NA LCS regional qualifier primer

Jess Carruthers Roar Pro

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    Even though the final two series in the North American LCS Playoffs for 2017 were a little one-sided, that final game – the only one I managed to catch live – was pretty incredible.

    Congratulations to Team SoloMid for once again pushing the boundaries of dominance in the LCS, to Immortals for making them fight for it, and to both teams for making it into the 2017 League of Legends World Championships.

    We have one more round of regional play in NA: the Regional Qualifier, also known as the gauntlet. This is a chance for the four best performing teams of the year who have not yet made it to worlds to play off against each other, and to secure the third and final place in the world championships.

    The circuit points at the end of playoffs are:

    Q: Cloud9 (C9) with 90 points (70 from spring plus 20 from summer)
    Q: CounterLogic Gaming (CLG), 80pts (10+70)
    Q: Team Dignitas (DIG), 50pts (10+40)
    Q: FlyQuest (FLY), 30pts (30+0)
    NQ: Team EnvyUs (NV), 20pts (0+20)
    NQ: Phoenix1 (P1), 0pts (50 from spring were forfeited due to dropping into bottom two placement in summer)

    The gauntlet begins with the bottom two qualifiers playing against each other in a best of five; the winner will then play the second highest qualifier, and the winner of that plays the highest qualifier. This is the third year of the gauntlet; in 2015 it was won by C9, who played through all three matches, then last year, C9 won again in just two matches.

    Because each match relies on the outcome of the one prior, this is a bit of a tricky one to talk about right now. We’ve also got two teams in CLG and C9 who sometimes show up amazingly and other times slump in a heap; it’s so hard to know which version of these we will see on the weekend. Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities:

    Round One: FLY vs DIG, 5am AEST Saturday
    Okay, the one thing we know for certain. With FLY barely saving their circuit points in the summer split, DIG are certainly favoured for this match, but we may yet see an upset.

    You see, over summer split, even though FLY had a pretty poor record they still went 1-1 with DIG. FLY also sees Hai, the ex-C9 midlaner, given another chance to repeat his miracle gauntlet run from 2015, a series I still often go back to re-watch. DIG are coming into this weekend off a pretty rough defeat from CLG last weekend, while FLY have had about a month to rest, refocus, and get some practise in.

    It still stands that DIG are the favoured team, though. They did a lot better than FLY this split, and even though they’ve not had a rest, they do have competitive experience on the current patch, which FLY certainly don’t have. I’ve spoken about DIG at length the last couple of weeks, so I won’t rehash everything, but I do ask you to remember how their victory over C9 looked back in the quarterfinals.

    Overall, I think FLY’s best chance is a three-cheese approach; I could see them taking three unconventional/non-meta strategies, and throw off DIG who have been playing on this patch for three weeks already and have some expectations. I think that could win FLY a game, but I sincerely doubt they will take the series; I think we’ll see DIG win 3-1.

    Round Two: CLG vs R1 Winner, 5am Sunday
    Round two is where things get less predictable. Comparing their semifinals games vs their third-place match games, CLG looked like two different teams, and the outcome of round two is going to be heavily contingent on which team comes out to play.

    So let’s start with CLG. Although OmarGod played a lot better than he has last weekend, this is about as high pressure of a game as it gets within the region; if they lose this match, there is no other safety net. If he can thrive under the pressure, and if the Bot Lane duo (especially Aphromoo) can pick up the slack they’ve dropped sometimes recently, this should be an easy win for CLG no matter who they play against.

    If FLY somehow win round one, I really cannot see them coming out the other side of this victorious; there would just be too many conditions for them to meet. They would need CLG to be playing from the weak side, to begin with, and when the key to your success is out of your control, it’s even tougher to prepare.

    I said that to win against DIG they would need three different cheese strats; to win against CLG as well, they would need another three, because CLG would know what the first three were and be prepared for them. It’s just too much that would need to line up; if the second round is CLG vs FLY, CLG should win 3-0.

    (Riot Games)

    If DIG win round one though, this could be a very different story. If the good side of CLG shows up, I would still expect them to win, but DIG are a team that is much better at capitalising on mistakes, so it would take far fewer CLG screwups for DIG to be in with a fighting chance. In the 3rd place match, CLG won with three different team comps, so DIG have an idea of what to prepare for.

    I couldn’t put any money on this one, but I’m expecting the good version of CLG to come out this weekend; if they do that, this should be a three-zero-peat of last weekend.

    Round Three: C9 vs R2 Winner, 5am Monday
    I wish the games I were most interested in would be on a non-work day, but I guess that’s what I get for following an international tournament. As much as I want to believe that C9 will have this in the bag, I see 2/3 of the outcomes being a serious challenge to C9.

    As the certainty in this game, let’s take a look at C9 first. I maintain that they are a good team. Although they slumped mid-season (largely on the back of Sneaky playing poorly), they picked up again to finish the split in a respectable position. This team can play well – the individual players are really strong, and if they can show that on the stage (and play well as a team), they will be world’s-calibre.

    Even if they don’t show that this weekend, if by some bizarre set of circumstances FLY are their opponents, they will go to world’s anyway. FLY winning Round Three of the Regional Qualifier would be nothing short of miraculous – it would no longer just be a case of an opponent playing poorly and them having interesting strategies.

    I truly think that C9 would need two members subbed out because of illness for FLY to run the entire gauntlet. If, somehow, this is the matchup, surely surely C9 will win 3-0.

    DIG are a far more likely possibility. For them to get to this match, they will have had to win two matches, putting them on a great little hot streak. They won this matchup just a couple of weeks ago 3-1; although by now C9 have probably had time to work out how to beat a Maokai since then, DIG again have the extra weeks of patch experience. If this game is DIG vs C9, I think DIG will still take it, but just barely in a close 3-2.

    Similarly to DIG, if CLG are C9’s opponent, then CLG are coming in hot, too. It means even more for CLG to come in; it means that the team are playing their best, which makes them an even tougher opponent.

    Although these two did not meet in playoffs, CLG won both the regular season matches 2-1, which bodes poorly for C9. If this is the matchup, then C9 have an uphill battle that I just don’t see them winning; CLG will probably win this in a 3-1.

    As much as I’m pessimistic about C9’s chances of making it to the 2017 World Championships, I’m sure we’ll see some great League of Legends this weekend. I think CLG is going to be the ultimate victor here; who do you want to see?

    And just finally, the World’s Group Draws will be held at 10pm AEST on Tuesday the 12th. I’ll take a look at the outcome next week, but this will be a great opportunity to really start to shift focus onto the championship as regional tournaments close out!