The first round of playoffs are here and my preseason playoff predictions are completely wrong! Maybe not entirely off, but I definitely did not do myself any favors believing Counter Logic Gaming was going to succeed. Instead, we essentially have the same playoff teams that we had last split with Clutch and FlyQuest swapping places. An interesting factor to consider for each series this weekend is that we all received a sneak peek at some possible outcomes after all the tiebreakers. It will be interesting to see if teams are able to turn around any issues they demonstrated on Monday, because they essentially lost a day of their prep time. Sure, it was only one day all of these teams lost, but the importance of those matches may have forced teams to already reveal key strategies. I could speculate a great deal about each teams preparations, but let’s get to speculating this weekend’s victors.
Echo Fox vs. TSM
8/25, 5:00pm EST
A quarterfinals match up between two teams that performed far below regular season expectations. Now, Echo Fox’s success or failure is associated with the flip of a coin and TSM are thought to slowly creep their way to victories. Although Echo Fox may have been able to trample over TSM in a tiebreaker match,we should consider a few things. Although TSM’s performance this split was largely lethargic, they pulled themselves together to make it to playoffs and even beat first place Team Liquid along the way. Sitting in the back of everyone’s mind is of course TSM’s innate ability to vastly improve during playoffs, which should be bolstered with Weldon Green on the scene to help create a near perfect team environment. You almost have to ask yourself, with all these ingredients coming together, is the return of an oppressive TSM inevitable?
No, not at all.
TSM may have been able to grab some convincing wins, but anyone taking a moment to analyze their games can realize it isn’t TSM, but rather Bjergsen winning. An oversimplified statement there, but one that carries merit when you look at TSM’s other members. Hauntzer has been a pillar, but rarely performed above average this split. Zven has looked like one of the best AD carries in the league, but is crippled by Mithy’s transparent play. Grig…well he is just there. While a lackluster team at first glance, throw Bjergsen in there and all of a sudden you have team that looks ready to lift the cup. Oh wait, I’m sorry. I should have wrote, “throw Bjergsen in there on an assassin”, because that is why they have looked good. With a few assassins relevant in the meta, Bjergsen has legitimately been able to 1v9 games. It is absolutely fair to say the rest of TSM have done their part to help bolster Bjergsen’s effectiveness, it just makes TSM almost one-dimensional. If Echo Fox can deny Bjergsen access to any assassin’s and outpace them early, this should be a short and sweet affair.
Echo Fox do of course have their issues, as both Huni and Dardoch’s hubris is constantly self-deflated by their own decision making. Echo Fox could very well fall into a trap of overcommitment, that will enable TSM to potentially regroup. TSM should absolutely study how 100 Thieves have been able to take down Echo Fox consistently throughout the regular summer split .Ultimately though, if TSM want to fight their way back into a game it will probably need to be on the back of Bjergsen playing an assassin. Bjergsen carrying might be enough for Grig to get enough resources after likely being manhandled and deprived by Dardoch. The deficit created in the jungle could be the sole reason TSM are shut out of playoffs.
Prediction: Echo Fox 3–0
100 Thieves vs. FlyQuest
8/26, 3:00pm EST
Compared to Saturday’s series, this one has a far more clear result. While I can confidently say this series will take longer than Saturday’s, I can also say that 100 Thieves will be able to win this series easily. Perhaps “easily” is not the best word to use, because I do think that FlyQuest will have the lead in a majority of each games early minutes. FlyQuest have excelled at gaining advantages during the laning phase, as Santorin sets up aggressive plays for his team. Unfortunately, FlyQuest have made their aggressive tendencies known, which can make them susceptible to getting caught out in situations that should call for a more methodical response. As good as FlyQuest look early, they are equally as bad, whenever they get close to a neutral objective. More than once this season I have seen FlyQuest crumble at dragon pit after a poor teleport or an indecisive engage. Even this past week, FlyQuest essentially just leashed and handed over Rift Harold to TSM. These mistakes cause the game to gradually go on far longer than FlyQuest desire and in this series, would actually go straight into the hands of 100 Thieves.
While we can obviously throw criticism for 100 Thieves poor management during early game, their vast amount of success in the late game dismisses a bit of that judgment. 100 Thieves have demonstrated quite often this split they can weather the storm of the opposition and come out on top. If things do ever get dicey, you should still expect 100 Thieves to overpower FlyQuest at the end of the day.
Prediction: 100 Thieves 3–0