After three weeks of play, we’re down to the final four teams at the 2016 World Championship. SKT versus ROX Tigers and Samsung Galaxy versus H2K. Three Korean teams and one lonely team from Europe. Surprisingly, these were some of the hardest predictions for me to make, as all four teams have shown moments of incredible strength, with some brief spots of fragility. The winners will be the ones who best prepare for their opponents and can most efficiently identify and attack those weak points.
Corey “Mr Fidori” Boucher
Photo provided by Riot Games
ROX Tigers vs. SK Telecom T1
What a shame it is that I’m not writing about this matchup next week for the finals, as neither of these teams should have the misfortune of placing 3rd/4th. But here we are. The top two LCK seeds will go at it in what we can only hope is a titanic clash that takes its place in League history. These teams made the LPL’s best look like a warm-up, with relatively uneventful 3-1 wins. In their three wins against RNG, the Tigers gave up only 3 turrets and a pair of cloud drakes objective-wise. SKT stifled on that front as well, ceding one more turret, but one less drake. There’s not much of a sample size to find potential weaknesses with either of these rosters. In their game 3 loss, ROX almost appeared to be just practicing, giving away the Aurelion Sol and taking the off-meta Fiora for Smeb, which didn’t even go that poorly. SKT’s lone loss came with the more passive Bengi in the lineup, before Blank matched RNG’s early pressure with a fervor of his own. It’s also worth noting that ROX and SKT were behind only 10,000 gold at the end of their losses, while averaging a 17,000 gold lead in their wins.
SKT sits at the top of the stats sheet in objective control, while ROX’s team stats tend to be extremely average for a team that wins so heavily. A big key to this game will lie in the jungle. If SKT decides to start Blank, who is an anomaly among Korean players in terms of pushing the tempo, it could disrupt the slow-moving yet consistent flow of ROX, who thrive in the mid-game, but struggled against an early lead against Albus Nox Luna, and similarly against CLG. On the flip-side of this, Peanut tends to be one of the less predictable junglers remaining in the field, and has amassed an alarming 22 kills on Saturday (a third of the team’s kills). More intriguing, these teams already know these things about each other, being LCK rivals and all. Once these games move past 15 or 20 minutes, they could become very intense, as we shouldn’t expect many game-throwing mistakes from either side.
Prediction: ROX 3-2 SKT
Samsung Galaxy vs. H2K
While the first semifinal features some of the biggest names in the game right now, this match could be more explosive. In their quarterfinal sweeps, SSG and H2K only gave up five and three turrets respectively. For all of Worlds so far, these two teams also tote the highest K:D ratios, first blood percentage, and sit only behind SKT in dragon and turret control. And if these stats aren’t enough to grab your interest, consider that both of these teams are on seven-game winning streaks going back to the second week of the group stage, so lack of momentum shouldn’t be a problem. With all of these similarities, there are some key differences. H2K will deal with a drastically different tempo than they encountered in the last round, as SSG tend to kick into gear after 15 minutes, racking up a mid-to-late rating 15 points higher than the next best. Samsung will face a unique challenge as well, as no other team could employ the aggression H2K does while still averaging only 7.6 deaths per game as a team.
It’s easy to simply pick the Korean team and move on, but there are other factors to consider. Thanks in part to the last series, H2K has averaged a 2,639 gold difference, with much of that advantage going to Odoamne. This is a scary fact for anyone. However, this may cease to matter against Samsung, who have proven in the past few weeks that they can adapt much better to opponents’ play styles, and CuVee in particular has displayed a proficiency on safer champions that can absorb pressure and potentially nullify the chance for Odoamne to gain control. With such dominant quarterfinal performances, it’s very hard to get a read on what might happen, since neither of these squads had to reveal very much strategically in order to advance. I would expect that Samsung’s ability to deny control would be the key here, but take it with a grain of salt — it’s all up in the air anyway.
Prediction: SSG 3-1 H2K
Matthew “Blackfooted Eel” Hubbard
ROX Tigers vs. SK Telecom T1
Coming into this tournament, a lot of people predicted this to be the final match. Sadly, Riot (or the all-mighty WildTurtle) deemed this not to be the case and placed the two Korean powerhouses on the same side of the bracket. The result is this epic semifinal clash, a repeat showdown of the 2016 Korean playoffs finals. Both teams are heavily stacked with some of the best talent from their region and it should be quite the spectacle. Starting in the top lane is Smeb and Duke. Widely considered to be the best player in the world and a player thought by many to be one of SKT’s weak spots. With that said, Duke has been on a recent rise, particularly towards the end of their series against RNG. If he can keep up that level of skill, he just might be able to keep up with Smeb. In the jungle, Peanut will be facing off against the rotating pair of Blank and Bengi. During the group stages, Bengi appeared to be more consistent than Blank, providing consistent pressure when he played. Blank on the other hand really stepped up during SKT’s quarterfinal series against RNG, constantly outpacing Mlxg. As of yet we don’t know which jungler will be starting for SKT, but regardless of which one plays, I think that Peanut will still be able to control the map more effectively.
Of course the matchup that people can’t ignore is in the mid lane. Faker’s name invites conversation, being one of the most talented and well known players in all of League of Legends. Kuro, however, is no slouch. He’s been around the professional scene for just as long, and has been playing second fiddle to Faker for almost as long. If ever there was a series for one or both of them to kick things up a notch, this would be it. In my opinion however, the lane to pay attention to is the bot lane. Bang and Wolf versus PraY and GorillA. Some of the best players in their respective positions, all four of these players have had impressive showings over the last few weeks, and it’s likely that this lane will receive the most attention from the rest of the teams. Despite the power coming from both sides, I think that ROX’s duo will be the one to triumph. The individual skill is close, but PraY and GorillA have had a bigger impact on the map contributing more to teamfights. Another important aspect are the champions being picked. Zyra has shot up in importance for support players during the quarterfinals, and boasts an incredible 10-2 record in the last twelve games in which she was picked. While both teams are evenly matched, and I fully expect this to be the closest series yet, I think that ROX will be the ones to advance. They’re one of the few teams that can go toe to toe with SKT’s laners, and their late game teamfighting is unmatched. Honestly, this series really could go either way, and I can’t wait to watch it.
Prediction: ROX 3-2 SKT
Samsung Galaxy vs. H2K
At first glance, this isn’t much of semifinal. A legacy Korean organization that has quite frankly been playing out of their mind these past weeks, against the second seed from Europe. However, that second seed from Europe have been having the tournament of their lives. Every lane has stepped up and improved, they’ve shored up a lot of their weaknesses from the regular season, and they finally look like a cohesive team. With both teams playing at this high of a level, the series could well rival that of SKT and ROX. Of all the lane match ups, I would say that the most lopsided one is in the top lane. CuVee has certainly surprised a lot of people at Worlds, but Odoamne has been the rock in the top lane for H2K since their inception. He’s had his ups and downs, but this tournament solidly falls in the up category. His teleports have been on point, and he almost single handedly carried game one of their series against Albus Nox on his Jayce. Whether Samsung lets him have that Jayce however, remains to be seen. Both top laners do owe a good portion of their success to their junglers. Both Ambition and Jankos have been the main playmakers for their respective teams, with Ambition favoring tanky engagers like Olaf and Rek’Sai and Jankos falling back on champions like Elise and Lee Sin to make picks, it’ll be a clash of styles. It’s hard to tell which one will prevail, as it depends a lot on Ambition. If he can shut down Jankos’ early aggressive style and make it to the late game, I think Samsung should be able to overpower H2K.
Going down the list, next up is Crown and Ryu. Ryu in particular has been having the best international appearance of his career, and Crown has been a monster on his signature Viktor. I can’t really give an advantage to either, as it will depend heavily on the pick and ban phase since the two players have somewhat similar champion pools. Regardless, this should be a very high skill match between two very talented players. As for the bot lane, it’s a bit of an odd match up. In terms of raw skill, Forg1ven certainly outclasses Ruler, but Ruler has a larger kill participation on long range champions like Jhin and Caitlyn. As for their partners, Vander has looked very strong in H2K’s wins, but seems to struggle when the team falls behind. Samsung will likely start CoreJJ, as they’ve looked much stronger with him than with Wraith, and CoreJJ has looked very impressive in all his games. While both CoreJJ and Vander are strong initiators, especially on champions like Tahm Kench and Alistar respectively, I think that it’s CoreJJ who will have the better showing. He’s been one of the driving forces behind Samsung’s success and overall has looked more confident than his opponent. This was a surprisingly close one to call, as H2K have looked so strong in the last two weeks of play. That being said, Samsung have just looked that much stronger. They’ve only dropped one game in the whole tournament so far, and it was still somewhat close. They’ve finished three games in under twenty-five minutes and have looked very commanding all tournament. I expect H2K to challenge them and actually push them to their limits, but I think that they’ll fall just a little short.
Prediction: SSG 3-2 H2K
No matter what, this weekend promises to provide some very good competition. Get ready for the next exciting stop on the journey to the Summoners Cup! Tune in for the action starting Friday at 3 PM PST.