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North America LCS Week Four Matchup Previews
Week three was a turbulent ride of transitional teams: some underdogs broke from mediocrity and looked ready to run with the big dogs, while some favorites were in danger of obscurity after facing frustrating losses. Week four offers the continuation of these stories and so much more as the NA LCS hosts a phenomenal twenty matches between Wednesday, February 27th and Friday, March 1st. Can Curse keep their undefeated streak alive, or will Dignitas be the first to knock them off as the top two teams tee-off? Will the resurgent Team Vulcun continue their upward trend, or will Counter Logic Gaming avenge last week’s loss? On the brink of complete ruination, will the winner of the matchup between GGU and MRN rise out of their lackluster standing? This super week promises to set the stage for an exhilarating second half of the spring season.
Team Vulcun vs. Counter Logic Gaming
The first match of week four, starting at 2:00 PM EST Wednesday, February 27th, is the now highly anticipated rematch between Team Vulcun and Counter Logic Gaming. In week three, Vulcun accomplished the biggest upset of the NA LCS when they gave CLG no quarter and asserted their domination from start to finish. Vulcun entered week three at 0-5 and were swiftly running out of time to prove their relevance by etching a number into the plus column of their win-loss record. Despite the pressure, mandatorycloud’s skillful performances led Team Vulcun to victories in all three of their games. In contrast, CLG’s week three performances did not meet their usual standards as they only gained the upper hand in one of their three matches. With both teams at three wins, this rematch will have indisputable effects on the rankings.
In his recent AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) on Reddit, mandatorycloud was asked what separated the large-and-in-charge Team Vulcun that dominated three matches from the ho-hum Team Vulcun that succumbed to five losses. His response was simple and to the point: practice. Team cohesion and the ability to know teammates well enough to understand how they react to varying situations is an often underrated way to judge a team’s abilities. The dichotomy between Team Vulcun’s performances proves how important this aspect is to success.
LCS announcers speculated that CLG underestimated the then-winless Vulcun or that CLG were rusty after coming off a bye week. Whether or not such theories are true, Counter Logic must put in a better effort against Vulcun or they will find themselves with another loss tacked onto their record. They showed that they have the discipline to brush off losses when they pulled off a win against compLexity Gaming later in the day. It is expected that CLG will come into this week with a renewed determination to restore their image.
This matchup may hinge on the middle lane, as it did last week. LiNk did not have a bad performance, but it was not spectacular either. His Syndra was kept in check throughout, while mandatorycloud’s Nidalee was the biggest presence on the field. AP Nidalee is often overlooked in favor of a bruiser-style build, but mandatory proved her effectiveness by zoning the entire enemy team before team fights, whittling down their health bars, and giving Vulcun the advantage in every battle. CLG will expect a repeat of that strategy, so Nidalee may be unsurprisingly banned in the pregame. The challenge will be for mandatorycloud to counter whatever CLG throws at him and for the rest of Vulcun to capitalize on not being CLG’s focal point.
To overcome a retaliatory CLG, Vulcun will need to leverage any and all advantages--whether subtle or obvious. On the other hand, CLG will need to raise the bar on their standard of play if they want to go toe to toe with a "practice makes perfect" Vulcun. If CLG can level-up their execution, then the difference between a well-played game and well-played victory will depend on how quickly CLG make their move to capture map objectives. If CLG leave turrets untouched for the majority of this rematch, they are likely to revisit the hole they dug for themselves last week – no matter how powered-up they may be. To win, CLG must successfully transform their week three smack down into a lesson on how to counter Vulcun’s aggressive, late-game style. Otherwise, Summoner’s Rift will once again echo with Zuna’s roars of triumph.
Curse vs. Team Dignitas
Curse Gaming and Team Dignitas will rematch in the Rift at 10:00 PM EST on Wednesday the 26th. In what is arguably the most anticipated match of the week, Dignitas face the ever-dominant Curse for the first time since their resurgence after a rough start in week one. Since that time, Dignitas collected five consecutive, impressive victories and rose to second place in the standings. A win against Curse would cut short Curse's 6-0 winning streak and stall their current momentum.
Curse and Dignitas each played one match in week three, and both won in a domineering fashion. They seem to be evenly matched, making it difficult to project a winner. In their week one matchup, Dignitas' reactionary, aggressive answer to Curse’s superior positioning and buff control led to an early lead for Curse. Curse played patiently and took advantage of opportunities, which eventually led to a comfortable win. Curse may corner Dignitas into another early game disadvantage. If so, Dignitas will have to keep their composure; each of their five wins gives testimony that they can do so.
This game is liable to revolve around the individual lane matchups. In each of Curse's games thus far in the series, the position to watch has been up top. Whether against another top laner or a switch lane, Voyboy has maintained a steady stream of lane victories in all six of Curse’s games. However, scarra and company are in a better spot than most to counter ex-Dignitas member, Voyboy. They might possess a strategy to effectively nullify their former teammate's presence in the game. Likewise, Voyboy is familiar with scarra's leadership. He may use that knowledge to aid Curse in countering scarra’s special anti-Voyboy tactics.
Should scarra's sleeves prove empty, it will fall to Dignitas' top laner, TheRealKiWiKiD, and jungler, Crumbzz, to perform well enough to match or exceed Voyboy. If they swap lanes, Imaqtpie and Patoy will require preemptive aggression to shut down Voyboy’s early game. Nyjacky previously bested scarra in the mid lane, but scarra was not yet playing at his current level. The matchup mid will swing the game if either one manages to snowball, and it is likely Saintvicious will make his presence most known there.
Although he's often overshadowed by Curse's top presence, Cop is having an equally solid LCS run. He coordinates well with Elementz and possesses the ability to carry the team even if Voyboy and Nyjacky get shut down. Dignitas cannot overlook the matchup bot. They can send Imaqtpie and Patoy top to deal with Voyboy, but that would leave Cop and Elementz with far too many opportunities to let Cop do what he does best as a sleeper ADC: carry hard.
In short, Dignitas has to keep a tight leash on each lane before the match moves into the late game. Should Curse build an early lead in any lane, this rematch will almost certainly follow in the footsteps of their first meeting. Dignitas’ coordination, as orchestrated by scarra, could be the difference in evenly-split late game team fights, if they can extend the match.
Good Game University vs. Team MRN
Good Game University versus Team MRN will be a rematch between two teams that need a win like a drowning man needs air. They will fight to see who sinks or swims on Thursday, February 28th at 7:00 PM EST. Out of the eight teams playing in the spring season, only the top four are guaranteed a spot in the summer season. As such, the lower end of the ladder is a precarious place to be. This is especially true for GGU whose 1-6 win-loss record is becoming very lopsided. Their week three match against MRN was a perfect slaughter with 11-0 kills in MRN’s favor. Unfortunately, that matchup was MRN’s only win to date as they come into week four with a 1-3 record. GGU will need to find another gear if they want revenge for week three. The results of this matchup could help rescue one team from the bottom of the barrel.
GGU have had remarkable difficulties fielding their entire team consistently from week to week. Their problems only seem to be getting worse. Shiphtur, their highly skilled AP carry, may be barred from the U.S for the next two to three weeks. Without his stability to support an otherwise turbulent team, Good Game University may be challenged to snag anything resembling a win. BloodWater is still new at support. ZionSpartan was ripped from his favored spot in the top lane to cover the missing Shiphtur. Fat is still acclimating to the heavy demands that come with playing on a pro team in the LCS. GGU will need to make a success out of this mess to come out on top.
As for MRN, they have been steadily improving over the past three weeks. In week two, they picked up their first win against this patchwork GGU team by playing more conservatively than they had been in the first two weeks. Their patience paid off in a spectacular fashion as they completely shut down GGU in terms of kills and ended the game by the thirty-two minute mark. MRN is likely to give an encore performance unless GGU’s the additional practice time with their relatively new substitute, Fat, has helped to smooth out the wrinkles in their cohesion.
With the potentially improved play from Fat and heavy assistance in the form of NintendudeX’s ganks, GGU does have a chance. DontMashMe showed his ability to carry a game in their victory over Vulcun two weeks ago, but he needs the chance to get going. GGU will have to keep an eye on ClakeyD and prolong the laning phase to try to get MashMe rolling. Likewise, it will be up to MRN’s Heartbeattt and AtomicN to hinder GGU’s biggest threat. If they shut him down, GGU gets shut down with him.
If, after two weeks together as a slapdash unit, GGU’s current roster can improve their play and not get behind early, they have a realistic shot in this game. Each player certainly has the skill to excel in the LCS, but they need to bring it together. If GGU play like they're waiting for Shiphtur to teleport into the studio halfway through the game, then MRN will use GGU as a stepping stone to a sunnier spot on the ladder.
- Written by Joshua Pelletier
- Edited by Marissa Moody Kuo.
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