Going into week 4 we’re seeing teams fall roughly where most fans would have predicted, excluding veteran organizations like TSM and CLG. Now that they’re emerging from their week 1-2 slumps and we’re seeing a more coordinated effort from them, I would expect them to continue to rise in the standings and fight for the top slot and a round one playoff bye; but it’s not going to be easy with how strong the current top three of Cloud9, Echo Fox and especially Team Liquid. In truly counter-logic fashion, CLG defied my predictions for week three in a 40-minute back and forth game with FOX that involved some truly strange fights around Baron and Elder Dragon. Strong showings by Darshan and Stixxay helped push CLG to victory, and Huhi landed some clutch sleeps with Zoe onto Dardoch when he tried to engage around Elder Dragon, and later Altec and Fenix to close out the game. The story of this game was truly concentrated in the teamfights around neutral objectives, though FOX managed to build a small lead after the second Baron taken, CLG had superior teamwork when it counted along with having a Zoe.
Overall, I correctly predicted 8/10 games last week, with the exception of CLG vs. FOX and TSM vs. 100T, where 100T picked Twisted Fate in an attempt to outroam Bjergsen’s Taliyah, though TSM already had Gangplank and we’re currently in a meta where swapping summoner spells with the rune Unsealed Spellbook allows most mid and botlanes to swap to Cleanse and easily counter Twisted Fate’s only crowd control. Like a true pirate, Hauntzer on Gangplank barreled his way to a 6k gold lead on Ssumday’s Vladimir, representing half of TSM’s 12k gold lead by the end of the game on a single champion. With TSM and CLG returning to their expected form, the next two weeks have the teams on the top half of the table clashing to see who can hold first place going into the latter half of the split. This weekend we have C9 vs. Liquid, TSM vs. CLG, and Liquid vs. FOX, followed next week by C9 vs. TSM, Liquid vs. CLG, and FOX vs. C9. These matchups are likely to be some of the most important games this split for determining playoff byes, since any of the top teams going 2-0 here would nearly guarantee them first place for the forseeable future.
My plan going forward is to focus more on win conditions and “paths to victory” than just storylines, but given how many teams currently look strong or on the upswing I’m optimistic about NA this year (is it too early to get excited for Liquid or Fox?). I’m going to try to target the more important matchups, but I’ll still be predicting a winner for each game, and I’m going to include some LCK predictions this week and possibly going forward.
Saturday, February 10
Team SoloMid vs. Clutch Gaming
After a much stronger mid and late game by TSM in their win vs. 100 Thieves, where I expected 100T to remain in form and pick up the win, I’m confident that TSM will win if MikeYeung continues to play tanks in the jungle. As long as TSM doesn’t have a bad draft, all of their lanes should be stronger than CG’s, allowing MikeYeung room to pick his engages around a slumping LirA. Unless CG manages to surprise TSM in the early game – which can happen in Best-of-Ones -I would bet on TSM playing a strong standard game and closing out quickly if they manage to build a lead early or midgame.
Cloud9 vs. Team Liquid
This is one of three essential games to watch this week, we can hopefully see C9 and FOX go even with Liquid’s dominant early game, as Liquid currently has the fastest game time by eight minutes over C9 and FOX, and double the gold lead at 15 minutes as well (Source: Oracles Elixir). C9’s solo lanes should be able to hold their own here, letting the junglers determine where to pressure, so I would give the edge to Svenskeren’s more aggressive counter-jungling focused style. I also feel that C9’s bot may just be the only counter to Doublelift’s mechanical prowess, since Sneaky and Smoothie have had more time together than Doublelift and Olleh, we could see some focus around the bot side if Olleh is too aggressive and C9 can punish. This is a hard game to call, since both teams have been adept at building leads to a victory, but both squads are also mostly made up of veteran players adept at stalling losing games. All things considered, I’m going to bet on C9 for this one, and hope that the meme team can give Liquid their second loss.
OpTic Gamings vs. Counter Logic Gaming
CLG just looks generally stronger in every position but mid or maybe ADC here, but with yung BioGod going up against LemonNation I would be hesitant to bet on OpTic. The stats shouldn’t lie about this matchup, and CLG is outperforming OpTic in nearly every criteria, so I would expect a convincing win.
100 Thieves vs. FlyQuest
Though 100T has slowed down since their explosive 3-1 start, including the only current win vs. Liquid, I still feel they’re worthy of the top half of the standings and a sure thing for playoffs. FlyQuest has the worst gold difference at 15 minutes at nearly three thousand gold, and 100T has shown they can go even or better against some of the top teams. This should be a game for 100T to show they mean business, and can crush the teams below them to maintain a spot in the middle of the standings. Considering that FlyQuest might finally be able to field their Korean mid import, Fly, but both Flame and Fly will be going up against fellow Koreans in Ssumday and Ryu (no matter who wins, former KT players will win and lose this game), the explosive bot lanes with Aphromoo on 100T and WILDTURTLE on FLY should make for an interesting game.
Winner: 100 Thieves
Echo Fox vs. Golden Guardians
If you’ve been paying attention at all this split you already know how this one is going to go. The margin for a GGS win here is so minor with how strong FOX’s lanes and jungle are looking that this should be a smash unless FOX plays with their food too much.
Winner: Echo Fox
Sunday, February 11
FlyQuest vs. Cloud9
Winner: Though C9 doesn’t always have the strongest early game, I will reiterate my point from above that Fly is giving up way too much in the early game to be a threat to the top teams. The best thing we’re likely to get from this match is Sneaky hugging LemonNation post-game when C9 smashes FLY in 30 minutes.
Golden Guardians vs. 100 Thieves
Winner: Though 100T haven’t been putting up the strongest early game showings, I’m still not expecting a win for GGS until the second half of the split when they will rematch some of the other teams at the bottom of the standings. Unless 100T has a poor draft like they did vs. TSM, or Hai manages to bring the game late and GGS controls their side lane waves, this should be an easy game for 100T to play standard.
Winner: 100 Thieves
Team SoloMid vs. Counter Logic Gaming
The classic NA grudge match should allow one of TSM or CLG to go 5-3 this week and close the gap on the top three, at least one of which will be taking a loss as they all go head-to-head. Darshan and Hauntzer have both had standout performances this split, while both teams have added a new jungler that’s had some growing pains fitting into the team. This could be BioFrost’s chance at revenge, but I don’t think he stands as strong of a chance as Doublelift in week one, since Zven and Mithy have had years of experience together compared to Bio and Stixxay. Bjergsen might also have a slight edge on Huhi, though we’ve yet to see the OG NA Aurelion Sol, and Bjerg has also shown comfortable on roaming mids last week as Taliyah vs. Ryu’s TF. I’m almost expecting this game to be lost by whoever makes the first major mistake, since both squads are likely to play low-risk considering a win would move them significantly up the standings. I’m going to bet TSM can find a weak point in CLG and push to a victory, but I wouldn’t completely count out someone on CLG having a carry performance or a crazy teamfight if the game goes late.
Winner: Team SoloMid
Team Liquid vs. Echo Fox
Winner: The last of what should be a star-studded game to watch this week will likely have an explosive early game, since both teams won’t just be looking to scale into lategame. Liquid seems to have a slight advantage in top and bot, though Fenix actually has better stats currently than Pobelter. Dardoch only has a small lead on Xmithie, though they’ve both been playing well around their teams early to create advantages. It’s likely this game could be decided by early jungle pressure, whether or not ganks are successful they will give room for each team’s lanes to build advantages. FOX has looked rougher in recent games, overreaching in teamfights last week vs. OpTic, while Liquid has displayed clean teamwork throughout their games. I’m giving the advantage to Liquid here, though FOX was able to beat C9 I don’t think Liquid would fall as easily.
Winner: Team Liquid
OpTic Gaming vs. Clutch Gaming
Winner: Both teams will be looking for a key win here since they’ll likely be competing with FlyQuest for the last playoff slot. I’m going with Clutch here, since OpTic has seemed a bit too unstable compared to Clutch. Unless LirA has a really off game, this game will probably be decided by which of the EU mids can get an advantage on the other, either through jungler ganks or roaming to a sidelane.
Winner: Clutch Gaming
I’ve also been a fan of LCK since Winter 2013, so while it’s a lot of work to have in-depth analysis on two regions, I enjoy being able to check in on my predictions. While NA’s standing have somewhat resulted in three or four tiers of teams, TSM and CLG have begun to ascend from the middle of the pack, and we could end up with a strong top half of the table in NA. Alternatively in Korea, everything is coming up King-Zone. After winning the 2017 Summer Split and falling short at worlds, King-Zone (then Longzhu) made an upgrade from Cuzz (who’s still a strong jungler) to Peanut after his time on SKT. With now three members of the original Tigers lineup, King-Zone has 2-0’d nearly every team other than KSV, who have recently looked inconsistent against ROX earlier this week and Kongdoo in week two. Afreeca has also looked stronger this year, which is a pleasant surprise after MaRin taking a break from pro play, and SKT slumping has made for some interesting results, since the meme “can SKT still make playoffs” might actually come true this split. While most of this weeks games are already completed, since LCK runs Tuesday-Thursday and then Saturday and Sunday, I will cover the remaining games from this weekend.
Saturday, February 10
Jin Air Green Wings vs. King-Zone DragonX
Winner: While Jin Air is still running the longest game time in LCK, and Teddy has looked strong so far this season, one star player is nowhere near enough to stand against the relentless assault that King-Zone’s five star players will dish out. Though Jin Air has been running a positive gold difference at 15 minutes, King-Zone has been more than doubling the rest of the league, as well as closing out games in an average of 35 minutes, a whopping ten minutes faster than Jin Air. Unless Teddy can somehow carry this game 1v9, King-Zone likely won’t be challenged until they play Afreeca again in week five.
BBQ Olivers vs. MVP
Though BBQ does have one more match win these teams are still relatively close in most of their statistics. BBQ has looked more consistent however, since MVP’s only win was a surprising upset, even against a slumping SKT. BBQ should be able to win the match here, though they should aim for a 2-0 if they want to make any significant progress towards a playoff slot.
Winner: BBQ Olivers
Sunday, February 11
SK Telecom vs. KSV eSports
Both of these teams have been slumping lately, KSV last week and SKT’s new roster struggling all split so far, so this could be SKT’s chance to show their growth. SKT is still relying too much on Faker currently, and haven’t been able to control side waves well enough to stall until they can find an advantageous late game fight. If KSV returns to form, expect their clean macro to influence the games in their favor. Unless SKT’s side lanes can step it up, KSV will likely find an easy 2-0 here to remain at the top to challege Afreeca and King-Zone.
Winner: KSV eSports
Kongdoo Monster vs. kt Rolster
I will not get excited about KT. Even if Kongdoo has the worst gold difference at 15 and KT is second only to King-Zone. As long as KT doesn’t have a lapse in judgement in champ select or Score fails to track Kongdoo’s jungler, KT should be able to build an early advantage and push it to a fast victory. I would love to see KT break out kindboy Rush or give Ucal some stage experience against some of the lower teams on the standings, but every game win will be important to reach a higher stage in playoffs with how strong King-Zone look as the likely first seed.
Winner: kt Rolster
TL;DR: Winners in Bold
Saturday Feb 10
TSM v Clutch
C9 v Liquid
OpT v CLG
100T v Fly
FOX v GGS
Jin Air v King-Zone
BBQ v MVP
Sunday Feb 11
Fly v C9
GGS v 100T
TSM v CLG
Liquid v FOX
OpT v Clutch
SKT v KSV
KM v KT