After 9 weeks of the Spring Split, we are at the end to determine the champions of the first half of the 2017 season. It was a grueling season, some saw winning streaks like Cloud9; but, ended up plateauing at the end of the split. Other teams struggled at first to find an identity like Team Dignitas, but finding their stride towards the end of the Spring Split. Either way, this split saw a great parity between teams in the middle of the standings. Usually, there is a tier of teams that would be more imbalanced than the rest of the teams in the LCS such as TSM, C9, and CLG. This split, we saw a change from those tiers, where TSM and C9 are way ahead of the pack. Other teams like CLG, Team Dignitas, FlyQuest, and Immortals placed into the middle tier of the LCS. These playoff series will see competitive games between these teams.
The first series of the quarterfinals will see Phoenix1, who surprised the LCS by dominating teams and placing 2nd at one time. They are a team who looked poised to take over the reigns as the number one team in the LCS from the likes of TSM and C9. Yet, the team struggled against teams like CLG and TSM — going 0-2 from those teams during the split (according to Esportspedia). They also split 1-1 during the split against FLY and DIG, in which most people could see P1 going 2-0. These losses developed a conflict in the team, triggered from Adrian’s infamous pregame interview. To summarize, Adrian stated that Meteos uses his brain, implying Inori does not. Inori responded with an interview by Blitz Esports stating he wants to prove himself to the organization and earn the respect of his teammates again. Shortly after the interview, Team Liquid purchased Adrian’s contract and Phoenix1 signed Stunt to fill Support from Week 7. A team does not make roster moves towards the end of the split due to disrupting team synergy. But, Phoenix1 needed a change before things get out of hand. Luckily, they are still a contending team but other teams should not overlook them moving forward.
In the quarterfinals, Phoenix1 will face Team Dignitas, who struggled to find an identity at the start of the Spring Split. Before the Spring Split, Team Dignitas acquired an all-star with Ssumday, and a solid jungler with Chaser. Many reporters placed Dignitas to be a top team. But, Team Dignitas lost to top-placed teams like C9 and TSM. But, struggled on winning games against Echo Fox and Immortals. Most critics blamed the losses on team communication, other critics such as Reginald blamed it on team owners buying top-tier Korean talent, and have no idea how to use them. Even so, Team Dignitas had to go through changes in the team to gain the trust with their players. Most people thought they were “packing their bags” for the split and trying to avoid relegations. Xpecial stated in an interview with Yahoo Esports that the team had to be patient and “believe in the process“. It paid off when Cop joined the team as head coach. Since Week 7, Team Dignitas started picking up wins going undefeated until the end of the split. If they continue their dominance, they have a possibility of winning against Phoenix1 and Cloud9.
In the 2 series that Team Dignitas and Phoenix1 had during the Spring Split, they split a series each 1-1. In Week 1, Team Dignitas won the series 2-1. This series marked the NA LCS debut of Ssumday and Chaser. Ssumday dominated zig in the top lane with a tank Maokai in Game 1 then played a carry top with Fiora in Game 3. Keane and LOD also helped carry the team to victory. All together, they cumulated 45 kills, 16 deaths, and 60 assists. In Game 1 and 3, Team Dignitas won the game in about 37 minutes on average. In Game 2 in which Phoenix1 won, they played a drawn out game and completed it in 52 minutes. Team Dignitas also held over a 10k difference in gold for both games that they won. Phoenix1 held a 4.4k gold difference in the only game they won. In Game 2, Phoenix1 had great vision throughout with 219 placed wards. In the games they lost, they only placed 136 for each game.
In the 2nd series on Week 6, Phoenix1 won the series 1-1. In the weeks leading up to their rematch, Team Dignitas struggled to win games; but, won games in Week 5 against FlyQuest and Team Liquid. Phoenix1 won games in Weeks 2 and 3 until they met TSM in Week 3. From there, Phoenix1 were not as dominant as they were and carried a 5-3 record leading up to Week 6 against Team Dignitas. In the last series, Ssumday, Keane, and LOD played exceptional. But, during this series, they were not as effective. Together, they got 17 kills, 21 deaths, and 30 assists. Their kill difference lowered from the previous series. The highlight was not the amount of deaths increasing; but, they had half of the amount of assists. Thus, kill participation for those 3 was not a big factor for Team Dignitas, in which Phoenix1 was able to capitalize and win games. Ryu played a big factor in Phoenix1’s victory, holding similar score lines of 6 kills and 1 death, and dealt the most damage for Phoenix1. In this series, time did not play a factor in Phoenix1’s victory as all the games beside Game 1 finished under 30 minutes — Game 1 finished in 34 minutes 47 seconds. Also, gold difference was not a significant stat in this series as Games 1 and 2 had about an 8k difference, but Game 3 had a 16k gold difference due to the early lead from Phoenix1. Three minutes into Game 3 and Phoenix1 snowballed as time progressed, leading to a win. Phoenix1 learned from their previous series is when they play a good macro game against Team Dignitas, they have a good probability in winning. In this series, they did a good job in placing wards throughout the series, placing 10 more wards than Team Dignitas in Games 1 and 3. They also did not let Team Dignitas destroy their inner towers in Games 1 and 3.
For Phoenix1 to win the series against Team Dignitas they have to continue playing a macro game. Placing wards, vision control, and taking down towers will be the winning factors. But, if Phoenix1 decides to play Meteos in the jungle, I can see the team working around Meteos. They won’t need much vision control as Meteos has good presence in the jungle and can keep Chaser in check. So, ganks from Meteos can appear out of nowhere if Dignitas still has a problem with ward placement from their previous two series.
But, Team Dignitas can win by feeding Keane and LOD. Lately, they did not rely on Ssumday with carrying, but he’s been tanking. This helped Keane and LOD pick up kills on the opposing teams, and the team was able to snowball to wins.
This weekend will mark Phoenix1’s first appearance in the NA LCS playoffs. Whereas, Team Dignitas has not seen an appearance in the NA LCS playoffs since the 2015 Summer Playoffs where they got swept by Team Impulse. Both teams have something to prove to the rest of the LCS teams, their sponsors, and their organization. Both teams will have a good showdown this weekend and can be watched here.