LoL 2017 World Championships: Quarterfinals Preview

Jess Carruthers Roar Guru

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    Over the last four weeks, the 24 teams that originally qualified for the League of Legends 2017 World Championships have been whittled down to just eight. This week, we’ll see that number halved again.

    To say there have been a lot of upsets so far is an understatement – out of over five million Pick’Em entries, there are a whole 43 remaining with perfect scores. Eleven per cent of entrants are sitting on a big fat zero after groups.

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    Now, these scores are better than last year, where only six people came out of groups with their brackets unscathed, but it still shows just how out of whack the popular discourse on teams’ relative strengths was prior to the games kicking off.

    Moving on, we have four matches over the next four days. Each pair – as announced in a knockouts draw after the last game of groups – will go head-to-head in a best of five series. This is the part where things get interesting.

    These teams need to prove they can adapt not only week-to-week, but also within a series.

    Game 1: Longzhu (LZ) versus Samsung Galaxy (SSG)
    7pm AEDT Thursday

    Our first game for the week is the one we probably know most about, and have the best chance at guessing the outcome for. This match is between the first and third-seeded Korean teams, who finished first and second in their groups respectively.

    Not to overhype them, but LZ are probably the favourites to take the whole tournament, although there are plenty of advocates out there for SKT and RNG, too, who we’ll look at further down.

    This team had a very strong Split 2, ending SKT’s dream bracket run with a 3-1 win. Although it’s arguable LZ had one of the easiest, if not the easiest, group draws, they’re also the only team to come out of the group stage with a 6-0 record.

    This meta suits them to a T, and it’s going to need a pretty hefty shift to put them at any kind of disadvantage.

    SSG, one-time world champion, are undoubtedly the underdog in this match, but that does not mean we should count them out entirely.

    This is, after all, still one of the best teams in the world. They’ve beaten a lot of strong opponents domestically and internationally to make it to this point.

    Still, in contrast to LZ, SSG are not so well suited to the current meta, and will need to either adapt their play, or find a way to counter the dominant meta.

    They could be in luck as Ruler has an excellent 87.5 per cent Kalista winrate and, although she has been literally permabanned so far this tournament, Caitlyn has emerged as a strong alternative with similar gameplay.

    These games could well be won and lost in the pick/ban phase. SSG will need to get picks that can counter the meta that has been established so far, which could be really tough with them being the lower seed.

    I expect them to only get side selection in two games, which makes a big difference to strategies. These two teams went 1-1 in matches over summer, but LZ won more games.

    I do think this will repeat, with LZ proceeding to the semis.

    Game 2: SK Telecom T1 (SKT) versus Misfits Gaming (MSF)
    7pm Friday

    Match two is a game of polar opposites. The second-seed LCK team is a three-time world champion, and have won so much that most punters simply won’t bet against them. The second-seed EU LCS team, by contrast, has not only never attended Worlds, but never attended an international tournament.

    Very few had them pegged to even get out of their group, considering the presence of TSM and FW, both of whom have attended Worlds multiple times in the past.

    SKT are looking good here. They came out at the top of their group pretty convincingly, and have jumped straight into the meta with barely a hitch. They have arguably the best late game in the tournament, but this generally has come at the expense of their early game.

    With the exception of their very first game against C9, all their games have gone well over 35 minutes, which they’ve needed in order to make up for having the largest average gold deficit at 15 minutes of any team in the knockout stage.

    MSF are very, very different. They’re not the favourites, and it took them a while to get into the games. Still, they do have a solid early game, which could reap similar benefits to SSG. In fact, in the group stage, they averaged a 1000+ gold lead at 15 minutes.

    This is going to be their best opportunity to take wins as, so far, they have been significantly weaker as their games progress. The later these games go, the harder it will be for MSF to take a victory.

    So much of this match could come back to timing. If MSF play hard and fast, and take advantage of SKT’s weaker early game, they could actually come out with wins here.

    What I expect to see, though, is SKT tightly controlling the game, not getting too far behind, then winning in the late game. MSF may take a game, but I could just as easily see SKT winning this match 3-0.

    Game 3: Royal Never Give Up (RNG) versus Fnatic (FNC)
    7pm Saturday

    There are three major groups of observers I’ve noticed coming out of groups; those who believe LZ will win as the LCK’s number one seed, those who think SKT will win, as the perpetual champions, and those who hold onto a vision of RNG, the LPL’s second seed upsetting both of them.

    The EU LCS’ third seed FNC meanwhile had an incredible run through the second half of the group stage after acing the play-ins and broke two records.

    They made it to the knockouts after being down 0-4, and played through the first ever three-way tiebreaker.

    RNG seemed a lot more well-settled in their gameplay than expected. Even in their upset loss, they seemed to be pretty solid at rebounding for the rest of the day. Uzi, despite being a legendary ADC, doesn’t actually have any titles under his belt, but that’s not for a lack of trying or ability.

    That said, like the LCK teams, RNG tend to play with a slower, later game plan that can be exploited. RNG need to either up their early game, or play as controlled as possible until they are able to snowball.

    FNC are on a hot winning streak, and the team members seem to be really pleased. They are going to go into this match with high spirits, and so they should with their week two save.

    Rekkles went off like a monster – even in their losses – and his Tristana in their loss against IMT should be a scary sight for any ADC.

    It’s still so hard to know how they’ll do on the day though. Particularly in the first half of groups, their team play was just not up to scratch which would be a real hindrance in a game like this.

    Although FNC are looking good, RNG are just on another level. They look so strong that I find it hard to believe they would be taken down by almost any of the other teams.

    I do believe if FNC play their parts well they will give RNG headaches in laning phase, but once they move into the mid-late game, RNG just have better cohesiveness overall, and probably better players to boot.

    Grassroots esports scenes matter just as much as the international circuits.

    The World Championships have reached the business end.

    Game 4: World Elite (WE) versus Cloud9 (C9)
    7pm Sunday

    Rounding out the knockout stage, we will see a battle of third-place teams with their sights set on the semis.

    WE from the LCK looked pretty good by the end of the group stage and, for a team that had to go through the play-in stage, coming out in first place for their group is a fantastic showing.

    The NA LCS’ C9 started hot, but cooled off in the second week. Despite their multiple appearances at Worlds, they have never made it past the quarter-finals.

    WE have only improved as the tournament has progressed. Not to say they were bad in play-ins – that’s not at all the case – but they were a bit shaky looking.

    Over the past two weeks, however, they’ve continued to tidy up their gameplay, improving at the times when it is most important for them to improve. This same sloppiness could also end up being their downfall, though.

    If WE get complacent or slip back, they may get taken advantage of.

    C9 have made it to this stage by being the most flexible of the NA teams, picking up wins in the second week where others could not. Although Jensen getting ahead is still a key part of their success, the focus away from midlaners has eased the pressure on him significantly.

    Still, they went in a bit of an opposite direction to WE. Though their first week was strong, they fell off in the second, only saving themselves through some last-minute adaptations. It’s impossible to know which way they will go this weekend.

    These two teams have the two fastest game times in the tournament so far, so whichever way it goes it could be a real whirlwind.

    I’ve nominated C9 to win this match in my Pick’Ems, but in all honesty I recognise that’s a real stretch, based more on hope than facts.

    While WE have improved, C9 have wobbled and, while this is closer than the other match-ups, I still see WE taking the series.

    I can’t wait to see some full matches, and to continue to watch Pick’Ems crumble. Who are you expecting to see progress to the semis next weekend?