With the fourth international tournament of the year coming to a close, Europe has claimed their first tournament victory of the year off the back of a dominating performance from Origen. Entering the tournament in arguably the best shape of any attendee, only replacing mid laner Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martinez with former Unicorns of Love member Tristan “PowerofEvil” Schrage, the European side stormed through North American squads Team SoloMid and Counter Logic Gaming en route to a finals victory. While it appears that Origen is in great form entering the 2016 season, the other attendees at the IEM event all have their fair share of questions in the midst of a rapid-fire offseason.
LGD Gaming entered this tournament as favorites by many. With reputation to regain after their horrendous World Championship showing, surely they would show up to this event in pre-Worlds form, right?
Unfortunately that was not the correct assessment as the team continued their downward spiral from top of the world to where they are now.
After a crushing defeat in game one, mostly centered on extremely poor team decision making in the late game, LGD subbed in Choi “Acorn” Cheon-ju for Lee “Flame” Ho-jong hoping for a new spark. The spark they were looking for ended up hurting them as Acorn delivered a pathetic performance on Olaf that led to their demise. Despite solid performances from both Wei “GodV” Zhen and Gu “Imp” Seung-bin, the team couldn’t bring it all together in either match and as such they dropped out of the tournament to a Team SoloMid roster fielding four brand new players on days worth of practice. This set was a new low for LGD and the sinking of their ship is finished.
With a steep drop off like no team has ever experienced, it’s very tough to imagine this roster sticking together come next Spring. Under-performances from various players at different times along with a complete lack of strategy both in the pick and ban phase and in game, the team looks nigh unfixable. Now we must see what scrap can be hauled out of the ocean from various Chinese and Korean teams as many players on this roster are still top performers. Where certain players from LGD land will definitely be one of the top developments during the offseason as there’s little doubt in the individual talent teeming through the roster. Until then, we can wait patiently for their break up and pour one out for the former LPL Champions.
The European squad that placed second and fourth respectively in Spring and Summer EU LCS, Unicorns of Love, entered this tournament with a new-look roster. Finding new players in the jungle, mid lane, and marksman roles, they would fall two games to none to a Counter Logic Gaming squad that fielded two new players of their own. With a meandering play style followed up with solo queue-esque plays from new jungler Berk “Gilius” Demir, the Unicorns looked in abysmal form, to be expected as the team only had a handful of days for practice.
While the lack of practice can be an explanation for their poor synergy together, the individual mistakes made from new marksman Pierre “Steeelback” Medjaldi and the horrid positioning from long-time support Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov cannot be overlooked. Top laner Kiss “Vizicsasci” Tamás had a solid showing individually, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the weak play elsewhere on the map. Time was obviously needed for this roster to ever perform to a decent standard so the substandard showing wasn’t incredibly surprising, however the individual misplays from multiple members signaled that more may be wrong here. Obvious downgrades in the jungle and mid lane positions may be worse than people thought and the upgrade at the marksman role may not be as great. Luckily the team has two months to get back into the swing of things and at the end of the day it was just two games. With the triple position swap they lost quite a lot and it doesn’t appear that they’ve gained very much. Gilius in particular really must refine his play. It appeared like he lost his cool during the second match against Counter Logic Gaming, making extremely poor decisions on Lee Sin which cost them the match.
In the semi-finals, the Jin Air Green Wings squared off against Counter Logic Gaming. In a fairly close set, Jin Air dropped two games to none as CLG proceeded to the finals. Jin Air, much like many teams in the tournament, entered in with multiple roster changes and a complete shift in the team dynamic. With rookie top laner Kim “Sohwan” Jun-Yeong, sub jungler Park “Winged” Tae-jin, and brand new starter Lee “Kuzan” Seong-hyeok, the formerly passive styled Jin Air team shifted into a more decisive, aggressive roster. This decisiveness and aggressiveness both played in and against their favor on multiple occasions during the set, with both very positive and very negative teleports from Sohwan.
Kuzan and Sohwan are new to the starting roster, and they both have quite a lot to learn solely through play time. Their main issues appeared to be the inability to play the map correctly against a split push heavy style that CLG brought to the table and just general individual misplays during team fights, most notably from Kuzan. A disappointing result, but not entirely shocking as the team was lacking jungler Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun, their best player, and have a completely different team identity that they’ll need to figure out with Sohwan and Kuzan. Former starting top laner Trace surely wasn’t breaking out Riven and trying to force aggressive teleport flanks during his time with the team. Seeing support Choi “Chei” Sun-ho show off some impressive engage play was a nice takeaway from this minute tournament as that’s a role he has struggled in. Ironing out these issues and potentially finding a more talented jungler should lead to Jin Air rising a bit in 2016. Time and experience should do wonders for certain players on the team as the raw talent is quite apparent. They’ll face some stiffer competition within Korea with multiple teams who were beneath them growing in talent, SBENU and Incredible Miracle standing out.
On the other side of the bracket, Team SoloMid fell to the previously mentioned Origen, two games to none, after taking two games off LGD Gaming. The first set TSM played against LGD showed expected shakiness from what is, aside from constant of mid laner Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, an entirely new roster. Sporting former Gravity top laner Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell, former SK Gaming jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, former CLG marksman Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, and former H2K support Raymond “kaSing” Ka-Sing Tsang, Team SoloMid is looking to be the team to beat in North America by going out and acquiring high value targets across both North America and Europe. In the set against LGD, TSM won off of the mistakes of LGD rather than their own great team play. With Hauntzer stepping up individually and outperforming both Flame and Acorn, TSM advanced past the skidding Chinese side.
Much like Jin Air, this is not just a roster with multiple changes at individual positions, but a roster with an entirely different team dynamic from what it was previously. Transitioning from a purely mid lane focused team that was incredibly dependent on Bjergsen to a roster that has multiple carry threats will take time and practice to adjust. In this tournament, TSM took less focus off of the mid lane in lieu of a more top-ADC focused style, sticking Bjergsen on Orianna twice, Anivia once, and Lulu once. Apart from a few individual missteps from Hauntzer and a face plant from Doublelift, most of TSM’s mistakes this tournament stemmed from a complete lack of practice together. Disorganized play across the map led to sloppy games on TSM’s end filled with macro mistakes, picking very poor fights at inopportune times. At the end of the day, this team does not want for individual talent as they’ve acquired star players at every position off of other teams. However, that may be the downfall to TSM in that it’s a team filled with stars and leaders. When everyone’s a leader, who will step above everyone else? Will those who don’t take a leading role fall into a following role? These are concerning questions which could ultimately hold the individually stellar roster back.
Meeting up in the finals, Counter Logic Gaming and Origen squared off in what would be an incredibly decisive sweep for the European monster. Fielding superior talent at every position and dealing with a very “plug and play” roster swap in the mid lane, versus the significant changes CLG underwent, Origen rolled through the North American squad with varied carry performances across the board. It was quite expected to see Origen show up in solid form coming off their impressive World Championship run and the addition of PowerofEvil looks to improve on that, bolstering their lineup to being the best in Europe by a solid margin. CLG, conversely, surprised many with their tourney run. With a massive team dynamic shift from being incredibly ADC focused to now being top lane focused, along with two new members, not much was expected. Very little was assumed of marksman Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes and the bar was set fairly high for mid laner Choi “HuHi” Jae-hyun. While the former exceeded expectations set by most, the latter floundered through his seven matches. Stixxay wasn’t playing flawlessly, having some questionable Ashe arrows and farming side lanes when he shouldn’t have been, but he improved remarkably over the course of the tournament with an ultimately well-played finals against Origen. He knew his limits and CLG took measures to ease him into the position for success rather than forcing him to fill the shoes left by Doublelift.
Huhi, on the other hand, showed some weak performances throughout. Playing some off-kilter mid lane picks such as Kindred and Ekko, he showed some good diversity, but wasn’t wholly effective in lane or in team fights. He will need to improve significantly if CLG are to continue on with their domestic success cemented in their last split. CLG entered this tournament with a very clear plan, getting Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya, formerly known as Zionspartan, ahead each and every game. When that plan failed things crumbled around the team. It will be interesting to see how this roster progresses and evolves through the offseason and into 2016. Stixxay seems to be the future for CLG, but I can’t say the same for Huhi.