The surprise team over the last few months, ESC Ever shocked the world by winning the KeSPA Cup back in November. They beat world champions SKT and looked impressive throughout the tournament. They then followed this win up by clinching the IEM Cologne title, beating out Qiao Gu Reapers and some top western teams.
The general consensus appears to be one of failure for Ever. However, I believe people are overestimating the effect the loss of mid laner Kang "Athena" Ha-woon will have. He was never an integral part of the team, and their willingness to team fight 24/7 using global ultimates should still be in effect. I foresee Ever being a dark horse in this tournament, with others once again underestimating them on an international stage.
One of the most well known brands in League of Legends history, TSM comes with a new roster compared to last season. Only keeping Bjergsen and acquiring stars like Svenskeren, Doublelift, and Yellowstar the team had high hopes. Of course they can manage to get second place in the NA LCS, but that is not the problem I want to mention. The team is something like LGD in the LPL – it has a lot of talent but lacks synergy and leadership. The team does not have any top/jungler synergy compared to other regions like LPL or LCK. That is where other competitors in this IEM Katowice tournament will strive and have an advantage. It also seems that Doublelift and Yellowstar are often not on the same page in early game or rotations. However Bjergsen is the main carry of the team and Svenskeren helps him to be one, so this is the spot where TSM is really good, and probably better than most of the teams in the tournament.
Nevertheless, one player doesn't win all games and TSM doesn’t shine in teamfights either, as they can’t decide whom to focus, what to pressure or what objective to force in order to win. It is also not beneficial when Regi is very demanding and changing coaches over and over. That is why TSM have slim chances to reach semi-finals and most likely will drop in the first round, and end their run in IEM Katowice.
The IEM San Jose winners and World Championship semi-finalists, Origen enter the tournament with a lot of pedigree. However, a rough regular season has thrown up some questions about their style and synergy. With strong players at every role, Origen should definitely be doing better at the moment, and they have never really appeared to adapt well post the IEM San Jose patch.
xPeke's team currently lies in 6th place in the EU LCS, and I don't think they will do much in this tournament. Victories against Ever and RNG look unlikely, although it could be a chance for Origen to find some opportunities to improve. TSM is beatable and should be Origen's focus for the tournament.
Royal Never Give Up
After a rough last season, RNG came back with a lot of roster changes. Namei, inSect, Looper, Mata – these are the main new stars of the team. What is interesting is they are as dominant even without starting all of the stars and using last year’s players such as MIxg or wuxx. Currently RNG is tied for second with iG in Group B and Snake in Group A with two losses. RNG is built on the way current meta plays out – fast push and snowballing in all the lanes. Although they sometimes have troubles with delivering such strategy, the team is very well coordinated in rotations after changing turrets or other objectives, which gave them a victory over QG last week.
What is worth noting is the whole LPL league is playing on the previous patch and only had one week of practice on 6.3 while others like CLG, Fnatic or Origen had played on it for several weeks. Yes, IEM will be played on 6.4 so all of the teams will be fresh on the new patch, but it is not a severe change from 6.3 so QG and RNG might have more problems if they did not manage to adapt to new power picks. RNG, if everything goes to their plan, should reach semi’s, however probably would lose to either QG or SKT T1 depending on who they meet. Of course, we are assuming who is going to reach these points so everything is relative.
SK Telecom T1
The current world champions maintained the majority of their roster, losing only Marin and Easyhoon. Replacing them was not the hardest task, as they got Duke to stand in top lane and rookie Scout for a sub in mid lane. However, the latter left the team a few weeks ago. Not the end of the world, but the team is struggling nevertheless. The main reason for this is the removal of green wards. Vision is the key aspect in all seasons, but in this it is even more crucial. That is where SKT T1 has problems, as Bengi cannot provide enough vision and impact the game with dps as he used to. Now almost 100% of the cases is Tracker’s Knife. Therefore, damage passives or actives do not apply as they used to before.
Another reason for SKT T1 struggle is the top/jungle synergy they had last season. Last year, Bengi provided enough help for Marin and gave him advantages over enemy top lane. Now, even though Duke is a mechanically good player and can be a carry player, he does not have the same synergy with the jungler as Marin. Moreover, the meta we have now is rather unpredictable. There are few key champions like Nidalee, Kalista or Fiora as main snowballers in current meta and almost 100% pick/ban champions. Bengi probably is not the best Nidalee player, so that is also a problem for SKT T1.
Finally, the pace of the game where basically one mid game fight can lose the game, is not beneficial to SKT T1 either. They like to build up the power, play smart and keep the pace of the game in their hands. However, they most of the time end up in gold deficit, lack of map pressure and overall damage.
Nevertheless, they are still one of the favourites in IEM, even with the troubles they have. LCK is the strongest region, so even standing in sixth place still doesn't mean too much trouble for SKT T1. For this event they are bringing substitute jungler Blank, who is also a rookie, so this tournament will give him a lot of beneficial experience. Predictions would be to win IEM, with being in the top 4 is almost 100% probability.
Counter Logic Gaming
'A Tier'. A strong and consistent run in the NA LCS coupled with CLG becoming the first team to defeat Immortals has resulted in huge over hyping. It is extremely unlikely CLG can win this event and in my opinion would require multiple upsets against stronger opponents.
Unlike the CLG of old, this new roster seeks to out-macro their opponents, using correct resource allocation and split pushing to achieve victory. I don't think this can work against heavy macro Asian teams, and some of CLG's mechanical weaknesses might be a risk factor. CLG can definitely beat Fnatic but need a huge upset to actually escape Group B.
The most successful Western team in history, Fnatic are going through a rough patch. The transition after the world championship hit them hard, and they currently reside in 5th place in the EU LCS. The team looks disjointed, with Lee "Spirit" Da-yoon looking to be on a totally different page than the rest of the team.
While I hope Fnatic can pull it together, something tells me it is still too soon to see a miracle run. Beating TSM should be a decent enough result but I can't see an upset win over SKT or QG happening. Fnatic should be using this tournament to give their roster international experience, and should be entering with a mindset for the long term.
Qiao Gu Reapers
Currently QG is in first spot in the LPL and were undefeated until last week’s match with RNG. The team maintained the core of the team by signing Uzi and dade as subs to the team - a clear upgrade and really good substitutes when team runs into a problem. QG is based on a team fighting mentality. There is no other stronger team than QG in this aspect and they can punish opponents even when in a gold deficit. However, they tend to lose to teams who have very snowballing compositions. LPL is full of amazing and well known players, but some teams struggle to pull it together, therefore the current QG position might not reflect their true potential.
Back to the strong points, teams like CLG, who rely on Darshan’s split push, might hit the wall really hard, as QG rather farm hard on all lanes than pushing and leaving an open lane. QG will most likely go to semi’s and depending on the opponent, they can go to the final.
Group A: #1 RNG, #2 Ever
Group B: #1 SKT, #2 QG
Group A: #1 RNG, #2 Origen
Group B: #1 SKT, #2 QG
Images courtesy of lolesports
League of Legends Editor at SK Gaming from 10/2014 -
Nerd since 1996 and committed to helping the growth of e-Sports in anyway possible!
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Currently Reading BA English and Sports Science at Loughborough University
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