(All statistics are from the Summer Split and listed in relation to the player's position unless stated otherwise .)
The North American LCS Playoffs are right around the corner, I'm sure that all of you (minus anxious CLG fans who are faithfully thumbing their HotshotGG rosaries) are quite excited for the upcoming action. Starting this upcoming Saturday, the top six North American teams will be competing for a chance to participate in the finals at Madison Square Garden and secure the first available spot at Worlds. Quarterfinals will feature teams ranked 3rd through 6th in the Summer Season, while the teams who finished 1st and 2nd will receive byes into the Semifinals.
Team Impulse vs. Team Dignitas (Saturday, August 8th)
The first best-of-five series will feature 3rd place Team Impulse taking on 6th place Team Dignitas. These teams held a 1-1 record against each other during the Summer Split. However, Team Impulse is still recovering from losing its talented mid laner, XiaoWeiXiao, after allegations of elo-boosting were discovered to be true. Challenger Series player Gate was quickly recruited to fill in the vacant mid lane position, but his performance thus far has been lacking. Let's take a look at the exciting lane match-ups this series has to offer:
Top Lane – Impact vs. Gamsu
Impact – A force to be reckoned with, this former world champion has proven himself to be one of the best top laners in the region. Impact boasts the best KDA (5.4), 3rd highest average kill participation (72.4%) and highest damage per minute (383) out of all North American top laners. He is also second only to ZionSpartan in terms of CS differential at ten minutes and gold difference at ten minutes, and leads all North American top laners in gold earned per minute (226.5). Aside from these parameters, his teleports are some of the best North America has to offer.
Gamsu – While not the best top laner in North America, Gamsu is certainly skilled and capable of carrying. Overall, Gamsu's statistics aren't quite as impressive as Impact's; he's 5th in KDA (4.1), 2nd in average kill participation (73.9%) and 4th lowest in damage per minute (329) among his rival top laners. Interestingly enough, however, is that Gamsu has the lowest average death percentage out of any top laner, only constituting 18.0% of Dignitas' deaths. Worth noting as well is that Gamsu was instrumental to Dignitas' victory over Team Impulse this split – Gamsu ended the game 11/0/10 on Hecarim and dealt the most damage on his team.
Despite Dignitas being down 2k gold, Gamsu's superb teleport allows Dignitas to win a team-fight 3-0 and claim dragon.
Verdict - Team Impulse advantage. Impact is more experienced and certainly appears better on paper, but Gamsu is definitely capable of carrying should circumstances allow him a gold lead.
Mid Lane – Gate vs. Shiphtur
Gate - Despite TIP's 2-1 record with Gate, his performance has been mediocre at best. While his statistics aren't horrible, it's hard to form a complete picture from such a small sample size. Gate's weaknesses were most obvious in their most recent game versus Team Liquid. Gate was thoroughly dominated by Fenix during the early laning phase. This allowed TL to pick up first blood on Rush, who was relegated to protecting mid lane while Gate backed. While only one kill, Team Liquid was able to win the early game and amass a substantial lead off of the momentum this kill provided. Gate later made a critical positioning error and was caught out by himself in the mid lane, which allowed Team Liquid to claim a staggering three inhibitors.
Gate is caught out of position by Team Liquid.
Shiphtur – Luckily for Team Impulse, Team Dignitas' mid lane had a rather disappointing performance during the Summer Split. Out of all mid laners (excluding substitutes), Shiphtur had the worst CS differential at 10 minutes (-6.7), lowest damage to champions per minute (500), and is on the lower end in many other pertinent categories.
Verdict - No clear advantage. Gate's inexperience and weaknesses are mostly mitigated by Shiphtur's underwhelming performance in recent months. However, Gate has the potential to make a game-costing rookie mistake, as evidenced in the game against Team Liquid.
Jungle – Rush vs. Helios
Rush – Arguably the best jungler in North America, Rush is known for his extreme aggression. He held the most kills (75) out of any jungler during the Summer Season and also the 3rd highest number of deaths (56). Rush's average kill participation is the also 3rd highest at 76.3%. He lead all other North American junglers in CS differential at ten minutes, gold difference at ten minutes, damage per minute, average gold earned per minute and average of team's damage percentage. During Team Impulse's loss to Dignitas, Rush played Rek'sai; coincidentally, this was his only Rek'sai game during the Summer Split. Team Impulse's win against Dignitas featured Rush on Lee Sin, his most played champion during this split. While their loss to Dignitas was surely caused by a number of factors, one can't help but wonder how the game would have transpired had Team Impulse's key play maker been on one of his more comfortable champions.
Helios – Despite being a flat upgrade over Azingy, Helios is somewhat of a mixed bag. Helios had the worst KDA (2.5), average kill participation (63.1%), and CS per minute (2.7) of all North American junglers. He was also 2nd lowest in damage to champions per minute (195) and average gold earned per minute (151). The combination of low CS per minute and low damage to champions per minute is indicative of a very inefficient jungling style.
Verdict – Team Impulse advantage. Helios is absolutely outclassed by Rush. To be fair, however, Rush's signature aggression can sometimes work against him, and picking or banning some combination of Lee Sin, Nidalee and Evelynn could potentially prevent Rush from snowballing the game.
Bottom Lane – Apollo and Adrian vs CoreJJ and Kiwikid
Apollo and Adrian – Apollo is a very consistent, reliable marksman. While he boasts the 2nd best KDA of any North American marksman (7.3), he is average in just about every other category: 6th in average kill participation (75.2%), 10th in CS differential at ten minutes (-2.1), 9th in CS per minute (8.2), 8th in damage to champions per minute (500) and 7th in average percentage of team's damage to champions (25.9%). He is also 4th in average gold per minute (281.8) and 12th in average share of team's gold earned (24.5%). However, Apollo's positioning in team-fights is decent and he fulfills his role in Team Impulse. Meanwhile, Adrian leads the North American LCS in warding with an astounding average of 1.48 placed per minute. This is quite necessary, though, as Rush and Impact are some of the least frequent warding players in their respective positions. Also, Adrian's KDA of 5.6 places him above all other North American supports in this category.
CoreJJ and KiWiKiD - CoreJJ is another average marksman. He is ranked 6th highest in KDA (4.9), 5th in average kill participation (75.5%), 5th in CS differential at ten minutes (0.0), 12th in CS per minute (7.9), 7th in damage to champions per minute (509) and 4th in average percentage of team's damage to champions at 29.8%. He is also 10th in average gold earned per minute (241.9) and in average share of team's gold earned (25.6%). KiWiKid, unlike Adrian, is the lowest warding support in North America: he places an average of .95 wards per minute.
Verdict – Team Impulse advantage. While Apollo and Adrian are your typical, middle of the pack marksmen, Adrian outshines KiWiKiD in ward coverage by a mile. This lack of vision will surely be detrimental to Dignitas if they intend to stop Rush from snowballing lanes and making plays.
Final Prediction: Team Impulse 3-1 Team Dignitas
Team Impulse should be able to easily defeat Team Dignitas in this series. However, their success will be heavily dependent a number of factors: first, Rush's ability to snowball the game, as it's unlikely that any of Team Impulse's lanes (aside from top) will be able to create significant advantages for themselves; second, that Gate is able play safely and not make game-changing mistakes; third, that Team Impulse is able to capitalize on Dignitas' sub-optimal ward coverage; and lastly, that Rush is able to play Lee Sin, Evelynn or Nidalee. I am predicting the 3-1 because it's quite likely that Team Impulse drops a game due to Rush's over aggression, or to Gate erring at a critical moment.
Gravity vs. Team SoloMid (Sunday, August 9th)
The second series will pit 4th place Gravity against 5th place Team SoloMid, two teams who struggled at the end of the Summer Split. Gravity ended the split on a three game losing streak, while TSM went 2-5 in their last seven games. With that said, both teams managed to carve out six game win streaks during the Summer Split and are surely capable of correcting their faults – whether or not they do so in time for playoffs, though, remains to be seen. Let's take a look at the match-ups between these two teams.
Top Lane – Hauntzer vs. Dyrus
Hauntzer – Gravity's top laner has the 6th highest KDA (3.9), 4th highest average kill participation (70.2%), 4th highest damage to champions per minute (378) and 3rd highest percentage of team's damage to champions (21.3%) compared to other NA top laners. As far as income is concerned, Hauntzer is second only behind Impact in gold earned per minute (223.1). Despite being only 6th in average CS differential at ten minutes (-1.3), he is 3rd in gold difference at ten minutes (35.6); this points to his usefulness in early skirmishes and dives. He is also the third highest top laner in share of team's gold, earning on average 21.5% of Gravity's income. Hauntzer has proven himself to be a solid top laner and is definitely one of the most reliable players on Gravity.
Dyrus – While a thoroughly experienced player, Dyrus' performance has been somewhat lacking for a while now. He has the fourth highest KDA of all NA top laners (4.2), the 6th highest average kill participation (67.0%), 9th highest average damage to champions per minute (319) and percentage of team's damage to champions (17.5%). However, Dyrus recieves far less income than other top laners – he's 7th in CS differential at ten minutes (-1.6) and 9th in gold difference at ten minutes (-124.6). Furthermore, he is the third lowest top laner in terms of percentage of team's total gold earned (19.4%). This shouldn't be too surprising to anyone who is familiar with TSM as of late; Santorin is quite passive, and when he does apply pressure it's generally to help get Bjergsen ahead. Dyrus is definitely capable of performing well, but it is highly unlikely that TSM will allocate enough resources to ensure that this happens.
Verdict – Gravity advantage, simply because Dyrus will most likely be left to fend for himself.
Mid Lane – Keane vs. Bjergsen
Keane – Keane is a rather unique mid laner: among NA mid laners, he is 4th in CS differential at ten minutes (3.5) and gold difference at ten minutes (50.8). However, barring substitute players, Keane is only above Shiphtur and Gate in damage per minute (525), to last in share of Gravity's total damage to champions (28.3%) and total gold earned (23.2%). This shows that, despite having, on average, a reasonable lead on the enemy mid laner at the ten minute mark, his impact on the game is often inadequate. Keane is known for his unconventional picks and builds, and while that has certainly helped Gravity in some games, it has been detrimental in others. In Gravity's game versus Team Impulse in W9D1 of the Summer Split, Keane built Archangel's Staff, Athene's Unholy Grail, Void Staff and Mercurial Boots on Orianna. This build offered very little damage and Keane proceeded to go 1/4/1, sporting the lowest kill participation on his team. It could also be argued that Keane has failed to adapt to the current meta. Over the course of the last split, he didn't play a single game on Ezreal, Viktor or Varus, and only one game on Azir. Also worth noting is that in Gravity's loss to TSM this split, Keane fell prey to TSM's mid lane pressure; he ended lane phase with a score of 0/4/1.
Bjergsen – Undoubtedly North America's best mid laner, Bjergsen is TSM's main focus as he is the beneficiary of both Santorin's elusive ganks and Lustboy's roams. Bjergsen leads every other North American mid laner in CS differential at ten minutes (8.2), gold difference at ten minutes (160.6), damage per minute (756), share of team's total damage (42.5%) and total gold (27.2%). Not much more needs to be said about Bjergsen; he is an extremely talented and consistent player.
Verdict – TSM advantage. Keane isn't horrible; he's just unassuming compared to TSM's star mid laner. Bjergsen has also proven his ability to adapt to shifting metas, whereas Keane has not.
Jungle – Move vs. Santorin
Move – This Korean import is the second highest warding jungler in North America, averaging 1.18 wards per minute. He has the 8th highest KDA (3.1), 7th highest average kill participation (73.1%), 3rd highest damage per minute (301) and share of team's total damage (13.8%). He is also third lowest in share of team's total gold (16.4%), 7th in CS differential at ten minutes (-1.1) and 9th in gold difference at ten minutes (-81.0). Move's capacity to still deal large amounts of damage without requiring a significant gold allocation is quite impressive.
Santorin – A case study in safe jungling, this Dane touts the best KDA (9.0), 5th highest average kill participation (76.2%), 6th highest CS difference at ten minutes (-0.8), 5th highest gold differential at ten minutes (53.4) and the 8th highest share of team's total gold (17.0%). Santorin's passivity is best demonstrated through his damage statistics: he sits dead last in both damage to champions per minute (175) and share of team's total damage (9.9%). Santorin also wards less than most junglers – he places an average of 0.78 wards per minute, putting him at 9th in this category. While not an outright detriment to TSM, Santorin isn't nearly as proactive or impactful as he needs to be.
Verdict – Gravity advantage. Move is a more effective jungler than Santorin. He places more wards, deals more damage and is more aggressive. Move is able to accomplish this all while claiming a smaller share of his team's gold than Santorin.
Bottom Lane – Altec and Bunnyfufu vs. WildTurtle and Lustboy
Altec and Bunnyfufu – Altec has the 4th highest KDA (5.2), 10th highest average kill participation (71.4%), 9th in CS differential at ten minutes, 8th in gold differential at ten minutes (-43.3) and has the highest CS per minute (9.5) of any North American marksman. He is ranked 4th in damage per minute (570) and 1st in share of team's total damage to champions (31.1%) - much of this can be attributed to his skillful positioning in team-fights. Altec is also second in average gold earned per minute (297.9) and share of team's total gold (28.7%). Known for his Thresh prowess, Bunnyfufu is the second highest warding support in the NA LCS, placing on average 1.23 wards per minute. He also contributes the lowest share of team's deaths (20.4%) out of all North American supports.
WildTurtle and Lustboy – WildTurtle's performance this past split has been lackluster; he was even temporarily benched in favor of former Team Liquid substitute Keith. WildTurtle is ranked 8th in KDA (3.4), 9th in average kill participation (72.0%), dead last (barring substitute players) in CS differential at ten minutes and 10th in gold differential at ten minutes (-68.5). He is also 7th highest in average gold earned per minute (265.5) and 8th in share of team's total gold earned (26.4%). His damage statistics are even worse: he's ranked 11th in damage to champions per minute (405) and share of team's total damage to champions (24.2%). Top this off, he has made numerous critical positional errors in team-fights this split. Lustboy, however, is a great support – he's the 3rd in average wards place per minute (1.22) and 2nd in wards cleared per minute (0.33). His roams are usually effective, and he does a fairly good job of carrying WildTurtle.
WildTurtle flashes in, fails to secure the kill, and pays with his life.
Verdict – Gravity advantage. Altec is better than WildTurtle at this point in time, especially in terms of team-fight positioning. Lustboy is slightly better than Bunnyfufu, but this skill difference is mitigated by that of the marksmen.
Final Prediction: Team SoloMid 3-2 Gravity
This was a tough one. Aside from mid lane (and support, to a lesser extent), Gravity looks better on paper. However, Gravity's win against TSM during the Summer Split involved them employing a team composition designed to counter the newly-popularized Runeglaive Ezreal, which they purposely left open. Keane's peculiar champion pool and build paths are hit or miss – and they've been miss more often that not, as of late. The most significant factor for this prediction, however, is in Team SoloMid's historical successes in both playoffs and best-of-five series, where they have been able to adapt and adjust strategies to their benefit. Either way, these teams held a 1-1 record against each other in the Summer Split, making it somewhat unlikely that this series will be particularly one-sided.
Regardless of who wins or loses (and whether or not my predictions fail horribly), playoffs should prove to be chock-full of excitement and entertainment. Will Team Impulse find success with their new mid laner? Will TSM regain their former glory? Will CLG choke? Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Playoff Predictions – I'll be predicting the results of the Semifinals (and tilting more than one fanbase in the process).
If you enjoyed this content, follow the author for more on twitter at @NephilimPatrick. Photo credits to Riot Games. Statistics found on oracleselixir.com/