The League of Legends 2016 World Championship quarterfinals begin Thursday at 6 p.m. ET with what many expect to be the most lopsided series of the round: Group D winners Samsung Galaxy, the No. 3 seed from Korea, facing off against Group B second-place team Cloud9, the No. 3 seed from North America. If you know anything about international League of Legends, you know that Korea typically dominates such matchups, and C9 even taking a game off of Samsung could arguably be considered a success.
But can Cloud9 achieve more than that? At times, C9 has looked on par with Team SoloMid, the best team in the region, over the past few months, led by increasingly strong play from former world champion Eon-yeong “Impact” Jung in the top lane. This is Impact’s first Worlds since winning it all in Season 3 with SK Telecom, and he’s already made a mark by bringing an NA team to the quarterfinals for the first time since TSM and C9 both made it in 2014.
C9 isn’t just facing off against any Korean team (although, to be fair, just about any Korean team would be a daunting task). Samsung went 5-1 in an extremely tough Group D, rebounding from a Week 1 loss to TSM to sweep the second week of competition and win the group.
It’s hard to say whether Cloud9 will show up and make this a competitive series, but I propose this three-step plan to at least keeping it close:
- Ban Viktor
Let’s see what SSG mid laner Min-ho “Crown” Lee said when we asked him why he thought TSM didn’t ban his signature Viktor against him:
I’m not really sure why they left the Viktor, they probably had thought that they had a champion that could match him.
In the on-stage interview after the game, he said Samsung won specifically because TSM didn’t ban Viktor. It’s hard to disagree:
So please, Cloud9. For the love of all that is holy (and Jensen), ban Viktor.
2. Top die
It sounds simple because it is simple. C9’s best chance of winning games is Impact making plays in the top lane, with or without the help of jungler William “Meteos” Hartman. And judging by the first week’s stats, C9 needs plenty more of Meteos’s help.
Impact is plenty capable of making plays on his own, however, and C9 will need that advantage on the top side of the map.
3) Hold on
We saw in the group stages that any team in this tournament, even Russian Wildcard Albus NoX Luna, can hold their own against Koreans in a team fight (not always, but it can happen). C9 has gotten better and better as the season has progressed, and if Samsung doesn’t open up too big of a lead in the early game, C9 should have a shot at this.
One thing C9 definitely has to work on, however, is warding ... especially if Samsung goes with CoreJJ at support instead of Wraith. The difference in warding between the teams in the first two weeks is pretty large.
Team/player ward output in the first 15 minutes. @Cloud9, and specifically @Smoothie, have some holes to shore up. pic.twitter.com/CH0o6xQHfZ— Tim Sevenhuysen (@TimSevenhuysen) October 10, 2016
So to answer the question at the very top: yes, Cloud9 does have a shot against Samsung Galaxy, but it will require improvement and coordinator across the map for the North American challengers.