LoL eSports – 10 thoughts going into Finals

Kien Lam –  LoL eSports

B _ N S W _ I N. The missing letter is Aaaaaaaaa, let’s go. It’s time for the NA LCS to travel to the sunny skies of South Beach in Miami. This weekend, Team Liquid and 100 Thieves will battle to become just the 4th organization to claim an NA LCS title. One team will hang up a new banner, and the other will be banished to the offseason. Who will travel to Europe to represent NA at the 2018 Mid-Season Invitational? Here’s what each lane needs to do to help their team win the game.

Doublelift plays

In case you missed it, here’s a statement from Doublelift about what happened. It’s since been announced that Doublelift will still play this weekend, and I hope fans show proper respect over the course of the match. There’s more to life than this game. I’d like to offer this poem to him and to those of you who may be struggling with this, too. Sending you love, Doublelift.

As a player, he’s been lights-out in the playoffs. With 44 kills, 2 deaths, and 34 assists, he’s putting up a 39.0 KDA — more than four times better than the next player. He’s the current frontrunner for Playoffs MVP and it’s not even close. Alongside support Olleh, their ability to dominate the lane has been critical to TL’s early game success, and he’s the type of player that makes you think, “As long as he’s still standing, we can win.”

Cody Sun and Aphro win their lane

Aphro and Cody both put up MVP-caliber seasons and were rewarded with the NA LCS All-Pro 1st team selections. It’s been two years since these two first did battle in the Finals. Aphromoo got the better of his former lane partner last time, but the stakes are raised this time as their respective lane partners — Cody and Olleh — are also former lane partners. It’s a relationship Punnett square. It’s like a Friends episode but I can’t tell which pair is Rachel and Ross. One of the biggest critiques against Cody is that he plays it too safe (Cody is Ross???) — if he can outshine Doublelift in this series, then I think he’ll silence most of his critics. TL rotates their bot lane around quite a bit to generate early pressure and help snowball the game — if 100 shuts that down, then that severely limits TL’s options.

Pobelter uses his 200 IQ

In all of history only a handful of people have recorded an IQ higher than 200. And yet none of them were smart enough to even reach the NA LCS Finals — that is, outside of our very own Notorious P.O.B. Named after famous rapping legend, Biggie, Pobelter too knows how to bring the heat. So far in this playoffs, he’s had strong showings against both Jensen and Fenix. One of the things that I’ve really appreciated about him is his ability to hit the go button and make a play for this team. That willingness to extend makes it a lot easier for Doublelift to maneuver around because the enemy thinks, “Oh, their mid laner just went in, focus him!” Pobelter is quietly having an impressive playoff run, and 200 IQ is twice as good as 100, so this may be a case of brains over brawn.

Ryu wins the street fight

During the 100 vs. CG set, one of the casters at one point said they felt Ryu was the most unsung player on the team. Which is a role Pobelter has long occupied — consistent play from the mid lane. So when the two consistencies clash, what happens? Two constants make a… super constant? Ryu’s been going at it for a long time across multiple leagues and at such a high level that this may surprise you — he’s never actually won a regular season split! His teams have always been consistently good, but I’m sure he’d love to hoist a trophy for once. 100’s strengths are definitely their side lanes, though, and we saw Meteos help out both of those lanes to help get 100 to the Finals. Ryu just needs to keep Pobelter (who has been more apt to roam lately) in lane with him to let his side lanes work their magic. Just keep him under the turret with some Hadoukens!

Impact’s shield holds strong

Now we have veritable proof that some memes are stronger than others. Liquid broke free from their destiny thanks in large part to Impact’s performance against FOX. The sword failed to pierce through the shield, though it may be more apt to call him a bulwark. Because Impact is so good at absorbing pressure, his other two lanes can receive more attention and resources to help them get ahead. And that’s been paying massive dividends for Liquid lately — both Pobelter and Doublelift have stepped admirably into their carry roles. Impact has had a lot of success in NA, but he hasn’t won anything since his days on SKT.

Ssumday brings balance to the fourth

Last week I said Impact was the shield and Huni was the sword. Ssumday, in contrast, feels like both — he’s a balanced player (Is he the chosen one? Here to restore balance to the 4th meme?) who can seemingly do anything. We haven’t seen carries from him much this split, but he has pulled out the likes of Darius (and excelled on it). I’m curious to see if 100 will use this to throw variance to their draft plan or if they’ll just stick him to a specific playstyle. Ssumday was once regarded as one of the premier top laners in the world, but his star has faded a bit during his time in North America. A win here would give him a chance to prove himself on the international stage for the first time since 2015.

Xmithie’s strengthens his family tree

Xmithie is a bonafide winner — this is the third team he’s helped steer to the Finals (and his 4th team, Vulcun, was also rather dominant). 4th team. 4th org to win a championship. 4th month of the year. 4th MSI ahead of us. I’m normally a writer, but in this case I think the math speaks for itself. Xmithie is maybe the consummate jungler — if I’m a laner with a big ego (I am), then his playstyle is exactly what I want. Supportive and unassuming — he doesn’t get hyped up by fans because he just does his thing. He’s the perfect complement to a team. He’s the kind of jungler who ganks for you, lets you have the kill, helps you push but doesn’t take any CS, drops a ward for you on his way out, and then sends you a holiday card each year because you’re family now.

Meteos defeats Jiren Team Liquid

On the other end of the spectrum is the superstar unkillable KDA king, Meteos. Or, rather, that was his initial claim to fame. His return to the Finals here caps off a redemptive split for the long-time fan favorite — 100 has helped him settle into a groove and prove that he’s still one of the best junglers in North America. He even received a bit of MVP hype towards the end of the split for his play (and he did, in fact, lead all junglers in KDA). Part of this is thanks to his evolution as a player. He’s shifted away from the farm-heavy style that made him famous as a “herbivore jungler” and into a more dynamic and supportive approach. And his best strength this split has been his ability to engage when given the tools to do so. He’s smart about picking fights, which has helped 100 play a slow and methodical game. NA’s favorite Super Saiyan is back just as Dragon Ball Super ends.

The tortoise and the hare

100’s fastest win last week was 35 minutes. Team Liquid’s slowest win was 33 minutes. Which means the wins this week will be 34 minutes. Is that how this works? Something’s going to have to give as these two clash — the Semifinals matchups featured the slow, defensive-oriented play of 100 and CG against each other on one half, and the fast-snowball-styles of TL and FOX on the other. Now, though, those opposing ideologies will clash. I think a lot of people mistake speed for “good,” which is frequently true, but a lot of times speed also just means a lot of risky plays paid off. But a 40-minute win gets you the exact same result as a 25-minute win. Whichever team controls the pace will come out on top. Can TL bait 100 into a fast-paced, action-packed game or will 100 stymie all of their advances?

So who ultimately has the edge?

I’m a simple man. I like to go fast. And my rule for Finals is to generally pick TSM the team that has the best player. And to me, that’s Doublelift right now. In this matchup, there are players who’ve maybe had better or more consistent seasons. There are players who’ve had stronger careers. And there are players who are more versatile. But none of them have exhibited the kind of dominance that Doublelift has throughout this playoffs. I think Pobelter will outmaneuver Ryu just enough to secure advantages for his bot lane, and that will be enough to swing the series. I don’t think this series will go to 5, either. One style will prevail and whichever one does will take the set pretty handily.

Action in Miami kicks off with Echo Fox taking on Clutch Gaming in the 3rd place match on Saturday at 1:00 pm PDT. Team Liquid and 100 Thieves clash for the championship on Sunday at 1:00 pm PDT.

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