The 2016 OPL season has got off to a shaky start for last year’s champions, The Chiefs, going down in the second week to Dire Wolves – bringing last year’s champs ten-month win streak to an end.
Though the Chiefs started the series with a win, it was less than commanding. Chiefs struggled to deal with Dire Wolves’ poke composition and it took close to 50 minutes for the Chiefs to destroy their oppositions nexus. The game also featured a stand-out early game play from Dire Wolves’ Jungler Sybol, schooling OCE Allstar Raydere with a ‘cool guys don’t look at explosions’ moment, diving Raydere beneath his second tier turret then killing him with an auto attack followed by red buff burn as he skittered away on Elise.
The Dire Wolves also consistently out farmed the Chiefs, turning the gold into a valiant defence. This effort carried across to the next two games where the Dire Wolves finished the game off the back of a perfect engage from Sybol on Zac, hitting all five Chiefs members with a beautiful Elastic Slingshot and ultimate. This performance snowballed into the third game where the Chiefs failed to find an answer to Phantiks Viktor and Sybols amazing Zac engages, resulting in an astonishing upset for the title holders.
The other prime matchup last week was team Legacy versus Avant Garde. As predicted by many, Legacy took the series in a convincing manner winning two games in a row. Carbon showed his prowess and skills on Rek’Sai, constantly applying pressure to all lanes giving Avant Gard no room to breathe. Game two was less convincing than the first game as Avant Gard showed signs of life, taking a kill lead around the seventeen-minute mark due to Wrekts excellent Leblanc play. Unfortunately for Avant, this lead wouldn’t hold as ChuzChuz’s mid Gangplank and Tally’s top Ryze clawed back into the lead by making incredibly aggressive plays off the back of Avant’s mistakes.
The rest of the week resulted in Hellions showing off their Korean imports defeating Infernum 2-0 and Sin Gaming taking down Trident in back to back games.
Immortals remain the team to beat in the NA LCS, continuing their dominating streak by rolling over Renegades and Echo Fox – the two weakest teams in the North American split. In the words of former team Liquid support player Xpecial, “Immortals are so good it’s scary…” and there’s no sign that this form of dominance is anywhere near ending. This upcoming week poses a greater threat for Immortals as they play both Team Liquid and CLG, but if I was a betting man I wouldn’t be putting my money on an upset.
NRG started the week by losing against Team Liquid but surprised most on day two by out drafting and outplaying Team Solo Mid. A composition consisting of KonKwon on Janna and GBM on Zilean made it nearly impossible for TSM to make any picks or solid engages. As a result, TSM suffered an absolute stomping, not picking up a single kill in the 32 minute game.
The middle pack of teams evened out during this week, finally separating the heard into three distinct tiers. Team Liquid found their first perfect week thanks to amazing play from Piglet and Fenix and CLG picked up easy wins against the weak teams of the split, Echo Fox and Renegades.
The biggest surprise of this week though has to go to Team Impulse who have completely made me, and many others, look like fools. I said on social media early this year that Team Impulse wouldn’t pick up a single victory. Boy was I wrong. Not only have they won once, they’ve actually managed to keep an even record despite requiring multiple substitutions nearly every week. Their victory against Dignitas means Gate has now won three consecutive games in the NA LCS in three different positions. Dignitas still fail to impress, going 0-2 against C9 and TIP. The only positive coming out of Dignitas’s camp is that Shiptur consistently seems to play well despite being surrounded by a losing team.
The games in this week’s European LCS separated the wheat from the chaff and gave clear sight of each teams power rankings. H2K continue to dominate with smart play despite having to substitute their mid, Ryu, due to visa problems and G2 surprised us all by wiping the floor with both Fnatic and Unicorns of Love. This was meant to be G2’s most challenging week so far but they managed to make it seem easy, thrashing both Fnatic and Unicorns of Love with commanding victories. Perkz, G2’s mid laner, showed incredible skill on Corki picking it in both games ending his weekend with a KDA of nearly 15. Tricks and Emperors’ aggressive play can also be attributed to G2’s dominant performance, giving room for Perkz to fly in and bombard FNC and UOL. If any European teams learnt anything this weekend, it’s that you don’t let Perkz pick Corki.
The ‘super team’ Vitality looked everything but super this weekend, performing poorly against H2K and destroying Giants (which is expected as the Giants have yet to win a game this split), ending the week 4-2. Kasing and Hjarnan have looked shaky the last two weeks and have had to rely extremely heavily on their mid laner Nukeduck, whose play has been solid this split.
UOL showed both positives and negatives this weekend. They managed to defeat Elements comfortably only giving two kills away to MrRallez’s Lucian, winning the game in a respectable 26 minutes. Their next game also started in a positive manner but quickly turned on its head. After taking a three kill lead UOL attempted to make a pick on Kikis’s Poppy as he wondered his lower side jungle. This resulted in a massive outplay by Kikis who ulted away Unicorns mid laner Fox out of the fight, baiting the engage giving his team time to counter engage. The play was beautifully timed and really shifted the momentum of the game. Despite being able to secure a Baron after this disastrous fight Unicorns of Love still couldn’t match G2’s strength.
This weekend also reinforced what we all kind of figured out last week, Roccat and The Giants are terrible. Roccat, who at least have one win, were destroyed by both Origen and H2K whilst Giants again had an abysmal week taking their record to 0-5. This weekend was perhaps the best chance for them to snatch a win against Splyce, but they failed that, feeding midlaner Sencux a 10-0-5 game and an easy win.
What is SKT doing?! They’ve shown that they’re not nearly as strong as they were last year, losing 1-2 to the ROX Tigers, who are now undoubtedly the best team in Korea and maybe even the world. SKT’s new top laner Duke constantly fails to impress, often timing his teleports poorly and being generally outplayed by other top players. SKT also looks undecided with what Jungler to use, switching out Bengi and Blank in hopes to claim a win. SKT did, however, manage to clutch a third game victory against e-mFire on Friday, leaving them with a mediocre 3-2 record coming into week 4. On the other side of the coin ROX Tigers look red hot, showing a wide variety of champions and a new reactive playstyle lead by their Jungler and recent recruit, Peanut. This play style has breathed fresh life into the ROX Tigers and has given them an impressive 5-0 start.
Nipping at ROX’s heels is the 5-1 Jin Air Greenwings and 3-1 KT Rolster. Both teams have displayed incredibly methodical tactics, rarely giving kills and only fighting when they know victory is assured. The next two weeks should be very interesting and we shall see if the ROX Tigers can remain undefeated. The middle of the Korean Ladder is a muddle consisting of potential challengers like Longzhu Gaming (2-2), Samsung Galaxy (3-3), and struggling teams like Afreeca Freecs (1-4), CJ Entus (1-3), and e-mFire (1-3). Besides e-mFire, who gave an admirable crack at beating SKT taking them to a game 3, no improvement can be seen. Fortunately for these teams they’re not the worst team in Korea. No, that spot goes to Sbenu Sonicboom who has slipped all the way to a 0-5 start.
It’s evident from their series against Afreeca Freecs that Sbenu are having trouble drafting and playing as a cohesive unit. AF abused these flaws denying SSB the chance to get picks like Rengar and Tristana fed and closed them out in two 40 minute games. Hopefully Sbenu can mend some of these issues this week, though its greatly doubtful they’ll defeat their upcoming opponents, SKT Telecom T1.