LoL Week in Review: LCS Lock In a Success
The conclusion of another week brings with it the conclusion of the LCS Lock In. The exciting early season tournament was a big success that breeds optimism for the rest of the season in North America. Around the rest of the world, we saw Bang get his revenge on his old team, Royal Never Give Up are finally winning without Uzi, and Rogue might just be the newest LEC super team. We take a look at the top news and storylines so far across the world.
LCS LOCK IN A SUCCESS
The LCS Lock In wrapped up this weekend, bringing an end to the preseason in North America. Offseason favorites Team Liquid and Cloud9 faced off in the finals. TL held off a reverse sweep attempt from C9 to become the first-ever Lock In champions, winning 3-2.
From start to finish, it’s easy to see the tournament has been a success. That starts with the gameplay. Without the tournament offering any postseason ramifications, teams were clearly invested from the start. Visa issues notwithstanding, Immortals were the only team to bench any of their starters for an extended number of games. Even that was understandable, as they were missing three-fifths of their regular starters.
The teams also drafted and played standard, meta comps. Obviously, there were different reads on the meta, but there were no troll comps like you’d see at an all-star event.
We got to see a fun and competitive field. Young players made their debuts and looked like they belonged on Golden Guardians and Dignitas. Fan-favorite TSM may not have done particularly well, but even they had a competitive series with Cloud9 in their quarterfinals. Evil Geniuses and FlyQuest (when Brandon “Josedeodo” Joel Villegas was finally able to join) showed glimpses of promise, even if inconsistently.
The top billings in the tournament lived up to the hype. A clear elite class of Team Liquid, Cloud9, and 100 Thieves developed, setting the stage for the regular season race. In the end, it was C9 and TL, as expected. Two of the offseason’s biggest signings, Luka “Perkz” Perković and Barney “Alphari” Morris, went toe-to-toe as the new aces for their teams. Alphari had the better showing and was the MVP of the series, but there will be more to come from that budding rivalry.
Even through the hiccups of game delays and clicking microphones, there was progress in the broadcast, too. The scoreboard overlay was much better than last year’s version. The backdrops also made the broadcast look more polished, at least for those analysts that used them. The inclusion of cams for the finals made us feel more connected to the players.
This is all in addition to the benefit of giving teams more games and access to best-of matches. Considering the excitement from the first iteration of the tournament, it’s easy to see this becoming the new standard. It could only get better next year as the tournament would presumably be in person — and possibly even on the road?
BANG GETS REVENGE
Former SK Telecom T1 legend Bae “Bang” Jun-sik faced his old team for the first time since returning to the LCK. Now playing with Afreeca Freecs, Bang and his new team beat T1 2-0 to close out week three.
While Bang was sought after when he parted ways with SKT following the 2018 season, there is no doubt that this series had special meaning for him. Though he won the World Championship with SKT in 2015 and 2016, Bang took some of the blame for SKT’s struggles in 2018. Bang and Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan were never dominant laners, opening themselves up to criticism when they fell behind.
Funnily enough, Bang struggled in lane in this series as well. Even though he’s now playing with a more well-respected support in Son “Lehends” Si-woo, the duo were crushed in lane by T1 in both games. Park “Teddy” Jin-seong started alongside Ryu “Keria” Min-seok in both games and had the same kind of dominant laning phase that Lee “Gumayusi” Min-hyeong has shown all season.
T1 were ahead in both games, but could close neither. The first was a modest 1.4k gold lead at 12 minutes, but the second was a more troubling 4.6k gold lead at 22 minutes. In that game two, Teddy’s Kai’Sa Flame Horizoned Bang’s Samira, but it didn’t matter. T1 were caught out in important times in the game to throw their lead. AF capitalized well, playing slowly and never overextending themselves. Bang, to his credit, played well from behind. As he finished the game 12/1/7 while picking up a quadra kill despite ending the game down more than 100 CS to Teddy.
T1 are obviously set at ADC with Gumayusi and Teddy, but Bang got to have the last laugh on this night. Even if he isn’t the same individual player that T1 have, it’s possible they would have benefitted from his experience. AF played the map better and made fewer mistakes, even if their players were outmatched individually. It probably helped to have a former world champion with experience in tough situations.
RNG WINNING WITHOUT UZI
Through four weeks of play in the LPL, there is perhaps no more surprising team than Royal Never Give Up. After a disappointing 2020, their biggest move of the offseason was to take their mid laner and move him top. As it turns out, that’s exactly what RNG needed. A dominant 2-0 win over previously undefeated Team WE moved RNG to 5-0 on the season. Though RNG subsequently lost to Bilibili Gaming, there’s still much to be excited about for the first time post-Uzi.
For years, the problem with RNG was that they didn’t have a reliable top laner. Yan “Letme” Jun-Ze was probably underappreciated in his time as a low-resource rock, but RNG have wanted more. Liu “Zz1tai” Zhi-Hao, Shek “AmazingJ” Wai Ho, Xie “LANGX” Zhen-Ying, and Tian “New” Zhi-Peng all had their runs, but none has been as successful as Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao. As it turns out, RNG had their star top laner all along in the Uzi-era. They just didn’t know it.
Xioahu is top five among LPL top laner in KDA, gold per minute, and kill participation despite being in the lower half of the league in gold share. His ability to play everything — Gnar, Lucian, Akali, Camille, Gragas, even a top lane Orianna — is valuable for his team’s drafting phase. Playing against Team WE’s Chen “Breathe” Chen, one of the most talented top laners in the LPL, Xiaohu went 1/2/11 on Gragas and 3/3/10 on Jayce. There are career-long top laners who can’t competently play both tanks and carries at the same time.
RNG are coming off their first loss of the season to BLG, so it’ll be interesting to see how they respond. They’ve had runs of good performances without Uzi, but plenty of long losing streaks as well. Their match, against Invictus Gaming to close the week, should tell us about this team’s response to adversity. Let’s see how Xiaohu matches up against Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok.
ARE ROGUE THE TRUE EU SUPER TEAM?
The talk of the offseason in Europe was how any team would challenge G2 Esports after Martin “Rekkles” Larsson joined Fnatic’s rivals. While Fnatic have struggled to begin the year, G2 are not the last undefeated team in the LEC. That honor goes to Rogue, who sit at 5-0 after the first two weeks of the regular season.
Rogue started the season strong, beating Excel Esports, Fnatic, and SK Gaming in week one. They continued that momentum into week two, beating Misfits Gaming and Team Vitality. Rogue have avoided G2, FC Schalke 04, and MAD Lions so far, but they have looked very strong nonetheless.
That strength is in no small part due to their upgrade in top lane. Rogue identified Finn “Finn” Wiestål as a weakness in 2020 and did not hesitate to find an upgrade. Rogue went out and got Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu, a veteran who has fit in seamlessly with the team so far. If this sounds familiar, Rogue made a similar move in 2020. They moved on from Paweł “Woolite” Pruski to add Steven “Hans sama” Liv, strengthening their bot lane. Rogue has been smart in making small upgrades while keeping their core of Kacper “Inspired” Słoma and Emil “Larssen” Larsson intact.
More challenging times remain ahead for Rogue. They start with a matchup against S04 in week three and follow that up with games against G2 and MAD Lions in week four. We’ll get to see if they can be the challenger to G2 that the LEC needs.
There are two big matchups in the LPL headlining week five. First, FunPlus Phoenix (5-1) take on Top Esports (3-2) on Saturday, February 6th. That’s followed by an old classic in Invictus Gaming (3-3) versus RNG (5-1) Sunday, February 7th. The big matchups in week four of the LCK is between DAMWON KIA and DRX, the 2020 LCK Summer finalists. That match will also take place on the 7th.
In the West, the LCS is scheduled to start the Spring regular season on February 5, but the schedule has not yet been released. The LEC will continue on with week three, headlined by El Classico: G2 Esports against Fnatic. That match is on February 6.