The Final Four - By Toxin
Hey everyone, it’s Toxin! If you all thought that the first round of the playoffs was the absolute peak of excitement, you were dead wrong as the quarterfinals did not disappoint. Not only did we have two series on stream that went the distance and played five whole games, but we also had a shocking 3-0 slaughter of CB Obsidian, the team that many had pegged to win the entire thing. Personally, I want to blame the one week bye that the first place teams received that caused all but CB Rangers to come out extremely shaky. I think I personally would have liked to have played the fourth seeds in round one to have more games, but that's just me. Either way, four teams remain in the gold playoffs. Which two will advance to the finals, and which two will fight for third place? Let’s get into the games and find out. CB Rangers (North 1st) vs NSG Infinity (South 1st)
Our first matchup of the night sees the best of the North take on the best of the South in a grudge match of the ages. It’s very clear these teams are not on the best of terms; on one hand you have the CB Rangers, a team that has been projected to make it to the finals from the beginning and knows it. This team is coming in confident and maybe even a little cocky now that their perceived toughest competition has been knocked out on the other side of the bracket. On the other hand, you have NSG Infinity, a team that nobody has taken seriously in the community. From the beginning, people have said things such as “the South is a joke”, or “the South is the group of life”, or even “NSG Infinity, despite being a number one seed, is not a contender.” This team clearly has a chip on their shoulder, and they are out for blood. There would be no sweeter satisfaction for them to take down the final CB team and finally earn some respect for themselves in the community. Let's get into the matchups in this series. I think the first point of contention here is the bot lanes of each team. For NSG Infinity, whenever Kawaii Bubbles is allowed to pop off for his team, they just win. I’ve seen multiple double-digit kill performances out of him and his Kai’sa pick that should have some ban attention. In addition, WolfyEX has also made a name for herself as a lane dominant support that is able to set up her ADC for success in countless endeavors. It’s also worth mentioning that these two are the highest ranked bot lane duo in the league, as Kawaii Bubbles is P3 and WolfyEX is P4. On the other side is YRU Running and Guardian Wakka, which are no slouches themselves. First off, let’s just talk about the best member of 3-0 Esports, Guardian Wakka. This dude legitimately has a champion ocean. Should you ban his champions? Yes. Does it matter? No, no it does not, because he has, at bare minimum, six champions practiced and ready to gap you in lane. The biggest benefactor of this is No Name, who is a machine that mows down his opponents with the massive lead he gets in lane. This bot lane 2v2 matchup is the main one to watch in this series, as the winner in lane phase will most likely decide the winner of the game. Next up is the top lane matchup of Shadowballs000 and Clarken, both of which are P4 players. For Shadow, it would be a sin for me not to point out how well he did against Yung Natz last week, a player who has historically been considered one of, if not the best top laner in BOL Gold. He absolutely gapped him in Game Three, and did well in neutralizing him in the first two games. On the other hand, you have Clarken, who definitely had a series to forget last week. In all five games that he played, he only stood out in one game, that being Game Four where he popped off on Jax. I thought that outside of that performance, he was probably the one of the worst performing members on his team. This means one of two things. If history repeats itself, Clarken will find himself against a similarly skilled opponent as the one he had last week and he will struggle to positively impact his team. The other option is that last week was just an absolutely fluke / stage fright of being the streamed game, and now that he is not the streamed game (I’m assuming they won’t stream NSG back to back on the main channel), he will return to form. Finally, you have the mid/jungle duos of Jayyster and Karma Divine versus Anderson Cooper and Buhrock. Frankly, this is where the matchup starts to get a little one sided. Anderson Cooper is arguably the best jungler in this league, and while Jayyster has done well this split, he has never faced a jungler as strong as him. If Cooper is allowed to play his game, he will run rampant on the rift and completely take over the game. Jayyster absolutely HAS to contain him and match his ganks, or else the game will be over before it begins. As for the mid matchup, I think it is kinda hard to tell how it will go. On one hand, it’s hard to really tell how good Karma Divine is. He was able to play his main champion in all five games of the series with varying levels of success. For the games they won, I think he took over the game and was the reason for his team’s victory. In the other two games, he kinda just existed while other parts of his roster fell apart. I don’t think he will be allowed to play the champion this series, seeing how Buhrock already took on an Anivia OTP in the last round and the champion was banned the entire series. That raises the question of whether or not he can be dominant on his second or third best champions. For the Rangers, Buhrock has been a swiss army knife. He pulls out whatever champions he feels like to win a matchup and somehow it just works. He even played Kled mid last series and carried the game. I fully expect him to be able to have plenty of picks prepared for Karma Divines champ pool, but will they all work out like they did last week? Prediction: CB Rangers 3-0
Just because I have this matchup as a 3-0 does not mean this series will not be close… at the start at least. Both of the bot lanes are insanely good, and I genuinely think that it could go either way. Mid lane also seems like a very coinflippy matchup where either Buhrock has a spicy pick prepared ahead of time, or the pick he comes up with just does not work and he gets rolled over. I think the main reason why I have this as a 3-0 has to do with top lane, jungle, and tilt. After how last week went for NSG Infinity, that five series definitely took something out of them mentally with how taxing it was to watch, let alone play. On top of that, both Clarken and Jayyster stood out as major sore points that are going up against even better opponents in their respective roles. Personally, I don’t see the two of them possessing the ability to come into game one strong enough to keep up, which will cost them game one. Finally, this is where the tilt will start to creep in. I think that as the series goes on, the confidence that they had coming into the series as the underdog will start to fade away with each mistake they make, whether it being a major mistake or something as small as missing a cs. I know the feeling of going against the team expected to win and I know how it feels. The moment that happens, mentally you’re already defeated. That being said, if they keep strong mentals and are able to win one of the first three games, I think their chances of winning shoot up drastically. NSG is actually the better team on paper going by solo queue ranks, and they have shown that they have what it takes to win a five game series. You cannot say the same about the Rangers, who have shown that they fold under pressure this season already. Imagine if NSG wins game one; suddenly the top dogs, expected to breeze by this series, are actually down in the series. Or maybe NSG wins game three because the Rangers are goofing around with random picks, and in Game four they start to feel the fatigue of a long series. I think that the longer this series lasts, the better it gets for NSG Infinity. If they can force each game to be over 35+ minutes early on, I think that they can wear down CB. Ultimately though, I think that the Rangers are the better team and should win this series. VBU Argon (East 1st) vs Imperial Gaming (North 3rd)
The other matchup of the night, which I have a sneaking suspicion will end up being the main streamed match, is between VBU Argon and Imperial Gaming. Looking at last week’s performances alone, I think that Imperial Gaming has all the momentum coming into this series. They took down the juggernaut of a roster that was CB Obsidian last week in a 3-0 of all things, and you know that if they can pull THAT off, no teams should scare them. It’s painfully clear that this roster has taken the last split to heart, where they were unable to make the playoffs, and are out to prove that their organization is amongst the best in the community. After finally assembling their Exodia roster that they had wanted since the beginning of the split, I think this roster is rolling on all cylinders and will not stop until they reach their goal. On the other side of the matchup is my team, VBU Argon. We definitely did not play at our best last week and it showed; we barely hobbled out of the matchup with a win and only looked dominant in one of the five games. In both of our losses, we looked like the worst team in the playoffs and got stomped in record time. Is this really the team that finished with the most points in the regular season, or are they a shell of their former selves? Going into the matchup I think the most important matchup to look at is in the top lane. VBU won and lost solely on Altazi’s ability to fit them all on his back. In some games, it worked out, and he was able to 1v9 his way to victory. In others, he got super far behind in the early game and the rest of his team could not do anything to bail him out. For Imperial, Actual Bird has been an animal in these playoffs with his AP champions. While he has yet to win on an AD champion, his Rumble, Sylas, and Kayle are all picks that have popped off. I’m sure that the Kayle pick will be hotly contested in this matchup, and the action early on will exist up here. While I do favor Altazi in the 1v1, I think that if Imperial can play around Actual Bird the way they have in the past, this matchup can quickly become Imperial favored. The next matchup I wanna talk about is the bot lane matchup between HowIMetYourTable and I Rin I versus Drakas424 and myself. I think that Table has played out of his mind this season and even when this roster wasn’t fully put together, he was able to 1v9 for his team. His Sivir and Senna picks are definitely feared throughout the league, and he was even able to take down the power duo of Snowlife and Grandfayte. Coming into this matchup, it’s hard to see this matchup as anything but Imperial favored. For the VBU side though, I will be quick to mention that we really did not see anything out of our bot lane last series. The majority of the series was spent on fights happening in the top side of the map that bot lane, for the most part, strictly played farming matchups and basically did nothing. With Imperial’s focus on the bot side of the map, I’m really happy that I’ll be able to play the game in the first 15 minutes of the game and hopefully Drakas and I can show why we deserve to be in the conversation for the best bot lane in the league. And if Imperial does follow the same game plan as CB Royal, at least I learned how to counter the do nothing bot lane strategy! Finally, let’s talk about the Jungle/Mid matchups. For VBU Argon, Kaiten has been the highest performing player on the roster throughout the regular season for good reason. This dude plays a large variety of champions that are rarely picked by other players, many of which counter the stock and standard control mage strategy that most teams follow. The same can be said about Azurexfire, Imperial Gaming’s mid laner, who has shown to have a champion ocean throughout the regular season. Personally, I thought that he and his jungler, Swaggy P, played out of their minds last series to the point where some might even wonder if they were account sharing. Like seriously, hats off to these two, as the Lux/Sejuani combo absolutely wrecked through CB Obsidian in both games, and their Nocturne/Diana flex ended up being even STRONGER than that. Athena for VBU really only had the one pick of Dr. Mundo that stood out in the series last week, which I assume will end up being banned this week. That being said, he has plenty of pocket picks that he has yet to pull out that should end up being the difference maker in this series. I think that VBU probably has the edge in this matchup, but it's definitely very close. Prediction: VBU Argon 3-2
Like I said above, if you are going solely off of performances from last week, I think that Imperial Gaming sweeps us 3-0. I think VBU Argon played poorly against CB Royal to the point where it's arguable whether or not the better team won. On the other hand, Imperial Gaming defeated what was considered the best team in the league by far in a dominant fashion. Looking at it that way, there should be no reason that Imperial can’t 3-0 us as well. That being said, Imperial looked much weaker and less dominant in their first round of the playoffs where they went up against the Crimson Dolphins, so I think there’s a bit of a warmup process needed for teams to start playing their best league of legends in the playoffs. If VBU Argon can prove that last week was them at only 50% of their overall skill, I think that they should be able to win this series. Looking at OP.GG alone, they have the better team by far and it's not close. They just need to take a deep breath, relax, and play the game the way they have all season long, as bros just hanging out and having a good time. Ultimately, I think the actual outcome of the night will be somewhere in the middle. I think that Imperial Gaming overperformed last week and VBU Argon underperformed. I also think that VBU is going to choke away some games for one reason or another that should be fun to watch on stream but not fun to experience. There will be ups and downs for both sides but at the end of the day, I believe we have the better roster. I think that in both solo lanes and in the jungle we have the better player, and unless Table and I Rin I play out of their mind and super gap me (totally possible, I’m really bad), I feel like they won’t make up for the gaps in the top side of the rift.