The group stage for the LEC Summer Split has begun and our eight remaining teams are vying for a shot at the title and a coveted spot in the season finale. Now on a new patch, the meta has been shaken up and some teams have been able to adjust faster than others.
An Excel-lent start to groups
Everyone’s favorite underdogs Excel had a phenomenal start to the group stage, winning both best-of-three series and securing their place for the summer playoffs.
This patch really seems to favor the style of League of Legends that XL likes to play – tank heavy, engage heavy, front-to-back compositions that are deadly in the mid-late game when grouped as a five-man unit. Certainly one of the easier ways to navigate the game, it nonetheless requires excellent restraint and team coordination, and XL is currently one of the league’s best in these skills.
One thing I want to highlight in particular is XL’s vision control and ability to play from behind. XL seems to have a clear game plan – play for the first Rift Herald, use it to break open the map or at worst apply early pressure, and convert this into vision control to make a comeback or take advantage of advantages in the middle game. It is a style that, while simple, requires sacrifice. Veteran top laner Odoamne showed this weekend the ability to snowball off resources, but also to lose gracefully in isolation – precisely the style of play that 369 has found so much success in the LPL.
Patrik and Abbedagge are also reliable laners, and XL’s bot lane duo is able to stay safely in isolation, meaning Peach has the freedom to analyze game status and give attention where he feels it’s needed. Able to carry from any lane, but without having to be the primary carry, XL looks well-rounded and consistent. This is a roster that does not break under pressure, and that will be vital for the bigger challenges they face in the future.
Four confrontations with elimination
The weekend was not so successful for some of our teams, with four of the eight now eliminated by the summer split. For some, this also means elimination in the season finale. Next week, Fnatic plays MAD Lions and KOI takes on Team Heretics – whichever two teams lose will be eliminated, and in the case of all but MAD (who are stuck because of winning the Spring Split) it will be extremely difficult – if not impossible – to secure a spot in the season finale, thus eliminating their chance at a World Championship spot.
Ahead of these crucial matches, let’s take a quick look at how these risky rosters performed this week, starting with MAD, who went 0-2 against XL. MAD seem to be sticking to the general idea of dragon stacking, but their ability to generate and utilize leads desperately needs some work. Nisqy was the standout for them this week, generating advantages on Jayce (D1G1) and his signature Twisted Fate despite fighting a tough battle.
The current state of Fnatic worries me. I had hoped they would recover well from their loss against SK, but they were unable to take a single game away from them in the revenge series. To put it bluntly, Fnatic seems to have a slow, if not downright bad, read on the meta. In the top lane, Oscarinin played Jax (D1G3) and K’Sante (D1G4), two champions who look weak in this meta as frontline options. While Jax can be played as an effective split pusher (see Irrelevant D3G3), this is not Fnatic’s style, and K’Sante lacks the impact he had last patch, now there are other, more teamfight-oriented engage options.
I maintain that Azir is not bad this patch, but it feels like comfort to Humanoid at a time when he should be experimenting, and it just doesn’t work. Finally, I am concerned that Fnatic is not playing Rell, as they have banned it in both games. If this is true, the side could be at a big disadvantage.
Team Heretics had a decent showing in the first game of their series against Team BDS (D2G1), despite simply being outclassed in the next two games. Vetheo was the striking standout on Kai’Sa, who became godlike towards the end of the game, and there is much for TH fans to be hopeful for. Jankos performed consistently well and Flakked showed some versatility with Ziggs and Seraphine picks that will make drafting against TH difficult for their future opponents.
Finally, let’s look at KOI, who had the gargantuan task of being paired with an in-form G2. I truly believe KOI looked better and better each week this split, but they are nowhere near the level they need to be. In the middle game, their ability to snowball and convert on goals is sloppy at best, and some of their drafts are strange – in D2G4 KOI signed Tristana third after a first pick Ashe, not only removing the risk of a pick that has found them success, but also shutting down any flex potential it may have.
That said, Larssen and Szygenda continue to look great, capable of generating upside in the laning phase against the best Europe has to offer right now. I think KOI needs to focus more on this upside and capitalize more on Rift Heralds and towers. I’m not sure where this leaves the bot lane of Comp and Advienne, but sacrifices will probably have to be made if the team is to survive.
Big three no more
The big three of the group stage pick/bans – Milio, Yuumi and K’Sante – are no more. Yuumi and Milio were not even played this weekend, and when K’Sante was played, it looked disappointing, to say the least.
Renekton has remained steadfast in the meta as a lane bully and a pick capable of isolating and eliminating enemy carries in team fights, and premiere engage junglers such as Sejuani and Maokai have become even more prevalent than before. In addition, Poppy has remained steadfast in the meta and is joined by Rell and Ivern, champions who have both recently been buffed and can both benefit from support item buffs in the same way as the hammer-wielding Yordle.
The rise of Rell
Adjustments to Rell and support items have catapulted the champion into the meta this patch, and it is likely that we will see much more of Iron Maiden in the group stage and playoffs. Combined with champions like Kai’Sa, Rell is powerful enough to shape the support meta itself, pushing engage support items like Nautilus and Rakan that were floating around during the regular season into the spotlight.
Xayah and Rakan have risen in priority as a duo lane in pick/bans because of their self-peeling and independent involvement in team fights, although usually banning one of the two is enough to keep the other from being drafted by opponents. Moreover, the options for eliminating the match, such as Braum and Alistair, have risen accordingly as counter-matchups for the likes of Rell, Nautilus and Rakan, capable of countering their big attacks and leaving the immobile champions in some difficult positions.
Flexing on them
Moreover, it’s worth noting that Rell and Nautilus are both picks that can be flexed in the jungle role – and I wouldn’t be surprised if Poppy occasionally flexes further from the top lane and jungle to a secondary role herself. Flex picks are all over the place in groups, and of course this is to the advantage of G2’s mad scientists, who in their own words can let Hans Sama play whatever he wants (like his hugely successful Kalista this weekend) and build a free draft around him – a strategy they used to find two consecutive 2-0 wins this week, And that earned Caps a hexakill.
Some of the best flex picks right now are those that can be rebounded between the mid lane and the ADC role, such as Tristana, Kai’Sa and Lucian, who Caps pulled out as a combination with Yike’s Ivern to great success because of the wizard’s synergy with Lucian’s passive. Jayce continues to exist in the meta, looking even stronger than before as a looming top-mid flex pick. Mages such as Seraphine and Ziggs have emerged as mid-bot lane flexes, although their efficacy needs more research at this time.
That said, the Yordle pairing of Ziggs and Tristana is currently a particularly threatening draft proposition, with both champions able to be moved for preferential matchups. Of course, the same can be said for Kai’Sa as a compliment to Tristana, but the little duo is especially excellent at destroying towers – something that the most successful teams take advantage of to secure mid-late game advantages, and a strategy that I think many teams that aren’t already, will begin to play towards.