All of the Spring storylines have all been building up to this moment. This month's games had teams scrambling for spots in playoffs, as some teams' seasons took nose dives, and others resuscitated their floundering seasons.
During this last month, the four previously undefeated teams all suffered losses. G2, FunPlus, Griffin, and Team Liquid, all lost their chance at undefeated regular season runs as the other teams started to kick into gear. With their empires crumbling, the spots for MSI had well and truly become up for grabs.
March has been filled with ups and downs, upsets, player step-ups, power showcases, and, of course, an overall fantastic level of League of Legends.
Are you anxiously willing to see all of this? If you’d like to view the games without being spoilered, we’ve made a playlist for you to watch. Click here, then come back and read the analysis, and discuss the games!
Now, without further ado, let's get onto the list.
Griffin vs Gen.G
Coming into this series, Griffin looked confident again. After a difficult series against the SKT super-team, their quick victory over SANDBOX had seemingly reignited the feeling of dominance that the sophomore squad spread throughout their opponents. Gen G, a bottom tier team, looked like just another day in the office.
However, the day turned out completely differently. With Neeko and Vayne as common denominators in both games, Gen G exposed Swords struggles to adapt to the new top-lane carry meta. And on the back of Ruler's incredible AD Carry performances, Griffin was astonishingly handed their first loss of the year in surprisingly quick fashion. What did the world learn from this? Well, at least that Griffin were indeed human.
Team Liquid vs Team SoloMid
This is the game that ended up consolidating the most talked about NA storyline coming into the playoffs stage. Let's be realistic, there are no more than three good teams in the LCS, those being C9, Team Liquid and Team SoloMid.
What's the matter then? Well, when it comes to face-to-face records, the clashes between these three titans reveal quite a curious rock, paper, scissors pattern. While TL holds a 2-0 record against Cloud9 in the regular season, Cloud9 hold the same result against TSM and, perhaps even most surprisingly, Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and his squad hold the same record against Team Liquid.
As we're heading into the LCS Final, we're waiting to see whether this game proves that TSM really does have Team Liquid's number.
LCK - SK Telecom T1 vs Griffin (Game 3)
When the top dogs of a league clash on the Rift, there is always this expectation that they will deliver an epic battle retold for years to come. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and often it can be a very one-sided affair. This time around, with Griffin still undefeated, and especially due to the result of their last meeting, our hopes were lowered accordingly, as if not to be heartbroken again. However, SKT is a team showing growth by the week, and for this one, they came ready.
After two tense games where each team took a game, everything was set for the deciding game. Griffin, having opted for a composition more suited for early and mid game dominance, took control of the game pretty fast. Everything seemed to go Griffin’s way; with uncontested dragons, and easy picks once Tarzan’s Evelynn got a couple of items. Just another day at the office for them. SKT had difficult times early on, they tried to set Khan’s Jayce ahead, and successfully dove Yorick but they were unable to repeat, and Yorick kept farming, getting to his power spikes, ready to split push all game long. Their only option was to continue farming and hope Faker was strong enough on the Azir by the time the inevitable fights around Nashor happened.
It didn’t take long, as Griffin was looking to find a pick to transition into a Baron take, they made a crucial error at the 27-minute mark. In an uncharacteristic mistake, Griffin chased too hard after an unsuccessful assassination attempt. SKT punished hard, getting four kills while only losing Teddy. When all the fighting was said and done, and with healthy green bars, SKT converted into Baron, coming back into the game with just one move. It was looking like SKT might have outscaled and were on their way to give Griffin their first loss of the season.
Did they do it? Or did the league leaders still have an ace up their sleeve? Find out by yourself! Remember the game is not over until the nexus falls!
Both these teams meet on Saturday in the LCK Spring Final, and if this series is an indicator of what we might expect in the final, the fight for the MSI berth will be fierce. We just can’t wait for it!
LPL - FunPlus Phoenix vs Royal Never Give Up (Game 3)
As playoffs approached, the strongest teams began to show their weaknesses to the world. This happened in every single region, and China, of course, was no exception. FunPlus Phoenix had looked completely dominant all the way from the beginning of the split and, even if Royal Never Give Up were considered as ferocious opponents, they seemingly had no reason for dropping a series against Uzi's squad. However, what happens when a team rises to the top as notably as FPX had done? Well, most of the times, their opponents start putting all of their efforts into countering their strategies as reliably as possible. That is exactly what ended up occurring in this series.
Doinb and co. found themselves amidst a particularly difficult streak of matches, as they were scheduled to face the three other stalwarts in the LPL, Invictus, RNG, and Topsports. These matches were supposed to be the definitive test of the phoenixes´ strength. So far, they had not faired badly at all, having defeated IG in their first test. RNG, however, just came a little a bit more prepared for the occasion.
Throughout the whole split, FPX had relied upon young jungler Tian's willingness to work for Doinb´s lane phase in order to obtain mid priority and then proceed to spread it within the team by intelligently rotating around the map. Royal Never Give Up, however, decided that they were not letting them do it again. In the first game, they managed to get an advantage by punishing Tian´s decision of trying to counter the level 2 bot-lane gank that RNG's jungler, Karsa, executes typically.
Karsa was able to gain control of the tempo in the early game and thus allow xiaohu's Zoe to obtain mid priority and consequently be able to assist RNG´s bot-lane any time he wanted. However, the KFC sponsored squad ended up throwing the lead once the late game came around, allowing FPX to timidly breathe a sigh of relief at the end of the 33 minutes brawl. Royal got the win in the second game, but it was seemingly nothing to worry about. Doinb´s squad had already dropped some maps to other teams, and they'd managed to recompose themselves and take the set many times.
In the deciding match, nonetheless, RNG gave their opponents a complete masterclass. Instead of playing through bot-lane as they were famous for worldwide, they decided to change their playstyle completely. This time, instead of Uzi getting all the resources, it was his support who roamed mid to help xiaohu´s Syndra get ahead.
What can be said about this sudden change of mindset from coach DanDy's boys? Well, it went simply amazing. Doinb obtaining mid pressure? Not this time, man, I´m sorry. Now seriously, you should just watch it for yourselves. It is only thanks to this game that FPX are now, coming into playoffs, considered somewhat of a beatable team.
LEC - G2 Esports vs Fnatic
Once again, in the biggest rivalry in EU, Fnatic and G2 faced off in the ninth week of LEC spring split, and this time it would not go down like their last encounter. Fnatic was on the rise, winning their previous seven matches and looking like a new team and G2 had already secured the top spot in the regular season. Even then, G2 would hate to lose against their long-time foes, and pushed themselves to the limit in an entertaining game.
The draft, as it is almost a tradition in G2 matches, was heavily influenced by flex picks and it ended with a Zed pick for Caps, to the audience's delight. Their support substitute, promisq, coming in due to Mikyx’s wrist injury, was put on a comfort pick on the Alistar. On their side, Fnatic, built a composition around Karthus jungle, rounding it off with a Gangplank top.
Out of the gate, Fnatic made their aggressive game plan clear when they 2-man invaded Jankos at level one, fending him off his red buff and securing it for Karthus. With the G2 jungler struggling from the get-go, Fnatic set priority on putting Rekkles' Lucian ahead. Taking advantage of the fact that Perkz was forced to flash in the 2vs2, Fnatic boys 4-man dove the bottom lane as soon as Nemesis hit level six on the Irelia, securing both kills and making sure the lane was over.
Fnatic would snowball the lead acquired in a clean and very fast manner, giving G2 no chance early, in what would appear to be an “ff@15” game. However, this is G2 we are talking about, and they never go down without a fight. For a team sometimes criticized for playing too loose or “for fun”, this game was a testament to their resiliency. In a game that was looking grim, and with Wunder as the only member of their team having a good game, G2 latched on to the game, fighting for their lives as if the LEC title was on the line.
Follow this game as G2 turns what looks impossible into winnable. Convert the only opening Fnatic gave them into a chance at playing the game, and from there into a likely win. But let’s not spoil too much, the crazy ending to this game will surprise you.
LPL - Bilibili Gaming vs Topsports Gaming (Game 1)
This series was kind of an unbalanced clash. Not in terms of level, as the series would end up demonstrating, but rather in terms of importance. For BLG, it was a must win if they wanted to keep their playoffs dreams alive. For TOP, on the other hand, they'd already consolidated their spot in the top positions of the league. Indeed, they even utilized this last series of the season to give some playtime to substitute top-laner Xiong “Moyu” Hui-Dong for the first time in the whole year.
The skill difference between him and ADD was notable throughout the series, of course, but the Chinese top-laner actually performed amazingly with Sion in the first game. At first glance, it may look like he was just losing his lane, but the reasoning actually goes far beyond. Sion is a champion that may only be played to its full potential when he can count on his jungler to back him up and exert pressure into the opponent.
Casually, TOP´s jungler Xx did just the contrary. He completely mismanaged the Olaf vs Jarvan match-up and ended up not being impactful in either side of the map, thus leaving his team behind. As the game started to scale into late game, however, it all just fell apart, as both teams traded fights and objectives in a chaotic manner. The final comeback that was caused by all of this back and forth action is worth watching a million times.
With the series 1-0 up for TOP, Bilibili had their backs against the wall. A Jinx pick in the bot-lane for Xie “Jinjiao” Jin-Shan, however, turned out to be the perfect answer. In a game filled to the tops with excitement, the pair of Braum and “the loose cannon” ended up being way too strong to handle. Ultimately, BLG would manage to take their revenge for the previous game unbelievable ending, as they marched on to TOP´s nexus after theirs had resisted with a sliver of health just a few moments before.
The pattern repeated itself in the third and deciding game, as Jinx and Braum were again selected, this time by TOP, as two tremendous team-fight compositions faced up to one another. In what probably is one of the most nail-biting games of League of Legends to date, the popular AD carry ended up being the star of the show once again, as she carried through the final fight making it seem easy to decimate her enemies. The consequence? TOP went on to take the victory, BLG sadly missed the playoffs, and China demonstrated why they are the best region nowadays. Definitely a series worth admiring and remembering for upcoming years.
LCK - KingZone Dragon X vs Afreeca Freecs(Game 3)
Coming to season nine, many teams in the LCK had to go through an in-depth rebuilding process. Some of them, like KingZone, went for tried and true formulas. Building a team that plays around Deft has worked before, if you want to win the league, this can be one of the avenues. Surround him with some good players that can play their role in this plan and you are good to go.
Said approach was too easy for Afreeca, they are innovators, and their plan revolved around developing young Korean talent in a closed environment. They are known for not scrimming the rest of the LCK teams, as they run their practice sessions in-house, using their massive roster. For this LCK season, 11 different players have started for AF. Notably, Spirit did it in three different positions himself. Afreeca makes their own path, and there is but one constant. In the top lane, Kiin plays and tries to carry this squad, whatever the starting lineup is.
With playoffs around the corner, KZ has finally shown to be a good team. To many people’s surprise, they ended the regular season in third place (13-5), securing playoffs only below GRF and SKT. They came with a plan and executed on it. They play around Deft. They get wins. Afreeca, on the other hand, had been struggling ever since the season started. So many lineups. They have good games, and then they have, to put it bluntly, terrible games. They are a remarkably inconsistent team and have been dangerously flirting with relegation until the very end, finishing the split eighth (5-13), barely avoiding it. The success of a league project is weighted on summer results, but their spring season does not invite optimism.
Watch what these teams had to offer in the last game of their series. A team reaching for playoffs and another one fighting to avoid relegation, both needed this win. Discover why Kiin is regarded as the best top in the LCK even in this team. Enjoy an all-out brawl. Over a kill per minute. Fights and skirmishes from start to finish. Treat yourself.