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North America LCS Week One Matchup Previews

Riot launched their beautiful official site for the Season 3 LCS, and the schedule maker certainly wanted to start things off with a bang. We are in for a treat as both Europe and North America will see some of their most-storied teams clash in the opening week of the LCS.

There will be 28 matches in just 10 weeks. Each match is a best of one with points at stake for each game, and every team plays each other four times in the LCS. Anything can happen in one game matches; expect upsets, innovation and failures to happen each week as times rise and fall in the LCS. We're going to take a look at North America's week one marquee matches and see what's at stake for the top four teams as they clash on February 7th and 8th.

What's at Stake for Week One
Teams play a varying number of games each week, but Riot was sure to launch NA off with a bang as TSM, Dignitas, CLG, and Curse all play three times in the first week. The top four teams from Season 2 will have already completed a little over 10% of their season after week one and many of those matches are against each other. A disastrous week one will put any team in a tough position early, and the new teams to Season 3 aren't as far away from the top dogs of Season 2 as they used to be.

Looking at these teams individually, we haven't really heard much from TSM, CLG, or Dignitas since the end of Season 2. None of these teams have been opening a majority of their scrims to the public, and it will be interesting to see how the long layoff since IPL 5 (or the Season 2 championship for Dignitas) affected the scene's perennial bullies.

TSM is a former juggernaut that hasn't yet figured out how to return to their top form, but they will have a chance to make three huge statements with their matches. Dignitas could very well be the best team in North America right now, but they'll have to prove that all their closeted scrims have been paying off. CLG has another roster move that will be on display in their inaugural match, and it only gets tougher from there.

That leaves us with Curse, who has long been the team on the outside looking in as those three teams have all the success in North America. That could very likely change starting next week, as Curse has been keeping their edge visibly honed while competing to take part in Season 3. Curse has been playing as well as they ever have as a team, and they seem to be really coming together at the right time. They will have to play Dignitas, CLG, and GGU in the first week of the LCS, but this gives them their shot to stake their claim as the best team right now in North America.

TSMTeam SoloMidlogo std.png vs. Counter Logic Gaminglogo std.pngCLG
Could Season 3 start any other way? We have to remember where we came from, and these two teams have been the most successful in North America since LoL's inception. If you ask their fans, both teams have gone far too long for their own and especially their fans' liking without a tournament win, and much more than bragging rights will be at stake. TSM has been struggling in recent scrims and CLG is playing with Link at mid instead of Jiji on LAN for the first time. These teams both need to start the LCS with a win, but only one can come away on top.

The Link vs Reginald match-up will certainly be something to watch as TSM always seems to go as Reginald goes. TSM likes to snowball Reginald in the mid lane, who then snowballs everyone else with excellent roaming and aggressive initiation in team fights. When TSM is doing well, Reginald is at the center, but behind every top mid is an under-appreciated jungle. TheOddOne and Chauster are my keys to the game. It's unlikely these teams, knowing each other as well as they do, will make catastrophic mistakes in their lanes 1v1. The team with the jungle who is able to snowball his lane, particularly his mid, will be the team that wins.

Reginald and Link have both been trying out bruisers mid, so don't expect to see the same boring champions in every match anymore. TSM will win this game if they can get Reginald rolling and shut down Doublelift early. TSM has a history of being one of the best teams at snowballing early advantages into easy wins, and CLG has never had the best early game. I think TSM needs this game more than CLG for morale, but it will be a tough road.

CLG will win this game if Chauster is able to snowball the early game enough early. This is a team that is notorious for playing poorly in the lane phase and relying on their teamwork and cohesion to win fights late or split-push to victory. Chauster needs to follow CLG’s formula for success and make plays early so Doublelift can do his thing late. Both CLG and TSM turn around and play again the same day, so they'll have to push this game out of their systems quickly, but I think CLG will take this game.

DignitasDignitaslogo std.png vs. Team Curselogo std.pngCurse
A lot of people think this game features the two best teams in North America right now, not CLG vs TSM. Dignitas has never been afraid to innovate, and one game matches are the perfect setting for them to pull off some shenanigans several times this season. Lately, Curse has been playing better than ever, and every lane seems to be clicking. These two teams have long been the afterthought in North America after TSM and CLG and for good reason. Neither has enjoyed the same level of success as the teams in the first match have, but - if I were a betting man - I would say that will change in Season 3. My first bold prediction this season is that the winner of the North America LCS plays in the second match, not the first.

The match-up to watch in this game is in the top lane. Kiwikid is Dignitas new top lane and has never competed with the team on LAN. He'll have to show the public his skills against Dignitas' former star Voyboy. When Voyboy was on the top of his game in the top lane, Dignitas was truly feared in North America. He left for CLG and was unable to perform up to his potential, but that has all changed since he found his way to Curse. Voyboy's champion pool and willingness to play to win a lane (instead of to not lose) will be one of the major stories of this game, and if Dignitas wants to win they should shut him down.

Dignitas wins if they are able to control the solo lanes for Curse and not give Saint anywhere to gank. Curse wants to get map control and pressure teams, but if Saint suddenly has nowhere to gank and finds his jungle constricted, Curse will struggle. They aren't a team that traditionally plays well from behind, and Dignitas has always team fought very well. The bottom lane should be a close affair, so the solo lanes and objective control will spell victory or defeat for Dignitas.

Curse will win if they can get Voyboy or Nyjacky rolling. Curse likes to play weird champions all over, from support Fiddlesticks to jungle Ezreal or tank Katarina top. They can certainly take Dignitas off-guard and give themselves an early advantage that translates into an opening win. Curse closes games well of late, but struggles at times to figure out what to do when even or slightly behind. They need an early lead and that means solo lanes making plays in tandem with Saintvicious. This is the game to watch for me in week one and I think Dignitas will squeak out a close game.

CLGCounter Logic Gaminglogo std.png vs. Team Curselogo std.pngCurse
This matchup is always hyped as a grudge match since many of the players from Curse are former CLG players who have been 'benched'. There might not be as much ill-will between these two teams as the public thinks, but the matches always seem to have a big brother versus little brother feel to them. CLG got the better of Curse in almost every single match towards the end of Season 2 - including in the World Championship qualifiers. Curse has to prove that they are a better team now, or maybe CLG just has to show they've regressed.

The match-up to watch in this game is in the bottom lane. Doublelift is known as one of the top AD carries in the world for a reason, but his synergy with Aphromoo will be put to the test as they square-off against Cop and Elementz. Curse's bottom lane has never been their strongest point, but it needs to hold serve against CLG's, or they will find themselves on the wrong end of another match defeat screen.

Curse wins this match if they are able to shut down the bottom lane and not allow Chauster to snowball everywhere else. Saintvicious plays a bit too aggressively at times against CLG, and he will have to control that tendency while being an asset to the team. The new jungle suits him well and he is able to play a variety of jungles in it. Both Saint and Voyboy are returning to their previous top forms at the right time and they should be able to punish the solos of CLG.

CLG wins this game if Doublelift gets farm and the games long enough. CLG has traditionally played better as the game goes on and prefers lengthy games in which their experience and mechanics shine. CLG's cohesion might not be the same without Bigfatjiji, but Doublelift has the ability to outplay anyone late if given the opportunity. CLG needs to play to his strengths and not lose early. I think Curse comes into this game needing this win badly, and is able to control the game early and take it home.

Those are just 3 of the matches in week one, as many other have the ability to be instant classics. You can find the full schedule for week one here. What games will you be watching, who wins them, and why? Let us know in the comment section!

CLGCounter Logic Gaminglogo std.png vs. GGULogo std.pngGGU
Good Game University, formerly Team Dynamic, is one of eight North American teams to make it into the LCS. The first week of competition will not be easy for any of the qualified teams, but playing their first match against Counter Logic Gaming will make week one even more challenging for GGU.

When Sam 'Hexo' Bouchard, GGU's manager, was questioned about how the team was feeling about playing against CLG, he was full of assurance. "We're indeed pretty confident ," Bouchard explained. "We're not so thrilled that we have to go against CLG first, but we can definitely beat them."

GGU's placement in the professional circuit definitely gives them reasons to be confident. However, CLG has a history of solid standings in Season 1 and in Season 2. In Riot's Season 1 Championship, CLG earned 5th place overall. Then, in Season 2, they placed in the top ten, which netted them $50,000. Both teams have placed highly in various tournaments, but CLG's track record spans all three seasons. On the other hand, GGU was only formed in 2013 - although many of their current players have tournament experience.

On January 4th, only four days prior to week one kicking off, GGU also announced their third substitute player. What role Brian 'Fat' Cao will play has yet to be confirmed, but his Season 2 match history shows that he is capable of playing top, jungle, and mid lane with relative success.

GGU versus CLG takes place on Thursday, February 7th, at 3PM PST.

TSMTeam SoloMidlogo std.png vs. Teamvulcunlogo std.pngVulcun
Old and new blood will clash as Team Solomid and Team Vulcun (formerly Team FeaR) face off in the last match of day one in the League Championship Series at 7:00 PM EST on Thursday, February 7th. FeaR is well-known throughout the gaming community in a variety of competitive games, but they have only recently joined the League of Legends world during the tail end of season two with the renamed Team Vulcun. Meanwhile, TSM is coming off the best performance by a North American team at the World Championships, and they will be looking for blood as they hope to reestablish that momentum and recover from a hit-or-miss preseason.

Accusations ranging from laziness to apathy have surrounded TSM for much of the preseason, but Chaox’s calm confidence during his recent appearance on Meet the Pros suggests otherwise. TSM’s recovery from their first match of the day against Counter Logic Gaming (no matter the outcome) and their ability to put up a good showing against the up-and-coming Vulcun will go a long way toward putting those rumors out of commission.

In their short time as a team, Vulcun has put together a solid resume; including their sweep of TSM during the December 2012 SoloMid Series. Vulcun’s biggest challenge will be pitting their incipient teamwork against the motivation and cohesion of TSM, who have put forth the same lineup for almost a full year. This difference will be most apparent in the bottom lane as Vulcun’s Zuna and Muffinqt will have their work cut out for them as they try to deal with TSM’s Chaox and Xpecial, who synergize so well together.

The combination of TheOddOne’s powerful jungling and Reginald’s snowballing tendencies in mid have often led to TSM running away with matches. It will be a tough fight for Vulcun’s middle laner, mandatorycloud. However, if Xmithie can prevent TheOddOne from winning the jungle battle outright, Reginald could be kept in check. Team Vulcun's best shot at winning this game will come from this matchup.

TSM are no strangers to winning, even if they have fallen off as of late. If Reginald, Dyrus, or Chaox get ahead early, they will have the opportunity to snowball and run away with their individual matchups to lead TSM to a much needed victory. For both teams, this is the opportunity to make a statement that will echo throughout the rest of the tournament.

TSMTeam SoloMidlogo std.png vs. Dignitaslogo std.pngDignitas
Friday, February 7th, at 9 PM EST, TSM and Dignitas will add another match to their budding rivalry. Many people consider Dignitas to be the current top North American team in the League of Legends community, and that claim is not entirely unfounded. Dignitas had a strong run during the NESL fifth season, going undefeated (beating another contender for top team in Counter Logic Gaming) and only losing the championship by way of technical difficulty. Team Solomid struggled during season three’s preseason and was therefore notably absent from the NESL series. As a result, the two teams have not faced off since the NA Regional finals during season two, when TSM came away with a decisive victory. Since that time, TheRealKiWiKiD has joined Team Dignitas and has brought strong play to their top lane; with the team playing phenomenally around him. TSM will be looking to finish the first week strong and reestablish themselves as the team to beat during the series.

The most intriguing matchup to watch will be in the top lane, as TheRealKiWiKiD faces off against TSM’s Dyrus. Dyrus is well-known as one of the best tops in the game, and his lane’s early victories were crucial to TSM’s win over Dignitas in the regional finals. If TheRealKiWiKiD can be a wild card and hold his own against the veteran, Dignitas will have a good chance of putting up a much better fight this time around.

Elsewhere, Crumbzz has his work cut out for him in the jungle, as it will be absolutely crucial for him to stay on top of his timers. TheOddOne typically has a strong presence in his enemy’s jungles, crippling them before they can help their lanes. If Crumbzz can keep TheOddOne’s aggression at bay, it will open up the opportunity for his lanes to shine.

Scarra versus Reginald is always a strong display of fantastic AP skill, and this matchup may come down to which jungler is able to help their lane the most. If Reginald takes off, it will be difficult for Dignitas to catch up and maintain effectiveness in team fights. On the other hand, if he falls behind, TSM is not the best at coming back. As always, the bottom lane matchup may come down to which duo has better synergy and who counters who in the pregame selection. Both sides are strong, but if one gets an early lead - by way of a gank or a brilliant play - they will have the opportunity to run away with the game.

If it comes down to team fights in the late game, the match could go to either team. Both teams do well with communication and positioning, though Dignitas may have a slight edge. Either way, whoever wins this match may become the team to beat for the rest of the series.

CurseTeam Curselogo std.png vs. GGULogo std.pngGGU
Good Game University versus Curse will take place on February 5th at 7:00 PM PST. Curse's qualification for Season 3 was certainly a weight off of the company's shoulders. "There's nothing else. If we don't make it, we don't make it, and we're all out of jobs," Cody "Elementz" Sigfusson said during the start of Curse's High Stakes video reel. Although that harsh possibility has become less of a threat for Curse, will they keep the fighting-for-their-lives mentality in the start of Season 3?

The New Year has started off decently for Curse, taking the 7th-8th place position at IEM's Global Challenge Katowice in January. During that time, GGU was busy scrimming, adding David "Diamond" Bérubé to their roster as a substitute AD Carry.

GGU's manager, Sam "Hexo" Bouchard, said he is confident they can "definitely beat Curse" but isn't quick to dismiss their opponent. "I don't think there's any team that should be treated as a 'non-issue' at this level. I strongly believe that any team in the LCS can beat any other team. Best of ones can be really tricky sometimes, and some teams, like GGU, play so much better under pressure - so I think it's a big factor." Bouchard added that, since this series is a best of one, there will be "cheesy tactics" used. From a strategic standpoint, Bouchard observed that level one fights would be key in the coming games.

Curse's veteran status within the community is something to watch out for, but GGU's high-risk, high-reward play style can be formidable. Neither team can afford to be arrogant as they approach this matchup.

DignitasDignitaslogo std.png vs. Teamvulcunlogo std.pngVulcun
Bringing up the rear in week one, at 11:00 PM EST on February 8th, the fan favorite Team Dignitas will square off against the up and coming Team Vulcun (formerly Team FeaR). This promises to be an exciting match, as both teams will be looking to cement their reputations by finishing the week off strongly. Dignitas, declared by many to be the best team in North America before the start of the series, will look to further prove themselves against Vulcun, who only just started to make waves on the pro circuit when they came on the scene in late November.

These two teams are no strangers to each other, having faced off before in the National ESL’s fifth season playoffs. There, Team Dignitas came away with a clear victory, but Vulcun now has more experience under their belts and will be looking for payback. By opening up against two of the top North American teams, Vulcun has the opportunity to put their name in the running for the title of best in the region. Regardless of the outcome of their match against TSM, they will have to be focused on forcing an upset against Dignitas.

In order to do so they will have to start off quickly. Dignitas’ new top lane, TheRealKiWiKiD, is the greenest player on the team. Vulcun would be well served to have Xmithie apply extra pressure from the jungle to give Sycho Sid the early lane advantage. It will be up to Crumbzz to counter that pressure, or force Xmithie’s attention elsewhere.

Down in bottom lane, Muffinqt is the most experienced member of Vulcun, and he will have to use that to the best of his ability to get Zuna in the best position to carry the team. Patoy and Imaqtpie, on the other side, have played together since July of 2012, and will have the advantage in knowing each others' play styles through and through.

Middle lane is where the magic may happen this match. Scarra of Dignitas is popular for a reason, and he is one of the best AP carries in the game today. The challenge will be on mandatorycloud to keep Scarra from rolling because Scarra can carry Dignitas to victory if he gets going. Xmithie will have to have a constant presence in mid in order to give mandatorycloud the early advantage.

For Vulcun, this victory will come through making one of their lanes snowball. Dignitas has an advantage in team fighting, so it will be crucial that none of Dignitas’ lanes pulls ahead. If one or more of Vulcun’s players is properly fed, they will be able to overcome that disadvantage. For Dignitas, they have to - at the very least - stay even through the early game. If they do so, their team fighting skills should serve them well in mid and late game, bringing them the win.

Written by Tuck359 from Reign of Gaming
Additional Matchup Previews Written by Joshua Pelletier and Quinn Wilson
Edited by Marissa Moody Kuo.
For full information about the Season 3 North American Championship Series, Click Here