I’m back! It took me a bit longer with Revive being removed from the game, but despite this extended absence, I’m back from the dead. Just in time, too. I’ve cried out most of my disappointment from North America’s performance this year, and I’m willing to look at this tournament with a slightly less biased lens now. Seeing as we’re down to the final three series until the World Champions are crowned this year, let’s take a look at the remaining matches (and a brief glance at the C9 vs WE game, because hey, I’m most familiar with NA teams).
Starting chronologically, let’s take a look at the first matchup- SKT T1 vs. RNG. Looking at this semifinal match last year, and people would call you crazy for even discussing it seriously. SKT would have looked poised to close out 3-0 with ease. This year, however, RNG is an entirely different animal. They’re looking sharp, their macro is clean, and most importantly: they have Uzi. In a meta dominated by botlane performances and adc powerhouses, Uzi is in prime position to propel RNG into the finals. The influence of a winning midlane remains impactful, but simply does not hold the priority that it has in years past. So while Faker and SKT can still reliably use their mid power to exert some degree of influence over the game, I don’t see it keeping up with RNG’s botlane. Despite Bang’s skill in his own right as a potent force from the bottom of the map, he- like most of SKT this tournament- has looked uncharacteristically vulnerable. Even against a botlane regarded as less than exemplary against C9 (Sneaky in lane right?) Bang and Wolf didn’t jump out to any startling advantages. And against a team like RNG who can win entirely on the back of Uzi, SKT needs to do much better if they’re going to have a chance.
Disregarding individual points of power this series, SKT has been looking shaky as a team overall. Despite some seemingly impossible comebacks as they snatch victory from the jaws of a rabbit (rip MSF, I’ll always love you), SKT looks more vulnerable than they have in years. Even against C9 SKT didn’t look dominant in their second game. Barely stealing victory on the back of Huni’s immaculate split pushing game, they were out-teamfought during the late game. While much of this can be attributed to not having a comp designed for teamfighting, I expected a squad like SKT to not be in that position at all given their draft. They allowed themselves to be drawn into fights, and against a squad with better macro understanding than C9 I don’t see SKT getting away with it. RNG has been demonstrating their total awareness of the game across all stages, and given the dominance they can push through the bottom lane, jungler influence could be the deal breaker. This means that Peanut- who has received some criticism for looking more passive than ordinary, will need to step up big if SKT wants to weather the storm that is Uzi. In the end, I see SKT putting up a fight, albeit a limited one. 3-1 for RNG.
SSG vs WE: No, this isn’t me wanting vengeance for NA. No, I’m not automatically favoring KR (see RNG victory above). And no, I’m not still upset that C9 didn’t get through (okay 100% wrong but I’s been two days). SSG are just a better all-around team than WE. C9, regarded by many as among the bottom three teams in quarterfinals, took WE to 5 close games. And looking at how they did it, SSG can do the same, but better. While Sneaky and Smoothie played above expectations to match much of Mystic’s damage, SSG can do the same plus some, with Ruler being no slouch in his own right. Across the rest of the team, however, is where the discrepancies really show. WE likes to play through Mystic. Everyone knows this. But by punishing the other lanes, SSG can keep Mystic’s support staff held back enough to take him out. Don’t be C9- if SSG keep Xiye and 957 off of powerful adc enablers (ahem, Galio), then they can exploit WE’s weakness as a team. Crown looks in top form after absolutely popping off against Bdd, and Ambition has reclaimed the spark which appeared to have faded during group stage. Ambition, for me, is one of SSG’s best paths to victory. In every game that C9 either won or jumped out to a quick lead in, Contractz significantly outpaced Condi in the early game. Ambition, playing at the world-class level he displayed against LZ, should be poised to do the same. If he can deny Condi from helping botlane, and either allow Crown to roam down or gank himself, SSG should have a clear road to shutting out Mystic and taking the series. While I’m expecting a straight by-the-books meta matchup from SSG, WE might alter it a little. They are the ones, after all, who brought Caitlyn onto the Worlds’ stage. After seeing the strategy crash and burn against C9- and stomping it from C9 in the final game- I’m not expecting too much innovation from either team. SSG looks like they can play a well-rounded series better than WE can lean on Mystic, so I have to say 3-0 in favor of SSG.
Agree? Disagree? Tweet @oddbaal or leave a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts