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Worlds semifinal preview: H2K vs. Samsung Galaxy

What has to happen for the Europeans to pull off an upset?

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H2K are going to come into its semifinal series against Samsung Galaxy at the 2016 League of Legends World Championship as big underdogs. Whether or not that’s exactly correct is difficult to say. Neither team has particularly looked challenged in any of their matches so far. And while both teams have been good only Samsung has looked, consistently, like the tournament’s most dominant team so far.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the things H2K needs to do to secure an upset against Samsung Galaxy. The five-game series will start at 6 p.m. ET and will be streamed live on Twitch and Youtube, and on the Lolesports website.

Ban Viktor

Samsung Galaxy midlaner Min-ho “Crown” Lee has played a lot of Viktor. Across the 2016 regular season and the World Championships, Crown has played the champion 34 times. No other mid lane player in a major region has played any one champion more than 20 times in that same period.

So, why does Crown play Viktor so much? Well, because he is really good at him. Over those 34 games, Crown has a 70% win rate, and over the last four games — starting when Samsung found its current form in the Regional Qualifiers — he’s undefeated with the champion.

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In other words, that’s one ban on red side that H2K is down. There is no reason to risk leaving the champion up for Crown to pick. He has taken over every game he has played on Viktor as this tournament so far and averages seven kills a game. On blue side, H2K are afforded slightly more leniency because its midlaner Sang-wook “Ryu” Ryu is a solid Viktor player himself, but it seems unlikely H2K really wants to first-pick the champion and give up a more standard power pick in the current meta.

Get Jankos ahead

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H2K will go into this series with weaker lanes across the board, with the possible exception of the bottom lane. This isn’t to say that H2K’s laners have been bad, but simply to say that Samsung’s laners have been better throughout the tournament and against better teams. That means that most of this series pressure is going to lie squarely on H2K’s jungler.

Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski has been the secret weapon behind every single one of H2K’s wins at Worlds so far. Other players have had off games and the team has still succeeded, but their two losses so far are also the two times that Jankos didn’t perform well.

In looking at First Bloods between the two teams, a few things become immediately clear. The first is these two teams play aggressively. They have the two highest percentages of first bloods in the tournament at 88% (SSG), and 80% (H2K). The next closest team that is still in the tournament is ROX Tigers with 55%.

The second thing is Jankos is involved in 60% of First Bloods while SSG jungler Chan-yong “Ambition” Kang is only involved in 44%. This is fairly consistent with each jungler’s style, with Jankos ganking slightly more and Ambition farming slightly more. But it also sheds some light on how the teams are likely to approach their laning phase. Samsung are more than happy to aggress and take first blood without the assistance of their jungler.

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For H2K, this means playing the laning phase fairly safely, and allowing Jankos to do what he has done so well throughout the tournament so far: take over the game from it’s earliest moments. If Jankos is able to swing the favor of the lanes, it may be enough to grant H2K an early gold lead, which will be critical to upsetting Samsung Galaxy.

Take early control

The reason an early gold lead is going to be so important for H2K is because they are going to need to take the first objective in most of their games if they hope to win. If H2K are the team to first initiate map movement and objective conflicts then they push Samsung onto their back foot, and gain control of the game’s tempo.

However, if Samsung are first, we have seen them take over games completely with no window for the opposing team to gain a foothold leading to some of the fastest games in the tournament. In fact, the only team with faster games is Splyce, who played 3 fewer games than Samsung and were beaten by them twice in the group stage, contributing to this brief game time.

Engaging map movements and objective fights with a slight gold lead is a very dangerous plan against a team that is as mechanically strong as Samsung has proven to be at Worlds. But it is also a risk H2K will have to take if they want to keep their head above water against the 2016 World Championship’s most dominant team.

Final Thoughts

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These two teams have been the most difficult to get a handle on in the entire tournament thus far. Both have breezed by opponents thought by many to be stronger than them — EDward Gaming, Royal Never Give Up, and Team SoloMid just to name a few. That lack of challenge has presented us with an interesting situation in that we won’t really know what either of these teams was made of until they are eliminated from the tournament.

Going in, the popular consensus was that H2K has faced a slightly easier time thus far, and looked slightly less impressive doing so making Samsung the favorite. The only problem is between these two teams, the line between incorrect expectations and startling upset is almost impossible to draw.