the wins they need to reach the League of Legends Worlds stage? (Photo: Twitter)

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    Despite some dicey League of Legends in the Promotion Tournament, the NA LCS as we know it has seen the final curtain fall with the exact same teams as it has had for the past year.

    Next up, we get to see the best of the West (sorry EU) battle it out for the chance to represent NA at the 2017 World Championships.

    Although the level of play was about what you would expect, the Final Promotion Tournament was plenty of fun to watch. Then at the end of the last match, Xpecial gave an honestly gut-wrenching interview, which I really recommend everyone go back to see, even if you don’t watch the games.

    Now, let’s look ahead. This weekend we have two matches to look forward to, including the potential to decide a world’s spot for Team SoloMid (TSM). Despite the fact they got a first round bye, if Cloud9 (C9) loses to Team Dignitas (DIG), TSM has enough points to guarantee themselves second seed, if not first.

    The scenario that sends TSM to the Regional Qualifier tournament is a final where C9 loses in the finals to one of the teams from the other half of the bracket. C9 are the only team with enough championship points from spring to beat TSM on that side. TSM must be feeling pretty good about their chances.

    But I am getting well ahead of things; TSM don’t even play this weekend. Let’s take a look at the two matches incoming, and how they might go.

    C9 vs DIG: 5am AEST Sunday
    First Match: C9 Win, 2-1 (Week 4, Day 3)
    Second Match: C9 Win, 2-1 (W7D3)
    All-time Head-to-Head (matches): 21-3

    Now, let me be the first to acknowledge that the match history is heavily skewed towards the early seasons of League, where the teams played four best-of-one matches per split. 14 of the 24 matches come from seasons three and four, which were a long time ago, and League was a pretty different game back then. But it does stand that the last time DIG won a match against C9 was back in the 2015 Summer regular season – that’s more than two years ago at this point – and in the same time have lost seven matches to them.

    It’s not as dire for DIG as that sounds, though. In their most recent match against C9, the first game (which they won) was short and decisive, finishing in just 23 minutes. Their roams and map play in that game were absolutely on point, taking each member of C9 down systematically after taking an early team fight.

    DIG need to channel that clarity and decisiveness if they want to win this match. It doesn’t have to be fast, but it needs to be consistent; DIG’s two wins this split came by taking an advantage early, and then pushing it (whether quickly or slowly) right up to a destroyed nexus.

    In that most recent match, C9 won the second and third games in strong fashion. Though the victories weren’t quite as quick, they still beat out DIG pretty convincingly; the first win, they brought out a strong pick/ban strategy, then in the second they made a plan to neutralise the Nunu jungle that wreaked havoc in game one.

    The post-game-three interview with Contractz was almost prophetic; he said that C9 had improved drastically, and would be much better going into the back end of the split; they proceeded to go 4-0 in matches, and didn’t drop a game in the last week. Given the history between the teams, their recent strength, and their experience, C9 are probably feeling pretty confident going into their quarterfinal.

    The nerfs in 7.16 to midlane are going to cause a blow to C9, with Jensen playing such a major carry role. The Orianna nerf could be especially rough for him; although he has a decently deep champion pool, she has been one of his mainstays since forever.

    Still, the sweeping nerfs will affect DIG too. Their botlane, however, is already a strong force in the team, as is Ssumday. Top lane champions went relatively unchanged, with the notable exception of Fiora, who Ssumday has won on in three of his five games this split.

    Over the last four weeks of the split, both these teams went 6-2. They are both well-deserving of a place in the playoffs, and even though the match history is somewhat one-sided, DIG has the potential to be a huge pain for C9, especially with the patch changes somewhat favouring DIG.

    Personally, I think that C9 will step up, either with Midlaners who weren’t nerfed, or with Sneaky stepping up to carry. I want to say it will be an easy 3-0 or 3-1 considering how they have looked over the last few weeks, but DIG has had just as good of a showing, including wins against the top two teams. It’s probably be a closer match than I would like – I’m expecting a 3-2 – but I am going to stay hopeful that C9 will win it.

    CLG vs NV: 5am Monday
    First Match: CLG Win, 2-1 (Week 4, Day 2)
    Second Match: CLG Win, 2-0 (W8D2)
    All-time Head-to-Head (matches): 5-1

    With NV only joining the NA LCS in 2016, after buying the team and spot of Renegades, CLG and NV don’t have nearly the same history as our first pair. It’s another historically one-sided affair, and if you include the old Renegades scores it gets even worse. This is unlikely to be a particularly competitive match, but NV has a surprisingly decent record against higher-ranked teams, and do have a chance to surprise us.

    NV had such a tough strength-of-schedule in the back part of the split, it makes them look significantly weaker than they really are. When they’re playing well, they work like a well-oiled machine, and clearly hold a lot of trust in each other.

    It’ll also be really interesting to see how the new patch affects this team. We’ve already gone into some of the buffs and nerfs that will come up; that game win for NV came with Apollo playing Ashe into a Caitlyn, who has been played a lot by Stixxay, and now has been nerfed.

    Still, CLG are definitely the favourites going into this; they came a narrow third in the regular season, while NV was solidly in sixth. While Huhi and Stixxay have been divisive choices for their roles, they have become widely admired players, with Huhi being picked for one of the All-Pro teams.

    Even OmarGod, who was seen as a downgrade from Dardoch, has performed pretty damn well. His stats are a bit inflated from only playing a couple weeks worth of games, but his impact on the game has to be acknowledged. There is a glaring question though: how will he perform with a new patch? It was P1 and MikeYeung’s downfall. Will OmarGod fare better?

    This is really the best quarterfinal CLG could have hoped for; while DIG and C9 scrap it out on Sunday, come Monday CLG have a pretty significant advantage over NV. I do think CLG will drop a game, if only because there is a lot of pressure on OmarGod that he has had no time to get used to, but I’m pretty confident that they will regroup to win the match 3-1 and move on into the semis.

    I love this end of the season. So much is riding on Summer playoff outcomes, and the results this weekend could will set the stage for the rest of playoff, the Regional Qualifier, and perhaps even Worlds. Who are you cheering for?

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