StarLadder|i-League LAN Finals Group Stage

The groupstage for the SLTV blabla (title is way too long) finished and I watched close to every game, with a few unfortunate notable exceptions. I made some comments on twitter (as always) and just wish to elaborate a bit further here.

Everybody had high expectations from this LAN, as we’d see Secret, EG and VP play on the new patch under proper conditions, while we’d also see the likes of Liquid, LGD and Spirit fare up against them after convincing runs in the qualifier.

More importantly almost, we were able to see what kind of meta would develope. We’ve seen 4 regions battle it out so far in the qualifiers, now with a somewhat cream of the crop kinda scenario (obviously there are notable teams left out, but 9 Shanghai Major attendants still makes for a competitive playing field), we were faced with the sort of conclusion to the Shanghai Major qualifier, what all these little metas will culminate to. This will be the 2nd to last LAN before the Major, only MDL will still take place, that will have such global presence.

Personally, judging from the regional qualifiers, I was keen on seeing which heroes would be the most contested. Europe had 7 wins on Earth Spirit in the EU qualifier, 6 of which were by Liquid/JerAx.

China on the other hand may have had a rather low Earth Spirit winrate, but the hero was banned 40 times !!! It’s picked in 31% of all 5kMMR games in China with a 55% winrate — that’s insane.

The Chinese clearly love and fear the hero, he’s banned in 63% of their CDEC inhouse games, yet the other regions have paid little to no attention to him during the qualifiers. I made the bold claim, that it could be similar to the Western Io we saw a few years ago, a hero that the Western scene would use to dominate with, whereas the Chinese almost didn’t touch him at all.

Obviously, that was a statement made without the inclusion of notable top teams, but I still am not sure if the Western teams utilize the hero as much as the Chinese. In the groupstage of SLTV, he’s been contested in 21 out of 32 games. A good ratio, but consider this: Liquid has had ES banned in every single game against them and they banned it against Wings, while Wings and LGD both either picked ES or had it banned against them in all of their matches as well. This drafting behaviour is very reminiscient of Io back then.

Anyway, I’m just curious to see in the coming days if we’ll see more Earth Spirit, especially against LGD.

As for the results, I can only really say that I’m surprised by how strong Fnatic is and how Vega is keeping it up. Also Spirit is disappointing I suppose, but at the same time… classic Goblak team drop-off? They tend to do well early on in patches and then drop off. Obviously this is also their first LAN after days of intensive qualifier matches, so there’s a bunch of factors playing in. And as scant pointed out, it certainly doesn’t help that they faced two of the stronger opponents early on.

But yeah, Fnatic is surprising, although I still see some of their weaknesses, which ultimately also cost them maybe two games.

I guess Secret is also somewhat of a surprise, but I think they’ll get back on the horse. Maybe not at this LAN, but in time for Shanghai.

Liquid and LGD are the bigger stories here and I like to believe that playing the qualifier helped them a lot. There are a lot of people that now feel validated, that these teams should’ve been invited over Alliance. Maybe, probably actually, but it doesn’t really matter. Again, I believe these qualifiers helped these teams become so strong. The question is, can they keep it up til Shanghai?

I’d argue that Liquid isn’t necessarily a team that will be figured out draft wise. Let’s be real, you won’t ban Razor against them, they’ll keep picking it anyway. People have made the argument that you should single out JerAx, but I think kky/Liquid are already working on being more flexible with him, where they’ll assign Kuro a more farm orientated role. He playesd Visage, BH earlier. Whether it’s because JerAx doesn’t like playing these heroes or Kky prefers playing them — doesn’t matter, they’ve addressed an issue in their felxibility and it still works for now. Will be something interesting to follow.

Liquid and possibly LGD will face their biggest challenge to now keep this form up until the Major.

EDIT: Totally forgot to mention: MVP for me so far is Sheever who’s delivering her best performance as panel host yet.

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