LoL Season 3 World Championships: Quarterfinal Preview
By Dat FireflyMon 23rd Sep 2013 - 2:05am Category: League of Legends
League of Legends Season 3 World Championships : Quarterfinal Preview
The wheat has been separated from the chaff, the group stages are over and we now have the 8 teams that will be participating in the quarterfinal bracket. Without further adieu let's break down our 4 Quarterfinal matchups.
Cloud 9 HyperX (#1 NA Seed)
fnatic (#1 EU Seed)
A dream matchup for many, this first quarterfinal game will match the best of Europe with the best of North America in a fascinating battle. fnatic were dominant in Group B, only dropping one game (to North America's Vulcun) and impressively taking out both Korea's Samsung Ozone and Russia's Gambit Gaming 2-0. xPeke has been the star man for fnatic, leading the GPM charts with an impressive 422. fnatic's bot lane duo of Yellowstar and Puszu were seen to be the weak link of the team coming into the tournament, but they have silenced their critics with a series of imposing performances, leading them to be #2 and #3 in the KDA chart respectively. fnatic are an experienced team (4/5ths of the team were at the Season 1 World Championships, though only xPeke and Cyandie were on the fnatic team that was victorious) and have a slew of strategies that they can produce to suprise an opponent in a best of 3 series.
Cloud 9 remain a darkhorse team that no one is quite sure of how good they are. Yes, they dominated the North American scene with a combined 30-3 record over the regular season and playoffs and while the North American teams performed admirably over the group stage games, none of them were able to progress, leaving many to question the overall strength of the region. Nonetheless, Cloud 9, as their record suggests, are much more of a solid team and do not make many of the same mistakes that plagued both TSM and Vulcun in the group stages. Cloud 9's star player is their jungler, Meteos and he has been talked about as someone who may have an exploitable style in that he prefers to farm over gank, but it will be up to fnatic to take advantage of that.
Both fnatic and Cloud 9 have many similarities but just as many differences in their playstyle. Both teams prefer the support oriented bot lanes and both are proponents of the Ashe-Zyra lane in particular which will most likely be contested in the picks and ban phase. While the bottom lane may be similar, the other lanes play out much different. Cloud 9 prefers strong laners with good teamfight skills such as Rumble, Zed and Kennen, while fnatic are likely to try to put xPeke on to an assassin such as Fizz or Ahri and SoAz on a tank (usually Zac) or an another assassin as the teamcomp dictates. Cyanide and Meteos play much different styles, Cyanide tends to play the more conventional ganking style of jungler, while Meteos is infamous for farming up a huge amount farm for a jungler and using his midgame strength to dominate teamfights. However both Cyanide and Meteos have good objective control and are very good at smiting dragon and baron.
Cloud 9 2-1. Though this could easily go either way, I'm confident in Cloud 9's planning, overall strategy and execution of those strategies. I do believe this will be a very tight series and a handful of plays could swing the entire momentum of the matchup.
Najin Black Sword (#1 Korean Seed)
Gambit Gaming (#3 EU Seed)
Two of the major storylines of the tournament so far will collide in this matchup between the Russian stalwarts Gambit Gaming and OGN Winter Champions Najin Black Sword. Gambit Gaming emerged over Samsung Ozone in a tiebreaking matchup, while Najin Black Sword are on paper the #1 Korean seed, few believe they are the strongest Korean team at the tournament. Gambit showed off some of their traditional strength at LAN events, as well as their inconsistency in the group stage - they were only able to advance to the tiebreaker due to a moment of madness from Vulcun in a game the North American team had well in hand. Najin Sword reached their peak in Champions Winter when they defeated Azubu Frost (now CJ Entus Frost) 3-0, yet afterwards they were bounced by CJ Entus Frost in the Quarterfinals of OGN Spring and eliminated in the group stage in the most recent OGN season. They were only able to get to the World Championship, due to strong performances in the NLB League, essentially the losers bracket of the OGN tournament. While the Korean team is not lacking in talent, one must wonder if they are ready to step up on the world stage and compete with the world's best.
Gambit Gaming are one of the few 'western' teams that has a strong record against Korean teams, everyone remembers when they toppled both Azubu Blaze and Frost back to back at IEM Katowice in January, and with the myth of Korean superiority being shattered in the group stages, Gambit will likely fancy their chances against Najin Sword. Sword's biggest strength is their botlane - both PraY and Cain are considered a top level bot lane in Korea, though below the likes of Piglet/Mandu and Score/Mafa. Expession has been hyped as one of the best toplaners in Korea and has showed it at times, but does seem to live in the shadow of MaKNoon, who departed to KT Rolster A. SSONG and watch are both solid players that could have their moments against Gambit. One thing to note about Najin Black Sword is that they seem to lack a definite playstyle and haven't found one that worked since MaKNooN left. They've had a month of practice since their loss in OGN Summer and have not had to reveal much as their most common scrim partner is sister team Najin Shield, so at the very least they will have had time to form new strategies. Whether they will be ones that are effective is another story.
Gambit Gaming were one of the best teams in Season 2 but were shaky for long periods in Spring and Summer LCS, however at the Finals they have regained some of their traditional strength and are again one of the teams that can surprise anyone in a series. The strength of Gambit is well known - it's Alex Ich in the mid lane and Diamondprox in the jungle, both of which have the ability to carry games and produce moments of magic in teamfights. Darrien, the traditional whipping boy of the team who has a tendency to feed even in games Gambit wins, has been playing extremely well lately and that will be scary for Najin Sword, because when he is on his game, Darrien is one of the best top laners in the world. Genja and Voidle in the bot lane have had their ups and downs in the group stage, with Genja breaking out one of his old favourites in Kog'Maw with a new twist - Trinity Force, which has proved extremely effective. However when that champ has been denied to him, his results have ranged from good (on Corki) to poor (on Varus) so securing Genja his Kog'Maw or Corki may be key for Gambit against Sword.
Gambit Gaming 2-1. So many unknowns here. Which Gambit will we see, the one that crushed Samsung Ozone or the one that needed a gift from Vulcun to win a game? How good are Najin Black Sword after so long between competitive games? I'll take the more known Gambit team to take a narrow victory.
SK Telecom T1 (#3 Korean Seed)
Gamania Bears (#1 Taiwan Seed)
SK Telecom T1 was the pick of many to win the entire tournament and while they had their setbacks including dropping a game to Chinese team OMG, SK Telecom T1 have been the real deal, displaying excellent individual skills and cohesive teamcomps. Faker has truly emerged as the biggest star, perhaps in all of League of Legends with mindblowing plays every time he steps into a game. Gamania Bears qualify in the same position that Taipei Assassins did last year and we all know how that turned out (They won the whole tournament) but Gamania Bears are not TPA. Gama Bears are a young team that does exhibit a fair amount of potential, but with the Taiwanese scene rocked by the collapse of TPA there is very little way to tell how good this team is. However, they have very little pressure coming into this match and only have to win a bo3 to cause the biggest upset of the tournament. In fact, Gamania Bears were placed as a 5 to 1 underdog by odds makers, but those voting with their wallet have already moved the line down to 4.6 to 1 indicating that there is some faith in the Bears.
SK Telecom T1 have been very impressive so far and you can see why they are such a feared team. They have Faker in midlane who seems like he can win every matchup and even has brought out new picks like Riven mid to counter the ever popular Zed. Yet, it's not a one man team, in fact each of their 'role' players has had moments of glory so far. Piglet is the Scottie Pippen to Faker's Michael Jordan, and if by some miracle Faker gets shut down in midlane, Piglet can be expected to pick up the slack on his favourite picks, Caitlyn and Vayne. Impact has been dismissed as a 'utility' player but it's his ability to play many different champions that gives SK Telecom excellent flexibility in the picks and bans phase. Mandu has been Piglet's constant companion on support and while he hasn't been playing at his absolute best there is plenty of time to do so. Bengi has been solid as ever, he's had some off games, but SK Telecom does not him to achieve miracles, only consistent play. SK Telecom is a nightmare to try to ban out. You can't ban out Faker, but his Ahri and Zed are legendary which means that you probably don't want to give him either of those, which will most likely lead to Piglet one of his best champs and open up the ability for SK Telecom to search for counter-picks in the picks and bans phase.
Gamania Bears don't play anything particular special. As RIOT's own preview of Gamania Bears notes, the Bears tend to play a pretty standard style, looking to grind out small advantages over the course of the game to bring home victory successfully. Whether or not they feel the need to take more risks against SK Telecom remains to be seen, but they are a team that if they can carve out an early game advantage, they can snowball to victory. One also has to wonder if their relative youth and general lack of LAN experience will hinder them as this is their first international LAN and the biggest stage they would have ever played upon.
SK Telecom 2-0. The overall talent and flexibility of SKT is just too much for a team this inexperienced to handle
Royal Club (China #1 Seed)
OMG (China #2 Seed)
The only match that will see two teams from the same region compete against each other, sets the stage for a contest over who the top Chinese team really is. OMG were the Kings of the regular season having taken 1st in the LPL Spring Playoffs and the LPL Summer Regular season, but falling to Royal Club at the Chinese Regionals. So the question being asked is if Royal Club can repeat that result or will OMG claim once and for all the title of #1 Chinese team.
Royal Club are a team that everyone should watch when they have the time. They are known for their Fizz mid + Annie support comp which will probably be banned by OMG having lost the one game that they allowed Annie through in the Chinese regionals. The strength of Royal Club is their botlane with Uzi and Tabe being one of the world's premier bottom lane duos. Uzi is one of the best mechanical AD carries in the world and follows in the footsteps of such well known Chinese carries like Weixiao and Kid. Royal Club has in the past played a 4-protects-1 comp in a similar way to the old CLG comps with Doublelift, though they haven't run such a strategy in a long time. Otherwise, Wh1t3zZ in mid lane is an absolute beast and his champion pool has never been stronger, with his longtime favourite, Fizz, now being one of the most popular midlane picks. Lucky and Godlike in the jungle and toplane respectively play much the same role that Bengi and Impact play for SKT, they are the 'watercarriers' of the team and expected to take a backseat to Uzi and Wh1t3zZ, however watch out for Godlike's Renekton as he is extremely proficient with that champion. In terms of playstyle Royal Club are kind of like OMG, except even more aggressive, their style is one of relentless pressure that would be surprising for many teams, but OMG will likely be prepared, considering their relative familiarity.
OMG were the darlings of the group stage with some fans even going so far as to create a fanclub for their jungler, Lovelin. Cool has been excellent, only really getting beaten by Faker, which is nothing at all to be ashamed of. San and bigPomelo were pointed out as a weakness of the team, but San has led the KDA charts with an impressive 15.1 a full 4.4 above #2 and has played very well in the group stage. GoGoing has been impressive as well, playing a variety of champions each with aplomb. Lovelin has really been the player that has tied it all together, creating tons of early pressure across the map and just being a nuisance to the opposition in general, and it is his pressure that allows Cool and San to get going. What has impressed me is how OMG takes small advantages and just wins off of those advantages, including how they beat SK Telecom in the group stage.
OMG 2-1. This is a very hard to predict series, but considering OMG has had time to get warmed up and Royal Club hasn't really travelled to many tournaments and in a series this close that could be what decides it.
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Alex 'Dat Firefly' Whiteman is a staff writer for Quantic. Follow me on Twitter