World Champions and ERL Domination: NLC Giants JDXL and X7 Clash in Battle for First Place
By Samuel “Initialise” Hapgood
Come one, come all to the greatest match of the century… or at least the NLC. Two of Europe’s most highly touted teams clash today at 20:00 CET in a battle for first place in the league.
JDXL and X7’s rosters are both EU Masters contenders, and both have set their sights high — seriously high. While the NLC has had teams make back-to-back finals of EU Masters, the region has yet to win it all. Both of these teams have the potential to push the region forwards that extra step. And no, that’s not hyperbole.
JDXL’s coach Torok has said in interviews that his team should be looking at a semifinals finish at EU Masters at a minimum while X7’s owners have been forthright in stating their ambitions for a future LEC spot should Europe’s top flight league expand. To that end, they brought in former LCK mid laner Tempt, and former World Champion Haru as their jungler. Yes, that Haru — the one who won Worlds as part of SSG back in 2017 and popularised Ezreal jungle. That’s his Ezreal skin.
The terrifying thing is that even with the sheer star power on X7’s roster JDXL have been able to match up thanks to some frankly absurdly talented rookies backing up their own veteran talent. And X7 have been playing well; that should tell you how strong JDXL look.
Both teams are weighing in to this heavyweight bout with the same record (9–1), and while X7 took the win in their first round-robin match, JDXL have only improved since then. If you want a look at two potential EU Masters winners going at it hammer and tongs, you’ll want to tune in!
Top — Kryze
Jng — Dan
Mid — EMENES
Bot — ZAMULEK
Sup — Kikis
Perhaps surprisingly considering their opponents, JDXL might be favoured going into this match. There are two major reasons for that.
First up, JDXL are an incredibly stifling team to play against. They have the highest Jungle Control % of any team in the NLC, largely thanks to Dan and newly role-swapped Kikis ruthlessly stamping down on enemy vision and cleanly rotating around the map in the early game. Their jungle/support synergy has been the death of nearly every team in the league thanks to their clean, coordinated control of the map. Even better, it sets up for their other big win condition:
EMENES. Having control is all well and good, but having control and having a super star laner who can exploit the freedom given to him is another thing entirely. EMENES has been doing that without breaking a sweat it seems. He’s played a unique champion in every game so far this split — including Zed, Kai’sa and Vladimir — which has made drafting against this team a nightmare for opponents. Add in the flexibility of Kryze and Kikis (Zilean flex pick anybody?) and preparing for JDXL is almost as hard as playing them.
Player to Watch — EMENES
This. Guy. Is. Cracked.
There is seemingly nothing this man can’t do. He’s played a unique champion in every game this split, and crushed on all of them. He even played AP Kai’sa mid into Corki and got a solo kill at level 2.
Speaking of solo kills, he has 25 in 10 games, a full 11 more than the next highest player in the world, KT’s Rascal — and in far fewer games, to boot. Match that with the highest average DPM of any ERL player at 876 DPM and I’m sure you’re getting the picture.
Eye check, stat check, versatility check… EMENES passes them all with flying colours.
Top — Jaeger (formerly Smittyj)
Jng — Haru
Mid — Tempt
Bot — Nata
Sup — Kasing
New to the NLC and ready and willing to dominate, X7 set their sights firmly on winning the NLC and then on to EU Masters domination. They’ve done just that, styling on opponents with the kind of mechanical verve that traumatises opponents. Seriously, just watch Kasing rushing Zhonya’s on Leona and then outplaying each and every dive attempted against him.
Add in Tempt and Haru, two LCK stalwarts one of whom is a world champion, and you have arguably the best mid/jungle in the NLC. Arguable, because EMENES and Dan would like to disagree. Even so the host of veteran and imported talent alongside rookie prodigy Nata have made X7 the most explosive team in the league, smashing other teams out of the water in the early game.
Where it goes awry is in the mid game where X7 can get a little… loose. Where we have seen chinks in the armour is when X7 get over-ambitious in shoving sidelines and invading the enemy jungle. Even from massive advantages, they’ve been known to give up unforced errors trying to deny each and every resource from their opponent despite being at a disadvantage in numbers and positioning.
Player to Watch — Haru
The World Champ still has it — Haru has been nothing but stellar this split.
He’s been the pre-eminent jungler in the region, switching between scaling picks like Hecarim and Diana to early-game powerhouses like Lee Sin and Xin Zhao with a deft hand. There isn’t a relevant stat in which Haru isn’t clear first or a close second in his role, and he has been X7’s most consistent member even though he’s been at the forefront of many of their most spectacularly flashy plays.
His synergy with Tempt will be put to the test today against EMENES and Dan, but if anyone was up to the challenge in the NLC it’s Haru. Put some respect on his name — he does have skin in-game, after all.