With playoffs fast approaching around the globe, we hit the moment where all work put since the start of the year will be put to test: who will claim the final playoffs spots and who will fail? Who will keep alive the hope of going to the Mid-Season Invitational on May and who will be forced to go on an early vacation?
But, with definitely way too many games going on (and likely not nearly as enough time to follow every single), I prepared a small list of the matches in the “Big 5” Leagues you will not be wanting to miss this week:
Starting in Korea, with 4 matches and 2 weeks to go, 5 teams are fighting for the final 2 playoffs spots – including the World Champion roster of KSV eSports, and SK Telecom T1. Both teams, especially the latter, are showing below average performances so far this season, and are at serious risk of not making to the playoffs at all. Whereas for Kingzone and KT Kolster, they will be fighting for first place, and the all-important spot to the finals in the match you really should not miss.
KZ v KT – March 15th – 4am PST / 12pm CEST
Yes, I repeat, if you want to watch the highest quality professional League of Legends has to offer at the moment, make sure to tune to Kingzone against KT Rolster on Thursday – even if it costs your sleep!
The best team in the world right now, Kingzone, led by Han “Peanut” Wang-ho and Gwak “Bdd” Bo-seong, destroyed SK Telecom T1 last week: with 35 kills against just 8 deaths in both games, they disgraced the former World Champions, being several classes higher throughout the entire affair. A well-balanced team in all roles, this is Kingzone’s time to shine, as they will be facing KT looking to lock their number 1 – and a spot in the Grand Finals of the 2018 LCK Spring Split.
But KT Rolster will be willing to stop that. Despite the loss last week to KSV, they also managed to convincingly beat SKT in the second Telecom Wars of the split, and will definitely be able to put a great fight in order to put themselves in the best position as possible coming to the playoffs.
KSV v SKT T1 – March 17th – 4am PST / 12pm CEST
Who could imagine KSV and SKT in this situation as we approach the end of the regular season? Fighting for survival in the Spring Split, they will play a highly tensed match on Saturday, where defeat can pretty much mean an early and undesired vacation for either organization.
SK Telecom, the 3-time World Champions, are in a particularly dire situation: with a 6-8 record, they are currently sitting in 7th place, one win behind the last playoff spot, currently held by the ROX Tigers. An unusually lost and uncreative side this split, the team have immense problems on the top and jungle positions, with none of the four players from the roster being able to deliver convincing performances. Superstar Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok is clearly overworked, and SKT cannot and should not depend solely on him if they want to keep their hopes alive.
Meanwhile, KSV are in a slightly better situation, but also are plagued by similar problems while not showing significant progress throughout the split. A silver lining however is the win over KT Rolster last week, where they managed to bring out their best showing of the split so far in one of the best series of the season. With that in mind, they will head to the match against SKT hoping to get one step closer to lock their playoffs spot.
The final week of the regular season approaches in the EU LCS, and the fight for the Top 6 couldn’t be more exciting: with only Fnatic and Splyce guaranteed to the playoffs, the other 8 teams have at least decent chances in reaching the playoffs. With many tie-breaker scenarios on the table, we may be for a long weekend in Europe.
Actually, you should sit watch all games, as every single one will be decisive and will have implications for the final standings. But if time is short, these two are good options:
Misfits v ROCCAT - March 16th – 12pm PST / 8pm CEST
One of the favorites for the first positions at the start of the split, the season has been not going as planned for Misfits. Despite the immense individual talent the roster offers, they suffer from many inconsistencies, ranging from weak macro play to a failure to adapt to new metas and tendencies. Coming from a disastrous Week 8, their first game of the final week against ROCCAT is a must win, otherwise they will be finding themselves watching the playoffs from home.
But like Misfits, this one is also a must win for ROCCAT. But unlike Misfits, just reaching playoffs would be a positive achievement for a side who entered the split expected to lurk around the bottom half of the standings. With a strong performance by jungler Jonas "Memento" Elmarghichi, the team managed to take down Vitality last week to keep their playoffs hope alive, and will be arriving highly motivated to surprise yet another favorite.
G2 Esports v Team Vitality - March 17th – 12pm PST / 8pm CEST
Very few could have expected this: Team Vitality entering the final week of the EU LCS Spring Split tied with the 4-time European Champions, the almighty G2 Esports. But that is exactly what happened.
Very inconsistent throughout the split – which is in part due to the near-complete revamped roster they are featuring this year – G2 will enter the final week under massive pressure following a terrible Week 8, where they lost to H2K and Schalke 04, technically the two worst teams of the league. With their spot at the playoffs now suddenly at peril, failing to win their final game of the regular season could be catastrophical for an organization so used to win on European soil.
For Vitality, despite not entering the split without much hype or excitement surrounding the team, failing to reach playoffs would also be a true Greek tragedy, as the team actually led the regular season for the most part of the split, only to fall as their playstyle became simply too predictable and less effectively applicable since Patch 8.3.
Moving over to China, things will be taking a little longer to be decided: with between 8 and 10 matches remaining for each team, everything still is open and much can happen. But obviously, the teams want to put themselves in the best situation as possible as we reach the final third of the regular split.
Team WE v Invictus Gaming – March 17th – 2am PST / 12am CEST
The best team in the LPL at the moment, Invictus Gaming only dropped 4 out of 25 games so far this split. With Korean legend Song “Rookie” Eui-jinduo in the midlane, and newcomer Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok – who benched former SKT member Lee “Duke” Ho-seong – as the team’s toplaner, their only loss was in the very first match this season, against Royal Never Give Up. With 10 wins in a row, they are undoubtedly the very best the LPL has to offer, and will be looking to make a new victim in their seemingly unstoppable quest for regional dominance.
Team WE will however not yield easily. Despite not having the most stable of the seasons, they are also on a respectable win streak of their own, having won their last 4 matches – but without a single one being against a top team. However, WE are a quality side of their own, and by fielding almost the same line-up who went up until the semi-finals at last Worlds – with support He “Celestial” Xin replacing Nam “Ben” Dong-hyun being the only change – they have more than enough experience to play (and perform) in high-stake matches just as this one against Invictus Gaming.
Snake Esports v Royal Never Give Up – March 18th – 4am PST / 12pm CEST
Sitting atop of the “West Region” group with a 2-game lead over EDward Gaming, Snake are in a relatively comfortable position going to the match against Royal Never Give Up. With star jungler Lê “SofM” Quang Duy, who holds the best KDA of the league with 11.2, they are looking as true contenders to finally win their first LPL title. But before that can happen, they need to keep the good momentum going, with the match against RNG being vital in their plans to secure first place.
But that won’t be easy. Coming from five wins a row following a mediocre start, Royal Never Give Up will be looking for blood against Snake. Following a big victory against eternal rivals EDward Gaming last week, they want to give continuation to the strong performances from the past weeks, and take down the leaders of the “West Region” group to start dreaming with a better placement in their own group as 2nd place is currently within a palm’s reach, with newcomers Rogue Warriors sitting just one game ahead.
Even if it is not as exciting as in Europe, in Los Angeles too, we are approaching the deciding moments of the split. Three (very) traditional organizations are fighting for the two remaining spots, with Team Liquid and TSM clearly on the upper hand – a single win will be enough to guarantee their presence at the playoffs – while Counter Logic Gaming need yet another perfect week and a good amount of luck to make their comeback perfect.
100 Thieves v Clutch Gaming - March 17th – 2pm PST / 10pm CEST
But before the old guard enters
the Rift to fight for playoffs, two new organization will battle each other on Saturday for something more than that: the chance to receive a bye directly into the semi-finals, which automatically mean a guaranteed trip to Miami for the Spring Split Finals.
Both 100 Thieves and Clutch Gaming are in a very good moment, sitting with a 6-2 record over the past 4 weeks, which make this match-up truly unpredictable. Yes, 100T won the first game between both, but come on, that was back in week 3, with both sides showing immense signs of improvement since then.
Which former H2K midlaner, Fabian "Febiven" Diepstraten or Yoo "Ryu" Sang-wook, will come out ahead this time?
Counter Logic Gaming v TSM - March 18th – 2pm PST / 10pm CEST
Perhaps the most traditional North American rivalry, with 8 NA LCS trophies across both organizations, Counter Logic Gaming and TSM could very well enter the Rift on Sunday in the unlikely position to play a decisive game in the fight for the playoffs.
Despite still having all odds against them, after yet another perfect week – with their most recent victims being none other than leaders Echo Fox - CLG will be entering the final week with high hopes to complete their miraculous and extremely unlikely run with a spot in the Top 6, following an abysmal start to the split.
But at the same time, TSM are also motivated: with 5 wins from their last 6 games, their star filled roster is finally coming together as a team. Mike Young is getting more and more comfortable on stage with the TSM jersey, which shows in his confidence-filled performances last week. And by having a more “stable” jungler, Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg has been able to also play much more comfortably and aggressively. And if Bjergsen can unlock everything he can, it normally means very bad news for TSM’s opponents.
ahq v G-Rex - March 15th – 1am PST / 9am CEST
Last, but not least, the LMS over in Taiwan. So far the season has been marked not only by Flash Wolves’ dominance – which is something as common as rain – but instead, by the rise of an unlikely contender. With a 7-2 record so far, G-Rex were the only team who took down the mighty Wolves so far this split, and with toplaner Hsieh "PK" Yu-Ting in charge, they will be looking for more than that. Maybe a trip to Europe in May?
But before that, they need to reinforce their status as the one and sole competitor for FW’s crown. And the opportunity comes this week, in a rematch against ahq, who actually managed to defeat them 3 weeks ago. If this time they manage to come out ahead, they will definitely prove that they will be more than worthy to hunt down the seemingly unbeatable Wolves.
On the other hand, ahq will be looking to improve their own record. Currently sitting at 4-5, they barely hold the final playoffs spot, and desperately need some wins to avoid having an abrupt end to their Spring Split campaign.
(Pictures courtesy of Riot Games and Inven)
Disclaimer: The following article was written freely based on the author's opinion, and it may not necessarily represent Inven Global's editorial stance.
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