How the underdogs may have a chance.
For the first time since 2015, a team other than Team Liquid, TSM, or CLG will lift the trophy at the end of the split. Cloud9 are the undisputed favourites to win and have already earned their Finals spot, and on April 18, Evil Geniuses and FlyQuest will play to decide their opponent.
In the offseason, many were convinced that C9 got the short end of the stick when it came to roster swaps. Trading over their MVP jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and Worlds semifinalist support Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam was seen as one of the lousiest deals heading into the Spring Split.
Their newly-formed roster looked “good”, but not one of the players had even won an LCS split before. In classic C9 fashion, however, they surprised onlookers and quickly became the most feared team in the LCS, nearly going undefeated throughout the regular season. And so far in playoffs, they’ve only dropped a single game.
EG or FLY will get the shot to challenge C9, but the thing is, do either of them have a legitimate path to victory? It’s clear that both rosters will need to heavily overperform, but some strict conditions must be met in both scenarios for either of them to swipe three games from C9 in such an important series.
The EG scenario
Evil Geniuses burst on the scene at the beginning of Spring looking to make enemies. Due to how solid their roster looked on paper, many predicted them to be a strong team, but they dragged their heels through the sand for most of Spring.
Near the end of the regular season, EG has had a resurgence. Not only have Colin “Kumo” Zhao and Daniele “Jiizuke” di Mauro stepped up their play tremendously, but ADC Bae “Bang” Junsik seems to have returned to form from his SKT days. They even managed to take a game from C9 during playoffs before getting knocked to the losers’ bracket.
To defeat C9 in the finals, however, it won’t be enough for EG to be playing at the level that was expected from them at the start. Assuming everyone is playing around C9’s level, they’ll need to enable Jiizuke by attacking mid early with Svenskeren’s help. As one of the best laners in the league, if he’s able to get off to a good start he’ll be able to use his lead to patch up mismatches in the side lanes and eventual split push.
Another key factor will be champion pools. If both of EG’s solo laners are able to show a willingness to use potent counter picks when the opportunities present themselves, it can give them flexibility in draft. The key players here will be Bang, Svenskeren, and Jiizuke. If both Bang and Jiizuke are playing at the peaks they’ve shown on the international stage, and Svenskeren uses his experience edge over Robert “Blaber” Huang, EG will force C9 to start adapting to them.
The FLY scenario
Despite being rated outside of playoff contention by most in the offseason, FLY maintained second place for a majority of the regular season, only bumping down near the end of the split.
As with all rosters he’s ever been on, almost all of FLY’s games have been the Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage show. He seems to carry his team over the finish line from the mid lane in some way shape or form every single game. Whether it be by maintaining stability throughout the game or hard smashing his opponent in lane.
The version of FLY that nearly secured second place in the regular season included Omran “V1per” Shoura in the top lane. Since replacing him on the starting lineup with Colin “Solo” Earnest, they’ve looked like the most complete rendition of this team that we’ve seen all Spring.
Against a player like Cloud9’s Eric “Licorice” Richie, Solo’s masterful weakside play in the top lane will be the key to FLY’s success. His skill on team-oriented champions like Aatrox, Ornn, and Gangplank that can both play safely in lane and outplay potential dives gives FLY a unique range of freedom in draft.
C9 has shown that they love playing a roam-heavy skirmishing style. FLY has the chance to slow them down tremendously throughout the series. To cover up the heavy botside mismatch, PoE will ideally need to secure counter picks with his unique champion pool and figure out how he can affect the map early. It will be crucial for FLY to gain momentum in the series by pulling out the stops and winning the first game. Not only will it give them the draft edge, but they’re also a team that thrives off of their solid teamwork. They can’t afford to hold anything back.
Images courtesy of Riot Games