The Play-Ins Tournament, the so-called ‘mini-show’ before the main show, is where developing regions hopes and dreams live and die by. The waves of their regions collective aspirations crash on the shores that are the third place seeds of each of the major regions. For the most part, it is par for the course that these major regions teams secure first seed, without much contest from the developing region teams. This year has shaken up that script, with the gap closing between the two supposed tiers of regions. With that in mind, the playoff stage is most exciting we’ve had yet. Let’s break down the teams in in the second half of the playoff stages, G-Rex vs. Bahçeşehir SuperMassive and G2 Esports vs. Infinity Esports.
The LMS region has often been viewed, and rightfully so, as the “Flash Wolves and co.” region. With that hanging over their heads, alongside a lackluster 5th place showing during the regular season, G-Rex had low expectations. Hell, many even predicted that this was Gambit’s chance to take first seed. Well, that didn’t happen, and, alongside DFM, they’ve won not only the hearts of many fans (looking at you, Lee "Stitch" Seung-ju and Lin "Koala" Chih-Chiang) but also the minds of many analysts.
The strong, focal point of dual national Anson "Empt2y" Leung (between Canada and Hong Kong,) in the Jungle have brought G-Rex from a questionable contender to a team to look out for in the Play-In stage. Their map movements and overall awareness in teamfights give them a deadly edge and a sense of maturity in the game. In a sea of aggressive teams in the Play-In, G-Rex stand out for their combos and team synergy. Multiple drafts had the team picking champions that not only complimented their own players play styles, but to aide each other as well. I mean, just look at the insane wombo combo and you can see how the team have a deep understanding of team fighting tempo.
The Turkish region historically has been home to some stellar performances internationally, particularly given their status as minor/developing regions. While they haven’t made deep runs at Wolrds, they have often found themselves significant grenades in the displacing of more established regions and Pick ‘Ems alike. SuperMassive started off their Worlds campaign by doing just that, with their startling win against G2. Not satsified with simply having an upset win either, SuperMassive’s win didn’t even feel close. Not just mechanically on a similar level, SuperMasssive proved in that single game that they are tactically close to the major regions as well. The overall storyline of the Play-In stage is that the developing regions are closing the gap, and Turkey has not fallen behind in that.
The strength of SuperMassive is not as concentrated as it is in other teams, but easily the centre piece for plays is in their bot lane duo of Berkay "Zeitnot" Aşıkuzun and No "SnowFlower" Hoi-jong. The knack to be in the right place at the right time for Zeitnot, dishing out the damage and somehow narrowly escaping harm, alongside the performance of Snowflower on playmaking champions (Thresh and Braum in particular,) leave the Turkish side with a deadly weapon in the bot side. Combined with a supporting staff in the rest of their team, they’re strong bot side can be the key to their entrance onto the Main stage.
The LMS side of G-Rex have already proven that their 5th place showing in the regular season was not a true case for their strength, having shown up in the Play-In stage in some big ways. Whether they can translate that synergy and aggression going forward will have to be seen, but they’re well positioned to continue forward at least. For SuperMassive, upsetting a major region’s representative isn’t anything new. Hell, for Turkey that isn’t. This is possibly one of the more even matchups for the Turkish squad to pull, and puts them in the best place they could be to continue on in Worlds.
If G-Rex want to take a page out of another major reigon’s books, shutting down SuperMassive’s bot lane seems a surefire way to shut down the Turkish team. G-Rex’s teamfighting skills and ability to move around the map will be the name of the game, and if their early aggression pans out they’ll be set to close the series out with a win. For SuperMassive their game plan will probably revolve around star ADC in Zeitnot. Keeping their primary carry alive and safe enough to dish out the necessary damage in teamfights will be tricky against the prowess of G-Rex’s teamfights. However, if they do manage to do so, they’ll be on a much more even playing ground to swing the series in their favour too.
After a first game scare against SuperMassive, G2 righted the ship quickly by winning their next game against the Thai team Ascension and the next two games after that. In their tiebreaker with the Turkish side, G2, pulling out a mixup of Urgot in the Mid and Akali top, decimated SuperMassive to secure their top seed status. Outside of the glitch in the matrix, G2 seem to be back to their usual, dominant, lane kingdom selves and are absolutely tyrannical. Which was good to see, given G2’s slip-ups internationally.
With the departure of the dynamic duo in the bot lane of Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen and Alfonso "Mithy" Aguirre Rodríguez, the carry vacuum was filled by stalwart mid laner Luka "Perkz" Perković and new comer, Spring Split All Pro top laner Martin "Wunder" Hansen. The two have set up a clinic on how to dismantle opposing laners, and they’ve been the strong point for G2 overall. G2 have rebuilt their roster and, somehow, while only really retaining one player, maintained much of their dominance in the EU LCS. However, they’ve also lost out on the EU LCS title twice now against the very team they usurped: Fnatic. They’ll want to reclaim their former glory and prove themselves at the most important tournament in League esports.
League is often just as much a game of mechanical and tactical abilities as it is of mental fortitude and endurance. For a team to be, in their first meeting, completely and utterly demolished by EDG, only to come back in their next meeting with a huge late game comeback… That’s some quality stuff. They’re also not too shabby at teamfighting, given their complete domninance of EDG in the late game in their second meeting. That being said, we can’t forget their first meeting with EDG… And I’m sure, Sergio "Cotopaco" Silva would like to forget that particular laning experience against Lee "Scout" Ye-chan too.
But even through that, they’re a roster that doesn’t seem to be bothered by setbacks like that. Even in their games against Direwolves, the roster went tit for tat with the Oceania team, never seeming to push too far for anything, while not giving up the pressure either. Their teamfighting is truly Worlds caliber, which in and of itself is great for the emerging region. Cotopaco, who was all but invisible in their first meeting, was a menace on Irelia against EDG, and the tank play out of José "Relic" Pombo Ribeiro was top notch. They’ve proven that they can slay major region teams, but whether they can in a best of five series is another story.
G2 still carry around with them the sins of their past international performances, yes, but they are quickly rewriting that narrative in 2018. They’ve done well at Rift Rivals and, now, have quickly corrected a first game blunder and put everything right again. Their usual strengths, the top side including mid lane, has them strong in the same areas at Infinity esports, with some stellar performances from Diego "SolidSnake" Vallejo Trujillo, Relic, and Cotopaco. Both teams stumbled at first, and found their grooves in the second day of games too. They’re… oddly parallel in their storylines going into these games.
For G2, it’s about playing their game that they play so damn well. Aggressive, lane dominant, and unrelenting. They play around their long tenured player in Perkz, alongside newcomers in both Wunder and Jankos. The three have played a large part in all of G2’s wins, with their flexibility and complete mechanical prowess a menace even in their region. For Infinity Esports, they’re not quite as luxurious of a roster. They do have one feather in their cap though: they’ve already proven they can be a David to a Goliath. Taking down EDG is nothing to snuff at, and the way they did it, mid-late game team fights… Well, that’s impressive to understate it. They’ll need all that they’ve got to take down Europe’s third seed, but they’ve already proven that they can be giant killers. Whether they can be Samurai killers has yet to be seen.